Mealtime Battles

When Grady started eating solids, he pretty consistently rejected new things and then started eating -and loving- them pretty quickly. Between the ages of one and two, he ate whatever I put in front of him. He would eat shepherd's pie, broccoli with homemade cheese sauce, spaghetti with meat sauce, without complaint. He would snack on black beans and homemade fruit leather and plain, unsweetened yogurt. You guys, I was so smug.

And then, in the months leading up to his second birthday, I got sick. I cooked a lot less. Grady was introduced to boxed (organic!) mac & cheese and flavoured (read: sweetened) yogurt. And other convenience foods that didn't require a lot of prep or effort. Food that was toddler-friendly. Food that was easy.

And he turned two. He started developing opinions and preferences and the voice to make those opinions and preferences known. And to a certain degree, food became an area of tension.

I say to a certain degree because I refused to battle. I would get annoyed but I refused to force Grady to eat anything because a: I don't want to fight with him at every meal and b: I don't think forcing him to consume certain items is setting him up with healthy food habits.

Let me just take a little intermission here to say that I don't judge anyone for the way they approach food with their kids. Kids are tough, man. Food can be particularly tough because it's something that affects us every day, multiple times a day. When I say I don't do something, it's because we've decided it's something that doesn't work for our family, not because we think no one should do that thing ever. You do you. We cool? Cool.

So! Food battles. I wasn't interested. I figured we would continue to offer Grady a wide variety of foods and he could pick and choose what he wanted to eat. I thought that the list of foods he would accept would slowly but steadily grow but instead we've seen the opposite happen. The list of acceptable foods has slowly but surely shrunk and mealtime has become less "here's a plate of healthy, appealing foods. What would you like to try?" and more "HERE IS A PLATE OF FOOD. EAT SOMETHING PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD."

And it sucks. I love food. I love to cook. I love to grocery shop. I love to read about food. I love to look at pictures of food. I love to try new recipes. Cooking for people is my love language. It's something I want to share with Grady. I don't want mealtimes to be a battle of wills and that's what they've become.

This morning broke me. I made waffles and blueberry sauce from scratch. I made a fruit plate with four different types of fruit. I made crispy fried eggs. Grady ate a plain waffle and balked at the fruit and the yogurt cup I put in front of him. I gave him his choice of fruit. We went back and forth for an hour before he agreed to eat one apple slice. One apple slice which he chewed for a good ten minutes until it was liquefied and then made him gag when he tried to swallow. The apple slice in which I had invested 70 minutes of negotiations ended up spewed all over the kitchen counter.

Now, I know I did not handle this morning particularly well. I do not normally play into the power struggle. Usually I let it go. Eat some fruit or don't eat some fruit, whatever. But we've been making real progress in the poop doula department and I want to continue that momentum. For some reason, this morning, I just needed Grady to eat the damn fruit. And he didn't. It was like he could smell my desperation.

We both had a good cry. And we hugged it out. And I don't think any lasting damage was done. But I'm spent. I can't fight about food at every meal but I don't know what else I can try to get Grady to eat. I've tried including him in the cooking process. I've tried taking him grocery shopping to pick out food he's interested in eating. We've read books on digestion and how food helps him grow. I don't know what else to do.

So please, all-knowing internet, tell me: how do you make your picky eater eat?


I currently weigh twenty pounds more than I did two years ago. That statement isn't hyperbole. I literally weigh twenty pounds more than I did two years ago. 

I would like to be able to shrug it off. Twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Twenty extra pounds doesn't make me a bad person or a bad wife or a bad mother. Twenty extra pounds doesn't affect my ability to be kind or loving or generous. It doesn't prevent me from doing my job or enjoying my hobbies. Twenty extra pounds is just twenty extra pounds. 

But it bothers me.  

My body has not felt like my own for a long time. First pregnancy, then cancer, then pregnancy again, followed by miscarriage. I struggle to not hate my body. I feel betrayed and let down by my body.  

It's silly, I know it's silly, to be upset over twenty pounds when my body has been through so much. But I can't help it. I feel uncomfortable in my body. I don't know how to dress this body. I want to hide it. 

I started a workout program back in January which I've maintained to varying degrees over the last six months. I lift weights and I sweat and I have seen positive changes in my body. I have seen muscle definition grow and I have felt strong. I try to eat relatively healthy and I struggle with my sweet tooth. Maybe this Hillary + 20lbs is the new normal.

It's not terribly unique to be a 30-something woman concerned with body image, is it? I'm being woefully banal, I know. I guess I'm just hoping that someone has the magic answer. So please, tell me: how do you love the skin you're in when your outsides don't match the image you have in your head?  


Someone close to me recently pointed out one of my flaws. Not one of my "flaws" like I work too hard or care too much. A deep, dark, and twisty flaw that made me instantly answer in my snippy snappy voice. It doesn't matter who said what (I've got the righteous indignation covered, thanks) because I truly believe they weren't being malicious or even unkind. And they weren't incorrect. What they said was true, even if it stung to hear it. 

I've been thinking about this exchange since it happened. I wasn't unaware of my flaw. It wasn't a surprise that other people had noticed. What hurt so much was the fact that someone whose opinion I care very much about took the time and effort to notice my flaw and then tell me about it.  

I've spoken to this person about how my feelings were hurt and we've come to this unsteady conclusion that they didn't think telling me would necessarily change my flaw, but that I could handle hearing about it without feeling dark and twisty. Which makes me think this whole "I got this, what are you going to throw at me next, Universe?" attitude is not serving me well. Because I could not handle hearing it. Hearing it made me feel naked and exposed and inadequate. My strength is a facade. 

I try to be gentle with people. I expect a lot from the people in my life and sometimes I am too hard on them. But this recent exchange has shown me that maybe I need to be a bit more gentle with myself too. I don't have to be the strongest. I don't have to crush everything that comes my way. I could stand to be softer and more compassionate overall. Even if it makes me uncomfortable to admit it. 

How to: Toddler Echocardiogram

Grady had his echocardiogram last Friday. I was so worried about how it would go after the absolute disaster that was his chest x-ray. It wasn't as horrible as I expected, though, and we've already got the results (which are not 100% great but aren't cause for concern right now so this is me not being concerned. Ha.) 

One of the main benefits of the echocardiogram was that we had advance notice (for the chest x-ray we had to go straight from the doctor's office to the x-ray place.) We knew about the echocardiogram well in advance so we started talking about it with Grady about a week before the appointment. Nothing too detailed, just a few brief mentions of seeing a new doctor who would take pictures of our chest when we took our shirts off. (I know, right? Creepy. We followed up those brief mentions with additional brief mentions that it's only okay to take your shirt off so someone can take pictures if Mama or Daddy is there too. It was a mess. Kids are hard, man.) 

I brought a bag of treats with us. A few new Hot Wheels, a new book, a new stuffy, and a bag of yogurt-covered raisins (barf, but Grady thinks they're candy so HA!) (I know they're full of sugar so they might as well be candy but they don't have artificial colour in them so I feel like I retain some of my hippie street cred.) As an afterthought, I threw in a box of Smarties (the yummy chocolate Canadian Smarties, not the American ones that are actually called Rockets.) 

The Smarties are the only thing that saved the day after the hospital was running behind and we had to wait for 45 minutes in a non-kid-friendly waiting room, and the exam room was scary and not geared towards kids at all (I should have stomped my feet and insisted we be referred to Children's Hospital after I received the notice that we were being referred to a different hospital but I didn't because the hospital we were referred to was 15 minutes away instead of 45 minutes away and I'm a horrible mother.) By the time the echocardiogram actually began, we were all frazzled and on edge and it's no wonder that Grady screamed like we were trying to skin him. 

Fortunately Shawn was with us. When Grady is upset (like, legitimately, I'm-not-safe-someone-help-me upset, not I-want-popsicles-for-dinner upset) I get all mama bear and I'm unable to process a single thought beyond "fuck all y'all." Which isn't helpful because then I'm struggling with the flailing 2-year old but also with myself. I know that the cardiologist isn't trying to skin my child but my animal instincts take over and it's difficult to not scoop Grady up and run out with him under my shirt. Shawn recognized that our soothing tones and reassurances that everything was alright weren't helping and Grady was getting more and more wound up (the stress farts were the tip-off. Grady starts farting when he's scared. That's fight or flight, right? Science? Big words? I don't know. I'm tired.) So Shawn grabbed the box of Smarties and started feeding them to Grady as he recited the colours. It was adorable. And heartbreaking. And the perfect solution because Grady was so focused on naming the colours correctly so he could eat all the chocolate that he stayed completely still for the remainder of the exam. 

So! Toddler echocardiograms. Not the worst medical procedure to endure but one that I hope to never have to repeat. But! If we do have to repeat it (or a different medical exam that requires Grady to be still) I will remember the following:

Bring a partner. I could not have done it without Shawn. I don't mean that in an sing-songy way. I literally mean that I could not have managed Grady on my own.  I have suspected it for a while but the echocardiogram confirmed it: Grady is physically stronger than I am. 

Bring chocolate. Yep, I feel crappy about bribing my child. And I feel really uncomfortable that I may have given him the idea that it's okay to do whatever adults ask you to do if they give you candy. But I have to justify it as a necessary evil. I am not bribing Grady with chocolate 20 times a day so he'll put his shoes on. We needed him to hold perfectly still so the cardiologist could see his heart. In a perfect world I could have explained the situation to Grady and he would have held still for 10 damn minutes and everything would have been peachy. If 2013 has taught me anything at all it's that we don't live in a perfect world, and if Grady has taught me anything it's that 2-year-olds laugh in the face of logic. 

Don't put your kid down. Grady had emergency room visits at around 11 months, 20 months, and 22 months of age. Every time I put him down on the hospital bed when instructed to. Every time he panicked and screamed and thrashed, which resulted in nurses coming over to restrain him while he was examined by doctors. It is really hard to write about (because it is really hard to think about) but this time, the awesome cardiologist (she really was great - Grady's reaction had nothing to do with her) told me to lie down on the hospital bed and Grady could lie down on top of me. Brilliant. Yes, Grady still panicked and cried but his negative reaction was delayed - we got his shirt off and the jelly on his chest before he started to protest and he didn't really cry until she started pushing on his chest with the wand, whereas if we had put him down directly on the hospital bed I'm guessing he would have started howling instantly. 

Breathe. I did not breathe during the exam. Partly because of the stress farts. Partly because I have a bit of hospital anxiety leftover from my last surgery. It's impossible to see when it's happening but looking back, I can see how my demeanor affected Grady. I wasn't crying or hyperventilating or anything but I was getting shrill and breathless. Grady is a perceptive little guy. I need to work harder to be calmer for him.