Thursday, February 18, 2010

Roly-polies and push ups

Miss E is a mover. She's about 5 1/2 months old at the moment, and already she's trying to move around. She started rolling at 3 months old, which was amazing to me. Her brothers didn't roll until 5 months and, geez, 7 months I think. I don't know, poor middle child and his milestones, I can't remember for sure when G rolled, but it was later. So now I have this little girl who rolls from back to tummy like crazy. As an aside, I do wish she'd figure out how to roll back the other way so she wouldn't keep rolling and getting mad about it.

But rolling isn't her only trick. She lifts herself up pretty high with her arms when she's on her tummy and sometimes lifts her hips up off the ground. Recently she started getting into what looks like a push up position; she lifts her whole body, holding herself up with her arms and tippy-toes. She can't hold it for long, and I can't figure out what exactly she's trying to do, but she's so strong!

We also find her facing all sorts of different directions on the floor. She can't quite scoot forward yet, but I have a feeling that isn't too far away. She can turn herself around in a circle, essentially, and does so to reach toys and other random things on the floor. Already I'm having to pay attention to what the boys leave around because she can reach more than you'd think.

I don't know, this kid is a mover and a shaker. She's trouble already :).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zucchini in a smoothie?

As I was browsing for new smoothie recipes, I found one that caught my eye. The title began with "Don't knock it till you try it," which was instantly intriguing. The rest read, "Zucchini Chocolate Banana Peanut Smoothie." Ok, wait. Really? Zucchini? With chocolate, banana and peanuts? In a smoothie? I was skeptical to say the least.

I read the ingredient list, and it was no typo - zucchini topped the list. It was well reviewed, and people had lots of great things to say about it. Ok, this I had to try.

Turns out, the zucchini is peeled, grated and frozen. It almost acts like the ice in a smoothie, adding that cold, slushy texture. I didn't follow the recipe exactly (the original was more like a milkshake, and the original poster said she was experimenting with making a dessert), but came up with a delicious smoothie, and you'd never know it has a veggie in it!

1/2 zucchini, peeled, shredded and frozen
1 banana, frozen
1/2 -1 scoop protein powder (I used the "natural" flavor, meaning it doesn't have any flavor added - you'd never even know it's in the smoothie either)
1 heaping spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder
A spoonful of sugar (see if you can read that without the song sticking in your head)
About a cup of milk (can adjust to desired texture)
Optional: A heaping spoonful of peanut butter (I've made it both with and without the peanut butter - good both ways)
Throw the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

Seriously, this comes out delish. It tastes a lot like a creamy chocolate milkshake - except it has a bunch of protein, plus the good stuff in the banana and the zucchini. Even my kids liked it! The amounts above make a pretty good sized smoothie - there was plenty for myself and some for both my boys (although they didn't have big portions).

Tonight before bed I peeled and shredded a couple more zucchinis and popped them in the freezer - ready for tomorrow!

Chicken vegetable barley stew - new recipe for the win!

I like to cook. I'm not a fancy cook, but I do like experimenting with different flavors and trying to find new recipes that my family will all enjoy. Cooking for my zoo isn't always easy. My husband is on the picky side, although he's the first to admit when something is good even if he was reluctant to try it. He's definitely a good sport. And feeding young kids is trickier than I would have thought. D has inherited some of hubby's pickiness, at least in that he's not a big fan of a lot of different types of foods. G eats more like me - he loves his fruits and veggies, which is awesome. And Miss E, well, she's still drinking from the tap, so her eating style remains to be seen.

In any case, I get bored cooking the same old thing over and over, so I like it when I find recipes that are easy, healthy and liked by everyone. And when they can be made in the crockpot - so much the better.

That's the case with my latest dinner creation - chicken vegetable barley stew. I've been working on feeding all of us healthier things, and barley is a great grain. I was excited to find a recipe on my favorite recipe website for a barley soup that wasn't beef. Not that I have anything against beef, but I already make beef barley soup, so something different sounded promising.

I changed things up, as I'm prone to do, to reflect what I had on hand, as well as the tastes of my eaters. And what I came up with was a big win all around - and I love it when that happens!

Here's the recipe I came up with. You'll have to forgive me, but I don't usually measure things, especially when it comes to soups and stews. I just eyeball it.

3(ish) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (I used frozen chicken tenderloins, so I'm not sure how much chicken it actually was - about 8 tenderloins, but chicken breasts would work just as well)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups (give or take - again, I eyeball this stuff) chicken stock (it probably needs more)
1 cup pearled barley
salt and pepper to taste (I always use sea salt)
1 cup (give or take) sliced almonds
olive oil

I chopped the veggies, cut up the chicken and threw it all in the crockpot. I added the cup of barley and enough chicken stock to cover (I had to add more liquid later, so more is probably good). I seasoned with just salt and pepper. I cooked it on high for about 4 1/2 hours. Shortly before dinner time, I sauteed the sliced almonds in olive oil right on the stove top (the recipe called for baking them, but I didn't have time). Mmmm, they smelled good! I stirred them into the stew before serving.

I had thought it was going to come out more soup like, but it was quite thick. The barley soaks up a LOT of liquid. Like I said, I added some more liquid when I put in the almonds. But it turned out really hearty, like a thick stew - nice and filling, full of fiber and it had great flavor. The almonds really added a layer of flavor - soooo good. The original recipe called for mushrooms as well, but I didn't have any, so I omitted them - but if you like mushrooms, you sure could add them.

Overall, a new winner! Hubby loved it, and even my picky five year old ate some without us having to twist his arm to try it. Good times.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


D, my five year old, had his first wrestling practice last night. It is through our local YMCA, and is completely in the "recreational" category - not seriously competitive. For this age group, it's all about learning about the sport and having fun. I can get behind that for a five year old. I'm not one of those people who think competition is bad and kids should always win every time. But wrestling is an intense sport, and it's all you out there. That's a lot for a five year old to handle, and I don't want to overwhelm him.

D is not a big kid. He's been squarely in the 50th percentile for height and weight since he was a baby, he always fits into the clothing size that corresponds for his age - he's quite average sized. Among the group of wrestlers last night, he looked absoultely miniature. He's probably the youngest kid there. It goes by birth year, and the cutoff is 2004 - his birthday is December, so he barely makes the cut. It's likely a lot of the kids in the "Pee wee" class are already in kindergarten, although there might be a couple with birthdays later in the year like him. But he was easily one of the three smallest kids there. He looked ridiculously cute, all decked out in his dark blue singlet, wrestling shoes and head gear. With the outfit, he looked like a real wrestler, just shrunk down to mini-size. As I watched him warm up I almost got teary eyed - he just looked so darn small!

Last night's practice was pretty basic. They didn't do any real wrestling, just a lot of warm up and drills. One of the last things they did was a drill that requires one kid to be on hands and knees, and another kid to be chest down on top and sort of spin their body around the lower kid. It's not an easy skill to master, and most of the younger kids had a hard time with it. D told me on the way home that maybe next time he just won't do the "spin thing." I told him he needs to try again, and we talked about how practice makes you better and helps you learn. He replied with, "But I already know how to do it. I saw what the coach did." So I told him, "Yeah, your brain knows what to do because you saw someone else do it. But now you have to teach your body how to do it." That concept totally blew his mind. The rest of the way home he talked about teaching his body how to do things. "I'm going to teach my neck how to lift up a building," and "I can teach my arms how to tackle G (his brother)." The rest I can't remember because honestly, he goes into talk mode and sometimes I just have to tune it out...

I'm curious to see how the rest of the "season" goes. He'll have practices twice a week and a match every other Friday. The program is entirely self-contained; the matches are simply against the same kids they practice with, so it isn't as if they're wrestling other teams. They just organize the kids into pairs and run matches. Right now he's so gung ho about any sports. Whenever we've asked him if he wants to try a sport, he always says yes - he loves it. We had a great experience with t-ball last spring and probably would have had him do soccer in the fall, but with the arrival of Miss E, it was a little too hectic to try to squeeze in sports. He's very excited about the whole thing, and I really hope his enthusiasm continues. I was so not athletic as a kid and my boys' both appear to have athletic tendencies (inherited from their father, I assure you). I'd love for them to continue having fun with it and have that confidence with their bodies that sports provide.

And I have to say, if G decides to do wrestling, that kid is going to be good. With the exposure he's getting through D, and being D's little sparring partner at home, he's already going to know what he's doing before he's even old enough to participate. Add to that the fact that G is not average sized, but pretty big and beefy for his age - he has the potential to be quite the little wrestler :). (If he wants to - my husband may be into sports and strongly encouraging our kids to participate, but he knows all too well how the pressure to do sports can do more harm than good).

Monday, February 1, 2010


We used to keep anywhere from a third to about half of the resident toy population downstairs in the family room. It started that way when D was little, and the only. We'd spend a lot of the day downstairs, since our family room and kitchen are one, big open space. And as D got bigger and along came G, we kept toys down there so there were things to paly with downstairs and things to play with upstairs as well - lessening the need for me to lift D over baby gates and make endless trips up and down to find suitable entertainment if I was busy downstairs. I'd planned to keep the toy arrangements that way until Miss E is old enough that the baby gates are finally history, but recently decided the poor third kid will just have to live in a world where toys are kept upstairs. To be fair, I do have a small basket of baby toys, as well as one of those little baby play gyms (a pink one!) in the family room for her. But the rest of the toys have homes in the playroom or the boys' room. And I LOVE it that way.

The boys appear to be having a harder time adjusting to the new arrangements. I don't forbid toys downstairs; especially when I'm doing things like cook dinner, I don't mind if they bring things down to play with. Not that they couldn't play upstairs while I'm busy in the kitchen, but these kids follow me around like little ducks. You'd think I'm their mother or something.... In any case, some days I have a hard time convincing them to go play upstairs, even when I join them.

This afternoon we had snack time, and then I announced that it was time to go upstairs and play. This was met with a resounding "Noooooo!" from both boys, in matching whiney voices. I looked around the room and back at them again. "Why not? All your toys are upstairs. What do you want to do down here?"

"Play!" my five year old answered. Um, play with what?

After some more cajoling, I finally convinced them to go upstairs. I don't get it. Other than watching movies or playing the occassional round of Lego Star Wars, what does the downstairs offer that is so appealing? D likes to run around bouncing on my exercise ball, but even that has to lose it's luster after a while. Why on earth don't they scramble upstairs to play - especially when I'm going up there too? Heck, they follow me into the bathroom with their toys while I shower, or into E's room and set up camp with cars and army men all over her floor as I change a diaper. But the transition from downstairs to upstairs is strangely difficult. It makes no sense to me.

About two minutes after we finally got upstairs, they were already running around like banshees having the time of their lives while Miss E happily jumped in her jumperoo. Today's games consisted of a hybrid basketball/football/baseball combo, featuring a hoop, a basketball, a football and a sword (which was apparently the bat); and later, running around shirtless, beating each other with nerf swords (have I mentioned how much fun it is to parent brothers?).

Now what was so bad about going upstairs to play?