Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rising Kindergartener

Amelia goes to a Montessori school where she's in a class with 3-6 year olds.  At any given time in class, there are children quietly working away on math, art, history, geography, napping, reading, eating snack.  They work on an individual rug that is about the size of your standard outside door mat.  After they finish each work, they take it back to the shelf they picked it out from and go get another work to set on their mats.  They stay away from each other's mats, or work together on a project.  It's all very quiet and very productive. 

There are "works" available for each stage of development, and the children choose what they work on.  Amelia has been fascinated with being one of the kindergarteners since she saw them graduate on stage last year.  In her class, she can actually do kinder work if she chooses it.

Tonight they had a meeting for parents of rising kindergarteners for questions, and I found out that while she could choose the work now, she hasn't been.  She has stuck with the work that is the precurser for the more advanced work.  When I asked her why she hasn't tried something new, she told me that it was for the kindergarteners, not her!  I had no idea that she got that idea in her head. 

So on the way home tonight, I told her the meeting was to tell us that she could now do all the kindergartener's work and you would have thought I handed her the best present ever.  She was so excited and wanted to turn around and go back to school to do her work.  At home, she was jumping around and telling Grandma all about being able to do that more advanced work now.  I'm excited to see what happens with her.  I can't believe she was holding herself back!

On another (food related) note... I made a griddled sandwich for dinner tonight using Rudi's Rosemary bread.  Sliced a bunch of brisket I had made and frozen in chunks a while back, layered it on the sandwich with some horseradish cheddar and horseradish sauce and griddled the whole thing.  It was so good!  I had some Frogmore Stew for lunch.  All of this is still eating out of my freezer and pantry.  I have a long way to go to empty out all of it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Before and After

The house smells so good every time I walk into it today - garlic, onions, bacon - too bad none of it was for us!  I often volunteer to cook meals for people who need them.  I'm on a committee at our church and also for the base I live on to deliver fresh, hot meals.  When our church does Family Promise, I volunteer for a shift and cook for them also.  I'm often making a bit extra and handing it out to whomever is stopping by that day - Sunday when I made corn chowder, we invited a friend of Mia's over to play and they stayed for dinner.  Sometimes its my friends, and sometimes it's the excellent therapists that end up walking away with a bite or two of some goodie.

Today I made a meal for a beautiful woman who has cared for Amelia and other children during church services.  I really wanted to be able to give back to her during a time of need.  I made sweet cornbread, collard greens, and more beans and sausage to drop off.  I never thought I would like collard greens.  I've had them a time or two and they just seemed so bland to me.  But it turns out with enough bacon and onions, along with a touch of garlic, anything tastes scrumptious.  I sweat those items first, then jammed the greens into the pot on top.  Sprinkle kosher salt, cracked pepper, and sugar and put the lid on to let them cook away.  I think most people add a bit of stock but the lid was heavy and they had their own liquid.  They probably would have tasted good with a bit of heat and some acid - like maybe some cayenne or red pepper flakes, very subtle; or garnished afterwards with a shake or two of tabasco and/or vinegar.

I also cooked up some pears for Olivia and hummus for home group (bible studies in someone's home).  I made another dip for home group tonight out of stuff hanging out in my fridge.  2 blocks of cream cheese, big handful of sun dried tomatoes, a jar of feta in oil (minus the oil), 2 garlic cloves, a tiny glad container (about 1/4 cup) of pureed basil from my garden a while ago, 4-5 black olives that were left over from a salad the other night.  It turned out great.  I think it would also make a great stuffing for chicken; or with some roasted red peppers and fresh spinach spread on a hot crepe and folded for a "crepe sandwich" would be YUM.

Every time I cook now, I think of Olivia.  Every.Single.Time.  It's an awareness I wish I didn't have; sort of like the first time you found out there wasn't Santa Claus.  I think to myself...  Does this have too many carbs?  How many calories are in this dish?  How can I keep the flavor and lose the calories? 

Will this be the last time I cook this?

No, actually it feels more like the way the world changed September 11, 2001. 

The world no longer felt as safe, happy and innocent as it had just seconds before, with the sick feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.  It's how my world changed when we got the PWS diagnosis.

Movies on a Military Base

Yesterday I took Amelia to see Yogi Bear at the Parris Island base theater.  We usually get movies here about a month or two after they come out in town - they play here on Friday and Sunday and at MCAS Thursday and Saturday.  Movies change each showing, so on Sunday it was 3 different movies starting at 2:00 pm.

It's very inexpensive to see a movie here, so I don't mind waiting a month... 
$2.00 - movie ticket
$2.50 - small popcorn, small drink, regular size candy of your choice
$  .25 - refills on soda

We ran into a bunch of our neighbors there (the theater is about 2 blocks away from housing) and Amelia found a little friend to sit and giggle with throughout the movie.  At the start of the movie, the National Anthem plays, and everyone stands up, faces the screen and is silent until it's over with.  This is actually one of my favorite parts.  Anyone who is active duty, in uniform or not, will stand at attention with their backs rigid, heads straight forward, arms at their sides with their hands in position.  When it's over, everyone sits down and continues on.

When was the last time you heard the Pledge of Allegience or the National Anthem outside of a football game?

Photos soon!

My camera charger found its way back home :)  I left it in KC on our Thanksgiving. 

I think I am going to try and eat as much stuff from my pantry and freezer as I can without buying anything else.  I just bought milk and cream cheese this week - on sale for .99, and with 30 cents off coupons I couldn't pass it up.  I really want to buy some to freeze but that would ruin my whole point in eating up the stuff I have.

Tonight I made corn chowder - chopped up about 4-5 stalks celery, two onions.  Threw them in a heavy pot (used Le Creuset tonight) with some butter and thyme and let them sweat for a while till they were bright and crunchy and delicious smelling.  Then I tossed in a big cooking spoonful of flour, stirred it around and cooked for a while to get the raw flour taste out.  When that was done, I poured in a bunch of white wine from my handy dandy box o' wine with the pour spout, stirred around and cooked out the sharp wine taste.  Finished it up with 7 small cans of corn, juice and all; a box of turkey stock (I didn't have that much chicken stock); and what was left of my pint of cream.  I think it was about half a cup.  Stir well, simmer for a while, season with salt and pepper to taste, puree half and pour back in.  TaDa!  Soup for the masses.  I'm going to freeze the extra.  All in all it ended up being about a gallon of soup.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wholesome Baby Food

Wholesome Baby Food is a great site I stumbled across today.  Wish I had found it years ago.  You'd think, being a former Chef, I would have tried harder.  Still having teeny mommy guilt about that.  But honestly, it's more like mommy annoyance because I want her to eat more of what we are eating.

Fun with Food

Well, I might as well have fun with food while I still can. 

Yesterday I made Tuscan Beans and Sausage (white beans, garlic, onion, celery, carrot, sausage, seasonings) and some sweet cornbread.  I went all out and spread the cornbread with melted honey and butter mixed together.  Delish!  Olivia loved the beans and sausage, I didn't give her the cornbread.  My mom mashed it all up for her.

This morning I was thinking perhaps she loved it TOO much.  Diapers were a big change.  :(

A few new communication breakthroughs...

We've spent months trying to teach Olivia to do things that most babies learn pretty early.  While the specific process is slightly different for each "thing" we try to teach her, it basically involves us (my mother currently, my father when he was taking his turn here, the four therapists, myself) physically moving her body to do the "thing" over and over again; all the while doing the "thing" ourselves. 

If anyone has a better word for me right now than "thing" please comment.  It's 2am and I'm tired and literally at a loss for some words.

Months = Since she's been born.  Since before she could actually move any part of her body on her own.
We = we, the team of people- my fabulous therapists, doctors and family

Besides the obvious physical skills, we've also been working on social movements - waving hello, goodbye, giving kisses.  Over and over again, kiss the dolly.  Kiss, kiss, kiss.  We say the word, make the motion, bring her dolly to her face.  She's recently been bobbing her head toward the dolly for a kiss with her nose and sometimes with her mouth open.  I keep telling her she's not allowed to kiss like that until she's married.

Back to the breakthroughs.  Olivia has always had this connection with her daddy, even in the hospital when she wasn't too responsive to anyone else - but especially not me.  She would respond a bit more, slight responses that you could barely detect at first, but more as time went on and she became stronger.  Maybe it was just a blink, or a slight focusing of the eyes in his direction, or a twitch when he spoke.  Rafe was the first person to make her smile (when the smile consisted of the tiniest of upturns of her mouth), the first to get her to laugh.  She did those things very rarely, but when they did happen it was with him. 

This past week, Rafe called from Afghanistan and had some time to talk/play with Livie on the phone - not so many people waiting in line to talk at that time.  I put the phone on speaker and her whole face brightened up when she heard his voice.  She got this huge smile on her face and was reaching for the phone.  I assumed she just wanted to punch the buttons.  He kept talking and I said, not expecting a response, "Livie, do you want to kiss daddy?  Give daddy a kiss".   Rafe was telling her he loved her, asking for a kiss and (most important) making kissing noises in the phone.  She leaned forward, bobbed her nose on the phone and leaned back.  I thought it was a fluke, but we kept on doing it.  She did it 3 more times!  Each time I told her to give daddy a kiss, and he made kissing noises, she would lean forward to the phone to "kiss" with her nose; she held out her hands and brought the phone to her face like she would with her doll and deliberately touched her face/nose to the phone.  It all happened in slow motion because of her muscle issues, but it was amazing to see how purposeful she was. 

And... the significance of her recognizing his voice 5 months after he left is not lost on me.  Not just in a familial way, but in a cognitive, she's got brain function kind of way. 

Not quite as exciting, but still cool, is that she waved goodbye to me today.  It took a few minutes for her to process what she needed to do, but she finally did it in slow motion again. 

She also recognized her speech therapist and her OT this week and got very excited when she saw them, stopping what she was doing and crawling toward them immediately (for the ST) and leaning toward the OT when she was in my arms.  She actively seeks me when she is crawling around.  She will crawl to the feet of someone and slowly "climb" her arms/hands up your pant leg to indicate she wants you to pick her up. 

She's so stinkin' cute.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More on the baby food...

Yesterday I made roasted carrots and parsnips, forgot the ginger, but Livie loves them today. 

I also made a "loaded baked potato" - 2 heads cauliflower, 1 head broccoli and about 8 small baked potatoes mashed without the skins.  Pureed the veggies and then mixed it all together with some (GASP) velveeta cheese.  Hey, I'm all about using up what I have in the fridge.  I should have used cheddar cheese but I didn't have any and didn't feel like running to the store.  I didn't have time to put in ice cube trays last night, and this morning it was a bit stiff and very hard to spoon into the trays cold.  I have a 21" pastry bag left over from my culinary days so I just put it all in the bag and piped it into the trays.  It took less than a minute!

So today for lunch she had a cube of the potato mix, a cube of the carrots and parsnips, and some pureed blueberry applesauce.  It seems sort of strange to me that my daughter who will eventually eat everything is getting a wider variety of foods to try than my first daughter, who is now quite picky about food.  I knew better, I knew I should have exposed Mia to more stuff when she was a baby... oh well.  The crazy thing is that Amelia likes soft shell crab, smoked salmon/capers/cream cheese bagels, and shrimp.  The stuff she does like is expensive!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baby Food

I am kicking myself for not making Amelia's baby food when she was ready for it.  I'm trying to remember now why I didn't; and I think it was a combination of things. 

She was my first baby, and I was SO particular about everything.  Rafe was still deployed; I was still working until she was 9 months old (she was in a daycare right down the hall from where I worked, so I still nursed her); I was tired basically being a single parent; I wanted her to have only organic foods, especially dairy.  As a matter of fact, she's only a few months ago had her first regular milk that wasn't organic.  I totally jinxed myself - she could taste the difference and stopped drinking milk.  She didn't even see the carton, she just told me the milk tasted funny and she didn't like it.  I finally had to switch back.

Since I was the only one who needed "real" food, I hardly ever cooked at home.  I just ate mostly fresh fruits and veggies and the food I cooked at work.  I bought Amelia's food, but the range of organic foods was limited in the area we lived in.  She never liked the taste of meat unless it was some concoction that had brown rice, beef and peas in it.  I don't blame her, I've tasted meat baby food and it's awful. 

The bottom line is that I didn't give her quite the variety of foods I should have when she was a baby.  I wanted to make her food, but for some reason I had it in my head that it was this arduous process with precise recipes.  HA!  I was so wrong. 

So now I am making Livie's food and having so much fun doing it.  It's so much easier than I ever thought.  For the most part, I just cook really good meals and then puree parts of them.  I've also recently bought some things just to make her different combinations of fruits and veggies.  I've been using my handy dandy ice cube trays (love those things!) for freezing them.  I freeze for a couple of hours, pop the cubes out and put in labeled freezer zip loc bags and fill them up again. 

One thing I've realized is how much I have been getting ripped off buying baby food.  To get that nice thin consistency that baby food stage 1 comes in, you add a lot of water to a small amount of puree. 

So far we've done:
Plaza III Soup
Beef Stew with Mushrooms
Garlic Roasted Chicken (added a bit of stock to this)
BBQ Smoked Turkey (the real smoked whole turkey, also added a bit of stock to this with the bbq sauce)
Pumpkin Applesauce (used up a bunch of apples hanging around and our Halloween decoration pumpkin)
3 Apple Sauce
Sweet Potato with Cinnamon
Butternut Squash
Roasted Root Vegetables (turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, celery, onion, herbs)
Corn, Peas, Carrots

I bought some carrots and parsnips and tomorrow I'm going to roast and puree them; pears were on sale so I'm roasting those; maybe some chicken and leeks I've got hanging around in my veggie drawer and needs to be used; cauliflower; collard greens; black eye peas and rice;  I might do something with spinach and potatoes...I think I might have some brown rice in the pantry.  I might even throw in some wheat germ or flax seed into some of the mixes. 

I've decided to cheat a little and look on baby food websites to get ideas of combinations also.  I don't bother with a recipe, just the main ingredients (like Sprout, Jack's Harvest, Happy Baby, etc)
It's so much easier than I ever thought.  Just cook, throw in food processor, blend.  Add liquid as/if needed.  Freeze.  That's the whole recipe right there.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody, and they meet at the bar.”
~Drew Carey

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to know when your husband is going "outside the wire"...

He calls and tells you how much he loves you and the girls and to give them hugs and tell them that, and what time will you be available the next day for a phone call and ends the call.  The next time you check your email there is only a few sentences telling you again how much he loves you and the girls and make sure you tell them how he feels.

Oddly enough, he's really sweet when he's about to get in the line of fire.  :O

Just kidding.  I knew something was up because normally we talk about daily things and don't get too mushy on the phone.  I asked him if he was going outside the wire and he just said he'd call me the next day.  Today I found out he spent 9 hours with special ops forces on a foot patrol with all his gear on.  He had a great time and wants to go out again.  So much for the safe job inside the wire!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

She finally realized she could move!

Olivia is 16 months old and she crawled, real crawling, the Monday before Christmas.  1 1/2 weeks later, on Thursday, she pulled herself to stand by the piano so she could start cranking out some tunes.  Kidding about the tunes part. She did bang away on the piano, though.   We think she was actually trying to get to the book on the piano, because she loves books and hunts them down. 

Friday, she pulled herself to stand again with the speech therapist and walked three very tiny steps from the therapist to the couch (with the therapist holding her hip for stabilization), where she cruised along trying to get to a book on the couch. 

Today, Saturday, as we were sitting here she pulled herself to stand again and tried to get some books off the couch to "read".  She then crawled over to me, tried to pull herself to stand again.  But she's in footie jammies, and her feet started sliding sideways until she was doing the splits while holding on to the couch all the while with her head vibrating with excitement.  Mom and I couldn't stop laughing.  Is that so wrong??

A few minutes later, she had crawled over to the diaper bag, pulled everything out of it and then took off down the hallway dragging the diaper bag on her foot.  Then back to the play area, where we heard a big THUNK and looked over to find she had dragged the small grocery cart onto it's side.  She rolled over on her back, put it on top of her and kept lifting it up and down.  I tried to get it all on video but my camera battery went dead as soon as I started.  I can not believe the things she is doing now!

Funny little girl

Amelia says the funniest things, and it's often not exactly what she says but HOW she says it that makes it so funny.  Tonight I was combing her hair and telling her to hold still so I could get the rat's nest out.  She asked me, in all seriousness, "Mama, why do the rats keep building nests in my hair?"