Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fruit – It’s what’s for dinner!

I have shared this strategy with quite a few people and a number of times those same people have come back to me to tell me how much they appreciated the idea. So, it must be blog worthy. Right?

Our kids are now 3 ½ and 5 ½. So we have now twice been through the transition where your infant/young toddler goes from eating everything you offer them to eating a diet of 5-6 items. It is incredibly frustrating and the more you try to force and fight your kid to eat, the more they will refuse.

At least this is the case when you have children of the stubborn variety. I hear tales of kids who always eat everything that they are offered and regularly try new foods…but I believe that they are either myths or outliers.

You can’t control what a toddler eats. You can offer, you can make mealtime pleasant, you can involve them in shopping, gardening and cooking. But you can’t make a toddler or pre-schooler eat. Not going to happen.

(Caveat – we know families that have certain rules about trying a bite of everything or finishing certain things before getting seconds, etc. That’s fabulous if it works for your family and we’ll try it again when our kids are older. Rules like that result in huge tantrums and aren’t a good fit for our family right now.)

One book that I read had a lot of good suggestions concerning meals and young kids. One was to offer bread at every meal. This way if your child liked nothing else that you cooked, you wouldn’t feel the need to be a short order cook and cater to their whims. They could just have bread for dinner. We also had a rule for a while that if the kids tried a little of everything (or most things) and didn’t like them, they could have yogurt. Similar to the bread, it was zero effort for me.

Eventually, I came around to the idea of serving fruit with dinner every night. Both kids like fruit. They may occasionally decide that they don’t like a particular fruit on a particular day (that happens with everything), but if they are hungry, they will eat fruit. So I know that at least one item in the meal will be eaten and I stop worrying about what else they do or don’t eat.

And bonus, the fruit is good for the adults, too. We don’t always do a great job eating all of the fruits and veggies that we should, so this makes it easy. Also, it helps satisfy us at the end of the meal with something sweet, so sometimes we are less inclined to have dessert.

Here is the rotation of fruit that I serve with dinner:
Apples (lots and lots of apples)
Oranges – Navel or Clementine
Grapes – all colors
When we run low on fresh fruit or I want to sneak some spinach into their diet, we mix things up with a fruit smoothie.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Portable Homemade Breakfast

I eat breakfast at my desk each day at work. This is mostly because I am making lunches while the kids are eating their breakfast and also because I’m tired in the morning at work. I also prefer to eat my breakfast slowly, so I would have to get up notably earlier to eat my breakfast at the pace I prefer.

I have always found it a little tricky to bring a well-balanced breakfast to work. When I worked downtown, it was relatively easy to buy breakfast. But that isn’t a convenient option in my new location without spending lots of time and money at the Starbucks drive-thru.

For a few weeks I was bringing oatmeal cups or oatmeal packets and bowls to work. This was a good food solution, but I was either throwing away a lot of containers or eating oatmeal with a lot of added sugar. I remembered that I had seen references online to crockpot oatmeal, and I began to wonder if I could make a better breakfast…
We are on week three of the experiment and it seems to be going well. My first batch didn’t have enough flavor, but this week’s batch is basically perfect as a base recipe that I can add things to as I want. Below is my recipe for a week’s worth of oatmeal. I toss everything in sometime on Sunday morning/afternoon and later that day I scoop it out into 5 or 6 servings for the week.

Crockpot Oatmeal
1 ¼ cup Steel Cut Oats
1 cup milk
4 cups water
4 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter or sunbutter
4 tsp honey
3 apples, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks

Put all ingredients in crockpot and stir together. Put crockpot on high for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Once oatmeal is simmering, put crockpot on low and stir occasionally. You just need to stir often enough that the oats don’t stick to the bottom of the crockpot and so the peanut butter mixes well.

In 2-3 hours your kitchen should smell great. Turn off crockpot. Once mixture is warm, put in reusable containers and refrigerate. When ready to eat, microwave for 1-2 minutes. Add water to get the oatmeal consistency that you like and then heat for an additional 60-90 seconds.

In future batches I plan to try adding raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, pears or maybe even a little pumpkin in place of the apples.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lifestyle Change

Right now, I'm not choosing to make time for exercise.

I know, I know.

Really, I do. I know all of the reasons that exercise is good for me and how good it makes me feel. But for now I have to settle for the occasional walk or hike and the exercise associated with doing laundry or straightening the house. (Seriously, I have chore days where I barely sit down all day, so it’s not like I’m completely sedentary.)

The trade off at the moment is that I’m spending a lot of time focusing on what I’m eating. R and I are using the Livestrong app on our phones to keep our eating in check. It has reminded me that I don’t need to eat until I’m completely stuffed. I've stopped going for seconds at dinner, I'm no longer mindlessly snacking while I am cooking or cleaning in the kitchen and I am eating less crap. Mostly less stuff that is filled with sugar.

I am not giving up entire categories of food. I am not giving up chocolate. I am working to create a meal “plan” that I can live with long term because the weight is coming off very slowly. Which, honestly is good. These changes are sustainable for the next 6-9 months to get to my goal. (I’ve lost about 7 pounds in 2 months.) And once I get to my goal, I hope it won’t be hard to maintain my new weight since I have established a life strategy and not used a fad diet.

My favorite thing about the livestrong app is the reminder that you start fresh every day. Even if I go way over my goal one day…<>…the next day I start from scratch. It is a wonderful reminder that one day of extra calories does not *ruin* my efforts. It is just one day.

The reason that this is a trade-off for exercise is that I am spending more time planning around food. Meal planning, preparing and regularly shopping to have healthy foods available for all of us to eat. I really do enjoy vegetables a lot, but they generally take a little more forethought than fruit. If I plan, I can have them available so that I munch on red peppers and carrots instead of grabbing chips or bread while I make dinner.

I have slowly been building up my bank of recipes and trying to focus on meals that have more vegetables. Some nights I am making a batch of stir-fry veggies for me, a meat dish for R and a noodle side for the kids. They all go together as a meal, but each component has a certain family member in mind. Other nights I can make one dish or two that makes us all happy. Rare, but it happens.

All of this is a way of introducing a few posts that I have in mind about food. I just wanted to set the stage for what is to come.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I am not sure what is more sad…the fact that I have only posted once this year. Or the fact that I posted in a timely fashion about Heather’s birthday and not about Todd's.


So let’s bring the number of posts for the year up to two by talking about our little man who is now three.

Three?! Yes, three!


I am an only child. There are many things about the sibling relationship that I struggle with or that just plain don’t make sense to me. I have had fights with my friends. But I don’t think I’ve ever had a relationship where I can be happily playing with another person for half an hour, fighting with them for 5-10 minutes and then happily playing with again as if the fight never happened. Sure, part of this is the relatively short “memory” of pre-schoolers and the quick forgiveness that goes along with that. But I still don’t really get it. I love watching them when they are getting along, but it drives me batty when they are clearly pushing each other’s buttons on purpose.

There are pros and cons of being a second child.

R and I are more relaxed. We generally feel like we know what we’re doing. We weren’t freaked out by bringing a baby home from the hospital, aren’t upset by fevers or tantrums, don’t flinch at the first sounds of unhappiness…that isn’t to say that nothing surprises us. They are clear differences between our two kids and Todd has acted in ways that are different from Heather (tricks that worked on her would never work on him and
vice-versa), but we mostly feel like we have the majors bases covered and it just takes a little experimentation to find the best tricks to handle whatever Todd throws at us.

The downsides of being a second child are probably pretty obvious and predictable. It wouldn’t take long to find a lot more posts on this blog about Heather than Todd, and I would venture that blogging has slowed down in general since Todd was born. Heather will continue to do all of the “firsts” first, and at least in our mind all of Todd’s “firsts” are compared to Heather’s.

(I’m not talking about competitive comparisons, just “isn’t that interesting” comparisons.)

And of course, there are all the things that Todd will have to watch Heather do first and wait for his turn. They are close enough in age that some things that we have put off for Heather (…cough…swim lessons…cough…) will turn into things that they can both do together, but there are lots and lots of milestones that Heather will naturally get to do first.


Three doesn’t seem as monumental as it did the first time.

Watching Todd turn into a 3-year old has reminded me that there is a lot of Heather’s threes that I have blocked out of my memory. Todd starting acting like a 3-year old a couple of months before his birthday and…whew…did I forget how mentally exhausting it can be! Even my laid back boy can now lose his cool when things don’t go

He can be intensely stubborn and refuses to move onto something other than getting what he wanted. Other times the pronouncement that there is a worm in the backyard or the opportunity to help mommy feed the cats will snap him out of his funk quickly.


Todd is a charming, sweet, and very lovable little boy. He screams and shouts with delight, he enthusiastically greets the people that he loves and once he has warmed up to you, he will tell you anything about himself or our family. Todd loves babies and loves animals. He will chat and coo to every baby we see, and he will notice immediately if there is a baby in need of attention. He loves visiting our kitties and helping to feed them. He would sit and pet them or play with them all day if they would let him. He has a great time at the zoo and loves playing with the doggies at Grandma Sharon’s house.

Todd definitely has a reserved streak when it comes to new people and new situations. There is a warm-up period required often to get acclimated to “new” people. And when I say new, that even applies to people that we know but haven’t seen in a while. Having Heather around helps him acclimate faster, but it can still take 20-30 minutes for him to adjust. He can be so clingy during these adjustment periods that it feels like he wants to climb back in the womb.*

Todd loves to play outside, to play in water and sand, and to play with any sort of sports equipment. If it involves a ball or a bat, he is happy to join in the game. He even learned to throw a Frisbee this past weekend with his Aunt Tara. When we play inside, he can entertain himself with play-doh or a puzzle or a pile of cars, but it seems like his independent play lasts the longest in sand and water. When we spent time at the beach while we were camping, there were long stretches that he didn’t need to interact with anyone else – he was totally content. Overall, Todd plays well with his sister and with his friends at school, both the girls and boys.

Todd will draw and color, but while we wait at a restaurant he would choose to play a game on an iPhone over crayons every time. He will also watch anything on a screen. Look back at the lists I've posted about the things that Heather watches and the same is true for Todd. We've recently added Diego, Dora, My Little Pony and Babar to the list.

It feels like Todd is very quickly leaving all of the "toddler" behind and moving ahead to little boy status. We saw a toddler this weekend and it is quite amazing to realize how much he has grown and changed in 18 months. We don't even blink when he speaks in long sentences and paragraphs and it seems that each day we discover something else that he can do for himself without help.

*Description stolen from Michelle at Burgh Baby

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Sometimes it is daunting to try to capture a moment in time in a blog post. It is easier when I am remembering an anecdote or talking about a specific topic. But I find it almost overwhelming to summarize an age or summarize what my kids are like “right now”. I do it, because I know it is something that my family and I will value in the future.

Heather is five. Five?!

I am not a mother who begrudges her children for growing. They were adorable as babies, but I don’t find babies to be easy and I don’t miss the “why are they crying” guessing game. I love having kids that I can have a conversation with and so far each age has been better than the last, so I am happy for them both to keep getting bigger.

My exclamation is more about excitement and amazement than sadness. I remember the day Heather was born so clearly, it is hard to believe that it was 5 years ago. And I am so thrilled to see her developing into a little person. All of the “older toddler” is gone. I remember that around this time last year a friend of mine with a daughter about the same age was considering the possibility of putting her daughter in Kindergarten a year early. At the time, the thought of Heather being emotionally mature enough to go to Kindergarten seemed SO far away. And now, even though there are still emotional outbursts and difficult moments, they are somehow less out of control than they were last year and imagining her going to Kindergarten this fall seems totally right.

Heather still seems to have a lot in common with the boys in her class – talking about them frequently and enjoying Star Wars, Super Heroes and Cars. But in the past 6 months there has also been a suddenly awakened interest in princesses, Barbies, ballet and wearing dresses. If your goal is to pinpoint girls as being tomboys or girly-girls, Heather will give you a run for your money. Which is fine by me. I grew up with Barbies and matchbox cars, too.

Heather started taking dance class and loves it. She has also found a passion in drawing and doing puzzles. Within the past few months, she is drawing a ton and can be easily occupied with a pad of paper and markers while I make dinner. The only “downside” to all of the drawing is trying to figure out how to manage all of the results of her artistic efforts. ;-)

More & more she can be depended on to do little things to help out around the house (although toy clean-up still remains an elusive issue we need to solve as a family). Heather is a happy, helpful and cheerful girl who enjoys her friends as well as her quiet playtime. On the playground, she is a good mixture of careful and carefree - not taking unreasonable risks while also not being afraid to try something new.

I went back and read what I wrote last year. Four

Quite a lot of it still applies. There are more movies on the list, including several Star Wars episodes (we started with Episode 4, of course) and The Lion King, as well as recent runs of Shaun the Sheep and Martha Speaks for our morning TV.

In general, I will say that four was an awesome age and I have high expectations for the year to come!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Plans for 2012...

In a number of different ways, 2011 was a very disorganized year. It seemed that each time I began to eek out a “new normal”, something else out of my control would change and upset whatever balance I had found.

I keep thinking to myself “Goodbye 2011! Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on your way out and good riddance! Hellooooooo 2012!”

2011 certainly wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of fun times, Heather has shown us that age four is awesome in many ways, Todd has exploded onto the scene with his personality & charm and I am employed full-time again. As I’ve said in the past, we have a lot to be thankful for. Yet 2011 was a hard year in many ways, so it is somewhat gratifying to see it in the rear view mirror and prepare for a “fresh start”.

Out of all of the challenges of 2011, I find myself reconsidering my priorities and refocusing on the things I really want. Thinking about how I spend my time, what I would rather spend less time on and what things make me happy. I can’t say that I have figured it all out yet. It is still a work in progress, of course, but I feel like I am getting a handle on some of the changes I want to make.

I started to write about these priorities and realized that the ideas and their place in line are still forming in my head. So hopefully I will be back soon with more concrete thoughts about changes I want to work toward next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The holidays are just adding another layer of crazy to a 10 layer crazy salad.

I need to write about it, but I’m not complaining. I know how incredibly lucky we are. I’m happy that we have two smart kids who know what they want and want to do everything themselves. (A hard job now, but will make them awesome adults someday.) I’m thrilled that one of my “problems” is adjusting to my new job and our new everyday life. I’m thankful that we’re healthy, have a roof over our head, have the food and clothes that we need, and that we can afford to get the kids just what they want for Christmas. I’m thankful for a new laptop, the ability to continue teaching at the yarn shop and the possibilities for having knit and crochet designs published in 2012. I’m thankful for my dishwasher, washing machine and dryer for making my tasks easier, even if they aren’t smart enough to fill and empty themselves.

Most of the things on my to do list are not hard, they just take time. And I feel like I am too often sacrificing sleep for the things on the list. Which I know is just as bad, if not worse, than having a messy house.

Quite frankly, a number of things are on that list now so that I can ENJOY and RELAX during my two days off at home for the holidays. On Christmas and the day after I just want to enjoy time with family and enjoy time in the house I love, without feeling like I should take a few minutes to vacuum or go through a pile. And let’s face it, if I am going to do any organizing or cleaning during those two days, my efforts should be focused on helping the kids find places to store their new toys!

I also can’t wait to give our family members this year’s pictures of the kids and to send out what I’m sure will be an adorable card using said pictures. But I still need to get through the agonizingly difficult process of picking the handful of pictures to use from the big stack that she gave us. I am thankful to know someone so talented, but my job would be a lot easier if there weren’t so many great images to choose from! (I’ll show you some once presents have been given.)

Now that I’m employed, the biggest problem we have is a cat issue. It has changed and grown over time, and I have reached a point that I just need it to be fixed…and we found someone to help us and give us a list of things to do to fix it. Which will be fabulous in the long run, but in the short term just adds another layer of items to the task list. I really wish we would have known about this person years ago…but all we can do now is move forward and figure out the right strategy for this point in time. I think it might be less complicated if we had more rooms in our house with doors. :-)