Cooking with Bebe

Man is this baby stuff a challenge. I’ve taught preschool, worked with out of control adolescents, worked on psychiatric units, led adults and kids through the wilderness, climbed mountains, hung off of rocks and conducted workshops for some seriously high maintenance folks and none of it has been as draining as this. Going on nine mths of no sleep. Last night Isabelle didn’t go to bed till 10pm – I hoped that would mean a later morning but she woke up at 4am as usual for a feed and then I coaxed her back to sleep till 5:45am. Used to be 7:30am. Getting earlier and earlier. Working on no sleep, I’ve gone from feeling confident about this mom stuff to feeling like a total failure. Comparing myself to other moms who shop, bake and actually cook – not just dinner but 3 courses! Last night I made an attempt to cook dinner. Bella and I shopped for quiche ingredients – a pretty failsafe meal.  I planned to prepare it after she went to bed at 8. Well at 8pm, after she had nursed, read stories and was in her sleepsack, she was wide awake and nowhere near headed to sleep. I gave up trying to coax her to sleep after an hour, removed her sleepsack and plopped her on the kitchen floor to "help" me make the quiche. Sauteeing veggies with a 19 lb moppet clinging to your legs is not easy. Lighting the oven almost drove me to insanity.  Pumping the gas and lighting match after match as Isabelle did everything she could to clamor inside, I had visions of accidently blowing up the kitchen. How irresponsible a mom am I lighting a gas oven with a 9 mth old clamoring around? I wonder if I could be reported to social services. Or whatever the French version is.  Trying to block her with my feet, I pumped the gas ignition until it finally caught. I cursed the gas oven my husband insisted on, wishing we had an easy electric one that just turned on.  The European oven doesn’t even have degrees in celcius on it. The temperature is rated 1-9, leaving me guessing 1) how to translate 400 degrees F into celcius (science isn’t my strong suit) 2) how that might possibly correspond to 1-9…I took a stab at the average and set it for 6. In the USA, throwing macncheese together suffices for cooking. Here my French friends cook 3 course meals every night. And they don’t buy the pastry either, they make it (I could barely even find the ready made stuff in the store).  One friend serves her 8 month old daughter three courses as well.  I mix iron fortified baby or yogurt with one of 3 purees Isabelle will eat (apple with prunes, apple with blueberries , carrots) and just keep feeding her until she’s finished. She lets me know she’s finished by screaming at the top of her lungs and squirming to get out of her chair. You’d think she’s sitting on red hot fire pokers.  My friend serves her baby an entree (veggie), a plat (protein or cereal) and a dessert (yogurt with fruit puree).  Let’s not even mention the fact that Isabelle would not sit through 3 servings of anything, preferring to eat her fill and then be released from her prison of the high chair as soon as possible. Isabelle was so intrigued by my escapades, that she desperately wanted to touch the oven which I had to keep telling her "no! Hot!" and pushing her away. Trying to keep my voice firm but not hysterical, I "gently’” admonished her for touching it while still trying to "encourage creativity and exploration". This, while I was beating eggs and sauteeing vegetables which she really wanted to reach up and grab. Balancing on one foot, using the other to keep my daughter arms distance (foot distance?) from the oven, I grated cheese and popped the pastry in to bake, doing some kind of gymnastic lunge to keep Isabelle from climbing in after it. I whipped eggs and vegetables together and poured them into the pastry shell, remembering too late that, in the midst of my gymnastic-cooking-exercise I had completely forgotten to add the creme fraiche and milk. So basically what we had so far was an omelette dumped in a pastry shell.  While Isabelle attempted to jimmy up my leg and hurl herself at the oven door, I hastily poured the creme fraiche over the mix and slammed the door shut. My husband arrived home soon after and I used every bit of strength not to 1) toss the baby into his arms 2) run out the door 3) cry. I think I plastered a smile on my face but for all I know I greeted him with a Hannibal Lechter glare. Forty-five minutes later, he had lulled the baby to sleep (who seems to go down like a lamb with him whereas with me its sort of a "hey mom, no way am I getting in that bed when I have you to entertain me!")  He took a bite of the quiche and politely asked "what is it?" "Quiche! (You moron!)" "I know" he replied calmly "I meant what kind" The creme fraiche had sort of pooled in swirls around the top and I was all set to pass it out as a "provencale specialty" or some such creation.  The loving husband that he is, he ate his whole piece, declined seconds and thanked me…
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