Friday, January 22, 2016

Recipes We Love

After going to my nephew Max's farewell last weekend (plenty of photos of that on Instagram here!), I've been thinking a lot more about the fact that we only have two and a half years left before Ashton can go on a mission - or until he leaves for college - not sure which will come first! I'm feeling a real urgency to get moving on all the trips we want to take together as a family and building my relationship with him. And on a practical level, I'm feeling like I need to teach this boy to cook and get going on typing up and posting tried-and-true recipes on this blog so that wherever my kids are in the world, they can always come here to find a recipe that will be healthy and inexpensive and easy to make - and that will hopefully bring a little taste of our home to them wherever they are.
I posted a bunch of recipes a while back (I was trying to post one a week).

Then I sort of fizzled out on posting recipes. But it's time to get going again. So whenever I make something that fits the bill (a family favorite that is generally healthy, inexpensive and simple), I'm going to get it posted here. 

New Recipe to Share: Dahl (Lentils) with Tomatoes and Onions

This recipe is one that I can make in about 30 minutes and it involves ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand in my pantry or fridge (don't need anything fresh except some yogurt/sour cream and cilantro for toppings - those are nice but not necessary). It's savory, filling, and very cheap to make. It's from an Indian cooking class I took ages ago when I lived in DC. I can still hear the teacher's beautiful Indian accent as she explained everything to us. While it's Indian, it's not spicy/hot and it's got flavors that most everyone likes.
I like to make the full batch (serves 12) and then use leftovers for lunches or another dinner. The flavor actually improves as it sits in the fridge for a couple days. And it freezes well if you want to make a lot and save some for later.
I read an article about lentils back when I was living with roommates and working in DC and trying to spend very little money on food while trying to eat really healthily. I learned that lentils are chock-full of vitamins and protein and that they have a great meaty sort of texture and flavor. You can even use them in place of hamburger in a recipe. So I got really into lentils back then. And we probably have a recipe with lentils a couple times a month these days.
Anyway, here goes with the recipe:

Dahl (Lentils) with Tomatoes and Onions

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion OR 2 small onions, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root (can use the bottled pre-grated stuff)
1 tbsp minced garlic (can used the bottled, pre-minced stuff)
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups lentils (red, yellow, brown, whatever kind of lentils)
2 28-oz cans of petite diced
4 cups water
2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 fresh green chili, finely chopped (if desired, makes more spicy)
fresh chopped cilantro leaves to garnish
plain yogurt or sour cream as topping

Saute together onions, ginger, and garlic in the oil until limp and slightly browned. Add chili powder and curry powder. Add the lentils and mix together over the heat. Mix in the two cans of tomatoes (including juice - dump in the whole can). Then add the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until lentils are soft (add a little more water if necessary to keep lentils moist while cooking). Stir in salt. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and a dollop of yogurt/sour cream. Garnish wtih chopped chilis for more heat. Good over basmati rice. 
Serves 12.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Happy New Year!

I started this post on December 12th. It was going to be our virtual Christmas card. But it took me until now to finally get it polished. So it's now a our virtual New Year's card! There were plenty of not-so-great and pretty darn mundane things that happened this year, but this post is just about the things we really want to remember...

Thank you so much to all who sent us beautiful physical Christmas cards! Eliza strung them all up so we could enjoy them:

I admire those who've been able to keep their address books current and who lovingly find the time to prepare and mail out clever family updates and beautiful photos of their family each year. But online holiday greetings will have to do for us!

Loosli Family Highlights of 2015

Family Trip to Bulgaria and Italy (where Saren and Jared served missions over 20 years ago now). We've wanted to do this for so many years and were so grateful to finally make it happen this year!
  • Visited and worked in orphanages in Bulgaria (Ashton gathered supplies and made this his Eagle project). Loved getting to know some great kids and came away counting our blessings big time. Parents are important.
  • Loved seeing friends from our missions and going to church in Bulgaria and in Italy plus loved taking the kids to places we lived and worked and sharing lots of stories. Jared and I loved speaking Bulgarian and Italian again (we were pretty rusty but it was amazing how it came back after a few days!)
  • Visited tons of Churches and cathedrals (highlights in Bulgaria were the ancient St George's church and the lovely Alexander Dnevski, highlights in Italy were Sienna Cathedral, St Peters in Rome, Genova Cathedral), one ancient ruined castle in Bulgaria, lots of gorgeous little hill towns in Tuscany, navigated our way through miles and miles of twisty cobblestone streets on foot, finding charming and interesting stuff along the way, climbed to the top of mountains and towers for breathtaking views, put tons of miles on rental cars, ate lots of gelato and good European bread and cheese and cucumbers, met wonderful people and learned a ton while enjoying great family time.
donating books and getting to know orphans in Bulgaria

Alexander Dnevski cathedral in Sofia Bulgaria
visiting the area where I spent most of my time as a missionary in Bulgaria

Sienna - and our first gelato of the trip

Exploring hill towns in Tuscany
Driving over the Apuan Alps in Tuscany
hiking the Cinque Terre
Leaning Tower of Pisa

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

View over Florence

Meeting up with the Jonah Eyres at the Collosseum in Rome

St Peters in Rome

Exploring Rome with our own Roman Soldier and Gladiator

Exploring Genoa where Jared spent a lot of his mission - and eating the BEST gelato

Climbed Mount Ogden. We hike a lot together and enjoyed some really gorgeous hikes this year. Our most notable would be hiking Mount Ogden. We had planned for years to hike the tallest peak in the Ogden area so we decided to make it happen in August. We somehow lost the trail, bush-whacked through areas maybe no human has visited before, called the forest service for advice, and ultimately reached that summit and then hiked down the other side of the mountain (since it seemed like a terrible idea to go back the painful way we came!), ending up (9 hours later) at Snow Basin Ski Resort where some nice friends came and rescued us. An adventure we'll never forget!

almost to the top

heading down the other side

hiking Teton National Park

Saren's trip with her mom and sisters to Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In late September, Saren enjoyed an epic week with amazing women visiting gorgeous places (nice balance of nature and man-made beauty) while laughing and talking non-stop.

Extended Family Gatherings. We had great times with the Eyre family at Bear Lake for our annual reunion there in July and great times with the Loosli family in Ashton, ID and at the FIVE wonderful Loosli weddings we attended this year.
Kicking off the Eyre Reunion at Bear Lake

Bear Lake beauty

Fun with lots of Looslis in Ashton, ID for the 4th of July

Great times at the Ashton Reservoir

Mark and Kelsey's wedding in Las Vegas
Portia and Michael's wedding in SLC
I need to hunt down photos of the rest of the wonderful, beautiful weddings! I'll add them in here when I find them.

Tons of Sports (involving lots of shuttling kids around, lots of learning, lots of exercise, afternoons, evenings and weekends packed with practices, games, meets and races!)
  • Ashton joined the Ogden High School football team. Completely on his own, he figured out when practices were, raised 100% of the funds he needed through selling "Tiger Cards" house to house, got himself to and from every practice on his bike, built some serious muscles and learned a ton.
  • Ashton, Isaac and Eliza joined the Ogden High Mountain Biking Team and learned lots of new skills as they biked all over the mountains. We spent lots of Saturdays in super dusty and hot places watching them race. They all did great!
  • Eliza and Isaac ran on the Ogden Prep cross country team again this year. Isaac struggled a bit with his asthma but did well. Eliza really did well this year, taking 3rd in Regionals. They both love to run and it's so fun to watch them.
  • Isaac is on the Ogden High swim team and is a total beginner but is improving his times and perfecting his strokes. He's loving it.
  • Eliza make the junior high school basketball team and is practicing every day after school and has games two days a week. She's getting quite a lot of playing time even though she's one of the youngest on the team and it's fun to see her totally go after that ball and throw her whole heart into it.
  • Saren is still loving her running and hiking - she listens to NPR podcasts while running and goes on a big hike every week with friends (no matter the weather) and thrives on the exercise, great conversation and gorgeous views.
  • Jared's gotten back into running, is doing quite a bit of trail running, and likes doing crazy hard weightlifting and crossfit classes at the gym (he's weird that way).
  • All the kids are getting to be really great skiers (or in Ashton's case, snowboarders). The kids love skiing with Jared while Saren enjoys reading and working at the lodge. Ashton broke his arm when snow boarding on his birthday. That was a great present.
Eliza ready to race

Isaac ready to race
Ashton Racing
Ashton's in the middle there - number 88

Isaac giving it his all - tricky asthma issues but still a great season
Eliza lining up to race at Regionals

Eliza racing at State

Isaac winning his first triathalon

Eliza playing basketball
The twin with their neighborhood friends, neverending Nerf wars and trampoline-jumping

Saren at the top of Ben Lomond Peak with her two hiking partners

skiing has been a big part of these kids' lives the past couple years
Saren is still working a lot of hours on Power of Moms (and still trying to cut back and get more balance...). She's loved seeing how much the website has grown in the 8 years she's been working on it and the kind emails she receives from moms who so appreciate all that the website has to offer keep her going. Power of Moms had almost 2 million visits last year and there are nearly 70,000 registered members of the website now. In October, she had the opportunity to co-host an international online conference for moms. It was a TON of work but was really wonderful to see almost almost 35,000 moms attend and express gratitude for all that they learned. Her other big project this year was to work with her sister-in-law Aja to completely revise the classic Joy School lesson plans and breathe new life into that great program.

Jared is still working for ARI, managing software development for tire companies. His 2-hour commute to SLC was really getting old after 3 years, so he was recently able to set up a telecommuting situation so that he can work from a nice office space here in Ogden. He's loving the extra time he has to exercise and enjoy time with family (and we're so grateful to see more of him!). Jared's still serving as Bishop of our very needy inner city congregation and is doing such a great job counseling people on personal issues and financial issues while managing all the great people who run the different organizations in the church. There's never a dull moment in his calling! He's got stories to last a lifetime.

Big Kids
We suddenly have such big and grown-up children! How is it that Ashton just turned 16 and is almost as tall as his dad? Isaac has been growing like crazy lately and has passed up Saren in height. Eliza's feet are now bigger than Saren's. Wasn't it just yesterday that they were babies? All the kids are so fun to talk to and we learn so much from them. They still drive us crazy sometimes when they can't seem to close cupboards or doors and leave a trail of random stuff in their wake. And they tend to bicker and bother each other more than we really love. But we sure do love these kids of ours and we're feeling the heat when it comes to needing to enjoy time with them before they head out on their own in all-too-few years! 

What a year! 

Here's to a wonderful 2016 for all of us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

The kids said this was the best Christmas ever. I'm so glad. I have to say this was a hard one for me. I just wasn't feeling it as much as I usually do and everything just felt sort of overwhelming. I guess it's just been a really busy year and Christmas is just a very intense job for moms. I had to summon up all my energy to get the decorations up and help plan the Children for Children concert and a couple of other events for friends and neighbors. And getting everything needed for all our special traditional holiday foods and meals just felt hard. Then there was the usual last-minute rush to get a few things we'd put off a bit too long and a couple packages didn't arrive on time which caused some stress. But I simplified wherever I could, let go of some expectations, and it all turned out beautifully in the end.

I recorded lots of stuff on Instagram throughout December - so go here to see lots of photos

In this post, I'm just sharing a list of highlights so I can remember some of the main events of December this year (some of which didn't make it on Instagram and some of which need more explanation than Instagram can easily offer).

We got our tree and started decorating the day after Thanksgiving - like I said above, it seemed to take extra energy this year but it sure felt good to get it done. I love talking about memories of vacations as we pull out and put up the ornaments from all our trips. I love seeing our staircase with lighted garland wrapped up the railing, I love putting out the Nativity scenes on our lovely new-ish mantles that help make our fireplaces so much better. I don't like putting the lights on the tree. I always end up with the most horrible back ache for a couple of days because of the position I have to be in for so long getting those lights on. I'm seriously contemplating getting a fake tree so I wouldn't have to put the lights on every year. But I do love the way a fresh tree looks and smells and I do love those soft needles in my hands as I string the lights.

Electric Light Parade
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Eliza danced and rode on the Junior Junior League float in the Ogden electric light parade. She had a great time decorating the trailer they rode on, dancing, and being part of a fun evening. We watched. But it was cold and the kids thought the parade wasn't so great as no one threw candy - they're spoiled by the Ashton Idaho parades we go to where there is tons of candy thrown plus people give out t-shirts and chocolate milk and mugs from the Frost Top...

Eliza, Ashton and I went to the Nutcracker. Eliza and Ashton both had friends performing in a local production and wanted to support their friends. We waited too long to get tickets and they were gone. But the lady at the box office said we were welcome to show up right before the show started and see if there were any tickets that hadn't been picked up. There were! She handed us free tickets right down in front and we had a really nice evening enjoying the show. As we got our programs, the lady passing them out gave Ashton a special welcome - "It's is so nice of you to be here we really appreciate your coming." We thought that was nice but a bit odd - until we got inside and saw that 90% of the audience was 3-8 year old girls with their moms. I think Ashton was the only teenage boy there. But we all enjoyed the show a lot and it was great to see the kids' friends after the show and congratulate them on their performance.

We read stories many evenings in our peaceful living room with the Christmas tree lights on - this is always one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Ashton complained a bit and tried to skip out once or twice but after me telling him how totally important this was to him and throwing out a strategic threat or two, he joined us somewhat happily for all story times from there on. Among other Christmas favorites, we read the chapter book, "The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause" and learned about the beauty of kindness in the face of hard times among other important lessons. 

Children for Children Concert
I felt really worn out about doing our Children for Children concert this year. While the kids have generally stepped up pretty well to run this event that they are supposed to "own", it's just harder to have my kids do things than to simply do them myself! I asked the kids if they really wanted to do the concert this year and they looked at me like I was a crazy person - of COURSE they had to do the concert - especially since they got a chance to actually go to the orphanages we support with the concert themselves this past year. I told them they'd need to seriously take leadership and do everything this year and while there was still some nudging along from me, they really did do pretty much everything themselves with less oversight and help from me. I just let go and let them do whatever. And it worked out nicely. Our first big snowstorm of the season came the day of the concert (Monday, Dec 14th) but we still had a nice group show up and it was simple but very pleasant and meaningful. I need to let go more and trust that things will work out. It's the need to make things so wonderful all the time that wears me out. I'm learning more and more to let go and let others do things and stop worrying about everything turning out just so. 

Isaac's Triathalon Party
We helped Isaac host a big party for his school triathalon group at our house - 20 kids from every walk of life showed up and had a wonderful evening playing Reverse Charades, doing a white elephant gift exchange, and having a wild and wonderful snowball fight in the backyard (so glad no one got seriously injured!). The kids all brought wonderful pot luck items to share (one girl brought the hugest bowl of the best ceviche I've ever tasted - my mouth still waters thinking about it) and they all helped clean up. Several of the girls made a point of finding me to say thanks and give me a hug before leaving. I like those kids. I'm so glad to know more of Isaac's friends.
We did quite a lot of skiing. We've done 3 full-family ski days at Snow Basin (two on our own, one with Jonah and family and my parents joining us - so fun to share with them!) plus Jared took a couple kids out of school for a special ski day one day when the fresh snow was just too much to resist. Plus Jared did a special ski day at Powder Mountain with Eliza and the twins and enjoyed some amazing powder.

Ward Leadership Party  
We had a really fun party for all the wonderful people who volunteer so much of their time and give their hearts to helping others through their callings in our ward. We invited all the presidencies of each of the organizations in our ward along with their spouses to join us for a night of food and games at our house. I haven't laughed so hard or had such a great time in ages. Everyone brought delicious things to share and we had a truly hilarious white elephant gift exchange plus we had everyone play Christmas carols on the chimes Jared made a few Christmases ago. We've got to do this every year. It was so fun to be with these great people in a purely social setting - usually we're just talking about needs of the ward. What excellent and fun people! 

Christmas Shopping
The kids' Christmas shopping was a bit spotty this year - we did a good trip to the DI and several of the kids found great stuff there to give to each other (games, t-shirts, books...) plus they picked out some cute gifts for our little friends Isaac and Abraham (Isaac is 2 and Baby Abe is 6 months - we watch them a lot as their mom has become a single mom and they're like extended family now). We meant to make it to the dollar store and Walmart for more gift-buying but somehow time got away from us. So there were quite a few coupons for batches of cookies and for back scratches and for doing favors that got given as gifts - probably better than dollar store junk anyway! I did have to get after Ashton and Isaac a couple times for not seeming to be really caring enough about the gifts they were giving and being too worried about the gifts they were getting - something I really thought we'd driven home since they were preschoolers. Isaac is still needing to give a gift or two but Ashton pulled through with some really thoughtful gifts (he gave me a great new laptop case - so nice!).

Family Home Evening with special guests
We had a nice Family Home Evening the Monday before Christmas with some people who needed a little extra holiday cheer and who don't really have family around to spend time with during the holidays (did this last year too). Ashton played some songs for them on the guitar, the twins read them Christmas stories (with lots of expression in their voices, being sure to show each picture before they went on to the next page - they did a great job!), and enjoyed some treats. We had two older couples come plus our friend Rachel with her boys, Isaac and Abe. They seemed to have a really nice time and it was good to have time with these good people. We came away counting our blessings that we have so many people to be with and so many fun events to enjoy during the holidays.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, we spent the day sledding and playing in the snow and making gingerbread houses with Jonah and Aja and family (who just returned from 6 months in Europe) and my parents at my parents' house in Park City. Such a fun and beautiful day! We finished the day with our traditional Christmas Eve Nazareth Supper where we all dress as Mary's family and friends and have a special farewell supper for Mary and Joseph as we send them off to Bethlehem. We talk about all the wonderous signs Mary and Joseph have experienced, about how they feel about the forthcoming birth, about the prophecies of old. My dad always does such a great job leading the discussion and everyone, even the little kids, do a great job staying in character for the most part. It's amazing what candlelight and simple costumes will do for setting the tone.

Christmas Day:

Jared and I woke up to the kids singing on the stairs - with Ashton accompanying on the guitar. It sounded pretty darn good. Then the kids showed us what they got in their stockings in the TV room (toiletry items, candy orange slices, chocolates, an orange in the toe, Australian licorice, cinnamon santas, jelly beans, and a favorite food item - Isaac and Ashton got Nutella, Eliza got cookie butter, and the twins each got a jar of pickles). They were all SOOOO excited to head downstairs and see if Santa had brought the desires of their heart!!! Oh, how I love having kids so excited on Christmas morning! Even though gathering the desires of their heart can be pretty taxing, their joy on Christmas morning makes everything worthwhile.

Ashton had tried out a couple hover boards owned by family and friends and had immediately fallen in love. He sent Santa a letter detailing the best way to get the best board at the best price - and Santa delivered! (there were some iffy moments as we waited for the package to arrive from China....). He LOVES this thing so much and has been great about letting all of us learn to ride it. It's quite an amazing little machine.

As the hoverboard was pretty pricey, Ashton just got a few little gifts beyond that while the other kids got more. Worked out great.

Isaac and Eliza got phones. Their old phones were hand-me-downs from me and Jared that were like 5 years old that got progressively more cracked and more slow and were finally useless. They were thrilled!

They also got some great running clothes and shoes as did Jared (thanks to an amazing Soloman sample sale where everything was like 75% or more off).

The twins got new mountain bikes (which they've been needing badly for quite some time - their old bikes are so small and are really basic and heavy). It was tricky helping Santa find bikes that weren't too expensive (as they'll grow out of them in a couple years) but that will last nicely for the couple of years until they outgrow them. We finally found the ideal bike but there was only one - so there was a lot of running around trying to find a second bike that was the same (Jared took on the brunt of that, early in the morning on Christmas Eve, bless his heart.)

The bikes were a big hit!

The twins also got a kit to build their own robot from Grammie and Grandfather and they were over-the-moon excited about it.

Here are the thank you emails that the twins sent to their grandparents for their new robot - love seeing things through their eyes as they can now write their own thank you notes!

This is Silas:

Thank you so much for giving us this super cool robot, if you noticed that the eyes were blank right then, it was on very low power, so the lights were flashing yellow, so we caught it when it was blank, but don"t worry, we have more batteries. This robot is the best toy. It can do so many things, like dancing, telling you the time, and giving a high five and a handshake ( it can do much more than that.) This is the best present that you can touch. I love you so much and can not wait to see you again. You are the best. You  guys will always be the best grandfather and grammie ever.

This is Oliver:
Thank you for getting us this super awesome Meccanoid robot, it was everything that I have ever hoped for. It is so fun and funny, it only took 1 1/2 days to build and it and it has 660 pieces! It knows our names and everything. (Because we told it them) It can tell you the time and do kung fu, it also can record what you do to it. (L.I.M recording) (L.I.M is Learn Intelligent Movement) With the Meccanoid app, you can change the eyes' color and you can make it do what you're doing. It is SO cool! Thanks for getting that for us!

Jared gave me thoughtful gifts - as always - even when I say again and again that I really don't want or need anything other than really big things that don't really fit in a box under the tree (like a bigger kitchen - our tiny kitchen which is also the back entrance to the house/mud room is driving me crazy!). He gave me some nice sweaters (so I don't have to rotate between the two sweaters I wear constantly anymore). He gave me some awesome spikes that strap on my shoes so I can be safer when hiking i the winter (I've been using these cheapo ones that don't work so well). And he gave me a cool food processor/juicer thing and told me that it comes with a new kitchen as soon as it warms up enough to open up the back of the house and build on!

We had our traditional eggs benedict breakfast which was extra tasty (Jared made the Hollandaise sauce with extra lemon - yum) then we played games and opened presents and just had such a nice day together. We wore our PJ's all day as always and went on a little (freezing) walk so Ashton could test out what his hoverboard could do in the open and the twins could properly try out their bikes (trying them around the house resulted in a crash into the Christmas tree and a big chip knocked out of the molding around one of our doorways - super glue helped that).

Then later in the day, we did the kids' gift-exchange and it was great - love seeing those hugs and thanks and the joy on the face of the giver.

As always, we headed up to Ashton Idaho the day after Christmas to spend time at Grandma's house with lots of wonderful Looslis. And we got to open presents again! Grandma always gives the nicest gifts and cards and we had so much fun opening games from Loosli siblings (everyone draws names and the theme for this year was games so we all have awesome new games to play together while were up here in Ashton and to enjoy throughout the year - we were up until past midnight playing and laughing last night!).

It is FREEZING up here. Wow. Lows of almost -20 and highs of like 10 degrees. But the kids are out having the time of their lives with Jared - riding snow machines and building an epic snow fort. I'm trying to catch up on Power of Moms work a bit and I wanted to take the time to record this Christmas stuff before we move on to the next thing. But I've got to get out there and enjoy that beauty and fun - even if it's going to be so cold that I'm really having to psych myself up to get out there!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Reason for the Season

For unto us a child is born
unto us a son is given 
and his name shall be called
The Mighty God
 The Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6

“When God wants an important thing done in this world or a wrong righted, He goes about it in a very singular way. He doesn’t release thunderbolts or stir up earthquakes. God simply has a tiny baby born, perhaps of a very humble home, perhaps of a very humble mother. And God puts an idea or purpose into the mother’s heart. And she puts it in the baby’s mind, and then—God waits. The great events of this world are not battles and elections and earthquakes and thunderbolts. The great events are babies, for each child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged with humanity, but is still expecting goodwill to become incarnate in each human life.”
- Edmond McDonald

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tips and Tricks for Moms of Babies

There are lots of "parenting hacks" posts floating around the Internet. That got me thinking about what MY best parenting tips and tricks and practices are - and made me want to record them to help anyone who might be reading and for my kids' use some day as they become parents themselves.

So today I'll start with some tips about babies that have worked well for me and many other moms I know (I've recently been talking with some friends with little babies so all this is sort of fresh in my mind right now). Then I'll do posts with my best ideas for other ages and stages when I get the chance.

Of course, these are just my ideas and my experiences. I'm not a doctor. I'm not an expert. I'm just a mom with 5 kids whose figured out a few things through trial and error and the help of family members and friends who've shared their experiences.

Getting kids to sleep through the night
Here's what worked for me (certainly different things are right in different situations but here's what worked for my parents and their 9 kids, for me and my 5 babies, and for pretty much all my siblings and their kids):
  • The first few weeks, there's no real point in getting babies on any sort of schedule - their digestive systems are immature, they are getting use to their little bodies, etc.  - but we can help them learn night from day by keeping lights very dim during nighttime feedings and keeping things mostly silent or whispered (while in the day, we've got the lights on during feedings and changings and we're talking in an animated way to the baby while changing and feeding).
  • About two weeks in, we'd start making a point of feeding the baby every only every 2-3 hours. She's often act like she might be hungry within an hour of eating (as a baby, if you're awake, the only thing you can think of to do is to eat, right?). A lot of the time, a pacifier would satisfy the baby's need to suck (most babies want to suck most of the time they're awake - it's soothing and fun for them - but they don't need to eat most of the time they're awake!). Sometimes we'd walk around, holding the baby facing outwards with an arm across their tummy (seemed to soothe any little tummy problems they were having). Usually, with a pacifier, some walking around, some changes of position, etc., the baby could make it for at least 2 hours and usually three hours between feedings, often sleeping for the 2-3 hours between feedings. I found that if I fed the baby every time she seemed to want to suck or seemed fussy, I couldn't quite build up enough milk between feedings to give the baby a really satisfying feeding but that if I waited at least 2 hours, I had some more satisfying milk quality and quantity for the baby. Plus the baby was getting used to eating when she needed nourishment, not just eating because that's the only thing to do! By helping babies learn to eat just when they need food, they will be set up better for sleeping longer stretches at night.
  • About two weeks in we'd also start keeping the baby awake for about an hour before we planned to go to bed (for us it was 11pm so from 9 or 10 on, we'd try to keep the little one awake). We'd walk with the baby, lay him on his back and "bicycle" his legs, talk to him, dance around with him, read to him. We'd do everything we could to get his little body and brain stimulated and then tired out. After this "active" period, we'd dim the lights, do a bath if it's been a couple nights (not necessary to bathe babies every night since they get a sort of half-bath every time they have a diaper change and too much bathing dries out their skin), do a diaper change and put on pj's (while taking softly to the baby), feed the baby, then swaddle the baby tightly and lay him down (still awake, but sleepy - it's important for them to learn to go to sleep on their own). Then we'd quickly get to bed ourselves!
  • Usually our babies would sleep 4-5 hours after establishing this "active time" then "quiet bedtime" routine. Then they'd wake up and eat quickly (and while we kept lights off or dim and kept things very quiet then), then we'd burp the baby, do a diaper change (if there was some poo going on - otherwise I found it was best to not do a diaper change - that wakes them up so much and diapers are generally good at wicking moisture away from the skin unless they're really full), swaddle the baby, and lay him down (with a pacifier - my kids loved pacifiers and that really helped them to feel soothed when it wasn't time to eat). Sometimes the baby would fuss around a bit after laying him down. We'd pat him gently, say "SHHHHHHHH" quietly, then walk away, trying not to go back unless he seemed like he really couldn't soothe himself - in which case we'd do some more patting, some more "Shhhh-ing" and pop the pacifier back in his mouth. If there was more fussing, we'd pick the baby up and see if there was another burp in there. But through all this, we tried to give the baby the message that nighttime was for sleeping and that eating and changing and picking up would only happen when really necessary.
  • By about 2 months, our babies were sleeping about 6 hours in a row, waking around 4am for a a quick feeding, then going right back to sleep until about 7am. Then in the mornings, they'd want to eat a bit more frequently  - eating like at 9 and then at 11. Then they'd go to every 3-4 hours for the rest of the day.
  • By about 3 or 4 months, our babies were sleeping mostly through the night - from like 11pm until about 6am. Sometimes they'd still wake up for a 3 or 4am feeding and sometimes they were sick or teething or had something going on that we couldn't determine and woke up every hour all night. But mostly, they could sleep through the night. They were getting the longer stretches of sleep they needed to really feel rested and I was getting the sleep I needed to be a good mom and feel like a real person!
Getting babies to take bottles
I think it's really important that babies accept a bottle for two reasons. First, it makes it so that the dad can be a bigger part of the newborn's life - eating is pretty much the world to babies and dads need to be part of that world at least sometimes. Second, most moms need to get a little time away from their baby from time to time, even if they don't need to go back to work or leave the house for solid obligations. 

Once breastfeeding is established (about a week in for most babies), all my experience (personal and what I've heard from others) says that introducing a bottle is not a problem at all ("nipple confusion" seems to be a myth - never heard of a baby who wouldn't take the breast when they sometimes have a bottle - unless they never learned to take the breast properly in the first place). In fact, the earlier you introduce a bottle, the easier it will be for the baby to accept it. After weeks of eating in just one way, it would naturally sort of freak a baby out to have this rubber nipple put in her mouth, right?

When my babies were like 3 days old, my husband would give them their first bottle - just a tiny bit - just to get them used to eating from a bottle - not enough to interrupt their appetite for breast milk. They'd sort of push the nipple out of their mouths with their tongues at first, then if we'd shake or squeeze the bottle so they could taste a drop or two of milk on the nipple, they'd get the idea pretty quick. Sometimes it would take a few minutes. We found that we needed to do this when the baby was slightly hungry so he/she would want to suck - but not super hungry or they'd just get frustrated!

Then every evening (or every couple of evenings) they'd get a little feeding time from dad - some expressed breastmilk or a tiny bit of formula or even a little water (I liked them to learn to drink a bit of water so that if milk wasn't around, they'd accept a little warm water to tide them over - very handy when I was driving somewhere and the baby was fussy but we didn't have formula or breastmilk handy - a little warm water would soothe the baby for a few minutes until we could stop and do a proper feeding).

Feeding "solids" to Babies and Toddlers

You know those "squeezable" fruits and veggies you can buy in those little pouches to feed to your kids? You can feed your babies the same sort of stuff with the same convenience, same lack of mess, and less environmental impact and expense by doing this:

  • get a baby bottle with a cross-cut nipple
  • use sharp scissors to snip that "x" a little bigger
  • put pureed food or rice or oatmeal cereal inside the bottle (applesauce, veggies or fruits you've cooked and blended in your blender, or a jar of babyfood)
  • feed it to your baby or toddler
My mom taught me this trick explained above - she fed all nine of us this way when we were ready for solid foods. I asked my pediatrician about this method when I first had kids and he said it sounded great but that it could lead to overeating and to children not learning to eat from a spoon if we weren't careful. So we were careful. And we did spoon feeding as well as bottle-feeding (spoon-feeding when we had time to sit the baby in a highchair and have a nice little social eating time together, bottle feeding when they needed solid food but we were on the run). Worked like a charm. And I think my kids learned to eat more variety of foods at a younger age when they could receive it in a more familiar form - a bottle - rather than having to deal with learning to eat from a spoon WHILE learning to accept new flavors and textures.

The bottle feeding method is also great for helping babies accept new flavors. My mom would put something the baby already liked - like pureed pears or bananas in the bottle first, then some peas or squash or beans or something they may not totally love at first taste in next, then top off the bottle with more of the pears or bananas. This way, the baby would start sucking, taste the food he liked, then be so into eating that he didn't really notice or mind when he got to the peas or beans, then enjoy a little "dessert" of more pears or bananas at the end. 

All nine of us are good eaters. We were never picky and would always eat pretty much anything placed in front of us. I think this method of feeding us solid foods as babies really helped!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Final Gratitude Posts - plus my kids' thankful lists

I posted here or on Instagram every day from November 1 through Thanksgiving. Have to give myself a pat on the back for following through. I have to say November was one of the best months I've had a in a long long time. I was looking for the good stuff every day in a very deliberate and determined way. And when you sincerely look for the good, you can always find something, even on the toughest days.

I challenged my kids to join me in recording what they were grateful for each day - and offered the chance to go on a special dinner and movie outing to all who consistently recorded what they were grateful for every day from Nov 1st through Thanksgiving. I reminded them a bit here and there but tried to just be a good example of doing it myself and left it mostly up to them. On Thanksgiving morning, after a little family hike and a great family "Turkey Bowl" football game in the freezing cold, I asked everyone to share their Thankful list in the car on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. Wow. They all actually did it - every day! I've shared all their lists at the end of this post - as a great snapshot of what each of my kids is doing and what they're thinking about right now in their lives. (We went to see "The Martian" - everyone loved it - and coincidentally it made us all extra grateful for a lot of things!)

I'm not posting daily about gratitude now. But I'm still in the habit of looking for the good. And finding it.

Here are my last posts as I wrap up my gratitude posts:

Here are the kids' thankful lists 

(These are totally unedited - just cut and pasted from where they wrote their stuff on Google Drive)


(she did the rest of the days on paper while we were out of town but can't find her paper now...)

Things I am Thankful For

  1. November 1st 2015
I am thankful for food and water because without them I would not be alive and they are really really good. I am thankful for them today because I fasted today because it was fast sunday. The also are the stuff that I need to have a healthy life.
  1. November 2nd 2015
I am thankful for the trampoline because it is the most frequently used fun thing that is in our neighborhood. It also helps me calm down. It also lets me have more fun and jump really high.
  1. November 3rd 2015
I am thankful for school because without it we would probably be pretty dumb. The teachers are also so kind and try to help you to do your best in school. The school also serves as a learning place to learn and have fun.
  1. November 4th 2015
I am thankful for the dogs in this world because they are so cute and are so fun to play with. They almost always are nice and they also cheer you up with lots of licks/kisses. There are also a lot of dog.
  1. November 5th 2015
I am thankful for the transportation because without them our feet would be sore from walking everywhere. Also I think that I wouldn’t be very happy without the constant entertainment. Lastly I am happy that I can relax and lay back.
  1. November 6th 2015
I am thankful for the friends that I get to play with. I love that all my friends have a creative imagination and love to play anything that I want to play. Friends also give me a fun time and to do something else than play with silas and me.
  1. November 7th 2015
I am thankful for the entertainment because when a movie night comes, everyone is happy. Also I like entertainment when you get to play with your friends. Lastly I like entertainment because you can listen to music while you do stuff or you can listen to it when you are calming yourself down.
  1. November 8th 2015
I am thankful for baptisms because I when you go through the process of being baptised, you lose all of your sins. Another great thing about baptism is that you can always have the holy host by you. lastly, you can even baptize people from the dead if they haven’t been baptised already and make them have no sins.
  1. November 9th 2015
I am thankful for rain because it cheers some people up and it lets you put away your feelings for a while. Also you can splash in the puddles and splash other people. The rain also shares your emotions, especially when you are sad.
  1. November 10th 2015
I am thankful for winter because you can go skiing and snowboarding. I also love winter because you get to go sledding, and you get to do jumps. Lastly you get to have snowball fights, which I believe are super fun.
  1. November 11th 2015
I am thankful for the trash because we can put things in there and you don’t have to store everything in one place. Also with the trash there is sometimes (rarely) some stuff cool stuff that you might want. Lastly you can go dumpster diving (not that I do it).
  1. November 12th 2015
I am thankful for friends because friends can be just what you need if you are feeling left out ar sad. They also have other things to do than just your everyday stuff. Lastly they also have imagination different than yours (not that your imagination is nat as good) and I think that that is good.
  1. November 13th 2015
I am thankful for the trees because they are so fun to climb in. Also another reason is that you can do tricks of of them, like jumping off of them. Lastly, you can hide in them.
  1. November 14th 2015
I am thankful for the sun because it warms you up. Another reason is that it lightens your day and makes you feel generally happy. Lastly it makes shadows for a good place to hide in.
  1. November 15th 2015
I am thankful for church because you can learn about the gospel there. Also, at the church, you can feel calm and listen to the faithful people that share their stories with you and everyone else. Lastly, you can feel safer there because Jesus and Heavenly father protect you. Jesus has felt every sad or bad thing that we do and the stuff that you feel, like pain, sadness, sin, misery, and bad things that we feel bad about.
  1. November 16th 2015
I am thankful for the piano because you can always feel calm when you practise piano. Also when you play you can always feel happy. Lastly you can show your expressions by playing hard and low if you are sad and playing light and high when you’re happy.
  1. November 17th 2015
I am thankful for math because you can solve fun problems. Also you can always doodle with math, to. Lastly you can figure out fun numbers!
  1. November 18th 2015
I am thankful for chess because you can think of strategies. Also I like chess because you can play against your friends. Lastly you can play different game modes like speed chess.
  1. November 19th 2015
I am thankful for the tablets because you can play on them. Also,  I am thankful for tablets because you can text your friends with them. Lastly you can call on them and they will listen to your voice.
  1. November 20th 2015
I am thankful for the nerf guns that nerf produces because you can play with them. Also, why I am grateful for nerf guns is because of the speed and length that that they can travel. Lastly they can have different bullets in them.
  1. November 21th 2015
I am thankful for night games because it gives you lots of practice at fun things like aiming nerf guns and hiding. Also I am thankful for night games because you almost always have fun with your friends in playing together. Lastly you can get free of your fears and start to get good at lots of things that they do at night games with your friends helping you.
  1. November 22nd 2015
I am thankful for my mother because she always there to help me do the stuff that I think is important to me even if she doesn’t necessarily like it. Also she helps me get prepared for what is ahead and she is always really really nice to me and she lets me do lots and lots of very fun stuff. Lastly she does fun stuff with me like eating hot chocolate and giving me food and giving me credit for the things that I do, and she always loves me.
  1. November 23rd 2015
I am thankful for the sunrise because it brings light into your part of the world. Also it makes beautiful colors and they are fun to watch them fading away. Lastly the sunrise marks the beginning of a new day and you can’t be sad during a new day, can’t you?
  1. November 24th 2015
I am thankful for the Leonardo because there is really cool exhibits that are made for the fun for kids. It lets you learn stuff in a very fun way like building stuff in Leonardo's workshop and testing them in a wind tunnel. Lastly it uses electric conductors to spike up your hair.
  1. November 25th 2015
I am thankful for City Creek Center mall because you can have a variety of stores to choose from like Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Apple. Also you can meet new people, and in my case, dogs. Lastly in City Creek there is also very good food.
  1. November 26 2015
I am thankful for rocks because they are very fun to climb on. Also, on rocks, you can be the king of the world. Lastly you can get footholds and climb all the way up the mountains to the top. You can also jump over higher stuff with bigger rocks.


Isaac: (He didn't quite catch the assignment to write why you were thankful for things and just pick one special thing each day - he listed a few things every day glimpse into his mind still!)
Chairs to sit in.
  Metal that is used to build things. Wood.
  Note apps. 
   Board and card games.
   Good examples. 
   Hair gel. 
   Brushes and combs. 
   Swim meats. 
   Cool rocks like geodes and crystals.
    Eyes to see color in the world. 
Soft carpet. 
This buttock world that we get to live in.
Creation of Light bulbs. 
Tomas Edison. 
Great scientists that have made a huge impact on the world we live in.
Snow and rain. 
Snow basin. 
Cars (our minivan). 
Yummy snacks to eat. 
Animals on the ground, in the air, and the animals in the water. 
Being tall. 
Public transportation. 
The smell of good food. 
Bathrooms when you need them. 
Pants without wholes in them. 
My stuffed animal dog.


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