From the first time your newborn scratches his perfect little alabaster face to a broken arm on the pee wee football field, it's a sad fact of parenthood: kids get hurt. They bump, they bruise, they bash, they bang. Not fun, but it comes with the territory. It's an expected reality. But I think most soon to be moms and dads are in someway prepared for it.But NOBODY prepared me for the injuries and abuse I'VE had to endure over the past 2 1/2 years. Fish hooking, gum scraping, head butting, nipple biting. Baby talons raking over your eyelids like razor blades on fire. And while we're on the subject, I need a BIOLOGICAL reason why an infants fingernails need to be Freddie Kruger sharp and grow overnight. It's INSANE. I honestly think one of the hardest tasks and biggest shockers for a new mom is the newborn manicure. Like trying to pamper a caffeinated grasshopper. A caffeinated grasshopper with freakishly sharp nails.
|See these seemingly adorable and innocent treasures for what they really are:|
VIOLENT, VICIOUS BEASTS. Just...bullies.
Pats and Nora. Tag-teaming me on the daily.
A few weeks ago I was absolutely at the end of my rope. I was clocked in the jaw and kicked in the c-section too many times a day. My hair was getting ripped from the roots in gobs and I'm pretty sure I had a dead front tooth.
I needed a break from the octagon ring that was our living room or I was seriously gonna lose it. I couldn't run the risk of acting on the urge to defend myself, so I needed to get the H-E-double hockey sticks outta there. And fast. I needed a hobby. A break from the house on a daily basis that would somehow make me a better me. And, in turn, a better mom. I've never been super enthusiastic about working out. I like doing my Pilates DVDs now and again, and I love to dance...but I needed more out of my "me time." We were walking through La Jolla one morning (as we did everyday while we were there for 7 weeks). Park, grocery store, coffee, the norm. We passed a big sign that read "BIKRAM YOGA." Bikram yoga, in a nutshell, is a practice of 26 different yoga postures and two breathing exercises done in a room heated to about 104 degrees. Thats basically the jist. I'd always wanted to try it. I wasn't what you'd call a yogi by any stretch of the imagination! A class at the Y in Des Moines with my friend Carlos, an at home DVD a couple times, and a few prenatal classes in San Francisco where the instructor used the word "juicy" one too many times for my liking. Gag. But, I don't know, something in my gut told me I would like Bikram. Enough so, that before we left NYC I bought two Groupons to two different yoga studios to use upon my return. Figured it would be money flushed down the loo, but a good deal. And like most gals, I love a good deal! Never the less, I took a quick iPhone pic of their schedule and vowed to myself I would check it out the next morning. And then the most bizarre, unexpected thing happened: at 6:20 am the following day, I dragged my battered booty out of bed, got dressed and actually walked out the door! I know. And just like that, everything in my life was about to change...
Over the next 90 minutes, everything was just...clicking. Everything the instructor said was ringing so true. Every posture...it felt like my body had been waiting to move like this my whole life and was finally getting the chance. It was awesome. And the body part was just the tip of the iceburg. It was getting into my head. It was getting into my...dare i say...SOUL. I felt like my whole system was being...cleaned. Flushed out. I was sweating out all the crap built up inside. And I was hooked. The next day, I got up at 6:20 once again and headed back to the hot room. I bought an unlimited monthly membership and was on a mission. I left class feeling unstoppable. Strong. Empowered. This continued over the course of the next 5 days or so. And then...it all came crashing down. I couldn't take more than 2 sips of Pinot without becoming almost instantly blubbering drunk. I could sit down for more than an hour without falling upon rising. My arms were burning so badly I could barely hold Pats up to nurse, my head was pounding, and my left hip was jacked up to the point that a simple stroll to the market was excruciatingly painful. Both physically and mentally. WTF? This was so freaking unfair. I finally get out. I find something that is MINE. And that is stimulating and active and spiritual and motivating and it's left me in a physical state of helplessness. What gives, man? Was something telling me to stop? Give up? And then the words of Clark W. Griswold rang through my head: "Nothing worth while is easy, Ellen. You know that!" Ok, Sparky, I hear ya. I popped a couple Advil, doubled my water intake, saw a chiropractor a couple times and got back on the camel!
And I've continued to get back almost everyday for almost 2 months. My hip healed. Almost. The soreness has faded almost completely away. Almost.
But doesn't it sometimes seem like that's always the way? I spend 99% of everyday taking care of everyone else and the second I try to do something for myself, I get shit on. More often than not, literally. My keys ALWAYS chip a fresh (paid for) mani. As soon as I find a few minutes to catch up on phone calls or emails or writing? The shrill screams of a nap cut short. But it's true. Nothing worth while IS easy. Its not easy to get up while EVERYONE else is asleep (which NEVER happens by the way--everyone sleeping at the same time) and head to a heated torture chamber where I contort my body for the sake of emotional balance. Well, and abs. Well, and rock hard thighs. And its not easy putting career and vacations and personal hygiene on the back burner. And it's not easy trying to raise children that don't grow up to be serial killers or drug dealers or date rapers. But going through these hardships make the end result that much sweeter. The hardest part of my day is usually over by 8:30 am. That's pretty freeing. And, when we finally do get that romantic getaway in the sun, I'll appreciate it that much more. The life experiences and trials I'm dealing with right now can only make me better at my job. A wiser, more well-rounded woman learning the vital skills of patience and perseverance. And how to breast feed, make a grilled cheese, and find "Franklin" on YouTube simultaneously.
The early days: Jeremy takes one for the team.
Out of the hot room and into the cold world, baby!
Bikram inspired tips for moms (and other humans) gripping their lotus flowers for dear life to avoid drowning:
A LITTLE SUFFERING BUILDS COMPASSION I heard a teacher say this recently while in wind removing pose. It's a posture in which you are lying on your back and you pull your knee up to your shoulder till you feel a little "pinch" in your hip. Wonder why my frickin hip kills? Um...ow. Same thing applies to motherhood. Or just person-hood. Somehow - despite the fact that the pasta I serve her has nothing on it but parmesan cheese -Nora manages to get spaghetti sauce UNDER her bib and all over the brand new sweater I laid out for her the night before. I realize this as we have 3 minutes to get out the door for a play date. I mean, it's like my the world is about to end. The baby scratches her face with one of those Freddie fingers just as I'm about to dress them in their fancies and take holiday pics. Forget it. Full mental breakdown approaching. For ME, you understand. Not the children. Right? It's like "WHY MEEEEE?" Cut to: Huffing and puffing down the sidewalk with my City Select as we're now late due to the last minute costume change and there's a young mother, toddler in tow, pushing a no more than 6 month old baby in plastic umbrella stroller with an oxygen tank in the flimsy basket beneath. Spaghetti sauce? I'm such a DICK. Cut to: (Audible sigh) The subway elevator reeks of piss, then I have to squeeze my double chassis and my yoga assy onto the 1 train which is packed for absolutely no reason at 1:30 on a Tuesday. After my eyeballs return to normal from their rolled-up-into-my-brain position, I look down at the other end of the car to see a young woman in a wheelchair. She's in a conversation with another passenger about how she broke her back in gymnastics when she was 17. Paralyzed since. Seriously? I'm crying. A scratch that will heal in a day? Ruined your stupid Christmas picture princess? I hate myself. Not to say if nothing bad ever happens to you in your life you can't be compassionate toward others...but sometimes in takes a wheelchair and an oxygen tank to show you that your spaghetti sauce "incident" is ridiculous nothingness. I'm such an a-hole. Which leads me too...
THE GREATEST CURRENCY IS SELF-COMPASSION AND ENDLESS PATIENCE. Now, endless patience, I believe, is a lifelong journey. With screaming kids, spit up stained Juicy Couture, a two year old's new found love of watercolors, and waiting for ANYTHING to happen on Desperate Housewives...we'll say my "endless patience" is a work in progress. But I'm working on it and that's what matters. Self-compassion on the other hand, is something totally different. Sometimes we're so busy consoling everybody else and figuring out their problems that we forget about ourselves. Now, self-compassion isn't "felling sorry for yourself." Think of it instead as self-APPRECIATION. Instead of getting down on yourself for the little things that go wrong. CELEBRATE the little things that go RIGHT! You DIDN'T chip your paid-for mani! Woo-hoo! Pour a for-no-reason glass of bubbles while watching Bravo! Done. You got the multiplying mountain of laundry FINALLY washed and folded AND put away. Rock on! Go buy yourself a hard copy of US Weekly and steal find 10 minutes to do a flip through. But self compassion/appreciation goes beyond rewarding our own efforts and little victories. It's about loving ourselves. I know, I know. Sounds a little 80's? But fa realz. I don't want Nora to hear me call myself fat or old or ugly. I don't want Pats picking up on me silently wishing for another life a la Kardashian or Witherspoon or Chelsea Handler. I wanna show my girls that I'm following MY dreams, and in turn they'll be inspired to follow their own. I don't want to get so wrapped up in what everyone else is feeling and doing and eating and wearing that I let myself go completely and wake up one day to find my kids nominated me for some LIVE! With Kelly Mommy Makeover segment. I mean, a sweet gesture but...not interested. SELF COMPASSION. SELF APPRECIATION. Worth more than gold or silver. Or Louboutin.
YOU DON'T NEED A GREENHOUSE TO GROW.
Yes. I've been led to most of this new found wisdom by trapping myself in a stinky sweat box for 90 minutes a day, depriving myself of water while blood rushes rapidly to and from my brain. For some reason that's what I apparently need. For now. But I can't count on it. Well, I can't DEPEND on it. Peace and knowledge and understanding and compassion and pain and pleasure is all around us all the time. It's just a matter of being open to it. All of it. I don't need to put myself in extreme conditions to accept supreme gifts. Its all there ahead of me. It's hard not to be intimidated by the brightness of great things. Take off the Dior shades and SEE. And feel, and taste and LISTEN. So important! I need to listen before I speak or freak out or throw something or scream. It's a pretty low moment when you loose it on a toddler for interrupting your "Housewives" for the 12th time not cause she wants "choo choo trains on iPad," but because she's thirsty and is asking very politely for a glass of water. Please, Mommy. I get frustrated constantly with her inability to listen. Maybe she's frustrated with the same thing in me.
WHAT WE DO IS SIMPLE, IT IS NOT EASY.
Changing a diaper, emptying the dishwasher, mashing up a banana I mean, a trained monkey could do it. A trained MAN could do it. Simple tasks that fill our day that is somehow the hardest work we've ever done. And on top of it we're expected to keep our cool, not curse or drink, and keep a smile on our faces whilst watching "Toy Story 3" for the 487th time. And pay attention to every move Jesse makes. And NOT cry at the end. "Why you so sad Mama? Woody ok, Mama. Bonnie nice." Sure! No prob. Seems easy enough, right? WRONG. I feel like I've aged 10 years in the past 28 months. Everyday seems like the hardest day I've ever lived. Somedays the responsibility of being at the helm of the life and well being of two miniature human beings is...insane...suffocating...borderline hilarious actually. And they barely do anything but play and eat and poop. What am I gonna do when I have to deal with school and boys and bullies? Oy vey! Easy, no. SIMPLE, yes. I've taken to the idea of moving through every moment one second at a time. In class, we don't hold any posture for more than 60 seconds. Some 30. Some only 10. Come ON. You can do ANYTHING for 10 seconds! Wake up. Change morning diapers. Go downstairs. Turn on Pandora. Start breakfast. Eat breakfast. And so forth. I'm not worrying about lunch. I'm not worrying about the party we're going to on the weekend. I'm not thinking about the struggles we will likely have at nap and bedtimes. I'm just living in very second of every moment. Simple enough. In theory.
COME BACK TO YOUR BREATH.
It's important, and most teacher's stress, in between postures to focus and "come back to your breath." This is an amazing skill I've tried to incorporate to my daily practice. In the yoga studio and in life. When Nora's having a full mental and physical meltdown or turning purple from a tantrum, we encourage her to breathe. "Take a deep breath....in...out." Its actually wicked cute when she complies. Jeremy and I however, seem to have a harder time following our own advice. As most of us do, right? So, we've vowed to give this one the 'ol college try. When things are about to boil over, STOP. When there's a line wrapping around the store at the Rite Aid on 145th and Broadway because there's ONE girl working the registers on a Saturday afternoon. And all you need is baby wipes because you forgot them on your last diapers.com order and you realize as you get closer that she's ON THE PHONE screaming at her baby daddy...STOP. Breathe. Ahhhhh. Or " HAAAAAA" as Bikram would say. Your toast burns. Let it out. Poop up the back. Regroup. Crayon on your flat screen. Move on. Amazing what a little oxygen will do. Again, simple. Not necessarily easy.
I'm not saying Bikram yoga will solve all your problems. Or make you a better parent or spouse or person. But there's SOMETHING out there that will give you that extra boost you need. That something just for you that will enrich your life just a little more. Make you feel more confident, more alive. And all of this will rub off in everything you do. Maybe it's cooking class. Maybe it's pottery. Maybe it's church. There IS time for you. I didn't think there was time for me. But I MADE time. And if you wanna give Bikram a shot, come up to Harlem and practice with me! I'll go halfsies on your first class! That's how much I love this. Maybe you'll do it once, or everyday for the rest of your life. Who knows. And no matter how long you practice, and no matter how long you live, you may never reach the "ideal." In anything you do. That's not the point. You do what you can for you. For your family. Today you may be able to do more than yesterday. Tomorrow, maybe less. Your apple pie may never look like Martha's. Your kids' birthday parties may never be as grand as Tori and Dean's. You may never be able to bend back and see the wall behind you or touch your "exact forehead to your exact knee." But we ALL can stand with our feet together, planted firmly into the ground, and look at ourselves in the eyes in the mirror. And breathe. Let's begin.
WARM FROM THE INSIDE OUT!
Two cozy recipes to fill you up with comfort.
I've been going through a phase lately where I'm kinda picky about meat. Especially ground meat for some reason. So I've been cooking a lot of vegetarian recipes. This vegan chili is super healthy and super filling. I guarantee you won't miss the meat. And if you do, add some in. Fine by me.
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely or grated
5 (15 oz) cans of beans You can choose any combo you like. For taste color and texture I prefer: black, pinto, light kidney, dark kidney, cannellini or white beans. But again, whatever you like. Chick peas are good, lentils, red beans...sometimes I switch it up depending on the day/my mood.
1 (15 oz) can of corn
2 (15 oz) cans of diced fire roasted tomatoes They don't have to be fire roasted. I love these though. They add a nice smoky flavor that works well in chili. But you can get plain, with garlic, with peppers onions and celery...your chili your choice.
A palmful or so each of: garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika, dried or powdered oregano, chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Your favorite hot sauce (I like about 10 dashes of a chipotle sauce)
Worchestershire sauce about 5 dashes or so
If I happen to have these lying around I'll throw in a half a handful (a tablespoon maybe?) of semi-sweet chocolate chips, a bottle of dark beer or stout (half in the pot, half for the chef), any coffee still left in the pot from the morning. These just give it a little something extra, but no worries if they're not around. It'll still be delicious!
This really couldn't be simpler. Or easier for that matter! Dice up the onions and garlic and add to a big pot over med-high heat with a LITTLE bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Let these cook a bit and soften while you open up all your cans! Drain and rinse the beans and corn in a colander to get off any excess salt and "tinny" taste. Dump in over the onions. Add your tomatoes, not drained. Now your spices and any "extras." Stir it all together. Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. You could be eating in a half hour or 4 hours. The longer it sits on the stove the yummier and thicker it gets and gives all the favors a chance to get to know each other a bit. I when you're ready to serve give it a taste and add more salt and pepper to taste. Top with chopped scallions, shredded cheese (I like a reduced fat cheddar or pepper jack), and plain Greek yogurt (you can use sour cream if you prefer). I set it out in little bowls and your guests can top as they choose. Ovbi, if you wanna keep it vegan, omit cheese and sour cream or use soy. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, corn bread, regular bread, whatevs. Dig in! Good with that dark beer (if there's any left), or a nice spicy red wine.
**If you want to go ahead and add meat, brown a pound of ground beef or turkey while you're cooking the onions and garlic.**
MAMA's TIME OUT
This hot chocolate is so special and decadent and delicious and SO EASY you'll never use powdered again. For an extra special kick for Mama, add a splash of kahlua, Bailey's, bourbon or amaretto...aaaaaaahhhhh.
This recipe is for a regular sized coffee mug, one serving. If you want it in one of those big 'ol is-it-a-cup-is-it-a-bowl mug, double it up.
1 c (8 oz) of milk (what ever % you like, I use skim)
2 tbsp semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp brown sugar (dark or light, whatever you have on hand)
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Whipped cream (optional)
In a small saucepan, heat milk and brown sugar over medium heat till it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate chips till completely melted. Then whisk in cinnamon. Pour into your favorite mug and top with whipped cream! So good! If you are adding booze, I would pour it into the mug, then pour the hot chocolate over it. We don't wanna risk cooking out any of that alcohol content now do we?