Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Bizarre

Approximately six months ago, I wrote my first article about my picky eater and some of the meal time challenges our family faced. Presently, I am happy to report that my son is a mostly reformed picky eater. What brought about this change? Was it my amazing parenting skills, you ask? Admittedly, no. Well, some of the changes might be due to my extraordinary parenting skills, but I must give credit where credit is due. Here’s what happened:

During the peak of all this “picky eating” business, my husband discovered a show on the Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods. Watching episodes of this show quickly became father-son bonding time. In fact, we girls were often shushed and sent from the room during show time. Bizarre Foods is hosted by an extremely energetic chef and expert foodie named Andrew Zimmern. During each episode, he travels to all corners of the world, sampling all manner of cuisine. So enthusiastic is he, you wish you could join him on each adventure. My husband and son were fascinated by this show. Where would Andrew go next? Who would he meet? What would he eat? You would think this would be the last show a finicky nine year old would want to watch. You would be wrong.

SO – do I think Andrew Zimmern influenced my son to cast aside his beloved chicken nugget and try something new? Well…shortly after he began watching the show, my son (who would previously gag at the mere mention of seafood) ate a very generous serving of calamari. That’s fancy talk for squid.

Recently, there was talk at ilunchbox.com about how it would be cool to begin featuring interviews with celebrity chefs and food personalities. Hmmmm. I wondered if Andrew could spare a few minutes. If not for me, for a curious nine year old boy who would be thrilled to have the opportunity to ask his favorite TV host a few questions. I gave it a shot and heard back from Andrew’s “people” within minutes. My nine year old had scored his first celebrity interview. Not too shabby!

So here it is. Andrew Zimmern as interviewed by nine year old aspiring foodie (and my son!), Adam Rapp:

Adam Rapp: What is the grossest thing you ever tasted? Did it make you throw up?
Andrew Zimmern: It’s a toss up between the stinky tofu I tried in Taiwan or my mother-in-law’s pot roast. Both were pretty bad, but I didn’t throw up.

Adam: What is your favorite place to visit? Do you speak any languages besides English?
AZ: I speak what I like to call “kitchen Spanish and French”, but English is the only language I’m fluent in.

Adam: What is your favorite sport to watch? Do you play any sports?
AZ: I love sports, especially football and baseball. I’m a huge Yankees and NY Giants fan!

Adam: What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you on your show?
AZ: We almost sunk our boat in Samoa— I’ve never been so scared for my life! Also, when I was supposed to jump off a reactor in South Africa on the first season of Bizarre World. I am terrified of heights and just couldn’t jump.

Adam: What toppings do you like on your pizza?
AZ: Prosciutto, sausage, pepperoni... I like lots of meat on my pizza!

Adam: When you were a kid, what was the candy you picked most when you trick or treated?
AZ: Whatever I could get my hands on! I love anything that’s chocolaty with a crunch— Snicker’s, Twix, Butterfinger.

Adam: What is your least favorite food?
AZ: Walnuts! They’re disgusting!

Adam: What is your favorite vegetable? What is your least favorite vegetable?
AZ: I’m a big fan of all veggies, especially Brussels sprouts, asparagus and squash.

Adam: Do you like regular stuff like hot dogs and burgers?
AZ: Definitely. Love them. We grill at my house all the time during the summer. My wife is a meat and potatoes gal, so we eat a lot of “regular” food when I’m in town.

Adam: What do you usually eat for breakfast?
AZ: Yogurt, granola and a giant coffee.

Bonus question from Adam's mom:

Me: What is your advice for parents of picky eaters?
AZ: I can’t tell you how many emails I get every week from parents thanking me for influencing their son or daughter to try new foods. Whether it’s through shows like Bizarre Foods or Bizarre World, or books and songs about food, use entertainment to open their minds. Admit it: You didn’t like Spinach until you saw what it did to Popeye!

A big thanks to Andrew Zimmern and his Mediamonger Molly for making this happen!

To find out more about Andrew Zimmern and Bizarre Foods check out:




Friday, October 23, 2009

Lost in Translation

One of the biggest milestones in a toddler’s life is grasping the use of speech and building vocabulary in order to communicate their wants and needs. It usually starts small, with things like “Dada”, followed by “Mama” and perhaps “milk” and/or “pee pee”. Even if your toddler doesn’t say these words clearly, it’s simple enough to understand what the heck they mean when they point to their bottle and say “baba”. But when your toddler moves on to more complex words and tries their hand at stringing a few together, sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what in tarnation they’re trying to say. Learning to understand your little one is strictly trial and error. And believe me, they will let you know when you are not getting it.

There was an episode of the Simpsons a while back in which Homer’s brother invents a device called the Baby Translator. Remember?  Quite the moneymaker. Having such a device could avoid so much heartache and frustration. It’s hard to say which party is more exasperated – the little person who doesn’t understand why you are so dense, or the grown-up person, forced to play charades every waking hour.

The situation was definitely more difficult with my first child. Not due to the child, you understand, but simply my lack of experience. No one told me that when he first starting speaking, it would sound like an alien language that only he understood. And it wasn’t just me. Others would ask “what’s he saying?” My reply was usually “I dunno”. Because the only thing more annoying than not being able to understand your toddler is a parent who pretends that they know every single word their kid is muttering. You know who you are.

When my son was about 14 months old, he used one single “nonsense” word to actually represent several sentences. It was up to me to crack the code. This one took me about four days: “Hymee” = “Henry”. “Henry” = “Henry the Octopus from The Wiggles”. It was a slow and painful process, but a couple days later, I finally figured out that when he said “Hymee”, what he really meant was “I want to watch an episode of The Wiggles right this very instant, and it has to be the one where Henry is singing with his underwater jazz band”. There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

This whole Toddler to English translation thing came much more easily with my second child. Many of her sayings (commands) are pretty universal, so here is a sampling of some of the more basic stuff. All the work has already been done for you, so enjoy!

1) What she said: “I go Potty?”

   What she meant: There’s a nice big puddle on the kitchen floor calling your name. Plus a few wet footprints. And a handprint or two. 

2) What she said: “I not ride stroller”

   What she meant: You might want to do a couple of stretches before you have to sprint after me in the crowded mall.

3) What she said: “I not tired!”

   What she meant: I was tired about 43 minutes ago, but you missed your window of opportunity and now it will take you two and a half hours to get me to go to sleep.

4) What she said: “no. No! NO!! NOOOO!!!!!”

   What she meant: I hope you don’t see anyone you know here because this is going to be a record breaking temper tantrum. Heh heh.

5) What she said: “Uh oh. I spill!”

   What she meant: I spilled my yogurt all over my face and my hair with my hands. Also, check my left nostril.

6) What she said: “I bump my head at ‘cool today”

   What she meant: Today, at school, I headbutted Billy. The teacher will be speaking to you about it tomorrow.

7) What she said: “I tooted!”

   What she meant: I think I only tooted, but if it’s still stinky after three minutes, you may want to check my pants. It could have been more. I can’t be sure.

8) What she said: “I pretty princess!”

   What she meant: I will be wearing this tutu with my pajamas and rainboots out in public all day and if you try to change my outfit, see #4,

9) What she said: “Mmmm. Yummy widdle bug”

   What she meant: Of course I didn’t eat the bug, but oh man – if you could see your face right now. Ahhh. Classic.

10) What she said: “I loves you, Mommy”

    What she meant: I loves you, Mommy.

Yes, Rosetta Stone…I would LOVE to collaborate with you on your new Toddlerese series, thanks for asking!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Got a Rock

It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting a bit cooler, the leaves are starting to fall, and Halloween is just weeks away. For many, this means candy. Lots and lots of candy.

There is a scene from the War of the Roses, during which Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (the parents) are having an argument about the issue of overindulgence vs. deprivation on the topic of children and sweets. The Mom believes that allowing the children as much candy as they would like will keep them from overindulging, therefore they will end up trim and healthy. The next scene shows us two obese children. You’ve heard it said before, but it’s still a good rule. Moderation is key.

Come Halloween, our kids will be hitting the streets and collecting all kinds of loot. At the end of the Trick or Treating festivities, there are some parents who will allow their kids one piece of candy and confiscate the rest. Other parents may allow their kids to have unlimited access to their goodie bucket. Again – everything in moderation. We usually let the kids have fun counting and sorting (and eliminating the unsafe items), before choosing a few pieces to eat. The candy bucket then goes out of reach. Over the next few nights, we hand out a piece here and a piece there. Out of sight is often out of mind. A couple weeks after Halloween, the candy bucket is not mentioned again.

If you have opted to make better choices this Halloween in terms of what candy you will hand out to kids that knock on your door October 31st, you don’t have to be the parent that hands out dental floss and raisins. Unless you really really want to. Non-candy options that are appreciated by kids (so I’m told) are: stickers, pencils, Halloween themed items, pretzels, fruit chews, and coins (hopefully for Unicef). If you do decide to hand out candy, but want to keep the parental temptation to a minimum, best choices are: dark chocolate, sugar free gum, lollipops, mini candy bars (not full size), and candy that does not include caramel, nuts or nougat. Personally, I wait until the day before Halloween to buy my candy so it’s not sitting around calling my name. I also tend to buy things that are not that tempting to me. There will plenty of chocolate coming my way at the end of the night – I don’t need any extras. Another thing we always do on Halloween is make sure that the kids eat a regular dinner before they head out. Trick or treating on an empty stomach is probably not the best idea.

So parents – let the kids have their fun, keep them safe, and remind them to say “thank you”. Happy Halloween!

If you are interested in finding out more about trick or treating for Unicef, click here:  http://youth.unicefusa.org/trickortreat/

Saturday, September 26, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

When I was expecting my first child, almost nine years ago, there weren't a whole lot of choices in the world of baby gear. Things were either navy blue, pastel, or Winnie the Pooh. This may be part of the reason for the span of six and a half years between baby #1 and baby #2. It was well worth the wait! Baby gear and products have come a LONG way. Maybe you are expecting your first child and have no idea what's in store or – like me, you've had a large spacing in between kids and aren't aware of the wonderful new items. I want to help!

A few days ago, I spotted a new mom sporting a denim Pooh and Friends diaper bag and pushing what appeared to be a 95 pound stroller (with squeaky wheels the size of dinner plates). I was instantly saddened. Didn't she know there were other options? I was tempted to casually cross her path and enlighten her. She turned toward me and I couldn't help but notice she was wearing a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt, which I assumed to be of her own free will. "Let this one go", I told myself. "It's too late for her". Still – if I can get the message out to just one person, I will have made the world a better place. So here it is – my own personal favorite baby and kid products.

Maxi-Cosi Priori Convertible Car Seat

This is one of the nicest looking car seats around. The colors are fun and it's not as bulky as other convertible car seats, should you need to transfer it between cars or travel with it. The seat cover is washable and a cup holder (for baby) is included. My favorite feature of this car seat is the fact that you can recline it after the seat has already been installed. Baby falls asleep on the road and his/her head is slumped forward? No problem! Reach back (keeping eyes on the road), pull lever, and ease the seat back. There are also slots on the side to secure the straps while you load baby into the seat – no more tangled straps. This retails for $129 to $199. From birth to 40 pounds. Converts from rear facing to forward facing when baby reaches 22 pounds and one year old.

Company Website: http://www.maxi-cosi.com/maxicosi/productdetail.aspx?id=22&tn=2

Twilight Ladybug

This is one of the cutest products I have seen. This is intended to be a sleep companion for ages 2 to adult. The ladybug "shell" illuminates stars and constellations on the walls and ceiling. It has three colored lights – red, blue, and green. It comes with a guide to the constellations. It also has an automatic shut off. My toddler loves this although I have to be honest – it doesn't really help her sleep. She gets too excited by all the lights and colors, but it's still a great product. The Ladybug is a variation of the original Twilight Turtle. They now make a Sea Turtle as well. Retails for $34.

Company Website: http://www.cloudb.com/ssandf/turtle.html

JJ Cole Bundle Me

The Bundle Me is basically a stroller/car seat cover. It comes in two sizes: Birth to one year and one to three years. I have and love both. If you have ever tried to buckle a baby into an infant carrier while they are dressed in a snowsuit, you will appreciate this product. It comes in many colors and several levels of thickness. There is a fleece lined one for winter and a moisture wicking lightweight one for spring. It protects baby from cold, rain, wind, snow, and sometimes….well-meaning cheek-pinching strangers. Retails for $29 to $70.

Company Website: http://jjcoleusa.com/original-bundleme

Skip Hop Splash

Sure it looks like an ordinary bottle drying rack, but you'd be surprised at what a spacesaver this item is. It has three levels of drying space and plenty of room for bottles, rings, nipples, binkies, bottle caps, sippy cup parts etc …The bottle brush is included. Comes in red, white, or blue. Still useful long after baby has moved on to a regular drinking cup – holds eight champagne flutes. Retails for $30

Company Website: http://skiphop.com/product/302000.html

Phil & Teds Me Too

The Me Too is a portable lightweight hook-on high chair. To be used from 6 month to 40 pounds. It's easy to clean – you can even hose it down if you need to. It has nice clean simple lines. It comes in red, blue, and black. It folds flat and weighs 2.2 pounds – you can easily pack it up for that family vacation. My only advice it to make SURE you attach it to a stable table. Restaurant table? Yes. Folding card table? Probably not. Retails for $50.

Company Website: http://www.philandteds.com/metoo_index.htm

The First Years insulated sippy cup

There are a lot of sippy cups to choose from and many of them are cuter than these, but you know what won me over? TWO PARTS. Cup and lid. The valve is built into the lid. When you are washing sippy cups several times a day, these things matter. With these cups, there are no spouts, valves, or straws to deal with. And yes – they are BPA free. Retails for $9.99/two pack.

Company Website: http://www.learningcurve.com/product/detail/Y9293A4?locale=en_US

The Snack Trap

This is exactly what it sounds like. A plastic cup with two handles and a lid that little hands can easily reach into. Fill it up with Cheerios and shake it around a bit – not a lot of spilling going on. I only wish I had these sooner. I have enough cheerios on the floor of my backseat to feed the family breakfast for a week. These are more environmentally friendly than sandwich bags, and MUCH easier for kids to use. They come in many colors and designs. The handles make it that much easier for babies to hold. Retails for $5 each, but I managed to get two for that price at Target.

Company Website: http://www.snacktrap.com/Categories.bok?category=Made+For+Mom%3AThe+Snack-Trap

Travel n'Doodle

This is a lifesaver for car trips, waiting rooms, and airplane rides. This drawing pad uses a refillable water filled pen and has two blank pages for doodling. The "ink" disappears as the water dries. There is a little elastic holder for the pen and a Velcro strip to close up shop. My advice is to have a back-up pen handy. It's very slender when folded and easy to tote around in the diaper bag. Or for your toddler to carry it on their own. Yeah, right.  Retails for $20.

Company Website: http://www.aquadoodle.com/

Horizon Organic Milk Boxes

Four available flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, and good ol' plain lowfat milk. You can use the straw that comes attached, or lift open the spout and pour. Needs no refrigeration. Great for travel and camping. For children of all ages – also great for a bowl of cereal on the go. I usually take a few of these on the airplane (liquid restrictions are a bit more lenient for children). You can find these individually, in three-packs, or boxes of 18. retails from $1.99 to $24. I find mine at BJ's Wholesale Club for $13.99/18 pack. Amazon.com sells the same for $23!

Company Website: http://www.horizonorganic.com/#/products/milk/milk-boxes

Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag

There are SO many diaper bags to choose from – I cannot possibly tell you which one you should buy. I just want to share some features that you may want to look for. I happen to have the Skip Hop Spark which is Target's version of the Duo. I couldn't pass it up. I am a sucker for a good deal and they were practically giving them away. I figured I would grab one and use it in the meantime while I figured out which more permanent diaper bag to purchase. Two and half years later – I am still toting around my clearance purchase from Target. Appearance wise, the bag is nothing special. It's durable and comes in many colors and different designs. It has plenty of bottle holders and includes a changing pad, but what I LOVE about this bag are the stroller buckles. I don't care if you have the hottest looking diaper bag in town – it's a pain to carry one while you are pushing a stroller. Sure, you can stow it in the stroller basket, but it's a hassle to have to retrieve it every time your baby needs something. The Skip Hop bags have buckles that allow you to hang the bag from the stroller. Yes, of course you can throw pretty much any bag over the stroller handle, but having the buckles is much much better. I have ripped a few stroller handles by hanging other diaper bags from them. Retails for $19.99 to $199.

Company Website: http://www.skiphop.com/product/20000.html

Fleurville Slip Not

A very smart mom came up with this one. If you have a fancy shmancy diaper bag that does NOT have stroller buckles, these Slip Nots loop around stroller handles  allowing you to hook your diaper bag, purse, or shopping bag with a simple click. Retails for $20.

Company Website: http://fleurville.com/product/slipnot

Zooper Waltz Stroller

This is probably one of my favorite strollers. It's intended to be used from birth to 55 pounds. It accommodates almost any make of infant carrier and comes in a variety of color combinations. I have it in Wheat which is beige and brown with pink piping. The stroller features a built in bassinet, full one-handed recline, HUGE canopy, and equally huge storage basket. They throw in a lot of extra stuff with the stroller: foot muff, insect netting, rain cover, snack tray (for bebe), cup holder (for parents). It also features adjustable leg rest and auto locking flat fold. The steering on this stroller is top notch – can you tell I love this stroller? For all its features, the price can't be beat. It retails for $299 to $389. I will say that I bought mine for less than that on a well known auction site, but I don't recommend it. What I didn't know at the time was that most stroller companies will not honor the warranty on items purchased on certain auction sites.

Company Website: http://www.zooper.com/

Valco Buggster

If I had to choose between this stroller and my Zooper, I just don't know. Hopefully it will never come to that. This is a three wheel "luxury" stroller. It is not a jogging stroller. It's made for around 3 months old to 55 pounds and I have yet to see someone else with my stroller. They are super popular in the UK and Australia, and became available in the US about 2 years ago. The steering on this stroller is amazing – you can literally steer it with your pinky. It comes with some extras – foot muff, sun shield, rain shield. It has an umbrella style fold so it takes up very little space. The seat is practically a double wide – and the stroller reminds me of a jacket I had in the 80's…lots of zippers in random places. It's lightweight, thanks to an aluminum frame and is a snap to travel with. Valco also makes a coordinating bassinet available for separate purchase. It comes in black, red, pink, and orange. I wish it came with a cup holder, but Valco makes one that fits the stroller well. Also, the storage basket is a tad on the small side, but because of the umbrella style handles, you can hang your shopping bags there – even though the company says specifically not to. Nothing bad has happened yet. Retail price $260 to $395.

Company website: http://www.valcobaby.com/

You should know that shopping for a stroller took me about five times as long as shopping for a car. I don't know why, it just did. And I have to say that I learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about strollers from The Strollerqueen. Janet McLaughlin. The lady knows her stuff and I highly recommend her reviews and advice. http://www.strollerqueen.com/ And if you are still confused after reading all her reviews, she will provide a stroller consult for a very low fee. AND, she attends the big baby product convention in Vegas annually and knows what's in the works before they hit the store shelves. I love her and I don't think she is crazy at all for having a third baby so she could continue to surround herself with strollers. Really. She did. He's called Strollerprince 2.0!

I also want to mention that I am not paid to endorse any of these products. Recently, my husband informed me about mom bloggers being under attack for featuring advertisements on their blog sites, disguised as product reviews, which is obviously very misleading. I have purchased all of the products I have reviewed on my own and with my own funds. I have never been approached by a company to endorse their product, but I wouldn't be totally against the idea (hint hint). I mean, if a sponsor wanted to have me try out a product, I would review it with honesty and integrity, and would be happy to keep such a product in exchange (hint hint). Or even cash money (hint hint). But only if I liked and believed in the product, of course.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Was it something you ate?

How many times have you heard "there's some kind of stomach bug going around"? And how do you know if it's a stomach bug or a food safety issue? Well, you don't always. BUT - if you do what you can to minimize food safety blunders and teach your kids (and adults) about basic hygiene, you are taking proper steps to keep the family healthy.

These days, families are doing what they can to save money, but really - eating unsafe food in the interest of not "wasting" is never a bargain. When in doubt...throw it out!

September is back to school month for many children, my own included. September is also National Food Safety Month and who doesn't love a quiz? Think you know all about food storage and safety? Take the quiz and refer to the answers below to see how well you did. Good luck!
1) True or False? Milk is safe to consume up to one week past the sell by date.

2) Apples will stay fresh in the refrigerator for:
a) 2 weeks
b) 10 days
c) 6 weeks
d) 3 months

3) The best place to store a banana is:
a) Refrigerator
b) Pantry
c) Countertop
d) Banana hook

4) Cooked food can be left at room temperature for:
a) 1 hour
b) 2 hours
c) 30 minutes
d) 3 hours

5) True or False? Peanut butter must be refrigerated after opening.

6) In general, leftovers should be eaten within:
a) 4 days
b) 1 week
c) 5 days
d) 2 days

7) Deli counter cold cuts should be used within:
a) 5 days
b) 14 days
c) 7 days
d) 10 days

8) True or False? If you find mold on your bread, it’s okay to cut it off and still eat the bread.

9) True or False? Once you slice fruit, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator.

10) The best place to store watermelon before eating is:
a) Refrigerator, whole
b) Countertop
c) Outdoors
d) Refrigerator after slicing.

11) The best place to thaw frozen meat is:
a) Refrigerator
b) Microwave
c) Countertop
d) Bowl of cold water

12) True or False? Eggs can be used up to 1 month past the sell by date.

13) True or False? It is okay to microwave leftovers in a take-out styrofoam container.

14) True or False? It’s okay to save a meat marinade (after the meat has soaked in it) and pour it over the cooked meat.

15) If you leave a restaurant with a doggie bag, it should be refrigerated within:
a) 1 hour
b) 2 hours
c) 3 hours
d) 30 minutes

16) True or False? You should let hot foods cool before putting them away in the refrigerator.

17) True or False? All fresh fruits and vegetables need to be scrubbed with soap.

18) True or False? After a 3 hour long power outage, you must throw away the contents of your refrigerator.

19) True or False? Refrigerated food from the supermarket needs to be transported home within one hour.

20) True or False? It’s okay to cover food with plastic wrap when microwaving.


1) True. Experts say milk is safe to drink up to one week past the "Sell by" date. However, some milk containers have a "use by" date rather than a "sell by" date. Always take note of that information and never rely on the "smell test" to determine milk's safety.

2) D. Apples will keep for 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator. Store them in the fruit compartment at low humidity.

3) A. The best place to store a banana is in the refrigerator AFTER it is ripe.

4) B. Cooked food can be left out at room temperature for up to 2 hours. After that, bacteria starts to grow rapidly. In warm weather (think picnics and barbecues), shorten that time limit to 1 hour.

5) False. In general, most peanut butters do not need to be refrigerated after opening. Check the label to be safe and take note of the expiration date.

6) A. Leftovers should be eaten within 4 days. If you don't think you will get around to eating them within that time, freeze immediately.

7) A. Toss after 5 days. Pre-packed cold cuts should be used within 10 days, provided they are sealed and stored properly.

8) False. If you find mold on your bread, toss it out. It's OK to slice mold off hard cheeses, cured meats, and firm fruits and vegetables. Anything else with moldy parts should be thrown away.

9) True. Once you slice fresh fruit, it needs to be refrigerated in a sealed container or bag. It should be used within 3 to 5 days.

10) This is sort of a trick question. The best place to store watermelon is whole, in a cool place away from direct sunlight. It will be good for up to 2 weeks. Watermelon contains lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. Storing watermelon in the fridge can lessen the amount of lycopene. If you love eating your watermelon chilled, slice it and place in the fridge for an hour before eating, for maximum lycopene benefits.

11) A. The best place to thaw frozen meat is in the refrigerator. A cold water bath would be 2nd choice, but change the cold water every 30 minutes. 3rd choice would be the microwave. Countertop defrosting is not recommended.

12) True. Eggs are usually safe to eat 4 to 5 weeks after purchase. As with milk, take note of whether your eggs have a "use by" date or a "sell by" date.

13) False. Styrofoam containers can leach chemicals or even melt into your food. Check the label on the container - a few are safe to microwave, but in general, it's best to transfer to a plate before re-heating.

14) False. Never use meat marinade to cover the cooked meat, unless you bring it to a complete boil first. You can also make some extra marinade before placing your meat into it and store that separately to use as a sauce on the finished product.

15) B. Restaurant leftovers should be placed in the fridge within 2 hours from the time the cooking is complete. Account for the time the food spends on your plate, transport time etc...if you lingered at the restaurant for an hour after your meal, that grace period is significantly reduced.

16) False. Hot foods do not need to cool before being stored in the fridge. While that method was commonly used years ago, modern day refrigerators are equipped to handle the introduction of a hot item without issue.

17) False. Rubbing fruits and veggies under running water with just your hands for 30 seconds is sufficient. You don't need to break out the scrub brushes and suds.

18) False. If you have an extended power outage, your refrigerator contents are safe (with the door shut) for 4 to 6 hours. Freezer contents are okay for 24 hours.

19) True. Purchases from the supermarket need to be refrigerated within 1 hour. 2 hours is the absolute maximum. If the weather is warm, you should transfer the foods ASAP. In warm weather, the temperature of your trunk can easily reach 100 plus degrees.

20) True. Check that the plastic wrap is microwave safe, however, try not to allow the plastic to touch your food.

These food facts, plus countless others can be found at:



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don’t Stick a Fork in Me Yet

For many people, it seems to go a little like this: When you are dating someone seriously, people ask when you will get married. So then you get married and people ask when you will start a family. So you have a baby and people ask when you will have another. So then you have another and people ask if you will go for baby number 3. Who are these people and why are they so nosy?

And how do you know when you are “done”?

There are a few moms I know who, when asked if they will have another, responded before the question was complete. They answered with a resounding “NO!”. Then there are moms I know who already have three kids and know for sure they would like to have more.

And then there are those of us who are on the fence. We have two – a boy and a girl. Six years apart, which works very well for us. I find myself flip-flopping on this issue pretty much everyday. Some days, the kids are in rare form and I am just shy of pulling my hair out. Those are the days I’m certain one more kid would put me over the edge. Other days, when things are going swimmingly, I think “Heck – what’s one more in the mix?”

When I find myself in a quandary, I pull out the old Pros & Cons list.


One more kid = one more potential candidate to care for me in my later years.

One more kid = greater chance to be mother to the President of the United States (or maybe a doctor who can write me prescriptions in my later years).

Additional tax credit!

I would be able to continue building my stroller collection (I’m on stroller #12!) Yes, my neighbors have taken to calling me “Crazy Stroller Lady”. But in the nicest way possible. I think.


More toys = more mess. And we have a bit of a mess over here.

One more potential wedding to pay for.


Do I really want to return to the diaper and bottle days? I am SO close to transitioning from my diaper bag back to a purse.

My husband and I would be outnumbered.

There would be a traumatized Middle Child.

My car is a tight fit for three kids, but a minivan will never be in my future. No offense to my mom friends (nearly everyone!) with minivans. It’s not you, it’s me.

A friend of mine advised creating a spreadsheet to see if another child would make financial sense. I can tell you right now – no need to do so. Having the FIRST one didn’t make financial sense.

Another friend told me to follow my heart. A good idea, in theory. The problem is – if I made decisions with my heart, I would probably have 10 puppies, 8 kids, and would have offered to be a surrogate for any friend of mine who was struggling in that area.

A recent conversation with a friend who is in the same boat concluded with us agreeing that the regret at not having one would surely outweigh the regret at having one. From experience, I know there has never been a single moment of regret (white lies!), and yet I am REALLY struggling with this decision. My husband has already decided NO, but that’s completely irrelevant.

Coincidentally, this was the recent topic of an article in Parents magazine. According to the article, if someone asks you if you are finished having kids and you respond with ANYTHING other than a definite “YES”, you are not done. I guess we’ll see.

NOTE: I have a pact with a friend to start trying for baby #3 on December 1, 2009. I’ve got my eye on the chicken exit, but it makes me wonder… is pregnancy the new team sport?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lordy Lordy, Look Who’s Forty!

Not me, that’s who! Not yet, anyway. It’s on my mind quite a bit these days, but not because I’m conCERNED about it, mind you. OR – it’s possible that I am in denial about being in denial.

Recently, thanks to a certain social networking site, I've reconnected with dozens of long lost relatives, friends, and classmates. And an interesting thing started happening. One by one, my old classmates are reaching that big milestone. The Big Four-Oh. I just don’t see how that’s possible. I mean, we just graduated high school a few (21!) years ago, right? Right?!

On one hand, I keep reading (in magazines for women over 40) that forty is the new 30. That works for me. When I look in the mirror – not too closely and certainly not a magnified one! – I see…me. Just me. Not a 30 year old, not a 40 year old. Just the same person I see everyday. They say that when you see someone every single day, you don’t notice any changes. So I’m kind of wondering how I may look to people who haven’t seen me in say – 20 years. And how much do I care? Is turning 40 really that big of a deal?

Yes. Yes, it is. Here’s the thing: 20 years ago, I was 18 years old. It seems simple, no? You would think. My brain tells me that if 20 years ago I was 18, then I am no longer 18. If I do the math, I understand that on paper, I am a few months shy of 39. I may even be considered MIDDLE-AGED. But I can’t wrap my mind around this information. It’s not that I don’t WANT to be 38. I just don’t see how it’s possible.

I clearly remember being 9 years old and giddy with the thought of turning double digits. After that – I couldn't wait to turn 13. Then 16, 18, 21. 25 was the last birthday I was rushing to reach. As I see 40 looming ahead in the not-too-distant future I’m more like “you know what? I’ll just get out here and walk the rest of the way, thanks.”

So yes – turning 40 is a big deal because really – if 20 years flew by that fast, doesn’t that mean 60 is just around the corner?

I think with this realization comes a tweaked attitude toward life in general. I think when women are turning 40, they try to experience the events of their life in greater detail (you’ve heard of scrapbooking, yes?) They strengthen close bonds and understand who they want in their innermost circles. They are more direct about what they want and need from their relationships. There is more confidence to be who you want to be, even if a magazine didn’t feature that person in the last 3 months. For me, there is the urge to come full circle and tell the twenty-somethings to "enjoy each day because time goes by in the blink of an eye." and actually enjoy the eyerolls this elicits.

When I was entering Kindergarten, my parents had the choice between sending me when I was 4, or waiting a year. (I have one of those fall birthdays.) They chose to send me. What this means is that I am one of the younger ones in my graduating class. In other words – I’ll be one of the last to turn 40 in that particular group.

I liken this to waiting in line to walk over hot coals. I am filled with nervous excitement as I watch others go before me, but I don’t know exactly how I’ll feel when my turn comes. I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of the ones to suck it up and run across without making a peep, but we’ll see. Considering all other options though – I am Oh so grateful for the opportunity.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Funniest Five Momfinitions

1) McGuyverMom – A mom who can craft toys, snacks, first aid supplies, and entertainment using only the contents of her diaper bag/purse. Example: “Today I McguyverMommed a bandaid out of a sticker and the corner of a diaper”

2) FreefoodLoader – A mom who takes her kids to stores that hand out free food samples and uses that as a meal. Example: (overheard by store employee) “Oh look. It’s 12:30 – here come all the FreefoodLoading moms for lunch now….”

3) Momnesia – A disorder that strikes new moms, causing them to find themselves wearing slippers to work, giving a bottle to the 8 year old and a juice box to the 6 month old and host of other funny and not so funny mishaps. Example: “Did you hear about Sally’s Momnesia? Apparently she went to the store wearing her bra OVER her shirt. The poor dear….”

4) UhOh! – The sound a child makes before all h-e-double hockeysticks breaks loose. Usually involves the spilling of something red or purple, the breaking of something sentimental, or a bodily function performed after child has secretly removed their own diaper in another room. No example necessary.

5) Intiminoid – The distinct feeling you get when having romantic moments with your significant other that one of the kids will barge in at any moment. Example: (parents are enjoying some alone time after kids have gone to bed) MOM: “What was that? Did you hear that? I think I heard Billy Jr. call for me” DAD: “C’mon now…stop being so intiminoid!”

Find more Momfinitions here - http://www.parentsconnect.com/articles/mom-definitions.jhtml

Details regarding this contest can be found here - http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/fun-easy-contest-write-5

Friday, July 10, 2009

Last Mom Standing

A couple of months ago, my family and I were watching the latest season of Survivor, as we always do. During the reward and immunity challenges, my husband could be heard muttering “I could totally win this”, as he always does. I, on the other hand, am not at all interested in being a contestant. Why, you ask? Being on the show would be a combination of many of my worst fears, the top three being: bugs, lack of bathroom facilities, and foregoing deodorant.

So we’re watching Survivor and I’m wondering – what if there was a reality show for moms? Not the ones where the moms switch places or have British nannies come and discipline their kids, but something along the lines of Survivor, complete with challenges and tribal councils. Oh yeah – and a 20 million dollar prize. After taxes.

First order of business would be to cast the host. My vote would be for Ben Stiller. AND – as previously stated, I am not a fan of bugs or going potty out-of-doors, so I think it would be best all around if the show took place within a mansion compound.

Aside from the twenty million dollars, some of the smaller prizes might be:

- Uninterrupted sleep for a year.
- A minivan that looks nothing like a minivan.
- Regular date nights AND Mom’s Night Out.
- When you say “Calgon take me away”, it would actually happen.
- A patience bucket with free refills.
- The answer to any question a child may ask .

And of course, the challenges…how about:

- Cooking a four course meal with one arm while soothing a colicky infant. (includes the chopping of vegetables).
- Grocery shopping with a group of hungry toddlers who have missed their nap. No bribery with candy and/or toys allowed.
- Going on a 15 hour flight with an infant who develops GI distress along the way.
- Changing a diaper blowout using only one wipe.
- Keeping a baby perfectly quiet while conducting a business call.
- Getting a two year old to eat 5 veggie servings each day for a week.
- Singing The Wheels on the Bus 147 times in a row.
- Spending two hours in a doctor’s waiting room with only your car keys as entertainment.
- Having a sixteen year old drive you around for the day – including freeways and plenty of merges, lane changes and parallel parking. No speaking or hand gestures allowed.

Mark Burnett, if you are reading this, why yes, of course I would love to work with you and produce this show. Thanks for asking!

Friday, June 26, 2009

So close and yet...

Explanation for the new blog name: It happened like this. After a couple weeks of mulling it over, I finally landed on a name I liked for my blog. I called it The Momalogues. I checked around and the name was not yet taken, so I figured I would snatch it up. I tell you, it was just as hard as naming my kids. Anywho - I get this email shortly after I get this blog thing going. It's very mysterious. "Anonymous" has asked me to email him/her at an email that was very similar to my blog name. So I did. And I went on to check out his/her website. The url was exactly four letters off from mine. Not a big deal...to me. So I'm curious about this person and click on their profile.

Yes, well...turns out to be a she, and she is a self-proclaimed Jesus freak who is "vigilant about protecting her property". She notes that she has TRADEMAKED the name of her website. This is fine because my blog name is technically different than her website. But she goes on to state that in trademarking her website name, she also has a trademark on any name that sounds like, looks like, or smells like hers. Across ALL genres. A search on blog trademarks tells me that it is slightly possible, but unlikely.

Look, I am vigilant about protecting my property as well, but I would feel a bit ridiculous searching the world for houses that looks similar to mine and demanding the tenants vacate immediately. But here's the thing. I hadn't unpacked yet and just found out my neighbor is a bit um..."difficult", so I decided to move out and let the next tenant deal with her. There goes the neighborhood.

A Camping We Will Go

Last year, my family and I officially became regular campers. We were novices back then and were never fully prepared for the weekend away from home with limited facilities. After too many weekends of surviving on potato chips and graham crackers, we started to expand our horizons. We lease a seasonal campsite and have access to a grill, which we decided we wanted to actually use. I have a food poisoning phobia, so I had to make sure things were done the right way, for the safety of all involved.

The single most important piece of equipment for dining at a campsite is a cooler. Or maybe two. We use a large marine cooler that keeps things well below 40 degrees for an entire weekend with outdoor temperatures into the 90s. Ideally, if you can manage it, having one cooler for beverages and another for food is the best situation. Think of all the times you open and close the cooler to get a drink. Each time you do that, you let cold air out (or is it warm air in?). If you have a good amount of uncooked foods, having the separate coolers can be a better set up. Be sure to have plenty of ice or reusable ice packs in your cooler. Cold foods must be kept below 40 degrees. If the temperature in the cooler gets above that, bacteria can reach dangerous levels after two hours. Definitely better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t want to take a lot of raw foods that need to be cooked, you can always do all of your cooking at home, then store those foods in the cooler and eat them cold.

Some cooler tips:
Pack pre-chilled beverages (not warm), plus a few frozen water bottles.
Keep cooler in the shade as much as possible
Wash produce at home before your trip
Store raw foods in separate containers and storage bags to avoid cross-contamination

If you are cooking your foods at the campsite, bring along your food thermometer and follow this guideline for proper food temperatures:

Beef, veal and lamb should reach 145 degrees.
Pork should reach 160 degrees
Ground meats should reach 160 degrees
Poultry should reach 165 degrees

And remember: You can never have too many handi-wipes. Hand sanitizing gel is great too – just don’t let the kids lick it off their hands.

Maybe you’d like to have some time off from cooking. In that case, some suggestions for easy on-the-go foods to take camping are:

Peanut Butter (or cashew butter, almond butter, etc)
Canned foods (tuna, chicken, soup, stew, chili, and Spam – don’t knock it ‘til you try it!)
Trail Mix
Granola Bars
Dry cereal
Dried fruit
Fresh fruit
Veggies (carrot sticks, radish, sliced cukes, zucchini, jicama, celery etc)
Pre-cooked veggies (cold roasted veggie sandwiches are pretty good)
Cold cuts
Smoked fish (if you like that kind of thing. I do!)
Other favorite sandwich fixin's
Yogurt or GoGurt (we like GoGurt Simple without artificial colors/flavors. You can freeze them.)
And of course, what camping trip would be complete without S’Mores!

Don’t forget utensils, plates, napkins, and any other cooking/eating tools and you are all set for a great weekend enjoying the great outdoors. Enjoy!

P.S. As my mother-in-law (a.k.a. the food safety police) says…”When in doubt, throw it out”. Words to live by.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tiny Dancer

Highlight of the Day:

Today, my two year old daughter (a.k.a. Pretty Princess) decided to put on a show for me. She summoned me into the living room, which is the only toy-free area of the house, save for her keyboard. She is quite serious about her music career, but not as serious as she is about her dancing career. “Mommy sit.” She says, motioning to a chair. “I dance”.

She begins with a little warm up of toe tapping accompanied by corresponding “jazz hands”. She fiddles with her keyboard before finding the pre-recorded song she is looking for. It sounds like Ode to Joy, but instead of regular piano-like sounds, the song is in a cat voice – i.e. meows.

So the music is going and the recital gets started. She begins to twirl – hands on her waist – around and around and around. The song ends and she lowers herself into a deep curtsy. As she does, she lets loose a great thunderclap of a loud and long-winded fart. Unfazed, she then raises herself up to tippy toes, flashes a toothy toddler grin and announces “I toot”!


P.S. This is what the keyboard sounds like:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Scenes from the Frozen Foods Aisle

When: Saturday morning
Where: By the frozen dinners at the local supermarket.

Mom (played by me)
Dad (played by my husband)
Boy (played by our 8 year old son)

MOM: Hey! Lean Cuisines are on sale. 5 for 11 bucks – woo hoo!

BOY: Can I pick one out?

MOM: Ok. Which one do you want?

BOY: That one (points). The shrimp alfredo.

MOM: (laughing) That’s SHRIMP ALFREDO. It’s shrimp with BROCCOLI in a CREAM sauce. Are you sure you don’t want a pizza?

BOY: NO. I want the shrimp alfredo.

DAD: You understand that if you pick that one, you will have to EAT it, right?

BOY: YES! I love shrimp alfredo.

Fast forward to dinner time.

BOY: Say, Mom – can I have my shrimp alfredo now?

Mom heats it up and serves it to the child. Approximately three and a half seconds pass.

BOY: I’m still hungry. What else can I eat?

MOM: (Leans over and peers into the boy’s dish) You didn’t finish your meal.

BOY: Yes I did! I ate all the shrimp. I don’t like the broccoli and noodles.

DAD: Didn’t I tell you at the store – if you pick that meal, you will have to eat it?

BOY: Well, yeeeeesss. But I only wanted the shrimp.

DAD: You will have to eat the broccoli and pasta too.

BOY: It tastes gross.

DAD: TOUGH. You need to learn that we don’t waste food. You’ll eat it.

BOY: That’s okay. Mom can have it.

DAD: Sorry, but you will NOTHING ELSE until you finish this meal.

BOY: FINE! (Begins to eat. Then gag. Then cry while gagging. He flings fork around, conveniently flicking pieces of broccoli and noodles to the floor) I can’t eat it. I’m gagging. It won’t go down!

MOM: (who has just written a piece on Sensory Processing Disorder) I don’t think he can physically eat it. He’s gagging! He’s going to vomit! I don’t want any vomit.

DAD: He’s FINE. He’s going to eat it. (Turning to son) I REPEAT – you will have NOTHING ELSE until you finish this meal and THAT IS FINAL.

More crying. More gagging. A lot more gagging.

SON: I can’t! It won’t go DOWN. You don’t understand! The texture! It’s slimy! I’ll throw up!

MOM: I really don’t like throw up.

DAD: (turns to son) Then you may go to bed now. (Crying fades up the stairs….)

Fast forward to next day. 1 PM. Boy still has not eaten the leftover Lean Cuisine. Breakfast of banana and yogurt was allowed due to morning hockey game. Grandma arrives for brief visit. Boy catches Grandma up on the events of the previous day and the cruelty of the parents. Grandma thinks Dad (her son) is being too harsh after finding out post hockey game donut was denied. Dad escorts Grandma to the door, assuring her he will be victorious.

DAD: Don’t worry. He’s going to eat it.

Grandma leaves.

MOM: He’s not going to eat it. Tomorrow is a school day. We HAVE to feed him!


3:55 PM

DAD: (Sautees the meal in butter and sprinkles with salt) There is a 4:25 showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If you eat this now, we can still make the movie.

Fast forward to 6:45 pm. Two happy boys return from the movies.

When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong. Not always out loud. No need to advertise.

Scene that you did not see:

DAD: Do NOT blog about me.

MOM: Wouldn’t dream of it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mommy Brain: Fact or Fiction?

It may start when you are pregnant. You begin misplacing keys and other important items. You are in a state of constant “brain fog”. You attribute it to your current medical condition and look forward to the time when you can fully reclaim your wits and move on with your life.

Sadly, for some of us, this will never happen. Pregnancy Brain morphs into a more permanent state of Momnesia. And believe you me, it gets worse before it gets better….

Things I have done under the influence of Mommy Brain:

- Left my driver’s side door open in the parking lot for the duration of a visit to the supermarket.

- Left my paid for and bagged groceries in the customer pick-up area of the parking lot and drove home. Yes, it was during the same trip as above.

- Pulled over onto the shoulder of the road panicking over the missing baby seat in the rear, when in fact, not twenty minutes earlier, I had dropped the baby off at my mother-in-law’s.

- Poured a glass of juice, then returned the juice bottle to the cupboard instead of its rightful place in the fridge. (easily a dozen times)

- Called to make a doctor’s appointment and could not, for the life of me, remember my name. Or phone number. Or date of birth.

- Was momentarily confused about “green light go” and “red light stop”.

- Left the house in slippers.

- Put salt in my coffee.

- Pulled into a parking space and shut the car off…WITHOUT putting it in park first. It took me a minute to figure out if I was rolling backward, or all the other cars were inching forward. Luckily, my husband was in the car to alert me to the urgency of the situation. I won’t say the exact words here, but you can imagine.

- Dotted my face with concealer and never got around to blending it in. And no one told me. Thanks.

- Most recently, my car’s reverse sensor alerted me to the fact that I had forgotten to open the garage door before starting the car and throwing it into reverse. Close one!

To my husband, if you are reading this – I am NOT a danger to society. I repeat – NOT a danger. Don’t take away my car keys!

ANYWAY, after some research, I felt immensely relieved to see that I am not alone. Momnesia is real – it is not a suburban legend. At this time, there is no known cure. I had hoped to hear that this affliction resolves itself instantaneously upon achieving “empty nest” status, but I’m told this is just not true. It is a chronic lifelong condition.

Things that help me live life to the fullest with momnesia:

- Keep a notebook and pen in your purse/diaper bag and car. I may not always be able to read what I have written, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

- Leave plenty of time for getting yourself together and out the door. I find I do better when I am not rushing. There’s nothing like realizing your child has a diaper full of thanks and you have forgotten to replenish your on-the-go diaper stash.

- Do not talk on the phone while driving or running an errand. You may not be ready for multi-tasking yet. Luckily, I have a voice activated phone system in my car. My husband understands when I am unresponsive, I am likely making a left turn in a large intersection.

- Shop at stores with shopping cart depots. My old supermarket did not allow carts into the lot, which was a real problem. Not everyone remembers to go back to the pick up area for their loot. If I am able to take my cart directly to my car – I certainly have no chance of forgetting my groceries…or my child…which has never happened.

Scientists (yes, research is actually being done on the subject) say that momnesia is mainly caused by post-partum hormone fluctuations and sleep deprivation. New research is also finding that the area of a new mom’s brain that is dedicated to protecting her child “borrows” from the other parts of her brain (goodbye memory and organizational skills!). I’m on board with that theory. I may have done some ditzy things, but I assure you no harm has come to my kids as a result.

I hear there are support groups in place, but it seems many would-be meeting attendees forget to show up. Or show up in their slippers…with a salty cup of Starbucks…after abandoning their groceries at the store.

My advice: sticky notes, sticky notes, and more sticky notes.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Disorder Du Jour

Recently, a comment was made about my “Picky Eater” blog post. It was short but sweet. It said “Your son sounds like a pain in the you-know-what”. Well….yes. But no. But yes. Sigh. If only it were that simple.

Chances are, you haven’t yet heard of something called Sensory Processing Disorder. Well, I hadn’t either, until last year. Here’s how it all went down. When my son was a toddler, he was very selective about his foods. Being a first time mom, I subscribed to many parenting magazines and had read several books on parenting. This finicky toddler behavior pointed toward normal, but still…my Mommy gut wasn’t so sure. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something wasn’t quite right. I talked to the pediatrician about my son’s eating habits and was assured this was normal – in toddlers. Fast forward out of the toddler years. It wasn’t just the eating issue. He seemed overly (and I mean overly) sensitive to other things. Sunlight bothered him. Loud noises bothered him – fireworks and hockey games were torturous – for all involved. The start of a lawn mower would send him screaming into the house. Clothing tags irritated him. A seam on his sock that didn’t sit quite right could cause an all out meltdown. When we cooked certain foods, he was so bothered by the smell, he would actually cry and refuse to enter the kitchen area.

My husband and I were frustrated and confused. Autism was in the news constantly and our son was exhibiting some of the signs. I discussed my concerns about my son’s behavior with a family member, who in turn mentioned it to my brother, who was good friends with a pediatrician in my area, who asked me to call her. So I did. And I talked. And she listened. I expected her to tell me I was slightly ridiculous and send me on my way. Instead, she suggested I see a Developmental Pediatrician. So we did. And I talked. And she listened. And she told me to start by setting up an Occupational Therapy evaluation. This would be to track how he was doing in areas such as strength, motor skills, and sensory motor development. On the order I was to take to the OT (Occupational Therapist), she had written two things: “evaluate for Hypotonia and Sensory Processing Disorder”. The moment I returned home, I looked these terms up. Hypotonia is basically a disorder characterized by low muscle tone. It is relatively common and can affect development in several areas, the main ones being gross and fine motor skills ie: catching a ball or buttoning a shirt, to name a couple.

Sensory Processing Disorder. Um...okaaay. Clearly the made up disorder du jour. Apparently OT services are in high demand, as the soonest available appointment was several months away, which was fine because the paperwork they sent me took about that long to complete. Included in this mountain of paperwork was a twenty-something page questionnaire. Some of the questions went a little something like this: Is your child bothered by sunlight? Is your child bothered by loud noises? Is your child irritated by clothing tags and seams? Is your child a picky eater?

I was OUTRAGED. This reeked of SCAM. I had been a victim of espionage! When I looked SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) up on the Internet, there were tons of official looking websites and parent stories. So what? Obviously fabricated. There was mention of some books on the topic, so I went out to my local library and checked a few out, if in fact they actually existed. One book in particular struck a chord with me. The Out-of-Sync child, by Carol Stock Kranowitz. I was skeptical when I cracked open that cover, but boy, by the time I finished, I was shocked. The book had been written about my son! This SPD stuff started to feel real. I contacted the author, who lives 20 minutes away from us, and introduced myself and told her that we were booked for an OT evaluation, which she confirmed as the appropriate next step to take. She was friendly and helpful and told me she would be happy to help out if I was stumped along the way. Thank goodness for the nice people you meet on this journey of motherhood!

The diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder was confirmed after several visits to the OT. In terms of the eating issue, my son was on the mild side. There are cases that are severe enough to warrant feeding therapy. There I was complaining that my son would only eat six things, when there were ten year olds that had never ventured beyond goldfish crackers and yogurt. EVER.

My son began a weekly therapy program which focused on his low muscle tone and the parts of his SPD that could be improved through therapy. The thing about SPD is that there is no “cure”. There is no medication that will treat the symptoms, but as kids grow and mature, it will improve. Why, then, is it even worth the time to go through all this evaluation and diagnosis business?

Well, in my experience, the diagnosis helped me to understand my son better. There was a reason for the quirky things he was doing. When he would fall off his chair for the hundredth time (he still does!), I am better able to understand that he is not fully aware of how his body relates to the space around him. When he says “I can’t help it”, I have to pause and realize that it may very well be true. Finding that delicate balance between understanding his disorder, and wondering if he is playing me has been quite the challenge. I’ve had to face the fact that my role as a parent in shaping this young person is huge. I don’t want to baby him because I need him to learn how to take care of himself when he is in a situation where I am not there to help him. And I am trying to back off a little bit on the food issue. If he has agreed to try a new food, but has to do so over the trash bin, looking like a Survivor contestant during a food challenge, I have to understand that it’s not as easy as popping a morsel in his mouth, chewing, swallowing and moving on.

While I don’t believe that SPD is the sole reason for the “atypical” way my son behaves, I do believe it is part of the equation. I try to appreciate his quirks – at least life is never boring on the homefront! And there may be times when he is a pain in the you-know-what, but he’s MY pain in the you-know-what and really, I can’t picture life any other way.

Oh and P.S. – another reason I suspect that SPD is very real is the fact that my insurance company paid for the OT 100 percent!

So, this is the part where I need to point out that I am in no way, shape, or form an expert on Sensory Processing Disorder. I’m just a mom sharing my story. Here are some of the sites where you can learn more about SPD from the pros, with a few articles and a video thrown in for good measure:

1) http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/ this site includes that lengthy checklist I was talking about.
2) http://www.newsweek.com/id/40748
3) http://www.out-of-sync-child.com/ Carol Stock Kranowitz’s site
4) http://www.spdfoundation.net/ The Official Foundation
5) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1689216,00.html
6) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/05/health/psychology/05sens.html
7) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDaj4daRWJc

What’s In a Name?

(Or: A Chicken Nugget by Any Other Name).

There was a period of time when my son had a list of only six dishes he would eat. It went a little something like this:

1) Pizza (cheese only, no chunks of anything in the sauce)
2) Cheeseburger (no crunchy bits, no garnish)
3) Hot dogs (boiled only, no grill marks, no bun, ends cut off because they look “yucky”).
4) Chicken nuggets
5) PB & J (1/3 pb, 2/3 strawberry jam, no fruit chunks, crust cut off).
6) Grilled Cheese (American cheese only, no visible butter, no crust).

He was four years old at the time. We thought this was acceptable. When we dined out (not often), it was usually a family friendly restaurant that had a kid’s menu. Since our son would eat several items on the kid’s menu, we told ourselves all was okay.

In case you are wondering, no – I am not a finicky eater. Neither is my husband. Quite the opposite. My husband is fascinated by those shows on Food TV where they travel around the world eating all manner of slimy live creatures and fruit that smells like poop. I am a slight step down from that, but still quite adventurous, with the exception of bugs, things that are still moving, and sea urchin. So as you can imagine, as parents, we were prone to giving each other “the look” before throwing our hands up in despair, wondering if there was a “switched at birth” possibility we needed to look into.

At restaurants that did not feature a menu for the little ones, our son usually ate bread. Or tortilla chips. Or we brought snacks for him, claiming he had food allergies (which later turned out to be true). Occasionally, we offered a Happy Meal reward if he sat nicely while we enjoyed our curry/sushi/kimchi. Don’t worry, we only had to deliver the promised reward once. Turns out, he is not only picky about what he will eat, but smell was an issue as well. More on that another day.

So one day, we’re at a Chinese restaurant and I decided my boy needed to eat something other than the crunchy noodles that are meant for the soup. I ordered an egg roll. Realizing he would not eat anything with the word “egg” in it, I told him it was a “Chinese Roller”. No, I couldn’t come up with anything better. Anyway, I acted like I didn’t really care whether or not he tried it. Against his nature, he took a hesitant bite. He declared it edible! Inwardly, I was doing a happy dance, but told myself to act cool. I asked if he would like to try the “Chinese Ketchup” (duck sauce). He dipped. He ate. He kept it down. He ate the entire egg roll. I told him the restaurant had Chinese chicken nuggets. He ate half of a dinner sized portion, WITH the sauce. We remained very calm and collected until after the boy went to bed that night. We then may or may not have exchanged numerous high fives, shrill girly giggles, and Lord of the Dance routines.

The following became our food glossary. This served us well from age four to six. I’d like to pass it on to you, should you choose to accept.

Sweet & sour chicken = chicken nuggets
Sweet & sour pork = chicken nuggets
Chicken sandwich = giant chicken nugget on a bun
Chicken tempura = chicken nuggets
Chicken parmigiana = chicken nugget pizza
Fish sticks = chicken nuggets
Calamari = like onion rings
Ham = special bacon
Popcorn shrimp = chicken nuggets

In hindsight, I suppose this may considered “sneaking” foods, but it seemed somehow different in my mind. Don’t judge! Little by little, we transitioned to the proper names, so it’s all okay now. The point is, we can eat almost anywhere together and find something for everyone. Our experience is still a work in progress and many days seem like a half step forward and a dozen back, but we’ll get there one bite at a time.

Eat it or Wear it

Childhood experts state that it may take at least a dozen attempts before your child will accept a new food. But what if you can’t get past that first try? Experts also say not to force a new food upon your child. SO, if your child refuses a food repeatedly and you can’t force them to eat it, what’s a parent to do? Well…I don’t really know, but I can share some other “expert” suggestions that didn’t work out for me.

1) Camouflage foods: i.e. – chocolate zucchini cupcakes or strawberry/banana/broccoli smoothie. This, in fact, can worsen the situation. In our case, the intruder (shredded carrots in a meatball) was detected immediately and all future offerings were given a thorough (and I mean thorough) inspection. The thing is – I want my child to know, and hopefully like what he is eating. I don’t want to have to sneak food. It’s just, you know… too sneaky.

2) Reward system: i.e. “bribery”. We actually had high hopes for this one. We thought we hit the jackpot when our son (then 6) agreed to eat a sliver of lettuce in exchange for three hockey trading cards. Unbeknownst to him, Grandma had just returned from a trip to Toronto with a flea market find of one thousand assorted hockey cards. I think he tried maybe seven or eight new foods and started to put together the beginnings of a decent card collection. We were pleased while it lasted, but he lost interest in the cards. I was close to putting together a “prize basket”, but you know, it just didn’t feel right. There had to be another way.

3) Eat it or Eat Nothing: This method involves making it clear to your child that the food on the table is the only meal being offered. For us, this resulted in the eating of nothing, followed by a long stretch of crying (from hunger, we were told). I read in a parenting magazine that if a child is hungry enough, they will eventually give in. SO we presented the meal again. This was followed by the eating of nothing, followed by a long stretch of crying (from hunger). And so on. You get the picture…

4) Eat it or Wear it: This was actually my husband’s idea. He claimed this to be the method his own father used back in the day. Obviously a “Dad” thing. I would never suggest this, nor would I agree to it. Who exactly would be the one to clean up the mess? Daddy?? Noooo. And that is why you will never hear a mom threaten “eat it or wear it”. In any case, one phone call to Grandpa confirmed the dramatic “eat it or wear it” story of my husband’s childhood to be an untruth. Or at least grossly exaggerated.

Not to be overly negative, there is one trick that does work for me. For reasons I cannot explain, my son willingly eats almost every single sample offered at Costco on any given day. Just today he ate BBQ chicken, spinach and mozzarella ravioli, and a chicken potsticker with soy sauce. So you probably wonder why I don’t just buy the foods he samples and serve them at home. You would think it would be that simple, but if you look in my freezer, you will see a 50 pound bag of uneaten spinach and mozzarella ravioli. I was thinking about donning a shower cap and apron and serving the foods in bite sized pieces placed on little paper doilies. Instead, I asked my son “WHY?!”. His answer – “It’s free”. I can’t even begin to explain the reasoning. I assure you we do not ask him to contribute to the weekly grocery tab. But hey, it works and that’s fine with us.

Life With a Picky Eater

Being the Mom of a picky eater often causes me to feel like a parental failure. There have been times that I have stared with open envy at someone else’s child as they wolfed down some exotic food I could not even PAY my son to try. Believe me, I have made many unsuccessful bribery attempts. My son could have retired by now.

It’s exhausting. Nearly every meal is a battle and rarely do I feel victorious. It’s also embarrassing! There – I said it. I feel judged by other parents (and wait staff) when my son orders his meal “When Harry Met Sally” style.

On a positive note, there are two things that make me feel better about the situation:
1) With each passing year (my son is 8), there is some improvement. His repertoire of foods continues to grow, albeit slowly. While other parents are celebrating a homerun, we are high-fiving a bite of green pepper.
2) I know I am not alone in this seemingly never-ending struggle. I know this because there are countless books and articles on the subject and I know they are not being written for just for me. Also – I have seen the cute sectioned plates out there and again – I know I am not the only one buying them.

As with anything else in life, there are good days and bad days. On a good day, my son might voluntarily (without coercion or promise of reward) eat a full portion of calamari. What?! Why?! On a bad day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner might consist of all carbs, all the time. Plus a multi-vitamin!

That being said, there are a few things I have learned through these mealtime challenges. I am not the “picky eater whisperer” I was certain I could be. Apparently my son is immune to the gold standard methods that claim to transfer any finicky child into one that begs for “more broccoli please” within one week or your money back. When all other advice failed, I decided to just RELAX. Interestingly, I have found that the more I ease off, the more my son’s palate expands. This too shall pass and hopefully one day we will look back on this time and laugh. Or at least embarrass him with the tales.

Coming up next time: Eat it or Wear it and other mealtime fun!