The Control Freak’s Guide to picky eating kids

Though it pains me to admit: after having three children, I’ve learned that I can not really control what a child will and won’t eat. But I do have influence over the options that are available, and so I focus on that. At the end of this post, I will share my battle-tested strategies for dealing with picky eating children.

Background:

Before I try to boss you around, I want to share my picky eating credentials. Kid 1 was a pretty good eater and we were extremely neurotic, dedicated first-time parents (not that there’s anything wrong with that), hell-bent on getting him to eat every bite blob of food on his spoon. He ate a very healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. As of age ten, he won’t eat cooked fruit (apple pie – WTW?!) or plain cheese pizza, preferring vegetables on his pizza to the point of pouting at parties where only cheese is available. He’s a little bit picky but mostly a terrific eater of many foods. And yes, we are those food a**holes who serve kale salads to our kids on the regular. Kid 1 eats them with relish and wants to make sure we are properly massaging each leaf. (Not actual relish made of pickles.)

Kid 2 was also a pretty good eater from the start. Rather than force the “clean your plate” mentality of our own childhoods, we had evolved as parents to encourage a “Try-It Bite” for every new food, and then left it up to him as to whether he would eat more. He was a frequent eater of frozen waffles and plain yogurt but also ingested a healthy combination of other foods. If anything, he opened up our eyes about a broader range of possibilities for nutritious foods. He prefers plain pizza to veggie, but he always eats the broccoli we offer on the side.

Picky kids make for cranky cooks - solutions for picky eatersKid 3 has been a picky eater from the womb. He was a voracious nurser that required formula supplementation almost immediately. I should have known that we couldn’t rest on our good experience. He developed a penchant for dairy and carbs (plain cheese quesadillas and cheese pizza are his perfect foods) such that I couldn’t even get him to eat fruit without disguising it as a cracker (thanks to Trader Joe’s freeze dried strawberries, he now eats the real thing). The “Try-It Bite” has devolved into the “No-Thank-You Lick”. It took us 3-5 times of offering ice cream before he would even put it to his lips. I’ve caught myself doing a happy dance when he ate his first dinosaur-shaped chicken nugget, because he had never agreed to try chicken before!

Because our picky kid was our third kid, I had no choice but to accept this as a thing about HIM rather than a thing about ME. I am positive if my first child had been the one to turn up his nose at a grape or carrot, I would have blamed myself.

Having experienced two kids who will eat anything and one who will not, I have some mantras and reminders I give myself and my husband to help us stay sane.

Tips for parents of selective eaters: [Read more…]

Pregnant? Try living off one salary ASAP

When I first discovered I was pregnant, I was in Africa on my honeymoon. Having just sold our possessions, quit our jobs, and committed ourselves to living out our values of adventure being more important than security, we did a complete 180 on our new lifestyle and backpedaled home.

We cut the trip short and returned to our regularly scheduled desk jobs for the remainder of my pregnancy. We had some financial catch-up to do.

Since RookieDad Alec and I were new to married life and a shared wallet, we made our best efforts to live on just one paycheck while banking the other in a savings account. Of course we didn’t succeed completely — and we bought our fair share of miniature clothes and toys — but it was really good practice for our future. While most pregnant women are making baby shopping lists and fantasizing about nursery decor, I spent a lot of time sourcing hand-me-down baby items. [Read more…]

Get kids to listen without yelling {FREE class}

We are so happy to tell you that we have partnered with Amy McCready’s company Positive Parenting Solutions to bring a free webinar to you guys on the topic of getting kids to listen – without nagging or yelling. The format includes Amy presenting material and a live chat session where we can all ask questions in real time.

We have taken similar online parenting classes with Amy in the past and both really enjoyed it. Each time, I feel empowered with new ideas for positive discipline solutions (and a commitment to stop yelling completely. Ahem.).

Get kids to listen without nagging
This valuable class will take place online on Wednesday May 27 at 10 AM Pacific (that’s 1PM Eastern for some of you).
Parents of kids ages 2½ – 16 will learn:

  • why kids really misbehave — it’s probably not what you think!
  • how your personality may actually fuel misbehavior
  • the 5 R’s of Fair & Effective Consequences so kids listen the first time you ask
  • training resources to reduce your parenting stress & stop nagging, reminding & yelling

Here’s how the webinar works:

  • Sign up here to be reminded when it’s about to start.
  • Sit in front of your computer to watch and listen to the presentation.
  • Come as you are;  no one will see you.
  • Type questions whenever you have them and Amy will respond when possible.

Whitney and I will be in on the class as well, asking questions alongside you.

Click here to join us.

+++ Taking the class is free to you; Amy offers deeper courses for a fee if you’re interested. We have an affiliate relationship with Positive Parenting Solutions.

Climb out of the darkness of PPD

Becoming a mother was a huge shock for me, and not just in the good way. I felt surprisingly bad at it and I found myself saying stuff like, “New motherhood is like heartbreak; everyone says it’s hard but until you actually go through it, you have no idea how hard it can be.” I was rocked to my core. If I had known about Kathrine Stone and her work with Postpartum Progress when my firstborn was an infant, I might have felt the support of other Warrior Moms going through their own challenges. I would not have felt so alone.

Climb Out of the Darkness for PPD

 

So I am thrilled to share news of this event with you: Climb Out of the Darkness is the annual kickass awareness-raising and fundraising event for Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit that supports new moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis and pregnancy depression. And it’s getting bigger and bolder each year.

Held on the longest day of the year, June 20, 2015, Climb Out of the Darkness is a specific event to bring sunshine, nature, exercise, and triumph and shine it into our dark places. Join mothers around the world to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Find a climb near you.

You don’t necessarily have to climb a mountain to join in. You can ride a mountain bike on a trail, do a nature walk, walk along the beach. You can stand outside and let the sun shine on your face. Register to climb and support all the climbers >>

Climb Out of the Darkness for PPD

If you feel like a terrible mother or that something feels wrong with your new life, YOU are not alone. There are gobs of local and online resources waiting to be discovered through PostpartumProgress.com and the non-profit wing, PostpartumProgress.org. Both were founded by Katherine Stone, mom, survivor of postpartum OCD. Hers is the world’s most widely read blog on PPD and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Check out the plain mama English symptoms of postpartum depression & anxiety. Figure out what you need to feel better.

Every day will NOT be rainbows and unicorns, but you can find a better place. I promise.

Wondering if you have Postpartum Depression? One in every seven women gets a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like PPD. You have done nothing wrong. You are not weak, or selfish, or a bad mom. You just have an illness that many women get, and you can get better with help from a healthcare professional. Learn about PPD and more.

[Images from PostpartumProgress.org]

Mom 2.0 Summit in Arizona. Just wow.

Otherwise known as reconnecting with friends, business connections, inspiration, and random fangirl moments at the 2015 Mom 2.0 Summit

Pretty sure @rookieheather would be ok hanging here forever. @fairmontscotsdl

A photo posted by Anna Fader (@mommypoppins) on

Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of attending a four-day getaway in Scottsdale, Arizona while my amazing husband kept the balls in the air at home. I fully believe that when I leave my family for any length of time, my primary job is to “earn it” and suck the marrow fully out of my new surroundings.

I arrived early so that I could explore the Scottsdale area with Anna from Mommy Poppins. We had a blast on the waterslides, got way relaxed at the spa, ate entirely too much at Hacienda restaurant (including my face in the bowl of guacamole and a glass of whipped cream). The next day, we were joined by Jyl from Mom it Forward and Liz from Cool Mom Picks to visit a butterfly wonderland and another amazing pants-unzipping meal.

I promise to share more about tips for traveling to Scottsdale with families in the near future.

Since I’ve been running this blog for nearly ten years now, I often meet people in person and can’t recall if we’ve ever met in real life or only on the Internetz. Sometimes I get embarrassed in these moments when I’m not sure if my relationship with someone is a two-way street or lives mostly in my imagination. This is especially true at blogging conferences! Once the summit was underway, I was bombarded blessed with large and small moments with favorite people, some of whom I had never met:

  • Attending panels and workshops given by content producers like Kelsey and Erica from The Girl Next Door who taught me so much about podcasting, I plan to launch one this year.
  • Meeting Katie Workman in an elevator. I have a well-worn copy of her book, The Mom 100 Cookbook, and heartily recommend it to anyone who needs to eat and prepare three meals a day. I am so grateful for Katie’s book and was excited to meet her in person, so of course I blanked when she asked me about my go-to recipes. P.S. They are Spaghetti With Meatballs, Teriyaki Flank Steak, and many of the vegetable side dishes.
  • Hugging the Honest Toddler. Bunmi Laditan is hilarious and engaging; she totally gets me and the little crazy people I live with. If you’re not already reading her books, following her on twitter, or checking out her various blogs, I implore you to do so! Check out The Honest Toddler, a child’s guide to parenting, her new one Toddlers Are A**holes: It’s Not Your Fault, and @HonestToddler on twitter because you should be laughing more.

Honest Toddler Bunmi with Rookie Moms Heather

  • Attending the Iris Awards. It was a serendipitous honor to be sitting at the table with two of the founders of BlogHer, Lisa Stone and Elisa Camahort Page, when they won their Vanguard Iris Award. Supercool!
  • Being the makeshift paparazzi. Whitney and I were assigned the job to back up the professional photographer on the Iris Red Carpet so people could have pics for Instagram on their own phones. I also tried to recreate the Kim, Kanye, Amy Schumer moment in front of The Bloggess with mixed results.

Mom 2.0 Summit Red Carpet at Iris Awards Baby Rabies and friends

Rookie Moms pulls an Amy Schumer on the Bloggess

  • Seeing friends that live too far away. My visits with down-to-earthiest parent blogger Asha Dornfest are always too few and far between. She has been writing ParentHacks.com a million internet years — or ten, same as us — and has a new book in the works that we can’t wait to get our hands on.

Parent Hacks Asha with Rookie Moms Heather

  • Catching up with Momables writer Laura Fuentes about homeschooling, food, and email newsletters. I also can’t wait for her new book to ship: The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet, which is totally inspiring for those of us with mom guilt about buying sooo many pre-packaged snacks.
  • Meeting Krystyn Hall, who made it all ok when I stuck my foot in my mouth at least three times during a lovely dinner with Beechnut Baby Food. (Thanks, Beechnut, for the nice dinner and putting baby food in our drinks and dessert. I totally didn’t mean it when I joked that I hoped dessert wasn’t baby food. And then it was.)
  • Trading tricks and tips with the folks behind some amazing hyper local blogs like Stephanie TucsonTopia and Colleen from San Antonio Mom Blogs for our own East Bay family site 510families.

How to be a Dad, Rookie Moms, Parent Hacks, Mommy Poppins, Daddy Complex at Mom 2.0 Summit

From left to right: Andy from How to Be A Dad; Whitney and me from RookieMoms.com; Asha from ParentHacks; Anna from MommyPoppins; David Vienna, author of Calm The F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need and blogger behind The Daddy Complex. We’re just winding down from an incredible day of winding down from our real lives.

Any questions about my time at the Mom 2.0 Summit?

Notes: Parts of my trip were provided by the good people of Scottsdale.

Photos: All pictures with the watermark are from the Mom 2.0 Summit photographer, Michael Cummings, Instagram photos are labeled, others are Heather Flett selfies.

Baby and toddler activities in Myrtle Beach, SC

Activities for babies and toddlers in Myrtle Beach, SC

Stacie from the site formerly known as NewMommyHelp.net offered to share with us a week’s worth of favorite baby and toddler activities in her hometown of Myrtle Beach, SC. Thank you Stacie! As a mom of four little ones, she knows the local hotspots and places to avoid.

She tells us: Myrtle Beach is often referred to as family vacation land. There is way too much to do here.

This guide is designed to give you the best of the tourist attractions, while also pointing you in the direction of some lesser known local favorites. Enjoy the best of the East coast and low country charm of South Carolina!

Monday: Beach Day!
Try going at the beginning of the week, and maybe you’ll like it so much you will come back another day. If you’re looking for a less crowded area, try one of the public beach access points–head North on Ocean Blvd starting at 48th Ave N. Even your littlest one can enjoy the sound of the waves and the constant breeze you’ll find at the beach. Not to mention hours of fun for a toddler digging in the sand and jumping waves as they wash in. We have to drag our children away when it’s time to go home. Have lunch at Ultimate California Pizza (2500 N Kings Hwy).

Tuesday: Library
Baby Storytime at Chapin Memorial Library (10:00 AM). For details call Sue Ellen or Jen at 843 918-1275. They have a large outdoor playground too. Have lunch at Magnolia’s, a much-loved favorite among locals and tourists (2605 N Ocean Blvd.)

[Read more…]

May the fourth: Star Wars Day!

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! (May the fourth be with you, get it?) My house is pretty amped for all things Star Wars. Even before we showed our young children the movies — in the proper order of 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, {extended pause for kids to age}, and 3 — we had them playing the LEGO Star Wars video game as a less scary introduction to the canon.

Princess Leia and Yoda are a fun Mom and Baby Halloween costumeThanks to the preschool playground, today’s little ones know that Yoda is awesome, Darth Vader is Luke’s Dad, and Princess Leia is the coolest princess ever (Sorry, Elsa!) before any of them sit in front of a movie screen to make up their own minds. And depending on the age of their parents, they grow up believing Ewoks are creepy or cute.

My fantasy birthday party probably includes a Princess Leia costume or at least a light saber battle.

Jedi training class at Golden Gate Knights

Babies can get in on the action, too. We’ve seen several adorable Star Wars baby costumes like this mini Princess Leia and R2D2 onesie (follow link, OMG).

Baby Princess Leia

Speaking of R2D2, I made this foam mobile for my children and they still love it three years later. Or at least they notice it when they’re hitting it with their dirty laundry from across the room.

How to: R2D2 starwars mobile

 

How will you celebrate Star Wars?

Related:

Best things to do with a baby or toddler in Ann Arbor, MI

I want to thank Anna Mae Trievel from Ann Arbor with Kids for sharing her favorite things to do with a baby or toddler in Ann Arbor, MI. Anna Mae created her website as a resource when her own daughter was two-years old. Now it spans from birth through the tween years.

What to do with a baby or toddler in Ann Arbor: AAHOM

When my husband and I first moved to Ann Arbor in 2003, I knew all about the University of Michigan but I had no idea it was such a family-friendly town. After our daughter was born, I began to compile a list of all of the fun family-friendly activities around town; eventually I shared this growing list beyond just my friends and created Ann Arbor with Kids.

Whether you are an Ann Arbor local or are just visiting, here are six fantastic activities to enjoy with your baby or toddler:

Attend an Ann Arbor Library Event

What to do with a baby or toddler in Ann Arbor: StorytimeThe Ann Arbor District Library is a great resource for activities for babies and toddlers. My daughter and I loved their Baby Playgroups which are offered each weekday (4 morning sessions and one evening session) for babies from birth through 24 months.

They also offer 8 Preschool Storytimes each week on Tuesdays through Fridays for kids ages 2-5. In addition to their weekly programming, the libraries offer special programs for kids such as Dancing Babies, KinderConcerts (in conjunction with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra), Just Babies, and First Six Months.

Visit an Ann Arbor Museum

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is a fun day out for families. Their dedicated Preschool Gallery offers a perfect exploration zone for kids. The newly redesigned water area is incredible (pictured up top). While there are smocks to help keep clothes dry, a spare pair of shoes may be helpful for big splashers.

The University of Michigan also has several museums including the Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, and Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The best choice for toddlers is the Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs. [Read more…]

Brainstorm with me: solo Mother’s Day experiences

This is me trying to take a little bit of control of my own destiny for Mother’s Day. Is that so wrong?

My husband knows what I want on Mother’s Day to a T, and he does his very best for me: little people are extra friendly; we all eat brunch; he fields the dirty diapers and discipline as much as is humanly possible. Maybe there is chocolate. Done and done.

Happy Mother's Day ideas

Beyond the basics, he will sometimes surprise me with a some bonus alone time. He takes the boys to the library or park for a few hours and tells me to be happy, relax, and do no work.

But, what should I do? Without any notice, I sometimes end up feeling banished from my own family. I sure as heck better come up with something worthy of this precious gift of time!

As a favor to myself (and perhaps you), I thought we could brainstorm a few great ways to spend that imaginary three hours of selfish indulgence:

Massage. You want a massage on Mother’s Day? You might as well book it now, sweetie. Don’t get kicked out of the house on Sunday morning expecting to find a spa opening.

Last minute option: Grab your flip flops and try for a walk-in pedicure.

See a movie. I love to see movies alone, but if that’s not your thing, find a friend and book tickets for something girly.

Last minute option: Grab a smartphone or tablet for a Netflix binge session. I’ve done this in my minivan, but somehow that seems more tragic than festive. Maybe you can do it in the corner of a cafe after ordering a mimosa.

Walk or run with a friend. Can you conspire with a girlfriend to get out of the house together? Meet at your favorite trail and hike in relative peace.

Last minute option: Put on your running shoes and just GO, do not look back!

Brunch, or something like it. High-end places might require reservations on this holiday, but you alone with your book can sit at the counter.

Last minute option: Brunch line still too long? Put on a podcast and carry your cronuts to a park bench with a view (preferably not of a playground!).

Uninterrupted reading. Grab a good book and pick a nice place to read — better than your car. I’m reading The Boys in the Boat.

Last minute option: Download a new kindle book or find two new magazines to peruse.

Happy Mother's Day

In the past, when things don’t go my way on Mother’s Day, it feels like this.

If I manage my expectations and go share some of that love with my own mama, it is a happier day for everyone.

Happy Mother’s Day planning, friends. What’s on your list?

Get your toddler cleaning up pronto

I wish this picture of the OXO tot mini dustpan and hand broom showed a toddler or banana for scale instead of a full-grown mom looking for a kid helper to clean up around the highchair. But I am glad they cut her face off because you know she’s sick of crawling around down there. Or stepping on questionable bits of detritus as she moves UP and DOWN from her seat refilling and answering special requests during every meal.

 

OXO tot sweeping up broom for messy toddlers

So, here’s the tip: Get your little one to start helping around the house while he still thinks it is an amazing display of big kid power and before he starts to resent your intrusion onto his well-deserved free time.

Stock up on adorable kid-sized cleaning supplies or hack the ones you have and let him go to town!

1. Kid-sized hand broom. This one by OXO is cute, mod, and does the job for about $5.OXO tot sweeping up broom for messy toddlers

 

2. Hacked Swiffer. Take out the middle segment(s) of your swiffer to make it child-sized. Don’t lose them. A Swiffer Sweeper is about $23 to get started. You can buy a gajillion cloth refills for about $10. [Read more…]

5 Super green baby activities

You know how everyone wants you to buy green stuff in order to do your part for the Earth? Well, being green is more than just buying more crap we don’t need, it’s also getting our hands dirty planting a garden, annoying your family by turning out the lights when they’re still in the room, and having some fun with the babies in our lives!

5 Activities to do with your baby for #earthday


Here are five green(er) ways to spend the morning with your little sidekick:

  1. Go > Outing: Fondle the goodies at the Farmer’s Market; share something yummy to eat or just navigate your way through the aisles looking at big kids.
  2. Move > Start raising a treehugger by taking a hike in real nature.
  3. Play > Play in a different kind of nursery; enjoy the flowers and butterflies at the garden store, starting a garden is optional.
  4. Eat > Project: Make your own baby food; DIY with fresh veggies and fruit is hecka cheap, better for health, and not as hard as you think!
  5. Hide in bed > Send your partner out to jog with the baby while you SLEEP.

I’ll post another day about the bajillion ideas we have for refashioning and upcycling. For now, go have some fun outside and let the ants clean up the crumbs!Hiking daddies sleeping babies and more green baby activities

 

Things to do in San Diego with a baby or toddler

Big thanks to blogger and rookie mom, Kristin Helms, for sharing her favorite places to take a baby or toddler in San Diego.
Best things to do with a baby in San Diego

As a first time mom to a now 16 month old, the words, “family vacation” stir up many feelings – mostly fear. Of course there’s always the hope for fun and family bonding time – the rose-colored visions of frolicking on the beach while you toss your baby into the air as the sun is setting providing the perfect photo opp and memories to last a lifetime. But more realistically, and here back on earth, it is daunting to pick a “vacation” spot and map out what to see and do with an unpredictable infant or a protesting toddler in tow – I get it! Sometimes we can barely navigate Target without a meltdown or a diaper blow out, so are we really expected to drive or (gasp) fly to an unknown destination and explore an entire city?

The answer is yes, but the right destination is key. And if the right destination is key, then San Diego will unlock the door to a happy and fun family vacation. I won’t lie to you; there WILL be crying and spit-up, and you’ll probably forget to pack a pacifier or a beloved “blanky”, but the sunny San Diego weather will make it all seem very mild and most of all, manageable.

While everyone knows about the large attractions like the famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, LEGOLAND, and SeaWorld, that all most definitely should still make your lists of what to see while in San Diego, I’m here to shed some light on the hidden gems that make this beautiful city a mecca for family fun, even for the fearful family with a baby or toddler in tow.

Here are my favorite mom-approved places to have fun with a baby or toddler in San Diego for visitors or mamas on a “staycation”:

  1. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: If your toddler is anything like mine; curious and wants to test everything out on her own, then the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park is a must. Filled with interactive, kid-friendly science exhibits, you can easily spend half a day here exploring. Kids 5 and under should set aside a good amount of time for the Center’s Kid City where toddlers can enjoy playing on fire trucks, shopping at a mini-grocery store, playing music and much, much more.The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is open daily at 10:00 a.m. and is open in the evenings during summer and on weekends. For more information: www.rhfleet.org. While you’re already in Balboa Park, check out some of the other great museums and traveling exhibits and enjoy a patio lunch at The Prado while sipping their fresh-made fruit sodas (they’re incredible!)

Best places for babies in SD: Reuben Fleet Science Center San Diego [Read more…]