Simply Complicated
20th October
2014
written by Michelle

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I was talking to my Gerber on the phone tonight because he’s gone working for the week with a team from Canada. He asked, “Are you excited about your birthday?”

I am, I replied.

I could hear him smiling through the phone.

I know he loves me dearly, be he doesn’t totally understand why birthdays are a big deal to me. And that’s ok. If I have learned anything in my marriage, it’s not about convincing the other person to be like you, it’s about accepting the other person as they are. And he accepts me. Birthday hoopla and all. 

I will be 32 tomorrow. And although I love kind words and little gifts and free things, the truth is I like those things any day of the year. But what makes a birthday significant for me is that it’s a marker. A reference point if you will. I can clearly think back and remember where I was or what season of life I was in for each birthday.

5 years ago I was in Santa Barbara. I sat at one of my favorite restaurants and shared a hamburger and beer with two of my best friends. I cried tears of disappointment. Instead of pretending everything was fine, I learned that maybe that was an ok place to be. 

4 years ago I wrote a vague blog post about surprises and someone special. I had moved to Guatemala and we were newly dating. He surprised me with chocolate and white twinkle lights and dinner out and then, FIREWORKS. Like real live fireworks. 

3 years ago we were engaged and trying to plan a wedding and a honeymoon and get birth certificates notarized and somewhere in the mix I got sick. I spent my birthday curled up on the couch with a fever. Gerber refilled my water bottle and rubbed my feet.

2 years ago I turned 30 and I wrote about What I learned in my 20s. I remember this birthday well because it was also the day I found out we were pregnant. I celebrated my birthday and the new little life inside of me. I carried around our little secret for almost 3 months before we told people my family at Christmas time.

Last year at this time, we had a 4 month old who would only sleep while being carried. I wrote this post and remember that I carried her in the ergo alllll the time. Those were rough months. Gerber bought me an hour message at my favorite salon. He dropped me off and then drove around town for an hour with Elena in the carseat, trying to get her to nap with a bottle and the vibration of the car. He picked me up and we went to Hector’s for dinner with Elena. I bounced her in the ergo throughout the whole dinner and we took this picture. We look like tired, happy new parents. Which we were.

And then this year, 2014. The house is quiet, except for the buzzing of the baby monitor. Elena is sleeping upstairs, by herself. I have a cup of tea at my side and my flannel wrapped around me because the cement walls always make me feel cold at night. Tomorrow is my birthday. And in many ways it’s an ordinary day. I am going to breakfast with a sweet friend and I’m looking forward to sweet messages and texts from family and dear ones far away. They’ll be emails to respond to, diapers to change and probably a stop by the grocery store. Gerber will call in the evening. And I’ll be one year older.

And you know what? I couldn’t be more excited. Or maybe thankful is the better word. There is something about getting older or maybe it’s watching a little one grow and change that makes me thankful. Thankful in new ways for life, for health and for another year.

I think getting older makes you realize just how fragile and precious life is. One thing I love about Guatemalans, is that most people inherently view life a gift, not as a right. Sadly, when you live in a country with increased violence and lack of adequate medical care, it means everyone knows someone who has lost their life too soon. If you ever have the chance to hear a Guatemalan pray, almost always before they get to the amen, they will give “gracias a Dios por darnos otra dia aca.” 

I like that. I am not sure often I have actually thanked God for giving me another day of life.

But on my 32nd birthday. It seems appropriate. I am grateful for life. For mine, and for my family’s and for my sweet little girl’s and  husband’s my and good friends’. These lives make my life richer. And that is worth celebrating.

29th September
2014
written by Michelle

 

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This is not a “how to get your kid to eat broccoli post” because the truth is, I just don’t know. Elena still won’t touch it. Just like I don’t think there is one way to raise kids, there is definitely not one way to feed kids. I feel fairly confident that usually by 5 years of age most kids can eat by themselves without a bib (can I get an, amen?!) and usually eat a variety of food options. With that being said I think the years between 1-4 can feel like a daily struggle or battle for some.

Just like there are kids who are naturally good sleepers and dream nappers, I think there are kids who are naturally good eaters. If you have one of those, just count your blessings and ignore this post :) For everyone else here’s what I have learned, I tend to think there are three type of kids: 1) those like I said who are naturally good, easy eaters 2) those who are semi-adventurous eaters, but have strong wills and 3) those who are very picky eaters and have strong wills. Elena probably falls into the number 2 category.

So, here’s a little background. Elena has always been a good eater. I mean she came out of the womb, rooting her little mouth, looking for something to latch on to :) She was (is) a good nurser, has always gained weight and was super interested in food around 5-6 months. We tried the whole puree route and to be honest it was just a struggle. She didn’t seem to like the consistency and I wasn’t too keen about having to prepare something separate from her. By default, we started baby led weaning. We just started giving her bigger pieces of whatever we had to gnaw on starting around 7 months. It just worked for us. She was pretty content to hold and suck on a piece of apple or try and gum a piece of sweet potato and I loved not having to blend and puree baby food. Around 8 months she figured out the pincher-grasp pretty quickly and was quite a happy girl being able to pick up her frijoloes one at a time. We still did some soft foods, but only those that naturally come like that, like avocados or oatmeal. But chicken, carrots, watermelon– all big pieces.

Then right around 12 months she started wanting to do everything ALL.BY.HERSELF. Which is hard, especially when most 12 months old aren’t quite coordinated enough to scoop, and spoon and fork things by themselves. She also started refusing certain foods that she had always liked before. She would throw food when she got frustrated or squish it up in her hands. Let’s be honest, we were all a little frustrated. Since they say you should choose your battles, I knew I didn’t want eating to be a battle.

I would say my motto for baby feeding has been: easy and healthy. It’s actually kind of my motto for cooking in general. I also wanted to give Elena food that we ate. Partly because it seemed easier, and partly because it seemed healthier. Win, win no?

And can we just agree that there is nothing about feeding a baby is clean? The floor underneath her high chair and that white wall you see in the pictures is always kiiiiinda dirty. And I feel like one of us is always cleaning off her high chair tray. Thank you, Gerber!

Ok, so here is what has been working for us (at least for now, the 12-15 month stage):

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1) Make Eating Fun

In the long run, I want my daughter to have a healthy sense of eating and food. So if that means for now, we make food sometimes about play I am ok with that. I mean eating should be enjoyable, right? I think they key is having something different or an element of surprise. Sometimes it’s this doggie puppet, sometimes a monkey or sometimes just an extra fork :) For whatever reason, when her doggie helps her eat her carrots it’s a hundred times more fun then I when I say, Elena eat your carrots. (Warning: choose something that can be easily washed. She’s been pretty good about knowing she can’t hold or touch these animals, but every now and then they get smeared with bean juice L

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2) The Beauty of the Dip

Have you ever seen your little one try to scoop out their yogurt with a spoon and then by the time they bring it to their mouth it’s all dripped off onto their bib. Yes? Like 1000 times, huh? Me too. Solution: Dipping. Again, long run I would love for my daughter to know how to use a spoon. One day she will, but in the mean time we do lots of dipping. Carrot sticks in hummus. Toast in yogurt. Chips in guacamole. You get the idea. Works best when the “dipping item” is cut long and skinny, like the size of your pinky finger. Elena is a pretty indpendant dipper now :) Also, if I would have know about these  earlier I may have gotten one for her. Genius. Pure Genius!

 

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3) Freeze it

ok, so this probably only would work with yogurt. I mean who wants frozen guacamole?! I found in Elena’s effort to eat independently she loved when she could hold something and since she loved yogurt, I poured just regular old strawberry yogurt (no mixing, no adding- although you could make your own flavor with plan yogurt and fresh fruit- but remember my motto? Easy and Healthy :) into ice cube trays, added a popsicle stick cut in half. And voilà yogurt “ice-creams” for days. This is a typical afternoon snack on our house.

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4) The Art of Turn Taking

ok, this one is not efficient or quick…so do it when you’re not trying to get out the door. Ironically, I have also found it’s one of the best! Maybe because so much of our little ones’ lives feels out of their control, and this give them some deciding and a sense of control in “feeding someone else.” So it started by just taking turns…I would say, “Elena’s turn!” and Elena would then feed me whatever she wanted from her tray (another reason to give kids something you would also want to eat). I mean she would literally put it in my mouth. And then I would say, “ok, Mama’s turn!” And then I would proceed to put whatever I choose in her little mouth. (this works well 90% of the time with food she already likes). I think she so enjoys the “game” of getting to feed someone else that now sometimes we also include a little Fisher Price person who was hijacked from may parents house. Elena likes to “pretend” to feed this little guy. And you know what, it works. She pretend puts food up to his mouth and then she feeds herself. Sometimes I try to turn the other way in the kitchen so she doesn’t catch me looking at her and stop. It’s pretty cute. She’s eating independantly and the Fisher Price guy is easily washable.

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5) Use Real Glass

So I would have never ever thought this would a good idea. But one day will skyping with my sister, who is a Montessori preschool teacher, she saw Elena trying to unefficiently “spoon-up” (is that a word?) her smoothies. She told me, try giving it to her in a clear glass. Not a plastic sippy cup, but a real glass, GLASS. She said they start their toddler class drinking water or juice from real little shot glass so they can learn to use a cup and—this is key– SEE what they are drinking and how much is in the glass. She said kids learn really quickly not to throw it because it will break. I was so hesitant, but decided it was worth a try. To date we have had no broken glasses (although a few close calls and I do stay right by her when she’s using them). I now put her smoothie in a clear 4 oz. glass each morning and she just drinks it! It still amazes me. Sometimes we’ll do yogurt in the glass as well, because ya know the whole spoon-bib-yogurt mess.

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6) Soups

I guess I never really thought of soups as toddler friendly food, but I make a lot of soup so Elena has learned to eat it. And it really is pretty independent eating food. I find soups with chucks of veggies and meat or beans work better than pureed soups, but that’s probably cause Elena has never really loved purees. Usually I set one of our cute Anthro mini bowls on her tray with soup in it. Elena pulls out all of the veggies and/or chicken with her fingers and eats those and then drinks the broth! (She must have learned that from the smoothie drinking?!)  If you can get your little one to drink the broth then there are so many good nutrients in there depending what vegetable or bone/chicken broth you use. I try to cut up the vegetables into sizes Elena can eat with her fingers or stab with a fork, so usually soft but not mushy works well. I’m usually amazed at what she’ll eat in soup, that she would never eat raw. Carrots, celery, zucchini, peppers, onions, kale, etc. Maybe because soup has more flavor than just raw veggies? Makes sense. Our current favorites are this Tortilla Soup Recipe and this other chicken veggie soup that I make. 

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7) Accept The Mystery

Elena hasn’t figured out how to use a straw. She still refuses egg. I’ve tried it scrambled, hard-boiled, fried…she can even pick it out when we hide it in somewhere and CHEESE! The girl doesn’t like cheese. I am not sure why? She has no problem digesting egg when it’s in muffins or baked goods and she does fine with dairy as far as I can tell. So it’s a mystery to me. But I have learned that part of my job, as a parent is to accept who she is and her preferences. I can keep trying to introduce her to new foods or make her try it, but at some point I’ve learned it worth repeating “ok, for this season my child doesn’t like ____ (and fill in the blank) and then let it go. It’s not worth stressing over or trying to figure it out.

So, there you have it 7 tricks that have been working for us. Now go enjoy lunch by yourself… if your little one like mine is napping! :)

Are you feeding little people at your house? What’s your favorite trick? I love to learn from other parents :) When did you start doing family dinners where kids actually stayed sitting for more than 10 minutes?

{note: please realize I am neither a doctor nor an expert child feeder, just a mom trying feed healthy foods to her kid. If your child has allergies or any kind of food sensitivities please follow whatever advice you’ve received from your medical professional. Baby feeding can be so stressful and hard especially if you child is not gaining weight or has food sensory issues. Those are separate issues that I am not qualified to address here.}

23rd September
2014
written by Michelle

I posted this picture on Instagram this morning. Sometimes on our morning walks, as the soft light breaks through the trees, I try to imagine our town through MY daughters eyes.

I try to imagine, what does she see?
Lots of doggies roaming the streets, doggies without collars or leashes, or owners • [...] Continue Reading…

19th September
2014
written by Michelle

We have been back for a few days. We’ve done laundry and put away our suitcases, and our tanned face our fading, but I still find little bits of sand in the bottom of the laundry basket and I smile. We needed this vacation. We needed time away as [...] Continue Reading…

11th August
2014
written by Michelle

If your new here, these are series of letters I started writing to my daughter before she was born. This was the first one, and this is one her Daddy wrote her. I wrote about her birth story here  and I seem to write a lot about raising a [...] Continue Reading…

5th August
2014
written by Michelle

Most evenings before heading up to bed, I start a load of laundry.

The water fills the basin; I toss in half a cup of liquid soap.

I dump in the pile of dirty clothes and washcloths and towels that sit in the basket. Why are there always so many dirty washcloths?

I close the [...] Continue Reading…

21st July
2014
written by Michelle

Dear Mija,

You have a spunk and curiosity that makes me laugh and worry at the same time. Our sweet friend took these photos of me and you one afternoon in our neighborhood a few months ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
And I love them. I love them because they capture the way you wrinkle [...] Continue Reading…

4th July
2014
written by Michelle

 

I have lived in Guatemala for 4 years now. And every year around 4th of July a wave of homesickness rolls over me. I know myself well enough, that now I can kind of anticipate it, but I can’t make it go away. Funny how emotions work like that, [...] Continue Reading…

2nd July
2014
written by Michelle

This really could be titled, What I’ve Been Into…oh, March, April, May aaaaannd June. But for the sake of brevity we’ll just call it June.

I love seeing what other friends around the blosphere are into. Here’s  some great tips from Lesley & Sarah and we’re all linking up with the wonderful, Leigh Kramer’s What I’ve Been [...] Continue Reading…

26th June
2014
written by Michelle

Last week Gerber and I were waiting with Elena for her 1-year checkup. We sat in the shared office space taking turns bouncing her and offering her Cheerios. An older man walked up the stairs and began waving and making baby sounds. Elena stared at him. (which she often does). The he reached [...] Continue Reading…

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