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Working the Food Chain

Cora’s now somewhat confident in her
ability to feed herself; her manual skills have gotten much better;
she can pincer grasp like a pro and (almost) always gets the food
into the mouth on the first try. Combine that with a few teeth and
a lot of practice eating solid foods, and she’s become a
somewhat independent eater – I rarely have to spoon feed her,
preferring instead to simply dice up whatever we’re having
and allow her to eat with her hands.

This is well and good, except that it’s coinciding with
another shift: she’s getting less of her “meals”
from breast milk and more from solids while growing at an
astonishing rate, which means she’s hungrier more often and
moving into needing consistent snack times.

Unfortunately, those snack times often seem to be during a car

I try to keep Maddie from automatically
assuming she’ll be having a snack every time we get in the
car – it’s her version of eating a snack while vegging
out in front of the t.v., I guess, and I’m working to get her
out of that. But we do seem to end up in the car mid-morning a lot,
probably because it’s nowhere near nap time and there’s
less danger of Cora falling asleep in the car (and thus skipping
her precious afternoon nap later on) during that time.

So snack time comes up, and of course I’m prepared – I
think all moms travel with a grocery bag of snacks most of the
time. Maddie begs for some food, I run through her options, and she
picks one. I hand the container back to her – and Cora sees
it, and promptly begins begging on her own.

Obviously, this is a difficult situation: I can’t set a tray
in front of her with bite-sized snacks. I can’t sit there and
hand her one piece of food at a time (her car seat’s behind
mine and is still rear-facing). What to do? Enter Middle-Man

Cora wants whatever Maddie’s eating, which means I have to be
careful and not pack strawberries for Mad’s snacks. But I
still have to get everything into bite-sized pieces for Cora. So
here’s what happens:

I hand Maddie a Tupperware container of soy chips. She munches
happily until Cora starts complaining. Maddie tries to break off a
small piece for Cora, but either makes it too big or breaks it so
small it looks more like dust than a mouthful. Cora gets frustrated
and begins whimpering. Maddie concedes defeat, and hands me one
(and only one, and that begrudgingly) soy chip. I break off an
appropriate-sized piece and hand it to Maddie, who hands it to
Cora, who grabs greedily and throws it down her throat.

When this food chain works, it works well. But sometimes I
don’t think things through – say, when I pack
Clementine oranges for a snack. I have to peel them at a stop
light, then laboriously saw each segment in half with my fingernail
as I drive, dripping sticky juice all over my lap in the process. I
hand the runny piece to Maddie, who places it palm up in her hand
like an offering to Cora. Cora lunges for it (oranges are her
current favorite) but sometimes the slippery sucker pops out of her
fingers and falls on the seat between them, bleeding orange juice
mockingly for the rest of the trip. Cora screams in frustration
while I frantically saw another piece in half. And so on.

Fortunately for me, Maddie’s very good-natured about this
whole thing, and takes her role of big sister very seriously. So
she’s happy to feed Cora, and even provides a charmingly
objective and matter-of-fact running commentary the whole time,
completely unaware that I’m watching the process myself since
Cora’s got a mirror on her chair that allows us to see each
other in my rear-view mirror. “I got the mango from you, Mom.
I have it in my hand for Cora. She’s reaching for it.
She’s got it. It’s going towards her mouth. Woops! Cora
dropped it. She dropped the mango, Mom. Cora dropped the mango and
it fell between our seats and I can’t see it any more.
Cora’s crying now, Mom. Cora’s crying because she
dropped the mango. Cora’s pounding her feet, Mom. Cora
appears frustrated because she dropped the mango, Mom.”

The commentary is cute and funny, but feels a bit like pressure as
I’m scrambling to prepare Cora’s next bite and, oh yes,
drive the $#@ car safely and keep us all from being killed. And
yes, I have forgotten a couple times and found a pitiful,
dessicated orange segment on the seats days later. It’s
definitely not a perfect system, but until Cora can be trusted with
her own snack cup it’s the best one I’ve got.

So the next time you see a beat-up white car swerving the streets
in Texas, don’t be alarmed. Pull up alongside and
you’ll see a frantic mommy desperately beheading pretzel
goldfish with her teeth. All in a day’s work.


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