This is the yummiest salad you’ll ever eat or a close second or third. I swear it is sooooo very good. Since I got the recipe from a cookbook I am not going to reprint it but it essentially contains avocados, marinated artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s), Palm Hearts (Trader Joe’s), Roma tomatoes, prosciutto, black olives, cilantro, lemon juice, and a vinaigrette using white balsamic vinegar. It is heavenly!!!
The recipe hails from one of my fave cookbooks: Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Pack a Lunch! I like all the Trader Joe’s cookbooks in this series because I am also a fan of the store.
I like flipping through the pages and seeing a recipe that incorporates those all too familiar products that I pass by when in the store. I see the steamed/peeled baby beets in the store all the time. Well this cookbook has a recipe for a Beet and Goat Cheese Smoothie using those beets. My hubby likes to get the Almond Butter and Roasted Flaxseed and this book has a scrumptious recipe for Zucchini and Chocolate Milkshake using the nut butter. It takes me outside the box and makes me try new things. Plus the food is yummy. I highly recommend picking up this book and the entire series if you are a Trader Joe’s shopper.
I admire attachment parenting philosophy quite a bit and that is primarily what guided me when my babes were little. I have mentioned in the past though that my endeavor to be a good, attached parent kind of lead me to a place were I was lost, frazzled, and on the verge of a divorce. I felt like I was a slave to my kids every need and only now with more modern books on AP, like Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling am I seeing warnings to make sure that marital and personal relationships as well as career not be sacrificed to the AP Gods. It is really easy to let AP or other similar parenting philosophies turn into permissive parenting with the parents being afraid to be the authority in their own homes.
And yet despite my love of AP, some of my authoritarian upbringing always popped up and it made me feel selfish and guilty. Should I really just be flat out saying no to this request or should I be looking for a compromise that will show that I am respecting my child’s wishes and desires as an individual? Should I be down on the floor playing Legos with my child to show I am a playful parent or is it okay to do what feels right to me…which is require him/her to self entertain (and quietly) so I can enjoy a cup of tea and a phone call with an old friend? I was constantly questioning how instinct was leading me to react/parent/discipline and how I felt I “should” be parenting because this or that book on AP or cooperative parenting said I should.
In hindsight I wish I had just listened to my instincts more. This is not because I think I made mistakes (though I am sure they are many) but rather because I let parenting become my career and my life as a stay at home mom and my self worth became largely wrapped up in that. With two boys on the autism spectrum that is just a recipe for disaster. It was only after my family almost broke in half that I realized that if mama isn’t happy and satisfied in her own personal and professional life…no one is going to be happy.
I decided to make it my goal to take the upcoming year (2011) and devote it to self care. I didn’t ignore my kids or my husband but I carved out time for myself each and every day, sometimes several hours of the day and did stuff just for me. I went to the library, I went to the movies, I got pedicures and manicures, I went to the gym 4-5 days week, I went thrift store shopping, and I refused to take kids with me if I didn’t want to. Heck, I took a solo two-day vacation and have another booked in a couple months. Previously, I always hated it when I heard women say they were trying to find themselves but I understood it perfectly after that year was up. The pre-child me, who had many and varied interests, was back in full force.
Anyway, that was a really long winded intro to telling you about a parenting book I recently read and throughly enjoyed. The book is Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. It was written by Pamela Druckerman, who is an American living in France and raising three kids there. She wrote the book after seeing how much differently American children behave than French Children. While her 18 month old was bouncing off the walls in a French restaurant and making her consider eating at home forever more, the French babies and children were happy and chatty yet largely docile. French parents were not frazzled and stressed, instead they seemed to really enjoy parenting. After finding a study that showed American parents were twice as likely to consider themselves unhappy with child care when compared to French parents Druckerman decided she wanted to know what French parents were doing differently.
I must say that I absolutely loved the book and it gave me so much food for thought. So much about AP and other child centric parenting philosophies, like radical unschooling, lead parents to focus on the needs and wants of their children to the exclusion of everything else. Radical unschooling even boasts the idea that you never say “no ” to your child…you always find a way to say “yes”. Hearing no will kill their spirits or something. French parents also believe that children should be respected and their wishes honored but only in balance with the needs and wishes of everyone else in the household. French parents believe in teaching their children from infancy how to exhibit self control and deal appropriately with frustration and the dreaded “non” or “no”. The reason those French babies and children were not acting up in the restaurant is because they had already had many months or years or training to wait and be “sage” or in control of himself or herself. And rather than being dull and sparkless children you get happy children who also have amazing manners and self control. This is in contrast to the American idea that exerting that kind of influence or restricting our kids in such a way will kill their spirit and crush them emotionally.
The French seem very rigid and structured in many ways and yet they also believe in letting their children devote time to nothing but pleasures and fun. They believe in speaking to their children respectfully and like they would any other adult, even from the time they are infants because they believe that all babies are rational and capable of learning. That aspect is very AP friendly even if some of their other ideas are not (no co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, etc.). In many ways they are AP parents who just never let the the household become child centric in any fashion and parents who are not afraid to be the authority in their homes. And amazingly enough all the French seem to be on the same page with this. The way the French children are parented at home is the same way they are cared for in government run creches (or daycare), which sound amazing BTW. If France is what right-wing Americans have in mind when they talk about socialism, then we need lots and lots more of that evil socialism please!!!
Overall I think the book has a lot of value and the arguments made for stricter households, proper manners, and not becoming a slave to your children are well worth the read. I didn’t agree with everything of course, such as not breastfeeding past 3 months, but most of it I quite heartily agreed with. It was also a true pleasure to read. How many parenting books keep you up at night long past bedtime?? A resounding A++ and I really hope there will a follow up that deals with parenting French teens, since I am one year away from that milestone.
equilibre (eh-key-lee-bruh) – Balance. Not letting any one part of life – including being a parent – overwhelm the other parts.
Our life with autism… I don’t talk about this subject much and that is because it is very uncomfortable for me. It means walking a fine line between sharing my life and sharing too much about my children, who deserve privacy. It also means letting my dirty laundry air, so to speak, and admitting to everyone that our family life isn’t pretty. Hopefully I can tread well with this post and not think I need to go back and edit out various parts. ;)
This past week has been a roller coaster ride of emotion for me. I had a very long chat on the phone with one of the school psychologists who will be working with my youngest son during his transition to Kindergarten this Fall. I will also meet with her and some of the others who will likely be working with him, this morning. I think she wanted to prepare me to hear some difficult things but this has actually been a long time coming. My youngest (6) has been in a special needs preschool program for three years now. He has a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. We have not yet sought that official medical diagnosis but I have known for a very long time what the problem is…autism. With a 12 year old autistic son we know well what it looks like. At any rate the psychologist told me that he would most likely be getting an “educational diagnosis” of autism from the school, so that they could plan his IEP and services accordingly.
I was disheartened to hear that he has actually regressed quite a bit this year and it confirmed what I also noticed. The boy who could count to the mid teens last year is lucky if he can count to five now. His hyperactivity has increased and his ability to follow directions has decreased. His temper flares are getting worse even if his social interaction is getting better. He has many, many challenges to face and they are very different than what our other autistic son faces. It was this “new territory” that has made me want to read up on autism spectrum disorders more.
Both our boys have two very prominent common denominators and #1 is social awkwardness. They do not know how to read social cues, pick up on how others are feeling or reacting to them, or communicate and make friends with other kids easily. This makes them the “weird” kid in school. What comes so natural to many kids, the ability to interact and connect with others, is hellish and frustrating. It also means it is easy for them to be either the bully or the bullied. My oldest has been both. My youngest has also been bullied but so far cannot even recognize that he is being persecuted. They are just THAT out of touch with social situations.
#2 is devotion or obsession with certain hobbies and topics to the exclusion of everything else. With my oldest it might be fishing or paintball. With my youngest it is dinosaurs. These are the only things they want to talk about and can do so for hours, literally, much to the frustration of other kids they come into contact with. Because of issue #1 they never understand that give and take requires them to actually talk about other people’s interests too. It just never occurs to them that others may not like these subjects or not want to listen to a two hour lecture about them. As far as they are concerned the world revolves around them and their interests.
There are also numerous differences in their disorders though. My youngest paces, waking back and forth across rooms constantly, for hours at a stretch. He will pace until he literally collapses in exhaustion. My oldest makes wild hand gestures and clicking sounds. He will also emit high pitched screams out of the blue and for no reason. He is often not even aware that he did it. The 6 year old has to micro manage every detail of his day, picking the exact episode of Team Umizoomi he has to watch and the exact food he must eat and will choose not to eat if you don’t have what he wants. The 12 year old has a fear of crowds and will insist on wearing hooded jackets even in summer so he can “hide” from other people in crowded areas. All of this makes daily life challenging but ironically this is the easy stuff.
Our oldest boy has issues with being violent and abusive. He has ODD as well as autism. We have tried counselors and psychiatrists and we even tried medication for a brief spell. I often tell people it is like living with an abusive spouse only it is your child. I have been tackled to the ground in the past but more frequently I am called every horrible name in the world. Asking this child to do the dishes will result in a 10 minute tirade about how I am too stupid, lazy, and disgusting to do anything for myself. In general he seems to have very misogynistic attitudes about women and his sister is also a victim of his horrible commentary.
On the plus side though this kid is wicked smart. Even at 12 years old he can tinker around with electronics and fix them. He recently fixed the mood lighting in our conversion van. He builds amazing things with blocks and Legos and he is way beyond his grade level in science and math. When he is actually interested in something he is also a very hard worker.
My youngest son is a very lovey dovey and prefers women to men. Although I think he has learned a bit too much from his older sibling of late. His quirks are much more manageable in comparison but I think he will ultimately be considered academically handicapped.
How in the heck do you handle two very difficult boys with very different manifestations of this same disorder????? I liked the 8 guideposts from Raising Resilient Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders:
- Teaching and conveying empathy
- Using empathetic communication and listening actively
- Accepting our children for who they are – conveying unconditional love and setting realistic expectations
- Nurturing islands of competence
- Helping children learn rather than feel deflated by mistakes
- Teaching children to solve problems and make sound decisions
- Disciplining in ways that promote self discipline and self worth
- Developing responsibility, compassion, and social conscious
The book has a lengthy chapter to discuss each and they were incredibly helpful. I struggle with finding ways to show that I accept my boys for who they are without also giving them the impression that I accept certain unsavory behaviors or “tics”. I also struggle with empathy when I am feeling attacked, as I often am.
The only thing I would have liked to see is info on how to become more resilient as a parent because I think that is “key” to dealing with children with these kinds of issues. You have to be in a good mental and physical place yourself in order to devote the kind of energy it requires. Two years ago I literally felt like I was drowning with the stress of being a mom to these two special boys. My husband has always worked over the road, or second/third shifts so I have essentially been single parenting for the majority of the week for years. I had a wake up call that spurred me to join a gym and start taking time away for myself more often. I decided it was time to get a bit selfish and demand time for myself. It was literally the best thing ever. Once I felt better, I coped better and I parented better.
Typically I avoid reading autism books because I think I deal enough with these issues every single day but this book really helped me work through some things in my mind and I would like to find more. Do you have any autism book recommendations for me?
I read a hefty share of travel memoirs every year. I used to travel quite extensively prior to having kids but my pursuit of greener living and also the cost of travel with family has essentially grounded me. Reading travel books is my mental getaway to exotic places where adventure is just around the corner. I especially like to read books about extended travel with families because it is a dream of mine. When I agreed to review Michael Lanza’s book Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, it seemed to be the perfect marriage between my love of travel books and my love of green living books. I also thought it would be good for me to stretch my mental muscles and read about a topic that I tend to stay away from, climate change. It’s not that I don’t think climate change is a serious problem it is just one of those subjects that I don’t know a whole lot about sadly. I tend to stick with issues surrounding the home, food sustainability, and immediate dangers to our health and wellness.
This book was a very important read for me though because it made the issue of climate change very personal and easy to understand. I love to travel and I would love for my kids and I to see all our wondrous National Parks and yet some of them are in very real danger of becoming impassable to hikers and travelers. Climate change is melting the glaciers that make an appearance in some, which not only affects the beauty of these areas it also means less water is making its way down to lower areas. Plants and animal life that rely on this water start to become endangered or extinct. Water sources that hikers need to survive start to dry up, making the area inhospitable. Scenic waterfalls dry up earlier and earlier and may eventually be gone for good. Can you even imagine Yosemite without its grand waterfalls???
The melting glaciers create mud slides and rock slides which make the area too dangerous for hikers and campers. The warmer weather also creates wicked storms the likes of which have rarely been seen before and they happen more and more often. This destroys some of the most scenic areas of the parks and also makes it too dangerous for people to go exploring. Hiking trails that once saw many thousands of hikers each and every year steadily become less grand and less hospitable to all manners of life from humans, to animals, to native plants and trees. The trees are also being devastated by insects that are not being killed off in annual frosts anymore. The pest population is permitted to go crazy and the overwhelmed trees are dying off by the thousands. The are some very real problems facing our parks that get worse and worse each year. Many of the park officials and scientists who have worked in these parks for decades feel that they may be shadows of themselves before long.
This is why Michael Lanza decided that his kids needed to see the most endangered parks NOW and they embarked on the year long adventure contained within the pages of Before They’re Gone. Lanza is a veteran freelance outdoors writer and photographer. He is the northwest editor of Backpacker magazine, where his articles about the impacts of climate change on Montana’s Glacier National Park and other wild lands helped Backpacker win a National Magazine Award. He also runs the website TheBigOutside.
I was invited to participate in the blog tour for his wonderful book and I decided to ask him a few questions about it. His answers are amazing and insightful…a must read for nature lovers! Below is the interview. Enjoy!
1. How did your work as an outdoors writer position you uniquely to see the effects of climate change on our National Parks?
For years, I’ve observed how much natural landscapes are changing. The evidence is recorded on maps, many of which are based on decades-old USGS data. I’ve seen dried, cracked earth in places where my map showed an alpine lake, and new lakes or barren talus in places where my map showed a glacier. I was making an off-trail traverse of the Bailey Range in Olympic National Park one September several years ago and ran into a family (parents with their grown kids in their late teens and early 20s) going in the other direction—the only people we saw out there. As it happened, the father was one of the authors of the Olympic Mountains climbers guide; he knew the mountains very well from decades of hiking and climbing. He pointed to a north-facing mountainside above the lake where we were camped, a slope that had just a few small patches of snow and mostly bare ground, and told me with a tone of disbelief, “I’ve never seen that slope not entirely covered with snow in summer.”
It’s disorienting on a couple of levels when a place does not look like what is shown on your map. I’ve puzzled over my exact location more than once. But then, realizing that I was actually standing where I thought I was standing, I’ve felt sadness and awe, and felt deeply disturbed over the idea that our lifestyles are actually altering the face of the planet. I can’t help but fear where this is leading us.
In April 2007, while researching stories for Backpacker about the impacts of climate change on national parks and wilderness, I skied into the Northern Rockies in Glacier National Park with a leading federal scientist there, Dan Fagre, who was predicting that the glaciers in the park would disappear by 2030. On a return visit to backpack for six days in Glacier in September 2009, I met up with Dan again. He told me they had revised that previous forecast because warming and glacial recession had speeded up faster than anticipated: the projected year for no more glaciers in Glacier National Park was now 2020. I thought, Wow, my kids will be just 19 and 17 then. This is not far off in the future—it’s right around the corner. Changes have been underway for years and are happening quickly, within the lifespans of people.
2. What was your biggest motivator for planning this trip and do you hope to do it again in the future?
Dan Fagre’s revised forecast about Glacier National Park’s glaciers and other research I was doing made me realize that many parks could be very different places by the time Nate and Alex are my age. But we also cleared a big hurdle in 2009 in terms of our ability as a family to make these trips. Our son, Nate, who turned nine that September, had been backpacking with me for a few years. But our daughter, Alex, who was six that summer, showed for the first time that she could handle adult-scale backpacking trips. That summer and early fall, we took a rugged, three-day hike in Grand Teton National Park, and a four-day hike in Zion National Park.
Now that we could take trips like this all together, I started thinking more and more in the fall of 2009 about just cramming in as many trips as we could in a year without the kids missing too much school. As I write in my book’s prologue, it’s easy to get caught up in life and not achieve the goals you set or see the places you want to see. I’ve long believed that you just have to get out and do things, because you never know what’s in store for the future. You can’t wait for opportunity to shake you awake—it’s not going to.
Do I hope to do it again? I’m constantly thinking about the next adventure we can take as a family; in fact, I’m usually planning at least three or four simultaneously, thinking about trips appropriate for their ages and abilities. This summer, as a family we’ll go rock climbing and backpacking or rafting in Idaho, hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and take a nine-day, hut-to-hut trek in Norway. On my tick list for a summer soon: a multi-week Western road trip, a big international trek, and a multi-week backpacking trip on a long trail.
3. After speaking with so many park experts and seeing the effects of climate change yourself, are you pessimistic for the future of our parks or are you optimistic that we can change our current direction?
As I wrote in my book, I choose optimism in part because I think it offers the only hope for the world our kids will inherit. But also, one consistent thread that ran through many of the interviews I did with scientists was the optimism they shared that the parks will always inspire us as much as they did our forefathers who decided to preserve these places. As Dan Fagre told me about Glacier, “It’s still going to be a beautiful park. The notion that it’s being changed ultimately by human activities is something people have to take responsibility for. These are really good things for people to be thinking about.”
I am optimistic that we can change. While there is great resistance to change, there is also great momentum in the right direction. My hope is that increased understanding of what we’re doing to the world our children will inherit, and how our cherished national parks are being affected, will help motivate society to summon the honesty required to do what is necessary and right.
4. What important lesson(s) do you hope that readers of this book will glean from it and what action if any do you hope they will take?
I wrote this book on two levels. On the surface, it’s about my family and the wonderful experiences we shared, which I know have already benefited all of us in many ways—and especially Nate and Alex, because they’re so young. I hope other families will be inspired to take similar adventures that are within their abilities and comfort zones. We too often think our kids can’t do something that’s physically challenging, or we worry that it’s unsafe. Kids are resilient and endlessly curious. Nate and Alex constantly surprise and impress me with how much they can do and how enthusiastic they are about our adventures.
I also hope the deeper message in my book, about climate change, helps motivate people to take action. We aren’t complacent about making sure our kids get a good education or teaching them to make smart, safe decisions. If we’re concerned for their future, we have to be equally engaged in this critical issue of climate. On a personal level, there are many choices we can make to reduce our energy consumption, from walking and biking local errands instead of driving whenever possible, to turning off lights in empty rooms, driving more efficient vehicles, insulating our homes better—there is a wealth of information out there on that subject.
Beyond that, we have to insist that our elected leaders take aggressive action to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels at a societal level. We have to write letters and vote for people who understand how important this is. That’s the kind of change that is really needed to bring emissions down to a level that avoids catastrophic climate change.
The book: Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks
Photo Credit: Michael Lanza
Over the weekend I did very little to celebrate Earth Day. I planned on doing some gardening but alas it was cold and rainy here in Ohio. I ultimately ended up spending the weekend doing laundry, playing Plants vs Zombies in short spurts, and reading library books while in the comfort of my favorite recliner. I also enjoyed hearty crockpot meals. It was a good weekend.
One of the books I read was All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending. I have read tons of books about personal finance and frugality but I feel as though this book had a lot to offer those who (like me) are sick of the same old regurgitated advice over and over again. I think it also managed to challenge my thinking about money in many ways. You see I am a big David Bach fan. He wrote The Automatic Millionaire among many other books and essentially he talks about giving up those small things that add up (like Lattes) in order to save more over the long term and also making your savings automatic so that you never see much of your money, let alone spend it. After reading his book late last year and putting it into practice I managed to sock away I nice chunk of change. My husband’s 401K went from 2% contributions to 12%, a nice sum also started going from his check into our HSA account and my personal IRA. Amazingly we did not miss the money! I also managed to build up a nice emergency fund and contribute to my IRA from my own income. Woot!
Part of my strategy was to give up those small luxuries and divert that cash to savings. I don’t drink lattes though; my “latte” was my Greek yogurt habit and my love of going to the movies. I gave those up and only ended up feeling deprived and grumpy. Then our savings started to dwindle as we approached the cold weather months. Expenses go up for us that time of year and my husband’s work hours get cut due to lack of seasonal business. That time of year it is typical for him to have weeks at a time off and unpaid. When we came out on the other side of that drought I decided that if that daily yogurt and weekly movie made me happy then I should have them. Most of our money was being saved before we ever touched it and from me taking on extra work projects. That $50 a month spent on stuff I love was not a hardship on us. So I decided to put them back in the budget even if they did represent my “latte factor”.
In All the Money in the World the author, Laura Vanderkam, takes on the notion that money CAN buy happiness and she also disagrees with the idea of giving up those small luxuries that make us happy in daily life. She also thinks that by simply making different choices we can have more of those small luxuries. One of the best examples of this idea in her book is that of the $5300 or so spent on diamond engagement rings on average. She gives several examples of how that money could be spent on things that say “I Love You” and will bring happiness to the couple in daily life… such as date nights every Friday, bouquets of flowers once a month for years, etc. I absolutely loved her ideas on how we can make different choices with our money and that those small choices can bring us lots of happier moments in life. Another idea of hers that I loved was the concept of creating a best weekend ever on occasion and giving yourself $200 to execute it. I planned mine out in my head…
Friday night – Sushi bar, a movie, a margarita (with hubby)
Saturday – One of those local food tours I have been dying to try, Jeni’s Ice Cream, a museum (alone)
Sunday – The zoo or botanical gardens with the kids and steaks on the grill for dinner
I love this idea because it would be just as good as a mini vacation or getaway and yet the cost would be so much less. I know we have a hard time saving for the grand vacations we want and ultimately they would probably be as stressful as they are fun but a grand weekend I could do, easily. We can also do grand weekends that revolve around kiddie stuff.
Okay, so how else do you raise money for these small luxuries? In general most financial books advise you to give them up in pursuit of something bigger, like that Disney vacation or a fully funded IRA. This book doesn’t encourage you to raid your retirement fund or defund it. Rather it encourages you to make more money in creative ways. While some might feel that this is too simplistic, this is actually the route I instinctively took when I decided I wanted a bigger savings and bigger retirement account. When I want more, I work more. I do not decide to eat crap food that there are coupons for, cancel my Netflix, or do without my daily yogurt so I can save money. That ends up being pennies in comparison to taking on a few extra projects and bringing in lump sums of cash.
This past month I decided I wanted to pull the trigger and buy the iPad3 I have been wanting. Instead of seeing what money I could free up or save I went with the option of making that money over and above what I usually make. Doing it that way makes me feel better about spending that kind of money ($600) on myself. I ended up doing it actually with an ample amount to spare but made the colossal mistake of telling my husband I had my iPad money. Suddenly I found myself in an argument for why that money would be better spent by tacking it on to his overtime pay and buying a new-used vehicle instead. I will admit that the argument has merit but I still feel deflated about the iPad. :( I have my doubts that my iPad fund will get paid back as he says. Yet if I had gotten that iPad I would be energized and feel like taking on more work to fund the next thing we wanted…I see so much logic in the reasoning found in this book.
I also liked the advice to think about what you do with a $50,000 windfall or what you would change if you had unlimited money. Personally I would buy a hybrid vehicle, get a 3 bedroom house but stay under 1200ish square feet, hire a house cleaner, and arrange to have sitters more often so I can do date night every two weeks. I would also increase my food budget so we could get the cleanest, greenest, organic, and all around most nourishing food we possibly could. That is about it for my wants and I don’t even need to be rich to have all that. Okay, okay I would also like to take a year or two to travel around Europe and Asia.
If you are looking for better ways to use what you have and you like having your ideas about money challenged, this is a good book to read.
So, what do you think? When you need or want more money do you find all the ways you can scrimp and save or do you go looking for “new” money?