Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chef Boy R Me

Perhaps one of the most stressful aspects of being a parent, at least at this point, involves what the kids eat, don't eat and what I feed them.

I always had these ideas that I would be the parent to make sure my kids had a healthy diet.  I wouldn't feed them junk food, would only have fast food on a rare and special occasion and even attempted to make my own baby food at the beginning.

All sounds good in theory, until they are actually alive and present and you realize what a daunting process the simple task of feeding your family really is.  Also nice to think that your kids won't know what a Happy Meal is until you find yourself having to squeeze a doctor's appointment, grocery shopping, a trip to the dry cleaners, pick up a prescription at Walgreen's and eat lunch all before nap time.  It is then you realize life would be so much easier if you just went to McDonald's and didn't have to worry about making lunch when you got home especially when you have to unload all the groceries and put them away.  Then you see the sheer joy on your child's face as they dip their fries in that special McDonald's ketchup and their eyes light up like Christmas morn when they get their toy.  And you know full well "they" (meaning the Marketing Department at McDonald's) has you hook, line and sinker.

From the day they were born, I was concerned with how many ounces they took in, were they going to spit it up, whether they had reflux, gas or constipation.  I had to make sure I ate enough to produce enough milk and then I had to make sure that I ate healthfully, yet avoid foods that could affect their tummies. I had to continue to take prenatal vitamins and DHA to ensure proper brain development.  Then, I had to give them vitamin D supplements, since apparently I wasn't providing enough through breast milk.  I think I covered the additional trials and tribulations of this phase in my prior post "BOOBIES!"

We transitioned well into the whole cereal, fruits, veggies and oatmeal phase.  Like I said, I tried to be "au natural" and make my own baby food a food mill.  No matter how hard I tried, I could never get the right consistency. I decided either I would keep nursing or make my own food, but not both.  I did opt for Organic baby food, but even that was lost on poor Colin. It was easier to pay double for baby food when I was still working, but I couldn't really justify it once I was without an income.  

It goes without saying; Maddie is my "picky eater." Introducing solids to both kids came with a lot of gagging, spitting up and puking.  Colin got over this pretty quickly once he realized how much he loved food and wouldn't dare throw it up.  Maddie, on the other hand, completely skipped over the "Stage 3" foods that had little bits or chunks of veggies, pasta or meat. She lived on slices of American cheese and Puffs for awhile and I was lucky she continued to eat baby food until well after her first birthday. I would also have to put the food on her tray in "shifts" starting with the healthiest foods first and then working my way up to the foods with less nutritional value.

She can essentially look at a food item and decide in advance whether or not she will try it. The kid will not eat peanut butter and jelly or any "sandwich" of any kind except grilled cheese.  No hot dogs, lunch meat, pudding, yogurt, Jell-o, bananas, cooked carrots, she refuses to put milk in her cereal, no Spaghetti-o's or Chef Boy R D product of any kind (a blessing in disguise, if you as me). Pasta sauce is only acceptable on pizza.  Makes packing a picnic lunch, well, anything but a picnic. 

Her daily diet rarely ever veers off course.  Breakfast is waffles or pancakes and eggs with cheese on them.  I take some extra time making breakfast, because it is one of the meals she actually eats.  Lunch is usually "long noodles" (aka, spaghetti with butter, Parmesan cheese and little garlic salt), Mickey Mouse Chicken Nuggets or soup along with a fruit or vegetable. Dinner, of all things, is Tortilla Encrusted Tilapia from Costco 65% of the time.  Thankfully she will also eat pork chops, steak and grilled chicken as long as it is well seasoned and I do a great deal of convincing, bribing and negotiating. She will eat raw carrots, corn, but only on the cob, cooked green beans and another oddity, edamame.  Fruit is much easier, like strawberries, apples, grapes, pineapple, etc. She does, however consider salt a major food group.  She insists on watching me put it on her eggs, on her edamame and likes that disgusting butter salt for popcorn.  If I tell her I already put it on, she doesn't believe me.  She needs to see the crystals on her food.  This kid is going to have high blood pressure at the age of 4.

Looking at this list of things she does eat, I realize she has come a long way, but just when I think I've made something she likes, the next time she turns her nose up at it. Or, there are "old standbys" like grilled cheese and her Tilapia, which she eats to the point where she gets sick of them and the novelty wears off.  Kind of like working in an ice cream shop and getting to the point where the thought of eating ice cream makes you ill.

I got my hand slapped by my pediatrician when I went for her 2-year check up.  He told me the two biggest No-No's in feeding a toddler are 1) Do not make them something different than what the rest of the family is eating and 2) Do not try to feed them something else if they refuse what you made for dinner.

Guilty and Guilty.

I did stop trying to force a Kashi Cereal Bar on her before bedtime if she didn't eat dinner like I used to.  I always feared she would wake up in the middle of the night screaming because she was starving.  Turns out she would wake up screaming for a variety of other reasons, but never starvation.  I still make the kids a variation of what we are eating.  I know full well my daughter will not eat Shepherd's Pie, a Turkey Burger, Lasagna, Enchiladas, Stuffed Chicken, a Pulled Pork Sandwich or any variety of other things I make on a regular basis.  Even when I have tried to force her eat them she either refuses or gags on them and spits it out.  I honestly cannot deny her a meal when I know there are things that she will eat if I just make them.  So, give me a parenting demerit, but I will be a short order cook if it means my kid eats.

Colin is definitely easier and he usually gets whatever we are eating and then some!  It is amazing how much less stressful it is to feed him.  Mealtime is much more Zen, until he takes the leftover food and starts flinging it.  Luckily, there usually isn't much to spare.  The rest of the time I spend negotiating with Maddie with "3 more bites of meat and 3 more beans."

I bought all the books like Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" and "365 Foods Kids Love" that have recipes where you puree veggies and fruit and hide them in food.  Even those foods are not things Maddie would eat even if she couldn't detect the healthiness. I don't know who these ladies are trying to kid, but  foods like Green Eggs, Oatmeal, Avocado Spread, Meatballs of any kind and Beef Stew, would not fly with my texture-sensitive child.  Besides, my days of "pureed food" are over and while it seems so simple just to put healthy fruits and veggies in a blender or food processor, I find it to be more work than I can handle.  Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, but not with the kind of food they give patients at a nursing home.

And to add insult to injury, I have a husband who is probably just as picky, if not more-so than my kids.  He doesn't like to veer from the norm and about the only vegetables I can get him to eat are green beans, edamame and corn.  Sound familiar?  He doesn't like onions, so most recipes are out of the question.  He still doesn't understand why they are essential in making pasta sauce.  I try hard to mix things up and try new things. I also try to make healthy food, and limit the amount of processed food I serve.  I even went so far as to buy "Eat Clean Diet" cookbooks.  Most of the food was fairly straightforward and is food I would eat, but serving to my family was a whole other thing.

I try as hard as I can to make meals as healthy as possible and buy healthy snacks, or at least things that aren't "so bad."  I say that because I know most snacks that are touted as "healthy" are really just crap repackaged. I don't ever buy regular chips.  I opt for Baked Chips, Veggie Straws, Pretzels and Light Popcorn.  Even our Goldfish are Whole Grain, for what it's worth. I use Fiber One Pancake Mix so they get extra fiber and get the Nutrigrain Eggo Waffles.  They barely drink juice and if they do it is reduced sugar. They are good at drinking milk and the rest of the time they drink water. They are only allowed to have pink lemonade on very rare occasions.  I always use 100% whole wheat bread, tortillas and pasta.  I use 2% Cheese and Promise Light instead of Butter.  I don't worry about Organic, because like the baby food, it ends up costing just too damn much, especially when you have a son who eats you out of house and home and you find half-full sippy cups of milk laying between couch cushions that have been out several hours.  I refuse to dump milk down the drain that costs $6.50 a gallon.

The other day we were at the gym and we got a snack in the Cafe. Maddie was busy eating her pretzels and Colin was eating an apple and was sharing my protein shake with me. I looked over and saw Maddie pouring the salt from the bottom of the bag into her mouth.  Hand hit my forehead. Now I am worried that one kid will be healthy while the other will either starve or become a future contestant on Biggest Loser because she lives on Chicken Strips, French Fries and pizza.  I know, that is horrible to think, but as someone who is very health conscious and does everything in her power to eat healthy, (except when it comes to my sweet tooth) I feel guilty every time we go out to eat and I order them chicken strips and fries and watch them pull the chicken directly out of a boiling vat of oil, plop them on an equally greasy pile of fries and bring them to the table for my kids to consume.  Then, have them dunk everything in ketchup and ranch.  I really think these two condiments should be added to the food pyramid.  Unfortunately, for my kids, it should be that long thick band on the bottom rather than a little point at the top.  But ketchup is made out of tomatoes so it is a vegetable, right.  Or is it a fruit?  Either way, I am pretty sure corn syrup is neither a fruit nor vegetable.

Most of this is my own issue.  For most of you that know me, I am your typical "Sally-On-The-Side" when it comes to ordering at restaurants.  Tom always says the kiss of death when we go to restaurants is when I utter the word "substitute."  This is one area where my "Type A" personality comes out; my desire to control everything I put into my body. In a perfect world and if I had a million dollars, our family would eat the best organic produce. Our meat and dairy products would be hormone free and all of these things would come from local farms.  I would be able to pronounce every ingredient on my food labels. We would never eat fast food and if we did eat at a restaurant, I could order them "Grilled Chicken Fingers" and a side of apples, carrots or broccoli off the kids menu and they wouldn't complain.  But I am also realistic and know full well that I am doing better than most. I have created a "Prayer of Serenity" specifically for feeding my family:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change about my family's eating habits;

courage to change the recipes to healthy ones when I can;

and hope they won't know the difference.

Living one meal at a time;

Enjoying one bite at a time;

Accepting chocolate chips as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as my Mom did, this sinful world of processed food and preservatives

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that Flintstone vitamins will make all things right

if I surrender to Happy Meals;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy when my kids eat green vegetables

Protein and Whole Grains.


There really is only so much you can do when it comes to feeding your children, as much those smiling ladies on the covers of those books tell you.  My rule is McDonald's no more than once a week and when we do go, one gets apples with their Happy Meal and one gets fries, and divide each between the two.  I still say, “Everything in moderation.”  I still think kids deserve to eat McDonald's once in awhile, Dum-Dum suckers are sometimes the only way to get through certain situations and chocolate chip cookies, quite frankly, are good for the soul.  I guess I will just have to do what I have learned to do with most things in life since having kids...lower my standards and expectations just a bit.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mighty, Mighty Boss Toe

The whole concept of this blog centers around all the times I call my mom to tell her about the funny, annoying, exhausting and downright ridiculous parts of my life.  However, the main theme in most of my calls to her involves "I'm Sorry."

I remember a good portion of my childhood and I know full-well, that I was a typical little girl, followed by adolescent, followed by teenager and well, you get the picture.  I am the youngest of three children and the only girl.  I whined, I cried, I threw temper tantrums when I didn't get what I wanted.  I didn't understand the concept of sharing my toys because my brothers never cared much about my Strawberry Shortcake house or Barbies (unless of course they were popping their heads off.)  Worst of all I was dramatic, stubborn and bossy.

Fast forward to today and my daughter, Madelyn and well, ain't payback a bitch? I joke that she and I are already developing a tumultuous mother-daughter relationship at an early age.  It all started the day she was born, really.  I looked at my beautiful daughter and investigated her every feature.   She was so delicate.  Those tiny fingers and tiny toes...and then BAM!  There IT was.  The "Boss Toe."

You know, when the second toe is longer than the big toe?  The medical term for this condition is "Morton's Toe" and it could cause a lot of pain and discomfort as well as foot problems.  All I know is that it means you are going to be the "boss of your family."  I know this, because I have the same toe.

I've always tried to think of myself not so much as bossy, but more of a leader.  The responsible one who can take care of things that need to be taken care of.  But, who am I kidding?  I am quite simply a bossy know-it-all and can truly appreciate this aspect of my personality better because I have created a little clone of myself.

When it comes to playing with friends, she goes back and forth between leading the poor neighbor girl around front yard telling her what to do, to following random girls around at the playground desperate for them to notice her and play with her.  She takes great delight in meeting "new friends."

We have been trying desperately to teach Madelyn to always say "Please and Thank You" since she was a baby.  Before she could talk, she did it sign language.  Now that she talks (and boy does she talk!), we insist she ask for things politely.  Instead, it goes something like this:
Madelyn: Get me some milk!
Me: What do you say?
Madelyn: Please?
Me: How about you start over and ask the right way...Please may I have some milk?
Madelyn: Please have I may some more milk?
Good enough.

But 20 minutes later, she will yell "I want crackers!"

And the list goes on and on
"Mom, I'm awake!" When she gets up in the morning.  Despite the fact she is in a "big girl bed" and has the ability to get in and out, she will not get out until I come get her.

"Mom, I'm done going potty!"

"Where's my food?"

"Turn my show on!"

I am, for all intents and purposes, an indentured servant.

Now, she is picking up on several sayings that I know full well she has picked up from me.

Like, "OK, here's the deal.  You put Colin to bed and then I can get ready for bed and come back downstairs for a little while."

Or my favorite was the other day when we were taking down the Christmas tree.  I told her if she found "the Pickle" I would give her a treat.  She was pulling of ornaments and garland like there was no tomorrow and for the most part was being "helpful." However, she was getting a little over-zealous and I was worried she was going to break something.  I kept trying to distract her with the pickle hunt so I could finish without her breaking something.  She finally said, "Mom, will you chill out.  I will find the pickle. OK?"

Oh, sweet Jesus.  Did my baby girl just say that?

When our little arguments about whether or not she will go potty, eat her dinner, or get moving so we can leave the house, get heated I always remind her that "I am the boss" and she quickly retorts, "No, I am the boss."

At least she is willing to share "the boss" duty with me when it comes to reprimanding Colin.  He was getting in to trouble the other day and she was right next to me telling him to "get off of the dog!" and informed me that both she and I were the boss.

I am fairly certain that little girls develop some sort of "cycle" early on, because her, shall we say "bitch factor" intensifies every couple of weeks.  And let me just say, she needs a good dose of Midol this week.  It all started on Tuesday when I met a friend at Monkey Joes (one of those bouncy places).  She immediately found a new friend and they played nicely together for the whole time we were there.  From there we went to McDonald's and somehow she convinced me to go into the Playland.  After noticing the Nintendo game console located in the Playland that Colin was licking was crusted with about 10 years of grime, I decided we had enough germs for one day.  I told her she had one more minute.  Finally, Maddie came down from the tubes and said she didn't want to leave and then noticed the video game too.  There was already a girl on the game and Maddie went into full meltdown mode.  It was like a scene from the Exorcist and I don't know if anyone else saw it, but I swear her head spun.   I hauled out the serious "Mom Voice" got down close to her face and told her to knock it off and that we were leaving.  I clinched my jaw and talked through my teeth like all the best moms do. I tried not to raise my voice, but despite this, I could feel everyone staring at me.  Oh, come on.  Judge me if you want, ladies, but you all know full well you've had to surgically remove your kid from the tube/slide apparatus at some point in your life. Somehow I got her into the car despite the kicking and screaming and strapped in her in her car seat.  I sat at the steering wheel and just took a deep breath.  Thank God for nap time.

Then yesterday, she made up for it by being a good girl all day.  Then came the after-dinner fizzle.  This the time of day where I have the hardest time keeping things under control.  They are both a combination of wound up and tired and I need to find something to do to occupy them until bedtime.  Longest 3 hours of my life, especially since Tom is only around for about an hour of that time.

Maddie was using her new notepad with lines on it intended for practicing her letters.  I showed her the sample of D'Nealian Alphabet and she immediately picked up on the fact that there were two "o's" her favorite letter.  I tried to explain to her the difference between upper and lower case and attempted to show her on the paper.  She threw a fit and said "NO, NO, NO! I am trying to do something!!!"

Five minutes later she was cutting a piece of paper and I noticed she was cutting with her thumb down.  Her teacher had noted this during our conference, so I tried to correct her.  More push-back.

Ok, fine.  I backed off.  I tried to tell her that I was merely trying to teach her something and if she didn't let people help her learn, she would flunk out of Preschool.  Over exaggerating? Oh yeah.  Tom got home and tried to help her with her letter writing skills, and he saw first hand what I had just experienced. 

Then came some "quiet time" on the couch.  Maddie was playing with her new Leapster and I offered to help her play games so she could "unlock" more colors on the sketch pad.  Hard to explain, but let's just say, once again, she didn't want any help what-so-ever and it ended with her and I playing tug-o-war with the effing Leapster.  I finally ripped it from her clutches before the stylise was yanked from it's cord and sent her up stairs for bath and bed.  Even Tom raised his voice at her (which rarely happens) and from there she was in hysterics.  I plopped her on the pot and she proceeded to cry so hard she puked.

More sobbing, more tears and finally she settled down and said she was sorry, without prompting, to both Tom and I.  I felt better about my "flunking out of Preschool" comment when Tom told me he talked to her and said if she acted that way she wouldn't have any friends. 

Bedtime could not come soon enough and by the time I had her feetsie jammies on her she was calm and loving.  We made up and I reminded her that when I try to tell her things, it is almost always to help her.  I also reminded her of the "Golden Rule" and that she should treat others the way she wants to be treated.  She smiled nodded and gave me a hug. 

I have a feeling I am in for a long road with this child. If 3 years old is this hard, I can only imagine what 13 will be like.  I can only hope she finds a nice, patient man like her father to put up with her the way he puts up with me.