Friday, October 8, 2010

The Great Vegetable Search

My kids don’t love vegetables, especially my daughter. I can’t really blame her. I’ve read that kids like what they had in the womb and even the sight of vegetables during my pregnancy with her made me gag. The only thing green I could tolerate was the artichoke and, low and behold, she loves artichokes. Finding a way to get her to eat vegetables is my new holy grail. My son, while he doesn’t love all vegetables is decidedly less picky, but he usually takes a cue from his sister and says yuck anyway. So in my great vegetable search I’ve tried all kinds of tricks: how to hide vegetables in their food (they could tell right away), how to accessorize vegetables with sauces, dips and creams (they lick the sauce right off or just eat the sauce without the veggies), and just plain force (eat this or you’ll never eat another bite of sugar again), but so far nothing has worked. As I mentioned in another post I’ve even pulled the “starving kids in Africa” line (and really meant it), but no go with that so far either.

In some of my research I learned about super tasters, people with more taste buds than others and thus are more sensitive to tastes (sugar tastes sweeter, but bitter, as in vegetables, tastes more bitter). I did the supertaster test on both kids and myself, and it seemed like we were all supertasters. To have a comparison, I also tested my husband who seemed not to be a supertaste. So if the three of us are all supertasters that gives us a little grace when it comes to vegetables, or any food really, but I have learned to love most of these foods, and I want, need, my kids to as well. Since we are gluten-free we need to make sure we are getting all our nutrients, especially the ones that are usually found in whole-grain wheat (not that many people actually eat that either).

My latest ploy is new Laptop Lunch boxes,, cute little containers with separate boxes, some with lids, and drink bottle. I am always concerned with BPA, phlates, etc… so I like that this don’t contain those toxins. So far it has helped a little, I even cut her sandwich into an angel – she ate the head and wings.

I watched this video on the laptop lunch Web site on picky eaters,, and realized I should relax a little. She’ll be fine and learn to like different food as she gets older.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cookbooks versus Cute Clothes

When did I become the person that would rather buy a book - specifically a cookbook - instead of spending the money on a new top or trendy pair of shoes? I guess it was when I became a stay-at-home mom and realized no one cared what I looked like as long as a yummy dinner was on the table. Now I can't exactly say that no one cares what I look like - my daughter would love it if I served dinner in a formal dress with pin curls in my hair and a fancy pair of shoes. She's a fancy kind of girl, and I am what her favorite character Fancy Nancy would call casual - "a polite way of saying plain." I haven't always been plain. I used to dress up and make an effort to look nice, pre kids and a house to keep clean. Every once in a while I dig through my closet to find something nice to wear to an interview or on the one day a week I go into the office to work. I miss clothes, though, cute clothes and a reason to wear them. But if I had to choose, like I did today, whether I would buy a new end-of-summer dress or two new cookbooks that just came out (and I've been waiting for months to get), then I know what I'll always choose...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review Time

For some reason this year I've been reading like crazy. Maybe it's my way of escaping without actually going anywhere or that I've realized the kids can play and entertain themselves more now while I supervise behind the pages of a book. I'm also in the car a little more without the kids these days so I'm listening to books on CD as well. There are weeks when I am reading at least two books and listening to another all at the same time. Rediscovering reading has been great despite a few duds every once in a while. Now that I'm in a book club (my first one, unless you count college, which as an English major could be described as one big book club), I am not always reading books that I would necessarily pick. This is both good and bad. I am discovering new authors and genres but I also have to finish books I'm just not that into or that scare the crap out of me, such as the last one we read about a serial killer. You'll find some of the books I read say a lot about me - child rearing, relationship issues, mommy memoirs, self help... others I just happen upon at the library, intrigued by a cover or title or author’s name I recognize. Actually, some of the best books I've read lately have been because of the little library near my home. That's where I get all of my books on CD (way too expensive to buy). I discovered Elizabeth Gilbert's “Eat, Pray, Love,” Pema Chondra’s CD on meditation, Amy Sedaris's hilarious book on hospitality, “The Secret Life of Bees,” and so many more. Whoever is donating these books to the library definitely shares my taste in books. In today's review, though, I'm going to stick with just a few I've actually read since 2010 began.

“Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
A huge fan of “Eat, Pray, Love” (what woman isn't?), I knew I had to read her latest book about marriage. We even picked this book for our first book club read. While I will say that “Committed” isn’t “Eat, Pray, Love,” I did get a lot of information out of it, in a different way. Her second book is more history than memoir, in my opinion; history that helps understand marriage in the Western world where little girls play dress up as brides and dream about their princes. I was one of those girls, always looking for someone to take care of me, sweep me off my feet – a little too much I now realize in that marriage was always my scapegoat out of having to take care of myself. I sure was surprised when I found myself married with children and no one was taking care of me but myself. This book helped to bring me back to reality, to see marriage for what it is and what it can be.

“Cleaving” by Julie Powell.
Man does Powell have guts to publish this book. I love guts, though, not the gory kind but the kind that are true and honest even when it doesn't make you look that good. In her follow up to “The Julie/Julia Project” (which I read as well), Julie Powell writes about what happens after the cooking project, and it isn't pretty. She has an affair, becomes a butcher and generally falls apart, much like what happens to many of us in real life (the falling apart part at least). At times it was almost too much and I felt like shaking Powell to wake her up and stop being so completely self involved. But she takes her own path and we follow along, hoping the best for her but fearing the worst. She’s someone I could see as a friend of mine, and no matter how painful the truth, it was worth the read.

“The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.
I can always tell how much I love a book by how long it takes me to get through it. This one took me a few months, a long, long time for me. It wasn't that I didn't like it, though. It was that the book was a call to action, not just a passive read. The book made me think, take stock, wonder, but I wasn’t compelled to read in my every spare moment. While the author and I do have similarities, the differences were really obvious – she’s way more type A than me and for that reason I had a hard time empathizing with her. Overall, a good book with some very practical ways to increase happiness, but it didn’t move me as much as other books this year (probably too practical for me, which is why I should actually try some of her tips).

“The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn.
I picked up this book while procrastinating reading my book club's latest selection, a detective-ish novel that I just couldn’t get into, and I’m glad I did. Flinn writes about her experience at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Paris! She takes my two favorite things, traveling and cooking, and roles them into one book. And she includes recipes! I would definitely put this book in with the likes of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Julie/Julia,” stories about finding an identity outside of the norm. I love that Flinn takes a chance to pursue a childhood dream. This book is easy reading and fun, definitely worth the time.

“This Isn’t the Story You Think It Is … A Season of Unlikely Happiness” by Laura Munson.
I have to say that you can tell what’s going on in my life by the books I read. When I had my first child I read “A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother” by Rachel Cusk and Anne Lamott’s “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year.” Both of these books made me feel normal, understood and appreciated at a time when I really needed some serious empathy. A year after my second child and a serious bought of bad health (much later to be attributed to celiac disease/gluten intolerance), my book shelf was full of self help, Brook Shields memoir of her battle with post-partum depression, Lorraine Bracco’s visits to the psychiatrist in “On the Couch” and lots of others on similar topics. I was searching for a connection, empathy from someone who had experienced what I was going through. From my book reviews I’m sure you can tell I am searching for empathy again, this time in the self-fulfillment department, an attempt to maintain my own identity along with being a wife and mother. From “Committed” I read about finding happiness outside of a partner; from "Cleaving" that marriage can get really messed up when both partners are in total denial (but also that you can get through it); from “The Happiness Project” that happiness is sometimes work and doesn’t always come naturally; and from "The Sharper the Knife...," that dreams can become a reality and it is worth the risk. And then there is “This Isn’t the Story You Think It Is.” I read this book in four days. I read this book every chance I got, from every bath I took to every break in my day. I even considered taking it to work to read during my breaks but I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it down. I read this book because I felt complete empathy from the author; I felt her honesty and her pain and her perseverance. This memoir details a summer of marital discord, a huge bump in the road that is marriage. In short, her husband tries to leave her, even tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore. Ouch! But she doesn’t believe him, and the book chronicles her fight for her marriage and her husband. She remembers their wedding vows and their many years together and she still loves him – she still loves him! So she doesn’t give up or give in even when it gets really bad. I can’t say that I’m that strong. Throughout the book she talks to the reader, an interesting angle that I don’t see that often in a memoir. It makes it more personal, sharing her story, thinking about my own. I may have to read it again since I sped through it so fast, eager to know how it all turned out, so that I can absorb more of her wisdom and self-control. I could use a lot of both.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reality Check

I sometimes pride myself in my sarcastic, dry humor, the constant bitching reminiscent Woody Allen or Seinfield, you know “What’s the deal with …?” Well last night while watching a certain documentary all my bitching seemed in vain, and actually vain. The documentary was “God Grew Tired of Us,” a Sundance winner from 2006 about the lost boys of Sudan. These boys, the victims of Sudan’s civil war, lost everything: family, friends, homeland, food, clothes and many their lives. The film showed images of the starving Africans similar to what I remember from first “We are the World.” Somehow last night the starving children seemed so much more real to me. It could have been that we were watching this with my daughter who is only 5. At first I thought about shielding her eyes, that she is too young to see this, but then we talked about what was happening and why, in terms she could understand and wouldn’t scare her. This is after all a reality in life, maybe not our life but for many children. I know it sounds cliché but I told her that all the food she wastes or doesn’t like (my daughter is a very picky eater) that these children would love to have it, and that sometimes they go days with hardly any and sometimes no food. I did it – I pulled the “starving children” routine. This time, though, it dawned on me that it is true. There are starving children, and I complain about not getting to eat out at restaurants (I’ll explain about my dietary restrictions from Celiac Disease in an upcoming blog) or my children complain that they don’t like a meal I’ve cooked.

A word I’ve been hearing a lot lately is entitled, that today’s children feel entitled and don’t want to have to work hard for what they feel they deserve. I would say that I am that way, that I expect certain standards and am disappointed when I don’t get them, even if I haven’t lifted a finger to earn it.

Some of the Lost Boys eventually end up in America, and that is when the real lesson hits home. They learn about showers, indoor toilets, food in a bag, grocery stores, all the things we are all used to. It seems absurd really, when you see our lifestyle through their eyes. Some of the boys flourish but many of them still seem lost, missing the camaraderie of the other boys or the families they lost in the war. We see America as an isolated, individualistic place, every man for himself. And it made me sad. It also made me want to do better, to complain less and be grateful more. I have a lot to be grateful for and sometimes my personality, and, yes, even my tendency to neuroticism, can get in the way. Life is pretty good, really good actually. I want my children to see that and to see that it isn’t that way everywhere. But the beauty of this documentary is that many of the boys, despite all their suffering, were still looking on the bright side. I’m not going to say that it was all roses because it isn’t a Hollywood movie but a true story. Many of the boys definitely had culture shock and most likely posttraumatic stress. But they were still going, still moving forward, and many looked back to help those that were still in the refugee camp and in their country of Sudan.

The movie reminded me of what I have, what my children have. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting more, wishing for what I don’t have (that is part of American culture – bigger is better, more is better), but I want to get away from that, even if it’s just a little bit every day. When I get cynical, overwhelmed, frustrated…I want to remember the Lost Boys.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Calgon Take Me Away!

When I was in my twenties, and one of the few times I actually had a real job, with real pay and real responsibility, an intern interrupted me while I was in the bathroom. "It’s urgent," she said, blah, blah, blah – really? Something is so important I can’t go to the bathroom in peace? Is there nowhere I’m allowed a little down time?

I feel the same way now – when I’m going to the bathroom the door will open, "Mommy, can I have some water?" Or better yet, yelling from across the house, "Mom, where are you? This often happens when my husband is actually home, standing right next to them, but no! They need me. I can’t even pee in peace.

My real retreat, though, is the bathtub. A long, hot soak with the door closed, the curtain drawn. Sometimes I take a book or magazine, trying to catch a few minutes of adult time. I’ve even taken my computer so I can watch hulu or netflix (if I were filthy rich the one indulgence I'd have to give into is a TV in the bathroom). But alas, I’m not safe there either. I used to tell my husband I was going to take a bath and lock the door behind me. That is until he taught my daughter how to pick the lock.

"Mom? Can I get in the bath with you?"



Another kid comes in …

"Can I get in too?"

Next thing I know, they're in and I’m out ….

My mother-in-law, having overheard this drama more than a few times when visiting, sent me this comic strip, which says it all!