Green Thumb Parenting

In my family, I’m the environmentalist.  Which might not being saying too much, since my brother married his wife, who is much more environmentally suave than me, and my family calls her crazy.  (Granted, she a vegetarian, and the family cannot wrap their minds around that lifestyle choice.)  But I try.  It amuses me to this day when I read articles about environmentalist lifestyles and read tips that my grandmother passed down to us. 

So when I came across Growing Up Green by Deirdre Imus, I thought it would be an interesting read and that I would learn a few new tips.  See, I believe everything in moderation.  I love to have a greener lifestyle, but quite frankly, we can’t afford it.  I have learned to pick and choose what I think is the most important things and try not to judge or be to hard on myself.  I always remind myself that hell, grandma and her generation used to break thermometers and play with the mercury.  Though, now that I think about it, that might explain why my grandmothers are slowly going crazy.  Hmmm.

Back to the book.  Imus did have lots of interesting facts, but I found her a little preachy.  Then I read her telling me (and every other reader) to get rid of our microwaves because, not only is microwave food bad (and I think she means the processed junk which I agree with her), but that it is part of the problem of Americans wanting their food to be fast and convenient which paves the way for fast food which is the path to hell.  I love my microwave.  I do.  It allows me to cook frozen vegetables for dinner.  It heats up left-overs.  It takes the chill off frozen meat, saving me an hour of defrost time.  It heats up water for tea and hot chocolate faster and more efficient than the stove.  So I don’t take it too kindly when someone says I should throw it out because it’s unhealthy for my family.  Are there some really horrible microwavable foods that people shouldn’t eat?  Sure.  Are there some really nutritious microwavable foods?  Yes.  After this little segment in the book, I was ready to pitch the whole thing, stupid judgmental b-, telling me what to do, I’ll show her.

Then I stopped myself.  Ok, Ms. Judgy Mcjudgy, what the hell are you doing?  No one is forcing you to read this book.  She’s writing to her choir.  You’re just not in it.  You’re the chick who’s visiting some family and you went along for a lark.

So I cooled off and started to read again. 

Other than her microwave spill, I didn’t like her “because it worked for my child” attitude.  Because of “her green lifestyle,” her child didn’t get sick, wasn’t colicky, and some other perfect child stuff.  I’m going to guess she just had the luck of the draw.

I recommend this book to people who want to raise their children in a green lifestyle.  Though Imus is an all or none kind of gal, which kind of irks me a bit.  The book is loaded with interesting facts and tips.  She did do research to make her points valid.  But as for me, I didn’t find much in it useful as I don’t have the money to follow her tips and I just love meat and fish to much to be vegan.

Martini, any one?: A book review

So a couple of weeks ago, I had this thought that I should go borrow some organizational books at the library.  You know, since I said I become more organized.  I was hoping the books would tell me that half the bills and stuff I was filing I could throw out.  Still hoping.  But while I was at that, I decided I should pick up some parenting books too, since organizing and parenting go hand in hand.  Or maybe I feel like perhaps I’m missing some easy parenting trick that everyone  else knows about because they read the books.

And wouldn’t you know?  The first book I picked up was tongue-in-cheek.  God, I can’t even take parenting seriously.

The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting by Christie Mellor was pretty funny and gave a few good tips.  Mellor encourages the readers to take on a more hands off approach to parenting which was popular in our grandmothers’ or perhaps our mothers’ time.  Mellor has you agreeing over the joy of saying no to your child and the joy of early bedtimes for children.  She has you laughing at yourself over things you’ve done that she is making fun of in her book.  Like the first time we took Tornado E out to someone’s house.  My God, we packed for an army.

The only complaint I have is that she broke out of her voice when talking about too much television.  I thought she would play it tongue-in-cheek like she had the rest of the book, like when she suggested teaching children to make martinis.  Instead she was matter-the-fact about how too many children watch too much TV and that it’s bad for children.  Which I agree, but I was hoping she would make it funny when she talked about it.

So if you want a fun parenting read, this is the book for you.

And yes, I have two more books I can write reviews on. Is any one interested?

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Grammar Rant

Has something ever bothered you so much that you had to interrupt the post you composed in your head at 4:15am when you were trying to get back to sleep?  By the way, composing posts don’t help you get back to sleep; they just make you want to get up and write.  But back to being bothered. . . .

I just put the boys to bed for naptime.  (With any luck, Tornado E will nap a bit too.) Tornado S picked out The Boy and the Tigers by Helen Bannerman.  It’s a cute story about a boy tricking some tigers into first not eating him and second giving him back his clothes.  For those with better memories than I or those from across the pond, you’ll know this story as Little Black Sambo.

Now I don’t know if this is Bannerman’s original text or not, but the grammar is horrible.  So much so that apparently the last time I read it to the boys, I actually edited it.  First off there are too many “ands.”  I know this is more of style thing, but serioursly do we really need to start off every sentence with an “and” or list with “and?”  (“flour and eggs and milk and sugar and butter”)  My head hurts.  Then it’s like the author just grabbed a bunch of commas and just threw them onto the page like colored sprinkles.  While I’m all for colored sprinkles on everything, commas are not colored sprinkles and should be used correctly.  No wonder so few people know how to use commas if books they began reading never used them correctly.  Then nearly every sentence is started with “but,” “so”, “and.”  It’s just more poor grammar usage.

I know that on my blog I stretch the rules of grammar, even break them, from time to time, but I know what I’m doing.  I’m also writing in conversational speech.  This is a book being read to children, a book that children will read by themselves when they learn.  Isn’t it important for them to have good examples on writing?  Wouldn’t that make it easier for them in class as they’ve seen good examples over and over?  And who the hell didn’t edit this book?  Why couldn’t have snagged a job as an editor straight out of college?  Because I know I could do a whole lot better.

Thank you for sticking in with this grammar nerd rant.  A funnier and more embarrassing post to come tomorrow.

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Adding vegetables

I bought Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld well over a year ago.  The BFF and I saw it on Oprah and ran out to buy it that night (after The Husband was home and willing and able to do babysitting duty).  The BFF and I love cookbooks and love spending our time looking at cookbooks together.  And this one would be helpful with Tornado E’s eating issues.  But we were skeptical.

I tried the pita pizzas first, and to up the anti, I tried them with broccoli puree.  If you could hide the strong tasting broccoli puree, you could hide everything.  And it worked!  We weren’t big on her Mac and Cheese, but I have since learned you need to bake it with a cheese sauce, so I need to try it again.  The boys and I love the Frozen Yogurt Pops and Chocolate Chip Cupcakes.  Tornado E just adores the Applesauce Muffins, but I had to add more spices to give it a more flavorful taste The Husband and I love.  Everyone loves the Aloha Chicken Kebabs, but I don’t fry them; I bake them.  I combined her Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe with one I got from Weight Watchers with delicious results.  The only Epic Fail so far is the Mozzarella Sticks, but I want to try them again to see if I missed something.  And I can never bring myself to destroy Mash Potatoes that way.  Never.

The best part of this book is that it caused me to think about food differently.  But with the duh factor of my mom and grandma, who told me that they always hid vegetables in whatever they could.  It wasn’t a new concept.  But I did make leaps they never did.

I started adding carrot or cauliflower puree to enchiladas and enchilada casserole (the only casserole that Faemom endorses).  When I make muffins or coffee cake or cinnamon rolls, I drop in apple or pear puree, which made them so much more moist than before.  I’m always looking for another food to drop in more vegetables.  My baby brother has become so suspicious that he asks me what I hid in dinner.  (Don’t worry; he’s as bad as Tornado E when it comes to vegetables so I don’t say a thing.)

I did find better tips on how to handle purees than Seinfeld.  She wrote about how she would puree every Sunday for the week.  Who has time for that?  When a vegetable or fruit is on sale, I just buy a bunch, puree it, and stick it in the freezer in ½ cup sizes in zip lock bags.  Much like I did when I was making baby food.  And that’s another thing, sometimes it was cheaper to buy baby food and use that.  A regular serving size of baby food is just about ½ cup.

If you’re thinking “Good Lord, how is Tornado E ever going to eat vegetables if she hides them all,” let me answer.  I still serve him fruits and vegetables with his meal in hopes to get him to try it.  I also like the purees for myself because they make the meal more fulfilling.  Not only do I know I’m getting in more fruits and vegetables, but the servings fill me up faster because of all the ingredients.

I say give this book or technique a try.  I’ll keep working on other foods to use purees in because Tornado E has to get more vegetables in some how.

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Raising boys

Browsing throw the library, I came across Raising Boys without Men: How Maverick Moms are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D.  I was curious, so I checked it out.  I am raising two boys, perhaps three.  The book was fascinating!

I originally assumed the book would be about single mothers raising sons, but it was much, much more.  Drexler began her Ph.D. thesis studying stable lesbian couples who were raising boys.  For the book, she started studying single mothers by choice as well as some divorced and widowed mothers.  Drexler wanted to see exactly what the issues where for boys who were raised without a father figure.  She found that boys without fathers did just as well as those with fathers.  In fact, the boys studied were more well-rounded, more emotional in touch, and better able to articulate themselves than the boys who had fathers.

Drexler found that mothers encouraged their sons to talk, never allowing them to shut their mothers out with one word answers.  These mothers allowed their sons to embrace their own sense of masculinity.  These mothers actively sought out good male role-models for their sons, and these mothers took an active interest in whatever these boys were.  It is good parenting that raises good children, not a good mom or good dad.

The husband was a little worried at first that I was planning a divorce.  Like that’s something I want to do at five months along.  But I got this book because I’m 50% responsible for turning my boys into men, and I need to be active in their lives.

While reading this book, I realized I do let The Husband take the more physically active role with the boys.  I’m making a bigger effort to wrestle and play sports with the boys.  I’ve started dragging us on hikes and to parks.  I’ve got to make a bigger effort in teaching them to ride bikes and play baseballs, soccer, and basketball.  If I want to be a good parent, I have to be the emotional, physical, hands-on, intelligent parent all at once.

Then I read about one mom allowed her son to wear nail polish when he wanted.  He was a soccer player and love to build things.  He was a typical boy, who just wanted to wear nail polish every once in a while.  Then a few days after reading this excerpt, Tornado E asked for his nails to be painted blue.  I asked him what his dad would say (because The Husband was at a college football game).  Tornado E smiled and replied, “He’ll say, ‘That’s awesome, Tornado E!’”  I called The Husband and explained the whole thing after I painted Tornado E’s nails.  Unfortunately when Tornado E did proudly show his blue painted nails, The Husband groaned an oh-no.  We had a little talk about Tornado E’s self-esteem, masculinity, and that no this does not mean your son is gay.   Because I read this book, I was more comfortable with my choice to let the boys explore everything from baking to nail polish to fairy wings.

The biggest lesson I learned was I didn’t have to let my boys grow apart from me.  I’ve worried from the day Tornado E was born that one day he would walk away from me because that’s what boys do.  He would create a wall between us, never calling me when he left home, always spending holidays with his wife’s family, leaving me wondering, calling, begging for his attention.  Then I had another boy and possibly another, and before I read this book, I saw my old age becoming a very lonely place.  But Dexler interviewed adult men who were raised without fathers, and they all talked about the importance of their mothers, calling them for advice, seeing them on weekends, and still playing one on one on the backyard court.  I realized I could have that.  I wanted that.  God willing, I will have that with my boys.

I’m going to buy this book because I’m sure I’ll need the advice every now and then.  I think this is an important book to read for all mothers, with sons or daughters, with husbands or not, because it gives some good advice from women who are doing it right.  It also exonerates mothers from being the villain that ruined the kids life because she was too intense with her love.  It’s nice to have someone tell you that you can’t love your kid enough.

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Flanagan vs working moms and housewives

The problem with Caitlin Flanagan’s The Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing your Inner Housewife is Flanagan demonizes both working and stay-at-home mothers.  She wants to be considered fulfilled and important by being a working mother, but she also wants to create a home atmosphere where she stays to cook dinners and be there for her family.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have it all.  The problem lies that she holds working mothers in contempt because they miss that close bond with their children and believes stay-at-home moms are selfishly demanding me-time from their families, not caring to do the housework or even the mother work.  She believes in a simpler time when housewives were competent, content women who knew how to make a house a home.  This time never existed.

 

Her first look at the culture of marriage is through the bridal magazines, and she sees a world of inflated dreams crushing the very union of marriage.  She’s right.  But she tends to blame feminism for killing the wedding ceremony, leaving the American culture without any understanding of what the ceremony actually means.  Feminism did not kill weddings.  Materialism did.  Watch just one episode of Bridezilla, and you’ll understand that there is something very wrong with the institute of marriage.  Flip through a bridal magazine, and it will whisper of elegant dresses, extravagant dishes, and exotic locals.  The wedding industry cajoles, seduces, pushes weddings to be ever bigger because that is their business, to make weddings a significant occasion with a very significant price tag.  It is the savvy marketing that appeals to the very selfish, self-centered, greedy part of our society.  It is the dream that every girl is a princess, and every bride should have her dream.  Flanagan is right is laughable to see these women walk down the aisle in white dresses, forgetting that this is to symbolize virginity, but Flanagan forgets the white wedding dress only came to popularity with Queen Victoria’s wedding, when before any beautiful dress would do.  We are losing our bridal rituals, but we aren’t losing it to feminism.

 

While I have already discussed Flanagan’s views on the sexless marriage, I will just touch on them briefly.  Flanagan believes women are refusing sex in a passive aggressive way because they are doing all the work.  Because it’s the women’s fault for doing all the work, it is her problem to fix and mend.  I don’t agree at all. I think it’s a two person problem; therefore, it should be fixed by two people.  Another problem with this chapter is her first mention that if men started doing the housework like we women would like (cleaning up the crumbs after the dishes, putting notes in with the kid’s lunches, ironing curtains), men would be demasculinized in our eyes.  Ha.  I know plenty of men that help out with the housework, and they are still very much men.  I would almost bet they are getting more sex than the men I know who don’t help around the house.  Not only can we not keep our men satisfies, we apparently can’t keep a clean, orderly house either.

 

While Flanagan assumed stay-at-home moms could satisfy their men more than working mothers, she believes both women fail miserably when it comes to making a house a home.  Working mothers just pass on these chores to cleaning women, and so does the average stay-at-home mom.  Well, that was news to me.  I can’t even think of another stay-at-home mom that hired a cleaning person (well, except me, for three months after Tornado E’s birth at the insistence of my husband and his administrative assistant.  I fired her as soon as I could figure out how to run the household with a baby).  It is here that I realized the Flanagan is not an average stay-at-home mom, but that she had the means to do more and that she didn’t actually understand the plight of ordinary women.  According the Flanagan, stay-at-home moms go to the movies, the spa, to book clubs, leaving the house work to others, not even knowing the price of milk.  I am certain that most women, especially those who stay at home, do their own house cleaning, do the shopping with a budget, mend shirts, and all the other day to day things that Flanagan loves but never does.  She doesn’t understand the tedium of housework because she never did it.  She NEVER did it.  At this point, Flanagan should be fired as a sage for housewives.

 

Then Flanagan moves on to discussing child rearing.  After a chapter discussing the use of nannies in Victorian England, she then has a chapter about her nanny hired to take care of her sons because all the other stay-at-home moms have one.  Really?  Another interesting fact.  From the look of the blogs out there, most of us can’t find a decent sitter for a measly night out with or without a husband much less another set of hands to take care of the children five days a week.  In this chapter she talks about how inadequate she feels with her babies, and thank god her nanny is so good.  The rest of us mothers out there have felt our moments of inadequacy deep to the soul, and we dealt with it and moved on.  We were the ones that took care of the sick child, changing the sheets, bathing the child, calming the child, not someone else.  Flanagan also mentions how she wanted someone in the house to make it loving and warm, like her mother used to do.  That’s your job now, Mrs. Housewife.  We all miss our mothers taking care of us.  We make the bed so that we can return to it feeling warm and clean.  We cook cookies to eat the dough and have the smell run through the house because it reminds us of home.  Flanagan does not understand the desperate act of mothering. 

 

 

Flanagan is looking for a reason why she feels incompetent.  She finds it in the fact the feminism robbed women of home ec and the knowledge that we would be homemakers, important and loved.  She sees that mothers run after their children, taking them to every activity that can be crammed into their children’s lives, paying homage to the domestic goddess of Martha Stewart, and becoming addicted to organizing and decluttering.  Again I see these as symptoms of materialism and advertising.  Nothing can sell a parent better than the threat that their children may not be using their full potential; hence why many kids have several activities on their plate.  But this has been happening for some time.  My brothers and I were in scouts, volleyball, basketball, softball or baseball, swimming lessons.  If we could have afforded it we would have had music lessons.  My father and his siblings all took various music lessons and did various sports.  The fact that Americans have raised this to a new level of fanaticism is just yet another marketing scheme, trying to take money from parents who are trying to make prodigies or at least make them well-rounded enough to get into a good college.  As long as these activities are done to moderation, then why not schlep a kid around because we are yearning for a better life for that child. 

 

As for Martha Stewart and organization, I feel that Flanagan is right to believe this is a call for a simpler time.  Martha Stewart shows off peace and beauty as unattainable as that is in a house full of kids.  We yearn for a more organized home that runs efficiently leaving us time to redecorate, bake, or just plain relax.  It just makes sense that a busy mother would want this.  But I doubt that every household in those bygone days looked like the Cleaver’s or the Nelson’s.  Kids back then were much like kids today, tornadoes.  I think we set the bar too high to expect a perfectly manicured house while raising sweet, smart, clean kids.  Even my grandma didn’t believe in keeping an immaculate house unless company demands it.  Really Flanagan is living in a different world than what the rest of us live in, one with hired help.

 

The vary essence of this book is Caitlin Flanagan not realizing that housewives back then felt the same way as stay-at-home mothers today.  She even quotes Erma Bombeck as saying she went to see Betty Friedan just to get out of the day’s house work, but Flanagan fails to realize what Bombeck said.  To get out of the house work.  In Flanagan’s mind those fifties and sixties were a time where women were competent and confident in their roles of housewife, not minding the tediousness of the chores that had to be done and redone every day.  Flanagan is looking to understand why she isn’t like that, and because she lost her mother before her boys were older than five, Flanagan never had the same talks that I had with my mom, where my mom admits to being just as confused and anxious as I am.  Flanagan wants to be like her mom but fails because she doesn’t understand her “inner housewife.”  Maybe she doesn’t understand it because she’s never done it.  She instead vilifies all women in what they are trying to do, encouraging them to give up on their dreams of having it all and sending their children to private universities.  I guess Susan Jane Gilman is right.  We’re all the fashion police.