Sunday, August 16, 2015

Baby J is turning two

Arrested for cuteness.
I don't know if I should still be calling him Baby J, since he turns two next month, but a Mama's gotta hold onto the baby stage as long as possible. Especially when this is her last bubba.

With the girls, I tried to record some of their developments from this stage of life, so it's high time I did the same for baby J. Just because he's the third child doesn't mean he has to miss out on all records and photos of his life.

1. Words and sayings
The Three Amigos pulling funny faces.
This lil guy has SO many words and sayings, it's impossible to record them all here. Since about 21 months, he's been giving any word a go, and often surprisingly accurately, so his vocabulary has sky rocketed. Here are some of his more common words and phrases:
  • "Thomas pooter" - means he wants to watch Thomas the Tank Engine on the computer. Duh.
  • "Batman there!" - said whenever he sees Batman, Darth Vader, or a man wearing a motorcycle helmet. Our car has also become the "Batman car", because of its dark colour.
  • 'Nono" is Noddy, who J loves to watch on TV, read books about at creche, build houses for out of Duplo and draw pictures of.
  • "This my Mummy!" - if Mummy is giving too many cuddles to the sisters or holding another baby.
  • "My, mine, mys" - talking about himself and his things, obv.
  • "Meow" - all cats are "Meows" to J, who corrects anyone that dares call them a cat.
  • "Pease" Please - used at all the right times. This week I got a lot of, "Cuddle pease?" as J was feeling so sick with a vomiting bug and just wanted his Mummy to hold him. 
  • "Hungy" - Hungry (this was a heartbreaker this week, as he kept on throwing up and then complaining that he was "hungy".
  • "Tank ooh" - Thank you
  • "Dat one dere" - That one there.
  • "No! Smith pop pop." - blaming farts on his cousin when I ask J if he has filled his pants.
  • "Yay!" - said whenever Mummy agrees to one of his requests.
  • "Where's the remote Mummy?" - because it's time to put Thomas on. 

2. Developments
  • Bed - J went into a big boy bed a couple of months ago and is loving it. It's a King Single, so big enough for Mummy or Daddy (usually Mummy) to lie down next to him as he drifts off to sleep. This is something he always requests, saying "Mummy piyo" as he pats the pillow next to his where he wants Mummy to lie.
  • No more naps - J dropped his daytime sleep at 21 months - just didn't need them anymore. I tried to fight it, but gave up when I realised he wasn't going to budge and it made night-time sleep so easy to achieve.
  • Toilet training - We are in the very early stages of this and won't embark properly until the weather warms up, but J has practised climbing up onto the toilet and can sit himself on it without help. When the weather warms up, he will go around with nappy and pants off at home so he can start connecting the dots between a full bladder and toileting. 

3. Interests
  • Toys - J loves building with Lego or Duplo, and he's just discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, so chances are he'll be getting some of that for his 2nd Birthday. He calls all trains "Thomas" and corrects anyone who tries to correct him. J loves to sleep with soft toys, and has lots of teddies and furry animals in his bed with him. 
  • TV - J discovered the TV a couple of months ago, and now wakes up every morning wanting to watch Thomas, Noddy or Postman Pat. It's been a godsend this week, as all three children have had the vomiting bug, but I'll be glad when everyone is better and we can get out and about again.
  • Swimming - although he hasn't done any official swimming lessons, J has been watching his sisters' lessons for the last year and picked up quite a lot. In the bath he blows bubbles, kicks his little feet and happily floats on his back. We went to a pool party recently and J swam in the pool with Paul, but kept pushing Paul's hands away because he wanted to swim on his own. He had lots of fun jumping off the edge and into the water, going under every time with no worries or fear, before Paul lifted him back up.
  • Painting - I've set up a painting area in our garage, which J absolutely loves. 
  • Drawing - J draws these amazingly detailed pictures, with lots of circles and small shapes completely covering his page. He also likes to draw on walls, which I'm always trying to prevent. We have to keep pens out of his reach, because they are impossible to get off the wall. Everything else comes out with Jif, thank goodness.
  • Reading - J loves to look through books by himself, but doesn't often let me read them to him. He's more likely to let Daddy read them, and they look so sweet reading together.
  • Playgrounds - J loves the adventure playgrounds at his big sister's school, and will happily climb ladders, walk the rope bridge and wobbly bridge, and slide down the slides.

4. Personality
J learns by watching and imitating others. It is amazing how observant he is, and the things he has already picked up. It makes him really helpful because he copies me and knows to put rubbish in the bin ("bim" he calls it), put his dishes on the bench and his toys in the toy baskets.

This boy of mine is super sweet, helpful, cuddly, funny and delightful. I woudn't change him for the world. Happy (almost) Birthday baby J. We love you to the moon and back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Vanilla smoothie recipe


This vanilla smoothie is my childrens' absolute favourite flavour.

They request it nine times out of ten and always guzzle it down. It's really a banana smoothie with vanilla flavours, but if I call it banana, my kids don't want it as much.

I like to make a big amount so all three kids all have a full cup, and I can use the leftovers to make ice blocks and smoothie pouches in these nifty Kai Carriers for lunch box fillers.

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas, fresh or frozen (frozen will result in a thicker, creamier smoothie)
  • 1c vanilla or greek yoghurt
  • 1/4c milk kefir, optional
  • 1/4c pouring cream
  • 1-2c water or almond milk
  • 3T vanilla protein powder 
  • 1t vanilla essence


Method

Cut bananas into thirds and place in a blender with all the other ingredients. Whiz on high speed until smooth.

Serve immediately.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Embracing my space

Last year I bought three wooden planter boxes after getting inspired by Janet Luke's gardening book, Embrace Your Space. The boxes grew me a lovely assortment of vegetables for many months, but when I tried to replace the dead plants with new ones, my wee boy thought it was so he would have something to dig up with his nifty green space.

I planted more seedlings, and he raced to dig them out too. What a fun game. (I was crying on the inside.)

I gave up and left the boxes sitting empty for several months.

Then a couple of months back I found some King Seeds packets in my garage that I had bought at the same time as the planter boxes. I already had them so I though I may as well sprinkle them into the boxes and see if any plants would take hold before the boy pulled them out.

And now I have this... the best crop of coriander I've ever grown, with some carrots coming through underneath.


I've been enjoying the most beautiful salads this week, with freshly picked coriander packing a flavour punch. And tonight we had a gorgeous Thai Beef Stir-fry featuring more coriander from my garden. It might not seem like much of a garden, but it has helped me reconnect with my earthy side, which has been sadly neglected this past year. And it's reminded me just how much I love growing and eating my own food.

In one of the other planter boxes I've got a thriving self-seeded Italian parsley, which was just such a lovely surprise.


The parsley featured in a recent Moroccan Chickpea Salad I made, following the divine Revive Cafe recipe. I am so addicted to this salad. I also threw some coriander into it, just because I could.

How are your gardens growing?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Low-carb, gluten-free coconut wraps


OK, before you get your hopes up, this is not a coconut wrap recipe (although it would be super cool if anyone has one they want to share in the comments below).

This is just a review of a great product I found at Food Compass that I thought might interest some of my gluten-free, low-carb, Trim Healthy Mama friends out there.

The product is called Pure Wraps and it's a pack of four small tortillas/wraps made out of coconut meal and sea salt.

If you can see in the photo above, I filled mine with basil pesto, tuna, cottage cheese, cucumber and tomato.

That's a pretty wet mixture, which would usually turn my tortilla or mountain bread wrap into a soggy mess, but the cool thing about these Pure Wraps is that they are almost glossy, so the liquid doesn't penetrate. The Pure Wraps hold up really well and are beautifully pliable.

They do have a slight coconut flavour, understandably, but I didn't find it interfering with the taste of the wrap filling. I more noticed it in the smell and as a coconutty aftertaste.

The only improvement I would suggest to the manufacturers is to increase the wrap size, as they are a little on the small side.

Have you come across Pure Wraps before? What did you think of them?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dark chocolate brownie - a grain-free recipe


I've discovered a wonderful NZ online provider of specialty health foods, called Food Compass.

If you're having trouble tracking down specialty ingredients for a recipe, try your luck at Food Compass. You can shop the specials or new arrivals, and you can even filter your searches to make them gluten-free, paleo, nut-free, etc, depending on your dietary requirements.

Food Compass recently sent me a box of goodies to experiment with, so the following is the recipe I came up with. It's an airy, grain-free, dark chocolate brownie that could also work as a gluten-free cake if baked in a cake tin.

If you're after a denser chocolate brownie, try adding 1/2 cup - 1 cup of dark chocolate chunks, although this would increase the sugar content, which I've kept low by using dates and coconut nectar instead of sugar to sweeten.

*Update, the brownie does become denser as it cools. I think it's even nicer after 24 hours.

Ingredients

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
  2. Place dates, water, cocoa butter, coconut nectar and vanilla essence in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the dates have softened enough to mash and the cocoa butter has melted.
  3. Tip contents from saucepan into a food processor and whiz on high speed until smooth.
  4. Add cocoa powder, almond flour and baking soda to the food processor and mix on a medium speed until incorporated.
  5. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing after each addition until incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into a greased baking dish and spread to edges.
  7. Bake at 180°C / 350°F for 18 - 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Slice into rectangles and serve warm or cold with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or Greek yoghurt. 

This recipe makes 15 pieces and freezes well. It's a perfect Thermomix recipe, as the dates and cocoa butter can be melted directly in the Thermomix bowl, saving on dishes.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On saying goodbye to chocolate


Two months ago I said goodbye to chocolate.

It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Chocolate has been my best friend for as long as I can remember, yet it was a friend with an edge.

I was addicted to it, and my addiction was getting worse. I couldn't eat a piece without immediately wanting another, and then another, and another.

No amount of chocolate ever satisfied my craving for it, and I realised no amount ever would.

I despaired over my chocolate addiction until it finally dawned on me that I could just cut it out all together.

Since no amount of chocolate would satisfy me, I realised I could be just as unsatisfied with none as with a whole block.

I may as well eat the none, and be better off for it. So the next time I did the grocery shopping, I skipped the chocolate aisle. Paul didn't think I could really restrain myself, so he was just as surprised as I was when I came home with all the groceries and no chocolate.

The first three weeks without chocolate were hard! Really, really hard.

I was depressed. Life wasn't worth living anymore since I couldn't have my favourite thing in it.

I was depressed and didn't have my favourite thing to comfort me.

I felt lonely and worthless and pointless and pathetic. Unloved and unloveable.

This amazing whirlpool of emotions came to the surface - emotions that I had been previously burying under chocolate. I didn't know what to do with them all; with myself.

Fortunately, in my darkest hour I was blessed with a conversation with one of my oldest, dearest friends, who also happens to be a counselor. She let me talk and cry (in the middle of a cafe), while I tried to figure out what was going on with me.

She gave me wise counsel, including the words, "Be gentle with yourself. When you feel yourself heading down a path of self torment, just remember to be gentle with yourself."

She also encouraged me with the idea that there are support networks out there. That change is possible. That life can be better.

I think she gave me hope.

I've dwelled on our conversation a lot over the past few weeks and it has helped me to change my mindset about myself and life.

And as the weeks have passed, I've found that I don't miss chocolate anymore. I can walk past it in the supermarket without batting an eye. It has lost its hold on me, for the moment at least.

Still, I am aware that chocolate is to me what alcohol is to an alcoholic. I understand that I will always have to keep it out of my home and my life if I am going to live any kind of sane life.

Now that I'm living without chocolate, I realise that this is a better way to live.

Mentally, I think I'm stabilising. When I feel an emotion now, I try to think through where it's coming from, what's causing it, and whether it is based on the truth or a lie. There's no running from the pain anymore, so I've just got to tackle it head on. And I am. And I can! Who knew?

I also feel less hungry for food in general now. I use to crave any kind of sugar like crazy in the evening, but now I find that I'm so full from dinner, I don't need anything else until morning.

Physically I have more energy and am unleashing that energy in constructive ways, like exercising and cleaning.

In general I feel empowered by the fact that I could do it. I could say goodbye to something that had held me in its tight fist my entire life. I had the willpower. Me! The weakest of the weak.

What else am I capable of?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The journey from unschooling to school

Playing at Auckland Zoo.
A while back I mentioned that I was captivated by the idea of unschooling and was planning to test how it went with L.

L turned five in September last year, which is the age that most Kiwi kids start school. By that time, we had been playing around with the idea of unschooling for most of a year and knew that there were upsides to doing it for a little bit longer, but that ultimately L would be better off in school.

In New Zealand, children are eligible for 20 hours of free preschool education until they are six-years-old, which is a big part of the reason why we delayed starting L at school when she turned five.

We were able to continue L at her excellent preschool for three days a week, which gave her access to friends, arts and crafts, toys and other teaching resources. It also left us with two week days to go on family adventures and do activities like gymnastics and swimming.

I loved the freedom and flexibility we had with this approach. We could go on family holidays whenever they suited our family, rather than waiting for school holidays. If it was a nice day, we could head to the beach or the zoo. It was a lovely, relaxed time for our family.

However, I came to realise that I am not passionate about teaching, so L was going to miss out on learning if I kept her at home for much longer.

I think to do unschooling well, you need to be able to prioritise it above other things. But for me, housework and cooking always come first.

I find it hard to sit down and read stories,  play games or do puzzles with the kids when the house is a mess. And with kids home all day, the house is always a mess. The three days when L and S were at preschool were my sanity days, as they gave me time to properly clean the house and get a bit of breathing space in my day.

Being a 50/50 introvert/extrovert, I need alone time to recharge my batteries. So having kids around all the time is incredibly draining for me. Once L turns six, those three pre-school days come to an end and I would never get that much-needed down-time.

I also realised that I didn't want to be the only/biggest teaching influence in L's life. I see L one way - through my eyes. And often my insights into her are wrapped up in how I see myself, how I think she reflects on me as a parent, how I was parented, etc, and those aren't always good things. I don't want to unconsciously damage or limit L by my own preconceived notions.

I like the idea of her being mentored and taught by a variety of different teachers throughout her school life. Teachers who are passionate about teaching, who know how to teach, and who will not take things so personally when they go right or wrong.

For all these reasons, we enrolled L to start school at the beginning of this year. We decided it would be beneficial for her to have a full Year 1 (instead of waiting till she was six and starting her in Term 3). This gives her a full year with the same teacher and classmates.

The first couple of weeks were a shock to the system for L, as she realised her play-time would be severely limited at school.

Now, however, she is into the groove of it. She knows what the routines are, what's expected of her, and she has made some lovely friends. Her teacher is fabulous - incredibly on-to-it and passionate about teaching.

Already L is bringing home so much knowledge, and it's nice for me to know that there is a system and logic to the way L is being taught. It's not higglety pigglety bits of learning here and there like she would get at home with me, but learning that builds on itself and makes sense to L.

We had parent/teacher interviews recently and L's teacher told me L is the type of girl who is made for school, and school is made for her. She asks great questions, participates well in group activities, manages herself and her belongings well, and is engaged in her learning.

That was a lovely reassurance to me that we have made the right decision by sending L to school instead of keeping her at home.