Living Life, Parenting

Pinterest – Pipe Dreams In Color

I think Pinterest may be causing some women performance anxiety.  Be she a mom, wife, homemaker or cook, no matter what she prides herself on accomplishing every day — on Pinterest there is visual proof that it can all be done so much prettier!

Logging on is like opening all of the pages of Martha Stewart, Home & Garden, luxury travel, parenting, craft and cooking magazines.  While the images delight the eyes, and I get lost in the beauty of a private island, a cake that looks like Candyland and beautifully applied eye make-up, I start to feel overwhelmed.

I love the visual appeal of bug-shaped snacks made from veggies and piped cream cheese, but I just don’t have time to make them.  And while the craft ideas to mark every holiday are creative and fun and even look doable, I know that I nor my kids will have the energy or attention span to make them happen.

Pinterest must be thrilling to new parents!  I see friends with little ones creating boards with the most spectacular assortment of crafts, activities, foods, and traditions to do with their children.  But I’m hardened a bit by the reality of having a few kids, a job, a home and a ton of laundry.

Some of the milestone ideas on Pinterest are adorable.  But in my experience, one day at 11pm you will be arguing with your spouse about who needs to get out of bed to put the note from the tooth fairy under the kid’s pillow, and you’ll debate if its ok to skip the note just this once, and if it has to be on the same adorable tooth shaped note paper… and you’ll kick yourself that you started this tradition and you still have TWO MORE KIDS who will expect this.  And it will make you tired. 

For me, Pinterest is a visual affair with the unattainable.  Pipe dreams in color, if you will.  As Vogue is to my real life fashion, Pinterest is to my crafts, kids snacks, and home organization.

I will still spend too much time on Pinterest.  I like seeking inspiration for decorating our home.  I love finding interesting color combinations and wall decor for the kids’ rooms.  And I enjoy browsing my friends pipe dreams in color, and pinning them onto my own.

I’m on Pinterest, and am happy to share my pipe dreams with you.

Food Allergies, Parenting

Food Allergies and Fear of Restaurants

We keep EpiPens with us at all times in case of a serious allergic reaction.

Two days a week I get my nearly 4 year old all to myself.  The other three he is in school and I’ve been working.  This bi-weekly affair delights both of us!  With only a few more months of these special days left, we really do make the most of them. (In the fall, he’ll go to preschool 5 mornings.)  Our typical days include the mundane like chores and errands, but also the fun like playing Candyland and extra cuddling.

Last week, on one of these special days, we took a dear friend out for a birthday lunch, but I brought safe food for my son.  Lately he’s had some unfortunate experiences at restaurants.  I’m still not recovered emotionally from these screw ups.  And as his parent, I need to take full responsibility for everything that goes in his mouth.  In that regard, I’ve let him down.

In January while away for a special family get-away at an indoor water park, he had a very serious allergic reaction.  The restaurant screwed up; gave him pancakes with  milk in them even though they had thought they were making something safe.  After 2 small bites, he was reacting.  We ended up giving him an epi pen (epinephrine) for the first time —  and then spent a long 4 hours in the ER.  Even after an epi and high dose Benadryl and steroids in the hospital he got hives.  He was in good hands and actually enjoyed the hospital experience, but says that getting the epi and getting sick at the restaurant was “very scary.”

Following that experience, we had a birthday dinner for his brother at McDonald’s,  and he asked us to bring him safe food from home.  It made us realize how aware he was of the possibility of getting sick while eating out.

Fast forward to early March.  We ventured out to a tried-and-true restaurant in our neighborhood.  He ordered his safe meal.  And he had a reaction.  Luckily this was more mild physically but it did scare him (and us).  Even “safe” food can become very unsafe if not handled properly while being prepared.

All of this is why last week he asked for me to bring him food from home. He’s afraid.

I’m scared too.  And I’m pissed. And I’m bummed.

The worst part last week wasn’t the pain-in-the-rear of bringing food from home.  It was that he was scared.  He asked to stay in the car.  He cried as we walked in.  He associates restaurants with feeling sick, and that is both a sad and a necessary reality for him.  And yet, while we want to teach him to be wary of food that isn’t in our control, we want so desperately for him to be included.

Birthdays, Parenting

McDonald’s Didn’t Kill Me

After my last post I’ve received a few requests to know what happened!  First, my birthday boy had a great outing and I am very happy for that! Second, I did cave and ate with the family, but I lived to write about it 😉

As we drove to the nearest McD’s, I was saying to myself “I can’t believe I’m one of the ones blocking the left lane to pull into a gosh darned McD’s!”  I was struck by the FULL parking lot and the very long drive through line.  This place was VERY popular, on a Wednesday evening no less.

If you read the last post, you’ll remember that I wasn’t planning to eat McD’s.  My husband predicted I would.  I did, but not because I couldn’t resist the smell.   I restated my desire to not eat, and was surprised that DH wanted to eat.  He explained that by not eating we might make the 7 year old feel sad or bad or uncomfortable about his choice.  DH argued that this was a family celebration and that we should at least share something.

While we were in line to order we were STARING at the menu board, saying “wasn’t there a Sinefeld episode or some other comedian who snarked that who would ever need to look at a menu in a McDonald’s!”

I had a “squishy cheesburger” (a term I had for them in college, when I mostly desired them after 2am), and agreed to split with DH the fries that came with my 3 year old’s Happy Meal (since they contain dairy!)  The good news was that the Happy Meal fries are TINY now, so I only really ate a few.  All Happy Meals automatically come with the apple slices, which is great for my 3 year old 🙂

One positive of DS choosing McD’s over, say a Japanese Steakhouse (which he loves), dinner for 5 was a whopping $15.  DH and I didn’t eat much, but somehow I was full for a long time.

Now, I am not advocating McD’s here.  I didn’t like food, nor how I felt after eating it.  I didn’t like the mean kid who was bothering my kids in the play area, either.  And mostly I was annoyed that my kids like these burgers over Elevation Burger.  Its disturbing to me that the food is manipulated so much and yet the flavorings are powerful enough to make people LIKE the taste.  Food science, people, its called food science.

Perhaps in revolt of my experience, or perhaps the culmination of our family birthday season and holiday season and general food excesses, I have recommitted our family to our healthy eating agenda this week, and I feel so much better for it!  The meal plan and entire week’s grocery shop was done on Sunday, and I’m excited that we’ll be eating a variety of healthy, homemade food this week!

I hope you have a yummy week, too.

Birthdays, Parenting

Fast Food Dilemma

I know I am not the only mom out there who loathes feeding her kids fast food.  I’ve become a bit of a hardliner on the issue.  Over the years I have learned too much — working in the organic food industry; watching powerful documentaries like “Supersize Me” and “Food, Inc.”; and becoming personally engaged in an ongoing effort to improve what my family is eating and how we approach food in our home.

But when we aren’t at home, then what?  Clearly, most restaurants aren’t preparing organic food, and I’m ok with that for the amount that we eat out.  But I can’t bring myself to be “ok” with fast food.  And the kicker is that we can’t shake relaying on these purveyors of “food” — the hubby isn’t nearly as hard core as I on the subject, and the kids, well the kids are just not yet disgusted by it all.  (When can I let them watch those documentaries, that is another topic to discuss!)  And then we have the darned food allergy in the family which in a sick way sends us to fast food for the “known” quality that those places provide when we are far from home or our stash of safe food is gone while we’re on the road.

And then there are the times when the kids get to pick, like their birthdays.  I think we’d have a revolt in the house if I excluded fast food from the allowable options.  And part of me thinks that giving fast food an “untouchable” designation might just drive the kids to it more.  Everything I’ve learned about raising healthy eaters, much from the writing of Ellyn Satter, talks about the division of responsibility.  Parents buy and prepare food; kids decide if they will eat and how much.  Its around school age that kids start to get a role in deciding what to eat (in the Satter model) and here we are, my kids are deciding, for the bday dinner, to go to McDonald’s.

Did I eat at McDonald’s as kid?  Yes!  (And when my future 17 year old asks if I ever drank while in high school, I will have to answer that one honestly too won’t I?)  I ate at McDonald’s, Taco Bell (my personal favorite fast food) and every pizza establishment possible.  But I didn’t know better, did I?

So tonight, while I was secretly trying to persuade my 7 year old that we should celebrate his birthday at Chevy’s, where I could get a margarita, or at least trying to encourage the selection of a non-fast food restaurant for the birthday celebration tonight, I started to feel bad.  I don’t want me son to carry the weight of the “badness” of fast food with him on his special night, and he really thinks that the cheeseburger he can get there is the best cheeseburger in town.

I told my hubby that I won’t eat there; will wait till we are home.  He thinks I won’t be able to overcome the powers and will succumb to eating there as well.  I have a little heartburn just thinking about it.

So, moms and dads and know-it-all outside observers, what do you do when faced with this kind of dilemma?

My newly minted 7 year old has been reading this over my shoulder, inquiring “why did you eat McDonald’s as a kid?” and “What does ‘loathes’ mean?”  He just said “we will go there!” (followed by “don’t mom, delete that!”) — so I guess my sharing my real feelings on the matter aren’t enough to influence him right now.

Birthdays, Living Life, Parenting

Just in Time Parenting

I often joke to people that I practice “just in time parenting.” I recall a lot of buzz around the “just in time manufacturing” strategy, used to describe the efficient practices of Japanese auto makers, and why they were outperforming American manufacturers in the 80s and 90s.

I like the efficient part, and it feels better to think of myself that way, instead of feeling like I am always a step behind. Its ironic, as by nature I’m a planner, but with so much going on, something has to give.

An example. This morning I began browsing online for costume inspiration, for an auction event tonight. I have posted pleading messages on my mom’s group; and am resigned to the fact that I must go to costume shops today to purchase an outfit, as I’m out of time to assemble one myself. Is this efficient, or a blaring reminder that life is too busy to calmly get things ready?

I think the answer is both — but the emotion of it is determined by my mindset. I can either get really stressed that I may not end up in costume tonight (and be jealous of all the others who are!) or I can chose to acknowledge that life is pretty busy, and I am making choices each day as how to spend my time to best maximize each day. I chose not to go shopping late one night last week to plan for this event — I chose to be home with family, or to get some sleep, or do laundry, or go to a board meeting, or take the kids ice skating… Reminding myself that it is all by choice that I am in this situation is comforting. Being accepting of my own choices is liberating.

To be honest, there are times when Just in Time Parenting isn’t as efficient as others. Learning this did cause some disappointment or distress, but like all rules, there are exceptions and knowing them is important! Examples include camp registration, well-child doctor appointments, using reward miles for travel and booking a good babysitter. For certain things, planning ahead is critical — the trick is to figure out what must be planned, and what can be done just in time.

I have embraced my Just in Time Parenting style more and more since the birth of my third child; when my workload increased by 50% and sleep decreased by the same. This mindset was born of necessity, and has flourished given it brings me less stress.

More Examples:

Son needs to wear a specific clothing item tomorrow. My choice is to stay up till 11 to get the wash into the dryer; or to decide its ok to wipe off the dried on food that shows its dirty. I chose the second option.

Family is undertaking a first ever road trip to Florida. We thought about trying to book hotel rooms ahead of trip, but the task was too difficult not knowing how far we wanted to travel each day. We decided we would figure it out when the time called for it, and ended up needing to drive a couple of extra hours the first night to find the hotel that we wanted with a pool. This one is less clear, but I call it a win since we didn’t stress about it ahead of time, and it all worked out.

Child requests out of the ordinary birthday “cake”. I could have posted for help on my mom’s group, ordered it from a bakery, or planned my own design. Instead, on the morning of the party, I googled “Donut Cake” and got tons of ideas, went to Dunkin Donuts, and figured it out as I assembled it. No stress, and the kids were thrilled. I mean, come on, the kid wanted a donut cake, it didn’t need to be a project!

There are plenty more examples. And I suspect that everyone has their own list of things they have dealt with in the moment, that was far easier and much less stressful than if they had planned ahead. I encourage all my parenting friends (and single folks could do this too!) to spend less mental energy and time on what is in the future, and you’ll be better able to enjoy and handle and be successful with what is going on right now!

I have to sign off now. I need a disco outfit for tonight!


Earning My Stripes

Anniversaries, birthdays, seasons . . . . we are in a constant cycle of counting and reminicing and marking the passage of time and the tallying of accomplishments. My husband and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary this week, which got me thinking about all the things that we celebrate over time. The obvious (wonderful) list is:

37+ years of a pretty darn good life
16 years together as a couple with my husband
11 years of marriage
10 years in our house
7 years as parents
3 adorable boys

Then there is the other list.

The one that tallies our “accomplishments”; the list that tracks the stripes we parents earn! You know that anniversary I mentioned? It coincided with the latest ER visit — our almost 8 year old crashed [fell off the breakfast bar stool] and split open his head [like a scene out of the old tv series “ER”, blood was flowing fast] sending us to the ER for staples instead of settling in for a relaxing dinner at home after the kids went to bed!

While I obviously wish that this was a short list, it somehow marks the moments that I feel best about my parenting skills. I am pretty good about rising to the occasion (if I do say so myself) when accidents happen or illness strikes. I don’t question my parenting skills in these situations! So not the happy list like the one above, this other list also makes me proud [in a warped way]:

2 ER trips for broken bones
1 ER trip for a stitched up forehead
1 pediatrician visit to glue together head
1 ER trip for staples in the head
1 ER trip for croup
COUNTLESS pediatrician visits for croup, ear infections, sinus infections and asthma…
COUNTLESS specialist visits for hearing loss, food allergies and pronating feet…
Hours wondering around CVS waiting for presriptions to be filled.
A fortune spent on co-pays, hearing aids, orthotics and antibiotics!

If only I could channel my nurturing and calm into the mundane, every day stuff of parenting like enforcing rules, ensuring homework gets done and kids get bathed, preparing interesting meals and making sure the kids don’t destroy the house or each other . . . for that stuff, I have no patience. So while hoping my kids don’t get hurt anymore, I will secretly relish in those moments where I earned my stripes.