Thursday, January 29

bad influences abound

It's not good when your 2-year-old drops a toy and says, 'Oh, shit.' In a very calm voice, just like a certain parent.

Also not great when your 5-year-old is having trouble working through the tangles in her hair, quietly puts the brush down, studies herself in the mirror for a moment, and says, 'Hell.' In an eerily similar tone to the above-mentioned parent.

They probably learned that from their father.

Not from their mother, who curses like a sailor.

Yeah, they definitely got that from John.

Saturday, January 17

Baby Food ... how we did it

I've always made my own baby food for the kids. It started out because my husband has been know to be a Scrooge-esque skinflint with money a thrifty person, and saw the prices on jar baby food, and said, 'No way!' He forced me encouraged me to learn how to make our own baby food, and once I started, I fell in love with it for the price and the ease, and haven't looked back ever since.

It's evolved from child to child. With Sam, I made special baby food for him. With David ... not so much. Here's how I did it. This may work for you, it may not, or you might be Sarah, reading this and thinking, 'This is boring.' That's ok.

The first food for Sam (after oatmeal cereal) was bananas. If you have a banana and a fork, you can make banana baby food. Bananas are currently $.49/pound. Last time I checked (like 6 years ago), a jar of banana baby food was around $.75. For the love of all things holy, if you make no other baby food but this, please make your own smooshy bananas!! Here's how you do it:

Peel the banana. Put it in a bowl. Smash it up with a fork. If you don't own any forks, a spoon works just as well, but might take 47 extra seconds. Add some oatmeal cereal to make it a little less slippery. Feed it to your baby. Look! You just fed your kid homemade baby food!! Yay, you!!

Let me throw in a note about baby cereal. I think rice cereal is stupid. It has no nutritional value except for what is added to it. I've always started out with oatmeal cereal, and even that I only did for about a week before just feeding the baby oatmeal.

If you don't have a small food processor, that's ok, but having one is really helpful. For example, after I figured out that the oatmeal cereal didn't make my kids break out into hives or go into shock (no allergies), I just fed them oatmeal. Here's how. Make oatmeal, but make a serving more than your family currently eats. Take out the baby's serving. Put it in the food processor with some breast milk or formula or whatever you are using. Or water, that works fine, too. Pulse the oat/liquid mix until it's as smooth and runny as you can get it. You don't want it to be too thick at first. I made mine thin enough to drip from the spoon, but not completely watery. Cool it down and feed it to the baby. Viola! More baby food!! Refrigerate the unused portion (which will be most of it at first), and warm up small batches over the next few days to use whenever you need it.

For the first few months, we added oatmeal to everything the kids ate. Fruit, veggies, everything. Our rule was this: at breakfast, we did fruit and grain. At lunch, veggie and grain. At supper, fruit, veggie, and grain. So for breakfast, just add a few spoons of banana or applesauce or pureed strawberries.

With Sam, I made baby food in big batches. I would take a whole bag of baby carrots, steam them until they were super soft, and puree the whole thing (using the water they were cooked with to get the consistency I wanted). I would cool the batch completely, then freeze small portions (1 cup) in flattened Ziplock bags. Anytime I wanted to feed Sam carrots, I would pull the bag out, thaw it in hot water, and let 'er rip.

Always make sure you introduce each new food individually. It's really important to watch for allergies and things like that. And just because they don't want to eat it first doesn't mean that they don't (or won't) like it! It's just new, and they're a baby, and not sure what to do. So they automatically spit everything out.

It's easy to puree and freeze combinations, too. Some ideas: carrots and broccoli. Squash and green beans (the only food I ever strained, because of the strings). Carrots, broccoli, and squash. Sweet potatoes and whatever. Spinach and whatever.

Regular potatoes don't freeze well. Just trust me on this one before you add potatoes to three different batches of food and find all of it unusable later.

I found it much easier to not freeze fruit. Just whip up a small batch and use it within two or three days. Fruit is fun. Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, kiwi, star fruit, peaches, plumbs, apricots, pluots, the list is endless! Step outside the box and use your imagination. You can use frozen fruit, too. Put it in a covered bowl or plastic bag in the fridge overnight, and smoosh it up in the morning.

Also, with the exception of sugar and salt, don't hide flavors from your kids! My kids had cinnamon (from the applesauce) at 6 months. I added very small amounts of herbs and spices at 8 months, and they were eating everything we ate by 12 or 13 months.

With Evie, we transitioned her to table food by about 10 months, and I didn't freeze as much for her. I did more of it on the spot.

David is obviously a Third Child in many ways, one of which is this: I never made him baby food past 7 months. And I never froze anything for him. I gave him what we ate, except that sometimes I would give it a quick spin in the food processor, or I would cook his a little bit longer. His first food was avocado. High in fat, not normally one that causes allergies. And if you get one that's pretty ripe, you don't even have to squish it (I never smooshed David's bananas, either). Just scoop out a tiny bit on a fork, and put it in the baby's mouth.

I didn't start my kids on baby food until close to 6 months. They don't need it before then. Sometimes I'd give them a few (plain) Cheerios to keep them busy ... and because it's really funny. The first time you see your little one try to eat a Cheerio, you'll understand. No milk until 12 months, and we tried not to do too much cheese before 10 months. And we never did meat until 14 or 15 months, but that was a personal preferance. I think the 'experts' say 9 months for meat. I say that's stupid. Babies don't need meat, and have a hard time digesting it. (And it makes for some really, really, really nasty diapers. Trust me!!)

The only time I used baby food in a jar was when the kids were under 8 months, and we were traveling more than 2 hours away for more than one meal. Unless you're willing to take a cooler with ice (I did this occasionally), it's not safe.

Have I ever mentioned that I married a restaurant manager who is, by profession, a total food safety Nazi? Yeah, you won't be seeing any mold, botulism, or food poisoning over at our house.

I say that, and we'll probably all get sick because I was so prideful. Oy.

So that's how we did baby food. John helped a lot and made a bunch of it, too. I loved it, and if we have anymore kids, I'll be not buying jar baby food for them, too. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments (I've changed it back so anyone can comment) or email me at brea.mangosteen(at)gmail(dot)com.

Coming next: How I Taught My 10-Month-Olds To Have Excellent Table Manners.

Tuesday, January 13

I hate coughs, but I love our NP

We haven't been to the doctor in over a year. The last time we went, it was because David, just having had his first birthday, had a bad cough he couldn't shake.

Today, we're headed into the doctor. For both the boys. For a nasty cough they can't shake.


We've been very fortunate with our medical care out here. We have a wonderful family practitioner just in town, and we see his nurse practitioner (NP), Sarah, for all the kids. Sarah is very sweet, and very respectful of the choices we make for our children. Our last pediatrician in Austin was horrible um not very nice uh not at all respectful I mean, someone with whom I frequently butted heads. She didn't like that we were planning on homeschooling the kids, or that I was interested in homebirth, and she got downright mean about vaccines.

The first time we saw Sarah was when David was 5 days old. As she was taking his (albeit very brief) history, she asked where he was born. After a few seconds hesitation, I told her he was born at our house. She set her clipboard down, looked at me, and said, 'Ooh, homebirth! How cool! Did you like the experience?'

I hugged her.

She thinks that all kids should get the full run of vaccines, but is very supportive of a delayed schedule, and is willing to talk with me about the ones she feels are the most important, since we only do a few of them (DTaP, specifically). She supports trying herbal treatments first, and if they work, she's happy to hear it. If herbal stuff doesn't work, there's no condemnation, and she discusses the prescriptions she recommends and why before she prescribes them.

In my opinion, she does medicine the way medicine should really be done. :)

Did I mention that she has 9 kids? So you know that makes me give her some extra love!

Anyway. All that rambling to say, please be praying for us. I need some sleep. Between getting up with both boys at least once (if not several) each night, and getting up with the puppy once each night, I am really, really tired. Really tired. I mean, really tired!

Post on homemade baby food coming tomorrow, for Che and the other few who have asked. :) Hope everyone has a great day, and if you're in the area, make sure you get outside and enjoy this amazing weather! (And if you're in Iowa or Ohio, and you know who you are, sorry about that. You two try and stay warm, k? Love you!)

Monday, January 12

Questions That No One Asked

I'm stealing stuff from Ryan again, because I am totally unable to have an original thought this morning. David and Sam have both developed horrible coughs with this cold dry air that came in over the weekend, I have a puppy that thinks it's fun to cry 37 times each night and wake me up, and I'm too stupid to go to bed at a reasonable hour, even though I know I wake up at 5:30 every morning.

So. Here are some questions that no one has recently asked me. And maybe a few that they have.

What bugs you, Brea?
I'm glad you asked. Lots of things bug me. But I hate it when toothpaste is in the sink after the kids brush their teeth. (Brea shudders.) It makes me twitchy.

What else?
I use a brush, not a sponge, to wash my dishes. It bugs me when John puts it back in the sink, instead of where it goes, and grease gets on the brush. If grease is on a pan, I can wash it off. How can I clean off the grease on the handle of the brush????? Ewwwww!!!!

Are you pregnant, Brea?
No. No. And once again, in case you were wondering, no. Not that I would mind being pregnant. But I've been asked 5 times in the last two weeks. And I haven't gained any weight. It's all very confusing.

Hey, Brea, if you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
First, I would go to Ohio. And see what's-her-name up there. Then Spain. And John and I were just talking about what we would do if he ever changes jobs. He would set it up where he had 6 weeks in between the old job and the new, and we would spend a month (in the summer, of course) taking a road trip and camping in the Northwest. Oregon, Washington, maybe Idaho and Montana, too. And I might visit Jessica in the right season, and take home some of her pears.

Do you make your own bread and live in the country and homeschool because you're some kind of religious kook?
Ok I've had this question asked before. In those exact words. And here's how I answered at the time: Uh, define 'kook.' :) I make my own bread because I like it. I think it's the best bread I've ever tasted. The first time I made it after I got the new oven, we ate three loaves in 6 hours, and I'm not exaggerating. I live in the country for many reasons. The taxes are lower. More bang for my buck. I like to go outside and hear silence in the morning, and see the stars at night. There are no deed restrictions out here, which has ups and downs. I can do whatever I want to my land ... but so can the people who live up the street, breed hateful dogs, and have 9 cars in their front yard. And I don't homeschool so my kids will do better on the SAT, or so they won't be influenced by those evil public school people, or to protect them from all the big bads that are in the world. I teach my children to read so they can read God's Word. I teach them math because Jesus made numbers, so Jesus' two plus Jesus' two equals Jesus' four. I teach my kids about nature because In The Beginning, the Trinity dictated the creation of the world. We raise chickens because the Word tells us to exercise dominion, but it also tells us to be good stewards. (You know, the Jews were the first ones to have animal rights laws. take that, PETA!)

I homeschool my kids so that they may better know God.

You are a religious kook, aren't you?
Yeah probably, and I'm ok with that. I'm supposed to be in this world, not of it.

How many kids do you eventually want?
At least 6. I'd really love 10 or 12. But please don't tell my mother. She'll pass out and hit her head.

Which of your children is your favorite?
Well, Sam, of course. Also, Evelyn. And obviously, David.

What's with your obsession with mornings?
I dunno. They're just awesome. And clean, and new. Joy comes in the morning, ya know.

What's the deal with Texas?
If you have to ask, you'll never get it.

If you had to pick one best friend, who would it be?
Sarah. And Kristie. Margaret. And Becky. Totally my mom. Jessica is my best interweb peep.

If you could have any job besides the one you have, Brea, what would it be?
I think I would want to be a missionary. Or a midwife or a nurse. Oh! I know! I'd be a nurse-midwife missionary in some third world country.

What's your favorite color?

What is your favorite thing that you own?
My boots. I wear them every. single. day. and freak out when I see the puppy anywhere near them.

What's your least favorite thing?
Grape flavoring. Grape gum, grape candy, grape medicine ... Uuuugggggg!! What's up with that?

Brea, what are your true thoughts on President-Elect Obama?
I pray that he is an excellent president. Our family prays for him daily. And I don't envy the position that he's in, or his job. At all. Stop assuming that just because I didn't vote for him, that I won't support him or that I hope he falls on his face. I hope he's a great president.

Do you have a favorite book?
No. Well, yes. My Bible. But after that, I can't pick just one. If I absolutely had to, it would probably be The Count of Monte Cristo. But I can't pick.

What was the best Christmas gift you received, Brea?
My new Swiss Army knife. I need to make sure I take it out of my purse before I go to Ohio, because I'm totally the kind of person who would forget and end up on some terror watch list because I'd pitch a fit when they tried to take it from me.

What was the best Christmas gift you gave?
I don't know. I had a lot of fun shopping this year. I found a great pair of handmade knitting needles for my midwife, but I haven't seen her yet. And I got my brother a cool book, The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You. I wanted to keep it for myself. But didn't.

Are you still talking?
Yeah, but I'm just about done. My coffee is cold and running low. And you know how much I love my coffee!! Just one more ...

What's a question that no one asks you, but you want to answer?

Saturday, January 10


So I haven't posted since Christmas. Sorry about that. Things that have been keeping me busy:

*I finally got a new oven. After going what seemed like 28 years without, I am able to bake once again. And boy, have I ever been baking!! Bread, cookies, cakes, lasagna, casseroles, pies, you name it, I've probably been baking it. And gaining 42 pounds in the process.

*I have three kids under 7. They are crazy little people. And they keep me busy.

*Christmas, New Year's, family, friends, and organizing everything in my life. Each year, I take the week between Christmas and the New Year and do some major cleaning, organizing, and throwing out of lots of stuff. It's such a wonder feeling!

*We got a puppy! Her name is Brownie. She's black and white. She's about 6 weeks old, and we got her just over a week ago. I love her. A lot. We've been crate training her (which I've never done before; that's a fun new experience, let me tell you!), and that takes a lot of time, and in some ways, my friends were right. It kind of is like having a newborn!

*One of my best friends is Becky. She and her family came with us to the river this summer. She's my awesome Barnabas friend that isn't afraid to call me a dumb ass when the need arises. Her husband works for APD. He's also in the Navy reserves, and he's being deployed. Tomorrow. For a year. To the Persian Gulf. So we've been trying to help them out in any way we can before he leaves. All of their kids were over here Tuesday and Wednesday, to give the wonderful couple some alone time before he leaves, and let me tell you this: that in one incredibly delightful family. I really do love them all, very dearly.

(Please keep Ralph and Becky and their kids in your prayers.)

*I FINALLY BOUGHT MY TICKET FOR OHIO!!! (Sarah, you didn't think I'd leave you out of another post, did you?) I leave in less than four weeks, and I'll be gone from my family for five full days. I've never been gone for that long. I wish I could say that I'm really worried about leaving them for that long ... but I'm not. I'm a bad mom, what can I say? :) While I'm there, I get to hang out with my amazing best friend, who is not only lovely and pretty on the outside, but has the most precious spirit of anyone I know. I get to stalk Ryan from This Is Reverb. His church has a Saturday night service, and Sarah and I are going to visit for that. Who knows, we might let her husband come with us, too, if he behaves himself. And I get to see another old friend from high school, and I' m looking forward to that.

*We started school on Monday, with a new schedule, and it's been going wonderfully well.

*My closet is still clean. Not 'I've been trying to be less messy' clean, but 'really, honest-to-goodness, totally spotless and still organized' clean. It's been amazing. And the person who is ever more surprised than I? My dearest husband.

*Lots of other things. I just can't think of them right now because I need to refill my coffee, let the chickens out, take the dog out for a walk, feed my hungry children, fold some laundry, sweep my floors, bake some bread, work on our memory verse for the month, and start school.

It's only 8:15, and I think I need a nap.