Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pool Parenting

Our fate for the day was sealed the moment I handed Nene the pink tutu bikini, gifted from a friend.  And later on, at the pool, a situation in which  I had no clue how to react confronted us.

I'd met my friend for a morning yoga class and she'd handed me the irresistible, ridiculously girly bathing suit.

As if in intentional rebellion, Nene's the epitome of girly girly.  She wants everything pink, everything princess, and everything pretty.

Once handed to her, she commenced bouncing on the sofa chair, "to the pool!  to the pool!"

So off we went.

We spent the first hour in the large pool and then at break moved on to the kiddy pool.  I'm pretty laissez-faire about the whole communal toy situation.  I don't force my kids to share toys and I definitely don't expect that other kids will share.  Kaio and Nene know the meaning of "mine" and "theirs" and they know to respect those implications.  Coming from a family that escaped dictatorial communism, I'm satisfied and proud not pushing them to share their possessions.  I think this generally leads to few altercations.  Kaio readily offers his toys to other kids to play with and they trade sometimes.  Luckily, letting the kids negotiate works out pretty well and I don't have to be one of the moms yelling orders from the sidelines.

So, I was hanging out on a beach chair, getting my coconut oil tan on, when Kaio runs over, frantically upset, "He told me to go away! Go tell him not to say that to me!"

Kaio started tugging at me, almost crying.  I hesitated. What should I do?  Should I go get all mama bear on someone else's kid or should I minimize my son's feelings and reaction?
I went with him and told the boy, "that is not a very nice thing to say to someone."
To which the little brat looked at us and shouted, "Go away."
Kaio erupted.  Pleading with me to do something.

The kid went over to his mom.  Kaio started tugging me to hound him, "He can't say go away to me.  That's not nice.  Go tell him not to say go away to me."

I really did not want to go over to his mom and tell her that her son was rude to my son.  But maybe that's what I should have done?  I don't know!  I'm very non-confrontational, as you can tell.  I don't want to break Kaio's sense of justice in the world.  But I don't want to raise issue with another mom over, "go away."

I explained to Kaio it was not nice, and it was an awful thing to say.  Then, a soccer ball toy distracted him for a second... until another kid came and stole that toy from him!  The predicament continued!  That sent him over the edge and he cried.

The boy's mom came over and we exchanged notes.  Ok, the ball didn't belong to either of us.  She ended up coaxing her son to return it to Kaio.  Then they started playing together.  She looked at me and said, "That's why I like to stick in the bigger pool, too much drama over here."

Drama!  It's the way of the world.  We better all get used to it.

What should I have done?

Judging Ourselves

With the shift to not working anymore, I notice a shift in my identity.  how do I define myself?  Not like I ever had this figured out, but I had been in the corporate world for 6 years and grown into the role, more or less.  I wore hip, sometimes designer, outfits during the work week and strut around like Carrie Bradshaw.  Then off the clock, I'd go completely grunge in messy tank tops and funky pajama pants.  If someone from work had seen me out in public, I would have hid.  

I never minded looking so casual and dirty since I knew I cleaned up well and earned the Benjamins.  But now that I don't have a job anymore, I find myself struggling over appearance.  If I wear dirty messy clothes all the time, am I a low life?  Actually this all started after watching Idiocracy, an hilarious movie about 500 years in the future when smart people have become extinct.   One scene shows the name of a hospital: St.God's Memorial Hospital with the letters not fitting. This demonstrates the degeneration of intelligent society as stupid people don't care about the details.  I related to this with my laziness towards spelling and grammar, and my apathy towards perfectionism.  I wear ripped, stained clothes and sport a cracked opal ring on my right hand.  I thought I had style, but now I'm starting to realize I just look like white trash.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Quails - Awe they're so cute!

About four months ago we hatched a batch of baby quails, anticipating quail eggs in 7 weeks.  Lacking enough acreage to legally raise chickens, we turned to game birds.  Quail stood out from the selection for many reasons: they're small, quiet, quick to mature and produce, and their eggs are nutritionally superior to other domestic poultry.  Quail eggs are considered a delicacy in many countries, and in Brazil it is common to eat them raw in smoothies.  They seemed perfect for our needs.

However, it turned out reading and research could not prepare me for the unforgiving reality of the food web.

Three quails taking a sand bath together
Life truly is delicate.  Some of the quails died, some were born ill, some were eaten by preditors, some escaped...  From the small 12 foot deep patch of forest behind our house, various before unseen creatures emerged.  Suddenly we had ground hogs, snakes, and even a large neighborhood cat.  We remodeled their pen following each tragedy, but were none the less outsmarted by a new infiltrator.  This is the quail pen we'll be getting next.

With all these events, I'm amazed I've kept my two kids unharmed and healthy for so many years!

I found a woman on craigslist, Cindy, who raises all kinds of avian, rabbits and farm animals.  She offered to take my last two surviving quails.  The two survivors were both cocks.  Without a hen in the roost they seemed awfully lonely.  The largest Brown Cortonix cock would crow all day long.  Hearing his cries pulled at my heart and transmitted immutable reminder of my failure as a quail mama.  

Cindy's Quail Coop, also houses Pigeons and Doves
I tried to convince Mari to cook them but he refused.  And I couldn't muster up the courage.  I'm so grateful we found Cindy to adopt them.  She has over 200 quails that produce 8 dozen eggs a day!  When I dropped the little guys off, they sincerely looked blissful in a giddy poultry way.  At least the big guy did.  The little guy may have been a bit frightened.

Visiting her farm turned out to be better than a trip to the Reston Petting Zoo.  Cindy's not a full time farmer; she's got an office day job.  But she's devoted and hooked on caring for animals and producing her own food.  She sells rabbits and quail eggs, enough to cover the feed costs for the rest of the animals.

A Rex rabbit - softest fur that feels like velvet. This boy is a show rabbit
Cindy gave us a tour and answered our million questions about how build a better enclosure for quails.

Various Chicken Breeds and some Guinea Birds
We had her address in Aldie, but couldn't spot the house number from the street.  Instead we found her by following a flock of Guinea birds roaming wild in the neighborhood.  Guinea serve as scout birds because they will scream if predators approach.  They also eat up all the area ticks!

you know you needed to see that
eggs all over
Old goats
Emu.  (they scare me)
Cindy even soothed my conscious by telling her own stories of the many predators that robbed her of quails in the early years.  She sent us off with three dozen hatching eggs.

Now we're on our second batch of baby quails.  Mari made a trip to Lowe's and came back with supplies to reinforce the quail coop.  He's not done building it yet, but hopefully next week.

Various breeds hatched: Texas White, Brown, Golden, Tuxedo, Tibetan
Twenty two little quails hatched from the three dozen eggs.  That's over a 50% hatch rate, which ain't bad.  I can't explain the emotion seeing a little one emerge from the egg.  They come out with such determination.  Sometimes quickly and sometimes very slowly.  If you shine a light in the incubator, all the hatched birds will flock over and start chirping and stepping on each other to try to get a closer look.  You're not supposed to open the incubator until all have hatched.

Hanging out at the water cooler
Until their permanent home is built, they are living in our room with a heat lamp.   For these photos I adjusted the white balance to try to offset the red hue.  Hopefully you can get a sense for their color.  The light ones are a tint yellow.  Their feathers should grow whiter with time.

Playing on their "Playground"  tunnel
I have to say they seem rather confused.  I think they're wondering where their mommies are hiding.  Nene keeps asking me that, "Where's their mommy?"

"We are their mommy."  I say.  But that does not appease her.

Water bowl with some rocks so they do not slip and fall
Our baby quails were born on July 4th and are almost three weeks old now.  They've begun to sprout wing feathers.  I ordered three thousand organic meal worms to supplement their diet with added fat and protein.
These meal worms were raised on organic wheat germ
They like carrots
So now we're raising quails and meal worms in our bedroom.  We've started our own little biosphere up in here!

If you're interested in Cindy's Rabbits or Quail eggs email me and I'll pass you on her contact info.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Whoa! Planning Meals and Cleaning the Kitchen!

Beef with Zucs
All about food.  But then, isn't it always?  My friend and I tried a new approach last week.  We planned 4 days worth of meals, bought all the ingredients, and cooked everything at once.  We packed each dish in serving size containers and and lovingly placed them in the fridge for easy hunger access.  This took the thinking out of feeding the family.  All our meals were paleo (no grain, no dairy).  The only catch:  it took us about 6 hours to cook and prep, plus a couple hours of planning.  But, we did get to hang out, and girl friend time always rocks.

Beef and Mushroom Goulash
She came over to my house and I think gained an appreciation for why it's so difficult for me to cook something without burning or at least over cooking.  The kids dutifully interjected and distracted as often as possible, "Mom, can I have some lemon-aid?...Mom, where's my train?... Mama, play with me."  Luck for ME the food turned out great since at least SHE was paying attention to cooking.  I helped.  Chop the onions and stuff.

Since taking such a major chunk of time out completely exhausted me, and tested the kid's patience; this week I'm trying a hybrid approach.  I'm meal planning: selecting what recipes I'd like to make for the next four days, listing the ingredients to buy, and prepping the day before.  I'm cooking the day of eating.  Having a CSA complicates this a bit, since I don't know exactly what veggies will come.  But I'm going to wait until after the pick up to solidify the shopping list and make adjustments to the recipe list.

Fish and Tomato and Almond
So far so good.  I posted the entrees on the fridge, so I can remember what to prep next.  Prepping the day before is especially important since many of my recipes are Nourishing Traditions and require soaking or stock.  The list on the fridge has already saved my butt twice as I remembered to take the fish/chicken/etc out of the freezer to defrost the day before (I almost always used to forget!).

And in major developments: Kaio has started eating vegetables!  I watched today with wonder, surprise, and jubilation as he devoured chicken pesto for lunch, cod and potato salad for dinner, and all his lettuce.  Last week he even ate squash soup and sauteed kale.  Amazing.  This is the kid who lived off rice, beans, lentils, and fruit for most of his 4 year life.  It seems my plan of cutting him off from grains worked magic.  Either that or taking him out of preschool, where he'd eat processed Gluten Free snacks twice a day.  Either that or meal planning makes me a better cook.  Probably ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Beach Style Brazilian Fish
He didn't even complain before taking a bite out of the cod and potato salad.  Usually, lunch and dinner always begins with a fight.  We fight to get him to sit at the table.  Then he protests that the food is "yucky" and we have to coax him through the meal.  The best tactic we've found is to say, "Kaio, I'm going to eat your food."  Then he comes running over screaming, "Nooooo!"  and complains a bit but eventually eats.  But today, no fight.  He even asked for thirds!  I seriously could not believe it.

In other MAJOR developments: the kitchen is clean.  It used to be NASTY.  Embarrassingly nasty because I absolutely abhorred wiping.  Looking at that dirty sponge, getting my hands wet, and all that yuck provided too much deterrent.  Mari and I just lived with the splattered food stains all over.  We're not clean freaks as you can tell.

Then, at the last trip to Trader Joe's, something possessed me to pick up a bottle of their Cedar and Sage scented cleaning solution.  I don't know if it's new, or if I've just never seen it before, or if the hand of God guided me.  I love the smell of cedar.  I actually wanted "Cedar" as the name for our little girl.  But tree names are not ok for girls in Portuguese since they are grammatically masculine.

So now, I like cleaning!  I wiped everything down: the kitchen, the bathroom, the foyer, the dining room!  I surprised my mom yesterday, "It's really clean.  I've never seen it this clean."

Yep, that's me.  Turning into a regular June Cleaver.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Life Mission

They call the first month of unemployement the toughest.  You feel demoralized, undervalued, disliked, helpless, and lost.  Lucky for me, kids offer tons of distraction.  But, I've still been plagued with recycling thoughts and philosophies around my life direction.

Is it really ok that I'm not pursuing a career?  Is it really alright that my identity revolves around my children and home?

I always come to the same conclusion: yes it is, chill the f*** out and get a job when you need/want/feel like it!  I've bounced these thoughts off various friends.

The most encouraging folks have been my (ex) colleagues at work.  The team of three of us who got laid off together set up a recurrent weekly meeting to support each other for this first month.  They've been my most fervid cheerleaders of stay at home parenting.  Steve's wife left her career as a chemical engineer 18 years ago and never looked back.  He choked up on the phone recounting the profound impact of her decision, "Our kids are so great, we've never had a problem.  I know I owe this to her being there.  She can sense if something is wrong and talk to them about it.  She teaches them and guides them though discovering as they grow."

Kate also stayed home with her children, supplemented income by providing in-home daycare, and only went back to work after her children left for college.  "I can't stress enough how important I feel it is to be at home with your children.  Actually, when I went back to work my son started having trouble in school and I didn't hear about it for a month.  Then I decided to cut back on working and focus on volunteering at the school.  My son needed more attention than my daughter and if I wasn't around then I don't think he would have turned out as well."

But I was still harboring these incessant thoughts of 'what to do with my life.'  Feeling like my parents had worked so hard to give me choices and opportunity and I'd be dishonoring their investment in my education to throw my career away.  Yes, that's what consciously deciding to not get a job feels like: tossing my vested experience to the birds.

I never particularly desired a career in IT and I frequently daydreamed about transitioning into health sciences.  I studied psychology in undergrad and enjoyed participating in the research community.  Last week I checked out a local Master's of Acupuncture program and then began investigating whether I would qualify for low cost daycare through Virginia Social Services.  I just kept feeling the need to do something.  But knowing that would add another layer of complication to our family life.

My mind took off in-flight chasing jets planes of hypothetical life scenerios, shooting each one down, and always landing at the same conclusion: "chill the f*** out, enjoy the kids, you can pick up a profession later in life."

Then, peace at last.  During our last call Kate asked if I had any short term goals for my time with the little ones.

No.  I didn't.  I dodged the question by asking if it was crazy for me to wait until the kids go to school to get a job. To which she went into a long response about how not-crazy that is.

This weekend I sat down and drafted a mission statement, themes, and short and long term goals for my life. Writing these thoughts down brought me such peace!  Freeing the obsessive repetitive thoughts, placing them on paper, looking at them, analyzing them, finding comfort and security in them...  I feel so much better.  Somehow seeing my plan on paper, in crayon, grounded me.

Now here's the giveaway that I come from corporate America; I aligned each goal with themes from my life mission.  A funny thing happened when I brainstormed the themes: I realized achievement is important to me.

Not to say that raising kids isn't an achievement!  But, frankly, I'd like to go on to do something GREAT eventually.  Like, earn-a-page-about-me in Wikipedia kind of GREAT.  What's funny is that I hope my kids grow up to be happy and generally successful.  Why do I hold myself to a higher standard?  I don't know.  I'm not humble I guess. I'd really like to accomplish something significant for society.

So I realized I definitely want a professional identity outside of the home - and that can be a part of my long term goal.  I can see how focusing on my kids and family now fits into my life mission.  This stage doesn't need to feel like a step back, or a PAUSE button, but really another stage in my development.  It feels secure and smart to focus on certain elements of my mission now and take on longer term elements as the appropriate time arises.

I also realize that going back to work in IT could be a part of my future if I need the income to maintain the Mission Theme of "Comfort."  Seeing how working in IT could fit into my life mission helped me make peace with the possibility that I may need to go back to work.  So if it happens, I'm not allowed to whine about selling out my soul anymore.

Would you like to see?  Here it is anyway.  Work in progress.  I left space to add more goals.  Written in crayon (no spell checker - ugh - embarrassing), taped to the wall in our room, subject to change and evolution.

If you're interested in doing a mission statement exercise, I'll share my process.  Google search reveals lots of websites with instructions much more intensive than mine.
1. Brainstorm words that capture your particular values
2. Group the words and identify the key themes and how they relate
3. Form sentences that join the words coherently and logically
4. Keep it short and sweet
5. Then draft some goals, start with some really easy and simple ones.  See how they align to your mission themes.
6. Make a goal (long or short term for each of the themes)
7. Enjoy the feeling of creating a path for your personal nirvana

Let me know how it goes

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Corned Beef

Took a stab making Corned Beef according to the recipe in Nourishing Traditions.  I just happened to have all of the spices the recipe called for on hand (mustard, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and juniper).  They looked beautiful together.   The smell reminded me of Bombay Sapphire Gin.  Fond memories there, lots of Sapphire and Tonics.  Bombay Sapphire claims to be infused from 10 exotic botanicals, including juniper.

So I followed the NT recipe to make the corned beef: rubbed the seasoning on a 2 lb piece of brisket, set it to soak in water and whey at room temperature for 2 days.  Seeing that raw meat soaking on the counter, now we're scared to try it.  I cooked a couple slices in a frying pan and we tasted those.  Flavorful but very salty (i know that's the point).  I'm thinking of trying with some shitaki shrooms tomorrow, or some potatoes to make corned beef hash.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...