April 21, 2009

Have Some Chocolate Milk on Your Puffed Rice

At the age of 12 I read that a vegetarian life style was healthy. I went to my father and told him I would now be a vegetarian. He said OK but I had to get some books (yes, it was before the internet was invented) and research it and learn how to get the proper nourishment without eating meat and dairy. I am not sure my pops realized what he had started or what he was getting himself into.

Research it, I did. Along the way, I found a heart healthy diet and posted it on the fridge. Each day I followed the meal plan precisely and prepared whatever delicacy they recommended for my soon to be middle aged father. One night was broccoli and baked chicken breast. Another day egg white omelets. He didn't stick with his diet long but I fell in love. The study of health and nutrition became my passion.

And I stuck with it for four years. I had always been a lover of fresh fruit and veggies and I suffered migraines at the hands of dairy and eggs. The only real change was that I no longer ate meat and I consumed a lot more beans...which, I loved, anyway. At the age of 16 I developed mono. In addition to several months of bed rest the doctor insisted that I needed animal protein to overcome the virus and build my strength back up. I continued in my healthy eating and living lifestyle but that was the end of my vegetarian living. Or was it?

Some things just become a part of us. They may lay buried deep in us dormant for some time but with the right trigger will rear their heads up again. Even if we don't go by the name we still walk the walk. I grew up and married and as a student of nursing and young wife and mother I continued to read and study about the benefits of a healthy diet. We may not have called ourselves vegetarian and we did eat meat on the rare occassion when our college student budget allowed but eating for the best quality of life was so ingrained in me that it became part of who I am.

Over the next few years, I learned to make my own fresh baked bread from my own fresh ground wheat berries. I researched the butter versus margarine debate and settled on olive oil. I weighed the pros and cons of supplements. I poured over vegetarian and healthy cookbooks as if they were best selling novels. To the chagrin of my husband I learned about barley green and carrot juice. My champion juicer replaced my coffee maker as the most used appliance in my kitchen.

And I shared my knowledge with everyone I came in contact with. Anyone who had health problems was given a prescription for the right juice combo to heal their ailment. My babies were breast fed almost exclusively for one whole year. My toddler's ate homemade baby food My daughters were raised on oats, nuts and fresh fruit. Everything was made from scratch, organic and natural. I was rewarded with energy, slimness and children free of colds and viruses.

And then...I had sons. Nothing in our home has been the same since. Oh, it started out business as usual. But, by the time Nathaniel was six months old he refused to nurse and took no table food at all. As his doctors ran tests to find the cause of his illness I struggled to find something to nourish him.

He proved allergic to standard formula. After much lost time and many sleepless nights we found he could digest a non dairy and non soy based formula that cost $25 a can. He hated the stuff! After some experimentation we mixed it with rice milk and carrot juice to get something he would drink. He continued to lose weight at a frightening pace, so we began adding olive oil to each bottle. Yes, you got that right. Each 8 oz. bottle contained 4 oz. fresh made carrot juice, 4 oz. of rice milk, 4 scoops of formula and 4 Tablespoons of olive oil for good measure. It stunk like crazy. It stained like nothing I've ever seen. But he ate it. In fact he loved it. Within 6 months he had his fat little baby cheeks back again. And I had a picky eater on my hands.

With the addition of his brother, things only got worse. By the time the third son arrived, I began to compromise my high eating standards for whatever the boys would eat. For a time Samuel would only consume those little whole wheat crackers made by the South Beach people and the little melt in your mouth banana bits from Gerber. By the time he was 18 months old I felt I had triumphed when he fell in love with bananas and I could claim he was eating fresh fruit every day. At the age of 3 the only vegetable he eats of his own accord is beets. I grow them by the bushels and can them at the rate of a hundred quarts a year.

When Elisabeth started table food I was thrilled. She loved bananas, avacados and all the good stuff babies should eat. She cried for bits of orange and apples. Broccoli was her friend. She couldn't get enough beans and peas. It was so sweet to have a girl who loved heathly food. Mealtime would be a nice occasion, again, with my little Ellie in the high chair beside me.

And then it happened. I am not sure exactly when or how. But it did. The boys won her to their camp. Fast forward six months. This past week she has consumed less than 3 bites of fruit and/or vegetables a day. The foods she once loved she won't touch. Worse, the foods she loved yesterday, she won't take one bite of today. Her diet for the last week has consisted of nothing but carbs...oatmeal, rice cakes, scooters (that's walmart cheerios), puffed rice and black beans.

My how I long for the days when my 3 little girls sat at the table and happily asked, "May I have more cauliflower please?"

Instead, in an effort to fill hungry tummies without too much complaining, I find myself agreeing to things I never dreamed they'd be allowed to eat. Hot dogs, chips, cup cakes... To make matters even more difficult, we are a family of nine trying to stay within our grocery budget in an ever tightening economy with constantly growing grocery costs. I have borrowed so much in advance from my husband's budget that this pay day I had to hand my entire household pay over to him. Not because I spend frivolously, but because that's what it takes to buy groceries these days. I had to borrow for an Easter ham and then for my son's birthday party and such and such. You get the idea. So, this pay I decided to get out of debt before it got any worse. We have very limited groceries as I am trying to make do with whatever is in the freezer or pantry until the 15th of the month.

So this morning was cold breakfast cereal...something usually reserved for the most hectic of mornings...instead of the hot breakfast they are used to. The kids were fine with breakfast cereal-they love the stuff. It comes in a card board box after all. I still will only buy healthy cereal like Kashi, puffed rice, granola...you get the idea. The junkiest we get is a big bag of "scooters", which look like cheerios, from Walmart. So it was pretty ironic when they were eating their delicious and nutritious cereal this morning and we were out of white milk and I was trying to get the boys to eat something when I heard myself say one of those things I never thought I'd say, "Here, have some chocolate milk on your puffed rice."


  1. I think I might try the olive oil in the drink. I'm trying to get our 14month old to gain weight, he's 18 pounds 10ounces. Has been for a month, Plus his potassium is low, we're going to be seeing a specialist for that tomorrow,actually. I'm trying this concoction my mom suggested too, but I'm curious about the olive oil. Thanks. You have a nice looking family. I just started blogging too for the same reason as you.

  2. I love the chocolate milk suggestion! As far as nursing boys versus girls, both my boys weaned themselves around 9 months -- just totally lost interest and refused. My daughter, however would have nursed forever, probably. I weaned her at little over a year!

  3. Our boy here is the most picky too! Unfortunately if Zanna hears him say he doesn't like something, then she sometimes she just thinks she won't like it either. But really the girls are much less picky and I really don't know how it turned out that way because we didn't really do anything differently.

  4. Sunshine Mama,

    Just wanted to let you know that you can add olive oil to just about anything and the kids won't notice. We liberally add it to oatmeal, veggies, mashed banana, smoothies...whatever the baby likes to eat. We add as much as possible and it still mixes in-about 4 T. to my daughter's oatmeal in the morning. Would be curious to know how your visit with the specialist went. CP

  5. Chaos:

    I found the same with nursing boys vs. girls. My girls would nurse until I cut them off. The boys nursed much less...all ending by about one year. I think that is how it is girls and boys. Girls are always close to Mama and home. Boys always looking forward to bigger things and finding their way independently.

  6. Susan,

    So true...how they manage to catch the negative fast and the good only trickles in. Just this morning someone said they thought the milk tasted differnt (it was cows milk instead of the soy they are used to) everyone had been drinking it just fine. After that comment, three people got up and dumped their milk down the drain! CP

  7. Oh, this one cracked my up! I am the original picky eater at our house, and although I tried very hard to hide this from my kids, all of them but one are picky eaters. I think it is genetic, not learned! And all of my babies have a nursing addiction! Most of them I have nursed until they were 2, and weaning is not a pretty sight. It involves my husband up with a crying child, me hiding from that child, and many tears and much sadness, probably equally split between me and the child. Not looking forward to that part. And I think God does have a sense of humor and uses our children to keep us mommas humble. It makes you more real and approachable that you served chocolate milk on puffed rice!! I love it!