Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Let Her Eat Cake (And Buy Shoes)

Tuesday, 2:19 PM Eastern Standard Time:

All right, I'm calling it: today is the Worst Day Ever. I'm currently sitting here blasting my Ipod in a futile attempt to drown out the sounds of E singing the alphabet in a Very Loud Voice as he refuses to nap. This, of course, is after spending an hour making every effort to get him to sleep by honest means.

It all started when E fell in the potty this morning. He decided the other day that he no longer wanted to use his potty ring, and instead perches precariously on the toilet while holding onto the sides of the seat. This morning, in his obstinance over going potty in the first place, and then getting wiped, he lost his grip, and in he went. I fished him out, cleaned him up, and we headed out to the gym. At this point, I naively thought this was a small, somewhat amusing bump in what would otherwise be a good day.

After we got home from the gym, I went into the kitchen to prepare a picnic lunch for a playdate in the park. While I was getting lunch together, E got hold of a red Magic Marker and colored all over a number of books AND his bed. After a time out and some Oxi-Clean, we were on our way to the park. Surely, things could only get better - I'd have a chance to talk to the other moms, he'd get a chance to play with other kids and get some energy out, and then we'd head home for naptime.

Not so. We met some friends for a playdate at a free lunchtime concert. It's a weekly event that attracts lots of moms and kids. While all the other children sat contentedly on the blankets eating their picnic lunches, my kid took a sip of milk and was off and running. He trampled over other people's blankets, climbed up the side of a trash can, and then poured his milk all over himself. He had a run in with a magnolia tree that left him with a huge scrape on the side of a his face and the attention of half the crowd as he dissolved into epic tears over the pain. Once recovered from that, he proceeded to knock over a row of chairs set up for the free concert. The last straw was when he spit on the ground. Fearing that the next step would be for him to procure a massive pick-up truck plastered with Confederate flags, I grabbed him and ran for the car. (A Hyundai plastered with Obama stickers.)

It was the sort of day that left me exhausted and filled with doubt. No matter how hard I tried, or what I tried, I couldn't be the parent I wanted to be. At the end of the day, the only logical response was to let E get up from his non-nap, stick him in front of Clifford The Big Red Dog, and hide in the kitchen to consume jalapeno lime tortilla chips and coconut cake while reading The Atlantic. Just as I'd cleaned up the evidence of my disgusting display (two pieces of cake, it was seriously disgusting), reinforcements arrived, in the form of J, home an hour early from work. At which point, I promptly left the house and went shoe shopping.

It was the worst day we've had in a very long time. Now, from the perspective of the Morning After, I can say that even though I messed up and lost my temper and didn't do the best I could, there were still things I did right. Knowing when to step back. Knowing when to call in reinforcements. And knowing that there are some situations where the only thing you can do to keep it together is eat cake and buy shoes, and in those situations, a couple thousand extra calories and 68 bucks is a small price to pay.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Salty and the Sweet

When I go grocery shopping, I am one of those annoying people who stands in front of the display carefully reading the list of ingredients on the label. This started last year when I realized how ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup is. The end result is that you end up consuming far more sweetener than you would choose to in any ordinary circumstances because it's in pretty much everything, including things you wouldn't think of, like bread and pickles. So I started reading labels to find items without it, and have pretty much eliminated it from our day to day diet. I've been feeling pretty good lately about how I feed my family, until I read this article on salt.

I went grocery shopping yesterday morning, and I made it a point to read the labels and check sodium content on all the packaged foods I purchase frequently. It was shocking, disappointing, and quite frankly, infuriating. Two slices of whole wheat bread - 13% of daily recommended amount of sodium. A tiny 6 ounce can of plain tomato sauce - 17% of the sodium RDA in just one quarter of the can. Pancake mix - 18% sodium RDA. I could go on, but the basic point is that I thought I was pretty educated about food and making conscious, well-informed choices about diet, and here I was, unknowingly consuming a huge amount of sodium just through the (very) few packaged and processed foods I buy.

I left the grocery store feeling defeated (and without any tomato sauce or pancake mix). My ongoing efforts to eat a healthy diet and feed E a healthy diet seemed futile, especially considering all the concerns about BPA in food packaging and plastics. I want to feed my kid FOOD, not salt and chemicals. And as much as I love to cook and enjoy fresh foods, I don't want to feel like I need to start making my own bread to avoid excess sodium or canning my own tomatoes to avoid BPA. Because there are so many toxins in our environment we can't avoid, I feel I need to do everything I can to keep our food as healthy as possible, but it's a big job. It takes time and commitment, and it's expensive, but I'll keep plugging away. If that means I have to figure out how to make my own bread, then so be it - I've never been good at compromising, and this is one area where I'm not about to start.

What is an area of life that you refuse to compromise on? What changes have you had to make to avoid compromising in that area, and what areas of life have you been willing to compromise? How do you feel about the quality of our food supply? Do you think I'm crazy and just need to start my own farm?