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Allison Robicelli - mom, chef, writer and cupcake visionary

by Allison Robicelli

Like every other mother, I think I’m the worst mom ever.  From the moment I learned I was pregnant, I was bombarded by parenting articles and the opinions of strangers outlining all 4 million ways I would likely fail at being a parent.   Some standouts:

  • * Finding out after my baby shower that almost everything I had registered for was WRONG.  Consumer Reports released a study one week later that almost all car seats were completely unsafe, meaning I had to return the one I got.  Two weeks after that, we found out that all our gifts that had been manufactured in China were more than likely covered with lead.  Also, by unwrapping these gifts, I may have exposed my son in utero to microscopic levels of poison! I didn’t even have the baby yet and already I’d fucked up!
  • * Learning shortly after Atticus’ first birthday of the existence of BPA, meaning that while I thought I was doing the right thing by feeding my child from a bottle, I was actually poisoning him…again.  Now every night after he falls asleep, I scour his torso for possible tumors, or the beginnings of additional limbs.
  • * Hearing from other mothers that I totally brought the BPA thing on myself because I didn’t breastfeed.  There’s no excuse for the fact that I had debilitating post-partum depression, requiring me to be on heavy doses of anti-depressants.   I certainly could have tried harder and maybe bought a copy of “The Secret”.
  • * Having Newsweek point out in a 2009 cover story that my baby could be racist.  By the time this was released, Atticus was 2 and Toby was almost 1, meaning that it was far too late to introduce racially sensitive crib toys or Baby Oprah DVDS.  I was planning on raising them to be good kids who respect everyone, but now only time will tell if I have the next David Duke on my hands.
  • * Being chastised by a mother in Prospect Park for letting my boys play with toy cars, because it’s very important for them to play with “gender neutral” toys.  I just let my kids play with what they want and make their own decisions about what they like, but it’s possible my lack of micromanagement could keep them out of Princeton.  Also, they don’t seem to have any “black” or “brown” cars, so maybe that’s saying something about me that I wasn’t aware of.

One thing I would NOT fail at, however, was establishing the best possible eating habits.  As we all know, before you have children, it is totally ok to judge other people on the crap their kids eat.  I mean, seriously- chicken nuggets?  Fish sticks?  FRENCH FRIES?!?!  Savages.  With two chefs as parents, there was no way our boys would ever become “those kids”.  No, our boys would be ordering from the adult menus and eating from our plates as we made our way through New York City’s sprawling culinary landscape.  We would begin them on pureed organic vegetables seasoned with bare hints of toasted spices from underdeveloped nations, then move them to soft cheeses produced in the Hudson Valley.  By the time they reached preschool, their lunchboxes would be a veritable cornucopia of worldly artisanal delights.

Sure I may have occasionally forced them to watch Days of our Lives because I was desperate to hear the sound of adult voices again, or let them put their fingers in their mouths without soaking them for ten minutes in Purell, or made them listen to Clutch on loop in the car because if I heard “Wheels on the Bus” one more time I was going to drive us off a cliff.  But when it came to food, the Robicellis were going to DOMINATE like parents of the goddamn millennium.

Now here’s the funny thing about kids – you think before they’re born that parenting means you have total influence over them and the decisions they will make.  For some reason, you are actually dumb enough to believe your children will not have any sort of free will.  You also, for some reason, have not been informed by anyone that the human brain is apparently hardwired with the directive to seek out and consume massive amounts of French fries.  And I have near scientific proof of this fact: my own children.

For Atticus’ first year of life, I fed him nothing but the best, most nutritious foods I could.  I bought stacks of books on feeding your child, made nutrition checklists based on What To Expect The First Year, and cooked almost 100% of his food myself.   I conquered the act of feeding a baby unlike any mother ever had, setting the proverbial table for a child I was sure would become the Jeffrey Steingarten of the Mommy & Me scene.  As we moved into solid foods, I constantly offered him an array of finger foods to try: cut up fruits and vegetables, hummus and homemade dips, whole grains and everything else that the parenting magazines told me I should.  And the same things would happen with every food I offered: he would tentatively poke at it at first, then if he found the texture appealing enough to hold he’d sniff it for a good long while before taking a small taste, and then promptly throwing it at me in rejection.  By the time he was 14 months old, I was pretty certain the kid was going to starve to death.

When Atticus was 15 months old, the three of us went to a diner to meet up with a friend who ordered a burger platter.  When the plate arrived, our son nearly jumped over the table to get at the fries.  I had put every healthy food I could think of in front of this kid, and he would not touch a single one without a 30 minute inspection and evaluation.  But fries?  One look at them and he would have killed every person in the diner to get at those things.  We tried saying no, tried distracting him, but he manipulated us in the best way he knew how: by screaming at the top of his lungs and making every person in that diner look at us like they wanted us to die.  So we gave him a French fry.

I suppose I should let it go and say it was just a French fry, but to me it was letting go of the foolish notion that I could mold my son in the image I had selected for him.  When you become a parent for the first time and come to realize of the enormity of the task at hand – being responsible for the care and development of an entire human being - you are never more aware of how incredibly flawed you are.  I was 26 years old, just married, and barely knew what I wanted from myself and the world.  Now this little, impressionable person who I love more than anything I’ve ever had in my entire life is looking up to me- and worst of all, he thinks (as I did of my parents) that I actually know what I’m doing. And not only am I aware that I’m not, but it seems that every interaction I have with the world is doing nothing but amplifying my shortcomings, whether it’s from a book or parenting magazine, unwanted advice from a family member, or the fact that when you sleep on average of three hours a day, it is very, very easy for your fears and irrational thoughts to consume you.

The one area of my life where I have total confidence is in my love and knowledge of food.  It’s what drives me, inspires me- hell, it was the basis of my marriage.  Sharing that with my son, being the mother who can’t do much right but could do one thing better than just about anyone, that was so utterly important to me.  And there I was, sitting in the Bridgeview Diner in Bay Ridge, watching my son eating something with pure joy and exuberance for the first time in his life.  And it was a fucking plate of French fries.

I cried for about three hours that night.

I continued trying to change his habits by offering him not meals, but essentially an entire buffet three times a day, yet still he would poke and examine each food with extreme trepidation.  That is, until the day I brought him to my mother’s house and she gave him chicken nuggets- once again, he ate a plate of them with no inspection and no resistance.  Carrot sticks (“Show me how the bunny rabbits at the zoo eat!”), no.  Celery (“Just like the Wonder Pets! You love the Wonder Pets!”), no.  Grilled chicken strips (“Oh my God!  It’s just like a fucking chicken nugget without the fucking breading!  For the love of Jesus H. Christ, we have been sitting here for three hours, Mommy is 9 months pregnant in the middle of July and REALLY doesn’t need this right now!  Just eat the fucking chicken!  EAT THE FUCKING CHICKEN!!!”), no.  Doing that thing where you take a food they won’t eat and dipping it in something they will eat, like pudding or ice cream?  They take the zucchini stick, lick the pudding off, then throw it straight at your face just to remind you that they are NOT stupid, so don’t even try to play them like that.

Eventually, I had to let it go.  Besides, soon after that I gave birth to my second son, and I was positive things would go according to plan with him!

Nope.  Same exact thing happened.

Funny thing happened though when Toby first stole some of his big brothers fries- I didn’t care.  Maybe it was from exhaustion.  Maybe it’s because we have options like sweet potato fries and all-natural chicken nuggets that make junk food a little less “junky”.  Maybe it’s because even though Atticus still has a list of about 10 things he’ll eat, many of them are healthy foods (though he will always request chicken nuggets and French fries if you ask him what he wants to eat).  Or maybe after over four years at this parenthood thing, I’m starting to be slightly alright with being nowhere close to perfect.

My name is Allison Robicelli.  I am a professional chef with almost ten years in the business. I love my kids more than any mother ever has, and I feed them chicken nuggets, and fish sticks, and pizza and crackers and French fries.  I’m ok with that.

And being totally honest- chicken nuggets are kinda ridiculously delicious.

Guest columnist Allison Robicelli is best known as the owner and chef (with husband Matt) of Bay Ridge-based Robicelli’s Cupcakes. Allison is also a born-n-bred Brooklynite, workaholic entrepreneur, and mother of two. Every other week, she shares her stories about the joys and horrors of growing up in South Brooklyn, running a small business, raising kids…and whatever the hell else she wants to talk about.


To be sure not to miss any of Allison’s columns, subscribe to our weekly email newsletter (where we also feature weekly good food giveaways), or follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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119 Responses to Chicken Nuggets and French Fries: Confessions of a Mother and a Chef

  1. Judy says:

    I’ve just found you and I’m so glad I did.
    How rude that Lauren woman is. She obviously wasn’t taught how to behave at home.
    I also come from the time of making my own baby food, there was gerber but I couldn’t afford it. Cooking after work but nothing organic, there wasn’t any then. Nothing fancy shmancy either. Chicken. Steak. Minced meat with spaghetti and salad and we sat down to eat together until they left home. I remember one Saturday breakfast my daughter was eating toast with chocolate spread! I wanted her to eat cheese. So she stuck a slice of cheese on top!
    When burger places arrived we ate there if we were out. I also copied my mum.
    You eat what you’re given. There’s nothing else.
    Now my kids tell me off for eating junk food. I’m nearly 70 and don’t want to cook anymore. How I wish I could have take out every day.
    In one way this Lauren person is right. 3 good meals a day. Also I didn’t give them sweets or chocolates then.
    But they got cakes that I baked. Jams that I made. Granola that I made.
    They’re good eaters now.
    I did have a problem with my 43 year old son when he was 2. He went through a stage of not eating. My doctor said as long as he drinks milk eats an egg and olives not to worry. This was when we didn’t know about raw eggs. I’d beat one into his milk with a little sugar! and hru loved olives. He soon started eating again because I didn’t force feed him.
    That’s my story. Don’t tempt them. Don’t make them try this and that while they’re small. Just give them what they like within reason. You can bake chips. And chicken nuggets. Just don’t tell them.
    Hope I haven’t sounded like that awful woman. I’m now going to microwave me some frozen schnitzels and chips with d
    Spicy tomato sauce, ketchup? and mayonnaise and an avocado.

  2. Lindsey says:

    Thank you for this article. My daughter is EXTREMELY small. She is 9 months old and is the size of a small 6 monther. Its irritating when people tell me CONSTANTLY about how small she is. Seriously, i mean all the time. She’s healthy, hitting her milestones on time (most of them are hit months ahead) and at getting taller and taller. She’s just skinny. Its not common, but i think she’s smart and strong enough to make up for it.

    The doctor had me start solid foods a little earlier than i had planned, because she thought it might help her put on weight. Now, we have started finger foods, and i’m about at my wits end. She hates EVERYTHING now! When she first started pureed food, she liked plenty of things, but now, the only thing she will eat is toast! No bananas, no green beens, no pasta, no cheese, no eggs, etc etc etc. The other day we went out to eat. I thought i would let her try a little french fry. She LOVED it. I’ve pretty much come to the point now where, while i didnt want it to be this way, i think i just have to give in a little and give her whatever will help her get out of the 3rd percentile. It’s not that she necessarily has to catch up to other little ones, but i sure would like it if people didnt shy away from me because they think i’m starving my child. Thanks for making me feel a little less stressed.

    • Judy says:

      Don’t worry about her being skinny. My 14 year old grandson is so very skinny and tall. His friends complain he can eat anything and everything and nothing sticks to him.
      Just be careful not to worry and overfeed. You don’t want an overweight child.

  3. Everyone loves what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!

    Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to our blogroll.

  4. Kelly says:

    Clearly I am late to this party – but I just found this. Sister – I hear you. My kid lives on quesadillas, bread with peanut butter and pizza. I used to try to stick some veggies in the quesadillas, but he is too smart for that now. The only thing with vegetables he likes is guacamole. It can’t be just avocado – oh no – it has to be actual guacamole with lime and cut up tomato and onion. Pu-lease. What have I done? And the only two fruits he’ll eat are raspberries and clementines. Do you know how expensive raspberries are?! I also have stooped to giving him chocolate milk. Yup. He refused all milk, until I thought, well let’s try some chocolate to just see if he’ll drink it. Oh yeah. I am that mom. I used to judge moms who are doing exactly what I am doing now. I do hope it gets better. No beans? No eggs? No rice? He doesn’t even want fries or chicken nuggets. Those items would be an expansion of his diet…

  5. I just wanted to express a sincere “Thank You” for all your comments on this piece.

    I still don’t feel like a “mother”, even though Atticus is approaching 5. God, I feel old.

    I love being human. I love being imperfect. Because I don’t want my kids to ever think that if they fuck up it’s the end of the world- their mom fucks up all the time. I’m just doing the best I can, as a mom, occasional writer, and businesswoman. I know I’ll never be perfect, even if my DNA continually strives for it.

    For anyone who wonders, this article wasn’t as much about food as it was letting go of the preconceived notions I had for my son. But you know what? He’s turning out pretty terrific on his own. I’m just amazed that I get to be his mom.

    So for “advice”? As if I am even an authority. Be yourself. Be imperfect. Love your kids as hard as you can, and make the rules of your family up as you go along. Trust me, they’re going to go along with it. Except when they’re teenagers, when they’ll probably hate you, but they’re supposed to hate you anyway. But at some point, they’ll get it, and one day they’re going to have kids and understand every goddamn thing.

    And while we’re on the topic: Mom, I’m sorry for everything from 1992-20003. And my mom, for all her faults, was the absolute best ever, and I know she reads everything I write. So Mom, I love you a lot. Thank you for making me as tough as I could be to do this. And thank you for loving my boys like you do. I am really lucky to have you in my corner.

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  9. Becky says:

    Thank you, Alison! I really needed a good laugh today and to remember the perfect normality of my imperfect parenting:)

  10. Sasha says:

    Thank you for this amazingly funny narrative. I have almost the same problem except instead of food, it’s books. I am a teacher and my daughter HATES TO READ! So not only am I the world’s worst mother, I am apparently the worst teacher in the world as well. The only reading she ever does is when she is playing her Nintendo DS. But I am confident that in due time my little munchkin, as well as yours, will grow up with healthy eating, reading, sleeping, living, loving and laughing habits. Naysayers be damned.

  11. Lori says:

    Everything that Laurel said made me laugh, she sounds like someone who would smack their child for putting their elbows on the table; not feed her child until they said they were hungry (starving) and wanted freshly baked bread with steamed vegetables, and grilled chicken; for dessert they will get organic fruit.
    Everything she posted seems like she found some article and just copy and pasted it, then just added her little “tidbits.”
    My opinion, you have bad luck with running into obnoxious people who didn’t grow up in today’s society and are not used to seeing the new inventions (toys) that are created.. Honestly I would’ve slapped that women who yelled at you about the toy cars and told her to go f*ck herself for even speaking a word about how you raise your own child.
    Are your children kicking you, slapping, pinching and biting you in public? No! So you are raising them correctly, don’t take advice from others (there is some good advice and then there are rude people… In my opinion.) You yourself know what is right and what is wrong. I’m sure your children will grow up well mannered, it is your job to lead them there. As for food, healthy or not there is always something that they (sooner or later) find out that is bad or good for everyone to eat. Other than that I’m not gonna go into a big argument for people to attack my personal thought.

  12. Jessica says:

    Well, if I may add my two cents, especially in response to Laurel’s comment — okay, I don’t approve of judging other people’s choices and lifestyles or calling them upper class twits, but I do think you have a point here.

    I’m not from Mongolia nor grew up on sheep’s eyeballs, but I live in Hong Kong now and grew up in Hong Kong, and also spent many years in the states studying, where I adored french fries and all kinds of organic yuppie foods. I’m going to be a mom soon (very excited), and I don’t know how it will be like yet, but I can tell you that in Chinese culture, children indeed do eat what they get (rice, vegetables, and fish) and do not cry for junk food. Obedience is ingrained in childhood as a virtue here. I know at least that my mother-in-law would not tolerate it if a kid complains about his food; my husband grew up having his fingers with whacked with chopsticks just for holding his chopsticks wrong (and now his entire family is patiently getting me to hold my chopsticks correctly). Battle hymn of tiger mother, anyone? :)

    We are also lucky that in Chinese culture we are not bombarded with images of french fries and junk food and colorful cereals. Instead we get advertisements for dumplings and rice and noodles on TV. So it is definitely, culturally, a lot easier to feed kids “healthy” food. But here’s another thing — we don’t actually think of rice and vegetables etc. as healthy, its just what we eat. We also don’t have a habit of packing kids snack boxes and preparing after school snacks like you guys do in America. So I do agree with Laurel’s other point that training kids to eat when they are hungry is a good thing.

    For me, I will just relax … let my kids eat mostly good Chinese food and take them out for burgers sometimes. A diet composed of 20% junk food wouldn’t kill, right?

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  14. Immererin says:

    who invited Laurel? STFU!

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  16. Raine says:

    This is why I dread my son becoming old enough to realize what sorts of things are marketed as “kid’s foods”. Right now, his favorite foods are butternut squash & avocado (ok, he does like fries, but more as something to dip in ketchup and lick it off at this point), and I’ve had good luck with him eating grilled salmon, chicken breast, roast pork, and all sorts of adult foods, including spicy Asian, Mexican, & Jamaican dishes (he loves the tofu chunks out of hot & sour soup and jerked chicken).

    OTOH, my husband will feed him vanilla wafers all day rather than prepare food, and thinks that the best foods for a toddler are hot dogs, fish sticks, hamburgers, macaroni, etc (seriously – he went “grocery shopping” this week and brought home 3 packs of hotdogs, a huge box of fish sticks, 2 types of cookies, and the milk I’d asked him to pick up). I think they are all fine in moderation, but I really try to make sure he’s getting mostly fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and to limit the sodium and fat in the things I fix and buy to feed him.

    And Laurel, shut the fuck up.
    It’s pretty obvious you don’t have kids because, if you did, you’d realize that children differ and some of them are extremely picky about food to the point of not eating unless it’s what they want. Your tough love approach sounds all great, until you’re explaining to a social worker why your kid told their teacher they hadn’t eaten at home in 3 days. Also, the restrictive type of feeding you seem to glorify from the past where kids were told to eat what was fixed or starve, and often forced to eat what was fixed, are not any more healthy than catering to a child’s wants. My parents tried that and I ended up morbidly obese, after being hospitalized for anorexia in my early teens, with a sister following a very similar pattern (I know that’s not the only reason, but it did screw up my relationship with food big time). The irony is that my husband is a “normal” weight, yet he eats like your friend who you characterize as “eating like a child”, while I actually do enjoy fresh fruits & vegetables and many other healthy foods.

  17. Helena says:

    Oh, hey, Laurel…wow, where do I begin? Oh, I know: Lighten the f*ck up, and PLEASE tell me you aren’t a parent, you humorless, joyless prig. I’m half inclined to think you’re a troll, but trolls don’t tend to spend so much time on their posts. You just appear to be a pontificating control freak, and I’m surprised there wasn’t a whole separate rant about the fact that the poster didn’t hire a wetnurse–a Mongolian wetnurse!–when she couldn’t breastfeed.

    Anyhoo, loved this blog post, thought it was hysterical. I’m a vegetarian who has twins. My husband is an unrepentant carnivore. Since it isn’t entirely up to me what they eat (and since I’m not an autocrat like some people), I determined that they would eat vegetarian foods until they were old enough to declare otherwise, but secretly hoped that they would be as repulsed by meat as I was. No such luck: one of my little darlings (they’re 5) was asking for bacon the other day and declared several times, and loudly: “I love meat!!!” I was certain her dad had put her up to it, but he was all innocence. Ah well, they love their veggies, fruit and yogurt too, so the occasional meat won’t hurt, even though they’re tearing my heart apart, one meaty bit at a time…

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  19. Laurel says:

    AAAAnd….this is why American kids have such high rates of obesity, Allison.

    I do understand your frustration, and I do sympathize with you being pregnant, in July, in the city and on your last nerve. I don’t expect people to be “perfect” and certainly not little kids.

    But children in other cultures NEVER eat chicken nuggets or fries. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and I think the machinery to produce cheap, boneless chicken nuggets had not yet been invented….they simply did not exist. People didn’t have microwaves obviously, and french fries were something rarely made at home. Even yogurt was not a normal “supermarket” food! So people ate simpler and they were less inclined to give children a “special meal” of foods only a kid would eat. Mothers mostly stayed home and cooked real food, from scratch and people really DID gather at dinner and eat together! (It’s not a myth!)

    SO this is a modern thing. And if you go further out to other cultures, it’s even MORE obvious. Children in India eat lentils and spicy dishes; I am sure they do not “yearn” for french fries. In Central and South American, toddlers eat fiery chili! and mashed beans and rice (daily) and tortillas.

    I saw a fascinating documentary on Mongolian sheep herders, living in simple yurts. The big treat of the year was the yearly sheep slaughter, and the delicacies were things like sheep testicles and eyeballs. The eyeballs were cooked in a big pot of soup; yes they looked like what they were — boiled sheep eyeballs. Imagine what that might taste like! And the small children? excited and BEGGING for their portion of eyeballs!

    So you cannot convince me that your son at 15 months “knew” vegetables were bad but french fries the most delicious thing on earth. He picked up cues somewhere — from you, your husband, babysitters or nannies or TV.

    And most of all — THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART — most American children are not hungry. We stuff them day and night from infancy, terrified if they don’t get a juice box or “snack” every 2 hours. OF COURSE THEY ARE PICKY; they are not very hungry. People with sated appetites are the ones who “only” want hummingbird tongues, or a tab of organic whipped cream (from a particular special breed of water buffalo) daintily extruded on a sliver of imported 70% pure cacao organic dark chocolate. Or whatever.


    A hungry child will eat almost anything. I’m not saying “starve your kid” and I am not recommending Joan Crawford methodology. But truly — it is hungry kids who eat what is put in front of them. Those Mongolian kids were HUNGRY; they worked all day herding sheep out in fresh air. They did not snack on sugary treats, juice boxes, cupcakes, string cheese, apple slices, stuff dipped in ranch dressing, baby carrots, yogurt cups or fruit leather. They were HUNGRY. And they also knew that if you DO NOT EAT the sheep eyeballs, then there is NOTHING ELSE TO EAT — your namby pamby yuppie spoiled urban hipster parent will NOT GO OUT and buy you a Happy Meal with a plastic toy, because they are shit scared if you miss ONE MEAL (out of six or more small meals throughout the day, plus snacks!), you will STARVE TO DEATH! on their watch! and they will go to jail! and be on the evening news! for starving their tiny adorable toddler to death!

    Mongolian parents never think this, so they have happy well-adjusted kids who eat ANYTHING put in front of them, and with a smile and a “thank you, mom!”

    American parents instead have spoiled, demanding little brats — 1 in 3 who are obese — even the rest are lazy, video-game playing little prats who think it is normal to be waited on hand and foot like The Sun King, and expect to have adults SERVE THEM, and that their FEELINGS AND TASTES matter greatly. (“Which brand of Greek yogurt do you like this week, Muffy? Biff?”)

    Of course, feeding your kids simple foods and expecting them to eat normally would mean YOU WOULD HAVE TO GIVE UP your urban hipster lifestyle of fancy restaurants and organic veggies and “soft Hudson Valley cheeses”, because you can’t raise a well-adjusted, happy, uncomplaining healthy kid with good values WHEN YOU ARE AN UPPER CLASS TWIT with champagne tastes.

    So it is your choice. It is clear here how you have chosen. (Don’t be surprised if you turn out kids who are spoiled, demanding little Emperors. Because you will.)

    • Jeannine says:


      You are a judgement asshole who obviously has no children!

      Have a wonderful day!

    • Charlie says:


      I find it fascinating that you attack the author for feeding her children chicken nuggets and french fries, and simultaneously attack her for trying to feed them organic vegetables and locally sourced foods. Produce free from poisons and food that hasn’t been shipped all over the globe is neither a luxury nor the domain of the upper class urban hipsters (class warrior much?). Those Indian kids you mentioned? They’re eating organic produce and locally sourced foods. Those Mongolian sheep herders sure as shit aren’t buying imported testicles at their local Mongol-Mart. So why is it considered a luxury item when Americans want the healthiest produce for their children? Considering that the author is a chef with an obvious zest for quality ingredients, I will bet dollars to doughnuts (oh wait, no, doughnuts will cause me to become a demanding brat…uhm…dollars to dill pickles?) that the author has a vegetable garden that she uses to supply her family with some of the upper class twit items she tries to feed them, like zucchini sticks. And even if she doesn’t, there’s always Trader Joe’s where you can get organic produce for the same price or cheaper as non-organic produce at their rival stores. (Seriously, go to the TJ’s at Union Square then price compare their items to non-organic items at the Food Emporium directly across the street. Not all organic grocers are Whole Foods, you know.)

      And why are you so hostile towards chicken nuggets and french fries? No one is saying feed them to your kids three times a day, but children need protein, carbohydrates and yes *gasp* fat. The author points out that her children’s other favorite foods are mostly healthy. There is nothing wrong with giving children chicken nuggets or french fries occasionally, nothing. Like with most things, balance and moderation are key. Perhaps you’re just bitter because your 0wn Mother only fed you turnips and cabbage? Sounds like you have some food issues of your own, maybe your weren’t raised with a very balanced diet.

      You’re clearly very angry about something, it’s not healthy to hold on to that much anger and resentment towards other people’s children. I know what might calm you down, how about a nice plate of chicken nuggets and french fries. It caused Allison’s children to stop screaming.

  20. Ness says:

    WOW was that funny. Thank you for ending my work day on a high note.

  21. clothespin says:

    When I was in grad school, I often taught an undergrad lab class for the Plants and People class… In the lab, we went through all of the foods and plants used by people. In the fruits lab, I would go and buy at least one of every fruit I could find in town… same with the veggie lab (the checkers at the stores really hated me). Of the foods that were possible to eat uncooked, I bought enough for every student to try a bite or two. I had one rule for the class, you don’t have to like it but I strongly suggest, as the one who determines your grade, that you at least try it.

    One fall, I had a girl who declared that she didn’t like anything… but, (possibly due to fear for her grade) she DID try everything. And, as much as surprise to herself as to anyone else – she like lots and lots of the foods! Upon returning home from Thanksgiving break, she told me in lab that she had for the first time ever eaten everything at the big Turkey Day feast. And that her mother had asked who she was and where was her daughter? I dare say that there is at least one mother out there who thinks that this botany class was worth every penny of tuition money!

    So fear not – your kids might go to college and be forced to eat mangoes and beans and who knows what strange foods – and like them.

    By the way, as a mom of a 3 year old, I totally get the food thing. I survive with boca burger and frozen broccoli… seriously. Happily she loves them and happily for me – they’re easy. And, air popped popcorn for breakfast? Totally – it really is a whole grain after all! Like cereal but without all the sugar and icky milk…

  22. Brenda T. says:

    Hilarious! Just last week I realized my pantry was totally devoid of anything but ingredients to MAKE food. No actual food was made to just go in and grab and eat. I had been so focused on giving the kids “healthy” food that I lost sight of the fact that it’s ok to occaionally indulge in what just tastes good. I had gone over the edge and am slowly crawling my way back a bit towards the middle–at least until I start creepign over the edge again!

  23. I almost fell off my couch laughing. It was like listening to someone else tell my own story. I’m lucky in that my kid does actually eat just about everything. But nothing compares to his passion for ketchup and french fries. NOTHING.

    The quirky thing is that I probably would have included “quesadilla” in the list of things that I thought all kids ate. I was so afraid that my child would abandon all other foods and become a quesadilla-monster that I didn’t give him one until he was two. He helped me grate the cheese and ate the cold cheese. He helped me sprinkle it on the tortilla and stole nibbles of cold tortilla. But after that thing is fired up and cooked? not a chance in the world. I’ve tried dozens of times but he will not eat the quesadilla.

  24. Jojo says:

    Thank you for the honesty and humor of this post. Let me be the asshole to tell you that the biggest mistake you made was CARING. Put the food in front of them and walk away. No begging at all. No buffet. No angst. It’s that easy. That is a sure-fire way to raise a good eater.

  25. Mikki says:

    Hmm. Makes me feel better that I made a deal with my 3 yr old daughter tonight: she could have a donut for dinner IF she drank a glass of whole milk too. She only avoids scurvy because she dips her 3 foods (chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and plain bread) in ketchup. She enjoys butter from foil packets and ultr-pateurized half and half from those little sealed cups in diners, too. At least she’ll eat homemade bread if I cut the crust off. She ate vegetables (organic whatever baby food) until she had teeth… As a family doc who does a lot of Peds, this kid put a huge reality check on how I advise parents on feeding. My new message: try, fail, realize they won’t starve, don’t be a short order cook, and if they don’t poop, Chocolate Silk+a teaspoon of Benefiber has 4 grams of fiber per serving…

    • Laurel says:

      Your child is not HUNGRY, that’s the problem. Nobody “needs” a bribe of a donut to eat normal foods. (I am not suggesting you feed a sensitive toddler liver and onions; I am just talking average healthy foods.)

      Chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and plain bread? HELLO OBESITY. No, not today — but when she gets older, and can’t bear to eat anything that isn’t drowned in cheese or fried or pure carbs. I had a friend like daughter in grade school — she was super proud of her picky eating habits and her parents spoiled her rotten, giving into every crazy demand (she swore she could “smell the vitamins” in certain types of white bread and would only eat one special brand). Today? She’s obese, almost 100 lbs overweight. Still won’t eat ANY vegetables — only eats mac n’ cheese, white bread, butter, chocolate milk — at 44, she eats like a little kid. Because her parent’s spoiling “froze her” at the age of a demanding infant. (She has type II diabetes, only controlled under large amounts of drugs, has required a kidney transplant and has high blood pressure and high cholesterol — but won’t change ONE THING she eats.)

      You LET a child eat BUTTER FROM FOIL PACKETS? So she’s not only eating something very caloric, but inappropriate (what adult eats pats of butter by themselves?) and let her drink 50 calorie “shots” pure cream? You trim crusts from her bread?

      AND LADY, YOU ARE A PEDIATRICIAN? You should lose your license. How DARE you advise other parents, when you are raising a spoiled, unhealthy little demanding monster? How DARE YOU as a doctor advise people to give their child chocolate SOY MILK (loaded with phytoestrogrens!!!!) with Benefiber to make them poop??????

      Your child needs fiber! vegetables! fresh fruit! for god’s sake! not to mention you are creating a demanding little brat!

      Here is a CLUE, since you are too dumb to have picked this up in medical school (or plain common sense from any old world grandma): put out some NORMAL kid-friendly foods — yogurt, carrot sticks, raisins, peanut butter, bread WITH CRUSTS ON IT — and then leave your kid alone. They don’t eat? Put it away or throw it out. Wait FIVE HOURS and try it again. Put them to bed hungry one or two nights.

      PROBLEM SOLVED. Hungry kids eat. Spoiled rotten little monsters get a kick out of yanking your chain (and as a spoiled yuppie physician, you have a LOT of chains to be pulled).

      HUNGRY KIDS WILL EAT NORMAL HEALTHY FOODS. Repeat to yourself as necessary. Going to bed hungry one or two nights will not harm a healthy American kid.

      You will be crying buckets in 10 years if you do not fix this and fix it NOW. Your child will be a spoiled demanding monster — and likely obese her whole life — you’ll be paying for diet camps and therapy.

      You should be very, very ashamed. You have no right to be practicing medicine. You also need some serious parenting classes AND therapy.

      • Risa says:

        And you, Laurel, are clearly inexperienced with no children and no medical knowledge at all. You are so rabid in your attacks toward everyone, it is obvious that you are completely unqualified to advise anyone on how to raise a child. Why don’t you repost when you have something more positive to say? We definitely don’t need any more hateful, rude and obnoxious people like you in our country either.

  26. Steph says:

    Preaching to the choir, here.

    I baked FRESH cookies & bread, all winter, only to have my 3.5-year-old say “I don’t like it, Mommy.” I finally figured out that if I wrapped a cookie in plastic wrap & told him I bought it at the store, he chowed it down & asked for another!

    I am waiting for the day when he stops turning up his nose at “real” foods & asks for something other than starch-based meals.

    Thanks for putting such a positive spin on a shared problem.

  27. Cindy says:

    Funny article- I can remember this, oh so clearly when my girls were young. The problem is- once you think you have figured out what they like to eat, they will FOOL you. I don’t know how many times I have made food that they “liked” only to be told- “oh- I don’t like that anymore”. I still encounter this and they are 14 and 16 years old!

  28. Megan Whittingham says:

    That is such a great article! When our son, John, was nearly one, we ended up at a Mcdonald’s restaurant with a friend whose son was a year older. We had never taken our son to such a depraved place before. After a year of feeding him salt-free this and sugar-free that, he grabbed a french fry and sucked it feverishly. Then his eyes rolled back in his head like a shark’s after a fresh kill. He just loved it! It was truly demoralizing!

  29. vanessaknows says:

    Loved your post. My son is two, i make myself feel better by knowing he’s not starving. I made great strives this week by boiling him dumplings from chinatown (not organic but at least some protein) perhaps this is the answer to everything AND he ate real chicken not from a nugget but a drumstick.
    Not sure why…not sure it will happen again but glad to know I’m not alone since I have another kid coming into the world in less than three weeks and feel better I’m not alone in the food fight!

  30. Bah ha ha! I am an RD and experienced this as well! Thanks for the laugh :)

  31. Kirsten says:

    There’s still hope your kids could still come out fine food-wise in the end! When I was a kid, I went through a phase where I would only eat hot dogs. My dad managed a restaurant at a large NYC hotel, and the waiters would bring me hotdogs on silver platters. Seriously. I also went through a spaghetti phase, and a PBJ phase. But now I love cooking, and spend most of my grocery money at the farmers market.

  32. Drew Betz says:

    I love this story. I am working in the area of food parenting and will share this story with permission. I think the main message is relax. IF we are uptight about food our kids get the vibe so easily.

    I was averse to all orange food when I was a kid. No cantaloupe, oranges, squash, sweet potatoes. Even tomatoes bordered on orange. I can hardly believe that now. I can remember my grandmother taking me out to her garden in hot Eastern Washington where tomatoes thrive ( I was a teen), picking a tomato, slicing it and putting a little salt on it. I was a convert from that point on. Now, at age 6o,I grow my own tomatoes every year, can them, make freezer sauce, eat them every which way and the orange and yellow ones are my favorites.

  33. Sonja says:

    Thank you for sharing this!! My kids also eat the typical kid foods thankfully like yours they eat tons of healthy things too. I feel like hey they can have chicken nuggets and fries with a side of peas or broccoli and it is ok. We punish ourselves as moms over every detail that we could be doing wrong and it is so unhealthy. We need to start being honest with one another and stop judging!

  34. Nancy Gardiner says:

    Allison I Love You!
    My neighbor is the” before” pic, with her 2-year old and baby boys eating kale-sweet-potato whatevers. I know she is giving me the fishy eyeball when I give mine(10, 7 and 5) that heroin, er, actually it’s only microwave popcorn but from the reactions when her boys try to grab some you would THINK it’s the big H.
    Wait til they go to our (economically and culturally diverse) neighborhood school and come home with a taste(should I say a jones!!? ) for not only nuggests but Chinese candy goo and Malta!
    The emporer of kids’ food definitely has no clothes. But you say this so well and so authentically that he’s actually starting to be okay with his body image!

  35. Jean Layton says:

    you had me snorting my tea this morning, you are soooo funny,
    I’m guessing that you also caught flak for the soft cheeses from the Hudson Valley, since the bacteria in them isn’t appropriate till the kiddos are 2.
    Thank you for being so funny about the life of a mom.
    I’m one of those doctors who helps folks toward a healthy diet, but even my gluten free twins crave french fries.
    But thankfully they don’t like chicken nuggets.
    They do however, now that they are all of 12, adore other cuisines, simply by all the exposures.
    Thank you for this. Now to go wipe this tea off of my shirt before I get to the office.

  36. We went through the same things with our children. One of my success stories: I told my kids that peas were broccoli balls, designed by NASA for the astronauts to eat while at the space station. They did like broccoli, and once they were tutored about astronaut foods needing to be compact and easy to store and eat, they ate the peas and actually enjoyed them. Oh, I did tell them the truth eventually, and to this day neither will eat peas. But I’m satisfied to know that their hatred of peas was more in their head than in their taste buds.

  37. Val says:

    Don’t worry about what they eat so much. As long as you are offering them healthy meals with veggies and fruits they will turn out ok. My boys, both teens now, used to be very picky and now they eat salads, broccoli, and even spinach, as well as some junk food now and again.

  38. vanessa says:

    It’s tales like these that make me get down on my knees and thank god I have two boys who’ll eat anything. It has nothing to do with what I’ve done, they were just born that way. Unfortunately, everything comes with a price. Yes, they love kale, but given the chance they would eat dog poop, paper and glue.

    • HA! That’s my Toby! Do you ever just look at them with your jaw slacked like “dude! WHAT were you thinking?!?!?!”

    • peter.hobbs says:

      I totally remember the overpowering urge to eat things that I knew were not food when I was probably three or four years old.

      I have distinct memories of struggling with an overwhelming desire to eat cherry chapstick. I had done it before, and I knew it tasted terrible, but it smelled sooo good that I couldn’t resist trying it again and again.

      I also definitely tasted mud more than once. It just looked soooo much like chocolate frosting that my mouth would start to water and my brain would force me to just shove some in my mouth.

      It would just kind of happen.

  39. Christopher Molinari says:

    I am a second generation chef, my six children grew up with grandparents, aunts and uncles that are all great cooks. They ate homemade pasta and bread ,grew tomatoes and basil in yard, picked apples and peaches and made jam with their Mom. Now that they are older they brew beer and cure homemade salami and prosciutto. They all have different favorite things but all ofthem like chicken nuggets and fries!
    Good luck.

  40. Christine says:

    It’s so reassuring to see that we’re not alone in our struggles with our kids and food. Thank you for your words and your humor at what is a frustrating and disheartening situation.

    I grew up a very picky eater, and I used to blame my parents for not making me eat more veggies. If they’d done that, I reasoned, I’d have developed more of a taste for them and would be a better eater. I was determined to do better by my children. God has a sense of humor and couldn’t let me get away with that. I have three children, and they are all even pickier than I was as a child. It’s frustrating, but my pediatricians over the years have told me that if they’re not eating all junk and are taking a vitamin that I shouldn’t worry about it too much. To all of those do-gooders out there with their tips and “well, what’s worked for me” stories… please don’t bother. You aren’t helping. I guarantee you don’t have a truly picky child if you can get your kids to eat fruit and a handful of vegetables. Believe me. We have tried it all. I just have to believe that they will grow out of it eventually. I did.

  41. Lilly says:

    Thank you so much for the post. I’m not a mom yet, but I do dread the day I become one for the sheer pressure and social judgement. Btw, the Vietnamese avocado milkshake is made from avocado, condensed milk, and some ice.

  42. Erin says:

    I’m not a parent, but I was definitely a weird food kid and can totally vouch for their existence. Loved coffee and tea (plain iced tea. seriously.), hated soda, hated pizza, loved raw peppers as a school snack. And any kind of cured sausage (pepperoni, sopressata, etc.) was basically ambrosial. I could eat half a stick of pepperoni when I was a kid. I didn’t even cut slices, I just cut off a chunk, held it in my fist, and gnawed on it.

    According to family lore, this is because my dad gave me and my slightly-older cousin things like head cheese and hot peppers when we were infants. Not necessarily healthy, totally not organic, but definitely not regulation “kid foods.”

  43. Amelia says:

    Thank thank you for this post! I’m a mom of 2.5 year old. All he wants to eat is Earth’s Best raviolis with processed cheese melted on top, gold fish, and licks the butter and jelly off his toast.

    You renewed my sense of humor in being a mother. My experience is so similar I swear you could have written this post about me. You had me laughing out loud and you are a hilarious and great writer. Please keep it coming!!!


  44. I’m with Kiernan–your cookbook is gonna rock. Make sure you put lots of YOU in it!

    I’ve been on Motherlode, too, and I was all writing a response to you to offer Lisa B, and then I read the comments–and you know, so many people are right on! Here’s the big thing: They’re little. They’ll come to your way of eating as long as you keep doing the same stuff you’ve been doing. I have three rules (and four kids who, every single one of them, ate at least one fiddlehead fern at dinner tonight without any objection at all).

    One: no short order cooking, ever. There’s always one thing anyone would eat at any meal (pasta, bread and butter, rice). You don’t like the rest, you fill up on that, and there’s the fruit bowl and the cheese drawer, but not until after we leave the table.
    Two: you get some of everything on your plate. You don’t have to eat it. You don’t have to taste it. But you do have to leave it there.
    Three: No one ever, ever gets to say “I don’t like it.” or any of the far worse things they could come up with. Respect to the chef, people. You don’t have to eat it. You certainly don’t have to like it. And you can express an opinion in the form of “no thank you” or even “I didn’t care for that”–that one only if asked, if you tasted it, and if it’s new or different. I mean, I do want to know if you liked new stuff. But you don’t get to say anything to me that you wouldn’t say to a friend’s mom or your grandmother, or you will leave the table for the meal. (Took three tries with one kid and no more than one for the others.)

    And that’s it. The other rules are for me, and more like mantras: it’s no big deal. No food is worth more or less than any other food. No making anybody eat anything, no making any food special or forbidden. We talk healthy eating, they get what’s a fruit and what’s not, but it’s NO BIG DEAL. I don’t want to be holier-than-thou mom, and I am so NOT–a woman yelled at me just last week for letting my five year old have Coke on a playground, and we LOVE chicken nuggets and fries–but three of these four kids were quarantined with me in China for 10 days two years ago, and i saw them eat stuff. I saw them eat snails. I saw them eat rice with egg in it. Because there wasn’t anything else. And it was FINE. And now they cannot fool me. They won’t starve or die of scurvy.

    Your dudes will be fine too. Finally: raisins in cupcakes are an affront to humanity, and I do not blame them for grinding them into the carpet. I mean, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

    Bookmarking you.

    • I HATE raisins with the burning fire of a thousand suns. I was forced by customers to make Rum Raisin cupcakes, and we’ve discontinued those. You’ll never, ever see a raisin in any of our cupcakes if I can help it (with the exception of our fruitcake at the holidays, but those have been soaked in brandy for a few weeks, so they’re cool).

      Why did I think my kids would like raisins when I know they’re natures most disgusting fruit? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.

      • That’s it, I’m totally coming to you for cupcakes next time I’m in town. Raisin-free zone.

      • clothespin says:

        Thank heavens. Another raisin hater! It took me years of telling folks that I will NOT eat the things that look like bugs in my cookies, no matter how much sugar you pile on top or how good you say they are for my colon. Finally, my food sensitivities won out and it became clear that all things grape trigger migraines for me. Now, I just say that I’m allergic to grapes (not technically true, but works great at resturaunts) and I stay headache free. Unless I get really stupid and do something like eat chocolate…

        Incidentally, my 3 year old eats pretty well (clearly not my fault) , loves carrots and apples and brocolli and most stuff that we eat that is not a combined food (as in tuna and peas in the mac n cheese) and also loves chicken nuggets and fries and birthday cake and smartees candy. And yes, I’ve been known to bribe her with an ice cream cone at Chick Filet if she will pee in the potty there (only when we’re out and about – public bathrooms seem to scare her). It does work by the way. Just saying.

  45. jen says:

    I’ll preface this comment by saying that we are NOT an organic food, processed food free family. We eat well, but I have no moral objection to fast food or junk food in moderation. My daughter is 2, and so far she’s pretty good about trying new foods. She loves shrimp, something neither my husband or I eat but that my sister enjoys. She eats some veggies, any fruit, and most grains. The only sticking point we have is protein, and I think a lot of that is texture. She will kill for meatballs, though. No spaghetti, just the meatballs. I put an array of food on her plate, limit snacks to healthy options, and know that she’ll eat when she’s hungry. I also know that a streak of only PB and crackers (her current obsession) won’t permanently damage her. I figure we most be doing something right, since she’s right on track for her growth curve.

  46. Grace says:

    hilarious article!! thanks for sharing. it’s been a battle in our house with our 19 mos old as well, and every child is different, but here is something that worked for us – we feed him the same thing every single day at every single meal. in many (more traditional) Asian households, the little kids grow up eating rice and broth with some meat or fish and veggies (that were cooked in the broth). almost EVERY single meal. of course, this is nearly impossible to do unless you are stay at home and feed your kids breakfast/lunch/dinner at home or have an Asian grandmom living with you. but the effect tends to be the same – it’s healthy, nutrtrious, tasty and since this is the only thing available to eat, it’s what they eat. they know they are getting the same thing each meal, so they tend to just eat it, mostly cause they are hungry. I like to think he likes it and enjoys it, I remember eating little else when growing up myself, but oh boy, when we go to the grandparents’ house and he gets a taste of the really good stuff (in this case, Korean and Chinese cooking), he gobbles it up. but the french fry thing must be across all cultures – he first tasted them a few weeks ago and he literally INHALED them off our plates.

  47. julie says:

    Wow. Sounds like my boys. They also love Easy Mac, and they think choosing betweeen the Cars shapes and the Spongebob varieties makes them sophisticates. Whatever!

  48. annapph says:

    This post is priceless! I am a nanny, and a parent educator, and not yet a parent myself, so I am totally that person who judges, knowing full well that karma will kick my ass when we have kids of our own.
    I was the kid who went to my first day of school with olives, soppressata and blue cheese on a baguette in my lunch box, am a huge cook, and food is a very large part of my life. I am utterly sure I will have children who eat only chicken nuggets and buttered noodles! Especially since my own husband won’t eat onions (however he eats leeks and shallots just fine…)

    A few bits of advice I’ve picked up over the years that actually seem to work with the families I have nannied for:
    1. Don’t get into power struggles over food- you cannot force them to eat.
    2. My mom’s mantra growing up, and now mine with the children I nanny, was “there’s always yougurt (or cheese)” if we didn’t like what she had cooked for dinner. Don’t become a short order cook! Make one meal, serve it, and walk away.
    3. As a parent, it’s your job to provide them with healthy foods. If it makes you cringe for them to be eating something, you shouldn’t have bought it. Clearly this doesn’t apply when you’re out in public and a McDonalds appears on the horizon, or Little Suzie brought fruit rollups to playgroup for snack. But, in your own home, only provide food that you feel ok about them eating constantly, 24-7.
    4. They will eventually eat. Just be prepared for a day of crabby kids if you’re really sticking to your guns and not making mac n’cheese for the 10th day in a row.
    5. It can be kinda fun to “remake” kids foods- I make my own chicken nuggets, I can control exactly what goes into them, and change the flavor profile to make it more interesting for me to eat as well. Mac n’ cheese can become adult friendly with the addition of some wonderful cheddar or a drizzle of truffle oil. Pasta with red sauce for the kids can be doctored up for adults. Pizza can be a carrier for any toppings.
    6. Love your kiddos. Make food fun. Eat cupcakes and cookies and french fries every once in a while!

  49. Elizabeth says:

    My 13-year-old son informed me that he will eat only hotdogs on white buns, chicken nuggets and lemon poppyseed muffins. This, despite the fact that I make homemade bread every stinking week. I make rabbit ragu over homemade pasta. I raise backyard chickens so we can have the freshest eggs. I make ice cream from scratch. I make my own chicken stock. And turkey stock. And rabbit stock. At Thanksgiving, I buy – and roast – a free-range, organic turkey raised on Bainbridge Island, Wash. I grow a good number of our vegetables (cooked spinach is slimy, he says).

    My only comfort is that he and his 16-year-old sister got in a knock-down fight yesterday over whether to eat Thai (his choice) or Ethiopian (hers) for dinner tonight.

  50. Pingback: The Look Report | Blog | Motherlode: Eat Your French Fries

  51. MC says:

    Allison, great fun…one word of advice, don’t tell all the kids’ secrets, they’ll find out some day and you’ll be on the receiving end!

    • I eagerly await my children’s tell-all novels about me. I fully intend to have them support my retirement years with their book royalties, because at this rate they’ll land a lit agent before I do. They’re starting to learn to write their names, and once they do I’m having Gloria Aldred draft up contracts for them to sign. I’m also doing my makeup like Joan Crawford now.

  52. Margaret says:

    I sat my son down yesterday and said “Dude, we can’t live like this any more. You have GOT to add some more foods to your diet. You want to hike the Appalachian Trail. You can’t do it until you add some foods in. ” (He’s 7) We agreed to a schedule of one bite of 3 new foods a month. Believe me, this is progress. He eats, pasta, cottage cheese, muenster cheese, mac and cheese, strawberries, raspberries, apples and rice chex with lactose free milk, muffins (made by me) and sweets. That’s it. AND he has celiac disease, so said carbs have to be gluten free. I would kiss the ground if this kid ate a french fry! At least you can find them out in the world.

    My whole family are foodies. We LOVE to cook and love and from the minute my little boy could move food from plate to mouth, he eschewed all meat and vegetables. It is SO frustrating. When we got the celiac diagnosis we assumed he’d add more variety once his digestive system healed. But he found his 10 foods and that’s that’s that. There is a certain heartbreak in not being able to make beautiful, healthy food that your kids will eat.

    Just imagine your kids are this picky AND they have celiac disease so pasta (and most things) at a regular restaurant are out. Thanks so much for writing this. Like you, I did everything “right” and offered him tiny bites of whatever we were eating when he started solids. Which he spat out.

    He may spit them out in our upcoming experiment. But you have to keep trying, right?

  53. Alexis C. says:


    Our older son, now 4, ate nothing but homemade organic baby food his first year or so. And then we went to England to visit family … and EVERYTHING, every where we went, was apparently deep-friend. And my husband’s extensive family there was constantly plying our son with goodies. AND his little cousin, his exact same age, was a second child and thus allowed much more freedom of diet than our son was accustomed to. Things never really recovered after that!

    Nowadays, his favorite foods are jam and bread (we use low-sugar jam and whole-wheat bread, at least), applesauce, oranges and graham crackers. Sometimes he’ll eat veggies, but he has to be in the right mood.

  54. says:

    35 years ago my one year old had macdonalds french fries for the first time. I too had made her baby food,and was wary of anything not made by me,but desperate and starving while Xmas shopping,I caved. It was love at first bite.
    that baby could spy the golden arches for a mile…and if I gave in and we went inside she would shake with excited delight. “Fech Fies Fech Fies”. I was afraid other folks there would think I didn’t feed her.
    Fast forward all those years and now she has her own sweet cherub,who had a bad medical scare this winter.I am grateful to say it was NOT leukemia,but a related blood disease which mimics it and then resolves.But,Nana was trying to get Miss Minnie to eat more red meat and even made kale chips (we loved em she…not so much).
    You are getting it just right in all you do and try. None of us has all the answers,and I know for sure that denying your kid treats,or candy will make them covet it even more. Healthy foods,and happy eaters…that’s the main goal.
    Don’t sweat the small stuff. As a single mom,working,then trying to feed my kids healthy on a small salary was a challenge,but they are healthy and happy adults now. I worked at Headstart,and my boss said to me: Take the time to enjoy the few hours you have with them each day. Screw the food groups and take them for a walk to the swings.
    She was in essence correct. I too am a foodie,and I love a good french fry. Give those nuggets of yours an extra kiss from this happy Nana.

  55. Jacqueline Chretien says:

    Oh no. I’m in the glorious heyday of baby-led weaning and was feeling SO self-congratulatory, or at least pleased with my luck – my 11-month-old daughter really does happily eat pretty much anything – and now you’re telling me that in two years I may be wrestling with a chicken nugget monster? Damn.

    Hilarious article… so glad I stumbled on this link!

    • Every kid is different- you may be in luck! The thing so many people forget is that fact: every kid IS different. They don’t do exactly what the books and magazines say they should, they all grow in their own way. It’s very hard to process when you have these “parenting manuals” to read compulsively, and when for some reason women act like we’re in direct competition with each other, making it even worse. All that’s important is that we love our kids, try to do what’s best for them, and teach them to be loving and caring people who make the world a better place. We just need to respect them for who they ARE, not who we want them to be.

      In my case, Atticus is pretty much a male carbon copy of me. Meaning I am SOOOOO SCREWED.

  56. yehudis says:

    Great read. Brought me back to the days when I would ask my mother-in-law not to give our oldest daughter any sweets so that it just wouldn’t be an issue–she would remain in a state of Edenic innocence forever. The girl didn’t taste chocolate until she started school at age three…and of course she is the most food-obsessed of six children. Having that many for comparative statistical analysis, I think it’s just the way they’re wired: the one who only wants dairy; the one who only wants potatoes; the one who eats all the healthy stuff and also wants to eat sour stix morning, noon, and night; the one who is only interested in yogurt with fruit juice concentrate…and on and on.
    Serving a meal is very straightforward. “Here’s protein; here’s a starch; here’s some vegetables; there’s fruit in the kitchen.” Take what you want, but don’t take stuff you’re not going to eat. And *do not* ask me to make you alternates. You will not die by eating a meal of whatever single food you’ve decided is acceptable today. Didn’t human beings used to just gorge on meat or fruit or whatever until satiation and then wait around for the next windfall?
    What’s funny is how food attitude moves down the family pipeline. I have this refrain, “The restaurant is closed,” when my kids start giving me their dreck on special considerations, late meals, etc. One day I’m on the phone with my sister, who lives 7000 miles away and whom I’ve only seen face-to-face about four times since I’m married, and I hear her call out to someone in the background, “The restaurant is closed!”
    I guess my mother used to say it to us too…

  57. Susan says:

    As a wise older Italian mother I have to tell you that you are perfect! And your children will be wonderful eaters — some day. I remember sitting in the car screaming at my two angels that mamma wasn’t cooking any more because it was not goddamn appreciated. “You want ramen? You want ramen? Go ahead until your kidneys fail. See what I care.”
    Fast forward a few years and the blessing of puberty happened (the only blessing about it to be sure). They are hungry. They are starving. They hover as I cook dinner. “Ma, when are we eating? I’m gonna pass out here.” They eat everything. Almost.
    My advice: just keep cooking and shower them with love.

  58. Kim says:

    Very hilariously written. I have almost 3 year old twins that NEVER like the same stuff. One loves pasta, could eat it every night, the other hates it fiercely. It’s friggin pasta, for god’s sake. Who doesn’t love it? Ugh. My son won’t touch anything dairy either. I cook a veritable buffet every night, silently hoping that maybe, just maybe this will be the night that they clean their plates. Still waiting. Oh, and my son, with regularity, tells me he won’t eat something because it has poop on it. He clearly doesn’t recall licking the wheels of his stroller when he was a crawling baby. I’m sure there was plenty of poop on it from our Brooklyn sidewalks. I remember being horrified the first time I caught him fervently sucking on those wheels. Then I spoke with a friend (and mother of 5), who told me it wouldn’t kill him and perhaps it might help to develop his intestinal flora.

  59. Erica says:

    So hilarious and so true. I didn’t expect how much my child would have her own personality either. Kind of a no brainer once you have them but when you’re pregnant it’s so easy to judge.

  60. Anne says:

    My mom tells a very similar story. I was the little eco-baby eating homemade food that came from the farmer’s market (they were broke). And four years later by the time my sister arrived she was gumming french fries before she had teeth :)

    No worries, we both turned out just fine.

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  62. clara says:

    “Grilled chicken strips (“Oh my God! It’s just like a fucking chicken nugget without the fucking breading! For the love of Jesus H. Christ, we have been sitting here for three hours, Mommy is 9 months pregnant in the middle of July and REALLY doesn’t need this right now! Just eat the fucking chicken! EAT THE FUCKING CHICKEN!!!”)”

    Holy hell. That’s it EXACTLY. Except it’s so much funnier when you say it. Thanks for that.

    I get the picky thing, I do. I used to be a picky eater. But yeah, the day my oven fries were eschewed by my 5 y/o, because ‘they’re not like mcdonald’s fries’ I suddenly remembered telling my mom I wasn’t eating her hamburgers because of the same reason (back when I was 7) and I felt bad all over my mom parts AND my kid parts.

    But now I feel incredibly amused! Maybe I’ll print this post for them and put it in the baby book. Except I don’t have a baby book.

    (my younger child also eats lemons.)

  63. Sarah Rasmusen says:

    Thanks so much…you nailed it. I can’t quite believe that the humble but mighty quesadilla has yet to land on the comment threads. (dipped in KETCHUP, no less!)

  64. JC says:

    What I hated most about feeding my children was them liking and eating foods, like beans, on a regular basis and then someone they looked up to saying they didn’t like that particular food. Ugh. We spent DS’s fourth grade year cooking and eating traditional foods from a different country each week. We’ve incorporated a lot of the things we discovered into our daily diet. DS is definitely carbohydrate oriented. His favorites are peirogies, noodles, pasties, gnoshi and breads. He likes tomato sauces but only if the tomato is not chunky. He loves some vegetables and despises others. It helped that for a few years at our old house we had a garden and grew most of our veggies.
    I’ve never told my children that they can cook their own dinner if they didn’t like what I cooked. They can cook and would be making noodles or toasted cheese sandwiches for every meal.

    DD is a teen. Even though she likes the food we eat, she says it takes too much time, effort and clean up to eat healthy from scratch. She plans on feeding herself with prepackaged microwave meals and boxed foods.

    DD came to us at age five and had consumed fast food as a large part of her diet. I declared that they could have McDonald’s once a month. They kept track, but since it wasn’t completely banned, there were few arguments or pleadings. Several years ago they asked to switch to Subway for their “fast-food” because it tasted much better and McDonald’s. Progress.

  65. Deborah says:

    I love this post. You make me miss the toddler years and the site makes me miss Brooklyn.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just wait until middle and high school where most kids have unrestricted access to vending machines. These are a wholly separate evil representing temptation of the Hot Cheetos variety. I threatened to install a secret camera at my oldest daughter’s high school so I can spy on her. Or wage a campaign to get the dreaded healthy stuff into the vending machines. (I may still take this on. I have to find my in with administration.)

    I’ve kind of adopted the Fingers Crossed policy. That is, I’ve always bought, prepared and served good food to my girls. At some point, maybe in adulthood, they’ll want to eat well. Until then, I keep going to the Farmer’s Market, truly believing that freshly picked, organic strawberries really are a thing to be grateful for and eating them myself. Role modeling. It’s got to work, right?

    One trick I did employ when the girls where young–I had them help cook. It was worth the added time and mess to have them at least taste the fabulous dish we’d made together. Usually, they found the meal more to their liking when they’d helped. My twelve year old still cooks. She whipped up a dish with farro and fresh herbs for dinner the other night. My daughters are opposite ends of almost every spectrum. In this case, one lives for junk food, the other will eat salad.

    Glad to have found you! Looking forward to more articles.

  66. dvance says:

    oh so funny! I laughed my a** off reading this. We too swore on a stack of Bibles that no junk food would ever cross the lips of our precious offspring. The first foods I fed my sons were quinoa and sweet potatoes…organic of course. Now they are 9 and 12 and my control is long gone. I will say they are not picky, which is good. They will eat anything I put in front of them. We are vegetarians, but besides that, no issues. BUT…french fries and cupcakes are definitely part of our food life, not daily, but often. And you know what, no one dies from eating fries. Like all things, moderation. What cracks me up the most is how earnest we were when they were babies. Ha–little did we know how little control we wold actually have!

  67. Tara says:

    Oh my, this is very, very funny. And so true. My two beasties are ages 6 and 9 and STILL eye everything we put in front of them with such suspicion. And while we’re not chefs, we’re damn good home cooks. I had my own little tantrum at the table just the other day when they rejected something I’d made, something they’d actually eaten before. “This is not fair! Once you say you like something, you don’t get to CHANGE YOUR MINDS! You only eat about five things! That list CANNOT get smaller!!!!”

    My six year old just flat out refuses to try new things right now. “I don’t like that,” she says. “How do you know if you’ve never tried it?” I say. “I DON’T LIKE THAT!!!” she screams. “No yelling,” I say. “Here, just have a taste.” “NO!” she says. “Why won’t you try it?” I ask. “Because I won’t like it!” and on and on and on. My nine year-old is less inclined to conflict and has developed a tactic in which he tries a bite and enthuses, “Mmmm, Mom, that’s really good. I like it!” He then does not eat another bite. It worked a couple of times because I was just so relieved, but now I’m onto him. “Yeah?” I’ll say, “Prove it. You can’t just say you like it. You actually have to eat it.” At which point he pouts and confesses that he really doesn’t like it, after all.

    We’ve done everything from letting them choose meals from pictures in cookbooks, to including them in the cooking, to deconstructing every dish into its distinct parts and presenting it so that the parts don’t touch. No dice. We either feed them pizza or pasta, or we serve them what we’re eating and they poke it with their forks and eat next to nothing. I console myself by thinking that when they go off to college, they will really miss my cooking. The irony being that when they go off to college, we’ll be so poor that we’ll be eating mac & cheese out of a box!

    Thanks for the laugh. Really well written. Loved it.

  68. Marjorie says:

    Yes! Yes! My kid started life as an organic (though reluctant) vegetarian. That lasted ’til age 3, when Grandma took him to McDonald’s. We’ve been in a power play over food ever since, but I’ve recently been forced to concede defeat. Now age 10, my son takes ADD meds that squash his appetite and therefore his growth. With the advice of his doctor, I gave up the battle and now let him eat whatever he wants. In six months he’s grown 4 inches and gained 25% of his body weight. It’s a trade-off, and I still worry about his nutrition, but at least he’s consuming enough calories, even if they are from chicken nuggets and french fries.

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  70. Susanna says:

    2 of the few foods my 3 year old son loves, and eats in enormous quantities are olives and blue cheese. But that’s where it ends. Otherwise he would live entirely on fruit, either fresh or dried. But anything we cook and want to eat for dinner ourselves, he refuses (as do his 2 sisters, unless it’s cauliflower, which his twin loves).

  71. Jean says:

    And do you know why kids love those things – besides the fact that they taste great? Taste buds (and tastes) develop as your children grow – they are drawn to sweets and carbs and salty things because a million years ago, back in the wild, things that tasted like that WERE SAFE TO EAT. It took a lot of knowledge to know WHAT to eat if it sprang from the ground – you could die from a single bite of a fungus. So in reality – your children (and mine and everyone else that I know) are safety conscious, discerning consumers. Oh, except for Anthony Bourdain – his kids requests brussels sprouts and celery.

  72. Jess says:

    Thank you for this – I could have written every word, except for the bits about being a chef.

    I’m still doing the whole Baby Led Weaning/self-feeding-real-food thing with my second, but I’m under no illusions that she won’t go through the exact same I-will-only-eat-three-foods-and-two-of-them-are-cheese phase that my son did. (Now that we’ve hit four years-old, I can usually talk him into trying one bite of whatever new thing on the plate he’s poking suspiciously with his fork. I tell him he can have a hot dog for dinner when he’s old enough to make one himself.)

  73. This made me laugh in sorry recognition. My older son is Atticus to a T. And the only way I could think to get through it was to write a book about it. Seriously. I called it Eating for Beginners because I felt like that was what I had to remind myself he was doing constantly. So far I have you beaten with #2, but he’s only 10 months so anything could happen. For now, I’m marveling at the fact that I produced a baby who will eat literally anything I out in front of him, including curry, Vietnamese sandwiches, and things with (gasp!) SAUCE.

    In other words, I so feel your pain. And I suspect there are many, many, many of us….

    • Toby’s actually a much better eater than Atticus- he still likes the junk food and massive amounts of carbohydrates, but he’ll try just about anything. Kid ate his own poop once. I mean, he’s not going to be doing that again anytime soon, but at least he tried it.

  74. Lori says:

    This is wonderful and so true! Fortunately, I live in Oklahoma and the pressures don’t seem quite as high (all little girls wear pink tutus with giant bows on their heads) as in New York. But people can be judgemental everywhere!

  75. Teenytoes says:

    I believe everything in moderation so my toddler gets to eat french fries some days, chicken nuggets other days but also make sure i include foods like salmon and broccoli other nights
    The irony is that when i don’t make ‘junk’ food a big deal, suddenly she will ask for ‘healthy food’.
    One day i said.. do you want apple sauce or french fries (already assuming she’d scream Fries) and surprisingly she said apple sauce!
    When i get a night when my daughter wants fries and nuggets only i usually add a side of avocado or make her a glass of milk topped with canned whipped cream and a dash of sprinkles and then i don’t feel so bad about giving her just fried food.
    To be honest i did not have this philosophy of moderation before becoming a mom, However i watched how my sister raised her son. She was super strict with his eating habits and said no to french fries, no to chocolate.
    Guess what…everytime he was away from his mom he would obsessively eat a tonne of fries and chocolate.
    One time, my husband babysat my nephew and he did not know about the ‘no chocolate rule’
    They went to a cafe and my husband asked my nephew what he wanted to eat.
    Little kid said without blinking ‘ chocolate ice cream with chocolate fudge with chocolate brownie’
    And that’s what he got. He ate every morsel, licked the plate clean and didn’t tell his mom a thing!
    From that… i learnt not to restrict my own child !

    • Have you tried avocado milkshakes yet? I couldn’t get the kids to eat them straight for the life of me, but we went to a Vietnamese restaurant once and he drank two of them. Since then, I start them both with a “milkshake” every morning, which is half skim milk, half fruit flavored kefir (and maybe a teaspoon of chocolate Instant Breakfast if they let me sleep in a bit that morning).

  76. Kieran says:

    I have a three year old and am three days away from having my second child. I’m feeling down in the dumps and tired today, and this just made me laugh ’til I cried (in a good way). Tonight when my son sits down in front of a bowl of homemade veggie chili and cornbread and demands his chicken nuggets, I won’t even blink. If the chef thing doesn’t work out, you should write full time. (Trust me. It’s what I do.) :)

    • You just made my day, you know that? :)

      I am hoping to write a cookbook one day, but as of now it still remains in the somewhat theoretical stages. I started working on the agent proposal though- which means I wrote the title page, then bullshitted with the guy at Starbucks about possible Frappucino combinations. FYI- the apple pie frappucino? DELICIOUS.

    • Kristen says:

      I couldn’t agree with Kieran more. (And I was once her editor!) Thanks for making both of us preggers laugh today!

  77. Ashley says:

    Ugh. Thank you so much. I have tried and tried to get my two and a half year old to eat healthy, nutritious foods (mainly vegetables and some lean proteins!). He’s great with fruit, great with breakfast, but dinner…argh, i dread it every night. I’ve finally learned he’s not much of a “meal” person at dinner. He prefers cheese, crackers, fruit, avocodo, etc. He also loves french fries, chicken nuggets, etc. I find that everything’s fine when I just give in to that. The frustration comes when I think “Oh, that turkey stroganoff will be so yummy, surely he’ll like it.” Nope. I figure I have to just ride it out and have faith that as he gets older, we can experiment more and do more together to learn about healthy, good-tasting food.

    • It gets better with time. Atticus could eat six apples a day, which I’m fine with. If he’s filling up on fruit and the like during the day, I have no issues with hot dogs for dinner.

      Things I DO have problems with:
      -White bread. Not for any health reasons, but because I think it tastes gross. I just cannot fathom a human being wanting to eat a plain piece of processed white bread and think it actually tastes good. Toby has just discovered the wonders of butter, which actually makes me more ok with it. Sure, he’s coating breadsticks with a thick layer of the stuff and then licking it off like an ice cream cone before reloading, but that’s not creepy and weird like eating plain Wonder bread.
      -”Clean” food. Meaning no sauce, no butter, no rememnants of other foods that may have touched it. Because then they expect ME to clean it off. Have you ever been in a restaurant taking the sauce off a plate of linguine strand by strand with a napkin? Would it have been easier for me to just send it back and ask for a plain plate? Of course it would, but I won’t do that because that’s like saying to the chef “Dude, my 2 year old kid thinks you SUCK”. And there’s some back-of-the-house solidarity stuff there I just can’t violate.

      • Lauren says:

        One time my daughter grabbed a scoop of whipped butter off a stack of pancakes at Ihop and shoved the whole thing in her mouth. She was 1 1/2! :)

        • At Thanksgiving last year, Toby snuck up to the dinner table and started eating a stick of butter with his hands. We caught onto what he had done when he walked across the living room with a giant pat of butter lodged behind his ear. And since Atticus was a baby, whenever a waitress gives me a bowl of lemon wedges for my water, he steals and eats them all (a few times with the rind and everything). First reaction was “oh my God, this can’t be good for his teeth!”. Second reaction two second later: “Meh- at least he won’t get scurvy now”.

          • jen says:

            I laughed out loud – literally – at this:

            Second reaction two second later: “Meh- at least he won’t get scurvy now”.

            So very much how I would have reacted.

        • Laura says:

          My kids are big on licking the jam off of toast and prefer their butter straight from the little gold-foiled containers at diners. The bread at La Petite Abeille, however, they eat with gusto with the butter on top.

  78. Betsy says:

    Love this so much i’m going to share it on my facebook page! Hilarious!

  79. Denis Hurley says:

    Fantastic & hysterical read. I’ve been going through a similar thing with my 2-year old. Her first foods were all pureed healthful goodness – now the best she can do is pasta (plain). I’ve gotten over it, but plenty of parents still stress out. Thank you for writing this.

    Oh, and the gender thing? You should see the looks I get from from people when they see my girl dressed in pink. This the clothing people buy her, are we supposed to throw it out!?

  80. Alissa C. says:

    This blog was a great read, and you sound like a wonderful mom :) We’ve followed you guys since the store in Bay Ridge and still have not found a cupcake that comes close– you and Matt are owning it!!! Thank you both for doing what you do!

  81. This totally had me cracking up. Having spent a weekend with my 2-year-old nephew, I can agree that they are totally wired for French Fries. He weighs nothing, eats little, but can consume his entire body weight in fries. We would barely walk into a restaurant and his lisping little self would say “Frenh fry.” His parents caved, too.

  82. Kristen says:

    I have been exactly in the author’s shoes. My homemade squash purees with the tiniest hint of sage have given way to a steady diet of grilled cheese. What a hilarious, relatable, funny article! Thanks so much for publishing it!

  83. Peter says:

    Hilarious and just so true. Our french fry moment happened with cake.

    We took the same approach as you with our daughter Fiona. All homemade food, all organic. She was eating frozen wild alaskan salmon three times a week at 7 months because we had heard about how natural omega threes cause super-human brain development. Of course, no sweets other than fruit. Ever.

    So like six months ago we went back to our favorite restaurant ever – Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn Heights. We used to live nearby and go there once a week and would have been happy to have never eaten at another restaurant in our lives if we could just keep going there every week. We moved to Prospect Heights and had literally not been out to eat in over a year so one day we said screw it. We’re taking the kids and we’re going.

    Had a wonderful meal. Fiona was pushing her food around but being really good. She’s a Mediterranean-style eater. She likes to spend at least 90 minutes on all meals. Noah was passed out in whichever one of our like forty varieties of baby carrier was most likely to narcotize him that week. It was beautiful. We were like, in heaven. Angels were singing.

    At the end they sent out like six desserts for us to try. We see them coming and we’re thinking, “Nooooooooooo!” We’re trying to sort of pretend they’re not there so Fiona doesn’t get curious, while sneaking bites to eat enough to not insult their generosity. Of course Fiona instantly senses what’s going on and snaps out of her benign restaurant daze with a little, “I waant some. I WAAANT some of THAT.”

    So we’re like ok, this is ridiculous. She can try some dessert. It’s a special occassion. It’s not going to be some big deal.

    We give her the little plate of flourless chocolate cake and she takes a spoonful and carefully tastes it…and as soon as her brain processes the flavor, her eyes basically pop out of her head and she instantly snaps into this frenzied mode of eating that we had never even imagined her being capable of. The spoon was basically spinning from plate to mouth and around and around again so fast that you couldn’t see it, and when she came up for air for a second she shouted at the top of her lungs, “CAAAAAKE! I’M EATING CAKE!!!!!!!!”

    For the next month she basically refused to eat anything and spent most of her days alternately demanding cake and then having wild tempertantrums when we explained that we didn’t have any and that cake is just for special occassions, like birthdays. As soon as we gave her that little nugget, she start obsessing over birthdays, and claiming first thing each morning and all through the day and night that, “Today is my BIRTHday!’ Or “Today is baby No-No’s BIRTHDAY!”

    We’d calmly say, “no honeybun, your birthday is in January, No-no’s is in September.” And she’d just go, “nnnnnnNO! TO-DAY IS MY BIRTHDAY. TODAY!!!!!!,” stamping her feet…”WE WILL HAVE CAKE! TODAY!”

    It literally took a month to defuse the cake bomb.

    • Wait til the next birthday. You are so screwed.

      And how do you think it sounds in my house when both your parents own a cupcake company? I make a lot of “Breakfast cupcakes”, meaning extra banana cupcakes with no frosting. I tried mixing in raisins, dried fruit, seeds and the like. They crumbled them up, ate the cake, then smooshed all the healthy stuff into the carpet. That’ll teach me.

  84. Alysse Jacobs says:

    I’m not a parent, nor do I ever intend to be, but I found this read absolutely hilarious. It also makes me wonder if similar efforts were made during my early days so I would have to stop blaming my parents for my picky eating.

  85. Yvo says:

    YES. Thank god. Chicken nuggets are hard wired into my DNA and I will fight a bitch who tries to tell me otherwise.

    PS I’m still delusional enough to believe my kids will be what I want them to be. Probably because I’m not even pregnant yet. No, definitely because of that. Haha… keep reminding me I’m wrong please – it delays that part of the process :)

  86. Cat says:

    Elijah thinks that chicken wings are a gourmet food. I feel you.

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