Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another Mother

Most of the time, parenthood feels like one of the most difficult jobs in the world, yet it definitely feels rewarding at the end of the day. Everything we do, it's for the kids. Even when they're not around, whether Xander is at school or if they're sleeping, we are thinking about them, trying to come up with ways to make their lives better in some way. What do we want in return? Well, we want our kids to turn out well. We don't want to do anything that we think may scar them, or that will make them an unhappy person. Mostly, we want to know that despite all we've been through together, they still love us and are glad that we are their parents.

These musings, of course, lead me to an entertaining story. The reason I was thinking about all this parenthood stuff was because of what happened while I was driving Xander into preschool this morning. We were chatting, and he started asking questions about why Daddy and I don't live with our parents anymore. I was explaining how, eventually, people grow up and want to live on their own, or with their husband or wife, and how it's a totally natural thing. I felt like mentioning the natural part, since he was starting to get sad about the prospect of himself growing up and moving on. Just when I thought he might say something heartwarming about how much he would miss Momma and Daddy when he moved out of our house, he drops another, completely unexpected bombshell. "Well, I wish I had another Momma." The radio was playing, and it's always somewhat difficult to hear him talk since he sits directly behind the driver's seat, so I asked him to repeat himself. Surely I had heard wrong. "I didn't want you for a mom. I wanted another girl to be my mom. But it didn't happen," Xander said. I was incredulous. He's only three years old; I wasn't expecting such a statement to come out of his mouth until he was at least 11 or 12! It's too soon for him to hate me.

Not entirely knowing how to handle the situation, I asked him to explain himself further. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, I don't know. He elaborated, but he didn't really say anything I wanted to hear. He mentioned wishing for a different mom and something about how before he was born he had hoped I would be somebody else, or something like that. Whatever he said, I know it wasn't pleasant. So I tried to recover as best I could, and started a speech about hurting people's feelings when we say stuff like this. I explained that it hurts Mommy's feelings when he says this, and I asked him to put himself in my shoes for a minute. He didn't like that too much. I hope it made sense to him, that Mommy has feelings too and that he is able to hurt them, but I can't be sure it sunk in. It was an interesting situation, and one I wasn't prepared for.

That's like so many things when it comes to parenting though. You're suddenly faced with a new and unusual scenario, and you need to think on your toes. If you don't, the kid sure knows that he threw you for a loop! Then you're in trouble, because he can use that "weakness" to his advantage. It's kind of like sharks, and how they can smell fear. Kids totally smell the fear and uncertainty. The best thing to do sometimes is to wing your way through, and sometimes I find it's better to just tell Xander that I need "time" to think things over. If he does or says something and I just don't know how to respond, he needs to give me time. It works wonders, too, usually. If all else fails, there's always the patented "Daddy and I need to talk this over and decide how to handle this" speech. It never hurts to have a second opinion!

I'm over the other mother thing by now, and I know he's young and doesn't really mean it the way it could be taken. But it's always going to feel lousy when your child says something hurtful to you, no matter what. All I have to say is that if he keeps saying stuff like that to us, we'll be more than ready to handle him as a teenager!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Developments

What amazes me almost more than anything else about my kids is how quickly they can change. It seems like both of them are growing up faster than ever.

Take Xander, for example. He has always been opinionated; that hasn't changed. Now, though, he has applied his opinions in a way that enforces the rules at the same time. Let me give you an example. Lately, he has been getting up at night after we put him to bed. He'll come downstairs and give us some excuse, with varying degrees of ridiculousness, as to why he came down. Sometimes it's because he has to use the bathroom. Other times, he lets us know that we forgot to perform some part of his bedtime ritual. Well, one night, he came down and I was eating something while sitting on the couch. I forget what it was, maybe a cookie or something. As soon as he saw me, he let me know that he didn't like the fact that Mommy and Daddy do things after he has gone to bed. I think it would be ideal if we went to bed at the same time as him; that way he would never miss out on anything that may potentially be fun. He yelled at me though, and let me know that "we aren't allowed to eat on the couch." Of course, he's right. He gets into huge trouble if he eats on the couch, unless it's movie night and we give him popcorn. It's funny when he catches us doing things that we yell at him for doing. He acts like a little police officer, here to enforce all the laws as he knows them. Another time, he came downstairs and I was writing a recipe down on paper. Again, I got in trouble because guess where I was writing? In the living room. Another no-no. And he tells you you've done wrong in this schoolteacher tone, as if he's explaining the rules to someone who doesn't know them. It's hilarious. It's like he doesn't remember that I'm the one who usually tells him these things!

Then there's Evan. In the blink of an eye, he's gone from a little baby that really didn't do much, and who needed almost constant attention, to a nearly-mobile little squirmy thing who likes to explore and roll around on the floor. This past week has seen him suddenly spending long periods of time playing by himself, happy and content to talk to himself and get to know his toys better. He now rolls out of your grasp when you're trying to change or dress him, so that has made things more fun. In addition, he has now just started to sit up on his own. I think his current record is 3 minutes sitting up independently before he does a face plant into the carpet. Even when he does fall over, he doesn't really mind. He just settles himself down on his back on the rug and continues to play. He's so laid-back, but he's not yet comfortable with people other than those outside his immediate family. He can warm up to others just fine if they are at a distance, but he either needs to know one parent is in close proximity, or he needs to be held by one parent while the stranger interacts with him.

He's just started eating really well. At first, we struggled with getting him to eat his baby cereal, but then when we introduced veggies, he started improving. I'm glad he loves his veggies, but I know it probably won't last! He has a face full of peas in the picture I posted here. It seems like such an accomplishment when they finally start to eat well, especially because he hadn't been eating well in the beginning. It makes you feel bad at the same time, because Xander always wonders why we don't get nearly as excited to see him eat! He has turned mealtimes into a competition now, where he wants to "beat" everybody else at the table and be the fastest eater. I wonder where that competitive edge came from? Maybe it's typical at this age; I don't know.

No matter what the changes are, though, it's nice because it definitely keeps things interesting. It makes me look forward to each new phase the kids will be entering, and it's kind of cool knowing that no two phases will ever be exactly the same. Now, if we can just work on ending Xander's interrupting phase...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Healthy Granola-ish Bars

I have an addiction. It's a problem, really, and one that I have trouble overcoming. I am in love with granola bars. Well, any kind of breakfast-y bar, really. Cereal bars. Crunchy, nutty bars. Sweet, fruity bars. Chocolatey bars. I am not really discriminating when it comes to my bars. I buy them by the truckload, it seems. Seriously, at one point we must have had about 20 boxes of bars in our pantry, all different brands and varieties. Like I told you, it's a problem. I just can't seem to help myself. When I see them in the grocery store, I have to stop and stare at all the different kinds. Normally, at least one or more are on sale. Why, oh why, do they always have to be on sale? That's only going to make me justify buying them!

But I think I may have come up with a solution. You see, last winter I decided to try my hand at making my own granola bars. I pored over recipes on my favorite recipe website, Recipezaar, until I had narrowed down my search to oh, maybe 20 different recipes. The first type I tried turned out really well. They were peanut buttery ones, and all the cooking was done on the stove, no baking required. They were a little bit of work, though, because you had to combine all the ingredients before the cooked, liquidy ingredients hardened on you, and then press it all into a pan to set up. I loved that recipe, but now that I have the two kids and a whole lot less free time on my hands, I have to find something that will be much easier to throw together.

Then I found happiness. I found a recipe for Healthy Chocolate Nut Squares, also on Recipezaar. I retooled the recipe just a tad and gave it a try. They are delicious. They're much better homemade than out of a box. They're more of a treat this way; they're more like a cake-like oatmeal cookie or something. Plus, they're loaded with good, wholesome ingredients, and no preservatives! I wrap them each in plastic wrap, throw them in the freezer, and then I take one out each morning so it'll thaw for later on. They stay fresh, and each batch lasts nearly two weeks. So I've found a way to save money, provided I can resist the lure of the grocery store bars from now on! Here's the recipe, with my modifications.

Healthy Chocolate Nut Squares
adapted from Recipezaar
yields 12 bars

1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
3/4 cup quick oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons ground flax seed (I used this once, and then whole flax seeds the second time. Both turned out fine.)
1 1/2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds (the original recipe calls for 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, but I thought the almonds worked well)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (butterscotch, white chocolate, or cinnamon chips would be great, too)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 oz. nonfat yogurt (I used plain, but flavored could be used as well)
1 large egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup applesauce (I used a sweetened kind)
1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 2/3 cup, but 1/2 was plenty for me)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish by coating it with cooking spray, or by lining it with aluminum foil that has been sprayed.

Combine all ingredients, from Grape Nuts down through cinnamon, in a large mixing bowl. Once combined, add in the remaining six ingredients. Stir well.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared dish, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then cut into squares. (I cut evenly into 12 rectangles; they are roughly the size and shape of a - you guessed it - store bought granola bar!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pizza Night

We had a great weekend this past week. It was productive, yet relaxing. Fun, yet lazy. Saturday, after we'd gotten some chores and essentials done around the house, we decided to make pizzas for dinner. Usually, we make our pizza dough in our trusty bread machine, and divide the dough into two equal halves. With these, we'll make a "Xander" pizza, which is made with toppings he'll like, and then we'll make a "Mom and Dad" pizza, that we can do fun, experimental things with, knowing Xander would probably never touch it!

This time, we decided to make a Shrimp and Feta Pesto Pizza. I had made some cilantro pesto a few months back, and frozen it for a later date. Then, of course, I never got around to using it, so I figured now was the time to thaw out that bad boy and put it to good use! We sort of made this pizza up as we went along, but I did have a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, based on my earlier perusal of the internet for pesto pizza recipes. I included our recipe below, but keep in mind that this would be great with other toppings, too. Even just some pesto and cheese on a pizza is never a bad thing!

As for Xander's pizza, he first requested a pepperoni pizza. Then, when Daddy accidentally left the grocery store without the pepperoni, Xander's request became a pizza with "no sauce and no pepperoni." I believe he may have changed his mind at one point to a pizza that was only bread, but we managed to convince him that it wouldn't be a pizza unless it had something on it. Of course, then he wanted to know why a pizza had to have toppings, which turned into another slightly frustrating Q & A session, but that is another rant for another day. In the end, Xander asked for just sauce and "orange" cheese, or cheddar to anyone over 3. We added some turkey bacon and ham, to stand in for the pepperoni. The verdict? He hated it! Sigh.

We constantly struggle to get him to eat new things, and now he has taken a dislike to things he previously ate with no problems. He has suddenly become averse to french fries, of all things. Now pizza is gross to him. Tonight at dinner, he told me he hates milk. What's next? A passionate hatred for fruity snacks? Ha, that'll be the day! We did at least get a picture of him acting happy with his pizza. Too bad it was only an act. Better luck next time, though. Maybe for an upcoming pizza night we really will give him a pizza with no toppings....

Shrimp and Feta Pesto Pizza
serves 4

1 pizza dough (we used whole-wheat dough)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, sliced into long, thin strips
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 head garlic, roasted and smashed into a paste
1/2 - 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 lb. medium-size shrimp, already cooked and chopped into thirds
1/2 - 3/4 cup cilantro pesto (recipe from Recipezaar, here)
optional toppings: black olives, sliced cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini rings

Begin by melting 1 tablespoon butter in a medium pan over medium-low to medium heat. Add sliced onion, allowing to soften for 5 minutes with the lid on. Remove lid and continue to cook onions on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes more, until soft and sweet. Remove pan from heat, add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, and stir to combine. Set aside.

While onions are cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pizza dough by stretching and shaping into a 12-inch round pizza shape, or a long rectangular shape. Spread mashed, roasted garlic all over the pizza dough. Top the garlic with the cilantro pesto, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides of the dough.

Next, scatter the caramelized onions over the dough. Sprinkle feta cheese, and any additional toppings. Bake for about 5-7 minutes, then remove from oven. Add pre-cooked shrimp to the top of the pizza, and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until shrimp are heated through and the cheese has softened. Cut into wedges and serve.