Friday, February 26, 2010

Kookie Chocolates and Nips

I've spent this snowy day relaxing in my pj's and reading Simple Abundance.  I decided to share one of the authors ideas with my husband.  I explained to him that I was enjoying the book but how sometimes she takes things a little too far.  For example, I won't be placing a votive filled tray in front of a mirror, striking a match, and therefore ceremoniously creating my own northern lights.
What I did like was her idea of creating a "comfort drawer".  A drawer full of small indulgences that you can turn to when you're feeling a little blue.  I thought it was a great idea.  Why not?  Maybe I could put in some cozy pj's, my favorite pair of warm fuzzy socks, some cookbooks.

I enjoy making lists so I thought this would be a fun exercise for me.

I continued telling him about the comfort drawer and began reading the list of items to him that the author suggests be placed in the drawer; chocolate truffles, miniature fruit cordials, miniature after-dinner drinks, old love letters...

Stephen - "Wait...Nips?...Is she talking about nips?...Does she want you to put nips in your drawer?"

I sensed at this moment, because he was laughing so hard, that he did not share my enthusiasm towards the comfort drawer. 

I said, yes, she's talking about nips. 

Stephen - more laughter but now I see that tears are streaming down from his eyes and now I'm starting to laugh too.

Stephen - "Is this a real book you're reading or a jokie book?"

Me - It's a real book

Stephen - "Really? Because it seems like a jokie book, you know something Chelsea Handler would make fun of?...You're not going to start a comfort drawer are you?... Are you really going to start a comfort drawer?...You're not going to fill a drawer with kookie chocolates and nips, are you?...Did your mother give you this book?"

Now I'm laughing so hard that tears are streaming down from my eyes too.

I don't care what he says though, if I want a kookie comfort drawer, I'll make myself a kookie comfort drawer.

If you created your own comfort drawer, which items would you put in?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'll Have What She's Having?

I was reading my friend Sally's "Monday Mama Muse" on her blog last night and came across her most recent and amazing post about rediscovering yourself. I can't even believe the timing of it because this is a topic that I have been doing a lot of soul searching about lately. What do I like? Not, what does my mother, sister, friend, or the media tell me to like. What do I like? For a while it seemed I didn't even know. I was looking to the people around me to tell me what was good, what I should like.

As Sally so wisely observed and wrote in her post, kids know who they are. Kids know what they like.

I knew exactly who I was as a kid. I knew what I liked and I went with it. I truly didn't care what anyone thought of me. Then one day that changed. I'm supposing it occurred somewhere around the teenage years. At some point I think we all start to conform to the people around us a little, seeking out approval in order to fit in.

I've seen it happen to me as an adult after my daughter was born. I looked around and saw that I was a lone Graco in a sea of Bugaboo's. Thankfully my insecurities didn't push me into a $1,000 stroller purchase, but it sure did cross my mind. Not because I needed or wanted one, but because everyone else seemed to have one.

Anyhow, it didn't take long before my daughter outgrew the Graco and I became a Maclaren. When my son arrived, I was a second-hand Jane. I am now a Maclaren plus Buggy Board attachment.

I've been asking myself a lot of questions lately, both big and small to rediscover who I am.

Do I prefer to drink my coffee from a dainty china cup or a big sturdy mug? A big sturdy mug. Then why is my hutch full of paper thin china?

Is it the City or Suburbs?

Milk in my coffee or cream?

Are Ugg boots the greatest, or simply Ugg-ly?

Are you going to discover what it is YOU really want, or are you going to be a "I'll have what she's having" kind of girl?

The road to self discovery is a long one indeed.

What are the questions that you ask yourself?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making a lot of Cents

My daughter's pre-k class is collecting pennies for Haiti Partners.  Last year the kids collected coins for Pennies for Peace.  She enjoys this service project a lot and was really excited to receive her collection jar again this year.

Of course the aim is for the kids to fill their collection jars, but the idea is not for us to just hand over a bunch of coins to them.  It's really a lovely way to get the kids thinking at a very young age about how they could be of service to others. What can they do to earn their pennies?   Last year Ava helped me set the dinner table, helped Stephen and I both to prepare meals, and did kind things for her little brother.

Although she will be earning her pennies again this year, she did something else last night that really touched me.

Last night she took out her special clock purse.  Her clock purse is home to her little green wallet with a pink bunny on it.  She opened the change purse within and started taking out all of her coins.  There were quarters and dimes, nickels and some pennies too.

She turned to me and asked if she could give her money away.

I wasn't expecting her to collect coins to give away from her own wallet.

I said of course, but then asked if she was sure that she really wanted to do that.

She said, "Yes, I'm sure, I can always get more."

Now, my daughter's collection jar is home to all of the quarters and dimes, nickels and pennies, that were once held in her little green wallet, with the pink bunny on top. 

I am proud of her.

Tonight, I look forward to brainstorming with her about the ways in which she can earn the rest of the coins for her jar.  I wonder what she'll say?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Simple Pleasures, Daily Joys

I continued my reading of Simple Abundance this weekend, and am now up to date.  The book is divided into months and then into individual days within the months.  Sort of what my blog would look like, if I actually wrote something every day.

I'm taking from the book, the things that resonate with me, and then letting go of the rest.

At one point, the author suggests going to a travel agent to collect information and brochures, even if you have no intention of traveling at the moment.  She then instructs her readers to go home, cut out the pictures of the locations and images they're drawn to, and begin creating a collage.

Ehhh, that was a little too much for me.  Probably because I have zero interest in travel at the moment.  Although, I do love to fly...once the Xanax has kicked in.

That being said, who's to say that I won't completely embrace this idea in the future.  Perhaps, I will revisit the book 5 years from now, and think this is such a great idea, that I immediately start rummaging through my drawers, in search of glue and a pair of scissors. 

What has resonated with me?

Enjoying the simple pleasures in life.  The everyday joys we find in the life that we ARE living.  Life can be hard and it's stressful at times.  For me personally, I'm blessed to be a stay at home mom, but being at your families beck and call, 24/7, can be mentally taxing.  That's why I love the fact that the place I do my kickboxing, has a special moms time slot with daycare.  I'm not hiring a nanny to go and work out, and I'm certainly not going to go to class at night when my husband gets home.  For one, I'm just way too hungry a girl to go work out at dinner time, and two, there's too much to do....clean up, bathe the kids, read stories...get the kids to go to bed.

I tend to spend a lot of time planning date nights, figuring out which play I'd like to see next, looking over menus at restaurants I'd like to try.  All the while placing so much importance on the event itself.

Of course the event is important, but what I realized, is that what is equally as important, is the joy I derived from reading those restaurant menus online, in my pajamas, on a Monday night.

It's the beauty that comes from the mundane from which we derive the most joy. Once you start to notice these things, you realize just how great you've got it. Just how precious and wonderful life is.

What are the things and moments that bring me the most joy?

Waking up every morning to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing.  The comfort I feel when I light a Yankee candle in my home.  The rush I feel in Barnes & Noble, or when filling up my electronic shopping cart with books for my children.  Reading those new books to them.  Receiving and flipping through a new cookbook.  Making my grocery list.  Planning the Holiday menus with my mother and sister. Cooking a meal for my family. Reading restaurant menus.  Trying new foods.  Baking with my daughter.  A hot shower, comfie pajamas and putting on warm fuzzy socks. Going into Dunkin Donuts for coffee and ordering it with cream and sugar, instead of milk and Splenda. Seeing the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations being put up year after year.  When my son comes over wanting to sit on my lap and cuddle.  When my daughter reaches out to hold my hand.  When I see my sons little hand reach out for his sisters.  There are so many little things that go on in my daily life that bring me comfort and joy.

It's also the unexpected moments in life, that are the most treasured. We planned a big day for Ava in the city.  We took her to a fancy restaurant for lunch and to see a matinee of The Lion King.  It was a wonderful day.  But, do you know which days brought us all the most joy?  It was the day she came running out of school announcing to me that she was chosen to be Mary in her school play.  And, it was on the day of the play, when we got to see her as Mary, proudly being pulled in by her teacher, on a wooden donkey. Those are the days and the memories that really warm my heart.

What are the things in your day to day life that bring you the most joy?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Simple Abundance

In one of my first ever posts, Who Is That Woman Staring Back at Me, I wrote about looking in the mirror and not even recognizing my own face anymore.  For those of you who know me personally, and for those who read my blog, you know that in between my daughter and son, I had a stillborn baby girl, Isabel.  It took a great toll on me emotionally and life for me will forever be divided into the time before I found out that my babies heart stopped beating, and life afterwards. 

I know that you can relate, because we have all suffered loss.  A good friend of mine recently lost her mother.  The other day I looked at one of the photos she posted of herself.  In the photo, she was smiling, but her eyes told another story.  They were glassy.  They looked so sad.   My heart broke for her, knowing how difficult her road is right now, and how only time can begin to ease her grief.  Her life forever divided into the time before her mom died and her life afterwards.

About 15 years ago, my mom gave me a book called Simple Abundance.  I was very young then, just beginning to live my life, so it wasn't a book I could relate to at the time.  Simple Abundance went unread for all of these years.  Still, I've carried it around with me from state to state, and apartment to apartment throughout my life's journey.

For some reason, I felt inspired to take it out from our bookshelf last night and began to read.  It is clearly meant for me at this time in my life, as one of the first entries discusses looking in the mirror and not even recognizing your own face.   Apparantly, this phenomenon is real and has a name, it's called "displacement of self."  The book goes on to say that this happens in times of great stress. 

But there are every day stresses that we face as women.  That we face as mothers. Especially, as mothers of small children.  For example, I've been trying to write this post for about an hour now and my son has come over to me 4 times already to be nursed (I have got to get him off of the breast!), one of my daughters toys is "singing" and there is some sort of disagreement going on about a toy. 

On top of the chaos going on with the kids, I've gotten two phone calls while trying to write. I am thinking about my messy apartment, the laundry that I should be doing, and wondering if the chicken that I took out for dinner tonight willl be defrosted in time.

I am being pulled in all different directions.   

I am growing more and more frustrated because all I really want to do is get this post done, because writing is something for me, something I've been doing to get back to who I am.  Right now, it seems impossible, and is becoming a great source of stress. 

But, as the late, great, John Lennon said, "Life is What Happens to you while you are busy making other plans."

So, as the author of Simple Abundance suggests, even though I'm feeling a little harried, I am going to focus on all that I have to be grateful for.  I will start a journal and every day I will write down 5 of the things that I have to be grateful for on that given day.  Today, I will share them with you.

1) My beautiful daughter Ava, and the blessing of a perfect and joyful pregnancy with her.

2) The day I spent holding my daughter Isabel and the fact that my sister, mother and father came to my side that day, and held my baby too.

3) Dr. Manny Alvarez, the physician who took such good care of me during my pregnancy with Luke, and who ultimately saved my sons life.  I thank God every day for Luke.

4) Being a stay at home mom.

5) The 3 bedroom, city apartment, that I am going to have to spend the rest of my day cleaning.

What 5 things do you feel grateful for today?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

School Days, School Daze

I said in my Resolutions for the New Year post that I was going to challenge myself to write through the times when I am struggling with something personal. As you can see by my lack of blog entries for the months of January and February, I had a difficult time doing so.

It wasn't even a personal struggle, in fact it was a blessing. I prayed for something very specific for my children and that prayer was answered.

Still, it is a time of transition, and so as not to sound annoyingly mysterious, I'm going to share with you that my daughter got into our school of choice for Kindergarten.

It's wonderful and exciting, and quite a relief. Choosing a school when you live in a city is not an easy task. In fact, it can be down-right grueling. It's not like it was where I grew up, and everyone just went to the schools that were closest to their homes. This was a much more stressful process.

So, I'm feeling pretty great, very thankful and optimistic for the upcoming school years!

I am just hoping that I am able to do more writing and that this post wakes me out of my funk.  I do not know why I am struggling so much. I don't know if what I have been experiencing is writer's block? If I just haven't had anything interesting to say? Maybe it's some sort of seasonal depression? Am I bored of blogging?  I don't know what it is, but I just haven't felt inspired to write in a really long time.

Have any of you ever experienced this?  Does anyone out there have any tips on how I might be able to get my creative juices flowing again? 

What do you do to push through the times when you are struggling?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chocolate covered M&M pretzels

Mmmmm, just in time for Valentine's Day....chocolate covered pretzels with M&M's!

This is a delicious, super easy recipe, that I got from my cousin Andrea. I love the combination of salty and sweet! My daughter and I make them to give to friends during the Holidays.  We give them out at Christmas, when M&M's comes out with their Holiday mix, containing only reds and greens. We make them for Valentine's Day, when M&M's are sold in special packages containing only red, white and pinks. Then again on Easter, when they come out with packages containing only pastels.


Salted mini pretzels

Chocolate wafers


Here's what you do

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, to make clean up a breeze (do not spray or grease).

Line salted mini pretzels along the entire cookie sheet.

Place chocolate wafers on top of pretzels (you can get them at craft stores like A.C. Moore).

Place in the oven for about 2-3 minutes, just enough time for the chocolate wafer to melt a little bit.

Remove from oven and start pressing 2 M&M's into each chocolate wafer.  I like to mix the colors up a bit to make them look prettier.

Place in fridge to cool.

Place them in decorative bags, jars or tins, or use them to decorate your cookie trays.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Liquid Crack

I went to my Weight Watchers meeting last night and was disappointed to see that I was only down 1 1/2 lbs for the week.  Normally, I'd be psyched, but I went to kickboxing 4 times last week!!! This was the week it was ALL supposed to melt off!  I was envisioning a 3-4 lb weight loss.  I imagined myself up at the scale and the receptionist saying, "WOW! Anne Marie!!! You did REALLY well this week!!!  How DID you do it?"  I would smile and tell her all about my kickboxing efforts.  I would proudly go on and on about how I pushed myself to finally break through the plateau I've been experiencing since the Summer. 

Not so much.

Was it the Cadbury mini eggs that did it?  Was it the cake from Carlo's I sampled at the Birthday party we went to Saturday afternoon?  It couldn't be, I only took a few bites and I didn't go over my points for the week, with either of those delectable treats.

What could it have been then?

I found out this morning, in my grocer's dairy case, as I reached for the LIQUID CRACK I've been drinking all week.  Liquid crack, most cleverly and deceptively, disguised as Hazlenut International Delight coffee creamer.  I've been drinking it in my coffee.  I've been pouring it into my tea. 

Mmmmmmmmmmm.  This stuff is DEEEEEEEEE-licious!

I picked up that creamer this morning and took a little gander at its nutritional label....

Oh no! What's this? 45 calories and 2 grams of fat a tablespoon!  In ONE tablespoon?  How much of this stuff have I been drinking?  I don't think it's just been a tablespoon.  Maybe 2?  Could it have been 3?  3 tablespoons of this stuff in each cup of coffee and/or tea that I drink in a day?  How much coffee and tea HAVE I been drinking?  I've been drinking A LOT.  Has it been 4 cups? Gosh, have I been drinking 5 cups of coffee a day? That's 3 points per cup!  That's 12 - 15, unaccounted for, points per day!!!!!!!!!!!! That's 84-105 extra points this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you know that I am so hooked on this stuff that it took all of my self control just to put it back on the shelf?!!! 

I'll just have a little.  Yeah, it'll be ok, just a little.  I'll only allow myself to put it in one cup of coffee a day.  I'll even measure it out.  Just one tablespoon a day.  Well, I mean, one really isn't enough. Just two. Just two tablespoons a day.....It's ok, it's only a little.