Progress

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on Betsy’s blog. She’s had a few weightier things to write about recently, and we thought it would be a good time to lighten the mood with a Lucas diet update! Back in June I wrote about our attempts to wean Lucas off of baby food. It’s really hard to believe that less than six months ago his diet consisted mostly of pureéd fruits and vegetables and liquefied chicken mixed with various baby cereals. A lot has changed since then and we’ve learned a lot about our boy in the process!

Lucas eats a lot of different foods.  He eats grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, cheeseburgers, beef empanadas, homemade chicken nuggets, pizza, kale chips, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, peas, corn, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, graham crackers…oh, and pancakes. That’s a pretty substantial list! We were worried that Lucas’s diet might not be as healthy after he transitioned to solid foods but so far that has not been the case. Grilled cheese is still his favorite!

It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's Lucas eating a cheeseburger with a side of banana and cucumbers!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, it’s Lucas eating a cheeseburger with a side of banana and cucumbers!

Gardening helps. Over the summer Betsy planted a garden and Lucas got really into it and helped water the plants and harvest the produce. His willingness to try something new seemed to increase if he had just picked it. His favorite? Kale! Betsy used to mix it into his “green” pureé but now Lucas prefers it in crunchy, chip-form.

So do Bubble Guppies. Bubble Guppies is one of Lucas’s favorite kid shows. There was an episode recently where the Guppies go to “Fruit Camp”and participate in a race with obstacles (i.e. trying new foods) along the way. Gil earns a point for the team by eating a carrot. Then Deema is faced with the last and most difficult obstacle: broccoli. She hesitates at first but tries it and finds that it’s “delicious!” Well, that was enough for Lucas to ask for some broccoli too. I’m not sure if he really likes it or if he only likes it because the Bubble Guppies like it. Either way, he’s added another healthy vegetable to his diet and, unfortunately, so have I.

Thanks a lot, Deema.

Thanks a lot, Deema.

Texture still matters. There have been some real head scratchers along the way. We experimented with some pretty tried and true kid favorites like macaroni and cheese and ravioli but Lucas really didn’t go for them. Strange because what kid doesn’t like macaroni and cheese? It turns out that he didn’t like the texture. Too rubbery? I’m not sure exactly. But the good thing is at age four we were able to have a conversation about it and we agreed that if he tried some other foods, we could replace ravioli with something that he liked better!

Appearance matters too. We’ve still had the occasional meltdown over food. A month or so ago Betsy and Lucas had come with me to a soccer game and we decided to go out for pizza afterwards. I was thrilled. For the longest time I had just wanted to have the freedom to leave the house and not worry about packing an entire meal of baby food to take with us. Lucas was excited too…until the pizza arrived. It had a much thicker crust than he was used to. It wasn’t quite deep dish but still it was different enough for him to deem it “not pizza”. After a lot of patience (from Betsy) and persuading (also Betsy) he did eat some of it. Since then we have limited our patronage to pizza joints that have a hand tossed crust option on the menu. 🙂

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (again!). Lucas has absolutely no sweet tooth, just like his mother. Despite my best efforts, Lucas has zero interest in cookies, donuts, cake, or candy. For his birthday, I went all out and made a cake decorated with his favorite farm animals. I even made a frosting barn! Lucas admired the artwork but wanted nothing to do with eating it. Betsy was no help either. So I ate the whole thing myself (I’m not sure whether to feel proud or ashamed). One of Lucas’s little friends from church got him to try a cookie after the service one Sunday. He gave it the old college try but after a couple of bites he gave it to me to finish. He really doesn’t like sweets.

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My masterpiece: The Barnyard.

Traditions. The town I grew up in is about 15 minutes away from where we live now. There is a bakery in that town that is famous for its fresh baked German soft pretzels. They only make them on Saturdays. Lucas really likes his carbs and so one Saturday not too long ago I was determined to see if he would try a pretzel. He also likes salty things (just like his mother) so I thought it might work. Well, he was hooked after one bite. And it’s now become a weekly ritual. It’s great because it gives Betsy a chance to sleep in, Lucas and I have a fun morning out just the two of us, and then we all have soft pretzels as a late breakfast when we get home. We have the leftovers for breakfast on Sunday.

Saturday's new tradition!

Saturday’s new tradition!

All in all, Lucas has made a ton of progress and we are super proud of him! It’s been fun to see him try new things and like most of them. He even tried seaweed at preschool the other day! That’s right, my son prefers seaweed to cookies. Who would have ever guessed?

Landscaping by Lucas

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Growing up my parents kept a lovely yard–a lush green lawn, pretty flower beds, and nicely trimmed bushes. Perhaps because of this, I actually enjoy doing yard work!  I love spending time outdoors, I like physical activity, and I like the visible results you get from working in the yard.  When Jaime and I bought our first house, we did all the landscaping ourselves. The house was built in 1978 and the bushes had been growing uninhibited since then.  They were giant.  And ugly.  So we pulled them all out, built a little retaining wall, and had a nice little flower garden.

When we moved to our current house in 2008, the yard was in better shape, although it still had some issues. We worked at it the first few years, but then our sweet-but-high-maintenance little boy was born in 2011. I had serious demands on my health and my energy, and our yard beautification efforts went on the back burner.

This summer, all that changed. Lucas had read some books about flower and vegetable gardens and had seen some shows on television where kids were growing and eating fruits and veggies. We had visited our local botanical gardens in the spring. He had it in his head that we needed to plant a flower garden and a vegetable garden and would not be dissuaded. He wouldn’t stop talking about it. And really, it was a great idea!

It was the kick in the pants I needed to get back out there and make the yard look nice again.  And at three and a half, he was at the perfect age to participate and learn. We live in a shady area, and by shady, I mean lots of mature trees.  I didn’t know how a veggie garden would do. I knew I could find some flowers to grow, but most vegetables require full sun.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, and with some advice from my neighbor, I selected the west side of the house.  It’s not anywhere near full sun having large trees and the neighbor’s house to contend with, but it gets a few hours of the hottest afternoon sun.

A lot of sweat and salt (I’m a CFer after al!) went into this venture.  First Jaime and I had to attempt to fix the retaining wall in the front which had both settled and been disrupted by a large tree root. That took an entire weekend.  Then there were so many weeds that both front beds needed to be completely overturned. I had to dig out a spot on the side of the house for the veggies and make a border and fence. I went to the city recycle center and shoveled loads of compost and wood chips, by myself, to keep costs down. Jaime would have gladly helped, but he was busy with soccer and the clock was ticking for getting plants into the ground. (Okay, maybe not gladly…he doesn’t share my love of yard work.  But he would have helped since he loves me!)

Oops, I lied.  Lucas came with me to get the wood chips and compost.  Here was one of our loads.  He enjoyed watching me, from the comfort of the car, huff and puff and sweat.

Oops, I lied. Lucas came with me to get the wood chips and compost. Here was one of our loads. He enjoyed watching me (from the comfort of the car) huff and puff and sweat.

It was a great deal of work, but taking on this project got me on the road to good health this summer.  Coming out of an awful winter healthwise, it felt so wonderful and healing to spend time outdoors, digging, shoveling, hauling, planting–panting too, but making visible progress. It felt wonderful to have the strength to work again, and cleansing to breathe deeply in the sweet summer air. Working outdoors helped me to regain stamina and gave me so much satisfaction after spending months behind closed doors unable to do much other than fight against illness.

The flowers and veggies both took off and are doing great. Lucas is one happy camper! He helps me water the garden every day and is happily eating the produce, which is a big deal for a picky eater.  He will munch a little lettuce right out of the garden and has been enjoying kale chips on a regular basis. He likes to pick lettuce and kale and wash it himself, in “his” bathroom without any supervision from Mom. Thankfully it only took me one time to figure out the funny taste was the hand soap he was using 🙂 The cucumbers are ready now and the beans and tomatoes will be ready soon so I’m hoping he will gladly eat those as well. There are carrots, bell peppers and squash that are still growing. I put in a few strawberry plants which are multiplying, and I hope we will get berries on them next year.

From baby garden...

From baby garden…

...to big garden!

…to big garden!

Our beautiful flowers.

Our beautiful flowers.

Veggies!

Veggies!

Watering (with the orange bucket, naturally).

Watering (with an orange bucket, naturally).

Cucumbers!

Cucumbers!

It’s been a rewarding experience for all of us, and we’ve learned a lot. It feels great to grow and eat our own food.  I’m already scheming ways to make the garden larger next summer. Lucas insists that we have potato chips and string cheese growing in our garden as these are his favorite foods. With that in mind, maybe we’ll try potatoes next year. But we just don’t have enough room for a cow.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

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People say that you are like your parents and your children are like you. Of course each person is a unique, but it is undeniable that certain attributes get passed on from one generation to the next. Sometimes they are physical characteristics, other times they are personality traits. People are often proud if they pass on their height or their athletic prowess to their children. But there are also things that you wish your kid did not inherit, particularly when it’s an idiosyncrasy that you can’t blame on anyone but yourself.

Like father, like son. Crazy hair.

Like father, like son. Crazy hair.

Lucas has, for some time, struggled with eating. He has always been very particular about what he puts in his mouth. Our pediatrician reassured us that this was not unusual toddler behavior. She would probably find it even less peculiar if she had known me when I was Lucas’s age. I, too, was a picky eater. Legend has it that I was four years old before I knowingly ate a vegetable. Of course my mother did her duty, hiding puréed carrots and other veggies in my pasta sauce without my knowledge. But it would be an understatement to say that I was averse to trying new foods.

If not for my parents intervention, I would probably still be quite content with a diet consisting only of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti. At some point, however, they decided that enough was enough. I was going to try new foods. It was painful. The first new food that I tried was strawberries. It went over pretty well. The second new food that I tried was peas. To this day it is one of my worst childhood memories and one of my least favorite foods! I probably sat at the table for three hours stubbornly refusing to eat the four green peas that were on my plate. Eventually frustration got the better of my poor mother, she plugged my nose to force me to open my mouth, and shoved in the peas! They stayed down for a good five seconds before my gag reflex took over, spewing those four little peas and whatever else I’d had for dinner all over me and the kitchen floor.

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Lucas sizing up peas for the first time.

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The jury is still out…

My mother has been very gracious about our current parenting predicament but I think privately she’s probably had more than one good, hearty chuckle. To be fair, Lucas is a much better eater than I ever was. From the beginning he has eaten a healthy variety of fruits (bananas, berries, apples, pears) and vegetables (kale, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes). He eats whole grains and lean protein (chicken and pork). What is the catch? Even at 3½ years old, he has insisted on eating these foods only in puréed form. He has consistently rejected solid foods, apart from a few exceptions. Our pediatrician encouraged us not to get frustrated about this considering that his diet was extremely healthy, even if the way in which he consumed those foods was a little unorthodox. After all he could be eating only hot dogs and macaroni…

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Lucas with his cousins Joshy and Sophia, both baffled by Lucas’s complete lack of interest in the cookie he is holding.

Betsy has patiently followed this advice even though she was the one tasked with making Lucas’s baby food (no small endeavor!) for the last three years. I will admit to being more than a little frustrated on more than one occasion. I just wanted him to try something! A cracker, a cookie, anything! The most frustrating times were when we knew we’d be out of the house for meal time and would have to pack up an entire suitcase (slight exaggeration) of bottles and jars so that he could eat. I desperately wanted to be able to just go out to dinner and order him chicken nuggets off of a restaurant kids menu. No fuss. But Lucas was resolute. Maybe even a little stubborn…

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Unwavering.

As with all things, it’s about timing. We wanted Lucas to try new foods but we also didn’t want to ram our heads against the wall. In the last several months Lucas has shown a lot of growth in other areas (potty training and sleeping in his own bed at night) and a lot more flexibility, in general; so we thought we might be close to a breakthrough on the food front as well. Then one day out of the blue, Lucas asked to try a carrot. He’s been enamored with carrots for a while, probably because they are his favorite color of orange. But he’s only ever pretended to eat them. Well, this day he ate one – one, tiny, miserable baby carrot! A few days later we were out of the ingredients to make his baby food so we decided to just take the plunge and try.

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We could be here for a while…

It hasn’t been easy but it’s not been nearly as bad as we might have imagined. Lucas has tried a lot of new foods (and only puked a few of them back up)! Some of the foods he has loved, others he doesn’t care for as much. Sometimes it takes ages for him to work up the courage to open his mouth. Sometimes it takes silly songs or crazy antics to get him to try one bite. It often takes A LOT of wine for Betsy and I to get through the dinner hour with our sanity intact. But he is doing it!

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Grilled cheese, apple slices, carrots, and potato chips. Progress!

The biggest breakthrough was the night that we all ate the exact same thing for dinner: homemade chicken tenders and fries, apple slices and carrots. I am really proud of Lucas. I’m also extremely relieved because deep down I’m pretty sure that he got his pickiness and stubbornness from me! Maybe in 25 or 30 years Lucas will have a son that isn’t too keen on trying new foods either. I can imagine myself saying to him, “Well, when you were his age…” I’ll be sure to do my chuckling behind closed doors.