Sunday, February 27, 2011

Time Outs

I gave myself a time out yesterday. No, I did not make myself sit with my back against the wall for 33 minutes (1 minute for every year of life). I went to Target and spent the obligatory $100 (expensive time out). My son has taken to whining a bit lately, and when he gets frustrated, he starts crying and whining and screaming "Mommy" over and over and over and basically has a little meltdown, as all two-year-olds generally do. My husband can completely tune it out. I cannot. I found myself getting frustrated by my son's umpteenth frustration over Legos and started to raise my voice at him to stop whining but I caught myself. Told my husband I need a time out, he told me to go ahead and take one, and off I went to Target. I'm so happy I did...I think it was good for both me and my son.

Since I'm on the topic, I started to give my son time outs a couple months ago (shortly after he turned two). I learned how to from watching Supernanny, the greatest resource on discipline that I have found to date. Sometimes it works in teaching him behavior; sometimes it doesn't. But no matter what, it is teaching him that there are consequences to behavior. I don't do it too often because I don't want him to become immune to it and I don't want him to lose his spunk. And there are other ways of dealing with behavior. I have found the greatest tips not from those websites that purport to offer tips on how to raise your child, but from the parents' comments that follow. There are some genius moms and dads out there. I think the best tip I've learned thus far is this: when my son is crying for something that he can't have, I get down to his level, repeat what it is that he wants three times, and briefly explain why he can't have it and offer an alternative. The three times idea is genius. The first time ("You want to play with scissors?"), my son can't hear me because he's crying; the second time ("You want to play with scissors?"), he catches onto the fact that I understand what it is that he wants and his crying is reduced to a whimper; by the third time ("You want to play with scissors?"), he has stopped crying and says "yes, want scissors." And then I explain why he cannot have what it is that he wants, trying my hardest to avoid the word "no" at all costs ("Scissors are dangerous and you can cut yourself..."), and as quickily as possible, change topics and redirect him to something different ("but I bet you would love to play with play doh...let's make shapes together!"). Works like a charm (nearly) every time.

I've also discovered how important it is to speak to my son at his level. That should be intuitive to me given that I am under five feet and know how intimidating it can be to have someone much bigger tell you what to do. Just the other day, I was making my son breakfast and he kept touching a beautiful (but delicate) piece of artwork we have hanging on the wall. I kept telling him to stop, to no avail. It became a game for him. Finally, I realized I just have to stop what I'm doing. I bent down to his level; told him that artwork is not for touching but for looking; that if he feels the urge to touch, he should grab his hand and run away (he loved that). And, lo and behold, he stopped. Not saying this happens every time; but it happens most of the time and that's all that I can ask for.

Disclaimer: I have only been a mom for 2 years, 2 months, and 11 days. I am fully cognizant that my disciplinary tips and tricks might work well for me now (as in yesterday, today, and hopefully tomorrow) but will have to change as soon as my son catches on to me.

Can you see the mischief in this little boy's eyes?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mickey D's and the Disappointing Fats

Oh, McDonalds, how I loathe thee. I read an opinion piece today in the New York Times by Mark Bittman called How to Make Oatmeal...Wrong, which criticizes McDonald's for not being able to even get their oatmeal right and criticizes the folks who frequent McDonald's for the "convenience" factor. I seriously cringe when I think about all the times that I splurged on McDonald's fries in the 32 years before I finally saw the light. You would think that with all the negative publicity they've received over the past few years that McD's would finally try to do good. But they can't even get oatmeal right. It's oats. OATS. The oatmeal in my house has one ingredient. You ready for it? Organic natural oats. Why must their oatmeal contain 7? My oatmeal has 0 grams of sodium; theirs has 140. My oatmeal contains less than 1 gram of sugar; theirs has 14.

AND THEIR FOOD IS STILL MADE WITH BAD FATS! This is the part that makes me really mad. I took a look at the nutritional information and ingredients in their food. I would say that I can identify about half of the ingredients in their grilled chicken breast patty. Um, shouldn't it just be chicken? It says right there in the nutritional contents that their chicken breast is made with liquid margarine, which contains partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils. I know there are folks that look at that and see the word soybean and think they are eating something healthy. Wrong. It's poison. offers this lovely explanation: Partial hydrogenation is an industrial process used to make a perfectly good oil, such as soybean oil, into a perfectly bad oil. The process is used to make an oil more solid; provide longer shelf-life in baked products; provide longer fry-life for cooking oils, and provide a certain kind of texture or 'mouthfeel.' The big problem is that partially hydrogenated oil is laden with lethal trans fat. I won't bore you with all the gory science. You can take my word for it that it's poison, or you can read about it here or here or here. (And in case you're wondering, yes, McD's fries are made with hydrogenated oils and other questionable additives.)

I wish this wasn't so because so many of my favorite vices contain hydrogenated oils: Kit Kats, Snickers, and basically every candy bar on the market. (I can't tell you how hard it's been for me to stay away from the ubiquitous candy jar at work that is laden with all of these candy bar treats.) Even Girl Scout cookies. Let me put that one in perspective. The Girl Scouts advertise that none of their cookies contain trans fats even where their three most popular brands - Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs - are made with partially hydrogenated oils. For some ungodly reason, if a product contains less than .5 grams of trans fats per serving, it may be advertised as having 0 grams of trans fats. Let's think about that one, ok? The Girl Scouts FAQs states that all varieties of cookies contain less than .5 grams of trans fats per serving (so even though they are legally allowed to advertise that their cookies contain 0 grams of trans fats, that's simply not true). A serving of Samoas is two cookies. So if Samoas contains .4 grams of trans fats per serving (which, as described above, can be listed on the ingredients label as 0 grams of trans fats), and you eat six Samoas (and let's be honest, you can't eat just two), you've just consumed 1.2 grams of trans fats. That's NOT the 0 grams you bargained for. I'm not sure how they reconcile this with Girl Scouts law to respect others, use resources wisely, take responsibility, and make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, I find that most kids' snacks contain partially hydrogenated oils. Quick story: My husband and I took my son to Griffith Observatory and my husband, who is incessantly hungry, mosied on over to the snack shop to grab a quick something to eat. He came back with one of those pre-packaged Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now you would think that would contain very few ingredients: bread (obviously made with a variety of ingredients), peanut butter, and whatever makes up strawberry jam (should just be strawberries and sugar). But to my utter shock and awe, it also contained partially hydrogenated oils in the bread AND the peanut butter, among about 20-30 other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Why on earth? I guarantee that was not what Mrs. Smuckers intended.

I am thankful for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for making my life a bit easier. I have yet to find a food item in either store that contains partially hydrogenated oils. And, luckily for us, there is one fast food chain that does not use hydrogenated oils: In n Out! That's what a hamburger's all about, I tell you. Because even with all this healthy living, you just gotta have a good burger and fries once in a while.

Caveat: my husband has not fully jumped on this anti-fast-food bandwagon with me. I think in theory he has, but he just needs (or wants) junk food once in a while. He has cut down on fast food a bit, but his doctor told him that fast food once a week is a-OK, and my husband heeds that advice and cites it whenever I find an empty brown bag with a smiley-faced star on it in his car. I choose my battles.

As always, a picture of my muse:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Enjoying the Unplanned

My husband went away for one night this weekend, so it was just me and the kiddo. Woke up on Monday morning (President's Day) and thought it would be a great day for a hike. So we ate breakfast, bundled up, and drove to Griffith Park. I took no snacks because I figured we would be gone for an hour or two and be back in time for snack. We hiked, climbed up tree stumps, grabbed milk and coffee from Trails Cafe, inspected the bark on the trees, looked at the different shades of green on all the various leaves, and watched the (tiny) waterfalls from the recent rains. We have been reading the book "Are You My Mother" lately, so when we also saw some "baby" birds, the search began for the Snort (an excavator that places the baby bird back on the tree). We were having such a good time, that I decided it would be fun to head over to the ponies and trains. So we did. Two pony rides (huge accomplishment because this is the first time my son would actually get on the ponies and happily ride them), a train ride, a simulator ride (huge disappointment), and a snort-sighting later (yes, we saw THE snort), we were spent and it was time to go home.

I write about this because I don't want to ever forget this morning. It was pure bliss notwithstanding that my husband was not there. It makes me all teary eyed because I had such an incredible time talking to and wandering through nature with my son. And I could see what a sponge he is and how he soaks in all the information. It was also liberating because this was our first excursion that was completely unplanned and impromptu. I planned nothing and I planned for nothing. I had no snacks, no just-in-case toys. Just a couple diapers and wipes. And it was beautiful!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm cheating on my rags...with paper towels

So in the past year, I have strived to be green for multiple reasons. Of course, the obvious is to do my part in saving the planet, and I also want to teach my son about recycling and being a better citizen of this world. So we've made lots of changes: we compost, buy cleaners and detergents that don't pollute the environment, take reusable bags to the grocery store, ride our bikes, store food in glass containers, buy biodegradable trash bags, etc. But the biggest change was eliminating paper towels and paper napkins. It's hard. I bought a whole bunch of plain rags and microfiber dishtowels from Costco and bought a whole bunch of cloth napkins from Target. Certain rags are meant to be used for cleaning; others are meant for dishes and just a quick wipe of the countertops. But, of course, sometimes what they are "meant" for does not matter because when a rag is needed, we grab the first one we can find. There are a lot of logistical issues that come with rags that I have yet to perfect. For example, where do I put soiled rags? And where do I put those rags that clean up after my son's potty training "accidents"? And should I wash all rags in a separate load or can I wash them with the cloth napkins and other laundry? Would washing them separately defeat their "green" purpose because it adds another load of laundry? I don't have the answers to all these questions but I put my cloth napkins in a mesh bag; rags used to clean up potty training accidents go into a separate plastic bag; rags used to clean up just get piled on top of my washing machine; and, yes, I clean the rags in a separate load of laundry, not to be mixed in with clothes and bath towels. But I never feel organized about this, and I feel like there should be some organizational devices out there to assist in this process. I'm still searching...

But that is not really what this blog post is about. My mom, frustrated by my decision to eliminate paper towels, brought over 5 rolls last week. I told her to take them back but, alas, she left them at my house. At first, my son thought it was the greatest new toy (seriously, I don't know why I spend so much on fancy wooden empty box and some paper towels are all he needs). And then, something spilled in the kitchen and instead of grabbing a rag, my husband (who I know is secretly SO happy for the paper towels) opened one paper towel roll and cleaned up the mess. And then yesterday, I cleaned up another mess with a paper towel. And this morning I used another paper towel to clean my counters. Notwithstanding the guilty conscience, it feels gooooood to use paper towels. So good, I have devoted a half hour this morning to writing about it. I am trying to convince myself to savor these rolls and use them sporadically and only when really needed because once they're gone, there will be no more paper towels. I think.

Just to be consistent, here is my sweet boy in a tunnel...