Worst Parenting Advice

I asked Jason once what the worst piece of parenting/baby advice that he heard before we had Scout was and first he said, “the whole ‘sleep now’ line that everyone repeats.” And that one is really annoying (like I’m some kind of bear that can hibernate through pregnancy in order to be ready for “spring”) but we knew that one wasn’t true. It was so obviously off base that it was easy to shrug off. It didn’t dig itself deeply in to our minds.

So then he said, “It was the idea that someone else’s personal experience has any bearing whatsoever on my experience. What worked for them has no affect on what will work for me.” Well…I was going to say something about buying baby clothes, way to show me up hubby, but you’re absolutely right. Everyone’s kid is different from mine. Everyone I know is a different person from me. Their special combination of kid and parent is going to lead to a totally unique result.

It is incredibly helpful when you’re having a bad day or week or month to be able to commiserate with other parents, to share your frustrations and even to get ideas of what to try, because we can’t think of everything ourselves. But we have to remain humble. Just because you managed to do A, B, and C and make little Jimmy sleep through the night at 5 weeks old does not mean that those things will ever work for anyone else, EVER. Feel free to tell your story and share you ideas, (don’t be surprised if I start to hate you a little) but don’t walk around believing that you have it figured out. And it may be that a few weeks or months down the line you yourself are having to reinvent how you do things.

That is what happened to us. We had a great sleeper, at a very early age. It took no more than half an hour or so to put her down to sleep quietly in our bed and she slept for 5-6 hours at a time (technically that counts as “through the night” for an infant, who knew?) and I thought I was amazing for making it happen. At four months three weeks (two days, 14 hours, 37 minutes) old it all ended. She started fighting sleep, waking more and more often at night, and just generally making me wonder, “what the heck did I do wrong?” I still don’t know how to answer that question, but I suspect it is, “nothing.”

Conversely, just because your friend did A, B, and C and has a great sleeper (or eater, or independent player, or car rider, or whatever your personal struggle is) and you can’t manage to do those things or to make them work for you does NOT mean you are failing or even that you’re doing something wrong. It just means that you’re part of a different parent/kid pair than your friend is. Many couples even find that what works for Dad won’t work for Mom or vice versa. It’s just different chemistry, a different relationship.

Remain humble and be compassionate with yourself.

You are trying your best. You are tired. You are spent. You wonder when this will end, when will it get better? No one knows the answer to that question except to say that it WILL get better. Searching for that day when it will be better will bring more pain than it will comfort. Stay in the moment and try to accept the little wins. When your baby takes a longer than expected nap tell yourself, “that was nice!” but don’t let yourself start thinking, “OK great! Now we’re moving in to a phase where she will nap longer!” or even, “Fantastic! She’ll be in a great mood for the rest of the afternoon after having that long nap!” Both of these projections in to the future are bound to lead to disappointment and a feeling that something is “wrong” when really, she’s just a baby and things will be as they are until she’s ready for things to be different.

Just let go and let things be.

Baby Clothes

I have had a baby for nearly 14 months now and there are few things that I have learned more about than clothes. I thought, before I had her, that baby clothes were pretty straight forward: they come in different sizes, you buy cute stuff, you wash it, you put it in the drawer, when baby arrives you make her not naked. OH but it is SO much more complicated than that. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1. Onzies are pointless. Yes it’s true that, as Lorelei Gilmore would say, “everything looks cute on a onesie,” but those three stupid little snaps just create an extra, unnecessary barrier to the all important diaper. Remember, you’re going to have to get your baby in and out of these clothes a approximately a million times a day so you need easy access.

Plus, that long tab of fabric that hangs down past the diaper after you’ve opened it up is just BEGGING to get smeared with poo while you change a dirty diaper. So then you’ll find yourself changing the whole outfit in no time.

I thought that since I was having a winter baby the way to go was to buy long sleeve onzies, but to me these have become as irritating as the short sleeve sweater (if it’s cold enough for a sweater, don’t you also need sleeves?) because they don’t cover your baby’s legs. So then you have to put on pants too, creating yet another barrier to the diaper, and also making your baby look, as my sister says, like a little old man. It’s not a good look, and it really isn’t convenient.

Lesson: Don’t buy onesies. I know they’re cute, I know they’ll call to you when you’re full of pregnancy hormones or full of excitement over someone else’s pregnancy hormones, and spending way too much time in the baby department of Target, but just don’t do it.

2. Structured Pants are just mean. Oh man are those little Gap jeans adorable, but again, you have to remember about that diaper. You’re not going to want to bother with unzipping that tiny zipper and shimmying those tight fitting jeans down over that big fluffy butt a million times a day. And if you do one day decide that you want to doll your little one up by stuffing him or her in to a pair of structured pants you’ll just feel like a big meany when you see him or her sitting there with the top of the pants pointing straight in to that soft, squishy little baby belly. You’ll have all too vivid recollections of how bad you felt about yourself as you sat there in the car or at your desk wearing pants that you can’t quite admit you no longer fit in to and you’ll have to take your little one out of those mean jeans.

Lesson: Just buy leggings. They’re by far the easiest and most comfortable option for both parents and babies. They come in lots of cute colors and you can even buy ones that look like jeans. Save the purchase of structured pants for when kids are older, say out of diapers. I know a lot of people love tights and those seem like a pretty good option as well. Leg warmers are by far the easiest thing on the market since you don’t even have to take them off to change a diaper.

3. Everyone will give you clothes. No matter how many other things you need or ask for, everyone at your baby shower or who gives gifts around the time of the birth, will give you clothes (especially if you have a girl). Which means that you’re bound to get some of the above “not recommended” items. I know that any gift is generous and to be appreciated, but sometime people will spend a lot of money on things that you just don’t need and that always makes me feel sad. I know that most of my friends don’t have a lot extra and I hate to think that a little of that “extra” went to buying something for me that I am not able to use.

I have not really found a way around this problem. I think on the recipients end just be grateful, and deeply thankful that they wanted to join in your joy, and remember that it is FUN to shop for baby clothes (think back to all those hours you’re spending in the baby section these days) and so probably the gift giver enjoyed getting to shop for you even if the item didn’t end up being useful to you. For those on giving end, if you do want to give clothes, just include a receipt. Don’t take it personally, you have no idea whether this is the first pink onesie your friend has received or the 20th so just include the receipt in case the parents decide to exchange it for something they are more able to use. Better yet, before you shop, ask mom or dad what things they are still in need of. Having a baby is expensive and if you’re generous enough to want to contribute, more than likely the parents will have a pretty clear idea of how you could best help.

OK more thoughts on clothes and the REAL baby necessities next time.

What did you find most/least useful when your baby was new?

First Sentence?

It figures this is what she would say. I have fought most of my life against my terrible sweet tooth (many days I don’t fight at all) and now I’m afraid I may have passed it on to my daughter. She signs quite a few words these days and some of them with an extra level of enthusiasm. So a few mornings ago she was sitting in her high chair having just eaten breakfast. There were no sweets in sight, I swear. It is possible that I was thinking with longing about the fact that, just the night before, Jason, my mom, and I had eaten through all of the chocolate chip cookies that I’d made…but surely she doesn’t have ESP?

Regardless of the reason, for the very first time in her little life she put two signs together to create a sentence:

“More cookies.”

And she said it again and again, “more cookies, more cookies.” Jason laughed and said, “I agree with her! Chapel, make more cookies!” And of course I laughed too and was amazed to see the cognitive leap that this seemed to represent.

But what have I done to her?! Did I really already turn her in to a little sugar addict? I didn’t think I’d given her much…maybe cookie meant something else to her in that moment. Well, whatever it meant, I obliged. I made more cookies and Jason and I have been eating them like popcorn. But I haven’t offered any more cookies to Scout. We’ll stick with crackers for now.

Reimagining our Blog

OK so it has been a while since we posted anything and much has happened in our lives. The main thing being our little one that we have nicknamed, Scout. She is nearly 14 months old and has seriously complicated, enriched, and amazed our lives. So this blog that was once intended to be about vegetarianism and relationships now will expand to being about vegetarianism, family, natural parenting, and everything in between.

I hope someone enjoys it.

~Chapel

Tofurkey Hunting

It was a long and harrowing journey up to Salt Lake City this weekend to wrangle ourselves a Tofurkey, but we were successful. In fact we caught two of the sly creatures. We bought a Tofurkey Feast and a standard Tofurkey Roast from the Whole Foods in Sugarhouse to prepare ouselves for the upcoming holiday. The feast had only just landed after its yearly migration and we were the first to land one. We were very greatful for this as we would otherwise have missed out on the lovely Tofurkey Wishbone. A tragedy like no other.

It looks like we will have company for the gigantic Thanksgiving feast that we’re planning. Our friend Larry and his kids will likely be joining us. They’re big meat eaters and we’ve told them to bring a turkey dish if they want to, but we won’t be making any meat. This is no disappointment to me. I’ve never been much of a turkey eater. Now if you suggested that we skip the mashed sweet potatoes, we’d have to have a little discussion.

I am a little worried though about how these kids who are very used to and comfortable with their highly traditional and (please don’t be offended Larry!) boring cuisine, are going to react to our food. I think that we’re pretty good by now at making vegan food palatable for non-vegans, but this will be a real test by very harsh critics.

I’m attempting my first ever apple pie this year. One of our lovely friends sent us a new Vegan Baking cookbook as a wedding gift and it has a great looking recipe for classic apple pie done the vegan way. I can’t wait to try it out. I think I’ll also make some bread, possibly not vegan now that I know there will be others around to eat it. My mom’s challah was always one of my favorites so I’m thinking I’ll give that a shot too.

Jason is planning to handle the tofurkeys, a new green bean cassorole recipe, sweet potatoes, and I think a stuffed acorn squash recipe that I found. This is our first big holiday as a married couple and making a Thanksgiving feast is kind of a big married life milestone. We’ll be sure to give you updates as we work!

Wedding Cake

I know that posts about our wedding might feel a little dated now, but there were a lot of interesting food issues that came up while we were planning and although I didn’t have the time to write about them then, I still think they’d be relevant and helpful to people now. So we’ll do a few “flash back” posts.

Jason and I got engaged nearly a year ago on the day after Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. We were there with his family for Thanksgiving. Only an hour after we came home and announced our engagement to his family and started making the calls to everyone else, some people started asking me when and where the wedding would be. This question might have been a little premature (I’m not “that girl” after all), but in all honesty I did know where I wanted to have the wedding. I’d known where I wanted to have it since I was about 13 years old and although I still wanted Jason to have plenty of input in the planning process, I was pretty sure that we’d be going to Mackinac Island, Michigan.

This “back-in-time” island with no cars and lots of fudge shops in Northern Michigan seemed like the perfect place for a wedding. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that the first people I contacted about having a wedding on the island were bakeries. There are only two on the island and cake is very important to me after all. My first job when I was 15 was working at a place that hosted weddings and one of my favorite memories was eating the left over and mis-cut pieces of cake. I had been thinking about how my wedding cake would taste for a long time.

I emailed the bakeries a short note explaining that we needed a vegan cake and what that meant. Within a couple of days I was turned down flat by both bakeries. One of them told me that she didn’t have any idea how to make a cake without sugar or flour. I wrote back telling her that that was fine, but just so she knows, sugar and flour actually are vegan. I had explained what she’d have to leave out and I understand that trying to bake without eggs is intimidating for many, but where she got the idea that she had to leave out sugar and flour I just don’t know. However, we really didn’t need to be paying a prime rate for someone who’d never baked a vegan cake before.

When we got the second “no” she had a suggestion for what we could do instead. “I can bake a beautiful cake for the rest of your guests,” she wrote, “and then you can bring a smaller cake from your favorite vegan bakery and set it next to the big cake.” Real nice. This is the GROOM after all, not just some random guest. So we’ll all eat a big beautiful cake and say to him, “here Jason, you can eat this little stupid cake.” A good image for starting married life.

While I didn’t have any desire to argue with these people or try to convince them to try something that I do all the time without much trouble, I admit that I was discouraged. I knew that it was impractical to think that I would have time to do the cake myself, and Mackinac is a good 7 hour drive and a ferry ride from my mother’s house so I couldn’t see how we’d be able to get a different cake up there either.

I began to see my dream of having a wedding on Mackinac disappearing. After all, if we couldn’t find a place to make us a cake, what hope would we have for a caterer for the reception? For a place to host the rehearsal dinner? This road block felt like it was going to be too much to overcome and representative of other problems.

It’s Hard Out Here for a Vegan

Ahhh the Holiday Season. There are few things I like better than getting together with friends and family over food. Add to that Christmas lights and gourds, maybe a lightly falling snow in the background, and I’m a happy camper. But it can be really hard to go to parties with my Vegan. If we’re going to a house not owned by a vegetarian, which we usually are, there likely won’t be anything for him. This will leave him hungry, which will mean a less than great evening for me, and the hosts will undoubtedly end up feeling guilty, but won’t really be able to do anything while catering to the rest of the guests. It’s a lose, lose, lose situation.

So I’ve found the best solution to be to bring something with us. The ideal dish is something that is fun to share, that will feel like a good compliment to the party, but also has some protein and bulk to it so that if there is nothing else, Jason’s stomach won’t be growling.

My favorite thing that I’ve come to rely on is my Curry Cream Cheese Spread. It fulfills all of these qualities by being festive looking, makes plenty to share, will fill you up, and won’t be spotted as a “weird vegan dish” by out meat eater hosts and fellow guests. It’s the perfect party dish and here I share it with you:

Curry Cream Cheese Spread

16 oz. Cream Cheese (softened) either dairy or non-dairy
3 tsp Curry Powder (more or less to taste)
9 oz Mango Chutney
1 Cup Dry Roasted Peanuts (chopped)
1 Cup Cilantro (chopped)
1 Cup Green Onions (chopped)
½ Cup Coconut
Crackers (Ritz work well)

  1. Choose a medium sized platter (dinner plate sized or slightly larger) to create the multi-layered spread on. A platter with a ½ inch or so lip is handy because you’ll be able to put saran wrap over the dip for storage of left overs.
  2. Chop the peanuts, cilantro, and green onions.
  3. On the platter, mix together the cream cheese and curry with a spoon until they are thoroughly blended.
  4. Smooth the cream cheese mixture over the surface of the platter in an even layer.
  5. Spread the mango chutney evenly on top of the cream cheese.
  6. Sprinkle the peanuts on top of the chutney in an even layer. Then repeat with the cilantro, then the green onions, then the coconut.
  7. It can be served immediately although can also benefit from having a few hours to a day for the flavors to blend. Serve the spread with a couple of butter or cheese knives and a bowl of crackers. Enjoy!
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