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Month: February, 2014

Juicing

Her: Wow, you look amazing.
Me: Well, the last time you saw me I was 4 months post-partum, and my maternity leave had just ended. I’m definitely less delirious and sleep-deprived than I was then.
Her: It’s more than that, you’re really radiant.
Me: Well, thank you! 
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Her (owner of a number of amazing restaurants in Saratoga Springs, NY): The restaurants are doing wonderfully. We just opened a juice bar right on Broadway.
Me: How fantastic. You know, I’m in the middle of a five day juice cleanse. 
Her: Well THAT explains that glowy radiance!

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I don’t know if everyone would say that I’m farting rainbows and sunshine right now, but I’m more than happy to take the compliment. And, admittedly, I’m FEELING like a ray of sunshine (I know, Gag! Groan! Eye Roll! (but it’s the truth)) and I think that that is ultimately why I am writing this post.

I’m on day five of a five day juice cleanse.

And I feel incredible.

The fact that I am sitting in my office, fully showered, dressed, fed (er, juiced) and am in the midst of a blog post before 7:30am speaks volumes. I even got the most coveted parking spot for the building. A first in four years! Huzzah!

James and I decided to do a juice cleanse this week as we were in a sluggish, cheese and bread induced winter coma. The bloat, the tiredness, the flatulence!, the lethargy that comes from surviving a crazy cold winter with comfort foods and a daily habit of bread baking, while delicious and wonderful in many respects, was taking its toll. It’s not that we weren’t eating all the other food groups, it’s just that bread and cheese were the overwhelming majority. And we were feeling the physical impact.

I hesitated to write about it because I know that I find diet and exercise posts self-indulgent and lame and often very misguided. But this was a really worthwhile experience, and given that there are so many fad “juice cleanses” on the Interwebs, I wanted to write about our experience in the hopes of providing another (far more affordable) avenue for those considering a cleanse.

We worked with a local nutritionist (who is available to anyone – we actually never even met in person) for a whooping $5 per person and made all the juices ourselves, in our own kitchen, with our own ingredients. I really can’t advocate enough for that kind of hands on control. It was a way to really understand exactly what we were putting into our body for those five days, and I liked being able to still prepare daily meals, even if they were all being blended together into a mush. Especially since the girls were witnessing this cleanse (we were obviously still preparing full meals for them), I wanted them to see that James and I were still “eating” real food. And, the goal is to never feel hungry. If you’re hungry, you make another smoothie. This was by no means an exercise in starvation.

Renee, the nutritionist, emailed a list of smoothie/juice recipes on Sunday evening and we filled our fridge with the resulting abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that we’d need for the week. We prepared all of the meals in a blender (not juicer) to be sure to reap all the nutritional benefits. I drank lots of herbal tea throughout, and heavily utilized my “Citrus Zinger” water bottle that Kimmy gifted me this Christmas (an easy way to infuse fresh citrus into your daily water).  We’d receive a daily email with new recipes, encouragement, and a description of what we might be experiencing on that given day as a result of the cleanse.

Day 1 and 2 were (as expected) the hardest. In the evenings I was headachy and James was irritable. But we powered through, and by Wednesday, I was feeling great. Energized. Alert. Clean. By Thursday, I wasn’t craving solid food as I had earlier in the week, and found it very easy to get through the day. We did very mild “exercise” (think: leisurely walks) with the exception of my TRX class today, as I didn’t want to derail my body from the cleanse. The hardest part of the cleanse in my opinion was meal planning and “packing” drinks for the office or getting home during the work day to make a fresh drink. I also really missed the communal nature of eating with friends and loved ones.

Someone asked if I was stepping on the scale at all during the cleanse, and while many people use juice cleanses as a weight loss mechanism, that was never my goal. I also think scales (used as a stand alone) are a pretty poor measure of health and wellness. I weighed more than I had in years (pregnancy an exception) at the height of my half marathon training – I was needing to eat like crazy to keep up the training and I had far more muscle mass than I had previously. My weight gain was a sign of strength and fitness. And while I am certain I “lost weight” during this five days merely based on my constant runs to the bathroom to urinate  (it was like pregnancy redux) – I’d wager that it was predominately water weight, and not a weight loss that will be sustained once I begin eating solid foods and a more well rounded diet. While the juices are clean and nutritious, they lack the necessary fats and carbohydrates and protein that one needs for long term wellness.

But I am so glad that James and I went through this experience together. I’ve been inspired to begin my days with more green, leafy vegetables for the way  that they make my body feel alive and awake. I’ve been reminded that my body doesn’t need large portions to feel full and satisfied and fueled if I’m feeding it nutrient-rich food. Since we’re headed into a 10 day vacation, these lessons will be a wonderful reminder during a time that we might otherwise forgo balanced meals and taking care of our bodies.

If you’re interested in giving a juice cleanse a try, I recommend that you connect with Renee from Eat To Total Health. Now that I’m on the other side of the five days, I definitely recommend the experience.

Have you ever done a juice cleanse? How’d it make you feel? Or, if you haven’t, would you ever consider doing one? I’d love to hear your stories!

Clara

I wasn’t kidding when I said that it’s been a baby bonanza around these parts. Just yesterday, I spent the evening with one of my former Goucher students slash my go-to dogsitter for Ursa when we lived in Baltimore, and her adorable 2 month old son. It was bittersweet being together as Allie knew Ursa from puppyhood and loved her as I did. She truly understood what made that dog so damn special. Gladdy is so much like Ursa in so many ways that are simultaneously heartbreaking and completely amazing. It was wonderful for Allie to meet her and see that Ursa’s spirit is alive and well on the farm.

And of course James and I got a chance for more baby snuggling thanks to her adorable son Wyatt. This, of course, coming off of a weekend that we spent cuddling baby Jack, and a visit east to sweet baby Clara.

Clara’s mom, Lydia, is my oldest friend. Lydia has a sister two years younger, who is Kimmy’s oldest friend. Now Lydia has two daughters, two years apart, just as I have two daughters, two years apart. The sisterly love runs strong among this particular lot. It was a treat to spend time photographing their family during this new and exciting stage of their lives.

Here are my favorite images from our time together. The photographs outside were taken at the Yacht Club where we all grew up sailing together. My childhood home is just around the corner from that spot, and I was reminded of how unbelievably lucky I was to be raised in such a beautiful, magical place.

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Tiggly

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This is a very typical scene in our home on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. On those days, the girls go to the local community preschool. While James and I fly around the house feeding the dogs, letting the chickens out of the coop, cooking breakfast, showering, packing nap sacks, and generally attempting an organized departure from our house for the day, the girls sit huddled on the couch over an iPad.

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We let them indulge in the “electronic babysitter” as it makes our ability to get out the door far smoother. And it helps that the games we let them play are from a company called Tiggly, which was founded by a college classmate of ours, and has a number of Eph employees (including a good friend who writes for their blog). The games are educational and entertaining, and keep the girls occupied and content for extended periods of time. They play the games with a series of Tiggly shapes (triangle, circle, square, star) to do everything from build animals, to tell stories, to illustrate and animate characters.

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We are headed to Florida on Saturday to visit James’ parents (and I have a work event mid-week) and we fully intend to rely on Tiggly to help get us through the flight South. I really love that the girls are engaged while they have time with the iPad, and that all their time in front of the screen is not just passive movie watching (to which I’m certainly not opposed, either, but, back to my mantra, Everything in moderation).

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^^They totally just created a lion and are demonstrating his vocal orations.^^

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I particularly love these movies that Sunny compiles with her Tiggly creations. It’s so much fun to see her creativity at work in multiple capacities. Here’s “The Story of the Two Girls.”

You can purchase Tiggly shapes here. And the Tiggly apps are free to download in the Apple Store. 

Jack

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I’m absolutely my biggest critic when it comes to my photography. I find flaws with almost every image I take, ever wishing for more skill, a better eye, talents I’m constantly working to improve. But the image above? I’m really really proud of the image above. And I rarely say that – but that image, well it’s doing exactly what I saw in my head and is having the impact I envisioned as I pulled back and hit the shutter. And I’m even more thrilled that it represents this particular new family, who has come through hell and high water for this love and happiness, for this very moment.

Meet Jack. The sweetest little monster I ever did snuggle (and boy did we snuggle).

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Currently Reading

For Miles and Ivan, my memoir seemed simple. I was sad about Silvan dying, but happy about them. As we struggled together in the front hall, however, I felt the distance between us and that happy ending. Ten years on, we were living something almost harder to describe, something less dramatic, something so common people hardly ever talked about it.

We were in the midst of an ordinary life.

Take a moment out of your ordinary life today and read the whole piece.

Wow.

Auntie Kimmy

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This past weekend, Sunny and I got a chance to check out Kimmy’s new diggs.

We headed east to meet Baby Clara (a childhood friend’s newest family member) and to take some family portraits of the inaugural Family of Four. Momar and Kimmy met us in Cohasset to also meet Clara and then entertain Sunny while I snapped photos (images forthcoming later this week!). We then headed south, grabbed some dinner with Momar before her return to the Cape (to play nurse maid to my father who’d come down with her cold – she is a teacher, after all, so winter bugs are always a challenge), and continued on to the South Coast of Massachusetts.

Kimmy made a momentous career shift this summer when she decided that after nearly seven years of marine lab research, she did not in fact want to pursue a PhD and thus the life of a research scientist. She packed up her life in Woods Hole at the Marine Biological Laboratory and is now a biology and marine science high school teacher at Tabor Academy. And, sweet lord, her life is as dreamy and aquatic and beachy as ever.

I am so proud of her for making this brave change. Recognizing in herself a love of science, but particularly, a love of being with others and TEACHING others that same love. How lucky her students are to have such a vibrant, intelligent, funny, committed teacher to shepherd them through their high school years. And while teaching at a boarding school is proving to be a 24/7 job, the school couldn’t be a better fit, what with its campus literally on the beach, its shingled buildings, its amazing sailing program, its extensive marine biology lab, its Tall Ship? She even lives in the tower of an old wind mill built in 1890.

Her life is so stinking cool. And Sunny and I were thrilled to finally experience it firsthand.

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^^Behold said windmill.^^

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^^As I mentioned, I’m completely enamored with the morning light at Kimmy’s kitchen table. Sunny was equally as enamored with Auntie Kimmy’s ukelele that matched her outfit just so. We know what she now wants for her 5th birthday this May.^^

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^^We visited Tabor’s marine lab so that Kimmy could feed her aquatic dependents and Sunny witnessed a clown fish “brushing” on an anemone  a la “Finding Nemo”.^^

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^^And we watched Jellyfish eat their breakfast.^^

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^^This makes me want to pick up and move to Marion, MA for my children’s high school years. And you never know… you just never know.^^

8/52

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.”

Sunny: This weekend, Sunny and I went on a mama/daughter visit to Cohasset (my childhood hometown) and to Auntie Kimmy’s house on the South Coast of Massachusetts. Kaki and James stayed in Vermont with our four-legged and winged critters. The sunlight in Kimmy’s kitchen this morning was insane. I would live in that room if I were here. Bed and all. 
Kaki: Perched in front of the wood stove like a proper Vermonter. Reading stories, head band apparently keeping her ears glued to her cranium.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

KIDS ONLY

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My favorite museum in all the land happens to reside in a town adjacent to where we live. (Founded by an Eph, home of our wedding reception, and education hub of the internship component of my Master’s degree – not to mention all around badass art museum – there are many reasons we adore MassMoCA)  If you are ever in the Northern Berkshires, do not miss the opportunity to visit The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art – the largest modern art museum in the U.S. We are fortunate in that James and I have memberships to the museum thanks to our employer and thus free admission, and our children also qualify for free entry, so on restless, snowy, winter weekends, the museum is an amazing place to find reprieve.

A few weekends back, I brought the girls and we spent the majority of our time at Kidspace:

A child-centered art gallery where professional, contemporary artists exhibit their work, Kidspace is also a hands-on studio where children create and study art. The art chosen for exhibition is used as a vehicle for discussing contemporary social issues, making evident topics of concern to children, and challenging notions about art and art materials. Key to this curatorial vision is that we do not “kiddify” or “dumb-down” exhibitions for children. Artists are selected for their works’ educational and artistic merit, and exhibitions have featured renowned artists from around the world.

No surprise, I’m as obsessed with Kidspace as my children.

The girls spent hours rotating between the hands on, art project portion of the space to the hands on, art interaction portion of the space. They particularly delighted in the fact that the artwork was for KIDS ONLY. I was admittedly jealous of all their playtime with this bird made of buttons meticulously pinned to the wall. The girls dropped buttons strewn about the ground in between the bird’s button wings, and delighted in the unexpected, musical result of such play.

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They were less impressed with the Sol LeWitt retrospective, but I cannot NOT visit these epic wall drawings. My Master’s degree is in Public Art, y’all. I understandably nerd out every time I step foot in these galleries.

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As I was quoted in The Record article earlier this week, I feel incredibly lucky to raise my girls with this kind of easy, affordable, abundant access to art and culture.

This weekend will not be filled with art, but with babies! We are meeting two sweet new babes this weekend – a son of my dear college friend and a daughter of my dear childhood friend. Sunny is going to lose her mind in baby bliss. Actually, we all will.

Addison & Courtland

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Mommy! Hold me!

A flurry of tiny limbs scramble across the couch and into my arms. Her face presses desperately into the nook of my chest, shielding her eyes from the dragon on the screen before us.

The girls are experiencing Sleeping Beauty for the first time, my favorite childhood Disney movie. While I have many conflicted emotions about our society’s “princess culture,” I’m not one to withhold it from them entirely.

Everything in moderation. A balance of Princesses and Legos (gender neutral ones at that), Goldie Blox and PlayMobiles.

It’s okay, baby. Momma’s got you.

I stroke her hair, aware of the profound impact human touch has on my youngest. She who reaches for my hand during long car rides, and insists on back rubs to welcome slumber, or needs soothing embraces for comfort when frightened or upset.

My feisty, strong-willed, stubborn, independent, opinionated baby needs our affection just as much as her tender-hearted older sister.

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I tend to highlight the differences between my daughters, showcasing their distinct identities and personalities. They are not the same, they are their own independent people, despite the facial structures, hair color, eye shade, and towering statures that forever shall link them as siblings.

But they are so much more alike than I ever give them credit for in this space. I was writing an email to Sunny’s Fairy Godmother this week and found myself discussing these similarities and thought it was worth sharing here, as this is ultimately a space that I hope the girls will experience when they’re older to better understand themselves, their childhoods, and their mother.

Sunny can be reserved and soft-spoken. Shy. But when comfortable, she exudes the same wild spirit and energy of her baby sister. And Courtland, while in the safety of our home, our family, is vibrant and loud. Fearless. However, in the classroom, in new places, with foreign faces, she retreats inside, silent, reserved, a shell of her natural state.

When Sunny began preschool, James and I worried about her hesitant, quiet disposition among her peers. We weren’t surprised by this behavior, as both James and I were shy children in school and we’d observed Sunny’s more reserved side. (Yes, I was a shy, even QUIET, child – I know! Amazing what growth and confidence can do for a person). We worked closely with her teachers to help overcome this shyness, as she was allowing herself to be lost in the bustle of the classroom by shutting down and keeping to herself. We suggested small group play, one on one attention from her teachers whenever possible, reading books, singing songs and playing games that were beloved in our home. It took nearly two years, but now that Sunny is in her final year of preschool, she has come into her own. She is animated and vibrant in the classroom, among her peers, with her teachers and other adults.

We had a parent-teacher conference in January to talk about Sunny’s progress and readiness for the next big step, Kindergarden (I’m getting misty just writing the word!). How assured and happy we were to hear her teachers express a true confidence and delight in our daughter’s abilities. They spoke to how ready she is for kindergarden. How she is such a curious child, interested in reading and sounding out words even though that’s not the focus of preschool. They mentioned that she’s not afraid to ask the teachers for help when she is having trouble, which brings us such comfort as we want our children to always push themselves and challenge themselves but never be too proud to ask for guidance or support. They also spoke to Sunny’s quiet independence. They said that she’s really comfortable doing her own thing. She’s not swayed by the peer pressure of the classroom – her friends may all be playing dress up and she’s very content to turn down their offers to be included and play independently (usually at the art table – she loves loves loves painting and drawing with all her heart) but she also engages in group play and is kind and sensitive with her peers. These are really affirming and heartwarming things to hear. If I wish anything for my children it’s that they feel comfortable and confident being who they are and following their interests/passions without insecurity about other people’s expectations of them – that coupled with a natural curiosity and thirst for learning will lead to a fulfilling life – and what could be more wonderful for a parent to envision for their child! Given that she was not always so comfortable at this school, it’s really REALLY rewarding to hear that she’s navigated that discomfort and is now a very happy and engaged participant in her classroom. And that she is clearly beloved by her teachers is icing on the cake.

It’s funny, we thought Courtland would be the opposite – outgoing and intense and passionate in school the way that she is at home – but, as it turns out, she is far more like her sister than I often verbalize. Kaki has had a challenging adjustment to school, and not in the ways that James and I thought that she might (i.e. overwhelming the classroom with her passionate, vocal demands). The teachers claim that she is one of the most shy, quiet children that they’ve ever encountered. In the beginning, she refused to talk to anyone and was reserved and disengaged in the classroom. She was visibly unhappy but would not articulate her needs or participate in the games around her. James and I have been working really closely with her teachers to overcome these challenges. Teachers have worked one on one with her and in small groups – they make an effort to sing her favorite songs and read her favorite stories to get her engaged during class – and James and I talk about school A LOT at home to get her excited about going each day. We’ve seen HUGE improvement. She is excited to go to school now – no tears at drop off and even excitement to run into the room. She talks to her teachers and is the first kid in the room potty trained and isn’t afraid to ask for help in the bathroom. While I am thrilled by the improvement, it was so so hard as a parent to think about my child, who is so outgoing and intense at home, being completely shut down at school. It broke my heart because that is not at all her natural state. While her passionate side can be challenging, it also has many positives. I’d rather she be comfortable being fully herself than an easy, shy kid. Fortunately, we have made so much progress on that front. But, the bottom line is that parenting is tough – if not the physical demands, but the emotional! You just want to see your kids happy and thriving – and it’s heartbreaking when they’re not.

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I feel my own heart rate slow and any tension leave my brow as she sinks into my breathing and we relax into the weight of one another.

I love you, sweetie.

I love me, too, Mama.

While she thinks that she is telling me that she loves me, too, it brings a smile to my face to see her pronoun misuse. What could be more important than loving oneself? That is perhaps the most significant love I can teach my children, no matter their similarities and differences.

Jamescapes // 17

You can’t live in Vermont for very long if you don’t embrace snow. While we have so much in our driveway I don’t know where I’m going to put the extra 6-8 inches they’re calling for tonight, I can still appreciate the beauty.

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. -Mary Oliver

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