Thursday, February 28, 2008

Smoothie Power!

I used to complain about my oldest daughter's rather particular eating habits - but then I had another daughter who puts the former level of pickiness to shame. Ah, perspective... if only we could have it sooner to appreciate what was... Allegra will not eat fruits or veggies under practically any circumstances. The older two could be cajoled and "tricked" into trying foods that looked suspicious to them, at which point they would usually find they liked them and begin to eat. We sang songs, flew airplanes, and did all the fun stuff that made eating successful. This child has a will of steel that is compromised by none of our former protocols. Any attempt to get her to try something she has decided not to eat will be met with rejection. And by rejection, I mean it comes right back out without so much as touching her tongue. That's quite a talent, when you think about it! Although I've always been a big fan of smoothies, they have become necessity at this point because I feel it's very important that my kids eat well. While Allegra refuses to *eat* so many fruits and veggies, she will gladly drink them liberally when they are presented in the form of smoothie. I find I can pack all kinds of things into a smoothie, especially after reading _Deceptively Delicious_ and some of _The Sneaky Chef_. I haven't tried any of their recipes but the idea of cooking and pureeing foods that would otherwise not enter the child's system and then sneaking them in undetected is quite attractive to me. Here's my method:

Serenity's Smoothies of Power

2 bananas
2 cups total frozen fruit choose one or mix: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, or peaches
1 cup plain yogurt (I use organic whole milk yogurt)
3 Tbsp. Flax Seed Oil
2 heaping tsp. Green Magma (a barley juice powder, Just Barley is another brand)
4-8 cubes (about 1 oz. each) frozen pureed cauliflower, broccoflower, broccoli, kale or squash (prepare just like baby food - cook, puree and freze in ice cube trays, then store in freezer bags)
Juice (I usually use OJ but Pineapple or a V8 Splash make a nice alternative)

Put all chosen fruits and veggies into blender, pour yogurt on top, add flax seed oil and green magma. The blender should be fairly full at this point but don't pack it in. Pour in juice to fill the spaces. Blend to smooth consistency. Serve to the troops and be sure to have some yourself!

Here's the deal - you don't have to use *ALL* of these things in every smoothie. It's very flexible. Although I gave approximate measurements above, you may note that I do not measure anything when making smoothies. I *ALWAYS* use the banana (it smoothes out the flavor), yogurt (makes it creamy), and juice (makes it possible to blend) but everything else is debatable and subject to what you have on hand. If, for example, you put up 10 pounds of organic blueberries but no peaches last summer (as I did) then you probably won't be using peaches in your smoothies this winter but opt instead for blueberries.

Do start easy with the green veggies! You can slip in a lot of cauliflower or broccoflower but the darker green veggies do change both flavor and color!
If you've chosen green veggies like broccoli or kale or if you've been generous with the green magma, the smoothie may take on a brownish color. If your smoothie consumers might find this unappetizing, either serve it in a cup with a lid (like the kind you get to take home from restaurants) or cover it with a little whipped cream - but watch out for trans fats when you choose whipped cream! Cool Whip is not actually food, FYI. You surely don't want to undo all the good you're doing by serving your lovely, nutrient dense smoothie! Once your children have accepted the smoothie, you can be more liberal with the greens and they probably won't mind a bit.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Diapers, diapers, diapers!

Here is Shiloh in his brand new Poquito Pants that I managed to make using the pattern at: Wonderbaby DesignsLinkPoquito Pants are designed for families who practice Elimination Communication with their babies - so it's kind of a hybrid between underwear and a diaper. I think this is going to be a great solution for us because although we do catch a lot of pees and almost all poo, we also miss a lot because this guy is just a pee machine! It wasn't too hard to make so now I just need to get crackin' and put 23 or so more together and then we'll be all set. Like I said, we do "miss" a lot.

Here is my current diaper "stash." We have 24 fitted diapers (the stack on the left) that I made with my mom when I was expecting Allegra. They are terry on the outside (good for use with a snappi) with a flannel print on the inside (good for containing runny infant poo) with a soaker layer made of an old Gerber prefold that I used with Cymbre before making the move to 8x4x8 DSQ prefolds once I learned about them and needed more absorbency. They have elasticized gussets around the legs which have worked great to keep the poo off of covers. Of course, now that we are doing EC, there usually isn't poo in the diaper at all, which is a very nice perk. Anyway, I'm using Bummis super print wraps with these and it's been a good system. Shiloh is growing out of the diapers now, though, which is where the Poquitoes will hopefully come in!

The right stack is All in One diapers, which I like to use when we are away from home for more absorbency when I am unable to take Shiloh to the toilet as much as when we're home. We have 5 Bumkins AIO's, which I really treasure because all 4 kids have worn them. They have obviously seen better days but I like to think about how Eli called the farm animals ones the "Foof" diapers because that's how he said "moo." Those were his favorites. I do love their prints and I love the feel of the outer fabric on these, however I always use the Bumkins diapers with a doubler - either a Gerber prefold or a couple of cloth wipes. They are just not absorbent enough on their own. I also have 5 Kushies diapers in this stack. I bought them because they are extremely affordable and I hoped having a few more AIO's around would be helpful. They do serve the purpose. However, the shell is more thick and rubbery than I expected and their hook and loop tape leaves a lot to be desired. The laundry tabs always flop open in the wash and I end up with all the diapers stuck together, which is a bit of a pain, especially when they get wrapped up in a cotton prefold and basically shred it!

It's been so interesting to look back at my years of cloth diapering and see how my needs and perceptions have changed. I started off cloth diapering because I was raised to see it as being the "right thing to do" plus we were pretty poor and I couldn't see paying 18-25 cents for each diaper my child would use. But I didn't have a very good attitude about it and was pretty overwhelmed with the whole thing. I was using antiquated practices, like a wet diaper pail, as well as antiquated equipment, like pins and vinyl covers. Add to that the fact that Cymbre was a very turbulent baby (we called her "thunder pants") and it was miserable indeed. I never went anywhere without 4 changes of clothes for her because she spit up and blew out her diapers so often and in such quantities that it was necessity. I learned about modern cloth diapering options and began the quest for MORE ABSORBENCY in the diapers and better covers to keep everything in.

By the time Eli came along, I had learned so much and had adjusted my attitude so that I found real satisfaction in honoring my baby by keeping him as clean and dry as possible. I had nice, Chinese cotton prefolds by then which I fastened with snappis and covered with more breathable options like Bummis wraps and Alexis nylon covers. I also started using wool covers, which were a great tool for this pee-machine boy.

With Allegra, I wanted infant diapers that would contain poo so that I wouldn't have to be washing wool covers all the time since they need to be washed by hand and take as much as 2 days to dry, depending on the weather. So I made the fitted diapers pictured above and spent my pregnancy knitting cute wool covers for her. That system worked wonderfully. Then, when she was 6 weeks old, I got brave enough to try EC and *it worked!* So she used the potty a lot and always knew what it was for, even when we weren't very successful in "catching." Because we were doing EC, having a lot of absorbency in a diaper became much less of an issue because it was my goal to keep her diaper clean and dry as much as possible, changing as soon as it became wet instead of changing every couple of hours as I had done before. Suddenly it wasn't important to have as much absorbency in the diaper and as much moisture-resistance in the cover as possible, rather it was helpful to be able to get the diaper on and off with as little fuss as possible so that I could quickly get her to the potty when she wanted to go.

With baby #4, that's pretty much where we are. I started EC with him as soon as I could after he was born. I try to keep him clean and dry and give him the opportunity to use the potty (that's a pottytunity) as often as I think he needs to go and whenever he wants to go - which he tries to tell me by fussing, grumbling (kind of a low cry sound but not a cry really) or arching. Sometimes he squawks a bit when he really wants to go - that's a weird sound too. And when he's sleeping, he will toss his head around and pop on and off as he nurses. That's my cue to get us both up and take him to the toilet, as he likes to poo first thing in the morning most days. So I can often be found holding Shiloh over the toilet around 6am, bleary eyed but glad that at least I don't have to turn on the lights to wipe it all off his little bum.

If all this sounds kind of extreme, let me put this perspective on it: I know my baby is going to pee and poo and I can either do something about it when I know it's going to happen or I can wait and wipe it off later. It's just another way of taking care of a baby and I happen to feel that this way is a nice way of respecting his needs and showing him I care enough to respond. Plus, it's fun!

To illustrate, during the course of writing this post, I took Shiloh to the potty 4 times and he also used 2 diapers. That's what EC is in our house. =)

Welcome Back, NASCAR!

Here's Matt, Allegra and Shiloh watching the Daytona 500. Note Shi's official fan outfit, courtesy of Aunt Stacy. =) Isn't he cute?

Okay, if you know me at all, you'll probably realize that I am not much of a sports fan. I know, how un-American of me! And yet, televised sports have never been anything more than an annoyance of mine. It seems to me that if a person is really interested in a sport, the time would be better spent *doing* it or something related to it or at least seeing it in person (obviously on a local level, not national) rather than follow it on TV. However, in recent years I have come to appreciate this TV sports fanatic phenomenon and to use this fact of American life to my own advantage.

For example, during Nascar season, I can totally count on my husband to sit and watch a race each Sunday. Also, I know that he likes to have the kids watch it with him if they are interested, which thanks to Aunt Stacy and Grandma SaSa, they are, and even have adopted their favorite drivers. So, this gives me 3 hours each week that I can generally count on knowing where Matt is - and during which he is fairly happy to mind the baby while I do a project in the house, run an errand, or if necessary, take a nap. And so as far as I'm concerned, "Gentlemen, start your engines!"

The second American sports event I've come to appreciate in these recent years is the superbowl. No, I'm not crossing over into some football fanaticism, and NO, do not count me as one of those who "only watch it for the commercials." Please. Here's what I've discovered: apparently many people have parties for this occasion and apparently it is the tradition of the football fan to make and eat guacamole on this sacred occasion. I'm a person who loves guacamole (great source of vitamin E, and monounsaturated fat you know) and make it anytime I can get suitably ripe avocadoes. As with any other "holiday" food, the stores really stock up at just the right time. I have been just thrilled with the bountiful, plentiful selection of beautiful avocadoes available for this event! I do wonder how the avocado growers of the world provide such a bumper crop for just one week... it must generate so much waste... Anyway, I leave you with my fantastic recipe:

Serenity's Guacamole
3 ripe avocadoes, halved, seeded and scooped out of skins
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
splash of lime juice (maybe a Tbsp - I use Nellie's Key Lime Juice)
pile of cumin (maybe 1 1/2 tsp.)
4-6 shakes of red (cayenne) pepper
dash of Mama Garlic (this is a garlic salt with herbs - another garlic salt would work too)

Put all ingredients into a nice mixing bowl, mash with a potato masher. stir, and serve. Sometimes I add some cilantro but only if I have it fresh in the garden, otherwise I don't bother. Obviously the seasoning amounts are approximate. I do not measure anything and it's always fantastic.
Speedy adjustment: Just use the avocadoes, juice and seasonings and use 1/3 c or so of any garden express salsa that catches your fancy instead of chopping the tomato and onion. It's almost as good with a little less work. =)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Laundry Math

6 = Number of loads of regular wash our family of 6 accumulates in the course of a normal week during the winter
2 = Number of loads of diapers per week for a six month EC'd baby
At least 4 = Number of loads I was still behind from our busy week last week
3 = Number of extra loads added today due to surprise vomit by 2 year old in Mommy's bed

15+ = Number of times this week I should have been on my knees in prayer to thank God for the amazing gift of modern laundry facilities in my home, and yet, it's just crossed my mind this once. It comes so easily to complain about these "drudgeries" and yet they are really tangible evidence of just how blessed we are. Thank you, Lord, for these and all good things!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pictures on Valentine's Day

Here is Shiloh at 6 months! He's such a fun little baby. And here is the rest of the crew today too. Sorry, I don't see how to turn the picture... will be learning that later. =) Low tech solution: turn your head!

As it turns out...

Okay, so no famous brownies were made last night. I forgot to figure church into my logistical plans and therefore ran out of time. And in all the craziness of getting out of the house this morning (Matt's car is in the shop which adds a little complication to our life) I forgot to grab the lollipops for the kids.

So today is one of those uncanny days on which we actually have *both* our vehicles in the shop. Matt's car really needed a few things looked at so his went in yesterday and isn't quite done yet. The van is getting REfixed after the big transmission rebuild two weeks ago. Last week I noticed transmission fluid in the garage (YIKES - you Grand Caravan owners probably know this is a huge problem!) Also, ever since I got it back, the gear shifter doesn't quite act the way it is supposed to. Plus, it has now been super cold for so long that things are starting to just break... the heater fan no longer works at all unless it is on HIGH and the power lock on the passenger side is on strike. This brings me to the realization that this vehicle has no hope of making it to 300,000 miles - well, what did you expect, you may be asking incredulously. And yet, this is the milestone we're nearing with our Mazda - hoping it will keep on going to this goal before it "goes the way of all the earth." Having one car just keep going raises one's standards, perhaps unreasonably. I am now on a first name basis with the guys at our regular auto shop as well as the guys at our transmission shop.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Musings on Valentine's Day

So tomorrow is the big day of love... the day we are to believe that diamonds and roses and cards must be purchased and presented to express our "true" feelings. Does anyone really do that stuff? Does anyone really believe it means more than our day to day actions?

Here's my big plan for V day: I am going to make a special lunch for my husband and his friends because Thursday is his day for "lunch club." So on the menu for tomorrow are turkey, greens and provalone roll ups in sundried tomato tortillas (which are red), chips and salsa, and some of my famous fudgie brownies. Mundane, I know, but this is what I have to give. And strangely, the fact that Matt's friends love and request my brownies and cookies gives me an inordinate amount of satisfaction. I'm a real mom.

I'll probably let the kids give out some Yummy Earth lollipops at their gymnastics class in the morning... and maybe I'll give them heart-shaped sandwiches for lunch... And I'll call my mom to tell her I love her... but beyond that, I'm not really in for the Valentine's Day thing. Oh, and since Matt is taking Cymbre to a concert (Casting Crowns) I'm just going to be hanging out with the smaller kids all evening. It might be restful...

The bigger reason to be excited about tomorrow is that Shiloh is going to be 6 months old! Now THAT is a reason to celebrate. And yet, what can I do to make the day special for him? He already gets all the milk, pottytunities, dry diapers, and snuggles he could possibly use. And really, what else is there when you're a little guy? He's been working so hard on learning to get up on all fours. It's so thrilling to watch him do his little baby exercises. I find that I keep pondering the mystery of baby development with this guy. How does he know what's next? First, hold head up, then learn to push up on arms. Next, roll front to back - then back to front. Learn to scoot around a bit on belly. Now get up on those knees. Next, sit up on own. It's not like he's read a book on it - it's not like he has other babies around to watch and model. And yet, all babies pretty much learn to do the same things in pretty much the same order. Amazing.