Friday, March 30, 2012

Post Office Redux...

Sometimes I wish I had a sign that said, "Yes, I do have my hands full, thank you, could you please get the door?".

We went back to the post office today. I took the babies and The Boy, a bag of red lentils and the wool socks I knitted for my sister Laura, and some pictures The Boy had painted for our friend who is in the hospital. We needed to send everything out today. The lentils and socks go to Nome, Alaska. The pictures go to Tidewater, Virginia. I had both addresses with me. I had no boxes or envelopes for them, but I figured we would take care of that part when we got there.

It was that time of the morning when errands can go well. The babies had napped, were fed, changed and happy, and were cooing in their car seats. The Boy was cheerful, having had a rare treat of a juice box in the car with some graham crackers. He cooperatively hung onto the handle of the Belle's car seat (which made it much heavier on my right arm, but at least it was easy to keep track of him). I stashed the pictures, the lentils and the socks with accompanying note in my bag, threw it over my left shoulder and carried the Bug's car seat with my left arm.

We stumbled slowly up the ramp to the front door of the post office, the car seats alternately knocking into the railing or into my shins. When we got to the entrance, I tried setting down the Belle's seat to open the door with my right arm, but The Boy started to bounce away toward the steps. Grabbing his wrist with my left thumb and index finger and holding on tight, I picked up the car seat again in my right hand and backed into the door, opening it with my shoulder. The second door was harder, as it was opening toward us already with someone coming out, and she didn't hold it for me. I tried to catch it with my foot, but The Boy was already on his way through, still clinging to the car seat and kind of dragging the rest of us behind him.

We squeezed through the door without serious injury. I plopped everyone in front of the Priority Mail display to try to figure out what size boxes and envelopes we needed. I let out the breath I'd been holding since the door incident. We had made it inside.

That's when I realized that everyone was staring at us.

The Postmaster knows us. She was smiling indulgently, asking if we needed help. She came around the counter to get my lentils and socks to weigh them and offer her advice on how to package them. Sending things to Nome isn't cheap, and she always tries to help me out. I think she'd do this even if I didn't have so many little children with me. That's just the kind of lady she is...a helpful, small town Postmistress.

And everyone else?

Here's what they said today. (You can't make this stuff up. We get most of the comments on this list every time we go somewhere. The full list is much longer, but that's another post for another day.)

"You sure got your hands full."
"Are those twins?"
"Are they identical?"
"My cousin had twins, but one died."
"They don't look like twins to me."
"I bet you're tired."
"Are they boys or girls?"
"Are they paternal?"
"Is that one a boy? Are you sure?"
"Wow, you have your hands full."
"My sister-in-law adopted twins. They cried all the time. Do yours cry all the time?"
"I think that one is the serious one."
"How old are they? They're really small for twins."
"They're cute."
"That's a handful."
"Oh, my goodness. You have more babies? I didn't know you were going to have any more babies."
"Two girls? And you already got your boy. Well, you're done."
"They're really big for twins."
"Hey, look. She has twins."

I smiled, bit my tongue, and tried to finish mailing our packages.

We left the post office 23 minutes after we got there. There was no line. It just takes that long to do almost anything, especially when people have so much to contribute. I'm often surprised by how much easier it has gotten to do this errand. The first time I did it by myself, it took the better part of the day. Today, I managed to do it much more efficiently!

I should get a sticker or something for improvement.

Unfortunately, no one helped us with the doors on the way out, either.

To be clear, I don't go anywhere expecting anyone to help me unless I bring someone along specifically for that purpose. I don't take all three littles anyplace by myself unless I think I can handle it. I don't have extra arms, but I'm learning to compensate, and I can do a lot with the two I have.

However, if you are going to make a big issue over how full my hands are, it seems like the least you could do would be to offer to get the door.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thoughts on the Feast of the Annunciation

Today would normally be the Feast of the Annunciation. It's March 25, exactly 9 months until Christmas, which means Christians celebrate the feast day honoring the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary. Tradition tells that Mary was invited to become the Mother of God and that she graciously accepted. We honor her for her willingness to participate in God's Big Plan. (This year, because today is the fifth Sunday of Lent, the feast is officially tomorrow on March 26th.)

"The Annunciation" - Nicholas Poussin, 1655

At Mass today, our parish priest offered another possible scenario with a slightly different feel. Suppose Mary's invitation from Gabriel wasn't as much a choice as a kind of "heads up, this is about to take place"? The Gospel reading just states that the angel said, "You shall conceive and bear a son and shall call him Jesus." He didn't say, "Hey, do you think you'd like to do this...does it sound kind of interesting to you?".

(To my theologian friends: Don't start worrying. Theologically speaking, Mary had to have a choice, of course. She had to give assent. Way back at the start of the story, God made Man and Woman, and they had free will. The whole narrative depends on it. I find it interesting, though, to think of it in this slightly different light, and it's my blog, so bear with me.)

I imagine Mary, sitting alone in her room after Gabriel's departure, reeling at the angel's announcement. It's a crazy story. He just showed up, said something like, "hello, you're getting pregnant at what could be considered a less than ideal time in your life, congrats!" and told her the baby's name. (This is just too much. She doesn't even get to decide what to name him. I have loved that part of the process with all three of our babies, and she had to miss out.) Yet these were her with the BIG choice out of the way (Yes, I'll participate in the salvation of mankind by bearing God's son to the world), she had two options. She could either get on board with what had just been told to her and make the best of it, or she could be miserable and suffer under what must have felt like an unbearable weight at times.

So what did she do? She sang the Magnificat.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  Luke 1:46-55

Mary's choice to sing in the face of what could easily be called adversity amazes and humbles me. The facts of the situation were the same. She was still going to have a baby she hadn't expected at a time in her life when it wasn't ideal. Her choice to embrace the blessing makes her even more worthy of honor than if she had somehow decided to go and seek this situation out for herself.

With Mary in mind, I have been thinking...about unexpected blessings, about how hard it feels sometimes to rejoice over something I'm not sure I wanted in the first place. There is a choice to be made - do I embrace this blessing, or do I push it away? And the thing is, there's not just one opportunity to make that choice. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of them every single day. Sometimes I don't choose well. I'm anything but grateful. I'm grumpy sometimes, angry, resentful, anxious, irritated. But when I decide to, I can see that I have been chosen for something really special in my role as the mother of these people. I don't know fully what that will entail...maybe a bit like Mary couldn't have known fully what was coming when she got her news.

I wonder if she had moments where she felt discouraged, times when she wished for a moment that things were different, that she hadn't been the one chosen for this task? If she felt the burden of her blessing, was it anything like I sometimes feel? If she looked in a mirror and saw her own tired eyes, did she wish sometimes that she were still carefree and un-blessed?

I had coffee with a friend yesterday, who commented that she thought that some of my readers here would think by what I've been writing that I have it all together and have figured things out. (Clearly, anyone who thinks that has not seen the inside of our house recently!) Being one of my closer friends and knowing that to be untrue, she said her own take on it was that I was still trying to convince myself.

I think, actually, that neither of those things are completely true.

I certainly don't have it all figured out, and things are far from "together." We're doing a lot better than we were. I can get out by myself with all three kids much better than I could a month or two ago. It's still so hard, though. Some days are a real challenge just to keep moving from morning to evening.

Neither do I think, however, that I'm trying to convince myself that it's all already okay. I get that this is a process, and I'm thankful that my view of life and faith are process-oriented. Change is not easy and not instant. We are on a journey where we get time to learn to move in new ways, to develop the strength we need to carry bigger and more challenging loads. I'm somewhere in the midst of this process now with learning to be a stay-at-home parent to three, and that's okay with me (even if it is hard). I don't have to have it all together yet. Or ever.

What I think I'm doing (in this blog and in my life) is practicing. Practicing gratitude. Practicing making a choice to notice what's good and not to dwell on what feels bad. Practicing joy and practicing smiling and practicing patience and practicing choosing to embrace what has been given to me.

It's good that there are so many chances in a day to practice. I think it's going to take me the rest of my life to get the hang of it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So tired.

A confession:

Sometimes, around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I walk by the unplugged, empty coffee pot and sniff the stale scent of the morning still hanging around it. I close my eyes and wish I could fast forward right into tomorrow...and I find myself longing for the other side of the long evening and night I know lie ahead of me, just so I can make a new pot of coffee and drink it.

I am so tired sometimes.

I usually feel it strongly right when I wake up...that totally overwhelming, full-body exhaustion in the very center of me, the kind of tired where my sleepy bones cry, "No! It can't possibly be time to get up yet." My eyes feel full of sand and my head aches. And yet it is time, and there's light coming in around the curtains, and there's a preschooler standing beside the bed proclaiming that he's starving, and it's my job to feed him.

At that moment, when I realize it's really morning and it doesn't matter how much sleep I didn't get and there's no turning back, I want to ask everyone to wait ten minutes until I can have some coffee. Hold on, babies. Just give me that long...long enough to get my eyes to open more than halfway, long enough to make a cup of coffee.

Or two or three cups.
Where's the hold-on-a-second button on a three-year-old? If you find it, will you please let me know?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Irish Soda Bread

This week's baking project: Irish Soda Bread.

I made some.

It was pretty easy. There were four ingredients. I mixed them with a fork, kneaded the resulting dough for a minute, patted it into a disk (sort of- it was pretty sticky at this point), made an "X" slash on it, and baked it for a little under an hour.

This is what it looked like:

We ate it with beef stew (made by George) on St. Patrick's Day, and it was perfect. It was easy and simple. Kind of like this blog post at the end of a long day. Sometimes, simple is best.

Check out the recipe at Carla's blog Chocolate Moosey or Cathy's at My Culinary Mission and other people's (more attractively arranged) Irish Soda Bread links at Tuesdays with Dorie.

I'm sure my sister Laura will have a very tasty looking photo of her bread up soon on her blog, but it's still early in Nome. Check back in a little while to see what she came up with.

If anyone would like to be my new food stylist/photographer, I am accepting applications.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guinness (and Lucky Charms) is good for you...aka The Feast of St. Patrick.

We are celebrating the feast of St. Patrick today, along with our friends in Ireland and all the honorary Irish people we know.

We read the story of St. Patrick this morning with The Boy, trying to rescue the feast day from the leprechaun-chasing focus brought on by preschool. I told him how St. Patrick was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he found his calling in telling the Irish people about God.

"Arrrggggh!" he yelled, running around the room.

Ah, pirates. I think this ended up being his main takeaway from the story. I made a note to try again later in the day.

We ate Lucky Charms for breakfast. Not authentic, I know...I found myself thinking longingly of the "fry" I'd had in Dublin a few years ago the morning of St. Patrick's Day with George, just before we crowded onto the street with everyone else for the parade...but honestly- we have baby twins and a three-year-old. We do not have time to do authentic for more than one meal! And dinner is going to be the winner today.

We didn't need to sell the Lucky Charms. The Boy has never had sugar cereal (other than Honey Nut Cheerios at his grandparents' house), and he was thrilled. Marshmallows! In rainbow colors! I love how General Mills has plastered the words "Whole Grain" all over the box. They even point out that Whole Grain is the first ingredient. That means Lucky Charms are Healthy For You.

After breakfast, the day was laid back. George went for a long run. The Boy wore green from head to toe, including his underwear and, at various times throughout the day, his rain boots.

I waited until nap time to practice being a baker, putting together my first Chocolate Stout Cake (with a whole bottle of Guinness in it). I used a downsized recipe with two layers instead of three (we are both in training for races and do not possibly need a three layer chocolate cake sitting around here). Still, the frosting called for a pound of chocolate and two cups of heavy cream. Good thing we were planning for a run together after nap time.

I mixed the dry ingredients, greased and floured my cake pans (which I might have used once before today?), and had just started cracking eggs and putting sour cream into the mixer when I heard wailing.

The Bug woke up just 10 minutes into my cake preparation, horribly offended that I was undertaking a baking project without her assistance.

How could you? You know how I love to bake.

Butter, cocoa and beer
Now down to one hand (since The Bug wouldn't allow me to park her in her seat yet and my baby wrap carrier was in the wash with spitup all over it from an earlier incident), I melted butter in a saucepan and poured beer in with it. When the butter was melted, I stirred in the cocoa and waited for it to cool to room temperature. It seemed weird. If I hadn't known from eating one that a chocolate stout cake was a heavenly thing, I would have been questioning the process at this point.

These look even, right?
The Bug and I added the dry ingredients to the eggs and sour cream in the mixer, then poured in the cocoa/butter/Guinness liquid. The batter was ready to divide into the two pans. The recipe suggested weighing the batter to make sure that the pans had equal amounts (and helpfully noted that the raw cake batter weighs over 5 pounds for this recipe!). I have no kitchen scale. I'm an amateur, remember? I decided to eyeball it and hope that the luck of the Irish would be on my side.

The Bug was much happier now that she was my assistant. Her siblings slept right through the baking time, and the cake layers came out perfectly.

After some chatting about the calorie content of the frosting, George and I packed everyone up and headed out for a slow family run with the jogging strollers, alternating running and walking. (I'm up to 90 seconds of running for 1 minute of walking and feeling strong so far.) We stopped to stretch in the grass afterward, near a patch of clover. I decided to try again to tell The Boy about St. Patrick.

"Remember how St. Patrick helped tell people about God?" I asked The Boy.
"Yep!" he responded.
"Well, see these little clovers? With three leaves? They're called shamrocks. St. Patrick used these to help people pray. You know how we say 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' when we pray?" I made the sign of the cross. He nodded solemnly. "St. Patrick told the people that they could remember Father, Son and Holy Spirit by looking at the three leaves of the shamrock. When you see one, it's like a little prayer...Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

His face lit up. "Like Father Tom does!" he said. "Father, Son, Holy Spirit...," he pointed to each leaf in turn, smiling broadly.

"You know what else?" I said, going back to the pop culture holiday stuff again. "If you find one of these with four leaves, it's supposed to be really lucky."

"What's lucky?" he said.

"Lucky is when good things happen to you."

"Oh!" he chirped. "Like how I'm so lucky that I have so many Thomas trains to play with at my house. I bet not everyone has so many trains as I do." George looked over at me, eyebrows raised. We shrugged. Sure, why not?

As I turned to pick up my water bottle and get ready to get everyone into the car, I noticed a four-leaved clover right there on the ground where we were sitting.

George said he knew one of us was going to, because it makes a good story. It just seemed to be that kind of day.

"Now we can be lucky!" The Boy grinned.

As we went home and prepared our (more authentic and better tasting) dinner of Irish Beef Stew and Soda Bread to celebrate St. Patrick's feast, I thought about luck. Luck might be real. I know people who seem to have one happy coincidence follow another in what might be called luck. I also know plenty of people who seem to have the opposite, who could be called unlucky, whose lives seem to constantly have some trial or struggle.

I think, though, that luck isn't as important as realizing that what we have is pretty great. To look around at my family feasting on our dinner, to see the sun set behind the mountains out my kitchen window, to be able to rock my babies to sleep, to be on the receiving end of huge hugs and constant questions from my preschooler, to have a partner with whom to share the cooking and parenting (as well as the running and games of Mario Kart) - this isn't luck. This is blessing. And my life is full of it. Even on the days when things seem to be totally...well, the pits.

And so, on the feast of St. Patrick, here's a blessing attributed to him. George gave it to me as a print one year as a gift, and this year, I hung it in the kitchen at the beginning of the month in honor of St. Patrick. May it be true for each of you.

May you be blessed with the strength of Heaven;
The Radiance of the Moon;
The Light of the Sun;
The Splendor of Fire;
The Depth of the Sea;
The Speed of Lightning; 
The Swiftness of the Wind; 
The Stability of Earth;
The Firmness of Rock.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On miles and milestones

We have worked so hard to have these babies, to bring then into the world, to tend to their every need, change every diaper, answer every hungry cry.

I have nursed these two people for six months. They have grown, thrived, turned into lovely, sparkly-eyed little beings. I have sustained them with my body from the second they were created.

And now, I'm taking the first step in getting them ready to live without me.

As soon as they eat something, as soon as they start opening their little bird mouths so spoons bearing rice cereal can enter, it feels like they are getting ready for bigger and better things. The Belle, in particular, has been eyeing our plates and our spoons for a couple of weeks now, watching intently as we lift food to our mouths. She has even started reaching for the fork and talking about it.

"Bah? Ah-goo ba?" she says, one eyebrow raised.

The Boy says, "Belle is saying, 'Hey, what the dilly-o, can I get some of that??'" I'm not sure how she got such an urban swagger in his mind, but it's funny, so we roll with it.

Even The Bug has been asking for food. We decided to let them have some rice cereal.

I kind of hate rice cereal. It's gross. Seriously, who would want to eat that? It's like pasty mush, and babies always screw up their faces at it anyway. Maybe that's why we feed it to them, so they'll make those faces and we can take pictures of it for their baby books?

Anyway, we moved on quickly from the rice cereal (after waiting the appropriate days to be sure there were no food allergies). Both girls had sweet potatoes over the weekend and bananas yesterday.

So far, neither seems convinced of the value of this method of getting calories. They will be nursing for a long time (which is fine with me). But the groundwork has been laid - they will eventually eat only solid food - and then they'll grow up and go away to college!

(Okay, this is a jump...perhaps they won't immediately go to college. Maybe they'll go to kindergarten first. I will admit, though, that this second round of parenting an infant seems to be going at blazing fast speed. Days feel very long sometimes, but weeks and months are so short. I can't believe we are already at the point of feeding them squished up food that real people eat.)

So we're celebrating a milestone today...Happy Half-Birthday, Babies. We've come a long way. It has felt like a struggle more than a few times. Having a baby in the house can be that way. Having two of them at once is never easy, but these days, it often feels worth it.

Speaking of coming a long way, I crossed five miles for the week last week. This sounds like nothing, but it's the furthest I have run in a week in over a year, so it's worth celebrating!

Here's to more milestones and more miles. Thanks for being along for the ride! We couldn't have done it without the support we've had from all of you. In our case, it truly takes a village...and we are so grateful for ours.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Staging a running comeback

I'm a runner. Except when I'm not.

I have started over with running so many times, I've lost count. I've come back from numerous injuries, IT band issues, a long hiatus after the birth of my first child.

Just before we found out we were expecting twins last year, I was in the best shape of my whole life. I had been running consistently all year, injury-free. I had just finished my second marathon (a little bit faster than my first). I had set a PR at an 8K race and was feeling optimistic about upcoming races for the year.

When I found out we were expecting again, I planned to work out and run through the pregnancy. I was training for a half-marathon and feeling pretty good (well, except for the constant, unrelenting nausea, that is).

When we found out we were expecting twins, I still planned to work out and run through the pregnancy, just at a lower intensity.
When they told me I couldn't run the half marathon, I cried...but I kept running.

When they told me to stop running, I cried...but I kept walking.

Then, I got put on complete bed rest at 24 weeks, and I had to put it all on hold.

I spent the summer not training for a fall marathon, but doing everything I could (which felt like doing nothing at all!) to help the babies grow as big and strong as possible. 12 weeks later, they arrived, healthy and weighing in at 5 lbs 5 oz and 6 lbs 6 oz.

12 weeks in the bed had helped the babies enormously, but it definitely took its toll on me. Starting to run again would be like starting from scratch.

Since the girls' birth in September, I've had a few running false starts (three, to be exact). The first time was in November. I proudly declared on Facebook that I was going for a run. When I got partway into the run, I knew it was too body just wasn't ready. The second time, in January, it was the day after the run that told me my body still wasn't quite ready. I started walking more to build up strength and waited for my moment.

Then, it happened.
I went for a run, alone, in my neighborhood, alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking. I did almost three miles. It was bliss. I was ready to come back.

Enter all the obstacles and excuses.

Even though I had seriously enjoyed that run (and the happy expression on The Boy's face when he realized he had TWO runner parents), I couldn't seem to get out again. It's hard to get someone to watch both babies, and George's training for his upcoming half marathon takes priority right now. Even though I only needed 20 minutes or half an hour, I couldn't seem to find it in my day. I was tired. The babies needed to nurse. The Boy needed extra attention. The dishwasher needed to be loaded, or clothes needed folding, or someone had to go to the grocery store. I kept up with the walking by pushing the babies in the stroller, but my running shoes were relegated to "active" shoes. They seemed sad about this. I guess they remembered the purist days when I wouldn't wear them for anything but running.

The subject of races came up on a walk with my runner friend earlier this week. (This walk, incidentally, was supposed to be a run. She was going to walk with the stroller and field all the crazy twin comments so I could run..."pretend you have no children," she had said.)

It took a long time to leave the house that morning, and nothing was working. My running clothes didn't fit. I couldn't find two socks that were the same type. I looked at the piles of running-related items, dumped out of the Rubbermaid bin they had been occupying in my closet since we moved in last May. There was my awesome plum-colored jacket with the zip-off bright pink half-zip that always makes me feel fast, my lucky rainbow race socks, countless race t-shirts and technical shirts, the shorts I wore in my last marathon (which would definitely not fit right now). So much accumulated history was in those many runs, so many hours of training, so many trips through the washing machine to wash out the sweat, just as all those runs had washed the self-doubt out of me and made me feel strong, lithe, capable of anything.

Who was the woman who had worn these things? Does she even exist any more? How had I possibly finished two marathons and all those shorter races, and how could I even think of starting all over again now?

Suddenly, the obstacles and excuses seemed to loom larger than life. Despite all the previous comebacks, I wasn't sure I could make this happen again.

I confessed all of this to my runner friend, who has overcome her own doubts and negative self-talk to accomplish a great deal.

"What you need," she said sagely, "is a goal. A comeback race."

We have chosen a race...the the Apple Blossom 10K in Winchester, VA, which is just 8 weeks from today.

The trouble with a race that is 8 weeks away is that there's no time to waste. Running has now become training.

Time to start knocking those obstacles out of the way.

We went to Target today, and I got some transitional running pants. The pants are a little baggy and don't look amazing or anything, but I'm not embarrassed to have someone see me wear them, which is all I need right now. I even ordered a new running bra that is up to the challenge of a mother runner who is nursing twins (it was about time, since I've been wearing the same ones since 2006!).

Our girls will be 6 months old next week, which means they can now sit up well enough to ride in the double jogging stroller we received from George's sister last year (thanks, guys!). We finally figured out how to fold the crazy thing so it would fit in the trunk. (It still didn't fit in the trunk, so we had to take the wheel off.) We knocked off all the stinkbugs that had collected on it during its time in the car port and vacuumed off some spider egg sacs. The tires were flat, so we pumped them up. We pumped up the tires on our long-dormant BOB stroller, so The Boy would have a place to ride, too.

I laced up my shoes. It was time to start the comeback.

I tried to find my iPod shuffle, realized it hadn't been charged in a year...and started to cry.

And then, I realized I was still looking for reasons not to go. I didn't want to run, not now. I even made a note to myself before we left:

"I am about to go on a run with my entire family, and I think I'd rather be in labor."

How does something I have loved as much as running become something I dread? What was I afraid of? That my legs wouldn't work? That I'd feel awkward and slow? That someone would think I looked silly?

Maybe a little bit of all of these things. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I was afraid I was going to fail.

What actually happened when I got out on the running path with The Boy was not nearly as bad as I'd feared. I ran for a minute, then two, then kept going. George and the girls caught up with me partway through the trail loop and we continued together, running one minute and then walking 90 seconds. It was okay. I was running, and it felt good. The Boy was chatting happily and the girls were making cheerful noises whenever we passed ducks. We were doing it.

We got fewer chatty twin questions and more odd looks than when we are casually walking together. Out for a walk, we invite conversation with our double stroller and precocious, chatty preschooler. Out for a run, though, we are a force to be reckoned with. I like that.

We took a picture to commemorate the babies' first run and my first (real) run back. This one's not a false start. I'm ready for a comeback.

The Belle, The Bug, and The Boy with their runner mother

As we pulled in the driveway, the sun was setting brilliantly and beautifully behind the mountain. The Boy pointed it out: "Look, Mommy - we are having a sunset!!".

Looking at the sky, I realized it was 6:15 pm and still light outside, and that tomorrow, there will be a whole extra hour of daylight in which to run. And the next day. And the day after that. It feels like a gift of time. It feels like hope.

I'm officially in training for my comeback race, and my prospects are bright.

Stopping on the way in for dinner to capture the moment

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Rugelach

Dough, made with lots of butter and cream cheese, meant to be rolled out, filled with good things, rolled up again, cut into rounds, and baked to emerge peacefully as a tasty cookie...these are rugelach. Supposedly.

The dessert I created by following this recipe seems to have a mind of its own.

I had no trouble making the dough - it came together just great. It chilled overnight in the refrigerator. I suspect that it was during this overnight rest that it began plotting its revolt.

What I put into the fridge was a lovely, smooth, creamy pastry dough, patted into a non-threatening rectangle shape that looked eager to become something yummy. What I retrieved from the fridge was dough with another plan entirely, dough that was only reluctantly rolled out. The warmer it got, the harder it was to control. Eventually, I subdued it, rolled it into rectangles, filled it with fig butter, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon and sugar, and rolled it up again jelly-roll style (although it was barely able to contain its filling while being rolled). True to its emergent personality and bursting at the seams, it kept trying to unroll itself when I cut it into rounds. Finally, in what can only be called a rugelach revolution, some of the cookies successfully unrolled while in the oven baking.

Still, they were quite tasty, despite their rebellious behavior!

The Boy rated them a 13 out of a possible 10. I'm not sure he understood what I was asking with the number scale rating thing, but I'll take his rave review. They also passed muster with George, who said simply, "Mmmm, yes," and then asked how many more there were.

Thumbs up.

Check our hosts' blogs this week for the recipe: Jessica at My Baking Heart and Margaret at The Urban Hiker. Or, check out Tuesdays with Dorie to see how all the other bakers' rugelach turned out. (Rugelach? Rugelachs? Anyone?)

I am planning to bake the second batch this week with some chocolate and hazelnut filling and dried cherries. This time, though, I know what I'm getting into...I will not be taken in by the second innocent-looking rectangle of dough in the bottom of my fridge. I am prepared for battle!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Giggle more

I sometimes play around on Pinterest when I'm nursing the babies. With two to feed, I spend a lot of time in a rocker with one or the other baby (or both babies!) in my lap, and if they are not feeling particularly chatty while having their meals, I have learned to make use of the time. I'll answer e-mails, return texts, pay bills...anything I can do from my phone. 

The other night, I saw that someone had pinned this little card, which made me smile.

The problem with worrying is that it never changes anything. And my worrying always seems to get worse at night, when there's nothing anyone can do about whatever it is, anyway.

Giggling is equally unlikely to change anything, but it feels so much better than worrying!

Tonight, as I'm going to bed, it hits me. There will always be things to worry about. There will also always be dreams, and sunsets, and chocolate chip cookies, and tickling. There is a choice for each of us to make each day...and sometimes over and over again within the day. Where will I focus my energy? Where will I place my trust? Am I going to be distracted with worries? Or am I going to notice how great things really are right where I am right now?

I snuggle beneath the covers, thinking of my infant daughters across the hall, my sleeping son tucked into his bed, my husband doing yoga in the living room, and I realize that I am joyful...that I am blessed by this existence, by the privilege of being with these people, of sharing a life and a space with them.

How blessed we are. How thankful I am. And as I fall asleep, I breathe in peace.

(Find this card and other handmade decor items in RememberMeEmily's etsy shop).