February 28, 2014

If I Were a Spice Girl...

Okay, I know this is kind of a random post, but bear with me…

It all started when I saw an outfit in the Athleta catalog that recently came in the mail. I really liked the outfit and even showed it to my husband (as in, "Look honey, isn't this cute?").
Later that night, I turned out the lights and laid in bed for a bit letting my brain wind down (which it is want to do these days before it's willing to let me go to sleep). And, for whatever reason, it went back to that outfit, and then off on various tangents (as my tangential mind is known to do (as in, "Look! A Bird!")*). And this is where it went…

As I think about the me I want to be as I enter into a new decade and refine how I define myself as both Mom and Me (things are changing as we leave the baby stage behind in our household), it occurred to me that one area that I can express this "refined self" in is my fashion and beauty persona. (It is also in my home/personal space, which I am working on as well. And most especially in how I spend my precious time each day…but more on that later.)

First, let's just start things off by saying that my claiming to even have a "fashion and beauty persona" is kind of funny. I am so far from being a fashionista. I'm like a fashionista's distant cousin's sister-in-law's next door neighbor's babysitter's best friend. BUT, that doesn't mean that the way I present myself doesn't say something about me. It's just that it currently says that I'm a mom of young children that only mildly cares about her appearance…someone who cares enough to shower and wear matching clothes that were purchased in this decade and are not completely offensive to the eye. But it's mainly just a lot of jeans and glorified t'shirts…and in the summer it just changes to cargo capris and short sleeves. It says I value function over form.

But, in my late-night ponderings, I got to thinking…if I were a Spice Girl, which one would I want to be?
Baby Spice and Scary Spice are obviously out of the question unless it's Halloween or I've gone completely over the edge. So that leaves Sporty Spice, Posh Spice and Ginger Spice. Ginger Spice requires a significant dye job, and I'm not sure I can pull off red. So that quickly gets me down to Posh and Sporty.

Now, I'm not looking at this in terms of celebrity aspiration (as in, would I rather look like Victoria Beckham or Melanie Chisholm?…yes, I had to google the real name of Sporty Spice; and yes, the short answer is Victoria Beckham). I'm thinking about what persona better fits who I am and who I want to be and what my day-to-day life looks like. I'm thinking in terms of, "If you build it, it will come." (Yes, that was a Field of Dreams reference.) Sort of: If you dress the part, you will fill the role.

Posh Spice is freakin' cool. She's put together. She's on-trend. She always looks great. I would love to be Posh Spice. But is it really who I am?

Sporty Spice is cool in her own way. She's fit. She's active. She's put together, but she's also comfortable. She's wearing something she can get down on the floor in and play with the kids…or she chase a two-year-old down the grocery aisle. She could also stop what she's doing and workout at any given moment. And maybe she will, since she's dressed for it. She's not dressed in old yoga pants and a grubby race t'shirt. She looks put together and polished, just in a sporty way.

I think that's both more realistic and more me…at least today. I can still put on high heels for a night out with my husband. But Sporty Spice is more in line with who I feel like right now. And who I am striving to be.

Okay, Sporty Spice it is. I'm glad that's settled.

And then I sighed, rolled over, and went to sleep.

Yes, I thought about all of this while laying in the dark a few nights ago.

When I should have been sleeping.

I know. Sigh. It's a disease.


Until next time, give some thought to who you are--and who you are striving to be--and find new ways to express that self.

And, yes, you can call me Sporty Amy.

*If you happen to read this, that reference is for you, Joe.

February 25, 2014

Top Ten Things I Don't Do As Often As I Should

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday at MamaManagement. In the spirit of growing as a blogger, I thought I'd try out some new things at MamaManagement. Nothing too crazy, but, you know, mixing it up a bit. I made some super-minor tweaks to the basic blog layout, but hope to do a little more in the weeks to come (as soon as I figure out how…I'm a bit of an embarrassment to my generation when it comes to this stuff). Anyway…here we go!

Top Ten Things I Don't Do As Often As I Should

10. Clean my make-up brushes
9. Make homemade smoothies
8. Be on-time in the mornings
7. Deep clean my house
6. Say no to snacking
5. Go to bed early
4. Floss
3. Catch myself before I yell when it's more about me being frustrated than about whatever the kids have done
2. Tell my husband how much I appreciate and love him
1. Give myself a break

Until next time, learn from my mistakes: floss your teeth and go to bed early. And give yourself a break.

February 21, 2014

This Week In Soup: Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

I'm not going to lie to you, there is more than a little peeling and chopping involved in this recipe. But it is Deeee-licious! And it is SO good for you. It's chocked-full of vitamin-rich fruits and veggies. And it is warm and smooth, the perfect thick-n-hearty pureed soup, with a hint of sweetness from the apple. Oh. So. Good. I highly recommend.

So here you go…

photo from livingwithout.com

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium leek, white and tender green parts cleaned and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (3lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 medium golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart (32oz) chicken stock
3/4 cup apple juice
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. And the leeks and garlic and cook until tender, but do not let them brown, about 3 minutes. Add the squash, apples, potato, thyme, chicken stock, apple juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or until all vegetables are very tender. Puree the soup. (If you added the thyme with the stems on, remove stems before pureeing. And please be careful working with hot liquid! I just dump it all into my blender and puree.) Once pureed, adjust the seasonings, if needed.(I think I added a little more salt.) Serve with bread or crackers. And enjoy!

Until next time, happy cooking!

adapted from a recipe on www.livingwithout.com (the recipe is gluten and dairy-free) Serves 4-6. 

February 19, 2014

The Sweet Breath of the Sun

On yet another snowy day, another day of school delays and messed up schedules, another day of indoor play, another day of February blues…I find myself sitting in my office looking out on the tremendous piles of snow and trying to remember the feeling of summer.

You remember summer, right? The time of long days and warm nights. The time of playing outside until darkness begins to fall. The time of sitting on the back porch after the kids are in bed enjoying a glass of wine, some adult conversation and the chirp of the crickets. The time of long walks through the neighborhood. The time of grubby hands and dirty feet. The time of lax schedules and impromptu…whatever! Ahhh, summer.

And all that thinking of summer reminded me of this poem. So I thought I'd share it with you, in hopes that maybe you could close your eyes and remember the feeling of summer on yet another cold February day.

It will be here be before we know it.

Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

The Sweet Breath of the Sun
The soft sweet sound
of the distant lawnmower
brings a wistful smile
to my face and
a tugging to my heart.
Though inside,
I can feel the summer
sun's warmth on my face
today and
of summer's long past.
I can hear
the gravely, slurry
speech of Harry Carey calling
hits and runs and outs.
I am lying on the nubby
yellow and brown fabric of
our worn family couch.
My long, tan legs stretch
out from my lavender shorts,
sun-streaked, bowl-cut hair
fans out on a pillow.
The sweetness
of a lazy summer afternoon
before the calls of work
and children
and to-do lists
pull at me.
When I ran
for the sake of running,
laughter spilling
from my lips
skipping, cartwheeling, falling
to the cool grass
out of breath and joyful.
So joyful.
Oh it oozed from my pores,
such joy,
such joy.
And here it is again.
And it has a name.
My Portia.
My Holden.
My heart.
The sweet breath of joy,
of summer,
of sun.
The sweet breath of the sun.

by Amy Lorbach
April 29, 2013

Until next time, close your eyes and remember the feeling of summer and the freedom of being young and the joy of letting go, and do something to make those feelings yours again today.


As I finished writing this post, I actually thought I could hear the distant sounds of a lawnmower floating by on the breeze.

And then I realized it was the distant sounds of a snowblower.


February 14, 2014

A Mother's Meditation: Read This To Yourself Everyday, Mama. It's My Valentine To You.

Happy Valentine's Day Friends!

I was reminded by someone this morning that Valentine's Day is a romantic day for couples to celebrate their love. I've been so focused on Valentine's with my kids, that I forgot that lots of people think of it that way. I guess I thought of it that way before I had kids. Especially during the years I was single. But now I think of it as a day to show love to everybody. I am focused on showing love to my kids and my husband and whoever I come into contact with. That means starting the day with chocolate chip Valentine pancakes and mystery Valentines for the kids, and extra treats for the dog too! It's also a great day to remember to show a little love to ourselves too (like a yummy cup of coffee and an hour at the coffeshop for me!). And I'm focused on teaching my kids to show their love to others. (We've been in crazy crafting mode for the last two weeks to show our love to others…for some reason Valentine's Day really brings it out in me. I don't know why, but I love it.)

Anyway, my way of showing you all a little love today is to share something with you that I just discovered and really loved.

Last weekend I went to a mom workshop led by a local blogger that I follow. And while the workshop was a bit of a mixed bag of good and not-so-good, one of my favorite take-aways was this Mother's Meditation that she shared with us. It's a perfect break for moms any day, but especially helpful on those particularly crazy days when you feel you're losing your grip (and maybe losing your patience, getting short with the kids, and yelling).

So, fellow moms, take a moment and read this to yourselves and find a little peace and focus in your crazy, love-filled day. (Or find an audio recording of it here: http://meghannathanson.com/a-mothers-meditation-2/ and listen to it.) And then pull it back out whenever you need a little piece of peace.

A Mother's Meditation by Meghan Nathanson

I quiet my mind with a deep, stilling breath. And then another. I sit in the emptiness and experience myself, the light in me, perhaps for the first time today. I am quiet. All of the sounds and emotions of my day fall away. I greet myself gently and forgive myself the moments when I was not the Mother I hope to be. I value myself for the moments when I was. I envision a circle of light washing over me, filling me back up with all of the love and energy that I put into caring for my children today. My mind is clear. My heart is happy. I have energy. I have confidence. I have joy. I breathe deeply once again, shedding all negative thoughts. I let go of the way I believe things should be and feel peace with what is. I experience my children's beautiful, sparkling eyes in my mind and see them as if for the first time. I invite their spirit to join with mine and together we give thanks for the miracle of our perfect union. I trust that we were brought together perfectly and that we have so much to learn from one another. I sit in this beautiful place and allow my breath to heal any pain I might have felt in my experience as a Mother today or on any other day. I come to a place where I may begin again in wholeness. A deep love comes over me. With my breath I find my rhythm again. I find a pace for my words and actions that allows me to meet each moment with grace and presence. Beauty enters. And nature. I know that I will treat my children with greater gentleness. I will hear their words. I will smile at them and invite their thoughts into my heart. All that they are will be safe and respected with me. As I come to the end of this quiet moment I take another healing breath and see myself with the same love that I feel for my children. The love I share with my children each day showers me right now. I feel peace. I feel energized for the days to come. I feel alive and ready to give.

Until next time, go forth with mindfulness and gratitude; go forth with love, my valentines…and Namaste to you.

February 10, 2014

Feeling Homesick

**Warning: You are about to read an emotional "dear diary-like" lamenting from my latent teenage, self-involved, emotional self. Just count your lucky stars that it doesn't include bad poetry. And be nice, or I'll dig out my bad poetry from when I was eleven and make you read it. Trust me. It's terrible. And painful to read.

The Clocktower- Hudson, OH

It's been five months since we moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania. All of the boxes have been unpacked. We are mostly settled into the new house. Many of the rooms have been painted (and then drawn on by the two year old). The kids are into a new routine at a new preschool. We've found our way around town. We go to the libraries every week. The kids are in gymnastics. I'm learning the new grocery store and even have a preferred gas station. The kids have a few favorite places to eat out. All in all, we're settled and doing well.

For the first few months after the move I was overwhelmed with the "getting settled" stuff, like unpacking and finding the grocery store and not getting lost going to preschool. Then we hit the holidays and I was overwhelmed with all that comes with Thanksgiving travel and a December kid birthday and the joyful chaos of Christmas. But it's February now. We're settled. The holidays are over. It's cold out and we've had A LOT of snow days. But the kids are still good. And my husband loves his new job.

And then there's me.

I have a bigger, newer and seemingly better house than I had before in Ohio.

Yet I find myself waxing poetic about and longing for my old house. I miss my sunroom. I miss my shower. I miss my fenced-in backyard. I even miss my smaller, cozier bedroom.

And I live in a beautiful area with scenic, rolling hills and a countryside that inspires awe in the beauty of nature and pastoral views each day I wander through it. It's an area that's really great for families and offered much in terms of activities when we first arrived, as it will again when the weather thaws.

Yet I miss my old grocery store, my old favorite restaurants, our wonderful library, the walking path and park across the street from our old house.

There were a lot of things that weren't perfect about where we used to live. There were things I used to complain about….our street was too busy with traffic using our neighborhood as a cut-through. A busy street ran behind the trees behind our house. There weren't lots of kids our kids' ages in our neighborhood.

All of those things have been fixed with our new house.

So why do I long for my old home? The house we came home to after our honeymoon. The bedroom we were in when we found out I was pregnant with our first child. The house we brought both of our kids home to after they were born. The place I spent my last days and hours with my first dog-baby, Jack. The stairs on which Rolland spilled a glass of red wine bringing it to me when we were just dating. The place of our kids' first Christmas's and birthdays and steps and words and...

I miss you old house.

And then there's Hudson. With the grocery store I could shop with my eyes closed, where the cashiers knew my kids by name. With our amazing library/second home and the fantastic librarians that knew my kids so well. With a preschool we adored and appreciated so much. With restaurants we frequented so much that they knew us by name, remembered our orders and bought us dinner on our last night there. With 10 great parks within 10 minutes of our house. With great food nearby, family activities all year long, and a quaint downtown.

I miss you Hudson.

And, of course, the real reason my heart aches when I allow myself to think about what I left behind. The people. I miss my friend lunches and coffee chats, the girls' nights out and chick flicks, the playdates and playgroups, the random run-in's around town. I miss my friends and my acquaintances. I miss my kids' friends. I miss my kid's teachers, our Little Gym team, our doctors and my therapist too. I miss our awesome babysitter (I really, really miss her!!). I left behind some wonderful people that I had looked forward to getting to know better and better…and watching our kids grow up together.

I miss you friends.

In the seven years I lived in Hudson I built a world for myself and my family and had just gotten to the point where I was so happy with that world. And that world was built upon a foundation I started six years prior to that when I lived and worked in neighboring towns. I had work connections and friends and knowledge of the area from that part of my life too.

I miss the world I worked so hard to build.

Yes, I can talk and email and Facebook all those friends. But it's not even remotely the same thing. I can't text Susie that I need a Mommy lunch at The Winking Lizard asap so we can divide our time between deep conversation and calling to our kids to behave or eat their chicken fingers. I can't email Lindsay that we need a playdate so our kids can run off some steam in her basement and we can chat over coffee. I can't meet the playgroup girls for drinks and dinner and leave all the momminess at home for a few hours.


So, today, I sit in my new local coffeehouse while the kids are at their new preschool for a couple of hours. And I'm sipping coffee and tears are slipping down my cheeks as I type this (and I'm kind of hoping that no one is noticing my tears and sniffles).

Now, don't get me wrong. I lead a truly blessed life. And I promise you, I know it. But if you'll allow me this little bout of melancholy without reminding me how good I have it, I would really appreciate it. Sometimes, I think, we just have to let our sadness envelop us. Not for too long though. Just steep in it for a bit. Then pull it together and move on.

I was raised by a "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of mom, so I never wallow for too-too long. I get up each day and I get it all done. I shower and get dressed. I take care of the kids and the house. I make dinner from scratch. I even get my ample ass on the treadmill most every night. But when I get a quiet moment, I let myself wallow a bit. My lows are extra low and my highs aren't quite so high. And for a while I keep it all inside and I pull back from my support system and I try to figure it out all by myself. And then I remember that that doesn't work. And I finally start to call and email and text all of those amazing friends of mine. And I ask for help.

And I get wonderful words like these…

Remember that you are in control of how you feel about yourself and you are an amazing, beautiful, giving person. Give yourself the credit & love you deserve! Sweat those negative feelings out on the treadmill, or better yet join a yoga studio or exercise class that has childcare and you may meet more people that way. Read a good book, take a nap if/when Holden does ;) Book a trip for Spring Break so you have something to look forward to once this weather breaks. If that doesn't work, have a glass of wine after you put the kids to bed and watch some guilty pleasure TV. There are valid reasons we get into these funks, happens to us all, let yourself feel what you feel but remember that it's temporary, and you are in control of getting out of it! I love you and am here for you whenever you need a friend and want to talk about it.

Thank you for the advice and support, my dear friend Susie.

See what I mean? How could you not miss that friend when you move away from her??? But also, how can things be so bad when you are lucky enough to have a friend like that in your life??? And I have a few of those wonderful people and have received a few other wonderful, supportive notes from them. I just wishing they were close enough for a playdate today, you know.

So, I will do what my dear friend Susie said. I will sweat it out. I will make plans for Spring Break. I will keep reading good books.

And I will reach out to my friends. And I will keep trying to make new friends. And I will find babysitters. And I will talk to my husband. And I will wait, with baited breath, for Spring. Because I know everything is better when you can get outside…and play with the kids, and walk the dog, and go for a run, and chat with the neighbors, and feel the sunshine on your skin.

And, of course, everything will be just fine. Because it always is. It just takes time. Before you know it, I'll be waxing poetic about our new home and city and life.

I'll get there.

So, thanks for listening. Dear diary. Dear friends.

Until next time, keep your chin up….Spring will be here soon.

*Postscript: I actually wrote most of this post last Friday, but didn't quite finish it up to post it while I was still at the coffee shop. As I went to post it today, I realized how cathartic the act of writing it was for me. I have felt much better since I wrote it on Friday. So, I guess I should say thank you to you all for being my journal. :-)