Thursday, March 10, 2016

Seeing Green

The good news is, my son is definitely NOT color blind.  Wyatt can spot the tiniest speck of any green vegetable, no matter how carefully disguised, and once it's been located, that's it.  He won't eat it. I was telling Jayna recently that I preferred he had spaghetti instead of mac'n'cheese because at least he was getting some vegetables.

"Vegetables?" she repeated.

"Yeah, the tomatoes in the sauce."

"There's not really much there, Mom."  She thought for a second, probably picturing the hefty pile of Parmesan I add to his spaghetti, and said, "So, by this logic, I guess cheese pizza also has vegetables?"

"Yes," I said.  I mean, obviously.

"But wait," she said, "aren't tomatoes actually fruit?"

Ugh.  Technicalities.

And anyway, she's not one to judge.  When she was just a little younger than him, and I was pregnant with Skyler, we used to read Franklin's Baby Sister.  Franklin's mom (a turtle, mind you) was expecting a baby, and Franklin would ask every day if it was time for the baby to come.  His mother would pat her tummy (again, no idea why) and say, "Not yet, but soon!"  Jayna loved this book, despite the questionable science.  We read it at least once a day.  

However, she too hated vegetables.  I remember one night sitting at the dinner table for ages one night because she had a mouthful of broccoli tucked into her cheek that she refused to swallow.  I didn't want her running around with food in her mouth, and since I had only one child, I could afford the wait.  But my patience ran out after about forty-five minutes and in total exasperation, I said, "JAYNA!  WHEN?! Are you going to swallow that bite of broccoli?!"

She looked at me with her big blue eyes and the little bulge of broccoli in her cheek, and answered in the sweetest voice, "Not yet, but soon!"

I don't normally completely despair of my son's dietary habits because he eats a lot of fruit.  I'm afraid I'm going to jinx myself by writing this, but he eats apples, pears, oranges, and bananas, and frozen blueberries by the bagful.  And blueberries are a superfood, right?

But the other night, after having major success last night getting him to eat some cauliflower curry, I decided I would reintroduce him to my good friend, broccoli.  I put a small morsel -- maybe half a Wyatt-mouthful -- onto his plate as I was serving his dinner and said, "Tonight I want you to have just this tiny bite of broccoli."  Before I had even set the plate before him, that broccoli had bounced back into the serving dish.  I barely even saw the blur that was his hand tossing it back.

"No, come on.  You can do it," I insisted, fishing the same piece out and plopping it onto his plate.  "It's tiny."  Back in the dish.  I served him again.  "Just one little bite."  Dish.  "Please." Dish.  "Pretend you're a brachiosaurus, and this is a tree." Back in the dish.  That poor broccoli was like a tennis ball at Wimbledon bouncing between his plate and the serving bowl. "I heard pirates really like broccoli.  Pretend you're a pirate."  I know, I'm the BIGGEST LIAR.  But it didn't work anyway.

Finally, Matt said (in his stern daddy voice), "Wyatt, keep that on your plate or eat it."  And so there it stayed until he had eaten the rest of his no veggie (not even by my standards) dinner, and it was lying on his plate all by its lonesome when he hopped up, ready to watch a movie with Lilly.

"Nope," I said, "you're not excused until you've eaten your dinner.  ALL. OF. IT."

He made a face and a sound of utter despair. My kids have a flare for the dramatic.  (No idea where that comes from.)  

Then a lightbulb came on in my head.  I remembered playing "baby sea otter" as we walked around the neighborhood the night before -- he jogged along beside us, using his "big swimming arms" because he was an otter swimming in the ocean and didn't complain at all about being tired or ask to ride in the stroller that he's now way too big for.

"Hey, Wyatt," I said, "pretend this you're a baby sea otter, and this is your clam."  I tore off the tiniest chunk from the already-small stalk of broccoli.  It was maybe the size of a pea, I'm not kidding.  "Just be a baby sea otter and try this much, and then you can go." 

Sure enough, those were the magic words.  He brought his two hands close to his chest, clutching that tiny, teeny piece of broccoli, just like those adorable otters.  In fact, that's what we all said -- "Ooooh, that's just adorable!" -- because he really likes it when we say that.  He grinned his dimply grin lifted the broccoli, if it could still be called that in such a minute amount, just in front of his mouth.  We were all watching him, holding our breath.  Would he do it?  Would he actually eat that microscopic bit of broccoli?!  He licked it.  He made a face.  

"Come on, Wyatt....!!!" My voice was tense but eager.  "Just pop it in your mouth and be done with it!"  This was serious white knuckle intensity, the kind you don't get from any Hollywood popcorn flick.  Trust me.

Finally... FINALLY! He put the broccoli in his mouth.  And promptly gagged.  I was staring at him, mentally willing that broccoli into his digestive system, but I heard a low moan from Matt, "Noooooo....."  My little guy has the strongest gag reflex, and it looked for a split second like everything was going to come back up.

But he fought past it!  Oh yes he did! He chewed!  He swallowed!  Angels sang!  We cheered!  

He declared, "Mmm!  That was good!" and gagged again for good measure.  

"So that's just gratuitous gagging," Matt commented as we all sighed happily and wiped the sweat from our brows and got up from our seats.  Some of us may have even brushed a happy tear off our cheeks.  And for a second, I seriously considered trying to get him to finish the rest of that little stalk of broccoli.  "Do you want some more?" I asked Wyatt.

"Nononononono!" He shook his head and waved his hands vigorously in front of him.

I decided not to push it any further.  I'm slowly learning, after more than sixteen years of motherhood, that you can guide your kids a lot -- and you should definitely try to shape them into kind, polite, compassionate people who recycle and make their own beds just because they enjoy a tidy room and even eat their vegetables. But ultimately, these are things they have to decide to do on their own.  With a huge helping of immeasurable grace, it can happen, too.

One tiny speck of a green vegetable was in Wyatt's stomach, along with the rest of his dinner.  (*praise hands!*)  And I hope and pray that someday, preferably before he's an adult, he'll be able to eat broccoli without having to pretend he's a baby sea otter.  It could make for some awkward first dates if he doesn't.

And after all, blueberries are a super food.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Big Impact Books 2015

It's not the easiest thing in the world to read as much as I'd like to these days.  Between homeschooling and having/ feeding five kids, there's not much reading I do just for myself.  True story: when I read The Help several years ago, which for me was a book I quite literally couldn't put down, I kept sneaking into the bathroom to read "just another page or two" because I figured that was the only place I could get some alone time.  Finally, as I sat there on the lid of the closed toilet, Jayna knocked and asked if I was feeling all right.  I realized I'd tiptoed off to the bathroom a couple dozen times that day, and I had to 'fess up.

(**That was the olden days.  These days, everyone barges right in -- because you can unlock the bathroom door with a coin, which is a good or bad thing, depending on who is in there -- or bangs on the door till I come out.)

So it's hard to get time for just reading, but I try to read when I can.  It's what I do rather than watch TV.  So I managed to read several books last year, and while I'm not going to do full reviews of all of them, I thought it would be fun to talk about a few of the ones that had the biggest impact on me.

One of the very first books I read last year, as part of my desire to figure out "enough-ness" was Ruth Soukup's Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life.
This was sort of memoir/ how-to, and I found it very interesting and inspiring.  Some of these "secrets" are "The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is" and "Contentment Is A Choice" and "Less Stuff Equals More Joy".  I had only just found out who Soukup was when I read this book, but if you've spent much time on this blog, you probably know these are topics that resounded with me.  

It took me most of the year to employ some of these suggestions, but when I think about where I am right now versus where I was a year ago, and the increased sense of satisfaction in my life, I think of this book and am grateful for it.

Honestly, non-fiction is, in general, an easier choice for me these days because it is usually much easier to put down when I need to instead of locking myself in the bathroom to get some reading time.

But the fiction book I read last year that I think I enjoyed the most and also thought about the longest after was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.
The premise, if you haven't read it, is Alice has an accident at the gym and hits her head, and when she comes to, she can't remember anything from the past decade.  So she's baffled by her kids, and can't comprehend why she and her husband, whom she's madly in love with, are separated.  

Matt and I often have a discussion about if we've really changed since we started dating over twenty years ago (gasp!) and how.  While this book was very entertaining, I read it with kind of an ache in my chest, imagining what it would be like for me in Alice's shoes.  As she was remembering their past, I felt like I was reading actual conversations we've had (especially during their home renovation, since we've done that twice).  And while it's very definitely fiction, not a marriage enrichment book, there were some important take-aways.  First off, the details matter in marriage.  It's the little things like the tone you take with each other, the commitment to make time for just your marriage, how you talk about each other in front of friends, and so on.  These are the issues that can end up being make-or-break factors in a marriage. 

And also, it takes both of you to make it work.  At the beginning, Moriarty makes it seem as though the marital strife is all his fault, which of course is how someone who can't remember the past ten years would see it.  But as the story unfolds, she makes a very convincing case for how the marriage was in shambles because of both of them.  Maybe it could even be argued that it was more Alice's fault.  It was a story that stuck with me and challenged my thinking.

I also read Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life's Transitions by Kristen Strong.
Yes, non-fiction again.  Strong's background is that she is the wife of an Air Force officer, and she's moved several times, so I could definitely relate!  She uncovers some biblical truths and closes each chapter with a prayer that had me going, Yup, this is for me!  It's not the kind of book I think you can read just once and be done with, so I recommend buying rather than checking it out of the library.  I will keep going back to it for reference, I'm sure, especially with some of the changes I see coming in the next few years.

I kind of think THE book EVERYONE talked about last year was Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Now, first let me say that after being misguided to a few books because I read just the positive reviews, I started reading the one- and two-start reviews on Amazon, and if I felt like the critiques made sense, I didn't waste my time/ money.  And I have to say, the negative reviews of this book resounded with me to the point that I avoided it for a long time.  

But I finally bought it (the wait at the library was too long), and truth be told, I didn't hate it!  In fact, there are several people I know and love that I want to give it to!  I don't feel like it was truly "life-changing" for me personally because I'd already started employing a sort of "does it spark joy?" mantra in relation to my stuff long before I read it -- and as a result, rather mercilessly purged.

Here's what I liked about it: Kondo doesn't have a prescribed "number" to apply to your stuff.  So many other authors say have this many books, or that many clothes, or whatever.  But Kondo's method is more about what works for you personally -- what truly sparks joy for you.  I'm afraid that some people I know with what I would call hoarding issues/ too much clutter or stuff think it all sparks joy, though... 

The criticisms about the author being, well, crazy are, in my opinion, maybe a misunderstanding.  Maybe.  Maybe it's just me and my tendency to think the wrong things are hilarious, but... I think some of what she says was meant to be funny, but the tone got lost in translation (because the book was originally written in Japanese).  I just read the stuff about socks having feelings, etc., and I laughed and thought, "That's a good one, Marie."  But the gist behind it is, if you want your belongings to treat you well, you need to take care of them.  That makes sense, right?

There are many books I read, and more I'd like to say about them, but this is a start.  So tell me.  What books did you read in 2015 that had the biggest impact on you and why?  What are you reading now?