Friday, July 26, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Diving - the Big Finish!

Last year's dive season was not as fantastic as Connor's first year on the team. The coach's wife died, the team was competing in very difficult meets, there seemed to be more stress than the prior year. It is probably most telling that I didn't write about the dive team at all last year (although I also didn't post much in July and August last year).

This year, when it came time to sign up for the time, Connor said he wanted to do it again because it's really fun! Well, OK then, we'll sign up.

As a recap, Connor's first year on the dive team he had three dives - hurdle and front dive; back dive; forward flip. The flip was never fantastic, but it was good enough. Last year, Connor lost his flip. He just couldn't do it any longer, and by the end of the year, there was a lot of negative energy around that dive. It was almost painful to watch. This year, he started the season by losing his back dive. So, in two year's time, he had gone from having 3 regulation dives to 1. This is not good.

So we went to the pool, and while I can't help him on his flip, I can help him on his back dive. We went to the diving board, and I made Connor practice the dive. I was giving him pointers, the lifeguard was helping him out, he was standing on the end of the board scared to try. Finally, I told Connor we'd leave the pool after he did 5 or 10 (I can't remember which) quick back dives. He would need to go to the end of the board and not pause - because it was clear to everyone watching that Connor was just psyching himself out.

Whatever the number was seemed reasonable to Connor, and he actually completed them. They weren't necessarily pretty, but they did allow him to get over his fear. We repeated this exercise a few times, until Connor was happy and excited to do the dive again. I even showed Connor videos of him performing the dive last year, hoping that if he saw himself do it, he'd be more comfortable.

He took two sessions of morning dive lessons, and during lessons, he worked on the dive some more. Connor's coach rarely hands out a compliment that isn't deserved, but even he was telling me the dive looked great.

The final meet of the season was with four Arlington swim clubs. Because there were so many divers, each diver would only do two dives, rather than three. There was a delay in the meet for an electric storm, it was so hot that as I stood at the score recording table, I was literally slipping off my chair from the sweat. And even though I advocate not being jealous of anyone, I have never been so jealous of every single diver as they plunged into the water. Did I mention it was hot?

Connor's first dive was good. His unadjusted score was second or third. His second dive was a jumping back dive. And he nailed it! All of the table workers looked at me and expressed how impressed they were with him.

The dive was good enough to catapult him into first place among 7 year old boys. And it was so wonderful to be able to tell Connor that all his work paid off. That he had taught himself that back dive again, and it looked fantastic. His coach was so proud of him - the team cheered for him - it was such a fantastic way to end the season.

Now...hopefully he won't lose that dive again in the off-season and he'll get that flip back next year! He has expressed interest in moving to the "A" team, but he definitely needs all his dives to do that.

Bravo, Connor! You really do deserve that medal!

The AFC Boys Waiting to Dive


Friday, July 19, 2013

{this moment} Wish Us Luck!

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Seriously? It's National Ice Cream Month?

This month's nutty inbox message was the announcement of National Ice Cream month. I have no idea if this is a real thing, and I guarantee I'm not going to look that up. Because whether or not it's true, it's a great idea, and I plan to celebrate. Besides, the message came from the folks at Real@ Seal, and given that they are dairy folk, they should know about National Ice Cream month, right? I was asked to complete a mission involving two tasks and then blog about it. Easy-peasy. Results are below.

First task - figure out what the Real@ Seal is. Here's what I learned. Although I instantly recognized the seal when I saw it, I had no idea what it meant. To get the "REAL@ Seal", your product must not contain dairy substitutes AND it must be made from US dairy - nothing imported. I'm all about staying away from dairy substitutes. They frighten me, in fact. Fat free whipping cream? Are you joking? REAL@ Seal products need not be organic. The "REAL@ Seal" can be very tiny - like the size of your pinky fingernail. I'm not sure if this is intentional or not, but when specifically looking for the seal, I had difficulty finding it. It can be found in the dairy aisle AND on the shelves. I found a can of Carnation condensed milk with the seal on a shelf while I was in the baked goods aisle shopping for cupcake ingredients.

Also learned while figuring out what the seal is - the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for America recommend that everyone age 9 or older gets 3 servings a day of low-fat or fat-free milk. Children 4 - 8 should check-in with 2.5 servings a day, and children ages 2 - 3 should get 2 or 3 servings a day. This actually made me feel pretty good because I am haunted by a nagging feeling that my milk-striking daughter, Helen, gets fewer dairy servings each day than her pediatrician recommends. I'm guessing Helen gets 2 servings a day, which seems pretty close. I probably get fewer than my recommended 3 servings, and I'm probably even pulling down the US average which is 1.8 servings per day. So I bought some cheese and have been eating it to try and catch back up. Clever, eh? Who says blogging can't be good for you?

See the teeny-tiny "real seal"?
Second task - create a new ice cream dessert.

Game on. This is actually the part of the email I received that interested me most.

I am in the process of baking cupcakes for a friend's wedding. In addition, Ed decided to bake brownies with the little people last weekend. Talk about ridiculous dessert fortune in our home! We even have whipped cream!

And so I present to you...

The Whipped-Red-Velvet-Brownie-Sundae - made with actual milk products, not fake ones (even the buttermilk and sour cream in the red velvet cupcake were REAL@ Seal products)!

This dessert is delicious, and meets all of Helen and Connor's very stringent criteria for super dessert. Actually, there is exactly one criteria. It must involve multiple desserts placed together in one product so that it counts as ONE treat.

Verdict: Although I had difficulty finding the Seal, and I found a few products to be inconsistently labeled - as in one size had the Seal, another of the same item did not have the Seal (unless I missed it), I now at least know the REAL@ Seal means U.S. - and actual dairy, rather than some partially hydrogenated substitute (or whatever that no-fat whipped cream thing I left on the shelf was made of).

I am now challenging myself to come up with additional ice cream desserts, because what's the point of learning it's National Ice Cream month if you're not going to spend it eating ice cream?


Happy National Ice Cream month, y'all. Thanks for bringing this critically important event to my notice, REAL@ Seal.

Monday, July 15, 2013

First (and maybe last) Swim Meet

Tonight, Helen swam in her first swim meet. At her practice this morning, Helen was told she could either swim one length of the pool doing freestyle, or she could do one length of the pool using a kickboard. She knew she was "in" when she proudly swam a length of the pool at practice. She gave me the thumbs up sign and shouted "the meet is at Donaldson Run tonight - and I'm going!"

According to Helen, her arms get very tired when she swims freestyle, so she opted for the kickboard race. She was very excited, and a little bit nervous as well.

We arrived at the meet and the mini-tigers (Helen's group of swimmers) were told they could do a warm-up lap. This is when I discovered that it's very difficult to tell which kid is yours when they're swimming. In diving, your child's name is announced and they are the only doing anything in the pool. In swimming, there's a whole pile of kids swimming, and their faces are in the water. Gah!

I filmed another child's warm-up lap, only to discover that she wasn't my child when she got out of the pool, so I quickly scanned the pool and found Helen. Phew.

The mini-tigers were in a huddle, getting ready to do their signature "roar" when I overheard someone say there would be no kickboard race - only a freestyle race. My heart sunk. I wasn't sure how Helen would react. She was so pumped for the kickboard race, but also so pumped to be participating in her first meet.

Lucky for me, Helen rocks transitions, and she took the news in stride. She followed her group of swimmers to the designated area, got her swim card filled out, and prepared to swim her 25 meters of freestyle.

She was in the second heat. Predictably, she was last. I wasn't sure if she would notice, but afterwards, I'm pretty sure she did notice because she wasn't too accepting of the cheers and high fives she got. I think she just figured she would win, and everyone would know she was a star swimmer.

I told her to call my parents, because earlier in the day my mom had said she would've jumped in the car to come see this if she could. I knew my mom would be able to relay the importance of just finishing. That's a big deal - especially for someone who really couldn't swim very much at all prior to the start of the season.

She really has worked hard. And I'm extremely proud of her for this. I also thought her coaches handled everything very well, clearly noting that it was a huge accomplishment to finish - with no help at all!

Unless you are a parent or grandparent of Helen cheering her on - welcome to the longest 2:40 of your life.

Helen - you will spend your whole life knocking down mountains. And I do believe the first one of these fell tonight. Also, it should be noted that Connor was totally nice about the whole event, noting that she did pretty good and really cheering her throughout the whole race. Sometimes, that little dude can be pretty nice.

After the meet, Helen told me that next year she was going to dive and NOT swim, because swimming to just so hard. Guess we'll see what happens next summer!


Friday, July 12, 2013

{this moment]: Strange CSA Produce

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lunch Date at Boloco!

I don't often go out for lunch. Instead, I sit at my desk and gobble down leftovers, trying to squeeze enough work in during the day that I don't feel obligated to work at night. I think I'm like a lot of moms that way.

I am, however, extremely lucky to work in a neighborhood with loads of good restaurants so when I do go out, I have choices.

A few weeks ago, I received an email about a new restaurant in the neighborhood - Boloco - and it met all my lunch establishment criteria.

1. It must be within 3 blocks of my office.

2. It must allow me to either call an order in or order online so I can minimize my wait time. Boloco offers online ordering that is extremely detailed and completely prepared to deal with lots of random preferences.

3. It must offer either something spicy (because my children don't tend to eat spicy food, so I like to eat spicy food when I go out) or a sandwich with good ingredients. As in - do not put a pink tomato on a sandwich and call it good!

4. Because I'm a vegetarian, there must be a decent veggie option, which is actually the least difficult criteria to meet these days. (This hasn't always been the case!)

I opted for the Buffalo Bowl. Normally, this would be way outside my comfort zone. However, for the first few months of my life that I lived in Rochester, New York, I wasn't a vegetarian. I got a taste for buffalo wings and I decided to see if tofu could, indeed, stand up to buffalo sauce - something I haven't seen another restaurant try to do. Also, I figured since I had opted for the bowl rather than the burrito, I could afford the blue cheese dressing in the buffalo bowl. (That probably isn't true, but it did taste good, so I'm going to live in my fantasy world.) The Buffalo Bowl comes with rice, buffalo sauce on tofu (or chicken, steak, or pork), chopped up celery, and then it's doused with blue cheese dressing.

My verdict? Thumbs up. However, knowing myself, I'm guessing the next time I order from Boloco, I'm going to go with a more traditional burrito - like the Summer (mango, cheese, black beans) or the Cajun (black beans, spices, corn salsa). The first one was on the house, so I figured I could be a little more risky than usual. If I take my kids there, I'm sure they'll favor the smoothies and cookies.

Boloco is distinguishing itself in two ways. First, they're trying to use organic and very high quality ingredients, which I appreciate. Want to see how Nasoya tofu is made? Check it out here. (And you can see more about their ingredients in their recently launched Culinary Investigative Assignment.) I'm not a huge fan of tofu, but it was pretty good soaked in sauce. It probably would've been better if it had also been rolled up in a burrito. Second, they're trying to offer a relatively common product (wraps / burritos / bowls) with less commonly themed ingredients, so you can get a taste of different styles of food and hopefully please lots of palates with one lunch stop.

If you're in the DC area, there are two Boloco restaurants. I went to the one located at 1028 19th Street, DC. There's also one in Bethesda. This chain has really made inroads in Boston and there are a few scattered throughout New England as well.

Thanks for lunch, Boloco!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Can't Fire Me, I Quit!

Helen joined the mini-tigers swim team this year. It entails practice four mornings a week for 45 minutes, but it's very low-key. They often will swim one length of the pool at the end, but spend most of their time in the shallow well of the pool (2.5 - 3.5 feet deep). They work on their stroke and play games.

I was dearly hoping Helen would opt for the dive team instead of the swim team. It's just easier for me if both Connor and Helen are participating in the same activity. But Helen is her own person who wants to make her own way, and she'd prefer to swim. I can appreciate that sentiment.

The regular swim team is divided into "A" swimmers and "B" swimmers. The A meets are on Saturday mornings and B meets are held on Monday evenings. At some B meets, the host will add special events for children ages 6 and under, and that's when the mini-tigers spring into action.

The first week of mini-tigers, Helen wasn't interested in participating in any supplemental events. The second week, she announced at dinner that she had a meet that night. By this time, it was way too late to take her to the meet. Her babysitter had missed this announcement at practice.

The third week, the special event being added was a 6 and under freestyle swim and backstroke. In order to participate, the mini-tigers had to show they could swim the length of the pool without stopping.

Helen can actually do this. I've seen her do it many times. But I don't think the coaches explained to her she was being watched, so on the morning of the test, she stopped about 5 feet short of the wall and walked the rest of the way in. This disqualified her from the meet. (And yes, I think this is stupid.)

Prior to her swim test, Helen told me she didn't want to swim in the meet. Instead, she had her eyes set on what will be the last meet of the season for her - next week's meet. But after the swim test, when she heard the other children's names being announced as participants - and heard them cheer, I could see how hurt she was. I think at that moment she decided she did want to participate - or at least she wanted to be the one to say she wasn't participating! She also instantly started worrying that she wouldn't be able to swim in next week's meet, and that would mean she'd never get to swim in a meet.

It's just human nature. Nobody likes to be excluded. If she had her heart set on the meet, I might have intervened on her behalf and tried to get an exception for her. But I decided it might be best for her to just sit with this feeling a little, so that next week - when I'm confident she will get to swim, she'll be that much more proud of herself. It's important in life to know setbacks and overcoming those setbacks on your own.

Swim team has been hard for Helen. Like Connor, things tend to come easy to Helen, so she tends to excel at whatever she chooses to participate in. Unlike Connor, she's more willing to stick with something that's difficult - so even though swimming has really been taxing her, she's pretty determined to figure it out.

She requests to swim a lap when we go to the pool.

She tries hard to get those little arms out of the water for her freestyle, rather than her typical breast-stroke like meandering.

She really tries to get a good breath so she can just keep moving.

Good luck, Helen! I just know you'll make the meet on Monday. Now, let's hope it doesn't rain!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fourth of July

For years we've been heading to Chincoteague for 4th of July. But this year, we decided to stick around town and enjoy the fireworks, delaying our trip to the beach until Labor Day when friends will be able to join us.

This, as it turns out, was a great choice.

We kicked off our festivities at a friend's annual 4th of July neighborhood parade and picnic. We haven't attended that event since Connor was 1, so this was Helen's first visit. I'm pretty sure we'll be back again next year!

The parade was complete with politicians, moms against guns, moms asking for GMOs to be labeled, people throwing candy, a dog that pooped right in front of us, a bomb squad, and an old-time firetruck. Good times, good times. As it turns out, the guy who had the honor of cleaning the dog poop was the florist for another friend of mine getting married in September! Her shouted greetings to him really made it feel like a small town. Next came the potluck which had enough treats that Connor would find himself with a sore stomach later that night.

From the parade, we headed home and then went to a park in Virginia to watch the downtown fireworks. Prior to the fireworks, Helen and Connor bounced in a couple of moonbounces and we all played a bit of bocce ball. We felt so refined. Then, we knocked "Find an ice cream truck" off the summer list, and tried to get more ice cream in us than on us, as our treats melted in the heat.

The next day, Friday, we knocked "go to a waterpark" off the summer list, followed by spending two hours on floats at our pool the next night, where we were lucky enough to see a friend during the first hour. We were feeling a bit waterlogged by this point, but didn't let that keep us from our first family tubing trip on Sunday. We shot off fireworks in front of our house on Saturday night (that we had gotten at the post 4th of July sale), and saved plenty of fireworks for random days when we find ourselves awake when it's dark and feel the need for a little sparkle. Legal fireworks are one of the things I love about Virginia.

I do believe we've found a few new 4th of July traditions, although we were in the water so much, there are few photos!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting Our Groove Back, Tubing!

For years, Ed and I took an annual tubing trip up to Harper's Ferry. In fact, we used to combine the tubing with riding our bikes about 60 miles in the searing heat of summer, so we could meet friends who would drive our car for us. (The hill that ended the ride is one we will never forget - and I will also never forget the time we tried to ride on the towpath, which does not work well on a road bike.) After our ride, we would spend the day tubing down the river, camp that night, and then drive home with our bikes attached to the back of the car.

We have a lot of really fun memories from that annual trip.

Every year, we get an invitation for that trip. We have declined that invitation each year since I was pregnant with Connor. Although we often have a babysitter when Helen and Connor are sleeping, we don't tend to leave them with a babysitter during a non-work day. This year, we decided Helen and Connor were old enough to go along, so we accepted the invitation and our friends switched from the whitewater trip to the flatwater trip so we could join them. I'm so glad they did.

Helen and Connor were a bit apprehensive. Though both are confident swimmers at this point, they weren't sure what it would mean to be on a river in an inner tube. On top of that, we were required to watch a "safety video" which highlighted whitewater tubing, and the fact that if you stand up, you can get your ankle and foot caught in the rocks. This can be an extremely dangerous situation with the water pushing you forward and you unable to move. The only person who watched the movie was Helen. Her eyes were glued to the video, and as soon as it ended, she opted for the double tube rather than the single. If she was going down, she was going down with a parent.

We assured both Helen and Connor the trip would be awesome, and at the end of our first run down the river, both requested to go again. At the end of our second run down the river, Helen took Ed aside and let him know if he wanted to go once more, she was willing to go with him. That kid is always willing to make a sacrifice!

Our friend brought water guns which made for a lot of fun, and cruising down that river brought back a lot of great memories. Probably the most prominent thought I kept having was "Wow! My kids are old enough to enjoy things that I enjoy!". It's such a liberating thought. Next year, we're adding the camping back in - and possibly Connor will be able to go on the whitewater trip, while Helen and I cruise down the river on the flat water. Our friends are already scouting out a plan. When we said good-bye, Helen said "see you at the same time, next year". And indeed - that's definitely the plan!


Friday, July 5, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Recipe Development: Peach, Blackberry, Yogurt Pie

Tonight, I decided I was in need of a dessert. And a few weeks ago, I was challenged by Stonyfield and Earthbound Farms to come up with a recipe that used ingredients from both companies. Technically, this was supposed to happen in June. But I failed at that.

I started by lining a ramekin with pie crust I had made for my Strawbluple that I've been storing in my freezer. It was the oat pie crust recipe from the Earthbound Farms cookbook "The Earthbound Cook", which is my all-time favorite pie crust.

Next, I mixed 2 T of Plain Stonyfield Lowfat Greek Yogurt with 1 chopped up peach and 4 blackberries.

I decided it would be hearty enough at this point, so I added 1 Tablespoon of uncooked oats.

After mixing the fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal together, I piled it into my ramekin, and realized that two ramekins would've been a better choice. But, since I didn't want to waste any of my filling, I just piled it extra high.

I covered that with a pat of the oat crust dough, baked in my toaster oven on 350 for 15 minutes and viola!

I had a personal peach, blackberry, yogurt pie!

Which satisfied my dessert craving perfectly, but didn't make me feel too guilty. However, the next time I make this, I'm adding a teaspoon of brown sugar to the filling.


I received a coupon for a free product from Earthbound Farm and Stonyfield. Thanks! And yum!

Spring Camping

Over Memorial Day weekend, we went camping in Greenbrier State Park. One of the reasons we chose this campsite is because no matter when we go, the water always seems to be warm. That won't be the first thought that comes to mind the next time we try and figure out our camping plans!

Although it was about 90 degrees the weekend after Memorial Day (when Ed took Helen and Connor on the boy scout camp out), it was barely above freezing the first night we camped over Memorial Day. Ed and I tucked Helen and Connor into the two-person tent we schlepped through Alaska in 2001 with a total of three sleeping bags, an air mattress, and hats. Ed and I "slept" in our family tent that always allows a breeze in. Lucky for me, we have super warm sleeping bags from that same trip to Alaska that zip together, so I was able to steal some of Ed's body heat and keep from freezing. (Yes, mom, we packed our long pants - but not nearly enough of them!)

But that lake? We were bound and determined to visit it - even if we did need warm coats!

Next, we went fishing, where Connor caught the only fish of the trip.

And finally, we took a break from the biting cold (though it was getting warmer each day - and I understand on Tuesday, it was actually pleasant to be in the lake) and played BINGO.

Helen and Ed do not plan to enter any BINGO tournaments.

Connor was delighted to win a candy prize, and shared a bit of his booty with Helen and a friend who joined us for the last two days of our trip.

Our hammock made its maiden camping voyage where it doubled as both a lounger for Helen and a slingshot for all three children to play on. I still can't believe nobody did a header into the many rocks that were near the action. I'm still not sure whether we'll bring it with us again.

I think it took about two days before I finally felt warm again. And then local temps were pushing 100, and I instantly mourned the Spring that wasn't.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Helen Rides!

I've thought for a while that Helen could probably ride her bike without training wheels - but she had no interest in performing such a feat. But a couple of weeks ago - BAM! off went the training wheels and though she certainly doesn't have the necessary confidence yet, she's getting pretty good at riding in a straight line. Although I claim credit for Connor learning to ride a bike, Ed did most of the running alongside Helen. She still prefers the trail-a-bike for long trips, but hopefully by the end of summer she'll be able to power herself to the ice cream store!

Connor would like everyone to know that he can still ride his bike as well.