In case you were wondering what it is I do all day, I’ll tell you this: I take care of a baby. Sometimes there is Red Lentil Beet Soup, but mostly it’s all baby all the time lately. For the past nine months and four weeks to be exact. The situation has eased up some in the past month, now that the baby has learned to scoot around a bit and there have been small pockets of time in which he entertains himself with that. But, for the most part, my days revolve around baby.
I don’t think it was like this before, but I find that my memory is hazy and not just a bit selective when it comes to remembering my babies. I remember them all as being quite perfect, though I’m sure there were sleepless nights and crying and teething. I remember them sleeping on my chest and listening to me read Goodnight Moon in the rocking chair hundreds of times. I remember baby Esme’s funny worm crawl before she got the hands and knees coordination down. I remember Eila singing herself to sleep when she was just tiny. I remember Ada’s first word (up) and how she’d whisper it all the time. I remember them all perfect, if not perfectly.
I know it couldn’t have been as easy as I remember it because I was in graduate school when both Esme and Eila were babies and though I know I held office hours for undergraduates, wrote many papers, spent hours doing research and reading, and attended classes almost every day, I surely don’t remember how I did all that with babies. When Ada was a baby, I was transitioning into life as a single parent and living on my own with three kids, but the logistics of how I did that with a baby completely escape me now. I have been trying to remember though, wracking my brain. Especially now.
I wish I could use my past self, the one who clearly survived baby and toddler days and managed to get three kids out of diapers and off to school, as a guide for the baby days I now find myself in. I could really use some advice from that incarnation of myself about what I did right or wrong and how I managed to get from A to B. That self made it through grad school, but this current version of me cannot make it through the laundry pile.
It’s a tricky situation. I love this baby like crazy. He’s perfect, really and truly, and experience tells me I’ll probably remember him that way too. But for heaven’s sake, he wants so much from me. I hear he’s better for other people, doesn’t cry if they leave the room, will actually fall asleep without being held. Knowing that, however, only makes it worse for me. Perhaps I have caused this needy baby situation. I worry that maybe he needs so much from me now because he could feel all of my ambivalence and fear during pregnancy. Maybe because I didn’t think I could do this and didn’t want to do this for so many months, maybe now he is insecure in my love for him even though I really am so happy he’s here after all. I’m giving him my whole heart. What if he doesn’t know that?
But even as I’m worrying that I’ve really screwed this up and that I have failed this baby in some fundamental way before we’ve really even begun, I remember something my friend Katie Shafer told me a few years ago. I was worrying about something with Esme and expressing my concern that this problem was because I was divorced. What if I was forcing my children into the scary statistics of poorly raised products of divorce? I saw doom and drugs and teen pregnancy and failed education on the horizon. This troublesome behavior of Esme’s was surely a single parent problem.
But maybe it’s not, Katie said. Maybe it’s just normal kid stuff.
And when Esme grew up just a little bit more and the problem completely corrected itself, I realized Katie was probably right. It probably was just normal kid stuff. And the only divorce related problem had been my own. Because of the divorce, I was worrying more about my kids and seeing bigger problems than were really there.
So, though I can’t seem to conjure up the mother that I used to be for any advice and I’m clearly prone to worrying about my children, I’m doing my best to listen to Katie Shafer. Maybe it’s just kid stuff. And if it’s just kid stuff, everything will be okay.
Before I give you the recipe for this stunning Red Lentil and Rosemary Beet Soup, let me tell you some more kid stuff. This is some pseudo-advice that I do feel qualified to give. If you have girls and they are of the pink and princess loving variety, then this soup, which is full of beets and carrots and lentils, is just the thing. Adelaide, who is almost five and would normally not give a second thought and especially not a second taste to a veggie and legume soup like this, ate THREE bowls for dinner the last time I made it. Three bowls people. It’s all in the color . . . and I may have mentioned that it’s a recipe derived from pink princess loving royalty (ahem). Try it, it might work for you too. Also, serve it with a really delicious loaf of Irish Soda Bread.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large beet, greens removed, scrubbed and chopped
- 3 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and chopped
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (about 3 inches), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 to 3 tablespoons light yellow miso
- In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the chopped beats and carrots and saute for an additional 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and stir in the lentils and herbs. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Lentils will be very soft and the veggies should be very tender.
- Remove the bay leaves. Using a submersion blender, puree soup until smooth. (If you are using a normal blender, let the soup cool first, then gently reheat soup after it is pureed)
- Dissolve the miso in a ½ cup of warm water. Stir the miso mixture into the soup. Serve warm with a loaf of whole grain bread.
For those leftover Beet Greens, try these Baked Beet Greens Chips. And if you have beets leftover too, which you likely will if you buy them in a bunch, this Beet Green Chopped Salad is really delicious – I’m eating it for lunch these days.