Deep In It

July 15, 2009

The other day, at my parents’ house, I called Moo to come to dinner.

“I can’t!” she yelled.  “I’m very busy playing!”

“Moo, listen to Mommy.  It’s time for dinner,” I said, in what I hoped was a calm but forceful tone.

She looked at me, cocked her head.  There may as well have been a giant neon sign over head, flashing, “THIS IS A TEST.”

“I….don’t…WANT TOOOOO!”

Only problem is, I don’t have the answers to this test.

Have I mentioned that Moo is two?

So…very….two…

Ever since Moo learned that her stuffed animal “snake” is really a caterpillar, she’s been asking lots of questions.  What do caterpillars eat?  Where do they live?  They turn into whaaaa?

She just about had the whole caterpillar-into-butterfly concept down when she thought of one more question:

“Mommy, who made caterpillars?”

“Uhhhhh,” I stammered, nearly choking a meatball while Herbie stuffed three more into his mouth.  “….God?”  I finished feebly, looking at Herbie, who nodded.  I was NOT prepared for a God talk before Moo even hits two!

Moo furrowed her brow.  “He DID?  God made caterpillars?”

Herbie and I nodded fervently.  “Yup!  He sure did!”

Pleasedon’taskanythingelsepleasedon’taskanythingelse…

“What ELSE God make?” asked Moo.

Shoot.

It’s not that she’s never heard about God before.  We go to church, although not every Sunday, we say grace before dinner, although sometimes we forget, and she loves her Noah’s Ark book.  But I was not prepared for a talk about What We Believe.

“What ELSE GOD MAKE??” Moo demanded.

Herbie and I started listing:  “Well, he (or He, I suppose) made dogs, cats, he made Doc, he made hummingbirds and flowers and trees-”

“Trees?!  Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Not sure why that’s so crazy, but anyway…

“He made you (‘We helped,’ added Herbie), he made peacocks and lizards, snakes, ladybugs, he made the sky blue, and he made rainbows, uhhh although I mean the sun and rain help with that, too…”

“What ELSE God make?”

Herbie jumped in.  “God made floofers, and yellow-bellied piggle wiggles, and red-tailed spleesplorks, and blast-ended skrewts…”

Moo cracked up on cue.  “Daddy!  God did NOT make blaff-edded skooots!”

Well, she’s right on that one – I suppose J.K. Rowling gets sole credit for the skrewts (awesomest fictional creatures ever!).

I hoped the conversation was over, but Moo wasn’t done.  “God make ALL those things, Mommy?”

I nodded.  “God has so much love in his heart that he made all those beautiful things for us so that we could love them, too.”

And that seemed to satifsy her curiousity about God.  But I had to bite my lip to keep myself from adding, “…but there are a lot of people that don’t believe in God or believe in a different kind of God and that’s okay, too, and you may decide you believe in something different than we do, which is perfectly fine because it took both of us a long time to come to the beliefs we have, and there are a lot of other perfectly valid and fascinating religions out there, and oh by the way yes God made all those things but science and evolution also had a big hand in creation, which no doesn’t mean God didn’t ALSO create all those things, but that science and evolution and God all worked hand-in-hand to make our world so beautiful…at least that’s what WE believe, but, you know, you may have a different kind of faith, but please try to be really tolerant and open to ALL faiths, okay? And by the way did I mention caterpillars turn into butterflies?”

I think it’s much better that I stuffed another meatball in my mouth instead.

Eat Your Sandwich!

March 7, 2009

Moo has not been eating well lately, and the more she refuses everything, the more we poke and prod her and try to physically shove the fork in her mouth, which only ends with a whole lotta Grump at the kitchen table.

Sure, I keep hearing from “the experts” that you’re not supposed to try and force a picky toddler to eat, they’ll eat if they’re really hungry, it’s just a phase – but when you’re the parent and your kiddo has two bites of food for dinner, it’s hard to keep your mouth shut.

REALLY hard, I found out yesterday.

Moo and I went to the library, and afterwards we crossed the street to the mall to stock up on cucumber melon lotion, because Herbie mentioned that he liked how my skin smelled, and if having a fruity-smelling wife pleases my husband, than it is my duty to slather it on every day.

After browsing all the fruitiness in Bath & Body Works, I thought Moo must be starving, so we stopped at the food court and bought lunch – tuna for me, peanut butter & jelly for her.  We settled in front of the carousel and I put pretzel fish, grapes, and pieces of sandwich in the tray of her stroller.

“Look, Moo – grapes, fish, and PB&J!”

I never call it “PB&J,” but thought I’d try calling it something different so maybe she wouldn’t remember our last experience with peanut butter and jelly, when she walked around for half an hour with peanut butter in her mouth, dribbling gooey brown saliva all down her chest because the peanut butter was SO apalling that she refused to either swallow it OR spit it out. 

So I sat there quietly while Moo ate all the pretzel fish.  Then she asked for more, and I lied to my daughter and told her they were all gone, but sweetly reminded her that she still had grapes and sandwich.  She sat back in her stroller and gazed at the horses going round and round.

WHY DON’T YOU TRY A GRAPE, MOO?  HEY HOW ‘BOUT A GRAPE, MOO, WHY DON’T YOU EAT THAT?!

…said my brain.  But I remained quiet. 

WOULD YOU LIKE A GRAPE WITH A FOX?  WOULD YOU LIKE A GRAPE IN A BOX??

…said my brain.  But still, I remained quiet.

A couple minutes later, she leaned forward and popped a grape in her mouth.  Soon all the grapes were gone.

“More grapes, Mommy?”  she asked.

I told her (not lying, this time) that the grapes were all gone, and reminded her once more that she did, just as an option to consider, have some sandwich available to her, you know, just if she felt like it.

She frowned and sat back in her stroller again. 

EAT IT!

We discussed which horses we liked best on the carousel.  (Moo prefers pink, I like the one with the yellow flowers.) 

EAT IT NOW!  EAT IT! 

My eyes widened as she picked up a piece of sandwich, studied it for a moment, then flicked it back into the pile with the others, rejected.

EAT YOUR SANDWICH, MOO!  EAT IT!  STICK IT IN YOUR MOUTH!  EAT IT EAT IT EAT IT EAT IT  EEEAAHHH!!!

…said my brain.  And this time I actually had to clasp my hands over my mouth in order to remain silent.

I realized staring at her uneaten sandwich might soon make steam come out my ears, so I carefully turned away and studied the Paradise Bakery “kids activity book.”  I had just about finished the word scramble when I heard two magical words:

“More, Mommy?”

I looked over, and the sandwich was GONE.  I checked to see if she’d squished it into her seat, or thrown it on the floor – no!

“Did you eat all that sandwich, Moo?” I asked, incredulous.

“More, Mommy?” she repeated.

And I was so excited I didn’t even remind her to say please before piling her tray full of sandwich again.

I kept my mouth shut, and in the end, she ate the whole damn sandwich.

Wow.  I  wonder if this will work on broccoli, too?

Who is this Jessica Seinfeld person, anyway?  Why did I just assume that she had any sort of training or experience in the field of cooking?  Because of the pretty pretty pictures?  Because of Jerry?  Because of Oprah (DAMN YOU OPRAH)?

Last night I made Meatball Soup.  Jessica’s stated preparation time:  35 minutes.  I started cooking at 5:30.  I served dinner at 7:00.  Oh, Jessica.  For someone who claims to understand children’s needs, let me remind you:  Children do not appreciate being kept waiting when they are hungry.  Do not lie to me, Jessica.

I didn’t have a chance to puree the necessary carrots and sweet potatoes, but found that I had some leftover baby food that would do just fine.  So first I cooked the pasta – Jessica told me I should only cook three ounces, which would have been about eight pieces of bowtie pasta.  Huh?  I threw in some more.

Then Jessica told me to cook some onion and garlic, puree some canned tomatoes with the carrots, and add the lot to the onion and garlic.  No problem, and Moo enjoyed watching me cook while she played pretend with her markers.  (Yes, she prefers playing Mommy Marker and Daddy Marker over actually drawing.)

Then, Jessica told me to prepare the meatballs while the sauce simmered for 10 minutes.  “MEANWHILE,” she said.  “Meanwhile, put the bread in a large bowl.”  Add a whole bunch of ingredients and let it soak for a while.  When it’s nice and soggy, add the turkey, stir stir stir, and make like a thousand tiny meatballs.

When I see the word “meanwhile” in a recipe, I trust it.  I believe that the authors have figured out that if the sauce is simmering for 10 minutes, it will take approximately 10 minutes to do the “meanwhile” step.  Jessica Seinfeld must be a mean meatball machine if she can make that many ooey gooey meatballs from scratch in 10 minutes.

About those ooey gooey meatballs – look, I can make meatballs.  I know meatballs.  Herbie even refers to me as his little meatball.  And these meatballs… well, see for yourself (WARNING: the following picture is graphic and unappetizing):

 

january-016

 

I know.  Ew.  Admittedly, I did take this picture before I figured out they should be half that size – but smaller versions looked no more appealing.  I could only roll three meatballs before my hands got too ooky and the meat mixture would just squish around in my hands, so every three meatballs I had to rinse off my hands and start anew.  At 6:45, I had about 20, and that wasn’t even half the meat.  I warned Herbie that this dinner might be a bust.  He looked alarmed – I’m not the greatest cook ever, but I’ve never had to throw out an entire dinner before.

In the next step, I was supposed to just toss the meatballs in with the soup.  I was convinced these messy little buggers would just fall apart they second they hit the hot soup, but in this instance Jessica proved me wrong.  The meatballs stayed vaguely meatball-shaped and in 10 more minutes, dinner was miraculously served:

 

january-017

 

That doesn’t look so bad, right?  Then I ate a meatball.  Ick.  And the soup was incredibly bland.  I would have done better mixing some carrot puree into the can of Progresso Tomato and Basil soup in the cupboard.  Eventually, I found that by adding some parmesan and breaking up the meatballs, the soup tasted kinda okay.  Just when I was feeling better about Jessica, Herbie piped up.

“Maybe you’re right – it’s not that good.”

Ohhh, Jessica.  Now you’re in trouble.  Herbie has never said anything negative about one of my dinners.  Not even when I have repeatedly trash-talked, pooh-poohed, and refused to eat it.

And then the absolute worst thing happened – Herbie didn’t finish his soup.  This has never ever happened before.  (Well, except occasionally when I serve him five pounds of spaghetti.  But this was just a little bowl of soup.)  And no, I don’t take it personally, Jessica.  This is all YOUR fault.

But wait!  Could there be a surprise ending to this sordid tale of soggy soup?

 

january-020

She likes it!  She really likes it!  (That’s a look of intense spoon-to-mouth concentration, not distaste.) 

Okay, Seinfeld.  My baby ate carrot and sweet potato last night.  A lot, actually.  I’ll give you another chance.

As part of my resolution to make healthier dinners for my family, and somehow, someway, get veggies into Moo’s tummy, I asked for a food processor and the book “Deceptively Delicious” for Christmas.

Thanks, family!

If you haven’t heard (or if you’re blessed with children who happily eat their broccoli DAMN YOU!), “Deceptively Delicious” is a cookbook written by Jessica Seinfeld with recipes that include pureed vegetables that you sneak into the other ingredients.  Brownies with spinach?  They’ll never know!  I don’t know about the whole leafy-greens-in-my-chocolate-treat concept – may I just enjoy my brownie, please? – but I love the idea of making a meatball and pasta dinner with pureed carrots and sweet potatoes in the sauce.

But I didn’t always like the idea!  When I first heard about the book, I thought, “How irresponsible.  Just teach your kids to eat their vegetables!”  Hahahahahahaha.  Of course, that was when Moo just ate rice cereal.  Now I get it – you don’t stop serving them veggies – go ahead and put that pile of veggies on their plate to be ignored, but sleep easy knowing there’s beta-carotene going to work inside that little body.  Ahhhh.

So last night, I finally got the food processor up and going (a long and dangerous project involving instructions with LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS – Cuisinart really doesn’t want me to lose a fingertip on their VERY SHARP BLADES), and attempted Dinner #1:  Chicken Nuggets with sneaky broccoli.

The play-by-play: 

Zapped broccoli, tossed broccoli into food processor, chewed on fingers while worrying about broccoli potentially exploding all over kitchen ceiling, spied Herbie rolling his eyes at me, pressed “on” button.  Wee! Pureed broccoli.  Mixed with egg, set aside.  Mixed together healthy bread coating (with flaxseed!  Apparently that’s healthy!).  Hastily procured cup of milk for screaming toddler, who suddenly realized she was going to DIE if she didn’t have dinner IMMEDIATELY.  Eek!  Dredged chicken pieces in broccoli, tossed in bread crumbs…hey – still all greenish-looking.  I thought the broccoli was supposed to be sneaky?  Oh well.  Chicken nuggets into the pan while dodging dancing baby and remote control robot.  10 minutes later, served greenish chicken nuggets…oh crap.  Undercooked.  Back into the oil….again…and again… Jeesh!  I guess I made the nuggets too big.  And maybe didn’t puree the broccoli enough.  Finally, we ate.  Herbie said he liked them.  I didn’t.  Pretty bland, and the breading didn’t cling to the chicken, and my nuggets just weren’t nuggety enough.  But Moo?  Moo ate an ENTIRE chicken nugget (with ketchup, of course.)  Which means that RIGHT NOW there is broccoli doing its thing in her system.  What does broccoli do, again?  Besides make you toot… I’m sure it’s something good.

So I guess this one’s a keeper, even though I didn’t like it very much.  And I’d better think about making homemade ketchup with sneaky carrot, since really, the nugget was just a vessel to carry that sweet, sweet Heinz to Moo’s mouth. 

Next up?  Turkey and Meatball Soup.