Friday, November 15, 2013

Feeding a Four-Year-Old: the Most Impossible of Tasks

At Atticus's parent/teacher conference last week, his teachers showed concern over the fact that Atticus has not once been willing to eat the snack that is offered at school.  When they asked him what kind of snacks he eats at home, he answered, "Chinese broccoli."  (Last year when his teacher ran into the same issue and asked the same question, he answered, "Paneer.")

We do not eat Chinese broccoli and paneer as snacks in our house.  I promise.  And I know both of those foods are nutritious and a sign of good food management on our part.

But here's my problem.  The kid won't eat but a small handful of foods and it is driving me insane.  I have tried everything to introduce (a nice word for literally trying to force down his throat) diversity into his diet, but it's not happening.  And surely, yes, we could argue that Chinese broccoli and paneer are diverse and they are, but I mean diverse variety.

I have tried everything.  I am at my wit's end.  Here is the list of what I have to work with:


String Cheese
Flat Cheese (Colby Slices)
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Plain Spaghetti Noodles
Turkey Bacon
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Tenders
French Fries
Graham Crackers
Chinese Broccoli
Indian Potatoes
Garlic Naan
Sticky Chips (Chips and Cheese)
Celery and Carrots with Dip
Peanut Butter
Soft Pretzels
Pretzels and Chips
Carrot Fruit Smoothie

What I have listed here is the entire list of food my four-year-old son is willing to eat.  Okay, not entire. I did not include the myriad of sweets he is willing to eat as those are many and not the point.  This list is literally every food I have to choose from when making his three meals a day.  Notice, while peanut butter and cheese are on this list, bread is not.

And maybe this list looks long to you, but please consider that three times a day, seven days a week equals 21 meals a week, not including snacks.  Also, please note what is not on this list:  pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, lunch meat, bread, spaghettios, meatballs, bologna, pretty much any other food a kid will normally eat …

Please.  I beg you.  Any suggestions?  I have tried the following:

1.  Only served the food that the adults in the house are eating and waited for hunger to do its job.  (NOTE: It is a lie when they say children will not let themselves starve.)

2.  Hidden new foods in foods he approves.  (NOTE: My son is very smart and very particular and head-bangingly stubborn.)

3.  Bribed him with treats or iPod time or toys.  (NOTE: Somewhat limited and positive results.)

4.  Screamed at him.  (NOTE: This never feels good or right, but in the moment …)

5.  Sent him to his room.  (NOTE: Our current strategy, and by strategy I mean what I'm doing to avoid a real come-to-Jesus moment with him).

Suggestions?  Advice?  Offers to reprogram him?  Is every kid like this?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Problem with Writing Memory

I just finished a really great read, Annie's Ghost, by Steve Luxenberg.  The book follows Luxenberg's  search to find out about the sister his mother hid from her family her whole life.  A few weeks before his mother dies, she reveals the sister to a social worker who then mentions her to the family.  All are shocked.  

As a writer and journalist and son, Luxenberg takes on the awesome task of trying to uncover the sister Annie's story.  This involves a thorough investigation into the mental health system in Michigan, particularly focusing on the city/asylum called Eloise in Detroit.

Here's an interesting paragraph that nicely crystallizes the essential problem with writing nonfiction, particularly distant histories:

(Anna, in this paragraph, is a cousin who knew his mom's secret about Annie, the hidden sister):

"This is a case history of the difficulty with reconstructing long ago events, of the intricate patters of trouble caused by time and memory.  Here I am, reinterpreting my mother's life, trying to replace the distorted picture that I grew up believing with the part that had been airbrushed out, and now I have two versions of this key moment when Mom is declaring her desire for secrecy.  While I have no doubts about the crux of Anna's story -- I know, after all, that Mom did keep the secret -- which version comes closest to how Mom actually expressed that desire?  Was she elliptical and polite, "I would appreciate it …," as Anna's first version suggests?  Or did she issue the equivalent of an ultimatum, "Anna, you are welcome in my house only if …," as her second version implies?  And even if Mom's exact words had been imprinted somehow in Anna's memory, what about Mom's inflection,her demeanor, her body language?  Was she stern, or sad, or nervous, or demanding -- None of the above?  All of the above?  -- when she branded Annie as a taboo subject in her house?

Those nuances lie beyond my reach.  I cannot wrest them, undistilled or unvarnished, from Anna's memory.  Fifty years later, this is the best my cousin can do."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Flat Stanley in Northern Virginia!

The time for Flat Stanley's summer adventures to end has come and he couldn't have ended it in a more amazing way.  Flat Stanley went to Northern Virginia to visit Uncle Zach and Aunt Natalie and he had some major, major adventures with them.  He even got to meet Eula Biss!  Thank you, Natalie, for making that happen!  And thank you, Eula Biss, for being so game!  We really appreciate it!

Flat Stanley Visits Northern VA/DC!

When Flat Stanley arrived, it was pretty hot out, so that weekend, Labor Day weekend, we took advantage of the last breath of summer by going for a hike along the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park. Flat Stanley bravely sat right on the edge and when we looked way down at the river, we even saw a few kayakers out in the rough water!

After the holiday weekend, it was back to work for me, but Flat Stanley really wanted to come along. He chilled with the freshpeople in my composition class at American University. They really loved Flat Stanley and were happy to have him there—I even got them to say “pickles!” when I took the picture. Right after class, we went to have dinner with other professors and with our visiting Writer as Witness, Eula Biss. As I told her about you and Flat Stanley, she was very interested and was happy to take a picture with him. She thinks her four-year-old little boy would like him, too. Flat Stanley also went to the reading Eula gave after dinner, but we were too busy note-taking to take pictures.

The following night, Zach, Miles, Flat Stanley, and I thought we’d head to the National Mall in DC since we had not yet checked it out at night. Unfortunately, Flat Stanley got to experience DC traffic. It took us 40 minutes to drive 4 miles! So, finally at the mall, we were drawn to the Washington Monument, which is under construction right now. You should see it—it is covered, even the pointy top, in so much metal scaffolding so that the workers can climb up high and fix what was broken by the earthquake a few years ago. But because they are working on it for the next while, they’ve lit it up! So there it is, lighting up the mall like a giant honeycomb.

We stopped briefly at the World War 2 Memorial because Flat Stanley wanted to take a picture with your new home state of Indiana represented in name because some WW2 soldiers were from that state. At the Lincoln Memorial, Zach stayed by the reflecting pool with Miles while Flat Stanley and I climbed up up up the stairs to see the huge statue of President Abraham Lincoln. A very nice lady took our picture and said that Flat Stanley was very handsome! She really liked his orange shirt.

We thought Flat Stanley was done with his adventures with us, but he wanted to stay a little bit longer. Do you know why? Well, it’s because it was opening night of the new football season, so he wanted to stick around and watch the Ravens play the Broncos. Based on Flat Stanley’s choice of color in clothing, I think he thought it natural to root for the Broncos, but don’t tell your dad!

Hiking at Great Falls Park - What a View! 
Getting an education with students at American University 
Flat Stanley gets to meet Eula Biss!!
Look at all those cars, Flat Stanley.  Way to keep a happy face through all that DC traffic!
Flat Stanley with Aunt Natalie and Miley Moo!  Hey, Pups!
Flat Stanley pays respects at the wall of his new home state, Indiana at the WWII Memorial.
Hanging out with my people, Aunt Natalie and Lincoln
Broncos?  Shoot, I thought you said Browns.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

DIY Coffee Table Reno

If you watch a lot of HGTV, and believe me, I pretty much max out on it on a daily basis, then you've probably considered a thousand ways you could improve your living space with a can of paint and some wipe-on poly.  If you're like me, you probably also think you could totally take on a kitchen reno.    You probably even call it a reno because you're totally in the know like that.

I haven't taken a rubber hammer to any kitchen cabinets yet, but I did buy a really beautiful coffee table off of Craigslist and I painted it and even used wipe-on poly.  So this is all to say, I'm feeling a little boss right now.  Here's my before and after.

BEFORE.  It's not bad.  I like the white, but I don't understand why the top is untouched.  And these drawer knobs remind me of pointy nipples.

AFTER.  I painted and poly-ed and re-knobbed.  It's a soft green.  Maybe softer than I wanted, but I'll probably be glad I didn't go with a bright, trendy teal in the long run.
All in all.  Very pleased.  Can't wait to see it in my own space (as we are still at my folks' waiting for our rental house to be ready).  Ah.  Personal expression via furniture and familiar coffee cups.  There's nothing like it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Flat Stanley in Chicagoland!


It was time for Flat Stanley to leave the South and hit the big city, so we sent him to our good friend, Vicki Rakowski.  

Four things to know about Vicki: 1) She's nutso good at karaoke, 2) She's been referred to as Mary Poppins for her uncanny ability with children, 3) She can quote just about all of "The Breakfast Club," and 4) She knows her way around a pirate joke.  So clearly, she just plain rules.  We're all a little jealous Flat Stanley got to go spend time with her.  

In her own words, Vicki describes Flat Stanley's visit:

"Greetings from across the lake! I had a lot of fun with Flat Stanley this week. I live in Brookfield now, which is a suburb  west of the city of Chicago. This is an area I did not know very well before, even though I've lived about a 10 to 20 minute drive away from it for most of my life! But Brookfield is very cool -- there are lots of great places to ride your bike, have a bite to eat and there's even a huge zoo! In fact, the zoo is not too far from my house, so I guess you could say my neighbors are zoo animals.

For my adventure with Flat Stanley, we decided to go to the Art Institute of Chicago. Stanley came with me on my first train ride on the Metra BNSF line, which stands for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. There is a station right down the street from my house, and the train lets you off in downtown Chicago. Stanley and I walked to the Art Institute so we could look at an exhibit with my friend Alex. Pretty fun! I think Flat Stanley had a good time on his visit to Chicago, and I know I had fun showing him a little bit about where I live!"

Flat Stanley rides the train!

Flat Stanley does the Art Institute!

Thank you for sharing so much culture and adventure with Flat Stanley, Vicki!  We're very grateful and also hopeful that we might be able to make our own trip to see you some time this fall. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Flat Stanley in Oxford, Georgia

Oxford, Georgia!

Flat Stanley continues his Southern tour with a trip to our friends, the Riegers, in Oxford, Georgia.  Oxford is a small town about thirty miles outside of Atlanta and is home to about 2000 people.  The Dukes of Hazzard filmed its opening credits jump on the grounds of Oxford College in Oxford.  Whoah!  Thanks for taking such good care of Flat Stanley, friends!  We're hoping to come see you all and Baby Mae in the next year.

Flat Stanley had to undergo surgery while in Oxford.  Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Sam, Flat Stanley has a new foot.  (Note the band-aid).  Thanks, Dr. Sam!  Stanley loves his new foot!  He can run really fast now!

Sam and Flat Stanley play with sidewalk chalk.

Flat Stanley has a sleepover with Sammy.  Hey, Sammy!  Atticus has that same pillow!

Before foot surgery.   It'll be okay, lil' buddy!

Go Vols!

Porch time with the Samster and the Mattster

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Flat Stanley in Knoxville!


The adventures of Flat Stanley continue in Knoxville, Tennesee where he spent time with the Mohr Family on Shannon Lane.  Atticus was especially excited to send Flat Stanley here as it is one of the most fun houses he ever spent time in.  Plus, we all miss the Mohrs like crazy.  Flat Stanley's so lucky to go there!

Knoxville, Tennessee was the home of the last World's Fair in 1982.  The Sunsphere was built for the 1982 World's Fair and is 266 feet tall and has 26 stories.  Knoxville is home to both the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Most importantly, Atticus was born in Knoxville.  It may be hot in the summer, but in our hearts, Knoxville is just perfectly warm and cozy.

Flat Stanley rides with one of our favorite people, Carter Bear.  We miss you, Carter Bear!

Flat Stanley poses with the lovely Andrea in front of their home on Shannon Lane.

Hanging out in the garden with Brett's finger.

Flat Stanley earns his keep by helping Brett mow.  Good work, Flat Stanley!

Flat Stanley rides in Carter Bear's sweet ride.  Atticus said, "What's he doing in there?  He doesn't know how to drive."

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Adventures of Flat Stanley, Summer 2013

Atticus read the book Flat Stanley at the beginning of this summer.  In the book, a bulletin board falls on Flat Stanley while he is sleeping, flattening him, but not hurting him in any way.  He learns all the fun things he can do since he is as flat as a sheet of paper, like being put in an envelope to travel to California.  We decided to continue Flat Stanley's travels and send him around to visit some of our friends. 

Flat Stanley's first trip was to Kalamazoo, Michigan to visit Rachel Swearingen and John Balbach.  Kalamazoo, Michigan is in southwest Michigan and is home to Western Michigan University.  It is famous for Bell's Brewery and was once called Celery City for its production of celery.  Kalamazoo is also where Michael and I met, so it's a fitting place for Flat Stanley to start his adventures.  Thank you, John and Rachel, for showing Flat Stanley such a great time!


Flat Stanley spends the day at Kalamazoo College

Flat Stanley waits for his turn to dance

Rachel teaches Flat Stanley the Foxtrot

Flat Stanley's next adventure finds him all the way down in Austin, Texas where he visited Cindy St. John.  Aunt Cindy took Flat Stanley for some really great adventures!  Austin is home to the largest urban bat population in the U.S.  It is called the Live Music Capital of the World and is host to the annual film and music festival, South by Southwest.  Its population is roughly around 760,000 and growing!

Flat Stanley is having breakfast tacos at Curras in South Austin.  He got one with potato, egg and cheese and one with veggie chorizo, egg and cheese.  He had a hard time finishing them though because he ate too many chips and salsa.

Flat Stanley is trying on cowboy boots at Allen's Boots off South Congress.  He liked the Luccheses.

Flat Stanley is taking a break chilling under a giant agave.

Aunt Cindy and Flat Stanley love Atticus so much!

Stay tuned for Flat Stanley's next big adventure!  Rumor has it he will be stopping in at Shannon Lane in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Have fun and be safe, Flat Stanley.  Don't forget your sunscreen!