8 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Than Just Cheese Puffs

In my efforts to get my kids to eat right, I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded, but I have succeeded on occasion.

Interested in having your kids eat nutritious food that hasn’t been processed and pummelled into a dinosaur or star shape? It’s tricky, in this age of happy meals and cookie-flavored cereal, to coax our children into eating actual food.
In my efforts to get my kids to eat right, I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded, but I have succeeded on occasion. Below are a few proven methods that have actually worked. I hope that you, too, are blessed with a child who sometimes consumes food that doesn’t fall into the cheese puff family.

1 | Ban “candy”

No, I don’t mean ban actual candy. What with Halloween and birthday party bags and in-laws, removing all traces of candy from your home is impossible. But you can avoid the word “candy.”
The reason this is so important is because once your child is thinking about manufactured sugar, it’s tough to get them to accede to eating a food that only contains naturally occurring sugars (most of them do!). So take care around these two syllables. It’s a word that must never be spoken, kind of like Voldemort.

2 | Feign apathy

Sure. You really want your kids to eat the chicken and sweet potatoes you have lovingly prepared for them. Your heart breaks when they look at the plate and a stricken expression clouds over their features, as if a live goldfish had been placed in front of them.
But here’s the thing about getting your kids to eat well – the more you need for them to eat something, the less likely they are to eat it. It’s a control thing, and since children own their mouths, they will always win this very unhealthy power game.

3 | Obscure the goodness

This one only works if you have time to cook and bake, but hiding spinach in a batch of brownies really does work, as does sneaking carrots into a smoothie and disguising zucchini as a type of muffin.
Kudos to whoever thought of adding a cup of spinach to a cake batter. Also, who on earth thought of adding spinach to batter?

4 | Condiments!

Sauces and dips are a parent’s best friend. Solitary carrot sticks look as sad as they sound. But the same exact thing next to a bowl of hummus? Magic! That’s because anything that’s messy will appeal to your kid. You probably already deduced that by now, because look at the state of your house.

5 | Negotiate at your peril

“If you eat three more cucumber slices, I will let you drive the Lamborghini” is something you should not say under any circumstances, and this isn’t just because you have never owned an luxury Italian sports car.
Bargaining with kids – while tempting – usually backfires. You know this. We all know this. The fact that we all still negotiate with our children sometimes is concrete proof that parenthood addles the brain.

6 | Reimagine pasta

My kids, and most kids, do like some healthy foods. Pasta is one of them. But because my kids enjoy it, I sometimes forget what a good, wholesome food this is. We may never own a Lamborghini, but we’ll always have this awesome Italian export.

7 | Sous chef junior

To let your child help you in the kitchen, or not to let your child help you in the kitchen – that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to allow small people to feel as if they are contributing to the housework, or better to just get it done efficiently and neatly while they’re watching “Paw Patrol”.
Honestly, I don’t have the answer to this age-old question, but most kids are more likely to eat something when they’ve had a hand in cooking it. You know what they say: The course of true parenthood is completely chaotic.

8 | The DIY meal

Whether it’s tacos or pitas, kids like to put things in other things. That’s why you once found 23 pennies inside your favorite pair of wedge pumps. Assembling their own meals is fun for kids and, like with the condiments, they will make a mess. Making peace with mess is just part of parenthood. Just like dealing with picky eaters!

Breastfeeding: When Success Feels Like Failure

Most of all, I raged against the breastfeeding mothers who failed to tell me how hard this all was.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
Days into my daughter’s life, I learned that breastfeeding did not, at all, feel good. Every latch felt like a thousand tiny needles stabbing my nipple in unison. After a few moments, the sharpness would fade, replaced by my blunt determination. Nursing was the only thing that made my daughter happy.
I had thought breastfeeding would be easy to figure out, that I could leapfrog the issues that plagued others. Perhaps, because I had no experience with newborns, my brain filled the void with the most optimistic scenario.
My optimism evaporated within a week. Life became a series of marathon nursing sessions interrupted by short periods of sleep. Ten, 12, 20 times a day (and night) the pain pierced and took my breath away. I called her my milk vampire. My nipples cracked and blistered and bled.
My mother flew in from Chicago to help out. She kept me company on the couch for hours a day, the two of us watching “Bones” while I nursed her granddaughter. Sitting in my nest of pillows, I practiced each nursing position I’d been taught. I latched and re-latched my daughter, hoping each time it would make the pain go away.
My sleep deprivation worsened. My mother broke her arm, and my husband lacked the emotional endurance to soothe our always-fussy baby. In those first couple of weeks, my newborn daughter and I spent 20 hours a day in physical contact.
I expected my husband to bear these burdens with me. He expected me to soldier on, no matter the pain or misery. After three weeks, he went back to work, leaving me alone with only one effective parenting tool: my breasts.
Late one night, my husband snored while my daughter nursed voraciously. Just two weeks into her life, I wanted to scream at the pain. Instead I wept. “This can’t be right,” I thought. “This is why people use formula.”
At my loneliest, weariest time, I felt desperate for relief. I figured the signs of breastfeeding failure would be clear: If my daughter lost more than 10 percent of her weight after birth, or if the doctor mandated it. Never once did I consider that I could be in pain and exhausted, yet not quite failing completely.
I hadn’t chosen to breastfeed, not exactly. I had expected to breastfeed, the way a middle class teenager expects to go to college and expects to get a good job afterward. Feeding your child is a biological imperative. Humans have been doing it by breast for millions of years. My body would automatically make milk in the first week after birth whether I wanted it to or not. I felt entitled to an easy breastfeeding experience. Pain infringed upon my birthright.
In the dark, I hunched over my daughter like a frenzied, cornered cat, searching for escape. I saw formula dangling in front of me as the “easy solution,” the ever-present back-up plan. If I failed at breastfeeding, I knew I was supposed to transition to formula and convince myself to be happy about it. Liberated women must never feel guilty about their choices.
But nursing was my daughter’s sole source of comfort. I refused to give it up.
I needed fuel for my resolve, and I chose rage. I let myself hate formula and the people who sell it, their oily ads and counterfeit generosity. I turned on the parenting industry at large. So many useless gadgets, wasted time, and squandered hope. I seethed over the injustices of motherhood and its overflow of impossible decisions. But most of all, I raged against the breastfeeding mothers who failed to tell me how hard this all was.
I raged until I had no anger left. When I was done, I wept for my own naiveté in thinking the world was fair and all problems had solutions.
I woke the next morning, and many mornings after, feeling battered. Would my situation ever improve? I didn’t know. I couldn’t imagine tomorrow, let alone next month. Every moment lasted forever. My pain felt eternal.
At six weeks, the pain disappeared. It was nothing I did, no grand revelation. Maybe my daughter learned how to suckle properly, or her mouth grew a little. I’ll never know.
Now I can think of 50 things I could have done differently. But when I look back, I can never see the moment where I should have known better. Every time I replay these events, I make the same decisions. It was all I knew. My breastfeeding experience was not a gold medal performance or an A+ on a final exam. In an alternate reality, I might have surrendered to formula.
In this reality, I’m still surrendering to the realization that sometimes success can feel an awful lot like failure.

Kid Made Recipe: Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

This crispy, spicy vegetarian take on buffalo wings makes a great party dish, or the perfect  weekend movie watching snack!

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Cauliflower? You bet! This crispy, spicy vegetarian take on buffalo wings makes a great party dish, or the perfect  weekend movie watching snack! The double coating of the batter and the breadcrumbs make them super crispy, and the dipping process is fun for kid helpers too.
 

Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Serves 4-6 as a side
Prep Time: 20  minutes
Bake Time: About 30 minutes total
Total time: About 50  minutes
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 cup whole milk ( I cup of unsweetened coconut milk from a can works too)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup buffalo sauce

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Remove stem from cauliflower and carefully chop into 1-2 inch florets and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, paprika and pepper and whisk to combine.
  5. Add milk and whisk until smooth. It should be like thick pancake batter.
  6. Add the cauliflower florets and gently toss, using a large spoon, until all florets are completely coated in batter.
  7. Pour breadcrumbs into a medium bowl.
  8. Using tongs, lift each batter-coated piece of cauliflower and toss gently with the  breadcrumbs. Place breaded florets on the lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned.
  10. While baking, get your buffalo sauce ready.
  11. Coat your cauliflower bites in sauce!  We used the pour-over method, flipping with tongs to cover the other side. You can put all the bites into a large, clean bowl and pour the sauce over, tossing very gently to coat them all.
  12. When the bites are coated in sauce, return them to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until they are crispy.
  13. Serve with carrots, celery, and blue cheese or ranch for dipping!

Recipe Notes:

  • All ovens are different! Yours may take more or less time to get you the crispy cauliflower you’re looking for. When it’s in the over for its final bake, start checking after about 10 minutes, then check every 2-3 minutes until they’re done.
  • You can buy buffalo sauce or make your own! Just combine ⅔ cup hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot) and ½ cup unsalted butter in a small saucepan and whisk over low heat until the butter is melted and the sauce is smooth.
  • You can leave these un-sauced for little kids, or anyone who doesn’t like spice! Just serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Kids Eating Food With Spices? Yes, It's Possible!

My nine-year old daughter Sabrina thinks McDonalds is gross. She won’t eat boxed cookies but likes snickerdoodles dusted with Vietnamese cinnamon. She doesn’t like regular old mashed potatoes but does love when I add in wasabi and mustard. She scoffs at fluffy supermarket bread suffocating in plastic yet loves the jalapeño-cheddar loaf from an old-school bakery in our neighborhood. She loathes the supermarket birthday cakes served at kids’ parties but begs me to make cardamom cake.

I love that she loves spices as much as I do.

Sabrina enjoys blending flour with baking soda, salt, and spices for the cakes we make together. She adds spices to the homemade tomato sauce we make for pizza, enjoying blending oregano, basil, and the Italian salt we bought in London. She loves Sriracha, cardamom, harissa, chipotle pepper flakes, ancho chilies, and chai tea made with tea leaves, fresh ginger, and spices.

What’s made her like spices? I’m not sure exactly, but more than likely it’s because I’ve brought her into the kitchen with me – and to the farmer’s markets, spice stores, tea shops, and other specialty stores that populate New York City.

While some kids might at first feel intimidated by spices, they might like the idea of exploring with you. If you’re having trouble inspiring your kids to try something new, especially spices, then by all means start with taking them shopping with you, perhaps to a market you don’t usually frequent. They might reach for a certain spice solely because of its appearance, but I believe that cooking is a visual process at first. If your child likes how a spice looks, she just might like how it tastes or at least be more apt to try it. Plus, she might become a more adventurous eater, and even be interested in the world behind the spices.

Have your child pick out vegetables at the farmer’s market to pair with some spices. Choose noodles and a few bundles of unique greens in an Asian market to make a spice-filled noodle soup or stir fry. Peruse the aisles of an Indian spice market and take home something new. Then, most importantly, invite him to cook with you. Pull up a stool, hand him a whisk, a spatula, or a large wooden spoon (no sharp knives until he’s older).

While it’s true that some children won’t try new things, others might…especially if you’ve included them in the entire dinner-making process.

Here are five spices to get you going:

Cardamom

As I mentioned above, the only cake my daughter will eat is a cardamom pound cake. There is a recipe for coffee-cardamom pound cake in my cookbook, but you can omit the coffee while still adding in the cardamom. You can add a small amount at first to get them acclimated.

You can also make snickerdoodles and, instead of rolling them in the classic combination of cinnamon and sugar, replace the cinnamon with cardamom. Trust me, you’ll be taking these to the next school bake sale.

Chinese 5-Spice

Another dish to make for some spice-filled inspiration is roasted chicken, a pleasant canvas for many spices and flavors. In The NYC Kitchen I’ve covered the chicken with a spice well-known in Asian cuisine: Chinese 5-spice, a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. If they’re just not into the Chinese 5-spice, you can remove the skin for them.

Herbes de Provence

This savory blend comprised of a variety of French herbs (it can differ from blend to blend), including marjoram, savory, thyme, basil, lavender, parsley, oregano, tarragon, and bay powder with the rosemary and fennel. This blend is a more mild way to introduce your kids to spices and herbs. It’s less robust that the Chinese 5-Spice or Smoked Paprika. Add some to roasted chicken, sprinkle onto vegetables before roasting (carrots, potatoes, or zucchini, for example), or dust some onto salmon before baking.

Smoked Paprika

One night I declared, “We having breakfast for dinner.”

Little did my daughter know it would be a tangy, spicy, egg-y Mediterranean dish made with smoked paprika and sprinkled with fresh herbs, but she was game. I picked up a loaf of ciabatta and, instead of dipping it into the shakshouka as many do when eating this dish for brunch, Sabrina made a sandwich out of it and smiled at how much she liked it.

I’d like to inspire other parents to try this. Shakshouka is one of those versatile dishes that you can mix and match according to your taste buds. Add some sweet Italian sausage, omit the smoked paprika if it’s not to your taste, and instead add fresh basil, making it more Italian. Or add chorizo and some red peppers – with some beans, perhaps – to give it more zip and heft. Shakshouka is a humble dish to inspire your taste buds, so experiment and see what you and your children like.

Za’atar

This Middle Eastern spice blend is a generally mix of thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac (another spice I recommend trying). It’s most well-known for serving on baked pita bread and sprinkled on top of dips (like a yogurt-based dip). I also love adding a few tablespoons to a vegetable soup, tossing with olive oil in a salad comprised of Mediterranean ingredients, and spreading some on top of roasted fish. I think you’ll love its versatility. It’s also mild enough that kids will love it, too.

Instead of just making your kids dinner, invite them in to the kitchen to help out. They might like mixing, tasting, blending (Sabrina loves using the old fashioned mortar and pestle to crush spices), and ultimately tasting what they’ve helped you make. There be some extra cleaning involved, but it’ll be worth it. Picking out spices and adding them to your recipes will help your child feel good about food and what she’s eating – and make her more apt to try new spices.

Kid Made Recipe: Butternut Fettuccine

This creamy, delicious (and vegetarian!) pasta dish will warm up any weeknight, and it’s ready to go in 45 minutes or less.

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This creamy, delicious (and vegetarian!) pasta dish will warm up any weeknight, and it’s ready to go in 45 minutes or less. Little kids can handle peeling, and big kids can watch over the simmering squash and take over  the tossing and garnishing.  This is so easy and so tasty you’ll want to add it to your weekly dinner rotation!

Butternut Fettuccine

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20  minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: About 45 minutes
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 2 ½ cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • ½ small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine the squash, onion, and broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the salt, and nutmeg, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, or until the squash and onions are very soft and breaking apart.
  3. Meanwhile, in another large pot, cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
  4. Add pepper to taste, remove from heat, and blend mixture until smooth using an immersion blender, or transfer carefully to a food processor or blender.
  5. Once smooth, add the half and half or heavy cream and blend again on low speed until no streaks remain.
  6. Add the 2 Tbsp parmesan and stir.
  7. Using tongs, toss sauce with warm pasta until well coated.
  8. Serve with more parm, chopped walnuts, and a sprig or two of fresh rosemary.

 

Recipe Notes:

  • If your cooked pasta gets sticky while you wait for the sauce to cook, add a pat of butter and toss before you add the sauce to loosen it up.
  • Add as much chopped fresh herbs as you like! We used rosemary, but sage, thyme or oregano would also be lovely and delicious!

Recent Study Says These 3 Things Can Raise Kids' IQ

Many factors affect kid’s IQ, including their genetics and environment. But a 2017 analysis identified a number of things that can help raise it.

Most parents think their kids are pretty smart. We watch with delight as our kids learn to engage us with their curious baby eyes and expressions. We marvel in their ability to learn new skills. Sure, other people’s kids learn these skills, too, but we can’t help thinking our baby is the cleverest and maybe the most beautiful to boot.
By school age, though, the differences in children’s abilities begin to show. We get feedback about our child’s abilities when we are exposed to a larger pool of children. Maybe, like me, your little Einstein didn’t get selected for the special enrichment class for gifted children. Or perhaps your child’s class report comes back with grades in the average range and not above average.
There are many factors that affect children’s IQ, including their genetics and environment. A 2017 analysis identified a number of things that can help raise children’s IQ. The analysis was extensive and only included high quality research trials of typically developing children aged from preschool to pre-adolescence. Thirty-six studies met the stringent criteria for the analysis, of which 18 had significant research outcomes.
Studies included in the analysis targeted five potential methods of increasing children’s IQ. These methods were multivitamin supplements, iron supplements, iodine supplements, learning to play a musical instrument, and training. Executive function training helps develop skills such as memory, impulse control, and flexible thinking.
The analysis determined that only three of the methods targeting IQ actually raised children’s IQ. These were:

Multivitamin supplements

The analysis found that multivitamins can help improve IQ, but only when given to children who are vitamin deficient. There were no benefits for children who showed no signs of deficiency.

Iodine supplements

Iodine was also successful in helping raise IQ, but only when given to children deficient in iodine. Again, there was no benefit to children with adequate levels of iodine.

Learning to play a musical instrument

Learning to play musical instruments has been repeatedly shown to develop executive function skills (memory, impulse control, and flexible thinking). The analysis found that learning to play a musical instrument raised children’s IQ.
Iron supplements and executive functioning did not show consistent and reliable results in the analysis. This means they cannot currently be considered to help raise IQ.

What does this mean for parents?

If you are concerned about your child’s IQ or you notice inconsistencies in your child’s academic performance, it’s important to remember that IQ continues to develop over time and can fluctuate due to a variety of factors.
In an interview with the BBC Professor Joan Freeman, a developmental psychologist who specializes in gifted children, said, “Given different environments and opportunities, IQ can develop and grow. Something as simple as a bad cold can make IQ go down temporarily.”
Also, IQ is not the only factor in success or personal earnings. The tests only measure a person’s cognitive ability, and being successful is about much more, says Freeman:
“IQ tests don’t measure other qualities, such as personality, talent, persistence, and application. You might not have a high IQ, but if you have a gung-ho personality, then you may use what you have more effectively than someone with a high IQ…. I regard IQ like a muscle. You may be born with the muscles of an Olympiad, but if you don’t use them, they will diminish.”
If you would like to help your child increase their IQ through supplements, examine your child’s diet as a first option. It can be hard to get children to eat a wide variety of food. If you decide to check you child’s iodine and vitamin levels, consider whether the stress of those tests is worth it.
Iodine can be measured with a urine test, but vitamin levels often require a blood test. Many children find blood tests distressing and even traumatizing. As a parent and a mental health professional, I would prefer to give my child a multivitamin tablet and see if it helps rather than have them undergo a blood test. Always discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.
Learning a musical instrument is a natural option for many families who enjoy music. If music has not been a part of your life, you may not know where to start. There are many ways to immerse your child in music. Schools offer music programs with instrumental lessons. Consider enrolling your child in a school that has a robust music program or, if you can afford it, private lessons.
Children under the age of five can have difficulty learning an instrument due to a range of factors, including their size and developmental capacity for regular practice. Consider instead exposing them through playing different types of music in the home, experimenting playfully with musical instruments, or attending an early learning music group with other young children as an entry point.
Your child has many qualities of which their IQ is only one part. Remember that IQ alone will not determine how successful your child is. Qualities such as persistence, parental support, encouragement, and age-appropriate opportunities will also raise IQ and support future success.
These things also happen to lie at the heart of good parenting.

Kid Made Recipe: Nutty Pumpkin Brownies

In the midst of Halloween candy madness, these pumpkin brownies are a sweet treat you could actually call healthy-ish! (Okay, maybe thats a stretch).

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In the midst of Halloween candy madness, these pumpkin brownies are a sweet treat you could actually call healthy-ish!  Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but the nut butter and pumpkin do add protein and fiber, even to the frosting! Heading to a Halloween gathering? Big kids can whip these up on their own and bring ‘em along. Spookily delicious!

Nutty Pumpkin Brownies

Makes: 1 8×8 inch pan (12-18 brownies depending on your cut size)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes total
Cool Time:  30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
 

Ingredients:

Brownies:

  • 1 cup nut butter of your choice (we used almond)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup flour
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Frosting:

  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ⅔ cup nut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix nut butter, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl by hand or with a hand mixer until well blended.
  3. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and mix until mixture is smooth and no dry ingredient streaks remain.
  4. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper so the edges overhang on all sides.
  5. Pour mixture into lined pan, smoothing the top.
  6. Bake at 350 for 25-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean.
  7. Cool completely.
  8. Make frosting! Mix remaining ½ cup pumpkin, ⅔ cup peanut butter, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl and beat by hand or with hand held mixer until fluffy. If it’s too stiff, add a Tbsp or two of almond milk at a time and keep beating, until you get to your desired consistency.
  9. When brownies are cool, frost to the edges.
  10. Cut and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Feel free to use any nut butter your like! You can also use any milk you like to loosen the frosting, if you stick with almond or soy these are a dairy free treat!

A Good Reason for My Sleepless Nights

I have a motherhood confession. There is a child (or two or three) sleeping in my bed more nights than not.

I have a motherhood confession.
There is a child (or two or three) sleeping in my bed more nights than not. With four total, and all of them still relatively young enough to wake up in the middle of the night sick or scared or wet or thirsty or just alone, it’s a nightly event that at least one and sometimes more pad into my room, holding a blanket or a stuffed something that has seen better days.
I roll over and look at the clock. Inevitably, there’s a moment where my stomach sinks at the math of how much more sleep I might get if I am lucky. But I always make them some space.
I know it’s a controversial subject, and I know (and respect) that it’s not for everyone. I know the parenting magazines would probably frown on it. Perhaps more importantly, I know the lack of sleep has likely taken years off my life or, at the very least, made me look like it has.
And yes, I’ve read the sleep training books and talked to the doctors and let myself fantasize about what it would be like to just once sleep wholly through the night and let me tell you: the prospect is absolutely lovely.
But I feel like this is something I need to do, and there is a good reason. It’s this:
When I was 16, I stopped eating.
It wasn’t that simple, and it wasn’t all at once or even a conscious decision. Not at first. But I was no longer a kid, and me and my life were both getting big fast, and I knew I needed to do something to try to make us small again because the bigness felt too new and frankly a little bit scary.
But pretty soon, as these things do, the not eating itself got too big – bigger than I could easily handle myself. I lost more weight than I ever meant to, although somehow it still wasn’t enough. The anxiety problem that had been a manageable hum in the background of my life before became a loud and constant scream that I couldn’t ignore.
Nighttime was the worst because I stopped sleeping. I would toss and turn for hours, trying to convince myself I wasn’t hungry and I wasn’t sick and I wasn’t falling quickly into a hole that was too big for me to pull myself out of alone.
My mother and I were not in the best place then. Neither of us was healthy independently, and together, we were worse than the sum of our parts. But I knew she saw what was happening to me and I knew she was worried as well.
One night, when it all got to be too much, I did something out of desperation that I hadn’t done since I was maybe six and scared of thunder: I crept into her room and climbed into her bed.
She didn’t say anything, and I assumed she was asleep. But I pulled the covers up and settled my head on her pillow and closed my eyes. And then I felt it, so light I thought I imagined it at first: her hand resting on my back. I’m sure it was the first time we had touched in months. Maybe years.
Sometimes I think that hand saved my life. Or it was the bridge that got me into the next day, which got me into recovery, eventually. At the very least, I know I fell instantly asleep.
For a short while, it became a routine of sorts, one that we never spoke about in the daylight. I don’t know if she appreciated those small moments of togetherness we had there like I did or if she just tolerated them because she knew I was sick. She’s gone now, so I can’t ask. When she died and I found myself unable to sleep again, I was grateful for the memory. I was also grateful for its lesson.
You see, most days I’m not a great mother – not like the ones you see on TV or read about in those same parenting magazines that say my babies should learn to self soothe. My temper is shorter than I’d like, and I make more boxed mac and cheese than anyone should ever admit to.
I am terrible at braiding hair or remembering to sign the thousands of papers that come home every day stuffed into four different backpacks. I’m much too distracted and I’m tired and I make so many mistakes daily that I usually lose count before lunchtime.
But at night, this is still something I can do, what my own mother did for me all those years ago. I can make space. I can let them in, rest my hand lightly on their backs, feel their soft breath as they settle next to me, and – if only just for that moment – help them rest easier in the knowledge that they don’t have to be alone.
I know it’s not forever, and their need – big now with little-kid troubles, night terrors, bed wetting, things under the bed – will evolve into bigger-kid need and likely then into the not needing at all. It’s a prospect that both gets me through my tired days and terrifies me.
But for now, I know this: For as long as I can, I will help them sleep, even if it means that, tonight, I don’t.
This post originally appeared here on the author’s website.

Kid Made Recipe: Puff Pastry Veggie Pizza

Pick up some puff pastry and get going on this easy, tasty, pizza style dinner! If you like it spicy try cooked chicken, shredded mozzarella and jalapeños!

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Pick up some puff pastry and get going on this easy, tasty, pizza style dinner! We like all the colorful fall veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and peppers, but you should probably make a few with different toppings and invite some friends over to share!

Puff Pastry Veggie Pizza

Makes: 1 12-inch square pizza
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 40  minutes total
Total time: 1 hour  25 minutes
 

Ingredients:  

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry  – typical package contains 2 sheets.
  • 1 ¼ cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Black pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups thinly sliced veggies – we used purple, white, and orange carrots, sweet potato, and rainbow peppers
  • About a ½ cup of shaved parmesan cheese

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper until you have a 12×12 square. Transfer on the paper to a baking sheet.
  3. Using a knife tip, score a square about an inch from the edges of the pastry on all sides. It should look like a picture frame.
  4. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, until the pastry puffs up and turns light golden brown. Set aside.
  5. Mix the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and oregano in a small bowl.
  6. Using a large spoon or spatula, spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the pastry, staying inside the 1 inch border. You may have to gently push down on the center to deflate the pastry a bit before spreading.
  7. Top the ricotta with sliced veggies in more or less a single layer – a little overlap is ok. You want everything to cook evenly!
  8. Bake at 425 for about 25-10 minutes until the crust is deep golden brown, and the veggies are tender.
  9. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, cut and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Lots of variations you can try here! Use pizza sauce and mozzarella, or try a ricotta mixture, spinach, and cheddar. If you like it spicy, try cooked chopped chicken, shredded mozzarella and jalapeños!

Kid Made Recipe: Pumpkin Cream Puffs

Looking for a fun, fall, weekend baking project with a little pumpkin spice? Try these fluffy puffs filled with delicious pumpkin buttercream!

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Looking for a fun, fall, weekend baking project with a little pumpkin spice? Try these fluffy puffs filled with delicious pumpkin buttercream! They look super fancy but come together with just a few steps.  Have a kiddo help out with the egg cracking and hand mixing and you’ll be on your way to perfect pate a choux pastry in no time!  

Pumpkin Cream Puffs

Makes: About 20 puffs
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Cool Time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour  25 minutes
 

Ingredients:  

For the pate a choux pastry

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to boil in a medium saucepan.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and mix until a smooth, paste-like dough forms.
  4. Let dough cool for a few minutes, then beat on medium with a hand mixer for about 1 minutes. Dough will break apart into chunks, this is ok!
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. After the fourth egg, the mixture should come together to form a smooth, sticky pastry.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, drop rounded, golf-ball sized rounds of dough in rows of four. You should be able to fit 12-16 puffs to a sheet.
  7. If you like a nice, shiny, crust, lightly brush tops and sides of puffs with a beaten egg.
  8. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Then lower oven temp to 350, rotate pan, and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until puffs are very puffy, and nicely browned. You want them to completely dry out inside, so make sure you don’t take them out too soon, or they will deflate!
  9. Remove from oven, and use a toothpick to prick the top of each puff to let any extra steam escape. Let them cool completely before filling, about 20 minutes.

For the pumpkin buttercream

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar.

With a hand mixer, beat butter and pumpkin until completely incorporated and fluffy. Add cinnamon and about half of the confectioner’s sugar and beat on medium until smooth. Add the rest of the sugar and beat on medium to combine, then on high until smooth and very fluffy.
Slice the puffs in half crosswise,  spoon filling on bottom half, then pop on the top half. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips if you like for extra pizzaz!