Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: Things I've Said To My Children

Every parent has them. Those "I can't believe I just said that!" moments. Kids of all ages are well-known for testing our patience, our tolerance, our tempers. And sometimes they just do things that seem so bizarre and incomprehensible to our rational, logic-driven adult brains!

For every parent who has later laughed about (or shaken their head over) the strange things we say in the heat of the moment, graphic designer Nathan Ripperger presents Things I've Said To My Children, a lovely hardcover coffee table-worthy book full of poster-style illustrations of some of the odder things Ripperger can remember having said to his own offspring. Phrases like "We are in a grocery store, not a battle arena." Or "We do not hit our friends with musical instruments."

As a parent myself, I can not only identify with the premise of this book, but I can clearly recall having said many similar things myself. I'm pretty sure I've warned my son off of putting sand or leaves in his underwear before. I know for a fact that, within the past six months, I've said something almost identical to "Don't lick my arm! That's what weird kids do!" I have taken the royal "we" on many occasions, admonishing my son that we don't do this or reminding him that we must do this in a different way.

Aside from the general humor and comfort parents get from knowing that their children are not the only strange ones, readers will also enjoy Ripperger's bold, colorful illustrations. It's always fun to bring a lighthearted twist to the difficulties of parenting, and these pictures will help readers laugh a little at themselves. From the picture of a baby chick with a shark fin strapped to its back to a carton of spilled milk with a paintbrush lying nearby, readers will be smiling and maybe even giggling a little bit.

This book would be an ideal gift to anyone who currently has or has ever had younger children. Put it on display in your living room and let your fellow parent friends have a laugh!


I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mixed Observations From My 3.5-Year-Old

Welcome to the September 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids Blogging
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have let their children take over writing and sharing.


I know I've probably said this at every stage of my son's life, but this current stage has got to be my favorite.

Specifically, I love how verbal Bug is. I love how his use of language has evolved over the past few years, how's he's always gaining more vocabulary words and improving his ability to clearly pronounce the words he already knows. I love how he's forming opinions on various subjects. I love how he likes to tell little stories about things that have happened recently or describe the plotlines of books he's been reading.

And, as any parent knows (or will know soon enough, if they've only got pre-verbal kids so far), sometimes the things that come out of his little mouth are simply amazing. Sometimes he makes me laugh, and other times he offhandedly offers up comments that would be offensive in different circumstances and from a different speaker. Sometimes his astute grasp of matters just blows my mind.

Showing off his glitter tattoo from a library event. He wanted a spider that was yellow and orange and red and pink.

I know it's impossible to really accurately portray just how much I love the things my Bug says using written words, so I'll just pass the mic to him, so to speak. Below are a handful of quotes from my little guy, along with a smattering of pictures of recent creations and general cuteness. Enjoy!

He always loves coming to Penzey's, the spice store, with me, probably because he gets to color and then hang his artwork on their wall.


First, a brief interview:

How old are you?
     I'm three years old.
What's your favorite cartoon and what's it about? 
     The world one [Word World], how to make letters. How to make things.
What are you good at doing?
What's your favorite color?
     Black. And green, blue, and red.
What's your favorite animal?
     Yucky snails right now, because I really love them. And kitties do love snails!
What's your favorite book?
      Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
What's your favorite game to play with Daddy?
     Pathfinder. First, I need a little guy, then I find a path, then I go into the big Ender Portal,
     because the Ender Portal that I go in is very, very dangerous.
If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
     Mommy. Or Green.
What is your favorite food?
     Vegetables. Pasta and chickpeas.
What is your favorite toy?
     My rabbit. It's hiding somewhere.
What's your favorite thing to do outside?
     Make construction sites.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
     I really want to go to work. [He wouldn't specify what kind. And that was the end of that.]

In case you're wondering, this is how Bug plays Pathfinder. We'll make a (tabletop) gamer out of this boy yet!


When I fart in the water it makes bubbles! And now I'm gonna make a really big fart. And it'll make a really, really, really, really big bubble. And then I'll go inside it. But then you can pop it and I'll be free again.


Mommy, your butt is so squishy!

A self-portrait.


I love the rabbit song. But then a skeleton came along and died the bunny. And now it's gone forever.

A little creation.


Sometimes, Bug and I play this game where we go back and forth saying different parts of each other that we love. And sometimes, he picks rather obscure things about me to love.

Me: I love your... shoulders!
Bug: I love your elbows!
Me: I love your tummy!
Bug: I love your belly button!
Me: I love your ears!
Bug: I love your earwax!


I love you right up to the moon! And then over the moon, and into a forest, and through a field, and into a barn.

Playing with watercolors. His grandma says he's channeling a little Bob Ross here.


Bug: I like Warrior 2. I also like Warrior 5.
Me (perplexed): Warrior 5? How do you do Warrior 5?
Bug: You put one leg up like this, and both hands down. No, Mama, you're doing it wrong.

You know how Trader Joe's gives stickers to kids at the register? Well, this is where most of Bug's usually end up.

Showing off the (somewhat creepy-looking, but don't tell him that!) mask he made.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 8 with all the carnival links.)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: Einkorn

These days, "gluten-free" has become a nutritional buzz word, and people right and left are ditching wheat products and claiming that their health has improved because of it. While there's still a fair amount of debate about exactly how wide-spread gluten intolerance is, it's hard to deny the abundant anecdotal evidence.

But is it really wheat that's the problem? What if the bigger issue is modern wheat, bred for high yields and specific characteristics to make farming easier? What if these changes have also altered something fundamental in wheat, something that our digestive systems haven't caught up with yet?

After all, our ancestors have been eating wheat since pretty much forever. If we could go back to eating those ancient varieties of wheat, would our bodies have an easier time digesting the gluten? Some people believe the answer is yes, and einkorn wheat, a relic grain that fell out of favor a long time ago, is starting to make a resurgence as a result.

But einkorn behaves differently than modern durum wheat in recipes. For readers who are interested in this ancient type of wheat but unsure of what to actually do with it, author Carla Bartolucci presents Einkorn: Recipes For Nature's Original Wheat. Bartolucci is a believer, and the preface to the book details how her oldest daughter struggled with an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity for years, and how they ultimately turned to einkorn wheat as a solution. The book also talks extensively about the differences between the gluten-forming proteins in einkorn verses modern wheat.

Because the gluten develops differently in einkorn wheat, you can't just substitute it in your regular recipes and expect the same result. Einkorn is very different, and Bartolucci has spent many years experimenting and adapting recipes to suit the different properties of einkorn flour. The result is that a gluten sensitivity no longer has to mean going gluten-free for many people; instead, readers of all kinds can enjoy the health benefits of recipes baked with einkorn wheat.

And Bartolucci certainly offers a wide variety of recipes. There's an extensive chapter on various types of bread, of course, but readers will also delight in being able to make breakfast dishes like scones and pancakes. There are cookies, like Goodness Graham Crackers or classic Chocolate Chip Cookies, and cakes like Dairy-Free Coconut Pound Cake or Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Pie crusts, cinnamon rolls, pasta noodles, pizza dough, and more can all be made with einkorn using the recipes in this book. There is even a chapter devoted to "Street Food," so readers can feast on cravables like Korean Dumplings and Soft German Pretzels.

Each recipe is very clearly written, and the pictures will make your stomach rumble. Bartolucci goes into extensive detail on making sourdough or yeast levains, offers techniques for turning the dough that is often super wet, provides instructions for how readers can sprout einkorn wheat berries at home for additional health benefits, and more. The recipes in here cover pretty much all basic wheat-based foods that those who face going gluten-free (or who are already there) might be miss the most.

Baking with einkorn still remains a daunting idea for many, but with a cookbook like Einkorn, those who are determined will have a much easier time finding their way.


I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The S-Word

Bug and I took a trip to the Natural History Museum the other day.

He absolutely loved everything about it, but he was especially enamored of all the hands-on exhibits. Of course, hands-on activities can also cause problems when more than one kid wants to play.

The museum had this one computer in particular that my son thought was super neat. It featured a bunch of wildflowers native to California, and you could click on individual ones to see a lovely painting of the flower, a picture of a dried specimen, and a lovely photo of it growing in the wild.

Shortly after Bug sat down at this computer, another little boy sidled up. I have no idea how old he was, because I'm a terrible judge of that, but I could tell that he was definitely older than Bug. So this boy came over and said, "I want a turn!"

Bug just ignored him, completely enthralled as he was. So I turned to the boy and said "You can play with it once he's done."

The boy watched as Bug looked at a second flower, going back and forth between the different pictures, and then started to reach for the controls, saying "It's my turn now."

To which I replied, "It'll be your turn once he's all done." The boy gave me a confused look, watched for another minute, and then got bored and wandered off.

So I'm just going to put this out here. I absolutely hate the current standard of "sharing." Learn to share. Let him have a turn. You're all done now; someone else wants to play. Why is this what we're teaching our kids these days? I don't understand it. It seems like many parents are teaching their children that instant gratification is their due, that once they express interest in something, they deserve to have it right now.

And if you dare to challenge the status quo, if you're that parent that doesn't force your kid to give up something of theirs the moment another child asks for it, whether it's toys or food of anything else, you get dirty looks and under-the-breath comments disparaging your parenting skills.

I see it all the time. A parent forces their child off the swings within seconds of another child saying they want to use it. A mother glares at other parents when the line to go down the slide doesn't move fast enough. One child steals borrows a toy from a second child, and when the second child protests and tries to take it back, their parent tells them that they they've been playing with that toy all day so now they need to share.

He's having fun. So no, I'm not going to make him get off just yet.

It drives me crazy, and it comes from all directions. At the aforementioned museum, my son tried to take a toy dinosaur away from a younger girl, and I redirected him to a different toy (there were plenty of lonely, unattended toys in the area) as the girl's father stepped over and to tell her that she needed to give my son a turn. I pointed out that there were plenty of other toys, and my son could wait until she was done, and the father looked baffled. "She'll play with it all day if you let her," he told me. So? If there are other toys for other kids, why is it a problem to let her play with, even monopolize something she's interested in?

Later that day, we sat down at a table to have a snack. There were already people at the table, and when the woman saw Bug looking longingly at her child's pretzels, she immediately told the boy to give some to my son. Aside from the fact that she never even asked if I was okay with my son eating pretzels, I just can't stand the message this sends. We shouldn't be teaching our children to give their anything of theirs away simply because someone else wants it.

Kids tend to naturally covet things that others have; isn't it better that we teach them not to indulge in that impulse to take? Patience is a useful skill, and I'd rather my son learn to wait for things rather than that the world owes him everything he wants right now.

Don't get me completely wrong. I believe in sharing, but I don't want it to be forced. The desire to share should come from within, not be imposed by others. A child, especially a two- or three-year-old, shouldn't be punished because they don't want to share their toys (I see this all the time too--Since you can't share, we'll just have to go home now.). And I fully recognize that my three-and-a-half-year-old doesn't really understand the concept the way we do as adults.

If my son has brought a pile of toys to the sand pit at the park and another child is eyeing them hopefully, I might encourage Bug to see if the other child wants to play with something he's not currently using. If he's playing with the train table at Barnes & Noble and another child shows up, I point out that someone else would like to play, and maybe he would like to offer them one of the engines so that they can ride the rails with him. If someone else has a toy that he thinks is really cool, I suggest that he ask the other child if they'd be interested in trading it (temporarily, of course) for one of his toys. (And if they're not interested, it's a learning experience: other children are not required to share their toys if they don't want to, just like he's not required to share his. Sharing is a nice thing to do, but in most cases, it's not mandatory.)

Ultimately, I want my son to share for the right reasons. I have no problem with talking to him and helping him to recognize times when it'd be nice to share. Better yet, I talk him through things when possible, so that the idea to share comes from him, rather than from me. I want him to share because it's more fun when everyone can play, and it feels good to let others use your things (so long as they give them back, of course).

And taking turns? I definitely believe in that, as kids can get much more behind this idea. But I don't think someone else should necessarily get a turn the moment they express interest. There's nothing wrong with teaching our kids to wait for the things they want.

In the case of the wildflower computer at the Natural History Museum, the boy did come back awhile later, and while Bug was still pretty absorbed, he'd also had a fair amount of time to play. I told him he could look at three more flowers, and then we'd move on so that others could play too. And after those three flowers were done (we counted down), he got up with absolutely no complaints.