Peanut Butter Spinach...again!

I've written about peanut butter spinach before, but it's ridiculously easy and very adaptable way to use up greens this time of year. If you have a CSA, you know what I'm talking about. We first ate this peanut-y greens stew in Uganda, and it really is just basically greens and peanuts, with a little tomato, sauted in a small amount of oil, and blended up altogether. Salt to taste. We had stale salted peanuts from a couple of months ago when M went to a baseball game. They were just cluttering up the pantry, so I taught Laurel to shell them. She shelled approximately one and a half nuts before she started just eating the ones I shelled. So, I shelled a lot of peanuts. Mark threw in some spinach we had leftover from last week's CSA along with a sweet heirloom tomato he got at the co-op. Saute uncovered for a few minutes, then ladle it a few scoops at a time into a food processor and blend. Once it's all blended up, put it back on the stove and let it cook down for a minute. Yep, it's really that easy. I didn't take a photo because it looks like green mush. Not too pretty. But tasty nonetheless. You could add onions or garlic if you had some. You can use virtually any type of greens. If they're bitter, you might want to put a little sugar in it. If you don't have leftover peanuts, you can just put a couple of scoops of peanut butter in. We ate it over amaranth, but it would also be good on rice, quinoa or on a baked potato.


Great American Backyard Camp Out

This weekend we celebrated Great American Backyard Camp Out by camping out in my parents' backyard. Some of our friends came out from the city and there were plenty of neighborhood kids running around, too. We set up tents, had a campfire, and just ran around in the grass, climbed trees and played in the dirt. My parents live in an old-fashioned neighborhood where kids run back and forth in between the yards all day and into the evening...which is quite different than what we can do in our neighborhood!

People need to spend more time outside. I think I could cure most of the apathy and ADHD I see in the classroom with a little exposure to nature. There's nothing wrong with technology, or television, but it needs to be balanced. Richard Louv says in the Nature Principle: 

"The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

That quote really resonates with me because I think you learn a lot of problem solving when you spend time outside. Watching clouds to predict the weather, judging whether a water source is safe to drink, timing your pace to see how far you might get in a day...these are all fairly high-stakes problems that have some amount of unpredictability involved, requiring you to make decisions, then adapt as new information comes up. Other activities, like climbing trees, catching fireflies and learning where the poison ivy is help to heighten the senses and develop motor skills.

M and I are a bit more adventurous than most...but before we moved to Phoenix in 2004, we really didn't do any outdoor activities. When we started hiking, we had our fair share of running-out-of-water scares, and how-do-you-set-up-this-tent arguments as the sun was setting. When we started hiking the Appalachian Trail we had six nights of backpacking experience between the two of us. Reading about hypothermia is nothing compared to actually trying to light a stove while your fingers are shaking in 10 degree weather. Last week I went on my first solo backpacking trip and realized I feel completely comfortable with my ability to handle pretty much anything, all on my own.

It's easier to learn outdoor skills when you are around other people who have them. That's how I learned about hanging a bear line and reading a topographic map and that birch bark makes a good fire starter.  I have a goal this summer to organize a backpacking trip for families with young children and show them that it is possible to take a two year old out into the woods and have everybody survive. But whether it's the backyard, or you venture a little further into the woods, the main thing is that summer especially should be a time where kids are running around outside.


2 and 7/12 (and a little bit more)

So, Laurel is 2 and a half now. Very much into doing her own thing, her own way, on her own timeline. Shrieks and howls will alert you if something you are doing is interfering with what she had in mind. She amazes me daily. Today, she correctly identified all the vegetables coming out of the CSA basket - differentiating between kale and lettuce, and somehow knew what a garlic scape was. Of course, she's been able to tell the difference between maple, oak and sycamore trees for months now. It's all in the leaf. She's potty training. She's too smart for us, and I think she's drawing it out so that she can get jelly beans. The games she plays are all modeled on setting up elaborate scenes of regular daily life...picnics, camping, dessert, going to bed. She's obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, but unlike most kids, she seems to get more of a kick out of the personalities of the trains, than trains themselves. I bought her a track, but she's unamused by setting it up and pushing trains around. She likes her trains to be either useful or getting into some kind of scrape that makes the conductor cross. (All parents of two year olds just rolled their eyes at that statement.)

I've noticed her sense of empathy has developed. We aren't a household of a lot of Because-I-Said-So rules. Occasionally I regret this, because it seems like it would just be easier to declare a lot of rules and make everybody follow them all the time, and instead we spend a lot of time explaining things and figuring out gray areas as a family. But Laurel seems aware that M and I have feelings and needs and that there are times when we can't do what she wants to do because of it...and I've been surprised to watch the temper tantrums fade away to be replaced by acts of kindness - she carries her dishes to the kitchen, for example. Not because it's a rule, but because she wants to.

I posted a picture of her, but it got zapped by the internet. In it, she's walking, alone on a path in Frick Park, and when I think back on this time, I think I'll picture her like that...a little sassy, independent skip in her step, doing her own thing.


Diet Update

Last month, I wrote about my experimentation with the Elimination Diet. I reintroduced wheat in late May with negative effects (terrible acne) and have once again eliminated wheat and gluten from my diet. I'm mostly grain-free, once in a while eating some corn pasta or using a little gluten-free flour mixture when I'm making something, but for the most part, grains are out and meat is in. Yep, I'm eating chicken, fish and meat on a fairly regular basis, although still mostly cooking vegetarian at home. I lost about 5 pounds or so while on the Elimination Diet, and really, I would not want to lose any more, having already lost 15-20 pounds over the course of the year. My biggest reason for introducing meat was to stop any further weight loss. I'm eating dairy right now, but I have a feeling that some of that disagrees with me as well. I'll probably cut out certain inflammatory dairy foods. I've read some interesting things about the pasteurization process being problematic for some people, so I might try sticking with raw milk and cheese for a while and see what happens there. The biggest thing I've noticed is without grains, my blood sugar doesn't seem to swoop and dive as it once did. I've lost the intense craving for baked goods and alcohol. I also tend to reach for healthier snacks in general...carrots with hummus, raw almonds, green smoothies, etc. My skin is clearing up, and I have more energy.

 Doing the elimination diet was not as hard as one would think. I didn't make it through a full two days of green smoothies, but I learned my lesson that you need to make a LOT of green smoothies and pretty much drink them all day. Or plan it around some kind of retreat weekend, instead of the algebra-teaching-toddler-chasing daily grind. The phase 1 was actually kind of nice because it was so limiting that you eat pretty much the same things for a week or two and are not tempted by junk food. I lost patience with the phase 2 and 3, and didn't really take advantage of the opportunity to isolate more foods that I may have trouble with. At some point in the future, I will do this again and look at tree nuts, peanuts, and soy more closely. I'm lucky to live across the street from the East End Food Co-op, where foods are clearly labeled with ingredients and origin. 

When I began suffering from mystery-gastrointestinal-auto-immune-disease last year, I did not find many answers from conventional medicine. I had a colonoscopy, endoscopy, CT scan, ultrasound of my entire abdomen and many, many blood panels. They found nothing, called it IBS and gave me Omeprazole (prilosec), Prochlorperazine (compazine) and Dicylcomine (an anti-spasmodic). My doctor could not give me a definitive diet to follow, foods to avoid, or even a method for figuring out what, if any, foods were irritating to me. I have to admit that I'm a bad patient, because I never took any of the pills. Instead, I started a regime of acupuncture and Mayan abdominal massage, as well as tinkering with my diet in the most methodical way I could.

 You can read about the plan I followed here I'm definitely not offering medical advice, but you know if you take any of the drugs I mentioned above, the side effects are nothing short of frightening, so you might want to consider alternative options. I'd be happy to answer more specific questions about this journey. It's definitely not over, but I feel like I'm on the right path.

Happy Fathers Day

I don't think I knew or fully appreciated the kind of man I had married until I watched him become a father. M has this intuitive, curious, joyful style of parenting that is beautiful to watch. People stop me at least once a week to tell me about something they saw M and Laurel doing. Usually it was something mundane....walking to daycare or grocery shopping. "They look like they're having so much fun," is usually what I hear. And it's not an act or some parenting trick M has to make Laurel follow directions. They literally are just having fun being together.  Happy Fathers Day to the best guy I know!

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.6


Hitting Your Stride

Sometimes when you run or hike you start off feeling out of balance. Creaky. You can't put your finger on the problem...there was no injury and the weather is good. But still, it doesn't feel right. And then, like magic, you settle in, and hit your stride.

Parenting is like that. You head out for your routine jog one day, and it just doesn't feel right. Things that used to work, don't. There are tantrums and friction over things that shouldn't be a big deal. Nobody gets enough sleep. And then, it clicks back into place, and you hit your stride again.

We hit a big milestone this week with Laurel being able to talk about the connection between her behavior and consequences. I will not fight or cry, and then we can go to the playground, she said. And then, at bath time tonight, I told her we only had enough time to watch a tv program if she went fast. There was a minimum of tears when she realized she took too long. Then she went downstairs and reported to M that she took "too long and no Thomas now."  No tantrum.

The tantrums have been extremely disruptive to the whole household. She runs away and is getting too big and wiggly to scoop up. Similarly to when she was an infant, she really escalates quickly if you don't nip it in the bud. Tears, shouting, flinging herself around. Obvious frustration on her point...sometimes she even says "I'm frustrated!" A lot of these tantrums have happened in the middle of the night, keeping us all awake for an hour or more, and then leaving M and I too wired to sleep when it's all done.

But today was a good day. She got right in the car from daycare, helped to carry things into the house. The three of us sat down to dinner (taco night!) and we all actually ate for a change. For enough time for me to have 3 tacos. M took her to the playground after dinner while I did the dishes and there were no battles about getting there or coming back. She played with other kids. When she came home, we took a bath and read a few stories, and now it seems she's asleep.

It feels natural and good and right. Our stride.