I remember researching my baby girl’s first car seat. I had no clue what I was looking for. I was focused on patterns that didn’t include teddy bears, perhaps longing for something that might actually match the car instead. I didn’t know a five point harness from a three point one, and I certainly didn’t know how long I was supposed to keep it rearward facing as opposed to forward facing. I started to read reviews. I searched Consumer Reports. I read mommy blogs to get opinions. I sorted my Amazon results with the settings “Price: High to Low,” hoping that if I spent more money, I would stumble onto the seat I was supposed to buy. Much to my husband’s dismay, I realized the good moms were buying the safe and super expensive Britax seats, so I dropped a whole pile of money down to become part of the club. And I did this several times over for her and her brother.
I kept her rear facing for longer than anyone thought I should. I kept her in a five point harness until well past kindergarten, when she complained that her friends thought she was still riding in a baby car seat. “But it’s actually a booster with a better harness,” I told her. She didn’t agree. She rode in a regular booster (LATCH capable, of course) until she was 8. I finally took the back off when I could see that she clearly wasn’t remotely comfortable any more. I kept telling myself, “She’s almost as big as her great grandmother. It’s OK.”
Yet, tomorrow, I will put her on a bus at 6:30 AM for her big third grade field trip. A bus with a driver I do not know. A bus with no seat belts that will be barreling down the highway at 65 MPH. She will wander around museums and theaters with friends and teachers. She will eat a bagged lunch and buy her own McDonald’s for dinner. She will carry a wallet and her own money.
But she will also carry her hip pack of allergy medicine. I will have made sure there are at least three EpiPens with her with directions for symptoms that require flow charts. I will have briefed the teachers and sent the chaperones long emails that make them think I’m crazy. (I am.) I will have had thousands of thoughts about how to keep her safe … “Wait. If all the kids need lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated, they will almost all have Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. Must email teacher about separating her with safe lunches if possible.” Major red flags will pop up as I walk down grocery store aisles. “It’s a bus. What if the person who rode in her seat before her had peanut butter crackers? What if someone offers her a treat while on a tour? She knows to say no. Wait, does she know to say no?” I will have gone over safety points with her ad nauseum, until her father says, “Kristin, I think she gets it.”
But I just can’t help it. She’s my baby, even if 9 years have made her more grown-up than infant. And I can’t be there to keep her safe. I can’t be around the corner from her school if she needs me. I can’t watch out for her as she maneuvers in a city, albeit a small one. I am two hours away if she has an allergy emergency. I won’t be the one driving. And there will be no harnesses, side impact protection, or tethers for protection.
As much as I want to “forget” to set the alarm tomorrow morning and keep her home safe with me, I know I can’t.
I will wake up at 5:30 AM and I will put her on that bus. And I will not rest easy until it pulls back in at 7 PM tomorrow night.
Creamy Chicken Casserole with Leeks and Mushrooms
So the theme here is comfort food, if you didn’t guess that already. Feel free to use leftover or Rotisserie chicken for a quick weeknight dinner (if you do that, you can get less than a pound). Also, this is very flexible and could include other herbs, vegetables, or seasonings. It’s a great dinner with just a simple green salad on the side. Also, you can make this up in advance, just put the crumbs on right before you bake it.
1 pound boneless chicken breast or thighs, cooked and shredded (I poached mine)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1-2 leeks, well cleaned and chopped
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 T butter
1 T olive oil, plus a little additional
1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (or other flour)
1/2- 3/4 cup of whole wheat cracker crumbs (or breadcrumbs)
1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
1 T brandy
1 T lemon juice
1/2 T chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper
1. In a medium saute pan, saute the sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook until they are browned and have rendered all their liquid, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 T butter and 1 T oil together over medium heat. Saute the leeks, celery, and garlic for about 5 minutes and then sprinkle in the 1/4 cup of flour. Stir well to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour a bit. Whisk in milk, making sure to get any bits of flour incorporated from the edges of the pan. Cook the sauce for 2-3 more minutes until quite thick, whisking constantly. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (or to taste), 1 T brandy, 1 T lemon juice, and chopped rosemary.
3. Add chopped/shredded chicken and sauteed mushrooms to the white sauce and stir to combine. Place in a shallow baking dish with about 1.5 quart or 1.5 liter capacity. Cover with cracker or bread crumbs and bake for about 40 minutes until golden and bubbly.