Monday, March 23, 2015

Spicy Broccoli Soup

Loosely based on this recipe.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups (1 head) raw broccoli, finely chopped
2 tbsp dry onion flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
(Optional) 1 can tuna

Melt butter in large pot. Add flour and stir to make a paste. Add milk gradually, stirring to incorporate. Add vegetable broth.

Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, chop up a head of broccoli, stems and all.

Add broccoli through red pepper flakes. Do not accidentally do a "shake" of red pepper flakes instead of a "pinch." Trust me. Continue cooking soup on low for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add cheese and (optional) tuna and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and serve. Makes 4-6 servings or enough for 2 hungry adults and 1 very hungry caterpillar toddler.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chicken Stockbroth Thingy

1 chicken carcass or about 8-10 leg bones (i.e. if you buy a big package of drumsticks and save all the bones)
12 cups water
1 each carrot, celery stalk, and onion, washed and coarsely chopped (but unpeeled/leaves left on)
1-2 tbsp parsley
1-2 tsp minced garlic
2-3 bay leaves
6-8 peppercorns
1-2 tbsp salt*

Just before bedtime, put everything into a crockpot. Turn to low and leave all night.

Makes about 11 cups broth because of evaporation or something.

*I used 2 tbsp and without any added salt the resulting soup was a bit on the salty side even for me, so 1 tbsp would probably be adequate

Friday, March 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: A year of cloth diapering


I meant to write this post at the beginning of February but never got around to it...so technically I guess it should be thirteen and a half months of cloth diapering. Anyway...

#1: The diapers

I got one-size pockets because I figured that would be relatively easy. My husband still thinks they're too hard. Though he's also scared of ring slings, so his crunchy parenting cred is pretty low.

I have 29 diapers (12 of these, 16 of these, and 1 of these) and wash twice a week. Sometimes waiting for the diapers to line dry cuts it pretty close. (As I type this, my napping toddler is wearing the last clean and stuffed diaper in the apartment, so I should probably stuff a few before he wakes up.) If I washed 3 times a week like I'm supposed to or had maybe 32-34 diapers it would work nicely.

A big disadvantage of OS pockets is that even though they claim to fit 8+ pounds, they really don't fit until at least 10 pounds. I didn't think this would be a problem since of course I was going to go 2 weeks overdue and have a 10-lb baby. Instead I went 3 weeks early and had an 8-lb baby who subsequently decided that gaining weight is for chumps. So he didn't top 10 lbs until he was a little past 2 months old.

MOM. THIS DIAPER IS SWALLOWING ME UP. MOM.
I used to like the BumGenius diapers better because they fit better, but now that he's bigger the China diapers are the ones that fit better. The BGs have also started to look a bit worn in spots and the China diapers haven't, even though I rotate them evenly.

Next baby I might bridge the gap between "I'm functional enough to do laundry" and "baby is big enough to wear pockets" by getting a few newborn-sized covers and use prefolds or old T-shirts or what have you. We'll see.

#2: The changing station

I don't have a changing table. Before Tad could roll, I used a Pack-n-Play as a diaper storage unit/changing table and that worked nicely. Now I have one of those under-bed bins under the crib for storing diapers and I change him on the floor.

I have two of these cotton-lined waterproof pads because they're cute. Nowadays I use a plain white plastic pad that came in a box of hand-me-downs 99% of the time, because when Sir Rollsalot inevitably smears poop on it I can just wipe it off instead of having to wash it with the laundry. If I had it to do over I'd just buy a few more plain plastic ones and have done with it.

I have about 63 flannel wipes (I haven't counted them up recently to see if they're all still there)--60 of these and 3 BumGenius that came as a free sample with some diapers my mother bought. 63 is plenty for washing twice a week. I don't like the BG wipes because they're too small and too thick. The OsoCozy ones, on the other hand, are just about perfect in both respects. The only disadvantage with them is that the rainbow-colored trim tends to fray. This doesn't affect the functionality of the wipes but it is unsightly and annoying. (Of course, the old poop stains are also a bit unsightly. Cloth wipes just aren't going to stay pretty after a year of use.)

To wet the wipes before I use them, I use the peri bottle I got in the hospital (if you're the homebirthing type, you can buy peri bottles super cheap on Amazon) filled with plain water. I used to put a few drops of baby shampoo in there too, but now I don't and I haven't noticed a difference.

#3: Dealing with dirty diapers

There are people out there who say that when a baby is exclusively breastfed you don't have to remove the poop from the diapers and this is probably true but when Tad was little and would have massive blowout poops about once a week, I would spray the diapers.

Once he started solids it was definitely necessary, and now it's less necessary again because after he was eating a decent amount it got to the point where I could just shake the solid bits off into the toilet most of the time.

Anyway. We went almost a year with a cheap plastic $15 sprayer from Meijer. Being plastic, it eventually broke. So I invested in an all-metal sprayer--the Bumkins was $10 cheaper than the BumGenius one that looks like exactly the same thing. I've only been using that one about three months so I can't comment on its longevity, but it has a much more powerful spray than the cheapy plastic one and that alone makes me wish I'd ponied up the extra $35 from the beginning.

Wet diapers and pre-sprayed poopy diapers go into a large wet bag that hangs off the bathroom doorknob. I have two, one dark green and one white with blue/green/yellow dots. The dark green one has faded significantly after a year of being washed once a week but otherwise they've held up remarkably well given how much I abuse and overstuff them. They hold pretty much exactly the same number of diapers as a standard sized washing machine.

#4: Doing the laundry 

As mentioned, I wash my diapers twice a week. I take the wet bag and dump its contents into the washing machine and then throw the wet bag right in there too. (This is why I have two wet bags, so I can have one in use and one washing/drying.)

I've tried a few different detergents and so far my favorite is Rockin Green (the unscented hard water formulation, to be precise). One bag lasts me about 5 months and I'm generous with my scoops.

To save money, I hang dry EVERYTHING. Covers, inserts, wipes, anything else that got thrown in there.... A while back I made my life much much easier by getting a cheap drying rack from Wal-Mart so I don't have to hang diapers off the backs of random chairs and stuff. If I stay on top of rotating stuff out when it's dry, I can usually get everything done in about 24 hours and then I stuff it all at once and then I have a day or two off before I wash another load and start it all over again. I look forward to the day when I will have my own laundry room and will only have to line-dry covers.


#5: Leaving the house

To be honest, most of the time when I leave the house I don't even bring diapers. I'm a lazy breastfeeding mom; I don't like to pack things.

On the rare occasions when we go on longer trips or he hasn't done his morning poop yet before we go grocery shopping, I will throw in a waterproof changing mat that came with my diaper bag (okay, I lied in Take #2, I have two plastic mats), a medium wet bag, the peri bottle, and the appropriate number of diapers and wipes. If I end up changing his diaper, I shake any poop into the nearest toilet and then remove the inserts from the pocket and toss everything into the wet bag. When I get home the wet bag gets tossed on the bathroom floor and then next time I wash diapers it gets dumped into the washing machine too. (As in I open it up, empty the contents, and then toss in the wet bag itself.)

When we go to my parents' for the weekend (the only time we've been away overnight since Tad was born) we usually mooch disposable diapers off of them (though I've heard rumors that Matthew is getting cut off when he turns 4, so those days might be over soon) and I will frequently use the opportunity of none of the diapers being in use to strip them with dish soap to remove buildup. (Plus then I don't have to pay extra quarters for all the extra rinses.)

#6: Nighttime diapering and rashes

Up until Tad was about six months old I could just leave him in a double-stuffed diaper overnight and he'd be fine. Once teething entered the scene he started getting much rashier, though. (Molars have caused some particularly nasty rashes, including one that got so bad he got a secondary bacterial infection. I switched to disposables for a week or so and bleached all the diapers when that happened.)

What seems to work fairly well for prevention is slathering him with coconut oil before bed and putting an extra fleece liner in his diaper to wick away the moisture. (Do not buy liners for your cloth diapers. Go to Joann's on 50% off day and get half a yard of fleece and cut it into roughly 4x8 pieces for a baby or 4x12 pieces for a toddler.)

If I slack off with the coconut oil and he actually gets a rash, I add breastmilk* and Vitamin E (cut open a capsule and slather on its contents) to our regimen and that seems to work if I start it early enough. I'm not 100% sure the Vitamin E is an approved cloth diaper thing, but let's pretend, okay?

For bad rashes you can use fleece liners to protect your diapers from butt paste/Vaseline/whatever (use a different color fleece from your regular overnight liners and wash separate so the stuff doesn't get all over the diapers in the wash), but I'm not enough of a purist to do that very often; usually I just buy a cheap pack of disposables and use those for a few days.

*Yes, I just lift my shirt in the middle of a diaper change and hand-express a bit. I'm a weird hippie now, okay?

#7: Why I do it

The biggest reason I cloth diaper is just because I like it. I like pretending that I'm a peaceful wholesome earth mother type instead of a grouchy person who occasionally feeds her kid chocolate chips to bribe him into 10 minutes of quiet. If cloth diapers didn't have that draw for me I really doubt the other advantages would be enough to make me want to do it. But here are a few anyway:

- Cost: Even dealing with coin-op laundry, I estimate that I spend about $25 a month on diapers, which is better than you could do with even generic disposables.

Of course there is the initial outlay, but most of my diapers and supplies were gifts. Plus I don't remember that far back thanks to post-baby amnesia, so the sticker shock has worn off. (And if you do covers and old T-shirts instead of fancy pockets, your initial outlay might not even be that high.)

- Convenience: I know, you all think I'm crazy. I hate leaving the house just that much, that not having to go to the store for diapers is a major selling point for me. Not having to worry about buying a huge case of Size 4 right before a growth spurt. NOT HAVING TO TAKE OUT THE PUTRID TRASH EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

If I had my own washer and dryer (this is a constant refrain for me) it would be even better. I could throw a load in whenever I had a spare minute! I wouldn't have to line-dry! It'd be fabulous. 

(Ask me about this again in about 5 years and see if I actually save time or just adjust my laziness to compensate.) 

- Durability: Disposables are obviously meant to be disposable. But, you know, when my child wears a diaper for a few hours and it starts falling apart, that's maybe a little too disposable. And he can't rip off the cloth diapers and poop on the carpet when I'm not paying attention.

- Leak-proof-ness: We've had blowouts in cloth, don't get me wrong. When Tad was exclusively breastfed he just loved to save his poop for a week and then completely overflow his diaper. But when he was in disposables he would poop up his back EVERY SINGLE TIME. Even when it was only a small poop. 

- Aesthetics: I only have to deal with smell from cloth diapers about 2 minutes out of every week, when I dump the wet bag into the washing machine and 4-day-old-poop smell flies up into the air. The smell from a trash can full of disposables is constant and oppressive. Disposables even smell bad when they're clean! 

Cloth gives my baby a nice pattable bum. (And he hates sleep, so he gets a lot of repetitive bum-patting.)

And they're just plain cute. Especially with penguins on them.


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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tad's summer wardrobe, 2015 edition

Now that he's staying in the same size longer it's really more of a spring/summer/fall wardrobe, but that would make an unwieldy title.

Before we start, a bit of backstory: When I announced my pregnancy with Tad, Matthew was 17 months old, wearing 18m pants and 24m shirts, roughly. We've gotten a few hand-me-downs in smaller sizes but the bulk of them really start there. So at some point last year I brought home a box full of 18m pants and figured God would multiply the loaves and fishes or something like that.

Sure enough, right about when Tad started fitting snugly into his 12m shirts, my mother went on a thrift-storing spree and bought him a huge number of 18m shirts. I paired them up with the pants to make the following outfits:

#1
#2
#3
#4
#5
#6
#7
 At that point I had 5 casual outfits and 2 church-appropriate outfits. I also had a few extra pairs of pants:


And two sets of pajamas. The dino jammies are 24m; the blue terry sleeper is 2T. They both fit pretty well right now, which is not unexpected since I usually size up in jammies.


Oh, and this jacket (navy, 18-24m), which is actually really great for cold weather because it's lined but still thin enough to wear in a carseat.


I took these pictures about two weeks ago but never got around to posting them. Earlier this week, my mother brought down 2 big boxes labeled "24 month clothes" and I dug through and sorted them out. Sure enough, mostly it was 24m/2T everyday clothes and 3T pajamas, but there were a few things a size down as well. Allow me to show you:

Outfits #8, #9, #10. Coordinating colors for mix-and-match!
Outfits #11, #12. I don't really like rompers, but I couldn't resist the froggy
and I suppose the other one might prove useful eventually.
I was very relieved to have some more summery options--I'm sure Tad will spend most of the summer in nothing but a diaper, but we do go out occasionally and now he doesn't have to sweat it out in long sleeves and pants.

The real wealth was in the 24m/2T pajamas, though.

Pajamas #3, #4, #5
Pajamas #6, #7, #8--#6 even has options for shorts or long pants
#9--Fleecy Thomas the Tank Engine
And last but not least, we complete the summer theme with two pairs of swim trunks. Notice the baby toes at the top of the frame--Tad kept trying to "help" me take pictures.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Adventures in cleaning

The other day, Tad was in the office (where he's really not supposed to be, but we're terrible enforcers of rules) pulling books off the shelves as usual. But then! After he'd cleared off most of one shelf, he started putting the books back. So I jumped on that, handing him books one by one and asking, "Can you put this one back?" and then clapping and making much of him when he did so.

*******

I recently added an element of forced toy-pick-upping to our bedtime routine. As soon as bedtime strikes*, I march him over to a likely-looking pile of toys and strongly encourage him to throw a few into his toy bin. Then I take him off to bed and put the rest away after he's sleeping.

Yesterday he was resisting the idea of putting his blocks into their little crate, so I took his hand in mine and closed it around a block and dropped the block into the crate and then clapped and made a big deal out of how he put something away and then carried him off for a diaper change.

While I was putting the old diaper into the wet bag, Tad wandered off. I came out of the bathroom to find him holding two blocks. He promptly toddled over to the crate, tossed the blocks in, and started clapping for himself. He clapped for probably a solid minute. I clapped too, and praised him for putting stuff away, and generally acted like he was the smartest little baby ever. Because he is.

*"Bedtime" is 8:00. Usually. Unless I'm in the middle of something and don't feel like starting the whole process just then.

*******

Today, I'm doing laundry (I try to avoid this on Sundays, but sometimes it can't be helped) and while I was getting detergent out of the hall closet, Tad started messing with his father's sneakers. When I came back from putting my laundry in, one of the sneakers was sitting just outside the door, so I encouraged Tad to pick it up and put it back in the closet--and he did!

Then I walked into the kitchen to set a timer and suddenly Tad came up behind me toting the other sneaker. (I have no idea where he put it originally.) So I walked him over to the closet and opened it back up and he put that sneaker away too. And we clapped.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: 15 months: The good, the bad, and the basically competent


1. Tad turned 15 months old last week and I've been saying this for ages but he really looks more like a little boy than a baby now. It makes me broody.


He had his checkup this past Wednesday. He was 30.25" long and weighed 22 lbs 12 oz, a gain of 1.25 inches and 1 lb 10 oz since his last appointment 3 months ago. I keep waiting for him to hit the weight gain plateau everybody talks about, especially considering he's so active, but apparently his insatiable appetite is good for something.

I had the clever idea to bring along his little wooden truck to the appointment, so after he sobbed indignantly through being weighed he sat happily driving it back and forth and saying "Bruu bruu bruu." Then the resident (our pediatrician's practice is a teaching practice) came in and he stared at her soberly and silently while continuing to push the truck back and forth. (He didn't resume sobbing indignantly until she actually started to examine him. Stethoscopes are EVIL, y'all.)

I hope the resident got some practice not phrasing questions in confusing ways, because she needs it. First she asked if we were "both still at home with him" and after Scott and I conferred with our eyes I decided to cover all bases and say, "We both live with him, I stay home, he (Scott) works." Apparently she was going for the first part. I'm sure these it's common even for toddlers to have one parent not living with them, but it still weirds me out every time they ask.

Then later she asked if we "play with his teeth" and we were kind of like: ???? She clarified that she meant toothbrushing. "Ohhhhh. Yeah, we brush his teeth."

After she asked some more questions and did an exam and praised Tad's awesomeness (because he's obviously awesome), our regular ped came in and got major brownie points for bringing up a concern we'd raised a couple of months ago and making sure to get an update (everything's going fine now) and being generally awesome and competent. I think my standards are low when "competent" and "awesome" are basically the same thing, but there you have it.

We went with this pediatric practice because they were the only one we could find that took our insurance and had openings for new patients (we had our "new patient orientation" literally 4 days before Tad was born, so it was definitely down to the wire) and ended up with this particular primary doctor because he was the one who happened to have an opening when Tad was 5 days old. (When your baby is born on a Wednesday and you don't get home until just before close of business Friday and you need an appointment on Monday, you can't afford to be picky.) I was irrationally grouchy about that for a long time (I like feeling like I have a choice) but now I'm starting to appreciate how lucky we were.

2. It amazes me how good Tad is at walking now considering he wasn't taking more than a few steps here and there at the beginning of the year. The other day he amused himself by walking backwards all the way down our long main hallway, and in the last couple of days he's decided to start marching--just marching around like an itty-bitty soldier at intervals for no apparent reason. It's kind of adorable.

3. He's also up to at least 13 teeth. He's had the 8 incisors for a while; the molars have been coming in slowly since the beginning of December, with #4 poking through at the beginning of this month.

Meanwhile, in late January his first canine (the lower right) began poking through. The other three are on the very brink. I thought I felt the upper left one poking through the other day but now I'm not sure. It's a little hard to feel for teeth when you have to fit your fingers in the small gap between incisor and molar during the 0.005 seconds your child will hold still without biting you.

When the resident asked how he was sleeping I told her it could be worse. (Though not by much.)

4. He's continuing to add new words and signs to his repertoire, and I think his advanced vocabulary really does help with the whining. He still whines, but I can prompt him, "Hey, what do you want?" and he'll generally stop whining and tell me. (Hint: It's usually "milk.") This month's new additions:

- "Ih deh", said when pointing to things. I think it means "right there", but I'm not 100% sure. I'm counting it as a word because he uses it consistently to mean the same thing. ("Hey, look at the blank wall! So fascinating when I'm supposed to be sleeping!")

- "Thi-theh", which means "thank you." It also means "Give me that" and "You're welcome" and "Hey, you need to take this thing!" Words need to be multi-purpose when you know less than 20 of them.

- The sign for "pee." He's a little fuzzy on how it works, since he thinks he has to touch MY nose, but hey, he's trying.

Speaking of, he's been peeing on the potty off and on for the last couple of weeks. He kept running away during diaper changes so he could hide in a corner and pee on the carpet, so we started sitting him on his potty chair once his diaper was off. When he pees in the potty we praise him. When he pees on the carpet we whisk him off to the seat and explain cheerfully that pee goes in the POTTY. If he doesn't pee at all we wait a minute or two, ask him if he's "all done" (this often prompts him to stop bouncing around and actually sit down and pee), and then put him in a fresh diaper.

Scott thinks we should try him in pull-ups, but I am not so sure. Recall which one of us would be home with little Potty Prodigy all day and would have to clean up most of the potential puddles.

5. He also recently mastered drinking out of an open cup, which is fantastic because he won't drink out of the Take and Toss straw cups and I'm too miserly to buy the expensive straw cups that mold after one use. Now, when he asks me to nurse for the 15th time in one day, I ask him if he wants a cup instead and then hand it to him without waiting for an answer. Because seriously, you can't nurse 15 times a day when you're over a year old.

We're not interested in weaning anytime soon (though I'm sure that I'll be ready way before he is) but now that he is over a year I have been feeling a lot less conflicted about setting boundaries. We'll see if that actually leads to a reduction in his overall nursing sessions or if he just asks more in order to compensate.

6. His love of books has really taken off lately. He can sit through Big Red Barn or The Snowy Day in their entirety and will follow me around most of the day shoving books into my hands (or throwing them at me if I refuse to hold out my hand) and insistently saying "Thank you!". (Which in this case means, of course, "You need to take this.")

My tolerance for reading board books is not nearly as big as his tolerance for listening to them. And I won't read the same book twice in a row either. I told him yesterday that we can't do that because the poor book needs a chance to rest in between readings. I should probably feel bad for lying to my child at such a tender age.

7. When he's not throwing books at me he's generally getting into something--his current favorite escapades include snatching things out of the fridge (he's particularly obsessed with the bottles of salad dressing) and using his ride-on car to get things off the dining room table.


It's sometimes hilarious but usually also exasperating. And I have a feeling he'll be able to reach a lot more things before he finally develops some impulse control.

On the other hand, he's been learning how to give hugs and kisses. This toddler phase definitely isn't all bad. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cream of soup

Lately I have been trying to make an effort to be a bit more health-conscious, and one of the things I am therefore trying to phase out of our diet are canned soups. We don't generally eat straight up canned soup anyway, but we do occasionally use it in cooking. So here are two substitutions I've tried in the last few days.

***

Chicken pot pie:

Cook chicken in big oven-safe pot. (I have a stainless steel skillet that works okay, but I really want a dutch oven.) When it's cooked, add about 1/4 cup olive oil or butter or whatever. Then add 1/4 cup flour and stir until the chicken is coated in a sort of bready paste. Then add 2 cups of milk and a teaspoon or two of salt (I used 2 and it was a bit salty, so maybe 1.5?) and cook until thick and bubbly. Then add vegetables and crust and cook as normal.

This was a big success, other than being slightly salty. Scott declared it, "Even richer and creamier than usual." That man knows the way to a woman's heart.

***

Stroganoff:

Cook beef, do not drain. Add 2 tablespoons flour, stir, add 1 cup milk, cook until thick and bubbly. Then follow the recipe as normal.

I accidentally added 1/4 cup flour because I forgot I was only doing 1 cup of milk, but it worked out fine anyway. I did not add any extra salt because this recipe already has cooking wine and boullion.

This tasted okay but not fantastic; I think the main problem was that I wasn't paying very much attention and certain things got a bit scorchy. I will try this again sometime before I declare it an unqualified success.