About Elizabeth Atalay

Life as a stay at home mother of four is chaotic, unpredictable, fun, loving, inspiring, absurd, challenging, joyous, crazy and beautiful. Cherished friends and family sustain me. Learn more about her here.

What Am I Going To Be When I Grow Up?!

 

 

Photo by Bob Packert

Photo by Bob Packert

I’m just now catching on that as a mother your identity shifts every few years.  You are not just a mother, you are a mother of a newborn, or a mother of toddlers, a mother of school kids, a mother of teenagers…and so on and so on!  I can see that as they grow, I’ll need to evolve with the kids various stages, and maybe I’ll be prepared by the time I hit the High school, college and empty nest stages……(o.k, bringing that up puts me in a full fledged panic, but I digress).    That said, I have been eagerly anticipating my current stage of motherhood, finally getting all my kids in school for a full day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my children from the depths of my heart, but come on ladies, if you have small kids at home, you are flat out lying if you tell me you haven’t fantasized about this moment too.  So now I have time to ponder the yawning question of    “What do I want to be when I grow up!?!”   I know, as a married mother of four in her mid-forties, I kind of am grown up.  I also know that I am not the only one out there with an inner 21 year old, who looks around baffled some days thinking  ”and who thought it was a good idea to give all of this responsibility to me exactly?!”.  Despite that delusional youthful inner being, I do seem to find myself with all evidence pointing to truly, and actually being an adult!  I suppose the lines that have taken up permanent residence on my face are Nature’s gentle reminder of such.  So here I am, a mature woman, almost thirteen years out of the work force, with finally some time to start thinking about what I’d like to be (along with wife and mother).   I allowed myself the savor the first half of the year, to see what it really felt like to have time to myself again.  I found the need to re-learn time management in the paradigm of my new schedule, so that I could efficiently balance that new found freedom with accomplishing the day’s practical tasks.

Entering the second half of the school year, I now feel it is time to start figuring out what to do for a job.  There are a few parameters.   Namely the aforementioned kids who need shuttling around in the afternoons, and said husband with primary career of varied schedule. Whatever it is I do, has to take place between the hours of 8:30am and 2:00pm.

Some of the author's "passions"

That pretty much rules out my previous work in Film Production and renders my Masters degree in Ethnographic filmmaking as obsolete. (a documentary on the anthropology of childrearing in the suburbs, I’m sure would fascinate the masses) So of course I’ve been reading a lot of Oprah and More magazine lately, and taking those quizzes to “find my passion”.    (Off the bat, I’d just say, my husband, eating and drinking, travel, reading, skiing, movies…..)But I don’t think that’s what they mean.  These magazines are full of women who turn their passion into fulfilling moneymaking careers!  They are so inspirational, and yet that whatever it is going to be for me thing seems just beyond my cognitive grasp.

Photo by Bob Packert

Photo by Bob Packert

Some of the tips the articles I’ve read advise things like; Figure out what you love to do.  Think of something you loved to do as a kid.  Look around your house and write down the things that point to a certain passion, such as books, art,travel, or antique collection. Once you figure out what you would love to be doing, research ways to make money on it.  My Google search for “how to make money shopping” turned up at least seven legitimate ideas for how to do so.  Other tactics include writing lists of the things you are good at, the things you would do if you were sure not to fail, and all the things that make you happy.   Now cross reference your lists to formulate a plan.

Documama's logo

The things I tore out of magazines (this is a great method for formulating your decorating style as well) were all articles on socialpreneurs such as Lauren Lauren and her FEED bags, Tom’s shoes, and Alex & Ani Charity by design bracelets.  My role models were real life moms who have found careers where they are making a difference globally, such as Navyn Salem and her Edesia factory that produces global nutritional solutions.  I realized whatever it is I end up doing; I would like it to have a positive impact, not just a financial reward.  I get things moving, I created a blog www.documama.org to be able to explore my passions for travel, food, family, and global issues in one place.  Figuring out what I am going to be when I grow up is clearly a process, and a work in progress, and as a Mom, I have a feeling that just when I get this part all figured out….it will be just in time for another Maternal identity shift!

 

 

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My 5 Favorite iPhone Apps

 

Cardstar:   This allows you to clean the clutter out of your wallet, add all of the bar codes of your plastic membership cards, and just open the app to scan for discounts and benefits at CVS, Stop &Shop, Barnes & Noble …wherever!!

 

Shazam: I am the absolute worst when it comes to remembering song names and artists, Shazam helps, but even better, when you hear a song that you love and have never heard it before, Shazam will tell you what it is and let you buy it on the spot.

 

Tunein radio: When traveling it is so annoying to drive out of range of your favorite radio station, in the middle of your favorite song! Tune in radio allows you to keep your station on no matter how far out of range you go.

 

Project 365: I can’t remember what I did yesterday, never mind last month! Project 365 lets you capture a moment a day onto a yearly calendar. A very cool way to look back at your year in pictures.

 

 

Instagram: I know you’ve seen those ultra hip looking photos all the cool people are posting on Facebook these days, it’s not just their artsy eye, so much as Insagram. It  makes every photo it takes look  cool.

 

What are your favorite Apps?

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Wear Red Today!

Why you ask? Because it is National Wear Red Day for the American Heart Association!   In an effort to educate women on  heart health, and the risks of Heart Disease in women, they are encouraging us to wear red, spread the word and in doing so potentially help save lives. Not to mention we look fabulous in Red!!  More women die of heart disease than the next three causes of death combined, including all forms of Cancer.  Throw on something red to remind the women that you love to take care of their health. I’m wearing mine!

 

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Good Reads!

Reading is one of my great life passions.   It is a thrill to become totally immersed in a good book.  As a member of two monthly book clubs, I enjoy most things I read, but each year come away with only a few books that I can say I truly loved.  Below are the six I read in 2011 that I could not put down, and a couple that I’ve picked up in 2012 that are already on my favorite books list.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese; Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.  Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles–and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

 

 The Forgotten Garden  by Kate Morton; A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay; Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

 

 

Room by Emma Donoghue; To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

 

 Little Bee by Chris Cleave;  This novel explains the intertwined fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple–journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday–who should have stayed behind their resort’s walls. What happens on a Nigerian beach brings her into their world and forever alters the course of their lives.

 

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; The story is that of Louie Zamperini – a track and field star of the 1930’s, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.

 

 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford; Great to read after the above book, Unbroken, because it gives an entirely different perspective during the same time period in history. Chronicling the relationship between two 12 yr. olds, a Chinese boy, and Japanese girl in San Francisco in the early 1940’s. It provides a brief glimpse into what each culture had to face as American Immigrants in a bitter-sweet tale.

 

 

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, The Man Who Would Cure The World  by Tracy Kidder; Compelling and inspiring, Paul Farmer sets out on his mission to cure infectious diseases, and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. From Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia, Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

 

I cannot wait to delve into the next books that are lining up for 2012, and anticipate finding new favorites among them.  The Tiger’s Wife, The Paris Wife, and Freedom are a few on my list. What is on your list? Please share your recent favorites.  Did you find any that you loved?

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Matters of The Heart

heart disease

I had to look away as the needle plunged into my skin, I hate needles, and as I felt the pinch, (admittedly not as bad as I expected) I remembered that I was not supposed to have eaten before I came. Not only did I forget to fast before checking my cholesterol, but I had also polished off a McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (don’t judge me!) just moments before.   To save myself a trip back to the lab, and needle…and o.k. the disapproving look of the phlebotomist, I decided not mention my lunch.  The following week I got a congratulatory note from my doctor on my excellent cholesterol count!

That was almost a year ago and I’d been feeling pretty confident about my good health since.  Until today.  I went to an event planning committee meeting for the Go Red for women campaign.  Go Red is a campaign by the American Heart Association that serves to heighten awareness of the risks of heart disease in women.   We were shown a great 3-minute movie called ‘Just A Little Heart Attack’ which I think every busy mom could identify with.   Then I heard a survival story from a woman who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.  She had been around my age, fit, with healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure.  She was slim, ate well, and exercised regularly.  The fact that she survived at all is amazing, 95% of women who suffer a heart attack do not.

Watching the movie and then listening to her speak, the message hit home.  It actually could happen to someone like me (I don’t eat McDonald’s that often, honestly!).  A representative from the American Heart Association then rattled off some pretty startling statistics.  Heart Disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 25, and every year it kills more women than men.  Yikes! Like many other people I had believed heart disease to be more of a risk for older, unfit men.  Clearly not!  The good news is that with lifestyle modifications in diet and exercise, the risks of heart disease can be greatly reduced.   I left the meeting this morning armed with all sorts of new information,  and as soon as I got home I went for a run!

How do you keep your heart healthy?

 

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The TRUTH Behind Our Family Photo Shoot

Photo by Odessa Cozzolino

Photo by Odessa Cozzolino

If you look at the photo smiling out at you from our yearly holiday card, taken on an idyllic Rhode Island beach, you’ll see six happy faces, a proud family clutching each other with love.  Every year I schedule a family photo shoot to get that picture.  Every year we get one.   And I mean JUST ONE.  Out of the hundreds of pictures the photographer snaps, there is usually only one picture where we are all happy, and looking presentable enough to send out to everyone we know.  The rest, the outtakes, tell a different story. They tell the truth behind all those happy smiling family photo cards you get in the mail each year.   If you have a family of your own, with small children, and have been through this process, you know what I’m talking about.  They are much more anarchic than the calm conveyed in the final photo.

It begins at home hours before we leave. I run around and pull together complimentary outfits for us all.  Each year I come up against protests about the outfits from the girls, as though I had asked them to be tarred and feathered.  The boys have usually outgrown what I’ve laid out, since they wear their white button down dress shirts so infrequently, and they can’t stand having to change outfits.   The kids complain and drag their feet, and it takes much shouting and cajoling to get everyone in the car.  By this point I have usually given up on the complimentary outfits, and the neat hair.  Around this time I may even be reduced to shouting something childish like “fine! I don’t care what the rest of you look like in the picture as long as I look good!”  As we drive to the beach, my husband is getting cranky due to all the bickering and back talk.  He questions the need for the professional family photo, and usually chooses this moment to find out what it costs.  Now my husband and I are bickering too.  I try to remind him that the outcome will be worth it.  When we arrive at the beach, I am already apologizing to the photographer for our motley state.   As we begin to try to pose, at least one child is freezing and miserable.  We bribe, threaten, and tickle to get the desired simultaneous smiles from all four kids. This year we added our untrained dog to the pandemonium.  He was kicked out of the family photo after about 5 minutes for stepping on one of the kids and making them cry.

photo by Odessa Cozzolino. the little guy wasn't supposed to be in the background!

photo by Odessa Cozzolino

Once again we ultimately got the photo.   Just one (as close to perfect as we’ll ever get) photo of our precious family, and the dog even made it in without needing to be added in photoshop.  Having that one picture that captures this moment in time is so worth all the trouble we go through to get it.  We cherish the timeline of our growing family that we  now have, and we can laugh when we scan back over the years of our family  pictures, knowing the bedlam that went into capturing them.  In turn, we love getting our friends holiday cards with pictures of their kids each year, seeing how their families have grown as well, and knowing the secret behind those perfect family photos. Chaos!

 

These are outtakes from back when we only had two kids! (and one on the way)

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Feather Hair Extensions

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

My daughter begged me to get feathers for her hair for the start of seventh grade.  I understood because I had feathers in my hair when I started seventh grade as well.    Back then we had Farrah Fawcett to thank for that trend, and I remember wanting hair that feathered all the time like my classmate, Heidi Smith’s.  She was popular, and had naturally straight hair that was well cut to frame her face in cascading layers.   I had naturally curly hair that I needed to blow dry into what turned out more crashing waves than cascading feathers.  In any case, I went to the Haircuttery and told the hairdresser that for my $8.00 cut I wanted permanently feathered hair.  I walked out with a mullet.  It took forever to grow it out, and needless to say did not catapult me into instant popularity as planned.   So when my seventh grader asked me for feathers, I embraced her request with all the enthusiasm of my own youthful hair debacle.  (I have to add here that as an adult and parent I am now acutely aware of the benefits of being nerdy in the long run).  Much to my dismay, my daughter is innately cooler than I ever was.   Thus, I am even more willing to support a harmless whim like getting feathers in her hair, so that when she asks me later for the tattoo or belly ring, I can say no without the reply that I never let her do anything.

Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler

My daughter’s feathers are a bit different than my late 70’s hair feathers.  Thanks to Steven Tyler on American Idol last season, Fly fishermen are finding a shortage in their long feathered fishing lures.  The hair extensions are made from chicken feathers.  The same ones anglers would have paid about $5.00 for in order  to catch some fish.  I paid  $10.00 to have one chicken feather attached to my daughter’s hair . The feathers have been snapped up nationwide by hairdressers to feed the fashion craze that has swept our nation.  Applied like hair extensions to the root of a small cluster of hair they can last up to a couple of months of washing and styling. Either subtly applied to the nape of the neck to peak out from under the hair, or boldly laid as a top layer in natural or neon colors, they are certainly intriguing.  They are also easily removable, making pre-teen hair regrets much less traumatic than back in my day!

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Fall Festivities in New England

The Fall season in New England brings about a slew of requisite fun family activities.  Below are  my top five favorites not to be missed.

1. Apple Picking! To be honest my older kids kind of roll their eyes at this one, yet I drag them every year, and every year they love it once I get them there.  There a many places to apple pick in Rhode Island, my favorite is Narrow Lane Orchard in North Kingstown because they also have peaches when in season, and a beautiful (but short enough for the kids) nature trail around the orchard.   There is something about picking your own apples and then taking them home to make an apple pie.  I love giving my kids that farm to table experience whenever possible.  My pie recipe is super easy, and the kids love to help.  I buy ready- made Pillsbury pie Crusts, frankly, because I haven’t mastered the pie crust, and mine  have just never come out as good as the ready- made! For the filling:

8 apples cut up into chunks or slices

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 T cornstarch

3/4 t. cinnamon

1 t. vanilla

Mix it all together and bake at 350 until top is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hr.

2. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular! This takes place every October in R.I., this year it will run October 6th through 31st from 6pm to 10pm at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Similar events are spread throughout the area. In fact  Women’s Day magazine had a great article last year listing these displays around the country.  Thousands of pumpkins are carved, lit and lined up on a trail with music setting the mood to create an enchanting evening experience not to be missed. It is truly unique, and my whole family enjoys it.  I recommend going either on the early or late side to avoid a long wait in line, since this event is so popular.

 

 

3. The RISD sale. Don’t miss the fall student & alumni RISD sale held outdoors on Benefit street between Waterman and Hopkins streets in Providence. October 15th from 10am to 4pm. Be inspired by amazing creativity, meet the artists, and pick up distinctive art at affordable prices.  Also a great place to find gifts of Jewelry, textiles, ceramics, paintings or paper goods, for yourself or others.

4. Pumpkin Picking.  Yes, there is still a place where, like Charlie Brown, you can go to a real pumpkin patch and pick your own pumpkin off the vine. You don’t have to just buy it at the supermarket. (although admittedly, in this area with plentiful pumpkin crops, they can be much less expensive at supermarkets) For the experience, Spring Hill Sugar House is located at 522 Gardner Rd.in Richmond, RI, and is an 8 acre farm that produces it’s own maple syrup and apple cider . It also has a fantastic corn maze and pumkin patch that makes it the perfect fall day family outing. Be sure to bring your camera to capture all the great photo opportunities.

5. Leaf Collecting.  Remember as a kid picking out colorful leaves and bringing them home to iron between wax paper?  I had somehow forgotten to do this for a while, but the beauty of having children is rediscovering some of the simple pleasures we sometimes forget as adults.  Now we go on a leaf hunt, in our yard, the neighborhood, or on a trail, and bring home beautiful leaves.  I iron them between wax paper, punch two holes in the top, tie on a string, and hang them in the windows for pretty (and for me, nostalgic) home-made fall decorations.

 

The air is crisp, time to get cozy and enjoy the beauty of the Fall! What are some of your favorite fall activities?

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Living the Dream

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

O.K., so I wanted to title this post “Boring is Good”, but realized no one in their right mind would read a post entitled with the word boring!  This is what I have to say.  There once was a time when I did things like skydiving and “black water rafting”, but that was all back when I was young, immortal and most importantly not yet a mother.  Not long before I had my own children, I watched a toddler close to me go through a life threatening disease.  After years of treatments and hospital visits the child was cured.  In subsequent conversations with the mother she would say “We are all healthy, nothing new or exciting is going on in our lives, but that is just the way I like it now. Boring is good.”   Twenty years ago, that was the antithesis of my life motto.   Even after getting married, for many years as we established our home and family, there seemed to always be something exciting to report on to our friends.  There was a steady flow of new jobs, births and moves.  Now that the kids are a bit older, I guess we’ve done what they call “settling down”.   Much of our time is spent shuttling  kids to games on the weekends and doing  family-centric activities.  It has gotten to the point that when someone asks me ‘what’s new’?  I feel so boring! I have nothing to say!   The thing is, I am also at the point in my life where I look at that as a GOOD thing! To me it means there is no drama, and no angst (other than the gnawing question of how we’ll pay four college tuitions). In this economy, with high unemployment, foreclosures, war, natural disasters, and potential health problems, I am embracing boring.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

This is not to be confused with being bored.  I always tell my children, “there is no such thing as being bored!”  This is about being excited about life everyday without needing drama to stir things up.  I once had a friend ask if I got bored being a stay at home mother. I was surprised by the question, because, as I told her, I wished I had enough downtime to be bored.   My life was chaotic with four little kids!  Now that they are older I do get moments of down time, but I know now how precious they are, and savor every second of them without ever feeling bored.  When my wanderlust  does grip me from time to time, I remind myself how I always knew it was time to head home from my travels.  I would find myself in an exotic location peering not at the spectacular scenery around me, but into the glowing windows of  thatched village huts, wistfully thinking of the lucky family cozy inside their home together.  When asked, “what’s up” my husband and I will mostly respond with our motto of  “living the dream”.  Sometimes, when the question comes from a friend who I’ve previously described my “boring is good” theory to, I will answer that my life is boring at the moment. Knowing that I mean that in the best possible way, they will often reply with a wink and a smile, and say in return “boring is good”.

 

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Hemlines and The Economy

This summer I was sitting on the beach with a group of girlfriends reading a fashion magazine when I blurted out “Well, we’re in for a double dip recession!!”  They looked at me quizzically as I began to explain the correlation between hemlines and the economy.  I tried to maintain my confident tone as I scanned their smart, well-educated (and appropriately skeptical) faces.  I am no economist by any means, and they all know that.  I do read The Economist alongside my Vogue if that counts for anything.  Fine, I admit to not really knowing what I’m talking about, but my source on the theory was good  (my friend who is a fashionista, and whose husband worked for the Harvard Endowment).  So on that particular beach day as I flipped through the pages of models shrouded in full ankle skimming frocks, an economic dread overcame me.   I just thought they should know my prediction.  There is a real economic theory called the Hemline Index that was  developedpencil skirt in the mid- 1920s by the economist George Taylor. He found that  longer skirts correlated with a downturn in the economy, and vice versa.  It has more recently  been tested by researchers and proven to maintain some validity. Since learning about the link, I have noticed skirt lengths rise and fall with the economy. If you think about fashion history in broad strokes the 20’s brought on the mini-dress, the 30’s and the great depression had women in full, long skirts. The 40s & 50s women wore knee or calf length skirts while the country recovered from the war, and then in the booming 60s the mini skirt was all the rage.  I don’t know what the pants in the 70s meant but by the early 80s short skirts were back (thank you Madonna!). Late 80s, early 90s we wore long again.   Late 90s and early 2000, lots of leg was showing, until the more recent economic crisis that brought down more than just hemlines.  Hasn’t your head been spinning with the bipolar hemline swings in the past couple of years as our hope waxes and wanes?! I think our faltering economy is responsible for the ambiguity in our hemline trends, but I would be happy to be wrong.  So just in case, pull in your purse strings and pull down your skirts girls, we may be going for another dip!

 

Are there any real economists or fashionistas out there who can help our forecast?

 

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