Friday, May 25, 2012

playing around

First off, can I just say I think it is the funniest thing ever when babies fall asleep in their high chair? It just cracks me up. However, I think the testament to how tired she was is not that she fell asleep in the high chair, but that she left a bunch of strawberries uneaten.

Moving on... a few pictures from the other day:
  Natalie thinks it is so funny when we've put this mask on her. She even leaves it on for like two whole minutes before her primal baby instincts take over and she rips it off.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

what I've learned so far about feeding a baby who is becoming a toddler

I try to be a good mom, but honestly, I don't read to Natalie every day, sometimes she frolics around in just a diaper, and I put her to sleep by giving her a bottle in her crib. I haven't taught her any baby sign language or done a bunch of other things that probably would be really good for her. However, one thing I have decided I am going to try really hard to do is help her become a good eater. 

Natalie is only 14 months old, so I only really have several months experience with this, and I'm sure she'll change/get way more picky, and maybe my other kids will be totally different, but this is what I have learned so far: Natalie wants to eat whatever we're eating, so if we eat healthy food, she will too. The most effective way we have found to give her new, and potentially "distasteful" foods is to put her in her high chair with nothing on her tray, and then we start eating something in front of her. She will almost always reach out for what we're eating, and then we feed her little bits of it, and then when she's tried it and decided it is okay, we put some on her tray for her. This doesn't always work--for instance, she hasn't loved little chunks of grape tomatoes, but it has worked very, very well for a lot of things. 

Of course, there are plenty of foods she hasn't really loved. Tomatoes, as I mentioned, carrots and sweet potatoes are iffy, zucchini, oranges--which is super random because everyone loves oranges, spinach or other leafy thing, avocados... anyway, although I know she's not going to devour these things, I still keep offering them to her in the hope that eventually she will get used to them.

My goal for her/me this summer is to help her like zucchini and tomatoes more. I think there is a high probability of success, since there are both tomatoes and zucchini growing in the garden, which means we will have both access to a lot, and they will be very good quality. Juicy tomatoes from the garden in the summer are way more delicious than grocery store tomatoes in the winter, if ya know what I mean.

Anyway, I think that is the biggest thing I have learned so far, with respect to feeding: If we are eating it and enjoying it, there is a really good chance Natalie will too. She can eat "adult food" just fine, and we don't have to dumb down what we feed her (very much). I just hope we can keep this good trend going...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

loving summer

Matthew and I were eating some homemade popsicles the other day (pureed strawberries and plain yogurt--very good), and once we gave Natalie a few bites, she commandeered the rest of the popsicle for herself:
I think it is safe to say that she loved it :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

another food post! hurray!

I had so much fun last year writing about food, I thought I would do a post on some of our favorite things we've made this year. I highly recommend any of the following items to everybody and anybody.

Homemade Tortillas: My world brightened a little bit when these came into my life. Sure, they take more time than buying a bag at the store, but they are totally worth the extra effort.
Roasted Butternut Baked Penne: After making butternut soup last year and not loving it, I was hesitant to make this, but I’m so glad I did. The butternut flavor was not overpowering, but the combination of flavors absolutely rocked my world.
Roasted Red Pepper and Fontina Pizza: Pizza dough + olive oil + roasted red peppers + carmelized shallots + bacon + fontina cheese+balsamic reduction=perhaps the best pizza we’ve made so far, imho.
Pretzel Rolls: Basically pretzels in a form that you can eat for dinner. Win.
Sesame Chicken: Easy, sesamey, not too sweet and still feels like Chinese take out.
Glazed Carrots with Orange and Cranberries: I would even decrease or omit the sugar in this, as the OJ gave plenty of sweetness. It was a delicious, easy, healthy, and rather fancy dish.
Chocolate Macarons: I was so excited to make these, and they turned out amazingly. I have to admit, this is something I was pretty dang proud of, and if you have a kitchen scale, they really aren’t too difficult.
Cheesy Penne with Tomatoes and Spinach: Here’s the thing. I never liked the Kraft macaroni and cheese growing up. I still don’t. So, seeing homemade macaroni and cheese recipes never looked appealing to me, until I realized you didn’t have to use macaroni, and you are making a cheese sauce. Hello. I have to say, this meal was off the charts. Seriously, truly fantastic.
Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars: I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon in February, and this is the first thing that I made from the site. Imagine: Graham cracker toffee crust, fudgey chocolate middle, chocolate cookie dough top, sprinkled with toffee bits. Delish. Oh, the thing is that it is a pillsbury recipe, so they tell you to use a roll of refrigerated Pillsbury dough--I just used my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake: I made this for my half-birthday. Imagine a brownie-ish cake layer on bottom, a chocolate mousse layer in the middle and a white chocolate mousse layer on top. So good.
Quinoa Chicken Salad: This one was one of Matthew's favorites. It was healthy, and had a lot of flavor. And came from Pinterest. ha.
Meditteranean Grilled Vegetable Tartine: A tartine is an open-faced sandwich, and I think the marinade on this, combined with the hummus flavor was what made it unforgettable. 
Sourdough Bread: Very good. Nothing more to say.
Homemade Yogurt: This is so easy, and so fun. I will say, I have deviated from the directions in the link quite a bit in order to get it to work better and more consistently, but now that we have a good method down, it works like a charm. 
Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing: I got this recipe from my sister-in-law, and I think we ate it 3 times that month. 
Strawberry Butter: This is simply pureed, simmered strawberries beaten with butter and honey. And all I'm saying is that it is definitely not disgusting.
Chiang Mai Noodles: I like expanding my Asian cooking repertoire. This one is definitely in the long term rotation
Veggie Fried Rice: Again, expanding Asian repertoire. This turned out very similar to our favorite take-out place.
Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce Chicken: Probably in my top two favorite meals this year. Our old bishop's wife made this for a get together thing. The flavor is absolutely amazing.

Whelp, that is it! I'm super hungry now thinking about all this stuff. A couple of these thingers don't have links--I know I should either write in the recipe or not include them here, but I don't really feel like typing it in right now, plus it will make this post even that much longer, so maybe I'll just say if you are interested in any of the three or four things that don't have links, let me know and I'll either send it to you or just do a separate post later. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

wanderlust

Its no secret that I am dying to travel. Sometimes I feel like I'm going a little bit crazy not traveling. However, since I'm not going anywhere for a while, its good there are a few things to tide me over.

Like today, at Sunflower market, while perusing the international cheese selection, I noticed that they had a cheese sampler bin. Oh baby. I almost never can justify spending upwards of $7 on one little wedge of fancy cheese, but I can absolutely pay $2.06 for a smaller chunk of Brie. Absolutely. Another stop at that one French bakery on State street, and I have been eating baguette and brie all day long. Heaven.

Also, on Monday we went to a party thinger with Matthew's research group. The professor is French (win), her husband is Tunisian (double win) and they made Mediterranean fare (win win win). It just made me so happy. We started out with cheese, crackers and drinks (fantastic cheese, I wish that kind had been in the sampler bin) and I think there was literally drool coming out the sides of my mouth when she explained what the meal was: lamb, homemade pita bread, homemade tzatziki and homemade hummus, cumin-infused rice, this terrific salad with tomatoes and avocados, and, my personal favorite, tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh is made with burghul or couscous, it is very Meditteranean, but it 14389% reminds me of France because they sell it in little containers in the grocery stores, and we ate it a lot. Because it rocks. And this tabbouleh was amazing. I could've eaten the whole bowl. What makes it great is that all of the ingredients are chopped very small, so you aren't eating a chunk of tomato or a chunk of cucumber, you just get a big burst of flavor in every bite. YUM. Even Matthew, who doesn't like cucumber or tomato, enjoyed it. We got the recipe from his professor, and all I'm saying is we are definitely making this soon. Amen and amen.

Here's the recipe for tabbouleh, if anyone is interested. It is easy peasy.

2 cups of couscous
3 ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 onion
1 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh mint

Dressing: 
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil


Prepare couscous according to instructions on package.



Cut tomato in half, remove excess seeds, and cut into very small 
cubes. Cut the cucumber in half, remove excess seeds, and cut into very 
small cubes. Cut onions into small chunks. Chop parsley. Chop mint. 
Place couscous, vegetables and herbs into a bowl.


For the dressing, in a bowl whisk lemon juice and 1-1/2 tsp salt until combined. Season with pepper and slowly whisk in olive oil. Pour over salad and toss until evenly coated.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

natalie's latest living arrangements

I've actually gotten several requests for pictures of Natalie's room. First though, I want to point out that she likes her room. I feel the need to make that clarification because yes, her room is technically a closet/laundry room:

 And that is my hand.
The choices for her bedroom were either this room, or the front room which is right by the door to the outside. Personally, I didn't want my baby sleeping by the front door, both because I would stay up worrying about her safety, and because then when she's sleeping it is a lot harder to go in and out without waking her. Plus, her little room is all cozy. And she totally is okay with it. Look at that last picture, she's about to unload a cupboard full of diapers. What's not to love??

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

my amazing little brother


You know that one scripture in Ether 12? It goes something like this:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Well, my little brother, Aaron (what a stud!):
recently became a missionary for the LDS church, and will be spending the next two years in Kennewick, Washington, teaching people about Christ. I am so incredibly proud of him, I can hardly stand it. To me, Aaron is the embodiment of this verse. Through the Lord’s grace, he has had his weaknesses turned into incredible strengths. He is so inspiring to me, and here's why.

When Aaron was 2 ½  years old, he went through a severe regression when my next brother Ryan was born.  Aaron stopped talking and interacting with others.  He got stuck in this regression and just didn’t come out of it.  By the time he was 3 ½ my mom noticed that he was significantly behind other children his age, kept to himself in his own little world, had trouble understanding language, and seemed significantly behind in his comprehension and cognition.  He was in a little preschool with other children, but he didn’t interact with them or understand much of what was going on.  He was always happy and cooperative, but had trouble with understanding and social interactions.

Aaron eventually was diagnosed with autism. For most children, this is condition that stays with them for their whole lives. They can learn, adapt, cope and make progress, but they usually still have trouble and are still autistic. Not so with Aaron. He used to have autism, today he definitely does not. He used to have significant difficulties in all of the main facets of autism—social, sensory and language/cognitive—and today, these areas are his biggest strengths. For example…

As a younger child, Aaron had a lot of difficulty interacting socially. He couldn’t answer people, maintain a conversation, greet people, hold eye contact, or relate information. He had a really hard time processing information and being able to interact. He was very much in his own little world.

For example, he hyperfocused on hats and videos. He used to be fixated on hats, and always had to have the hat that he wanted, or he would shut down. He had several Woody toys, and he had to have Woody’s hat, and when he lost the hat, nothing could happen. I remember many times combing the yard looking for that hat. He also used to communicate solely by quoting movies and singing songs, and he would sit in his spot and quote the same movies over and over again.

Now, he is completely the opposite. He is compassionate, interactive, social, he loves talking to people, he will chat on the phone with me (seriously, how many teenage boys chat on the phone?), he is absolutely hilarious. People love him. Girls fall all over themselves to be with him. People love to come and talk to him, hang out, because not only can he be interactive, but he is compassionate, and a good listener, and he can show that he cares about people by the way that he interacts and communicates with him. He knows the scriptures on a deep level and bears a powerful testimony. He is awesome, by anyone’s standards.

As for sensory issues, Aaron used to have a lot of tactile defensiveness. He couldn’t get out of his bubble, if you got too close to him, he would tense up, get all taut, he couldn’t handle hugs, or kisses, or any sort of closeness. Now, any sensory issues are gone. He will give you a warm, embracing hug (which a lot of girls appreciate, let me tell you!), and he is okay being close to people. It is just not an issue at all anymore.

Another amazing thing is related to coordination. Many kids with autism have a hard time with coordination of both sides of the brain, Aaron never had huge issues with this, but there were some deficits. He was rather awkward, not able to make his body work together very well, and he had some trouble with force modulation. His kinetic awareness was just a little off. Now—have you seen him play basketball? He is incredibly coordinated, he is quick, he is smooth, he can manipulate the basketball and do some crazy, fun tricks and moves. He is very skilled, and is just really fun to watch.

One last example—writing. Aaron used to never be able to think of things to write about, more than the usual writer’s block or difficulties thinking of topics or whatnot. It was like his difficulty with conversation, he literally couldn’t think of anything to say. These days, he is more like a normal, typical teenager, where it isn’t like he is an amazing writer, but he can write. He can do it, and he can do it at a normal level. Actually, I take that back. He is good. He let me glance at his journal before he went into the Missionary Training Center, and it was insightful, funny, gave good details. His letters since he left have been fantastic. They are the perfect mix of telling stories, showing excitement and enthusiasm, have little funny anecdotes in them, talking about spiritual experiences and how that makes him feel…honestly I think he is more than capable in writing.

There are so many more things that I could say about how Aaron has changed (and if you have 6 hours to spare, give my mom a call and she’ll tell you all about it). But here is the remarkable thing: Aaron was promised repeatedly, over and over, in many priesthood blessings, that if he would open his mouth and testify of the Lord, he would be healed, and if he would testify of the Lord’s power, it would be made manifest in him.

And I can tell you, absolutely, that this has happened. Aaron isn’t just better, it is not just that he can cope, or adapt, or just barely function in the world, his weaknesses are now amazing strengths, both relative to how he was before, and relative to the general population as well. You can’t tell at all that he has any sort of struggles—because he doesn't. He is healed. And he is absolutely amazing.

Now, it’s not like there was a priesthood blessing and Aaron bore his testimony and bam, he was all better. He has gone through so so SO much intensive therapy, IEPs, goals, my parents fought for him again and again and again, he was on a couple of different therapeutic diets, he had biomedical therapy, my mom was incredibly proactive about educating herself, researching, finding information, spending hours every day on all this stuff. There was an incredible amount of effort there, and Heavenly Father opened a lot of doors for Aaron to get the help that he needed.

But a lot of kids who have autism also spend years in therapy, and they can adapt, improve, maybe function alright, but they don’t have all of their difficulties go away, and then have them all turn into incredible strengths. He does so many things that kids with autism just shouldn't be able to do. He has opened his mouth, he testifies very powerfully of the Savior, and because of that, the Lord has fulfilled his promises, and Aaron really is an incredible example of the power of the priesthood. It is just amazing to see.

I love my brother so much, because he is sweet, kind, caring, funny, and an amazing example to me. He inspires me. I am so proud of the time and work that he has put in, his faith in the Lord, and his dedication to keep the commandments. I can’t wait to see what he will do with the rest of his life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

its the little things

Do you notice anything different about me?

I'm blogging from a new apartment! Huzzah! We are living in the downstairs apartment at Matthew's sister's house (hey guys!) and it is great, and I'm not just saying that because I'm pretty sure she reads this now and again. Besides the obvious reasons why we are really enjoying living here--you know, much more spacious living arrangements, nice kitchen, beautiful backyard, close to family--there are several other things that are enormous improvements over our last place.

1. When I stand on my tiptoes, my head doesn't hit the ceiling. Yes, I could do this at my last apartment.

2. There is a thermostat that we can control for the lower level. At our last place, the upstairs people controlled the temperature, and I WAS ALWAYS FREEZING. It was so cold, so often. Part of that was due to it being winter, and we are in the basement, so it is naturally going to be colder, but when it finally was in the 70s for a day, what did they do? THEY TURNED ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. FOR 5 HOURS! Ask me how I feel about that. ha.

3. There is a normal countertop here. At our old apartment, the countertop was tiled. So there was grout and grooves. And food got stuck in it, and it was hard to get it out, and you had to scrub to get the thing clean. Who wants to scrub counters on a near daily basis, or, have them full of crumbs and grossness? Not me. So glad to be done with that.

Anyway, we are pretty stoked to be moved and here. And that is my story.