oatmeal

How to Not Deal Appropriately with a Slow Eater

Violet loves to eat slowly. Scratch that, she loves to talk, jump around on her chair, change her shoes, give hugs to her sisters, sing Adele’s “Hello,” twirl, walk our dog Batman on a leash around the house, talk, jump on the furniture, lose her tiny glasses, go to the bathroom, talk, draw on our chalk table, tell me all about Jesus, talk, ask for drinks of water, talk, and talk–all between bites.

You’ve never seen a tiny bowl of Apples and Cinnamon oatmeal* endure so long on a table with a spoon in it. Quite often, it ceases to be breakfast and turns into an fossilized artifact of some long, lost civilization where people went hungry because Jake and the Neverland Pirates was on TV.

*Which, in her defense, is kind of gross.

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The remains of this morning’s breakfast. She simply ran out of time.

I, of course, handle this terribly. I often remind Violet of external pressures that might lead her to feel a bit more inspired to get a move on–like time. I say things like, “We have to leave in five minutes or we’ll be late for school.” Since five-year-olds have no concept of time whatsoever, she pretends to take this very seriously and then proceeds to chase our dogs around the living room with a lightsaber.

Another tactic I sometimes use is to tell her how truly great that oatmeal is. It’s SO delicious. If she doesn’t get to it quick, I’m going to eat it. This has literally never worked.

Other times–less prouder moments–I try to intimidate Violet. I tell her how upset I am. I sigh loudly. I even hit the table for emphasis on the word “GOT.” As in, “You’ve GOT to eat. Please, please, PLEASE, eat!!” This also never works. What usually happens–because I’m a 5’10” man and she’s a sub 4′ little girl–is that she starts doing that frozen, shaking thing. Her big eyes look into mine and she doesn’t know what to do. My heightened frustration is intimidating to her, and it incapacitates her.

Technically, Violet does chew at an appropriate speed. I’ve seen food go into her mouth and within what seems like a suitable amount of time it does appear to go down her throat. (I swear it happens, but don’t ask me for proof. Violet eating is like Sasquatch running through a forest–we all know it happens, but the camera lens refuses it.)

What finally seems to work is to tell Violet how many bites she has left and then let her count them out. There’s something about that limit–that boundary she can operate within–that gives her enough calm and comfort to proceed to eat like a human girl and not a caffeinated monkey bouncing all over the house. She likes knowing when it will end instead of being overwhelmed by what to her is a mountain of food. It doesn’t even matter how many bites I tell her she has to eat–I could say three bites or five or ten and I could even even say they have to be big bites–she’ll eat every last one of them with a speed on the human side of the Human-Sloth Scale, and then she’s done. And we get to school on time.

I don’t know why I’m so slow to remember this tactic each and every time Violet sits down for a meal. It probably has something to do with the fact that I want Violet to eat appropriately in the first place, and not through trickery. But trickery is Parenting 101. I should know this–I should remember this. Violet is hardly my first slow eater. Watching my oldest inhale food now like she’s been learning at the feet of our vacuum should give me a bit more patience and faith.

I’m working on it. Violet is working on it. We’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m gonna buy better tasting oatmeal.

Day 38 – When Friends Drop the R Bomb

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Sunday – October 5, 2014

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that one of our coping mechanisms is to have friends over to play board games. In case you didn’t know, this is a very Mormon thing to do. We don’t drink, but we like to talk and have fun, so board games provide one ideal engagement.

“But, but, but…” I’ve heard some say. “BEER!” But the truth is if I’m missing anything by not drinking, I don’t know it. I do know Erin isn’t missing anything. She has often been accused of reaching a state of drunkenness, though she’s never had so much as one alcoholic beverage. She just knows how to have fun. Though I will say putting a little (non-alcoholic, of course) apple cider in her doesn’t hurt. I think all Mormons are probably terrible drunks, and this is why we abstain. You’re welcome, world.

Tonight’s game mates were Cody and Kristen. They always make us laugh and tonight was no exception. Worry just disappears when they’re around, as it did for a couple hours tonight.

I take that back. There was one down moment when Kristen let slip the “R” Word for the second time in our house. In order to address Cody’s condescension at her learning of a new game she said:

“I’m not retarded.”

For a brief moment you could not have heard a pin drop because the silence was just that deafening. It’s always an awkward moment when the R Bomb drops like that. My immediate instinct is to say nothing because that’s just going to make it MORE uncomfortable. But, as the parent of a child with special needs, that’s not really an option. I HAVE to say something. That word and what it’s come to mean is simply not okay, especially in our house.

Thankfully, Kristen made it so I didn’t have to say a word. Her cheeks flared up with red hot embarrassment as she closed her eyes, reared her head back, and said, “I can’t believe I did it again.” The tension of the moment quickly ran out, and we all started laughing. I admitted Erin and I had used that word lazily once upon a time, too, and that we understood. Kristen was deeply apologetic. I think we could have asked for a kidney and she would have given it to us. She knows better, she just slipped.

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We’ve found that’s true with most people: they do better when they know better–but everyone is human. It’s an ugly word made even uglier at times by peoples’ defense of it. “But I wasn’t talking about your daughter,” is one I’ve heard a lot. No, but you equated something awful with people like her. That’s not okay because she is the opposite of awful. (I’ve written about the R-Word before, explaining in more detail why the word is so awful and why I support its eradication.)

None of this put a damper on the night at all and we moved on quickly. At this point, we can’t help but be completely, inadequately grateful for the friends that surround us. We’ve always had friends, but it seems like we’re in a new golden age of friendships where we have people looking out for us constantly and with whom we know we can instantly have a good time. It hasn’t always been this way, and I like to think that having it now is one more way God is looking out for and blessing us at this kind of terrible time. He, after all, knew what was coming.

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I demonstrated gross incompetence today by burning oatmeal. Pro tip: do not put instant oatmeal in the microwave without water. The oatmeal will burn, the plastic bowl it’s sitting in will melt, and copious amounts of smoke will emanate from the microwave before the full minute is even over. Also, you should learn to love the smell of burnt plastic because that will be what your entire house smells like for the forseeable future. Maybe eternity.

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General Conference continued today, and one of the themes that stuck out to me was the necessity of focusing on the most needful and important things, particularly when it comes to social media. This is a topic I have a vested interest in as, quite obviously, I spend a good portion of my day plugged in and interacting with you good people. Sometimes, admittedly, to the detriment of my family. It’s something I’m working on. The point was made that good things can become insidious when they take our attention away from better things. Good things, basically, can become bad. How very true that is.