Despite the Suggestion, I Still Don’t Add Peas to My Mac n’ Cheese

Ask Abby what her favourite meal is and everyone in our family will accurately predict the answer: Grammie’s homemade Mac n’ Cheese.

She loves this meal enough to make a Halloween costume dedicated to our favourite boxed variety. So you could say we take Mac n’ Cheese very seriously in the Frost household.

Years ago I met an acquaintance at the grocery store. She did frequent, long stints of solo parenting, so whenever we bumped into each other we traded notes on the rigors of getting food into bellies and laundry done and school bags packed and work responsibilities juggled when our husbands were on the road.

She told me one of her go-to suppers was Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese, then leaned in and whispered: Here’s my secret – I always add frozen peas to the cooking water. You know, to get veggies into the kids.

This is a fine idea in principle and I’ve done similar things myself – I have a child who loathes bell peppers and mushrooms, but eats both of them quite happily in every batch of chili I make (they are finely diced).

I happen to love peas. And I aim to incorporate a broad range of foods into my life, including plenty of veggies. But it can be nice to enjoy a bowl of creamy, cheesy Mac n’ Cheese without the peas.

Maybe my kids would tolerate – even enjoy – peas in their macaroni. But I doubt it. I like peas and I like Mac n’ Cheese, but I’m perfectly content that never the twain shall meet.

Your turn. What’s your favourite way to incorporate veggies into daily life? Have you ever had a perfectly delicious recipe turn out…less delicious…by trying to make it more “virtuous” or “healthy?”

Nary a pea in sight…

Header photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Every Day Is Better If It Includes…

Several times over the years a friend has told me: Every day is better if it includes a banana. We both happen to like bananas (for me, especially when topped with a liberal smear of peanut butter), but I certainly don’t eat a banana every day.

But, when I do, I almost always think of her words. I’m not entirely convinced every day is better if I eat a banana – I’ve had some pretty crummy days and I’m sure a good portion of them included eating a banana at some point – but it doesn’t hurt. Bananas are delicious. So, how would you finish the sentence: Every day is better if it includes…

Thoughts?

Header photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Every Flight Counts: A Movement Hack + Call for Questions

This feels like such a little thing – almost too small to mention without it sounding ridiculous. But it’s a conscious decision I’ve made regularly for the last six months or so that I’ve found to be helpful – so I’ll share it here today for what it’s worth.

As part of keeping myself active and energized throughout the day, I aim to fit in regular movement. It’s easy to get stuck with my butt in the chair working on a screen for hours at a time (especially since I still haven’t gotten back into a routine of using my treadmill desk – demerit alert).

One of my favourite ways to break up the sitting? Taking a trip up and down our stairs. (I rarely do this expressly for exercise; though, occasionally, if I’m feeling particularly sluggish, I might run up and down the stairs a few times. Unfortunately, I tend to have weird spatial perception after a few flights of stairs and I’m actually terrified I will fall head-over-heels and knock out my teeth. And we all know that would be an expensive fix.)

When I finish a Zoom call, I’ll make a trek downstairs to empty out the plastic recyclables. Then I’ll run back upstairs and do another trip with the paper recycling. I could combine both jobs in one trip, but it’s easier – and keeps me active for a while longer – to spread it over two trips.

An hour later I might run some paperwork down to the office, or shuttle laundry.

The main key, for me, is to stop thinking in terms of efficiency. The more trips the better! In addition to the mental energy I used to expend trying to be efficient with my trips up and down the stairs (leaving items in a pile at the top so I could take everything at once)…I now appreciate that each trip is a low-impact way to incorporate movement into my day while also functioning as a great “break”.

Also, this way, I never have a towering stack of items to trip over at the foot/head of the stairs.


ask me (almost*) Anything

As part of NaBloPoMo a variety of bloggers have been doing entertaining – and downright fascinating – Q&A posts. Time for me to join the party! Feel free to leave questions in the comments below…or you can (no promises it will work; my fingers and toes are crossed) use the following link to access a nifty little Google Forms doc (on this I am shamelessly following the lead of San and Suzanne, two NaBloPoMo rockstars).

*I refuse to answer questions about how often I change sheets. There have to be some limits here…(Sarah does it weekly; I am in awe).

Your turn. Do you have any simple solutions for easy ways to incorporate more movement into your day? Any questions you want me to answer in an AM(A)A post?

Header photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Does Your Smile Have A Price Tag?

A few months ago I had to take a child to the dentist. The visit went smoothly, though there was a gentle suggestion that parents might need to take over flossing duties. Ahem. Duly noted…and subsequently ignored.

We were talking about an orthodontist consult we’d had and the costs associated with these procedures; the dentist mentioned several studies recently that have found people with straight, white teeth are more likely to end up in a higher wage-earning bracket as an adult. He said something along the lines of: It’s too bad society works this way…but it does.

During this same visit we talked about the wonderful provincial healthcare plan that covers most of the cost of dental work for children until they turn 15! (This is not standard across all provinces, strangely enough.) The dentist mentioned how, even though it’s free, many parents who don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for their own dental work – out of a position of shame and/or concern about expensive procedures being recommended that wouldn’t be covered – don’t bring in their eligible children. It hadn’t crossed my mind that this free resource would be disproportionately accessed by people with more financial independence.

From having the flexibility to cart your children to appointments in the middle of the day, to being able to cover the bill to correct issues, in so many ways, the cascade effect of privilege can impact what the world sees when we smile.

I had never really thought about well-aligned, white teeth as being yet another form of socioeconomic privilege but, of course, they are. And that realization took me by (sad) surprise.


Your turn. How do you feel about the dentist? Did you have braces as a child – I, along with several other family members, have a slight gap in my front teeth and, through no virtue of my own, evaded orthodontic treatments. That’s fortunate because there is no way my parents would have been able to afford braces. Once, when my siblings were younger, a dental bill for our family totaled more than my father’s net salary for a MONTH.

Header photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The End of An Era. Period.

If all goes to plan, my last period has come and gone. It was awful, which seemed like a fitting way to end 20+ years of issues. Some quick calculator work suggests I’ve survived about 260 periods in my life. Somehow that number seems small to me, like I expected it to be in the 1000s?

My hysterectomy is scheduled for later this week and while I’m starting to feel nervous (gulp!), I’m also confident surgery is the right decision.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I’m pausing to give thanks for this body of mine. For all its flaws, it is fearfully and wonderfully made. It gave birth to life – literally! It nurtured and developed two beautiful (exhausting) babies who have become beautiful (and, frequently, exhausting) children.

More generally, this body has seen and experienced some truly incredible things. But now it’s time to move forward. Here’s to saying goodbye to one era and embracing what’s to come…

Abby
Levi

Header photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

My 5K Recap

Well, folks, I’ve done it! I’ve participated in a chip-timed race! This happened to be one of my goals for 2022 and I am so, so glad I made it an official goal because I’m almost certain it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.


I suspect this comes through in how I write about running, but I am no natural athlete. Running – even short distances – has always felt like it takes a lot of effort. I’m short, big-boned and…knew I wasn’t going to be setting any course records.

This race has always, ultimately, been for the fun of it all. I set out with a goal to do 15 “training” runs in the leadup to the race, but fell short of that mark. I had things beautifully planned and last Monday ran my best splits of 2022. And then, on Wednesday, I got sick. Thankfully, the worst of it was over in about 18 hours, but I wanted to give myself plenty of buffer for recovery. Aside from short daily walks, I didn’t exercise at all between Tuesday afternoon and the race Sunday morning.

This wasn’t the end of the world and, if I’m being honest, I was less concerned about the lack of runs and more frustrated I couldn’t finish filling out the “training” schedule I’d set up in my planner (sad but true).

It was COLD (2 degrees) and I currently own NO long-sleeve workout shirts, so I just wore a stretchy turtleneck under the race shirt and figured it would keep my neck warm.

I wasn’t hungry, but had some juice and a spoonful of peanut butter.

We were ready to leave the house by 7:20 am; John and the kids dropped me off and found parking while I got situated at the track. I was definitely there earlier than I needed to be – they recommended showing up an hour early, but I could have rolled in at 7:55 am and it would have been fine. It meant I was able to see the half-marathoners and 10K runners leave.

It was an absolutely perfect morning. Sunny, cool, no wind. I found John and the kids and they walked me to the start line. I wore a headband and finger gloves the whole time, but left my phone with John. I haven’t been listening to anything lately while running, and despite the fact almost everyone around me wore headphones, I was perfectly content to be fully immersed in the moment.

I swear the kids were both very upbeat all morning! I realize they look like they’re…not thrilled/are being held captive against their will, but in reality they were cheering champs!
Levi was desperate to wear my sleeves as part of his race-day outfit!

And then…I ran.

The race went well! My goal was to have fun. Full stop. I didn’t put any time expectations on myself.

That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that I wished I had pushed just a wee bit harder. I could have pushed harder, but where I hadn’t run all week and I was still recovering from whatever bug we fought off, I was hesitant to go out too strong and then not have enough in the tank.

I guess this just spurs me on to want to come back next year and race harder…

Highlights:

  • Seeing John and the kids cheering me on at various points in the race route. Their presence was even more special than I thought it would be…
  • Running out to the turnaround point and realizing some very young kids – one of whom looked like he probably got out of diapers a week ago – had lapped me. I didn’t know whether to find that depressing or inspiring. But I’ve decided to go with inspiring. How wonderful to see young kids running (a lot faster than me)!
  • All the funny signs they had set up over the last 1 km. Things like: This is a lot of work for a free banana! and You’ve come this far. Might as well finish! and Most people haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.
  • Getting to run with so many people! There were over 500 participants in the 5K alone.
  • Running on my “home turf.” I have this sense of “ownership” over the trail system in our town, and it was very cool to run such a familiar route under different circumstances.
  • A few weeks ago Jenny wrote about having short mantras on repeat during a hard run. Since then, when I’m in my final kilometer, I’ve started repeating Land light, push hard. It helps me remember to land with more spring in my step, and then push off with power. I finished the last 500 m or so of the race repeating this to myself (thanks, Jenny)!

In terms of stats: my chip time was 29:39 and I was 146th out of 551 and 18th out of 114 women in my age category (looking at the other finish times, I could have finished in 16th if I’d pushed just a bit harder but placement any higher than that would have been out of reach).

I was home drinking a cup of coffee by 9 am which felt perfect.

My sister (the amateur athlete) texted mid-morning to ask how it went and to tell me I have now caught “the bug”. This sister started about my age with 5K’s, moved on to 10K’s, and kept saying she was done until she eventually wound up doing ultramarathons and now prefers Ironman competitions or insane all-day gravel biking events. I’m not convinced I’ll ever feel the need to do more than 5K, but would certainly love to do the same event next year, maybe as a whole family?!

Your turn! Any races scheduled in the next few months?

Casual Friday + Middle School, Surgery & The Queen

Life has been busy. It was the first complete week of school and surviving this always feels like a bit of a triumph. The kids are settling into a rhythm (I managed to spell it right on my first try, Kae – miraculous); everyone seems reasonably happy, and some of the kinks are getting worked out in terms of logistics and relational hiccups.

notes from last weekend

Friday was packed full. By the time 8:30 pm rolled around I felt ready to collapse; once we got the kids corralled into bed, John and I retreated to the deck with drinks in hand and a beautiful moon view. What a lovely way to end the work week.

Saturday morning started well – coffee outside while our kids played. Little by little a large crowd of kids gathered at our place. I’ve been trying to be outside more to help with some complicated neighbourhood dynamics. But, honestly, being in the fray just stressed. me. out. John saved the day by planning a long hike for the kids at Blomidon. They’ve been begging to go back and when your kids are ASKING to do a ~12 km hike, why say no? I stayed home and tackled work all afternoon. Win, win. I don’t mind working on the weekend when I know I can transfer some of the benefits of this flexibility into the regular work week. When they got home, John and I had a great at-home date night – the food was delicious and we watched the new Thor movie.

Sunday was busy. Abby has officially “aged” up into the middle-school group at church which meets during the second service. It felt odd to reorganize our Sunday morning (we usually go to the early service), but she loved her group! It did make me want to cry, just a little, when I dropped her off in a new room where EVERYONE LOOKS SO TALL and there are no pint-sized chairs. Wasn’t she just crawling around the nursery a week ago?

This meant we got home later than normal and didn’t finish lunch until 1:30ish. John and I needed to join heads on a work project, so we set the kids up with a movie (since we couldn’t supervise outside play) while we tackled that. We went right from this to a neighbourhood block party. Words cannot describe how much I did not want to attend this event. My introverted soul is weary, and I was definitely stuck inside the wrong storybook. But the kids were excited and, in the end, it was a lot of fun. None of the awkward/hard stuff I was envisioning actually happened. There was a know-your-neighbour Bingo where you had to mingle and find: someone who was 6 ft tall, someone who votes in every election, someone who had milked a cow, someone who had more than 2 siblings, someone who shared the same birth month (or year) with you, etc.

We left that mid-way through to go to a birthday celebration. There was ice cream cake and a trampoline for the kids; the adults sat around a fire pit and talked while the kids jumped…it was quite lovely.

By the time we got home it was LATE, but I felt inspired to tackle my inbox and batched that task (this time of year I get a lot of e-mails over the weekend, and my trick is to set messages to go out the next work day at 9 am).

MISC From the week

RUNNING | I was tired after the weekend and couldn’t face a Monday morning run. I felt mildly guilty all day but by supper time I felt more energetic and fit in my fastest run yet! I continued on with run-walk-run intervals and shaved another 14 seconds off my lowest average km pace. My continuous run yesterday (which felt great and fast) was slower than my interval run, which still seems surprising!

SOUP | I made a loose reconstruction of the Creamy Tortellini Soup from Pinch of Yum. I’ve been making it for a few years, but do it differently every time (always with coconut milk instead of heavy cream). It was delicious and I froze some leftovers.

SURGERY | Big news – it looks like my surgery will happen next month. Lots of emotions on this, but mostly excitement and relief. While there is no “convenient” time to have a 6-week recovery, the timing is not half bad. It will come after my 5K, Canadian Thanksgiving, and a slew of major work commitments; things should be back to normal well ahead of the Christmas rush. Pre-op appointments have already started!

WORK | September/October is the most intense period of the year for me. I had a few daunting calls that went SO well. It feels good to work hard and get back into a routine of interacting with adults again.

THE QUEEN | I have been spending an inordinate amount of time this last week on the BBC news site – almost exclusively to read headlines and in-depth profiles of the Queen. It’s hard to believe that she is gone. She was such a constant presence in the world and it seemed like she was always going to be there. It feels odd to reach for my wallet and see her face on every coin and bill and know that we now pledge allegiance to King Charles III. In retrospect, she was a grandmother figure to my generation. The kids now unexpectedly (!!) have Monday off school in honour of her funeral.

EXTRACURRICULARS | Things are changing, friends. Middle school comes with a whole new set of opportunities. Abby has access to school soccer. Next week she starts drama, and there are two youth groups and a youth choir. We have always been an “underscheduled” family with our kids registered for just about…nothing. This is definitely poised to change but I’m mostly feeling excited about it all.

RENOVATIONS | I’ve started having nightmares (or at least dreams about things going catastrophically wrong) about renovations. Gah! I can’t even escape it in my sleep. In reality, things are going just fine. We got our energy re-assessment done and are now crossing our fingers and toes the various promised rebates come through (we upgraded all the windows and doors in our 1970’s house + added a lot of exterior insulation). There are still all sorts of final little decisions – paint colours, vents covers, figuring out how to configure the entryway with some prefab IKEA options (we had to completely rebuild our old entryway because of rot and currently have no closet, shelves or working light fixtures). I don’t want to make another decision about our house – ever?! Hence the nightmares?

DECISION FATIGUE | To that end, I’m feeling very overwhelmed by all the decisions to be made – from big to small. Should I say yes or no to this extracurricular for a child? The painter is coming Friday – yikes, we need to finalize a colour! What clothes should the kids wear for picture day? When should we turn on the furnace to see if that August water leak ruined it (NO, we still haven’t done this yet, mostly because I just don’t want to make expensive furnace decisions. How’s that for classic avoidant behaviour)? How should I respond to a challenging work e-mail? What do I want to eat for lunch?

Oh, and which of the proposed time slots would be most convenient for having a part of my body sectioned out?

I hate decisions at the best of times and can tell I’m stuck in a spiral of wanting to pick the Right decision when there really isn’t a “right” or a “wrong.” I’m following the mental gymnastics of various scenarios: If x, y, and z happen, I should go with Decision 1; If a, b, and c happen, I’d be better off with Decision 2. At the end of the day I have various Perfectly Good options, but I’m getting hung up on finding that elusive Perfectly Perfect option. For the most part, decisions can be changed – extracurriculars can be dropped and bad paint choices can be corrected with a fresh coat of paint. I know this intellectually…but putting it in to practice is tripping me up. And then I add to the chaos by getting frustrated with myself for this response. Like, why can’t I just shrug my shoulders, make a decision (without researching it to death) and move on like a normal adult?

I think that’s a rhetorical question?

PICTURE BOOKS | The clock is winding down on this and it makes me sad. The kids still tolerate picture books, but never ask me to read to them. And now they’re more likely to focus on things like the illustrations or some deeper theme. It’s not “Ahhh, look at that cute chipmunk” it’s a comment like “Look at the detail in the shading on that chipmunk. What a great illustrator!” or interrupting me mid-sentence to ask: “Mama, did you know a group of chipmunks is called a scurry?” Sigh. I know I’m going to have to let go but I really, really don’t feel ready. Last diaper change and final bottle feeding? Mostly just a blip on my radar. But an end to stacks and stacks of picture books flowing through our house legitimately breaks my heart.

But let’s celebrate with some final curtain calls while it lasts, shall we?

The best ones from this week:

The illustrations in The Little Forest Keepers were simply adorable. Please Don’t Eat Me made everyone laugh.

JOYFINDING | Oops. I just complained a lot. As always there was so much good. I get to make lots of fun decisions, too. Like:

  • Tuna filling in my favourite hand-size nori. Delicious. Also delicious: my favourite oat muffins, snap peas, and an ice-cream sandwich.
  • A week delayed, I enjoyed my annual The Kids are Back in School! meetup with a bestie at our favourite coffee shop.
  • Visiting the Open House night at school; I got to sit in Levi’s pint-sized seat and left him a little note in his pencil case (he’ll get it today) and we slipped a note in Abby’s locker and left her a bonus message on her whiteboard.
People buy this? And store this where?
  • We are very minimal in terms of Halloween decor and activities, so our kids live vicariously through sightings of holiday gitch at Home Depot.
  • The night sky. We got home late one evening and John showed the kids various constellations and snapped more great images of the heavens. Gorgeous.

Kids, work, home…the hours have continued to flow by, thankfully without any major catastrophe. I’ll call that a win.

Happy weekending friends. What are you most looking forward to in the week ahead? Do you ever suffer from decision fatigue where even little choices start to feel…overwhelming? What joyfinding have you done this week?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Sometimes You Just Have To Run

I know someone with a very distinctive running style. (Calling it distinctive is my attempt at diplomacy. Really, this person looks utterly deranged as they run down the street – limbs contorted at odd angles, their unusual gait instantly recognizable.) Think Phoebe from Friends and you’d be in the right ballpark.)

But here’s the thing. This particular runner is a very successful marathoner, completing the Boston Marathon half a dozen times, among others.

So while their running style might be atypical and, from my perspective, illogical, it clearly works.


I am no athlete. Short. Stocky. Utterly lacking in flexibility and coordination. But I feel best when I move my body regularly and that has mostly involved walking and running over the last decade.

I think I have the whole walking thing down (and have since I was 9 months old), but about five years ago I decided to throw myself into maximizing my running style. I adjusted my foot strike and gait. I read books and watched YouTube videos. I spent the majority of my runs trying to micro-adjust my posture.

And it worked.

I ran faster and more efficiently. (Bear in mind, all this time spent on technique did nothing about my stature and overall lack of athleticism, so even to the casual observer, I’m sure my form still looked horrendous).

While I was running I thought constantly about how I was running. I’d pass by storefronts and assess my posture in their front windows. Was I pumping my arms efficiently? Was my back too straight? Too hunched?

I listened to playlists that helped me stick to a specific step rhythm. And while I achieved the results I wanted – faster, further runs – it took a lot of mental work.

Over time, things would have gotten easier. Techniques would have become more ingrained. The thinking required would have tapered off precipitously. I wasn’t miserable, and elements of the tweaking were fun. I don’t regret my approach.

In the last few years, I’ve been running inconsistently. I’m not a fan of treadmills and don’t like running enough to persevere in bad weather. The indoor track I used for winter workouts was inaccessible because of COVID. And life has been especially busy.

This summer I’ve made it out sporadically. Sometimes I go weeks in between runs. Increasingly, I was finding myself trying to compare my current technique (and results) to my previous running efforts. One day, on a particularly challenging run, I thought: I just want to run. No counting or special playlists or mental gymnastics. Just one foot in front of the other – slow and steady in a way that comes naturally, even if it is inefficient.

Maybe another year I’ll adjust my foot strike and read more Runner’s World articles. Or maybe, I’ll just keep…running. I don’t expect to make it to Boston anytime soon, and I don’t think anyone will cast me in Phoebe’s shadow. But maybe that’s not such a terrible place to be? If my ultimate goal is to stay active and have fun while doing so, perhaps the method doesn’t matter…

Thoughts? Does anyone else find the mental hurdle of trying to maximize a skill has the potential to suck the fun right out of an activity? Or have you found what works in one season – say, trying to maximize a running technique – doesn’t work well at other times?

Header photo by Franzi Meyer on Unsplash