Picky Eater at the Library Party

Academic library folk can party!  Every year we went to a swank restaurant owned by an Italian celebrity chef.  My former micropreemie, now toddling, came to work with me a couple of days a week and was also invited.

It was a pasta restaurant, his favorite! Yummy comfort foods — what’s not to love?

There was a much-anticipated $5 gift swap, wine, and small talk.  A little more wine.  Appetizers.  Then we picked from a special menu pulled together just for us — a trio of extremely lovely highbrow pastas. Gnocchi with duck; garganelli with Prosciutto, peas, and cream; ravioli with wild boar and rosemary.

Fudgey, creamy, or spicy.  Uh oh.

Luckily, I had backup.

I found our waiter and, with big smiles and nodding my head, made my request.  My cheeks felt flushed. Again.  I sat at the big round six-top with Peanut on my lap.


Click here to receive three quick videos with tips for your picky eater.

I ate; he didn’t.

CLICK to tweet:  If you have a sensory or food-averse kid, you know — you cannot wait them out.   They’d rather not eat.  At the six-top, my coworkers noticed, looked worried, asked if he was feeling okay.  I was still smiling wide, nodding, and now sweating, too.  And still flushed.

If you have a picky kid, you’ve probably stuck food in your purse a time or a hundred.

Finally the waiter came out with my secret weapon — purse nuggets!  In those days purse nuggets were my constant companion; just throw them in frozen and by lunch they’re ready to heat up.

He’s still picky at 13, but it’s okay. In the decade since then, I’ve worked out a system and he’s come a long way.  He’s no longer underweight and I don’t fret about his diet.

Purse nuggets got us through some scary times, and I am grateful to the nugget inventors of the world.  But shifting to a deliberate family culture around food has changed everything.  He’s become curious and he even eats outside his comfort zone — and points it out, haha.

If you want tips for building food curiosity in your picky kid, click the link above to get 3 quick videos sent right to your inbox.  And stay tuned, I have a webinar coming up in May that will help you ditch those purse nuggets forever!

If you can’t wait another day, check out my Parenting Picky Eaters program.  And as always, follow along the antics in the fun house on Facebook.

Purse nuggets be gone!


Perks of having atypical kids

preemie tee shirt

Click this image to purchase a tee from EliandRyn.

My first kid came 16 weeks early.  I see your math-wheels turning, converting that into months.  Yep.  He spent 3 months in intensive care and 3 weeks in a transitional hospital.  He was about 6 months old when he first brought his hands to midline (the center of his body in front) and 8 months old when he passed a toy from one hand to the other.  Two important firsts for which we had been watching and waiting.

On each occasion we photographed the event, reported it to our parents, physical therapist, occupational therapist, developmental followup personnel, pediatric neurologist, and family friends.  And each time one friend or another said “I didn’t even know that was a milestone.  I wonder what else I have missed.”

A friend on a parallel path called to tell me when her daughter reached for a tree branch outside, around age 8, and how she and her partner wept with the joy of it.  That takes vision, planning, desire, cognition, hand-eye-mind coordination!  States away, I wept into my phone too.  We rejoiced together.

I survived tee

Click this image to order a shirt from CreativeandCatchy.

The highs and lows of raising atypical kids are extremely low … and extremely high.  There are ways that parents of “typical” kids don’t get to experience the intense joy, love, and gratitude that we get to feel.  Initial diagnoses, possible outcomes, and planning courses of treatment are shocking.  Keeping track of appointments, services, medications, medical histories, and both short- and long-term goals are hard, and parenting atypical kids is hard, even grueling, with spurts of hopelessness and a constant quiet drone of worry –like that annoying neighbor who is always mowing his lawn.

In most cases, that’s not ALL it is though.  While the bulk of parents quietly check off those big visible milestones — tick, tick tick — we warriormamas study that list and all the wee steps leading up to each developmental check mark. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.  When it happens, it is huge.  A prayer answered, a celebration inside and out.  Hearts a-burstin’, eyes a-dancin’, skipping, cartwheels, screaming, and jumping for joy.  Jealous?  Our victories aren’t celebrated as points on the way to college, tech school, moving out, or adulthood, they are self-contained victories, and the joy we feel is so enormous, it can almost break us.

A facebook friend recently shared a report on which colleges graduate those students who end up making the biggest salaries, disappointed that his kid’s college wasn’t on the list.  As a parent, that is so far from my frame of reference, I can’t believe that we are both talking about parenting.  As I type this I am reveling in one good day — how it sounded smelled and tasted — and I know that in some deep way, I am the lucky one.

Come on over to Facebook and tell me what your hardest joy in parenting has turned out to be.

Sensitive, Picky Eaters? Listen in as I’m interviewed on this very topic!

Listen in tonight at 7 as I discuss with Donna Ashton my signature system for building food curiosity into your family culture.  Learn the four words that are derailing family dinners.

Donna is the founder of The Waldorf Connection, where parents can get support giving their children an education of art, music, and movement.  Donna is a champion of home-schooling ease and a mentor for family-first home-based businesses.
My talk is free, so just click here to jump on the call.


Dry Drowning: A Night at the ER

xray clip art in fun colors

Click this image to purchase this clip art from Doodles First.

Thing 1 is very sensitive to pain. Thing 2 can break concrete with her knees, then get up and say “I’m ok!” So when she complained about not being able to breathe deeply after a day at the pool, I paid attention.  Those old NICU terrors were quick to surface.  I drove like a crazy woman!

Don’t do that, I learned that you don’t need to.

Medical Quik-E Mart wouldn’t take our insurance.  Terror swells.  I had tears in my eyes when I felt an arm on my shoulder.

Thing 1, 12 and as tall as me, that former micropreemie, was hugging me.  A moment of selflessness that physically reminded me that more than a decade has passed since the NICU.

fish xray art

Click this image to purchase it from Scrapimals.

We got to the hospital and they clamped the blood oxygen meter on her finger.

animal xrays

Click this fun alphabet image to purchase it from StrawberryLuna.

They listened to her lungs.  They ordered an x-ray.  It was long past bedtime.  “Has Thing 1 ever had an x-ray?” “Yes, every day for six weeks when he was in the NICU.”  Because he was intubated.  And several other times.  He doesn’t remember any of it, huzzah.

The sweet white-haired, moustached x-ray tech pulled the tv remote onto her bed on his way out.  We spent the rest of the night watching American Ninja Warrior.  Eventually they sent us home. She was ok.  You know I have a helicopter history.  Indeed, the next day Dad asked doubtfully: Why did mom take you to the hospital?  Thing 2: Because she loves me.

I did the right thing.  The ER folks agreed.

Read this important article on dry drowning from TodayParents so that you’ll know the warning signs.

Radiolab Changed My Parenting

Thing 1 had a short playdate on the far side of the city that disallowed driving all the way home & back. I LOVE it when this happens. I’m a high-strung mom from Puritan stock… being idle wreaks havoc on my nerves.  But when gently forced to pause, I adore it.  Waiting rooms, city buses, friends who never show up.  Love!  So I sat in a parking lot listening to public radio and crocheting. Bliss.


Click the image to purchase this from graybearstudio.

I listened to Radiolab’s “Sound as Touch.”  I learned of Anne Fernald’s findings that there are a set of common tunes within the words that parents all over the world speak to their babies. Across cultures, parents sound the same.  “Sound is touch at a distance.”  I learned about the 1913 riots during the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring when brains could not make sense of the unfamiliar dissonance. And about the mechanics of how the brain understands sound.

Waves of vibrating air start compressed in your voice box, then upon iteration they travel through time and space into my ear, through a little tunnel — they vibrate a few very small bones, which in turn transmit the vibration into this salty sea where fluid literally bends little hairs to make sound, and then charged molecules rush into the brain.  “Sound is touch at a distance.” Dissonance (unpleasant sound) has chemical consequences – neurons revolt and dopamine is released into the brain.  Extreme dopamine release is one symptom of schizophrenia, and at lesser levels would have instigated the Stravinsky riots.


Click the image to purchase this from Rundtom.

You see where I’m going as I circle back to parenting… But for me it was huge. I yell. It’s not my primary parenting tool, but I do.  And I had a theory that to withstand big emotions would be a good skill that I wish I’d had. But whoa. A stranger’s dissonance can drive a group of people to riot, we know.  When that dissonance is ratcheted up, what happens?  When it is one-on-one?  Coming from the person you love most, your life source? And then, what if you have sensory processing disorder, which one or both of my kids do?  Yes, there is a science behind why shouting at someone feels like an assault. It is. Sound is touch at a distance.

So I have joined an online group of moms who are all trying to stop yelling, and I have slowed down our nightly read-aloud time to bathe them in my gentle voice.  I try to look my children in the eye, look at the color of their eyes (he has dad’s, she has mine), at their souls.  I look for my triggers — and they are often sound!  I am overwhelmed by repetitive, jarring, or loud sounds.  As are my kids. Sigh. I am also humbled by the Radiolab story enough to share it with you, to hope that we can speak with kindness more often. To keep up with my progress, sign up for my weekly-ish Ezine over at Funnermother.com.

Listen to Sound As Touch and see what you think.  Then drop me a line on Facebook.

Suckers! Start where you are!

Click the pic to order these from Sweetniks.

Click the pic to order these from Sweetniks.


Click the pic to order these from Sweetniks.

I was horrified.

Our occupational therapist brought a lollipop!  I adored her, and it physically hurt for me to try to reconcile my rigid anti-candy position with this gift.  This toy. This tool.  Because it was a tool, actually.  A spinning giant ping-pong-ball of a lollipop.

We spent some time talking about it and I tried to disguise the intensity of my feelings.  Our project was to encourage play in Thing One, my orally defensive kid, aged two, to take the stress out of eating, brushing teeth, and drinking.


Click the pic to order these from Western Hospitality.

I relented.  Whatever it takes.

He pushed the little button and it spun.  She encouraged him to put it in his mouth.  He looked at me.

I smiled and nodded.  He frowned.  He touched it gingerly to his lips. Tongue. Lips. Start where you are.

He didn’t eat that giant damned sucker.  He played with it.  Like we played with straws, blew on kleenex, and blew raspberries.  Whatever it took.  His health did not deteriorate; his taste for healthy foods did not falter (until years later).

We both learned some things that day.  I still am learning that my clear rigid boundaries are usually the ones that help the least.  The further I get into parenting — Thing One is now 11 — the more I miss the clarity and rigid boundaries I started with!

Join me on Facebook to explore making parenting more fun for kids and parents!


I am the best helicopter parent ever!

helicopter parent

Best parent ever! – Funnermother.comMy kid is a genius, handsome, funny, kind, creative.  I am sure of it!  I turn away candy, toy guns, commercial tv, video games.My kid is a genius, handsome, funny, kind, creative.  I am sure of it!  I turn away candy, toy guns, commercial tv, video games.

My kid is a genius, handsome, funny, kind, creative.  I am sure of it!  I turn away candy, toy guns, commercial tv, video games.

And this world will not hurt him. Because I am RIGHT THERE.  All the time.  Aren’t you?

Making sure nobody steals his toys, cuts in line in front of him at the playground, hurts his feelings?  Right?  Protect and serve, that’s us, right?

In the hospital with pneumonia, I chide his doctors: please wash hands in front of me.   One says, “that vigilance has gotten him this far.” Awesome.



Best helicopter parent ever! – Funnermother.com

Years later, I overhear the neighbor kid “Aw mom, I don’t want to play with him, he doesn’t know how to play my video games.”  Oops.  Am I hovering too much?

I answer the phone at the front desk of the academic library: “Yes, um, I see that you are hiring a curator?  My daughter’s background is in x, y, and z.  Should she apply?  How many applicants have you had so far?”

Wait, what?  Oh no. That’s wrong.


helicopter parent

Best helicopter parent ever! – Funnermother.com

Let me reflect a moment.  He’s ten.  Our pediatrician has been coaxing me to prioritize his social life, spend time with his friends, give him some space.  It clicked.

That’s where I’m headed, isn’t it?  Finding him work. Going on job interviews with him.

In cultural analysis we use the term “overdetermined” to describe how several different factors come together to create a very particular situation.  A kind of cultural “perfect storm.”

I learned to parent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – the first of three pressures leading up to my “parenting trifecta.”


Best helicopter parent ever! – Funnermother.com

Nope, parenting did not feel natural or intuitive to me.  In the moment, I could not figure out why.  In retrospect, how could it possibly?  Thing 1 came three days on the right side of viability; three days earlier and they would not have tried to save him.  Four years later, that doctor praised my vigilance.   Six years later, I am at a crossroad.  It felt so good to grow up, move away, forge my life.  He should be able to do that, too, and I need to travel a different path to allow him to self-actualize.  My next blog posts will cover a) my own 1970s childhood and late maternal age and 2) parenting in a culture of fear as other overdetermining factors.

Do struggle with hovering?  I’d love to know your thoughts and strategies in the comments below.

Read more about “helicopter parents” here:

US News & World Report