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Tuesday
Jan102017

Nicely Played, Universe

If you guessed that I was at Target again, congratulations. You've been paying attention. I think I'm always at Target, especially since they added a few more aisles for groceries. I can almost get by just going there. Almost.

Sometimes I get to go to Target alone. If you had told 20 year-old me how very exciting that sentence would become in the future, I probably would have punched you. But, here we are. I can't think of many places I'd rather be alone on a Friday night than at Target.

On this particular Friday night alone at Target, it was all about the groceries. There wasn't much reason to walk down the other aisles, but we're talking about Target, so of course I walked down the back of all of the aisles. You just never know what clearance treasures you may find.

It was as I was mulling over a clearance pack of Play-Doh ($1.47 for 6 cans!) (but Mila is a color mixer sooooo ...) that I first heard it.

A screaming toddler.

It was the angry sort of screaming toddler. When you're in the midst of the toddler years, it's easy to distinguish between angry and sad and tired and all of that. This kid was definitely ANGRY. The fit that was going on was a solid 9 on the 10-point Eff You World scale.

My first thought was, "NOT MY CIRCUS AND NOT MY MONKEY!" Is that mean? I'm not sure that I care if it is. There is a 50/50 chance that if a toddler is acting a fool in a store, it's my toddler doing it, so I can't help but have a moment of celebretory relief when it's not her. I love that kid to pieces, including all of the pieces of her that are full of opinions and spunk. It's still nice when it's not her yelling.

So nice.

(It's also nice the 50% of the time when Mila isn't a jerk. She only has two Target modes - Jerk Mode and Reason Lots of Babies Will be Born in 9 Months Mode. When Mila is pleasant, she's positively amazing and has a way of throwing joy at every single person she encounters. But, that pendulum swings both ways.)

When I was done being happy that the yelling toddler wasn't my responsibility, I noticed the mom's reaction. She was ... uh ... not having her best day. She didn't appear to be frustrated or anything like that. Rather, she was FURIOUS. I'm not really sure who was throwing the bigger fit, in retrospect.

I don't know the whole story. It doesn't matter, really. We all have our days when we handle this parenting thing well and we all have days when we screw it up royally. But, I think my girls should write a thank you letter to that mom. They had two solid days of me being super aware that I didn't want to act like that.

Two really well-timed days, if you catch my drift.

It's amazing how the universe knows to throw you a good reminder about exhibiting patience exactly when you need it.

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Monday
Jan092017

Mila 1, Me 0

I've known since she was about 4 minutes old that Mila has a sense of humor that is bigger than she is. While she currently is on the small side for her age (literally a "Tiny Human"), she started out at 9 lbs 6 ozs, so that's saying something.

She thinks she's funny.

She's right, frankly.

Every day that passes she gets a little better at showing off her funny. She's gaining the ability to set up a joke and everything. She has spent 2 1/2 years setting up the one she played this past weekend. For 2 1/2 years, the child has done everything in her power to keep me from taking photos of her. She looks the other way, just plain refuses, and generally acts a fool when I'm holding a camera.

For what it's worth, Alexis can walk up to Mila and say, "Let's take a selfie!" and Mila will grin and look straight into that phone. I just roll my eyes because WHATEVER I DIDN'T WANT A PHOTO ANYWAY. GAH.

Ahem.

That's a big part of why I was so happy when Miss Mila played along for her rose photos last week. There was a lot of trickery with sword/rose fights and such, but the fact that she sort of looked towards the camera was essentially a miracle.

A cute miracle.

And yet, when Mila turned to me on Sunday and said, "Me, too!" I thought maybe she was serious. I was holding my camera and prepping to take a photo of the pasta e fagioli and the small child was literally running to my setup and trying to insert herself into the photos.

Which, okay!

This. This is what she did.

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She stood like that long enough to make sure I got the photo and then ran away, laughing her little butt off.

"I took a funny picture!"

Yeah. She did. The little prankster.

Sunday
Jan082017

Laurie's Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli

Lately I've been on a "ask everyone for their immigrant recipes" bender. It's a long story as to why I started (although, not hard to figure out ...), but the point is it has been beyond interesting asking people for their recipes and the stories that go with them.

This one belongs to my friend Laurie. If you are looking for a stereotypical Italian-American, SHE IS SO IT. From her fiery temper to the way her hands fly around when she's talking, she's basically a clone of her grandmother. Her grandmother, aka Tiny Grandma, immigrated to the United States when she was six. When I asked Laurie to share a recipe from Tiny Grandma's kitchen, I ended up with about 15, but this one stood out because of the story that went with it.

There are infinite variations of Pasta e Fagioli, of course. It's one of those dishes that has been passed on for generations, with little tweaks happening here and there. Tiny Grandma's version did not have meat. Tiny Grandma was passionate that a good cook can make anything without meat (::FistBump:: to Tiny Grandma!), but most especially a good soup. She was so passionate about it that when Laurie's mom made her own variation of Pasta e Fagioli with meat and tried to serve it with Tiny Grandma around, war broke out.

I can't possibly do the rest of the story justice, but the image of a bunch of Italian women screaming at the tops of their lungs that "meat ruins everything" makes me laugh.

It especially makes me laugh because every other Tiny Grandma recipe Laurie shared was meat-centric.

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Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
2 15-oz cans white beans
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups baby spinach
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
Parsley
8 ounces mini penne, cooked according to the instructions on the box

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet then toss in the carrots. Wait a minute or two then add the zucchini and celery. Stir and then a minute or two later, add the onion, garlic, and basil. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions are nearly clear. Then toss in the tomatoes and use a fork to break them up as they cook.

2. In a large stock pot, combine the beans and vegetable stock and heat until boiling. Toss the spinach in there. It will wilt almost immediately.

3. It's time for everything in step one to meet everything in step two. Throw everything in the stock pot and allow it it boil for a few minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper.

4. When it's time to serve the soup, add the cooked pasta. Garnish with parsley.