03. April 2013 · Comments Off on New York Times’ At War Blog – “War on the Heels of a Wedding” · Categories: Uncategorized

Whew! It’s been a crazy-fun time in el globo de Sanderlin. I’m not sure if that actually means anything in Spanish, but it sounds right to me. I just got back from a family trip to Costa Rica and while I was gone this essay I wrote appeared on the New York Times’ At War blog.

19. March 2013 · Comments Off on My response to HuffPo “lavish” story · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

You can read my response to the Huffington Post story about how the military has been “lavished” with money lately, here:



Blue Star Families Logo


Mommy and Daddy are fighting again.

It started as a normal enough fight, one about money. It’s always about money.

But then it got ugly. They started yelling, and threatening. Little Brother and Little Sister happened to be nearby. Daddy grabbed them and held a knife to their throats. Daddy threatened to cut them, to cut off the blood and oxygen their bodies need to survive. Not one to be swayed by manipulation, Mommy called Daddy’s bluff, saying, “Go ahead. I don’t care. You want to kill them? Fine. By. Me.”

Little Brother screamed, terrified. Little Sister’s eyes grew wide, showing her feelings of betrayal. These were their parents. The people they trusted. The people who were supposed to look out for them. The kids had done nothing wrong. The money problems weren’t their fault. They had simply been going about life, doing exactly what they were supposed to do, only to be caught in their parents’ unthinking, unconscionable crossfire.


And this, my friends, is how sequestration looks to those of us in the military community, and to any others who stand to be a big losers if nothing is done by Friday. It’s an imperfect metaphor, of course. It doesn’t even take into account all that members of the military have sacrificed for the nation during the past 11 years, sacrifices one would hope would elicit more — not less — concern.

The White House and Congress, or simply the two political parties, depending on how you think about it, are the parents — the people my community relies upon to provide what we need to sustain, quite literally, our very lives. And now, in their bickering, they’re holding us hostage, each hoping the other will blink before one of them slips up and kills US.

In 2011 the President, frustrated by a Congress that wouldn’t work with him, proposed this horrible idea of sequestration, thinking that surely Congress would never let it get that bad. And Congress, betting that the President wouldn’t let it get that bad, either, voted to approve it, the Budget Control Act of 2011. It was a nothing more than a political game; a do-you-still-beat-your-wife-question in the form of a Congressional Act. And so now here were are. The people who can actually do something to stop the looming disaster, won’t calm down and reason with each other. Worse, they’ve all shown that they’re willing to let innocent people pay for their mistakes.

But back to the metaphor, what do you think will happen when the fight is over? Do you think the kids will ever trust the parents again?

And now that we in the military community know that our leaders — ALL OF THEM — are perfectly willing to hold us hostage in order to win nothing more than political points, we can never again trust their intentions. This game of chicken has already done irreparable damage to the relationship between the military and our political leaders.

If this were a real family, and not simply an analogy, police officers and social workers would be called in because we, the responsible adults, would recognize that these parents are absolutely unqualified, and far too selfish, to be in charge of anything.

21. February 2013 · Comments Off on Drone Parenting · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , , ,


Hi, I’m Rebekah. I’m a ‘drone parent’.

(The picture above is a ‘helicopter parent’ — my sworn enemy.)

I watch my kids from afar. I do not engage in their every activity. I let them argue with other children and I don’t try to settle the arguments. I let them fall down, sometimes getting hurt. When extreme danger in imminent, I swoop in and act, otherwise I just survey the scene from a distance, like the pilot of an unmanned drone.

This is not negligence on my part. This is my parenting strategy, one advocated by experts like these and these. I believe in letting kids make (and learn from) their mistakes while the costs of making mistakes are small. I believe that if I protect them from themselves when they are little, they will not develop the judgement they need to make good choices when they are bigger and the costs of making mistakes are much higher.

My polar opposite is the helicopter parent but, being a drone, I tend to just ignore the helicopters. (I’m letting them learn from their mistakes, too.) But, being helicopters, it seems to be outside of their natures to just ignore me. Case in point:

Last night Bo, my 8-year-old son, had soccer practice. He’s too young to just be dropped off for practice so I have to stay and watch with my other two younger children. Rudy is 4 and Lucy  is 10 months, and neither is AT ALL interested in sitting still and watching their brother play soccer. Rudy wants to run and Lucy wants to crawl, and not even in the same direction. But I’ve found a way to manage both. The soccer area (there are several fields side by side)  has a six-feet-tall fence around the entire complex. There are no breaks in the fence and only one gate, which stays closed during practice. There are usually lots of other siblings running around and Rudy likes to play with them. My solution: I put Lucy in a jog stroller and walk laps around the complex while Rudy plays with her new friends. I’m able to constantly watch Rudy as she plays, even though I am not right next to her, and Lucy stays entertained and happy as we walk. (And I burn a few calories.) Rudy is a pretty obedient kid and likes to follow rules. She’s stays off the soccer fields and doesn’t go near the gate. She can see me at all times and knows to come and find me if she needs me, and I tend to walk right by her every five minutes or so.

I’m pretty proud of this plan. Rudy gets exercise. Mommy gets exercise. Bo gets exercise. Lucy doesn’t scream for an hour. Everyone is safe. Everyone is happy.

Well, almost everyone.

Last night as I was approaching where Rudy was playing at that moment, another mother stormed up to me, flanked on either side by three children who looked to be between 9 and 15. When I was few feet away she spat out, “Is Rudy your child?” (Naively expecting her to tell me how adorable my little girl is) I smiled brightly and said, “Yes!”

“When I asked her who was watching her, she pointed at you,” the lady said accusingly.

“Yes, I am watching her,” I replied (not quite as brightly as before. I was beginning to see where this was going.)

“Well, don’t you think you should be with her if you are watching her?” she demanded.

“No, no I don’t,” I replied and I kept on walking.

The lady’s jaw dropped and when I glanced back over my shoulder she was walking in the other direction, leaving.

I’d love to say that the encounter didn’t get to me, but it did. As parents, I think we all worry that we’re screwing up, and nothing makes us worry more than another parent telling us that we’re screwing up. I spent the next 20 minutes reminding myself that I am a good mom; that I am not negligent; that Rudy really was safe and had never been out of my sight. Then I went to my mean place and noted internally that the woman had three kids, all at least middle school-aged, who were weirdly attached to their mom in public…

But that’s not fair, so I’ll stop.

The thing is, if you do parenting well, you’ll work yourself out of a job. If you over-parent, you’ll find yourself parenting those kids well into their 30s and even 40s, and possibly parenting their kids, too.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

…but I’m a slow runner, so I’m used to it.

My friend Lisa Cullen, the brilliant author of the brilliant novel Pastors’ Wives, asked me to participate in this little exercise in navel gazing. Never one to turn down an opportunity to check out my distended-from-three-pregnancies, still-pierced-because-I-was-in-college-in-the-’90s belly button, I accepted.

Basically, at some time a few months ago some writers came up with these questions and then sent them out to some writer friends, who sent them out to writer friends, and everyone posted their responses on their blogs. It’s pretty much a chain letter, but one for people who type all day and have books to promote. It probably started with Gillian Flynn and Nicholas Sparks, but now they’re down to me.

I tagged Lori Volkman and Molly Blake, and they should have their posts up next week, so be sure to click over and check out their belly buttons, too. (I hear Lori has an outie. Just kidding. The only thing I know about her navel, is that it’s Naval. BTW, is “Naval Gazing” the name of a military blog yet? It should be…)

I attempted to tag Siobhan Fallon but someone had already beat me to it. Still, you can read her responses here.

Anyway, read on to learn more about what I do when I’m trying to ignore my kids:

What is your working title of your book? Do I really have to answer this? Okay, It’s “Afghan Y/A Novel”. Makes you wanna just run right out and buy it, doesn’t it? Honestly, I keep waiting for that one brilliant line of dialog that is both foreshadowing and clever. It will course from my brain, through my veins, into my fingertips and just click itself out on the keyboard with a certainty like an epiphany. So, uh, yeah, for now it’s “Afghan Y/A Novel” — I suspect that at one point in time, before he stumbled into lightness, Milan Kundera was probably working on a book called “Somewhat Depressing Czechs in the ’60s” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez spent many months writing “Overly-dramatic Colombians” before he struck cholera-gold … I have faith. Someday my title will come…

Where did the idea come from for the book? The Hunger Games. I LOVED reading The Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins brilliantly wove together a tragic and riveting tale that also serves as a criticism of how modern Americans are so far removed from the realities of our own long war. At least that’s how I read it… Anyway, after spending most of this past decade trying to get people to be more interested in Karzais than Kardashians, it occurred to me that I could take a note from Suzanne Collins and present that message as entertainment! For children!

In the words of Madeleine L’Engle: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

What genre does your book fall under? I suppose the working title gives this one away, but it’s Young Adult. I think. Who knows? My early readers have told me that it’s too graphic and violent for kids. We shall see…

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Another horrible question! See, the thing is, I have three little kids. I NEVER go to the movies. The movies we watch at home are always on “Pizza Party Movie Night” (every Friday in the Sanderlin household, sometimes followed by dancing on the coffee table) and tend to feature cartoon characters in the starring roles. And I don’t really watch TV, but I don’t mean that in a “I’m-too-intellectual-to-watch-TV” way. Rather, I watch a crapload of “House Hunters International”, “American Pickers” and “Storage Wars” while I’m painting my toenails or watching the baby crawl. There are no teen stars on those shows. I even googled “teenage actors” to try to answer this question and pulled up an IMDb listing of 160 actors — NONE of whom I’d ever heard of. So I will pretend-answer this question using my only frames of reference:

Daniel Radcliffe, circa 2000.

Kirsten Dunst, circa 1998

Jerry O’Connell, circa 1986

Dev Patel, circa 2008

Jake Gyllenhaal, circa 2005

Russell Crowe, pretty much anytime

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? In the years following the war, the American ambassador to Afghanistan and his wife are kidnapped by the Taliban and their three children have to use wits and survival skills to get to safety and to help their parents.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I’m working with an agent now, so here’s hoping this book finds a home with a publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  Well, I’ve been working on it for nearly a year now and it’s still called “Afghan Y/A Novel”, so you do the math… But, during that year I gave birth, moved 800 miles alone with three kids, and saw my husband off on his ninth deployment. (Guess where? Afghanistan! It’s much easier to stomach another deployment when I can think of him as my one-man researching team.)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The Hunger Games and the Shipbreaker series by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? My husband, and all of the amazing troops and military families I’ve come to know since marrying into this parallel universe. Seriously. I know that’s a sappy answer, but it’s the truth. Scout’s honor.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It is very, very accurate. If you read about a place in the book, that place is really there in Afghanistan. When the children use a survival tactic or martial arts technique, those are tactics that would actually work in that situation.  My dream (though I’m told that the book business doesn’t really think like this) would be to incorporate some interactivity in the e-book version so that when the kids in the story use a technique, young readers can click on a link that will take them to a video of a survival expert demonstrating and discussing the technique. And then children can overthrow their parents! No, no … I don’t really mean that. (But, kids, it would work. Nudge, nudge.)

14. February 2013 · Comments Off on Missing (in)Action · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , , ,
Yes – this is for real. Today, one day before Valentine’s Day, the House Armed Services Committee invited the Pentagon’s top brass on a date to talk about sequestration — and then stood them up. (This was what the room looked like at about two hours into the meeting, toward the end. The screenshots were taken 5 minutes apart at 1:30. ) I can’t quite make out who the Representatives  there are —the ones who where there for their own freakin’ meeting, mind you — and I don’t really want to give them too much praise for simply doing their jobs (but, hey, good on ya’!), but I can tell you that the wall of uniforms in the top pic? Yeah, those guys — they definitely had better things to do.
(I mean, really, what was going on in DC today that was 1) so pressing that all of these Representatives couldn’t be at their own meeting, but 2) not pressing enough to require the presence of any of these military commanders? Maybe Beyonce was in town…)
***UPDATE- My good friend Ellery, who has been working in Washington politics for many years now, tells me that these pictures were taken around the same time the Majority called a vote on the House floor. In other words, the seats were empty because the Representatives had gone to vote. Fair enough. The vote, in case you are wondering, was “To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to clarify that houses of worship are eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes.”
So, yeah, that’s totally pressing… Totally worth blowing off the heads of every branch of the military right before Congress’ lack of action decimates the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, even as we are still dealing with terrorism and nuclear threats.
[bangs her head against the wall]
Here’s a list of some of the people who should never be allowed the privilege of (not) serving their constituents again:

Members of the Committee

For the 113th Congress, the House Armed Services Committee will be led by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) serving as the Ranking Member.  The following members will serve on the Committee:

Updated: January 9, 2013



Molly Blake  and I wrote an opinion piece (though it is completely factual) for CNN.com today about the disaster waiting to happen, and in some cases already happening, should Congress not step up and prevent sequestration. You can read it here.

We couldn’t go into the second and third order effects of sequestration because of space and theme constraints, but there are many. For starters, the economies of military towns will suffer greatly. DoD civilians will be the first to be laid off and many have already been issued furlough notices. Who among us can afford to lose a day’s pay each week? That will be felt by every restaurant, store, car dealership, real estate agent, and so forth and so on. Further, some estimates say that as many as 200,000 active duty troops could be dismissed from service. Aside from that gesture from a seemingly not-so-grateful nation (“Welcome Home. You’re Fired.”) those lay offs will further hurt any businesses located near military towns.

And then on to the third order effects, of which there are many. The non-Defense cuts under sequestration include programs like WIC, and in some areas 30 percent of WIC recipients are in military families. Also on the chopping block? Civilian mental health resources. So, in this, the age of PTSD and TBI plaguing the military community, and school shootings and other acts of inexplicable rage horrifying the nation, we’re actually considering offering LESS help for the mentally ill. God help us all.

It’s a very scary situation, and it’s even worse for those who are deployed now, getting ready to deploy, and for the people who love them. Without a doubt, troops in combat zones this year will have less training and equipment than troops have had in the past. And I just can’t imagine any member of Congress being okay with sending his or her own child or spouse into a situation like that.

A soldier of the 170th U.S. Army Infantry Brigade, returned from Afghanistan, reunites in Germany with his family.




For weeks now I’ve been mulling over the issues raised by Ashley Broadway, the lesbian Officer’s wife who was denied membership in the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses. I have literally written seven very different versions of this post trying to ferret out my thoughts on the matter. On the one hand, I get why Ashley wants to join the Officers Spouses’ Club, at least I think I do. I suspect she’s trying to knock down some walls, and I support her in that. But, honestly, it’s hard for me to be excited and passionate about anyone being allowed to join a group that won’t let me in — and therein lies the rub.

My husband is Enlisted. I am an Enlisted wife. (And why does that feel like a dirty little secret?) So though I have an ID card (not having one is the reason they gave for excluding Ashley), my ID isn’t good enough to get me into the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses — and that stings. No matter what justification they might give for being exclusive, the very name of the organization smacks of snobbery. And, yes, I know there are some Enlisted Spouses Clubs at other posts, but there isn’t one at Bragg. Even if there was, ‘separate but equal’ is not exactly a respected American value.

In researching what to write on this issue, I found a newsletter for the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses and it made me cry — actual wet, ugly, tears. There were notices of tennis lessons, craft meetings, play groups and other social activities. The club was bursting with community and support. In other words, the exact things I searched for but had a hard time finding during the almost 10 years I spent at Ft. Bragg; the exact things that might have helped me ward off two bouts of clinical depression. All those years I kept thinking these types of activities would happen through my Family Readiness Group (FRG) — the Army’s-sponsored family support groups — and so, with the tireless efforts of others (many of them Officers’ wives) I volunteered countless hours with my FRG, only to see nearly every effort I poured myself into fizzle out for lack of volunteers. The most likely volunteers, I now realize, had their own club; one I and most of the other wives were not allowed to join.

Some background: The Officer/Enlisted divide was the most shocking thing for me to absorb when I married into the military world. I didn’t grow up in a military family and I was raised to believe that all people were worth the same, a value I hold dearly and deeply and one that has often put me at odds with my military world. My civilian friends are usually shocked to learn about some of the O/E separations and often describe it as a caste system. I don’t disagree with that assessment. Honestly, even 10 years after the initial shock, I still find many of the separations to be ridiculous and offensive. During those years, I helped advise the White House on military family policies; shared the stage with the President and several Cabinet members; gave hundreds of hours to military family causes and had my writings on military family issues published by dozens of national and local news outlets, and yet there’s a large segment of my world that still assumes I have nothing to offer them because of the “E” on my military dependent ID.

Is a deployment really that different for a Captain’s wife than it is for a Sergeant’s wife? Do we not all experience the same loneliness? The same frustrations settling into another new community? The same hardships in attaining our own educational and career goals? The same worries for our children’s adjustments and futures? And if our spouses can manage to accept, respect and work together, why in the world can’t we?

As the years passed, I came to understand that the military has rules — necessary rules — regarding fraternization between Officers and enlisted soldiers. And, actually, I agree with many of those rules. A commander can’t hang out with those he commands. I get that. And the commanded don’t really want to hang out with their commanders after hours. Makes sense to me. I have no problem with the Army maintaining separate Officers’ Clubs and Enlisted Clubs for this reason. Problem is, Ft. Bragg did away with those clubs a few years ago. Now there’s just the All Ranks Club — and everyone is welcomed there. Which makes it all the more puzzling that, though there is no longer a Ft. Bragg Officers’ Club, there is still an Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses.

There’s a story every military spouse has heard, a cautionary tale. I don’t think anyone knows who actually said it and when but, like any good fable, it is used to remind us to listen to our better angels. It goes like this: A commander entered a meeting of a spouses’ group and told the ladies to seat themselves according to rank. The wives all shuffled around with the highest ranking soldier’s wife taking the first seat and so forth and so on right down to the private’s wife, who took the last seat. The commander then sternly said to the crowd, “Ladies, you have no rank,” and walked out angrily.

But even with this oft-repeated and much-beloved tale, why is it that we — especially after more than a decade of war — excuse and ignore the institutionalized rank-wearing that takes place in social clubs? Why do we even tolerate the existence of clubs whose very names are rank-based, and based on a rank that none of us — only our spouses — actually wear? And why would any forward thinking commander encourage his or her spouse to be involved in one of these organizations, particularly considering that the all-inclusive FRGs exist for exactly the same purpose and could really use more volunteers?

I know that these clubs are largely benevolent organizations and that they truly do some good work. They raise money for charities and much of that money goes to help enlisted families. (Which, while needed and certainly well-intentioned, is a bit patronizing…) But if the women involved actually wanted to help the broader military community — if they actually wanted to help enlisted families — they’d pour their efforts into organizations that include all military families and, in that way, would actually come to know the needs of enlisted families firsthand. Because then they’d know that the biggest need of any military spouse — Officer, Enlisted, gay, straight, young, old, regardless of race, regardless of religion — is friendship. And it’s hard to be friends when they won’t let you in the door.


I’m not a monster. If anything, I’m usually an over-empathizer. I hear about someone else’s bad times and I immediately feel their pain, imagine myself in their shoes, and start emoting. So Friday, when the news broke about the Sandy Hook Elementary nightmare — about all those innocent babies being killed for no reason at all — I was shocked. I was transfixed by the news footage. I was outraged. I was disgusted. And I was so very grateful for my own children’s safety. I gathered my daughters in the room with me and kept them directly in my sight for so long that poor Lucy took her afternoon nap in her high chair. My son’s school bus couldn’t bring him home fast enough, and I greeted him at the door with a bear hug when it did.

And then my life went on.

We cleaned out the garage, hung Christmas lights and ran errands on Saturday and on Sunday we all went to the beach, as a family. I hadn’t forgotten the tremendous pain being felt in Connecticut. And it certainly wasn’t that I didn’t care. But it wasn’t happening in my life and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. So I just. kept. moving.

I read a news story yesterday where a woman in Newtown, Conn. was interviewed about all the community there is going through and she somewhat angrily wondered if the rest of America really understood or if everyone else had just gone back to life as usual.

That was a sentiment I could understand. For 10 years now I’ve been smack dab in the middle of the community fighting America’s longest war and I’ve written, literally, thousands of words pleading with the rest of the country to notice us; to notice our deaths, our widows, our maimed warriors, our damaged children, our broken homes, our suicides, and now, our budget cut fears. And, of course, millions of Americans have noticed, helped and shown support. But deep into survival mode I, like that woman in Newtown, could only see all that was crumbling around me, and those gestures and kind words from others weren’t enough — not when faced with the stupidity of pop culture and the ridiculousness of what passed for news. Drowning in a 24-hour-news cycle of Snookie, Kardashians and political sex scandals, it seemed like the rest of the country had no stomach for, nor interest in, all that was being destroyed and sacrificed in my world.

So, to that lady in Newtown, I’d like to say, “I get it. Maybe not like you get it, but I do care. We all do. We want to help but we don’t know what to do, so we just keep moving. You are in our hearts, our thoughts  and our prayers because we don’t know how else to help. But your deaths are our deaths, your pain is our pain, your heroes are our heroes. We hug our babies and we think of yours. We drive by our schools and we think of Sandy Hook. We are all with you.”

And I can’t help but think that during all these awful years of war there have been many Americans who read my words and wanted to say the same things to me.




I recently got asked to submit some story ideas to a magazine that focuses on healthy and organic parenting. I’ll pause so that those of you who have seen the petrified chicken nuggets rolling around my car, often in styrofoam cups, can regain your composure.

My two older kids are some of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever encountered. I can literally name everything the two of them are willing to eat. Here goes: Bo will eat chicken nuggets, french fries, pepperoni pizza (but not any other kind), cheese, salami, bacon, pancakes, hot dogs, cheese quesadillas, ice cream (but only vanilla) and apples. That’s it. Rudy, I’m pretty sure, eats her own weight daily in cheese and yogurt, but she will also eat cheese pizza (but not pizza with toppings), chicken nuggets, french fries, cheese quesadillas, pancakes, bacon, bananas, ice cream, grapes and jello. That’s it. They both will actually shriek if you give them something green. Bo pretends that he’ll eat corn on the cob, but he actually won’t. Rudy doesn’t even pretend.

So how does a mother who guiltily feeds her children only foods that are yellow or beige write for the organic world? With a lot of stickers, that’s how.

You see, I’ve already gone to the bad place — many times — in the fight to make them eat healthier. My husband and I eat healthy and, as babies, Bo and Rudy would eat anything. I used to feed them steamed and pureed kale and they happily slurped it up. But not anymore. Dinner has become a nightly battle, a test of strength. And, let’s be honest, the kids are kicking my ass.

In fact, a few weeks ago I served them each a Kid Cuisine — a Kid freakin’ Cuisine — a frozen dinner designed specifically for picky-eating kids. They devoured the chicken nuggets and the gummy bears but neither nibbled at even one corn niblet. I urged, I begged, and finally I threatened. I told Rudy that if she didn’t eat one little niblet, I was going to spank her. She looked at the corn, looked at me, then got up from the table, walked in front of me — AND BENT OVER.  She chose the spanking over eating one tiny kernel of corn. That’s what I’m dealing with here, people. (And, yes, I did spank her then. I had to.)

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany: What if I rewarded them AND appealed to their constant competing and bickering? I created a sticker chart with both of their names and “Food” as the first category. Then I had extra room so I made a wishlist of other behaviors I’d like to encourage, adding “Cleaning Up”, “Chores”, “Playing Nice” and “Respect”. They get a sticker every time they do what I tell them to do. The one with the most stickers at the end of each week gets a prize. It’s working okay. They love beating each other and run to count up their stickers, but it’s only been moderately effective at getting them to eat more healthy food.

So then I decided to just trick them into healthy eating. Years ago I’d heard about Jessica Seinfeld’s (Jerry’s wife) cookbook that features recipes for sneaking vegetable purees into brownies and what-not. I scoffed at the notion when the book was released, thinking, “Kids should just eat vegetables. I if I hide the spinach in brownies then they won’t learn to just eat spinach.” Fast-forward several years and I have kids who won’t eat corn. They won’t even eat mashed potatoes. They run screaming from spinach. Bring on the deception!

I’m about three weeks into the puree experiment and it’s working pretty well. I’m already cooking and pureeing baby food for Lucy, so now I just make bigger batches to use in the big kids’ food — but I haven’t been too bold yet. So far I’ve made pancakes with sweet potato puree, mac and cheese with butternut squash and cauliflower and a few other similar easy sells, and they’ve at least tasted what I made — a major win for me. But with kids who won’t eat meatloaf, chili or many of the other kid-friendly foods features, I’m kind of at a loss.

So tell me, how do you get your kids to eat?