Mix and Match Baked Pasta Dishes

Toddler eating habits make for frustrated mothers. My pint-sized fickle one is completely unpredictable when it comes to what he will and will not eat, but there are three things that I can almost always get him to eat: dairy, fruit and noodles in most forms.

Dairy and fruit are fairly easy, and are reserved mostly for snacks, breakfast and beverage purposes.  But noodles.  Noodles in the right form can make a fabulous meal, not just for a toddler who will actually willingly eat them, but for the whole family.

I wrote last week about my meal planning style: cooking on Sundays for the week.  Every other week, I have some form of baked noodle casserole dish on my menu. They are all referred to as “baked ziti” in our house, but really, there are about a zillion ways to make it.

Since I know that everyone gets stuck in a rut sometimes when it comes to life’s age old question (What should I make for dinner?!?!?!), I thought I would share the many variations of delicious “baked zitis” we have made over here (and maybe you can share yours too!).

The Noodle: We are a divided house in our home when it comes to noodle preference.  I love rotini the most, as I find that the sauce gets into the groves and twists best, but Mr. C likes the traditional ziti or penne shaped noodles.  We have made baked noodle dishes with everything from farfalle (bowties) to small shells, ruote (wagon wheels) to elbow macaroni to orzo.  I’ve used whole wheat pasta, veggie-infused pasta, the Barilla “plus” protein-infused noodles, and oven ready lasagna noodles.

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Fine Motor Toys

At her Early Intervention evaluation, Juliet’s fine and gross motor skills were both on the lower end for her age.  Since then she has certainly blossomed a lot, but I have been working with her more as well trying to help her along. I have been looking for more grasping toys to help her get more comfortable using her little fingers, as well as mastering skills with them such as picking things up, passing them from one hand to another, etc. I asked the evaluators for suggestions, as well as looked at the toys they had with them when they evaluated Juliet.  Here is my list:

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My Five Minute Face

{I feel like I’ve had a lot of really heavy posts recently… I think it’s time to lighten the mood a little, no?!}

I’ve been wearing make-up daily since I was 13 and “officially” allowed to wear it by my parents. (I may or may not have had a secret bag in my backpack with mascara, eyeliner, lipstick and makeup remover prior to that… but I’ll never tell!) In high school, all the cool girls did it, so I did too. (It should be noted… I was not a cool girl. At all.) Then came college and all my friends started going “au natural” but whenever I did that, everyone would ask if I was feeling ok. Blonde eyelashes and fair skin can do that to a girl. So at the very least, I donned concealer, mascara and tinted lip gloss.

Once I graduated, my makeup routine became intense and mandatory. We are talking the whole shebang… foundation, powder, concealer, eye shadows, eyeliner, eyelash curler, mascara, blush, lip liner, lipstick, and lip gloss. I think a lot of that was due to the fact that I ended up in a career where I dealt with a lot of people a lot older than me, and a lot more senior in their jobs. I used make-up as my tool to look my age—or older!—and hold my own. (In my twenties, I still looked as though I needed to be carded for any 18+ club. In my early thirties, I still regularly got carded to buy alcohol. A blessing, and a curse.)

Now, I’m a wee bit past my early thirties… and I have two kiddos, one of whom I need to drop off at school every day. And, I’m trying to look younger than I am! Go figure. Given that I’m a freelance graphic designer, I never know where my next client may pop up, so I want to look my best. Not only that, but I feel like I’m ready to “face the day” when I have my “face on.” I’m old-school like that. But getting two kiddos out the door by 7:45 every morning is no easy feat… so the make-up routine that I had prior to my “new normal” had to get slimmed down a little. Plus, I’m usually only headed out for errands these days and not client meetings. My goal is to look bright-eyed and bushy tailed, but natural. And speed is of the essence… but isn’t it always?! I referred to Mrs. Bee’s post on her “5-minute Face” and challenged myself to do the same. It took a few days of trial and error, but I got there! And it really is that quick once you get in the routine of it!

So here’s my current routine. One that I can see hanging onto well into my forties. (I hope!)

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Life With an Adventurous Eater

We are incredibly blessed that Lil’ CB is a great eater and always has been. Our little foodie is the kind of eater that will gladly try anything and often try it before you tell him what it is. His lists of favorite foods boasts delicacies like mussels, sushi, shrimp, anchovies, meats of all cuts, and Kalamata olives, and he’s never met a cheese he didn’t like. My mom always shakes her head in disbelief when she watches Lil’ CB eat and usually mutters something like, “You don’t even know…” because it is a well-known fact in our circles that I was a HORRIBLE eater as a child. It wasn’t so much that I was picky; it was more like I haaaated eating. Things could not be more different for our little Cowboy, and boy am I grateful!

Our little foodie at work: shoveling mussels in garlic sauce down his mouth; hoarding tuna rolls; trying pig’s feet and blood sausage.

We can hardly take credit for creating this adventurous eater, though. Rather, I really feel like the reason why Lil’ CB eats so well and eats nearly anything is because when his foster mother really started him on solids, he just ate smaller, perhaps more watered-down versions of what the adults in the house were eating. It was probably very similar to Baby Led Weaning, maybe with kimchi and seaweed instead of cucumbers and avocado.

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A changeing Identity Part Three: To preschool and beyond.

After surviving the “new mom era,” I have felt like I have been in this slow transition to a new me and it comes from changes in our family dynamic.  It’s nothing like the unending feeling of being lost that I felt with infertility. It’s not this overnight colossal change that being a new mom brought with it. Instead it has been developing slowly since around the time my twins turned one.

As a mom I know that many changes in me are a result of milestones that my kids meet. When my twins learned to walk at 8 months and I was chasing three little boys with things to do and trouble to get into, I had to learn how to manage them in public (which including becoming a much more patient and relaxed person).  I stopped nursing them at 1 year, which all of a sudden gave me way more freedom with my time. The older they got the more they were able to entertain themselves and I could run to the bathroom from time to time, although it usually resulted in them jumping off the furniture by the time I got back (again a test of patience). I also became more confident in my abilities to handle three boys. This was huge for me to be able to say, “Kids are happy, husband is happy, things are going great!”

We even added another child into our family and it didn’t change everything as dramatically as those first few years with the boys. There were some changes. The day she was born, I became a mother of four. I wasn’t the one with all the babies any more. I became “the one with the three boys and the little girl.” But this new title and identity wasn’t as difficult for me to transition to. I already knew how to be a parent to a large family. It was just a slightly bigger now. I had been a mom for almost three years. I was used to being tired (what are a few more months of night time feedings). I was used to being at home with no time to myself (I never thought going to the bathroom by myself would be a luxury but truly it is).  I was used to being greatly outnumbered during the day while Mr. Train was working (now I did all the same things but I did it with a baby strapped to my chest).

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Wohm Pumping Essentials

As a WOHM, these are my pumping essentials!

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A Shift.

When my husband and I found out we could not have biological children, we were devastated. It felt like the absolute worst thing we could ever hear and was a crushing blow to our identities. For years, since I was a child myself,  all I wanted was to be a mother and I ached to be able to grow my child in my womb. Knowing this wasn’t ever going to happen sent me into quite a dark place; quite possibly the darkest place I’ve ever been.

After grieving for some time, we moved forward with our adoption process. Adoption was something we had always wanted, but if I’m completely honest, it was something we wanted after having biological children. It wasn’t necessarily a plan B, per se; it was more of a happy addendum to our original plan. However, once our original plan (and you know what they say about plans) went out the window, our addendum became our main agenda.

The adoption journey in and of itself was an often difficult one, with its ups and downs, twists and turns. But in the end, it ended with our beautiful, beautiful son in our arms. And once he was there, the darkness faded and we began to feel a shift.

It was love at first sight with our son, and that love continued to grow deeper and deeper. Each day we marveled at the fact that we were the lucky ones that got to be his parents. The more we got to know our little guy, the more we knew that we were incredibly blessed to call him our own.

Most days we still look at our son in disbelief that he is ours and in disbelief that we could love someone so much. I can’t imagine loving another child, biological or not, any more than I love my son… I can’t even begin to fathom how I could.

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