July 26, 2015

pure love

Last night we watched Brother Bear together, an animated story about a native American pair of brothers who get separated when one gets turned into a bear. At the end of the movie, there is a touching scene of restoration and love. But that's not what I'm blogging about.

Now that my son is old enough to sit through at least half a movie, we're enjoying the occasional movie night. We gather on the big sectional downstairs, there's usually popcorn involved, and the boy is typically ready to go to sleep afterwards. As we snuggled into the couch, he looked up at me with a big smile and said "I love you." I touched his chin and said "Oh, thank you sweetie. I love you too."

As the closing scene unfolded on the screen, I watched the wonder in my son's eyes as he commented on the brother who decided to remain a bear to take care of a motherless cub. And the words pierced my heart as they took shape in my mind: There is no love so pure in this world as that of a child.

I am blessed beyond belief.

July 23, 2015

homemade chicken noodle soup and banana ice cream

Last week I bought a rotisserie chicken for an easy dinner. The boy took a few bites of a drumstick.

This week I used the carcass to make chicken stock, then used the stock to make chicken noodle soup. Verdict = semi-fail. I served breadsticks with it, and he enjoyed dipping the breadstick in the soup, but we had to lure him with the promise of dessert to get him to take actual bites of the soup.

Dessert was, of course, a big winner: banana ice cream. Not ice cream with bananas in it, but the soft serve you make yourself by putting frozen sliced banana in a food processor and continually processing it until it becomes a fluffy, frozen, delicious wonder. Just for fun, I added a couple tablespoons of powdered peanut butter. So there's almost no sugar. And it's vegan, though that's not my concern. And there's more in the freezer waiting for me when I get home tonight.


July 14, 2015

tortilla pizza and chocolate spinach smoothies

Last week I made pizza using tortillas as the pizza crust. Sacrilege! But it's so good, crispy, and easy to make it will be on the regular rotation. Verdict = meh. My son may have eaten half a small slice. No idea why, but I will be making it again and will try to rope him into the topping process in an attempt to pique his interest. Here's the recipe I used as a template.

Since my son avoids most vegetables, I snuck them (in full view of him) into an amazing chocolate smoothie! Here's the recipe. Veridict = win! He loved it. He wanted "a bunch." Actually, so did I. Next time I'll throw in a few ice cubes.

Then the other day I found an unused, expired, but perfectly good container of ricotta cheese. I think I bought it in hopes of feeding it to my son with a bit of honey for dessert (the best laid plans...). To avoid throwing out such bounty, I made lemon ricotta cookies and put most of them in the freezer. I believe in health and balance, but sheesh. Ya gotta have a cookie now and then, and I have decided that if I'm going to the trouble of making cookies I will make the best possible instead of trying to make it "healthy." Because it's a cookie. Verdict = are you kidding? It's a cookie. Of course he liked it.

two months into potty training

Please don't tell me about how your 2 year old girl trained herself without an accident. Boys don't just take longer; they are perfectly content to wallow in their own filth until you continually lie to them about diapers not being available in their size. Potty training in a week? My ass.

Here's what our potty training life looks like (because yes, our lives consist of feeding and potty training our son to reach the holy grail of self-sufficiency):
  • Get up in the morning and remove the overnight pull-up.
  • Note: said pull-up may be filled to overflowing with piss, or might be dry. Also, if the pull-up is dry, there might be a really lazy one-hour gap between waking up and removing the pull-up.
  • Encourage the first potty.
  • Take note every time the child grabs himself, and ask if he needs to go.
  • Witness the child run to the bathroom when he starts to have an accident.
  • Give two treats for #2, and one for #1. Reinforce this guideline every time. Every. Time.
  • Occasionally forget to give treats. Occasionally get reminded by the child to give treats.
Okay, so I would say he's about 80% trained. Most of the time he avoids accidents, but I am learning to let him accept the responsibility instead of freaking out when he has an accident. I usually start getting nervous if it's been more than an hour or so since he went last, and if he says he doesn't need to go, then I remind him to listen to his body and go before he really really has to. I think this is starting to sink in.

I still consider overnight a separate thing, though my husband and I agree now that we need to tackle this next. We've been pretty lazy about getting that overnight pull-up off of him first thing when he wakes up, but I guess that's what we need to do. I say "guess" because nobody -- nobody! -- tells you how to complete the overnight potty training. Wake him up at 2 a.m. to go? No freaking thank you. Control his liquid intake in the evening? Absolutely. Beyond that, we can only assume the rule is to remind our son the importance of going first thing in the morning while actually making him do it.

July 9, 2015

dinner last night

Since I'm the chief cook, meal planner and food gatherer, I'm fairly obsessed about feeding my small family. Yes, Dream Dinners has saved much of my sanity, but I can't eat it every day. Mostly because I actually want to cook now and again. At the end of the day though, my biggest concern is feeding my toddler dinner. More specifically, feeding him something he'll eat besides mac & cheese. Finally, since I know I'm not the only parent in the world who struggles to feed a picky toddler, I'm going to start posting my dinner experiments.

Last night I made mac & cheese. But hey, at least it was organic and I didn't stop there. I also nuked a package of frozen broccoli with cheese sauce and added that to the mix, using scissors to cut the broccoli up as small as I could. And to make it even more irresistable, I added a couple dollops of low fat sour cream. Verdict: Success! The boy ate quite a bit of this.

I also had a separate plate with cut-up bbq chicken breast and turkey hot dogs so we could pick off small bites. Verdict: Success. I believe he ate about half a hot dog and maybe an ounce of chicken (normally he doesn't touch meat but loves soft-textured meat products).

Finally, I served steamed carrots and piled some butter on his. Verdict: Semi-fail. He might have eaten one small carrot stick, and ate the butter instead.

This morning I actually made smoothies for breakfast (I have this habit of buying the ingredients and then forgetting to use them). This contained plain yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, peanut butter, chia seeds, banana and frozen blueberries. No added sugar. Verdict: Success! He drank nearly two cups.

July 1, 2015

supporting the person with dementia

Yesterday I talked about my dad and mentioned his diagnosis of dementia/Alzheimer's. As it happened, I had an appointment with my therapist later that day. And as it happens, she specializes in geriatric depression. Divine appointment?

I expressed my feelings of sadness, helplessness, and frustration at my lack of ability to help him. I wish I could offer him more than a phone call or visit. I wish God would heal him. But until or unless that happens, there is fortunately something I can do to support him. That is to engage his mind.

Supporting a person with dementia is all about meeting them where they are. Putting oneself in their shoes. Understanding the emotions that they grapple with, which in my dad's case must be deep depression, unresolving anger, and utter fear and helplessness that I can only imagine. What if someone told you that, as of now, you can expect your memories, awareness, and comprehension of life to slip away from you slowly, one day at a time, like a dripping faucet until at last you don't know your family or where you are? How do you live for today, for right now? What can you hold on to?

My therapist likened the daily life of a person with dementia to Swiss cheese: On good days, you're in the cheese and you're able to remember things and participate in normal activities. On other days, you're near the edge of a hole in the cheese, just holding on to pieces of conversation or struggling to remember your birthdate.

Engaging the mind is one of the best ways of holding on to it, and two ways of doing that are through activities and memories -- tapping into the past.

My dad used to be a pool shark. He and my mom used to go out and play pool before they had kids, and rarely had to buy their own drinks. He taught me everything I know about pool, and I got to play with him last month. He didn't make too many shots, but he was keen enough to point out the mistakes I was making and congratulate me on good moves. He genuinely enjoyed himself and remarked on how he had more stamina than he thought he would. So, every time I see him from now on, I will take him to play pool with me.

I've been calling him at least twice a month, but now I will make sure to call once a week. And when I do, I will ask him questions about his past. What is his favorite 4th of July memory? What was it like during the Depression for him and his brothers? What is his happiest memory? These questions tap into those precious pockets of long-term memory and engage him beyond the present. It's also a safe bet that no one else is asking him such things. Not because they don't care, but just because it's not something most people think of doing.

Oh yes, and the next time I see him I will give him a big, long hug and cook him a good steak.