Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Menu and Easy Recipe of the Week: Taco Soup

After what felt like too much food and not enough physical activity last week with family in town and in celebration of my husband's birthday and Thanksgiving, we have decided to go with a pretty basic menu this week.

Sunday: Taco Soup (see recipe below)
Monday: Leftover Taco Soup
Tuesday: Baked Salmon with Pesto Marinade, Steamed Asparagus and Pasta
Wednesday: Baked Chicken with Teriyaki marinade, Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice
Thursday: Cheese Tortellini with Grilled Chicken and Marinara Sauce and Salad
Friday: Pancakes, Eggs, Turkey Bacon and Fruit
Saturday: OPEN

Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 med onion, finely chopped
2 cans corn, drained (or frozen corn)
2 cans kidney beans, drained
2 cans rotel tomatoes (this is a specific brand with chilies and seasoning included)
2 cans chicken broth (low sodium)
1 packet taco seasoning

Sour cream
Cheddar cheese (grated)
Tortilla chips
  1. Brown meat in large pan and drain.
  2. Combine all ingredients in large pot.
  3. Heat through on medium heat until hot.
  4. Let each person top with grated cheese, sour cream, avacado and chips (depending on what they like).
  • This soup makes plenty for leftovers or to be frozen.
  • This soup tends to be even better the second day.
  • When made with the Rotel Tomatoes, this soup does have a spicy bite to it. To make it more kid friendly, you can use plain, diced tomatoes without chilies.
  • If your child(ren) don't like things mixed together, you can also leave out some of the meat, beans, corn and make your child(ren) a plate with a little of everything separated.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Worth Passing On

I love reading about The Happiness Project, written by Gretchen Rubin. I thought one of her recent posts was worth passing along, especially during this particularly busy time of year.

Twelve tips for stopping the buzz in your brain.

We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed, of being beset by distractions.

The problem is – too many things are clamoring for your attention. People are trying to reach you, by phone, email, text or IM. There are the interesting subjects you want to learn more about, on the TV or the internet or the newspaper. Noises in the background occasionally catch your ear, from the TV or radio. Your kids all talk at the same time. Colleagues interrupt. You need to update, check in, post, or ping. Ads jump at you from the most unlikely places. Devices ping, buzz, ring, and vibrate.

It’s enough to drive you crazy. You lose your train of thought, you forget what you’re doing, you have trouble re-engaging in a task, you feel besieged.

But there are steps you can take to quiet the buzz in your brain – even if you don’t want to take up meditation.

In addition to feeling calmer and more focused, you’ll probably be more efficient, too. Turns out that people aren’t very good at thinking about two things at once.

A recent study showed that when people responded to email or IM, it took about fifteen minutes for them to resume a serious mental task.

Many of the following suggestions are fairly draconian. “No iPod?!” “A silent cell phone?!” But you’ll notice a difference in your day. Really consider whether you might be able to go a day or a week without some of these distractions.

  • If you keep the TV turned on in the background – while you’re getting dressed, say – turn it off.
  • Turn off the radio, too. Even in the car.
  • Don’t bring your iPod.
  • I have a sticky note in my bedroom that reads, “Quiet mind.” Whenever I see it, I drop my shoulders, relax my jaw, and try to smooth out my thoughts. It actually works.
  • During family time, divide up your children among adults. If possible, have one child per adult.
  • No multi-tasking. Don’t talk on the phone while you’re doing dishes, don’t check your email while you listen to a conference call, don’t sort the mail while your child explains the school project that’s due next week.
  • Turn your cell phone ringer off. Hearing your cell phone ring – or even imaging that you’re hearing it ring – is a big source of jumpiness.
  • Take a break from doing errands. Keep a list, but don’t try to fit them in throughout your day.
  • Stop looking in the mirror for a week.
  • Only use the internet to look up a specific piece of information; once you find it, step away from the computer. No jumping from link to link, no browsing.
  • Twyla Tharp had an interesting approach: occasionally, for a week, she’d “stop counting.” She avoided looking at clocks, contracts, bank statements, bathroom scales, or anything to do with numbers, in order to let the other part of her brain take over.
  • Flee temptation. I find it hard to work in my home office, because my family, the phone, my email, and the internet constantly beguile me away from my work. So I work at the New York Society Library, where I’m not set up for internet and where they enforce a strict rule of silence.
It’s important to have space in which to think.

Yesterday, I overheard someone complain, “I left my Blackberry at home, so I was so bored during my cab ride home. I just had to sit there.”

There are few things that I love more than looking out the window of a taxi. One day, when I was gazing out of a taxi window, I was struck by a thought: “What do I want out of life?” “Well,” I thought, “I want to be happy.” It occurred to me that I never thought about whether I was happy or not, or how I could be happier, or even what it meant to be happy. “Zoikes,” I thought, “I should have a happiness project!”

If I’d been checking my Blackberry, I might never have had the idea for the happiness project.

Written by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Most Perfect Imperfection

(This is a re-post from an previous blog of mine.)

perfect: complete in all respects; without defect or omission; sound; flawless*
imperfections: a shortcoming; defect; fault; blemish*

Being a perfectionist came in handy in many regards as a busy, child-less professional. I’ve always had high standards and I used my need and desire for things to be ‘just so’ to help me succeed in life.

I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist.

You see, I have spent nearly my entire life trying to be perfect. I know I am not alone in this attempt. I have tried to be the perfect daughter, perfect friend, perfect sister, perfect granddaughter, perfect student, perfect employee, perfect manager, perfect businesswoman, perfect wife, and eventually, perfect mother. Frankly, I have tried to be the perfect person. Constantly attempting to know what I needed to say and do to be seen as 'perfect' or the best by those around me. Not that I wasn't necessarily real or honest (although sometimes I was neither), but rather more of an enigma. Shifting, molding and camouflaging to be what I thought others wanted me to be.

I have made huge strides in challenging my past perfectionism behavior (thanks to a great deal of my own personal growth and coaching training for my business), but I still find myself sometimes slipping into my hold habits of wanting to please others before being true to myself. So it comes as no surprise to me that the Universe dealt me the most 'perfect' situation to test my life lesson of letting go of perfectionism.

Lindsay Campbell Taggart was born with one little ear. One normal. One not normal. One perfect. One not perfect.

I can remember the moment that the nurse showed us her ear after she was delivered. I was still on an adrenaline high from birthing our little girl that, really, it all seems like a dream. "I need to show you a few things about your baby," the nurse said. "As you can see, one of her ears is different...."

Honestly, I don't remember anything else she said after that. I just remember looking at my baby and then looking at my husband and asking him repeatedly, "Is she okay? Is she okay?"

He told me "yes" while he kissed my forehead. I am sure he was trying to convince himself just has much as he was trying to convince me. Over the next few hours, with the excitement of family visiting, Lindsay meeting her big sister and the ear being conveniently hidden behind the tiny, striped hospital-issued hat, I seemed to forget that my baby was not perfect.

The next morning I was harshly reminded as the woman responsible for providing my newborn with her hearing test tells us, "we will only be able to test the ear that's not weird."

Gulp. What? Did I just hear someone call my baby weird? Why my mommy instincts didn't kick in to defend my precious child, I don't know. Perhaps it was the exhaustion. Perhaps it was shock. Perhaps it was denial. Whatever it was, it gave me a taste of what may be in store for us.

The emotions around my baby not being born 'perfect' really didn't hit me until a few days after bringing her home from the hospital. I was sitting on the couch nursing when I looked down, saw my daughter's "lucky ear" (as it was so sweetly named by her grandparents, similar to Nemo's lucky fin) and started sobbing.

Unless you have been a mother yourself, you can not imagine the magnitude of grief felt when you realize that YOUR BABY WAS NOT BORN PERFECT. I know; there are people out there dealing with much worse things. I know the rational and logical side that things "could have been worse." But sometimes you have to deal with the emotion before you can get to the rational side. No matter what you tell yourself or no matter what others tell you, everyone EXPECTS and hopes their baby will be born perfect.

Jump forward two and a half years. I came to realize (rather quickly I must say) over Lindsay's life that we got just what we asked for: a happy and healthy child. In fact, I think (and I admit this is a biased opinion) that she is one of the happiest and healthiest kids around. You will often find her smiling from ear to ear, proud of whatever trick she just mastered or just simply thrilled that you walked into the room.

It has become easy to nearly forget about her ear. She has been diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss on that side, but there has been no indication that it is negatively impacting her development. In fact, during her last speech evaluation at 24 months they told us she was talking at the level expected for a 36-month-old. I mention that not to brag (okay, maybe a little bit), but to make the point that despite what we were originally told or thought, she has already exceeded medical expectations. It's obvious that she is growing, developing and thriving and shows all signs of hearing the world around her just as she should.

I’ll admit, every once in awhile it still hits me and I find myself crying over my daughter’s 'imperfection'. Like the time we met with the craniofacial plastic surgeon to talk about options for both removing the skin tag on Lindsay's face and fixing her little, lucky ear. Perhaps I was more surprised by the reality of what correcting (and I use that word loosely) either of them would entail. Without going into all the detail, let's just say words such as, "arm splints," "multiple surgeries," cartilage from the rib," and "incisions" were thrown out.

And here is my point. My husband and I both left that appointment with the same Knowing. Now is not the time to do anything to "correct" Lindsay's skin tag or ear. As my husband so sweetly said, "What if this is just the way Lindsay is supposed to be?"

My thought exactly. Considering that any of the surgeries would be for cosmetic purposes only, what would I be telling my daughter? "You are not good enough with your imperfection. You were born just they way you were supposed to be...except for your weird ear. Trying to be perfect is better than just being who you are?"

Instead, at this moment, I want my daughter to know that the affirmations I said to her while she was inside me are true.

We are connected. And you are whole. And I love you just as you are. My most perfect imperfection.

*Definitions courtesy of Webster's New World Dictionary, Third Edition

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Menu (sort of) and Easy Recipe of the Week: Cranberry Chicken

I believe strongly in the concept of creating structure (i.e. a weekly dinner menu) to ones life in order to provide greater ease and less stress. However, I also believe strongly that flexibility with the structure is necessary in order to go-with-the-flow and roll-with-the-punches of life with small children.

Thus, after a long episode of child sickness, followed by six nights of my husband being out of town, this week is an abbreviated menu which has revolved around ease, ease and more ease.

Sunday: Mac & Cheese with Tuna and Peas (which we didn't end up having last week)
Monday: Leftovers from the weekend
Tuesday: Grilled Cheese and Turkey Sandwiches with Butternut Squash & Apple Soup (thank God for Trader Joe's)
Wednesday: Spinach & Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce, Bread and Salad
Thursday: TBD after my husband comes home tomorrow
Friday: TBD
Saturday: TBD

See how I did that? I didn't have enough energy to figure out what we were going to eat each night this week. I decided that it was okay to simply get through meals until my husband is home tomorrow and then he can provide input, support and back-up. A year ago I would have felt guilty doing this. Not now. Now I am proud of myself for getting through the solo days with my child alive and my sanity in check.

Cranberry Chicken with Rice or Cous Cous
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle French dressing
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 packet onion soup mix
1 box rice pilaf or cous cous
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix French dressing, cranberry sauce and onion soup mix in mixing bowl; marinate the chicken in advance if you can (if not, not a problem).
  3. Put chicken in baking dish and cover with mixture, making sure to cover all sides of meat.
  4. Bake chicken for 50-60 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  5. While chicken is baking, prepare rice or cous cous as directed on box.
  6. Steam your favorite green veggie to complete the meal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Three Little Words

I had the pleasure of meeting singer and songwriter, Karen Drucker, recently and have been listening to her positive and inspiring music ever since. There are many of her songs that I really enjoy and which give me a great pick-me-up when I need it. I love the concept behind her song "Three Little Words" off her latest album, SHINE.

The song is about three-word phrases which can mean so much in our lives. As she says, "three little words that can heal my life and help me get out of my way."

Life is good.
Let it go.
Play full out.
Yes I can.
Tell me more.
I am blessed.
Be here now.
I love you.

Here are some more I thought of today:
I deserve it.
Take a breath.
I am sorry.
It's good enough.
I choose this.
Can I help?

Can you think of any more simple, yet powerful 3-word phrases which we should consider saying on a regular basis to ourselves or others?

Inspiring Words

I just received this forwarded message from my aunt. I thought it was a cute piece and some great reminders about life. Enjoy!

George Carlin's Views on Aging

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is
when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about
aging that you think in fractions.

"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a
half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next
number, or even a few ahead.

"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna
be 16! And then the greatest day of your life . . You become 21. Even the
words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad
milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a
sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40 Whoa! Put on the brakes,
it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day
thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you
TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you
start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little
kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let
the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them."

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep Le arning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening,
whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."
And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is
with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love , whether it's fami ly, pets,
keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable,
improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county;
to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them , at every opportunity.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments
that take our breath away.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Menu and Easy Recipe of the Week: Salmon with Tarrgon Cheese Sauce

I addition to sharing an easy recipe of the week, I thought I'd also share our menu for the week. Hope this sparks some new ideas for you!

However, I am warning you that my mission for the weeknights is 'Easy Does It'. In fact, after last week I have a new menu rule: No new recipes during the week. Trying new recipes is for the weekends only!

  • Sunday: Moroccan Chicken Stew (A new recipe Bill and I made together--it's a keeper!)
  • Monday: Leftover Moroccan Chicken Stew
  • Tuesday: Broiled Salmon Steaks with Tarragon Cheese Sauce and Asparagus (See Easy Recipe of the Week below.)
  • Wednesday: Macaroni and Cheese with Tuna and Peas (A recipe handed down from my dad.)
  • Thursday: Cranberry Chicken with Rice Pilaf and Green Beans
  • Friday: Leftover Cranberry Chicken
  • Saturday: Pizza with Peas and Corn

Recipe: Broiled Salmon Steaks with Tarragon Cheese Sauce
1 1/4 pounds fresh or frozen salmon steaks (about 3/4 inch think)
1/2 cup plain yogurt or light sour cream (I usually use sour cream)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed (or 2 teaspoons snipped fresh)
ground black pepper
Hot cooked pasta

  1. Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry. Cut fish steaks into 4 equal portions, if necessary.
  2. Stir together the yogurt or sour cream, cheese and tarragon. Set aside.
  3. Place fish on unheated rack of broiler pan. Sprinkle fish with sal dna ground black pepper. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 6 to 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
  4. Spoon yogurt/sour cream mixture over fish steaks. Broil 30 to 60 seconds more or until heated through and cheese starts to melt.
  5. If desired, serve over hot pasta and add a favorite green vegetable as a side.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Q. When is it time to ask for help?

A. When your kid won't stop crying and you feel like you may lose it.

That was me today. As I explained in my previous post, Lindsay has been sick. More then five days of her being congested, hot, whiny, temperamental and clingy. Fortunately, today her fever is gone and the coughing has subsided a bit, but the happy, easy, pleasant, cooperative little girl who lived with us just a week ago has still yet to reappear.

After battle number 15--this one relating to what she did or did not want to eat, which came after what she did and did not want to wear--I finally had to walk away. I put her on her bed; I told her that she could stay there and cry if she wanted to but that I could not help her until she could tell me what she wanted in her "Big Girl" voice. I walked away. This was an alternative to yelling, "STOP CRYING; I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!"

I knew that if I tried to figure out what she needed one more time; if I was in that close of proximity to the whining and crying much longer that I would snap. At that point, the Wise Mother Within said, "it's okay to walk away."

Which I did. And I called my husband and shared with him how I was feeling. And by the time I got off the phone and went to check on Lindsay, she was asleep.

Yes, the fact that she fell asleep at 11:00 in the morning may throw off the rest of the day, but we both got what we really needed. Lindsay must have needed some sleep and I know I needed some time to myself.

Turning inward and asking what you need to get through a tough moment (or multiple moments) is a practice in mindful parenting. A practice that is sometimes easier to identify in hind-sight then in the heat of the moment. But when I do practice mindful parenting, each time I am rewarded by an easier (and more positive) answer then I would have come up with in the heat of the moment.

Today reminded me that I not only need to ask for help and support from others, but more importantly, that my first distress signal should be sent to myself.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Help Wanted

Life has been a bit on hold the past few days beyond being in full mommy mode to a sick child. Since Wednesday Lindsay has been up and down with a fever and today ended with her throwing up all over me and the Walgreens floor while picking up a prescription to hopefully help her feel better.

Yes, I can now add having my child throw up down my shirt to the list of life's great experiences. And when I say down I really mean down--like I don't think my white bra will ever be the same again. Fortunately, I've been carrying around an extra set of clothes for Lindsay in my bag ever since she stopped wearing diapers. I think the most disappointing thing about the entire experience was that no one offered to help me. No one. I had to flag down two different store employees. The first one just handed me a roll of paper towels and walked away. The second one did tell me to just leave it and she called for clean-up. But none of the other customers even acknowledged me. I wasn't hard to miss. I was the disheveled mom in aisle 6 with throw up on and down her shirt and the sobbing 2 year old with tears and snot running down her face next to her. I know everyone knew what was going on. But no one helped. No one even went to get a store employee.

Today's experience has made me wonder what I would have done if I had been watching someone going through what I went through. I would hope that I would have offered to help or taken some action to support a fellow mother, woman, human. My 7 year-old step-daughter even noticed that no one helped. I find this interesting and sad.

But enough about that. Just know I am still here. And still moving my body when I can, but other things are taking my time right now...like washing my bra!