Posted in about me, storytelling, ebb & flow, mindset, food, differences

Thanksgiving 2020

Climbing Daddy and I have a tradition of going to a National Park or Monument or something similar for Thanksgiving; Tall Daddy and The Kid go to his family’s Thanksgiving.

We decided we wouldn’t go this year. The parks have never been crowded on Thanksgiving Day, but we’d have to stay somewhere. Camping is always an option, but it’s too cold to camp anywhere driving distance from here (at least, driving distance for a 2- or 3-day trip). Maybe or maybe not for Climbing Daddy; definitely for me.

Also, because the world is out of whack, maybe the parks were more crowded than usual this year. That would be sad irony.

The tradition of going to a park—and hunting for somewhere in these sparsely populated areas to eat Thanksgiving dinner—has done an excellent job of breaking the painful connections of holidays with my family.

As such, I didn’t feel obligated to even celebrate the holiday at all. No inner tension or conflict. Felt great!

But it’s not all about me (what?!), and Tall Daddy was joining us, so we made a menu.

The Kid and I made spaghetti from scratch. We made the dough as a joint effort, and aside from the one or two pieces I demonstrated on, The Kid rolled and cut all of the spaghetti himself! He was proud of his work.

Also in the morning, we made the apple pie from PostSecret. It was easy to make and tasted delicious. I decided to buy a pie crust instead of making one, in light of all the other things we were making from scratch, and that was a good choice.

The Kid went to Tall Daddy’s to spend a few hours in the afternoon (where he chopped veggies for salad) and I made two-hour crockpot bread and sauce for the spaghetti.

Climbing Daddy made some caprese on toothpicks with basil from the garden (tomatoes aren’t ready yet; hoping they ripen before it frosts). He realized The Kid wouldn’t have anything while we ate caprese (The Kid doesn’t like them—whose kid is this?!) and made toothpick snacks from apple, orange, and kiwi instead.

The meal was ample and delicious, and it kept with the tradition of spending a lot of time preparing food for one meal. That wasn’t a goal, but we did create this menu because it’s too time-intensive to have on a typical day.

I joke that I went back to my roots for Thanksgiving this year (my dad’s mom’s side of the family is all Italian), but we always had American Thanksgiving growing up, no matter which grandparents we shared the meal with. I’ve heard stories about Italian Thanksgiving prepared by the generation before, but that baton had been passed on by the time I was around.

We ate all of the salad and caprese, but we have enough of everything else left over for another meal, maybe two.

After dinner, we Zoomed with some friends and played Code Names online. (That link takes you to the game, but there aren’t directions if you don’t already know how to play the game.)

Also in the morning, in the midst of food prep, The Kid and I ran a “turkey trot.” The intention was 5k, but he hasn’t been running much and it wasn’t worth it. We ran just over two miles, and that was plenty.

Thanksgiving this year was not at all what we expected it would be, based on recent years, but we pivoted and had a great day.

How did your day turn out?

Posted in audience participation, exercise, food, gratitude, know better do better, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Full enjoyment can include moderation

Tomorrow (and every day, but for now—tomorrow), I invite you to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a word that has lost meaning because it’s used so much nowadays, but we are not, on the whole, even mediocre at it. Yet.

If you’re enjoying a meal full of your favorite foods tomorrow (or any day), instead of enjoying it by eating more and faster, enjoy it by eating less and slower.

Pay attention to the food while you’re eating it. Most of the time we take a bite, then talk with people at the table and stop noticing the food as it continues to go in.

I’m not saying ignore the people you’re with (which, hopefully, is limited to people in your immediate household this year). Simply: pay attention to the food. Instead of “needing” to gorge because it’s so good!, take time to notice its goodness. Be as aware of the second and third bites as the first.

Consider the possibility of being completely satisfied with the meal without being overfull.

This is completely counter to the culture, where Thanksgiving (and every day, but for now—Thanksgiving) is a celebration of excess. Where we give thanks for what we have and go shopping to have more. Where being overfull and uncomfortable is a badge of honor and being moderate is being a buzzkill.

Maybe the culture has it wrong. Be the change.

P.S. As I’ve preached before: exercise is not punishment for eating. Exercise because it makes you feel good and/or because it’s part of self-care. Eat, in this case, because you enjoy it. (The rest of the time because you want to fuel yourself for maximum energy and health and/or because it’s part of self-care.) They aren’t opposite sides of a scale.

Posted in differences, education, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Take the opportunity: band teacher edition

What a fantastic opportunity we have been forced into!

I know that could be interpreted sarcastically; I mean it completely sincerely.

I am a teacher. Sometimes, I am a phenomenal teacher. Sometimes, I am a mediocre teacher.

We all know teachers who have been teaching for a long time, teaching the same thing, plugging along more or less on auto pilot. (As much as auto pilot works in this gig.)

Not now!

We all know teachers who have completely resisted learning/using technologies.

Not now!

We all get in routines, have our way of doing things, etc., even if we’re consistently learning and growing.

Now? Now we have the opportunity to re-think ALL OF IT.

I teach band. I’m in band teacher groups on Facebook where I get and share resources and ideas regularly.

Man. There are a lot of people trying to figure out how to do what they’ve always done, just through an internet connection or a face mask.

Missing the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming. And we’re all at square one again. Everyone I’ve talked to feels like a first year teacher.

Being a first year teacher is rough. Really rough.

(I can’t imagine being a first year teacher this year…)

If you’ve been banging your head against the wall trying to make this year like every other year through Zoom and face masks and life-draining expectations, I’m here to tell you—it’s not too late to change the course. Rethink everything. Do something differently. Do everything differently. What do you have to lose?

“But then my kids will be behind!” Behind what? Your expectations for where they “should” be? Your fear of someone else’s judgement of where they “should” be? And by extension, judgement of your competence as a teacher?

There is a global pandemic. Let the expectations go.

Right now, nearly everything is hard for nearly everyone. Stressing yourself out trying to make kids—who have their own laundry list of stresses to deal with—jump through hoops to try to pretend that everything is normal is … well … stressful.

Also, kids have so much less autonomy in choosing how to deal with everything that’s going on, or even knowing what healthy coping mechanisms are available. Do we want to be someone helping or someone hurting? I’m not convinced anyone is neutral now, or ever.

“Band is some kids’ safe place!” Yes it is! It was mine. Does that mean it needs to be as close to what they did last year as possible? You are their safe place. The group is their safe place. Keep the space sacred, but the activities? They can be shaken up.

Take a deep breath, let some of the weight go, and see what you come up with.

Posted in food, mindset, parenting

Dinner time and foreign children

“There are starving children in Ethiopia.”

I was told this regularly as a child when I didn’t like the food I was served.

I’m sure people’s shaming country varied (children are, sadly, starving all over the world), but this is a familiar refrain to many of us.

The Kid eats reasonably well and also has his share of complaining about what’s for dinner.

I don’t shame him with meaningless reminders of hungry children overseas.

Yes, those children would like food, but what does that have to do with this meal? It’s not like our family had to decide if we were going to feed ourselves or feed those children, we decided to feed ourselves, and as a result, those children are dying.

Honestly, dinner time isn’t the best to get into the global politics behind this problem. Nine might not be the ideal age, either.

Did anyone who received these dinner time foreign political updates suddenly have gratitude for the (over-)abundance of food we have, then eat food they didn’t like with new appreciative eyes?

No, I didn’t either.

Does it work for you now? Didn’t think so.

Tired of the whining? Address the whining.

Genuinely concerned about the disparities in food abundance across the globe? Volunteer together or donate money or find organizations in your community to help local hungry people. Because we don’t need to travel overseas or even out of state to find people without enough to eat.

Your kid’s meal has nothing to do with it.

In the same vein, I don’t know anyone who prepares meals that they know their spouse doesn’t like, even if it’s their own favorite dish and they haven’t had it in forever

We certainly wouldn’t intentionally ignore the preferences of a dinner guest.

Sure, a guest is different than a kid, but a kid is a person with valid tastes and preferences, just like you, your spouse, and your guest.

I don’t make him eat what we’re having. Why would I? Because I made it? So I’m going to argue about eating it for half an hour? an hour? with a child who doesn’t like it? Is that really the way that I want to spend my energy? Is that the way I want to cultivate relationship?

No.

Do I make him another meal?

Also no.

He has a standard backup of raw vegetables and hummus, and if there’s something else in the fridge or the pantry that he’d like with that, most of the time, that’s fine. We rarely have food in the house that would not be OK for him to have with dinner, and he’s never asked to have sweets. (He’d eat bread all night if we let him—so would I—but we rarely have bread in the house.)

I have so many negative memories of power plays surrounding meals. This is not how I want to be etched forever in my child’s mind—I will make enough other mistakes without trying.

The Climbing Daddy and I can have whatever it is that I or he has prepared, and The Kid can take it or leave it. And if we don’t like it either, we don’t shame each other into eating it—we either rummage through the fridge with The Kid or order a pizza for everyone.

Posted in food, mindset, motivation, physical health

Election week: no sweets, no caffeine

I have different relationships with sweets and caffeine.

Caffeine, I don’t drink for wakefulness—I just like tea. When it’s cool or cold out, I like most kinds of hot tea—black, green, white, rooibos, herbal. But when it’s hot out, I like iced tea. Plain old unsweetened black iced tea.

If I drink a cup of iced tea daily (or near-daily) on an empty stomach, after several weeks, I start to get heartburn. At the same time, if I’ve been drinking a cup of anything caffeinated daily for several weeks and miss a day or two, I’ll get a migraine.

In the summer, this is easier because I don’t have a routine. I just loosely keep track of how much tea I’m drinking and I’m good to go.

With school in session in person, I have a routine, and drinking iced tea in the car on the way to work is one of them.

I had already been thinking that I needed to start to wean off the iced tea before the heartburn started again, so I brought less and less tea. At the tail end of last week, the heartburn started and I had lessened my intake enough to avoid a migraine. Good timing.

It’s also gotten cooler, so hot tea is in my travel mug. I’m sure there are non-caffeinated teas that make good iced tea; I just haven’t tried them.

So: it’s my first week in a while without caffeine.

Sweets is a more complicated story.

I have a long history of emotional eating, and that eating is nearly always desserts or simple carbs.

While I’m much less drawn to them than I used to be, if I consume sweets regularly, I want more, and it spirals. Quickly.

Being at home most of the time has been a struggle. I’m finally snacking less. For a while, we were doing dessert more often than usual. “Usual” is once or twice a month. We had something sweet to munch on at least that much each week. Plus I was taking from the candy jar at work. (If I’ve ever taken from the candy jar at work, it definitely wasn’t on multiple consecutive days.)

I decided I needed a hard stop.

In no-sugar 30-day challenges I ran a long time ago, I quit all added sugars in all foods, including dressings, sauces, etc. Not this time. Just sweets. Dessert, candy, things of the sort.

Quitting sugar will yield several positives:

  • I will feel better. Excessive added dietary sugars negatively affect mood.
  • I will stop craving. Then I can use my energy for things other than fighting the urge to eat.
  • I will probably take off a few pounds.
  • Fruit will be “sweet enough” again.
  • My immune system will be stronger. Working in two elementary schools, this is critical right now.

I didn’t intentionally line this up with election week—it just worked out that way.

Many people have told me (over the course of time) that doing something like this at a stressful time is a bad idea. In some ways, they’re right. It’s harder to stick to new things when so much energy is going to the surrounding issues.

But eating ice cream doesn’t really make me feel better (especially because I don’t go slowly and enjoy it) nor does it actually relieve the stress. I can deal with emotions in a healthy way instead of trying to eat them.

Day five. It’s been rough but also so far, so good. I know that in another few days or maybe another week, the cravings will be substantially reduced and it will be easier. Until then, it’s worth it.