Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Best baby food ever

One of my favorite baby food cookbooks is Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes.  And this is, hands' down, one of Jack's and now Jossie's favorite recipes. It's called pumpkin soup, but the consistency, for me, always comes out more like pumpkin pasta, which I think is easier to feed to baby.

Pumpkin soup with alphabet pasta

1 T. butter
1 T. yellow onion, finely diced
1 c. canned pumpkin puree
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 T. applesauce
1/8 t. allspice
1/8 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. mini alphabet noodles (we like Eden Organic)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add pumpkin puree, broth, applesauce, allspice and thyme and bring to a boil.

Add alphabet noodles and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes, or according to package directions.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Fully realized kind of day

I promised myself I wouldn't do retro-blogging. If a day went by and I didn't write down my thoughts for that day, so be it.

But I'm breaking my rules. Today is Monday, and I have to write about last Friday.

Friday morning, I was sitting in the Museum of Contemporary Art's darkened auditorium in the last row next to my friend and fellow board member for a group we volunteer with. We're both in dresses, legs crossed. At our feet are programs for the event our group has sponsored, along with index cards and pens for the audience's questions. She's quietly clicking away on her Blackberry, and I feel this urge to lean over and give her a squeeze. She was the last friend who had visited me in the hospital before Jossie was born. She's a fundraiser for the medical center I was at and not only held my hand but had ensured I was getting the right people to look in on me. I remember her clicking away on her phone in my hospital room, working hard to get my questions answered.

And here we were Friday on a lovely October morning, being so normal. Wearing nametags and networking over coffee and danish with fellow fundraisers. Listening to a program that challenged me to think creatively about my fundraising profession and reminded me of the strong connections forged with others in this field. Happy to be here.

After the morning lecture, I was desperate to finish a grant proposal that was due that day. I had to pick up Jack at 11:45 a.m. from preschool, so rather than go into the office, I decided I would work along Michigan Avenue to save time.  I ended up in the lobby of Prentice. They have free wi-fi, good tea and vegan muffins (taste better than they sound) and I liked the idea of being there and being able to leave any old time I wanted. I also liked know that Jossie was at home and not in 1082E on the 10th floor.

Halfway through the proposal, I realize it's time to fetch Jack. He's still young enough that I can kiss his face over and over in front of his friends when I get to his school, and he's not embarrassed. I like that. We don't need to be home until 12:30 p.m., so Jack and I do some seriously fast shopping at 900 N. Michigan. I score a new winter coat and gloves.

On our way out, Jack declares he'd rather take a cab than a bus. Yes, this comes from a 3-year-old. We end up taking a cab because we're far from the bus stop. And I think it's fun to teach a preschooler how to hail a cab.

We're home, and Maria sticks around and eats lunch with us. I love when she does that - it's nice to stop and have time to chat with her. Jossie is asleep, and I'm banking on Jack taking a nap too so I can finish my proposal. That doesn't happen. He yutzes around, watching TV, as I type away at my laptop, frantically emailing drafts to my co-worker to ensure I'm making sense. This proposal is for one of my favorite families who funds our work, so I want to give them my best.

Proposal gets sent, and Jossie is up. After a change and a bottle, we're headed to the pediatrician to our beloved Dr. Hong. It's Jossie's nine-month check-up, and Jossie girl is 25% percentile for weight (17 lbs 6 oz), 50-75% for length, and 50% for head circumference for her actual age. Also 100% in awesome hair; here's a picture taken a week ago:

We end the day by visiting Jeremy's office and seeing his co-workers and then a yummy dinner at Epic Burger. There's a young family sitting next to us - their infant baby is seated in a high chair, her Tiny Diner spread out, and appropriate finger foods and sippy cup are offered. I look over at my Jossie, my second, who is sitting in Jeremy's arms, playing with a paper napkin.

What was good about today? It was a good mix. I got to have my volunteer work, my work and my kids. Seeing people I care about and who care about me. And shopping. I've missed you, shopping.

As working mamas, we don't always get days like these - feeling that balance. And I had it, at least for a day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One for the road

Today I took my first business trip since my 1998 jaunt to a printing plant in Winston-Salem, NC as the then-yearbook editor at Northwestern. My big adventure today wasn’t so big – a day trip to Milwaukee for a land trust conference via Amtrak.  Woo-wee.

I never really experienced the highs and lows of business travel – the late-night sing-a-longs in a lonely hotel lobby I’m assuming you people do, so this experience was quite the novelty. Even after spilling a cup of coffee on myself in the wee hours of the morning on the train, I still chuckled when Jeremy texted me that both kids were awake and ready to start their day at 5:40 a.m. Ah, peace and quiet, how I’ve missed you, gentle friends.

And it was a really productive day – I attended two great sessions that hopefully will help me grow professionally and, in turn, help my organization. I also met some nice people and – Jeremy – if we’re ever in Missoula, Montana, I have a friend we can stay with.

Yet my mind always goes back to my first and most dear profession: Motherhood. And in honor of my good friend who’s going to be a first-time mama soon and is a seasoned business traveler, I present without further adieu:

Universal truths about motherhood and business travel:
  1. No matter where you are or what time you woke up, it’s magical to watch the sun rise.
  2. Always wear black; it hides stains (please see coffee spill above).
  3. Anti-bacterial wipes are indispensible.
  4. Calories still count so make good food choices.
  5. You can never have too many tissues or napkins (please see coffee spill above).
  6. People get grumpy when they are hungry and tired.
  7. Playing nice always gets you further – you never know when you’ll need an ally or a buddy to help you out.
  8. Make sure your batteries are always charged.
  9. Expect and welcome diversions from the original plan.
  10. A beer at the end of the day never hurt anyone.

What would you add? C’mon, give me your best.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm getting older too

Much birthday ballyhoo last week, including phone calls from family and friends, co-workers who don't pretend anymore there's a "meeting in the conference room" when trying to lure you in for birthday carrot cake from Dinkel's Bakery, gifts from Jeremy including flowers, sparkles and a date at Roka Akor (sushi and wine on a school night!) and handmade cards. I'm grateful for it all.

But a birthday is only one day, and I'm most privileged to tell time these days through my kids.

Being a city mama and all, I could be doing more to take full advantage of living in Chicago. My weekends are spent mostly doing piles of laundry, going grocery shopping and getting ready for the week ahead. So this Sunday, after Jossie was down for her nap and Jeremy was tucked away with his NFL, Jack and I headed out into the fall sunshine to catch the bus to Navy Pier.

Navy Pier is a tourist trap on steroids. Its carnival-like atmosphere is full of kitschy mall stores, overpriced junk food and amusement park rides. We typically make a beeline to the Chicago Children's Museum, and on this day, Jack and I took advantage of every Halloween-themed activity there, including decorating pumpkins and making a superhero cape. Mommy was into making the cape way more than Jack, who was perfectly content cutting up string into itty-bitty pieces. I, on the other hand, had my head down in concentration, tracing the cape pattern on scraps of fabric, cutting it out with too-blunt scissors and decorating it with knick-knacks, wielding the hot glue gun. Periodically, I would invite Jack's feedback so the other parents would stop shooting me dirty looks for basically doing this project all on my own. He would look up from his pile of string and safety scissors to give a nod of approval.

Not bad, eh?

After the museum, we went in search of Thomas the Tank Engine for a train ride. As Jack was buckled into his train seat, me, ever the emotional wreck, nearly cried at the sight. I flashed back to this moment more than two years ago.

And now here we were, my Jack, so tall with his cape across his lanky shoulders. Still a baby at almost-4-years-old in so many ways and growing up so fast at the same time. This is the boy who fell down a few stairs at preschool the other day, and when I made a big fuss over him, he looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "Stop asking me, Mommy, if I'm okay. I'm fine."

Yes, Jack, but am I?

Luckily, Jossie girl is still my baby love, and I'm enjoying every minute of her babyhood, even the teething and sleepless nights. Here she is with half of a pumpkin pancake stuck to her face, taken by Jack.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall is here

Standing at the Green City Market Saturday morning, I don't think I could be any happier. It was a crisp, sunny autumn morning, I was carrying a cup of apple cider as I surveyed the acorn squash. Baby girl Jossie was doing her best kicks in her stroller and Jack was running up to me with flowers he bought with his Daddy as an early birthday present to me.

That pristine scenario was quickly washed away when Jack spilled the apple cider, started to cry and had a tantrum because we pitched the now-empty cup.

And that's life with kids.

It's full of joy, it's messy and it's uncontrollable.

The kiddos did give me a nice gift Sunday afternoon. They both took really long afternoon naps. Oh, I love afternoon naps. Jeremy headed to the gym, and I was alone. Alone in my kitchen. And I cooked. I turned a mound of apples into Jossie's apple puree. I took three zucchini - the last of summer - and steamed and blended them into baby food. And I made Italian wedding soup for Jeremy and me because it's fall, and it's time for soup, lightweight sweaters and cuddles under the covers.

How many great recipes start with this combination?

Baby food-in-waiting, harvest-style.

I also got to talk on the phone with my best friend. We are both so much on the go lately, it's nice to have time to just chat. No texts or emails - just voice-to-voice. And that was nice.

Late that afternoon, we ended our weekend at Grand Street Gardens' Fall Fest. Check out my cute pumpkins.

I turn 35 in three days. Oy. When I am a 35-year-old, I shall wear rooster pj pants.

Good night.