Don’t Accept Someone Else’s Interpretation of How You Should Be- Chieko Okazaki 

The monkeys are Eight months old. 2/3 of a year.

When they were six weeks old, I remember feeling so tired and foggy but like I needed to justify feeling so tired and foggy because isn’t six weeks the marker when new moms should return to the land of the living- grocery shopping, cleaning house, getting kids to school on time, showering and exercising with ease?!?! But I couldn’t, certainly not with ease. I told myself, out loud, to give it more credibility, that with two babies I should be allowed twice the time to get my life back together. Allowed, as if permission to go days and days without a shower or to shower twice in one day came not from me and what I could handle but from the expectations of others. 

 And then it was Christmas and New Year’s and 6 weeks had turned into 12, then 14 weeks and suddenly the babies were 4 months and I still couldn’t seem to keep my laundry put away or make it 48 hours without crying and what would people think?!? Even now, at 8 months, I can’t seem to figure out the best routine for each baby let alone one that works for both of them and some days it feels like I haven’t made any progress. 

 Spring break I took my kids to Ikea. I wanted to buy high chairs, but really we went so Buster and The Lady could play in the ball pit and we could eat cheap meatballs for lunch. Before we left I put on mascara; Not because I cared how lush my lashes looked but because if the babies started to cry and I was in the middle of the office section of ikea, tandom wearing two screaming infants, I thought maybe, just maybe if I looked better, people might judge me with a softer view. Instead of seeing me as a frazzled, failing and crazy woman covered in babies, they might  just see a tired mum doing the best she can while covered in babies.

As it turned out the monkeys were amazing and slept and were happy and when they did cry -in line for meatballs- a stranger was quick to offer help. So many people stopped us to talk, to tell me I was doing a great job,  that while holding so many hands and feet I was holding up so well. Where I had anticipated judgment, I was given encouragement. It wasn’t just the mascara. At least not only the mascara. 

 Easter I took everyone to Raymond to visit my family and give the Hubs a weekend of uninteruppted sleep. On our way home, we stopped at a highway diner for milkshakes and curly fries (how had my children never had curly fries?!?), to nurse the babies and to use the bathroom. We pulled up with the wind cold and blowing.  Squidge didn’t have shoes or socks on and of course no coat because we’d been in the car. I got him out of his seat, tried to wrap him in a blanket while the wind whipped around us and hurried him in. But once inside, realizing all my other kids were still in the van, I was stuck with what to do. So I rushed  back out, the wind snapping the blanket off his cold head and feet, hurrying to get everyone else inside where I handed Squidge to Buster and ran back out for Squdge.

I felt like a disaster. We drove up in a van with a munched in back and broken tail light from that time we were rear-ended. One of my tires was on its way to becoming flat from something I drove over on the Deerfoot. I was sick and feverish and sweaty. The babies were missing socks and shoes and their shirts were dirty and covered in sweet potatoe from feeding them lunch earlier by the side of the road. The Lady hadn’t brushed her hair.  We had to use the bathroom in shifts which meant first leaving twins alone in the booth with my 8 year old and then later relying on a 5 year old to show him how to get to the bathroom. I could feel the eyes of everyone on us and my cheeks burned imagining what they must think of me. 

So when a woman approached us on her way out, I expected her to say the usual “you sure have your hands full” which always feels a bit like  “I see you are clearly in over your head”. But she didn’t. She looked right at Squdge, smiled and told him “Your mother has a beautiful Family”.  Instead of critisimsm I was given kindess. 

 The internet is full of articles about how we judge each other too often.

There’s articles like this http://www.allparenting.com/my-family/articles/968537/women-judging-women 

 And this

http://blog.parentlifenetwork.com/5-types-of-mommy-bullies-youve-probably-met/ 

 And most recently for me the example of the woman who shared her great laundry room makeover and then recieved a lot of flack, for nothing to do with her laundry room, but about her parenting choices.

http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/040915-how-mom-of-6-invited-criticism-building-400-dream-laundry-room/ 

 And so I know judging others and being judged can be a problem and there is always ALWAYS room for more kindness. But I have also started to feel more and more how much kindess and forgiveness and allowance does exist, that we do give each other daily and that maybe we aren’t being judged as harshly by others as we so often assume. 

Several months ago a friend of mine posted some mommy frustration in the middle of the night. Not many people saw it because by morning she’d removed it fearing how others might perceive her. This particular friend is one of the most patient, giving and sweet women I know. No one who knows her could imagine her actually leaving her baby to cry alone for hours in the night. No one could have judged her for feeling tired and cranky in the night time with a baby who wouldn’t sleep, knowing she has 3 other children who would need her in the day time.  And yet the perception of being judged is just as damaging as if we are actually being judged by others. Imagining the negative things others are saying about us is the same as saying it to ourselves. It hurts just the same. So we need to stop. Just. Stop.

 I’m learning to view judgement, real or percieved as a form of advice. I heard once that people with experiences other than our own often feel a responsibility to help, to share what they’ve learned and it comes in the form of advise.  Our responsibility is not to be offended but to then take that information and evaluate it in the context of our own experience and decide if it applies or not.

I love this quote by Chieko Okazaki.

“Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs of your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations. Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others — nearly always this will make you despondent. Don’t accept somebody else’s interpretation of how you should be spending your time. Make the best decision you can and then evaluate it to see how it works.”

How would life be different if we trusted each other more? If instead of assuming others are judging us harshly and looking for ways to put us down, we instead saw cheerleaders; members on the same team; friends who are there to offer support? And how better to teach our children that the world is a kind and safe place than  to look for and find the kindness in others? Because the irony is that the assumption others are judging us critically is a critical judgement in and of itself. We are all in this together but  the belief, allowing ourselves to think that everyone is finding ways they are better than us, makes it impossible to share the experience with the very people who are experiencing or who have experienced the same things. 

Soon the babies will be crawling. Soon the time limit on “it took 9 months to gain that weight, it will take 9 months to take it off” will be up. I can’t promise I’ll feel like I’ve actually recovered. And perhaps there are some who will judge me for that but there are so many more who won’t. Because they know, they’ve been there. I will need kindness. We all need kindness no matter what stage we are in. So allow it. Be kind to yourself, look for it and take it when it is offered because kindness really can be found all around us.




When I was in high school my Grandmother sustained a stroke and came to stay with us. My mom spent hours with her helping to improve her balance, walking, and reading. One of the activities they did to help with her language and sequencing skills was baking- reading and following a recipe.  These ginger cookies remind me of her every time. One of my favorite memories is coming home from school at lunch to find her at the sink washing all the little balls of dough because she had rolled them all in salt instead of sugar. It makes me smile because it’s just the sort of thing I would do!

 The last time I made them Squidge was sick and decided he wanted to nurse For.Ever. So when the timer went off, with him still latched on and refusing to let go I walked in the kitchen to open the oven with my foot.  The Lady,  with oven mitts 6 sizes too big, then carefully took them out of the oven and placed the pan on the cooling rack.  Without any help from me she rolled out the next 12, rolled them in sugar and placed them on the pan. Luckily Buster came home from school then and could help put them in while I stood with a baby still attached to me. Sometimes we are a great team. Sometimes I get desperate. 

 It’s spring and ginger cookies are often associated with cold weather. But try these paired with lemon sorbet. I promise You will not be sorry. The sorbet is perfect for warmer weather and has a fun chemical reaction with the ginger in the cookies to make your tongue tingle and dance; Such a fun dessert. 

 
Grandma Ruth’s Ginger Cookies 

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar + more for rolling
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat together the butter, sugar and egg. Mix in the molasses. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Roll into 1″ balls, roll in sugar and place on an Ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. You’ll want to take them out when they seem a bit under-done because like all cookies they will continue to bake on the pan for a bit after they come out of the oven. 

 Ours were a bit crunchy this time because it took me too long to get to the oven for obvious reasons. When I told the Lady that we cooked them too long, she was quick to correct me. “Actually we bake cookies not cook them but I know what mean.” She’s very forgiving.

“Happiness is a Matter of Rhythm.”— Thomas Merton

Walking home from school, the Lady and I were stomping and crushing the ice with our rubber boots. She laughed as she said “it sounds like this -teeka teeka tee tee teeka tee”. The Lady, the girl who just finished skipping down the street in time to “Mary had a little Lamb” enjoys finding the rhythm in everything. 

Saturday with the sun on our backs, I loaded the Monkeys into the Chariot, pumped up the tires on the Lady’s bike and we set out. It was her first bike ride of the year. There was still ice and snow on the ground. Her legs, so strong by the end last summer had forgotten what to do exactly. Hills were hard. Falling was frustrating. Knowing how fast to pedal and when to slow down felt impossible.  She had lost her rhythm, and it would take time for her to remember. 

 

Before the snow hit again and out for a walk the other day I saw a man in the middle of a field practicing fly fishing; perfecting his rhythm. 

I’m a swimmer. I love the cool water. With my head under beneath the surface I love the quiet, the security the weight of the water provides. I love the relationship between powerfully moving through the water and the relaxed suspension of buoyancy. I feel out of balance when it’s been too long between swims. The last time I swam, my mind was buzzing as I began – I had problems to solve- how to get Squdge and Squidge to nap for more than 20 minutes at a time, grocery lists to formulate, the best way to help Buster with school and sports and being 8, my swimming form to perfect after so many months swimming on top of a very pregnant belly and then months of not swimming at all… It only took me a few hundred meters before I realized I was missing it. I was in the pool but still missing the swim. So I stopped thinking and settled into the pattern of my breathing.

Stroke stroke stroke breathe stroke stroke breathe stroke stroke stroke breatheRhythm. 

When I was coaching a team of young swimmers, I had one little boy on my team who was never very interested in taking my advise. I remember one race in particular. It was 50m free. In his longer races he liked to breathe every other stroke but because this was a race that would last less than a minute, he had a very fast turnover  and it’s faster not to breathe as often, I instructed him to try breathing every 4 or six.  Predictably though He didn’t do what I asked. He instead tried to breathe every 12 strokes. His first 25m was fast but by the 35m mark, with not enough oxygen to his muscles, he tanked. 

The thing is, I too usually think in terms of momentum. An object in motion stays in motion, so get moving. Want to get into shape? Momentum. Overhaul your diet? Momentum. Getting my life together? Momentum. 

But there is more to progress than momentum. There needs to be times of motion, yes, but also times of rest, to breathe, to take in air, feel the water and the music, to enjoy where we are right at that moment without the pressure to be somewhere else, to do something else, to be someone else all. the. time. 

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”— Thomas Merton. 

The seasons change in rhythms of growth, produce and rest. There is day light and night time; High tide and low tides. Our own bodies work  in a state of constant rhythm. Movement is necessary but if not followed by times of adequate rest, time away from both physical and mental stress, it can lead to adrenal fatigue, burn out, a general sense of crankiness and a host of other problems. 

What works for someone else may not work for you because we all have our own rhythm. The amount of sleep you need, how introverted/extroverted you are, overall health and energy levels, emotional resilience, how many little and big people you have in your life that need you…they all affect and are a part of your –my– rhythm. And that’s okay. 

So set goals. Begin moving. But remember that your rhythm is your own. Remind yourself that you don’t need to do everything everyone else is doing and not at their speed.  Rest, the amount of time between movement, is just as important to motion as movement is.

Seek for harmony because balance comes not in successfully juggling everything at once but instead knowing when to act and when rest; knowing when to let go, to breathe ,’to not just hear but stop and enjoy the “teeka teeka tee tee teeka tee” in everything. 



 

 

 

 

Do you know about these Lemon Chips? I’ve had my eye on these little drops of lemony sunshine from BulkBarn for a while. They are so SO good- sweet with just a touch of tart right at the end. 

Someday I’ll make one of of these Baskets of Sunshine to give to someone I love. This popcorn would go so great in one.

It would also be fantastic at a shower, or as a teacher gift, or for your neighbors or pretty much anytime. Buster said it’s the best popcorn he’s ever had, but lately his favorite food seems to be the food he’s eating at that moment. He is so fun to cook for.

But this popcorn is super good. Sweet, subtle, simple. You’ve got to try it.

Lemon Sunshine Popcorn. 

  •  1/3 cup popcorn Kernels popped
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup lemon chips
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt to taste
  • Splash of lemon juice -optional

Pop the popcorn and pour into a large bowl.

Combine the chips in a microwave safe dish, and melt, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent the chocolate from scorching.

When it is nice and creamy, pour over the popcorn, add the zest and stir well to combine.

Spread the mixture out evenly onto a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Let it cool about 10 minutes then break the pieces apart.

If you are eating it right away and don’t mind a few soft pieces, sprinkle just a bit of lemon juice on it to add a little kick.

Store in an airtight container.

I also highly recommend these Lemon Crinkle cookies from Cooking Classy with 1 cup of the lemon chips added.

http://www.cookingclassy.com/2014/06/lemon-crinkle-cookies/

They were Heav.En.Ly! When I open my imaginary bakery, I will be selling these there for pretend sure.  They had a texture I’ve never had in a cookie, almost like a pastry, but everything you want in a cookie. So So So good!

“Enjoy things for what they are instead of what you thought they should be”—Mandy Hale

This week I gave a ride to the Sister Missionaries from our church. As we were pulling out of the garage, one of them asked sweetly “Is your life everything you thought it would be?” I think I responded a little too quickly with “Hah! No!” because the face of this sweet bright-eyed young woman fell almost as quick. Clearly I hadn’t given her the answer she was anticipating. Maybe “all I hoped for and more” was what she wanted to hear; Or “It’s different but Oh so much better. ” When I saw her disappointment I tried to recover with “well, you know, I envisioned myself living in a house with an automatic garage door…”

As we drove we talked a little more about it- about the boy I dated in high school and the life I saw for myself then and how different my life would have turned out had that relationship not ended the way most first loves do. And how it’s so easy when you’re young to create a timeline for yourself but that life rarely follows the plans made by teenagers or 20 year old girls. Of course life changes you and I’m different in so many ways than the girl I was when I made those plans…

I keep coming back to that conversation. What did I imagine my life would be? I can’t actually think of what”everything I imagined” is but most days, in the trenches I’m sure this isn’t it.

Recently Buster did a small presentation in German about his family.

Das ist mein mama. Sie bleibt zu hause. Sie mag Schlaf.

This is my mom. She stays home. She likes sleep.

Except it isn’t. Not Really.

I’m sure my vision included beautiful kids, happy husband, a lovely home, being active in my community, volunteering at the school, having a beautiful yard… I would be loving and patient and my children’s greatest cheerleader, inspiring them to greatness. Of course I would have time for developing my own talents and interests and nights out with friends. And muffins. Good Moms always have home-made muffins.

Maybe you imagined sticky floors and bad hair days and to-do lists undone. I’m sure I must have. But I didn’t imagine how it would feel to have those things every single day. When I imagined craft time with the Lady, I didn’t imagine my already less than steady glitter glue hand being bumped over and over as I try to juggle 2 babies at the same time. I thought of myself doing my little girl’s hair in the morning, but didn’t envision her tender head or her yelling at me like I am trying to murder kindly assist her whenever I attempt a braid. And I didn’t think of the afternoons spent rocking and jostling and fighting crying babies to sleep only to wake them up to take Buster to the pool. I never thought I’d feel so housebound or what it  is to evaluate how tired I am not by how much I’d like a nap ,but in terms of my ability to form complete sentences versus the level of tired that causes double vision.

I know I imagined 4 children. But I didn’t (and how could I?) have known they would come after and between years of infertility. It’s because I know just how blessed I am to have them all, when I am frustrated or angry or at the end of my fuse rope, I feel so much guilt; guilt because with all I have, shouldn’t I be walking around in a state of constant blissful gratitude All. The. Time?

And I know I can’t be the only one. There are so many online posts of things they never tell you about pregnancy or childbirth or staying at home with kids or your first ten years of marriage. Because it really isn’t what anyone imagined. And when people ask how things are going, they really only want half the story so we share the best half and feel like everyone else’s whole lives are made up of all the best halves and why not ours? But then I have these glimpses.

  • At lunch when I am actually on time to pick up the Lady from kindergarten and I have a baby snuggled happily on my front and one sleeping on my back. We walk home holding hands in the sun until Buster runs to catch up behind us and we can all walk together.
  • Saturday afternoon when Squidge and Squdge were both napping at the same time, the Lady was at a tea party and when I suggested to Buster he IMG_5266do something creative, he chose painting, and we had time to practice our water colours together.
  • And how The lady cannot walk by Squdge in the exersauser without hitting it’s music button and dancing a crazy little jig, every single time.
  • Or whenever we develop a system for doing something right- like all 6 of us going swimming together and getting everyone showered and changed without it ending in a mess of forgotten goggles, broken jars of baby lotion and tears. 

It’s important to have vision. To hope. To see things, good things that can come. To remind ourselves that it won’t always be this way. Sometimes that’s all we have to get us through. But there are times, seasons, whole years maybe, when thinking about what you wanted for your life gets in the way of wanting your life.

“When you release expectations you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you thought they should be”   —Mandy Hale

I have so much to enjoy.

But I still wish I lived in a house with an automatic garage door. IMG_5257



I love cookies. I would rather eat a cookie than cake or pie any day. I love how satisfying it is to bite into the perfectly chewy and sweet with just a little crunch of a cookie. I like them hot out of the oven, frozen, with milk, with peanut butter spread on like icing…I had someone ask me once if I even ate carbs because my lunch was all meat and veggies and fruit. I replied that I do, I just prefer to get my carbs from cookies. Its a bit of a problem.

To add variety and speed up our mornings a little bit, I decided to try my hand at breakfast cookies. Of course “healthy” is relative. These aren’t as healthy as a lot of breakfast choices, but since my kids love to eat pancakes and eggs drowning in maple flavored corn syrup, or french toast with icing sugar and chocolate sauce, when put on the scale of fun breakfasts, they are pretty healthy.

These breakfast cookies are no joke. They have the joy of a cookie while still giving you a bit of that “stick to your ribs” feeling that a bowl of oatmeal would leave you with. They are kind of like a really dense muffin, or a soft, not so sticky granola bar. They aren’t too sweet but the dates add that little bit of chewiness and well, the chocolate chips…

Incidentally, on Friday I made this recipe: http://www.amittenfullofsavings.com/easy-breakfast-recipe-omelet-breakfast-bites/

Buster took one bite and shouted “First breakfast cookies and now breakfast cupcakes?! I love my life!”

Ginny’s Breakfast Cookies

  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 3 Tbsp Chia seeds
  • 1 large ripe banana mashed
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup nut butter **I used natural peanut butter. If you chose peanut butter with added sugar, you might want to decrease the sugar in the recipe
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • **1/2 tsp salt if using unsalted nut butter
  • 1 cup pitted dates chopped fine **For a little more tartness try 1/2 cup dates and 1/2 cup craisins.
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk and chia. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes so the chia can soften and gel.

Stir in the mashed banana, apple sauce, egg, peanut butter and sugar. Mix until smooth.

Add the oatmeal, coconut, chopped dates and chocolate chips. Stir to combine. The consistency will be like a thick batter.

Drop about 2 tbsp each onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or greased. With a spoon flatten and shape into cookie rounds. Bake for 20 minutes.

—Makes about 18 cookies

IMG_5262-0

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“Energies are contagious”—Rachel Wolchin

“Surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel. Energies are contagious”—-Rachel Wolchin

I’ve been thinking about woven fabrics lately with all the baby wearing talk on my Facebook. While I’m not ready for woven wrap baby wearing, I think they are so beautiful. Woven fabric can range from a loose to tight weave, a weave with diagonal give to no stretch at all, a grippy to slick weave based on the fabrics being used (cotton, silk, linen, bamboo…) and how they are laced and fit together.

I’m soft. It feels like no matter what I wear, My clothes seem to show every bit of squishy me- not enough muscle, not enough structure, too much of everything else. Things feel tight where they should be loose and loose where they should be tight. And it’s not about how I look, not really. It’s about how I feel. And I know. IknowIknowIknowIknow. This body- my body, spent 9 months creating these 2 tiny people and it’s going to take time.

And I know. IknowIknowIknow. Six months from now I’ll be living in the body I started to build today. But that’s just it- I haven’t really been building a body today. I went from eating-whatever-I-want-because-I-Just-gave-birth-to-twins right into “Oh little town of constantly eating” Christmas then the comfort-food-because-you’re-tired-and-depressed-January became buy-a-bunch-of-candy-to-make-sweet-valentines-but-then-eat-it-all-myself-February.

IMG_5150

But I’ve gone back to teaching aquafit. Just one night each week for now. It’s been 4 weeks. Four Drop-In classes and four bootcamps. And it’s so good for me. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. The splashing water, the bright pool lights, the pumped up music. The pressure on me to be excited and positive and energetic. There is something so cathartic about being paid to yell at people for 2 hours- “Harder! Faster! You think I can’t see you? I see you! I know you can do better than that!” It’s good to be surrounded by people who want to get fit, to be a part of it, to be responsible for creating and reflecting that energy.

Wednesday I went to watch the elementary school indoor games. It was the 8×200 relays. Buster joined his school running club after Christmas and even though he’s in grade 3 and only second alternate and didn’t get to run, it was fantastic to go and cheer; Important to tell him over and over how exciting it was to watch his team and how amazing that he gets be part of a team like this. I just love to see people really rock their sport, giving their all. Of course there is something to be said for and admired in the back of the pack participant who perseveres. I stand and cheer for the underdog with the rest. But it’s the person who creams the competition, who has prepared and worked for it and not just wins but blows it out of the water that pulls at my heart and our A-team boys lapped every other team in their heat. It was incredible to watch. The energy in our little corner of the stands as we cheered for each student as they ran by was inspiring.

And I missed that. I miss feeling like that myself. I miss it when I go to a pool and have to swim in a lane with “recreational” swimmers because I can’t keep up to the serious swimmers. I miss it whenever I drive past someone running, really running. I missed it on Saturday standing in line at Costco behind the woman with the Ironman Finisher jacket. I miss that part of me- The me who wasn’t the fastest one running in the river valley, but who felt like a runner; The me who could do a strong 3000m in the fast swim lane in under 50 minutes ; The me who didn’t just do triathlons, but was a triathlete. It feels like a dream, a dream I want back. I want to be a part of the fit and fast and love to kill it without killing myself culture, to feel the momentum of growth and ever changing training plans and progress and energy…at least a little bit.

I’ve just finished a week long food challenge- no dairy, grains or sugar. Its felt so great to take care of myself, of what my body needs to feel good and strong (except for weak times when I wanted to eat chocolate chips or chew off my fingers). It was important to be reminded that food isn’t just for filling a momentary emotional void, that 5 months of lack of sleep isn’t going to be fixed by another handful of corn chips. Food is for fueling my machine of a body. And even though I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, it took a challenge full of people I haven’t actually met to get me to where I wanted to be all along. I needed the energy of group momentum, to cheer and be cheered for by others. I needed to be a part of ever changing menu plans and physical change. Exercise club is back on.

IMG_5239

So I’m on my way. Slowly. I heard once that it’s pretty impossible to find a balanced life -all we can do is have a woven life- Weaving in healthy eating and fitness between the threads of children and husbands and school and church and dishes and nap-time and laundry and icy sidewalks…so I’m slowly weaving. I may be a soft weave for now. But I won’t be forever. I’ll keep working at it (and working and working and working at it) and surround myself with others who are doing the same. Each day my weave will get stronger and so will I.

IMG_5233How do you find a way to fit in all you need to and still time for the things you enjoy?



The Lady had a birthday party to go to the first day of my food challenge. I often make gluten free cupcakes to send with her to a party and Monday was no exception. Cupcakes are fun but I always feel like the secret to a good cupcake is in the frosting. Good cupcake frosting should be light and fluffy and melt on your tongue and not too sweet and stand up when piped and it has always alluded me. Is it that I refuse to add enough sugar? Enough butter? That I expect too much without the use of flour, egg whites and cream of tartar?

Monday we made chocolate coconut cupcakes and so I wanted a chocolate coconut frosting. This frosting did not disappoint. It was creamy, rich, not too sweet or heavy and did well when piped. Days later it was still soft without melting into the cupcake. The Hubs called it “dangerously good”. My dad spread it on bread like Nutella. It almost has a mousse like texture and could be served that way- my favourite way- with some fruit. Or, and let’s be honest, with a spoon right out of the jar.

Chocolate Coconut Mousse Frosting
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Open your coconut milk and scoop just the firm and creamy coconut oil off the top, leaving the watery bit and place in a mixing bowl. If it doesn’t seem firm enough, almost like butter, place your can uncovered in the fridge over night.

Add the cocoa, vanilla, and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Of course you can go right in with beaters but experience and cleanup would suggest mixing it a little first with a fork to avoid the fun —Poopth– of sugar and coco dust that beaters and fine powder like to create.

Store in the fridge.

IMG_5242If you’re interested in my gluten free coconut cupcake recipe I’d be happy to share it. It’s one of my most successful gluten free adaptations.

“We are Never Alone”— Elaine S. Dalton

Sometimes I feel so alone. Stuck, immovable in my lonesomeness. The irony of living in a 850 square foot house with 2 babies who don’t sleep well, the Lady who hasn’t stopped talking since the day she was born and Buster who never really learned to play with toys because that would require entertaining himself, is that I’m never ever alone. And yet…

My friends have been so kind. I’ve had meals and house cleaners and hands to hold babies and offers to take the older kids so that I can buy food or swim or wander aimlessly around ValueVillage, recharging, reminding myself that I’m not alone in this mother of a hard thing I’m doing. And yet…

And yet I alone wake up 4 and 5 times each night to feed and comfort babies. I alone spend my afternoons helping the Lady with her various projects trying to listen and respond to her constant narration, all the while pacing and dancing and bouncing around the kitchen being Sherpa to a screaming baby on my back and a crying baby on my front. And at church I wander the halls through each time block wondering why I even bother going but know that if I didn’t, I would just be at home with 2 crying babies instead of at church.

Buster was baptized on Saturday. As we prepared the program, I watched a lot Mormon messages. This one by Elaine S Dalton is one of my very most favorites.

I’ve seen it before but still found myself on the couch nursing Squidge and trying to stifle my ugliest of ugly cries. I was right there with her on Heartbreak hill. I felt her broken and discouraged heart. I understood when she realized that no matter how hard, if she gave up and quit, she’d be lost and alone. And I wanted to feel the cheers of those in the crowd encouraging her on. This is what she said

That day I learned that no matter how well prepared you think you are, there are hills on the course and sometimes added to the hills will be wind and rain and adverse circumstances that will come upon you and your own strength to press forward will not be enough. I learned that people cheering for you along the way are absolutely essential. I learned again that day that we are never alone.

As I watched her message again at the baptism, I looked around and saw 60 people. 60 of our family and my friends who had come (some of them driving for hours through bad winter conditions) because they care about Buster. But in doing so I felt them supporting, cheering me on as well. And I wasn’t alone.

IMG_5088Monday afternoon it became clear that the babies needed to get out of the house and so did I. We made two stops for groceries. Pushing a double car seat stroller through isles of a grocery store feels a lot like trying to steer a too long kayak through the strong current of a slow river of gravy. Not much more difficult though than trying to navigate though the slow gravy that my mind has become. The twins always enjoy celebrity status and with so many new things to see and people to talk to they quieted for the first time in hours. One of the ladies who stopped to talk didn’t come to admire the babies. She stopped to talk to me. She said words that in that moment were exactly the words I needed to hear, right in the very most tired and worn out part of my soul. “I can only imagine, and I can tell you’re doing a great job.”  As if to say “keep Going Utah! Don’t Cry Utah!”

When we got home and the babies were crying again I realized that I hadn’t picked up any of the groceries from the first store. I just left them sitting there. But instead of my usual internal dialogue I heard my parking lot cheerleader “I can only imagine…you’re doing great”. Instead of wondering why I so clearly can’t even handle the most basic of tasks like picking up the box of groceries I just paid for, I felt like it was a mistake anyone who is a bit overtired and has her hands a bit too full might make.

While on Grocery trip 2.0, Squidge fell asleep and left me with a few minutes of much needed 1:1 play time with this guy.

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Having people to cheer you on along are way really are essential. Nothing had changed really (except my fridge full of well earned fresh produce!) but having people to cheer for me when I wasn’t sure how I would take one more step changed how it all felt. And that changed everything. And I wasn’t alone.

Who are your best Cheerleaders? Who are you cheering for?



No recipe this time. Its February. The view from my front window looks like this. Pretty darn Grey.

IMG_5013Dar Williams, one of my favorite singer/songwriters has a song called February.

First we forgot where we’d planted those bulbs last year
And then we forgot that we’d planted at all
Then we forgot what plants are altogether
And I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting
And the nights were long and cold and scary, can we live through February?

…I have lost to February

She gets it. I get it. To break away from the February greys blues I tried making the perfect lemon zucchini loaf. Trying to fit just the right amount of yellow citrus sunshine into my baking, and 3 loaves later I learned that I’m not very good at loaves. And I learned that I like lemon and I love zucchini but I don’t actually like lemon and zucchini together. So, Share with me your favorite way to use lemon. I’d love to try some new ideas.

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“Do small things with great love”– Mother Theresa

Gone are the days of hopping out of bed at 8:20 and having my kids to school on time. Even if they are already dressed and have had breakfast and all I’m required to do is pack a snack and remind them to brush hair, I just can’t do it. The Me, Myself and I of last year has become Squidge, Squdge and Ginny and we are a lot slower.

Friday morning Buster had running club and was already at school when my alarm went off at 8:15. I could hear Lady eating breakfast and Squdge singing his morning siren song. I eased out of bed, shuffled out to give the Lady a quick good morning. The next 15 minutes sounded like this: “Did you brush your hair? What? You didn’t do your home reading? Get me a diaper please so I can change this guy while you read. Hurry! No, we don’t have time for you to help. Just get the diaper. Okay, I’m starting the reading timer. You don’t need to watch me do this, just read. That word is ‘said’. Okay, socks. No! Why are you touching the baby? I asked you to get socks on. Hurry. I know he’s cute, but you’re going to be late. Please brush your hair. Don’t play with the baby until you’re all ready. Coat lady. COAT! Focus! I’ll just change Squidges diaper while you put on your coat. Zip it up. Brush your hair now! Why are you in here without boots on yet? Your bell already rang! Hurry…”

I hustled the four of us out the door and then struggled to push the stroller through the soft alley snow as fast as I could force encourage everyone. Then a short 1/2 block from our house–only a half block– the Lady slipped on the ice and exploded into tears. Not the “the ground is hard” kind of crying that her fall deserved but rather they were the “everything in my life is hard” kind of sobs I’m becoming more and more familiar with. Looking at her and the school and my watch and how far we had still to go, I grumbled in my own –everything is hard–voice “maybe you shouldn’t even go to school today!”
The way my beautiful little 5 year old then looked at me with eyes wide with relief and surprise and gratitude broke my heart.  What she really needed was to not hurry. She needed kindness. She needed understanding. She needed me to just be there with her in that moment. So I took a breath and said again in a softer kinder voice, almost the first kind voice of the morning, “Maybe you and I need a morning at home together”.
“Uh huh”‘she whispered.

So we headed home. Instead of rushing down the ally we took the longer sidewalk route. We stopped to break through ice puddles with our boots and look at the sunrise and contemplate which of the ice formations were made by Jack Frost and which ones Elsa might have made. And all along we held hands.

The morning at home wasn’t spectacular. We cleaned up her craft corner. We made cupcakes. She told me about the boy she thinks is in love with her. She watched Barbie Dream house and I bounced babies. But we called it a relationship day and everything we did, we did with more time and more awareness and more love. Something we can all use more of.

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Cranberry Granola Bars
We don’t really handle a lot of nuts or oats very well at our house so I’ve made these to replace the bulk of oats in traditional granola bars with coconut and Rice Krispies. They are soft and chewy but the rice adds just the right amount of crunch. The tart craisins balance the richness of the nut butters. I made mine this time with half peanut butter and half cashew butter. They are also excellent made with a mix of sunflower and soy butters to be nut allergy safe.

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup agave Nectar (or light corn syrup or the equivalent of honey thinned with water)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup nut butter

Toast the oats and coconut in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl combine the toasted oats, coconut, cranberries and Rice Krispies.

Melt over medium heat, stirring often to avoid scorching, the agave, sugar and butters. When it is nice and runny pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Scoop the mixture Into a 9×13 Pan and press hard to pack together. If you have a small rolling-pin that works well or place another 9×13 Pan over top and push down hard. If you happen have a small person helping you they can stomp around on it to pack it down.

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Cool in the fridge and then cut into desired size. Store them in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer.

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“I just need to put my head down and shuffle forward”— Chalene Johnson

Common knowledge suggests that it takes 21 days to form a habit, right? I’ve just recently learned that that isn’t necessarily true. The truth is, how long it takes to establish a new habit depends on how difficult of a change it is. The average habit actually takes 66 days. The 21 day rule was born out of how long it took plastic surgery patients in the 50’s to get used to a new nose!    Read more here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5104807
The fact that some habits take longer to solidify is great news when it comes to New Years resolutions right?  If a habit hasn’t sunk in yet, no need to throw in the towel, it just may take more time.
This past New Years, the chance to set goals, make changes and start fresh got me down in a way I haven’t quite been able to shake. The enormity of what it means to have doubled our number of children hit and buried me like a ton of diapers bricks and I’ve spent the last 21 habit-forming days struggling to climb out and find hope.

Last week as I was cleaning my kitchen (New years resolution #1- develop a weekly routine of daily chores to hit every zone of my house and reduce clutter), I was listening to the Chalene Show, a podcast that touches on just about everything success related. As I mopped, this quote from an episode on motivation grabbed me

“I don’t need to run, I don’t need to sprint. I just need to put my head down and shuffle forward. If I continue to shuffle forward, as long as I keep moving I am making progress.”

I was still thinking it about it as I set out Thursday to cross-country ski.

photo 2If you live near me, chances are you’re familiar with CyclingMamas. The group meets 2x/week in the spring and fall to cycle together in the river valley. With the exception of duty days, you drop off your kids for an hour and have that time to get out and be active with a very supportive bunch of women. In the winter, CyclingMamas become “Grace Gliders” and even though it feels a bit over ambitious, I’ve signed up for it because —imagine me trying to claw my way out from under a pile of bricks here—I need it.  I need to remember what it feels like to be me unattached to Squidge or Squdge. I need to be outside without fighting with a double stroller through the snow. I need some introvert time.

Thursday the conditions were perfect-foggy and frosty but not too cold. It’s been warm enough that the beautifully groomed tracks were just the right amount of fast. I did 2 loops around the lake and felt it in my back, arms, chest lungs, legs, hips, abs… Even though I longed for fast powerful strides, my post-twins body really couldn’t do more than shuffle along at a hard 8km/hour- the same speed coincidentally (and I’m trying not to over think this) that hippos swim.
But just because it wasn’t as strong as I’d like yet, didn’t mean it was fruitless.  The effort is what mattered (and rendered me disabled incapacitated a bit sore for the next few days). I so enjoyed being outside, feeling and hearing the rhythmic swish swish swish of my skis gliding in the tracks.

So, 2015 is my year to shuffle forward, reminding myself along the way that its okay to shuffle. Accomplishing my goals is going to take longer. Its going to be harder, my goals smaller. It’s going to take some figuring out how to balance the pursuit of my personal goals with the needs of everyone living in my house, my level of fatigue and with what my 2 adorable little dictators will allow. Despite what I feel on my most tired and discouraged days, It doesn’t mean that having goals for myself is impossible.

Like skiing, it will probably really bring out my soft spots. On Thursday that felt like every part of me. Some days it feels like every area of my life. But Isn’t that why we set goals and make resolutions in the first place? To improve. We pick the areas we aren’t good at. Anytime we focus on our weaknesses, there are bound to be discouraging times. But there are also bound to be times when conditions are perfect and I can enjoy the smooth rhythm of growth.

It’s okay if it takes more than 21days. As long as I’m shuffling forward, I’m making progress.

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Soup! This soup is perfect for a light lunch after skiing (or sledding, or napping or reading a book or just about anything). The way the gentle heat from the ginger and the sweet carrots combine to warm you from your mouth to your heart to your tummy is just about as comforting as it gets.  It tastes like what I imagine the colour Golden to taste like. It is So SO good.

Golden Soup (Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup)

  •  2.5  lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks. For me, this was about 8 carrots, half of my 5lb bag.
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

I roasted the carrots early in the morning while we were busy doing early morning activities so that I wouldn’t have to think about it (or wait for the carrots to roast) later. New Years Resolution #2, think early in the morning about whats for supper and get it prepped.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Melt 1 Tbsp of the coconut oil in a microwave safe dish then add the carrots and toss to coat them in oil. In a medium baking dish or on a cookie sheet, spread them evenly and put in oven- stirring once halfway through roasting until they’re soft, slightly brown and caramel looking. This takes about 45 minutes.

photo 1Melt the rest of the coconut oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for just a couple of minutes until it’s translucent. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until the onions start to brown, 4 to 5 min. Add the roasted carrots, chicken broth, and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Cook at a good simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 30 min.  Then purée. If you have an immersion blender, use it right in the pot, but if not then purée it in a blender in batches. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I garnished mine with cinnamon carrot chips that I made, but they seemed like too much work for how good they were. If you make this, let me know how you garnished it.

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