Saturday, January 23, 2010

Teething biscuits.

Joe doesn't eat a ton of solid food at this point. Okay, actually, he hardly eats any solid food at all. As soon as he sees us coming with a spoon, he clamps his mouth shut, turns his head away, and holds up his hand to block the attempted feeding. He will, however, eat (and then spit out) tiny amounts of a few finger foods. He will eat dry cereal and bits of raw tofu, and on a good day, he'll eat some soft-cooked beans or pieces of butternut squash or sweet potato.

Since Joe clearly prefers to eat food that he can hold, I wanted to try giving him some teething biscuits. I've made most of the food he's eaten so far from scratch (I know what you're thinking, but it's really easy!), so I figured I'd try to bake some teething biscuits.

I found lots of teething biscuit recipes here, at my favorite home-cooked baby food recipe source. I used the "Nutritious Teething Biscuits" recipe, and it turned out great - once I added a ton more flour, the egg white, and cooked it for about three times as long as recommended! So, anyway, here is my adaptation:

Nutritious Teething Biscuits


1 large egg

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp oatmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp wheat germ
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk

Beat egg and combine wet ingredients. Whisk dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Mix well with a rubber spatula. Dough should be stiff and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Roll dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into strips or desired shapes. (I did this very randomly, ending up with a cookie that was shaped exactly like the state of Illinois.)

Bake on an ungreased, parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 375°F for 35-40 minutes. Flip biscuits over halfway through, and bake until fairly hard and dry.

Disclaimer #1: These biscuits contain eggs, wheat, and dairy. I'm clearly not too concerned about food allergies - Joe doesn't eat a lot, but he seems to tolerate everything just fine.

Disclaimer #2: Joe obviously likes them, but I think they taste absolutely awful! Teething biscuits are, by definition, dry, bland, and health-foody. They taste like bland, unsweetened graham crackers. Not my thing, but Joe went to town on his - poor kid, he doesn't know the difference. But then Rebecca wanted one, so I gave her the Illinois-shaped biscuit (of course!). She ate the whole thing and even complimented it - I think her exact words were: "Well, they do have a nice mouth feel." However, I don't think we need to worry that she'll polish off the jar when Joe's not looking.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The year I learned to read while breastfeeding, Part 2: It doesn't take Freud to see that even my "non-Mommy" reading is mostly about mothering.

Supposedly Non-Mommy Reading

Phineas Redux

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

Race to the Pole: Tragedy, Heroism, and Scott's Antarctic Quest

I, Robot

The Lord God Made Them All

Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition

The Poisonwood Bible

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Unknown Shore

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

The Lover

Cry, the Beloved Country

Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times


Where I Was From

Jesus Land: A Memoir

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

The History of Love

The Road from Coorain

In Cold Blood

A Sacred Feast: Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing and Dinner on the Ground

Inder's favorite books »

I sat down to write this post excited to share some of the "non-parenting" books I read in 2009. "Look everyone!" I hoped to say, "I have not been subsumed into motherhood! I still have wide-ranging interests!"

Then, while trying to get the book widget above to look like a box instead of diagonal lines ("widget-wrangling" as we call it in the blogging-biz; also, yes, I failed), I realized that most of these allegedly non-parenting books are actually about parenting. Especially, mothering (including some scary mothers). Well, what are you going to do? You can hardly blame me - I did just have a baby!

This list also reflects the fact that the first eight months of motherhood have been wonderful for my reading and home cooking, and detrimental to my crafting, sewing, concert-going, and sleeping. Proof that you should take warnings about how "You'll never have time for that [fill in the blank fun activity] after your baby is born!" with a grain of salt. It's true, but it depends on what type of activities you consider to be fun. Coming soon: Inder's go-to cookbooks of the decade!

Some highlights (if you are interested in reading full reviews, become my friend on Goodreads!):

Best Classic Novel I Am Embarrassed to Admit I Did Not Read Years Ago:
Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Patton. I could go on about how beautiful and powerful this novel is, but everyone (besides me, until a few months ago) has already read it! Really, I don't know what took me so long. I started this right after Joe was born, and read most of it in the middle of the night while I was nursing him; it only made me cry once or twice per page. Since you've already read it, probably years ago, you know that it is all about the joys and pains of parenthood (in addition to larger themes of suffering, redemption, and faith). Anyway, now I can call Joe, "Oh, Child of my Womb"!

A Slew of Excellent Memoirs Featuring More or Less Frightening Mothers:
I read several really excellent memoirs in 2009. They were all by women, and they all featured strong/crazy/smothering mother figures. Honestly, I do not remember seeking out memoirs with scary mothers, but I also don't think it's a coincidence that I gobbled these up so greedily in my third trimester. (Although, really, these should be cross-referenced under "Least Reassuring Books To Read While Pregnant.") If you want to know the best way to mother, I recommend you check out my favorite parenting how-to books. These memoirs are more a guide to how not to mother. Which, really, I find almost as helpful!

1) The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, by Maxine Hong Kingston. Do not kill your infant because she is a girl, or tell her you wish you had. If you decide to keep her, do not cut her tongue to silence her! Do not call her "slave." Rather, recite epic poetry about women warriors to empower her. However, if you do all of these things, don't be surprised if she grows up angry, poetic, and more than a little bit confused.

2) Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexander Fuller. Even if you are a lovable mom in many respects, try not to get maudlin drunk every night and spout racist propaganda.

3) The Road From Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway. Don't hurt your child's self-esteem and thwart her ambition in order to maintain your own superiority. Also, think twice before investing in a sheep farm in New South Wales.

4) Jesus Land: A Memoir, by Julia Scheeres. Don't send your children to an abusive religious reform school in the Dominican Republic. 'Nuff said.

Two So-So Novels About Scary Parental Figures:
Compared to the memoirs above, which rang with scary mom truth, these fictional portrayals seemed overwrought to me. But I couldn't help but notice a continuation of the scary-parent theme.

1) The Lover, by Marguerite Duras. Um, don't prostitute your daughter to a rich man from North China?

2) Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Please, please, please don't ramble on bitterly, angrily, self-righteously, and pointlessly for almost 600 pages. Oh, wait, that's not really about the mother character in this novel. Still. This is cross-referenced under "Books That Are At Least 200 Pages Too Long."

Best Contemporary Novel About Fatherhood:
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. Rebecca recommended this to me, and she rarely steers me wrong. So lovely. This is on a short list of fiction (the list also includes Gilead, which is also all about fatherhood, and Middlesex, which is about family more generally) that I recommend whenever someone asks, "I need a really good book, what do you recommend?" This also made me cry. But see, only good books make me cry. (Well, sometimes, a really bad book will make me want to cry; but rarely does bad writing actually make me cry.)

Worst Midnight Reading and Best Book To Read While Stranded in San Diego And Unable to Get a Flight Out:
The Unknown Shore, by Patrick O'Brien. Based on a true story!
I read this while stranded in San Diego with Steve and Joe, trying to claw my way home. As far as middle-of-the-night-feeding books go, this was too exciting, and I often found myself unable to put it down, even at 4 a.m. (that's saying something, isn't it?). But it was the perfect book for being stranded in San Diego for two days trying to make my way back to Northern California. Because while I was stranded in San Diego, Toby and Jack were shipwrecked off the coast of Chile, starving to death amongst very unfriendly natives. This really helped me keep things in perspective. Also, it has nothing to do with parenting, or motherhood. Whew.

Most Overrated Swashbuckling Novel - The A&E Adaption is TOTALLY Better:
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester. Trashy novels are not supposed to be hard to slog through! Bor-ing. And absolutely forgettable. Horatio Hornblower is cold, neurotic, and impossible to relate to. Also, he has these inner monologues that just drove me crazy:

"He was dancing with rage, he observed with some curiosity." And the next sentence: "But with his fighting madness at the boil there was no chance of his yielding without a struggle, and his mental convulsions resulted in producing a scheme for action."

What? Who observes that they are "dancing with rage" with curiosity? Whose "mental convulsions" result in a scheme for action? Gimme a break. The A&E Adaptation is much better for two reasons: (1) Ioan Gruffudd (this is pronounced like "yummy"); and (2) no inner monologues!

Other Notable Books I read in 2009:
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. Also cross-referenced under "Too Scary To Read While Pregnant." This one involves a pretty scary mother figure too - read for instructions on how not to raise a son who turns into a serial killer.

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov. Nanny robots instead of mothers!

Millions, by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Motherless children!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon. Motherless autistic boy!

You get the idea.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The year I learned to read while breastfeeding, Part 1: Recommended Reading on Birth and Babies.

Birth and Babies

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent

Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding

Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater

Good Nights: The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed

Diaper-Free Before 3: The Healthier Way to Toilet Train and Help Your Child Out of Diapers Sooner

Nursing Mother, Working Mother, Revised Edition

Baby Love

The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer

The Nursing Mother's Companion: Revised Edition

The Birth Partner, Second Edition

Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Breastfeeding

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Seventh Revised Edition

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth

The Birth That's Right For You: A Doctor and a Doula Help You Choose and Customize the Best Birth Option to Fit Your Needs

The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy: Second Edition

Spiritual Midwifery

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Inder's favorite books »

My secret to even more reading this past year? Maternity leave. Breastfeeding, breastfeeding, and more breastfeeding. And some more breastfeeding (they're not kidding when they say 8 to 12 times per day!). And some pumping (fun reading assists with milk let-down - no, really, it does). And I thought reading my book while waiting in line at Trader Joe's was multitasking? That was nuthin'!

I haven't slept well for almost a year. Putting a positive spin on this: I have done a lot of middle of the night reading in the past year.

It should come as no surprise that much of my reading centered around pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting. And now that Joe is 8 months old, I am in a better position to say which books were most helpful to me. Warning: I'm kind of a hippy mom. Every parent has their own style, and mine tends towards the crunchy granola. With that in mind, here are some highlights:

Favorite Books on Childbirth:
1) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin: I read this in 2008, and then dipped into it repeatedly as my "time of confinement" drew near in 2009. The great part of Ina May's books are the narratives of successful natural births. I can't say they prepared me for labor (I was not prepared for labor! who knew it was so painful?) but they did help psyche me up a bit.

2) Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin: Ditto. This book was familiar to me, because my mother referred to it back when she was having babies. However, note: When I was in labor, and my doula quoted Ina May's line about labor pain being not "real" pain, but rather, an "interesting sensation that will get your baby out," this did not make me happy. That is a load of crap. But I still love you, Ina May!

Stupidest Book on Childbirth:
The Birth That's Right For You, by Amen Ness & Lisa Gould Rubin: You'd be better off just reading that pamphlet they give you at the doctor's office.

Favorite General Parenting Books:
1) The Baby Book, by William Sears, MD: Pretty much everything you need to know about taking care of a baby, plus a heavy dose of attachment parenting dogma (taken with a grain of salt, I generally like this approach).

2) The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD: Not the greatest book, but some of the greatest methods for making a newborn happy. I have never had a single book recommended to me so many times, by so many different people. And there's a reason for that. However, you could probably just watch the DVD and skip the book.

3) Our Babies, Ourselves, by Meridith Small: This ethnographical look at childrearing styles is not a how-to manual, but is nonetheless one of the best parenting books I've read. However, I should point out, I am currently reading Mother Nature, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, and so far it is even better. Check my 2010 recommendations.

Stupidest Title:
Our Babies, Ourselves, by Meridith Small. No, it has nothing to do with Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Favorite Breastfeeding Books:
Best How-To Manual: The Nursing Mother's Companion, by Kathleen Huggins. Supplement as needed with

Best Breastfeeding Manual Plus Serious Discussion of Wet-Nursing (admit it, you want to know!): Ina May's Guide To Breastfeeding, by Ina May Gaskin. Also, by far the best discussion of what to do when your baby bites you (answer: react swiftly and firmly, like a mother dog - my kind of advice).

Best Working Mother's Breastfeeding Guide: Nursing Mother, Working Mother, by Gale Pryor.

Least Favorite Breastfeeding Book:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by La Leche League International: I love, love, love what the LLLI do, so I feel a little disloyal pointing out that this book is preachy, and worse, boring and redundant and generally endless. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go to a LLL meeting, though. They rock. But skim this book.

Favorite Book on Baby Sleep:
The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley: Sleep is still very much a work in progress in our home (but I'm getting a lot of reading done!), but this is my favorite of the baby sleep books. No rigid schedules, no crying-it-out; just lots of suggestions and tips to try.

The Only Good Baby Memoir I Have Ever Read:
Operating Instructions, by Anne Lamott.

Worst Baby Memoir:

Baby Love, by Rebecca Walker: SO. BAD.

Okay, folks, I love babies, and I love memoirs - point me towards some other good baby memoirs. As far as I can tell, this is a sadly unpromising genre.

Coming up next: The best of everything else I read last year!

Sorry for the long absence.

I've been busy. Meet Joseph Roscoe.