Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Timeline, Yesterday

8:30 AM, at the park with Cleo: "Today's his birthday! I'll call tonight."

2:30 PM, driving home from a Hallowe'en party with a sleeping pumpkin: "Can't forget to call tonight!"

6:15 PM, feeding Cleo crackers: "I bet he'll be home from work soon. I should call in an hour or so."

3:30 AM, waking suddenly: "Crap."

Happy birthday, Pops! Hope you had a great day, even though only half your children managed to call you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dinner for a Baby

Good news, loyal readers! Another fairly boring post! I know, I'm a giver. You needn't thank me. I do it out of love. Here's a tasty, easy, healthy, quickish baby meal that's good freshly made, or straight out of the fridge.

Spinach and Cheese Pasta or Food Brick (hat tip to the inventor of Lunchblock)

1 pound uncooked smallish pasta shapes
1 pound frozen spinach--the good kind*
24 ounces marinara sauce
1 to 2 cups shredded cheese

Thaw the spinach and chop it up nice and small. If the pieces are too big, they'll be pick-out-able by a dextrous baby. If a dextrous baby does not eat your cooking, chop it any old way, but do chop it so it doesn't straggle off the fork in a pathetic way. Cook the pasta, drain it, and mix it with the sauce and spinach over medium heat. The pasta will absorb some of the liquid from the sauce, which is good. Once it's evenly mixed and very hot, turn the heat off and add the cheese. Stir briefly, then let it sit so the heat of the dish melts the cheese. If you keep stirring and heating, the cheese will glob up and get generally goopy. If you let it melt without harassing it, it'll stay evenly distributed and won't get rubbery. Once it's melted, you can serve and eat immediately, or you can proceed with the Food Brick portion of the recipe, which is this:

Pack it firmly into a leftover container. Refrigerate overnight, or until thoroughly congealed. Unmold it from the container, and if you packed in it tightly enough and used a suitably adhesive quantity of cheese, it will be a solid block which you can then slice into little hunks which make excellent, neat finger food for a toddler. Without the Food Brick portion of the recipe, this dish is messy enough that it might cause your co-parent, if you have one, to turn to you mid-meal, covered in sauce and cheese, and say, "Is there some other way people feed their children?"

*If you're a frozen vegetable comparison shopper, you'll know what I mean. In my neck of the woods, it's Stop & Shop "Nature's Promise" Cut-Leaf Spinach.

Barf City

The first time she threw up, it was helpful. A friend of mine, also with an eight-month-old, was wondering what the difference was between spitting up and throwing up, and Cleo obliged with a textbook example (markedly more forceful, more voluminous and more smelly than spit-up, if you're wondering). My friend went home reassured that her baby had never vomited, and Cleo and I went home with a bit more dirty laundry than we'd gone out with.

The second through fifth times were only helpful in that they convinced Cleo's doctor and parents that she had trouble digesting foods containing soy. But they were mainly stressful, messy, and exhausting for all concerned. She'd be surprised by the first barf, resigned to the second, and get progressively weaker and more pitiful every subsequent time (usually every ten minutes for a couple of hours, depending on how much soy she ate). It was rough for all concerned, but we have refined our baby rehydration techniques, which follow, in case they might be helpful to anyone else:

Ice chips will sometimes be taken when sips of pedialyte are refused; once pedialyte is voluntarily sipped, five swallows every two minutes are a good maximum (more can trigger more vomiting), and once it's been twenty minutes with no vomiting, ten swallows every two minutes, then increase again after another twenty minutes, etc. The relationship between hydration and alertness is direct and dramatic, which is scary when a baby's dehydrated, but quickly reassuring as they start to take fluids again. I hasten to add that this is based on one family's experience with one child, and may or may not be applicable to anyone else. If you find yourself with a dehydrated kid, follow your instincts and go to the doctor or the ER if that's what you feel is necessary.

We had her tested for allergies, and she's not allergic to soy foods, her gut just has a hard enough time digesting them that they get forcefully evicted about two hours after she eats. We've discovered that even small amounts of soy can set her off, and there are small amounts of soy in lots and lots and lots of packaged foods. Soybean oil doesn't have enough soy protein in it to cause her problems, nor does soy sauce (at least in small amounts--we're not doing any more research, thank you very much).

The day care center she goes to two mornings a week provides lunch for the kids, which is great, but they're understandably spooked by anything resembling a food allergy, so they gently recommended that we provide the grain/protein part of lunch for her. This is fine, but they (for good reasons) also ask that all food brought in be vegetarian and nut-free which limits our options a bit. No soy, no meat, and no nuts bring us to beans and cheese and eggs. And eggs bring us to egg whites, which seem to cause problems for Cleo's gut as well (less dramatic, other end, still not so nice), so we're down to beans, egg yolk and cheese, which is why I was delighted that she ate these:

Vegetable Fritters
egg yolk
wheat germ
cooked chopped vegetables
salt and pepper

Mix according to whim and inventory, fry like pancakes, serve to baby.

Other popular lunch items have been:
bean/cheese quesadilla: allowed to cool, cubed.
mac and cheese and peas
white bean puree on pitas
cream cheese sandwich
pasta, red sauce, spinach, generous amounts of cheese
beans, pasta and pesto

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Days These Days: 15 months old

She wakes up at five, and this is so much better than four, I take pity on her and bring her into bed for a crack-of-dawn snack and a little nap. She nurses on one side, looks up at me and says, "Mo!" as if I might forget, and then nurses on the other side. She sleeps between us until six-ish, when she rolls over, stands up, and says either "Dada!" or "Cheese!" depending on how hungry she is, I suppose. Her version of cheese sounds like "deezh!" or "jeezh!" or sometimes just "deee!" She loves cheese, and gets excited and asks for it whenever she hears a similar word: jeez, she's, peas, please, Jesus, etc.

Her dear Dada gets up with her at six and they do the dishes and clean the kitchen while I sleep in until the luxurious hour of 7:30-ish. Then we all eat breakfast together, and she waves and says "Ba-ba" to her dad. I check my email, she plays, and eventually she realizes that we are inside when we could be outside, and she reminds me that it's time to go "Outh!" She gets her hat, and we head into the back yard, where I rake leaves into piles and she helps me by spreading them around again. I work slightly faster than she does, so it's a net benefit to the yard, and keeps us both happy.

Naptime's around ten, and lasts for a precious thirty minutes. She wakes up and goes instantly from half-asleep and bleary to bright eyed and grinning and asking to see Dada. So we go upstairs to the office and say hi. Once she's changed, we go see friends or go to the park or the market. She loves her friend Ari, and asks to see him at least twice a day: "Ar-ruh? Ar-ruh?" We have lunch, and she eats either almost nothing or an astonishing volume. According to the parenting books, I'm supposed to cultivate an air of detachment about this. It is hard. But her average diet is varied and plentiful, and she gets bigger and heavier all the time, so it's all going well. She loves noodles, apples, rice, bananas, cheese, crackers, carrots, oranges and peas. If nothing else is available, she'll eat green beans, white beans, tomato, bread, egg yolk, vegetable fritters, chicken, and fish. She will spit out avocado every time, along with anything that's too big or too tough for a kid with only two teeth.

The afternoon nap is similarly brief, and at three o'clock is the changing of the guard. I go to my studio, and Dada takes over, and there's generally a trip to the park. At the park, or, in Cleo-ese, "guck! guck!" she climbs up and slides down the slide feet first, on her belly. Her ability to do this all by herself is directly related to the Dada school of park/kid management, i.e.: let 'er alone, she can do it. I admire this approach, but I find myself having to jam my hands into my armpits and hold myself back from hovering when it's my turn at the park.

At six, I come home and it's time for a wash and bed for Cleo. Our current baby-bathing technique is for one parent to shower, the other to hand in a naked, grubby baby, wait five minutes, and then remove and wrap in a towel a wet, clean baby, and bundle her off to be pajama-ed. Inexplicably, she loves this whole process, including being held right under the shower for a good rinse. Well, she tolerates that part. She loves everything else, especially the towel.

The current bedtime story list has grown: we're now up to (in strict order) Miss Mary Mack, Mr Brown Can Moo, The Little Book of Hugs, Yummy Yucky, and Goodnight Moon. Each of these has its own favorite phrase or page or illustration, and there is a lot of pointing and conversation and turning back and forth of pages.

Once sleep is firmly established (I've Been Working on the Railroad), it's time for grown-up dinner. This meal has been drifting downwards in quality recently, and hopefully we hit bottom the other night with frozen fish, frozen peas and carrots, and rice. But that's another story.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Temperature Fluctuations, Target Practice

We've taught Cleo that hot food has to cool off before she eats it, and she helps it along by blowing intently--sometimes on the hot food, sometimes off into the air, just as a supportive gesture, I guess.*

We have also taught her to love peas. Hooray. She eats them by the fistful, which is nice, considering her disdain for many other vegetables.

Both those things are good, but I hadn't realized that, combined, they create a situation. Say her mouth is full of cooled peas and her tray is full of hot peas. Yes. She has learned that she can make Mama laugh really really hard if she blows peas across the room like a little pellet gun.

*She has also started blowing when she steps out into the cold air. Which, although not a proven way to warm the planet, might bear some research. You have your farting cows, your belching gas-guzzlers, and your chilly toddlers. Someone get on that.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Impressive writing even if she weren't sleep deprived.

A woman named Evany had a baby ten weeks ago, and has now written one of the best descriptions I've ever read of life with a newborn (minus the love and wonder, which she covers elsewhere in her post):

"I feel like I’m constantly playing that game Concentration, where you have to puzzle together plastic shapes into their appropriate holes as time tick-tick-ticks away, and if you don’t finish in time the whole game flies apart and you leap six feet into the air and spend the rest of your shellshocked life in therapy. I’ll get maybe two minutes into a bath or a bowl of oatmeal when The Tyrant Awakes (“Baby Alive!” yell Marco and I) and it’s back to the mommy salt mine. And even when he does manage to sleep for longer than a handful of minutes, the downtime is tainted with the looming spectre of his potential awakening. I always have one ear cocked for baby yells, underscoring my long, house-bound days with a spicy mix of tension and intrigue."

I had kind of forgotten about that, and now I remember just enough to feel very grateful for a fourteen-month-old who sleeps in fairly predictable chunks.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fritters! Hooray!

Here's the recipe. Story later (she likes it! Hooray!).

Cleocakes (or Frenchiefritters)

2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup finely chopped cooked chicken
1/3 cup finely chopped cooked cabbage
salt, pepper, and curry powder to taste

Mix the flour and egg yolks until they're smooth. Add the chopped ingredients and seasonings, then fry like pancakes. This can, of course, be adapted to include any kind of leftovers and seasonings. I bet a sweet apple one would be delicious.