Crockpot lentil soup

Kai didn’t eat any, but I bet he’d have liked it if he did. Anya ate every bite. I didn’t even have to strain the liquid out this time. (Though I did, as always, have to pick out the carrots for her.) And this one was even easier than the last lentil soup I made.

Crockpot Lentil Soup

2 cups dry lentils
4 cups water for soaking
4 cups broth
2 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup white cooking wine

Rinse and sort the lentils, then soak for 2 hours. Drain and combine in the crockpot with all other ingredients except the wine and simmer for 5 hours.* Add the wine and simmer another half hour.

*The recipe I based my soup on said to cook the mixture on medium for 8-10 hours. I don’t have a medium option on my crockpot; as I was going to be in and out of the house all day, I opted for low. Low kept the mix at a simmer, and 5 hours was more than sufficient to cook the veggies until they were tender. Cooking much longer or at a higher temperature likely would have turned the lentils to mush. Your crockpot may vary.


Lies mirrors tell

You may notice a lack of goal updates lately. This is not an oversight. I’ve dialed back the goal work recently. This is why.

I’ve heard the term “body dysmorphic disorder” bandied about quite a bit, but I never thought I had it. Not until I read Lindi Ortega’s Lenny Letter and recognized myself. The way I’ve picked apart my skin, my hair, every small feature of my body since I was old enough to start noticing the way I was different from other people. So, like, age 6 or 7.

So young, you say? Yes. Which is why I am dismayed, but not shocked, to hear my daughter obsess over her lack of a six-pack. I have no idea where she heard the term; I’ve never been fixated on having a six-pack. (I just want a flat stomach. It doesn’t have to have definition.) But I did learn, finally, where she got the notion that she, at the age of 6, should have one.

384517_2858208169180_112976356_nThis is me at Anya’s age. I did not do anything special to earn those muscles. I wasn’t especially thin — no thinner than my daughter, at any rate. I just have natural abs. I still do; I can feel them in there, above the endometriosis bloat and beneath the pregnancy-loosened skin and the breastfeeding pudge. I can make them stronger, but they’re already pretty strong; after months (okay, let’s be real — years) of inactivity, I can work up to doing 100 jackknives in less than a week. I can, if no small child decides to sit upon my back while I’m down, go do a 3-minute plank right this second, in my piggie slippers. I can’t do anything about the bloat or the pudge or the floppy skin, but the core strength is still there.

My daughter got a lot of things from me. Her hair, her eyes, her long legs, her smile. But she doesn’t have those abs, and she feels she should. Just as I, at her age, thought I should have a more feminine face and blond hair and more dainty hands and an even tan. (It was the 80s. Tan was a thing.)

When I got older, I fell victim to the Stridex and Clearasil marketing that was suddenly ubiquitous. So much so that I had Clearasilled upwards of 20 chickenpox blisters before saw one on my knee and realized they weren’t the world’s ugliest pimples. (I was 12, and I never really had acne. I didn’t know any better.) I obsessed over my (clear) skin at 12. And my suddenly thick, frizzy, wavy, unruly hair. I didn’t, at least at first, give a thought to my body.

Then I did, because boobs were everywhere. Except, it would appear, on me. I was flat until my 20s, when things shifted a bit to give me a somewhat balanced figure. But I still didn’t fill out shirts. And my calves were like sticks, no matter how much I exercised. I once did so many heel raises that I had to coat myself in Ben-Gay for days just to lurch to class. I had a flat stomach, slim thighs utterly free of cellulite, and a perky butt, but I had a small chest and tiny calves, so I felt hideous. I would buy clothes in the plus-size section, trying to mask my grotesque form.

The funny thing is that back then, everyone thought I had an eating disorder. I was in fact trying to gain weight; I was just unhappy, and when I am unhappy, I can’t eat. But the criticism I received from well-meaning people trying to save me from the eating disorder I didn’t have didn’t help my self-esteem one bit.

Such has it always been. I have picked myself apart my whole life, and people have helped me do it. But the loudest, cruelest voice has always been my own. And to watch my daughter start to do the same is devastating. Even more so because I’m still doing it — only now I’m comparing myself not to others, but to my former self. I put on clothes I wore before I got pregnant with Kai and look at the fat that bulges up around my waist and across my back. I look at the splotches on my face and wish for the skin I had at 18 — pimples and all. I look at my dimpled thighs and wonder why I ever thought bigger calves were such a big deal.

It’s not just my appearance, either. My house isn’t clean enough and I’m a horrible mother and a worse wife and daughter. I don’t work hard enough, and what work I do is laughably bad. I waste my free time doing things that don’t matter instead of finishing my book or working on Anya’s blanket or taking a class.

I will never live up to who I think I should be.

The thing is, I don’t want to. Not entirely. I enjoy setting goals and meeting them. I love always having a challenge before me. I’m not sure how I would derive any sense of self-satisfaction without that. But I also wish I could just be happy with me for five minutes. For my daughter. We can’t continue to compare ourselves to my former self and find ourselves wanting.

For starters, I never thought my former self was all that great to begin with.

But I Googled Lindi Ortega photos, and I don’t see any of the stuff she’s picking herself apart for, either. She’s absolutely beautiful. So it’s entirely possible that my mirror is lying to me, too.

I don’t know how to strike a balance between constantly having some goal to work towards and being forever uncomfortable in my own skin. But I need to find that balance, and soon. Because my daughter is watching.

I have reading envy

I’m knocking out a short survey snagged from Lorna because I miss reading. Kai yanked my bookmark out — again — and I have been working too much to sit down and figure out where the heck I left off. Which is why I dog ear, people.

Author you’ve read the most books from: Oh, Stephen King, no question.

Best Sequel Ever: The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower series, so not technically a sequel)

Currently Reading: The Obsidian Chamber, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Drink of Choice While Reading: Ginger tea

E-reader or Physical Book? Both. I don’t have to dog-ear Kindle books. And thanks to the app on my phone, I can take a whole library with me wherever I go. But I am never going to convince my parents to buy me books online, let alone e-books; also, half of my to-read pile/shelf/bookcase are books my mom read and gave to me. So physical books are still on the menu.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Holden Caulfield (gotta get my lit cred in there), though I likely wouldn’t have been cool enough for him. Joe Goffman from The Book of Joe probably would have dug me, though.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts. So not the kind of book I normally like, but I fell in love with it, and her writing. I just discovered she died, and am sad now.

Hidden Gem Book: gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson. I don’t know if it’s all that hidden (I’m quite out of the reading loop, as you can probably tell by the books I mention), but I certainly didn’t expect it to stay with me the way it did. Also The Book of Joe because I’ve read it until the pages literally started falling out; it’s one of the books that reignited my desire to write.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: This is one; I’ve happily(?) set aside my reading to read to my kids (or just snuggle them and watch the same Disney movie for the 111th time). Another was when I was about 7 months pregnant with Anya and had to start seriously censoring my reading material because I just couldn’t handle anything with dead, dying, or endangered children. (This has not really changed.) Actually, since becoming a mother, I simply cannot handle as much horror as I used to, because…well, I just can’t stand to read about people being mean to one another. Make of that what you will.

Just Finished: The Crimson Shore, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: War. Sports. Anything involving dead, dying, or endangered children. Jodi Picoult, while I respect her as a writer, is pretty much a no-go for me. Family biopics spanning generations. Romance. Most biographies. And unless I am deeply, deeply interested in the topic or the author, nonfiction.

Longest Book You’ve Read: The Stand. It’s over 1000 pages, I believe. And I’ve read it so many times that Mom bought me a new copy. I still have my original, though. It’s covered in notes from when I wrote a paper on it in grad school. I would teach college English if I could teach King. Just saying.

Major book hangover because of: Hearts in Atlantis. I was upset for days, and it took several rereadings to get to the point where the ending didn’t make me sob.

Number of Bookcases You Own: I have narrowed my collection considerably, because I realized I was going to have to buy a bigger house just for my books and some of them weren’t worth all that. So I weeded to make room for better books. (I plan on living a really long time.) Right now I have four 5-shelf bookcases that have wiggle room. And an ever-growing Kindle library.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: The Stand, obvs. Also Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding and Ticktock by Dean Koontz. (If you are a fan of supernatural thrillers or slapstick comedy, read that one. It’s hilarious.)

Preferred Place To Read: Snuggled up on the couch under a blankie.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I forget what book it’s from, but Robert Fulghum wrote it. “Things were never ‘the way they used to be.’ Things never will be ‘the way it’s going to be someday.’ Things are always just the way they are for the time being. And the time being is always in motion.”

Reading Regret: Red Dragon. I had to read it for a class. Had nightmares for weeks. (Yet still watched Hannibal. I make no sense.) Also Moby Dick, and anything Emerson. I was an English major in undergrad and grad school, so I read those a lot. Never did get to the point where I enjoyed either.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series): A Series of Unfortunate Events

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: That I haven’t already mentioned: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (I have the compilation, so I tend to think of it as one book); The Talisman, by Stephen King; Maybe (Maybe Not): Second Thoughts from a Secret Life, by Robert Fulghum (though choosing just one of his is like picking my favorite child)

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Preston/Child (though I think they need to stop churning them out quite so quick), Nick Hornby, Robert Fulghum

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: I am so out of the loop that I can’t even answer this.

Worst Bookish Habit: There are those who would stone me for the dog-earing, but I’m not even sorry. I only dog-ear my own books, though.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, by Robert Fulghum

Your latest book purchase: Confessions of a Funeral Director, Caleb Wilde. It obviously breaks my rule of dead babies, but it was light on the emphasis of them because, usually, people are much older when they die.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): See above.


Rainy Sunday, with snotty raisin

I meant to open Fitbit to log my breakfast and opened my blog instead. So I guess subconsciously I want to write. Or I’m just sleep deprived and typing on autopilot. Either way, here’s the haps:

  • Kai shoved a raisin up his nose last night. He tried to sneeze it out, to no avail. I tried to suck it out with the nasal aspirator, and also tried to blow it out by closing his other nostril and giving him mouth-to-mouth, like the internet told me to do. I can see the raisin, but I can’t dislodge it. So I’m waiting for the clinic to open so someone can pull it out with tweezers. The only thought keeping me together while I wait is “at least it’s not a battery.”
  • I’m having some pretty serious endo pain this weekend. And also hot flashes, so I’m unsure that I will start my period and thus get relief from the pain. It’s…pretty depressing, to be honest.
  • The Medrol the dentist gave me for my oral virus (did I mention that? I have some sort of mouth crud that has made everything from toothpaste to food feel like broken glass on my tongue for two weeks now) is contributing to the hot flashes and giving me red clown nose. Also blinding headaches. But I ate almonds today for the first time in days without wanting to cry, so I will deal.
  • Here is life with this two-year-old: He was, just now, screeching like a banshee, at glass-shattering octaves. “Kai, can you please not do that?” I ask, wearily. “Okay, Mommy. Sorry.” And he stops. I’m torn between pride that I can have a conversation with my son (I didn’t have intelligible conversations with Anya until she much older) and frustration because he’s proven that he hears and understands me, but simply chooses to ignore me 90% of the time.
  • I have had very little sleep. I stayed up later than usual last night because I was in desperate need of me time. Then Kai’s snoring awoke me in the wee hours, which is when I was able to confirm that his congestion included fruit. Wasn’t able to get back to sleep after that, because I was too busy Googling “Toddler raisin nose removal” and trying to find a sleeping position to place him in that would prevent him from inhaling the raisin into his lungs.
  • Anya is all dolled up, but will not be going to the minor med with us because boredom is her kryptonite and I can’t handle two crazy babies on 4 hours of sleep. She is going to Mimi’s. She’s cool with the arrangement for now. But I wonder if she will remain cool when I drop her off and leave with her brother.
  • My bright spot right now is that Kai will very likely doze off on our way to the clinic, so I can have a little break from the terrible almost-threes.

Think good thoughts at me. I need them today. And a swift and minimally traumatic raisin extraction.


The Year of Calm: February

Calm’s February calendar came on my radar at just the right time. The theme is cultivating compassion, something the world can always use more of. Especially me, towards myself. So I’m in.

The first two days were easy-peasy. I already tally up all of my daily gratitudes over on 43t (which will forever be 43t to me, no matter what they’re calling it these days). And as a mom of littles, I compliment daily; it’s like breathing. Today started with me complimenting my son for correctly naming (most) of the colors on our vaporizer’s nightlight. At 4 a.m. Because he’s 2.

Some of the others will be harder. I can tell you right now the odds are slim of me buying myself flowers tomorrow. But I bought myself some new bras before my last decent bra fell apart. It’s still self-love…just less Instagrammable. But the things I bought will bring me joy a lot longer than a bunch of flowers. And no amount of flowers can make up for your underwire stabbing you in the heart.

Sunday’s I can do. While there was a time I’d have found it painful, I think I can do so fairly easily. The trick is to spend that time doing something fun and fulfilling, not cleaning the house. I’ll, ah, do my best.

A lot of the things on this list appear to be geared towards single people, or at least people without kids. I can pretty much guarantee I will not find 5 minutes next Friday to lay down and listen to a song without being jumped upon as if I were a bed. So I’m going to have to make some modifications. That’s okay, though. A modified exercise still counts. It’s only the exercise you don’t do that doesn’t.

Ask me how I know.


Meditation challenge, take two

My daughter said something yesterday that made me realize how desperately I need to emphasize this goal. The morning started as usual: I woke (late, because after the previous day’s toddler-driven sleep deprivation plus that night’s nightmares/anxiety attack I allowed myself to sleep in), got dressed and did my morning face/teeth/hair thing, fixed a cup of tea and started to work. Halfway through said work, Kai awakened and wanted to be nursed. Fine. We do this every day.

The problem arose when he finished nursing, but wanted to sit on my lap and twiddle. I wanted to set him down, because at that point I had roughly 2 more minutes of work to wrap up before I could take a break and get Anya off to school. He dug his heels in and refused, slapping me and screaming at me. I yelled back. We proceeded to fuss at each other for the next 20 minutes, while I tried to work with one hand and hold him off with the other. When I went to awaken Anya for school (late, now), I had no patience left; when she did her usual dawdling thing, I snapped at her.

Anya, being my insightful girl, asked me (once she was dressed and ready to go; she’s no dummy) if I’d slept okay the night before. Because she’s learned that when Mommy doesn’t get enough sleep, Mommy is cranky and low on patience. I told her that no, I hadn’t had enough sleep the night before. And that’s when I realized that nothing that had transpired that morning was actually that bad; I was just tired and headachy and lacking the resources to deal with conflict.

I apologized to Anya. Then to Kai. The morning proceeded much more smoothly after that. (Though not 100% smoothly; Kai is still nearly 3. And when he is tired, he acts out. Imagine that.)

A second example: Later in the morning I realized I had been rubbing my nose for hours. Earlier, as I was in a hurry, I used a lotion I know upsets my allergies, because (a) it works quickly and (b) it was there. I washed it off after dropping Anya at school, as I had been hacking my head off ever since I put it on, but apparently I didn’t get it all. So I scrubbed my hands and forearms, and used the nose spray (Flonase, otherwise known as my nose’s BFF) to boot. No more itchy.

This type of allergic reaction isn’t a huge deal by itself, but we’re fast approaching one of my worst allergy windows: Soggy late winter mold plus tree pollen. If I am to avoid getting a sinus infection, I need to keep a tight rein on my allergies. Which means not blowing off minor irritations like postnasal drip. It’s all cumulative.

I need to be more mindful, in other words. Little things snowball into big things — but if they are caught early enough, they can be dealt with easily and much misery can be averted. It’s a whole lot easier to grease the squeaky wheel than to replace it.

Coupled with yesterday’s thoughts on calm, I think the solution is clear: I need to meditate more. Every day. I need to make it a habit, as I’ve made brushing and flossing twice a day. (And look, I never thought I’d be a morning brusher; it took me years to train myself to floss consistently.) So I’m bringing back the meditation challenge, and I will stick with it until the meditation habit sticks. This is more important than the sugar thing (nobody cares if I kick sugar entirely if I’m a bitch), so I’m bumping that down the priority list for now.

I’m also going to track my mindfulness work so I don’t let it slide. (Yes, another goal. It’s who I am; I’m hardly going to change that now.) Simply meditating every day isn’t enough; I need to pay attention and act on what I observe. squeaksqueaksqueak

I may not have gotten the daughter I expected, but I think I got the daughter I needed. I’d do well to be more mindful of her wisdom, too.


In search of calm

I’ve hit one of those lulls again. Impostor syndrome writ large. I don’t feel I’m good at anything I do — writing, editing, any sort of creative endeavor. I’m not a good wife, or a good mother, or a good daughter, or a good friend.

I mean well. I’ll give myself that. But I keep spinning in circles, coming up empty.

It occurs to me that this is why I keep seeking validation from goals lists and fitness trackers and productivity apps. I want to feel good at something, and by crossing things off of lists and achieving goals, I can feel like I am at least good at getting things done.

But what does it matter if I’m good at getting things done if they are not the right things?

I have learned that these feelings are blips on the radar. That I can ride them out, and they’ll eventually pass. But I haven’t figured out how to maintain my calm as I do so. Instead I lose sleep to nightmares and anxiety attacks and snap at the children and fill up online shopping carts and then abandon them instead of getting my work done. (And then blogging about it as a further procrastination measure.)

Perhaps that’s what I should work on first: Strengthening my calm.