Errands with Kids

We told a parent friend once about a time 2 out of 3 of our kids were screaming at the grocery store for various reasons, which meant we had to throw what we could in the cart and leave with only half our list. We thought we’d be met with sympathy or commiseration, since what parent hasn’t been there? But instead she said, “That’s why I don’t bring my kids to the store.”

That blew our minds! The idea of a peaceful journey to buy groceries without having to rip open a box of baby biscuits in desperation or promise whatever kind of chocolate frosted sugar bomb type cereal they want just to have 2 more minutes of price comparisons on toilet paper (for real, though, it’s basically impossible to effectively compare prices on toilet paper) sounds like bliss. For us, however, it isn’t the right solution.

We’ve found that by taking our kids with us to the store, to restaurants, and on any errand we may have, we teach them how to deal in public. The kids are able to cope with situations that might bore them because they’ve got some experience under their belts. They find ways to enjoy errands and are more aware of some of the drudgery of adult life. Our son says when he grows up he wants to mow the lawn and pay for groceries. They’re very realistic dreams!

These are little kids and they’re still learning. There will be miserable, horrible, temper-tantrum-in-public days. But that’s what wine is for, and the liquor store has lollipops.

This Week’s Hungry Harvest

This week brought a huge bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables. One of the heads of cauliflower is the biggest I’ve ever seen. And for good measure, two adorable kids (the other one was having some much needed quiet time in his room).

Right now we’re cooking up a fun vegan dessert with beets (you laugh now, but it’s going to be hot fire), and a couple of wild and crazy sweet potato ideas. Recipes will follow this week, unless something is a disaster in which case this all goes down the memory hole along with the war with Eastasia. Or was it Eurasia?

Confetti Pancakes – A Tale of Creation

I normally bristle at the idea of blog posts where you have to scroll for an hour to get to the recipe, so I’m going to put the recipe in a separate post, and hopefully you’ll indulge me a photo essay about the creation of these pancakes.

Over the weekend, Jocelyn and Watson embarked on a culinary adventure together. At first, Watson was nervous.

Vivian was fearless, though as merely an observer, the best she could do was to provide citrus to ward off scurvy.

After a little while, excitement set in.

Watson and his mommy marked the occasion with a selfie for posterity.

First they set to work making the “buttermilk.”

Then came the mixing of the dry ingredients.

A brief interlude for a vitamin C infusion.

Next came the mixture of the wet ingredients.

While Watson was mixing, Jocelyn got to relax for a few minutes.

Finally, the piece de resistance: the rainbow sprinkles that confer the name upon this confection.

In the meantime, Fred sits patiently, munching on some cereal.

The pancakes cooked quickly and colorfully.

Finally they were finished, and garnished with strawberries and chocolate!

Watson eschewed standard notions of cutlery as outdated.    
In the end, he and Vivi couldn’t have been more satisfied.    

The Stories We Tell

This article from Eater is a really illuminating look at the ways that food culture tends to erase the credit and long history of the foods we eat and prize. We don’t want to summarize it too much, because we’d rather you go and read it. But it’s important to know that the shameful treatment of minorities in this country continues in ways both big and small, and we need to be mindful of how the stories we tell can erase their true authors.

This is a really important thing to keep in mind in parenting, both in how we talk to our kids about the world, and in how we talk to our kids about themselves and their accomplishments. Nobody gets by purely on their own initiative, and we can gain a deeper, richer understanding of the world by having a real understanding of the shoulders we had to stand on to get where we are.

Proper attribution doesn’t diminish what good we’ve put into the world. It honors others for helping make us able to do that good work. We needn’t fashion ourselves and our kids as solitary geniuses for our lives and our work to have value. Understanding our place in our society is as important as anything to raising compassionate, caring, kind children.

A Favorite Book

The news can be very scary even for us as adults, and we know that our kids hear some scary things on the radio or overhear us talking. We want to make sure that they understand what they hear and aren’t scared but can learn from what’s happening. We want to protect them, but we don’t want to shelter them.

What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend was terrible, and quite honestly terrifying for a number of reasons. The continuing existence and ascendance of white supremacy is a stain on our country, and one we can only attempt to wash away with love and acceptance and inclusion. It’s important for us to instill in our kids a sense of kindness and justice. As parents we worry about the world they’re growing up in, and we can’t help make it better by hiding it from them and them from it.

It can be hard to explain these concepts to adults, let alone to sweet little children who have never known anything but love. We’ve been reading a book recently to the kids Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester and Karen Barbour. We like that it talks about race in a way our children can understand. It addresses not only the meanness of racism, but how little it makes sense. Even Watson hears us explaining that some people think they’re better than other people because of the color of their skin and just shakes his head.

There’s only so much we can do, and someday our kids are going to go out in the world and make their own choices. Teaching them the value of other people of every race, religion, gender, and nationality is important to us because we hope to see them carry kindness, love, compassion, and justice with them out into the world.


Putting in the Work to Get Good Sleepers

We’re often grateful for what good sleepers our kids are, and sometimes a little embarrassed to talk about it around people whose kids don’t sleep well. We had three kids inside of three years, and all three of them were sleeping regularly before they were two months old.

So did we just hit the lottery? Maybe. Maybe in marriage we have united two long-forgotten lines of champion sleepers. But just in case we haven’t, here’s some parenting tips we’ve used to help make sure our kids sleep well.

  • Don’t go out of our way to make it too dark or too quiet

We sort of stumbled into this one, but we try to go out of our way to specifically not create a special sleep environment. No white noise machine, no blackout curtains, etc. When the kids were very little, we’d sometimes let them sleep in a bassinet while we watched a TV show at a reasonable volume in the same room. Now, none of them have any trouble getting to sleep if the baby’s crying, or if there’s some construction outside, or if it’s still light, as is frequently the case at bedtime in the summer.

  • Have a bedtime routine

We’ve found that having a flexible-in-its-particulars, firm-in-its-form bedtime routine has helped enormously in getting the kids ready for bed. No matter how rambunctious they are, by the time they’re in jammies they’ve started to calm down a little. Then we read a story. Then we sing a song. Then we give them hugs and kisses and squeezes (always 20 squeezes, no more, no less), and they’re ready to get in bed, because that’s the next step.

  • No getting up once it’s bedtime

We’ve met some parents who, if their child has some trouble getting to sleep, will just get them up and let them play or hang out with them. We’ve tried to enforce a hard and fast rule where, if it’s bedtime, even if the kids aren’t sleeping, they’ve got to still be in their room with the lights out. Not wanting to go to sleep isn’t an excuse to get out of bedtime.

Those are the big three. Apart from that, we try to be flexible. Watson, for instance, has been sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag for the last two weeks because he doesn’t like his bed, and as long as he sleeps, we don’t see any reason to fight him on that. Both of our older kids like to bring books to bed with them, and as long as they’re comfortable, that’s not a problem for us.

Have any of you got any sleep tips that have helped you and your kids? Let us know in the comments!

Our Parenting Philosophy

Before we even get going, I want to say this: our parenting philosophy is ours, and we don’t want to claim, explicitly or otherwise, that we’re doing it right and others are doing it wrong, or that doing things differently from how we do them is somehow less right. In fact, that’s a pretty good summation of one of the main points we try to keep in mind:

  • We’re all doing the best we know how to do.

It’s easier than it should be to get down on ourselves about snapping at the kids when they’re being tough and we’re having a rough day, but that happens to everybody, and dwelling on it doesn’t help anybody. Parenting is tough, and while we shouldn’t let that control our actions, we shouldn’t forget it either.

  • Kids changed our life, but we need to teach them how to be part of our lives, not just be subsumed into theirs.

Between visits to children’s museums, birthday parties, diaper changing, story times, etc., parenting can make it can seem like our lives barely exist anymore. But we do have lives, and wants, and desires, and it’s not wrong to want to exercise those. It’s not easy to do, but it’s important to assert our right to our own time and our own preferences. Too often we hear parents complaining about TV shows their kids like, but that they’re forced to endure. It’s struck us that we can make those decisions, and let the kids join us in what we like, as much as we let them develop their own tastes and try to share their enjoyment. Letting parenting get in the way of doing anything we enjoy seems like a recipe for resentment down the road.

  • It’s important to be kind.

Underlying everything, we try to stress at every turn that it’s important to be kind. Think about how other people feel, how you’d feel if they’d done to you what you did to them, etc. We live in a world where it’s not always easy to have empathy, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

  • Take our own advice.

Our kids are just doing the best they know how to do, and still trying to figure everything out. They also need to be allowed space to live their own lives, and to have us be open to being invited into those lives and interests. As parents we need to be kind and empathetic to them, and understand how they might be feeling, and meet them where they are, rather than where we’d like them to be.

Feeding Three Impatient Kids

We have three kids, so parenting can sometimes be something of a challenge. Watson, our oldest, is three and a half. Vivian is two. Little Freddy is almost eight months old. They’ve all got different tastes and abilities when it comes to food, but we’ve been trying hard to expand all of their healthy horizons.

Tonight was breakfast for dinner, which is our go-to Wednesday dinner. I made scrambled eggs, vegan sausage, and heated some leftover waffles from the weekend. It’s not the most glamorous meal, but it’s healthy, and cooking anything on the stove while parenting three kids is pretty challenging, so I wasn’t shooting for glamour.

As was the case last week, Watson ate his eggs and little else.

Vivian ate half her waffle and little else.

Freddy, our powerhouse, ate a whole jar of organic apple cinnamon oatmeal, but he eyed up his brother and sister’s food jealously, and we think we can probably start him on eggs next week.

Over dinner I talk to the kids about what they did at school (today Watson and Vivi played soccer and learned about teamwork). Sometimes we listen to music (they’ve been very into the Bob’s Burgers music album lately). If they eat well, which tonight they didn’t, then they get to pick out a piece of candy from their Halloween buckets, which at this rate just might be empty by this Halloween.

We recently committed to feeding the kids mostly the healthy vegan food that we eat for dinner after taking a good, honest look at our alarming chicken nugget budget. They don’t always eat well, but they’re starting to understand that what we give them is what they get, and at least Watson usually tries a little bit of everything, though he always tries to negotiate the bite size I’ll be happy with (small becomes tiny, tiny becomes tiny tiny, etc.).

It’s not always easy to get all of the kids into position with healthy food on the table without some minor or major meltdowns, but it has been rewarding to know that we’re making the effort to give them good, healthy food and build up strong eating habits.

Next challenge: getting them to clean up after themselves.