Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let Them Eat Broccoli

DISCLAIMER: I am not, do not claim to be, a nutritional expert. Nor, for that matter, do I want to be. It involves numbers, and the words "glycemic index" make me queasy.

My four-year-old loves to eat. Always has. He will eat almost anything. Many a time have I heard other mommy-friends despair that their children "won't eat anything." Meanwhile, they haul out another tray of Tyson chicken nuggets and sigh.

Stephen Sondheim is famous for his way with words, and to quote my favorite show of his, "Careful the things you say; children will listen."

If you let your child know that it is acceptable to eat only cheese, then guess what? That is all your child will eat. Hunger in America is right around the corner from where your "picky eater" is turning her nose up at a plate of noodles because they "aren't the right shape." And there you are, scraping it into the trash and heating up more chicken nuggets. I firmly believe that kids will develop the traits that are acknowledged over and over again. Kids who are labeled "shy" will continue to be shy if their parents constantly refer to (and make excuses for) their "shyness." The same is the case with "picky eaters." 

Here's the thing; if you are reading this, that means you have internet access. Which means you can probably afford it. Which means that your kid is NOT going to starve. If food is offered, and a kid has no other options, and he really is hungry, he will, eventually, eat it. I refuse to cook separate meals for my four-year-old, and it's not because I'm lazy (about that, anyway), but because I think it's irresponsible to raise a child who grows up feeling that it is the world's job to cater to him. And once I've cooked dinner, the kitchen is closed for the night. No pb & j at 8:30. I know; I'm crazy and mean. child eats hummus. He eats edamame. He will eat tuna, brussels sprouts, and black-eyed peas. We can take him to restaurants that do not have menus that you color on and we can always find something on the menu that he will eat. We have NEVER taken a Happy Meal into a restaurant other than McDonald's because that is all our little angel will eat. I'm not going to get on a soapbox about McDonald's...there are plenty of people who can do that for me. I will just say this: I let him choose between a hamburger and nuggets (no, I will not call them "chicken"...God only knows what they are) and then we get milk (WHITE milk) and apples (by the way, since they have started putting apples AND fries in each Happy Meal, you have to specifically ask for ALL apples, and they will give you two little apple baggies). But McDonald's is an occasional treat, not an everyday thing. And sometimes, sure, I let him have Goldfish crackers, which I know are full of sodium. But they're a treat. Not a meal. Which brings me to my next point...

Little kids do not require as much food as adults do. And their stomachs are small. Which is why it is vital that the food they fill up on is the good stuff.

Food marketing makes me furious. Tyson has commercials that feature kids listing the foods they don't like, but "Every kid likes Tyson chicken nuggets!" Cereal companies can fill a box full of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring, but then plaster "Made With Whole Grain!" on the package, and a lot of parents will serve it up to their kids without a second thought. The thing is, they THINK, because of the packaging, that they're doing a good thing.

If you don't know me, and you're reading this, you probably think my kids, or even my husband and I, are thin. We are not. I'm on the heavier side of curvy, and if Husband had boobs, he would be too. (Now, make no mistake about it, I work every pound I carry...just because you're not a size 4 doesn't mean you are not a goddess...which I most certainly am. I have better hair than anyone I know. So there.) And my son, who is 4 years old, weighs 41 pounds. He is 40 inches tall. His round face and Charlie Brown cheeks are hereditary, and though he seems like a big kid...he is perfectly healthy. I don't feed him processed foods, but I don't completely forbid them, either. (Forbidden fruit is indeed the sweetest...especially if that fruit is in Loop form.)

If you DO know me, then you're probably thinking, "Who is she to be preaching nutrition with her fat ass?"

Take a moment to feel shame for being so judgmental.

Because it's not about being thin; it's not about a number on a scale or the shape of your body. It's about how you view food. It is unhealthy to let it rule your life, whether it be through letting your kid eat whatever he wants or by obsessing over every calorie. It's just food. And you should eat what is best for your body, and feed your kids what is best for theirs. 

I think the reason my son is such an adventurous eater is that I never told him he wasn't. I never made a big deal about it. If he doesn't eat his dinner, then that means he isn't hungry. I'm not going to stop serving vegetables (or anything, for that matter) just because he doesn't like them. That is insane. Why? Because I, as an adult, have earned the right to be "the boss." If we did everything the way our children wanted it done, all we would ever eat is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If you have fallen into this trap, I want you to take a deep breath, then let it out and say, "I am in charge."
There. Didn't that feel good? Do it again, louder.
"I am in charge."
Your children cannot drive, nor do they buy the groceries. That's your job.
When I got pregnant with Z, I gained four billion pounds. I don't care; she was healthy, I was healthy...and I wasn't planning on wearing a bikini anytime soon anyway. A lot of pregnant women obsess over their weight, during and after their pregnancies. (Actually, a lot of women do that, pregnant or not.) All I have to say about it is this: if that's all you have to talk about, then you are boring. I joined Weight Watchers, because that's the way I lost weight after I had my son, and I plan to do it again. I don't so much care about my actual size as I do about a pair of jeans that I am particularly fond of and would hate to send to Goodwill. But...that isn't all there is to life. Food cannot be the most important thing. It just can't.

If you offer your kid a vegetable once, and he doesn't like it, don't give up. Keep offering it. Eventually, he will try it, and maybe even like it. But if you keep a constant stream of Goldfish and Froot Loops on hand, don't be surprised when your child is uninterested in the broccoli you're serving.

Read labels. Stand firm. And, for heaven's sake, use some common sense.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Eve...The traditional gift is a heart-shaped box of crow

A lot of people hate Valentine's Day. I do not. Never have. In fact, I love it more than I love Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, and Reformation Sunday all put together. I like pink. I like chocolate. I like flowers. I like receiving presents. I also LOVE giving them. Valentine packages are way more appreciated than Christmas packages...after all, everyone gets Christmas presents. But Valentine's Day is a different kind of beast. There is a clear delineation: the haves and the have-nots. I've always been lucky (picky) and wound up dating and marrying boys who were, for the most part, excellent gift-givers. 

For example:

One year, Super Awesome Guy got the keys to the pizza place where he worked. He took me there after they were closed, and there were candles and flowers, chocolate strawberries, and just us in this empty restaurant. The fact that anyone would do this for anyone is amazing. This man was a freaking treasure, and one of the best friends I have ever had. The relationship didn't work out, and in this case, I can honestly say it was because he really was too good for me. It sounds like a bad line, but really, I this case it was totally true. I don't regret for one second marrying Husband; he's who I was supposed to be with, have babies with, grow old and die with. But what I do regret is treating that Super Awesome Guy the way I did. He deserved better...better treatment and a better girlfriend.

Several Valentine's Days ago, he gave me the coolest night ever. And this year, what I want to offer is an apology. It's long overdue, and if he doesn't accept it, I don't blame him. But I'm sorry. Please be my friend again. Happy Valentine's Day, Super Awesome Guy. I'm sorry I'm so awkward, and so capable of such dumb-assery.

Friday, February 10, 2012

One Million Mean People

 This is the email I sent to the organization One Million Moms after I accidentally wound up on their mailing list. They did not respond, nor did they take me off their mailing list. Sigh. The quest continues.

For the record, anyone who doesn't like Ellen should seek professional help. She's totally lovable. Who are you going to hate on next? Julie Andrews? Come on, people...

To Whom it May Concern:
      Please remove me from your mailing list. You say that you are an organization for Christian mothers, but I see now that this is a hate group based on self-righteousness, closed-mindedness, and exclusion of other world views.
      I don't want to shelter my children from different points of view; instead, I feel that it is my job as a Christian mother to raise them to make choices that reflect our values. If you cover your children's eyes whenever you see something that isn't exactly in line with your shiny, disinfected world view, then your children aren't "good"...they just don't have any other choices. What will they do when they are presented with what the real world (which, though flawed, does exist) has to offer? It is our job to PREPARE them for that, not to protect them from it. As much as we would like to do that forever, we will not always be there to hold our babies' hands.
        Jesus taught us to love ALL people. Not just the ones who are just like us. Pharisees were chastised by Jesus, remember? You know...the people who preached the word of God while refusing to associate with the sinners.Who are you to judge? We are told to love the sinner...not to sweep the sinner under the rug, or to cross to the other side of the street when we see the sinner, or to change the channel when the sinner is on TV. From the boycotts I have seen you support, you are one step away from book burnings and public floggings.
      The emails I have received from your group display an ugliness that I do not want to associate with. Judging others based on their life choices is not a Christian quality. The Bible is pretty clear about that. After all, the Lord's Prayer says "Forgive us our trespasses...AS we forgive those who trespass against us." It does not say "Forgive us our trespasses, even though they're not as bad as the trespasses of THOSE people." I think it's interesting that the Bible is so much more clear about the sins of pride (mentioned 49 times) and self-righteousness (mentioned 79 times) than of homosexuality. While I am not a homosexual, I fully intend to continue to love my children even if they are. I will certainly not suggest to them that they should be ashamed of how they were made, any more than I would keep them hidden away if they were autistic, or had red hair, or wanted a mohawk and a nose ring. Who they are attracted to is such an insignificant trait in the grand scheme of things. I would much rather have a son who was gay than one who was mean-spirited. God loves homosexuals just as much as he loves you. We are all His children. None more so than anyone else.
      I get the impression that your group would have thrown the first stone. And I'm just not like that. I want my church pews to be full of gays. I also want them to be full of liars, adulterers, kindergarten teachers, Republicans, Democrats, artists, accountants, prostitutes, and drug addicts. Because that's where they NEED to be. Churches were not built for people who were perfect; they were built for people who are broken. And we are ALL broken. Every one of us. By continually judging and excluding these huge groups of people, you are not doing your job as a Christian, which is to bring other people to Christ. If you boycott TV shows that show gay people, if you spew hatred at them, they will not want to come to your church. Remember that Jesus broke bread with the tax collectors and stood up for the adulteress. He reached out to the outcasts; He didn't push them further away.
      And since I feel so strongly about this, I will continue to pray that you will be absolved of your hatred. But I no longer want to be associated with your organization.
Erin Schultz

This is the next email I sent, when the first one proved to be ineffective:


Ugh. Other people's stupidity causes me physical pain. 

I'm back, chicas and chicos...

I have two kids now, Sam and Zetta Rose. Zetta was born in November, and she is, as you would expect, the world's most perfect baby. She is gorgeous, a good eater, a good sleeper, and grins the best gummy grins you have ever seen outside a soup kitchen.

People told me that life with two kids is a whole new ball game. I don't care much for ball games, so this was disturbing news. Imagine my delight when it turned out to be nothing like a ball game at all. In fact, it has actually been quite pleasant. She started sleeping through the night at six weeks (go ahead, hate me all you want. I can withstand your glares and return them back to you through my un-puffy, well-rested eyelids), and she pretty much fits perfectly into our little family. I love that about her.

Oh, and her name...a lot of people ask. Zetta was my grandmother's name. No, we're not Portugese. Her dad just liked the name. And, no, it is not ZETA, as in Catherine Zeta Jones. Nor is it Ziti. It is Zetta. ZEH-tuh. Practice saying it now, or in sixteen years, you will all have the same problem we had trying to pronounce "Aguilera" and "Deschenal".

And her middle name is "Rose" because that was the first lead I had in a big musical. And she's a perfect little rosebud. So...there you go.

Husband is doing quite well. He and I are even more disgustingly crazy about each other than before (if it were even possible), and really...I fall more and more in love with that man every day. His beard is quite impressive these days.

We're doing a lot at Easley's Foothills Playhouse. Steve is doing a lot of directing, and he is on the board there now. We've started our own improv group (someone once told me "If you don't like it here, by all means, go start your own theater company! I wish you well!" so I kinda did) which is more of an artists' collective than anything else. We're called Easley Amused, and we operate out of Foothills Playhouse, which kindly lets us use their lovely facility. Every Sunday night at 7, anyone who wants to can come and learn improv from Steve and me. That's it. No strings attached, no fees, no memberships or contracts that you have to sign in blood. We're anti-clique, anti-b.s....just a group of people who want to get together and put on a show. We do an improv show almost every month, and we also do fundraisers (we have done two "Boobapalooza" events for the Komen know...before they went all crazy), two years ago we offered fake ghost tours of downtown Easley, and next weekend   we are doing an improv show along with an new play, "Love Schtories" , by yours truly. I'm giddily excited about it. Because that's our goal: to help artists, actors, directors, techs, give them all more opportunities to develop their craft. If you don't get practice acting, you won't be cast in shows. If you've never directed, you will not be asked to direct a show. So that's why we're here. To help people gain experience, teach them what they need to know, and give them a chance to get better at what they love to do. Everyone is welcome on Sunday nights, whether they want to play or just watch. It's fun. You should check it out. Like us on Facebook. And come to our next show, February 17th and 18th at Easley's Foothills Playhouse. Show starts at 8, admission is $5.

It'll be funny. Promise.