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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Neutral with a Bang - Working Mom Style, week II

Last week, I set out my rules. This week, I'll show you an example & see how I stack up.

This is a simple, feel-good outfit. I wore it Wednesday this week, and it got me "over the hump." The outfit is easy. Shoes & accessories give it interest. I don't consider my daughter an accessory, but I do think I look better with her. :) Anyway, she wanted to be in the picture. Her outfit is adorable too, so take note! (All Kohl's & hand-me-downs)

The Outfit:
  • Kohls -- I figure since I slighted Kohl's last week they deserved center stage this week!
  • Sleeveless brown button-up shirt
  • Tweedy lighter brown skirt
  • Multi-semi-precious stone necklace 
The Red Shoes:
  • Dillards - a definite splurge. And worth it. They're actually more comfortable than they look, thanks to a strap across the top. They add a great splash of color to any outfit. And, boy - do they rake in the compliments. Something like 6 women at work will say, "Oh, you're wearing those shoes I love!" I don't wear them often, but they are a great feel-good item.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Practicing v. Preaching

I like saving money. Therefore, I take a health assessment annually. This earns me $10 off my premium every month! It also earns me a report-card that never quite satisfies me.

This time, I was annoyed at the time. However, I'm looking at it now as an opportunity to improve. No matter how great we are, we all have room for improvement. If not on matters of health, then perhaps elsewhere? 

Well, despite the fact that I provide healthcare, I am not perfect in health. The survey generated four "opportunities for improvement" --
  1. Eat more fruits & vegetables.
  2. Get more exercise.
  3. Better manage stress.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
Honestly, I kind of thought half of it was BS. #1 - I reported 6 servings per day of fruits & vegetables, which I think is good. Sure, it could be better, but you're going to call me out on 6!! #4 - I was a healthy weight last year & have lost weight since; I think I have it under control - thanks. (#2 & #3 - I concede. And I'm working on them.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about whether I practice what I preach. Actually, it got me thinking more, as I've been thinking about it for some time. I  decided  to give myself my own report card.

First, I had to determine what core principles I preach. Then, how well do I practice each. Finally, if I fell short in certain areas, am I improving or actively making plans to improve. See? A report card. It's actually a rather enlightening exercise. I highly recommend it. Here, for your amusement (and perhaps useful information) is my report card:

Consume a Plant-Based Diet
Grade: B
  • Recommendations:
    • Eat "more" fruits & vegetables. Most people fall short of recommended daily servings of fruit & vegetables, so it's pretty safe to just say "more." The exact recommendations obviously vary by person.
    • 2 techniques I suggest are - 1. Filling half your plate with fruits & vegetables. (USDA recently adopted the popular "plate method.") 2. Going "meatless" several times per week.
  • Where I am:
    • In my own judgment, I do eat "enough" fruits & vegetables. However, I could always eat more. I used to eat more in fact.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • I have started to take a vegetarian lunch to work nearly every day. I spoke with my husband, and he's on board to eat less meat for dinners.
    • Obstacles: Meat-based dinners are easy. A little marinade or rub. Pre-heat the oven, or fire-up the grill. Steam some veggies. Done. I have some great go-to veggie sides, but actual vegetarian entrees do not come as easily for me.
Choose Lean Meats & Low-Fat Dairy
Grade: A
  • Recommendations: 
    • Overall, most Americans consume more animal products than they should for optimal health. (Hence my first recommendation.) Most of us, don't want to become vegetarians. When we do choose animal products, we should opt for choices with less saturated fat - lean cuts of meat & low fat dairy.
    • Another important concept is not adding fat during preparation. Ex: breading & frying fish takes away from the health benefits!
  • Where I am:
    • Pretty much awesome in this category. Yes, I occasionally get something fatty when we go out. At home, though, nearly all meals are lean meats. Chicken breast & seafood each make it on the table weekly. Often turkey (breast is best!) and lean cut of pork. I stick with very simple preparations as well.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Continuing to be awesome.
Make at Least Half your Grains Whole
Grade: A-
  • Recommendations:
    • This is a slogan I stole from USDA. Refined grains lose fiber, vitamins & minerals, and protein. And who knows what else, right?
    • Although it would be great to make all your grains whole, it's not a realistic goal for everyone.
  • Where I am:
    • At least half my grains are whole. For the most part, this comes in the form of whole wheat versions of typical foods.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • I'd like to see greater variety in my grain choices. I used to do more bulgar wheat, the occasional quinoa or barley. I need to get back to it.
Limit Discretionary Calories
Grade: D
  • Recommendations: 
    • Exact amounts vary dependent on who's doing the talking and to whom they're talking. I use some education material that recommends 75 calories per day of "discretionary" calories (so called "empty calories," i.e. sweets or alcohol). But it really depends on calorie needs, activity level, and other personal variables.
    • Basically, you need to be able to get all the nutrients you need in a certain number of calories. If you take up those calories on food that doesn't give you anything else, you won't have room for the foods you need.
  • Where I am:
    • Ahem. I'd love to blame my husband & his sweet tooth, but the truth is ... I've always overdone it in this area. I like beer & wine (in moderation, of course!). I love dessert (not always in moderation!). 
    • I do score well on (non-beer & wine) beverage choices, opting for water or sugar-free drinks. We also down-sized our serving cups for frozen yogurt a couple years back. (We nearly always stop at one serving too!)
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Right now, nothing. Honesty is the best policy, right?
    • My health stats are good; I'm happy with my weight; there are other areas for improvement. I'm leaving this one alone for the time being. 
    • If my metabolism ever changes, as I'm sure it will, I'll know right where I can go to cut out 400 or so calories a day.
Move More
Grade: B-
  • Recommendations:
    • Again, it's a pretty safe bet to just tell anyone to exercise "more," as most of us get far less than we should.
    • At a minimum, people should get 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.
    • I further recommend increasing "passive exercise" - taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting, parking farther away than necessary.
  • Where I am:
    • I am the queen of passive exercise. I'm fairly phobic of elevators, so the stairs are my BFF. I get to work so late that I have to park far away!
    • I fall pretty short in the actual exercise department. I take a walk every weekend morning with my daughter and some evenings after dinner. Now that she walks instead of riding in the stroller, the pace is nowhere near moderate! I make it to about 1 yoga class every month.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Getting to yoga classes more often is just not going to happen. (Unless someone wants to give me a space & start-up money, so I can open a studio closer to home!) I used to run, but I realized I didn't like it & was tired of pretending I did. 
    • I'm trying to do better. We got a rowing machine. I've only just discovered podcasts in the past month. A good one makes the time on the rower glide by. I also know about 10,000 stretch & tone moves from years of magazine perusal.
Writing Down SMART Goals
Grade: C
  • Recommendations:
    • In short, SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & timely. I discussed this at length a few months back.
    • I always add that goals should be action-oriented, rather than results-focused. For example, not "I will lose 15 pounds in 3 months." Rather, "over the next 3 months, I'll eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables every day, exercise 30 minutes 3 days per week, and change from whole milk to fat-free."
    • Writing down goals is a proven strategy to improve your chances of accomplishing them.
  • Where I am:
    • I love to-do lists. I do an annual performance evaluation at work, which helps me keep written tabs on my professional goals. I journal about personal/spiritual "stuff." But, the annual health assessment results are the closest I've come to my own written health goals.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Well, I wrote this, right?
    • Yes, I did. But let's get down to brass tacks.
Timeframe: achievement within 2 months
  1. Increase meatless dinners to 3 weekly. Limit meaty lunches to 3 weekly.
  2. Use a non-rice, non-wheat whole grain once weekly.
  3. Increase rower/stretch/tone work-outs to 3 weekly.
  4. Assess progress in 2 months ... just in time for New Years Resolutions.
Now, it is either crazy or very smart to set new health goals right as the holiday season gets started. I guess we'll see. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fun Fall Food, part 2 - Crock-pot Comforts

Enough said?
Let me elaborate: if you don't have one, get one.

I actually love crock-pot meals year-round. A few minutes prep time + a little forward thinking = all day cooking tastes. That's season-less good math! This Summer we all talked about ways to get a home-cooked meal on the table without heating up the whole kitchen. Well, the crock-pot is a great way to do that. But, Fall & Winter are when crock-pots really heat up. It seems most of the recipes just seem right with rosy cheeks!

Sunday, I took about the first 15 minutes of nap time to prep this little beauty:

I poured in 2 cups of chicken broth, then drizzled in 2 tablespoons molasses, a few turns fresh-cracked pepper, a shake of Kosher, a pinch each of fennel seeds & caraway seeds. Whisk away! Then I chopped a head of plain old cabbage into roughly 6 wedges, then half a medium white onion & a small Gala apple. I tossed all those into the crock-pot as I chopped. Finally, I topped all the veggie goodness with a nice lean pork roast. More S&P on top of that, a few more seeds, and just for the heck of it - I studded it with whole cloves. Apparently, it was use-little-used-spice-day at my house.

After that, I sat outside & read my fat, nerdy book till the Munchkin woke up. Then, off we all went to the pumpkin patch!


When we got back, we found this goodness:

I served it with bakery rye bread:

Cabbage is not yet a hit with the Munchkin. It is a bit strong, not to mention the other flavors. (She got green beans for her veggie - Old Faithful!) My husband & I really enjoyed the meal Sunday, as well as leftovers tonight. We didn't actually eat the apples, but they added nice flavor. The cabbage was mouth melty. The whole thing took on a bit of a licorice flavor from the fennel too (& maybe the molasses?). Anyway, it seemed classic but also creative.

So, Florida doesn't seem quite like Fall yet, but I think I'm ready for my kitchen to be! Enjoy! -- Angie


2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons molasses
Pinch each - Fennel seeds & Caraway seeds

1 head green cabbage
1/2 medium white onion
1 small tart apple
2-3 pound lean pork roast
6-10 whole Cloves
Salt & Pepper to taste


Into a large crock-pot:
Whisk together broth, molasses, seeds, S&P.
Chop & add cabbage, onion, apple.
Place pork roast atop veggies; S&P to taste, stud with Cloves.

Set crock-pot to high for 3 hours.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Limitations Don't Limit Style

1. My fashion background: I've always liked clothes, but I never really thought about putting together a wardrobe or about my clothes projecting an image really. Right around the time I got pregnant, I started watching What Not to Wear. At first, it was just a fun distraction. Then I kinda drank the Kool-Aid. I decided that dressing the part was an important part of being a professional. Maternity clothes have come a long way, but it can still be a challenge to look nice while pregnant, let alone professional - at least if you have any qualms about how much money you spend on clothes. But, I took the effort, and I managed. Now that I'm a working mom, it was a matter of incorporating the lessons into a new life.

2. My setting: I am a clinical dietitian at an acute care hospital. Our dress code is on the more conservative end of the "business casual spectrum." All men wear ties, and many a jacket or suit. Women have to wear nylons with skirts or dresses, and closed-toe shoes are required.

3. My finished product:

Not ready for a fashion photo-shoot, but pretty good for the end of a work-day, even post taking my toddler to the doctor!

4. My wardrobe deconstructed:

  • Accessories: Opal necklace (purchased on our honeymoon to Australia); drop-down glass earrings.
  • Multi-color sleeveless top: SteinMart. I actually paid full price. *gasp* - a rarity for me, and yes - I know SteinMart is a discount store.
  • Cardigan: Target (Merona). I actually got this when I was hugely pregnant, but I still love it. It's a nice little pop of color and works with just about anything. I paid less than $5 for it off the clearance rack. I got a lavender one at the same time, and I can't find it; this pains me.
  • Navy pants: Target (Merona). ~$20 - special deal but not off the bargain rack.
  • Shoes: Target (Merona). ~$15 - usually I spend more on shoes for work. I got these for casual use & found them surprisingly comfy.
  • It is shocking  that none of this outfit came from Kohl's. With few exceptions, my entire wardrobe is from Target & Kohl's. I think maybe the socks are from Kohl's.

5. My take-home lessons:

  • Wash'n'wear hair
    • It took me a long time too get here. I started with a pixie about 2 years ago. Not only has my hair gotten longer, but I've finally found a great stylist again. She gives me a great cut, but maybe the best thing about her? - she believes me when I tell her that I'm absolutely not going to style my hair. She tried once to show how easily I could blow it dry. When I came back the next time & immediately confessed that I hadn't done that once, that I'd continued to shower at night & sleep on it - she cut it to work better for that. Oh, sure - it would look awesome if I took the time to straighten it. (... but only for about 15 minutes. This is Florida, you know. Add to the humidity just a little natural wave & about 7000 cowlicks, and you'll excuse me for just going with it.) I know other moms work out a way to style their hair in the morning. I haven't. I kicked myself for it for a little while; now I'm over it.
  • 5-minute face
    • WNTW fans will recognize this nod to Carmindy. I am not a huge make-up person. I don't like how I look with too much on, and I found it frustrating to spend time putting it in the morning, only to have it wear away later. Carmindy's little routine is super-speedy and seems to last the day. I rarely leave the house without it. I mean, it's only 5-minutes - why not toss it on before going out?
    • PS - regular brow waxes matter. If you're not waxing, start. (Unless you're a seriously good plucker.)
  • Layers
    • It seems the problem of office thermostat wars is common. Floridians are also very fond of over-air-conditioning all indoor spaces. It makes for a maddening life in which you are never just right, always too hot or too cold.
    • I also find layers a great way to add versatility to an outfit. Going out later? Or just running some errands? If you can take off your jacket or sweater, you might feel less like you've been in your work clothes all day. (I also find a pair of flip flops in the car goes a long way toward that!)
    • Special  layer - Lab coat - Most allied healthcare staff wear lab coat in our hospital. It's a major determinant in my personal choices. I don't wear shirts with bulky sleeves or overly-complicated fronts. I almost never wear a pull-over sweater. Even if it's the coldest day of the year, I know I'll get hot at some point during the day. The layers pictured are pretty much a year-round deal.
  • Bargains, but with value
    • I used to have a closet bursting with clearance items. If it was cheap & I liked okay, I'd buy it. Now I'm choosier. I want my clothes to actually look nice. I want them to have a little quality. Oh, I still love to find a $5 shirt; I just don't want it to look like a $5 shirt.
    • When you find an item you like, go buy another (or a few more). I now have 4 pairs of those Merona pants in different colors. They're fabulous. They fit trim through the leg but don't restrict my middle!
  • Splurge on shoes
    • I love shoes. There, I said it. I try to fight stereotypes. But I fail here.  But I'm still a bargain hunter in that department. Work shoes are an exception. I am on my feet a good half the work day. I take the stairs, and I have a fair hike from the parking lot & back. I don't mess around with cheap shoes or crazy shoes at work. (Exception to the cheap above.) When I go shoe-shopping, I'm on the look-out for "comfort" shoes that are still cute - some favorite brands: Naturalizer, Aerosole, Nurture. Remember that shoe commercial where the ladies wear pumps & play basketball? Well, that's how I like to feel. I've picked up on the flats trend as well!
  • Easy-care
    • I do not iron. Let me repeat: I DO NOT IRON. I love science for many reasons. Among them is the great variety of wash & wear fabrics that actually look a feel good.
  • Add interest with color, texture, pattern, accessories
    • I used to pretty much have an all black & gray wardrobe. I thought it was an easy way to have everything go together. With my trusty WNTW training, I confidently mix patterns, textures and colors. If you're a novice, start small. Maybe mostly gray & black with a colorful sweater. Are maybe black but with pattern or texture. Before long, you'll be a regular maven.
    • I love accessories. Maybe even more than shoes. For work though, I tend to wear 3 or 4 simple necklaces & earrings. You really can't see much else with the lab coat on. Having a few go-to items that look good with everything saves me from over-thinking in the morning.
Above all? Know who you are. Accept your limitations and work within them. If you don't like to iron or do your hair in the morning, that doesn't mean you have to be frumpy. And have fun! :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vacation Hangover

Routines are a wonderful thing. Getting out of the routine can be wonderful too. Weekends are different than week days. They're a nice break, and that's a routine in itself. Vacations are wonderful too, of course. But it can be very hard to get back into the routine when they're over.

Hence, a rather difficult week so far in our little world.

As previously discussed, I did quite well regarding our eating habits on vacation. But allow me to confess: I did not do so well in other areas. On vacation, it was just simpler (& cozier) to co-sleep with my toddler. If you're 18-months old and wake up in a strange place, in a strange pack'n'play, can mommy expect you to go back to it? Well, this mommy didn't.

This mommy also did not expect the behavior to go back to normal immediately. In fact, I expected at least a week of gradual recovery. We're mid-way through week 1. Calling the recovery "gradual" seems a bit generous.

Sunday night, she slept in her own bed for an hour & a half. Then I shared an upright futon with her all night.

Monday, I asked my husband to fold out the futon! She was home with my parents that day. That night, she extended her solo-sleep to 3 hours, then we got a few hours of sleep together on that blissfully flat futon.

Tuesday, she returned to school. It was her first time back in 12 days. And what a day! Two incident reports - one as the agressor, one the recipient. She actually slept again by herself that night for a few hours, but then woke up & was hysterical for about 2 hours. Poor thing. We finally got a little sleep together.

No real surprise to get another incident report yesterday. Last night though, she actually slept quite well. One brief wake up after an hour down, then just a pat & back to sleep. She then slept till 3 am. I went in & promptly fell asleep holding her in the chair. I woke up at 4:30, laid her down, went back to bed, got all comfy, then (clickity clickity click, harumph) the dog woke her up. Yep.

Well, upon rereading, this does look like gradual improvement. Even if it doesn't feel like it in real time. Maybe by next week we'll be back to normal! Is it even worth it to go on vacation?

Okay - yeah, it probably is. :)
What are your strategies for getting back to a routine after vacation?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Eating Well On-the-Go (or at least better)

Part 1 - Just your every-week eating out

This is not a newsflash: as a general rule, we eat more when we eat out. So ... if you want to lose weight or avoid weight gain, it's a good idea to limit how often you eat out. Many of my posts deal with how to eat at home more often, more easily, more healthfully & more enjoyably.

Yet, I eat out 1-3 times per week. Every weekend, my husband & I take our daughter out once for lunch, usually breakfast on the other day, occasionally a dinner out on Friday. We all enjoy the experiences. My husband & I like being waited on & not having to do dishes. (There. I said it.) On a hot Florida day, it's nice to go into an overly air-conditioned restaurant and just sit. Our daughter loves to stare at new people and make the occasional friend.

Now, 1-3 times weekly is below average according to a recent LivingSocial survey. Still, given that I'm a working mom, it's a good quarter of the meals I share with my daughter. So it is very important to me that I still model and encourage healthy choices at our meals out.


Here are some tricks & tips that have worked for us:

  • Plan ahead
    • Even small chains have their menus online. Often they post nutrition information as well. If not, you likely can find information for a representative item on one of the many calorie counting websites or smart-phone apps.
  • Sharing is caring
    • Our daughter is only 18-months. It's kind of a no-brainer that she doesn't need a kids' meal at this point. Given most restaurant portions, I think it will be a few years before she really does. 
      • At a local BBQ place, we recently ordered 2 dinners, which each came with 2 sides. We gave her a little of each our main dishes and a little of a couple sides. There were still leftovers! 
      • At a local sports bar (watching our Cornhuskers!), I ordered a kids' meal + a cup of chili. She & I split the meal, and I had the chili. It was a perfect amount of food.
  • Veggies first
    • As a general rule at home, we offer our daughter her veggies before we bring out the meat & starch. We find that she eats her veggies much better this way. (It's not a bad idea for adults, by the way!) We've taken to doing the same out to eat. Yes, this requires you to ask the server to do something out of the ordinary. If they look at you funny, dock their tip. (Not really; I used to be a server.) At that local BBQ place? We ordered an extra side of green beans & asked that they come out first. She devoured them. ... So did we; I think they were boiled in butter + a ham hock, but still!
Part 2 - Vacation

There's the eating out we do every week ... then there's Vacation ...

As previously discussed, loved ones can inadvertently sabotage our best eating intentions. Family & friends often express love through food. I have been guilty of this myself. When you only see your extended family once or twice each year like I do, you may find yourself trying to make up for lost time and shove all food traditions into a few days! This does not have to spell disaster for your waistline or the habits you want your child to develop. 

A few simple strategies can help. I did just that on my trip last week with my daughter to visit my family in Nebraska. Actually, they are the same strategies I just gave above. We just need to apply them a little differently. So, here we go again:

  • Plan ahead
    • Think through what you'll be doing throughout the vacation. Decide what's most important to you. Most likely, you'll need to give a little on a thing or two. (Unless you want to drive yourself crazy, not to mention the people you're visiting.) In my case, I knew that our usual "schedule" (3 meals & 2 snacks without grazing in between) might not survive flights, lots of driving, and - oh, yeah - other toddlers. I decided the content mattered more to me. My mom (who arrived in Nebraska ahead of me) helped out by having some of our favorite healthy snacks on hand. I also knew there would be a couple of "party dinners," so on those days, we were especially careful to have healthier breakfasts, lunches & snacks.
  • Sharing is caring
    • In this case, I mean modeling. I will admit to hitting the candy drawer once or twice when my daughter was napping. But for the most part, I did as I preached. A nice side-effect - I ate less junk than I normally do when on vacation! 
  • Veggies first
    • And fruits! Whatever we were eating, I still gave my daughter her veggies first (or fruit at breakfast). Fruit was also often our dessert or our snacks. The one time I felt like a big fail in that department was on our flights back. On the flights out, I managed to have fresh fruit in my carry-on. Somehow that didn't happen on the way back. The 15-month-old across the aisle on our last plane had a Buddy Fruits squeezer-thingy. I just looked them up, and they look like a pretty good option. Sure you lose some fiber, but they are 100% fruit, and probably very unlikely to come out my backpack bruised & worthy only of being tossed in the trash. So ... next time!
Oh ... and did I mention that she also saw where some of her food comes from? :)


What are your strategies for eating well on the go?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A few of my favorite things (about family dinners)

The benefits of family dinner are well-documented. For a good article on a recent comprehensive support see Time at the Table. You can also download the full report.

Here are just a few of the many many things I personally love about our family meals.

Healthier her, healthier us*

Even though I've been a registered dietitian for 6 years, I never felt so strongly about the need to eat well before my daughter was born. ... at least when she's watching! My husband & I are her primary role models for healthy eating & healthy behavior in general. I have no business expecting her to grow up liking vegetables or wanting to be active if she doesn't see me doing likewise. So I make sure she see that!


Time to talk

As fellow parents can surely attest, a great deal of table time is spent talking to the child, talking the child into trying a bite of the veggies, talking the child out of painting with her milk or offering the dog the entire contents of her plate. We also ask her how her day was, what she likes best on the plate, what songs she likes, who her favorite friends at school are & why. She doesn't really answer yet. Unless we ask about which animal Old McDonald has on his farm. In which case, the answer is usually "um ... a pig." At this point, addressing her respectfully & with interest mainly lets her know that we respect her & are interested in her.
My husband & I also do engage in some adult conversation. Obviously, this is important for our own sanity. It is also, perhaps also obviously, important for our daughter to see. She sees parents who care about each others' days, who help each other with preparation & clean up, who say "please" & "thank you" to each other, etc & so forth. My husband typically compliments my cooking, followed by asking her "Mommy's a good cook, isn't she?" To which she responds, "Mmm-hmm!" She not only sees us expressing kind sentiments to each other and to her, she also hears us using correct language.

Quiet time

This is no news flash to anyone: it is easy to get over-stimulated out there. The world is full of sounds, images, and sensations. In the palms of our hands we have access to our emails & the days news. We also give others access to us - everywhere. In our house, the norm is cell phones stay away from the family table.
But the greatest source of peace at the table? There is no TV within view of the kitchen table or dining room table. Our kitchen, dining room & living room are all open to each other. We chose not to put a TV in our living room. I am thrilled with nearly every decision we made in building our home, but this might be the best one. Best intentions notwithstanding, it is all too easy to turn on the tube if there's one in view, and that's the end of conversation! The TV placement has worked its magic outside mealtime too. TV is not on all that much period in our house. Oh, certainly - she knows "Mickey" & "Oso" + "Elmo" & "Caillou" -- and we're getting quite familiar with "Gabba." My husband & I are also SciFi TV junkies, but I know we watch much less than when the TV was in the main living area. I cannot recommend it enough!
(In the photo, we're at the kitchen table; the dining room is behind the sink to the right; the living room to the left. And yes, there is an unmade bed directly behind my daughter's adorable face.)

What about you?

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the benefits of family meals. If you want to learn more, take a look at the links above. I also plan to do a more detailed post about how feeding my daughter has made me a healthier eater.

What do you love about family meals?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bedtime Literary Analyses

Seriously, I can't help myself. When I read to my daughter, I find myself analyzing the books. For example:

Mickey, The Brave Little Tailor - completely sexist. They refer to Princess Minnie as Mickey's "prize" - infuriating. I really need to put that one in the trash.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - A story not only of metamorphosis, but also of balanced lifestyles & diet. He eats all these fruits, then has a binge, then goes back to veggies. Then he has a good rest & emerges transformed & splendid!

BUT - the one that really has my head spinning? The Cat in the Hat -

I've had plenty of opportunity lately to ponder "Hat" & it's inner meanings recently. It has surpassed Cinderella as my daughter's favorite book. (Don't worry, princess people, "Rella" still gets plenty of spin.)

Here's the thing. I'm not sure there is a Cat at all. Or a Thing 1 or Thing 2. There may be a Fish, but I'm not sure he's doing any talking. Have you noticed how he calls the mother "your mother" at first? Then he switches to "our mother" later on? (No? Just me. Fine, whatever. Take my word for it though.)

So, my theory is - the little boy telling the story (Sally's brother?) -- that the Cat & the Fish are his conscience. That he & Sally are Thing 1 and Thing 2, and that they mess up the whole house. What I haven't worked out yet is how they get that mess cleaned up. I mean it's so big & so deep & so tall.

Also, I'm not sure whether this is a sign that my brain is turning to oatmeal or an innovative way to keep my brain from turning to oatmeal. I am sure that it's very good news on a number of levels that there have been no fevers this weekend - back to work in the morning!