Seven

It’s so hard to believe Bowie is turning 7. Last year I thought the same thing about 6. Six seemed like such a big number for such a little boy. And now 7. Each year older a kid gets is like moving one point on the Richter scale. It’s just one more, but exponentially more different than the last.

His birthday always seems to fall right around the time the school year is wrapping up, which makes it all feel very formal and official. And so I hereby decree that he shall now pass on to the next year of his life.

He asked me to tell him a funny story about the day he was born. So, I said, “the first thing I ever said to you was, ‘thank God you’re finally out.” Which I thought was funnier than he did. But then I told him about how he didn’t cry, he just looked at me very intently, and I said little things to him and he held my finger tightly. And he said, “That’s ’cause I’ve always loved you, mama.”

This year has been a positive one, despite having a teacher that was very unwilling to help us with his SPD issues in the classroom. He is excelling in math and reading, and is making friends (that’s kinda hard for him to do). He’s still acting out, but the incidents are fewer and further in between.

At home he’s become more agreeable, more helpful and more loving toward us. He’s finding lots of new hobbies and interests. He cannot get enough Minecraft these days. He plays the game on all of the electronic devices in our house, he watches YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft, he has Minecraft figurines, Minecraft Legos, Minecraft books, book marks, pencils, clothing…so much Minecraft.

But, I figure it’s a safe game for him to be playing. We limit his time sitting in front of a screen. But, what I mean is, he’s learning while he plays, and it allows him to explore his creativity. He comes up with, and then builds, some pretty impressive stuff. It’s also something that gives him a great sense of pride, in a world that gives him few opportunities for that.

Seven is walking the two blocks to Auntie’s house all by himself. Seven is no more training wheels. Seven is showing signs of growing out of the worst of the SPD. Seven is helping out around the house. Seven is learning to tell time, count money and tell mom what kind of clouds those are in the sky. Seven is less fanfare around a lost tooth. Seven is wearing boxer shorts, not little boy underpants. Seven is getting kissed by a girl on the playground.

It’s hard to believe he’s turning 7, because you’d think after 7 years of parenting, I’d have more of a handle on all of this. But, the truth is, they are always changing, growing, evolving into the adult they are going to become. Every day is a new set of challenges, and I’m sure I’ll feel as clueless at 17 as I do at 7.

Seven is traditionally a lucky number, and I have high hopes for him this year to come.

bowie's 7th

Working Mom

I recently got a job.

It’s a simple job, cashiering part-time at an adorable local produce market. Here’s me posing in front of my new workplace.

at work

We could use the money, I have child-free hours in my days now, and it keeps my anxious mind occupied. And psst…it’s a little bit fun. My boss is one of the dads from preschool, I love the market and have been a faithful shopper for years, my coworkers all rock, and I cashiered for 10 years in high school and college, so it came back to me like riding a bike.

I haven’t worked outside the home since I became a mom, seven years ago this month. So, I’ve never had to balance a job with kids. Right now, we’re using minimal childcare so as to maximize what my actual take-home pay is.

Before when I would get the “your kid is sick, come get him” call, which by the way has only happened to me twice before, ever, I could just, you know, go get him.

On Monday morning, I was working a simple 9-12 shift, my second week working there, and of course I get THE CALL at about 10:30. Ferris was at preschool, running a fever and refusing to eat.

Now, LUCKILY, the manager totally understood, the shift was half over, there was another cashier there, it was slow. So, I was able to leave and go get him. But, I started thinking, damn. What if this starts happening all the time? What if it happens with the other kid during my next shift?

But mostly, how do working moms do this????!!!! What do you do if you have a much less understanding manager and boss? Do most companies give parents enough time off in a year to deal with this kind of stuff?

I have a few people I can call upon in such times, but they were all busy. I guess I need a few more people. And maybe I just need to break down and find me another good, cheap babysitter. (All the good ones move away. Boo.)

So, I guess I’m just saying, tip o’ the hat to you, “real” working moms. I don’t know how you balance everything. It’s amazing. I hope I can get it all figured out.

Things it’s a Good Idea for Moms With Boys to Get Familiar With

In honor of my good friend M who just had her first child, a gorgeous baby boy. I hope I don’t scare her too much! Just know you can handle it all, mama, that’s the magic of motherhood.

1. Poop. And the fascination thereof. The questions. You’re at the grocery store innocently swiping your credit card, and suddenly he asks you very loudly so the cashier and bag boy and fellow shoppers can ALL hear, “Mama, why was my poop green today, but brown yesterday? And sometimes it has corn in it.” Oh, and skidmarks. Not the road-meets-tire kind. Go to the store, get a bar of Fels-Naptha, (also on Amazon) it’s a miracle worker with the skidmarks, for realz.

2. Pee. There’s so much pee. They don’t get the “aiming” thing for quite a while. In the beginning, you can guarantee yourself a good, spa-quality face wash if you don’t cover that thing. In the mornings now, I completely disrobe Ferris before putting him on the potty, that way he can just rinse off before breakfast. Bowie still goes sitting down. Because, well, why rush that mess. I’ll be dealing with it soon enough.

3. Snot. Boogers. They usually end up smeared on you, or the nearest surface. No matter where they are. Public bathroom stalls, the dinner table, the Starbucks counter, the shopping cart, the back of their brother’s shirt, the art museum wall.

4. Dirt. It’ll be on them about 2.5 seconds after you get them dressed in the morning. Just get used to it. Don’t send them to school in anything white. ANYTHING. Dirt just becomes a way of life. What’s that saying? Boy: noise with dirt on it. ‘Bout sums it up.

5. So that brings up the next one: noise. It’s loud. And I don’t know how they can sustain it for the hours that they do. Even their general dinner table chatter is just LOUD. And, sorry to say, they do not come with a volume button. Between the rocket ship blast offs, lightning-speed car races, screaming fights with each other, throwing heavy objects around the house (not through a window if you’re on of the lucky ones) and the overall just bumping and crashing into things, and the the wailing and crying that ensues. And in elementary school, life becomes a walking commentary. “Did you see that rock? It was shaped just like this tool I have in Minecraft. Hey, can I play Minecraft at home? Because there’s this [minecraft type building/weapon/person/what have you] that I just HAVE to make. I’ll do my homework super fast. Madeline said it wasn’t a lot of homework. Maybe we can go to the park. Hey, are we going to the beach this weekend? Maybe Cal can come.”  Just go out and get the biggest, fattest jar of ibuprofen the Costco guy can legally sell you.

6. Sand. Take off their shoes outside, before entering the house. TRUST.

7. Matchbox and Hot Wheels. They multiply overnight when no one’s looking. They’re often left in a precarious place where a 6 a.m. bleary-eyed mom or dad will slip on them. And you’re required to know where The Red One is at all times. Not just a red one, THE red one, the chosen one, the Messiah of their 1,000 piece car collection. (Which changes daily, of course.) And until you have guessed which one it is found it, you’re the worst parent ever.

8. Legos. This I know is a multi-gender issue, along with the little cars. But, when you’ve got two kids of the same gender, they tend to get the same presents, only slightly modified. One gets a rocket ship lego building kit, one gets a race car building kit. And when they are inevitably destroyed, and the pieces get mixed up, let the fist fights and lego hurling begin. (And that’s how it happens that you step on one in the middle of the night and the pain makes you wish you were in hell instead.) I know I’m the no-sharing mom and everything, but I do bend the rules for this one. I try so hard to stick to the plan. “You can have that one very special orange piece which is essential to the integrity of the structure you’re building, when you’re brother is done with it.” But every once in a while frustration kicks in and I just say, “Give it to your brother. Do it. Give it now. Just do it.” Forced sharing, shame on me.

9. Penises. Now, I know you have to be semi-familiar with them to have landed yourself in this boat. But, just get used to hearing the word a lot. And having questions asked that you can’t answer. And watching them twist and bend and stretch in ways you never knew they could. There will be questions too about where’s mommy’s penis? What happened to it? Did you do something to lose it? Did you just never grow one? Any Puritan attitudes you had toward genitalia in general goes out the window completely.

10. The phrase, “Wow, you sure do you have your hands full!” They’ll say this when you’ve got one boy, but when you’ve got more than one, whoo boy. You laugh sheepishly and say, “yep, I sure do.” When what you really want to do is scream in their face, “Good, I’m so glad you can see that! Now would you mind cleaning up that pasta the one just spilled, and grabbing that gallon of  milk the other one is about to throw while I just try to GRAB A GODDAMNED BAG OF FROZEN CORN, FOR F#$%’s SAKE?!” And sometimes you might get that ballsy person that asks, “So, are you going to try for a girl?” Go ahead and slap them right across the face.

11. Milk, bread, cheese, milk, Goldfsh, yogurt, milk, cereal, did I already say milk? Have your job directly deposit your paycheck to the grocery store’s account. Though they be little, they eat like they’ve been starved for a week. Five times a day. And then ask for more.

12. But, the love. Oh, nothing I can say here will prepare you for the love you’ll have for them, despite all that stuff above. Like your heart is just split right open, and their little hearts are nestled inside. When they hug you and kiss you and tell you they love you, you are a puddle on the floor. Every damn time. Never gets old. Thank goodness for sons. Thank goodness for daughters. Thank goodness for parenthood.

bear in sink

Reason #4954 Parenting is Just the Best

Over the past week or two, we have slowly ventured into the parenting minefield known as potty training with Ferris. He usually goes on the potty in the morning and before bed, and maybe once in between. I was afraid we were heading into “waited too long” territory, but it finally started happening.

With Bowie, we were new parents and we started right when he turned 2, thinking that’s just when you started, that’s just how it worked. We’d put him on the potty every few hours, like a puppy, and give him a little treat when he went, and then in a few weeks he’d be all potty trained, just like that. Over and out.

Any seasoned parent reading this knows that’s not entirely how it goes. And with Bowie, it ended up being as easy and enjoyable as giving a dental exam to a hungry lion. And the journey that began when he turned 2 didn’t end until he was about to turn 4. There were many a day spent at home with him running around completely naked from the waist down so he could make a mad dash to the potty when he felt that urge. We gave more than one UPS guy the most interesting day of his career.

So, when it came to Ferris, we took a much more relaxed stance on the issue. We encouraged it, of course, but never forced it. Some days he was excited about it, some days not so much. But, it’s starting to work. He’s getting self-aware, knowing when he has to go, though he generally just tells us as he’s going, or shortly after. But, we’ll get there, slowly but surely. And then we wait for our good friend, regression.

But, it’s also been a good 3 years since we’ve really had to worry about the issue at all, and so much of it has been blocked out and tucked away in my subconscious to protect my sanity. I feel like we’re totally new at it again. I hesitate to use a reward system, because we have been showering him with praise whenever he’s successful, which he hates (a trait no doubt inherited from his mama).

So, what were your experiences like? Any pointers for anyone out there doing this for the first time? Any tried and true methods? What motivates a kid who hates praise?

As you can see, he’s having a blast with it, and giving us all that toddler respect for elders.

ferris on the throne

 

Growing Up

Yesterday the director of Ferris’ preschool announced that there were 6 weeks left in the school year. And it triggered that familiar twinge I get each year at this time. Another school year in the books. My babies are another year older.

To add insult to injury, Bowie’s birthday always falls right around the last day of the school year. So he truly does turn a year older.

I know if you’re a parent and you’re reading this that I’m preaching to the choir. It’s tough to see the wee ones grow up into big ones. And then bigger ones. And it’s hard to think about the day they will leave the nest.

I will be just innocently going about my day, relishing in how little my children still are, and then I will see a picture of them from one year ago, and realize just how big they have gotten. And then I say, “Stop growing up so fast!” And I’m only like, half kidding.

But, when they do something completely amazing, like form their first full sentence, or read their first full sentence, or use the bathroom all by themselves, or help their friend up after they fall. Then you’re so proud. You puff out your chest and smile ear to ear, and think to yourself, “I made that. Me. I did.”

I remember when Bowie was little I would think, “Two is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” But then three was awesome. “Three is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” And then four was awesome too. And so on, and so forth.

Every new step comes with its own challenges and new horizons. And you look back on the previous years as being so easy. Why didn’t I just slow down and enjoy that more? Why did I think that was so hard?

But, every new step also comes with its own really amazing stuff. Suddenly your kid is capable of things you never even thought of waiting for them to do. And you can have conversations with them. And you can enjoy just hanging out with them. It’s much more relaxing at 6 that it is at 2, for sure.

I know the teen years are hard. Even if only because I was so terrible myself as a teen. But, I know that it will also be great for so many new reasons. And then when they are grown, yes they will leave me, but then I get to watch them go out into the world and become something.

I’ll sit back and watch and think, “I made that. Me. I did.”

boys at the park

 

Two Point Five

It’s handy that Ferris’ half birthday falls on St. Patrick’s Day, because it makes it so easy to remember. And I want to document it all, because at this age, they change so much and so quickly, you might as well give an update every hour.

I’ve noticed so many things about him lately. I think this year, between ages 2 and 3, is one of the most exciting times to watch your child grow. They come out of the baby phase and learn to really communicate and socialize, and they become a real “kid.”

The thing that’s really striking to me, and just interesting, is that Ferris seems to be the kind of kid that can pick up an activity, pretty much any activity, and instantly be good at it. He’s not very self-conscious, so he’s willing to try just about anything. He’s not afraid to admit when he’s scared and he wants to give something up. And he’s not very clumsy, compared to some kids. (Including his big brother, who was very clumsy, awkward, shy and unwilling to try anything new without some major encouragement.)

He’s so proud of his accomplishments too. When he succeeds at a new task, like climbing a steep ladder to a slide for instance, he jumps and dances around and says, “I did it!!!!” over and over again. And he’ll make sure everyone in earshot knows he did it.

He’s making friends in preschool, real friends, and he’s turning out to be pretty loyal. He asks about his friends when they aren’t at school. And he can recall events from his day at school, and even from days before. He’s getting more articulate and starting to use whole sentences, so he will recount his day for me on the way home, and it’s crazy cute.

He shows empathy and concern really well for his age. When another child is crying, he wants to investigate, and he asks, “Aw, what’s wrong?” When he sees a crack in the street or  some damage to a car or a house, he gasps and says very dramatically, “Broken.” And he wants to fix it. The other day, my husband was home sick from work and had a depressing (but good) documentary on. Ferris had no idea what the subject matter of the movie was, nor could he fully understand what was being said, but he got enough of a vibe from people’s expressions to know it was sad, and every couple of minutes he’d say, “Awwww.”

He’s not really a big fan of sweets. Of course, he likes sweet things, like any other kid, but he doesn’t like to have a lot of it in one sitting. And he usually won’t eat anything cakey or cookie-like. Even his tolerance for sweet cereal is limited. We give the boys Honey Nut Cheerios for general daily breakfast, but we have some goodies on hand like Cocoa Krispies, Apple Jacks, etc. that we allow on the weekends or the occasional after-school snack. But, he will choose the Cheerios over those almost every time. I think he’s like his mama this way.

Now that he’s big enough to defend himself, we’ve reached the era of Brother Fist Fights. It would be hilarious if not for that whole getting hurt thing. I’m breaking up no less than a dozen fights a day. Do girls fight this way? So physical and rough? Anyone got any great tips on getting it to stop? Or will they still be giving each other noogies at Thanksgiving dinner in 20 years?

Favorite things: Gogurt, milk, hummus, gum, “Blankie” and “Monkey”, Thomas, Caillou, Bob the Builder, running, jumping, going on walks outside the stroller, the beach, the park, anything and everything that Big Brother is doing, eating, saying, wearing or feeling.

Least favorite things: Holding hands to cross the street, being stuck in a stroller, someone helping him go up/down stairs or opening/closing doors or getting in/out of the car, not being allowed to fully subsist on Gogurt and milk alone, the post-school pre-brother-gets-home early-afternoon slump where he’s tired enough to nap, but refuses to actually nap.

Why oh why do they have to grow up so much and so quickly?

Here’s an action “I did it!” shot. Remember this play structure? He tackled it. Like a boss.

 

i did it

The Specialness of One’s Needs

I know that a while back, at the beginning of the school year, I was all sunshine and rainbows about first grade and how well I thought it would go.

That’s not exactly the case anymore.

Things haven’t been going well. Bowie didn’t react well at first to the teacher and her methods (and truthfully neither did we). He has a hard time completing his in-class work in a timely manner (compared to the other kids), and it’s been a real hot button issue, apparently.

A meeting was requested with the student-teacher coordinator and a school counselor. They have a record of all the SPD stuff from last year, so we just discussed where he was at, how things were going. And they asked us to have him re-evaluated by his OT, to see where he was at with his sensory issues.

I felt kind of ridiculous when they asked how long it had been since he saw an OT and since we had concentrated on his therapy, and I was like, oh, um, gee, well I suppose it’s been a few years. Parenting ball: dropped.

It was unexpectedly really nice to go back to see the OT, even though it meant my kid still has issues. It felt comfortably familiar. I feel safe at the OT. She understands him, she understands us. All his little tics and habits and antics seem normal to her, like no one else in his life. And she’s got answers!

As it turns out, Bowie has developed a bad grip on his pencil. And it’s causing motor-coordination issues. Something that I didn’t even know to look for, I’m not an OT or a teaching professional, so I would never have known it was an issue. I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t brought up before, and I’m actually thankful that the school made us visit her, because that’s the only way we’d ever have known!

Intelligence-wise, he’s right where he needs to be. Even excelling a bit. So, no worries there. As his OT puts it, with his current grip, he’s just getting too tired when he writes, and he needs to stop and rest and take breaks. Something not entirely conducive to keeping up with his peers. So then he gets reprimanded. And his peers see that, and use it as ammo later. And he acts out.

There’s still a major sensory component. And we’ve added small things here and there in the classroom to help him out with that. The good news is that it’s all fixable. The bad news is it’s to the tune of $500 a month for the therapy, which we just don’t have right now. And insurance won’t cover it until we meet our deductible, but the OT only wants to do sessions until winter break, at which time we will have met the deductible, but therapy will be over.

So, yeah.

The best news is that he likes what he’s learning. He likes to read, he likes math, he likes science. And he’s really smart. I know every mom says that, but really, he is. I mean, I’m not talking ‘gifted and talented’ or anything, but he’s got critical thinking skills, and he can extrapolate on ideas, and I’m just really proud. That’s all.

I hesitate to call him “special needs”. Or to treat him that way. Because there are so many kids out there with much more serious special needs than him. But, when you get the “you’re a terrible parent” stare down from a bystander as he throws a sensory fit in the middle of the farmer’s market, then I feel “He’s special needs.” right on the tip of my tongue.

We do our best to support him daily, hourly, by the minute. But we are also human beings. And the name-calling, the fit-throwing, the hitting, the pushing his brother around, it gets to us sometimes. Being back at the OT means being back in the care of someone who knows how to make this right again. Knows what he needs to bring him back to center.

He didn’t turn the corner sensory-wise until after he’d turned 2. Before that, he was a “normal” baby, no issues to report. He was rarely sick, he was developmentally right on, he was happy and social and outgoing.

So, the change was so abrupt for us. But, we took it in stride. This is what he needs right now, we will do this for him.

And then he had another really great year. Kindergarten was a complete dream for us. Finally he’s acting “normal”, he’s having a “normal” school year, everything is “normal” again. To have first grade not only go so poorly, but to have it going so poorly almost immediately, is a big parenting blow to the gut.

As much as I hate the label, he is special needs. He needs special things from us every day. And from all of the other adults and children he interacts with. For his world to feel right, he needs special things. And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s different than other kids. Even so much different from his brother. The way you need to approach Bowie to ask him something or tell him something is different than it is with other kids. It can be pretty exhausting to deal with that every second of every day, but we are here and we are doing it. I can only hope when he’s grown that he can see that we did our very best. And I hope that by then he’s not so “special” anymore.

bowie swings

Two

Ferris at 2

Two years ago, after a quick but intense labor, and a lightning-speed delivery, they placed you, my little Fer-Bear, in my arms for the first time.

And then I blinked and you are turning two years old. Darn that blinking!

Likes: milk, pretzels, Caillou, trucks, cars, airplanes, trains, crayons, play dough, baths, the beach, the park (especially the slide), hangin’ with the Big Kids.

Dislikes: grocery shopping, napping, showers, having your diaper changed, taking clothes off, putting clothes on, being FORCED to stop moving at the end of the day and get this thing they call “rest”.

Two is fun. Two is tripping over your own feet all day long. Two is climbing the play structure and going down the slide all by yourself. Two is learning new words every single day. Two is finding out that there are some foods you don’t like, and mommy starts calling you “picky”.

Two is preschool! Two is friends. Two is learning, growing, changing. So quickly.

Two is a little bit of independence, and a little bit of being able to communicate what you want.

I always feel like I should be so profound with these posts, but it never comes. The night of your second birthday, Daddy and I went out to see one of our favorite bands, Cloud Cult, and they had me in tears with the VERY FIRST SONG, because I was thinking of you, and couldn’t believe we were at the two year mark already. Here’s a little snapshot of that song:

The stars may fall and the rains may pour,
But I will love you evermore.
You were born to make this right.
You were born to chase the light.

I love you so much, bug.

Mama

First Grade So Far

first grade

We have a first grader in our house now. A FIRST GRADER. We have now completed week one back at school, in the new first grade routine. A rocky start, but not as rocky as the start of the school year last year. And last year’s start was better than the year before. Progress.

I recently acquired a ton of new readers, so I will take a brief moment to explain our kiddo’s situation a bit. When he was in preschool, we were having major issues with his behavior. He was being very aggressive toward the other kids, and also toward us, for no apparent reason. After some meetings with the preschool director, lots of reading and research, and some visits to an occupational therapist, he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (a good place to read up on this is here).

When asked why he was pushing or hitting other children, he’d respond with, “I thought they were going to bump into me.” Or, “I was afraid they would step on me.” He was so sensitive about his body-in-space issues and his personal space bubble that he was trying to avoid being hurt or touched by taking matters into his own hands, the only way a 3 year old could figure out how to fix his environment to suit him.

So, we saw some therapists, tried some intensive therapies, changed some things at home, and he’s made amazing strides. He regressed a bit when his younger brother was born, but we’ve made progress since then too. He’s still very sensitive to his environment, and has trouble regulating his emotions.

Calling names, swearing and screaming have replaced the hitting and pushing. The verbal has replaced the physical. For example, now if someone comes “too close” at school or on the sidewalk, he says, “They’re dumb.” Or something to that effect. Even though he doesn’t know them, and they haven’t done anything.

At first, I was just glad he wasn’t hurting other kids. But now, I’m not sure it’s any better. With the physical stuff, at least we could point out that not a lot of other people go around hitting and pushing everyone around them. But with the language? People call each other names all the time, even just as a joke. I’ve had to make him stop watching even certain G-rated movies because characters are going around calling each other idiots and morons. And swearing? I can curb my language to the absolute best of my ability, but how do I keep him from hearing it in public? People walking by our house on the street are yelling swear words. So, the language is proving much more difficult to correct.

I think he’s doing remarkably well in first grade, considering what an adjustment I’m sure that it was for him. We always said we were going to make him do workbooks and reading exercises all summer, and we were going to spend the last few weeks of summer vacation getting him back on his school year schedule, with an earlier bedtime and earlier rise time, etc.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Between the move taking over our entire month of July, and his complete and ugly unwillingness to do any of the above, we didn’t do much of that. But August 18 eventually showed up at our doorstep anyway. And he had to wake up at 6 am, and he had to eat breakfast instead of zoning out in front of the TV. And he had to get dressed and then walk to school, instead of, you know, zoning out in front of the TV. He doesn’t respond well to transitions. Which is a total understatement. I mean, the kid basically shuts down when we ask him to change into his pajamas at night. And this was a pretty big change. So, I feared the worst.

The first day went well, though he was a bit grumpy and exhausted afterward. The second day was ROUGH. He said “shit” a few times and ended up in a time out (which I’m not wild about, but it’s her classroom, so *shrug*). I took away some privileges for the afternoon because of the swearing, so it was a fitful, screaming, name-calling evening. The third day was better, but he told me later that his shoes kept coming untied and he had lost his lunch box so it was “such a horrible day!” Day four was good. Normal. Got his work done, didn’t get in trouble. Day five was better but still rough, I think he was just tuckered out. We went for ice cream after school to celebrate the end of the first week. He got called a name by another kid as we walked to get ice cream, and was incredibly emotional about it. I sympathized, but also reminded him that he does that to other people. Which he didn’t really respond well to. But, he was very well-behaved that afternoon. Perhaps because of the promise of the weekend ahead of him.

ice cream

I hope this week and the weeks to follow go just as smoothly. I hope he doesn’t get too comfortable and start acting up. But as far as I can tell, the wrinkles in his personality caused by the SPD are starting to smooth themselves out. And he’s maturing into a great student. His teacher and I just take things one day at a time.

Now, his behavior at home…that’s another story for another time. But hey, one step at a time.

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Picky Eaters Anonymous

Mention online somewhere that your kid or kids are picky eaters, and you’ll get a whole lotta “feedback” from other moms whose kids “eat all their vegetables!”, “love peas!” and “I can’t keep enough salad around for her!” They’ll also throw in helpful tidbits about how “you’re not trying hard enough.” or “your’e not doing it right.”

I am not that mom.

I feel your pain. I understand. Let’s start a support group.

My boys both started out as amazing eaters when they were babies. AMAZING. Ate everything I offered. Even stuff I won’t touch. Green beans? Check. Peas? Check. Broccoli? You bet. But then, when they hit about two years of age, they suddenly started turning up their noses at everything. I thought for a while that Ferris was “less picky”, but I’m slowly discovering that just because he eats foods that Bowie won’t doesn’t mean there’s not a long list of foods he won’t touch too.

I was advised by our preschool director that it is our job to put the healthy foods on their plates, and whether they eat it or not is up to them. And also if you put the tiniest little portion, like teaspoon sized portion, of whatever “healthy” food it is you want to serve, but think they won’t eat, they’re a lot more likely to try it, because the portion size is so much less intimidating. And we have instituted this advice, with some success. They both definitely tried foods they wouldn’t normally have gone for, and even enjoyed some of them, broadening their eating repertoire.

But, there are still those lunches and dinners where they refuse to eat a single bite, and it’s a big argument, and then they go hungry, which I hate. But, we all learn from it and the next mealtime is often infinitely easier.

I’ve got a list for you of foods that are nutritious, or at least mildly so, and that my boys will eat, for whatever reason. For those times when you don’t want to have the argument, and you don’t want them to be hungry. You want them to eat a healthy meal, and you want them to get a full belly. I’m going to skip the obvious choices, like fresh fruit, cheese, brown rice, ketchup, you guys know all about that. These are ideas to get you (and your kids) out of your rut. So, here it is:

Beth’s Top Ten Favorite Healthy Foods for Picky Kiddos

1. Avocados. I don’t know if it’s the creaminess, the mild flavor, the fun color, what. But they gobble them up. And they are packed with fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin C, amongst other things. If your little one turns their nose up at slices or chunks, try mashing it. Weelicious has great recipes here and here. Think non-spicy, non-chunky guac. Serve with some whole wheat pitas or low salt tortilla chips.

2. Eggs. I know you have probably been on the egg train for a while. This one is kind of a no-brainer. But, I’m including it to remind you how versatile eggs are. Look beyond the scramble. Embrace the hard boiled, either whole or mashed up for egg salad (which you can mix with flax, veggie purees, chia seeds, whatever your go-to sneaky additive). Consider over-hard fried for breakfast (just the whites too, if you want to go that route). They can eat it on toast like a sandwich or chopped on top of rice or quinoa.  You can serve them baked, I have a great recipe that is just eggs, leeks and cream, baked in ramekins. So yummy even Mommy and Daddy will enjoy. I serve them for dinner! Or try a frittata, or a quiche, load them up with veggie purees. Eggs are cheap, versatile, and they’re loaded with protein. I’m telling you, eggs are your friend.

3. Since I just mentioned it, we’ll move on to quinoa. I love quinoa. It’s so easy to cook, you can replace your rice with it in almost any recipe (I love making quinoa fried “rice”, fabu) and it’s got a nice nutty flavor and great texture. My guys really like it with a bit of oil and vinegar. I cook it in chicken stock for added flavor and nutrition, and I add in little bits of veggies that they may or may not pick out, but they’re in there. Quinoa is a whole grain, a great source of iron and fiber, and a protein powerhouse.

4. Edamame. Otherwise known as soybeans. You can find them in the frozen section, in pods or out, or sometimes in the fresh produce, pre-cooked and seasoned and packaged up. They have a nice, mild, non-intimidating flavor. Some people don’t or can’t do soy, so this obviously isn’t for you. But edamame has a long list of vitamins and lots of fiber and protein, is fast and easy to cook, and is easily snackable for the park or a day at the zoo.

5. Fish. Not your average store-bought fish sticks, just fish. Real fish. Sometimes I doll it up and put a crunchy batter on it myself, but usually I can just serve it as-is with a tasty sauce, and they’re totally on board. I serve salmon with a yogurt-dill sauce or with a tasty miso sauce. I serve white fish like tilapia or cod with a yummy cumin lime butter or another yogurt sauce with herbs like mint or cilantro. Or just fish tacos with sour cream. If it’s got a nice mild flavor and you can pair it with a topping they already like, they are highly likely to eat it. Fish, especially salmon, is a great source of protein, as well as the all-important omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Trail Mix. This works because it’s full of nuts and dried fruit (if you have a nut allergy in your house, obvs. this one’s not for you), but the kids just see the M&Ms and think they’ve won. We pour a small amount for each one, maybe 1/4 cup, and the rule is they have to eat all of that before they can have more. This prevents them from picking out the chocolate and leaving the rest. Nuts and dried fruits are great sources of nutrition, and trail mix is often low-salt or no-salt (check the sodium level). We like to get the giant bags from Costco, or to just make our own.

7. Hummus. Ok, confession: Bowie won’t eat hummus. But, Ferris LOVES it. Can’t get enough. And I’ve seen plenty of my friends’ picky eaters gobble it up too. Put a big gob on the end of one of those thick pretzel sticks or on a big cracker, and watch them (maybe, hopefully) devour. Hummus consists mostly of chickpeas, which are overall just really great for you. And hummus comes in a wide variety of flavors so you can find one your kids will like. Ferris likes roasted red pepper flavor.

8. Quesadillas. I’m not talking your standard burrito-place 1/2 inch thick gob of cheese between two white flour tortillas here. I’m talking take that idea, and turn it up a notch. I like to make them with whole wheat tortillas. I spread them with a very thick layer of refried beans, beans are crazy full of fiber, and I sprinkle ground flax over the top of that. Then I sprinkle on a modest amount of shredded cheddar cheese. I serve it with a dab of sour cream (I don’t know why, but kids LOVE dipping their food into stuff), sometimes I add a little flax to the cream too. Or cumin, which has a nice authentic yet mild flavor, and is actually really nutritious itself, offering fiber, iron and even calcium. I am also a MAJOR fan of the Breakfast Quesadilla from Weelicious. Her recipe just calls for egg and cheese, but during step 3, I also add chopped spinach or kale, like really finely chopped, and just a dusting. They’ll hardly even notice it.

9. Spinach tortellini or ravioli. It’s got pasta, which they love, and inside, along with some yummy cheese, is spinach. That’s right, SPINACH. My boys tuck the tiny dumplings into their mouths like popcorn. Either they don’t notice the green stuff, or they don’t care. Either way, they’re each getting a serving of spinach in their belly. I buy spinach tortellini virtually by the case from Trader Joe’s, where a 10 ounce package of the fresh stuff (which I freeze) is only $1.99. I cook it, put a little olive oil, salt and pepper on it, and sprinkle with parmesan. It’s a lunch box staple for Bowie. It only takes me 3 minutes to cook it in the morning.

10. Sushi. Ok, hold on, don’t run away. Hear me out. I know some of you are thinking, “yeah right, I’m going to take my kid out for raw fish.” But, sushi comes in many forms. And sushi restaurants have a plethora of regular menu items that kids worship. It’s probably Bowie’s favorite meal. He likes the miso soup. Miso good for them, and he also likes the protein-filled tofu. And the onions and seaweed just go down the hatch with the broth. And of course there is edamame (see #4), which is a cheap menu item, sometimes even free. Both guys also like avocado rolls (see #1) and our local place has a tempura roll that has tempura-battered shrimp in it. So they get the nori (the seaweed on the outside) and avocado and shrimp. And I always order the tempura veggies. Yes, they’re fried, but the batter is very thin and holds less oil. Ferris will eat huge florets of broccoli and slices of zucchini and eggplant. Bowie likes the carrots and sweet potatoes. They are also different from other deep fried vegetables in that the pieces of vegetables themselves are gigantic. Most of the nutritional value is kept intact, and not cancelled out totally by the oil. And if you can get your kid to eat fish, of the cooked variety (see #5), most Japanese menus have a wide variety of fish to choose from, and lots of sauces. My boys are both sort-of fans of teriyaki salmon.

10 1/2. I don’t know why, but both of my guys like frozen peas and frozen corn. Not cooked. Just straight from freezer to plate. They don’t care for either one in cooked form, but frozen? A treat, somehow. Maybe give it a try?

This is ONLY what worked for MY kids. And if I know picky eaters (and I DO), then your picky eater’s personal list of That Which Shall Not Be Touched is probably totally different than it is with my guys. I’m also kind of a fan of the hiding-healthy-bits-in-the-yummy-stuff, but I know others don’t really like this approach, so just do what feels right, of course. I just hope this gave you at least one idea. Or half an idea. Just hope it helped.

Please let others know in the comments what your ideas are. What are your go-to healthy kiddo foods? Meal ideas, snack ideas? What’s your favorite way to add nutrition to their favorite foods?

ferris eating