The picky eater

It happens like clockwork. Every night, when we sit down for dinner (sounds crazy, I know, but we do it), my son James will take one look at his plate then immediately says, “nana” or banana.

This request frustrates me to no end. Many nights, I sit there seething, glaring at him while my daughter concurrently tries to eat as slow as possible. She picks at her food and spews out at least five sentences before putting two bites in her mouth.

But my daughter’s dinner habits are nowhere near as frustrating as my son’s. James always asks for a banana, and he always gets it. That’s because my husband and I realized that in order to keep the peace at the dinner table, it’s better to just give the little man what he wants. Besides, it’s just fruit. There are worse things to be addicted to, I suppose.

On days when we don’t have bananas on hand, and he asks for them, and we tell him no…boy oh boy–those are the nights when we all incur the wrath of James.

Luckily, tonight we do have bananas and as usual, my husband hands him one. He takes a bite of the banana while my husband and I eat and Lily chirps away with her words. My husband then said to James, “Here, try some.” (He does that a lot). He takes a tiny bit of the curry that he made and tries to get James to taste it.

Oh boy, I thought. Here we go. Another attempt, another failure.

But instead of refusing it, James reluctantly takes it in…and it was like my whole world erupted in fireworks. Then, much to my surprise, he asks for more!

“More!” he says, “More!”

It was at that moment I realized two things–one, my husband is brilliant! Not only can he cook waayyy better than me (I will never be able to compete, even if I become a better cook than I am now), he is also slick in his ways of getting our son to eat the foods he makes! This is why I married him! (Not the only reason, of course, just one of many).

As he continues to feed James, he said, “This is like that time he ate most of my duck curry at the Thai restaurant.”

Ahhh yes, I remember. Several weeks ago, we all went out to eat on New Year’s Day, at a Thai restaurant nearby and by husband ordered a roast duck curry, and he had to feed it to James because James was so into the sauce.

“I guess he’s a big fan of the saucy, pudding type of textures,” I said.

Just minutes before this event happened, I had lamented to my husband, “He eats like 50% of what you make, and like 10% of what I make,” to which he responded, “Well, at least he eats most of what I make.”

“It should be more like 80%,” I said.

Now, here I am, moments later, sitting there watching my son eat and realizing that not only is my husband a brilliant cook and good at toddler convincing, this is also like stepping back into the past.

You see–I was a picky eater myself. When I was around James’s age, I refused to eat most foods. It didn’t matter if it was catered by the world’s best chefs–the only thing I would eat is rice with sugar sprinkled on top. So my parents gave in and gave me that. It’s not really healthy and it certainly doesn’t help your teeth, but hey my parents are like us–they didn’t want a ruckus at the dinner table either.

Much to my chagrin, my son turned out to be pretty much the same way. Granted, he’s not as picky as I was–he still eats a lot of different foods for breakfast and his lunch is still a bottle of milk, but it’s only dinner when he gets the nerve to ask for a banana, knowing that he’ll get it every time. I, on the other hand, was very strict in what I would eat.

James

Luckily these days I am no longer a picky eater. I grew up to be a very flexible eater. I love trying new foods, and I’m open to just about everything.

See, that’s the thing that they don’t tell you–that if you were a picky eater yourself, you might end up with the same kind of kid! It’s a 50/50 chance but chances are pretty high to me. It’s almost like fate telling you, “Hey, how about them apples huh?”

I think we know for sure that James will eat curry in the future. And oatmeal. And yogurt. He loves all of those gelatinous, mushy, soft pudding-style kind of foods. He’s definitely my kid.

Let’s screen in for screen time

In response to Sarah DeWitt’s Ted Talk

It feels like ages ago, but when I was pregnant with James, my second child, I had a bad case of fatigue. I felt like it plagued me all throughout the pregnancy. Day in and day out, I was tired. Perhaps it was because I was working nights at a local grocery store, often flopping down onto my bed at half past midnight that contributed to the tiredness. Or perhaps it was because I had an energetic two-year-old toddler in tow, who constantly needed me and who constantly chatted, that I fell prey to the lovely technology piece called an iPad.

If the nights go well, then I’d be in bed by 12:30 am and passed out by 12:45 am. Then, approximately six hours later, between 6:00-6:30 am, Lily would wake me up. Her father is usually long gone by then. In the early afternoons while my husband was working, my fatigue settled in and told me that it wasn’t going anywhere. According to my time clock, I still had another three hours before my husband got off work, and another 9+ hours before I could go to bed. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time counting down the hours and minutes until I could go to bed. Unfortunately, my toddler was out of the napping phase at the time, so I couldn’t put her down for a nap and then take one of my own. Thus, my solution was the iPad. I gave it to her often in the early afternoon, so I could have an hour or so of quiet time. When she started playing, I’d immediately lay down on my bed, often staring at the ceiling, eyes wide open, and wondering to myself why I wasn’t asleep already.

My inability to take naps is another story. The point is, the whole time I laid there staring at the ceiling, sometimes crying (because, you know, pregnancy hormones), I felt incredibly guilty at having to use a technology device as a crutch for relief. I felt guilty at not having more energy to spend on her. I felt guilty because I wanted to do things, like clean the house, or even get out of the house, but my body couldn’t face it. The baby was draining all the energy out of me.

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Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m allowing her to play on the iPad so I could write. I can hear her mumbling through the door of her room, the sound of her voice inquisitive. I know what she’s playing—a bubble pop game designed after the movie Inside Out.

This small level of parental guilt never quite diminished…until recently, while browsing the TED app on my phone, I came upon Sarah DeWitt’s Ted Talk called “3 fears about screen time for kids—and why they’re not true” and felt prompted to watch it immediately. In her 12-minute engaging talk, Sarah outlined the fears and perceptions about screen time for children, then weaved in her research and work at PBS to demystify the fears that a lot of parents face. Finally, she related the research on children with a very important idea—that what we should do as parents is engage with our kids about what they’re watching and playing.

Such insight on parental engagement in relation to children’s media has been validated through a study done at Vanderbilt University. In this study, researchers found that in order for children to learn best with media, such as television, parents need to engage in a dialogue with their kids. It makes perfect sense, because as Sarah had put it, engaging in conversation with your kids about what they’re watching opens up opportunities for discussion, thereby developing the child’s communication and critical thinking skills.

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Fears about how screen time might be a waste of time and how it takes away children’s educational opportunities are valid. Fears about the content of videos being inappropriate to a child are also valid, given the recent criticism of Google’s Youtube Kids web site. Somehow Google allowed a few videos “slip through the cracks” and as a result, a myriad of videos with adult content circulated the web site, causing a lot of uprising amongst adults and parents around.

Look, I get it. Sometimes we can’t stop videos from appearing on our feeds. I recall awhile back, Lily was obsessed with Youtube Kids. It was an app on her iPad, and she was always watching. I saw a few videos that I thought were strange on the app, but never gave much further thought, until the issue with adult content on Youtube Kids came to the surface. From that point on, my husband and I decided to delete the app from the iPad.

When Lily was approximately eight months to 20 months, she was completely obsessed with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a TV show based on Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. Mr. Rogers, as we know, have gone away to a better place, but his legacy lives on in the lives of Daniel Tiger and his friends. Sarah mentioned in her talk that what Mr. Rogers did was revolutionary—he started talking to the children as if they were there, when in reality, they were behind a screen watching him in front of a TV. He paved the way for other shows to follow, besides Daniel Tiger and the lessons about life that a child can learn by watching TV.

I wish I had shows like Daniel Tiger to teach me about life when I was a kid. Growing up, we had a small black & white television (this was, after all, a third world country in the early ‘90s) and we reveled in the television and what it offered. Then, when my family came to America, we stayed with my uncle and his family, who owned a large Panasonic television that was about as heavy as construction equipment hooked up to a video game system for their kids to enjoy in the basement on hot summer days. It was there that I realized televisions can be in color! (oh the excitement!) and how much of an entertainment experience that was.

IMG_5872The point is—whether we like it or not, we live in a world filled with technology today. It’s part of our every day lives. The truth is, many of us check our phones as soon as we wake up in the morning (myself included) and can’t stay away from checking emails on our commute to work daily. I often see many people, from all ages and ethnicities on the train with their headphones on, either watching a video or listening to music or checking social media. Technology is embedded in our every day lives, and it would be ironic if you are a person who is a frequent user of technology who revokes the same privilege to your kids. After all, what are you teaching them by doing so? That perhaps it’s something forbidden, or something that carries a certain level of excitement simply because it’s forbidden?

These days, Lily likes to play the drawing game on her iPad. She also likes to play the bubble pop games. When I’m sitting there with her, she often turns to me and gives a sports anchor’s minute-by-minute play on what she’s doing on the game. I’d often nod, smile, and listen to her words, amazed by her inquisitiveness and curiosity.

I really believe that when used appropriately, technology can be our friend. It can teach us a lot of things. Learning apps are aplenty nowadays, and as a parent, I try to choose games or apps that have an education component so that Lily gets the best of both worlds—to have fun and to learn something.

 

When Your Toddler Knows A Little Too Much (and other news)

Hi guys,

Welcome to a new edition of “Kids Say the Darnest Things” where I co-host with “TMI (Too Much Information)” and this time, I’ll share with you things I’ve recently discovered that my daughter knows, also known as “Things a toddler should not know YET (until he/she reaches high school).” Now, I consider Lily to be a very normal, average kid. She weighs about 33-34 lbs (the exact number I’ve forgotten), and is about 39″ tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. She’s this adorable little chub chub.

However, what is abnormal about her is her proclivity towards learning of adult things. When I say “adult things” I don’t mean adult entertainment, porn movies, or sexual positions. I mean, things that adults typically talk about, but not children. For example, childbirth. My daughter is obsessed with childbirth, so much that she’ll take some of her toy pieces and “pretend” to give birth to it by putting it down her shirt, then letting it drop out of her shirt, all the while proclaiming that she’s pooping out babies.

Yep, that’s right. Pooping out babies. All because she witnessed her mom giving birth to her little brother. Mind you, this was not planned at all. Home births are not my thing. I prefer to be in a hospital, with a staff that is trained on childbirth and is there to assist me in all aspects in case something goes wrong. However, my little boy decided he could not wait even 30 minutes, and popped out before we even made it to the car. Before her dad got home and delivered him, Lily saw me on my (almost) knees, leaning over the railing of the staircase and screaming at the top of my lungs. Then she saw what happened afterwards…which was her brother coming out of a spot that is usually reserved for closed door activities.

(And while we’re on the subject of babies, one time she declared that she was going to live to a hundred and have babies when she’s 25… which technically isn’t a bad age to have children, and the babies will come out of her just as easily as toy pieces. I resisted the urge to say to her, “Oh honey when it’s your turn you’ll be screaming a hell of a lot before the baby actually comes out. But I spared her the drama).

This is a story that is made for history books… the history of our family, that is.

Do I want my daughter to know about body parts and how they work at such a young age? Not exactly. I was planning on telling her about childbirth when she gets older, or whenever she asked me about it and is old enough to understand. As with many typical parents would prefer to shield their child’s eyes and minds, I thought that wouldn’t happen for at least another 5 years.

I gotta admit – I don’t feel ashamed about her knowing the female reproductive parts. I don’t want to be one of those parents who shun their child away from talking about what our bodies can do. I want her to feel comfortable talking about it, and learning about it…just not so young. Regardless, she does know now, and that is that. I don’t claim to show her my parts all the time, but I do take her into public restrooms with me whenever I have to go, so before this “incident” ever happened, she had already seen me (partially) naked. She is no stranger to body parts.

Speaking of body parts and what it does, not only does this girl know that boys and girls have different parts, but she also knows that it makes them do the same things differently. For example, the other day, she stood up on her bed, put her hands to her privates, held it there, and said, “This is how Daddy goes peepee.” Then she sat down and said, “This is how Daddy goes poopoo.” I was like HUH?!?! how the heck does she know that??? I grilled her further, asking her how does she know how daddy goes potty and she let on that she had peeked in before. Say waahhhhhtttt!!!!

a real conversation between her dad and I

We are not purposely telling her any of these things, I SWEAR.

In other news, this morning she said, “Mom, will you marry me?” I don’t know if I should be flattered or weirded out by this. After all, is it the fact that women can get married to women or the fact that she wants to “marry” me because she loves me? Either way, I’m a little baffled.

It’s a good thing she doesn’t know how babies are made…yet.

What everyone’s doing at the playground: A parent’s perspective

If you’re like me (a parent) you know that the one place you should be familiar with is the park/playground. Gone are the days of $40 entrees at upscale restaurants and $5 cocktails at happy hour – you’ve traded that life for a new lifestyle, the one that involves free play, activities, clear blue skies and a lot of non-spending.

It just so happens that last summer I was VERY pregnant, and on those sunny days when my husband was off doing his internship, Lily and I tagged along and while we waited for him to be done, we’d go to a park nearby, this one that’s full of big trees, nice breezes and shades. I loved that park. It’s a shame we don’t live near it. If you’re like me, this is what your days there looked like:

1. Arrive at destination with a kid in good behavior.

2. Respond to their question about feeding the ducks with a “no” and a question about going on the slides with a “yes.”

3. Let them run to their chosen spot. Tell them to slow down, because gosh darn mama is 8 1/2 months pregnant and she can’t keep up for the life of her.

4. Watch them play. Bask in the glory of their beauty and innocence.

5. Take out your phone to take a picture…because they’re so cute! You can’t help yourself.

6. Continue browsing on your phone after sending the above-mentioned picture to your spouse/partner with the caption of, “Isn’t she cute?!?”

7. Look up after five minutes and see other parents on their phones as well. Continue looking at your phone. At least you belong in the club now.

8. Your kid starts calling out to you. “Mom! Come here!” You drop your phone in your pocket, walks over to their spot only to discover that they don’t really need anything. They just want you to watch them. You tell them that you’re going back to your spot now “because mommy is tired…”

9. Continue browsing on your phone, oblivious to the fact that you’re draining your data allowance for the month. Oh well. You gotta check Instagram. And maybe post that cute picture that you just took of your daughter.

Now I love the park as much as the next parent, but at the time I was not in any shape to run around and actually engage in activities with my toddler. Hence, I was on my phone a lot. This, I realize now, was a fatal flaw. I should’ve been more present. I should’ve stood there and provided my daughter with words of encouragement that I actually meant, not just mumbled out of my mouth.

Once or twice, I’d look up from my phone to make sure she was still around. I remember looking around at other parents at this park – a lot of them were on their phones. And I thought to myself, “Maybe I shouldn’t do that. Maybe I should just enjoy the day as it is.” Beautiful sunny skies, 70+ degrees and I’m in the shade with my daughter at the playground. That should be good enough.

But the thought came and went quickly, for I was tired of working late night shifts while being pregnant that I didn’t think about the time I had with my daughter was something to treasure. All I wanted was to have a moment to myself to browse the internet, check up on things…things, at this point, that didn’t really matter.

You see, I just kind of stumbled upon several things lately. First was a headline on the news that talked about how using your smart phones can increase your stress/anxiety level. Second, this blog post from a mom that I follow on Instagram in conjunction with a post about how she felt pressured to put the “right” pictures on social media and how she didn’t take the time to actually just BE and enjoy her newborn. It made me realize that time on earth is valuable, and although having a smartphone has really improved everybody’s lives in the past decade, it sure has had its drawbacks.

For, if you think about it, not paying attention to your kids at playgrounds is like opening a can of worms to pedophiles and kidnappers. I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but in my worst nightmare, I’d look up and see that my daughter is nowhere to be found. Luckily, she is not one of those kids who runs away, and she’ll always respond when I ask her where she is. But for whatever reason, one day she might not be there when I call her and the fault would be all mine. I realize that a parent, we are ultimately responsible for our children’s safety. Being on your phone decreases your attention span on your child and ultimately increases the opportunities for others of less good intentions to focus on your child.

The park and the library may be nice, safe places in theory, but they are still public places, hence anybody can frequent the spot if they choose to. It’s the kind of places that nobody would imagine anyone taking their child. I never once imagined that myself, until recently. While we’re at the library, I usually let my daughter play by herself while I go browse books for us, and this action, I realize, should be decreased.

All bad things aside, the fact of the matter is – just being there, being present with your kid can have some monumental effects. I recall several times when I was at the park with my daughter and I kept my phone away, sat on a bench and just watched her play. And it was nice. I enjoyed watching her play, and I’m not draining my data. Once their childhood is over, you really can’t get those moments back (unless you have another kid). I’ve decided that when I’m out with my daughter, I need to give her my full, undivided attention from now on. Sometimes she’d get upset with me because I’m either taking pictures of her or using my phone, and I don’t want her to grow up thinking that mommy is always too engrossed on her phone to be paying attention to her. Lily is a really fun person to be around, and I want to keep our mother-daughter relationship on a good level for years to come. After all, she will be there but my smartphone won’t – it will be replaced eventually.

I’m glad we went

GREETINGS from the land of hibernation (it’s been awhile), where I report to you my biggest status update yet: We went to Disneyland! with two kids!

[pant. pant. breathe. deep breaths.]

What words can I say to describe our trip?

Scary. Tearful. Anxious. Excited. Memorable. And I’ve got the Mickey Mouse ears to prove it.

Yes, it was nerve-wracking, but this vacation was much needed, for we hadn’t taken one since before the kids arrived. That was 2012. The past five years have been a blur, starting with the discovery that I was pregnant several months after we came back from Hawaii. Then Lily came along in 2013, and we settled into the baby-slash-school-slash-work lifestyle that vacation planning went to the bottom of the list of priorities. Mentally, we were new parents and just learning how to handle a baby, then a toddler, then another baby. Financially, we were a bit strained at times, but a vacation was always dreamed about. Physically, we were exhausted. My husband has been going to school full time since before our daughter was born and continues to go even after our son was born. Thankfully, this spring he will be done with his Bachelor’s degree – another major accomplishment to add to our list of “taking kids to Disneyland” adventures.

Our kids did well, given the change of environment. Lily was very excited about being on an airplane for the first time and didn’t seem to exhibit any signs of airsickness, thankfully. James did as well as he could on the trip while perched on our laps, save for a small freak out on the flight home – because he was hungry. I realized that there is such a stigma associated with taking small kids on an airplane. Both my husband and I experienced a sort of grimace/uneasy look from others when we told them that we were taking two kids on an airplane to Disneyland, for a vacation! It didn’t make any sense to me because I knew people took kids on planes all the time. We even had a nice lady came over and asked us if we needed anything. I realized that people are very understanding of parents with children. The man who sat next to my husband on the plane ride back said he didn’t mind kids at all, because he had kids of his own.

Just chillin’ in our hotel room

So, I’m glad we went. It was a weekend of many firsts – the first time the kids went on an airplane, the first vacation we took in five years, the first time we got stuck in LA rush hour traffic (no joke – the worst I’ve ever been in!), the first time we kind of got lost and drove through some rough neighborhoods in LA, the first time we spent more than $40 on meals for 3 people (even if one of those meals involved people dressed up in Disney characters and walked around while you ate), the first time we had “authentic” SoCal Mexican food, the first (and probably the last) time we did some cliche things such as getting matching Mickey/Minnie Mouse hats for all four of us, the first time we rode the teacup ride, Dumbo, Ariel, Small land just to name a few famous rides at Disneyland. Our time there was short, but we made the most of it and boy was it fun.

Lily’s favorite thing : the bubble wand

Hi my name is…

This is Lily. She likes to remind people that she’s three.

“I’M THREE!!”

“WHEE!!”

Technically, she’s 3 1/2…but who’s counting?

Some days she’s full of attitude, other days she’s full of cuteness.  

Some memorable words that have come out of her mouth includes:

How she describes her brother James:

“He’s so cute!”

“His peepee kinda look like a macaroni”

How I describe James:

“He’s big and he likes to eat and smile a lot.”

I’m not sure if she got her sense of humor from me or from her dad…perhaps it’s a combination of the two of us. Once in awhile, she’ll pinch the sides of her stomach and say, “Look at my boobs!” then giggles like a crazy person.Or she’ll flop her arms back and forth and say, “I got octopus arms!” Whenever she wants to be cute, she’ll say “Mom, you know what?” To which I’d respond, “What?”

“I love you and then you love me?”

“Aww, of course I love you.” And the trend continues…

If you make her walk more than 2 blocks, she’ll start whining and say, “I don’t wanna walk! Carry me!” If I carry her, then she’ll lean in and kiss my cheek. Ha ha. What a suck up.

One of her favorite activities is going to the park. The last time we went there, she met a little girl about her age and her mom. They both played together…and using her people skills, Lily proceeded to tell the mom about her brother’s birth story. It was something like this:

LILY: I have a baby.

OTHER MOM: You have a baby?

LILY: Yeah, he came out of mommy’s peepee. Then daddy came.

OTHER MOM: Ohhh….[I can tell she doesn’t know how to respond to this].

LILY: Because I’m a big sister!

Yeahhh….

She considers her daddy a princess sometimes. Once, she jumped on her bed and declared, “I’m King Lily!” Her dad says, “Then what am I?” She said, “You’re a princess.” Finally, her potty skills are really similar to a 25-year-old dude still living with his parents. Take, for example:

She sits down on her kiddie toilet, and I asked her, “Do you have to go pee or poo?”

She responds by holding up two fingers.

The result: she peed.

Or that one time I came into her room and catch her in the act – holding her iPad while sitting on the toilet. She said, “I’m going potty with my iPad” so swiftly like it’s a new fashion trend.

I love this kid.