Sunday, 30 November 2014

48/52 - sleeping in doorways + hiding in wardrobes


I remember doing this very thing as a child. So desperate to keep one foot in the happenings of the household post-bedtime that I would make my little bed in the doorway. I guess such an idea must be genetic as I have been discovering this little scene rather frequently of late. Oh, funny, sweet girl.

She thinks she is ready to be a grown up, but really, she is exhausted. This huge first year of full time schooling is taking its toll, leaving us with one very tired, emotional girl who has seen and done and absorbed so much this year. She is also in the midst of a fortnight of intensive daily swim school to boot - yozwers. She is working so hard at it all, with a smile most of the time, and tears when it all gets too much, bless her dear heart. We are all looking forward to a refreshing summer holiday, that's for sure!


It's just hit me recently that this kid is going to be in Preschool next year. My little man!!! 

For us fortunate Canberra folk, that means two school days one week, and three days the next. I know he is going to love it but it is still hard for this Mama to comprehend that this kiddo is reaching school age. I mean, it feels like decades between when your first kid is born and they head to school, but the subsequent children seem to get there in a blink of an eye!?

My little whirlwind has matured in so many ways of late, heartfelt in his efforts to help and learn and do what's right. I am looking forward to getting to know my son, the big preschooler :) But, sentimental soul that I am, kinda already missing my little dude too!


Lately he is doing 'table time' for about 15-20 minutes a day... usually while Mama is trying to get dinner together ;) This wild little explorer benefits from a little containment at times, haha.

He does simple little explorations such as playing with magnets on a baking tray. He took this particular one very seriously, furrowed brow as he picked up each transport-themed magnet, made the sound of every vehicle and later enjoyed placing them in and out of a basket, over and over. His focus always amazes me!

A baby's work is never done, you know ;)


The yard work - it never ends....

PS And yes... sometimes I forget to take my weekly portrait of my hubby and need to quickly snap one  from the back door at the last minute!! Let this sub-par piccie in no way reflect the depth of my love and devotion to this fella, ok!!!?? :)

Project 52: A portrait of my family, once a week, every week, in 2014.

More highlights from the week that was...

On Friday night Lily wanted to make dinner. And thus, over about an hour and a half she prepared, step by step, a most elaborate meal of wraps for the family. I couldn't decide what charmed me most, the delicate squirts of sauce on the 'fancy' plate, decorated 'just so' with fresh mint leaves, OR the charming circles of finely cut avocado??!! She kills me.

Assembling our little Christmas book collection for this year's Christmas Book Advent... so excited to wrap them up and then see the kids unwrap in a flurry each night of December :)

Two sweet fairies, the very dearest of friends, out at the park to celebrate Harper's 5th birthday.

Sarah, Harper and Lily... three happy little fairy friends :)

The delightful spread created by the talented Miss Amber! The theme chosen by Harper was 'Pearlie Fairy'; (a book series).
It was all soooooo sweet, and I think I got won over by the simple relaxed charm (and space!) of a park party!

Painting fairy wands 

Miles was centre of attention, with my dear friend Jess' son Finn taking it upon himself to 'babysit' by wheeling Miles merrily around in the pram for quite some time. Of course, the other kids had to come join in for a while too. Miles took it all in stride :)

There is rather a lot of this going on these days. The best bit is a big sister who can sit and read with him... trying to satiate his demands for books - along with his demands for potty time!!

The storystones have been rediscovered lately. The funny thing is some of the 'herb garden' ones I wrote for markers were with them, so parsley, kale and chives suddenly played a significant role in their creative story lines!! ;)

The boys latest favourite spot is the botton of Daddy's wardrobe. Usually Miles sits in their with his feet poking out but he was too quick for me to capture him. He loves his funny games, this boy :) Yes, peekaboo, I see you!!!

Can he see me??
I must be invisible?!!
Here I am!!!!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

our family food policy // growing happy, healthy eaters... for life!

I don't know about you but to be honest, I didn't care or think too much about healthy eating until my sweet kiddos came along. Something about being solely responsible for the nourishment of little humans does that to a person, huh?! I have to say they have transformed my whole outlook!

So, I have been wanting to write about kids and food for quite a while. After all, what our kids eat takes up quite a lot of our time and energy.... I feel like I am hardly out of the kitchen these days, constantly sending food down the conveyor belt to my ravenous horde!

My idea for this post is to put together the principles, ideas, tips and policies that form our 'family food guide' - basically, the how's and why's behind our work to create healthy happy eaters in our family. So, it's probably going to be a preeeeetty long post ;) With three kids aged 6, 4 and almost 2, we have done quite a bit of feeding already... with many more years to come. I am thankful to say that thus far our goals are pretty much on track, with three healthy, happy, adventurous eaters. So, I'd love to share what's working for us, and how we got here - and what we are still working towards as it is always a work in progress. Love you to share your tips too :)

Now this is not some kind of bragging post about how our kids are the best eaters in the world and can we please have a medal!! ;) Ha! Not at all. They are just real kids and we are real parents. It's just a place to collate the information and guiding principles I have gathered along the way from food experts and of course - other mums who have been there before! I'm such a bower bird, picking up info from everywhere, I just can't help it! My friends do call me the Research Queen, haha. This topic is important to me so I wanted to compile it all into one place. I eagerly I soak up tips and tricks from others, so would love to 'share the love' here about what I've learned along the way. Needless to say (but I will say it anyway), this is just about what has worked for us, and why we do what we do. Pick and choose what you like and leave the rest. So here we go!

Smashing down some spinach from our veggie patch. 

When I thought about the relationship I wanted my kids to have with food, I always knew my aim was to create happy, healthy, adventurous eaters. For myself, I grew up an extremely picky eater. Food was also a battle ground and I knew I didn't want that for my kids. I wanted to enjoy eating with my kids, I wanted them to have a healthy relationship with food through their lives. At the same time, it was important for me to raise kids who weren't fussy, who would try new foods and also be polite around eating non-preferred foods, both in the home and most especially when they were guests. Being respectful and appreciative are really important values in our family, as is eating a good, nourishing, varied diet... but without being too obsessive about it either. Eek! How to get to this place?

Well, here are a few of our 'family food policies' that guide us to our 'happy medium'.

(Please note - they are always a work in progress and there are always exceptions! Apply your own logic and circumstances, of course)

From the very beginning, our kids always eat what the family eats. All three of our kids started solids at six months through the Baby Led Weaning approach and I can't rave enough about how well this worked for us, making food introduction stress-free, easy, fun and of course gloriously messy. They all enjoyed food from Day 1, more or less (some took more time to start really eating than others, which is fine) and the approach made it a natural introduction to REAL food in a manner that allowed them to take on what they were ready to consume. We started as we meant to go on. We also gave them healthy food options, and trusted them to eat what they needed and low and behold... they did :) (More on this to come).

We have never (at least so rarely that I can't remember it!) bought or prepared 'special kids food'. Mostly because anything branded for kids just seems like an expensive marketing ploy, generally more processed and just a rip off to my frugal mind ;) The kids eat what the family eats, that's all they know and they are happy to do so. I don't want to have to wean them off kiddie food onto adult food - so they just happily eat the real stuff now!


This little saying comes from Ellen Satler's 'Division of Responsibility in Eating.  This has been the primary principle in our food approach. *I* choose a healthy and varied diet, *I* choose appropriate meal times and places, and *they* choose how much they eat. Toddlers in particular go through all sorts of growth spurts, one day eating little more than two sultanas and the next day wolfing down three bowls of curry. It all evens out! If they choose not to eat much one meal, they tend to be much more amenable to the next meal time, I find ;) This little mantra takes away sooooo much stress about food, because at the end of the day, you can't force them to eat. As my clever friend Wendy put it, 'I spend a lot of time thinking about what they will eat, and very little time thinking about how much'. 

Our general policy for meal times... (and this is a core issue in daily life, isn't it) is that the kids are not required to eat everything they are served. I serve small/appropriate portions and then trust them to eat as much as they need. However, I'm not running a diner. They must eat enough to tide them over till the next meal time. And the catch is that if they can't finish what they are have, that is fine, but they cannot have anything else either. So there is no leaving all the beans and then asking for fruit or more meat. I do gently encourage them to eat what they are served, but I don't push it. They can eat what they are served or not. But nothing extra if they don't want to finish what's in front of them. That is just the way it goes around here! We do generally require that they have at least one bite of everything served. But no stress, fuss, cajoling or pleading. This is also because I want our family meal times to be a pleasant time of togetherness and conversation. Yes, because we have small kids meal times can often be chaotic anyway, haha, but I did not want them to be a meeting place for endless negotiations and battles. Though the kids sometimes try to draw me into these ;) I just try to let them clearly know the boundary and the choice is theirs. 

This was a day when Miles suddenly decided he didn't want to eat his avocado rice cake. He was hollering for crackers, banana, and anything else he could spy in the pantry. I just calmly informed him several times that avocado rice cakes was what was for lunch (he had eaten several other things already too) and went about my business in the kitchen. After ten minutes, he suddenly picked up the rice cake, shot me this HUGE grin and happily munched down the entire rice cake!!! Cheeky boy - putting me to the test?!? :)

We talk a lot about 'listening to our tummies'. I encourage them to listen to their bodies, to be aware of that 'full' feeling or how they feel after eating certain foods. I don't want them feeling compelled to eat everything in front of them (finish their plate), even to the point of feeling sick. I hate waste, but have come to realise even for myself that cramming down food you don't need is just as wasteful as throwing it out (of course we don't throw it out anyway, it's saved for later or fed to the chooks!). Finishing your plate no matter how you feel is not really a healthy eating approach. So, they will often pipe up that their tummy says they have had enough. And yes, this even happens when eating a 'treat' like very rare lollies or ice cream. As you can guess, I am just thrilled when that happens, to see that even when eating a 'treat' food, they will listen to their tummies and stop when they have had sufficient. Three cheers for self-control - this is the kind of understanding I hope they will carry with them through adulthood. No prizes for gluttony in this life! Yes, sometimes their tummies do have some rather questionable messages, haha ;) (eg 'my tummy says it needs ice cream for dinner'!!) but I love that they are learning to tune into how their body reacts to food (including food that just doesn't feel good). Mindless compulsive eating is not something I'm aiming for.

We don't serve dessert on any regular basis. Partly because I don't want kids sugar loading before bed (or, actually, any time), partly because I don't want them to build a lifelong habit of needing 'sweet' to follow 'savoury', and partly because I want them to eat their meal for it's own sake. I don't like to bribe them to eat dinner (forcing food down) just to get something seen as 'better', especially as I think it tends to elevate sweet food too much. In the last few months we have instituted 'Friday Night Treat Night' which wards off requests for treats at other times - they now know they can look forward to it one night a week :) A happy medium that works for us right now. It is really important to me to keep sugar at a minimum in their diet, knowing its effect on the body and the cravings it sets up for life. I am not one to cut out entire food groups, so I don't plan to ever fully 'quit sugar' or anything (life's too short not to eat cake, haha) but keeping it minimal seems right for now.

My approach towards food, from the first morsel they ate in BLW has been to take a relaxed, no pressure, no stress, no emotion or 'hovering monitoring every bite' type approach. There is no power in food! Kids read and absorb your anxiety so I keep well away from that. I guess I never felt much anxiety anyway in terms of how much they were eating or if they would eat. I just give them foods I'm happy for them to eat and let them take care of the rest.

How often does this phrase come out of your mouth 'Oh, you won't like that!' ? It's all too easy to say! But hold up. How do we know what they will and won't like? Ok, maybe they didn't like it last time but maybe they will this time! I try really really hard to not project any of my own food biases, preferences and ideas on to the kids. Let them decide what they like. They might just surprise you! Let them decide what is too strong, too spicy, too gross. When the kids want to sample the raw garlic I am chopping, I just warn them 'It's a really strong flavour' and give them a tiny slice. Then they turn around and say they love it! You just never know. Kids can be weird, haha.  I am admittedly still a fussy eater in many areas unfortunately, thought I have gotten a lot better, I promise!! (I can't handle raw tomato, cucumber, avocado etc). I just LOVE however that the kids cheerfully eat all these things and they also have no idea that I don't like them as I try not to mention my own issues. When Eli requests peanut butter, vegemite, sultanas AND lettuce on one sandwich, I bite my tongue except to cheerfully say 'Sure' and let him at it. I love for them to try as many weird and wacky food combos as possible, it all helps with varying their palate. So, let them try whatever they want to try, and let them decide what they think. Any show of food confidence and adventurousness (is that a word?!) is a good thing in my book. 

Another phrase I love which I read in a kids' cooking magazine article (which I could remember more specifics!) was 'You don't have to like it but it would be good if you could try it'. I think kids naturally become wary of new foods, especially around age two where even old favourites suddenly get cast aside (I think the taste buds and appetite does change around this age, it's been amazing to see the transition in all my kids). They are wary and think 'but I might not like it'... so just matter of factly letting them know you don't have to 'like' everything you try takes a lot of the fear away. Just one small taste! One day I invented a silly song to celebrate when the kids tried something new. We sing to the tune of 'Johnny works with one hammer' (no idea why this random tune is in my head!) 'Lily tried a new thing, a new thing, a new thing. Lily tried a new thing and she........' then let the child chime in with 'LIKED IT' or 'DIDN'T LIKE IT' or 'SORT OF LIKED IT' haha. This lets them be allowed to form an opinion but focuses the celebration on trying something new.They now sing this for themselves or each other and even Miles can sing the chorus :)

We don't reward or punish for eating and I also try to avoid threatening over food. So there is no 'finish your meal or you don't get dessert' type thing. I want them to eat because it's good food there to be eaten. Not only do I feel like rewarding for eating is getting stuck in a cycle I sure don't want to be in, I also don't like the message it sends to the kids, of forcing down one 'bad' type of food in order to get a 'good' one. It also feels like it elevates 'treats' too much?? There are logical consequences, as mentioned, of having to eat what is before them before they have something else, but I don't 'lead' or cajole with that as an incentive or punishment, it's just a matter of fact.

Don't let it be set in your mind that they don't like something, 'cos taste buds change! They say it can take 17 tries for taste buds to come around to a new food. I have seen myself a certain veggie be placed on a plate day after day and then all of a sudden become a favourite. It can happen ;) Don't stress about it, just keep offering.

We talk about food as 'every day' foods, 'sometimes' foods and 'party' food. Not good/bad food. For a while I tried to take the approach of all food being neutral, only focusing on the nourishment purposes and not the differing pleasure in eating - the idea being to take the emotional power out of food....but I got over that as it just felt inauthentic. While I don't want to build up junk food, let's be honest, it's more fun to go out for ice cream than a cucumber!! ;) There is joy and community and pleasure in eating and I felt fake pretending like food was nothing more than fuel. We can also take pleasure in the bounty of food God provides us, right!?

My overall goal is a good start to a healthy relationship to food for their lives. To be able to understand their bodies, how food is like medicine that either nourishes or harms, to enjoy eating good food but not to be consumed by it (I am not one to stress about every morsel - I follow the 80/20 rule - eat well 80% of the time and don't worry about the other 20%). To listen to their bodies in relation to what they eat - what feels good, what doesn't, when their tummy is truly hungry and when it has had enough. Kids won't stave themselves, so don't stress too much about them eating more or less at different times. If they get hungry enough, they will eat! So we just try to make sure what they do eat is as nutritional as possible (most bang for your buck!). Admittedly my kids have always been pretty big eaters so I have never had the 'sparrow eater' challenge but I think the rule still applies, and they certainly have had meal times where they have chosen to eat very little or even nothing. And that's ok.

In Summary.... (you still with me??)

My kids are encouraged to try everything on their plate, but they don't have to finish the plate. Appetites waver, this is just part of life. I don't stress if some meal times (or even days) they don't eat much at all, and other times they are ravenous. It all balances out. Again, just keep presenting healthy options and don't micro manage the intake. It makes life a whole lot less stressful for everyone ;) 

Now, do my kids sometimes complain about certain foods? Have foods they don't really like? Yes. And yes! They are human after all ;) Do I sometimes cajole them to eat just a bit more? Errr... yes, that happens sometimes too! If they are just being distracted (eg children!) at meal time, I might ask them to take five more bites before they leave the table. Cos I am also human, haha!! Sometimes (gasp) I have even said to hurry and finish so they can have a treat. Real life, folks. They aren't robots and neither am I! However generally, the principles laid out above are what we follow in our family and are working for us so far. We don't stress about food in our family, I just try to be intentional about giving them nourishing foods and let it unfold from there. I should add that we also talk a lot about gratefulness, good manners, trying your best to eat what's before you especially when you are a guest, to show appreciation for Mummy's cooking (complaining about the meal is not okay), and so on. We talk about how every meal does not have to be a 'favourite', we can still eat food we don't prefer, with thankfulness. It's important to me that my kids gratefully receive the food before them and recognise where it comes from. It's ok to not love everything you eat, but it is not okay to be ungrateful for it. This is a work in progress, of course ;) But my trio meanwhile happily eat everything from curry to relish to olives to kale chips.

Lily having fun with black bean wraps!

At the end of the day, some kids will just naturally have wider palates than others. One child of mine can happily swig a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar and barely flinch (sour!!!!) which I can barely tolerate! Not so for another child. But I truly believe that children can appreciate a much wider range of foods than just sultanas and chicken nuggets. These early years are so crucial in setting them up with a diverse palate, a healthy appetite and an appreciation for good nutritious food which will hopefully go with them for life.

And so... this was my hodge-podge of collated thoughts and experiences... I hope some of it may be useful or helpful, or inspiring - feel free to cherry pick as you please :) Also - add any of YOUR tips and thoughts below!


Sunday, 23 November 2014

47/52 - sunset strolls + school shows


After dinner at our lovely in-laws new home, we went for our first stroll up the bike path out their back gate. I only happened to have my camera with me as the house was already locked up, it only happened to be dusk, the kids just happened to insist on bringing leftover party balloons and it only happened to be the most delightful, picturesque little path. And so... a spontaneous rapid-fire photo shoot commenced as the kids raced up the path, waving their balloons...

 (Eli's popped within 5 mins, sadly!)

I have a feeling we will be taking a few more walks along this little path - felt like we were in the middle of bush land, yet in the midst of suburbia! That's Canberra for you.


This week Lily had her end of year show at school. She had the full quota of grandparents (four!), parents (two!) and siblings (two!) in attendance to cheer her on. But I think no one was prouder than her brother Eli. 

On the way out the door to the show, I snipped a few little rosebuds from our garden. After the show, Eli asked if he could give them to Lily. He put the roses behind his back carefully, then marched from the hall to the classroom (where she was being collected after the show) with utmost determination.

As soon as she appeared, he told her to close her eyes and then thrust the roses at her with gusto saying 'Lily, dis is because you did a really great job'. Cue all the surrounding parents bursting into a chorus of 'awwww' as Eli fiercely embraced his sister.

Sigh. What a devoted and loving sibling you are, little E. What a gift to your sister - and to me. 


My little rev-head. 

This kid loooooves cars, in a way neither of the other two quite have. Every morning he begs to go for a drive in the car. He spends large portions of his day zooming various cars around the house, just happily wheeling them while making various car sounds. It's pretty adorable, to see his own little interests and passions emerge :) 

(Thankfully, Daddy's vast childhood collection of matchbox cars gives him lots of options to enjoy!)


During a quiet Sunday afternoon, I peeked into the spare room to see these two busily crafting masks together. Yes, this is why he is the best father who ever fathered. 

Talk about a sweet father/daughter moment. Too cute, these cuties!! :)

Project 52: A portrait of my family, once a week, every week, in 2014.

More highlights from the week that was...

Brave little lady up on stage..... singing silly songs about cleaning the house :) Her whole little Kindy job did a stellar job.

Man on a mission...

The anticipation....

My little performer who said she 'LOVED!' being on stage. She had fun and we
had fun watching her and being super proud (and noisy!) family members! :)