Mamas Tell All | How To Get Around a Picky Eater

Sep 24, 2014

Today I'm linking up with the Mamas Tell All party going on over at Everyday Thoughts. The hosts, Brittany from Everday Thoughts, Christine from The So-Called Homemaker, and Ashley at That Southern Mama  came up with a great lists of topics that have to do with the crazy job of being a mama! They're sharing their methods and inviting other mamas to do the same! Today's topic is "How to Get Around a Picky Eater".

Michael and I started learning more about what healthy eating really means shortly before we were married. It was something we were passionate about together and it was nice to have someone to walk beside as we made those big changes to our lifestyle. One of the main things we agreed on was that we wanted these good habits to continue when we had kids. Another thing we agreed on is that mainstream medicine and nutrition isn't always correct.

When we found out we were pregnant with Noah I was 100% positive that I wanted to breastfeed, but didn't know much about when to start foods and what to start with! I did a lot of research in the evenings (as I was trying to stave off first trimester nausea after work), learned a lot of different perspectives on kids and food, and kind of solidified a "food philosophy". This includes:

1. Food is nourishment, not a reward system.
We vowed not to use food as reward/punishment. A healthy view of food is that it is to help our bodies grow and thrive. We don't want to withhold food for negative behavior nor will we offer food as a reward for positive behavior. This hopefully will help avoid emotional, whether good or bad, connection to food and help them view it as "is this good for me?" rather than "do I deserve this?". Sometimes emotions are tied to food and that's not always bad- a memory of your favorite recipe and the person who fixed it, or maybe a delicious dessert that makes your mouth water just thinking about it! But the goal is to savor the memories and the food, but not let those emotions control you (that's a hard one for me!). 

2. Snacks are great as long as they're healthy!
We don't have a limit to how often Noah can snack unless he wants something to eat right before I put a meal on the table. Snacks aren't bad. It's normal to get hungry between meals. Our only rule: the snack has to be healthy - nuts, fruit, veggies, or cheese is Noah's go-to. If the snack is good for you, then it is allowed. We hope this will help our kids learn to rely on their hunger and make healthy decisions. 

3. Start small and stop when you're full.
We won't force our kids to finish their plate (or guilt them with stories of starving children, although we will talk to them about the starving children in different contexts!). We'll give reasonable portions and if they're hungry they can certainly have more. If they get full first and there is still food on their plate, it's alright. The most important thing is that they're not being forced to overeat.

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The amazing thing about breast milk is that it can sustain life and provide key nutrients for up to a year or more. I learned a lot about the guts of babies, what they can/can't handle, and that led us to delay any food until Noah was 6 months. There is a lot of research that shows links between a person's lifelong appetite and what they were fed in their first year. We wanted his first foods to be nutritious, organic, and whole. We knew that even if he followed a tiny bit in his mama's picky footsteps, that he would still have been exposed to all sorts of foods and hopefully we would have created in him an appetite for healthy.
L// Noah's first try of sweet potato at 6 months!                                            R//Noah ate whatever we ate when we went out to eat!
We skipped baby foods, purposely didn't give cereals, and went straight to solids. His first food was a banana which we gave him whole and let him learn how to gnaw and eventually bite off pieces. He loved it. We then slowly began to give him avocado chunks, some meat strips, and other "superfood" vegetables, all the while making sure that he had no adverse reactions and was digesting them well. We avoided all grains and wheat until after his first birthday, did not give him sugar or juices, and only gave water when he needed it. Before and in between meals, he nursed. 
L// Noah's first taste of raw milk                                         R//Noah enjoying his favorite Apple Pie Larabar

Sure enough, as he started to get older and his taste buds developed further, Noah began to give us faces of disgust at some foods we offered (he totally gets that from me. I didn't try brussel sprouts or asparagus until college!). He sometimes would even shudder at the taste of some foods. Of course it's completely normal to not enjoy some foods the same way others do.

When we got to this point, we decided on a few things that I think might help navigate around these developing and changing taste buds of his.

1. Try it
Around here, we don't fix special meals. Noah eats what we eat, has since he started food, and we encourage him to at least try something new if it is fixed. We won't go as far as forcing it into his mouth, but we do try to find creative ways to get him to open up and give it a shot. How will he know he doesn't like it if he doesn't try it? Pretty simple.

2. No Forcing
While we do encourage him to at least try it, he doesn't have to keep eating it if he doesn't like it. Would we want someone to do that to us?! We feel like forcing food sets a child up for further bad experiences with appetite. 

3. Don't Stop Offering
Just because he didn't like broccoli when he was 6 or 12 months old doesn't mean he won't enjoy it now that he's a growing toddler. By submitting to defeat after only one try, you aren't giving your little one chances to adjust to their changing taste buds or try the food prepared in a new way they may enjoy better. If I'm fixing something that I know Noah has not liked in the past, I still put it on his plate. This way, he is seeing that his plate looks the same as everyone else and the foods are still being put on his radar. Even if he doesn't gobble it up, exposure to what healthy looks like is always a great thing!

4. Get Creative
I really enjoy brussel sprouts roasted with garlic, but don't think I could stomach them boiled. I love fried okra (okay, battered and fried is up for debate in the healthy category, bad example!) but I think they're slimy when just cut up and sauteed. Kids are the same way! Change up your spices, roast something instead of boiling or steaming it, mix it with something else, find a fun recipe! I've also seen other moms make mealtimes into art! Who can resist edible palm trees?!

5. Get Them Involved
Allow your kids to be involved in the dinner-making process (when time and your own patience allows, of course!). Let them see and feel the vegetables and other items being prepared. Show them how they are cooked, allow them to chop (age-appropriately), place in the pan, add spices, stir, etc. Not only will they learn valuable skills but their pride in helping prepare might motivate them to want to try it again! This is one I plan on implementing more and more as Noah gets older (and after I get and paint a cool step-stool from Ikea!).

6. Last Resort, Get Sneaky!
I won't lie to my kids, but I'll also put the spinach and FCLO that they can't get down into disguise with a healthy, delicious smoothie and not feel guilty! 

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Overall, our goal when it comes to food is to provide a healthy environment for our family, and that includes overcoming challenges like picky eaters in creative ways! Keep in mind, we're right in the middle of all of this. I'm speaking some from experience and some from research and thought. I'm right there with you mamas! That's what I love about link-ups like this- mamas from all different perspectives sharing what works for them.

Interested in seeing how other mamas deal with picky eaters? Head on over to the link-up and check out some other tips and tricks!

It's a Date | Noah's Pallet Art Completed!

Sep 19, 2014

This week my goal was to finally finish Noah's pallet piece for his new room! M helped me gather the pallet from his parents' stash, my dad helped me disassemble the pallet and put it together, and I brought it home a few weeks ago where it sat until earlier this week! 

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous the past few days and has drawn me outside more than normal. I first washed the wood and set it out in the breeze to dry. Once M got home from work, the three of us went outside to enjoy the weather and I got to work painting the pallet. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to do it and thankfully M suggested grey for the mountains. I used a cheap brush from Walmart and found a stroke pattern that allowed the grain color to seep through. This helped the mountains look more realistic with some dimension. 
This wasn't exactly alone time, but it is something I've been wanting to do and I enjoyed seeing it come together and feeling productive. Noah's room is close to being completed and I can't wait to display it on his wall and put together the final reveal post!

In case you've missed the blog in the last few weeks and want some fun weekend reading material....

...I wrote about several things we're looking forward to (including our Babymoon next weekend!)

...I talked about some personal challenges in motherhood.

...I painted bowls and made a fun chalkboard tray for my other "It's a Date" posts!

...I reviewed Younique's 3D Fiber Lashes!

Have a great weekend!

being mama

Sep 17, 2014

You guys.

Sometimes being a mom is hard

If you had asked me how motherhood was going a year ago when Noah was not even a year old, I'd probably have said, "I got this. I know what I'm doing".

Fast forward a year later to when that sweet little immobile baby is now a fully mobile toddler with his own personality and independence and a lot of days I'd look you in the eye, maybe with a tear in mine, and say honestly, "This is harder than I thought". 

First let me say- motherhood is a joy. I wake up every day excited that I get to be Noah's mama, and mama to our soon-to-be-born baby boy. My heart swells until I think it will burst when I look at Noah and remember all over again that he is my son and that I get to take part in shaping who he is and who he becomes. All those big joys and fun times and precious moments make up a huge part of being his mom.
I've wanted to be a mom for a long time, so parenting methods have been on my mind for awhile. I've researched and read so many different perspectives on the subject and feel like I'm pretty sure of the kind of parent I want to be and the kind of things that are important to me in raising children. 

I feel that children are a blessing. I feel that children aren't objects we own to control, but fellow human beings to be lovingly guided into adulthood. I feel that children shouldn't be hit. I feel that children's emotions and thoughts and experiences matter just as much as ours do and should be treated with the same weight. I feel that children should be treated with the same respect we would give anyone else, no matter how old or young.

Of course all of those things are going to play a part in how I handle big and small situations, from the way I talk to my children to the methods we use to teach and guide them. But what I've been slowly realizing is that there's not a perfect formula for being a mom (imagine that!). Sure, I can have an overall idea of how I'd like to address certain issues or principles I want to teach, but there are also really challenging times when I have no idea what to do and not enough time to figure it out in the heat of the moment.

The hard part about times like those is that life in that moment can't be put into pause mode. There's no app on my phone that I can open that will make my child stop in his tracks while I figure out exactly what to do. Most of the time life with a toddler is constant movement, excitement, exploration- wonderful things! But when you're a first-time mom to a toddler, it's challenging trying to feed that desire for knowledge while setting limits for safety.

I've found myself flustered many times while needing to deal with something Noah's doing, especially when I'm met with opposition. There is so much that goes in my head in those few seconds (that feel like an eternity at times) of instruction. I involuntarily recall every piece of research and opinion that I've ever read. I recall how I've seen similar situations handled in the past by family or friends. I'm sorting through those-assessing which ones match up to my values, which ones I've been told will mess my kids up for life and to never ever do...ever. All the while asking the questions- How am I going to enforce limits while still respecting how he's feeling? How will I remain calm in this moment, even when my emotions are slowly trying to get the best of me? How can I say what I need to say in a way that he will understand? How can I remain consistent while leaving room for grace? From the outside it probably looks like nothing, but sometimes, by the time it's over, I'm wound up, doubting myself as a mother, wondering if I handled it effectively, and trying to work through my own emotions that were brought up in that moment.

I know those are probably signs of a rookie mom who isn't quite sure of herself, and I'll go ahead and raise my hand and accept that label. I may not have admitted that a year ago, but I've been so humbled recently- by situations I've found myself in when I had no choice but to pray, by conviction, and by encouragement from veteran mamas. 

I have a friend who told me awhile ago that she had stopped reading parenting articles. I always thought it was a little extreme- after all, there is some good that can come. You might find ways that work for your child or perspectives that make you view things a bit differently. And those articles and books and research are what originally opened my eyes to how I want to parent and how I view children.  But now, as I'm really getting into the stage of actually needing to parent, I see some value in her decision. She didn't stop there, but told me that instead, her plan was to love her children with everything in her and surrender her parenting to God. And by the end of one of my last rough days with Noah, surrender was exactly what I had resolved to do.

I'm tired of the has-to-be-perfect me holding the real me, who makes mistakes and needs daily grace, to a ridiculous standard. I'm going to mess up. I'm going to feel completely lost when I encounter new challenges with Noah. Sometimes, I'm going to curl up in bed at the end of the day and feel like I did every single thing wrong.

My mom told me something this week that she used to tell us when we were younger and we would be on the other side of a difficult mother-daughter situation- "this is my first time". When I was five, it was her first time as the mom to a five year old. When I was thirteen, it was her first time as the mom to a teenager. She had to remind herself of that, and I have a feeling that I will be reminding myself of the same thing many times. This, life right now, is the first time I've ever been a mom to a 22 month old. I'm not going to be perfect. I'm not going to get it right every time. I'm not going to know how to handle every new situation.

There are days that will be even harder, and those are the days that I have an opportunity to get on my knees at the feet of my Savior, ask Him for grace and wisdom and perspective, and choose to believe that He is faithful and will give it. Those are days that I can accept grace and determine to move on and do better. Those are the days that I'm given an opportunity to be humble before my children, to let them know that mommy isn't perfect either, and that I need just as much grace as anyone else.

looking ahead

Sep 12, 2014

Well, if you were expecting my It's A Date results, you'll have to wait until next week. I'm sad to say that this week didn't quite go as planned. In fact, it was pretty rough. I'm trying to move on and realize that some weeks are better than others. Some days I'll feel like I've got this mom thing down and other days I'll feel like I'm failing all around. I'm working on giving myself grace. 

Sometimes when I'm having an off week, I try to focus on fun things we've got coming up. Here's what I'm looking forward to over the next few months!
While I was pregnant with Noah we were working hard on paying off our student loans. My entire income and any extra money we had went to grand old Sallie Mae. Taking a weekend away wasn't a top priority. Fast forward two years later and a lot has changed. We're debt free except our house, we spent a lot of time in limbo with our moving situation, and we have yet to have time away and alone as a couple. I breastfed for the first 18 months of Noah's life and it wasn't until a couple of weekends ago that we spent our first night apart (and he was with M!). I will most likely breastfeed our second boy for just as long, if not longer, so if we don't get in a weekend alone before I deliver, we might not get one for awhile! Basically, it's time. It may have been time awhile ago! Because we're in Chattanooga, and because M's parents are coming here to keep Noah for the weekend, we're going to Atlanta. It's less than two hours away but a great destination with plenty of fun things to do. Who am I kidding- Ikea is there!  I'm a little nervous since this will be the first time Noah will be away from both of us at night, but we fully trust M's parents and know that Noah will be just fine.
March 2014

A Weekend with Friends
Our friends Liz and Kyle and their little cutie Reid are coming to visit next weekend! We haven't seen them since we moved to Chattanooga in May and we've missed them! Reid and Noah have so much fun together. We can't wait to see them, show them around Chattanooga, and have some fun!
A Finished Hallway
This remodel is taking a bit longer than I'd like. It's frustrating that I can't be of more help in speeding things along. Most things are pretty heavy, a lot of it has to be left up to Michael because his engineering mind can handle all the calculations, and painting isn't an option for this pregnant mama. I've been handling things like making lists, staying organized, and keeping up with our budget (aka reminding M that we don't really need that one tool and that we're nearing our remodel budget for the week!). We're a pretty good team, but it would still be nice if we had tons of extra hands around to do some labor! Noah's room is finished (just finishing up some decor items!) and we're now in the hallway phase. We've been walking on subfloor for over a month and I'm over it and the mess. Our doors are without trim and walls without baseboards. We finally talked yesterday and made a little progression plan to keep ourselves on track. Hopefully by the time baby comes we will have the top stair landing completed, woods floors down, craftsman trim around every door, and all the trim and baseboards painted white. Even if it takes awhile to get to the other bedrooms, I think having the hallway done will make our upstairs feel more complete.
Anyone else still mourning Matthew?
Fall TV
This is kind of a pathetic thing to look forward to, but I just can't help it! There are so many good shows I enjoy and their season premiers are coming up soon! In order - Chicago Fire, Parenthood, The Walking Dead, and Hart of Dixie. I'm looking forward to January even more when I can watch my absolute favorites- Downtown Abbey and Call the Midwife.

Having a Baby
This seems like an obvious one to include, but I really am so excited to give birth again. I'm so thankful that labor is not something I fear but am ready to embrace. These last few weeks have been rough with foot pain and uncomfortable sleep, so I think it may only get worse. I'm ready to meet this baby boy yesterday. My mindset has been different this pregnancy and I feel much more emotionally connected to the process. In the next few weeks I've got quite a few things to get and  this Type-A mama is looking forward to marking everything off my list!
With all of that coming up, I'm going to embrace this weekend, make it better than the week, and enjoy my family.
I want to get to know you a bit. What fun things do you have going on this month?

It's a Date! | DIY Chalkboard Tray

Sep 6, 2014

This week was jam-packed with a lot of fun, including a lovely visit from a good friend, and is ending with family time in Virginia and a small baby shower for me today thrown by my sweet mama and sister. I waited to do this week's project until I arrived at M's parents house because they have a plethora of old wood by their barn to choose from. I'll admit...I had some help with this project. M helped me dig the pallet out and pry the wood off and my dad helped me trim it down to the right length. I won't ever take for granted the handy men in my life! I suppose this week's "me time" was completed during time with our families, but I still really enjoyed doing this simple and fun DIY! 

Supplies Needed:
> Chalkboard Paint
> Paintbrush
> Painter's Tape
> Two drawer handles
> Optional: Sandpaper to smooth down edges and surface

Step One | Find and cut your wood! I was fortunate and able to raid my in-law's wood supply, but in case you don't know anyone with twenty pallets laying around I'd suggest either checking Craigslist or calling your local grocery store. Often times people will list their pallets for free on Craigslist as long as you'll go pick them up and your local grocery store might appreciate one less pallet they have to get rid of. I wanted a whole piece of wood for my tray as opposed to attaching a few smaller ones together. I didn't want the writing to have to span seams, so I chose a skinnier board and gave it a little length. 

Step Two | Tape! I wanted a wider writing space, so I decided to extend the painter's tape to the edges of the wood. Because the grain of the wood is a little raised, I made sure I really pressed the tape down so the paint didn't leak through and the edges would be clean.

 Step Three | Paint! Once your tape is secure and you're sure of the size of your chalkboard area, brush the chalkboard paint on in thick, long strokes. I made sure to coat it pretty thickly because the wood  I chose is porous and I knew it would soak down easily. Once the paint is dry, slowly peel the tape off.

Step Four | Add Handles! Start by deciding where you want your handles and marking the screw holes with a pencil. Find a drill bit just a bit smaller than the screws that came with your handles and drill completely through the wood where your holes are marked. Then, screw the screws through the holes and attach them to the handles.
Step Five | Draw & Enjoy! I'm seeing all kinds of fun uses for a tray like this! It'd be fun to label snacks for a dinner party in fun chalkboard fonts, use as a centerpiece on the kitchen table with some flowers and scripture, or use as a learning tool with Noah for labeling, counting, or spelling.

This was a pretty easy project and I really love how it turned out. It's amazing how being intentional about making time for these projects actually helps me get them done! I'm finding that it wasn't time that I was lacking, but, in part, giving myself permission to make the time.

I haven't chosen my "me time" for this next week, but I may take a break from the crafty projects and lean more towards an event. Check back next Friday to find out! Also, check out last week's fun DIY painted bowl project!

Have a wonderful weekend!