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Raising the Bar on Personal Expectation

Archive for Family

Malocclusion, Your Required Reading

I read through Dr. Stephan Guyenet’s Malocclusion Series recently, and it inspired immediate purchase of the Dentistar pacifier, made by Novatex (he emphasizes that has no connection with the company). If you follow my link, you can get a short summary of his research and conclusions at the top of the page – required reading for all parents of kids from prenatal-age to 17-years, as far as I’m concerned. Afterwards, you might just be sufficiently inspired to become a regular reader of Dr. Guyenet. He provides insightful analysis of cutting-edge as well as historical nutritional research, and he refreshingly continues to assess critically his own conclusions (You can count on him NOT to patron “Paleo” and “Primal” dieting without support of sufficient independent research). He advocates avoidance of sugar, industrial seed oils, and refined grains (“It probably has nothing to do with the glycemic index, it’s because they’re empty calories and wheat contains gluten which is immunogenic. Grain fiber needs to be treated properly by soaking and/or fermentation followed cooking to remove lectins, phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, tannins, etc. Most traditional cultures got rid of a portion of the bran/germ if they could by sifting, straining, and pounding”). “White rice is better than white flour but it’s a one-way ticket to deficiency diseases if you eat too much”, he says (and I can attest definitively that my personal health (N=1) has changed radically just since I started following this advice – I stopped eating grains (bread/pasta, even oatmeal), sugar & sweeteners, as well as industrial seed oils, and I stopped preparing them for my family).

So back to the pacifier conundrum: our son still uses his pacifier while he sleeps, but I think we may try to take it from him on his 3rd birthday (March), as appalling as that sounds. I won’t deny I may get cold feet! We’ve been brainwashing him daily to convince him that pacifiers (“Nuks”) are for babies, and that when he reaches 3 he will truly be a big boy. Of course we will gift him with a highly-desired comfort item on the same day which hopefully he will eventually accept as a substitute. Will it work? It will certainly be painful. What worked for you?

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A little about Parenthood

You must already know that there is no sweeter, more pure sound than the genuine, heartfelt, bubbling laughter that flows out of the mouths of our young toddlers. Anyone fortunate enough to be within hearing range of that literal shower of joy and warmth can not doubt but that they are being offered a fleeting glance of what heaven must be like.

Lately other things have been flowing out of our son’s sweet mouth, falling wayshort of heavenly but certainly not hilarity.

I assign nicknames to items or creatures with exceptional value in my life, and the names have no particular underlying rationale or make any sense whatsoever except to me, the only person in the entire world who has any interest in using them. Hearing our son call the dog “Mr. Lookey” immediately doubled me over in delighted mirth. No one else probably understands this.

But anyway, some of my slogans aren’t so sweet when used out of context, so it was to my initial deep mortification to hear our son inform the dog in high-pitched insistence that he had a STINKY BUTT and that he planned to SHOOT him. He waited for a crowded place to tell me the same thing and to take a big handful of my offending butt. Our son is an exceptional speaker for a 2.5 year old, and his volume appears to have an inverse relationship with polite speech. Even if 80% of the Germans around here didn’t speak perfect English, “stink” has the same meaning, and the words “butt” and “shoot” are universal.

Adaptation is necessary for survival, and I think it is because God understands our disparate situation that he has gifted mothers with the skill for promptly achieving it. I don’t get embarrassed by my son’s outbursts nor even by the (so far infrequent) tantrums he pulls in crowded places anymore. This is something I could never understand before as a non-mom. Being on occasion a first-person witness to toddler tantrums was equitable to 100% effective birth control for us, and certainly one of the major factors responsible for our 9-year delay.

Everyone has a different experience and a unique and perfectly justifiable perspective to share, but me — if I could do it all again — I would never delay. My priorities are refocused, material objects just don’t hold much worth anymore, my empathy has deepened, our marriage has strengthened, and I am experiencing wonder and gaining appreciation for normal everyday phenomena all over again. Well, that’s my story 85% of the time, anyway. 75%?

…like this morning, when Ian finally realized that directing his peestream can be fun. Fortunately one of the perks about having a 2.5 year old is that you can completely convince them that cleaning up is a blast too (I will enjoy this short-lived phase as long as I can). Now he just needs to get a little better at it (that does happen eventually, right?) and I can set him loose on the house….

What are your experiences and some novel discoveries you’ve shared with your mouthy toddler?

Warm Soups

Our “reasonable price” for a home made upgrade requirements inevitable. Our single-wage-earner income restricts freedom to do so….at least until after we muscle through all the one-time-but-significant fees associated with purchasing a home in Germany (detailed blog post to come on that subject). Insulation is hanging from the unfinished ceiling of our toddler son’s room and he has no heat in there, but anyway there is currently no distinguishable temperature difference from the rest of the home being that we’ve run out of oil and spend evenings huddled around wood scraps the former owners left us.

Over the past couple weeks we’ve grown a deep appreciation for basic heat. We close the rouladen shades tightly at night, yell at each other when doors to infrequently-used rooms are left open, and though an infinitesimally-cracked door shove the dog in and out at tightly controlled intervals during the day so that he can answer nature’s call. Ah THIS is how Europeans live! I was informed by civil employees in charge of utilities (water & electricity) here in town that we would be charged a little more per month than the average German family in anticipation of our greater use of resources. We are American, after all. This actually might be one of the easiest areas where we can defy expectation and prejudice, but I dunno….we do have a sauna (yea)! We will keep you posted.

We’ve tried to use this experience to kindle a sense of adventure in our son. When he wakes and complains about the cold I explain we are living like early pioneers only much, much better: we have TV, a pressure cooker, running (cold) water, and one working automobile. No mortal danger sources surrounding this docile neighbourhood save from a 400% increase in traffic due to careening white Polish vans in search of hot SpärMüll deals. I’m not complaining – bulk trash pickup is only scheduled twice per year, and anyway we’ve personally benefited: I’ve found a perfectly good soccer ball and sturdy shopping basket people threw out on their curbs so far.

Anyway, no scarcity of subjects to blog about, and I will be regular now that we are moved in.

I mentioned the pressure cooker…. our stove (circa 1980) protests with a loud CREEEEEAK and flying rust each time we open the door. The electric cooktop is more emotional than even I – there are numbers on the dials but they don’t seem to correspond with any degree gradient of temperature increase. Of COURSE as you can imagine, my sladky-approval rating on cuisine has suffered accordingly, but I’ve come to rely on ole faithful pressure cooker. So in its honour, here are two soup recipes I made in the last two days which earned the highest rating from mein Mann just in time for Thanksgiving

Cauliflower Cheese and Mustard Soup I altered a recipe I found from Nigel Slater. Mine serves 2-3 if you use it as the main course.

1/5 slice from block of German bio (organic) butter (50g)
1 red onion sliced thin
3 cloves FRESH soft purple garlic (any garlic will do) minced
2 medium cauliflower, broken into florets
a small potato, sliced relatively thin
1-2 tbsp mustard
1 bio vegetable bouillon cube or homemade chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups water
salt
pepper
50g parmesan cheese, diced
50g Emmentaler cheese, diced
2 tbsp Crème fraîche

Melt the butter in the pressure cooker. Add the onion and garlic and fry until soft. Dump the cauliflower in and stir well to coat florets then add potato, mustard, bouillon and water, seal pressure cooker and find a good red wine….(I will blog soon about some excellent sources we found in our neighbourhood).

After about 10min on level II (or cook according to the settings/recommendations of your personal pressure cooker) I removed the soup from heat and released the steam. I threw in cheese chunks and used an immersion blender to blend before adding a little more pepper and a couple tablespoons of Crème fraîche. Nigel recommends frying bread cubes in butter (croutons) and sprinkling them on top (yum) but I forgot and we were hungry….remember everything is healthier without bread, anyway! We grilled steak and zucchini, and this soup was the perfect accompaniment.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

1/5 slice from block of German bio (organic) butter (50g)
3 cloves FRESH soft purple garlic (any garlic will do) minced
2 medium broccoli, broken into florets
a small potato, sliced relatively thin
1 bio vegetable bouillon cube or homemade chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups water
salt
pepper

Melt the butter in the pressure cooker. Add the garlic and fry until soft. Dump the broccoli in and stir well to coat florets then add potato, bouillon, and water, seal pressure cooker and cook for about 10 minutes on level II, or according to the settings/recommendations of your personal pressure cooker. Immersion blend and season to taste – I served with roasted chicken and mushrooms.

Enjoy!