Best Mac and Cheese

I made a new, very terrible macaroni and cheese recipe last night.  In honor of its colossal failure as a dish, I thought I’d post my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.  To give credit where credit is due, this is adapted from a recipe that was clipped some time ago from an issue of Everyday With Rachel Ray (say what you will about the woman, but her recipes are genius).

You’ll notice quickly that the mac and cheese sets on a bed of broccoli, which is incredible and a really great way to eat it, but I have been known on a decadent day or two to leave it out.  Also, it says serves 4, but I think it’s more like 6 or 8, so feel free to half the recipe if there’s just a few of you eating it.

Baked Macaroni and Cheddar

1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite size florets (stems cubed)

1 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1/2 cup cream (optional, you can use more milk instead)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

12 ounces cheddar, shredded or cubed

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the broccoli. Bring to a boil, add the broccoli, cook for 1 minute and drain. Rinse with cold water. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and add the broccoli in an even layer. Use the pot again to cook the macaroni. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in the flour for 1 minute.

Whisk in 1 cup of milk until it gets thick, then whisk in 1 cup more. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup of milk and ½ cup of cream and then whisk that mixture into the pot. Simmer until the mixture thickens, just a few minutes.

Lower the heat and add the cheddar and parmesan, stir until the cheese melts. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta. Spoon this mixture over the broccoli.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

If we look sleepy…

…this is why.

I have a confession to make. Bowie has not slept through the night in about 2 months. And it’s not teething, and it’s not hunger, and it’s not noise (well, not all the time, because, well, THREE PETS). We’ve tried to remedy all those problems, and it still seems to be happening.

At first, we gave him more milk, and he drifted back to sleep. Then, that didn’t always work. He was cutting molars at that point, so we’d give him Tylenol and rock him back to sleep. Then that stopped working. So, then we were rocking him, laying him back down then rubbing his tummy or head until he fell back asleep, and then slooooowly tip toeing out the door, careful to step over the creaky board.

On a desperate night, we’d bring him into bed with us. I say desperate because, a toddler moves in their sleep the way they do awake: NON STOP. Kiddo might sleep, but you won’t. Plus, we’ve been mighty turned off of co-sleeping having heard one horror story after another about the six year old that refuses to sleep in their own bed. No thanks. But, sometimes when you’re holding a screaming toddler at 3 in the morning, you don’t do the most rational thing, just what seems the easiest in the short run.

Last night we found out that’s not working anymore either. I did the rocking-rubbing-sneaking combo three times, and he still woke up. I was determined not to bring him into bed, but then my husband and I lay awake in bed together in irritated silence and I was like, “okay, I’m bringing him in here.”

Ugh.

And, to top it all off, I get these developmental emails each month telling me what’s normal, what we should watch for, what kiddo should be able to do, etc. And it says this is all normal. NORMAL. And it can last for a whole year. YEAR.

I think it’s payback for all the times I bragged that Bowie slept through the night at 3 months.

Worst Week

I’ve had a heck of a week. Seriously. When it rains it pours. Here’s a snapshot:

On Tuesday, Bowie had a pediatrician appointment at which he received three vaccinations. The DTP shot proceeded to make his entire left thigh hard, red, hot and throbby. Also, rashes all over his neck and back. Plus, it took the doctor forever to return my frantic calls, so I was browsing the intertubes to find some info and yes, you guessed it, freaked me the F out. Stupid internet.

Later that same evening, we had a BBQ with the neighbors. Bowie walked up to the grill and touched like he has a zillion times, only this time? HOT HOT HOT DANGER DANGER and everything was in slow motion, I just could not get to him in time to prevent it. He got two very large blisters, and most of his fingers on that hand are burned. One of the blisters has popped and it looks NASTY. I think I have to call the doc again, ugh.

My mother-in-law is in town and borrowed our car to get to and from my sister-in-law’s house. Which would be fine if all the computer systems in all the Matrixes weren’t randomly shutting down rendering the car useless, and ours decided to do so when she needed the car. Thankfully she was not on the highway or anything, and I guess it’s also good it wasn’t me and kiddo going somewhere on our lonesome. That could have been scary.

Last night, Bowie didn’t sleep at all. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. He slept from 8 to 10pm, 11:30 to 12:30 and then maybe for an hour between 2 and 6am. I had been out with friends until 12am and was really looking forward to my date with my soft, comfy bed. Little did I know a tossing, turning, teething, burned finger, vax reaction, crabby toddler would be joining me. I’m running on about 2 hours of sleep today. As is my husband.

Also, my husband has been undergoing a barrage of medical tests and procedures in order to find the cause of the mysterious loss of his sense of smell. We have insurance, so we didn’t think it would be a big deal, but we got the bill for the CT scan yesterday and…holy Jesus. Guess I don’t get to see the Cubs when their in San Francisco this year. And that Wisconsin wedding in January? Sorry Jess, love you to death, but we’re drowning in medical bills. Even though we have insurance. Oh, but the system is just fine as is. Grrrrrrrr.

Anyway, hopefully you had a better week than me.

The Pill is Kicking my Butt

My best friend from high school started taking the pill when we were about 17, and she was like, “OMG you should totally go on it, it’s great!” And, I can’t even believe how shallow I was, but I didn’t want to go on it because…I didn’t want to get fat. Can you believe that? I just kept reading that you put on weight and in my 17 year old brain that was a Deal Breaker.

A few years later, when I started to, you know, get busy, I went on the pill, ready for a barrage of side effects, but didn’t have any. Well, except for two: my breasts doubled in size and my periods were shorter and lighter. I’m thinking, okay, I can handle that.

I stayed on the pill for 10 solid years, trouble free, until I decided that it was time to have a baby. I was off the pill for just 4 months before becoming pregnant. But in those 4 months, I had the 3 worst menstrual cycles of my life, and that’s including the super erratic, embarrassing messes in junior high. I had crazy heavy bleeding with tons of cramping. I immediately thought I have to go right back on the pill as soon as they will let me after I have this baby. It was clearly the only way to avoid these horrible bouts of menstruation.

Fast forward to about 3 months post partum, when I think it might be ok to get down and dirty again. (And yes, my husband is a saint, he actually did wait that long.) I was breastfeeding, so I was put on an estrogen-free “mini pill”. With this pill, nothing really changed (thankfully because seriously, who could deal with both that and a newborn? Perhaps Super Woman, but not yours truly). There were no breaks (aka placebo pills), so I still was not menstruating, and my hormones were relatively stable.

It was when I weaned the kiddo at 12 ½ months and went back on my same old pill that the trouble began. The hormone fluctuations of weaning the baby and the hormones in the new pill proved to be a roller coaster ride of a combination. The first month, I was so convinced I was pregnant, I took 3 home tests, and called the doctor and spoke with her for a half hour about my mysteriously negative results.

I had horrible headaches, I had horrible bloating, I had worse morning sickness than when I was actually pregnant, I was a bit fainty, I had terrible acne, I had crazy food cravings (I wanted dill pickles so badly one day, I went to the store and got them…and a pregnancy test) and was constantly hungry, and the fatigue. My god, the fatigue. Being on the pill after having and nursing a baby was turning out to be worse than pregnancy itself. Without any of the fringe benefits, like a big belly you’re supposed to have, a party where you get lots of cute baby clothes, and, oh yeah, a cute little baby.

But, that leaves me where I am today, 4 months after weaning (and still lactating—yippee!). The symptoms have subsided a bit, but not much, and it may just be that I’ve learned to live with them. I have an appointment soon to meet with my doctor about some alternative methods of birth control, because I’m ready to strangle whoever decided this was a good idea!

Well, no, not really, that’s the crazy hormone monster coming out again. Down, girl. Truthfully, the pill is a great invention. It basically jump-started the modern women’s movement. It is a true godsend for some women. But, the hormonal implications can be too much for your body, especially when it’s trying to bounce back from such traumatic events as pregnancy, birth, labor and delivery, breastfeeding and reintroduction of menstruating.

What have your experiences been like with the pill? What other methods have you tried successfully? Unsuccessfully?

Loss. And Gain.

My husband’s uncle passed away last Monday evening, suddenly and fairly young. And I’m not sure what was harder, grieving or watching him and his family grieve.

I boarded the plane to Chicago thinking, “All right, I just have to make it through a funeral with a 15 month old, that’s all. Then we’re back home.”

But, what I had forgotten was I have known my husband’s family nearly as long as I’ve known him, about 8 years now. And they’re a very tight-knit family. And they brought me in immediately, from day one. His uncle included.

So, when we arrived and attended the wake, it hit me like a ton of bricks. But, the kiddo was remarkably well-behaved. Almost as if he knew. And thank the Lord for that. It was so wonderful to have my family there. And now, more than ever, I know that they are my family.

How I Do

Today some friends and I were sitting around talking about a typical day in the life of a parent. One of them works outside the home, one works part time in the home and the other does not work. I work full time in the home, and I don’t have any help (i.e. nanny or babysitter) and all three of them said, “I have no idea how you do it.”

Quite frankly, I don’t either. I have 18 hour days, yeah, but it never feels like that. It mostly involves a lot of sitting in the playroom with my laptop, timing conference calls with naptime or dinnertime, letting the housework go sometimes (if it weren’t for guests, my floors would never be vacuumed) and just tapping into that never-ending mom energy to get done what needs to be done. And yet somehow I have time to blog, read a magazine, make a cup of tea, watch a TV show, paint my toenails, breathe.

Working at home with no help was, of course, a LOT easier when Bowie was 4 months and immobile. I could just lay him on his back under a playmat with some dangly toys and I’d be set for a few hours. Then I’d put him down for a nap and have a few more hours. Now that he’s walking and taking one 2 hour nap a day, it’s rough. I’ve had to get more creative with how I manage my time and fit in an 8 hour day’s worth of work.

If I were tied to a 9-5 schedule, there’s no way I could do it. I’d have to hire some help. Every day gets harder and harder but I still find ways to get by. I have no idea how I do it, but I do.

Walking Skillz

Finally, at 14 months old, Bowie has decided that this whole walking thing may after all be a viable means of transportation. HE IS WALKING, PEOPLE.

So for all you other moms of 12 and 13 month olds whose kiddo’s peers are all walking around like nobody’s business while yours still crawls, two things: 1. I sympathize, it sucks. 2. I’m living proof that it’s normal to have a kid who refuses to walk until the very last second before the pediatrician is about to do every single (highly expensive) test on them to find the problem.

A friend of mine whose child began walking at 11 months was so smug and always telling me, “they all walk eventually”. Yeah, but yours is walking NOW. I want MINE to walk NOW. WHY won’t he WALK.

Well, anyway, the torturous waiting game is over. My kid is finally walking. Now I can commence complaining about how much trouble he gets into 😛

Where has he been all my life?

You’re never going to believe this, but up until about 12 hours ago, I was a complete David Sedaris virgin. Yes me, the creative writing degree holder. We’re all supposed to read him in college, right? Well for some reason, in my particular panorama of professors, his work never came up. I had heard him on This American Life and knew I liked his brand of humor, just never picked up a book. Over the years, I have heard all the fans raving, and finally broke down and just bought one of his books already.

Now, 40 pages into Me Talk Pretty One Day, I am Hooked. Capital H. How could I not have discovered this before? And unlike my other current favorite author Melissa Bank, I won’t run out of material after 2 books. Last night, reading in bed, I’m like, hey eyes, can’t you stay open for just one more story? Eyes: no we can’t, we’ve been open since 5:30 am and we need…to…close…now.

I guess I can’t call it an obsession yet, since it’s only the beginning, but definitely a budding obsession.

Where Has He Been All My Life?

You’re never going to believe this, but up until about 12 hours ago, I was a complete David Sedaris virgin. Yes me, the creative writing degree holder. We’re all supposed to read him in college, right? Well for some reason, in my particular panorama of professors, his work never came up. But, over the years, I have heard his name here and there, and finally broke down and just bought one of his books already. Well, I had heard him on This American Life and knew I liked his brand of humor.

Now, 40 pages into Me Talk Pretty One Day, I am Hooked. Capital H. How could I not have discovered this before? And unlike my current favorite author Melissa Bank, I won’t run out of material after 2 books. Last night, reading in bed, I’m like, hey eyes, can’t you stay open for just one more story? Eyes: no we can’t, we’ve been open since 5:30 am and we need…to…close…now.

I guess I can’t call it an obsession yet, since it’s only the beginning, but definitely a budding obsession.

One

A year ago, I was walking around in a sleep-deprived haze, my breasts felt like they would explode at any second, and every 10 seconds I’d shift on the couch and my, um, undercarriage would cry out in pain and I would think, OMG I have a baby. I GAVE BIRTH to him less than a week ago. I would tuck the little guy between me and my arm, on the Boppy of course, and nurse him for 20 minutes, never wanting it to end (but then remember: I get to do this again in an hour). I would sit and stare at him, and usually cry while doing so. Being a new parent was the weirdest thing I’ve ever been through. (And stressful. I didn’t even put him down the ENTIRE FIRST NIGHT HOME.)

Two years ago, we were just starting to try to conceive. I was poring over websites dedicated to tracking your ovulation. And I’d pass on all the (gory) details to my husband. I purchased my first pregnancy book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I immediately flipped to the back, to the “Labor and Delivery” section, praying to God there was a section entitled, “It Won’t Hurt That Bad”. There wasn’t.

I remember seeing those Johnson & Johnson commercials before I had a kid, the ones that say “A baby changes everything”. I thought, well they don’t have to change every single thing. That’s crazy. But, they do. As corny as it sounds, they really do. There is no part of my life left untouched my by little man. And I truly have a hard time remember what life was like before him. What it was like to decide at 9pm that you were going to go out for beers with friends at 9:30. What it was like to pop out the door for five minutes to go grab something at the grocery store. What it was like to sleep from 10pm to 10am. What it was like before I had this new piece of my soul that I am now convinced I could not live without. Happy, happy birthday my sweet boy. Here’s to many more.

Bowie's 1st Birthday Cake-1