Category Archives: Motherhood

Baby / Motherhood

Our Philosophy On Food

November 17, 2017

I’ve gotten a few questions now about how we approach food with the kids (you guys seem to be especially interested since I mentioned that they eat curry — so funny), so I thought I would write a post about my overall philosophy on food and how we are implementing those values with the kids. I am not an expert by any means, and this is just what works for our family.

When I was pregnant with Prim, one of the many topics KC and I discussed related to parenting was about food. I grew up in a big Italian family where everyone cooked and pickiness was not tolerated. I want our children to be good and adventurous eaters, so my goal from day one was to do everything in my power to expose them to a variety of foods and flavors to help foster an openness to different kinds of tastes, textures and cuisines.

I started both Prim and Lark on solids at 6 months. To date, neither has ever had any pre-made baby food (no jars or pouches or anything). This is certainly not necessary, but I didn’t think it was a big deal to make their food and I wanted to know exactly what was going in their bodies, so I opted to make their meals myself right from the start. Early on, I would often spend part of a Sunday making 3-4 purees or soft finger foods and freezing them in small portions to be defrosted throughout the week. Both Lark and Prim started with pureed food, but I introduced finger foods very early on (within the first month of starting solids) as well so that they could practice their dexterity. As soon as I could move the kids off purees (meaning that they could feed themselves relatively well on their own and could eat what KC and I were having for dinner), I did. I haven’t read Baby Led Weaning, but understand the basic principles, so I follow a sort of modified version of that.

  • More often than not, the kids eat what we eat for dinner and there are no alternatives. They often have more options than we do (KC and I will have just curry and rice for dinner while the kids will have curry with rice, fruit, and half of a homemade muffin or something). I am not a short-order cook and I certainly do not want to make two or more dinners every night, so there is no “mac and cheese” for the kid who doesn’t want to eat what I’ve cooked.
  • I make sure to serve at least one thing that I know the kids like if I am introducing a new dish. (i.e.: fruit, plain yogurt, etc.)
  • I do not dumb-down food for the kids, but will make spicy food a little milder for them. The curry and chili I make are SPICY, so I will add plain Greek yogurt, rice, avocado, etc. until I feel that the spice is at an ok level for them. I do not make the food non-spicy, just less spicy.

When Prim was really little, I made this soup, intending for it to serve as dinner for all three of us at the time. When it was done cooking, I realized that the brand-new cayenne pepper I had purchased was really spicy. I had this idea that kids hate spicy food and so considered feeding Prim something else, but I had just spent all this time making the soup for dinner and didn’t really have a good alternative for her. I opted to cut the soup with some Greek yogurt and goat cheese, but realized that even after adding those it still had a good kick. I decided to feed it to her, assuming that she would hate it, and lo and behold — she LOVED it. She could not get enough of the soup. I was totally floored, but realized that it actually made a lot of sense. Spicy food is delicious (in my opinion), but I think many parents don’t introduce spicy foods to their kids simply because they assume that kids don’t like or can’t handle spice. In other countries this is totally not the case (India, for example), and children in those countries grow up tolerating heat and loving spicy foods. Since then, both my kids have been exposed to spicy foods and tolerate it quite well for their respective ages. As I mentioned yesterday, if Prim asks to try something spicy, we tell her it’s spicy but still allow her to try it if she wants to.

  • They don’t have to finish anything, but they do need to try everything. 

I should also note that one of the kids “not liking” something does not mean that I will never serve it again. I assume that if they don’t like something at this age it’s most likely because they are either unfamiliar with it or just having a picky day. I believe that you have to try something many times to form a solid opinion about it, so I will just continue to introduce the food next time I feel like cooking whatever it is. I also believe in introducing foods in different ways (for example, broccoli: it’s good roasted with garlic, steamed with lemon, and even mashed with potato).

  • I will usually serve their dinner in courses, beginning with the vegetable, then main dish, followed by fruit/other side (applesauce, yogurt), then dessert if we’re having it (which we usually don’t).
  • We don’t tolerate negative words about the food like, “Ew, gross, disgusting” etc. Right now if Prim doesn’t want to eat something, we either ignore it, or if we have to address it, say, “You’ll like this when you’re older.”
  • We don’t pester the kids about eating or their food. We serve them the food, sit down to eat as a family, and let them eat. We try not to intervene at all while they are eating so they can try things in their own time.

Have you ever noticed how much people like to bug kids while they eat? “Eat more! Take a bite! Try it! Isn’t it good?” It makes me a little crazy.

  • Dessert is not a nightly thing and it is not contingent upon whether you finished your plate at dinner. 

Dessert is a rarity around here, to be honest, and if we do have something special after dinner, it’s usually a homemade sugar-free muffin. My kids are little, so I really try to limit their intake of added sugar. Often if we have real treats, it will be when we’re traveling or on a random trip to the ice cream shop on the weekend.

  • The kids eat on a schedule. Breakfast at 8am, Lunch at 11am, snack after naptime, Dinner at 5:30pm.

Having a schedule helps eliminate the all-day snackfest that tends to ruin mealtimes. Having consistency with the schedule also helps the kids understand that we will eat at specific times, making their day more predictable overall. That said, we obviously leave room for deviation sometimes on the weekends and when we travel.

Following the above does not mean that my kids are perfect eaters by any means. Prim is in the process of asserting her independence with us, which extends to meal times as well. This approach is helpful in that it doesn’t assume that picky phases won’t occur, but provides an approach that can remain consistent throughout those phases. If you’re looking for a good kid-food book, I read and really liked French Kids Eat Everything.

Baby / Lark / Motherhood

Motherhood Update: Lark at 9 months

November 16, 2017

^^ even cute with a cold ^^ 

Sleeping: Lark is still sleeping through the night most nights. She just got her first tooth and the second is due to come through any day now, plus she unfortunately got my cold, so there have been some nights that are far from perfect lately, but that’s kind of par for the course at this age.

Eating: Lark is currently loving Winter Minestrone (the amount she ate is sort of insane, given her size) and is also very into Thai green curry. I introduced Prim to spicy food really early and have done the same thing with Lark. I cut the spice in the curry with some plain Greek yogurt, but it’s definitely still got a kick and the kids eat it and love it. My philosophy is that the kids should be introduced to and eat pretty much what we eat, so long as it’s not prohibited or dangerous, we just try to dial back the heat a bit if we’re eating something really spicy. That said, if Prim asks to try something we know is spicy (for example, bitterballen is served with a spicy mustard here), we let her — we just tell her it’s spicy beforehand and make sure we have something close by to offset the spice after.

Saying: Lark is on the verge of saying her first words. She babbles nonstop and might actually be saying “all done” (which she already signs) and “Dada,” but I’m not totally sure enough yet to really call either her first word.

Latest trick: Lark is very quick with her army crawling these days and is getting up on all fours and rocking back and forth. She hasn’t mastered full-on crawling yet, but she’s so fast at creeping around on her belly that I wonder if she will actually crawl at all before she starts pulling up and cruising.

Sweetest things: Lark is still obsessed with her “Lamby” (evidenced by the photos in this post). She now holds onto it when we take her out of her crib and she sleeps with her face right on top of it at night. It is so sweet to sneak a peek at her while she’s sleeping and seeing that little stuffed lamb head peeking out from underneath her cheek.

Favorite thing about this age: Lark has so much personality now. She squeals, laughs, smiles and screeches. KC has been traveling a lot for work lately, and when he gets home from one of his trips and she sees him for the first time — well, basically her reaction just makes my heart explode and I’m like, “Let’s have another baby RIGHT NOW.”

Motherhood / Primrose / Toddler

Motherhood Update: Prim at 2 1/2 years

November 9, 2017

Saying: Prim’s language continues to surprise us. She was an early talker, and the things she comes up with is fascinating. She understands the concept of “after” now (“I want to listen to Prim’s music after Mama’s music.”) and is grasping daytime vs. nighttime (“It’s getting dark. I can’t wait to see the moon!”)  Her speech is very clear for her age, but I love how she mispronounces words like oatmeal (OH-pa-meel) and sprinkler (sprink-lee-er). She also regularly asks, “What you doin’, Mama?” and yells “You ok, Mama?” across the room when she hears me drop something.

Prim’s Favorite Things: I picked up an 8oz BKR bottle when we were in Copenhagen, and it has proven to be a solid purchase. Prim loves that it’s more of a “grown-up” water bottle, and it fits well in the diaper bag and holds a full 8oz of water. It has a smaller footprint than the 9oz Lifefactory bottles (which we use with a sippy top everyday at home) so it’s perfect for using on the go. I love that the BKR is glass, since I try to avoid plastic with the kids, especially for eating/drinking apparatus. (There are some good metal water bottle options as well, but I personally think metal makes water taste weird, so I tend to avoid it just due to my own preference.)

Reading: Pumpkin Eye (a holdover from Halloween), The Friendly Beasts, The Night Before Christmas.

Latest trick: Prim loves helping me cook in the kitchen. As soon as she sees me heading to the kitchen, she will yell, “I want to help!” and race over to her step stool and pull it up to the counter. If I’m making dinner I will try to give her something to “cut” (she uses a kids butter knife), like a broccoli stem I’ll be discarding. Baking is much more of a “team activity,” and she will regularly help me scoop, dump, and stir. It does generally result in at least one ingredient getting messed up, but coming from a big Italian family with strong cooking roots, I’m thrilled that she’s taking an early interest in the culinary arts. (Our recent baking favorites include these pumpkin muffins and applesauce muffins.)

Favorite toys: Prim is very into “building towers” with her Legos and lining up her beloved Gruffalo blocks. She continues to be smitten with her “babies” and regularly puts them “down for a rest” or sets them up for tummy time.

Sweetest things: Prim is so sweet and considerate with Lark. She is very good at including Lark in her play, handing her toys (“Here you go, Lark!”) and looking out for her (“Larky needs some water!”) Two-and-a-half is certainly not without its challenges (Prim has discovered the concept of asking for “something else” and has made it her current mantra), but with her newfound language skills she is also readily asking us to be involved in whatever she’s doing (“You want to build a tower with me, Mama?” “You want some tea, Daddy?” “Here, you want to hold little baby, Larky?”) Hearing her sweet, inclusive requests is definitely one of the high points of this age.

Favorite thing about this age: Prim has started making up little songs and singing about what she’s doing. I know that she gets this from me (I am totally guilty of making up silly songs and singing about anything and everything). Hearing what her little mind comes up with is so hilarious and adorable.

Motherhood / Personal / Stay Fit

Getting My Strength (and Body) Back

November 8, 2017

^^ Ancient Bar Method socks and hella-old Lulus still going strong ^^

I’m going to be honest here — I did not want to write this post. In fact, I actually wrote a draft of this a few weeks ago and didn’t end up hitting “publish.” The whole “post-baby body” discussion is tricky and very personal. After having two babies less than two years apart and failing to really get back into a workout rhythm between the two, I decided to get serious about regaining my pre-baby strength. Yes, part of this is about vanity — I do “want my body back” (I have been pregnant or breastfeeding now for over 3 years straight, sooo… yeah. I would like to reclaim at least some small part of myself — though I think this is bigger discussion which deserves its own post on another day); but more than that, I want to feel strong and healthy and keep my back in shape.

Those of you who know me or who have been reading the blog for a bit, already know that I have a bad back. I had surgery 14 years ago but have continued to live with severe restrictions and occasional bouts of awful pain.

After having Prim I never really got back into a good workout rhythm. I had a new baby and went back to work and then moved across the world to Amsterdam and promptly got pregnant again… All of which are reasonable excuses for not exercising — but overall it wasn’t a good thing for my back or health. After having Lark I started to realize how much strength I had really lost. I could feel my lack of core stability every time I lifted the girls, and started to feel the familiar ache of constant pain beginning in my lower back. Having been through 9 months of excruciating pain prior to my surgery 14 years ago, I now live in constant fear of it returning. Any twinge makes my heart stop; any bout of pain sets me into a minor panic.

I finally decided that I needed to commit to myself to get my body and core back in shape. Yes, it is partially to (hopefully) rid myself of the last ten pounds of baby weight which are clinging to me like I’m a life boat on the Titanic, but it is mostly so I can live my life without pain. (And let me tell you — avoidance of chronic pain is an amazing motivator.)

After hearing rave reviews from my sister about this website specializing in diastasis-safe, post-pregnancy workouts, I decided to sign up for the Birth to Fit Mum 12-week program. Even though I didn’t have diastasis recti, my abs were still severely compromised by my two back-to-back pregnancies, so a lot of regular ab work was too intense for me.

In case you’re curious, or maybe a postpartum mama yourself looking for exercises to do at home, I thought I would write out my current routine and link to the exercises. I try to do all of this four times a week, and sometimes add a fifth day where I do a shorter Bar Method workout (usually 45 minutes). Bar Method Online has a lot of different options — targeted and full-body workouts in 20, 30, 45, and 60 minute sessions with prenatal, beginner, mixed, and accelerated level options.

I start with 60 minutes of accelerated or mixed-level Bar Method and then go through some variation of the following exercises three times afterwards (it takes about 20 minutes):

I finish with the Bar Method final stretch sequence.

Some of the above exercises change every 3 weeks, as they are part of the Birth to Fit Mum 12 week program, which works through four progressive strength sequences across the 12 weeks. I specifically added the curl up, bird dog, and planks due to my bad back. These are the “Big 3” exercises for back pain, recommended by Stuart McGill, a renowned spine surgeon.

After completing the 12 week Birth to Fit Mum program and adding Bar Method for the last 7 weeks, my back pain has disappeared and my core is so much stronger. While I am (yes, vainly) waiting for the last few pounds to disappear, I’m trying to be patient and remember that the way I feel is good enough reason to continue to work out right now and that the last of the weight will come off eventually. I mean, honestly, 12 weeks ago I was struggling to get through a 30-second plank on my knees; now I can power through a 2-minute plank on my toes, no problem.

If you are a mama or mama-to-be who is looking for safe pregnancy or postnatal workout options — especially ones you can do at home, Bar Method Online and these pregnancy/postnatal workouts are awesome. The Pregnancy Exercise website has specific programs for during pregnancy, post-birth (the Birth to Fit Mum program I started with), and beyond. I have now moved on to the Super Fit Mum program, which despite its hokey name, is quite a good workout for strength-building.

If you have any questions about either of the programs I’m using (which are not sponsored in any way, by the way!) feel free to leave me a comment or send me a message.

Life Abroad / Motherhood / Travel

Our Trip to Copenhagen

October 23, 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, KC has been traveling for work a bunch lately. Normally he’s gone for 4-5 nights and then returns for the weekend, but since he had back-to-back work weeks in Dublin, he opted to just stay through this past weekend, which meant I was facing 13 solo bedtime routines with the girls while he was gone (because really, isn’t that always the most exhausting part of the day?) and was really not looking forward to two straight weeks of solo-parenting.

I happened to get a home exchange request for part of the period when KC would be gone, and I was lamenting that it seemed like an awesome opportunity and was bummed that we couldn’t take advantage of it. KC immediately chimed in, “Well you could just go,” which, while true, is a bit tricky with both kids and just one me (just navigating the airport with both kids and all the stuff we have to bring on our trips would be near-impossible for just one person). I thought about it for awhile and then thought I would see if another stay-at-home mama friend would want to join along with her 2 year old. We spend a lot of time together already (Prim and her little one are best buds these days) and I know she’s generally down for an adventure, so I thought it might be a good option. She jumped at the chance to get out of town and we set our plans, buying our tickets less than two weeks before our departure date.

We were in Copenhagen for 5 days, and wandered through the city with our three girls, all under the age of 2 1/2. We weathered flight delays coming and going (both times while on the plane) and somehow managed to navigate two airports and an entire city without losing any luggage, children, or our minds.

^^ Don’t mind the caution tape in that picture. I’m sure everything is fine. #goodparenting  And really, looking back on the trip, I have to say how proud I am of these little ones of ours. They are seriously veteran travelers now and go with the flow better than I could ever expect a baby and two toddlers to. Being stuck in a plane seat or stroller, or confined to a restaurant chair is not easy for wiggly two year olds and a newly-mobile 8 month old, but these ladies weathered the challenges like pros.  We did opt to have some slow days so that the kids could nap and sought out activities where they could run around and stretch their little legs. And, honestly, we didn’t see nearly as much as I would hope to see of Copenhagen on our trip (I mean, this is where Mikeller is from — so many more beers to drink! So many awesome restaurants to try!) but we still did a lot and I’m so glad we made the trip.  And yes, of course the kids had their moments where they were just over it, but luckily those were few and far between. (And honestly, sometimes those moments make for the most memorable photos after the fact.) ^^ This wasn’t actually a meltdown, just a point where Prim decided she simply couldn’t carry on and laid down on the ground. Sometimes, as a two year old, this is the only way to assert yourself.  Copenhagen, you were so charming. I can’t wait to visit you again someday!