Monday, May 26, 2014

Food for Thought - Unprocessed Family

Don't worry I'm not going to get all preachy about what we should be feeding kids and how this new eating craze I've discovered is brilliant for you. To tell the truth, I don't know what is best. There are so many new diets and lifestyles out there now all claiming to be what we should be eating that I don't know which is fad and which is actually really beneficial for you and your children.

I do feel that our modern lifestyle has gotten lazy and over-processed, our food over-sweet and full of junk. I mean do we really need recipes for doughnut muffins stuffed with Oreos with cookie dough frosting. What is going on? Some of the things I see on Pinterest scare me. Most recipes I find require some pre-processed ingredients. Yes, I can find replacements, but what happened to making things from scratch? I bought a well known series's family recipe book and can't make a large handful of the recipes because I can't get certain pre-made sauces, spice mixes, cake mixes, etc ready available in the US. I get that families can always use a hand and a bit of a shortcut, but sometimes it seems a bit much. 

I do know that the Chief and I don't have the best diets. We like sweet stuff. The Weans' isn't too bad, but I can be stricter with them than I can with myself. I wanted to make a change in how I eat, but being the cook and shopper it would affect the whole family. So after a chat, the Chief agreed that we needed to make some overall changes and he'd go with whatever I decided.

A few problems though. The Mouse is Picky, yes, with a capital P. If it was left up to him he'd eat just a handful of things, currently cheese and pastrami sandwiches. Luckily, what he will eat is healthy, most normal fruit and veg, most meat. But he hates sauces and pureed soups, most carbs, anything new or odd looking. He is mega-sensitive to tastes and textures and would be immediately aware of anything different in meals he recognises. The Chief also has some peculiar dislikes I have to deal with when cooking.

Another problem is that I am amazingly unorganised for a mother of four. I'm better than I was, but I still find it very hard to pre-plan and prep things. I'm trying to do weekday meal plans, so hopefully that will help a bit. I sit down every Sunday now and make out a menu and shopping list. It's worked three weeks so far. Go me. But overhauling our eating habits is going to require much more planning and organising. Eeek. 

There are so many options out there now for healthy eating, but which to choose? How far do you go? Paleo, clean, gluten free, raw, vegan? And I'm sure so many more I don't know about. The all have their positives and their negatives. 

Anything you want to replace or change requires tons of research: new recipes, new ingredients, new shops. I'm not in the good ole US of A, so everything is not on my doorstep and it's all in a foreign language. I'm lucky that I have a few friends who are already into different eating styles that I can chat up for info.

I decided not to go whole hog: my family and I couldn't take a radical overhaul, so I've picked two of our biggest problems as a family: processed food and sugar. 

I'm trying to remove most of the processed food from our diet and make as much as possible myself. So I'm using up things in my cupboards and replacing them with healthier options. Not easy. I'm sure I don't even realise how processed food is these days and what I should be looking to remove, but I'm starting with the obvious. 

It's not easy to do either. We've gotten used to our lazy/easy lifestyles where you can 'fire and forget' a meal or just grab a bag of something. Last week even, I offered to make Mouse garlic bread to go with our homemade lasagna as he's not that keen on the pasta. So without thinking I popped into the shop and bought two frozen garlic bread loaves. Why? Because that's what I've done for years. I never even thought to buy a plain loaf and make my own butter or, even further down the path, make my own baguette and garlic butter. I don't have that amount of time usually, so I will have to decide how far I'm willing to go. I have to think about shopping and eating a lot more. So this Sunday, I made homemade garlic butter to put in a leftover bit of nice bread. And of the kids only Foo ate it when they all usually love garlic bread. It was too strange and new. This is what I'm up against. 

I'm also trying to cut down sugar as much as possible. Tough one. I want to still be able to make the kids sweet things from time to time, but not overloaded with sugar. Still trying to figure out how to do that, but sometimes it appears just to be - cut down the amount of sugar in a recipe. I found a breakfast muffin recipe I've had lying around for years that is full of carrots, raisins, apples, etc. But also full of sugar and oil. 

I recently learned you can replace oil in baking with applesauce. ??!! I mean - who knew? Brilliant. So I cut the 1.5 cups of sugar down to one and replaced the oil, but with applesauce and raisins it still was pretty sweet, so today I remade the recipe and put in less than half a cup of sugar and replaced 1 cup of white flour with a whole wheat flour. Still really tasty. I may try to cut it all out next time and go with only whole wheat flour. So that was mine, Pudding's and Foo's breakfast sorted for the a few days. Yeah, Mouse won't even try the muffins and Bump just picks at them. 

My cupboards are slowly emptying of processed food. We haven't had our nightly bit of chocolate for a few weeks. It's going to be a slow journey, but hopefully not a painful one and it will be worth the trouble. I'll keep you informed.  

You can follow our unprocessed adventure here:
Part 2 - Update
Part 3 - Substitutes

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hot Weather and Wild Animals

It's been hot here, hotter than Italy they're saying, over 30C some days. It was one of those flip a switch change from spring to summer. It looks like it won't last, but that's summer for you. 

With the long hours of sunlight, our garden is coming into it's own. I love just letting the kids loose in it, even Pudding. I love walking around first thing in the morning to check out the plants or watering in the evening when the sun goes behind the trees. Or just sitting in the juicy grass with the baby and chilling. We have wildlife, maybe a bit too much for my veggies, visits from hares, rabbits, pheasants, tons of birds. We have the apple trees, raspberries, strawberries, current bushes and my own additions all promising plentiful picking soon.

We've made the most of the weather and spent tons of time in the garden this weekend: mowing the grass, building and planting up a second veg box, hauling a tree I chopped down last weekend, cutting back branches. It's a big garden and requires a lot of work, but I love every minute spent outside and glad the kids are starting to show interest in gardening as well. 

We do all manner of things outside.

Playing with coloured corn starch

Think I had the most fun. 
A hard played bandy (hockey) game. The Chief was severely handicapped with a broken too-short stick, a more difficult goal and 2 against 1. 

Our first attempt at a flower crown. Totally inspired by this blogger. We have a long way to go, but Bump loved it. My little fairy.

Pudding in the first stages of proper crawling. 
We've had a bit of a wild thing going this week as well. Bumpshie had her first school show with a fox theme. We're not quite sure what the story was as it was long-winded and in Finnish. She didn't sing at all, did a tiny bit of dancing and really spent most of the show cuddling her dad and brother, but she was dead cute in the fox outfit I totally threw together. 

Running to her daddy mid-show. 

Wee sook. 
With the costume came lots more dressing up as animals. 

Is it just me or does she look totally at ease with the evil vibe here?

Baby polar bear.

So before the cold storms come this next week I'm glad we had a chance to enjoy the sun. School finishes on Friday and I'm taking the little ones out of nursery as well. No point in getting up too early and driving half-way across town for only 2 kids, so keeping them all home. For two months! I may regret it after two minutes though, but will relish the more relaxed days. 

Enjoy your week. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sunshine Surprise

Some days you get lucky. 

We were all up early this morning and out the door by 9.30am. Unheard of on a weekend, but somehow it happened. The Chief had promised Bump that we'd go swimming so we did, several of the Weans came under duress, but we knew they'd enjoy it once we got them into the water. 

We tried Makelanrinteen Uintikeskus this time. Same cheap prices, but two pools for the kids. There's also several bigger pools and a hot tub we never found. We couldn't stay long again because the baby found it a bit cold after about an hour even with her several layers, but the kids had a good splash. 

Our plan was to then go find lunch, but on the way we saw a crowd building up in a open area, so we drove by. Something was going on, lots of people, food and craft stands, so we found a parking place and joined in. It turned out it was St Lawrence's Church's Medieval Day. Unfortunately the Church's actual site is down, but if it gets up again I'll link it properly. The original church was built in the 1400s, so every year they have a Medieval Day to raise awareness and, I'm guessing, funds. In some ways it was rather simple, but in others it was a lot of fun. There was a horse and carriage ride, makkara (sausages) and waffles, a balloon animal guy. But there was also a real life archaeological excavation going on, much to Mouse's joy, a museum with medieval objects (I didn't really get a chance to see anything due to some kids not wanting to go in) and a lovely site for just sitting in the sun.

The Church does concerts, weddings, culture walks and in August they have a harvest festival that I'm sure we'll be going to. It was a lovely impromptu day out right on our doorstep. 
The rebuilt church, the original burned down in the 1800s. 

Yee haw, shouted Foo. 

Archaeologists sifting through piles of dirt. Mouse swore he saw one find a spear head, but I'm sure it was less exciting. Maybe one of thousands of fish scales one of the diggers said they found. 
Waffles with jam and cream and cups of tea. Perfect.

Bring on summer. We're ready.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pudding at 8 Months - In All Her Prickly Glory

When I was pregnant with Pudding, like all mums I daydreamed about my baby. I had vague hopes that my fourth and final baby would be quiet, cuddly, bidable, lazy. I wanted a baby that would sleep lots, lie on my lap and let me eat cake while we hid from the foul Finnish winter. Now, I know my children and knew that I didn't have a snowball's chance in Helsinki of getting that baby, but even one of those things would have been nice. 

I also wanted to name her Thistle. I know, I know, but hear me out. I wanted to use Thistle as a middle name. To honour her Scottish heritage. Her sister has a middle name also connected with something Scottish that people don't always see as positive, so I thought they would fit nicely together. And I love the quirky strength of it as a name. A sort of 'I don't care what you think' - which may not be the best thing to put on your child without meeting them but . . . I rarely get my naming vibes wrong. 

I don't usually fight the Chief for a name. I make a million and one suggestions, he says no to almost all of them and we whittle down from there. He has even made a few suggestions himself over the years. He totally picked Foo's name and got final say on Bump's. Don't let him tell you anything different, he had input. But I fought for Thistle, I kept asking and nudging and mentioning it. And for once, he didn't budge. He said it was a good name for a badger or a Hobbit. You think that would have been enough for him as they are two of the Chief's favorite things, but he kept resisting and in the end we gave her a more solid, normal (dare I say it, a bit boring) middle name. I still love the name, but it's not Thistle. We also gave her a second middle name just cause I loved it and the Chief had no real opposition to it. 

I should have fought harder, because my Pudding is definitely a Thistle. Don't misunderstand, I love her to bits. She's delicately beautiful, strong, independent: every reason why the thistle is brilliant as Scotland's national symbol. But she is a bit, prickly. 

She's LOUD, like the other Weans. I keep saying they have to teach her not to scream, but she out-shouts them all. Whether happy or sad, frustrated or excited, she's shouting. Some days it just wears me down, but I know it'll hold her in good stead as she'll never be low man on the family totem pole as she'll always make her needs known. 

And like the great thistle, she will not be held for long. Well, not in a cuddly, cosy baby way. She'll be carried, but mainly so she can see or reach better or get someplace she can't get on her own. She rather be pulling herself around on the floor than sitting on my lap. Though she will sit on us, playing and watching things, she's usually pushing forward, grabbing at everything. Trying to get on with things. She has no patience. She also hates to be confined or restrained by snowsuits, car seats, buggy straps, slings. She spent her first 5 months on our laborious school run screaming because of the first 2. 

She's nosy and will not sit still. So if I'm carrying her or have her in the sling, I have to keep moving. She now can pull her arms out of the sling, so she's constantly grabbing at things or head-butting me as she moves about trying to see better. 

She will sleep in the sling occasionally or fall asleep on someone's shoulder when she's at the point of exhaustion. But she won't just cuddle, even when ill she will not lie down and just be. I get a few cuddles when I feed her, but only after she has a 10 minute feed that includes her wiggling and kicking and pinching me as she tries to play with my clothes. Then she needs between 10-30 minutes to roll around on our bed and burn some milk energy. We have a private playtime then which is lovely. Only then will she lie down and have a sleepy, cuddly feed until she's sleepy and rolls off into her own space. 

This is Pudd at her cuddliest, half-asleep, my shirt over her nose and feeding to sleep. She sometimes strokes my arm at this stage. One of the reasons I'm happy not to give up feeding alone upstairs. 

I know some of it is upbringing. She has 3 older, nosy, noisy, active siblings that are really entertaining. I have had to put her down sometimes when cuddling would be optimal to deal with something or someone else, but after 4 babies I've gotten quite good at doing things one-handed or with baby in the sling. 

I don't mean to make her sound unlovable, she's is utterly adorable. A bright light of a girl when she smiles and giggles. She loves her siblings and screams with joy when her Daddy comes home, and screams in frustration when he tries to take of his shoes and coat rather than pick her up. She chats away to me and lets me sing nonsense at her for hours. We have our regular private play on our bed and the floor when she should be sleeping. 

So in my heart she will always be my wee Thistle. I'll always regret I didn't insist, but I totally get the Chief's reluctance. It's not the most wearable of names for most people. But it suits her with a capital T, for Trouble. 

And she's off . . 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day, Reality

I missed the Mother's Day boat, I know. 

I saw all the FB statuses, Instagram photos, blog choruses of how wonderful it is to be a mother, how much they love their mothers, grandmothers, mother-figures. And I felt obliged to do the same, but honestly, last week sucked right up to the weekend and I was feeling a little less than grateful for anything to do with motherhood. So I didn't do anything.

I mentioned Foo and I got birch allergy and he had infected eyes. Well, it got into my eyes too and along with it a host of other strange, annoying pains and maladies popped up. I started to list them here and then deleted it, no one really wants to hear all of that. Needless to say, I was in pain, living on ibruprofen and antihistimines and not a fun person to be around. Which wasn't ideal as it was Mother's Day week, dammit, and the kids had concerts, Mother's Day coffees and I had to be happy and ready to perform as SuperMum. 

Monday started with a concert at 8am. Really, 8am!? So I had to drag all 4 Weans along. And we were late, so we came in mob-handed, disrupted a story about a hedgehog? while we found seats. I got to see Foo sing a bit and play a maraca. Then I had to bundle the biggest and littlest back into their coats and scoot off to the other side of town. Without coffee or Mother's Day niceties. And we were late again. 

The week continued in that manner. By Friday we had another early morning concert, this time at 9, but we still had to take everyone along as we couldn't manage to drop the middle kids off and get back in time. At least the Chief was off work so he got to help. And then there was another coffee thing after we picked them up from school and nursery. By then I was tired, in pain and grumpy and, of course, my kids smelt weakness.  

They were miserably behaved and loud. LOUD!! Not only in our usual non-Finnish way, but unnecessarily shouting, running about and not listening. Screeching whether happy, sad, justified or not. Talking over one another so noone could be heard. I don't care usually what others think of me and my parenting skills, but I hate being made to feel I'm not in charge of my Weans. That pitying look of 'oh, you have your hands full' that so many give me when they're not behaving. Usually I can laugh it off, but this week when being a mother is on spotlight, I felt an utter failure. 

So by bedtime on Friday I lost it and sat them all down for a rant about their behaviour. I threatened major action over shouting and screaming indoors. I was mean, grumpy mummy.

And then the little brats . . . gave me presents. They were so proud of the little bracelet, candle holder and hanging doo-dad they made me they couldn't wait until Sunday. Mouse said how he had made his all in green because it was my favourite colour, so the little ones had to point out the green and purple on theirs. They gave me cuddles and kisses and generally were excited about me. I'm sure someone could wax lyrical about this, but I was grateful and stunned.  

Me with my four little cygnets. Should I be worried there are 3 more eggs in the nest?

I won't say it erased a crappy week or made me view motherhood with shiny new eyes and it didn't mean they were exceptionally well-behaved over the weekend, but it gave me a wee boost to get through it. To cope with the constant cooking, the 'I wants', the lack of quiet, sleep, me-space and sometimes appreciation. They made an effort for Mother's Day to be quiet and let me sleep in, but of course Pudding didn't see that memo, and to get some time to do what I love best, gardening. The weather was lovely and overall it was a memorable day. 

Appears grass was not as tasty as Pudding was led to believe. 

New tree swing. 

We have kept to our no shouting mandate though and it is helping a bit. If only they would stop singing at the dinner table. 

Happy belated Mother's Day, especially to my mum who is too far away on days like this. And to all the mums out there who struggle for whatever reason. You only need to look at your kids to remind yourself of the hundreds of ways you're getting it right. 

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