Saturday, February 25, 2017


Today we got back from a week's vacation and immediately made two cakes and a boatload of Mexican rice before heading off to our boys' annual Blue and Gold Banquet for Cub Scouts. I have to somehow accomplish cleaning my house AND going to the grocery store AND church AND a ministry lunch AND life group tomorrow because I'm working on Monday and Tuesday and my parents are flying in on Tuesday.

This is my life these days. Crazy. Busy. Blessed.

Here are my kids. I happen to think they're pretty cute.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Make Them Eat

It's important for me to acknowledge that there are children with actual food related issues. There are kids with food sensory aversion, allergies, intolerance, etc. This post isn't about them. If you're the parent of a child who struggles with diagnosed food related issues, work with your pediatrician to keep your kid healthy and ignore this post.

Once upon a time, my husband and my oldest son engaged in an epic battle of wills. The Great Battle of Foodmageddon. Garrett's Last Stand. The Siege of Kitchentown.

For a short time, Garrett was an overly picky toddler, refusing to eat nearly everything we put in front of him. I'd heard of a tactic whereby you make your child choose between what is being served and a peanut butter sandwich. If they eat neither, they go hungry. We decided to employ this system. Our kid ate peanut butter for a week.

I had visions of our child eating only peanut butter for the rest of his life. He'd be the kid at the birthday party turning his nose up at the pizza and insisting that the host slap some creamed peanuts between two pieces of bread for him. He'd be the husband insisting on sandwiches at the wedding. Not to mention the scurvy I was certain was right around the corner.

"This is dumb," I said. "He eats what we eat or he doesn't eat."

I can remember sitting on the porch, waiting for Troy to get home from work. I was starved for adult conversation and my toddler was legit refusing to eat, choosing, instead, to spit everything at me. Troy pulled in the driveway, sensed my impending meltdown, and took over.

The evening culminated in Troy pressing Garrett's lips together so he couldn't spit out whatever it was he refused to swallow. They faced off. Stubborn father against the son who inherited his flair for being unwilling to back down. Garrett refused to swallow. Troy refused to be spit on. In the end, the adult won the battle and the war and our child ate from then on.

Nine years later, there are still tons of things he doesn't like. There are things he once liked but has now decided he doesn't. But, there are so many more things that he once hated that he now enjoys.

Do you want your child to eat? Here are some practical tips.

1. Make them try things. Once they're old enough to reason, explain that they will have a courtesy bite of everything. They must have a small portion of everything you've set on the table. Garrett hated potatoes for the longest time. I would make him have one bite of potato every time we had them. Eventually, he found that he liked them with ranch dressing. If they don't eat their dinner, they don't get dessert. Period. END OF DISCUSSION. Wait, what, you hadn't planned anything for dessert because it's not 1950 and we don't bake a cake every day? Break out two animal crackers or a graham cracker or a tiny dish with one scoop of frozen yogurt or WHATEVER because it will straight up be an incentive to finish that bite of broccoli. The older they get the less they'll need an incentive. And they'll start to find that they like things they didn't think they liked.

2. Make them try things you don't like. This is especially easy to do at a buffet. They may end up loving something you detest and the broader a kid's palate, the better. We don't actually want them to hate food, do we? Garrett loves beets because he ate them at a salad bar. Never saw that one coming.

3. NEVER tell your small child that you hate a particular food. This gives them a pass to refuse to try things because, "Dad doesn't have to." I have tried and tried and TRIED to love oatmeal. But I just HATE it and have since I was a kid. Apparently, I loved it as a baby but, for as long as I can remember I've detested it. It's not the taste. It's the texture. It's like eating vomit. But I completely recognize the nutritional value and ease of oatmeal so I have encouraged a love for oatmeal in all my children. My older kids are definitely old enough to know that there are foods we both hate. They're not dumb. They've never seen me eat oatmeal and they've never seen Troy eat an olive. Of course we've had discussions with them about foods we don't like--now. But when they were tiny and in the process of developing good eating habits, we PRETENDED to like everything. The more a kid eats when he's little, the more things he'll like later in life.

4. Sauces and dips. Or no sauces and dips. Whatever works. Garrett hated tomato sauce for years. It was bizarre because he LOVED tomatoes. When we had spaghetti, I would give him plain noodles with a little butter. Yes, I was catering to him, but he was basically still eating what we were eating. He wasn't eating peanut butter. Eventually, I started giving him buttery noodles with meatballs. The meatballs were cooked in our sauce so some sauce ended up on his plate. Initially, this was the end of his world. But he liked the meatballs and realized that a little bit of sauce wasn't going to kill him. Now, he eats spaghetti like a normal human. Ranch dressing or BBQ sauce or soy sauce are great for making foods that seem bland to kid's tongue, well, less bland. When Matthew was a baby, I told people that his favorite foods were condiments. Dipping made things fun and yummy. The doctor assures me my kids are healthy so I stand by this tip. Especially because I'd rather have my kids eating carrots with ranch than no carrots at all.

5. No seconds of the things they love until the things they hate are gone. Period. If they're still hungry after their plate is clean, they can fill up with more of the things they like.

6. Make sure they don't hate the entire meal. A few years ago, if I'd served spaghetti with potatoes and avocado, Garrett would have died on the spot. (Not to mention I would have needed my own head examined for such a bizarre combination.) But serve him up spaghetti with Caesar salad and a huge chunk of bread and suddenly there's only one thing on his plate he's not excited about. Double portion of bread and salad and a tiny amount of spaghetti? Sure. The end goal is to broaden their tastes, not make them hate their parents.

7. Reward them when they're little for being good eaters. Tell them how proud you are. One thing I do that I know other people find weird is I let them eat their food in whatever order they want. If it's breakfast and we're having eggs, bacon, fruit and a danish, they can absolutely eat the danish first if they'd like to. But they know that the very first time they don't finish the rest of their breakfast after polishing off that danish, they will lose that privilege. It has never once been a problem.

8. If they just legitimately hate something after repeated tries, don't torture them. Especially if they'll eat a wide variety of other things and they're eating a balanced diet. Garrett cannot handle spices or excessive amounts of fried foods. He gets physically sick to his stomach. Obviously, I don't force feed him fried chicken until he throws up.

I'm sure there are many more tips I could come up with but those stand out in my mind. I was blessed with an amazing eater in Matthew. That kid will try anything and he likes everything. Including fish eyes. Although, when he was little he tried avocado and hated it. He looked, mournfully, at my brother (who loves avocado) and moaned, "I can't yike it." Guess what though? He loves it now. Currently, Will will eat anything. Of course, we haven't reached that terrible toddler stage so we shall see. I'm sure I'll be revisiting my own advice soon enough. Garrett (with the exception of his natural bent toward anything from the ocean) was molded and crafted into a good eater with a great deal of intention and diligence on our part. He's still much more picky than his brother but he's learned to be polite, to eat what is put in front of him here and ESPECIALLY somewhere else, and he has discovered a love for so many foods because he was introduced to a wide variety young and often.

Your child can be a good eater. It just takes consistency. Good luck. You can do it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Why My Baby Eats Everything

When people started arriving at our church Chili and Game Night, they jokingly asked if Will was going to get to have chili for his dinner. He was seven months old. We'd already been there for an hour, the baby was losing his mind with all the starvation--what with not having eaten for THREE ENTIRE HOURS--and so I had already fed him a bowl full of chili.

We had gift cards to Red Lobster and he ate scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Thrown in to that delicious mix was some baked potato, broccoli, rice, tomato, cheddar biscuit (because how could we deprive him a Red Lobster biscuit?), and the end of a peanut butter sandwich he'd left over from lunch.

He's had burritos, soups, eggs, pastas, all manner of fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and even milk.

Before Will ever existed, I heard of Baby Led Weaning. Basically, BLW lets your child feed himself from the very start. When we feed our babies pureed baby food, they learn to swallow first and then to chew. When we feed them solid food from the start, they learn to chew first and then swallow. I started thinking about babies in countries where there isn't an entire aisle in the nearby Walmart dedicated to a zillion different blends of pureed foods. What do those babies eat? Probably whatever their parents are eating. I also started thinking about the grocery bill--and how much cheaper it would be without all those jars of blended turkey. All around, Baby Led Weaning seemed like a win/win situation.

I started feeding both my older boys solid food around 4 months. We began with rice cereal, added in oatmeal next, and then tried vegetables and fruits, one at a time, watching diligently for signs of allergy.

BLW says to wait until baby is 6-8 months old and can feed himself. (I keep saying himself because I have been blessed with only himselves. Not because I am a sexist. I'm sitting here wrestling with whether or not I should use gender inclusive language. But then people might be confused about whether or not I'm referring to Will as a herself.) I realized when Will was 4 months old that following the BLW wasn't exactly going to work for us because I wanted him to try things before he was big enough to do it himself. If we'd waited until Will could feed himself, he'd still be living on formula and breast milk and he'd have missed out on those two bites of lobster entirely. Just the other day, I considered it a HUGE victory when he took a giant piece of bell pepper in his fist, brought it to his mouth, and chomped down. Until then, he would squish everything in his chubby hands and/or throw it at the floor.

So I decided to use the ideas of BLW but craft a new way of feeding that worked for our family. I did not start with rice cereal. Honestly, with both of my older boys, I had nearly gagged just watching them eat that stuff. It smells disgusting and looks even worse. When Will was four months old, we started him on avocado and then bananas in a mesh pouch. It was a mess. He was my smallest baby and he wasn't really sitting on his own yet. He sat in our laps and smeared avocado everywhere. It was easier to just pop a bottle in his mouth and I got lazy.

A few weeks later, my brother, sister-in-law, and then fourteen month old niece, came to visit. We got the highchair seat out of its box so my niece could eat her meals. Will watched with a great deal of interest. When they left, we never put the seat away. We plopped my almost five month old in it and the rest is history. He'd seen his big cousin eat and he was not going to let her have all the fun.

I didn't start him with store bought baby food though. I gave him things like oatmeal and Greek yogurt--and I blended my own veggies and fruits, being sure to leave some small chunks. That went on for about a month. He ate a variety of different foods and I used my food processor to chop them up to a manageable consistency.

At Will's 6 month appointment, I was a little worried to tell the doctor that he ate dozens and dozens of different foods and that I didn't wait before introducing a new food. I figured that if he had an allergic reaction, I'd eliminate everything he'd eaten that day and reintroduce one food at a time. As it turns out, my doctor was very happy that Will was eating such a variety of foods and told us that we could feed him anything and everything except honey.

Even milk.

Even eggs.

Even...peanut butter.

The things I had been told NOT to feed my babies when Garrett and Matthew were tiny. My pediatrician said that there was research that showed that introducing these foods before nine months actually decreased the rate of developing an allergy.

Will had peanut butter (diluted with water) that afternoon.

And in the two months since that appointment, we have fed him whatever we're having. We cut it smaller, of course. He has had store bought baby food because, let's face it, it's easier to throw into a diaper bag. But, mostly, he spits anything out at us if it doesn't have chunks. It's almost like he's thinking, "Whatever you just put in my mouth is for babies. Clearly, I am a big boy capable of eating anything. Now, bring me my steak and lobster." (Okay, he hasn't had steak. Although that is mostly because our money also doesn't buy steak.)

So far, there has been one food that hasn't been Will's favorite. Beets. And, really, who likes beets except for my oldest child? So I took the leftover beets and hid them in things like applesauce and he ate them up just fine.

If you want to follow this Bassham Baby Led Eating Thing it's like this in one easy step.

1. Introduce a wide variety of chunky foods--early.

Upside: A baby who will eat anything.
Downside: Your kid may develop a lobster taste on an imitation crab budget.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

8 Months

Dear Will,

This is not my first parenting rodeo. I've done it before. In fact, I've been doing it for ten and a half years. So you'd think I'd understand and accept the whole growing-up-at-the-speed-of-light thing. But no. I still scratch my head and wonder how IN THE WORLD you are already 8 months old.

It seemed like an excellent idea to purchase blocks when you were itty bitty teeny tiny. Blocks that I would strategically place near you once a month with the number corresponding to your age. This was a beautiful plan. Until it wasn't. Somehow, I forgot that you would start moving and want NOTHING more than to destroy those nicely placed blocks. So, what should take 5 minutes takes 45. And instead of 13 adorable pictures to choose from, I get 1,042 that look like this...

This month you learned how to get from your back to a seated position. This allows you to pull everything out of your bookcase. Which is awesome.

You started crawling.

Sort of.

Your arms do what they're supposed to but your legs are very confused. One leg walks in a weird sort of frog hop while the other one kinda drags behind. But, you get where you want to go so I guess that's all that matters.

You still have no teeth but that doesn't stop you from eating just about everything. Last night, it was scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster at Red Lobster (courtesy of a gift card. You should learn now that our family does not eat at Red Lobster without a gift card. Our money doesn't buy lobster. Our money buys imitation crab. In plastic wrap. At The Walmart.)

You eat what we eat only cut smaller. This is evident every time we try to feed you baby food and you spit it wildly at the person on the other end of the spoon. It is NOT charming. We tell you no nicely the first 17 times and then our NO! turns harsh and you cry.

You love your brothers and your dog and your DADA! We don't think you actually understand that you're calling for him but it's only a matter of time. You also imitate, "All done." Just recently, you've added the "B" sound to your repertoire of noises. 

Today, we left you with a babysitter for a few hours and she declared that you were standing up at the couch. "Did you stand him up? Or did he pull himself up?" I asked nonchalant like because I was unaware that you were doing that.

"He pulled himself up."

Well. Okay then. You do that now, too.

I'm not surprised. You'd almost done it several times this morning. I just wasn't aware you were going to master every single thing in the span of a week.

I mentioned the dog before. Now that you can move, the two of you are becoming fast friends. She continues to think that you are a viable option for ball throwing and continues to forget that you steal her ball and keep it for yourself. Today, you were on all fours staring at her and she was on all fours staring at you. She is a very vocal dog and she "growled" (which is really a very noisy groan) and wagged her tail frantically. You grunted in return. This went on for a solid minute. Her groaning, you grunting. Back and forth. Then she smeared your face with a fantastic lick and walked away.

This past month you and I flew to California for a long weekend. You were as magnetic on the plane as you are everywhere else we go. A dozen people--from two rows in front of us to the row behind us--were all busy trying to be the one to make you smile. You were giving them liberally and, Will, your smile is just the absolute best. The Lord has blessed you with joy and it radiates out of you like sunbeams.

I could not have told anyone, three years ago, that what I needed was a third son. But here you are, being one of the very best things that has ever happened to me. I'm sad that you're getting so big so fast, but whenever I feel your little heart beating, or listen to the sound of your breath, I am so happy that you are living and growing and thriving.

Thank you for being you and for being here, in my home and in my heart. You are larger than life and I can't wait to see what God does through you. But take your time, Baby. You don't have to grow up quite so fast.

I love you big.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Just One Dollar Campaign

I am passionate about adoption.

I am an adoptive parent.

But I want to be more than that. I want to be an advocate. I want to see other people realize their dream of adoption. I want to see the church stepping up to provide homes for babies and children. Not all are called to bring children into their homes, but all are called to care for orphans.

What does orphan care look like today? I believe it looks like helping any child in need of a home. To work on their behalf. To give on their behalf. To love on their behalf.

Last year, I began to feel strongly about the fact that I needed to be more proactive in helping others adopt. Unfortunately, my funds are limited and I cannot just write someone a check for $30,000. I researched creating an adoption grant named after Kate so that her short little life could continue impacting others. Turns out, there is A LOT of financial backing involved and one does not simply create a grant.

But I deeply desire to help others bring children into their homes.

And, over these past few months, I have been made aware of a story in the making...

My friend, Bree, grew up in the town I came from and went to my church--until her family moved across the country when she was a teenager. Her and her husband have a beautiful daughter and are hoping to add to their family through adoption. You can see their page here: Bryan & Bree. I feel led to do whatever I can to help them. Personally, this means making regular donations to their adoption fund at Adopt Together. But I want to do more.

Here's where you can come in. And I so hope and pray that you will. When we began raising money to adopt Kate, we started the Just One Dollar Campaign. We asked our friends and family to send us just one dollar, share our story and pray. Some people sent more. In no time, a modern day miracle had taken place and we had raised nearly $18,000. We lost Kate but the money raised helped us bring home her brother.

If our adoption journey has encouraged you, challenged you, or brought you joy, I would love if you would consider donating a dollar or $2.50 or $20 or $100 or $500 to my friend's adoption fund. By donating through Adopt Together, your contributions are tax deductible. I believe, like our miracle story with Kate and Will, that enough people giving one dollar can make a huge difference.

I have always said that if God calls you to adopt, He will provide.

If your life has been touched by adoption, if you have adopted and been the recipient of the generosity of others, if our story has meant anything to you, PLEASE give. Truly, JUST ONE DOLLAR makes a big difference.

When you donate on Bryan and Bree's adoption page, you have the option to leave a comment. I cannot fund a grant in Kate's name. However, if you choose to give as a result of what Kate's story has meant to you, I would love it if you wrote Bryan and Bree a note of encouragement or prayer and, if you feel so led, to write that you are making the donation in memory of Kate Bassham. Because it was Kate who gave me the idea to start the Just One Dollar Campaign in the first place.

We can fund this adoption. Together. Please, please join me.

Please pray and share this post. Thank you, in advance, for your incredible generosity.

You can also click on the button in the top right corner of this page to be taken directly to Bryan and Bree's page.