Friday, September 28, 2012

Healthy Banana Nut Muffins

It never fails. We buy a bunch of bananas and before we know it two or three are beginning to turn black. It's fine because overripe bananas are the perfect excuse to bake something yummy. In this case, on a random night this week, Lila and I whipped up some of our favorite banana nut muffins.

Lila insisted on making the muffins 
heart shaped for her mama and daddy. Aww


1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
An extra handful of flax and brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
4 egg whites, whipped until fluffy
1 yolk
2-3 mashed bananas
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tbsp of oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. In large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy (set aside). Mash bananas in another bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix (but do not over mix). Fold in egg whites and yolk, then add raisins. Spoon into muffin tins (coated with cooking spray). Sprinkle nuts and the extra brown sugar and flax seed on top. Bake for about 20 minutes.

The best part of baking?
...enjoying the finished product! YUM!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No Technology Sunday: Part 1... "Mommy, when can I be a client, too?

A mom sits at her kitchen table catching up on work. A forlorn-looking daughter walks slowly from behind and asks, "Mommy, when can I be a client, too?" Do you remember this commercial? Even though I was more than ten years away from becoming a mom when I first saw it, the idea behind this commercial struck a chord and has stayed with me all of these years. (Here is a link to the original AT&T commercial of this series, but I couldn't find a link to the exact commercial I'm referencing above). I'm embarrassed to admit that more than once since Clara has been born, my husband has come up to me when I am spending too much time working at my computer to ask in a pseudo-Clara voice, "Mommy, when can I be a client, too?" 

Most of all, this question effectively and directly calls upon my deepest reserves of working mommy guilt. It is hard for me to admit that in addition to the hours I spend at work each day that I am guilty of spending too much time at my computer at home when I want to be spending time with my daughter. Last month, when I posted photos that Clara had taken around the house, I deliberately left some of her photos out, namely her photos of me, many of which happened to be photos taken by Clara standing behind me... as I sat at my computer. Seeing these photos in front of me was an all too real reminder that this is how Clara sees me too much of the time and an eerie reminder of that AT&T commercial. I wanted to change that.

Just as I was trying to determine how I was going to transform how I spend time with Clara at home and especially how to change my use of the computer, the stars aligned and within two weeks, I came across several "signs" that gave me some ideas about how to proceed. Here's a sampling of what happened that week:


Sign #1: No Internet in Maine. 

At the end of our summer, we spent a week in a log cabin in Maine where there was no Internet access. It was a beautiful and transformative week. We all felt more relaxed than we had all summer. After getting over the initial panic about not having Internet access, I found that I loved the quiet of this vacation both mental and physical. It was a relief to be free from the bing-ding-rings of my phone that typically interrupted daily life at home. The absence of these sounds felt freeing. I could finally rest without the fear of an urgent text or email or phone call breaking the silence.

The stillness of Maine- no Internet to interrupt living
Sign #2: Technology Sabbath. 

Upon returning home from Maine, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the newly released book, "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin, a follow-up to one of my favorite books of the past couple years, "The Happiness Project." Rubin provides simple, yet concrete tips to improve daily life. I admit that I do not read books linearly. In fact, I often skip to the end. In this case, I skipped right to page 129 to the chapter about time- probably the area in my life where I feel I need the most help. She shared techniques that others use to preserve their sense of control over time, and many of them involved controlling the technology that otherwise controls them. One person doesn't check email for the first two hours of each day so I've been trying that to some degree of positive results. Although, I admit that I'm plagued by a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). What if the most important and time-sensitive email in the world comes through between 8am and 10am and I miss it? The idea that stuck with me the most in this chapter is the idea of a technology Sabbath... the idea of turning off technology for one day and just completely unplugging- a mini-version of my Maine vacation.

Sign #3: The Emptiness of the Internet.

My high school friend, Josh Robin, is a reporter for NY1 news. He created a series called "The Tangled Web" about the relationship between Orthodox Jews and the Internet. I am not an Orthodox Jew, but I was fascinated to hear how the rabbis on his show talked not only about the negative religious implications for using the Internet, but they argued clearly and effectively how the Internet is simply a waste of time.

Eytan Kobre, one of the Jewish leaders interviewed, said the Internet is "the greatest spiritual and moral challenge to mankind. Ever."

"It's so vapid, so empty, so nothing. There's like nothing there," Kobre said, according to Robin's report. 

I am not forsaking the Internet for good, and I don't agree unequivocally that the Internet as a whole is "so empty" but something about this story resonated with me. I do feel a sense of emptiness when I spend hours at the computer. In an hour- by-hour comparison, I would certainly rather spend an hour with Clara than an hour glued to my computer, yet I sometimes feel compelled to catch up on the latest blogs, Facebook posts, and work emails instead. I want to change that.

Sign #4: Technology Addiction.

Within those same few weeks, I read several articles about the dangers of too much time spent connected to technology, such as this article in the  New York Times. When even executives from Facebook are talking about the dangers of technology addiction, it grabs my attention.

With all of this information fueling my already instinctual desire to create some distance between technology and me, I hatched a plan. I would adopt a variation of the technology 
Sabbath explained in Rubin's book. No TV, no computer, and no cell phone on Sundays. I tried this for the past two Sundays, and I have to say it has felt like an amazing release.

I want to write more here about how Clara and I spent those Sundays, but this is getting long, so I will save the details for another post. For now, I will say that my working mommy guilt/angst was significantly lifted by my adventures with Clara on those days. Oh, and I felt happier, too. It didn't feel like I was racing to get from one moment to the next, but more like I was living each moment as it came. From morning to night on both Sundays, it felt like Clara and I were both very important clients.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Swimming & Dancing: A little one with big confidence

Lila had a busy weekend. On Friday night, she started her new swimming class.  Lila refused to eat before class because she was way "too excited." She got dressed a full hour before her lesson-- Speedo, swim cap, goggles, water shoes. Needless to say, she was ready!

Lila has been taking swimming lessons since she was two (a wonderful birthday gift from Grandma). From that very first lesson, she naturally took to swimming. She's a little fish and as she progresses, my husband and I daydream aloud about Lila taking the gold as an Olympic swimmer. We are totally amazed and proud of her development, skill, and determination. She is so young, but we can't help but think this may be her "thing" for the long term-- Swim team? Trophies? College scholarship? Professional athlete? Okay, I know we need to remember she's only four but at night, when I put her to bed, I ask"Lila, do you know how well you did at swim class?" She responds not like a four year old but more like an athlete in training-- "Yes, but I need to work on my diving."

Saturday morning she switched gears and gear for an audition for the Nutcracker. Lila hasn't had formal dance lessons other than "creative movement" in preschool, but she looooves the Nutcracker. The last time we went to see it, she pointed to the stage and said "Mama, I need to be up there." So, when auditions rolled around this year, I felt she should have the chance to try out. (Clara tried out too! It will be so cool if they are in it together!)

My husband took Lila to the audition. She was the first to arrive, looking the part in her newly purchased, never worn Danskin attire. She was soon joined by young dancers, many who already had a couple years of lessons, one stretching her little leg straight up to her head. And her dad soon found himself amongst some experienced dance moms with an agenda: to ensure their little ones land a part. Despite the seriousness of some, Lila went in and had fun. She told me all about how she acted like a mouse eating cheese and pretended to be chased by a cat.

Lila can't wait to win a swim meet and perform on stage in the Nutcracker. She is so confident. For her, it's not "if," it's "when." "When I win the race..." or "When I am in the Nutcracker..."

She has this competitive nature that I've never had. In a recent game of Memory (during which I was losing, horribly), I told Lila, "Next time I am going to win." Lila looks me straight in the eyes and says, "You could try, Mama, but I accomplish things." She talks junk and flaunts her big vocabulary.

This is what I love and admire about her. As an aspiring writer myself, I reflect back about all the times I let fear of failure and competition stand in my way. Based on my own life experiences, I can't help but think about what will happen if Lila doesn't achieve a goal.

I am on the edge of my seat about the results of the audition. How will Lila handle it if she is not chosen? The bigger question is, how will I handle it? I am hoping that my fear will not rub off on Lila and that instead she will continue to influence me with her four-year-old wisdom and untainted confidence.

I remain in awe.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Carrot Muffins

Here's one of my family's favorite healthy muffin recipes. They tend to disappear off the counter pretty quickly in my house. Hope you like 'em just as much as we do!

About 6 large carrots (peeled)
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cup of cornmeal
1 pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup of ground flax seed
3 egg whites; 1 yolk
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup of honey
3/4 cup of skim milk
1/4 cup of raisins
(1/4 cup of cranraisins- optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together the dry ingredients- flour, cornmeal, salt, flax, baking powder. In another bowl, whip the egg whites then add the yolk, oil, honey, and milk. Puree the carrots with a little water. Save one carrot to shred so that you will have pieces of carrots in the muffins. Add the carrots (pureed and shredded) to the wet ingredients, then gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over mix or the muffins might come out tough. Add the raisins (and cranraisins) last.

Scoop into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sick on the First Day of School?!?

In 18 years of being a student (counting college and grad school) and 10 years of being a teacher, I can't remember a time that I or another student was absent on the first day of school. The first day is meant to be a time for healthy, sun-kissed children, full of tales of summer fun, to catch up with friends and meet new teachers and students. 

Clara has been counting down to the first day of Pre-K since nearly the first day of summer. I'm not kidding... EVERY DAY she would ask, "How many more days until Pre-K? Is summer over yet? Is it time for school yet? How many more sleeps until the first day of Pre-K?" I have never seen anyone more excited for school. And, now, here it is, the first day of school, and Clara is home sick.

First day of school photos were a big deal in our family. My siblings and I always stood in the same place, against the ranch panels of our house. We were able to see how much we grew from year to year by "how many panels" we had grown. When my mom made a 30th birthday book for me, she put every first day of school photo on a two-page centerspread. It was an awesome, if embarrassing, way to document my changes over the years from my dorky, too-big glasses in my fourth grade first day of school shot to my sky-high bangs in my trying-to-be-cool seventh grade photo.

In solidarity with years of my own first day photos, I actually tried to take a first day photo of Clara this morning even though she wasn't going to school! For about half an hour this morning, we thought she might make it, her fever was gone for more than 24 hours, her throat felt better, and so we went ahead and told her she could get dressed for school. By the time she was actually dressed, we heard her cough a dozen or more times, and decided that it was not wise for her to go to school. She needed another day to recover.

I thought for the sake of posterity, I would still take the photo. Not. A. Good. Idea. 

I have several photos of my daughter, positioned on our front porch, just like her PreSchool first day photo (thinking ahead to the centerspread of first-day of school photos I might make for her some time), all dressed for her first day of school.... hysterically crying, as she jumped up and down in desperation, "I want to go to school!" Although I am a fan of photos in a blog, I think it would be too cruel to include these photos. So, this will be my first photo-less post. 

Last week, I thought about writing a post about the first day of school. And it was meant to be quite different from today's post. The post I imagined writing was about first days of school and how as a teacher and student, I have now had 28 first days of school, and how each first day brings excitement... as well as some anxiety... for me.

I wanted to write about how Clara views her first day of school with absolute joy and pure excitement, not an ounce of anxiety. Whereas I could definitely be on board with a few more weeks (or months) of summer vacation, Clara literally can't wait for school to start. I hope this enthusiasm for education on her part will last. I can't help feeling sad for my little girl who literally couldn't wait for her first day of school and now had to miss it.