Monday, January 23, 2012

Returning to work

Annie at two months (1/21/2012)

Busy season at my workplace has begun again.  I see coworkers' status updates ("Off to LAX!") and my chest tightens, I breathe heavier, and of course, I cry.   I am a very good crier and do it daily.  I do not want to go back to work, although I'm working on that.

I don't know how women do this: fight against basic biology, or I don't know, evolution.  This magnetic pull to stay with you child: to breathe them - just inhale them - all day.  To fight against every nurturing instinct.  Whatever you wish to call it.  Every part of me aches to be home with Annie, and lord help me I didn't know I could love this fiercely, but here I am sitting on the couch at nap time listening to "Annie's Song" by John Denver (I'm a bad cliche) and making myself miserable.  I'm a ball of spit-up (hers) and snot (mine), and  I think things like, "How can they understand her like I do?  I'm her MOM!" and I realize I'm just spouting hooey bologna because for the most part I'm just floundering myself, grasping at newborn straws.  Almost all of her cries end with me nursing to calm her, and I frustrate myself, knowing her caregivers can't do the same while I'm at work and I'm probably setting her up for daycare failure.  And because I'm neurotic I think about that: I am contributing to my child's eventual status as being the daycare delinquent because she bellows for breast milk on demand and I comply.  "Oh, that Annie," they'll sigh.  "She and her mom are a real piece of work.  Two codependent peas in a pod, those two."

My boss, a new working mother herself, told me, whatever I do, don't read the children's book "Owl Babies".  Of course, I Googled it on the spot and it's about three baby owls who wake up one night to find their mom missing, and during the course of the book they growing increasingly sad and anxious that she won't return, but she does, finally, after a nighttime hunting trip, and says she will always be there for them.  So I'm sitting there, reading this, and it's supposed to be good and therapeutic for kids who suffer from separation anxiety but all I can do is wail, "She's going to miss me!  She's going to think I've abandoned her!" to Matt, who has absolutely no qualms with putting her in daycare.  "I'm more worried about you," he said.

I am a mess.

And the funny thing is: I wasn't happy the first month holed up at home (talk about having your cake and eating it too).  I wasn't born a mother during her birth: for me, it was a learned gig these past two months.  Obviously, I still don't know what I'm doing - I'm been a mom for nine weeks for crying out loud! - but each passing day has become more and more a gift, until, suddenly, it's hard for me to recall the days before she was here.  This is my new natural.

That's not to say I don't miss normal adult things.  Oh, how I miss office gossip.  That's a big one.  I accost Matt nightly when he walks through the door.  "What's new?!  What's the OFFICE GOSSIP?!"  I seriously say this.  Matt is not one to gossip, but I think I'm a bad influence on him as he now comes home with a tidbit or two for me to chew on.  I'm voracious, though, and always want more.

And I miss the momentum a job brings.  I do not miss the work, but I miss how it got me out of bed and dressed everyday, onto a train, to a cubicle, and made me some money.  Now I'm sniffing yoga pants to see which ones are the freshest to wear on my big jaunt to the grocery store.

Matt says I'm like an old person now when they complain about all they have to do, but "all they have to do" usually is comprised of going to the post office and picking up a prescription.  He'll ask me what's on my and Annie's roster for the following day, and I'll actually say things like, "Oh, it's a busy day!  I have a doc appointment and then I was thinking of walking around Target or something."

That's not to say I'm not trying to get out of the house.  I have thought about infant yoga, but I'm already self-conscious enough walking into a yoga studio, so how the hell am I going to feel when Annie starts crying during downward dog?  Can I plop out my boob then?  I did find an infant massage course (yes, there is such a thing) in March that Matt and I may entertain.  And then the other week I was determined to meet other deliriously happy but frustrated moms so Annie and I hightailed it to our hospital's breastfeeding support group.  It did not go as planned.

I am an introvert but can put on a show if absolutely necessary (e.g. work functions).  When I arrived it was obvious most of the women knew one another and I just sat there like a big tool.  I wasn't sure what the protocol was until I saw they stripped down their kids and brought them to the lactation consultant running the show for the weekly weigh-in.  So, between you and me, I thought a lot about how I wanted to be perceived at this thing.  Thus, Annie was donning her Fuzzibunz.  For those not in the know, they are cloth diapers.  And for those really not in the know, yes, Matt and I are cloth diapering (so help me god when this kid starts eating solids).  The cloth thing was totally Matt's idea.  We use disposable on occasion (overnight trips, when she looks a bit irritated and I need to apply cream).  I thought, finally!, a good use of my crunchy granola mom cloth diapers!  I'll have the kiddo don them to this breastfeeding meeting where surely other crunchy moms will nod in approval!  I really thought this and since these diapers come in a slew of colors, chose a fashionable mint green for the meeting.

So the protocol is you hand your diaper-clad kid to the lactation consultant, remove the diaper while your child is in the lactation consultant's arms, and then she will place him or her onto the scale.  I'm not sure why the parent just doesn't plop the kid down, but that's how it goes.  So there I was, taking off Annie's fabulous green Fuzzibunz, and wouldn't you know it, she decides it would be a marvelous time to take a pee.  Onto the lactation consultant.  I start screeching and apologizing and holding the diaper under her to catch the urine, but it was really just a hopeless mess.  That's when the lactation consultant said nevermind, it's fine, but  "isn't she quite the pudge!"  The woman then placed Annie (poor thing was probably scared) onto the scale where she decided her work for the day wasn't done, and another good urination was in order.  The other women in the group laughed and one said, "Oh, what a newbie!  Well I guess she is christening the scale!"  I just stood there and laughed awkwardly.

We haven't been back since.

So here I am.  I go back to work in exactly two weeks.  My team has been amazing and gracious regarding my pregnancy and now my return (like taking all over my overnight trips this spring! Thank you, thank you, thank you!).  In fact, Annie and I visited the big city this past week to have lunch with them and attend a meeting.  I don't know if this is just my kid or completely normal, but her poops are high-velocity power squirts that can put a room at standstill.  Obviously, she graced us with one of these butt-blasters during the meeting.  You have to love that in a baby; she'll have her whole life to learn manners and what is proper.  When else can you just let it rip and look really pleased with yourself?

I really love that kid.

First snowfall (1/21/2012)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Asparagus and Zucchini Veloute with Parsley

I know what you’re thinking: what is a veloute?  Look, you’re obviously not cultured.  I know this because I’m entirely uncultured and recognize uneducated provincialism when I see it, so I had to Wiki this bad boy and I found out it’s French, and is “is one of the sauces of French cuisine that were designated the four “mother sauces” by Antonin Careme the 19th century. The French chef Auguste Escoffier later classified tomato, mayonnaise, and Hollandaise mother sauces as well. The term velouté is from the French adjectival form of velour, meaning velvety.”
Oh.  Of course. 
Anyway, I’m thinking the editors of Vegetarian Times are really up on their high horse because this dang recipe is a SOUP, not a sauce.  But it’s made in a roux form (lots of butter and flour) so I suppose I’ll let it pass. And I admit: it’s totally velvety.  I served with good quality croutons (excellent in a pinch when no crusty bread is on hand) and a sprinkling of Romano cheese.  I slurped that sucker up!
Asparagus and Zucchini Veloute with Parsley
Recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Times 
  • 1 16-oz. bunch asparagus, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups veggie broth
  • 1 zucchini, coarsely chopped (about a cup)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 4 Tbs. flour
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Optional: bread, croutons, or cheese for serving
Bring asparagus, broth, zucchini, salt and 2 ½ cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Transfer to a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
Melt butter in same saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in flour, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until browned.  Add pureed soup mixture, and cook over medium-low heat until soup is thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pad Thai

I love spaghetti, so it's only fitting that I love the Thai equivalent of my go-to carbo classic, Pad Thai.  I love me some Pad Thai!  Every time I go out for Thai I say, "Kathryn, don't be so lame and order the pad Thai again, you fool," and, I shouldn't - I mean, heck, there are lots of green and red curries that are absolutely to-die-for - but I cannot squash the call of the this classic, and oh-so-simple, noodle dish.  Oh man does it beckon.  And when food calls your name, you must oblige.  (I have this same philosophy when it comes to Oreos and really anything with a crinkly wrapper.)

Pad Thai is a street food in Thailand; it's cheap, quick, and easy.  I read that it should optimally be whipped up in small batches, but I love me some short cuts, so here's a large recipe for the taking.  You can add radish if you'd like, or tofu in addition to shrimp or chicken.  Really anything goes.  Well, except the tamarind.  The tamarind gives it that slight bitterness and is an absolute necessity.  I found a large jar of the stuff in the Indian section of my local grocer for about four bucks.  I guess I'll be making a lot more Pad Thai with that, but I'm not complaining!

Pad Thai
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2-3 Tb. brown sugar
  • 2 Tb. tamarind concentrate mixed with 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. chili pepper flakes
  • 1 package rice noodles (12-14 ounces, usually)
  • 2-3 glugs of canola or olive oil
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 eggs, mixed (as if you were to make scrambled eggs)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1-2 bunches scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup ground peanuts
  • Either: 1 lb shrimp/chicken/tofu, previously sauteed
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges to dress dish
  • cilantro, to garnish (optional)
Prep rice noodles according to package directions (usually they need to soak in cold water for about 30 minutes).

Prep the sauce: over medium heat, blend fish sauce, brown sugar, chili flakes, and tamarind concentrate mixture. Then, in a wok or large skillet, add garlic and eggs to hot oil.  Scramble the eggs.  Then add your protein and noodles.  Stir.  Add sauce and salt and stir into noodles mixture.  Noodles should soften quickly (2 minutes or so).  Quickly stir in peanuts, scallions, and bean sprouts.

Serve with additional peanuts - if desired - and a lime wedge.  Makes four large servings.