Juggling multiple, and mostly unrelated, forms of employment is a constant balancing act, but its primary perk is that I run my own daily routine. Sure, I attend meetings and speak at events here and there, I meet competing deadlines, and I massage people in person (I've finished my internship, and am taking the state licensing exam in a few short weeks... One step away, baby, then this sh*t is for real); all of this requires a high level of scheduling. But when it comes to my morning coffee, I'm not carrying it on any kind of commuter train. In fact, I've recently begun to embrace my internal work rhythms in a way I haven't before; working at night blows, and while it's sometimes necessary, it's also not a very productive practice for me (the work gets done, but through blood, sweat and proverbial tears), so I've lately been shutting it down. Trusting I'll get the work done on time without making myself miserable has been liberating in this respect, quite literally.
I noticed, too, that I'd been procrastinating before digging into my daily task lists in the mornings; we'd get Kaspar off to school and then I'd sit at my computer, coffee in hand, ostensibly 'starting my day', but in fact catching my breath and switching gears via some down-time on Facebook (or the NYTimes, or your blogs, or whatever). But I'd be feeling like I should be working, and thus end up stewing in low-level internal conflict before finally jumping in. When I realized, however, that I was consistently getting productive (and when I'm productive, I'm a powerhouse), in earnest, around 10:30 or 11 a.m., I began giving myself the chunk of time leading up to that point for doing non-work things I also value and enjoy: Buddhist practice, yoga, the gym, making stuff with my hands. On one morning I cleaned both of our bathrooms. This may seem like a blatant example of work avoidance, but it wasn't; I was at it right on schedule, 11 a.m. And instead of having little or nothing to show for having merely behaved as if I was working up until then, we had really clean bathrooms, and I felt focused when I finally sat down at my desk.
I've worked in enough office settings to know how much time is wasted by employees staring into cyberspace (or, running their mouths in pointless, endless meetings...) under a pretense of getting stuff done; I think this down-time is necessary to the productive time, though. It's the other side of the getting-stuff-done coin. Ultimately, everyone's self-scheduling, whether in a cubicle or in their own homes. I just decided to let myself have what I set out to have in setting my life up in the way it is, though; I wanted a high quality of life (instead of a cubicle) in that work-life equation. For me, this means letting the two (work, and life) flow alongside each other as they do, and jumping back and forth between them without bringing any baggage along. Freelancers frequently lament that their enjoyment of their freedom is inhibited by an ever-nagging sense that they should be getting something work-related done whenever they're not; it's harder to leave your work behind when you don't leave its physical proximity, and when your paycheck depends on your product, point-blank. But truly enjoying the freedom is what makes this deal so very sweet, and it's well worth the mental leap. (Today, I did my work outside, a breeze blowing through my hair, the wildflowers, and the trees).
This week, in my morning hours, I kissed Kaspar off (Aaron brings him to school; I pick him up at three and am then in Mama mode 'til after bedtime, unless I'm particularly swamped, in which case Aaron will pinch-hit on afternoon watch), went for quick runs around the neighborhood, and then sipped my coffee while sewing a picnic/play quilt for the little man. It was meditative, boring at times, but mostly really fun. It's a work of imperfection, as with the last one, and it isn't quite finished (I plan to stitch across the entire thing in several places; is this the proper 'quilting' part? I'm still a novice...), but -- as you can see (above) -- it's already in use. Hooray for making stuff, instead of excuses.
Kaspar made something this week, too. Today was his final day of school for the year ("summer camp" begins in a week: same place, same time... Thank god), and his teacher, knowing how much Kaspar loves his juice, asked if we'd like to make popsicles for him to share with the class to mark the occasion. Now, his classroom's had a snack-rotation going all year, for which one kid brings snack for the class each day for a week at a time. Kaspar, of course, brings his own separate snacks due to his food allergies, and while everyone's made an awesome effort to ensure he never feels either excluded or unhappy about his allergy sitch, his teacher and I both thought this would be a fun opportunity for him participate in eating a treat alongside his peers. Plus, he'd get a sense of satisfaction and stardom for having made and brought the treat himself.
Kaspar totally rocked it. We made his favorite juice (apple, strawberry, carrot, beet) last night and poured it, together, into ice-pop molds. They did their thing in the freezer over night, and Aaron dropped them off (in a cooler) with Kaspar this morning. This afternoon, before everyone dispersed for the break, his teacher busted the popsicles out of the school's freezer. (She was smart to strip the kids down in advance of doing so... beet juice stains). She reported back later that Kaspar was as proud as could be, and his popsicles were a full-on, messy success. I'm so happy for Kaspar and his project, and I'm looking forward to making real-juice popsicles with him all summer long.
What are you making lately? Where do you find the time?
In the last week, our ever-sweet Kaspar threw us a curve and acquired something of a split personality. I’ve heard two-year-olds described (only half-jokingly) by other parents as “in a nutshell, psychopathic,” but the description never fit our kid, until now. Not that he didn’t have his moments, but this past week… he had many. He brought a whole new game, and honestly, we were kind of mystified and at a loss as to how to handle it.
Kaspar would be behaving in his usual happy-go-lucky way, chirping about this or that, when he’d suddenly do something he knows he shouldn’t: mess with Aaron’s computer, throw toys, hit us, you name it. We’d calmly explain that the behavior wasn’t okay, and ask him to stop. He’d ignore us. We’d give it another go, with our communication again falling on deaf ears. Then we’d tell him we were about to remove the object in question (or remove him from its proximity), and he’d FLIP out. Full-on howler monkey style. This happened at seemingly random times, and over seemingly inconsequential happenings (one such episode erupted when he decided he wanted the food I’d just put in my own mouth and swallowed. Another strawberry simply wouldn’t suffice… he wanted mine, although he knew as well as I did that it was gone). It’s all been rather confusing to the logical adult mind. Kaspar is extremely articulate for his age, too, which can be misleading in these types of interactions; he may scream something that sounds like a negotiation, but it’s not. He can’t be reasoned with when under the influence of toddlerhood. In fact, he’s tended to get upset while saying he wants to do one thing, and it’s opposite, all in the same breath.
We used distraction throughout the week as our main method for coping with his outbursts, and that worked when distraction was plausible. But in the case of refusing to settle down at bedtime, for example, we just ended up saying, in so many words, that we had the upper hand, and this –going to bed – was what was happening. (Because we said so… though we didn’t say that. Too cliché!).
Kaspar kept it more reined in at school, as I learned upon inquiring with his teacher as to whether anything had happened there (some upsetting event? I was worried) that might have led to this shift. Nothing had. His teacher told me this kind of experience is totally, 100% normal and predictable behavior with kids at around 2 and a half. So we’re early… sweet. He’s testing us, obviously. He’s also exploring and asserting his independence. I’m actually glad he is, as he’s been such an all-out sweetheart since day one that other, more aggressive kids his age have tended to overwhelm (or straight up plow over) him. I have only ever wanted to nurture him and love him for who he is, so I never set out to toughen him up or anything like that (I love his sweetheart self), but it’s good, no doubt, that he’s now starting to try the words “NO!” and “That’s MINE. Walk AWAY!” on for size. Since this has also amounted to some challenges, lately, at home, though, I’ve wanted to handle his freakouts here in the best way possible. I don’t want to discourage his burgeoning independence, and I also want to help him handle tough emotions constructively, and to know where the boundaries are. (On the emotions front, he moves on from the drama pretty quickly, which I appreciate. I also bear this in mind when he acts like the world is about to end because he’s not allowed to draw all over the walls).
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We received a bag of green, unripened tomatoes in our CSA box this week (our membership truly is the gift that keeps on giving), and I knew immediately that I’d soon expand my Southern cooking repertoire to include the famed classic, Fried Green Tomatoes. I thumbed through a few cookbooks and dove in this morning -- mixing, dredging and cookin’ up a sizzling batch. They were... awesome (Kaspar can't eat them yet, though, so... shhh). Served alongside eggs -- also from our CSA -- and sprouted corn tortillas, the fried tomatoes were the meal’s indisputable front-runner. Surprisingly sweet and tender, with a light, crisped coating, they disappeared almost as quickly as I'd made them.
(a) Herbal (rooibos) tea with full-fat, raw local milk; (b) Sliced fresh berries; (c) Homemade paneer (made from said local milk); (d) Gorilla Munch. (Note that corn cereal is not the healthiest thing Kaspar could be eating, but he's pretty into it, so... a part of this complete breakfast it is).
Slinky, crayons and paper= incidentals.
What's on your breakfast table?
Aaron was out with our car yesterday afternoon, so I toted Kaspar home from school via the city bus -- which he loves -- and a neighborhood walk. We saw plant life aplenty, even the most mundane of which -- here in Austin -- still strikes my East coast fancy as enticingly exotic. We snapped some photographs and collected a handful of wildflowers for a colorful kitchen-table bouquet.
What's growing in your neck of the woods?
Last time I wrote about juicing, Kaspar didn’t yet share my enthusiasm for it. Recently, however, little man has come around in a serious way. We’ve tried some new foods with him lately; strawberries, apples, cucumbers and beets (all of which used to cause either immediate hives or next-day eczema flares) are now safe for him to eat, so I’ve been throwing all of those items, as fresh, organic chunks – plus carrot, ginger and handfuls of spinach – into the juicer every afternoon when Kaspar gets home from school. He likes to help me drop the produce into the juicer’s feed, too; and although juicing collaboratively takes a bit longer (because I turn the juicer off each time we reload with new handfuls of fruits and vegetables, so as to avoid accidentally juicing any wayward extremeties), being involved in the process makes Kas twice as excited for the finished product. He sucks his servings down within a minute or two of my filling his cup, and then asks for what’s left in mine.
Interestingly, his eczema has disappeared (as in, it's actually gone) since he started pouring liquid vitamins into his system on a daily basis. We also have the Ayurvedic treatments, vitamin D3, and the usual probiotics (and such) going, and I'm guessing we're seeing the benefits of their combined effects. TCM and Ayurveda, plus time, have strengthened and normalized his system, enabling him to tolerate more foods. And his system likes the nutrients those foods contain, and is better able to heal itself when receiving fresh vitamins and minerals, especially in the form of juice, which is more easily assimilated in the body.
I won't be surprised if Kaspar has another eczema flare in the near-future, but we appear to have turned a corner, regardless. We’ve gone from managing eczema all the time -- and we have developed an effective system for that -- to ceasing all use of petroleum-based moisturizers (coconut oil massages, baths and a full-body slather with this each night are getting the job done), and I haven’t needed our homeopathic hydrocortisone cream alternative in weeks; despite its being non-steroidal, homeopathic and cleared by our naturopath as harmless (even in large and ongoing doses), we’ve been quite reliant on it for over a year, so suddenly NOT needing it indicates to me that things are truly shifting. Since Kaspar’s skin is in such good shape, he’s also sleeping better. We got two full, uninterrupted nights’ sleep this past week, which, after two full years of not getting those, ever, counts as a huge win for Team Newman. Here’s hoping we score more of the same in the coming weeks, even—perhaps? – making all-night sleepathons a regular thing. Ongoing.
Aside from these most notable positive changes, I love that Kaspar’s a fan of fresh juices because he’s otherwise, lately, disproportionately fond of eating organic (wheat/filler-free… gotta check for that) chicken hot dogs. Lots of chicken hot dogs. Which is fine, except that my trick of telling him pureed spinach is a dip for hot dogs that equals ketchup (another new, and hugely popular food item) in deliciousness only worked for... one meal. (Why did I even try? Because I’m an optimist, that’s why). But getting Kaspar to drink whole handfuls of leafy greens, and a host of other veggies, in juice form? Well, that requires no trickery at all. Happy boy, happy mama.