Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Test or Not to Test...

That is the question...

Belt testing is scheduled for this weekend. The next one isn't until September.

I wasn't going to test for my yellow stripe. I just didn't feel ready, and figured my instructors would agree that I'm not ready.

I was surprised to find that this was not the case, and I received a bit of encouragement tonight - and put in a whole lot of practice.

Now I'm wondering if I'm not as unprepared as I had thought. It's a lot of material to keep track of, but if I really work on it, I may be ready after all.

Going to go run through my forms again...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

A few pictures from the Camp Hill Memorial Day Parade:

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I had the opportunity to play my guitar and sing with some friends tonight, which was great.

Everyone loves a party. But for me, the best part of the party is at the end, when almost everyone is gone, and it's just the last few die-hards hanging out, picking at the food, finishing off the keg (or switching to water), listening to music and just basking in the good feeling that comes at the end of a successful party.

This particular party was a family pool party. I had brought Middle along with me, and when people started to clear out, I got ready to leave with him as well.

But my positively lovely friend and hostess had just started singing (her very talented nephew had brought out his guitar) and I had joined her and we were having such a good time, she had asked me to stay.

Middle had wandered off, nunchukau in hand (his default activity). He was waiting patiently for me to take him home now that most of the other kids were gone. Savageman was home with a sick Little and needed me to run some errands. But he didn't mind if I went back.

After all, we only live 5 minutes away. I ran to the store, picked up the Teen at the movies, took him and Middle home, then grabbed my guitar and returned for the mellowing-out phase of the party.

Best. Time.

We sang, we laughed, we bonded. We cleaned up a bit then went back to playing and listening to more music. I was amazed by the amount of combined brain space the two of us had devoted to the song lyrics of multiple decades. We were hanging out with the neighbor who was born around the time we were graduating from high school, but I don't think either of us felt old at all.

Nights like this make me feel like I'm still in college - although I never had nights like this in college.

Nights like this at 41 are just as good.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

News From the Garden

For the last few years, I've been composting fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, dried leaves and other household compostable waste. My parents contribute a few bags per week of their own scraps, and the composter has faithfully done its job converting it all into good, rich humus.

Imagine my dismay when I took a walk out there this morning only to find that the fierce wind storms we've had in these last few days had ripped the cover off my composter and hurled it against the neighbor's fence! It was in about 5 pieces. Beyond repair.

I went to work right away, researching how to rig up a new cover. As chance would have it, I happened to run into my mom who was on her way to Lowes and asked her if she would ask someone there for a suggestion.

Instead, she came home with a new composter! (Thanks mom!)

Little and I put it together in a jiffy and marveled at the layers and progression of decomposition we saw when we lifted the old composter off the pile. I turned it as much as I could without making a mess before replacing it with the new composter.

As I passed the garden, I noticed that a few of the radishes were ready, so I picked them as I was leaving. I'm happy to report that the first of this year's produce was very tasty.

And... I cooked up the first of my organic, grass-fed ground beef! Threw it in the wok with some onions, the leftover Spiral Path potatoes from the other night, some salt, pepper and thyme.

I'm not a big ground-beef fan, so I was a little skeptical. But it was delicious! It really does have a different taste and texture than even the good supermarket beef. Savageman was a litte upset when I showed him the Green Ridge Acres pamphlet, showing the happily grazing animals, saying he didn't need to have a personal relationship with his lunch. But he admitted that it was indeed delicious.

I later heard him grumble, "Now I'm going to feel guilty about drinking this artifically sweetened iced-tea that I like."


Friday, May 27, 2011

So Now What?

I made it to the Broad Street Market today and met the local farmer who came so highly recommended. I came home with a chuck roast, a whole chicken, and some ground beef.

So now my fridge is full of fresh organic milk, eggs, produce and meat. And I feel really good about that.

Of course, looking at my calendar for the next few days, I have no idea of when I'm going to be home with enough time on my hands to prepare any of it. The thought that it may spoil in my fridge before we get a chance to enjoy it does NOT make me feel good.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Food that Feels Good

Organic veggie season has begun.

I got the first delivery today from my CSA Farm. It wasn't a huge delivery - just some lettuce, broccoli, red potatoes, green onions and carrots. But from past experience, I know it will get a lot better in the coming weeks - enough that a medium share is usually overwhelming for me, so I'm splitting it with a neighbor this year.

I roasted the red potatoes for dinner after my childbirth class. They were Yum.

Tomorrow I'm doing the other thing I've been vowing to do since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and watching Food Inc., Fresh, and Farm to Fridge - I'm making the switch to a regular source for local grass-fed organic meat. It will cost a little more, but we will also appreciate it more, use it more carefully, and waste it less than the meat we were buying at the grocery store.

I'll make sure of it, just as I do with the organic milk and eggs I've been buying for years. "Don't pour more milk than you're going to drink! That's ORGANIC milk!" "Don't you DARE feed those eggs to the dog! Those are ORGANIC eggs! Do you know how much those cost???"

I think they're beginning to get it. If someone went to all the trouble to produce that food without chemicals or hormones, and I put out the extra $$ to spend on it, I want it going into my family, not down the drain or into the pets. (The pets get the good all-natural pet food, which also costs more!)

I served up some pork-fried-rice last night and made a Big Deal out of the fact that it was made from Real pork that was raised on a farm, not mass-produced in a feed lot, and we should appreciate and enjoy it - and they did.

Maybe I'm on to something.

Somehow, knowing that their dinner was living life as an animal should - grazing on grass or eating bugs or wallowing in mud on a real farm we could actually go visit - makes us appreciate the life of that animal, and the fact that it gave its life for our nourishment - much more than some assembly-line processed meat that came from who-knows-where before it wound up wrapped in plastic at the grocery store.

The least we can do is eat it and be thankful for it instead of wasting it.

We don't buy a lot of meat to begin with, but when we buy it, I want it to be good quality and I don't want to see it wasted. For me, that's worth the extra money.

The other thing, which I keep emphasizing with my family, my friends, my childbirth classes - actually, with anyone who will listen - is that to create REAL change in society, we can't just vote in the political elections. Our REAL vote, the vote that matters, is the one we make with our dollars, day in and day out. When we spend an extra $.50 on organic kale, or an extra $1.50/lb on grass-fed organic meat, we are voting. We are telling the grocery stores, the local markets - we are telling our friends and family that this is important to us and we want to see more of it. Healthier food grown and raised under healthier conditions. Meat raised and slaughtered humanely. We're saying that it matters to us and we're willing to pay more to have it.

It's the free market system in action, and it's already making a difference. Consumer pressure for local and organic meat and produce has made an impact on our local stores and farmers' markets. Books and films like I mentioned are making people stop and think and talk about where their food comes from.

There are so many things going on in the world right now that I could worry about - and I can't do a thing about any of them.

But how I feed myself and my family is under my control. And supporting local farms who do things naturally benefits more than just my family. The more we support these businesses and encourage others to do the same, the more we are able to shape our own communities.

I say it all the time to my childbirth and La Leche League parents - we create the culture we live in.

Be the change you want to see.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Still Baking

Continuing with the theme of "Things that Make Me Happy"
Little with yet another Devil's Food Cake with homemade chocolate buttercream icing.
(In his efforts to avoid written work, he's actually becoming quite a good chef.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Veggie Garden - The Early Weeks

Here it is so far: We've got tomatoes, cukes, squash, peppers, eggplant, radishes, beets, lettuce, spinach, carrots, chard, melons, onions, peas, and herbs planted.

The bushy stuff in the background is the raspberry forest. They're delicious if we can get to them ahead of the birds. Perhaps I'll get the boyz to make a scarecrow - type thing this year.

This is where the lettuce, spinach, chard and onions are supposed to be growing. Unfortunately, I can't tell the plants from the weeds yet, so I haven't been weeding it. Hoping things become clearer in the next few weeks. Of course, by then, the CSA shares will be arriving and it won't matter anyway.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kicking and Punching

It's what I do.

I'm a month shy of my two year anniversary as a martial arts student, and my life has been redefined and restructured by it.

Just about every weekday, Middle and I spend several hours at the dojang.

For us, it's a much anticipated daily ritual. On the drive there, we chat and listen to music or the news. I take off my watch and rings at the stoplight. I take off my glasses in the parking lot. We grab our stuff and go in. He finds his friends and prepares for the kids' class; I go change for kickboxing class.

The kickboxing room is a normal temperature when we enter it. We stretch and talk while we're waiting for the music to start. My friends and I compare notes on how our days went, what we have going on this weekend, etc. We talk about our kids and what's going on in their lives, and we make plans for getting them together. Everyone is in fresh workout clothes, still looking put-together.

But not for long.

We work hard. Kickboxing class is a combination of push-ups, crunches, core strength exercises, and... kickboxing. One partner holds a bag or target and the other kicks (or occasionally punches) for the designated time. Lately, there's been a combination - like 10 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups or crunches, and 5 kicks - which we repeat until it's time to switch. No time to think, to notice the sweat dripping in our eyes, to feel the fatigue in the muscles. We just do it until we hear "TIME!" and then we get a small break while we hold the bag for our partner. Between sets, we run laps or do more push-ups or abdominal exercises, then it's back to the sequence. When the hour is up, we stretch.

By that time, the room feels like the inside of a sauna. We're soaking wet and bedraggled-looking. We head to the water fountain and changing rooms and quickly get into fresh gis before lining up and bowing in for Jung Sim Do class.

Jung Sim Do is a Korean martial art which combines Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and Yudo. With such a variety of techniques and material, every class is different, and we never know what we're going to get. It could be a vigorous workout class, or a more mentally challenging technique class. Or an adrenaline-pumping class featuring things like falls or grappling. Or a working independently on advancement material class. You just never know, and that's part of what keeps it fresh and challenging.

After class, I'm spent, but in a good way. I feel calm, relaxed, peaceful. Clear-headed. We take our time leaving. Middle and his friends continue to hang out, practicing tricks and goofing off, and I wait with the other parents, also getting in a last bit of social time. During the summer, a group of us goes out for a long lunch after the morning classes. After sparring on Friday nights, many teens, tweens and parents go out for pizza. Savageman and the other boys join us for things like this.

But the typical post-class evening ritual starts with the drive home. The rings and watch and glasses go back on. Sometimes I pick up something special for dinner for us, since Savageman and the other boys will have already fed themselves. Sometimes my dinner is a protein bar in the car, lunch having been my main meal for the day. At home, I jump in to the evening routine, catching up with Savageman, cleaning up and helping with bedtime. An additional evening load of laundry consists of wet kickboxing clothes and gis, which I try to get done before I unwind with a bath and book or a movie with Savageman.

If it seems like a large part of our life is structured around this one activity, that's because it is - at least for me and Middle. It's what we do. And thankfully, Savageman understands and supports this. Because when I do pause to think about it, I realize how much it has reshaped and redefined who I am.

I was 39 when I started this. I'd never really played a sport, in the sense that I never put in the daily work required to really master something. "Athlete" was a word I never would have used to describe myself.

Now, for the first time in my life, I consider myself to be athletic. I'm healthier and stronger than I've ever been in my life. Taking a 2 mile run around the neighborhood is a pleasure instead of an ordeal. I have more energy, get better sleep, and am less susceptible to the anxiety and depression that used to come and go without warning. I feel calm and centered and capable of handling people and situations that used to overwhelm me. I'm less worried about the opinions of others and more focused on being true to myself.

It feels really good.

Two years ago, I was sitting on the bench, reading a book while the boys took a class a few times per week. Other parents who had become students prodded me a little bit, encouraging me to give it a try, and I chuckled. Yeah right. My back, my neck, my overall lack of athletic ability, flexibility, coordination, my fear of getting hurt...

But there was that little voice in the back of my head whispering, you only live once. If this is something you want to try, try it. Be brave. Surprise yourself. And I did. I'm proud of myself and of all the other adults who take the leap of faith required to start something like this and who work at it day after day to master it. I think this admiration for each other is part of the bond we share both in and out of class.

It's not something I would have understood before I was immersed in it, and it's not something I really expect other people to understand if they haven't experienced it themselves. But it's powerful stuff. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. It's changed who I am.

It's what I do.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Christine!

(Taking a moment here to appreciate you. Ready?)

I know you keep saying how blessed you feel to have such good friends, but in reality, we are the ones who are blessed to have you.

So, in honor of you on your birthday, here is my own Top 10 list of reasons why you are the most awesome friend in the world.

1) You keep me laughing no matter what.

2) You are a caring and attentive listener.

3) You are wise beyond your years and can always cut through the bullcrap to get at the heart of the matter.

4) You're not afraid to tell it how it is.

5) You love the animals and the children and you fiercely advocate for both.

6) You put your money where your mouth is.

7) You accept people for who they are.

8) You have the best book recommendations.

9) You have a gift for bringing people together.

10) You are easygoing, free-spirited and fun, and a joy to spend time with.

I'm sure I'm speaking for many more people when I say how much we love you. You have touched so many lives and the world is truly a better place because of you, and I know that I am a better person for having had you as a friend for these last 12 years.

Have a wonderful birthday! XO

Still Here

Well, 5/21/11 has come and gone.

I don't know about y'all, but I'm still here.

All of the media hype surrounding this End-of-the-World-Rapture stuff did give me an opportunity to pause and take stock of my life, which is never a bad thing.

It occurred to me, multiple times today, that I have it pretty darn good.

First of all, it was a beautiful day. The first real sunny day we've had in about a week.

Just gorgeous.

I woke up in my comfy bed, albeit earlier than I had hoped, because my husband of 16 years was telling me how cute I look while I'm sleeping. The irony of the fact that he woke me up to tell me that was lost on him, but it was so sweet, I couldn't be grouchy.

He and the Teen took off for a soccer tournament, and I fed Middle, Middle's Friend Who Slept Over, and Little a tasty breakfast and packed them up for the all-day martial arts demonstration for Armed Forces Day at City Island. The kids were amazing to watch, as always, and Little had a wonderful time walking a friend's dog around the demo area. I love my martial arts friends, so spending time with them outside of the Dojang is always a treat.

I left there after about 2 hours, ran Little home to get ready for his baseball game, then headed out to my cousin's bridal shower. I could only stay there for about 2 hours before I had to hop in the car and head back to help break down the demo and pack up Middle and his Friend once more. Then a large segment of the martial arts gang headed out to El Rodeo. More time with the friends was great, although I probably didn't need the burrito. Oink.

From there, I raced to the grocery store, got the ingredients for a tasty salad, threw it together and took it to a birthday dinner party where I laughed almost continuously for 5 hours straight with 9 of the funniest women I know. My eyes are still watering and my abs will hurt tomorrow, but it was so much fun and it felt so good that it was all worth it.

And then I came home to my sweet hubby, who had cleaned up and put the kids to bed and was waiting up for me; home to my books and computer and dusted-off blog, where I am happily recording this day before I head up for a relaxing bath and a long sleep.

It was a hectic day, and I spent much of it on the go, driving from place to place, but I was enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the mountains and trees and sky that make up the scenery of I-81, listening to a Cheryl Crow CD, just taking it all in and appreciating it all so much. The word "elated" kept popping into my head, and that really was how I was feeling. Seeing Middle doing something he totally loves (and rocks at), knowing my other two were busy at their own activities, spending time with my mom and extended family, my martial arts family, and looking forward to an evening among good friends - the sum of it all made me want to hug the world.

If it had been my last day, it wouldn't have been a bad day to end on.

But I'm glad it wasn't.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Welcome to my Blog

Hello readers old and new!

(Blowing dust off my keyboard) Pfffft. Cough, cough, sneeze.

Bear with me here; it's been a while.

This blog is my own little corner of cyberspace where I get to write about the amusing, poignant, frustrating, and joyful things in my life. I do it as a way to remember things, to organize my thoughts, to practice putting words together, and occasionally to connect with other people who enjoy reading my thoughts on what we've been up to.

Having said that...

This is my blog about my life and the things that are important and interesting to me. It's not a soapbox or an attempt to persuade anyone to think differently than they do or to be more like me. I'm not perfect, nor are my kids. There are things we like about our life and things that we struggle with. The fact that I choose to write about mainly the good stuff does not mean that the struggles don't exist - they're just not as fun to write (or read) about.

I am a former developmental psychobiologist and a breastfeeding, natural childbirth and attachment parenting advocate. As a family, we homeschool, we play sports and take martial arts classes, we hike and camp and try to eat healthy food. If you don't like reading about these kinds of things, there are plenty of other blogs out there you might enjoy more than mine.

I also want to point out that none of these things we do makes us any better or worse than anyone else - it's just what we do. If I post something about my organic vegetable garden, it's not because I want you to feel guilty about the Twinkie in your hand. I can assure you, your Twinkie is the last thing on my mind - I'm just being happy about my veggies. Anyway, I'm sure I have my own versions of the Twinkie in my life - I just don't choose to blog about them.

Writing is something I've done, in one form or another, for as long as I can remember. It's something I enjoy, and I don't do it to put anyone down or to brag or prosthelytize, merely to share my own unique perspective, for better or for worse. Like we say in La Leche League, "Take what you like; leave what you don't."