Wednesday, February 23

Using Veggies in Daily Meals

I'm just going to start this off by saying how much I love food. I mean, what's there not to love? It tastes good, it smells good, it keeps you from getting a headache, it quiets children, it keeps you alive... I could go on. But the point is, there are all sorts of food or things that pass as food. This may sound bad, but whenever I need to feel superior (read: whenever I feel like I am an ineffectual mother or wife), I go to the grocery store and as I'm checking out, I compare my shopping cart with that of the person in front of me. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

Now I don't mean to bash folks who eat prepared foods, packaged foods, pop, cheezits, or whathaveyou. Maybe that's how they were raised. Or maybe that's all they have time for. Or maybe that's just how they roll. It's fine. But food is not something you want to mess with. I honestly believe that this country's chronic state of disease is due to our diet. However, I think that as much as people would like to eat healthily, they don't know how to. Another misconception people have is that healthy food is hard to prepare. In a culture of fast food and microwave meals, it sounds like a lot of work to chop veggies or bake chicken. The purpose of this post is to share my small attempt to feed my family in a healthy manner.

You know you probably don't eat enough of them. In fact, I doubt you could ever eat too many. (I say that because I don't really want to eat them because I don't really like to eat them). So here's a start. There are some vegetables that are pretty worthless when it comes to nutritional value. Iceburg lettuce and white mushrooms are two that come to mind. Why eat them if they don't do anything for you? Instead, buy those organic spring mixes or romaine lettuce.

Dark, leafy greens are very good for you, especially you women. High in iron and I can't remember what else, but take it from my mom... "They're good for you!" When buying them, here are a few thoughts. Swiss chard is yummy. Kale is yummy (or can be). Collards are decent. Mustard greens are nasty! I have not found a way to make those taste palatable. Spinach is good, too, but best in salads. The main problem with veggies, for me anyhow, is preparation time. To save time, what I do is buy a bunch of leafy greens once a week, take them home and wash them right away. Fill your sink with warm water and about half a cup of vinegar. Let them soak and then rinse. Put them in your dish tray to dry. When they are mostly dry, chop them into 1 inch slices. With kale and collards, I slice out the stem and then chop the leafy parts. Buy gallon size ziplock bags and fill them up with the greens. Refridgerate. They will last about one and a half weeks. To cook them, I simply put a few hand fulls into a large frying pan. Then I add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I cover the pan and let it steam on medium high until the greens turn bright green and shrink to about 1/4 of their normal size. With swiss chard, you might cook it longer to cook the stems. As for taste, let's just leave it at the fact that my husband eats them. :)

Nutritionists will tell you to eat "the rainbow of vegetables." Translate: eat a variety of different colored veggies. Along those lines, I add carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. These taste wonderful when stir-fried with onions and garlic. These also can be washed and chopped ahead of time and refridgerated for over a week.

Both onions and garlic have wonderful immune-system boosting effects. They also make any dish taste and smell good. (Maybe not desserts, however.) Add them to any dinner dish and you won't regret it (unless you eat garlic and your hubbie opts out... that could be problematic).

Squashes - butternut and acorn - are also very good for you. They're very easy to prepare and my 20 month old daughter loves them. If you want to keep your meals on the lower-carb end, they are a great way to eat healthy carbs. For both, I wash the skins, then split them open and scoop out the seeds. Then I put them in a greased (olive oil) casserole dish with the bowl of the squash facing up. I put a dab of butter or coconut oil in the center, then sprinkle some salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake this in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until they are soft and yum! You can also fill the squash with apple sauce, or chopped apples and cranberries.

What this all boils down to is that I don't like spending all day preparing a meal. I like to start about half an hour before we eat (an hour for dinner). If you prewash and chop your veggies, you can incorporate vegetables into all meals, cook time being about 10 minutes. It's amazing what salt, pepper, oil and vinegar will do.

You have to pick your battles

Looking back from my vintage old age of 25 years, I realize that I had a lot of unidentified ideals in my younger days. Very few had to do with a husband, which seems to be common among most ladies. No, mine had to do with children. I always knew I was going to have kids... a husband as well, presumably. These kids of mine were quite the bunch! To begin with, they were very well-behaved. They acted as my siblings and I had to act in church for fear of my Dad. Which was very well-behaved. We never left church without someone commenting on what good kids we were. They never hit other kids, were always polite to adults, were interesting, intelligent, and most of all, helpful to their mother. I can still see it... all eight or ten of these imaginary children helped out with the house work and the farm chores while their benevolent mother oversaw it all and nursed the latest installment. They always did as they were asked and never said "no." These wonderful children lived in a clean house. Everything was always where it was supposed to go. The good children always put their toys away, always cleaned up after themselves, and their mother moved through her days in peace and tranquility. My imaginary children never put their mother through what my 5 siblings and I put our long-suffering mother through. She hounded us all day to finish our chores, threatened us with "no play time!" if we didn't, and despite her best efforts, our house was far from tidy on most days.

Needless to say, my imaginary children are something a thing of the past now that I have actual children. My actual children... now that is another story! I learned very early on that children love to do what you are doing. Greta is happiest when she is rearranging my pantry, meticulously moving canned goods from the pantry to the shelf under the table. Her day is not complete if she has not taken out all the pots and pans and inspected their lack of contents. The tupperware is not exempt, either. Who, if not Greta, would match them with their lids? The bookshelf is another thing of joy for Greta. She delights in "reading" books, but not as much in returning them to the shelf. Yet her greatest pleasure lies in emptying dresser drawers. Really, such an undertaking is one that my imaginary children would never have dreamed of! Oh no, those angels would have been putting their clothes neatly in the drawers. Greta, on the other hand, can spend an entire morning "organizing" her clothes. It's actually quite impressive to watch her dress her dolls in them.

So Mommy has learned to adapt. I never bother to fold Greta's clothes and make only the loosest attempt at organizing them. Dresses in the top drawer, pants and jammies in the next one, and shirts and sweaters on the bottom. Nor need you look for order in any of the lower drawers in the kitchen. There is one for "pots," one for "containers," and one for bowls. But no tidy stacks of variating sizes for us. What is the point?

Obedience is another place where my ideals led me astray. Surprise, surprise! Greta loves to say "no!" Sometimes, it's a sweet, cajoling kind of "no." At other times, it is very firmly and definitively "no!" Either way, you get the point. Again, Mommy is wizening up. When Greta does something now that she isn't supposed to do - for example, poke eyes - I give her something positive to do, such as "point to your ears, Greta." This distracts her from poking her eyes and has the added benefit of preventing her from telling me "no." This has about a 70% success rate.

At any rate, I think that the most important thing that I've learned about children since having my own is that all children are naughty and messy and disobedient at some point. Following from that, I am learning to temper my hasty judgments about other people's children. Discipline is a lot of work. I have yet to learn how to put Greta in her crib (her "time out" place) and nurse Joseph at the same time. Don't they say something about effective discipline being quick in order to be effective? Well, try waiting to finish nursing before disciplining your toddler. If I was the proverbial fly on the wall, I would be laughing at myself.

Sunday, February 13

Now for a happy post

So now that I got the complaining out of my system for the time being, let's talk about something pleasant. Like... my kids.

They are really awesome. No two ways about that. Greta is now 20 months and as much the baby joy as ever. She is such a sociable girl. She knows a few words in English, but what she lacks in English grammar she makes up in her own language. If only I could speak it! All day long, she keeps very busy. If it is possible, she is busier than her mother. She has a whole dresser of her clothes that needs emptied, and then there are the drawers belonging to Joseph and Mommy that need attention. Then there is the dishwasher that requires her skills in emptying. From there, she usually moves on to the pots and pans and tupperware. Last but not least, she has a baby to care for. Baby Jesus made his entry into our home around Christmas, and despite my efforts, is here to stay. Baby Jesus is very much in the flesh around here. He is a foot long, resin Christ child from a church's manger scene. My mother in law bought him and sent him to us. He has a nice little manger to sleep in, and until Greta came along, he usually stayed there. But Greta has since adopted Baby Jesus as her baby. I mean, really! If Mommy gets to have a baby, why shouldn't Greta? Kids normally get tired of toys after a few days... a week is tops for Greta. But Baby Jesus is here to stay. When I tried to pack him up with the other decorations, Greta threw a fit and desperately tried to rescue her infant from the box of garlands. It's been about 2 months now and Greta faithfully tends her baby every day. He gets burped quite often, and he is usually wrapped in a blanket of Joseph's that Greta has commandeered. He even gets his diapers changed. I love it!

Now Joseph is another story. When I had Greta, I thought she was an easy child. I have since found out that I was wrong. Joseph is waaaaaaaay easier! He really is the most contented and contentable soul I have ever encountered. He sleeps well, eats well, and smiles. I adore a baby smile. His smiles aren't just constipation grins. No, they are all out chuckles when Mommy or Daddy smile at him. I'm finding out, however, that he strongly believes in a time and place for everything. Namely, that he should be in bed, with Mommy, and nursing at 10 pm., not in his car seat, under a table at a Rotary dinner function. Hell no! He is very clear about letting his mother know that this is not acceptable. And mother is learning very quickly. Dear Joseph....

And the two of them together? Ahhhh! Warms my heart every time. Greta adores Joseph. She must kiss him every morning and every time she sees Mommy nursing him on the couch. If he cries, she looks worried and checks on him. If he's in his swing, she will stop his swing and inspect. My favorite was when Joseph was crying in my arms and Greta heard him. She then went to find his burp cloth and brought it to me. I almost cried :) They are such wonderful babies.

Saturday, February 12

What am I doing here??

Ever find yourself asking that? I do, especially when Josh and I go out for any quasi-social event. Whenever we do this, I am very forcibly reminded that I am a mother. Life is really easy until you have children. Don't get me wrong... I wanted children very much and I dearly love said children. However, children are a lot of work! And they definitely put a crimp in one's social life. I think I am still in the "adjusting" part of life right now. I'm still too close to the time when it was all in a day's work to pick up and go out for an evening with friends, or to have friends over for after-dinner drinks. We thought nothing of it. Now... Good lord! It is a veritable circus to simply get out of the house and into the car. Going out with friends involves enough planning and strategizing to fill an instructional manual. And dressing up for and attending the annual Rotary dinner... I remain unconvinced that there is anything attractive or stylish that one can wear to nurse in. And what is the point of listening to a speaker when you have a whining infant in your arms?

Get the jist? Yes, I'm complaining again. It sounds bad to say that I'm sick of my children... because that isn't the problem. I'm sick of being tired and grouchy, of never catching up, of never feeling like I'm doing a good job, of constantly "adjusting." I hate adjusting. I wish this mothering business would simply figure itself out.

Here's the thought that keeps me going on the average day.

"What is my job in life right now?"
"To take care of my children and love my husband."
"Have I taken care of my children today? Are they healthy, fed, and happy?"
"Does my husband know I love him and most importantly, appreciate him?"

If I can answer yes to the last two questions, then I have done my job. I personally may not feel like I did it well, but my own feelings of success or failure are independent of whether or not I've actually done what I'm supposed to do in a given day. Of course, it's nice to have the satisfaction of feeling good about your job, but it doesn't always happen that way. I personally thrive off of affirmation and that warm, fuzzy feeling of  "a good well done." But there are good days and bad days and blah days. These feelings won't last. No child stays 2 months old forever, nor are rashes on a toddler life-threatening. Now if only it could be spring....