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A month ago, dinners were full of fits, frustration, and forcing food down our toddler’s mouth. Mealtimes turned into meltdowns and tabletime turned into tears. Toddler eating wasn’t going well for us. So like anything that doesn’t go well in my life, I turned to the experts and read books and scoured Instagrams. If this is you, and you want a change, keep reading. If you rather laugh at the craziness that is toddlertum, read how we used to get a toddler to eat instead.
In my search for some answers, I found one book and one Instagram page that I really liked, "What to Feed Your Baby” and Kids Eat In Color. I put some of their methods to the test, and here are six strategies that worked for us.
1. Establish roles for the parents and children.
Our baby used to everything. He ate veggies, fruit, yogurt, meat, and grains. Then, one day he did not eat all that. It was frustrating as a parent. We made up games and tricks to shovel bite after bite into his unassuming mouth. He soon grew accustomed to our ploys and would whip his head to the side at the last moment leaving food to fly everywhere. Meals ended in one big mess and little food actually having been eaten.
As a mother, I always assumed that it was my duty to make sure my child ate a well-balanced meal no matter the cost. I assumed wrong. In her book, author and pediatrician, Tanya Altmann, outlines the roles for the parents and children when it comes to eating. The parents’ role is to provide their child with a well-balanced meal. The child’s role is to eat. That’s it. The child doesn’t control what is for dinner. The parent doesn’t control how much and what the child eats. The food is simply served to the child, and the parents has to let go.
After reading this, our stress levels dipped and mealtime became more relaxed. We offered a variety of food at dinner, usually what we were eating, and sat back. We didn’t stare wide-eyed at our son willing him to eat. We didn’t force feed spoonfuls into his mouth. We didn’t play tricks and do a song and a dance to get him to take one measly bite. No, instead we gave him his plate and let him do his job once our job was finished. If he ate two bites, ok. If he ate ten bites, good. If he finished the whole plate, great. When he announced he was done, he was done.
Meals are much more enjoyable now that we have established roles. When we stay in our lane and do our job, we usually have a happier, well-fed baby than when we tried to do his job. Set up roles, rules, and boundaries, and you’ll get your serene suppers back in no time.
2. Serve a variety of foods.
This strategy has helped a lot. We used to serve our son exactly what we were having. We still do, but now that he is developing a dislike for some textures and mixtures (Why is this dish all mixed together, Mommy?!), we have been making sure he has veggies, meat, and a starch at dinner with fruit and cheese as an option if he is showing a disdain for the main meal.
Having options does not mean that you, the parent, should make a whole other meal if the first one goes untouched. Nope, your job is to serve one meal with variety, and if your child doesn’t eat during the designated meal time (more on that later), he doesn’t eat until the next meal time. That doesn’t mean you should starve your child. It just means use your best judgment and don’t feel like you have to overturn your cabinets and raid your refrigerator to concoct a meal your child will eat. This simple strategy has saved our sanity when it comes to cooking and meal planning.
3. Set up toddler time zones.
Dr. Altmann uses the term “toddler time zones” in her book, and I think it is genius. The idea is to have a time zone for each meal and snack instead of one long trail of nibbling and grazing on food. Before, it seemed as if our child was mostly snacking instead of eating his meals. Now, our child has a balance of both.
A time zone is a stretch of time in which the meal or snack is offered. For example, if our child wakes up at 7:00 AM, breakfast is served anywhere from 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM. Snack would be offered anywhere from 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM. Lunch 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Snack 1:30 PM-2:30 PM or later depending on the nap schedule. Then, dinner 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM followed by a before bedtime snack if applicable. You can adjust the times to best fit to your lifestyle. Just remember to allow a break between time zones.
And like anything with toddlers, remember flexibility, not rigidness, is your friend. If your child doesn’t eat right away at 7:30 AM, try again at a later time in the time zone. Also, if your child is begging and pleading for food outside the range of the timezone, it doesn’t mean you have to deny and starve him. The time zones are put in place to prevent all day snacking and full stomachs at mealtimes. At each meal, our child is more likely to be ready to eat, and so far, we have seen success.
4. Make mealtimes at the table.
We really strive to do both mealtimes and snack times at the table while we are eating too. Experts agree that sitting down together as a family encourages toddlers to eat. Of course things come up, and sometimes snacks have to be on the go. That’s okay! However, aim to have those larger meals sitting down at the table. Snacks aren’t always the same thing I eat, but breakfasts, lunch, and dinner are roughly the same; otherwise, our son grasps at what we are eating the whole time, and we end up just feeding that to him anyway. This is really a simple step that has changed the way our toddler eats.
5. Keep it short.
KISS. Keep it short, stupid. That’s for sure. Meals, especially dinners, seemed to drag on forever as we kept persuading and begging our toddler to eat more even after he was long finished and had enough. Now, after 10 minutes or so, and he’s announced he’s done, we let him get down while Mommy and Daddy finish eating. Anything under 10, and we do our best to encourage him to continue eating or at least sit and join us for a meal. Toddlers are active creatures. 10 minutes is an ample amount of time to eat at the table. You can buy fun timers from Amazon to let your child know how long he has to remain at the table.
Nevertheless, if our son does decide to get down from the table, it doesn’t mean he has free reign to disrupt Mommy and Daddy’s dinnertime. You should set rules and boundaries surrounding mealtimes. Once we did, we all enjoyed a nice, peaceful dinner.
6. Buy fun utensils.
Jennifer Anderson, founder of Kids Eat in Color, advertises fun utensils and plates on her Instagram page. She advises that buying fun and creative silverware will make mealtime more enjoyable and playful for toddlers. We searched Amazon and found a construction set that our son absolutely loves These utensils make good toddler gift ideas that aren't another plastic toy. Instead of simply eating his meal, he is now shoveling, dumping, and pushing food around and into his mouth on his construction plate with his dump truck and bulldozer fork and spoon. Mealtime is now a blast, and we have a blast watching him.
SHOP some of my favorites from Amazon now.
I really hope these strategies help you and your family make mealtime more mundane and less memorable for its mess and mayhem. These are 6 simple steps that you can start changing today. Bon appétit!
This southern city on the coast of South Carolina is full of charm and history. It boasts of food, sun, churches, homes, and activities. I was fortunate that in my pre-kid days that my friend, Michelle, lived in Charleston while I was living in Raleigh. I was able to visit her on quite a few occasions. We also had my friend Kara's bachelorette party there. It is on my bucket list to the do the Bridge Run. She put together a list of some of her favorite things, and I added in mine as well.
Durham, North Carolina is right in my backyard, and makes up one of the cities in the Triangle - Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. I like to hate and say Raleigh is better, but that is highly debatable in the last few years as the Bull City is expanding, developing, and evolving into a hip, vibrant city for the whole family. We always enjoy going to the American Tobacco Campus to dine and catch a Durham Bulls game.
I don't get to this city as often as I like, so I asked three resident experts to help me out. My friends, Stephanie and Kent, live in the city and have first-hand experience of traversing across the town. My other friend, Mindy, lives in Cary, but she's always in the know of what restaurants, breweries, and bars are good. Read on for their top recommendations.
Breweries and Bars
I have been a teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing for 9 years now. A common question I got was if I would teach my child sign language. I always replied with a hearty, “Of course.” I wanted to pass my love for the visual language down to my offspring.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to just teach my kids sign language because I happened to make a career out of it. There are many benefits to teaching children to sign from a young age. Hopefully, after reading these reasons, you’ll want to reap the same rewards from American Sign Language (ASL) as well.
1. Sign language is another way to make connections
Babies and toddlers are growing up in a very stimulating world. They have a lot coming at them every day. Bright lights. Loud sounds. Fast-paced action. Sign language is another way for them to make connections to language.
When my son and I read a book, I point to a picture, say the word, and sign it. When I talk, I sign key words (MORE, PLEASE, MILK, WATER, etc). When we spell out words with his little magnet letters, I say and sign the word as well. When we are out and about and see everyday things, I point, say, and sign what it is. In all, he’s getting the spoken, written, picture or real-life representation, and ASL version of a word. Sometimes all at once. Sometimes not, but either way it’s one more way for a young child to begin forming word recognition and connections. Low-hanging fruit.
2. Sign language helps with communication
Research has shown that too much screen time can cause speech delays in children, but sometimes screen time can be unavoidable in a technology driven world. Sign Language can help. Studies have found that sign language taught at an early age can help progress speech development faster. In addition, sign language aids in easing frustrations. Oftentimes, toddlers don’t have the words to produce what they want, but they are able to sign what they want. Does it eliminate all whining and tantrums? No, but sign language prevents unnecessary prolonged crying.
For example, instead of whining and leaving my guessing what he wants, my son can sign when he wants to drink milk, eat food, go to sleep, get more to eat, and be all done eating. He brings me a toy he wants opened or turned on by signing please.
On the other hand, we can sign when something is “hot, no touch,” and he can repeat back by saying, “hot” and backing away. He also can find his toy animals when we sign what they are. We can see that he is reasoning in his mind that he understands what we just signed, and he is trying to put the pieces again. Then, the lightbulb goes off, and he finds the object.
Overall, ASL combined with speech touches upon visual, auditory, and kinesthetic processing and helps store more pathways in the brain; therefore,memory becomes stronger. Again, another easy way to help in your children’s development.
3. Sign language can be discreet.
All parents have had those moments where we are out in public and our child is causing a disturbance. We hiss under our breaths, “Stop it,” but our child can’t hear us. We want more than anything for the earth to swallow us whole. However, with sign language, I can sign STOP, NO, WAIT, HOLD without raising my voice and attracting all kinds of unwanted attention. It doesn’t work every time, but it is setting my son up for success in that I am teaching my son another way to control his behavior.
On other occasions, I can sign something to my son without causing a break in the conversation. At dinner, and I notice my son needs to take a drink? I sign WATER. My son wants me to do something? I can casually rub my upper chest for PLEASE to let him know that he needs to say that first. Hopefully, in the future he can let me know when he has to go to the bathroom without shouting, “Poo poo or pee pee,” in a setting like church (although that would be funny). However, sign language lets you have those conversations you don’t want the world knowing.
4. Sign language is fun.
Lastly, sign language is just fun. Little kids love hand movements and gestures, and sign language is exactly that. With it, parents and children can sign songs, nursery rhymes, and books. ASL is another fun element added on top of learning experiences. YouTube has tons of videos parents can search and what better way to spend some time with the kids.
Sign language is another resource to have in a parent’s toolkit. I can see the light in my son’s eyes when he makes a connection. I can see his frustrations melt away when I quickly recognize what he is trying to communicate. I can see my shoulders visibly relax when I avoid a public meltdown with just one sign. I see the joy he gets when I make silly faces and songs. I can see him learning and growing. And that’s why I am teaching him sign language.
I grew up in Wheeling, WV, an hour southwest of Pittsburgh, so we would make frequent trips to this city. While I am an avid hater of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins (Pirates are all right), I do love the city itself. Having been to the city so much, I am simply going to list my Top 5 favorite things to do in the Steel City.
I haven't been to Sandcastle in years, so maybe it has lost its charm, but growing up, well into high school even, I absolutely loved going to this water park nestled on The Waterfront. We would spend hours riding the slides, floating in the lazy river, and nearly drowning in the wave pool. The day would always be capped off with Dippin' Dots and concession stand food. The ride home we would flow asleep while still feeling the motion of the waves. Those were the days.
4. Mom and Daughter Trips
Another fond memory growing up was when my mom and her friends would take their daughters and me on day or overnight trips to Pittsburgh. The malls near Wheeling are dismal to say the least, so we had to travel to Pittsburgh to do some real shopping. While I am not a big lover of shopping, I did enjoy those trips with the girls. We would hit up Ross Park Mall, South Hills Village Mall, or Robinson Town Centre Mall, or sometimes all three in one day. Hours were spent in Limited Too, American Eagle, Hollister, and Abercrombie and Fitch. Then, we would enjoy dinner or a show at the Benedum Center
3. Station Square
Station Square is a strip along the river where you can dine, drink, and have fun. From here, you can take a ride on the famous Inclines or Gateway Clipper. The Duquesne or Monongahela Incline take you up to Mt. Washington, which has some killer views of the city. The Gateway Clipper can take you into the city, and you can walk around The Pointe, the area where all three rivers meet.
2. The South Side
The South Side is a hip area of Pittsburgh not far from Station Square. The area had restaurants, bars, and shops, including The Cheesecake Factory and Urban Outfitters, which, growing up in WV, were novelty for my friends and me. In high school and college, we would make special trips here and would use it as an excuse to get dressed up. Going through old photo albums, I found many photo shoots from the South Side.
1. PNC Park
My absolute favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh is to see a Pittsburgh Pirates game. You don't have to be a lover of baseball to enjoy this stadium. Walking over the Roberto Clemente Walking Bridge with everyone will give you all the feels and tailgating in the parking lot will get you hyped for the game. PNC Park does it right. It has excellent views, excellent in-game entertainment (Pierogies racing after game concerts) and, excellent food (Primanti Brothers!), and excellent surrounding features (bars, restaurants, and entertainment). My family or friends would make sure we would catch at least one game every Sunday. I definitely miss being so close to such an awesome baseball stadium.
Definitely spend time enjoying this city if you ever get a chance. And even though I hate, Pittsburgh fans are diehard, so catching a Pirates, Steelers, or Penguins game is sure to be enjoyable.
The Nation's capital, Washington DC is home to much history. Museums, monuments, music, and chicken pot pie is what comes to mind when I think of this beloved city. I've been here few times. I've attended the March for Life rally in high school, watched the Nationals play, run the Rock N Roll half marathon, and explored the National Mall with my cousins. On one occasion, we have dined at Elephant and Castle and all ordered the chicken pot pie randomly. Now, it has become a tradition to go to that restaurant and order chicken pot pie. I haven't ventured much further than the downtown area, but I will give you a summary of what I did there.
I’ll be honest. I thoroughly enjoyed breastfeeding, but I never expected to one day be sitting on the grimy floor of a supermarket bathroom squirting milk out of my overly full breasts. That would have been a hard pass for me in the Places To Pump Department, and I had already found myself pumping on the sweaty seats of a high school bus at a cross country meet as the bus driver blocked teenagers from climbing aboard. But if you are like me, you’ve had to or will be away from your breastfed child because of travel for work or pleasure. And also like me, the idea of pumping and traveling might be daunting to you, but I have lived and survived pumping on the go, even when I was pumping on the floor of a bathroom, and I am here to tell you what you need to know.
1. Know Before You Go
Even before the plane takes off, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that things go smoothly once you arrive at your destination.
First, make sure that whoever is watching your child has enough of a milk supply to feed your baby. If your little one is like my son and you have a diva on your hands, then you know your bougie baby spits out anything other than breastmilk. My son did this until he was about 9 months. This means that you have to have a well-stocked freezer with a supply of breastfeed, which means that you have to do double duty for a few weeks leading up to it if you don’t already have an ample amount. You should have 25-30 ounces per day for your baby. Probably more. Of course, you can always ship your milk back home, but when I looked into it, I found it was way too expensive for me. In addition, you can have the childcare provider mix breastmilk with a little bit of formula to make the supply last longer. Or finally, you can buy breast milk from someone, which is what I had to do for one trip because I just couldn’t find the extra time to pump on top of my normal pumping and breastfeeding. I found a trusted person and bought her breast milk. It worked, and I wasn’t so stressed!
Second, pack your supplies. You want to make sure you have everything you need before you jet out of town. What you should take with you is the following:
I know all the prepping can be overwhelming, but when done, it makes the trip a lot less stressful when you are prepared.
2. Manage Expectations
Whether you are traveling alone or in a group, you need to let yourself know and everyone with you what the expectations are. Be clear and firm that you have to pump when you have to pump. When traveling in San Francisco, I had to excuse myself from a wedding to pump and also while we were in the middle of sightseeing. On another occasion, we had to delay going to dinner because I had to pump. You do not have to feel guilty about this. You do not have to feel rushed. You do not have to apologize. If you are upfront about your need to excuse yourself to pump with all parties involved in your travel, then that is the best you can do, and if someone gets annoyed or irritated, that is on them, not you, because you laid out your expectations.
Also, go easy on yourself. Pumping isn’t going to be like it is when you are following your normal routine. You might go a little longer between pumping sessions because you got caught up in the travel. You might have to pump more since you don’t have a child hungrily draining your whole milk supply. You might have to pump in strange places. You might even have to, God forbid - don’t say it, gasp, throw away some milk because you underestimated how much storage containers you needed. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. Give yourself grace.
3. Have a sense of humor
Things will go wrong. Sometimes disastrously wrong. Like you might find yourself and your engorged breasts squatting over a toilet in a stall at Starbucks with a line out the door furiously trying to squeeze milk out of your tendered breasts. It happens. All you can do is laugh and learn for next time.
Pumping while traveling wasn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Know before you go, manage expectations, and have a sense of humor even if you find yourself on the dirty floor of a supermarket. You got this, Mama!
Welcome to Chi Town, The Windy City, and the Paris on the Prairie. That's right, today, we are discussing Chicago, Illinois' largest city and the third largest city in the U.S. Situated on Lake Michigan, Chicago is known for its skyscrapers, museums, and deep dish pizza. I've only been once when I traveled with some friends after high school in 2007 to stay at my one friend's sister's place. We packed a lot in in a little bit of time, and I must say this is a place to go back to. My husband and I were supposed to go back for our 5th anniversary to see the Cubs, Whitesox, and Brewers all play, but COVID ruined that. Fingers crossed for next year.
Original posted on The Mighty.
Hello there, Moms.
I see you out there, doing your thing and being all confident and owning motherhood like a straight up b-o-double-s BOSS. Then, it comes along and steals your joy. It creeps up on you, slaps you on the face, and leaves you wretched with remorse, shame, and despair. That’s right. I am talking about “Mom Guilt.” There is already a laundry list of things for you to feel guilty about. I am not here to tack on a few more. I am here, instead, to remove some.These are five feelings that you should absolutely not let “Mom Guilt” rule over anymore.
1. Parental decisions.
This is a given, but it doesn’t hurt to restate it. Moms, you should not feel guilty about a parental decision if it works for you and your family. If you choose formula over breastfeeding or breastfeeding over formula or breastfeeding and formula or whatever combination, do not feel guilty. If you choose to work and not stay home or if you choose to stay at home and not work, do not feel guilty. If you choose daycare, a nanny, or family to watch your child, do not feel guilty. If you choose to keep your child on a schedule or not to keep your child on a schedule, do not feel guilty. If it is working for your family and causing nobody any harm, do not feel guilty!
I am someone who likes a schedule. I get it honestly, just ask my mom, and I am a teacher. Teachers live for schedules. I try to flexible and not rigid, but oftentimes I rearrange my day and schedule events with friends and family based upon my son’s napping. I used to feel guilty and like I was being crazy, but I don’t anymore because it works for us.
So, Moms, relax, and stop questioning your parenting decisions. No one knows more than you do about your child.
2. Missing your old life.
Ladies, it’s OK to wistfully reminisce about your old life when you could lie around watching TV, or devouring books all day one weekend and then the next going out to some bar until the crack of dawn. Missing that freedom does not mean you love your children any less. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you normal. I miss the carefree days of being a child and running around outside with the neighbors when social media wasn’t a distraction and I had no real responsibility. That said, I wouldn’t want to go back. I miss the days when my friends and I would walk the hallways of high school, go to football games on Friday, and hang out on each other’s porches on lazy summer days. But, nope, don’t take me back. I miss the days of cross country and track practices and spending hours in the cafeteria and then the nights walking arm and arm with my friends to the main street during those college years. However, I wouldn’t trade anything to go back. Finally, I miss the days on the couch with just my husband and me and spontaneously deciding to take a trip. That’s over though. My life with my child is so much better, but sometimes I miss what was. And that’s OK.
3. Neglecting an area of your life.
Just because you are now a mom it doesn’t mean the other parts of you disappear. There is still the Working You. Friend You. Spouse You. Domestic You. Hobbies and Exercise You. It’s all still there, but sometimes one of those areas gets neglected for a certain period of time. Maybe you don’t spend as much time talking on the phone and texting back your friends as you used to. Don’t sweat it. On the other hand, maybe your house is a mess and take out slowly becomes the norm. Don’t worry about it. Maybe you and your spouse skip date night for the second month in a row. Give yourself a break. For me, I find that I don’t spend as much time on my teaching career as I used to. I often leave school the minute we can. My weekends rarely consist of lesson planning anymore. Where my students once occupied my thoughts in the evening hours, my son has replaced them. I felt guilty that a lot of my focus shifted away from my career, and my friends would get texts back from me a whole day later, but I soon began to realize that this is just a season of my life. My other selves will get nourished again one day, and for now I am content on growing my Mom Self.
4. Not picking up your child right away.
I think we can all admit that we have done this one. Work ends or a doctor’s appointment finishes up, and instead of driving right away to fetch your child from daycare or to head home, you give yourself a few minutes (OK, more like an hour) to just do something you want to do. Linger in Target. Sit in your car and scroll through social media. Take a nap. Read a book. Squeeze in a run. Because of this, you are not a bad mom. I repeat. You are not a bad mom!
5. Letting little things bother you sometimes
In the mad house that is motherhood, little things start to bother you sometimes (key word being sometimes, not always). You know it’s completely insane, but you can’t quite let it go. I’m here to give you permission to carry on, Mama!It’s 10 minutes past my child’s bedtime, and we (see I) are cleaning up his toys. I can’t find Tiger in his set of five animal finger puppets. Rational me would let it go. But, in this moment, I can’t. It is my life’s mission to find Tiger, so he can be reunited with Monkey, Elephant, Giraffe, and Zebra. I scour the living room. My son grows increasingly frustrated. I know I should let it go, but…I need to find Tiger, so he can sleep with his other pals. If I don’t rescue him now, we might forget about him, and he’ll be lost forever. I’m looking under couches, throwing pillows, tearing apart drawers until I snap back to reality (oh there goes gravity) and come crashing back to earth. I abandon my search, shake my head, grab my son to head upstairs, and question my sanity.
I should feel guilty about my momentary lapse of judgment, but I don’t. Motherhood demands a lot, and if sometimes we act a little silly, so be it.
What are some things you don’t feel guilty about anymore?
Tell us in the comments.
This red rock Arizona city isn't in the top 100 of most populated cities, but I have been twice and just love it, so I decided to feature it. Sedona is where Hippie meets Native American and they combine to make this quaint, tranquil town. Picture stepping into a spa and they have the trickling water and peaceful music playing. Add in the red-rock buttes, canyon walls, and pine forests, and you have got Sedona.
I have gone twice. Once with James over Labor Day. I essentially won a "free" trip at a bridal show. Free if you count paying for airfare and sitting through a 2-hour timeshare presentation to get the room comped. But it was worth it. The second time, I went with my mom and aunt as we drove back from San Diego to St. Louis.
Sedona is a city where you'll want to pack layers. It is the desert but temperatures are comfortably warm during the day and brisk, borderline chilly, at night. Three to four days is a perfect amount of time to say. That time will give you a chance to hike, explore, visit a spa, do yoga, eat, shop, and go on an adventure. You'll be sure to leave Sedona invigorated!