Shy and Sensitive…Slow to Warm Up…Breakdowns at Birthdays?

Photo taken by my 5 year old while she observed the latest gathering at school

Photo taken by my 5 year old while she observed the latest gathering at school

On a mommy board today, another mom asked for advice about handling things for a child who seems to have a hard time handling new things- to the point that his parents feel traumatized and wonder if they should skip activities altogether. My husband and I have been through this with our kiddos. Here was my response:

My girls are this way. My oldest was like a koala stuck to my leg or shoulder everywhere we went until she was 5. My youngest, now 5, still takes lots of time to warm up. We have noticed that they like to observe for a while (sometimes a LONG while) before they join in, but often they really enjoy observing and will talk about it later as if they had been fully participating. Things that have helped us:

-Prep the child. Tell them casually about the place you are going, what it might sound and smell like, who you might see there, what activities will take place.

-Arrive a few minutes early so you both can take in all the sights and sounds and greet friends one at a time as they arrive. This is a major help, still, for all 3 of my kids.

-Don’t expect or push him/her to participate. Let your child know that it is ok to watch. My kids have loved to use a camera since they were two. It helps them feel like they are involved in a very non-threatening way.

-Let them know you will be there and don’t make a fuss if they want to be with you the whole time.

-Bring a snack and a quiet activity they enjoy. My 5 year old used to bring crayons to the playground! She loved to go, but for the first hour would sit next to me and color, and then go on the swings for 10 minutes before we left. Now, she runs through the gate! (But sometimes likes to walk around with me before she jumps in)

-Be ready to leave a little early and don’t feel badly- your child will pick up on it. Just say something like, well, it looks like we’re ready to go….

-Praise him/her for trying and say that you’re looking forward to next time. (But no pressure)

Nobody likes B.O., right?

Since my children were a thought in my head I have been grappling with how to be the healthiest I can be and how to get rid of all the chemicals I ingest or use like as in shampoo, soap, lotion, makeup, cleaning products, over-processed food, etc…. My biggest struggle has been deodorant. I don’t want to stink and I don’t want my children to be the “smelly kid” in school. It is bad enough that my oldest (12) is the only one at his lunch table that uses a re-usable bag for his sandwich and re-usable water container, thank goodness he doesn’t care all that much…..

I have experimented with deodorants over the years…. I grew up with Secret, and boy oh boy do I love Secret. There are so many scents to choose from and I don’t ever smell bad when I wear it. But I remember becoming concerned when I accidentally purchased their “clear” line and it just didn’t wash off. I felt like I had a thick layer of rubbery plastic under my pits…. for days…. I hated it and stopped using it. But it got me thinking about exactly what am I putting on my freshly shaved, open pores, right next to my breast tissue and directly on my arm pit….

I am not a scientific person at all and usually don’t retain the large words that I can’t pronounce of the ingredients of products I use (unfortunately). Aluminum is the key word that I do remember,look for and avoid. I also recall reading an article about women in America having a much higher rate of breast cancer than women of other countries. It had been linked to the fact that women in America shave their armpits and then put chemicals directly on that freshly shaved skin that cause cancer. Makes sense to me. Also scared the crap out of me and thus began my search for deodorant that would help me not smell like an Italian sub (love Italian subs, just not the smell btw) and not put large quantities of chemicals in my body. So I have been on a mission on and off for a number of years and I think I have finally figured out the answer….

I have tried every single all natural and chemical name brand deodorant out there. Nothing works like antiperspirant with chemicals. I can work out and sweat all day long and still smell like fresh flowers…. Some of the all natural products actually make me smell worse before I even sweat!! This past week I was determined to find a winning all natural deodorant and I think I did. I put the chemical antiperspirant under one pit and the all natural under the other every day this week…. I varied the all naturals based on what I thought did a good job keeping me smelling clean :-). By the end of the week, I just wore my new favorite winning all natural deodorant all by itself and really worked my butt off at taekwondo on Wednesday night and then worked out on Thursday morning WITHOUT showering and you know what??? I didn’t stink…. I even made my husband sniff me… Yeah whatever, he doesn’t mind 🙂

The winning deodorant is… drum roll please…. Crystal, I have two; one is Crystal Body Deodorant Spray and the other is Crystal Essence Mineral Body Spray. They are basically water and mineral salts and they really, truly work. I prefer the Pomegranate scent but my son and husband prefer the plain…

Jenn's deodorant :-)

For the record, I am not being paid to speak about this, nor have I been sent a sample (feel free to send me samples btw :-)), this is just my opinion on something that has been bugging me for years. I love solving problems and I think I have solved this one, for me by the way… Upon further investigation this deodorant has two ingredients, one is purified water and the other is natural mineral salts (Potassium Alum). Alum? Isn’t that short for the word I am trying to avoid??? Argh!! I have read some more about this and the belief is that Potassium Alum is a much larger molecule and not very absorbable through the skin which is different from Aluminum Chlorohydrate which is a common ingredient in chemical deodorants. From what I have read, this is the winning deodorant for me.

On to finding the right chemical free shampoo, suggestions please!!!

Here is the link to my new favorite deodorant…. http://www.thecrystal.com/product_information.cfm

Jenn

Tidbits from our Travels…

Allergy-Safe Sushi

Allergy-Safe Sushi

Sushi- and the ability to have it made safely without wheat and soy- was one of our many options last week aboard the Norwegian Breakaway out of NYC. I can’t stress enough how grateful I was to have safe options, and a staff that truly understood food allergies. The restaurant staff, from chef to waiter, had obviously been trained in food allergy safety and there were policies and procedures in place to prevent cross-contamination. Even our cabin steward was aware of our food allergies. Talk about a week where I could actually relax! I can’t wait to go back!

-M 🙂

Gettin’ Judgey…

No complaints about his booster seat!

No complaints about his booster seat!

 

I’m not usually judgmental when it comes to the different ways people parent, but safety issues set me off.  I have noticed many times, driving around my town and even driving on the highway, little kids bouncing around the back seat, or hanging out the window. I have seen parents pull out of a parking lot with the kids not even in the act of buckling, just not buckled. This makes me CRAZY! I don’t care if you grew up not buckling and you survived, it is the law for a reason. I have had a rule in my car, even for adults, long before I lived in a state where it was the law. My rationale is this- even of you don’t care about yourself or your kid, I don’t want to deal with the trauma of seeing you fly out of the vehicle if we crash! I don’t want to have to explain to my kids that a child they knew is dead or severely injured because their parents made a stupid decision and did not make them buckle up. I don’t care how much of a fit your kid throws when you tell them to buckle. It is a safety issue and it is the law in most states, especially for children.  The car should not move until all passengers are buckled. Period. 
 
In MA, and most states, all children under 12 must be buckled and in the back seat. All children must ride in a child safety seat or a booster seat until they are 57 inches tall. That is 4’9″. Some kids hit that height mark by 8, others ride in a booster through 5th grade. Every child is different and it depends on the vehicle, so once your child reaches the height requirement, if the seatbelt is touching their neck, or sitting on their belly, they should continue to use the booster for a little while longer.
 
Here are some helpful links:
 

Why are good habits so hard?!

Why is it that good habits take so much effort, and bad habits are so easy that you can just fall into them? I was thinking about this today as I struggled to stick to my guns over a screen time dispute with my 8 year old, and again as I came head to head with my 4 year old about eating a healthy dinner BEFORE dessert.

I’m not always a stickler for the rules. I’m happy to serve chocolate chip pancakes (GF/CF/SF baby!) for dinner from time to time, but in general, life seems to go easier if I hold strong to limiting sugar and screen time. The trouble comes at times like this- post World Series victory (we let the kids stay up- we’re big Sox fans) post-Halloween, super busy weekend, Daddy traveling all this week. I am exhausted, the kids are a wreck, and it is so tempting to feed them pancakes and bacon in front of the TV and then let Josh play Minecraft til his eyeballs fall out. Except that he would. Play until his eyeballs fall out. For days straight until that happened, if I let him. And when I do let him play too much, or when we get out of the good habit of a super healthy, real food menu, the behavior takes a turn from life with normal ( but still a little crazy-in-a-fun-way) kids to I Want To Duct Tape Them To The Walls and Run Away To A Private Island for Three Weeks- and it happens so quickly! I know I am not alone here, so I ask- why do we do it? Why is it so hard to stick to good habits, when they work so well -and so easy to just trip and fall right into the bad ones?

I think the answer is right there- the bad habits form from doing what is easy. When I am stressed and busy, it is easy to say yes to screen time so I can focus while the kids are quiet. When we have an especially busy week, or someone is sick, it is easy to serve quick meals, or skip veggies. When I have a lot on my schedule, it is easy to skip working out, and to stay up late to work, while the house is quiet…. But we all know where these things lead. So, I am working on identifying the bad habit red flags and finding ways to make the good habits easier.

What tips can you share? What are the bad habits your family falls into? What good habits would you like to have instead?

– M 🙂

Falling in…

Why is it that good habits take so much effort, and bad habits are so easy that you can just fall into them? I was thinking about this today as I struggled to stick to my guns over a screen time dispute with my 8 year old, and again as I came head to head with my 4 year old about eating a healthy dinner BEFORE dessert.

I’m not always a stickler for the rules. I’m happy to serve chocolate chip pancakes (GF/CF/SF baby!) for dinner from time to time, but in general, life seems to go easier if I hold strong to limiting sugar and screen time. The trouble comes at times like this- post World Series victory (we let the kids stay up- we’re big Sox fans) post-Halloween, super busy weekend, Daddy traveling all this week. I am exhausted, the kids are a wreck, and it is so tempting to feed them pancakes and bacon in front of the TV and then let Josh play Minecraft til his eyeballs fall out. Except he would. Play until his eyeballs fall out. For days straight until that happened, if I let him. And when I do let him play too much, or when we get out of the good habit of a super healthy, real food menu, the behavior takes a turn from life with normal ( but still a little crazy-in-a-fun-way) kids to I Want To Duct Tape Them To The Walls and Run Away To A Private Island for Three Weeks- and it happens so quickly! I know I am not alone here, so I ask- why do we do it? Why is it so hard to stick to good habits, when they work so well and so easy to just trip and fall right into the bad ones?

I think the answer is right there- the bad habits form from doing what is easy. When I am stressed and busy, it is easy to say yes to screen time so I can focus while the kids are quiet. When we have an especially busy week, or someone is sick, it is easy to serve quick meals, or skip veggies. When I have a lot on my schedule, it is easy to skip working out, and to stay up late to work, while the house is quiet…. But we all know where these things lead. So, I am working on identifying the bad habit red flags and finding ways to make the good habits easier.

What tips can you share? What are the bad habits your family falls into? What good habits would you like to have instead?

– M 🙂

Taking Food Allergies Seriously

I am the mother of children with multiple food allergies. But, we do not have an anaphylactic nut allergy, so… I am grateful for that. Because of this fact, and my thankfulness for it, I am guilty of downplaying the allergies we deal with, much like I did in the first two sentences here. And I am not alone.

Moms like me genuinely feel thankful that we don’t have children with anaphylactic nut allergies, because that is scary as hell! We also don’t want parents, teachers and other kids to make a huge deal out of the food allergies and make our kids feel like freaks. They are normal kids who are pretty happy to eat the food that they CAN eat, 99% of the time. I don’t need people saying “Aaaw, poor little thing, she can’t have the cake?” Right in front of my 4 year old. She didn’t care until she heard that, thank you. She was very happy with the slice I brought for her until she heard that you thought she was missing out! But, I know they mean well. So, I say things like, “it’s really not a big deal. We are so used to it and the kids have plenty of treats. ” (This usually sinks in when the parents see that the cake/cookie/brownie looks delicious.)

The truth is, the allergies are a pain in the ass when you want to go out for dinner, and there are literally two people other than myself and my husband whom I can trust to feed my kids without making them sick, but it really isn’t that tough on a daily basis. We know what they can eat and we like to cook, so it’s not a big deal unless we are going out, and even then, we are used to it.

The problem is…. Unless you make a ridiculously huge deal about the allergies, people believe that it isn’t a big deal. And this is a problem. It is a problem at the park and play dates and soccer games and SCHOOL.

I have had this conversation three times in the last twenty four hours… All three times it was initiated by someone else, so I know I am far from alone here.

This evening, I received a text from one of my best girlfriends, frustrated and angry because her sweet little girl was given wheat pretzels at school even though her gluten allergy is clearly listed on the wall. That 5 year old girl is spending tonight (and the next WEEK, at least!) in pain, with her eye swollen and itchy, her tummy hurting, and her behavior beyond her control. If this had been a life threatening peanut allergy, she would be in the ER or worse. The person at fault would, at the very least, be left feeling tremendously guilty. But in this case, my guess is, it will be brushed off unless my friend completely loses her cool and threatens to pull her child from the school or take legal action if a better plan isn’t put into place. That’s an awful position to be in as a parent.

I try to make things easy and minimize the risks for my kids. My two youngest kids attend a school I love and trust, where they have implemented a rule to benefit my kids and others with allergies- every child must wash their hands when they get to school and after they eat snack and lunch. AND STILL, I do not allow my kids to eat anything that isn’t sent in from our home. Unless I read the ingredients and know how and where it was prepared, it does not pass their lips. You can think I’m crazy/paranoid/over-protective. You can say that my kids need to learn to take responsibility. My reply is this: when people start taking things seriously, I might feel like I can relax a little. The reason I can act calm and in control of this crap is because I AM in control of it, as much as humanly possible, because I have to be. My 8 1/2 year old weighs only 40 pounds- not for lack of eating tons of calories and fat! If he eats something he is allergic to, he will be sick for weeks. If he looses any weight, he could land in the hospital. My 4 year old gets rashes from touching even traces of allergens. Rashes so bad it looks like the skin has been burned off her arms and she needs to have her arms wrapped in gauze before school most days to avoid infection. This is beyond the GI issues and other symptoms.

So, when I smile and say the allergies aren’t a big deal…maybe I’m lying a little. They are a huge deal. They affect the health and lives of my children and require hours of time, effort and energy every day. And, though I am beyond thankful that none of the allergies currently carry the risk of anaphylaxis, I wish people could understand the complicated risks to my kids and so many others.

-M

Gauze, the newest accessory in dance attire.

Gauze, the newest accessory in dance attire.

This week’s dinners

I’m really behind this week- but I’ll post our dinners now, even though it’s Friday. We had meatloaf, honey roasted chicken, chicken soup, steak tips, and lots of raw and roasted veggies. I love chopping a ton of veggies at once and just rotating them through the oven. The house smells yummy and we end up with lots of veggie options. This week I roasted broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, celery root and spaghetti squash. Roasted sweet potatoes are a staple in our house, and carrots and broccoli are popular, but this was the first time I tried roasting celery root and spaghetti squash. The roasted celery root was ok (peeled and sliced, tossed with olive oil and salt before roasting) but I prefer it steamed and puréed with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I am IN LOVE with the spaghetti squash, though. I followed this recipe I love Indian spices! I was out of curry powder, so I used a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for some heat. I ate half of the mini frittatas as soon as they came out of the oven! I think I found a new favorite!

Something that has been super helpful over the last few weeks is weekend cooking! Taking some time and cooking some dishes on the weekend that can be easily reheated on busy weeknights makes it easier to deal with cranky, tired kids. Andy makes this meatloaf that the kids love!

We also make this honey roasted chicken and then use the bones to make soup.

What are your favorite make-ahead recipes and time-saving (or money saving,) tips?

-M 🙂