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.

Race

Cookie Jamboree – Vegan, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the weekend we decided to do some testing with three different vegan, gluten free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipes, and we let Watson help. The first was more coconut based, the third was fit-based, and the second is below. It’s hard to argue that chocolate chip cookies are healthy, per se, but these ones are certainly more healthy than standard recipes!

When everything had baked and cooled, and the kids had had ample opportunity to taste plenty of cookie dough (parenting win!), we had a completely unscientific taste test and determined which of the three was the best, and we bring it to you now!

Ingredients:

1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c peanut butter
1/4 c applesauce
1/4 c coconut oil
1 tbls flaxseed plus 3 tbls water
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c almond meal
1 c spelt flour
1 c gluten free mini pretzels chopped up pretty fine (We used a food processor)
As many chocolate chips as feels right

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. First combine the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and let them gel. In a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, peanut butter, applesauce, coconut oil, and vanilla. In another medium bowl, combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, almond meal, spelt flour, and pretzels. Finally, combine the wet and dry ingredients with the flaxseeds and chocolate chips in a large bowl and stir until incorporated.

Put tablespoon size balls on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until ready to put in a jar or serve to hungry kids eager to taste test.

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.