Friday, September 29, 2006

I'm still here!

Ack! Where has the time gone? Very busy with the boys (as ever), the little girl's Korean homework and public school events and the big girl's homework. Shockingly- ecstatically- the big girl only had one all-nighter. Fortunately, one of her friends is having a birthday party tomorrow, and believe me I used that to full advantage- as of Tuesday, no party if you pull another all-nighter. The first was on Monday- the next did not happen. There's something!

My little girl has been improving so much with her Korean- it's wonderful to see. But it's been a lot of work to keep on her. I'm motivated though because it's helping me.

My $2 per day experiment- I haven't been tracking it. It was probably a mistake to embark upon, because that perverse part of me that will not be pinned down decided that as of that day I needed to go to Whole Foods just about every day. That passed eventually, and now I'm eating very normally- more normally than I have in years. Sadly, I don't think this agrees with me, and since my older daughter has similar digestive issues, I'm wondering if I should switch back to dairy-less. What a pain though, especially since our pediatrician all but demanded that we give the boys whole milk and other full fat dairy products. *Sigh* I think I'm going to have to ask the doctor what I should do.

Recent culinary successes? A steamed custard from Rachael Ray's magazine; an old school casserole (subbing tofu for chicken) and gelato, although I liked the gelato better than my husband and daughter. And- oh yes- crepes and more crepes.

Okay- little boy is crying for attention- but I'll return more quickly this time.

Until later,
Deb in the City

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lack of sleep?

Last night, my daughter was done with her homework just a little bit after 12:00. Same as the night before. I cannot tell you how happy I was. Unfortunately, she managed to stay up late again because she was afraid of a moth in her room and went into the living room to watch TV. This morning, she and my husband both woke up. I heard them (probably right around six). My boys woke me up when they wanted to nurse. They wanted to nurse at the same time and I was softly telling them they needed to take turns while I was thinking, "Gee- thanks for waking me before you left." Nope- a moment later my daughter screams, "Dad! It's 7:30!" Apparently my husband (who went to sleep early because he wasn't feeling well) fell asleep in the living room and my daughter fell asleep in the middle of getting dressed (yeah, I'm having trouble with the visual as well).

She got a ride, of course, and my husband stayed home. He was able to watch the boys so I could J to the tailor (to fix some pants) and school more quickly, but since they weren't ready by the time we left, the whole day seemed shot. I finally decided to take them to the Playspace- with the car- because I needed to buy diapers. That didn't go so well- J had fun with raisins, S couldn't stay away from a five-week-old baby and they both went crazy over the coin funnel- so we came back towards JP, bought diapers, and voted. Then home so I could make a snack, give them lunch and wait for S to get home. She forgot she had Hebrew school today and called to ask if she could go to a friend's house. First of all, no, because she had Hebrew school. Second of all, she's not going anywhere until she gets her homework done. So she comes home, gives me millions of excuses as to why it's not her fault it took her an hour to get home, and when I tell her, in essence, fine, I'm not going to bang my head against the wall about this, she gets pouty and upset. By this time we're in the car. I can't even lose without a fight, it seems.

Back to JP, pick up J, drop her off, boys are still sleeping, then back to Brookline to pick S up. And then home. A bunch of other little things, but that gives you the gist/gyst. I am not exhausted, but I am tired and I can't stop yelling. I'm pretty upset, and the fact that my husband pretty much stayed home all day and slept enrages me. I *never* get to do that when I'm sick, no matter how badly- everyone always needs something. But my husband thinks nothing of holing away and sleeping whatever it is off. Meanwhile, I'd feel like I'd gone to heaven this week if I got more than six hours of sleep. So that's my story today- not so great- except I did manage to not buy any more groceries today. That was harder than it sounds- is there a name for that condition?

Maybe next post will greet me with a better mood,
Deb in the City

Monday, September 18, 2006

$2 a day?

It has been said that the average person (I assume who does not live in the US, but maybe some who do) lives on/eats less than $2 per day. This is so much less than the national average that someone (at MIT?) has her class experience this for a week, and it sounds like it's a big deal.

I have six people in my little family. If we ate $2 worth of food per day, that would be $12 per day, or $84 per week. I strive to spend less (but I might not always succeed). So today I'm going to begin a little experiment. Today I went to Whole Foods and bought about $25 worth of groceries, mostly vegetables, and I want to see how long I can stretch that out (plus whatever I have in the house) before I have to go food shopping again. I'd like to get to five days (or shopping this Saturday), but I think it's more likely that I'll have to shop by Thursday or Friday. But we'll see. I know already, actually, that we'll have to get eggs tomorrow, but that will be the only exception to my little experiment. Again, we'll see.

Today the boys and I went out to the Tot Lot on Beacon Hill, easily the nicest of all of the Tot Lots. Yes, it's well maintained, but it's also set up safely for little kids. The one on Clarendon Street is nice as well, but it's so much larger- and used by some older children from a nearby private school- that I don't feel so good being there. However, today worked out very well and we stayed for about an hour. We probably could have stayed longer, but they were starting to become a little unmanageable, particularly S, who ran by the swings. So I lured them away with the promise of more yogurt- the bit I bought wasn't enough. So on our first trip to Whole Foods, we got more yogurt, apples, raisins (because J was hysterical that I didn't have any more) and a little bit of chocolate. Then we got a table outside and they both insisted- as only two year olds can- that they sit in the big boy chairs with me. Fine. Then they ate their yogurt very nicely while I ate my apple lunch (apple with walnuts, blue cheese and peanut butter- separately!) before they were tucked away in the stroller again with their little bit of chocolate. Once that was consumed, they fell asleep while I walked to the next Whole Foods.

I keep making these new discoveries about how much stuff I don't need. I've been pining over some kind of cool lunch box and thermos system to keep everything cold, but today I had the brilliant idea of throwing in a cold pack to keep my yogurt cold and firm, and it worked. In my little $5 lunch box I fit the cold pack, the yogurt, the apples, an orange, raisins, cheese and walnuts. Works for me. It would be nice to have something that looks cooler, but I can't complain about how much space I didn't use. So we'll see. But this was a nice mini-breakthrough, because I'm into yogurt lately but $1 a pop starts adding up since the boys insist on their own.

And that's it for today. Happily home and cool now- why is it so hot today?- and ready to clean up some messes around the house. Let's see how much I can get done before the boys' interest in Noggin runs out.

Deb in the City

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The return of the sleepless

Here we are- just barely done with the first full week of school, and I've already had two all-but sleepless nights. My daughter is already overwhelmed, and my husband and I are trying to find a balance between threats and motivations. Maybe it's exhaustion, but I think we're doing better than last year. I think.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a friend who also has a child at my daughter's school. They both handled the transition to this tough, tough school badly, if not very differently. She had reason to approach her pediatrician about an examination to determine whether he had ADD. As you may know, there is no one test or anything else that can lead to an "aha!". My friend said the pediatrician felt like they could make a case for the diagnosis, and therefore he could get medication. However, her feeling was that the ADD drugs for kids that age were being treated the same way speed was by the college set- not medically necessary, but maybe something that will give you a performance edge. My friend really suffered last year- as did her son- but she's not doing it. It's a decision everyone has to make on their own, but I say good. I don't judge anyone who would take the meds or even the parents that would give them to their children (well, not most of them), but I do view the whole thing with some fear. Needless to say, I'm not giving my child speed, but I'm not above giving her some really strong coffee.

Last night around 3 to 5 was interesting. I was doing a bunch of sudokus (and I'm officially evil by the way, because that was my level), S was doing her homework and we were both listening to semi-annoying music. The (very strong) coffee gave her a second wind, and she was almost cheerful. It was, in a strange, exhausting way, nice to spend that time with her. But it was also awful- I enjoy sleep- and I missed cuddling with my babies. It was a relief to get into bed at 5:00.

Okay- mental cohesion gone. Talk to you later,
Deb in the City

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I love stairs and Sudoku, but not more than my babies

Today I needed to renew my license. Actually, my license ran out on Sunday. That is my personal 9/11/2001 memory- I had just, at the age of 29, gotten my license the day before, and I went into the work and got the usual razzing. That was right before my mother called, and my offsite coworker called, and we couldn't raise CNN.com up because it was so busy. And then I walked home.

But I digress. Anyway, I needed to renew my license. Both boys were sick, and they would have held up proceedings, or so I feared. So while my mother-in-law watched the boys, I took the train to Chinatown and renewed my license.

Since I had the boys, I haven't been able to take stairs (unless they are the stairs to my apartment, and in that case I am carrying one or more children). So I was so excited to take the stairs to the T- and in the RMV building. And I took them two at a time. I remembered how proud I was of myself after my younger daughter that I took the stairs at the Copley Mall when I got off the train rather than the escalator. I was always breathing hard. But this was nothing- clearly walking, Pilates, yoga and everything else I do paid off.

While at the train station, I got a copy of the Metro. How can you not get a copy of the Metro at the train station? For some reason, I lingered over the page with the Sudoku puzzle, and suddenly I was hooked- so much so that before I got to the RMV I went to CVS to buy some pencils so I could work on it.

After I renewed my license, I went to one of the Chinese bakeries to pick up my custard pies (one of my twice per week treats) and some sesame balls for my husband. I probably have the perfect level of freedom- no babies, no worries- pure leisure (I was out of the RMV pretty quickly as well). And yet- I just couldn't enjoy it. Almost as soon as I was on the train, I was looking around for my boys. I had a taste of the loneliness I felt when I went back to work after babies 1 and 2. Because of their age, it's more bittersweet than desperate, but I was still comforted by the thought that it was temporary. I think when they start K1 in two years we will all be ready for it, but for now, I'm going to enjoy them.

But anyway- anyone know any good Sudoku sites?

Deb in the City

Monday, September 11, 2006

The weekend's aftermath

Let's just get this out of the way: I realize it's September 11th and everyone wants to talk about it. I have a few things I could say, but I am striving to keep this as non-political (and therefore maybe readable by more), so I'll resist the temptation to throw my opinion into the fray. Let me just say this though: Desperate Housewives and Boston Legal just lost a faithful viewer, and I am seriously wondering if I can ever watch my ABC soaps again in good conscience.

Although Korean school hasn't started yet, this weekend was pretty rough. I'll spare you the ugly details, but I will try to share some of the little victories I had despite quite a few setbacks.

+ I made a really, really good chocolate cake. Yeah, that's not an unusual occurence in my life, but this was so over-the-top I have to mention it. I have an unofficial mission now to cook my way through the Dorie Greenspan cookbook I have out of the library, and one of the desserts I made was called something like Grandmother's Creamy Chocolate Cake. That name does not do the dessert justice. Imagine a cross between brownie and fudge, and you've got it. It was so wonderfully rich, in fact, that my husband couldn't eat more than a bite of it. The rest of us, however, did not have any problems. I think next Friday's project is going to be something called Tigres, which sounds essentially like a tiny genoise baked in a muffin tin. I'm going to take the author's suggestion, however, and treat them like little cakes, deserving of filling and frosting. I will, of course, let you know how that turns out.

+ I invented a recipe, or at least I'm pretty sure I did. Nigella Bites has a recipe for something like Mozzarella in a Carriage- a mozzarella sandwich which is dredged and then fried. Very good. Unfortunately, this weekend I ran out of bread (and I didn't have the suggested white bread anyway), so I used cut up tortillas instead. My husband and I both agreed that those were much better than those with bread- they were crispier, and (to me, at least) they seemed to cook more quickly. I give the readers of my site permission to use that recipe, but if I find this showing up in some swanky restaurant as an overpriced appetizer, there will be Hell to pay!

+ I managed to get some yoga in. It's been a little while, and though I've been doing a lot of walking, my body craves yoga, Pilates and something called Classical Stretch. I finally got those in the last few days, and I feel so much better. And believe me, when I feel better, the family feels better.

+ Finally, although much less exciting (and believe me, I am aware of how exciting the above items are- except for the cake), I am noticing a shift in my attitude toward housework. The activities I dread the most are folding the clothes and putting them away, followed right behind by doing the dishes. The laundry is daunting because the boys used to make it very difficult to fold, and then the girls were such slobs that they would make it difficult for me to put anything away in their room. Fortunately, all of them have gotten older, so that can get done much more quickly. As for the dishes, the biggest deterrent was the bending over. Not something I want to admit as a former yoga and Pilates instructor, but it's true. Not due so much to my back as to low blood pressure- you know, dizzy when standing? But that seems to have normalized over the last few years, so now I can get that done quickly too. This morning, therefore, was a pleasure, because all of the beds were folded, clothing put away and dishes swapped before we left. Of course, the toys were still strewn all over the living room, but at least I still get to have goals now.

Until later,
Deb in the City

Thursday, September 07, 2006

And so it begins

The moment we've all been waiting for: the girls are back in school. Ah, public school in Boston. I went to school in Boston intermittently in my own youth. I had such a great experience that I swore I would never send my children here. We ended up here (as I may have mentioned in part already) because we had a nice, cheap piece of property and we lucked out several times along the way. We also learned how to advocate for our children and how to use useful connections to our benefit. Take that last statement as you will.

Overall, I am pleased with the education my children have received, but there is room for improvement. One of the issues which continues to dog us is the staggered starting time. Because of budget constraints, Boston has elected to stagger school times at different schools so they can utilize fewer buses. Take that as you will. That means that some schools start in the 7:20 range, some in the 8:30 range, and some in the 9:30 range. Luck being what it is, S's schoolday begins at 7:20 and J's begins at 9:15. Since luck also played some part in at least J's placement at the most requested school in the city, I won't whine too much about that. But it does mean that my husband takes S in the early morning and I take J (and her brothers) almost two hours later. Which is fine, except that it also means I have to be back by 3:00 most days to make sure I can receive S when she comes home from school. Anyone who wants to lecture that a 12-year-old is capable of coming home by herself needs to take into account that I have to worry about safety and homework. And then shortly after she comes home, I have to go out (with the boys) to get J so we can all be reunited (most days) by 5:00.

Six hours, of course, is enough time to amuse the boys and run a few errands. Today we tried to deliver/delivered a check, took the train to Chinatown, got a snack, went to playground, met daddy, got another snack, then went to Shaw's to pick up some protein (can you tell I like food?). Then home, receive S, then off to pick up J. I have felt mildly feverish off and on today, and my little J has as well. Right now the twins are prattling to their dad who came home a little while ago, but I hope they can be convinced to go to sleep soon.

So... ready or not, another year has begun. And I'm glad. My motto has always been that good things may come to those who wait, but better things come to those who don't.

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I mentioned, I think, my recent acquisition of Nigella Bites. Yesterday, I went to the library after S' bat mitzvah lesson to pick up Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan. This was the book I read in the Pru B&N a few weeks ago which inspired me to make the Gateau Saint-Honore. Such a delicious book- I couldn't put it down. Yesterday, I used it as a guide to make chocolate mousse, but mine was very different because I insist on cooking my eggs- call me salmonella conscious. It was also my inspiration to make Earl Grey-flavored rice pudding- good taste, but lousy, greyish color. I think I really need to make my girls some madelines (they are crazy about madelines, and the tea flavoring can work there), and I'm dying to try more of the chocolate cakes. My indulgence in that book is probably also responsible for my recent fondness for salads, but I think I need to live in a world where I can have both salad and mousse and not feel like I'm going crazy. Eh- I'm already there ;-)

Until next time,
Deb in the City

Monday, September 04, 2006

A little fasting, a little spending

Last night, I made something of a decision. I am sick of bending over backwards to make my family special, yummy (but budget conscious) dinners when they don't appreciate it. On Saturday, I made risotto balls, salad with a miso vinaigrette, bean soup (actually, I let my husband make that) and loose chocolate pots de creme (I followed Ming Tsai's directions, but they didn't set up as well. Still, they were good, according to the twelve-year-old.). But none of that was enough of a distraction to my family, including my husband, to justify turning off the TV so we could eat in peace. What were they watching? She's the Man, the teenage-Shakespeare takeoff. Uh huh.

So last night, grousing to myself while I was eating something that *they* would like, I decided that I was done. I'll still cook for them, but I'm not going to torture myself to fit into what they want when it goes unappreciated. So fine. Tonight they had fake hot dogs and macaroni and cheese while I had a delicious vegetable bake. My husband said it looked healthy, but he doesn't like things that look healthy. I wasn't offended since I hadn't planned on him eating any of it. For now, I've decided that about two nights per week we'll eat something like steamed vegetables, tofu and rice (which we can all eat), two nights per week we'll eat some beans and rice permutation, and the other three they can have what they want and I can have what I want. Expensive in theory, but if I'm sticking mostly to vegetables, it's not too bad. And I'd rather spend the money on an expensive pepper I'll eat than broccoli that they won't.

I haven't been happy with how I've been eating and how it's been making me feel. I feel like I'm losing touch with "hunger"- as in, am I hungry, or am I bored? So last night I made a vegetable broth that was the majority of my food today until dinner. I'm not good on fasts, and I did eat other things (an apple, part of a protein shake, and some frozen yogurt), but usually even that much food would leave me dizzy. Today, however, I was fine, which reinforced that I really had been overindulging the last few days. Strangely, I seem to have lost my desire for chocolate and too many sweets- go figure.

Foolishly, I took the kids to Downtown Crossing to go shopping. What I wanted more than anything was a shirtdress from Madonna's line at H&M (what does she have a clothing line for anyway? But I digress.) Anyway, I had called around that morning and discovered that my size was no longer in the stores. There was a size 12 and two size 4s, and neither of them were for me. So instead we went to CVS so I could get some lipstick (and the aforementioned protein shake), went to Borders so I could get a discounted copy of Nigella Bites (I *love* her!), went to the Children's Place so I could get the six-year-old an outfit and the twins some short sleeved shirts, a fruitless trip to H&M so the twelve-year-old and I could get nothing, then a quick meeting with my husband so he could play with the twin that was awake. Finally, we went to Shaw's at the Pru to buy all of my vegetables as well as some food for the kids. And just when I was enjoying some downtime on the train, the twelve-year-old's bat mitzvah tutor called to remind me of the appointment I was in the process of missing. Argh! Well, let's hope I can get it together on Wednesday.

And now the big question- to workout or not to workout? I'm so spent from that walk (and my boys are so crazy) that I don't know how I'll be able to, but a good stretch would do me good. I know- the tough decisions I face in life ;-)

Until next time,
Deb in the City