Healthy Beginnings

There are a lot of things I am sure I may not be able to give Elsie…a free ride to college, a new car at 16, or the newest “best” gadgetrons that become available as she grows up…but I know from experience these are the least important things I can provide. One of the things I came away from childhood with is an innate sense of what is healthy and what is not.  I continue to be shocked at how hard people make it seem to eat “right”…isn’t it simple?…real, whole food most of the time, sprinkled with “treats” that are good for your soul.  But I have come to realize that if good, healthy food was not a part of your life as a child, it is much harder to recognize the false claims the food/diet industry throw at the public today.  If you are looking for a simple guide, Michael Pollan (great food politics author) has these seven rules:

  1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4. Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, ‘Tie off the sack before it’s full.'”
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love.
  7. Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

Oh and one more rule…pardon my four letter expletive in advance, but sometimes it is just appropriate…I came across this a couple months ago and it has stuck with me:

Whenever you see the words “low fat” or “fat free” think of the words “chemical shit storm”.

My Mom didn’t teach me these rules outright, but it is just how we lived our life. There was a place for treats…one of my fondest childhood memories was getting Lucky Charms and Fruit Roll Ups every Christmas.  She did allow treats throughout the year too…summer was a time for ice cream cones after a day playing at the Creek, on long car trips we would stop and get Butterscotch Krimpets, and sometimes just because we would make Root Beer Floats.  But these things were never standard in our house. I knew these things were not everyday food…they were special…true treats. Thanks for the treats Mom, but thank you more for the gift of recognizing what is healthy and what is not, and teaching my body to crave whole, nutritious foods!

I can give Elsie a good food foundation too…and right now is the start of that opportunity.  She is 8 months old and has FINALLY turned the corner and is interested in food. Until now she has been very content to nurse away and spit out the food we have offered her for the last month.  In the last several days she is grabbing the spoon and waiting with an open mouth like a little bird for the next bite of sweet potato.  So I figured I better get going on this baby food thing.  I know she already loves sweet potato and avocado, but I wanted to expand her pallet over the next couple weeks. I used a book by Annabel Karmel “The Healthy Baby Meal Planner”. The version I have is from the early 90s, but she has some more recent books available (my sister Bridget by chance happens to use her more recent book “Top 100 Baby Purees”).  The essence behind Karmel’s book is to use whole foods, no added sugar or salt. She gives some great ideas on how to mix and match as well as simply prepare fruits and veggies. I started with the below veggies for my “prep and freeze” day–potato, carrots, rutabega, parsnip, broccoli, green beans, and the ever popular sweet potato.

DSC03080I peeled and I chopped…


Steamed in cycles (It actually went quite quickly, I just kept reusing the water from the previous veggie)–Potato and sweet potato 25 minutes, rutabega 20 minutes; carrots,parsnip, broccoli, and beans 10-12 minutes.


For the rutabega, potato, sweet potato, and parsnip I simply mashed with a fork. (Below is the rutabega)


The carrots, beans, and broccoli I pulsed in my mini food processor then mashed a bit more with a fork.


Finally, I used 1 ounce freezer trays to create individual portions. I kept all ingredients separate, and did small portions of each until I get a feel for what Elsie prefers. I do plan on thawing several and creating some combos as well.



…and there we have it! 16 1 oz portions to use over the next several weeks in addition to some of the easily available fresh items (avocado, banana, peach) and canned/boxed staples. Some things just make sense to get pre made to avoid the hassle (making your own pumpkin puree??? puhlease!) and to be sure you always have something available (the Whole Foods applesauce is great…one ingredient–Apples! with no added sugar).


Here’s to Healthy Beginnings!


Ode to a Big Brother

My brother Scot and I are often polar opposites when it comes to our views.  For years now we have had hearty debates about almost every political, religious, and philosophical issue there is…he is impossible! But also so very rational, and the master in debating–he is always trying to get me to take the emotion out of my argument (still working on that…)  You must remember that this is my big brother…23 years older kind of big.  I can’t get over that he used to DESTROY ME in Monopoly–I was under 10 and he was over 30 and there he went putting hotels on Boardwalk and I didn’t even have a house on Mediterranean!! Through all our debates I think I was trying to finally win. It always seemed to me we never had much in common, as he truly is in a parental generation compared to me.  Perhaps this is changing now that I am a parent too? Or maybe I am less interested in finding our differences and trying to convince him to come to my side, instead I would rather find a common thread with my only brother.

I recently sent him an email with an interesting little video about changing the paradigms of education in the US.  Scot and his wife Phenny homeschool their two kids so I thought he would be interested and give some good perspective. Of course he did!  I was homeschooled, and I dream of homeschooling my own kids so I am interested in his POV. Anyways, this post isn’t about changing education paradigms, but somehow our email chain led to a discussion about the concept of “Too Much Love”.  He sent me an interesting meditation about being firm with your children and allowing them to struggle on their own at times, here is the final message of the meditation:

“Do you ever find yourself trying to help your children more than you should? Your children’s education can suffer if you don’t learn to balance the dual role you play as teacher and parent. Spelling out every answer will be detrimental to the development of their reasoning and thinking processes. Be careful. Don’t destroy the new life God is using you to shape. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

I responded with an example of how Brad and I were exploring this concept with Elsie as she learns to roll over.  She is readily able to roll from back to belly, but gets “stuck” on her belly.  Should we not help her turn over?  Below is Scot’s response.  Look how he takes the concept of an infant milestone and expands it into a much wider concept. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?! He is still totally my know-it-all-big-brother.  But this time I appreciate it.

There is a creative tension between the instinct to help and the instinct to withdraw. If you honor that tension, you can trust your instincts.

There is no harm in rolling her over…it gives her opportunity to practice an acquired skill to mastery. Unless she has a developmental problem, what you do will only marginally inhibit the natural progression of Elsie’s skill building. She benefits from any “barriers” you create by learning to overcome them through trial and error. On the other hand, what you do can greatly enhance here skill building. Here is an idea: make a game of it and wait a little longer each time before you roll her over. (Recite lines of poetry while you wait!)
Also, when you roll her over, instead of just using a tour de force, press her individual body parts (gently and patiently) through the natural physiological process required to do it herself. First one at a time, then progressively:
Extend the dominant arm forward across the body to shift the center of gravity and gain leverage…
Drop the dominant shoulder to lower the hurdle and shift the center of gravity..
Turn the head away from the dominant shoulder…
Swing the other arm with the head…
Swing the legs with the arms…
Press the dominant shoulder up with the dominant arm…
You’ll be amazed at how quickly she catches on! Front to back is “harder” because the arms naturally create leverage against the move, and because swinging the arm/leg backward is counter-intuitive (she swung them forward to succeed in the back to front move). Subtraction and division will be “harder” in math because she must first learn to abandon the successful strategies of addition and multiplication.

These four principles apply to any training exercise (physiological, mental, emotional, relational, spiritual):

1.Model new skills down to the minute details.

2.Withdraw assistance gradually and strategically.

3. Integrate mastery exercises with teaching exercises.

4. If you enjoy the process, they will too.
A helpful little ditty:
You enjoy watching me do it until you’re ready to help me.
You enjoy helping me do it until you’re ready to try it.
I’ll enjoy helping you do it until you’re ready do it.
I’ll enjoy watching you do it until you’re ready do more.
Kids learn by doing, but they learn best by doing WITH mom and dad!
Thanks Scot, you smartypants!

Good Things Jar

Here she blows! Our Good Things Jar 2013!

My guiltiest admission. I’m pretty awful at documenting Brady’s life. I get so caught up in us living it, that I forget to capture it. I failed at the baby book before a year, my camera broke so long ago that I can’t remember the last time I used it. Printing pictures? Ha!

So here she is. Our Good Things Jar 2013. Although four weeks behind(yes, I see the pattern) I plan on getting at least one in there a week. We are beyond blessed, I know this. But sometimes I forget what I had for breakfast. So this year, at the end of the year, all of those beautiful blessings will be there, in print. For us to remember.


The Watchful Owl

Transitioning back to work after a dreamy maternity leave has been hard (to be expected, I am assured by all my working mom friends).  On the other hand, I realize how lucky I am that Brad and I can swing it without using any childcare…I work nights and he works from home (and travels some, but so far we have been able to organize our schedules). My working the overnight shift works really well for us.  Brad is home with Elsie while I work and then while I sleep the next day.  I feel like I am missing less since the majority of the time I am gone Elsie is sleeping, and then the next day Brad wakes me up to nurse.  I think I have gotten pumping at work down, and I am pumped (punny haha!) that I have been able to express more milk than she eats while I am gone, so I am building my freezer supply to boot.

Despite my spin on the positive, I do miss out.  Bedtime is something I really look forward to, and I miss being in that routine every night. Our routine consists of Gaelic Lullabies (i heart Pandora), tubby time, then a date with Granny Blanket and our two favorite books.  The ever classic “Goodnight Moon” and our new classic “A Book of Sleep” by Il Sung Na.


“A Book of Sleep” has a new meaning for me now that I miss 3 bedtimes a week.



It comforts me that I am the Watchful Owl those nights I am away…even if it means I have to be the Tired Owl too!


Happy to be home tonight…