Archives for 2013

100 Days of Real Food: The Confessions, The Recipes, The Future

We hardly have any recycling.

I don’t crash at 4:30 in the afternoon every day.

I eat only when I am hungry.

I think more about what I eat because I have to make/prepare it myself.

These are some of the comments my husband and I have made since we started our 100 Days of Real Food challenge. The impact that eating less/no processed food has had on our family and lifestyle go beyond what we anticipated. At times, we have embraced the creativity it takes to find a recipe for goldfish crackers and actually make and eat them. We have also become frustrated with the time and effort it takes to replace the entire batch of goldfish crackers that were eaten in 5 minutes. Seriously! They were eaten in less time than it took us to clean up the kitchen after making them! Some additional impacts this challenge has had on our family include:

* My children are all more engaged in food preparation, from grating carrots for snack to cooking tortillas.
* School lunches are more interesting. The kids help think of creative things to put in their lunch. And the best part is, it all gets eaten!
* My children have a better appreciation for what goes into preparing food and therefore do not like to see it wasted.
* We think “outside the box” (pun intended) when planning meals. Who says we can’t have scrambled eggs and waffles for lunch or dinner and gumbo for breakfast? [Read more…]

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One Way to Have Happier Holidays…Sleep

Now that the kids are officially on winter break we usually have a more relaxed schedule. Lazy mornings spent in pajamas, breakfast and lunch blended into one, and casual evenings that seem to go on forever – void of homework, extracurricular activities, and the general mad rush toward bedtime. This sounds like a wonderful break from the craziness of our typical after-school-day schedule but there are consequences for making this temporary shift.

The first consequence is that the shift is temporary. Nobody, including mom and dad, really wants to return to the normal school day schedule when the time comes in January.

Second, the lazy evenings that go on until way past regular bedtimes ALWAYS results in behavior and attitude shifts (not for the better) the next day. Our tween is like a fire breathing dragon, every one of us does our best to stay out of the path of her scorching flames. My fourth grader walks around scowling all day and is satisfied by nothing and nobody. And my first grader is just plain crazy – doing things that she knows are risky, inappropriate, and basically annoying to everyone.

And I won’t even go into the effect that lack of sleep has on mom and dad, because I know you know (insert winking smiley emoticon here).

Sleep is truly glorious and worth its weight in gold. The impact that it has on our physical and mental capacities on a daily basis is absolutely amazing when you think about it. Parents should value a good nights sleep for the family the way that we value a nutritious diet. It should happen regularly, be consistent, and be a lifelong lifestyle expectation (with the necessary adjustments during adolescence–adolescent sleep blog post coming soon).

Check out the following podcasts for a scientific look why sleep deserves such high value in a child’s life. For tips on how adults can get a healthy night’s sleep, sans medication, check out this link.

So it looks like we’ll all have a rockin’ winter break if the entire family is not sleep deprived. Sounds good to me, I’m on it!

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Creating Holiday Joy on a Budget

Dear Santa,
Please bring me a Hello Kitty coloring book, and I want a horsie, and I want a rabbit, and I want a baby sister, and I want fifty dollars, and everyone says that I should ask you for my two front teeth. Please bring me all of these things because I’ve been really good. I listen to Mommy and Daddy except when I can’t. I love you Santa. I am going to make you cookies. Does Rudolph eat cookies? I love you Santa.

This Christmas list, written by my 6 year-old daughter (who is currently missing her two front teeth), makes me smile because it embodies so many of the characteristics of pure childhood: innocence, egocentrism, and a love of animals, especially reindeer. Her letter also makes me think about the decisions that I must make during the holidays. How do I get my children to enjoy the holidays without going broke? Does her every wish have to come true? Can I convince her that there is more to the holiday season than getting gifts?

I think so. Focusing on local seasonal activities and adventures seems like a great way to highlight the joys of the season without straining my pocketbook. The excerpt below, brought to you by parentingpress.com, is a great resource for winter activity ideas in our area.

Whether you’ve got a tight budget or you’re disgusted with the commercialism of the holiday season, there are a lot of reasons to make your family understand that “stuff” isn’t necessary for happiness. And there are a lot of ways to celebrate the season without focusing on expensive gifts.

One idea: sit down with family members and ask each to suggest a couple of activities that they’d like to be part of this month’s events. Pencil in as many as you can on your calendar, whether most everything has to happen on weekends or if you have some weekdays free. Among the ways we at Parenting Press (and in Benton County) celebrate with our families:

– Take a ride on the Corvallis Trolley

– Visit the Pepsi display (now located at the Fairgrounds in Corvallis)

– Visit Christmas Storybook Land in Albany (great for young children, strollers, and pictures with Santa)

– Attending local holiday programs, including displays of local artisan handicrafts

– Decorating pine cones with paint and glitter to mound in a bowl or hang on the tree

– Baking, especially gingerbread men and women and sugar cookies

– Setting up the electric train and cardboard village that are usually in storage

– Surprising the kids by moving into the dining room for a weeknight candlelight dinner

This year we have already gotten to build snowmen, go sledding in the park, and pack snow into dishpans to make blocks for a child-size igloo. When “snow fun” has been on someone’s wish list, we’ve gone sledding at Mary’s Peak or a state “sno-park” just off a mountain pass highway.

Whatever you do, enjoy, and remember to bring your camera. The pictures will be great for Thank-You cards after receiving those Christmas “I wants”.

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100 Days of Real Food: What is “Unprocessed” Anyway?

As I circle around the grocery store I find myself, and my children, looking at food with new eyes. Scrutinizing, choosing, selecting, and redefining.

Is ice cream unprocessed? Is cheese unprocessed? Are canned beans unprocessed? What about dried beans? Rice? Dried fruit? Canned olives? A jar of pickles? Sugar? Flour? Salt? Okay, okay, some of these seem pretty obvious but others can be debated. If we are making bread, for example, then there is some processing that has to happen in order to go from wheatberries to flour.

Produce (fruits and vegetables) is easy to define as an “unprocessed” or “real” food. But there is more food in a variety of genres that we are used to consuming and we have never given a second thought about whether or not it is processed. During our journey toward completely unprocessed eating we had to take the time to define and redefine exactly what we meant by “real” and “unprocessed”.

So how far do we go with this? My children, while enjoying the freshness and variety of these choices, are confused by what “counts” as real food. My critical tween asks if we make homemade french fries at home is that more “unprocessed” or “real” than McDonald’s french fries? The potatoes are still processed. The only difference is who is processing them. Right? Of course not, I tell her, because we get to control all of the ingredients and how it is cooked, we can decide to bake them rather than fry them, and put less salt on them therefore making them more nutritious. “That’s not a french fry,” she retorts, “that’s a baked potato!” Maybe she’s right, but I still needed to stop and reconsider our goals:

• To think critically about what we are purchasing and consuming
• To eat healthy on a consistent basis
• To eat foods that are high in nutritional value
• To eat for nourishment, not sport
• To be “real” about what we eat as well as what we can commit to as a family

So in searching for our own definition of “unprocessed” or “real” food we decided that we would change the things that we could manage to change and the others we would eat less of. So in addition to cutting out all store-bought cereal, chips, bars, fruit snacks, crackers and the like, we eat less cheese, meats, yogurt, and canned and jarred foods (I don’t can, have a grain mill, or make yogurt and cheese). So what do we eat these days? Check out the next post in this series to find out about the storm we’ve been cooking up in our kitchen. Everyone is getting in on the act (and enjoying it). I’ll also be posting some of our favorite “real” go-to recipes as well.

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First Aid: An Important Set of Life Skills for Children

I saw a news story a while ago where a six-year-old girl saved her best friend’s life by giving her the Heimlich Maneuver. As I watched the story I was captivated by the children’s matter-of-fact attitude about the incident. Neither child was stunned or amazed, rather,  they both confidently understood that the set of circumstances required swift and particular action and they knew exactly what to do. And it worked!!! I thought about my children and wondered if they would know what to do if someone was choking. Could they save someone’s life? What first aid skills do they have and would they be confident enough to act if necessary? I doubt it, because I have not taught them much about first aid. Instead, I find myself focusing on preventative teaching such as, “Chew your food well so you don’t choke.” Maybe it’s time to have some important conversations about “what to do if….”

We have very little time in our schedule to enroll in a first aid class so I found a resource online that will help get us started. This parenting Qwik Sheet, brought to you by ParentingPress.com, will help parents understand how children can learn first aid and how it is most effectively taught.

 This Qwik Sheet will help parents

• Introduce this important life skill in a way that is fun and worthwhile

• Use humor to relieve fear

• Reinforce lessons for greater retention of information and skills

Parenting Press has also included teaching tips that accommodate both the different ways in which children learn at different developmental levels, and your own personal style.

Remember that, just like any other life skill, parents can support their children’s development in this area with gentle reminders and practice over time. This will build familiarity and comfort with the new set of skills so our children are more likely to  identify times when these skills are necessary and use them with confidence.

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100 Days of Real Food: The Pitch

So I have decided to try this out, 100 Days of Real Food. No cereal, no goldfish, no chips, nothing that comes from the store already processed. Basically this means that we will be eating a lot differently than we were before. We were not eating all that bad before but this would still require a major shift and some willingness from the rest of my family. But how am I going to pitch this to them in a way that gets them excited about the challenge?

Should I appeal to their tastebuds? If we do this, our “unprocessed” food choices will taste so much better.

Should I appeal to their logic? If we do this, we will be so much healthier.

Or should I just bribe them? If we do this successfully then we’ll do something special afterward.

Since I hope this experience will ultimately have an impact on my family’s desire to eat healthier in the long run, I decided to focus my pitch on the benefits of an unprocessed diet. Well, this worked for everyone but my 9 year-old, the pickiest eater in the family. So I modified my approach with him in mind, “You’ll know what is in everything you eat so you will know ahead of time that you’ll like it”. This seemingly sparked his interest, because he did not reject the idea completely. Instead, he rolled his eyes and challenged my intentions by asking, “What will you pack us for lunch then?”

Hmmmm. With everyone at least curious enough to try this and my own intentions building by the day, I set out to create a kitchen full of the things we need to eat in a completely unprocessed way. The basics: flour, yeast, nuts, seeds, grains, eggs, honey, milk, various meat selections, basic seasonings and lots and lots of veggies. All of which we had in our kitchen previously, what changed was the amount of each. And that was not all of the changes we noticed. Upon embarking on our 100 day journey we experienced many changes that we had not predicted. Hint: even changes in what left our house.

Look out for future blog posts where I’ll share more of our family’s experiences from our 100 Days of Real Food.

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Who’s on Your Cheering Squad?

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel.  We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to more posts from Esther.

It may be an instinctive urge that makes relatives (and even total strangers!) want to ensure that all is well with a new baby by making comments on baby’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Unfortunately, what is intended as concern by the speaker can sound like criticism to a parent. A simple question like, “Are you sure the baby is getting enough?” can puncture the confidence of a new mother or father. Worry and sleep deprivation can make even the most benign remark seem like an attack.

When you are a parent, perhaps more than any other time in your life, you need supportive comments and encouraging words. You need people around you who are confident that you are a competent adult who cares about your child and is doing your best in the ever changing, ever challenging job of parenting. People who let you know they have confidence in you. You need a cheering squad.

How do you get a cheering squad?

Method 1. Scouting and try-outs.

Potential cheerleaders can be found among your friends and relatives and in the services, classes, and support groups available to families in the community and online. Not every class or group will suit you, but you need to try it to find that out. Is the facilitator supportive? Is information offered in an understanding and respectful way?

Quality parenting education acknowledges your strengths and cheers you on; it helps you find ways to be the kind of parent you want to be.

The other parents in a class or group may also become cheerleaders for you. They are dealing with the same challenges that you are facing. Hearing from others and sharing about your own experiences puts things in perspective. You may realize how many things are going well for you as well as get new ideas to try for the things you are struggling with.

You may find you can be a cheerleader for others. At almost every La Leche League meeting I lead, a mother who faced a breastfeeding difficulty a month or two ago, offers encouragement to another mother experiencing the same problem.

Method 2. Training those around you.

A good place to start is with your own self-talk. It takes more effort to think about and to acknowledge the things you have done right, and the progress you have made, than to notice what went wrong. But you can strengthen the “notice what’s good” muscle just as you can strengthen any other muscle.

Accept compliments. Stephen Bavolek, creator of the Nurturing Parenting curriculum, points out that not accepting a compliment is like not accepting a paycheck for a job well done.

Start training those around you by noticing what they have done and complimenting them on it. Say Thank You. Explain how their actions helped you and your child.  Give them suggestions for other helpful things they can do. Tell friends and loved ones when you need encouragement.

When the comments that upset you come from those who love you, try to locate and address the concern in the criticism. Sometimes a comment is really a defense of the childrearing practices of the speaker. If you choose to do something differently from what your parents or friends did, they may interpret your choice as a criticism of their parenting. They may need reassurance that they did a good job, too!

You are a smart, caring, and competent parent. Three cheers for you!

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.

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100 Days of “Real” Food? Yeah Right, Get Real!

So the other day I found myself cruising the internet for a recipe for spaghetti sauce and I ran across this website called 100 Days of Real Food. The author, a wife and working mother of two, decided to try to go 100 days without having ANY processed food in her home. What? No Goldfish, no chips, no store bought bread, no “nutrition bars”, none of the things that make my life (working, with a husband and three kids) convenient, much less tolerable. She must have some tricks, I mused, or at least some short cuts. So I accepted distraction, masked as intention to steal some ideas, and dug into the content of her website and blog.

What I found was both interesting and inspiring. She strategically, laid out her plan, how she invested her family in her idea, the kitchen tools and gadgets she gathered in order to make her journey “doable”. In addition, she realistically admitted that there may be some “processed food” items that she would have to keep around in various quantities. In the blog portion of her website there was also a nice piece honoring the various levels of commitment to this idea. In other words, some families may go “all out” and eliminate ALL processed food while other families may decide to replace processed snacks with fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

As I  perused her website, drowning deeper into the abyss of distraction (remember that I was supposed to be looking for a spaghetti sauce recipe), I found myself wondering about my family’s current eating habits and what it would take to get them committed to any version of this way of eating, for even 1 day, much less 100. After at least 30 minutes of mental distraction and several visits to my kitchen pantry, I decided to pitch the idea to my family.

During the month of November I will update you with posts from our family’s journey away from processed food toward a “real” food lifestyle. I will outline the changes that we made, those that worked and those that did not. I will let you know what kitchen equipment made this journey possible, how I got and kept my family on board and I will chronicle the ups and downs of our attempt at 100 Days of Real Food in real life.

Stay tuned because I know you are already wondering what Thanksgiving will be like at my house…

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Traveling with Children, a little prep goes a long way

About a year ago my family and I were taking a weeklong trip for my sisters wedding. The packing was very intense because we had to be prepared for both casual and formal activities for almost two weeks. We were all in the wedding! I thought the packing was the biggest task set before us in preparation for leaving. A few days before we left my partner and I found ourselves refereeing a “mild-confrontation” between our children at a restaurant. We looked at each other and thought about how frustrating our travels were about to be if this scenario were to ensue at the airport, on the plane, or at the wedding. We decided to have a few “real-time” conversations with the kids about airplane etiquette, manners, and general expectations for our pending trip. Wow! What a difference a conversation (and some “mild bribery”) can make. The children were complimented by strangers at the airport as well as family and friends at the wedding.

As Thanksgiving nears, and many families make travel plans, I would like to share a resource that will support successful family travel.  Traveling with children young and old goes best with some preparation, planning, and a positive outlook. So, what do you need when you take children on a trip? Lots more than booster seats, first aid kits, and travel games! Check out this two-page publication, brought to you by Parentingpress.com, so you can download it before you go—or when you need some help en route.

It includes reminders about working with children to set realistic expectations, practice basic courtesy, and agree on safety precautions. You’ll also find helpful tips on avoiding problems and on handling the meltdowns that do occur.

Happy travels and let the compliments roll!!!

 

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ipads, ipads Everywhere…

Technology surrounds us whether we want it to or not. Most of the time it is useful and enhances our daily lives to some degree and at times we are barely aware of it. But the debate surrounding ipads in our local schools is causing me to consider the question, “How much technology is too much?”

Some of our locals schools are part of a program called 1:World. This program provides an ipad for every child at the school. In many instances the ipad will be able to travel to and from school with the child. At first glance, I understand this to be a wonderful opportunity for ALL students to have access to the technology that, in many circumstances, is accessible only to the select families that can afford it. But lately I have been hearing some parents in the communities offering this program speak out about their concerns regarding the program and its design. In particular, some concerns include:

  • the remote access that the teachers will have
  • the liability involved in giving students such technology
  • the lack of understanding the educational purpose for the technology
  • the lack of parental controls allowed on the devices
  • the shift in funding from hiring teachers to purchasing ipads (the ipads are funded with grant money but many parents would still like to see teachers hired instead of ipads)
  • the insurance fee parents must pay associated with the use of the device (there may be financial support for families that can’t afford the insurance fees)

I am sure as this program gets rolling there will be added concerns and more conversations to follow. Change is rarely without controversy. Remember when televisions first appeared in the home? T.V.s were labeled “The Devil” by many (that continues today to a lesser degree). In short, much of these conversations are to be expected. But I still find myself asking, “What do I need to do as a responsible parent?”, “How do I become informed enough to be comfortable with this trend?”

First, I have engaged in several conversations about these issues with: my partner, other parents that I trust, and school and district staff. I have attended meetings where concerns about the 1:World program has been openly discussed and questions have been answered by school and district staff.

I have not concluded that this is a perfect program. I still continue to raise my own concerns and plan to actively seek answers. But for the time being I have become keenly aware of the conundrum that I find myself (and many other parents) in. While we (parents) want our students to have access to technology because we recognize the seemingly endless learning and creative opportunities associated with technology, many of us have reservations when we feel our control over our children’s access to, and use of, technology is limited or challenged. We fear the risks, even when we are not clear as to exactly what they may be. So how do we move forward toward accepting, end eventually embracing, the inevitability of technology permeating our lives and our children’s lives?

The first thing parents can do is stay informed. Talk to each other. Ask questions. Be present. When your child brings home the device be aware of how your child uses it. Talk to your child about what they do with the devices in at school and what the expectations are for at-home use of the devise. Handle the devise yourself. Even though the device is issued by the school, parents should be able to operate it. Always know your child’s passcode. This should be a standard parental expectation for all devices in the home. At first, parents can require that their student use the device in their presence, like the family room or kitchen rather than alone in the child’s bedroom with the door closed. Watch as your child uses the devise, ask questions about what they are doing and ask if it is helping them learn and why.

All of these suggestions should help parents feel more comfortable and engaged enough to monitor, or at least be aware, of their student’s use of the ipads they are given by the school. If something should happen that you feel uncomfortable with, take responsibility and inform the school and district staff immediately. Parents should always consider their children’s safety a priority, especially when engaging in technology. Technology advances faster than we can keep up with it and there are new, and often questionable, ways to interact with technology discovered daily. Our ability to stay informed will help keep our students safe while give them  access to trending technology and opportunity and support our schools as we try to negotiate the world of advancing technology.

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