Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grounded and SLT

Our home was built in 1946, which means none of the original outlets are grounded. We've slowly gone through the house and had grounded outlets put in, room by room.  That third little hole, connecting the current to the safety of the earth, is so important. 
Our lives feel a bit like chaos right now. I say 'feels like' because it's relative, and I know things could be much worse, but things are not as settled as they usually are.  I try to embrace times like this because I know they will soon pass and things will be quiet again, but some moments I feel dizzy, like the earth beneath my feet is moving when it once was so solid. (Or at least I thought it was.)
But I stick to my routines to keep things going. I get out of bed and put my feet onto the cold floor and go to work.  I dress, grind the coffee.  I do a load of laundry, even though there is so much more than usual to do because Ellie was sick for a full week and I've never changed more sheets in my life.  I push seeds into the dirt because it's March and I'm already behind.

I throw something, anything together for dinner and pack it for tomorrow's lunch.  
I put one foot in front of the other.
I nurse and rock her to sleep for her nap and hold her body for a minute after she falls asleep.
Somewhere in there, I remember to breathe. In the chaos, I have to come back to the breath to keep me here, grounded in the incredible gift that is the present.  I take a few moments to clear my mind and be quiet, making room for nothingness, when it feels like the whole world demands my attention.  I stop and look at her while she's sleeping and feel her peace. I remember feeling these heels inside my body. 
Often I fail. I stumble. The laundry stays in the washing machine overnight or sits unfolded in a basket for a day or two.  The dog doesn't get fed dinner until 9.  I forget to put wipes in the baby bag. I neglect to water the seedlings for two days.  I don't photograph a single thing that I cook, and blog posts don't go up when they're supposed to.
I know it's a part of my journey.  I am taking it in stride and showing up, doing what I can and forgiving myself for the rest.
Ellie has clean sheets, even if I don't. I still come here to write, even if it's short and late. The dog still gets fed and cuddled. And I still go to bed feeling so lucky. 
I just have to take a moment and find my ground again. 
How is your week going?  During the holidays, my husband looked at me and said, "I'd give anything for a boring week."  Do you ever feel that way?
I'm late getting it up, but it's still Simple Lives Thursday. Please have a look around at the posts and our great host blogs

and link up your posts about consuming less and producing more.

 1. Creating a Simple and Inexpensive Rain Water Collection System by Old World Garden Farms. "Visitors to the farm are usually surprised to learn that we water the entire garden and landscape with reclaimed rain water."
 2. Grain-Free Cinnamon Raisin "Oatmeal" by Sift, Stir & Savour. "...isn't that a bowl of oatmeal? Nope. Believe it or not that is a big bowl of creamy, delicious, sweet..."PicMonkey Collage 3. Women's Dress to Girl's Skirt--A Tutorial by Five Kids & An Acre. "Spring on our acre means we are beginning our wardrobe change over. This year we have some dresses that are in sizes that we cannot use."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring and Simple Lives

I'm on vacation. I don't want to complain because I haven't had to get up early, put real pants on, or deal with my office in a few days, but it has been a sort of rough break.  We're going through some stuff in my extended family that I can't talk about, but is taxing us all. E has been throwing up for the last two days at random times, so I feel housebound even though I have errands to run.  We've had snow and record lows all week.  
But there have been so many good things. Even though she's "sick", E seems to feel normal and is her chipper self between bouts of vomit, and she's even learned to throw up right into her little toilet. (So sad.)  She is potty training, entirely by her own direction, and doing a great job.   Even though it's been cold, the sun has been shining.  And for everything we've gone through as a family, we're able to laugh and be in the moment because we all recognize how much it heals us.  There have been times this week that I needed to use my relaxation techniques to keep from panicking, and I am so thankful to have them. 

I've been reading some great stuff on the web, too.

I love this post called I Was a Bad Mama Today. It very authentically takes the reader through the emotional roller-coaster of being a parent who cares. As Megan Nathanson said in this post about a tough day, "Although I do not wish to invite more experiences like this one, I do see that if we as mothers never failed, our children would never have the opportunity to learn about apology and forgiveness."

I've been using activated charcoal to whiten my teeth and it's working!

The next time I can't think of anything for dinner, I'm going to try this egg drop soup.  Maybe we'll have these bananas for dessert. 

My sweet friend and neighbor Karrey wrote about her pumping routine on her blog and gave a shoutout to my lactation cookies. Thanks, Karrey! Yay, boobs!

Lastly, do you read the Writer's Almanac?  I read it most days, but sometimes skip it.  My husband sent this one to me and called it funny but a bit sad.  I saw what he was saying, but I honestly find the poem to be hopeful. It's easy to find sadness and disappointment in finding that our expectations don't meet our reality, but true self reflection can lead to growth. I'm trying to be more honest with myself, and that means sometimes seeing myself as I truly am, not as I want to be.  This poem is good for this time in my life, and for this time of year. 

The Sometime Sportsman Greets the Spring
By John Updike

When winter's glaze is lifted from the greens,

And cups are freshly cut, and birdies sing,
Triumphantly the stifled golfer preens
In cleats and slacks once more, and checks his swing.

This year, he vows, his head will steady be,

His weight-shift smooth, his grip and stance ideal;
And so they are, until upon the tee
Befall the old contortions of the real.

So, too, the tennis-player, torpid from

Hibernal months of television sports,
Perfects his serve and feels his knees become
Sheer muscle in their unaccustomed shorts.

Right arm relaxed, the left controls the toss,

Which shall be high, so that the racket face
Shall at a certain angle sweep across
The floated sphere with gutty strings--an ace!

The mind's eye sees it all until upon

The courts of life the faulty way we played
In other summers rolls back with the sun.
Hope springs eternally, but spring hopes fade.

It's Simple Lives Thursday. Won't you have a look around?
Please link up and check out the featured posts and the host blogs!

 1. Vinegar Uses for the Garden by Jo's Health Corner. "I think one of the best things to have at home is vinegar since it has so many uses."
 2. And the breakfast award goes to... by The Distracted Housewife. "Pear Crisp. Yes, for breakfast." Image (356a)
 3. A Housekeeping Plan in 1907 by The Farmer's Wife Quilt. "The routine, which can easily be followed by the average housekeeper, will result in a well kept, orderly home, and leave the afternoons free for sewing, mending, shopping, visiting, reading and resting. The care of little children will, however, often overturn all plans, and the housewife must then just do the best she can."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dancin', Coconut Oil Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups, and Simple Lives

Have you ever suddenly gotten a glimpse of your life through someone else's eyes?
 E's grandpa gave her this silly cd for Christmas called Dance, Baby, Dance! and it cracks me UP. It's basically techno versions of your favorite kids songs, from Old McDonald to Twinkle Twinkle. (yes, techno Twinkle Twinkle. Please click over to Amazon and listen to some of the previews)  When we first put it in the cd player, we were all sort of stunned. It's pretty intense (but surprisingly well done) techno dance music with familiar melodies and funny sounds like barking dogs and giggling children weaved throughout. Over time, it's become the only music E really likes to listen to in the car. Instead of dreading it, we've embraced it started making our morning and afternoon commute into a dance party.  We fist pump, clap, wiggle back and forth, and SIIIIIIING for the 10 minutes we're in the car each trip.  It has become a fun ritual for starting and ending the day outside of the house and she's pretty insistent that we all dance when we're in the car.
This morning I was driving her to daycare alone because my husband is sick. He usually sits in the back with her so they can interact but today she was alone, so the major clapping and dancing responsibilities were left to me.  At a stop light, I really hammed up the clapping that is so good on Hush Little Baby, watching her join me in her kiddo mirror. (Yes, we have one. Yes, I know they're not super-safe.) The light changed and I checked my rear-view mirror and noticed that the driver and passenger of the car behind me were laughing and grinning ear to ear watching me put on a show for E.  At first, I was honestly flushed with embarrassment, because the techno (seriously, it's techno, have I said that enough?) is bassy and E insists that it be turned up, so the car was probably shaking in that obnoxious way that they do, and I was making a total fool of myself with these huge exaggerated claps in my mittens, waving side to side like a crazy person.  But then I saw what they must have seen: a mama having so much fun with her little one. And then I teared up and smiled the rest of the short ride to daycare.  In just a few years, she might think this cd is stupid and so is dancing with mom. At the very least, she'll probably never love it again as much as she loves it now. Someday, when she's 25, I'll pop in this cd and be transported back to this moment, in the way that only music and smells really can.  This music feels so modern now.  What will popular music sound like then?
To me, this is what mindful parenting is all about. Finding moments in your normal routine to just sit back and reflect, to see that these everyday details are what make up our lives, and that they're passing. I have a new appreciation for the joy this music brings to her. I have renewed my amazement at the fact that she has clear desires and can communicate them to me.  I feel so lucky to share this silly little thing with her, and I am so thankful to those smiling people for helping remind me of that. It's so easy as a parent to resent the drudgery and work of parenting, and I know E's fascination with repetition is just beginning.  (In this special, Louis CK describes parenting as "so boring", and we haven't reached that point, but I still so much appreciate his humor, especially about parenting.  I watched on Netflix.  This clip about children asking why is spot on, as is this one about the difference between boys and girls. Don't watch if you're easily offended, though.)
I'm trying to enjoy the last few moments of this winter, too. It is so easy to wish winter away, especially with all the snow we've gotten, but I hate to see time pass. Unlike summer tomatoes and peaches, it can be hard to find things to be excited about in the winter kitchen but we're getting by.
I recently ordered about 40 pounds of citrus from California through a friend and we've been eating these mandarins and grapefruits non-stop. I don't think I've ever consumed so much grapefruit in my life and I still can't get enough.
Hot tea and oranges almost every afternoon. Hibiscus tea is the most beautiful.
I supremed some of the fruit and mixed the juices with lime juice, honey, and basil.
 I think the compost heap is about 80% citrus. (This is so gross but that's what March compost looks like, ok?) The other 20% might be coffee grounds.
E and I have been sharing smoothies a lot recently. They're fun to make since she loves pushing the button on the blender and it's an easy way to get lots of fruit and vegetables in her diet.  We have been drizzling coconut oil on top until it solidifies for a crunchy topping. She always eats hers first and asks for more, so I get to share.
(Dear Vitamix, send me a blender. Love, Alicia)
I've been having the smoothies with fried eggs over this toast. So good.
We've also been making some very special treats out of coconut oil. The recipe is from Lisa at Thrive Style and is so good that I have to force myself to hold back from reaching into the freezer for another one (or two...or three) after dinner.  I can't recommend them enough to you because they taste just as good as conventional candy and are so easy to make. It'd be great to let the kiddos help you with this one.

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups
from Thrive Style

4 tbsp. coconut oil, melted and divided in half. (use organic cold pressed)
8 tbsp. peanut butter, divided in half.
2-4 tsp. maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
You're going to mix and compose the cups in two layers.  First, mix half the coconut oil and peanut butter with 1-2 tsp. of sweetener. Taste to be sure it's sweet enough for you.  You can warm your coconut oil  in the glass jar in a pan of warm water on the stove. I mix in a Pyrex measuring cup so it's easy to pour.
It should be smooth and pourable.
Pour this mix into a lined mini-muffin tin, filling each cup halfway.  I haven't tried it without the liners but it could work.
Stick the pan in the freezer and be sure it sits flat. Then prepare the next layer. Do the exact same thing, but this time add 1/4 c. of your favorite cocoa powder. I used a dark chocolate cocoa powder. If you're really good you'll use something raw and unprocessed.

Share. Make a mess. Lick the spoon.
Pull the cups out of the freezer. The coconut oil sets up very quickly.  
 Pour the chocolate layer directly on top of the peanut butter one.
Pop 'em back in the freezer. 
Once they're set up, peel off the paper and eat. 
They're soft enough to eat directly from the freezer but are softer kept in the fridge. The oil will melt at a low temp so don't plan to have them sitting out for long. They are SO good.
Are you enjoying the last few moments of winter? Or are you more than ready to see it go?  Tell me all about it, and stay warm.
Please link up for Simple Lives Thursday and check out the featured posts and the host blogs!

 1. Shamrock Shake Season by WHOLEmade. "There is nothing but wholesome stuff here- and even the minty green color is naturally made by the ingredients (no food coloring here!)." News2
 2. Quick Tip, Less Weeding and Save Water by The Redeemed Gardener. "Here is a quick way to conserve water, keep down unwanted grass and weeds in your garden and it doesn't cost too much" Orange-Cream-Layered-Jigglers-1024x682
 3. Orange-Cream Layered Jigglers by Girl Meets Nourishment. "I LOVED creamsicles growing up. I worked in an ice cream parlor for summer jobs in high school and I would make creamsicle frappes with orange soda and rich vanilla ice cream. These little jigglers are better than candy, they truly are like mini-creamsicles in your mouth."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

An Easy DIY No-Sew Montessori Placement and Simple Lives

I have a coffee mug at work. It's huge and says "World's Best Teacher" in IPA. I drink coffee from it every day, usually multiple small cups throughout the morning.  After Ellie was born, I took 10 weeks off from work.  When I returned, I felt like a completely different person. I knew that my brain had changed, in a very literal sense, and that everything about me felt different. Coffee meant more to me than ever when I returned.  I'd gotten used to drinking much less during pregnancy but that cup was a vital symbol of the start of the day at a time when the line between day at night was a little blurry.  My work cup of coffee marked my entrance to the office, as Alicia the Employee. But the strangest thing happened when I returned to work after those 10 weeks;  I looked into the cabinet full of coffee mugs and didn't recognize mine.  I paused there for a few moments and thought hard about something that had been so completely automatic for me just a few weeks before. I finally recognized it and poured my cup, but frankly I was a little rattled. What else had I forgotten?  By building new connections in my brain for Ellie, how she smelled and moved, the easiest way to get socks onto those little feet, how her breathing changed right before she woke up, and all the subtle details that go into taking care of an infant, I'd lost some connections, or at least weakened them.

Like all children do at some point, Elle hit a language burst around 14 months when she suddenly realized that everything has a name and she wanted to know it. She started learning new things so quickly. She would literally wake up from a nap and know something that she didn't know before she fell asleep. She's still going through this insane period of rapid growth and I hope it never stops.  When it first started, I was just blown away. When you're a first-time parent, every minute thing your child does is incredible. When you meet them, their sighs and sneezes are better than any concert or television show you've ever seen. The first laughs send you into tears. By the time they're taking their first steps, things feel like they're moving too quickly. You barely have time to enjoy one development before it's gone and the next one begins.  And when they start talking, it's pretty much the most incredible thing ever because you're finally gaining access into their brains. I work in language, so when those first words came, I marveled. (Her first word, by the way, was "wow!" which is so perfect that I don't have words to describe it.) I remember holding her and nursing her to sleep when this phase had just started. I recalled the earliest days when I'd hold her on my belly and try to imagine her inside me, barely able to understand that somehow she'd once lived in my body.  I wondered if she remembered what it was like to be in the womb. I felt a pang of sadness as she nursed because I knew that all these new words and ideas would push out those memories of being a part of me, and that one day she might not remember nursing at all, either.

Every night, she goes to sleep as one person and wakes up a different one the next. Every day she becomes someone new, and leaves the old behind. I realized this, and a few moments later realized that the very same is true of me.

I've been thinking a lot about the things I've left behind to become a good mother. I am lucky to be naturally good at living in the moment, and things right now are so good, but it's hard for me to let go of looking back and forward. I'm trying my best to let go of the past and not worry about the future. It's difficult. It's one lesson that parenting has brought to me in a way that nothing else ever has.
I try to remember what our nightly routines looked like before Ellie was born, or even before we had a dog. Now, our routine is somewhat strict, which I sometimes resent but mostly love. It's hard to imagine life any other way.

One of the most important parts of our routine is meal time. It's important to me that we sit down for dinner and we do every night. In the Montessori style of child-rearing, routine is incredibly important and children are expected to take part in family routines as quickly as possible. We've tried to incorporate some of this philosophy into our kitchen by giving Ellie her own space.
Here's Ellie's kitchen area:
Would you believe me if I told you I thrifted the kitchen for $5?  
When she was younger, we filled the cabinets with her plastic dish ware but it just wasn't working. She'd just pull everything out and throw it all over the room.  
Now this is what it looks like: (most of the time)
One plate. One bowl. One cup. One pitcher.  (All glass/ceramic.)  And this set of toddler silverware in her pitcher. There are also a couple towels in case of spills, which pretty much always happen.
We try to get her dishes out of this cabinet before each meal, but honestly it doesn't always happen.  At this point, the important part for me is that she has a small portion on her plate and she eats with silverware. Often she puts her own food on her plate. She always pours her own water from the pitcher to the cup.  We've been working on this water station lately:
She really loves to drink water so I like having it available to her at all times, and opening and closing the spigot is great for practicing fine motor skills.  Yes, we still have lots of spilling, but almost no playing, which is a big development.

When we finally bought her flatware I wanted to try a Montessori-style placemat for her. It models the basic place setting.  I like to sew but wanted to throw one together quickly and am pretty happy with how this one came out.  **I have only spot-cleaned the placemat. I'm not sure it'd make it through the washing machine intact.**
Here's what you'll need to make your own placemat:

Here's a closeup of the Wonder Under label front
and back
You'll first iron it on to the colored fabric and then iron that directly on to the placemat.  

Begin by putting all the dishes on the Wonder Under.  You just need enough to cover the bottom of the plate and glass and around each of the pieces of silverware.  Just cut a big rectangle. No need to be exact. You'll iron this rectangle onto the colored fabric and use that to cut out the shapes.
Iron the full rectangle on to the colored fabric.
Outline the dishes with a marker on the Wonder Under.  Cut everything out. 
Peel the Wonder Under off the pieces. The fabric will feel sticky.  
Position them on the placemat.  Put down a damp towel between the fabric and the iron so that the hot iron doesn't overheat the Wonder Under. Iron and press firmly.  
Done. You can run a cooler iron over the pieces just to finish up if you'd like.  
This would be a good activity for older kiddos to help with.  
Ellie still doesn't get how to put all her pieces in their places, but I think reinforcing it at every meal will help her get it soon.  
Have you ever used a Montessori placemat, or any other Montessori techniques with your tots?  I'm finally reading The Absorbent Mind and it's remarkable how much she got right that psychology has since proven.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Finally, it's Simple Lives Thursday!  Please grab the badge from my blog or another hosting blog:

 link up, and have a look around.  
 1. Homemade Zucchini Bar Recipe by Our Heavenly Homestead. "If you are anything like me, you are still trying to use up the numerous bags in the freezer of shredded zucchini from the last couple of seasons. If not you can just buy a couple and still make this amazing dessert." DSC01855-001-300x225
 2. DIY Baby Legwarmers by Purposefully Simple. "A while back I found a tutorial (or two) floating around Pinterest for DIY baby legwarmers and I thought they were super cute and functional (no need to take them off for diaper changes!) so I've been on the look out for discounted knee socks so I could make some."
 3. Making a Rainbow Cake with All Natural Food Coloring Review-Does it Work? by Green Idea Reviews. "Colored baked goods to suit your fancy is a fun way to express yourself in the kitchen. But the artificial dyes used to do this are generally chemicals that have a shady history and are hazardous to your health."
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