New favorite site

I’m a stickler for product reviews. I don’t care how cool and flashy something is, aesthetics mean nothing if there’s little function behind it (exception given to shoes). My entire life might as well be sponsored by Consumer Reports.

I came across the The Sweet Home‘s website, and I’m in heaven. It’s the poor man’s Consumer Reports, and more importantly, it’s free.

Their focus is homewares, which is great because I have a home. It’s a win-win.

On a random note, I’m thinking about deprecating this blog. Now that my kids are getting older there’s not a whole lot for me to babble about in terms of products and life as a new mom.

Baking weekend

Trader Joe's, great. The customers: need a good punch in the face.

Trader Joe’s: great. These customers: need a good punch in the face.

Holiday weekends means more cooking for Dahlia. Although I went easy and made stuff that I would eat too. What did I discover? Dahlia doesn’t like sweet foods. She’s a savory girl at heart. So while most of these were delicious, she didn’t care for them.

Zucchini Bread: now this isn’t something all that revolutionary, I just wanted to finally make a recipe and keep it instead of searching online every time I need to make this. I didn’t want one with a cup of oil in it. We fed this to Dean years ago at my parents’ house and called it Optimus Prime cake. Since then though it’s been hit or miss whether he’ll eat it (I also don’t make it that often because grating zucchini is a pain, even with a food processor). This recipe is a good go-to staple though.

Carrot Cake Cookies: my attempt to sneak in carrots into both kids diets. Dean however wanted nothing to do with them because he could see the chunks of carrots. He’ll eat carrots, one of the few vegetables he’ll consume, but with his low muscle tone his mouth fatigues after eating 2 small baby carrots. It’s a great recipe, tasted good to me.

Banana Bread: I love me some good banana bread. Hate bananas…love banana bread. This one doesn’t call for any oil (just 2 tablespoons of melted butter). I doubled the recipe but kept just the 2tbsp of butter and it worked out great. I made one with chocolate chips and one without. Of course Dahlia didn’t care for it, we’ll see if Dean will give it a whirl. This is my new go-to recipe for banana bread.

Carrot, zucchini and parsnip frittata fingers: I used scallions instead of shallots because i had those on hand and pureed the veggies after cookies them to make them easier for Dahlia to eat. Girl loves eggs and cheese so these went well, although she wouldn’t feed them herself.

This weekend I went nuts at Trader Joe’s, a shop that I loathe going to not because of the store itself but because of the customers who shop there. I seriously f*cking hate Trader Joe’s customer base, but I wanted to branch out with some different cuisines for Dahlia without having to constantly whip up things from scratch. Plus I get turned off pretty easily by anything that has quinoa in it, so I figured I might as well let the good hippie food experts at TJs make it for me. They have faux street signs hanging off posts saying things like “Beach” or “Sea” or “Mission Viejo”, one guy started telling his wife/girlfriend/tortured-partner “that shouldn’t read ‘mission vee-ay-ho’, it should say ‘mission vee-ay-HAA'”. I’m pretty sure my eye roll was audible.

I fed Dahlia their Spelt Risotto and she inhaled it. I couldn’t find it in a search, I’ll update when I get home to remember the name. They don’t mess around when it comes to their sides, she also loves their creamy polenta with spinach and carrots.

On the other hand, on a whim I bought a f*cking overpriced bag of seasoned kale chips, figuring again that TJs would make anything better than I could make. I was wrong. Because what I would make is a bag of Ruffles. I actually got Dean to try one before I had a chance, now the poor kid will never trust me again. You have no idea how hard it is to get him to try new things. It was AWFUL. F*CK YOU KALE CHIPS. Anyone who ever tells me “ohhh kale chips are soooooooooo gooooood” will get my fist in their teeth.

Adventures in toddler cooking

Because a Superbowl weekend post deserves a Superbowl Shark image.

Because a Superbowl weekend post deserves a Superbowl Shark image.

I think I will forever be in awe of Dahlia’s eating habits.

Last week in the time it took Dean to eat 1 chicken nugget (approximately 30 minutes with much nagging on my part) she ate 2 nuggets on her own, her entire baby puree dinner, and a crap ton of crackers. I actually need to start being careful, because after she’s done dinner I tend to throw her random snacks to keep her entertained while I take another 45 minutes to get Dean to finish eating.

With Dean, since I never progressed beyond making homemade baby purees, I never learned the art of making toddler/kid’s food. I make the odd thing like zucchini bread but not your transitional finger foods. Not only was I renting a ghetto house with zero kitchen space, plus I was burnt out from making purees for way longer than most people should, but it was just such a waste…hours of prepping/cooking only to have him cry and reject it. He was doing so much therapy and i needed to have food available for that, so it became much more economical and practical to just keep things like pre-packaged meatballs or pizza bites in the therapy place.

Additionally, I’ve pretty much given up on cooking for my husband and I. I’m SO OVER Lean Cuisine. That damn kitchen in that ghetto house, ugh. I had enough prep space to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And since moving to our current house, all of my efforts have gone into trying to get Dean to eat that I end up scrambling to make myself toast for dinner (my husband isn’t home for dinner M-F).

Time to change now that Dahlia’s eating like a real person. This weekend I made french toast for breakfast. She inhaled it. I think I’ve made french toast once in the past 5 years, which was probably in an attempt to get Dean to eat it (which most likely failed, then I just stopped making it).

This weekend I went balls-in making a bunch of toddler recipes, thanks to Pinterest.

Iron-Rich Toddler Meatballs: these were so-so. Dahlia ate them, but they were pretty bland.

Sweet Coconut Butternut Squash Soup: holy crap, this was amazing. SO good. Not really a “toddler food” since it’s soup, I would have introduced this months ago if I had found it sooner. I doubled the cumin and skipped the shaved coconut. Oh and I just dumped all the ingredients in, instead of following the instructions that divided everything up (and it worked fine). Last time I made butternut squash soup I vowed never to make it again because cutting butternut squash is a bitch, but it was worth it. And really, I should have used my head and just bought frozen pre-cut squash anyway.

Sweet Potato and Kale Balls: Ugh, no. Just no. The kale was dry and the whole thing was just meh. Dahlia spit them out. And i don’t blame her.

More veggie-filled meatballs: this was a total win. I substituted spinach for the kale i had leftover from the above recipe. I processed the kale and the green pepper beforehand to make them teenie for biting later. Very very flavorful. Dahlia hasn’t tried them yet but worst case, my husband will eat them. I didn’t make the marinara sauce since I just wanted them to be stuff for her to try to eat on her own.

Sweet potato chickpea patties: I really, really was excited for these but they turned out to be a fail. I think mostly on my part though. In my former cooking years, I generally cooked things that were low-fat, so I’m not an expert on frying things. They just fell apart. Eventually I was like “f*ck this” and just popped it all in a casserole dish, figuring it would be like an Indian potato casserole. It definitely needed the fat though and the dipping sauce. Dahlia wasn’t keen on it until I randomly mashed it up with some creamy cottage cheese. So…if you’re a pro at frying,this would be great.

In a weird way I get kind of emotional cooking for Dahlia. As a mother you’re taught that your job is to feed and nourish your child, right from the moment they’re born and they smush their faces into your boobs. Because I stopped cooking food from scratch for Dean, I stopped taking it personally if he rejected anything I made. Now that I’m making things fresh for Dahlia, I try not to have any expectations of her liking them. There’s definitely a wave of happiness that goes over me to see her actually open her mouth for more servings of something that I made.

I’m probably boring any readers to tears over my gushing about how easy it is to feed a child without Sensory Processing Disorder (also Selective Eating Disorder). Last night I got lazy and opened a can of lower-sodium turkey chili, microwaved, she ate some.

 

Simple.

Review: Bottles, sippy cups, and other beverage containers

Since the title of this blog is “BottleTales” (because “AdventuresInRaisingAChildWhenIHaveNoIdeaWTFImDoing.com seemed too long), and now that I’ve got the experience of two kids under my belt, I figure a good ol’ simple review of the bottles and cups I’ve used in the past 4 years are in order.

I did a post years ago on bottles, but here’s my updated thoughts to include sippy cups.

Playtex Drop In Bottles

Hands-down, the best. Definitely not the cheapest option, but if you’re a pumping working mom, you ain’t got time to wash a sh*t ton of bottle parts. The bottles now are much more fancy-pants than when I started with Dean, but the gist is the same: a nipple, a ring, an empty tube that you stuff what looks like a condom into. When you’re done, you just toss the liner and wash the nipple. Target sells their own brand of bottle liners, around $8 for 100. Worth every penny. These are also great when flying all day when you’re not in a position to wash bottles. I used to carry a ziplock full of liners and another ziplock with a few nipples. When you get to your destination you also won’t need a bottle brush to clean your bottles.

Avent Classic Bottles

When I had Dean, I wasn’t a fan of these bottles. But then I scored a bunch of them at some giveaway and they have improved on them considerably, mostly by the introduction of a ring that helps reduce leaks. While I’m not a fan of washing additional parts (as noted in my above laziness with the Playtex bottles), these have been a handy staple for my diaper bag. I haven’t needed a sealing disk to stop them from leaking, which is factor #1 when carrying bottles in a diaper bag.

Contigo Strike

Absolutely fantastic for preschoolers, this was recommended to me by Dean’s teacher. She said it was her favorite, hands-down, because of it’s lack of leaking. The downsides: a ton of parts to wash, a bit big (lunch boxes aren’t exactly spacious), and it’s difficult for Dean to close with his weak hand muscles. This thing is a tank though and perfect if you need something that won’t leak.

Thermos FOOGO Straw Bottles

This is my 2nd-favorite bottle for preschool lunches. It takes a bit to figure out how to close it without causing the straw to tilt (causing leaks), I do sometimes open up Dean’s lunchbox to find liquid everywhere on occasion. It’s great for diaper bags though (i.e. when you’re there to make sure it’s being closed properly). It’s also really easy for Dean to open/close with his hand strength. I think it’s Dahlia’s favorite cup  now too.

Born Free Straw Cup

Love, love, love this cup. It’s my go-to for my diaper bag when we go out for the day. It’s too big for preschool lunch boxes but because it can hold so much liquid (and it’s not very heavy), it’s perfect for the side pocket of my bag. It rarely, if ever, leaks.

Gerber Graduates Cup

When we slowly transitioned Dean away from the traditional sippy cup (it was really impacting his tongue movement and speech), we used this as an alternative. It doesn’t leak since it has a valve but it wasn’t a perfect solution for his lunch boxes…sometimes the valve wasn’t in tight enough, fall out, then leak everywhere. I do think it’s a great cup to have around the house or for your diaper bag, but not for preschool lunches.

Munchkin Flip Top Whatever It’s Called Straw Cup

I f*cking hate this cup. It’s easy to clean, but the straw is impossible to suck anything out of. I get that all these cups have valves and things to avoid leaking but you might as well give a stick to your child and tell them to suck milk out of it. I ended up having to shove a thin knife in it to try and open it but it’s still a total pain in my ass. I only paid two bucks for it, but it was two bucks I could have spent on lip balm instead.

 

On another note, cleaning straws is a total bitch. It doesn’t take much for milk to solidify into nasty chunks. My husband was using pipe cleaners to try and get the gunk out, but I figured out another solution: keep a container of soapy water next to the sink and dump the straws/valves in there when done. That way they don’t have a chance to get nasty and washing them just involves pouring some detergent through the straw and rinsing with hot water. Alternatively we’ll just store the cups in the fridge at the end of the day until it’s time to wash them.

Daily grind, eating, and too lazy to post

Part of the reason that I blog (especially in my former non-child blog about rants and complaints, which I’m an expert at) is because my job is pretty dry, so I just need a spot where I can babble like an incoherent teenager. In my head I have so many blog posts to write, but then when I get a chance to write them I’m so exhausted, my brain thinks “ahhh f*ck it…who cares”.

Dahlia turned 1 and I’m honestly in shock and awe over a typical child’s development. Like pointing. She points at everything and says “this?” because she wants to know the name. At this age I can easily compare to Dean, because this is around the time we started to look into getting him tested. The fact she’s trying to communicate with us is huge. But the pointing thing is what kills me. You may not know this, but there’s a lot that goes into getting your brain to send a message to your index finger to point. Dean was quite delayed in doing this and to this day, he still struggles to use his index finger. Clearly it’s innate to point to things (I suppose in every culture we need to be able to point to threats when we can’t vocalize them), but Dean can’t fully communicate with the appropriate finger and when I correct him (“Use your number one finger!”), it takes him a bit of work to get the right finger to stick up. For the longest time we had to manually fix it ourselves to teach him, causing him to cry because he couldn’t do it himself.

Eating is another area that blows me away. I can see in Dahlia’s eating pattern what a typical kid should be doing. I can sometimes convince Dean to eat meatloaf muffins (just high fat beef, stove top, and extra sage in a muffin tin) so I broke off some pieces and gave some to Dahlia. While it took Dean an hour to listen to me nag “Dean, take a bite” combined with his incredibly long chewing process (using a fork to grab the already-broken-up pieces), Dahlia grabbed an entire meatloaf and inhaled it on her own. The exterior was quite tough because i had cooked it too long and it caramelized but she ate it up no problem. I was floored. I can’t even tell you the words to see my 1 year old eat faster and better than my 4 year old.

I’m doing all I can to instill good food habits in her. She’s also keen on feeding herself, something Dean never did. He was on purees for so long but he never cared to have his own spoon. Dahlia practically fed herself spaghetti all on her own the other day. It’s incredibly messy which kills me, because I know that I can’t constantly wipe her off (wiping a kid’s face frequently is another thing that can lead to oral sensitivities) but it’s worth it to have my kitchen and my kid be filthy if I don’t have to keep repeating for years on end “Kid, take a bite”.

I never understood before how people could end up with gooey, dirty baby toys. Now I get it…when your baby actually eats, it’s hard to get every food bit out of their hands. Dean rarely ever picks food up with his hands and the things he does are dry, so his toys are pristine. Dahlia’s toys are already pretty gross, combined with my lack of time to wipe them down weekly like I used to do with Dean’s toys.

But at the end of the day, I’m happy to at least have one kid who will eat. It’s a little sad though, because I see the anxiety Dean has with food. He switched programs in school to a “less restricted environment” (meaning more typical kid and less special ed), so the teachers aren’t on him to eat during the brief half hour they have for lunch. He’s already lost a pound and a half in a month. So we’re even more stressed about getting calories in him when possible, even if that means he continues to get special meals at home that he’ll eat. One weekend he got his usual Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (he won’t go near the regular one, or any other peanut butter cereal) while we begged him to eat a few small pre-made pancakes. For my husband, Dahlia, and myself I just made eggs.

It took all my energy to not start crying in the kitchen that morning, because it was so easy when I was just cooking on meal. Not that Dahlia didn’t take a bit of  coercing, but she did eventually eat it all up. I can’t explain the feeling. It was like “wait…wait…is this what it’s like? Is this what it’s supposed to be like?”.

I understand that all kids have some level of pickiness and Dahlia will eventually get stubborn, but with her I’m confident in saying that I could let her to go to bed hungry if she’s being too picky. We’ve learned the hard way that Dean will indeed starve himself for days on end.

Now that I don’t have to worry about making baby purees anymore, I’m genuinely excited to start cooking again. I had given up, with my husband and I just scrounging for whatever was in the house so that we could dedicate all of our mealtime to getting Dean to eat. I’m excited to get Dahlia to eat real food, like real actual food and not the same stupid 5 things over and over.

I’ve also decided it’s time to step up my game in trying to expose Dean to more foods again. I’m researching more about strategies for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder and Selective Eating Disorder. At least this way if he doesn’t eat something, I’m not stuck eating it…Dahlia is my new garbage can. And I’m not even kidding…I’ve spent so much money on food that eventually ended up in the trash.

For example, one meal that I can take a good hour to beg Dean to eat are Don Jose frozen chicken taquitos with flour tortillas. Yes, not super healthy, I know. At this point, it’s the equivalent of a kale and quinoa shake in terms of the nutrition in his diet. Time to start food chaining…by trying either Don Jose chicken taquitos with a corn tortilla, a different brand of chicken taquitos in a floor tortilla, or Don Jose steak taquitos in a flour tortilla. I’ve opted for the latter and I’m going to try it tonight, we’ll see how that goes.

I just printed a recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn. Dean already likes popcorn (it’s dry and crunchy), so this might be an easy way to get extra calories in him.

And that’s life at the moment. Thank God for Pinterest, these days I’m all over it so I can start planning my life again. I’m a planner and the past few years have been really stressful not being able to plan anything other than Dean’s therapy schedules. If you’re bored, here are my Pinterest boards with everything from food to decorating to…well that’s pretty much it.