On Gray Hairs and Disney World

I found my first gray hair today.

I sat in the passenger seat of the car while my husband drove us to the movie theater for our first date without the kids in over a year.  I flipped the visor down, opened the mirror to inspect my makeup, and spotted it front and center at the hairline on my forehead.  Seemingly innocuous, comparatively short to the rest of my hairs.  Sturdy.  I plucked it just to be sure that it was what I thought it was.  I set it against the black sleeve of my husband’s coat for contrast.  It was, without a doubt, a silver strand.

Hard to believe he's only a handful of weeks away from his first birthday.

Hard to believe he’s only a handful of weeks away from his first birthday.

I held it between my fingers for a bit, twisting it this way and that, holding it against the sunlight as we rode along.  Could I really have gray hair?  But I’m only…

Then I realized: I’m not only anything anymore.  I’m not only twenty-something.  I’m not only thirty.  I’m in my thirties.  And I have two children.  I’m a mother, barreling towards middle-aged at lightning speed.  And once I get there, I’ll soon have high-schoolers.  After that, adult children.  Grandmotherhood.  Death.

How did this happen?  How do I stop it?

More importantly, how do I enjoy the here and now?  The single strand of gray hair?

I’m not sure why, but this seems to be the year for going to Disney World.  Several friends in my Facebook news feed have either recently been, are currently visiting, or are planning a trip to what’s widely considered the happiest place on Earth (And it is.  I have been and can verify.)  I find myself envious of these families who are treating their young children to such an adventure.  I imagine what fun it must be to break the news to them that they’ll soon be on a plane to meet Mickey Mouse.

It's heartbreaking to stop and realize just how quickly she's growing.

She’s getting so big and so smart, so quickly. She’s become a whole little person.

You might say that I can’t wait to take my kids there.

My husband and I have agreed for a while now that we would take a trip to Disney World when all of our children were old enough to remember it, enjoy it, and ride on most of the rides.  No babies, no strollers, no diaper bags, no parent having to ride the bench with an infant or toddler all day while the other one gets to do the fun stuff.  Since we plan on having another child, we estimate that we’ll be going to see The Mouse when our kids are 9, 7, and 5.  Since our oldest is only 2 now, that means seven more years of waiting our turn for the big Disney trip.

Seven years.  That’s a long time to wait and to have to hear about everyone else’s awesome time in Disney World.  Nearly a decade will pass between now and the time we finally pack our bags for Orlando.  And I find myself saying things like “I can’t wait to take my kids to Disney World.”  And I need to stop saying things like that.  Because I also say things like, “I can’t wait until the ten month-old starts walking,” and “I can’t wait until the toddler is potty-trained.”  I can’t wait for this, I can’t wait for that.

I can wait.  I want to wait.

This is all happening too fast.  Much faster than I’d like.  And there’s absolutely nothing that I or anybody else can do to slow it down.  The kids are growing, the hairs on my head are changing colors.  Life is happening, ticking along, meandering towards its inevitable end.  It’s terrifying.  So when I say things like “I can’t wait for this,” what I’m really saying is that I’m impatient with the speed at which life is traveling and I need this event or that milestone to happen faster, to arrive sooner.  And that’s simply not true.  If anything, I’d rather that life move a whole hell of a lot slower than faster.

I can wait.  Disney World and baby’s first steps can wait, too.  (Potty-training could actually happen any time it wants to.  I welcome it with wide open arms.)

I know that nursing won't last forever.  We're in no rush, we're on no schedule.

I know that nursing won’t last forever. We’re in no rush, we’re on no schedule.

I don’t say any of this with the intention of dismissing the very real challenges of everyday life.  Today is hard.  It is hard to take care of two small children.  It is hard to get such little sleep.  It’s hard not to want them to be independent, to be able to dress and feed themselves.  It’s hard to spend most of my day negotiating with a toddler on absolutely everything, from the color of the socks she’ll agree to wear to the right color dinner plate that she’ll let you put her food on.  It’s hard to nurse a baby what seems like a hundred times a day.  Life, right now, can be hard.

But I promise I’ll savor it.  I’ll savor these hard days, because the days after them will be hard for different, probably bigger, reasons.  Parents will pass away, and surviving that pain will be immeasurably harder than fighting over sock choices.  Teenaged children will keep secrets from us, and accepting that we are not needed for everything anymore will be far harder than nursing a baby.  Life will get harder.  On we will go.

I can wait.  All of it can wait.  Today is all I’ve got.  This toddler, this baby, and this husband are what I’ve got here and now.

Oh, and this gray hair.  And I can definitely wait on getting more of those.


“So, What Do You Do All Day?”

When I initially made the big jump from full-time desk jockey to stay-at-home mom, I worried about how my child and I could possibly fill up 9-10 hours’ worth of space.  For five days in a row.  And still like each other at the end of the week.

Obviously, we figured that part out pretty quickly, since babies/toddlers demand a crapload of attention and variety in their activities.  So, just what is it that we do all day, you may ask?  (You may not actually be asking that.  You may not really care.  But my kid — and her friends — are super cute, so at least enjoy the adorableness of the following photos, taken on an average Monday.)

Starting the day with a whole-grain flaxseed waffle, banana, milk, and a smile.

Headed out the door, on our way to the library!

B's -- ahem -- friend, JJ, getting a smooch at the library.

B's daredevil friend, E, scaling the train table at the library. How gorgeous is this little girl?

Next stop: Grandma & Pap's house for lunch (which is always tastier when schmeared on the face).

Here, she's playing one of her favorite "games" with her Pap. They each put on a hat and model it in front of the mirror. It's crazy adorable.

Stacking cups are still one of her all-time favorite toys. She's loved them since she was six months old. Her grandparents keep a set in the toybox at their house for her.

Back home! While Mama cooks dinner, Dadda (a.k.a: Mr. T) keeps her entertained by doing... what else? Hanging the swing in the dining room.

Tonight's menu: Stir-fry over brown rice.

After dinner, it's time for lots of belly zerbets from Dadda. Serious giggles ensue.

Before she hits the hay, it's time for one last round of num-nums. Here, we're nursing while watching homebirth videos on YouTube in an effort to prep her for the (alleged) pending arrival of baby brother.

Aaaaaand that's a wrap, folks! Bedtime! She's not super crazy about this time of day, as evidenced by the screaming. (PS: A big-girl room makeover is coming this summer. Please ignore the blah white walls and bedding until then.)

It’s a glamourous life, to be sure.  Whether it’s plastic cups, spaghetti stains, or nighttime tantrums, the dull moments are few and far between.  The smiles and the love, though, are abundant.  This is what we do all day.  And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Recipe for a Lazy Sunday: CrockPot MexiCasserole

Okay, here goes nothing:  My first recipe post.  Now mind you, I consider myself a more-than-decent cook, but what I’m not good at is measuring, following directions, or giving instruction.  I toss in spices here and there without much regard for what’s a pinch versus a palm-full.  So, in order to share my ultra-easy, no-fuss Crock Pot MexiCasserole recipe with you, I had to discipline myself and measure everything out precisely.  I think it turned out great, but I’ll let you be the judge.  A few notes:

When cooking rice and/or beans in the Crock Pot, slow and low is the preferred method.  So start this dish early in the morning and give it time to come together.  Also, I’ve noted that the chipotle powder is optional because this is what gives the dish its heat; if you’re making this for the whole family, including spice-sensitive kids, you may want to either omit it or cut it in half to 1/8 of a teaspoon.  Lucky for us, our 16-month-old has pretty adventurous taste buds and actually likes some heat to her food.  Finally, this dish – as are all recipes that I’ll share on this blog – is vegetarian because, well, that’s what we are.   If you’re so inclined to omnivorize this meal, go right ahead, but please choose your meat responsibly and consciously.

As I mentioned , this meal is super easy.  It’s also really delicious and filling, perfect for a lazy winter Sunday.  If you ask me, I’d say it’s substantial enough to stand alone, though I could also see it pairing well with a green salad with diced avocado or some lightly toasted olive bread.

I'd bet you've got most of these in your pantry/fridge already!

(Makes 4-6 servings, depending on how much you fill up your bowl.)

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • 2 cups frozen (or fresh, if in season) peppers/onion mix
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (any variety, but those mixed with chiles, jalapeños, cilantro & lime, or other Mexi-style flavorings work best)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or Mexican-style blend cheese

Toss all ingredients into your Crock Pot or slow-cooker except for the cheese.  Stir, cover, and set to a low/8-hour setting.

While your dinner roasts away in the kitchen, filling your home with a yummy cumin-y, onion-y fragrance, feel free to trot your toddler on down to the playground and get everyone a healthy dose of crisp winter air.

32 weeks preggo

My gorgeous daughter

Once you’re back at the homestead and ready to grub, stir in cheese just before serving.

Cheese is optional, but so, so good.

Scoop into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream and freshly diced cilantro, if desired.  Enjoy!

A great, big bowl of Yum.

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Welcome to my Homestead

home·stead: n. 

1. A house, especially a farmhouse, with adjoining buildings and land.
2. Law Property designated by a householder as the householder’s home and protected by law from forced sale to meet debts.
3. Land claimed by a settler or squatter, especially under the Homestead Act.
4. The place where one’s home is.

FINALLY.  I’ve started a blog.

I’ve been told by more than a few people that my Facebook statuses are too verbose; that my neverending posts on birth and breastfeeding and natural parenting and politics and food (okay, well nobody really complains about the food) are excessive; that I really need an outlet for my out-loud musings on motherhood.

So, here it is.  In all its shiny, WordPress-y glory.  My blog, Homestead Instead.

Don’t expect big things from me.  (I certainly don’t.)  I’m going to aim for an entry a week to start.  That’s a manageable goal.  If this thing takes off into the stratosphere of Mommy Blogs like Annie’s from PhD in Parenting or Jill’s from Baby Rabies then I’ll step it up a bit.  For now, though, let’s keep the razzle dazzle to a minimum.

What you’ll be hearing about in this blog, for the most part, will be my adventures in raising the world’s most intelligent, charming, fussy, endearing, impatient, delightful toddler.  My daughter — who shall henceforth be known as “B” — is my universe, a space also shared by my awesome and hardworking husband, Mr. T.  Our universe is ever-expanding, though… as is my waistline.

You see, Baby Number Two is due sometime around the end of February/early March 2012.  I’m psyched beyond reason for this event despite the fact that it means I’ll be saddled with two babies under two to care for from the hours of 7:00 a.m. until 5:-something p.m., five days a week.  You’ll be hearing all about my heartburn and backaches in the coming weeks as I near the finish line for my first homebirth.  (And yep, I’ll talk about that, too.)

You’ll also read about some of our upcoming projects as we adjust to the simpler life and try to live as fiscally independent as possible.  Since I quit the professional workforce to stay at home with my daughter, penny-pinching’s become the name of the game.  Our lives have been turned upside-down (there’ll certainly be a post or two about how we got here, as well) but I have to say we’re quite happy with how things have turned out.  That being said, there’s a lot of comedy around the corner as we attempt to turn our backyard into a self-sustaining vegetable garden (coming Spring/Summer 2012!), and as I attempt to learn how to sew, knit, and craft my way through motherhood.  I’ll be thrift-shopping, upcycling, and Crock-Potting my days away with the kiddos and you, my friend, will have a front-row seat for all the action.  (Please, do try to contain your excitement.)

Now that you’ve been treated to a sneak peek of what’s to come, I’ll wrap this up for now.  I’m excited to put some thoughts on paper (er, screen) about our simple, ordinary life and to document just what happens when a girl ditches the desk job and opts for homestead instead.  Thank you in advance for joining me on this journey.