Tag Archives: Feeding Kids

My Daughter Builds A Candy Pipeline Into Our Backyard

My six-year-old daughter Brontë pretty much never stops talking. “Using her words” has never been one of her stumbling blocks.

It’s simultaneously adorable and exhausting. If I’m scrambling to get lunch ready, she’s demanding I go check out the portal she made in the living room. It takes you to a castle, she tells me, but the people will be VERY SURPRISED when you suddenly show up, so I have to be careful but GO SEE IT NOW.

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Portal to a Scottish Castle

Sometimes she has magic socks that take her to outer space and I need to go with her so I can encounter aliens who will give me magic powers like throwing out time barriers, an actual power she once invented for me.

It doesn’t even quiet down when I’m trying to pee. She’ll follow me in to inform me that I’m Batgirl and she’s Poison Ivy. She runs past me at breakneck speed, back and forth, over and over, while telling me I need to stop her by throwing one of those Batarang deals that I have in my pocket.

Which I pretend to throw, in hopes it’ll pretend-knock-her-down for three seconds so I can finish peeing in peace.

But I “miss,” and then she has to lecture me about the importance of taking down bad guys, like her, if I’m ever going to make a decent Batgirl.

It’s so constant that the other day, when she quietly walked in from the back yard and tiptoed all the way down the hall without saying a word, I knew something was up.

So, I set down my tea and book and quietly walk down the hall to see what she’s up to…

She’s got a giant bag slung over her shoulder. She steps quietly into her room and soundlessly closes the door.

“BRONTE? Please come out and talk to me.”

She walks out and sweetly says, “Yes, mother?” (“Mother” is her ‘tell.’)

“What were you carrying into your room?”

Turns out, it was a five-pound bag of peanut M&M’s. (Or as Brontë calls them, “M’s.” And she has a point, because that second “M” is somewhat redundant.)

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“From Eva,” she said.

Ahhhh, it suddenly made sense.

You see, our backyard shares a fence with at least five other families. I say “at least” because I don’t go poking my nose into other people’s business, but at least three of those families include little kids, because my kids have found them.

On the left, we have friendly neighbors with a daughter who was in Brontë’s Kindergarten class. Her mom runs a daycare, so there can be ten kids who climb up on their play structure to shout back and forth with mine, who also have a play structure with stairs. I sometimes wonder if they could climb up their relative play structures during an emergency and light torches, Game of Thrones style, to call for aid…

And in the back, there’s a family with at least two little boys who sometimes whisper to my girls through holes in the fence. The dad plays loud rock music from the 90’s all the time, and someone also lights up skunk weed on the regular, but with all the shifting breezes, I can’t be sure it’s him… it could be the adjacent lady with the really clean yard who sometimes shouts obscenities at our barking dog (Sorry, lady! We pull him inside when we catch it) or Monster Jim, that ex-hippie that all the neighborhood kids love, who is retired now and spends his days slowing down time as he ponders the jasmine…

But on the right, there’s a little girl named “Eva” who is eight years old. This is a BIG deal for Brontë, who is incredibly proud to have secured such a mature friend. Eva attends the same school as Brontë, who will seek her out and casually say “hi” in front of all her Kindergarten classmates, gently signaling how she has a private life that includes mingling with an older, far more sophisticated set of kids.

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At any rate, Eva and Brontë have been passing toys back and forth for months. Brontë will go into her room to fret and examine each My Little Pony before selecting the choicest batch to pass onto Eva, who will pass back whatever toys she’s selected for exchange. Brontë will play with said toys until the next week, when a new exchange is scheduled.

(And despite all of my pleas to take decent care of her toys, absolutely nothing has worked as well as her trying to impress Eva. Brontë would be mortified by passing back damaged goods.)

Well, eventually I reached out to Eva’s mom and offered to let Eva come over and play. Turns out, it’s actually Eva’s aunt who lives next to us and Eva’s mom is just visiting every week. We ended up with some beautiful vegetables from Eva’s aunt’s garden in exchange for letting Eva come over and play with Brontë for hours on the weekend.

And it further turns out that Eva’s mom has a hard time convincing Eva to eat anything but vegetables. Have you ever heard of such a thing? That must be why Eva was willing to part with the gargantuan bag of peanut M&M’s that Brontë struggled to noiselessly cart off down the hall…

Because if Brontë had her way, she would live off pesto pasta and cupcakes. Whereas Brontë’s little sister Bridget will tear into a Baby Back rib with a frighteningly Viking-like face of plunder-ecstasy, candy has become such a massive power struggle in our house– ever since Brontë was once diagnosed with anemia from rejecting every food source of iron in favor of cream puffs…

Which leads to parenting dilemmas: I remove candy because I need Brontë to be hungry enough to eat her dinner, but don’t want to remove it entirely because I went to school with a kid whose parents only fed him the most organic, free-range stuff. He got carob instead of chocolate, bean-paste instead of PB&J’s, and would dig through the trash for half-eaten Twinkies because he was obsessed.

Beyond that, I have real weakness when it comes to innovation. I mean, if my kid worked up the entrepreneurial chutzpah to leverage social skills into a candy pipeline square into her own backyard, I’m loath to take that away from her. The kid doesn’t have a job or a driver’s license, but she still somehow managed to secure enough candy for the next several months. I’m not about to quash that kind of outside-the-box thinking.

Her eyes scan mine, seeking my reaction, nervously blinking.

“Well,” I tell her, “You better hide it well in your room so your sister doesn’t tear into it.”

She cracks a grin before scurrying into her room, squirreling away the candy somewhere where it’s not immediately obvious. I wonder briefly whether or not I made the right call before remembering that Brontë has never liked peanut M&M’s. That’s what John and Bridget get at the movie theater, not her…

I don’t catch her eating M&M’s for days.

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s functioning as some sort of untapped trophy.

Until the day I tell Brontë she needs to clean up her toys and I catch her asking her little sister Bridget to pick up the Legos.

“Pshh,” I think. I’ve been trying to wrestle Bridget into picking up her toys without incident for the past six months.

But Bridget does it. She cheerfully cleans up the Legos she didn’t even play with without a word…

And then Brontë gives her a handful of peanut M&M’s, which Bridget scarfs down with gusto.

Should I stop this? I mean… Brontë is outsourcing her duties to her younger, more vulnerable sister in exchange for candy. 

On the other hand, Bridget is finally motivated to pick up toys without a three-hour tantrum and series of possibly-ineffective time-outs that end with mutual hostility. And Brontë just reinvented Capitalism in her own backyard. 

I shrug:

“Good job, guys. Let’s go read some Dr. Seuss.”

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Ways Having Kids Makes You Fat

Dieting SUCKS, so there’s usually some triggering event that convinces someone to start eating better.

For a friend of mine, it once was getting thrown out of a roller-coaster line by an attendant twice her size. For me, it’s been arguing with my five-year-old about not actually being pregnant. Because she insists that the last time my belly got SO BIG, she ended up with a baby sister.

the-only-honest-people-in-the-world.jpgShe doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just that toddlers are painfully honest without any grasp of the social ramifications. Like how she keeps playing with grandma’s upper arms because they’re so “fun and squishy.” Or like the other day, when my daughter grabbed a handful of my postpartum belly and asked why it looked like that.

“Because you lived there for year,” I told her. “Your sister too, before you’d even taken down all the staples from your posters.”

She was understandably confused, and I’ll admit leaking a twinge of bitterness into my response. Even though I should know better, because kids say ridiculous, rude things all the time.

It touched a nerve, though, because my jeans are indeed getting tight. I can still CLOSE them, thank you very much, but it’s not super comfortable and results in some sideways flare-out. My husband looks mildly panicked every time I frown at my muffin top, because it could mean all the chocolate is about to vacate the house.

The weird thing is, I actually lost the baby weight from both of my pregnancies within six months. You see, I’d grown up hearing countless women talk about how they used to be so skinny and had such fast metabolisms until they had children and then never managed to regain their pre-pregnancy figures again.

Since I didn’t have a fast metabolism to begin with, the threat of permanent explosion seemed imminent. So I hopped right onto a diet and exercise program as soon as I recovered from childbirth. I knew I had to unleash a Tony Horton-style dictatorship onto those rioting hormones before they swallowed me whole.

And I conquered it LIKE A BOSS. Why? Because I was prepared to fight that estrogen-soaked battle of making people, but knew nothing of the parenting lifestyle’s insidious creep.  It turns out, you still can’t let your guard down once pregnancy is over, because having kids makes it really, really easy to put on weight.

So I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have decided to warn prospective parents about what they’ll be up against:

1-  Kids have really small bodies

Once you have children, you’ll never take a normal, grown-up step again.

See, most of your free time is spent in their company. That means if you walk anywhere on foot, you’ll have to take them with you, usually while holding their hand.

And kid bodies are very small, which means their legs are really tiny. They can’t walk at a grown-up pace. If you try to walk like a normal person, the child will trip on the sidewalk, smack their face on the ground, begin screaming and make everyone stare at you in horror like you’re a monster who won’t wait for your kids.

So, you’ll have to start walking at the pace of someone with ten-inch legs. It’s slow, even without accounting for them being mesmerized by the mysteries of sidewalk grooves or the life-freezing eurekas of passing thought, both of which will occur approximately every 15 seconds because kids really don’t care about getting somewhere on time.

Clearly, strollers would seem to be the obvious answer here, except they mean sacrificing the exercise your pent-up toddlers so desperately need. I’ve seen far too many über-fit moms pushing grumpy, pudgy 8-year-olds in strollers to think strollers are a good idea once the kiddos can walk.

2.  Kids take ages to get through everyday activities

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You’ll take seven hours to cross the street and LIKE it!
Things that used to take 30 seconds now take 10 minutes, if not half the morning. Things like just putting on shoes and walking out of the house.

You used to just grab your keys and walk out the door, but now you’ve got to clean up, change someone, and lace their shoes up, assuming that locating shoes doesn’t become it’s own drawn-out detective saga, or that said child isn’t naked, which are both wildly optimistic assumptions when parenting.

Remember how I said kids get mesmerized by sidewalk cracks? Apply that same principle to eating a meal or exiting a vehicle…

You’ve unsnapped their car seats, you’ve opened their door, and  you’re now standing on the side of the car while they stare blankly into space. “Okay sweetie, time to get out of the car,” you say.

So they take a step forward and start messing with the parking brake. Thirty seconds go by and you’re telling them, “Don’t mess with that, sweetheart. It’s time to get out of the car now.”

And then they step onto the doorframe, hold the back of the front seat with one hand, then stare at the ground with all the intensity of someone trying to solve the Palestinian crisis. They just keep standing there, as you look at your watch.

It’s all you can do, at this point, to not scream, “GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR,”  except you’ve read about how vitally important it is to never, ever rush a child through trying to do something. Because rushing your kid means being impatient, which makes them feel incompetent, eventually destroying their self-esteem and leaving them sobbing in the women’s bathroom a decade from now, right after their pole-shifts, wondering where it all went wrong.

If only frustration burned calories.

3.  Because kids want to eat garbage

Before I had kids, I used to go to the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce with which to make elaborate meals from scratch. In fact, my insistence on unprocessed food was once a bone of contention with my Hot-pocket-eating boyfriend (later my husband).

I assumed I’d keep my lifestyle up after the kids were born, neither envisioning how much less energy I’d have, nor my frustration at seeing a thousand carefully-prepared meals splatter against the wall.

Or how desperate I’d be to keep the kids from rioting. Ideally, I’d love to feed the kids healthy food, all the time. I do still try, but it’s hard to keep throwing money and time at meals that end up in the garbage when literally every television channel and store display is flashing cartoon utopias of brightly-colored garbage that’s so much easier and cheaper.

You’ll also find yourself in the grocery store with a wound-up kid and a dozen reproachful eyes, just waiting for the looming meltdown, while knowing you could either put a stop to it all with a 50 cent treat, or hold your ground through yet another public episode of overwhelmed-mom-with-the-tantruming kids.

The struggle is real. And sometimes I cave.

4.  Because kids don’t eat much

You know how you finish your lunch because you paid for it and you don’t want to throw your food away, only to get hungry an hour later and have to pay for something else?

Yeah, kids don’t worry about that. They don’t care what you just spent on their dinner when you’re eating out and will push it aside then literally start throwing a fit about being “so hungry,” 20 minutes later.

You’d think a few rounds of “Well, you should’ve eaten your dinner then, because I’m not not getting you any more food” would fix that, but they’re surprisingly stubborn. Because kids always plan roughly five minutes ahead of wherever they are now. They don’t remember how hungry they ended up being last night and won’t apply that lesson to this evening. Sometimes I’m amazed the human race is still around.

Even when they DO eat, it’s frequently only a tiny bit. I’ve watched my daughter suck the chocolate out of a croissant, pick the croutons out of a salad, lick the parmesan off pasta, and pick the Shake-n-bake coating off pork chops before loudly declaring that she was done.

My husband cleans up our kids’ leftovers like a champ. It just sucks too much to spend your hard-earned money on a meal that ends up only two tablespoons lighter, so my husband takes one for the team by polishing off the rest. Problem is, I’ve noticed him pushing the kids to order something he really likes an awful lot.  Which makes sense, because you may as well order something you like if you’re going to end up eating most of it… except it’s a slippery slope from being thrifty to eating an extra, fatty meal because you “have” to.

Most of these meals, I notice, involve a lot of melted cheese. On the plus side, he’s really been leaning on our 3-year-old to practice her silverware, because who wants to polish off a meal someone’s massaged with booger-hands?

5.  Your own habits start to backslide

So… you find yourself ordering increasingly empty-caloried garbage in hopes that your kids will possibly eat it, then polishing off said garbage so you won’t feel like you just set your wallet on fire.

You find yourself keeping a few more boxes of cookies around too, because it’s so helpful to have little rewards handy for when your kids finally pick up all their Legos and use an appropriate receptacle to pee into.

And after a while, that kale & quinoa salad isn’t looking so appetizing to you either. I’m not sure it ever really did, but it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself without all this peer pressure.

You get used to meandering along, taking 45 minutes to do what used to take you 10.

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You’re the reason my pants don’t fit, you little bald monster!
Plus, you may be eating a few more chocolates now, because it’s the only vice you’re still allowed. I mean, after you’ve put all that drinking, swearing, and watching violent movies aside, what else can you do?. Who doesn’t want to stuff their face after 300 hours of Caillou?

Either way, these are some of the health pitfalls to watch out for after you move into a lifestyle with kids.

It’s tough, but I’m sure we can overcome it: start following an exercise program and letting the kids get hungry enough to choke down some well-balanced meals. Remind my husband to stop ordering out for pizza or bringing home fast food before we’re shelling out for whole new wardrobes of pants…

Wish me luck 🙂

Why Reverse Psychology Works On Vikings

Ah, parenting… that stage of life where you not only have to force yourself to exercise and choke down vegetables, but also convince people far less rational than you to do the same.

Frankly, it’s hard not to give into peer pressure sometimes. Everyone in my house now campaigns for a steady diet of jellybeans and pizza… while I have to pretend that making yet another meal from scratch really does sound better than someone bringing melted cheese to my door.

But I figure the prevention of scurvy and colon cancer is part of my parenting duties, which means talking my kids into eating real food.

At first, I thought my older daughter Brontë was a tough sell. She could be defiant, especially around age 2, and would try refusing meals in favor of starchy snacks until we eventually starved her out…

But I was completely unprepared for Bridget.

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Freaking out after accidentally tying herself up with the front-seat seatbelt

We call her “Bridget the Viking.” She’s a blue-eyed blonde with a face so angelic that her cuteness made the doctors who delivered her gasp.

“I’ve delivered a lot of babies,” one told me, “And always say they’re lovely, even when they’re weird-looking, but she may honestly be the cutest baby I’ve ever seen.”

I was so flattered, having no idea I’d just birthed a Viking.

Bridget has a good heart and an overwhelming zest for living, but she was a lunatic from the start. She kept us up all hours with her berserker rage and was turning over furniture from the moment she started walking. There’s something about an angelic blonde baby throwing end tables across the room with freakish strength that just chills you to the bone.

Bridget’s independent streak borders on the self-destructive. She’ll refuse to do what you told her, simply because you told her to do it. She’d rather take the punishment than give up her options.

Bridget started drinking bottles of hot sauce just because she wasn’t supposed to. People were acting nervous about her tasting them, so her curiosity finally got the better of her… she once ate an entire packet of red peppers because her big sister yelled that she couldn’t do it, and she’s now turned drinking hot sauce into a party trick.

Don’t believe me? My cousin wasn’t sure. Knowing my penchant for hyperbole, she once dropped by my house armed with an extra-spicy bottle of habanero hot sauce covered in warning labels and just… casually… left it on a table to see what Bidgie would do.

Here’s the part we managed to capture:

I mean, what kind of thrill-seeking is this!? How will she keep topping this experience? She’ll be bungee-jumping while snorting moon rocks by the time she’s ten.

But while she’ll literally drink a cup of hot sauce, she won’t sit down to dinner for more than a few seconds before flipping around, impatiently yelling: “DONE!”

Because you’re supposed to sit down to dinner and Bridget’s chiefly motivated to do things she’s not supposed to do. Like work out elaborate schemes to stash chocolate chips in our couch cushions.

Well, having such a challenging kid has taught me a couple of essential truths about human nature. They are:

1) Having something taken away is more motivating than the opportunity to gain something of equal value

I learned this while attempting to manage Bridget’s constant bloodcurdling screaming in the car.

She doesn’t like being in the car, and sometimes we have to be in the car. So I had to listen  to her unfettered Viking berserker screams for months on end. Sometimes, they scrambled my brain so hard that I’m surprised I never hit anything.

I tried everything to stop her: talking her out of it, soothing her, yelling at her, trying to figure out what was wrong, turning on music, giving her a toy… nothing worked.

Until the day I took her toy away and would only give it back when she stopped shrieking. That worked like a charm. The Bridget-screaming-in-the-car phenomenon disappeared for good.

So… the same toy that didn’t make her feel any better when I first offered it to her suddenly became vitally important to not lose. This is human nature: we are more motivated by losing things than gaining something of equal value.

2) We value things more when we have to work hard to get them

Bridget’s inherently suspicious of anything handed to her or expected of her, but loves anything she had to sneak.

I guess it makes sense… A guy who’d stalk a deer for days, in pounding rain and bitter cold, before stashing it’s trophy head above his sofa would probably be disgusted by finding that exact same deer carcass left on his doorstep.

And so it is with Bridget the Viking, who is such a walking embodiment of the forbidden-fruit-tasting-sweeter principle that I finally incorporated it into her training.

I started hiding fruit around the house:

Bananas on the counter where she could barely reach them.

Grapes on plates, just inside the bottom cupboards.

It worked. I’d hear her quietly scooting a step-stool into the kitchen, a muffled rifling through the cabinets, and wild giggling as she made off with a grape.

She’d keep this up for hours, sneaking away whole plates of grapes and bananas that she’d left touched when I’d offered them at breakfast.

And after weeks of all but refusing dinner, she was sneaking into the kitchen last night to swipe bite after bite of the pesto lasagna I left cooling on the counter:

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The Giddy Pleasures of Being Deep in Sin

She was desperate for those bites, straining on the highest tippy-toes she could manage to grab spoonfuls of pesto pasta above her head and balance them all the back to her face. She savored every last one of them as though she’d been starving, rolling her eyes back in her head for several moments before scrambling to nab the next.

Until dinner was finally brought to the table, whereupon she took a couple of bites of pesto pasta before dropping her fork like it was on fire: “DONE!”

Biking Adventures With Extra Diablo Sauce

I’m gonna go out on a crazy limb by saying time management can be tough with children.

Everything you do suddenly involves additional complications, like kids who constantly lose their shoes and move REALLY SLOW.

kids.jpgKids are also unbelievably messy. What used to be, say, quick Chinese take-out now involves long periods of post-meal rice grain patrol. Because toddlers are tiny bombs exploding your house 30+ times a day.

And it probably gets even harder once after-school activities and school projects enter the picture. I don’t want to even think about that yet, though. My husband and I are still scrambling to master the whole toddlering deal.

Like lately, ever since we started biking every evening. It’s been awesome for everyone, but throwing our schedule for a loop. Last week, for example, we ran out of  food and had to choose between getting to the grocery store and going for a ride.

We chose the ride and stopped at Taco Bell on the way home. I felt awful about it, because feeding my kids properly is an ongoing goal. They deserve a home-cooked meal at a proper family table, not some dollar burritos at some fast-food joint. The kids, on the other hand…

LOVED IT.

My four-year-old talked about it all the way home.

But that wasn’t all.

The next night, after an hour-long ride, we were returning home when we passed by Taco Bell. My two-year-old, Bridget, who was riding in her seat between my handlebars, suddenly got excited and started waving her arms in mad baby panic, screaming:

“TACOS! TACOS! EAT! PLEASE MAMA, EAT TACOS!”

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What, you thought I was just a cat?

I was taken aback, because Bridget is the kid who never talks. So this taco-eating thing was clearly important to her.

Actually, when your kids finally start talking, it’s a little startling. Other people are USED to the idea that people talk, but parents…

Well, you’ve been taking care of this little being who’s only been grunting or crying for well over a year, so when they start using words out of nowhere… it’s a little like your cat walking up to you one day and giving you a bunch of opinions.

I told Bidgie we were going home to eat dinner, but she seemed so disappointed that I promised we’d eat at Taco Bell the very next day. We didn’t have proper dinner plans anyway, flying, as we were, by the seat of our pants in this newfound cycling madness.

And the next evening, when we passed by Taco Bell, Bidgie asked me “Tacos?” and was thrilled when I gave her the nod. We went inside to order and the kids ran up to the same table we ate at days earlier. It was OUR table now.

That’s when John noticed the Diablo sauce.

Maybe it’s a testament to our lack of Taco Bell familiarity, but we’d thought Fire sauce was the hottest you could get. Maybe they’ve had these options for years, but John’s been grabbing Fire sauce for me when picking up Taco Bell for ages.

This Diablo sauce was a revelation. He grabbed a handful of packets for me to try.

At this point, it’s worth noting that I’ve already devoted an entire post to Bridget’s spice tolerance.

It’s epic.

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What evil sorcery is THIS?

I, too, love hot food. But at HER age, I couldn’t even handle cinnamon-flavored gum. So I don’t know where this kid gets it, but she once ate an entire packet of red peppers from a pizza takeout joint out of nothing but sheer sisterly spite.

 

We were all eating our food. I was enjoying a Mexican pizza doused in ample Diablo sauce when Bidgie started getting curious. She pointed to the sauce and began insisting, “Too! Too!”

I squirted out some Diablo sauce next to her food. I didn’t want it ON her food, in case she hated it and we ended having to throw everything away.

She dipped her spork tines into Diablo sauce and tasted it. Then she made this face:

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“I’ve just seen the face of God”

I initially interpreted that face as “Wtf have I done?”

But I was wrong, because after a moment, she dipped her spork tines in again then tasted it.

And again.

And she started dipping quicker, almost with compulsion. She dipped faster and faster as we stared in amazement, occasionally grabbing a napkin to wipe her flooding nose.

She just kept sporking that Diablo sauce, nearly blurring into a frenzy while abandoning her food like yesterday’s news. Given Bidgie’s amazing appetite, this was an impressive turn of events.

Finally, she cut through the middleman by tearing open Diablo packets and drinking them straight. She finished whatever packets were left on the table before taking a huge swig of apple juice and letting out an enormous sigh.

Then we got back on the bikes and from between the handlebars, she baby-farted in my face the entire ride home. But she suffered no apparent ill effects other than that.

I have no idea what to make of this. I’ve never heard of two-year-olds liking spice so much. I was always under the impression that kids have more sensitive tastebuds, that they like blander foods because they taste them so hard…

Well, not MY kid. She takes a hit of hot sauce then stares blankly into space before hitting it again. I assume she’s talking to her Spirit Wolf during the intervals.

I’m thinking maybe Bridget’s a natural thrill seeker. Maybe normal food just isn’t enough anymore. If she’s pounding hot sauce at age 2, maybe she’ll be climbing mountains and snorting moon rocks by 18.

In the meantime, I’m not sure whether to discourage these spicy experiments or see where they’ll finally top out. I’m tempted to cover something in Sriracha sauce and see if she likes it.

The funny thing is, big sister Brontë completely FREAKS at the faintest hint of spice. It just goes to show how every kid is different, even when they grow up in the same house.

Does anyone else know of a kid liking spice this much? I may have the next pepper-eating champion on my hands.