Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Tales from Crunchy Mama

My Witches Brew (Jambalaya)!
Instead of focusing on all the Halloween candy my children are going to consume (already have consumed!) and all the wrongs of Halloween from a mom who primarily tries to focus on good health, today I am savoring that "sweet joy" (pun intended) my kids have over a holiday I have outgrown.  One of my favorite parts of motherhood is being able to enjoy events and places by watching my kids enjoy through them.  It reminds me of our Disney trips and Christmas mornings.  I've found renewed enjoyment watching my kids captivated and entranced by all the excitement and mystery.

I'm wearing two hats today (actually 3 if you count my witch's hat!).  One- I want my kids to still be healthy and not just bouncing off the walls in excitement over sugar.  I've prepared healthy meals in between the sugar highs and am going to make sure they are bundled up for trick or treating (it's cold and rainy here).

The second hat is the one where I let things go and have fun with WITH them.  This is not always easy for me.  I get wrapped up in my "To Dos", meal preparation, cleaning, working, etc.  Today, we're having fun together and sharing memories.

Despite all the fun, I realized how normal making Halloween "greener".  I cringe at all those individually wrapped candies filling the trash cans (or blowing in the wind while trick or treating), all the chocolate that has been made from exploiting children , and expensive costumes only to be worn once.

Sometimes I am not conscious of the ways I've become accustomed to sustainable choices but here are some I can think of for this holiday:

1.  Second-hand costumes- Nope, I'm not mother of the year with a handmade and sewn outfit for each of my kids.

2.  We are re-gifting candy.  Unopened candy that for some reason makes its way into our house (especially suckers!).  My kids receive candy, I say we can have them later, and then they disappear into a bucket.  Now I have a bucket full of candy.

3.  Tonight's dinner is from the crockpot.  Not only does it use less energy, it makes dinner prep more manageable so I can focus on other activities and preparations, AND it's warm and healthy!

4.  Our kids reuse their little Easter baskets that are little market baskets made with fair labor practices.  I skip the plastic pumpkin and don't just designate the baskets for any holiday.  In fact, we often use it to collect "treasures" when we're on outings.

5.  Pumpkins-Instead of going big on the pumpkins, I've convinced my kids (ok, coerced a little!) that the medium sized pumpkins are the best and whatever one they pick, they have to be able to carry it from the patch to at least the hayride wagon.  Our pumpkins are from an organic farm I worked on (Bertrand Farm) which supports local sustainable agriculture and economy, while also providing us with some delicious pumpkins.  We'll be able to use these pumpkins for lots of recipes, which I've recently become a bit obsessed with since I've been pregnant.

Post Halloween:

1.  After Halloween, my responsible mama hat comes back on.  With the exception of a few favorites, their candy will leave the house.  There are 2 ways I am debating on doing this:
               A. Candy for the Troops- Some dentists collect candy and trade it for a prize or some small dollar  
                    amount.  Then the candy is shipped overseas for our troops. To find out if there is a dentist in
                    your area that participates in this, click here.
              B.  The Halloween Fairy- The kids put their candy out somewhere designated by you, and then in  
                    the morning there is a small gift (game/activity/toy) waiting for them. (I'm personally leaning
                    toward the one for the troops but can see how the fairy one could be fun)

While I think it is a great idea to not just focus on candy for Halloween, I still think this is the essence of the holiday.  When I think of my childhood, I am very fond of our trick or treating and sorting/trading candy after.  I am definitely going to make sure that treats and junk food is not the focus of other upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and so on).  And if you hand out something besides candy this year, cheers to you!

Getting ready to watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown",

Jen   :)

Jen Starks, Owner 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Attachment Parenting: Birthday Parties & Instilling Gratitude

Well, I survived my daughter's 5th birthday party (see last post!).  We all had a great time with only a few minor glitches.  But there were some great memories being made and I know my daughter will remember her 5th birthday with many fond memories.

When I sent out the online invitations, I wanted to stress that gifts were optional. I knew of course that some would want to bring a gift anyhow, but I didn't want to make that a requirement for coming over to play and having fun.

Since I wanted that to be clear, I had also decided that we were going to skip opening any presents during the party.  That was one of the best decisions I think I made for the party for a number of reasons.  First of all (and most importantly), I didn't want anyone to feel badly about not bringing a gift, while my daughter ecstatically opened gifts from other friends.  Secondly, it is REALLY hard to watch someone open a ton of gifts when you arein the 2-5 years old range.  (Yes, she received a lot of gifts, despite my message.)  Thirdly, I didn't want Rita Clare to just rip through her gifts in a craze without really noticing who gave her what, and to also really enjoy or savor each gift.  As a parent, that is really not pleasant to witness in my own child. Finally, I didn't want that to be the focus of the party nor my daughter's primary focus.  

After the party was over, I was faced with another decision.  Do I let her open all her gifts at once or just a few at a time.  My husband just wanted her to get it over at once (especially since my 2 year old had to watch her open all these gifts).  But after opening a few, I realized that I wanted her to try to slow down for her own benefit.  We stopped and actually opened the packaging of the gifts and played with them for awhile together.  Perhaps I'm being too strict or holding back more of the thrill of tearing open gifts.

After the novelty wore out, she was ready for more.  I decided that this was an opportunity for her to learn a kesson in gratitude and patience, so I suggested that we make some "Thank You" cards before we opened more.  At first she wasn't thrilled.  But then once I told her that I would help her and that she was able to use her new markers, crayons, and stickers to decorate them, she was happily on board.

It was a great moment for us while we made these cards together.  I listed off some of the people whose gifts she'd opened and let her pick the card recipient.  She picked out the paper color while I described the gift that this particular person gave her.  In her card, she thought about the gift and that person and then drew them a picture on the front and inside. I wrote Thank You and a little note, while she signed her cute little 5 year old name on the back.  Once it was completed, I put them in an envelope and helped her mail them off.

I personally thought she gained more insight in receiving gifts and the thoughtfulness of each person who came to her birthday to bring her a present.  Funny enough, she still has some gifts sitting on the table waiting to be opened.  She's been able to draw out more of her birthday experience this way, and I have been personally proud of her enthusiasm and willingness to show gratitude to her friends and family.


Jen Starks, Owner 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Self-Imposed High Standards-Part 1

These past couple weeks I have been brainstorming and planning my daughter's 5th birthday party which is happening next Sunday.  Everyday since I started, I have been feeling more and more stressed about its approaching date.  It's clear that I am not a natural party planner.  And the day of the party?  I'm at my peak of stress.  I do this to myself.  It's not so much that I plan too many details or that I go overboard with everything.  It's that I hold myself to extremely high standards of how I think the party should go and as a result, prevents me from getting things ready. Let me know if you can relate to this.

Food for instance.  I typically don't give my kids foods loaded with sugar, avoid highly processed food, try to avoid artificial dyes, and make many things from scratch.  When planning, I try to implement the same level of stringency at the party too.  What's the result?  It's more effort and strain, it's more expensive, and it feels overwhelming.  I also feel this extra pressure to make my daughter's cake.  Not just make a simple cake...but an impressive one. One that people will pin on their board and "oooo" and "ahhh" about.

Well, I had to let that go.  I ordered a cake from my favorite bakery and everyone will probably love it.  It's one thing I don't have to stress over the night before.  Plus, I am awful at baking and decorating cakes.  I felt such a great relief after I hung up the phone from placing my cake order. Instead, I will also be making cupcakes with my daughter the day before and having her cover them with rainbow sprinkles.  She'll be proud and they will look cute next to my cake from the bakery.  That's something she will remember when thinking back on her birthday party.  They have lots of sugar in them and lots of dyes.  I'm letting that internal battle go and refuse to feel guilty (should be my mantra these days!).

The rest of the food has me tripped up too.  Again, it is standards, budget, and trying to make it balanced with healthy and treat option.  Instead of doing a spread of only in season, organic foods and beverages, I am just going to do a few things and try to keep it simple.

Second is decorations.  There will not be cute Etsy placecards, vintage decor, and elaborate decorations throughout our house.  For weeks I have been pouring over Pinterest looking for super creative ideas and have certainly been impressed, even inspired.  In reality, I bought a few decorations based on her theme request and it will be just fine for her.  My kitchen will probably be a mess from getting everything together that day and all the leaves will not be raked from my backyard.  It's the reality and I can either stress about it and work EXTRA hard to make sure these get done, or I can accept it is not as important as feeling happy for my daughter during her birthday party.

I realized this weekend that my daughter could care less about these standards and that I was holding these standards based on internal pressures. I want certain things for my kids for their best health but also feel like I have an image I want to maintain (superficial one, that is!).

Throwing parties, making unique and memorable decorations and cute cut-out foods into cute designs, are just not life-giving for me. I wish they were. Sometimes putting pressure on myself to do better, putting forth more effort, and spending a little more money is completely worth it.  I think the key for me is whether it is life-giving or overwhelming.

When I put these pressures on myself and can't live up to them, I feel a sense of failure, as though this is something I should excel at, especially since I am a stay-at-home mom.  Domesticated activities just don't come naturally to me but I am learning and getting better.  I completely admit this!  Going on adventures, learning about the real world, making meals together, reading books and singing songs? Now we're talkin. :)

Do you hold yourself to high and sometimes unattainable standards?

From a humble undomesticated mom,

Jen Starks, Owner