Dream Catchers

A few months ago, both kiddos were having nightmares that were waking them up in the middle of the night.  It seemed like a constant issue week to week.  I decided to get them a dream catcher and tell them the story of how their bad dreams would get caught in the dream catcher and stay in the bead.  All the good dreams would get filtered through the tiny hole in the middle and they would no longer have bad dreams. 

I’m not sure if the fear of having bad dreams was gone, the thought of the bad dreams being caught, or the dream catcher was actually working but the boys have not had a bad dream since.  I had to share because we parents know that good sleep is hard to come by and if someone has any recommendations, then we must share because we are in this 2gether. 

Don't "Wine" about Fruit Flies

Now that the warm weather has past, I still have those darn fruit flies in my house.  They are the littlest buggers that want to drink my wine when it’s wine-thirty!  I don’t want to share my wine at wine-thirty.  It’s mommy’s time to relax and embrace the next 4 hours of cooking dinner, cleaning up, wiping faces, breaking up wrestling matches, bath time, putting on pj’s, breaking up more wrestling matches, brushing teeth, story time and bedtime, all the while trying to enjoy the moments too. 

One day, I didn’t finish my wine in time before a fly got to it.  It gave me an idea to get rid of those pesky little buggers.  Leave one sip of wine in your wine glass, add a squirt of dish soup to your glass and fill with warm water. The fruit flies will be attracted to the smell as well as get stuck in the bubbles.  I know it’s gross but it actually works. 

I know that wine is good until the last drop, but this time leave the last drop to catch some the left over fruit flies for good.  

Gotta Love That Magic Eraser

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I know there’s a lot of blog posts and pins, which explain the many uses of the magic eraser sponge.  I discovered one more.  Nolan was ready for his “new” Crocs, which were Jacksons a few years ago.   I wanted them to look like new so I scrubbed them, including the white part, with the magic eraser and poof, here are your new shoes Nolan.  He loved them and was so excited to show his friends at school his cool “new” Crocs. 

Let Go, Mom!

Yesterday, Jackson was practicing riding his bike.  Now, he is our first-born so he’s a bit more timid than our second born and I admit, it’s because he was babied a bit as a child. But yesterday, this one moment in time was such a reality check for me that he’s still my baby and it’s just too hard to let go. 

Jackson was on his bike while I was holding the seat and running next to him and he started balancing and peddling.  He was going fast and yelled “Let Go, Mom”. At that moment, I tried everything in my power to let go, but all I could do was grab his t-shirt as he started peddling away.  He fell to the ground, totally fine, but angry with me.  I couldn’t stop laughing and apologized that sometimes it’s just hard for mommy to let go and that was one of those times. 

The small moments of watching my oldest baby achieve milestones such as crawling, walking, go off to kindergarten, and riding his bike for the first time are a realization that these moments are not only milestones for him but also for me.  So to all you Mom’s out there, enjoy your Mother’s day and know that all you do, helps your children reach those milestones, even though it’s sometimes just to hard let go.

How does a Rhinoceros Eat Asparagus?

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I love playing with food and encourage it, within moderation, at the dinner table.  Jackson always eats his vegetables but I need to encourage Nolan to eat his.  Of course, a 3-½ year old doesn’t do what you suggest, so why not make it a game?  I asked him how he thinks a rhinoceros would eat an asparagus?  We also acted out a squirrel, a dog and so on. Daddy contributed too by asking how our fish, Egor would eat a carrot.  After a good laugh, we realized we would play again and again and again.  It’s a fun game to have EVERYONE eat their veggies.  

The Next "Stage" of My Life

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I started beingbetter2gether.com primarily to share my ideas and bring my passion for my family and food to life.  I had the urge to further my passion for food and did a little research on culinary classes.  I wasn’t looking for a basic class but more looking for something that would help me expand my pallet, increase my knowledge of food and learn what flavors work well together. 

During my research I asked a women in my yoga class if she was a chef as I thought I over her talking about food and farming one day.  It was a life changing conversation.  After telling me that she was not a chef and learning more about what I was looking for, she asked if I have ever looked into doing a stage.  A stage is an unpaid internship where a chef works in a kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisine.  She has some friends who are chefs. She told me she was going to ask them about stage opportunities in their restaurants and get back to me the following week.

Little did I know, that one of her friends was Arlin Smith, GM and Chef at Hugo’s in Portland, Maine.  For those of you that don’t know, Hugo’s is one of the top restaurants in Portland They are known for their new American cuisine and being an original farm to table restaurant.  I was not only thrilled to have the connection but extremely nervous on what they would expect of me.  But, this experience was meant to further my knowledge in the culinary world from technique to food pairings so I was ready to step in and embrace all that it was.  

After a few conversations, a date was set for my first stage.  I started at noon, and after a tour of the kitchen I was put to work immediately. I did everything from scrub muscles and de-bearding them, to slicing potatoes and brussel sprout to carefully breading a headcheese appetizer, which was new to the menu that night.  Although I was working meticulously, my main focus was to absorb everything I saw, smelled and eventually what I tasted.  It was an amazing experience to witness the dance in the kitchen during service and watch the dishes I help prep be served. 

At the end of the service, around 9:30pm, Mike Wiley, chef and owner came over and said that they would like me to come back… NEXT WEEK.  He explained that not only is this experience a benefit for me but also for his chefs to teach and learn.  I was standing there enjoying my last tasting dish of the night, which was a delectable duck egg on granola and bacon crumble with cremini mushrooms on a crouton, and I told Mike that I was so happy and that I’m the type of person that would hug him right now.  He laughed and embraced my enthusiasm. 

Not only did he ask me to come back but he gave me homework! My first assignment is to read stories and literature in the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, Susie Heller and Michael Ruhlman.  I will be quizzed and must bring ideas when I come back.

Part of the reason why I wanted to share my story is because I feel this is the first step to better myself as a chef and as a teacher.  The knowledge I will gain over the next coming weeks will help me expand and explore different types of recipes I will create. I can’t wait to share my ideas and new family approved recipes in my recipe library. 

4 Tea Tree Oil Home Remedies

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This past week our family has come down with some hideous sicknesses from sinus infections to the stomach flu.  Who would have thought I would concoct remedies using tea tree oil?

I was the unfortunate one with the sinus infection.  I was already on an antibiotic and religiously using my neti pot but I need more relief.  I read that if you add 3 drops of essential tea tree oil to boiling water and breath over it with a towel over your head it will give you some relief.  Oh yeah, I went there and tried it.  It certainly gave me some relief, who would have thought?

Earlier in the week I noticed mildew on Nolan’s window frame.  I used the tea tree oil to remove and kill the bacteria and mildew.  After some scrubbing, I was able to remove the mildew and it smelled nice.

Lastly, when my son came down with the stomach flu I was determined to get ride of the germs around the house.  I remember when I was younger my mom would spray this “nurse’s spray” that smelled so bad that it almost made me sick all over again.  I didn’t have any “nurse’s spray” or Lysol and I didn’t want to just spray anything, so I found a recipe on Yahoo. I adjusted it in order for it to work with what I had on hand.  The room disinfectant spray was 3 cups boiled water-cooled, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol, 10 drops of tea tree oil and a couple drops of citrus oils.  I mixed it together and poured it into a cleaned out natural cleaner spray bottle.  I’ve been spraying it around the house and in every room to kill germs. 

I’ve also heard that adding a few drops of tea tree oil on a comb when brushing your kiddo’s clean, wet hair will help deter lice from getting on your kiddo’s head when there is an outbreak at school.

I’m obviously not an expert, but I wanted to share my uses for tea tree oil and how it helped my family get through this cold spell 2gether.


Homemade Winter Boot Warmer

Due to the snowy season, the kiddo’s boots have routinely been left out in the garage to dry off.  We often forget to bring them in to warm up, which makes for cold toes when you put them on again.  To solve the problem, I decided to heat a dishtowel in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Then I stuffed the warm towel in the boots.  I put one end of the towel in each boot for a minute or so.  It doesn’t heat them completely, but it does get the chill out.  Even when your boots are inside, it’s still nice to get the chill out before you hit the snow, running. 

Fairy God Mother

Some believe that everything happens for a reason, while others have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, especially if they are going through a really hard time.  I’m happy to say that I believed in and experienced the light at the end of the tunnel and it was amazing to be a part of such a miracle.

It all started 2 years ago when I introduced two friends, Kristy and Julie, who were in the same stage of infertility troubles.  I couldn’t relate, but I thought that introducing these two strangers during my annual Christmas party would give them someone to empathize with.   Not only did they hit it off, they kept in touch after the party and led parallel lives. 

Kristy and her husband, Rob, were going through the long adoption process and the thought of being matched with a mother seemed light years away.  Meanwhile, Julie and her husband, Tony, were match almost instantly.  A few months later, Kristy and Rob were matched.  The joy and excitement all came to a halt for both mommies- to- be when both matches fell through for one reason or another.  When I found out the news, I was so sad for their losses.  But, so glad that they both had each other to lean on and go through this lost together and get back on the waiting list. 

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Kristy was going through an agency in TX, and Julie was going through an agency in FL.  A few months went by and they were happily both matched again.  There are so many steps before adoption can completely go through but every cross road was crossed and every hurdle was jumped. 

Now, fast forward to a year after they met, and my annual Christmas party was here.  I get an unexpected decline from Julie because she was flying down to FL to be with the birth mom during delivery.  A few hours later, I get another unexpected decline from Kristy for the same reason, except she was flying to TX.  Both beautiful baby girls were born on the same day, hours apart in different states and would soon be living in good ol’ Portland, ME together. 

Kristy and Julie always call me the fairy god mother because I introduced them;  in all honesty, I feel like it was all meant to be, just like it happened.! I was so fortunate to be a part of this meant to be story!

REAL Lebanese Cooking at The REAL School

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It all started back in April when my sister and I took my mom to NYC for her birthday.  We were going to be audience members on the set of The Chew.  To make a long story short, I ended up being a participating audience member and had my 5 minutes of fame next to Clinton Kelly.  The experience was so amazing and enlightening.  It made me realize that I really want to follow my passion for food and do something with it.  What was that “something”? I didn’t know immediately but I kept getting more “signs” that this was the time to do it.  After doing some soul searching, I created Beingbetter2gether.com.  It was the start of something… I just didn’t know where or what it will lead to.

 

Months after my site launched, a close neighbor of mine came over and asked if I would like to be a guest chef at the school she worked at, The REAL School.   ”The REAL School is an adventure-based, alternative and special education school serving students with and without disabilities, whose needs have not been met in traditional school programs, and whose strengths have yet to be reflected in their school performance.” I was nervous at first but realized this is exactly what I wanted.  I wanted to share my knowledge and this was a perfect way to do it.  I met with the Department  Head of the cooking program, Christine, and planned out the menu. Christine mentioned that it would be great to have 3 or 4 kids from the “REAL School” in the kitchen.

The day arrived and I was a bit anxious not only to cook and showcase Lebanese food for 100 staff members and students but also to work with a group of kids that might care about what I was sharing with them.

The menu was ambitious but I felt it was the perfect sampling of Middle Eastern food. 

Menu:

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Hummus

Mediterranean Meatloaf Muffins and Taziki

Fattoush, Lebanese salad

Rice Pilaf

Falafel – made by Christine

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I started the day by working with Nick, who was the student kitchen manager.  I relied a lot on him to help me get the things I needed around the industrial kitchen.   He wasn’t, as most of the students were not, the most adventurous eater but it seemed he really enjoyed learning in the kitchen.  At the same time, I realized I really enjoyed teaching them and introducing them to new smells and tastes. 

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As the morning started to pass, I had more helpers coming into the kitchen.  By the time lunch was served, I believe I had the whole class of 8-10 kids in the kitchen.  It was a full culinary class. I made sure they smelled the mint and parsley to identify their individual scents. They finely chopped the cukes, mixed it into the yogurt and finally tried the taziki. I taught them how to make their own dressing by slowly whisking oil into a lemon and seasoning. They were responsible for toasting the pita bread for the Fattoush and making the muffins. All in all, they really took charge and did a great job.

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Even though some didn’t like what they tried, or they loved a new food like the Hummus, they all learned something new.   I was able to teach them about anew cuisine and new cooking skills.  It was an amazing feeling and so rewarding. 

After we all ate and it was over, one of the assistant teachers came over and told me how wonderful I was with the kids.  She also mentioned that it’s very rare that they are all in the kitchen at the same time working together.  And that is what got me… I got into my car after and cried because it wasn’t my own kids I was bringing 2gether, it was my community’s children and I might have made a small difference in their day or life and I can’t wait to do it again!

Warm Blankets:

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In our house, bedtime seems to be the time to get all your crazies out.  The night routine also leads to tackling and wrestling, which is not my idea of winding down. I remember when I was younger, my mom used to put our favorite blanket in the dryer for 5 or so minutes, take it out and wrap us up in the warmth.  I’ve done this for my kiddos before, but it’s more of a reward or treat.   If the boys brush their teeth and get their pjs on without annoying or teasing each other in the process, then they will get a nice warm blanket from the dryer to have in their bed during book time.  I too love cuddling under the warm blankets and having the bonus of listening to the story…. and having my sanity during the bedtime routine.

 

 

I may be “Awesome”

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How many times do you look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are awesome.  Have you ever had a time when you really needed someone to just look at you and tell you what an awesome mom, friend, wife, sister, homemaker, co-worker or person you are.  Some people may believe that thinking this makes you conceited.  But, I think believing in yourself  is a huge key to a happy life. We should work 2gether and tell those around us how awesome they really are.

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend who was having troubles with her boyfriend.  My friend, Mandy, was explaining the situation and said “I’m pretty awesome and I want him to see that too”.  (Let me fast forward to present day and tell you that her boyfriend did end up seeing how awesome she is and they are now engaged.)  Ok, back to the story, I told Mandy how great it is that she could even say with confidence that she’s awesome.  We started discussing why don’t people say that more often about ourselves and those around us.

A few days later Mandy sent me a blog about a mom who was writing about her 5 year old daughter who always said she was awesome.  The blog questioned why and how someone else can take that awesomeness away at some point in our lives.  The blog was so great that I started spreading the word and sharing the story about how we, moms especially, need to tell each other how awesome we are.  We also need to help our children know that they are awesome too, no matter what other people say or do.

Later that week, I was picking up my oldest at daycare and one of his teachers said, “I have to tell you that Jackson is full of awesomeness. He’s is awesome and knows he’s an awesome kid”.  I almost cried because that was such a great compliment especially after all the discussion about being awesome that week.

I continued to spread the word and share this “awesome” belief with others.  As a parent, I feel one of the hardest jobs is teaching confidence as well as maintaining humbleness. In addition, it’s very difficult to take that teaching and instill it in ourselves.  We need to set the example and enjoy watching our children be proud of who they are and what they accomplish.

I’ve taken it upon myself to tell my friends that they are awesome at what they do and during certain situations.  Although you don’t need people to tell you that you are awesome, it certainly helps as you start building your self-confidence and work on those times when someone took your awesomeness away.

So let’s spread the word and encourage each other to be awesome and create awesomeness.  Hey, we may not all be perfect, but parts of all of us are PRETTY AWESOME and we now need to believe it!

 

Things that made them go, “Hmmm!”

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There I was in the Target line when I was "that" mom. I'm trying to put things on the check out belt and the kids were screaming and climbing all over the cart. I was so excited when I pulled a rabbit out of  the hat! I asked them calmly to show the cashier woman how they can hum. They stopped what they were doing and started to hmm. Now, if I was at work in an office and someone started to hum next to me I would think it was so annoying. But, this time, it was music to my ears. Next time, I might even ask them to hum a song they like and know. The young checkout clerk looked at me and said, “I've never seen that”, and,  “that was brilliant.” Then I thought hmm, maybe you would enjoy this too!

 

Do Over!

Don’t you wish every once in a while you could have a do over? 

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Well, if I was going to get through the rest of the day, I needed to have a do over with my 5 year old.  He was a bit off… ok very off and everything was a production.  He’s old enough to understand that he’s just not acting himself and needed a “DO OVER”.  I brought him up to his room and told him to climb into bed, even though he looked at me as if I was crazy. I then explained to him that we are doing a “DO OVER”.  I told him he’s getting in bed, I’m going to pull the covers over his head and I want him to yell “DO OVER”.  And so he did… and laughed at the same time.  I told him that sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just need to start the day over again.  After the “DO OVER”, I told him that it’s his choice how he handles the rest of the day and to try to be happy, fair and nice.  I loved to concept and it worked, but needed to redo the “DO OVER” a few times throughout the day.  Because sometimes…. You just have one of those days 2gether.

 

Tag- You’re it!

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Today I had planned to write about another topic, but I think there’s something all mommies’ can relate with and appreciate.  Today, I really took advantage of tag team! 

From 5:15am until about 7:30am, the whining never stopped from my 3 year old.  So much so, that I felt like I was being water boarded and was starting to suffocate.  Running upstairs to shut the door didn’t work, as the whining seemed to follow me.  I knew I had to deal with it, but I needed a minute to gather myself.  Even though my husband was brushing his teeth, I ran into the bathroom with the kids and said “you’re it… just for a minute”.  I was able to take a breath, gather myself, and get back the mommy patience I had left.  Then, I helped my youngest get through his whinny spell giving him a hug and surrendering.  I love having the opportunity to tag team, whether it’s your husband at 7:30am, or your neighbor at 4pm.  It’s always nice to be able to take that breath so you can regroup and be able to surrender to your kiddos when needed.

 

My Third Eye

When you become a parent you not only realize that patience doesn't grow on trees, you also realize it takes a lot of control from within not to react the way you really want to.  Sometimes I’d like to run screaming down the hall and hide in a closet but that doesn’t really set the right example for my kids.

Being a huge Yogi, I’m always trying to use my Ujjayi breathing in stressful situations. There are times it doesn’t work and it looks like I’m huffing or having some sort of asthma attack.  In one of my yoga classes they were talking about combining the Ujjayi breathing with the third eye and the use of pressure points to help relieve stress. I thought I could show Jackson how you can calm yourself down by pushing on your third eye, which is on the top part of your nose in between your eyes, and taking a deep breath.

Now let’s fast forward a few weeks when both boys are at each other throats. I’ve been refereeing the whole morning, milk just spilled all over the floor and it’s only 9am.  I take an Ujjayi breath and push on my third eye and Jackson said to Nolan, “wait, Nolan, Mom needs a breath; she’s doing her third eye thing”.  Not only did he make light of the subject and made us all laugh, he recognized that mommy needed a minute.  He also used it later that week for comic relief.   Nolan was screaming at a high octave during dinner and Jackson said “Mommy, let’s breath and third eye” as he places his hands on his forhead and made a silly breathing face. 

I so appreciated my 5 year old who was the one to bring us 2gether to get through those stressful times with a light and innocent heart.