Monday, February 28, 2011

Please Don't Hate Me!

It looks like this girl is going to potty train herself.
 Over the past few weeks I have found her several times like this, fully clothed, trying to go potty. When I finally relented and let her take off her clothes and once or twice she has actually peed! Still, I have told her, "I'm not potty training you until you can speak."

Little Meggie (20 months) has few words, but boy, does she know what's going on! She does not enjoy being left out of anything her older sibs are doing, and this is no exception.

This morning, after I got her dressed and put her piggies in, she had a melt down because I wouldn't open the door to my bathroom. I finally did so, and she climbed right up on the potty. I thought to myself, "There is no way I am going to take off her clothes. We just got dressed. She's just playing potty." Alas, she accidentally slipped backwards into the water, soaking her outfit. I stripped her down and sat her back on the toilet and went to get her some clean clothes. Guess what? She tinkled.

"I do not have time for this today," I thought. My tried-and-true method of potty training requires 3 days of going practically nowhere and doing practically nothing but taking a child to the bathroom and washing panties. And I can not clear my schedule this week (and perhaps not for months) to do this. But, given her willingness, I figured I'd be crazy to stifle it. I remembered that we had some princess pull-ups. I have a hard and fast rule of no pull-ups during potty training, but I do use them for bed wetters, and had some left over from Bronwen's bed wetting days. I have learned, however, with five kids, that hard-and-fast rules are made to be broken, so today Meggie is wearing princess pull-ups. Whenever I remember (which has been about every two hours) I take her in to go to the bathroom. She has kept them dry and gone ever time we tried to go. I can't believe it.

In other getting-too-big-for-her-mommmy's-liking news, Margaret also learned to crawl out of her crib this weekend. That, my friends, is always a very dark day. :)

Little Meg is bound and determined to grow up as soon as possible; alas, I am willing her to stay my baby forever. And I know which of us will win this particular struggle. Sigh.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gluten Free Goodness

**Note: This is not a compensated review. I wish I had received the cookbook or GF flours for free, but alas, this is just me passing along something wonderful that I have discovered.

About six months ago, our son Henry went Gluten and Casein Free. The change for him was immediately noticeable. He stopped complaining of stomach aches. His bowels began cooperating. His tummy distention disappeared, as did the dark circles under his eyes. His swollen nasal passages and head congestion that he had suffered with since infancy went away. His mood swings improved as well, although he did get emotional for quite some time about food. (He loves grumpy faces, even when he's cheerful. Silly boy!)

I am emotional about food, too, so I hurt to watch my son go through this. At first we tried to all eat GFCF when we were around Henry, but there were two problems with this: it was an expensive way to feed a family of 7 and it didn't taste good. I gradually moved to frequently preparing two meals or two desserts so that Henry could partake with us while we ate our old favorite stuff. I did hold off on making things that were his favorites if he couldn't have them, at least until the holidays hit.

Henry has stuck to his diet, cheating only a couple of times when we have given him the option (and always regretting it later). I am proud of him, because it isn't easy. I do take heart in the fact that this experience is making Henry a stronger person, not only because it is better for him physically, but because he is learning that he can do hard things and not just give in to his appetites.

I was thrilled, recently, to find this GFCF cookbook put out by Silvana Nardone, called Cooking for Isaiah. Silvana is a foodie like me, only more so:) She is the founding editor-in-chief for Everyday with Rachel Ray (among other impressive gigs). She loves to nurture and bond with her family around good, homemade food. And she wasn't about to let her son, Isaiah's, gluten and dairy intolerances stop her from doing that. Her cookbook starts out with their story (don't you love a cookbook with a story?) and then her own recipe for an all-purpose gluten-free flour and a gluten-free pancake mix. These two flour mixes are used throughout her cookbook, but they can also stand in for all-purpose flour in other recipes. I love that she researched and tried all the options available on the market and tells you which are the best products for her recipes.

Anyhow, we are loving the recipes. Henry had a chocolate birthday cake (adapted) from the cookbook. Gluten -lovers and -eschewers alike gobbled it down (I did a base of her chocolate cake with an Irish mint frozen yogurt-- Henry can sometimes tolerate yogurt-- and her chocolate whipped frosting, frozen). Please don't look too closely at the picture, as the I was rushing when I put the frosting on and it was still a bit too warm for the frozen cake.

 The cookbook is full of sweet breakfast options. We have also loved her cinnamon toast waffles. (Yes, I had some whipped cream on mine-- and butter. But Henry loved his with just maple syrup, and it was far better than giving him a GF freezer waffle while the rest of us ate homemade.)

We also devoured her Frito-crusted chicken fingers with honey mustard aioli, and the Spaghetti & Meatballs with Garlic Crumbs was so good I made it again only a few days later. I'm going to share that recipe with you here, but if you or someone you love is Gluten-Free, you have got to get this cookbook! And if not, never fear! She has the gluten- and dairy-filled substitutions listed as well!

Spaghetti & Meatballs with Garlic Crumbs

Adapted to serve 8 people if a few of them are not big into meatballs (read: my family)
  • 1 pound ground beef or chuck
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic-- 2 grated, 2 smashed, 1 chopped
  • 1 cup rice cereal crumbs (I used Rice Chex)
  • 1/2 cup rice milk (or regular milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 T. flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package corn or rice spaghetti
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or less if you have a wimpy family like mine
Combine the beef, onion, chopped garlic, 1/2 cup cereal crumbs, milk, egg, 2 T parsley and 1 tsp salt. Shape into meatballs. (I make 16 small meatballs, Silvana makes 8 large meatballs to serve 4 people).

In a large saucepan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Submerge the meatballs in the sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Cook your pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce.

The garlic crumbs are what really elevate this dish! Heat the remaining 1 T. olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the grated garlic, remaining 1/2 cup cereal crumbs, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook until toasted, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Don't get impatient because you want that nice toast, but don't walk away either, or they might get too toasty (like mine did the second time around). Sprinkle them liberally over your meatballs and sauce and over your salad if you like as well! They add such a nice crunch.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Faith in Motherhood

Having a journalist in the family is great for me, because she keeps me thinking. Of course I think every day, but Tam poses great questions about the things that she is thinking about and it stirs me to think about topics that I wouldn't necessarily be musing over at the time. Last week, she asked me and the other moms in her family and life what it means to us to be a mother of faith. I figure if I'm going to respond, I might as well do it here, so that you can start thinking about what it means to you to be a mother of faith (and share with us)!

First of all, I'd like to define faith for this discussion. When I speak of faith, I don't just mean that I adhere to a religion or belief system. I mean the deep down feeling, the conviction that I can never deny, that God is real. That He hears my prayers. That He loves and cares about little old me. That He will bless me as I do my best to follow Him. Faith to me means trusting God that He can see things beyond my own vision and that His Plan for me is greater than anything I could dream up. I have faith that Jesus Christ is who He said He is-- the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Prince of peace.

Now, how does that affect me as a woman and a mother? My faith in God truly affects every part of my life. Surely my faith had an impact on my decision to have children, particularly on the decision to start our family while Jared was still in graduate school and there were plenty of financial reasons to wait. Even now, I catch myself for a moment dreaming of how different our financial situation would be if I had stayed in the work force for five more years until Jared's practice was up and running-- but I wouldn't trade those five years for all the money in the world. We knew that it was the right time and that the Lord didn't want us to postpone our family for selfish reasons or to rely on our own strength. Surely I have been able to see the Lord's hand more clearly in my life because we needed Him more to provide for our needs at times.

I firmly believe that in becoming a mother, I am fulfilling my destiny; not a destiny that was forced upon me, but the plan that God had for me if I chose to accept it. And I feel myself growing and becoming the woman He would have me be through my mothering experience.

Motherhood has required leaps of faith on my part-- times when I had to trust and let go of fears that might hold me back. Making major moves, buying a home, accepting callings (or assignments) in the Church that were overwhelming, buying a practice, having another baby . . . and then another, pulling my kids out of public school -- all these and more have tested me and allowed me to prove God. He has blessed me in so many ways that I can't even express. I have never had cause to regret a single decision that I made based on faith-- and the sense that I knew what God wanted me to do, even if I couldn't see the why or how.

As a mother of faith, I accept the enormous responsibility of giving my children not only physical nourishment and love, but also to instill faith in them. This can be an overwhelming prospect if you let it be, but I have found that as I lean on the Lord for help, this comes naturally. Regular daily family scripture study and prayer have a huge impact, but so do the small, everyday moments when opportunities arise to teach a principle or share an experience with my children that has strengthened my faith. Moms of young children have the advantage of the fact that their children want so much to be around them, want to soak up everything they say, want to feel important and loved. Thus, they are easy to teach, for they make apt pupils. I know this will slip away a bit as they become teenagers and I must make the most of it now. What is, perhaps, more daunting, is knowing that my actions must teach my faith as well. I pray for strength to live up to the values that I hold dear and teach my children.

I have found that my mothering is vastly improved if I take time each morning to strengthen my faith through a study of God's word, prayer, and pondering on my life and His plans for me. I think it benefits me first and foremost because in this way I invite Him to participate with me in my mothering, but also because it reminds me of the big picture. Much of the daily work of motherhood may seem monotonous or menial, but when you have a clear perspective, even those tasks have a beauty and greater purpose. I find myself to be more patient, more able to listen to my children, and more in tune with the Spirit (some might call it with my intuition, but I think it is more than that) to know how to handle situations that arise.

Tam asked us: what is the most important thing about your faith that you want your kids to know? For me, it is that we can each have a personal relationship with Father in Heaven; that we each have access to His guidance and to feel of His love in our lives. I want my children to feel His power and have experiences that bring them to trust Him as I do. Then it will be their faith on which they rely and not mine.

I am so grateful for the way that my faith shapes my life and my values and for the way that it strengthens me and leads me to good things. I am grateful that because of faith, I am able to be brave in the face of hard things, to feel joy in the midst of trials, and to have hope in the future. Could I be a mother without faith? Sure. But faith makes me a much better mother than I could ever be on my own.

What role does faith play in your mothering? How does it change the way you mother? The way you think about yourself? Please share!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I hate running.

A few months ago, my sister-in-law invited members of the extended family to train for and compete in (aka complete) a half-marathon this spring. If you've been a long time reader of my blog, you know that I have been a (fairly unsuccessful) wannabe runner for a while. At the time of this challenge, I was not running at all. But I took her up on it, ready for a challenge and unwilling to look like a wimp to the rest of the family.

We've used a little learn-how-to-run program that has served us well. Today I was scheduled to run 8 miles for the first time. My running buddy canceled on me. The weather was gloomy. My MP3 player wouldn't load the thing I wanted to listen to. I could think of a thousand things I'd rather do than run. But I left the house when Meggie went down for her nap.

Somewhere during the first mile, it started to rain.

Somewhere during the second mile, my phone (on which I was listening to this) malfunctioned and I was afraid for a few minutes that I would be running the rest of the way in silence. Thankfully that bug worked itself out.

By the end of the third mile I was soaking wet and the rain was coming down hard. I contemplated turning toward home, but my pride kept me going.

During the fourth mile, I realized that I really needed to empty my bladder. And that my hips were starting to hurt.

I felt exuberant when I hit mile 5, knowing that I was more than halfway finished. The rain subsided and the sun came out. I noticed a family of geese drying off in a meadow. I saw a bird that I'd never seen before. I marveled at the gorgeous oak trees in my area and at the amazing world that Heavenly Father created for me and for each of us.

During the sixth mile, I tried hard to take my mind off my full bladder and my sore hips. I noticed that my shoulders and back were feeling tight. Trying to take my mind off these things didn't work.

During the seventh mile, I began to write this blog post in my head. I reminded myself of all of the reasons that I want to make blogging a priority again. I thought about blogs that I (used to) read that inspired me. I remembered how I want to have an influence for good on the world and that I have this forum to use for that purpose. (This was a more effective way of forgetting my pain, by the way.)

During the last mile, it was all self-talk and gunning for the finish line. I did not want to think about 13.1. Eight miles felt like plenty.

I arrived home 1 hour 45 minutes later (yes, I am that slow) feeling sore, stiff, and like I had conquered the world. I had done something that I didn't want to do. I had done something that was hard. I had done something that I had never done before. I had done something that was good for my body and mind and spirit when what had been far more enticing was staying home and nibbling chocolate chips. I felt wonderful. I knew I will do it again, and that one day in April, I will run 13.1.

I love running.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child

Bronwen got a hold of my camera during preschool's playtime last week. I nearly deleted these photos, then thought it might be fun to share her perspective first! Besides, I need to blog again and this is an easy post to get me started:)