Category Archives: eating

My little gastronomes


Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.
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“I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” I said, back in those innocent days when my firstborn was growing apace, nourished by nothing more than his mama’s milk, as I thought scornfully of other families I’d seen doing just that. “Why should they need different food? Children’s menus are an abomination. He’s going to be a little gastronome.”

I love food. I have a (fairly) healthy and varied diet. I enjoy vegetables, with broccoli right up there at the top of my list, and kale a new entrant not far behind. I enjoy cooking and baking, sweet and savoury. I like to make Indian food, Italian, Tex-Mex. I have eaten Korean and Ethiopian, Mongolian and French. I own a tagine, and I’ve used it too.

My children, I thought loftily, will not suffer as I did at the hands of their grandmother. My mother, a wonderful woman, was not a natural cook. She likes to say that some are born cooks, some achieve cookery, and some – like her – have cookery thrust upon them. She fed me and my father admirably for many years, with wholesome home-cooked food that was often not burned. But my parents come of meat-and-two-veg stock, where one veg is always a potato. “Meat” includes fish (on Fridays), but vegetarian meals are unheard of, unless you’re actually one of those odd people, a vegetarian. “What did the good Lord put animals on the earth for if not for us to eat?” she’ll ask you. I stopped getting into that argument a long time ago.

When I have children, I thought, I’ll cook nice food.

And now I do cook nice food. My husband can vouch for it. He’s a wonderful and appreciative audience. Our kids, however, not so much.

Baby feeding himself peas (maybe)
I don’t think a single pea went in, then or since.

I conveniently forgot that before my foodie-esque incarnation, I was a pretty fussy eater, and it had little or nothing to do with my mother’s cooking: I was just made that way. I still remember the first time I tasted a pea (and swallowed it whole so it would go quicker). I remember putting sugar on raw tomatoes in salads to make them more palatable. I remember picking the chunks of beef out of the sauce of the stew, carefully scraping off any vestige of onion or whatever else might have been there. I remember the day I finally tasted a burger, and I’m pretty sure I was in double digits by then.

My husband too, it turns out, was a picky eater. As number five of five, he probably didn’t encounter much pushback from his parents, who I’m sure had stopped noticing by then. If you didn’t eat it, one of your siblings picked up the slack pretty quickly.

So of course, genetically as well as karmically, we were quite likely to produce a couple of picky eaters between us.

I started out as well as I could with my children. I ate lots of vegetables in my pregnancies. (And a fair number of toasted waffles and chocolate milkshakes too.) I breastfed my kids exclusively for the first six months, and continued well (very well) into “extended” territory. I introduced fruits and vegetables early. I provided them with a variety of attractive options. I read Ellyn Satter.

If my second child had been my first, I would probably describe her as a picky eater. As it is, I’m delighted that she eats a broad range of things: pizza, pasta (one brand only), scrambled eggs (sometimes), cheese (-sticks), baked beans, sausages, chicken (but never in nugget form), apples, strawberries, broccoli, even. (Yay broccoli!) That’s about it, mind you. Nothing with a sauce, nothing mixed together, nothing differently made, at the moment. She’s four. I think that’s how they are.

Small girl with slice of pizza
Healthy meal. That’s not even chocolate milk.

Her big brother, though, is far worse, and subsists on a diet of peanut-butter sandwiches, breakfast cereal, milk, and crackers. He’s a self-proclaimed vegetarian, except that he won’t eat a vegetable. In the past few months we’ve had some steps forward with tiny bites of raw carrot, some apple, a few grapes: these are a big deal for my seven-year-old. (Yes, he’s seven. This has been going on a long time. Even as a baby, when they eat everything, he was resistant to tasting things.)

My son is healthy and growing. He’s rarely sick, and he’s right at the 50th percentile on the growth charts, where he’s been since he was about 9 months old. The doctor encourages him to eat some fruits and vegetables, but beyond that she’s not particularly worried about him.

I have, of course, spent many fruitless (hah) hours obsessing over his diet, coming up with plans and sticker charts, blogging, enquiring, self-flagellating, wheedling, putting my foot down, and generally worrying about all of this – but in the end, I had to accept that eating, like sleeping and pooping, is just one of those things you can’t make someone else do. I cook a nice dinner for the grownups every night, our daughter might eat some of it or something else reasonably decent, and the boy has another peanut butter sandwich.

The good food is in the house. He sees it, he smells it, (he gags and removes himself to the other room), he knows what it’s called. He sometimes even helps cook it. He has no interest in eating it, most of the time, though now and then he announces that he wants to taste, say, lettuce, and I give him a bit and he nibbles it and recoils in horror.

I have taken all my assumptions about how to get children to eat healthy food and tossed them overboard. My son is a smart kid, he loves school, he’s growing and healthy and fast and strong. He eats what he eats, and it sustains him. He’s a pain to take on vacation or out for a meal, but such is life. I have faith that he’ll get around to eating more variety some day, and we’ll let him get there and welcome him with open arms and a full plate when he does.

Just don’t tell my mother he’s a vegetarian. She won’t understand.

Boy eating sliced apple
Then he sat down and ate an entire apple, just like that.


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
  • How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
  • How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
  • My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
  • Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
  • Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
  • 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
  • 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
  • Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
  • The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
  • Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
  • The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
  • What my daughter taught me about being a parentMrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
  • Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
  • Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
  • I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
  • How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.

The most vegetables Dash has ever tasted

Scene: My kitchen, last night.

Dash, who has had his dinner and his dessert: I want another brownie. Other brownie, other brownie! Or else chocolate milk. Because that one brownie wasn’t worth as much as a whole chocolate milk.
Me: No, one is enough.
D: Other brownie!
Me, about to cook my own dinner: No. … You can have some kale.
Dash, surprising me: Okay. Give me some kale. I want to eat leaves.
Me: You do? Okay, great.

[I dice some garlic, saute it, remove the washed kale from the fridge and start chopping it.]

Dash: …Because caterpillars eat leaves.
Me, happy to go along with whatever bizarre reasoning might have led to this new and welcome departure: And they’re big and strong and fluffy…?
Dash: No, they get wings and then they can fly.
Me: Yes. Yup. That’s true. Maybe you’ll get wings.

[I cook the kale. I add some salt but no pepper, in case it puts him off. It’s perfectly wilted, deep bright green, tender-crisp, and the aroma of garlic is driving me wild. But then, I’m a bit of a whore for garlic, and kale is my new favourite vegetable.]

Me: Here’s your kale.
Dash [comes running]: Yay! Kale! I’m going to grow wings! [Approaches a little more slowly. Gets a concerned look when he sees the three slim ribbons I’ve put in a bowl for him to taste. A note of betrayal enters his voice.] Mum-meeeee!
Me: It’s delicious. Look. [I bite a little.]
Dash sniffs from a foot away and runs in the other direction.

Mabel appears, tips her tongue to it, makes a face, runs away.
Dash comes back: I like things she doesn’t like, so maybe I should try it. [Makes valiant attempt. Fails.] Maybe there’s something else I can try.

Me: Okay, thanks for trying the kale. It’s a hard thing to start with. How about a frozen pea? Peas are easier.
Dash, ever the optimist today: Yes, peas! I love peas! I’ll have a pea!
[I take the peas out of the freezer, shake a few into a bowl, offer them to him. He picks one up and pops it in his mouth. … About a milisecond later, returns gagging and spitting dramatically. Scours out mouth with paper towel.] Ptew. Ptew. Blech. I don’t like peas, actually. [Thinks.] I’ll have a carrot. Carrots are yummy.

[Eats two bites of a baby carrot. Announces, probably truthfully, that it’s more carrot than he’s ever eaten at once before. Is done with carrot. I eat all the delicious garlicky kale straight from the pan before the rest of my dinner is ready.]

End scene.

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NOTE:

If you’re new around here you might wonder how my child got to the age of almost seven without letting a frozen pea into his system. He’s very VERY food averse, that’s how. Never, even as a baby, would he just open his mouth and let new food in. I’m amazed he ever tasted anything, to be honest. The fact that now and then he will take a tiny bite of carrot is a big step from this time last year, pathetic as it sounds. Just don’t think I didn’t try with the vegetables before now, okay? I have already read Ellyn Satter and Dina Rose’s website, so you don’t need to tell me about them. Sorry if I sound defensive, but this is one of my parenting Achilles’ heels. Let’s just go back to being amused by Dash wanting to eat like a caterpillar, kay?

I don’t think we’re having a turkey on Thursday

I spend a few days thinking about jeans and shoes and suddenly it’s Thanksgiving week and there’s no food in the house.

Ah well. Food comes and goes, you know, but boots are good for at least two years, I’d say. I have a pair of boots upstairs that I bought in 1999, actually. I wore them at least once last year. (I’d wear them more often if I had any call for 2.5-inch heels on a regular basis. But somehow I never feel that first-grade pickup is the right time. Or daylight, for that matter.)

The reason I’m suddenly getting all twitchy about how untrendy I am is, of course, that we’ll be going home to Dublin for three weeks at Christmas, and while not exactly the fashion capital of the western world, the stakes are a tiny bit higher than they are here. The season that’s in it gives rise to opportunities to dress up, for one thing, and people there do tend to dress up a bit more. I just want to look like I’m not totally submersed by my soccermom lifestyle, that’s all.

[And then I thought: submersed isn’t a word, you idiot. It’s submerged, or immersed. But I looked it up and it is a word and it means just what I meant it to, so that’s nice.]

And when you only see people once a year, or there’s the chance you’ll be meeting up with people you haven’t seen for ten years, or meeting people you’ve only interacted with on the Internet, not to mention the fact that the tiny statistical probability of bumping into an ex-boyfriend is raised by at least 75% if I’m walking down Grafton Street rather than to first-grade pickup, you want to look at least reasonably not awful.

[Yes, I know I just changed from second person to first and back again in the same paragraph-long sentence. I did it on purpose. So I did.]

Anyway. Back to food. It is slowly dawning on me – these things take time to percolate through, as my friend Thrift Store Mama was just talking about today – that my fruit and vegetable intake is not really up to recommended standards. I always thought, if I thought anything about it, that I wasn’t great on fruits but my vegetables made up for it. It’s true that I do like vegetables, but it’s also true that breakfast and lunch are often quite vegetable-free meals for me. Breakfast is basically a free pass: I see it as an opportunity for guilt-free carbing. Lunch would have a vegetable if a vegetable happened along, but all too often it’s some riff on a ham and cheese sandwich, with maybe a crescent or two of apple that Mabel didn’t eat. So that leaves dinner, when I probably get in two servings of vegetables easily enough, but that’s still three away from even the most basic daily requirement.

This train of thought began when I read Jamie at Light and Momentary mention that she was aiming for nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Nine? How could anyone eat that much food, I wondered. Well, hey, apparently that’s my recommended daily intake. And here I was thinking I was failing at just five, when in fact I’m failing miserably at nine instead.

Oh well, I thought, I’ll just eat nine servings a day and I’ll be slender and full of energy in no time. And yet, thinking did not make it so. I think I had one and a half extra servings yesterday, and one today, and they all involved baby carrots and hummus, which are quite nice but not nine servings nice. (Also, I don’t think I’m meant to eat eight servings of carrots every day. I’d turn orange.)

The difficulty is that vegetables, and fruit for that matter, just don’t have that fluffy or crunchy or dough-like baked consistency that goes as well with a nice cup of tea as, say, muffins do. Or cookies. Or a piece of cake or a scone or a brownie. Nobody sits down for a cuppa and some broccoli florets. Or coffee and a carrot. (Stick of celery? Brr.) Even a quarter cup of raisins just don’t cut it with a hot beverage, unless they’re liberally surrounded by oatmeal and sugar and baked into some sort of, let’s say, cookie-type vehicle.

So far I’m batting about 50/50 on whether I think “Now I’ll have a cup of tea and something chocolate” or “Now I’ll eat a healthy snack,” but even if I add one serving a day for this week, it’s a start.

I think this is one for the “Best intentions” tag, don’t you? I probably need to start a “Went awry” tag too.

Summer numbers

Things I left the supermarket with this morning that I would not have expected to buy:

  • One pink piggy spatula
  • Two miniature American flags

Things I left the supermarket with this morning that I would have rather left behind, or not brought with me in the first place:

  • Two children 

People who have been bitten by their sister twice in the past two days:

  • Dash

People who have been driven to the last resort by their brother who just will not listen to any other sort of dissuasion:

  • Mabel

People who have to decide whom to be more annoyed with first:

  • Maud

Number of bites of baby carrot Dash has had since yesterday:

  • 2 (actual honest-to-god bites that were swallowed; this is huge)

Temperature, in degrees farenheit, that it is outside my house just now:

  • 95

Expected high:

  • 100

Heat index; that is, what it will feel like when you factor in the humidity:

  • 107

Amount I hope we will go to the pool this afternoon:

  • A lot.

Fed and clothed

It’s 92 degrees outside and I’m having a nice cup of tea. Proper tea, the Irish sort. Hot tea, if you really need me to specify. I’m sorry, (for you, and for myself too) but cold drinks just don’t cut it. There’s a point I arrive at after lunch, or mid-afternoon, or at some stage in the day, when only a cup of tea will suffice. I probably just need to get with the program and assimilate, but it was hard enough for me to leave the “–me” off “program”, never mind anything else.

When I’ve been solo-parenting for a few days, I sometimes self-deprecatingly remark that I’ve kept the kids fed and clothed, and anything else is a bonus. But you know, even that much can be pretty hard. (Wearing a spider-man costume counts as clothed, right? Because that’s how Mabel went to the playground yesterday. If her brother had tried to do that at a similar age, I would have put my foot down, unless it was within two days of Halloween. But that’s second children for you – you’ve been beaten down and your personal goalposts shift a bit. Besides, I thought she looked cute.)

But I have the utmost respect for anyone who actually feeds children – especially their own – on a daily basis. I mean, people who do it properly, not the “throw some things out of the fridge and see who can catch them” technique I tend towards myself. Because tossing off “fed” as if it’s a simple thing implies that children are like normal human beings in ways that mine – and yours? tell me it’s not just mine – are not. Normal humans, mostly

  1. eat more than three different things.
  2. acknowledge when they’re hungry rather than losing their mind in the loudest and most inconvenient way possible.
  3. are prepared to eat at mealtimes because that’s when people eat, so that they won’t be hungry later. Because later it will be not mealtime and you will be nowhere near food that is in any way nutritious or inexpensive, and you will then ruin whatever the next proper meal was supposed to be.

But Maud, I hear your fingers clackety-clacking, Ellyn Satter! But Maud, nutritious snacks at proper intervals! But Maud, don’t pander, don’t short-order cook; don’t offer, don’t refuse. (No wait, that’s weaning. Wrong rule.) It’s your job to put the food on the table, and the rest is up to them.

YES, I KNOW. Save your fingers. Put down the spacebar. If you do all that and it works, I’m so happy for you, and I’m sure if I did it right it would work for me too. (Except I’m not, but that’s what you need to hear. Maybe it’s just not in my nature to do it right.) It’s okay. I’m not looking for advice today. I just want to whine, in a perhaps-slightly-amusing way. If you find it as hard as I do to keep your kids just damn well “fed,” by all means leave me a comment commiserating, so we can all whine together.

My kids are growing. They’re healthy and the doctor is not worried about them. I try not to feed them too much sugar, to keep them away from high-fructose corn syrup, to limit the juice. I try not to give them a complex about eating too much, or too little, but to educate them about foods and what’s good and bad for their body.

It will all come out in the wash.

(That’s a metaphor. I’ll talk about my broken washing machine tomorrow.)

Going solo

I sat here yesterday – okay, not exactly here, because right now I’m forming a pinchproof barrier between the children as they watch TV – starting to type some annoyingly smug blog post about how well things go when I’m solo-parenting because they’re older and because when it’s just me, I have to commit to doing things for the kids rather than trying to get my own stuff done.

And then we spent the rest of the day sniping at one another and not doing anything fun at all, until a very belated trip to the pool redeemed things a bit.

A lot of that was down to my sleepless night the night before, which was mostly not due to Mabel, for a change, but because the night went something like this:

10.30: I go to bed.
10.30 – 12.00 or so: Today’s youth park outside my house to attend a house party down the street.*
2.30: I finally acknowledge the period pain I’ve been trying to ignore, so I get up to take some ibuprofen.
2.30 – 3.00: Today’s youth return to their cars, chatting and sometimes singing opera.
3.30: Mabel wakes up. She’d been asleep since 7pm, so that was a great night, for her. But she was hungry and I had to get her a frozen waffle.** She went back to sleep pretty quickly once she’d eaten it.
5.00: I go back to my own bed.
6.00: I hear Dash wake up. I go to forestall him before he barges into Mabel’s room looking for me and wakes her too. I tell him that he has to entertain himself until 7.00. He’s not happy about that. I don’t care much, so long as he’s quiet.
6.35: Mabel wakes up. She joins me in the big bed and after a while everyone’s up and the day has begun, against my better judgement.

So many things to discuss further here, but first let me dwell for a moment on the way my children constantly seem to demand food and water. Why aren’t they self-sufficient yet? My fridge doesn’t have one of those automatic water dispensers, and mostly I’m glad, because if it did we’d be swimming around the kitchen or skidding on ice all day, but on the other hand then they’d be able to get their own damn drinks. I’ve put the glasses where they can reach them, but they can’t lift down the heavy filter jug and pour it themselves, so that’s no help. And they won’t drink unfiltered water from the tap – which they can’t reach either anyway – because they’re demanding little so-and-so’s.

* Someone down the street is away, and the college kid they have house- and pet-sitting is Taking Advantage. We can’t hear the actual partying from here, but because our street is usually so quiet, and because my bedroom is at the front of the house and the windows were open, I could hear every word as if they were standing beside my bed. They weren’t yelling or raucous, they weren’t even audibly drunk going home – except for the guy belting out arias, probably, though for all I know he does that sober too – but the whole thing just felt like such an affront to civilized society. Because I’m sure I never attended any house parties as a student. Nope. Didn’t, for instance, first kiss my husband-to-be at one.

** Urgh. Feeding children in the middle of the night. It’s against my principles, but it’s also the quickest way to get her back to sleep, so I do it because the alternative is having her nursing all night. I really don’t want to wake at 3am because her body expects a waffle, but she just won’t go back to sleep hungry. I try to be sure she eats a good dinner to avoid this, but there’s no way to make her eat if she’s not interested, and she has the appetite of a gnat most of the time. Telling her “I won’t get you a waffle at 3am if you wake up hungry” has no effect. And not just because she knows it’s not true.

Back to wherever I was. Grumpy yesterday, that’s where. But before the grumps, we did some watercolour painting and some knitting. (Long story. Dash wants to learn to knit. There, that was quick.) I felt like the crafting-est (rather than craftiest, you understand) mother this side of Martha Stewart.

Such concentration. This was at the start, before Mabel began to suck water out of her paintbrush.

I think my point, now that I look back and see if I can winkle one out of this diatribe, is that I’ve run the gamut of parenting in the past 24 hours or so, from sleeplessness to indulgence to home-schooling. Today we went back to our regularly scheduled light-saber fights and running around the street with friends, and everything was better again.

I also got a lot more sleep last night – so maybe the whole watercolours and knitting thing was just a product of my fevered imaginings.

Feeding time at the other zoo

It’s very discouraging trying to feed children who don’t want food.

Last night, in particular, I was discouraged. ‘I have to leave the house for a minute and walk around outside so my head doesn’t explode’ sort of discouraged.

Most of the time, I make our (nice) dinner, I give them their (boring and simple*) dinner, and I try not to think about it. I’ve been through the guilt, the self-blame, the introspection, the angst, the Satter, the well-intentioned expert blogs, and I’ve pretty much arrived at, “They’re fine; they’ll be fine.”

But hey, I’m their mother. The well of self-blame is infinitely deep, and whenever I choose to draw from it, a refreshing draught of guilt will be there waiting for me.

*They will not, on no account, no way no how, eat the nice dinner. Please do not tell me to offer them the nice dinner and nothing else. I know the theory. I’ve tried the theory. It does not work here.

Dash was having a large tantrum, the sort that begins with a simple request to do your homework before your TV show starts, and swirls into a galaxy of injustices that stretches out to bedtime and beyond. In the middle there was dinner, which I felt would make him feel better and help put things back into perspective, but he felt was just adding insult to injury. When he eventually decided to eat, there was something amiss with his sandwich.

Of course there was something bloody amiss with his sandwich. It’s a peanut-butter sandwich made on horrible store-bought bread (wholegrain, at least, but still fairly horrible) and you’ve been having one for lunch and one for dinner for as long as I can remember because it’s all you will eat. What’s not amiss with that? How could he choose just one thing to be wrong with it? (The bread on one side was too hard, apparently.)

Simultaneously, Mabel, who had been alternately bugging and preaching to her upset brother, was rejecting her pasta and broccoli. This too was bringing me to the brink of tears, because for the previous two nights she’d been nursing a lot (yes, yes, despite the new regime) and I had realised it was because she was simply hungry due to not eating enough dinner.

(It’s all very well to say, “They’ll have dinner later, when they’re hungry,” but that doesn’t account for those who have a dribble of nourishment – sweet, delicious, effort-free nourishment – on tap all night. Just enough to sate them for now, so long as they have some more in another few seconds. It’s very efficient for the child, not so much for the cow. I mean, me.)

The day we went to the zoo I was fully able to blame myself: after lunch there had been popcorn, and a banana at 4.30, and apparently that’s enough to fill Mabel up all the way to bedtime and beyond. But yesterday, she’d had two cheese sticks and some toast for lunch, half a banana at 2.30, and very little since. Why, oh why, was she not eating the pasta?

At this point I left everything in the capable hands of their loving father, while I took a walk outside, put freshly laundered sheets on beds, submitted a last-minute order to the Internet, and tried hard to decompress myself. (Their poor loving father who was rather tired and sore after running, you know, a marathon, the day before.)

We worked things out. I think B probably made Dash another sandwich (I didn’t ask), sorted out the “But I have to have dessert” tantrum (somehow), and made some concessions on the matter of bedtime stories. I got Mabel to eat a piece of toast, half an apple, and two tiny yogurts. Everyone, eventually, went to bed. I had a glass of wine and a piece of cake.

Epilogue:

Mabel was still up half the night, though the first time she woke, she went back to sleep very easily with only a story and no nursing at all.

Dash and I talked about yesterday on the way to school, and agreed that we’d have to work things out better in the coming days, because – oh yes – B is going to be out of town for six days, four of which are spring break/weekend days, so I’ll have the kids all to myself all day – and night – and won’t be able to storm out for a quick breather and to let someone else make the sandwich, or to have an extra hour in bed while Mabel gets up with Daddy, and now I’m, well, apprehensive about that.

And then I saw Mabel and her father off to school this morning (he’s helping in the classroom today) and walked Dash to school, and came home all maudlin about the tragedy of sending my beloved children – my heart, after all – away from me every day.

It’s quite confusing being me. I think.

Food for thought

Dash seems to be having a growth spurt. Which is very annoying. Because even though he’s always hungry for more, the only more he’s hungry for is the same more as always. Somehow, I’ve made peace with him having a sandwich for lunch and another for dinner, but when he then demands a third sandwich mid-afternoon or for his after-dinner snack, I see a missed opportunity as it skids by me and lands in the peanut-butter, and get all enraged about it.

He’s been dutifully tasting things, and getting stars on his chart, though when he got to a dollar he said in a relieved manner “Phew! I’ve finished!” and was not so happy to hear that I expected this to go on ad infinitum. Money isn’t really very meaningful to him yet, so perhaps it’s not a great incentive. We need to go to Target and pick something he wants to work towards, I suppose.

But I’m getting frustrated. I know it takes up to 15 tastes before a kid might like something, and that licks and spitting things out still count towards getting familiar with a food, but when he licks a carrot, again, and wants it to count as his “taste” for the day, or gingerly touches his tongue to a cut piece of sausage and annouces “yuck”, or spits out a mouthful of applesauce, for heaven’s sake, and says it feels dry in his mouth, well, it’s a little wearing on the spirits, you know. He’s starting to act as if it’s our duty to come up with new and desirable things for him to taste every day, as if we should say “Hey, I know, why don’t you try this caramel-flavoured ice-cream for today’s thing” and then give him a big round of applause for his great effort.

And then I read something like this and get all discouraged because we are so far from having either child eat what the adults eat that it’s not funny. Unless the adults are eating sausages and plain pasta, or pizza, in which case Mabel will happily play along.

But then. If I list the things Dash has tasted (/licked, spat out, whatever, sigh) in the past two weeks, compared to all the nothing new ever he would even consider looking at before then, I should be impressed, and keep on plugging away. So I will. Carrot (raw, steamed, roasted), cheese, applesauce, baby spinach leaf, sausage, banana, tinned peach, a new type of cracker, cauliflower, pasta.

See? That’s pretty impressive. Except that he has yet to meet anything he likes. Even tinned peach. Come on, who doesn’t like tinned peaches? And he thinks that having tasted something once should give him the benefits of its nutrients for life. I try to explain that he has to keep eating them, and more than just a micro-bite, and that the food you eat doesn’t have to be your favourite thing all the time, it just has to be okay, and you eat it because you’re hungry. Damn, that sounds depressing. No wonder he sticks to what he likes best.

And he’s started making his own sandwiches, so really, what am I complaining about? Gah.

Revolutions

I introduced Dash to the idea of new year’s resolutions today. He liked the concept and immediately announced we should resolve to give more cookies to everyone. Laudable, though maybe not exactly somethijng that will jibe nicely with other people’s weight-loss or healthy-eating aspirations.

Ironically, I think deciding to run – jog, whatever – on a regular basis and actually doing it might be the easiest of my resolutions. The other changes I want to make depend more on my children and less on just me; except for those that are good for the kids and make my life harder, like the one about letting them watch less TV.

But then there are the things I want to get the children to do, like getting Dash to eat more foods, and getting Mabel to sleep better. This is trickier, and requires wiles. (You’ll note I say nothing about toilet training. She’s on her own for that one at the moment.)

Dash and I decided that he’s going to try a new food every day, even if it’s just a tiny taste that he spits out, or another taste of something he didn’t like before. If he doesn’t, his regular bedtime game of superheroes won’t happen. If he does, he’ll get the superhero game and also a star on his chart. After ten stars, he’ll get a dollar. So far today he’s tried a cracker he didn’t like before, and carrots; steamed and plain, and steamed and tossed in butter and salt. He didn’t like any of them, but it’s a start.

So there’s that. The ultimate threat to keep him on track is that if he doesn’t make an effort, we’ll have to take him to a doctor or a therapist or someone, because I do think he’s a lot worse than the average picky eater. I don’t see that a therapist would be able to do any more than what we’re trying now, but Dash would hate it, so the concept serves its purpose. (I found an SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) checklist yesterday and really, though a few of the many behaviours listed could have applied to him at times in the past, he doesn’t send up big red flags for anything, even in the “Oral Defensiveness” section, except this one:

picky eater, often with extreme food preferences; i.e., limited repertoire of foods, picky about brands, resistive to trying new foods or restaurants, and may not eat at other people’s houses

Yes, that’s my kid. And lots of other kids too, I think.) 

Then there’s the sleeping and the Mabel. For the past two nights she’s been up till almost 10pm, after protracted nursing-not-to-sleep, leaving alone to yell a bit, sending up Daddy, more nursing, more yelling, finally bringing downstairs because I wanted my coffee, and eventual dropping off. I think this means it’s time to nix the nap. Much as I love my hour of peace in the middle of the day, and much as I think she can still use it, I need my sanity and my two hours on the sofa at the end of the day even more. We’ll work through the afternoons of crazy until she gets used to it, and when Dash is back at school it should be easy enough to instigate an hour of quiet play (though not in her room, I fear) after lunch.

I reviewed my options, discussed it with friends and spouse, and decided to start with the tactic that’s probably least likely to work, but involves the least crying. Because I can’t take the crying, and in the middle of the night I know exactly which of us is more likely to back down. We’re going to try putting them together tonight, on mattresses, both in Dash’s room. For a sleepover. Yay! Sleepover! Mabel said that she won’t need me to go to sleep with when she has Dash there. So it must be true.

You may see I’ve created an entirely new category for this type of post, called Best Intentions. So you needn’t point out that I’m always promising to do things that don’t pan out. I’m painfully aware of that. But here I am again, writing from the point of view of unalloyed optimism, as we’ve yet to try which means we’ve also yet to fail. There’s probably only a tiny chance it will help, but heck, here goes nothing. Again.

Merry whatsit

Eighteen people have visited my blog today, so clearly my audience demands that I post something.

They weren’t even here as the result of some random Google search, unlike the poor misguided person who, according to my stats, recently looked for “French lesbian tube” and somehow – really, I have no idea how – ended up here. Maybe they saw the error of their ways and decided to stay and read about my thrilling life instead. Let’s hope.

As predicted, it’s been a much quieter, more relaxed Christmas Day than our usual whirlwind of courtesy calls and extended-family dinner and mince pies, but the basics of crazy-excited children and something containing fruit juice and alcohol with breakfast remained unmovable. (In Ireland, at my in-laws’, it’s always buck’s fizz, or what Americans call mimosas – champagne and orange juice. We rang the changes just a little with bellinis – peach juice and prosecco. Because we’re rebels.)  I made buttermilk pancakes and bacon; Dash ate one bite of pancake with a lot of maple syrup, and Mabel ate an orange segment.

However, this evening we all ate dinner together at the dining table, which was a feat in itself. We had to partake in a game of I-Spy to keep the kids in situ, but, probably, conversing about the situation in Korea and Mitt Romney’s election prospects are beyond a three-year-old and a five-year-old. And I-Spy was more fun. (My words were “brussels sprouts” and “wine”, because I didn’t extend myself too far in finding things to spy. Mabel made us guess the blue shoes on her baby in the other room, which was a little tricky. B had us trying to pinpoint the red stripe on his sweater, which merited a slap, but my end of the table was too far away.)

I roasted a chicken, and potatoes, and did sprouts with bacon. It could probably have profited from gravy, but hey, whatareyougonnado? Dash has recently taken a vegetarian stance on behalf of the poor dead animals, which I laud from an ethical point of view, but really when you’re a peanutbuttersandwichatarian, anything else is purely hypothethcal. I keep telling him I’ll be delighted when he’s a vegetarian, but he’ll have to actually eat some vegetables. Mabel ate a lot of chicken and nothing else. Then we had the last of the meringues with cream, and cut into the long-awaited Christmas cake.

Photos tomorrow, when I’ve had less wine. I’m told I still have to help finish the bottle.

Happy whatever-you-want-to-celebrate to you and yours.