He Parents As If He’s On the Cover of Rolling Stone

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Sitting across from me at our favorite Thai restaurant, staring at the baby blue pacifier I had arranged for the waiter to hide in his green tea ice cream, his face was almost the same shade of green.

Whaaat?” he said in a low, shaky voice.

My heart sank. It wasn’t the voice I was hoping for when I announced the big news.

We had talked about this, hadn’t we? It’s not like we didn’t know this was a possibility. But still … this soon, just a month after we started trying — it was a shocker. And I knew then, though he had said he was ready, he really wasn’t.

I ended up losing the pregnancy three weeks later. Perhaps the universe’s way of making sure we were in this thing together. And while I was devastated, I think he was secretly relieved.

I was more than a little nervous to broach the subject again. There’s never a “right time” to start a family, I told him. When we’re more settled. When we pay down some debt, own a home. When his music career takes off. All the things we’d considered but had yet to check off the list. I’m 36, I said. Who knows if/when this will happen again? If we wait for the right time, there may be no time for us at all.

He’d never been a “kid person,” I knew this. With nieces and nephews, my friends’ kids, he’d politely shake their little hands and exchange pleasantries in his cool, steady way as if they were a new management executive or a groupie meeting the band for the first time. His focus was music — preparing to travel the world as a professional drummer. Still, he knew he wanted a family. And he knew he wanted one with me.

So we tried again. And after 13 painfully long months that always started with hope but ended in disappointment, that little stick finally revealed two pink lines once again. And his voice was just slightly less shaky.

Pink, as it turns out, was apropos. She was delivered by cesarean after 19 hours of labor (and three hours of pushing). When I was rushed to surgery due to excessive bleeding, and faced hours of recovery before being able to breastfeed, even hold, my new baby, he was forced to jump in — way before he was ready. It seemed to be a running theme in our foray into parenthood.

He didn’t know how to hold a newborn, much less a bottle to its rooting, screeching mouth. But as I lay there, sore, exhausted and disappointed that I couldn’t nurse, and looked over at him — at his big, craggy hands, themselves tired and bruised from hours, years, of swinging drumsticks — gently cradling and feeding our little girl as if he’d done it all his life, I thought my heart would burst out of my chest. And this time, I was the one who was relieved.

This man who didn’t know if he was ready to be a father, was being a Dad within the first few hours. And seems a pretty good one.

I could never have known that this was just the beginning of the kind of Dad he would be.

Ironically this Dad, the one who’d been on the road with a band for most of his adult life, wasn’t ready for all the late hours. He didn’t know he’d be awakened 30 times a night and have to share his wife’s bed, and body, with another. And then another. He didn’t know after getting home from a gig at 4 am that he’d be up at 6 am for things like croupe or a panicked trip to the pediatrician.

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Now he’s the first to notice when she’s running a fever. And the one I find the next morning in a different bed — called in by another night terror — still laying by his son’s side.

Back then, he didn’t know if he could handle the caretaking. What does he know of diapering, bathing, dressing a kid and nursing a myriad of boo-boos?

Now we laugh that he’s the only one brave enough to clip their fingernails since that first time I nicked a little finger and drew blood.

And I still thank God to this day that he was there to hold our daughter’s head steady while the ER doctor stitched up her chin.

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He knew for certain that he wasn’t ready for the responsibilities. The daily grind. The early mornings, getting ready for school. Now, the man who will forever be a night owl, the last one to bed, is always the first one up, making breakfast and washing dishes from the night before because he knows it’s his wife’s least favorite chore in the world.

And he definitely wasn’t ready for the commitment. How could he be there, in the way he wanted? Emotionally, financially, logistically … when he was usually running on fumes, and miles from home?

The choice was hard and easy at the same time.

Brought on by untold circumstances and a dream that took a new direction, as they often do. But when shared, can be all the sweeter to chase.

Now he works two part-time jobs, then stays up half the night online, pursuing a new career he loves — one closer to home.

Now he’s one of the few dads at the school meetings. The dad who will move mountains to make it to a baseball game or theatre performance. The kind of dad who can turn a boring afternoon into an acoustic silly songwriting session and knows how to talk his nine-year-old daughter off the latest fashion emergency ledge. And who, along with his children, schemes an entire week of birthday surprises for his wife, “though he wishes he could do more.”

No, he wasn’t ready for this life. He didn’t know if it would make him happy. Being a round-the-clock, hands-on Dad who’s always there for his family. He wasn’t so sure back then.

But now he knows — we both do — that nothing could make him happier.

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What Losing My Wedding Ring Made Me Realize About My Daughter

Currently featured on The Huffington Post…

What Losing My Wedding Ring Made Me Realize About My Daughter

 

I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago. After 11 years of careful handling and protection, just like that … it’s gone. While I’ve been tearing the house apart, and racked with guilt, my husband has been ridiculously understanding. I have faith that it will turn up one day, when I least expect it, but it’s made me think about what’s really important to hold on to.

And it makes me think of my daughter.

She’s 9, just gearing up for tween attitude and angst, and I’m desperately clinging to the last bits of little girl I can still see in her. The snuggling and requests for family game night are soon to be replaced by texting and pretending not to be related to me. I know in the not too distant future, she will change in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, but I also know there will be those who will ask her to change, in all the wrong ones. I know there will be times when she’ll falter, and fall — hard — and I won’t always be there to help her up. And there will be a lot for her to lose.

So for those times when she’s tested, when she’s standing face-to-face with fear, these are the things I’d like to tell my girl to not only hold on to, but to OWN:

  1. Your light. This is your greatest gift — the reason you’re here, and there will be days when you’ll want to tuck it away safely in your pocket. Take it out. Share it. Don’t be afraid to shine, and certainly, don’t shrink in order to make others feel more worthwhile.
  1. Your God-given nature. No matter what others might say or lead you to believe, your “girly” side is not a handicap, or a sign of weakness. You are, in fact, a girl. It’s a blessing and a privilege — treat it as such, and never apologize for it. Ever.
  1. Your sense of adventure. Yes, you have this, too. Did you know not every adventurer is out there bungee jumping or zip lining through the rainforest (though I can see you doing this one day)? You’ll try any new food put in front of you. You’ll be the first to present a book report to your class. Yes, this is adventure. It takes courage, and you have loads of it.
  1. Your individual style. It’s there, I still see it, but it has tempered over the years now that you’re aware of what your friends, and Taylor Swift, are wearing. God I hope I didn’t squelch it when I made you wear the matching toddler sets and fancy shoes that we paid way too much for and couldn’t return. Embrace your unique style and the freedom to wear what moves you.
  1. Your mistakes. You are not designed to be perfect, and everyone is vulnerable (more than most would like to admit). When you mess up, own it. It’s the brave and right thing to do. And it will move you forward.
  1. Your voice. Ask the “dumb” question. Speak up when you have something to say (especially if the word is “NO”). When you don’t, or it’s purely for gossip or snark factor, by all means, bite your tongue.
  1. Your face-scrunching, body-shaking, full-on laugh. I could listen to it all day long, oh if only I could. Please, silly girl, don’t save it, or take yourself too seriously, too often. Laugh it off, let it out. As much as you possibly can.
  1. Your competitive streak. You are as bright, as talented, as capable as any individual, male or female, you may come up against. I know this now, and I know it will be true 20 years from now. You can take on anything and should be equally respected —and paid — to do so. Even so, don’t abuse this recognition, or your talent. Be fierce, but be gracious, in your climb to the top.
  1. Your sensitivity/strength. This is a two-for-one. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Being sensitive, compassionate, aware of your feelings and recognizing those in others … this is where real power comes from. It’s what the world is lacking, and you have the ability, and the responsibility, to put it out there. Do it. It will take you far, and it will fill you up.

 

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The First Time We Gave Our Baby Sugar

I’ve been so busy writing blog posts for other sites, I haven’t had much time to add to my own. But that’s ok —  I’m killing two birds with one stone (though I really hate that expression).

Here’s the latest post I wrote for Happy Family Organic
Food Brands …

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http://happyfamilybrands.com/blog/the-first-time-we-gave-our-baby-sugar/

 

It was her first birthday. Not a drop of sugar had passed my baby’s lips until she turned 1 and shoved a whole fistful of cake into her mouth.

Yes, I was one of those moms. The new mom who wanted to do everything just right. Who made her own baby food using only whole foods, a food processor and the “Super Baby Food” guide as our Bible for the first nine months. Who vowed that her infant’s perfect, pure little body was going to stay that way for as long as humanly possible, and that her baby wouldn’t slip into the junk-food-junkie-of-a-kid her mother was. Not under my watch.

I remember being at the zoo one day with my whole family when our daughter was around 11 months old, and someone bought cotton candy for my 3-year-old nephew. I wouldn’t let my daughter have even a taste, and my sisters looked at me as if I was the meanest mom on the planet. Like I was denying my child this sugary right of passage into childhood.

I guess I was afraid that if she tasted the sweet heavenly goodness of sugar, she would be hooked, never to return to an apple or carrot stick again.

Of course that didn’t happen. Even after the birthday cake.

Recently, we had some friends visit for the weekend, and I watched in awe as the mom fed her 10-month-old a small piece of a dark chocolate truffle. Wow, I thought, she did that without missing a beat. Didn’t even question whether her child was going to digest this incredible treat without ever becoming addicted to sugar, or chocolate, or caffeine!

I think I was a little jealous. Like she had it all figured out way before I ever did. Like maybe I wasted a lot of time and energy worrying and hovering over my baby’s diet.

Truth is, I don’t think either of us has it all figured out. Some might argue that monitoring the sugar intake so closely increases the intrigue and appeal. Others abide by the “what they don’t know (or eat) won’t hurt them” mentality.

We still maintain a healthy, mostly organic diet, but we’ve relaxed our regimen over the years, in part because our kids are older and are eating at their friends’ houses and at parties. We can’t control every morsel that goes into their mouths, and we wouldn’t want to. They need to make some of their own choices, hopefully good ones … but they don’t always. They are kids, after all. All we can do is get them headed in the right direction.

Today, my nine-year-old daughter has an insatiable sweet tooth. But she also will eat just about any vegetable put in front of her, and tries new foods all the time. She is a lover of sushi, raw oysters, quinoa and kale. And, ironically, the sweetest of all the healthy foods — fruit — well, it’s not really her thing. But my six-year-old son is the complete opposite. He eats more fruits, but his vegetable intake is sorely lacking. And don’t get me started on his sweet tooth!

I can’t figure it out. We do our best with our kids. We try to get them started on the right path and set good examples. But I do think, with a little perspective, that if we remain generally consistent, and introduce new, healthy foods as much as possible, a sliver of chocolate candy in the formative years is not going to hurt. Or send our kids crashing into the corn syrup oblivion.

 

The One Thing I’m Definitely Passing On to My Kids This Year

Here’s another one featured on The Huffington Post: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-fishman/the-one-thing-im-definitely-passing-on-to-my-kids-this-year_b_6400352.html?utm_hp_ref=parents-moms

 

 

 

As parents, on a good day, we try to model positive behaviors, core values, a strong work ethic. We know the kids are watching. But there are those days when I seriously wonder, once they’re grown and out of the house, is it all going to come together? Are the little ways we try to work in the big life lessons for our kids seeping in somewhere between “Why me?” and “It’s not fair!?” Like, for instance, on “family cleaning day, ” which I’ve recently instituted as part of my plan to get more help around the house …

I gave them each one job. One. Clean your bathroom.

There were no specific requirements or “hard-knock-life” demands (they’re 6 and 9). Just a rag and a bottle of (natural) cleaner. Go to town. Do your best. I thought my son might even find it slightly amusing (you know, pretend it’s zombie spray or something).

You would have thought I asked them for a candy-free Halloween next year … especially when I handed my 9-year-old the toilet bowl brush.

You want me to actually do the TOILET? You mean the toilet where I put my own butt and where I like to leave you little “presents” because I have better things to do with my time than stop and flush? That toilet? Oh yeah, ok, Mom.

So ensued a string of moaning and gagging-like noises, followed by my instinctual “lecture” on pitching in as a family, the pride in a job well done, the luck of not being one of six kids like Mom who had to do her own laundry and make her own lunches, blah, blah, blah. They weren’t buying it. And my poo jokes didn’t go over so well, either.

But as kids have a way of doing, they were helping me see the bigger picture here. Mounting mommy workload aside, this was not about the wad of wet toilet paper wedged into the tile floor. And clearly I could do the job better myself, in half the time, without the bitching and moaning. I’m passing on lifelong habits here, kids.

And I know my hardworking dad, rest his soul, was somewhere up there cheering me on. My dad, who would usually awaken us bright and early on Saturday mornings for the project of the day (or just because he didn’t believe in sleeping in), would understand the value of this little task in my kids’ otherwise cushy little lives. Their increasingly automated, push-of-the-button lives that I wonder, as I do even about my own life at times, will churn out a slothful generation who is further and further removed from the do-it-yourself, survival instincts of their ancestors (who of course had to walk a mile to school, barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways). A generation who can complete more and more of life’s functions from a stationary spot behind a digital screen, and who has come to expect a long list of conveniences. Just the other day, my 6-year-old wanted to know why the school bus couldn’t drop him off right in front of the house like it did last year. I guess the walking less than a block from the corner really throws off his play schedule.

Maybe I’m just feeling guilty about overindulging my kids in other areas of their lives. Sure, I have them set and clear the table, tidy up their rooms, vacuum here and there, and I’m sure there are those who would argue that toilets should be left to the older kids, or that there are plenty of other ways to teach the value of hard work. But while I’m certainly no taskmaster, I do think something like a little toilet cleaning (at the ripe young age of 9) has a way of really bringing the message home …

It’s not all pretty. And sometimes we just have to get past the stinky stuff.

Or maybe it’s my borderline obsessive-compulsive streak. I was one of those weird kids who actually offered to clean, and still get a deep satisfaction and sense of calm from it. But I’ve let go over the years as a mom. And certainly I don’t expect my kids to light up over a shiny sink faucet, or live up to my spotless standards, but my goodness, dear whiny children, it’s a bathroom. Filthy though it may be, it’s one …
little … bathroom.

After about a three-minute discussion/demonstration on how to unhinge a half-inch mound of dried toothpaste from the sink, I’d about had it. Still, somehow, the cleaning got done, and I somehow overlooked the still spit-spotted mirror and moldy tub mat, trying to keep in mind that it’s not so much about the result as it is the practice. And patted myself on the back for keeping my kids on task and not succumbing to a maid service (today). A service that should they decide to start one day, it appears, will surely leave them unemployed and living back at home with me. “Cleaning” for their keep.

 

A Christmas Letter From This Burnt-Out Mom to Her Single Mother of 6

My first article featured on The Huffington Post… 

A Christmas Letter From This Burnt-Out Mom to Her Single Mother of 6

Dear Mom,

I don’t know how you did it with six kids at Christmas. It’s only December 15th, and I’m already exhausted.

I know you always tell me the same thing about being a mother — “I don’t know how you manage it these days” — but really, Mom, you had a virtual baseball team on your hands, with three times the load I’m carrying. Working full-time while raising six kids AND creating a magical, holly jolly Christmas on your own, every season (without the Internet), well … it’s a tad mind-boggling.

And it’s not the first time this has occurred to me. I just happened to be up late last night organizing my seemingly long holiday to-do list in my head, and for some reason, this year, it really struck me just what a superhero you turned into each December. Here’s the way I see it:

December 1

Me: I have my two kids each create their list for Santa. The next morning, I knock out some writing assignments (at home), spend a couple hours shopping online, maybe run out to Target for a few essentials, then get back to my Christmas shopping (on the couch). I’m interrupted by the school bus, homework and dance class, but it’s ok because I’m basically done, other than some research and a few items I’ll put the hubby on. He comes home from work, we make dinner, and then we wait for the majority of our packages to be delivered to our doorstep in the coming weeks.

You: You take your six different Christmas lists (four girl, two boy, with six completely different tastes/interests) as you head out in your overworked and under-washed VW Rabbit to drop us at two different schools before going to your 9-5 office job. At lunchtime, you rush to the dreaded mall for a 45-minute shopping sprint, then back to work. After work, you cart us around to one too many soccer and football practices, maybe sneak in a little more Christmas shopping (because you haven’t even put a dent in the first list), make a satisfying meal for all seven of us, then stay up late transferring presents from the trunk of your car to any little nook or cranny you can find in our already overcrowded house, attempting to “hide” the presents you very well know we are going to tear the house apart trying to find. The next morning, you get up and do it all over again.

December 15

Me: By this time, we’ve made the quick trip to Home Depot to grab a cheap and modest (but otherwise nice) Christmas tree, along with our other hardware necessities for the month. We have a relatively quiet evening at home, just the four of us, trimming the tree, sipping hot cocoa and nibbling candy canes. And yes, we still have Hanukkah to prepare for in our household, but since most of my shopping for the kids is complete, I can now focus my Christmas efforts on a few friends and teachers, finding the perfect gift to show my appreciation for their friendship and hard work all year.

You: You nix the friend and teacher gifts, because who has the time (or money)? In between two weeks of the same work/shopping routine, you take the family to the quaint neighborhood Christmas tree lot to somehow get all six of us to agree on the perfect tree (without breaking the bank), and then get it decorated in some sort of tasteful fashion (without breaking half of your family heirloom ornaments). You stay up late every night behind locked doors, wrapping and fluffing bows, trying to maintain some sort of order and system of “who gets what” and “keeping it all even.” Of course, you also find the time for some Christmas cookie making with at least three or four of us, if not all six, wrangling us all around the small kitchen island and putting up with the incessant whining and nit-picking about who gets to use the big silver ball candy sprinkles next.

And during all of this, in some sort of Norman Rockwell-ish scenario, I seem to remember John Denver and Andy Williams constantly crooning in the background, with you singing along, paying little attention to the fact that you have nine more days of holiday parties and outings to carpool, three school programs to sit through, 10 more gifts to track down, and one big decision to make about whether or not the “peekers” (which you know about because you have eyes in the back of your head) get their presents.

December 24

Me: I make a reservation at our favorite neighborhood spot for Christmas Eve dinner, because I’m tired, and after the umpteenth holiday function, I don’t feel like cooking or baking another darn thing. I’m looking forward to relaxing over some good food and a big glass of wine, and our after-dinner tradition of driving around town to look at Christmas lights. We then go home to set out cookies and milk for Santa, and tuck the kids in bed, with sugarplums and not a creature, and all that. While Dan keeps a look out, I’ll spend about 10 minutes putting out the gifts, then we’ll curl up for another cocktail by the fire, and maybe a movie.

You: While we spend the day with Dad, you spend all day in the kitchen preparing for a big family Christmas meal with all the trimmings. With last-minute wrapping still to do and a frantic visit to the store because you forgot about five things on your list, you can’t believe it’s already time for us to be back, and spend the next two hours trying to herd six rambunctious kids off to bed. Ready for bed yourself, you then stay up half the night, dashing endlessly from hiding spot to tree, gathering and piling gifts, and stuffing six stockings to the brim — all the while jumping at every little peep you hear coming from four different bedrooms.

Still, somehow, by Christmas morning, you pull it all off. Not only do you pull it off, you manage to personalize the holiday for each one of us, miraculously delivering exactly what each child asked for, and showering us with more gifts than most of us probably deserve that year (and which, likely, you will be paying off until next Christmas when it’s time to do it all over again). And find the rare opportunities in the midst of all this indulgence to impart the real meaning and spirit of the season, along with a whole bunch of warm memories.

And you do all this with a smile. With little sleep. With virtually no complaining. With the bravery of a woman who spends all this time and energy to create the perfect Christmas for her family, yet who every other year, spends the entire day alone, while her children are with their dad and stepmom for the holiday.

But I know you, Mom. You will downplay the work and the loneliness, saying “you just did what you had to do.” And maybe you don’t see it the way I do (and maybe I exaggerate, but only a little), or maybe the joy of the season and the love for your kids filled your heart to the point that you’ve now forgotten the juggling and the exhaustion and the overall monumental holiday undertaking.

But I want you to know that I haven’t. And that as I “rush” around myself over the next few days, I will remember to focus on the warm moments and, like you, to do it with a smile. And with love and gratitude for the chance to pass on to my children the kind of special, magical Christmas you always created for me.

Merry Christmas, Mom!

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Needing a Sick Day … or Two

Today I discovered a new talent. I have the ability to play Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots while writing an article about “Dating with MS” in my head. It’s similar to my other talent of answering work emails while listening to my daughter perform the new song she wrote, and then singing along verbatim by the third performance and the 10th email. My son is home sick from Kindergarten for the second day this week. And as twisted as this sounds, I kind of like it.

Yes, he’s calling for me every 10 minutes with a new “hurting part” on his body. Yes, he’s looking up at me with those pitiful eyes, too weak to hit the channel button on the remote. And yes, most likely he’s contagious, and I’ll be nursing my own fever and pawing at the remote by the weekend.

But on the up side …

He doesn’t have an appetite, so I get a reprieve from round-the-clock snack requests. He’s low on energy, so the noise decibel in the house is down a notch. He’s too weak to argue. And the illness is bringing out his affectionate side. No, I’m not getting any real work done, but I have a good excuse …

My boy needs me.

He needs me more than my editor at the moment. Or the pile of laundry sitting in the corner on the bedroom floor (that I’ve already washed twice now after the cat, with the recent urinary tract infection, peed on it). Or the dentist’s receptionist who seems a little too invested in whether or not my teeth get cleaned this year.

I don’t like that he’s achy and shivering, and missed his big field trip at school yesterday. I don’t like the symptoms-of-Ebola checklist that keeps running through my head. But I like that all he wants is for me to hold him, and closes his eyes when I smooth back his hair. I like snuggling up to his warm body and tucking the covers up tighter under his chin. And the not caring whether or not I get what he’s got.

It appears I have the magic touch, and this is right where I’m supposed to be.

I think he can feel it, too, especially as the fever lifted and he started to come out of the bad-breath, two-days-in-the-same-pajamas coma. I gave him an orange, and he asked if he could just suck out the juice, not actually bite it. Yes, I said. Two sucks later, we settled on some sugary dried oranges and a piece of leftover Halloween candy that, miraculously, he was able to chew. And yet another round of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em.

Still, he feels only “a little” better. And is not sure if he’ll be able to make it to school tomorrow.

Oh, he’ll be back at school, and I’ll be cleaning up the sickness aftermath and probably working straight through the weekend to meet my deadlines. But when I think about it, these last two days that started in a slight panic have turned out to be pretty special.

I think all the downtime has brought out his contemplative side, too. Lying in bed after watching Curious George spy on The Man With the Yellow Hat for the 4th time in two days, he said, Mom, I feel like I have lots of words in my head.

Yea bud, me, too.

 

Big Life Lessons in a Little Shoebox: Watching Operation Christmas Child in Action

So we’re just now getting geared up for “Operation Christmas Child” — even though we went shopping for our gifts back in early November (that’s the holidays for ya).

If you haven’t yet heard of this phenomenon by Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child is an outreach program that packages and ships shoeboxes filled with toys, supplies and other gifts to children in need throughout the world.

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We donate a couple of shoeboxes every year, and though there are usually drop-off locations throughout the city in late November, we typically take ours to the processing center in Suwanee, GA to watch the packing operation in action. It’s quite the production in this ginormous, festive warehouse with all of OCC’s happy little elves hard at work on the assembly line.

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My kids like not only shopping for “their kids” gifts, but also finding out what all the other kids are getting in their boxes, and where they are headed.

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The facility also offers tours with kid-friendly activities that illustrate how and why the organization chooses its recipients, and what it’s like for these kids living on the other side of the world. One year, they even had an amazing little girl speaker, once an orphan and shoebox recipient, who was adopted by the couple from Georgia who donated her shoebox!

What started out for us as a simple act of giving through our kids’ school, has now turned into a fun family tradition — one that reminds us about giving and connecting with children (people) from all walks of life.

You can still pack and get your shoeboxes to a processing center through December 20th. Call to find out about scheduling a family tour.

If You Dip It, They Will Come

When all else fails, turn to the dip. That’s what my Registered Dietitian of a neighbor preaches when I moan and groan about my kids’ fruit-deprived diet. Fruit dips? Really? Is this what we’ve come to?

My kids’ idea of a fruit dip is powdered sugar, chocolate or caramel sauce, but apparently these are not on Mrs. Nutrition’s RD dip list. She brought a few better options for fruits and veggies, along with tons of trail mix ideas, to what’s become her annual “Healthy Eating” seminar for my daughter’s class. Thought I’d share here in case you have the time, need or inclination to whip up a dip …

(the kids ate them all, by the way)

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PEANUT BUTTER & CINNAMON GREEK YOGURT DIP

  • 1 1/4 cups fat free Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp natural peanut or almond butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp- 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (two large dashes)

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or whisk together briskly.

 

NUTELLA & GREEK YOGURT DIP

  • 1 1/4 cups fat free Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp Nutella or other hazelnut chocolate spread

Mix and dip with your favorite fruit.

 

VEGGIE RANCH DIP 

  • 1 package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix or Hidden Valley Ranch Garden Herb
  • 1 container (8 oz.) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup light buttermilk

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl; chill for an hour.

Note:  I did not use the whole package of the dry mix.  I added until I got the right flavor
for my taste, which was about half of the packet.

Makes around 3 cups

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TRAIL MIX

Mix ‘n’ Match The Ingredients

Nuts

  • These pint-sized nutritional dynamos are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Whether they’re raw or roasted, go for unsalted, unsweetened nuts to keep sugar and sodium under control.
  • Our healthy favorites: Almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. Higher-calorie macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pine nuts are also good options in moderation.

Seeds

  • For those with nut allergies (or just looking to mix things up), seeds provide many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts. Hemp seeds, for example, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid, protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.
  • Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, or hemp seeds in trail mix for an extra boost of nutrients.

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Dried Fruit

  • This sugary treat can easily become a dangerfood, so pay attention to the ingredient list and serving sizes. In moderation, dried fruit can be a great source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Look for dried fruit options with as little added sugar and preservatives as possible (some varieties, like cranberries, are naturally quite tart and almost always sweetened with cane sugar or apple juice). It’s also pretty easy to make your own dried fruit at home in the oven.
  • Our Favorites: Dried apples, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, raisins, banana chips, figs, pineapple chunks, mango, and dates.

Grains

  • Add some complex carbohydrates to your custom blend for extra fiber, which boosts overall energy and helps to keep you full [1].
  • Choose whole grains whenever possible and avoid highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium.
  • Shredded wheat cereal, pretzels, whole-grain cereals like Cheerios or Chex, bran flakes, whole-wheat crackers, granola, toasted oats, puffed rice cereal, and air-popped popcorn can all add a little bit of crunch.

Sweets

  • Sometimes we all need a little something sweet to round out the mix. Just remember to add treat-like options sparingly (unless you’re making dessert instead of a snack).
  • Add a sprinkling of M&Ms, chips of various kinds (chocolate, peanut butter, carob, butterscotch), cacao nibs, yogurt-covered raisins, chocolate-covered coffee beans, mini marshmallows, or chocolate-covered nuts. When going the chocolate route, choose dark varieties for extra antioxidants.

“Just a spoonful of honeeey helps the … allergy symptoms go away?”

It would be nice, and tasty, if this were true, and I for one was really hoping this rumored natural remedy for seasonal allergies would provide at least a little relief for my husband, my son and me. But the theory, it appears, is false. Experts will tell you that it’s generally the pollen from trees, grasses and weeds, not the pollen from flowers (carried by bees), that causes seasonal allergy symptoms. And local honey does not have enough of this type of pollen to ward off the symptoms.

Here’s how the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology puts it:

There is a widespread belief that eating local, unprocessed or “raw” honey can help allergy symptoms by regularly exposing you to pollen – not unlike the concept of how allergy shots work. Allergy injections help desensitize pollen-allergic people by exposing them to a specific pollen or pollen mixture injected at regular intervals. An important difference here is that the pollen amounts in allergy injections are known, and progressively increasing to a certain level, for best results. Studies have shown allergy shots are very effective for decreasing seasonal allergy symptoms.

Local, unprocessed honey does contain small amounts of pollen from the environment. The pollen in honey is mostly from the flowers where bees are found (with flowering plant pollen less likely to cause allergy symptoms) and allergenic, airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds (not pollinated by bees!) in lesser amounts. Thus, the amount of allergenic pollen in the honey is typically very small, as bees don’t intentionally incorporate this pollen into the honey. This is considered a contaminant, like the bee parts, mold spores, bacteria and other environmental particles that can be found in honey. (Commercial processing seems to remove most pollen and contaminants.)

There is no scientific proof that eating local honey will improve seasonal allergies. One study, published in 2002 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, showed no difference among allergy sufferers who ate local honey, commercially processed honey, or a honey-flavored placebo. And in rare cases there might actually be a risk. In extremely sensitive individuals, the ingestion of unprocessed honey can result in an immediate allergic reaction involving the mouth, throat, or skin – such as itching, hives or swelling – or even anaphylaxis. Such reactions may be related to either pollen or bee part contaminants.

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So go ahead, put some local honey in your tea this fall, and enjoy. But don’t expect to stop sneezing or get a much-needed boost of energy from it. Better bet is to talk to a trusted doctor about where your symptoms are coming from, and what you both feel comfortable doing about them.

 

“Dear Children, Do Not Tiptoe!”

In our Fresh Harvest basket this week (the local produce we receive from the FH Georgia farm), the very cool Fresh Harvesters Philip and Zac included a quote that really spoke to me. Thought I’d share:

“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe! Run, hop, skip or dance — just don’t tiptoe!”

— Shane Claiborne

 

And as Philip and Zac added in their Fresh Inspiration:

“Have bold and deep conversations with those you love. You never know what’s going to change the way someone walks (or runs) through the rest of their life.”

… I’d like to add, “jumps!”

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Thanks, Guys!