Category Archives: Kate

Toddler Identity and the Scam of Product Marketing

Last week, I took my two-year old daughter to Target. It was intended as a quick in and out trip, with the intention of picking up a baby shower gift. She begrudgingly held my hand ( a requirement for walking in public places), and off we went to the baby section. Typically, I try to avoid any displays that are too enticing and invite wild displays of passion for whatever Target has decided to put at toddler eye-level.

Unfortunately for me, I missed the mega display of Disney princess, glaring pink plastic ride-on cars. Ugggh, seriously Target? Her eyes lit up, and she ran to the shelf like a moth to a light. I reasoned: “these aren’t ours, so we can’t play with them.” I encouraged: “can you help me pick out a gift for the baby party?” Nothing worked, except whipping out a box of raisins for her to eat as we walked.

I was a bit angry with myself for resorting to the last option, but we avoided a total meltdown, and she happily walked away. However, it got me thinking.

What is it about products marketed to toddlers that is like crack to their little developing minds? I can’t control what Target puts on their shelves (at eye-level, no coincidence), but I can control what enters my home and takes from my wallet.

Megan, co-author of The Other Baby Book, sent me an article link that explores the allure and concern of the Disney princesses. And not to pick on Disney Princesses or the Disney company in general (full disclosure: the hubs and I met at Disney World and also married there), but this article has an important message, specifically for mothers of little girls.

What role models should we put in front of our daughters? The anorexic, big-breasted, lusciously maned princess (who more likely than not, needs some rescuing), or a strong-willed character like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Laura of Little House on the Prairie, and Harriet of Harriet the Spy, to name a few?

Listen: my daughter is a normal toddler. Given a choice, she would watch cartoons all day, play in and with Princess garb and maybe even take to a Bratz doll. They’re colorful, sparkly, and have excellent (read: big money) ad campaigns.

But as a parent, I have a choice. And my choice is to pick the “boring” but reliable toys and role models that will build her self-confidence, inspire her creativity, and encourage her independence.

So the next time you’re in a big-box store, dragging your toddler away from the mega-display of Bratz themed candy (or whatever), while looking around to see who is watching, know that I’ve been there. And perhaps the princess line of little girl stuff is innocuous and isn’t harmful in the long-run. But who really knows. We have limited time to make a precious impact on our children, male or female. To shape their identity into one of strength and inner resilience.

What we spend our money on speaks to what we value most. It’s not easy to avoid the typical stuff geared toward little girls, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it. And my daughter, who thinks her Pippi Longstocking doll (vintage: aka mine from childhood) and books are the best thing since breast milk, will be just fine.

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Kate photo 2

Kate is a full-time mama, part-time professor, and lover of early childhood methodologies and gentle parenting ideas. When she’s not testing out new activities with her spitfire of a two year old and turning their house into a home, you can find her moonlighting as a blogger here on TOBB.

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5 Toddler Springtime Activities that Foster Independence

I love this time of year. Here in the southwest, the weather is mild and breezy, flowers are starting to bloom, and the birds are building nests. And just as the earth has decided to be fruitful and grow, I’m reminded that my toddler daughter needs some new responsibilities and activities to further foster her independence.

We follow a lazy form of Montessori and Waldorf methods in the home. Here’s the quick rundown: limited toys and stimulation (so she can focus on one activity at a time); natural materials that are inherently beautiful to use and work with; real, child sized tools and objects; and toddler-appropriate responsibilities.

With that short list in mind, here are 5 activities we’re working on right now:

  1. Bird-watching: Two weekends ago, we hung a bird feeder outside one of our sun room windows. The past week or so, our new morning ritual has been to sit in the sun room and look for birds and other urban wildlife. This has been a great time for me to savor my morning cup of joe while helping her learn about nature. You can easily make a bird feeder with items around your home or purchase one for under $10. Bonus activity: read books about birds so that you can identify the specific types that you see.
  2. Gardening: Last weekend, we started our seedlings and our daughter was enthralled with the whole process. Even the youngest toddler can help with this. We put the soil in the starter cups and made a hole, but let her carefully drop the seed in. This required her to concentrate and use her fine motor skills to complete the task. Toddlers can also help observe and watch for growth and water the plants. Give a child a small hand shovel and let them dig in the dirt next to you. If you don’t have access to a garden space, try container gardening and let your child pick out some herbs to plant. Bonus activity: allow your toddler to pick a bunch of flowers and give them a vase in which to arrange them. This includes filling it with water, carefully trimming the ends (with adult help), and placing the flowers “artistically” in the vase. Then the toddler can place it on a table or other special place at their eye-level. And yes, 2 years olds are perfectly capable of doing this.
  3. Prepare snacks: While this is not an activity only for the spring, I find that this is the time of year we desire to eat more fruits and veggies. The winter is over and fresh life is all around. Toddlers love to help in the kitchen, especially when it is snack time. For the youngest toddler, wash some berries (or other ready to eat fruit) and have them transfer the berries from the colander to their bowl. They could also help rinse them if you have a smaller colander in which they are able to hold it with two hands. For the 2-3 year old, take a banana and slice it, with the peel on, into small rings. Then show your toddler how to carefully remove the peel and place it into a bowl of scraps. The banana pieces are then transferred to the other bowl. Once all of the banana has been peeled, they can sit down with their snack. Bonus activity: for the 3-5 year old, teach them how to use a butter knife to cut the banana into smaller pieces. All of these variations can be completed with other fruits and veggies as well.
  4. Nature Walk: Go walk your neighborhood, a park, or some other area outdoors and have your toddler look for interesting objects: sticks, rocks, flowers, etc., that catch their eye. Take along a basket (a discarded Easter basket is what we use), to carry home the found treasures. Then once back home, create a nature display. Bonus activity: pick up a book at the library that corresponds to the object that most caught their attention, i.e. a book about rocks or flowers, for instance.
  5. Spring Cleaning: This activity is not just for adults. Help your young child to go through their toys and find ones to donate to others. Too many toys (especially ones with missing or broken parts) are distracting, and really, a child can only play with 1-2 toys at a time anyway. Explain why you’re going through the toys (i.e., to help those who have less, to make the home more orderly), but allow the child to be the one to physically put the items in the give-away box. This can be a hard lesson, but encourages reflection and inner discipline. Bonus activity: take your child along when it gets donated, especially if it is to another family in greater need than yours. Learning to serve together is a wonderful reminder of being part of a global community.

You may be thinking that some of these activities are inappropriate for young children. Before I researched and tested out the Montessori method, I thought the same thing too. But my newly two-year old daughter, while I think she is the most brilliant child in the world, is really a typical toddler, and can complete all of the activities above. Give your child the chance to take on a little more responsibility than makes you comfortable, and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.

For further reading and ideas, check out these sources:

Kate photo 2

Kate is a full-time mama, part-time professor, and lover of early childhood methodologies and alternative learning ideas. When she’s not testing out new activities with her spitfire of a two year old and turning their house into a home, you can find her moonlighting as a blogger here on TOBB.

5 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to a Big Transition

When you were a kid, did you ever feel like your parents made so many decisions regarding your life and you had absolutely no control? It’s a frustrating feeling for children, but totally avoidable. I hate to break it to our parents’ generation (and no offense, mom, if you’re reading), but it is perfectly acceptable for children, even very young ones, to have some say in decision-making. Whatever your parenting style, I promise you, giving children a sense of control is a gift that will continue to benefit them for years to come. And let’s be honest, it makes life easier on you too by minimizing tantrums!

When a family decides to move, whether by choice or because of a predetermined reason, there are steps moms and dads can take to help the kiddos feel secure and maybe even excited for the changes in store. Concerns about moving kids–whether to a big kid’s room from the family bed or cross-country–make a pretty frequent appearance here at The Other Baby Book. And not to expose myself as a parent who has “forced” multiple moves on my daughter (5 homes in under two years…..don’t ask), but I do consider myself somewhat experienced in the “helping kids to adjust to change” category.

So here are my suggestions, none of which are mind-blowing, but all of which are manageable in a variety of settings. (Bonus: these are compatible with different parenting styles and are flexible in structure.)

  1. The official announcement: whether your child is 10 months or 10 years, start talking about the move in a positive, excited voice. This is not the time for baby-talk, but a very clear and concise introduction to the move. Then continue to talk about it on a daily basis. By doing this, you are making the change seem a normal and routine upcoming event, not something to be afraid of.
  2. Create a vision: Paint word pictures for your child of what their new home (or new room) will look like. If you have photos or can visit in person, all the better. The idea behind this is that the child will begin to internalize and accept the upcoming change. Continue discussing and dreaming about the new place all the way up through the move.
  3. Offer choices: Give your child (or children) the opportunity to make decisions during the moving process. They can be small, i.e. “do you want your new room to be yellow or purple?” or help build excitement: “would you rather have a tree swing in the backyard or a sandbox (or both?), or even build comfort: “which stuffed animals should we take along for the car ride to the new home?” Choices give children a sense of control and help them feel involved in the process.
  4. Give responsibility: Even the youngest toddler can help pack boxes, and in turn, build a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the family. Ask older children to photo-document the old home or old sleeping arrangement and make a photo album. If you’re moving a child to their own room, let them start taking naps in the new room and arrange their things before expecting them to sleep overnight.
  5. Avoid negative conversations: As hard as it may be, keep the stress, arguments, and drama away from your children. They do not need to experience and be a witness to it or to associate change with negative feelings. It’s okay to be scared and acknowledge that to your kids, but keep your overall tone positive and reassuring. We cannot expect our kids to adjust well if we aren’t ourselves!
  6. Maintain routine: Keep your children on their routine as much as is humanly possible. Naps should be, more or less, at the same time. Kids who continue getting plenty of sleep through naps and overnight will be able to deal more effectively with change. Provide healthy snacks and well-rounded meals, even if you need to eat out. Too much fast food and junk food = cranky kids and wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels. Do yourselves all a favor and make a game plan in advance as to how you’ll find healthy meals if you’re traveling far. And this advice is for you too, mama! Just speaking from experience, drinking too much coffee and having too few healthy meals is a recipe for feeling out of control and lacking the energy so greatly needed during a busy time.
  7. Build trust and respect: Finally, provide plenty of opportunities for your kids to voice their concerns and have a mommy or daddy to lean on. Acknowledge that their feelings and anxiety are normal and that you are there for them, no matter where you live. Make sure a special stuffed animal or comfort object is available throughout the entire process. And by all means, don’t forget plenty of hugs and kisses!

Have you ever moved with kids and what was your experience?

EC Wear L’il Baby Chaps: review


Product:  
EC Wear L’il Baby Chaps

Price: $18.00

Where to buy:  http://www.ecwear.com

Things we like:

One of the things I appreciated most about the EC Pants is the innovative design. It allowed my 17 month old daughter to independently and comfortably control her bathroom experience. The elastic waistband allowed her to practice pulling the pants up and down if she desired, however, she could use the bathroom regardless. Whether practicing EC from an early age or working on potty training, these pants can serve a variety of needs. – Kate



I loved these pants.  They are super cute and allowed my son to have warmth on his legs, while still being able to practice communicating his potty needs with me.  These were also great for nap time; we have been working on getting him to stay dry during naps, but I am too leary to just let him go competely nude.  We used these pants to hold up a folded prefold, and I was able to test for dryness throughout his nap.  I love the elastic waistband for this feature, though he is too wiggly to use it with a prefold while he is awake.  The pants are also made of incredibly soft cotton and the seams are beautifully done.  I generally don’t expect this kind of quality to come from something unless I bought it in a department store, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover how sturdily these were made.  They have done a good job standing up to washing, and the color hasn’t faded a bit.  

– Geneva




Things we don’t like:

The pants do run a bit on the large side, particularly in the thighs and legs if your child has skinny legs like mine does. I decided to wash the pants in warm/hot water to see if they would shrink some, and they did. After that initial wash, the pants fit much better and were comfortable for my daughter. The only other downside with these pants is that if your child gets them wet while going to the bathroom, you will need another pair or two to switch out.  – Kate

I would definitely agree with Kate, the pants were quite large compared to what I was expecting.  I requested the 12 month size for my 8 month old–as that is what size he was wearing in normal clothes–but these are just now fitting him perfectly, as he has just had his first birthday.  I would recommend to buy what size your child is in actual months, not based on other clothing the child is wearing.  Another thing that I was not super fond of was the fact that these have a hole in the genital area, which means that you can’t use them out in public.  We’ve been experimenting with using underwear on short outings, and I would love to be able to use these, but decency dictates that I shouldn’t.  Though they did look cute with a diaper over them, when he peed, the waistband got wet and the pants had to be washed.  I think that they are very similar to leg warmers, only slightly cuter and slightly less functional.  – Geneva


Overall rating:

I would rate these a 4/5. The design is unique, and these pants will particularly come in handy in the winter time when it’s too cold in the house to go diaperless and without pants. The pants do run a bit on the large side, so take that into consideration when ordering.  – Kate

I would also rate these a 4/5.  I think that if there was a way to cover the genital area and allow it to be worn in public, I would be able to give them a 5/5.  But for a product that I can only use at home, I think these are great!  – Geneva

Ivory Tower Parenting and the Foster Problem

This past Wednesday evening, while I enjoyed a cozy dinner at home with my husband and daughter, a New Jersey woman fatally stabbed HER OWN SON. I wish I could have somehow saved that child from the pain and suffering he must have endured at the hands of his mother, a person who should be a refuge from all things hurtful. Although this story made the news, there are so many cases of child abuse, neglect, and endangerment every day that do not reach the news. Sometimes when I close my eyes, the stories and images that DO reach me, via our media and from others, haunt my thoughts and dreams.

But I do nothing.

It is overwhelming to know that there is so much misery and pain in the world. And it is much easier to focus on the positive. To avoid the “bad” parts of town, to move to the suburbs for the “good” schools, and to blame these problems on others. I tell myself that I am just one person, what change can I possibly bring? So I pile more and more on my proverbial plate, telling myself that maybe soon I’ll have time to volunteer somewhere or help someone in need. I’ve built an ivory tower around my home, my family, and my life. Do you ever do the same?

A few Sundays ago, someone from a local foster program non-profit, the 111 Project, spoke to my church about the foster problem in my state of Oklahoma. As of January 2012, there are over 8,000 Oklahoma children without a home and in need of foster parents. Nationwide that number rises to over 400,000 kids in the foster system, of which a quarter are waiting for a home. The problem has become so dire that Oklahoma City is considering opening back up a shelter for babies and toddlers that they were previously able to close. My friends, no child should spend a single night in a shelter. But there are just not enough people trained and willing to foster. Listening to the presentation, I had tears in my eyes. This is an initative that I can support.

The longer I am a mother, the more I realize that my love and my ability to care for others is a renewable resource. I often feel like the more I give it away, the more it comes back to me. Attachment parenting is such a beautiful gift, both for the giver and receiver. I may not be able to stop all of the bad things happening in the world that overwhelm and sadden me, but perhaps I can make a difference for one child, in my community.

For more information about the current U.S. Foster Crisis:

Are there any social issues that you feel more strongly about since becoming a parent?

Ever since she read a book called “Ministries of Mercies,” Kate has been searching for a way to serve her community. She and her husband will be attending a foster parent information meeting at a local placement agency very soon to find out how they can help. And then maybe, just maybe, she’ll quit feeling like an ostrich burying her head in the sand. When she’s not losing sleep thinking about these things, she cannot get enough hugs and kisses from her sweet and rambunctious 17 month old.

Paleo Series Part III: Recipes and Resources

This is the third installment of a four-part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. You can find Part I here and Part II here. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

A typical dinner for my family: veggie-infused meatloaf, a large salad, and roasted beets

“Good to Know” Paleo Tips for Success

  • At every meal, try to fill your plate with at least 1/2-3/4 of it with vegetables and the remainder of the plate fats and meat. If you’re trying to lose weight, watch your fruit and nut intake.
  • Eat fresh and local: shop your farmer’s market for the freshest produce and plan your meal around it. This will ensure that you’re getting the most nutritious bang for your buck.
  • Encourage your kids to help you shop for food, plant a garden, and cook meals. Sure, it might be a pain to have them “helping” in the kitchen, but you’ll foster their love of nutritious food.
  • Keep an “emergency kit” in your car or purse: fill a bag with raw nuts (think almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.), unsweetened coconut flakes, and nitrate free beef jerky (or make your own, it’s easy!)
  • Act like a caveman! Shoot for small spurts of high-energy activity. In other words, play like a kid: run some quick sprints, tackle stairs two at a time, squat, rough-house with your kiddos. Turn off the TV, get off the computer, and move, move, move!
Kale-Coconut Smoothie: Getting Our Greens with Breakfast, Toddler Approved

Kale-Coconut Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 leaves of kale, washed with spine/stem removed
  • 1 small banana
  • 1/2 can  of full-fat coconut milk (I like Native Forest brand)
  • 1/4 C frozen pineapple
  • 2-3 frozen berries (optional)
  • ice (optional)
  • water to preferred consistency

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients in blender and blend for 2-5 minutes or until all of the kale is completely blended. Add water until you reach your desired consistency.
  • *Note: If you don’t normally eat kale, err toward a smaller amount in smoothie until your tastes adjust. However, the pineapple is what cancels out the slight bitterness of the kale, so make sure to include it! Spinach can also be substituted for the kale. If doing that, added 1-2 cups of spinach in place of kale.
  • Serves 1-2 people
Paleo Pancakes and Spinach Frittata

Our Family’s Favorite Recipe Links

Best Paleo “Spaghetti”: one of my favorite recipes to serve for my family AND for company. It’s that good, my friends! Play with the ingredients, experiment, and enjoy. You won’t miss regular pasta after having this. Vegetarians/vegans: leave out the meat, and you’re good to go!

Pancakes: We make this recipe EVERY.SINGLE. WEEKEND.  No joke, it tastes just like regular pancakes, minus the carb crash afterward. Need more convincing? Reference photo above. If you’re worried about sugar though, you can omit the added honey. Sometimes when we’re being really bad, we’ll melt (by way of a double boiler) a 1/2 bar of extra dark chocolate and mix it in with the batter.

Butternut Squash Soup: We make this soup every fall and it’s pretty much a tradition at this point to have it at least once a week. It’s savory, satisfying, and a bit on the spicy side.

Birthday Cake: We made this for our daughter’s first birthday, and let me tell you, the guests preferred it to the “regular” cupcakes I also made. Since I made it for my little one, I cut the honey in half and left out the chocolate.

Paleo Recipe Websites to check out: Nom Nom Paleo, Primal-Palate, and Everyday Paleo

On Pinterest: Check out Robb Wolf‘s two boards for further inspiration!

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Coming Up Next Week: I will be answering your questions about eating Paleo, so hit me up with your tough ones! OK, well maybe not too tough, but you get the picture. Leave a question in the comments below or feel free to leave it on our facebook page.

Kate loves eating delicious meals, but BIG SECRET, hates cooking. Who would’ve guessed? The last time she and her husband got together with friends, her Paleo cupcakes were an epic fail and she (guiltily) bought a gluten-free cherry pie to take instead. Sometimes her 16 month old spits out her meal, and Kate wonders if even the toddler gets that mama is not the cook in the house. 

Paleo Series Part II: Paleo for the Whole Family

This is the second installment of a four-part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. You can find Part I here. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

Kale/Spinach Smoothie: A regular in our household

WARNING: Reading the following might result in improved health, more energy, and a desire to swing from a tree branch. Oh, and your kids will benefit as well! 

This morning my husband, my mother-in-law, daughter, and I shared a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, sautéed fresh squash from the farmer’s market, and cups of coffee for the adults (no cream/sugar.) Vivi wasn’t crazy about the squash, but tasted it several times, examined the texture, and eventually decided to enjoy her eggs without. She still seemed hungry, so I quickly blended up some raw kale, frozen fruit, coconut milk, and water. She gulped down three small cups.

This meal, while simple enough, met the complex and diverse needs of all of us. The low-glycemic index of the squash and eggs satisfied my diabetic mother-in-law. My husband, who seems to be always trying to slim down and get a six-pack (I support ya, sweetie!), appreciated the low-carb aspect of the meal, but felt satiated by the coconut oil used to cook the squash. And my daughter? Well at 16 months, a meal like this is normal, tasty, and unbeknownst to her, nutritious. When we eat Paleo as a family, every meal is a home run: nutritious, tasty, and satisfying.

Paleo is a total change of lifestyle and can be tough enough for adults. So often, there might be one person in a family eating Paleo, while the rest stick to what’s familiar. I want to assure you that it doesn’t have to be this way! But inevitably, there are usually two questions floating around when you mix Paleo and kiddos:

  • What does Paleo eating look like for babies, toddlers, and older children?

Paleo eating for kids is pretty simple: if you’re eating Paleo, they can eat all the same things as you. No more cooking two meals and loading the shopping cart up with “kid-friendly” options!

Babies and toddlers will naturally gravitate toward a more veggies/fruit/fat based version and less meat. My daughter will often refuse meat for a week at a time, while devouring everything else. Paleo and baby-led weaning naturally go hand in hand: think soft pieces of fruit and vegetables, egg yolks, homemade broths, and slow-cooked meats that are easy to chew for the baby who is at least 6 months old. Don’t forget the breastmilk…your cavewoman ancestors would be proud!

Independent toddlers will relish the opportunity to eat what their parents do, rather than something else that looks and tastes totally different. Having options to choose from will allow these headstrong babes to feel in control.

Older children might be a bit more difficult to get on board if they haven’t eaten this way previously. The best thing you can do is to only keep nutritious options in your home, make Paleo meals, and don’t worry about the rest. Kids are so resilient and adaptable: give them the chance to make healthy choices, and I think you will be surprised.

  • And is Paleo eating even healthy for kids? 

Immediate answer: YES! Do you know anyone who has ever become obese/sick/diseased while eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and high-quality meats, eggs, fats, and fish? Children thrive on this type of diet, and you may have seen something similar prescribed for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the GAPS diet.  The Paleo way of eating provides such a varied, nutrient-rich diet that allows a parent to relax about food choices. No need to worry if your little one is getting enough of one nutrient or another because, most likely, they are getting them all and in ample quantities.

However, there are two big issues that concern many parents: no grains and no dairy. Aren’t kids supposed to have both for the fiber and nutrients (grains) and the calcium and vitamin D (dairy)?

The short answer is this: kids will get all of the above nutrients from a Paleo diet. Vegetables and fruit provide ample fiber (yay poop!), leafy greens and nuts take care of calcium, and vitamin D can be sourced naturally from a short play session outside (step away from the Wii, my friends.) Instead of cow’s milk, my daughter drinks plenty of water, kale/spinach shakes, and an occasional cup of straight coconut milk. I’m pretty positive (at least 99% sure) that she is not only meeting the government’s snazzy RDA (recommended daily amount) of nutrients, but blowing those old-school recommendations out of the water. But if you want scientific charts, medical studies, etc., and not the word of some random mama on the internet, you can’t do wrong with reading a little Robb Wolf.

Kids on a Paleo diet are healthy, happy, don’t experience sugar-induced mood swings, and will typically sleep pretty soundly. If the warm and fuzzy image of your kids growing lean and strong on whole, nutrient-dense foods and plenty of play outside has you clamoring for more info, take a gander at these oh-so-helpful resources:

Books

  • Family-friendly recipes, “games” (OK, exercises) for the whole family, and great information: Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
  • Looking for the science behind all this? (I’m with ya, sister…or brother.) Then look no further than biochemist, research nerd Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution

Blogroll

Who doesn’t love a good blog? (Ahem, TOBB.) Feast your eyes on these great internet writers:

And please, by all means, shoot your questions my way, and I’ll do my best to either answer them or point you in the right direction. Now go whip up a spinach smoothie, and get with it!

When Kate is not sharing a coconut-kale smoothie with her little one or planning/throwing together a Paleo meal, she enjoys writing about women’s issues, endlessly (virtually) redesigning her place a la Pinterest, and chatting with friends over coffee. 

Marissa Mayer: One Step Forward for Female CEOs, Two Steps Back for Working Moms

Marissa Mayer, the brand-spanking new CEO of struggling Yahoo, is about to be a first-time mom. Many are commending Yahoo’s Board of Directors for their willingness to embrace a pregnant female as their new top dog. Women everywhere should be celebrating her summit to the top of the U.S.’s business food chain. It’s not every day that a soon-to-be mother is also running a major company.

But amid the press junkets surrounding the sunny haze of feminist glory, Mayer mentioned her commitment to working through her maternity leave, which “apologetically,” would be a few weeks long. WHAT the WHAT!? There are so many things wrong with this picture, but I’ll tackle a few of my favorites.

  • The U.S is already hopelessly behind nearly 178 other nations that guarantee paid leave for new mothers. The only safety net for new parents is the outdated Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees 12 weeks UNPAID leave for workers at companies with 50 or more employees. Nearly 50% of the American workforce does not meet the requirements for FMLA, thus rendering them unable to take maternity leave unless they have a “generous” employer.
  • Marissa Mayer is in a position of power to facilitate a discussion over the need for better maternity coverage. Unfortunately, she is leading by example, however it is not an example that will benefit mothers in the workplace. Women must already work harder and longer at most companies, especially if they are mothers, to prove their worth and value next to their male counterparts. Her willingness to work through her leave, as well as only take a couple of weeks, sets up a detrimental pattern of expectations for other working mothers.
  • Most importantly, this situation effectively demonstrates the conundrum many women face today: we captured our place in the workplace, but we cannot get out. 1970’s feminism set the precedent for two-income-earner households, making the stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a near anomaly. Money, debts, the economy, all drive the typical U.S. family’s financial decisions, and maternity leave or a parent staying home are often the casualties. Although Mayer can probably afford ample, quality childcare and household help to maintain her image as a powerful exec, the majority of us cannot. She had the opportunity to champion family rights and declare the importance of maternity leave, family bonding, and childcare, but chose to (and perhaps, unknowingly) support an outdated, male-centered approach to the workplace.

Ultimately, this is one woman making a personal decision about her family and job. And as much as I object to her stance, it is her right to do as she pleases. Only time will tell how the limited maternity leave will affect her family and perhaps even her job.

If maternity leave rights for parents are important to you, and you’re as steamed as I am, check out these resources for more information:

  1. Read: A report by the National Partnership for Women and Families
  2. Act: Sign this petition for better maternity coverage, sponsored by NPWF.

Paleo Series Part I: Am I Really Eating Like This?

This is the first installment of a three part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

Four years ago, if you would have told me that my life would mostly follow the above definition, I would have laughed. And perhaps protectively grabbed my energy drink and skittles. I thought regular exercise was for fanatics, and I assured myself that climbing the stairs to my apartment and walking my dogs was enough. Four years ago, I was newly married, in my early twenties, and totally unhealthy.

In 2009, while undergoing a battery of tests to figure out why I had no period and was nauseous/dizzy all the time (and no, definitely not pregnant), my husband kindly suggested we change some eating habits. He had heard of this “new” way of eating that looked back to our paleolithic ancestors who were relatively free of the modern diseases and ailments (such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and PCOS) that commonly plague many people today. I just laughed.

Soon after, I realized I had a soy intolerance which totally ruined my grocery and eating habits because, well, it’s in EVERYTHING. At least everything in a package or box. I started reading labels. Reading labels led to reading nutrition books and research articles. As the soy disappeared from my diet, so did many of the refined foods I was accustomed to eating, as well as the chronic stomach problems that had plagued me my entire life. Around the same time, my doctor diagnosed me with a prolactinoma, a benign hormone secreting tumor on my pituitary gland.

In early 2009, my husband and I began experimenting with eating Paleo and exercising regularly. I started having real energy again, no energy drink needed. I started feeling fully satiated by my food rather than having raging hunger on a sugar binging roller coaster of glucose levels. The chronic sinus infections went away, and I quit catching every illness that passed my way. My hormones levels balanced out from the medication. For probably the first time in my life, I actually felt healthy.

By January 2010, we challenged ourselves to eating 100% paleo for 6 months and even tried out Crossfit, that “are you crazy!?” high-intensity, competitive group workout that I swore never to do. I did it and loved it. When we found out we were expecting, we were elated. After years of messed up periods, fluctuating hormones and moods, I thought I would never get pregnant. It still seems like yesterday that I was sobbing in my car outside of 7/11 because the doctor said I would probably never be able to get pregnant naturally. She was wrong.

Today, my daughter is 16 months old, eats mostly Paleo and is thriving. As a family, we still focus on simple meals with tons of greens, some meat, and fat. Our daughter eats everything we eat, and I don’t make her special meals. Although Paleo and gluten-free eating are becoming more mainstream, we still get plenty of weird looks and questions. Regardless of what people think, we have eaten this way for 3 years and will continue to do so indefinitely. After years of feeling sick all the time, I finally feeling in control of my health and my life. I’m happy to say that it’s been over two years since I’ve needed to take medication for the prolactinoma, and we rarely, if ever, need to see a doctor.

Disease, sickness, and ailments plague so many of our family and friends that it seems commonplace to need medication, doctor visits, to be exhausted, and to never see an end in sight. This telling of my journey to better health was not for bragging rights, but as encouragement. It’s easy to feel helpless and unable to change aspects about your health and diet. But I can say, from experience, that the hard work does pay off in the end.

I hope you’ll continue with me in this series about eating Paleo. In my next post, I’ll focus on how to implement a Paleo way of eating with children, and answer some common concerns and questions. My final post will contain a few Boomerang Mama family favorite recipes as well as resources for getting started yourself. And please let me know if you have any specific questions!

Kate is a total foodie and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen with her hubby Kirk and their little helper, Vivi. You can read more about their pre-baby adventures in Paleo-land on their first (and sadly, now defunct) blog Paleo Prerogative.

The U.S. and Children: Blessing or Burden?

Whether or not you are a parent, have you ever thought or said (or heard someone else say) any of the following?

  • “Children should be seen, not heard.”
  • “Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”
  • “I wish my kids would just behave.”

Sometimes these phrases slip so easily off the tongue that it’s scary. Or maybe it’s not you. Perhaps you hear these things when out in public or from a well-meaning family member, friend, or co-worker. Either way, it sometimes seems that U.S. cultural norms, which often dictate the collective view of childhood, say that children are a big pain in the rear. And so I wanted to tackle some of these ideas, namely the phrases above, in the hopes of dismantling the viewpoint of children as a burden rather than a blessing.

“Children should be seen, not heard”

This particular phrase is old-fashioned at best, irrelevant and damaging at worst. We, as a country, have moved well beyond the Victorian age which spawned this phrase. So why do some people still toss this time-bomb around? Perhaps it’s a desire for the “old days when kids behaved and respected adults” or simply an idea that children are bothersome or annoying. Either way, the underlining message of this is disturbing. Childhood is a rambunctious, playful time of curiosity. A silent child is a child that is probably not exploring, learning, or growing. I hate to think of the ways someone might “train” a child to meet this ideal.

“Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”

Our culture is obsessed with control. We work long hours to control our bank accounts. We obsess over food and exercise to control our weight and body image. We are in control of every aspect of our children’s plans, whether it be play dates, sports to excel at, or classes to master. And many of the things we “control” are a subconscious attempt to control the opinions of others so that they think more highly of our families and ourselves. So when we place a judgment call on another child or family, we’re essentially pointing out their lack of control. The reality is that everyone parents differently, and we all have bad days. But I like to think of kids as inherently good (and who make occasional mistakes), rather than labeling kids today as: “______” (fill in the blank: lazy, silly,manipulative, stupid, disobedient, willful, etc.). And let’s hope we’re never on the OTHER SIDE of the equation where someone is judging us as our toddler has a meltdown in Aisle 9.

I wish my kids would just behave”

What does it mean to “behave?” Obviously every parent has a different idea of what constitutes “good” and “bad” behavior. But what if we move beyond viewing children as alternating between two polar opposites, defined by us or (gulp, even more frighteningly) society? Sometimes I think the desire for absolute control of everything has a negative (and often unintended) outcome on our children. When I decide my child is doing something bad, is it because she is truly doing something dangerous to herself or others OR is it because what she’s doing doesn’t fit in with my plans? Am I asking my child to do something that she is developmentally unable to do? Children are not little adults, and we must not treat them so. Having some flexibility while parenting and being realistic with expectations will make it less likely the above phrase will slip out of your mouth or someone’s else’s.

 

One more thing. Parenting is an intuitive thing, and we all have ideas of how we would like to raise our children. But our society’s viewpoint of children as a burden can affect even the best intentions. View children as the challenging but lovable blessing that they are, and I truly believe that intuitive, go with the flow parenting will follow.

 

 

Kate is the mom to 16 month old Vivi, her firecracker of a daughter who inspires her everyday to be a better parent. When they’re not practicing how to nicely pet the dogs or playing with “Baby,” Kate tries to catch a few minutes for a cup of coffee and some reading. After all, a relaxed (and caffeinated) mama is a happy mama.