Archives

The Minimalist Waldorf Baby

puddy

*Most* Waldorf moms now have read Kim Payne’s books, Simplicity Parenting and Soul of Discipline and if you HAVEN’T, I couldn’t recommend them more. This post won’t be a cliff notes version, but consider it a personal testament to their wonder.

I have mentioned previously that I went from living in 680sqft with 3 bedrooms to 1280sqft with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bath, to now about 800sqft with 2 bedrooms and a tiny little bathroom….and if there’s anything in the world that makes you want to buy ALL the stuff, it’s a new baby. Most women can relate to the feeling that all things teeny tiny are adorable to us, but especially so in pastels. Cheers to any fellow parents who have ever gone broke in Carter’s.

But we needn’t. After all, though babies have cognition, they don’t have adequate memory retention until around age 3, and so no child will ever claim that as a 6mo they were disappointed to learn that their parents could only ever afford used clothes or that they didn’t have copious amounts of toys littering the common living space. I’m not saying don’t do well for your child, but I AM implying that perhaps we go a little overboard. Ask yourself- when was the last time you bought yourself a new shirt, and would it be organic cotton from Hanna Andersson.

And so, in an attempt to share the joy of my newly found simplicity, I thought I’d share our list of necessities that I’ve compiled as the mother of 3 children, a Waldorf homeschooler, and a madwomen living in an itty bitty apartment.

1. Clothes. This seems like an obvious one, but what wasn’t so obvious to me is how sleep deprivation a) makes you not give a toss as to whether or not your baby is fashionable or matching and b) saps the mental energy of coordinating outfits and the energy of keeping them free of vomit. The solution? Get about 10-14 footed pjs and rompers. I suggest the footed pjs over the rompers because they have feet and no person ever under the age of 1 is willing or capable of maintaining those ridiculously tiny socks, and there’s no sense in feeding the laundry demons at $1/pair. I suggest cotton because it breathes and I suggest getting some onesies to layer them. Most of them in the smaller sizes have the little mitts on them so your baby doesn’t claw you like a newborn cat (and you’re not feeding the laundry demons), and do yourself a favor and get the kind with zippers because 1 billion tiny snaps at a 2am changing feels like Chinese water torture. If you live in a cold climate, make sure you also get a sweater or two. You’ll also need some cotton hats, about a dozen. Of course, if you have a baby like my second child, you may need more than this because some babies are tiny volcanos, and simply cannot keep anything INSIDE them. As your baby learns to eat finger foods, you might want to get some bibs or just strip them when they eat. Burp cloths are also helpful, but around here, we just make our washcloths do double duty most days. If you’re a social butterfly, go ahead and indulge in a couple cute coordinated outfits to show off the baby- but believe me when I say your baby could wear a sack and still be cute. *Footed pjs ARE ok for babywearing as long as they’re roomy and not pulling up on the toes.

blankets

2. Blankets. Again, this amount largely depends on how much your child vomits, and you can always send someone to the store for more items if you discover you need more after the baby’s birth, but you should have about a half dozen receiving blankets and about 2 heavier baby blankets like small quilts. If your baby is sleeping in a cosleeper or another sleeping area that isn’t your bed, you’ll need about 4 fitted sheets. I also prefer cotton for bedding because it breathes, and I am head over heals in love with Aiden and Anais cotton gauze blankets. Target now carries 4 packs of similar quality blankets for half the price.

3. Diapering accessories. I don’t care if you put your kid in brand new $22 cloth diapers, biodegradable organic disposables or cheap diapers from Walmart, you will need a LOT. Cloth diaper estimates vary greatly depending on the age of your baby and how often you wash, and I feel more comfortable urging parents to do that investigation on a separate cloth diapering site. We washed every day and had two dozen newborn diapers. If you’re cloth diapering, you’ll also want to consider getting a diaper sprayer, a wet sack, and even a separate wet bag for travel. For wipes I used baby wash clothes from the dollar store and put them in a jar with Dr. Bronners baby liquid castile and water. I’ve also used disposables and organic wipes, and good deals are available on Amazon and at Babies R Us. Emily’s diaper cream claims to be cloth diaper friendly but I wouldn’t risk it, and though it’s superior, it’s also pricey, so if you’re not worried about gluten, I recommend Burt’s Bees. Sometimes corn starch is also helpful, but I’ve yet to use it with any success.

bumbo

4. Some gear. This will also depend on your location, but what I’ve found helpful is a stroller system (the infant carseat that snaps onto a folding stroller), two types of baby carriers (a woven wrap for long carries, and a soft structured carrier, a Mei Tai, for quick jaunts into the store- or a REALLY good carrier like an Ergo), a playyard for when baby starts to crawl out of the cosleeper, the cosleeper (or crib), and a bumbo. This seems like a lot, but they all serve their purpose. Babywearing mom’s DO use their strollers- sometimes we don’t want to wake up a sleeping traveling baby, or sometimes we want a break. I have found the woven wrap extremely helpful for when baby is sick or fussy, and when I want to do housework without the little one under foot. I also have been saved by a dreaded baby swing, which I have a very conflicted relationship with, and I don’t usually recommend it. Some mother’s swear by them, others wouldn’t ever indulge. I’m a single mother 4 days out of the week, so the baby swing has saved everyone many tears. I also own a bumbo so baby can practice baby lead weaning in a child appropriate seat. I don’t believe in high chairs because I think it’s lunacy to put a baby 3-4 feet in the air in a tiny tower chair and expect them to be safe. The closer your baby is to the floor, the safer they are, but you still need to supervise your baby in a bumbo so they don’t smack their head going backwards. Also, a night light is very helpful for late night changes. By now you’ve noticed a substantial lack of baby gear at our house and that is intentional- baby gear is bad for babies’ development AND their bodies. Instead, childproof your home with outlet plugs, baby gates if necessary, bolt your furniture down, and use doorhandle guards or locks. A freeroaming baby is an independent one. If you’re minimalist, there is little baby can get into.

towels

5. Stuff to wash your baby. For us, this didn’t mean anything until baby outgrew our sink and we don’t have a tub, so we bought her a little baby tub and a detachable showerhead to fill it up and wash her hair. If I had been in my old place, I would have just filled up the tub a little or sat in it with her, and used an old cup. Some people like to get baby wash cloths and baby towels but they’re not really helpful. If you like to use chemical soap on yourself, I suggest something milder for baby, and if you have an ashy baby, you’ll want some coconut oil or baby lotion. On the subject of baby toiletries, you’ll want a finger toothbrush for when teeth erupt, baby nail clippers, and a nasal aspirator for stuffy noses.

6. Medicine. Don’t be caught in the night with a screaming baby and a fever that is out of control. Studies are warning against using Tylenol on babies, but when your baby spikes a fever at 2am and needs a boost halfway between doses of Motrin, you’ll reach for the Tylenol. So have both on hand if you will, or the natural alternative. Also get a thermometer, and baby vicks (I diy from Wellness Mama’s recipe). Anything more than that and you need to consult a doctor. I personally chose to also get an amber teething necklace, because I believe that it aids in suppressing teething symptoms. Make sure you buy them from a reputable place and make sure they’re a safe size. We also have topical arnica on hand for bumps and bruises and some first aid items like antibacterial ointment and bandaids. I’ve also used colloidal silver and garlic oil for ear infections on my other children, but most breastfed babies do not experience them. I do not use teething remedies, as many have been recalled, and I have not used tylenol on my baby because I am skeptical of it’s safety, but I have not needed either. Make the choices that are right for your family. Something I have used and also found helpful is a humidifier, but they are not a necessity.

7. Mama items. You’ll want post partum items like breastpads (I strongly recommend washable bamboo, hemp, or flannel), post partum pads, something to sooth your lady bits like witch hazel, some belly balm, something for your nipples like coconut oil or lanolin, pain relief medicine, and Lanisoh gel coolies (they go in your bra). Bra’s are helpful if you’re well endowed, and Target has decent wireless nursing bras for under $20. As my baby has matured, I’ve switched to shelf lined camis, and I pull up my shirt and pull down my cami, so my belly isn’t exposed. I also recommend getting some new yoga pants. At some point the ones you wore during pregnancy will be too stretched out and since you will live in them, you owe it to yourself to get some new ones. I also really liked having a rice pack for aching shoulders and low back. (you can put rice in a clean sock and heat it in the microwave if you don’t have an electric hot pack)

play yard

8. A small backpack. I recommend this over a diaper bag because it actually stays on your shoulders. Most of them have water bottle holders, which you’re going to want because you’ll be thirsty all the time. Don’t overload it, but make sure you pack snacks for YOU.

9. Later baby items. As my baby has matured, I’ve found it helpful to have a few items such as a silicone teething necklace to wear while I’m babywearing, a carseat cover for cold weather (it goes over the carseat like a shower cap), baby leggins (for crawling and hiked up pants from babywearing), a few toys like teething rings, play silks, rattles, and balls all in a cloth basket, and a flash drive for photos. I have also really enjoyed having a rocking chair and a mobile, but they’re not necessities.

woven

10. Ten healthy meal ideas that can be made in 30min or less or can be prepared by other household members. This sounds like an afterthought but don’t let it be. Some ideas include: black bean burgers with a side (think salad or a vege), Dr. McDougall’s corn chowder, Happy Herbivore’s Chick’n pot pie over noodles or rice, spaghetti, breakfast (tofu scramble with toast and fruit, oatmeal with add-ins, waffles with sides, etc.), grilled daiya cheese sandwiches and Imagine tomato soup, stir fry, chickpea tacos, beans and rice with a side, giant loaded salads, baked/microwaved potato with steamed broccoli and daiya cheese, etc. If you can get 10-15 meal ideas to rotate over the month of cheap inexpensive staples you can keep on hand with minimal trips to the grocery store, you’ll conserve a LOT of energy.

cookbooks

*I did not include feeding accessories here because some women choose to breastfeed and some choose not to or cannot. If you breastfeed, you should consider having at least one bottle or cup on hand, and perhaps a breast pump and storage cooler for milk, depending on whether or not you’ll be pumping at work. Though I stay at home, I have a pump for when I leave baby with daddy. If you are not breastfeeding, you will want to look into different types of formula and bottles. I’d recommend about 4-6 bottles, and contrary to popular belief, they do not need to be sterilized.

Skills to gain:

  1. Research babywearing and learn about babywearing types and safety. Here’s the link to Babywearing International.
  2. Research baby lead weaning and learn baby first aid. Here’s the link to Baby Led Weaning.
  3. If breastfeeding, find a lactation consultant BEFORE your baby is born and get the LLL book.
  4. Learn about appropriate baby milestones such as sleep habits, feeding habits, and developmental milestones by reading books such as The Baby Whisperer or What to Expect.
  5. Research baby care from a medicinal standpoint and know your options involving dental care, vaccines, medicine, etc.
  6. Compile a list of activities that will encourage you to practice self care such as making time to read, nap, or get out of the house.

A budget busy book you can make in an afternoon

IMG_20150718_184017091_HDR

These things. They’re all over Pinterest and it seems that everyone has made one at some point but…have you ever actually SEEN one in action? Probably not. My theory is that the reason we never see them in action is because they’re too fussy, too boring, too time consuming, or require skills that no one has.

I haven’t had one yet because I find them tedious. I don’t want to spend three months sewing a busy book or cutting up tiny felt shapes. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

My other hindrance is that a lot of these are academically based, which is not in alignment with Waldorf homeschooling for my child’s age. However, at this point, I’ve got a 4yo who knows his entire alphabet and is sight reading, who can count to twenty and do basic math, and knows all his colors and shapes. So I’m caught between Waldorf and unschooling in that I believe in child-lead learning, just as I myself learned. Having a special needs Gifted and Talented child is about balance.

I made my son a busy book because I run a lot of errands by myself with my new baby. Because I have limited time and resources, I hit up the Dollar Store and was pleasantly surprised to find many of the items I need to make a great little busy book. The rest of the supplies I foraged at Target, my local craft store, and my own home.

Here’s what I found:

IMG_20150718_184105128_HDRYou’ll notice I’ve got a 2in binder here- trust me and get a 3″ if you can find it. I also made use of some AWESOME clear zippered pencil case pouches from the dollar store. The dollar store is where I found this foam alphabet puzzle, which I liked because the letters don’t slip around and it’s flat. I took the letters all out and put them in a pouch so they don’t get lost in transport. The other pouch is another dollar store find- there are bright colored shoe laces and some foam shapes. The foam shapes are traced cookie cutters on foam, that I used a hole punch to cut holes in so the shapes can be laced. Sheet foam is pretty easy to find at craft stores if your dollar store doesn’t have it, or you can trace shapes on card stock or cereal boxes.

Homemade foam lacing: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/how-to-make-foam-lacing-shapes/

IMG_20150718_184255525These pouches are a little more advanced. In the first pouch, you’ll see some graphic cards that I printed off from another website. You can use duplos or legos to stack the pattern. For good measure, I included plenty of knock-off legos that I found in the dollar bin at Target. The cards were printed off and covered in clear contact paper. The second pouch was a garage find, and includes a screw, some washers, a wing nut, a rubber band, paper clip, regular clip, a lock and key, and some metal shower curtain rings. This one is actually the favorite.

Duplo tower cards: http://allourdays.com/2012/10/duplo-blocks-counting-tower-matching-busy-bag.html

IMG_20150718_184358169The first pouch here is more for sensory fulfillment. There’s the ever popular Silly Putty, and some dinosaurs that I found at the dollar store that stretch and change colors from the heat of your hand. They’re kinda gooey. You could also include some other sensory items, depending on what your kiddo likes, but I will probably continue to keep this simple because the “less is more” tactic works best with my kid. The second pouch is another printable. The shapes have numbers 1-5 on them, and I covered them in clear contact paper. The clothes pins have the corresponding number and color to clip to the graphic.

Shapes counting printable: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/shapes-counting-and-colors-busy-bag-with-printable/

IMG_20150718_184440069This next pouch will require you to go to a craft store. I got these pre-colored large popsicle sticks and velcro circles there, and I stuck the velcro to the ends, making one side soft and one side sticky. They’re used for making shapes and building things. The second pouch is an Ispy bag made from brown rice and random objects I had in my craft supplies. I put the objects on my scanner and printed off a color page as a “find it” list, then put it in a page protector.

Velcro dot craft sticks: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/velcro-dot-craft-sticks/

IMG_20150718_184511287My last activity is aimed specifically at my son’s learning curve with cutting. He struggles with writing and cutting, so I put these printables in a sleeve because they’ll stay in better. The safety scissors are on a retractable pin, which I got at the dollar store, along with the clear sleeves.

Scissor cutting pages: http://www.kidslearningstation.com/fine-motor-skills/scissor-skills.asp

Thank you to Powerful Mothering and their Ultimate Guide to Busy Bags!

Plant based homemade school lunches

Sweet mercy, do you see that? It is what some children are eating every day at school. A lot of children eat lunch twice a day at school, because their family gets Food Stamps or is income eligible. These families probably feel that they cannot afford to feed their child three meals a day, but I’m here to add some tips and tricks for making a plant based healthy meal possible.

I started doing home lunches for my child since day one because she has a milk allergy. This was even before I ate mostly whole foods, and definitely before I went gluten free OR vegan. I packed the usual “health” foods, including little cups of dairy free pudding, applesauce, juice boxes, even “healthy” chips. Maybe it was more healthy than the fried school lunches, but it was by no means healthy.

One motivation that is often overlooked by people who are living hand to mouth is the amount of garbage created by school lunch (and biodegradable waste), and also by HOME lunches. All of those individually packaged items are usually not recyclable.

Innovative home lunch solutions are not only healthier, but they create less waste, and the child is more likely to eat because the food is familiar. Here at home, I’ve gotten a little crazy with the home lunches, so we actually have three approaches, all of which are affordable.

The first solution is HIGHLY affordable. Below you’ll see a thermos, two small leak-proof containers (Rubbermaid will do, but these are made from safe plastic by Green Spouts), and some reusable cloth bags, which can be thrown in the wash. This can be coupled with a water bottle made of stainless steal or safe plastic. All of these items are sold at both Target and Walmart. This setup is ideal for cold climates because the thermos is great for soups and casseroles, but can also be combined with a mix of hot finger foods such as potato wedges, veges, and tofu. When the child wants a salad, it too can go in there, or another small container. The cloth bags can be used for snacks of any sort, including fruit, and the small containers can hold homemade applesauce, pudding, or yogurt.

IMG_7122

The second solution that I like is called a tiffin, which is an Indian type bento. They come in two and three tiers, and each come with a small container for dips or sauce. We got a larger container as well to fit inside when the small one isn’t big enough. There are sacks available to put them in, and they act as insulation for hot and cold for approximately four hours. What I like about the tiffin is it is the easiest to wash- there are not many small parts to fuss with. The sack has a side panel for silverware, and my daughter’s small water bottle has a clip that she attaches it to the strap. These are a little harder to find, but all parts are available on Amazon.com and at Whole Foods Markets.

IMG_7124

IMG_7125

And finally, my least favorite, most expensive, and most LOVED BY MY DAUGHTER (*eyeroll*) is this terrible thing called a Laptop Lunch. Why do I hate it? It’s tedious for one- washing the thing and all it’s nooks and crannies is so ridiculous that it is her new chore. I also dislike that the outside is very prone to water markings, so if it gets wet, it leaves a mark. Perhaps my least favorite part about it is that it is plastic. I don’t prefer plastics, even if they’re “safe” because they pollute the planet. This particular laptop lunch is in disrepair for a reason. I got it for $10 at my local sustainability shop because it had been crushed in shipping and the seam was fraying. I melted it in a hot pot and bent it into place with pliers, so now my daughter has one. The included book is ridiculous as well- they actually base their nutritional advice on the Food Pyramid (*bigger eyeroll*) and there are no photos. There is a vegan book for these things calledVegan Laptop Lunch” and the author has her own blog. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is a stainless steel version of this phenomenon called a Planet Box, which I love, but am concerned about the cost and the weight. Here’s what ours looks like:

IMG_7127

IMG_7128

IMG_7129

There are a lot of fancy things you can do with bento if you’re feeling creative, but I have found these staples to help. We use a small Klean Kanteen water bottle with a clip, a small insulating cozy, some safe plastic frozen ice cubes (which come in metal and we LOVE them), and some silicone cupcake liners that we use to separate food. These are also available in places like Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods.

IMG_7126

And so without further adieu, I present to you, my humble laptop lunches. Keep in mind that my daughter has special needs and will happily eat many of the same components day after day…

IMG_7101

Cheezy kale chips, a biscuit, bbq baked beans, brussel sprouts

IMG_7099

Baked broccoli mac and cheese, dates, grapefruit, gf bagel chips

IMG_7089

Gf pb&j, pickles, Sniders vege chips, grapes

IMG_7087

Cheezy kale chips, beets, Dominican rice and stewed beans, blackberries

IMG_7086

Cheezy kale chips, homemade choco chip granola bar, not chicken pot pie over noodles, homemade applesauce

IMG_7081

Oven home fries with Organicville ketchup, orange wedges, tofu scramble, soy yogurt with jam

IMG_7077

Grapes, soy yogurt with raspberries and agave, not chicken pot pie over noodles, homemade choco chip granola bar

IMG_7058

Orange wedges, soy yogurt with agave and raspberries, gf pb&j, pretzels

IMG_7054

Crockpot curry over brown rice, pineapple, cheezy kale chips, choco chip granola bar

IMG_7040

Salad with balsamic, soy yogurt with strawberry jam, Better than Chicken cheezy alfredo, choco chip granola bar

IMG_7038

Steamed basmati rice, soy yogurt with strawberry jam, tofu scramble, pineapple

Many recipes featured here can be found in the previous post.

The DIY I will NEVER do again

IMG_6985

I saw this adorable castle from a post on Pinterest. It’s the wooden castle that you can buy really cheap at Michael’s, and it had been turned into a Harry Potter castle. I was thinking it would be an adorable gift for my son for Eid al-Adha, with some peg people and accessories. I already had a ton of little wooden dollhouse toys he could play with, so it sounded like a good idea.

I drove an hour to Michael’s and picked it up, sorting through the castles that were there, looking to see which were in disrepair. I happily went home thinking this was going to be a fun project.

A month later, I still had not started it. I hadn’t even decided if I was going to paint the outside or leave it plain. I had no plan.

At some point I decided I was going to Modge Podge brick-print scrapbooking paper to it. This seemed like a brilliant idea, considering that the paper was fairly cheap. Joanne Fabrics had a sale at the time too.

I quickly discovered that the sheets were an inch shy on each dimension to be used to cover an entire side of the castle. I had to cover each side using FOUR DIFFERENT SHEETS. This was not the end of my heartburn.

As I persisted, tracing each side onto sheets and making it work, I realized just how complicated those windows were, the edges, and eventually the hardware on the end that keeps the castle shut. Oye ve.

At one point I realized as well that the paper was bubbling profusely. Even pressing the air bubbles did not work.

IMG_6993

The point I began swearing like a sailor was when I went to glue on the end pieces and realized AFTER GLUING THEM that I had not cut out the end windows. Oh…it gets better. You can’t trace from inside because the windows are blocked by stairways. I had to press the paper into the window and cut the edges.

Phew. Then it was done. And the bottom edge curled up. *dies*

But- I gracefully completed these adorable peg people.

IMG_6999

Even better, I had bought this little stable at Michaels as well, and I needle felted the cutest dragon to go with it!

IMG_7032

IMG_7033

So it wasn’t a total loss, and I really think the people and dragon came out nicely, but I will be damned if I ever decoupage anything again!

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday button

I love yardsales

2013-06-15_16.46.56

Whats worse- the condition of this chair or my grainy cellphone pic? Ha! But, I have no complaints because I got it for a dollar! I love yard sale bargain stories!

I’ve been looking for one for quite some time, but thought the expenditure too pricey for something that my son would outgrow in a few years. Most unfinished wooden children’s chairs run about $65-95. However… a dollar I can do!

The reason why it is so important to have child sized or child-accessible furniture is that it teaches them independence and makes them feel welcome in the home, like they have their own place. I never understood this theory until I read about Montessori method.

It needed some work. Most rockers dismantle in the same place, but with a little wood glue and a rubber mallet (best investment EVER! I’ve used the damn thing in so many projects!), the back was put back into place. A paint scraper took off the letters which were hot glued on.

2013-06-17_14.41.42

I decided to paint it using a combination of patterns that I had seen on Indian work and Mexican work, using some of my acrylics. I always go with a high gloss paint on furniture because it has more enamel in it, which is resistant to dings and heavy wear.

Here’s the finished product! Its far from perfect but I LOVE the character!

IMG_6834

IMG_6826

IMG_6835

IMG_6836

creative

Spring Banners

IMG_6780

I love Tibetan prayer flags. But they’re against my faith. So, the children and I decided that we would make spring banners instead to liven up the house.

I started by doing some ombre washes with watercolor on stiff watercolor paper, one for each color of the spectrum. Its very easy- you simply wet the paper, and brushing side to side down the page, you push a concentrated mark of color all the way down to the bottom. Watercolor washes are pretty basic. You can even add more than one color, pushing the lines into eachother.

Since my children are eight years apart, they had to have very different “assignments”. My two year old doesn’t exactly have his own ideas and my nine year old is “perpetually bored” which, in Waldorf terms,  is growing intellectually and hasn’t figured out how to manipulate her newest phase of development. The best play for this type of dilema with both ages is rote participation- laundry, dishes, housekeeping, cooking, etc. But occassional, I tire of such a thing, and want to create art, and that is how this project was born.

For my two year old, the assignments were structured on color learning and garden basics. Both children are participating in our potting outside. For my nine year old, hers was a bit more complex, but focused on spring and gardening. Here is each assignment:

For the two year old:

IMG_6768

Handprint tulip

IMG_6767

Garden of fruits- the 9yo drew the fruits he wanted and he colored them, along with his rainbow.

IMG_6766

Collage earth

IMG_6765

Ladybug- he colored the ladybug and glued on her spots

IMG_6763

Dandelions- he loved gluing these in place

IMG_6764

Fingerprint drawings- spots on the mushroom, fingerprint caterpillar, and flower

Each print was accompanied by counting, learning colors, attempted cutting, and a story.

For the nine year old:

IMG_6773

The spring fairy

IMG_6772

Fingerprint mushroom, etc.

IMG_6774

Garden design

IMG_6771

Garden gnome

IMG_6770

Red things on the farm (in spanish)

IMG_6769

Coastal creatures

These things were actually projects that she suggested with very little input, so I’m proud that she was able to come up with her own ideas, even though they weren’t completely cohesive. I let her follow her own interest, and she researches things weekly at the library that she finds stimulating.

We strung each banner up in the kitchen area using yarn. Each print has to be tied individually to prevent it from sliding down on the string. We knotted it carefully.

IMG_6779

IMG_6775

Spring itself is a celebration here on the homestead, but helping children understand the changing seasons is the very beginning of being aware of the world around them. And they don’t look too shabby in our kitchen either 😛

Everyone is giving your kids junk food?

junk food baby

When I read this article entitled “Why is Everyone Always Giving My Kids Junk Food?”, I felt provoked- provoked to provide answers.

Isn’t that natural though- to answer a question posed as a challenge to society to make us question our habits? I think so. Imagine my surprise to learn that so many people did not have the answers. Well here I am. Answer lady.

First off, define “everyone”. Specifically, family, friends, school, sports, or even your spouse. Once you identify the parties responsible, you can develop a course of action.

Second, define junk food, and define your limits. Be prepared to compromise. This isn’t a perfect world, and you won’t always get your way.

Third, firmly and wholeheartedly believe that you’re not asking too much and that this is the best you have to offer your children.

Fourth, know that other people’s choices aren’t any more personal than yours are. People will be angry at you because they’re angry at themselves for not making the same choices, for whatever reason they don’t. Imagine how you’d feel about yourself if your excuse for serving your children Chef Boyarde was because you were too tired, and you continued to stay up late in front of the boob tube or the computer.

And fifth, understand that we as Americans are just a bunch of fat people who like to show their love with food and socialize over food, and that no matter how many experiences you suggest as a replacement for food-rewards and food-socializing, THAT argument/suggestion will almost NEVER win.

boy-with-vegetables-at-market

Here is how WE dealt with this situation:

As parents, our first inclination is to protect our children from all the evils of the world. But I assure you that your first weapon of defense against the dark art of food corruption is education. Educate yourself so that you can educate others, and educate your children. This can be done first and foremost by abstinence of the offending “foods”. What I find, however, is that parents give too much credit to “accidental learning” and fail to have dialogues about the choices they hope to instill in their children. TALK to your child. Even a small child can understand that a food tastes good and is good for them. When your child asks for junk in the grocery store, for example, speak the truth- “That’s not really food, honey, it’s full of chemicals that harm your body. Let’s get something like this *insert healthy food* instead, which is good for your *eyes/teeth/skin/body* and will help you grow up strong and smart!” When your child has an understanding of your choices, it’s easier to say no to them, and it’s easier for them to say no to peer pressure. There are many ways to educate your kids about food, including but not limited to visiting a farm or growing some food, cooking food, shopping for food, or reading about food production.

When your team is strong on the home-front, your next course of action is to educate others as to your choices. It’s up to you whether or not you want to have a dialogue about your choices, which may or may not include teaching people about the dangers of crap food, or you can simply state your boundary and make it crystal clear the ways you will and will not compromise. For example, you may have a family member who insists on giving your child junk. Offer to bring foods with you when you visit. If they like to feed the children, list some things that are appropriate, or even places they might buy things like fruit leather (which is less evil than candy). For most children with pure diets, fruit leather is a MASSIVE treat, and this can also be explained to that person. Remember that when people feed children as a reward or social activity, they’re not doing it to piss you off- they’re doing it because that’s how they were taught to show their affection or celebrate. I wouldn’t bother fighting the good fight when it comes to family feeding your children- they almost NEED to feed your children. So the choice is up to you whether or not you want to allow them to eat junk, whether you’ll take the time to help family pick out good choices, or whether you will continue to fight them.

When it comes to environments where you have less control, try bringing up the issue as a QUESTION. Questions are less confrontational, and cause people to reflect. It also puts the burden of problem solving in THEIR lap, which is ideal because they’re the one’s causing the problem. Be firm in your belief that YOUR DIETARY HABITS ARE NORMAL and it’s THEIRS THAT ARE ABNORMAL. We have billions of years of science and history to prove it, and this fact is not debatable. When posing the question, be sure to offer solutions that involve both parties- do not take full responsibility for this, even if you want to. For example, don’t offer to provide all of the snacks all the time, but perhaps you could offer to make a list of group-approved snacks that everyone agrees are acceptable (and push back- make them really question if something is healthy). With sports events, push the health angle, and with teachers, push the “attention span” angle.

healthy-foods-for-kids

Of course, there are going to be arguments. When you do something right, sometimes people act angrily because it makes them realize that THEIR choices aren’t so great. They might even accuse you of thinking you’re better than them, or that their efforts aren’t that great. Here are some examples of ways you can handle that:

Argument #1: “It’s just a little bit, it won’t kill them.”

Rebuttal: “It might just be a little bit, but I don’t want my children having it. Is there a way we can compromise this so every child can have a healthy treat?”

This rebuttal reinstates the boundary without opening up the argument for discussion, since this person does not appear to be understanding the importance of it to YOU. By posing a question, you are going straight to the heart of solving the problem- what is this person willing to do with you to help you both reach your end goal- yours of having healthy treats for your kids, and theirs of being able to treat the kids?

Argument #2: “Not everyone cares.”

Rebuttal: “I care, and I feel that everyone deserves the same opportunity as my children to have healthy snacks.”

This argument is a touchy one, because it indicates that healthy snacks are a superior choice. But The reason it works is because you are posing the replacement behavior (ie healthier snacks) as a superior reward- one that is easily achieved, and perhaps more appealing to the person who is seeking to reward the children and show they care about them. This argument is also powerful because it equalizes all of the children as important.

Argument #3: “It’s too much work.”

Rebuttal: “I could help everyone come up with easy ideas or help facilitate that effort.”

The great part of this rebuttal is that it begins the road to compromise, while not completely taking over the task. If the person persists and says that having the meeting or putting further effort into it would be too much trouble, reinstate your boundary and say, “It’s worth it to me that our children have healthy snacks and I hope you feel that way as well.”

Argument #4: “Kids have to have it sometimes or when they grow older, that’s all they’ll want.”

Rebuttal: “I don’t want my children having these foods now. The choices they make as adults are up to them, but today, *I* am in charge of their health, and I want my children to have healthy foods.”

This rebuttal can be followed by suggestions for healthy choices.

Argument #5: “Your child doesn’t have to participate or partake.”

Rebuttal: “I would hate to think that my child would be excluded because they are making healthier choices for their body. I think this could be a really powerful opportunity to give other children to make that choice as well.”

This should also be followed up with ways you could assist. Most of the time, when you make a “special” request, you are expected to get the ball rolling. These people view your request as exceptional, so allow them to feel that everyone should be equalized under the umbrella of health.

Argument #6: “Other children won’t like it.”

Rebuttal: “There are many healthy alternatives that most children will enjoy such as *xyz*. This will also give the other children an opportunity to try something new, and who knows, maybe we will discover that they can be excited about healthy choices!”

Since this argument is a skeptic/fear based one, the rebuttal needs to point out that children are naturally inclined to like health foods, and you may even site one of the multiple studies that prove so.

baby-apple-md

If all else fails, stash super goodies in your bag that your children never have, or have a dialogue before you go to a place/event with the person in charge, so you know how you can plan ahead. You could even say to your children, “We’re going to so-and-so’s party, and their mom doesn’t want to make healthy goodies for the children, so I’m going to bring some special goodies just for you guys!” Special goodies don’t have to be food either, they could be small toys, etc.

And finally, find your niche. If you’re repeatedly fighting the same battles, consider finding different social opportunities for your kids, or having family visit in your home.