Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

Yesterday, I read an article in the newspaper titled "100 Days of Eating Right." In case you don't have time to read the article, here's the summary: A family of 4 in Charlotte decided to get rid of all the junk in their diets, meaning no processed foods. They are only eating "real" food, those that contain only five ingredients or fewer. Oh, and they have a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old. So, the mom is pretty much making everything from scratch, but using no sugar (or maybe just no refined sugar?), no white flour, and are buying nothing like Goldfish or breakfast bars for the kids to snack on. I'm enthralled.

According to the article, the family wasn't so healthy before. They ate white bread (gasp!) and took the kids to Chick Fil A, the article reports. Now the mom goes so far with this that she even makes cookies (without sugar - too refined) for the kids to take to the birthday parties they're invited to.

Reading the article really got me thinking. I will admit that while I have the best intentions when it comes to my kids' health and nutrition, the reality is that they eat a lot more junk than I'd like. And when I say "junk", I'm not talking about cookies or candy. I just mean easy, convenient, ready-to-go foods.

 I am a bit nutty about what I eat, and eat very little junk. We actually do not eat white bread. I eat meat about 2-3 times a week, at most.The kids eat lots of fruit, and a few veggies (although those are fairly limited, and it's getting worse). But they are picky (Ava more than Davis at this point), and I cater to that pickiness a lot more than I like to admit. Davis snacks on Cheerios, Goldfish, and Trader Joe's breakfast bars. Ava has an affinity for those high-fructose corn syrup-laden "fruit" know, the gummy ones that contain no actual fruit? (I no longer purchase these, but they are begged for EVERY time we go to the store).

Back to this issue of pickiness for a moment, and a couple of points I need to make. First, I am certain none of us recall ever being given a choice about what we ate. At least I don't. By the time I was Ava's age (5ish), I know that I was eating dinner with my parents every night (and I would even wait until 7pm!), and I just ate what was put in front of me. And I don't recall there being much that I didn't like. My mom can probably tell you better, but I'm pretty sure the rule was that I needed to try what was on my plate, even if I didn't think I would like it. Now, my own daughter, as you may know, is a teeny bit dramatic. So, if something as disgusting as say, a tomato were to cross her plate, it would be greeted with extreme and visible repulsion. Lots of "EWWW!!" and even some shudders to really get the point across that the vile tomato is not welcome. It really gets under my skin. I mean, please. I have prepared your dinner. Please do not insult the chef. Just taste the damn thing.

I also feel that I have gone wrong somewhere along the way when Ava announces, "I really don't eat any animals. Only nuggets from Chick Fil A and cheeseburgers from McDonalds." We need to work on changing that to, " I eat only grass-fed beef and free range chicken." But, being 5, that's probably not going to happen just yet.

I want my kids to eat what we eat, but our schedules hardly ever work for us to eat as a family, and Ava & Davis eat early. So, they get kid-friendly fare. I'm not happy about it. Really. Tonight, for instance, they had chicken nuggets. Gross. (And if you have ever watched Jamie Oliver show a group of West Virginia school kids how nuggets are make, you will understand why I flinch at the idea of serving nuggets to my kids. if you haven't watched it, here you go:

So, back to the nuggets at my house tonight. Ava ate 3 of them, and to make it worse, I allowed her to dip them in ranch. This was probably Davis' third or fourth time being offered nuggets, and he refused to eat them. In fact, he tasted one, and immediately spit it out. I offered him a bite from my hand, and he very clearly shook his and and said, "NO." Okay. Maybe I should take this as a not-so-subtle hint. And maybe I should stop and ask myself why I am trying to make this toddler acquire a taste for something he never needs to like. Is it just to make dinnertime easier for me? If so, it's time for some rethinking.

So, while I'm not willing to go as far as the family in the article, I do find myself freshly inspired to do right by my kids, and put into their bodies the healthiest foods I can manage. You definitely won't find me forcing my kids to turn down treats at a birthday party - to me, that's just denying one of the great pleasures of childhood. But maybe we can start passing up the free cookie at Harris Teeter. And maybe, just maybe, I'll start making one dinner for the whole family, finicky eaters be damned.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summertime, and the living is....easy?

Every year, I get so excited about summer. I have visions of relaxing beach vacations, fun days at the pool, cookouts with friends, kids staying up late to run around and catch lightning bugs. (Insert sound of record screeching to a stop here). That vision of summer is just that - a vision. Not my reality. I'm not alone, I know, but here's a breakdown of those fun summer events in my world:

1) Relaxing Beach Vacation: (hang on while I catch my breath from laughing at that notion). We got to the beach pretty frequently, and try to stay for a week at a time. From the get-go, it's anything but laid-back. First, there's the packing. That involves moving the entire contents of our house into our car. Then we load both kids and the dog, and off we go on what should be a 3.5 hour drive. But no. We must take bathroom breaks. Or food breaks. And frankly, I think the husband takes as many of those breaks as anyone else. In the summer, meals have to  be consumed in the car since we have the previously-mentioned dog with us. Feeding a meal to a toddler in the car is not exactly ideal. I don't think they're known for their tidy eating skills. Finally, we arrive at the beach, and we then unpack the contents of the car into the condo. This requires several trips, even using a luggage cart. Ava then immediately wants to go to the pool. And we just want to grab a beer, a couple of chairs, and go sit on the beach and let the kids run around and wear themselves out. Isn't that how it's supposed to go?

So, a typical day at the beach goes something like this for us:
1) Spend one hour getting kids sunscreened & in bathing suits. Hope baby does not pee in his swim diaper, since they lack absorbency.
2) Gather towels, beach toys, snacks, chairs, hats, sunglasses.
3) Head to beach.
4) Realize we forgot the cooler, and kids are thirsty.
5) Go back up to condo, get cooler.
6) Listen to baby melt down because he has a sippy cup and his sister has a juice box.
7) Go back to condo to get juice box for baby.
8) Return to beach, only to find hot, whiny children who want to go to the pool.
9) Go to pool.
10) Eat lunch, rest, and repeat steps 1-9 later in the day.

Please note that the beach tends to have a nice breeze, while the pool is surrounded by a wood fence and gets no breeze. And we live in the South, so 98 degree days are kind of the norm. Plus, we pay good money to have a pool membership at home, so can we not just pretend the pool at the beach does not actually exist?

And speaking of the pool, that's a lot of effort, too. I'm not exactly complaining. I feel so lucky to have a great pool close to home that we belong to, where I can wear my kids out. But, you may know that a 15-month-old boy at a pool requires much work on the part of adult caregivers (me). He would jump straight into the deep end and think it was lots of fun. So, I spend lots of time in the water with him, thus feeling guilty that I am not giving my (almost) 5-year-old the same attention while she is trying to show off her new swimming skills. The good thing about the pool, though, is that when we go late in the afternoon, I pack pajamas, feed the kids dinner, shower them, and dress them in pj's before heading home. They love the pool showers, and Davis the semi-public nudity as an opportunity to run around the locker room holding on to what we around here call his "boy parts."

As we approach the end of July, I can't believe that summer is getting away so quickly. I had lots of great things I wanted to do with the kids, and there's so much we haven't done. I feel like I spend lots of time thinking about how great it will be when school starts back up, but I know I'm going to miss our not-so-laid-back summer days. The temperatures here are absurdly high right now. Heat indexes are way above 100, even 110 this week. So, despite the heat that's keeping us indoors, I'm going to try to make the most of these last weeks of summer, even if the days don't quite line up with my picturesque vision of the season. After all, September will be here before we know it, and who knows? I might miss having my little munchkins around all day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Not to Wear

In Motherhood, there are real challenges (sick kids, discipline, time management), and superficial ones. The superficial one that's on my mind today is Mom Fashion. Specifically. Mom Fashion for the stay-at-home-mom. (That's me, if you didn't know).

Once upon a time, I had a full-time job at a Fortune 500 company. While I did not particularly enjoy my work, I did enjoy dressing for work. We weren't too know, business casual and denim on Fridays, so I had a little leeway in my fashion choices. I had a closet full of Banana Republic, J.Crew, and  boots and heels galore. I shopped ALL THE TIME. You might even say I had a little problem. My Am Ex bills at the time would have proven that to be true. Anyway,  while I do realize that BR and J.Crew are not exactly high fashion (come on, I did have a little budget), I think I always managed to look pretty good and put together. And I wore heels every day. This was also before ballet flats came into fashion (thanks, Tory Burch!), so heels were it, if you didn't want to look dowdy.

(Prior to my married days, I shared a house with my friend Katie (you can find her over here, at Run This Life). We were about the same size, and shared a shopping addiction, so we got to double our wardrobes during our cohabitation. Fun times.)

Fast forward about 5 years, and my fashion choices have changed a bit. I stay at home with my kids. I don't really have work clothes, and, besides, I would feel silly strutting around town in a pant suit and heels. Not that I even want to. In the cooler weather, I think I wear jeans every day. Summer brings about a few dresses, skirts, and lots of shorts. I used to never wear shorts. Ever. So, these days, I find myself trying to strike a balance between practicality and style. I try hard to get out of my workout attire before noon. I try to have decent hair (read: not too dirty). And I try to wear makeup every day. I'm better about this during the school year. Our preschool has some pretty well-attired mommies, so I try to keep up. And I've finally lost all my baby weight (though I'd like to lose 5 more lbs), so I feel like I can get back to investing in my wardrobe. My current style goal is to accessorize better. So, working on that. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a cute dress and some fabulous wedges:

(Image from

Cute, right? I feel good about them.
I also stumbled on Saltwater Dreams, a great fashion blog written by a mom, which has given me inspiration to try to look a little more put together when I'm out. The Look for Less is another good blog. Designer-inspired, but more budget-friendly prices.

One more thing: I'll be 34 in a few weeks (but that's okay, because Mean Dad is getting ready to turn 40!!). I feel like the 30s are an awesome decade. But dressing in your 30s starts to get a little tricky. I still feel young enough that I want to embrace all the trends, but remaining age-appropriate is becoming important, too. I tried on the cutest dress at Urban Outfitters the other day. From the front, it was great. Flattering, good color, good cut. But then I practiced bending over. You know, like I was picking up a toddler. And you know what? Wardrobe malfunction. Of the worst variety. So, dress returned to the rack, unpurchased.
Also, I think I may be losing my mind a little, because rompers are starting to look kind of cute to me. But I have this rule that I don't wear trends that are also offered to my 5 year old. So, no rompers. No matter how cute (I'm talking to YOU, j.crew. Stop making me want this).

So, my friends. If you have any mom fashion advice or stories you'd like to share, please feel free to do so. In the meantime, I'm off to check out what I'll be wearing for school drop off this fall. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

But They're a Little Bit Cool, Right?

Oh boy. I think I'm really losing my mind. I sort of really have minivan envy.

There. I said it. It's out there in the universe, and I can't take it back. The one thing I swore and vowed that I would never want, as long as I live, is a minivan. I feel like I can maintain a slight bit of my coolness with my mid-sized SUV. I mean, as soon as I get a minivan, I have to start rocking mom jeans, mom hair, and a giant soccer ball sticker on the back of the van, right?

(Oh, but those automatic sliding doors, the roominess, the drop-down DVD screens....I covet such luxuries.) I even went so far as to start looking at used previously enjoyed Odysseys and Siennas on Craigslist the other day. Based on my salivating, you would have thought I was looking at a new BMW or something, but no.

So what brought about this latest case of insanity? I think I can safely blame it on The Family Beach Trip. Yes, the four of us loaded up and headed to the beach last week, which was great. Not so great were the 4 hours in the car each way. Too much stuff, too little room, too much whining, and my poor dog was crammed too tightly between the car seats. Then there's the DVD player. It's housed in one of those travel cases that you have to rig up between the 2 front seats. It doesn't fit so well, and one of us constantly has to adjust it. Or change the DVD. Or the volume. All of which requires contorting your body at some strange 131 degree angle and looking upside-down at the 7-inch DVD screen.

My favorite part of the trip was when I had to climb from the front seat to the trunk part of the SUV to retrieve snacks. (I'd like to mention here that Mr. Mean Mom (aka Mean Dad) asked me, "What bags need to be easily accessible?" to which I replied, "Davis' diaper bag. It has the snacks." So where did the snack-filled diaper bag end up? You guessed it. All the way at the back of the trunk.).

I'm not totally delusional. I know that a van would not solve all the issues of the family road trip. Only a partition like they have in limos would take care of that. Besides, my little SUV is one payment away from being all mine, and I like the idea of extra cash in my pocket (especially with fall wardrobe purchases on the horizon). Just don't be surprised if one day, not too long from now, you see me in the most embarrassing of all cars. No, no. Not an El Camino. A minivan. But don't look for any mom stickers on the back - you won't find them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

To Blog, or Not to Blog

I've been absent for a while now, pondering whether or not I really want to be a blogger. It seems narcissistic, self-indulgent, and egotistical. But it's also therapeutic, and kind of fun. So, I'm back. The thing is, I REALLY want to post pictures, so I need to do a little more research about blog privacy and things like that, just to see what the actual likelihood of the kids or me being stalked via blog truly is.

So, today's topic: Dads. I was out to dinner with some friends last week, all of whom happen to be moms. As it often does, the conversation turned to What Happens When We Leave the Kids With the Husbands. All of the girls had complaints. Big ones. Seems their husbands do nothing, or if they do, it's only with much complaint. Hearing all the griping made me wonder if the men really think watching their spawn for the night is so bad, or if it's all in our heads.

In preparation for a night out, we all seem to do the same thing, which is assume the husbands are incapable of doing anything at all. So, we feed the kids, bathe the kids, dress the kids for bed. All that's left for the men-folk to do is read a story or two and tuck their angelic offspring into bed, crack open a beer, and turn on Sports Center.

Why do we assume our men are so incapable of taking care of our kids? I mean, sure, the day to day activities are better done by the moms. I realize that statement may throw the Women's Movement back about 60 years, but seriously. There are few exceptions to this rule. We are the ones that have the kids because biologically, we are better caretakers. That's not to say that men don't have their own unique gifts to give their children. Dads are awesome. I have nothing but the best memories of my own Dad during my childhood. Talk about being there. From the time that I can remember, Saturday mornings were time with my dad. He took me out to breakfast, he took me to the pool, to the mall, ice skating.....he was completely involved, and I loved it.

My own husband is pretty much a rockstar dad. He has been known to spend multiple hours playing dollhouse with Ava, and he doesn't even complain. I, on the other hand, am not so into playing with my kids, preferring to observe and be amused while they entertain themselves.

But even knowing how good my baby daddy is, I still tend to lecture, or at least give detailed instructions on how to manage our children when I'm not there. And I feel the need to check in. And if I'm out on a daytime excursion, I feel compelled to rush through my activities so that I can return home and relieve him of his duties. Even when he insists that he is fine. Talk about silly.

Back to my friends and their husbands, though. I think we, as women, tend to complain about everything our husbands don't do, but we don't really even give them the chance to step up to the plate. What do we really think will happen if we go for a Girls' Night Out and don't have all the little details taken care of when we leave? Will our kids starve? No. They may not eat the organic, from-scratch meal we would have made, and dinner might even involve dinosaur-shaped chicken, but they will eat. And baths? Maybe they'll get one, maybe they won't. Does it matter? It's one night. What will happen is that they'll enjoy a fun night with Daddy, while we get a night away from having to worry with all the minutiae that we take care of all day and night.

So, ladies, next time you leave your kids with Daddy, skip the directions. Don't lecture. Don't tell him which pajamas they need to wear, or which sippy cup they should drink from. Let him take care of it. It really will be okay. He's their parent, too. And they'll all survive.