Cooking for small people

Is it just me or is there nothing more annoying than trying to prepare healthy food for people under 4 foot tall? Seriously, I didn’t even really try to learn how to cook until I was home all day with small people. I had a few core dishes that I made with certain aplomb, delighted in the knowledge that I did those really, really well. But since neither of my kids will touch shrimp creole, my talents are largely wasted on them.

Zach was such a good eater, at first. I remember dropping spinach leaves on the tray of his highchair and he’d just devour them as if they were chocolate pie. The same could be said of grilled chicken, or roasted acorn squash.

Now? Yeah, not so much. Now he walks into the kitchen, smells what’s cooking and declares: That smells YUCK. I’m not eating it.

Based on his new-found food snobbishness we have a house ban on garlic, bell peppers, spaghetti sauce and homemade macaroni and cheese. Nevermind that he’ll eat an entire tomato like it’s an apple, spaghetti sauce cannot touch either noodle or pizza crust. Nevermind that I make his hummus with garlic–I have to go all Secret Agent about it lest I risk his second favorite food hitting the reject list. And though he’ll eat the Kraft box stuff, homemade mac and cheese is an abomination unto pasta in Zach’s mind.

Earlier this week he informed me that he no longer likes chicken. To which I replied, “nuggets are made from chicken”. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “no Mom, they aren’t.” Which, though technically correct, was not exactly my point.

He’s killing my cooking creativity, because even though I was never a cooking type person, I find myself bored to death with eating the same thing every single week and trying to select more adventurous recipes. Eh, cooking meals that require more than 4 ingredients is harder for me, the only benefit is when the food is enjoyed by those I’m cooking for. At this point new things are met with disgust my little food critic and I refuse to make separate meals–we aren’t going there in this house–thus my quandary.

I can’t complain much about Elliot right now–he eats most of what I put in front of him. I see him eyeballing Zach though and making plans to reject the black beans he loves so much in the near future.

I know it’s normal, I know it’s a control thing, but none of that knowledge lessens my annoyance at their refusal to just taste it. I can accept not liking something (hell, I despise okra–fried or otherwise) if they would just taste it first.

I also realize that not caving in to the noses wrinkled in disgust will be to my long-term benefit. But in the short-term I am putting the cabash on food that comes in paper bags. Yes, people, it came out of my mouth, not once but twice this week, so now I have to stick to my edict of “no more eating out for the small people”. Say buh-bye to your precious chik fil a nuggets and when you will eat real food like a sane person we’ll reassess the situation.

On the bright side, we’ll save some money. On the dark side, I can already here the strident tones of a seriously PO’ed 3 year old as he stages his not-so-silent protest of my decision.

An Only Child Parents Brothers

Any knowledge I have about siblings and sibling dynamics are purely academic and/or observational in nature. Certainly many of my friends have siblings. Many of my friends are also onlies. There are wide variations in their relationships among them all.

I also did not have the benefit of being surrounded by any extended family thanks to the US Army. Geographical differences, us in North Carolina (mostly) and them in Louisiana and Illinois, made visits more occasional than regular.

In essence, I was an only every way you could imagine; no siblings, no extended family, even living in a military town–where friendships are fluid and changing. It was often very lonely. (Mom-don’t freak out, there are life-long benefits in learning how to be alone without being lonely. ‘Tis all good, I don’t need additional therapy for that.)

The first declaration to my husband, upon the birth of our first son, was that he would have a sibling. My husband, the middle of three brothers, spent considerable time trying to convince me otherwise. But, why? So-and-so was an only child and he got to take his FRIENDS with him on vacation. It was awesome.

Like I said, I was adamant about there being more than one and tenacious does not begin to describe me when I really, really want something. Only children are stubborn and kinda used to getting their own way.

It would have been nice to have a sibling around to share some of the pressure growing up. To help shift the focus from me and whatever impulsive ludicrousness with which I was involved at any given moment. To be there when my Dad died. To help with my Mom. To play with, to talk to.

But, despite that longing for my Utopian brother or sister, it is with great maturity that I finally realize that having someone else borne from your Mother’s womb doesn’t mean you’ll like the person. And what greater tragedy can there be for siblings that hate each other?

Siblings are not a guarantee of friendship.

I worried so much about the division of attention, of time, of love. My husbands tells me I’m ridiculous. Only children are slightly obsessed with the need to be fair, to have fairness permeate the world.

They are such different people already that I worry they will grow up and not be friends. Or worse, that they will grow up and hate each other for the very differences that I happen to love the most.

I reserve that worry to finite spaces in time, because to do otherwise would have me trying to micromanage their lives for the next 20 years based on supposition. Only children have control issues.

However, from the moment Elliot was born his eyes were for Zach. Every milestone was met in an attempt to reach his older brother. When he learned to crawl he bee-lined for Zach; when he walked it was the same. He ran soon after walking–if only to keep up. He is truly a child living in a child’s world.

Often I’m jealous. Jealous that Zach doesn’t really remember a time in his life when Elliot didn’t exist. Jealous that Elliot will have another person to commiserate about that “crazy shit Mom did that day”.

Mostly I’m happy. Happy to hear the two of them “talk” to each other instead of going to sleep. Happy to hear Zach share knowledge (no, Elliot, that’s a brachiosaurus, not a cat) with Elliot. Slightly amused when I hear Zach tell Elliot to go to time out (I don’t encourage the mini-parent, but it is funny). I did the same kind of stuff growing up–to my cocker spaniel–but it’s just not the same.


The History of Mother’s Day

One of my favorite things is to look up the origin story for celebrated holidays. Today, The History of Mother’s Day.

The first of the Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to Ancient Greece and festivals honoring Rhea, the mother of the Gods (most notably, Zeus). As part of the assimilation of Christianity, the holiday was then rebranded as a day to honor Mary. It eventually morphed into a day to honor all of the mothers in England.

Read More

The Mother’s Day movement was largely forgotten in the United States until 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote a declaration for women to rise up, to oppose war and violence, and to stand in peace.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”

Read the rest of her Declaration

Sadly, Julia never got the day of peace she sought, but her work influenced another woman–Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, whose message influenced her own daughter, Anna Jarvis, who campaigned—and won—a day to recognize all of the efforts of mothers to their children.

Margaret Mead—your words, though now a cliche’ are ever so true: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

My first Mother’s Day present was a cheap-o snow cone maker. Why? Because my first paying-taxes-job was working weekends (illegally—I was only 15) at the flea market making snow cones. That gift meant more to me than any diamond would have, because it was just so…appropriate.

This year we planted blueberries—a family favorite—to honor Mother’s Day. We all went to the Farmer’s Market and picked locally grown, pesticide-free plants. We planted them in organically-prepared soil, in a bed built by our own hands. We watered them with water collected in our rainbarrel and fed them with a tea made from our own compost.

I taught my oldest son what a root-bound plant was—and he actually kept me from buying one when I wasn’t paying attention to my own lesson a mere 10 minutes later.

I use this as a day to remind myself that I have important life lessons to teach my children. Lessons delivered to them more through actions than words. I use this as a day to remind myself that my children are teaching me lessons that I have forgotten during my tour as a cynical adult; lessons of innocence, of unconditional love, of wonder, of discovery.

From now on I will also use this day to honor Julia and her intent for this day; to celebrate our similarities instead of our differences. To say to mothers across the world that their children are just as important as my children.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone; may your day be full of peace and joy. And maybe a delicious Denver omelet with a side of strawberries with fresh whipped cream made by someone else.