Picky Eater

It’s been a while since I opened Use Your Words by Kate Hopper, which is unfortunate because it really is full of great ideas. Today’s post was inspired by one of the writing exercises in that book.

The other day my six-year-old announced that he was a vegetarian. Actually, though, that’s not exactly right. We were doing his home reading, and the story he brought home from school featured a bunch of animals going fishing. His response? “Fishing isn’t nice. Fishing kills living creatures.” I asked him if he was becoming a vegetarian and he replied, “No, mom, I’m a scientist. Scientists know that all animals are alive, and we shouldn’t hurt them because that’s not taking good care of the earth.”

Flash back to my son the baby. One of his first solid foods was pureed beef, which he loved. Because I am a hippie mama it was pureed grass-fed, free range, hormone-and-antibiotic-and-chemical-free, purchased straight from the rancher at the farmers’ market. While my son no longer eats with the full-bodied gusto of a six-month-old discovering a whole new world of tastes and textures, meat is still one of his favourite foods. And given how picky he’s become about what he puts in his mouth, I’m not sure what his diet would look like without it. I’m guessing it would be comprised almost entirely of nachos (without any vegetables) and breakfast cereal, with, perhaps, the occasional serving of fries thrown in for good measure.

I’m sure this is all my fault, of course. If I’d fed him like a French child, he would eat anything. If I’d offered him nothing but beans and rice and vegetables until he ate them all eagerly he wouldn’t turn his nose up at them today. If I’d offered him the right foods, in the right quantities, in the right order, there’s no way he’d refuse to even taste something because it “looked weird”. After all, I’m his mother. It’s my job to establish good eating habits.

baby eating food
Before it all went wrong

I remember reading an old copy of Penelope Leach’s Your Baby and Child that a co-worker gave me when my daughter was born. The book actually claimed that babies who weren’t started on the right purees at four months of age would become “problem eaters”. I didn’t start my son on solids until he was almost six months, and then it wasn’t purees but mashed banana. I should have anticipated that he would turn into the world’s choosiest vegetarian by the time he was in first grade. It was all there right in front of me 10 years ago, but I ignored the warning.

I also heard, back in my new parent days, that if a child refused a food the first time it probably meant they were just getting used to the taste. So you should offer it again. And again. And again. Until, eventually, that child would learn to love the food in question. I tried this with my daughter, who turned her nose up at avocado. She refused it once. She refused it twice. She refused it five times. She refused it 27 times. And today, with her tenth birthday rapidly approaching, she adores sushi but uses her chopsticks to remove all the avocado before eating it. Clearly, the 112th time would have been the charm, but my persistence faltered and with my son I decided to actually respect his decisions about what he did and didn’t like. I know, I know, I was so very, very wrong.

Of course, there really aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for what foods to introduce and when to introduce them. Different cultures have different practices, and still, somehow, all adults grow up to think that food is pretty good and they should eat it. Not everyone likes the same foods, but I’m living proof that you can turn up your nose at corn on the cob or sweet potatoes and still live a full and happy life. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any 40 year olds out there that are still subsisting on milk because their mothers didn’t give them pureed green beans at exactly the right time. Or at all. And speaking of pureed green beans, I’m living proof that you can live a full and happy life without ever touching those, either.

As for my son, we talked more about his food choices. He’s decided that for now, he’s avoiding fish, but he’ll eat other meat because it’s “already dead”. My guess is that this choice is mostly about what foods he actually likes. He’s six, so that fact that he enjoys meatballs and passes over salmon isn’t exactly shocking. I’m not going to insist on logical consistency from a kid who is still learning to tie his shoes. And later on, if he sticks to his decision not to eat meat and decides to go completely vegetarian, or vegan, or what-have-you, I will support him as best I can.

For now, though, I’m really glad that my picky eater will consume the foods I’ve come to depend on to keep dinnertime running smoothly. Because I didn’t have the foresight to shove pureed green beans down his throat until he liked them.

My Happiness List: January 2015 Edition

My last post was a little bit down, I think, so I decided that it was time to share another happiness list. I blogged my last personal happiness list almost ten months ago, so I’m clearly long overdue. Who couldn’t use a little hit of positivity once in a while? There’s all kinds of research to show that it’s very good for you. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Let’s get the joy party started, shall we?

massage therapy happiness list

My Happy List

  1. Rooibos chai tea. All the goodness of chai, none of the caffeine to make me jumpy.
  2. Comfortable new pants I bought on clearance.
  3. Really good chocolate. Always.
  4. Finishing my prerequisites for teaching school and earning a GPA of 4.06. Hooray!
  5. Massage therapy.
  6. My new seed order has arrived. Let the garden dreams begin!
  7. The teacher I’m volunteering with, who is a fabulous mentor.
  8. The students I’m volunteering with, who are more awesome than a hot fudge sundae.
  9. Living in Vancouver in January. As we like to say, you don’t have to shovel the rain.
  10. My son’s love for his new loft bed – which we scored for free from someone who outgrew it, so double extra bonus points.
  11. My daughter’s newfound love of fantasy novels. I really enjoy watching her sink her teeth into a book.
  12. My children’s teachers. Both my kids are really enjoying school this year.
  13. Singing in the kitchen in the morning.
  14. Podcasts. I do love podcasts.
  15. My husband’s piano is out of storage and I get to listen to him play.
  16. New books to read.
  17. Getting back to blogging again. This space floats my boat.

What about you – what’s on your happy list right now? I’d love to hear!

Finding Comfort

Yesterday I had a brief meltdown at about 10:00am. I came home from dropping the kids off at school and tackled my to-do list. Then I finished my to-do list. Then I had nothing in particular to do … and it was still only 10:00am. This is a very foreign thing for me.

Sure, I can always find things to do. There are always smudges to clean and books to read and yoga practices to return to. But for several hours, I didn’t have anything I had to do. I’ve been operating in a state of low-level panic for so long, just trying to keep my head above water. When that urgency was gone I felt disquieted. Surely I must be forgetting something. Surely there must be a paper to write or an article to edit or 147 unread emails to tackle? No, no and no.

We live in a world that values busy-ness and productivity. We’re expected to always be striving for results. If you’re in a place in life where you suddenly aren’t busy it can leave you feeling less valuable. Who am I, if I don’t have some accomplishment to point at in order to justify my existence?

Luckily, in the midst of my existential angst I found comfort in two things. First, I read some blogs, which is something I haven’t done in ages. This post from Britt Reints – Why I’m Trying to do More and Get Less Done – really spoke to me. It came at just the right time, and helped talk me down. Second, I made myself a big plate of spaghetti and cheddar cheese.

cheddar cheese
Photo credit – Jamaila Brinkley on Flickr

There’s something about food that is so comforting. This meal, which is fast, easy and cheap, was a staple of my single days. When I was hungry and cooking for one it always hit the spot. Is it healthy? Not particularly – there isn’t anything green in sight. The paleo set would shudder, no doubt. But as I sat down for lunch and ate it I remembered who I was, and who I am now, and how far I’ve come. I made it from 19-year-old engineering student to fully-fledged engineer to wife to mother to writer and editor to aspiring math teacher. I can make it the rest of the way, as long as I have blogs to read and carbs and cheese to ground me.

To comfort!

A Word for 2015: Strength

For the past few years I’ve been choosing a word at New Year’s to represent what I wanted to bring into my life in the 12 months ahead. In 2011 that word was space. In 2012 I chose clarity. In 2013 I chose presence. And for 2014 my word was forgiveness. This year, possibly for the first time, settling on a word was easy. For 2015 I have chosen strength.

strength*Photo credit – Colleen McMahon on Flickr

Choosing a word is about setting an intention for the year. This year, rather than choose an aspirational intention, I’ve decided to go another way. In past years I’ve chosen a word that represented something I wanted to bring into my life, but thought I might be lacking. In 2015 I’m opting for something I think I already have, but may not always see. That is, I’m already strong. I think maybe we are all strong. For me, this is about acknowledging and owning my strength. This quote from Marianne Williamson speaks to what I’m getting at by choosing the word strength:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

The past couple of months have been hard for me. It has been all too easy for me to fall into a place where I feel overwhelmed by all that is happening around me. Because you know what? Sometimes life is just too much. I was having a bit of a moment one day when my husband said, “You can do this.” And you know what? I thought to myself, He’s right, I totally can. This year I want to spend less time worrying about my shortcomings, and more time facing up to the challenges in front me. Curve balls will come my way no matter what. Running from them won’t change that, so I may as well step up to bat.

Here’s to claiming our strength, wherever it lies!

How about you – are you choosing a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear what it is, and how you’re setting your intentions for 2015!

Unemployed

When I posted last week, I mentioned that a lot has happened in my life recently. One of those things? I was laid off from my job as Managing Editor for VancouverMom.ca. There are big changes happening on the site, most specifically the imminent launch of the JellyBeen app. As a result there was some re-shuffling, and my role was eliminated.

This is not my first experience with losing my job. I was laid off in 2009, when I got news during my maternity leave that I wouldn’t have a job to return to. Having been through this before actually does make it a little bit easier. However, there are still bumps, at least in part because this lay-off has been quite a lot different.

Last time, I had already been away from my job for eight months, since I was on maternity leave. I had a four-year-old and a baby. Also, before my mat leave I was working in an office, in a position I’d held for a decade. I received a hefty severance package, and took it as an opportunity to re-examine my life. Now that I was a mom of two, I had to chart a new course, and it took a lot of time and false starts to get there.

laid off unemployed endings forgivenessThis time, while I was the editor for three and a half years, the first year and three quarters was as a freelancer. My time as an actual employee was much shorter. Also, I did the job part-time from home, with only occasional meetings with the rest of my team. This means no hefty severance, and I’m not really leaving my workplace behind. Plus, this time I already have a plan for what I’m doing next – I’m hoping to start teacher training this fall. This lay-off has simply moved up the time frame of leaving this job to pursue the next thing. I will be okay. I know where I’m going next and how I’m going to get there.

That doesn’t mean that being laid off is fun. Being laid off is never fun. I was hoping to stay in this job for eight more months, to save up some money for when I return to university. And while I totally understand and respect my former employer’s decision, and I truly do wish her all the success in the world, getting that phone call is not a good time for anyone. No matter how many times I hear that this isn’t my fault, that I didn’t do anything wrong, that these things happen, it stings. It just does. Saying good-bye is hard.

I’m going to miss VancouverMom.ca. It was my online home for more than three years. I learned a lot in the job, and made a lot of friends and connections. I’m not the same person I was when I started. In fact, it was a press release that I received while I was working there that inspired me to seriously pursue teaching. If I hadn’t been in a role where people contacted me to tell me about the cool things they’re doing, I may not have gotten the idea to do this cool thing myself. I owe a lot to the site, and I’m sad to leave.

Like I said, I’m going to be okay. My last working day was December 19, so just over a week ago. Right now I’m spending my time hanging out with my kids, polishing off my teaching application and thinking of blog posts in my head. I have more space, suddenly, which is both scary and liberating. There are more budgetary constraints, and fewer time constraints. Upsides and downsides. Life is like that.

I’m sure that when I look back on this in years to come I will see how it all worked out, or something like that. At this moment, I’m still processing the loss. I think that’s normal. This too shall pass, and in the meantime I’m doing my best to just accept it all as it comes, good and bad, happy and not-so-happy, freeing and frightening. It feels fitting that this is how I would finish 2014, given that my word this year is forgiveness. I have one more chance to let it all go. Wish me luck.

Confirmation

Okay, okay. It’s been two and a half months since I posted. A lot has happened. Right now I’d like to tell you about one of the big things that’s been going on in my world.

A couple of days after I last wrote here, I met with a teacher at a local middle school who was willing to have me volunteer in her grade six/seven classroom. I have to do this in order to apply for teacher training. However, I was looking at this as more than a hurdle to clear. For me, it was about really, really, REALLY making sure that my plan to be a math teacher is solid. I wanted to spend enough time in a classroom for the bloom to wear off the rose, so to say.

I’ve already spent a year pursuing my goal of becoming a math teacher. However, there’s going to be a lot more time and money before any of this work starts to pay off. I am, quite frankly, too old to get another degree in a field that isn’t a good fit. So, I spent almost 160 hours at the middle school over 10 weeks. I photocopied and stapled. I observed and assisted. I helped kids do their work and planned projects. I even taught the three week unit on integers to the grade seven math class. And I did this while I was also working part-time for VancouverMom.ca, taking two university classes, and parenting two children.

middle school volunteer math teacher student teacher

I stapled this display to the wall!


 
It was busy. In fact, it was so busy it wasn’t even funny. But you know what? I loved it. I loved the kids. I really like the teachers I’ve worked with. And I enjoyed learning, first-hand, what my day might look like as a teacher.

On the last day of school before winter break, I was eating lunch in the staff room. Around me, everyone was comparing notes on their holiday plans, and how much work they would have to do over the break. Unsurprisingly, everyone was looking forward to a couple of weeks off. But what I also heard, loud and clear, was a note of sadness. I have kids of my own, so I understand this note of sadness. Yes, you’re thrilled when you get some time away. Sleeping in is pretty sweet. Having time to yourself is pretty sweet. But I also know that when you care about someone, you miss seeing them. Those teachers care about their students, and I can see that clearly.

student teacher math teacher

The teachers dressed as mad scientists for Halloween and I joined in

I’ve seen first-hand that teaching can be a very challenging profession. There’s bureaucracy and serious financial constraints. Here in my district there have been extensive lay-offs after a major budget shortfall last spring. On top of all that, the teachers were on strike for the last two weeks of the 2013/2014 school year, and the first two weeks of the 2014/2015 school year. I wouldn’t claim that I understand all of the challenges that teachers face, but hearing their stories and being in a classroom I understand them much better than I did. I know that being a teacher isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

However, I also know that this is the right choice for me. I know that the world needs more good math teachers, and I know that I want to be one of them. I met my goal of putting myself through the wringer and making sure that the good outweighs the bad for me. And like those teachers who were looking forward to winter break, but already missing their students a little, I know that the equation works out for me. I’m submitting my application right now to start teacher training in September, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s been a meandering journey, from engineer to writer to editor to student teacher. It feels good to know that it’s led me to where I’m supposed to be.

Screen Fast

screen timeOnce upon a time, I had a four-year-old and a one-year-old and no TV. I also didn’t have a smart phone or a tablet, although I did have a computer. In those days, I had less screen time, and my kids had very little to none. And then things changed.

First, I got an iPhone. A few months later we got a TV again. Then my husband got an iPad, and I got an iPad. Then after three years our phones got old, and we replaced them. And my husband’s iPad got old, and he replaced that. And we were left with functional phones and a functional tablet that the adults weren’t using, which our kids discovered after a while. And on top of that, our kids got old enough to turn on the TV and switch to the kids’ channel themselves.

This summer there was a labour dispute between public school teachers and the government. School ended two weeks early and started three weeks late, which meant that summer vacation was over three months long. Plus, during the last two weeks of the last school year and the first three weeks of this school year no one knew when the children might have to go back, which complicated things. I planned activities for my kids, but in spite of my best efforts it made for a whole lot of time when I was trying to combine parenting and going to school myself and working from home. It was hard – and my kids were only too happy to entertain themselves with TV and tablets and old iPhones.

And I have to admit – it’s pretty sweet when you get to sleep in for 90 minutes after your kids wake up because they’re entertaining themselves. I like that a whole lot.

Screen time for my nine-year-old and six-year-old is different than screen time when my kids were preschoolers. I’m not trying to beat myself up too much, and I’m definitely not trying to judge other parents. There’s already too much judging going on, especially when it comes to technology. We’ve all got to do what works for our families, and some stranger on the Internet is definitely not in a position to decide what that is for you.

Still, I don’t really like where we are now. I don’t like how much time every single member of my family spends looking at screens. (And the irony that I’m looking at a screen as I type this is just the icing on the cake.) Of course, for the grown-ups a certain amount of screen time is required. I’m doing an online class right now on top of working online. But it’s really easy for “working” to turn into “watching funny cat videos”, so I can’t really claim that I use screens only when necessary. I don’t.

I have a plan. This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada – three days devoted to spending time with family and feeling grateful. And my plan is to have a screen fast. Will my kids be happy? Definitely not. Will I be happy? I honestly don’t know. But I’d like to see how we relate after a couple of days without electronics. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.

What about you – do you ever set aside time to unplug as a family? I’d love to hear how it went if you’ve done it!

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