Mealtime for our Family & Preschooler

Our little one is an eater. He’s seriously into food and has quite the appetite. I can’t get over how much food he can put away! I’m no expert, this isn’t a how-to, all kiddos are different but here is what’s happening in our kitchen/at our table at this season of our lives. Let’s start with the fact that he’s into food and doesn’t question different textures- that’s him as a person. I’m coming at mealtime from my own perspective, not a one-size-fits-all with a hungry kid who likes to eat and as a Momma who values food, cooking, and meals. This guy forgave us after the first 5 weeks of life when he really would have benefited from a supplement of formula sooner, and has been eating non-stop ever since. Fed is best, but that’s another story.
IMG_4314

Timing of Eating & Milk:

On weekends, he eats breakfast soon after waking- often 8ish. His bfast of choice is waffles/dry cereal/toast and fruit. Mid morning milk. Lunch is mid-day. He’ll always pick peanut butter & jelly, if available, with tomatoes/cukes/apples etc. After lunch he has a little digestion time and then a 2-ish hour nap. Milk after the nap. Dinner tends to be somewhere between 5:30-6:15 with milk before bed, and he’s in bed @ 7:30ish. We don’t offer snacks so he doesn’t really ask for them – milk is pretty much fulfilling this. Sometimes we’ll offer a snack if he’s up earlier from the nap, also if we’re going to go out for an errand or something.

Weekdays he’s up earlier and daycare does a mid-morning snack and an after-nap snack usually. I wonder if since we’ve packing lunch at daycare his whole life, that has been part of him knowing he can only eat what’s served- no substitutions.

Meals:

We’ve worked hard to give him what we eat, without substitutions. The motto at our table is “you don’t have to eat it”. He doesn’t have to finish anything but there’s no substitutions. We caught ourselves when he was smaller sometimes adding to his dinner if he wasn’t eating much. He also noticed and we nipped that. I do think we’re mindful of there being a few things on his plate, and we know what he’ll definitely like- like a random raw veggie I’m assured he’ll eat. We point out what each thing is so he’ll have the vocabulary of food and to have a second to see & understand what the meal is. I’ve tried to be in the habit of saying “you’re not hungry for eggs right now? maybe next time.” versus “you don’t like it?”.

Most days we all sit for breakfast together- each eating whatever our breakfast of choice is. Most nights we all eat together. If possible, I give him a head start since it takes him longer. I’ve been working hard to prep most dinners in advance so there’s less to start on weeknights at 5:45pm and so he can start, and Daddy and I join in and eat the same thing when he’s home off the train. One weeknight per week we do “anything goes” so we might eat different dinners – leftovers/eggs/something quick. Friday nights are takeout & DVR for the grown ups so he’ll eat first and we eat when he goes to bed. We cherish this ritual- as much as cooking and eating together.

For us, parents decide what’s for dinner, and when dinner is. Our kid can decide which things he wants to eat, and how much. He can have 2nds, 3rds of anything but not anything different than the dinner. Holidays/parties/etc all bets are off. I notice he eats less at a bigger family meal, but that’s fine.

In the kitchen:

He likes to be on a stool at the counter. Sometimes he can “help”, like putting the chopped veggie from the cutting board onto a pan to roast. I show him foods as they’re cooking. It is important to me that he sees what something looks like raw, or the stem, etc. Just the other day I gave him an avocado pit to touch- he thought it was hysterical. To get into the mindset of the meal being ready, often we’ll have him pick his plate/bowl which he can reach. He doesn’t get to decide what’s for dinner, but he can choose a plate. Here he is “taking a picture”….wonder where he got that idea ;)
IMG_4189

At the table:

He’s in his highchair pulled up to the table. He needs the reminder to use his fork/spoon. I’d estimate he eats 80% of foods with silverware. Most meals he needs reminders not to play with any food, and to keep his legs down and stay pushed in. For now, he doesn’t mind at all to wear a bib. Because of our dogs, we strive for all food to be eaten at the table, still sometimes the lab needs to be separated from eating crumbs off the toddler’s lap the entire meal!

Favorites:

Pasta, avocado, beans, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, waffles, rice, yogurt, feta cheese, all fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, sweet pickles, muffins, mustard, applesauce, quesadillas, and the list goes on. He’s less interested in meat at the moment. Eggs are hit or miss. He finds lettuce hard to chew. Below he forsake the fork for his Christmas dessert of cheesecake with cherries.
IMG_4258

On variety:

I shoot for variety for us all, but for him especially. I want him to see that foods he likes can look different. Cheeses, pasta shapes, rice/grains etc don’t just look one way, and we don’t only eat them with one flavor. It was messier, but I gave him tiny soft tacos the other night and he did great holding and biting them. I wondered what he’s think about a white bean/tomato/spinach thing with polenta and he ate soooo much of it. As much as I want him seeing and experiencing new food, he still surprises us with what he’s into sometimes.

Here’s this week’s menu:

Sunday: was the Patriots playoff game so we had “sports snacks” Cheeseburger Layer Dip & raw veggies with dressing.
Monday: White beans with tomato sauce & spinach and polenta cakes – he went to town and ended up eating what would have been my leftovers for lunch!
Tuesday: Tacos (mine = ground pork, T & Daddy = ground beef) with avocado, tomatoes, cheese, salsa inside, and some Mexican Street Corn on the side.
Wednesday: Rigatoni with creamy tomato sauce
Thursday: Chicken wraps with sweet potato fries
Friday: takeout for us parents and something easy- maybe a quesadilla or mac & cheese for T.

Feeding the Little One

Mr. J and I definitely have a little eater. Maybe he’s taken cues from us, or the pups who eat all that is served in one sitting, or his genes, or he’s just himself and is hungry, interested, and into food at this moment. Right now we’re taking the approach of just keeping serving varied foods and he’ll eat it or not but there aren’t other options at that meal. T has several teeth coming in so texture or mouth-feel could be a part of his current trends. Here’s what he’s been loving, or not into lately:

IMG_2296

Into: feeding himself with forks & spoons.
It is pretty hysterical to see him speed up the fork usage by manually putting something onto the fork- after several attempts to spear it hasn’t worked. Baby + spoon + yogurt = a true testament to how challenging aim is. He’s so proud of himself!

Not into: grilled cheese at Gram & Pops house 
Huh? I thought you were part mouse always wanting cheese! Quesadillas are often a staple for him so this surprised me.

Into: grilled sausages & grilled herbed potatoes
Sometimes he passes over meat, and grilled/charred pieces but he was into both of these the other night!

Not into: tortellini
Long-shaped pasta is always a hit, farfalle was gobbled down recently, but both hot tortellini and tortellini salad were no-gos this time. Who ARE you?

Always into: fruit – all.the.fruit, sweet potatoes, muffins, corn, beans, raw tomatoes, cucumbers

Hit or miss right now: green beans, avocado, eggs, deli meat, pickles, some foods if he has them in close succession.
mixed results so they’ll keep appearing and we’ll continue to see what happens.

Food & Meals to Bring a New Parent

When I was thinking of what nobody/no books told me about being a first time parent, I learned a lot about what foods I’d recommend. I never really knew what to bring new parents but now I have better ideas. On the first night home, my parents gave us a roast chicken, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole (a fav of mine!) and cookies. It was ahh-mazing to have a real meal and to have leftovers to eat the next day. Some of the other foods they gave were equally appreciated (specifically grapes, salad stuff, and eggs).

Suggested new parent meals/foods:

  • food for their freezer: things they can pull out to defrost or that can go right into the oven. Maybe you don’t know what they’ll have or when they’ll need a meal. Here are some freezer-friendly foods I like. Include reheating instructions & ingredients, just in case.
    The Three Bite Rule - Traditional Lasagna
  • snacks/sides: munchies they can turn into a lunch or for whenever the hunger strikes. My first trip out of the house was for this stuff. Healthy and fresh foods are greatly appreciated after freezer meals. Suggestions: hummus, veggies & pita chips; guacamole and chips; crackers & presliced cheese; salads, fruit, etc. Seasonal items would be fun too. Lemonade & popsicles in the summer or hot chocolate mix and some cookies for the winter, etc.
  • single serve foods: I made some of these and found them helpful when just one of us was hungry, or as lunch, etc. Individual burritos, sandwiches ready to become a panini, or individual muffin-tin servings of food work great.
    muff_tin_spinach_590_390
  • ready made foods are great too. You don’t even have to cook, just buy stuff that goes together to be a themed gift: a “pasta pack” of fun shaped noodles with a jar of pesto, frozen garlic bread; or “bfast bag” with yogurts, granola, orange juice, & some fruit; or a “lunch box” with chicken salad, pita pockets, apples, and chips; or “snack time” with pudding cups, fancy trail mix, goldfish, and a bottle of lemonade. You get the idea. Dress it up with a stick-on bow. Tell them what it is, and then put it away for them if anything needs to be refrigerated/frozen.
  • treats: it doesn’t have to be a meal. A crate of clementines or some cider donuts or whatever is seasonal would be great. Ice cream bars? Yes, please. Something the new parent doesn’t neeeed but would like is fun to have. Trader Joe’s has fun sodas or a neighborhood bakery might have great treats.
    The Three Bite Rule - Cranberry Soda Cocktail

My other suggestions:

  • don’t give them a dish you need back unless you’re family and will be there often. It is easy to give my mom’s dishes back because she can take them on her next visit. From anyone else it’d be annoying to wash, to remember, to store, to coordinate returning it. This is prime time for disposable cookware. Or you could buy them a cheap rubbermaid container & note on it that it is theirs to keep. I’ve heard some people buy Dollar Store plates to give food away on or stuff at yard sales that they don’t need to get back.
  • tell them “no thank you needed” whatever you bring them, tell them a thank you would be for them to cuddle their cute baby or to sleep an extra 5 minutes. You don’t want them scribbling a thank you card (since likely they thanked you for a shower gift & sent a birth announcement, and they’re exhausted). I wish those who I hadn’t ever even met but who were so generous to give a gift said this to me. Students in one of my mom’s classes were so sweet to give gifts, but I didn’t even know their last names. It was hard to come up with a thoughtful thank you note for those folks. I decided my bff wouldn’t mind a thank you text message the night we ate the meal she brought us, instead of mailing a card.
  • arrive the time they tell you and don’t stay more than an hour. The new parents are trying to get the swing of things and don’t need you hanging out all afternoon. Maybe the baby is super happy, well, that might mean they enjoy an hour with you sharing the new babe but the next hour might be naptime, or feeding time, or just the 20 minutes they need to themselves. Unless you are being put to work loading the dishwasher or you’re rocking the baby while they lug laundry upstairs, you should assume it is better to come several times for shorter visits. I have loved visits to have some interactions with people who can converse with me. I’ve capitalized on my parents visiting as time to shower/make lunch/anything that needs 2 hands.
  • tell them they look good/they’re doing a good job/the baby is adorable. Whether any combo of these are true or not, they need to hear these things. on repeat.

Mommyhood: First Month Tips Nobody Told Me

While this remains a food blog, I figured some of what I have to say is now related to the little babe and I’m thinking I might share them occasionally. I make the rules, right?

thomas giraffe

1) Fresh foods
I had seriously stocked my freezer (see some freezer food favorites, or freezer friendly foods) but one of my first chances to leave the house for a minute was spent hitting the grocery store. I was seeking fresh things like veggies to dip in hummus, grapes, bananas, yogurt, juice, carrots, cukes, guac, etc. I never really knew what to bring to moms of newborns when I would visit them. I’d highly recommend stocking them up with those perishables and real foods they can munch on. This could be a post all by itself.

2) Stocking up on normal essentials
Kind of unintentionally, Mr. J and I acquired an Amazon Prime account. It has been a huge help, especially in the first month and even while we prepped for our newborn. I’d now tell anyone who’d listen to stock up on everyday items to eliminate one more thing to have to think about. Between Amazon & Costco, we loaded up on things like kleenex, coffee, toothpaste, cleaning products, toiletries, laundry detergent etc. I didn’t want the first blurry month to involve emergency trips for (insert daily used item here). We also discovered things we wanted more of and it was so great to just order and not have to think about again (some of those things included: more pacifiers of the kind he liked, more bottle pieces once he was accepting of those, etc).

3) It is hard, then easier, then harder (and so on)
The first time doing everything was confusing and awkward and meant establishing a process or figuring it out. Then we thought we had a rhythm at 1.5 weeks, then at 2.5 weeks we were back to feeling like “what the heck is going on”. I imagine this ebb and flow will continue. I was under the impression that the learning curve would be steep but then you’d be more coordinated. Turns out, just when you think you’ve got it, everything changes a bit. I also don’t think anyone told me it was OK to think it was really difficult. Physically it is hard. Emotionally it is hard. Nobody really told me it is OK to be thankful/grateful/in love but also to just find it so freaking hard.

4) Duplicates versus singles
Looking back on the first month I think there were a few things we didn’t need duplicates and a few other items to have plenty of.
just a few: we have upstairs & downstairs diapering areas but didn’t need many changing table covers since we topped it with a liner. He doesn’t have too many pairs of socks because most of his clothes have feet, plus, his tootsies don’t ever touch the floor. I wouldn’t get as many pants for the next go-round because it seems easiest for us to put him in one-piece suits as a newborn with the number of diaper changes he has.
need a lot: I thought we had millions more face cloths than we needed, but turns out we used more than I expected. I also don’t think we could ever have too many burp cloths. Anything that extends having to do laundry was greatly appreciated.

5) Make the most of a baby’s nap
There were times when my little bundle would eat every 2 hours. The time it took to feed him, burp him, change him, then settle him, then meant it was pretty much time to start again. Other times he’d sleep for longer but I didn’t always know how long. I realized gazing at him sleeping was sometimes going to mean at the end of the day, (when I was most tired) I’d have a feeling like I did nothing the whole day. For me, I learned I needed to have some tasks on my to-do list or even some things I could do when I had a few minutes. Adding library books onto my kindle, cleaning out some emails, scheduling a doctor’s appt, making a grocery list, cleaning the bathroom, unloading the dishwasher, a yoga video, etc made me feel a bit more productive. I need productivity. Plus, daytime TV is pretty terrible.

Maternity Leave & Adventures in Mommy-hood

I’m back…sort of. I shared the arrival of my sweet baby boy Thomas in a little January Recap but here he is if you missed just how cute he is: or follow on instagram if you can’t get enough ;)
birth

It is definitely an adjustment. I’m so in awe of him. I can’t get over just how much we love him. He’ll be sleeping and I just miss him or I’ll get up for a 4am feeding and I feel badly that his diaper is wet rather than feeling tired. I realized the other day that he has more eyelashes than a few weeks ago and that surprised me about how much I know about him.

There are other times that I just can’t figure him out. What is he thinking? Why is he upset and why doesn’t anything stop his cries. Breastfeeding is going well sometimes and other times is so incredibly hard. It is such a gamble. I’m grateful to pass the occasional chance to feed him to Mr. J now that I’ve tried pumping a bit. Overall I think we’re doing well. Time is a bit of a blur. I feel like we’re learning more all the time and I expect that to continue.

Baby T is now just about a month old! How did that happen?? I’m relieved the first month is behind us. I hear it is the hardest and we agree there were definitely tough times as we try to figure out what we’re doing. The baby blues are for real, and I don’t think I’ve shed this many tears before in my life.

But this face, who could resist?
Thomas

Likes: being swaddled; eating a bottle from Daddy!; visits from the family & Skype chats with those farther away; how many snow days have had for us all home together; all the ad-orable outfits he’s been gifted & his soothie pacifier.

Dislikes: some of Mommy’s versions of lullabies (since she doesn’t know all the words); how long it took for us to switch him into bigger (size 1) diapers – he was wetting through newborn diapers but we didn’t make the connection for a few days of many outfit changes; and getting dressed after a feeding.

New Surprises: the puppies sniff  hello daily but haven’t goobed/slobbered/licked him too much; how much he seems to be growing all the time!

Now, for the food since this is (and will remain) a food blog. We’ve been working our way through freezer food and I’m shocked how long it has sustained us, though we also had some help by way of a veggie lasagna roll up delivery and the first night home we were treated to a spread of roasted chicken, twice baked potatoes, green beans, and several cookie/pumpkin bread gifts.

I do really want to cook and make some interesting things. I haven’t done much yet since it seems like 5-9pm are the bewitching hours here and I haven’t gotten out of the house much. I’m thinking maybe I should use this maternity leave also as time to cook interesting lunches (or rather meals) that are Emily-friendly…things that Mr. J isn’t into if daytime is an easier cook-time. We’ll see. I’m back, but slowly and possibly sporadically.