Friday, June 29, 2012

I get by with a little help from my (online) friends

This post is a part of a blog carnival with the new online community, and is sponsored by P&G.  Head on over to the site to take part in the discussion about motherhood and online communities, and you will be entered to win one of five P&G gift baskets valued at $250.

How the online world has helped me as a mom

As a kid, days lasted forever.  The time from any day of the year until Christmas felt like an eternity.  Summers lollygagged along, hours of the day were spent doing nothing and being perfectly content with that.  Impressions of the world were permanently stamped on my brain, and are ones that I can actually recall as an adult.  Fast forward to today, and it seems that if I blink too long, a month will have passed and I won't even remember what I had for breakfast.

The pace of life as a parent is hard to describe to anyone who has yet to experience it.  You hear the snide remarks about never sleeping in again, trading in Foo Fighters for Twinkle Twinkle, losing softball for little league, and the ever dreaded "You think that's bad, just wait!"  But I know now that I never had a complete understanding of just how easy it is to fall into a fast and furious whirlpool of scheduling until I had my own child to revolve around.  He is about to turn three, and it took until about six months ago when I finally popped my head out of the water to look around and realize how much me and my life have changed.

My husband and I have never really lived quiet lives.  We worked, played sports, had far-reaching circles of friends and family, were active in church, and generally lived in an on-the-move schedule.  Once my son was born, that schedule hit a brick wall, got swept up into a bag and shaken around, planted, and grew into something even bigger and faster than I ever knew existed.  Calm is preferable. Busy is ok.  Overwhelmed is not.  The lines between each of those is very fuzzy, but with help of a friend's perspective (thanks!) I'm finally understanding what an important determining factor is:  time to ponder.

When I have time to think, reflect, and absorb the happenings going on around me, I have a sense of calm.  Even if it is busy, as long as I can carve out that time for review, things feel in control.  I have a handle on what is going on.  I can enjoy, or not, and react.  When the to-do list is so long that I am blinded to everything other than getting the tasks completed, discontent sets in.  It might sound counter-intuitive, but the time I have spent online, when handled correctly, has helped me to ponder.

When I had an infant and was in a state of complete sleep deprivation and a daily schedule merry-go-round, Facebook kept me connected to the world I felt so far from.  I could share with my friends and family, keep up on some of their lives, all without the worry of the stains on my t-shirt and whether my brain could even form a complete sentence.

When I had a toddler and was completely perplexed on how to handle that new little person, I started reading websites geared towards parents.  I was interested to read the developmental milestone information, different tips and theories, any tools I could find to navigate this stage of parenting.  That's the time that started to notice the negatives of too much of that type of reading.  Comparing parenting styles can be a very judgmental, self-depreciating, negative thing if you aren't careful.  Parenting ideas are as different and varied as the kids being discussed, and it is easy to question of you are making the right choices.  Being a mom is hard enough, there is no need to add extra imaginary pressure to make it worse.  Once I figured out that I knew best how to parent my son, just as everyone else their own children, it was a much happier place to be.

Enter blogging.  This blog was started to chronicle the journey of doing things I enjoyed again, in addition to parenting.  I never realized how much I would like it.  Writing gives me that time I need to ponder.  The activities that I am blogging about all seem to do the same.  Exercise clears my head to make room for reflection.  Reading helps me think in new ways.  Gardening, cooking and photography are all deliberate, quiet hobbies and give me calm and time to reflect as I do them.  Along with writing my own blog, I've also started to spend more time reading other people's blogs. There are the incredibly beautiful, brilliant, hysterical  authors that I don't know but want to electronically hug.  There are authors that frustrate me, that I don't agree with.  Both help me shape who I am and how I think, and I appreciate them both.   Would I have been the same mom without the internet?  Probably.  Did it make it a little easier? A little more fun?  Yes.  And no matter how big or small, I will take every bit of help I can get.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My perfect pizza

A few months ago, based on the positive experience of a friend who had done the same thing, we signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  In a nutshell, members pay a fee to the farm early in the season, and then get weekly shares of whatever fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest.  Kind of our own farmer's market.  Sandhill Organics is the farm that is providing our bounty, though they are one of many who do this kind of thing.  We missed the first week of the season, so this past Thursday was our first trip to the farm.   My son thinks it is fun to go to the farm for vegetables, my husband and I both really like the idea of supporting local farmers, and the produce is so much tastier than anything I could find in a grocery store.

The farm puts out a weekly newsletter that tells you a little bit about the crops and the going's on at the farm, and then provides a list of what is expected to be ready for that week's pick-up.  We were not signed up for the spring share, but I had been reading the newsletters and was beyond excited to finally get our first pick-up once June rolled around.  They also provide tips for the different items for storage, cooking, and even some recipes, which I find almost as valuable as the actual produce.  It opens a whole new world for us of things we've never eaten before, ways of preparing that we've never tried, and a little extra motivation to use all of produce before it goes bad and we have to throw it away.

This week's pick-up needed two 5-gallon buckets to tote home.  We got raspberries, strawberries, carrots, lettuce, kale, garlic scapes, turnips, baby leeks, a garlic bulb, zucchini, kohlrabi, and popcorn on the cob.  Since we had the newsletter before shopping for the week, we were able to plan our recipes ahead of time to ensure we knew what to do with all of those things.  And surprisingly enough, by the time we have dinner tonight, I bet we'll have eaten through 80% of it in four days.

I can imagine you're asking at least two questions.  First, what is a garlic scape, and who in the world eats kohlrabi?  Second, do you really expect us to believe that your three-year-old is eating all of that?  The answer to the first is that a garlic scape is the flower stalk of a garlic plant, and I don't know who makes a regular habit of kohlrabi, but we used it in a cole slaw and it was quite nice.  As far as my son, well, he eats some of it and some he doesn't.  But since he treats chicken nuggets the same way (he is three, after all), I take that as a victory.

Today's lunch was a meal that I can guarantee I have never eaten before in my life, and it was fantastic.  I sauteed turnips, kale, garlic scapes, and baby leeks in butter, salt, and pepper.

Next, I put it all on top of a store-bought pizza crust, topped it with feta and mozzarella cheese, and put it in the oven for ten minutes.  This beautiful thing is what came out of the oven.  It tasted just as good as it looked.  The sauteed kale and garlic added a zing of flavor, the turnips were buttery and soft with just enough crisp when you bit into them, and the cheese held it all together nicely and added a smooth topper to it all.  Amazing.  Without the recommendation from the Sandhill Organics newsletter, I never would have dreamed of this combination, but I'm so thankful I tried.

I will admit, it is extra work to prepare this kind of weekly menu and the vegetables themselves, and I can image there will be some Thursday nights where I just don't feel like putting forth the effort.  Since one of my initial goals for this year, when I started this blog, was to cook more good meals for my family, this is a home-run solution for at least five months of the year.  I am very excited to be a part of this and hope that it becomes as much of a normal summertime habit as marveling at the impressive locations that weeds take root in my garden.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Attack of the gnome

Six months ago I started to write a blog.  The blog was some extra motivation to make good changes and stick to them so I would have something to write.  Changes were made, and are ongoing, and that is good.  Looking back at my list of posts, I can see that in February that annoying little overachieving gnome started to poke holes in my happy plan.  In March, he took over.  I'm pretty sure that life has been on the downhill of a roller-coaster since then.  Not downhill as in negative, but definitely downhill as in super-speed.  I know it feels like this has been going on for a while, but when I see that I've written two posts in the last three months, it makes it even more clear.  What have I been doing?  I'm not quite sure, it's hard to pick out the shapes in the blur.  There has been plenty of fun mixed in with the work.  There has been cooking, reading, exercise, gardening, picture taking, time with family and time with friends.  But that gnome has been sprinting laps around my brain for three months, reminding me of all the to-do's that are sitting and waiting for me, and I think it's about time to make it stop.  The to-do's will never go away, and that's ok.  But that gnome, I think it's time to send him on a long vacation, and while he's gone try to figure out how to send him on a swim with the fishes.

So, today is a new day.  Thanks to a long vacation with family, I'm rested.  Thanks to a quiet morning with my son, and a leisurely walk with the dog, I'm relaxed.  Thanks to this post, I'm ready to get back to doing awesome things and blogging about them.  Stay tuned.