Friday, November 29, 2013

Dear Kesha: a letter to my three year old

Dearest, dearest Kesha,

Three... Three years old. How time flies. How life changes. And how things have changed for you over the last year.

Your 2nd birthday party

We moved, you spent long periods of time in another country, started school, made friends, dealt with mommy being on bed rest, and gained a little sister. Considering all that has happened you've been quite the trooper.

November 2012 wearing your school uniform

The ease with which you handle change is astounding for a child your age. You have lived in two countries, speak two languages, have friends in both languages, travel thousands of miles like a pro, are a loving and wonderful big sister, and are a joy to watch learn and grow.

On a flight to the US
You love pink and sparkles. Hello kitty and princesses.
If it doesn't meet those requirements then it probably won't get worn.
Purses, nail polish, makeup... You love it all and are a girly girl at heart.
Yet, you won't let me do your hair.
You won't even let me brush your hair!

With your princess cell phone
You build houses in our closets, love your baby dolls, and like the idea of helping me in the kitchen and with projects. However, your short attention span rarely allows you to see our projects through to the end. Usually we end up with glue in places that drive me to distraction, or washing dishes calls your name and is more appealing than cutting mushrooms.

Berry picking in Paute
You still love singing (music in general), painting/coloring (anything art related), and dancing. I think you are an artistic soul and I love that about you.

You have grown from a baby to a child over this past year.

You got your first haircut.

First haircut - May 2013
You play on your own, go off with other kids, sleep over at Abuela's, traveled all over the east coast. Yet, you aren't much for doing things alone in front of a crowd... you'd rather lead the pack!

During this past year you have potty trained yourself (basically), stopped nursing, and started falling asleep on your own for naps (this has happened recently). You are speaking long phrases in both Spanish and English, expressing yourself very well in both languages. I have heard setnences of up to 11 words in one language!

With your new baby sister - June 2013
You can count up to 16 (then go back and forth between 16 and 17 forever). You know all of your colors, you've realized we have first names (and you use them... like calling Papi "Papi Arturo"). You summersault, spin and twirl, dance on your tippy toes, change entire outfits all on your own, basically shower yourself and brush your own teeth. You've even made your own dinner (with a bit of help with the hot pot)!

You are still a skinny little thing, weighing in at 30 pounds (but you are getting to big for me to carry comfortably, which breaks my heart). You are too tall for 3t clothes, but 4t pants fall off of you... what a conundrum! Must be all that running around you do!

Playing at a park in Kirkland. Tutu and all.
You can now almost swim and started equestrian classes this year. We tried putting you in ballet, but you just wanted to watch. We will try again next year.

You have been in a serious whining phase for some time now, which drives your father to distraction. It can even get to me and my "patience of steel" at times. Hopefully it will pass soon.

Your 3rd birthday

Although you are three at times it feels like you are going on 13. You are strong willed and opinionated. You and I clash frequently as our personalities are very similar. There have been many tears from both of us as we grow, and many apologies as well. Although we will find our way, these bumps in the road are rough on us both.

You are growing so fast. I blink and you are no longer the tiny little baby I brought home from the hospital. I blink again and you're out of diapers. I blink again and you're sleeping over at someone else's house...  Time is moving far too quickly for me, but I am so proud of all you are, all you are becoming...

3 years old with your cousin Rafaela

I love you, and love, and love you, aaaand love you Bugsy, and can't wait to see what this next year brings!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Recipe: allergen free chocolate cake

You may or may not be aware of the fact that I have had to be pretty much allergen free since Kalah was 3 weeks old. She is intolerant to dairy (both cow and goat), soy, nut, and egg proteins as well as gluten intolerant. It has made for interesting eating. 

However, we have figured it out and life goes on and you simply adjust.

One thing I have truly missed are desserts. After all, who doesn't love a really amazing scoop of ice cream, or a brownie, or whatever sweet treat to round out your day.

Well, I no longer long! I have finally created an amazing, delicious, sweet, crave fulfilling, allergen and gluten-free, vegan chocolate cake! WOAH!

Want in on the secret? Here's the recipe!

Ingredients for cake
  • 1¾ cups plantain flour
  •  2 cups granulated sugar
  •  ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (mine was simply ground up cacao and had no other ingredients)
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • tbs of chia seeds ground and mixed with 6 tbs of water
  • ½ cup cream of coconut (I used Goya)
  • ½ cup non-dairy fat, melted (I used solid palm oil)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee (I like coffee so I made mine strong!)

Ingredients for frosting
  • Non-dairy fat, at room temperature (i used solid palm oil)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cocoa powder
  • Vanilla
  • Coconut cream
  • Coffee

Instructions for cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch pan (or line with parchment paper circles) and set aside.
  2. Grind chia seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder and mix with water, let stand
  3. In the large bowl of a standing mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add chia mixture, coconut cream, melted palm oil and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter should form a ball and not "pourable" (this is because of the coconut cream, which will make the cake melt and caramelise. If it is too runny your cake will not set).
  4. Pour batter evenly between the two pans and bake on middle rack of oven for about 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached.
  5. When out of oven allow cake to sit for 5 minutes then spread the frosting on the top
  6. Allow to cool, then serve and enjoy!
Note: This cake should turn out gooey if you put the frosting on when it is warm. If you would like to wait until the cake is cool to put on your frosting you will get a normal cake with a more standard style frosting. 

Grinding Chia Seeds... even a preschooler can do it! 

Our ground up seeds.... they don't have to be perfect.

What they look like after being mixed with water.

Instructions for frosting
  1. Start with your room temperature fat, add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add vanilla, coconut cream, and coffee until you can blend it well and the mixture is spreadable.
  3. Add additional ingredients to your liking and mix until you can easily spread it over the cake 

The final product (this is the frosted cake)

I will one day learn to take better pictures of what I make. For now, it is what it is. You can make the cake yourself and revel in the real life gloriousness that is this allergen-free vegan cake! 

WARNING: As this cake contains coffee do not consume it at 8:00 at night right before you attempt to go to sleep (right Pip?)

Served on a platter ready to consume!
(no, this is not figs as someone on Facebook guessed)

For those of you in Cuenca here are the sources of my ingredients:
  • Cocoa powder - Supermaxi (double check the ingredients list, but I found one with no dairy and no soy)
  • Plantain flour - Supermaxi (it's right in the flour section and runs like $.90 per bag)
  • Palm oil - Supermaxi (it's with the margarine, comes in a white bag, and is also about $.90)
  • Baking soda - This one is a pain. I actually brought mine from the US. They sell it at some pharmacies, you have to ask around. They sell it in limited quantities. 
  • Chia Seeds - There is a new health stand at Supermaxi Las Americas. They sell them there. It is the same name in Spanish and English. If you live on the other side of town try downtown. There are many natural health stores that carry them.
  • Coconut Cream - Supermaxi (it is where they sell the baking supplies. It is very pricey at about $5 per can)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Give me patience

Sometimes I get lost in the difficulties of parenting. I am constantly reading, reminding myself, trying to be better, but at times my adulthood gets the best of me... May I have patience and remember what is truly important.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

6 Months Old

My Dearest Kalah May,

You are my youngest. My last. And time is flying by.

2 weeks old

A whole half year has passed since you joined us, and now, I can hardly picture you as a newborn. Your big sister puts your newborn clothes on her dolls and I can't fathom you being that tiny. You have grown in to a delightful, strong, peaceful little girl, who brings joy to the face of anyone who crosses your path.

Women and men alike coo at your site everywhere we go, and everyone loves making you smile and laugh. And oh how you laugh!

2 months old

Your sister delights in your presence and loves you to a fault. Her kisses oftentimes turn in to crushes, her hugs to smothers, and her play to shrieks that startle you... But you two get along beautifully and your face lights up the room when you see her. Not even your Mama makes you that happy.

Sleeping comes to you fairly naturally. Your naps are short, but when you go down you stay down. Nighttime still finds you waking two times or so. But overall, you're a good sleeper and I am so thankful for that!

I have struggled with keeping my diet just right to keep you from throwing up and having massive body rashes. Every time I think you're better and ease up I find out I'm wrong. It can be frustrating, but we're charging ahead with breastfeeding, as in the end, that's what I feel is best for you... best for us as a team.

3.5 months old (first time rolling over!)

You first rolled at 3.5 months, and gained the ability to roll in both directions around 4.5 months. You are good at pushing yourself up and can pull up your rear end as well, practicing the tucking position you will need for crawling. Even though you can't crawl, you can still manoeuvre yourself enough to surprise me if I walk away from you momentarily, only to return to find you in a completely different location... it's amazing how efficient wiggling is as a form of locomotion. You grab for toys and pull them toward you, can move objects from one  hand to the other, and are starting to understand peekaboo.

First foods happened recently with granadilla, papaya, and banana topping the list. I even let you try a bit of squash. You grab at our plates during meal time and hunger for a taste of whatever we are putting to our lips. Cups of water, herbal teas, anything we'll stick on your tongue you'll lap up. You are so fervent for a taste it's almost comical.

5.5 months old

Vocal, responsive, interactive, are all adjectives that describe you perfectly. You are so aware of what is around you, you love listening to me sing, and you want people to speak to you, play with you, and include you in life. I can't wait until you are mobile so you can interact even more... I think that will bring you great joy!

You also got your first teeth (bottom two) at around 5.5 months. Since then you do everything with your tongue out. I love it and will miss it when you stop.

Halloween - 5.5 months old

Life has been fairly typical since we returned from the US. We have mostly spent our time at home and in and around Cuenca. You celebrated your first Halloween and pretty much slept through the party. We also celebrated your first Fiestas de Cuenca by spending a lot of time wandering around in the markets, listening to live music, and hanging out at the park. You liked the park the best (naturally).

I always say the first year of life is my favorite. So many changes occur. You learn so much in such a short period of time. Everything is amazing. And things change over night. We are so lucky to have you in our lives Pickles. You amaze me.

6 months old

I love you and love you and love you and love you.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It's been a while

Time is flying by, and I have very little extra of it that's for sure.

Since I last posted we have been Seattle, traveled the east coast, and have now been back in Ecuador for over a month. A lot has transpired, and I've shared very little of it.

Our visit to Seattle was amazing. I savoured every second of the sunshine, time with my friends and family, being in my childhood stomping grounds with my girls. I miss living in the US (but also enjoy living in Ecuador). I am thankful to be able to share the area I grew up with my girls and hope they grow to love it as much as I do, just in a different way.

It has been far too easy to fall back in to "the grind" here with recruitment time.  However, I am attempting to balance my work life with being truly present with my girls. Two is a lot more work than one... double, in fact (haha).

It is challenging attempting to run my business and watch Kalah in the mornings while Kesha is at preschool. Then in the afternoon I have been trying to work while the girls nap. However, this only brings frustration and makes me both a bad mother and a bad professional, so I have committed to focusing on work in the morning (seeking help with Kalah when I can), and only being mommy in the afternoon. As I figure out the rhythm of my life with two kids my new commitment excites me. One of my inspirations was reading a post by one of my childhood friends, Kacie, about being truly present with her girls. It made me realize how distracted I am, and how i need to commit more time to actually being with my girls. You can read her post, "Babies Don't Keep", here.

I hope to write a bit more in my free time as a form of reflection and sharing with other young expat moms in the world and will be sharing a few pictures and memories from our trip to the US, reflections from Kesha's 3rd birthday, what I am loving about having a 3 year old (including what she is doing at preschool), and some of Kalah's milestones. Keep an eye out, as I promise more will be coming soon and I will be writing more frequently!