Friday, November 21, 2014

Good Eater/ Picky Eater

I often get asked why Max is such "good eater."  Or I get told "you're lucky he eats everything."  As I stated in my opening blog post, I promised to write periodically about things I get asked about.  This is by far, the topic I get asked about the most. 

I figured I would open with a story.

One of my favorite stories my husband tells from his childhood is the time his brother, Joey, decided he wasn't going to eat his dinner.  It started off with his brother saying "I don't like (insert food item here)."  His mother, Maria said "Fine."  Cleared his plate and his brother left the table triumphant in his win against eating whatever fare my mother-in-law had cooked (By the way, she is probably the best cook I know of in real life).

Later that evening, Joey was hungry.  Maria, being as savvy to the human psyche as she is a pork shoulder, offered Joey his dinner plate that she had carefully wrapped in plastic and returned to the fridge.  Joey immediately changed his mind and convinced himself he could hold out to breakfast.  This was a battle of both wits and stubbornness.  He's bound to win, right?  No one is going to starve their own child because he doesn't want to eat his dinner, right?

The next morning, the boys woke to a breakfast spread like they had never seen.  Pancakes, bacon, eggs, the works.  They were called to the table.  My husband and Father-in law were served a hot, fresh meal.  Joey's place had his dinner from the previous night at his place at the table.  Maria then gently explained "This is going to rot in a few days. I suggest you eat it now."

It goes to show how much a generation has changed parenting in the area of eating habits.  I bring up this funny story because while Maria's methodology may seem a bit harsh, it is certainly effective.  While I may not go as far as she does, here are some do's and don'ts about getting your kids to eat better.


Have them Cook:  I'm not telling you to hand your toddler your Henckels Santoku knife and a deep fryer and saying 'Have at it.' But what I am telling you is that there is plenty that your child starting at age two can help you with in the kitchen.  You measure, they pour type of things.  Chop your veggies and have them put them in a glass bowl before you saute them. Have them test the noodles and tell you when they're done.  And with the plethora of kid friendly recipes on sites like,  There are literally hundreds of ways to involve your kid in cooking.  For example, Max can handle making things like English Muffin Pizza with very little help from me aside from cutting the muffins and putting them in the oven. There's even Masterchef Jr. now!  And please Don't stress about the clean up.  Your kitchen will be messy but who cares! It's fun and your kid(s) will LOVE cooking for the family.
Eat as a Family:  Start young.  Even if you're eating steak and your baby has just started on mushy foods, Puree whatever you made and feed it to them (as soon as you've ruled out allergies of course).  I SWEAR this is why Max will eat everything we give him.  And ok, maybe not steak, but you get my point.  When we were kids, there was no "Option B because I don't like option A."  so that should not be the case now.  I often get asked "Wow. Max likes fish.  Why is that?" Well, because we eat fish a lot.  When I make fish tacos, Max eats fish tacos.  Dinner time is family time.  And while I admit, yes, sometimes we end up sitting in the living room watching Ellen while we eat dinner, everyone's plate looks the same.  Protein, starch, veggie.

Implement the "No Thank You Bite" Rule:  There is a reason your mother used to tell you "How do you know you don't like it when you have never tried it?"  and that's because it's true.  BUT new tastes and textures can be scary for kids.  So here at Casa Awesome, we are huge fans of the "no thank you bite."   So far (knock on wood), Max has only hated one thing:  beets.  So, we don't serve him beets all that often (though he does have to try them when they're offered.  Their taste buds change.) Before you appease your kids and run to the kitchen to improvise a meal that they will eat, have them try what you cooked first.  You may be pleasantly surprised on the new foods they add to their repertoire.  But (and this is important) DON'T give in.  If they're unwilling to at least try, don't rush off to heat up those nuggets.  

Make a Meal Plan:  Everyone knows children thrive more when you set expectations and follow through with them.  If they expect chicken on Monday and pizza on Friday, follow through on those things on those days the best that you can.  Include them in the process.  What do you want want for dinner that is good for everyone?  Is there something you liked and we haven't had it in a while?  Talk. To. Your. Kids.  I cannot stress this enough.

Let them win once in a while:  Max is happy to sit down and eat an avocado with a spoon, but you know what else he loves?  Hot dogs.  And Mac and cheese. And tater tots.  And PB&J.  And the Pièce de résistance of toddler food:  The chicken nugget.  And guess what...I love them too (don't you judge me...judgey mcjudge face).  So every so often, That's what we have.  And you know what?  It's delicious.  


Don't "Hide" food:  Just stop.  Kids are smarter than we give them credit for.  Lie to them about Santa and the tooth fairy.  Not meatloaf laced with sweet potatoes and quinoa.  

Be a Hypocrite:  Don't tell your kids how important eating your veggies is and not choke them down yourself.  I promise, your kid sees you tossing your peas away while he was scolded for not eating his.  Not. Cool.  Maybe try a new way to prepare them that everyone likes.  Peas for example, are better sauteed in some coconut oil with salt and garlic than they are steamed.  Try it.  Thank me later.

Forget YOU'RE THE PARENT:    While Maria's method may seem unorthodox now, I think there is some valuable merit in it now.  She, and you dear reader, are the boss.  As my own father would say "When you have a job, make money, do the shopping and contribute to the household funds, you can decide what we eat.  Until that day comes, this is what we got."  If you're constantly cutting the crusts off of sandwiches and making a second meal because "She won't eat that"  then you may be underestimating a child's ability to manipulate the system.  They're not dumb.  They're not going to starve themselves.  Promise.

I'm not here to tell you what to do to get your picky eater to eat.  These are merely the methods we use and have worked for us.  So I am crossing my fingers and hoping that they work for you, too.  Remember that food can be fun.  So get messy, get involved.  Get fun aprons and make it an event.  Even if you start once a week.  I promise, your kid will light up and have so much fun just being with you and you'll have some great memories.  And who knows, you may just be raising the next Gordon Ramsay.

Until Soon,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

While You Were Playing

My Dear Boy,

We have been home together for a year now.  We have had some trying times, you and me.  But like everything, we figured it out together.  We have had more playdates than I can count.  We have read every book you own five times at least.  We have fed ducks and gone on boats.  We find turtles in our pond and we make crafts.  We go on long walks and you hold my hand and I hold yours.

But my favorite thing to do is to watch you play.  It's when you don't think I am watching you that I get to glimpse at the type of person you are going to be.

While I proudly brag that you are smart and funny and sweet and obviously take after me, I see so much of your daddy.  You have his eyes and his smile. And of course, that dimple that everyone falls in love with is also his.  But I see the type of man you will be and I already am bursting with pride.

I see you watch cautiously at a park or playscape.  You size up every baby and teenager in there before you jump in.  You're content to watch your friends and cousins jump into activities with reckless abandon as you smile on the sidelines to yourself.  Perfectly content without the spotlight on you.  Always with that dimple in clear sight so I know you really mean it.  Just like your dad.

I see you stop what you're doing when you hear another kid cry.  I watch you run over to say "It's ok" and rub their backs.  While you point to his or her parent and get their attention.  I see you wait until that child is in safe hands before you resume your own play.

I see you running.  Always behind the pack.  Not because you're the slowest or a follower, but because it takes you the extra second to join the group and be yourself.  To let yourself go and be the silly boy that you truly are.  

I see your friends want to play princesses and you take your dinosaur to the tea party.  Because while you are part of the group, you never let go of the things that are important to you.  And when your friends decide to do something you have no interest in, I see you again, content on your own, reading to yourself or stuffed animals.  Unphased by the fact that your friends have gone on without you.  Completely and totally happy.  And I hope you never lose that.

You may be okay not being in the spotlight, but you're the star of my show.  You're confidant and sweet like your mom.  You're cautious and just the right amount of shy like your dad. You're our son.  That's for sure.  And sometimes...just sometimes, I catch a glimpse of myself in your smile.  And then I see that dimple.

I love you.  The way you are.  The way you will be.

Go Dream Those Big Dreams,

Until Soon,

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Growing Pains

It has been a week of growth and changes here in Casa Awesome.  (Yeah, that's what we call our house.  Don't you judge me.)  A week full of the youngest of us deciding that he makes his own choices and is no longer a baby.

It all started on Halloween.  We had a costume all picked out.  He was going as Clark Kent. I bought him a four piece suit for $12, a pair of play glasses for $1 and called it a day. He would simply wear everything but the vest over his superman shirt.  I would slick his hair down and that would be it.  It was a great costume and we gave it a dry run for Boo at the Zoo the week before Halloween.
Adorable, right?

As actual Halloween approached, I got VERY excited about the upcoming Holiday Season. Mainly because this is the first year my little man is starting to get the concept of the Holidays.  We talked about Halloween a lot.  He was excited about the prospect of getting candy and wearing a costume.  He loves playing pretend these days and seriously, who doesn't like candy?  So when the evening before Halloween came and I reminded him that tomorrow was the big day, imagine my immediate panic when he said "I don't want to be Clark Kent anymore.  I was already Clark Kent." (sigh) What was I going to do? Run out the day before Halloween to a party/seasonal shop for a costume?  I'm crazy, but I'm not THAT crazy.  Frantically I searched Max's closet and  then his dress up box.  In which I was reminded that my sister had made him a black cape with "Max the Great" on the back and he also had a black top hat at the ready.  So off momma went to spend an additional $1.46 for a wooden dowel to paint and this was the result:

Crisis Averted.

A few days later, I was in Target looking for a replacement dining room table.  Something on the cheap as we are planning a move and I didn't want anything I would have to schlep up north with us.  While I didn't find what I was looking for, I came across a sale on toddler beds. This had been a topic of conversation in the house for several weeks.  We had one of those fancy schmancy 4-in-1 cribs where you simply buy a conversion kit once you want to "upgrade" it.  Fausto and I both knew we were never going to get around to it so instead, I found myself picking up a big boy bed for my baby.  Something I wasn't planning on for at least another month or so and therefore was not emotionally or mentally ready for.  But there it was in my red cart.  A box that undoubtedly had a 25 page step-by-step guide and an allen wrench was being hoisted into the trunk of my Civic.  I let Max pick out a set of sheets (Mickey was his choice) and there it was.  A whole next phase that I wasn't ready for that was happening with or without me like so many other aspects of raising a young man.  Max clapped his hands and kept telling everyone "I have a big boy bed!" I muttered that it made me a little sad and he said "You can be brave momma."  

A few days later, Max officially turned 2 1/2.  First the costume switch, then a big boy bed and then an official half birthday.  It was too much growing up in such a short period of time.  Seriously where do the days and years go.  Didn't I JUST have him?  Wasn't I just in that recovery room arguing with a nurse who insisted I "get some rest" before they brought my son in to me?  Wasn't it just a week ago that I was singing him "Sweet Caroline" in a dark hospital room at 4 AM when the rest of the world seemed to stop and it was just he and I?  
But no.  That was 2 1/2 years ago.

And then there was today.  

I swear it started off like any other day.  Max woke up.  Fausto woke up and told me to go catch some extra sleep before he left for the day.  They would do "guy stuff."  Fausto woke me up as usual on his way out the door assisted by Max's "Momma! I miss you! Wake up!"  I peeled myself off the bed, kissed the husband and asked my baby what he wanted to eat.  I poured the cereal, turned on Tinkerbell (AGAIN) and Max and I were left to our own devices.  

And then it happened.

Max darted off to his bathroom where I heard him flushing his Elmo potty.   "Baby.  That is not a toy.  You can flush that when you decide to go potty on it."  Elmo potty made it's way to the living room and Max said "I'm going to try now" as he pulled and wretched his way out of his dinosaur pajamas and diaper.  And right there in my living room with all of his stuffed animals and Tinkerbell, Max decided that he uses the potty now.  Just like that.  And I was completely unprepared.  Thank GOD for leftover Halloween candy to use as rewards, speakerphone, and an awesome group of friends family that makes a huge deal out of these milestones as everyone got called and told our latest news.  Daddy came home from work and Max said "I potty now.  Then I eat lollipops."  And there it was. 

As if it was something he woke up and said to himself "Well.  Today is the day."  As if he had this on his mental calendar for months and failed to tell me.  So yes, there was a rush to Target to get the cutest little underpants you ever did see and a bag of M&Ms which are a far more realistic reward.  And then there is the little part of my heart that aches for the baby that is completely dependent on me for feeding and clothing and diapering.  

And like holding his bottle on his own or taking his first steps or sleeping in a toddler bed, Max is doing the guiding.  And it is all happening really fast for his mommy who wants to hold on just a little while longer while knowing that you have to let that baby grow into those big dreams that they dream.  You have to let that baby fall and skin their knees.  You have to let that baby have friends and share secrets with someone other than you.  You have to let that baby HAVE secrets.  You have to let that baby decide they want "privacy" and "I can read myself, mommy" moments.  Then you blink and that baby is a full on little boy.  And I hear that little boy voice that reverberates in my head "you can be brave, momma."  Yes baby, I can be.  You have to guide me though.

Until Soon,