Archive | October 2012

How To Get Your Kids To Eat (Almost) Anything

I have to start with this story. One time my Grammy served my mom and her siblings cow tongue for dinner. I don’t think that story needs any more elaboration. The end.

So I make no promises for cow tongue dinners. For other foods, here are some tips.

I’ve thought about this for a long time, but I’ve hesitated to go public for two reasons:

  • As soon as I do, Sam and Ty will throw a revolution and refuse everything that is not a Trader Joe’s snickerdoodle
  • My kids are undoubtedly anomalies, as they are genetically predisposed to LOVE food. We come from a long line of eaters around here. (And boy am I thankful of that, because with Sam’s allergies, he can’t afford to eat fewer foods!)

However, all kids revolt at one point or another, and all kids do this on the night when:

a)      you actually worked hard on dinner

b)      you just noticed they were looking a little scrawny, and

c)      you recently read in Parenting Magazine how essential green vegetables are in preventing cancer

And it is at this precise moment, you set down the bowl (and you know the look from a mile away) that Precious Pumpkin decides that, NO.

I. Do. Not. Want. That.

So what do you do?

Before I submit my tips of the trade, I want to offer a few general principles, which come from my mother. They have guided me through many a bleak and miserable dinner.

  • If you make eating a battle, you will never win. You can’t force them to eat.
  • You make the plate; they decide what to eat. But if they’re hungry later, too bad. They will just have to make up for it at breakfast.

I admit I was terrified the day I put these in action. Sam was about two, and had suddenly begun refusing dinner.

What if he doesn’t get one bite to eat? What if he wakes up every two hours in hunger? What if he dwindles away to nothing? And so on.

In my case, it only took about twelve hours, and the pickiness disappeared. (It will reappear periodically of course, but he’s a good eater.) For my sister (and an extremely stubborn son), it was less than a week. So I guess the bottom line is, they have to know that you’re not going to lose your temper about it, but that this is dinner, period.

That said, let’s say you’ve made something you want them to eat. Say, chicken tortilla soup with beans and peppers and onions. Here’s what I do to make it more appetizing:

1)     Watch the temperature. My kids get immediately annoyed by something that’s too hot. I take theirs out 10 minutes ahead to cool down.

2)      Add something with crunch. Ritz crackers, tortilla chips, club crackers, toast with butter diced in pieces, flour tortillas in pieces – basically something they’ll like the taste of.

3)      Add something creamy. Easy cheesy if you’re not allergic to milk…sour cream, cheese, cream cheese, half-n-half. With Sam’s dairy allergy, I’ll add coconut milk, olive oil, or a dairy-free cream cheese.

4)      Be cheerful. {Nerd Alert} Sometimes I’ll tell Sam one fun fact with every bite he takes. For example, every time he takes a bite, something we could do at Disneyland. Or something that firemen do. Or whatever. Often we’ll talk something fun coming up. Try to distract him from the yuckiness with my pleasant company!

5)      Keep reminding them of their dessert when they finish. Not in a naggy way. Sometimes I’ll do reverse psychology, and say, “Now, Ty, you can’t have all the cookies. Remember, Sam gets to have some when he finishes dinner.” I don’t think that’s reverse psychology actually. Passive aggressive? Hmmm. You get the point. Even if it’s two cookies, or some yogurt, there should be a little treat for finishing something not-so-yummy.

6)      If worst comes to worst, do the bite-for-bite. Today, for example, this evening Sam didn’t want his butternut squash pasta. So he ate one bite of that, and got one bite of apple pie. And so on.

7)     Finally, if you’re having troubles in the eating department, eliminate all snacks, juice, and milk between meals. This can work wonders. Now, I understand it’s hard to break someone of the habit from wanting calories when they’re cranky, bored, and used to having it. Believe me, I know, all too well. But just try it for three days.

But whatever you d0, don’t bother trying the following. They are in every parenting magazine ever, but they sure don’t work around here.

  • “Let them help with dinner, and they’ll want to eat it more.” What?? Sorry, but my kids are not that naive.
  • “Make it look like a fun shape, and they’ll want to eat it.” Um, no, not working here. If it looks like a car, they’ll drive it. A ball, they’ll throw it, A cute animal, they will make it roar, etc. etc.
  • Add food coloring. Please, please promise me you won’t do this. Unless you are making playdough, or icing for a birthday cake, please hold off on these yucky dyes and colorings! They are so bad for you. Plus, blue mashed potatoes? That’s just gross.




31 Things I Know

Yesterday was my 31st birthday. I definitely told about 18 people it was my 32nd birthday. Oops.

Aren’t birthdays fun? You feel so darn special, just for being born. This year Sam made it extra nice by telling me for a week that he didn’t want me to have a party, and he wasn’t going to come. Apparently that is a really funny joke in three-year-old-boy world.

I’m pretty sure I am a grownup now. I got a eucalyptus tree for my birthday. Worse, I asked for it. Also, I find myself admiring birds. That’s something grownups do. And my blood pressure rises whenever I have to type on those blasted i-phones and I can’t get my fingers to press the right letter.

And you know me – I’m always getting smartter. Here are 31 things I know now.

  1. The way to tell if my egg and toast are done in the morning is to go and check Ty’s diaper. If breakfast is done, he will have just pooped. I think it will be another decade before I know the taste of hot toast again.
  2. The best cure for anxiety (mine, anyway) is work. I’ve banished many a worry through a newly cleaned closet, a load of bills paid, or a freshly mopped floor.
  3. Don’t try to wake my husband up when he’s asleep on the coach to move him to the bedroom. Unless, that is, I want to elevate my blood pressure, burn 45 calories, and waste 20 minutes.
  4. I have the most generous parents and in-laws. I hope we grow up to be like them.
  5. It’s amazing how happy you can be when you never go out, aren’t in style, and go to bed at 9:15.
  6. Living in the same neighborhood as your sisters is just as wonderful as it sounds.
  7. I am so grateful for So Delicious, Oreos, ketchup, Earth Balance butter, Enjoy Life cookies, Chick-fil-a grilled nuggets and fries, Red Robin, and all the other allergy-friendly things that make Sam feel like a normal kid.
  8. Once you get in the habit of pointing out bulldozers, it is very hard to stop.
  9. Baby talk = so adorable. Three-year-old-pretending-he’s-a-baby = really annoying. How is that??
  10. We go through three bunches of bananas in a week. Is that remarkable to anyone else?
  11. Things you do about 12 times a day with little kids: make your bed, sweep the floor, put on everyone’s shoes, cut up food in small pieces, and yell, “Stop that!” in a very abrupt tone of voice.
  12. I am so grateful for, but do not deserve: my house, boys who are happy to see me, a full night of sleep, fresh fruit and vegetables, America,  teaching preschool.
  13. One of the nicest things you can do for someone is make them dinner.
  14. Life is too short to wear uncomfortable underwear.
  15. Life’s also too short to not stop and go to the bathroom on a car trip.
  16. I don’t give enough to those who are really poor.
  17. It would be incredibly difficult to have a child in the hospital long-term.
  18. God is there in the darkest moments.
  19. God brings you out of the darkest moments.
  20. I know that waking up in the middle of the night to help someone who is crying is a wonderful, enjoyable gift.
  21. Heaven is going to be wonderful. I think what I will most enjoy is knowing I don’t have to fear something bad happening.
  22. Peace of mind is priceless.
  23. I really want a little girl.
  24. My new niece is the cutest thing. Ever.
  25. I really hope I get to home-school.
  26. Work is a gift.
  27. God does speak to us.
  28.  I have the best cousins in the whole world, all of them.
  29. The Pioneer Woman is the funniest person I don’t know.
  30. The best part of teaching preschool is Sam saying everyday that he’s thankful for his “Samule” stuffed animal, my nephew Jack slapping his legs in excitement at our science experiment, and Owen scrunching his eyes to say his prayer at the same time that I’m praying.
  31. Nineteen months old is the cutest age. Ty, please always say, “Do again, Mommy,” when I tickle your toes. Always have chunky feet and always carry your Banjo stuffed doggie and “bay” blankee around everywhere. You are just perfect.



Overheard #1: Sam Kills a Spider

Sam: Mom, you know what I did? I did a really big JOB in my nap! I KILLED a spider!!!!

me: oh, really? hmmm, how did you do that?

Sam: Well. I saw a spider, and I didn’t want him to bite me, or my wife, (we do a lot of role-playing that Sam is a “big guy.” Hence the “wife” reference) so I SMUSHED him. You know how I did it? First I smashed it, and then I wiped it off, and then I put soap on it, and then I smashed it all down on the part of the sink that put out all the water. Is that a good way to kill a spider?

me: Yes, I guess it is. Why did you put it in the sink?

Sam: Cause that would suck it all up and make it not ever come up again! Do you think that’s a good way how to kill a spider?

me: You know, I think it’s perfect. But did you say you put soap on the carpet?

Sam: No! Is that the thing we walk on? (Yes.) No!

me: Oh good. Well where did you put the soap?

Sam: On the spider! So that would make the spider gluey so you couldn’t eat it. (?) It was just crawling fast but then I had it!

me: Oh! So the spider was in the sink when you put the soap on it? (Yes.) Why did you use the soap?

Sam: Well, THAT would make the spider’s skin peel off so it would not move again.

me: Wow. Where did you get that idea?

Sam: From my sink!

Of course, from the sink.

me: Well…thank you for killing that spider for me.

Sam: Yes! I killed it BEFORE it went downstairs. Because I didn’t want it to bit you or Ty or my mom or my wife or my little baby or ME! And I killed it so it would not kill anyone else by going (makes “chomp” sound). And I am really happy that I killed that spider.

Brave boy, that Sam. 🙂

Overheard #2: Sam with a Marker

Sam: Mom, can I write on myself like a big guy with this? (holding orange marker)

me:  No. Big guys don’t write on themselves with markers. Little babies do, and then their mommies take away the marker.


Sam: But some big guys do.

me: Like who? I don’t think so.

Sam: But like the big guys who play basketball.

Ahhhh, tattoos…How do I explain a tattoo?

Thank you, “big guy basketball players” for the great example! 🙂

Today In Pictures: A House Where Kids Live

I’ve often thought an amusing photo-journalistic series would be: “Life, With Kids, Unedited.” So here’s my first attempt at photo-journalism. Prepare to be amazed. I think they should make it into a coffee table book. It would be a best seller with young mothers.

So here are my pictures from around the house, today, Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Enjoy, and be inspired. Or something.

sweet potatoes in the window sill...fall artwork?

 sweet potatoes on the windowsill.  fall art display?

old vacuum = Ty’s favorite toy = the neighbors are starting to wonder if I vacuum my yard

this is a stuffed poodle in the lid to my Keurig coffee maker. I have no idea.


“drum that we bang on when bears come”

dirty, muddy, outside truck that “accidentally” entered the kitchen. Look closely – you can see the guilt.

confession: I ignored this penguin for 14 straight hours. I think he is still there.

another outside toy, another face of guilt.

this is the living room at 6:53pm.

this is was Todd’s chapstick. Although, I did jam it back in. Don’t tell him.


Living in this mess stresses Sam out, too.

…but a little music makes us all feel better.











How We Discovered Sam’s Allergies

Whenever I tell people Sam has severe allergies to milk, egg, and peanut, the conversation is always very similar.

Long (awkward? pensive?) pause.

“Ugh, that stinks. How old was he when you found out?”

Literally that is the exact same question every time. I have always wondered if people want to know more but can’t think of a better question, or just don’t know what to say, or what.

I’m assuming today that it is the former, and I thought I’d take the chance to share Sam’s story. It changed me, and 95% of what you’ll find on this blog is because of this story.

The story begins a few days before Sam was born, when I met a prophet in White House Black Market. I really did.

I was at a very upscale mall in our area. I was sitting on a chair, looking very pregnant, waiting for my mom, when a really well-accessorized, flashy-dressed, country-club-looking older woman sat down next to me. Since I was so obviously pregnant, that was a good conversation starter. When are you due? Is it a boy or girl? etc. etc.

“What’s his name going to be?”


This was almost four years ago, but I can still remember the markedly different tone her voice took on, and the way she looked off into the distance as she spoke.

Samuel. Like in the Bible. I’ve always loved that name. Well, may he just be a prophet to his generation. May he speak the truth to all those around him, and tell them how to serve the Lord.

She went on for a while actually, along the same lines. Then my mom returned, and I didn’t know what to say to the prophet with gold and diamonds everywhere. We left.

It was the oddest thing.

I think it’s funny how you pray differently for your children. For Ty, I always pray for his wife. I pray that God would protect him when he’s a teenager. I don’t know why.

But for Sam, her words always ringing in my head, I always pray that he would speak the truth to those around him, that God would use him to tell others how great He is, that he would be a light in his generation.

What in the world does this have to do with milk, egg, and peanut allergies, you’re wondering?

From the beginning, I knew two things. One, he was special, and two, there was something wrong with him.

Even as an anxious, inexperienced new mom, I knew very early there was something wrong. I still remember vividly the first time that Sam screamed. Not cried, screamed. I remember locking eyes with Todd, terror and helplessness clouding our faces. How could we have known that the cheese and yogurt I was eating translated via breast milk to  poison for his poor little tummy?

And then there was the time I fed him a bottle of milk-based formula at church. He was about a month old. On the way home, I heard him throw up. Not only was the whole carseat soaked, but he was lethargic, drowsy, and out of it. I wanted to call 911 when I got to my mom’s, and everyone thought I was crazy. But I knew something wasn’t right.

Eventually, though, it was my mom who noticed it.

Sam wouldn’t look at her.

It might be nothing. We should probably just “get it checked.” But I knew she was right. The moments when the doctor couldn’t get Sam to look at her were some of the most awful, embarrassing, and scary of my life.

What was wrong with him? He cried. He was unsettled. He was withdrawn. He wouldn’t smile at you. He was scared and gittery. What kind of a baby was this?

You will never find “autism-like symptoms” on a checklist for allergies. It won’t say “won’t eat,” or “doesn’t like people.”

But what I want to shout from the rooftops is:

  • follow your gut – there’s something to the “mothering instinct” thing
  • food issues don’t only cause “digestive” symptoms
  • the best thing you can do is pray for wisdom

That last one isn’t just a token, “Christian-ese” language I felt like I had to say.

For us, it was the answer.

Right in the midst of it all – first-time parents trying to calm, engage, and feed a troubled baby, people all over praying for the little guy – we discovered something silly: milk made a rash on Sam’s cheek.

Within a week of a milk-free diet, he was a different baby.

It would be nice if this were the beautiful end of the story. It sort of felt like it. A few months later we learned that his milk allergies were very high, and he also had egg and peanut. And the truth is, raising a child with severe food allergies and asthma often feels like you are living on a cliff. I am such a different person than I was three years, five months, and eighteen days ago, when Sam was born.

  • I worry more.
  • I make 19,651 delicious meals without a trace of milk, egg, or dairy.
  • I sympathize with moms raising autistic kids or colicky babies.
  • I know, I know, I know that God answers prayers.
  • I feel that I have a porcelain-globe-of-a-child. Beautiful, fragile, a gift.

Whenever I am knee-deep in an asthma attack, epi-pen moment, or just worried about Sam, I wonder why in the world God gave a girl like me a porcelain-globe-child to worry about. But in a million more ways, I think it’s perfect. I’m a good mom for him. We’re good for each other. 🙂 (*Mental note: print this out and put in the refrigerator, when you need to read it in two days. 🙂 )

Happy Hour

I think it’s funny that to some people, 5:00 pm. is “happy hour.” Actually, is it five? Is it six? I don’t even know.

Because here, there are a lot of words I might use to describe the hours of 5:00-6:30. “Happy” does not really come to mind. 🙂

Today I was flying solo for the nighttime routine. It’s a good thing I have a good sense of humor, because otherwise I might have been gritting my teeth, yelling at my children, and sweating profusely from stress and frenzy. (Ahem.)

In a span of 30 minutes, the following things had taken place:

  • Sam and Ty both climbed into the pack-n-play to have a wrestling match. Actually, that is not why Ty climbed into the pack-n-play. Which explains the screaming, clawing, crying, and whining.
  • Sam had a meltdown because Ty was in the pack-n-play.
  • Ty pooped.
  • Sam pooped.
  • Sam wiped his bottom with his hands. (Don’t ask.)
  • Sam had a meltdown because “his legs hurt to move.”
  • Sam had a meltdown because Ty dumped out some letters.
  • Ty ate some Vicks Vapor Rub.
  • We went upstairs.
  • Ty fell down the stairs. Ty cried.
  • Sam “fell” down the stairs. Sam “cried.”
  • Ty dumped out 150 plastic animals.
  • Sam dumped out 26 magnetic letters.
  • Ty and Sam had a wrestling match in their indoor tent. Ty started crying. Sam started crying.
  • We went downstairs.
  • Ty threw a tantrum because I wiped his face off.
  • Sam had a meltdown because “he wasn’t tired.”
  • Ty brushed his teeth with my toothbrush.
  • Ty took Sam’s “hokie bird.” Sam grabbed it back. They both cried.
  • Sam did a “cool move” off the bed which involved landing knees-first, and crying hysterically in pain from the impact. (We won’t try that again.)
  • We climbed the stairs for bed. Both boys were crying. Neither knew why. One protested vehemently that he wasn’t tired, and demanded to play a game.
  • Sam, Ty, and I rocked on the rocking chair. Sam kept kicking me. Ty wanted to get down.
  • We went to bed.

I will finish by saying that the clock may or may not have read “6:27” when the boys were in their beds, which I would have felt bad about, but at least one of them was sleeping eight minutes later. I guess the happy hour wears on all of us! 🙂


What’s happening in sports – Guest Post from the Banshee!

There are many ways my husband amazes me. It is amazing how much toilet paper we now consume in our household. It is amazing that he can fix anything, and what a mess he can make doing it. It is amazing that he never complains, and always forgives.

And there’s sports. Whenever I overhear Todd and other guys start talking about sports, I think, Oh, poor Todd. We don’t have cable. He never watches sports. We don’t get the paper. He’s not going to know what they’re talking about.

And then…mystery of all mysteries, how in the world does he always know which college football team is “going to be solid,” and what A-Rod is doing, and which golfer is leading, and about that team that was “robbed,” and on and on?

Truly, remarkable.

Every once in a while, when I get a crazy urge to be a really good wife, I buy beer. I make Todd an egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast. And, I make a half-effort to talk sports. This is thoroughly amusing to Todd, who always looks at me like I am that old lady with a deep man voice coming out of her on that identify theft commercial. It just doesn’t fit. But I know he appreciates it.

So ladies, if you happen to get that urge this weekend to be an extra good wife, here are my tips. Put butter on the toast. Even better, make it a bagel. If you have bacon, put it on top of the egg and cheese, and he will melt in your arms. Just go ahead and get whatever drink he likes. And, read this post by my good friend (and cousin) Rebecca at Banshee Sports. This is what people who know sports are talking about. Rebecca has a way of making (even) sports sound interesting. I challenge you to memorize at least one sentence, and repeat it back to your hubby tomorrow over dinner. Just see what happens. Thanks, Rebecca! And check out Rebecca’s blog and see what you think! Pass it on to your sports fans! This is my favorite recent article from her.

From the Banshee:

1. A-Rod.  A-Rod is perhaps the hottest topic in all of sports right now.  He is the highest paid player in all of baseball and plays for the highest profile franchise in all of sports.  And his is putting up historically bad numbers in the 2012 playoffs.  A-Rod has gone 3 for 23 with 12 strikeouts and no RBI’s through the first 7 games of the Yankees post season.  He has been pinch hit for twice in key situations and benched altogether for Game 5 of the ALDS.  To be fair, A-Rod isn’t the only Yankee struggling.  The numbers are ugly for Cano, Swisher, Granderson and Chavez.  But A-Rod is a special lightening rod because he was an admitted steroids user.  And he has an enormous contract that extends for another 5 years.  It seems clear that his skills have significantly diminished in the post-steroids era, and yet the salary will remain as a chain around the Yankees neck for years to come.

 2. Concussions.  Concussions have been a hot topic for over a year now.  Primarily, the focus has been on football.  Makes sense.  Football is the most violent of the high-profile sports in our country.  The NFL is now facing class action lawsuits from former players who claim to have suffered significant brain injuries that affected them well into later life.  The NFL has taken steps to cut down on brain injuries moving forward.  Over the last year, the NFL has been fining defensive players almost every week for hits that target the head.  Fines are often handed out even if no penalty was called on the field.  Current defensive players have lambasted the commissioner’s office for being draconian and heavy-handed … even as their predecessors are seeking to win lawsuits based on the premise that the NFL turned a blind eye to head trauma for years.  The Saints bounty situation is another example.  The media has roundly criticized the NFL for heavy sanctions against Saints players and coaches who participated in a bounty program in the past few years.  Again, these are the same players and media who support the older generation in their lawsuit against the NFL for past behavior.  I do not know enough about the science of concussions to weigh in solidly on one side or another.  I would submit that no one really does at this point because it is a young science.  But, I would say that the media and players cannot have it both ways.  Especially the media.  If the NFL is going overboard with fines and the Saints bounty penalties, then this was the outcome that the media created with their blind support of the former players who are suing.
3.  Penn State Football.  I know I’m a bit of a homer on this one, but this is a legitimately big story in the sports world and will continue to be one for quite some time.  I’m not going to go into the back story of what I think the evidence actually was against Joe Paterno.  I am not going to comment here on whether I think the sanctions handed down by the NCAA were justified or appropriate under their own bylaws.  I’m going to start with this summer.  The NCAA decided not to make Penn State end it’s football program for the next four years.  Nonetheless, the NCAA handed down the most significant punishment that it had ever handed out to anyone since it gave SMU the death penalty in the 80’s.  Penn State was banned from the Big 10 championship for 4 years.  Penn State was banned from any bowl game for 4 years.  Penn State’s scholarships were cut down drastically.  Perhaps the most unusual part of the sanctions was that Penn State players were allowed to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year (the normal deterrent for transfers).  The immediate transfer penalty lasts until the end of next summer.  In the wake of the sanctions, PSU’s top RB, top WR and kicker/punter (same guy) all transferred to top 10 programs.  A few others transferred as well.  Even those tranfers hurt PSU’s depth.  And with all those departures, ESPN and most of the rest of the media declared PSU football as dead.  Every story that came out from July until last week was focused on someone leaving or some attendance issue or something else negative.  Penn State promptly lost their first two games.  Then, all of a sudden, they stormed back for four straight wins heading into their bye week last week.  This story is not about child abuse.  And it’s not simply about football.  It’s about loyalty.  The boys who stayed and pledged a commitment to this school were not part of anything that Jerry Sandusky did.  In fact, they were about 12 years old when all that happened.  But, several of them had fathers and other family members who wore the blue and white.  Family members who had nothing to do with child abuse or cover-ups.  Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich are two main figures.  Then there is Coach Bill O’Brien.  Coach O’Brien has won over even the most loyal JoePa followers.  He has modernized the program with opening up the offense and opening up the access to the press.  And, the players are allowed to let their locks spill out of the backs of their helmets.  Oh yeah, and there are now names on the back of the iconic, plain jerseys.  But, the new look Lions still do not celebrate excessively or taunt opponents.  They still go to class and graduate.  In other words, O’Brien’s team still embodies the values that PSU fans have cherished for years.  Every time O’Brien opens his mouth, alumni and fans fall more and more in love with this man.  And the players who have stayed adore the man.  It’s hard to predict how this season will turn out or how the next few years will pan out.  But, the Nittany Lions have shown a lot of pride in the face of more adversity and more mudslinging that any team has ever faced before.  No matter what you think of the Joe Paterno era or the governing administration 10 years ago, this group of loyal young men and the man who leads them now is a feel good story that can be embraced by anyone.