Growing responsibility

Sylvia has been six for a month now and when she hit that milestone, she started asking me for responsibilities.

At first, it was fun. And I then realized she wasn’t going to get bored and quit. She gets up and makes her bed. She asks to be in the kitchen making supper. She runs to help.

Liam caught on and started suddenly really beginning to pitch into the team effort that is our family. The day he went to the basement to carry the laundry up and start folding it on his own, I was hit with the realization that my kids are growing up. And fast.

I’ve said for years that I didn’t want to lose focus of my goal of raising my children to be independent and competent. I don’t want them to not know how to do simple tasks and think that mom will always be there to do everything. But do you know what? Teaching them to be independent is exhausting! It takes me forever to make a meal at supper because of the helpers. And my laundry is no longer folded neatly. But they have ownership over these chores and I think we are making a lasting difference.

Today, I gave each child a responsibility at the grocery and somehow, we still forgot the broccoli. So back in we trekked. And because I was going to pay with cash, I made Liam ring it out and pay for it. He doesn’t comprehend money very well, so it was slow. Very, very slow. But we did it. And we figured out the change. As he was putting the money into the self check out, a lady stopped to tell me I was doing a good job.

So here we are. My little people are growing up and I’m working hard to keep up with them. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. Trying to build little lives that will eventually go out and impact other lives happened so much faster than I thought it would! They were babies for so long and then suddenly, they weren’t.

I wonder what this summer will bring for us? Growth for sure, but I wonder how. I’ve been pondering how to change their chores to something they can be proud of and perhaps this is the ticket. Laundry and dinner prep. It’s how I started really contributing to the family at this age… so what works for mom works for the kids? Maybe? How do your kiddos help out around the house?

On commitment and frustration

I made a hard decision last week. I did not like making said decision, but I know in the long run, it’s the right one.

How do we teach our children to persevere when we are all exhausted? How do we tell them that sometimes, the right thing is to quit?

I was not allowed to quit anything as a child. The only time I did was when my parents weren’t able to financially support the activity any longer. So when I started college and began loading up my plate, I over loaded it and committed. And committed. And committed. As an adult, I’ve continued my habit of over committing and then spending my free time bemoaning these commitments.

Last week, a heart-to-heart with my doctor said I needed to start taking things off my calendar. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had that conversation, but things were scary for me health-wise. So I’ve been working on my own commitments and while I was at it, I took stock in what the kids are doing. In so doing, I realized Liam was over committed.

It broke my heart to realize I had done this to him.  I know mothers are supposed to make mistakes and that I am human, but I was so frustrated with myself for  continuing the you-will-not-quit-mid-semester attitude and forcing him to continue with guitar lessons even though he was clearly burnt out. No one should have to have a fight with their 7 year old over practicing. Nope.

So I sent an email and made a phone call. It was uncomfortable for me. Not because we were ducking out, but because we were ducking out during the school year. And in that moment, as I read a very gracious email from his teacher, I realized that I’m still breaking the patterns of my childhood.

It’s not a bad thing, but I feel like the longer I parent, and homeschool in particular, I’m learning things that I shouldn’t repeat. I know there are loads of parenting books with “answers”, but he’s my child. And no matter how fussy I am about quitting, I should have realized that he was done and drawn the line.

So here we are. Mom learned a lesson. And Liam did too. He needed to learn how to express himself minus the anger and frustration. And when HE is ready to commit again, we will try it. But this time, I won’t set myself up for failure.





On teething and it’s relief

When we had our first baby showers for Liam, I read on the list that we needed things for the medicine cabinet, specifically mylicon and oragel.  When Liam had gas, I dutifully gave him the recommended dose of Mylicon.  For us, it was a very disappointing waste of 8 dollars.  In light of this experience, when Liam started showing signs of teething, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a numbing gel that I envisioned being all over my child’s mouth.

I have always used homeopathics to aid in the healing of bruising (Arnica) and the settling of anxious nerves at night (Chamomilla) so I contacted our local health food store and asked for advice.  Since I have always been a pleased customer and the very happy recipient of reflexology treatments in the final weeks of my pregnancy, I was more than willing to trust their instructions.

Initially, I purchased and swore by Hylands’ Teething Tablets.  I would see a change in Liam almost as soon as they dissolved in his mouth.  I felt like I was safe giving him those tablets and I loved that we weren’t going through as much Tylenol as some of his little friends were just to make it through the day.  Liam got his first six teeth in the space of a week and I’ve never been so grateful for homeopathics!

Of course, the FDA got involved right as Liam’s 2 year molars were coming through and I bought every available bottle of the teething tablets before they were taken off the market.  Thankfully, you can purchase the individual ingredients and so we keep Chamomilla and Belladonna on hand.  Chamomilla serves to help with the irritability and Belladonna to give comfort for the inflammation (and redness).

With Sylvi, I have bottles of either the newly formulated (and FDA approved) teething tablets from Hylands, or Chamomilla stashed around the house, diaper bag and even the car.  She has been working on teeth for months and this morning her third tooth finally popped through, number 4 looking as though it will join us soon.  (In the interest of full disclosure, we did try some Oragel this time since she seemed to be so miserable.  However, I discontinued it’s use when I accidentally got some on my lip (this is what happens when you are exhausted and forget what you have on your fingers at 3 am…).  My lip was oddly numb and tingled for 2 hours.  I couldn’t sleep because of it and decided that if she was really in pain, Tylenol would have to do.  So far, it’s been used even less than it was with Liam.)

I also purchased an Amber Teething Necklace for Sylvi when she was just a few months old.  I’m not certain what has helped her the most, but I think that I can say this teething experience has been much less worse than Liam’s.  It’s seemed to take longer for her teeth to break through, but she’s not been as miserable.  Her sleep patterns haven’t really been impacted, thank goodness, and she’s only moderately fussy during the day.

I’m currently trying to teach myself more about Homeopathy so that I can use it with more confidence.  My friend Sara has written a wonderful post on why she uses Homeopathy and lists her favorite remedies at the bottom.  I’ve ordered the book she recommends and really look forward to it’s arrival!  If you are interested in more information specifically on teething, check out this post.  Little Mountain Homeopathy blog is written by a classical homeopath, so it has a wealth of information!

What about you?  Do you use Homeopathy in your home?  If so, what are your favorite remedies?

The Pug is Getting a New Kitchen

That’s right.  We are moving.  I haven’t a set a date or anything crazy like that, but in an instant all my free time has been sucked away from me.  For the last week, Matt and I have been spending absurdly late nights at the new house working away so that we can “enjoy” this moving/updating/remodeling project.  So far, the enjoyment hasn’t been too high.  We are tired and have discovered that doing anything major like this with a toddler is quite the challenge.  So while I normally would have been at the house still painting if we didn’t have Liam, I am here at home, praying that he will stay asleep this time and that his fever is related to his teeth only. 

Today, Matt and his/our friend Greg painted like mad men to get the living room and dining room done before the carpet gets put in tomorrow.  That kind of happened a bit faster than we had planned, but when there’s a good deal, your wise to strike.  They laid the flooring in the kitchen today and while I don’t yet have any pictures of the work, I can assure you that it’s looking amazing!  Tomorrow is the carpet and Matt and I are going out of town to celebrate my birthday with dinner at Lola, Michael Symon’s restaurant!!!  Then, on Sunday, it’s back to the grindstone so I can finish the detail work on the fireplace and get our current home set up with a Realtor.  All this is leading to a home with double the square footage and 3 times the land… Don’t tell Matt, but I am really, really hoping to get chickens sooner rather than later!  Everything is a blessing in it’s own time, but I tell you I am really looking forward to the kitchen.  It’s a room my current one could only dream of being and I’m certain the good meals will continue even in a new location!

How to train a sous chef

A few years ago, I gave advice to a frustrated mother in my office.  She was concerned that her young son would never catch up to his peers with  his small motor control.  He could barely grasp a pencil comfortably, let alone write his name.  The mother was a newly minted American citizen and her English was labored and unsure.  She had not been able to communicate her concern to their family doctor and she felt helpless in her desire for her son to succeed in school.  As we talked, I suggested that she bring him into the kitchen with her while she cooked.  To teach him how to measure out spices, to use a cookie cutter, to shape the bread.  It sounded odd, but she did what I suggested and within weeks, she saw improvement.  I am a firm believer in getting your kids involved in the kitchen from a very early age, if not to simply familiarize them with good food, but to teach them skills and build relationships.  

When your kids are little, you can settle them into a sling or perhaps a Bumbo while you work, keeping them close and involved in their own little way.  When they are toddlers, you can give them little tasks to do and by the time they are in elementary school, you could have your own little sous chef.  Magazines and blogs and websites are filled with ideas on how to get your kids involved in the kitchen.  Grow a garden, take them to the grocery, let them help you with your menu plan, teach them simple knife skills; these are all fantastic ideas, but what about that age where they are no longer content to sit and babble while you cook but are too young to get you the onions out of the bin?  I know, there’s nothing out there about that age.  Of course, that age is where we are now.  

As I type this, my little guy is motoring around the upstairs of our home.  He is busy every second of his waking moments.  He’s curious and intense.  And sitting quietly in the kitchen watching me cook is not top priority to him.  There’s been a battle of balance in our home because I’m not willing to give up cooking a nice dinner just because I have a toddler, but I also need to eat something other than pasta and broccoli (although, I’m fairly certain Liam wouldn’t mind).  I don’t like the dinner prep to be stressful, so in the last few weeks, I’ve gotten dinner down to a science.  I hope this post is helpful to those readers who are coming up on this stage of life with your little ones!


  • Be prepared!!!  This tip I cannot stress enough.  I generally take a few moments the night before and look at what’s in my fridge so I’m not blindsided the next afternoon at 4.  If meat needs to be thawed, it’s taken care of then, not in a panic with a hungry child in the background.  Being prepared keeps you from running to the drive-through.
  • If you have the luxury of a good nap on the weekend from your child, use it.  Ask your husband (wife, partner, etc.) to be on baby duty so you can gather your supplies for your week of meals and prep as far as you can in advance.  I try to spend a few hours once a month and get meats in marinades, frozen and labeled for quicker dinners.
  • If you’re making a meal, make 2.  Often, I plan my menu around leftovers.  This way, we are all fed well throughout the week and Matt isn’t digging around in the morning looking for a meal before work.  If I can, I make enough to freeze additional portions for use later.
  • Use that crockpot!  Making your meat in the crockpot and then fixing a side later means that even if there is a total meltdown and you aren’t able to get the side done, you at least have a filling meal to eat.
  • Serve a snack while you prep dinner.  I do this almost every day.  Liam eats an afternoon snack around 4 so he sits in his chair and munches while I do all the work that would require a knife or a hot pan.  If I time things right, I can usually get dinner into the oven before Liam is done with his snack and then we are free to play until Daddy comes home.
  • Make one cabinet safe so your child can pull out the pans, bowls, spoons, etc. and play with them while you cook.  My pasta press plates are stored in a case that when shaken makes noise.  Liam loves it.  We turn on music and he shakes the case to the music and we dance while I make dinner.  He also loves to wave wooden spoons around or play peek-a-boo with the onions under the kitchen sink.
  • On a few occasions, we have stripped Liam down to his cute little diaper and let him play in the ingredients.  I’ve shredded cheese onto the tray of his chair and let him feel the differences between flour and oats.  

If I get the time, I like to make as much of the dinner as I can while Liam takes his afternoon nap.  I’ve made a deal with myself to not work the whole way through his nap, though.  I need that time as much as anyone else to sit back and breathe because as soon as he wakes up, we’ve got stairs to climb, dogs to chase and toys to vroom vroom.  I do try to make sure that Liam gets to spend the time with me in the kitchen as much as possible.  He already does most of my grocery shopping with me and enjoys the dirt garden.  It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where dinner prep isn’t so challenging, but I must admit that I am looking forward to being able to engage Liam a little more fully as I bake and cook.  It will be so much fun to do things together!

Monday night dinner muse

There is a picture that hangs in my kitchen with a painting of a small farm.  Around the border of the picture, there is a quote by Charlotte Bronte:” If we had no winter, Spring would not be so pleasant.”  I don’t know that I have realized the truth of this statement more than I have this year.  While Fall and Winter will always be my favorite months, I have honestly appreciated the early part of my garden season this year.  I have thrilled in planting my seeds and picking the weeds far more than ever before.  Perhaps it’s because this year isn’t an experiment, I know what will grow in my neat plots.  Perhaps it’s because I am anxious to fill up my freezer with goodies to enjoy on a drab evening in January.  Perhaps, it’s because I have someone else to enjoy dinner at the table this year.

Every night, I put dinner on the table and Liam in his high chair.  While Matt gets Liam his bib and a spoon, I walk out to the deck and pick a salad.  I love sniping the tender leaves of kale and the sweet bib lettuce from their respective boxes.  As I pull up each delicate head of lettuce, I shake off the dirt and the memory of a friend horrified by the realization that lettuce grows in the dirt.  A quick rinse washes away the soil, but not the insult of that dinner guest, who after realizing that lettuce doesn’t just grow in neat rows, encased in cellophane, refused the salad.

Tonight, I made a quick potato, goat cheese and chive frittata.  Liam couldn’t eat it fast enough.  As he grabbed handfuls from my plate, I settled in with my kale.  Matt doesn’t really appreciate my love for this green, so I only plant one box at a time.  There’s something special about homegrown kale.  The seeds I planted yield a sweet, tender leaf that’s more open and flat than what I buy in the produce section.  I wonder if Liam will like it.  He might.  I craved it so strongly for the first 3 months of his pregnancy, I had a dream that he was born green.  He wasn’t.  As my little family sat around the table, I realized again that I have the awesome opportunity to teach my children about good food choices.  I have a friend (the same one who was repulsed by my lettuce) who thinks that family dinners lead to eating disorders and pressure to clean your plate.  I don’t agree.

I love to sit down to the table at the end of that day with my little family.  Our table sat in my great grandmother’s kitchen for years, moving only when my great grandfather gave it to me, 13 years ago.  We have napkins, lemonade and a glowing candle.  Matt and I talk about our days; me stopping the conversation to mention that Liam’s tooth finally came in today.  It makes a total of 8.  All the more to chew with!  I wonder out loud when he will be interested in salad.   Liam interjects with a loud babbled declaration and we determine to take a walk after the dishes are cleared.  I realize that it’s grocery week and I need to do a menu.  I ask Liam if there’s anything he’d like to eat.  He points to the empty plate and I go get him more frittata.  His mouth full, he babbles happily and then gives me a cheesy grin. 


Baby food 301

With the introduction of teeth, Liam was super anxious to start chewing on things besides his toys.  It then became an issue of trying to find the perfect balance between food soft enough that he wouldn’t choke, but bulky enough to satisfy his need to bite. Up until he was 8 months old, I was still giving him the finely pureed food and then a rice rusk to play with.  This became a huge disaster because purees and rusks are vile once mixed together.  So I had to get creative with his food.  It began small, but for months 8 and 9, I put fork mashed potatoes or cauliflower or even pastas into the purees. I also spent a lot more time with finger foods like puffs and tiny pieces of steamed broccoli.  

This is also where the mesh feeder became a god-send.  Because Liam had to do everything himself, I was worried about him choking.  Thankfully, I could all the fruits and veggies he desired into this little gadget and he would go to town, mashing and slurping his way to bliss.  

Vegetable Stew:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 medium potato, baked

Steam the carrots and peas until tender.  Whirl them in your food processor or blender until smooth.  Fork mash the potato until it is mashed but still slightly lumpy.  Mix all 3 ingredients together and freeze.

Freezing the baby food was a challenge for me.  I had purchased an exorbitant amount of ice cube trays several years ago because our fridge doesn’t have an ice maker and we were always running out.  As time passed though, I no longer had 8 trays of cube sitting in the freezer and they were instead piling up in my cupboards.  Initially, I made a large batch of butternut squash and froze it in the ice cube trays.  Then, I popped each cube out and saved them in a freezer bag.  It seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but then I had several different flavors and combinations and it became easier to just leave them in the trays.  Which was great, but then I had to pry them out of each tray with a knife.  So then I saw someone on a blog saving their food in the plastic gerber containers.  Over time, I will confess that I have amassed far more of these containers than I had planned to.  However, they are wonderful for freezing things.  I have erasable markers and write the contents of the container on the lid; the marker stays on the container until I wash it off.  When I want something out of the container, I run it under some hot water to loosen it up and then pop Liam’s dinner out into a bowl to warm up.  (I microwaved a container once and it melted… it totally freaked me out and I never did it again.)  However fantastic this idea is, I’m putting these trays on my wish list.  Mainly because once I froze some plums in the only silicone trays I had and they were a cinch to get out.  And they were in the shape of hearts.  So it was cute.

Baby food 202

Looking for some fun food combinations for your budding foodie?  Here are a few ideas that I tried that were winners with Liam!

  • Broccoli, peas and pears
  • Carrots and apples
  • Carrots, apples, pears
  • Apples, Oatmeal and a dash of cinnamon
  • Carrots, peas and potato 
  • Butternut squash and cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes and apples
  • Peaches and cereal
  • Banana and avocado
  • Homemade yogurt and mango
  • Spinach, peas and apples
  • Avocado, apple and pear
  • Peaches, banana and oatmeal
  • Homemade yogurt, raspberry puree and pear
  • Peaches, apricots, and raspberry

Baby food 201

I could also title this “Introduction to the Early Foods”.  So you call this what you’d like.  As I said yesterday, I started Liam on baby foods at 4 months.  We did applesauce and butternut squash for about a month and a half.  After the Christmas holidays, I started to introduce more and more vegetables and fruits each week.  By Liam’s 7 month birthday, I had introduced all of the following:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Green beans
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes

This is where the fun really began.  Up until this point, I hadn’t mixed any flavors together.  Mainly because I wasn’t sure of what would work.  I got this book out of the library, and this one, and this one.  I also went to the store.  I started to take note of the food combinations that were on the shelves and started to play.  I’m not one to use measurements much when I cook for my husband and I, but when it came to looking for a baby… I wanted everything perfect.  I the end, I wound up using equal measurements of each ingredient and mixing it together.  This recipe was the absolute favorite of Liam’s in the puree eating days (he has since sprouted 7 teeth and no longer deigns to be fed purees), I had to make a full batch every month.

Sweet potato carnival:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 5 carrots, peeled.
  • 1 1/2 cups corn

Scrub the sweet potatoes until all dirt is removed.  Poke holes in them with a fork and then bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a fork can be easily inserted in to the flesh.  Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle.  (*Note: if you desire, you can bake and puree the sweet potatoes in advance.  They will keep for a few days in the fridge, unpureed or can be frozen as a puree until you are ready to use them.)  In the meantime, boil or steam the carrots and corn.   Remove the sweet potato flesh from the skins and set aside.  Place the carrots and the corn in a food processor or blender with about half a cup of the cooking water.  Puree until smooth.  Add in the sweet potato and any additional cooking water until you are at the consistency you desire.  When I first made this recipe, it was fairly soupy.  After a month, I didn’t have to add as much water and I didn’t puree the sweet potato, I mashed it with a fork.  This  was so that I had some texture for Liam to work with in this mouth since he became obsessed with chewing.  

This recipe makes a large batch of food.  Liam enjoys eating at the table with the rest of us, so we went through a lot of baby food.  I started out freezing the foods I made in ice cube trays, but I must admit that was a huge hassle when I needed to get it back out again.  I have a friend who saves all her formula cans for me so I can recycle them and I asked her to save her plastic baby food containers as well.  Since I used the store-bought baby food when we weren’t going to be home, I just made a point to purchase the containers and not the jars.  More on how that worked for me tomorrow! 

Baby food 101

I think one of the big reasons for my excitement with having a baby was that I would be able to encourage someone’s (healthy) love for food right from the start.  I had visions of me and my baby outside in the garden, taking trips to the farmer’s market, baking bread together.  We’ve done all of these things, but Liam isn’t quite as into it as I had hoped.  He’s loving the garden because it involves dirt and I let him play to his heart’s content… although he has sampled a bit more than I had originally allowed mentally.  He hangs out with me in the kitchen and I’m pleased to say that he seems to be interested in what I’m doing… until he spies the dogs’ water dish and is off to make as a big a mess possible.  So far, grocery shopping has been so fun with him.  I let him pick which cabbage we buy or let him feel the kiwis and he sits in the shopping cart, kicking his legs and pointing at the lights above us.  The only time we’ve ever seen a sour face on any of the trips was when he and I were in Whole Foods and the sprinklers came on over the greens and it scared him.  We purchased an absurdly priced bunch of asparagus just because it calmed him down.  Oh well, it could be worse, right?

Around 4 months, I started chomping at the bit to feed him solids.  Not so much because I thought he would sleep better, but because I was tired of feeling guilty when I ate in front of him.  Liam would lean in and smack his lips like he was starving.  I had some rice cereal on hand, so we tried it.  It was not a hit.  Given the taste, I can’t say that I blame him.  Liam had horrible acid reflux and I wondered if applesauce would help.  I don’t know if he just happened to be growing out of it or it was my awesome, organic, locally grown applesauce that did it, but after a week of trying the apple sauce, we never had another reflux issue.  From moth 4-6, Liam ate from the stash of pureed applesauce and butternut squash in my freezer.  Every now and then, I would think that I would someday be introducing other flavors, but for the time being, I was content.  

After the holidays, we started trying new foods.  When introducing foods to a baby, there is a 4-day wait rule.  I was terrified for the first 3 new things we tried, but have since calmed down and no longer have a migraine the day of a food introduction.  Since I work part time, I tried the new food on Friday morning and then had all day, plus the weekend and Monday to make sure nothing happened.  Nothing ever happened.  For this, I am eternally grateful.  I followed this chart for the 4-6 month food ideas.  At that time, all I had to do was put a fruit or a veg in some water and boil/cook it until tender.  I ran it through my food processor with some of the cooking water until I was pleased with the consistency.  I froze the food in ice cube trays and Liam would usually eat one per “meal”.  Please keep in mind though, that solid food is not meant to take the place of milk during the first year, so if your little foodie doesn’t eat “enough” it’s not worth getting your apron in a knot over it.

By the time Liam reached the end of 6 months, he was a pro with the food.  Only occasionally did he try to grab the spoon from me, he was far more interested in getting that food in his mouth.  My little guy ate anything I put in front of him, except avocados.  He absolutely refused them.  I tried mixing them with bananas, cereal, milk; nothing worked.  Then one day I realized that the pears I was going to make for him had gotten really too ripe and there wasn’t enough to make it worth my while.  Since I hate to waste things, I was trying to figure out a recipe to use them up in when it occurred to me that my mother had a fruit dish that paired apples, pears and avocado together.  At that point, the only thing I was going to lose was the money I had put into the avocados I had purchased, so why not try it?  (For the record, I also dislike loathe avocados.)  Liam ate the whole batch without complaint.  

For the next few days, I have posts coming about baby food from the very beginning to what he’s eating now at 10 months.  Since I felt like an idiot because there was no way it could be so simple, I’d like to assure you, it is.  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the simplicity of my ideas and I will also begin tagging meals on this blog as to their age friendliness!  Good food habits start now, so let’s feed our children well!