Dirt Don’t Hurt

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Isn’t that how the saying goes? God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.  Luckily, living in the midwest provides for lots of dirt, rocks, clay, mulch, and other natural fun landscaping for Sillyboy.  But when you add in two 70 lb. dogs who love to dig (a LOT), wrestle, and wreak havoc in your backyard, it’s tough for good clean kid fun in the dirt.  So we went with the good ol’ sensory bin, after graduating up from smaller containers on the kitchen floor in his preschool age (good busy task when I’m making dinner or washing dishes), and went with a plastic under-the-bed container.

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One bag of potting soil was added in and spread out to dry for a day.  The soil comes pretty moist out of the bag, but since we store our bin in the garage, I didn’t want various critters making a home in it.  We added some diggers, shovels, and beach toys and it keeps him entertained for hours. Every time.  We drag the bin out into the yard (hey, no clean up!) and let him play to his heart’s content.  Plus, if he’s had a good day, I let him pour a pitcher of water in the bin to muddy it up and create even better dirt play.

He’s realized if the dirt ends up outside the box, it’s less he’ll have the next time he plays.  And he looks forward to getting hosed down himself if needed.  So besides the no throwing rule, it’s all fair game.  When we’re done, we leave it out to dry in the shade.  On a warm Missouri day, it only takes an hour or two, and back into the garage it goes.  What’s your favorite sensory bin?  And have you had to create bigger, messier ones as your kids grow?

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Add a Bit of Green… To Your Plate

Fast food. Convenience food.  It’s tough to be vegetarian or semi-vegan in the Midwest, namely the middle of Missouri.  It’s not like we have a dearth of organic, raw, fresh veg places to choose from.  In my zip code, we have like one of those- and sometimes it’s crowded and not that clean.   So I try to keep all of our healthy veg food coming from the best place ever- our kitchen.  But weekday evenings get busy, over-scheduled, and by the time all four of us make it home we’re exhausted enough to eat anything reheated in the microwave.  Drive-thru is a guilty pleasure, but while repeating my mantra of “which is better?” instead of “which is best?” helps in these times of weakness.  My husband and Sillyboy LURVE (that’s Love with some extra) chicken nuggets.  Up until recently – even with the white meat craze, a percentage of them were still made from pink slime.  But they don’t want to hear me preach about that while ordering at the drive up intercom.  I don’t control what my husband orders when I’m not with them.  He is simply not me.

My rule – is simple, but hard to stick to often, is that you get one fried thing off the menu.  If you don’t eat beef, it’s a real tough call.  This means no fries with chicken nuggets.  Sillyboy groans every time, but ends up completely satisfied at the end of his meal.

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Thank goodness for the $1 menu!  Here’s options they sometimes choose: nuggets and a side salad, grilled chicken sandwich and fries, grilled chicken salad with fries, salad with a soft-serve cone, or nuggets and apples.  Luckily, the nuggets still come in a Happy Meal.  I end up with a big salad- asking for the grilled meat on the side (which goes to either of the guys, or the dogs at home if they behave).  I used to omit the meat completely, but the price is still the same, and if someone else in the car gets the side salad, they don’t mind some sliced grilled chicken added.  For the few and far between fast food stops, it’s a win!  Adding a bit of green to your plate is always a good thing, despite the unhealthy options that dominate outside of the home.  Just beware of all that creamy dressing- raspberry vinaigrette is sweet enough for a kid’s taste.

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Healthy Child Healthy World [useful printables link!]

Since I finally got around to testing out my free trial sizes of Honest products, I took the plunge and ordered my first set of diaper/wipes bundle and a home product bundle.  I’m excited to test out the sunscreen and multi-purpose cleaner the most!  The eco-green earth-friendly talk has been everywhere, with today being Earth Day and all.  The motivation behind a lot of movements was spurred on by Healthy Child Healthy World– a non-profit organization that is trying to promote a healthier environment for all kids (and families).

Former CEO of the company, Chris Gavigan, authored a highly revered book by the same name.  (I just grabbed it from the library today!).  The org has helped many families identify and remove harmful toxins in their lives to create lower allergy and asthmatic environments.  Healthy Child Healthy World works to educate families for the future of our children.  While perusing their site, I found a list of informational printables for you here.  You can print some out, or download the app to keep the pocket lists with you always.  They’ve already done the research for the healthiest brands- look for them by name.

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I can get serious with a 5 year old, this is true.  Even with the bambina, I’m not a baby-talking high pitched voicing person coercing my baby to smile.  I’m not so much the helicopter parent my husband is.  I try my hardest to be vegetarian.  Some days it’s great, some days I have sushi, and others I’m vegan.  With both of our family histories filled with overweight, diabetic, heart-attacking, cancerous relatives, we try harder some days and less others.  So we went halfsies on our kids, who are halfsies of us.  So they consume dairy, eggs, fish, and poultry but never pork or beef meats or products (except that one time Sillyboy forgot to ask about some rice and porky beans at school, and now he knows better). It lets us think about our food.  Just like making a decision between a brownie or a lemon bar, it might just be a preference.

I provide this little disclaimer/info note on our family because I was surprised that the Today Show had a quick segment on vegan kids.   They featured a new children’s book being released this month called Vegan is Love.  They also criticize Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik about their parenting habits near the end to shock parents.  I’m surprised that the segment keeps mentioning how controversial the entire idea is but the article below it says it’s all good as long as you stay smart.  Watch and read here:

TODAY Moms- Should kids go vegan?

I have so many questions!  What do “regular” meat-eating families tell their children about where the food comes from?  I know several people who grew up on Midwest farms and learned at a young age where all their food came from.   Nothing about hatching, raising, butchering, cooking, or eating farm animals shocked them (except maybe the pig castrating example back in 4H).  Sillyboy understands that we raise animals to eat them, just like we grow vegetables.  I’m not sure how the Vegan is Love book would create malnourished children.  Are parents hiding the fact that hamburgers come from cows?  Parents should be there to provide information, guidance, and answers to kids about what they eat and how they grow.  Not everybody should or can be vegetarian or try veganism, but any education beyond McDonald’s and pink slime could help everyone eat healthier, or at least I believe it.  Why should something you eat everyday scare you?

Kosher Kugels

If you asked the 6 y/o Sillboy what a kugel was, he’d think for a minute and say it was “a fancy hashbrown.”  So, if you look at it from his point of view, he’s kinda right.  We love potatoes at our house- sweet, yukon, red, russet, the list goes on.  While searching for vegan potato recipes (i.e. no cheese or even pretend cheez, sour cream, etc.), what do you know?, a recipe from Mayim Bialik‘s blog on Kveller came up!

The recipe is kid-friendly, vegan, kosher, and just tasty for a “fancy hashbrown.”  It wasn’t too time consuming to prep and taste the best snack right out of the oven.  I remember having warm latkes from corner cart vendors on a visit to NYC, and this reminds me of that.  But it’s the baked version (kugel) versus the fried one (latke).  Disclaimer here: I’m not Jewish but enjoy Kosher (non-meaty, of course) foods.

Start with a few ingredients and tools:

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Then once you’re done with the grating and mixing, stuff the oiled muffin tin!  This step is very kid-helper friendly even though it can get a tad messy.

ImageBake as directed, and when they’re done- they are a warm, crispy goodness that makes a great side for dinner or just for a snack.  They pop out easily with a spoon and keep their shape pretty well.  Plus, the leftovers are great reheated for breakfast and/or running out the door.  This is definitely going on my list of potato recipe favorites.

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Egg-citing After Easter

The Easter Bunny came and went and left a trail of candy and some very cool toys at our house.  But we were late to the egg-coloring party.  Maybe because we over did it last year with so much egg-crafty fun, and then subsequently we got sick of eating hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs, and egg salad sandwiches.  So we avoided the vinegar and dye tradition and went with wax crayons.   This method is actually way less time consuming since you decorate the eggs before cooling them via sticking them in the fridge.  All you need is some non-fancy non-toxic wax crayons (go with Rose-Art over Crayola), dozen white eggs covered in water brought to a boil, and a pencil/crayon sharpener.

First, sharpen all the crayon colors you’d like to use:

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Grab an egg (I follow Martha Stewart’s lead by covering eggs in a pot of water by 1 inch, bringing to a boil, covering and removing from heat for 12 minutes but then we do a cold flash rinse, dry them off) and decorate!

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The eggs, even though dried off, will still be pretty hot to the touch and stay that way even at room temperature for about 30 minutes, give or take.  The shaved crayon bits slowly melt and create a good Pollock-like masterpiece.  You can do all the crayon shaving while waiting for the eggs to boil and sit.  When you’re all done decorating, pop them in the fridge and think of some creative way to eat them over the next week.

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Baby Slinging

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Get Blossom‘s and Amy Farrah Fowler‘s images out of your head, and try out reading Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling book.  If you’ve ever heard of attachment parenting or helicopter parenting, the image of an unwashed hippie in dreads with a tie-dyed baby sling with the smell of patchouli over their shoulder might come to mind.  Nothing wrong with that.  Patchouli gives me headaches. But people- and trends (what works and what doesn’t) have adapted just as the ways we raise our kiddos have.  I  like to read a lot of non-fiction, and even if I disagree or find faults with a book’s message, I’m not lost on gaining some education.

Mayim is touted in both good and bad ways for this book, written by herself as a mom of two.  No one can ignore that she earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience.  And she wasn’t a baby person at all before having kids, so she’s a strong voice now for attachment parenting, La Leche League International (she’s a certified consultant), and the Holistic Moms Network.

Bed sharing and elimination communication are not for me.  I might have to do some more research on the latter with bambina though…  I do believe, however, that raising a confident child by gently communicating with them (no yelling!) is a great and wonderful plan.  She shares a lot of the personal sacrifices she and her husband have made to create this environment for their kids.  I read her book cover to cover in just a few days, and I’ve taken some small learned habits away from it that I think make me a better mom.  Be sure to read her section on sharing toys at a playground- or not forcing “please” and “thank you” on her kids!

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