Thursday, June 11, 2015

Some Goals

A few days ago, I took Summer to her ice skating lesson while Nathaniel had lunch with a friend. He finished much later than we did, so Summer and I walked to a playground after she was done skating.
Turns out playgrounds are a little boring when you're the only kid there. It was hot and sunny and there are only so many times you can do the monkey bars before you start to wonder why you're doing it in the first place.
Sometimes, I'm an awesome mom. I came up with a conversation that would entertain us until Nathaniel could come pick us up.
"Summer," I asked, "What are your goals for the summer?"
Aside: yes, during the summertime, Summer's name can make for awkward sentences.
"Well, first," she said, "I want to exercise every day."
"That's a great goal," I said. "I will have that be my goal too."
"We can exercise together!" she said.
"Yes! And, I want to make an effort to eat really healthy," I said.
We listed some more hopes we have, improvements on our character we want to make. Mine: cooking dinner regularly, reading more often, cleaning more. Hers: working on her cursive handwriting, learning how to read.
"And then I want to be really nice to people," she said.
Huh. It did not occur to me to make this a goal. My excuse, I decided, is that I'm always really nice to people anyway? Maybe?
The remaining fifteen minutes went quickly. Soon Nathaniel was there and we were off. As we drove home, I listened to Summer list her goals in order of priority (being nice first, then cursive, then exercise) and I hoped I wasn't giving her anxiety. I said something about the most important thing for kids to do is to have fun. She agreed and moved on to her fourth goal: cursive.
I had a few goals I didn't share with her. Well, maybe just one: loving my body the way it is.
I have wasted much of my life wishing my body were different. Not too different, just a little smaller here and a little firmer there. I need this to stop. How sad would it be to lie on your death bed and still not feel comfortable in your own skin? To still feel like your body needs to change in order to be okay?
I know a few things to be true. First, a smaller body doesn't make you happy. It might make you feel more attractive, because, let's be honest, according to today's western ideas of what makes for an attractive body, mine is a bit too big. But a tad more attractive does not equal happy. It's a fleeting high.
Second, a more "ideal" body doesn't make you more self-confident. You can feel insecure, unloved, unwanted at any weight. And you can feel self-assured, self-confident, and comfortable in your own skin at any weight. Either way, self-confidence is hard work in this day and age when corporations spend billions of dollars on advertising with the sole goal of making women feel like they aren't enough.
If you want to feel self-confident, there are no short-cuts. You have to do the hard work of self-care, creating things you're proud of, and constantly reminding yourself that you are imperfect and that you're enough. You have to develop close relationships where you uplift and support each other. Worrying about weight only hinders this progress.
And, okay, if this isn't enough to remind myself to work to be comfortable in my own skin, maybe this is a better motivator: trying to lose weight is the biggest predictor of weight gain. Boom.
The fact is that society will approve of me more if I lose ten pounds. I would be treated better, get a better job, etc. But I will be okay without all that. I will be better in every way if I refuse to seek society's approval.
So here is to summertime and summer goals. We are looking forward to the splash bad, the pool, the summer reading program, summer camps, a trip to Utah, good food, good friends, and maybe a little self-improvement. Hopefully, by the end of summer, I will be that much more closer to loving my body for what it is. And in the habit of putting away my laundry right when I take it out of the dryer. Fingers crossed.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I Have Some Strong Feelings About Food

A while ago I read a post about 100 tips and tricks for baking. It wasn't too bad. I learned something cool: if you're going to put something in the oven and will need to keep the door open for a while, preheat hotter than needed so your food goes in at the right temperature. That's awesome advice.

 But some of the advice was wrong. A lot of people get these baking things wrong and I just want to set the record straight.

 1. Humidity does not really effect what you're baking. Any moisture that batter or dough absorbs from the air is too little to make a difference in your baked goods. But ingredients like butter often have different water content depending on brand. That's waaaaay more important to pay attention to than the weather.

 2. Please, use salted butter if you like it. There is this idea that you need to use unsalted butter so you can control the salt content. But look, one stick of butter contains a quarter teaspoon of salt. Adjust if a quarter teaspoon of salt is a big deal to you. To me, it isn't. I try to use as much salt as I can get away with. Salt makes things taste good! Plus, unless you use a really high quality brand of butter, unsalted butter contains some sort of butter flavor stuff that makes it taste like margarine to me.

 3. You don't need to be really careful with how much you stir batter. Unless you really go at it, you're not going to develop enough gluten to make the batter stiff.

 4. You don't need to proof yeast unless you're unsure if it's still alive. I just dissolve it but I think other people just mix it in and it's fine.

 5. This wasn't in the list, but seriously, don't use that Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust. Cook's Illustrated is obsessed with overly elaborate fancy tweaks that are ultimately unnecessary, and the guy who developed the recipe doesn't even like it. He developed a much better one.

 And then, in that blog post, there was one piece of advice there that was completely unforgivable: using a fork to remove pieces of broken eggshell. What?!? A fork? It's one thing to do this out of ignorance, but it's another thing to recommend it as a "tip or trick." Forks don't work unless you a) are dealing with a big piece of shell or b) get lucky. To get out a piece of eggshell, save yourself ten minutes of your time and a whole lot of stress and use another piece of eggshell.

 Okay, I feel better now. I actually have way more "tips and tricks" in my head that I would love to go off on, but really everyone should just read The Food Lab. That's the one and only tip and trick you need to improve your baking.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Break

Oh boy. Spring break. This week should not come immediately after the intense cold and flu season. I swear the kids have only gone to school half of the last month thanks to one illness after another. And now they are out of school for nine days. I really love my kids, but, you know, absence makes the heart grow fonder. But, to keep myself and them from going insane, I am determined to do something other than sit around and let them watch Curious George all day while I self-actualize. Today, we went to the Air and Space Museum. Can I just say that I am so proud of myself for not a) screaming at my kids in there and b) not losing one of them? Because my five-year-old and two-year-old are typical kids, they never wanted to go in the same direction. And as we all know, during spring break there are a million kids in DC on field trips and a million tourists on vacation. How awesome is it that my kids wanted to go to the most crowded museum on the mall? The highlight was when Henry decided he was a baby and crawled around people looking at the exhibits, then just decided to lay down in the middle of the floor of the World War II exhibit while Summer moved on to explore the Wright Brothers area. Dan Ariely, some sort of psychologist type person, said that when we buy things like clothing and cars, the value of those purchases decreases over time. When we buy experiences, their value increases over time. We forget the long waits for misplaced baggage and kids whining about how long they have to walk. Instead we remember the fun conversation we had over dinner, the crackle of the campfire, and the beautiful white sand. When I'm struggling with the kids while we're having one of those "experiences," I try to think about that. Eventually I am going to forget about Henry freaking out over his cracked cheeseburger bun and instead remember the way he and Summer said "cheers!" as they touched their ice cream cones together. I will forget about struggling with carrying three coats, a stroller, a giant purse with everything in it, plus a two year old, and I will instead remember the kids delight as they sat in old-fashioned airplane seats and as they sat inches away from a war plane. That said, I think our activity for tomorrow will be the playground and then samples at Costco. Maybe I will force them to go to the art museum on Wednesday.