Friday, July 27, 2012

Eat this!

My mother-in-law got us the Eat This, Not That book for kids. Not in the "you-need-help" kind of way, but in a "knew-you-would-enjoy-this" kind of way. She's good like that. While a lot of it is common sense, and we eat at very few of the chain restaurants they profile, I still thought there were some good tips - a few of which I'll share!

I was pretty much of a food nazi before Ellen was born regarding what I planned on her eating. That continued for most of her first year - I made almost everything that went in her mouth, most of it organic, and she was a delightful eater. I loosened up quite a bit as she started eating meals at school, by necessity and to avoid rocking the boat too much, and have continued to loosen up. Did I think I would share my secret stash of gummy bears with her? No, but it can't be avoided and, really, what's the harm in a gummy bear or two?

Again, I think common sense prevails: we eat most meals at home, cooked by me, and she eats virtually anything I put in front of her. She is willing to try almost any new food and that is just as important to me as feeding her healthy food (which I do). We eat out with family or friends once a week or so, and she gets a special mom-daughter lunch every now and then, which is fun and fine. She doesn't notice if I order her green beans instead of fries, but she also gets to sneak a few fries from someone else's plate. She is a snack-lover, and I try to make healthy choices (beyond fruit or veggies, of course). She eats a lot of organic food, but not everything.

Here are some things I found interesting:
- Chick-Fil-A got the award for America's Healthiest Chain Restaurant for Kids. Politics aside (which I do struggle with, damn you waffle fries), a chicken strip, fruit and milk is a pretty decent "treat" lunch.
- Chipotle is surprisingly less healthy than I would have thought. Crispy steak tacos? Yes. Soft chicken tacos? Not nearly as healthy. No cheese or sour cream, of course, is what they recommend. Boo.
- Dairy Queen strawberry sundae has 260 calories and 7g of fat and the sauce's first ingredient is strawberries, as it should be. This is a lot better than a milkshake, though maybe similar to a Blizzard. We don't often get to DQ, usually opting for FroYo, but I do love me a dipped cone.
- I don't ever get to Jamba Juice, and frankly am not even sure we have one near us, but I guess they have an All Fruit Line of smoothies just like I would make at home.
- Krispy Kreme: If we eat donuts, we go to our fave local place. But, the book says that the sugar donut at KK has less sugar than any other donut on the menu. Who knew?
- It's funny how I rationalize fast food that Ellen eats. She has never had a meal from McDonald's, though has eaten at Chick-fil-A plenty of times. The small vanilla cone at McDonald's is a great treat for kids - 45 calories, 1 g fat, 6 g sugar. Go ahead, get one for yourself, too. The Egg McMuffin is also a pretty healthy breakfast in a pinch, as far as fast food breakfasts go.
- Ellen was begging for Panera this week. I usually get her the kid meal with a turkey sandwich, but a healthier choice is the half chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread. Bonus - Ells would eat this!
- The Wendy's single hamburger with everything (minus mayo) is one of the healthiest fast food hamburgers. 

For grocery store items:
- We usually buy the Nature Valley granola bars because I think they have the fewest "weird" ingredients. Surprisingly, the Clif Kid organic chocolate ZBar has less calories, less fat and more fiber. Seems counter-intuitive, but Ellen would be THRILLED to get to eat this.
- Most other grocery store items are as you would expect - watch for hidden sugar and calories, whole wheat over white, etc, etc. We don't buy much packaged food, but I must say that I really do like regular pasta vs. whole wheat. Sue me. I bought a loaf of white bread from the bakery this week for meatloaf sandwiches (the only acceptable method) and Ellen hardly knew what it was.

And, for the pregnant among you, if faced with a a vending machine at work: Nacho cheese Doritos have fewer calories and about the same fat as a bag of cheese Goldfish. Go for it. :)

I also read a good tip somewhere this week - The mother's rule was that her kids had to ask her before getting any snack, but they could have a piece of fruit (or veggies I suppose) without asking. The path of least resistance is also the healthiest!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just buy it

How are you all approaching chores / allowance / teaching the value of money??

We have just started having some of the, "Well, you can just buy it" or "just pay for it, Mom" comments from Ellen when she asks for something and I tell her no. It is time to start working on teaching the value of money, but I'm not sure the best way to approach it all.

I casually asked her if she would like to do some chores, like making her bed or emptying the dishwasher, for some nickels and dimes. She was all about it. I didn't mention anything else, but the next morning she made her bed without prompting and yesterday she came to help me unload the dishwasher. She kept saying "I need to do my chapters. I need to finish these chapters!" and I was so confused ... took me a minute ... "chores??" I asked. Oh, yes, chores. :)

So, I thought I would come up with some casual chart and give her some coins to put in a piggy bank, but the more I researched it for ideas, the more confused I got. Not surprisingly, there are all kinds of opinions on the best way to do this. Here are the challenges I see:

1. Let's be real - I will be in charge of remembering to do this, so it needs to be simple.

2. Some people are very opposed to rewarding "expected" behaviors with money. So, for example, I do expect that Ellen will make her bed and pick up her toys and clear her dishes at some point - those are normal parts of being a human being - but I'm not sure I see a problem with a monetary reward for those activities at age 3.

3. Some people don't want to provide an "allowance", i.e. money that is just given without being tied to a specific activity. They do, however, reward specific tasks, above and beyond the expected tasks, with money. Like working in the yard, or folding laundry, or whatever.

4. A lot of people want to enforce the habit of saving and giving to charity, which I like. But if the monetary reward is 10 cents, how do you split that up into different banks? With pennies?

5. At what point do you let your child bust into their bank and buy something? I think there is value in making decisions about spending money, and even making bad choices so you don't do it the next time, but if Ellen wants a Barbie (which I don't intend to buy her), it's going to take A LOT of bed making at 5 cents a pop to earn a reward. Will she get bored and lose interest?

I don't recall how my parents approached this, but I do think I have a healthy respect for money and savings. I had my first checking account in probably 5th or 6th grade and I diligently balance my checkbook every month. I had an allowance in high school, and I also worked after school and on weekends, and I was responsible for paying for most of my fun and probably some of my clothes. I was never paid for good grades - those were expected - and I had a lot of household tasks that were my responsibility and I lost privileges if I didn't do them. Oh the days of losing phone privileges! I was discussing this with my mom and I think she could see me spiraling out of control and we changed the subject. :)

So - deep breath - this isn't a life or death matter. I think I may start with a small chart with some basic tasks that get rewarded with money. Ellen is young. As she grasps the concept, then I think we can move some of those tasks into the "expected household behavior" category and add new tasks to her list. Once she starts to grasp the idea of money, then I think we can add a savings and charity component.

I did see this idea on Pinterest from The Creative Mama on easy sticker charts. It looks simple and I like the idea of just basically rewarding good behavior in any form, but it doesn't involve the money component that I'm looking for. Maybe down the road ....

Tips? Thoughts? Am I too early on this at age 3 1/2??

(Edited to add: another good post on Dinner: A Love Story about some similar issues - my mom and sister were telling me about The New Yorker article, in particular).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Birth Plan

My plan is:
1. Get the baby out
2. Take the baby home

I'm not so worried about any of the other details ...

This, however, is worth a read and good for a laugh -
Jamie and Jeff's Birth Plan via McSweeney's

Friday, July 13, 2012

Play time

Artsy stuff is the primary time-occupier around here. Ellen does like to read, and play dress up (mostly when she should be having "quiet time"), and there is an occasional game or puzzle, but she always, always comes back to coloring.She is getting pretty good at coloring in the lines and likes some coloring books, but also really likes free form drawing on plain paper.

I recently picked up several pieces from the Todd Oldham Kids Made Modern line at Target. I'm not sure how long this line will last in stores, so I stocked up on a few of my favorites. I must admit that I initially purchased because they are so darn cute, but I really love their colored pencils, big and little, and their watercolor set. The little pencils are PERFECT for coloring on-the-go. They come in a round canister with a lid that is pretty hard to destroy, unlike the typical crayon box. My only gripe is that they don't come with a sharpener and Ells uses them pretty quickly! The watercolors also have lots of great colors and come with a little pad of watercolor paper, which makes all the difference. I love what Ellen dreams up and some of her pieces are frame-worthy. I just put an old sorority T-shirt on her (a "smob" she calls it) and let her go ....

I've been really keeping my eyes open for good sales on toys and such as we approach the end of summer. The "end of summer" sounds ridiculous, but back-to-school sales are right around the corner and then fall and then baby and then OHMYGODHELPME. I want to keep the holidays pretty low-key this year and would love to get my shopping done early .... any suggestions??

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Great series on Cup of Jo this week on work-life balance for moms ... check it out here.

I must say, most days I feel super, super lucky to have the option to work part time at a job I really love. Three days of work is the ideal for me and our family. Ellen has a spot in a daycare that we have been really happy with and, while not perfect, I don't think any child-care situation is perfect. Even when you're exclusively doing it yourself!

I find it so interesting to read about other families and how they make their lives work. Last year, Joanna did a series on work-from-home moms. I would also find it really interesting to read about stay-at-home moms because, for the life of me, I don't know how you do it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Safety patrol

I have a great friend who is a nurse. Actually, I have several great friends who are nurses - they are the best kind of friends to have. However, the first nurse friend is a real safety hound and a car seat expert. For real, certified and everything. She shared this with me today - MORE car seat changes.

Child Seat Requirements Change with 2014 Rule

Read it through, but the basic idea is that the LATCH system may not be adequate for children who are 30+ pounds and are in a car seat that is heavy. Great, just as I reach the point of feeling very comfortable with the LATCH system and not at all comfortable installing a seat with the seat belt.

Also, I just realized the other day that our convertible car seat max's out at 40 pounds. Ells is a compact 36 pounds these days and I have no way to predict when she'll reach 40, but it can't be that far away. So, yet another car seat purchase looming ... advice?

Finally, I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Fourth of July holiday. We live in a place where home fireworks aren't allowed and it is so hot and dry it's probably a bad idea anyway. We are going to make Diet Coke Mentos bombs tonight with our little friend up the street - I think (hope) it will be just as entertaining for the 2-3 year old crowd.

I'm going to follow the directions at Pancakes and French Fries: How to Make Cola Bombs (The Easier Way).