Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Gluten Free Thanksgiving

I like to think we would make an effort for one person in the family, but since there are five people in my family who eat gluten free, our Thanksgiving dinner was planned so almost everything was gluten free or had an alternative.

Here's how it went down:

Turkey: Used gluten free flour to coat the turkey bag.

Mashed Potatoes: Naturally gluten free.

Gravy: Used gluten free flour or cornstarch as a thickener. Not sure which since I didn't make it, but there are options.

Stuffing: Obviously gluten. There was discussion of making a gluten free one, but most of the gluten free eaters didn't even like stuffing anyway.

Cranberry Sauce: Naturally gluten free.

Sweet Potatoes: Naturally gluten free.

Green Beans: Skipped the traditional creamy sauce w/ french fried onion topping. I wrapped them in bacon and drizzled them with a sweetened garlic soy sauce. I used my sister's soy sauce because many soy sauces have gluten in them. My 11 month old ate the green beans like candy, and even my brother who never eats green beans tried them because they came with bacon.

Veggie Tray: Naturally gluten free. The ranch dip had to be checked to be sure it was gluten free, and for me it was egg free too.

Rolls: Someone made gluten free rolls. A few others brought store bought gluten rolls. If I'd been at home, I'd have made some rolls, but I didn't want to spread gluten flour around my sister's gluten free kitchen. There were separate butters and jams for each and the gluten and gluten free rolls were put on opposites sides of the table.

Pies: Gluten free pies were made. Gluten pies were mostly bought (with one apple pie being made from a store bought crust). There were separate whipped creams and were put on the opposite ends of the tables like the rolls.

All of this planning satisfied my love of organizing things. And I even got to make little labels to keep things clear and separated.

Some might think that this is a lot of work, but even my  limited understanding of celiac disease and gluten intolerance tells me that even if we all had to eat gluten free rolls and pies, it would be worth it. My sister has written a great piece about what it means to have her husband and son eat gluten free (which I'd love to post here, hint, hint). The risks are not worth the possibility of a crumb of contamination. Plus we all ate good food and stuffed ourselves silly without having any component of Thanksgiving dinner that was important to us left out. And isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about? Oh, family was there too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Unexpected Breastfeeding Benefit

We all know that there are benefits to breastfeeding. The most important to me have been cost, convenience, and the relationship it has fostered with me and my babies.

Health is certainly a factor. No formula can replace breastmilk. But a benefit I didn't encounter with my first has just come up with my second.

Last week while out of town for Thanksgiving, pretty much everyone we knew got a nasty stomach bug. People had vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, or all three. I hoped my 11 month old would be spared. She wasn't, but she did not seem as sick as many others. She threw up twice--but only when she ate solid food. She has kept breastmilk down 100% of the time.

So I've kept her on only breastmilk for the last 24 hours. She hasn't thrown up again and has received plenty of nourishment and hydration.

Two weeks ago I was seriously considering weaning because she was biting me so hard, now I'm glad I didn't. Plus in that time she learned the sign for milk and has never bitten me when she requests it so obviously with sign language.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Thankful Thanksgiving

I'm excited for Christmas. But even while the Christmas music plays, I'm trying to remember Thanksgiving and all the things I'm thankful for. We watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and as much as I've tried to talk to my daughter about what Thanksgiving means, all she comes up with when I ask her about it is that we get to eat pumpkin pie. Which is an awesome part about Thanksgiving.

This year we made Thankful Trees. Ivy, Mommy, and Daddy each got a tree to put leaves on of things we are thankful for.

Ivy's first thing she was thankful for was Jesus, then Daddy, then Noelle, then Mommy. She repeated those things every new time I asked her what she wanted to put on her tree. After I pointed out that we had them up there, she started naming grandmas and grandpa and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends. I put cousins on one leaf because we didn't have enough space to name them all individually.

Some of the things I wrote that I was thankful for had to do with what happened that day. Playgroup was playgroup day. Our washer and dryer was on the day when our washer was leaking and I didn't have a washer for a couple of days. Husband and children and family are obvious ones, but they are what I think of first and what I am most grateful for.

Since Daddy works long hours, he had a harder time keeping up with our trees, but he busted out a whole bunch of them one day and Ivy helped him glue them on. Which is the best part of any project for Ivy, the gluing.

What are you thankful for this year? What are you doing to stop and remember all you have to be thankful for?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gentler Discipline

Discipline is a sensitive topic. I've heard people from my parents' and my own generation take pride in the fact that they yell at, constantly put in time out, and even spank their kids.

I don't have the answers for everyone, but I do know that when I yell or react in anger, I don't feel good. Forget about whether or not it's effective, I feel like crap. I also know that Christ and church leaders that I admire would not advocate anything but gentleness, kindness, and love to our children. This doesn't mean no discipline.

I was talking with my sister last week (who is a model for patience and kindness in her parenting to me). After a long discussion, I had an epiphany. I talked about how my daughter completely shuts down when she hears loud noises. We were trying to get in the car while the neighbor was running a chain saw and she covered her ears and froze and couldn't follow simple directions to get in the car without help. So why do I think that yelling at her is going to be effective discipline? All I do is scare her and cause her to shut down.

Another common discipline method is the time out. We have used time out a lot. But I don't think it's been effective most of the time. My daughter is terrified of being left alone and abandoned. So why exactly are we leaving her alone in a corner for every little infraction? Even if she starts obeying, it's out of fear, not because she understands why she should or shouldn't do whatever she was sent in time out for. I am a fan of natural consequences. It takes more time and thought, but in the long run, I feel it is a lot more effective. And when she has to navigate this world as an adult, no one is going to send her to time out, but there will be plenty of natural consequences for her actions.

It will change with age and time, and may even be completely different for my second daughter, but right now this is what I'm trying to do with my firstborn.

- Instead of yelling, I get down to be level with her, hold onto the sides of her face, and calmly talk to her about her behavior. This always includes a why for the expected behavior, a consequence if the poor behavior continues, and an "I Love You" and a kiss on the head at the end. I noticed an immediate improvement when I started this.

- Yelling happens. But the only times that I feel it's okay is when she is doing something dangerous to her or others. There are times when I need to get her attention fast. But a calm explanation follows. (And since I've just started this, yelling happens at plenty of other times too, but I'm working on it.)

- Natural consequences are the most commonly used form of discipline. If she won't help clean up her toys, she won't get to play with those toys the next day. It's honestly hard to think of other examples off the top of my head because my daughter is usually a good girl. Another thing I need to remember.

- Time outs still happen. But usually only for blatant things like hitting. A time out can also be different for different kids. My mom used to send us to our room until she realized that we liked it. Then she started assigning extra chores instead. For kids who need to calm down more than anything, I've seen a time out held in a parent's lap. This wouldn't work for my daughter because as soon as she's in trouble, she wants to sit with me. A hug eventually comes, but a hug shouldn't be the first thing she gets after hitting her sister. That comes after a period of time spent sitting and then an apology to her sister. I also don't send her to her room or to a corner for time out. As I said before, I don't want to scare her. She sits on the cedar chest in the living room and waits for the timer to go off (3 minutes because she's 3) and then she can come talk about what she did.

- Another important thing for my daughter's personality is to not be disciplined in public. Public shaming is popular right now, and for some personalities might be appropriate. My daughter is a very private person like I am, so I understand her needs in this respect. She usually behaves very well in public, so that's not a huge issue. The issue comes when we are visiting or being visited by relatives. The solution to this is simple, we remove her from the main living space and take her into a bedroom to talk to her.

Here and here are two of many articles that have made me rethink my disciplining techniques and offer ideas for gentler discipline.

Any thoughts on disciplining children? What have you found that works? Does one size fit all in your family, or do you tailor it to the child?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Preschool: Families

The month of November is about gratitude in our home preschool. Last week's focus was on family. We drew a picture of our little family which my daughter identified as herself, Daddy, her sister, and with some prompting, Mommy too.

I stole the next idea from my sister and we made a stick figure family tree of my side of the family and another one for my husband's side. I did the drawing, but I asked Ivy who each aunt and uncle had married and who their kids were. She did pretty good. And I thought it was great timing for reviewing the members of our extended family because we're going to see them all the week of Thanksgiving.

This week's focus is on friends. And without planning it to coincide with this week, we actually have two playdates at our house. So we'll have lots of friend time and I'll probably talk to her about sharing and being nice and how we treat our friends in preparation for having so many people over.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Best Books

In another life and time I was an English major. I've been a big reader since I learned how to read. And though I don't have nearly as much time for it as I used to, reading is still a priority in my life. I don't often read the heavy literature of my college days anymore--I need escape more than intellectual stimulation (though I still need a bit of that too).

A friend recently asked for my top 25 book recommendations. I cheated a little because I listed only 20, but I counted series of books as one book. My personal list of best books is constantly in flux, but here it is. (I emphasized in American Lit in college, so it is better represented here than Brit Lit.)

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A favorite since I was very young. Probably too young to be reading something so dark.

2. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
A new favorite, but I was on the bandwagon from book one.

3. Matilda by Roald Dahl
As a bookish child, I naturally wanted to be Matilda. Though I didn't envy her parentage.

4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This book took me months to get through, but the ending moved me emotionally like few books ever have.

5. Poems by Emily Dickinson
Not a book exactly, but she is my favorite poet. I started reading her when I was young because we shared a first name. In college, I read her complete poems every summer.

6. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Holy the Firm is actually my favorite Dillard book, but this one is much more accessible. Think Walden Pond.

7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
I'm eventually going to read all of Faulkner's books. I got a good start by taking a Southern Gothic Lit class in college. He's amazing, but he's odd. He's definitely not for everyone.

8. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Modern fairytale telling at its best. Not her most popular book, but by far my favorite.

9. The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
I honestly enjoy reading these. Robert Fagles is my preferred translator.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
If you haven't read it, read it now. And watch the movie. And read it again.

11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I can't explain my obsession with this book, but I've read it at least once a year for the past 20 years.

12. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
My copies of these books fell apart because I read them so much. I now have a pretty hard bound illustrated version. And I read them aloud to my children. I think it's time to start again.

13. Beauty by Robin McKinley
I love retellings of Beauty and the Beast. Her Rose Daughter is my favorite. But Beauty is more mainstream and you can read it with your daughters.

14. Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor
Another Southern Gothic and so not for everyone. If you took an American Lit class you probably read A Good Man is Hard to Find

15. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
I read all of the Newbery books. This is another one that the ending has stuck with me for years.

16. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
If I had to pick one favorite novel (but please don't make me choose just one!), this would be it.

17. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I did not read these until this year. It was too popular for me to appreciate it right away. I actually liked reading them all one after another and was able to appreciate her storytelling abilities more than in the early days of the Potter craze.

18. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Everyone should read some Shakespeare. And it's not original of me, but Hamlet is my favorite.

19. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Another Newbery winner whose ending stuck with me a long time.

20. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Can you be an American without reading this book? If you only read it as assigned reading in high school, read it again. Twain is one of my favorite humorists.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Unexpectedly Creative

I've never thought of myself as very creative. I'm not artistic--even my stick drawings are pretty pitiful. I don't sew, I'm not good at interior decorating, and I've never been much of a crafter. I write, but I'm not a fiction writer.

But as I spend more time as a stay at home mom, I do more and more things that might be considered creative (if you leave traditional art expressions out of it). I like to try new recipes (hey, if you have to make and eat dinner every night, you might as well have fun with it). I've even gotten to the point where I not only tweak recipes, but I often even cook without a recipe at all. I scrapbook. Though my method feels more like organizing pictures, I am creating something for my daughters to see later.

And after talking to my mom last night about my daughters' Halloween costumes (pictured above), I realized that I am one of those moms who made their kids' costumes. Wait, what? So it's not elaborate and detailed and not a bit of it was sewn (Woodstock's costume was made by cutting out felt feathers and taping them with fabric fuse stuff to a onesie), but their costumes were homemade. And cost less than $5 each.

This made me think of a quote about creating something and how it makes us happy:

“Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter. … Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it. … Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether this voice comes from the outside or the inside.” - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Creating something, a happy (if messy) home, dinner, or whatever is part of what keeps me sane as I spend my days at home. I'm even making some homemade Christmas gifts. My ten years younger self wouldn't recognize me. But that's a good thing.