Monday, June 21, 2010

Fast Food is NOT Cheaper!

The most disturbing segment on "Food, Inc." was not the cows standing knee-deep in their own manure. It wasn't the scientist engineering the next prepackaged chemical-laden Frankenfood. It wasn't even the chickens who couldn't walk because they got fat so fast their internal organs couldn't keep up. No, I think the most disturbing segment... the one that has been on my mind since my family watched the film with me last night, was the interview with the family who could afford to feed their children burgers and soda but not pears or broccoli.

Why does this disturb me? Because it seems to me the problem was not that they couldn't afford fresh produce. The problem was that they either didn't know how to cook, or they were incapable of planning ahead for meals that they might not have time to cook after work.

The scenario began with this family of four driving through a fast food place. They ordered at least four burgers and a chicken sandwich off the dollar menu, plus two dollar Sprites and a large Dr. Pepper. Their total came to around nine dollars with tax. The mom claimed that this food filled them up the fullest for the price... but they couldn't purchase two pears for a dollar? Hmmmm.
This really bothered me. The older daughter was in a health advocacy group for teens because she was worried about her father's diabetes and the potential for her sister to contract early onset diabetes. What this girl and her family needs is to learn how to cook healthy meals ahead and plan for an entire week at a time

So tonight I though I'd price out our dinner to see if burgers and sodas really were the cheaper alternative. Put my menu where my mouth is, so to speak. Tonight I made a huge chef's salad, French bread from the grocery's bakery, a little organic butter.... and because we had extra kids at the last minute... penne pasta with a little butter, olive oil, garlic, and some chopped herbs from our garden.

Here's the rundown:

Romaine (two heads) $0.40 (they were on sale five for a dollar at Kroger)
1/2 English Cuke- $0.50
1/2 Organic tomato- $0.50
3 Organic free range eggs (boiled) $0.75
1 cup chick peas-$0.50
1 organic carrot (shredded)- $0.10
1 tbsp parmesan cheese- $0.25
1/4 cup Ranch dressing- @$0.50

1/2 loaf French bread- $0.50
butter for bread (brushed on lightly)- $0.25

1/2 package organic penne- $0.75
butter and oil- $0.75
chopped garlic- small pennies
herbs- pennies (from my garden)
salt- almost nothing

Ice Cold water- nothing (unless you count the % of your water bill)

TOTAL: $5.75

Wait a minute!? Did I just claim to feed six people for under six dollars??? Yes, I did. Even if I underestimated the cost of a few of the ingredients, I still fed two more people a much healthier meal for LESS THAN burgers and soda!!!! And, one child had a second plate of salad and my hub had so much on his plate he couldn't finish. Not to mention that there's a plate of pasta and two slices of bread waiting in the fridge for an after-swim snack.

So, the bottom line here is education. People need to be taught how to prepare food ahead of time to meet their time constraints and their bodies' health needs! I know it's tough to go up against these giant corporations who have stolen our food sources and stripped away the health of American citizens... the only place to hit them is in their pocket-book. And the way to start is to learn how to cook, to teach someone how to cook, and to educate communites like Jamie Oliver tried to do with his Food Revolution.

...Oh, and if the excuse is that your kids won't eat the healthier stuff... let them go hungry for a day and see what they will eat! Since when did children get to dictate the dinner menu? Now honestly, my kids have never starved. But if they don't think they will like something that is being served, they are directed to take a "no thank you bite." Do you know how many of our favorite meals have started with a "no thank you bite?" The other route past your childrens' picky taste buds is through the kitchen! If they love to cook, they will love to taste! Today my son was up and cooking (from a kids cookbook) before I even gave him a good morning hug! The outcome? A plate of deviled eggs that were devoured as an afternoon snack!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hormonal Overload... and Glee

Did you ever have one of those days where all you wanna do is lay on the couch and watch every episode of Glee on Hulu chronologically backward from the newest to oldest, cry no less than twelve times, and bake a batch of cookies and eat the batter off the beaters while nursing a headache with coffee and Bayer aspirin? Hmmmm, okay. Against those of you who think that I am in the unlikely .05% of people who get pregnant after their partner's vasectomy or a likely candidate for immaculate conception (see a recent FB post), I am not making a very good case.

Today I was supposed to weed the garden, finish the laundry, take some stuff to the post office, get a photo cake made for my son's class party, go to Home Depot and buy wood chips for around the front bushes, lay the wood chips, press my son's dance costume for dress rehearsal tonight, and then take a shower if I have time. Instead, I watched every episode of Glee on Hulu chronologically backward while nursing a headache, crying, and sucking cookie dough. What the h*ll is wrong with me?

I have a couple of theories. One, the headache got it all started. Thought I'd take my loving husband's advice and lay down for a while. But laying down for a while is boring. So checking my brain out while watching a little musical drama was enticing. THEN, when I tried to get on Hulu I discovered my Internet was down and I had to call AT&T. You can imagine what that did to my headache issue.

I ended up taking my frustration out on the kitchen, scouring counters and dishes until it sparkled. Then, feeling a small sense of accomplishment, I popped to Extra Strength Bayer and headed back to the couch where the latest Glee was cued and ready to go. Feet up, tissues ready, I was thrown into the totally improbable and completely soul-wrenching world of misfits with voices and heart! But after the newest episode, I couldn't go on without unearthing what happened before they lost at regionals and Quinn had her baby and gave it up to Rachel's real mom, and so on and so on. I even watched on my laptop while I made cookies (and licked the batter). Did all of this help my headache. In short: Nope.

So, if I'm not in the .05% or the modern day housewife version of the Virgin Mary, why this four-episodes-of-glee-blubbering-cookie-dough-eating-nonproductive afternoon?

Theory number two: I am anticipating the end of the school year, and I am uncomfortable with transitions. Hmmm, could be. This last few weeks have been incredibly hectic. My excercise routine has been totally off (I mean, as in "not happening"), bedtime is crazy, there are events every day of the week including the weekends and I am feeling totally swamped. While I am desperately looking forward to Thursday when the kids will ride the bus home for the last time, perhaps subconsciously I am soaking up every last minute of quietude in my recently more-hectic-than-usual home. That's plausible. We'll run with that one.

Whatever the case may be, I have one hour left before picking the kids up and rushing one of them to dress rehearsal with a pressed costume, snacks, and entertainment (none of which is prepared). Maybe we'll have to make time for the shower now, and worry about the rest of the stuff later. ;)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day Seven?

I think this is the seventh day of the Consequence Contract, which has incidentally been the best form of discipline I have EVER used with my son. Aside from that very first day, I have had absolutely ZERO complaints and have enjoyed a full week of the relative serenity provided by the banning of electronic devices and the temper roller-coaster that often accompanies them.

In the meantime, I have issued two mini-contracts, one to each of my children, for slightly more minor infractions of our moral code of conduct. On the same day, my beautiful little girl got a contract which defined the terms of a one-day grounding for persistent teasing (something that I absolutely can no longer tolerate), while my son got almost the same contract as his sister for infractions that don't really need to be mentioned here. The outcome was that they both got home from school, read and signed a contract, and stayed in the house and back yard playing only together (and with mom and dad) until bed time. This was the first understanding of the fact that they could, indeed, earn another contract while still working through the duration of an existing consquence.

Hence, a new "culture" in our home has begun. In fact, my daughter told me the other day that her brother, quote "needs a contract" for something he said to her. I decided then and there that I like this rather peaceful and democratic system. Okay, so this bring us to this morning and the two mini-contracts that are sitting patiently on our kitchen counter waiting to be read.

Surprisingly, they are not for Chailyn and Kayden! They are for Chailyn and... his mom! This morning he and I had a run-in over something (the details of which are inconsequential). He began to race around the room, avoiding my beckoning, and then started to slap and flail a bit. Instead of quieting my mind, walking away, counting to ten, I grabbed his arm to hold him still... and yes, raised my voice (not too harshly), and dealt with it in a less-than-democratic-and-peaceful way. NOT a good way to start the day.

So off the children went to school, but before the big yellow bus even got out of our subdivision, I was writing a joint contract. Chailyn has to write a 3x5 card about how he could better deal with a similar situation in the future. My consquence? Left blank... to be discussed with, and written by... Chailyn.

I want him to also have the benefit of this tool that seems to be working well for me. Now of course, I won't let him abuse it (or me). I want him to think about how it made him feel when I lost my temper, and think about what might be a logical consquence for me.

But just as in the rest of this giant experiment called parenting, it's all trial and error... and we only hope that we make more correct hypotheses than not. Here's another one of my dad's sayings: "Do something, even if it's wrong!" What he meant was, instead of living life passively, doing nothing to make positive change, take a stab at it! If you get it right, great! If not, learn from your mistake and press on.

I want my kids to know that I make mistakes, that I am human. However, I also want to instill in them a sense of responsibility for their actions. Even if what I did was a mistake, I still OWN it. It was MY mistake. Once they learn that, it will be easier for them to apologize, forgive, and be forgiven. To live free of guilt and to try new things without fear of being bound by failure. Wow, if they can truly internalize those qualities, they will live a very happy life... and that's all we really want for our children, right?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day Two of the Consequence Contract

Day Two: Today was the morning of the second day of the Consequence Contract served upon my son by the Supreme Court of Bryceland. The Consequence Contract stated that all electronic gaming will be suspended for the duration of sixteen days (until the last day of school), and that each and any incidence of non-compliance with this contract will earn the offender an additional day to its duration. Any and all complaints must be submitted in writing. Verbal complaints will add 1/2 day to the duration of the contract. Signed by all parties involved (mom, dad, Chailyn) and dated. No fuss. No muss. Just the law.

Why such a severe (according to the offender) consequence? Because, I am absolutely done with the disrespect that I am being shown nearly every time my son is on or near a computer or Nintendo game (especially if it's... god forbid... time to get off). I also see my son crying, getting angry, frustrated, and out of control when he can't get to the next level, when something's not downloading fast enough, or when the screen freezes. Or when someone wants to... ehem... speak to him while he's happily and busily engaged in cyberworld. He turns from an energetically competitve penguin who is throwing snowballs or catching fish (Club Penguin) or block man building new cities, to a child worthy of Supernanny at the drop of a hat... or let's say, the click of a mouse.

So yesterday, my mom's last morning here, he had a meltdown after I kindly asked him to sit in the living room while playing his Nintendo DS. I asked him to move because I couldn't stand hearing his crying/whimpering/lipcurling frustration at whatever it was that was causing him such angst in Pokeworld. Why was he playing this in the morning, you ask? Well, we decided we'd give him an hour a day a little while back. He could decide when to take the hour. I actually like when he chose morning for part of the time because when he got home from school he would more likely use his time to play with friends outside. This morning, that wasn't working out so well. When I asked him to move he had a fit, crying and saying "no." He finally moved when I gave him a "strike." Three strikes and the game is mine for the day.

Then we had another, rather public, incident at the bus stop where he told me "no" repeatedly when I asked him to go over by the tree and calm down after he had an episode with his sister regarding places in line. I think he screamed loud enough to wake every sleepin'-in slacker within a two mile radius. When the big yellow bus rolled up to the stop, I gave my son a hug, told him I loved him, and watched him wave goodbye. His tears rolled down his cheeks as he peered at me through the bus window, waving a very very sorry hand.

It suddenly hit me like a wayward frisbee to the back of the head... My children saying "no" to me is the most disrespectful thing EVER. Not only that, it could lead to a relationship where I do not have control... a dangerous relationship where my children, as they become teenagers, feel they can constantly throw the frisbee at the back of my head. Well, I was going to have to either learn how to play frisbee or confiscate it. (Seriously, I'm not sure if this analogy makes any sense, but just run with it.)

I walked home from the bus stop and wrote up a contract. A very very specific contract. I called my husband and gave him the details, and he supported me 100%. When everyone got home I simply told my son that there was something on the table for him to read and sign. I left to take Kayden to dance, and when I returned he had signed it... "Not truly yours, Chailyn Bryce." Good enough for me. At some point during our very quiet evening, he said that the contract wasn't fair, that two days without screens would be fair, and proceeded to climb under some pillows and wail and lash about when we tried to talk rationally to him. We calmly reminded him about the non-compliance clause, and filled in +1/2 day on the space allocated on the bottom of the page. He then asked if we could go to the library.

The rest of the evening seemed as pleasant as you can get with one kid doing dance rehearsal and mom headed off to a meeting. And aside from being very very tired this morning from having stayed up very late reading, our second day is going well.

I just read an article on a friend's Facbook page regarding a shift in the culture of our youth as a result of living in a techno-world... it claimed that younger generations are becoming less empathetic and more narcissistic. I will now be documenting how this "screen-free" two weeks affects the relationships within our family and my son's outlook on life.

Wish me luck. Oh, and if my son comes over to your house, please put away your iPhone tic-tac-toe app, and log off of World of Warcraft... he will breach his contract just for watching you play.