Saturday, 21 February 2015

6 tips for managing fussy eating (and apologies for the clickbait title!)

Fussy eating. Is there anything more annoying when you work with children? I'm fairly certain this is entirely a first world problem, too - pretty sure you wouldn't find children who do not have enough to eat on a daily basis being picky about what they like and don't like.

Personally, I find fussy eating very difficult to understand, as I have never been a fussy eater. I like all food, and the idea that there can be foods which somehow upset our taste buds, our palate, our mouth feels - huh?? So when I began my job and discovered that the bug is a fussy eater, my heart sank just a tiny bit. I love the job and I knew that I would still love the job, but I also knew how exhausting and upsetting trying to manage a fussy eater day in, day out is.

So it took me a couple of months to really work on it with the bug, but I think we're finally there; we're finally at the point where he will eat (almost) anything I put in front of him. And here are my tips on how to deal with fussy eating!

1. Were they always fussy?

Identifying whether this fussiness is in their nature or a new situation from their environment actually helps more than you know. The bug was not a fussy eater until he went to school - or to be more precise, until he started year one. Looking into it further, we discovered that although in reception the children were not given a choice about the meal they had at lunch, in year one they were given the choice between a full meal which changed every day - casserole, wraps, stir fry, bolognese etc. - and pasta with cheese. So naturally, every day all the boys in year one were having pasta and cheese for lunch, every single day. Combine this with the bug hearing other boys saying, "I don't like this" "I don't like that food type" and you can see where his fussiness was coming from. Any child given the choice will choose the simple carby option which skips out on the veg. Some children, though, are fussy from the word go and will refuse pretty much everything during weaning even. They will take longer to learn to eat lots of foods, and you will need more patience with them. They can be brought around in the same way, but it may well take them longer to settle to new ways of eating.

2. Control

Children start off life with basically no control - they poo and wee when it comes, they are fed when they're hungry, they can't move for themselves or speak for themselves, they don't get any choices in food or companions, in clothes or environment. Gradually they gain more control, learning to crawl, then walk, learning to pick things up and push them away. They learn to talk and vocalise what they want and what they think. It's understandable that children will push for more control, because they want to be in control of their own life just as much as you or I do. So I found that the bug would be more willing to eat if he got some choice in supper. He doesn't get the choice of what he's having, but he does get the choice of which vegetables he will have, and he gets a "this or that" choice - peas and broccoli or tomatoes and cucumber etc. He does not have free reign of choice, he gets to choose between two options. It satisfies his need for control but helps him to make a secure decision within boundaries.

3. Knowledge is power

Almost every child will ask what they're having for supper. Big mistake! Don't tell them! I was brought up with evasive answers like "puff pie and squeal" or "table and chair legs". I don't know why we feel a need to tell our children what they're eating - maybe we want to feel that they'll develop a liking for lots of foods by knowing what lots of foods look and taste like? Instead, the minute you say, "it's chicken korma with rice" the child will say, "I don't like rice" or something to that effect. The bug no longer gets told what he's eating. He can guess away but I will not answer. This also stops him from deciding to dislike a meal before he's actually tasted it. A large part of children disliking foods is that they have made up their mind not to in advance, and by then trying it is pointless and won't make them like it. Just don't tell them, and they have to try it before they can decide. As a result he has eaten cauliflower cheese thinking it's macaroni and cheese and told me it was absolutely delicious, despite having told his mum that he hates cauliflower. and this leads me onto my next point...

4. Which foods do they actually dislike?

The bug has a list as long as my arm of foods he would say he doesn't like. Most of them he eats without necessarily knowing that he's eating them. Cooked carrot, for example, he will eat as long as he doesn't know it's in there. It gets grated into bolognese, and he's happy. Potato, on the other hand, he will not stomach under any circumstances (yet). I do think that there are a couple of foods where the Bug does not like the taste of that food on its own. This is okay. If he has maybe 3 or 4 foods that he absolutely definitely does not like, that's okay. But working out which they really don't like and which just aren't favourites, and which are all about control is important. Most children should like most food, and sometimes it's about trying the food in many different ways before you can conclude that they definitely don't like it. And if you have a child who can retch on command, this does not mean they don't like it. It just means they have another way to try to control the situation.

5. Ban the phrase "I don't like"

I hate this phrase. Nothing gets my blood boiling quite like it. I have put in a lot of time and effort, in planning and preparing a meal for you and the only thing you have to say is that you don't like this or that? No gratitude, no appreciation, no pointing out of what you do like. I find it rude, in fact. So at our table, the phrase "I don't like" is banned. It took the Bug a few days to get used to it, but every time he started to say it I would interrupt him by telling him, "I don't want to hear that" or "I'm not interested" or "we don't say that, it's rude". He now has the hang of it, and I rarely, if ever, hear the phrase. Instead, if the bug has actually really enjoyed a meal, I get told, "that was delicious, that was really yummy, I love it!" Meal times are a lot more pleasant, I feel less grumpy, and the Bug gets frowned at less!

6. Motivate them to clean their plates

The Bug is very materially motivated - very common at his age. And his school does house points. So what I decided to do was to use this to encourage good eating habits. He now has a house point chart at home, and certain squares are highlighted. When he gets enough house points to reach a highlighted square, he gets a small treat of his choosing - a keyring, or a small toy or something to that effect. These squares are places 30 or 40 housepoints apart, so he doesn't reach them often. But he's very motivated to get housepoints as often as possible. He doesn't lose housepoints either - once he's earned it, it's there. He knows every supper time he gets one housepoint for trying everything, and one for cleaning his plate. He used to try to negotiate how many mouthfuls he had to do (another thing I hate), but now he knows it's his decision. He doesn't get too much food on his plate, he gets slightly under what I would expect him to manage so that he can ask for more if he wants. But he knows that if he finishes it he gets a housepoint. If he decides to leave food, he doesn't. So far he has cleaned every single plate since we started this. Result! Find out what motivates your child, be it stickers, telly time, a trip or a treat and find a way to use it to encourage your child to eat. Make it feel attainable, but still be a challenge - and don't give in or compromise on the conditions. It must be a proper forkful try of each food for one housepoint. It must be a properly scraped round plate for the second.

It's amazing when you put these sort of things into practice how quickly children catch on. It's incredibly important to be consistent - the Bug knows it's the same every night. Every night he will be given a meal without being told what's in it. Every night there are two housepoints available for his eating. Every night he knows we don't say "I don't like". It's the same routine, every night, and he is better for it. I would not longer call him a fussy eater, as I no longer her him complain about foods. He now eats foods he used to tell his mum he hated, and he eats them without any fuss.

Now we just need to work on his table manners!

This post has been a long time coming, and I've spent a lot of energy working on it. As a nanny it's very close to my heart, and the improvements in Bug's eating have given me relief too as I no longer have a battle at mealtimes every night. Sometimes it's still like pulling teeth, as he is so slow to eat - think an hour and a half to finish a plateful some nights - but on the whole we're more relaxed, and happier with it. I don't have to nag him to try things or eat things, which means I can concentrate on feeding the bean and chatting instead. No doubt there will be many people out there who will cry that these tips did not work or help in the slightest - no, they won't work for every case, as children are all so different. But I firmly believe that they would work for most children. Often when somebody says that something doesn't work I find that when I do it, it does, and that makes me wonder if the tips in fact did not work for the adult, rather than the child. The old cry of, "my child won't have their nappy changed" is one of the most common, and I have tips for that too which despite parents saying they won't work have then worked on their child every time I do them! Sometimes it's about the adults believing that the problem has solutions, and inviting an outside party to help or to offer advice is a good thing. Once you see that it works for your child too, your confidence can grow. But if all else fails, just remember that the majority of children grown out of the majority of problems you struggle with in their childhood. Sometimes what it needs most is time.

Love love xx

Sunday, 25 January 2015

How misogyny is ingrained into society

So I saw this on fb today, posted by a girl I know:

Am I the only person who's bothered by the sentiment this presents?! Okay, I get what it's saying, and in one sense it's correct. If you know someone's in a relationship you should not behave towards them with the intention of trying to attract them - you shouldn't try to encourage dishonesty within their relationship, and you should respect that they're in a relationship rather than trying to split them up or have one of them be unfaithful.

On the other hand, if you're in a relationship with someone, you should have that integrity to be honest and faithful within that relationship regardless of anyone trying to flirt with you. It is not just "the other woman"'s responsibility for cheating. If you can't stay faithful to the person you're dating or married to, then you shouldn't be dating or married. Your unfaithfulness is your fault, nobody else's.

My real issue with this, though, is that it assumes that it's a female who will be a "little tramp" as the poster calls it. Not only is there no assumption of responsibility on the part of the boyfriend, but it is automatically assumed that it will be a female who is stirring up trouble. It doesn't warn men not to flirt with women in relationships. Similarly, it assumes all parts of this relationship and trouble stirring are between heterosexuals. It doesn't warn women away from other women in relationships, or men away from other men in relationships. It's so sexist and degrading, and the worst thing is that despite so many people speaking out for women's rights and equality, this sort of degrading of women's character is a normal part of society - to the extent that women are the ones posting this crap, because they can't even see how sexist it is. They're not being deliberately sexist; they literally cannot see that that's what it is. It's like it's trying to tell us that if a man cheats with a woman, it's the woman's fault; but if a woman cheats with a man it's still going to be the woman's fault.

You know what this poster should really say?

There. Much better.

To anyone against feminism because they don't understand what it's about? This. This is what it's about. This is why I'm a feminist. If your man cheats, it's not because an evil woman lured him away. It's because he made a bad decision and did something wrong. And, to anyone who might call me a man hater, yes the same goes for if a woman cheats. It's the same whether in a straight or gay relationship. The person who cheats is the person who is responsible for their cheating.

Love love xx

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The dress!

This dress. Oh man. Where do I even start? This dress took me an awfully long time to make. I knew what I wanted the dress to look like from September. I bought the fabric back in October. I think I even flipped through pattern magazines in October. I drew pattern pieces for myself in November, and cut out the fabric. Then I did nothing. And nothing. Until December.Until halfway through December, in fact. This dress scared me. I was scared of screwing up. I had never drawn my own pattern pieces before. I have always been one to tweak someone else's work in order to make the item in front of me match the image in my head. I always think tried and tested, reliable patterns by companies are the best way to get what I want - find something similar, then make it work for what I want. But we didn't have anything similar. I could have bought a pattern specially, but it wouldn't have been perfect; I would have had to adjust it to fit me anyway; and it would have cost more. So I followed our own tried and tested method of sewing, fondly called sewing by the seat of my pants. And this is how it turned out:

Worth the frustration? Worth the fear? Absolutely. This dress is tailored, delicate and light, comfortable and beautiful. Each detail was painstakingly chosen, designed. Even when it was a pain in the butt to make the detail work. Take the hem, for example. The fabric came with a gorgeous scalloped edge to it. Of course I want that for the hem. But I want some volume in the skirt. I bounced ideas off my mum, we tried one or two things, they didn't work. Eventually it was wangled with some slightly bizarre angles and measures and the promise of tucks in the skirt. Then the tucks looked stupid. They left booby shapes in the skirt. I was determined to have a roomy skirt, but it had to fit the waist. So it was gathered all the way round. Problem solved.

 Of course, the gathers then didn't want to sit nicely. The skirt didn't want to behave at the waist. So I topstitched the seam in the direction that lay most nicely. Another problem solved. Now I know why I normally let other people design patterns. I also used the scalloped edging of the lace to bind the armholes.

And how does the dress look on?

How's that for a pretty fit! It's just what I wanted, and I couldn't be happier with how it looks! I feel so sophisticated.

There's plenty of room for movement, breathing and even eating a huge meal if I want to! But it doesn't bag on me. It still hugs at the waist. The grey overlay on top of the pink keeps it form being too cold a colour, without being so overly girly that it's cloying. I'm not generally one to wear baby pink, but with the grey lace over the top it suits me up and down. I even have a pair of shoes which go really well with it!

Definitely worth it.

Next week I will attempt to explain the epic saga that is my newly diagnosed heart condition. It's an interesting story but I have no pictures for it really. Maybe I'll do some drawings for it!

PS. Comment from a poorly five year old charge this evening: I don't want the cheese on my pasta to melt.


This did not dignify a response. For anyone who doesn't know, a nanny cannot bend the laws of nature. Not even when her charge is poorly.

Love love xx

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Beans, bugs and Brian

Life is busy. Work is amazing but tiring. The bean has worked out crawling forwards, and now likes nothing more than to try to reach anything  dangerous or disgusting, such as the bin, pram wheels, heavy bikes and scooters or cupboard doors. His crawl is a bit like a komodo dragon in style, and as slow as a sloth - especially compared to other crawlers! But he is stubborn and determined, and woe betide you if you remove him from whatever dangerous activity he is interested in. I spend my days being shouted at by a 10 month old who cannot understand why he isn't allowed to keep opening the cupboard door just enough to poke his fingers in, then shut it with the other hand. He is very smiley though, and despite bumping his head regularly with his new-found freedom he is happy and fun to be around with his constant chatter and the way his legs lift off the ground when he's excited. The bug is back to school and so comes home exhausted and emotional every night. He is full of brilliant questions, any of which I can't easily answer - what is technology? What''s the difference between a tractor and a digger? Where does the sun go when it sets? Why can't I see the sun but still see light on the clouds? How do helicopters fly? Does everything poo? Why? Some questions are hard not because I don't know the answer but because I don't know how to explain it so that he can understand. Sometimes he surprises me with his understanding - take the sun question. I told him that the earth was a big ball that turned and the sun didn't move, so when we turned away from it it couldn't shine on our part of the earth. I was still trying to reach a point with this, and worrying that I might be confusing him further with which bits move and which don't; but he said, "so when it sets here, could it be rising in America? Would people there be having their breakfast?" Incredible! He has an amazing ability to notice detail. Here's a combine harvester he made out of lego without any assistance:

He also drew some very detailed pictures of Frozen characters, including the Duke of Weselton, complete with moustache, spectacles and (can you believe) epaulettes!

On an entirely different point, this is Brian:

Brian is a unicorn. He is very pretty, and obviously male. He has a shiny gold horn and smiles a lot. You also may not have noticed but he has the barest, almost invisible little squint. It doesn't affect his vision very much but sometimes he can feel quite self-conscious about it. As long as people look him directly in the eyes and don't stare at his mild squint he's fine, though. He does hate it when people stare.

Brian is a good friend, and very fluffly but kinda lazy. He's like a supersized cat in some ways because he sleeps most of the time, he doesn't demand too much attention and he doesn't ask me to pick up his poop. Which is good since my job involves some of that anyway from the bean.

Yes, he has a side of the bed. He has the left side. It's closer to the radiator, which stops him getting cold during the day. His favourite foods are candy floss and ice cream - at least, they would be if he were allowed any. Ice cream would make him gassy though, and I don't need him farting sparkles in my bed. His favourite books are all teen fiction - I think he relates to the angsty awkward teenagers.

And yes, for anyone wondering, Brian is somewhat distantly related to the unicorn from Despicable Me. I don't know how distantly - I'm not even sure Brian does. They tend to all look alike in his family, but he doesn't even know the name of that particular cousin, and I don't push it. Some families don't live in each other's pockets.

Next time I post I will have photos of the dress I made over Christmas. It's very pretty and I have some photos of it already, but none with me wearing it, and I don't think it can be fully appreciated without a body filling it.

Love love xx

Saturday, 3 January 2015

It's been a long while

New Year's Resolution: Blog once a week at least.

It's been forever. Life's been busy, then not busy, but I'm a procrastinator, and the longer I leave something the harder I then find it to make myself do it. Does anyone else find it so? I'm the same with making phone calls, writing to people, even reading fb messages - I dread opening them, because I know the other person can see that and so I then have to reply! Life has had ups and downs since I last posted. Since April I have:

Finished my full-time studies at Nanny College
Dated, and broken up, with someone
Got my first official Nanny job (!) and started just before Christmas
Moved twice
Grieved for my beautiful cat who finally died from old age
Discovered I've had a heart condition all my life without knowing about it AND agreed to be operated on
Made 1 dress
Made 1 adorable nanny purse
Knitted 1 1/2 socks and 1 fingerless mitten
Finished 1 quilt
Cooked lots of food
Discovered at least 3 new recipes, including some Swedish ones
Made my first set of bunting for a wedding
Agree to make a supersized set of bunting for someone else's wedding (think 4 triangles to a metre)
Survived Christmas
Read lots and lots of books
Downloaded 2 stupid waste of time apps to my phone which I play constantly

Um... I think that's about it. There will be more detail and photos on many of these. Safe to say it's been pretty crazy, lots going on in the last 8 months. How was your 2014?

Love love xx

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Jam, picnics and cake, frogs to kiss, and a busy life...!

Ready for a catchup?! Here's what I've been up to of late...

 I made jam - plum jam, to be specific. I love plum jam, especially in PB & J's!

 The weather has been, at times, glorious! This was an amazing picnic we had as a house, with cake and biscuits and sunshine...!

 I made this cake for my housemate's birthday. It's a classic victoria sponge, with whipped cream and jam in the middle... mmmmn! Nothing quite beats a cake like that for the sunny weather!

 And I spent a weekend in Sherwood Forest, chilling out. I saw lots of these little guys, and rescued a few from the middle of roads so that they wouldn't get trodden on.

Other than that, I've spent a lot of time doing work for Nanny College. We have had many deadlines, and lots of preparations to make ready for job hunting in a couple of months. I handed in my last piece of work on Monday, and have been catching up on sleep ever since! I almost don't know what to do with myself now that I have some time off. But only almost! I'm headed back to my parents' in two days for a week or so, so I have to pack, and clean my bedroom here in Bath. I also have to clean the kitchen, as it's my job on the rota this week. I also want to do a little sewing - not much, but I want to make a block tonight! We'll see though. Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend for coffee - how I've missed my Niminy Cricket! I can't wait to see her tomorrow morning. And in the afternoon I'm visiting another friend. so I don't have much time left before I'm headed back to Manchester to do the cleaning needed... Who wanted a quiet life, anyway?!

I also received my bridesmaid dress for my best friend's wedding, so at some point I will post photos of it - once it's properly fitted to me, anyway!

Speak again soon.

Love love xx

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A lot's happened round here...

But the main thing, which I'm going to show you right now, is that I finished making a baby mobile! No, it's not for me, or anyone I know, no babies happening anywhere near me at the moment. It's for nanny college, for Creative Skills. That's right, we will even make a mobile for your child! I kept mine under wraps for a long time, because I didn't want anyone to see it before it was complete. But now it is complete, and first thing tomorrow morning it will be handed in. So now is the time! Without further ado:

 What do you think?! I'm pretty chuffed with it, even if I do say so myself! So much effort went into it, and I've been itching to post photos of it for so long, but I hadn't finished evaluating it, and everyone else was still making their own mobiles, and... well, anyway, it's done and there and I'm very pleased!

Do you like the webbing?

And... it turns into a dream-catcher:

That way, a child can enjoy it even when they're older!

I'm especially fond of the butterfly in the middle for some reason...

Lots of other things have happened round here. But I expect I shall tell you about them another time! For now, my aim is to go and find some sleep! But I shall try to post at least twice a week through Lent - and hopefully beyond!

Love love xx
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