Monday, November 21, 2011

I is for Imagination

Now that Violet is talking, the things that go on in her imagination are becoming more apparent to me, and it's so exciting getting this window into her creativity.

We got Violet this great little play stove at the Salvation Army.  It's so adorable, and even better now that daddy added a "sink" to it.  He cut a hole and inserted a metal bowl then added a faucent attachment so it looks like a sink.  Super cute, and knobs to turn.  She already had some play pots and pans, plus we got some plastic bowls while we were at the SA anyway, and she has her tea set.  All "cooking" toys now live within Violet's kitchedn, and she likes to play with it.

The great thing about this toy, for me, is listening to what she "makes."  Sometimes she makes what I'm making.  So I make her toast and give it to her, and she takes it over to her kitchen and "cooks" the toast and breaks it into pieces to put in her bowls and serve.  Other times she just cooks on her own though.  The other day she was cooking and bringing me plates.  I asked her what it was.
"Mmm...  Butter?  Is the butter on anything?"
"Butter and tofu, okay, that sounds good."
Then she brought me a cup and said it was soup.
"Butter and tofu soup?"

She also plays with her baby dolls, and mimics things I do with her little brother, but also does her own things.  Last night my husband went in to check on her after bedtime when we heard noises.  She has recently learned to turn her light on and was playing by herself very contently in her lit up bedroom.  She had one baby doll sitting on the potty, and she was "feeding" another from her straw sippy cup of water before laying it down on an unfolded changing mat.

And finally, the cutest conversation as of late.  I had never talked to her before about what she wants to be when she grows up or what that even means.  I decided to give it a try without explanation and see how it went.
"Violet, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Ummm... grow up...  AIRPLANES!"
"You want to fly airplanes when you grow up?"
I thought that was so cute that I called for my husband and asked her agian.
"Violet, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Ummm... grow up... MOMMY."
"You can be a mommy when you grow up."
"Yeah.  Mommy."

What a fun and exciting age 2 is!  I'm really loving this stage.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

H is for Happy

Joy is something we really wanted to give our children, and I have to say that in that respect we have been great parents.  Violet is a HAPPY child.  She smiles, laughs, and has fun all the time.  One of my favorite things she says right now is, "HAPPY!"

Twinkle, twinkle, little star... 
"It's flying Mommy!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

G is foe Gym: Taking Time to Recharge My Own Batteries

Anyone who has ever flown knows the rule, and yet ever mom forgets it (and probably most dads do too).

"Secure your own oxygen mask before helping others."  That even goes for children, infants, and those who are otherwise impaired.  You must secure your own first, or you are no good to anyone else.

So, I joined a gym.  I guess I should mention that I'm very overweight (obese is the term that I'm trying not to use there, but it's the medical term for how overweight I am...) and part of being a good mom means being a healthy mom.   This isn't to say that I put much stock in the BMI, but it is a reality that after two kids in two years, I've let my muscle tone lapse.  I'm actually a few pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant with my first baby, but I'm not feeling as healthy as I did then.  I am exhausted, first of all, and then I have noticed that I get tired from activities easier than I would like.

Also, to be honest, the idea of being able to do anything, even work out, unencumbered by children, sounded a little too good to be true.  So I joined a gym with child care.  My son is only 7 weeks old, which is horrific to the same mommy who didn't leave her daughter with a sitter (or anyone for that matter) until she was over a year old.  I just had to face reality though, and the reality is that I needed some time just for me.  I wanted to take a yoga class here and there, get strong, get leaner...

Of course, since a gym is there to make money, they signed me up for an intensive 6 weeks with a personal trainer working out twice a week with her and then having a homework day of workout and taking all manner of measurements and weighing me.  Ugh.  I was just trying to RELAX!

That said, after only one week I am already sleeping better, feeling good about myself and remembering what it was like to be strong.

When I was in high school, sophomore PE was co-ed and we would do warm-ups each day.  Part of those warm-ups included doing push-ups.  I remember while many of my fellow females were doing "girl push-ups," I took pride in my strength and did the standard version.  One day, the teacher was getting exasperated with the lack of effort put forth by many of the boys, and she said, "Guys, just look how Erin is doing her push-ups!  THAT'S what I want to see!"  I also enjoyed running in high school, which was another daily task with a weekly mile and a half.  I loved mile and a half days.  In college, I tried to keep running, but without the daily practice, the longer runs left me sore and with shin splints.  I did finally work up to a nice running routine, but then started dating someone and I just couldn't find the time.  There was never time to say, "this is for me."

Well, now I have an extremely amazing and supportive husband, whose oxygen mask has enabled him to reach over and help me, and he's supporting me in this effort to help myself.  I have 5 more weeks, and then the training wheels come off and we see if I can stick to my routine, and not let life get in the way.  This IS life.  This IS my health.  No matter how much I may dislike those pesky BMI numbers, I admit that I'd love to just be "overweight" instead of obese.  I'd like to see my waist again.

Wish me luck and happy health.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

F is for Freezer

My sweet husband got me a beautiful freezer for the garage as a "You Gave Birth Again" present.

Now, this isn't like when a husband buys his wife a new stove or vacuum, this was something I specifically requested.  You see, with two little ones, dinner time is hard.  Really hard.  I have a two year old who keeps me out of the house most of the day, and an infant who needs nursing as soon as we get home.  So, the solution for me is to have easy meals that are prepped and can be thrown in the oven if we'll be home for a while or in the crock pot if we are going to be out all day.

Use the crock pot for more time for this.

Now I got the Vegan Slow Cooker recipe book so that I could do the slow cooker recipes, and the freezer so I could pre-make things like casseroles.  Well, some genius of course came up with a way to utilize both for perfection!

Cook a pre-frozen casserole and have more time for this.

I found this on Pinterest, and while I can't use her recipes, I love her idea.  Basically, you do everything you would before you put stuff in the crock pot (except you make multiples), and then you put it in freezer bags instead of the crock pot.  Then you just pull out a freezer bag and throw it in the crock before heading off for your fun-filled day.   I'm thinking sledding :)

Another trick that I came up with was inspired by another new cookbook I got called Vegan Family Meals.  She has a recipe for lasagna that calls for rolling up the noodles and filling instead of laying them out flat.  If you want to try the recipe, but don't want to buy the book, I found it posted here.  I thought that would be a great way to keep them in single servings.  So I froze them in a cupcake pan, without the sauce, then just pull out a few rolls and toss them in the crock pot with some sauce and they are ready by dinner time.  The last time I did this I also chopped up kale and eggplant to cook in my sauce while the lasagna was cooking.  It turned out great and was a complete meal.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

E is for Elimination Communication

I talked about using EC with Violet in this post when she was about 7 months old.  Since then, we have had a long road, and we have had very few poopy diapers.  In fact, even when Violet got a horrible stomach flu (this has happened twice now) and had really bad diarrhea, she still didn't poop in diapers.  That is control.  The peeing... well, that's another story.

So Violet has been almost exclusively pooping in the toilet since she was 3 months old, and peeing in the toilet as long too- just not exclusively.  At 26 months, she still pees in her diapers.  We are working on it, but don't feel a huge urge to pressure her.  We do a lot of naked time at home (mostly because she doesn't want to wear clothes, not because of some structured naked time).  We got her cute panties that are not for peeing in, but accidents still happen in them (although she is more prone to tell us she has to pee if she's wearing panties).  We try not to make a big deal of accidents, and we try to stay positive.  Anyway, that's where we're at with her.

If nothing else, we've giving her a comfort with the toilet, which many children her age don't have.  Many parents I know face the issue of a child afraid of or confused by the potty.  By offering the option without pressure early on, you solidify that connection between our bodily waste and the toilet.

At 6 weeks, my new baby Desmond is making leaps and bounds.  He's gone pee over the toilet about 5-6 times now, and pooped about 3 times.  I'm using the same method I used with Violet; I just hold him over the toilet during his diaper change.  I've also taken him in just after a feeding and had good luck that way too.  Unlike Violet, who screamed if you held her over the toilet (which is why we gave up until 3 months when she was more comfortable with it), Desmond is content to be held over the toilet, and looks up at me happily while we wait for nature to take its course.  We will see how he progresses, but so far I'm optimistic.

For more inforamation about EC, check out Diaper Free Baby or just do a search and see what appeals to you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

D is for Detox: Savory Sweets and a Little Macrobiotics

Ugh, the day after Halloween.  What a nightmare on the tummy.  Lucky for us, some trick-or-treaters liberated all our candy when we put the bowl out last night.  We had intended to pass out candy, but by the time we got home we only had a few little monster who braved the blizzard (only a slight exaggeration).  While I was nursing and Violet was getting her bath from daddy, I put the bowl of candy on the front porch and it was gone within a half hour.  Well, as my husband reminded me, the BOWL wasn't gone, just all the candy.  

So we are not in a sugar overload in our house.  Sorry folks.  But I feel for those who are. I do, however, end up in an over-sugared state often enough due to my baking addiction that I have some tips that hopefully the whole family will enjoy.

My first suggestion would be to make the dill waffles with beet compote featured in VegNews this month (November/December issue).  They are SOOOO devine.  The best part is, you make breakfast and it looks like you've made a pillowy waffle with strawberry topping and a dollop of whipped cream, then you bite in and even though the taste isn't at all what you expectred, it's such a wonderful surprise it doesn't matter.  We had these on Sunday for our "Sunday waffles" and they are now my favorite and topping the charts for Violet too.  She wasn't as interested in the compote, but gobbled up dill pancakes with Tofutti sour cream.  No, I'm not posting the recipe.  Go out and support this vegan publication that has bounced back after the photo scandal of 2011 and needs our support.

My second suggestion in from the world of macrobiotics.  I've read a bit of The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics and The Kind Diet, both of which encourage a macrobiotic plant-based diet.  Now, I'm no expert or even novice at the world of macrobiotics, but I have gleened a bit of advice that really makes sense.  

Brown rice just makes you feel good.  It's healthy, nutty, and filling.  It can be a vehicle for whatever you are wanting, and it's a great alternative of a heavy pasta when your body is already feeling weighed down by pillowcases full of candy.  If your kids are like mine, brown rice isn't too hard of a sell, especially with a yummy sauce they like.  I make microwave "rice pudding" the next day with leftover rice and soy milk with a little maple syrup and cinnamon and it's V's favorite.  Rice goes great under a stir-fry, but it also works in less typical ways, like tossed with pesto or with a "cheesey" sauce.  It's wonderful in soup as well.

Miso soup can be more than that thin savory bowl of deliciousness you get at the sushi bar.  I buy my own miso paste, wakame seaweed (you buy it dried at Asian groceries or maybe in the ethnic foods aisle of your regular grocery store.  While you are there, check out hijiki and arame, other delicious seaweeds.  Then buy some dried kombu to cook with your beans and help the "digestive" properties).  There are a few different kinds of miso paste, and I buy different ones.  I particularly like red miso because the flavor is the strongest, but in many vegan "cheese" alternative recipes they call for the mild flavor of white miso.  Try out different ones and see what you like.  When I was recovering from a stomach bug, miso soup with brown rice and flax oil was what sustained my unborn baby and I and kept us nourished.  It's very "healing" based on most readings.  Miso is fermented, and good for the body.  Even those who avoid soy often say that miso is a healthy way to get soy. 

Beyond the typical miso broth with wakame seaweed, you can add mushrooms, bok choy, and any other vegetables you like to make it more of a hearty stew.  The wind and snow are making me prefer that idea over a simple broth.  The broth alone is great for recovering from tummy troubles, or just warming up after being out in the cold too long though.  For kids, it's salty and umami in a way that they like, plus it's got protein to boot.  Pefect snack to refuel before heading back into the cold, and a nice alternative to the cup of hot chocolate standby (although I believe moderation is key, since I brought a thermos of cocoa to our snowy park playdate this morning- however she didn't have any candy yesterday).