Category Archives: food

The perils of cauliflower, generous neighbours, and giving your children what they want

There’s a cauliflower in my fridge and it’s laughing at me. That’s what cauliflowers do. They simper in the supermarket, saying “Buy me, I’m healthy. You can make all sorts of nice things with me.” And then I bring it home and it sits in my fridge for two weeks laughing at me because I never really want to make any of those nice things. Not enough to actually do it.

My husband says this never happens to him. He’s cauliflower-resistant. I need to be more like him.

I do have several delicious recipes for cauliflower – this one, and this one, or this one if I had some chicken – but tonight, when I was finally determined to quash that vegetable once and for all, I went and sabotaged myself by making a dessert first, which then turned out to be taking up the oven for the entire time until dinner, at the wrong temperature for any roasting of any cauliflower. Also, I was tired of cooking because the dessert was more fiddly than I remembered.

It’s even a purple cauliflower, because I’m just that fancy. And it’s still there, in the fridge, laughing at me and living to see another day.

We are also suffering from a surfeit of fruit at the moment. I know this shouldn’t be a bad thing, but there you have it, I’m a bad person. We have blueberries because a friend bought a giant container of them at Costco and then gave me some because her family wouldn’t eat them all. (As if I thought my family would be any different.)

We had rhubarb because I’d been looking out for rhubarb and it finally appeared in the supermarket and I bought some and made strawberry and rhubarb crumble and that was lovely but there was still rhubarb left over (the dessert I made today was for that).

And then our neighbour appeared at the side door with a big bag of freshly picked strawberries, which he gets at work somehow or something, and of course I was very grateful and polite and said thank you and yes please, but now they’re sitting in the fridge looking at me too. I could freeze them but I did that before and we ended up never eating them. I thought I’d make smoothies. I didn’t. Nobody eats that stuff in this house. Healthy stuff that’s not bread. Nobody.

In cat news, you would think that now that we have pets, the constant whining for a pet would have stopped. But no! You would be mistaken. They both still want a dog – of course; Mabel still wants a pet that’s exclusively hers to take care of and love and squeeze and call George.

Then yesterday she solved this problem for herself (at least temporarily) by announcing that Birch was now hers and she alone was going to feed him and scoop his poop. ‘Okay,’ we said, not remonstrating nearly as much as she’d expected. Then Dash decided that Oak, of course, was now his. We looked forward to an easy retirement from feeding and scooping the kitties. This morning Mabel insisted on getting up at 6:30 to be the one who fed the cats. (She graciously agreed to feed both of them.) However, when I pointed out that one of the cats had pooped before she left for school she said that was definitely the other one.

Cat almost on keyboard

Helping cat

However, I’m still the one at home with the cats all day, and I’m the only one who can stand the smell of the wet cat food enough to give them some, so they know that really they’re my kitties, and I’m the one they’ll rescue when they have to choose a favourite family member.

Oh wait, they’re cats. They’ll run away and leave us to our fate.

Tiny victories in selective eating

I know you’re all dying to know how the new dinner thing is going. Did we finally crack it? Or did I just crack, again?

I cannot tell a lie, at least not here on the blog, so I have to admit that once again we fell at about the second fence and it all came to pieces as soon as I blogged about how great I was and how we were finally on the right track. Of course it did. Will I never learn to keep my big trap (fingers) shut (still)?

BUT.

There’s a but. (Not a butt. Stop giggling there in the back row.) Reading the book and finding the blog were good, but joining a Facebook group for parents of selective eaters has really opened my eyes and given me a healthy dose of perspective on what we’re facing, how bad it is in the grand scheme of things, and what’s important.

There are parents in the group who have fussy toddlers, in a totally normal and age-appropriate way, babies and little kids who are exercising their newly found power by refusing food, or demanding only certain foods, or not eating things they’ve always eaten in the past. There are parents of kids like mine, who are picky and selective and have limited diets by their own choosing and who won’t “eat when they’re hungry enough” no matter how much you assume that’ll be the case.

And there are parents of children who are traumatized around food because they had such terrible reflux that their oesophagus was burned by acid, or who lack the muscle tone to swallow efficiently, or who have been badgered and bullied and terrorized so that they shut down around food, or who survive only thanks to liquid diet supplements, or whose parents celebrate when they eat a teaspoonful of solid food for the first time in a week, or who spent years on a feeding tube and have to learn how to eat from scratch.

Compared to these parents, I feel pretty lucky. My child has no allergies, no physical difficulty eating, is perfectly healthy despite his limited diet, and continues to grow apace.

It also brings home what an odd relationship we in the Western world have with food. Food is energy, food makes us grow, food is vital for life. And yet we insist on categorizing food into “good” and “bad.” Often we need to do something like this for ourselves because we have so much choice, such a bounty of sugar and salt and smooth and crunchy and deep-fried and processed that we’ve lost sight of the basics. But for these kids, food is food, and all food is good. A lot of it is about trusting that when offered a variety of foods, humans will, if they don’t have reasons to do otherwise, choose a selection that is healthful and eat as much as, but not more than, they need.

So by offering a bunch of different things at once, we can help our children trust themselves, and show them that we trust them. That’s the key to the Division of Responsibility (DOR) method.

It’s hard to do it perfectly: I clearly haven’t figured out how to do it at all. I have niggling issues with timing and fear of waste and how to balance one child’s needs and wants against the other’s. But here’s what’s changed for me in the past few weeks:

  • I am more understanding of Dash’s feelings. I don’t dismiss his food concerns as “illogical” or “ridiculous” even if they seem that way to me. I’m meeting him where he is, not trying to coerce him into coming over to my way of thinking.
  • I am more likely to keep foods he likes in the house, because they’re his safe foods, even if they don’t seem particularly “good” to me. Things like tortilla chips or Sun Chips or plain bagels. I resisted this for so long, partly because I have no self-control around Sun Chips, but mostly because at some level apparently I still felt that if he was hungry enough he’d eat “better” foods. That’s not true, and has clearly not ever been true for him. I’m learning to let go of that notion and have food in the house that he’s happy to eat.

Basically, I’m being nicer to Dash: less impatient, more understanding. It’s nice to be nice to him; I think deep down inside I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be nice about food, but this is better. (It’s interesting the things I continue to discover about me, not about him, as we go deeper into this.)

So, for instance, when we were away this weekend I promised to always remember to ask while ordering his french fries whether there’s seasoning on them, and if they can please not do that. Before, we’ve not said anything and sometimes fries will come out with pepper on them, or – heaven forfend! – a sprinkling of parsley flakes – and then there’s a row because I don’t like making a fuss and sending things back, and to me it’s silly to refuse to eat them over this tiny thing. But to him it’s a huge thing. And if we order them without seasoning up front, there’s no waste and no awkwardness and it’s perfectly easy for the restaurant too. Win-win, but something I’ve been so resistant to for no good reason except that it felt like pandering to the fussy child and I thought I shouldn’t do that.

I’m more able now to treat what might seem like tiny achievements as what they really are – big deals in the world of selective eating. This weekend he tried and liked two new foods! They were crinkle-cut fries and kettle corn, which might not sound like a great discovery to most of us, but let’s celebrate our victories where we find them. Taking an existing “safe food” – in this case, straight fries and plain salted popcorn – and expanding that to a variation in shape or flavour – is called food chaining, and it’s how a selective eater can start to expand their horizons while feeling secure and unthreatened.

So let’s call this a win. Just not the one I thought it was going to be.

Dash with food.

Happy with crinkle-cut chips and chocolate milk. An excellent lunch.

The food is not the point

I started reading the picky-eater book with a very defensive attitude. It had been recommended, and I felt ready to maybe tackle this thing again, but I didn’t want to. At every page turn I saw obstacles and roadblocks, reasons why I couldn’t do this, why it would never work for us. My inner monologue went something like this:

– But we can’t do that. He won’t even sit at the table.

– I don’t want to feed everyone together. I can’t get all that food ready at the same time.

– Think of the washing-up! All those serving plates! And we can’t fit all the food on the table in dishes as well as each person’s plate. We’d have to eat in the other room, where the table is covered in homework and filing, and where you have to walk a mile around the counter to bring everything there.

– How can I get us to sit down together? B comes home at 6 and the kids are yelling for dinner from about 4:30 on.

– This will never work. I don’t even see why I would want it to. What’s so great about sitting at the table? Sure, there are studies that say families that eat together every night have kids who are better behaved, more academically successful, more wonderful in every way… but my kids are pretty good already. Kinda. Why would I give myself all these headaches just to be “good”?

/Heaves giant sigh of put-upon-ness./

On the other hand, I have been starting to feel lately that, well, sometimes living here is like sharing a flat with short ungrateful people who never do their share of the cleaning up. What’s the point, really? When do we get to be a family, if we’re just the people who live in the same house as them and bring them to the places they need to be?

And I’m really sick of people announcing that they’re hungry, again, right when it’s bedtime or time to start their homework, or just when I’ve put away everything from dinner. All the separate dinners.

So maybe – just maybe – something wasn’t working so well after all. Maybe it was worth trying to make a change.

As I said yesterday, I really liked the fact that the authors said you can start a bit at a time. Going all-out with a totally new way of doing things is great sometimes, but I feel like that would be doomed to failure, for us. But small steps, when it’s easy-ish; I can maybe do that.

And the more I read the more I understood that what I’ve to aim for isn’t for Dash to be an adventurous eater. It’s not even, necessarily, for him to branch out much. It’s for us to all sit around the table and have a pleasant time. At the moment, that’s a big enough end-game to hope for, and also makes it seem a little more possible that this isn’t all a wild flight of fancy. Eating at the table is a social skill that both my kids lack right now, much as I pretend they don’t – and maybe it’s within my power to change that.

So I started out very small. I’d noticed that when Mabel goes to her friend’s house after school they have a snack at the table. I asked her how she’d feel about doing that at home. I figured if she was on board that would be a start, and maybe Dash would join in if there was no cooked food in the room with us at the time. She said it would be okay, she supposed. She sounded a little bit, secretly, happy about the prospect, even.

We had a snack at the table, served family style, sort of, as much as you can with apple slices and pretzels. Just me and her, and her brother for half a second before he flitted off. Since then we’ve had dinner at the table twice, the girl and her two parents and no brother, and snack at the table a couple more times. Dash says he can’t eat a sandwich at the table. It feels too weird. He runs away from french toast. He’s like a skittish kitten around humans for the first time. Maybe we’ll try pancakes over the weekend, because he likes those. (Not waffles. Won’t touch a waffle even though he knows the batter is practically identical.)

But the thing is, I think I get it. Mabel really likes it. I like it. It’s nice sitting at the dinner table having a conversation. It’s nice having Mabel there. It would be fun to have Dash there too, because he’s entertaining company. The food is not the point. I’m starting to understand.

 

Turkey fatigue

Remind me not to cook a turkey next year. Or ever again unless we have fifteen people for dinner. So much leftover turkey. So unattractive to me.

I tried, I really did. The first night I turned the leftover roast potatoes into hash browns and reheated some turkey in the gravy. (The gravy was delicious. I made Nigella’s allspice gravy from Feast and it was really good and very little extra work. And I say that as an affirmed gravy-non-maker.) The second night, I made a curry with coconut milk and lemongrass and ginger and the turkey and some snow peas and rice, and it was okay too.

The third night I rebelled and made sausage and tomato risotto, but I diligently had a turkey sandwich for lunch, and another today. I had an idea about turkey tacos, but I couldn’t find queso fresco, and obviously if you’re putting cooked turkey into a taco the rest of it has to be unimpeachably legit, so I can’t make those right now.

But I fear the end of the turkey-eating is approaching, and it is not contemporaneous with the end of the turkey. I know there are other good things I could do with the turkey, and I know I could freeze some, but the chances of ever using what I freeze are slim; it’s just putting off the inevitable. I should make the stock and be done with it. If it’s not too late already to do that.

In other news, it turns out Mabel needs two fillings, and I’m feeling bad about that lollipop I bought her yesterday. B ran his twentieth marathon on Saturday and we’re all so used to that sort of thing that we basically ignored it. (Sorry. Huge achievement, did I mention? Yay, you, honey!)  And tomorrow is December, so I really can’t avoid Christmas any longer.

No turkey, though. I promise.

Turkey, cooked, carved

How to host Thanksgiving dinner

Take turkey out of fridge. Watch children grimace at dead turkey, accuse you of heartlessness, run away.

Note that Child Two seems to be particularly volatile today. Oh good, think to self. Just what we needed.

Find Child Two screaming over some purported unfairness. Save day with craft project for her: making nameplates for the table.

Congratulate self on excellent parenting as Child Two settles down happily with paper and markers and scissors and a list of names of those attending.

Set table. Child Two throws wobbler over seating arrangement, demands to seat people where she wants, against all sensible logic.

Child One arrives, puts in oar, demands further different seating arrangement. Says he won’t sit at table where dead turkey is present anyway.

Threaten to cancel dinner altogether. Children rejoice. Take it back. Children unite in discord but are still fighting. Go and say mean things about them on Twitter.

Ignore screams, consider vegetables. Swear you’ll never cook a turkey again. Contemplate running away and joining the circus before next November.

Cover turkey in bacon. Put turkey in oven. Be pretty confident that this is a good move.

Ask Child One if he’d like to help you peel vegetables. To your surprise, he says yes. Congratulate self on excellent parenting as child one helps you peel potatoes. Child two has decided that a session of Minecraft will resolve all seating-plan problems.

Convince Child Two to help you peel carrots and top and tail green beans. Experience smushy glowy feeling of nostalgia.

Make stuffing. Discover at point of no return that these are the wrong sort of breadcrumbs. Stuffing is ruined. Abandon stuffing. Go put on some dangly earrings.

Put clean towel in downstairs bathroom.

Salvage stuffing with different recipe. Congratulate self on superior culinary skills.

Take turkey out of oven, done an hour ahead of schedule. Cover with foil. Make gravy, roast potatoes, cook vegetables, welcome guests. Open wine. Ignore children.

Give thanks. Look into Thanksgiving weekend breaks for next year.

Mabel at the table

Mabel performs a final check on the seating plan

 

 

Summer dining

A while ago I declared my intention to make lots of salads for quick and easy dinners on the go during baseball and t-ball season.

Last week, I decided it was time to get serious about vegetables before a muffin intervention was staged, so I trawled through the relevant Pinterest board (you’d want to stay well away from this one) and polled my Facebook friends for things to do with cabbage. It’s been going pretty well.

So without further ado, let me tell you about my salads and other vegetably deliciousness. Some of these are entire meals, and others are crying out to accompany a steak, or a chop, or something you threw on the grill, if you’re of the mind to throw things on grills.

Sesame noodles

This is from an ancient Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals book, but I can’t find it exactly as written online anywhere, so I’ll put it here. It’s always a success. For enough noodles and veg for two people, this is how I make the sauce. Scale as needed. Mix together the following, and then toss all the ingredients in it:

1/8 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
1/2 small clove garlic, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper (or more depending on how spicy you like it)

If you don’t have tahini you can use smooth peanut butter and it’ll be sort of satay-y, but still delicious. You can throw in any vegetables and protein you like, really, though chicken strips or tofu, with red peppers, spring onions, zucchini, tiny broccoli florets, mange tout (that’s snow peas in America), and bean sprouts are all good ideas. You can use plain old spaghetti for the noodles or something more Asian – whatever you’ve got. You can eat them hot or put them in the fridge and take them somewhere for lunch the next day. You can make them spicy or mild. They go down a treat with crowds.

Cabbage and sugar snaps with sesame miso dressing

cabbage salad

This is from the Smitten Kitchen book, which adorns my bookshelf and should be used more. Many other people have kindly reproduced the recipe on their websites, so I’m linking you to one of those rather than wade into the murky waters of recipe copyright myself. I didn’t have an radishes, and didn’t miss them; though it did take me a while to track down miso paste. I finally found it in our local organic supermarket. I now have a huge tub of it, but apparently it keeps forever. And I’ll certainly be making this again.

Carrot salad with chickpeas and tahini dressing

Carrot salad and a breaded chicken finger

Sorry it’s all so orange; we ate it with homemade chicken nuggets because Mabel likes those

This is from Smitten Kitchen again. You don’t have to have the parsley or the pistachios, or even the chickpeas in a pinch or if you can’t face turning on the oven. Just carrots and the dressing make a toothsome mouthful, but the whole thing is a wonder to behold. And practically an entire meal, what with all that protein in the pulses, right? (Use your food processor to shred the carrots, unless you really enjoy the pain.)

Falafel

falafel and tzatziki with tomato in a pita pocketNot a salad, I admit. But if you like falafel, it turns out it’s really simple to make at home. Eat them hot, stir some grated cucumber and a little garlic into some yogurt, pile it all into a pita pocket with some sliced tomato and lettuce if you have any (we didn’t, but we didn’t care).

Lentil salad with feta and chickpeas and a tahini dressing

I can see a theme emerging here. I like chickpeas. (Or garbanzos, as they were when I first met them, in Spain.) And I always have a jar of tahini in the fridge, mostly for the sesame noodles. This lentil salad is fiddly and has a lot of different elements, but it is the most astounding thing, when you finally come to eat it.

Broccoli slaw with craisins and buttermilk ranch dressing

I discovered this last year and I’ve already over-indulged again this summer. I never thought much of raw broccoli before, but this one works.

Salade nicoise

The version I make is from How To Eat, Nigella Lawson’s very first book. She makes it with fresh tuna, and I do sometimes too, but often I just use a couple of chicken breasts, sauted and sliced. Otherwise, you need boiled potatoes, sliced; cherry tomatoes, quartered; green beans, boiled to al dente; and a few hard-boiled eggs, also quartered. Toss it all with some salad leaves – lettuce, spinach, whatever you’ve got. Douse the whole thing in a garlicky viniagrette and stuff it in your mouth. B really likes this. I think it’s the potatoes.

Quinoa and kale salad with walnuts, craisins, and feta 

This is an old favourite that I’ve linked to before. It’s the recipe that made me like kale, and still one of the only things I know how to do with quinoa. It’s great warm or chilled, for dinner or lunch, on its own or as a side.

Bibimbap

Two bowls of bibimbap

I turned the eggs over for a few seconds; that’s why they’re not bright yellow. Still runny, though.

This one’s not a salad, but it’s a really handy quick dinner, so I’m putting it here. This is not the real thing, it’s the Irish Times hack found here: but in case, like me, you’ve used up your ten articles for the week, let me give you a quick run down:

1. Cook some rice.
2. Sauté some vegetables: tonight I have carrot, peppers, cabbage, broccolini (fancy!), and scallions. And a few cubes of tofu.
3. Stir in two tablespoons of soy sauce and two tablespoons of sriracha or chilli sauce. I’m using a jar of chilli garlic sauce that says something about Viet Nam on it. It looks molto autentico, if you get me.
4. For each person, put rice in a bowl, followed by the veg, and a fried egg on top. The bowl is vital, because the runny egg yolk has to get all over everything.
5. Scoff. Beware, it’s spicy!

My only trouble has been that these are all so yummy it’s hard to leave any for lunch the next day, never mind hoping that one might stretch to two dinners. Must buy more veggies.

Do you have any favourite summer dinners or salads to recommend to me?

New obsessions – late autumn edition

Fried eggs. One day last month Deb at Smitten Kitchen talked about crispy fried eggs, and I’m not sure I even made it to the end of the page before I was headed to the fridge. If it’s in the fridge, be it vegetable or carb, I will now put a fried egg on it and call it lunch.

Beet salad with fried egg on top

Boots. This is an old obsession, not a new one. Don’t tell my husband, but I own seven pairs of boots (if you include the snow boots from the thrift store and the hiking boots from about 1999). And I still need wellies. I was all set for boots this winter. I really really had no need for any boots. But then I got free money to spend at Target as a credit card reward, and I bought these. Because when the universe gives you free money, you have to spend it on something truly frivolous.

Ugg-like boots

Source: http://www.target.com/p/women-s-kamar-suede-shearling-boot/-/A-15310907#prodSlot=medium_1_24&term=womens+boots

The knitting thing shows little sign of abating. I’m starting socks, but I don’t know how that’s going to go. I’ve made fingerless mittens and finger-full mittens and hats and scarves and I have a sweater pattern pinned, though that seems a bit large. I just bought some crochet hooks too, in case of a snow-day emergency.

Knitted hats, scarves, mittens.

This is everything I’ve knitted, pretty much. Some things are in daily use; others were mostly experimental.

This stuff. If you find it, on no account should you buy it. Believe me.

The Snack Artist Sweet and Salty Chili Crunch

Note the empty bag.

Finally, three words to change your life: fleece-lined tights. I heard of these last year but they seemed esoteric. This year I found them easily and bought a pair for me and one for Mabel. No more complaining that it’s too cold for skirts or that her leggings are too thin. Genius.

What are you loving at the moment?

 

Beetly

Sometimes I wonder where the real me went.

I mean, the me who always ignored the pickle that came with a sandwich, and who would certainly never engage with a beet(root). The me who didn’t like any sort of mustard and who hated olives.

The olives were first to go, actually, because you can’t spend a year in Spain without coming around to olives. They gradually moved from something I picked off to something I’d eat if they were there to something I actively requested on my pizza.

But the others were much slower in worming their ways into my affections. I started with a tiny, tiny taste of wholegrain mustard in a ham sandwich, and after some number of years I’ll now smear a decent amount of dijon on a hotdog. Maybe my tastebuds have dulled or something, but it doesn’t seem so offensively spicy any more.

I could say that it took moving to America to make a pickle-eater out of me, but my husband has been here longer than I have and he still removes the offending green spears from any plate they appear on (or donates them to me). Our local farmer’s market has a pickle stall, and for the past few weeks I’ve been skulking around their samples and stealing little mouthfuls of deliciously lemony, garlicky crunchy coolness. Last weekend I took the plunge and bought a quart of the blighters. I have to eat them all myself (the hardship), and I am discovering all the things they taste excellent with.

Finally, there were beets. Beetroot, as I had encountered it in my childhood, was a disgusting pink gelatinous article that came in a jar immersed in vinegar and contaminated everything it touched with its bloody-ish entrails. I had no intention of even tasting it.

I stood firm on that front until just a few weeks ago, when the recipes for beet brownies were flying around my Facebook and I found myself at a pot-luck standing in front of a salad with beets in it. They were golden beets, raw, sliced oh so thinly, looking a million miles from those puce blobs of yore. I tried one. It tasted… fine. It had some texture and not much flavour, and was a nice element of a nice salad. It was anticlimactic, to be honest, after all that time and hatred I’d expended on an innocent vegetable.

So there I was at the farmers’ market with my newly acquired tub of pickles. So I picked up some beets too. Just like that. They were the dirty pink sort because they didn’t have the golden ones, but I didn’t even care. I was clearly in some sort of dangerous mood last Sunday, I’m telling you. You wouldn’t have wanted to cross me, with my beets and my pickles.

I polled Facebook and trawled Pinterest and then I roasted my beets whole, wrapped in tinfoil, while I was cooking some sausages to eat pickles with. As advertised, the skins slid off beautifully once they were knife-tender. I have to admit that they looked a bit scary at that point, so I put them in the fridge to deal with today. I thought I might make a chocolate cake.

whole roasted peeled beets

Mmm, appetizing

But it turned out that I had walnuts that were easily toasted (I’m told if I roast them drizzled with honey the entire experience will be transcendent), and some crumbled feta sitting in the fridge, and all I had to do was chop up a beet and mix it with those two things, plus a drizzle of olive oil and some drips of balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. It made a pretty good lunch. For dinner, I added brown rice and did it all over again.

Chopped beets with feta and walnuts

Oddly delicious

So I suppose you could say I’m a convert. In another 32 years I look forward to hearing my picky eater tell me how beets are actually okay after all. I should probably call my mum.

 

 

 

Performance anxiety

I made an appointment for Dash to see a food specialist next month. I feel like he’s finally at the point where he wants to eat new foods, but he doesn’t know how. “Just tasting them” is not a runner here. He won’t taste them; if I happen to catch him on that one day of the new moon when the tides are just so and the day has an n in it, and he does taste something new, he’ll most likely not like it. If the stars align so that he says it’s actually okay, he considers that one tiny nibble contains enough nutrients for a lifetime and he’ll never taste it again.

When I called his pediatrician to find out where we should go, she said “So, I understand Dash has some anxiety around eating.”

“Anxiety?” I said. Honestly, you might be rolling your eyes, but I’d never thought about it that way. “No… I wouldn’t call it anxiety, exactly. He’s not worried about it. He just doesn’t do it.”

I suppose we’ll find out more when we see the doctor. Maybe that is what you call anxiety. He’d certainly be very anxious if I forced him to taste new foods against his will, but that would be because to do that I’d have to literally hold him down and force his mouth open. As it is, he says no in no uncertain terms, and that’s just it. There is no moving him. He’s not a child to be persuaded on this front. Never has been.

On the other hand, he does have some anxiety about going on vacation this summer to a country where all the (few) things he habitually eats might not be available. He’s never before mentioned that he’s been upset or even really noticed that he wasn’t eating anything much when we’ve gone to Ireland before. Maybe it’s because Italy is more of an unknown quantity, but I think it’s also because he’s more conscious of it now in a way he wasn’t before. He also doesn’t want to do camp this summer mainly – he says – because he thinks the kids will tease him about having the same thing for lunch every day.

(I don’t think they would. I don’t think he’d be the only kid with the same thing every day, and it’s not as if it’s weird food – it’s a peanut butter sandwich, for goodness sake. And I’m not convinced this is the only thing stopping him from doing camp. But I haven’t yet got to the bottom of that particular mystery.)

I don’t know what might come of it. I can hardly expect to suddenly have a child who eats everything. But if we could somehow succeed in expanding his repertoire just a little, as far as his sister’s, maybe, that would be a huge step. At least she eats pizza and pasta.

Updatey things for a Friday

First of all, I’m sorry to inform you, if you didn’t already know, that Mabel and Dash are not my children’s real names. Maud is also not my real name. I’m very sorry if you feel betrayed in any way by this information, but it is on the About page, so I wasn’t intentionally keeping it from you. If you want to call your children Mabel and Dash, I’m delighted, but you should probably think about cutting me in on the royalties. (What do you mean, children don’t come with royalties? They should.)

Dinner at the table is going well. So long as I am proactive about turning the TV off at exactly 5.59, I have two eager diners sitting up and even demanding to be let set the table one minute later. Three, if their dad is home on time. Enthusiasm for tasting new foods has dimmed a little, but seriously, I’m just happy to have them sitting there seeing new foods being eaten by other people. We have actual dinnertime conversation, and I get to tell them not to talk with their mouths full, and it’s just like a real family.

My point with this is not that I think you have to eat dinner at the table too, or that you should do any of the things I do. It’s simply to encourage you by showing that change is possible, even if you think you’ve missed the boat because you didn’t institute whatever rule it was when they were born, or first eating solids, or turned four (five, six, seven…). If you don’t like the way things are, make a change. Or if you’re not ready for that, at least don’t despair, because when you are ready for it, you can do it.

We went to get Mabel’s American passport renewed yesterday. Previous passports (they have two each and the Irish baby one got renewed at 3 years) have been cause for photo-related hilarity and/or gnashing of teeth, but I was hopeful that this would be a straight shot. Mabel wasn’t great about holding her head up for the nice lady, but the nice lady was very canny and left the room while I wielded the camera, and I caught her in an accidental smile.

Mabel's photo

(We got to keep the second print. Which is nice because all the photos in my wallet were at least three years old.)