picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

To My Favourite Ben-Magoo on Your 6th Birthday

Oh, my Ben-Magoo…what can I say? You have been full of surprises literally* since the day you were born! I can’t post a pregnant belly picture of you because I don’t have any. I was so busy with school and daddy with his new job that we hadn’t gotten around to taking an artsy belly picture when you decided to make your surprise appearance at only 33 1/2 weeks.

Tiny Ben

Tiny baby Ben in his isolette. His chest is smaller than my hand.
©PicklesINK 2013

You got it in your teeny head that you were ready to be born and there was no stopping you! I was scared at the time but I should have known you had it all under control. They told us that preemies usually have breathing problems – not you! They told us that preemies usually stay in the hospital until their due date – but you made sure you were home in time for my first Mothers’ Day!

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We could have fit 5 baby Bens in this Moses basket!
©PicklesINK 2013

Have I told you before how smart you are? I know all moms think “My kid is so smart!” but my Magoo, your intellect continues to astound me. I haven’t been able to win an argument with you since…well, since you learned to talk…and ever since you started moving around you’ve been building and creating amazing structures – first “simple” towers and now extensive multi-level train tracks like Brio Peak.

Stacking

Ben, around 18 months, creating a stack of jars taller than him.
©PicklesINK 2013

You have what your Uncle Chris calls “the knack,” and not only that, you have the single-minded drive, when you come up with an idea, to keep working at it until you see it through. You can get frustrated when things don’t go the way you envisioned though, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective or a second pair of hands to finish the job, and asking for help is just a way of effectively problem-solving.

You are so kind and loving, my Magoo. We had a bit of a rough patch there for a while after Molly was born. There were times when I got really frustrated yelled too much, and I know that I hurt your feelings and made you sad sometimes, and you still loved me more than anything. But just like I said, asking for help is a way of problem-solving, and knowing how much you loved me gave me the strength to do that. Do you know what else? Me being able to talk about that hard time has given lots of other people the courage to do the same thing, and that’s all thanks to you!

Mommy and Ben

Mommy and Ben snuggles
©PicklesINK 2013

I bet you didn’t know this, Magoo, but there are some kids who are unhappy or mad when a new baby comes home because they have to share their mommies or daddies. I don’t think that ever even crossed your mind, though, because you have loved Molly more than anything since the moment you first saw her.

Grinning big brother Ben holding his brand-new sister Molly.
©PicklesINK 2013

I don’t know if I’ve seen you so sad as the day I told you you couldn’t marry her because she’s your sister! And boy, does she ever look up to you. She thinks that you are just the coolest person ever, and I think she believes you could do absolutely anything.

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Ben plays a private guitar concert for Molly in her jumperoo.
©PicklesINK 2013

I know that now that’s she’s getting older there are times when she gets on your nerves, but even when you two fight you work it out together and go right back to being best friends. I hope you two keep on appreciating and loving each other as much as you do now, even when you grow up.

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Ben and Molly hugs
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben-Magoo, one of the most wonderful things about you is your integrity. I will never, ever forget when you knocked over a pile of socks that Molly had folded, and I said, “Don’t tell Molly you knocked those over because she’ll be sad.” She overheard me and said, “Did Ben knock over my socks?” and I said, “No, monkey, I put them in the laundry basket.” You leaped up and said, “Oh Molly, I did knock them over! I’m so sorry! It was an accident. I’m really, really sorry,” and Molly said, “That’s okay, Ben.”

Then you looked me in the eye and said, “Mommy, you shouldn’t have told that lie.” You know what, Bud? You were absolutely right. It it always better to take responsibility for your actions and face the consequences then to tell a lie to get out of trouble, and you were right to remind me of that.

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Stern Ben dressed as Santa
©PicklesINK 2013

We had something sad happen in our family this year, didn’t we, Bud? Our Papa, your great-grandfather, died. You were so very special to Papa because you were his very first great-grandchild. The first time he held you in the hospital, he looked at me, his face aglow, and said, “Can you believe that I actually have a great-grandson?

Papa and Ben

Papa holding Ben – can you ever see the resemblance!
©PicklesINK 2013

Papa was very special to you, too. It must have been hard wrapping your head around the fact that you were never going to see him again, but you thought about it asked the questions that you needed to to understand, and sometimes I think that you understand better than us grown-ups – Like when you said, “Chris and Caitie are sad because Papa isn’t going to be at their wedding. But really he is going to be there with us, isn’t he?” and when at Christmas you said, “This Christmas our family just isn’t the same, is it, because Papa died.”

You also have  real gift for creativity, Magoo. You and daddy share a special bond with your love of photography. (I know, I know, you don’t have that camera any more. You figured out pretty quickly that kid cameras just couldn’t capture the shots that you wanted and you took over mommy’s!)

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2 year-old Ben with his obsolete kiddy camera
©PicklesINK 2013

You and daddy definitely share that photographer’s eye. I don’t think there are many people who could guess which of you took which of these pictures!

Ben's sunset pic

Sunset on the St. Lawrence
©PicklesINK 2013

(Your artistic shots are great, of course, but my favourites are your self-portraits!)

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Self-portrait by Ben
©PicklesINK 2013

And your creativity and ambition don’t stop with just photography. How many other just-turned-6-year-olds can say that they are published authors?

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Ben opening up his debut book,
Your Favourite Brio Peak Collection
©PicklesINK 2013

 So, my favourite Ben-Magoo, keep on being your super-cool self, just like you have been from the day you were born, even if people tell you it’s wrong. (Except mommy. If mommy tells you you’re doing something wrong, you’d better listen. Because I’m mommy, that’s why.)

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Ben and Molly at Day Out With Thomas
©PicklesINK 2013

Happy 6th Birthday, our favourite guy!

~ Love, Mommy, Daddy, and Molly

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Team Pickles self-portrait. Can someone explain why 3 of us look goofy while Molly photo-bombs the shot with utter adorableness?
©PicklesINK 2013

*and y’all know I don’t use that word lightly.

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But I don’t LIKE that!

Food. Delicious, comforting, nutritious, not-so-nutritious, sweet, savoury, spicy, sticky, crunchy, chewy, bland food. Food can be a source of great pleasure…or, for the parents of a picky eater, agonizing despair.

Ben started life as a 4 lb. 10 oz. preemie, delivered at 33 1/2 weeks. Happily, aside from being teeny, he had none of the challenges one usually expects with babies born that early. He was fed first by nasogastric tube and then a combination of breast and bottle (the debate around which will I’m sure the topic of another post at some point).

Yes, he is doing “The Emperor” from Star Wars…
dun dun dun dun da dun dun da dun…
©PicklesINK 2012

We went on to start “solids” (purees) around 6 months and he ate ANYTHING. I was super-adventurous mom – I made my own baby food and mixed spices into everything (cinnamon carrots…curried chicken and broccoli…gingered squash). His favourite foods were kalmata olives, feta cheese, and anything with curry powder. I patted myself on the back and felt superior to all those moms who feed their kids boring purees and set themselves up for a lifetime of catering to their kids’ bland palates.

This was probably curried something.
©PicklesINK 2012

And then around 18 months, “More! More!” suddenly turned into “MMMMM!!” which is the sound of a toddler with his mouth clamped tighter than the trash compactor on the detention level of the Death Star. As an added bonus, always a bit of a puker (gastroesophageal reflux being one of his remaining preemie traits), Ben discovered the ability to barf on command to demonstrate his disinterest in eating something. Suddenly I had become a mom of a dreaded picky eater.

After I worked through the initial denial, anger, and grief (there is nothing quite like sobbing hysterically at the dinner table while Googling “How do I get my picky toddler to eat?” on your laptop while your 3 year-old screams, “NO!! I don’t LIKE that!! Why are you making me eat that?? I don’t LIKE it!!”), I slowly reached the acceptance stage.

A lot of the websites out there on picky eaters will tell you not to engage in power struggles – you choose what to put in front of your child and he or she chooses how much of it to eat and I wholeheartedly agree that power struggles around food can lead down an unhealthy path. The websites suggest offering a variety of foods, changing utensils, ignoring, removing distractions, using reward charts, etc. None of those tips worked for us and the list of things Ben wouldn’t eat grew: Raw vegetables were too crunchy. Cooked vegetables were too wet. Grapes and blueberries had skins. Ice cream was too cold. (ICE CREAM!! THE KID WOULDN’T EAT ICE CREAM, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE!) Just about everything else “didn’t swallow very well” (ie. led to puking). And the behaviour at the dinner table (both his and ours) got worse and worse.

Finally we realized that we were dealing with two separate issues at mealtimes: what Ben ate and how he behaved. We decided that while we had no power over what he liked or how much he ate, we did have a responsibility to teach him to act appropriately at the table, and for us that meant no yelling, no arguing, and no declaring that he didn’t like something without trying it first. To deal with the behaviour piece we implemented the “try a bite or you sit out rule.” For time-outs we used Supernanny’s Naughty Step technique: the CALM but firm warning – place in neutral time-out spot for prescribed time period – return to time-out spot – repeat as necessary – apology – hug and kiss predictability of this worked really well for Ben and for us.

To deal with the “what Ben ate” piece, I focused on offering him a variety of foods but making what I knew he would eat as nutritious as possible, which meant making my own fish sticks and chicken fingers breaded in crushed bran or corn flakes, pureeing vegetables like carrots, zucchini, pumpkin or spinach into tomato sauce and serving over whole-wheat pasta, and baking a whole lot of the best ever “blank slate” muffins using my sister-in-law-to-be’s recipe:

These can be customized pretty any way you can think of – replace the banana and/or the oil with applesauce or jarred baby food (sweet potato or carrot work well); add grated or whole fruits or vegetables like carrot, zucchini, or berries; spice it up with vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, or cardamom; use whole wheat flour or oat bran for the flour; or boost the nutritional punch with additions like yoghurt, powdered milk, wheat germ, or ground flax – just increase the baking powder to help it rise as you add more “stuff.”

Ben turned 5 in May, and as suddenly as the pickiness started, it stopped – just in time, too, because Molly, who is NOT AT ALL a picky eater had just started to imitate her big brother’s, “I don’t LIKE that!!” just like she imitates everything else he does. Ben will now try most things that I put in front of him with, if not enthusiasm, at least much less argument than previously, and has even been heard in the past few months to say, “Can I try some of that, mommy?” The majority of these taste-tests now elicit a grudging, “Well, don’t LOVE it, but I LIKE it,” and in the words of Abraham “Grampa” Simpson, “Hot diggety-damn, that’s good enough for me!”

Ben enjoying a surf-and-turf dinner of lobster and steak with fuzzy water in a wine glass – “I don’t love the lobster, but I like it.”
©PicklesINK 2012

Molly, on the other hand, loves it.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ice cream: No longer “too cold.”
©PicklesINK 2012

And for Molly, ice cream = food = LOVE
©PicklesINK 2012

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