Starting Over

We are settling into our new lives here in the suburbs, or as my father refers to it, the country.

Yes, those are sheep. No, that's not our backyard.

Yes, those are sheep. No, that’s not our backyard.

I’m getting used to driving everywhere, which is putting my former exercise routine in serious jeopardy. I don’t exactly miss pushing Little Guy’s stroller all over Brooklyn with bulging grocery bags dangling on both handles, but it was keeping my butt in check. I have yet to find an adequate replacement workout. I guess I could do something banal like join a gym (yawn), but I’d prefer slipping on my very old sneakers and going for a run.

Ah, the bliss of being alone, running free with music blasting in my ears. If you told my adolescent self that I would voluntarily go running, that I would fantasize about going running, that self would have burst into hysterical laughter and then shuffled away nervously.

Until I figure out where I can jog without getting hit by a car (or a deer), I’ll have to settle for this obstacle course:

Doylestown Castle

Castle Playground, Doylestown PA

Climbing through the maze of this amazing castle playground might be good for dexterity, but not so much for, well, anything else. See those dark green swirly slides? They are ENORMOUS and Little Guy goes down himself. This is a kid who until recently held my hand on the puniest of Brooklyn slides. Then again, he is rapidly approaching three. Eeks!

swinging

So, here we are, in our new home, in a new town, starting over. Bunky began first grade a few weeks ago and she is THRIVING. The school has two recesses (freaking awesome) and a lovely staff. We adore her teacher who is going on maternity leave next month (sniff and OY) and I can only hope the sub is great, too. There will be bumps, most likely, because Bunky really loves her. “Mommy, she never yells!” Which is pretty awesome considering I do. Ha. Fingers crossed the new teacher doesn’t.

Also, we found THE awesomest gluten free bakery just a few towns over. The Happy Mixer in Chalfont, PA is exclusively GF and the treats are super high quality, rivaling even our old NYC favorite, Tu-Lu’s. Wow, right?

cupcake selfie

They even have Cookie Monster and Elmo cupcakes because they are super close to Sesame Place, which is just RAD.

Let the sugar high begin!

Let the sugar high begin!

But despite this positive start, I’ve been having pangs of nostalgia for what I left behind in Brooklyn. The ease of my old routine, the well worn streets I walked along with my kids, the stores we frequented, the dances Bunky would do at intersections, how she would sometimes scoot home from school, flying ahead of me for an entire block while I held my breath (or chased her with the stroller). All the walking we had to do, which I used to sometimes moan and groan about. Yet I’m missing that physical travel out here in car country.

I realize some of these pangs aren’t about missing Brooklyn specifically (though some are), but more about the fear and anxiety that comes with starting over. I try to remind myself of what my mom used to say about me, fondly, proudly. You can make friends anywhere. And I could. I did. Every summer I went to a new camp and made new friends each time. Looking back, I wonder why I changed camp every year, why I seemed to crave starting over.

Perhaps it was because I was always on the hunt for that elusive best friend, the one I read about in Judy Blume books and my other adolescent favorites. I found many dear and wonderful friends over the years, one or two who I dared to call ‘my best friend,’ and one or two who reciprocated, but the dream was never truly fulfilled. Maybe because it couldn’t be, because what I was looking for wasn’t real.

The other day I caught myself day dreaming about finding new friends here, more specifically, the friend. You know, the one whose children are similar age to mine, who can come over and drink coffee and/or wine with me while we watch the kids run around in the backyard. The one who might even have a husband or partner that my husband likes. (That is a bonus, not a prerequisite.) The kind I’ve glimpsed in grown up books and in movies. Then I skidded my brain to a halt. I know where that path can lead.

Instead of rushing into the fray and going on a rampage for new friends, I will take it slow. I will find my own rhythm here, a new rhythm, in time.

bunky walkiingWhen I’m feeling bouts of homesickness and loneliness, I look to my kids and notice how well they are adjusting. How they love love their new house even though it is still filled to the brim with unpacked boxes and a kitchen that is being renovated by my handyman husband. Even though we ate on the floor for the first week and slept on it, too. Even though I have yet to schedule a play date for Bunky or find a music class for Little Guy. Even though their future playroom is currently uninhabitable and most of their toys are encased in cellophane wrapped bins. They wake up in the morning and want to play outside, and we are lucky enough to be able to open the door and let them.

Gift from my dad. Thanks dad!

Donated by my super generous dad. Thanks, dad!

I’m living in a state of disarray, inside my new home and in my heart, which is not my strong suit, but what a learning and growing experience it is.

Postscript: In between unpacking and exploring our new community, I’m working on my novel as well as trying out new gluten free recipes (because of course), so keep an eye out for more on the blog soon! Plus, the possibility of change is on the horizon…

.

Leaping off the Ledge

On a scorching July afternoon, a little over one month ago, we said goodbye to our Brooklyn home. It was emotional. Bunky cried in her room and I cried, privately, in mine.

Me and my girl in front of our Brooklyn apartment.

Me and my girl in front of our Brooklyn apartment.

Though imperfect in many ways, our small apartment was home. It’s the place where Bunky was diagnosed, where Little Guy grew silently in my belly. I labored in our room, smothering my moans so as not to wake our restless girl. It’s where we brought Little Guy home, and where we grew, as a family, for three years. Goodbyes are tough for me. But you probably know that already.

family in bklyn simone

Leading up to our departure I was a ball of anxiety. There were complications with the closing of our apartment and new home, worries about transitioning from the familiar to the unknown, and frankly, I was freaking out about having both kids all day with no breaks to speak of (re camp). I reminded myself about the golden days at the lake last summer, digging tunnels and castles with moats that didn’t get washed away by ocean waves.

lake artBut this year the weather didn’t cooperate. Instead of having a mild but warm season, it was strangely cold and rained a ton. (The above picture was a lovely exception.) Some days didn’t rise much over sixty degrees. The bugs were thick as always, but Little Guy developed a fear of them and screamed every time a gnat or fly whizzed by. Which is pretty much about every two seconds. Sigh. All I have to say is thank goodness for the local library and cable TV. (Except for when the rain washed away our satellite signal.)

I’m aware that this may sound rather complainy. Oh, poor us, miserable in our country home because of some rain and bugs. But anyone with kids (or at least a vivid imagination) can imagine that being isolated in the woods with a couple of bored and bickering children (not to mention bickering parents, ha) after leaving a much loved home and not yet having settled into a new one could be a bit…trying.

There were highlights of course. Some days we made it to the lake and dug like gophers.

kids at lake 2014

My outdoorsy girl, hanging in the stream.

My outdoorsy girl, in the stream.

And the Forestburgh Playhouse’s version of Beauty and the Beast was fantastic, the kind of show that is entertaining for kids but also amusing for adults. Bunky LOVED it and Little Guy managed to sit through a good two-thirds, which is a huge improvement from last year’s five minutes. We also had a very successful trip to Sneaker World and picked up these suckers plus some dollar store school supplies.

new hope new house 2014

Oh, and that’s our new house! We finally closed in late August and moved in, um, last night. Bunky started school…today. Check out my demure first grader:

first day first grade 2014

And my superstar:

first day first grade superstar 2014

Beginnings are bittersweet. Saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new. And now, on the cusp of all this change, another goodbye looms near.

My father’s beach house, which saved us this summer from several cold weekends upstate, is to be sold as well. This has been a long time coming, which has given me the time and space to process all the mixed emotions. I’m relieved for my father, but sad to let go of the memories that live within the walls. And on the walls.

My mother's masks.

Some of my mother’s masks, made before she lost the use of her hands to Multiple Sclerosis.

My mother's art.

This is the house where my mother died.

This is the house we came to a week after Bunky was born. It was Mother’s Day and my heart was leaden with grief at my own mother loss.

baby bunky beach house

Last week, before the rush of Labor Day began, we said goodbye to the spacious rooms that held my family with reverence and love during the eight-day vigil of my mother’s death. We said goodbye to the rooms where my babies nursed and cooed, and then later, ran and played, danced and sang amid pictures of my smiling mother as a young healthy woman, with walls and shelves decorated with her beautiful pottery. And of course the beach, where the sound of waves soothed the pain of my seven years without her.

Pregnant with Bunky, my mom's portrait snuck in the frame. Her pottery, too.

Me pregnant with Bunky. My mom’s portrait snuck in the frame. Her pottery, too.

My husband says the best time on the beach is dusk. I agree though I’m also partial to early morning, but there is something magical about the hour before twilight. Everything is softer.

ledge at dusk

Recently the sand near the ocean shifted, creating a ledge that dropped several feet. The kids loved digging into it, making stairs, walking up, sliding down, and jumping. One evening, my husband and I both stared at each other in surprise after our normally cautious daughter took a running leap and flew off the edge. She popped up at the bottom beaming with pride. I felt the usual words bubbling up my throat, the awful and meaningless be careful. I clamped my mouth shut and let her jump and jump and jump.

ledge girl

So much of my time is spent trying to prevent harm. Makes sense. I’m a mother, after all – a totally neurotic one. But sometimes you have to let go. You have to let your kid leap off the ledge. Maybe they don’t always fall perfectly. They may sprain an ankle, twist a knee, or land on a sharp shell. Or maybe not. Maybe they jump and fall and get up and jump again, coming up smiling.

Sometimes, you have to leap off the ledge. You have to trust that you will land. And maybe when you do, you’ll find some unexpected treasures.

beach treasures

My father came along one early evening and I saw the fear and worry cross his face. We are, after all, related. I put a hand on his arm and told him it was okay.

beach sillouette

And together we watched her jump and jump, and fall and land, radiating with joy and pride as the sun set, turning the sky and sand the most gentle of blues.

beach sunset

Here’s to endings and beginnings, and everything in between.

When Life Happens

I haven’t written in days and I’m starting to twitch. We’re moving in T minus two days. And when I say “moving” I mean we’re packing up our Brooklyn apartment, putting most of it in storage and going to stay with my dad in New Jersey, and then, after we trash his house, on to our upstate place. We were supposed to close on our new home at the end of August and move in just in time for school to start… but that’s not happening.

Why? Because life is not some stylized photo shoot. You can’t plan or stage it. You can’t decorate it with pretty props. Life is not a pristine layer cake, like the kind that populate Pinterest and fancy foodie blogs, with frosting smooth as shellac, fondant decorations, the whole thing resting on a porcelain platter atop of a rustic wooden table all beautifully backlit with a vase of flowers and a glass pitcher of milk.

photo credit, Southern Living.com

photo credit, Southern Living.com

Nope. Life is messy, chaotic, ruthless. Life is one of those sloppy homemade cakes. The kind where the layers are uneven, the whole thing leaning precariously to one side, crumbs litter the frosting, a mess of sprinkles dumped on top, a lumpy slice slapped on a plate with a plastic fork. More like this:

Real life looks more like this. Tastes better, too. photo credit, glutenismybitch.com

Real life looks more like this. Tastes better, too.
photo credit, glutenismybitch.com

Life happens and you’re supposed roll with it. Or you don’t. But there is always choice involved in how you deal with your sloppy cake. You decide if you’re going to freak out, blame everyone else, scream your brains out, yell at your kids/spouse, tear out your hair, cry, rage, throw yourself out the window (or just threaten to do so). You decide how to look at the mess. Is it garbage or a hidden Picasso? This has always been my problem. I tend to choose the dark side. I blame, rage, cry, yell, lash out. I let it take over. I let it control me.

I’ve been having some unfortunate bouts of insomnia lately, as our departure approaches. And in those late night eyeball wide moments, I see everything so clearly. I see the right way, the light way. I think, okay, I can do this! I can choose not to dwell and complain, I can choose love over anger, I can choose to see this new twist/roadblock as an adventure as opposed to a disaster.

But then I wake up. And I’m bone tired and my kids are hungry but won’t eat anything, and I’m wiping butts and making smoothies, and before I know it, all those good intentions fly out the window and my impatience and anger rolls in. I lose it and then feel sunk by my failure. By my inability to change.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I am changing, or at least trying. I’m having enlightened moments in the darkest hours of the night, even if they often disintegrate by morning. I see glimpses of difference, other ways of being.

Yesterday in between the usual child tantrums and parental misery, we had a magical moment in the park. I took Little Guy to pee behind a tree (the kid is like a dog, loves peeing outside) and it happened to be a pine tree and it happened to be populated with dozens of fireflies. It was dusk, later than we’re usually out, and we had just been talking about how we hadn’t seen any fireflies this season, and there they were alight all around us, pausing to rest on blades of grass, on the needles of the tree, inches from our faces.

I pointed at them and said, do it again, and they did. Little Guy was entranced. We brought over Bunky and her dad and we all watched with wonder and awe as dozens of people streamed into the park for a concert, oblivious to our little piece of magic. Then my husband looked up and there were two baby raccoons in the tree, lounging on the upper branches, rolling around, but mostly resting and watching us watch them.

Moments earlier we had been sitting on a cement ledge at the entrance of the park across from the apartment I lived in with my husband before we were married.

Living on the edge. Or ledge. Edge of the ledge?

Living on the edge. Or ledge. Edge of the ledge?

We looked at it, trying to remember where our apartment was, in the back or on the side, what we saw when we looked out the window. We told Bunky about how we used to hear the concerts in the park from our living room. We talked about how she would always remember Brooklyn, but Little Guy would not. Just like my husband, who had been three years old when he left Brooklyn.

I looked at my husband over the kids’ heads and we shared a silent bittersweet moment at this realization.

He may not remember this swing, but we will for him.

He won’t remember this swing, but we will for him.

We told Bunky she could tell him stories about Brooklyn. We talked about how wonderful our time had been here, that we had a good run, but we would begin fresh adventures in New Hope. I smiled as I said these things, which are all true, but it’s not my natural tendency to look at change as adventure. I usually look at it with doom, or at the least, trepidation.

But having kids changes things, people. I don’t want my kids to soak up my lifelong tendency for negativity. I’m trying hard to do what my mom used to tell me to do: see the glass half full, make lemonade out of lemons, choose sweet over sour. But it is not easy. My poor mom, I can see how I must have broke her heart with my bouts of gloomy sadness. How I refused to choose joy even when it was laid out in front of me.

I see so much of myself in my daughter and it kills me. I want to save her from myself, from herself, but I can’t. I want her to love herself and love her life and choose love, but I can’t make her do any of those things just as my mother couldn’t make me. Being a mom is brutal that way. You relive the hardest moments of your life through your kids. And the best ones, too. Like these.

Coney Island July 2014

Coney Island July 2014

coney swings

coney kids

On a city bus, Little Guy's favorite.

On a city bus, Little Guy’s favorite.

The frog, July 2014

The frog, Cutie Playground, July 2014

So, life happens. But I’m learning to roll with it. The fireflies will be there no matter where we go. We just have to look.

family portraitGoodbye Brooklyn. We will miss you.

Judy Blume, A Love Letter

I knew I wasn’t the only one! Who loves Judy Blume, I mean. Obvs. Two awesome bloggers, Dana from the Kitchen Witch and Kim from Gane Possible have created this incredible project, aptly titled, The Judy Blume Project, for all of us writers and readers who love JB. They invited any like-minded folks to write about their own personal Blume-esque experience.

blume-button

So, here’s mine…

The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard

The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard

I have always been a reader, and fortunately, I had the kind of parents who put up with my (obsessive) habit. I read in bed, on couches, at the kitchen table, while walking down the street, leaning against trees, and even in movie theaters and concerts (I never left home without a book in hand). It was like my adolescent security blanket.

I had a t-shirt with this crazy lady on it. Still do, actually.

I had a t-shirt with this crazy lady on it. Still do, actually.

Reading was my comfort, my pleasure, my escape. I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite young adult authors was – and still is – Judy Blume. She is a prolific author with a gift for writing in both female and male voices, but for obvious reasons, I gravitated to her books about adolescent girls. I loved their awkwardness, confusion, humor, and social anxiety. It mirrored my own. I read and reread Deenie, Starring Sally J. Friedman As Herself, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tiger Eyes and others, wishing I could reach into the worn pages and pull out the characters. Blume’s stories nourished me, they were my surrogate friends, and in some ways, they taught me how to be a person.

Blubber, about the bullying of an overweight girl, was tough to get through. I read it with butterflies in my stomach the entire time, and whenever I thought about stopping, I kept on. Writing a book in the voice of a less than sympathetic character, Blume forced the reader to share the perpetrators’ perspective, an uncomfortable place to be. The lessons I learned about the consequences of choosing cruelty over compassion, taking the easier road over the higher one, and the price you pay for both, astounded and confounded my adolescent self. They still do.

Years later, in my early twenties, I had the opportunity to meet my hero, the author whose words shaped me, and helped solidify my desire to become a writer. I lived in Manhattan where celebrity sightings were as common as pigeons, yet I was never more star-struck than that evening.

When I saw her across the room at a National Book Award party in Gracie Mansion, I was terribly nervous. The fear of making a fool of myself was high on my list of anxieties, but so was another concern that I couldn’t put a finger on at the time. Now, I see what was at risk: a deflation of my admiration.

Well, turns out I had no need to worry. Judy was so gracious, smiling kindly as I spilled out my lifelong love for her stories, and together we talked about her books and writing.

Oh, be still my heart. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the night.

I still remember talking to my mother on the phone as I walked home, dazed and gloriously happy in the cool night air, under the blazing city lights.

Thank you Judy Blume for meeting every one of my expectations, and blazing such a kickass trail of stories that helped shape a generation, and beyond.

Did you read Judy as a kid? Tell me your favorites. If not, what were (or are!) some beloved Young Adult novels?

End of Kindergarten and end of…

Bunky graduated from kindergarten. I can’t believe it. I feel like we just took this picture of her before the first day, all of us so nervous and excited.

me and Bunky first day K

And then, bam. The year’s over. Here she is in her 1950s inspired graduation outfit: a kinda lame homemade poodle skirt, my shirt, a cute scarf from Target.

Kindergarten graduation, June 23, 2014

Kindergarten graduate, 6-23-2014

Graduation, or any public performance, is really hard on our girl. She has debilitating anxiety about being in front of an audience, which is heartbreaking since she loves singing and dancing. (When she got home, she sang me the entire graduation song, “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, which makes me cry every time I hear it since it was also her preK grad song.) But she made it on stage for her graduation, in front of an enormous room of beaming adults. She ducked down, hiding between the rows of kids, but when I gestured to her from the sidelines, she wouldn’t come to me, and I’m really proud of her for that. My tender, sensitive girl. I hope her anxieties lessen over the years.

After grad, my husband escaped, I mean went to work, and I took the kids to a sprinkler playground. On the way back, Little Guy wriggled out of the stroller so he could walk with his big sister. It’s not the best picture, but it captures a little slice of our city life.

siblings walking

Which I’m rather devastated to say, we will be LEAVING in a matter of weeks.

Yes, that’s right, we’re joining the ranks of city deserters and moving out of Brooklyn. I know it’s the right thing for our family – we need more space, inside and out, and city life is funneling away all our funds, but I have to say I’m really struggling with this upcoming change.

My husband will still be commuting to Brooklyn for his job, so in a way he is only half leaving, but I will be living full time in a town where I know not a soul, in a geography that will be entirely new to navigate. To a woman who craves routine and familiarity (even when it has long stopped serving its purpose) this is HUGE.

I’m excited, too, because the area we’re moving to, New Hope, Pennsylvania, feels like it could very well live up to its name, and we already ate some fantastic gluten free pizza in nearby Doylestown, which may be where we end up, but my heart is already aching for Brooklyn.

There will probably be more frogs there, real ones.

There will probably be more frogs there, real ones.

Part of this is just my personality, all my Cancer crab homebody tendencies. I like to hunker down, I prefer the comfort of my comfort zone. It also makes sense because Brooklyn is not simply a place, but my past. It’s where I spent the careless carefree days of my youth, where I met my husband. It’s where I’ve been raising my children.

me and LG playground

Saying goodbye to Brooklyn is, in a way, like saying goodbye to a part of my life, it’s like saying goodbye to a piece of me.

I did some math recently (crazy, I know) and realized I’ve spent over 13 years living in Brooklyn, the same amount of time I spent in my childhood home from the age of 5 to 18 when I left for college. No wonder this impending move feels so significant.

This isn’t the first time we’ve left Brooklyn. A year after Bunky was born we moved in with my dad in New Jersey to regroup. As hard as it was for us to leave back then, we knew that we were coming back. But this time, we’re not.

Goodbye beloved Vanderbilt Playground where all our monkey bar dreams began

Goodbye beloved Vanderbilt Playground where all our monkey bar dreams began…

I’m starting to feel a sense of urgency and panic, as if I somehow have to squeeze in all the  things I haven’t done yet or recently, before we go. I’m feeling guilty, too, for not taking full advantage of living alongside Manhattan, and for neglecting the wonders Brooklyn has to offer beyond my neighborhood.

Concerts in the park with kids, not all it's cracked up to be.

Concerts in the park with kids, not all it’s cracked up to be. But still, I’ll miss you Prospect Park.

I can hear the clock ticking. Time is running out. Our apartment is in contract (holy crap!) and we haven’t yet found a new place to live (cue hyperventilation here). There are so many logistics to work out when it comes to moving a family – finding doctors, registering for school, sniffing out gluten free grocery stores, seeking out playgrounds, pools, parks, and of course, new friends.

[Pausing here to breath inside a paper bag.]

It will all “work out” as my husband and my brain keeps telling me, but I’m person who shrinks with fear at change, who shudders at novelty, to whom the term limbo is not merely a game to avoid at parties, but a place I try never to visit. Yet here I am LIVING INSIDE IT.

Which is probably good for me, right? To venture outside my comfort zone, to be uncomfortable. Because growth hurts. Kids know this, as their bodies expand at alarming rates, but adults often forget. I’m holding on so tightly right now to everything that I think I need, when maybe what I need to do is simply let go, and see what happens.

Last full day of K. Endings are hard on me, but this kid is psyched for school to be over.

Last full day of K. Endings are hard on me, but this kid is psyched for school to be over.

Recently, I read this wonderful post over at The Gift of Writing about how to maintain positive change, and when she referenced her one word for the year, I realized, with great embarrassment, that I completely forgot about my word for 2014, which was open.

As in, opening up. To possibilities, wonder, vulnerability, presence, heartache, joy. And change.

bunky sprinkler

I feel like the message is clear. I need to stop worrying, struggling, fighting with the invisible demons that perch on my shoulder and whisper sly lies in my ear about how this move is a huge mistake, and that we’d better to stay put, not move at all, because staying perfectly still keeps you safe.

bunky riding bike 2013

Which is one of the biggest lies you can tell yourself.

Leaving Brooklyn is an end, but I’ll keep reminding myself that it’s also a beginning.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress/pilgrimage, but if I go dark for a little while this summer you’ll know why. Until then, please share any moving moving stories you have! (No pressure, but happy endings preferred, ha.) 

 

Gluten Free Product Review Round-up

Earlier this month we spent our anniversary family-style at our country house upstate, and unlike the last trip (Easter weekend began with sun AND ended with snow!) this was summery without a spec of precipitation. It was filled with fun outdoor activities like lake swimming, sand castle building, marshmallow roasting, salamander catching (and releasing), and of course eating.

kids at lake

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

The eating part is surprisingly easy since the gluten free section at the local Peck’s grocery store is AWESOME! Seriously, it’s better than our grocery in Brooklyn. This makes our trips a lot easier knowing we can pick up a complete stash of Udi’s products, plus cookies, crackers, cake mixes, and more instead of packing our usual fridge/freezer/pantry arsenal.

I found a couple of new items that my family loved and I want to share here. I rarely do product reviews, but I should do more because there’s nothing worse than spending a zillion dollars on a dry meh GF cookie or a weird rubbery wrap.

scary face

Am I right?! (Gotta love Photo Booth.)

Have I mentioned how sad I am about gluten free bread lately? [sidebar alert] As much as I love Udi’s and am eternally grateful for their brand, I can’t handle how crumbly and hole-y the bread can be. It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad about giving it to my kids, especially Little Guy who is particularly sensitive to stale tasting bread. Maybe poor Bunky is used to it after all these years. Sigh.

Recently we tried Glutino White Bread, and it is SOFT, seriously insanely soft. You don’t even have to toast it! Less healthy than the whole grain Udi’s, sure, but you know, sometimes you need to be able to chew your sandwich without gagging.

Glutino_Bread_White_Sandwich-250x250

So, that was sort of an unofficial review, and now for the rest from our upstate stash…

Udi’s Gluten Free Flour Tortilla Wraps 

After years of eating quesadillas (practically a food group around here) on stiff yellow circles also known as store bought corn tortillas, I discovered these beauties.

The bread might not always be awesome, but these wraps totally are!

They are enormous and soft GF flour tortillas (they also sell smaller ones). Oh, Udi’s, I know I just bad talked your bread, but you nailed these. I used them for our regular shredded cheddar quesadillas, but also for a sweet breakfast tortilla (!) which tasted like a thick crepe, using our new favorite White Chocolate Peanut Butter and sliced banana. OMG! Unfortunately, I haven’t found these in Brooklyn yet (!) but the next time we go upstate, I’m stocking up.

Even a paper plate can't cheapen the experience.

Even a paper plate can’t cheapen the experience.

Next up…

Maple Grove Farms Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

maple grove farms gf mix

Speaking of breakfast, have you tried this mix? If not, you should give it a try because it’s awesome. Plus, there’s NO added sugar, which is not necessarily true for other mixes (Bisquick, I’m talking to you). It’s super easy to make either pancakes or waffles and both have been successful for us. I used to like making my own homemade pancakes, and still do on occasion, but it’s also nice to have the convenience of a mix, especially when your kids wake you up before dawn.

Now, no trip to the country would be complete without copious amounts of Haagen Dazs ice cream. A moment of props to HD – want to know how many ingredients are in their traditional vanilla? FIVE. Cream, sugar, skim milk, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Nothing fake, no “natural flavor” scams, nothing. Just real food.

Normally we eat it in a bowl because GF cones are not always easy to come by… except upstate where they sell these awesome ones:

Joy Gluten Free Sugar Cones

Isn't my cone model adorable?!

Isn’t my cone model adorable?!

These GF sugar cones are really tasty! They also make gluten free cake cones, by the way. One day we’ll give those a try. In the meantime, the sugar cones are rad. We all really enjoyed eating them all filled up with drippy vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The only caveat is that they leak at the bottom, but you can use your finger as a stopper, ha, or better yet melt some chocolate down there. Oh, yeah.

bunky and cone

Eating outside makes ice cream taste even better, don’t you think?

Everything outside is better in the summer. Salamander catching included.

kids and salamander

Have you had any fantastic gluten free finds lately? If so, bring it on in comments. I can always use some new ideas. And let me know if you try any of my suggestions. We GFers have to stick together, you know?

 

Month of Milestones

June is a full month for me, in many ways. For starters, my birthday is the 28th, and while I’ve never been a crazy birthday celebrating kind of person, each passing year feels heavy, fraught with a dueling sense of growth and loss. This sensation has grown more fierce as I approach the milestone of 40 (this coming year will be the last of my 30s). Aging kinda sucks. And yet, not entirely. I feel smarter, stronger (well, maybe not my abs), and more clear-sighted about what I want for myself than I ever did before, but there is something hard to accept about the loss of my youth.

Speaking of lost youth (joke! sort of), this month is also my wedding anniversary. Two of them. June 7 (Brooklyn courthouse) and June 11 (the gorgeous Virgin Islands), and I just realized as I’m writing this, that those dates, 7/11 mirror Little Guy’s birthday, 11/7/11. How perfect.

Flying in a little plane (yikes) to the island of Tortola.

Flying on a little plane to the island of Tortola. (The little plane part is why my man looks a bit green.)

My husband and I have been married for ten years now, TEN YEARS! How did this happen? It kind of crept up on us. Years ago, when we were newly married and, frankly, a bit stupid, we thought we’d return to the tropical island where we had our intimate and insanely fantastic wedding. Which was here, like literally, on this beach:

Little Dix Bay (please, hold the puns), on the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Little Dix Bay (please, hold the puns), on the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead we went out to an early bird dinner (cause that’s how we roll), got a little drunk on pink champagne, and then went out for milkshakes to sober up before coming home by 7:45. Hey, what can I say, it was a school night.

Regardless, making it ten years is no easy feat, especially since six of those years were post-kids. I don’t talk much about my husband on this blog, for privacy reasons, mainly his since I clearly have no problem talking about myself, but suffice it to say, being married is CRAZY hard/good/bad/fun/horrible/fantastic/tedious/magical. We’ve been through a lot together, the superficial stuff like the second half of our 20s, and the big life changing rock your world stuff like death and babies, and yet somehow we keep on keeping on.

My baby bump with Bunky. Little Guy never got such tender pics. Sorry LG!

My baby bump with Bunky. Little Guy never got such tender pics. Sorry LG!

Speaking of death, that’s my other June milestone. My mom died on June 21, 2007 on Summer Solstice, which makes this year my seventh without her (physically) in my world. Losing a beloved parent is not something you get over. Ever. The whole time heals concept is pretty much bullshit. Time smooths out, time stretches, time passes, but the pain and loss remain. Of course, the turmoil I felt that first year does not even compare to how I feel now, BUT, there are these gut wrenching moments when something happens in my life, often having to do with my kids, and the person I’d like to share it with, confide in, or call for advice is dead.

As much as I miss her presence in my life, I’m grateful for our close relationship, and her enduring love. I think of her daily, and often, she inspires both my writing and my mothering. If only Little Guy could have crawled onto her lap and given her one of his sweeter than chocolate kisses, or if she could have seen Bunky’s newborn face which mirrored my own. But nope. As the Rolling Stones once said, and still say (gotta love their endurance), you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. And I’ve got these guys:

get what you need

Life is full of brutal moments of loss, tempered only by beautiful moments of joy. Sometimes they are all mixed up together, sort of like the way my laundry looks after I yank it out of the overstuffed dryer. Pant legs braided together with towels, socks hiding in the corners of the sheets, my daughter’s sleeves tangled with mine. You don’t get one without the other, so as hard as this month can be for me – my birthday just a week after my mom’s death, all coming in on the heels of my wedding anniversary – I no longer dread its approach, and instead I almost look forward to the rockiness of it, the messiness of it, because that is life.

My anniversary bouquet, picked by my daughter and husband.

My anniversary bouquet, picked by my daughter and husband.

* I had meant for this post to also include stories about our recent trip upstate, as well as gluten free product reviews, in addition to end-of-the-school-year angst (mine, not Bunky’s), and also about some big changes on my home front, and possibly blog front, but clearly that would have been a monster of a post, so tune in soon for all of this and more.

** Thanks, as always, for reading. If you have any milestone months, please let me know what they are and how you muscle through them.