It’s Not All Mary Poppins

DIY Ikea-Hack Bench and Blind

A while ago I told you all how Busy, Busy I was with the Project That Got Away, and promised you pictures. Though it may seem that I totally forgot, and lord knows that’s entirely possible, I didn’t! No, it’s just that I have a really crappy camera, and it’s very difficult to take pictures of a window with a really crappy camera.

So, these aren’t great pictures — in fact, that first one is awful — but they’re the best my poor little camera can do.

1. Bench with new cushion and bolsters. Blind made from old (green) curtains and using strip of leftover bench fabric for a bit of visual interest, but not too much matchy-matchy. (Sorry for the visual distractions: That weird white spiral in the centre is the string for the ceiling fan. If I’d realized it was going to POP into the picture like that, I’d have flipped it up out of the way. Oh, well. The red ribbon and ball in the centre of the blind is a glass ornament my brother gave me for Christmas a year or two back, and MUCH prettier in real life than it is in this picture.)

I opted to use the curtain hardware (rod and rings) for the blind. Sure simplified things, and if I ever make these things again, I may just see if IKEA still makes them!

Also: my living room is NOT this sickly shade of grey-green, the light from the ceiling fan is warm, not pallid, and I sure do wish I’d straightened the right edge of the blind, which was caught on one of the loops that hang from the middle of the blind. We can safely agree that a) my camera is crap and b) my staging could be much better. A photographer I ain’t.

But I can sew!

I also opted not to put a dowel through the lower edge, which means that when it’s folded up, that edge droops between the loops. I’m fine with this. If you wanted a straight edge, you’d have to make a casing for the dowel. I’ve done that with different blinds. It would be nice to say I deliberately looked for a softer, less rigid look, but really, I just couldn’t be bothered. I put the accent strip of fabric on both sides of the blind so it would look the same when folded.

At the very lower right, you can see another loop. That’s the rightmost loop of the second row of four loops, enabling the blind to be raised to a second, higher level. Here, the blind comes to the bar in the centre of the window.

(The loops are hooked onto four S-hooks which I suspended on ribbons tied to the curtain rod.)

And here, it’s raised to its highest position. (For reference, compare the placement of the glass ball. The ball hasn’t moved, only the blind.) And oh, look! For the entirely gratuitous Cute Factor, a small dog is enjoying the bolster.

Simple, effective, and (yay!) pretty inexpensive. I’m pleased.

June 6, 2012 Posted by | crafts | , , | 1 Comment

Devious? Changed my mind

I once wrote a post on getting your child to eat their greens “The Devious Way“. In fact, few of the ideas in the post were truly devious. Mostly they were simply indirect: rather than making an issue of it, you assume that vegetables will be eaten. After all, you eat them. Why? Because they’re good!

Your child may not believe that yet. Some veggies are definitely an acquired taste. Moreover, if you’re dealing with a power-struggling two-year-old, they’ll say ‘no’ just because they can. Their refusal has far less to do with actual likes and dislikes than it has to do with Control. I’ve seen tots at this stage refuse cookies. (My lovely eldest was one!) However, they very quickly learn that you don’t care if they refuse a cookie, but you reeeeally care if they refuse their cauliflower. Wahoo! Cauliflower it is! Or … isn’t.

With persistence on your part, they will come to enjoy their food, all of it. Well, with the occasional exception. No one likes everything. Most people, however, like almost everything.

So I titled that post, “The Devious Way”, and now I wish I hadn’t, because it gives the wrong impression. You don’t need to sneak veggies into your child. In fact, you shouldn’t. It’s a short-term gain, but fails for the long term. If your child remains blithely unaware that he has been eating broccoli for years, then, as far as he is concerned, he doesn’t like broccoli. You may be getting the nutrition into him now, but you are not teaching him lifetime habits by which he’ll keep himself healthy. When there is no one around to sneak the greens into him, he likely won’t be eating them.

Provide vegetables as you do all food types — with the assumption that they taste good and that everyone wants to eat them. Consider this: Odds are good you don’t go all angsty when your child, in a fit of contrariness, refuses pasta. No, you shrug and say “whatever”. You don’t beg and plead, you don’t hide or camouflage it. You don’t fall over yourself coming up with alternatives. You just figure, “Eh, she’ll eat it tomorrow.” And she likely will.

The same holds true with vegetables — well, with all the food groups. Toddlers are faddish eaters. What they loved one day, they will refuse the next. If you’re concerned about your child’s intake, keep track over a week. You will probably find that over the course of a week, he does indeed get a balanced diet. It’s quite likely that, though it appears he’s refusing an entire category of food, that was only on Tuesday and Friday, but the rest of the week, he made up for that lack just fine. You remember Tuesday and Friday because he kicked up such an almighty fuss, or because you stressed out so much over it. The days he ate everything without complaint, you don’t notice so much.

So, most of the time, your teaching is indirect. You model good eating habits. You provide healthy food at sensible intervals. You make sure any snacks are healthy. You allow the occasional treat, but you make sure they’re occasional and portions are modest. Desserts are usually fresh fruit, only rarely gooey, cups-of-sugar extravaganzas. You are just as likely — more likely! — to rave about how delicious strawberries are, or those fresh-off-the-vine peas, as you are to rave about the hot fudge brownie sundae.

If the food culture in your home is “healthy is normal, healthy is DELICIOUS!”, your child will absorb this in time. Now, our culture does not support parents in their efforts. It is possible that you may have to change your own eating habits because you want to do better for your child than was done for you. It is possible that you have allowed poor eating patterns to develop, and now have the daunting task of retraining both your child and yourself. Thus, it is possible that once in a while you will have to play hardball.

Generally speaking, though, your own cheerful enjoyment of healthy food, your firm refusal to provide alternate meals (and certainly not nutritionally inferior alternates!), your calm willingness to let your child choose not to eat, and your ongoing providing of healthy food will produce children who enjoy their food.

All of it.

And mealtimes will be happy, social, friendly, conflict-free events.

June 5, 2012 Posted by | food, health and safety, power struggle | , , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday, with a side of Modelling and Reverse Psychology

Monday: Pasta and assorted vegetables with peanut sauce

Tuesday: Rice and dahl, carrot salad

Wednesday: Beef stew, kale salad

Thursday: Potato fish cakes, cooked carrot sticks

Friday: Lentil-beet salad

One day last week, I sat with the children at lunch. It is only recently that I have begun to sit with them when they eat (more on this later in the week), but I do now. I can’t remember what the children were eating that day, but I know was eating something different. I hadn’t been sure that there would be enough for me as well as the children, so I dished out the fresh lunch for them, and hauled out some leftovers for myself.

Roasted asparagus and mushroom, reheated in the microwave for me! NOM. I looooove asparagus, but had never tried it roasted before, and it was delicious. I love mushrooms any way: raw, simmered in a stew, pickled, fried, roasted…

(Food memory: When I was teaching, oh, those many years ago, one of my favourite lunches was a bowl of sliced mushrooms, topped with a generous dollop of grated cheddar. When I got to the staff room at lunch time, I’d sploosh on a bit of water, top the bowl with a plate, and cook it in the microwave until the mushrooms were dark and limp and had released their juices. The result: a bowl of cheesy mushrooms in a terrific broth. Not enough broth to call it a soup, but something like that. Sooooo good, and so easy!)

So, roasted asparagus and mushrooms. My lunch. We all sit down and commence to chat. Soon, five pairs of eyes are rivetted on my fork.

“What is that, Mary?”

“Asparagus. I thought maybe there wasn’t enough of what you’re having for me. I wanted to make sure you guys got enough, so I’m having something different.”

Five pairs of eyes stare longingly at my fork. I thought I could get away with this! None of them like mushrooms, and, though I haven’t tried it with them this year yet, I figured asparagus would be suspect. The grass really is greener on the other side of the dining table, isn’t it?

But I don’t want to share!

And from that dawns A Plan. Or at least, an Idea. Wonder if it’ll work?

“You have your lunches. Eat, eat! Go on! This is mine.” But I pitch my voice carefully. This is not my “And I mean business!” voice, which they don’t generally argue with. This voice is more playful. Just serious enough, but not too serious.

And it works. They keep staring.

“Mmmm,” I look at my fork, chew blissfully, “this is good, good asparagus.” I am not aware of my audience. No, no, no. I am just musing to myself about the glorious yumminess that is asparagus. (Which is sincere, people. I love asparagus. And this roasted asparagus is goooood.) Then my eyes focus past my fork. I abruptly and dramatically become aware of my audience. Let my eyes pop open in surprise. Flap my hand at them, in a shoo, shoo motion. “Go on, you guys. Eat your lunch.” Big smile.

They chew, morosely. Staring at my food. Which is obviously much, much better than theirs.

“Oh, all right.” I sigh. “Do you want a taste?”


“Okay, but just one bite. There are FIVE of you! I don’t want you to eat ALL my lunch!”

Into each mouth goes one bite of asparagus. Four of five children eat with visible enthusiasm. I am quite sure that Jazz, Ms. Contrarian and Ms. Non-Eater who mostly lives on air, eats because she knows I don’t want to share. Mwah-ha.

I take another mouthful myself. Five pairs of eyes stare at me.

“Is that good, Mary?” Grace asks.

“Yes. And it’s mine. You had your taste.”

“But what is that?” Because, of course, I have made sure to fill this fork with mushrooms, not the asparagus they just had.

“It’s mine.” I don’t say ‘mushrooms’, because they KNOW they don’t like mushrooms. If they don’t recognize these dark, limp bits on my plate as mushrooms, I’m not telling.

Stare, stare, stare.

“Wait. You guys want a taste of this, too????” I let some playful incredulity slip into my voice. “But this is MY lunch!” They giggle.

“I want some!” Rory declares.
“Yeah! I want your lunch!” Jazz giggles.

“But what will I eat?”

“May I have some, PLEASE?” Sweet Grace softens me up by giving me the Full and Complete Polite Sentence, accompanied by the classic Grace sweeter-than-sweet full-bore beaming Smile of Adorability.

With a dramatic sigh, I pop a piece of mushroom — MUSHROOM! — into five waiting mouths. (Starting with Grace, who asked politely.)

“Okay, are we done? Can I eat my lunch now?”

“NO!” Jazz is totally, totally into this game. Jazz, who loathes mushrooms with a fiery passion. Who has been known to gag on mushrooms. “I want more!”

“But this is MY lunch!! What will I eat???”

And so it goes. One bite for me, one bite, over my loud and indignant protest, to each of them. Eventually Jazz realized that she didn’t really like those things. (Though she views all food but pasta, bread and crackers with suspicion, I think her dislike of mushrooms is neither a fad nor a power gambit, but quite, quite genuine. And yet she just ate about six in a row. Heh.) They ate nearly all my asparagus, too.

So they each had probably a quarter cup of asparagus and mushroom, all told. And then they ate their own lunches. (Don’t worry: Mary did not starve. There was more in the fridge, and there it stayed until the little beggars were safely tucked away for nap/quiet time.)

I think I’ve discovered a way to introduce new foods to these little monkeys… Devious for the win!!!

June 4, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | 6 Comments