Monday, June 30, 2014

Starting Baby on Solid Foods for Moms Who Don't Have Time For That Sort of Thing

With my first baby, I carefully followed the little table in the book they gave me in the hospital that tells you exactly which food to start with, and in which order to introduce other foods. I sat Jack in his highchair and watched as he tongued back out the little spoonfuls of rice cereal mixed with breast milk that I patiently put into his mouth.

Then I scraped it off of his face and offered it again.

And all I got for my trouble was a baby so constipated that he broke a bunch of capillaries in his cheeks straining to go.

So, so sad.

These days, I really don't have the time or the inclination to spoon feed a baby. And I don't even think it's the best way to go about it. So starting a baby on solid foods at our house looks a lot different now. A LOT different. And for me it works a lot better.

Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer: My babies have all been healthy and free from conditions that might affect their eating, and my family doesn't have a history of food allergies. Here's where I'm supposed to tell you to ask your doctor, but, honestly, I don't think all doctors are especially good at this part. So, how about, just trust your Mama gut. That's what I do. I'm not saying you should do this. I'm just saying this is what *I* do.

So, here's how I feed babies now:

1. I start when baby shows interest, not on a set timeline.

I don't have a rule about what age I start my babies on solid food. They spend most meals sitting on my lap (or in the bumbo) watching what we're doing, and they get to eat solid food when they really, really want to. Not before, not after.

For most of my babies that has been around five months. Your babies may vary.

I don't rely on baby being able to sit up, or sit in a high chair, because she's mostly sitting on my lap anyway. (I do use a high chair, eventually.) I don't rely on teeth coming in, because my babies don't get teeth until they're almost a year and they really, really want to eat solid food well before that.

But if baby is happy not eating solid food, and still nursing well, I don't worry about it one bit. Every week we wait is one more week of sweet baby diaper changes and not . . . the other kind.

2. No rice cereal.

'Cause I do not want to do that again.

But no matter what, feeding babies makes me feel a bit like a mad scientist anyway. Or a potions master. Baby straining to go? More water, more nursing. Still? Peaches and bits of raisins. Uh oh. Overshot. Bananas!

3. I don't use baby food.

I don't use rice cereal, but I also mostly don't use other baby foods either.

With my first, I puréed my own baby food and froze it in little trays, because I think that's mandatory for all first time moms who ever read an attachment parenting book.

Then I had my second nineteen months later and I couldn't even imagine a world in which I could have found a way to steam a sweet potato AND put it in the blender on the same day. So I bought jars of baby food. And she wouldn't have anything to do with them. Even at six and seven and eight months. She just wasn't interested.

So I kept nursing her and started offering her bits of my food. And THAT she liked. So that's what we did. No baby food, and it was fine.

4. Baby eats what I eat.

At five or six months, or when they show an interest, I start them on tiny sips of broth off of my spoon, or a little fingerful of a soft fruit or vegetable I'm having.

Eventually, as baby is able to gum and swallow more, she gets a little of everything I'm eating. Meat, veggies, eggs, dairy, nuts, everything. After reading this article in the Wall Street Journal, I actually make a point of giving my kids highly allergenic foods, in case it does help to introduce them early.

Food Allergy Advice for Kids: Don't Delay Peanuts, Eggs

My guess is that my kids just naturally don't happen to have food allergies. My oldest, to whom I did not give peanuts as a baby doesn't have a peanut allergy, and neither do my younger kids, who have been gumming peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since six months old.

So, maybe it helps with allergies, maybe not, but it IS cheaper, easier, and more convenient than baby food. Our babies and toddlers and kids just eat what we are eating.

I think it makes for an easier transition to solid food as well. Since my babies are breastfed, they are used to some of the tastes of the foods I usually eat, since the flavors come through in the breast milk. Table food is going to taste a lot more familiar to my baby than a single ingredient jar of squash, because I don't eat a lot of squash baby food.

5. I think of table food as entertainment, not nourishment.

Here's the best difference between how I fed my oldest and how I feed babies now: I don't worry about it. At all.

I keep nursing my babies until somewhere between one and two, depending on the baby <cough, Frankie> and that's where their most important nutrition is coming from.

With Jack, I kept track of how much he had eaten in a day. I sat with him in the high chair trying to get him to finish a serving of baby food, spoonful by spoonful.

I do not do that anymore. Babies who can't feed themselves get to eat off of my plate, babies who can sit up in the high chair get some food of an appropriate size and consistency on their tray and they get to eat what they can get in their mouths themselves. Sometimes one of the big kids will want to spoon feed them, which is fine with me, but I don't make a habit of doing it myself.

And they've all thrived. And are very tall. But again, that's probably because all the men on both sides of the family are very tall. Still, no one around here is going hungry. 

As long as baby is still nursing, I view eating solid food as something that keeps them busy, not as something that keeps them fed.

By the time they are weaned, my kids have all been eating quite well, all on their own. 

6. The Frankie exception.

The Frankie exception is just to prove that you never know what you're going to get. Even when you think you've done this enough times to know what you're doing.

Frankie was a skinny baby. He didn't like most anything, including solid foods, and had a lot of trouble with the consistency of foods. I would have happily just kept nursing him, but he weaned himself at a year. My only baby to do that. I didn't want to try to figure out bottles and formula with baby number six, so we did do squeezie packets of baby food with him, because he would eat them. He also ate a lot of ice cream.

But, we kept offering him table food as well, and eventually we were able to make the switch. And he's not at all particular about food or textures now.

Lulu is at the other end of the spectrum from Frankie, on all things, but also on solid foods. She can and will eat everything. She's seven months now and happily eats chili and noodles and breakfast burritos and Hawaiian pizza.

And that's it. Feeding solid food to a baby doesn't have to be an ordeal, it really doesn't have to be a thing at all. Unless you have a Frankie, in which case, you do what you have to do.

Here's how we handle food with older kids:
And more about this guy:


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Answer Me This . . . The Occasional Perils of Public Transportation

Welcome to Answer Me This . . . the internet's favorite virtual cocktail party* in which I ask six totally random questions and we all answer them and get to know each other a little better. Isn't that nice?

*this statement may not be true.

So, here goes this week's edition:

1. How often do you take public transportation?

Almost never, but I wish I could do it more. Everyone drives everywhere in Los Angeles, so we drive everywhere in the Big Giant Van. While we're in Chicago over the summer, we usually walk everywhere, which is my favorite. And sometimes we take the train downtown to visit Papa. The kids love it, and I love not having to put Lulu in her car seat, which is the only thing in the world that she hates.

We also do a lot of public transportation while traveling, with mostly great success.

But there was one time, when we were on a bus in Mexico City, heading out of town to see the Teotihuacan pyramids. The husband, me, my parents, the kids, baby Anita, bus in Mexico City. I don't think it had a lady holding a chicken, but it totally COULD have. 

The people on the bus kept looking at us and speaking in Spanish too fast for me to understand and gesticulating and looking at us. Which is pretty normal for us, really. But then finally a guy got up and walked down the aisle of the moving bus to make sure we knew that that was the last bus of the day and there wouldn't be any way to get back into the city. 

No, we did NOT know that. So, we asked the driver to stop the bus and we got off on a freeway on-ramp and walked back to the apartment we were renting. Public transportation. Good times.

2. How many cousins do you have?

I have six cousins, three on my mom's side and three on my dad's side.

Here is my mom's side of the family, including cousins, at my grandparent's 50th. (Quick aside, Lulu and I are leaving Chicago for Memphis on Monday to go visit my grandmother -- my inspiration for letting my hair go gray -- who is 94 now and struggling with some health issues. :0( Please pray for her.)

And my sister and my cousins are in yellow here:

MY kids have four cousins so far, two on each side. We're definitely hoping to end up with more than that. Seeing my kids get to hang out with their cousins is one of my favorite parts of summer.

3. Have you ever fired a gun?

Yes, but I don't do it regularly.

My dad took my sister and I shooting a couple of times when we were kids. And one of my first dates with the husband was to Ladies' Night at an indoor shooting range in San Diego. He took me on some pretty great dates.

I asked my dad if he had any pictures of us shooting as kids. He couldn't find any, but he DID send me this epic photograph of my mom firing a flintlock:

And a picture of his old van:

4. Do you ride roller coasters?

Roller coasters I like. Spinning things I cannot do. They make me super barfy, which I hate to admit because it seems wussy, so sometimes I go on them anyway. And they always make me sick.

But yes to roller coasters.

5. What's your favorite flower?

Lillies are my favorite. Especially the Stargazer Lily:

I used to like tulips best, but they are awfully temperamental and seem to start drooping right away. The husband gave me a bouquet of these and they lasted for over a week and have been my favorite ever since.

6. Are you allergic to anything?

I was finally able to get the scratch testing done, and the allergist thought I might be allergic to a whole bunch of stuff including ragweed, dogs, and gluten, but I had tested negative for those things on the blood tests, and they really wouldn't explain the unexplained itching I was having, and that itching is now gone. So . . . I have decided that: No. I'm not allergic to anything.

For next week I'm tagging a couple of the fifteen ladies involved in a new project I'm a part of, that I'm really excited about. It's called Blessed Is She. Come September it will be a place on the web to find daily devotionals for Catholic women. I'll be writing some of them, and so will some other awesome Catholic bloggers.

Until we're up and running, check out Jenna at A Mama Collective. Hiding My Faith from Blog Readers

And Olivia at To the Heights. She needs your help: Help Me: Postpartum and Nursing Wear

Next week's questions for Jenna and Olivia and you are . . .

1. Have you ever walked out of a movie?

2. What do you most often use for blogs and blogging: desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone?

3. Have you ever had anything stolen from you?

4. Do you identify as a member of a particular ethnic group? 

5. Do you abstain from meat on Fridays?

6. Seen anything weird lately?

Next week's installment will go live at 10pm Pacific Saturday night, and will be open until 10pm Wednesday night.

So, please, answer this week's questions for yourself in the comments. If you have a blog, answer the questions there, link back to this post, and link your blog post up below. You can even tag a couple other bloggers so THEY can play along too! So fun.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Movies You Should See Even if You're NOT Stuck on a Plane for Fourteen Hours

Last month, we went to France (you can find posts about the trip here). I had grand plans about all the things I was going to accomplish on the flight. Reading, writing, embroidering, catching up on sleep, etc. I did a tiny bit of the first, and some of the last, but mostly, I just watched movies. If my children have taught me anything, it's that tiny seat back movie screens will cure what ails ya on a long flight.

But, the good news is that I really enjoyed all the movies. Wait, no, I really recommend all the movies. One I did not enjoy. But I think I should have watched it, and I think perhaps you should too.

So, whether or not you find yourself encased for hours upon end in an aluminum tube traveling through the air at 600 miles per hour, here are some movies to consider.

1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller is great as Walter Mitty, a nondescript desk-jobber whose heroic daydreams inspire an actual adventure.

It turns out to be an excellent example of a movie that is true to the spirit of its source material, but is pretty much completely different in every other way. The plot is completely unlike that of the short story upon which it is based (which I also like), but it's a great translation of Thurber's concept into modern times.

The visuals are a stunning mix of on location panoramas and clever computer generated shots. My favorite is Walter's imagined superhero-style street flight with the jerk consultant sent to transition Walter out of his job.

He's a truly unique protagonist, and easy to root for. No gore, no language, no funny business. There is a moral issue with his love interest, who has an estranged husband. But maybe he'll die? Or their marriage wasn't valid? Yeah, let's hope for that second one. It's rated PG and I think would be appropriate for middle schoolers and up. I don't think my kids younger than that would find much to care about in it.

Anyway, I loved it. As did Iris at A Country Girl's Daybook. And SHE even figured out how to make Walter Mitty's Mom's Clementine Cake. It looks really tasty.

2. The Book Thief

I watched this movie a second time on the airplane and still liked it. I can't speak to how it compares with the book upon which it is based, because I still haven't read it.

But, I loved the acting and the characters really resonated with me. They felt really real and believable and un-idealized. Their reactions to the complicated and tragic world events of WWII in Germany felt true to me.

We see the regular people of one German town, some of whom are terrible, most of whom just go about their lives, and some of whom are really heroic in small and meaningful ways.

I loved the portrayal of the husband and wife who take in Liesel, he is henpecked, she's a bit of a shrew, and yet, they do love and support each other. No language, very little blood or even violence, especially considering its setting, no love scenes, some sadness. The cinematography is really beautiful.

It's rated PG-13. I would also let my middle schoolers watch this one, but there are deaths in it that would make them pretty sad.

3. Twelve Years a Slave

Whew. This movie.

This is the one that I can't say I enjoyed, but am really glad I watched.

It's based on a book as well, the autobiographical story of a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The inhumanity and degradation is really hard to watch. I have found that sort of thing really not worth the discomfort it causes me to watch in some TV shows, but I thought it was worth every flinch here.

I spent last summer reading a lot about George Washington and other founding fathers, and about their ownership of slaves. I had kind of managed to convince myself that, obviously, slavery was wrong, but that there were still good people who owned slaves and that there was a way to treat them compassionately, if a slave owner chose to do that.

Watching this movie really showed me otherwise. It showed how every single person involved in slavery is necessarily dehumanized. One character is a good man who refuses to acknowledge the truth about the slave he owns. He sees that Solomon is clearly an educated man, but in the end values his investment more than doing the right thing. There is a psychopath who requires not only labor, but also entertainment from his slaves, and who uses the words of the Bible to further his own interests. There are overseers who are as broken as the men they must subjugate. There are wives who must spend their lives pretending like all of this is okay and normal. And that's just the white people.

We also see what the institution of slavery did to the slaves themselves. Solomon loses his physical freedom, but he also loses the emotional and moral freedom to stand up for what is right and what he knows he believes. We see black men and women who have abandoned morality for creature comforts or a bit of prestige. It is truly heartbreaking and stomach turning to watch. But, really, it's worth it. I think everyone should know.

Really the only heroic characters in the whole movie are another kidnapped man who tries to stand up for a woman who's going to be sexually assaulted, and he gets murdered, and . . . your friendly neighborhood Brad Pitt, who shows up in what's basically a glorified cameo to tell us that, and pay attention now children, slavery is WRONG and we should not do it. Gee, thanks Brad Pitt.

But, really, a great and important and well-done movie that you should make yourself watch even though it contains violence and nudity and sex because it wouldn't be as powerful or as true without those things. I would let older teens watch it, I think. So that they would know.

4. The Blind Side

Somehow I missed this movie when it came out, but, wow, I thought it was great.

Sandra Bullock really IS amazing as the sassy, non-nonsense Tennessee mom who ends up adopting a gentle giant of an abused, abandoned high schooler.

It has a great message of love and family.

It's rated PG-13. The overall story has a very positive message, but it includes some heavy subject matter like drug-use and racism, so again I think I'd reserve it for older teens.

5. The Lego Movie

I had seen this one already (and reviewed it here), but I watched it again and loved it even more.

It's just exactly my sense of humor.

I especially appreciated the Batman-as-jerk-boyfriend subplot on my second viewing. Really, the whole thing is just so clever and well-done.

It's PG. All my kids have seen it, but I think it's best appreciated by the six and over crowd. It's an intense action movie with a pretty complicated plot.

6. The Monuments Men

All the famous people are in this movie. Except Brad Pitt, I guess. C'mon Brad Pitt, don't you also want to explain to us how it's bad to destroy art?

Anyway, this movie was great to watch as we headed to France, where part of our trip was devoted to the beaches at Normandy and other WWII sites. But I think I would've enjoyed it even in my own living room, as kind of a cross between Oceans 11 and Saving Private Ryan.

It explores the question of whether beauty and culture are worth preserving in a time of war, even at the expense of human lives.

George Clooney's character says modern Western society is founded on Catholic art. Which it IS, of course. I just never expected to hear it from George Clooney.

The characters are flawed and interesting and endearing, and the story is compelling. The violence and gore and language is minimal, considering that it's a war movie. And there's no funny business. It's rated PG-13, but I'd save it for older teens.

7. Annie

When I was a girl, Frozen was called Annie.

When MY mom threatened to duct tape my mouth shut if I didn't stop singing those songs over and over again, they were songs from Annie.

So, maybe it was shortsighted to suggest that my girls watch Annie on the plane. But they loved it, and it was all nostalgic for me. And at least there's now a little more variety in the constant musical numbers around here.

There are some moments of peril that worried Anita, and some very confusing magical powers (hey, it's sounding more like Frozen all the time!), and bad guys do bad stuff, but what else would you expect from bad guys? It's rated PG. I thought it was fine for four year olds.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? What other movies should be on my list for this summer?

And . . . Happy Feasts of the Sacred Heart (Friday) and the Immaculate Heart (Saturday).

The feast of the Sacred Heart is a solemnity . . . on a Friday, so, live it up people:

Check out Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Born Without Original Sin. Ate Locusts.

Happy Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist!

Some FUN FACTS about St. John the Baptist:

Only Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist get feasts for their BIRTHdays. A saint's feast day is usually celebrated on the day of his death, or his birth into Heaven.

This is because only those three people have ever been born without original sin. Jesus and Mary were also CONCEIVED without original sin. John the Baptist, however, was conceived as usual, with original sin. But THEN, he was baptized with a baptism of desire before his birth when he recognized Jesus as God in the womb of Mary. And leapt within his mother's womb. So he wasn't conceived without sin, but he was BORN without sin!

Read more here:

St. John the Baptist's birth foreshadowed his philosophy. He was born on June 24th, just days after the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. After his birth, each day decreases, becoming shorter and shorter, until . . . you guessed it, December. Jesus was born December 25th, after which each day increases, becoming longer and longer.

Isn't it lovely?

What are you doing tonight to celebrate? We'll have a (little) bonfire, and maybe sparklers to play with.

And since it's a feast, a solemnity in fact, you have to have dessert. 

We'll be having s'mores and my Not Yet World Famous St. John the Baptist Cricket,* Almond, and Wild Honey Clusters!

*Crickets optional.

The recipe is number 5 on this post from the archives.

For more on how, and WHY we celebrate the liturgical year in our home check out this post:


Monday, June 23, 2014

An Olaf in Summer Frozen Birthday Party, or THIS is what sacrificial love looks like

Frozen. It is like crack cocaine, only animated. And with singing.

I saw it with the kids. I noted that the plot didn't, strictly speaking, make any sense and that the girl ended up with the wrong guy. I thought I'd just carry on with my life. Frozen-free.

But that didn't happen. Because I underestimated how much my girls, but also the rest of my children, but also all the rest of the people on this planet would love the music from this movie.

So, when time came to plan Anita's fifth birthday party, I gave it my best, I really did. But it HAD to be Frozen. So Frozen it was. And I might even be coming around a bit on it. But you'll have to read to the bottom to find out.

Here's what we did to celebrate Anita's 5th birthday and her cousin Lucy's 3rd birthday, in Gramma and Papa's backyard. 'Cause that's how we do.


Tables set up in the garage, homemade birthday banner, iridescent tablecloths, kid-made character drawings, icicle lights out of the Christmas decoration box.


Olaf Noses: bowl of carrots
Troll Meatballs: meatballs sprinkled with parsley
Sven Sandwiches: PB&J, inspiration here
Kristoff's Ice Blocks: blue jello
Olaf Arms: while chocolate dipped pretzel rods
Oaken's Big Summer Blowout Fruit Salad
Olaf in Summer: vanilla yogurt with Candy Carrot noses and melting chocolate eyes and arms, found here
Hans' Half Sandwiches: ham & cheese (add mayo to make sandwiches evil)
Personal Flurries: popcorn
Marshmallow (that's the ice monster's name) Snack Mix: corn chex, vanilla chex, Blue Shimmer Sixlets , pretzel sticks, mini marshmallows
Sven's Snacks: veggie platter
Elsa's Blue Snowball Punch: found here
Anna's Half Sandwiches: chocolate & cream cheese
Anna's Frozen Hearts: white chocolate dipped strawberries
Weaselton Imported Cheese Platter
not pictured: melted Olaf pitcher of water

These are the food tags I made:


Kristoff and Sven's Quality Ice Sales Ice Block Pull, inspired by this.

We pulled the sleds out, bought six ice blocks from the liquor store, and set up a little course in the back yard. We split the kids into teams of three, with a big kid as team captain of each. Then they had to load up three ice blocks onto their sled and get all three teammates across the line.

It. Was. Awesome.

And the ice blocks were a huge hit with the kids for the whole rest of the party. Blah, blah, blah, not fit for human consumption . . . 

Pin the Carrot Nose on Olaf, drawn by my talented sister-in-law.

We had also planned a Toilet Paper Snowman Wrap Up game, complete with sunglasses and leis, (to be Olaf in SUMMER!) but the kids were having so much fun playing with the ice blocks and the sandbox + baby pool "beach" that Jack set up, that I decided not to drag them back for any more organized games.


We made Melted Olaf Snowglobes.

Supplies (links are to Amazon, but I found it all cheaper at Michaels):
12 Pint Jars with Lids
jar labels (download below) printed in wallet size and cut and taped to the jar with packing tape
Orange Polymer Clay to make noses
Assorted googly eyes
Shrinky Dinks Paper + brown sharpie to make arms (arms drawn the width of the paper turned out right)
Assorted Glitter in white, silver and/or black
2 gallons Distilled water


This cake inspired the whole Olaf in Summer theme for the party. Here's my take on it:

I don't use fondant on my cakes because I don't think it tastes very good. So, I made my Olaf out of marshmallows.

The cake itself was an Ice Cream Sandwich Cake, which I was led to believe was my grandmother's secret recipe until I googled it just now, and, apparently, it's a thing. But it's quick and easy and delicious and super customizeable. And kids who don't like cake love it. All MY kids like cake, but there are a couple kids at every party who just don't like cake. I've never met a kid who didn't like Ice Cream Sandwich Cake.


We always have a pinata at our parties. After one of the kids pointed out at Jack's Indiana Jones birthday party, that it was kind of sad that we were hitting Indiana Jones with a stick, we started making our own pinatas. And we make them a bad guy, so we can really enjoy wackin' 'em.

Jack made this Marshmallow the Ice Monster pinata out of a diaper box, white printer paper, and packing tape:

The kids each got a little Do You Wanna Build a Snowman kit to bring home, inspired by this.

The whole party was very fun and awfully cute. The weather really cooperated. The forecast was for thunderstorms from 3-6pm, the EXACT time of the party. But they didn't hit until 6:10, just after the last guests left! Whew.

My sister drove six hours from Iowa to bring her girls to the party, so Anita had ALL of her cousins there! Plus lots of great friends.

And since it was a Frozen party, I finally broke down and let the kids buy the Frozen soundtrack. It's been in near constant rotation ever since. I do have to admit that the songs ARE really catchy and clever and well-sung. It comes with a bonus disc of demo songs that didn't make the final cut of the movie. And, honestly, I can't figure out if it makes me like the movie a little more or a lot less that apparently, at one point there was a whole "prophesy" storyline that actually explained where the magic came from and who the trolls are and what in the world is happening in the movie. But . . . they cut it. 

Maybe they'll put it back in for the Broadway version?

Other posts to check out here:


And at other blogs:

7 Ways Frozen Could Be as Good as Tangled

And check out the "Cakes and Parties" tab at the top for the scoop on lots more parties. We throw a lot of parties.