How to Not Build a Closet (Or, as Babble Titled it, Do We Unconsciously Pressure Our Kids to Grow Up Straight?)

I’m honored to be published again on Babble.com. This is an important topic and I’m anxious to hear about your thoughts and experiences, so please read, share and post in the comments!

❤M

 

Thick, creamy, dreamy, chocolatey HOT COCOA recipe!

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? I know I do. Living in New England, hot cocoa, hot apple cider, fabulous coffee, all necessities of life.

I see first hand how many people love good hot chocolate. I have owned a coffee shop for almost 19 years and hot and frozen cocoa have been one of our most popular drinks since we opened. We add three different types of chocolate, hand steam the milk (if hot) with our espresso machine and stir it by hand. Our cocoa is so much better than the cheap kind you get out of a machine with hot chocolatey water.

Introduce my kids with food allergies and hot cocoa is no longer so simple. Chocolate is mostly off limits for my family. Our allergist told us to avoid chocolate since most of it is made on the same equipment as tree nuts.

I always feel bad that my children can’t join other children at the skating rink to gather for hot cocoa. Same thing after sledding or at the movies or wherever hot cocoa is generally served. I give them something special when we get home, of course, but I know it’s not the same.

A few years ago, I started making my own nut safe hot cocoa and it is DELICIOUS! So good, I had to share.

Whether you can have nuts or not, this recipe is a much higher quality cocoa then just opening a packet and boiling water. It is cheaper to make too. If allergies are not an issue, you can purchase any type of cocoa powder, as long as it is decent chocolate.

I usually cook by eye, but I did measure yesterday while making hot cocoa for the kids. I have been snowed in for a few days/weeks/months, who knows at this point!

You will need:
(To serve four people)
4 cups of milk (whatever kind you like)
1.5 cups of really good cocoa powder, can vary to taste (I use Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder)

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

1 cup of yummy chocolate chips,chunks, chocolate bars-whatever you like. (I recommend Enjoy Life because it is yummy and nut safe)

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract ( I use Neilsen-Massey)

2 tablespoons of sugar (more or less to taste) (I recommend Sugar in the Raw pictured, it is nut safe)

Sugar in the raw!

Sugar in the raw!

Whipped cream and marshmallows are optional (kind of 😉 )

Cant get any simpler.
Put all ingredients together in a sauce pan or pot and heat up. I like to use a whisk to stir because the powder can get a little clumpy.

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

I usually keep the flame on simmer because I like the milk to heat up slowly to let the actual chocolate melt and the cocoa powder dissolve.

Love my whisk!!

Love my whisk!!

The results are thick, creamy, perfectly chocolatey hot cocoa, better than what you find in the packet!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

These cups have hidden marshmallows under the whipped cream, but the kids wouldn’t let me get a better picture because they needed to get their icy cold hands on them after building snow forts for the past few hours!

My Daughter Asks Why ‘American Idol’ Contestants Are Judged on Their Looks

It is Saturday night, so I let the kids stay up a little later. We were all kind of lazy and didn’t feel like playing a game so we thought we might watch a movie. It was past 8:30 and too late to start a movie, so I decided to check out the DVR to see what we had waiting for us.

We had a few American Idol shows recorded and none watched. Although American Idol is a great family friendly show, it is rated PG and makes me cringe…a lot. Not sure why most shows have to go over the line with swearing and topics (spoke of virginity with one of the guests on the show we watched tonight) and lots of bleeps and hell, and “fricken” (hate that word). I don’t need my 7 year old walking into school Monday saying this “fricken sucks” because he heard it on tv!

Back to our night- we have a nice fire in the fireplace, snuggled in our pjs and warm blankets watching the audition shows of American Idol. I keep hearing my 9 year old daughter saying something under her breath. I didn’t know what she was saying and kind of ignored her because it is nearly impossible to watch anything with four kids, two dogs, two loud gerbils running on wheels and my guinea pig squealing for attention. Everyone talks, or jokes, or laughs and I CAN’T HEAR the show. So I ignored her. A few times.

Microphone American Idol post

Finally I hear her crystal clear saying “why do the judges keep mentioning what they look like?”. I pause the show and ask her what she is talking about. She is seriously angry that the judges keep talking about contestants’ smiles, hair, legs, body, booties, total package and looks over all. “Why does it matter what these people look like when this is a singing competition?”

Oh, how I love to hear this. I must be doing something right. I have worked SO HARD to not mention how unhappy I am with my looks. I have been overweight since the sperm hit the egg with kid number one and that was 13 years ago. I got bigger with each one and now cannot lose it. I want to complain all of the time. But I don’t- Ever. We don’t say the word fat. We don’t say ugly, I don’t discuss size or weight. I never speak badly about myself or anybody else. When the conversation starts to head in that direction with others, I try and steer it in a healthier direction.

We do speak of eating healthy, bathing, brushing and flossing, why I wear makeup, why women shave and men don’t in the United States. We do speak of strong, healthy, talented people. We speak of following your dreams and not being afraid to try new things. We focus on the positive and eliminate negativity where ever possible.

I did hear her speak negatively about herself once. With a friend, she said something about not liking her hair. After the friend left I asked her about it. She told me she really does like her hair but all of the girls say negative things about themselves so she tried to think of something she could say and her hair was all she could think of. We spoke about lying, being negative and not being true to yourself. I haven’t heard anything like that again.

Who knows what the future holds, but her strong opinion tonight made me feel so good about how she feels now. She was disgusted that these judges were paying attention to the way people looked instead of just focusing on how they sound. She really understands that judging people based on looks doesn’t make any sense. It is such a simple concept, isn’t it? A singing contest should have fabulous singers. Now, how do we tell the judges?!

*Image used is from Shutterstock.com

That little negative voice in my head…. NaBloPoMo day 4

Daily challenge question: Have you ever tried to break a habit and failed? What made it so difficult to break?

This was a tough question to answer. It stumped me for a few days. I am usually pretty good about breaking habits. I have had some bad ones but have dumped them along the way. How is it that I can’t think of one bad habit I have had but failed? I am so far from perfect, why is this so difficult?

Then it struck me. I am far from perfect, that is what I said to myself over and over again. Then I started to listen to that little voice speaking to me. It never has anything good to say. NEVER. I consider myself a pretty self confident person. I am not all that thrilled with my appearance at the moment but over all I am happy and optimistic.

Then there is that voice. Right now it is telling me this blog post is stupid and makes no sense. It is also saying that I should be cleaning (my house is a mess). It is also telling me I have too much work to catch up on then to sit here and write. It also just reminded me of my laundry, and how I didn’t call my mom back, or visit my mother in law today like I planned. I also didn’t eat healthy enough today. According to this voice, I am a major failure.

Unfortunately I think this little voice begins for a lot of girls when they are relatively young. We are taught to hate ourselves, not sure how it happens but it does. I hear young girls all of the time stating how much they hate their hair, ears, nose, eye color, thighs, belly, height, weight, etc…. It is so wrong but so prevalent. I felt that way about myself for a very long time. Obviously that voice is still there so it is a hard habit to break.

Thank goodness I don’t listen to this voice very much. Or maybe I do listen too much and it is this voice that pushes me to constantly try and better myself.

I think this negative voice is the habit I can’t break. I am trying to incorporate meditation daily in my life. I am trying to quiet that voice and replace it with the positive. This past September I had the honor of attending a Hayhouse weekend seminar called “I Can Do It”, with Wayne Dyer as one of the headliners. It was amazing! Over and over I heard stories about being positive and attracting better things into your life. I have incorporated a lot of what I learned that weekend into my life and have a very long list of books to read that were recommended.

I do not put myself down in front of my children, never have. I am constantly explaining how believing in yourself is how to live. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Whether-you-think-you
Now that I have really thought about this and put it in writing, I have a feeling that little negative voice will soon be a thing of my past.

So Often, It’s the Little Things (NaBloPoMo, Day 2)

Today’s NaBloPoMo Prompt: Talk about a surprise that made you happy.

I tend to lean towards happiness, in general. I just feel like it takes more energy to be unhappy, so it doesn’t take a lot to make me smile and I don’t need grand gestures to feel loved. (But grand gestures are always fun and welcome!)

One afternoon last spring, while I was on the phone (with my Dad?) my son quietly got my attention by showing me a note or a small drawing he was working on. I had just seen him zooming around the house, so I remember being slightly puzzled. He had a little sparkle in his eye and I could see he wanted my attention, so I followed- at some point, getting off the phone. It turned out that he had arranged a series of post-it notes around the house, each one hinting at the next in true scavenger hunt style. The exciting (read “very quick”) hunt around the house ended with a beautiful little love note, written inside a pen-drawn heart, which he had hung from the ceiling using a piece of pink ribbon, by standing on my bed. It was the sweetest surprise and his little sister copies his adorable idea from time to time. Not yet fully understanding the way one hint should lead to the next, her post-its usually just list the next location and don’t end with anything hanging from the ceiling, but it always brings back the burst of love and happiness I felt when her big brother surprised me. So often, it’s the littlest things that bring the most joy. ❤

Life is full of firsts….

Josh's RainbowFirsts are so much fun when you have a baby. First smile, first time rolling over, first belly laugh, first steps, first day of pre-school.

We keep records of these. They go down in our pediatricians files to make sure kids are on the right track. Now with social media, we share them with friends and family, far and wide. Sometimes, we even prepare, searching Pinterest for creative signs for kids to hold- think first lost tooth, first day of 3rd grade- so cute!

Sometimes, firsts are not so great. On July 7, 2014 my very dear friend, Melissa Kaye, lost her 8 year old son, Josh, after a 13 day fight against E-Coli. Since then, she has experienced a whole new series of firsts. Heart-wrenching, can’t breathe firsts. He died in July, his birthday was in August, his first day of fourth grade would have been in September, first Halloween without Josh in October, first Thanksgiving in November, and the upcoming holiday season. Every day without him is an unimaginable first.

Our children were friends and went to the same school, where they arranged for a grief counselor come and speak. She was wonderful. She spoke about the different ways our children may grieve, and what we should look for and how to react. It helped.

Something the grief counselor said that night stuck with me. She mentioned that a lot of parents lose friends after losing a child. Their friends are usually parents who have children the same age as the child who died. The parents of the living child often have survivor’s guilt and that is beyond uncomfortable. But to lose your friends in addition to your child is just not right.

I can see why this happens. It is definitely easier to avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable than to face them. This is a first for me. To witness my close friend’s loss, the loss of a child I knew well, but I have faced those feelings head on with my friend, her husband and her daughters. I am there for them regardless of how heart-wrenching life can be for them with all of these new firsts.

The first few months after Josh passed, I felt as though I didn’t deserve to be happy. Why should I get to enjoy my children when this wonderful, loving family cannot enjoy their son? Everything I did, I felt guilty about. It is such a desperately low, dark, and painful place to be. The loss of a child is just unthinkable- unacceptable. But time goes on and the days keep on coming even if you aren’t ready for them. I wanted to rewind time. These raw, emotional days happened over the summer, when I was surrounded by my own four children all of the time. I have never been as grateful for them as I was this past summer. I felt as if I was living in slow motion and really started to see life as it should be. I spent the extra time reading bed time stories. I paid attention to sunsets and rainbows, and really listened. I allowed myself to cry in front of my children and accepted hugs.

I don’t ever want to experience anything like this again. However, I have been shown just how beautiful life can be, even in the midst of the ugliest thing I have ever experienced. I cherish each and every moment I get with my children, even if I am yelling at them (which still happens more frequently than I care to admit). I take stock of all the good in my life a few times per day now. I count my blessings and the Kaye family is one of them. I am a changed woman, for the better. Josh’s death is still unthinkable for me; I don’t understand it. I do understand that the small bullshit things that used to bother me just don’t matter anymore. It may sound cliche to tell you to try and be more present with your life and give hugs when you can, but I have to say it anyway.

The Orange Rhino’s Book is OUT!

A frequent guest and contributor to our radio show, Sheila McCraith has stepped out from behind her secret identity as The Orange Rhino to share her fabulous book, Yell Less, Love More. Sheila is an everyday mom who is just trying to do her best, like all of us. When she was stunned by an aha moment, she decided to share it with the world via her blog. Now, she shares more- and it’s AWESOME!

Order now:

Sheila is hosting a book club and it starts today!  Check it out!

Yell Less, LOVE More

6 Reasons I Love That My Kids Watch My Little Pony

Last year, when my son discovered My Little Pony on TV and sat with his sister, staring starry eyed at the screen, mesmerized, my husband was less than thrilled. We both have a pretty low tolerance for crappy kids shows, and he assumed that MLP fell into that category. I’ll be honest (as always)- at first glance, it seems like fluff. The big eyed, sickeningly sweet-voiced, dramatic cartoon would not have gotten approval from me had I not overheard an episode while shooting off an email.

This show has more substance than pretty pastels! Each episode seeks to leave their little viewers a bit wiser and empowered than they were a half hour earlier. These feisty little fillies focus on big ideas and they hammer home their messages in a way that resonates with kids.

6 Lessons To Be Learned from My Little Ponies:

My Little Ponies!

My Little Ponies!

Acceptance/Embracing Differences
Self confidence
The importance of Honesty
Compassion
Problem solving
True, Supportive Friendship

So, as much as I like to minimize TV time (and I prefer PBS), I have to admit that I’m a fan of My Little Ponies.

 

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)

No More Bullies!

Bullying is a hot topic right now in just about every community across the country. We have always had bullies, but it seems to be a much bigger issue now than ever before.  Even if your child is lucky enough not to be bullied, every child deals with meanness at some point.  A good friend of mine is struggling through this issue with her little ones right now, so I thought I’d find some good resources to help.

 

I LOVE this list of  ten ways to bully-proof your child!

Bullying stinks!

Bullying stinks!

I remember watching Arthur with my 15 years old when she was little. What a great show! You can still find books from that series and online episodes including episodes dealing with friendship and bullying.

And here’s a great list of books for kids to help them tackle the topic!

 

I hope your children experience childhood without any bullying, but it’s a good idea to be prepared and empower our kids to handle these tough situations.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

-M 🙂