Monday, October 27, 2008

Why are Sundays so hard?

A question that we can't seem to answer these days! Sundays in our household are probably much like other households, not as relaxing as they should be. We are too busy with getting ready for the next week and right now just trying to keep the peace between our kids and trying to keep our own sanity in the process. This entry is more for me than you. It is to help me process and vent about the day and try to find some humor in all of this. Also, to remind my self that this is normal and maybe remind or even warn some of you that this is normal life with two wee ones. So this is the insight to our day yesterday and how the last couple of Sundays have been what I like to now call "Story-Simon melt-down Sundays."

We wake up to the gurl stopping down the hall to our room to inform us that she cannot find one of her 20 babies (stuffed-animals) in bed and is very distraught. So Gregory gets up and goes to help her and informs her that it is too early (because it is 6 a.m.) and she needs to get back into bed. That doesn't happen of course and she continues to play in her room. Ten minutes later as I am almost back asleep she then realizes she is hungry and barrels down the hall to share this new information. So I tell her that she can get a trail mix bar from the pantry and eat it in her room, but that she needs to close our door and let us sleep. Now I was finally able to sleep in a little and by 8 a.m. the boy was awake and squawking so I peeling myself out of bed and grabbed the little man and headed downstairs.

The gurl followed us and the three of us congregated in the kitchen for our drinks of choice, juice milk and chai, to figure out breakfast. After that was taken care of we went down to the basement to play and that is when the day started tanking. Everything that the gurl had the boy wanted and this created many issues for everyone. Because if she didn't give him what he wanted he would scream, hit, bite and pull her hair until she got so angry that she would fight back. So after numerous separations and time-outs by 9:30 I decided to take them upstairs for a snack and see if that would dissipate the situation between the two. But it didn't, instead they decided to have a screaming match and continued to scream and yell at each other as loud as they could. At this point all I could do was tune them out because I had been putting up with this for almost two hours, but now Greg was woken up to this insane amount of noise and not so entertained as you might imagine.

So now that we were both up, maybe they will chill out a little, right? No- now the boy is having even more issues since he is in a serious phase of separation anxiety so anytime Gregory and the gurl are around I can't be out of sight and most of the time he will cry, whine, scream and such unless I actually hold him (thank God for my mei tai wrap). Fun times right now!

The rest of the late morning consists of the two children fluxing between having a wonderful time together playing tag and then one of them lashing out at the other over a toy or a phone. So finally at noon I put the boy down for a nap, Greg helped the gurl get lunch and we hoped that she would take her nap at the same time so that we could nap. Wishful thinking! She did go up to her room after lunch, but decided that she was going to play in her bunks, so within that hour we realized that neither of them were going to have the rest time they needed and neither were we.

We got the boy up and told the gurl she has to rest, which meant laying down, and then made our way to the basement to start tackling the laundry for this week. The gurl refused to rest and so once again both kids are messing with each other while we were trying to fold numerous baskets of laundry. So I take the boy upstairs with me to start dinner, Greg keeps the gurl in the basement. I am wondering at this point if it is still too early for a glass of wine.

The whole process of dinner is difficult these days due to the boy wanting to be held through the whole process, which is hard to do when you actually make meals. So I have a few options on most nights. I either hand him over to Greg and listen to him scream most, if not the whole time that I get dinner together or I have had to let him cry it out while I chop veggies. I then put him in my wrap while I do all of the easy parts and set him down again to finish it up, which usually starts the crying and screaming cycle. Now, I guess having Greg cook is another alternative, but I love cooking and for me this is a part of the day that I usually look forward to. I also found another option which is making the dinner during the day and then heating it up at night, since he is fine during the day because it is just the two of us and that is the option that I chose last week and it worked well. But as you have noticed on a day like yesterday that option would not work. And on the evenings that Greg works late, this doesn't seem to be an issue..hmm.....

Back to the Story-Simon melt-down Sunday. So once we (the boy and I) moved upstairs he seemed to be okay most of the time if the other two didn't appear and dinner was the best part of the day, actually a little calmer (maybe it was the red wine, I don't know).

After dinner, hell broke loose again as I took the gurl up for a shower and the boy went hysterical with me out of sight. So he wouldn't hyperventilate -honestly it was that bad, Greg had to bring him upstairs just to be in my presence so that we could get them to bed and hopefully have down time together. Greg took the gurl and finished her bedtime routine and I took the boy to calm him down and get him to bed. While trying to put him in bed the boy went into a screaming fit and after rocking, singing, and such I had to just lay him down. Now, I am not one for doing the "cry it out thing", it pains me deeply, but it had to happen last night. I could not do it for any longer and within 15 minutes (felt like 30) he was asleep. And so was she.

SO...after that all I could do was sit in front of the T.V. and vegetate and try to bring my blood pressure and heart rate down. This is my life right now, weekends are rough. I really am trying to find the pleasure during the weekends, but it has been very difficult. With Greg starting to work on Saturdays, Sunday is the only day that we have as a rest day and it has been anything but that! I am thinking that we might need to make Sundays a day for family adventures and let that be our way to connect as a family unit, because what we are doing at this present time is just not working. And then Monday mornings are here and we feel more exhausted that we did before the weekend even started.

So if we don't call back on the weekends, now you know why!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just another day....

I know I should be in bed right now, but I don't want to go to bed! I now sound like my 4 year old daughter. Why am I doing this to myself? It is highly unlikely that I will be able to sleep straight through the night and tomorrow I will pay for the fact that I stayed up until 11 to do a lot of nothing. But my mind is wandering right now and I feel like writing so this entry will probably be a little random. But that is my life I think, a little bit of this and a little bit of that....

Once again I am drinking some homemade chai and so I think I will post the recipe for those of you who are interested, it is very yummy...

Tibetan Chai:

5 cups of water
4-5 strong black tea bags
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. of cardamon pods
1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh ginger peeled and cut into small pieces

Put all of this is a nice BIG pot on the stove and let it come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add:

3-4 cups of milk
1/2 cup of your favorite sweetener, I prefer honey

bring to a simmer again and let simmer for 5 minutes. ENJOY! Keeps for about 5 days covered in the refrigerator.

Okay now onto my favorite moment of the day. Today as the boy was napping the gurl and I had some time to ourselves, which we don't have too much of these days. And so we decided that we were going to do something fun together, just the two of us. We chose to get out the crayons and color and we did this for over an hour and it was so much fun. I haven't colored a picture in SO long and especially in a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book! It was actually very relaxing.

And that moment in time I will cherish and lock away in my memory because we were both so content and happy and I had her full attention. It is these moments that I cherish and that reaffirm the choices that I have made. I can't imagine my life on any other path. I may dream of it at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I have this beautiful feisty daughter who is daily teaching me patience and as angry or frustrated as I may get with her at times, I am still so in awe that I birthed her, that she is part of me. And a son who is a little lover-boy and can't get or give enough cuddles and kisses and laughs more that the other three of us combined, which is also teaching me so much. That these little tiny people can teach us so much about ourselves and the world around us if we just open our hearts and let them and I think that is such an amazing thing about being a parent.

Now it is time for bed...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not enough time....

Now that the sun is showing less of itself I find that I am wearing myself out by trying to do way too much in it's presence. And I try to tell myself that this is because winter is coming and that during those long, cold months that I will be able to rest, but deep down, I know better than that. I cannot sit still, it is impossible. This is not too big of a surprise for those of you who know me well. To just sit for relaxation purposes well, I am not familiar with that concept. I feel as though the world is resting on my shoulders and that if I am not productive with every damn minute of every day then our household might actually fall apart.

I must admit that I was like this way before becoming a mother. In college at one point I was President of a woman's organization, primary organizer of a campus performance of The Vagina Monologues, a full-time student, working part-time and planning a wedding. I am not sharing this to brag about my ability to multi-task, but to show that I have always had a problem with feeling the need to do too much and gauging my happiness on my accomplishments.

So on the agenda for the weekend was: Eastern Market, finish tearing out the garden, clean out the garage and take stuff to Salvation Army, empty the compost pile into the garden, also add Llama manure to the garden, plant the garlic, top garden beds with straw and leaves, insulate the fig tree, move Khalila's kitchen from the garage to the basement, cook down the tomatillos, puree and freeze all of my basil, dill and cilantro, hang the cayenne peppers to dry, shell the dried garbanzo and cannelloni beans, laundry and maybe a little reading in the book that I just started The Mommy Myth by Susan J. Douglas and Merdedith W. Michaels (which I will be posting about very soon) and if really lucky and not pressed for time take a nice bike ride through the neighborhood. Not a lot right?!

Well...I got about half of that done and I am okay with that because I actually took the time to bike ride (thanks Greg) and that evening found pleasure and peace in just sitting. Yes, doing absolutely nothing, not reading, or looking at a magazine, or painting my nails or watching T.V., but just sitting in our wonderful living room by a beautiful fire with Gregory (my husband) and relaxing. The kids were in bed and it was so nice to listen to some comforting music, Catie Curtis, and drink some tea and let myself enjoy that moment. And that moment, along with a post by Naomi has prompted me to remember the importance of feeling and connecting and to really reflect on this concept. And I came to this: why it is so hard for me and the rest of our society to slow down? It seems these days America can't keep up with it's own pace. Working 40 hour weeks just won't do it anymore. And so individuals, couples and families struggle to pay the bills, keep the house up, keep the family healthy and happy and still try to find time to do nothing, for the sake of doing nothing.

This is something Greg tells me often, "Take some time for yourself today, just do nothing." But what does that mean? I am afraid to say that I really don't know. I try to "do nothing" and I can't sit still, it is like I have ants in my pants-seriously! I know this is partially due to who I am and how I have always been. But there is also an outside element, a pressure that I constantly feel as a mother, especially a mother who has chosen to stay home. Because after all, all I do is watch my shows and eat bon-bons, right?

As a womyn, a feminist and a mother I feel an overwhelming pressure that I have to prove myself. And right now part of that is by what I accomplish during my day at home. Whether it be in the garden, chores around the house, writing, or small projects, I feel as though I have to be productive. Now, with that being said, I enjoy most of what I spend my time on, but I am coming to the realization that this pressure is taking a lot out of me emotionally, mentally and physically. I need to get to a place where I can let those outside pressures roll off of my back and then start challenging the system around me. And maybe this book on the idea of the new "momism" and intensive mothering will help me start to dismantle this belief system I have in place and create a new one to aspire to. I hope so because I am beginning to feel that no matter where I am at in my life this pressure will be like a monkey on my back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Food, Folks and Fun!

No I am not going to talk about a trip to McDonald's (this use to be their slogan back in the day), but I am going to share some of what is on my mind and in my heart about the relationships that I have been blessed with. Throughout my adult life some of the most amazing connections with the people that I love have been made in the kitchen cooking and eating wonderful homemade meals with good wine/drinks and amazing discussions that have brought me to much reflection in my own life.
I have an affinity for good food. But not just eating it; the whole process of food. The planting of the seeds, the process of caring for it, the harvest season and then the art of cooking a glorious meal that satisfies the belly and the soul.
And this summer has been full of beautiful harvests and making connections around the dinner table. I have been determined that even though the gardening season is coming to an end I will continue to make these connections with food and friends because it is these times that have touched me; opening me up to sharing a part of myself and then in return has left me with joy and contentment in my own life. It has reaffirmed in me the joy that comes with sharing your heart and as a parent it has become a priority of mine to show my children this joy through living the example. And what better of a way to do that than over a communal meal that is full of blessings and love by those who have prepared it.
As winter approaches I vow to continue having these moments of joy and laughter surrounded by the food that I love, but more importantly by the family and friends that I love. I am truly blessed to have many people around me to share this affinity with and it has been these relationships that have been teaching me so much about the things I love most: food, folks and fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Pursuit of Local Food and The Eastern Market

"If every household in MI started spending just $10 a week of their current grocery budget on locally grown food, we would keep more than $37 million circulating within Michigan's economy each week."

This is a powerful statement that was recently released by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Especially in today's recent economy where every new day we are confronted with our world's devastating financial crisis. And if you live in MI you are fully aware of how depressed our economy is. You do not have to go far to see a foreclosure sign, or a gas station with the price of fuel hitting over $4 a gallon, or the prices of EVERYTHING at the grocery store being jacked up due to the fuel costs and this is because each food item in an American meal travels an average of 1,500 miles! If you think about all of the fruit and vegetables that you eat and where it comes from you might find yourself asking the sames questions that I did:

  • Does it really taste that good that I am willing to damage the environment for it? NO.

  • If I don't get this in my diet will I somehow be depriving myself of nutrients that I need and can't get from something else? NO.

  • In Michigan, is it possible to eat majority of our produce when it is in season locally and be healthy and satisfied? YES!

The last six years I have devoted any free time in the spring and summer to producing as much food as possible so that I can feed my family healthy, organic produce. I try my best to limit the amount of produce from outside of MI, but that is not always easy. I do buy a couple of items that my children eat faithfully such as avocados, grapes and bananas because raising two vegetarian children under 5 I need numerous healthy options. But, with discipline, I have limited "exotic" vegetables and fruit as a commitment to take care of the environment and our Mother earth.

I have also made it a ritual to go to our local farm markets as much as I possibly can. This not only helps us to be able to eat healthy on a strict budget, but it also supports local farms and our local economy. Anyone who knows me knows my fondness for Detroit's Eastern Market and if you live in a 50 mile radius I strongly urge you to check it out.

Saturday I had the opportunity to go down to Eastern Market by myself which doesn't happen too often. The weather was beautiful; sunny and a little brisk. So much of the time when I go, I have both children and it seems as though I have to rush through the process to get one of them home for a nap or to get the other one to stop yelling about something and threatening a tantrum. But not this time, this time I took the time to really enjoy the experience. This time I was able to take in the fresh air, the smell of fresh cider and popcorn and just watch the hustle and bustle of families, friends and individuals such as myself picking up their produce for the week.

While I am there I always play a little game with myself to see how much I can buy with the amount of money I have to spend. Greg is always laughing at this because almost every week I tally up my list to see how the goods add up. This week was no different. And so I thought I would share my little game with you to hopefully prove the points I have been trying to make. I took $50 for a produce supply for the next 2 weeks and this is what I bought:(HONESTLY)

1 pound of asparagus, 2 huge heads of broccoli, 1 cabbage, 10 orange bell peppers, 3 red bell peppers, 1 pint organic yellow cherry tomatoes, 3 pints of grape tomatoes, 1 head of romaine lettuce, 1 head of red leaf lettuce, 8 limes, 4 lemons, 2 pounds plums, 6 honeycrisp apples, 6 organic beets, 1 dozen of organic eggs, grapes, 1lb. of local honey, 1 large bunch of gladiolas, 1 bunch of dill, 1 bunch of spearmint, 1 pint of organic raspberries and 2 lbs. of dried cranberry beans!!!!!!Everything except the asparagus, limes, lemons, grapes and flowers were from local farms. I think this might have been my best trip yet!

So in a time when we might have to start pinching pennies I urge you wherever you live to buy locally. Support your local farmers, eat healthier food, and in the process become less energy dependent. In SE Michigan, to find local farmers' markets in your area checkout Edible Wow and do a search for Southeast Farmers' Markets. If you live elsewhere, you can find a local farmers' market at the USDA's farmers' market websight.

For more information on these topics here are some of my favorite books:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halweil

Slow Food Nation by Carlo Petrini

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dirt + Produce = Peace

Throughout the end of August and September I was up numerous nights until the wee hours of morning canning tomatoes. During these nights I quickly realized how peaceful of a process it was for me. I would open the windows for the brisk fall air and in the complete silence of the night I would clean the tomatoes, cook the tomatoes and then can the tomatoes. During this long process I did many things: I drank chai, I read, I wrote, I made lists of names for this blog and I just sat in silence. It was during these late nights that I came to a place of serenity, which in all honestly is something I have a very hard time doing.

Tonight I am exhausted as usual, but still, there is a longing to have those nights back. The kids are in bed, Gregory is at an event and won't be home for a few more hours and I am trying to find that place, that state of tranquility. I am beginning to realize that for me, the real place of serenity has to do with a connection to mother earth. Because even though I am sitting here in complete silence there is still an cloud of anxiety hovering over me, reminding me of all that I blew off today to spend time with my children and close friends. And my moment of serenity for the day is not right now, but it was in the middle of the afternoon digging in the dirt to harvest the rest of my potatoes before our first fall frost.

I had gone out to get a few for my lunch and realized that it had been nearly three weeks since my hands had been in the dirt (a record I think) and decided that I didn't care if I was in my best crocks and a beautiful skirt because at that moment all that mattered was making that connection-with the earth, with my self, with the food that provides nourishment for my family. These last few weeks I have been so consumed with politics and the state of our country that I have neglected my garden and I have neglected my need for repose, something that I desperately need on a daily basis. Something that everyone, but particularly every mother needs on a daily basis. I wonder now as the weather is getting colder and my little plot of earth will be put to sleep very soon, what will I find during this cold winter that will put my mind and soul at ease?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fall is finally here...

and I couldn't be more ready for it. After a crazy, massive garden this year all I want to do is sit in my rocker with a cup of homemade chai and read. I finally have the time to set up this blog so I will try to keep it up as much as possible, but with having two little kids and life being...well... life, I can't promise too much.

So "Canning Tomatoes"... an interesting name for a blog. Yes, I do agree. Especially for a 31 year old feminist and mother of two. But canning tomatoes for me is more than just a process to preserve fresh, healthy food. "Canning Tomatoes" is a gateway to talk about so many things that are of great importance to me. The process itself embodies my philosophical, feminist and political ideologies. So while I will talk about canning tomatoes and such, I will also be discussing a lot about my life as a feminist, a stay-home mother, an urban gardener and budding agricultural activist in the city of Detroit, which all are deeply intertwined for me. And besides when my best girlfriend, Ashley, who lives in Vancouver, when asked, stumbles upon the same blog name that I didn't share with anyone, I felt that it was a sign. So thanks Ash, and much love!