Monday, June 30, 2008

vegan crockpot stew.

If you're turned off by the word "vegan," even hearty meat-eating friends of ours love this stew. And hey - you can always feel free to add meat to it. I actually have been vegetarian my entire life, so I have no suggestions about how to adapt this for meat-eaters. You'd probably know better than me.

I make this stew in our Crock Pot. Takes about 15 minutes to prep, and then cooks itself all day long without any further effort from me. Super nice on days when I don't feel like cooking, but want a home-cooked meal. If Bee's happy, I do all the vegetable chopping with her in the playpen. If she's sad, I toss her onto my back in the Ergo. If, by some miracle, she's asleep (sleep? what's that?), I can get the whole thing done in the 20 minutes that she usually naps.

If you're into Weight Watchers, this recipe is low-point, and Core-friendly.

Stuff You Need
slow cooker
1 medium eggplant, diced
1/3 of a medium-sized cabbage, chopped
2 carrots, cut into discs
1/2 cup green beans
2 potatoes, diced
1 small onion, chopped (can substitute with, or add, scallions)
1/2 cup dry, or 1 can, chickpeas (sustitute with kidney beans, black beans, etc., as desired - when using dry beans, soak in water overnight first!)
6-12 oz tomato paste (depending on how tomato-ey you want it - can substitute crushed or pureed tomatoes)
1/4 to 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice (I sometimes use cracked wheat instead)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 cups water
salt to taste
dried or fresh herbs of choice (optional)

*Note: you can put in or take out any veggies you want. Don't like eggplant? Add more potatoes! Looking to reduce starches? Nix the potatoes and rice, and add in lentils! (Red lentils are delicious in this; I add 4-8 oz when I use it.) It's an EXTREMELY adaptable recipe. I am always doing something different with it, depending on our mood and what's in the fridge.

Throw everything into the slow cooker except the herbs. Cook on low for about 6 hours. Add herbs just before serving. That's right: all you have to do is chop everything and throw it in there.

We usually serve it with Costco's Kirkland brand whole wheat croutons. They are DELICIOUS, and if you're into Weight Watchers, 5 croutons are about 1 point. If you aren't vegan (we aren't), I heartily recommend serving it with cheese as well. We usually cut up several cubes of Dubliner cheese (mmmmmm) and toss them into the bowl and pour the stew on top. Jarlsberg would be divine as well.

With the croutons and the cheese, we find that this recipe serves 6-8 people.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

how we part-time EC and cloth-diaper.

Despite not having read The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh, or doing any Internet research at all, we practice part-time elimination communication with the Bee. She's in exclusively cloth diapers the rest of the time. Does this sound like a huge pain in the ass? Well, it's actually not bad at all, and while it might not be right for each family, it works perfectly for us.

Where do we buy our diapers?
Abby's Lane. I could not be more impressed with that site, seriously. Stephanie, the woman who runs it, has PHENOMENAL customer service! Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so, 'cause check out her Diaper Pin feedback. She's amazing. And a damn fast shipper - once I ordered on a Tuesday evening, and my stuff was shipped Wednesday morning. AND SHE HAD A WEEK-OLD BABY and two other kids. Any time I've e-mailed her with a concern, she's e-mailed me back promptly. One time, a $200 package of diapers I purchased got lost in the mail despite the USPS (they hate me) marking it as delivered. I e-mailed Stephanie immediately and she shipped out a brand-new package for me the next business day, and the items I bought which weren't in stock anymore and weren't going to be restocked got a prompt refund. She also called me that time, as well as another time that I was afraid my package got lost (we had horrible luck with mail in our old apartment), and she was just so... sweet. Heh. Plus, she has awesome deals that I haven't found on other sites, especially if you're buying several diapers by one brand. And, if you sign up for her Yahoo group, you enjoy a discount. Oh, I could go on and on, but I love her and highly recommend her.

What diapers do we currently use?
When Bumblebee was a newborn, my mom had made her some fitted and contour diapers, and I can share more info about how she made them later - they were awesome! But she's got tendonitis and neck/shoulder pain, so she stopped making and I started buying. So, we have:

-5 Kissaluvs fitted diapers (Bee's in size 2, at 28.25 inches and 17ish lbs)
-12 Kissaluvs contour diapers (size M/L) Note: The contours were bought from the Kissaluvs outlet store.
-10 Snappis (we didn't need this many!)
-4 Thirsties covers (medium)
-24 Indian unbleached prefolds (size Regular) that we almost never even use, even though they're quite nice!
-7 Happy Heiny's one-size pocket diapers, and each comes with two micro-fiber inserts
-4 BabyKicks Hemparoo fleece prefolds in medium (we could easily get by on 3, and probably even on 2)

This... is too many, lol. We don't need those 2 dozen prefolds. Everything else is great, though, and gets us through 2-3 days before we have to do laundry. We have two Swaddlebees diaper pail liners that we hang from a hook near the changing table, and dirty diapers get tossed in there. On laundry day, the diapers and the bag get tossed into the wash together.

When we go out, we use a Wahmies wet bag to store dirty diapers in, and we generally use Kushies flushable diaper liners as well, just to make any potential poop clean-up easier. I highly recommend these over the Imse Vimse or Bummis liners - those melt at the sight of poop, in my experience. Then when we get home, the wet bag and the diapers inside get thrown into the hanging pail liner.

When do we use what?
During the day, we use either the KL fitteds or contours under a Thirsties cover. We secure the contours with a Snappi. You cannot beat Thirsties. Seriously. I have never had a single leak with these covers, ever, whether it was a ton of pee or a blow-out poop. On days when our laundry situation is getting dire, we use the Indian unbleached prefolds with a Snappi and a Thirsties, but that's actually pretty rare. I should sell those prefolds... Anyway. At night, we use a Happy Heiny's pocket stuffed with its two micro-fiber inserts and a hemp prefold. We put this on her around 7 pm and change her sometime between 6:30 and 8:30 am, depending on when she gets up for the day. No leaks!

When we go out, we take along the Happy Heiny's one-size pockets with two inserts. One insert would be fine if you don't have a super pee-er like Bee. She holds her pee and then lets it all out at once, so extra absorbency is nice for us - that's why her diaper is stuffed so big at night.

What do we do on laundry day?
Since we don't have washer/dryer hook-ups, we got a Sears portable washer and dryer set off Craigslist. I wash the diapers on hot with Purex Free & Clear. A lot of people don't like free & clear detergents for cloth diapers, but it works well for us. Your mileage may vary. We also throw in 2-3 drops of tea tree oil for its antiseptic properties. We dry on high heat. Never use a dryer sheet or fabric softener - these make your diapers less absorbent!

As for cleaning poop out of the diapers? When she was exclusively breastfed, I just rinsed the diapers out in the sink. I blasted them with hot water. It took about 30 seconds and the poop melted off, and then I'd toss the diaper into the pail liner. A lot of parents of exclusively breastfed babies do not rinse at all. But we did. We started ECing before she was on solids, and so we don't really have to rinse out poopy diapers anymore. On days where she's refused the potty, we use the Kushies diaper liners and they take most of the mess out of it.

What about EC?
Every morning, we put her on her Ikea potty (ours is green, though the black looks cool, huh?) and cue her. How do we cue her? Well, um, we make the straining/grunty noise that she makes when she's pooping. Usually it takes a few minutes and she taps her legs and plays happily, and then she'll grunt and poop. Usually. She doesn't always poop. Sometimes she gets mad and screams as soon as we sit her down. So we just pick her right back up again, put a diaper liner in her diaper, and we're off. We don't want the potty to be associated with anything negative. During the day, if she ever seems like she's straining to poop, we immediately put her on the potty. It really doesn't take much extra time. In the morning, it takes around 5-10 minutes before she does her business, and generally guarantees that I don't have to change a poopy diaper that day. If she doesn't go, then it takes 5-10 minutes whenever she strains. She will pee in there as well, and I bet if I put her on the potty every couple hours I could be doing full-time EC, but... I don't.

Every so often, she gets mad and refuses to sit on the potty all day, and poops in her diaper, but that's fine! I really don't care. Basically, pooping in the diaper ain't no thang, and pooping in the potty is a bonus. Which we get to enjoy about 9 poops out of 10.

And that's what we do!

Update 9/6/08: We've been slowly transitioning towards full-time ECing. Read mroe about it here!

easy delicious lentils.

How to make super, super easy masoor dahl in a matter of minutes:

Stuff You Need
1 tsp canola oil
1 cup masoor dahl (red split lentils)
2 small tomatoes (or 1 medium tomato), cut into large chunks - diced if you prefer
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp dahl masala
3 cups water
salt (to taste)
fresh curry OR coriander leaves (optional)

Heat canola oil in a saucepan on medium-high. Add, well, everything! I added the ginger and garlic first, then the tomatoes, then the dahl and water, then the masala and salt. Mix it up. Once the water started boiling, it only took 10 minutes for everything to cook, and I turned off the heat as soon as I could*. Then, I added about 5-10 fresh curry leaves that I ripped into small-ish pieces (each piece was about a third the size of a leaf), left them sitting on top prettily, and covered it.

*I accidentally left it on the stove a bit longer, but I recommend turning it off after about 10 minutes or as soon as the dahl (lentils) look nicely cooked.

Serve with chapathis or rice, or whatever you like! If you add another cup or two of water before you cook, it makes a delicious lentil soup.

We're having it for dinner with spinach parathas. Yum!

Damn easy to make, even with Bee having a humongously bad poop crisis in the middle that I feel like I ought to tell you about for sheer humor purposes, but seriously, it was so bad that writing it out would be like experiencing it all over again. I could happily drink 10 martinis in a row just to forget about it, and I don't even like vodka. But! Despite it all, the dahl only got slightly overcooked, and it still tastes delicious.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

sleep demon

For some reason unbeknownst to me, my daughter has given up napping at the tender age of 6 months. I have been telling myself for weeks it must be teething, but to be honest, I am not entirely sure.

Yesterday, I started off the morning by going to physical therapy. (And, by the way, it's my third week and it's going fabulously, even if I'm left quite sore. It's really helping.) Bee was exhausted and due for a nap before I left, so I hoped that she would sleep at least for part of the time I was out. Two hours later I came home to a crying, miserable child and an explanation from my mom about how much she just REFUSED to close her eyes for even a second. She apparently even tried not to blink, and all Mom's tips and tricks for getting the baby to sleep failed hardcore. Since I was drenched in sweat, I had planned to shower as soon as I came home. Bee was lunging towards me, desperately doing some combination of a wave hi and the sign for milk (she gets them mixed up sometimes), so I figured I would nurse first and then shower. It was almost noon, and that's around the time she goes down for her second nap, and meanwhile she had skipped her first one.

She had quite the restless nursing session, flailing her body about, pulling off to whine and complain, and still fighting sleep. I dunno about other kids, but for my kid, fighting sleep on the boob is pretty intense. It took me a good long while to settle her and get her to sleep. Even after that, I waited until she seemed deep in slumber, looking uncannily like a passed-out drunk. I should note that by this time, I was uncomfortably grimy, and I had to go to the bathroom desperately. DESPERATELY. Mom was on stand-by, so I rushed off to relieve my aching bladder.

As soon as I sat on the toilet, I heard the unmistakable sound of weary screaming. By the time I washed my hands and returned, she was wide awake on Mom's lap. Refused to nurse, refused to go back to sleep. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, sometimes I have to go to the fricking bathroom. My mom hung out with her, doing whatever she could to cheer her up, while I took my much-needed shower.

Anyway, all afternoon the kiddo was mad, and understandably so, despite failing to understand that this pesky "tired" feeling would go away if she would just GO TO SLEEP. So I figured I'd toss her into a back carry using the Moby, and go about my business with her hanging out on my back, and that she'd eventually sleep like that.

As I leaned forward to tie her on, she puked. Big time. Warm, chunky spit-up ran down my neck and into my freshly-washed hair.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

stick to plumbing, asshole.

Frank, the plumber, showed up yesterday because apparently there is a leak downstairs whose source might be from our apartment.

I've met him once or twice. I can't say I know him very well. But, since when do you need to know someone well to give them parenting advice?

Let me preface this by saying, we just moved here 2 months ago. In those 2 months, I've had a really bad back injury, been completely immobile and required help to move from reclining to sitting up, gone home to my parents' house, returned, and started my way back to some semblance of normal. In those 2 months, Dude has started a new job, installed shelving all over the place, taken care of whatever he can around the house, and helped me care for myself. And, don't forget, we have an infant to take care of.

I guess what I'm trying to say is WE'VE BEEN A LITTLE BUSY.

We've gotten a big push done on baby-proofing, which is great. Bee is 6 months old. She can't move yet, and I can't predict at all when she'll start crawling. She pretty much hates being on her tummy, and she will not roll around. She can roll over, both ways, but she avoids it at all costs. She can sit up, and is quite content to just sit there surrounded by toys. My mom and I are with her full-time while Dude is at work, so if she starts moving around before we're 100% finished doing what we need to do, at least one of us will be right there on top of her. And we're pretty close to being finished anyway.

The outlet covers are all replaced with safe ones, the bookshelves and other pieces of furniture have been secured to the walls, high shelves have been installed to put dangerous things out of her grasp, cables and wires are securely out of the way... what else, what else? Basically, here's what's left. We still have to put the magnetic locks on the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen. We're not sure if we need to put bars on our windows or not (we live on the second floor.) We've got to figure out what to do about edge guards for our coffee and end tables. Whichever brand we got from Home Depot peeled right off with barely any effort, turning into a lovely choke hazard. We haven't decided exactly what we're going to do about that, actually. Basically, as first-time parents, we aren't quite sure what babyproofing gadgets are and aren't necessary, but our rallying cry is, "Do not leave baby unattended." There is absolutely no way that a physically disabled woman and a man with a full-time job can do every single thing all at once, even with my mom here. There are only 24 hours in a day, and lots of VERY important things to do, and we have to prioritize.

So, Frank comes in yesterday, and tells us that our windows aren't safe for the baby. Which immediately gets under my skin, because I don't come into the bathroom while he's trying to figure out which pipe is leaking and tell him how to do his job.

"I mean, those screens just pop right out, and I see that you guys let her lean on them all the time."

"Um, well, no... we don't. We do hold her up and let her look out the window, but she's safe because we're holding her." We don't mention that Dude has triple-checked the screens to ensure they don't just pop out, and for this reason we haven't decided if we are going to put bars on the window or not. If she's not able to get up there by the time fall comes, and we start keeping the windows closed, is it even worth it? I'm not sure, to be honest with you. It might be. Hence why it is still a point of discussion. But this does not make it Frank's business.

"Not always. I've seen her get up there and push on them. And that's not safe. I mean, you guys should really have bars on there or something."

Oh, really? SHE CAN'T MOVE. And YOU DON'T LIVE HERE. When the hell have you seen her get up there without us? "Yeah, we might do that."

"I can't believe you would take a risk like this. You hear these stories of kids in New York City leaning out 40th floor windows, and they just lean on screens like this. You touch these screens, they pop out, and the kids just fall out 40 stories to their deaths."

Dude and I steal a glance at each other and shudder. Is this guy for real? "Listen, we-"

"You know, I bet if she leaned on that, she'd fall right out and die. I bet she'd just die, right there, on the ground." He leaned over and pointed out exactly where it would happen, eyeing Bee with a gruesome look on his face.

I am officially angry. "I'd really appreciate it if you could NOT talk about the death of my child to me."

"Well, if it's gonna happen, isn't it better to talk about it before rather than once it does happen?"

Are you FUCKING kidding me? The hypothetical pissed me off enough - you're going to act like it's an inevitability?

I'm not going to attempt to justify myself or my parenting skills to a socially awkward plumber who doesn't have children, and who doesn't believe that our baby can't move. I mean, as soon as people noticed my thickening waistline last summer, the unwanted advice and stupid comments flowed freely. I can't take each dumb thing seriously. And I don't.

But I DO hope that a toilet explodes in his face, with shit spraying right into his mouth.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

she said milk!

Okay, maybe she didn't SAY it. But Bumblebee signed today, for the first time!

We're using Baby Sign with her for, well, a plethora of reasons that I won't go into at the moment. Or potentially ever. We've been using the signs for "milk", "eat" (solid food), "cup" (sippy), "more", "all done", "change" (diaper), and I can't even think of what else.

The sign for "milk" involves opening and closing your hand, kind of like you're milking a cow. (Heh.) Last night, she opened and closed her hands a few times very intently. I told Dude that she was physically able to do the sign, but we knew it might take some time before she actually did it purposefully. For the past week or two, each time I sign "milk" when she wants it, she smiles or coos or laughs excitedly. (This doesn't happen for any other sign, but she's very motivated about milk!)

And she did it, today! She was fussy and about due for a feeding. As usual, I said, "Do you want some milk?" while signing "milk." As usual, she laughed happily, but this time, she signed it back! I got so excited that I scared the everloving crap out of her. She looked very concerned and wouldn't nurse for a few minutes.

Yesterday, I thought she might have waved to me, but it could have just been an excited flail. Mom was holding her, and I walked into the room and said "HI!" very cheerfully, and she got all pumped and flailed her arm.

Damn, my kid is starting to communicate.

hooray for boobies!

Conversation between me and L, Bee's 2-year-old cousin, yesterday:

L: [eating noodles and trying to give them to Bee] Bee noodles?
Me: That's very sweet of you! But Bee can't share your noodles. She's too little to eat that.
L: Bee too little food.
Me: Yep, she's too little to eat food.
L: Bee mommy's milk?
Me: Yeah, Bee drinks mommy's milk.
-a moment of intense contemplation on L's part-
L: [very seriously] Boobies.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

chocoberry chip frozen yogurt.

I made this for Dude's birthday (which is tomorrow) and thought I'd share the recipe. I used my Cuisinart ice cream maker to make it. I did adapt this recipe myself, based on a bunch of different recipes I found online and in the Cuisinart recipe booklet.


Stuff You Need
3/4 cup milk
2 cups yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1 12-oz bag of chocolate chips
10 oz strawberries, pureed
an ice cream maker

Combine milk and half the chocolate chips in food processor. Process until smooth. Add yogurt and sugar; process until sugar is dissolved. Add pureed berries and mix well until smooth.

Turn machine on and pour mixture into freezer bowl through spout. Let mix until thickened - about 25-30 minutes.

During last 5 minutes of mixing, add remaining chocolate chips.

You can put it into an airtight container and freeze for a couple hours before serving to give it a firmer texture.