Overload (Or Why I Took Away All of Eva’s Toys. Again.)

Posted by Carly Morgan

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Those of you who have been reading for a while know that there’s an ongoing battle against toy clutter happening in the Morgan household. For the first 20 months of Eva’s life, we were hostages to the toy situation. Small plastic items were everywhere and we bought so many bins and baskets and bags that our house started to look like a tag sale.

Around this time last year, I had had enough and we dramatically decreased the number of toys in Eva’s room. There was no fuss from her and we were pleased to see that she actually thrived in her cleaner environment and spent more time playing with the remaining toys. Over time, we added a couple of Montessori kitchen stations and then gave up on that idea and added a play kitchen/grocery store combination that has both been a huge hit and also decreased the number of small plastic vegetables we needed to store in her room. I also switched out the colorful bags and plastic items in her room for simple baskets and educational toys, always with the idea that the plastic toys would eventually come back.

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The goal was to rotate the toys once every two months so that she was constantly interested and refreshed. Well. That sort of happened. Except I also went on bed rest and we had another baby and the kid clutter exploded again. We lost motivation to keep rotating items and somehow Eva continued to collect more and more toys even though we told ourselves we weren’t buying her anything and before I knew it it had been a year and most of her toys had never come back into rotation and holy crap it’s Christmas.

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Major guilt this year. Guilt that a lot of her toys spent the whole year in storage. Guilt that too many new toys creeped back into her room and ended up broken or scattered because we haven’t been great about cleaning before bed. Guilt that, despite my big talk about simple toys and Montessori living, Kyle and I got Eva a whole bunch of toys with buttons and plastic pieces and branded characters for the holidays.

None of the things we bought her made it to the top of her list this year. She was completely overloaded by too many similar items and ended up focusing mainly on craft kits, kitchen play, and this easel from her uncles. She also got a Doc McStuffins check up clinic and she’s been peering into our ears ever since. It came with stickers and small dolls, but that otoscope apparently just takes the cake.

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Last night, I cleared out her room. I did this for a couple of reasons: (1) although much of the Christmas chaos ended up in the kitchen or is destined for the new living room art center I’m dreaming up, the rest was waiting out in the hall to come in and (2) I feel like Eva will enjoy the new stuff more if the old stuff isn’t an option.

That last statement is tricky and I’ll tell you right off the bat that Kyle doesn’t agree with me. He hates when I do this. He feels (perhaps justly?) that if Eva is enjoying a toy or has enjoyed a toy anytime in the recent weeks, that it’s mean to put it in storage where she can’t get to it. I don’t know. He might be right, but she just seems so much more content when the clutter is cut down. So I did it. He’ll deal. It’s not like she didn’t just get 50 new things.

I did make some tough choices though. I swept up a ton of Montessori toys that Eva isn’t really into, even though some of them are probably just a little ahead of where she is now developmentally. I was tempted to leave them because I wanted her to sit and study them quietly, but realistically she’s just not interested. Hopefully they’ll come back out of storage soon.

I also got rid of some books, making them the only things I took out of her room with the intent to donate. They’re mostly large beautiful picture books from artists like Mercer Mayer and Steven Kellogg, but they were 95% ex-library books, which means that they had library stickers on the spine and were in pretty used condition. It was hard to see them go, but Eva has too many books and I’m going to hold out for nicer copies. Plus, many of them were at least five years ahead of where she is now and they weren’t nice enough to save until then. In the last year alone, she’s gotten 50+ new books. Obviously, her library isn’t in danger of not providing enough reading material.

The hardest decisions were on toys that Eva plays with often. Yes, I’m mean. I put many in storage. The biggest gap is going to be her Calico Critters, which she does love. My problem with them is that she scatters the little pieces everywhere and then they get lost or broken. She has enough stuff coming in that I’m hoping it won’t be sad for her that her bunnies and pandas and cats (oh my!) moved out of her room. And, of course, they’re supposed to come back at some point.

What did I leave? Lots. Blocks, musical instruments, some games, baby doll stuff, dress up, books, and all of her new toys from Christmas. It’s a little blank, but she does have arts/crafts stuff in the living room and a very impressive play food situation going on in our kitchen. And she’s two. She doesn’t need the moon.

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It’s funny how much guilt I still have over how many toys she has access to. What is that? Why am I hardwired to want to provide her with a Toys R Us? I mean, Laura Ingalls Wilder had that corn cob doll and a pig bladder balloon and her childhood was happy enough to write a book about. Perspective.

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10 Ideas for When Your Kid Won’t Eat

Posted by Carly Morgan

You’d think all of Eva’s food allergies would be the most challenging thing about feeding her. Nope. That’s actually a micro challenge compared to the daily battle we have over not being able to READ HER MIND and know what she is/isn’t eating that day. I’ve actually had her ask for something and then, in the amount of time it took me to get it out of the fridge and heat it up, decide that she actually hates that food and never wants to eat it again.

I always said that I wouldn’t be the kind of parent who would cater to a kid like this. I don’t run a diner. I’m not a short order cook. This is your food. If you don’t want it, you don’t eat. Go ahead and starve.

Yeah, that’s all well and good before you’re a parent. And I’m not caving in and making her specially requested meals because I just can’t stand to say “no” to my toddler. I can say “no” to my toddler all day long. Can I wear this swimsuit to school? Can I play with the big scissors? Can I light the candle? Can I have a puppy? Can I put this small metal thing in my ear? “No” x 1000.

I make specially requested meals because Eva gathered that my parenting plan was “go ahead and starve” and she was all “I think I will starve and when you take me in to the pediatrician they’re going to tell you I’m at 8% of the average weight for my age and they want to feed me through my nose. Now tell me again about the house rules, MOM.”

Touché.

Kids Who Won't Eat

  1. Bribery. People who don’t bribe their children are making life harder for themselves. I consider bribery just another math lesson. Three bites of potatoes = one marshmallow. Three bites of chicken = two marshmallows and an extra story at bedtime. And so on.
  2. Have a house rule that says they have to try everything. We only require one bite, but that’s one bite of everything on the plate. Sadly, even getting Eva to eat a combined 5 bites is still about 70% more than she’ll eat without the rule.
  3. Sneak calories into beverages. When Eva goes on her occasional strike against all foods, she gets smoothies. I put bananas and honey in them to mask the fact that I also put yogurt, tofu, cottage cheese, etc. into her smoothies. I’ve even smoothied steamed cauliflower just to get them in her.
  4. Use cookie cutters. Eva will refuse foods and then turn around and eat them immediately if I use cookie cutters to chop them into shapes. This works great for slices of roast turkey or pieces of meatloaf.
  5. Use sprinkles. I have put sprinkles on everything from oatmeal to mashed potatoes to enchiladas. Whatever. You can also add food coloring to things like pasta or mashed potatoes to make them more fun.
  6. Take turns giving each other bites. Let her use your fork to feed you and then tell her that it’s your turn. (Note: be prepared to eat your food in weird combinations and/or after it’s been dipped in your milk.)
  7. Create a good eating environment. Play music. Sit with your kid. Use divided plates and only serve two bites of everything. (It’s less intimidating.) Light candles at the dinner table and reserve the privilege of blowing them out for people who clear their plates (or, in our house, eat three bites of each food item).
  8. Go for the occasional fun-to-eat meal like fondue or set out elements of the meal and let them finish the preparation (i.e. making their own tacos or adding pasta sauce and cheese to pasta).
  9. Mince and serve on crackers. I kid you not, this works on everything. Surprising hits in our house have included scrambled eggs and beef stroganoff.
  10. If desperate, allow the iPad (or some other kid-show-playing device) at the table and only let it play if they’re eating. This requires both that you sit there like a test proctor and that you bend the general recommendations for pediatric screen time, but as someone who parents a toddler known for hunger strikes that last 10+ hours, just know that this does work in a pinch. Beats that tube in the nose.

Mickey Mouse Snowman String Cheese Snacks

Posted by Carly Morgan

Mickey Mouse snowman string cheese

To make this easy (healthy!) Disney-themed snack, you just need a Mickey Mouse hole punch, a black marker, an orange marker, some Scotch Satin Finish Gift Wrap tape, and some ribbon. I used fabric ribbon, but disposable wrapping ribbon would probably work just as well.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t do a step-by-step, but I will tell you that I just taped the hats on with a bit of tape first, but then I figured out that if I drew the face on it was smudge-able for a little while and putting a piece of tape up over the face/hat not only kept it from smudging but also pushed the hat down to make it look more like the snowman is really wearing his Mickey ears. A little tip from me to you!

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Nut-Free Christmas: Eva Finally Gets Christmas Candy (A Review of Vermont Nut Free Chocolates)

Posted by Carly Morgan

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When Eva was first diagnosed with severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, I felt like our lives had been turned upside down. It seemed like she was going to miss out on a huge list of experiences that I wanted for her and that every benign little treat, like a trip to the ice cream parlor or a plate of cookies at a birthday party, suddenly became a deadly threat. I could not see how we’d ever learn to live with her food allergies.

It’s been about 14 months since Eva was diagnosed and I will say that we’ve learned to live with it surprisingly well. Giving up nuts in the house has been a challenge, but once they were out we quickly found that we could indeed deal with their absence. Eva has been (mostly) incident free for just about a year and I will happily trade in any of those treats if it means that we can keep her out of the E.R.

That being said, there is something sort of sad about not being able to replicate things that I loved when I was little. One of those things has been holiday candy. When I was little, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and (of course) Christmas all brought foil-wrapped treats, shaped chocolates, and other sweet surprises. Unfortunately, Eva can’t usually eat any of that stuff because even chocolates that don’t have nuts in them are usually made on equipment that has touched nuts and that’s enough to set off an allergic reaction in our toddler.

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We’ve bought Eva gummies and suckers and boxes of raisins to make up for the fact that she can’t have chocolate, but all of you chocolate-lovers out there know it isn’t really the same. (Does anyone remember the first time I gave her a candy cane? Fail.)

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Vermont Nut Free Chocolates offered to send us some Christmas candy for Eva. I wasn’t sure how the quality would be, since the chocolate holiday kid stuff is sometimes waxy and cheap. No worries – these chocolates are delicious, delightful little gourmet items. They’re everything I remember fondly about my stockings on Christmas morning!

Christmas candy with peanut and tree nut allergies

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Nut Free Christmas Chocolates

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I’ve spent a ton of time on the Vermont Nut Free Chocolates website since we got these treats. They have so many things! Some of it is made with sunflower oil, which is still on Eva’s bad list, but the vast majority are things that Eva can eat. I’ve got big plans for Valentine’s Day and Easter but there are also a lot of little yummy things that I can have around the house for an occasional indulgence. I suppose I shouldn’t be planning on sugaring up my toddler, but after a year of raisins for dessert I won’t mind if she develops a sweet tooth.

Vermont Nut Free Chocolate - catalog Speaking of which, I couldn’t wait until Christmas so I gave Eva her chocolate Santa early. The Santa in my stocking was always my favorite part…so satisfying…like getting a doll you could eat. I almost got a little choked up when I gave it to her, since it’s just one more thing you always imagine you’ll do for your kids once you’re a mom.

Peanut allergy toddler tasting chocolate She loved it.

 

Disclaimer: I got all of the candy in this post at no cost from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates for review purposes. I received no further compensation for this post. The thoughts and opinions above are my own.

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