Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Delicious and Good For You Granola Bars

Something that really annoys me are manufactured granola bars. Granola can be one of the healthiest snacks; it's filling, gives you a boost of energy, and can be a great source of protein and other nutrients that you and your kids need. I have yet to find a decent granola bar in the store that is not loaded with sugar. So, I started making my own granola bars. It really is not hard to do, and usually only takes a little more than a half hour. My family gobbles these up for breakfast and snacks, and they go just as quickly as if I had made chocolate chip cookies! I use the recipe from Alton Brown, with a few tweeks.

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup flax
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit (my family loves mixed berries, or apples)
3 Tablespoons Cinnamon (or to taste)

Butter 9x9 inch glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 F. In one layer, spread the oats, almonds, wheat germ, flax, and sunflower seeds onto a baking sheet. If you are using toasted almonds and sunflower seeds, then you don't need to toast them with the oats. Toast for 15 minutes.

Combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. The brown sugar should completely dissolve. Remove from the heat and add the oats/seeds/almonds, and the dried fruit. Stir to make sure that the ingredients are evenly mixed. Turn the temperature of the oven down to 300 F.

Press the mixture evenly into the buttered baking dish. bake for 25 minutes, then allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

My family loves the fruit variety, but they also really like it if I add mini marshmallows, coconut, dates, mini chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds and pie spice, or a variety of nuts. The sky is the limit, and you can really experiment with what flavors your family likes the best.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Choice

This week, I have an appointment with my midwife. At this appointment, she is expecting me to let her know what Daryl and I have chosen. It was a difficult choice, and one that I'm still not so sure that we've made.

The choice of where we will be giving birth to Evie, barring any complications that send us to the hospital. In a way, the choice is so difficult to make because our options are so incredibly similar. If we give birth at home or at the birthing center, we are the same distance away from the hospital, we need the same supplies, and I feel just as "at home" there as I do here (remember that we are not living in our own house, but in the downstairs area of Daryl's family's house.)

The biggest differences are traveling while in labor and then again with an infant who is just hours old, and the people who would be present. If we give birth at the birth center, then I would labor at home as long as I and the midwife felt comfortable. Then when we feel it is time, we would get into the car and make that nervous trip, driving for a half hour, mostly on country farm roads full of bumps and potholes. Then I would continue labor at the birth center with only Daryl, my midwife, and her assistant whom I happen to be good friends with. If there are no complications in the birth, we would rest and bond for a couple hours after Evie makes her grand entrance, then load her up into her carseat to continue the bonding at home. The trip home actually has me more nervous than thinking about making the drive during labor. Being only a couple of hours old, I already feel remorse for taking her out of the warm comfort of our arms and putting her into the cold mechanical straps of a carseat. I want to be with her, I want to hold her and bond with her and snuggle with her.

So one might ask why, if I feel this way, would I consider going to the birth center when my midwife is perfectly willing to come to us. She will bring with her all of the same supplies and equipment. It would be exactly the same, except instead of there, it will be here. Here is where our bed is. We would go into labor, call the midwife, and I would continue to labor until either I or my midwife felt that it is time for her to be here now. She would come to the house with her assistant. But, here is why I would consider going to the birth center. She would come with her assistant, and little Evie would be welcomed into the world by me, Daryl, my midwife, her assistant, my mother in law, my father in law, my brother in law, and Jonah.

I have nothing against my in-laws. They are wonderful, generous, kind hearted people. I am lucky to have the in-laws that I do. But, to me birth is something private and intimate. It should be as intimate as the day the baby was created, as much as reasonable safety measures allow. I don't want to be distracted by so many people bustling around the house. When Jonah was born, there were so many medical personnel in the room, that it distracted me from pushing properly. Every time I would get a good push in, they would cheer "HERE HE IS! I CAN SEE HIM!" and I'd get distracted and look up at them, and say "What?" They were cheering me on, but I just couldn't push with them all around me like that. The doctor told me later that they were cheering because they were in awe- they don't see natural births often, and they were pulling for me. That's all nice and everything, but I couldn't push!

Thinking of all the family that would be here at the house kind of gives me the same feeling. Giving birth is very phsyical and emotional (hello captain obvious!) I really need to be able to reach inside of myself mentally, and do what I need to do without being self conscious. If I need to yell, or groan, or sing, or hum, or walk around the house naked, then that is what I need to do to get through the pain of labor. Can I really yell or groan or sing or walk around the house naked knowing that my father in law or brother in law can hear me or see me?

But, no traveling. Plus, I am more familiar with where things are and how things work in this house. At the birth center, I feel like a guest. There is a kitchen stocked with food, but I would have to ask where anything is at etc. At home, I can keep whatever I want to eat during labor. I would feel more in control of my environment, and therefor my body at home.

I would feel more in control, that is, if I were guaranteed my privacy. So this is my dilemma. The answer that I am going to give my midwife is this: We will prepare for the homebirth. We will plan on that first. I'll bring the tub home, and we'll do a run through to make sure we know how to fill it, and what length of hose we need etc. But, if when I go into labor, I don't feel comfortable with all of the people who are home, then it will be our plan B to go to the center. It is not a very decisive answer, but it is one that we have thought through, and probably is our best option right now. It would be harder to stay home if we chose now to go to the center when labor comes, and then I decide that I don't want to move anywhere. My midwife says that this is actually very common, for a woman to suddenly want to stay put when labor progresses.

So even though it isn't a set in stone answer, or a definitive plan of location for the birth, I am very pleased that we have the option to go that route. Now we just need to decide what birth pool to get (we have a choice of two) and where we would set it up!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hearing, Seeing, Feeling

People often wonder exactly how speech therapy works for a child as young as Jonah. It can be a difficult puzzle to get a young child to understand making verbal sounds or the meanings of words and language altogether.

The majority of Jonah's speech therapy is play based. The therapist takes advantage of things that Jonah is already interested in, to capture his attention. Last week, when we entered into the "gym" Jonah noticed one of those little tykes basketball hoops right away. "BAW!" he shouted. He has become obsessed with basketball within the last month. He can recognize anything that has to do with basketball, and immediately points to it. In the past week or so, he has begun labeling it verbally. "Baw" is one of three words that he uses consistently. Since he responded to the basketball hoop, the session was mostly spent playing basketball. We presented him with verbal commands to understand and follow, such as "Put the ball IN!" and "Throw the ball to MAMA!" Understanding and following simple instructions like this, is one of our goals for Jonah in therapy. We were also using a lot of labels that we are targeting as goals. One of our goals for his language skills is to verbally identify "Mama" and "Daddy" as well as to look to us when someone else uses those labels.

Another huge part of his speech therapy, is to integrate all of the senses as much as we can. Although he cannot smell or taste the sounds we want him to produce, he can hear see and feel the sounds with our help. Certain phonemes include a release of air. The time of this release can effect the sound that we produce. The "b" and "p" sounds are identical in all of their components (position of the tongue, shape of the lips, movement of the vocal chords) except when the air is released. Go ahead and say "Ba" (I bet no one is listening.) Okay, now say "Pa" You can actually feel the similarities once they are pointed out to you, and even moreso the differences, which is that release of air.

Jonah has a hard time with the "b" sound. He has only started producing it this past week, and even now that he produces it often, he still struggles with it. He also has issues with the "t" sound. So it's no surprise that he has difficulty mimicking the word "boat." Boats are his favorite bath toy. I got his attention first by bringing his boats out and letting him play with them. Then I brought the boat up next to my face. I said "This is your BOAT. BOAT." I made sure that the boat was close to my face, so that when he was looking at the boat he could also see my mouth shape. He was seeing the sound as well as hearing it.

Jonah is used to mimicking games at this point. Ever since I suspected a speech problem (around ten months) I started playing mimicking games with him. In his therapies, these games are a big deal, and he gets rewarded with an abundance of praise for any motion towards mimicking. Jonah knew this game. I could tell he was thinking very intently on how to move his mouth. He stared at me and wiggled his lips. "P... P... Po." He whispered. He seemed aware that he was not making the same noises as I was. Phonetic awareness is something that children acquire at a very early stage of language development. I reapeated "BOAT." very slowly. He tried again, still just whispering.. "po...po.." I took his hand and put the back of his wrist so that it was almost touching my mouth. I made the sound he was making. "PA PA" I did it hard enough so that he could feel the air. Then I made "BA BA" sounds onto his wrist. I let go of his hand and put the boat back to my face "BOAT BA BA BOAT" I said. He felt the sounds, and now he is seeing and hearing the sounds.

By the end of this game, Jonah was able to mimic the word "Boap." He does not refer to his boats spontaneously as a "boap" but I was not going for a label. We were practicing how to make the sounds of the word. We do similar activities in his therapy sessions, using different objects and different sounds.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter at the Farm

Because Daryl and I are considering buying a few acres of land to raise a few animals, I had decided last year that it would be a good idea to make farm visits a regular activity for Jonah. There are several working farms in our area that welcome visitors to meet the animals and see how farms operate. I think that this is important, even if we don't buy a house with the capacity to raise our own food. I want my children to grow up knowing where their food came from. I want them to not only be conscious of what they are putting into their body, but I also want to teach them how to respect our food sources.

We've found one farm in particular that we enjoy going to the most. Country Lane Tree Farm in Genoa Ohio. They offer regular tours of their working farm, as well as hold special events during holiday seasons. I thought I would share some pictures from our trip to the farm to visit the Easter Bunny and hunt for eggs!

You can't go egg hunting on an empty stomach, so when we got to the farm we had pancakes with the Easter Bunny himself! Then we took a hayride out to the egg patch.

Yummy pancakes:

Hi there, Mr. Bunny:

On the hayride with Daddy:
Giving the Easter Bunny High Five on the hayride:
Searching for eggs in the "egg patch":

While we were there, we also got to visit with a lot of the animals. I was surprised at Jonah's reaction to the bunnies. He was more shy about them than usual:
Feeding 1 Week old Goats:

When we approached the sheep pen, Jonah was clapping his hands and saying (his version of) "baaaaaa":
The price of admission, which was $5 per adult and $8 per child also included a barrel train ride, a pony ride, holding ducklings and chicks, a straw maze, feeding the pigs, and milking the cow. Every time we visit Country Lane Farm, we are amazed at how much there is to do. We could easily spend an entire day there, and Jonah loves it. When you consider the cost of a photo with the Bunny at the mall, I'd much prefer the fun of taking the kids to the farm to meet him.

Good Friday Egg Coloring

hEvery year on Good Friday, my mom has a party to dye eggs at her house. Friends, neighbors, and family come together with several dozen eggs and color tablets. Everyone has their own methods to coloring eggs. Some people use a wax crayon to draw designs, some people dip half the egg in one color and half in another for a striped effect; this year we even threw vinyl tape into the mix, creating colorful patterns (thank you Martha Stewart!)

Jonah paints them. Last year, I had given him real eggs to paint. Of course they ended up getting cracked (pulverized is more like it!) in the process, but he had fun. This year, I found some wooden eggs at Hobby Lobby, on sale for about $2.50 for eight eggs. I let Jonah choose two colors of paint for each egg. I put some of the paint on a paper plate (I would have used a pie tin, but paper plates were what we had available- pie tins are reusable for other art projects!) and gave Jonah the egg. I let him discover his own ways of applying the paint.

He enjoyed dipping the eggs into the paint

using his fingers to smear the paint

rolling them on the plate

and when I gave him two eggs he even used one egg to apply paint to the other!

When he was finished, I had some decorative eggs to use for years to come.