Professionals recommend bribery
Inspired by an NPR/Freakonomics story about bribery in which an economist gives each of his four children the opportunity to earn “a lot of money” for eating fresh fish in Hawaii every day during their vacation, I decided to try to bribe my preschooler with trinkets to try new-to-him foods. After all, the radio story revealed that children were more motivated by prizes than anything else (like knowing that good foods build healthy bodies).

The prize I laid out was a plastic dinosaur for each new-to-him food. For roughly two weeks, I presented him with his dinner along with 1-3 toy dinos for trying eligible foods. He didn’t earn anything for eating applesauce or cheese quesadillas, but he could have for trying a bite of a grape (yes, a GRAPE!!!), which he declined.

I bribed my child to eat healthy food with toy dinosaurs

If I’m totally honest, you should know I wanted to keep this bribery program running long enough to for him to earn 72 dinosaurs, no matter the duration. My friend, the engineer, calculated that he could try seven different foods at ten times each and I was overly optimistic when I purchased them. Instead, I had to cut the experiment off after 14 days because it was such a colossal failure that Whitney was losing her patience with me. Yes, Whitney.

In 14 days, Sawyer earned only four dinosaurs and two of them were total cheats on my part.

Where did we begin?
Sawyer is not your typical picky eater, if there is such a thing. He approaches unfamiliar foods with anxiety and nervousness. If he’s going to try it, he might sit in my lap cowering and retching before he fully tastes the thing and declares that it is not bad.

Got that? He actually likes most foods that he tries, but he is unwilling to try new things. Ugh. So frustrating.

According to family legend, this was never more true than his approach to ice cream. Once we felt like he was old enough for a taste, he refused. He was offered ice cream many times, until he finally — nervously — agreed to open his mouth for it. Of course, he loved it. By the next time we had ice cream, he had already forgotten that it was a positive experience. So he refused it another few times. This usually happens about three times before he remembers that he liked any food in the past.

It is also worth noting that he has two big brothers who willingly eat food like salmon and kale salad with smiles on their faces and we all sit down to family dinner most nights of the week, where everyone eats the same thing.

When Sawyer decided, for the second time, that broccoli was pretty good, we made a video together so I can show him next time he is reluctant. It was his idea.

Did bribing work?
Sawyer was largely unmoved by the dinosaur bribery scheme. He tasted what he was going to try anyway so we did have some slight progress toward trying and liking new foods. He acted like he wanted the toys but never enough to move the needle. The four dinosaurs I gave out were for the following:

  1. a dessert with honey, raisins, and dates — after days of no progress, I wanted to make it easier for him (and me!) to succeed. But c’mon.
  2. homemade cheese pizza — the crust was unusual so I thought he might not eat it, but awarding a bribe for a kid eating cheese pizza is embarrassing.
  3. a cheeseburger — this was HUGE for us, real progress toward a new food. Interestingly, we were not at home when he ate it so I think it is very likely he didn’t have dinosaurs on the brain.
  4. broccoli — and he said he liked it. Notice he’s in my lap because of his anxiety but quickly wanted to make himself a video because broccoli rocks.

Other days, he ate all the foods that were not dino-eligible or Nothing At All. Yes, multiple days in this game, my two-year old went to bed with no dinner.

What did I learn?
Was it a waste of time? Was it fun for me because I am a data geek? Was it nice to get positive feedback from other friends with picky eaters? Yes, yes, and yes.

I enjoyed trying something new on this kid but, all in all, I only passed out four dinosaurs. I don’t think that bribery changed Sawyer’s behavior in a significant way, but Whitney and her family think I need to offer a better prize.


My sister lives 500 miles away, and therefore, we don’t see each other much. I stalk her through twitter and Instagram to know what she’s up to on a daily basis, and the big things, like a business trip to the Cannes Film Festival (she has a film industry job), I learn via phone calls and coordinated visits to our parents’ house, halfway between our two cities.

A few months ago I caught on that she was doing a closet remix challenge and documenting it. She tagged her Instagram pictures #30×30 and posted her outfit every day. At the end, she posted a collage of 30 outfits.

#30x30 closet remix challenge

The basic idea is to take 30 items from your wardrobe and wear only those for 30 days, in 30 unique ways. You can make your own rules, but for my sister, clothing and shoes are what count while accessories are a free-for-all. You can use them liberally to make your outfit new again.

On the first day of August, I noticed that Em had posted a full length shot of her outfit and tagged it 30×30, commenting “Here we go again.”

#30x30 closet remix challenge

I asked if I could join her.

Since she invested so many years of her life idolizing me, how could she say no? She referred me to the originator of this idea, perhaps because she didn’t understand that I was asking her to boss me around and force me to follow her rules.

I scrawled out some notes about what I’d wear for the first week on an envelope on my nightstand and took a picture for Instagram for Day 1. I tried not to obsess about how I looked in the picture, after all, I walk out the door without fear everyday, but for some reason posting HEY LOOK WHAT I’M WEARING, felt more embarrassing.

Day 1

3#30x30 closet remix challenge

I’ll be honest: today (Day 20) I am wearing this same sweater with different jeans (no pre-made holes!) and different shoes (sandals) and a different necklace (a heart pendant), but it feels like a bit of a cheat.  In fact, I feel like a huge cheater on the whole assignment because of the allowances I am making a different days for different reasons.

Here’s what I learned from the 30 for 30 challenge:

1) Social media can be a really fun way to connect with someone. I know, duh, we are living in 2014 and this is the main way we stay in touch with many friends, but even in the two weeks I’ve been doing this project, it has felt like my sister and I are doing an activity together. I feel like I’m posting especially for her and each day I look forward to seeing her pictures more than anyone else’s in my stream. No offense all of you who I may follow on Instagram, but none of you are my only sister. I have felt like I’m getting know people over social media before, but this has been more special.

On Saturday Em and I were both at my parents’ house and because of my lazy sweatpants-wearing ways, which I will explain in #2, I asked that we substitute a shot in our bathing suits as our Outfit of the Day — or #00td as fashion-forward chickadees on Instagram call it.

#30x30 closet remix challenge, now in swimsuits

2) I don’t get dressed head-to-toe much. Due to my work-from-home lifestyle, it is rare that I shower and dress before I take my kids to camp/school. I usually put on exercise clothes and even if it’s only a quick walk, I do some kind of workout once I’m alone. Then, I go “Crap – it’s 10 am and I haven’t done any work yet,” so I sit down at my computer instead of getting dressed. The next thing I know it’s 1 pm and I have no outfit to photograph: I’m still wearing some version of what I slept in or worked out in. Kind of pitiful for someone actually enjoys stylish clothing. With a new focus on what I am wearing each day, I became more aware of the short number of hours that I actually wear my “outfit”.

3) I like cute shoes, but I like to be me. I included a pair of high-heeled clogs in my 30 items, but every day that I selected them for my official 30×30 outfit, I ended up slipping on these other super-comfy, not quite as trendy, sandals to do an errand. I just felt embarrassed to wear clompy shoes to walk around the corner to my grocer, and today for example, walking my daughter from our parking spot to the soccer field seems like a lot of ground to cover in super-womanly shoes. I like to wear my fancy shoes when I’m dressed up, but I just can’t do the heels – even casual heels -  in everyday clothes. It makes me feel self-conscious.

4) Camera angle is everything. When my husband takes my picture, the thirteen inch difference in our height has a slimming effect. Hiding my arms has a slimming effect.  Being aware of these things has a shaming effect. I shouldn’t be so picky about how I look – I am in great health! “Accept and love your body, accept and love your body,” I tell myself. Say it with me. It’s so hard!

#30x30 closet remix challenge

It was hard to even take a moment each day to photograph myself. I felt like giving up after just a few days because I didn’t want to study my image either in the mirror or through the camera.

5. I don’t actually have a problem with my clothing or closet. Or at least I don’t have one that was revealed by this challenge. I picked my favorite things to wear – casual everyday items, including three different pairs of jeans and a pair of cut-off jean shorts. Maybe I didn’t make it hard enough, or make enough use of the opportunity to experiment. Upon mid-month consultation with my sister I learned that she pulls everything she’s going to use in the challenge to one part of her closet. She also thinks ahead, like, hey, I have a wedding shower and a business trip this month, so include a dress that can work for both. I feel like sort of a lame participant for not thinking this through very well, like wow, I wore jeans and tank tops for a month — when I wasn’t wearing yoga pants — not very interesting. Perhaps I’ll do it again and pick more challenging, less frequently worn items from my closet.

I am glad I included this top, cause it’s newish and I {heart} it. (See related items >)

#30x30 closet remix challenge

If I get very ambitious at the end of the month I will make a collage like my sister’s above. Otherwise, I will just return to my regularly scheduled programming of jammies for 20 hours of the day and a cute outfit for four hours.

The challenge I think I’d get more out of is starting on one side of my closet, wearing each item and then moving it to the back, forcing me to wear every. single. thing. hanging in there. That can be my September challenge. Are you in?


Activity #28: Pack a picnic and roll in the grass

August 18, 2014

The challenge for the day is to take advantage of a warm afternoon and feed your family outside; it’s time for a real live picnic. It is so much easier to clean up Cheerio crumbs when I can just shake my blanket into the grass and leave the rest to the bugs. I like to […]

Read more →

Instagram vs. Real Life for moms

August 14, 2014

Inspired by a very funny recent post on Bustle, a few of us wanted to share the maternal version of What I instagrammed vs. What was really happening or my entire life is a lie. For better or worse, we could go on all day like this! What you saw from @mommyprojectSD Trend setter. #babystyle #skinnyjeans […]

Read more →

Dressing up as Olaf, Anna, and Elsa: FROZEN costumes for kids

August 13, 2014

I know it’s early for Halloween, but some of these have just hit the market, and I don’t think there’s any reason to wait. Why should kids only wear their costumes once per year? Who doesn’t want to be Elsa every day? Or at least wear it at your own FROZEN birthday party! Here are […]

Read more →

Another crazy experiment in potty training

August 12, 2014

Ugh. We are not THERE yet. We are so close. In fact, 12 months ago, I thought we were super duper ticking-time-bomb close because my not-yet-two-year old was so interested in pooping in the potty. Fast forward a year and he’s still quite interested in #2 because he gets to trade $h1# for candy. But peeing […]

Read more →

Summer Fun Giveaway

August 11, 2014

What’s all this Back to School nonsense? Stop trying to end my summer! August isn’t half over yet and we still have a lot of water play to get into. Today we have a giveaway for those who don’t have a care in the world about school starting. We are thankful to the folks at […]

Read more →

Activity #27: Go swimming

August 11, 2014

Taking the baby in the pool is both scary and funny. A kid’s gotta stick his toe into the water at some point, right? Buy a package of disposable swim diapers or a reusable one, and plan your outing. This is our 27th rookie mom challenge. If you are alone, think carefully through the logistics […]

Read more →

Celebrating my inside/out day {Rookie Moms Challenge #40}

August 8, 2014

The Challenge: Celebrate Baby Being Outside Longer Than Inside! The Friday before my 37th week of pregnancy, Eric left for work, and said to my stomach, “Son, would you mind coming out sometime this weekend?”  Lo and behold, at 4:00 AM that night, I woke up to my water breaking. I couldn’t believe it, we […]

Read more →

Why is it so hard to leave the house with a baby? {Rookie Moms Challenge # 15}

August 7, 2014

Leaving the neighborhood used to be so simple.  Before I had a kid, I would just put on my shoes, grab the dog’s leash and go for a walk. Now that I have Piper there are, like, 42 additional steps to the process. One of which usually involves changing a diaper full of poop RIGHT […]

Read more →

Off-to-school or back-to-preschool? Win these useful goodies

August 6, 2014

We’ve assembled a few things we love for a fun giveaway, just in time for some of you to put your kids in a toddler program or preschool for the first time. Or even back-to-school for those whose preschools take a summer break. Here’s what we’ve got. Everyday Bento – An adorable book full of […]

Read more →

My very strong opinions about kids’ backpacks

August 5, 2014

Back to school shopping. Ugh. As I walk through Target and see the many character-themed backpacks trying into leap in my shopping cart, I remember why I must make this journey alone. Back-to-school shopping is no place for kids. Alluring as my sons might find these school bags, they will never come home with us. […]

Read more →