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Overcoming fussiness with food

During our building works last summer we had to live for 4 months without a kitchen, yes that’s right, without a kitchen! I was pregnant and Raff was 1.5 years old so it was an experience full of challenges. Finding food to feed him that didn’t require a kitchen meant resorting to convenience, and so the beginning of his food fussiness began. Suddenly he went from the baby who’d eat anything, to the baby who turned his nose up at anything other than pesto pasta. It was a blow to a pair of foodies like Mr G and I.

I fought against the fussiness for months and months. I’d get snappy with him at mealtimes, I’d make option after option after he refused to even try foods, and I ended up with lots of wastage in the bin and toast for tea most nights. In the end I decided enough was enough and I stopped providing an alternative. I figured he wouldn’t likely starve himself and he would get what he was given and go hungry if he chose to leave it. This was the beginning of a more positive approach to his fussiness.

He started to clock pretty quickly that hunger was worse than trying food and often he’d surprise himself if he did try things, that actually he quite liked them. And so I built up a collection of foods I knew he would like and slowly but surely from that I managed to expand my repertoire of meals. It has taken months, and much, much patience on our part, but I finally feel like I’m breaking some ground here and the stress of mealtimes is slowly diminishing.

Here are my tips on how to overcome fussiness and take control back at the dinner table. (Please note I am no expert, just well practised in dealing with fussiness):

1) You get what you’re given. Don’t offer an alternative - they’ll quickly realise trying is better than the hunger that follows an outright refusal! For months I resorted to toast as a back up and then I realised Raff knew if he refused what was on offer he would get what he wanted - toast! Where’s the motivation to try then?

2) Buy a segmented toddler plate and offer variety on it. If there are different foods on offer at each meal they are likely to at least finish one of them, even if they sniff at another. I often put things like pieces of cucumber, cheese, hummus and apple slices with a meal for example.

3) Work out what flavours and foods they do like and think creatively about ways you could do much more with them. I knew Raff loved pasta and rice, and sweeter flavours and from those starting points I’ve been able to build a variety of meals such as spaghetti bolognese, pumpkin rissotto, mushroom rice and tomato and basil fusili.

4) Use veggies discreetly - I try to hide them in foods, cut them up small, mash them into sauces, and sneak them in so he doesn’t have a chance to question the presence of a carrot or courgette.

5) Don’t loose your rag. If they give an outright refusal, act nonchalant and explain that that is the end of teatime then.

6) Give them notice that mealtimes are approaching. I tell Raff when I am about to start cooking and give him 10 and 5 minute reminders so he knows that whatever he is doing will soon be interrupted, and he has a chance to engage his appetite.

7) Lots of outdoor time and exercise really does build their appetite. If they get enough running around they’ll generally be pulling at your ankles come teatime and less likely to turn their noses up.

8) Always, always praise positive eating and ignore negative behaviours. Toddlers can’t resist praise, they simply love it and the more praise they get for trying, the more likely they are to repeat the behaviour again.

9) Eat together and make mealtimes fun and social. Whenever I can, I sit with the kids and eat a little of what they are having so they feel it is a shared experience.

10) Never give up offering foods they don’t like. Even now, I still put things on the plate I know have been refused before and I feel such a sense of achievement when they get sampled again. This week - very thinly sliced raw carrot was gobbled up despite months of him saying he hates carrot. Perhaps the thinness of the slices made it more enticing or perhaps he decided he’d give it another go. Either way, if I’d given up offering it, he still wouldn’t be eating it.

11) There is nothing wrong will dippy eggs and soldiers and some days call for simplicity!

2014 has been full of highs and lows. We welcomed our daughter into our lives and with her coming so much joy and happiness followed. Shortly after Elsie was born, my dear mum was diagnosed with cancer. It knocked me for six, it knocked all of us for six and the journey that has followed has been full of twists and turns. Twice admitted to hospital for very low white blood count and no immunity she has pulled through both times and never once complained. When her hair fell out after her first course of chemo, I felt a sense of grief. Not for me but for her. It was a turning point and suddenly became a very visual representation of her illness. 
I am a firm believer that stress can impact on well being and my mum had a rough year in 2013 which I am certain contributed to her illness. She has shown immense courage and strength in dealing with her diagnosis, I have honestly never known a braver and more dignified woman than her.
I’ve kept this part of my life very private from this space, partly because it is such a raw subject, and partly because I haven’t been able to find the words to express how I feel about it. My mother has taught me so much in life, none more so than this year. I’ve learnt to be dignified, graceful, to avoid self pity at all costs and savour the moment. Not to dwell on the past or wish to return to it, but to embrace the present and relish the opportunities tomorrow may bring. I’ve realised our mortality is inevitable, and so is my parent’s mortality, and that has been really, really hard to accept.
I know my mum will get better, recover and hopefully, before too long she’ll be full of the joys of spring and feeling her old self again. Chemotherapy takes its toll and she’ll need to recover over time after her course ends, I’m under no illusion it will be an overnight relief.
Mothers are just so very precious the world over. They nurture, nourish and tend to their loved ones in a way that is remarkably selfless and full of love and the best intentions. She has done a wonderful job of mothering my siblings and I. I have never once questioned her love and have only felt supported and encouraged by her and my dad. For that I will always be grateful.
I look forward to many more years with mum. To making new memories with her grandchildren and enjoying more of the wonderful adult relationship we share.

2014 has been full of highs and lows. We welcomed our daughter into our lives and with her coming so much joy and happiness followed. Shortly after Elsie was born, my dear mum was diagnosed with cancer. It knocked me for six, it knocked all of us for six and the journey that has followed has been full of twists and turns. Twice admitted to hospital for very low white blood count and no immunity she has pulled through both times and never once complained. When her hair fell out after her first course of chemo, I felt a sense of grief. Not for me but for her. It was a turning point and suddenly became a very visual representation of her illness.

I am a firm believer that stress can impact on well being and my mum had a rough year in 2013 which I am certain contributed to her illness. She has shown immense courage and strength in dealing with her diagnosis, I have honestly never known a braver and more dignified woman than her.

I’ve kept this part of my life very private from this space, partly because it is such a raw subject, and partly because I haven’t been able to find the words to express how I feel about it. My mother has taught me so much in life, none more so than this year. I’ve learnt to be dignified, graceful, to avoid self pity at all costs and savour the moment. Not to dwell on the past or wish to return to it, but to embrace the present and relish the opportunities tomorrow may bring. I’ve realised our mortality is inevitable, and so is my parent’s mortality, and that has been really, really hard to accept.

I know my mum will get better, recover and hopefully, before too long she’ll be full of the joys of spring and feeling her old self again. Chemotherapy takes its toll and she’ll need to recover over time after her course ends, I’m under no illusion it will be an overnight relief.

Mothers are just so very precious the world over. They nurture, nourish and tend to their loved ones in a way that is remarkably selfless and full of love and the best intentions. She has done a wonderful job of mothering my siblings and I. I have never once questioned her love and have only felt supported and encouraged by her and my dad. For that I will always be grateful.

I look forward to many more years with mum. To making new memories with her grandchildren and enjoying more of the wonderful adult relationship we share.

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2014.

Oh last week I got my phototaking groove back and put the focus on my on kids as subjects in front of my camera. It was hard to choose which to share as I loved so many of them but these two shots were captured on the morning of their joint baptism so it felt they had to be the ones to mark week 39 in this wonderful project. I am snowed under with editing work shoots at the moment but hope to share more pictures of their baptism soon. Hard to believe we are well into autumn already and this week we’ve branched into October. I’m starting to feel a little christmasey already and am enjoying the last of the sunshiney days before we go into the cold and wet months. Wellies at the ready folks!

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014. Linking up with Jodi for The 52 Project

Elsie bird, you have started to clap your hands together and take great delight in doing so. We enjoy our quiet mornings together whilst big brother runs wild at preschool and then we soak him up in the afternoons and enjoy play dates with friends or trips to the park.

Raff, growing in confidence and becoming more fearless by the day. You have started to make such magical friendships both at preschool and outside of it. Your language has taken off over the last month and we enjoy the most incredible conversations now. Currently obsessed with Fireman Sam you take him everywhere you go and I think it’s the sweetest. I can’t believe being your mother can keep getting better and better but it just does.

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Playing catch up with The 52 Project, A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2014. Linking up with Jodi.

Raff - always, always exploring, hunting for the little gifts nature leaves for you to take home and collect. We’re enjoying the beginning of autumn and all the beauty it brings with it including blackberries and scrunchy, crunchy leaves.

Elsie, a vision in polka dots, delicious as ever!

Oh gulp. You’ve turned 7 months little bird. I can’t quite believe we are over the half way mark in your first year, that you’re closer to one than none already! It’s been busy these last two weeks so although these portraits were taken on the day you turned 7 months, I am only now getting around to putting them up here in our space (call it second child syndrome if you will).

You’re changing sweet girl, so many developments each day and I am starting to see glimpses of your character come through more and more. You’re really babbling, on 4th September, the day after these pictures were taken, you said your first word: “mama”. I’m certain you didn’t know what it meant, or just how much it meant to me to hear you say it but it was an incredible moment and even daddy was here to share in it.

On 19th August (around 6.5 months) you learnt to sit up all by yourself for the first time. This has given you such freedom to explore your environment even more and to take a new perspective on the space around you. I love to watch you sit and play so intently with your toys, your face filled with concentration, your hands always reaching.

That golden hair of yours has grown lots too - so much so we can even pull it back with a hair slide, which is just about enough to make my knees knock. It’s so lovely for me to experience a daughter, equally as lovely as having a son but already I can see such a difference in the way we relate, you seem to conjure up memories of my own childhood.

Sometimes I feel my heart could burst with the love I feel for you. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have you, and although each month passing fills me with the realisation you’re growing fast, I am so enjoying the new stages you reach, watching you evolve, grow, blossom. Mothering you is a joy and a privilege and one I will never take for granted.

Love you Elsie Bird,

Mama xxx

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Taking part in Jodi's 52 project - a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2014.

Last week was one of two halves. The first half we enjoyed the last couple of days of our summer holiday in Sussex before heading home. The second half of the week, we immersed ourselves back into normal daily life and the routines of work/preschool.

Our holiday wasn’t a holiday like holidays used to be. There was no sunbathing, leisurely reading, swimming or sipping on chilled aperol spritzers. Instead, it was a family holiday in the truest sense, with trips to the farm, country walks, blackberrying until little fingers were stained purple, cosy meals around the table and time together as a four to drive each other up the wall.

We were happy to be home by the end of our trip - we ran out of clean laundry to be honest, but I will always remember that holiday as the one Elsie learnt to sit up and Rafferty took his first ride in a tractor. It’s these little milestones that stay with me as a mother, they punctuate the everyday in the loveliest of ways.

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Linking up with Jodi for The 52 Project: A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.

Last week we took a trip to my mother’s cottage by the sea near Rye. There is a lovely long stretch of beach close by and we revelled in a sunny afternoon sitting on one of my grandmother’s quilts on the sand, paddling in little shallow pools and collecting shells upon shells.

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Joining in with Jodi for The 52 Project: A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2014.

I’m playing catch up for the last couple of weeks. Week 33 was a cosy affair as the weather in London cooled right down and we dug out the autumn overalls and wooly cardigans knitted by my mother.

These two, both starting to look so alike it’s uncanny. I love them so!

Dear Raff,

it’s hard to believe you’re 2 and a half today! Time has literally swooshed by since you came along and my life has changed in the very best of ways.
You were the one who made me a mother and for that I will always be grateful because a mama I was made to be. I learnt all I know about parenting from you; yours was the first nappy I changed, your tiny body the first I’d bathed. It is through you I experience all the milestones of childhood for the first time… the smiles, the giggles, the rolling over, the weaning, the sitting up, the crawling, those first wobbly steps. Beyond all those mammouth firsts are the more complex developments from 1-2. When you learn to communicate, to express yourself, to fight for your independence.
I’ve loved every minute of your growth. Watching you become this delightful little boy, one who loves to cuddle, who feels everything intensely, who finds funny little things so entertaining, who has mad half hours at 4.30pm every day has been a delight.
I’ve watched you sleep a hundred hours, I’ve told you you’re loved every day, I’ve wiped your tears when you’ve fallen, kissed it better, cleaned sticky fingers and snotty noses. 
I’d do anything for you my sweet, sweet boy because you did everything for me when you came along.
Now 2.5, you’re your best yet. Full of beans, full of love, you shower your daddy, Elsie and I with hugs and kisses all the day long. You love storytime and recite the words as I speak them because you’ve memorised them from the number of times they’ve been told. You say “song mummy” as I turn out the light each night and I sing to you as you get snug under the covers.
You are beautiful Rafferty, inside and outside, through and through. I could not be prouder of the person you are and more excited about all that your future holds.
One day you’ll become a man and then I’ll be mum, not the centre of your universe anymore. And that’s ok. I want that for you because if I do my job right as mum then you’ll feel secure in the world and you’ll find your own path.
Know this though my darling, no matter what you do or how old you are, I will always, always love you so very much. You were the one that made me ‘mum’ and I’ll always cherish your life because it is so precious.
Happy 2.5 my darling.
Love Mama xxxx

Dear Raff,

it’s hard to believe you’re 2 and a half today! Time has literally swooshed by since you came along and my life has changed in the very best of ways.

You were the one who made me a mother and for that I will always be grateful because a mama I was made to be. I learnt all I know about parenting from you; yours was the first nappy I changed, your tiny body the first I’d bathed. It is through you I experience all the milestones of childhood for the first time… the smiles, the giggles, the rolling over, the weaning, the sitting up, the crawling, those first wobbly steps. Beyond all those mammouth firsts are the more complex developments from 1-2. When you learn to communicate, to express yourself, to fight for your independence.

I’ve loved every minute of your growth. Watching you become this delightful little boy, one who loves to cuddle, who feels everything intensely, who finds funny little things so entertaining, who has mad half hours at 4.30pm every day has been a delight.

I’ve watched you sleep a hundred hours, I’ve told you you’re loved every day, I’ve wiped your tears when you’ve fallen, kissed it better, cleaned sticky fingers and snotty noses.

I’d do anything for you my sweet, sweet boy because you did everything for me when you came along.

Now 2.5, you’re your best yet. Full of beans, full of love, you shower your daddy, Elsie and I with hugs and kisses all the day long. You love storytime and recite the words as I speak them because you’ve memorised them from the number of times they’ve been told. You say “song mummy” as I turn out the light each night and I sing to you as you get snug under the covers.

You are beautiful Rafferty, inside and outside, through and through. I could not be prouder of the person you are and more excited about all that your future holds.

One day you’ll become a man and then I’ll be mum, not the centre of your universe anymore. And that’s ok. I want that for you because if I do my job right as mum then you’ll feel secure in the world and you’ll find your own path.

Know this though my darling, no matter what you do or how old you are, I will always, always love you so very much. You were the one that made me ‘mum’ and I’ll always cherish your life because it is so precious.

Happy 2.5 my darling.

Love Mama xxxx

Tired just thinking about it…

This post has been rattling around inside my head the past few days and I’ve finally found a moment to sit and write.

I was talking to a friend in the park this week while our kids were playing. We were talking about how important it is for mothers to thrive and how ironic it is that we always come bottom of the pile. The thing is, I’ve no idea how to help myself thrive anymore because there is so little left of me for me by the end of my day.

It’s now 9pm and I’ve just finished my evening of sorting and restoring order. I still have one feed to do before I can go to bed and my third baby, my little business is now calling me. I’m exhausted.

To most people who don’t have children it’s probably hard to comprehend just how all consuming motherhood can be. I am sure it is irritating how we often talk of the tiredness, the lack of time and the effort that goes into every little outing. But I’m just gonna put it out there, I feel drained at the moment. 6 months into mothering two children and my mind is a blur, my body aches. I know this exhaustion is impacting on my ability to be a good mother too but I can’t seem to claw my way out of it. I’m not depressed or down, I’m just bloody shattered.

I go through the same motions day in, day out, and it is this repetition, as well as the tasks themselves, that have led to my sense of weariness. The day begins with one or both of my children calling out to me. As soon as they’re out of their cots, the demands begin - milk mummy, porridge mummy, downstairs mummy, why mummy, stir it mummy, help mummy, poop mummy. And that’s just my toddler! All the while I have this little bird, 6 months old, totally and utterly dependent on me for her survival. Every nappy change, every morsel that enters her mouth, every drop of milk and every cry is my duty to attend to. Mothers to young children will know just how much work goes into each day caring for little ones. At 2.5 my son still can’t dress himself, wash himself, use a potty or help himself to things. I have to do pretty much everything for my kids.

Our house seems to go through a cycle each day too - one of order to chaos to order again. A trail of destruction left in the wake of my children. Toys strewn here, there and everywhere, food on the floor, sticky finger prints all over every surface, crumbs down the sofa, cushions thrown off the sofa, nappy bags piling up. By about 5.30pm I feel sick at the thought of restoring order to our home, but somehow I manage it because it is important to me that there is a little distinction between the day and the evening.

Then there’s the cooking, feeding and clearing away. It’s a real kick in the teeth when the food gets left but it’s all part of the day. I often wonder how many times I do the washing up, how many times I wipe the surface, how many times I clean the bottles, how many muslins I wash in a week. Which brings me to the laundry - how on earth four people can produce so much washing I don’t know, but there are piles of it lurking behind every door in our house, tormenting me.

The constant demands are limitless. The bath is too hot, the bath is too cold, I want bubbles, too many bubbles, where is my man, my car, my duck? Someone needs feeding again. Another poop to be changed, another bottle to be washed, and another load of laundry successfully piled up.

Some days I go to bed and wonder what life used to be like when every day was different. When I could choose when to have breakfast. When I was able to enjoy a hot cup of tea before someone screamed in my face. Its not that I don’t love my life or my children, I do, so very much, and that is why I do this. But I feel drained some days, and week in week out of the same can feel like hitting the wall in a marathon - you’ve got to keep going but you’re just . so . tired…*

To conclude on this cheery post, the life of a mother to young children is an utterly selfless one. No one looks after you, feeds you or puts you down for a nap, not even yourself and there’s something wrong with that isn’t there? If we are to be the best we can be for our kids, we do need to ensure we also thrive too. Maybe it’s asking for a little help from friends or family sometimes, maybe it’s taking 5 minutes out of the day to sit and be still while the chaos continues around you. I don’t have the answer yet (and if I find it I’ll certainly share), but whatever it takes, it’s vital to carve out a little bit of your life for you, and you alone. I do believe there is more to my life than being a mother, and I don’t believe that the ‘more’ makes me any less a good mother.

*I never have, and I never will run a marathon

A snapshot of the last couple of weeks, as I haven’t posted one of these for a while.

We’re in full swing of Raff’s summer break from preschool and enjoying every minute of what the summer has to offer.

Last week I took Raff and Elsie fruit picking. We walked through the sunflower patches and stocked up on lots of sweet juicy raspberries.

This weekend was cooler than it’s been for a while so we snuggled indoors as a family, made jigsaw puzzles, ate sausage and eggs for lunch and watched Winnie The Pooh.

This week has been a lazy one. We did a nature walk on MOnday and collected leaves, nut pods and feathers to draw when we got back home. We’ve hung out in our jammies, played cars, read lots of stories, had a playdate with friends in the park and pottered about at home. Some weeks I love a slower pace and I think the kids do too.

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2014. Linking up with Jodi for The 52 Project.

32/52’s portrait is one of the most precious images I’ve taken. Whenever I look at this picture my heart swells with a mixture of love and pride.

Here are our children sharing a moment of pure tenderness. A big brother proudly feeding his baby sister her bottle. He’s concentrating hard, trying to get the angle just right so the milk fills the bottle’s teat. And just in the bottom right corner his lovely daddy’s hand is gently guiding him. I have so few images of my children together, but this one will be cherished for all my days.

I can’t believe you’re 6 months old already little bird. Seems like only yesterday Roo was kissing my bump. I was looking over old photos from when you were a tiny newborn in the hospital last night and tears rolled down my cheeks. You’ve bought us so much love and light and happiness, we can’t imagine our life without you in it.

At 6 months you are a total cutie. You’ve developed some baby rolls to be proud of, have sweet rosy cheeks and the most beautiful mouth. Your eyes are a blue as could be and almond shaped - they’re the sort of eyes you get lost in. You are quite a chatty baby and very content, it’s rare to hear you cry. You love to roll over, chew on your toys, watch your big brother being silly. You’re a pretty good eater and devoured the first foods like there was no tomorrow. I can’t believe you’ve gone from the newest of new to our bouncing bonny 6 month old, time seems to have gone in an instant.

Love you to the moon and back sweet girl.

Mama xxx