Thursday, July 14, 2011

Family Dinner, Part 1

I have a lot to say on this topic, but not a lot of time to write, so I'm breaking it down into more than one post. This one is about what we had been doing, dinnerwise, until very recently, and how we schedule our evenings.

When LL started solid foods, he ate his dinner of pureed whatnot at 5:00 or so, then went to bed at 6:30. I usually fed him dinner, S arrived home just in time for bedtime, and only after LL was asleep in bed did I start making dinner for me and S. We normally ate our dinner around 8:00 or 9:00. We kept saying that when LL was older (for some vaguely defined notion of "older") we would start eating dinner as a family. Tons of research points to the importance of eating a family dinner for providing all sorts of positive stuff for kids (healthier eating habits; healthier attitudes toward food; more varied diet; better child-parent communication; fewer discipline problems in school; etc.). S and I both ate dinner with our parents every single night as kids, and we both always assumed that we would do the same with our kids.

And yet ... LL reached two years old, and we still weren't doing it. He was still eating his dinner around 5:00 or 5:30, and S and I took turns being home to feed it to him, with the other parent tending to work a bit later, arriving home just in time for bedtime at 6:30 or 7:00. And the foods that LL ate were getting to be a smaller and smaller collection of the foods available to him. He ate a ton of yogurt and cottage cheese and other dairy items, but no other protein. He ate a ton of fruit, but hardly any vegetables. He ate some starches, but nothing too interesting. Whenever we did eat around him (like lunches on the weekends) he was much more adventurous, asking to try whatever we were eating. We knew that something had to change, that we had to find a way to rearrange our schedules to start doing a family dinner, but couldn't quite figure out how to make it work.

We got our chance to try it out when my mom came to stay with us just before Kermit was born. She came in mid-December and she immediately took over cooking dinner for us. I wasn't working anymore, and S's work was very slow, as it always is around the December holidays, so it was easier for us all to eat an earlier dinner. We started eating dinner at 6:00, pushing LL's bedtime back to 7:30 and adding a bigger snack for him at around 4:00.

And you know what happened? LL started eating a ton of new foods. He discovered that he loved lamb. From there, he tried beef. He consented to eat plain chicken on occasion. He tried some soups. He was more adventurous with sauces on pasta. He was still mostly eating the same stuff as before (this kid can put away a lot of cottage cheese in one sitting) but it was progress. It also helped when we moved him out of his high chair and into a booster seat at the table, so that he was really sitting with us to eat. When my mom left in mid-February, I still tried to get a family dinner on the table by 6:00. At first, I was mostly heating up frozen meals that my mom and I had stashed away, but I gradually found the energy to start cooking again. And when S went back to work, he made it a goal to be home by 6:00 every single night, even if it meant that he needed to do a little more work from home after the kids were in bed.

As Kermit got bigger, he stopped sleeping through dinner, so S and I would take turns holding him while we ate. By 5 months or so, he was big enough to sit in the high chair, so he started joining us at the table during dinner (but not eating anything). I start cooking dinner each night around 5:15 or so, depending on what I'm making. It's ready by 6:00 or 6:15, depending on how "helpful" the kids are while I'm cooking. We all sit at the table together, then S and I take turns playing with the kids or cleaning up the kitchen a bit. Kermit goes to bed at 7:00, LL starts his bedtime routine at 7:30, with me and S taking turns with each of the kids. (LL wants me to put him to bed every single night, which isn't fair to anybody other than LL, so we had to start alternating. But on the nights when I have Kermit, LL always listens for me to leave Kermit's room, then calls for me / sends S to get me, and I have to spend time with him as well, so S is always done with bedtime long before I am.) S and I then finish cleaning up the kitchen and straightening up the rest of the house, and we're done with all household work by 9:00 or so, which is when we used to be just sitting down to eat dinner. It's awesome! Not only are we eating together as a family, but as a bonus, S and I get an hour or two to relax together every evening.

I started to stress out, though, about whether I'd be able to keep this up once I returned to work. Also, I was making dinner every night, but they weren't all exactly the healthiest dinners. LL was mostly eating his own food, not very much of the stuff I was cooking, but I still stressed about setting a good example for him by cooking and eating healthy, well-balanced meals. And I wanted to figure out how to get him to eat a bigger variety of stuff. And with Kermit starting solids soon, I saw an opportunity to get him off on the right foot from the very start. Time to consult the experts!

Next post: I read a ton of books about cooking fast healthy meals and feeding young children, and totally change my approach to both cooking and serving meals.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Great Potty Train

Today is Day 26 of officially potty training LL. It is going well, I think, though slowly (by design). Our approach:

Stage 1: This stage was all about awareness, not really training, and it started sometime around 2 years old, maybe earlier, I don't really remember. We bought a simple plastic potty (the Bjorn one that everybody has) and put it in the bathroom, without comment. If he asked, we told him that he could sit on it if he wanted to. He often sat on it while S or I went to the bathroom, usually keeping his clothes on, but sometimes asking us to pull his pants down, rarely asking us to remove his diaper as well. When he was in the bathroom with us, we narrated what we were doing ("First I pull my pants and underwear down, then I sit on the toilet. Now I'm peeing!" etc.) We bought him a potty book (this one, which is nice and simple and funny). We let him flush the toilet for us. And when he was in the bath, we pointed out to him when he started peeing. Eventually, he started trying to pee in the bath, until he was able to do it whenever he wanted. Then he started occasionally asking us if he could sit on the potty to pee, and when he did, he almost always managed to go a little, and when he did, we all clapped and exclaimed over it. We even called Grandma a few times. It was all very cool and laid back.

Stage 2: This (short) stage was about immediate preparation, for about a month. When S or I took LL into the bathroom with us, we started asking him if he would like to go potty, too. If he said no, we dropped the topic for the rest of the day. (Side note: while watching me pee one day, LL suddenly realized that I have different plumbing than he and Daddy have. He pointed dramatically to my crotch and said, "Uh oh, Mommy! Where did that part go?!?" And thus LL was introduced to the difference between boys and girls, along with names for anatomy that we hadn't gotten around to yet. Fun times.) We talked about how we pee in potties or diapers, but not in underwear or pants. He was able to be naked in the house for periods of time, during which he would tell us about how he was not going to pee on the floor. (He was very fond of not peeing on the floor.) We talked about poop a lot. I took LL with me to Target and let him pick out Big Boy Underwear, and we talked about how he would wear it when he was ready. There was much general excitement.

Stage 3: Home potty training! This is the stage we're in right now. We started on a Saturday. When LL woke up, I asked him if he wanted to wear underwear instead of a diaper. Then I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off every 15 minutes with a gentle chime, and he would go sit on the potty. Some of the time he peed, and some of the time he sat for 10 seconds before telling me that he didn't have to go, maybe he'd go next time. A few notes about how this stage is going:

- The morning went great -- no accidents, lots of success -- but at the end of the day, he had three accidents all in a row. No big deal, it was his first day, but I got the sense that he didn't quite have the energy and attention span to do whole days yet. So, we started doing half days of potty training for the next week, either mornings or afternoons, depending on what else was going on that day, working our way back up to full days.

- On the second day, I started seeing LL dancing around a bit between those 15 minute intervals. When I asked him if he needed to go pee, he told me no, he would wait until Mommy's phone rang. We tried for two days to convince him that he could go whenever he needed to, he didn't have to wait for the alarm, but he didn't believe us. Thus, we had to discontinue the use of the alarm. We loosely kept track of the time, and asked him to go sit on the potty every 20-30 minutes. By Day 5, he was occasionally initiating it himself, and by the end of the week, we had stopped asking him to go, letting him go when he felt that he needed to.

- He still runs to the bathroom whenever my cell phone rings. That Pavlovian thing happens fast!

- He will not poop in the potty. (I hear this is common with boys.) When he needs to poop, he asks us for a pull up, then lets us know when he's done so that we can change him back into underwear. Each time he does this, we ask if he would like to try pooping in the potty instead, but so far, the answer is always no.

- After one week, he decided that he wanted to pee standing up. I think that he learned this at daycare, because S had been sitting down to pee when LL was around. So, we have a little stool in front of the toilet now, and LL pees standing up every time. He has very good aim, so it has been less messy than I feared, and S taught LL to wipe up the edge of the toilet bowl with toilet paper, so not too bad.

- LL has become an underwear fashionista. He likes to change his underwear several times a day, to try all the different designs. Telling him that we only change underwear during the day if they get dirty seemed like setting up some really bad incentives, so we've been going along with it.

So, here's where we are:

- If he's at home and awake, he wears underwear and goes to the bathroom on his own.
- When he needs to poop, he wears a pull up.
- When we go out, including when he's at daycare, he wears a pull up. (He can't wear underwear to daycare until he masters the pooping part, and I'm hesitant to bring him out even to the grocery store in underwear until that happens as well.)
- When he's sleeping, he wears a pull up. I don't see this changing any time soon. The kid pees a whole heck of a lot in his sleep.
- He has an occasional accident, but they're getting less frequent.
- We did not do sticker charts or M&Ms or prizes or anything like that, but we do have a potty song and dance that is performed every time LL (or his bear) successfully go potty. It ends with a high five. LL is very fond of the potty dance.

The next stage is going to have to be pooping in the potty, but we're waiting until LL lets us know that he's ready. I'm in no particular rush, and his progress so far is fine with me. Amusingly, we hadn't talked about potty training in front of LL, just sort of did the steps that we wanted to do. Then one day, he heard us use the phrase "potty train," which apparently conjured up for LL all sorts of images of choo choo trains filled with potties, and he has been much more enthusiastic about it ever since. He really does love his trains.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Half Year

Um, Kermit is 6 months old today. Yikes! The last general update I wrote for Kermit was at 3 months, so here is a many-month summary of All Things Kermit.

Kermit was an early smiler, and an early laugher. Thus, he's very good at it by now. This kid will smile and laugh at anything. He likes imitating faces, so he will smile back at anyone who smiles at him. He's very popular with the old ladies at the grocery store. (A woman in her 90s threatened to kidnap him the other day; it was simultaneously flattering and extremely creepy.) He's ticklish everywhere. He's bizarrely startled by Peek-A-Boo, but loves it when we just look away from him, then look back at him and say, "Aaaaa..... boo!" (leaving out the "Peek" part). He loves it so much that now he laughs when you just say "A-boo!" to him, which LL does all day long. LL got very excited when we read the Disney version of Aladdin and discovered that the monkey in the story is named Abu. Thus, Kermit now has a stuffed monkey named Aboo, and he is awesome.

Kermit can roll whichever way he wants, but usually prefers just to rock from side to side, and rotate in a circle centered at his butt. Kermit is obsessed with toes. At first they were just cool to look at, but now he knows how to chew on them, and that makes them so much cooler. He is finally coordinated enough to get other things reliably into his mouth to chew on as well. He sprouted his first two teeth at just 4 months old, so it's good that he can help to alleviate his own teething now. He still prefers to chew on Mommy's fingers, though, and those teeth are sharp! Kermit loves sitting, and can balance for several minutes at a time, when he's in the mood. He still just collapses when he gets tired, so we need to keep pillows around him for now. He also loves standing while holding onto our hands. And we pulled out our jumperoo, and he's so crazy for jumping that we need to ration his time in that thing, or he'd want to be there all day long.

Kermit is still waking twice each night to eat (once around 11pm, and once around 4am). We're usually still up for the 11pm feeding, so this isn't too horrible, but it would be nice if he started sleeping more solidly at night. The reflux medication has improved his overall eating a bit, but he's still eating the majority of his food at night, and barely sipping milk during the day, so I'm reluctant to do too much to mess with his feedings right now. He outgrew his bassinet two months ago, so he now sleeps in his crib, which we set up at the foot of our bed. (Oh, how I long to move to a bigger house....) He loves "talking" to the penguins and polar bears in his crib when he wakes up. (And yes, is that not the coolest crib set you've ever seen?) I can't complain too much about his sleep, because he easily goes down for three naps each day, two of them an hour long each and one generally 2-3 hours, and he goes to bed easily at night. (I will now spit three times and throw salt over my shoulder.)

Kermit loves music, and we end up singing to him all day long. He is especially a fan of Laurie Berkner. Luckily, LL has learned how to sing many of her songs, so he takes over singing to Kermit when we get sick of doing it. Kermit still hates riding in the car, so we play Laurie Berkner on repeat to try to keep him calm whenever he needs to be in the car for a while.

At his well baby check-up today, he weighed in at 18 pounds, which is totally average for his age but gigantic compared to LL at six months. It's even more surprising since he is still eating below the normal minimum number of ounces of milk for a baby his age. Poor thing must have inherited my amazing ability to gain weight even when not eating. (As opposed to LL, who is taking after S -- they can both eat their body weight in whatever unhealthy food strikes their fancy, and still stay thin.)

Every afternoon, while I cook and while we eat dinner, Kermit hangs out in his high chair. He loves being up at our level, where he can see everything that's going on, but he thinks that it's rather unfair that we don't share our food with him. (He will probably get his first taste of "solid" food this weekend.) Kermit has also shown himself to be wildly adaptable. Unlike LL, who was a fussy mess if one of his naps was ever 15 minutes late, Kermit handles schedule changes with a smile. And he has already spent a few days with Rosie while I was out on job interviews, and he apparently couldn't care less which Big Person cares for him during the day. Which I guess is a good thing? I'm still not sure.

Happy Half Year, Kermit!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Oy, I haven't written in a while. Part of it is that I'm busy (cf, two small children). Part is that I'm exhausted (cf, two small children, again). Part is that I was sick for a ridiculously long time. Part is perfectionism (I have so much that I want to write about, but I want to write it well, so I procrastinate on each post until I can do it properly). But now I'm hopelessly behind in what I want to record here! So, a quick bullet list, most of which will be expanded into a series of much cooler posts in the near future.

- I've started interviewing for jobs. Blech. I hate interviewing for jobs. I'm already growing tired of jumping through the hoops.

- Kermit turns 6 months old next week. It's so cliched to say it, but geesh, where did the time go?!? He has two teeth already, he's chewing on everything he can get his little paws on, he loves standing up, he wants desperately to learn how to sit up straight on his own, and he is ready ready ready to start eating real food, thankyouverymuch. Also, he loves to nap. Also, he is seriously the smiliest baby in the world, which is fairly impressive for a teething refluxy kid. Especially one that's constantly being stepped on by his older brother.

- LL has suddenly exploded developmentally. He's sleeping in a big boy bed, he's trying new foods with toddler abandon, he has suddenly found his voice and is carrying on full conversations, and he's progressing nicely with potty training. And he's nearly as tall as me. Well, not quite, but he's suddenly a heck of a lot closer than he has any right to be, since he's not yet three years old. Bedtime is getting ever-so-slightly better, but still kind of sucks. When things calm down a bit on all the other transitions he's facing right now, we will really need to do something about bedtime.

- Why yes, I did slip in there that we started potty training LL. It's been about two weeks. We're taking a very very very laid back approach, which is going fairly well so far. I've cobbled together a lovely low-stress technique that so far has resulted in a lot of successes, a few accidents, several conversations about the differences between boys and girls, and a weird pavlovian thing where LL needs to pee every time my phone rings.

- One of my resolutions is to cook more dinners at home. Also, I'm trying to lose some of that lingering fertility/pregnancy weight. Also, I'm tired of LL eating yogurt, cottage cheese, crackers, and fruit (and very little else) for every meal. Also, nobody ever taught me meal planning, or even much cooking, and I kind of feel like I've been blindly winging it for 15 years. Which might have been fine when I was cooking just for me, but now that I'm responsible for feeding two human beings, both of whom will hopefully grow up having healthier views on food than me, their overweight mother, I decided that I really needed to educate myself and make some changes. I've been reading lots of books. I've also been slowly integrating new ideas into our household, in the hopes that I can get some new behaviors ingrained while LL and Kermit are little, and before I go back to work and have much less time for planning. Summaries and book reviews will be coming soon.

- S and I went out to see a movie this week!!! For the first time in like a year!!! It was awesome! We saw Super 8. Highly recommended. I really liked it, and not just because it was two hours during which nobody pulled on my shirt and whined, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" Also, I got to go to the bathroom before and after the movie all by myself.

- I got my hair cut last week, and my stylist asked what product I've been putting in my hair. I told her that my baby is teething right now, so he chews on his hands, then grabs handfuls of my hair, and I sort of just let his saliva accumulate there all day. I started going to this particular high-end salon when S and I were first married. I'm not sure that I'm quite their target clientele anymore.

Yep, those are the highlights. More later.