Friday, April 29, 2011

Exploring Vegetables

We're in a stage right now in which Tye can chew many foods with her 12 teeth (including 4 molars), but some vegetables remain challenging.  For example, raw carrots, which she bites chunks out of and then can't chew the chunks well enough and so they're spit out onto the table; or greens and lettuces, which require a great deal of oral dexterity to manipulate once they're soft and soggy on the tongue.  I don't want to hide these vegetables- say, pureed in other foods- because I want Tye to experience the flavors and textures of the vegetables.  But now I'm constantly searching for ways to prepare vegetables in a size and shape Tye can handle.  

One success we've had is soup, which allows me to cook the vegetables in any size I want.  A few favorites recently include:
  • Cauliflower and Stilton Soup:  Though this sounds like a stinky flavor combo, the cauliflower and blue cheese paired beautifully for a buttery, super-rich flavor.  Tye ate several helpings, as did Tyler and I! (Unlike the recipe, I skipped pureeing the soup and left it chunky) 
  • Spicy Chard Soup:  I used a scissors to chop the chard in Tye's portion into small enough pieces for her to handle, and she loved the broth (I subbed vegetable broth).  My favorite part of this soup is being able to add toppings-including hard boiled eggs, lemon Greek yogurt, and pita chips- to each diner's desires, making a unique bowl each time.
  • Farmshare Soup:  Last summer, the evening before our farm share delivery, I would dice up all the remaining vegetables in our crisper bin, then sautee them and add a box of creamy tomato soup.  Everything is good in this, from greens to sweet corn to root vegetables.  Since tomato soup is Tye's favorite, this always results in a full belly.

Now that warmer weather is arriving, I'm looking to find other recipes for vegetable exploration (even if I'm okay with eating soup year-round, sometimes others prefer a cooler dish).  So far this season, we've been experimenting with:
  • Cinnamon-spiced Chard Pancakes: A new family favorite, these are a great last-minute meal and a fun finger food (you can substitute bread crumbs, saltine cracker crumbs, panko, or almond flour for the matzoh meal)
  • Vegetable Quiches, like this Broccoli Garlic Quiche, or most often, a combination of recipes since I like to use a variety of vegetables
  • Fried Rice: I sautee onion, garlic, and ginger in coconut oil, then add whatever diced vegetables I have; add a couple eggs scrambled separately.  For as many vegetables as you have, add about an even amount of brown rice cooked in broth.  Season with soy sauce.  Last night's veggie fried rice included grated carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, beet greens, green onion, and halved grape tomatoes.  Tye ate everything but the tomatoes, but she even tasted those several times.  
We don't cook a separate meal for Tye, so she has been exposed to a variety of flavors and aromas in our kitchen.  She loves some strange foods- like olives, blue cheese, and seaweed- but considering I was eating all of those during my pregnancy and while nursing, perhaps it's not that strange.  Tye can also handle spicy foods already, even hotter than either her grandmas, which amazes us.  When we're out at a restaurant, Tye's mature palate is helpful because we can feed her from our plates rather than order her a kiddie menu item  (I've yet to find a restaurant where this method doesn't work).  In a family where eating is an important social event, tasting the same foods as us also allows Tye to participate in the meal.    After all, an appreciation for good food doesn't have to wait for a full set of teeth.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Tye, at 17 months

Dear Tye,

Another month has flown by leaving a collection of your first accomplishments in its wake.  Your growing vocabulary has at least doubled in the past month, if not more, as you've learned how to imitate our words at our request- a game you love.  On the list now: hi, bye, mommy, daddy, doggy, kitty, Ziggy, woof, eat, all done, no, potty, pee pee, puppy, GG, PawPaw, Gram (and an a for effort for Granddad), Titi (for Tiana), car, cheese, Quise (for Marquise), Bobby (for Aubrey), toes, eyes, ball, bird, go, baby, bubble, night (as in goodnight), moon, and some consistent approximations including train ("tchu") and bunny ("mummmy").  Perhaps the funniest is your collection of functional tonal patterns: saying nothing other than "oooh" at different pitches, you can communicate to us "Where is it?" "I don't know," and "There it is." Recently, you've been walking around the house or riding in the carrier rehearsing your family's names: "mommy, daddy, doggy, baby," over and over again.   

This month, you taught yourself how to climb up the couch into the dangerously high window sill.  You also learned how to unlock my iPhone (which explains the sudden increase in accidental calls from my phone).  You can point to your eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, teeth, ears, and hair upon our request. You can stack your blocks higher, run faster, and climb the ladder at the playground.  Wow, you've been busy this month.

When you explore the world, you do it bravely, whether it's the slide at the park or the aisles of the grocery store.  However, attention from strangers still sends you running back to cling to my legs in sudden shyness.  Life is a fragile balancing act for you of wanting to explore every object, every detail and stubbornly wanting to do everything yourself without help from an adult- and yet being afraid to be without the comfort zone that adult provides.  I'd say you're doing a perfect job so far.

You are my sunshine, Tye.  I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.  


Why Tye won't be eating non-organic meat anytime soon

Researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute reported today that 47% of  supermarket meat from five cities (including Chicago) tested positive for Staphylococcus aureus, and of that 47%, 52% of the strains were resistant to three different antibiotics.  Just think about that- when you go to the grocery store and pick up a package of meat, you have a 50/50 chance that it contains Staph, and a 1 in 4 chance that it contains an antibiotic resistant superbug.  

The researchers noted that these samples of meat were not contaminated due to handling but the meat itself contained the bacteria, and the Staph is resistant because of the antibiotics used in factory farmed feedlots.  According to the CDC,  about 11,000 Americans die every year from S. aureus, more than half of whom contracted the resistant form of S. aureus known as MRSA.  Those at highest risk are young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.  Guess who fits in that category?  Tye.  

I don't have an issue with Tye eating meat, but I have major issues surrounding exposing her to potentially lethal strains of bacteria.  That medium rare steak?  That chicken that's just barely done and dripping a little pink juice?  A 50/50 chance it contains Staph?  I'm just not willing to take that risk with my child, who is in the at-risk category because of her age.  

Re-read that statistic:  the same bacteria found in half the supermarket meat kills 11,000 people a year.  Is it worth the risk for yourself?  (If you do continue to eat factory farmed meat, please please please, practice safe food preparation to prevent cross-contamination and cook your meat thoroughly!)

We recently joined a farm share for meat, dairy, and eggs.  It's a local farm with organic grass-fed beef, raw dairy, and pastured chickens, eggs, lamb, turkey, and pork with a pickup location in Chicago.  These foods are available at a significantly reduced cost in comparison with similar goods at Whole Foods Market, and we know the exact farm where the meat was raised.  Because the animals are raised in pastures and fed natural diets (no corn for the cows, no soy for the chickens or pork, no same-species meat or mystery feed), the animals are naturally healthy and don't need copious amounts of antibiotics.  They also don't naturally contain dangerous S. aureus bacteria.  I feel comfortable with Tye eating meat from this local farm with healthy animals.  I even make our scrambled eggs a little runny and share with Tye my eggs over easy, with beautiful bright orange runny yolks because I trust they're from healthy hens.

I'm not, and never have been, against consuming animal products when they are raised humanely and truly healthfully.  Unfortunately, that can be really difficult to find in the US (and is why I was vegan for 3 years and am still mostly vegetarian).  Tye won't be vegetarian, but especially with terrifying statistics like these in my back pocket, she likely won't be eating non-organic meat anytime soon.  
Tye eating one of her favorite snacks, roasted seaweed (seriously!)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Those days

Do you ever have those days when you step back and look at the day's events from an outsider's point of view, and you just have to laugh?  If you had been watching my day today, it would have been a series of hilarious clips.  Mostly the kind where you laugh and then the laugh turns into an "ooooh...." as in Oooh, I hope she's okay or  Oooh, that sucks.

Tye woke up at 6 am, giving us plenty of time to switch car seats before we left for our nature walk at 9:30.  We had to switch car seats because we were driving a rental while our car was in the shop and I wanted to use the old car seat, which takes 15 minutes to install, rather than the new one, which takes about 35 minutes, in case we needed to take a cab home after dropping off the rental.  The rental was out on the street because I didn't have a garage door opener to get it into the garage, so I let Tye sit in the driver's seat while I changed car seats.  I spent over 30 minutes changing car seats, during which time, Tye figured out which button honked the car horn.  Can't you just imagine me with my butt out the rear door of the compact car, struggling with seatbelts and harnesses, trying to calmly ask Tye to not honk the horn- for 30 minutes?

After our nature walk, we arrived at the dealership to return the rental car and waited an hour and a half for a diagnosis (even though they had had our car for 24 hours).  The dealership is hosting a fundraiser tonight, so employees and party planners were bustling around.  Of course, the ladybud-themed decorations were like magnets attracting Tye, so I was that mom chasing her daughter around the dealership saying "Soft touches!" and "Hands off!" and "Don't spill your water there!"  Fortunately Tye charmed most of the event staff with her shy smile and soprano "Hiiyeee," including special guest Dina Manzo of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.  Of course, after she stopped to talk to Tye, someone said, "You know who that was, right?" (Blank stare from me)  "That's Dina from the Real Housewives."  Oh.  She looked just like every other rich Lincoln Park mom to me.

When I finally received word that the cost of repairs was nearly equal to our car's blue book value, I tried calling Tyler just to discover that my phone wasn't working.  I could make calls, but couldn't hear anything coming out of the speaker.  Hmmm... Could this have to do with Tye slobbering all over the phone just minutes before while I was talking to the service rep?  Maybe...  This was about the time Tye started to lose her cool (after two hours of waiting and only a 20 minute nap, who could blame her?), so there I was, walking around the dealership with a crying baby on my hip, no functioning car and no operable phone.  Sheesh.

As we were paying for the car inspection, Tye continued to chew on her hands as she has been for two days, trying to ease the pain of her canines coming in.  She chose this moment to shove her hand into her mouth so far she gagged and threw up all over both of us- her shirt, my sweatshirt, my shirt, my hair.  I wiped us down with baby wipes as well as I could while calming talking to the service rep.   Then it was another round of wrestle-the-car-seat in our own car while Tye, once again, honked the horn repeatedly, this time inside the repair shop.  Can't you just imagine how happy they were to see the crying, running, puking, horn-honking toddler and her clueless, phoneless mother finally leave?

Even when I look at the great moments in our day, they hold their own humor.  I'm sure I would have died laughing if I were a stranger who walked into the dealership bathroom while a woman was holding her 16 month old daughter over the toilet saying "Pee pee!  Pee pee!  YAAAYYY! PEE PEE!!! WOOHOO, TYE!"   And I actually did laugh at myself when, after two geese boldly approached us on our nature walk this morning, as soon as I asked a friend to take a picture of us with the geese, they hissed at me as if I was invading their privacy.  We got in a shot anyway-from a safe distance.
I've discovered one of the secret best parts of motherhood: on days like today, I'm not alone.  Tye was there to laugh- or hide, or run, as the case may be- right along side me through each fiasco.  She's becoming less of a fifth limb and more of a sidekick as she comes into her own personality, and having a buddy around to laugh with me when I fall is priceless.  In both the situations she creates, like vomiting on us, and exacerbates, like honking the horn while I'm wrestling car seats, I know Tye will laugh with me- if not in that moment, eventually.  Sure, some parts of today would have been easier without a toddler in tow, but Tye kept me laughing all day long.  The kind of laugh that turns into an "Ohhhhhhhh, I love you, Tye."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tina Fey tells it like it is

Feeling very out-of-touch with current trends recently, I picked up April's InStyle Magazine thinking I would find inspiration and tips for looking young, modern, put-together- in other words, less mommy-at-the-playground.  It didn't surprise me a bit, though, that my favorite portion of the magazine was the article on cover model Tina Fey about balancing motherhood with her career and her new autobiography, Bossypants.  When InStyle asked Tina "Who's the boss of Tina Fey?" her response had me laughing out loud with it's brutal honesty.   

Topping her list of bosses, Tina said:
My daughter.  Kids are definitely the boss of you.  Anyone who will barge into the room while you are on the commode is the boss of you.  And when you explain to them that you're on the commode and that they should leave but they don't?  That's a high-level boss.
What mom can't relate to that? I may not have found all the style inspiration for which I was searching, but I would pay the cover price for that quip any day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nature Museum

Last week, Tye and I visited the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.  Although we've been several times and Tye loves every visit, this was the first trip she showed any interest in the butterflies as we walked through the butterfly haven.  I guess the huge insects fit in alongside her fascination with all things flying these days- birds, airplanes, and helicopters (could her one-time entomologist mother be any more thrilled?!?).  I tried to capture Tye's awed expression, but looking back, I think it was partly her stillness that communicated her fascination.  

We always spend time in the children's play area, and this time Tye wanted to put on the beaver costume while she played.

We also saw these crazy cool Ferocious Waterbugs.  According to the sign, "A protective father, the Ferocious Waterbug totes fertilized eggs on his back until his offspring hatch."  I think most moms-to-be feel a moment or two during their pregnancy in which they wish they could hand over care to the father.
And finally, some personality shots:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Music Together!

This morning was Tye's first music class!  A local woman teaches Music Together classes in the basement of a neighborhood church, and today was the first class of our spring course.  Tye was eager to explore the global collection of percussion instruments as she observed the other children when we arrived.  Once music began, she quieted down and planted herself in my lap.

Throughout most of the class, Tye watched the leader sing with wide eyes.  About 45 minutes into class, when instruments were once again distributed, Tye jumped out of my lap and grabbed a xylophone and drum stick and went to town.  With the high noise level of so many young children (and parents) pounding away on instruments, Tye lost her inhibitions and finally began singing as she played the xylophone, then the triangle, then the tambourine, then a drum.  

Today's leader is a woman in her 50s or 60s with somewhat-unruly gray curly hair, thick glasses, and a warm kindergarten-teacher appeal.  Previous students ran into the room and immediately bombarded her with hugs.  When Tye stuck a maraca in her mouth, the teacher was quick to say, "Oh, how wonderful that you're using all your senses to explore the music!" before she whispered to me the location of the "slobber bucket."  Our class is a mixed-ages class, which I love because it provides Tye with opportunity to observe and imitate other children, not just adults.  As she becomes more active during class, she'll have other children to share in her enthusiasm.

Music plays a large role in our lives every day, from listening to songs as we do chores to singing about what is happening next in the day to banging spoons on pots and pans.  While Tye has plenty of access to music at home, I'm looking forward to seeing her blossom in a group setting as she learns to interact with the music and other children.  Below is the greeting song sung at all Music Together classes, which has become pretty famous as Music Together has gained popularity.  

So now you know what I'll be singing for the rest of the day. 


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