Eating Time and Dessert Nights

My relationship with food is definitely a love/hate thing. It’s like a combination of the feeling of getting to stay up late at night when you’re a kid, the feeling of having to take some nasty pink antibiotics, and the feeling of having to mow the lawn.

Well, when Benji came along, Ian and I decided to take a stand in two areas: Sleep and food. I wanted Benji to have a healthier relationship with food than I did.

Throughout the littlest-kid years, we defended naps with the vigilance of a mother tiger over her cubs. Sleep was tough, sure, especially during sleep regressions and when we hit developmental milestones. Is it time to go from two naps to one? How do we do it? Yet, ultimately, we controlled that to a great extent. That is, we could at least control when we put Benji in his room and when he was allowed to come out: We carved out the time for healthy rest, and for the most part, he took it.

Only since school started this September has he really seemed to give up napping, and even so, he still falls asleep occasionally during “quiet time,” which we still do for at least an hour a day after lunch.

Anyway, boy, food has proved tougher. You can’t make a kid eat! Eating or not eating — from Day 1, it’s the first place that little person asserts his independence. You can’t make me eat!

Long story short, we eventually settled on offering a variety of mostly healthy foods and telling him to eat until his tummy wasn’t hungry anymore.

But over time this evolved into Benji wanting us to quantify how much food he had to eat to be done. We would suggest a number, and he’d take that many bites, no more or less.

Then it got worse as, at dinner time, the question turned into: “How many bites do I have to eat to get dessert?” No matter what we said, this always resulted in whining and negotiating, claims that no reasonable human being could eat six bites of pasta AND all the peas, we were practically monsters in parent form, etc., etc.

About a month ago, I was talking with a friend at church about this misery and she mentioned that they just have dessert nights at their house. The kids pick two nights a week when they have dessert; the other nights, they just don’t.

I loved this idea, and combined it with another idea I heard elsewhere many years ago: Serve dessert as part of dinner. It isn’t a reward, it isn’t some kind of treasure you have to dig through a pile of gross food to get to. It’s just another part of the meal: You get protein, veggies, carbs, and a little bit of something sweet — emphasis on little. Dessert should be small enough that the kid isn’t full, and still wants some real food after eating the sweet part.

We started implementing the dessert night idea immediately, and I have to say, it’s been great. We don’t negotiate anymore. If it’s a dessert night (Benji picked Monday and Friday), I give Benji dessert along with everything else on his plate. Of course he eats it first — but then he goes on to eat a pretty substantial amount of his real dinner, too, with no complaints, whining, or stalling… or at least, none related to how many bites he has to eat. He’s still a kid, after all, and I don’t expect him to fall upon kohlrabi with cries of rapture (I know I don’t!).

We aren’t being completely straight-laced about this, mind you. Sweet treats happen at other times and on other days — with grandparents, at a friend’s house, at church, whatever — but dinner has sure gotten a lot nicer. But we are trying to focus on healthier foods that provide real nutrients, so this fits with that goal synergistically (if that’s a word, and if it’s not, it SHOULD be).

So that’s that! For now, anyway, we’ve broken free from the tyranny of dessert. Hooray!

Labor Day, School, and So Much More

The New Car

Yesterday marked the one monthiversary of buying our Bolt.

New Bolt!

Since we bought it, we’ve figured out that:

  • My bike fits in the back, but only with the seats all the way down and the passenger seat squeezed all the way forward–leaving room for only the driver. Clearly before we replace the Prius, I need to get a hitch-mounted rack for the Bolt.
  • The car has at least 300 miles per charge. Ian drove it for two straight weeks, just about 300 miles, without a charge.
  • The radio turns on every time we turn the car on, and so far we haven’t found a way to turn it off.
  • It feels like riding a bike: You’re very aware of ups and downs, since you’re paying close attention to energy usage; and it has a hand brake paddle on the steering wheel that lets you slow down or even come to a full stop without ever touching the foot brake.

Ian and Benji use the car the lion’s share of the time, since during the week I exclusively travel by bus or bike. It’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to drive the car… but not into downtown Seattle. I can’t believe how many people are actually willing to sit through the misery we call a commute in their single-passenger vehicles.

It’s been quite the month.

Labor Day Weekend

Benji, Dad, and I had a very fun Labor Day weekend, hitting Alki Beach and Twin Falls on back-to-back days.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls 2017 - 1

Twin Falls 2017 2

Twin Falls 3 - Benji on a Rock

Twin Falls 4

Benji at Twin Falls 2017

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River 2

Alki Beach

Alki Beach 1

Alki Beach 2017 - 2

Alki Beach Labor Day Weekend 2017

Alki Beach 2017 - 3

Alki Beach 2017 - Tidepools

School

Benji’s half-day kindergarten at ORCS started on September 11.
First Day of ORCS Kindergarten
I think it’s going well, although to be honest, I hear very little of how the day actually went. All I can really say is that Benji goes, and then I see him in the evening and he probably has a craft and is tired-hyper. But anything in between — going to school, having lunch, doing the afternoon with someone — I just trust is happening.

But overall, from the little snippets I do hear, Benji is liking half-day kindergarten. We’ve started keeping track of our reading hours, and so far it’s about an hour a day. He also said he likes having his best friend Will in class with him, and his two favorite parts of the school day are free choice and recess. Just about right. I tried to ask about academics, but aside from being really excited about doing colors this week, I haven’t heard much.

So far, Benji’s remained astonishingly healthy, but he’s been sniffling and sneezing lately, so I expect that’s about to change.

At Benji’s 5-year doctor visit we determined he’s totally normal in terms of physical growth and such. The doctor did refer us to Children’s for an assessment of large and fine motor skills as well as speech. That’s still pending.

Meanwhile, we’ve had two weeks of school and no pattern set yet. Next week will be another week with no pattern, but starting in October things will hopefully settle down.

Work

My work has gotten increasingly busy. I like it, and I haven’t dropped any balls yet, but I’m starting to get close to full capacity. I have a secondary project that I’m really excited about, but it’s taking a long time because release notes and release-related content updates always take top priority. This release cycle, which finishes on release night on October 19, has a number of big stories that require quite a bit of time to document.

I’ve been bringing my work laptop home on the weekends in the hopes of getting some work done, but somehow I hardly ever do. It’s work I love, but weekends are so full, especially with wanting to spend time with Benji and Ian since I don’t see them as much during the week; biking; and (importantly) catching up on sleep (hopefully).

Benji Turns 5: Part 1

OK, Benji actually only turns 5 once. But this weekend he gets to turn 5 twice, once on Saturday with our family and once on Sunday with his friends. Today we:

Went to the KidsQuest Museum in Bellevue in the morning. I skipped my big ride and spent the morning with Ian and Benji having a truly astonishing amount of fun at the KidsQuest “museum” (in the loosest possible sense; to be fair, it did have the occasional random fact on the wall, but really it was a fabulously designed play zone for kids).

Benji gravitated to the trains first, and it was very difficult to pry him away. Which, frankly, is reasonable — it’s not only the biggest train table I’ve ever seen, with several different areas where the kids could pop through and stand in the middle, but it was representative of Seattle, the Eastside, and the rural area to the east of the Eastside.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 0

We ultimately insisted that we explore the entire museum before spending the entire time at the train table. I’m sure glad we did, because we also found…
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 1
This really doesn’t do justice to the super cool conveyor belt system they had that allowed you to convey boxes all over the room. Plus, kids could go in the truck cab and do a ton of different stuff.

Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 2
Oh my gosh the water room was amazing. A-MAZING. It literally had a magnetic maze you could run water through; these drums that water shot up and drummed; vortexes you could put balls into and play with; and so much other super cool stuff.

When it was time to dry out Benji and I went and built a castle out of giant foam blocks.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 3
We are seriously considering getting a year membership. It’s way handier than going to Seattle; although it’s not nearly as great as something like the Science Center, we also didn’t have to commit the entire day to the activity. And it had such a wide variety of areas, I could see going there through the winter for sure.

While Benji had “quiet time” I sneaked out for a short ride. I tried to get in as much climbing as I could in 3.5 hours. This equaled not many miles, but 6,100 vertical feet. It was such a treat to breathe fresh, clean air and see blue sky! The temperature was perfect and overall it was the most perfect biking weather imaginable.

Not long after I got home and showered, our family arrived to celebrate Benji’s birthday! Jane and Auntie Cait are in town from Pennsylvania, which was a big highlight.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Family Party
…well, OK, a big highlight after the set of 5 fire truck Matchbox cars Janie and Auntie Cait gave Benji, of course… Other presents were cool, too.

Benji’s going to be pretty surprised when he has to write thank-you notes for all of them…

“This Will Blow Your Mind Off”

Thus quoth Benji as he explained the theory of why astronomers think there’s another planet out way past Pluto. Here’s what transpired.

I sat down to write a new daily board, which says the date and Benji’s agenda for the day. Before I started, Benji said, “Wait! I want to sure you something.”

A little background. Benji really wants to be an astronomer when he grows up, and whether he does or not, it’s a fun hobby for a kid with lots of interesting exercises and experiments. There are also tons of videos on space stuff, naturally. Benji’s especially interested in the hypothetical Planet 9, which is somewhere way out in the Kuiper Belt, or maybe father. Who knows.

A few days ago, Ian and Benji watched some videos explaining some concepts about Planet 9, why astronomers think it’s out there, what they hypothesize about its physical properties, etc. I got a little summary of the videos then, and figured that was the end of it.

I was so wrong.

This morning, Professor Benji took up the chalk to draw a diagram that explains why the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects like Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea strongly suggest the presence of another, more massive object that we haven’t yet found.


He then went on to speculate about the material composition of the planet;

Elucidate on its mass relative to other Solar System objects (Earth and Neptune);

And theorize about the existence of many other such objects yet to be discovered. 


Granted, much of this latter material contained elements of speculation, but it was speculation informed by 2.5 years of education about planets and their properties.

Big Boy Behavior

This morning, Benji just dressed himself while I was brushing my teeth.

It was sure a growing-up moment. I told him he needed to put clothes on before we watched our 30 minutes of videos; he disappeared, and a few minutes later came back completely changed into perfectly appropriate school clothes. Some things may be on backwards, but overall, a job well done.

The other day, we were at mom and dad’s house, and Benji was playing with dirt and water and some trucks. On the way home, Benji told me that the trucks were making cement for Moss Town. In Moss Town, people build their houses on cement (I didn’t tell him we do that too), and he told me all about how they needed special cement, how he was making the cement, and what Moss Town people would do with it. He quite matter-of-fact and he had clearly developed a full imaginary story in his head that I only heard part of.

In general, it’s getting to be more fun and more challenging in proportion as Benji gets older.

At school, Benji doesn’t want to sit in circle time and he doesn’t want to participate in the dance/movement time. We’ve been pondering how to get him to at least behave at circle time–sitting still when you don’t want to I’d an important life skill!–and we’re going to try a behavior chart with rewards for times he succeeds at sitting still the whole time. 

When the teacher told me Benji was disturbing other kids be being too wiggly and bonking into his classmates, I felt like a total Mommy fail. I know Benji can sit still, even when he doesn’t want to; reading him stories, I’ll tell him to keep his bottom on the chair and he can stay for an entire (short) chapter. But at school he chooses not to. 

I think it’s a matter of properly motivating him. He doesn’t see any reason to sit still, so he doesn’t try. I’m hoping that fun prizes will prove incentive enough.

Thinking about it, I realize that is probably true for everyone. I just have different motivations. I don’t want to be embarrassed or bother other people, whereas? Benji doesn’t care about that. I wonder how much of our “good” adult behavior is really just enlightened self-interest like that. Huh.

Strange Freedom

This week is spring break at our preschool. Normally this would mean extra scheduling at daycare and shuffling of other childcare planning, and my trying to minimize time at work so I can get home to relieve Ian.

This week, however, we do something totally different. Mom took Benji to California for two nights to visit our family there, while Ian and I find ourselves footloose and fancy-free for two evenings.

Last night, on evening one, we splurged on time and watched an entire 90-minute Classic MST3K. We enjoyed salmon for dinner without any whining, and that’s it. Pretty exciting.

This morning I had thought of sleeping in – I normally get up an hour early so I can get all my stuff done and still have time with Benji in the morning – but instead I just left for work an hour early. This may not seem luxurious, but having the freedom to choose – that is luxury.

Tonight we plan to go out to dinner and maybe play some board games, our idea of a date night. I’m looking forward to it.

I had forgotten how easy everything is when I only have to take care of myself. But at the same time, things are so quiet and so flat, completely without the surrealistic absurdity so effectively (albeit unintentionally) propagated by our little person. I’m not yet tired of the ease and convenience, but it wouldn’t take long for me to start missing the kid in our life.

MOHAI

Today instead of riding our bikes through the veritable monsoon conditions, Dad and I took Benji to MOHAI. I had fun memories of visiting there as a kid, and recalled that they had fun, more hands-on exhibits than most museums.

MOHAI has moved since I visited (it has to have been 20 years since I went, if not more), to a really cool art deco-style building in South Lake Union. Normally I assiduously avoid South Lake Union, which during the week turns into an insane snarl of gridlocked vehicles full of grouchy drivers. But on Saturday at 10:00 am, it wasn’t bad at all. We even easily found parking in the microscopic parking lot, which was completely full and had cars waiting for a spot when we came out a couple hours later.

MOHAI

I was delighted that they had the Lincoln Tow Truck, which we saw parked for many years and were sorry to notice vanish some years ago.

They had a kid “construction” area, which we did spend some time enjoying. We tried out all the different stuff, but Benji isn’t much into dressing up or acting stuff out. We did build with some interesting connector type toys, both in that kid area and in the “Idea Lab,” which basically had bins of K’nex-type toys.
MOHAI - Kid-Struction Zone Library

The majority of our time went to ricocheting around different exhibits way to fast to take anything in. After bouncing through several exhibits, Dad and I insisted on walking slowly through one whole exhibit of Benji’s choice (Edible City). They did have a number of interactive aspects, which we took advantage of.
MOHAI - Food Container Ship

MOHAI - Light-Up Food Wall

I liked the periscope up in the maritime room on the 4th floor; Benji and Dad looked at the ship’s wheel.
MOHAI - Maritime Room

I think Benji’s favorite, and one that we all found quite compelling, was the interactive wall exhibit. You turn the wheel and one of the wall boxes lights up and something moves inside. They had a number of those spin-the-wheel-type interactive displays, which we all liked.
MOHAI - Interactive Wall

MOHAI - Work Together

If I was kid-free, I’d love to go back there with my nice SLR and use my photography-eyes. It was a really interesting area, with the Center for Wooden Boats and various exhibition boats, the cool architecture of the museum outside plus the interesting lights and objects inside. Some day.

Edit to add: Here are some pictures Dad surreptitiously took with his nice camera.
Idea Lab

Choose Your Meal

Fun times at MOHAI

Thinking at MOHAI

Kid-Struction Library at MOHAI