Siblings – June

This month has seen our first holiday as a family of four, and lots of time spent together in the sunshine with picnics out, trips to Blenheim Palace and Cogges Farm. The boys have really enjoyed being in each other’s company, and so far (touch wood) we’ve still not had any real resentment issues from Elliot. He loves to give Alexander cuddles and takes real pleasure in telling us that Alexander is smiling when he sees him.

Alexander has learnt to roll, so is spending lots of time moving around the living room floor. I’ve started to wonder why we even own sofas as I seem to spend a lot of my time down on the rug with both boys building train tracks/stopping Alexander from rolling under the sofas (it has happened far too many times already….bad mummy I know) I also really need to buy new jeans as mine seem to be wearing thin on the knees!

Elliot is still pretty camera shy and doesn’t ever like to pose for a photo. Most pics are taken while he’s doing something else or focused on someone/the tv (again, bad mummy skills…)

My photo for this month’s siblings project is therefore not a cute ‘brotherly hug and smile at camera’ photo (though I do hope that this does happen at some point this year?!?) but it does capture a brilliant morning spent playing on the floor.

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Happy June everyone 🙂

dear beautiful

See my other Siblings posts below, and check out this months linky on Dear Beautiful:

January
February
March
April
May

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One of those days

Let me tell you about my day. I had both boys today as Nanny and Grandad (C’s parents) are on holiday (they have Elliot normally) and I was super excited about having an extra day together with my little boys this week.

Determined that this would be a no-TV day, we spent the early morning playing jigsaws and sticker books (Elliot and me) and rolling around the living room (Alexander)

At about 10.30 we headed to Cogges Farm (about a 5 – 10 minute scoot away!) for some fun on their adventure playground and to feed the animals before lunch (and if I’m honest so I could have one of the café’s decaf lattes and chocolate cheesecake brownies – believe me these are to die for, literally my favourite thing!)

Anyway, the day was going amazingly well, we’d fed the guinea pigs, the goats and the pigs (if you call Elliot literally lobbing apple slices at them “feeding”)

Yup it was all going well until we happened upon the “soft play” area – a pretty cool model of the farmhouse, with a ball pool duck pond, a weeble wobble farmer, a couple of chicken costumes that kids other than Elliot can wear (he freaks out around dressing up stuff – bit like me to be honest!), and a bouncy tractor slide.

We arrived and there were three or four other kids playing in it, and Elliot took his shoes off, put them on a shelf and hopped into the ball pool, playing happily with the others.

Slowly the numbers dwindled until Elliot was there with just one other little girl who looked around 2 and a half.

It was then that THE worst thing that parents fear more than anything else when around others of their species happened. Well ok maybe not the absolute worst thing as that would probably involve some form of bodily fluid erupting from your child…but still, probably the second worst thing happened: BOTH KIDS WANTED TO PLAY ON THE EXACT SAME TOY.

Why do they do that?

Literally both kids wanted to be in the same half-metre squared as the other. The tractor slide was the chosen piece of equipment, and neither of them were budging, choosing instead to try to squeeze themselves into the same air that the other was occupying.

Urgh.

As the parent of the slightly older child, and despite the fact I was holding a hungry Alexander, I stood near the edge of the soft play and started the routine of gently saying “Elliot, can you let go?” and “The little girl was there first, my love, why not play in the ball pool pond?”

He’s not moving.

“Elliot, come on monkey, let’s go and see the pigs?”

Nope. Didn’t work.

“Elliot, you don’t want to make mummy cross do you? I can’t come in as I’m holding Alex, so you be a big boy and move away from the little girl and let her play”

Oh god. He’s not going to move.

I look at the other mum, who is clearly judging me and my parenting. I decide to pull out the big guns.
“Elliot, I’m going to count to three…”

“NOOOOOOO MUMMY!”

At this point the other mum turns to me and says “would you like me to have a go?” And she promptly goes over, and starts singing a song about a Big Red Tractor. Her little girl in enthralled. Elliot less so. But they’ve stopped pushing each other.

Damn it. How’d she do that?

I reluctantly join in the singing and calm is restored. Inside I’m feeling judged, and pretty rubbish.

Thanks a bunch Elliot!

Shortly after this, the “über” mum suggests that her little one might like to go and see the chickens, or something, and off they skip.

Feeling a bit rubbish, we stay in that soft play barn for another ten or so minutes later, then the boys and I go to the loo and then head towards the adventure playground.

And there she is, “über” mum with her little girl, heading towards us along the path, and Elliot is running ahead of me towards the slides. My face sets itself into a smile, and I’m ready with an anxious “ha ha” as she comes closer. I’m sure she thinks I’m a rubbish mum, and that Elliot is some unruly child who has no ability to self control….

Then I can barely believe my eyes at what happens next. My darling boy, my beautiful, well behaved, gentle darling, stops suddenly in his tracks. He turns to face me, comes to me with open arms and declares, out of nowhere and definitely audibly to those nearest to us (über mum included!), “I love you, mummy”, hugs my legs, then turns and skips off towards the slide waiting for him.

Über mum hears and I hear her “ahh” at the cuteness of it all. I carry on pushing the buggy, and my heart swells.

I love you too Elliot. Maybe I’m doing ok after all.

xxx

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“I’ll eat it tomorrow”, and other lies my child tells me…

I would never label my child as a picky eater (I don’t believe in labels) but at the age of three he does have clear ideas of what he will (fish fingers, spaghetti bolognaise) and won’t (recognisable vegetables!) eat; and though I know that his diet is largely ok there are definitely areas for improvement.

I’ve been thinking about ways of changing this over the past month or so, and recently came across a few techniques I’d like to adopt going forward.

Before I go any further, I should state that I usually hesitate to consider adopting any set “method” in parenting, or at least not 100%, choosing instead to trust my (and my husband’s) instincts about what we should do and how to handle different situations that arise. I didn’t follow Baby Led Weaning with Elliot, and my copy of Gina Ford spent most of its time gathering dust under my bed rather than being useful! It’s always good to have a couple of new ideas to try though so my google searching has come up with the following ideas:

Emotionally Aware Feeding

EAF is a new approach to picky eating that challenges many conventional parenting techniques. It is based on scientific research and theory but is accessible and practical too.

I stumbled across the EAF site and downloaded Jo’s book and have read it in a couple of sittings. Much of the ideas contained within the book feel like common sense, and things we should have been doing anyway. For example, she says that the more we give in to our child’s requests for the same “safe” foods time and again, the more we are actually reasserting a likely anxiety in the child that says that any other food stuff is dangerous.

Some tips I noted from the EAF technique include:
1. No options- everyone has the same food in age appropriate portions (i.e. one meal for the whole family)
2. No praising or criticising eating, and no rewards (stickers or other foods/sweets for “trying” new food). In fact, Jo recommends becoming emotionally detached from what your child is, or is not, eating, and brushing it all off so they don’t ever feel like they are ultimately controlling the situation.
3. Child is allowed to leave whatever they like, but they should be made aware that there will be no unscheduled snacks or alternatives. This promotes an understanding of natural consequences – i.e. if you don’t eat your lunch, you’ll be hungry later.

There are a couple of things I’m not sure about here though. What happens if you have a really strong willed child who can sit in front of a plate of dinner and pick a couple of bits of chicken to eat, then we take the plate away (without criticising!) and move on to pudding where he eats the lot?!? Surely this just teaches “if I’m patient, I don’t need to eat my dinner to get my pudding”? Or maybe we just need to not have pudding at all, or at least make it fruit based rather than sugary.

Hard to do, yes, but generally most of what Jo teaches really made sense to me. If you can establish that mealtimes happen, ideally people eat food which tastes nice and is good for them, and if they don’t eat they know that there are no substitutes, then I can see how eventually this would result in a chilled out, happy, family mealtime which is what we all want really.

The Bento craze
Inspired by the bento – a box with different compartments – used throughout Japan, there is a growing trend of parents spending time and effort preparing beautifully presented packed lunches and teas for their children which quite frankly put the rest of us to shame. One glance at the beautiful creations from Capture by Lucy, or Eats Amazing, can make you feel inspired to put a bit of effort in and not just going for the age old triangles or squares when making sandwiches!
I can only dream of having time enough to make some of the more amazing creations (and a kitchen with a cupboard big enough to hold all the paraphernalia required more to the point!) but having said that, I am totally on board with making food look attractive for Elliot as he does tend to eat more if it looks nice. I therefore do tend to use cookie cutters or special dinosaur sandwich cutters to make sandwiches more fun and have recently taken to putting grapes, berries or yoghurt (with sprinkles!) in silicone cupcake cases. Invariably we get clean plates handed back, so in moderation, I think I can advocate spending just a bit of time looking at how food is presented, particularly if your child is a bit fussy.

Eats Amazing

Hidden vegetables!
A stalwart method for getting vegetables into meals that is adopted by most parents is hiding the nutritious good stuff in other foods, so you know it’s being eaten even if it’s not recognisable for the child.
We’ve taken to putting together recipes with extra veg grated in to the main component (e.g. courgettes grated into bolognaise sauce, carrots grated into meatballs) and I recently made gnocchi from butternut squash too.
While we wait for Elliot to realise he likes things, which apparently according to him will either happen “tomorrow” or “when I’m nine, mummy”, at least we know he’s getting some way towards the recommended five-a-day (or is it now seven? If so I give up!)

The Stop button in your tummy
I can’t remember where I read this (so apologies for not crediting it!) but the general principle is that children need to try something often up to 10-15 times before it becomes something they “like” or at least will tolerate. One way of encouraging them to try is to introduce the idea of a button in their tummy that sometimes says “Stop” before it realises that it’s food that is “yummy” and that they will often have to try a number of mouthfuls before they like a new food.
The idea is to get the child on board with “beating the button” – i.e. getting enough mouthfuls to know whether they like it or not – before the button says “stop!”
I’ve used this with Elliot to some degree of success. I explained that sometimes we need to try things a few times and that there’s a button in our tummy that sometimes gets confused and says Stop too early. After a few mouthfuls of a new food, we’d stop and ask him if the button is saying “Stop” or “yum yum” and more often than not it’s had a positive outcome!

We’ve been trialling a mixture of the above methods for the last week or so, and I have to report some success. We have been trying to serve meals as family meals (i.e. everyone eats the same thing, at the same time, and everyone has everything on their plate) and despite each time facing the “but I don’t like peas/salad/carrots [insert vegetable here]”, when we calmly explain that we all have the same, and if anyone doesn’t want to eat something they can leave it to one side without talking about it, we’ve had a calm meal. Ok so he’s not actually eating much of the vegetables, and generally these are still on the plate we take back into the kitchen, but we are using the EAF technique of looking at the long view and establishing good eating practices for the future rather than stressing over the number of mouthfuls of food eaten at any one meal.

I for one am a whole lot less stressed about Elliot’s eating, and know that with patience (of a saint, admittedly!) we will raise our children to be able to eat a varied diet and have a healthy attitude towards food as adults. Here’s hoping anyway!

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Ice cream is healthy, right?