Day 94 – Turd

I saw this little sign on Pinterest today, and damn it was so fitting for my evening I laughed out loud…

And I’ll tell ya, if Henry decides to pull another stunt like he did tonight, that boy just might be lying out in the yard in the near future.

Here’s how it went down…

We’re still having the occasional dinner battle with the kids (and I’ll throw Cadence in there too because there are nights her dramatic sighs over what she doesn’t want to eat for dinner nearly drown out her brother’s). Henry’s dinner protest antics are far less subtle. He fidgets, spins around on the bench, turns around to look out the window for his neighbor friends, recites movie scenes, asks to go pee, asks to go get a glass of water, tries to lie down on the bench, tries to touch the food on Cadence’s plate, asks what he should take a bite of next, spins around on the bench again, recites more movie lines, asks to go poop, and on, and on, and on.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just done. I refuse to sit there with him for hours while he dawdles and complains, so generally Stevie and I and Cadence will all sit around and chat for a little while, but eventually get up from the table when we’re finished if we notice Henry putting on the brakes and trying to push our buttons. Then Stevie and I clean up the kitchen while Cadence heads upstairs to shower and get ready for bed.

Most days, once his audience has left the room, Henry will finish his dinner and life will go on. But tonight…well, I don’t know what sort of bright idea he thought he had, but he stayed in the dining room for 20 minutes or so after the rest of us finished. Suddenly I see him get up from the table and take his empty plate to the kitchen. I told him good job for finishing and he gave me sly smile. He still had a big bite of hamburger in his mouth, so I told him chew it up and finish while I went to let Electra out of her kennel.

It took a minute for me to realize what I was seeing when I walked into the dining room. Apparently in that 20 minutes alone at the table, Henry hadn’t actually finished his dinner. Instead, he’d spent the time tossing small bite-sized bits of food all over the table and in roughly a 4-foot perimeter around it.

No wonder Electra was barking and clawing to get out of her kennel. She’d been sitting there the whole time watching Henry throw bits of food on the ground.

When I turned around, he was standing right behind me, like he was waiting for my reaction.

I bent down, looked him straight in the eye and told him he better get his ass back in that room and clean up every single bit of food he’d thrown. And I must have sounded pretty serious, because I didn’t even have to add an “or else I’ll…” to the end of that statement.

It took him about 5 minutes to clean up, and then I took him straight up to get ready for bed. He cried a little and apologized. By that point, I think he was even a little embarrassed by his own antics. We had a nice chat about unacceptable behavior and the fact that he’s going to have to earn back all of his iPad, tv, and game privileges by eating dinner like a civilized human and not throwing tantrums.

He didn’t even protest. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Day 83 – Dinner time shenanigans

Just a normal evening in the Romano house…

Day 21 – What’s for dinner?

The first few years of Cadence’s life, meal times were easy. The kid would eat anything. ANYTHING. Well, except for the six short months she loathed bananas to the point where she would start gagging if she even saw one. Other than that, we had no issues getting Cadence to eat (or at least sample) anything we put in front of her. And that lasted right up until she started going to preschool regularly and learned that there was such a thing as being picky and eating only peanut butter sandwiches and assorted snacks.

Henry, on the other hand, would survive on nothing but pancakes and plain pasta (flavored with a little butter and garlic salt) if let him. Meal times have been a battle since he started solids, and I have to admit, for awhile there we just got lazy. With work and life and everything else being crazy and hectic, we picked the 3-4 foods he would actually at and just went with it, figuring it was better for him to get something in his stomach before we put him in bed.

But we decided recently that we’d had enough. We were tired of the constant meal time meltdowns, and by God we weren’t going to let a 3-year-old beat us in what was becoming a sheer battle of wills. So, we started cracking down on snacks, limiting Henry’s milk intake to just a cup or two a day (because he would polish off a gallon by himself if given the opportunity), and putting the kids to bed if they protested the meal we put on the table.

Cadence was pretty easy to fall back in line. It took exactly two dinner time battles when she was a toddler to convince her that our rule of at least trying one bite of everything before you get to say you don’t like it was fair. With Henry, we definitely hit the double digits in the number of times he got sent to bed with his plate still full of dinner and then having to eat the leftovers the next day.

He is our stubborn, stubborn boy.

But like everything with Henry, it just takes a little extra patience. And we’re finally starting to get there. Tonight, he didn’t even protest. He came right to the table when it was time, sat down, and dug in. He at the entire serving of chicken and pasta and broccoli, headed upstairs for a bath, and then polished off two bananas and a cup of strawberry yogurt before bed.

And there was a moment at dinner tonight, listening to Cadence tell us about the sleepover last night at her friend Rowan’s house and Henry quoting lines from Bob’s Burgers (“You’re my family and I love you, but you’re terrible. You’re all terrible.”) and Superbad (“One name? Who are you, Seal?”), I found myself blissfully happy to be sitting at the table with three of my favorite humans on the planet.

What can I say? Life is good.

Day 19 – The family that you make

There was a time in my life when I avoided people, relationships of just about any kind. I’m an introvert by nature, but this was different. I didn’t trust people, and I was filled with so much self-loathing and self-doubt that I believed it was easier to just keep everyone at arm’s distance than to risk getting close and getting hurt.

During my years in therapy, one of the biggest challenges was for me to trust people, to let them in, because I had trouble matching up what other people saw in me with what I saw in myself. I had to spend a lot of time building up my own self-image, learn to love myself and let other people love me. One of the results was that I started to view relationships and human connection differently.

Letting people in. Trusting them. Connecting. Building relationships. Loving other humans. These things can be hard, but they are so worth it. They’re vital. They’re the reason we’re all bumping around on this blue-green planet in the first place. And the really beautiful thing that happens when you connect with other people is that just being in their presence, hearing their voices, spending an evening together sharing a meal sparks immeasurable joy.

Family is not bound by blood. Family is the people you choose to surround yourself with, the people you love and invest your time in. Stevie and I have loved ones spread all over the country–from New York to Arizona to Colorado and Washington state–and we do what we can to connect. We don’t do as much as we would like to, or have nearly enough time with all the people who mean the world to us. But sometimes there are moments like tonight, when we get a chance to spend an evening with some really beautiful souls. My home was full of love tonight, and my heart is too.

Project Life 365 – Day 13 – Forgotten

Take one look at our dog, Electra, and you can see right away that she’s never missed a meal. I’m not saying she’s fat…well, not anymore. She was getting a little hefty when we lived in Arizona–partly because she was being grossly overfed just about every time we had to leave town and ask someone to watch her for us (a special thanks to our dear friends the Flores family for actually taking time to read and follow Electra’s mealtime instructions), and partly because she refused to go outside for more than ten minutes a day when it was over 90 degrees and, well, it’s Arizona, so that was pretty much nine months out of the year.

Since moving to Nebraska, she’s dropped almost ten pounds and is looking downright svelte… as svelte as a half-basset hound can look anyway.

Yet, in spite of her slightly slimmer waistline, Electra is still, and will always be, a food whore. And, like clockwork, each morning and each evening every member of the Romnano household falls in step to the dinner dance routine. Here’s how it goes…

1. 5:00 – Electra wakes from a nap, or comes in from a tracking session in the yard and immediately checks her food bowl, just in case someone decided to surprise her and feed her early. She spends the next 10 minutes licking the lid of her plastic food bin and the floor around it.

2. 5:30 – Electra walks up to Steven and spends 2-3 minutes starting at him. Then walks over to me and spends 2-3 minutes staring. If one of us makes eye contact, she will jump into our laps and try to sniff our mouths, as if she’s checking to make sure we didn’t eat without her.

3. 5:45 – Electra begins slowly pacing. She nudges Steven with her nose, and then moves onto me if he doesn’t make a move toward the kitchen. If I don’t comply, she’ll look for Cadence and park herself in between Cadence and whatever it is she’s trying to do at the moment, eliciting a firm “No Dectra! Go lay down!”

4. 5:55 – Electra lies down on the floor, perfectly triangulating herself so she can keep a close eye on each of us. She will lie perfectly still for 5 minutes…waiting…If we completely ignore her, she will sigh or groan loudly and roll onto her side as if she’s playing dead. If one of us should accidentally make eye contact, she’ll come over and nudge us, and then sit in front of us, staring and trembling slightly like she’s either cold or about to pass out because her blood sugar is low.

5. 6:00-6:15 – Depending on the day, Electra either spends the next 15-20 minutes continuing her silent harassment of each member of the family in turn, or she gives up, curls up in a warm little ball on the beanbag, and takes herself a little snooze. And then, at 6:15 on the dot, she appears, licking her chops and letting us know that we’re straying from the schedule.

There’s really no forgetting when it comes to Electra’s meal plan. Here’s what I was faced with tonight when I happened to walk into the kitchen and glance at the clock at 6:09…
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And since Electra was patient enough to sit for a photo, she got to eat a few minutes early tonight, and even found a few extra bites of kibble in her bowl. It was the least I could do for my favorite droopy-faced hound.

This is Dinner War 2012

We exposed Cadence to all sorts of foods when she started eating solids. I bought just about every type of fruit and vegetable to steam and puree into baby food, and she gobbled them up. We even used to joke that she had sort of an unnatural love of anything green–broccoli, peas, green beans, zucchini, asparagus. Once I even picked up some lima beans, just to see if she’d eat them. Seriously, what kid likes lima beans? Cadence gobbled them up with a smile and immediately asked for more.

Now that she’s getting older, it seems Cadence has begun to understand the idea of “options”. 95% of the time, she eats what we eat at mealtimes. But when I make a crockpot of spicy buffalo chicken, or when Steven and I pour ourselves bowls of Fiber One cereal in the mornings, we like to give Cadence options. (Don’t get me wrong, this kid will devour a bowl of Fiber One faster than most adults and think it’s great, but we try to limit her, since we’re still the ones who have to change the diapers when all that fiber kicks in).

What Cadence doesn’t understand about options is that sometimes there are none. And it doesn’t matter how much you argue, whine, say please, holler, or demand, it’s just not going to happen. But she’s got a stubborn streak that runs deep, this feisty little girl of ours. I blame her Nonna and her Pawpoo both. Poor kid got a bit of a double whammy of stubborn from my side of the family, and even quite a bit from Steven’s. So, we try to roll with it as much as we can when she gets something in her head that she just won’t let go.

Until Wednesday night dinner. That’s when all hell broke loose and Dinner War 2012 officially began.

I’d pulled a recipe for Creamy Chicken Stuffed Shells off Pinterest that sounded like it would be a hit with the entire family. Cadence isn’t really big on eating a lot of meat yet, but when it’s mixed into a casserole, or stuffed inside a quesadilla or sandwich, she’s pretty good about it. She loves pasta, and last Thanksgiving she nearly ate her weight in stuffing, so I figured she’d gobble up the stuffed shells without hesitation. On the side, I served some steamed broccoli and veggies, two of her favorites.

When I put Cadence’s tray in front of her, I expected her to dig right in. After all, she hadn’t had a snack and hadn’t eaten since lunch, and had been harassing me to give her some crackers for the past twenty minutes. I knew she was hungry. So, you can imagine my surprise when Cadence took one look at the food on her tray and turned up her nose.

“No,” she said. “I can’t. I no like it. It’s nasty.”

“Cadence, you have broccoli and carrots, and this is pasta with chicken and stuffing. Take a bite, you’ll like it.”

“No nasty. I no want it. I want chocolate pie.”

“Well, you’re not getting any chocolate or chocolate pie until you eat your dinner.”

“Noooooooooooo!”

Now, for those of you who don’t have your own children, or who don’t spend a lot of time around small children, there are two basic types of tantrums–the slow burn and the instant explosion. With kids, you never quite know what you’re going to get, and it’s the result of a very complex combination of mood, environment, energy level, hunger level, sugar intake, total hours slept, proximity to nap/bed time, and overall wellness, all mixed together in a very unique way by your kid’s overall temperament and personality. I never wanted to be one of those scientists who experiments with volatile chemicals or deadly contagions, but that’s precisely the environment you’re thrown into when you have a child.

Here’s a handful of live grenades for you to juggle. Try not to drop them.

For the next 10 minutes, Steven and I ate our dinner listening as Cadence’s protests grew increasingly ridiculous and shrill.

“No, Mommy. I no like it. Daddy. Daddy. I want chocolate. I need chocolate. I NEEEEEEEEEED CHOCOLATE.”

Then the tears began to roll. Big ol’ fake tears that she can somehow conjure on command by staring off into space for a minute and squeezing her eyes shut tight. I always wonder what it is that Cadence thinks about to get herself in character. You seriously would have thought she was dying of some horribly painful disease and chocolate pie was the only known cure. I swear this child is going to take Hollywood by storm some day with her performance skills…or at least land herself a role on a soap opera or TV drama.

Steven and I exchanged a glance and stifled our laughter with big bites of pasta.

I gave Cadence a warning. Knock it off and eat dinner or go to bed.

“No, Mommy! No! I need chocolate! I NEEEEEEEEEED CHOCOLATE!!!”

Bedtime.

“And Cadence, I want you to know that since you decided to throw a fit and not eat your dinner tonight, you’ll have it for breakfast tomorrow morning.”

She just looked at me for moment, and I could see the little wheels turning as if she was already trying to figure out how she was going to weasel me out of a bowl of Fruit Loops in the morning.

Steven took her to the bathroom to brush her teeth, and when she came back, she had calmed down…mostly. She was still huffing a little and sticking out her pouty lip. I picked her up to carry her up the stairs and she said quietly, “Mommy, can I eat broccoli?”

“Nope. Dinner’s over. You’ll have broccoli for breakfast.”

The next morning, Cadence didn’t ask to eat immediately after she woke up, so I knew she must remember exactly what I promised would be on the menu. After the dinner boycott the night before, I was surprised that she held out until after 10:00 am before finally caving in and asking for breakfast. I pulled out the bowls of veggies and stuffed shells, warmed then in the microwave and sat them down in front of her. She was less than thrilled.

She sat for about five minutes, pouting, asking for cereal and milk, for a peanut butter sandwich, for crackers, for chocolate pie.

“No,” I said firmly. “This is your breakfast and you’ll eat it. And if you don’t, you’ll be having it again for lunch.”

The wheels were turning again, and a few minutes later, Cadence began picking carefully through the veggie bowl and eating the carrots, leaving the broccoli and pasta untouched. When she was finished, I wrapped up the uneaten portions and put them back in the fridge.

I took Round 2 as a small victory, but I was determined to win the war. Cadence may be stubborn, but so is her Momma.

Steven had to work through lunch, and I told him he was going to miss the action. He couldn’t believe Cadence was still holding out and wondered if he just might get to witness the epic battle for himself come dinner time.

I wasn’t sure if Cadence realized it yet or not, but I could play this game for days.

When lunch rolled around, Cadence didn’t even seem surprised when I put the tray of shells and broccoli in front of her. She didn’t protest or whine or ask for a peanut butter sandwich or a banana. She just stared at the tray. The wheels were turning.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

I held my breath and waited for the explosion.

I watched her stab a forkful of the stuffed shells and raise it, ever so slowly, to her mouth…

“Mmmm…yummy!” Cadence said, digging in for more.

I just shook my head and laughed and watched my stubborn girl shovel pasta and broccoli into her mouth as fast as she could chew it.

Score: Momma – 1, Cadence – 0.

Victory is mine!

And just because I’m a woman of my word…