A parade in my honor? PLEASE, PROCEED.

As a first-time parent, there are a lot of things we just don’t know.  Sure, you can read the books, talk to your friends, consult with Drs. Google and WebMD, but that’s not always the answer.  And so, in parenting, I have learned three valuable words: figure it out.  Becoming a parent gives you a special set of skills, sort of like the dad in “Taken”, except your skills aren’t so much in murder, terrorist negotiations (well…) and hostage situations (WELL…) but more in deduction, problem solving, blankie locating and grape slicing.  Your prime skill will still be figuring “it” out.  We all know “it” could be a host of things, and when the glorious day comes that you actually do figure it out?!  You will request a ticker tape parade in your honor, because you are now a national hero deserving of speeches and champagne and confetti and cookies and a Federal holiday in your honor.
Earlier this week I briefly mentioned the two year sleep regression.  I even wrote a post on it, although it sits in draft status because a). I’m not sure it’s the most interesting reading for you all (even if it is entertaining) and b). I like to hoard posts like that for days I’ve run out of thoughts.  “Writers” like me tend to squirrel things like that away so you think we’re still “working”, when we really just spent four hours surrounded by Legos, covered in granola and speaking only in a Grover voice (aka “running out of thoughts”).
This particular post is about my triumphs this week – TWO OF THEM.  A record in toddler parenting!
Sleep… So, the two year sleep regression.  It’s like all other sleep regressions, although “regression” isn’t the best term to use as these occur during periods of rapid physical and/or mental development (aka my kid is becoming a genius overnight and therefore is having trouble getting to sleep).  There are three regressions before this one; I’m a follower of this stuff because we’ve experienced all but one, but the two year is a little different because now your kid is smart.  Like, S-M-A-R-T.  You can’t just help them get back to sleep and you’re all done; you have to figure out why the coveted act of sleeping eludes them to begin with.  After a week of 90+ minute sessions of rocking, books, songs, lights on, lights off…I realized something.  This wasn’t really separation anxiety, as some of the books will tell you (one of the signs of the two year regression).  This was Miles understanding that after he goes to bed, his parents are still awake, which is unacceptable (yet another sign of the two year regression). 
Suddenly, Miles was on to us.  He realized we could be having ice cream cupcake parties, and he’s in bed?!  HELL TO THE NO.  I knew he was playing us after Miles and I had a lengthy discussion about fish and how they sleep; Miles was not upset and clingy once we were IN the room, just when we were gone.  As soon as he saw once of us, he instantly smiled, requiring no consolation, and then began requesting stories, songs, games, etc.  And so, after a week of not figuring it out, we decided to put him to bed.  I gave him the big boy pep talk, lots of hugs and kisses, and scooted on out.  Sure, he got pissed off the first night, but I left his door cracked so he could hear that I was having a TOTAL BLAST DOING DISHES, and that was comfort enough.  He fell asleep in 15 minutes.  Choirs of sleep angels sang the Hallelujah Chorus.  Night two?  No tears!  He would occasionally yell, “MAMA, COME IN!” but that was it.  Night three, same result.  After four nights, I finally put the words in writing to my best friend and claimed my victory over sleep protest.  Parents, is there no greater feeling than figuring something out?  
Of course, we’re moving to not only the big boy bed, but the big boy ROOM in a few weeks…because there’s nothing I love more than throwing a monkey wrench into the progress we’ve made.
Green Foods…  Then, as if this week couldn’t get any more miraculous, the child ate THREE SERVINGS of green beans on Thursday night.  This, after a month long protest of all green vegetables at home (because green vegetables at school are apparently far superior to green vegetables at home).  I didn’t really do anything except continue to serve the vegetables, assuming one day, possibly before his 16th birthday, he’d pick one up and eat it.
We sat at the table, eating dinner and talking about the day.  Miles picked up a single green bean and put it in his mouth.  This isn’t uncommon; he will frequently taste the green food, only to spit it out, hand it to me with a reminder of “no mama, no green beans.”  But then, something amazing happened: HE CHEWED.  OMG.  Then?  THEN?!  HE SWALLOWED!  I said no words; I looked at my husband to see if he’d witnessed the event, and he had.  We continued our conversation about holding hands when crossing the street.  And then?  ANOTHER GREEN BEAN.  But still, no words…you cannot acknowledge the consumption of a green vegetable until Miles realizes it was, in fact, a green vegetable, and that he actually likes it.  When he finished all of his green beans and then grabbed two fistfuls from my plate, I celebrated, and gave him ALL my green beans (sorry, Kid Two…we’ll take an extra prenatal vitamin to cover that nutritional loss).  WINNER WINNER GREEN BEAN DINNER.
This will probably change in the next 36 hours, but for now, we celebrate!  These are the small accomplishments that give parents not only a great sense of pride, but also the affirmation that we actually do know what we’re doing sometimes.  Even better?  That we’re actually good at it.  We must celebrate the little things, because they turn into the big things. 
I declared myself Queen of Green Beans and Bed Time, and requested birthday cake ice cream in celebration. 
This week, I win.  WIN!
Ahem, this is a "cookie parade" according to Google.  So imagine more confetti and champagne and me eating cookies while riding in a beautiful gold convertible.

Ahem, this is a “cookie parade” according to Google. Just imagine more confetti and champagne and me eating cookies while riding in a beautiful gold convertible and wearing PJs.

Leftover Peanut Butter and Overripe Bananas

In our open-concept kitchen pantry (read: no doors or cabinets – totally open, and beautifully constructed by my hubby) we have what’s called a “baking basket.”  Let me see if I can find a photo…
There…top left corner, that’s the baking basket!
 Of course I have to show off a little bit more…
Have I mentioned how awesome it is being married to a handyman?  This also reminds me I should update the rest of our remodeling photos, now that the construction is finished.
Anyway, back to the basket.  So this baking basket holds exactly what you’d think: sprinkles, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, brown sugar, pecans…everything I need for holidays, birthdays and special occasions.  It gets used pretty frequently from October through December, then again from March through May.  After that, there comes a lull in baking.  But, in good Southern spirit (and with my mom’s voice in the background reminding me that I should never waste anything) I’ll haul that sucker down and take a peek at what’s inside.  And that, my friends, is how many of my husband’s all-time favorite cookie recipes are born.
Since “Baking Basket Day” began a few years ago, we’ve had some really tasty treats come out of this oven…all in oatmeal cookie form.  So today, I thought I’d share the coveted basic oatmeal cookie recipe that all my BBD wonders are made of…
Basic Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (aka “quick cooking” oats, in the oatmeal section)
2 cups all-purpose flour (wheat flour works, too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
Directions: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour.  Using a hand mixer in a medium bowl, or a stand mixer, cream together the butter, white and brown sugars, then add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract.  Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stir together, then add your quick cooking oats.  Add your favorite baking basket goodies.  Scoop by tablespoon onto a greased baking pan, then bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on whether you like chewy (8ish minutes) or cripsy (12ish minutes) cookies.
So, what can you add to a baking basket oatmeal cookie?  Well, here are the ingredients I’ve added to the basic recipe in the past:
Coco-Choco Oatmeal Cookies: Added the rest of a bag of coconut flakes (I’ll guess a bit more than 3/4 full) along with half a bag of large semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a full bag of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, along with a dash of pumpkin pie spice.  Yes, pumpkin pie spice…it’s a super lazy way to get all my fave spices in one shake!
Triple Chipperdoodles: Decent amount of white chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and butterscotch chips, two teaspoons of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of allspice (note: I am a big fan of allspice).
Graceland Oatmeal Cookie: Two very ripe mashed bananas, half a jar of chunky peanut butter, a bag of jumbo semi-sweet chocolate chips and half a bag of walnuts (crushed) and I’m certain some allspice…just a tad.
You may notice there are no real measurements to the basket ingredients…and that’s because I am literally cleaning out the basket.  So, whatever half-empty bags of chips, flakes, sprinkles, etc., are in there, go into the cookie.  It’s really about feeling the cookie; getting that cookie vibe, knowing whether it needs coconut or peanut butter.  Is it a sweet little butterscotch cookie, or a ticked off ginger cookie?  Dark chocolate, or white chocolate?  Where are my dried cranberries?  And just how many chocolate chips is my husband going to think I didn’t see him eat?!
BBD has taught me which spices I love (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves) and which I hate (okay, none…).  It’s an awesome way to get creative, come up with a recipe of your very own, and really understand how flavors can work together.
If my mom is reading this (as she should be…) she’s probably surprised I shared a recipe.  Normally, I won’t share the true recipe; I always omit something, or change a measurement (I know, I know).  I’m pretty big on keeping family secrets close to the vest; I usually only share the real-deal recipe with the closest friends, and only when asked repeatedly (also, after bargaining for cat-sitting services or bottles of wine).  But this is one recipe I’m happy to share, because it’s really not mine…it’s yours.  Yours to create something utterly decadent, or totally screw up (stay away from dried apricots).  The choice is yours.
Finally, I’ll share one teensy little baking tip that I’ve found makes cookies and breads even more delicious.  If you come across a recipe (such as the basic oatmeal cookie) that calls for both brown and white sugars…take the white sugar amount, and cut it in half.  Now, add that amount to the brown sugar.  That’s it.  It gives the cookies or bread a warm, sweet, molasses taste, without the super sweet, teeth gritting kick you’ll sometimes get from just plain old white sugar.
And now you know my BBD secrets.  The next time you see a cookie post, rest assured that the inspiration truly was, “what am I supposed to do with three bags of Christmas M&M’s in July?!”
Happy baking!