Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Unexpectedly acceptable

Some post ideas have been rattling around my brain these last few days but when I finally steal a few minutes out of my evening to try and write one of them down, nothing flows. I create just the right atmosphere too. The kids are (thankfully) glued to the TV after running wild through the house, high on the aftermath of carving pumpkins and scarfing down mini chocolate bars meant for tomorrow night’s trick-or-treaters.

I have a glass of wine within reach and my comfy pants on.

I want to tell you how even when I am perfectly willing to write today off as rotten, it keeps showing me up.

This morning, though windy cold and black, my bones aching to sleep away the entire day, I notice little things that make it seem not so bad. Like how before he leaves the house at ten after six, Shaune assembles half of Deaglan’s lunch for school so that all I have to do is add fruit and cookies. He brews fresh coffee, gives me half of his vegetable omelette and apologizes for having to leave so early.

And then when I ask the kids to follow me upstairs so I can take a shower, they trail along without resistance and play quietly on my bed. At one point when I peek in on them, I notice Deaglan has Naveen pulled in close beside him, his arm around his shoulders while they watch cartoons. 

There are other things too, things I'd like to put just the right words around. Like how Naveen is full of language and ideas and strong, strong opinions about everything. At least a dozen times every day, I scoop him into my arms, cover him up with kisses. He is just perfect. I love two year old people!

I'd tell you too about the love affair I'm having with Netflix lately. How I can't get enough of Mad Men this week but before that it was Damages.  And Luther only a few weeks before that.

But it's rare to have such an unexpectedly acceptable day so I’ll just leave it for now. We took these pictures tonight.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The thing about Pinterest

This morning on my run, I decided that when I got home I was going to bake Halloween cupcakes with the boys. I took mental inventory of the ingredients we had in the cupboards– a Betty Crocker cake mix, a handful of chocolate chips, food colouring and sprinkles and enough icing sugar to make a simple frosting. 

The endorphin high around the seventh kilometer had me envisioning a Pinterest worthy scene, where the boys were licking batter off mixers while I pulled light fluffy golden cupcakes out of the oven to cool. I imagined us sitting at the table, happily decorating each cupcake with colourful frosting, a little dab on Naveen’s nose, while I snapped adorable pictures to post here.

I hate when the kids deliberately ruin my good parenting moments. I mean don’t they understand I’m trying to make memories here?

If I wasn’t begging Deaglan to stop eating the cake mix to which I hadn’t even added the wet ingredients, well then I was chasing Naveen around the house to retrieve my measuring cups and spatula. And after I fished 48 pieces of eggshell out of the bowl because Deaglan was being such a great helper, I practically had to put him in a headlock to find out where the vanilla extract was. He’d shoved it into one of his rocket ships so that I had to use the skinniest tongs we own and with the precision of a surgeon liberate the small container from within the bowels of the toy.

Finally when I’d set the sprinkles and icing on the table, told the boys they each had a decorating station of their own there was a five minute stretch of arguing about who had more sprinkles. Pinching and shoving ensued so that wearily I had to threaten time outs and promises that no one would be eating any bloody cupcakes if this continued.

It made me think of something my brother Craig’s wife posted yesterday -  one of those signs you see everywhere on facebook these days. It said:

Someday we’ll find out that Pinterest is a conspiracy created by a group of men who are tricking women everywhere into cooking, cleaning and working out.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A constant reminder

I almost never miss an episode of Intervention.

After Matthew died, I stopped watching it for a full year. One of our last conversations became heated because I’d said the wrong thing. I’m sorry now that I didn’t push past the discomfort of having him so angry at me. I wished I’d hung on, gotten to the softer side of it; maybe opened him up a bit.

On the surface my comment was so innocent. He was telling me about a new friend staying with him, and the situation reminded me of something I’d seen on Intervention the night before so I told him about the episode.

Inside though, the more he described their relationship, the more my panic rose.

On some subconscious level I must have brought up the show on purpose; a passive aggressive confrontation.

I wish I’d been more forceful with my opinions, more insistent that he get help. I wish I’d not let him talk me out of taking things more seriously every single time something like that happened.

I know I wanted to believe there was nothing I could do to help him.

It’s not that I like the stories – I watch with bated breath every week. It’s not a mindless escape like Parenthood or Law and Order. I watch out of fear. A need to know that there is a reason things turn out the way they do. I wait for that part of the show, after they’ve cursorily described the addiction, exposed a few clips of the person using; the part where they go back to the beginning.

The history.

The mother usually says something like, the happiest day of my life was when she was born. She was the sweetest most beautiful baby and I could rarely get through the grocery store without people stopping me to comment how adorable she was. Then they get to the parents’ relationship, how things were blissful at the beginning and a few years later one of the parents start drinking or drugging again. Everything changes.

I look for this part. I need it. It’s when I breathe a sigh of relief. It confirms for me that there was a reason the addict went down the road they did. They didn’t just end up like this for nothing. It gives me some hope.

I know that sounds demented.

The story doesn’t always go this way though. Sometimes the person hooked on booze or meth is suffering from a mental illness, something no one ever diagnosed them with. I find this as heartbreaking as when one of their parents wrecked their childhood with their addictions.

I won’t pretend to know how an addiction can impact the person directly afflicted. It’s easy for me to stop drinking after one or two glasses of wine. I don’t like feeling drunk or out of control especially since I’ve had my boys. Life rarely seems unbearable. I can mostly handle it even if I don’t always like it.

I know so many people who aren't as fortunate. Maybe that's why I hardly ever miss Intervention. Maybe it's not about me.

We went to see Hotel Transylvania  in full costume today. These are last year's getups and although this year Naveen will trick-or-treat as a monkey and Deaglan a knight, they both insisted on these. 

To all of my blogging buddies, I know I've been a terrible friend. I'll be around to see what you've been up to soon!

Monday, 8 October 2012

When we were courting

My first real date with Shaune over 15 years ago was when he cooked dinner for me in his parents’ kitchen while they were vacationing.

He made fresh caught trout with a beurre blanc sauce, grilled tender vegetables and saffron rice.  I remember distinctly wondering why the hell he was so excited about taking shrimp shells and boiling them for several hours in a broth of water, vegetables and seasonings just to create a gleaming white mixture he’d eventually pour on top of the delicately grilled whole trout.

I’d never been around sophisticated cooking except to be on the receiving end in the fancy (to me) restaurants I’d eaten in so far; the likes of which included places like The Keg and a few of the nicer Mediterranean eateries I’d waitressed in up until then.

Which is to say – I’d really not been in many fancy places at all.

So when he said he was going to make me a lovely dinner, I’d expected my idea of lovely, a simple pasta with some red wine, maybe a steak cooked close to right, sautéed mushrooms and mashed potatoes. I had no idea what I was in for. We certainly had different ideas of what a good meal was – him with his intense culinary training at Humber College and some of the best restaurants in Toronto.  Little did I know, that first evening would change my notion of good eating, push me to more refined hankerings so that I never took a good meal for granted ever again.

Over the years we’ve spent a small fortune on food.

During our childless years, we found restaurants we liked, and dined in them again and again. We were like the French, slow and deliberate in our eating. We often started with dry vodka martinis, tiny swords full of Spanish Manzilla olives or buttery apple chardonnays, plates of light crispy fried calamari before moving onto our main courses. Rarely did we end a meal without sipping Frangelico and shots of hot strong espresso.   

In the late nineties, when we lived there together, Sarnia had some wonderful little places.

 We thought of them as our places back then. Two in particular were owned by the same woman, a vivacious red-head who knew outstanding food and combined it with wonderful wine pairings, just enough kitsch and twinkling lights to allure us back time and again. She came to a no good end back then. We often think of her fondly and hope she found her feet to start over.

Sometimes I miss those times with the kind of ache only someone who knows better can. Those days when we were just us two and a dog.

It’s rare for us to eat anywhere fancy these days. Our criteria has changed slightly.

Is it loud enough to drown out our kids?
Do they have chicken nuggets on the menu or, better yet, a buffet to address the picky eaters in our party?
Colouring books and crayons?
Servers who have the patience to deal with rascally little boys?
Something decent on tap?


Well then, we’re in!

Shaune’s been waiting for supply teaching work. Lately he’s revealed a new set of skills equally impressive.  He’s been busy re-doing our floors, cleaning the house regularly and having dinner on the table when I get home every night. And his first love - wonderful food - well it's still a part of who he is and lately I’m coming home to some of the best meals. 

It's not the same; as you can imagine. 

In between bites we're either bribing the kids with the promise of dessert or threatening them with discipline if they get up from the table one more time. There's no candle light or thought to atmosphere - except to ensure it's safe. I'm usually in kid-proof shorts and a T-shirt and we're done eating within minutes. 

Still, it sometimes takes me back to those old days.

This is what we ate last night - a crispy skinned salmon fillet over wilted spinach topped with a sweet and spicy chili garlic sauce, served with roasted pepper-squash and green zuchinni.
Recipe to follow.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Looking good on my terms

A woman I periodically see at the gym stopped me in the cafeteria at work today. She told me I looked great and asked if I’d lost a ton of weight. 

I had to resist the urge to throw my arms around her neck and cuddle her.  I’m not kidding, I was so grateful for the compliment that my nose twitched to nuzzle her neck.

The truth is I’ve been working really hard at the gym and at the table for some time now.

Let me tell you, it has not come easy. And to be completely honest, I haven’t shed that many pounds. The changes have come in the form of toning and reshaping. I’ve been weight training three times a week (a class called Bodypump), and running and cycling the other days.

It took me about four months to cement this workout schedule. I fought myself the entire time. At the beginning I’d let just about any excuse deter me from going down to the gym:  

Not enough sleep?
Too tired.  

Too emotional.

Reruns of Parenthood again? 
Too distracted – how can I be expected to work-out not knowing if Jasmine and Crosby are back together?

And on and on.

But then I began loving it, really needing to get those workouts in for my sanity’s sake.
I’d always been into exercise of some sort – my metabolism had dug its heels in early -  by the end of my adolescence, refused to budge unless I took drastic measures. I've always gained weight easily and was up 60 and 50 pounds with Deaglan and Naveen respectively. 

 I’ve always struggled with body image. 

I remember being seven years old and conscious of the small soft rolls of my stomach. In grade five when skin tight RoadRunner jeans were in, I yearned to have a rear end to fill them out. In university when all the girls I knew were aiming for Kate Moss waifish-ness, I was looking to specialty shops for bras that gave me enough support.

But after I had my boys, I changed my mind about what I wanted to look like and why. I stopped with the nonsense of coveting what I saw on TV and magazine ads. I decided I wanted to look good because it felt good. I decided I wanted to be healthy so I could live long enough to do all the things I’d been dreaming about. 

And yet even regular exercise wasn't giving me the changes I wanted. 

Up until this point, I'd avoided addressing my eating habits. Oh it's not that I was feasting on fast food and milkshakes everyday. On the whole I'd say I  ate okay - always brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, green salads, chicken, salmon and fruit.  But I had to admit I was now in my forties and maybe I needed to cut some of the pasta and bread out, replace them with raw or cooked vegetables and beans. I could no longer indulge in the pizza we ordered for the kids once a week, could no longer consider wraps from McDonald's a healthier choice those nights we were just too tired to cook. 

Because I didn't want to flirt with idea of losing the weight and getting healthy anymore. I wanted to actually do it. 

So I started making healthier choices at every meal. I shifted my thinking about what constituted a meal, embraced the notion that rice, pasta or potatoes didn't have to be on my plate just because I'd grown up believing they did. I began giving all vegetables a chance - not just the ones that fit neatly into my idea of a salad.

I'd likely not be a good candidate for one of those before and after shows - my progress has been slow and gradual and I've certainly got a longer way to go. And I've made friends with the realization that I'll always have to exercise and eat right to maintain a healthy weight. 

In fact I find myself falling deeper and deeper in love with running all the time. 

And there's also this: I've never felt I had to trim down to gain my husband's approval - he says the nicest things all the time about how I look (believe me I've suggested on more than one occassion he consider asking for a stronger prescription for his glasses).  And whenever I lament that attaining a flat stomach would require major surgery, I look at those boys of mine and know that a bit of a belly is a small price to pay for such heavenly gifts.