Planning and Organizing

Planning and organizing are, shall we say, not my forte. I get things done primarily by sheer force of will and the ability to stay maniacally focused on whatever I’m doing until it gets done. But I’ve never been much of a list-maker, an ahead of time things-doer, or even any sort of reasonably organized person.

But now that I’ve returned to work, all of that is going to have to change. Because I am now juggling my fitness and running commitments (and it is an important one to me – keeps me from losing my sanity), what has essentially become a full time job as a freelance marketing consultant (you can follow that link to see the bare bones website I spent about an hour on one night), and my duties as a wife and mom – all of which I am currently doing without benefit of regular child care with kids that have not yet returned to school.

You may be wondering how it came to pass that I am working without having bothered to arrange for child care first. You may want to return now to read the first paragraph about the not planning thing.

What happened was, I sort of accidentally fell into this job. I put my profile up on a freelancing site thinking it would take me a few months to find enough work to stay busy. Instead, it only took me about 10 days. I know this is not everyone’s experience and that I am actually really lucky. But the thing with freelancing is, you don’t really like to turn away work because of the fear that clients will go to someone else and then not be around when you need the work. And so you end up taking more on than you normally would.

And then you end up trying to figure out how to squeeze in your daily commitment to exercise, your personal hobbies and interests (such as this blog), talking to your kids and husband, being available for them when they need you, and other little things such as the preparation and consumption of food.

We had Hamburger Helper twice this week, and one day we had frozen Salisbury steaks and Mac and cheese (and were damn glad to have it).

All of which makes me realize that I am going to have to get a lot better about planning and preparing meals ahead of time.

And I also realize that I barely know where to start. Anyone out there got any good tips out there for juggling all this? Any good ideas for weekday meal preparation? I’m making friends with the Google on this topic but am also open to advice.

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A Clean House is a Canvas

A clean house is apparently just a canvas for my children to defile. We had a cleaner in this morning and 15 minutes after she left, I had to sweep up a giant pile of dirt. Seriously? I give up. Oh who am I kidding, I gave up on having clean floors a long time before today.

Oh well. Life will go on and my floors will be dirty and that is just the way that it is.

My return to running has been slow. I still feel the ankle is off, though there’s no pain. So for the foreseeable future I will only be running a couple of times a week. I’ll just have to do a lot of cross training instead. I am actually having to stay out of the pool now also, because it was giving me a chemical burn on my scalp. I guess I am just a delicate little flower.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I had returned to working part time. Well, that has been going gangbusters. I think I must have a hard to find skill set (can write, understands technology things) because I have found several great clients who are going to be keeping me busy for the next few weeks. Which is great news for me, not such great news for my kids. Apparently when you are a mom, you can’t just decide “I’m going back to work” without advance planning. Because when you don’t have a babysitter, and your kids are used to having your full attention, it is a hard transition for them when they have to entertain themselves. I hope they will get better at it. But also, I think if I am going to be this busy I need to hire someone to help. Nice problem to have!

Since I’ve been working again, I can see that my old workaholic tendencies are still latent – though to look at my house you would never know I am a type A person. I guess bottom line is that I don’t care about housework unless someone is coming over. I am externally motivated – and anyone who knows me knows that this is true. I’m what my grandfather used to call a springbutt – that kid in school who has all the answers and always has their hand in the air. Volunteers for everything. Gets good grades to validate their own existence. I love any opportunity to measure my worth in another person’s opinion. Runs races to prove to themselves that they are faster than the majority of other people in their age group (or, you know, if I was fast enough I’d be trying to win – I take whatever validation I can find I guess!)

A psychologist would probably say that these are not good things, but the good news is, it does make me good at my job. And motivates me to run, too!

It Starts Young

My kids are involved in Little League, which is an interesting microcosm of society. You get all types of kids and parents, united by a love of baseball. It’s a pretty diverse group as far as childrearing practices, as well. I’m glad we’re doing it.

One of the things I find gratifying about it is that when observed among their peers, it turns out that I have unusually nice children. Nice manners, and they don’t have as many annoying personality quirks as the other kids I see out there. They also do not often say things that are unkind, or hurtful.

Not to say they are perfect but they try to be good, because they know it is expected. There is some occasional inappropriate behavior, because they are kids and that is what kids do, but for the most part, they know how to behave in public.

This is not the case with all the kids we see. One of our kids is on a team with some little boys who, for lack of a better term, are real hellions. People say boys will be boys, and I think that is true to some degree, but I also think that kids will be as big of a jerk as we allow them to be. They will take as much rope as you’ll give them.

They also model what we do. You can have all the rules around behavior that you want, but if what you model isn’t what is expected from them, they are going to do what they see you do. Which is why you always hear your most embarrassing phrases coming out of your kids mouth.

One of the things we are seeing with these kids is a general air of disrespect. They can’t handle any kind of correction without throwing a fit, and the parents just allow it. If it were me, I would pull my kid out of practice or a game in a heartbeat if they were doing some of this stuff.

They are also rude to other kids on the team, as well as adults. The thing that really got my goat, though, was when one boy teased another by saying, “you run like a girl!”

I was like, oh yeah? You wanna see someone run like a girl? I’ll show you how to run like a girl. A girl that can run you into the ground.

Like I said, it starts young. When I see kids acting like this, I try to use it as a teaching moment with my own kids. We talk about different kinds of behavior and they are learning what not to do by watching their peers.

It amazes me too, how early sexism starts. There is no fundamental difference in physical ability at this age, so where do boys get the idea that girls are inherently inferior at sports? And when stuff like this comes up, why are parents (especially moms!) letting kids get by with these statements?

It blows my mind, and makes me feel like I am lucky to have nice kids. Also makes me glad I am very clear about behavior expectations. I mean, my kids can be naughty too, but they aren’t mean and they take correction fairly well, perhaps because they are used to receiving it!

This is the Good Stuff

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. ~ Ferris Bueller

Last night was my younger son’s “Spring Sing” performance, an end of the year concert and fundraiser that his preschool puts on. It’s very cute – the kids practice all year to go up and sing their little songs. One song had something to do with hippopotamuses (hippopotami?) and Jesus. Another was “This little light of mine.”

It was not fine musicianship, but it was an awesome display of childhood joy at its finest.

I am not going to talk about adoption or our process to become a family very much on this blog. I identify as just a mom, not an adoptive mom – it is something that plays into how our family does things but for the most part we are just a regular family, and I am just a regular mom.

A regular, sarcastic mom. And I will admit that it is hard for me to check my sarcasm (my constant companion, it sometimes seems) at the door. Sarcasm is so easy. It’s so easy to laugh away feelings that can leave me feeling so exposed and raw. We came so close having none of this.

However, when I saw my son file in with his class, standing at the back because he’s one of the tallest, getting a little rambunctious with his friends, and looking around the audience until he saw us – his family – and then breaking into his trademark “huge grin with dimple” it brought tears to my eyes.

I am new to this territory. I have never been a sentimental person, and always one to approach events such as these with tongue planted firmly in cheek. So much easier to make the joke and keep up my defense of not taking things too seriously.

But every once in a while, even I am gobsmacked by just how insanely lucky we are to be doing even these mundane things.

Because we so very nearly missed all of it. THEY so very nearly missed all of it.

You guys – we have come so far, I cannot even tell you. So far since we met that little sickly 15 month baby that was barely on the growth chart, in a baby home on Sakhalin Island, Russia. So far since we met his big brother in another orphanage in the middle of nowhere. So far since we despaired of ever bringing them home. So far since we traveled halfway around the world to finally, after nearly two years of struggle and delays, bring them home and start the hard work of becoming a family.

So far since our early days as a family, when it seemed as though “normal” was an impossible goal.

You could read my old blog, but it would only hint at what we went through. Trial by fire, I guess.

But here we are. They are ours and we are theirs and we are doing this thing. This incredible, amazing thing. This everyday, boring, ridiculous thing.

Every once in a while, God reminds you that these things too, are a miracle.

7 Week Recovery Report

Whew. Today was rough. We all have those days where things just don’t go our way. For us it started with a late wake up, and an early baseball game in the rain and wind. The kids were at each other all day, in and out of trouble, not listening. I decided they were tired so sent them to bed early. Oleg fell asleep in minutes, Max is right behind.

Ahhhhh. Sweet silence.

Small children’s efforts to derail my inner zen notwithstanding, I got in a good workout today. Did about a half hour on the elliptical – going as hard as I could. I dripped all over the machine, so that means I was working hard right? I guess when you go 180 rpm on there with reasonable resistance, “sweat happens.”

Normally, I am not a big fan of the elliptical. So boring. You can get your heart rate up on it though and that is all I needed. I had to skip running – my ankle has been bothering me more this week so I decided to get off it. It seems that the 9 or so miles of run/walking I did this week, combined with the Physical Therapy I’ve been doing for my ankle, was a lot.

Since the ankle is kind of sore, I’m going to try to stay off it until Wednesday and see if it calms down. If it does I will try to do the Inspiring Hope run next weekend. It may end up being an Inspiring Hope walk. I will run on Wednesday just to see how it is doing, then if it seems okay, I’ll sign up.

After elliptical I did my PT exercises. While I was doing the Arm and Leg swings in the Sagittal Plane (the hardest one I have to do) some wiseacre next to me goes, “I guess that exercise must be harder than it looks.”

I thought to myself, “What was your first clue, genius? The fact that I keep practically falling over, or that my face is beet red and I look like someone is poking me in the leg with a red hot poker?”

I was nice, though. I just said “yup,” and kept at it.

I sure will be glad to have running not cause me pain anymore, because I miss being able to do long runs on the weekend. As a friend of mine said to me this week, running is my sanity. It (and this blog) are my “me” things that I do. I like getting in a good workout at the gym, but it is not the same as running outside for an hour for my general outlook. I like getting sweaty out in nature I guess.

I said this was a 7 week recovery report. Guess I better report.

As far as the surgery aspect, things are good. No abdominal pain at all, everything feels pretty normal now. In fact, I’m not sure how much longer I will keep doing these reports because I am not sure how much longer the surgery itself will be a factor with regards to the things I am interested in talking about on this blog. I feel pretty good, can do pretty much everything I want to, and I still feel like long term there shouldn’t be much in the way of negative impact.

The only thing I am still struggling with is the ankle. I had really hoped the bed rest in March and time I’ve spent not running over the last 3 months (pretty much since the Rain Run) would have fixed me up. I certainly didn’t expect to still be having pain 3 months later. I think the PT is helping, and will help more and more as I get stronger, I just feel frustrated that this is the thing holding me back.

On the other hand, maybe it’s good this ankle thing is happening. Since the surgery recovery seems so easy, I’d probably have hurt myself already if there wasn’t something slowing me down, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

Happy May Day!

Summer is coming folks! We were expected to get into the 80s today – not sure we made it, but it was certainly nice and warm. I don’t know about you but I am ready for summer. In fact, just for today we pretended that it is already summer time and went to the beach. It was a blast!

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Sadly, the weather won’t last. It’s supposed to rain this weekend. But it does give me hope that we have a summer full of awesome ahead of us.

Since summer is coming, I thought I would do a post on how to get the most out of summer in the Pacific Northwest.

1) Go camping!
It’s not summer without at least one camping trip. Our family’s favorite spots are Cape Disappointment State Park down at the mouth of the Columbia, and Lake Wenatchee, just on the east side if the mountains. If you are camping at the more popular parks, now is the time to make your reservations, as spots are already filling up.

Later in the week I will post more of our family’s favorite camping destinations within a day’s drive of Seattle.

2) Road Trip!
Go somewhere awesome! Living on the West Coast there is just so much to see and do – so many natural wonders to learn about and explore! We have a trip to California planned. Our kids are good travelers so we will be brave and try to drive down. We want to spend a couple of nights at Crater Lake to learn more about volcanoes, then head for the California coast to visit all the sea creatures at the Monterey Bay aquarium. It’s an iconic road trip and educational, too.

3) Take a Beach Day!
In the Seattle area you are never farther than an hour from a beach, and while they may not be the warm, wide sand beaches of your fantasies, they are still great for building sand castles, having picnics, spending family time and enjoying nice weather when it comes to visit. Some of my favorite beaches around Seattle include:

Kayak Point Park near Marysville – this beach has a fishing pier, playground and plenty of picnic spots. It’s about an hour north of Seattle near the Tulalip reservation. A great spot for fishing, playing or spending the day. You can even camp overnight and spend the weekend!

Golden Gardens in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood – after Alki, this may be Seattle’s most popular salt water beach. Always crowded but worth it if you can find a spot – it has a nice wide sand beach, a bath house and lots of picnic spots. Arrive early or visit midweek to beat the crowds.

Maxwelton Beach on South Whidbey Island – this is the beach I grew up with. This is a west facing, sandy beach with some pebbles mixed in. There is a play area, ball field and picnic structure, plus a small general store for picking up those forgotten items. You can stay all day or just a few hours and have a great time.

Alki Beach in West Seattle – as the closest thing Seattle has to a true “beach town” experience (in that there is a town where the beach is) this is by far Seattle’s most popular and crowded beach. Fun for families, teens, large groups and small ones. Bring comfortable shoes and take a walk or run along the waterfront, and take in the iconic view of Seattle across Elliott Bay. Finish your beach day with clam chowder at Dukes, or go more upscale for drinks and dinner at Salty’s.

Picnic Point Park in Mukilteo/Edmonds – this is our family’s favorite beach. It has a nice wide sandy area great for digging and building sand castles, plenty of logs to sit and lean on, and a small grassy picnic area. No play structures, no other amenities, and we don’t miss them. We bring a picnic lunch, some towels and sand toys, and play in the sand all day.

4) Go Hiking!
Because Seattle is located between the mountains and the Sound, we also have tons of great hikes that are within an easy drive. Here are some of our family’s favorite hikes.

Iron Goat Trail – easy to drive to and located on an old railroad bed, this hike is great with kids because it is easy and flat, but also has historical significance to capture the interest of older kids and adults. The trail passes by the site of the Wellington disaster, and the trail goes through some old snow sheds and tunnels. This is one of the first hikes we ever did with our kids and it is still a favorite.

Meadowdale Beach Park – this is a beach day and a hike all in one. The beach comes at the bottom of a 1.25 mile descent through a forest, past a stream and a large grassy play field and through a tunnel. At the end of the trail, a wide sandy beach with lots of driftwood awaits. Bring a picnic lunch and sand toys, and play all day. Save some energy for the 800 foot ascent back to the parking lot. Very popular and has a tiny parking lot, so get there early.

Ebey’s Landing – this hike is in Coupeville on Whidbey Island and includes some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. It has one difficult descent, otherwise is great for kids ages 5 and up.

Mt. Pilchuck – a great choice for more experienced hikers, this rugged mountainous hike has an awesome payoff – at the top of the mountain sits an old fire lookout cabin. From there you can see some the most amazing views Washington state has to offer, and that is saying something. Be prepared for mountain hiking and take a map – unprepared and inexperienced hikers have been known to get themselves lost and in trouble on this seemingly easy hike. Also, this hike is best in the late summer when all snow has melted, and the bugs have died down.

These are some of our family’s favorite summer activities. What’s your favorite summer (or unusually warm spring day) activity?

Healthy Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

These are about as Asian as my grandmother’s spaghetti is Italian, but they are equally as delicious and for the same reason – they both contain copious amounts of ketchup (which are, as we all know, a key ingredient in both Italian and Asian foods…right?).

This is a popular recipe at our house, because our kids love any food that they get to put together themselves. It’s also healthy – low in calories, fat and cholesterol, high in protein and actually tastes better with more veggies inside. The fresh pickled veggies add a nice zing and some crunch.

Healthy Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion chopped
1 package ground turkey

The Sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Sri Racha sauce (optional to taste)

Hoisin
2 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 Tablespoon honey
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Serve With:

Romaine or Bibb lettuce

Cooked Brown rice

Pickled Veggies
1 small carrot julienned
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

Instructions:

Sauté your chopped onions and garlic over low to medium heat until they become translucent.

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Translucent onions (not brown, just starting to be soft):

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Add the turkey to the hot pan and brown, using your spatula to chop it up until it is nice and crumbly.

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If you don’t keep hoisin on hand, now is the time to make your own using the ingredients listed above. It makes extra – put some on the table to serve and refrigerate the remainder.

Once your turkey is browned, then you add The Sauce.

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I just shoot the hoisin, ginger, soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar and Sri Racha directly into the pan, but you could also mix it up in a bowl and then add it. Whichever way you go, mix well, and simmer the entire mixture on low heat for an additional 10 – 15 minutes.

The finished product:

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To Serve

While the turkey simmers, wash and pat dry your lettuce leaves and arrange them on a serving plate.

In a small glass or ceramic serving bowl, prepare the pickled veggies by tossing the ingredients lightly together. Place on the table.

When meat has finished cooking, place in a serving bowl on table.

Also have soy sauce, hoisin and Sri Racha available on the table for those who want a bit more sauce in their sauce.

To eat, each person takes a lettuce leaf and puts the fillings of their choice (meat, vegetables, rice) inside, plus any additional sauce to taste. Wrap the lettuce leaf around the fillings like a burrito, and eat.

This serves 4 – 6, and is a great, healthy weeknight dinner.

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Enjoy!