Fifth Month Life Lesson – Who has time to procrastinate?

It’s back to school time again. For the first time in twenty-one years, I am not gearing up for a new school year. While I feel odd not getting ready for another year of teaching, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than with Jeremiah.

As I’ve reflected over my brief teaching career the past few weeks, I am reminded of my very first year of teaching. Boy was that a mess! I was extremely overwhelmed and under confident – very similar to how I felt when we first brought Jeremiah home. During my first year of teaching, one of the veteran teachers had a baby. When she came back from maternity leave, I asked her how she managed it all. She told me that she wasted a lot of time before her baby was born. I kind of shrugged off her response. I was organized and motivated and I was barely making it. I couldn’t fathom the idea of working and having a baby to go home to as well.

If only I had known then what I know now! Over the past five months, I have definitely grown to understand the meaning of my co-worker’s words. Not only did I waste a huge amount of time, but I was also extremely inefficient in getting tasks done. I know that this will be an ongoing lesson for me as Jeremiah grows increasingly more mobile.

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Are you baby wise?

 

I shared a little bit about Jeremiah’s lack of a sleep routine here. I also confessed that I was giving in and reading books on sleep training looking for any nuggets of wisdom that I could find. I just finished reading (and by reading I mean skimming and by skimming I mean wishing it was a picture book) my first book, On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Child the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D.. First off, I think that all subsequent editions should be subtitled “Giving Yourself the Gift of Nighttime Sleep”. Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not do well when I don’t get a full night’s sleep. I require a solid eight hours of sleep to be in a good humor and function well. As one might infer, I’ve been pretty cranky the past five months!

I found the overall tone of this book to be somewhat judgmental. It is blatantly anti-attachment parenting and seems to condemn most of his tenants. While I do not proclaim myself to be a hardcore proponent of attachment parenting, I do implement some of its practices. This book goes so far as to imply that attachment parenting does not involve any thinking on the mother’s part, who simply offers her breast as a remedy to every cry. Baby Wise claims to be superior because their theory of parent-directed feedings utilizes parental assessment, something attachment parenting supposedly lacks. I don’t care where anyone falls on the parenting philosophy spectrum, I believe that all parents follow their instincts and use their best judgement at any given time. To say so otherwise is rude and unnecessary.

Once I was able to look past their hate mongering, I did find a couple of useful suggestions. First, they propose that sleep and eating routines go hand in hand. Baby’s routine should be eat, play, sleep. Most babies eat, sleep, and then play. Guilty! Jeremiah often nursed to sleep. That seemed like something easy enough to switch up. I just needed to start my day off right by feeding him immediately, allowing him to play, and ensuring he had the opportunity for a good nap afterwards.

Then they got into the nitty-gritty of baby’s meals. If your baby is snacking during the day instead of eating full meals, he is more likely to sleep for shorter amounts of time. They suggest that babies eat every 2.5-3 hours. If they can’t make it that long, then they are probably not getting a full feeding. Guilty again! Jeremiah got full feedings as a newborn, but had become a snacker as he is easily distracted by his surroundings. I had a tendency to watch tv or be on my iPhone during feedings. No more auditory distractions. Now we nurse in completely quiet rooms. I still check my email, but if he starts to get curious, then I put it away until he’s done.

Another point they made about feedings related to solids. They are to be given at the same time as the regular feeding, not in between. For breast-feeding moms, this means right after a nursing. For formula moms, start with formula, then food, then finish off the formula. Thrice guilty! In my mind, it made more sense to give him solids in between nursings to help tide him over, but that is an obvious offender to the eat, play, sleep cycle. Another easy fix.

All this talk about food. Where does sleep come into play? The authors propose that it is a common misconception that babies need to have full tummies to go to sleep. If you get your baby in the routine of eat, play, sleep, then they aren’t conditioned to being full to sleep, thus being better able to sleep for longer periods of time at a younger age. The authors go on to say that baby’s naps should be 1.5-2 hours long, but never longer than 3 hours. Babies should wake up happy and refreshed. If they are crying, then they probably didn’t sleep long enough. Around six months is supposed to be when baby drops from three to two naps a day. Getting adequate naps helps baby to sleep through the night; however, babies under 6 weeks of age shouldn’t sleep longer than 5 hours at night.

Jeremiah was the ultimate cat napper, so the idea that he might sleep for more than 20 minutes at a clip was almost like a taunt. I implemented the three nuggets above and his eating and sleeping routines have improved. The snacking is a thing of the past and he does fine going 2.5-4 hours between feedings. Over the past few weeks, he has been taking two lengthy naps and a cat nap. While he doesn’t fit into their model perfectly, I think he’ll get there eventually. I’m just grateful to have an hour of time to get something done.

The Bottom Line
-If you’re a proponent of attachment parenting, you might not want to read this book.
-Baby’s routine should be eat, play, sleep.
-Baby should have full feedings to discourage snacking.
-Baby should have solids with regular feedings.
-Want to read more? Check out the chapters on establishing your baby’s routine, wake time and nap time, and when your baby cries (Chapters 6-8 of 2006 edition).

Now you tell me, what are your thoughts on this book?

 

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Chimichurri Sauce – An Explosion of Flavor!

Have you ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse? It is really quite the experience. Everyone pays a flat fee which entitles you to unlimited visits to a magnificent salad bar. I’m not talking about your standard salad bar either. Let’s just say I would go just to eat the salad bar. As you eat the sides, gauchos walk around with freshly grilled skewers of meat ready to serve you at your delight. The meat runs the gamut of chicken to pork to bacon-wrapped filet mignon. In order to indicate your desire for meat, you flip a card to green by your plate. When you’re ready for a break, you flip it over to red until you want more. It’s a carnivore’s dream of overindulgence and gluttony. I think my brother would really like it.

Now that you’re drooling over the idea of bacon-wrapped filet mignons being wafted through the air on a skewer, let’s go back to that salad bar. It’s where you’ll find your condiments. You won’t find barbecue sauce or steak sauce, but you will find chimichurri sauce. I liken it to pesto in concept and consistency; however, it is best eaten over chicken, beef, or fish. I think it would also be good on steamed veggies. All of the ingredients can be found at your local grocer. No need to go hunting for a special pepper or oil. It doesn’t look that appetizing, but sometimes our stomachs see better than our eyes. All of the ingredients intermingle to form a robust topping that you’ll surely love. I assure you, it’s smack your momma good!

Chimichurri Sauce (recipe taken from Bon Appetit magazine)
1 cup packed fresh parsley
½ cup olive oil
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup packed fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¾ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Serve over chicken, beef, or fish. Easy enough?

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Fourth Month Life Lesson – Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep my little baby.

In my last entry I wrote about Jeremy being out of town. During that time, Jeremiah had been sleeping in a cradle in our bedroom. With Jeremy back home it was time for Jeremiah to move to his crib to sleep. I was so nervous. Jeremiah had refused to sleep in his crib for naps. I just knew we were going to be up all night until he adjusted, however long that would take.

Then it happened. Jeremiah slept straight through the night for the first time at four months old! Of course Jeremiah showed me how little I know. Everything about that “transition” gloriously exceeded my expectations. After a few nights of getting uninterrupted, blissful sleep, I felt like a new woman. I was recharged and had a renewed since of confidence in my ability to tackle motherhood. After a couple of weeks, I felt spoiled as I remembered for the first time since having Jeremiah what it felt like to truly feel rested.

Then it happened. Jeremiah stopped sleeping through the night and was getting up every three hours. At first I thought it was just the side effects of a growth spurt he was going through. A week went by and his eating decreased in frequency during the day, but he was still getting up to eat at night. Then he cut his first two teeth. Surely things would turn around after that. Nope. He just kept on waking up like a little trooper, sometimes even more frequent than every three hours. It was beyond explanation as to why he had returned to his newborn nighttime sleep schedule. I thought we had moved past all of that. I thought we had established some semblance of a routine.

After three and a half weeks of being cranky and not knowing what else to do, I requested books on sleep training from my local library this past Saturday night. I have to be honest in saying that I didn’t really believe in the concept of “sleep training” for Jeremiah, so this was truly an act of desperation. Jeremiah is extremely determined and the idea that I can get him to sleep when he doesn’t want to boggles my mind. Maybe I was wrong about sleep training? I threw in my towel and decided to give it a whirl. While I waited for my books to become available, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to endure just a few more sleepless nights.

Then it happened. Last night Jeremiah slept through the night. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when the alarm clock read 5:30am. I don’t know how it happened and I don’t dare to make something up. I will not question it, but accept it as the beginning of a new routine…for now. I’ll probably still read the sleep training books. I might find some practical tidbits of wisdom in them even if I don’t agree with the whole premise of sleep training. For now I’m going to cherish every night that Jeremiah sleeps straight through. This past month I’ve learned that just like rules, routines are meant to be broken.

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Another Feather in My Cap – Baby Food Chef!

It’s hard to believe that Jeremiah is eating solids already. Yesterday we started him off with bananas.He loved spitting the food onto his fingers and then licking it off! I can’t wait to try out other new foods to see what his favorites are. I made the banana purée myself. It’s way cheaper to make your own food. Plus, it’s fresh. I’m all about raising a baby with sophisticated taste buds:-)

My sister-in-law gave me a Baby Bullet as a shower gift. Using it was
such a breeze. It works really quickly and is the perfect size for puréeing  to make several baby meals. Also, you can use it to make your own rice cereal, which I didn’t realize until I started flipping through the book. If you don’t have a Baby Bullet, then use a food processor to purée your fruits and veggies. I’m not sure if a food processor will mill grains. Anyone ever tried it? Foods like banana, baked sweet potato, and avocado are easy to just mash up with a fork.

Below you will find the proportions of food to water as given in the Baby Bullet book. You can always add more or less water in order to achieve desired consistency, but I think these guidelines are helpful to have in the beginning. Remember that baby shouldn’t eat what you don’t eat, so remove all those bad spots and tough skin.

Banana Puree = 1 banana + 1/4 cup of water
Avocado Puree = 1 peeled, pitted avocado + 1/4 cup of water
Sweet Potato Puree = 1 peeled, cooked sweet potato + 1 cup of water
Zucchini Puree = 1 cooked zucchini + 1/4 cup of water
Squash Puree = 1 cooked squash + 1/4 cup of water
Pear Puree = 1 peeled, cored, and cooked pear + 1/4 cup of water
Apple Puree = 1 peeled, cored, and cooked apple + 1/4 cup of water
Green Pea Puree = 1 cup steamed peas + 1/4 cup of water
Rice/Oatmeal Cereal = 1/2 cup milled grain + 4 cups of water (bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes)

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Square Foot Gardening Basics: Soil

I know what some of you are thinking: Why does she have an entry on soil?

My yard consists of clay-like soil that is not suitable for growing plants. Instead of spending time amending it, I decided to build a raised bed and mix up my own soil. Below you will find the recipe for “Mel’s Mix” taken from the book.

Mel’s Mix
6 cu. ft. peat moss
4 cu. ft. coarse vermiculite
3 cu. ft. sand
4 c./1 qt. Lime
4 c./1 qt. Organic fertilizer
5 g. wood ashes/charcoal

I did not have access to wood ashes, so I just left this out. I keep reading about the amazing benefits of wood ashes in gardens. Maybe this will motivate me to get a fire pit? Anyways, the composition of this soil should have the proper drainage of no standing water 3-4 hours after raining, but will retain moisture a few inches below the surface. I think I’ve mentioned that I’m green thumb challenged. I either water plants too much or not quite enough. Now I just stick my finger into my garden and if it’s dry I know that I need to water.

After you’ve mixed up the initial batch of soil, you can use the above materials in the same proportions to freshen up your beds as they lose soil from year to year. That’s what I did this year and I’m pleased with the composition and drainage of my bed.

Now you’re ready to decide the layout of your garden!

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Third Month Life Lesson – Newfound respect for single and/or working moms.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to write any entries. For the past nine weeks, Jeremy was out of town during the week for work. We started out on our A-game. I made way more plans than any sane mother of a two month old would have made. I wore myself out as Jeremiah got all too used to riding in the car. I managed to make several day trips and two overnight trips. I visited my former workplace, friends, family, and Jeremy once a week for dinner. In addition to staying on the go, I tried to stay on top of maintaining our household so Jeremy wouldn’t have to come home to a war zone, not that I did the best job at that. At least I was distracted!

Somewhere around the halfway point, I hit a bump in the road that I never quite recovered from. There were some days that made it seem like the nine weeks would never end. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. Jeremy is now home for good and I couldn’t be happier. Our time apart definitely made our marriage stronger, but there is a reason children are meant to be raised by both a father and a mother.

I tell all of this to get to my third month life lesson. I have so much more respect for single moms, working moms, and especially single, working moms. Taking care of a baby is serious business, especially a teething baby! I am blessed to say that I am a stay at home mom. I get to devote all of my energy to being a wife, mom, and homemaker. So even when I’ve had a rough few weeks, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have a loving, supportive husband and the ability to stay at home. To all my single and/or working mommas, my hat’s off to you. You deserve more credit than you’ll ever receive.

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Square Foot Gardening Basics: Where to Plant

I’d been wanting to plant some vegetables for some time when a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of square foot gardening. I have a huge back yard without many trees and plenty of daylight, so it would be easy for me to start a garden back there. After researching square foot gardening, I decided to give it a whirl. I liked that I could dedicate as much or as little space to the garden as I wanted. I don’t like taking up hobbies that require you to go in over your head only to realize you’re no longer interested or cut out for said hobby.

Square foot gardening, as its name implies, is based on the principle of planting in squares (12″ x 12″) rather than rows, which is the traditional way in agriculture. Mel Bartholomew advocates for this method in his book as the most efficient use of space. I’m all about bang for your buck. Not only can you fit more plants in a smaller space, but there is less room for weeds to grow and a smaller area to water.

I chose to follow his recommendation of starting with a 4′ x 4′ garden. This size allows for easy access to all plants. Any bigger and a short person, such as myself, might not be able to reach an inner square. The beauty of square foot gardening is you can utilize the concept wherever you have space, even in an existing flower bed.

The ideal spot for your garden is facing South receiving 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. As long as the sunlight is spread throughout the day, 9am-4pm or thereabouts, rather than concentrated in the morning or afternoon you’re good to go. Worried you don’t have the ideal daylight conditions? Check out the lists below to find some plants that might work for you.

Only needs 4-6 hours/day
beets
carrots
cauliflower
swiss chard
cucumber
lettuce
onions
parsley
peas
radishes
spinach
winter squash

Needs 6+ hours/day
beans
broccoli
cabbage
corn
eggplant
muskmelons
summer squash
tomato

According to Mel, the plants in bold are easier to grow. From my experience, I would add spinach and herbs to this list. What other vegetables do you think are easy to grow?

Before you plant anything, you need to make sure your soil has the proper composition and drainage. Check out my entry about the perfect soil!

Categories: Gardening | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Herbed Bulgur Lentil Salad – An Experiment with Mint

Since I’m trying to get back in shape since having Jeremiah, I’ve been on the lookout for easy, healthy, and FILLING recipes. I think it’s pretty easy to find healthy recipes, but they often leave me wanting more when I’m finished eating. The fiber and protein of this dish pack a filling punch. This recipe caught my eye because it uses lentils, one of my favorite beans, and bulgur, one of my favorite grains. I figured the smoky taste of lentils in combination with the nutty taste of bulgur was bound to be good. Plus, I’m a huge fan of herbs. I cannot stand bland food! While I’m not crazy about mint, I actually liked it in this recipe. I think the lemon and dill toned down the mint flavor. If you’re hesitate about the mint, then try it without and let me know what you think. Below you will find how I prepared it. You can find the original recipe at SparkPeople, the website I use to track my food and fitness (it’s free, check it out!).

1 c. dry, green lentils yellow
1 c. dry bulgur
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried mint
3 tsp. dried dill
black pepper, to taste
4 tsp. dried parsley
1/3 c. red onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, diced

Wash lentils and remove any debris. Place in a medium-sized saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl.

While the lentils are cooking, place the bulgur in a small pot and cover with two cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes.

Add everything to the lentils and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate.

Herbed Bulgur & Lentil Salad

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – An Easter Tradition

I’ve already mentioned how important food was to my family growing up. I associate food with memories from my childhood, especially the holidays. When I got married I decided that I wanted to make food a part of our holiday family traditions. What better way to celebrate Easter than with carrot cake! I find it difficult to eat carrot cake out at restaurants because most include raisins, which I despise. I love making carrot cake at home because it’s raisin-free, but if you like them, then add about 1/2 cup to the recipe below. Besides omitting the raisins and substituting a few lower calorie ingredients, this is the exact same recipe from The Bon Appétit Cookbook (2006). Watch out because this recipe is smack your momma good!

Cake
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 c. finely grated carrots (about 1 pound)
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Frosting
4 c. powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages Neufchatel cheese, room temperature
1/2 c. (1 stick) margarine, room temperature
4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease three 9-inch cake pans with margarine. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Grease wax paper. (*Note: I tried omitting the wax paper one year with disastrous results. I could barely get the cake out and had to do reconstructive surgery with the icing. It still tasted great, but it was not a pretty sight. Take the extra few minutes and use the wax paper. You’ll thank me when you’re trying to get the sticky carrot cake out!)

Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Slowly add to the sugar oil mixture until just combined. Stir in carrots and pecans.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks, remove wax paper, and cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat all ingredients until smooth and creamy using an electric mixer.

Place each layer of cake on a plate or cake stand. Frost the first layer before stacking the next. Once all layers are frosted, frost the sides. Run water over an offset spatula and shake off the excess water. Use the wet offset spatula to apply pressure to the sides and smooth the frosting. Add decorative swirls or additional nuts as a garnish. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m big on taste and not appearance so I didn’t do anything fancy to the outside. The taste more than makes up for the lack of adornment! Refrigerate and enjoy.

Triple-Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

What are some of your Easter traditions?

Categories: Cooking | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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