Saturday, April 25, 2015

Winning the Food War with My Picky Eater

My eldest son at the age of three however once sat at the dinner table for three hours because he wouldn’t try his vegetable. Was I attempting to serve him rhubarb? Kale? Eggplant?

Nope. Corn. It was corn. Normal, yellow corn.

Flabbergasted by the absurdity of this standoff, I dismissed him. I dismissed him just before I had a Donald-Duck moment, worthy of his future blog called, “My Mom Was a Crazy B! ^(# and I Have the Emotional Scarring to Prove it!”

My son is a picky eater--of Biblical proportions. He had no interest in new foods, no matter what they were. My husband and I forced his mouth open to shovel in his first bite of vanilla ice cream. I remember the look of incredulity on my sister-in-law’s face when she gave him a donut hole, and he refused to try it.

I knew, of course, he would never eat it. It was not on the list. The list were the seven foods he would eat:
  • Chicken Nuggets (shaped like Dinosaurs)
  • Apple Sauce
  • Grapes
  • Cheese Pizza
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Cheerios
Um…I guess there were only six. Unless milk counts as “food.”

He was my firstborn, however, so I thought it was my job to feed him food he would eat. This nonsense meant mealtimes resembled a diner where I was the short order cook. I also brought food when we went out to eat or to other people’s houses. My family lives a few states away, so we would stop to stock up at the store on the way home from the airport. I was a certifiable helicopter mom (also of Biblical proportions).

Then, his sister started eating baby food, and his world would never be the same.

My mom watched the kids for me. When we returned, my mom told me my baby wouldn’t eat baby food.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “She loves her baby food.”

“She doesn’t eat it. You’ll see,” she said.

I didn’t believe her. So when we sat down to eat dinner of curried chicken for us, dinosaur chicken nuggets for my eldest, and rice cereal mixed with carrots for her, I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

When I presented the first spoonful, she closed her mouth and turned her head. I lowered the spoon and she turned back to me. I lifted the spoon again; she turned away again. Then, she looked at my plate with a ferocity of purpose that made it clear cereal and carrots were not going to cut it.

Dubiously, I shredded the chicken into an easy-to-eat bite (my kids had teeth super early) and offered it to her. She practically tipped her high chair forward to get it.

Then I tried carrots again. No go. Curry chicken? Yes, please.

Once she ate our dinner, baby food was out. More importantly, my short-order cooking days were, too. When I saw her gobble our food, it dawned on me all children could eat what we eat. 

Even picky, first-born children.

And so began a food battle, which was, you guessed it, of Biblical proportions. I don’t know where he gets it, honestly…

The key to winning the food battle is simple: never yield. Buddy Hackett said, “At my house the menu had two options, Take it or leave it.” From the curry chicken epiphany on, I made one dinner. It was the only choice. My kids could eat it or they could go to bed hungry. Period. No milk. No cereal. Nothing (and Cue the outraged dissenter comments now…).

We also instated the “No Thank You” bite. This means to be excused, children must try at least one bite of everything on their plate. While they will not be required to finish said food, trying it is not optional. However, if they don’t eat it, no dessert.

I lost the aforementioned corn battle. Issuing a stupid ultimatum, I told him to sit there until he tried it. He’s a pretty stubborn kid, so that was a rookie move on my part. Now, I put a time limit on the standoff. Otherwise, dinner can stretch into an hour-long cacophony of crying and cajoling, which doesn’t do anything but make me play jump rope with my last nerve.

Corn battle notwithstanding, I won a lot more of the food battles than I lost.--once they knew I meant business. Unfortunately, the food war with my picky, picky child was an arduous test of wills. I admire his tenacity and determination (he gets that from me.) The obstinacy, however, is clearly his father’s side.

My days as a short order cook are done. It is not my job to get my children to eat. It is my job to give my children opportunities to eat. At that point I follow Mrs. Hackett’s model: they can take it, or leave it.

He’s nine now and still particular. He still orders his burgers plain (yep, meat and bun—tasty!), but it’s a burger so I could give a hoot. He’s also loyal to one flavor of ice cream, choosing to go without, when the flavor isn’t available. However, he tries everything now, no battle necessary.

The other day, he tried one of his sister’s California rolls. He didn’t like it, but that isn’t the point. He tried it so he KNOWS he doesn’t like it.

Three hours is a long time to sit. I hate sitting that long for a flight, a long car trip or a waiting room of ANY kind. The only time I eagerly plant my keister for that amount of time involves hobbits, wizards, or the plantation at Tara. My son will likely sit there next to me.

You know what he’s eating? A bowl of frozen corn.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Obama Can't Get Me Sick Days

I woke up sick today. I thought about calling in sick and then I remembered: I don’t get sick days.
My employers aren’t stingy or anything. It’s not like my management team is trying to make my life miserable. In fact, my bosses love my work. They might even think the sun and moon rise because of the work I do on their behalf…even if they never say it.
They love the decisions I make unless they disagree with me. Although I must admit I hear about those decisions in raised voices and demonstrative behavior when this happens, so I always know where I stand. Frankly, I know they love me, even when we disagree on my choices.
However, they can be unreasonable, and when it comes to sick days, downright despotic. My excuses fall on deaf ears when they do filter through their narcissistic haze. Blinking eyes and uncomprehending stares barely register my confession that I am feeling a bit under the weather, so I won’t be reporting to work.
Despite what you must think reading this, they aren’t evil bosses. They have always made it a big point to celebrate my work with personal, handwritten notes. More than once, I have received one-of-a-kind works of art as a result of my efforts. They have been known to light up when I arrive at work or even just enter a room. My bosses usually stop what they are doing and bestow upon me a warm and enthusiastic greeting. I have no doubt that I am a valued member of the team.
They just don’t “do” sick days.
Obama’s Healthy Families Act isn’t going to help me either. I am one of the 39% of American workers who have no paid sick leave. I might have earned several sick days by now according to the parameters of his act, (21 in fact) but I still don’t have any. I was hoping maybe the local option might trickle down to my unenlightened employers, but it’s unlikely. Obama’s State of the Union Address and most media outlets are just something with which they can’t be bothered. They are deliberately ignorant of world events. Truthfully, I prefer that ignorance.
Not having sick days doesn’t exactly make me want to quit; after all, I need to do my job. It’s not like anyone else is doing it. Besides, there are many times I love my job. If I’m honest, I love my bosses for all their faults and shortcomings. Maybe even because of those shortcomings.
No education is required for my position, although it is helpful. I do have my degree, by the way if a Theatre degree counts that is. Honestly, sometimes it seems like all it takes is a little (or a lot) of Chardonnay and a pulse to qualify for my position. Clearly, it didn’t require an impenetrable immune system.
It is a job I always thought I would want, and although I don’t always feel that way, I do want my job. I signed up for it, warts and all. I sometimes wonder had I been acquainted with those warts if I would have been so delighted when I heard I got the job…but that’s beside the point. I am doing what I always knew I wanted to do, ever since I was a little girl. Unlike that little girl, I understand that there are pros and cons to everything, including my current profession, and we just have to accept that and save the grumbling for our blogs.
So even though I feel like I was hit by a truck, I rolled out of bed and reported to duty--although not before gulping down a couple of over-the-counter cold pills. After all, my job is not going to do itself.
As I walked into my office already a buzz with activity, my bosses, all three of them, looked up at me and said, “Mom? What’s for breakfast?”
I love my bosses. And it’s a good thing they like cereal.
This Post originally appeared on LinkedIn. 

5 Lessons I Should Learn from My 7-Year-Old

I am the mom, so honestly I should be the one teaching my daughter things. And I do. Like when I taught her to look both ways before she crosses the street, to keep her feet off the table when we are eating, or to spray the perfume in the air and walk through it. However, there are a few things I could learn from her. A few of them make me proud…and a couple that completely bewilder me.

Here are 5 things I could learn from my seven-year-old daughter.

Never wear anything that’s uncomfortable.

My daughter puts together ensembles that run the gamut from classy to clown suit on any given morning. The other day her sartorial statement included a sundress and earmuffs. While it may seem that she lacks a discerning eye and taste by my description, I can assure you this is not the case; she has exacting standards. My daughter will not wear anything that is itchy/tight/hot/painful. I bought her a super cute T-shirt with a sparkly purse on the front of it a couple of years ago. I knew she would like it because it featured two of her favorite things: sequins and accessories (a double whammy in that it was a sequined accessory!). She was delighted when she saw it, but her delight devolved to disdain when she wore it. Apparently the applique was itchy, so the shirt was a no-go. As a person who has worn clothes that itch, are too tight, and that caused numbness or bleeding, this is a lesson I should heed.

Poop anywhere.

It doesn’t matter if we are in a port-o-potty at a parade route or a church bathroom in a wine country town; if my daughter has to go, she goes. Talk to her during? No problem. Hear an impatient fellow-patron knocking on the door? Sure. Wrong time of day? What’s that? None of these are an impediment to her activity. I think this might be her superpower.
You can never have too many best friends.

I grew up with a definite sense that a best friend was an item one had in the singular. You might have a lot of good friends, but there was only one best friend. My daughter does not share my view on this issue. If you ask her who her best friend is these days, you will invariably get a list, maybe even with as many as six names on it. In some ways, this is youth. However, I also think this is indicative of a disregard for labels—at least as far as friendship is concerned.

Fairies are real.

A couple of years ago when she was in Kindergarten, I got a couple of emails from some perturbed parents. Apparently, my daughter had convinced all six of her best friends that fairies were real. She explained how you write them a note and hide it in the backyard, and then the next day you went out to see what they left for you. Needless to say, I deeply regretted the library book choice that led to this activity.

When I was introduced to this concept, I was a little grouchy, too, so I could understand the other parents’ ire. Luckily for me, she forgot about it after a few days—which was great because I heard the fairy was running out of pink Post-it notes she was answering her with…

Even Santa can have a bad day.

Early in the season, my daughter wrote a letter to Santa with what she expected on Christmas morning. Her list was challenging, to say the least. It included an iPhone 6 and an iPad mini (neither of which she had a remote chance of getting) and my personal favorite reach, a puppy. I told her Santa wasn’t going to bring her any of these things but she just sighed and looked at me like I was an idiot as she explained, “Mom! I just put those there so he would get me what I really want.” Diabolical!

Now that I had been set straight, we mailed the letter to the North Pole (“Santa doesn’t need a zip code. He’s too famous.”). Surprisingly, we got a letter back. Unfortunately, Santa told her in it she had been “a very good boy this year. “
Good lord, Santa! Lay off the eggnog, you geriatric genius.

Not sure how to cover the blunder, I hesitated, my mind preoccupied with composing the exact words I wanted to use on the pissy phone call to Santa’s answering service. My daughter on the other hand was neither hesitant nor pissy. She folded the letter up and set it down on the table before she said, “I guess Santa was having a bad day.” Crisis averted.

I suppose it doesn’t matter what the traditional role of mom and daughter is. If I can teach her things, why couldn’t she teach some things to me? Frankly, she is more mature than me in a few areas anyway. I can only hope one day when I grow up, I will be as wise as my seven-year-old.

Have you learned any lessons from your kids? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Post originally published on Moms Magazine.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Target and I Broke Up…and I Don’t Miss it.

I was this woman:

I loved Target. I darkened their door several times a week when I lived equidistant between two of their stores. Where else could you buy a leotard for your preschooler’s dance class, an appropriately priced present for an impending birthday party, and a package of blueberries for $3.99 all in the same place?

(Okay, a couple of places now that I think about it…but that isn’t my point!)

Then I moved to a place where Target isn’t. The closest Target is over 30 miles away, which takes 30 minutes if you drive the speed limit. While I likely spent almost that much time driving to my local target in my old stompin’ grounds, somehow this feels FAR. My relationship with Target had become “geographically undesirable.”

So, I broke up with Target…pretty much after I moved. I have been there a total of two times in 14 months. In fact, I had been there so infrequently of late I didn’t bat an eye when they had their data breach in 2013.

If you asked me 14 months ago how to live without Target, I would have answered you, “I couldn’t.” So steeped in the Target culture, I couldn’t imagine life without its red-accented aisles, resplendent with affordable merchandise. I drank Target’s Market Pantry Knock off Kool-Aid and wiped the chemically stained mustache it left behind on my lip with a satisfied, “Ahhhh!”

Now with some distance between us, I see the flaws in our relationship, the flies in the Kool-Aid if you will. Some of you don’t see them. I get you. However, this relationship isn’t healthy, and because I care about you, I feel the need to intervene.

Six Reasons You Need to Break Up with Target:

      1. The dollar bin is today’s bargain, tomorrow’s clutter. Just like you, I have browsed the $1 bins at Target. Even my discerning eye found at least one or two incredible bargains I couldn't resist. However, one week after, said item would undoubtedly find its way under my foot broken and in the way. Just say no, ladies. There’s a reason it only costs $1.

2. Some of the $1 bin items are $3. Okay, so a measly $2 isn’t going to break the bank, but mixing in $3 stuff with $1 stuff is sneaky. Period.

3. Target fashion is an oxymoron. Unless you want to wear the same thing as every other bedraggled mom in the Tri-State area, buying anything at Target to wear is a losing proposition. I know…Isaac Mizrahi is a judge on Project Runway. But he doesn’t send any of the clothes he sells at Target down that runway, does he? The clothes sporting his name at Target are designed for inexpensive construction by a child not much older than the one tugging at your sleeve begging for another bag of popcorn. If you do buy something, forget about washing it. I never had a piece of Target clothing return from the laundry in wearable condition. Wear it until you can’t spot clean it anymore and just throw it in the trash.

4. If you want to punish your feet, buy Target’s shoes. It’s undeniable; Target has cute, inexpensive shoes. They are also torturous to wear and inevitably end up looking cute in the shoe rack as you reach past them for the old shoes you were trying to replace. At least you don’t bleed when you wear those.

5. The food at the Target Snack Stand is nasty. I applaud Target’s attempts to give us healthy choices to feed our children (alongside the unnaturally blue, high fructose corn syrup laden Slurpee dispenser). But it’s gross. Whenever I go to the Target snack stand, I smell feet. We only bought popcorn…they can’t put feet in that, right?

6. Get Poppin’. Speaking of popcorn, I have an ax to grind with Target’s, “We usually pop popcorn after 10 a.m. policy.” Dear Target: My three-year-old doesn’t give a hoot that it’s 9 a.m. The only way I could coerce him in here without a three-alarm meltdown was to promise popcorn, so crank up the popper right before you unlock the door, for the love of Pete!

I know some you think I’m just wrong. Maybe I am. Maybe I created these faults to help me cope with my loss. However, if you search your feelings, you will acknowledge there is a ring of truth here that cannot be denied, even for the most fervent Target devotees.

I encourage you to resist. When the Market Pantry Kool-Aid knockoff is passed to you, say, “No thank you!”, stride past the hello kitty socks for $1, breathe through your mouth by the feet smelling snack stand and head back to your car. In just 426 more days, you won’t even miss it.