Friday, February 26, 2010

Short order cook

When Girly wants food, SHE WANTS FOOD.

Generally, it is pretty easy for me to pull something quick out of the refrigerator to tide her over while I cook (microwave and chop) the rest. Of course, she grunts and groans until she gets what I am preparing. Dinner time is the most harried - we walk in the door from school at about 5:00 and she wants to eat at about 5:01.

Breakfast has been the easiest, with a general formula of fruit +/- yogurt +/- cereal/bread. While we started out with plain whole milk yogurt when she was bitty, we slowly transitioned to the fruit flavored YoBaby individual serving packs. Mainly because this was the choice at our grocery store - it is shockingly hard to find plain whole milk yogurt in any size. (Our store carries 1 variety).

As part of my healthier foods kick, I'm (again) paying more attention to unnecessary sugar. All yogurt will have sugar, because milk has sugar, and all fruit has sugar, but of a natural sort. I am now mixing frozen fruit with plain yogurt and it cuts the sugar in about half. I took a bag of frozen mixed berries and the juice of one orange and cooked until just boiling. (Actually, I cooked it until it boiled over and left blueberry juice all over my stove - don't do that). I froze it in ice cube trays - 1 bag made 1 tray. Easy and quick to thaw in the microwave and mix with yogurt.

Oh - we are also adding a daily probiotic (Culturelle) to help keep her healthier. The jury is still out.

And this morning, I had a lightbulb. I would serve scrambled eggs more often for breakfast, but I strongly dislike cleaning pans and I'm usually not cooking for all of us at the same time. Here is a good solution and she ate every bite (while she usually just picks at eggs).

Microwave 'omelette'

- Butter or Pam a small bowl or ramekin very well
- Add one egg, scramble with a fork
- Add some shredded cheese and a little salsa or leftover veggies
- Zap in microwave in 20-30 second bursts, scrambling in between with a fork
- Should only take about 1 min 30 seconds and is tasty! (And also very hot, cool well for baby)

Also, we have a lot of toast with cream cheese for breakfast or snacks. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do that - I just naturally think of cream cheese and bagels, but they serve it at school.

Finally, a trick I stole from a friend: give your toddler the apple core or pear core to chew on. Never failed that I would chop up the fruit into tiny pieces for Girly, and then she would whine until I gave her a 'big girl' piece. It's nice because they can just gnaw off tiny bites, where if I give her a big piece of apple, she bites off a chunk that I have to fish out of her mouth so she doesn't choke.

Fun times.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love and Logic: Take Two

I had my second class last week and continue to find the tips and pointers very helpful.

The theme of the class was "Teaching Kids to Listen - the First Time"

Paraphrasing here, but we talked about not getting your kids addicted to warnings. Your child will always come to need at least the same number of reminders and warnings that you give them. If they know there isn't a consequence until the 3rd warning, they won't comply until the 3rd warning. And, if you teach them that at home, that is how they will behave at school (speaking as the sister of an elementary school teacher).

They also discuss the idea of 'affordable mistakes'. You want your child to make mistakes when they are young so they have the opportunity to learn from them. Crashing a tricycle is an 'affordable' mistake, crashing a car when you are 16 is not. The ultimate goal is to teach your child self-control and give them the ability to make good decisions because they can think through the consequences.

Lastly, we learned about the "Uh-Oh song", which is a time-out technique, of sorts. Hard to summarize here, but an interesting idea. I also found it interesting that they stress that you shouldn't explain what your child did wrong when they are done with time out. By doing that, you are insinuating that they aren't smart enough to figure it out for themselves. (For little ones, they still don't need a re-hash of the event, but you can make it a teachable moment: "Next time you want my attention, use your words", for example). Also, not to demand an apology. If your child complied with the time out (the consequence), asking for an apology just sets up another power struggle. Give them a kiss and a hug and an I Love You and move on with your day.

I'm no expert on Love and Logic - just summarizing when I've learned. Quite challenging to put in practice in your own home - it is mostly controlling your own responses to your children and thinking before you act (ALWAYS easier said than done). As with any parenting advice, you have to take some of it with a grain of salt, and adjust it to your child's temperament, but it's intriguing so far.

I think the Love and Logic gurus, Jim and Charles Fay, travel the country teaching seminars. There might be one in your area. Or, your local school district or parent organization might host classes from time to time. Since our program is through Parents as Teachers, it focuses on early childhood. The corresponding book is Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years.

Maybe you will find some of it beneficial in your home, or for your sanity!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Go ahead. You can do it.

I've mentioned before my concerns with school food programs, and some of those concerns are now hitting closer to home.

I made all of Girly's baby food, and while I certainly don't make everything that goes in her mouth, I try hard to at least buy things with the fewest ingredients and ingredients that I can pronounce.

When I signed up for daycare, it didn't even occur to me to ask about a food program for the bigger kids. I really didn't even know it existed for a long time - I just assumed I would pack and send her food, which was fine. Slowly, her teachers started hinting ... "You know, you don't have to bring her food. You can, of course, but you don't have to." I finally relented when she moved to the next room. It was sure easier for me not to have to pack two meals each night, and I thought there was value in her learning to eat at a table with her peers.

We are now a few months in, and I kept having these nagging annoyances. Her lunches were fine, generally comparable to what I would serve at home. Breakfasts were so-so, but snacks were terrible most days. And by terrible, I mean Little Debbie and crunchy treats that come in foil packages.

I don't think I am being a Pollyanna about this. Granted, I care more about what she eats than many parents, but I also try to be (reasonably) practical. She gets nibbles of sweets at our house, but they are generally things I have made. I don't want to restrict any food group, because I fear it will only result in a revolt at some point in the future. Moderation is key.


She is 14 months old. She doesn't have any older siblings. We don't have those foods in our house and she has no idea what they are. She will eat anything you put in front of her. Why can't it be a little healthier?

I thought I could just grin and bear it, but then I decided I really couldn't. I avoid confrontation at all costs, but all of my complaining at home was fruitless (pun intended) if I wouldn't talk to the school about it. I nicely asked for a meeting to get more information.

The directors of her school were very nice and turns out, I was making inaccurate assumptions in many cases. Yes, she gets processed snacks, but she also eats wheat bread, and only frozen veggies, and only fruit canned in juice. There is a lot of fresh fruit on their menu, probably more than in most places. I was pleasantly surprised.

They were also very responsive to my concerns and agreed to serve cereal in her room when the older kids are having packaged snacks. I am happy with the compromise. I'm glad I said something.

I realize that it is a luxury to spend so much time pondering what my child eats. Probably 99% of the parents in the world don't have that luxury. Probably 99% of the parents in Girly's school don't care either, but that is OK. I said something because I care about my child, but I care about the others, too, and I can't help but think it is good for them all. (Don't agree with me? Ask Mrs. Obama!)

Oh, and on the way out the door from my meeting, I casually asked, "Have you ever thought about having a garden?" Oh, funny you should ask! I am now the proud parent in charge of the summer garden and pole bean teepees. Oh yes I am.

Stay tuned ... should be interesting.

Also, if you care about this topic and want a few more places to get riled up, take a peek:
Fed Up: School Lunch Project
Better School Food
Processed Kids
La Vida Locavore
Chef Ann: The Renegade Lunch Lady
Two Angry Moms
Jamie Oliver's TED Prize Wish: Teach every child about food

Also, write your legislators regarding the Child Nutrition Act at Time for Lunch. It is important. A lot of things are important right now, and there are needs everywhere. I wish people could focus more on the big picture ... obesity is a major problem and healthcare costs will bankrupt this country. Sooo ... am I the only one who sees the obvious connection to what we feed our children and the importance we place, as a country, on healthful food? Maybe I am being Pollyanna about this, but that's the way I see it.

Off soapbox.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't Engage

I am participating in a Love and Logic class through my Parents as Teachers group. I had heard a lot of good things about this 'theory' from teacher friends and thought it was time to put a bit more thought into our discipline strategy.

True, our Girl is a little young at 14 months to benefit from all of this, but better to start early. I think.

My take away from last night:

1. 'Go Brain Dead', i.e. 'Don't Engage'
When your child is nagging or throwing a fit, you need to go brain dead so you don't go crazy. Respond in a calm, soothing, repetitive voice. "I know .... I know .... I know .... I know". The idea is that pretty soon they'll just tire of you not giving in to their wishes, and in the future, will know they can't get a rise out of you.

2. 'Empathy, then Consequence'
A lot of Love+Logic is based on empathetic, loving responses to your children, along with making your child take responsibility for misbehavior. When your child misbehaves, you must respond with empathy and true sincerity. "Oh! How sad ...." or "What a bummer!" Your child needs to know that you care about them and recognize that they are upset. Then, the consequence. "Oh! How sad! You dropped your cup on the floor so now you can't have anymore milk." You are the good guy and the consequence is the bad guy.

I like the sound of it.

My homework is to start putting these things in to practice. We don't really have tantrums at our house, but the whining is increasing. The most maddening thing to me, right now, is the repeated flinging of the sippy cup with secondary spilling of milk. I've responded in a calm way, in an angry way, in no way ... none of it seems to work.

Today we started the "Oh! How sad!" approach. I'm sure she doesn't get it yet, but hopefully will begin to understand with repetition on our part. And, it makes me feel better to have an approach.

As our instructor said, you can't always control your 2 or 3 year old. You CAN control your response to them.

Good advice.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yep. That again.

Oh, let's discuss naps again. Just for fun.

Remember when we tried to go from 2 to 1 naps? And then when we went right back to 2 naps?

We made our first attempt at dropping the nap around 11 months. She was napping poorly to sporadically, and was also making the switch from the Bunnies to the Bears room at school. It was very hard to entertain her for multiple hours in the morning, and after 3 weeks of effort, I decided to revert back to the 2 naps. (Especially after my scientific mommy poll revealed that most of my friends had toddlers who still took 2 naps).

I was encouraged that maybe our Girl would continue to take 2 naps, and maybe even longer naps once she started walking!

Ummm ... not so much.

Our Girl is an excellent sleeper at night, and used to be a wonderful napper before starting daycare at 12 weeks. I believe that daycare really messed with her napping, or perhaps she just evolved into a poor napper, but that is what she is. I've learned (am learning) to deal with it.

I had a lot of trepidation about her move to the big girl room at school, mainly related to the single nap and sleeping on the cot. She really adjusted pretty quickly and was consistently taking a 1 1/2 - 2 hour nap at school within about 2 weeks. Far better than she ever did in the baby room. (Again, I underestimated her and was pleasantly surprised. When will I learn?)

So ... at home, she continued to take 2 decent naps for about a month. Then, ever so slowly, her naps got all wonky. Because she is an early riser, she was taking her first nap from about 8:30-10:00, then her second nap from around 12:30-2:00. Then bedtime at 6:30ish. Then, she just stopped taking the second nap, or cried and fought us until it was too miserable to stand. If you are calculating ... yes, she would be awake from 10:00a until 6:00p. And yes, god-awful.

I knew this was really the sign that she was ready to go to 1 nap. I resisted it - I thought it might be a phase - because I was really enchanted with the idea that she would continue to take 2 good naps well into her 2nd year. It finally became beyond obvious that we needed to make the switch.

About a week ago, I just kept her up through the morning nap and put her down at about 12:30, which is what they do at school. She required far less entertaining than our previous attempt, which was also encouraging. She adjusted very quickly.

We are now in a pretty good place at 14 months. I can count on her sleeping at least an hour, usually 1 1/2 hours, and on a good day 2 hours. I still would love for her to sleep longer, but she consistently sleeps 12 hours at night, so I'll take what I can get.

Hard to believe that I've spent so much time and mental energy pondering naps. NAPS! And now, no more pondering until the day she drops this last nap altogether.

Please, please ... let that be a long time from now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I heart technology

I think this is pretty common-sensical (is that a word?) ... but, it has come in handy for me a couple of times in the last month.

Use your digital camera and Flip video to show things to your child's doctor. This might seem like a bit of overkill, but in certain circumstances, a picture really is worth 1000 words.

Our Girl had the strangest skin irritation around her mouth after eating oatmeal on three different occasions. The first time we chalked it up to lots of other things, but by the second time it became pretty clear what the cause was. I took a picture to 1) email to my pediatrician brother-in-law (perk!), and 2) document it in case it got worse over time (it didn't).

In case you are wondering, I have the culprit narrowed down to allspice. Or cinnamon. Or the combination of the two. Hmmmmm.

Also, this week we had our first experience with wheezing after many days of a cold. I grabbed our video camera to document how it sounded just in case she didn't do it at the doctor's office. (She did, of course, so we didn't need the video). I work in the medical field and think I am a little more medically-savvy than some, but I still find it hard to answer some questions: "Does she wheeze when she inspires or expires? Or both?" Ummm ... I really don't know .... I was chasing her around trying to put socks and shoes on so we could leave the house.

These are minor examples, but heaven forbid your child ever has a more serious medical issue, it could be very important. Documenting things like a seizure or a head injury could be very valuable in an emergency situation when trying to make medical treatment plans.

I know - wah, wah.

I doubt anyone would have the presence of mind to grab their camera in an emergency, but now that I have planted the seed, maybe you will!