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Mommy Truths: October 2007

Mommy Truths

The Hard Learned Lessons and Eye Opening Realities of Raising Young Kids

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ladybug Lessons

Yesterday, I opened the door to my back deck into an explosion of ladybugs. Yes, dozens, maybe hundreds, of lucky little black and red insects crawling over railings, siding, table and chairs. What really caught me by surprise was the fluttering of teeny tiny wings up into my face, around my hair and out over the yard. I waved my hands, brushing the pretty pests away, and prayed I wouldn’t insult their lucky charms.

Could this mean we’re in for a lucky spell? A really lucky spell? Like, if the entire backside of my house is covered with ladybugs, maybe we’re in for the lottery, a trip to the South of France, free preschool tuition next year…even a quiet night when the kids miraculously fall asleep early?

I ran through the fluttering wings to safety in the backyard, where my children played unaware of our ladybug intrusion. How many wishes could I manage to make on all these ladybugs? Would random wishes offered into the flurry of multiple wings count? Like when you release a ladybug from your finger, close your eyes, and silently pray for the cute guy to ask you on a date? Okay, that was way back then when I made carefree wishes on ladybugs who chanced to land near me.

Now, I’m a harried mother of two toddlers with the chance to wish upon a hundred ladybugs cavorting around my house. What will it be? How many wishes can I imagine?

Okay, real quick while the kids are playing on the swings, I wish:

  • That they’ll grow old together, laughing and leaning on each other as they do this afternoon.
  • That I’ll let them run around and play carefree, holding back from telling C. to pull up his pants and shouting at S. to BE CAREFUL!
  • That I’ll stop worrying whether they’re eating enough vegetables and bartering dinner for dessert as if it were a hostage negotiation crisis.
  • That I’ll relish the ONE MORE story C. begs me to read before bed instead of wishing I had more time of my own.

I suppose my children are a little like ladybugs. They’re beautiful and precious and they carry a magical aura of all things possible. And sometimes they can just be pests. I guess this afternoon’s fortune is that my little ladybug moment has taken me away from their peskier qualities and back to their beauty.

I did a little research and it turns out, according to The Ladybug Lady, that ladybugs like to hibernate on the south side of light colored houses. Apparently the unusually warm weather has drawn them out in mid-afternoon. Looks like they’ll be with us until Spring.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lead Paint Toy Recall Redux - Goodwill Bans Toys

Last Sunday I took a trunk load of my used maternity clothes, children’s clothing and children’s toys to our local Goodwill drop off center. I had weeded our playroom the week before and amassed a reasonable offering of blocks, shape sorters, toy phones, pull trains and even an old Pooh and Friends See ‘n Say. Goodwill was happy to take the clothes off my hands but not the toys. The reason: Safety concerns. Yep, the lead-tainted toy scare from China has trickled down to Goodwill. The nice man loading my bags into a big blue crate informed me that they’ve long refused car seats and cribs for safety reasons, now the policy applies to toys, as well. Too many recent recalls. Too bad.

I understand the logic for Goodwill’s policy and am saddened that corruption along the Chinese supply chain will prevent their customers from finding inexpensive, gently-used toys in their stores. I’m also disappointed in the lack of foresight and funding for adequate regulations on US imports. But the biggest lack of oversight right now goes to the toy manufacturers who didn’t test their products. Mattel has recalled over 10 million (10 million!) toys since July.

(To see if any of the toys in your house are on this list, visit Make sure to click on the Fisher-Price link to a long list of toys that you may very well have. I found our little Elmo sprinkler on this list.)

At least Mattel has now asserted that it will test all toys in the future. This is something our local Melissa and Doug toy company has been doing for years. In fact, a source tells me they were accused of “over-testing” a few years ago because they not only tested every product prior to sale, but also conducted surprise visits to their Chinese factories. Turns out their prudence paid off. More worrisome now are the no name brands who don’t bother to test at all. The same source recently recalled meeting a woman who planned to start an Internet toy company with a Chinese manufacturer she’d never met. When shopping, we need to decide whether a supplier who might not be as familiar with their Chinese partners can be trusted to keep lead paint out of their toys.

In the end, it’s left to us parents to police our children’s toys for safety. How much danger are our kids in? The answer from my research is….Less than leaded house paint; more than toys that don’t contain any lead paint. Yes, it’s still worse to remodel a house built before 1978 (when lead paint was outlawed in the US) than to let your toddler run through an Elmo sprinkler. The real danger, according to an article on MSNBC.COM is that “Tiny leaded dust particles get on children's hands and feet, and the kids ingest then by sucking on their fingers.” And the ensuing disabilities can be irreversible. So, you probably want to ditch those red Thomas the Tank Engine cars your toddler’s been chewing on. And to be safe, all other recalled toys. Especially those with tiny magnets.

In the end, I've trained my kids and myself that it's easy to pick up that little Dora doll or Toys R Us trinket because it costs so little. They and I are used to easy entertainment and distraction. Unfortunately, now there's a lingering worry attached to our fun. Maybe this helps the pendulum swing a little away from mass consumption and back to basics. Try:
  • Homemade play doh (equal parts flour and salt with a little water colored with food coloring)
  • Real or pretend cooking
  • Dancing, singing and beating on a drum made of a few coffee beans in an empty coffee tin
  • Telling a story
If you received this message by email, make sure to take the poll about how many recalls you've returned!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

When the Pickin' is Easy

Yesterday's New York Times ran an article, "Picky Eaters, They Get it from You", about a study showing that picky eating is genetic. Yep, it's in your genes. And I'll admit I've harbored a secret fear since my kids moved off baby food that they would become (the dreaded) picky eaters and force me to cajole, trick and finally, cook multiple meals. If it's genetic, well, then I don't have as much need to worry. My siblings and I (all five of us) have had hearty appetites since childhood. My mother's a good cook, she didn't keep junk food or sugar cereal in the house, and she basically starved us until dinner time which was 7:30 pm or so after my father returned home from work. We ate whatever she served.

My children's appetites fall somewhere in the middle. They both ate well their first year or so, (S. is still going strong at 19 months!), but C. became pickier and pickier after age two. As it turns out, this is a natural occurance, according to the NYT article, and stems from a savvy protectionist gene inhereted from our cavepeople days. Hint: Once cavebabies could crawl or walk out of the cave, they needed a guarded instict not to eat every wild berry and plant in sight! This lasts until they can think a bit about what's edible - around age 5 or so. They grow out of it (yay!) So, don't fret nutrition-worried parents, it's okay if your toddler doesn't want to eat.

Toddler Food

What may not be so okay for your sanity, time management and patience, is a need to cook him whatever he wants. Or "toddler food." (My "toddler food" includes Trader Joes chicken nuggets, fish sticks and meatballs, pasta, and hot dogs). This choice is purely individual and dependent on you and your child's mood, that day's and evening activities and whether you had the time and foresight to prepare a meal ahead of time.

For my part, I'm using this Fall to get back to basics. In full disclosure, I got really lazy with my cooking for the good part of this year. We moved to a new house in April and getting settled with two toddlers just didn't leave time to prepare home cooked meals ahead of time. And it was just easier to prepare food I knew my kids would eat.

But, the truth is, my kids actually like most foods (okay, sea bass in Portugese tomato sauce is just pushing it). Lasagna, meat loaf (we're pretty generous with ketchup around here), baked chicken and frozen veggies go down easy. So it really comes down to whether I've planned and managed to cook a meal ahead of the 5:30 dinner hour. I'll tell you, my incentive increased recently after an illness scare by my father. After numerous heart, lung and stress tests; he was found to be in excellent health at 76 years. His reasoning: his regular cycling, which he continues to this day, and "your Mother's good cooking."

Eating Close to the Earth
This got me thinking. After all, (way back) in the 70s, we ate lots of meat, potatoes and gravy, whole milk, and eggs fried in bacon fat. Not exactly a light diet. But what it wasn't was processed. My mother cooked every meal. The food we ate was relatively "close to the earth" as opposed to heavily processed and packaged. So, I've decided to cook more and save "toddler food" for emergencies: Restaurants, busy days, and sanity relief when desperately needed (if you need relief every day, let's talk.)

Of course, I still have my tricks for helping healthy food go down. Here are some:
  • Keep cut up carrot sticks, celery, red peppers, and cucumbers handy in the fridge. Serve with a generous dose of Ranch dressing (my kids' favorite), plain hummus, cream cheese, or peanut butter (not for children under 2 or 3 years based on your pediatrician's guidance). This is also good to pack in lunches. Put dressing, etc. in a little tupperware container.

  • Sprinkle "crunchies" (honey coated wheat germ) on vanilla yogurt for dessert or a snack.

  • Add ham and cheese to scrambled eggs or make an egg sandwhich on cut out round bread with egg, ham or bacon and cheese. My son finds this to be an adequate substitute for our local breakfast joint.

My general philosophy is, if it takes a little bad (ketchup, dressing, the promise of dessert) to help the good go down, go for it.

Bon Appetite!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Welcome and What about this weather??

Welcome to Mommy Truths - my new blog devoted to giving tips based on what I'm learning raising my two toddlers (S, 19 mo. and C, 3 1/2 years). I also plan to opine about certain subjects (lead tainted toys, global warming's effect on our kids, banned cough medicines) so be prepared! Please post your feedback so we can have meaningful discussions.

Weather Warnings
Now, on to the strange weather we've been having. In four decades of living, I've never experienced 85 degree days in October! It's absurd and rather frightening. I keep thinking, this is another one of those early warning signs. At some future time, when the seasons are long gone as we know and remember them and our efforts to finally conserve energy are simply too little too late, will we look back and say "I remember when it all started..." Signs I've seen this week such as daffodils blooming along the road in October, my dead tomato plant growing two new tomatoes after basking in the summer-like sunshine, my children red-faced and perspiring while picking apples.

I'm starting to experience a nagging, daily fear for my children's future on this planet. Will they never know cool, crisp October mornings when the leaves are turning and apple picking requires a wool sweater? Will their kids play on a completely different coast line. Sure, this can simply be part of a normal weather cycle. But, come on, after having lived this long it's hard to believe.

We all need to start really thinking about the minor tweaks we can make to our lifestyles to make this planet friendlier for our children's futures. Here are some early suggestions. Please share your own!
  • Stop idling when you wait in line to pick up your kids
  • Look for ways to carpool
  • Pack refillable water bottles or straw cups instead of purchased bottled water in your kids' lunches
  • Teach children to turn lights off in rooms they leave
  • Devote times to play at home versus filling days with outings to entertain the kids
  • Think of more ways to be a green family and share them with others!