About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Do you want to go back to middle school?

September always brings cooler days (thanks), kids back in school (super thanks), and homework battles (thank you, I'd rather not). Last week, each of my older kids had what we used to call "Back-to-School Night". Here, it's called "Curriculum Night," and, at least at the middle school, parents are given their kids' schedules and go from class to class (10 minute versions), listening to teachers describe what is expected and what they accomplish during the year. The whole thing is even complete with actual bells to remind us if we're tardy. (I was, to one class. Shouldn't room 603 be next to room 604?)

If I ever doubted that I'm glad I'm no longer in middle school, going to curriculum night solidified that belief. You'd better not have to go to the bathroom between classes (you'll be tardy and your parents will receive an email AND a telephone call about your attendance habits, and the teacher will think you are up to no good). You'd better not have trouble with your locker for the same reason. You'd better not forget your book, or have to sharpen your pencil during class. And please, don't have the audacity to misfile that assignment in your school notebook because the teacher wants it NOW and you should already know exactly where it is (which means, you should have put it WHERE IT SHOULD BE).

I'm all for organization and discipline; I strive for both with my kids on a very consistent basis. And I am fully aware that my progeny did not come with innate talents for organization. Still, the preciseness with which my child is expected to comport herself during a school day is -- well -- eerily similar to the military (which I have absolutely no affinity for, even if I recognize it's a necessary evil for a country).

But my kid is not a country, she's a kid. With rather creative ideas, a funny sense of humor, an appreciation of literature, a ton of energy, a love of messy projects, and a pretty good knack for writing. Yet, there is little room in her day for creativity -- or even humor, it seems. A few of her teachers seem like fine folk but a few of them seem...like dorks. Yes, I am using middle school lingo to describe middle school teachers. It must take enormous amounts of self-control for an entire roomful of 12 year-olds not to burst out laughing at some of their teachers. No wonder, when my kid comes home and I ask her how her day was, she simply says, "fine." Reality? Formal school is B-O-R-I-N-G and frustrating and the emphasis on organization zaps kids of energy and enthusiasm for learning.

Her favorite class is art (no surprise there). She does very well in it, and she likes the teacher and the teacher likes her. Her least favorite class is social studies -- not because she doesn't like history (she actually does, quite a bit) -- but because the teacher somehow doesn't click with her, and she's gotten in trouble for being late (locker trouble) and for not turning in her assignment quickly enough (it was misfiled in that folder). I met the teacher, who told me she's terribly worried about my "super-depressed" daughter, describing her as sitting slump-shouldered and "hiding behind her bangs" and not talking to the other kids. I was very alarmed when I heard this and asked other teachers if they perceived my child to be in need of therapy. One teacher laughed at my question and said, "If I made a list of kids who I thought needed therapy, your daughter wouldn't even be in the top 20." Another teacher said to me, "Girls this age act like that all the time; but she doesn't actually do that in my class." Seems she only acts depressed in the class she truly HATES and in all the others, she is simply "quiet" (except for art, where she is TOO HAPPY). In all classes, she is doing A-level work.

So, I had a little chat with the girl, telling her she should consider ACTING a little more upbeat, even in classes she despises. Think of it as an acting challenge, I told her. Do your best Emmy work. Wow the teacher with your enthusiasm. Smile while you learn trivia about the middle ages. Cheerfully complete that map of Europe! Do that crossword puzzle about the plague!! She rolled her eyes at me, sighed and said, "OK."

Good lord. I am SO glad that I'm not in middle school. I'd be sitting slump-shouldered and hiding behind my bangs too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fame, Local Media-Style

I've been approached by news media exactly twice in my life, both times with my youngest child in tow, both times with said child in mismatched, stained, old clothing. Ug. Will I EVER learn that it is ALWAYS a good idea to look presentable when you leave the house?

The first time this happened, I was still living in NJ. I was out for a walk with my baby and was approached by a newscaster intent on getting my take on the latest rabid-raccoon-in-the-neighborhood story. Turns out, my neighbor (a friend) had been attacked by the raccoon the previous day, and the story had made local news the previous night. Now, the reporter was looking for people who would say the following things, "I'm so scared," "You don't expect that around here," and "I'm telling my kids to stay inside." Of course, I said none of the above. The reporter was so frustrated with me, he did the leading question thing. (DO NOT do that to an academic, or anybody with half a brain, because THEY. ARE. NOT. THAT. STUPID.) Even though I refused to agree with any of his assertions, he STILL used my footage, concluding that 'neighbors around here are pretty shook up'. I'm telling you, getting fifteen minutes of fame just isn't that hard; just don't go looking for accuracy.

Today's story: Little did I know, when I left this morning, to take my four-year-old for a haircut, that it might matter that he was wearing his shirt backwards, his torn jeans shorts, and his sandals on the wrong feet, and that I was wearing neither contacts nor makeup. Together, the two of us looked like...well, we looked like very average mall-goers. A tired Mom and a frazzled toddler. In other words, so average that a newscaster would want our (tired and frazzled) opinion.

We had just finished the haircut battle and were leaving the mall with the promised candy-as-reward in hand. The local news here (KEZI-9) is apparently so desperate for a story that it decided to do a segment on the mall's new facelift. The newscaster approached me, asking if I'd care to be interviewed. I said no. I said I rarely go here. I said I'd just moved here. I said that I only go to the mall for a movie or to get my sons' hair cut. I said that I'd be giving her just an impressionistic take and that it might not be terribly accurate.

"That's fine," she said. "Someone else just told me the same thing. You don't have to be an expert." God, not that I expected that anybody interviewed by local media WAS an expert, but gosh? Shouldn't she be TRYING to talk to people who actually have lived here awhile, pay attention to local politics AND use the mall regularly?

So, she interviewed me. I'm telling you, if she uses my segment, she is truly desperate. Not only did I look like HELL (and so did my child), but I said nothing of import. When pressed with the question, 'Well, do you think that the mall should be doing this exterior painting?,' I said, "Well, it looks like it could stand a facelift, so I'll say 'yes'".

Stirring news. Extraordinary insight. Compelling logic. It's all there. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Political Nature of Parenting

I knew, or thought I knew, before I became a parent, that parenthood would be a challenge. A scary but wonderful adventure. But I think that I also kinda thought that people were exaggerating; I don't think I really believed, until I became a parent, that's it's the hardest job there is. Or that it is often thankless and unacknowledged, with many, many stumbles along with way. But here's the truth: It really is the hardest job I've ever done, and it comes with few accolades and no money. Your kids do NOT always appreciate you or what you do, and they don't always abide by your rules. And it's damn competitive, and you don't even get to control all the variables to ensure that you come across as the "best" parent. There's a DARN lot of things you don't control that end up affecting the outcome of all your hard work. Shit. That just doesn't seem fair.

This all begins with pregnancy, something that has, in modern western culture, become a political act in and of itself. The "battle" between au naturale and the medical world is fierce, with the vast majority of women ending up somewhere in between (and being criticized by both sides). Midwife? Doctor? Home birth? Hospital? Free-standing birth center? Water birth? Medication? Episiotomy? Birth position? Am I a bad Mom because I WANT meds? Am I a bad mother because I did NOT find pregnancy and birth to be the pinnacle event of my life? Holy crap, no wonder many women find birth stressful. Planning the event is worse than planning a wedding. (Truth: you can only plan so much, so if you're pregnant now and reading this and starting to get worried, just try to relax and know that you'll have the baby no matter what and that he or she will probably be fine regardless of what choices you make about the labor and the delivery. The babe controls more already than you'll want to acknowledge. Perhaps that's the first lesson of parenthood: you're really not in control.) I learned that the secret to getting through labor lies in one word: surrender.

After you get through the birth you gotta make another series of hotly-debated choices. Which parenting style is the best? There is a startling array of advisors out there, and many of them disagree with each other. There are no clear answers, though the advocates of each approach present "evidence" that their approach is the only sensible one (and developmentally appropriate and bound to launch the kid to greatness). The reality is that a parent has to make choices, often against friends' or relatives' better judgement, based on her family's needs and beliefs, and her kid's personality and her own. I'll add, though any parent already knows this: The personality of your kid is not necessarily the one you would have hoped for, and parents' and kids' personalities do NOT necessarily gel well. I think the Goddess has a lot of fun up there, dealing out challenges to us all.

Should I sleep with my child? Or should he learn to fall asleep on his own, by himself, in a crib, in another room? Should I exclusively breastfeed? Or is it OK for somebody else to give him a bottle of pumped breastmilk? Or, can I even -- GASP -- allow the kid to have a little formula? Or -- bigger gasp -- can I get away with not breastfeeding at all? Should I let the baby use a swing? Or a Johnny-Jump-Up? Or an exersaucer? Or a pacifier? Should I only use cloth diapers? Should I toilet train at six months? Or two years? Or let him decide on his own, no matter how old that is? Do I use time-outs? If so, when and how? Can I use Desitin? Tylenol? What about vaccinations? TV -- never or a little? When do I introduce solid food? And should it only be organic? Or only organic and homemade? Is Gerber really the antichrist?

I could blog here on what my choices were -- but that doesn't really matter. The point is that parenting is, hands-down, the most political act most people commit. I say "political" because decisions are hotly debated among parents, pediatricians, health advocates, nutritionists, teachers, and parenting advocates. And parents often wonder (often to the point of obsession) about whether their particular choice was the right one. And if something DOES turn out to be wrong with junior, parents often point to themselves first to question if it's their fault. It doesn't even matter that, often, it's not; they will still wonder if it was. Parents are very hard on themselves. Perhaps if I hadn't let him cry himself to sleep. Perhaps if I hadn't tried to toilet train him that early. Perhaps if I were more patient. Perhaps if I'd used a different toothpaste. Perhaps if I hadn't taken that medication during pregnancy. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

The bummer, in my humble opinion, is that the choices become more, not less, daunting as the kids grow older. After all, when they are tiny, you can keep yourself and your babe in something of a cocoon. You breast feed or bottle feed; you sleep with them or you don't; you use cloth diapers or you don't; you toilet train early or you don't; you vaccinate or you don't; you use daycare or a nanny or you don't. But as they enter school, the number of influences on them grows exponentially, and with those, the number of things that challenge your personal choices and your memory.

My kids brush their teeth every morning and every evening; but do they EVERY night use the flouride rinse, floss AND take their flouride pill as their dentist wishes? Uh, no. Honesty here. I make sure they eat fruit and vegetables every day, but do they ALWAYS eat as many servings as they should? Doubtful. I pack their lunches every day, and they hear (daily) about good nutrition and can tell you what that is. But do they eat junk every day? Yes. They buy it at school. (Even though schools have gotten MUCH better at serving healthy food, most of it is still animal-based foods, and crap like onion rings and popsicles are still available for purchase.) Kids will buy it if it's available. Mine do. And, every day without fail, the healthy stuff that I packed in their lunches returns home with them. The healthy stuff that they do eat is served at breakfast and dinner; lunch has become a meal I cannot control.

Lunch is perhaps simply a symbol of the fact that my kids are growing up, away from their childhood family and, little by little, into their own worlds. They're not there yet -- not by a long shot -- but their dietary choices and their choices of friends are increasingly their own. They're at that point in their lives where as their parent I have to hope that the messages they've received at home are somewhere in their heads, available to them for their own use when neither parent is nearby. And I hope that they know what they've been taught and that by their choices, they show us to have been "good" parents. If I didn't know fear before, I know it now. And it makes the choice of epidural-or-not seems enviable and far too simple.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Out. Of. It.

I cannot find a babysitter. Every teen I know is doing something. Something terribly important. Sports. Dance. Play practice. Student government. Habitat for Humanity volunteer work. Facebook. Blogging. SAT study. None of them have free time. Even to earn money.

This kind of teenage reality is vastly different from the one I knew -- I babysat two to three times a week in high school (and did dance and music and student government and had a boyfriend). But if I wanted some money to spend with said boyfriend, I had to earn it. Hence, my interest in taking care of somebody else's unruly children for a few evenings a week. But I have found no teen like me in this neighborhood, and my personal life is suffering for it!

Surely, some of this difficulty in finding a sitter is due to the kind of neighborhood I now live in -- "well-to-do" my Mother would have called it -- the kind of place where parents scurry around, trying to find all the "right" things for junior to do, because, in theory, doing them (ALL) will improve his chances at getting into Harvard. Well, here, they hold the local University in equally high regard, and, it turns out, it's getting harder and harder to get kids in there, too. So it doesn't even matter that they are only thinking of the local U as their goal -- that's lofty enough, and junior "needs" to do everything if he's going to get in. I understand their angst on one level, but personally, I wish their kids had less to do and more need to earn some moolah. I'd be willing to give them some in exchange for a few hours of babysitting.

I feel out of it. I don't identify with this teenage life (or the child version of it, either). Turns out the child version is equally hectic, because the scurrying around starts really early. Is my four-year-old playing soccer yet? Well, no. Is he swimming independently yet? Uh, no. He has taken several sets of swim lessons, but he hates them and has yet to put his face in the water. So I let him quit. Has he taken an art class yet? Again, no. He plays up in the playroom and in our big backyard, making up his own games, playing with play-doh and Playmobil toys and little toy cars and plastic boats and pretending to be Batman and pretending to catch fish with his older brother's old golf club. That's OK with me, but some people around here think I'm terribly (dangerously) old-fashioned. I'm clearly not getting him PREPARED for the REST of his life.

I feel out of it on other things too. For instance, my 12-year-old is BEGGING for contacts. At 12? Really? That seems young to me. But then she told me that "everyone" has them. I demanded evidence. Christina. Hollie. Rose. Tara. Tessa. God, really? Apparently so. So, the parenting "clock" that I was working with (14 sounded like a young-enough age to permit contacts) is off by two years. Oops.

Then my 12-year-old injured her foot and, for now, wears an ankle brace. With the brace on, she can't put on her right shoe. I offered to let her wear a pair of my slip-ons, a pair that I thought looked kinda nice. Her response? "Ooooh NO! Those are MOM shoes!" Oh, God! Am I that out of it? Do I wear -- eerie music here -- "MOM shoes"? Apparently I do.

I'm going to scurry off now, to pick up my kid at football practice, as soon as the other kid finishes her guitar lesson. I'll be wearing my glasses and my Mom shoes, and I still don't have a sitter.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Small victories

Today was a day of many small victories in my quest to change both my family's diet and its perception of animal rights. It started in the most unlikely of ways: My daughter didn't have school today and so I took her shopping. Like twelve-year-old girls everywhere, she's been growing like a weed and needed new clothes. For fun, we brought along one of her friends. A mall is not exactly the venue you might imagine for a series of small "vegan" victories, but here's the story.

After a few hours of looking at the mind-boggling array of nearly-impossible-to-put-on-unless-you-really-are-anorexic skinny jeans, the girls (neither of whom are fat) got hungry. We stopped at a local chain, Cafe Yumm, which my daughter's friend suggested because "it's a good place for vegetarians." Indeed, it is, and I think it's remarkable that my daughter's friend remembered that I am one. Small victory number one.

While eating our lunch, the friend told me that she herself is a vegetarian. I quizzed her a little. Are her parents vegetarians? Uh, no. (That much I already knew.) Does she eat chicken? Well, yes, because she LOVES it, but she is "trying" not to eat it anymore. My daughter volunteered that she doesn't like how chickens are treated in factory farms. I nearly fell off my chair. Small victory number two!!

I continued asking the friend a few questions. Does she eat fish? Yes, it's actually her all-time favorite food. I skipped the lecture that was in the back of my head, and simply told her that technically she's a pescatarian. She liked that word. She then asked me what I was eating (a tempeh reuben), and then asked me what tempeh is. I explained it to her, and she volunteered that she likes tofu, as long as it isn't by itself. Then -- I almost fainted -- my daughter said that SHE likes tofu, at least in stir-fries. Considering that a few days ago, she had made a big to-do in front of another friend (who thinks I'm crazy not to eat meat) that she HATES tofu, this is quite the admission. (And I think it's true.) Small victory number three.

While we were at the mall, it occurred to me that I'm desperately in need of a new belt. I could not find, in either of two malls, a non-leather one (unless I wanted one with skulls, or roses, or studs, or sequins, or all of the above, on plastic). I told the girls that I just didn't want to buy a leather one, because it didn't make sense to kill a cow for leather goods when there are lots of man-made options available. My daughter replied, "Yeah, I wouldn't kill a cow for a belt, either." Small victory number four.

My daughter's friend needed to go to Payless to get these shoes she absolutely couldn't live without (and which were on sale). So, off to Payless we went, where my daughter spotted some Ugg knock-offs. She has been PINING AWAY for a pair of Uggs for over a year, which I was initially reluctant to buy both due to price and the rate at which her feet are currently growing. But, not only were the Payless version WAY cheaper than the real thing, but they are constructed of manmade materials. My daughter asked if she could have them, and then added, "At least, unlike Uggs, an animal didn't die to make them." How, exactly, could I resist that logic (since I've been trying to teach it)? She now has her Ugg knock-offs. The naysayers will just recognize that my kid, like all bright kids, has figured out how to use her mother's thinking to her advantage. Oh well, a cow didn't die because she did. I say, "small victory number five".

When we got home, I got on the internet to find the elusive man-made, decent-looking, faux-leather belt. It was a SNAP to find, thanks to a site called "Alternative Outfitters." Even with the $6.95 shipping fee, the belt was CHEAPER than the leather alternatives at the GAP, Kohl's or JCPenney. Affordable and vegan? I say small victory number six.

Full disclosure: I'm baking a chicken for my husband, who is coming around, bit by bit, to my new way of thinking. We already had the bird in the freezer and we've decided to use up what we have while we transition to a different diet. But he's not ready to give up dairy (frankly, I can cut WAY back, but I'm not ready to give it up completely either). But he has started buying organic milk. Small victory number seven. And cage-free eggs. Small victory number eight.

I fully realize that the most committed vegans may be unimpressed by these small victories. I guess one can either have the perspective that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or believe the Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

I'd rather believe the latter. I think lately we've taken several steps. It's a good journey.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Camp Food

I'm well aware of what an uphill battle I have to get my family to eat better, particularly the kick I've got going with no-meat, WAY-less-dairy, and WAY-less sugar. It's a trifecta of challenges that few parents want to take on, simply because the whining is so bothersome. It's easier to hand the kid the hot dog, the string cheese, and the fudgsicle than it is to make (and get him to eat) the spinach-brown rice casserole, the side of Brussels sprouts, the homemade applesauce, and the (also homemade) carob cake sweetened with agave or stevia or honey or molasses instead of sugar. And, unfortunately, many (perhaps most?) parents choose the easy road, because our society has made it SO easy and SO cheap and SO "normal" that parents don't think much about it, saying to themselves that "all kids eat like that" and that they "don't have time" to feed their kids (and themselves) better. Also, as more and more children are fat, more and more parents tend to see their chunky kids as "normal," rather than unhealthy.

It's NOT true that ALL kids eat poorly, though a shocking number do. It's also NOT true that all healthy meals take a long time to prepare, though learning to shop for and cook new foods does take a little effort, particularly if you've gotten into the rut of Monday-it's-chicken, Tuesday-it's-beef-tacos, Wednesday-it's-spaghetti-with-meatballs, etc. I'm up to the challenge and think more people could do the same, were they not making 100 excuses for themselves about why they cannot.

Yet, what my husband and I do is only part of the solution to improving our kids' diets. The part we can't control is getting others on board with how to feed kids -- particularly schools and day camps and other facilities that cater to (our) children. This hit home (again) tonight, when I found my son asleep, clutching a "Day Camp Cafe' Order Sheet" in his hand, which I had not seen.

I knew that part of the camp "experience" was purchasing snack food daily at the Camp Cafe. I gave him $10 in his account for the week, figuring $2 per day was pretty darn generous. I don't want him to be the kid whose Mom won't cough up a little money for some fun food.

However, I (NAIVELY) thought the Cafe would have things like icepops and Sunchips -- junk food that is, as far as junk food goes, not too bad. Imagine my surprise when, today, I read the following list?



Soda Pop: Pepsi, Mt. Dew, Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, Diet Pepsi
Italian Sodas (thirteen different flavors listed)
Whipped Cream (Y/N)
Ice Cream Cone or Cup: Chocolate, Vanilla, Swirl
Ice Cream Sundae: Chocolate, Vanilla, Swirl, Chocolate Sauce, Caramel Sauce, Whipped Cream
Snow Cone (several flavors listed)
Floats: Root Beer, Mt. Dew, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper

Other: (I'm assuming this is where he writes in that he wants Skittles or Twix or similar -- things I also discovered today he has eaten at camp.)

GOOD LORD! There are NO healthy choices here at all, and an alarming number involve caffeine. What the hell? Am I the only parent who would prefer her kid NOT be offered a caffeinated beverage?

I'm thinking of writing the camp a letter, kindly suggesting that they offer other snacks and perhaps only let a camper choose ONE of the really bad-for-you choices per day. However, I can already anticipate the responses: 1)Parents, not counselors, are responsible for telling their children what they prefer them not to eat; 2) The camp cannot be responsible for children purchasing items that their parents would prefer they not consume; 3) the camp has too many children to be able to monitor which kid has already purchased a "really junky" food.

I can also anticipate why the camp offers these items: They are, in bulk, WAY cheaper than healthier items. And they store well. (Imagine enough oranges purchased for a day camp, and how many would go to waste because the kids wouldn't purchase them.)

I can also anticipate what other parents might think of me if I were to write such a letter: "Oh, for God's sake! It's just a little junk food! Let the kids have fun!" If I write the letter, I'll come across as a real curmudgeon, a scrooge, a party-pooper. Mind you, I could live with the kids being allowed ONE really junky food per day, but TWO? Come on! I don't need this kind of challenge to my parenting from a camp that I pay for!!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cleanliness and Honesty

One of my son's friends -- a favorite of mine, actually -- walked into my house today and, after gazing at my kitchen floor for half a minute, said, "The floor is REALLY dirty over here!"

First reaction? Let's just say I'm glad I kept my mouth shut; several inappropriate responses came to my mind. I settled for, "Yeah, it is. Lots to do and I really don't like cleaning."

This (generally lovely and polite) child then asked me if I have a housekeeper. (Uh, NO...but what a nice idea.) I then asked him if his parents did. (Again, no.) When I consider that both of his parents work full-time, have two boys, take care of several rental properties AND keep a perfectly-appointed house, I feel a little inadequate. What is my excuse for not doing "as well"? Couldn't I keep the damn kitchen floor a little more shiny?

This boy lives in a home where --seriously -- dust. does. not. exist. Where piles of paper are never in sight. Where dishes are always done. Where floors are always shiny, carpets always vacuumed, and the children ALWAYS remember to take their shoes off in the garage (NOT at the front door). In fact, said garage is, hands-down, the cleanest, most organized, possibly anal-retentive garage I have ever seen. The parents are on the same page regarding housework: They both like a clean house and they both work like the dickens to keep it that way. (I know because I asked.)

Part of me is predictably envious. I like things put away and organized and clean, too. However, I actually would feel uncomfortable living in such a pristine house. Their house doesn't feel lived in; to me it feels, well, like a museum. For all I know, their child experiences something akin to coming to the dark side when he visits my house.

Generally, I think my house looks pretty darn nice. One's perspective, after all, depends on one's point of reference, and I have *plenty* of friends who do not keep house even as well as I do. When I compare myself to them, I think I'm doing purty well; when I compare myself to people like this boy's parents, I feel terribly inadequate. Downward comparisons always improve your mood. Gotta remember that.

This boy, when he comes to my house, is exposed to a mother who doesn't. like. to clean. He learns that I occasionally leave baskets of clean laundry for a day or two before I cave and fold it and put it away. He learns I sometimes even leave a dish in the sink over night, and that I have papers and books on countertops and desks, and that my husband has a totally messy home office. He has asked me why we allow our children to keep their rooms in a state of semi-squalor, and only require major cleanings every two weeks or so. The answer? We figure it's their room, so let them live like pigs and discover how unpleasant it is!

Needless to say, such an approach would NEVER happen in this other child's house, and hearing our perspective I think really shocked the poor boy. I'm not sure what the parents think would happen if they let their standards slide, but I'm pretty sure that in their worldview, cleanliness does indeed equal godliness.

I think I now know why my mother kept her house so dark: my friends had to use their eyesight to see where the furniture was, and needn't have worried about being able to detect the dust or cobwebs. Alas, I have moved into a big, bright house where dust is all too easy to notice.

But that still doesn't make me want to clean more. Perhaps I should just close the blinds before the kids' friends come over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Changing Their Palates, Take Two (Hundred?)

I'm nearly five months into an almost-vegan diet, and trying to get the kids to eat fewer animal-based foods and more plant-based ones. Despite that I am allowing them to eat some meat and some dairy (dairy daily, meat once or twice a week), the modifications I'm making to their diets are still proving to be tough to accomplish. To any of you out there who aren't parents yet, know that if you want your kids to eat well, best not to EVER let them have poor-quality (read: processed, cheesy, fast, easy, typical "kid") food. Changing their palates is darn hard work. No vegan or vegetarian dish tastes as good -- claim my kids -- as chicken strips and french fries, or pizza, or fried chicken, or scrambled eggs, or grilled cheese sandwiches, or Kraft Mac and Cheese, or a bowl of ramen.

Yet I persevere; my kids did not get their tenacity from nowhere. In an attempt to better my odds at improving their diets, I recently purchased a cookbook: Mattare and Muldawer's "Better Than Peanut Butter and Jelly: Quick Vegetarian Meals Your Kids Will LOVE". The title and the reviews both seemed so promising. So far, my husband and I love the recipes and, well, the kids...do not.

Tonight's menu was "Crispy Snow Peas" and a recipe with a wonderfully hopeful name: "Spinach Casserole They'll Really Like". My husband and I thought both dishes were delicious. Yet, the four-year-old practically screamed at the sight of the casserole ("Get it off my pwate!"), but happily ate the snow peas. The nine-year-old flat out refused to try either dish because, in his typically brutal analysis, "that food looks DISGUSTING!" He ended up eating cereal with fresh berries, two pieces of leftover homemade pizza (one slice was veggie), and a bowl of popcorn. All in all, not horrible, but still not ideal. (I harbor the hope that one day, all five of us will enjoy the same healthy food.) The four-year-old ended up eating a sizable portion of the snow peas, an apple, and chocolate ice cream.

My twelve-year-old is vacationing with friends; just received a call. Apparently she ate an "adult-sized portion of ribs".

Sigh. I have my work cut out for me.