Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year

Why doesn't someone tell me I'm not a kid anymore? I keep playing with my kids and keep getting hurt. I guess I forget (or don't believe) that I'm getting fragile. Booooo. Last year I jumped off the balcony into the snow with my boys, and I ended up with a sprained ankle. This year I boarded down the tiniest little hill with my guys and I ended up with a muscle strain in my back. My kids are like Bumbles - they bounce. Me? not so much. But I keep acting like I'm a Bumble. In Rudolph's story, the Bumble guy was old, after all. Well, "older". Maybe not quite as old as I am. Ooooh, I'm getting old. Older. Not old. Nope. Never old. (It's all in your head, right?). So I keep bounding around with my kids, and paying the price. But having a great time when I do end up bouncing instead of flopping.

I love the New Year's thrill. It's exciting. It's a door opening to a million billion possibilities and all I have to do is decide what I want and go for it. Like shopping at a huge store with a gift card, I look around at all the choices of what I really want, then I pick the one or two things I'm going to get. Or do. Or become. The blank slate and fresh beginning of a New Year means I can pick anything. Do anything. Become anything. It's all there. What will I choose? What will I resolve this year?
It's inspiring, really - all the possibilities. It makes me want to reach higher, be better, try harder. What will I do this year?
I don't know yet, but I'm having fun browsing through the choices. Learn a new language? Write a book? Start a non-profit? Build something? Teach my kids something cool? Travel somewhere?
Whatever it is, I know I can be a better me. And that means trying to be the person God wants me to be.
What will I become this year? I wonder...

I was folding laundry in the playroom when my girls interrupted me with the invitation to their tea party. I guess I figured being in the same room was good enough, so I explained to them I couldn't join them. I had all the clothes from this vacation to fold. I put the girls off, telling them I was busy and that if they really wanted me, they'd have to wait until I was done, blah blah blah.
They did wait. They waited and waited and kept making the table prettier and setting out new "foods" and chatting happily, glancing at me and my six piles of clothes. I would never finish in time to play (it was getting close to lunch), but they were fine waiting. I had thought they'd get bored waiting. But I soon realized they weren't about to move on to a new game or toy. They were content to wait for me and my laundry as long as they knew I'd eventually join them. Their patience, trust, love, and childlike belief finally broke through my task-oriented mind and zapped straight down to my heart, opening it up like it should have been to begin with. I stopped mid-fold, put down the clothes, stepped over a pile of socks, and took my seat between my girls. Right where I belonged.

And I had the most delicious make-believe meal ever. My girls "cooked" me some bacon and peas and cookies. We set a battery-powered Christmas candle on the little play table for our candlelight dinner. I folded myself into the child-size chair and "ate" my plastic peas with a miniature fork. I sipped the air from a tiny tea cup and made appropriate comments on "what a lovely table, dahhhling" and "simply wonderful."
They'd waited for me for about 30 minutes before I caved. Our tea party lasted about 10 minutes. That's all they wanted. Ten minutes. Since when did folding clothes become more important than ten minutes with my girls? Silly me. When the tea party was over, they moved on to playing on the playroom slide and I went back to folding clothes and watching them. They had their mommy-fix, and I had an eye-opener. They're growing so fast.
My boys, too, are bolting up. In the last two months they've jumped an inch and a half in height. I can't hold on to them hard enough to keep them little. I can't keep them back...but I can move along with them. So I'm learning their language - what's cool, what's not. What's important, what's not. I'm also realizing that they still need me. They may want their independence, but they want their security, too. Last night one of my sons saw me reading to the girls. He asked (in a sincere way) why I didn't baby him, too. I stopped for a moment. I looked up at him and suddenly saw my baby boy again. He's grown so much - they both have - but they're still my babies. Always.

And so I read to my boys. I read to them although they can read just as well (and faster on their own) as I can. Ability to read, though, wasn't the point. The point was feeling cared for. Feeling babied, loved, adored.
We've been going going going so much this vacation - being at the Hancock cabin with cousins galore and too many outings - and they haven't had "down time" with me like they needed. So last night we spent the evening home, just us, no distractions, and we read together. We did puzzles together. We were quiet together. We had time together.
Time together...I can't hold them back, but I can go along with them. I can put down my laundry, I can give ten minutes - I can give ten million minutes - I can mother my babies, and together we'll make this Journey through life a compilation of beautiful moments.
There. That's my resolution. One of them, anyway. To give my children more of me every day, and to move along with them and meet their needs and teach them. And give them love.
My other resolutions? I'm sure one of them will be to morph into the perfect wife. Goodness knows Jeff deserves it. I'll try. And I'll fail, but he's patient and loves me anyway. If I can't quite make it to perfect, at least I can make it to better.
I'll work out other resolutions as soon as I've narrowed them down to what I really want. It'll take some mulling over things to figure out what it is I really want. I'm so very blessed. It's been a good year. I'm so thankful for fresh starts, for the atonement of our Savior that lets me start anew, and for the enabling power that helps me become who I'm meant to be. It'll take eternity to get there, of course. Perfection is a long, long, l-o-n-g way off...but at least I'm heading in the right direction.
Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cool Runnings & my new Phone

: I ran outside once this week and spent most of the time slipping and trying not to slip. It was icy. It didn't help that when I was running into the breeze, the wind blew my warm breath back on my face, thus fogging up my glasses. It was 5 am. I could barely see anyway, since it was dark, but with fogged-up glasses I REALLY couldn't see. Why run with glasses? I'm too lazy to put in contacts in my sleepy eyes that early in the morning, and I need something to help my eyesight - so glasses. Fogged glasses, though, are worse than no glasses. So I tried taking them off. Of course, then I really couldn't tell if I was about to step on an icy patch or not. I put them back on and kept wiping them off with my gloved fingers. Until my gloved fingers got too damp and then the dampness froze (it was, after all, 20F, with a windchill around 14F). So blindly slipping on my run - which happened to be a "hills only" run - I found myself not working on a fast time or on good form (hard to do when my limbs are flailing to keep me upright), but simply trying to SURVIVE my morning "run." I had visions of crashing to the pavement up on the dry farms where the only traffic is the occasional potato truck - the very very BIG potato truck. The big potato truck that of course wouldn't see a blinded runner sprawled on the icy road. I ran in fear because my mind began going a little crazy, but the imagined disasters did give me a rush of adrenaline and the courage to pick up the pace...until I turned back into the wind and ran with fogged up eyesight again. And I slipped. A lot. But luckily I never fell.
Resolved: I'm not going to ruin a season by twisting my ankle on a piece of black ice or waste a run by having to walk because I can't see, or risk my life because of a potato truck (okay, I know the potato trucks don't run in the winter, but what if some farmer decided to drive the truck at 5 am on the lonely dark road, you know - just for fun?).
So back to the treadmill it is. I've been watching documentaries on my iPad (streaming via Netflix) during my morning runs. I know - it might seem boring to others. But I love that I'm exercising my body and educating my mind. I can hold on to the side so I don't slip. The iPad is close enough that I don't even need my glasses. And, as a bonus, I'm not about to be run over by a potato truck.
In winter, I love my treadmill.

Swimming: For two whole days our Endless Pool was functioning. I swam about seven times on those two days - three on my own and four with the kids. We had to turn it off and close it up though until we get the decking and skirting built, and until we get the cover mounted. The warmed-up pool was putting way too much humidity into the air, ruined two doors, and made our electrical bill sky-rocket. When the cover is on, it will control humidity and help keep the pool at a decent temperature with less cost. So this week our carpenter will start the woodwork. I only had it two days, but I miss it!!! Can't wait for it to be functioning again.

Reading: My sister-in-law introduced me to some really fun mystery/cooking books. I've read Lemon Tart, English Trifle, and am reading Devil's Food Cake. The last one is Key Lime Pie. Such fun books. A normal ol' lady who loves to cook, is very perceptive, and just happens to be around when disaster strikes. She uses her common sense, her powers of observation, her persistence, and her personality - and her good food - to glean information, piece it all together, and ultimately find out whodunit.

Cooking: I love the back and white soup on the earlier post. My kids love it, too. This week I hosted a crepe-making activity, which was tons of fun. And delicious. I also made fudge and spent a day making applesauce (and bottling it) with my mom. I know, kind of late in the canning-season, but the apples were fine waiting until I was ready. I can't remember everything I baked this week, except that I made baked potato soup on Wednesday, and a slow-cooked in the dutch oven beef roast on Thursday. Friday was a Christmas party dinner so I didn't cook, and today Jeff made fresh pasta for dinner (which was, as always, outstanding).
Oh, I used some of the fudge today to make into a French Chocolate (hot chocolate) drink. Very rich. Very very yummy.
I think I need to get back on the treadmill.

Other: I seem to have bad luck with phones. I already broke one phone this summer (it had been Jeff's phone at one time), which Jeff graciously replaced with his current old phone (and then the poor guy had to buy himself and upgraded phone). This week his old phone that was now my phone got sick. Sick to the point that it wasn't really working. So Jeff bought me a brand new one (no hand-me-downs this time). He also bought me a hard-sided shell and immediately put the phone in the shell before we even left the store. Huh. I can take a hint. :) Kind of fun to have a new phone, though. My calling & texting plan is pretty limited (apparently AT&T says I'm not a heavy phone user) so I won't be using it tons. Not for phoning, anyway. I'll be using it for other stuff - reading, playing games, checking the weather, logging my runs, know, all the things you'd expect from a phone.

Being Human(e)

I wrote this for the Bella Rosa Bikes blog - some of it is a recap of things I've already blogged about here, but I'm copying it here anyway just for my own records.

Being Human(e)

So, thinking of Christmas, I decided that grumpy athletes remind me of Scrooge (before his metamorphosis). They think only of themselves and find no joy in the success of others.

Thankfully, I don’t know a lot of grumpy athletes. Most people I know are really, truly wonderful. I loved the idea in the book, “Born to Run” that the best athletes were also the best people – the most loving and inspiring. They excelled, but not at the expense of compromising their humanity. They didn’t squash people to get ahead, but pulled others along with them to the top.

I like that. I like that a goal doesn’t have to be about beating everyone else but about everyone cheering each other on to meet their own goal. I like the idea of sharing the experience, of everyone doing their best and everyone pleased with each other’s performance.

The potential problem with being the Scrooge athlete is that being better than everyone becomes his identity. He haughtily pulls inside himself, too worried about his performance to even consider cheering anyone else on. And then the inevitable happens: one day, he fails and finds himself all alone. It is devastating because he has lost – not only the race, but all the wasted time focusing on something fleeting instead of something lasting.

Something lasting…like what? Like being the best person you can. Like finding as much satisfaction in your successes as in other’s successes. Like being comfortable, adaptable, and flexible to the curve balls coming your way, bouncing back with a smile and a good heart.

Speaking of curve balls and a good heart, three weeks ago my son was teaching my five-year-old daughter to play baseball. She stood too close behind him when he swung a big, heavy metal bat…right into her nose. It moved the bridge of her nose off center, breaking the bone and breaking the skin. I ran her into the bathroom where she bent over the sink, gushing out sobs and blood. When she caught her breath long enough to speak, the first thing she said was, “It’s okay, Mom, it was an accident. He didn’t mean to. He feels really bad.”

I was floored. Her first thoughts were for her brother. After her surgery a week later (they had to wait for the swelling to subside before they could do the surgery), she woke from the anesthesia, looked at me groggily, and asked, “Am I okay?” I assured her she was. She then immediately asked if she could please call her brother at home to let him know she was okay. Again, her first thoughts were of him.

I didn’t teach her that, she came that way. She’s a loving, happy and joyful person. She’s also an incredible runner. I kid you not, that girl can run. Sometimes I’ll take my kids to the local university indoor track for some exercise when we’ve been cooped up in winter weather too long. My daughter always picks one of the college kids out and joins them in their run. She keeps up for a couple of laps, takes a breather, then finds a new running partner, bouncing from new friend to friend. And the way she runs, you’d think she was in Disneyland having the time of her life. She grins when she runs. She loves it.

She loves everything. She cares deeply for people. Her loving energy translates to beautiful running. I look at her and think of the hypothesis in “Born to Run” and I see the possibility that it is true.

I’d like to be like her. Sometimes I’m nowhere near, but sometimes I get close. I run two kinds of marathons – first, the marathon for me when I try to get my fastest time yet. When I’m running for me, it is thrilling, a real test of my stamina, a time to see what I am capable of. But it’s all about me. The fun is there, but it’s passing, sometimes followed by post-race let-down (although not as often as it used to happen). I don’t even remember what my times were or what the courses were like. For those “me” marathons, I mostly remember who was there to meet me at the finish.

Then there’s the marathon I run with my brothers. We run to simply share the journey. Two of my brothers and I take turns pushing our oldest brother, who is quadriplegic, in his racing chair. We switch every two miles, take care of each other’s needs during the 26.2 miles, and spend at least the first half laughing and talking. The second half we all kind of clam up, except for our oldest brother. He says really inspiring things like, “Think you could go any faster?” or “I don’t think we’ll get a good time, maybe we should go back to the beginning and try again,” or “Are we there yet?” He has this really evil laugh that follows such statements. He makes us not take things so seriously, and he obviously enjoys the heckling. In fact, he enjoys the whole race, while those of us pushing enjoy a lot of it…and then we enjoy the finish. My brothers are good people. To spend hours on our feet or in a wheelchair together is maybe not the most exciting thing, but it’s definitely satisfying and memorable, something we can do together, and a way to include our oldest brother in the joy of moving. And when we run, our oldest brother grins – he grins like my daughter when she runs. Good, loving people, the both of them. And good at loving the run just for the sake of the run.

I am delighted that I met my personal running goal during one of those “me” marathons. But the second kind of marathon – the “us” marathon - is the one I’m most proud of. It’s not easy pushing a grown man that long (and it takes us a l-o-n-g time), but it is so so so much fun to race together. It is quite the experience to see the delight on our big brother’s face as the crowd cheers him on and fellow racers give him the thumbs up. He becomes a part of some really great people – or perhaps they become a part of him, a really great person. Racing together does that - makes you a part of each other.

Maybe we are all part of each other, and maybe when we include each other we all become better people. Maybe we can all find joy in the journey together. Maybe we all were “born to run” (or ride or ski or swim or just move), one way or another. Hopefully we will all be out there with silly grins and wicked laughs, pulling or pushing each other along to success.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Black & White Soup

Black&White Soup

Yield: Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups dried black beans

4 1/2 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 bacon slices, chopped
5 large fresh thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place beans in large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover beans by 3 inches and soak overnight.

Drain beans; transfer to heavy large pot. Add 4 1/2 cups water and next 7 ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree black bean soup in blender with 2 cups chicken stock. Return soup to pot. Stir in chopped cilantro. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring soup to simmer, thinning with additional chicken stock if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

On the black bean soup, sometimes to save time I use canned black beans instead, then pick up the recipe from where it tells you to puree the beans. I like my black bean soup thick and add extra beans. You can add more or less beans as you like.

For Cheese Soup:

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add peppers, onion and garlic. Sauté vegetables until tender, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then milk and cream. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Gradually add cheese 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until melted and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, simultaneously ladle generous 1/2 cup cheese soup and generous 1/2 cup Black Bean Soup into shallow bowls, allowing soups to meet in center. Top with tomatillo salsa and sour cream.

On the cheese soup, sometimes before adding the milk, cream and cheese, I'll blend the soup so there are no veggie chunks, and it's a much smoother soup. If you don't blend it, it has a nice texture and a confetti- color, so either way is fine. Also, you don't have to use white cheddar cheese - yellow is fine (you just have Black & Yellowish soup instead).