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Motherhood

The dilemma of raising an independent kid

March 17, 2015
The unbridled joy of childhood

The unbridled joy of childhood

 

As it turns out, my husband and I are doing a little too well raising an independent kid.

Let me explain.

Our back yard is mostly woods that back up to much larger woods. We take walks through there on occasion, enjoying showing our daughter animal tracks, nests, and different types of plant life. It’s common to see deer, rabbits, turtles, frogs, and turkeys. Out in the middle of the woods, completely overgrown with vines and brush is an abandoned and collapsing farm-house. Our daughter knows the path to get there and asks us often if we can walk there to look at it.

My backyard

My backyard

 

Yesterday afternoon my daughter’s friends, two boys from across the street, came over to play in the backyard with her.  We were doing yard work and keeping an eye on the three of them as they played. They kept creeping further towards the back edge of the property, but I could see them. They were just jumping from log to log and playing a game of pirates.

Of course, as I turn around to help my husband with something, they made their break for it (the woods that is). I yell to my husband that I can no longer see them and he needs to go tell the kids to come back and make sure they stay on the property.

My minor heart attack

They were only about 50 yards into the woods, but I was having a minor heart attack. Deer, if startled can be dangerous, among the many other inherent dangers of being in the woods. My husband caught up to them and brought them back to our woods, making sure they knew the boundary of where they could play.

When I asked my daughter why they took off, she said, “Mommy, I wanted to show them the farm-house. I know where it is, and I was being safe! There were no cars, and we were holding hands.”

At four, her only concept of danger is to make sure she holds hands when crossing the street when no cars are coming.

Parenting win or fail? I’m not sure yet.

So, the moral of the story is that my four-year old daughter is both fearless and independent. A dangerous combination at this age. We explained to her that she is to never go into the woods without mommy or daddy, and she needs to always ask an adult before she leaves to go somewhere.

I have my moments of helicopter parenting, but I believe that kids need time to play outside without direct adult supervision. I grew up playing in the woods, and when she gets a bit older, I want that for her too. I love that my daughter would rather build a fort in the woods than be inside watching a movie. I love that she is fearless, but we need to work on explaining when to be fearful. I love that she is independent, but we need to teach her when to ask for help.

I’m learning day by day that all aspects of parenting require balance. I don’t want to reign in my daughter’s independence, but I need her to be more cautious and self-aware. I don’t want to be that helicopter parent, but I need to keep my daughter and her friends safe. One day, my fearless and independent daughter will head out on her own. Letting her go then requires that I build up her independence now, a little bit at a time.

Do you let your kids go off on their own?

What boundaries do you have in place for them?

Motherhood, Police wife life

What my daughter knows: the life of a police officer’s kid

March 9, 2015
police-lights

At four years old, my daughter doesn’t truly understand yet what exactly her daddy does at work every day. She doesn’t know everything about his job, but she knows that her daddy helps keep people safe. If you ask her, she will say, “My daddy is a police officer. He gets bad people off the street and keeps good people safe.”

She knows that her daddy has very special tools that he has to have with him at all times to keep himself and others safe. She doesn’t really know what they do, but she does know that he prays to God every day that he never has to use them.

She knows that daddy leaves the house before she wakes up and doesn’t come home until well after she is asleep. She also knows that daddy sometimes works 18 hour shifts because things happen right at the end of his shift, and he can’t always just come home.

She knows that daddy won’t always be home on her birthday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, because his job requires a lot of him. She also knows that no matter how little or often he can be home on holidays or special occasions, he loves her.

When her daddy walks into the house emotionally and physically exhausted, she doesn’t know that it is because he had to deal with a horrific case of child abuse or a gang related murder. She just sees his shoulders slumped and his head hanging and that daddy could really use a hug to help make it all better.

She doesn’t know that daddy leaves the house every day knowing that there is the very real possibility that he won’t come home again, because there are people who would gladly and willingly harm him.

She doesn’t know yet that there are people who think that her daddy is a racist or a bigot, just by virtue of the uniform that he wears. She just knows that her daddy will help any person at all if they call for his help.

She doesn’t know that the uniform she sees her daddy put on, is the same uniform that too many people in our society despise.  She just knows how hard her daddy worked to be worthy of that uniform, how proudly he wears it, and how seriously he takes his vow to protect and serve. She hears her daddy talk about the thin blue line, but she doesn’t understand what that is.

For now that is all we want her to know. As she gets older and understands more, we will make her more aware of the threats that her daddy faces every day. For now though, we want her to know that no matter what his job requires of him, he loves her. No matter what daddy faces at work, he will do his best to come home.

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Motherhood

How I drink a cup of coffee

March 5, 2015
morning_coffee_hires

 

  1. 5:30am: infant son wakes me up. I drag myself out of bed
  2. 5:35: I change my son’s diaper and throw on a sweater
  3. 5:37: I turn on the Keurig and let the water preheat while I take our two dogs outside for their morning business.
  4. 5:47: Stupid dogs took their sweet time and now the Keurig has powered off again. I re-hit the power button. While I wait, I feed the dogs.
  5. 5:48: The water in the chamber is already heated, so it doesn’t take as long to say “READY”. I throw in a single-serve brewing cup, press down, and hit start.
  6. 5:48 and 10 seconds: As I walk away to get my son his breakfast, I hear an odd streaming sound as it hits metal. SHOOT! In my sleep deprived stupor I have stupidly forgotten to put a cup under the brewer. Coffee is everywhere. There is no emergency off button! Why is there no emergency off button!?!?
  7. 5:48 and 20 seconds: I manage to run, grab a mug, and throw it under the brewer to keep coffee from continuously spewing everywhere. I’ll clean up the mess later.
  8. 5:49: Infant son enjoys my panicked distraction to happily munch on the dog food.
  9. 5:50: Baby is now screaming bloody murder. Terrible mother that I am, I pulled the dog food out of his mouth, and I wouldn’t let him eat it.
  10. 5:51: Baby’s screams have woken my four year old daughter, who has now joined us in the kitchen asking what is for breakfast.
  11. 6:00: Children are both blessedly silent as they eat breakfast. I use this opportunity to add almond milk to my now almost room temperature coffee.
  12. 6:02: I have taken two sips of coffee and the baby is trying to pull a Houdini escape act out of his high chair. He inhaled the banana I cut up for him, and now he wants to get down. He is completely covered in mushed banana.
  13. 6:30: baby is now bathed, in fresh clothes, and a fresh diaper.
  14. 6:31: I take a swig of now ice cold coffee. Blech. I throw it in the microwave for thirty seconds.
  15. 6:32: Four year old is done eating and desperately begging me to allow her to wear the pretty sparkle dress that gets glitter EVERYWHERE. I say no. She says yes. I say no again. At this point I am vaguely aware of the stench emanating from my son’s diaper. He pooped.
  16. 6:40-45: Son is changed. Again. Daughter is still pestering to wear the sparkle dress. I concede to the sparkle dress as long as she puts on leggings and a sweater. She doesn’t want to wear leggings and a sweater. I tell her that it is freezing outside and we have errands to run today. She says she will be fine. I make her stand outside in just her sparkle dress to prove my point. After 5 seconds on the back porch she shivers and unhappily trudges to her room to put on leggings and a sweater. One point to team mommy.
  17. 6:45: I hear the microwave beep. Oh yeah. Coffee! Boo… room temperature coffee. I hit “add 30 seconds” and walk away again.
  18. 8:00: After unloading and loading the dishwasher, starting the laundry, and making the beds, the rumbling of my stomach reminds me that I have yet to eat breakfast or finish my coffee.
  19. 8:15: I manage to eat an apple and finish half of my coffee which had to be reheated for the third time. I realize that I am pushing it really close to baby nap number one of the day, and I need to get the kids out the door NOW if I have any hope of getting things accomplished today.
  20. 9:45: We get home from grocery shopping, the post office, and dropping off overdue books at the library. Baby is screaming.
  21. 10:00 Baby is sleeping. I now have the bags of groceries to put away. Daughter is pleading for a snack. I see my half-finished cup of coffee sitting on the counter, throw it in the microwave, and hit “add 30 seconds.”
  22. 11:45: Daughter and I have been working on home school work and now baby is awake.
  23. 12:00: Both baby and daughter want lunch. I open the microwave to heat up chicken and stars soup for my daughter, and I see my ice cold cup of ridiculously reheated coffee. It looks congealed. I mentally question if it would be too gross to actually consider drinking it. I realize that this ridiculous cup of coffee cost about $1.00 because organic K-cups are so darned expensive. I swig back the rest of the ice cold coffee…meh, it’s not so bad. I continue on making lunch.

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Someday I’ll get to enjoy sitting down to coffee and breakfast uninterrupted. I will be able to take my time getting out the door because there are no more babies that need to stick to a nap schedule. Someday I will leave the house looking put together, not sleep deprived and disheveled. Someday my children will be grown and no longer need me like they do now, and I will desperately miss the days where I was too busy giving them my love to drink a hot cup of coffee. For now, though, I am in the throes of motherhood, there are little souls dependent on me for everything, and I am going to cherish each and every cold, congealed, overpriced cup of coffee as the gift that it is.

 Do you get to drink your coffee in one sitting?

Is there anything that you look forward to as your kids get older?

Motherhood

My dirty little mommy secret

February 23, 2015
lollipops-602441_1280

I’m going to let you in on something I would never openly admit to some of my crunchier friends. My dirty little secret of parenting…are you ready? Sitting down even? Here it is.

I let my kids eat red dye 40. I am that mom.

Yep, you read that correctly. Go ahead and whip out your best judgy mom glare when you see me out in public  endangering indulging my child.

You saw me at the park giving my kid artificially flavored, corn syrup laden slushies when it was 102 degrees outside and she was red faced from playing so hard.

You saw me putting vanilla cupcakes with the hot pink icing and brightly colored sprinkles into my shopping cart.

Every so often we like to start our day with a breakfast completely devoid of anything resembling nutrition. On Valentines Day we had pink, heart-shaped pancakes topped with sprinkles.

You saw my husband buying the GIANT box of peanut M&M’s for him and my daughter to share at the movie theater, along with the extra-large Dr. Pepper because it is her favorite soda.

Red dye and soda. We obviously hate our children and care nothing for their health. We’re contributing to them becoming type 2 diabetics, and we are single-handedly destroying the already massively overburdened health care system in this country. (Insert eye roll here).

I give my kids red dye 40, because sometimes it’s fun to eat things you shouldn’t. Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes. And usually it is a special occasion.

That slushy at the park was delicious. It was pure sugar and food dye, but it cooled us down. And I mean…who doesn’t love the occasional slushy?

Those M&M’s and that Dr. Pepper at the movie theater? They were shared in celebration of my husband earning his Bachelor of Science degree. It meant that he would be home more often, getting to spend more time with his little girl he had only seen in passing, and on the rare day off in the past two years.

Those horrifically bright pink cupcakes? My daughter got one as a thank you for being such a big helper, so patient, and so kind after her baby brother was born. Also, she was such a trooper when we uprooted her to a new city away from her friends and everything she had ever known. She earned those cupcakes.

The occasional sweet treat when out and about, as a thank you, or in celebration is perfectly acceptable in our house. I truly do believe in everything in moderation, especially when it comes to sweets. If my children ate slushies, cupcakes, and M&Ms, and drank Dr. Pepper every day, then yes, we would have a problem.

There are quite a few people in my circle of friends who have decided that they will never, ever, under any circumstances allow their children to eat anything other than 100% organic foods. I applaud them. I think that is an amazing choice for them, but we aren’t that family. I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but my family eats organic food 95% of the time. My husband and I made that decision for our family. We make it a priority to eat healthy, wholesome food, which preferably we made from scratch or grew for ourselves. It is important that most of the food which is filling our children’s bellies is not covered in pesticides or genetically modified.

That being said, allowing my kids to have corn syrup and red dye is also a decision that we have made as a family. We want our kids to know the difference between healthy daily eating and special treats. We don’t want them to grow up hiding food in their bedrooms or thinking that they can’t enjoy themselves at a birthday party. We will have candy canes on our Christmas tree and Peeps in their Easter basket. We will sometimes let them pick something so terribly awful for them at the movie theater because we know that they will eat a nutritious dinner later on.

I feel as though there is a growing culture of shame surrounding parents that allow their kids to eat anything other than 100% wholesome foods, 100% of the time. The dialogue about obesity, type 2 diabetes, and the gross over manufacturing of food in our country is important. It’s a conversation I’m passionate about. It’s a conversation we need to be having. But it’s also important to not judge people you see buying those things. You never know a person’s story, why they’re buying it, or what decisions they are making for their family that you aren’t privy to in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Sometimes, I see exasperated glances and eye rolls from strangers when they see me giving my kids treats. I see them, and I don’t care. I know that I am a good mom. I know that I have my kids’ best interests at heart, and I know that I am making the best possible decisions at any given moment for my family. I know that a little bit of red dye 40, in the grand scheme of things, is not a huge deal. Most importantly though, I know that for my family, everything is alright in moderation.

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My happy, healthy four year old with her red dye 40 pancakes on Valentines Day

Motherhood

10 Easy Foods to Trick your Picky Eaters

February 22, 2015
trick your picky eater

You followed the pediatrician’s advice and started your baby on solids between 6 and 9 months old. You introduced them to vegetables before fruits so they wouldn’t get the taste for sweets only. You made sure to have them eat a variety of textures and flavors in the hopes of raising a child with a well-rounded palette. For years they ate those fresh organic California avocados you lovingly picked for ripeness. With ease they devoured an entire plate of scrambled local duck eggs and homemade wheat toast. Tandoori chicken and naan never lasted for leftovers. They turned their nose up at Kraft mac n cheese in favor of your home made cheddar shells. Then it happened. One day you laid your delightful, non-combative, eat anything you set in front of them child down for a nap, and they woke up switched with a changeling.

Seemingly out of nowhere they refuse to eat what they ate all last week. Those pears that they begged, pleaded, and sobbed for in the store? The expensive out of season ones? Yeah, they won’t touch them. You go to serve them a healthy plate of their absolute favorite green beans, and they refuse. What? “But, I cooked them just like you like them,” you say. They refuse. You never thought you’d have to resort to bribery, but you bring out the “if you finish your green beans you can have dessert” card. They refuse again and start screaming while pounding their fists on the floor that they absolutely will NOT touch those green beans! You’re absolutely sure at this point that a demon must have possessed your sweet, behaved, well-adjusted 3 year old. Of course you know that they are just testing boundaries and exercising their growing sense of independence and will-power. That knowledge doesn’t help in the moment though, and you still need to make sure your child grows up without vitamin deficiencies and health problems.

So what’s a mom to do? The greatest piece of advice I ever received came from a mom of four little girls. She told me to stop looking at each day as a failure and to look at what she ate over the course of the week instead. So I did, and I realized that she actually did have a fairly well-rounded appetite for different foods. One day she mostly snacked on fresh fruit. Another day she ate only starchy foods like pretzels and mashed potatoes. Another day was a rare broccoli eating day. Over the course of the week she did get most of what she needed in her diet. I breathed a sigh of relief though knowing that I most likely would not have to take her to see the pediatrician for scurvy, rickets, or anemia.

My daughter is four now and sometimes pickier than ever. She has great days where she eats fruits, protein, and vegetables. Some days the stubborn child refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets. I have learned a few tricks for sneaking more vitamins and minerals into her little body. The best part is that she has no idea.

Use these 10 easy foods to trick your picky eaters

 

1. Smoothies

Smoothies are without a doubt my go-to for quick healthy breakfasts, snacks, and sometimes even dinner. My daughter’s favorite smoothie recipe is 1 frozen banana, 4 frozen strawberries, 1 cup almond milk, and sometimes blueberries. Her other favorite is frozen banana, almond milk, peanut butter, and chocolate protein powder. Whatever smoothie I make I always mix 1 teaspoon of cod liver oil (I promise you can’t taste it!), chia seeds, and sometimes vitamin D drops. Smoothies are so versatile and the base flavors are so strong that you can hide pretty much whatever you want in them and get away with it.

2. Meatballs

My family loves a good meatball. They also love meatloaf, which is essentially the same thing, but made in a bread pan. I love making meatballs with lean ground turkey, farm fresh eggs, cooked quinoa, dried crushed basil, wheat germ, shredded carrots, diced onion, and basically whatever other healthy ingredients I feel like dicing small enough to be hidden. Whatever your family meatloaf recipe, you can pretty much substitute in healthier ingredients without your kids having any idea you did anything different.

3. Popsicles

Popsicles are so much fun to let your child make for themselves. Let them pick out their favorite juice and some frozen fruit and mix together the ingredients in popsicle holders as a fun after school snack or after dinner treat. Kids always want to eat what they picked out and made for themselves. We really love our Zoku popsicle maker, which you can find at http://www.zokuhome.com/ . Of course you can always make them old school with Dixie cups and popsicle sticks.

4.  “Seasonings”

This is a trick I learned that my mom pulled on me when I was a kid. Whenever we ate anything at all we would ask her, “What are these little green things???” Her response was always, “Oh, it’s just seasonings honey.” And we believed her. I know now that she would pulse broccoli in the blender and add it to our pasta sauce. She would chop spinach really fine and toss it in salads. Basically anything that she could pretend that the little green things we were eating were parsley, basil, or oregano, we believed her. And she got away with it for twenty years. Now I dehydrate spinach, kale, collard greens and basil and crumble it into “seasoning.” You can toss a small handful into any marinara based pasta, pizza sauce, mix it with breadcrumbs for coating any meat, and throw some into your homemade meatballs. It’s versatile, they can’t taste it, and it packs an extra nutritional punch.

5. Soups

Soups are a tricky one to pull off. First, your child has to actually be willing to eat soup. If that isn’t the case, move on to number 6. My kid on occasion actually requests soup for dinner, and I am more than happy to oblige. I base all of my soups with homemade bone broth. If you don’t know what it is or how to make it, I highly recommend learning how from the nourished kitchen at http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/ . From there I chop up a bunch of vegetables I know my daughter will eat, like carrots, celery, and onion and then I add in the pasta of her choice. Sometimes it is the vegetable pasta “wacky mac” and sometimes it’s the fun star shaped mini pasta. Soup is the meal I cook when I want to use up some of the vegetables in the fridge and make room for new produce.

6. Muffins

Just this morning I made banana muffins with buckwheat flour, wheat germ, bananas (obviously), blueberries, and poppy seeds. Any muffin recipe can be made healthier by substituting wheat in for white flour and honey in for sugar. You can add flax seed meal, almond flour, chia seeds, poppy seeds, wheat germ, oils…the list goes on and on. Your kid will never know.

7. Fried rice

To make fried rice, I start by cooking rice in my rice cooker with bone broth instead of water. When it’s done I fry a few eggs, chop vegetables, add a bit of “seasoning” and toss it all together in a pan with the rice and some liquid aminos (instead of soy sauce). It is so quick and easy, and it is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. My husband actually likes my fried rice better than the takeout Chinese food rice.

8. Cookies

Same concept as muffins, but shaped like a cookie. Your kid will never know that you used chocolate vitamin mix instead of cocoa and whole wheat flour instead of white. I promise you.

9. Macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a great meal for hiding small amounts of the foods your child will not touch under any circumstances. Butternut squash and cauliflower for example, when steamed and mashed, incorporate wonderfully into rich cheesy sauces.

10. Taco or sloppy joes meat

I always dice up green peppers and onions into my taco and sloppy joe meat. The family doesn’t notice, it tastes great, and it gets hidden by all of the delicious spices, sauces, and toppings. You can also add in antioxidant rich turmeric to both of these dishes.

There you have it. My ten basic ways for fooling my picky eater into eating fruits and vegetables. What are some of the ways that you get your picky eater to try new foods? Do you fool your kids like I do? I’d love to hear some of your ideas!