Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "kids"

Skinny Mickey

Posted on Jan 3, 2011 in Featured, Food |

Skinny Mickey

On Christmas Day, one of my dear friends gave his (skinny witch) wife a trip to Disneyland for the first time with their daughter. She cried; heck, I cried. It was strangely romantic and sweet. Immediately we went into planning mode — where to stay, what to do that’s perfect for a 3 1/2 year-old girlie girl, what time of year to go and, like all California mommies do, plan on  how to conquer Disneyland without gaining an ounce. As you all know by now, food is my obsession.

Here’s our quick list of food friendly sneaks, snacks and killer meals at Disneyland for those of us who count every bite. Oh, and a hint: for fun, bring a pedometer — we averaged walking about four miles, and about 1800 calories per day.

1. Fresh food carts are your go-to. On Main Street, and in the back of the park near Dumbo, you’ll find a fresh fruit and veggie cart. Kids are so overwhelmed when they first arrive, it’s great to hit-up this cart on Main Street. Get a pineapple spear, some watermelon or fresh mango and sit on the curb to take in your first minutes. Another tip: don’t stock up on the fruits and veggies here. Instead use it as a resting opportunity. See a fresh fruit cart? Grab an apple and rest your legs. It’s a great way to keep on top of low blood sugar too…

2. Bengal Barbecue. Right outside of  the Indiana Jones ride is the Bengal Barbecue. They’ve got three or four different types of skewers (chicken, beef, shrimp, veggie). This is an awesome heavier snack/late lunch. Just the protein, low fat and food that is made for being on-the-go or on in line. Pass on the pretzels, chips, etc. and just get the skewer. Save the calories for something more fun.

3. World of Color picnic. You have to think ahead for this one, but you’ll be glad you did. The picnic comes when you reserve seats for World of Color (a really good idea with small kids). Munch on your picnic while overlooking all of California Adventure. There are two great options: the European and the Vegetarian. The meals are smallish, but that’s fine, since there are always opportunities to stop and snack on something fun elsewhere.

4. Sweets are a must. I grew up on Disneyland food, and the Carnation ice cream parlor was one of my favorite memories. But my metabolism is not 10-years-old anymore. I always pass the ice cream carts and head to Toon Town where I go to Clarabelle’s frozen yogurt shop. It’s in the little food court toward the back and it’s worth the trek to the back of the park. 20+ fat grams saved — voila.

5. Breakfast is hard at Disneyland. You might have early entry or have a character breakfast booked. Hear the phrase “Character Breakfast’ and know it’s going to be hard to get a super healthy meal, and even harder to pass up  Mickey pancakes. Do ones of these three solid options instead (a) Call Hearthstone restaurant at the Grand Californian and have them pack you a breakfast on the run, or stop in there early for an egg white omelete. (b) Go to LaBrea Bakery at the entrance to the parks. Get a coffee and a yogurt parfait. (c) If you’re going into California Adventure early in the morning, go to Schmoozies, a smoothie bar. They’ve got good selections and it’s a better use of time if you’re racing to get things done before the general public arrives.

6. Refuel at the hearth in the Grand Californian. We found this haven when the kids were about 2-years-old and we still do it every time we go to Disneyland. Go into the lobby of the Grand, park your stroller or your kids next to the giant hearth and tell the kids it’s quiet time. Order a glass of wine from the lovely lobby bar and ask to see the bar menu.

7. Slow down before going to the fireworks. At some point you’re going to crack and need to have a meal that is not on the side of the curb on Main Street and you’ll crave a napkin on your lap. When you do, the Napa Rose is where you’ll find your healthy peace. This is the best find for grownups at Disneyland, bar none. The menu changes seasonally, the service is rad and they are shockingly tolerant  with kidlets considering the high quality environment.

Now all good trips to Disneyland have to come with a splurge. I used my big calorie ticket on the pineapple slushie outside of the Tiki Room, the carnitas burrito at Tortilla Joe’s taqueria in Downtown Disney and on the last day, a piece of fudge on Main Street. It is Disneyland, afterall.

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Bagless Lady

Posted on Jan 3, 2011 in Featured |

Bagless Lady

I’m a bag lady. I am the one, the obnoxious one who doesn’t take plastic bags from any store, ever. I’m proudest in 2010 to be able to say that I’ve been bagless for one year and two days.

It started as a problem: My kids were learning all kinds of ways to help the environment at school and would call me out, “That’s recycling mom!,” or “Oh, that is bad for the mundo, mama.” Dude, a guilt trip from two first graders is hard core. But the issue was that I’d never really been into understanding how to be green. Since Ed Begley, Jr. never came knocking on my door to compost my banana peels and fill my car with rancid vegetable oil, I sort of have missed the boat on how to start being environmentally aware. I was not green, not even that lightest hue of Silver Sage  green they sell at Restoration Hardware.

I tried to be a quick study — composting is not for me. Say maggot and I say run-like-a-motha and call Orkin. I tried turning down the hot water heater in our house but I used double the water trying to get warmed up. I tried to do a clean-up day picking up trash while walking to school and went through a full industrial-size bottle of Purell en route. In the end I decided that I’d have to start small.

On January 1, 2010, I stopped taking plastic bags from stores.

For the next three months, I’d fumble around my handbag looking for enviro bags that I’d gotten only to have to pile my groceries unpacked into the cart, car and eventually home. I learned pretty fast after that. I started carrying a larger handbag to accommodate smaller purchases and had a couple of tiny bags that pop open to be pretty sturdy suckers in my car, glove box, handbag and backpack. That made things much easier.

Then came step two: no plastic bags at all.

This meant replacing baggies –GASP. I ditched the Ziplock in Q3. I’m convinced that quitting smoking must be easier than quitting baggies. What card carrying mommy doesn’t have baggies of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies at-the-ready? We bought reusable sandwich bags and Laptop Lunch boxes. By October we were truly free of plastic bags and full of pride. My kids would excitedly tell the people in checkout stands, “We don’t take plastic, es mal para el mundo.” They were proud of themselves, of me.

I thought a lot about what the next project would be for us — glass tupperware instead of plastic, no products with BPA (we are halfway there)… there are a million things we could be doing. But as the one-year anniversary came near, I decided that our family wasn’t ready for more just yet. In 2011 we’ll continue to improve on being bagless, working to be more efficient at it and adding in things slowly.

We won’t win the greenest house on the block this year, but we’re lightyears from where we were a year ago.

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Celebrate Today

Posted on Nov 14, 2010 in Featured |

Celebrate Today

My children are sleeping deeply tonight — three days of magic will do that to a 7-year-old.

We are home now, back in Silicon Valley where neighbors are milling around on a Sunday afternoon; there’s homework to be done and nothing seems to have changed in 72 hours. Funny. It has for us.

I watched my kids, exhausted, full and happy walking off the airplane after the weekend filled with the kind of emotion that only Disneyland can offer. They seem so carefree now, my boy’s blue Micky Mouse wizard hat casting a shadow on the jetway; my girl’s hair still perfectly in-tact after two days since being coifed by the Bippity-Boppety-Boutique maidens. Even I felt free. Disneyland will never know how much their “Celebrate Today” theme moved me to tears, and how it has  left me inspired to live in the moment — today, and more than ever, tomorrow.

As I type, clothes are in the dryer. In the morning, I will re-board a different flight, this time to The Mayo Clinic in a Hail-Mary type pass to see if the doctors there can help my mom. By now you know the story of my mom…

All through the Disneyland park, you feel the passion of  Celebrate Today. Anything, anyone is worth celebrating. It’s hard to remember that life itself is worth celebrating, especially when life isn’t playing nice. But, inside Disneyland, there is a celebration for everything! A celebration at the extraordinarily lit “it’s a small world,” every 15 minutes when the clock strikes and children of the world dance. Did you ever notice that at Disneyland? The children of the world are dancing, just because.

I watched celebrations of children’s first visit to the Magic Kingdom, an old man’s birthday, an informal family reunion, a marriage, a life beginning, and in one special case we saw this weekend, a life ending. We saw the Make-a-Wish Foundation in action with a massive group of people boarding the Toy Story ride, partying like there was no tomorrow. Why? Because they were Celebrating Today for a child in their family that won’t have many more tomorrows. I asked a cast member on the ride what the impromptu FastPass was about and he told me, “They are Celebrating Today.” Yeah, baby. They are.

Celebration is Disney. My mom celebrated her high school graduation in 1962 with my step-dad at an all-night fete at Disneyland. I celebrated many birthdays here, my grandmother brought my cousins and me here. My mom brought us here just because. My aunt performed here, my father was one of the original Mouseketeers (shhh, don’t tell!). I’ve celebrated summers and winters and random school breaks here at Disneyland. One day, my mom and teenage brother went to Disneyland on a whim, ditching life and celebrating their day. There are so many celebrations of my family life on the streets of Disneyland over the past 50 years.

Disney is celebrating holidays today and every day for the next six weeks. Celebration  is different than decoration. Decoration are designs and wreaths and bulbs. Celebration is the understanding that there is something in the air that enlightens people. We celebrated this weekend — and for us, where the holidays will be uncertain with my mom’s health — it might be the single greatest holiday celebration of our year.

I was not paid for this post, however, my children and I were treated to an extraordinary weekend of holiday magic at Disneyland, courtesy of #Disneylandmoms.

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Organic Until Puberty

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 in iVoices |

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Taking off Training Wheels

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 in Featured, Thing 1, Thing 2 |

Taking off Training Wheels

I taught my kids to ride their bikes on an overcast Saturday morning. It took all of ten minutes to teach them how, and at the bottom of this post, I’ll teach you how. It’s an amazing rite of passage and, for me, one that passed too quickly. I can remember so clearly watching them wobble down the park path, a mix of fear and triumph on their faces — I’m certain my face said the same. I was ready to peel them up off the road and kiss every boo-boo and failed attempt. And, I did.

Now, three years later, my kids can ride up to 15 miles, know road rules, ride in streets and on trails. But with this awesomeness, comes the letting go of being able to kiss it away when they crash, hit a hard bump or get distracted and smash into one-another, falling into an embarrassed heap. The kids fall, pick up their gear, their bikes and one-another. They inspect scrapes, wipe off dirt and get back on their bikes all before I can get to them and offer a mommy kiss. Sometimes I wish we could go back to training wheels.

Here’s my sure-fire way to get a kid off training wheels. Do exactly what I say and your kid will be riding the trails in no time at all. My kid were three turning four when I taught them to ride.

1. Tell them days ahead of time that by Sunday they will be riding without training wheels. Plan a ride together. Drive it, show it to them on a map. It’s a big person ride! Don’t say “if you get off your training wheels” or anything like that, it’s simply something that they *are* going to do with the family this weekend.

2. Remove the pedals. Some bikes require a tool for this and be sure to plan ahead if you need to take the bike to the bike store (If you live in San Jose,Hyland Bikes is the best place in town for this).

3. Lower the seat to the very lowest it can go.

4. Find a park with a slight incline path. This is an important part: Do not try this on a sidewalk. Again, if you live in San Jose, there is a great path near the tennis courts at Bramhall Park. Ideally it is wide with a very slight incline and grass on both sides.

5. Put your kid on the bike and pat their left thigh. Tell your child this is ONE. Pat the right thigh. This is TWO. Ask your child, “Which is one? Which is two?” Have them glide on the bike as you call out “One!” “Two!” They should put their foot down on the leg you are calling out. Have fun with this down the path a bit. If they lean a bit to the left, call out “Two!” to have them lean right. Get it?

6. Glide a few times using One and Two until they are comfortable with it. Slow down the timing of calling out. So call out “One!” then wait a second or two before calling out “Two!” The reason for this is to make sure your child is using the right timing in balancing their bodies and this simulates the amount of time it takes to rotate the legs on the pedals.

7. Put the pedals on. Try not to make a big deal of it. “Great! Now we put the pedals on.” Keep the seat low. Have your child do the One and Two count while just sitting still on the bike. One foot down then the other.

8. Hold onto the back of the seat and the one of the handlebars. Give a good push off and be sure to count outloud, “One!” “Two” as your child needs to balance on each side. If they tip right, call out “One!” to get them to shift balance to the left. You’re almost there.

9. Put the seat up slightly.

10. This is it. Repeat step 8 a few times and your child will be riding. I guarantee it.

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It’s Sunday. I’m Not at Church. Are You?

Posted on Sep 26, 2010 in Family and Friends |

It’s Sunday. I’m Not at Church. Are You?

he Future is Wild is playing from the next room, my spouse is reading the newspaper, I am drinking coffee in my jammies. Later we might go for a hike. It’s Sunday and I’m not at church.

It’s not that I’m adverse to church, or synagogue or any other form of religious faith. It’s that I’m not sure how to steer my family toward a life that includes a faith-based day and uncertain that I have the drive to commit to it for the long haul. I keep telling myself, If one-quarter of Americans can do it, so can I, right?

An ongoing Gallup Poll research study suggests that about 40 percent of Americans attend some kind of religious services, while nearly 10 percent consider themselves faithful but rarely show up for services. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (a dang interesting resource for information) demonstrates that geography and type of faith guide how often people attend religious services and the more urban, the lower the percentage of attendees. Again, I find myself just a statistic.

Recently, the Catholic church has gone on a get-butts-in-seats media blitz asking its faithful to return to regular services.The problem is, ditching Church is not a sin. If it ain’t a sin, I’m pretty certain my spouse would pick watching the Raiders get pummeled over a couple beers than go to Church.

But my issue isn’t faith, my issue is logistics. A mom’s job sucks sometimes. How do I convince my children that getting out of their P.J.s and foregoing homemade pancakes with warm syrup in order to go to church is a good idea? Worse, I’ve got to somehow guilt my spouse into thinking that we are simply going to ruin our children if we don’t go to church; that we alone cannot be moral guides enough, they need to attend services. I guess I could tell her that52 percent of California children attend weekly services. But she might come right back at me with the fact that California ranks in the bottom 20 states when it comes to children attending regular religious services.

Oh man, how am I — as the self-appointed Board of Directors, Faith Inc. of our home — supposed to get my brood to church when I am not sure I’m buying it either? Another cup of coffee sounds pretty fricking good right about now.

I was raised Catholic, attending some form of Mass daily. I didn’t mind it at all. We have a faithful home and I’ve got a tramp-stamp to prove it. But life with kids always seems disjointed between nap and school schedules, sporting events, community events, and friends and family obligations. Suddenly Sunday seems sacred — and not in the church-going sense.

Then again, all of the obligations of life with kids could go away and I still am not sure I have it in me to pull my family out of their comfy Sunday morning to learn more, be taught more, not fidget in their seats more, be good girl/good boy any more. It’s Sunday and mommy thinks it’s time to chill.

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