Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On the eve of 4 years old

Dear Hannah,

On the day before your 4th birthday, I wanted to write a little something about how much joy and wonder you bring into my life.  You are incredibly affectionate, offering hugs and cuddles whenever someone is waking up or coming home.  You are loud and vibrant and excited about life about 75 percent of your waking hours . The remaining 25 percent, you spend quietly playing alone in your room, listening to books on CD, doing puzzles and organizing your jewelry. You love your siblings with a passion, even though Aaron sometimes teases you and Charlotte wrecks your Lego towers. And you are incredibly quick to forgive almost anyone.

I have a few stories from recent weeks that illustrate just how curious and fearless you are.

A visit
On the car ride to school the other day, you requested "The Scientist" by Coldplay. (Your dad's influence for sure.)  I complied, and you listened, singing quietly along. About halfway through the song you stopped.

H: Mama, is Chris Martin real? (He is the lead singer of Coldplay.)
Me: Yes, he is.
H: But where is he?  I can't see him anywhere.
Me: Well, he's in England. He uses a computer to record his voice so that lots of people can hear him sing?
H: (Face clearly lit up.)  Can we see him?!?!  (We're going to England next week to visit Paul's family.)
Me:  Well, I don't know.  There are a lot of people who live in England.
H: Well, we could just knock on his door.
Me: What would you do then, ask him to sing for you?
H: (Blushing and giggles.)

A dinner
Again, a conversation on the way to school.

H: I saw a hawk!
Me: Good try, but that was a sea gull.
H: But are hawks real?
Me: Yes. We see them in our backyard sometimes.  Remember, they have red tails.
H: Can we eat one for dinner?
Me: (Cringing.)  Well, I don't know. I guess we could eat a hawk for dinner, but it wouldn't have very much meat on it.
H: I know!  We'll catch one with a net. We'll need daddy's help. It will have to be a strong net.
Me: Then what will you do with it?
H: We'll smash it with a hammer and then take out its bones.

I love you, my sweet girl. Don't ever stop having big ideas. They will carry you far in life.
All my love,

Monday, January 5, 2015


Okay, let's try this blogging thing again.

Over the Christmas school break, we've had a little problem with sibling teasing in our house.  I think - now that I'm coming up for air - that so much together time forced all three kids to compete for my attention constantly. This lead to lots of bickering and name-calling.We tried sending them to their rooms, but that just seemed to make them more cranky. We tried a "Love Chart," we even thought about calling them names back (just kidding), but nothing seemed to work.

This morning a good friend who is a teacher told me about her classroom rule for name-calling. For every put-down, you have to deliver two "put-ups" by saying something nice to the person you teased.

That sounded good to me!  I explained the new rules to the kids at breakfast, and almost immediately had a chance to put this rule into action this morning when Aaron called Hannah a dummy.

A: Oh, I forgot (about the new rule). You mean right now?
Me: Yes, right now.
A: But I don't know what to say.
Me: You could tell her you love her. You could think of some things that she's good at.
H, with a big grin: You could say that I'm pretty.
A: I'm not doing this.
Me: Yes you are.
H, with an even bigger grin: You could say that I'm special.
A: Okay, I love you Hannah. I can't think of another one.
Me: Yes, you can.
A, after an awkward pause: You're good at cooking. (Then he cracks a big smile.)
H, beaming: Thank you, Aaron. Would you like one of my gummy bears?


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On a roll

If there's something I've learned from our pancake experiment, it's that Charlotte is ready to eat more interesting food. She learned how to sign "more" and she hasn't stopped yet. I've fed her some plain pasta, diced steamed carrots, and peaches. She's really interested in what we're having.

So today I went hunting for a toddler- and allergy-friendly healthy muffin recipe for the whole family. I started by checking the allergy-friendly cookbooks I ordered, but those recipes were all loaded with sugar. (As an aside, I don't find these cookbooks have the healthiest recipes.) I was looking for something I would feel good about feeding the kids for breakfast. Then I started Googling "vegan muffins," but a lot of those options replaced the eggs with flax seeds. Since Charlotte reacted to sesame seeds, I am going to hold off trying any more seeds for the time being.

Finally, I turned to one of my favorite recipe sites - 100 Days of Real Food. It's written by author Lisa Leake, who strives to keep processed foods out of her family's diet. I started with her recipe for whole-wheat carrot applesauce muffins, then made a few changes to fit our family. Each of the three kids polished off a muffin fresh out of the oven for snack, so I'm going to hold onto this one. Here's the recipe.

1½ cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Earth Balance buttery spread
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 mashed banana
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup carrot shreds

 For the big kids, I stirred in: 1/2 cup of raisins 1/2 cup silvered almonds into half of them.  Walnuts would be yummy too.

INSTRUCTIONS Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line or grease your muffin. In a bow, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a mixer, combine the butter, syrup, banana and vanilla together on medium speed. Slowly add in the flour mixture until it is combined. The batter will be fairly thick. Fold in the applesauce and carrots with a wooden spoon, along with any add-ins you'd like. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I under cooked them a bit, which was good for Charlotte to mash with her gums. I think it also helped keep the muffins moist.  Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

She eats pancakes!

Through a surprising (and really incredibly lucky) series of events, we've learned that little Charlotte lives in the world of food allergies. To date, we know she's allergic to milk, eggs, sesame and possibly peanuts and avocados. And there's more testing to come. She's oblivious, except for her itchy skin. But I have gone through all of the stages of mourning her eating limitations: shock, fear, denial, more fear. (When the doctor gives you an epipen and tells you, 'This is twice the normal dose she needs - they don't make these in a dose small enough for her. But if she has a reaction don't hesitate to give it to her,' it makes your heart skip a beat.)

She's been eating baby food and rice cereal to date, but the thought of all that processed food with nothing "real" makes my skin crawl. But today - today! - we made awesome progress. I found a dairy-free, egg-free pancake recipe that is pretty good, and we all ate the same pancakes for breakfast! In fact, Ms. Charlotte is on pancake number 2 right now. She is so anxious and excited to pick up food and put it in her mouth. And I'm so happy I found a recipe that fits the bill. These pancakes don't taste like eggy-buttery-milky cakes, admittedly, but they are fairly tasty. The vanilla helps a lot. With some real maple syrup, the big kids didn't notice a difference.(Thank you epicurean escapism.)

I do feel lucky to live in a society where it's easy to find vegan recipes and food substitutes. In the future, I'll be writing occasional updates on how our family adapts to this new world, including recipes that work well for all of us. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Minnesota visit

The Freemantle girls and Nana headed west last weekend to visit our relatives in Minnesota. My grandpa grew up in Minnesota, and his sister and her family still live there. We laughed a lot and I learned to make a very tricky family recipe - potica. YUM. Basking in Minnesota accents for a few days was also fun, eh?