Thursday, February 25, 2010

The more I know, the less I think I know

I would have thought that by the time I had three kids that I would have had this parenting thing totally figured out. I would know what does and doesn't work and I would be able to give other people useful advice. I am not sure how other people view their own methods of parenting but for me I live in a state of second-guessing myself and doubt as to whether anything I am doing is "the right thing" especially when it comes to discipline. Maybe this self-doubt is a bad thing but I tend to think and hope that it's not. I feel like if I ever get complacent when it comes to raising children then I am probably not headed in a positive direction either that or I am perfect which means I better get taken up straightaway. =) I wonder how many of you other moms out there have this experience of always questioning your parenting methods? Just because something works one time doesn't mean it will work again. Using the same methods of discipline on one child doesn't always work on the next. Do I yell, do I spank? Do I take this privilege away. Is my child going to be scarred by this or that method? Am I being too lenient? Am I not being lenient enough? I think the more experience I gain with my own children and my observation of others has lead me to believe that the only assurance and hope I have of being a good mom is if I am constantly reinventing the wheel with them. I am constantly evolving my interaction with them with a specific goal in mind. I know what values I want them to have and what attitudes I want them to develop and everything I do with them is with those things in mind.

I have many pet peeves but one of those when it comes to parenting is when parents who I converse with about this or that say "...and I did (or didn't do) it with my kids and they are healthy and well-adjusted" as if the one thing we have been discussing can directly be proven true and correct based on their children's outcome. Further, you can't correlate one factor with an over arching term like "well-adjusted". It's like saying co-sleeping with your child results in a well-adjusted person. You simply can't make that jump. There are too many variables involved. I mean, don't we all, no matter HOW well adjusted have our own little issues, temptations and character flaws to overcome? It's not going to matter whether you co-slept or let your child cry it out at 6 weeks old. They are STILL going to have to overcome something about themself. There is just no way to know based on case study or other scientific evidence whether a specific method is "the method" that everyone should follow.

So back to my original statement. The only arsenal I have had as a parent for "proving" a method is prayer. I think I must pray like 3 times a day that the Holy Ghost will guide my actions as a parent. Brad has said to me on more than one occasion "You really make your life a lot harder than it needs to be." When it comes to parenting though I tell him that I hope it will always be that way and that I can always learn to be better. If I am too comfortable then I am not doing the thing that God sent me here to do which is to learn and improve myself. My methods are ALWAYS up for reevaluation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In case you didn't believe me before...

that the terrible twos are terrible and that Beya is the queen of all terrible two-year olds.
I didn't take any pictures of the offender because, well, I don't need Child Services at my house for "poor living conditions" and she was stark naked with the exception of the "natural brown look". All evidence supports my theory that she was purposely trying to ground it into the floor and she actually thought it was fun. Thankfully the smell found it's way to me before she took her fun self to the couch. What lesson did I learn? Constant vigilance.
Gammy you are free to come take her any time...just let me know so I can have her bags packed... 

My Greatest Blessing

Brad is the home teacher of an individual who died this week but had been sick for some time. Brad has been an excellent example of service to that family and reminded me of my gratitude for the Church in my life and in the lives of so many others. When the system of home teaching and visiting teaching is taken seriously by members it can make the burden of others light. While most of you lovely readers are members there are some that are not and I thought I would take this time to explain a little bit about service in the Church to which I belong, am a member, and love so much. The best way I know to do this is a little autobiography.

Home teachers (men) and visiting teachers (women) are assigned to each family in the church. Every active member participates in the home and visiting teaching of others and thus we come closer together, and learn to love each other through service. I have had my fair share of sweet experiences with sisters while visiting them and have truly learned "by assignment" first and then by love to visit with women who I did not previously know very well. I have had numerous acts of service rendered to me by home teachers, visiting teachers, missionaries, and other members of the Church.

When Novan was born he stayed in the NICU for 2 weeks. The first two days of his life I was able to stay at the hospital. I HATE staying at hospitals. I am not sure exactly why but I know it all started with my stay in the hospital when I broke my ankle at age 12 and had surgery. I am sure I was only there for a day or 2 but in my mind I have no idea how long it was, only that it seemed like weeks of loneliness and sterility, being stuck in a bed, and more loneliness. Brad knew how much I hated hospitals and he asked the Relief Society president if any one would be willing to come visit with me while I was there for an hour or so. And they did. It made it a little more bearable for me. Novan was born early and we had no baby items other than a crib (donated by a couple at Church) and a few clothes and toys so the Relief Society (the women's organization at church) went and bought tons of things for us from a crib mattress to burp rags, to diapers, wipes, and receiving blankets. When I got home from the hospital dinner was in my oven and continued to be delivered for at least a week after as I was at the hospital daily while Novan was there. My visiting teacher threw my baby shower and I received much needed baby items.

When Brad decided to pursue his career in financial services we had a rough year. We were on and off Bishop's Storehouse food for a year (Bishop's Storehouse is like a grocery store but you get everything for free). Food from the Bishop's storehouse is paid for from the fast offerings and tithes of faithful members. That small help in our budget made a big difference. The many times we have moved we have always been able to count on help from the men in the Church to load and unload our belongings. We have never received more help than when we moved to NC. When we discovered a plumbing leak under our house that was inaccessible a large group of men from the Elder's Quorum (men's organization from church) came and helped dig out an access "tunnel" to the plumbing and cleaned out our entire basement as well. Throughout our remodel process this past year we had dozens of individuals come and help paint, do demolition work, and put in insulation. I think the missionaries should have just put up a tent and lived over here with all the help they gave us. I had many women including my visiting teacher who helped watch my kids while I was painting or running this or that errand. There were two bretheren in church, a carpenter and an electrician who worked on our house for extremely cheap rates so we could afford to make the needed improvements to the office upstairs. The electrician actually had all his kids out one Saturday to help me paint the office as a service.

How in awe I am at how beautifully the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints functions. What wonderful people I have around me in my life as examples and friends. It is a huge comfort that no matter where I go in the world there will be a Church, my Church, Christ's Church that functions exactly the same as it does here in NC. We can travel and move anywhere with the assurance that we will be edified spiritually every Sunday and throughout the week. I will hear the same uplifting messages, be taught the same doctrine, and will find equally wonderful people full of compassion and ready to serve one another committed to building up the Kingdom of God on the Earth. It is the greatest blessing I have ever received in my life. I will forever be full of gratitude to my husband who pointed the way and let me go there on my own and his confidence and faith that the Holy Ghost would convert me and guide me along the way.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Terrible Terrible Twos

I have a 9 month old, a 2 1/2 year old, and a 4 year old. While I cannot properly judge the difficulty of any older ages I will assert that 2 is the hardest for me. There are so many fun things about 2 year olds. Kids really start to develop a personality when they are two and it's exciting to see. When it comes to molding what people assume are such pliable little minds, two is certainly not what I would deem pliable. It is the worst for misbehaviors and annoying behaviors. Fortunately I had forgotten what 2 was like but Beya is swiftly reminding me. Three is not much better than 2 but 3 year olds tend to find things to do that aren't as destructive as 2 which makes that age slightly more desireable. Novan's age of 4 is really awesome. Four year olds have so much more sense and they can almost be reasoned with. They also have a lot more self awareness and awareness of consequences that it keeps them from doing the crazy stuff 2 year olds like to do. Pre-two year olds aren't smart enough to get into to too much trouble, and when they do they are pretty much oblivious to it.

Whining is the first sign of the terrible twos. If your 2 year old starts whining you have much fun to look forward to. If there is one behavior I wish I could wipe from the repertoire of children it would be whining. Nothing wears me down faster than a whining child and at two it comes in at full force. Only since Novan turned 4 last October has the whining abated to a more tolerable level. At 2, whining is at it's peak and there is nothing to stop it short putting the kid away in their room or a closet if you prefer. =)

I am sure you recall my fun from last Sunday. Well even after my rampage the toilet still seems to hold some fascination with Beya who frequents it repeatedly even when she doesn't have to use it. Twice this past week I have caught her playing with her mermaid doll in it. Yeah, mermaid doll has had a lot of baths this week. Then when I picked her up at my friend Wendy's from babysitting on Wednesday, Wendy asked me "uh, is it normal that she likes to play around the toilet?"

Two year olds are also excellent at testing boundaries. Actually, they are just excellent at living like there are NO boundaries. I feel often that Beya doesn't care what the boundaries are. She just keeps doing the same things over and over no matter what kind of punishment or reinforcement I use. She must just not care about the consequences at all. I am almost sure that Novan was not nearly so bad. I have not yet found that thing that is effective for her. Last night Brad was watching the kids on our bed while I was making a cake for the church dinner/dance and in the middle of it I hear Brad yelling at Beya, "BEYA! DON'T DRAW ON THINGS!", "DID YOU DRAW ON MY SHIRT???", "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!" I found out that Beya had located a marker and had drawn all over the sheets and then was proceeding to draw on the back of Brad's sweatshirt..... WHILE he was wearing it. I thought it was hilarious that this happened while Brad was sitting on the bed where the offense happened without realizing it until he felt the pressure of the marker on his back. This is certainly FAAAAR from the first time drawing on innappropriate things has happened. I have tried my hardest to keep writing utensils out of her reach but the girl must have a secret stash somewhere because I swear they appear out of nowhere. I have cleaned so much marker and colored pencil off the walls and furnishings more than I can count and ONLY with Beya. Novan drew on the floor one time at that age and my displeasure was enough that he never did it again on the floor or anywhere else except paper. I fear the only way to stop her, ah, creativity is to invest in a collection of those makers that only write on special paper. She's like this with pretty much everything though. There is not a behavior that she has done that she has failed to repeat more than once, twice, and more times after. It doesn't matter if I peel her down to a bare bum and spank her, she will do it again, and again, and again, and again. After the drawing on the sweatshirt incident Brad said to me, "so what are we going to do about her?" Yeah, if I knew I would have already done it.

She is so good at putting on an act that her feelings are all hurt and "sorry momma" and hugs and kisses and hanging on me like my disappointment in her has wounded her deeply or something. Not five minutes after if given the opportunity she will do the same thing over again. Novan is a lot of things that Beya's not with his emotional issues but he is GREAT at following the rules that he knows. Rules to him are pretty much set in stone and once he gets a rule and it makes sense to him, he does it without question and even gets mad at me if I try to let the rule slide just once. Ohhhh Beya. That girl better get her act together before she's a teenager or she won't go anywhere out of my sight. 

So my suggestion box is open for any of you who think you know how to quell my wild and rebllious daughter. Please though, no charts, she just doesn't get that stuff yet. Plus, she'll just draw all over it too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tuesday Night Charity Event

Tuesday night we participated in a charity event for Make A Wish Foundation. Brad was the "celebrity server" and he spent the evening schmoozing the customers to get donations for Make A Wish. Brad is very good at schmoozing. Even that is an understatement. Brad should get paid for schmoozing professionally. I don't think I have ever seen anyone so good at it. Just another one of his many talents. His schmoozing earned $600 for Make a Wish. As part of the event Brad spent a lot of time in the days previous going to local businesses to get some really good coupons and giveaways to include in 50 gift bags for the first 50 tables that came. He is great selling himself in order to gain trust. He doesn't like to do it but he sure is good at it and people, if they give him a chance to talk always wind up doing their best to help him out. Not that Brad shoudln't be trusted...on the contrary, he is one of the most honest people I know. But he is able to politick like no other.

So for a couple hours I was able to go there to Ombu Restaurant to "support" him thanks to Robin who watched my two crazies and had to deal with a pooping in the pants episode....sorry Robin! If I had more money I would have tipped her big time. I say "support" because really I tend to think in my marriage supporting Brad really means I have to show up in order to satiate people's curiosity as to just what type of woman this interesting fellow is married to...

So I took Iyov with me because he is still manageable in a restaurant. I wore one of Brad's favorite outfits and I actually put on a necklace AND earings. Not just any earings. I wore my "hooker earings" which is my endearing name for big hoop earings that Brad seems to love so much. Yeah, there's a reason hookers wear them. ;-) I also wore some eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick. I surprised myself on that one. It's pretty funny to me because when I decided I would wear some I couldn't remember where my makeup actually was. I spent about 15 minutes looking for it and almost gave up when I remembered I had put it in my top dresser drawer in a bag to keep it out of Beya's immediate reach. It's just funny that I hadn't worn any in so long that I couldn't remember where I had put it. Speaking of makeup, you know "they" say you should only keep it a couple of months before throwing it out to get new stuff? Yeah right...If I never actually wear the stuff am I really in danger of my eyeshadow becomming a petri dish? I imagine "they" are makeup makers who already charge an arm and a leg for a little tiny bottle of mascara or a tiny tube of lipstick. Who can really afford to buy that stuff every few months? You would have to give yourself a monthly makeup budeget or something.

Anyway, I am off on another tangent. It was actually a LOT of fun. I sat with this awesome older couple while Brad was schmoozing who own an African Safari business. Not just any safaris. They do "custom" safaris and they take clients over personally and give them an up close experience with the wildlife and culture. Very cool. The wife Elaine was really into macrobiotics which I am not entirely familiar with but in a nutshell is "Japanese art of cooking whole foods style with emphasis on energy and balance." That is by no means an official explanation. It was just the "gist" I got from talking with her. She was also pretty taken with Iyov who fooled everyone there into thinking he was a perfect angel. Well, better than proving me right, I say.

It was great to remember just how much I actually do like people contrary to popular belief... including my own. I think I tend to get in hermit mode especially with the pressures of being a mom and taking care of everyone's needs and I just get tapped out. Being social is very low on my priority list because I just don't feel I have the energy for it most of the time. Social events, for me, take a period of adapting to enjoy. I have to know about the event days ahead of time (in this case I did) so I can prepare myself emotionally for the task of "being interesting". You really do have to do this in order to start and maintain good conversation. I have never been very good at being social but I am WAY better than when I first got married. I was a wreck in highschool because of it. I had the brains and the beauty I suppose to have plenty of friends but none of the social skills.  Thank goodness I married the man I did or I might still be living my daily life with my nose in a book.

Brad: The Master Schmoozer (ignore the date stamp)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seitan Satisfaction

I have a love for all things seitan. If you are gluten intolerant then look away now because seitan IS gluten. I have a lot of people ask me about what I use as a meat replacer and seitan, tempeh, and tofu are at the top of that list. I have had seitan in different venues and I am partial to my own. I have heard people call all gluten patties seitan but to me seitan isn't just mixing gluten flour and water together into a chewy gross patty. That is just UNappealing. I have tasted it too, it doesn't taste good either. I will include the following "recipe" for seitan but with the disclaimer that I generally don't use an exact recipe, I started off using this one but when I make it now I just make it until the gluten dough "feels right". Let me explain.

So you mix together:
1 cup wheat gluten flour
3 tbs nutritional yeast (this is purely optional, it simply adds a bit more nutrition to the dough)
about 1-2 tsp garlic powder OR a couple cloves of minced fresh garlic

In a small bowl combine:
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 vegetable broth

Pour the wet into the dry and knead into a dough. You only have to knead for a couple of minutes to really get the gluten activated. The dough should feel very similar to bread dough in firmness only. It will be pretty wet feeling though but not sticky. When I am making seitan I just add wet into dry kneading as I go until I reach desired consistency. It's not that the ingredients have to be exact but the best end product comes when the dough feels just right. If you add too much water the patties come out almost crumbly and don't hold together well. If you add too much gluten flour they come out too dense which makes them too chewy.  Then you shape the dough into 3 or 4 patties. Stretch them out until the patties are about 1/2 inch thick. They will stretch back but don't sweat it, you just want to stretch them out as best you can. Take a large pot of approx 8 cups of water, 3 veggie bullion cubes and 1/4 c. soy sauce to a boil on the stove. Add the patties, arranging them non-overlapping in the pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer them for an hour covered or partially covered. Turn the heat off and let them sit in the broth until you are ready to use. Here is a picture of some that just got done simmering after an hour:
I generally make more seitan than I need for a meal and freeze the rest. You can just put the patties in a freezer bag without squeezing them out and they keep and defrost just fine. I also reuse my broth. I will reuse broth over about 4 times and just freeze it in between uses. When I defrost it I just add extra water to replace the water that evaporated when cooking.

Seitan has a lovely texture that I think is similar to cooked ground beef. The patties really expand while they are boiled and you will notice they at least double their size.

Seitan is so versatile. With seitan I have made: seitan stuffed fried wontons, BBQ seitan and slaw sandwishes, buffalo seitan bites, philly cheese seitan steak sandwiches, country fried seitan steaks, seitan veggie kebobs, Korean BBQ Seitan, chimichurri seitan, seitan and tofu ricotta stuffed shells. I have added cubes of it to soups, stews, and chili. It marinates easily and I would have actually grilled it as well if we had had a grill last summer. I'm actually making buffalo seitan sandwiches for the missionaries tonight. It is by request, apparently it was a big enough hit with them last time I made it that others have heard about it and are requesting it =) Brad is thrilled about it b/c he loves buffalo seitan.

You can add any seasoning to the seitan dough before boiling to give it a different ethnic tilt such as italian seasonings if you want to make seitan meatballs for spaghetti or something or teryaki sauce if you want to use it in Asian dishes. I like to add vegan worcestershire sauce to it if I am wanting it to taste more like steak. I think seitan is one of the best kept secrets. I had never heard of the stuff before coming across it in one of my vegan cookbooks. I made it with great apprehension the first time and was more than pleasantly surprised by the results. Any time I tell Brad I am making dinner which includes some type of seitan dish it gets his seal of approval. He loves seitan even more than I do. I do try to only make it once or sometimes twice a week though. While seitan is a great "meat replacer" we should never feel like we need to make the same typical American diet just with meat replacers instead of the meat. That defeats the purpose of trying to live a whole foods diet. Having a variety in your diet with lots of whole foods and vegetables, utilizing different grains and legumes ensures a healthy diet. Gluten has obviously been implicated in exascerbating various health and behavioral problems thus it should be used with moderation. Excess in any specific food is not a good thing. Seitan in moderation has proved itself a valuable protein source and will continue to have a place in my vegetarian repertoire.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Deal

Novan has never successfully been able to drink out of an open cup. He can't seem to get the hang of holding a fork/spoon effectively (although he does feed himself, he is pretty messy at it) and he still doesn't draw things mostly because he doesn't have good motor control in his hands to be able to hold a pen/marker/crayon properly. I would say that part of the reason he can't do these things is due to his own frustration keeping him from trying but really these things are a lot harder for him than other kids. Beya can do all these things and it's not really that I taught her, she just picked it up, as most kids do. I do have a master in psychology so I find all of these little things very interesting and have been able to pinpoint exactly where his difficulties are comming from and being able to predict where his frustrations will start. Take for example drinking out of a cup. It involves the coordinated use of hand control and mouth control. Novan was a very late talker partly because he just wasn't good at mimicking. He was a very quiet baby as a result. When it comes to using his hands he isn't good at mimicking either. I see Beya actively watch adults for the proper way to hold things in her hands and then copy it. It is fascinating to watch her after having seen Novan do and learn things so differently. Novan is also an EXTREMELY picky eater. His issues are with anything that isn't bland bland bland and also with unusual textures or varying textures. I believe this is related to having such little control over his mouth movement which is due to his brain being immature of its processing of mouth motor skills. He has trouble processing nerve messages that his mouth sends to his brain resulting in oversensitivity (having too much to process when encountering rich flavor, and texture) and lack of control. These things combined with poor hand motor control result in his difficulties. It doesn't mean it is impossible to learn to do these things, it is just going to require me to take a more active role in helping him learn these skills.

So, one of the things that Novan has been asking for over and over and over is this Transformers Devastator toy that costs $90. After asking for it for the 1000th time Brad said to me "We need to find a way that Novan can get that toy." So after a while it came to me that he should learn to write his letters, all of them, by himself and then we would buy Transformers Devastator for him. When I told him what the "deal" was he seemed pretty excited at the prospect so we started last week to do this. So far we have done A's, B's, and C's but he only copies over my dotted line letters. I have yet to get him to do any of them successfully by himself from scratch. Still, I am very pleased at his continued interest. He finds it VERY difficult and if a letter doesn't turn out just right I can't convince him that it's OK and he can try again and it doesn't have to be perfect. Our short sessions go somewhat like this: I place his fingers on the marker properly (he was terrible at holding his hand in the right place even when I placed it but he is getting much better at it). Then I hold his hand and trace over the first letter with him. Then he starts the rest of them by himself. As soon as his control goes astray resulting in a messy letter he puts his head down and cries in frustration. "It's all messy!" he says. I turn my attention elsewhere while he gets the courage to try again because if I try to talk him out of being frustrated he just relishes the attention and gets more frustrated. Sometimes I try to get him to laugh about it by saying "Look Novan! That one got a little wiggly!" and then I do a little wiggle dance to make him laugh. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We repeat this process of trying and frustration over and over until both of us are shot, which usually only takes about a half hour. I pile on the praise but I notice that Novan get a lot of self-satisfaction when he does it properly even without my praise. He is so like his Dad, he doesn't require outside factors to really motivate him to succeed. You know, it's like the difference between a successful self-employed person and working a job. Most people could never be successful self-employed because they are the only ones around to drive themselves forward. Most kids really like the praise, Beya does, she relishes in it. Novan likes it, he just gets a lot more satisfaction and motivation when he sees his own accomplishments than others normally would.

Anyway, so we'll see how this little bit of bribery works. Hopefully it isn't too much of a task I have set about to do. I am totally open to suggestions. I obviously have never tried to teach any kid anything before at least not actively so even to me this is foreign territory. I like to think though that I have Novan pretty figured out, much more than any other teacher would.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Sunday Afternoon

I sent my kids all off to bed for nap time after church today. As I predicted Iyov was awake not 10 minutes after I laid down. I stuck ear plugs in my ears and put a pillow over my head and tried to relax and go to sleep. I kept hearing him intermittently and so I suppose I must have drifted in and out of consciousness because I remember waking up every now and then and still hearing him scream. I am not sure how long I "slept" for, if you can call it that. I was pretty miffed that McScreamy was awake after only sleeping maybe 20 minutes so my frustration didn't really let me sleep as I would have liked not to mention earplugs and a pillow didn't completely drown him out.

I eventually awoke to the pitter-patter of feet and assumed that Beya was out and about. I had heard her in her room and doubted she had ever actually gone to sleep. After about five minutes I gave up the fight and got up to see what trouble she was into. I walked out of my room spotting her in full-retreat carrying a water bottle to her room. I followed her in there noticing the floor looked like water had been dripped all over the place. I reprimanded her for being out of bed and then noticed there was poo on her backside and socks. "Great." I thought, how perfect for an already tired and irritated mom to deal with. As I am wiping her down Novan says "I need a wipe too mom." Double great. I am sure he must have done a do in his pants because his butt is covered and he has put on a new pair of shorts. After I am done I realize there is water all over the place in their room and the water bottle Beya has been carrying is full of water. It looked like they had literally dumped water out all over the floor. I get a towel and my frayed patience is waning. I was so angry you can imagine that my look was sending enough daggers that those two just sat in their beds and watched me.

After I sentenced them to their room I go to the bathroom where I discover more water all over the floor trailing guessed it, the toilet. I'll spare you the exact details but there are a few turds, a poopy pull-up that surely belonged to Beya who discarded it after she did her business, Novan's poopy discarded pants and toilet paper all soaked on the floor. "Surely not!" I think. But I look around and discover there is really no other source for all the water everywhere. My lovely little princess has been scooping water out of the toilet with a bottle and dumping it all over the floor. It is certain that Novan didn't discourage it. Gross poopy water. I won't lie to you. I went on a rampage, I lost it, my restraint that is. I feared what I might do to my children had I had them in my presence any longer so I yelled at them at the top of my lungs and put them all in their room and told them I didn't want to look at them any more and they better not come out. I haven't ever been that angry at them. I didn't yell at Iyov of course but his continuous screaming through the whole ordeal didn't help the situation or my nerves at all so I put him in there too. A little later Novan starts crying that he wants a drink. I actually considered filling it with toilet water and if all I had to worry about was a gross taste I probably would have done it.

Now I am making always calms me down.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The End of an Era

The Era of "The Boy who Never Needed a Haircut" that is.

My baby boy has never had a haircut. By "baby" I mean Novan. The kid is 4 1/2. It's like his hair just stopped growing. Well, really it hasn't stopped but it has just grown really really really really SLLLOOOOOOOWLY. So slow, I haven't noticed and haven't had to cut his hair. Ever.

He kind of has had what Brad likes to call a "British Pop" look you know where the hair grows over the ears a little kind of messy like. I had intended to wait until the weather warmed up and shave it all really close but this morning I was playing with his hair and just thinking how dapper he'd look if it were a bit more that a word? Opposite of unkempt you know... Anway it is so funny to see people's reactions when I tell them I have never cut Novan's hair but really it seems to be getting a bit out of hand not to mention a little old. It's pretty thin still but quite long in areas. It's obvious that he does not have his Dad's wiry thick wavy hair.

So with him obviously engrossed in the computer it presented the perfect opportunity to give him a haircut and have his head remain relatively stationary.

Beya thought Novan's hair getting cut was the funniest thing. She kept saying "Wook! Novan's hair!" when a clump of it fell on the floor.

You can imagine that Beya is interested in anything pertaining to the changing/modifying/accentuating of one's appearance and she immediately wanted me to cut her hair too. To appease her I cut off and inch or so in the back to make her hair a bit more even.
Finally, the finished product:

Novan's one complaint during the whole ordeal was "Mom, stop getting hair on my computer!" And when it was done, Brad brought him to the mirror and he was more concerned about getting back to his computer game than looking at his appearance. Little did he know that in my head I was thinking, "I now have a little boy" and it was kind of sad. It's like the haircut signaled his passage from babyhood into boyhood.

I am really going to miss that little mop. And so ends the Era of the Boy Who Never Needed a Haircut.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sibling Love

When my sisters and I would get in fights it generally resulted in a hair-pulling fight. I don't think I ever felt like we considered each other friends growing up but I do know that we did things like most friends do, at least until we were teenagers. I remember thinking after one big fight or another whether I would be sad if my sister died. I am sure I would have told you that I wouldn't care. I just didn't get what it meant to love someone, especially family. I suppose it's because you just get stuck with them. It's not like you choose them and when you're a kid you're so selfish anyway it is pretty hard to love in a meaningful way...or maybe that was just me? I do feel differently now and wish that I had chosen to make better friends of my siblings. My mom would often tell us to stop "being ugly" to one another. It occurs to me now that "being ugly" defines how we make ourselves rather than how we make the other. I think that being able to love our siblings, those people we get stuck with, is a real test of true character.  I think that this is the reason parents so want their kids to love one another because it reveals what stuff their kids are made of.  It is really hard to tell how kids will "end up" in terms of how close they will be with their siblings but it's nice to see them love each other when they are really young.

Right now Novan and Beya are the best of friends. Most of the time they play really well together. Of course sometimes they irritate the snot out of each other. I think all siblings do, and on purpose at that. Beya is so loving and shows it to Novan all the time. It is obvious to me that she considers Novan a source of emotional support because when I have reprimanded her she runs to Novan for comfort. Usually Novan concedes to her hugs and crying but sometimes he is a big git to her and runs away because he thinks it's funny. At no other time do I get so angry at him as when he causes emotional abuse to his sister. I can manage pretty much any of their behavior without getting overly upset. But when I see her run to him for a hug and he pushes her away I almost lose it. I try really hard to praise when I see them, especially him, act kind to each other. Novan has a lot of empathy but I think he lets his stubbornness get the better of him sometimes. Yes, I will call it stubborn pig-headedness and not try to gloss it over with nicer words like "spirited." It's unacceptable no matter what you call it. I don't defend it because I have seen what he's capable of. He has shown that he cares what happens to Beya and anyone else in his family. He has empathy and he has been proud of her too. Once he taught her how to use his stamp set. "Press it down hard Beya." he said. "Mom! Beya's doing it!" Beya's currently getting used to using the potty. When she first started and would pee in the potty Novan would say, "Great job Beya, Mom, Beya did it!" He likes to be able to give her things and he likes when she is given things. Each of them always wants to know where the other is. For example, when I put them in the car one at a time like when it's raining, the first one to go in is always worried I am going to forget the other one. When Beya was a baby Novan would cry the whole time any time someone other than Dad or Mom would hold her. He was and is quite protective. He keeps her from getting in trouble or hurting herself from time to time. Like when I open the oven Novan will pull her away if she is too close. Beya dotes on Novan like no other. She will follow him wherever he goes. The two of them used to sleep in separate beds but then they started getting into bed with each other after we put them down and so now we just put them in the same bed. Beya is so emotionally giving and I hope that Novan will continue to allow her to be.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tofu Secrets

When I went to college for the first time I remember going to the cafeteria during orientation lunch time and perusing the salad bar. In one of the buckets was little white cubes which after closer examination I figured was tofu. I had never actually eaten tofu before and thought, what the heck, no time like the present so I scooped a few of those babies on my plate. When I tried one I thought it was disgusting. It had both a disturbing texture and flavor. Anyone who says tofu is bland needs their taste buds checked. I thought at the time that anyone who actually professed to LIKE tofu was kidding themselves. Yep, I thought, this confirms that I do NOT need to be a vegetarian ever. It was many years before I would brave tofu but when I did I think I was determined to find a way to eat it without it being so gross. The truth I have discovered is that eating plain old tofu is about as appetizing as eating raw eggs but when used in things and cooked properly it is so very versatile and adds a good deal of body and texture to any dish. So I thought I would share a bit of what I have discovered of this protein and nutrient rich food and some ways I have found to use it in cooking that have made it a must-have at my house. I have made dishes with tofu for guests who never knew its presence. One lady upon learning she had just eaten it said I should think about teaching a class on cooking with tofu. As far as tofu is concerned though I don't yet feel I have arrived because I know there are so many other ways to use it. For instance, I have yet to use them in sweets like for making dairy-less whipped cream which uses silken tofu. I am mostly familar with ways to use firm and extra firm tofu in savory dishes.

The first ways I experimented with tofu was making faux-ricotta cheese. I absolutely LOVE tofu-ricotta. I actually find myself snagging bits of it from the blender when I am done making it. It actually tastes better than milk-ricotta. It is very easy and I have used it in all kinds of things like lasagna and stuffed shells. When cooked it looks almost identical to ricotta cheese with the curding. It allows for making these Italian yummy dishes dairy-free if that's your thing or just simply making things lower-fat. In a blender I combine until smooth:
1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu squeezed as much as you can manage to remove the water. Squishing it in a cheese cloth is most helpful but in your fist will do in a pinch.
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 -1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp tried oregano
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup raw cashew peices
 It's really the lemon and garlic that transforms it and the cashews add something that I am not sure how to describe. If you don't have cashews on hand it is still good but I highly suggest them.

Tofu is actually great on salads, over pasta, or whatever you want to put it on but NOT raw. I prefer to broil it because it is healthier than frying and you can achieve a texture similar to fried tofu if you freeze it first and then defost it. Once it's defrosted you want to remove as much liquid as possible which is actually easier when it has previously been frozen. People tell you that tofu soaks up whatever it is marinated in but I find that to be incorrect UNLESS you have frozen it, defrosted it, and then squeezed out a good bit of juice. I cut it up in little cubes. I like smaller cubes and I wouldn't cut them any bigger than 1" square. You can marinate them in anything. I like to use lemon or lime in whatever marinade I use because citrus tends to counteract the unpleasant natural taste of soy that I so dislike. An easy and simple marinade is soy sauce, lemon juice, and garlic powder. It doesn't take long to marinate this way, just 30 min or so. To broil them you spray down a pan with some pam and lay them out. Put them in the broiler and allow them to crisp on the exposed side. Then you want to stir them when they look like they are crisping a bit to turn most of them over to get the other sides. The amount of time to broil varies depending on your size and I find I have to take a few out along the way because they get done sooner than others. For me it's around 10 minutes total.

I have also fried tofu. I know it is excellent deep fried because I have had it at Thai places but I don't do that at home. Might as well be eating fried chicken with all that fat. I have pan fried it though. My favorite method is to freeze and defrost it and cut it up in cubes like I described before. Marinate it in a little lemon juice and soy sauce and coat it in a beaten egg. Bread it with some cornstarch and then fry it in a little oil turning them over as they cook to crisp each side. Then you can use it in Asian stir-fries. Brad craves my General Tsau's tofu made this way. You could make "orange tofu" or "sesame tofu" using this method but just coating it in the appropriate sauce after you fry it.

I love tofu, in moderation of course, like anything else. I know there's this "tofu scare" going on relating to people who eat too much of it and it causing hormone problems but from what I understand I would stick to organic tofu to avoid this and non-genetically modified if you can find it. Further, I only use it about twice a week. Every day is a bit much for anything really, especially protein-rich foods. If you'd rather not cook it yourself feel free to come over to my house and request it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Zealous Mom at a Doctor's Office

Today my 3 had a "well child" checkup at the Doctor's office. It was Iyov's first in his life with the exception of his circumcision and Novan and Beya had last been 2 years ago. To be honest I was pretty nervous. Why you ask? Family fractice doctors and pediatricians have NEVER impressed me. I haven't had a whole lot of experience with other types of Doctors except OB/GYNs (another day, another post) but I have always LOATHED taking my kids to the doctor. For one thing I feel like taking your kid to the pediatrician should be called "checking to make sure you aren't an idiot parent" appointment because they don't seem to do anything spectacular, not that they really should. I mean, I'm not expecting them to do an MRI or something but I can weigh, measure, take temp, and look at their nads just fine on my own. If you don't take your kid to regular check-ups people look at you funny when they find out. Nervousness I suppose is the anticipation of hearing a lecture from the doctor about this or that vaccine and their concerns that cows milk isn't one of our main food groups. I do see the place for pediatricians. There certainly are plenty of ignorant parents who have no problem "leaving it to the experts" and avoid educating themselves about their own child's health. I certainly have no problem asking them questions about things I am unsure of, but to me, it is simply their opinion and NOT fact until I have investigated for myself. I suppose though if everyone were as educated as I try to be the quality of the average visit to a pediatrician's office would go up.

The biggest deal is of course vaccines. I remember trying to refuse the Hep A vaccine for Beya once and getting a lecture about all its facets and getting a story about an entire elementary school class getting it from eating strawberries....blah blah blah. If I had been more educated at the time I would have asked if there were any deaths or lasting affects from their sickness. Alas, I have only recently become more educated.

Look, I am NOT anti-vaccine. I am NOT one of those people that assumes vaccines have single-handedly caused the epidemic of autism. I DO, however, think that there are numerous chemicals in vaccines whose effects on the body have not been thoroughly investigated and tested. I'm sorry but a "negligible" amount of mercury is still mercury. Formaldehyde in "trace" amounts is still formaldehyde. We also do not thoroughly understand the effects of an artificially stimulated immune system on long term development of an immune system or the specific risks associated with administering 5-10 different viruses/toxins at a time. I can't believe that we would consider the biological effects inconsequential simply because we don't know what they are and we don't know what they are because in a laboratory we can't isolate them to correlate a trend. I certainly wouldn't consider vaccines the "sole" contributor to things like asthma, autism, developmental disorders, conduct disorders, etc. but I would certainly be open to their contribution to them. So, for this reason I have decided on a bare minimum of vaccines and a much later schedule. I simply can't justify pumping chemicals into a little baby whose neurological functions are completely immature not to mention an immature immune system. Beya's mere 2 1/2 years almost seems too young to me. I am very much aware of what exactly the vaccine preventable diseases are and the reasons the vaccines were introduced. I am very pro vaccine in developing countries where clean water and sanitary living conditions are only for the rich. I can understand wanting to have public school kids vaccinated. They're all crammed in a room together for hours sharing each other's germs, breathing on each other, etc. It's a pretty unsanitary situation. But why not wait until they are going to be in a situation with that many kids on a regular basis to vaccinate them. At least you have allowed a good amount of time for neurological and immune system development before you expose them to a direct injection of chemicals.

Anyway, back to my doctor visit. I did actually pray about my visit. I wanted to have a pleasant experience and it actually was great. The nurse actually asked me if I was following the regular vaccine schedule or if I would be modifying it. I didn't get too much grief about not feeding my kids cow's milk either. I was quite pleased. Aside from suggesting Hep A again I didn't have to explain myself or defend myself at all. I decided to get just one shot each on this visit and Novan was the first to get his. Beya was out of the room when it happened but when we brought her in for hers Novan was very concerned that she would be experiencing the same pain as he just had. He started crying and said, "No! No! Beya's going to cry!" A few peices of candy remedied their tears though when it was all over.

I think I will be staying with this particular doctor's office for the forseeable future. It's nice to know that some doctors are "coming around" to being able to handle the parent who wants in on what's going on. That's all I really want from a doctor, to be treated like I at least know something and their expectation that I will do all I can to be educated. I want them to be ok with my questioning nature and not try to use arm-twisting techniques to get me to do what they want. I'm their parent aren't I? Knowing what's going on with your kids in every facet of their lives should be part of the parenting rule book.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Good Parent, Bad Parent

My kids LOVE their Poppa. Everytime he walks in the door they all run to him yelling "Poppa! Poppa! (if it's Beya) or Dad! (if it's Novan). They are just so excited when he comes to hang out with them. They get to do things with Poppa that they would never get to do with Mom like climb all over him. Novan, I kid you not, likes to stand on Dad's head while Dad holds his hands. He's a regular gymnast. I need to get a picture of that one day...

They all love to wrestle, especially Novan who has quite a physical streak in him which I am sure he gets from his Dad. Beya loves to have Dad around I think because she can get away with more. If Mom says no to something then she immediately goes to Dad if he's around.

Just this past week when Dad was away on business the 3 kids were in the tub and Beya gives each person a kiss (normal behavior for Beya by the way). I said to her "Thank you Beya for giving everyone a kiss! Who is missing?" Beya says, "Poppa!" and then Novan says "Dad needs to come back to the house." I said "how will Poppa find his way home?" and they both yell "THE MAP!" (which is pretty funny if you are familiar with Dora the Explorer). Novan then proceeded to tell me the various landmarks Poppa might encounter on his way home such as my favorite, "Then he needs to go over the water with a boat!" I love that my kids recognize Brad as part of our family unit even if he isn't around so much.

Dad just has more tolerance for just about any type of misbehavior. Dad is just more fun and he doesn't ever really lay the smack down like Mom. Often all Mom has to do is give "the look" and kids get back in line. Dad is often not taken very seriously because kids are just funny, even when they are misbehaving and I think he can't help himself for laughing at them. An example is getting PJs on everyone before bed. Novan laughs and rolls on the floor the whole time when Dad is doing it. Sometimes Dad needs an extra hand to hold down the offending child while an extremity is directed to the right garment hole. Mom would never put up with that but Dad does because he's more fun. 

Dad could certainly be more of an authoritarian but he just doesn't get to spend as much time with them so when he does he wants it to be pleasant for them so that they will always look forward to his time. I like it this way as well. I want my kids to know that Dad works hard and when Dad is around it's time to have fun so we can all look forward to the times when we are all together.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mermaids, Faries, and Ponies, Oh My!

When Beya got a little older and outgrew the typical baby toys I felt mildly guilty that she didn't have any real "girly" toys. She was surrounded by trains, cars, and comic book heroes. I wondered if this would have any implications long term and perhaps make her somewhat of a tomboy. The answer to that is absolutely not! Without any kind of extended exposure Beya has managed to develop a love for all things girly. She can now spot what she calls "princess" stuff from a mile away no matter where we are. I notice every time I drop her off in nursery at church that she runs to sister Hiatt and asks for "princess!" whatever that is and sister Hiatt always knows what she's talking about.

Beya's first real girly toy was the baby doll that Gammy bought for her 9 months ago when she exhibited an interest in nurturing as she would take her stuffed animals and wrap them in blankets and carry them around. In October she got a 'My Little Pony' from a Happy Meal Gammy bought her and later, Brad bought her a second one. Recently her inventory of girly toys has increased with the dress up toys I mentioned before from my mom and this past week while at Gammy and Grandad's house. She is now the proud owner of two ponies, two fairies, and two mermaids (one including a purple seahorse pictured above). She really is into mermaids and when she's in the bath she holds her legs together while lying down and splashes saying "I'm a mermaid!" Funny little girl. I took the kids to the library a week or two ago and the only book from the collection she has wanted me to read is one about a mermaid.

While we were at Gammy and Grandad's we also went to the beach and Beya acquired a collection of seashells which she carries around in a ziploc. One of her recent acquisitions is the makeup bag Gammy gave her. Beya likes to put all her treasures in it and carry it around like a little lady. She always has to take it wherever she goes. If we get in the car and I haven't grabbed it she yells "my bag, my bag!" I don't suppose I will ever stop being amazed at how utterly girlified she is. I have ascertained that her favorite color is purple because that's the one she will always choose. She loves frilly dresses and at the store she always wants me to get one for her. I never do though because I just hate those things, all frilly and silly looking. I detest all that tulle and satin not to mention it's really not a good dress for romping around the house in which I am sure she would do if she owned one. I am sure her grandparents are out there reading this and thinking that will be their next purchase. I am warning you though that fighting to keep her from wearing such a dress on any old day of the week is NOT going to be a battle I will pick so be prepared for your frilly little dress to see the inside of my washer regularly. Will it hold up? I can't make any guarantees.

I absolutely LOVE watching my little princess in action. She is such a funny character that watching her via nanny cam would probably make it in my top 10 documentaries of all time. What a joy she is to my life.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Road Trip Playbook Part II

I fully intend on posting all about our trip to SC but I still am without my laptop downstairs as Brad took it to Orlando with him and upstairs in the office is pretty cold and uncomfortable which doesn't make me want to stay here for long and type. Hopefully by tomorrow evening I should have it back with all kinds of clever things to say. Right now my hands are pretty numb so this will be brief.
I thought I should report that my trip to and from SC was relatively uneventful in terms of screaming children. Iyov apparently has developed a tolerance for the carseat finally so he was pretty good although I did stop at least 3 times on both legs of the trip to give out snacks, feed Iyov, and once we even ambled around Wal-Mart so everyone could stretch their legs. I did this when the whining seemed to be at it's peak and it worked wonders. I suppose the thing I have learned from this is that when going on a car trip with kids you shouldn't be in a hurry and stopping often does a lot to ease their cabin fever. I kept thinking to myself I would hate to be in a 5 point harnass for that long. At least with just my seatbelt I can adjust my weight distribution, tuck one leg under me, etc. I had wanted to do a long stop for a picnic or something at a rest stop instead of walking around Wal-Mart but it was raining practically the whole time. I actually don't mind driving in the rain, the sound is comforting, makes you appreciate all the more that you are in a vehicle. Anyway, on the trip back the kids were happy with their new toys bestowed on them by doting grandparents and stuffed with string cheese (a luxury that is not usually found in my house). I would say that each way the trip if driven straight through should have been only 5.5 hours but was actually around 7.5 for us. I didn't mind as long as we were all happy. Thank goodness for redbox and DVD players!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Zealous Mom's Playbook for a Road Trip...Or Lack Thereof

I did not think I was going to get around to posting today because I am driving down to SC tomorrow to see my in-laws while Brad is in Orlando on business. However, I have made the time because I simply had to say something about the endeavor of trying to leave the house for more than a couple of hours. Heck, it's even an endeavor when it IS only a couple of hours but at least when it's not an overnight stay it doesn't take a day's worth of preparation. I know people leave things behind when it's only them going somewhere and when you add in trying to remember everything for 3 kids besides yourself it is a miracle if I actually get away without forgetting anything. I actually mean a miracle too because I don't think I have ever gone overnight somewhere and not forgotten something. I count it a success if all I forgot was my shampoo or something. There have been occasions that Brad has gone somewhere with us and he wants me to pack his stuff for him. Yes, just imagine me with the most obnoxious look you can imagine. Yeah, that's my response and I generally add a disclaimer that when it comes to him I reserve the right to forget his stuff. One time I actually did forget his stuff, all of it. Yeah that wasn't pretty.

Anyway, I was trying my hardest to remember today what it was like when it was just Brad and I and we wanted to go somewhere. I think we must have gone places just the two of us and I doubt there was a lot of consideration in mind and for the life of me I can't remember what that was like. My mom always likes to say "kids change your life" all nonchalantly, but my gosh! There is an unbelievable amount of stuff behind that statement not the least of which is the strategic planning of getting out of the house. I don't know about you but when I go out of town I absolutely despise coming back to a mess so my day of packing and planning really is a DAY because I am doing all the logistics as well as trying to clean the house and keep it that way in the wake of three maniac children. Wow, I am really wishing I could reconsider this trip......Must. Not. Think. About. The. 6. Hour. Drive. Ahead! Sheesh.

So you folks out there with no children to cater to really ought to take a moment right now to appreciate the simplicity of your situation....................................................................................... And we're back. I would like to end on a somewhat positive note and add a few acknowledgements to those who have made this trip possible:

My installed DVD player and screens in my Durango, don't think I would be attempting this without you!
The Hartford and Pacific Life Insurance Companies for the complimentary canvas bags without which I would be destined to pack all my kids stuff together in one giant suitcase instead of organized separately.
The inventor of peanut butter who has given us such a wonderful almost non-perishable kid delicacy for PB&J on the road
Lemons which enable us to keep apples from browning on long road trips
Carseats for their ability to restrain children while driving, a must for both safety and sanity
Navigation system which allows me to not have to carry a map and try to read it while driving
Finally, a very special thanks goes out to my wonderful in-laws who recently moved and now live 6 hours away instead of 1.5. =P Without you, this trial might not be possible. =)