Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Boudin King Cake - Happy Mardi Gras!

As you know, I get to travel to Louisiana about 4 times a year for work.  And I generally try to schedule the first quarter visit so that it overlaps with my favorite Mardi Gras parade--the Scott parade, which rolls past my friends Bonnie & Paul's house, so they always host a big shindig and it's a great chance to see all my old friends.  

But this year, I couldn't make it happen. I had to schedule my trip much earlier in the year, and missed Mardi Gras season altogether.  And was very, very sad.

So sad, that I convinced my coworkers to let me host a Mardi Gras potluck at our office, on Mardi Gras day!  (This really didn't take a lot of convincing.  My coworkers are generally down for anything that involves food and chit-chatting over lunch.)
My colleagues were up for the challenge. Our CFO made gumbo, the compliance team brought red beans & rice, our social media manager (whose wife's family is from Abbeville, LA) made crawfish macque choux...one of my teammates made shrimp cornbread, and a senior scientist (who also lived in Lafayette for a spell) helped me put together a shrimp boil, with jumbo skrimps fresh from the Gulf. We even had bread pudding with bourbon sauce.  Everything was AMAZING.
And me...well, I was so inspired by all the tales I heard of Twin's Bakery making boudin king cakes, I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Now, if I ever make this again, I think I'll use the sheets of crescent roll dough from the refrigerated section.  I tried using pre-made pizza dough with this version and it ended up a little doughy.  But overall, it tasted amazing.  And it was relatively easy to put together!

INGREDIENTS: (makes about 12 servings)
2 rolls of pre-made dough sheets (again, I'd recommend trying crescent roll dough)
1 package boudin (I was able to find Richard's at my local market, which hails from Church Point, LA) - 2 links, casings removed
1 egg
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (you could opt for pork cracklins instead, like the Twin's original)
1/4 cup pecan halves, toasted in butter for about 5 minutes

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, then roll out one of the dough sheets. Place one of the links down the center of the sheet, and then using a knife, cut slits along the sides, and then braid the slits together (over/under).  Leave the first two and last two unbraided, so you can use these to "tie" the two sides together.

Now roll out the second sheet and do the same, with the link curving toward the first braid.  Once braided, curve the two sides together until they meet (you may have to break the boudin link) and then use the unbraided ends to combine the two sides.  Mine ended up a little wonky where the two halves met, but it still baked up just fine.
Heat the oven to 350, and then bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and drizzle with the Steen's syrup, and sprinkle on the bacon and pecans.  Cut into about 12 pieces and serve while warm!
So while I didn't get to spend Mardi Gras season with my LA peeps, we still got to have a great time, eat some great food, listen to some good Louisiana music...
...and enjoy each other's company.  Because Missouri Yanks can pass a good time at work, even while the entire state of Louisiana enjoys their day off. :)  Happy Mardi Gras y'all!  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: "Don't You Want Another?"

Disclaimer: This post may come off a little ranty. I'm not apologizing--just giving you fair warning.  Here's an adorable old photo of our kid to make up for it.
It seems like no sooner was Lil' Man on the outside of my body instead of inside that the questions/demands started.  They vary slightly, but the same underlying base is there.

"So when are you going to have another?"

"He needs a sibling!"

"When does he get a little sister?"

"You're getting rid of your baby stuff?  Why aren't you saving it for the next one?"

"Don't you want another?"

There are some instances when this last question is appropriate.  Do you want another glass of wine?  Yes please.  Do you want another cupcake?  Sure.  Do I want an extra day off from work?  Definitely.  Do I want another layer because it's cold outside?  Good idea.

But the answer to whether we want another kid is not so simple.  Technically, the answer to any of those questions is not simple.  First off--I'm not psychic.  Even if I was pregnant RIGHT NOW (which I'm not), I wouldn't know the answer to "when" that baby will be born. Or whether it would be a boy or a girl. Or, whether my body would actually carry it all the way to its birthday.  Because that's a heartbreaking reality that happens to hopeful parents every day (approximately 2500 times a day in the U.S).  OR--let's say we were actually TRYING to get pregnant (again, we're not), but it wasn't happening.  That's what happened with Lil' Man--it took almost 2 years of trying to get our miracle baby. Every time someone asked us "when we were going to have a kid", it was like they'd just stabbed me in my seemingly dysfunctional reproductive system.  It's a simple question that stirs up too many sensitive possibilities.   So let's just all agree to stop asking "when". Mmmkay?

Back to the title of this post.  "Don't you WANT another?"  For some couples, I'm sure this is an easy answer: "Yes, we do" or "Nope, I'm good with one."

We are not one of those couples.

First--let's address the inadequacies of the question itself.  There is no "you".  Baby-making is a two-person job.  One partner can want another baby all day long--but if both parties aren't on board, that baby ain't happening (except through potentially nefarious means, which is definitely NOT a healthy relationship goal).  So... "do WE want another?"

There is no short answer to this question for us.  If I'm dealing with someone that I don't want to get too deep into a conversation with, we'll just smile and laugh.  Or possibly joke, "not until I forget how rough those first few months are!"
P.U.R.P.L.E. crying.

Because we haven't forgotten.  Yes, our lil' guy now sleeps through the night most of the time, but those hazy, crazy, sleep-deprived days of the first year are still very fresh in our memories.  Everyone says "you'll forget eventually.  There's some sort of amnesia that happens."  Well, it hasn't happened yet. I JUST started getting to sleep through the night again (most nights). 
So. Tired.

I'm JUST getting back to a point where I can focus at work when I'm at work and not worry about my kiddo.  And I'm ENJOYING that.  That first year was pandemonium--why would you purposefully rush back into that?  Yes, babies are cute and tiny and adorable and smell like heaven and are so much lighter to pick up...but they don't give me any of those ovarian gut-punches. I will gladly hold your wee one for you while he snoozes peacefully in my arms, in exchange for you following my toddler around and making sure he doesn't fall down the stairs, eat a crayon, or throw the remote in the dog's water bowl.

Had you asked me before I had my son, I would have said, "yup, two kids.  That's the goal."  Because I was an only child, and I hated it.  I had no one to share chores with, no one to blame things on, no one to have fights with, but also no one to be my first and forever best friend.  With that personal experience in my life, I don't want my kid to have the same sense of missing out.  But does it have to mean a birth-sibling?  Maybe fostering or adoption is in our future.  Or maybe he becomes extra close to his cousins and school friends, like I did, and "adopts" siblings of his own.
With my "adopted" sister (actually cousin, but we lived down the street from each other and both wanted a sister, so we just started calling each other "sister" when we were kids).

Then there's logistics:  Right now, it's pretty easy for the three of us to pack up and go somewhere.  Restaurants, the park, weekend trip to Grandma's, whatever.  And there's two of us to keep an eye on him.  You start upping that ratio, and things seem to get zany.  I see our friends with young multiples, and sometimes it just seems like pure chaos.  If Lil' Man gets sick, we can take turns staying home from work, or back each other up when things get rough (read: when he barfs and has the butt-squirts all at the same time at 2am).  If he throws a tantrum or has a really fussy night, we can give each other a break when the other starts to hit their Toddler Screaming Wall.  But if you've got two (or more) kids?  Seems like a free-for-all, divide and conquer type scenario.

Also in the Logistics Department, Let's lay out some True Facts:
- I am currently about 37 years old.
- My husband and I will qualify for senior citizen discounts when our son graduates high school.
- The projected cost of a 4-year degree at a public college for a kid enrolling in 2033 is almost $100,000.
- The risks of having a child with a chromosomal abnormality, or other birth defect, increase progressively as the age of the mother increases, with the chances being around 1 in 200 at age 38 (it was 1 in 350 when I had Lil' Man at age 35).
- Risks to the mom also increase, such as miscarriage, premature delivery, need for C-section, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and just general lack of being able to keep up with a young kid. Mom's got bad knees, son--so no, we can't go up and down the stairs 20 times just because you think it's super-fun.

So...when do the risks outweigh the reward?  Or would it simply be safer/easier to adopt/foster a child who's already a little older (bypassing that whole horrible first year)?  That process, of course, comes with its own set of risks and challenges, both physical and emotional.  Are we up for it?  We really don't know yet.  At this point, we struggle to figure out who will stay home if our one child is sick.  If we had two?  It's a different environment altogether.

All this to say:  We really just don't know.  Life isn't that simple.  Maybe it is for some people, but it isn't for us.
Our little family unit.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: Month 16 - Down with the Sickness

We'll keep this short. Life has been hectic.  It's winter, and we have a day care toddler, which means: we've all been sick.  Lil' Man has had a runny nose off and on since about Christmas.  Every time he seems to get better, he suddenly get fussy, has a low grade fever, and his nose turns into a spigot for mucus.  This past week was particularly horrible: he got a cold or some other kind of viral infection and had to stay home for a day (during which he got gagged on his own mucus twice and threw up all over our kitchen).  Then the vomiting went away...or well...actually, it just started coming out the other end (viral gastroenteritis was the doc's best guess).  Which resulted in six...maybe seven...#2 diapers in a 24 hour period. If you're not a parent--that's not normal, FYI. At least not for a toddler.  THEN he was apparently dehydrated because the following day he was essentially dry ALL day (again, not normal).  
Then on Thursday night, suddenly I didn't feel so good.  Thanks kid. I was out of commission all day Friday.  Meanwhile, even though he was no longer running a fever, poor thing had a horrible attitude all week, no appetite, and was just generally REALLY hard to deal with and try to make happy.  We finally took him to the doc on Friday, where she diagnosed him with an ear infection, gave us some amoxicillin (and a bag of Goldfish crackers, which seemed to make up for the hour of scream-crying he'd been doing thoughout his visit), and sent us home, where I promptly crashed, having used up my energy reserve.  I was still run down the whole weekend, which just sucked.  Luckily, the Hubs seemed to only get a mild case of it and wasn't nearly as wiped out as I had gotten.

Apparently the antibiotics worked, and now we have our happy-go-lucky little guy back, who just wants to explore and play and climb, and go outside.
So, this is a thing.  He definitely understands the word "no", and this is what we get in response.  We're trying to work on the sign for "please" with him, to accompany his "want" (which in his toddler brain, he expresses via pointing and using the sign for "milk" at the same time).  Because at home, mostly what he "wants" is either to go downstairs where he can play with his super cool new climber, and then climb back up the stairs (stairs are VERY cool).  Or he wants to go outside, to walk around in the front yard or explore our back deck...and potentially throw stuff over the edge.
We're cool with doing either of these since the weather is getting nicer, but we really just want him to learn to ask nicely for the things he wants.  It's an uphill battle.  Trying to teach a toddler anything mid-scream-cry is next to impossible. And we may be kidding ourselves. I really don't know when a tiny human is capable of understanding "please". So maybe it's an exercise in futility.

Still very few words and lots of babbling.  But he's using his signs ("milk/want", "more", and "all done") pretty regularly.   He's also learned to nod his head "yes" if we guess the thing he wants correctly, and he smiles at us, proud that he has broken through the language barrier.  

Music is fun, and we like to dance and shake our head to it in the car.  So I've busted out a VeggieTunes CD that I had from way back in the day.  We jam on the way to and home from day care. ...and then Mom turns on her podcast or audiobook as soon as he's out of the car. :)

Slides are awesome.  And now we have one in our basement, which he thinks is the greatest thing.
Well...the next greatest thing to his wagon, anyway.
He's getting better about wanting to be down walking, but still wants to be carried most of the time. We're working through that.
He still cares very little about screen time or TVs in general, despite his absolute infatuation with remote controls.