Veggies Part 2

From our contributor, the Cooking Mama!

Spring is upon us and that means that decent produce is slowly finding its way back to the grocery store and farmers’ markets, hurrah! My days of picking through mangled, sad looking, and yet still incredibly overpriced specimens and relying heavily on frozen and packaged fruits and veggies are numbered and I couldn’t be happier. Mom confession ahead: I haven’t tried too terribly hard these last few months to get Goose to eat her vegetables. She seems to have wised up to my tricks and not even cheese, butter, or seasonings have enticed her taste buds. I always offer a bit of what we’re having and she generally turns it down, but she eats plenty of fruit and that still counts toward her five-a-day, right?

Goose shops for bananas

I’m hoping that the coming spring bounty will renew the appreciation for vegetables Goose had as a baby. She’ll still happily eat tomatoes and avocados (both technically fruits, I know), and she’ll pick at a few kernels of corn, but maybe all she needs is a spear of grilled asparagus or some sweet, steamed snap peas to rekindle her love for the green and orange stuff. Or maybe that’s a lot of wishful thinking and I’ll be hiding her vegetables in her food until she moves out of the house. I guess we’ll see soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll share a really easy, healthy, and Goose-approved recipe that sneaks in a lot of protein, vitamins, and fiber.

These pancakes started out as a recipe using shredded zucchini. I had a bag of baby carrots hanging out in the crisper so I used those instead, and tweaked the amount of oil (the original recipe called for more, but the pancakes don’t need it). This pancake batter doesn’t come together in the typical way – mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately and then combining the two – but despite my skepticism, it somehow works perfectly and best of all, requires only one bowl. The cute little pancakes are lightly sweet from the carrots but mostly savory (I served them at lunch), a bit eggy in a good way, and really yummy on their own, no toppings required.

Carrot Pancakes

4 eggs

2 cups shredded carrots

¾ cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat would work too)

½ tsp granulated sugar

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 tsp baking powder

Preheat and lightly grease your skillet or griddle. In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a fork. Add in the carrots and mix well. Dump in the flour and sugar and incorporate with the fork. Stir in the olive oil, then lastly the baking powder until fully combined. Drop by the heaping tablespoon for silver dollar pancakes and cook until lightly golden brown on both sides.

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To Binky Or Not to Binky

From The Cooking Mama.

Goose is almost 21 months old and yes, she’s still using a binky. We weaned from breastfeeding ages ago, she’s showing a mild interest in potty training, and she sleeps through the night pretty reliably, but Goose’s attachment to the binky (or mimi, as she calls it) seems to be one of the last holdouts from her infancy. And I can’t stop waffling about taking it away.

Greedy Goose

I’m definitely feeling pressure from well-meaning (but nevertheless annoying) friends and family. Their concerns range from teeth problems to speech issues, and then there are some people just don’t like how it looks. To be honest, I’m not crazy about my kid running around with a colorful piece of plastic hanging off of her face, either, but I wouldn’t dream of telling someone else that their child looks silly (which has actually happened to us at the grocery store – thanks for your Very Important Opinion, lady in line behind us). As for the potential for speech problems, that has definitely not an issue we’ve encountered, as Goose is extremely verbal, even talking emphatically around her mimi, which I also admit to disliking. I am concerned about misaligned teeth – although studies have shown that crooked teeth typically occur when pacifier use or thumb-sucking continue while permanent teeth are emerging – but mostly because my own teeth are wonky.

While there are plenty of valid reasons for getting rid of the pacifier, I find it hard to take the cold-turkey approach because Goose’s mimi is such a source of comfort for her. She hasn’t really taken to any of the “lovies” we’ve offered to her, but she would definitely carry if not suck on a mimi all day long if I let her. So for now, in an attempt to ease the transition, we are restricting the pacifier use to her crib only. We haven’t been perfect about it (sometimes I cave when she’s really upset, and daddy needs a lot of reminders), but Goose seems to be doing okay with not getting her instant soother every time she’s upset. About half the time, when we get her out of her crib, she tosses the paci in without even being asked. She’ll probably be ready to quit altogether soon, and if it goes anything like weaning did, Goose will basically do it by herself and surprise the heck out of me again. Should she put up more of a fight this time, I have some strategies from moms who have BTDT, like the binky fairy (same concept as the tooth fairy, only the binky fairy leaves a new toy or book), or trading in the binkies for a new toy at the store (I’ve heard that if you get a nice cashier, he or she might agree to play broker and handle the trade for you, making it extra official). Either way, I’m trying not to stress or give myself and Goose an arbitrary deadline for giving up an object that has comforted her since the day she came home from the hospital. And that’s my official stance…for today.

Being a Stay At Home Mom

Frustrations from the Cooking Mama…

I love my kid, but…I think I’m ready to go back to work.

I have been a stay-at-home-mom to Goose for 20 months now (longer, really, if you count the time I spent lazing around after I was laid off from my job halfway through my pregnancy). During the newborn days, the idea of going back to work was just inconceivable – Goose nursed around the clock and my body didn’t respond to a pump, even the giant, scary hospital-grade one we rented. I never slept and between the exhaustion, constant feedings, and the fact that my adjusting hormones were making me feel a little homicidal (mostly toward my husband, but others felt my hate vibes too, I’m sure), I just couldn’t imagine trying to function at a job. Truth be told, I was also really burned out on all of the BS, drama, and boredom that comes with a typical office job, and I was sure I’d never miss it. I’ve worked a few jobs since college but nothing I’ve ever loved, so I figured I wasn’t committing career suicide by not working for a while. I knew staying at home wouldn’t be easier, but it would be different. And more than anything, I really just wanted to spend all the time I could with my beautiful little scream machine.

Let me say right off the bat, I know how lucky I have been to stay home with Goose. We live pretty frugally in order to make it work (and don’t own a home yet, and drive one old crappy car), but many families cannot afford to lose one partner’s wages. So yes, I recognize the immense privilege there is in even having the choice whether or not to work outside the home. I also realize how special it has been to witness all of my baby’s firsts, cuddle and kiss her whenever I want, and just enjoy her cuteness every single minute of the day. A lot of moms would kill for that opportunity. But a lot of moms would also be frustrated and/or bored to tears spending all day with their kids, and I get that…boy, do I get that.

Now that Goose is older and is extremely independent, I find myself ready for a change. I want to have a conversation wherein there is no mention of poo, naps, or Yo Gabba Gabba (although I do love musing over a good Muno-centric episode). I want to wear something other than Old Navy yoga pants and Mossimo boyfriend t-shirts from Target, and I want to actually use the vast collection of makeup collecting dust in my bathroom! I want to sit at a desk or in a coffee shop and eat one freaking meal that isn’t cold when it’s supposed to be hot, or warm when it’s supposed to be cold, or splashed in my hair/flung to the floor because my toddler didn’t find it pleasing to her ever-changing palate. I want hobbies beyond reading a book for a few minutes in bed before passing out at night. I want challenges beyond potty training and temper tantrums! Sometimes I want to be valued for something other than my skills as a wife and mother! AM I YELLING? SORRY!

I know motherhood and these wants are not mutually exclusive. Lots of stay-at-home-moms have it together, look presentable, and have fulfilling social lives outside of playdates. I’ve definitely let myself fall into a rut and become the stereotypical frumpy, boring mom and I have no one to be pissed at but myself. I used to be cool! I used to be interesting! I’d just really like to find some sort of happy medium between Stepford Mom and well, me. I know it exists because all of my mom friends seem to live there. Can I get some sort of how-to guide?

I also want to always be available to my daughter. I want to snuggle her and be two steps away when she’s upset or hurt. I don’t want to miss any important moments. But as we are reminded daily, moms can’t have it all. If I go back to work, I sacrifice time that could be spent with Goose. If I stay home, I sacrifice some of the the things I want and need as a woman. Is it even possible for me to find a healthy balance? How do working moms do it without going nuts? Am I up for it? Is Goose up for it? (I strongly suspect yes) Will I regret going back to work, or will I be a better mom for it? I have a lot of questions and no concrete answers, and that’s hard.

Books, Books, and More Books

Goose is a major bookworm, something that pleases me to no end. I was an early and quick reader and tore through books almost faster than my parents and library could provide them (always made a killing on free pizzas thanks to Book It!) and I knew before Goose was born that I wanted to instill in her a huge love for books. My husband and I started reading to Goose when she was just a few weeks old, although she didn’t show major interest until closer to her first birthday. From that point on, she hardly played with her toys, preferring to shove a book at me instead. These days she will show a passing interest in her play food, Duplos, or musical instruments, but it’s never long before I hear her squeaky little demanding “WEAD!” and I must oblige.

Baby Goose reads That's Not My Kitten

Goose’s early favorites were the That’s Not My… series by Usborne Books. She really enjoyed the different textures on the pages, meant to represent things like fur, rough paw pads, dinosaur scales, or bumpy teeth. Sometimes she would touch her toes to the material, or even lick it! I appreciated how the books felt sturdy, were nice and bright, and could hold up to copious amounts of drool from a teething baby. Goose’s all-time top two books from the infant days were Baby Boo and All About Me (the latter still being one of her favorites – I guess my kid is vain), both of which have a cute rhythm that make them fun to read even 100 times a day.

Lately we are really enjoying Karen Katz’s books like Counting Kisses, Ten Tiny Tickles, and Daddy Hugs. Goose always makes us kiss or tickle the corresponding body parts, and Counting Kisses is a good bedtime book, starting with “my tired little baby, do you need a kiss?” and ending with “now it’s time for baby’s bed”. Katz also has board books with thin wood pages that can really take a beating from the toddler set. We have Baby’s Shapes and Baby’s Colors and both are in great condition even though they have been very well loved. Our latest acquisition is a pocket-sized board book version of The Monster at the End of This Book, which truth be told, hasn’t really captured Goose’s interest yet, but I love it purely for nostalgic reasons since I had a copy when I was a kid.

Toddler Goose

Our collection is rounded out with classics like Goodnight Moon, a handful of Eric Carle books, a few pocket-sized Dr. Seuss books (The Foot Book is a favorite), and almost the entire Sandra Boynton oeuvre, which I can recite in my sleep. Goose doesn’t yet have the attention span to sit for my personal favorite series, Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink, all of which are adorably illustrated and use a little reverse psychology to get the message across. Little Pea has to eat nothing but candy for dinner, and he hates it. He struggles through a few bites at his parents’ request in order to earn his dessert – spinach! Similarly, Little Hoot hates having to stay up all night, and Little Oink hates having to be dirty all the time. I wholeheartedly recommend this series to anyone with an older toddler or preschooler.

Stuck under the jumperoo with a good book

With Goose closing in on 20 months old, we are in the market for some new books. At this point, she isn’t quite ready for paper pages, as evidenced by her immediate destruction of Once Upon a Potty the second we handed it to her. Flap books are generally a no-no too unless they are rather sturdy. GenXmoms readers, what are your favorite books from birth to preschool?

Disclosure: The Cooking Mama purchased all mentioned books herself and received no incentive or compensation for reviewing them. Booksfromatoz.com, an Usborne Books & More site, is owned by the Legal Eagle. All other links point to Amazon copies. Gen X Moms Blog is not an Amazon affiliate and receives no compensation for clicking or purchasing through these links.

Kids and Veggies? It Can Be Done!

Guest contributor The Cooking Mama weighs in on kids and veggies!

It’s a hot and sometimes contentious topic, getting veggies into your children. Some moms are of the mind that hiding veggies is disrespectful and detrimental to the development of their palates. These moms argue that if a vegetable is prepared simply and deliciously, kids will enjoy it. That’s undoubtedly true for some lucky moms, but if the success of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious books is any indication, lots of moms have found that their kids just aren’t ever going to eat that broccoli, whether it’s roasted with olive oil, fresh herbs, and a sprinkle of sea salt, or slathered with radioactive-orange cheese. If making a bunch of purees and stirring them into everything you make isn’t your bag, I can share a few ideas that are totally palatable to young, developing tastebuds, while retaining all the nutrients and some of the flavor and texture of the vegetables used to make them.

Baby Goose love broccoli

When Goose was starting solids, she loved veggies even more than fruit. We followed the practice of baby-led weaning, so she happily and noisily sucked and gnawed on stalks of steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, and green beans to her little heart’s content. As her pincer grasp developed, she enjoyed peas and was absolutely crazy about black beans. I was so pleased, and maybe even a little braggy about my excellent little eater (because clearly my wonderful parenting was responsible, and not her naturally adventurous disposition). There was nothing Goose wouldn’t try. And then came toddlerhood. Suddenly the foods she once gobbled down were being pitched to the floor in a fit of disgusted rage. Black beans? BLECH! Spinach? I haven’t seen YOU eating any spinach, mother! Over the course of a couple months, vegetables became all but verboten to Goose. As she was growing well and I thought it was a brief phase, I happily offered more fruit along with the veggies, but when I realized she wasn’t eating ANY vegetables apart from sweet potatoes and the very occasional carrot cube from her peas and carrots, I realized I might have to get sneaky.

Make eggs, not war

Kids, generally speaking, like eggs a whole lot. Goose would eat them at every meal if I let her. Luckily for us, eggs are a perfect vehicle for veggie delivery. A quick peek at one of my favorite sites for baby and kid food ideas, weelicious.com, led me to the idea of mini frittatas (link to recipe: http://weelicious.com/2008/06/18/baby-frittatas/). The site’s author makes hers with roasted red pepper and asparagus, which sounds delicious to me but perhaps not the best way to introduce the concept to a truly picky eater. My first try included a small handful of cooked peas and carrots, and a dash of salt and pepper. Goose loved them! Next up was finely chopped steamed broccoli and a little bit of shredded cheddar (Goose is sensitive to dairy but can handle a very little bit of cow’s milk cheese). Verdict?

om nom nom

Yum, and her little toddler pal loved them too. These cute little handheld frittatas could take on all kinds of veggies, I’d bet. Why not try chopped, well-drained frozen spinach, finely diced squash (roasted or steamed), or seeded and finely diced tomatoes? If you’re pressed for time or don’t feel like heating up the oven, just mix your cooked, chopped veggies right into scrambled eggs before they are fully set. And when in doubt, add cheese.

Fry them up

Goose was never all that impressed when I offered steamed cubes or the mashed flesh of a baked sweet potato, but when I started cutting them in sticks or rounds and roasting them with a little olive oil and a pinch of cinnamon? She was over the moon for them. Now we have sweet potato fries with lunch or dinner a couple times a week. Goose does a dance in her highchair when she sees them and I feel good serving them because sweet potatoes are absolutely loaded with vitamins and fiber. And remember, good old Russet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and fiber too, so oven fries are a good guilt-free indulgence. Just leave the skins on and go easy on the oil! Some other veggies that might be better received in oven fry form are turnips, zucchini, carrots, or even green beans. There are plenty of recipes on the net, breaded and not, so do some experimenting.

Dessert

If all else fails and your picky little one turns her nose up at everything, make some sweets. Mini muffins are an excellent way to hide vegetables – think finely shredded zucchini or carrot in a basic spice cake recipe – and once baked, the veggies are nearly indetectable. This time of year, canned pumpkin is plentiful (barring a shortage in your neck of the woods) so try adding a few spoonfuls to oatmeal or baking up some quick breads. I’ve even read about black bean brownies, which are supposedly really moist and yummy and not at all bean-y (though I admit I haven’t mustered up the courage to try them yet). Those mixed fruit and veggie squeezable pouches are getting rave reviews, too. And even if your little one isn’t getting as many vegetables as you’d like, remember that fruit, although higher in natural sugars, also packs a big nutritional punch when it comes to vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

gratuitous cuteness

Getting your kids to eat the right foods can be really stressful and difficult, and I’ve definitely let myself get worried over it as much as any other mama. One obvious, but invaluable piece of advice I’ve heard from many of my mom friends is to relax, because kids will eat when they feel like it. There’s no use fighting them and making mealtime unpleasant for everyone. With that in mind, our new MO has been to just keep offering veggies every day (some hidden, some not) and make sure that Goose sees us eating and enjoying them too.

Strategies for a Spirited Toddler

Today’s post is brought to you by our guest blogger, The Cooking Mama. Read along as she presents some of her parenting strategies with her daughter, Goose.

I think most, if not all of us have felt subject to the scrutiny of friends, family, and complete strangers when it comes to how we raise our children. The well-intentioned but unsolicited comments, criticism, and advice start while you’re busy minding your own business and gestating and as far as I know, continue right on into toddlerhood and beyond. As a first-time mom trying to find her way, it can be hard to remain confident in your abilities and choices as a parent when everyone and their dog has something to say on the matter. It seems like today more than ever, our methods and philosophies on parenting are a matter of public consumption – everyone gets a say in how we are supposed to raise our kids and few hesitate to tell us when we’re doin’ it wrong. And when your toddler is “spirited”, a common euphemism for the strong-willed, temperamental, or even outright difficult child, it can feel like you never get it right.

Goose loves the goats!

My 17 month old daughter Goose is an intense little spitfire. She has been full of personality since the day she was born, and if I can be braggy for a minute, she’s very bright, and lovable and sweet to boot. But she has never been an easy, or easygoing baby. We have been through hell and back with her sleeping issues. She’s been into everything from the second she learned to locomote. She’s always been extremely vocal about what she wants and when she wants it (hint: NOW!). She’s not deterred by silly things like baby gates or cabinet locks or closed doors with doorknobs too high to reach, and will keep at something she wants with bull-headed determination until we physically remove her from it. She tests limits at every chance she gets. So yes, while we love her intensely, it has been a challenge not just keeping her safe but also staying sane ourselves. And it’s doubly hard to do when everyone wants to offer advice on how to tame our “brat”.

We’ve steadfastly ignored the suggestions to spank, and to bite/pinch her back when she does it to us. Not an option. We briefly tried time-outs but I don’t think she’s yet able to draw a connection between say, hitting the TV and being made to sit in a designated time-out chair. With time I’m sure she would understand, and we will probably revisit the idea in a few months, but right now, she immediately goes back to doing whatever got her put in time-out to begin with, so I think the message is not quite getting to her. Yelling, which I admit to doing in moments of extreme frustration, doesn’t faze her in the least and besides, makes me feel guilty. So what CAN you do with a willful little girl like Goose? Well, as of yet we haven’t found a discipline tool that is 100% effective, but I have gleaned a few ideas from mama friends, toddler-rearing books, and the good old internet, and I think these ideas can be helpful with toddlers of any persuasion.

“Feeding the Meter”

This is a concept outlined by Dr. Harvey Karp, of the Happiest Baby/Happiest Toddler on the Block  fame, and it was explained to me in shorthand by one of my mama role models (you may know her as The Scrivener) at a time when I REALLY needed help. What it boils down to is giving your toddler your full, undivided attention for short periods of time throughout the day, essentially “topping them off” with close interaction from mama to keep them satisfied and secure knowing that mama is there if they need her. I think a common misconception is that stay-at-home-moms play with their kids during every waking moment. Well perhaps some do, but if you’re anything like me, you also need to do chores, go to the bathroom, shovel some food that isn’t your kid’s leftover scraps into your starving face, and yes, even spend some time doing stuff YOU enjoy in order to stay sane, like playing on facebook for a little while or reading a chapter from a novel. Goose has always been pretty good about playing independently while I work around her, and I think that’s an important skill for her to have, so I give her some space. When she gets crabby, though, that’s usually a signal that she is overdue for some one-on-one time, and we cuddle on the floor with her books or find a new toy to play with for a few minutes. This usually does a pretty good job of heading off the more undesirable behaviors. Usually.

Distraction

DinoGoose

Peacock Goose

As I mentioned before, Goose will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and many times, pretty much our only resort is to physically remove her from imminent danger (either to herself or to our belongings). As you can imagine, she doesn’t take kindly to being pulled away from something she wants, so our best bet is to get her excited about something else as quickly as possible. She loves doing big girl things like helping throw laundry into the dryer, carrying socks into her room and putting them in the basket, and stirring an empty pot while I cook, so “putting her to work” is the easiest form of redirection for us. Other kids may respond just as well to being shown a toy or book, but if yours is hell-bent on destruction, appeal to his big boy pride and take advantage of a little child labor.

Routine

Some go-with-the-flow parents don’t need to keep to a routine and their kids do fine – I envy those parents! Goose is a creature of habit so we have always had a routine for naps and we find it’s best to stick as closely to that routine as possible to avoid meltdowns. Creating expectations and performing little rituals helps Goose transition from the things she wants to be doing to the thing she needs to do without much fuss. Naptime and bedtime rituals have changed over the months (from nursing to sleep, to saying goodnight to everything in sight to avoid a tantrum, to now collecting her binkies by herself and tossing them in the crib) but one constant we’ve used since birth is the Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse. We have turned it on for her at every nap and bedtime for the last 17 months and she now associates it with sleeping time and will even turn it on by herself when she wakes in the middle of the night, which often is enough to soothe her back to sleep without our intervention. Creating strong sleep associations has helped us make naptime and bedtime much less stressful events for everyone involved. And more sleep means a much happier little girl and a less-zombiefied mama.

So, to wrap up this epic tome – I don’t have all the answers to raising a spirited toddler (and I welcome any ideas the readers may have). If I did, my husband probably wouldn’t come home to an absolute mess of a house and a hissing, tearful wife quite as often as he does. But you know, we’re not aiming for perfection here and Goose and I are learning together. It’s been quite the journey already and I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a smart, independent, and headstrong young lady.