Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why it sometimes pays to be dirty

The other night, as I filled the tub with warm water for Tye's bath, she was so excited she kept trying to climb in over the edge.  She peeled her clothes off with enthusiasm and I as I lifted her into the warm bath, I had a fleeting thought of I didn't offer the potty first- but she'll be fine.  She splashed in the water as the tub filled, then stood up suddenly- as poop came flying out of her bottom.  She looked at me with wide eyes, and I could tell she wasn't finished, so I pulled her out of the tub and she finished pooping in the potty.  After I cleaned out the tub, we opted for a shower to finish up our evening.

I remember one bath with my brother when we were young, I picked up a brown object in the water as it floated by and asked my mom, "What's this?"  I had a student several years ago whose mom would put him in a warm bath when he was constipated, and it worked every time.  There's something about baths that makes kids go.  It's universal.  So when it happened to us the other night, I barely blinked an eye.  

In fact, the whole episode felt a little like I was being welcomed to mothering a toddler.  It reminded me of training for a marathon several years ago, when my toenails turned black and finally fell off- like I was a real runner.  Now, I finally have a poop-in-the-tub story in which I was on the outside of the tub.  I'm just glad I actually was on the outside, because I had seriously considered bathing with Tye that night.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grain-free Scones

These scones are gluten-free, low-carb, and high in protein and fiber thanks to the almond flour (I order mine here).  Oh, and they are delicious!  Not a true scone, these turn out cakey, almost like little muffin cookies.

Chocolate Chip Almond Flour Scones
Ever-so-slightly adapted from the recipe in The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup light oil (I use sunflower oil)
scant 1/4 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
generous 1 cup dark chocolate chips, or 1 chocolate bar, chopped

Combine dry ingredients (first 3 only) in medium-sized mixing bowl.  Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until mixed.  Fold in chocolate.  Drop by scant 1/4 cups on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes at 350.  Cool on baking sheet- if they last that long.

Ah, sweet moments.... 
Cranberry Almond Flour Scones
Loosely adapted from Chocolate Chip Scones in The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cardamom
3 tbsp minced candied ginger*
1/3 cup oil (I use sunflower oil)
2-3 tbsp agave nectar, to taste
1 tsp grated orange peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries

Combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cardamom, and ginger in medium bowl.  In small bowl, mix oil, agave, orange peel, vanilla extract, and eggs.  Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until mixed.  Fold in cranberries.  Drop by scant 1/4 cups on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes (15-18 if using frozen berries) at 350.  Cool on baking sheet.

*The easiest way I've found to mince candied ginger is to process it, along with the other dry ingredients, in a food processor.  Without the other dry ingredients, the ginger will form a sticky ball; with them, the small pieces coat themselves in the dry ingredients.  Just don't over-process.  If you don't  have candied ginger on hand, I've substituted a scant 1 tsp fresh grated ginger and added an extra teaspoon or so of agave nectar.

Looking for something to spread on top of these?  Try coconut cashew butter: process equal amounts of coconut and raw cashews until smooth, adding a bit of coconut milk or water if needed.  Slather over warm scones for an out-of-this-world delicious treat.

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Prioritizing...

This morning when I got out of bed, I immediately bundled up Tye to take Mico out, then gave Mico food and water, changed Tye's diaper, got Tye water and a snack, and vacuumed up the ceramic baking dish that shattered when it fell out of the cabinet as I was reaching for Tye's cup.  By the time Tyler walked into the kitchen, my full bladder and intense thirst had gotten the best of me, and I snapped at him for no reason.  All morning long, I had attend to the needs of my family without taking a moment to meet my own physical needs, thinking I was doing what was best for them.  But if taking care of them immediately comes along with a moody mama who resorts to harsh words, I'm clearly doing something wrong.

I believe that as mothers, we need to strive to keep our own needs met by setting our needs as a high priority.  By fulfilling our own needs and even some of our wants, we can then better provide for our families.  Our children and spouses deserve matriarchs who are healthy, happy, and able to care for them lovingly, rather than cranky, moody, even suffering martyrs.  Bottom line: we need to meet our own needs first.  In our crashing plane of life, we need to affix our own oxygen masks first so that we can complete the task of securing our child's mask.  

Is this selfish?  It feels like it to me.  I struggle daily to find the balance between caring for myself and giving everything I have to my family (which was obvious this morning).  When I meet my own needs first, I feel guilty for not spending that time caring for Tye and Tyler, even our pets.  I tend to neglect things for myself- from my own meals and bedtime to working out.  Other things, especially caring for Tye, take priority on a daily basis.  Yet when I don't pause to take care of myself, sometimes my family pays the price later when I'm exhausted/ spent/ at the end of my rope/ ready to snap.  When I do take out my frustration on someone else, I feel like a horrible mother, not worthy of efforts to meet my own needs.  So I ignore myself even more, perpetuating the cycle and often leading to more grumpiness. 

With motherhood comes self-sacrifice.  As mothers, we give more of ourselves than we ever thought possible, and our gifts in return are beyond measure.  Sometimes, though, we sacrifice so much of ourselves that we get carried away.  When I'm not even attending to my own needs to eat nutritiously and visit the bathroom when nature calls, I've lost sight of the bigger picture.  I need to care for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually so that I can fully give of myself to my family.  Food for my body, a phone call to a friend, time in prayer- these things are essential to my holistic health.  If I can fulfill my own basic needs enough to keep me the joyful, generous, patient, loving woman I strive to be, I know my family will be happier, even if everything else in our home isn't perfect.

As I was thinking of all this this morning, hanging my head in my hands with my elbows resting on the kitchen counter,  I looked up briefly to see Tye staring at me from her seat as she ate her crackers.  I tried to play off my shameful, regretful pose as hiding and turned it into a quick game of peek-a-boo, smiling at her from behind my hands.  She grinned back at me, and my heart lightened.  Then Tye leaned toward me and pursed her lips to request a kiss.  

As I kissed Tye, I thought, How can I be unhappy with such joy in my life?  Tye deserves a mama who is happy and cheerful, not dehydrated and ready to pee her pants.  Tyler deserves a wife who is personally fulfilled and ready to be a loving, engaging partner- and by engaging, I don't mean in a fight.  I know as this journey of motherhood moves along, I'll continue to search for the perfect, ever-shifting balance of prioritizing each family member's priorities.  For today, I've at least decided that the cost of that broken ceramic dish was totally worth this morning's lesson.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rear-Facing is Safer!

The American Academy of Pediatrics finally updated its position on car seat safety, including suggesting that children remain rear-facing until at least the age of 2.  According to Dr. Dennis Durbin, quoted in the press release appearing in the April issue of Pediatrics, "A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body."  Children under 2 harnessed in rear-facing car seats are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in an impact from any direction.  More of a visual learner?  This shows a clear message:

An article in the Chicago Tribune interviewed parents who were less than thrilled with the new guidelines, arguing that children aren't content to face backwards at an older age and all guidelines need to be weighed against other considerations.  I have to wonder if any of those parents really understand that their child is 75% safer facing backwards, or if they have ever seen images like those in the video above.  In Sweden, children are required by law to ride in rear-facing car seats until the age of 4 and weighing 55 pounds, so the AAP's recommendation of 2 years of age is still conservative by many standards (look at the size of the crash test dummies in the video above- they do not look like two year olds to me).  

Facing the back of a seat for a long car ride can understandably become monotonous for the child, resulting in an unhappy passenger and then, of course, driver.  We bring toys and books in the car and plan long rides around nap time.  Perhaps the most helpful equipment for us has been this car mirror, designed to allow me to watch Tye in the back seat even though she is rear-facing. (We have a Britax Roundabout 55, which allows Tye to remain rear-facing until she weighs 55 pounds- a long time from now!)  
The mirror was a lifesaver when Tye was an infant and I worried about every little noise she made.  Soon, it was also entertaining for her as she stared at her reflection.  Now, at stoplights, I turn around and make faces at Tye to keep her entertained and she smiles back at me through the mirror, or I'll play peek-a-boo until the light turns green.  During the drive, we sing songs and tell stories, and if we need to, we take breaks.  Though I know our car rides will become easier when Tye can face forward and look out the window on our trips, I'm not willing to sacrifice her safety anytime soon.

What car travel tips do you have for keeping your little one happy?  
Tye put on her sunglasses before we left and wouldn't take them off!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What it's like to nurse a toddler

When I became pregnant with Tye, I had no idea I'd be nursing over a year later.  I didn't know the health benefits of nursing beyond a year, or even six months.  To name a few, children who are breastfed into their second year are healthier, have fewer allergies, have high IQs, and are socially well-adjusted later in childhood.  The benefits for the mother include  protection from osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and lower risks of breast, uterine, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and the Surgeon General all recommend nursing until age two or beyond.  

The more I learned, the more I realized that nursing was worth continuing.  However, it wasn't until I had Tye, battled through supply issues, and experienced the depth of our nursing relationship that I started thinking about nursing a toddler.  Looking down at the baby in my arms, I couldn't imagine a walking, talking child latched on in her place.

For us, nursing into toddlerhood has been an easy experience as that baby has grown, day by day, into a child.  At 16 months, Tye nurses on average 3-4 times a day, sometimes more, but always first thing upon waking in the morning, falling asleep for nap (unless she falls asleep in the car), and falling asleep for the night.  When she wants to nurse, Tye makes the sign for milk and says "Na?  Na?" as if she's asking permission.  I'm a lucky mama- Tye still sits fairly still while she nurses.  Most times, she curls up so her whole body can lie in my lap.  Still, there are times when I feel like she's doing gymnastics while she's latched to my breast.  

At night, Tye wakes up 3-4 times and often comfort nurses until she falls asleep.  On nights when she's sick or teething and up most of the night, nursing calms her quickly and eases her back to sleep, even if it's a fitful slumber.  We either nurse side-lying or with her laying across my torso, her legs hanging off my body (and often kicking Tyler in the ribs).  I've thought about night-weaning Tye, but for now, neither of us is losing much sleep because of nursing at night.    Tye is sleeping for longer and longer stretches without waking and is choosing to nurse less frequently when she does wake, so we're moving in the right direction.

As a child grows, the mother's breasts begin to produce milk only upon demand, rather than continuously as they did for the newborn.  I no longer find myself with breasts feeling full of milk, even if it's been most of a day without nursing.  Now that Tye is older, I'm also able to negotiate a bit before nursing, especially convenient when we're in public.  Often a snack is all she needs to distract her attention, though I have to stay on my toes- if Tye is in my arms, she'll reach down my shirt in an attempt to serve herself.  We're working on that... 

And what about those teeth, you ask?  Well, I once thought I'd stop breastfeeding when my children began to have teeth, probably because I clearly remember my nursing brother biting my mother and thinking it was horrifically scary.  However, it's not.  Tye hasn't experimented much with biting, and when she has, it's been because I was trying too hard to encourage her to nurse to sleep.  When a child nurses, her tongue covers her bottom teeth, sticking out almost beyond her lower lip.  For a nursling to bite down on the nipple, she has to first move her tongue, giving mom a warning she may be about to bite.  For us, it hasn't been an issue.

As Tye grows and begins testing her limits, pushing her levels of independence, and exploring her world, nursing provides her with a safety net of sorts.  After a long run around the park or a few hours playing with friends, I can feel Tye unwind as she lays in my lap nursing.  She'll often look up at me with her big blue eyes as she's latched on to my breast and pat my chest gently or wave up at me.  Sometimes she'll wrap her arms around me in a big hug, her outstretched hands patting my back.

Although she's a running, chatty toddler, nursing Tye doesn't feel any different than nursing her as an infant.  Now that we have so much practice, it feels very second-nature.  I'm grateful I didn't put a timeline on our breastfeeding relationship when Tye was born and that we've been able to experience the benefits of nursing into toddlerhood.  

This covers the basics of my experience nursing a toddler for the past four months, though I'm sure I'll have plenty to add by the time Tye weans completely.  Because most Americans don't nurse into toddlerhood, sharing our experiences can be even more helpful to other moms.  After all, nursing a toddler is a natural, beautiful experience- what better to share.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to Nature

Today was our first long walk with our nature group in 2011!  Chicago hit 60 degrees today, which felt amazingly warm with the sun shining on us.  We took the outer layer of Tye's coat off as the morning warmed up, leaving her with just a fleece layer.  

Today we explored Palmisano Park, created in 2009 on a site used previously as a quarry and then construction dump.  Now, the landfill is a grassy hill and the quarry is a stocked pond.  

The fishing dock at the end of the walkway was under water from the recent melting snow!

Tye sat and watched the geese and ducks for almost half an hour and walked all around the park.  After a few minutes atop the hill, though, she started waving goodbye and saying "Night!  Night!"  The girl isn't subtle when she wants to take a nap, but it was well-deserved.
The skyline from the top of the hill.

Monday, March 14, 2011

To Tye, at 16 months

Dear Tye,
Um, maybe I need to check, but I thought I just wrote your 15 month letter yesterday.  Seriously, where did the time go?  At least a month's time helps explain how you sprouted up seemingly overnight.  A couple days ago, I looked at you in Daddy's arms in awe of your lanky limbs stretching half his body length.  When I fold your clothes, I think These are big girl clothes, but Tye will grow into them.  But then I realize you already fill them out nicely.  Last week at GG and PaPa's Florida house, you saw a photo of yourself just days old and said "Baby!" as you pointed to it.  I know I was there- I took that photo- but it's hard for me to remember you being so small.  
As you grow, you continue to amaze me with what you learn.  You're fascinated with birds, apparently just having realized recently that they, too, are animals.  When you see them, you call out "Buh!  Buh!" and slap your outer thigh to call them to you, just as you've seen me call Mico and Ziggy so often.  The birds may not come to you, but at home, Ziggy does, and your face lights up like Time Square.  

You have 11 teeth; you love reading books, dancing to music, smelling the daffodils on our mantle, and swinging at the playground; and we just learned that your hair curls up in the humidity.  Just one more reason to look forward to this summer with you.  Until then, I'll be cherishing every single day of spring we have together.  I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Love, Mama

A Day in my Life

I'm honored to have been asked to contribute a guest post on Annie's Tiny Flecks of Color blog for her one-year blogiversary.  She celebrated with guest posts themed A Day in the Life....  Daily rhythms are a vital to keeping peace in our home and providing a sense of calm ritual, and I hope this post captures that without making our days seem too mundane- because of everything our days are, they are never boring! Check out what a day in our life looks like here.

Thanks, Annie, and happy one year, Tiny Flecks of Color!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beach Trip

We just returned from a last-minute trip to West Palm Beach.  Tyler's parents were there for their spring break, and Tyler was working in nearby Miami, so we spent a couple days in Florida with them.  The warm weather was such a welcome break from Chicago's cold.  You know what is really wonderful about even a quick getaway?  I truly felt like I was on vacation when during Tye's nap, I had nothing to do.  No chores, no laundry, no laptop around to check emails.  Between those blissfully peaceful naps, Tye and I had a great time walking around the neighborhood, playing in the sand at the beach, and generally stocking up on precious, naturally-derived vitamin D.  Sometimes even a couple days away can refuel the body and the soul, and this trip was just what we needed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Good Things

I believe in the importance of pausing regularly to focus on and emphasize the good things in life.  It would have been an easy week to write off as horrible if I allowed myself to concentrate on the things that went wrong- mistakenly showing up to the La Leche League meeting an hour late, forgetting to put the coffee pot in the coffee maker before it started, Tyler working insane hours for the second week in a row.  There were plenty more, to the point that it was almost comical.  If I wanted, I could remember those things about the week and it would be a bad week.  But the thing is, there was a whole lot of time that wasn't bad, including some really beautiful moments.  I'm choosing to focus on the good times, the beauty in life.  So here are a few of the good things from my week:

  • Going to the Shedd Aquarium Members-Only Behind the Scenes Open House as a family, especially watching Tye carefully observe the sea lion from her perch on Tyler's shoulders and seeing the way she grasped his shoulder when they approached the beluga whales
  • Watching Tye strut around with her new play ball- perhaps the best $1.99 I've ever spent
  • Boutique shopping with a friend and her 18 month old son; the two kiddos both love to say hi, especially to each other, so they yelled across the stores to each other from their Ergo carriers like birds calling to each other... "Hi!"  "Hiyee!"  "Hi!"  "Hiyee!"
  • Meeting new friends and swinging endlessly at the park
  • Opening my eyes in the morning to Tye's happy face three inches from mine, coming in for a kiss
  • Finally catching a hug in photo (even if it was a blurry iPhone photo)
I hope you had a week full of good things.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This photo was taken at our favorite brunch spot, Handlebar.  It's a great vegetarian hipster spot with delicious food, and at night, it transitions into a bar (hence the full bar in the background).  Right below that full bar is perhaps one of the more unique placements I've seen of the International Breastfeeding Symbol.  
Just in case Tye wants some milk with her huevos rancheros.

Where have you seen the International Breastfeeding Symbol in use?

Breastfeeding Song

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy March!

Every spring, I think, I don't think I've ever looked forward to spring this much.  I'm not sure if I'm just forgetting how desperately I wanted it to arrive last year, or if this year, having an energetic toddler is really that powerful.  I'm trying to remember that last year was the never-ending winter in which I stayed indoors from November 14- March, but all I can think about is how excited I am for warm weather to be here this year.  I can't wait for trips to the park and playground, long walks with Tye and Mico and maybe even runs with the jogging stroller, and playing on our deck.  I'm hungry for leaves on the trees and flowers popping up among the otherwise muddy landscape.  I'm counting down the days until I can take the fleece liner out of Tye's winter coat and stop wrestling her fingers through both sleeves every time we bundle up.  

Since late January, we've been clinging to each extra minute of sunlight- that one minute longer than the day before.  In 12 days, we'll be receiving the gift of an extra hour of evening sunlight.  The reward for waking up an hour earlier comes later in the day, when we can walk Mico after Tye's dinner and delay turning on lights for an extra hour of the evening.  In 12 days, it will really feel like spring.  

This morning Tye and I tried the local library story hour.  It was a bust.  Not the stories, though the librarian may have been missing a certain energy.  Sitting just wasn't happening for Tye., nor was standing in one place to listen to the stories.  After about 15 minutes of chasing Tye around the room and guiding her away from unprotected electrical sockets, I decided it was time to go.  I mentioned "coats" in a whisper and Tye began saying loudly, in the middle of a story, "Buyeee!  Buyeee!  Buyeeeeeee!"  

On the way home, we stopped at the park for some much-needed energy release.  Tye made a bee-line for the swings and as I pushed her for the first time in several months, she giggled hysterically.  That deep belly laugh lasted at least ten minutes straight and caught on with all the other caregivers around us who couldn't help but laugh at the little blue-eyed girl who was so in love with the swings.  One thing I know for sure about spring- whether she realizes it or not, Tye has never looked forward to spring so much.

Happy March!


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