You Say Quinoa…They Say Marshmallow Sandwich

 

“Can you make me a marshmallow sandwich?”

This is what my four year old daughter asked me the other day. A nice white bread sandwich with marshmallows in the middle. A sugar on top of sugar, sandwiched with sugar sandwich. Sigh..I hate food sometimes.
I am a program advisor for a food program. We filter money from the state into daycare homes. Daycare providers receive reimbursements that (ideally) help them purchase the nutritional foods that they will need to provide for their daycare children.

“This recipe book has some great ideas about what to do with quinoa,” I told this to various daycare providers during our home trainings. It was after about the 50th home when the daycare provider turned to me and asked…

“You mean ‘keen-wah’?”

It was then that a little Sandra Dee in my head threw her red and white pom pons and exclaimed,

“YOU’RE A FAKE AND A PHONY AND I WISH I NEVER LAID EYES ON YOU!”

Because yes, I did mean ‘keen-wah’, it was just that I was pronouncing it as ‘Quin-oa’ the whole time…probably because I had never seen it before and it wouldn’t make my grocery list ‘cut’ anytime in the near future.

Being in this particular role has taught and convicted me in many ways. I am never in a place where there is not something to learn. Here are some things that I have learned on the job.

1. Your responsibility is to put the food on the plate, the child’s responsibility is what they will eat.

2. Meal patterns as followed:

Breakfast = grain, fruit/veggie, milk
Lunch= protein, grain, 2 fruit/veggies, milk
Snacks= 2 of any food group

3. Portion sizes. Lots of visuals for this, deck of cards, an egg, look it up. 1 TBSP per year of age up to 5 is easiest I’ve remembered. This is when I joke that I am 37 so 37 TBSPs works (bah dum dum).

4. It might take a long time for them to like a certain food. A lot of times, like 20 or something like that (please don’t make me research this). That means 20 times of putting peas on a plate to be completely ignored. Try one pea, lick a pea, those kind of things. Not pushing, just encouraging.

5. If you don’t want them to eat it. Don’t buy it. This is a home lesson in progress. We shake our fists at the popsicle binging and the red dye imbibing, but who brought it in?

6. Don’t fret about picky eaters. Kids are picky. There are homes I go into and I marvel in the one year old who is happily eating avocado. This caregiver enjoys food prep and may or may not have parents who support healthy eating at home. The caregiver has bought avocado and serves it. It doesn’t always work like this. Children have concentrated taste buds (more than adults) and may not like certain textures (sensory issues or not). Don’t make it a power struggle and remember this is developmentally typical in preschool children.

7. Avoid the power struggle. No need to elaborate. Don’t do it.

8. Model Healthy Habits. You can’t expect a child not to want the cookies that you dunk in your coffee. You opened a can of worms when you created the warm fuzzy happy meal feeling. Guilty as charged.

9. Start small. Look a lot of people are just naturally awesome at healthy eating and others who just aren’t. Start by making smoothies and introducing a darker shade to your bread, this isn’t a contest.

10. May the Forks Be With You. Good luck in your journey, don’t get discouraged.

Parenting without Judgment

 

“Get back in your f@#$ing carseat!”
This was the loud command I heard from the car in front of me….while sitting in the fast food drive thru. It was years ago, but I had my oldest son with me. He was old enough to have heard the word and understand how to use it in a sentence, but young enough that I felt some need to use this as a teachable moment. After a slight awkward pause I turned to him and said…

“Hmm…I’ve never heard of that name brand before…do they make cribs too?”

We laughed and then went home and shoved greasy fast food in our mouths (entertain judgment here).
Fast forward a bit. I am the mother of 4 now. My youngest is the only one that I have ever had to remind to stay in her car seat. When they are younger, you have straight-jacket like buckles…but the mother of a strong-willed child understand the Houdini-like routine. You look in your mirror and notice they have broke free. You pull over. You redo the seat. You drive. It’s this nauseating cycle.

“Just firmly tell them to stay in their carseats. Don’t drive until they do.”

I’m sure the mom who yelled, “Get back in your f@#$ing carseat” once heeded to those naïve words too.
I judged the mom back then. I understand her now. Though I’ve never told my daughter to get back into her F@#$ing carseat…I have thought it…oh boy have I thought it.

“I saw a mother walk into the gas station and use her Link to buy cigarettes for herself and then chips and pop for her kids. She told her kid, “I only have a dollar!”

Somebody recently told me this. Their tongue heavily laden in conservative goo.
I rebuked the judgment. Well…yes…this seems like really sh#tty parenting, but we are not on welfare…at the moment. I suppose if I was on welfare and I smoked and my children really wanted chips and pop and my mommy guilt trumped my nutritional value sensibility, I could end up being that mother. Short-term rewards without long-term concerns. Is it really that much worse than a middle class parent who loads up on chips and pop and cigarettes on a credit card she will later end up filing bankruptcy on? Hmm…

I’ve judged parents and they’ve judged me. I’ve heard daycare providers say things like this:

“ I don’t understand these parents. Dressed to their nines while there kids look like they just rolled out of bed”

I smile and nod. I know how it looks when I take my bedhead daughter out of the house. It looks like I don’t care. I am dressed to the nines because I have to go to work and do not throw a fit when I pull a brush through my hair…well…usually. I put on the outfit that I pick for myself and I know the importance of putting my shoes on the right feet because it’s more comfortable. I have parented long enough to understand that while it would be wonderful to not have power struggles and have control over everybody it’s not worth the stress. So…whatever…judge me. I have seen many bedhead kids grow up to be valedictorians of their middle school class and they eventually do care about their outer appearances.

“They don’t spend time with their children. They pick them up from daycare, put them in front of the T.V., give them dinner and a bath, and put them to bed.”

Another judgment. I’ve been both a stay at home parent and a working parent. I understand the importance of bonding with your child in infancy and early childhood. I know that some people are more equipped than others to spend the entire day with their children. Money aside….some people are just not naturally made of the stuff that it takes to be with young children 24/7. It doesn’t warrant a ‘Well then why did they even have them?’ comment.

I love raising kids, but there is definitely this sort of relief in reaching different parenting milestones. I see parents of newborns and I smile because in some sort of way I know I am a little jealous of their newness. They will wonder in their child and obsess about breast feeding, while I know that years and years later what does or does not come out of your boobs is the least of your worries…maybe…if things are still coming out of your boobs years later you might need to get that checked.

The funny thing about writing while parenting is that I invite a double whammy. Ooh…let’s judge the mommy who blogs about how she mommies and how she blogs. I’ve got your number…and I’m not adding to it. More understanding and less judgment. It’s a work in progress worth making.

5 Things Every Writer Should Know

So…you’ve decided to be a writer. Congratulations you poor pitiful soul. You have chosen to tap into your most inner world and expose yourself to all of humanity. Here are some things that every writer should know.

Not Everybody Agrees With You. If you are a people pleaser, you probably shouldn’t write. You will write things that you felt on one particular day and somebody will find the need to disagree with you and post that underneath your comments. This usually happens when I post on sponsored blogs. Congratulations! You have created a reaction! You might even have to explain how writing about a touchy subject can help somebody else. It might be good to have a dialogue with loved ones about what might be off limits to write about…maybe you’ll even listen.

Be Aware of Your Audience. Again, write for yourself, but if there is an audience you are writing for then adapt to that. I have contributed to sponsored blogs. This is just one example of how similar, but different an audience could be. When I contributed to ‘dad blogs’ I had to keep in mind that I was writing for a male audience (mostly), with the mommy blog I was writing to a vast mommy audience. There are some posts that did better than others, and when you are aware of your audience it gives you more insight on what works.

Know Your Intent. Blog posts can come across as lengthy rants, articles can be informative, humor can sneak in anywhere. I know that personally, I write to vent emotion, to inform, to entertain, to empathize…it can all be thrown into the same post sometimes. It is important that you, as the writer, know and understand your intention for writing a particular piece. Give it a purpose….then realize your intent. An audience member that takes your parody humorous post with a journal research article mind is just not your problem.

Be in the Moment. It is not important that you write things that you will agree with later on. I can go back to a certain blog post and realize that I don’t necessarily feel that way right now, and that is fine. It would be worthwhile if readers would remember this truth to. Just because I wrote a tongue in cheek comment about not being able to leave the house with my four kids on a cold winter day when my youngest was a toddler does not mean that I won’t take them all out to a festival on a sunny day by myself today. I still do not take them all to the grocery store without backup. This truth stands. Blog posts are basically journal entries shown to the public. While words do, in fact, have power, it is important to know that people evolve, people change…little kids grow up and so do their mommies.

Write for Yourself. Once I wrote a super long blog post and somebody advised me that I should shorten it for the sake of my audience. I then decided to give a Part 1 and then Part 2 to the next blog post…nobody cares. Realize that as a writer, you may or may not have an audience. Be true to that truth. Also, you might not make any money writing…at all.. Don’t take the expression “Penny for your thoughts?” too literally. Write because you enjoy it, but understand the true value of your words.

A Blog With a Dog: Getting Lucky

 

 

 

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This tweet was written like any other, heavily laden in sarcasm…meant to be witty. Little did I know that just 3 months later I would be sitting on my couch with three of my very own dogs. Dogs….sitting on me or near me, licking themselves obnoxiously, shedding hair like crazy…dogs. I suppose I should tie up my shoelaces because I’ll probably have to run the marathon or go Black Friday shopping this year. So how did I go from this tweet to 3 dogs? Let’s just start by talking about getting Lucky.

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” would be a bit of a theme song for me early 2014. I’d be ‘up all night to get Lucky’…food…water….back into the house. Lucky…the Beagle. Shortly after Christmas, my husband and I sat on the couch and had this conversation.

“Maybe next year we’ll get a dog. Who knows…maybe for Joey’s 10th birthday.”

I can’t remember who said it…but we were in agreement about this. Little did I know that we would get a dog next year, and then adopt two more, taking them home on Joey’s 10th birthday.

I looked at the box of dog treats getting stale on my dresser. I bought those for my job. In my job, I travel to daycare homes to monitor their food program. Inevitably, I’ve found that almost every house would have 1-3 dogs, maybe a couple cats, and then…of course…kids. “These ladies are nuts!”, I’d think. Why would you want all this chaos? It’s not that I never had pets nor enjoyed them, but with my four kids the idea of caretaking for anything else, picking up poop, having a needy critter…I poo poo’ed it. These days I’ve had to find some sort of meditative mantra as I pick up the poop in my backyard.

So….anyways…once the idea was planted to get a dog (whether it was God or my barking deceased uncle’s idea)…it was a seed planted that had to grow. Daily, we’d look at the shelter’s webpages. I was looking for a Shih Tzu (like my mom’s)…or at least some sort of Poo Foo Shih Moodle type of dog. My husband kept noticing this dog.

038

“Biscuit” just wasn’t rubbing off on me. He wasn’t a Poo Foo Shih Moodle…he was a Beagle. I didn’t know too much about Beagles, but then I gathered they like to run (away), dig, howl, hunt. Joe kept associating warm fuzzy feelings about Beagles from his sister’s old Beagle ‘Corky’ who passed on, but was a good dog.

The County had a Shih Tzu. My husband was home from work on lunch hour. He agreed to go look at the dog with me. Of course, the Shih Tzu was gone.

“Small dogs get picked up pretty quick,” said the Shelter staff member.

We decided to look anyways and there he was…’Biscuit’. ‘Biscuit’ looked nothing like the picture. He was serious. The thing that attracted me to him was that he wasn’t barking. I liked that. We had a meet and greet with him and he was very excited. He jumped on us and I remember him smelling Dorito dust on Tony. All but 1 out of 4 kids would meet ‘Biscuit’, and we soon decided we’d go for it. Since he was an older dog (their best guess was 5), we even got the ‘Golden Whiskers’ rate for him $55. We joke about our $55 dog, the best $55 we spent. ‘Biscuit’ would have to get neutered, so we would bring him home the following day.

When I walked into the Pet Smart, I felt like an expectant mother walking into ‘Babies R’ Us’. Everything felt so new and foreign. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Obviously, like a new mother I bought all the wrong things and forget a few necessities. It was like “Ooh…look at these newborn cowboy boots!” and then forgetting to buy onesies.

At Target I anxiously told the checkout lady, “We’re getting a family dog…we’ve never had one.”

Target lady, “I have 4 kids and am scared to get a dog…we’re too busy.”

“I know,” I said, “I felt that way for a very long time too”

After 14 years of marriage we adopted ‘Biscuit’ renamed ‘Lucky (Luciano)’ on 1/14/14. I noticed the number pattern and found a few insights on the internet…take it or leave it…but considering where I had come from it is meaningful to me.

050

051

When Joe brought Lucky home it was like a newborn coming home.

“Dad’s here!…with Lucky!”

Joe carried Lucky in, all doped up from his neuter procedure. We had his bed ready…his food/water bowls We walked him outside, where Lucky would quietly look around…at all the Polar Vortex winter wonderland…and back at us…he was home.

Assburgers with a Side of Sighs

Me: “You know you have A.D.H.D….but you also have some characteristics of Asperger’s”
10yo: “Assburgers?! (he laughs)”
Me: “I know…I thought the word sounded like that at first too (I acknowledge our similar sense of humor) ”
10yo: “…I’m not Autistic..”
Me: “There’s a huge range of Autism, like a spectrum…a rainbow…”(uses hands to show where Asperger’s might be)
Me: “You don’t have all the traits…I mean..you understand sarcasm and don’t take things literally…you can have good eye contact…but..you know how you are really interested in certain things…and you use big words when you speak?….those are a couple traits.”

It was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue that I would have with my son Joey that would also include sensory defensiveness awareness (he has never liked loud noises, is not an extremely affectionate kid, and likes his physical space) and a call to self-awareness. The fact that I even used the term ‘characteristics’ when talking to a 10 year old is just a hint of what I’m dealing with. I took an Asperger’s screening for him online in which the results showed ‘a moderate risk of probability for Asperger’s’. I know enough about Asperger’s to realize that children are not typically diagnosed until later in grade school…if at all. I know enough about Joey to realize that he may or may not even benefit from further investigation of this topic. Why? As of now, summer before fifth grade, he has been doing fairly well in school. We do give him a low dose medication to help him focus. Though he does still have some ‘2’s on his report card (1-4 scale) for listening and comprehension, at this point he does not have an IEP or 504 accommodations plan. This could change…time will tell.
Socially…he’s had his hiccups. I am grateful for my home daycare years, because Joey has made friends this way. He’s learned how to share his time, space, and materials in his own comfort zone. Perhaps the most aggravating thing to other peers is when Joey needs to disengage. He needs to be alone on the computer, might not want to play ‘hide and seek’ or go outdoors for very long. As he put it, “Do you know how much ENERGY it takes to entertain three people all day?” As a matter of fact…as a mother of four…who if not A.D.D at the least likes ample time to have quiet and reflective thought without interruption during the day…I think I just might understand his sentiment.
I’ve called him my ‘easy’ kid, because from birth…at home..he’s been easy. Joey was a smiley baby, who grew up to be a kid who always entertained himself through his hyperfocused sessions…be it setting up his Thomas the Tank Engine sets, sketching, video games. The not so easy part is when 5 out of 6 members of the family are on the couch or at the dining room table and we’d all ask, “Where’s Joey?” There was a rough patch, where realizing and embracing each other’s differences was really hard. An older brother criticizing the younger for his ‘quirks’. The younger brother moody and resentful of the loosened bond, of his older brother’s growing independence from the family…but that has been reconciled now. There’s always going to be sibling tiffs in my family, but more now with the 4 and 6yo who are like an old married couple at times.
Joey’s preschool teacher noted that there was probably something going on, but not quite sure where the finger should land. She shook her head at Autism, but the sensory issues and A.D.H.D was surfacing then…the trouble sitting still at circle time without touching his neighbor…those sort of things. I pushed down my inner Mama Bear when I noticed that there was a rectangular bright orange masking tape space for Joey at the carpet. The teacher had special education background, so I trusted her judgment…it was a strategy…she also suggested a playdate with another ‘quirky’ kid (my words not hers). I appreciated that the teacher was attuned to his needs. Kindergarten went by without a hitch, first grade led to A.D.H.D diagnosis. My educational background is basically all things early childhood, so even though I knew everything I needed to know and figured he had it..having to diagnose my child with A.D.H.D. was still an emotional experience. We didn’t medicate him right away, but after a little while it seemed like the right choice for us. We don’t medicate him on the weekends or during summer break, as Joey says, “I don’t need medication…it’s summer break…it’s time to let my imagination run wild”.
Medication is a touchy topic. Joey got a kick out of the pediatrician’s go ahead to ‘try drinking coffee’ (he didn’t like the taste that much). We went through a season of trying Melatonin. I talked to one mother who showed me her son’s progress report. The mother refuses to medicate her child. She feels that the pregnant teacher is just a little burned out and not effective in her behavior management. The progress report makes it blatant that the child’s behavior is completely distracting to his and other student’s learning. The mother complains that the teacher did not tell her earlier in the year about these problems, that the teacher thinks the child is acting up possibly more now because of a newly adopted child. And so it goes, the struggles of compromising between teacher, parent, and child. Sometimes this results in pulling the kid out, enrolling into a different school…a luxury that this financially compromised mother would have limited option. I recently talked to an expensive private school teacher who admitted, “We get the kids that don’t typical fit in to a ‘typical’ program”. I acknowledged the mother’s stance, gave her my own insight, and in the end, realized that I am only here..at her home.. to monitor her food program for her home daycare. Like we should do to other parents, but often don’t… I wished her the best on her own choices with no heavily laden judgment.
And in the end, it is about our own choices. I am greatly blessed with my four healthy children. Whatever trivial things I’ve endured is absolutely nothing compared to what some families will need to overcome. I understand the role of being your own child’s advocate. Each child has their own special need that the parent should be aware of. It can be difficult when family, friends, or professionals opinions clash with your own knowledge about your child. I’ll never forget the hurt in a mother’s eyes when she told me, “I don’t think the teacher even LIKES my child”. Admittedly at the time I thought, “Do you know the behavior your child is capable of?”…but years later…I get it. We want our kids to be appreciated and valued by others as much as we are supposed to do. I’ve questioned my subjectivity and in honor of other people’s opinions, I have entertained every possible imaginable fear and doubt in regards to my child.

“No, he does not need to be in a self-contained classroom.”

“No, medication has not turned him into a zombie.”

“No, he is not hypersexual. Yes, I understand some children with A.D.H.D are. Rather he does not particularly enjoy physical contact.”

“Yes, he does imitate things he hears on YouTube, though No…I doubt highly that he imitated that particular inappropriate action because he saw it on YouTube.”

“Yes, he does socially isolate himself, but he is capable of prosocial behaviors.”

“Yes, he did take a long time to learn to tie his shoes, but he is able to draw the most amazing sketches.”

“Yes, he is impulsive and might even describe himself as ‘short-tempered’ at times, no doubt like any other kid, he is capable of injuring yours.. I’m sorry he did that…but no, he is not an ongoing threat to your child or my children.”

“Yes, he is inattentive to that…it bores him.”

“Yes, he is engrossed in technology…he’s absorbing what interests him.”

“Yes, he appears to be socially awkward at times…but his deeper understanding of humanity amazes me.”

And so it goes. What I’m proud of is more than the fact that I understand my kid, but that Joey really does KNOW who he is. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff, except when he does. One of the hidden gems I did pull out of the handful of counseling sessions we had was that sometimes he might need to talk to somebody outside his family about his anxieties and other nuances that make up his life.

Let it be publicly known…I have no favorites in my house, my kids are no better or no worse than any other. They are my kids to raise and are each as much of my own spiritual teachers as I am theirs. Sometimes they are my unruly, hot mess spiritual teachers, each one in a moment’s notice can belly flop onto the couch with a loud announcement of ‘I’M BORED!’ and sometimes that’s just me. But together, we are learning and growing. There’s a point where you realize that your children are as much the world’s as they are yours. You can’t shelter them from criticism, opinions, and other realities…they are (probably) going to fly the coop. People will have their own ideas about them, and that is (I’m learning) completely out of my control. This kid might not even have a diagnosis of any kind, but as long as he understands how he best functions, learns, and is understood by the world, that is all that really matters.
Joey spent a long time with a cousin of mine in an engaging conversation.

Me: “You seem to like to talk to her”

Joey: “Yes, we have a lot in common….we have similar interests..”

I nod and smile, this cousin (now in her 20’s) was diagnosed as a child with PDD-NOS. She has attended college, has her group of friends, she’s doing just fine. I nod and smile as I know in my heart that he will find his kindred like-minded souls throughout life and (his words) “Maybe some day I can inspire people”. Too late bud…you’ve already done that for me.

10 Things Social Media Has Taught Me

1. People have Facebook themes. Go ahead, scroll through your timeline…you will start to see patterns. For example, mine will go something like cute kid pic, mommy rant dipped in humor, inspirational quote, Netflix, repeat. My husband will go from a picture of grilled meat, to a bottle of beer, to a well-filtered kid or dog pic, maybe a dig about our city, selfie. We become a bit predictable…it’s all good.

2. You Can Say/ Post/ Tweet Whatever You Want. Congratulations! You’ve found the Freedom to Speech impulse button, push it…push it real good. Hopefully you won’t lose your high paid job/friend/spouse/dignity.

3. You Will Get to Know People on a Deeper Level. People can poke fun at ‘Fakebook’ all they want, but when I went to my 20 Year Class Reunion and people told me that ‘they feel like they know me’ because of social media, I took that as a complement. I have enjoyed pictures of children I’ve never met, inspirational quotes, and the pieces of people’s lives that I have admired like sea shells along a beach, collecting a few in my long-term memory bucket.

4. People Love Their Nerium.

5. What You Say on Social Media Can Change Your Relationships. I have talked to many people who no longer associate with other people based on things they have said on social media. Whether it be someone’s view on politics, dramatic relationship posts, or heated inbox discussions, the written word taken out of context (without the 99% non-verbal cues that we need to process it) can mess things up. It goes back to #2 on our list…and literal #2 as a result.

6. You Can Make Strangers Mad. As if irritating people I know isn’t enough, blogging is a great way to make people you’ve never met very pissy and opinionated about that one blog post you wrote 2 years ago on a cold winter Mommy morning. It just makes me want to blog more really to piss off judgmental strangers…pro bono!

7. You Can Make Professional Connections on Social Media. For some this may mean marketing a product or sales, but I’ve also seen people get jobs through Facebook, and though we are not always very professional, I’ve met some fun bloggers through #…Twitter.

8. Learning About the World Around You. Sometimes I’d really not like to know that there is a vehicle fleeing to elude or an armed robbery down the street, but click a link and you can find out what’s going on with crime in the area, but more than that you can get fast information on the latest local, national, and world news. Even if it is heavily laden with subjectivity…it’s news.

9. Meeting Like-Minded People. For every star in the sky there is a star on Twitter, just a little wink saying, “I get you”. I can honestly say the same sentiment goes for my 10 year old, where else but on ‘YouTube’ will you find such a large pool of tech junkies talking about the latest Wii U game or Minecraft hack with such intense enthusiasm?

10. Social Media is a Double Edged Sword. There’s criticism that Facebook exaggerates the fun times and making life far more exciting than it is, Instagram filters out clutter, wrinkles, kids attitudes, and the last argument you had with your spouse, social media is said to be in danger of isolating us, leaving us with stiff necks, and aggravating A.D.D, ….but…on the other hand…social media DOES let us communicate to each other the highlights of our lives, it serves as an anecdotal record of sorts of all the non-sense that makes up a life. Many people recognize my kids and not in a ‘stranger danger’ way, but in a ‘OMG that Maria…or a “I totally relate, my son is just like that too!” way’ …which is cool. We couldn’t possibly spend quality personal time with all of our social media friends if we wanted to…and let’s get real, sometimes pushing a ‘like’, ‘share’, ‘favorite’, or ‘retweet’ button is about all the social interaction any of us can handle at day’