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The Tao of Tantrums

I have a toddler, and I nanny a not-yet-sitting-up-by-herself baby full time. So far, it has been very interesting, delightful, and occasionally completely chaotic. My daughter is just now entering into the phase of “tantrums”, where her frustrations can quickly explode into very intense emotion. Now all of a sudden she has to share mommy with another baby, so she sometimes must WAIT instead of having her needs met immediately. Recipe for disaster? Not necessarily!

When a baby is crying, it is instinctual to check on them to see what they need. When a more self-reliant toddler is crying, it is easier to assume that they are “just being whiny” or “can wait a little longer while I finish the dishes”, etc. But ignoring children sets a bad example, and soon they will start to ignore YOU when you want them to pay attention! Despite knowing this, I have recently been doing something foolish…

Whenever I would bring the baby in to the diaper changing room, my daughter would follow us in and start crying with RAGE. I didn’t understand why she was so mad, but I knew the baby needed a diaper change or SHE would start to freak out too, so I would just try to do it as quickly as possible. Usually I’d try to distract my daughter with an interesting object (ooo shiny!). But then the next time the baby needed a diaper change, it would be the same thing over again.

At some point, I realized that perhaps my daughter just didn’t know WHY I was bringing the baby in there and doing something on a high table she couldn’t see the top of, WHY she was being made to wait, WHY mommy was hurrying and being stressed in response to her cries instead of LISTENING. I decided to take a moment – breathe – and explain! I knelt down with the baby on my knee, and said to my daughter very slowly, and simply: “There’s POOP in the baby’s diaper!”. She stopped crying, and said “DI-PUH”, pointing to the baby’s diaper. I said “Yes. POOP! In the diaper. She wants a NEW diaper. Should we give her a new diaper?”

After that, she seemed to understand. The next time the baby needed a diaper change, my daughter pointed down the hall toward the changing room as if to say “Let’s go!”

When you are tired, trying to finish something, and there is a tiny person screaming at you for a reason that you don’t think is reasonable, it is sometimes hard to know what is best to do. Really, the best thing you can do is BE CALM yourself, and notice your kid. They are trying to tell you something that feels very important to them. The dishes can wait. The diapers can wait. What is actually needed might only take a moment.

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Curry Banana Matzo Ball Soup ?!

So my friend Louis and I just created the best soup in the world and I want to write down what we did before I forget, because I’m definitely making this next Passover! Basically, he was making fun of me for making vegan matzo balls in the past and was like “What did you use instead of eggs? Bananas?”, and I was like “THAT’S A GREAT IDEA! It can be like a Thai curry soup”. So we made it together this evening and it was quite delicious:

CURRY BANANA MATZO BALL SOUP:
3 cups matzo meal
3 cans coconut milk
2 soft bananas
2 sweet potatoes
2 yellow potatoes
1 onion
5 tbsp Thai red curry paste (or more, to taste)
salt (to taste)
optional: rice cooked with lemongrass

TO MAKE MATZO BALLS:
– Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl with a fork.
– Mix with matzoh meal until doughy.
– Form into 1-inch balls (add more matzoh meal if the dough isn’t thick enough to form into balls)

TO PREPARE THE BROTH:
– Chop the sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, and onion.
– Put all chopped ingredients into a large pot and add water until they are submerged under about 2 inches of water.
– Bring to a boil, then add the matzoh balls
– Lower head to let simmer for about 30-40min or until potatoes are soft and matzo balls have risen to the top.
– Add coconut milk, curry paste, and salt.
– Let simmer for another 15 minutes.
– Serve over lemongrass-flavored rice.

Azuki Bean Biscuits!

Azuki beans already have a somewhat sweet flavor. For this reason, they are used in many Oriental desserts, including red bean cake and mooncake. I developed this recipe so that my toddler + I can share healthy snacks that are wheat-free, sugar-free, AND delicious. They are chewy and hold together well so they don’t make a crumby mess, and they make very tasty (and adorable) tiny-sandwiches. The flavor is sweet and satisfying. Recipe and more serving ideas below!

About the beans:
Azuki beans are a small, reddish bean with a sweet flavor. They are highly regarded for their nutritional and healing properties in Oriental medicine. To prepare dried azuki beans, first let them soak overnight. Rinse, and boil for 1 hour or until soft but still firm. Drain and leave to cool.

AZUKI BEAN BISCUITS
Ingredients:
5 cups rolled oats
2 cups azuki beans (cooked + cooled)
2 cups sweet potatoes (cooked + cooled)
4 eggs
pinch of salt

Directions:
– In a large mixing bowl, lightly mash the beans + sweet potatoes together with a fork.
– Add all other ingredients and mix well.
– Form tiny (2-inch wide) biscuits onto a greased baking tray.
– Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min
(makes about 36 baby-sized biscuits)

Fun serving ideas:
– Cut biscuits in half and make little sandwiches or mini-burgers
– Top them with tomato slices, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil
– Use them to scoop salsa or dips (a yogurt-dill dip would be good)
– They go well with anything buttery or cheese-like
– Top them with your favorite jam (pepper jelly would be awesome with these)
– Serve them with soup!

Easy and Nutritious Baby Snacks (Carrot Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe)

Babies need snacks while you’re out and about, and preferably ones that make the least amount of mess possible (especially if you’re visiting friends who don’t have kids and aren’t accustomed to having bright red tomato sauce splashed all over their nice white couches… and carpets… and ceilings…).

We try to stay away from wheat, dairy, and sweeteners, AND we’re on a budget so we can’t just go out and buy fancy organic gluten-free snacky things (which are usually pumped full of so-called “healthy” sweeteners anyway). This means I have to get creative when it comes to packing snacks that will:
a) actually get eaten by a toddler
b) not spoil in the summer heat
c) not destroy someone’s house in 2 seconds
d) be extremely easy (and cheap) to make in the first place

I’ve been tinkering around with ingredients that we normally have around the house anyway, but today I had a stroke of genius… COOKIES! I NEED COOKIES!!… wait… I mean, super-healthy cookie-type-things! YES! Something yummy that my toddler can snack on without needing to be watched like a hawk, and will fortify her with protein + vegetables!

The recipe I developed requires only 4 ingredients, 5 minutes of prep time, and is so delicious that I keep snacking on them myself… I seriously can’t stop. The carrots are what really tie it all together, as they add a bit of sweetness and are just perfect with the peanut butter. Carrots have a lot of awesome health benefits too, as do the other ingredients: rolled oats, peanut butter, and eggs. Here is the recipe:

CARROT PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
(makes about 24 baby-sized cookies)
3 cups rolled oats
2 medium sized carrots, grated or finely diced (approximately 1 cup)
4 eggs (or other binding ingredient)
2 large heaping spoonfuls peanut butter (approximately 4 tbsp)
optional dab of butter or oil (to make softer)

Super-easy Directions:
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Mix all ingredients together in a bowl + then roll out tiny (baby-sized) cookies onto a greased baking tray.
– Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes
– Yum!

Why Tantrum-throwing Children Aren’t “Brats”


Imagine that you have just heard the most upsetting news of your life (your best friend died, your home town was bombed, etc.) and picture yourself totally LOSING IT. You’re on the ground crying, overwhelmed by suffering, and not even noticing/caring if anyone else is witnessing it. Now picture your partner responding to your suffering by angrily whispering “Be quiet! Behave!“, and maybe even smacking you a few times. Picture a crowd around you frowning, saying “What a spoiled brat“!

We generally think of a child’s tantrum as different from REAL suffering, because the child’s reasons for being upset “aren’t valid”.

It’s been a while since we were that small, and most adults have forgotten what it actually felt like to be a toddler. But people who DO remember describe it the same as the scenario above– as if they’d just heard the most upsetting news of their lives, and had no ability to cope with the resulting intense emotions.

If someone is experiencing suffering, then they are experiencing suffering. The reason behind it absolutely doesn’t matter, but we often dismiss people’s suffering if we don’t agree that they SHOULD be upset (especially if that person is a toddler). But if someone is upset, they SHOULD be. Here’s why:
* They don’t have the skills of dealing with stress in any other way yet (or in that specific moment).
* There may be factors that we aren’t aware of that are adding to the upset. The reason you can see might have merely been the “last straw”.
* What is upsetting to one person might not be upsetting to another. Just because you don’t understand WHY it is upsetting, that doesn’t mean the other person isn’t experiencing real grief.

So I’m just supposed to GIVE IN or I’m traumatizing my kid?
No that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that once a tantrum has begun, the best way of dealing with it is by giving the child the sort of interaction someone would want if they were experiencing REAL GRIEF (hug them and show them genuine love). Of course, showing genuine love is sometimes a difficult task if YOU are also upset in that moment. An “I love you” coming from a stressed parent just isn’t going to cut it. Kids pick up on your stress, and then escalate.

How do you LOVE when stressed?
Love is an action, and so is stress– they are not just happening to you at random. You can decide in the moment which one you want to embrace. It is unrealistic to expect a toddler to be able to recognize that their tantrum is something they are DOING (instead of happening to them), but YOU have a better chance at realizing this and turning your own silent tantrum back toward the direction of calm + peace. It is easy to think of a child’s tantrum as a problem that demands an immediate solution. But really, the best thing you can possibly do is be aware of your emotional state– be aware of the physical sensations in your chest– breathe– and notice that you can be present and compassionate in the middle of the storm.

Other resources:
Here’s what Dr. Sears has to say about tantrums
And here’s some tips from “Happiest Toddler on the Block” Author Dr. Karp

Liver Recipe that is TASTY… Not Just Tolerable!

Ever since I got pregnant, I have been having a severe problem getting enough B12 (to the point of severe bruising + constant dizziness/fatigue). Supplements don’t do the trick for me, and even eating meat doesn’t help unless I eat a LOT of it. I reluctantly gave up being vegan and went straight for the most efficient + plentiful source of B12: BEEF LIVER. The only problem is that I hate liver! The smell, the taste, the concept… it all = eww. But it gives me so much energy and makes me feel amazingly healthy, not to mention dramatically increases my breast-milk production, and is CHEAP! So I’ve been searching for a way to eat it without having to hold my breath the whole time, and I believe I’ve found it at last.

This is a liver recipe that is actually edible. Dare I say… DELICIOUS? It is suitable for a main course, even when you’re having company over! I would eat it in a house and I would eat it with a mouse, and I would eat it here or there. Say, I would eat it ANYWHERE!

I adapted it from this Indian masala recipe, taking out the sugar and just making it a little easier for the lazy/busy people out there (like me). The spices don’t have to be these exact measurements– feel free to play around and substitute!

Ingredients :
1 pound grass-fed beef liver
2 medium-sized onions (chopped)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups cooked + strained lentils
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6-8 tbsp oil (I used homemade chicken schmaltz)
salt to taste

Directions:
– Boil the liver in salted water till it is almost tender (10-15min)
– At the same time, cook all other ingredients (except for the lentils) in a covered frying pan on medium heat.
– Drain the liver and cut into tiny slices.
– Add the liver and lentils to the pan.
– Lower heat and simmer uncovered, about half an hour.
– Prepare to be amazed!

COOKING TIME = 45min.
SERVING SIZE = 6-8 servings

Plushie Seder Plate!

While thinking of ways to make Passover more fun for kids (and babies), I got the idea to make a festive seder plate that is entirely made out of plushie toys, paper mache, and other crafts. I made a paper mache “shank bone”, cloth lettuce bunch + yarn “parsley”, plushie “charoset” (the pink ball things), squeak-toy “horseradish” (the yellow thing) and a plushie “clump of horseradish”. I had a decorated wooden egg rattle-toy that I used as the roasted egg. Then I made a couple pieces of matzoh out of cardboard (probably tastes similar to the real stuff!) + decorated them with crayons. The plate itself was a plastic serving tray that I painted. Everything was made from recycled materials and my 1-year-old LOVED playing with it when I was done!

Fun Passover Crafts!

I put together a fun + meaningful haggadah, and now it is time to decorate the covers! I decided to do collage art, because it is something that the baby can participate in (ripping paper, yay!) without causing toooo much of a mess. Later, we’ll decorate the inside pages with crayons, and tie the pages together with colorful ribbons. Here are a couple of my favorite ones so far, and “how to” instructions below…

happy helper

FREE YOURSELF cover (look: she’s holding matzoh!)

MATZOH cover… mmmm

How To Make Your Own Haggadah Covers:

You will need:
– 8.5/11 card-stock paper (fun colors preferable)
– pictures to collage with (magazines, family photos, drawings, etc)
– scissors
– glue

Begin by finding the perfect pictures to create a picture that is both fun to look at + meaningful to you. Lay it out on the card-stock page to make sure it looks right before you start to glue. When the covers are finished + dry, use a hole-puncher to make 3 holes down the side (and do the same to the pages of your haggadah). Tie the booklets together with decorative ribbons. Enjoy!

Yummy Kasha Protein Bars recipe (gluten-free sugar-free!)

I wanted to have a healthy protein-rich snack that I could easily eat while out on adventures with the baby (and that she can eat too, without getting crud all over her clothes). Protein bars seemed like the way to go, but packaged stuff is all made from horrible ingredients, or overpriced. I decided to look up a recipe for gluten-free/sugar-free protein bars, figuring I could probably just make my own bars for cheap… and couldn’t find ANY decent recipes!

So I made my own…

I picked buckwheat groats (kasha) as the base ingredient, because it is gluten-free and has many health benefits. I used peanut butter as my protein source, but any nut butter could be used. For extra protein, you could also add stuff like nuts, seeds, flax, etc. I didn’t use sweeteners, but you certainly could if you wanted to, and I added a suggested measurement to the recipe for those who would find that helpful. You could also add all sorts of fun additional flavors like: cocoa powder/nibs, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, etc…

Chewy Kasha Protein Bars
prep time: 15min. cook time: 25 min.
serving size: makes about 20 3″x3″ squares

ingredients:
– 3 cups kasha (buckwheat groats)
– 1 cup almond milk, coconut milk, or water
– 1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter (cashew, almond, etc)
– 1/2 cup flax seeds
– 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil (optional)
– 1 tbsp agave or juice concentrate (optional)
– pinch salt
– fun additional flavors like: cocoa powder/nibs, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, etc. (optional)

1. Bring the water/milk, flax seeds, and 2 cups of the kasha to a near boil (save 1 cup of dry kasha for later). Add the butter or oil. Reduce heat and cook until thick (about 10 minutes).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked kasha with the remaining 1 cup of dry kasha, and all the other ingredients.

3. Spread the dough evenly on a 12″x16″ well-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cut into bars or squares when cooled.

Inspiration + Advice for Artist Parents

Being with a baby 24/7 can be pretty overwhelming.  Even if you somehow manage to find the time to create art, you may feel like you completely lack the energy to DO anything about it!  For the first year of my daughter’s life, I tried out all sorts of different art-making strategies in attempts to find something that worked.  As a SAHM of the “attachment parenting” variety (with a daughter who tends to only take naps while nursing), I have discovered a few tricks to help me continue making art on a quasi-regular basis…

1. Keep it simple, keep it small
Now might not be the best time for ambitious, gigantic, or super-messy projects. If you feel like you need to get momentum going to make something really awesome, you will be disappointed when you have to stop every 5 minutes to play with the baby, nurse, clean up some poop, etc… Instead, see if you can figure out projects that take less time, and can be done in little spurts without needing a lot of preparation or cleanup.

2. Accept that your art will be different now
That might sound scary, but it is not a bad thing! As mentioned above, you may only have 5 minutes at a time (or less!) to work on your art, and this will definitely have an effect on the outcome. This game of musical chairs might end up giving your artwork an interesting new flavor.

3. Try new mediums
I was primarily a painter in my pre-baby life, which has totally not been working out for me in the past year. But I am now discovering the joys of illustration, collage, and fabric art.  When I’m working with baby-safe materials (like fabric), she can even play alongside with me while I work!

4. Make a plan while nursing
I prefer spontaneous, unplanned, messy art-making. But I have discovered that when every half-second counts, it is better to begin making artwork when I already know what I’m going to make. And what better time to plan it all out than when trapped under a nursing baby?

5. Let your baby teach you how to appreciate everyday awesomeness
Babies are amazed by simple things like mirrors, bubbles, or seeing a flower that is PURPLE. Instead of thinking this is cute and then focusing on “important stuff”, take a moment to really investigate the awesomeness that your baby is pointing out to you. See it for yourself as if YOU are seeing it for the first time… and notice that it really IS amazing! This is a great opportunity for art inspiration.