Military spouse life

Babies are not my full-time job.

IMG_2097The other day, someone congratulated me on how much stuff I manage to do with the twins.

As if going anywhere with them requires the kind of motivation and perseverance that only marathon-runners or those with a penchant for self-punishment possess.

Have we really set our expectations of life so low that we think it’s all over once we reproduce?

Though it’s very well-intentioned and flattering, this attitude surprises me every time I encounter it. I’m not some kind of superhero for going places with my kids–for traveling with them, for taking them on hikes or long walks on rail trails, for going shopping with them strapped to my body.

Doing things with my babies doesn’t make me a remarkable parent. It makes me a human with a life to live. It has never made sense to stop going to the fun, unnecessary places because I have two small humans who keep getting clingier by the day. On the contrary, those small humans probably need to experience those new, unnecessary places more than I do.

Babies are NOT my full-time job. They are part of the life rich, varied God gave me.

I don’t do things despite babies. I do things because life needs to be lived. Because staring at the same four walls drives all of us crazy. Because sometimes you need fresh air, and not from your own backyard.

When I was pregnant, I swore I wouldn’t let babies stop me from having a life. Obviously they’ve changed the life. And I won’t lie and say that it’s always easy (as if anyone would believe me if I did). Some days, I revel in being able to stay home, wear pajamas all day, and do nothing–except feed hungry mouths and change diapers and cuddle and bounce and dance in the living room, of course.

Other days, I do go on an adventure despite the exhaustion and spend the entire adventure putting out fires (world-class poopy diaper in the middle of a hike. angry crying for no apparent reason in the middle of a shopping mall. forgetting the pacifier/toy/extra bottle). But even on those Murphy’s Law days, it’s still worth the effort.

In general, I choose to let kids continue the adventure rather than replacing it. And that’s one of the best choices I will continue to make.

Which is why the slightly cooler weather is making it more inviting than ever to go take babies to the farmer’s market even if I don’t really need anything. Or to pack everything up and walk six miles on a tree-lined rail trail. Or to book flights to South America with my mom so the babies get to spend their first birthday traveling the world. Or to splash in the little kiddie pool on the back deck.

For me, having kids means having adventures with kids.

I’m backing the blue (and camo) because I’m not willing to do what they do.

I’m not willing to die for my country.

I’m not willing to take the oath. I’m not willing to go to war for the constitution, for the political freedom of others, or for patriotic sentiment. I’m not willing to consign my life to the federal government–and that’s not just a statement about the current political situation.

Maybe it’s a statement about my own ungratefulness, selfishness, apathy, or fear. I should be braver, stronger, more of a patriot, etc. But that’s just how it is.

I do solemnly swear that…I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.

On my honor… I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.

-Excerpts from the Armed Forces’ Oath of Enlistment and the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor

I’m not willing to die for my country, but I’m married to someone who is. I’m not willing to die for the safety of my town or county, but I’m so grateful for the law enforcement officers who put on blue every day and go hold others accountable for their actions.

Whether they see it as a personal challenge, a legacy, an obligation, or just a job with decent benefits, our military and our law enforcement officers–every single one–have jumped through countless hoops to earn the right to work and fight for us.

Every single one has sworn to protect their badge or their country at incredible personal sacrifice.

They have trained, they have studied, they have left their homes, they have been poked and prodded, they’ve waded through the bog of beaurocratic stupidity along the way, they’ve been insulted, they’ve been treated like children, they’ve tested themselves and been tested–repeatedly–all the time, in every way.

All for a less-than-stellar paycheck and for people who aren’t willing to do the same. That doesn’t make them all superstars. It doesn’t even make them all heroes. There are selfish, power-hungry, immature, irresponsible, bigoted jerks in the military and on police forces all over the country, and pretending there aren’t does a disservice to those who do bring integrity to the job every day.

Not every police officer or soldier is a shining star in the community. But the fact is, they were willing to take the oath. They were willing to do what it took to earn the right to sacrifice themselves. And every day, they’re willing to get out of bed and do it again.

They deserve all our support until they’ve demonstrated otherwise. We can and should back the men and women in uniform until those individuals have proven that they don’t deserve to put it on.

It’s time for us to pause at both the gross injustice that has been inflicted on Black people and the sacrifice of those willing to die for people (like me) who wouldn’t do the same.

And now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going back to my knitting, copywriting, and momming, because thanks to my husband and people like him, I have the freedom to do so.

Divine Cheesecake


Handwritten Cheesecake Recipe
The world’s food occupies two major categories. 99% is what we eat every day. It’s (hopefully) both somewhat tasty and nutritious. Then there’s the other 1% that we dream about–the higher plane of food that demands you stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and fully savor everything about the moment encapsulating that bite.

That’s this cheesecake. This is easily the perfect cheesecake recipe, straight from one of my Grandma ‘Cille’s 60-year-old cookbooks. It takes time to prepare, but it results in a spectacularly creamy, not too dense but not too fluffy New York style confection that hits the higher food plane every time.

This cake has been a birthday cake many times because even when I was a child, I understood that cheesecake is far superior to more traditional options. It’s my go-to when I want a dessert that makes people think I’m a better cook than I am. And it’s the natural choice when I’m walking through Costco, see a gorgeous cheesecake in the bakery, and think, “homemade would taste 10x better.” A former college roommate is visiting this week, and we both had that thought when we made the mistake of walking through Costco while hungry the other day.

So this cheesecake was made, with no occasion for it other than the fact that sometimes you just need some of that 1% food.

When my friend asked for the recipe, it occurred to me that the only copy I know how to find is the handwritten one in my cupboard. So if, heaven forbid, my house burns down, the zombie apocalypse happens, or someone breaks in and robs me of my cookbook collection, that tragedy would be compounded by the loss of this cheesecake. I can’t deal with that, so I’m immortalizing it here for future post-catastrophe use. IMG_6878

This is the 10pm, kids-are-in-bed-and-I-can’t-wait-to-have-a-slice pic, which is real life but doesn’t quite capture this cheesecake’s true glory.

Divine Cheesecake

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 T. sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

3 T. butter

  1. In a small bowel, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon.
  2. Melt butter and add to the crumb mixture.
  3. Mix butter in thoroughly with fingertips.
  4. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan.
  5. Put crumb mixture in pan and, with hands, press some of the mixture evenly about 2″ up sides of pan to form a thin crust. Press the remaining mixture onto the bottom of the pan.
  6. Run finger around inside edge of pan to even off the top edge of the crust.
  7. Set crust aside while preparing the filling.

Cheesecake Filling

1 large lemon

24 oz. cream cheese

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

5 large eggs (NOT medium or extra large)

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Zest the yellow part only of lemon rind and measure 2 tsp.
  3. Put the grated rind in a bowl with cream cheese and beat at medium speed until creamy.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, and eggs to the cream cheese mixture and beat at medium speed to blend ingredients, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula several times.
  5. Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes or until mixture is completely smooth and lemon-colored.
  6. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan.
  7. Make sure your oven rack is centered in your oven and bake 45 minutes or until cake is set (this almost always takes me closer to 1 hr. 15)
  8. Remove cake from the oven and let cool 20 minutes before moving on to the sour cream layer.

Sour Cream Topping Layer

1 1/2 cups dairy sour cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 T. sugar

  1. Beat all ingredients for 1 minute or until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour over cake and carefully smooth with a spatula. Put back in oven and bake 10 more minutes.
  3. Remove cheesecake from oven and let stand in pan on cake rack until cool, then chill in refrigerator at least 2-3 hours before removing the outer ring of the springform pan and serving.
  4. To remove from pan, first run a knife around the top of the cake, then unfasten the clamp of the springform pan.
  5. If desired, top with strawberry or cherry sauce, curls of chocolate, or toasted almonds.

 

Twin Summertime

The first time Davey tore a piece of paper in half, I was enthralled. My tiny human being who weighed 4 pounds yesterday managed to impact his environment enough to actually destroy something. The feat seemed magical at the time.

Today I have one baby crawling, one baby just a hair shy of crawling, and two babies capable of wreaking a great amount of havoc. I’m convinced that if I left them alone long enough, I’d come back to find an entire room reduced to dust.

Sometimes life seriously feels like just putting out fires. Feed one baby, feed second baby, change diaper 1, change diaper 2, comfort Davey because he faceplanted (again), comfort Micah because Davey touched him.

Today, the babies woke us up at 3am, 5am, and, ultimately, 7am. Because I’ve decided that my Life Plan involves torturing myself on the premise that it’s good for me in the long term, I went on a run. Then I came home, packed my backpack, and headed to Starbucks to finish a couple of marketing articles with approaching deadlines.

Hitting my deadlines means leaving babies with Manny a few times a week so I can head to the coffee shop. If coffee shops disappear tomorrow, so will my copywriting career. They’re that essential.

Manny took both babies to a squadron picnic, and I picked them up from base a couple of hours later. While I was putting in my coffee shop hours, we also heard that Manny made tech sergeant this year–despite twins and all that they entail. That’s a feat, folks.

I came home and scrubbed the upstairs bathroom to celebrate.

At the end of the day we put the tiny humans to bed. I scramble to make the living room floor look less like it was bombed by Toys ‘R Us. I wash the dishes if I’m motivated, pawn them off on Manny if I’m not, drink a cup of tea if I have the energy to boil water, and pass out around 11 or 12.

We work adventures in somehow. Like excursions to Old Sturbridge Village, or a drive to New Haven experience the wonders of Ikea that I’ve heard so much about.

When a living history exhibit and an oversized department store are the most exciting things you do in a two-month span, there’s something wrong. Thankfully, the rest of the summer is looking up.

This weekend, we’re dog-sitting two of our friends’ dogs and one of my roommates from college is bringing her one-year-old to visit for a few days. We’ll see how much the crazy escalates when you add another tiny human and two more pups to the mix.

The weekend after that, another college friend and her husband are coming to stay for a few days (this must be the month for mini-reunions!).

The weekend after that, we’re heading down to PA for a get-together with an amazing group of twin mom Facebook friends I’ve never met (more on that later).

Sometime in September, a Costa Rica (or Colombia, or possibly Ecuador) trip is in the works for myself, my mom, and one baby who gets to go on his first ever international expedition, while his brother enjoys a staycation with his dad.

Things are happening! I’m going to need a lot of coffee to make it through the next several weeks, particularly if Micah keeps trying to climb everything in sight. But things are happening. I’ll take it.

Whole 30 Recap

For those of you who are at all curious, we finished the Whole30. No bread, sugar, legumes, dairy of any kind, or pizza.

Okay, so… 28 days. Does it make me a failure if my Whole30 was a Whole28?

On Saturday Manny and I ended up an hour from home after a day of wandering. We had walked a few miles scouting yard sales. We attended our local(ish) Tula Love Play Date, a babywearing meet-up that turned out to be amazing. And we hit up the Webs Tent Sale, a once-a-year yarn sale in Northampton that I couldn’t miss, despite the fact that my yarn connection rivals that of some small yarn shops.

After all that, mostly wearing babies, we were both starving. And there was a Five Guys Burgers & Fries. I’m sure you can imagine the rest.

I started the Whole30 as a diet reset. And it did that. It changed our normal and forced us to think of food differently. I lost 15 pounds over the 30 (ahem, 28) days without changing anything but my diet. I felt better, had more energy, and suffered from absolutely NO food guilt during that time.

I’m suffering from food guilt now. That hamburger doesn’t feel as great as it tasted. So the Whole30 challenge didn’t fix everything. It was still one of the best things I could have done for myself post-twins, and I wish I’d done it sooner.

After a lot of soul-searching and talking to Manny, I’ve decided to keep eating a mostly Whole30 diet from now on. I’m going back on the Whole30 completely for a few days to bounce back from the food I shouldn’t have eaten, then reintroducing a bit of milk and agave nectar in my coffee/tea (one thing that I really have missed!).

I’m also going to start adding in deliberate workouts (as in, something other than just weightlifting twins, which counts for not much). A friend in my Mothers of Twins group shared that she had great success with the much-acclaimed Mommy Trainer 15-Day Challenge. So I’m going to give it a try–it’s a good fit for the timeline I have between now and our two-week trip to Texas.

It’s a process.

 

Whole30 Day 9

I feel amazing. I want pizza. But I feel amazing. And I’m already a little terrified of what happens after this Whole30 is over and I have to trust myself to make reasonable choices without strict rules keeping me in line.

Part of the Whole30 program is a commitment NOT to step on the scale until it’s over. That’s probably a good thing, because I’m pretty sure I haven’t lost any weight (yet), and confirming that would be the worst thing I could do for myself right now. If I stop to think about it, I want pizza. Not a slice or two. I want an entire large pepperoni pizza.

And a latte.

But I don’t really. The truth is, I’m feeling more rested, and I have more energy to do things during the day. I think I’m less grouchy, though I’m not sure whether or not Manny would agree about that one. And knowing that I’m making good choices about what to put into my body makes me feel better about pretty much everything.

I’m really surprised by some of the things I don’t miss. Like sugar. If I thought about it long enough, I’d have to acknowledge that life would indeed be incomplete without cheesecake. But on an everyday basis, the only time I really miss sugar is when I’m making my coffee in the morning.

I don’t miss dairy, except cheese. Boy do I miss cheese.

I don’t miss legumes. I could live just fine without beans, peanut butter, or anything similar.

I don’t really even miss grains. Not the way I thought I would. I mean, I want my morning bowl of oatmeal, and I want to be able to eat a sandwich. Or, like I said, a pizza. But I could live without them for the most part. And the fact that I can say that is kind of monumental.

Unfortunately, we have managed to spend almost an entire month’s normal grocery budget in the week and a half we’ve been doing the program, so I’m going to have to get smarter about meal planning and shopping. On the upside, we’re not eating out, so that does help the budget issues a bit.

In other news, we moved the twins into their own room last night. It’s kind of sad and kind of strange to have our bedroom to ourselves again–and, more importantly, to be able to go into our bedroom after 8 p.m. without tiptoeing around in fear of hitting a squeaky floorboard. In moving them into their own room, I’m thinking about all the things I want to do to the room–new curtains, painting the dressers, putting some artwork up on the walls–to make it feel more like a nursery should feel.

I’m reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The sad part? I’ve been trying to read it for two months now, and whenever I do have free time, so many other things seem more important. Like doing the dishes. Or knitting a thing. Or clearing out the flowerbeds outside. Or staring blankly into space.

So unless something clicks to make this book seem pretty important in the very near future, I’ll probably still be reading it when Thanksgiving rolls around. That’s #twinlife for you.

The Beginning of Our Whole30 Experiment

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I expected the pregnancy weight to just fall off after the twins were born.

The joke was on me. Though I ended up just ten pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight one week after the babies’ birth, the scale just kept creeping back upward in the weeks after they were born.

Sleepless nights coupled with a complete lack of motivation to plan healthy meals converged to form a miserable diet situation. Manny was living on peanut butter toast and I was living on whatever required the lest effort and brainpower.

Unless you already have stellar eating habits, not thinking and choosing the easiest route = bad juju. All of a sudden my idea of a relaxing afternoon was chilling with the babies on the sofa, eating popcorn. Or Wint-O-Green Lifesavers. Or pizza.

It wasn’t pretty.

Whole30 Basics

I’d been hearing a lot about the Whole30 thing but passed it off as just another diet plan. It wasn’t until someone in a cloth diaper Facebook group (of all places!) mentioned what a big difference it had made in her life that I decided to give it a whirl. The basics?

  • no grains of any kind
  • no legumes
  • no added sugar, processed or natural
  • no dairy
  • no pizza. or donuts. or wint-o-green. or homemade buttery scones. or pasta. or or or…

It seems extreme, but our diet needed a major reset.

The driving goal behind the Whole30 program is not weight loss. It’s identifying foods that are physically or psychologically unhealthy. By eliminating the foods that are often inflammatory, gut-disrupting, or otherwise problematic, then adding them back in slowly after the 30-day reset, you can pinpoint the foods that spark cravings or make you feel miserable.

I especially needed to refocus and prioritize food, the stuff my body runs on. The twinlets are demanding, to say the least, and the fuel I expected my body to run on just wasn’t cutting it. After a trip to visit the in-laws, during which we splurged waaay too much (midnight run to Sheetz for donuts, candies, and all the sugar we could get our hands on? Cue sugar coma.)

After talking to Manny about the program, we decided to take the plunge. The first step? Clear out the stuff we wouldn’t be eating for a month.

Spring Cleaning the Pantry

We weren’t willing to actually throw away staples like beans, lentils, canned chickpeas, pasta, flour, cornmeal, sprouted grain cereals, oatmeal, and other stuff we already had in the house, so we boxed it up and hid it in the basement. It’s amazing how much that purging opened up the kitchen and pantry. I can actually see what’s in the fridge and cabinets now. Choosing meals is simpler too, because I have fewer options. I choose to look at that as an added benefit, because the less I have to think about meal planning, the better. Planning veggies, fruits, and proteins really simplifies the process.

Whole 30 In Review: Days 1-4

Today is Day 4. Truth: I’m sitting at a coffee shop wishing my black coffee and banana would morph into a latte and chocolate croissant. I’m wearing my bottle-cap earrings, though I won’t be having a soda anytime soon. But it feels amazing to know that I’m giving my body better food than I have in months–and setting myself up for success.

Actually cooking meals regularly has revolutionized our diet. It should be noted, though, that when they say that days 2-3 will be miserable, they’re serious. Holy headache, Batman. If that’s what a hangover feels like, I don’t ever care to get drunk.

The cravings haven’t been terrible. Despite my salads,  greens, delicious walnut-crusted pork tenderloin, bananas smeared with almond butter, and sweet potato soup, it’s weird not to be able to just grab some crackers for a snack or a piece of toast or bowl of oatmeal in the mornings. Last night, Manny’s coworkers enjoyed taunting him with donuts, Mexican food, and candy when they found out that he was doing the program with me. But so far we’ve survived without major incident. I am realizing that I have a tendency to snack on fruit a lot, which I realize I probably need to substitute with more veggies.

The fact that I’m still nursing the twins (mostly just one twin, but still) means I have an excuse to eat more fruits and starchy foods like potatoes and squash, and I’m milking that (pardon the pun) for all it’s worth!

Though some mothers have voiced concerns that the Whole30 program would hurt their milk supply, I don’t see how switching to whole foods, eliminating processed sugar, and living on veggies, fruits, and meats would cause problems unless you’re just not eating enough.

This is long, so I’ll end it here. For the next few weeks, expect to see updates on our Whole30 journey, which may or may not turn into whining all I want is pizza vents on occasions. Wish us luck!