November 20, 2010

Write it down

I've been having a bit of a creative explosion lately. I have no idea how or why it is happening now, considering I don't get much sleep and feel like I can't even get done what NEEDS to be done, let alone anything extra. Nevertheless, I am currently reading three different books and have finished a few others in the last couple of weeks, and I have a few story ideas that are pretty fully formed in my head already. Now to write them out!

I hope to have some creatively written things to post soon. I'm really hoping to begin a new era of writing things down as soon as I have the smallest chance to do so, instead of waiting for a block of time and then never doing it. And then I hope to usher myself into a new era of having many completed writing projects under my belt, thus getting past some of my doubts and honing my skills at the same time. One step at time.

November 18, 2010

Gourmet Thursday

Italian Meatball Soup
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
1 small onion
2T tomato paste
4 garlic cloves (pressed)
1T Italian Seasoning (this calls for Pampered Chef mix, but I just used the spices I had on hand)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes in puree
2 C beef broth
1 1/2 C water
16 frozen cooked meatballs
salt and pepper
Croutons (optional)

-Peel carrots, chop carrots, onion and celery (with food chopper if you have one).
-Lightly spray 4quart casserole with oil. Add carrots, onion and celery. Cook over medium heat 4-5 minutes, or until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
-Push vegetables to one side of pan. Add tomato paste; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until paste begins to caramelize.
-Add pressed garlic and seasoning mix; mix well. Stir in tomatoes, broth and water; bring to a simmer.
-Cut meatballs in half and add to soup. Simmer 10-12 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with croutons, if desired.

I've made this twice, and it turned out a little different each time. This time I added too much tomato paste, so it was REALLY tomatoey. It's pretty tomatoey anyway, so if you don't like the taste, you probably won't like this. But it is nice and hot, and a sneaky way to get more vegetables into your meal!

November 12, 2010

In this corner...and in this corner

My kids are fighters. Not physically speaking (at least not yet, and hopefully never in a mean, angry way). But they know what they want and don't want and are very happy/eager/capable/willing to fight for it (or against it).

Some may say it is because they are boys. That may be part of it. I do find that on average girls seem a little more compliant, especially in the early years. But is certainly not an absolute truth. And, of course, there are boys who are very good listeners and very obedient.

Others may say they fight for things because they are very smart. As a mom who can't help but hope for children who are above average, I like to think this is true. My boys have both been a bit ahead developmentally and do seem particularly aware of the world and everything in it. They watch and notice everything, they don't like to sleep and miss out on any fun, they learn fast. S is still a baby, so there is a lot yet to discover with his personality and skills, but I have been surprised by how much he is like his brother.

My husband and I are not fighters. At least not in the same way most people are. We'll stand up for ourselves, others and our convictions. But we can't bring ourselves to hurt other people; we're very compassionate and able to see other points of view. Sometimes we second guess ourselves in an effort not to offend or hurt others.

That said, I do have a competitive and stubborn streak that comes in handy when needed. It came in handy when K went through a phase of fighting potty training, after doing really well for months. I kept at it and when I was finally about to give up and go back to pull-ups, my grandma said, "Sometimes you just have to let them win." That was the end of my giving up, the battle continued and I won! Children should have choices and be able to participate in their lives, but when it comes to some things they can't be allowed to bring you down and get their own way. There can be just too many repercussions when parents lose certain battles.

Sleep training is a battle. S is showing fighting skills I didn't know he had. K has always amazed us with his sleep evasion tactics.

Routines are a battle. I know this is because we have had a lot of changes in our lives and have not done well keeping up with certain rules and expectations. K has to know this and takes advantage of it. He will not pass up an opportunity to test and see if he can do something in a new way. We let him snack in the living room while playing or watching TV, then he wants all his meals there, then he wants to eat in his room, or outside. We let him nap in our bed to avoid a fight, then he decides all naps should be there, or he should be able to sleep on the floor, or the couch.

Strategy has to be formed here, and I'm working on it. I have to channel the good fighting instincts I have and suppress the bad. I want certain things for my family and myself, peace of mind and children who will be good people being two of the bigger ones.

The truth is that the hard way in life really is the better way. Good change can only come when you fight and struggle. Gold is refined by fire. God is constantly refining us, and as parents we have to constantly refine our children. Like it or not, it is the job we have been given. And I do want so much to see my little boys grow into strong, agreeable, thoughtful, polite, successful, godly men. So...

Let's get ready to rumble!

November 6, 2010

Sleep training

It was 2am, or some other ungodly middle of the night hour. I was standing over S's crib with my hand on his back while he cried, hoping to get him back to sleep quickly and hoping he didn't wake up his brother in the next room, when I had a horrifying flashback.

It was 2am, or some other ungodly middle of the night hour. I was standing over K's crib (the same one we use for S) with my hand on his back. I had been in that position for maybe an hour, leaning over the crib with my back aching, body totally exhausted from sleep deprivation, praying and praying that he would finally sleep. As he calmed, I slowly tried to remove my hand from his back, he stirred and started crying again immediately. I put my hand back and tried again in a few minutes, this time just letting up on the pressure at first, then slowly removing one finger at a time from his back. After performing this delicate act, I then had to navigate to the door and try to escape to my own room. Any creak of floor or door, trip over a forgotten toy, or other misstep could end all my hard work. I knew, because it had happened on many other occasions and would happen many more times.

With a jolt, I yanked my hand away from S and moved away from the crib. I WOULD NOT be repeating that life of insanity, a perpetual war of the wills to get my second child to sleep. Spending all night and day hoping for sleep, trying to deal with the crying and the crankiness and the neediness. I couldn't do it. I'm still suffering the effects of K's bad sleep habits and issues. At four, he still regularly wakes up at night, sometimes for hours at a time. I don't want two bad sleepers on my hands for the years to come.

Things seemed OK with S's sleeping habits at first. He napped pretty well, definitely for longer periods than his older brother ever did. Within a month or two, we were able to lay him down partially awake and he would fall asleep. He regularly slept for a 5 or 6 hour stretch at night, which was heavenly. But it all fell apart, for various reasons. It has continually gotten worse so that now at 6 months old, he sleeps worse than he did as a newborn and sometimes worse than K did.

When in doubt, get help. I found a book on sleep at the library: The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight. The author states in the beginning how we often make it seem like bad sleepers are bad kids, that there is something wrong with them. Yet, as parents we aren't doing much to actually teach them how to sleep. We assume (I definitely did) that they should just begin to sleep well, that they are either good at it or not. But, as is true with so many things with life and parenting, it isn't that easy. We have to help our children to do what they don't yet know how to do.

So, I have begun the sleep coaching process outlined in the book, with S. I'll work on him first, since he is younger and currently a worse sleeper, then I'll move on to K. The biggest changes to make are to set up a routine and stick to it like glue in the beginning (while they learn). Routines don't come easy to me because I like to be flexible with my time. However, I've seen how well that works and how little actual freedom I have when my kids and I don't sleep and have to deal with regular meltdowns. So, the routine must become a priority. Helping him to wind down before bed, helping him to find comfort in things other than me (like his pacifier, blanket or a toy) and staying nearby while he goes to sleep for a few weeks (without holding him, or letting him hold on to me, etc) are other parts of the process.

As of today, napping is going much better with S, as is going to sleep at night. Middle of the night waking has gotten exponentially worse, but at least I'm not feeding him every time he wakes up anymore (because we need to break that "sleep crutch"). And I have to give this time to work. Often things get worse before better. I'm trying not to give up and revert to old ways that only sort of worked, just because it is familiar. Familiar means no sleep, and I don't want that!

November 2, 2010

Gourmet Tuesday

Today's meal is brought to you by the letters U and K.

("Gourmet" is a bit relative for this meal. It is different than the usual, but nothing exotic.)

I decided to try a new meal. I bought the ingredients a week ago and haven't had the gumption to start it because it required making a dough. But today I finally did. It was a bit of work and I wasn't sure how good it would be because the ingredients are pretty basic: ground beef, onion, potato, salt and pepper. But it is cooking now and smells amazing!!!!

Meat and Potato Pasties (I just learned that pasty rhymes with nasty, hmm)
1 lb ground beef chuck (80-85% lean)
2 med russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 med onions, finely chopped
4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

~Heat oven to 350. In large bowl, combine beef, potatoes, onions, 1t salt and 1/4 t pepper.
~Put flour, butter and 1t salt in large bowl. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter, working until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea sized lumps remaining. Add 2/3C ice water; mix with fork and work with hands until dough forms. If still crumbly, add more ice water, 1T at a time (up to 4 more T). Do not overwork. Shape dough into 4 small disks and let rest for 10 minutes.
~On lightly floured surface, roll each disk into 10-inch circle.
~Divide beef mixture among circles of dough, shaping meat into a small loaf. Gather and pull up the sides of the dough around the filling, pressing edges together to form a seam on top. Using fingers, crimp the seam. Transfer pasties to parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

I've heard of pasties before, but never had one. The picture looked really good, and it is originally a British meal and I love all things from across the pond. It looked like something Jim would enjoy, too, so we tried it.

It was good. A bit dry and bland, but that could partially be due to some error on my part. I also put in less salt than the recipe says because I usually cut back on salt. Ended up doing something very uncharacteristic of me and salted it on my plate! I don't like beer, but this tasted good with a little bit of beer. Would have been nice with gravy and Kiah put some ketchup on his. Jim hit it on the head when he said it tasted very old world and homey. It was definitely a simple, straightforward tasting meal. And it left us very full!

Close up of the pasties.

November 1, 2010


I must confess, I have fallen into the sleep whine trap. My kids are not good sleepers, I'm up with them a few times every night, I'm sleep deprived and I find it hard not to complain about it.

But, no one needs to hear that. It really doesn't matter that I'm not sleeping-to anyone but me and my family.

I find that pretty much everyone ends up complaining about their lack of sleep. Just about every day, there is a facebook status about how little or badly someone slept. Or how tired they are. And complaining about sleep is a normal part of everyday conversation.

It is amazing to me how much trouble there is about something that is so necessary to our lives as humans. We all need to sleep every day in order to survive. It's built into our bodies to need this. We talk about the main needs in life often: food, water, shelter. But I'm not sure why sleep isn't on this list. Is there anyone who can go without sleep for more than a day or two? Even people with insomnia and stuff still have to lay down and get sleep here and there.

Pretty much everything can be cured by sleep, too. Stressed? You need more sleep. Sick or trying not to get sick? You need more sleep. Want to look and feel better? You need regular sleep. Sleep, or even just rest, seems to be the answer to most problems. Yet we often don't or can't get enough.

Is this cultural? Maybe we do worse at this in a time and culture that doesn't know how to unplug, prizes overworking, constantly overstimulates and seems to think it is a good thing to only "need" three hours of sleep a night. Or maybe it is a result of sin, like so many other problems. I bet Adam and Eve slept wonderfully.

I'm reading a new book on sleep in an attempt to improve things with K and S and their sleeping/waking. The main thing the author is saying so far is that we need to train our kids to put themselves to sleep once they are drowsy or when they wake at night. Assuming they should or could automatically know how to do this isn't right. I find myself a bit frustrated that it requires more work, and that it will probably get worse before it gets better in the process. But, like pretty much everything worthwhile in life, work is required to get where you want to go.