For all the years I’ve spent reiterating to my boys to pay attention to their bodies, to listen to the cues that tell them they’re tired, hungry, thirsty, upset, hurt, depressed, anxious, etc- my son told me he thought it was broken and I told him it was fine.
That was a curveball moment I wasn't prepared for.
In my defence, I’m really sick. The horrible bug that kept my boys home from their last week of school finally latched onto me. I’ve been trying to listen to my body too, but life goes on and there are things to do. Yesterday all the “things to do” ended up being way too much. Mike had a lot of work waiting for him because we were gone so much longer than we expected. We had just gotten home and I was letting myself relax into a nap when he came in from a bike ride to tell us he thought it was broken.
We figured dislocated, so Mike popped it back in place. Even after, the kid said “no, something’s wrong”. I groaned, gave him an ice pack and an advil, and said “Let’s wait and see”. Then went back to bed.
It wasn’t a complete mom fail. Instead of napping, I arranged for his grandpa to take him somewhere. After hours care is hard to find in our city, and all the walk-in’s were full to capacity, so grandpa took him to emergency. And after many hours of waiting and an x-ray, it’s confirmed…the growth plate in his thumb is fractured.
The moral of the story? Listen to your body. And if you need something at the expense of someone else, ask for help. No one can do it alone. Life is long and sometimes hard.
If you missed my email yesterday, I sent out a request for beta testers for my online course, Fabulous and Frugal in the Kitchen. Click here to join my email list.
"Fabulous and Frugal in the Kitchen" is a web based course arranged in modules you can take at your own speed, though my beta testers need to have it done for me within a day or 2 of starting. Most slides are around 30 seconds in length, and though there are several modules, they are a quick study. And because each video is short, you can pause and come back to it easily. There are supplementary videos, worksheets, and recipes included. It's all about trimming your food budget without trading good food for boring.
In exchange for a free run through my course, my testers need to provide me with a review (for my sales page), feedback (what you like, don't like, suggestions for improvement), and comment on pricing. I know what I'd like to charge- I want to see if you all agree.
My newsletter people are the ones who get first dibs, but you are all awesome. I have a spot left for just 1 more person. Interested? Hit reply and let me know, then sign up for my newsletter.
All the best today, friends
My friend paused to take a breath, then went on to tell me that her family didn't really like lean ground pork, which is what she had thawed,
Because I'm creative in the kitchen- I like to play with combining non-traditional ingredients together- and I'm the only professional meal planner she knows, I was a good person to ask. I rattled off a list of the usual things I make with ground pork, and each answer was met with "my husband doesn't like that" or "my son won't eat that" or "my son and husband like that, but not my daughter", or some other variation along that theme. I suggested she try gradually getting them into ground pork by combining it with lean ground beef, to get them used to the flavour a little at a time, which is an option she'll definitely explore. Eventually she picked a random recipe from a cookbook because it sounded delicious. I bet almost everyone reading this can relate to the outcome- she liked it, but her family was more "meh".
Show of hands! Does this sound like a familiar story in your house? You're not alone. It happens in my house too, maybe not everyday, but often. My biggest critic is my second son, who at age 6 likes the idea of being an adventurous eater, but isn't so keen on putting it into practice.
As main meal makers, our job, to put it simply, is to decide what to make for dinner, and it's the job of your people to decide if they'll eat it or not. And that's it. We tend to feel responsible for the choices our people make. If they don't eat it, they'll be hungry...or they won't be healthy...or they'll binge on less than desirable options- but that's not on you, Meal Maker. That's on them.
Admittedly, it's hard to let go of that guilt. It's hard not to take it personally. As meal makers, we spend a ridiculous amount of time pondering the "what's for dinner" question. We agonize over which vegetable to serve or what protein to cook or if there are too many carbs in the meal. Is it nutritious enough? Or too processed? Will I be judged if I pop in a frozen pizza for my son's birthday party? It's hard to plan a meal, let alone a week or a month's worth of meals, without feeling the stress of that "but what if they don't like it?". There will be a few practical suggestions on dealing with this further along.
Sometimes not eating is an issue, especially when there are health related diagnoses in play. Both of my boys have been really, really picky, but it was my second son that had a health-related issue exacerbated by his refusal to eat. It wasn't a situation where "tough, then you'll be hungry" came into play, because that approach would have impacted his health more than just having a hungry tummy. In his case, we had to make sure there was a bedtime snack every night without fail. I made sure there was something on our dinner plates he liked eating, so he could enjoy eating dinner with us, and I would encourage him to try whatever it was that he was avoiding, but I didn't make a big deal out of it. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in parenting a couple of picky kids and being married to a somewhat picky husband is that food shouldn't be a fight. I grew up with food issues- I don't want my boys to be saddled with those same issues as adults.
Back to my friend. She's in a different place than I am. Her youngest child is the same age as my oldest, and her husband is substantially pickier than mine. But there are a few standard rules that always apply, no matter what the situation. Even when there are health related issues at play!
Picky kids are one thing, and I have a lot of sympathy for them. They are just beginning to learn about flavours and textures, what things feel like and taste like. I've got texture issues, myself. But picky adults are something else entirely- it's our job to demonstrate bravery and fortitude to the little people in our lives. A willingness to try new things expands far beyond our meal choices. Adults can decide to make changes to their food habits, too. It begins with a decision, and continues with conscious effort.
For example, before I was a mom, I wouldn't eat bananas that had freckles on them. Then I had a kid, and realized it was time to change that attitude. And freckled bananas are just fine, really. It took me a while to get used to them being a little softer and sweeter than I liked, but I didn't want a lifetime ahead of kids who wouldn't eat fruit if there was a little imperfection. Certain foods I know I don't like I actually keep trying periodically, such as blue cheese. I don't hate it as much as I used to. In fact, it's delicious when paired with certain foods...like steak- blue cheese butter with steak is amazing.
Another adult example for you, this time using my husband. I've been trying for the last 18 years to get him to eat eggs. There's a strong flavour in cooked eggs that he is hypersensitive to, and it's been hard for him to get over that. But in the interest of eating better and demonstrating to the kids that eggs aren't all bad, he's been working through that, trying them in different ways to see what he can handle eating. And I'm excited and delighted to tell you that last week he ate eggs for breakfast twice.
Bottom line, be patient with your picky people. Ultimately they need to decide they are willing to make that effort, but it probably wouldn't hurt if you lay it out for them with a conversation (not a lecture) about what it would mean to you. If you talk to your kids about food, lay it out in terms of nutrition, rather than "good" or "bad" foods. My feeling about food is "everything in moderation" - it's better to not assign labels to foods. Too much of a "good" food is still too much, and do we want our people to feel guilty for indulging in something we've assigned "bad" to?
One of the best ways to meal plan with picky people is to make it a family affair. Sit down with your family, and give them a list of what you want to get out of a meal- whether it's a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables, or whole grains rather than processed, or an assortment of proteins- and let them plan the meals with you. By engaging them in the process, they're taking ownership, and are more likely to actually eat what you prepare.
Another option is to sit down with your people and the family calendar, and assign everyone a night to be in charge of the meal. If they come up with pancakes, bacon, and fruit salad every time it's their turn, at least it's relatively balanced, you freed up your time to do something important for you, and there won't be any fights over what's on the dinner table.
You could also hire a meal planner, such as myself. My service includes a comprehensive questionnaire about food related goals, likes and dislikes, health issues, and so on. The stress of planning around picky eaters falls on my shoulders, rather than yours. I even include all the recipes and a grocery list- all you have to do is shop off the list and cook the meals I suggest.
What stresses you out in the kitchen? What service could I provide that would help you out the most? Do you have any suggestions to share that helped in a picky eater situation? Please feel free to comment!
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends! You may also enjoy this post about body image, or this post about talking nutrition with kids.
And by the way, dinner tonight at my house is lean ground pork meatloaf muffins (doubling the recipe to stock my freezer), homemade vegetable soup, and (gasp) Kraft dinner. My kids have been asking for it, and I'm not opposed to shortcut meals from time to time.
It's been a pleasure, friends. All the best today,
I have been blessed with long eyelashes and big blue eyes, straight white teeth inside a bright smile, and really pretty hair. And yet, I fight the urge to define my attractiveness by standards arbitrarily achieved using current trends embodied by people who spend their lives making themselves over into something or someone else day after day, year after year. Where's the reality in that? At what point does the effort become too much? Maybe that's all a bit too much for those of us in the real world- and yet we keep feeling we're somehow "less-than" because we can't possibly keep up. We'd be bankrupt emotionally, financially, and I suspect relationally, were we to live that way.
4.5 years ago, give or take, my husband and I were in a terrible car accident. A few seconds faster on the gas pedal and I would have been killed. As it is, it took about a year of physiotherapy and intense effort to really feel good again. I had significant soft tissue damage, a whopper of a concussion, and a whole lot of pain. I looked fine, but I felt terrible, and part of the healing was through exercise, and part through nutrition.
I took up kick boxing for a while, which I enjoyed, and which, at the beginning, was really, really hard. I couldn't complete a set. I took a lot of breaks. My first son, at the time not much older than my second son now, and not known for his tact (a trait he shares with me, by the way!), watched my effort with interest. One day he said to me, "Mom, I don't think it's working. You're not skinny yet. You should quit this and try Jenny Craig".
Gah! Somewhere along the line, he'd internalized that the only reason to eat well and exercise is to get skinny. And that if things are hard to do or take time to develop, we should quit? After that, I started watching and listening for "skinny or bust" commercials and advertisements. They are everywhere, especially bad this time of year, and they can't be escaped from. As an adult I don't really pay much attention now, but I know I've already internalized these messages, even as early as high school. But to hear it from a child- who will spend the rest of his life incorporating these messages, was shocking. It was horrible. And I want to raise our kids in a world where their self worth is defined by who they are- the choices they make, the integrity they show, even when nobody is watching. I want them to define their self worth using their own barometer, not some capricious standard set by society at whatever moment it chooses.
Friends, it's our job as adults to help the kids in our lives be healthy, whole, and content individuals. They need to know that they are ok, just as they are. All of us are on a journey. None of us is perfect- not you, not me, not the photo shopped beauty queen on a glossy cover, or that sexiest man of the year- boys and girls suffer from body image issues, and it's our job to help them find their own self worth. Let's watch what we say, and how we say it. Let's move away from phrases about losing weight, or getting skinny, or bikini ready.
How about we shift the paradigm to things of substance- we eat well because it makes us feel good. Or we choose nutritious food because our bodies need all sorts of vitamins to do the amazing things they do. There's room in life for chips or chocolate (in my case, chocolate is a daily pleasure), but we need to demonstrate moderation. All of us have our moments of less than desirable food choices, but to call attention to it and beat ourselves up over it mentally and verbally demonstrates to our kids that we're failures if we're not perfect. We don't want to set them up for a lifetime of feeling that they aren't measuring up. Let's try to give ourselves the same permissions we want them to have. Be alive, make mistakes sometimes, succeed at others. But live.
Let's exercise because it's fun, and because it makes us feel strong and alive. Let's play outside because it's a beautiful day to soak up some sunshine and vitamin d. Let's go for a walk because it's good for us to listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, watch the birds flit and sing, follow the path of a bumblebee, see the clouds float across the sky. I'm not advocating that we quit this fantastic digital age entirely, more that we give all areas of our lives equal emphasis. Our brains and our bodies need nutrition and exercise. There's room in life for watching movies or listening to music, but we need to give ourselves quietness and space sometimes, too. We don't always need to be plugged in or connected to something.
Enough with the gimmick diets and self talk sabotage. Let's embrace what we love about ourselves, and take steps to improve what we don't. Let's teach our kids to love their bodies, not to worry about what size clothes they wear or how they look in a bathing suit. They are growing up too fast in this digital age anyway. Let's give them the freedom to enjoy being carefree a little longer, if we can.
Enjoy your day, friends.
My kids are adorable. I mean, seriously, completely adorable. Some days I look at them and wonder how they got to be so amazing. But in today's digital reality world, with a plethora of games, devices, movies, and so on, there isn't a whole lot of enthusiasm when I say the words "Go outside and play!" So while they are at a healthy weight and body type now, I know it's going to be tricky to keep them healthy as they continue to age in such a sedentary world. Both diet and activity levels are important, and while we're taking steps to mitigate the lack of activity, we also have to address their diets while they are young. And our vigilance can be never-ending. This digital age isn't going anywhere. The kids know more about my phone than I do, and in school they use electronic tools I hadn't even heard of before, like "smart boards". Each grade 6 student had a Chromebook to use for the school year, and I think tablets (or iPad's?) were used every day in kindergarten.
For me, the most important reason to eat nutritious food is to have a healthy life. I have conversations with the kids that focus on the various health-related aspects of nutrition, such as strong and straight bones, a brain that's fast and able to learn, muscles to help us do all the fun things we like to do. We talk about how every food has different vitamins and minerals, and the point to eating a "balanced diet" is to get as much good stuff into our bodies as possible.
My first son is at a complicated age. He's at that awkward place between child and teen. Boys aren't immune to body image issues, and unfortunately the word "diet" has negative connotations, such as being fat and needing to lose weight. The very last thing I want is for him to think that I think he needs to lose weight, or worse, for him to think badly of his body. So we focus on the quality of food, and we focus on the quantity. Nothing is off limits in our house. I personally remember smuggling "off limits" food into the house when I was a teenager, and hiding it or binge eating after an emotional day. I don't want the kids to feel like they have to hide what they're eating.
If the bulk of our food choices has a high nutritional component, I won't say no if asked for something less quality. I will monitor quantity, however, of both healthy and junk, because too much of anything is still too much.
My second son is also complicated right now, because he's picky. He will eat more now than he did a year ago, but I wouldn't say he's a great eater at this time. Our conversations about food happen almost every day. He's had a summer cold, so his usual favorite foods were pushed aside when his taste buds went funny from the cold. The thing is, he has very few favorite fruits, and when he starts to turn up his nose at any of them we have a problem. When he pushed away his apple slices we had a conversation that went something like this:
Child: I don't like apples anymore.
Me: Ok. What new fruit will you try instead? We have grapes, cherries, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, and blueberries,
Child: I don't want to try any of those.
Me: I know, but if you won't eat apples, you need to pick something else. Fruit has lots of nutrition, remember?
Child: <long sigh> Fine, I'll just eat my apples.
It isn't that my son isn't exposed to new foods every single day. He's just very, very stubborn. I won't let food fights happen, but I won't give an inch either, in allowing entire food groups to be discarded. He was eating cheerios for a snack the other day and asked if it was a balanced meal. We talked about what it means when I say "balanced". I explained that cheerios are a grain product, and they are an excellent source of iron, which helps your blood carry oxygen through your body. To make it a balanced snack, we needed to add in other food groups, such as dairy- and I gave him a glass of milk- and fruit or vegetable- and he got some cucumber slices.
When I was a kid, I hated the "because I said so" response when I would ask "why". I think it's important to teach kids now, before food and health issues typically start, so that they have actual facts at hand when they navigate the waters of adolescence. There's no shortage of advertising designed to make us feel badly about ourselves, and the more tools in our arsenal the better.
For the summer, whenever possible, I've got a meal and snack plan set up for the entire day, not just dinner. I'm finding that the kids are feeling more satisfied and asking less often "What can I eat, I'm hungry". If you'd like me to post it, let me know.
Enjoy the day, friends.