Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Monday, January 31, 2011

Meal Plan...

Week two of this meal planning thing, and I'm still not getting it up when I planned. What's new? I told myself to write a blog post stating that this year...there were no specific times I needed to have things posted and I wouldn't have to say I was late. Or apologize for it. I obviously didn't get around to that. So, I'm late doing it. Except I'm not...because the point was to not need to say that. It's my blog, so I'll get to things when I get to them. Right? Right. :) Now that that's out of the way... Here is our weekly menu. On time. Because it's on MY time. (That's kind of nice to say. I get very little time that is "mine." It's nice to think I have some of my own time every now and then, even if it's not really true.)

Oh, and I'm trying to decide if I want to do these menu posts before the week or after the end of the week. In our house, there is always at least one night that things don't go as planned, and at least one meal will get pushed back or changed. Or multiple ones will. You never know. So, I'm debating. Plus, then we can say if something was terrible. Or really worth the effort.

And this is why you'll see some meals this week that were supposed to have been for last week.... Things changed. That's how we roll.

Anyway. Here we go.

Burgers, baked fries (seasoned w/ Mrs. Dash), and I think we had fruit. I didn't have time to do the fries the way I usually do (it involves parboiling the potatoes), so I tried the weelicious version she just happened to post the other day. No parboiling and cooking with a higher temp. Wasn't all that different. I asked the guys to let me know which way they preferred. They didn't seem to notice any difference. I think parboiling makes it a bit more crispy. But it's also more time, though not much, and another dish to clean. Both are easy, though. And would you believe that Aiden has only ever had fries that weren't baked maybe once? And he really didn't eat those fries much. The baked fries are always a hit, though. Camden is always very excited when he sees we're having them. They're also too easy and taste too good to justify getting fried fries.

Lunch: Leftovers. We went to the grocery after church, so we were pushing it to get Aiden down for his nap on time.
Dinner: Tilapia w/ Thai Curry Almond Rub. Since Ryan's allergic to almonds, his tilapia had ground flaxseed on it instead - that was surprisingly really good! I think we need to have that more often. We served the fish over Rice and Beans with pineapple diced pretty small and mixed in (very easy on the cilantro, brown basmati rice instead of white, and dried black beans previously cooked and frozen instead of canned) - the pineapple and rub on the tilapia really make it! I wouldn't really like the beans and rice dish without them. There are a lot of leftover beans and rice, so we'll be using it in some lunches and other stuff... Need to keep this in mind for next time! Also, Ryan only got three fillets of Tilapia because he was sure Aiden wouldn't really eat it. Aiden's not a big fan of meat/poultry/fish on its own. But...the kid totally liked this fish! I thought it might have been a bit spicy (not really spicy if it's w/ the beans and rice, but he ate it on its own), but apparently it wasn't too much for him! He wouldn't even try the beans and rice, but he tore up the fish! Go figure...

Lunch: Pasta with parmesan cheese and peas, green smoothies. Aiden kept telling me he didn't want pasta, but he proceeded to eat two and a half bowls. It's always a good back-up because he loves the stuff!
Dinner: Burritos. Nothing fancy. We did use some of the leftover beans and rice dish...instead of cooking rice and serving black beans, like we usually do. This dish was all Ryan's idea, and I think I'm throwing it off the menu for a while. Aiden can't eat a burrito! (And then he wouldn't eat it as a "salad" afterwards...) Plus, I always just feel like there needs to be more to it. It's not my favorite. I'd rather have taco salad or taco soup. I'm the cook, so I get more say. ;)

Lunch: Leftover pasta, parm, and cheese. We will be out late, probably past lunch, for a dr appt, so we need something already made and quick to get out and eat! I'm taking enough snacks for the little guy to eat at the appt, in case we get home and there's really no time for lunch. See previous post on night terrors if you're not getting the reasoning behind that. We'll be pushing it tomorrow. No choice, though.
Dinner: Bean soup. Exciting! Oh, and pickled beets (I make up just enough for the meal when we have it. Thanks to my mama for showing me how to do it.). And cornbread. Can't forget the cornbread. Camden absolutely hates this meal. That's why we have it. (Just kidding!) Ryan and I like it. Plus, it's cheap. Hello! Actually, we have a new plan. We're aiming to serve one dish (which usually means two meals, as far as I'm concerned) each week that is super cheap. The extra money is going to our church/charity money to give away. This is one of those super cheap meals.

Lunch: Strawberry soup. Bread w/ peanut butter or sunflower butter and raisins. This is the easiest thing to make, and the kids think it is so cool. I don't really measure any of it - not much to it at all, so I just toss whatever in. But here is the recipe: 1 pint strawberries (we used frozen), 1 cup vanilla yogurt (ours is plain - made homemade, so I just add in some vanilla), 1 tsp lemon juice...Combine in blender! I do thaw some of the berries first to make blending easier because this is supposed to be a "soup" not a smoothie! Pair it w/ pb and raisins on either a bagel or bread. The vit C in the strawberries helps w/ the absorption of the iron in the pb/raisins. Aiden drinks his soup from a cup. :)
Dinner: Bean soup, pickled beets, and cornbread. We do let Camden either fix himself a sandwich or a bowl of cereal, since he doesn't like the beans. BUT he does first have to eat a small bowl of the beans. We're mean like that.

Lunch: Tuna salad. We all love this recipe. Camden, who claims to hate tuna, will admit he likes this stuff. He'll eat seconds, and when I asked if he wanted some for lunch this week, he said yes very quickly. :) The fruit in it really makes it taste sweet. Put it in a pita. Add some spinach and cheese if you like. Aiden might try some in a pita, but he usually ends up eating his from a bowl. He will tear this stuff up! Loves it.
Dinner: Spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad. We'll see how it goes. Aiden's not a spaghetti fan. I don't know why not, but really... Anything that's like it, he doesn't like. Likes pasta with parmesan, but spaghetti, parm chicken over pasta, and sometimes lasagna. Just not a fan. But sometimes he eats it. So, we'll see. I warned Ryan. (He kind of did the dinner planning while I was busy the other day. It's nice that he helps, but sometimes he doesn't think the way I do. Or I don't always want to cook the things he puts on there.)

Lunch: Leftover tuna salad. I'm hoping there IS some leftover because we'll be getting home from Bible study just in time for lunch. If there is none left over, it's tomato soup in a cup and some fruit on the side. I would attempt a grilled cheese, but this kid is also not a fan of sandwiches! Anytime he actually eats some, it's not even half.
Dinner: Spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad. Family Fun Night means we need leftovers to make dinner quick and easy! :)

Lunch: Leftovers or sandwiches, I guess.
Dinner: Vegetable soup from the freezer

Lunch: Not sure yet. More leftovers. There usually isn't enough soup left for another meal for everyone, but sometimes there's enough for a person or two, so the others can grab whatever else is left in the fridge.
Dinner: Corn Chowder from the freezer. We usually have the freezer meals during the week, but we wanted to use these up. We have some projects to work on around the house, so we could use the free time that would normally go to longer dinners I usually cook on weekends.

A friend commented on last week's menu saying she first thought this kind of post would be pretty boring but that I had surprised her with what we had planned. I'm pretty sure this post is showing how boring we usually eat. Nothing too exciting this week, that's for sure! What about at your place? Boring or exciting, that is.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Night Terrors

So, for the longest time, Aiden has been having "dreams" at night that can wake him up. Except they seemed really scary. And we realized he wasn't really waking up. Sometimes he would cry out a little bit and then stop. Sometimes he would scream. And sometimes he would scream, thrash around, and be completely inconsolable. We would try to calm him, but it was no good. If we picked him up and reassured him, he could flip out. If he snapped out of it and woke up...well, there was no real "snapping out of it," but he would seem absolutely terrified. Even nursing didn't seem to really do much, and that's like the one single thing that *always* works. Holding him, he would seem to be unaware we had him but would fight to get free, thrashing his body all around. We would struggle with him, trying so hard to calm our little guy, and then after so long, he would stop and it would be like nothing ever happened. He would suddenly be sleeping peacefully, like nothing ever happened, but leaving us scared and wondering what was going on.

Welcome to the world of night terrors, folks.

This has been happening for months, but we only realized around Christmas that they were, in fact, night terrors. I had suspected, but we finally were sure. We did a little internet research to learn a bit more about what was going on. Of course, it's hard to know for sure what's going on, but we have a good idea.

The thing is...night terrors are, well, pretty terrifying. I'm not sure exactly how scary they are for the child, since they don't remember them, and therefore, can't tell you about it. Then there's the fact that he's only two and can't really communicate all that well, especially with a concept as complicated as "dreaming." When Aiden has an episode, he often is literally trying to climb out of the place (crib, pack 'n play, wherever he is sleeping). If he's lying down, he'll have his legs straight up in the air, kicking the crib as hard as he can...like he's trying to get away from something or kick something away from him. He'll sometimes get on his hands and knees, as if he's trying to crawl away, or hit and push the pillow, like it's something that's after him. He will scream and scream as if he is scared. This isn't an "I want attention" sound...this is a "something is trying to really hurt me, and I am SCARED out of my mind" cry. His eyes might be closed, partially open, or all the way open, but he is totally out of it and not at all aware that we are nearby. He sometimes sounds like he's trying to actually yell something, but we can't usually tell what he's trying to say. And if all of that isn't bad enough...if he somehow does wake up, he gets even more intense and seems completely terrified and confused.

As a parent, seeing this...I don't know how to explain it other than scary. Who wants to see their child like this?? And who enjoys not being able to help their child? And then...to top that off...you aren't supposed to help! After learning more, we know that helping, trying to hold him, speaking to him at all - well, it just makes it worse! Now really, how awesome is that? It is pretty near impossible to just stand there and watch him go through all of this. While you do, you can't help but feel like parent of the year. Like...yeah, my child is obviously scared to death here, but I'm just going to stand back and enjoy the show. How 'bout some popcorn? Seriously. We've even read (can't remember where now - we've done a ton of searches by now) that when you talk to him or try to soothe the child, the sound of your voice can be incorporated into the terror and scare him even more. Not a fun thought. But knowing that even talking to him to try to soothe him really just scares him more helps to NOT talk to him.

It's still hard, though. Feeling helpless is one of my least favorite things to experience as a parent. And one of the most difficult. During each episode, I have to fight back the tears as I watch him and just stand there. I hate it. Really hate it.

Here are a couple things we've learned about night terrors....

Family history of sleep problems make them more likely. There's definitely a history. Mama has had insomnia, oh, pretty much her entire life. I'm not kidding. And Daddy...he has restless leg syndrome. So, that counts, right? Family history? Check.

Being overtired makes it more likely and worse. That's true. Now, we know Aiden's never been world's greatest sleeper. But he's not a terrible sleeper, either! He's always slept fairly well...but woke fairly often. Since we realized it actually IS an allergy causing the problem (I have always claimed I thought something else was going on - and Mama was right!) and we've taken measures to help with the allergen, Aiden has been a *wonderful* sleeper! He still is up early, but it's usually at 6 now, instead of 5. And he's napping between 2-3 hours each day. The night terrors have been occurring fairly regularly, but if he misses a nap...oh you can betcha he will have some awful night terrors that night! Maybe even repeatedly. We really realized this over Christmas when there were a couple days he missed naps b/c he was too excited or we had too much planned. Those nights, we all paid for it. Over and over. When we stick to his nap and bedtime schedule...strictly stick to it...things are so much better. Since Christmas he actually stopped his night terrors. Until this past week, that is. Not sure what has changed, but he's been having them all week. And then a couple weeks ago...the one day he refused to nap because mama got him home a bit late after a playdate (I think I need to set an alarm next time!) - that was not a fun night. So, yes....lack of sleep? Definitely makes things worse.

Night terrors aren't in and of themselves a problem, but they can lead to problems, since they disrupt sleep. Um, yeah. It's one of those cyclical things that aren't so much fun. Fatigue/sleep deprivation make night terrors worse. Night terrors disrupt sleep, causing more fatigue/sleep deprivation. These things also cause a grumpy toddler who needs to nap earlier than usual...but an early nap might mean he is later even more sleep deprived, blah, blah. Good times. (You certainly can sense the sarcasm there.)

Stress and anxiety can correlate with night terrors. Now, it's hard for me to know sometimes if there is anything stressing Aiden out. Most times I am pretty sure that's not an issue, BUT sometimes the little bit of playtime between dinner and bedtime isn't all that relaxing. Enter big brother, who is trying to play with Aiden...that usually means Camden is trying to be physical (hugging or wrestling or whatever) and Aiden is trying to avoid it (because he seriously is NOT a cuddly person) or gets too excited about it. Or they're having a blast chasing each other, which means Aiden really is not calming down but quite the opposite. I'm not sure if any of these have correlated with night terrors, but since realizing this is what was happening at night (the night terrors), we've made sure the time between dinner and bed does not include activity like this. Not that he didn't have a calm bedtime routine before, but we've extended it and have made sure Camden understands why it's so important for Aiden to remain calm. That time between dinner and bed is now a time when we ALL sit down, read or something like that as a family while Aiden nurses. It's as calm as we can make it. Not sure if it helps, but it certainly makes sense. And we all prefer to be doing this together anyway. It's good for everyone.

Night terrors and sleep walking can occur together. We don't know yet, and hopefully by the time Aiden would be able to sleep walk, he'll be past these. He's still in the crib, so he can't really go anywhere. That's good because we know he's a bit safer that way. He does seem to try to get out of the crib sometimes, though he isn't doing it in a way that could be successful (while still on his back, moving his feet like he's trying to climb out or on his hands and knees).

There isn't a ton of information about night terrors, really. I mean, they are what they are (you kind of have to see it to really be able to understand what goes on), and there's only so much you can do about it. What you can do is pretty simple, really. Other than that, you wait it out. Each time it happens and over time - hoping it goes away, which it should.

For more information, though, here are some good websites that you can visit.

Mayo Clinic
MedlinePlus (NLM NIH)

So, with all of this in mind, if you ever hear us say we can't do something because our toddler has to nap...know that his nap schedule is pretty crucial right now. Know we're not just blowing you off or that we're not just overbearing parents that think they can't ever get out and have fun because of that lousy naptime. Seriously, we can't miss that nap. It IS rather limiting, but we'd rather be forced to be at home every day for those hours around nap than up in the middle of the night with a terrified child. If we're visiting and you think..oh, let him stay up! I'ts [insert whatever holiday or special occasion here], let him have some fun! Know that letting him stay up and have a little extra fun isn't going to be just an inconvenience to us...but it will most likely have a huge impact on him later that night. We know this. So, please understand. We would love for him to have that extra fun...just not at the cost we know he might have to pay later. It's not personal against you; we're just trying to be good parents and make life easier and better for that little boy we all love. :) Saying he has to be in for naptime is not just an excuse. Well, I guess it kind of is. But it's a REALLY good and justifiable excuse.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meal Planning...

So, one of my friends has started posting her weekly menu over on her blog, and I thought it was a great idea. For one, we also make a weekly menu. Secondly, maybe it will get me on the blog a bit more... I've had posts I want to write, but time is not easily found. So, maybe I could at least find time to post our menu. I mean, I already have to work out the menu and write it down, so shouldn't be that much more work. Might keep me motivated to come up with great meal ideas, too, right? Her posts are Meal Plan Monday, but we usually plan ours over the weekend, so my title won't flow as well, I'm sure. ;) I love hearing what others have and getting new ideas from friends, websites, complete strangers, so....feel free to do this, as well, or comment with some of your own meals for the week. Melissa got this idea from a friend of hers that is also posting menus each week...and I already stole a recipe from that person (who of course I do not know) to try soon. ;)

Here's what's on the menu over here this week... Lunches are really what I'm making for Aiden or whoever is home (Camden just tracked back in to school, so lunches have been for him for the past few weeks, too). Camden packs his school lunch (sometime what is planned, leftovers, leftover soups I've made and frozen for his lunches, or his favorite tomato soup and other faves), Ryan packs his work lunch, and I either eat what Aiden is having or have some parts of it and a green smoothie.

Breakfast is either homemade granola, crockpot steel cut oats (Aiden and I like it w/ banana, walnuts, and maple syrup; Camden likes raspberries and honey), or cereal. And fruit. Or smoothies. Fancy, right? Mornings are rushed here. If we want to sit down to eat together (well, Ryan's already at work by the time the rest of us eat), this is what we get...nothing that actually involves cooking this early in the morning. No, sirree...

Snacks for this week - main ones are Granola balls (these have become a staple in our house! Soooo good!) and the latest banana bread I'm trying to perfect. Sour cream banana bread. It is so delicious, but I still need to get the timing and oven temp right - the recipe is off a bit (and uses a loaf size that I do not have). Either way, it is so good. Way more than that, actually. I could just eat the batter, really. And clementines. And green smoothies. And walnuts. Aiden has discovered he loves walnuts! I love that kid.

Lunch: Blueberry soup, and I already can't remember what went with it...
Dinner: Grilled apple, bacon, and cheddar sandwich with roasted red onion mayo (if you have not tried this sandwich, you are REALLY missing out - please don't use that much bacon and cheese, though. Wow. We use about half of that. Or less.), Veggie chips (I had a green smoothie instead), & fruit.

Lunch: Waldorf Salad (Weelicious is great for finding meal ideas for kids, and this is supposed to be a healthier version of this salad. I've never had the regular version, and we all liked this!), pretzels, cheese. Ryan's been off work due to flooding in his office building from a burst water pipe, so he was home and had his on a wrap w/ spinach and cheese.
Dinner: Chicken parm on angelhair pasta, broccoli, and rolls. Mayo rolls. Oh yum. These things are the fastest things to whip up, with just three ingredients: mayonnaise (we use vegenaise due to the egg allergy), milk, and flour. And they are so yummy. My mom passed the recipe on to me a long time ago, and we make these babies quite often. The chicken parm is from a Once-a-Month cooking site. I didn't think it would be that special b/c the ingredients certainly weren't, but man this stuff is good! I've made chicken parm before, but this tops others I've made. Aiden isn't crazy about it, but he also isn't a huge spaghetti fan (what?!); the rest of us love it. And this past time, I actually did make up the entire recipe and made five meals out of it (plenty to freeze!).

Lunch: Leftover Waldorf salad, fruit, crackers
Dinner: Caramelized salmon with pineapple orange salsa (no link - this one is from a book, but it is yummy...enough so that I'll make it even though it only makes one meal!), sweet potatoes, salad...and corn to please the older child that doesn't like sweet potatoes (which he does still have to try).

Lunch: I'll come up with something fabulous...
Dinner: Burgers, baked fries (spice these up w/ some Mrs. Dash or other seasoning, and they are fabulous...you'll have to double or triple the recipe. Trust me.), green smoothies, grapes.

Lunch: Leftovers from yesterday's fabulous lunch. Need leftovers since we get back from Bible study right in time for lunch.
Dinner: Root Vegetable soup (Mom's recipe - already made and in the freezer), rolls or cornbread (which one depends on how much time I have). We try to make it easy on Fridays because it's our "Family Fun Night," so we need extra time for the fun part..not for cooking and clean-up.

Lunch: Any leftovers... Clean out the fridge.
Dinner: Tilapia w/ Thai Curry Almond Rub (oooh..just realized "almond" in that...we found out Ryan's allergic), served over Rice and Beans with pineapple mixed in (easy on the cilantro, if using any at all, brown basmati rice instead of white, and dried black beans previously cooked and frozen instead of canned) - the pineapple and rub on the tilapia really make it! They had that as one of the samples at Whole Foods one day - was one of those times I really wanted to make it right then!

Lunch: Not sure yet...probably sandwiches. Exciting.
Dinner: Burritos and all the fixins

Clearly I'm slacking with the lunches this week. I have so many recipes I go to, but I get bored easily and wanted something new this week. Still haven't figured out what we're having a couple days. We'll see...

So, what's on your plate this week?

Next up....I'm hoping to post about night terrors and all the fun they bring. Maybe if I say so, I'll get it written. We'll see.