Update: My Mysterious Illness

At the beginning of December, I was feeling pretty discouraged by an on-going, persistent roadblock in my health. Waves of dizziness and vertigo hit with unrelenting regularity. It was a little scary to feel so out of control and out of sorts and to not know what the trigger was or when it would hit next. Sometimes in class, I would stagger out of the room and get to the bathroom as quickly as possible to avoid being sick in front of my students or fainting. Deep breathing became my best strategy for calming down in the midst of an episode. And I went to my doctor for a variety of tests that all left me with no conclusions as to the cause. What makes it so unnerving is that it was both predictable and unpredictable, and definitely connected in some way to my emotional state or hormonal state. It would increase intensity at certain points in the month and disappear at others following somewhat of a pattern. So in order to combat this mysterious situation, I turned to some some dietary changes and creating new healthy, mindful habits. Now you know the origin of my resolutions to be healthy and happy from earlier.

Since the autumnal holiday of Thanksgiving, I have really felt and noticed that if I eat crap, I feel like crap. With reducing my dairy intake and switching my morning milk in my coffee to almond milk, plus taking a probiotic, my belly gut feels so much better! I thought the dairy switch would be hard but actually because I feel so much better skipping out on the cow’s milk, it has been easy to side step and embrace the overall better vibes and energy I have gotten in exchange. With this extra energy, I have had the courage and stamina to cook more often and authentically from scratch which has in general made me feel happier in the kitchen and excited because as the kiddos are getting older they are getting SO into helping in the kitchen. More vegetables, fruits, and goodness is making all of us slim down on those extra pounds we were carrying about. So with the extra energy and the slimmed down 5lbs, it has also been easier to get into a consistent workout plan with lots of slow flowing yoga and some strength training. I am feeling stronger and this positive momentum always has me feeling like I can keep it up and going. So things are feeling good right now. I still got a dizzy spell about a week ago but just one and that is SUCH AN IMPROVEMENT that I could cry in gladness over the dramatic change I am feeling from some positive dietary changes and activity choices.

The other piece that is probably helping me feel overall healthy and lighter is letting go. A part of me has wondered if some of my nauseous feelings and lightheadedness were related to my deep-seated desire to have more children which is in direct confrontation with David’s reproductive choices. While I was telling myself I was making progress because I was stifling it down better, I had a sneaking suspicious that perhaps some of these symptoms were psychosomatic. Was I acting pregnant because I wanted to be pregnant? During break, I tried to reflect on this a bit and figure out ways to shift my perspective from “woe is me” to a viewpoint of choice and empowerment. A friend from high school reached out to share a bit about gender sadness she was experiencing and how she connected to some of my previous sharings on the topic. It felt very humbling in the moment to realize that I am not alone and it gave me a feeling of stability within the whirlwind of emotions I have carried about me since David’s procedure. After that conversation, I thought to myself, “hmmmm if some of my longings for another child stem from gender sadness, and if I am not alone in these feelings, perhaps there are other moms out there who have written about gender sadness in missing out on having a boy?” There must be a mom out there with a gaggle of girls who has expressed a tinge of sadness of what it would have been like to have had access to the part of her heart that wants to love a son. I googled and googled and googled and asked David to google for this and we found…..nothing. At first I was like, wow no one is sad about only having daughters and then I thought, what the heck! Why aren’t women sad about missing out on the love of a son? My sons’ love is AMAZING! It is playful, messy, and intense, it is sweet and and gentle. It is boyish and not gendered, it is one of the most beautiful bonds I have ever experienced. My perspective has dramatically shifted. I don’t need a daughter in my life to live fantasies of dress shopping and superficial nonsense that I have been holding desperately too like some deranged Disney villain longing to live our her princess fantasy. And instead I was reminded that sometimes when I need a miracle I look into my sons’ eyes and realize I have already created two.

Maybe its causation or correlations but healing my tummy and healing my heart was a lot of healing this past month, and I definitely am feeling the changes.

Chinese barbecue pork

When we went to Sur La Table, we were surprised by how enjoyable it was to do a cooking class. The chef was fun and funny and made the meal prep easy and non-intimidating. He definitely saw potential in David though and gave him all the “hard” prep tasks and my more hesitant self was perfect for peeling the ginger with a spoon. When we are among friends and strangers in social settings, I am for sure the extrovert while David takes a bit longer to warm up to the crowd. However in task-oriented or performance-based activities, David readily let’s down his hair, dons his apron and digs in, while I question everything about myself and am paralyzed by my crushing imposter syndrome! By the end of class though, I eased up on myself and enjoyed every bite of the meal we cooked alongside Chef Roy. The food was so delicious that we decided to make a new New Year’s Day tradition of cooking Chinese food at home. So we invited my parents over and served up some Chinese barbecue pork and it tasted like perfection!

Marinade:

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons honey

1lb pork tenderloin

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour over pork. I placed the pork is a casserole dish covered in the marinade and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours. Take out of the frig thirty minutes before cooking to get it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking dish in foil and place a wire rack on top. In a non stick skillet add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium. Add the pork to the skillet and brown on all sides about 4 minutes per side. Using tongs transfer to wire rack and roast in the oven about 15 minutes or until internal temperature registers 145. Transfer pork to cutting board with a well and tent with foil to let rest for ten minutes. Then slice and enjoy.

Broccoli Cauliflower fritters

Mrs. Constantine asked Henry at preschool: What is your favorite food? Henry earnestly responded as though there could be only one right answer for him and everyone else: BROCCOLI. At pick up, Mrs. C had to verify the validity of that three year old’s statement to which my mother, who gets Henry from school, confirmed swiftly. He has said that green vegetable is his all time food choice for almost a year now, so yes, we eat a ton of it! I once heard a TV doctor say that broccoli is better for you than an apple so we are going with that. Broccoli is part of at least three-four meals at our house since it is green, easy, and both boys don’t protest it. From time to time, I try to do more with those flowery stalks than a mere steam or sheet pan roast. Two days ago we turned some broccoli and cauliflower into fritters and we won’t be turning back!

They may not look like the most tantalizing dish you have ever laid your eyes on but I promise that once this plate went down we left no fritter behind!

1 head of broccoli

1 head of cauliflower

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

1 tsp dices garlic

1/4 cup panko

1/4 cup flour (or you can do all panko or gf panko)

Steam the veggies together on the stovetop for about five minutes. Remove and place into a large mixing bowl with all the other ingredients. Mash together with a potato masher. In a frying pan, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil, with that tablespoon grab a heaping scoop of the broccoli mixture and plop into the pan. Using the back of the spoon give your heap a little press to flatten a bit. Repeat until you have about four patties in the pan. Cook for 2-4 minutes or until fritter is golden then flip and repeat.

A New Year: Healthful & Happy

Bye Felicia! Closing the chapter on 2017 felt great. The world events of the past year were so intense, insane, and scary. Now when I say that 2017 was a bit like a burning dumpster pile, I am referring to primarily the political landscape and the innumerable tragedies, heartbreaks, and bloody conflicts that gripped our national and global communities. On a less serious note, odd number years always feel “off” to me. Much preferring even numbers (for who knows what reason), I am excited to start 2018. While there were numerous ways in which 2017 left us raw, pained, and concerned for the future state of affairs, there were also beautiful parts to this year for us on the microcosm level. Owen turned 1, we bought a new car and then another, Henry turned 3, we had some special family vacations to California, Florida, and Disney, we summered, Henry had his first year of camp, we spent time together, with family, and with friends.

Each new year, I always make resolutions. They are always the same: exercise, save money, commit to a hobby. This year I am going to change up the tone of my resolutions and dedicate the year to the double H: Healthful and Happy. Too often I spend my days stuck in the routine of daily chores and tasks and feeling entrenched in the to-do list. This year, I want to take time to be happy. It’s okay if the kitchen counters are cluttered, it’s okay if my grading isn’t done the day students turn in their work, it’s okay to let laundry wait, it’s okay to sit down and read. This year is about giving myself permission to slow down and be happy and to soak up more time with my family and with myself. Now that Henry and Owen are older it is easier to feel like this goal for slow and happy is achievable. The boys sleep through the night, they help tidy the playroom at the end of the day, Henry dresses himself and uses the potty, both boys feed themselves well and are not picky eaters, and they play together and independently more. They are in a new stage in life that already feels less physically demanding. They are becoming these sweet, sensitive, cuddly boys who are interested in learning new things and exploring the world around them through hands-on activities. And this stage is exciting. It means we can get out of the house faster and leaner and do more things that the whole family can do together. We don’t have to ask: What do we do about nap time? What should I pack in the diaper bag? Can both boys participate? If not, what will the baby do? We can explore new hobbies together like ice skating, skiing, swimming, and tinkering with gears and engineering. And, we can explore new hobbies independently without feeling guilty. David gifted a pottery class to me for my birthday that starts on Tuesday and I am so excited to be creative and hands-on. Without a nursing baby, I am able to miss a bed time routine without the guilt of feeling like I am wronging or depriving my child. Instead the boys get to have some quality solo time with dad who is truly the best playmate! David and I get to model to our boys having interests and incorporate them into our interests and then help them cultivate their own.

Since I stopped nursing Owen in April, my weight has slowly creeped up. It was a little depressing to step on the scale before Thanksgiving and see that I weighed more than after I gave birth to Owen. But instead of focusing on the number I saw and starting in on the negative self talk, I am choosing to focus on healthful living. Making clean, simple, home-cooked meals that focus on vegetables, lean protein, and fruits and asking myself if I am stress eating, eating out of boredom, or eating for nourishment is just one habit and mindset shift I have been focusing on these past two weeks while home for winter break. It might seem silly, but I can already feel a difference in my perspective about food and cooking but more importantly about how I feel about being in the skin I am in. My mantra this year to help me target my healthful goal is: You know what it better for you than kale? A healthy relationship with food. Prepare yourself for a lot of mushy love posts this year. I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be about loving myself, loving my hubs, loving my boys, and loving life.

Coconut Curry Squash Soup

Are you ready for the snow-apocalypse? the bombogenesis? the bomb cyclone? They are predicting quite a monster storm to hit Boston tomorrow. Some stations are saying 12 inches others 15, but the consensus is that there will be super high winds accompanying the storm ranging from 50 to 60 mph. Sheesh! That sounds nasty. My biggest concern is having power during this storm. Living in the woods is delightful during delightful weather but a little nerve-wracking during storms when trees come down. Please keep everything crossed that the timber falls away from any homes and that the power stays on. In preparation for staying home for at least the next 24 hours, we prepped some healthy cozy soup. Nothing feels better in winter than a warm belly. Especially after a week of record low temps! Tonight’s dinner was a crowd pleasure and super simple to throw together because you just throw everything into a single pot. My favorite kind of recipe because clean-up is easy peasy so this will definitely be a dinner we make during the busy work week.

1 butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes

1 diced onion

14oz can of coconut milk

2 tablespoons lemongrass (I bought the Roland brand)

2 tablespoons fresh diced ginger

1 tablespoon diced garlic

2 tablespoons of butter

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of red curry paste

zest of two limes

juice of one lime

2 cups of water

In a large pot over medium heat, add the butter, garlic, onion and ginger and sauté until fragrant. Add the curry paste and mix into the aromatics. Add the butternut squash and water, bring to a simmer. Let simmer in pot half covered for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, lemongrass, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 more minutes. Stir in zest of two limes and the juice of 1 lime. Use a blender or immersion blender to make smooth and creamy in texture. We toasted up a slice of bread and used it as a spoon to shovel in this delicious soup! Enjoy.