Epic Stories: The Adoption Edition

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Today’ epic story deals with how we became a family. To understand it fully, you should is some backstory. Read these first, then you’re ready for the video. I know. I’m demanding of my students, too.

The Decision to Adopt

Lemon Drops Part 1

Lemon Drops Part 2
Lemon Drops Part 3

That’s it! You are now ready to enjoy the movie. Grab some popcorn and maybe some tissues.

30 Every 30: Teaching Kids to Give Their Time

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Last month our family of three drove to a hotel across town. We checked in, grabbed some crayons and stickers, and spent some time making cards for children who are terminally ill. Our four-year-old daughter Lily screwed up her mouth in concentration, shared stickers with her friend, and smiled, knowing she was doing something good. When her work was done she was given a certificate with her name printed on it- a big deal for a little girl.

It was the premier event for 30-every-30. And it was a huge success.

As a Mom, there were so many things about the event and organization that impressed me. The activities were organized, the materials were plentiful, and the kids came first. A staff member came around and spoke with Lily personally. Then she made a record of Lily’s work, including personal notes about what she had done well. The staff member explained that there would be a file for every kid in attendance, with a spread sheet of all her hours throughout her schooling. By the time college applications come around, she’ll have thirteen years of service in an easy-to-read form. And activities have enough variety that there’s something age-appropriate for all.

But the most impressive part of 30-every-30 is the principle: teaching kids to give their time to others in meaningful, consistent ways. And one of the most beautiful parts of it all is that it came from the mind of a child.

I was so excited by 30-every-30 that I reached out to founder Mick Lee, (whose son told her he wanted to help people after hearing a sermon at their church) to learn more.

“I am the single mom of Jax (age 10) and spent the last two years searching for volunteer opportunities in our community. While there are many fantastic nonprofits in the area, I was unable to find many that allowed kids to donate their time or events that could fit into a busy lifestyle. I created 30e30 as a result. The idea is simple: we all have 30Minutes of time to donate Every30Days.

Each month ( or so) we partner with different nonprofits in the area in order to create an event that is developed with kids volunteering in mind and has a focus on family involvement.” -Lee

This month’s event takes place this Saturday, November 23, 2013 at Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Center ~ 70 Parsonage Road, Greenwich CT (203) 618-4200. Volunteers will play Bingo and and make Placemat and Loom Bracelet Creations with the residents. Participants can choose any 30 minutes between 2:00 PM and 3:30 PM.

What a perfect way to celebrate a week devoted to giving thanks. We’ll be there- will you? You can register and learn more at
www.30every30.com

Epic Stories, Episode 1:Dancing with the Fox

I started my day by watching “Coffee Chat,” a video blog. by Hannah Bunker. I was inspired.

This week has been insane. I have so many things I want to get to. Rooms to clean and blogs to write and adventures to go on. But an accident Monday night changed my plans.

I decided the only way I could clear my head was to tell my story. I know it’s something that happens every day. But I’m exhausted. So here it is.

By the way, I mention Hannah’s tshirt sale. Here’s a link to buy a shirt and help her out!

And now….. (Drumroll….) The first episode of “Epic Stories.” Enjoy. 🙂

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On Facebook Arguments (and other ineffective things…)

My guest post was published today on Cheri Speak. Check it out!

GUEST POST: From a Thoroughly Modern Mommmy.

Red #40 Part 2: FAQ

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Last week I posted a blog about food dyes. Specifically, the fact that we have cut them out of our four-year-old’s diet. Since then, I’ve had several questions. I like when people ask questions. It means I might be teaching something. 🙂 So. Here are the five most frequently asked questions regarding food dye and why I hate it. Yes. I’m using the word hate. It’s accurate for the circumstances.

1. Food dye? Really? Are you sure it’s not just the sugar and other processed junk that usually has food dye in it?
Look. I get it. And I thought the exact same thing. Until we really started isolating the problem. Lily can have chocolate and be fine. She can have sugar. She can have processed junk. I’m not saying she has it all the time or that her diet is based off of processed foods. But she has them. Give her food dye, though. Red in particular. And she loses her mind. If you don’t believe me, you can do one of two things. 1. Google “Red #40” and see what comes up. 2. Hang out with Lily for, like, a day. Give her a completely healthy diet. Then, give her one drop of red food coloring. And watch what happens.

Ok that second option is totally not a real option. I’m not putting my kid through torture just because you don’t believe me. Let’s just stick with google.

2. Does food dye have that effect on all kids?
No. Food dye sensitivity is similar to an allergy. It only effects some children. People have noticed that children with food dye sensitivity also have trouble with ADD/ADHD. After watching the change in my daughter, I can’t help but wonder if the dye was the CAUSE of the hyperactivity. Since she’s only four it’s tough to tell. But it’s not all kids. For what it’s worth, though, it’s not exactly great for anyone.

3. Can she have any dyes ever? Or is it OK in moderation?
For a while we cut back. That didn’t help. At all. Then we learned that food dye stays in your body for three days. So it was pretty much just always in her system. And she has a reaction. Every. Single. Time. We treat it as a serious allergy. None. Ever. At all. We have spoken with the adults in her life and she knows she can’t have it. (While we know Red #40 is the very worst culprit we’ve learned that it’s less confusing to ban all artificial colors from her diet.) So. No dyes. Ever.

4. What is it in?
I started to make a list. Then I realized this article explains it better than I can. But the short answer is that if it’s fake and red, beware. Except that it doesn’t even have to be red. *sigh* We’re still learning. It’s in a lot of stuff. Including cosmetics. More on that in part 3.

5. If it’s so awful, why is it in our food?
Dunno. Food dye lobbyists? Really though. They were gonna ban it at one point. And the fruit cocktail people put up a fuss. You can’t make this stuff up. Essentially they use it because it’s cheaper. It’s banned in many parts of the world.

%<#^*+^!##^+!!!!

Sorry, I'm back now. I was banging my head on the table.

So…. What do you do?
Research. Read labels. We're still really new at this, but I have found several alternatives already. And I've realized as I've written this installment that the resources are probably worth of their own entry. So stay tuned for Part 3: I Heart the Kardashians.
No. Really. You'll see 😉

And if you have any great dye-free brands/ tricks/ tips, (or questions!) Please leave them in the comments!

Cincinnati Chili- the right way

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This is the plate of chili I just ate. I had already started when I realized I needed a picture. I know, I know. I don’t put cheese on mine. It’s a two-way with beans and onions. And it is my right to eat it this way.

I’m from Springfield, Ohio. It’s about an hour from Cincinnati. So I grew up cheering for the Reds and eating Cincinnati Chili. When I went away to college in Athens, I found I was outnumbered as a Reds fan. Fortunately there was still Goldstar. I even worked there one summer. But the further I moved from my hometown, the harder it was to find real Cincinnati chili. You can buy it canned. But it’s expensive. And there are recipes online. But they were just never right.

Necessity was the mother of invention. I spent years (literally? Yes.) developing this recipe. Sure, the ingredients are pretty readily available. But I haven’t found another method that turns out as authentic as mine.

*One note before we get started. “Chili” is almost a misnomer. This isn’t something you would eat out of a bowl with a spoon. It’s more of a sauce.

This method needs to be followed fairly precisely. Don’t brown the ground beef first. Seriously. Don’t. I nearby revoke your privileges to use this recipe if you’re planning to brown the ground beef first. And while we’re at it, use ground beef. I’m all for ground turkey in things. I use it all the time. But not in this.

Ready? Here we go.

Ingredients
1 pound extra-lean ground beef (hamburger)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or 1/2 ounce grated unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 cups water
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (16-ounce) package uncooked dried thin spaghetti pasta

Toppings: 1 large onion (chopped), finely shredded cheddar cheese, red beans

Preparation
Note: Do first several steps (combining ingredients) on cold stove.

Put raw hamburger into large skillet or saucepot. Sprinkle garlic and spices on top and crumble together with wooden spoon. Add Worcestershire, cidar vinegar, and water. Bring to boil, uncovered. Stir in tomato paste, return to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Allow sauce to simmer/ reduce/ thicken- uncovered- for 45 minutes, stirring often. The longer it boils, the better it is. I’ll sometimes leave it for ten minutes or so at the end without stirring. It can be pretty greasy, and this helps the grease separate so it’s easily scooped out with a ladle.

While sauce simmers, cook thin spaghetti according to package directions. (Do not overcook, and DO NOT add olive oil.)

Cincinnati Chili is ordered at restaurants in “ways.” Layer each serving according to each person’s taste.

Two-Way: Spaghetti, then chili
Three-Way: Spaghetti, chili, then cheese
Four-Way: Spaghetti, chili, beans OR onions, then cheese
Five-Way: Spaghetti, chili, beans, onions, then cheese

Optional: hot sauce on top

Cincinnati Chili tastes best if the layers remain intact as much as possible. Therefore it’s better to slice your fork through it rather than spin it like spaghetti. It’s also great over hot dogs with cheese and onions.

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Red 40: A Halloween a Horror Story

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There is a monster more terrifying than any I’ve ever seen. Wild-eyed and angry, the monster will scream, punch, kick, spit, and flail with seemingly no provocation. This monster has been known to attack people and break expensive objects. Once her terror has started, the only thing anyone can do is ride it out.

This monster is my four-year-old daughter. And for the past two years or so, we have had no idea what to do.

The really heart-breaking part was that she is so sweet. And so loving. And so polite.

Except when she wasn’t.

And then about a year ago while she was throwing a fit in ballet, another Mom suggested I look at the food dye in her diet. Especially red.

Seriously? Food dye? Not, like, sugar or caffeine or something? Food dye?

There’s no way that’s a thing.

So we basically ignored it. And the gremlin would come out just as if we’d fed her after midnight.

Eventually, we decided to consider the idea. We found fruit snacks without food coloring. And we made sure her juice didn’t have it. And that’s about as far as we took it.

Then one night in September our family went bowling. We had a blast. It was just the three of us and the disco lights were on and we were laughing and having a great time together. And as we bowled, our little sweetheart ate Starbursts. It was a “berry” package. In other words, every single piece had red 40.

We got in the car after an enjoyable evening. And our little gremlin lost it. I mean LOST IT. We both had to get out of the car and lock her in while she screamed and cried and threw herself around. She broke the windshield wipers from banging on the console. Every time we tried to get near her she would hit and spit at us. After 45 minutes or so she broke down and cried while I held her. And we knew something had to change.

Mostly as an experiment, we took all of the food coloring out of her world for a few days.

And she hasn’t had a violent tantrum since. Not one. She’s still four. And she’s still strong-willed. But she’s finally the little girl we always knew she was.

It hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to do a lot of research and we’ve learned how common Red 40 really is. We carry organic lollipops to offer her if someone else has a treat she can’t have. And we try to prepare her for disappointments. She’s attended two birthday parities since we took food dye out of her diet. Both parties featured pretty pink cupcakes. But she didn’t eat them. We’ve decided that Red 40 must have made her feel pretty lousy. Because honestly she doesn’t even fight us for it. She can’t have it. It makes her sick. She doesn’t want it.

Yesterday was Halloween. We were worried. Will she really give up the treats she can’t have? We told her she could trade them in for a present or even different candy. But when we got home, we noticed something shocking. She didn’t have anything with food coloring. She just didn’t take any. Her friends’ bags were filled with Sweet Tarts and gummy bears and a rainbow of treats. Our little girl had chosen chocolate and pretzels. There were three houses- only three- who just handed her candy that had food coloring. And when we got home she handed them to Daddy. Can’t have ‘Em. Doesn’t want ’em. Proud Mommy.

There’s more to this story of course. The fact that it’s only some kids. And what we can give them instead. And I’ll post those things in a follow-up. But for today, I’m happy to sit back and be proud of my dye-free kitty princess.

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