Posted in food, mindset, parenting

Dinner time and foreign children

“There are starving children in Ethiopia.”

I was told this regularly as a child when I didn’t like the food I was served.

I’m sure people’s shaming country varied (children are, sadly, starving all over the world), but this is a familiar refrain to many of us.

The Kid eats reasonably well and also has his share of complaining about what’s for dinner.

I don’t shame him with meaningless reminders of hungry children overseas.

Yes, those children would like food, but what does that have to do with this meal? It’s not like our family had to decide if we were going to feed ourselves or feed those children, we decided to feed ourselves, and as a result, those children are dying.

Honestly, dinner time isn’t the best to get into the global politics behind this problem. Nine might not be the ideal age, either.

Did anyone who received these dinner time foreign political updates suddenly have gratitude for the (over-)abundance of food we have, then eat food they didn’t like with new appreciative eyes?

No, I didn’t either.

Does it work for you now? Didn’t think so.

Tired of the whining? Address the whining.

Genuinely concerned about the disparities in food abundance across the globe? Volunteer together or donate money or find organizations in your community to help local hungry people. Because we don’t need to travel overseas or even out of state to find people without enough to eat.

Your kid’s meal has nothing to do with it.

In the same vein, I don’t know anyone who prepares meals that they know their spouse doesn’t like, even if it’s their own favorite dish and they haven’t had it in forever

We certainly wouldn’t intentionally ignore the preferences of a dinner guest.

Sure, a guest is different than a kid, but a kid is a person with valid tastes and preferences, just like you, your spouse, and your guest.

I don’t make him eat what we’re having. Why would I? Because I made it? So I’m going to argue about eating it for half an hour? an hour? with a child who doesn’t like it? Is that really the way that I want to spend my energy? Is that the way I want to cultivate relationship?


Do I make him another meal?

Also no.

He has a standard backup of raw vegetables and hummus, and if there’s something else in the fridge or the pantry that he’d like with that, most of the time, that’s fine. We rarely have food in the house that would not be OK for him to have with dinner, and he’s never asked to have sweets. (He’d eat bread all night if we let him—so would I—but we rarely have bread in the house.)

I have so many negative memories of power plays surrounding meals. This is not how I want to be etched forever in my child’s mind—I will make enough other mistakes without trying.

The Climbing Daddy and I can have whatever it is that I or he has prepared, and The Kid can take it or leave it. And if we don’t like it either, we don’t shame each other into eating it—we either rummage through the fridge with The Kid or order a pizza for everyone.

Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 8Nov20

The Climbing Daddy had picked up a few cactus clippings that he was planning to root. They sat in a cardboard box on the table on the back patio for a week or less, waiting for attention. He went out to do something with them and found a friend in the box:

She’s the fifth one we’ve seen since moving to this house three years ago. Not even red yet in the hourglass. Kind of neat that the hourglass matches the box.

They’re loners and don’t really want to mess with you any more than you want them to mess with you. And I wouldn’t care too much, depending on where they’re hanging out, but they’re going to make babies, and we really don’t need a whole bunch of them. They’re already coming from somewhere, and that is probably enough.

The lead photo is of a flower that landed on a cactus in the box. Fun lighting.

It’s finally not hot (it was 99 three days ago, 77 yesterday, 64 as I’m writing), and it’s overcast. There’s so much sun here—overcast days are really nice. (I’m not complaining a bit about the sun! Just saying that the change is nice.)

This morning, The Kid and I walked to the park. I took the camera but didn’t end up taking any photos while we were there.

Birds sat on the streetlight on our way back. I pulled out the camera and took a few shots. Then messed with one of them when we got home. The first one is straight from the camera. The overcast sky really lent itself to this shot. I also kinda like it in silhouette. Which do you prefer?

The Kid avoids walking on the sidewalk whenever possible.

The Climbing Daddy saw a woodpecker in the neighbor’s tree while I was at work the other day. He grabbed my camera and took a few shots. Fortunately, the settings were such that the photos came out OK—a little overexposed in the background but the bird is in decent shape. (I’ve since showed him how to flip it to automatic, if he’s using it just because he needs a better zoom than his camera.)

Posted in food, mindset, motivation, physical health

Election week: no sweets, no caffeine

I have different relationships with sweets and caffeine.

Caffeine, I don’t drink for wakefulness—I just like tea. When it’s cool or cold out, I like most kinds of hot tea—black, green, white, rooibos, herbal. But when it’s hot out, I like iced tea. Plain old unsweetened black iced tea.

If I drink a cup of iced tea daily (or near-daily) on an empty stomach, after several weeks, I start to get heartburn. At the same time, if I’ve been drinking a cup of anything caffeinated daily for several weeks and miss a day or two, I’ll get a migraine.

In the summer, this is easier because I don’t have a routine. I just loosely keep track of how much tea I’m drinking and I’m good to go.

With school in session in person, I have a routine, and drinking iced tea in the car on the way to work is one of them.

I had already been thinking that I needed to start to wean off the iced tea before the heartburn started again, so I brought less and less tea. At the tail end of last week, the heartburn started and I had lessened my intake enough to avoid a migraine. Good timing.

It’s also gotten cooler, so hot tea is in my travel mug. I’m sure there are non-caffeinated teas that make good iced tea; I just haven’t tried them.

So: it’s my first week in a while without caffeine.

Sweets is a more complicated story.

I have a long history of emotional eating, and that eating is nearly always desserts or simple carbs.

While I’m much less drawn to them than I used to be, if I consume sweets regularly, I want more, and it spirals. Quickly.

Being at home most of the time has been a struggle. I’m finally snacking less. For a while, we were doing dessert more often than usual. “Usual” is once or twice a month. We had something sweet to munch on at least that much each week. Plus I was taking from the candy jar at work. (If I’ve ever taken from the candy jar at work, it definitely wasn’t on multiple consecutive days.)

I decided I needed a hard stop.

In no-sugar 30-day challenges I ran a long time ago, I quit all added sugars in all foods, including dressings, sauces, etc. Not this time. Just sweets. Dessert, candy, things of the sort.

Quitting sugar will yield several positives:

  • I will feel better. Excessive added dietary sugars negatively affect mood.
  • I will stop craving. Then I can use my energy for things other than fighting the urge to eat.
  • I will probably take off a few pounds.
  • Fruit will be “sweet enough” again.
  • My immune system will be stronger. Working in two elementary schools, this is critical right now.

I didn’t intentionally line this up with election week—it just worked out that way.

Many people have told me (over the course of time) that doing something like this at a stressful time is a bad idea. In some ways, they’re right. It’s harder to stick to new things when so much energy is going to the surrounding issues.

But eating ice cream doesn’t really make me feel better (especially because I don’t go slowly and enjoy it) nor does it actually relieve the stress. I can deal with emotions in a healthy way instead of trying to eat them.

Day five. It’s been rough but also so far, so good. I know that in another few days or maybe another week, the cravings will be substantially reduced and it will be easier. Until then, it’s worth it.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, vulnerability

Political ads—a long series of teachable moments

Like everyone (I assume) in the US, we’ve been inundated with political ads.

We don’t watch TV, so that helps. But the volume of postcards has been ridiculous.

In particular, we received a postcard most days for several weeks, telling us the evils of one specific (not presidential) candidate.

If I didn’t know the state-level politics, I wouldn’t even know from all this mail who he was running against.

We pulled another one of these pieces of trash out of our mailbox, and The Kid shared what he’s learned about these ads:

“It’s not good to say all bad things about your opponent. It means you have nothing good to say about yourself.”

Good call, little dude.

We expanded that conversation to include other kids being mean and having nothing good to say about you (or others).

“Because they have nothing good to say about themselves?”

Yep. Which doesn’t mean they have nothing good about them, just they don’t see it in themselves.

You know how sometimes, you feel like everything about you is wrong? Everyone feels like that sometimes. But some kids have parents who don’t tell them that those feelings aren’t true, and they start to believe them more and more. Or some kids have parents who tell them that those things are true, which of course is incorrect, but you can’t expect a little kid to know that, and they grow up to believe there’s nothing good about them.

He understood.

Those kids grow up and become adults who have nothing good to say about themselves and instead rely on saying bad things—true or untrue—about others. We don’t need political attack ads to see this daily. We do need to do two things to remedy it.

One: teach children that they’re worthy and lovable, even when they make mistakes, even when they make bad choices, even when you’re impatient—because it’s not about you.

Two: help people who haven’t learned that heal. Whether you think they deserve compassion or not (again, not about you). Because we’ll all be better if more people feel whole.

Posted in ebb & flow, mindset, parenting

Halloween, COVID, opportunity

We had a great Halloween here this weekend.

The Kid had two friends over, in their costumes and with masks. I had made an 18-piece puzzle for each of them, different color for each, and hid the pieces around the yard. The assembled puzzles revealed a joke and a clue for where they might find treats. Each hiding spot had three treats (one for each child) and a puzzle piece. Those puzzle pieces led to three more treat hiding spots. Each child ended up with a bag, a pillow box, and a coffin with candy; two finger puppets—one eyeball and one cat or alien; two books.

After the hunt, they were charged with a task: use the characters you’re dressed as and create a short play. While the final product was not easy to follow, it did not disappoint.

One of his friends yelled, “This is the best Halloween ever! Can we do this every year?”

In talking to The Kid later, he agreed that it was better than trick or treating.

I had a lot more fun than I have trick or treating.

Other friends with kids who weren’t trick or treating did a variety of things to still have something fun for the kids to do … and every one that I’ve talked to liked it better.

Which strengthens my wondering: what else would be better if we took this opportunity to break old habits and try something new?