Meatless Monday: Quiche (and Random Thoughts, Memorial Day Weekend)

I’ve written about quiche before, and it’s one of those dishes that once you learn how to make, you can pretty much go any direction with it. I love quiche because 1) It’s delicious; 2) It’s easy and 3) Once it’s together and in the oven, you can go do something else!

Here are the basics:

Pie crust (I use Marie Callender’s because they are vegetarian)
2 Tablespoons room temperature butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk (I use whole milk or cream)

Here are the variables:

Cheese (4 oz. or about 1 cup)
Vegetables (blanch or steam them first)

Here are the steps:

Preheat the oven to 400.
Spread the butter in the bottom of the pie crust. Spread or sprinkle cheese on top.
Layer in the vegetables.
Beat together the eggs and milk; pour over the fillings.
Bake on a cookie sheet (you may want to cover the cookie sheet in aluminum foil) for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

For Mother’s Day I made a goat’s milk cheese and asparagus quiche. For brunch yesterday (which was actually Meatless Monday, wasn’t it — yes I am just realizing this now in the post, and I don’t care, it’s staying as is) I made mozzarella, broccoli, and sun dried tomato quiche. It was lovely.

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Other stuff that happened this weekend without me having to do too much:

Flora rode a two-wheeled bike. And just like that, she can now ride a bicycle. So. She got up on one at my nephew’s birthday party, and after being exhorted to “just keep pedaling,” she balanced herself and took off. She spent most of the rest of the weekend pedaling happily around the neighborhood. Her next trick will be to get her daddy to go on a bike ride with her.

Michael ran around the front yard in his birthday suit. Dear lord, that child has the cutest tushie ever. I resisted taking pictures, but just barely. (ha!)

This:

It needs a bit of finishing (either sod or a stone border?). That patch of ground has not been so thoroughly planted since we moved into this house seven years ago. Big props go my father-in-law who did most of the roto-tilling and sifting while we entertained friends from out of town. I helped finish up the sifting, decided where the plants went, and planted most of them. Dan helped with the planting, and then we mulched.

And then we showered. And today I am realizing that gardening is a lower-body workout. Ouch.

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Here’s the thing that happened this weekend that I did not understand.

Flora had been eager to plant flowers since I mentioned the possibility sometime on Friday or Saturday. Sunday evening, we — all five of us — ran up to the Home Depot to pick up plants and mulch, etc.

All day Monday, from the time she got up, Flora asked when we were planting flowers. As I mentioned, my FIL started in on the roto-tilling and dirt sifting while Dan and I readied for brunch with our out-of-town friends. Flora went in and out, and didn’t want to eat anything (either for breakfast or brunch), and asked and asked and asked. After our guests left, I went outside to help Dad finish up with sifting the dirt.

And Flora asked and asked and asked. “When are we planting flowers? Is it time to plant flowers? Now? How about now? I just want to get to planting flowers!”

Finally, around 2:30, I started planting flowers.

Flora decided to go for a bike ride.

I found this maddening, but I tried really hard to let it go. But then it was, “When is Daddy going for a bike ride with me?” And then it was, “I want to play with the hose.” And then it was, “Why can’t I get wet?” (After she had “played with the hose,” which mostly seemed to consist of spraying Kate on purpose and spraying Bella and me on accident.)

I simply did not understand her switches of attention from the thing she wanted to do to the NEXT thing she wanted to do.

Maybe it’s her version of the running list I keep in my head, which is kind of the thing that keeps me from “living in the present”. Although I’ve gotten better. I guess I have to hope that she will too.

Audio Visual

I wish I had a video camera running at all times around my children. I wish that I could capture those little moments that make parenthood so very joyful and rewarding.

Like: The intent way all three of my children consumed blueberries out of their little bowls the other night. They stood in a row, heads down, popping those sweet berries in their mouths like someone was going to steal them. It was serious business.

Like: Michael doing just about anything: carrying around a soccer ball, reaching up for my hand, giving Kate a hug (he gives Kate lots of hugs), giving Daddy a kiss (complete with “mwah” sound), saying “up”, saying “down”, saying, “mommy” (he says mommy!), calling Kate’s name (“KAAAAY! Kayyy?”).

Like: Recording all of Flora’s questions and all of Kate’s answers and the inflection of Michael’s babble. The way Flora or Kate will turn a phrase, turn it into something sweet and goofy as they learn the idioms of our language.

And every picture. Every one.


Nutella!


My little KINDERGARTNER! With the teacher who loved and understood her so much.


Asleep in the laundry basket. I don’t even.

It’s so fleeting, so precious. I hang onto every second I can.

Doing for Me

Here are a few strategies I am trying to adopt (or re-adopt) to get back on top of my stress and prevent further depression.

1. Reading time. I need 20 to 30 minutes at the end of each day to unwind with a book. Right now, I am re-reading George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga (you may know it as “Games of Thrones”). It’s very comforting.

2. Sleep. I am trying very hard to go to bed at 10 p.m., no later. It’s difficult to “be done” by then, but I am trying to honor it, Sunday through Thursday. On the weekends, all bets are off, although I tend to let myself sleep later (ha ha, 7 a.m. is later!) and, heck, if I can I grab a short nap. (That doesn’t happen often, but it’s something I’m often on the lookout for.)

3. Going to church. I have a confession: Some Sundays, I don’t get my butt to church. But I’m discovering that going to church for me is like a reset button: I get to unload my concerns and prayers, and start the week a little lighter. So I’m re-prioritizing it to Number One thing to do on Sunday.

Other things on the table: therapy — as space to help me see my way ahead, to plan; an in-home nanny for the summer, as a way to make mornings easier, and change up my after-work time, make it more about being with the children than lots of pickup/driving time; the continual search for a different career path; time with friends, even if it’s just one friend for a couple hours during the week; and (possibly) getting back into the poetry writing scene. That last one is probably the most challenging.

Support

My parents pretty much saved my sanity this past weekend, and I would like to publicly thank them for their assistance. I certainly hope that they enjoyed their time and their grandchildren (I am aware that I was probably not the best company), but the services they rendered simply cannot be overlooked.

Parenthood is filled with many joys, love, wonders, and warm fuzzies.

It is also filled with lots of driving, and occasionally the need for colocation (shout-out to @gwenix for that term).

In the normal course of things, I am fine with this. But this weekend came uncomfortably close to testing my limits.

Kate graduated from preschool on Friday, and Flora had a gymnastic show on Saturday. Flora also had rehearsal for her gymnastic show on Friday (5 to 7 p.m.!), and a birthday party on Saturday. I was also planning to take the girls to the musical at Flora’s grade school Sunday afternoon.

Friday, I was scheduled to leave work at 4 p.m. (I had started the day extra early), but I ended up leaving at 3:45 because I had forgotten that Flora actually needed a meal in between her pick up from school and rehearsal. I had planned ahead and gotten her clothes together so she could change after school, but I hadn’t thought about food.

Like me, my children, when hungry, are an angry force to be reckoned with.

So I drove through a McDonalds, requesting a kids’ meal with a cheeseburger — minus the burger. They got it backwards, and instead of giving me a bun with cheese, they gave me a patty with cheese and no bun. #fastfoodFAIL

And then, when I got to the school it turned out that I had packed Flora’s sneakers, but had forgotten to actually put her clothes in her backpack. #momFAIL

She did, however, thank me for the french fries and apple fries as we were driving. She checked out the burger situation, thinking maybe she would eat the cheese, but ultimately decided against that.

Right around this time I tweeted, “I need a fucking wrinkle in time. #tesseract”. Flora was supposed to be at her rehearsal at 4:45 p.m. Fortunately, my parents were already scheduled to pick up Kate and Michael, plus take out dinner that I had already ordered. When I unexpectedly pulled up in a big ole hurry at 4:35, they were already at the house.

My dad, unassumingly, decided he would take Flora to her rehearsal and pick up dinner and bring it home and we’d eat and then he would pick her up from rehearsal and take her to Kate’s graduation.

And that’s pretty much what happened. (I should’ve given him more exact directions; his GPS took him the long way — of course.) But at least I was free to concentrate of the star of the evening, Kate. (Who, at graduation, introduced herself using every name she has: Kate Kathryn Castle Mangine.)

My parents also took Kate on Saturday afternoon, running her around Point State Park with her cousins, while M napped and Dan drove Flora to her birthday party (he also picked her up and shopped for some dinner items). All-in-all, I had tons of backup this weekend, including my ILs, Dan, and my parents, and my children were properly feted, and we even got some shopping done (after seeing Suessical Jr. at Flora’s school on Sunday — day of rest, my butt).

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Side notes: Dan and I talked a lot about last Friday’s post, and some conclusions we need to draw from it. I know whatever happens, I have that man in my corner, and that means the world to me.

Also, speaking of my butt, between sitting in a padded pew for Kate’s graduation, perching on bleachers for Flora’s gymnastic show, and sitting in hard folding chairs at the play Sunday, my back, bum, and upper legs are very unhappy with me. May have to move up that next chiropractic appointment!

Finally, at the start of Flora’s gymnastic show, they had a vaulting routine involving about 30 girls, ranging in age from (I’m guessing) 10 to 18. It was AMAZING, watching those bodies fly through the air (no exaggeration). And, um, I cried quite a lot. I’m still trying to put my finger on why.

So, how was *your* weekend? Who steps up for you the most when you need it?

Breach

I’ve been trying to figure out if my stress levels have passed an acceptable level.

There are some unfortunate signs they have.

In case you are unaware, here are the top ten stress-creating situations:

1. Divorce/Breakup.
2. Bereavement.
3. Losing a job.
4. Wedding planning.
5. Work.
6. Kids/Family.
7. Debt.
8. Commuting.
9. Studying for exams.
10. Pregnancy.

I’m trying to find a source for order of most to least stressful, and how that’s determined. For example, with kids/family, I imagine that being the parent of a special needs child trumps my family/kids-related stress. If you’re not getting divorced, bereaved, unemployed, or married, does work automatically jump to number 1?

Not that it’s a competition, but you know what I mean. I hope. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m not even sure I know what I mean.

On this list, I “suffer” from — if you will — numbers 5 through 8. Again, I find myself wondering how the scale differs from person to person, from occupation to occupation. Is work stressful regardless? I mean, if I’m not free to lay about all day long on a nice sandy beach being brought cocktails by Sven the cabana boy, then am I by default stressed? (Is Sven, the transplant from Sweden to Hawaii stressed in his role as cabana boy for that matter? Is it legal to be stressed out in Hawaii?)

Mmmm, cocktails. Beach. Cabana boy. Hawaii.

*closes eyes for long moment*

*blink blink*

Where was I?

RIGHT: STRESSED OUT.

A certain amount of stress is beneficial, I get that. It’s the extended-type of stress that starts tipping the scales. That’s what I’m trying to suss out: where and when do the scales tip? How do I stop them from tipping? Or, if they have tipped, how do I get them to balance a little better?

Here are some physical things that make me think I’m over-stressed: canker sores (I’ve had four in the past eight months); tension headaches; back aches (I’ve been seeing a chiropractor, which is helping); exhaustion; insomnia (it is not fair to not be able to sleep when I am so tired).

I’ve also been having some emotional struggles. I am tending toward depression (rather than anxiety, which is my usual MO), I lose my temper WAY too easily, and I feel like bursting into tears much of the time too. And, no, I’m pretty sure given the consistency of these feelings that I can’t put them down to hormones.

And mental lapses. Pure forgetfulness, dropping the ball, utter disorganization. I have to put reminders on my phone (or my work computer) for nearly everything.

I’m sure I’m a pleasure to live with right now.

Of course, I have some ideas of how to reduce my stress, but nothing immediately available. Plus I wonder if changing one thing simply mean another thing will become more stressful? My usual coping stratagems are being overwhelmed, primarily because my schedule (between work, house, and children) simply leaves me no breathing room.

*sigh* I’m just Susie Sunshine around here lately aren’t I?

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed — not just stressed, but over-stressed?

Project Food Budget: Weeks 32 and 33

Food Budget Piggybank

What’s left for the month of May:

Grocery: $200.12
Costco: $161.93
Beer/Wine: $25.69
Eating out: $20.76
Farmers Markets: $55.00

This week’s menu:

Um, I don’t know. The weekend I have coming up is absolutely overwhelming. I know that we are eating out Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and possibly sometime on Sunday as well. It’s going in the entertainment budget, though, as my parents will be in town, and we’ve some celebrations going on. Which is good, because $20 doesn’t cover my family at Burger King, let alone my family + six (or so) others at an actual restaurant!

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Let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* What da Health?
* Charmingly Modern
* naMAMAste
* Twice the Twinsanity
* Brandon and on…
* French Press
* Veggie Meal Maker

Hot Button

Last week, yet another media outlet tried to re-ignite the M-word Wars. (And grossed out a lot of people in the process.)

Here’s a unique idea, American media: instead of attempting to set women at each other’s throats, how about you get down and dirty with some real issues that challenge families? We parents, for the most part, are more concerned with the economy, jobs, family leave policies, and other options to help us raise our children and pay our bills. How about some provocative stories on that, huh?

I have the urge to go on the record here about what I did with my own children. And, ya know, it’s my space, so I’m going with it. As to why we did it that way: because it was right for our family at the time.

Breast Feeding
I breast fed both girls exclusively the first four or five months, and I pumped. I also supplemented with formula from about five months on. Both girls weaned themselves at 10 months.

Now when I talk about them weaning at 10 months, I am being told (by certain people) that the girls weren’t weaning themselves, they were going on a “nursing strike”. I first heard this term last year. My pediatricians never used this term; my midwives never used this term. So when the girls seemed to find my nipples more amusing (seriously, Kate used to play with them) than appetizing, I buttoned up, gave them formula a couple times a day for a couple of months, and then transitioned them onto soy drink or cow’s milk once they were a year old.

Michael is a different story. I breast fed and pumped for a little over two months. He had a terrible latch — not painful, but lazy. I used to have to squeeze my breast while he was feeding. So after struggling with his latch and pumping several times a day, I made the switch to formula.

Co-sleeping
We slept with Flora in our bed for two months. We slept with Kate in our bed for four months. We slept with Michael in our bed for about five months.

Flora got the shortest time because Flora was a noisy baby. Honestly: she squeaked and chirped and mewed, and kept me up all hours. (I am a notoriously light sleeper.) Our nickname for her was uccellina, Italian for “little bird.” With her in the crib, I actually got consecutive hours of sleep in between bf’ing sessions.

Kate and Michael were both quiet infants, so they got to hang out with us longer. Plus, as M went on formula early, he actually slept the most consecutive hours as an infant. But, ultimately, Dan and I went for marriage bed over family bed.

Although, make no mistake, we “co-slept” again when the girls were about 3 years old. They each went through a phase where they had bad dreams, and came into our room. It was far easier to let them come into bed than get up and escort them back to theirs. At this point, they are both sleeping in their own beds *knock on wood*. I expect that Michael will go through a similar phase when he is 3. Maybe we’ll have a king-size bed by then!

Cry-It-Out (CIO)
CIO, also known as sleep training, is nothing that Dan and I needed to do with our kids. Between 8 and 10 months, I started putting our babies down at night when they were drowsy, but still awake. Flora “protested” the most, with a few minutes of crying. But it wasn’t screaming, sobbing, heart-break crying. It was more of an inquisitive “wah? wah?” And then she fell asleep. Neither Kate nor Michael cried much, if at all.

Same thing when (if) my babies woke up at night. If they escalated their cries, I went into them to see what, if anything, I could do (nursing, medicine, a bottle). Through teething and ear infections, I learned what real distress sounded like as opposed to, “Hey, I’m kind of awake, and I’m not really happy about it, and I’m going to fuss a bit, but if no one comes to get me, I’m going back to sleep”.

I never dealt with screaming, red-faced infants who clung to my hair as I was putting them to sleep on their own. We were really blessed to not *have had* to sleep train, IMO.

Work
I have been a work-at-home mom; I freelanced when Flora was a baby. I have been a stay-at-home mom (for about a year after Kate was born). And I have been a full-time work-outside-the-home mom.

It was easier to be a WOHM when Flora was my only baby, and right before I was pregnant with and had Kate. With three children, it’s really hard. Evenings are killing me slowly. If Dan’s work situation were different, and we were both home in the evenings, I think it would be better. But it’s not, and we’re not.

I don’t like it, but we haven’t figured out a way around it yet. If I were making my own life up, I would work part-time out of the home. Dan and I are working hard to help me do that.

Vaccinations
Dan and I did put our children on a less aggressive schedule of vaccinations when they were infants. Yes, it meant more doctors visits, but it gave my husband peace of mind. At the time Flora was born (and Kate, too) he saw so many autistic and developmentally delayed kids, and at the time, vaccinations were still suspect. We know differently now, and he’s had some looong conversations with our kids’ pediatricians that helped. Ultimately, unless your child has a rare, RARE condition that makes him or her ineligible to receive vaccinations, you should vaccinate. If it helps YOU to put the child on a less aggressive schedule, your pediatrician should work with you. But not vaccinating at all just isn’t right. (Okay, totally judging here. Not sorry. This is a parenting decision that impacts people outside of the family.)

Spanking
I don’t spank; I use timeouts and bribes (let’s face it, “taking away privileges” is just another way of saying “bribing”). Dan spanks — not often, because in general our kids are good, but he does. It’s about the only place we are not on the same page as far as discipline and parenting.

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I think what makes telling others about our parenting choices so difficult is our own insecurity. I fought the urge to justify to you, dear reader, *why* I switched to formula with Michael instead of struggling on. Not because I don’t respect other people’s opinion, but because I won’t tolerate judgement.

I am doing what I need to do for our family. Dan and I are facing the fact that something needs to change about my work situation, but we don’t have a comfortable enough financial situation that I could just up and leave my full-time job. Plus, I *like* working outside the home. The months I was a SAHM with Flora and Kate were not good for me, mentally or emotionally. And if mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

Short of outright abuse or aggressive neglect, and smoking around one’s children (I will tell you I cannot stand seeing that, e.g. a parent with a baby in a stroller and a lit cigarette), I really think parents are doing their best. Let’s just cut each other some slack, and maybe focus on a different picture, one that will work to benefit everyone (and not just parents!).

Happy Mother’s Day to All the Mothers

I hope that today, whatever kind of mother you are, you take some time to pay homage to it.

Happy Mother’s Day to the stay-at-home moms, the bottle feeding moms, the work-outside-the-home moms, the breastfeeding moms, the crib bedding moms, the co-sleeping moms, the baby wearing moms, the stroller derby moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to gay moms, married moms, stepmoms, birth moms, adoptive moms, single moms, moms of special needs babies, and baby mamas.

Happy Mother’s Day to baby lost moms, to every mom who didn’t even get to meet her baby, to moms who have lost children at any age.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms who have yet to meet their babies, to pregnant moms, to moms who are trying to get pregnant (good luck! Have fun!) and to all the to-be moms out there, whether they are 4 or 40.

If you can, go hug your mom. If you can’t, I hope she is in your heart in a special way today.

If you can, go hug your mother-in-law, your aunts, your kids’ aunts, your nieces’ and nephews’ moms, godmothers, and any grandmother you can get your hands on.

If you’re a mom and you can, go hug your kids.

If nothing else, call a mom today and tell her she’s doing a good job.

Happy Mother’s Day to *all* my peeps. Do something for you today. You deserve it.

Random Thoughts: The TGIF, Big Time Edition

First of all, I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post. Your words were thoughtful and encouraging, and I do have replies, I just haven’t quite gotten there yet. So, just, thanks.

Secondly, I had so many thoughts and emotions when President Obama articulated his support for same sex marriage. That he did it at all before the election in November; that he was able to put into words a lot of what I felt on the issue. Like the President, my feelings on same-sex marriage definitely evolved. I’m not entirely proud of that. I have close friends and extended family members who are gay. When the issue of same-sex marriage was starting to come into the public sphere, I just shrugged and thought, “Civil unions should be enough.” Part of that was probably because of my faith. I have no delusions that a gay or lesbian couple will ever be married in a Catholic church, but I really feel that it’s time to stop saying, “Well, such-and-such should be good enough.”

Same-sex couples and their families deserve all the rights and protections accorded to married people by the state and federal governments. Full stop. I don’t feel that the federal government needs to legislate on this issue, but at the very least, states have got to stop legislating against it. It’s so bigoted and ugly. (Hello, North Carolina!)

Thirdly, I can’t wait until my parents get their copy of TIME Magazine! My very short take: Blame TIME. The mother featured isn’t a mean, judgmental, attachment parenting lactivist, which you will learn if you read her Q&A (and here’s more proof). But that headline sure makes her come across that way. As I tweeted to someone earlier: “The image is provocative, but ‘MOM Enough’? That’s just inflamatory.” And that’s on TIME, all the way.

Lastly, I still haven’t figured out what’s next for me. The most important thing is that Dan’s in my corner, and that we will figure this out together. My weekend consists of seeing The Avengers (yay!), errand running and gymnastics, cleaning my whole house on Saturday (stop laughing!), and whatever Mother’s Day brings (I have made no plans).

What’s next for you? Any fun plans this weekend?

Futility

I’ve had this site, blog, on-line journal — whatever you want to call it — for 5+ years now. It is about three weeks younger than Kate.

And some days lately it feels useless to me. Pointless. Aimless, wandering, and completely worthless.

I don’t really know what I am doing.

I’ll probably soldier on — I haz deep thoughts, and I have to get them out; I am an insecure parent, dresser, wife, and sometimes I need reassurances, or advice, or whatnot; I like the sound of my own voice (let’s face it).

But sometimes when I read stuff that floors me — like this, and if you are a parent or caretaker of any kind GO READ THIS STORY, and be amazed — I have a mini-crisis. Like of the “what the fuck am I doing with a blog” type of crisis.

This story — that story — is not about me, but I just want to talk about it a little more for awhile, about how it slammed the breath out of me, for reasons obvious and not-so-obvious. And, yeah, if you haven’t read it GO GO GO — I retweeted it last night after reading it from a re-tweet, and it’s obviously struck me, hit me where I live, because here I am incoherently blogging about it.

The obvious ways the post hits me: as a mother, as a baby lost mother, as a mother with three — no, four — children, as a mother who has said of her third (live) baby, “He’d have to be bleeding from the eyes for me to be worried” — cavalier much? — as a mother who prays for the safety of her children with almost every breath in spite of my demonstrated cavalier-ness (is that a word?).

The not-so-obvious way that post hits me: as a writer.

I’ve read it through three times now, and gotten chills each time — even though I know the outcome — and I have been that mother, even though I haven’t had that happen to one of my children *knock knock knock on wood*, I have been on the verge of being that mother, and (please excuse me, Dad) sweet Jesus Christ what writing.

I am, down to the soul of my being, a writer. Before I was a woman, before I was a wife, mother, before even probably I was a good friend, I was — I am a writer. I wrote my first poem in fourth grade, and that pretty much set my feet on the path they have been on since I was — how old are you in fourth grade? 8? 10? — yeah, a long time.

And I am having a real crisis directly related to my writing; I have been having this crisis for some time now. (It is also tangentially related to my mothering and working outside the home, but I don’t have the words right now.)

Because I don’t think I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my writing (or as a mother), and I am not sure how to move forward and get on with doing it.

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Well, dammit. Here’s stuff I have to start telling Flora now (and Kate soon). Bring tissues.