Babies and Rice So Very Nice

Babies are such a nice way to start people—Don Herold

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leila alisa ulfers, born may 24, 2016

It’s true what they say. Grandmother hormones materialize in much the same way maternal ones do–even 30+ years later. Babies born in one’s own family are the most miraculously perfect creations in the world. Parents [and even grandparents] check out other newborns to confirm this nuance of nature. Gradually it is understood to be a “Universal Truth”. We all simply feel this way.

The good fortune to dust off my pediatric nursing and maternal memories arrived with the birth of our first granddaughter. I reflected on the gift of “presence” my mother gave me after our son and daughter were born. It’s a gift that gives both ways.

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First, an [experienced] pair of hands in the early postpartum weeks gives new parents time to focus on the interplay of relationships that are suddenly right there. Baby inside, baby outside. Everything has changed. All three, mother, father and newborn, enter a timeless dance that begins with a new song.

A distinctive aura hovers over first time parents, beginning in their own relationship. Helplessly charmed by the miracle they created, they now exist inside a bubble of enhanced love and new responsibilities. At the same time, bonds between mother and baby, father and baby unfold daily, even hourly. My presence [teaching rigorous burping techniques [!], offering parental napping time, having my own cuddling and singing time] opened a bit of space for these relationships to settle and strengthen in the first month.

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dressed like daddy

The second gift of being present was entirely personal. Watching my first-born baby [now a 34 year old man] tenderly hold, and croon to, his tiny, perfect daughter overwhelmed me with wonder. That “circle of life”, as clichéd as the phrase may be, sideswiped my heart with a flush of love and emotion. I’m all in now.

At night, I mulled over the randomness of dominant and recessive genes forming this beautiful baby’s eye color [murky grey to clearly blue–overnight!], the turned up button of a nose, the rosebud mouth, the one dimpled cheek, and the movable face of so many expressions [skeptical, smiling, hesitant, observant, and sometimes cross-eyed]. Even though it was too early for spontaneous social smiling, we gathered expectantly, eagerly, with each facial movement, hoping to be the first to receive that important human recognition, “I’m happy to know you.”

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sweet dimpled dream

One day I had a flashback of maternal “déjà vu” when my daughter-in-law said, “I’m overwhelmed by how precious she is to me. I didn’t know I would feel this way.” None of us do. But almost every new mother is eventually overcome by the feelings of her own power to nurture and love her baby. That’s universal too…

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wearing her “what’s not to love” onesie

I observed parents and babe develop their rhythms–for communicating, comforting, handling, and, of course, feeding. The dance changed by the minute, the hour, and the day. Flexibility is key with babies. But, in less than a week, my daughter-in-law blossomed from tentative new mama to an instinctively confident one. My joy was seeing this unfold.

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mama/baby love

Newborn nourishment is where everything begins. Breastfeeding rituals gradually establish themselves. Then, suddenly, they fall apart with a day of feeding frenzy or a night of longer sleeping intervals. It is an ebb and flow of constant change in the early weeks.

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independent girl time–hanging out with the owls

No less important is the nourishment of parents. Emotional swings as a result of sleep deprivation, new responsibilities, and sweetly swaddled newborn love leave not-so-much-time for meal preparation.

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father fatigue happens

We planned and cooked together as a team. Daughter-in-law, knowledgeable of her protein needs, prepared the meat or fish. Son stepped up to roast veggies on the grill. I offered carbohydrate rich side dishes and green leafy salads.

Leftovers were used creatively for other meals. A big batch of brown rice became the base for protein breakfasts of eggs on rice*. Two eggs cooked over easy then cut up into a bowl of rice with freshly chopped tomato on top nourished mama with easy effort.

*Recipe for “Eggs on Rice” can be found here: Comfort Food for Cal

Grilled eggplant, peppers, onions and mushrooms from the night before became a hearty side dish the next day when combined with whole-wheat penne, sautéed garlic, fresh spinach, and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

One night I made an old family favorite, Mujaddarah, a Lebanese lentil and rice casserole. The addition of chopped up bacon made it not purely vegetarian. Still, it was smothered with very slowly sautéed onions that made a delicious caramelized topping. Recipe found here: People Who Pull the Magic Out of You

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Babycakes nearing the one month mile marker

Extra lentils [the tiny green French kind] became the basis for another day’s cold salad with green onions, carrots, cucumber, parsley, and homemade vinaigrette.

The family food tradition I used every day and wish to pass on to my granddaughter is the simple 1-2-3 of dressing a salad. Any salad, any day, any time. With ingredients found in most kitchens.

So, with arms opened wide to embrace Leila Alisa into our family’s love, care, and nurturance, here is my simple wish:

May you grow up healthy and wise and become an interesting person. And may you always make your salad dressing from scratch.

DEE DEE’s VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

Ingredients: Amounts will vary according to how large the salad, so all are approximations. Taste testing necessary. Stick your finger in and adjust.

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basic lineup of what you need, plus some options

  • Dijon mustard, if you have some [optional]
  • Good quality vinegar of choice [balsamic, wine or champagne]
  • Good quality olive oil, extra virgin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Dried basil [optional]
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed [optional]
  • Seed mixture–like sesame, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin, almond, walnut or whatever [optional]

Preparation:

  • Place a small amount of Dijon in the bottom of a bowl. [¼ to ½ tsp.]
  • Measure about 2-3 spoonfuls of vinegar over mustard. Add the garlic, seeds and basil, if using.
  • Sprinkle in S&P.
  • Then, very slowly, pour in a thin stream of olive oil, blending rapidly with a small spoon. There is no exact amount of oil. You simply taste with your finger and adjust proportions of vinegar to oil, as you prefer. Adjust salt.
  • Pour dressing over prepared greens and veggies. Toss together.
  • Grind of fresh pepper over all and serve.

Voilà! A lifetime of salads without bottled dressing.

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Colorado supper with a glass of white

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the one month director’s meeting

22 thoughts on “Babies and Rice So Very Nice

  1. Well done, Wendy. Little Leila has stolen hearts already! How fast she has changed–just like all babies. Enjoy each day–babies don’t keep.

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  2. Beautiful baby and beautiful story! I’m glad you are able to be there to experience the wonder of it all. Can’t wait for Mark to experience a first hand taste of the joys of grand-fatherhood. Warmly, Aaron

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  3. Wendy – I can feel the joy across the miles. Congratulations to all – so very happy for you. Another Ulfers – how lucky for our world – Am certain your summer is off to a great start – xo

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  4. Dear Wendy,
    Your essay on the experience of becoming a grandmother brought tears to my eyes. Not just because I remember Adam as the Tin Man (8th grade?), but because you have found the words and captured the images to express in a fresh, compelling way an experience that is as old as civilization. How beautiful to see this through an artist’s eye.
    Glenn

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    • Glenn, What an insightful comment to share! I thank you for that, but it takes one artist to recognise another. Come to CO and take some new photos of your old stomping grounds. We have a B&B waiting for you…

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  5. Hello Wendy:
    Your post made me very happy. I wish you and Mark a great summer.
    I am sure that you and Mark are young and fun grandparents! I hope that someday I will enjoy being a grandmother.
    Warm regards.

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  6. So heartfelt-I basically smiled, cried and reflected for my entire read! Absolutely perfect! You nailed every emotion, my darling sister! Thank you for sharing! 💙Your sister, Molly

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  7. Thank you for sharing those early precious moments with your beautiful family. Congratulations and lots of love coming your way.

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  8. Hi, Wendy. Thank you for this wonderful account of a new grandchild’s arrival. We need to remember as we help our daughter with her 3 children-5 1/2, 4 and almost 2. We love that they live so close-4 houses away, but we realize how our energy has diminished.
    We love your posts and seeing your children as adults brings a smile to our faces.
    Love to all.
    Ofie and Ley

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    • Ofie and Ley, I didn’t know you were blog followers! How nice to hear that…I do understand your emotions about diminished energies. I reminded myself that birthing and raising children is for a younger generation for a reason. While in California, I fell into bed each night and slept like a log since I didn’t have night duties. By 0600, I was up and ready to go. But that is not the normal wendy-thing. Still, it was a time to cherish…

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  9. My mom’s legacy for her daughters and grand-daughters was the creation of a family recipe notebook. Each typed recipe is covered in a plastic sleeve. She listed the traditional holiday meals that we had enjoyed as children. I love her special hand written notes. I love her picture on the front cover. I love the delectable memories. Wendy, enjoy your new role…enjoy watching your son become a dad- enjoy watching your grand-daughter grow. Lots of love and hugs, Diane and Dan

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    • Diane, Thank you for sharing your memories and your wishes towards our new GP status. Food is often the tie that binds us together–as families, as friends, as cultures. We all need it, hopefully it should always be good, and sometimes even memorable…

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      • My favorite so far but then how does one really pick? Nothing can be more exciting than adding to our family in extra special ways like YOUR first grandbaby. Wow. Now jump back. Wait. Watch. It is unending surprises and you are merely on the cusp of the unfolding fun and adventure. Be ready. Savor each one as we do your blogs. xo hp

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