Friday, June 26, 2015

Top Five Hated Food Messes

I'm pretty sure that if someone were to say the word "kids" in a word association game, many people would respond with the word "messy". It won't surprise the parents out there (or caretakers of children) that I spend a rather large portion of my day cleaning up messes that my kids have made. I have tried to teach them how to clean their messes themselves, but this endeavor usually lands with blank stares, distractions from other toys, or misplaced "cleaning" of things that don't need cleaning later.

There is no doubt to any who know me that I love my children. They are lights to the world, they have smiles and personalities that could win the hearts of the masses (and if not, my younger child might force you to give her your heart... she's a bit aggressive).

But boy can those children make a mess.

In the just over 3 years that I have been parenting and the millions of messes I have cleaned, I have developed a love/hate relationship for my kids' eating habits. I understand the sensory and developmental benefits of letting them experiment with textures and playing a bit with their foods. I appreciate the need for a variety in their diet and not surviving just on mac & cheese and chicken nuggets (though my children wouldn't complain, that's for sure).

There are many messes that I don't mind cleaning at all. I've been known to chuckle and go with it when my kids dump boxes of Cheerios all over the floor. I strip them down to the diaper on pasta & red sauce night so they can make a mess without the stress of destroying their clothes. Paint? Clear out the sink and hose 'em down when they're done.

But there are a few foods that I just can't stand cleaning.

Top Five Food Messes 
I Hate Cleaning Up

Shredded Carrots: My son (3 years) is especialy not a fan of eating just plain vegetables; he's doing that whole toddler "I am not going to eat anything" thing these days. As such, I have to hide them in lots of places - smoothies, eggs, pizza, pasta, baked goods, rice.. really anywhere I can think of - to get him to eat them. One of the easiest and least expensive (only $0.89 for a pound of organic carrots at Trader Joe's!) vegetables you can do this with is carrots. They shred easily, they cook fast, they have a sweeter flavor that kids don't mind partaking in, and are quite good for you. But good gravy... they can be a pain to clean up after a kid has thrown them all over the kitchen. A wet shredded carrot that isn't immediately - and I mean the moment - after it hits the floor is destined to stick there. We have a steam mop that cleans up just about anything, and you have to hover over a dried shredded carrot for quite a while before a hard scrubbing will get it up.

If you're ever at my house and see little orange specks all over the floor, you'll know I just gave up trying.

Delicious! Nutritious! Impossible to clean!
Oatmeal: I LOVE oatmeal for breakfast, and so do my kids. You can add all sorts of dried fruit to it, maybe a little bit of honey, some almond milk - oh man, I love a good bowl of oatmeal. I found a recipe recently for banana oatmeal that my whole family loved. My daughter has just hit the age (14.5 months) where using a spoon and fork as part of the ways she gets food into her mouth are becoming a regular practice. This is also the age where oatmeal gets every-freaking-where. On the high chair, on the floor, on the table, on the walls, in her hair, on her legs. And the stuff is like cement; within seconds of it getting spread thin and exposed to air it becomes virtually impossible to clean. There was one day I didn't get to it right away and it took soaking it under a cloth and a green non-abrasive scrubber to get it off our kitchen table. Sometimes I have to wash the table 2-3 times if I don't wash the table off the nanosecond the kids get up from the table when they have oatmeal for breakfast. Have you tried to do ANYTHING the nanosecond after a child under the age of 4 finishes something? If not - try it sometime. It's the best exercise in futility you'll ever experience.

Tiny Fruit Seeds: You know what kids love? Bite-sized fruit. Blueberries, grapes, sliced kiwi, and strawberries are among some the favorites in our house. It's wonderful to know that I have healthy snack options that I can fall back on when the kids are driving me crazy right before dinner and I don't want them filling up on another handful of Goldfish crackers. But as all parents know - what goes in must also come out. When a tiny person digests bite-sized fruit they also digest the microscopic seeds that are encased in each little berry. Cleaning the diapers on the other side of a blueberry fest can be... let me put it this way. My husband will often volunteer to do diaper changes on the weekends when he's home to give me a bit of respite; since both kids are still in diapers, I do a LOT of diaper changing in the course of a day. There was one day that my daughter was especially ornery and had a full diaper after a family blueberry devouring had occurred. His words as he fought to get her to lay still to me in the kitchen were: "D! WE CAN NEVER FEED THESE CHILDREN BLUBERRIES AGAIN!!!"

We did, of course. Because blueberries are awesome.

Blueberry picking - Fall 2014
Wet Rice: This will be brief. I hate sweeping up rice after a meal. If there's any mess I'm content to let sit until the next meal to clean up, it's rice that hasn't dried yet. If I serve rice at dinner, I spend more time in the cleanup portion of the evening trying to coax wet rice into my dirt pile with my broom than I do any other part of cleaning my kitchen. It just slooooooowly drags across the floor, making you think that maybe it will cooperate but ultimately just moving about a quarter-of-an-inch every time you try to sweep. So you sweep with shorter, faster motions thinking maybe that will work. No. It just scatters and makes a bigger wet rice mess. It's horrible. I hate it.

Watermelon: Aaaah watermelon. A staple at any summer cookout, a must-stock in my kitchen this time of year. There's really nothing quite as refreshing as a slice of cold watermelon. Except in my house we don't do slices. In addition to not giving you good visibility to the choking hazard that are watermelon seeds (and before you say it - yes, we buy seedless, but there are still seeds - they aren't seed-free, just seedless), slices create wet, slurpy, disgusting messes of children. In our house we make "watermelon fries"; my husband cuts watermelons into these thin, french-fry sized pieces. They're fantastic finger food and are still messy - but don't cause the giant dripping disaster that a whole slice is guilty of doing. And can someone please explain to me why it is that watermelon - which is clearly red or a redish-pinkish color - causes orange stains in clothes that are also close to impossible to get out? Thank goodness for OxiClean gel...

No seriously. This stuff has saved more articles of clothing in my house. Pen, grease, watermelon... it's awesome.
And no, OxiClean didn't pay me to say that. But if they want to give me some free gel, I'l take it.

Look, I'm a fan of my kids and I let the messes happen. You don't even want to know the playroom disaster I'm going to look at when I get up from writing this post, or what my daughter is doing to the leftover pancake my son just gave her right now. Making messes, getting dirty - it's all part of being a kid, and I'm OK with that. I don't stop giving my kids the things that make the messes...

...but you better believe that I've been working to help teach them how to clean them up.

"What kind of mess can I make with that....?"

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