A Short Story

I woke this morning just as the sky was beginning to fade from the darkness of night to the shade of gray that precedes dawn. As the haze of subconscious lifted I realized Zak was still lying in bed next to me. I nudged him gently with my elbow to ask him if he was planning to swim this morning at the lake or not. The color of the sky lead me to believe he’d overslept.

He confirmed my suspicion when he said it was 5:50 and then proceeded to roll over and go back to sleep. I sat up and said quietly that I was going to go for a bike ride as I slithered my way to the foot of the bed.

I dressed and headed downstairs to forage for something to take the edge off the earliest inkling of hunger and hold off the savage beast until I returned from my ride. I sliced a kiwi and stacked it like a deck of cards, enjoying each card and it’s furry edges as I filled my water bottle and moved the cutting board to the sink.

Kiwi Stack

It occurred to me as I was preparing to head out the kitchen door into the garage that I’d originally planned to do yoga this morning. For a moment I let myself entertain thoughts of changing from my bike riding gear into yoga clothes and staying home to do yoga as scheduled. My mind then leaped forward to the bitter cold and snow filled days that will be here soon enough. A sea of mornings lie ahead to stay inside and do yoga. Reminded that my days of bike riding will soon be over until the spring, I stayed the course and left to ride.

I listened to the mechanical clicks of a the garage door as it lifted and walked my bike out onto the driveway. I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise and air so perfectly cool and crisp it practically begged to be broken and disturbed by a woman on her bicycle.

Driveway Sunrise

I wanted to capture more photos of the sunrise. It was so moving that I wanted to remember it in more than just my minds eye. Taking pictures seemed to cheapen it, but it didn’t stop me from stowing my camera in the small bag under my bike seat. I set a course for the east end of the subdivision, beyond the houses and trees to capture the rising sun with my digital eye as it rose between the clouds and moved above the horizon.

Other end of the Subdivision

I rode through my suburban neighborhood and stopped where the pavement ends near the newer homes and construction. I’ve noticed the dirt road that extends beyond the paved road and on a whim decided I would explore it further, like I might have as a child on my bike before I knew about maximum heart rates and calories burned.

Dirt Road Sunrise

The dirt road ended in some brush and I turned around to continue on my way. Exiting the subdivision and heading into to town toward the commercial district, I watched the sky transform from red and pink as it filled with yellows, oranges and blues.

I was glad to see other people walking and running this morning. I took comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only one awake and outside enjoying this perfect start to a new day.

There is no denying that the season is changing and autumn continues to inch ever closer. Although the wheel of the year never stops turning, the change of the seasons is more evident at certain times of the year than it is at others. I was brought back to this time three years ago, awaiting the impending arrival of our second baby that we now know as Maxine. With Zak’s help I had just made what I believed and hoped to be the best decision I might ever make; to choose the fork in the road that led to leaving a promising career as a computer programmer to stay home and raise our children.

As I approached the large grocery store I made an impulsive decision to turn into and coast down the large sloping parking lot, following my child themed ride for the morning. I noticed three old women walking together toward the store, well before the parking lot, leading me to imagine they had walked together from their near by homes for coffee and to enjoy each others company early on a Wednesday morning.

I breezed past the entrance and watched a woman exit the store with a grocery bag full of packaged food. I observed without judgment that it looked like she had bought candy and some baked goods. Without of course knowing exactly why she bought what she did, it reminded me of a life I once lived, just two short years ago using sugar and refined carbohydrates to find comfort and solace. What was it that lead to me to these feelings of disorder and stress? What drove me to make poor food choices again and again? Oh. Right. Zak in a new demanding job that left me home alone for long hours with a toddler and an infant. As much joy and wonder the girls bring into our lives, caring for small children can be both physically and emotionally taxing. Chocolate covered pretzels and everything bagels were my escape.

I made my way out of the parking lot and down a busy main road. Instead of my usual route I veered off course once again and rode through a neighborhood I’ve never been into. How many times have I walked by the people that live inside these homes and are a part of our community? In the aisles of the grocery store, at the post office, the library? Folks on their own journey, living their own stories that we call our lives, fighting their own fights.

I checked the clock on my bike a noticed I’d been gone for 45 minutes. Based on the landmarks I knew from experience that I was about four miles from home. I set my course for the house to let Zak get on his way to work.

A mile and a half from home, I passed under a large tree whose branches reached over road. At that moment three drops of water fell to my face. Two on my cheek and one on my eye lid. I briefly thought the breeze must have blown a few droplets of water from a leaf into the air, by pure chance landing on me instead of the ground. A few more cycles of my wheels and I quickly observed that those weren’t drops from a leaf at all, they were drops from a cloud. It was starting to rain. Heading west now with the sunrise behind me, I realized gray clouds were moving in and now muddying the colors I’d appreciated barely an hour ago.

The rain remained light but picked up in intensity as I grew closer the house. I contemplated how I might best capture a photo to the end of the story I’d weaved for myself this morning. A beautiful sunrise and morning ending with the rain slowly soaking the grass and the pavement.

Rain Soaked Sidewalk

I smiled when I realized we’d sat here barely 12 hours ago, watching ants attack popped corn that was now no where to be found. No human moved those kernels, I’m sure of it.

Inside to change out of my rain and sweat soaked clothes, Zak and I talked in hushed voices about the events of the day that just passed and those of the coming day as well. We moved downstairs to have breakfast and coffee together while the fruit of our loins continued to sleep.

I laughed to myself when I took my breakfast out of the fridge with child-like anticipation, realizing that I still and will likely always find joy and comfort in food. I’m grateful though that I’m now better equipped with the knowledge to make healthier choices, as well as more self-awareness to be mindful of the reasons breakfast delights me so.

Happy Breakfast Cookie

The morning rain has already passed. The girls are rousing from their slumber and now it’s time to begin another day together.

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Don’t Rock the Boat

After breakfast this morning we set out to run a couple of errands and stopped at Zak’s mom’s house before heading home. We were there under the guise of “visiting” but really it was all about torturing chickens.

Peek

Do you see Ms. Maxine in there?

Visit Chickens

Maxine, the girl who doesn’t like to get dirty.

Not Shy

Ava, in her own words, setting “chicken traps”.

Chicken Traps

Chicken Traps = a sea of corn so they’ll be so busy eating they won’t see Maxine coming. Yes, Maxine, the same girl who won’t throw a rock with sand on it.

Pick Up Chickens

I just love to see them scheming already. Why do I have a feeling there will be “Mom Traps” set in the future? Except instead of piles of corn it will be piles of Green & Black dark chocolate and jars of almond butter.

This would be Farrah, named because of her fancy “pants”.

Farrah

After the chicken shenanigans were through, we enjoyed the perfect summer day in the country.

Golden Rod

Chicory Black Eyed Susans

Sea of Queen Anne's Lace

More Queen Anne's Lace More Queen Anne's Lace

Some Purple Flower

View from the hammock.

View from the Hammock
View from the Hammock

And we got to snag these beauties from the garden on the way out of Dodge. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Two Zucchini's and some cukes

Zucchini and cucumbers? I smell dinner and JUICE!

After Kath’s house we stopped to have lunch at the Barbie Cafe.

Lunch at Barbie Cafe

Fortunately I brought my own salad.

Salad for Lunch

But I decided to get some yogurt and granola from Barbie’s place.

Yogurt Granola

Boy, what a bargin for Fage! A little steep for the granola though, especially considering it seemed a lot like something I could just make at home.

0% Fage with homemade granola

Total

Oh look, I’ve got the exact change. How handy.

t$2.25

Shop with Me Barbie

Thanks Barb, you’re such a doll!

For dinner tonight I had big plans to sail away on zucchini boats.

zucchini boats

Because they were so honkin’ big I decided to slice them length wise, seed them and stuff them. I used the same quinoa stuffing recipe I use for stuffing peppers, only today I used green peppers and mushrooms in place of spinach.

Baked at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, I took them out once I could easily stick a fork in the zucchini ship.

No Side Dish Needed

The best part about these? No side dish needed. Beans, quinoa, veggies stuffed in a veggie. Everything you need is right in the boat baby!

I won’t lie. There was something starting with “Green” and ending with “Black” consumed after dinner. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t another vegetable. Although it did start from a bean I suppose. You get three guesses, but the first two don’t count.

And it wasn’t a mom trap either! At least I don’t think it was?

The Feather

I got up this morning thrilled to find we were back online almost business as usual, thanks to Zak working his late night his magic when he got home. It was like we had a visit from Internet Claus. After playing a little online catch up this morning I headed out for a run.

I ran just over 4 miles in about a half hour. It was such a refreshingly cool and comfortable morning I thought I’d take a cool down ride on my bike around the neighborhood.

My running buddy Shawn, who is training for a triathlon, has told me about this training approach they call The Brick. As part of your training for the back to back events and preparing your body to go from one event to the next, you ride your bike X miles and then you run for Y miles. X and Y would vary depending on how far your triathlon is and what you are hoping to accomplish. As the values X and Y increase your levels of sanity decrease.

Apparently it is called The Brick because, in short, riding and then running leave you feeling like you’ve hit brick wall.

Oh boy where I do go to sign up for that?

I was thinking about this on my post-run bike ride this morning. It is not at all hard to run and THEN ride, but I can easily believe it would be a lot tougher to ride 15 miles and THEN run 4. But running and then riding? Yeah, I think we can call that The Feather. A hot sweaty run and then coasting around the neighborhood streets while the cool air dries your sweat and you get to enjoy the breeze? Sounds like sleeping on a feather bed to me. At least compared to the idea of hitting a brick wall.

But then my cool down ride took a turn from down comforter to pillow fight as I ended up going 11 miles and another 45 minutes. The air felt just too perfect to turn around head home already so I kept going. Feathers and bricks aside, running and then riding is a fun and easy way to get a longer workout in. I highly recommend it.

“Hungry” is one way to describe how I was feeling when I got back. “Diving head first into a bowl of watermelon and cantaloupe” is one way to describe the first thing I did when I walked in the door.

Post Workout Melons

Note that I said ALMOST business as usual with these internet shenanigans. The wireless networking is still not working but my hopelessly devoted husband scrounged up an extra long network cable so that I can have “wireless” access in my office, except with a wire for now. I’ll take it!

from the bedroom into the classroom to my computer

A breakfast cookie while sitting at my desk and being online?

Thursday Breakfast Cookie

What more can a girl ask for? A feather bed would be nice, but I’m not going to push my luck.

Internet Fubar

Today’s workout was CANCELLED thanks to spending the entire morning troubleshooting internet issues. I’m feeling really pathetic right at this moment.

No official workout but I do sort of feel like I got a stairmaster workout considering the number of times I’ve been up and down the stairs, basement stairs included. We’ve got all matters of hubs, switches, modems and routers on all three levels of the house – and I’ve gotten to know them all quite well today.

The first line of support, my Network Administrator (Zak) was helpful but distracted. That damn pesky job always getting in the way of what’s “really” important.

Well, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain. It’s everyone woman for herself. I’ve narrowed the problem down to our wireless router, and have schlepped myself, my laptop, camera and USB cable into the bedroom and have plugged the laptop directly into the DSL modem that lives in our closet.

Internet Fubar

“I wouldn’t advise that”, said the Network Admin. No router between me and this little thing we call the world wide web isn’t “safe” – and I don’t have the time or inclination to mess around with the firewall built into Windows at this moment.

Oh well, I’ll be fast. I wrote this post offline, publish and unplug! oooo maybe I’ll check my email real fast, oh look at google reader! Oooo Google Reader – just a quick peek.

When I wasn’t cursing at the network this morning I was licking my internet wound with a tongue coated in watermelon juice and contemplating how humanity ever survived without the internet.

watermelon soother

I think this internet condrum confirms my plans for to escape the confines of our house and go enjoy someone else’s air conditioning today; namely the Museum of Play. Tonight the Network Admin can give us (me and the internet) his undivided attention and can get us back up and running as usual – and I don’t have to risk life and hard drive that some one is going to hack into my sweet, innocent, firewall-less computer and do lord know what with all of my uninteresting data on here.

Time to disconnect and pack lunches – got my fingers crossed to squeeze in some yoga or bike ride tonight! Fingers are also crossed for internet normalcy tonight too. But I think I already conveyed that message, no?

What do you do with yourself when the internet goes down? I may need ideas.  (Kids?  What kids?)

Question and Answer

What happens when you make juice but you take too long snapping pictures of it?

Green Juice Zak can't wait

It gets snatched.

What do you call a Chocolate Breakfast Cookie eaten at 11:30AM?

Chocolate Brunch Cookie

Chocolate Brunch Cookie.

What time to do you eat your curried chick pea sandwich and steamed veggies for lunch if you eat a Chocolate Brunch Cookie at 11:30AM?

Curried Chick Pea Sandwich Steamed Veggies

2:30PM.

What do you take out the door for a snack so you don’t grocery shop hungry and buy everything and anything that looks good?

Out the Door Snack

Walnuts and Craisins.

What do you say when you get in the little brown truck at Wegmans?

honk

Honk.

Why are there hot, wet towels over those bowls?

Pizza Dough Rising

Waiting for the pizza dough to rise.

What do you say when you see your dough has risen nicely?

Good Stuff

“Awww yeah baby come to mama…”

What do you use for sauce when you don’t feel like tomato sauce?

Bone Suckin' Sauce

BBQ sauce.

What do you top your BBQ pizza with?

BBQ Pizza

Onions and mushrooms sauteed in BBQ sauce pictured above. And pineapple too except you didn’t have any. And then you were sad. But you ate it anyway.

What goes good with pizza?

Cooked Pizzas

Tossed salad, as pictured in the background.

What do you replace your salad with when you realize you’re not in the mood for salad?

Pizza and Grapes

The last little bottle of stomped grape juice from a couple weeks ago.

What happens when you drink from a wineglass in front of your 5 year old?

rice milk wine

She wants her milk in a wine glass too. Of course.

And after pizza and wine for dinner, what’s the next logical step?

Coldstone

Obvious. Sweet cream with a brownie smashed in from the new Coldstone Creamery that just opened up YESTERDAY right down the street!

Can you say WOO HOO?

Yes. Yes, I can. I did.

What do you do when it’s late and you’re in a wine, pizza and ice cream brain fog?

Write a post full of questions that you answer yourself.

Uncle! Uncle!

Someone got the memo that it’s August and is supposed to be hot and humid here in upstate NY. I give! I give! The AC is on. Zak (and his brush) are back to work today. If he gets to spend the day in an air conditioned office so do we.

Today’s workout has been rescheduled to this evening to attend a yoga class. My first class, yoga or otherwise, in a very long time. My friend Andrea goes regularly and she suggested I could go as her guest at her YMCA class.

Work out time this morning was spent instead working to get our upstairs back in order after turning it completely upside down on Friday.

Upside Down

Bookcases refilled and reorganized. Games upstairs, bedroom closet cleared out, clothes moved, folded, put away. I’m already feeling more centered and less cluttered, despite the pile of clutter still to be put away over to my right here.

And now it’s time to pause and reflect over the wonder that is the breakfast cookie with coffee.

Monday Morning Cookie and Coffee

Holy 1% milk froth.

Today’s breakfast cookie was one for the Cookie Hall of Fame. What made this one so special you ask? Less milk!

1/2 smashed banana, 1+ Tbsp Almond butter, 1/2 c rolled oats, sprinkle of ground flax, sprinkle of organic shredded unsweetened coconut and just a very stingy splash of almond milk. And why I say stingy, I’m talking Ebenezer Liquid stingy.

That's Blue Baby in the background there

Usually I use close to a 1/4 cup of milk, last night it was closer to a tablespoon. Firmer and definitely more like a cookie today.

Staycation over, time to get back into the swing of things.

On the agenda?

1. Work on this upstairs
2. Fire up the food dehydrator

Addendum:
3. Teach Ava crochet, Day 2. Can’t believe she actually got the yarn and hook out after yesterdays self inflicted meltdown. She said she wants to make herself mittens. Let’s get the chain part down first, ok kiddo? Hoping for less tears today. From us both. Do you remember being a kid trying to learn how to do this stuff?? Totally brings me back.

And for the record, this staycation was the most relaxing, cheapest, enjoyable family vacation we’ve yet to take as a family of 4. Sometimes staying home is where it’s at.

Coffee’s kicking in. Off I go.

Fridaze

The kids were with Aunt Ellen today, so the only pics I took were of food. I think I’ll spice this post up with some oldies but goodies.

Pears.

Good Morning Pears

Ava, age two, with a pair of pretzels boobs.

Pretzel Boobs

A bowl of shriveled stuff.

shriveled stuff

Maxine, shriveled.

Big Sister Kiss

A banana spinach smoothie, with a little too much spinach. Even for me.

Too Much Spinach

Ava and too much green finger paint. Even for me.

Ugh.

After my morning meals wore off, I made my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad.

Everything but the kitchen sink

Mixed greens, tomatoes, shredded zucchini, carrots and jicama, garden picked cucumber, mushrooms, all tossed in Italian dressing.

No pepper though.

Give a Mom a Pepper

I ate a scary amount of cherries. (OK not ALL those but let’s just say that bowl was full when I rinsed them.)

Cherries

No Cheerios though.

Cheerio Mess

Who’s watching these kids anyway?

For dinner tonight I made a tomato and white bean soup. I’ll have you know this recipe is a classic. This is meal is one of the first I truly cooked. When we were newly married and I had my first kitchen and was working toward preparing healthier meals.

Bean Soup

1 – 2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Large onion, diced
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15 oz cans of Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 cup of water or veggie broth (if needed, I didn’t use any tonight)
10 – 15 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 c lemon juice
salt to taste

Saute onion and garlic in EVOO until soft. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add beans, broth, basil and salt and simmer 20 – 40 minutes, stirring occassionally. Before serving stir in lemon juice.

I ate so many cherries I was only hungry for a cup of this soup.

Cup of Soup

I also had a dose of Vitamin G&BDC. (That would be Green and Black Dark Chocolate, of course.) It was about to take a picture when the doorbell rang so instead I just ate it while I answered the door. True story.

After dinner we made a paper chain to keep track of the number of days until we might expect our butterfly to emerge from it’s cocoon.

Butterfly Countdown

Zak as a caterpillar.

Catepillar

Maxine in her cocoon.

36 weeks

Ava as a butterfly.

Ava as a Butterfly

And there you have it.