Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Anika!

     So it's been a while since I last posted.  Oops.  I started back to work part-time since the last post, and life hasn't slowed down since.  This post is a special post, however.  Today is Anika's first birthday.  For her birth, I got a baby journal, called The First 1000 Days.  I highly recommend it! It's more of a journal than a baby book, though it has a few pages to add in pictures in the back.  As the name implies, it chronicles the first 1000 days of a child's life, with a couple blank pages for each month, plus fun pages for baby's firsts (it gives different ideas, like first blueberry, first bike ride, etc.), favorite songs, and so on.  Throughout the pages, there are beautiful, folksy papercut illustrations.  Like I said, I really recommend it--I've enjoyed filling out the pages.  Anyway, there's a place in the back for you to include a couple letters from the parents.  Here is the letter I wrote to my sweet little birthday girl.

Dear Anika,

Today is your first birthday!  I have tried as hard as I could to experience this first year of your life without blinking.  As your mama, I live my life now with the excited anticipation of all the new things that Da-da and I will be teaching you over the years, but truly you have taught me more than I could ever have anticipated in the past year.  When I married your Da-da, I thought for sure I knew who I was.  But then Da-da showed me more of the beauty within myself that I could never unearth on my own.  And you, dear Anika, have done the same.  You are turning me into the best Mama I could ever hope to be to you.

    From the moment that I touched your velvety soft skin, and breathed in that intoxicatingly heavenly newborn scent,  I knew that I would lay down my life without even flinching for you.  You have opened up a new world to me.  You’ve shown me that the most profound expressions of love can be found at 3 am, as I nurse you yet again, your sweaty hair plastered to your head, your left leg swung up over my hip as you let out a contented snort.  How quickly I could have missed those moments if I hadn’t opened my heart to it!  One of the most important things I could ever hope to teach you about is the love that God has for you.  It’s a love that runs so deep, and is so life changing.  It’s a lot like the love that Da-da and I have for you, except much, much bigger.

    I’ve loved learning your language, trying to decipher what every coo and babble means, and helping to find equilibrium when your laughing turns to crying.  I love the intensity with which you communicate your world to me.  When you let us know in no uncertain terms that there is something wrong, I see glimpses of the future when I have no doubt that you will stand up for what’s right with the same unmatched intensity I see in you now in those moments.   
    I look at you now, as the look of a newborn has faded and is being replaced by that of a little girl.  And oh, how you are such a sweet and precious little girl to Da-da.  You have effectively turned your once stoic father into a babbling, gushing puddle of mush, who would lasso the moon for you the first chance he gets.  I don’t doubt that he hasn’t tried while you sleep.  Some of my fondest memories are of when you were just a fresh little baby, watching as Da-da danced you to sleep to the music of Frank Sinatra.  You don’t realize quite yet how lucky you are to have such a wonderful father, but you will soon enough.
    We’ve rejoiced over all the milestones you’ve hit this year, and have discovered that you’ve taught us, yet again, another lesson that we were too oblivious to learn fully on our own.  And that is that the best way to spend our time is by putting all of our energy into the present moment.  That moment, dear Anika, is your moment today, on your birthday.  I’ve recorded it here in this letter as my humble gift to you, for you to read and treasure in the years to come.  But please know that you are truly the gift.  I love you to the moon and back.  


Friday, February 17, 2012

Letting go of expectations

Babies are always changing.  Sometimes it can be hard keeping up with all those changes, particularly when it can throw the rhythm of the day off.  I'm not much for schedules, being more of a fly by the seat of my pants (read: somewhat disorganized) kind of a gal.  But I definitely, and so does Anika, thrive on a certain rhythm to our day at the very least.  When teething, separation anxiety, and just general unexplained baby behavior leaves me feeling a bit lot frazzled, it's nice to get such a clear reminder of God's continued presence and guidance throughout my day.  How quickly I forget His promises!  I found today's devotional particularly fitting for the way this week has gone for me.  From the daily devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young:

I am the Risen One who shines upon you always.  You worship a living Deity, not some idolatrous, man-made image.  Your relationship with Me is meant to be vibrant and challenging, as I invade more and more areas of your life.  Do not fear change, for I am making you a new creation, with old thing passing away and new things continually on the horizon.  When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you.  I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, finding your security in Me alone.  
It is easy to make an idol of routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life.  Although each day contains twenty-four hours, every single one presents a unique set of circumstances.  Don't try to force-fit today into yesterday's mold.  Instead, ask Me to open you eyes, so you can find all I have prepared for you in this precious day of Life. 

Yep. I needed to read that. Perhaps others do too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A gift in the night

                                                     photo by: Sean MacEntee

Because of God's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfullness.                                              - Lamentations 3:22-23

Even at 1 in the morning.  Last night (or rather, this morning) Anika had some sort of freak diaper leak, leaving her pajamas and sheets soaked.  I sleepily went through the motions of changing the wet sleep paraphernalia, and as I did, I glanced over at Anika, who was studying me with the biggest smile I ever saw so early in the morning.  All sense of sleeplessness melted away, and I grabbed hold of the precious moment I had to share with this young soul in the wee hours of the night.  I vaguely remember babbling something about how accidents happen sometimes, and that it was ok, and she just continued to look at me with such a serene look on her face.  That peaceful moment in the midst of a sleepless night was like a tall, cool glass of water for this weary mama's soul.

     I've recently begun to read Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, and it's already changing my outlook on the mundane details of my life, as I, too, put pen to paper and attempt to etch out one thousand gifts in my own life.  I'm excited to see where this journey will lead me....won't you join me?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fried Bananas

I'm a bit of a haphazard blogger.  This post came about while preparing breakfast when I thought to myself, 'I should blog about this' So without further ado, here is what I had for breakfast:

I know, super appetizing, right?

Ok, on to the actual reason for this post.  Those little banana looking things on top of my oatmeal? Fried bananas. Yep. A little piece of heaven right there.  Well....if you're the health nut type.  I mean, for being pretty darn healthy, these babies are pretty darn good.  Here's how to replicate the experience in your own home. 

You'll Need:
A frying pan (duh)
About a tablespoon or so of coconut oil 
One banana, cut up

Here's How:
Heat up the frying pan. Scoop  Scrape out a spoonful of coconut oil and melt in pan. (not exactly rocket science, folks)

Cut up bananas and place in pan:

Fry for a few minutes on both sides. They will get a little browned, and mushy. Yummm.

Now, you can eat them as is, which is pretty tasty.  Or, you can top your oatmeal with them with a bit of cream or milk and a smidge of honey. could top them with freshly whipped cream for a crustless banana cream pie.  It's all good.  And that coconut oil? Totally good for you.  That's a whole 'nother post though!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anika's first bite. [of food]


     From the first slimy banana to make it to her mouth (but no further) to the deep orange-yellow farm fresh pastured egg yolks smeared across her pudgy cheeks, as she gnaws inquisitively on a baby spoon, Anika has entered the world of Baby Led Solids.  We're forgoing the usual rice cereal, baby food jars in favor of well, real food that Anika feeds herself.  Just a few years ago, if you had told me to just let my baby feed herself real food like the rest of the family was eating, I would have thought you were crazy.  I was all set to make my own purees the moment we got our Champion Juicer (it does, for those interested, have the capability to make 'baby food').  But the more I thought about things, and those things became closer and closer to a reality, the more it made sense to just let our baby eat table food.
  I first became acquainted with the concept of Baby Led Solids from reading the book, Real Food for Mother and Baby.  I thought it was an interesting concept, but as Anika had yet to be born yet, didn't give it much thought.  When I read about it again in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and then in the book Baby Led Weaning (which is all about baby led solids, but written by a couple of English ladies, so weaning to them denotes the beginning of solids, not the cessation of breastfeeding), I began to give serious thought to this, because, simply put, it just makes good sense.
     The basic gist of this type of approach to the introduction of solids is to watch and trust your baby.  Instead of picking an arbitrary date to start feeding solids, you watch your baby for signs of solids readiness--around the middle of the first year, but can be later than that:

             Loss of tongue thrust reflex
             Sitting up on their own
             Showing an interest in solid foods by grabbing food, and well, eating it

     These signs serve important purposes, much more important than the dates on the calendar in determining when to introduce solid foods to a baby.  When babies are born, they are born with an immature gut that isn't equipped to deal with digesting solid foods.  As the baby grows, so does their digestive system by their gut sealing up and starting to produce digestive enzymes necessary for proper digestion of solid foods.  You can tell their insides are ready for solids when their outsides are, namely, in the baby's ability to safely feed themselves.  It's pretty neat how God's design of things makes it easy for us to determine when to introduce food, just by simple observation.  Allergies, unless there's a family history of them, aren't as big of a concern when baby is ready for food, and therefore the order of the foods to be introduced doesn't have to be as stringent.  (and as this article suggests, there's really been no rhyme or reason for the current traditional recommendations for the order of foods one introduces)  We're planning on avoiding grains for the most part during the first year, as a baby doesn't develop the digestive enzymes to digest grains until about a year--once their one year molars come in (again, there's the wisdom of God's design of things) as well as foods that present obvious choking hazards.  Oh, and speaking of choking--a baby's gag reflex is still pretty far forward on their tongue during the first year of life, so a baby feeding themself is in a lot of ways safer from a choking standpoint, since they will gag food out that's too big for them to safely swallow.  It's pretty nerve wracking the first time they gag, because if you didn't know what you were looking at, you would think they were choking.  Regardless, it's always a good idea to stay with your baby while they eat. 
     The other important part of this process is to trust your baby--trust that they will eat solids when they are ready, whether it's 6 months, or 8 months or beyond.  I was surprised to find that it is physiologically normal for a baby to be exclusively breast or formula fed for up to the first 12 months of their life, if needed.  Most babies will show interest in food before the 12 month mark, but that put my mind at ease, when everything we've introduced to Anika she hasn't really technically eaten.  She just doesn't seem interested in the eating part, though she sure is fascinated by the bits of food we set in front of her for her to explore.
     Baby Led Solids isn't just about ditching purees in favor of table food.  It's also about the importance of allowing one's own baby to self regulate the whole eating process--from the mechanics of getting the food into their mouths, to how much, to even the particular foods they are drawn to.  This was the icing on the cake for me, because, as a breastfeeding mom who relies on watching my baby's cues for hunger, I have to trust Anika's ability to self-regulate her hunger and food intake every time she nurses.  The baby's ability to determine the pace and amount of feeding has been shown to decrease the likelihood of obesity later on in life, and continuing to allow a solids-eating baby to self-regulate their intake of food goes right along in the same vein of thinking.  An added bonus is that many people who have done the traditional pureed baby food route with their first child, but Baby Led Solids with subsequent children observed less picky eating behavior and less battles over eating in general with their subsequent children.  I've already noticed that when I tried to feed Anika egg yolks off a spoon, she wanted no part of me feeding her, but when I gave her the spoon, she instantly, yet clumsily, guided the spoon to her mouth.  Some parents have even noticed that their babies would refuse to eat certain foods that they later found out they were allergic to.   
     When so much rests on my shoulders as a parent to guide and teach my child how to live in this world, it has been an amazing experience so far to just let go and let the process of eating unfold on its own.  It's teaching me that babies are capable of more than we realize.  And that mealtimes are fun!

I'll leave you with the following video...this is NOT Anika :) :

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sittin' pretty

Big changes are happening at the Stallard household. 

Over the weekend, this happened:

I think just maybe we might have embarked on a new journey as well. But...more on that later. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

[Nearly] Foolproof Homemade Stovetop Yogurt

Boy was I glad I learned how to make yogurt before I got pregnant.  I couldn't get enough of the stuff once I was with child.  I saved a ton of money with all the yogurt I consumed (well, and continue to consume, really) by making it myself.  There's a lot of different ways to make yogurt, each a slight variation of one another.  This is my method, a result of a lot of reading, as well as a very informative demo done at a local Weston Price chapter meeting a while back.  While I haven't tried a yogurt maker, I think it rivals it in ease of making, with very few botched batches. No fancy gadgets, just the stove top and oven!

Supplies Needed (for one quart of yogurt):

Large saucepan or stockpot
Dish rag
Quart sized mason jar
Candy Thermometer
Approx. 2 T of plain yogurt to use as a starter (be sure to check that it has live cultures in it! Also, go ahead and get a quart of plain yogurt, for even more of a money saving tip at the end of this post**)
Quart of whole milk 
cookie sheet


Line the bottom of pot with a dish rag, and fill about halfway with water. Turn oven light on (or pilot light for you fancy gas oven folks), and place a cookie sheet in the oven. 

Fill mason jar with milk, and place in pot of water, and turn on burner to high.  Bring water to a boil.


Notice the dish rag in the bottom--keeps the jars from rattling around when water is boiling. Nifty, huh? (I also make two quarts at a time--3 quarts a week, almost all for me when I was pregnant--I wasn't kidding when I said I craved yogurt!)

Allow the temperature of the milk to reach 180 degrees.  This sterilizes the milk, so that at the end, we're only introducing good bacteria, not bad.  I don't feel the need to sterilize all my yogurt making tools, however.  I, of course, start with clean yogurt making tools though.  Remove the milk from the burner to cool down. I want to say, with my stove top, it takes somewhere in the vicinity of a half hour to reach 180 degrees, if that's helpful. 

At this point, you have two choices.  It's kind of like those choose your adventure books, except with both choices you reach the same ending.  Same thing, except...not. Ahem, anyway...You can allow the milk to cool down on the counter top, which is the long way--about an hour and a half.  Or, you can fill a sink up with cold water and submerge the jars 3/4 of the way, for a much shorter cooling time--about 20 minutes. I almost never choose the shorter version, because it cools too fast for me to remember to take it out, and then I almost always have to heat it up to the right temperature again. 
Allow milk to cool to 90-110 degrees.  One of the few times I've botched yogurt, was when I went through a period where I forgot my thermometer measured in 10 degree increments and not 5. Oops.

Stir in yogurt starter.  I hear if you stir too vigorously, it can harm the bacteria and render a botched batch as well.  Also, more starter yogurt does NOT render a thicker end product.  That's also one of the other times I've botched a couple batches.  A little goes a long way, and the bacteria need room to multiply.  

Place mason jar lids, without the rings, so they don't rust while incubating, on the jars, and place the jars on the cookie sheet in the oven.  (Dang, my oven needs to be cleaned.)  Lots of people recommend the use of a crockpot, or a cooler to keep the temperature warm enough during the incubation period.  I've always had good luck using this oven method, although I have in the past also heated my oven up to the lowest temperature setting (170 for my oven) and then let it cool down, still with the oven light on.  Incubation time is anywhere between 4-24 hours.  The longer it incubates, the tarter the yogurt will be.  An added bonus to incubating the yogurt for upwards of 24 hours, is nearly all the lactose is eaten up by the good bacteria, which apparently for lactose intolerant folks, can be a good thing.  I choose to let my yogurt incubate at least 8 hours. Once the desired incubation time is up, transfer yogurt to the fridge, keeping the jars still in the process.  Allow the yogurt to chill thoroughly before digging in!

Of course you may want to flavor your yogurt somehow before digging in.  I'm not hardcore enough of a health nut to just eat plain yogurt. This is one of the things I love about making my own yogurt, though, is the element of control I have over what goes into my yogurt.  No weird fillers, high fructose corn syrup, or fiber (not to knock fiber or anything, but fiber doesn't really belong in everything I eat..)  Cut up fruit, fresh, or frozen and a dab of raw honey, or yogurt spiked with cinnamon and sweetened with stevia have all graced the bowls of my yogurt.  Or blend it up in a smoothie, for a quick breakfast, or snack.  Heck, add copious amounts of sugar, especially if you're used to the flavored stuff in the would still be leaps and bounds better than the storebought stuff. (I mean, not that I would recommend this, but it could be a way to ease into using less sweetener over time)  Not to mention cheaper. 

**Money Saving Tip

While I haven't sat down and figured the actual amount I save by making my own yogurt, a quick glance at the price of the individual cups of yogurt versus the quarts of yogurt reveals instant savings per serving right there.  It doesn't take a mathematician, then, to know that yielding two dozen quarts of homemade yogurt from one quart of storebought plain yogurt is gonna save a ton of money.  How do I make 2 dozen quarts of yogurt from one quart of plain yogurt before that quart goes bad? By freezing the yogurt in ice cube trays!  Each little ice cube of yogurt is about 2 tablespoons--the perfect amount to start each batch of yogurt with!  I simply pop out the needed number of yogurt cubes into a bowl and let it thaw out on the counter while my milk is cooling (if choosing the long way of cooling) and it's thawed and ready to go by the time I'm ready to stir it in.  

An Important note about 'expiration dates' of homemade yogurt

Obviously homemade yogurt doesn't have an expiration date, and therefore some folks might be wondering how long homemade yogurt lasts, or when to tell if a batch has otherwise gone bad.  Let your sense of sight, smell, and most importantly, taste be your guide.  If something smells or tastes 'off', or if it doesn't have a yogurty consistency (homemade yogurt tends to be thinner), don't consume it.  I've never had a batch sit around long enough for it to go bad though ;)

This post if part of Real Food Wednesdays