What-my-kid-said Wednesday: marriage, according to Bean

After helping me make cookies, Bean sat at the dining room table, enjoying the fruits of his labours* with a glass of milk. He looked over at my rings, which sat on the table where I’d put them down before shaping the cookie dough.

“Mama, you should put your earrings on!”

“You’re right, I should put my rings back on.”

As I put each one on, I told him what it was. “This is the ring your Daddy gave me when he asked me to marry him. This is the ring your Daddy gave me on the day we were married, when we became husband and wife. And he gave me this ring when we had been married for five years.”

“I wish I was married.”

“Maybe you will be married one day. Would you like to be married one day, and maybe have kids of your own?”

“I think I will be married when Alex gets married.”

“Who do you think you’d like to marry?”

“Alex is gonna be a fireman marry, and Cooper’s gonna be a ‘struction** marry, and I’m gonna be… a ammamance*** marry! And Cooper’s gonna be a police marry.”

“Okay then, sounds good.”

“Cock-a-doodle-doo! Flying chicken spaceman!!”

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* labours = switching the mixer onandoffandonandoffandonandoff, not-so-sneakily sneaking chocolate chips from the bag, and asking to smell the vanilla extract.

** ‘struction = construction (of course)

*** ammamance = ambulance

Balancing act

Balance. Work-life balance. Leading a balanced life. A life is hanging in the balance. This cereal is part of a balanced breakfast. We hear advice about balance all the time, particularly in this balance-challenged holiday-crammed time of year. It’s everywhere. So why is achieving balance so hard?

December is affectionately known in my family as the Great Never-Ending Month of Birthdays and Also Christmas. Along with several aunts, uncles, and cousins, my parents’ birthdays are in December – the 21st and 30th, to be exact. (Fun fact – my mother and my husband’s mother share a birthday, which leads to a yearly awkward dance of who’s planned what first.)

This year my parents will turn 60 and 65. They also celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, and my dad retired – all momentous occasions that deserve celebration. So, at the beginning of the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. Midway through the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. In October, with the prodding of some relatives, my procrastinating self was thrown into full party-planning mode. Being the dutiful daughter, I called together my siblings and an aunt and uncle and we got to work. Except that I assigned nearly all of the tasks to myself. Evite? I’ve got it. We’ll do potluck – I’ll coordinate it. Decorations? I’ve got the time. Dishes? My in-laws have a rental company. Cakes? I like to bake, so I’ve got it.

I sent the Evite. I managed the RSVPs. I fielded questions. I organized potluck menu and sign-up. I ordered the dishes, silverware, glasses, mugs, and chairs. I planned out a beautiful banner to make. I searched out the best cake recipes – cherry cake for dad, and gluten-and-dairy-free chocolate for mum, and cupcakes for extras. I thought up fun ideas for cake decorations. I planned the extra dishes that I would make in case it seemed like there wouldn’t be enough food. Then, the beginning of last week found me knocked out with a bad cold and a bad case of anxiety. I’d forgotten to get to my doctor to refill my prescription. My postpartum depression symptoms were dragging me down. I was low.

And I thought, where’s the balance in this?

So I asked for help. And, what do you know, people were there to help me. One of my younger brothers and his wife made an amazing banner and an extra appetizer. My aunt brought two kid-friendly main dishes. My two other brothers drove to the party location with me to unload all of the dishes, cakes, balloons, and chairs. My amazing husband, a true Renaissance Man, iced chocolate cupcakes on the morning of the party as I whipped up the vanilla icing. (And then, because he did such a good job, he did the vanilla ones too.)

cupcakes

So, what does it mean to have balance?

It means letting go of the responsibility for everything and sharing the load.

It means not having to be perfect.

It means whipping up cake toppers out of scrapbook paper and cardstock, because you forgot to get the numbered candles at the store.

It means enjoying the party so much that you don’t worry about getting the Pinterest-worthy shot of the two cakes and two batches of cupcakes that you worked so hard on.

It means being okay with the fact that your toddler ate exactly 1.5 white buns and the icing off of one cupcake, because you can get some better food into him tomorrow.

It means letting your kids stay up until 10:30 (when your in-laws take them home to bed) because it’s a party, and it doesn’t happen every day, and the experience of tonight is more important than the potential meltdown tomorrow.

It means having a drink and visiting with friends and family, because enjoying the party to honour your parents is way better than doing dishes. Dishes can wait.

It means enjoying the things that are going right, instead of worrying about the things that aren’t.

In the end, the complete shock on my parents’ faces as they walked in the door, the delight when they realized all these people were there for them, the huge smiles as they recognized guests who had travelled, and the tears in my mum’s eyes as she spotted her dearest friends – these things were more than enough to balance out any of the hard stuff.

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What does balance mean to you?

No sugar, no problem

I have a sweet tooth. An insane, insatiable sweet tooth. Give me a cookie and I’m putty in your hands. While pregnant with Monkey, I kept putting off my gestational diabetes screening test because I was convinced that I’d given myself diabetes through the over-consumption of Christmas cookies. (Yes, I know that’s not how it works. The pregnant, hormonal, emotional eater didn’t see reason on the matter. I did not have gestational diabetes.)

Articles about sugar are everywhere. They have titles like “Death by sugar” and “Sweet poison.” They say that sugar is bad. It’s addictive. It’s worse than fat, worse than salt. It’s pretty much the worst. For a while, every time I read one of these articles, a tiny voice inside me would whisper, “Give it up.” And then a louder voice would say, “Make cookies.” Guess which one I listened to?

And then, at the beginning of November, in the throes of the post-Halloween candy coma, I decided to do it. Stop eating sugar for a while. I was curious about how it would feel, and I knew it would be good for me.

The pros:

  • have more energy;
  • improve overall health for self and family;
  • discover hidden and unnecessary sources of sugar in everyday foods;
  • make room in diet for new foods;
  • lose some baby weight, thus avoiding the need to buy an entire new work wardrobe for when my maternity leave is over in March.

The cons:

  • no more cookies/ice cream/sweet delicious treats.

I took the plunge. Well, in the spectrum of sugar-free eating, I really only dipped my toe in the pool. Some people give up all carbs and naturally occurring sugars as well, but I’m not going that far. I eat plenty of fruit, and while carbs have been restricted because of added sugar in some of them, I’m still eating things like pasta and rice.

I didn’t drag the rest of the family with me, but because I’m the main maker of meals and buyer of groceries, their sugar intake has been cut down a little too. (Side note – I was shocked at the amount of sugar in the yogurt Bean was eating – 21 grams in a 1/2 cup! I’ve switched to one that has 13 grams in a 1/2 cup, and I mix it with plain Greek yogurt, and he hasn’t seemed to notice. The next step is plain yogurt with pureed fruit, but so far I’ve been too lazy to actually puree the fruit.)

But because life just isn’t complete without a little sweetness now and then, I’ve been experimenting with recipes that only use fruit or dried fruit for sweetness. I was skeptical. But wow, have I found some winners.

No sugar

In a desperate, ravenous moment while shopping last week, I discovered Larabars. The peanut butter flavoured bar that I ate was good, and it had only two ingredients: peanuts and dates. What? I could make that! So I did some Googling and found Chocolate Covered Katie’s page of homemade Larabar recipes. A trip to the grocery store and about 10 minutes in the kitchen, and I was sold. Better than the store-bought ones, these things are fudgy, sweet, delicious, and dangerously easy to make. I’ve made peanut butter-chocolate and chocolate-almond, and I’m hooked. Next up will be oatmeal-raisin. (I have to remind myself not to inhale them, as even though it’s natural sugar, it’s still sugar and calories.)

That’s fudgy bars and cookies down. What about ice cream? While I had the food processor out, I remembered The Kitchn’s frozen banana ice cream that I’ve been meaning to try forever. So I did it. And it is amazing. Banana on its own isn’t really my thing, so I added peanut butter and chocolate, because peanut butter and chocolate is the combination of happiness. So good.

Sugar free me isn’t forever. For example, tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and I will make a delicious, sugar-filled cake and also eat a piece of said delicious, sugar-filled cake. And come Christmas time, there will be cookies. Oh, there will be cookies. But hopefully I’ll have eliminated all of the hidden sugars in my diet, controlled my cravings for sugar (this is working already), and made sugary treats a once-in-a-while thing.

I can't quit you

What-my-kid-said Wednesday: on cookies

My sister-in-law and two nieces came over today to decorate Halloween cookies with us. Icing + sprinkles + excited 2, 3 and 4 year-old + a yelling baby = chaos. But also fun.

20141022_110308  cookies

After the cookie party was finished and Bean was waiting for the icing to dry so he could try one, we had this conversation:

“Mummy, you know dragons and monsters love to eat cookies that have no cweets on them?”

“Cweets?”

“No, cweets.”

“Treats?”

“No, cweets.”

“Creets?”

“Yeah and little boys love to eat cookies with sprinkles.”

“I’m confused about creet.”

“Mummy, you tell me about that?”

“About what?”

“Cweet. You tell me about that stuff. What it does?”

Anybody out there know what a creet is?

waiting