Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Co-Sleeping Family

Clearly these two beauties were made for snuggling.

Honestly, we never meant to co-sleep with our kids. Our babies, definitely. But I envisioned toddler years when we would lovingly move our child into a toddler bed, reclaiming our bedroom for our adult lives. I envisioned a preschooler joining us in bed in the mornings, cuddling down between us for a quick connection before we got up.

And when I was pregnant with Sister-Bug we made all attempts to move Brother-Bug into his own bed. It lasted about... 3 months and then he was right back in with us, limbs wrapped around the nearest parent. Now, at 5 1/2, he has no more notion of sleeping in his own bed than he did as an infant.

This works for our family.

Co-sleeping might not work for all families. I am blessed with a co-sleeping history (me, 2 parents, 3 siblings, one bed...cuddles which lasted into my early teens) and value the physical comfort I still have with my siblings, a comfort that I attribute partially to co-sleeping. Papa-Bug and I both love to snuggle, and neither kid is given to overmuch kicking and flailing. We have a big bed.

This picture might not work for your family, and the idea of sleeping with your child (or even teenager!) makes a lot of people uncomfortable. That's okay. I don't need anyone to be comfortable with our sleeping arrangements except for us in this bed.

There are drawbacks, but they are few and far-between. My co-sleeping toddler still wants and needs me when she goes to sleep - nap or otherwise - and so I find myself laying down in bed when I might be doing other things. It forces my sweetheart and I to get creative about intimacy - and this is something that worries lots of people. But hey - it's my romance and not your business. We will leave it there. But the drawbacks are far outweighed by the benefits...

There are lots of reasons we love co-sleeping, and I thought I would share some of the reasons I didn't fully think about when we started our snuggling adventure.
Tired Papa and his Little Fairy

*Its easy with a newborn. Tiny babies are notorious for keeping their parents going around the clock. But if I am curled up in bed with my baby in the crook of my arm, I can doze while they nurse, contemplate the heavens, or whatever else it is they do in the night. I firmly believe that my newborn is safer next to me than in a crib. I can feel and respond to sleep changes at a moments notice. Baby can hear my heartbeat and my breathing, and continue to learn these things from me if reminders are needed. I am aware of this person, even in my deepest sleep.

But what about rolling onto the baby? someone always asks. Well, I did that. We were visiting my Dad with 9-week old Brother-Bug. The bed was on a slight angle toward the baby's side. I was exhausted and on a three hour jet-lag, which changed how deeply I was asleep. Gravity pulled me over onto the baby. As it turns out, even a sleeping baby doesn't like to be squished! It turns out that I wake up when I roll into a squirming 9 pound bump in the bed. No harm done. Lesson learned.

(Of course, if you or someone in your bed is under a sedative influence - alcohol, sleep medication, etcetera, this is a different equation and the baby should not be near that person. The other side of the non-influenced parent or it's own bed near the adult bed is safe.)

After a few months of Brother-Bug sleeping and nursing through the nights I stopped fully waking to nurse him. We would switch sides, adjust, comfortably latch, and fall back asleep. Same deal with changing diapers, and later helping Sister-Bug pee in the potty during the night - all things I did in a state of semi-slumber, hardly breaking my sleep cycle.

*Babies sleep through the night sooner I believe, because they aren't getting woken up and removed from their bed to eat at various intervals. While they are learning their circadian rhythm, they don't know that it's time to sleep when it is dark. So once you get them out of bed they are ready to play. If they stir, and go right back to nursing, they learn quickly to sleep when it is dark.

*It's easier and safer when a baby or child is sick. If I sleep skin-to-skin with a feverish baby, I can
Me and the fat Sister-Bug - newborn napping.
monitor their fever while I doze (I never sleep fully if my baby or kid is sick). I can keep them comfortable. They don't choke on their vomit because I am right there to help them with Mt. Vesuvius. I've been known to get a toddler pointing off the bed to barf on the floor when both of us were asleep at first gurgle - so honed are my Mama-reflexes from sleeping with my babies. If my kids were in their own beds we would be up and down all night while we checked on them. I wouldn't always be there to catch the vomit and reassure a scared and uncomfortable little person immediately. I wouldn't know if a fever suddenly spiked. And I wouldn't get nearly as much rest, which keeps me healthy and makes me less likely to get sick.

*Likewise, we are there for immediate nightmare relief. No wailing child in the night - we are able to gently guide them back to reality and settle them safe in our arms where all is cozy.

*We have less night-time potty accidents because we can respond to the movements our kids make when they need to pee. They learn from our awareness and they quickly get to a point of meeting that need for themselves (often with a parent to go with) in the night.

And the most important thing.

*They are little, ours to snuggle close, for such a precious and short time. We watch them sleep, we hold them safe and close, we listen to their dreams, and marvel at how long their limbs have grown. I spend about a third of the hours in a day cuddled with my children in our big bed. We rest out bodies and brains and re-connect our spirits. We reach out for one another in our sleep, trusting that Love is right there.

Someday I will revel in a bed of just me and my husband, or even (!) just me. But right now I am laying down nursing my daughter, looking forward to a warm little boy who will snuggle me up while I read the next chapter of The Wind In The Willows to us. And I can't imagine anywhere else I would rather be.


Read my recent Cowbird Story about the Magical Giggle - the story that inspired this post. 

And there he will cuddle all night.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Yummy Bowl

Here is the Willamette Valley we have a local chain called Cafe Yumm. Their Yumm Bowls make up a fair part of the kids eating-out experience. They key is their amazing Yumm Sauce. Tasty.

But we can't afford to eat out often, and I love to make things myself. A dear friend gave me her recipe for what she calls Yummish Sauce. Be patient, we will get there.

A Yumm Bowl spread is a great thing to serve to large groups of diverse eaters, especially when kids are involved. It's super basic and pretty much infinitely adjustable. It falls into the 3 Gs without any effort at all.

Here we go, from the bottom of your (large) bowl up:

Greens of some kind - mixed salad greens, cooked kale, chard, or collards, spinach, steamed nettles, steamed broccoli....

Cooked grain of some kind - brown rice, millet, quinoa, wheat berries, barley, corn chips.... Or skip the grain if you don't do grain.

Cooked beans - our last bowls had Lonesome Whistle's Rio Zapé beans. So good. But any bean will do. Black, white, red, pinto, cranberry, garbanzo...

(You begin to see how infinitely adaptable these are, right?)

Okay, that's the base. Traditionally this is vegetarian, but I've been known to throw in left over meat that was available - some slow-cooked chipotle goat leg was incredible. Extra taco or burrito meat, turkey, chicken, whatever. I think pulled meats work better than others, but that's more of an aesthetic choice than anything.

All kinds of other stuff goes on top:

Sour cream
Green onions
Black Olives
Fresh Basil or Cilantro
More greens
Bell peppers
Anything else your imagination inspires you to try...

On top of all that, we slather on the Yummish Sauce. Mix it up (or not - your preference) and watch it get inhaled out of the bowls.

What? The Sauce recipe? But of course!

Yummish Sauce

This makes about 2 1/2 cups, which we will use up in a couple of days. However, it freezes really well, so making a little extra (or a lot extra...I usually make about a gallon at a time) and popping containers in the freezer means having a go-to snack and dinner option.

Blend in a food processor:
1/2 cup oil - I usually use Olive Oil
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cooked and drained garbanzos
1/4 cup soy beans
4-6 garlic cloves

(I've successfully used cashews in place of the almonds, and other white type beans, like Arikara Beans, in place of the garbanzos and/or soy beans. Like the bowl recipe, this is only limited by your imagination and what is in your cupboard.)

Slowly add, one at a time:
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp. soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos

(Here I have tried other herbs and spices. When Sister-Bug had broken her clavicle, I blended up a bunch of sauce with Comfrey tea and leaf for its bone healing properties. I plan on putting nettles into the next batch...and who knows what else!)

Blend well with each addition. Adjust the salt and spices as desired. Adjust the thickness with water and oil - I like to make mine like a thick dip, knowing it's easy to thin later and makes a nice dip or sandwich snack if it's a little thicker.

This is a guaranteed kid-pleaser...or has been with every kid I have ever fed it to!

Rio Zapé Bean Dip

I'd never made bean dip before. So, after tasting the dark and rich flavors of Lonesome Whistle's Rio Zapé beans, I thought it was time to give it a whirl. Here's what I came up with:

Rio Zapé Bean Dip
2 cups cooked beans - if you don't have Rio Zapes, try a black bean
1/4 cup chopped onion (or less - mine was a little to onion-ish)
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tbl lime juice
1 tsp each smoked paprika and oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
4-8 green olives
Cayenne or other hot pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Olive oil to blend

Put all the ingredients into a good processor - reserving the olive oil salt, and half the lemon juice. Blend well. Slowly pour in the olive oil while blending, checking the consistency often. When you like the consistency, adjust the flavoring with lemon, salt, additional green olives, and peppers.

Dip chips, add to nachos, sandwich spread?? Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Collection of Soup

Over at TidyMom they are collecting soup recipes. I think this is brilliant, because I love soup. There is a give away also, but my motivation is mostly my love of soup. I looked back over my posts and here are all the soup recipes I have posted about. All tried and true favorites - which one will you try?

Almost-Instant French Onion Soup - this relies on the magic of a slow cooker. It's not instant in that you have to start it the night before. It is instant in that your total cooking time is 20 minutes with a food processor. And you end up with extra caramelized onions, which is always good.

Dinosaur Bean Soup - a creation I made when working with some heirloom beans from a local farmer. The first part of the post is about the bean and grain CSA that I belong to (and love). The soup recipe is near the end.

Sunshine Soup and Ham & Barley Winter Stew - two recipes in one post! The sunshine soup is a bright soup with all red, yellow, and orange ingredients that we made for Winter Solstice. The Ham & Barley Stew is just what is says it is. Both these recipes feature more heirloom beans and grains from my CSA. The flavors of these ingredients is amazing and worth tracking down if you have time and resources.

Summer Cucumber Soup - yesterday it was warm here, and sunny! We worked outside for a while, transplanting raspberry canes, and I got to thinking about all the tasty summer foods in the nearing future. This recipe is not appropriate now...but will be in just a few months. And SOOOO refreshing on a summer day!


Sweet Potato & Beef Stew - using that earlier technique of slow-cooker caramelized onions, I made this amazing stew a couple weeks ago. There is no picture because we ate it to fast. There were no left overs.

So those are the soup recipes I've posted here. I hope you try them out, enjoy them, and let me know. And really - give-away or no give-away, there are some amazing recipes in the Soupapalooza post I linked to in the beginning. This is the official line: "Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast and Le Creuset!" The give-away ends today, but that is no reason to ignore the cache of amazing recipes. Check them out.