Sunday, December 15, 2013

Macaroni & Cheese for One

Our son Will, like most kids who don't have dairy allergies and are able to eat full meals, LOVES macaroni and cheese. If I make him a plate of mac & cheese, he will quietly eat his lunch and oftentimes clean his plate. There are a couple of problems with this, however, when it comes to classic boxed macaroni & cheese:
  1. Will needs to gain weight. While the macaroni & cheese you get from a box does have more fat in it than the typical adult would prefer to have in their diet, our doctor had suggested we try to sneak more fat into our buddy's diet.
  2. No toddler can polish off a box of macaroni & cheese in one sitting, and it tastes terrible on the second day so leftovers are (kind of) out of the question. Which means that if I make Will M&C for lunch - it means that I also will be having macaroni and cheese. And typically this means that I end up having a little over half a box. Which I probably shouldn't be having. (2a - I LOVE MACARONI & CHEESE! Especially with some peas mixed in and a dash of black pepper... oh man...) Really... this is the bigger issue as there are a million ways to sneak more fat into Will's diet and I am very, very weak-willed when it comes to mac & cheese of any kind.
While I was pondering this issue, I remembered that I had once come across a recipe for "revolutionary macaroni & cheese". I had made it once for a friend of mine & I and it was delicious. I knew that I could adapt the recipe for one serving and fatten it up so that our little man was getting a fatter mac & cheese (in fact, in our house we call it fat-mac) AND I wouldn't have to be subject to a half of box (or more) of mac & cheese very time he had some (oh the horror...). A couple of tries, and I have perfected it! There are even a couple of veggies that I sneak in for total nutrition awesomeness for my toddler buddy.

Macaroni & Cheese for One 
Adapted from Revolutionary Mac & Cheese from Macaroni & Cheesecake

  • 1/2 cup pasta (penne, tri-color mac, rotini.... your choice)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp - 1/4 cup frozen spinach (or 1/3 chopped frozen broccoli)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

  • In a small saucepan, put the pasta & milk and bring to boil. This will happen faster than you think - so don't walk away! As soon as it starts to boil, bring down to a simmer and make sure to stir constantly. 
  • About 5 minutes after bringing to a simmer, add the peas & spinach. Bring back to simmer & cook until noodles are tender (about 5-7 more minutes).
  • Remove pan from heat - DO NOT DRAIN!!! Add both cheeses and stir vigorously until cheese is melted in. The sauce will thicken upon standing. Add salt & pepper and serve. Or just eat it out of the pan, after all - this is only for one person.

A couple of things... first, this will easily feed two toddlers or one adult. I usually fill up Will's plate and then there's a few bites left to fulfill my macaroni weakness until I make it for him again. If I were to make this for myself - I would substitute in skim milk for the whole milk and it would work just as well and be just as delicious. Will loves this stuff; we've tried it with a couple of different cheeses but this seems to be the way he likes it the best. He'll eat either spinach or broccoli in it for us - whatever we have in the house - but the peas are a must. And in the long run it's cheaper than boxed mac & cheese... really, this is a winning situation all around! 

If you are in need of a quick comfort food fix or a good lunch for your kiddo... definitely give this a try. You won't regret it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

With a Thankful Heart...

During the month of November, I took part in a sort of meme that I had noticed people were doing leading up to Thanksgiving. Each day, I posted a picture and note of something that I was thankful for. Some of them were relatively inconsequential - like sales on kids clothes - and some of them were a bit deeper - aspects of my faith or family and friends. Originally, I wasn't going to participate in this meme and then I thought about it a bit before I jumped in. There were a couple of reasons that I decided to go ahead and take part.

30 Days of Thankfulness - Days 1-6
Running water, imagination, ability to cook, kids' sales & coupons, childcare workers, our family photographer

The first reason is that while I am always grateful for the things in my life, there is something about intentionally thinking about the many ways that I am either blessed or touched or impacted that really helps me to persist in being genuinely grateful. From my husband to my kids to running water to the minds that invent washable crayons - there are so many things both big and small that I can be thankful for at any given point in the day. If I ever stop being thankful, I might start to take my blessings for granted and not see them as gifts given to me and others by God. And so, every once in a while I think it's a worthwhile exercise to stop and reflect on the various things I am thankful for in my life.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 7-12
God's promise to be there, great minds, answered prayers, our veterans, our new baby's health, and my husband

The second reason I went through this exercise was that I had a small hope that I would also inspire other people to pause and think about the things that they are thankful for in their lives.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 13-18
My parents, great medical care, people who invent recipes, our pediatrician, my moms group, & being a stay-at-home mom.

Why now? Because I feel like the real reason for the Thanksgiving season is often lost in a shuffle of giant feasts and food comas, family obligations, high expectations, football rivalries, and preparations for intense shopping expeditions. While I think that any of those things can be an extremely fun experience, I also think that it's important that we take MORE time during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to pause and be thankful for what we have in our lives - no matter how little or how plentiful it is.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 19-24
Our Will, his relationship with his Daddy, our friends, my siblings, our church, and NAPS!

My posts on "30 Days of Thankfulness" technically ended yesterday, but I feel a renewed sense of gratitude for the many ways God has provided for my family, answered prayers according to his plan for our family and friends, and just cast His love out in so many ways. I am thankful for the various ways He has gifted people that make our world such an interesting plays. God is so, so good. I am thankful for His plans, I am thankful for His love, and I am thankful for his blessings.

30 Days of Thankfulness - Days 25-30
Children's perspective, my extended family, our Journey group, critical folks (PD, FD, EMS, etc.) working on holidays, God's abundant provision, Jesus' death on the cross

I'll close with a wish of a wonderful holiday season to everyone who reads this and their families. May you enjoy richly all the ways you've been blessed.

"Let me shout God's name with a praising song, let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks." (Psalm 69:30, The Message)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Having Faith, Always Praying

We sat with Nana in her dining room, all looking quietly at my newborn son. She shook her head, sighed, smiled, and looked at me like she was going to say something before stopping to look at the baby again. 

"You know," she said after a brief moment passed, "I just don't understand how people can look at babies, new babies, and not believe that there's a God."

Steve and I looked at each other before responding; she had no idea what truth she spoke in our lives that day. 

"Yeah, Nana. I know. Babies are miracles," I quietly said. 

Steve nodded in agreement before also responding. "That they are..."

What she didn't know was that for us, William was an answer to prayers. Prayers spoken, prayers unspoken, prayers on our hearts and minds for quite some time. I had been told that due to a medical condition I had, the best chance we would have of getting pregnant would be immediately after coming off of birth control. When it didn't happen in the first two months, I assumed that God's answer was that we would not be having children and I quietly came to terms with that. After all, sometime's God's response to our prayers is a no.

But then two more months later... we saw two lines on our pregnancy test. 

Will & Mommy (Photo credit RLPhoto, 2012)
I found out several months later that while my husband sat in a lecture at a conference about a professor that videotaped his son's first two years of life to analyze how we learn communicate, he prayed that someday - despite the odds - that we could experience that wonder ourselves. That we could watch our own child learn, grow, develop, explore in those early years. 

I had written off the idea and silently dealt with my disappointment to a prayer I incorrectly thought had been answered no, trusting that God had plans. Steve held on to hope and asked God for a child. 

We were already two or three weeks pregnant when Steve prayed that prayer and had no inkling. Two weeks later we saw those two lines on our pregnancy test. 

For us, William was truly a miracle. William was a blessing that not only enriched our family, but expanded our trust in God's plans for our lives. William taught us to never stop praying boldly for those things we feel urging us strongly in our hearts. William taught us - and continues to teach us - more about God and faith than anything other experience we have ever encountered. 

"I just don't understand how people can look at babies... and not believe there is a God."

Steve and I are in a season right now where we have really felt God moving in our lives via answered prayers. Some of the answers haven't been immediate - but some have. We've had medical issues that looked to be very concerning in our house that have turned out to be minor and manageable after we've prayed endlessly to God about them. We have had decisions to make that after praying about them felt like we were being pulled in a certain direction, and have had situations appear that have confirmed we followed God's lead for where we were going. We have felt Him move in our marriage in ways we haven't before. 

We have friends who literally have hundreds of people praying for them after they went into pre-term labor 5 weeks ago at 28 weeks. At 33 weeks & 2 days, she still hasn't delivered and is leaving the doctors thinking she's a complete mystery. 

The works of God so often are just that - a mystery. And if the fact that she's still incubating isn't a powerful testimony to the power of prayer - I don't know what is.

This summer, Steve and I decided that we were ready to have baby number two. Sometime in mid-July, as we sat in bed talking with God in our nightly prayer, Steve said "God, I think we're ready for another kid. If that's Your will, we're ready for it." I squeezed his hand, and soon after we said "Amen". 

It was never mentioned again. We just let God know - we're ready if You are. Your call, God.

As the math worked out... not long after that, a week or maybe two, we became pregnant with our Little One. Twenty-three(ish) weeks from now, sometime next April, we'll be welcoming a new Baby Athanas into our home. 

Little One at 14(ish) weeks - Due April 2014!
Another miracle. 

Another answered prayer. 

Trust that God has our best interests, that He has plans for us. That He hears our prayers. Pray boldly, pray constantly, trust in His answers. 

"And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for." (1 John 14-15, NLT)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Baby Applesauce Mini Muffins

Our son Will is 16 months old and is getting to the age where he doesn't want Mommy to feed him anymore. This means that trying to feed him the infant cereal in the mornings has gotten... interesting. I've been putting a little in a bowl with a spoon for him to "feed" himself while I give him the rest, but that doesn't always catch his attention. He wants to do it himself. While I want to embrace this independence, I want him to continue getting as much of the nutrition that the baby cereal offers for as long as reasonably possible.

This in mind, I recently went on a hunt for things to use the baby cereal as an ingredient in. The problem that I was running into was that a lot of the recipes I found for things like cookies or muffins had added sugar in them in addition to whatever fruits or vegetables they were adding in as well. One recipe even added molasses on top of the sugar (and bananas and another fruit).

The last thing I think my energetic toddler needs is more sugar.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands and played around with a couple of different ideas. What I ended up with ultimately are these applesauce mini muffins. They use 7 ingredients of which NONE of them are sugar, are all usually found in my house, and for the most part are things that I would be feeding him anyways.

Baby Applesauce Mini Muffins 
(makes about 20 muffins)

- 1/2 cup Baby Cereal (I used Earth's Best Multigrain cereal)
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray mini-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a larger bowl, combine cereal, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.
- In a smaller bowl, combine egg, applesauce, and milk until egg is well beaten.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
- Put the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 10-13 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted comes out cleanly).
- Put on cooling rack or plate and allow to cool completely before serving.

I am a firm believer of not feeding anything to my son without trying it myself first, so I made sure I tried one of these before giving him one. They are actually pretty good! These little muffins are incredibly moist even when cooked through. After they cooled, I put them in an airtight baggie in our fridge and I expect them to keep for a few days (maybe 4 or so), so the next time I make them I will try freezing half the batch to see how they fare in the freezer.

But did they pass the ultimate test?

Our little man ate 3 of these yesterday and one so far today. He shoves it in his mouth as soon as I hand him and devours it. I'd say that they're kid-worthy.

*These are not dairy or egg free. I have not tried cooking these with egg substitute or soy/almond/rice milk. If you DO try to make these with substitutions, please leave a comment and let me know how it works out for you! Would love to hear (and you never know, our next kid might have an allergy I'll need to work with)!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Simple, Adorable God Moment

A couple of months ago during a visit to the Boston Children's Museum, we bought Will a small stuffed elephant. It's a relatively soft little guy which makes for great fun with a 14.5 month old who's incredibly tactile. Those "Touch and Feel" books are among his favorite things right now.

This morning I sat on the floor playing with him when he pointed to the elephant in his stuffed toy box. I pulled it out and showed him how soft it is, and he began to gently rub its head. I then took the trunk of the elephant and gently started to rub it across his cheeks and forehead. After a couple of minutes I stopped and tried to continue playing - but Will would have none of it. He pointed at the elephant, so I handed it to him and let him explore it a bit. I explained again how it was nice and soft while he took the trunk up to his nose and mouth and tried to rub it gently like I had done.

It wasn't good enough. He handed it to me and then pointed at himself. Yes, Sir. Back to work I went, gently rubbing his face while he sat there very still and gazing at me with his big, blue eyes.

After a few moments of this, Will realized that this experience could be taken to another level. He handed me the elephant, pointed at himself, and then pointed at me. Taking the queue, I picked him up along with the elephant and placed him on my lap. A few minutes of Mommy-cuddling and elephant-face-rubbing later, and Will realized that he was still not getting the full experience. He sat up, pointed at his Monkey (his favorite "buddy" toy), and crawled back onto my lap. A few more moments, and he was pointing at his favorite blanket and his Taggie as well.

I gathered up all the things - elephant, Monkey, Taggie, and blanket - hopped up on the couch, pulled Will onto my lap, and settled in. Monkey safe in Will's arms, Will snuggled into Mommy's chest, Taggie to the side and blanket across Will's body. Commence elephant-face-rubbing.

After a few minutes of this, Will leaned back and looked at me again. This time there was no pointing. There was just this adorable, big blue-eyed face with a giant, contented gapped-tooth grin looking up at me. It was almost as if he was saying "See, Mommy. This is the life." The sweetest moment of my morning.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

I felt a tear well up in that moment; my entire body welled up with a love that can only be described by the experience of being a Mommy. The kind of love that I have learned no words can describe.

And it was in that moment that my God moment rose up. I felt these words across my heart as a tear welled up against the one that was already there: "Danielle, this is how God loves you. This indescribable feeling... only completely infinitely multiplied."

This is not by any means the first time I have had a moment like this. Sometimes it's when he laughs, sometimes it's when he's in need of comfort. I'm sure it won't be the last moment like this that I have.

What I have found in Will on a regular basis is not just a reminder of what it's like to love someone in ways that you can't describe. I have also found a constant reminder of how deep, how wide, and how incredibly nondescript the love that God has for each one of us is. There is nothing that child can ever do that will make me stop loving him. I might get angry, hurt, disappointed. I might weep sometimes. I might become more filled with joy than I ever thought possible.

But nothing will make me stop loving him. The same is true of God's love for us. He loves us, He loves us, He loves me, He loves you.

Love. Beautiful, unconditional, indescribable, amazing love.

Find your moment today. Find that place where you feel God's love, rest in it, don't let go.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Babies and Puppies

I have often heard that training a puppy is a lot like having an infant. I thought that seemed a little ridiculous. I mean... one is a baby dog and one is a baby human. Totally different species, totally different levels of intelligence at the adult level. So that clearly means that there had to be vast, cavernous differences between the babies of said species - right?


Then I had a baby.

I don't remember the exact moment in which I realized that there wasn't really THAT MUCH of a difference between baby humans and baby dogs - but there really isn't. Think about it? OK, don't want to think about it, eh? I'll just give you a few examples.

Will & our friends' dog Indee, who is no longer a puppy (but was once).

Feeding Time!

I nursed Will from the day he was born and in fact breastmilk is still a decent part of his diet. If a puppy is born and is kept with his mother... guess what? That puppy also has breastmilk. Not with Momma Doggy? Fed from a bottle for a bit, I believe. Just like a baby. As the baby gets older and is able to feed himself, the two start to diverge a bit. Baby will pinch things with his fingers to bring them to his mouth, eventually figure out how to use things like sippy cups and spoons while puppies eventually eat and drink from bowls without the use of opposable thumbs. But you know what... sometimes, when I hold a few Cheerios out in my hand for Will to take and eat - do you know how he eats them?

That's right. He bends over and eats them right out of my hand. Like a puppy with a Beggin' Strip.

Waste Removal & Disposal

While most puppies outgrow diapers sooner than human babies, there is one thing about the two that doesn't change until babies are potty trained. That thing is the disposal of the waste once it has happened. In my purse I carry a ziploc baggie filled with plastic bags JUST INCASE I am out somewhere in public and Will needs a diaper change. Much like the dog that poops in the park, when my kid needs a diaper change that dirty pee and poop catcher has to be wrapped in a bag prior to being thrown away. I guess it doesn't "have to", but it certainly is proper etiquette. No one wants to smell pee and poop when they walk in the loo.

Speaking of Which...

Let's not forget that puppies and babies both have to be trained to relieve themselves properly. Let's not forget that both processes often require some form of conditioning of the trainee to use their appropriate facility and to recognize their own body signals to know when to do so. And let's not forget the amount of patience on the part of the "parent" it takes in both instances... and in some cases, bribery with treats for either puppy or human baby. 

Moving Around

I know that this one does not apply to all kids because some skip it completely... but we cannot think about puppies and babies if we do not address the obvious: movement on all fours. Will is a late and long crawler - he started crawling around 9.5 months or so and has been crawling ever since (he's now 12.5 months). He's pulling up and cruising, but with walking not on his radar yet there is no denying that he is much like a puppy in this respect. Having said that, I'm pretty sure that in a race - provided there were no distractions for either party - a puppy would beat my kid if said puppy were in an all-out run. That will change once Will's a bi-ped.

Chomp Chomp Chomp...

If you had told me that I would need to somehow get my kid to stop chewing on my slippers... well, not that I would have laughed at you, but I certainly would have rolled my eyes. I can't tell you the number of times we've rearranged things so that Will isn't chewing on something he shouldn't be - including furniture. In fact, I think that it was during a game of tug-of-war with something that Will had clenched between his jaws that we first realized how incredibly similar babies and puppies really are. I think the only thing that he was missing was the intense growling that sometimes comes from a dog when you are playing that age-old tug-of-war game with them. 

I'm sure there are lots of other ways that puppies and babies are similar (that you can attach both to leashes comes to mind...), but I worry that if I go too far down that road it'll just end badly. So I'll wrap up my list here and invite you all to comment if you think of anything to add to the list... I'm interested to see what others have observed in this regard...

Or mostly I just want to make sure I'm not the only one who's made this observation.

Yes, that's it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

First Year Mommy Lessons

It's amazing how quickly a year will fly by when you're not paying a truckload of attention. A little over a year ago, I had started to need to take sick time leading up to Will's birth due to various end-of-pregnancy ailments - not the least of which was a good case of double carpal tunnel and a sudden spike in blood pressure before my due date (5/4/12). A year ago tomorrow I spent the better part of 24 hours collecting my urine in a jug (weird things people need to keep in their fridge sometimes...) so that the lab could determine if the high blood pressure was affecting various things. Not that the collection mattered since they induced on my due date anyways and our awesome son Will was born 2 days later.

Sure I'm biased... but ain't he cute?

May 6, 2012? Best. Day. Ever.

At any rate, my first year as a mom has been quite the emotional learning experience. I was reflecting on some of these things this morning while Will was napping and I thought I would share them with you here. These are in no particular order and certainly not the only things I've learned... just some I thought worth sharing.

You'll Find Creative Ways to Say "No"

As Will started to become more mobile and get into more and more things, I found myself saying the words "No, Will, please" more... and more... and more often. Right around the time this was starting to become my default statement it seemed like, I read something that while you're trying to help your child shape his world that you should come up with various new ways to redirect them to other things. So sure, I still say "No", but I've also found ways to get my point across in other ways. Words like "Please don't grab at your penis" (during diaper changes) and "Down, baby, poop is yucky" (when he's pulling up on the diaper pail) and "Move! Hot! Ouchies!" (obvious here) in firm tones have started to enter into my daily routine as well. I'm also starting to get great at saying "yes" instead of "no"; when Will's heading for something that's a "no", I'll find a "yes" then pick him up, move him over to it, and start getting excited about how great it is. ("Down, baby, poop is yucky... but look! It's a pan lid! It makes NOISE! AWESOME!")

Moving on...

Shopping Takes Longer

Going to the grocery store, for me, used to be a stress reliever. Seriously. I LOVE going to the grocery store. With Will, I still love going out to the stores to get errands done but I have found that it does take longer - and he's not even walking yet. I get stopped by old ladies and store clerks who want to goo-goo over my kid (I'm past the "don't touch him" phase, but I still wash his hands... still weird... I don't touch them randomly...). Random people who have kids and grandkids will ask what milestone he's at and then convey some story about their now adult children and when they did things. Sometimes a diaper change will need to take place in order to keep the Peanut happy. The reasons vary, but the truth of the matter is that I need to plan to add at least a 15-20 minute buffer any time I go out shopping now. I don't mind it, I still enjoy shopping, but it's just different now.

Dinner is an Olympic Sport

I love cooking. I love to get in the kitchen, take my time, create a meal with the ingredients in my fridge & pantry, and present the end results for consumption. These days, however, dinner needs to be planned out, paced out, and rarely has the time or space for creativity. I have a 60-90 minute window from the time that Steve gets home and we start Will's bedtime routine to get dinner on the table, feed Will (which can sometimes be an event in and of itself), get dinner off the table, and clean the kitchen. Oh, and sometimes I even get to hang out with the boys for a few minutes. I am blessed in that I have a husband who has recognized that dinner time has now become an Olympic event and has jumped into the process to help it run a bit smoother (he'll often clean up most of the kitchen while I finish feeding Will), but man oh man... Monday-Friday dinner is C-R-A-Z-Y most days.

That Kids' Song? You Have a Favorite Version...

I never realized that there was more than one version of some of the old kids' songs I sang in elementary school. Songs like "The Wheels on the Bus", "Down By the Bay", and even "The Alphabet Song". I have a Pandora account, and when I found out I was pregnant I set up a kids' station and started to shape it with various songs like the ones I just mentioned. Working full-time, I didn't pay a truckload of attention to it because really... when you're selling airplane parts it doesn't matter that when Mother Duck quacked that no little ducks came waddling back. However, now that I'm home I pay a lot more attention to the songs that come on while I sing along to them with - or I guess for at this point - Will. So yes, I am here to say that I have a favorite version of most kids' songs right now. I especially have a favorite version of "Five Little Monkeys" called "No More Monkeys" by Asheba. It's great. Seriously.

Now you can have it in your head for days! I love this version. Seriously. 

Being a Parent is Seriously Like Nothing Else Ever

If you're pregnant with your first child and you're reading this, you need to know that everyone who finds out you're pregnant is going to tell you that it is the best thing that will ever happen to you. They'll stress "No, seriously, it's awesome" like you don't believe them. I can assure you that it's not that they think that you don't believe them. The reason, I've discovered, for this additional emphasis on the awesomeness of being a parent is because it's virtually impossible to put into words how awesome it really is. Sure, there are days that can be incredibly frustrating and moments when you just want to crawl and hide. What I've learned, however, is that watching as this person - who did NOT EXIST before and that YOU NURTURED INSIDE YOUR BODY - grows and becomes more and more independent, more and more autonomous, and more and more a person unto themselves is the most rewarding, unspeakably amazing experience I've ever had. Being Will's Mommy has single-handedly clouded over most other experiences I've had. Being a parent alongside Steve while we raise this little person into - eventually, and faster than I'd prefer - into a little man is the single biggest blessing we've ever received.

There really is nothing else like it in the world.

I am wrapping this up as I hear his babbles come over the monitor as he wakes up from his second nap on the day. I'm going to go get him and spend some time with him like I do every afternoon when he wakes up. These are moments to cherish... I don't want to miss any.