Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Health and Nutrition

When we started Sophia on solid foods I was very particular about when, how, and what to feed her. Our family doctor encouraged us to breastfeed as long as possible and family and friends where surprised to hear that the doctor recommended exclusively breastfeeding for a year before introducing her to solids of any sort. I was successful for eight months. Due to a variety of factors my milk supply was plummeting, Sophie was exhibiting signs of wanting to start solids and we thought it was time too. So over Christmas vacation she had her first bite of "real" food-organic sweet potatoes and organic bananas. She went zero to sixty on solids and sixty to zero on breast milk. There was no gradual weaning off the breast but more like a sudden stop.

The world of solid foods was exciting and scary. This generation of parents has so much to think about when it comes to feeding their family-organic or not, homemade or prepared and packaged, allergies and intolerances. I knew/know I am not a great eater-I try but not hard enough. I loved to eat kettle chips and DQ Blizzards during my pregnancy! But I was/am determined to teach my daughter and thus myself and family better eating habits.

I made all of Sophie's first foods. Picking up fresh and often organic veggies from the grocery store or farmer's market, cooking, pureeing, freezing little cubes of sweet potatoes, collard greens, macaroni and peas with cheese dishes, mango, avocados. Many things I wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot pole! Now that Sophie is older I still try to balance her meals with vegetables, fruit, dairy, whole grains, limited fats, protein, and limited sugar.

Being a toddler her palate fluctuates in terms of what she "likes" or "doesn't like" and that more depends on her disposition that day than what she is actually responding to taste wise! Last week I found this article on MSNBC about restaurant offerings for the under 5 set. It is a helpful list of "eat this, not that" especially as many of us gear up to hit the road this summer on family vacation. It was eye opening to see the fat and calories in some of the seemingly "safe" choices.

Meanwhile in my quest for healthy, family friendly meals I found this blog.

Additionally, if you read Parent's Magazine a new monthly column called Simple Suppers featuring the minimalist Mark Bittman who wrote How to Cook Everything. (My copy of the book is splattered with oil, water, flour, and other kitchen stains from so much use!

If you are looking for a non-restaurant easy to travel and eat option. I suggest Sprout Foods. They are purees that even my toddler will eat, come in a resealable pouch, don't need to be refrigerated or heated and boost balanced nutrition and organic components. We also love Buddy Fruit for an on the go, easy to eat, mess free fruity treat.

Happy and Healthy Eating!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A good babysitter is hard to come by

Since my husband works in a high school we have a handful of babysitters at our disposal. During the summer while he facilitates several weeks of summer camp we opt to take Sophie out of her regular daycare and keep her at home with a sitter. We usually have a handful of young women who know Sophie, have babysat her before, and are looking for steady summer work. This year I think we have hit the jackpot!

Sophie's new sitter has babysat for us one other time. She came early, wrote down everything they did and ate over the two or three hours we were gone. Phillip and I were impressed. The only flub was that she put Sophie's diaper on backwards. An interesting feat on a kid that weights 32lbs. and squirms during diaper changes.

Sunday we invited her over to the house to review the weekly routine, eating, napping, playtime, diapering. I prepared a daily routine info sheet and emergency contacts for her just in case.

She arrived 20 minutes early. When I returned home she presented me with a detailed list of everything they did that day complete with times-breakfast, riding the tricycle, books, clean up time, nap, snacks, Elmo. I went to Sophie's room to change her diaper and was caught off guard when the door was shut. I walked in and was shocked. I asked if Phillip had cleaned Sophie's room before he left for work. He denied it. Our babysitter cleaned Sophie's room. Her room is the one space I don't mind being a bit out of sorts because it is where all her toys are. Her room hasn't been this clean since before she was born!

She brought us homemade chocolate chip cookies. There were no dirty dishes to wash and no clean dishes to put away. No wonder people have nannies!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The accidental garden

This has nothing to do with kids. It has to do with my accidental garden.

Phillip is the green thumb of the Brown household. Tending to several indoor plants with TLC, plant fertilizer made out of fish (ewww) but high in nutrients. Our outdoor plants are sometimes deliberate, sometimes not.

We have a hard time throwing out potted plants after their prime. Preferring instead to trim back the wilted growth, let the bulb lie dormant and see what happens next year. It seems this is our luck this year.

Last year we had a small patch of herbs off the deck. Two types of parsley, oregano, basil, and rosemary. We used all of the basil. The parsley grew and grew and grew and eventually had to be trimmed back. After the harsh winter it appeared nothing was left. We never used the oregano. To our delight and surprise the parsley and oregano has grown back and reseeded itself in my two planters that once housed inpatients.

I was pleasantly surprised by purple iris that I have no recollection of every owning as bulbs or planting. And just yesterday an Easter Lilly that Phillip must have given me three or four Easter's ago has bloomed yet again.

Our biggest surprise? The pumpkin that is growing in a planter we have used for tomatoes and basil and has rich composted soil. I think when cleaning out our utility room last year we came across open seeds and on a whim tossed them into the planter. I guess we won't have to visit the pumpkin patch this year!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Scary parenting moments, Part 1

Being a parent is no doubt the most difficult job in the world. Yet millions of us embark on this journey with no experience at first, little to no training, no manual, and a boss that is much younger than us, and also has no experience being a boss.

When we were kids we challenged our parents everyday. Sometimes the challenge was willing them to allow us to eat a Popsicle even thought we didn't eat our dinner. Other times the challenges were much more difficult and demanding.

When I was 18 or 19 I took a fly-fishing class during summer vacation with a dear friend of mine. We loved it because:
a) we are women
b)the instructors were older and men
c)the instructors liked us because we showed up to every class and every day at the water
d)we fished with the instructors as extra-curricular activities and finally,
e) we learned how to smoke cigars.

(Warning: Cliche coming)Shortly after this learning experience we decided we were going to take a two week vacation across the country to Montana to "fish the great rivers" a la Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. Our parents were skeptical and hesitant. We didn't really have a plan because we didn't know how much we could/wanted to drive each day. But we knew we wanted to drive Route 2 on the Northern edge of the state and fish The Blackfoot River. We made a rough itinerary and reassured them that we would call several times. Keep in mind we were 20 when we took this trip. Long story short; our parents finally accepted we were going to do this with or without their consent. We made it to our destination and back. Had a great time and would do it again tomorrow, and never caught a single fish but have ooodles of great memories.

Today our trip is little bits compared to the teenager who is attempting to sail around the world ALONE. She is 16. Yesterday news reports said she had lost contact and feared dead. Her parents worst nightmare coming true. I can only imagine them second guessing their decision to let her attempt this feat even though she had all of the training, will, smarts, gear, etc. needed to accomplish this incredible journey. Today reports state that she is alive and well. Her boat is damaged a bit but still sea worthy.

Like I said parenting is the most difficult job in the world. For my parents it was trusting me enough to drive across the country, for the California teens parents, it was trusting their daughter could sail around the world, for us, now, it's trusting that our daughter won't fall down the stairs on the deck. None of it easy but part of our job description.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Happiness is a happy child

I want to press rewind and play on yesterday-over and over and over again until I've played it so much the tape breaks where the film is worn.

I picked Sophie up from Phillip in the afternoon because he had to attend a meeting. Sophie was excited to see me, greeted me with hugs and a kiss. We drove home talking about cows and horses as we passed by the many farms in our neck of the woods. We talked about seeing Doodle and playing on the porch. Together we sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and I wowed her with "Row Row your Boat" and my amended version of "Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee."

When we checked the mailbox there was a letter and Elmo stickers from Aunt Mimi. We used three sheets of stickers in less than five minutes. I have since hidden two of the sheets so we have some to enjoy later.

We made dinner. Without prompting Sophie snatched her salad bowl off the counter and carefully carried it out to the deck table. She came back in to help bring out place mats and napkins. She ate most all of her dinner after eating part of an apple, 1/2 of a fruit cup, one chocolate Easter egg, and a piece of cheese. She didn't spill anything by accident or intentionally. After dinner she asked to get down from her chair and played on the deck while Phillip and I talked about our day at work. Then Sophie returned to the table to help bring the dishes inside. She delicately juggled my empty wine glass and the tub of Parmesan cheese across the deck, up the stair, into the house and to the counter.

She accepted that she needed a bath. We showered and she scrubbed herself and washed her hair. Jammies, hair combed, and teeth brushed.

We read several books in her room and then it was time for night night. Kisses and hugs all around. We had an evening of play, love, cooperation, helping, no tantrums or out bursts. Pure joy. And only two blood curdling screams when we left her room and closed the door. Nothing is truly perfect!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Nothing says summer like Ice Cream

I love ice cream. I find myself liking flavors I used to balk at - chocolate chip cookie dough, cookies and cream and when it has real vanilla beans, I'll even eat vanilla, even though I like to think of myself as a chocolate purist.

The first summer we lived in this house we were spoiled by an old suburban treat...the Ice Cream Truck. Our lady would drive around nearly every other night, Phillip and I would empty our coin jars and rush out to greet the truck playing its whimsical music. It was such a treat and reward after suffering through breastfeeding and the trials and tribulations of being new parents. Last summer was no different.

This year is exciting because we get to share the joy and excitement of "The Ice Cream Lady" with Sophia. But the few times I've heard the chimes of "The Saints Go Marching In" in the near distance the tune quickly faded as she traveled in the opposite direction of our house. Last weekend I ripped Sophie out of her bed post nap as if the house was on fire in eager anticipation of Ice Cream only to be avoided yet again and then the rain started. Tonight however, I was on a mission to find her.

I jumped in the car and headed towards the magical sound of familiar songs. Same truck, new lady. She didn't know to come down our street. She won't make that mistake again! So now we are "fat and happy" with Radical Rainbow Push Up Pop (Sophie), Chocolate Eclair (Mama) and Orange Cream (Papa) in our bellies. Our sticky fingers are clean, the fireflies are dancing, and the Ice Cream Lady knows where to go.


I have succeeded as a parent. I figured out how to breastfeed, I learned not to gag on impulse at puke and poo, I have tried new foods and feed (most of the time) my daughter a balanced and nutritious diet. But the real test of parenthood? Teaching EMPATHY.

For a quick sophomore year refresher courtesy of Merriam Webster online: Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

On Saturday my husband labored through putting together a porch swing for us to enjoy. As with most “disposable” furniture the craftsmanship isn’t the highest quality and there were missing washers and a screw that broke off in one of the support rods upon tightening. Phillip went in search of replacement parts, Sophie and I sat on the swing, on the porch, before it was set into the overhead support bar. One of the side supports was delicately in place but not fastened. With a shift of our bodies on the swing, the support bar came crashing down into the back of my head. It hurt. I don’t think I swore out in pain but it was visible that I hurt and was in pain. Sophie quickly stopped what she was doing and in her adorable two-year old voice asked “Okay? Okay?” with an inspiring look of concern on her face. “Ouch.” I said rubbing my head. “Okay? Okay?” she asked again. Yes, I was okay. It appears that just as a magical mommy kiss to a child’s hand or knee erases the pain of their fall so does an empathetic “okay” from the mouth of a babe heals our pain too.