The Magic Doesn’t Wane

 

The operating room was yesterday and also two centuries ago and when I close my eyes and think about it I see this:  the same tobacco-smelling nurse with the crepey smiling eyes that was there for Jude’s birth, the two small and serious black haired anesthesiologists with flowered pants under yellow smocks, the smell of burning skin, cauterizing something I didn’t want to know about.

I started tearing up the moment they finally got the IV into my rolling veins.  They wheeled me into the cold edged operating room several dozen minutes before they let Corey in and I was panicking, craving his impenetrable calm in stressful situations.  I was distracted by the clamp on my thumb, the obscene amount of time it seemed to take to slice into my stomach, the desperation I felt to finally meet the baby girl I already knew in my heart.

When Summer Juliette was born, there was a small, almost delicate wail and then Corey was ushered away and the pediatrician took some photos with my old Canon.

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In tI’d had a dream the night before and it was vivid and not what you could call good and I recalled that dream minutes after Summer was born and couldn’t stop myself from bellowing through the serious silver cutters and whizzing life savers:

“It’s not a tiny Asian boy with eyes on top of his head? Is it?”

The nurses looked at Corey with confusion and I’m sure adrenaline and temporary insanity were contemplated and no one answered me and then they brought me my girl.

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She’s an angel baby.  She cried when she came into our world, briefly, and has barely cried since.  She sleeps all through the night and she takes in her Universe with her tiny wizened little face and she looks worried, except when she smiles and then my heart explodes with the incredible miraculousness of it all.  Even after three babies.  The magic doesn’t wane.

Also, this:

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Summer is 7 weeks old now and stay at home motherhood deserves a CFO salary and Jude is totally crazy and thank GOD for Nolan, is all I have to say about our current situation.  There’s a reason this blog hasn’t been updated in weeks.

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I have diastisis recti again, and also a pretty messy belly button and in the grand scheme of wars and debilitating diseases and the ocean rotting, it’s ridiculous that I even notice this but I can only directly influence the meaningless things and so I’m planning to document my progress back to a normal belly again on here because: goddammit, it’s irritating to still look pregnant in your stomach when you’re fit everywhere else.    Also it’s easy to bang out quick posts about food and exercise, easier than trying to eke anything interesting out of my days of diapers and tantrums, anyway.

 

Paleo Apple Crisp

There’s nothing much better in the entire planet than my Mom’s apple crisp, and for years I’ve been thinking about trying to concoct a paleo version, but there were two problems:

1) What Paleo ingredients can you you possibly substitute for brown sugar, butter and oats? Better not to even try, right?

2) Peeling apples. It’s daunting.  Knives and I don’t get along, in any capacity, and skin-on apple crisp would lose some of its marvel, no?

But last night I made a super wicked Shepherd’s Pie with cauliflower mash and this time I didn’t blend the knife and splatter open the whole food processor and so I was feeling domestic and slightly victorious and thought, dammit, imma make a Paleo apple crisp.  I googled some and ignored lots and used odds and sods from my cupboard and I was shocked to discover that this apple crisp was one of the best desserts I’d ever eaten, Paleo or otherwise.

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Ingredients:

6 small red apples (I used McIntosh, but I think any kind might be good.  Maybe not Red Delicious.  I imagine they’d be mealy.

Juice of half a lemon

2 cups almond flour (JK Gourmet brand if you can find it — it bakes better than Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp cinnamon (I actually added a bit more than a tsp I think…I dig cinnamon)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup honey or agave (I used agave)

1/3 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)

**A carrot peeler, if you are ungraceful with knives/peeling/things that involve the slightest degrees of hand/eye coordination.

Side note: Corey found me in the kitchen as I was hacking apples with a knife, feeling wretched that my whole night was going to disappear in uncoordinated fruit butchery, possibly involving hand wounds.  He handed me a carrot peeler from the utensil drawer (I didn’t even know we owned one) and just shook his head gently when I put down the knife to start peeling the apple with the upside down end of the carrot peeler.  So tolerant of my feebleness, my husband.  Anyway. Once he placed it right side up, holy crap!  Peeling apples is kind of joyous!

1. Peel the apples and put them in a baking dish — I used the first corning ware plate I could heave out of the bottom of the bake drawer.

2. Squeeze lemon juice on top of apples and set aside.

3. In a medium sized bowl, place and mix all dry ingredients.

4. In a small bowl, mix up agave/honey, apple sauce and vanilla.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.

6. When kind of globby and all moistened, place over lemon-coated apples. It doesn’t have to look perfect, I kind of put a blob of topping in wherever I saw fit.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until the apples are super soft and glisteny.  Try to wait for it to cool until you devour.

Bonus: this is even better the next morning.

Weekly Paleo Fave: Chicken Fajita Lettuce Wraps of Unadulterated Joy

I hesitate to put this recipe on the blog because it’s so damned obvious, kind of like putting up a recipe for (store bought) yogurt with sliced bananas.  You just do it, right?  Cause all the stuff is just sitting there and it’s easy.

But the thing is, this is by far dinner that my family enjoys the most.  And it’s quick, inexpensive, nutritious, delicious, and super customizable.  You can make a vegetarian version or a carnivore version — we use free range chicken but if you’re anti-meat, extra peppers and onions (and maybe some sliced mushrooms?) would work swimmingly as well.   This is so delicious, we make double batches so we can have it for lunch the next day too.

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Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (free range and organic if you can swing it)

1 red pepper, sliced into strips

1 yellow or green pepper, sliced into strips

1 large  yellow onion,  chopped

handful of cashews

1 head of lettuce…I find butter lettuce and romaine are the easiest

Ingredients for salsa and guacamole.  You can buy store-bought (try to look for brands with just vegetables and herbs and spices in them) but it’s so much tastier and healthier if you can make your own.  Simple recipes for both guacamole and salsa can be found in this post.

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp onion powder

smattering of smoked paprika

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp olive oil

Method

1. In a large pot, toss some olive oil and the smashed garlic and cook on medium heat until fragrant

2. Add chicken breasts and cook through.

3. Toss in peppers, onion and spices.

4. Cook till al dente, or until you suspect the veggies might be tender-crispish.

5. Cut chicken into strips, either right in the pot or on to a cutting board you’ve dredged up

6. While everything cooks, prep salsa and guac (or uncork your store bought versions)

7.Pick apart your lettuce into cups and set aside (like so)

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8. Grind up your cashews in a  coffee grinder, or smash with some kind of kitchen utensil.

9. Pull out any hot sauce you may need.

10. Remove chicken/pepper/onion/spice concoction from pan and place into lettuce wraps.

11. Sprinkle with cashews, guac and salsa.

12. If you’re feeling devious, add cheese (we do)

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That Place You Can Go Where Nothing Else Exists

The Jesus is Lord Church is blue, and white, and I am almost positive it is supposed to be welcoming and cheery and I’m not sure it’s not because I’m reluctant or because there’s a pervasive smell of mold from underneath the carpet in the foyer.

I am 14, in a new city, and I am all giant freeze-dried bangs and blue eyeliner in a land of baggy jeans and universal Keds.  The girls at my new high school have already decided I’m vermin, and so I reluctantly accompany my Mom to Church because the misguided law of grade 10 dictates that in Church you will find either shockingly misbehaved rebel kids or long skirted quiet girls who do not care that they have been labeled vermin.  They may or may not be nice to you, depending on their level of tolerance for your unsaved soul, but the chance of a friend in a frigid city is worth the risk.  And I think my Mom thinks I need friends.

I don’t remember anyone being particularly nice.  I remember hands in the air, and shaking and sobbing by about half the mass attendees.  I remember odd syllables strung together in a hysterical kind of chant.  I learned later that this was called “speaking in tongues” and it both intrigued and terrified me.

That’s a cult,” says my McDonald’s coworker when I tell him about what I saw,”All those people, blindly following, doing and saying weird things and trying to make everyone else do the same.  It’s a scary cult and you should never go back.” He adds salt to the fry trays with great authority and I believe him.

That  Church was my one and only experience with anything remotely cult-ish, until recent years, when I’ve heard kind-of-joking-kind-of-serious comments about my preferred exercise method.  The people who work out in the same fashion I do employ strange language (WODS! AMRAPS!) , yell at each other indiscriminately while sweating, and frequently hang out together voluntarily on weekends.  There are some parallels to the tongue-speaking shaking people at the mildew Church, for sure.

There’s a whole horde of people who say that CrossFit is super annoying and from an objective viewpoint, I get it.  But from a personal, highly biased lens, CrossFit has richly enhanced my adult life in ways I would have never thought possible.

I’ve written about it in various places on the Internet, and I believe it still: my body in my late thirties is better than it’s ever been, and that’s all because of CrossFit.  I have motivation to stick to a healthy diet because I’m firmly addicted to the strength I feel when my body is well oiled.  I like the notion that I’m getting better and faster as I get older, that I’m not relegated to a sagging butt and orthopedic shoes just because I’m not 24 anymore. And the intensity and fierceness of a hard CrossFit workout is the only thing in the Universe that can entirely  remove the stress of the fact that things are pretty unknown and stressful in my life right now.  If I weren’t  Crossfitting, I’m pretty sure I’d be dependent on other methods of relaxation, and they almost certainly wouldn’t be adding muscle to my body and clarity to my brain. Crossfit helps me understand what I am capable of, and provides the motivation to go after goals that seem impossible.  The radiating benefits extend way beyond exercise into my relationships, career, aspirations and life path.

This weekend, there was a team CrossFit competition in West Vancouver.  I entered Corey and I four weeks ago, before my little house of cards caved in on itself, and though I considered cancelling, I’m so glad I didn’t.

At the team competition there  was a diminutive girl in red shorts, hucking 170 pounds over her head.  There was a Daughter and Dad team who hugged during transition to a rower, capturing hearts with their heart. There was the familiar hum of encouragement, and a drive to test the boundaries of bodily capability.  There were people cheering as other people conquered goals they’d never reached before.

And yes –  I understand that this whole Crossfit competition thing is basically about how furiously and heavily you can exercise.  You are reaching and gasping and striving to be a better exerciser.  And that, on paper, seems ridiculous.

But paper can’t convey the emotion of a goal achieved in front of others.  It can’t capture the value of that moment of absolute peace, when you are deep within yourself and cannot conceptualize anything else but that moment of time.  It doesn’t take into account the power of your body being temporarily in control over the sometimes destructive and worrying forces of your mind.  It doesn’t relay the importance of a community of people who truly wish one another greater power and higher limits.

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There is also something soothing about Corey standing beside me.  He never says much, just quietly encourages me.  He’s never disappointed when I fail, and more thrilled when I am when I reach a milestone.

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(I’ve always wondered about Nolan’s curious tongue-sticking-out-while concentrating habit and Oh.  Now I get it.)

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(Photos by Sharon Thielmann, who we call Mama T. She frequently cooks for the team, and brought Corey and I delicious homemade food when we were sick with pneumonia, and I was pregnant with Jude.  If this is cultish behavior, I’ll take it any day.)

Weekly Paleo Fave: Egg Quesadilla with Guacamole and Fresh Salsa

In 2010, Corey and I took part in a Paleo Challenge at our gym, committed to a seemingly impossible endeavor.  For 30 days, we’d eat nothing but real food: seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, meat, and nothing else.  No dairy, no wine, and no processed anything.  It seemed super extreme,  but irresistible: I could do anything for 30 days, couldn’t I?

The first days licked giant, wire-hairy donkey balls.  I had headaches, I thought about sugar with a lust and vigor I hadn’t felt since I was seventeen.  I had dreams about brie and Ritz crackers, and I picked fights about laundry and the colour of the paint on the bedroom walls. I would have traded my favourite skinny jeans for a latte with real milk.

But a few days in, I started to feel an odd energy, like I was buzzing at a greater frequency than normal.  By day 8, I sprang out of bed in the mornings, wondering why I’d ever felt the need to hit the snooze button 6 times before crawling, bloated for the coffee maker.  By day 30, I could see my ab muscles, and my I felt like She-Ra in my workouts.  At that point I realized: there’s something to this fad.  Maybe, actually, it’s not a fad.

That 30 day challenge was a pivotal event in the shaping of my thirties.  Corey and I are now pretty dedicated Paleo eaters.  My downfall is dairy, and I consume yogurt with some regularity, but wheat is still almost totally off limits in our house.  When we get strict, I can feel it: my skin is good, my midsection is taut, and my muscles are limber and ready to go.  With the summer fading and the fall approaching, we’re committing again to totally cutting out the dairy and getting back 100% on the Paleo bandwagon.

This time, though, I’m going to do a semi-vegetarian Paleo diet.  It seems like a contradiction in terms, but I have been increasingly cognizant of the impact of the consumption of animals (free range or not) and so I want to make all of our Paleo meals meat-optional going forward.  I want to remain true to the premise of eating only whole, natural foods…just with less actual animal (I’m still not ready to again totally give up animal products like eggs)

So here’s a Paleo favourite of mine that can be made for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  But there’s something about breakfast at dinner that is super appealing to me.

Egg Quesadilla with Guacamole and Fresh Salsa

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Ingredients (for a meal for two)

  1. 6 eggs
  2. 1/4 cup almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill is great)
  3. pepper to taste
  4. 4 medium sized chopped organic tomatoes
  5. 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  6. 1/2 finely chopped red onion
  7. 1 hot chili pepper, diced finely
  8. 1 tbsp lime juice
  9. 2 garlic cloved, minced
  10. 1 ripe avocado
  11. juice of half a lemon

You can’t have tortilla wraps on a paleo diet, which saddened and devastated me for that first 30 days.  But I discovered later that if you add some almond flour to eggs, it provides a stiffer consistency and allows you to add toppings and wrap up the egg, tortilla like, around them.  Deliciously!

For this concoction, I filled the egg with homemade salsa and guacamole. (Salsa is chopped tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, 1 clove garlic, lime juice and cilantro — while guac is simply mashed avocado, garlic, and lemon juice)  You can add turkey if you want to go the meat route, and roasted peppers would also be delicious inside this.  I also made a tapendade with roasted peppers, basil, and sundried tomatoes which is awesome as a filling in these, and which I’ll post next week.

I’m on day 1 of strict Paleo tomorrow.  I am super stoked to watch my muscles and energy perk up once again.