Comfort with Chaos

What is your comfort with chaos?

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Having a toddler makes me ask this question to myself each and every day. How much should she “experiment.” How much direction should I give? And, most importantly, how much FUN can we have?

At this point in my 18 month long crash course in parenthood, I have finally come to a very important conclusion: you can do anything-literally anything-with your child if you are not set on a specific outcome.

This was not an easy lesson for me. I am a control freak. I also like to GET IT DONE. I have had many long, frustrating days on this journey where nothing went as I wanted it to.
And I have an easygoing kid, people. Even when she was an infant she just ate, slept, and pooped.

At the end of yet another frustrating day, I finally figured out that I wasn’t having any fun. And if I wasn’t, my child wasn’t going to either.

I had to give up control. And, at the same time, take back control.

I have decided parenting is the intersection between what is good for me and what is best for my child. For example, I don’t believe everything we do should be about her. Nor should it all be about me. But I have 31 years of living behind me, and I felt sure there were some things I could show her that she would like, and we could do them together.

Shockingly, there is!
Exhibit A:

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We really enjoy cooking together.
But I had to let go of my process to make it a success.

I had to find some comfort in the chaos of cooking with someone who, at any moment, could take the entire thing we were working on and either: 1) eat it 2) dump it on the floor-on purpose or 3) get bored and make me stop. Also, she is super mobile, curious, and quick, so I have to make sure nothing around her is 1) hot (either as in the opposite of cold or too spicy, though she does like things with a zip!) 2) sharp 3) breakable or 4) Inedible (like an open bottle of vanilla extract or a bowl of raw eggs).
Several unfortunate mishaps (none serious, thank god) and many messes later, I have finally come up with a cooking process that works for US.

Today we made bacon cheddar biscuits. Which, I am sorry to say, were ok, but not awesome. But we had a blast. I didn’t flinch when she ate a spoonful of raw flour. Or took the dough and started spooning it into her own mixing bowl. Or offered a lump to the cat.

And through including her, I learned that my child can COUNT! I was spooning in tablespoons of buttermilk, going, “1…2….3…4…”and I paused to adjust my grip on the bottle and I hear her little voice go, “Five!”

I almost dumped the entire bottle on the floor.
I squealed “Yes! Five!” and she responded with, “SixSevenEightNineTen!”

If I had not let go, and learned to do things with my little love, and kept only cooking when she was asleep, this moment never would have happened.

So, accept that anything can happen-and you never know what will.
Now, who is going to help me clean my kitchen?

Guilt Free Saturday: Anything Goes

It’s Saturday, before noon! In an amazing twist of fate, my child slept through the entire night last night! This is especially amazing because she has a cold!

Naturally, she was up at 6 AM, ready to go.

A quick aside-I am going to save these posts for when she is a teenager and sleeps till noon and I am all bent out of shape. It will remind me to lighten up and go back to bed and be grateful she can use a toilet.

We are now having a “nice nappy” (that’s the vernacular around here) but whoa. Did we ever have a morning.

Before 7 AM, in the 30 seconds it took me to grab some coffee, my daughter managed to brush her hair with the toilet brush. Thank god she also currently has a hand washing fascination.
We played coloring.
Then, she demanded hummus, crackers, and olives for breakfast. She consumed about 3 bites, then said she was done.
Then, we settled for an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.
We did laundry. We chased the cat.
Then, we needed breakfast for real. I made turkey sausages and ketchup. And juice. She ate about 1 sausage and about 2 tablespoons of ketchup with a spoon. Mmmmm. Then proceeded to drink her juice, take the straw out of the juice box, and drink the juice directly from the little hole, without the straw.
This is messy.
Then, we looked at Mamma and said, ” Poopoo.”
Yes! She knows when she poops!
We then went to take a shower and clean up the poop. This involves getting in and out of the shower 18 times (her) while attempting to, you know, shower, (me) and steam the room up to unclog her faucet nose.
My bathroom looks like the changing room at a water park. For reals.
But was that enough water? No.
In a genius move, a few weeks ago, I took the suggestion to do dishes with my child. Now, that is all she wants to do. All the time. To point where after the shower, she tried to move the bench I let her stand on all by herself, while screaming “Mamma! stuck! Heavy! Dishes!”
I HATE doing dishes. She is obviously not related to me.
So, we did dishes.
After yet more water had been strewn about, I finally got her dressed, and we watched YouTube puppy and kitty videos. She began to randomly cry. This is code for “Holy God I need a nap.”
And now, she sleeps.
Whew.
I’m tired.
And I am glad we made all these messes. We stick to such a brutal (for everyone) schedule during the week, with Mamma and Daddy both working full time, that on weekends, I like to do anything goes. Like, oh! I forgot to mention how she draped me in a few yards of dental floss, stepped back to admire her work, and deemed it, “Pretty.”
It reminds me that childhood IS fun-and parenthood-CAN be fun. It can stimulate the imagination. It can help re-frame household objects. I remember my job goes beyond saying no, teaching life skills, and giving, giving, giving. That my little person wants to give back- through sharing, through “helping” with dishes and laundry, through feeding Mamma a sausage she so thoughtfully dipped in spilled grape juice. By making me prettier with dental floss.
So lighten up, and play a lot. Remember, in parenting, that as long as it works for you and your child, anything goes.

Adventures in Toddler Land, Part 1-Waste not-Waste A Lot

I am child of the eighties. Reduce, reuse, recycle were the themes I grew up with. I am hardly a militant conservationist, but I do most of the day-to-day things you are advised to do to save the earth, like turn off lights, drive a fuel efficient car, turn the heat down, etc.
Then, my baby became a toddler.
Or, as I like to think of it, The Era of Waste. When I see what, and how much, I waste in the day-to-day of living life with my toddler, I feel immense guilt. I cringe. I have adopted little strategies to reduce this waste. But yet, the following things remain true:
1. The best way to brush teeth is to allow her to hold a second toothbrush under a running faucet.
2. A nice, full bath relaxes her at the end of the day.
3. Food served on a plate always-ALWAYS-ends up on the floor when I encourage independent eating (aka mom steps back and eats her own dinner and ceases to physically hold the plate down).
4. Juice is dumped/poured/squeezed everywhere.

Wasting food bothers me the most. Wasted food is a pet peeve of mine, in general. I will eat leftovers whether I like them or not. I will eat the ends of bread, the crumbs at the end of the chip bag, and the last swig of milk. I make chicken stock from my roast chickens. I can be so extreme, in some ways, that my husband jokes I act like we are living during the depression.

Now, I can find my way home, like Hansel and Gretel, due to the trail of Goldfish crackers that we leave wherever we go. I give her very small portions, but there is always some leftover. Plus, she makes almost daily floor-dumping offerings to the cat, despite my explaining that kitty thinks blueberries are yucky.
*sigh*
I keep telling myself that this a phase. But until it ends, you’ll find me if you follow the trail of crumbs, leading to the endless sound of running water.

Summer in a Glass

First, a confession: I actually really like winter. I like the briskness, and snow, and snuggling under a zillion layers. I often joke that my seasonal affective disorder is the reverse of most peoples: during the summer, I wilt and grow increasingly sluggish. My whole self shuts down in the heat. In the winter, I am ALIVE!

But even for die-hard winter lovers like myself, there comes a time when the soul needs a pick-me-up. For that, I suggest this:

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It’s a glass of prosecco, with frozen strawberries in it. Prosecco is a dry, sparkling Italian wine much like champagne. I purchased myself a bottle for New Years Eve festivities (aka, me, at home with my family, eating spinach artichoke dip with Ryan Seacrest) and then the next day, decided I could use a little fruity pick-me-up with the somewhat less bubbly leftovers.

It is divine, and I recommend it. Put the frozen strawberries into the chilled wine and it melts and gets sludgy and the wine become punk and fruitfully fragrant. At the end of the glass, you have a delicious treat!

It’s O-Kale

Who doesn’t love a leafy green?

In my house, we eat a lot of kale. In fact, I have made the following things with it over the last year:
Pesto (substitute the basil with kale)
Chicken soup
Sausage soup
Beans and Greens
Kale with Garlic
Chicken, Kale, and Alfredo sauce with pasta
just to name a few.

Recently, I figured out that BJs sells a huge bag of pre-chopped organic kale. This was too good to be true! The issue: like bagged salad, it gets icky quick. As in, the first bag I bought, I had to throw away after three days in the fridge-whoomp whomp.

Not interested in repeating this sad moment, I bough another bag, and I decided to steam the kale yesterday, in my oven and freeze it.

I was inspired by Alton Brown’s directive to cook brown rice in the oven.
It totally worked!

Oven Steamed Kale-for large quantities
Take the largest, shallow baking dish you have. I used a 13″x9″ Pyrex
Put in about 1/4 inch of water
Fill the dish with kale. Really pack it in there.
Set the oven to 350 degrees.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 30 minutes.
Like roasting nuts, when you can smell it, it’s done.

It tastes delicious-more roasted than steamed.
To freeze, let cool, squeeze out excess water and throw in a freezer bag.

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Pizza and Parenting

Happy New Year!
It’s been over a month since I last posted! A month! Crazy!
I pondered this blog over the past month. Why, for example, was it so hard to post?
I realized something…I need to write about what I am thinking. Even if it isn’t food. And when I wasn’t thinking about food…I am not posting.
So much for a focused theme type blog, oh my three readers out there. It just isn’t my style.
Mostly, these days,I think about two things: pizza, and parenting.
I am only slightly kidding about the pizza. But not at all about the parenting piece. 18 months in, I have a lot of thoughts, feelings, questions, and experiences.
I also still love to cook. I have taught my child to love to cook too (so far) which is great! She asks, “Mamma, more cooking?”
That being said, the focus of this blog is going to expand. There will still be food, but also about parenting and those thoughts and challenges and experiences. We all need support. This is also in response to the loads of positive feedback I got on my “Guilt Free Saturdays” pieces.
See, when the people speak, I listen.

So, not to deviate from the food piece too much, here is what I am making for dinner tonight for my toddler and I:
Turkey deli roll-ups (roast turkey deli meat rolled with garlic hummus and guacamole, both packaged, and yes, she eats this)
Steamed broccoli
cheesy zucchini quinoa -I have this pinned on my Pinterest recipe board-which you should all follow, btw-and I want to make it, like, now)

It’s my resolution to cook recipes this year, as a hobby, like I used to. Also to blog, and write, as I hobby, like I used to. See where this is going?
What is your favorite weekday meal?