Wrangling 5 Under 5

Yesterday I took on two additional kids — yes, that means I was watching five children under 5 — for 4 hours. My dear friend had an unexpected move thrust upon her. So I offered to watch her daughters so she could pack uninterrupted.

My friend’s 2-year-old daughter — we’ll call her A — has autism as well as some additional special needs. As a sibling of a special needs individual, I feel at home with the scenario. Well, apparently A was comfy too.

The kids had a blast playing outside, crafting, having a dinner-and-a-movie picnic in the playroom, and A was my cuddly sidekick through it all. She curled up beside me as I nursed #3, she rode on my hip as I loaded the dishwasher, she called me “Mommy” (purely a vocational title, of course) and reached up to me with her perfectly pudgy hands,  then she’d wrigged down to go join the others.

At one point, as I nursed #3, A pulled her pint-sized self up onto the playroom sofa, wiggled herself next to me, spotted #3’s legs sticking out from underneath my flowy top, smiled at me through her pacifier, and laid her blond head in my lap using #3’s belly as a pillow.  It was precious.

#1 adopted A as her own little sister, giving A overzealous hugs and drive-by kisses. A reveled in the attention and pretended to braid #1’s long, blond, curls.

#2 bopped about playing with #1 and A’s older sister, M. #2 and M discussed unicorns and caterpillars, sweeping techniques, and lemonade stand protocol.

M advocated beautifully for verbally-challenged A, yet played perfectly imperfectly and indepently with #1 and #2. She was so tender with #3, even when his slobbery baby kiss turned into a nibble. She was herself — smiles, grumpiness, goofiness, and all — and that was wonderful. She didn’t get lost in her older sibling duties. She felt comfortable enough to be herself.

One of my favorite aspects of the playdate, though, was how it brought out the best in all of us. It enabled our strengths to shine. When Hubs beamed, seeing A happily adjusted to her surroundings, I remembered exactly why I love that man so much. When #1 sat on the deck floor so that A could style her hair, my heart thumped. When M and #2 became enveloped in their imagination game, I grinned. When #3 gave kisses and hugs to A and M, who warmly accepted his juicy affection, I glowed. When A adapted so quickly and became so affectionate, my heart swelled. When M proclaimed she wanted to stay, I was honored.

It was a nutty afternoon but it was beautiful. What a gift these children are!

 

 

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Broiled Salmon with Zucchini Pomodoro

Ok, this was a hit! I threw it together in 30 minutes flat while putting away groceries and refereeing playroom mischief.

First, while preheating the broiler, I drizzled a filet of wild caught Alaskan salmon with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. I created a tin foil pouch around the salmon and broiled the fish until cooked through. Then I let it rest uncovered.

After removing the salmon from the oven, I placed two pints of rinsed, whole fresh cherry tomatoes in a greased baking dish. I popped the tomatoes under the broiler for a few minutes until they began to blister and burst.

Meanwhile, I used my spiralizer to create zucchini “noodles” from 5 fresh zucchini. I drizzled a large pan with olive oil, then cooked the zucchini for a few minutes, gently stirring with tongs, to release the water. Next, I drained the zucchini in a mesh strainer before returning it to the pan.

I started boiling a handful of angel hair pasta until al dente. As the pasta cooked, I took the tomatoes from the oven and poured them right into the zucchini pan, juices and all. Next, I tore leaves of fresh, washed basil and tossed them straight into the zucchini pan.

I stirred in salt, pepper, nutrional yeast, brewer’s yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder. Then, I used tongs to pick up and move the al dente pasta from the boiling water to the zucchini pan. This way, a bit of the startchy pasta water made it into the zucchini pan. Finally, I lowered the heat and cracked two eggs into the pan, mixing well. Once the egg evenly coated the zucchini mixture, I turned off the heat and served.

Broiled Salmon with Zucchini Pomodoro

Broiled Salmon with Zucchini Pomodoro

BROILED SALMON WITH ZUCCHINI POMODORO 

Ingredients:

SALMON-

1 salmon filet

Olive oil (drizzled)

Salt & pepper, to taste

ZUCCHINI POMODORO-

5 zucchini

2 pints cherry tomatoes

1 small handful uncooked angel hair pasta

4Tbl nutritional yeast

3Tbl brewer’s yeast

3 handfuls of fresh basil leaves

Garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, to taste

2 eggs

Directions:

Place the salmon in a foil pouch and position in a baking pan.

Place the salmon under the broiler on high until cooked through.

Spiralize the zucchini into a fine noodle shape.

Drizzle olive oil in a pan, then add zucchini and cook on medium heat — turning gently with tongs — to remove the excess water.

Remove the zucchini from the pan once heated and place in a mesh strainer.

Remove the salmon from the broiler once cooked through.

Uncover the salmon and allow to rest.

Place cherry tomatoes in a greased baking pan and put under the broiler.

Put the spiralized, strained, and cooked zucchini back into the pan.

Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil, then tear fresh basil directly into the pan.

Boil water and cook angel hair pasta until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, stir the yeasts, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper into the zucchini.

Once the tomatoes are blistered and bursting, remove them from the broiler and put the tomatoes and their juices directly into the zucchini pan.

Use tongs to move the al dente pasta from the boiling water to the zucchini pan, allowing a bit of the startchy pasta water to enter the zucchini pan as you transfer the pasta.

Crack two eggs directly into the zucchini pan.

Reduce the heat to low and stir the eggs in thoroughly.

Serve and enjoy!

Co-parenting Balance

We do things differently, my husband and I. He is the math to my writing, the sleeping-in to my early rising, the spicy potato chips to my milled flaxseed. He’s the laid-back and I am the type-A.

Despite being strong believers in enforcing limits, maintaining routine, and raising respectful children, Hubs and I differ in how we approach other aspects of parenting. These differences make us stronger.

Though timely, Hubs is comfortable leaving to do preschool drop-off at the time I am generally pulling into the nearly empty school parking lot. He offers treat snacks, whereas I dispense healthy fare. He plays physical imaginary games while I do story time. He chooses educational electronic games to fill the kids’ waiting time yet I utilize non-electronic distraction methods. He does nature hikes through muddy streams and I take neighborhood walks on paved sidewalks.

Our parenting approaches may be divergent but that’s what makes us a good team. We approach the same goal from different angles. Together we have balance.

 

Avocado-Basil Sandwich

I was looking for a healthy, filling snack when I saw a lonely avocado, a tub of fresh basil, and a container of leftover tomato slices. Then it struck me: avocado-basil sandwich!

I cut one avocado in half — covering and storing one half for another use –, washed five fresh basil leaves, cut one tomato slice in half, toasted a slice of Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread, grabbed the salt and pepper shakers, and snagged the nutritional yeast from the pantry.

Once the bread was toasted, I cut it in half lengthwise. I spread the avocado of one side of each bread half. Then, I placed the basil leaves on top of the avocado on one of the bread pieces. I put the tomato on top of the basil, then dusted on salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. Finally, I closed the sandwich, placing the bread with just the avocado on it avocado side down onto the tomatoes. Ta-da!

Avocado-Basil Sandwich

Avocado-Basil Sandwich

AVOCADO-BASIL SANDWICH 

Ingredients

– 1/2 avocado

– 1 tomato slice (cut in half, so as to create 2 half-circles)

– 1 slice of Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread (toasted)

– 5 fresh basil leaves

– Salt, pepper and nutritional yeast  (to taste)

Instructions

– Cut the piece of toast in half lengthwise.

– Smear avocado on one side of each of the two toast halves.

– Arrange the basil leaves on top of the avocado on one of the toast halves.

– Place tomato slice halves on top of the basil.

– Sprinkle the tomato with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast.

– Close the sandwich by placing the toast half that has only avocado on it on top of the tomato slices, avocado side down.

– Enjoy!

The Fear of “What If?”

I was the kid who pretended to be “mommy.” I wrote lists of possible names for my distant-future children. I aspired to be a mother while others dreamt of space exploration or royal appointments. I am now immensely fortunate to be living that dream.

I adore my present life season full of sleeplessness and snuggles, tantrums and tea parties, playdates and potty-training. I treasure the countless memories so much that I frequently attempt to recount past events so as not to allow them to fade from my mind.

Because of my love for this harried but beautiful stage, I fear what lies ahead. I worry about the days when my children don’t want me around as they do now, the days when errands can be quick and bathroom trips can be solitary. The days when people don’t look at me and immediately know I am a mom.

Part of me wants to pull back from my present stage, to stop myself from so wholeheartedly adopting the “mom” identity. The drive is fear for the future — an assumed future — and self-preservation. If I allow myself to dive deep into motherhood, how hurt and confused will I be when the tides change? Who will I be when I am not so completely needed or wanted, when my days and nights no longer center on giving of myself in every way?

There is another part of me — the hippy side, the tender side — that tells myself to revel in the fruition of my life dreams. This is but a fleeting moment in life, but it is a fulfilling one. It is what I’ve always wanted. Why not allow myself to experience it fully? Would I not chastise myself in later years for hindering my own experience due to the fear of “what if?”

Lawyers identify as lawyers, musicians identify as musicians. Why, then, should I not identify as a mother? When an individual’s career path shifts, the challenge to find one’s new identity is considered normal. Why would mothers entering new seasons of their career not be expected and afforded the right to experience the same upheaval?

Life is change. We change continuously throughout our existence, sometimes on imperceptible smaller scales and other times in abrupt, quaking shifts.

I must learn to accept the eventual change without allowing fear to rob me of my present. I am a mom. I will always be a mom. Each stage will simply be different. And that’s ok.

Nursing Tank Must-Haves

I wear a nursing tank daily. Wear it under a cardigan, blazer, kimono, slouchy top, flowy blouse, tunic, or hoodie. Layer on a scarf or chunky necklace. Tuck it into a maxi or skater skirt. Wear it with jeans or yoga pants. All the while, have easy clip-down nursing access and bra-like support.

My favorite two nursing tanks are:

Bravado Dream Nursing Tank which comes in bra-specific sizes from 34B/C to 40F/G.

Bravado Essential Nursing Tank which comes in bra-specific sizes from 34B/C to 44F/G.

A variety of color options can be found on Amazon. Get one (or more) in every color in your size. I know I did!

Sun, Music & Memories

After weeks of rain, the sun peeked through today and allowed us a preview of summer bliss. We attended our much-loved local summer concert series. We danced outside in the evening sun to live music, soaking in the light and memories.

#1 Twirling to the Music

#1 Twirling to the Music

Watching #1 and #2 twirl and run among the other children, I reflected on how last year #1 and #2 were smaller and less coordinated, apple-cheeked 2- and nearly-4-year-olds. How #3 was but a growing expectation in my rounded belly. How at the end of the concert series, #3 was a brand new addition with little infant chicken legs peaking out from the baby carrier.

I recalled how much more challenging things were with a newborn and two preschoolers as I recovered from a c-section, but how much fun we had. I realized how fast the time had spun by, and knew this year would only go faster.

So, I silenced my mind and allowed myself to simply be, to appreciate, to live our present joyful nuttiness. What a beautiful life!

Feeding by Example

Feeding others is a focal point of my present life. From nursing #3 to pumping for my “milk baby” (the baby who receives my donated breast milk), from planning weekly dinner menus that are healthy, non-allergenic, and minimally offensive to preparing and cleaning up after those meals, from helping breastfeeding moms navigate nursing troubles to aiding aspiring milk donors find breast milk recipients, my days are food-centric.

My mom was — and still is — one of the first people to set up a dinner train for neighbors in need. I never understood the value of such a practice until my mom became ill when I was a senior in high school. Neighbors, family friends, and acquaintances provided us with hot dinners for weeks. It was a welcome comfort during a trying time.

Now, a mother myself, I hope to model the beauty of the dinner train for my own children. Thinking of and serving others with no expectation of or desire for repayment is a value I hope to instill. So, I lead by example.

Upon hearing a friend is facing challenges, I first ask how I can help. Often, this open-ended question is simply too overwhelming. So, one of the first things I offer is a homemade delivered meal. My goal is not only to remove one thing from the individual’s to-do list when he/she is faced with life obstacles, but to provide a sense of comfort during a time of upheaval. Additionally, having my children witness me planning, shopping for, preparing, and delivering meals to others will — hopefully — make the ritual a norm for them.

Feeding others doesn’t simply fill bellies, it soothes hurting hearts and warms weary souls. From my heart to others’ mouths.

A Day of (Dairy-free) Galactagogues

Galactagogues are foods that boost breastmilk production. Some people swear by them, others see no impact. Either way, the foods are generally healthy, filling options.

Here’s an example of what a day full of dairy-free lactogenic foods looks like:

AM Pumping Fuel:

A mug of green tea and an apple help me start the day. (If you want to really amp up the milk supply, you could substitute fenugreek tea for the green tea.)

Green Tea and an Apple

Green Tea and an Apple

Breakfast: 

A big serving of water along side a bowl of quinoa and flax hot cereal, topped with blueberries, a touch of vanilla extract, a drizzle of honey, and a hearty dash of cinnamon is a nice start on days I don’t feel like having my usual smoothie.

Quinoa & Flax Hot Cereal with Water

Quinoa & Flax Hot Cereal with Water

Snack on the Go: 

A Dark Chocolate Chunk KIND bar with water is easy, portable, tasty, filling, and (importantly for me) dairy-free.

Dark Chocolate KIND Bar and Water

Dark Chocolate KIND Bar and Water

Lunch:

Lots of water with roasted portobello mushroom stuffed with a veggie-packed grain salad topped with hummus (Veggie-ful Grain Salad ingredients: dressing- oil from the drained artichoke hearts mixed with balsamic vinegar; salad- raw chopped fennel; raw chopped English cucumber; drained, rinsed, and chopped canned beets; drained and rinsed canned chickpeas sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, tumeric, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper; julienned jarred roasted red peppers; drained (oil reserved for dressing) and chopped jarred artichoke hearts; a dollop of olive spread; Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Sunrise Blend (wheat bulgur, buckwheat groats, quinoa flakes, and red rice) prepared according to package instructions with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf in the boiling water)

Roasted Portabello Mushroom Stuffed with Veggie-ful Grain Salad Topped with Hummus

Roasted Portobello Mushroom Stuffed with Veggie-ful Grain Salad Topped with Hummus

PM Pumping Fuel:

A mug of green tea, two pieces of Bark Thins Dark Chocolate Coconut, and water, because everyone deserves a treat.

Bark Thins Dark Chocolate Coconut and Green Tea

Bark Thins Dark Chocolate Coconut and Green Tea

 

Snack:

More water and half a sandwich (extra virgin olive oil, avocado, tomato, salt, pepper, nutrional yeast, and sprouts on one slice of Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread) is a satisfying, healthy snack. Make sure to throw back some water too!

Half of an Avocado-Sprout Sandwich

Half of an Avocado-Sprout Sandwich

Dinner:

Lots of water and smoked chicken with roasted veggie pasta (Roasted Veggie Pasta Recipe: chopped fresh fennel, red onion, zucchini, baby bella mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, and bell pepper are drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, basil, and fennel seeds. The veggies are roasted then stirred together with cooked pasta. The mixture is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a bit of the startchy pasta water, then seasoned with fresh minced garlic, as well as garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, brewers yeast, and nutritional yeast.)

Smoked Chicken with Roasted Veggie Pasta

Smoked Chicken with Roasted Veggie Pasta

“Blue Boobed”

Blue boob

/bloo,boob/

Verb: the act of a breastfeeding baby causing breast milk letdown but refusing to consume the triggered milk, resulting in painful breast engorgment.

“The baby started to nurse then got distracted and blue boobed me.”

Being blue boobed by your own baby is like nursing torture. Engorgment anxiety, like hangriness (aka: hunger-induced anger), is real. The discomfort and frustration of having milk letdown just to have it painfully pool, uneaten, leaves you with three choices:

1) Try to convince your baby to nurse. Though this will likely end up failing and milk may very well end up spraying everywhere. So you’ll probably look to options #2 and #3.

2) Go ahead and grab the pump. This is only an option if you’re in a location where pumping is feasible, of course. What would’ve taken your baby 3-5 minutes to extract, will now take 15 minutes — plus pump part washing and drying, as well as milk bagging — to eliminate via the breast pump. Thanks, nursling!

3) Try riding it out. You could ignore the engorgment and anxiety, but this could end up a milky mess. You could also wind up with a nice souvenir, every nursing mom’s favorite: clogged milk ducts.

Oh the joys of breastfeeding. Keep on milking on!