Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stuffed shells

Slightly adapted from a freezer meal book my mother owns

1/2 box jumbo shells or manicotti
16 oz cottage cheese
8 oz (2 cups) grated mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/2 tsp oregano
a few shakes each salt and pepper

16 oz spaghetti sauce

*******

Cook pasta for 1/2 the recommended time

While pasta is cooking, combine cheeses, eggs, and spices

Pour half of spaghetti sauce into high-sided baking dish--a 13x9 pan works well in my experience.

Drain pasta and spoon filling inside; place in a single layer in dish

Drizzle remaining spaghetti sauce over the top of the pasta

Cook at 350 for 30 minutes

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Creamy macaroni and cheese

I realized just now that I never got around to posting my macaroni and cheese recipe, but that's okay because I recently changed it up to be better.

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 c flour
3 c milk
2 c shredded cheese (half cheddar and half mozzarella is really good)
4 oz (1/2 block) cream cheese, broken into chunks
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

12-16 oz (1 box) macaroni noodles

***

Cook noodles according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in large skillet.

Add flour and stir until it forms a paste.

Add milk gradually, stirring to incorporate with flour/butter mixture.

Cook over low heat until mixture is thick and bubbly.

Add all the cheeses. Continue cooking until they are melted.

Mix with cooked noodles.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: 18 month update with unrelated pictures


1. Tad turned 18 months old last week and had a checkup, as one might expect. He weighed 25 lbs 4 oz and was 32 inches long, both of which were significant jumps up the percentile charts from his 15-month stats. I am immensely pleased, which makes me think that I need to keep reminding myself that this isn't a test where getting anything less than 60% is flunking.

He kept pretending to drink this olive oil.
And then got mad when I wouldn't open it and let him drink it for real.

2. There were a couple of variations from the normal routine at the appointment. First, I had to fill out an autism screening questionnaire in the waiting room before the appointment (he passed with flying colors) and then after Tad was weighed and measured the nurse was going to prick his foot to test his iron levels until I said that he'd just been checked at a WIC appointment two days before. The nurse had to go ask Dr. P if we were allowed to skip the iron test in that case and he said yes. I really appreciated that; a lot of doctor's offices nowadays seem to go by the policy of, "If it's not in the computer it never happened."

I made a lasagna for Mother's Day.
Tad ate a whole adult-sized portion and still had room for dessert.
No wonder he's growing so fast.

3. After that we got our standard battery of questions from a doctor-in-training. This one was new and introduced herself as a "student doctor"; I have no idea if she meant medical student or resident, so we'll just call her the student doctor. Anyway, she asked how many words he can say (20+, when the "right" answer is apparently 3-6), whether he can walk backwards (yes) and up stairs (no, but he tries), whether he drinks from a cup instead of a bottle (yes, and mostly water, only rarely juice), whether he's still rear-facing in his car seat (yes), etc. Something that I really appreciated about her was that when she asked if he was still nursing and how often, she accepted my answer of "as often as he wants" instead of pressing for greater specificity. Now, granted, I could just as easily have told her that he nurses somewhere in the order of 10-12 times a day, but I have a feeling that would produce a bit of a sensation and one tries to avoid those at the doctor's office.

He loves this hat. It's "2T-4T" because his head is huge.

4. Tad remained suspicious but composed during Student Doctor's exam; when Dr. P came in to give his own exam, then Tad started crying. I joked that he's obviously a ladies' man and everybody laughed, but afterwards I was thinking that maybe I'm on to something there--for example, Tad had two sick visits in April/May, one with an unfamiliar male doctor (he screamed the whole time) and one with an unfamiliar female doctor (he was suspicious but composed). I guess we'll see; by his next well-check in November he might have outgrown his aversion to people who are Not Mom altogether, which will probably be good for the preservation of Dr. P's hearing.

He dragged the nursing stool clear across the apartment
in an attempt to get over the baby gate.

5. By the way, that second sick visit with a lady doctor? We took him in about two weeks after his ear infection diagnosis because he'd finished his antibiotics but wasn't perking up as we'd expect, and it turned out he had strep. That was a pretty clever catch on the doctor's part--she couldn't get a good look at his throat to see if it was inflamed, but she noticed he had an unusual rash on his chest and so decided to swab him anyway, and sure enough she was right. So he went on another course of antibiotics for that and now seems to be all better, though he still has his moments of bursting into tears and dramatically draping himself over the nearest horizontal surface. He's a toddler; that happens.

Incidentally, it seems there is some kind of cosmic payback for having a child who never sleeps: He takes medicine. Through both courses of antibiotics (one bubblegum flavored and one strawberry) I would wave the syringe of medicine at him and he would come running and tip his head back like an eager baby bird. He's also shockingly compliant when I help him drink from little medicine cups. (He's outgrown the "infant's" ibuprofen by weight--it only goes to 23 lbs--so he's been taking "children's" when needed. There are ways to adjust the dose upward on the infant's and still use the syringe, but it's inconvenient when he's perfectly happy to do it this way.)

I made this sling! I should tell you about that,
but I probably won't get around to it.

6. His leap in expressive language is definitely underway. A few words (and one "sign") he's added since my last blog post:

- Baa, baa: He uses this for all animals--sheep, cows, horses, and most amusingly, a T-rex. We have been trying to teach him other animal noises; we're not sure if he genuinely can't figure out which noise goes with which animal or if he just persists in baa-ing because he knows it makes us laugh.

- Wow!/whoa!: His pronunciation flip-flops but he uses this word appropriately, whenever something vaguely surprising or impressive happens

- He folds his hands together as if praying whenever we say grace and often whenever we give him food. If he does this I always say a quick grace and he waits for me to finish and then tucks in. Pious little fellow.

- Boop!: This sounds more like "behhhhh", but he uses it in context, when booping our noses. (That's a new thing he does.)

- Bye!: Sounds like "Bah! Bah!" Very slight pronunciation difference from the sheep noise above, and accompanied by emphatic arm-flapping. (His left arm. I still think he might be left-handed.)

*

7. And I'll end this post with a completely random skill he's learned: Stepping into pants. If you hold a pair of pants out in front of you, he will come up, put his hands on your arms for balance, and step right in! No wrestling him to the ground and forcing him in required! (Though good luck getting him to stay still long enough to zip the fly, if there is one.)

Toddlers are amused by the weirdest things.

*

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Good enough sandwich bread

This recipe is my own conglomeration but owes a great deal to a video tutorial Geek Lady posted on Facebook which got me into actually baking bread semi-successfully for the first time ever. I then heavily tweaked her recipe to suit my own purposes. 

4 c all-purpose flour, divided
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 c very hot water

- Stir together 2 c flour, yeast, salt, and sugar

- Add water and stir everything together again. The water should be about 110*F or hot enough that you can stick your fingers in it for a second but not leave them there. (You should be able to get it to come out of the tap this hot if you turn the handle all the way over.)

-Turn the oven to "warm" (or whatever its lowest temperature is) and let it preheat. Once it's done preheating, TURN IT OFF.

- While waiting, take off all your rings and gradually add remaining 2 c of flour, kneading as you go. This step should not take more than 5 minutes or so; you just want to knead enough to incorporate the flour.

NB: Go by the feel of the bread more than by the exact amount of flour. You don't want the dough to be sticky but you want it to be pretty soft and pliable still. If it feels like Play-Doh you've got too much flour.

- Cover the dough and put it in the warmed-and-somewhat-cooled oven for a couple of hours. Go grocery shopping or take a nap or something.

- Take the dough out, preheat oven to "warm" again, turn it off again once it's done.

- While your oven is rewarming, grease a loaf pan, peel your dough off the sides of the bowl (it will have become somewhat sticky while rising), and form it into a rough oblong before dropping it into the pan. It helps to not wash the butter/oil/whatever off your hands in between the two parts of this step.

- Stick the dough back in the oven for a while, maybe an hour or so, until it comes a little ways over the top of the pan.

- Take the risen loaf out of the oven and preheat to 400*.

- Bake for about 20 minutes.

- Allow to cool completely before slicing.

*******

I would like to figure out some whole-grain variations at some point but for whatever reason life has not allowed for the purchase of the necessary ingredients. I am very busy doing stuff on Facebook, don't you know?

Also, I am quite sure that I am Doing It Wrong somehow when it comes to bread-baking but we haven't died yet so I will carry on.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Things I believe even when I don't believe in anything else:

- If I didn't think that God was real, I wouldn't be mad at him.

- If I didn't believe that he could communicate with us, that he could show his love and everything else in ways we can understand, then I would not be still trying to understand.

(No, really; saying that God loves me but that his love doesn't look like love or feel like love or have the results one would expect of love is not an adequate answer. Try again.)

- If God is who I always believed he was (who I still believe he is even when I think I'm irrational for believing it), then he's not threatened by my anger or doubt or anything else in the tangled little knot of my spiritual life. If he God as I believe him to be (the only God I've ever wanted to believe in), he'll be waiting. Always.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: 17 months


Yes, my blog is a glorified baby book now.

--1--

We've spent most of the last month battling Tad's first ear infection, which as it turns out is a milestone I'd much rather skip. We didn't even realize it was an ear infection for almost two weeks because his only symptom was waking up in the middle of the night and crying inconsolably, and bad sleep is kind of his trademark. He doesn't need a reason to wake up in the night.

But two weeks ago Scott used his day off to persuade me to call the pediatrician and much to my shock the nurse instructed us to bring him in rather than telling me to buy earplugs as I expected she would. And lo, he had an ear infection after all. I felt pretty terrible about not bringing him in sooner, let me tell you.

As penance I faithfully remembered to give him his pink medicine twice a day every day until it was gone. (Weird baby actually LIKES taking medicine, so it wasn't even that penitential.) He finished it earlier this week and still seems kind of out of sorts. We're currently keeping a close eye on him to make sure we don't have to take him in for a follow-up.

--2--

Being sick for the better part of three weeks hasn't seemed to put a damper on his rapid acquisition of developmental milestones, so allow me to begin a recitation!

First off, he eats with a spoon now! (Occasionally, when he feels like it.) I was particularly preoccupied with encouraging the use of utensils because the pediatrician asked about it at the 15-month well-check and I had to answer no, much to my chagrin. (Even though I'm sure the idea is for your kid to be "yes" on some things and "no" on others because AVERAGES.)

Of course, I've comforted myself with the thought that really he only abstained from utensil use because he was SO GOOD at feeding himself with his hands, far superior to other babies his age. ;)

--3--

And in the field of gross motor skills we have climbing. SO MUCH CLIMBING. We went to my parents' house last weekend and he spent the entire time we were there OBSESSED with going up and down the stairs. He can crawl up stairs and slither down on his belly really well. He's been trying to figure out how to step up and down stairs, but it's hard for him because he's so short.

His other new favorite thing is climbing on our dining room table. On the plus side, we now have it all cleared off so we can eat dinner as a family instead of hiding behind our laptops.

--4--

We're still waiting on the language explosion, but he has added a word or two to his vocabulary this month.

- "Ai!" meaning, of course, "Hi!" He sometimes says this when I walk into a room but mostly uses it when he sees himself in a mirror or other reflective surface, at which point he will greet himself, grin broadly, and strike a pose. Little narcissist.

- This gesture, which means "Hold me!" (not a formal sign, obviously, but he uses it consistently to communicate an idea, so maybe it counts?)

Notice that he's standing on the table wearing
nothing but a diaper. Toddlers, man.

- When playing with his toy animals he has said "Woo!" (Moo?) and "Baa!" respectively, but each of those only once so I don't count them yet.

--5--

In the category of receptive language, we have two-step directions! The story:

About two weeks ago, Tad was eating orange slices and leaving the peels scattered all over the living room, as he does. So as soon as he finished the last slice I told him, "Put that [the peel in his hand] in the sink." And he did!

Since I was feeling bold, I said, "Go get the other orange peel and put it in the sink." I may have pointed; I don't remember. Tad wandered around for a while, picked up a peel and nibbled some extra orange bits off of it, wandered around some more--and then came back and deposited the peel in the sink! I had to strive mightily to avoid reminding him of his directions during the wandering around, but if I reminded him, "Put it in the sink" after he picked up the peel, that wouldn't have counted as following two-step directions, would it?

--6--

I have a feeling that his expressive language is going to explode soon and it all stems from a theory I have about food.

See, during April I nicknamed Tad "Paleo Baby" because he would seriously eat almost nothing but meat. He rejected homemade waffles once in favor of eating 4 sausage links in one sitting. And then at the end of April he made all those huge leaps in gross motor skills--you know, things that require muscle development, which requires protein.

But this last week or so, since he mastered those skills, Tad has been going crazy for pasta, Cheerios, bananas--carby foods. Do you know what carbs fuel? Your BRAIN. So I think he is going to make a major cognitive leap soon and he's at about the right age for that to be his language explosion.

--7--

Lest you think it's all developmental milestone bootcamp over here, we've also lately gotten into the habit of going for almost-daily walks. At first I would just let him walk and we'd go to the stop sign at the end of our street and back, but then some relatives moved away and during the decluttering process got rid of one of their strollers. So now Tad has a big green and gray stroller for me to push him around in, which increases our range without killing my back like carriers do. (I don't really have any toddler-friendly babywearing devices; at least not any suitable for long walks.)

Anyway, I like the walks because I get to just zone out and think while Tad is safely strapped in the stroller, and Tad likes the walks because he gets to point and jabber at fire hydrants. Win-win. And it has the added bonus of giving us our daily dose of Vitamin D.

For more Quick Takes visit This Ain't The Lyceum!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: 16 months


Tad turned sixteen months old a while ago (I have been very remiss in my blogging), so here is an update!

"You eat yogurt HOW?"
1. His separation anxiety is definitely better. We went to a park playdate the other day and I was expecting to have a fun time chatting with the other moms but instead spent the whole time chasing after him so he didn't wander off and fall in the creek. It's a lot of work. I kind of miss the days when he would cling to my skirt the whole time.

However, it is nice to be able to leave him playing with his father while I run a quick errand or take a shower without coming back to find him crying hysterically in Scott's arms.

The daddy attachment is getting stronger in general, incidentally--the other day, he woke up from his nap and after cuddling with me for a few minutes toddled over to the gate in the doorway of the "office" (the second bedroom where we keep computers and other stuff Tad isn't supposed to touch) and jabbered emphatically for several minutes. When that failed to produce a result, he toddled into the living room, found his jacket, and started trying to put it on. I could just be reading way too much into this, but I am pretty sure he was trying to get Scott to come out of the office and when Scott didn't respond, decided, "Oh, Daddy must have taken the bus to work today; we should go pick him up."

2. He's turning into a very affectionate little guy. At another playdate he was actually playing with a baby about 9 months old--the other baby was sitting and playing with some balls and then threw them; Tad toddled over and fetched the balls back for the other baby. So the other baby grinned and threw them again and Tad fetched them again. They kept that up for quite a while.

He also loves giving hugs. Earlier today he went back and forth between me and Scott for a good few minutes, just hugging each of us alternately.

Who wouldn't want to hug this baby?
3. His favorite toys right now:

- Books. Always books. He reminds me of those aggressively friendly people handing out pamphlets on street corners. Like, seriously, child, I am in the middle of eating, can I read Big Red Barn in a few minutes? (Spoiler: The answer is no. He will pretty much deposit the book directly on my plate in order to force me to read it to him RIGHT THIS SECOND.)

- Blocks. His fine motor skills are ridiculously advanced for his age. I think the main draw for him is not the "making impressive and developmentally advanced towers" thing, but the fact that the solid wood blocks make nice clunking sounds when whacked together.

Six blocks high!
4. He balances out all this sweetness and light by regularly using his genius to get into as much mischief as possible. For a week or two he went through a phase of knocking over chairs--the chairs weren't in his way or anything, he would just walk up to them and shove them over for no reason. Or because, "Hey, this makes a loud noise when I repeatedly rock it back and forth so it bangs against the wall!" (Our poor neighbors.)

Then earlier this week he decided to switch things up by climbing on the chairs. This terrifies me, since of course there's nothing standing between him and climbing on the counter to play with the steak knives except the fact that he hasn't put 2 and 2 together yet. ("I can shove these chairs all around" + "I can climb on top of them to reach other things" = "FREEDOM!!!")

5. His new favorite word (the only word he's added this month) is "Outside." Usually it sounds something like "Ow die." (It is distinct from "Ih deh," which is what he says when pointing to things other than windows.)

There have been patches of nice weather lately, so we have been making an effort to go ow die occasionally, partly to keep the short one from going stir-crazy and partly because my therapist suggested exercise/Vitamin D as an alternative to antidepressants. (SSRIs have been good to me in the past but I'm just not feeling them right now. Hopefully I'll perk up presently and we won't have to have these conversations and can go back to therapy-ing about other stuff.)

A week later he was wearing mittens again.
6. I think his expressive language acquisition might have slowed down because he's busy working on receptive language. He can understand just about everything we say to him now. (I mean, everything that is concretely related to his little toddler life. He probably doesn't understand when Scott talks about Python hooks at length.) Some examples:

- I tell him, "Do you want to go use the potty?" and he trots over to the bedroom door, points, and waits for me to open it. (And then sometimes declines to actually sit on the potty once I've got his diaper off. It's cool, we're in no hurry.)

- I ask, "Do you want to go unload the dishwasher?" and he trots into the kitchen, waits for me to unlock the dishwasher, opens the door, and pulls out the bottom rack. And then starts pulling stuff out and handing it to me so I can put it away. Lately I've even had success with saying, "Can you put that in this drawer?" (He's tall enough to throw things into the waist-height drawers but not take them out yet, thank you Jesus.)

- I offer, "Do you want a cup of water?" and he trots into the kitchen, points at the cabinet where we keep the cups, and grunts affirmatively.

What do you do when you want a drink
but don't want to put down the ducky?
7. A couple of weeks ago, he decided that he no longer wanted to be worn to sleep. He just kicks his legs and merrily stays awake now, whereas before wearing him and pacing back and forth was the magic bullet of sleepiness. In some ways that's nice (my spine is very happy!) but in other ways not so nice--now the only foolproof method for getting him to sleep is strapping him into his carseat and driving around, and gas prices aren't so cheap that I'm going to do that twice a day. So unless our errands are conveniently timed I basically just have to wait for him to get tired and fall asleep on his own. He is definitely not getting the recommended 13-14 hours of sleep right now.

For example, normally he goes down for his nap around noon, but today apparently he is a pious baby heeding the Lord's admonition to stay awake and keep watch, because he got up around 7:00 and it's currently 2:45 and he is STILL AWAKE. I should probably finish this blog post and go rock him in the La-Z-Boy/offer it up/fantasize about how much chocolate I'm going to eat in about 33 hours.

Overtired baby falls asleep in his lunch.
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum!