Gratitude: Can we teach our kids to be grateful?

So, yesterday was Thanksgiving and it was freezing in the city so we skipped the parade (a family tradition which I haven’t fully carried out), and headed up to the county house. Instead, I started my morning with a Gratitude Yoga class at a local studio up here (loved), and we all went to Oma’s  house in the afternoon.

gratitude thanksgivingAria loved the turkey & Opa’s famous stuffing, and although she realized it was a holiday, and was cute with her well-rehersed “gobble, gobble,” I’m not quite sure she fully grasps the concept of gratitude. There are often times when I talk to her about how lucky she is, how lucky we both our– for our life and all the good people and stuff it’s filled with.  I can see the little wheels turning in her head when I talk about it all, but I’m not sure she fully grasps gratitude (yet).

So, the big question is, “Can we teach our kids to be grateful?”

And, I know the answer is yes. Of course, in part that comes with good parenting, and the choices we make for our kids. I know for myself I have to stop giving her so much sometimes (of the material sort that is)– for too many “favorite” stuffed animals and toys have already fallen to the bottom of the toy basket, never to be heard from again. But ultimately, I also know the biggest way  that I can teach gratitude is not by saying or doing anything, but by being grateful myself.

Gratitude is something that I’ve been trying to put at the forefront more and more. Day to day, I try to consciously live in a place where I appreciate all that I have, and not worry about what I don’t– to trust that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment and be thankful for that place and everything in it.

Now, for me this is sometimes tough.  My perfectionist, success-driven nature often combats gratitude by always wanting better and more. But as much as I want Aria to see her mom as strong and driven, I want more for her to see me as happy and grateful. Because in the end, I know that living in gratitude brings happiness, and, ultimately, isn’t being happy what we all really want most?  I know for me it is, and (more importantly) it’s what I want most in life for Aria.

So today, I say Happy Thanksgiving (again).  Here’s to being grateful, every day.

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Squeeze Em’s: Reusable Food Pouches

squeeze em's pouch

All  babies and toddlers seem to love the baby food pouches you can now buy on just about any supermarket shelf, but let’s face it, the little suckers can get expensive, not to mention that I’m not always thrilled with what some brands contain. However, the ease and mess-free feeding that comes along with them, can now also be had with Squeeze Em’s.

I was always a make-my-own baby food kind of mom, and with Squeeze Em’s any homemade mixtures can easily be made into a fun food pouch (or you can also easily get more economical and fill your own pouches with apple sauce, etc, versus paying much more for the pre-packaged). Aria loves the fun of the pouch and I love that more food ends up in her mouth (versus all over her and everything else)!

At first I was skeptical that the Squeeze Em’s would last, but with multiple washes they are still in great shape.  Also, the wide mouth allows you to easily pour your food in, and the locking tops make them super easy to travel with. They are BPA free and environmentally friendly, and you can even throw them in the dishwasher or freezer. I only wish I had discovered them sooner (when I was pureeing like crazy).  Definitely worth checking out.

Preschool In the City : The Parent Visit

So, I just got out of our first preschool visit. That’s part one of two in the interview process for my 2 year old (for next year). Yes, if you’re not from NYC you probably don’t realize how big of a production this whole preschool thing is. It’s almost as bad as my college application process, and the price tag of some are almost just as much (no, I’m not even kidding).

To be honest, I am the slacker mom who has only (as of yet) applied to one school despite all the preschool chatter on the playground and the fact that Aria’s dad brought me home a book of NYC preschools to research (hint hint). I’ve used the excuse that we may not even be here next year (we discuss moving to the “country” house full time (no, no), and I’ve had a bit of a hard stance against the ridiculous process and price tag (my own silent revolt by not applying).

However, after this parent visit today, my resistance started to give way. My harshness about it all softened just a bit. The school was lovely. A place I would love Aria to be. One filled with creativity and experiential learning, one that is nurturing and loving while still fostering structure and independence. I was truly impressed.

barrow st preschool

I won’t tell you the name (right now), but it’s of the most coveted in the West Village, and now I can see why. It’s a great space with warm teachers, a philosophy in line with mine, and a beautiful space complete with a rooftop garden/playground and indoor tri-cycle track. Sigh.

It’s a hard thing now that I’ve gotten hooked in. It’s made me have to consider the fact that sometimes processes and price tags (no matter if insane) may have (some) merit.  We’ll see. For now, I guess I should be applying to others whose deadlines I haven’t already missed. After all, don’t we all want to give our kids the best things in life? The best start?

We have a second interview with Aria for this school in January, and while I know they will fall in love with her and her incredible brightness (and of course accept her on the spot :), I am going to start to check out what else is out there. Being open minded goes far– even when it  comes to preschool mania.

All Peanut Butters Are Not Equal

peanut-butterSo, peanut butter is a staple in our house. A big staple, and Aria’s daily request. However, I’ve realized (as of late especially) that all peanut butters are not equal. We’ve always been an all-natural kinda family, but after a little investigation I learned that there may be a better route to go than our standard Smucker’s All Natural (good, but not best) peanut butter choice. In fact, peanut butter is a bit of a sticky topic when it comes to which is best. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Standard: Standard peanut butters are the majority of what you see on the shelf. Big brands like Jif and Peter Pan, etc often contain added sugar, oils, etc. So incredibly unnecessary. Choosy moms do not choose Jif.

All Natural: (like Smuckers, etc) are better. All natural versions should be just peanuts and sometimes added salt. They are often not-organic unless stated. Be careful though because some brands make a “natural” peanut butter (um…Jif) but they still are only 90% peanuts and the rest salt, palm oil, sugar, etc. Not much better than the standard.

Organic: Our go-to these days. It’s worth choosing an organic because peanuts are harvested from the ground and have a porous shell which means pesticides can seep into the nut themselves.  Lately, we’ve been eating Trader Joe’s Unsalted Organic, which is just blended peanuts.  Again read your labels carefully. We were recently on the west coast and I bought an organic brand called Simply Truth, and was shocked when I got home and realized that it had added organic cane sugar, organic palm oil and salt. Note to self: Read labels carefully!

The peanut butter debate gets a bit trickier and stickier because of Aflatoxin, a fungicide sprayed on all different types of peanuts (because they are prone to mold).  To avoid it, you need to buy peanut butter that is sourced from peanuts from New Mexico (Valencia) or another region where they don’t spray it. If your child is a peanut butter addict like Aria, you may also want to think about substituting in another nut spread once in a while (safflower or almond nut butter are good alternatives).

There are a bunch of good articles with more details. It’s like everything else I reading these days, where what you thought of as “good for you” may not be the best.

Halloween: Cats don’t eat candy…

So, yesterday was Aria’s first celebration of Halloween. She was the cat’s meow in her sweet little leopard print sweat suit, and of course I had to get in on the fun. We hit up the kid’s party in Washington Square Park first (joined by a few more cool cats), and then did the rounds collecting candy through the West Village.

halloween healthy catswashington square park halloween paradepopcorn halloween!

Fortunately, this halloween I was able to get a little tricky and keep her toddler hands off the candy. She still has not idea what it really is, and this morning when she started asking for her “treats,” I was able hand off a banana a women in the building randomly gave her when we were walking up the stairs just back from trick or treating (thank you).  I told her dad I will have to pick up some fun colorful kid’s packs of raisins, etc to hand off to her when she started asking again.

I know as a kid we all turned our noses up at those who gave out raisins and pretzels, but as a parent of a toddler I was wishing for it.  I was super grateful to discover these in the goody bag from the park (Aria couldn’t get enough of the lemon broccoli ones– yes, lemon broccoli).  I was also indebted to out neighbors on the next block over who handed out fresh popcorn with the candy (yes, I broke all the rules and let her eat a non-packaged item from a “stranger.”) Aria was quite happy with her cup of corn and parked herself on their stoop for a good 20 minutes.  After that she scored in Marc Jacob’s makeup store on Bleeker when she walked out with samples instead of candy. They couldn’t resist her cute little face, and (full disclosure) I kinda knew that would be the case when I sent her in despite knowing they weren’t giving out candy. Trick & treat!

Best costume catch of the night: Brooke Shields walking down Bleeker as a City Bike.  Wish I would have snapped a shot.