Having a small kid is rough. I don’t mean small as in young; I mean small as in small. We’ve spent a whole lot of time since Sweet Pea came home dealing with GI visits, speech therapy (which, fun fact, also deals with eating), and nutritionists.
There’s a special kind of guilt that goes along with being a parent of a small child. On one level, you know you’re doing what you should, and it’s just your child’s body that’s not cooperating. But on another, more primal, more lizard-brain level, you also know that keeping your kid nourished is the most basic job a parent has. It’s hard not to feel defensive when you go to the doctor and they ask you, “Well, can’t you feed her one more bottle a day? Why aren’t you waking her up twice in the middle of the night for feeding instead of once?” It feels like an accusation. It also feels like they have never tried to force-feed a sobbing, squirming baby six bottles a day.
Sweet Pea has always struggled with her bottle, but things got better after she had surgery in October to remove a cyst that had been blocking her airway. Then things got worse again, but luckily it was around the time that she was supposed to start solids. We were given a list of high-calorie solid foods to start giving her and she loves eating them. Loves.
Solid foods have totally been a game-changer for us. We recently had our FIRST POSITIVE VISIT with GI, where they were happy with Sweet Pea’s growth. And then I Googled and realized she’s still 4 pounds less than the average baby at her adjusted age. Insert laugh/cry emoji here.
But still: we’re really happy that she’s finally gaining at a faster clip and seeing her delight in eating peanut noodles and tofu and pancakes is just amazing.
This Carrot Mac & Cheese, well, it tastes like carrots. So picky preschoolers? Like my Little Pea? They might not like it. But Sweet Pea loves this recipe. The size of macaroni is perfect for her to pick up and since she’s still toothless, pureed or boiled-to-mush are pretty much the only ways she’s eating carrots anyway.
I adapted this recipe from Food & Wine; it’s a pretty loose adaptation because I mercilessly hacked away at anything that required, like, effort. Hence the name: Easiest Carrot Mac & Cheese. Gone is the orange zest! Gone is the cutting of carrots! Just buy a bag of pre-cut ones! Fresh marjoram? Ha! As if. I did add some garlic, though. Garlic makes everything more delicious. (If you’re feeling ambitious, you could roast it first. In which case, just put a whole head in.)
Lately I’ve been feeling kind of isolated and alone, something not uncommon for preemie moms the first winter after bringing their babies home from the hospital. I kind of went through this funk where I was depressed about having to work morning to bedtime and take care of Sweet Pea; it felt monumentally unfair that I couldn’t just spend time with her, that I had bills to pay so I had to work, etc. Spending 14 hours a day writing about dental implants while your baby cries for attention really, really sucks. But I feel guilty for complaining, too, because: at least I work from home! I AM LUCKY and I shouldn’t complain!
It always feels like the weight of everything is on my shoulders and I just want someone to swoop in and save me. Can a social democratic government please give me a proper maternity leave? Can Andrew Yang send me a freedom dividend? Any benevolent millionaires want to pay off my student loans? But, obviously, that’s not how the world works. And, ultimately in this world, we’re all in this alone. OH MAN THAT IS SO DEPRESSING. I don’t mean that. Or maybe I do. I don’t know. It just feels that way sometimes. You feel like the world just forgets about you; that no one wants to hear that you’re struggling. Everyone just wants us to be this MICRO PREEMIE SUCCESS STORY, and of course, we are in a lot of ways, but I feel like people want to tune out what it takes to get to this point. It’s just: YOU’RE GREAT, EVERYTHING’S GREAT, YOU’RE DOING GREEEEEAT! And it feels isolating; it feels like no one’s listening.
If you’re reading this, and you have people telling you you’re doing great and you don’t feel like you’re doing great, let me validate your feelings and tell you that: you’re not doing great. You’re struggling. It sucks. I wish I could give you a freedom dividend.
- 3/4 pound julienned carrots
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
- Place the carrots in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Transfer the carrots and cooking liquid to a blender and puree until smooth.
- While the carrots are cooking, cook the macaroni according to the package instructions, until al dente. Reserve a cup of the cooking water before draining.
- Melt the butter in the pot you cooked the macaroni in over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, or until it’s fragrant. Stir in the carrot puree, then the macaroni. Add the reserved pasta water a little bit at a time, stirring constantly, until a nice, thick sauce has formed. Fold in most of the cheese, reserving about 1/3 cup for garnish.
- Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide into bowls and top with the remaining cheese.