Category: Yoga

Challenge/Reward

In today’s yoga class, which seemed to catch me feeling more tired than usual, I kept thinking: this sucks and it’s hard. Fortunately, the instructor seemed to catch the vibe (which might have been everyone else’s too, who knows), and asked us to take our thoughts elsewhere if something negative was coming up. So, I changed it to: this is challenging, and it might be rewarding. Not quite thoroughly positive, but all I could muster. And it helped.
This week’s classes have brought out a few Big Thoughts. One, that I always have a little more to give. I always do. I don’t think that I do, I can’t imagine it could be possible, but if asked to give a little more, reach a little further, hold a pose a little longer … it’s there. I can. This is a strengthening metaphor for the whole of my life. The only thing holding me from giving more is my own belief that I’m spent, and that I can’t.
That said, my other Big Thought was that pushing toward my potential is a delicate balance of being compassionate while asking more of myself. Compassion isn’t about letting someone off the hook, it’s about recognizing the frailty and vulnerability and strength in another person. Even if that person is oneself. The more I practice yoga, the more open I become to accepting my weaknesses, and the difference in my practice from session to session. It’s humbling. Some days I feel strong and energetic. Other days it is more of a struggle. And pushing through on the days of struggle leave me with a greater sense of accomplishment afterward, while on my strong days the sense of accomplishment is accessible within the practice itself.
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In other news … CJ has been peeing on his potty with more consistency–and a lot of pride. The other evening, he timed it with dinner and got a hearty standing ovation from his family. I am almost considering hunting in the attic for some toddler-sized underpants, but I’m not sure how quickly to move with that next step, especially since he gets cared for out of the house and by other people more often than the other children did at the same potty-training point. At this point in the training, once the body awareness is there, it’s a pretty big leap to being consistent all day long. It requires an adult with spidey-senses on the alert. Full-time. For at least a week or two. And when training this early, it also requires spare pants in the diaper bag. If he’s ready, I’m ready. No pushing.
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Finally, can I just say … I was pretty disappointed in myself for not enjoying March break more. More precisely, for not enjoying being with my children non-stop during March break more. However, it did make clear that last summer’s writing holiday will not be happening this summer, not unless I crave a nervous breakdown. I’ve become accustomed to having time to pursue my own work. I need it now. Even when it sucks and it’s hard. Because, yes, it is also challenging and potentially rewarding.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

After the success of last week’s Chocolate Sunflower Granola Bars, which lasted most of the week and worked well for kids’ lunches and take-along snacks, I thought I’d try adapting another cookie recipe to the one-tray bar version (we all need variety, even in cookies). This bar is a little more chewy and cookie-like, and a little less seedy and granola-y. It’s adapted from the chocolate chip cookie recipe found in Mrs. Restino’s Country Kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Cream together 1 cup of softened butter with 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup white sugar.
Next, add the following ingredients to the creamed mixture, and mix them in with a spoon till incorporated: 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola), 2 eggs, and 2 tsp. vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift together the following: 2 cups unbleached flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt. Add to the wet mixture in two additions, and mix till it comes together.
As usual, I kept my recipe nut-free (otherwise, I can’t send the end results in the kids’ school lunches, which totally defeats the purpose). In place of nuts, I substituted: 1 cup of oats. Stir those in, along with 1/2 cup of wheat germ, and 1 cup of chocolate chips.
Spread the dough on a greased cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 25 minutes. Cut into squares as soon as the giant cookie comes out of the oven. Let the tray rest, with the cut squares, on a rack till cool.
Kevin thought he liked last week’s squares best (more roughage to chew on), and Fooey thought these were the best. I give a gold medal to the baking method. I’ve been avoiding cookie-baking for awhile due to how time-consuming it is to drop the dough onto the tray in individual lumps, and then hang around the kitchen while baking tray after tray after tray. Both of these recipes make a substantial amount of bars that last the better part of the week. Bulk baking, baby.
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Yoga day was wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I am finding in this seemingly individual physical experience a collective joy that it wouldn’t be possible to find alone. I continue to reflect on the nature of awe, wonder, the body, and the spirit. I am glad. Plus, I baked four loaves of bread before leaving the house yesterday, so added to these cookie bars, and the waffles made fresh this morning and frozen for three breakfasts this coming week, it was a productive kitchen weekend. Kevin and Albus are working on supper together, while we are all glued to the hockey game. Albus’s menu: caesar salad with homemade dressing and homemade croutons, pasta with homemade pesto, and devilled eggs–for protein. Tonight we’ll be enjoying dessert, too: ice cream. Or, possibly, banana splits.
And Canada just scored the first goal of the game. I’m going to miss the Olympics.

Monster Family Meeting

Thursday is family meeting night. This past Thursday, Albus had evening social plans, so I assumed we’d find another night instead; but plans got cancelled, so I said to the kids on the way home from swim lessons that we could have our family meeting as usual. But it turned out that the evening unfolded slowly. We walked through the door with swim gear, school gear, snow pants, and the noisy unhappiness that seems to arise during every transition. I had to throw supper together (pasta, red sauce from the freezer with hamburger, also from the freezer, neither completely thawed; plus salad and dressing). Kevin worked later than usual (software development in its final stages–we hope). And then we had a lovely surprise just as we were sitting down to our late supper (late for us is 6pm): Nina happened by with the gift of a banana cake with peanut butter frosting! Over supper, we had a funny conversation about dessert: how some families eat dessert virtually every night (does yours, out of curiosity?). We rarely eat dessert, and if we do, it becomes bedtime snack. Dessert is for birthdays, company, and, now, family meetings. I took a poll: who would like to have dessert right after supper tonight? Uh, everyone, obviously. So we all licked our forks, cleared our plates, and I served up six gigantic slices of banana cake. It was very jolly indeed. So jolly that I briefly contemplated making and serving dessert every night after supper (don’t tell the kids). But by the time we’d gotten the dishes done, the school lunches made, and a few baths taken, it was very very very late–bedtime, in fact. CJ was beside himself, having scorned all opportunities to nap. The older children were also in full-on meltdown mode. Being asked to brush their teeth sent several of them into screaming fits. Kevin and I looked at each other: it’s too late–no family meeting tonight.
No family meeting????? The screams and howls rose to fever pitch.
I thought they just wanted the ice cream. But it turned out, when I was able to calm them enough to put the question to them, that it was the meeting they wanted. They would forgo the ice cream as long as we had the FAMILY MEETING. How could we turn them down? (Don’t ask Kevin–he would have found a way. The Canadian women were in the middle of playing in the gold medal hockey game against the United States, and he suffered greatly through the meeting that followed). We gathered on the couch in the living-room so that I could nurse CJ and snuggle Fooey, who was exhausted. The two older children took the lead. Albus was chairperson, and AppleApple was secretary. The entire meeting followed an agenda proposed by them. We discussed cooking this weekend, and other weekend plans. We discussed the kids’ plan to sleep in the basement together on Saturday night (ie. tonight–wish us luck!) and who would sleep where (CJ in the playpen, and AppleApple will carry him up to Mommy if he wakes up in the night and needs a nurse–AppleApple’s plan). We discussed Albus’s recital on Sunday, to which he has been instructed not to wear jeans or sweat pants–horrors! (He suggested wearing sports pants–you know, the super tight, shiny athletic pants that I can just see his piano teacher staring at in askance; when that option was rejected by his mother, he said, okay, then, pajama pants. His teacher hadn’t said anything specifically against pajama pants. Oooooookaaaaay. Deep breath). At this point in the meeting, Kevin looked like he was about to run out of the room–in fact, I’m pretty sure he did manage to slip out to check the score on the screen in the kitchen.
As a final item, AppleApple introduced the topic of: Summer! What camps might they go to, what plans are we making, et cetera. She and Albus were utterly serious and concentrated, but quite honestly, Kevin and I were almost beside ourselves with impatience, which makes me laugh now. Even at the time, I was laughing on the inside, proud of them, and rolling my eyes at myself. I’ve created a monster! But a good monster. A monster that insists on talking things through no matter the circumstances. Still, I had to get the two youngest kids off to bed before they imploded on my lap. So I asked Kevin to introduce a motion to end the meeting.
“Meeting’s over!” he said.
“That’s not how you introduce a motion.”
A vote was taken, and four of us raised our hands to close the meeting. The two older children were moderately accepting, but thought we should have talked longer.
Honestly, these Olympics. I love them, but I need more sleep. I’ve been up till about midnight every night for the past two weeks in order to witness can’t-miss moments–so many of which were worthwhile witnessing, and I’m grateful for the inspiration, the excitement, the displays of athleticism and courage. But I’m looking forward to an early bedtime. Starting Monday.
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Today is an unusual day for me. Starting at 3pm, I’m heading into a yoga marathon, of sorts. First, I’m trying out a “hip-hop” yoga class with several friends. It’s a two hour class and I hope it doesn’t destroy me physically, because later tonight I’m also going to Kasia’s kundalini yoga, in her beautiful, warm–and tonight, likely, crowded–studio. Last month’s class was mind-blowing, physically challenging and rewarding. I’m praying that I’m up for it. Here’s hoping for some Olympic strength by osmosis. (Though, frankly, curled on the couch in a state of sleep deprivation may not be the best method of physically conditioning oneself for feats of strength).

CJ in the House, Woot Woot

Man, I love this kid. He’s a clown. He’s a peacock. He found this hat (Kevin’s) and put it on himself. He’s got the swagger, the moves, the drama. He’s a talker, too. Loves making up words, trying out words, putting words together. Reading me stories from books. Loves an audience. Sometimes, these days, I’m all he’s got.
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Tonight I made it to yoga class. Finally. It had been a week and one day since the last class. I haven’t had the energy recently to get out at night. I’ve chosen pjs and bed over sweating and exertion. But tonight’s class reminded me–as all the classes do–why it’s worth it to go. Because it damn near kills me, sometimes, and those times turn out to be the best. Tonight I was able to manage the physical distress as long as I continued with the poses; I’m finding it more natural for my mind to enter a space where it can cope calmly and concentrate. But when I reached final resting pose, I was fairly certain that I’d pushed myself too hard and had gone too far. Lying still. It felt almost impossible. It took ever fibre of self-control to continue resting there (and for those of you who practice yoga, you know this pose is often the most pleasurable, a place of relief and accomplishment and general good vibes). I was the last person to get up and leave the room, but I stayed till I’d gotten myself back. It took a lot of concentrated breathing. I also kept repeating a mantra given to me by my kundalini teacher and friend, Kasia.
And as I walked out of the room, I realized that I was GRINNING. I felt amazing. Not at all like throwing up. Fabulous. Beyond fabulous.
Very trippy.
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The yoga practice works as a metaphor, for me. It is like going on a journey, in miniature. A difficult journey. There are moments when you think you cannot endure. You want to give up. You get past that moment, and you’re confronted by another. And another. But if you keep going and stay focussed on something clear and necessary–your own breath entering and exiting your body–you discover reserves of courage and strength. You get beyond. To somewhere you couldn’t have imagined when you started out. To something … not necessarily better, because who’s to judge. Just … to a place that has depth and meaning, and to which you bring the courage that got you there.
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I’d title this entry “Flake Out With Obscure CanLit Mama,” but that doesn’t go with the photos.

Something Old and Something New

This is the kid who’s off to preschool. This is the kid who’s home sick. This is the mother (not pictured; possibly wearing frowny face) who is not using her “work” morning to do much more than make peppermint tea with honey for said sick kid while fielding innumerable bored comments as he sits beside me and reads the words I’m typing.
I forgot to bring my camera to the preschool drop-off. Will have to stage the moment next Friday. It was the first time I’ve felt like a commuting, all-working, no-one-staying-at-home family; though in fact the feeling was pretend, because here I am, working from home. But anyway. We all ate breakfast, got packed up, headed out the door together, and drove to the preschool, where we said goodbye to Kevin and CJ, and then I drove the girls to school (Albus stayed in the vehicle and “spied” on people). On a Friday when no one is ill, this schedule will mean that I’ll return home to utter quiet. Today, not so much. Albus is all about the sound effects.
But even that possibility reminds me that once upon a time, Life was very quiet. I frequently returned home to an empty apartment. And while there is much pleasure to be found in quiet contemplation (or the potential thereof), I’m grateful for the noise and chaos and activity that these four extra personalities bring into the house and into my life.
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Last night, despite a raging and persistent head cold, I went to hot yoga. This is my winter replacement for school. I’d gotten in the habit of leaving the house on Thursday evenings, as had everyone else, so I figured I’d better keep that habit up. Hot yoga it is. I walk into the room, lie down on the mat, and it’s like being on vacation in the tropics. Yoga is most effective when the mind turns off and empties out. I love it. By the end of class, I feel spiritually renewed. Each time is a little bit different. One time, I was moved to tears, though I couldn’t say why. There is something about emptying oneself out that makes room for more, for change.
However, I did not get to meet with Nina afterward, which was our plan, to discuss our words of the year. I’m looking forward to it. I think my word will be EXPERIENCE. I like the duality of the word, how it both honours the repetition of my mothering life and days, and points toward the new and challenging as well. Experience can only come from practice, and from putting in the time. It requires patience and commitment. But to have an experience can be quite a different undertaking altogether: it requires a leap of faith, openness, willingness, recognition, courage. Experiences drop out of the sky; sometimes you simply find yourself within them, and sometimes you have to look for them and seek them out. (I’m thinking of “experiences” as adventures, of a sort, but more mundane than that, too. Experiences can include anything: finding yourself in conversation with someone you don’t usually talk to, or sitting down to play the piano and finding you want to write a new song, or picking up a book and being unexpectedly touched and moved by a random sentence. ie. my definition is pretty wide open).
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And now. I need to get to work. I’ve just pointed my sick son toward the television. I’m going to let him watch YTV, which is usually off-limits due to the wretched advertising. Does my child need to be inundated with the latest and greatest in toys, cereals and movies? No, my child does not. But an hour or two can’t hurt.
In about an hour from now, Kevin will arrive home with our youngest.
“He won’t be able to tell us about his day!” AppleApple pointed out, as we drove away from the preschool. Unfortunately, that’s true. Or mostly true. He likes to mention details about his experiences, but unless we already know and can make the connections, these are hard to piece together into a full picture. For example: Boat! Shoe! Shoe? Shoe! Daddy coming! etc.
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In happy self-promotional news, I’ve learned that my story “Rat” has been nominated by The New Quarterly magazine for the National Magazine Awards, and the Journey Prize. These affirmations do the heart good. They really do.

Focus

Can’t stop taking photos. Running out subjects. Maybe I’ll carry the camera out tonight and record an evening edition playgroup in session. Sleepy due to late night and indulgent celebrations. Achy from the hot yoga super-poses. Mountains of laundry due to not folding on my birthday. Supper will be black beans and rice with tortillas and authentic Central American crema, and queso blanco; this might possibly be my favourite meal of all time. I should be gearing up to make new year’s resolutions, or feeling more contemplative, but … somehow, not yet. “Can you please focus!” I just heard Albus tell his sister, who is doing the camera work for their mutual movie project, which involves all the amazing Star Wars Lego ships he’s built over the last week. Quite astonishing, really. He does it completely without assistance; when I tried to help, I realized that I couldn’t, because the instructions were too complicated for my non-mechanically-inclined brain to follow. It’s a bit like doing 3-D puzzles.
So here’s what else is on, this sleepy old day: Kevin’s gone to Toronto. Fooey’s watching TV. CJ’s napping. I’m playing. Above, some evidence.

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