Thursday, September 27, 2012

little x's and o's

I've got two little lovers who are melting me with their interest in all things kisses.

Especially Ruthie. The girl will cross the room with her mouth wide open going "ahhhhhh" to give you a big open-mouthed smooch.

They are also blowing kisses, which make them sound like little Indians because they have to make the "ahh ahh ahh" sounds as they do it.

I once told Andy that if they invented a pedometer for giving baby kisses, the count would be into the billions. They've been on the receiving end so often that they totally get it, and they'll lay one their baby dolls, pillows, the couch...pretty much anything!

Friday, September 21, 2012

french kids eat everything: a review

Recently, I went on a date with bestselling author Karen Le Billon and she told me, over a steaming cup of coffee and muffin, about the time she and her family moved to France, cured picky eating, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy eaters.

At least, that's what it felt like while reading her book French Kids Eat Everything

I won a copy of her book after entering a giveaway from the wonderful blog Foodlets, and devoured the first few chapters as soon as I ripped it out of the HarperCollins envelope. I took it into bed with me, and on a road trip the next day, reading page after page aloud to Andy the entire time.

We are in the "eat anything" phase of the girls' lives, and you can bet that I am stuffing their faces with as much nutrient-dense food as possible, because I'm afraid that they'll hit the picky phase and swear it off for good. Le Billon made me feel much better and to know that picky eaters are not inevitable. And when they do hit that phase, I can do my part to work through it gently with lasting positive results. 

After moving to France and being challenged by her French husband's family, the national school system, and pretty much every single French person she met, Le Billon finally decided to tackle her daughter's picky eating habits. Through trial, error, experimentation, and setbacks, she finally came up with 10 food "rules" that changed her family's life.

Some books about getting your children to eat are either too preachy or too simple - I don't believe that a diet can be 100% perfect but I also don't believe we give our kids enough credit, and are not so one-dimensional in their tastes! She addresses both these issues by being a warm, engaging, and self-deprecating storyteller while acknowledging that yes, in fact, your children CAN learn to like vegetables and blue cheese!

I know that as they get older the rules that "speak" to me will probably change, but for where we're at right now, these are my favorites:

Rule #1: YOU are in charge of food education!

Le Billon talks about the difference between authoritative parenting and authoritarian parenting. Authoritative parenting is kind but firm and sets clear limits and goals, while authoritarian parenting is controlling but more often ends up in indulgence.

As an authoritative parent, "The goal is to educate children to be self-confident eaters who eat a wide variety of foods, who are comfortable trying new things, and who know how to balance self-restraint with pleasure."

She suggests creating house rules about food and sticking to them, giving them simple but limited choices about the menu, and modeling positive eating behaviors.

Rule #4: Eat family meals together, with no distractions

The French would never dream of eating standing, on the go, in the car, etc. That is a huge cultural difference, and while I don't feel strongly about it, I do feel strongly about eating meals as a family! 
 To the French, "Eating is more than an essential physical act. It should also be a shared social event, in which children experience a sense of pleasure, discovery, and well-being."

We started eating more dinners together, and I started putting all their food on cute little tempered glass plates. It took about a week before they would keep them on the table, but now they actually eat off of them! The mess to clean up is significantly less, and bonus, it's adorable to watch. 

Rule #6: You don't have to like it, but you do have to try it.

"The goal is for your children to be curious and comfortable with trying new foods, and to be able to politely decline eating them," she writes. "Staying calm around new foods is a skill they should be learning, as well as the ability to experiment with tasting and eventually eating them."

And if they resist? "If your children don't like something, encourage them to believe that they eventually will." She says this to her kids: "Oh, you don't like it? That's okay. You just haven't tasted it enough times yet. You'll like it when you grow up."

Rule #10:  Remember, eating is joyful - Relax!

"French parents believe that healthy eating habits can be achieved without anxiety...For the French, eating is about enjoyment: food is one of life's shared pleasures. They don't count calories (certainly not for their children), but rather have an intuitive sense of a balanced, reasonable diet."

I love this rule. Food is fun! I want my girls to really experience their food and enjoy it fully. I don't want them to grow up paranoid or anxious about their relationship with food. It's hard enough to be a normal woman in our diet-driven society, and I refuse to feed into this attitude.

And the "rules" that I will personally have to work on:

Rule #2: Avoid emotional eating (no food rewards, bribes, etc.)

This rule is the most convicting and challenging for me, as a reformed and relapsing emotional eater. I can learn a lot from the French in this regard. "Although they love to provide tasty treats for their children, they don't tend to do so in response to children's emotional needs," Le Billon writes. "They wouldn't offer candy to an upset child, or a whiny child, or a bored child...Think of other ways to soothe or reward your children, and they will, in turn, learn how to regulate their own emotions without the use of food."

I've stopped giving my girls crackers in their strollers and car seats (although we gave in grocery shopping yesterday and gave them some yummy samples of rosemary flatbread crackers!), and I am trying my best to distance my own emotional attachment to food when I prepare their meals so I don't feel like they "deserve" a treat if they've been good. Isn't a hug and a kiss enough reward for a fourteen month old? Yes.  

Rule #7: Limit snacks, ideally one per day (two maximum), and not within one hour of meals.

Le Billon writes that "unscheduled, any-time-you-like grazing only works for people who have a keen sense of their own feelings of hunger and fullness. Helping your children to develop this sense probably means minimizing their snacks - both in volume and in amount consumed." The French have a big snack in the afternoon, but otherwise, not a lot of eating outside of mealtimes happens.

This is more a rule for me, a chronic snacker, and goes hand in hand with emotional eating. I want to help my girls develop a sense of their bodies and what they're feeling - truly hungry? thirsty? or just bored? And know that it is okay for them to feel hungry between meals!

At the end of the book, there is a collection of easy and nutritious recipes with creative ingredients, like lentil apricot soup, endive and kiwi salad, crepes, and chocolate mousse. I haven't made any of them yet, but I plan to. Charity of Foodlets has with great results.

French Kids Eat Everything is an entertaining story with a practical call to action, and it's a book that I will read again and again and recommend to my family and friends.

So, do you want to read this book, or have you already? What "food rules" are in place in your family? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

pretty little rooms.

I still remember how my rooms were decorated growing up - balloons, then rag doll wallpaper, then Minnie & Mickey, and the token Sunflower theme, finally to a soft purple and green.

Decor for kids has come a LONG way since the 80s, and I'm loving the color in these sweet spaces!

new bed for a little girl

Monday, September 17, 2012

on consistency {or lack of}.

I was surprised to see that it's been a week since I posted. Really? I don't know where the time went...oh wait, I do. It went to these squishy little faces.

I've been pondering consistency lately, or in my case, the lack of.

In my life pre-kids, I was a productive, efficient employee and student who overachieved and met deadlines and performed. But in my personal life, I was never very consistent, neither creatively or domestically.

I "dabbled" in an Etsy shop and even had a booth at a local vintage shop. I blogged, but didn't do much more than write occasionally about where we went to breakfast or something I sewed at the very last minute.

When it's just the two of you, you can get away with doing laundry at the eleventh hour and not running the dishwasher for a whole week and letting the fridge get worryingly empty. You can live out of boxes and deal with broken furnaces that plunge your old home into subzero temperatures; you can even pull an all nighter to watch a whole season of Gilmore Girls or finish a term paper.

But now here I am, at home, watching my two little girls play and explore their big world. They thrive on consistency, it makes them feel safe. And the consistency they need is entirely dependent on me and me alone. I've taken this on as my job: to provide them with the stability they need to blossom, and it happens. We're home for naps, we have a bedtime routine, they know what's coming.

But outside of the daily routine, I think a lot about what life still has for me, what God has for me. And often, I think that I need to be planning ahead and making it happen. But what I've learned about myself after 28 years of living in my own head is that although I am a first born and innately responsible and reliable, I'm also a free spirit and do my best work at the last minute.

My mom visited this past weekend and we had a good talk about the way we operate. In order to do our most fulfilling work, we need to feel inspired. The emotion has to be there, the heart has to be in it. Otherwise, it feels inauthentic and robotic. We can do the work, we just won't be very proud of it and it will feel like something is missing.

What does all of this mean?

It means I do great short term projects, like my eBook. It's why our two month European adventure was so kick-ass. They were short enough projects to hold my attention and keep the inspiration and passion flowing. It's why I like to sew things that are squares, and knit with huge needles and chunky yarn. Why the one-pot meal is the best thing since sliced bread.

That's why I can't seem to stick to the oft-used format of a content calender or use planners for longer than a few weeks. It's why I don't often commit myself to "challenges" or programs that don't have an ultimate end goal that is tangible. It's why I hate running (seriously, where am I going?) unless a chase is involved. It's why I write lists, the same lists, over and over on different slips of paper. And why I write in 20 different journals and notebooks, none of which are full. Or, on a bad day, why I think of myself as a quitter.

I change all the time, like the tides and the winds and anything else that cannot be counted on to be consistent and predictable. Great passions and flames are lit within me weekly, but they die out after a time and I'm onto the next New Thing. I am uncomfortable with this part of myself.


I'm terrified that my girls will be just like me, that they'll quit when the going gets tough or when their patience wears thin or their excitement dies out.

What can I do about it? I don't know except to try and model a balance between both and be real with them about this part of me, accepting it as both a strength and a weakness.

Maybe we can do things together that challenge all of us - grow a garden, do a jigsaw puzzle, play red light green light (teaches patience, right?) And when they show an interest in something, I can encourage them to pursue it, and maybe, just maybe, it will turn into something grand. Or it won't.

I can tell them that sometimes things that matter don't come with passion or inspiration, but daily commitment to seeing something through and finding the wonder and beauty in it. Like marriage, and raising children, and lasting friendship. The stuff of real life. 

But when the passion is there, grab hold of it and hang on for the ride.

So it's OK that I haven't written on this blog for a week, because I was busy with life, flying high by the seat of my pants, enjoying the view, and when I landed and sat down to write something, this is what came out.

Just Write.

Monday, September 10, 2012

weekend walk in the woods

This weekend, we all needed some fresh air and a respite from the city, so we took to the mountain and walked through Forest Park. We are so lucky to have the largest city park within a 5 minute drive! It was the girls' first "hike" and they were fascinated with everything.

They had us laughing the whole time. Afton had a big leaf in one hand and a stick in the other for most of the hike. She wasn't too happy when we took the leaf away after we discovered she was eating most of it, and she clutched her stick tightly for the remainder of the walk. Ruthie had a much bigger stick and used it to brush my hair, pat my back, and point to all the things that she found interesting. They pointed to the sky, the trees, the dirt, the leaves, Afton says "bah bah bah!" and bounces up and down, and Ruthie was jabbering on saying, "ahh, ah ah!" and "ma! ma!" while shaking her stick.

Watching the joy on their faces as they played with leaves and sticks filled me with excitement and anticipation for the years to come.  I kept imagining the girls running through the woods, exclaiming over flowers and ferns and little creatures, getting dirt under their fingernails, feet covered in dust, collecting moss and rocks and pretty looking leaves, and I remembered when I was a child, with my coveted seashell collection that took up a few shoe boxes in my closet. It was precious treasure and are precious memories.

I wonder what sorts of treasure my girls will store in shoe boxes in their closet.

As long as it's not creepy bugs, (please oh please!) I'm all for it!

What treasures do your kids collect - or what did YOU collect as a child? 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012



“Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

just write: piles

 I'm sharing our "Portlander Problems" over at Kira's blog today, hop on over and take a look!

(weekly obsession: hats)

My living room has looked the same for the past week. A hill of the girls' clean clothes, folded and refolded at least three times, sits on a plaid chair and spills over onto the couch, the same couch that is covered with a quilt and waiting patiently for a proper slipcover, #16 on the list of things to do.
Four little hands love to pull these neat piles off and onto the ground and crawl around the soft cotton obstacle course.

It's a good picture of what life is at the moment - I have neat piles of things to do or that I want to do, or should do, but chubby little fingers grasp onto whatever they can hold and yank with glee. I rewrite and reorganize the piles after they go to bed, but can't seem to find the energy to go any further, retreating onto the couch or into bed with my Kindle or a browse through Instagram.

I've become capable of rest, and the not-doing, and it was a hard but necessary lesson. But I crave a change in season, both literally and figuratively. The pumpkin spice flavor will be on the menu at the coffee shop at any moment, and I may have opened my own jar of the pungent spice mixture and inhaled with closed eyes. I'm so ready.

Other people have said that their kids start sleeping through the night at 5 months (who ARE you?), 14 months, or maybe not even until two. My mind has been occupied with wondering how to go about night weaning in a gentle way, because I haven't slept a full night since before they were born. It's not the overwhelming flood of emotion that the first year of sleep deprivation brings, now it's just a quiet waiting that leaves me close to the edge of despair, toes peeking over the ledge.

There is a louder hope that keeps me grounded, because I see my friends' children, a few months ahead of us but light years away in terms of sleeping and aptitude and ability - and I know that will be us, and soon. What happens between one and two years old boggles my mind, and I want to witness it. I want to be fully present for this explosion of growth that I know is just right around the corner.

The piles and the list, folded and refolded and written on a million different scraps of paper, will hold for now. This season is almost over. I can't miss out.

Just Write.
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