Where do they come up with this stuff?

As I said in my last post, my precious baby is more like a little man every day. I’ve had a lot more time to spend with him with the holiday season, and it’s been wonderful witnessing all the things I usually miss when I’m at work, leaving the house before he awakes in the morning and returning only a few hours before his bedtime. I never knew how much goes on during that time. Since just before Christmas, these are some of my Jacob’s new developments (or maybe just ones I’ve noticed since I’ve been around and able to spend more time with him!):

1)      Manners! Joe (husband) and I are casual people. In spite of our settling in New England, my Ivy League employer, and his expertise in early music, I believe we both would be best described as “down to earth.” To go along with this, we have been all too remiss in teaching my stepson (now 8) and son (a year and a half) any etiquette whatsoever. Hey, I’m originally from southern Ohio and Joe’s from the Jersey shore. What can I say? Anyway, without any instruction on our part, our little guy has taken to using “please” and “thank you” like it’s nobody’s business. I was shocked the other day when Jacob said “up peeeez” and then “thanks” when I picked him up. Ever since, he’s been saying “peez” and “thanks” or “thank you” for everything.

2)      Potty developments. Recently, I mentioned that my son had a way of announcing the contents of his diaper just after he had made his delivery. Well, today was his fourth official pee pee drop off in the potty. Today’s began with “I want potty peez,” was followed by five minutes of me exchanging the books he flipped through while sitting there, and ended with “all done pee pee” and a potty full of the stuff!

3)      Descriptions. I was pretty impressed when my little guy started saying things like “it hurts” and “noise” and “deep freeze” (to describe the cold weather)…but he has impressed me even more with “loud noise” and “big ball” and “heavy box”  and “ hot?” while placing his palm with open fingers just an inch or so above his cooked food. The cutest was when he and Joe were playing with a ball in the kitchen the other day. When daddy kicked the ball fast and high, Jacob shouted “Oh! Nice!”

4)      Words with lots of syllables. Today when we were looking at animal pictures online he said “heepo [pause]…pottamus”. Enough said.

Are you impressed? I am such the proud mama these days…especially since I’ve been home to see it all unfold. What’s new with your little ones? I know who you readers are, and I know you have kids or relatives who are amazing you every day. Do share your stories!

Happy holidays!

Baby’s First Haircut

It’s not at all accurate to call my Jacob a baby anymore. At this point, he’s well into the prime of his toddlerhood. Still, in his first nineteen months of life, he never once had snipped a single strand of hair. So, in my mind, his first haircut still counts as a “baby’s first.” Plus, I think the cut was a little overdue—my husband would argue that it should have happened when Jacob was indeed still a baby.

I’ve had my reasons for waiting. I’ve written before about my love for my little guy’s luscious curls. And, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that my husband is the designated barber in the house. As an ex-marine on a budget, he refuses to let anyone else cut his own or my stepson’s hair. I even have to put up a bit of a fight to convince him that, in spite of his special scissor skills, a salon is necessary for my own hair. While I imagine he could trim a woman’s hair, the only style I think he’s ever cut is the traditional marine “high and tight.”

I’ve been fending off my husband’s eager clippers since Jacob’s curls first appeared. For my son to go from sweet swirly, twirly curls to a military buzz cut just hasn’t been okay for me…not to mention my thoughts that Jacob will likely sport the jarhead head for as long as he lives under our roof… or until he is a teenager, either insisting on growing his hair long or sneaking behind his father’s back to have someone else cut his hair. To say the least, I’ve been pretty adamant about delaying the inevitable. Until…

A few nights ago, Jacob was playing on the kitchen floor while I was making dinner. While forking strands of spaghetti squash into a bowl, I looked over to find him lying on his back and scooting himself around the room. When he sat up (yes, this is a clear testament to how often I sweep), his curls were full of dust and lint. He looked especially scraggly and unkempt. The term “mop top” was taking on a whole new, more literal meaning.

Immediately, I yelled to my husband to grab his trimming tools and my son…with the disclaimer that he probably had only about five minutes to drag Jacob upstairs and begin chopping that mop before I changed my mind.

Well, to make a long story a little less long, let me just say it’s done. There were tears and screams (mostly Jacob’s—I think he was afraid of the sound the clippers made, but Mommy struggled a little too as those locks fell). In the end, the bathroom floor was covered in hunks of fine, curly hair, and where once was my curly headed baby stood a little boy who looked much, much cuter and tidier with his new do. Who knew the high and tight would be so becoming? I hope that I can remember this day when those curls begin to reappear!

The Lighter of the Dark Side

My 19-month-old is just plain lucky to have an 8-year-old brother. Big brother has lived through 8 whole birthdays and 8 whole Christmases, not to mention several years of earning prizes from a “big boy” point system that we created sometime during his preschool years…to keep him following directions and trying new foods and not doing annoying stuff that we didn’t want him to do. Anyway, back to my original point…as Jackson (big brother) has three sets of grandparents, both parents and stepparents, and all sorts of other relatives to buy him all the action heroes and Legos and play weapons that his heart has desired, little brother is living the good life when it comes to toys.

I mentioned several months ago that Jacob learned to walk while holding a lightsaber and that one of his first utterances was the “tzzt” that Spiderman makes. Well, his new favorite line is “dark side of the pillow”, which actually sounds more like “dok sawd uh duh peelow.” This requires some explaining.

One of Jacob’s beloved hand-me-down toys is a Star Wars helmet that has a sort of microphone, which makes your voice sound like a powerful ruler. As you can imagine, this has been all sorts of fun for each of the three boys in my household (husband included, and actually emphasized.) Each morning, when he (husband) goes to wake Jackson for school, he (husband) puts on the helmet, turns on the light in Jackson’s room, and says slowly in a sort of British accent using his deepest voice (which comes out even deeper with the mic distortion on the helmet), “There’s no match for the dark side of the pillow.” Then, he starts hitting Jackson (playfully, this is not child abuse, folks) with a pillow to wake him up.

Jacob has witnessed this scene so many mornings that he now calls all helmets “dok sawd uh duh peelow.” That line is adorable…right up there with his latest demand for independence: “I want ah bah mah sef” (I want all by myself), which he says when wrestling Mommy for the fork during meals or the toothbrush when brushing his teeth. Thank goodness for the cuteness factor or else these two moves would qualify for Mommy’s ever-growing collection of major annoyances that now include his new interests in climbing into drawers when we’re not looking and sticking anything that fits into the vents throughout the house. (Though he tried, neither the grapefruit nor the orange would fit.)

Just thought I’d share the latest…happy December!

Oh…duh poo poo

I mentioned in my last post that my Jacob—who will be a whole year and a half in just two days!—has an ever-growing vocabulary. Since that post, he has learned and practiced a bunch of new words. “Pungo” (pumpkin) is the word of the season, and “butt” (peanut butter) is his very favorite new food. He witnessed his first “sun” (snow) as a speaking toddler this past Saturday and points to all the piles of “sun” as we go on walks to the park to “sfing” (swing). Thankfully, he finally is getting used to going to the “jeembee” (gym) and even asks for “moh jeembee” (more gym) some days when I get home from work.

Second only to “butt”, his other favorite food is “bock bocks” (chicken nuggets), which got their name from the sounds that Mommy and Daddy tell him chickens make both on Old MacDonald’s farm and on the Bus (with the wheels that go round and round) on car trips. (Yes, there are chickens on our bus.) Speaking of that bus, that now carries any passenger who makes a noise… when Jacob sees a dog,  he barks…in a way that I can only call “the evil puppy.” If he spots a cat, he meows politely first and then hisses loudly (thanks to realist Daddy who taught him that some dogs are mean…and that cats hiss and claw instead of meow when they fight…and that cows grunt instead of moo when jumping over the moon).

Only a couple weeks ago, Jacob first announced that he had gone #2 by saying “poo poo” just after his diaper was full and stinky. Since then, he has begun to say “oh…duh poo poo” (oh, the poo poo? I’m not completely sure) just before he goes, followed by “I want moh potty (more potty)”. Unfortunately, he hates sitting on either his mini-toddler potty or what we call “the big-boy potty” (the regular toilet). So, for now, his words are not doing him too much good…although they are a nice warning for us when he’s about to go.

Over the last couple weeks, Jacob’s word for cheese—“tzhit”—has morphed to “cheez-tzhit”, which is still quite similar to how he says Spiderman, and actually to how he refers to all superheroes that remind him of Spiderman, which is “men (pause) tzhit”. He even uses the web-release hand gesture when he says it! And, “tzhit” reminds me of “bzzzzt” (electrical outlets). This is a word/sound Daddy taught Jacob in attempt to scare him from sticking is fingers in sockets. Unfortunately, it only piqued his interest.

Just yesterday, I was surprised when I wiped Jacob’s nose, and he said “booguh” (again, this one must have come from his well-intentioned father.) Most recently, I think the cutest two things are how he: #1 adds “ee” to the ends of most words and #2 addresses Mommy and Daddy in his requests. I mean, who can resist “I want moh outsahdee (more outside), mama” or “I want moh milkee (more milk), daddy”? Precious, precious, precious.

 

 

When words mean work…

Parenting a child who is learning to talk is an amazing…and exhausting thing. Jacob will be one and a half in just a couple weeks, and his ever-increasing language skills astound me. Just this weekend, I probably heard a dozen new words from his mouth, including: “let’s go!” when I asked “ready?”, “home” once when we strolled into the driveway after a walk and once more as we were driving down our street after a trip to the grocery store, and then “fart,” which he repeated several times after hearing it from his (eloquent) father.

Of course, I am beaming with pride at my son’s growing vocabulary (well, except for the last addition I mentioned—my husband is beaming at that one.) Still, I also am keenly aware of the implications of Jacob’s ability to put into words his preferences and interests. Though a beautiful thing, as with many other milestones, it comes down to more work for me and my husband. Lately, Jacob’s favorite sentence starter is “I want moh” [more], followed by something that mommy, or daddy, or both of us must do, bring, shake our heads at, or simply ignore. Among the many requests (or demands depending on the day) and expressions in his vocabulary are:

  • “tzhit”: which means “cheese” but sounds identical to the sound effect he makes to imitate Spiderman shooting his web. When we don’t have any cheese or if I want him to eat something else instead, I just say, “That’s right! Get him, Spiderman!”
  • “muhp”: which he has used for months now to mean “up,” as in being lifted up into our arms or up out of a highchair, carseat, or tight spot between furniture where he has gotten himself stuck. “Muhp” now is what we hear when he is hanging from the safety gate blocking the stairwell leading to the second floor of our house. It means that he would like to go upstairs…and that he wants to get there by climbing all by himself. At this point, his motor skills fall behind his physical ambitions. In a typical journey up the steps, he slips several times and misses one or more steps completely. Sometimes, he decides suddenly to turn and go back down the stairs, which is no good…because…well, he doesn’t really know how to do that yet.
  • “bus”: the Wheels on the Bus song—this is the accompaniment to every car ride these days. When the wheels and wipers and horns and drivers and babies on the bus were not enough, donkeys and roosters and motorcycles and snakes came aboard. If this bus existed in real life, its noises would quite possibly be the most annoying cacophony that ever was. I’m not sure how I feel about creating that for my son.
  • “allllllllllll!!!” in his loudest voice as he waves his hand violently: which means he is all done and whatever it is that he is done with must be taken away immediately or he will keep yelling and waving.
  • “binky”: which is the first word out of his mouth when he wakes (still several times) in the middle of the night. If Ms. Binky (she’s female because she replaced my boob when Jacob stopped nursing) is not anywhere obvious, he climbs around the bed and over mommy and daddy, digging through the blankets and pillows until it’s safely back in his mouth. (Yes, we are planning to wean him off this habit at some point…maybe around the same time we actually get him to sleep in his own bed…?)
  • “melmo” [Elmo]: which means one of four songs that Elmo sings and that is available on sesamestreet.org. This is a pain for two reasons: #1 Jacob doesn’t like watching any video unless it’s one of these four songs and #2 because we don’t have a television, the best we can do is play each song one at a time on our laptop, which requires us to come back to the computer and type something new in every two minutes or so when the song is over. It is enough time to use the restroom, however…which is more than we’ve gotten in the past.
  • And two of my new favorites: “poo poo,” which at this point he only says AFTER he has made his diaper deposit and “uh oh,” which he learned recently from a playmate and which he says anytime he trips, drops something, or even sees one of us make a mistake. Both are simply adorable utterances. The increased workload from the latter stems from Jacob’s new liking for throwing both things (toys, food, etc.) and himself on the floor or ground just so he can follow it up with “uh oh.”

So, that’s the latest with us: a toddler full of things to say—not much of a surprise given who his parents are (very talkative people, in case you don’t know us or didn’t notice).  Anyone else have any cute words or phrases that have come out of their little ones recently or in the past?

Between a crib and a hard place

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while—life has been a little crazier than usual. We’re in the middle of some financial difficulties. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that things have changed for us in major ways. It’s not just simple stuff—like having to limit my random expenditures or to make my own coffee instead of stopping at Starbucks (I do that anyway!). I have to cross things…lots of things…off our grocery list (meat, organic anything, everything unnecessary). I layer and wash the same few outfits over and over instead of buying new clothes for our growing boys. In general, I just don’t spend money unless absolutely essential.

My husband is working pretty much all hours (evenings and weekends) when I’m not at work, and I’m working multiple jobs outside of my main one. Anytime I’m not working at the office or to the beat of an aerobics CD, I’m with the kids. This translates into little time for me and even less time for blogging…especially because the housework just keeps falling further and further behind.

Don’t worry. We’re okay…just a little busier than normal.

So, in the name of saving time, which is the theme of my life right now, I thought I’d share a short update…

Co-sleeping update

My toddler son would rather fall asleep soaked in both his own and my or my husband’s sweat than to fall asleep alone. He has to have some physical connection (a leg, arm, etc.) to one of my or my husband’s body parts in order to fall or stay asleep. (See photo.) And, he still can’t sleep without a pacifier (which we do not even allow as an option in the daytime!) After nearly 17 whole months (since his birth) of trying variations of bassinets…and cribs…and crib mattresses on the floor without the crib, my son still has yet to sleep a single night by himself, without the presence of me or my husband. Really.

And, yes, we have tried…and tried…and tried. There have been tears and screams, hours of them some nights, sometimes coming from both toddler and parents…well, mama at least.

One day, we just stopped fighting it. We both figure that when he’s old enough to understand that it’s way uncool to sleep with us, he’ll eventually sleep in his own bed. Fingers crossed. (Can you please cross yours too? I could use some extra help in this area.)

Until I find another free moment, take care!

German Chocolate Cake Breakfast Bars

This mama has a major sweet tooth—the kind that has seen many a late-night trips to gas stations for Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s when all the grocery stores were closed…well before I was ever pregnant. It’s the kind that has me dreaming of hot fudge sundaes, planning my days around my sweet treats, and marking the turn of seasons by the type of candy that hits the stores. (It’s candy corn season now—my very favorite!)

In constant combat with my sweet tooth is my commitment to good health and healthy eating. I’ve always noticed a strong link between what I eat and how I feel, so eating well has always made sense. This commitment, with my un-curb-able sugar cravings, means I’ve spent much of my adult life both trying to find healthier substitutes to my favorite sweets and attempting to rework my favorite dessert recipes so they’re a little less sugary and a lot more nutritious.

I’ve been somewhat successful. I’m usually okay eating a little chocolate sorbet or some dark chocolate instead of a triple dip chocolate chip cookie dough hot fudge sundae (although I just have to have one of those every now and then!) I even have my own hot fudge recipe that’s way lower in sugar but still high in yummy-ness for the days when nothing else will work. During my mid-afternoon slump, fruit mixed with Greek yogurt and a cup of unsweetened flavored tea or coffee (have you tried Green Mountain’s pumpkin spice?? Another seasonal favorite!) replace chocolate covered espresso beans and a Caramel Macchiato.

Still, I’ve found breakfast to be more challenging. All through elementary and middle school, I started my day with Lucky Charms or microwave pancakes soaked in syrup. In high school, I graduated to Pop-Tarts and bagels with jelly, and in college, I had every sweet thing imaginable available in the dining hall. For the last decade, I’ve been stuck on bars—Powerbar, Luna, Clif, Zone, Odwalla, Kashi…you name it, I’ve eaten one or two of them for breakfast over the last decade. I bet I’ve eaten thousands of bars in my lifetime and spent several thousands of dollars on them.

When I stopped eating soy and gluten a couple months ago, my bar options narrowed, and I couldn’t find anything I loved. Larabars all were too sweet for me, and other brands (Pure, Kind, and Bora Bora) only had a couple flavors I could actually stomach. (I pretty much hate all dried fruit, so you can see how this is limiting.) Plus, all of the new bars I liked were almost two dollars each! And so began my experimenting.

After reading through hundreds of recipes, I couldn’t find one that met my requirements. My goal was: soy free, gluten free, a decent amount of protein, no added sugar, lots of chocolate, a little coconut, no cooking/baking required, and high on the yummy factor. Finally, after several weeks of nights (after the kids were in bed) in the kitchen modifying and refining the recipe, I think I got something worth sharing with the world. Here goes:

German Chocolate Cake Breakfast (Dessert/Snack/etc) Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder

3/4  cup + 2 T walnuts

1/2  cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3  cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 T cacao nibs

Instructions:

1)      Chop dates with a cutting board (if not chopped already).

2)      In this order, put cocoa powder, dates, protein powder, 3/4 cup walnuts (save 2 T), and coconut into food processor. Grind/chop until fine. (The order matters because my food processor sprays cocoa powder if I put it in last. Plus, having the dry ingredients surrounding the dates helps so the dates don’t get stuck on the blades.)

3)      Dump mixture from food processor into a bowl. Stir in coconut milk.

4)      Chop last 2 T of walnuts (in food processor or by hand).

5)      Stir in last of walnuts and cacao nibs.

6)      Press mixture into a 1.2 quart glass loaf pan.

7)      Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

8)      Slice into 5 bars, and wrap each with aluminum foil.

Nutritional Info per bar (1/5 of recipe):

273 calories, 18 grams fat (5 saturated), 12 grams sugar, 7 grams fiber, 12 grams protein

For the past several weeks, I have been making a batch of these every Sunday night and cutting and wrapping them for the weekdays. I have a coworker/friend who is vegan who plans to try the recipe with vegan protein powder. And, my husband has been begging me to swap the walnuts and coconut for chunky peanut butter for a bar that suits his tastes. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, try it out yourself—as is or with substitutions. Then, drop me a line, and tell me what you think! Happy Sunday night!

 

Healthy Eating for Toddlers: Tips and Tricks

As with many other areas of toddler life, I think a little one’s eating habits and food preferences can be attributed to a combination of two main things: (1) the hardwiring of the kid and (2) what he or she is offered and how. People may try to tell you that your kid’s preferences for salty French fries or greasy pizza or sugary soft drinks are all your fault. But, it’s just not true. Humans are genetically programmed to prefer salty and sweet and rich, over plain or bitter. That’s just nature. Plus, different people like different stuff, naturally. Still, what we offer our kids, and maybe even more so how we go about doing it, has a huge influence on what they actually eat.

I’ve always been pretty mindful of what I put into my own mouth. Since pregnancy and nursing, I’ve paid even more attention to it. After all, what went into my body went into the peanut growing inside my belly and then into the breast milk that fed the most precious baby I had ever laid eyes on (Yes, of course, I know I’m biased.) Anyway, now that he’s no longer attached directly to what I eat, I’ve been putting the same amount of thought into what goes into my son’s mouth. I look at food as serving two main purposes. It’s (a) fuel for his busy days of exploring and learning and (b) the building blocks for his development. And, call me crazy, but I want high-octane fuel and Grade A blocks for my son. But, how to get him to actually eat the good stuff? That’s the challenge.

Admittedly, like the rest of us parents, I’m still learning. Still, in my experimentation, I’ve found several things that have worked. For now, at least. In case you’re looking for some ideas to get your toddlers to eat healthier, I thought I’d share. Here goes…

  1. Make sure he is hungry. I can thank my doctor for this one. When I was trying to wean my son off my boob and pique his interest in other foods, I was nursing him about every two hours. My doctor suggested to spread him out to 3.5 or 4 hours and to offer him other foods before my breast. My son went from hardly interested in anything, to hungry enough to try it all! Even now, months later, if I feed him less than 3 hours apart, he’s not into eating much of anything except his favorites (mostly dairy).
  1. Fruits and veggies first. This is kind of a no brainer. I mean, think about it. As an adult, if I have both pizza and salad in front of me and I go for the pizza first, I end up not having room for the salad. The same applies to kids. Offer what you want them to eat while they’re super hungry, and before you offer the things that they prefer and that will leave no room for the healthier foods.
  1. Keep all favorites out of sight until nothing else is going down. This goes along with the last one. My son’s favorite food (well, maybe I should say “ingestible thing” because it’s a beverage) is milk. If he even sees the white stuff in his peripheral vision when I open the fridge to pull out something else, it’s all over. It’s the only thing he wants. I make sure to hide it while I’m offering him the things I want him to eat first. (Not that milk is unhealthy, but as I’ve said before, my son would eat only dairy if he could. And, one cannot live on milk, cheese, and yogurt alone…unless he never wants to poop again. Enough said.)
  1. Let him feed himself. I said this months ago when I wrote about my son’s aversion to all baby food. My Jacob will eat a whole cubed kiwi off a fork–that he holds and uses himself. Yet, he will press his lips together and shake his head if I’m the one bringing it to his mouth. At this age, my son is all about independence, learning new skills, and especially being praised. Feeding himself taps into all of these, so it works.
  1. Plan for messy…at least sometimes. I must admit that I am just not that mama—you know, the one who is totally relaxed when her kids get disgustingly dirty. I can’t stand messes. They stress me out. Still, I remind myself that they are an important part of the learning process. It’s one way toddlers explore and discover. When I’m feeling a little less high strung than usual (sometimes this requires a glass of wine), I just let my son go with his messy self. I give him his own spoon and plastic bowl of yogurt or oatmeal. He smashes it, dumps it on himself, puts his hand in the bowl, and sometimes even makes some into his mouth. And, he’s learning…and eating healthy stuff…so I’m okay with it (or at least telling myself I should be.)
  1. Make it a game. I don’t fully understand this one…but my son is slightly obsessed with feeding me. He giggles when I take a bite that he puts in my mouth, and he’ll eat whatever I eat when we play this game. One for me, one for you; those are the rules. Try it with yours and let me know…
  1. Make food into shapes. I mentioned in a previous post that my key to de-constipating my son is making balls of crushed dates and nuts (scroll to the bottom of the post for recipe). He just likes balls right now. Soccer balls, baseballs, Nerf balls, and yes, date/nut balls. Hey, whatever works, right?
  1. Colorful is cool. One of my son’s new favorites is watermelon. (I have to share with you that he calls it “may-yay.” I’m such a proud mama with all his new words lately.) He just likes to look at it. He watches intently as I cut into the bright green shell and reveal its bright pink goodness. He points at whole watermelons at the grocery store, and at cubed pieces in a glass container in our fridge. I think he just likes color: not only is he eating canteloupe, zucchini, bright yellow spaghetti squash, blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon, he’s kicking for them. He’s pointing at them. He likes to hold them and see them. Eating the rainbow of foods is just a bonus.
  1. Healthier is okay when healthiest is not working. We all know that whole, unprocessed, natural foods with no additives are what we’re supposed to be eating. But, in a world where far yummier things exist, those ideal foods are just not going to be eaten 100% of the time. Sure, they’re packed with sodium, but my son loves veggie burgers, turkey sausages, uncured, organic all-beef hot dogs, and many other healthier-than-fast-food-but-not-as-healthy-as-fresh-picked-from-the-farm foods. And, I’m totally okay with that. I know parents who say that the only thing their kids will eat is McDonald’s or frozen chicken nuggets and French fries. While I can empathize to some extent, I just wonder if they’ve tried something in between Mc-ee-dees/Tyson and plain Brussels sprouts. Here are some compromises that have worked for us:
  • Whole grain versions of bread, crackers, bagels, tortillas, English muffins, pasta, rice, cereal, etc.
  • Healthy, prepared foods: there are healthier (natural/organic) versions of everything, including nuggets and fries—look in the health food isle of your grocery store or at your local health-food store
  • Adding a little butter or sprinkling a little salt on the things that won’t go down plain. Yes, I know that saturated fat and sodium aren’t great staples, but a little bit can go a long way when they make the vitamin-rich broccoli appealing.
  1. Change it up. I don’t know if this is just my Jacob or all toddlers…but my son gets tired of the same things. One day, he’ll love, love, love oatmeal, and the next day, he’s pushing away the spoon and saying “all done” before he takes his first bite. (He says this phrase just perfectly now…I’m beaming at the words even when he’s pushing away the food I’ve just prepared.)
  1. Eat whatever you want him to eat in front of him. I have gotten my son to try all sorts of odd, healthy things this way. One of Jacob’s favorite (newish) lines these days is “moh-uh-dat” (more of that), which he says while pointing to whatever I’m feeding myself. He has tried and liked black olives, hummus, and several spicy, curried Indian and Thai take-out dishes this way.
  1. Be persistent. For me, this sort of goes along with the last one. In spite of my husband’s revulsion to their smell, I eat hard-boiled eggs daily. After about ten or so times of asking me for a bite and gagging, one day, my son took a bite of my egg and said “moh” (more). He eats an egg (which he now calls “yay-guh”) almost every day now.
  1. Don’t offer it  (or have it around as an option) if you don’t want him to eat it. To me this is another “no-duh” sort of statement with toddlers. I’ve heard parents say, “once I introduced donuts and pizza, my kids never went back to cereal or sandwiches.” No offense, but…seriously?? I’m not saying never feed your children fast food, because I know whether it’s you on a rough night or grandma and grandpa buttering them up, it’s going to happen sooner or later. But, don’t keep doing it. The majority of kids won’t starve themselves. If I offered Jacob greasy, fried things all the time, he would definitely take them. I just don’t have much of them around. Again…um. Duh.
  1. Don’t eat it in front of him (or let him see it) if you don’t want him to eat it. With my son at least, if he sees almost anything, he wants to put it in his mouth. The problem is that keeping unhealthy things out of his sight is way easier said than done. And, unfortunately, the hard-boiled egg story I just told also applies to mommy’s favorite salt and vinegar potato chips. After several “whuzzat”s (what’s that?), followed by opening his mouth and gagging to the flavor of them on his tongue, my son acquired a taste for their tangy exquisiteness. No kidding. (Thankfully, I have found a healthier alternative: Pop Chips. Just as delicious, but with less fat and fewer calories.) To fully disclose, I should also mention that Jacob became a huge fan of hot fudge (I have a good recipe and make it too often at home) and McDonald’s ice cream this way. (This tip applies to mama’s time of the month and is evidence of her dietary weaknesses…what can I say? If you are stronger than me, please ignore tip #14.)
  1. Prepare foods in advance. Too many times, I’ve been caught empty-handed with a fussy toddler screaming for food. When I can, I make oatmeal and rice; chop fruits, veggies, and cheese; and fill plastic (BPA-free!) bowls of dried cereal, freeze-dried fruit, and whole grain crackers on Sundays before the craziness of the workweek sets in. This way, if I need to grab something quick, I’m armed.
  1. Have something quick on hand even when you haven’t prepared anything. Unfortunately, my little guy is losing interest in Cheerios (which used to be one of my favorite, simplest things to give him.) My new go-to’s, when he’s screaming in hunger and I don’t have anything prepared, are string cheese and Pirate’s Booty. Again, they are not the healthiest things in the world, but they are not the worst. Plus, they buy me time while I prepare the healthy stuff.

And probably my #1 lesson/tip/trick:

  1. Realize that sometimes even the best-intentioned efforts fail. Just like everything else during this wonderful period of toddlerhood, attempts to get my son to eat healthy don’t always work. When he’s teething, really tired or cranky, or for reasons unknown to me, there are times that a meal is just plain (whole, organic, white) milk. And, I’m okay with that. It’s the big picture, not one meal, that makes for that fuel and those building blocks I mentioned earlier.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions! I could always use more, especially during those times when tip #17 is the only one I can apply. Cheers to happy and healthy toddlers!

 

 

On toddler mullets: To cut or not to cut?

My son was born bald…sort of. To be more accurate, I should say he had a bit of peach fuzz on his tiny, misshapen head (that got stuck in mommy’s chute for way too long while attempting to make its grand exit). However, mostly bald is about all we got for…I would say…the first six months or so. And, even when my Jacob’s hair was coming in, no one could really tell it was there. It was thin and blond.

Then, one glorious day, a curl grew. I had always wanted curls of my own. As a little girl with stick straight hair, I spent many a night praying by my bedside for curls. Throughout my elementary and middle school years, I endured long afternoons of stinky perms, restless nights of readjusting my pillow under a head full of foam rollers, and early mornings, hours before the sun rose, hot rolling my hair for school. After all that work, didn’t I deserve some natural body in my tresses? Then, like a mean trick, somewhere around 10th grade my flat hair stayed flat in the front and sides but took on a kink in the back (for a precise mental picture, think of what a 1980s crimper can do. Yes, I live with that as my natural do). Why couldn’t I just have curls?

A few months ago, with that curl on my son’s head, my prayers were answered. One after another, perfect little curls grew upon his darling head, where once resided fuzz alone. One by one they came until his previously (almost) bald head became an adorable garden of blossoming waves and ringlets. And, they grew. And grew. And, we never cut his golden locks. Until one day, a loving look from mommy to son became a triple take, as visions of Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Bolton, and Rod Stewart danced through her head.

At fifteen and a half months old, he has yet to have a single strand snipped. What to do? After all, “business in the front, party in the back” cannot apply to anyone in diapers, right? Still, I would hate to see him go through life as Jacob Dirt, having acquired a nasty nickname at such a young age due solely to mommy’s curl fetish. Decisions, decisions…

Calling all working moms: What are your rose-smelling secrets?

People keep asking me if I had a nice birthday. I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to be that person—you know—the one who answers a positive question in an unexpectedly negative way and then causes an unnecessary, awkward silence. In my opinion, if I do that enough, I will lose friends…or at least acquaintances, who will do what they can to steer clear of the pessimism and uncomfortable situations I create. After all, who wants to talk to a big complainer anyway?

So, back to my 32nd birthday. It was okay, I guess. I spent the majority of the day at work planning an interesting project, then took my son to a pediatrics appointment that lasted way longer than it should have (hours), and afterward de-stressed at a kickboxing class in the evening. My husband bought me pink roses (my favorite) and a pint of the best hot fudge in the whole world (disgustingly enough, yes, I eat the hot fudge by itself—to me, that is a much better treat than a sundae…although I definitely enjoy a good sundae every once in a while too. And, no, in case you’re wondering, I don’t eat the whole pint at once…that would be disgusting.)

All in all, it was a fair day. And, I was accepting of its mediocrity at the day’s end, because I had taken off from work the next day (Friday, the day after my birthday) to celebrate with a three-day weekend and plans to spend some much needed quality time with my son, stepson, and husband…who I feel like I hardly ever see anymore between working every day, going to the gym, and just taking care of life’s miscellaneous, like grocery shopping and paying bills and keeping the house livable.

My first day off (Friday) ended up being pretty much like every other weekend or vacation day I take- somewhat stressful and less than fulfilling.  I spent too much of the day thinking about what I should be doing with my time (like the stuff I mentioned above, plus laundry, dishes, dusting, mopping, packing up clothes that don’t fit the boys anymore, etc). Although I did take care of some of those tasks, I didn’t achieve as much as I could have…because all I could think was, “this is my special day off, and I should be spending time on things I really want to do (like beading, drawing, blogging, shopping, or reading).” I didn’t do any of those things because I felt guilty that I should be doing housework.

Amid over-thinking what I should or shouldn’t be doing with my time and then disappointing myself with not accomplishing much of anything useful or fun, I spent a good amount of the day chasing a toddler around the house as he tried to climb the oven and all the safety gates in our home, pull our air conditioning units out of the windows, jump off the couch, and dive into the toilet.

Sidenote: as much as I’m bitching that I got nothing done, I did do the laundry, the dishes, and some organizing in my bedroom. I took my little guy on two walks in the beautiful weather, and I taught an aerobics class in the afternoon. I cooked two meals from scratch (which I never do), and I relaxed with a glass of pinot noir and an hour of Netflix with my husband before I hit the sack. Looking back on that, on top of the roses and hot fudge, I can’t say it was a bad day. Yet, I was far from satisfied with it. It felt like a busy, but mostly unproductive day, in both the ways of housework and of relaxation. Maybe my standards are too high?

Day 2 (Saturday) was much better. I stopped thinking so much and just got to doing, both necessary things—like paying bills and cleaning—and fun stuff—like going to the park and shopping (as a family). By today (Sunday, day 3 of my three-day birthday weekend), I finally feel satisfied. I can say honestly that the weekend was everything it should have been—productive and relaxing. I accomplished a good part of my to-do list, and I got plenty of playtime with my stepson and son, snuggle-time with my son and husband, and even a little me-time to exercise and blog.  I truly feel ready to start the workweek.

But…why do I do this to myself—why are days off such a stressful mix of worrying about the best ways to spend my time and of feeling guilty and unsatisfied about how I end up spending it? Two-day weekends just don’t seem to cut it for me anymore. They’re simply not long enough to prepare me mentally for the week to come. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself having anything more than those two days weekly away from work anytime soon. So, what’s the solution? Any suggestions from anyone out there? I think I asked a similar question the last time I took a vacation (and felt like I needed a vacation even more when I returned.) I got some good suggestions then about putting a little vacation into everyday life. Maybe I’ll compile and post a list about the working-moms juggle if I get some more ideas…how do other working moms make the most of the time when they’re not at work?

In the meantime, for the first time since I got them, days ago, I just noticed the amazing scent of my birthday roses, sitting on the table next to me. If that’s not a reminder of the importance of answering such questions as the one above, then nothing is. However, instead of spending the last couple hours of my precious weekend searching for an answer, I’m going to enjoy some chardonnay and a little cuddle time with my hubby before the cycle re-consumes me, starting tomorrow when I go back to work. Cheers.

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