Friday, February 26, 2021

Books I Read (Feb)

 Books Read in February: 5

This was my biggest book month 
since pre-Carson, in January 2021. 
It felt really good to get back into reading. 



The Enchanted Hour 
By Meghan Cox Gurdon

LOVED. 
Beautiful & inspiring.  
Most parenting books are very dry and this was not at all.  
If you are a reader and a parent, you will LOVE this book. 
It flows and carries you to dreamy lands 
while also teaching you about your child's brain 
and inspiring you to be a better parent. 
It has revitalized me and my parenting. 



Atomic Habits 
By James Clear

I would call this your standard habits book. 
It has a lot of good tips but,
 especially if you've read other habits books, 
nothing is revolutionary.  
It's a cross between "The Power of Habit" (reviewed here
and "Better Than Before" (entire blogpost about it here), 
with a lot of neurological science like "Power" 
but also practical application like "Better than Before." 



One Thousand White Women 
By Jim Fergus

I have a lot to say about this book. 
Buckle up.  

I was really irritated that the author Jim Ferus is a white male, 
writing the perspective of a white female. 
I understand this is common in literature, 
but that doesn't mean I like it. 
Think of a white person writing a black person's perspective 
(also, extremely common in literature). 
Even well done, it feels uncomfortable. 


Also, Jim Fergus appears to have no historical background, 
aside from a list of reference books in the back. 
He states very clearly
 that aside from a smattering of historic events, 
the entire book is fiction.
In the intro, he apologies to the Cheyenne 
for any language errors made in translation. 
Because it's a work of fiction, 
we the readers are supposed to forgive historical inaccuracies. 
But this becomes particularly difficult to distinguish 
between historical truth and racial bias. 
Even though Fergus seems to hold the Indians in high regard 
(or, eventually, his protagonist does), 
he describes them and their customs in a very demeaning manner 
(kissing, for example). 
Now, is this historically accurate or his own racial bias? 
Without doing extensive research, we don't know. 

Now, onto the actual book itself. 
Since it's written as journal entries, 
the writing is easy and conversational. 
It's enjoyable and quick to read through. 

The plot, arguments above withstanding, 
is fun and interesting concept
If you have a vague sense of Native American history, 
you can guess how the book ends. 
Although I am terrible at American history, 
I know enough that the Native American tribes were 
abused and routinely murdered by the white settlers. 

So, without too much spoilage, 
I will comment that the book ends on an absolutely devastating note. 
And that if you, like me, 
are haunted by the mistreatment and death of small children, 
THEN DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. 



The Little Book of Hygge 
By Meik Wiking 

This is a charming little guide 
with cutsy illustrations 
that is enjoyable to read 
but not particularly practical. 

It's great for certain circumstances 
(e.g.: moving to Denmark 
or you live some comparable area like Minnesota) 
and it's REALLY good for inspiring 
a lazy weekend of eating baked goods, 
but it's not particularly life-changing. 

Still, it's adorable and short, 
the perfect book for a guest room shelf. 



The Warmth of Other Suns 
By Isabel Wilkerson 

This is a great book. 
It's also realllllllllllllly looooonnnnggg. 

It's a fantastic nonfiction that tells the tale of the Great Migration 
(something I knew virtually nothing about) 
in the form of 3 stories 
following 3 unrelated people 
who migrated out of various places of the south 
to the north and west. 
The stories were so good 
and very engaging. 
The beginning especially was really hard
hearing about the abuses of black people under Jim Crow in the south. 

Honestly, prior to this book, when I heard "Jim Crow" 
I thought of "oh you can't share a water fountain." 
Not realizing it was so much more than that. 
Blatant abuse, mistreatment, and gruesomely violent crimes 
against old and young black people alike. 

Additionally, understanding the north's reception of black people, 
helps me understand the radical segregation in today's cities, 
my own Philadelphia being a prime example. 

All the positive aside, I will note that the last 100 pages drug on. 
I understand the author wanted 
a very thorough story of the migrants life, 
but the last 100 pages felt 75 pages too long. 
That's my only complaint. 

Overall, highly recommend, 
but just mentally prepare yourself: 
it's a long one. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

I've become a hermit

 I've become a hermit. 
And I like it. 

In the beginning of COVID, 
I noticed as early as week 4 
that I enjoyed this time being home, 
and started to question my extrovertism. 

I've always considered myself a stay-at-home-mom 
who does not stay home, 
yet as we have rarely left the house 
and I'm kind of loving it.

Why aren't we leaving the house? 

First of all, Carson hates the snow. 
The older boys and I are well equipped to frolic in it's fluffiness, 
but Carson even when padded to the max, 
has no interest. 
He can't move all bundled and he hates it. 



Oliver is out in the snow all day at Nature Preschool 
and Aaron loves going out at random times 
(often in snowpants, boots... and no jacket). 
I go out to run, 
but generally Carson and I are inside. 
No hikes or playgrounds or excursions for us!


Secondly, the continual reign of COVID. 
Are some indoor places open? Yes. 
Should they be open? That's a hot debate. 
Are we going to them? Absolutely not. 

Aside from grandparents and my cleaning lady, 
no one comes in our house 
and we don't go into other people's houses. 

Our friends are all very covid conscious people. 
We all agree on outdoor playdates 
(busy playgrounds require masks) 
but we don't step foot in each other's homes. 

This is what we feel is appropriate. 


So... what DO we do? 

We read a lot. 
Our weekly library curbside pickup is massive.
 
Oliver and I are blowing through the top 50 books goal this year 
along with so many fantastic other books 
our local librarian has picked out for him. 

Aaron is reading a chapter book a day. 



We also bake a lot

Oliver loves to help in the kitchen 
and Carson loves to sit in the highchair and get scraps. 
Many afternoons, we whip up a recipe 
of banana crunch muffins (these are amazing)
or blueberry muffins (my go to recipe here). 


I also pick up the house a lot
With 5 people home, 
the house is in a constant state of disarray. 


As for my productivity, it's still pretty low. 
My self worth is highly determined by my productivity (here
so it's still rough. 
But with Carson successfully down to one nap, 
I'm getting longer stretches in the afternoon 
and that provides a little relief.


When will it end? 

When the snow clears, 
we will emerge from our hermit status. 

We will hike again. 
We will be back on the playgrounds. 
We will embrace the wide world outside of our house. 
But in the meantime, 
here we stay.  

And I'm ok with it. 
For now. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

First Time Fasting

 Last week on Ash Wednesday, 
I voluntarily fasted for the first time in my life.  

It went really well, 
until the end. 
(click bait click bait click bait!)


Background of Fasting:

Intermittent fasting is now all the rage 
and thus I dismiss it as yet another health fad. 
It wasn't until a podcast 
by functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman 
that I learned fasting has been around since the beginning of time, 
most commonly disguised as a religious observance. 

Most religious observances have their roots in health. 
E.g.: the book of Leviticus was not written for shits and giggles, 
but rather as a health code to the nation of Israel. 

The three major religious 
all have fasting built into their religious practices. 
Many Jews fast on Yom Kippur (my sister in law and her family does). 
Devout Christians (mostly strict Catholics) fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. 
Muslims have the entire month of Ramadan, 
possibly more? 


I made one of my 2021 Resolutions
to appropriate the three major fasting holidays:
Ash Wednesday (February 17th), 
Good Friday (April 2nd), 
and Yom Kippur (Sept 16th). 


How should I fast?  

I did "research" by which I mean
I clicked on two google articles. 

Turns out, Jews and Catholics fast very differently. 
Jews are diehard 
and Catholics are wimps. 

Yom Kippur fasting means no food or drink, 
including water
(Details here.)

Catholics, on the other hand, 
get to eat one full meal 
and two small meals not adding up to a full meal. 
(Details here.) 

Humph. 


What I decided to do

Generally, I followed the advice in this article

For Ash Wednesday, I decided on
24 hours of no food, 
only plain water and tea. 

I ate dinner on Tuesday evening around 6pm
and then did not eat all day Wednesday. 
I planned to either have 2 medjool dates at 7pm 
or, depending on how I was feeling,
 have a smoothie the next morning. 


Afraid that I would eat absentmindedly 
(a very bad habit of mine), 
I kept an all-day reminder on my phone. 


I had one oops. 
I was reheating casserole for Carson at lunch 
and took a tiny bite to test the temperature. 
I realized my error immediately. 


How did it go

It wasn't as bad as I expected!

I expected to be famished and HANGRY. 
Instead, I found that while I was a little hungry,
 since I knew I wasn't eating, 
I just ignored it and eventually it went away. 


The morning and early afternoon were very easy.  
I had a few cups of tea and my normal allotment of water. 

I thought I'd be annoyed feeding the kids 
without being able to eat myself, 
but turns out it wasn't a big deal. 
I busied myself with cleaning up the kitchen. 

Late afternoon started to get tricky. 
The Great Void of 3-5:30 was the worst. 
Even though I don't usually eat during this time, 
the lack of food all day was catching up to me. 
I was hungry and irritable. 

But once we got to dinner, 
I was good. 
Dinner is a big sit-down affair every night. 
We pick a Table Topics card and debate it. 
Instead, I prepped everything for Adam and the kids 
then when they sat to eat, 
I went and read in bed. 
Not bad!

And then my error... 

In the evening, I decided to forgo the dates 
and just eat my smoothie the next morning. 
Bad idea. 

I woke up at 5:30am 
with chills, light-headed, and dizzy. 
I stumbled - literally, almost blind - to the kitchen 
to whip up my prepared smoothie. 
I measured the cashew milk while sitting on the floor. 

I brought my smoothie back to bed, 
gulped it down, 
nursed Carson, 
and then went back to sleep for a few hours. 

After that I felt better, 
but I was famished. 
My body could not get enough calories, 
no matter how nutrient-dense those calories were. 


Take-aways

My body wants a 24 hours fast, 
not a 36 hours fast. 

Also, the day of fasting is easier than the day after. 

The day of fasting was almost enjoyable. 
Food preparation and eating takes a lot of time
And without it, there was a lot more time in my day! 
Additionally, it was nice to not be "distracted" by food. 
I am a person who is constantly 
dreaming/plotting my next meal/snack. 

I see why people enjoy fasting 
and many do it on a regular basis. 
I think I will stick to the my 3 religious holidays.



Thursday, February 11, 2021

Valentines Day Musings

 Stolen from both Natasha here and Allena here
with original image/content from here



1. How do you show love? 
What is your love language? 

As a refresher on the 5 love languages
 (I had to google this):  

1) Words of Affirmation
2) Acts of Service 
3) Receiving Gifts 
4) Quality Time 
5) Physical Touch

For me to show love to others, 
it's definitely through Acts of Service
Doing stuff for people is very important to me 
and I am quick to find a way to help out. 
Secondly would probably be gifts; 
I love picking out and sending gifts. 

On the receiving end, I need your Words of Affirmation
I love hearing that I'm awesome or appreciated or whatever. 
Fortunately, Adam is very good at this. 
Same as above, my secondary is probably gifts. 
While I don't need gifts to feel loved, 
I really really value them. 
When Adam shows up with flowers, 
I just melt. 

I just have to point out that Adam has one and only love language: 
Physical Touch. 
I don't know if it's a male thing or what, 
but that man needs hugs and snuggles
 and, you know, other stuff


2. Do you have any fun Valentine's Traditions? 

Yes!

I have these Pottery Barn chairbacker mailboxes (see photos below). 
Each kid gets a letter from us
and a box of themed chocolates. 
At his age, Aaron really appreciates the letter 
(last year I caught him rereading it a lot)
but Oliver just wants the sugar
Carson this year is getting these adorable Disney board books
(Valentine's ones sold out but Easter ones here)

Valentine's 2020 day:



Additionally, I have three foods 
that I always make in February: 

1. Strawberry Milk (milk + Hershey strawberry syrup) 
2. Strawberry cookies (from a box!)
This month I also tried these red velvet pancakes 
and they were a huge hit so I'll be adding them in the future. 


3) Favorite Valentine's Memory 

The Sushi Boat. 

A decade ago, back in 2011, 
when we were engaged and childless, 
Adam picked out a local sushi restaurant for us that night. 
For lack of better term, 
we sat in a "cabana-style" private booth, 
and had this enormous sushi boat 
that I still laugh about today. 
So. Much. Sushi. 
It was such a fun, delightful meal. 




4) Favorite Valentine's Treat 

I enjoy Godiva truffles, 
but I get those from my mom at Christmas, 
not at Valentine's Day. 
So maybe the red velvet muffins above? 


5) Do you wear Valentine's Fashions? 

Not particularly, no. 
I don't have any heart-print attire. 
I own a lot of pink 
so I generally wear pink on the actual day.


6) Valentine's Day: love, like, or hard pass?

I really love it with kids. 
I enjoy the little mailbox traditions and the themed food, 
mostly because they love it too. 

Will I love it as much 
when they are sullen teenagers 
or when it's just Adam and I again?
Probably not. 


7) What do you think is the most romantic song? 

Uhhhhh. 

I am just not a romantic person. 
Romantic songs are ... lame. 

I have songs that remind me of Adam 
(Queen: "You're My Best Friend") 
or of past boyfriends 
(Lifehouse: "Hanging by a Moment"), 
but nothing that conjures up feelings of romance. 

Oh you know what might count? 
I think the song "Work from Home" 
by Fifth Harmony (released 2015) 
is a deepy sexy song. 
Not romantic, but very very sexy. 


8) Dine out, take out, or cook in this Valentine's Day? 

For years, we have done Chinese food takeout. 
We rarely ever eat Chinese food
 (maybe twice a year?) 
so it's a real treat for all of us. 
Bonus: Chinese places are never busy on Valentine's Day, 
so our food comes quickly! 


9) Pink or red? 

LOVE PINK. 
Pale pink, bright pink, barbie pink, ALL PINK. 
I own a lot of pink, 
both in my wardrobe and in my house decor. 
My favorite combination of colors is pink and blue, 
or occasionally pink and black. 

On the other hand, I avoid red at all costs. 
Because of my rosacea, 
wearing red makes me look like a giant tomato. 
Pass. 


10) Flowers or chocolate? 

Adam always gets me flowers 
but never chocolate because I'm a chocolate snob. 
If I had to pick between a bouquet of roses 
and some high-end artisan truffles, 
the truffles would win. 
Otherwise, I'm happy with flowers. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Productivity or lack thereof

 I have entered my hardest parenting phase 
and it's slowly killing me inside. 


I can deal with lack of sleep. 
I don't care if I never pee alone. 
I can handle temper tantums, 
moodiness, 
and never-ending sibling fighting. 
Picky eating, potty training, all that I can muscle through.  


You know what I struggle with? 
Lack of productivity. 

I am naturally driven to be productive. 
I don't need external factors (like a job) 
to spur me to productivity. 
It is hard for me to sit for an extended period of time 
(exception of a really good book) 
and I haven't watched tv in months. 
I cannot relate at all to those who claimed boredom 
over the strictest quarantine times; 
I haven't been bored in years. 

(Adam, in comparison, absolutely needs his job 
or else he slowly becomes one with the couch.) 

I gain much of my self worth from my productivity. 


Now enter the baby-to-toddler stage. 
Easily the cutest and most photographic, 
with their chubby cheeks, 
delicious baby fat rolls, 
gummy smiles, 
and contagious laughter. 



But also, you can't get a damn thing done. 
Not only is there zero independence, 
but you literally cannot leave them for a second. 
Even in a fully baby-proofed room, 
you have about a 5 minute window to rush around the house 
before checking to make sure they are alive. 


Naptime and bedtime become the only windows of productivity. 
And lately, Carson has unpredictably short naps 
and/or is skipping them entirely. 
As I type this, I am in the process of moving him from 2 to 1 daily naps. 


I remember feeling this way with Oliver. 
The crushing burden of no productivity. 

I remember it peaks at 18 months, 
and starts to end between 2 and 3 years. 
By 3, Oliver was mostly independent. 
Not to say he wasn't up my butt every chance he had, 
but I didn't have to observe him every millisecond of the day. 


Right now, there is so much I want to get done. 
Lists upon lists of "wishful to do." 
House projects and organization 
and blogposts I want to write! 
Yet I am chained to this unpredictable naptime schedule, 
where I can't guarantee any time 
thus can't get into any of the projects I want. 

I find myself running around frantically doing all the mundane things 
that are so hard to do when Carson is awake, 
but never actually getting to the things I want to do. 

I seethe with jealousy when I hear parents of older children 
or childless couples 
trapped in their houses during a COVID lockdown, 
with nothing to do but bake bread and clean the house. 
The tenth commandment says do not covet thy neighbor, 
but sorry God I am COVETING EVERY NEIGHBOR 
whose children are 3 years or older. 


Weekends are my savior. 
Adam is perfectly happy to plop himself in the baby-proofed room, 
watching tv or reading articles on his phone. 
Carson can scatter toys, 
crawl all over him, 
and generally stay alive. 
I can finally get shit done. 



I know I will get through this. 
I think going to one nap with help a little
because it'll give me a guaranteed longer stretch in the afternoon. 
And someday (please please) Carson will sit for a TV show, 
and that will change a lot too. 

I just remind myself that I did it before 
and I can do it again. 
In the meantime, 
I'm very slowly dying inside.