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Archive for March, 2010

Smog Check and Otter Pops

This morning the girls and I had breakfast and then headed out the door before eight to get a smog check for the van. When we arrived at the shop, Hannah settled into a spot where she could watch all of the numbers on the computer as our van wheels spun around. Hailey stayed glued to my hip, still snuggly in her pink kitty cat jammies. As I walked her around the lobby I noticed that Michelle Obama was gracing the cover of Newsweek. The title read, “Feed Your Kids Well.” Interesting, I took note. 

It didn’t take long for the men at the shop to notice my six year-old’s enthusiasm for the numbers on their machines. They thought this was pretty great (which so do I on most days). A few minutes into the test, a very overweight man who I’m guessing was the owner came around from the garage carrying two light pink Otter Pops in his greasy hands. With a huge smile he motioned for Hannah to come over. He asked her if she was behaving as well as it seemed like she was through the glass. She blushed and said that she was. He then stuck out his hand offering her a frozen treat. She gave me a somewhat sheepish glance and then turned back to the man and said, “no thank you.”

Mr. Smog then turned straight to me and started in, “Oh, come on Mom. Can’t she just have a little treat? She’s being so good. I already cut them open.”  I kindly thanked him for his thoughtfulness and then proceeded to tell him that we were indeed going to pass. He then turned toward Hailey and began to offer my 9 month old the plastic encased frozen liquid otherwise known as a treat. I again, thanked him but let him know that she would not be consuming this snack at nine months of age…at 8 o’clock in the morning. Looking somewhat disgusted he corrected me that my nine month old could in fact enjoy such a treat if only her mom would let her. I smiled (and bit my tongue). Dejected, he took his frozen iridescent sticks back to the freezer.

On our way out, this same guy just couldn’t let it rest. He approached Hannah again and said, “Honey, how about I give you a bag of microwave popcorn to go?” Really?  Trying hard not to be rude at this point I stepped forward and explained that Hannah has a dairy allergy and while it was a thoughtful gesture, we were going to pass on all food items being offered today. Instead of leaving well enough alone, he then went on to remind me very loudly that Otter Pops do not have dairy in them. I firmly countered that in our house, we don’t eat Otter Pops at eight o’clock in the morning. I then walked the girls to the car.

I really don’t want this to be a blog post about a rude overweight owner of a smog shop or about the nutritional value (or lack there of) of Otter Pops. It’s just that this interaction struck me on several levels.

First, I can’t tell you how tired I am of my children being offered junk at countless venues for simply behaving as they should. It strikes me that these merchants are slowly and collectively turning our children into Pavlovian dogs who anticipate treats at every turn. If our morning were to say involve grocery shopping, a stop at the Post Office followed by a pick up at the cleaners, Hannah would predictably walk away with one organic sucker, one Dumb Dumb and one pineapple candy with a soft center (that is, if I let her partake at every stop). 

I find myself having to remind Hannah often these days (because of the incessant offerings) that we don’t behave because we want to get a treat, but rather that we behave because that’s what children (and adults) ought to do every day. When we got into the van today, Hannah asked me if she was right in the way she’d answered the man’s question about her good behavior. I assured her that she was in fact correct in her assessment. I went on to say that while it was nice of the man to offer her a treat, an Otter Pop at eight in the morning would have left her feeling pretty crummy (which is true). She seemed to understand. We then went on to laugh just a bit about the notion of Hailey hypothetically accepting the Otter Pop and then single-handidly consuming it while buckled in her carseat on the drive home. It lightened the mood.

I know that most vendors offer such niceties because they love to see the expression of joy brought to the faces of children. I’m also smart enough to understand that these sugar laced treats often provide the merchant and parent the necessary time and space to conduct the business that needs to take place while the child is off enjoying their loot. Still, I’m left to wonder what sort of implications this sort of bartering will ultimately bring about. The health implications seem obvious (Michelle Obama’s recent Newsweek article spells this out in simple terms). Perhaps even more worrisome however, are the subtle additives of entitlement and reward-based behavior that are reinforced with each lick of lollypop.

So what’s a mom to do? Put simply, I’m still working this one through. At times, the decision is clear (Otter Pops + Greasy Hands + 8 a.m. = no-brainer).  At other times, the gestures feel more reasonable and fun (the rare trip to the Post Office where Hannah greets Mr. Max and is then offerred a Dumb Dumb and some coloring pages). I can deal with that. What follows are a few thoughts on parenting, food and more. I’d love to hear others from you.

1. Understanding that often we’ll run into situations where the outside world is offering something that we’re not going to allow our children to accept or participate in, we often find ourselves beginning explanations to our kids or others with “In our house we…” The phrase allows the inconsistency to exist while maintaining an internal Stone standard that works for us.

2. Dessert is the exception rather than an ongoing occurrance in our house. That’s the way it worked in my house growing up and that has served me well in life. The rule in our house is as follows: desserts are available on Friday and Saturday evenings and on special occassions (this last clause allows for the exceptions that life brings).

3. Because dessert is an exception, we enjoy really nice desserts when we have them. Last week we sat down to homemade Apple Strudel (it was Vegan and delicious) and a few weeks back we baked and decorated some really great shortbread cookies. That, in my mind, is a treat. It’s set apart and enjoyed together.

4. I’ve come to accept that by choosing to eat a healthy diet and strongly encouraging our children to do the same that we’re setting ourselves up to be viewed as different and even a bit uptight. As an adult, I could frankly care less. For our girls, however, this difference can feel more pronounced. There’s been more than one occassion when Hannah has been teased at school for bringing snacks that other kids weren’t familiar with (things like tofu). While such episodes will never drive me to send her off to Kindergarten with Ding Dongs tucked in her cooler, I do work to find foods that she feels both confident and excited about.

5. The patterns we set for our kids now will contiue on into adulthood. I’m so grateful for the model my mom provided for me in the area of nutrition. My brother and I were encouraged to be involved in meal planning and learned what a proper meal consisted of. We were also the kids who weren’t allowed to have Coke, potato chips, packaged cookies or sugar cereal. It wasn’t until high school summer camp that I realized just how deprived I’d been. Suddenly I had access to every single sugar cereal imaginable for a solid week! I actually called my mom from camp to tell just how much I’d missed out on for the first 16 years of life. When I arrived home, this wise woman humored me in my new found freedom and offerred to buy my whatever cereal I wanted. I made my way through about half a box of Peanut Butter Captain Crucnch before I began longing to return to my former, less-refined (sugar-wise) ways.

I suppose that’s the direction that we’re heading too. And in today’s terms, that can be a tricky road to travel. For our family (you see, there’s that phrase) we’re trying to celebrate the blessing of food and to steward it in a way that honors the bodies we’ve been given. Food is both necessary and pleasurable. Yet so many of today’s treats are handed out in random venues (i.e. smog shops) and for reasons that don’t always match our own standards. This is not meant to be a judgement, but rather a course our family is choosing. When a third of today’s children are overweight or obese and kids’ mental and emotional health has never been worse off, drastic measures seem appropriate and necessary. One can only hope that small individual household decisions will begin to rub off on the collective whole.

…all this from a simple trip to the Smog Shop!   

    

 

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Ladylike

As a child, and really as an adult, being ladylike has never been my strong suit (college roommates can attest to this, although I strongly advise against doing so in this venue). In junior high I was an acolyte from time to time (let’s give a quick shout out to the Lutherans)! Anyway, part of the gig involved wearing a white robe.  In my case the sacred attire covered up the not-so-sacred XL Banana Republic shirts with starched collars, shorts and white high top velcro Reeboks with large bunched up socks.

I can remember my mom in all her graciousness trying to encourage me on the importance of keeping my legs crossed as I held my post as acolyte in the front pew at church. I felt incredibly put out at the time. Somehow it didn’t faze me that the entire congregation filed past me on their way back from the altar at communion. In my mind, there was little room for concern considering that the robe actually covered my entire body. Still, I can distinctly remember my mom walking reverently past me after taking the Lord’s supper with a kind although somewhat flabbergasted look on her face as I sat in junior high defiance – legs uncrossed in my scuffed up shoes. 

 And now, I am a mom of two girls. The first has given me every reason to believe that if our church started to have acolytes, she would definitely want to try this position out and she would seriously entertain the idea of tie dying the robes. And now, here’s a video of our second little lady. Apparently the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree in this household.

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The “Bee Issue”

It was almost time to head to Kindergarten. It was 11:14 to be exact. As I zipped past my desk with little one in tow I caught a quick glance at an unread email titled “Bee Issue.” I quickly clicked on the note and read that there was in fact a bee issue unfolding in the kindergarten classroom and we parents were being informed that we needed to drop our children off in a different location. Okay, simple enough.

I made my way downstairs with Hailey and let Hannah know that we’d be heading to a different area of the campus today because, well, there was a bee issue in her normal territory. She swallowed her last gulp of soy milk and began to probe for more information surrounding the situation at hand. It went something like this:

Q: Mommy, how did you know about the bee issue?

A:  I just read my email and there was a message from school telling me about it

What did the email say exactly?

It said that there was a bee issue in the classroom and that we needed to go to a different classroom for drop-off today

Was it a swarm or just a few?

If it was a swarm, was it a swarm of wasps, or yellow jackets, or Bumble bees or just regular old honeybees?

As we made our way to school, sweet Hannah externally processed every possible angle of this disturbance…

How did the teachers find out that there was a bee issue?

Where were the morning kindergarteners?

What time did the bee issue begin?

How would they take care of the bee issue?

Would there be an open classroom for the afternoon kindergarteners or would they have to share a room with another class?

Would I be able to get her all settled in her new surroundings before leaving today since this was a very unusual start to her day?

Can you vacuum bees up or do you have to spray them?

How could they get into the classroom?

Boy, was she glad that she had a mommy who could tell her about the bee issue so that she’d be ready when she got to school.

How would the morning kindergarten moms know where to get their kids?

Do I think the warm weather caused the bee issue?

Wow.

It was quite a drive. The questions continued all the way to the classroom. And then they stopped. Hannah’s countenance literally changed before my eyes. She took a deep breath, stood straight and tall and marched confidently into the classroom. There, she proclaimed  in the most casual and playful of terms, “It’s not wacky Wednesday today (a much celebrated day that they had a few weeks back) it’s wacky Tuesday!” All the kids laughed. Then they gathered around to listen to all the juicy details of the bee issue told by their beloved teacher. I kissed her on the forehead and left the building.

As I walked back to the car, I replayed the past half hour in my mind while Boo sucked on my shoulder. I found myself resting somewhere between humored and concerned (and frankly short on words after our extended Q and A). On most days Hannah doesn’t strike me as a worrier. She likes to know what’s coming and certainly asks plenty of questions, but the intensity behind this particular set was notable. Ultimately, I left the parking lot pretty sure that her response must have had more to do with the subject at hand (bees) and her mood of the day (a bit more tired than usual). Enough said (okay, maybe not quite). 

Driving home somewhere between Foothill and Victoria the light came on (and I’m not talking about the traffic light here). What just moments before I’d dismissed as a ridiculous overreaction to a set of off-course pollinators was now coming into clearer view. This episode was ultimately bringing to mind a vivid and not-so-attractive picture of …well, myself. Yep. While my introverted nature keeps me from actually verbalizing such ramblings, this sort of chatter plays out in my mind and heart more than I’d like to admit.  Much more than I’d like to admit.

Topics range from what (other than multi-grain crackers, sweet potatoes and breast milk) I’m going to convince Hailey to eat all the way up to whether or not a certain friend is irritated at me due to my inaccessibility and back down around to topics including what I want to be when I grow up and the countless intricacies involving Phil’s professional dating relationship. Are you tired yet? I know I am. This voice, while part of me, does not in fact have to rule me the way it so often does.

Who knew the personal growth a mere kindergarten bee issue could bring about in a single household. On the parental front, I was reminded that my big girl is still little. She finds courage through unraveling the details of her world and through her mommy’s explanations and mere presence. What a privilege to be able to offer her both. As for myself, I was once again challenged to face a side of myself that too often stays hidden from those outside of my soul. Thankfully, I too have a source through which the incessant chattering can be quieted.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of Godwhich transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

 

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This morning Hannah and I left the Boo and Daddy behind in order to get some quality time together. We call these outings big-girl/mommy dates and they do good things for both of our souls. We first headed to Peet’s and the bagel shop, then made our way to farmer’s market and ultimately landed at the bookstore. 

Lately, we’ve been talking about the fact that pretty soon she’ll be turning seven (pretty soon being five months from now). Part of the thrill that comes with the number seven in this household is that she will be given the privilege of cooking dinner for us one night a week. We got the idea from a friend of ours who told us that she began doing so at this age and learned great things through the process. 

In order to get prepared for her junior chef status, we went looking for a  kid’s cookbook this morning. We had a great time browsing (one of Hannah’s favorite things to do). Ultimately we landed on two books; William’s Sonoma Cooking Together and Vegan Yum Yum and had a gift-card to cover all but four dollars worth. While this may seem like a funny combination of reads, the two balance out her need for inspiring and fun pictures and ideas with my need for recipes that we can actually make and ingest with all of our family’s dietary issues.

No sooner had we walked through the door, Hannah was planning which recipe she would tackle this afternoon. We landed on the sugar cookies and had a lot of fun doing it.

 

 

 What I said above it true; we had a great time today. Hannah and I were due for some quality time together and we achieved that in sweet fashion. But what I need to add is this; we also had annoying, tiring and frustrating moments sprinkled throughout our culinary adventure and beyond. 

Hailey slept through the night for the first time in her life last night and ironically that left both she and I acting more tired than ever. She grunted her way through the afternoon, finding peace in my arms or with a mouth full of rice puffs and nowhere else.

I’ve had countless to-do items swirling in my head and hoped to get through a few today. Somehow I believed that procuring the cookbook would satiate my big girl’s culinary ambitions for the day having lacked the foresight to realise that obtaining the cookbook was only the beginning of the adventure in her mind. Phil was gracious to pinch-hit while I disappeared upstairs momentarily to list six items on Craigslist.

We made our way through the evening eating dinner in shifts, extending bedtime for big H so that she could frost and eat her masterpiece, putting little H down as early as possible so as to cease the grunting, sweeping up stepped-on Os that had dropped from the high chair, squabbling over how to store cookies when egg is an ingredient (they’re heading to the fridge as soon as I finish this post) and emailing people who want to buy my pink Bumbo.

I say all this to say that this in its entirety is family life (at least for this family). Four very different people with four very different sets of ideas, dispositions and agendas. Each day we greet each other in the six o’clock hour with love, ideas, intentions, hopes and often at this stage grogginess. In my most honest moments I admit that I wish the other three could simply see how smoothly life would run if they followed my lead. Yet in the next breath I concede that such a scenario would be bland at best (extremely orderly, but bland). And so, I sign off for now with every intention of getting as much sleep as possible in order to face tomorrow with grace as a Stone. It is a good life, it stretches me and it is exactly where I am supposed to be.  

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Spinach

A few upsides of homemade baby food include cost effectiveness (I made 16 portions of organic sweet potatos for under three dollars) and nutritional value. Downsides? I think the picture says it best.

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