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Monday, June 22, 2009

Ketchup Is My New Best Friend

Eating. Should be simple, right? You put the food in your mouth, chew, swallow, and move on. It used to be that way. Until Princess.

First there was breastfeeding. That was an issue right from the start. I'd sit down with her to nurse her and it would end with her just as hungry as before, both of us crying, and milk everywhere.  It wasn't pretty. At first, I pumped with the hospital pump we rented. However, the first weekend after her birth was spent at my in-laws house. I'm naturally a very private person so nursing and pumping had to be done in a room with a door that shut tightly and no admittance to anyone besides my husband. As you know, newborns eat every 27 minutes or so, so I pretty much spent Princess's first months, hidden away from view and isolated from human contact. Anyways, at my in-laws, she absolutely wouldn't nurse, so I would valiantly try, sobbing, for half an hour before passing her off to eager relatives while I pumped her next meal. Wouldn't you know that the pump decided to make its presence known that weekend by squealing so loudly each time the "arm" pulled back that pigs half a mile away answered back. It was a traumatizing experience as I sat in the "good" living room alone with the door closed listening to everybody wonder what that horrible noise was in the next room. I returned the pump on Monday and swore never to pump again. Thankfully, my sister-in-law rescued me by giving me a handy little silicone nipple-like thingamajig that helps babies latch on. If it weren't for that, Princess would've been bottle fed from a week on.

We survived the early days (more like months) of breastfeeding and things were finally starting to go smoothly when we began transitioning to solid foods. Instead of just lifting my shirt and feeding her until she fell off, sated, I now had to figure out what to feed her and how much. I wrote feeding schedules for the first several months of that and passed them on to my sister (who babysits for me while I'm at work), my mother, my mother-in-law, the mailman, and anyone else who came in contact with Princess during a mealtime. Most of them rolled their eyes and tossed the schedule as soon as I was out of sight, but it was so complicated to me, that without the schedule taped to the kitchen table beside Princess's high chair, I was clueless as to what to feed her. Does she get fruit for this meal, or vegetables? Am I making enough cereal? Do I use juice or formula to mix up her cereal at this meal? Yes, I made it more complicated than it needed to be, but that's the way I am. If it's easy, I must be doing it wrong.

Every time I figured out what to feed her and how much, she would either have a growth spurt or be ready to start another type of food. Pureed meats took me a whole week and a half to figure out.

Fast forward to present day toddlerhood. Once I finally got her feeding herself solid foods, I thought I had it pretty easy. Yeah, right. She ate well for a few months, just to lull me into a sense of complacency. I didn't anticipate the way toddlers refuse to eat more than a breadcrumb one day and then gobble down the whole family dinner the next day. Or the way Princess couldn't get enough of sweet peas and ham yesterday, but tries to climb out of her high chair to escape eating the same thing today. I'm a waste not, want not kind of person, but since Princess started eating solid foods, I've thrown out enough food to fill my bathtub...twice. Since Princess is off-the-charts tiny, her pediatrician keeps telling me that I HAVE to get her to eat. I'm seriously considering dropping her off at the pediatrician's doorstep and saying, "Have fun." before leaving to eat a meal where no food is airborne, and no one leaves the table wearing most of their dinner in their hair.

Enter ketchup, my new hero. I remember chuckling at my 2 year old nephew a few years ago when he wouldn't eat anything without ketchup. I never thought that one day, I too would be relying on ketchup to convince my toddler to eat. Out of desperation one day, I squirted some ketchup on Princess's plate and showed her how to dip her food in it. To my surprise and slight dismay, it worked. It worked the next day and the next day and the next. However, her favorite way to eat it is like pudding, dipped up by the spoonful and headed straight for her mouth without the traditional carrier food. So, at a typical meal, she's eating it with her toddler spoon and in between bites, I'm shoveling as many carrots as I can into her mouth before she realizes she's eating them. I tried squirting the ketchup all over her food, but she will only accept it as long as it's in a mountainous mass not touching any of the food on her plate. The magic words to convince Princess to take a bite of food in my house are not, "Open up, please!" or "No dessert if you don't eat your vegetables." or "Eat your food or Mommy's going to have a coronary." Nope. The magic words are, "Look! There's ketchup on your cereal!" So to keep the peace for now, I'm going to keep telling myself that ketchup is made of tomatoes and therefore counts as a vegetable.

Unsolicited Advice:
Use a kitchen dish towel and a bag clip as a bib. It's bigger than the bibs sold in stores (which means more of your kid's clothes will be saved) and is completely washable.

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