Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding Balance During Changes

For the last week and a half I've been volunteering at the Breastfeeding Cafe (coordinated with World Breastfeeding Week for the first week). That has kept me pretty busy and seeing that I'm giving about 4 hours a day, between driving and volunteer time, it's safe to say that I have a new appreciation for mama's who work out of the home, even part time. Whew! I'm tired and cranky at the end of the day and I have had no desire to do any of my usual chores. Add to that the fact that there are several OTHER reasons I have been a little bit down and lacking the energy and desire to do my duties and you can only imagine what a wreck my life is right now.

Volunteering has been wonderful and I'm so glad that I took the time this year to do it. It's bittersweet because I'm fairly certain that this will be the last year, possibly one of the last months, I'll be breastfeeding my sweet Mad. I know I WANT another baby, deep down anyway, but there is no guarantee that when the time comes we'll decide to go for another or that we'll even be able to have another. We were lucky with Mad and I know so many people struggle with infertility everyday so I don't want to count my eggs before they hatch (eggs before they fertilize??? Overshare??????). So, in my mind I have to imagine the possibility that I am close to being done with breastfeeding forever. Cry. Seriously.

I love breastfeeding. I love the beauty of it, the bond, the closeness, I love the incredible rush I STILL get from being so close to my baby even after almost 2 years. People talk about the oxytocin you produce when you are breastfeeding your newborn but no one ever told me that 2 years later the feel of her little hand on my skin, her breath on my neck while she sleeps, would still give me such a physical reaction. It's the reason I think I'm so completely obsessed with her, why I hate to leave her for long, she's my drug.

All this aside I know that emotionally I am ready to hang up my breastfeeding badge for a while. It might be some time before I convince Mad that she is done as well but I know it will be a peaceful movement eventually and it will be at a time that is right for both of us. I doubt this is the last I will write of it because as of today she is still nursing SEVERAL times a day and loving every minute of it. We aren't even close to me being able to politely tell her no without a mini breakdown (but it is getting better). I guess I'm her drug too.

I can promise that even when we are done with our breastfeeding relationship we will continue on with our attached life. Just now I snuggled her down for a nap (in her big girl bed, which is a story for another day) peacefully, her legs wrapped around me, her head snugged right into my shoulder where she likes to fall asleep, until she was silent and ready, and warm enough, to roll into her own space for the next two hours. I think toddlers are even more clingy (in a good way) at bed time than infants. I'm positive that I rock her more now that I ever did as an infant and I'm ok with that. This is one of the reasons I didn't want to have babies close together. I don't want to sacrifice my snuggle time with her to rock and cuddle a fussy newborn. I want it all dammit!!!

The clock is ticking as I write this and there are a million things (literally) to do before she wakes and we head up for another volunteer shift. So that is that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Where I Overshare About Meal Planning

I fail at a great many things when it comes to being the perfect stay at home mom/wife and if I think about it too much, as I usually do 10 minutes before climbing into bed, I start to feel overwhelmed and guilty. I know there are women out there who do it all, who have time for it all, who never seem to worry about picking one thing over another but I'm not that woman. If I have a clean kitchen you can bet my master bathroom hasn't been deep cleaned in a great while. If the kitchen is messy? You can DEFINITELY assume my bathroom is even worse condition.  I am always behind on laundry, honestly I want to know how everyone doesn't feel that way, and I dread the day I have to mop the wood floors. Beautiful? Yes, but so exhausting for such a temporary feeling (thank you toddlers!).

However, I really enjoy cooking. I'm not always great at it but I know I've gotten better. Because I don't eat meat and I love fresh food that doesn't come in a box, meal planning can be tiring and expensive. Hence the spoiled veggies sitting around my kitchen. Long complicated meals do not work with a toddler underfoot and days when I hardly have time to shower. Likewise cooking 3 different versions, baby meal, veggie meal, and meat hearty meal, made me hate dinner. Mr. Bear and I would argue about what to eat and when he just stopped wanting to eat dinner with us I was so ANGRY! I felt like I was failing at the one thing that was vital to my family's health. This year it has been my goal to really focus on meals, dinner specifically. If I fail at all other forms of good housekeeping cooking a dinner for everyone is the least I can do right?

Well I've found my meal groove and I can specifically say that a few cookbooks and websites get (almost) all the credit. I know I'm not the only mama/wife/lover of a good meal that struggles with what to cook so I thought I'd share my inspiration. I'll just say, in case you haven't heard this before, that everyone should really consider reducing the amount of meat they eat every week for the health of our bodies and our environment. Most of the recipes I use are easily adjusted to be vegetarian or are vegetarian to begin with. Food can still be satisfying without meat! Also, I'm not a main course with tons of sides type of gal. That means too many dirty dishes and keeping the kitchen while I cook is another part of my goal.

Great Food Fast is a cookbook I inherited when I met Mr. Bear. I'm sure it was purchased, and then left, by his ex and I'm totally ok with that. The whole situation was a win win for me! "From the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living" is always a good sign. We use this book more than any other and will likely continue to do so for a long time. When The Bear cooks he almost always picks this book up. Fast and easy is good for encouraging men to cook.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was a gift from The Bear. It's huge and seems overwhelming but the longer I cook the more useful it becomes. I'll probably never become a totally bake from scratch chef but it's so helpful for the things that I do want to make fresh in my kitchen. It's definitely a staple book for a vegetarian or veg-friendly kitchen. I use a lot of the information as a base for different meals which encourages me to uses my own brain more often in the kitchen. Still working on that.
{photo source : A Couple Cooks}
Ree Drummond is The Pionner Woman and if you don't have her site bookmarked you need to do it, like yesterday (or several years ago!). She has books out too but I love the personal feeling her blog offers. She funny and real and loves the beauty of food which I really appreciate. There are some more complicated recipes but it's easy to pick out the simple/budget friendly meals. The first recipe I ever made from her site was the Marlboro Man Sandwich. I made it recently for a family dinner and did a veggie version for myself. Her recipe plus veggies is great for meat eaters too!
{Photo: © Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks}
Last, for today anyway, is Pinterest. It might not make sense right away but most other users on Pinterest are searching for the same thing you are, simple, cheap, good in the belly, and unlike some of the crazy expensive dream shoe pins I see so often, meals get pinned and actually MADE. I've found some recipes from my friends (if it has the words ranch chicken in it I likely won't be re-pinning) that have all been great and I also will think of an idea that sounds it....and find a recipe that is exactly what I was hoping for. All it takes is a little imagination and some foodie friends. P.S. Follow me!

I'm far from an expert in the kitchen but I'm not ashamed to admit that I've improved greatly by cooking often and learning how to find recipes that work for my budget, skill level, and food requirements. There are few things that give me more satisfaction than creating a meal for my family, call me crazy but it means a lot to me.

Any favorite recipes, cook books or cooking sites you'd like to share with this aspiring chef?


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