Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

I am writing this on my phone from underneath a baby who will. Not. Sleep. Unless he is latched on and nursing. It is nap.one of the day, following a bedtime that pulled the rug out from under him and left the entire household wrecked.

As I mentioned, The Baby is rocketing through milestones quicker than a greased weasel down a waterslide  (that idiom could use some work, sorry). Anyway, his naps have been shit and I am usually a defeated husk of my former self by Thursday afternoon when I don’t get naptime reprieves. Yesterday I listened to the Sleep Training episode of One Bad Mother, and while I’ve in the past concluded my baby is a tension increaser, crying it out feels cruel and I want to help him gradually transition to sleeping in his own crib, this episode filled husk-me with new hope. Jodi Mindell sounded so reassuring, so convincing. And the host described a sleep training experience of a night or two of brief crying followed by blissful crib sleeping forever and ever, amen.

I didn’t realize it, but the reptile brain that had taken control of me decided, “Hey, you haven’t had time to look further into this or hatch a plan or even let The Husband know you’re considering this, and The Baby is obviously going through sleep regression that makes things 100 times harder than usual, but maybe you should JUST DO IT.” I think the last vestiges of logic snapped when I saw The Baby on the video monitor, standing in his crib about to trip in his sleep sack. His development was outpacing my plan for gradual adjustments.

After a few minutes of him crying (while The Husband looked at me with a look of confusion and concern), I went in his room, shut the door behind me, stripped him out of his sleep sack, spent a minute rocking him, then put him in his crib and settled in to try to help him cry himself to sleep.

I had no clock with me. No plan. I just tried to keep repeating comforting words (“Night night, baby. Shhhh, shhhh. I love you. I’m here. Time for night night.”)  While rubbing his back or tummy. I’m sure he couldn’t hear me, though, because his cries turned into wails and shrieks and coughs. He kept standing and reaching for me and I kept trying to lie him back down and help him settle.

There were a couple times it seemed like he was winding down, but he always wound back up. Yet the more he cried the more on the hook I felt: If I didn’t see this through and help him fall asleep in his crib, I would just have let him cry himself into hysterics before reinforcing the sleep associations I was trying to break. I would have tortured him for nothing.

At one point, poor The Husband cracked open the door to try to figure out what in the hell I was doing and I waved him off angrily.

Finally, after what ended up being about an hour and fifteen minutes of sobbing that still was nowhere near subsiding, I took a quick bathroom break to gather my thoughts and see if my absence did anything to quiet Baby down. It did not. And The Husband was outside the bathroom door with a look on his face that made me feel terrible. I told him I was going in to “end this.”

Which meant I went back in, picked up my tear-soaked kid, rocked him in my arms and put him down asleep, or at least 99% of the way there. I had tortured him for nothing.

Feeling so defeated, I tried to explain my extremely half-baked idea to The Husband. He was upset and yet far more forgiving than I would have been if he’d unilaterally and impulsively tried to do what I had done. I had been high on the hope that this experiment would work.

Or at least that the crying jag would have worn The Baby out and he’d sleep a few hours. But no, after less than an hour he was back up, as usual. The Husband rocked him back to sleep, and when he woke up 10 minutes later I took him to bed and hoped he could absorb my apology through osmosis. We both slept soundly.

I know my biggest mistake was not going in with a plan. And I know there are tons of proponents of the “gradual extinction” method of sleep training who will tell me to climb back on this horse but to saddle up better first.

BUT GUYS. There are so many theories about babies and sleep! About cortisol and negative sleep associations and SIDS! Experts contradict one another at every turn of the page. I’m so tired and so full to the brim with mom guilt I can’t rationally evaluate all the options. Everything sounds hopeful, bit when I’m face to sopping wet face with my difficult sleeper, words on a page don’t feel like they have any power at all.

Ugh. I don’t have a tidy conclusion, let alone a solution, to this episode of The Baby’s Sleep Saga. I need some time to regroup. I need to strategize with The Husband. I need to take a nap myself.

Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

Seven months in: A sonic boom of development

The Baby celebrated turning seven months old yesterday by perfecting his brand-new skill of pulling himself to stand in his play yard (read: baby jail) and taking his first standing up dump. (Sorry, grown up The Baby. Sometimes you have to overshare. You’re welcome I don’t use your name.)

In the same vein as my other milestone posts, here’s a quick stream of consciousness list about this particular moment in our lives.

Seven things about seven months

Seven things about seven months

  1. The past two or three weeks have been the developmental equivalent of a bullet train. The Baby has gone from sitting up and scooting a little to full on crawling, getting to sit up on his own and then pulling himself to standing whenever he can. He also has four teeth now.
  2. This burst of development means I’m locked in a babyproofing arms race. He’s no longer content for very long to hang out in one (safe) place and play with toys, so much of my time is spent following him around the house while he conducts and ever more alarming complimentary babyproofing audit of his surroundings.With the speed and fervor of a predator on the hunt, he crawls from the top of the basement stairs (baby-gated) to the cord of a lamp (now stashed behind a piece of furniture) to a fistful of dog hair (forever a losing battle) to the bedroom wastebasket (just generally dump-able and full of trash). We’ve taken swapped out most of the outlet covers with these, and now that our house is no longer an active construction site I’m getting caught up on general decluttering and keeping the floor cleanish, but this upcoming weekend will be spent strapping all our furniture to the walls and likely banishing our never-used TV to the basement since it’s an extreme tipping hazard.
  3. Because that’s not exhausting enough, he’s paired it with the two filthiest words in parenting: sleep regression. I’ve done minimal research on sleep regression (some sources deny its existence/link to particular times in a baby’s life?) but I guarantee it’s happening right now. While I used to be able to put him down drowsy for naps, he now must be fully out before I lay him in his crib or I have to start over again. Naps that were stretching to 1.5-2 hours at a time without interruption have gone back to the dreaded 50-minutes-then-come-rock-me-back-to-sleep variety, every single time. I have avoided nursing him to sleep at bedtime for months and months now, but he is insistent about it now. And, very worst of all, he is now waking up at 4 a.m. – not for a quick snack and to go back to sleep, but to nurse nonstop except for yelps and flailing and general disruption until we finally get out of bed at 6 a.m. Please, sleep gods, don’t let this last too long.
  4. The babbling, oh the babbling! The baby’s favorite sound to make is MUH-MUH-MUH-MUH-MUH-MUH-MUH, that every so often truly sounds like he’s calling out for me. I know from hearing him say it as he rolls a truck across the floor or watch his mobile that he’s not really saying, “Mama,” but it’s a really endearing look into the future I can look forward to with a talking baby. His dad continues to read this book to him all the time, but I think I’m winning.
  5. Eating is starting to look more like eating. We’ve been at the baby led weaning thing for just over a month now. The amount of food stuffed between his legs and seat or scattered across the floor or smeared into his hair, while still abundant, is starting to be slightly less than the amount of food we put in front of him. I have actually witnessed him chewing and swallowing food at just about every meal. I’m sure having four teeth helps a little bit. Even though it is truly a godawful mess, I’m really glad we went the BLW route. He gets to experience food through all his senses, which is probably pretty helpful for his raging development. He gets agency and independence to make decisions for himself. And it’s really fun to watch and share a meal with him. It also has forced us to eat way healthier and way more vegetables than we otherwise would.
  6. Books – you can also look at them! The Baby’s approach to storytime has typically involved trying to get the book into his mouth, period. Aside from a couple favorite board books, he just wasn’t interested in hearing stories or looking at pictures. I ended up steering clear of all our non-board books because he’d just try to rip out the pages. It still depends on his mood, but more often than not at bedtime he will look at the pages while we read to him and even tries to turn the pages (on board books) without trying to rip the book out of our hands to shove it in his mouth. Here’s hoping he’ll become a voracious reader in the regular sense as he keeps growing.
  7. I watched my first movie since becoming a mom. It seems absurd that it took me seven months to watch a movie, but there it is. The Husband and I have started watching an episode of TV on Hulu now and again once The Baby goes down, but Saturday night was our first time sitting next to each other on the couch (actually, our poor neglected dog lay in between us) and watching a full length movie. Yes, it involved rocking the baby back to sleep twice, but we did it. We even had popcorn and beer. It was like a vacation.

There you have it! My baby is torpedoing toward toddlerhood and I’m just trying to keep up.

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Seven months in: A sonic boom of development

Road Trip Tips for Baby

Baby's first road trip

This past weekend we took a quick road trip through Columbus and to Cincinnati to visit some of The Husband’s family. Managing a single road trip does not make me a traveling-with-baby expert, but we were way more successful than I could have imagined, so I thought I’d share some tips for any new parents prepping for their own excursions.

Packing

Start with a good list. I love a list, and packing is no exception. Mentally go through a regular day with your baby and write down everything you’ll need, from diapering, to feeding, to naps and sleep; then consider any activities you are planning during the trip (for me, that was maybe using the hotel pool and going to the zoo) and list anything you’ll want for that (sunscreen, hat, swim diaper, etc.) If you are a parent and you are reading this, you know to plan for disasters, so it almost goes without saying you should bring a few extra changes of clothes/a few more diapers than you think you need.

Here are a few things I packed that came in handy:

General

  • Neatly folded plastic grocery bags for holding dirty diapers, soiled clothes, etc. I also brought a few zip-top sandwich sized storage bags for holding pacifiers, doling out small portions of baby puffs, etc.
  • Baby carrier. You guys, baby wearing is so handy for travel. We brought our stroller but it ended up staying in the car the whole time. I impulse bought a soft structured carrier the day before we left but I have zero regrets.

Feeding

  • Boobs. Because I’m SAHM-ing and extremely lazy about pumping, I brought zero bottles and only the milk I carried. A bottle could likely have come in handy at some point, but honestly, probably not enough to make up for the having to wash everything.  Obviously you will have to adapt to your situation.
  • Easy, mess-free snack. I knew we were going to be dining out a lot and I wouldn’t have a whole lot of control over sodium levels, etc., I bought a canister of Baby Puffs to keep The Baby occupied at the table if we were short on options for him.
  • Silicone placemat and a bib. Our hotel had a breakfast buffet with fruit and other BLW-friendly items, so we wanted to take advantage of it without being the worst hotel guests ever. This helped contain the mess (a little.)
  • All-purpose cleaning wipes and baby wipes. In addition to baby wipes for diapering, I kept a stash along with all-purpose cleaning wipes to clean The Baby and the table, respectively.

Sleeping/napping

  • This is totally dependent on how your baby sleeps, but I brought a sleep sack and both Wubbanubs. The Baby uses them only when he is going down to sleep but I would have lost my mind if we hadn’t brought them. I also brought a very small fan to help with white noise if our hotel A/C wasn’t loud enough to do the trick. We carried our cosleeping habit to the hotel so didn’t bother with a Pack and Play or anything. I’ll talk about our nap setup later.

Toys and entertainment

  • We brought The Baby’s favorite book for bedtime, and I fished a few toys out of the box that he doesn’t usually play with (I try to rotate them to keep him from getting overwhelmed and/or bored with the same toys all the time.) I also strung several canning rings onto a plastic toy link to make a fun, noisy rattle that I wouldn’t mind losing. Because we’re trying to go with the whole low-tech baby thing, I did not set up any baby TV on my phone for the trip.

Plan your bags well. I used our large diaper bag as the “suitcase”/staging bag, filling it with all the diapers we’d need for the weekend, The Baby’s clothes, burp cloths, bibs, and blanket. I put all his clothes in one gallon size zip-top bag, the bibs and burp cloths in another, bath toys and baby shampoo in another, and used each pocket in the bag for other “groups” of items. Sunscreen and bug repellant in one, wipes in another, etc. I used a separate, small backpack to hold all the food-related stuff, as well as a mini diaper clutch with just enough diapering supplies for each leg of the trip. My point is, try to start off extremely organized. It made it easy to grab stuff in the car and kept me from feeling weighed down like a pack mule.

Don’t forget your own comfort. Comfy shoes, plenty of nursing bras, snacks for the ride and hotel room, and a pile of books. The one amazing thing for me was getting to read a little while The Baby napped because I was too far away from my dirty laundry and unfinished DIY projects to try to tackle them while he slept. It was, in short bursts, almost vacation-like.

Driving and time management

Plan around naps. We tried to time each of our departures around The Baby’s usual nap times to give him a chance to sleep in the car. It usually worked out great. I also chose to sit next to him in the back during the second leg of each trip to serve as entertainment (and occasionally lean over his carseat to nurse him, yep) to keep him from flying off the handle.

Break the trip up. We weren’t going far, but stopping in Columbus for a few hours (and then in Oxford on the way back up) gave The Baby a chance to stretch out, hang out somewhere other than the car, and burn off some energy.

Take your time and be flexible. We decided throughout the trip that while we wanted to have fun and see everyone, we weren’t going to try to stick to any overtaxing schedules. We tried to make sure The Baby at least had an excellent first nap each day, so if his second nap was spent being lugged around in a carrier at the zoo, he’d at least have started off well.

Home base

While it’s easy to crash anywhere when it’s just you/your significant other, I think it’s totally worth it to save up/find deals to get a hotel room that can serve as a good home base. Call me a control freak (I am), but when you’re away from home it’s really nice to be able to manage your surroundings to make your baby (and yourself) as comfortable as possible, and sometimes that’s just not possible if you have a fold out couch in someone else’s house.

I intentionally found a hotel that had mini-suites and decided to cash in some credit card points to offset the extra cost. We stayed in a king studio suite, and while there wasn’t a separate room for The Baby to sleep in, there was plenty of floor space for him to crawl around, and The Husband and I did have a separate sitting area to lounge in while he slept. There was also a mini-fridge and an extra sink, which came in handy for washing our placemat, etc. after breakfast. It was just nice to have the extra space.

Basically, we just did our best to stick to the home routine. I put The Baby in the middle of the bed with pillows blocking each edge (but nowhere near him… gotta love a California king bed), and we just kept an eye on him from across the room while he napped. At night, we did our usual bathtime, story time routine, and it worked out great. The blackout curtains were clutch and made me realize the really-dark-but-not-actually-blackout curtains in The Baby’s room are not quite cutting it.

While we had to be quiet and left the room fairly dim during The Baby’s sleep, I packed a picnic for our first night in the hotel (cheese and charcuterie, plus prosecco) and we actually had a pretty romantic cocktail hour in our half of the room.

Those are my tips for a successful road trip with baby. What are your go-to moves?

(By the way, I know I linked to a lot of products in this post, but none of this is sponsored. It’s just what I love/used on this particular trip.)

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Road Trip Tips for Baby

Home again, home again

The Husband and I just leveled up in parenting by finally putting The Baby through the rigors of extended confinement that is the Road Trip.

We took a long weekend to Cincinnati to visit The Husband’s family and escape Day 1 of the RNC. I hope to follow up this post with some tips for traveling and hotel-ing with a crawling baby, but as I sit here on the porch quickly recalibrating, just a quick anecdote about #farmlife:

My dad came over on Saturday to see us off and get a quick orientation to feeding our cats while we were gone. As he stepped out the door to our porch, a small shrew ambled through the doorway as nonchalantly as though he had been invited in.

This is not the first time a shrew has made its way inside. One of our two cats, Charlie, somehow lures them inside under the screen door when the basement door is open and promptly kills them. Charlie happened to be unconscious on the couch when this interloper squeezed his way under our refrigerator. We had to leave, so The Husband picked Charlie up, deposited him next to the refrigerator, and told him he had an assignment while we were gone. Charlie’s tail got puffy and he went on alert, so while the humans in the house weren’t thrilled to be leaving a rodent in our house over the weekend, we knew it wouldn’t survive.

What we didn’t work into our equation was how a shrew would smell if it were killed at noon on Saturday and stewed until Monday afternoon. So when we got home just now, we were met with the hot stink of decay. It’s unbelievable how much stink can come from such a tiny animal.

We looked all around trying to find the body. Our dog, who had spent the weekend with my parents walked in the door, said a quick hello, and trotted over to The Husband’s computer bag as if to say, “Why do you have a dead shrew in your work bag?”

So the shrew is in the trash, The Husband needs a new work bag, and our homecoming was less than relaxing. We’re airing out the house and finding solace in the fact that at least we have an effective killing machine in our cat.

Thanks, Charlie.

An earlier victim of Charlie’s.
Home again, home again

A love letter to my library

summer reading
The summer reading saga continues!

What better way to rebound from a somewhat belligerent (though I would still argue justified) rant about a place that made me feel like crap as a mom than to talk about a place that makes me feel wonderful every time I set foot in it?

I am, of course, referring to my local library.

The library was one of the first places I ventured with The Baby during maternity leave. Ever since then, it has become a routine destination for my attempts to leave the house on a daily basis.

Of course, perk No. 1 of the library is that it’s free (or, really, really, cheap, if you tend to have overdue books here and there…) Now that I’m no longer in a super walkable neighborhood (frown), I can’t just throw the baby in a carrier and take a walk around the block to count as my outing. Generally, I have to run an errand, which almost always means going into a store of some sort and spending money. And as a post-Great-Recession, one-and-some-change-income family, we don’t go shopping just to shop.

The Baby isn’t quite big enough that places specifically made for kids (children’s museum, playground) are a worthwhile trip. Right now he’s basically just psyched by anything that isn’t our house. But I know when he does start to get more interested in play and exploration, my library’s children’s section is a great place to spend some time!

Another great thing about the library is the great sense of possibility I feel every time I step inside. Thinking about raising goats? Pick up a how-to book. Itching for a good conspiracy? Read about the JFK assassination. Etc. ad nauseam. While the Internet is a vast resource to learn about anything I could possibly imagine, you can’t beat the feeling of wandering the aisles and coming across something you weren’t looking for that piques your interest.

I find myself unintentionally choosing books around a theme almost every trip. My last library haul centered around ghost stories and, more practically speaking, raising goats. (That’s still in the works, though slow-going.) In the ghost story genre, I read The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce and I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. I love a good ghost story, and while neither of these was life-changingly good, they satisfied the part of me that gets a thrill from a few chills down my spine.

(For those of you following along, I haven’t finished Cannery Row yet. I returned Doubter’s Almanac unfinished because I always read too many books at once, it was due back at the library and it didn’t hook me in the first three chapters.)

I’ll spare you the review on the goat raising book.

Today’s haul was exclusively nonfiction. (I have another randomly chosen novel I renewed from the last trip, resting unread under by bed still.) Anyway, I picked up two books on writing fiction, something I did obsessively as a child and teenager but haven’t touched since then but have been daydreaming about. I’m hoping that reading about writing will give me the little nudge to try it out again (though I will keep those exercises to myself and stick with the real-life navel gazing for this particular outlet.)

I also got Baby Knows Best, a parenting book about the “RIE way,” which I’ve never heard of. But I like reading about child development and don’t know that much about it, so it’s always interesting to broaden my horizons on that front. I’ll either learn some knew ways to help The Baby grow into an awesome Kid and Adult, or I’ll find something else to call bullshit on and get sanctimonious about. Win-win.

Finally, I got On the Move, A Life by Oliver Sacks, whom you’ll recognize if you’re a Radiolab fan, as he was a beloved neuroscientist who explored some amazing facets of the human brain and struggled with his identity and love and human mortality and who was a beautiful storyteller on top of being a brilliant scientist. He died not too long ago and Radiolab gave him a beautiful tribute, and I can’t wait to read this book.

So there’s an update on what’s on my nightstand, and a reminder to my fellow new moms to go feed your soul at the library!

One more parting tip: Libraries usually have a shelf of used books for sale for CHEAP (a “Friends of the Library” fundraiser type deal), and it’s a great place to pick up children’s books, especially board books because you can clean off the pages before you hand them over to your baby. I picked up a few gems today for a buck!

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A love letter to my library

The misogyny of “get your body back”

My mid-morning errand today involved going to Target to buy things I needed (diapers, coffee) and a few things I didn’t really need, that nevertheless will make my life a little easier (Dollar Spot mini binder with abundant list inserts to replace my near-full daily to-do list notebook, underwear that isn’t so old and stretched out that it barely stays up – sorry, I have no dignity).

What I came across, and what should come as no surprise yet still filled me with rage and dismay, was something I really, really didn’t need: a glaring reminder that I personally and new moms across the Western world owe it to society to GET OUR BODIES BACK after baby.

I was meandering through the baby aisles looking for a non-plastic sippy cup option (no luck) as The Baby has taken to clanking his bottom teeth on the shot glass I fill with water to offer him at meals. At the end of the bottles and breast pumps aisle, there it was, shining like a beacon of judgment: A rack of fitness magazines showing off the extremely fit, glowing bodies of women.

Body shaming at Target
While you’re worried about making sure your baby is thriving, don’t forget: You’re not good enough!

To this I say (and here comes some French, with no apologies), FUCK YOU, TARGET.

Like just about any woman with a pulse in America, I have fought my whole life to come to a place where I can love and accept my body as it is. It took me marveling with wonder and gratitude at my body’s ability to grow and push out and feed another human being. I’ve finally been able to quit grimacing at the way my thighs spread out on a seat or glowering at my arm hair or wishing I were different, or better. I am finally content with who I am, and while I have never had to endure the stigma of being extremely overweight or otherwise extremely far from conventionally acceptable appearance, I feel something almost like grief at the first 30 years of my life spent looking in the mirror and not feeling like enough.

And I have nothing against exercise. In fact, I credit exercise with helping me maintain my sanity and maybe having an almost obscenely quick and easy labor. I have been craving a chance to go running again and take every opportunity to walk around the farm or get a good stretch in, because it makes me feel good.

But this display isn’t about exercise. It’s about exploiting the vulnerability of women whose bodies have been stretched and taxed and transformed in ways that definitely don’t always feel comfortable or normal or acceptable. Society seems to think pregnant women’s bodies are public space, open for any remarks or criticisms that might come to mind. And then when baby actually arrives, even though life is 1000% different and priorities have shifted like tectonic plates, there’s that shitty expectation that if you don’t get your body “back,” you have tumbled headlong toward permanent fat frump town and your worth as a woman is forever revoked.

Exhausted new mothers who face fear and judgment and limitless guilt in every direction. It’s not enough to keep a baby alive and fed and happy and appropriately enriched. Better make room in your cart for instructions on putting yourself back together, because you’re (still) broken.

How dare you, Target.

How dare you strategically place this column of manufactured perfection in this spot, amplifying those insecurities for new mothers who are just trying to find a pump so they can go back to work or the right bottle in hopes of easing colic.

I know Target didn’t invent this expectation, but they certainly have no problem taking advantage of it to sell more magazines.

This makes me angry and sad, and makes me want to say to new moms who come across this and other post-baby fitspo and feel the monstrous weight of inadequacy:

You are good enough.

You’re more than good enough, in fact. You are a goddamn superhero, and you don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way.

Dear New Mom: You're good enough.

I know this may seem like a big soapbox for a small transgression, but this and every instance of post-baby body pressure is yet another form of misogyny that we shouldn’t have to fucking put up with. If we don’t call it out when we see it, if we don’t condemn it for how it makes us feel and for how it reinforces society’s apparent say in how women must occupy space in a certain way, then it’s never going to get better.

Target, you don’t get to make me feel bad about my postpartum self. I’m good enough.

 

The misogyny of “get your body back”

Feeding and care of new moms

Weeknight meal wednesday.jpg
I know. It’s Thursday. Don’t care.

As soon as The Baby wakes up from his morning naps (which, I hate to admit, he’s been sleeping through far better since my recent acquisition of yet another Amazon Prime impulse buy. He definitely likes to have his arms up by his face but can’t sleep when he can fully flail. Thank you, Amazon gods. Take all my money and all my hypocritical proclamations about anti-consumerism. P.S. Thank you also, Amazon gods, for the gift of a baby jail. The Baby hasn’t chewed on any electrical cords since its delivery!)

I cannot get through one sentence without a major digression.

Anyway, as soon as The Baby wakes up, he and I are headed to Cleveland to bring food and fun to my good friend and fellow new mom, who celebrated the recent Cavs championship win by going into labor.

Having recently been well fed and cared for by my friends in my own early weeks postpartum, I thought I’d share a delicious, easy meal that is one of my faves and travels/keeps well. It’s not Wednesday, I know, but I made this last night, so it’s still a Weeknight Meal Wednesday.

I adapted this recipe from Pinch of Yum the first time I made it, and it has become one of my staple recipes. Its many, many iterations are all over Pinterest, so it’s not exactly a novel idea but I FREAKING LOVE IT. It’s extremely adaptable, super healthy and easy enough to make even if you have a six month old.

Butternut Squash Shells & Cheese with Chicken and Tatsoi

This recipe made two 9″x 9″ casseroles worth of dinner (one for my family and one to give.) Halve just about everything if you’re less hungry (though you can always freeze half!)

Ingredients

  • One large butternut squash
  • One large/two medium onions
  • 2 lbs of short cut pasta (I used shells)
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 big bunch of tatsoi (this came in my Fresh Fork bag last week. You could also use kale, swiss chard, broccoli or another green of your choice. This was delicious!)
  • Milk (maybe 2 cups? Did not measure)
  • 1 block of meltable cheese (I used Monterey Jack), shredded
  • A dollop of spicy brown mustard
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
  • Butter/canola oil

Directions

Cut your squash and roast it. I think I did 350 for about 45 minutes, with the squash cut into disks. I also have success cutting the squash in half vertically, sticking each half face down in a baking dish with a little water underneath for steam, and cooking, but I wanted a little roasty flavor on thse because that one circle ended up being a snack for The Baby.

I also took this time to cook three chicken breasts, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme. Once they’re cool, you can chop them up into bite-size pieces and set them aside/stick them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to put everything in the oven.


While the squash is cooking, now is a good time to shred your whole block of cheese. This can be done a little in advance because you need to be able to handle the squash, so allow it to cool a bit. Some recipes tell you to peel & cut up the raw squash and steam/cook it on the stovetop, but I’m not about to spend time peeling a raw butternut squash. Moving on.

Chop up your onions (slices are fine because you’re going to end up pureeing the whole thing) and sweat them out in some butter, thyme and kosher salt. (I sadly used all my butter to make an upsettingly decadant cookie dough snack while I cooked lactation cookies, so I had to use oil. Butter is better if you’ve got it.)

Get your pasta water on to boil. You will want your pasta to be piping hot and ready to go when the sauce is done to help incorporate the cheese. Undercook it just a little so it doesn’t get too soft in the oven later.

Once the onions are very sweaty/leaning toward caramelized, add the squash. Once everything is good and soft, it’s time to buzz it up with milk and a tablespoon or so of spicy brown mustard in your favorite food processor-type gadget. I use a Nutribullet, which isn’t quite big enough for the whole thing so I do it in two batches. The consistency and color will approximate the nasty fake cheese in a delicious boxed shells and cheese.

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and add the squash puree. Begin to mix and stir in about half the shredded cheese. This is about the time I thought to cook up some greens to add, but any time before this step is good, too! I cooked the chopped stems in a little oil and then steamed the leaves, making sure they weren’t too water (but as the shells were a little under and everything goes in the oven, it’s not a big deal if there’s some extra moisture.) Add the chopped chicken and stir everything up. If it looks a little dry, add a few splashes of milk.

Grease two 9″x9″ (or 8″ x 8″? I dunno, square) *baking dishes. If you’re eating yours for dinner, preheat the oven back to 350. Split the pasta into the two baking dishes. Bake the one you’re eating now, covered in foil, for about 30 minutes. You can uncover for the last few minutes to brown the cheese, if you life. I like to write cooking instructions on the foil of the other one to make it super easy.

*I broke one of my cardinal rules of dropping off postpartum dishes, which is Thou Shalt Not Create More Dirty Dishes for a New Mom. I had a bunch of foil baking pans perfect for such occasions but lost them somewhere in the move, I guess. Don’t be like me.

Here’s the finished product! And a bonus photo of the lactation cookie dough I ate by the fist-full made to go along with it. I did not stray in any intentional or beneficial way from this recipe, so just go there and check it out. These are so, so delicious (and effective, in my experience.)

 

Baby’s awake, time to pack up the car… and meet his new friend!!

Feeding and care of new moms