sometimes you need to remember you’re a rock star

Michael’s been in Japan for two weeks now and I’m getting a very truncated taste of what single parents experience all the time. I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY DO IT. You know the rope you hang by, and then people say “tie a knot on the end”? There are so many knots, my friends. I now know why parents are always reminding themselves that they have worth too. It’s not a Joel Osteen-inspired love fest. It’s a survival mechanism. You can only clean up so many pooptastrophes and have very few adult interactions before you feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory, trying to stuff your face full of all those chocolates. The chocolates being your to-do list and still nothing seems to disappear. And yes I’m sacrificing 10 minutes of sleep to record today because:

1) When my life is drastically easier in a few weeks, I want to remember that I’m a badass and no matter what happens I’ll get through it and
2) I want to remember that busy-ness is in itself not an accomplishment. I did a ton today (and had to) but really need moments of rest to recharge. Hoping for those moments!
3) I want to remember that when I’m at the end of my rope psychic friends randomly text me and Michael and I have a quick chat and are laughing about everything and it’s suddenly OK. I have a great support system, even though everyone is long-distance right now. My partner is a badass.
4) I will forever volunteer for and affirm single parents or parents who have to do everything or almost everything. They deserve all the cookies, all the hugs, all the random acts of kindness.

So here was the not-so-awesome awesomeness. I haven’t felt this tired since doing physical labor in Cambodia for a week, and this is the day I *had* nanny help. Goodnight!

MORNING
-Get ready, frantically clean before nanny comes over (dishes, picking up)
-Send Michael pictures of Lucy
-Give nanny directions, 2-hour doctor appointment to see if leg better. Leg not better. Have to wear boot “at least” 3-4 more weeks. They couldn’t tell me this at home? Text nanny & catch up on mail during doctor appointment
-Remember haven’t eaten breakfast and it’s 11am. Drive to diner, eat and read for 45 minutes
-Deposit money at bank
-Visit library to see Lucy in action at the story time with the nanny. Realize it’s a mistake when I’m trying to leave and she starts crying.
-Go home—email catch-up, make grocery list
-Organize Minnesota pictures
-Go to Target. Miss Lucy because she loves carts and sometimes we walk around not buying anything. Soy latte where have you been all my life, and why are the tall cups now looking suspiciously short? Did they down-size again?

AFTERNOON
-Go to Trader Joe’s. Miss Lucy again.
-Bring in trash bins, mail
-Relieve nanny. Lucy is napping. Have 45 minutes free time so:
-Unload groceries, make hasty lunch, put feet up
-Play with Lucy, pick up house a little more
-Feed Lucy lunch while chatting with Chris. Lucy gets jealous of chat.
-Bake cookies for landlord who’s mowing our yard in the rain. Also I ate too much cookie dough and don’t like them cooked as much
-Load of laundry
-Play with Lucy & boy I nanny for 2 hours. Feed him dinner.
-Get call from family doctor about lab test results

EVENING
-Visit from Laura while feeding Lucy dinner, give her rest of cookies
-Read & cuddle w/Lucy, bedtime routine. Man I love this girl and think my heart will burst every day.
-Do some dishes
-Realize I had bowl of broccoli for dinner. Scarf down bowl of cereal
-Chat with Michael
-Handwash boot and hope that awful smell isn’t around for the next month
-Handwash Lucy’s stained clothes (green smoothie, not poop)
-Check bills
-Text catch-up
-Type this up
-Facial routine
-Reading in bed
-Lights out at 11:00. Hoping Lucy won’t wake up at 1:00 like last night!!

beauty essentials + a giveaway!

GIVEAWAY ENDED.  JESI (Instagram entry) is the winner!  Congratulations! :)  Your goodies will be in the mail soon.

I use “essentials” like most middle-class white women to mean “when I have enough money, can get some of them for free and make them last, I ideally like to use the following.”  I was blissfully happy for two weeks in Cambodia wearing nothing but sunscreen and taking cold showers.  But if you put a gun to my head and told me to pack for a trip, these would make the cut.

I’m packing this week to see Bobbie in my hometowns of Minneapolis & St. Paul, and couldn’t be more excited to visit our old haunts and places we could never go to as high schoolers, like a rooftop prohibition-style bar.  It’ll be a frolicking good time as always with her, and these babies are coming with me.  In addition to packing to see her, today I helped Michael pack for his trip to Japan (in two weeks), packed boxes for our cross-country move (in two months) and packed up items for our yard sale (next week).  You could say I’m in a purging/generous mood.  And because of that and because I am so grateful for my friends and regular readers, why not have a giveaway and share the wealth??  First, the “essentials” that I use year-round.photo-87

1.  La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk: I’ve used this for 10 years.  It’s the only thing that keeps my cadaver-white skin from blistering.  And I don’t need to reapply constantly.  Lucy and Michael use it too, although it stings pretty badly if it gets into our eyes; thankfully Lucy is not a big eye-rubber.  Quick absorption, no lasting scent, works well blended into makeup.  We wait for the CVS 30% off sunscreen sales and get enough to last the whole year.

2.  Lancôme Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover:  The. Best. Ever.  Beats out Almay, Clinique, Sephora, Neutrogena, coconut oil, you name it.  Expensive but I got this one as a Sephora freebie sample and since I don’t wear makeup daily it lasts a LONG time.  No oily residue afterwards and works for waterproof eye makeup.

3.  Bumble & Bumble Prêt-à-Powder:  My super-fine hair gets oily even by the end of the day.  I was dubious about trying this because it’s basically a glorified baby powder.  But it’s scented and doubles as perfume, and helps me get to the end of the end of the day without greasy hair—sometimes the next day.  Michael thought I was ridiculous for putting it on Lucy’s hair before church when we didn’t have time to give her a bath, but he said, “woah, it works!  and smells good!”  If my husband is sold and he never even uses lotion, there you go.

4.  Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Peel Original Formula: Because of rosacea and another skin disorder, I have to use a boring medical face wash.  It contains sulfur and smells exactly like a geyser.  While it cleans my face I don’t get that pores-have-been-vaccummed-out feeling.  These peels, used once a week, give my skin that squeaky-clean feeling.

5.  Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer (GREEN):  White, pink-toned ladies, listen up.  This tube is a miracle-worker.  I can slap on sunscreen, apply a dime-size of this to my face, and people think I’m wearing makeup.  It makes your skin go back to its original color, especially if you are battling acne, rosacea, or are very pink-toned.  Also conceals scars.

6.  Dr. Jart+ Beauty Balm SPF 25:  This is a little dark for my skin, so I’ll mix it with more of the sunscreen above and put it on my face, neck and chest.  Non-greasy, long-lasting, and replaces foundation.  I’ve been using freebie tubes of this from Sephora for the past year—it’s time to buy one for real!

7.  Lucas’ Papaw Ointment:  Fermented Papaya and preservatives.  That’s all in the ingredients list.  My friend Claire got me hooked on this when I lived in Japan.  She brought it back from New Zealand for me and since then I’ve ordered from there until. . .celebrities started recommending it in magazines and now you can finally buy it from Amazon! Works as a thick moisturizer, diaper rash cream, lip balm, salve for cuts and burns, etc.—don’t you LOVE multi-tasking products?

BEAUTY GIVEAWAY—Retail Value $95:**  

photo-88Dr. Dennis Gross Alpa Beta Peel (one packet of Step 1 + Step 2)
Lancôme Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover (1.7 oz)
Fresh Sugar SPF Lip Treatment (.08 oz)
REN Instant Firming Beauty Shot (.1 oz)
Clinique High Impact Extreme Volume Mascara
(full-size)
Lancôme Hypnose Drama Excessive Black
(full-size)
Drybar Hot Toddy (1.7 oz)
Origins VitaZing SPF (.5 oz)
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (.05 oz)
+ 3 freebies!

:: GIVEAWAY RULES ::

  1. Enter by commenting on this post OR my Instagram post with (1) your favorite beauty product and (2) why you like it.
  2. Limit one entry per person.  US & Canada Residents only.
  3. Entries will end on Thursday, June 4, 9:00PM EST.
  4. Winner will be chosen via random results online generator and will be announced Friday, June 5.

**In an effort to be honest and maintain this blog as a hobby, I do NOT do sponsored posts. All my opinions/reviews/giveaways are unsolicited.

tip Tuesday: living in small spaces part 2 + home tour

If you came over to visit today, I would talk about how small our apartment is while thrusting your beverage of choice into your hands (don’t worry—I believe in morning alcohol, AKA “brunch”).  You’d say “What a charming Victorian!” noting the high ceilings and antique fireplaces, and I would blush and say “It has charm,” meaning “I stub my toes ten times a day and secretly want to live in the ‘burbs in a two-story gated house, preferably with a butler named Cecil and a personal assistant named something sensible like Jane Miller.”

But you have no clue because I cleaned like mad until you rang the bell.  As I whisk off to the kitchen I’d kick a few toys under the couch as you sit down and make yourself comfy.  Only the faint smell of Lysol would betray the frantic cleaning that preceded your arrival.  I emerge from our non air-conditioned kitchen after a few clanks and whirs to offer you a delicious meal with a ridiculously long name, completing the illusion that our house looks like this every day:

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And what does all this have to do with living in small spaces?  It’s taken me a few years, but in addition to my first tip, I’ve realized our greatest asset in having a small home is A SENSE OF HUMOR. And a realization that our house will only look this way when people come over.  I tell myself every day: give it up, girlfriend.  Two jobs, a toddler, frequent moves and travel, constant hosting and cooking experimentation do not an Architectural Digest home make.  We do not have a pantry, linen closets, or even the ability to put nails and screws into our walls, just in case you were going to suggest shelving to maximize storage.  A sense of humor and a little patience can go a long way.  And I also recommend avoiding home and decorating magazines, because they think “small” is a beach house in the Hamptons or a loft apartment in SoHo.  These pictures were taken today, no re-arranging or editing.  I’m on “vacation” this week, a term I use loosely because this is my week to get stuff done.  But that makes me very happy!

//Those are Michael’s bags (again, no closet space) next to my desk, which doubles as a craft center (candles, collages, paintings, stationery) and office.  Notice the wallet, paper towels, baby monitor and books on top.  There’s our laundry and 1 foot away is Lucy’s bouncy chair.t1

//What says romance in the bedroom like workout clothes thrown on top of DVD cases and stacked ottomans?  Why are the ottomans stacked?  Because stacked ottomans create an ideal perch for our computer when we watch movies/TV.  Duh.t2

//Here’s our entryway table, which has a makeup bag I haven’t unpacked yet from our trip 3 weeks ago, wedding albums, craft supplies, letters from friends, a couple things I need to reframe, Ikea mirrors to put into storage, my journals and magazines, and Lucy’s toys.  Paste for collages.  On the bottom shelf is our game/card storage and a basket of yarn for Michael’s knitting.t10

//The actual entryway tables because we always use the back door—basil plant, chopsticks, tea, coconut in the mason jar, more mail, my drinks, our nanny’s purse, library books, toiletries for my trip this weekend, shoes, and stuff to return to friends, phone-charging station.t6

//Costco storage, linen closet, medicine/toileltries on right.  On left, wine & coffee mug holder, recipe books, laundry detergent, mailing envelopes.  And baby wipes, magazines and eye drops just for good measure.  This is what happens when you have limited bathroom/kitchen space.t8

//Our entire dining room.  Boxes for moving, packing supplies, cleaning wipes, my veggie gumbo lunch and on the left a prop I just shot for the next recipe post.t13

//This is after two large loads of dishes and cleaning the stove.  Salted cheese on top of stove for new recipe we’re trying.  Did I mention it’s 11AM?t15

//A Costco-sized bag of rice is here to greet us on arrival.  I’m thinking of naming him.t14
//Going to the bathroom always involves dislodging Lucy’s bath toys from the sink.  I secretly love all her little hiding places for things :)t12For the last installment of this series, I’ll have practical advice for living in small spaces: how to decorate and outfit your home to make the most sense of its square footage, along with some really killin’ videos from interior designers.  Despite the pictures above, I do have some good tips.  But I find that coping with a small space for us Type A’ers starts from the inside out—we need to create a sacred space, then learn to laugh at the ridiculousness, and THEN we can start making our home as beautiful and functional as it can be. And when it isn’t that beautiful and functional, laugh it off!

trial by Friday: authentic chile rellenos

cr9cr17The search for AUTHENTIC MEXICAN CHILE RELLENOS is over, thanks to my friend Laura and her mom’s recipe.  I’m doing a little happy dance right now.  And by “recipe” I mean several phone conversations in Spanish about ingredients and methodology which I will attempt to recreate here. Halfway through cooking her mom called to make sure everything was OK. This was Laura’s first time to cook them herself, and I was her trepidatious student after hearing how this was her family’s favorite meal, and no one but her mom ever attempted it.

Before I gave up eating meat, chile rellenos used to be my go-to barometer at Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. Because if they could nail a chile relleno, I might explore the rest of the menu. I arrived at Laura’s expecting something deep-fried and smothered in lots of shredded cheese, and was soon schooled that that is NOT a chile relleno. They are fried in a light batter, and then sit in a rich tomato sauce to marinate for about 20 minutes.cr2cr4  cr14cr15We might as well have been performing open-heart surgery when I picked up the tongs to transfer the fried chiles to the sauce (tomatoes, garlic, bullion, onion and oil), and Laura gave me explicit directions so that the batter wouldn’t fall off. It didn’t.

We proudly ate the results while watching “Chef” and I didn’t even want any of the food in the movie. I now probably won’t order chile rellenos at restaurants because A) they won’t be this good and b) I can make them more cheaply myself. This weekend, before summer gets really hot and you only want to eat salad, run to the grocery store, get a few ingredients, and make these authentic chile rellenos! The recipe below serves 4.  There are a lot of steps but technically it is pretty easy!

Things we would change: use a little less oil in sauce pans; use all fresh tomatoes instead of canned; use veggie bullion instead of chicken (OK that last one is just me). Also I usually don’t cook with canola oil but when something is a family recipe passed down to another generation, you don’t screw it up. You listen to your mama.

Ingredients:
4 green chiles
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
6 roma tomatoes (we did half canned, half regular)
1 clove garlic
1 cup canola/veggie oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup white flour
1 tbs bullion
some kind of bread or tacos for dipping into broth
for veggie-stuffed chiles: firm tofu & mozzarella.  You can use another cheese as long as it’s not crumbly.
for meat-stuffed chiles: ground turkey/beef and frozen vegetable medley
4 toothpicks

Directions:
1. Burn the chiles on the stovetop until they are nicely charred. After charring, place them into a plastic bag for about 20 minutes to sweat. That way the skin will peel more easily.
2. Prepare fillings. For veggie-stuffed chiles, cut tofu and mozzarella into long strips, about 1/2 inch in width. For meat-stuffed chiles, prepare ground meat as you normally would, add some frozen veggies and refrigerate until needed.
3. Heat 1/4 cup veggie oil in skillet. Add onion. Simmer until slightly translucent and lightly browned. Turn off burner.
4. With small knife, scrape chiles so that charred skin is removed. Make a slit in each chile to add filling. Carefully remove seed pod.
5. Stuff with fillings from step #2, seal with toothpick and coat with flour on all sides. Set aside.
6. Mix garlic and tomatoes in blender. Add bullion to taste. Mixture should equal 4 cups. If it’s not enough, add some veggie/chicken stock (but we added water and it tasted fine!)
7. Add blender mixture to onion skillet and let simmer.
8. In separate frying pan, heat remaining oil slowly. This is what the chiles will fry in.
9. Separate eggs yolks and whites into two different bowls. Egg whites should be in large mixing bowl. Beat egg whites very quickly with hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add half a teaspoon of salt, then yolks. Mix again until just combined.
10. Dip chiles into egg batter and immediately transfer to oil once the oil starts bubbling (use your hands). Repeat until all chiles are in pan and frying. Don’t crowd the chiles—if you have a small pan just do two at a time.
11. When chiles are lightly browned, turn them over and fry the other side.
12. When chiles are completely fried (should be golden brown, not dark brown), transfer to tomato broth pan with tongs. Let them marinate for about 20 minutes.
13. Serve each person 1 chile, with lots of the broth and a side of bread or tortillas for dipping into the broth.cr8cr1cr3cr11photo-86cr18photo-85

they made me Mama

DSC08520

I buried my first baby under one of these trees. He/she was a fetus that fit into the palm of my hand.

photo-84Lucy, our miracle baby, today.

It might seem morbid, but I cherish them both on Mother’s Day. I’ve listened to a lot of moms talk about babies they’ve lost, and they WANT to talk about it no matter how many living kids they have or how many years have passed since their loss. One woman at my old church had seven miscarriages. I cannot imagine but am bowled over by the strength of women.

Not only do we have amazing physical capabilities but we have amazing abilities to connect with each other, lift each other up, affirm how hard motherhood—and the path to motherhood—can be. Hard and yet life-altering and life-giving. After we lost our first baby and before we had Lucy, I experienced love in a whole new way. I gave more freely to others and wasn’t embarrassed to accept help. I was more aware that our lives stand on the edge of a knife, and no amount of effort/goodness can change what will happen in the capricious natural order.

I felt empowered and blessed to, however briefly, be pregnant with our first. It felt like several years wasted at the time (we tried naturally, did several rounds of fertility treatments, then IVF) and I was extremely angry at God for losing our first while at the same time praying that God would help me not become bitter. Sidenote: it’s a little hard to scream at someone you are asking for help from, especially the Almighty.

But it wasn’t wasted time because that baby made me a mama. That was the most buoyant joy I’ve ever known.

And Lucy, don’t get me started. I didn’t want a second away from her today, even though this was “my day.” Singing the theme from “Jaws” and then running to get her and hearing that insane laugh beats out alone time. Maybe I can have a piece of Mother’s Day on Monday too?

They are my heart, always!

for the mother(less)

Until my parents die, I won’t be able to put my name publicly to our family story.  Let’s say, at the very least, that my relationship with my mother is complicated.   Last week I read the book “Are You My Mother?” to one of the kids I take care of and choked back tears at a completely inappropriate time, when the bird is talking to the SNORT and you’re supposed to do a funny sound effect.  Fair warning—don’t read that book this week! ;) Mother’s Day is fast approaching and here’s the truth:

Some of us have abusive mothers.
Some of us have mothers who act more like children that mothers.
Some of us have neglectful mothers.
Some of us have dead mothers.
Some of us have mothers who know nothing about us.
Some of us are mothers without having been mothered.
Some of us feel like mothers who haven’t met our children yet.
Some of us are mothers who carried children in the womb and yet by worldly standards we are not mothers.

There are no Hallmark cards that fit.  We approach Mother’s Day with a mix of emotions while people in “normal” families (albeit dysfunctional, because everyone’s somewhat dysfunctional) buy flowers and chocolates and proudly say Mom is their best friend, their confidant, their champion. We look at these normal interactions and think “How odd. That must be nice.” If you’ve thought “how odd, that must be nice,” you aren’t an alien. You aren’t out of place and there is nothing wrong with you.

I wrote this poem on Mother’s Day 2010 and sent it to one of the most beautiful people in my life, Rebecca. She titled it Bear/Bare. Rebecca has a great mother and is a great mother to her dog, her students, her community. I’ve stayed with them in Virginia a few times since Reb and I were at grad school together, and those experiences of seeing them interact, and receiving her mother’s kind hospitality formed my idea of what a mother should be. It also sped up the mourning process, because hard as it is, the more we see what SHOULD be the more we can let go of what we never had.

Nothing alleviates the pain of being in any of the categories above. But I hope if you are reading this and can identify that you know you deserve a healthy, loving, present, active, protective mother. Not because you have earned it or are a good person. Hitler deserved a healthy, loving mother. (And how different would history be if he’d had one?)

Mothers are our first reflection of self-worth and love, because they are supposed to start loving us before we are even born. Having that protective love is a human right like water and healthcare and being inherently valued. This may not be a Happy or celebratory Mother’s Day for you, but I hope you know you deserve to have one.

_________________________________________

Bear/Bare

there is nothing more unfortunate
than wanting to protect
your own mother—
to cover her tightly and bring her
out of her shell, whole.

(this side of the world intimidates)

and now nothing can replace you, who were
supposed to keep me together, and
nestle me tightly against
your chest.

I will feel the wind blowing against me
my whole life.