Tag Archives: caring for kids

Sweet Little Lies

I’m feeling angry.  It’s about the folks who give advice on children’s diets and nutrition.  I didn’t realize it right away, but now it’s clear. They haven’t been telling the truth.

I’m talking about the government authorities, doctors, TV personalities, special reporters and school nutritionists.  You haven’t been leveling with us.  All that talk about healthy diet, and the food pyramid – you just happened to leave out the little part about the kids themselves.  Why does nobody mention that youngsters are basically cute little appetites on legs, automatically set to hunt down sweets and fats to eat or hide under the mattress? It’s a known fact.  Babies are born craving sugar. They can’t help it.

Keeping this vital information from parents makes no sense.  If I drove out of the dealership and my new car had an automatic and natural tendency to steer towards cliff edges, deep water and heavy immovable objects, I’d want to know about it BEFORE we were moving at speed down Suicide Mountain.  I’d want a warning, flashing right up there on the dashboard in big red letters.  Not some pretty colored signs halfway down the grade, suggesting that I use sensible driving tips to try and persuade it not to fly, smoking, off into the void.

And I’d have something to say to the folks making money selling them.

I don’t normally take all four kids at the same time to the grocery store.  Or promise them on the drive that they can each pick out one small treat.  I’m now up to speed why it’s a really bad idea.

We hit the aisles with one basket, and they split up chittering, happy as birds.  My idea was, they’d go find some favorite snack or food not usually allowed as part of the house menu.  Their idea was to inventory the food mart, and come up with the largest, lowest nutrient content, processed, food-like calorie bombs they could find.  The one’s with the big “Mom Would Never Let This In The House” stickers.  They set up a relay and proudly dragged their prizes to the cart.

‘Wait’, I’d say.  ‘What’s this?’

Through the bag I can make out colors I’ve never seen in nature before.  Before I get an answer, another box flies in.  It looks like a month’s supply of sprinkle covered, chocolate coated, fudge filled, artificial ice cream stuffed cones with nuts on top.

‘That’s not small,’ I say.

‘Look, Dad, they’re really, really small,” she says.  All fifty of them.

‘This is what I want’, I hear behind me.  My son with a cart of his own. I didn’t know they sold chip assortments in 30 bag family sizes.

‘Hang on, everybody’, I say, holding up my hands.  ‘Huddle up.  The deal was, one little snack or treat, not the biggest thing you can carry. Take all these back and we’ll go check this out together.’  They roll their eyes and slowly, painfully, unload the basket.

I deliberately steer to the fruit.  ‘Look, ripe mangos!’ They exchange looks, and I can see we’re in for a tough negotiation. Before long we start attracting attention from moms, who look at the kids, look at me, turn away with a hidden smile and shake their heads.  They can see I’m out of my league.

‘Can I…’, ‘No’, ‘How about…’ ‘No’.

Without thinking I turn into the cookie aisle, and instantly realize I’ve made a huge tactical blunder.  It’s the longest aisle in the store.  Spilling boxes from floor to ceiling.  You can smell the sugar.  The kids bolt like horses at a desert oasis.

Now, it’s a marvel of modern engineering that you can put just the same few ingredients together, and make endless varieties of products.  And it’s a testament to how skilled and expert companies have become in knowing what kids are wired to want to eat.  Let’s just say, they have it down to a fine science.  A very profitable science.  If the health and nutrition groups were half as good, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic.

I won’t go into the details of how this little expedition turned out.  There was upset, threats, and a shouting tantrum.  The kids stayed calm and polite, I was proud of them.  We compromised and took some vitamin fortified treats home and weathered mom’s disapproval.

But I’m still angry.

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Dad’s Diet Crises

Dad's cure for snack food dietQue sera, quesadilla.

It’s swimsuit weather, the kids are all summering, and I learned I’ve been letting the family down in the diet department.  The children lined up to bring this to my attention.  Apparently, there is NO FOOD in the house.  They are united on this point, and vocal, and the neighbors are now convinced we are starving them on purpose.

This comes as something of a surprise.  Our grocery bills haven’t gone down, and you have to put a shoulder to the door of the fridge to get it shut.  True, I haven’t got round to cleaning it out recently.  It’s on my list.  After ‘learn power napping’, and ‘schedule in-home insurance check-up’  I think.

But anyway, I quickly discover the problem.  Dad has NO CLUE what EVERYBODY knows, namely, what ALL OTHER children ALL get to eat ALL THE TIME, except at OUR house.

They take me to the kitchen to look into it.

And what I discover is, our home has become dangerously low on a whole cornucopia of sweet, salty, fat filled, factory processed munch that is essential to the development of modern preteens and adolescents.

The pantry has no frosted or creme filled anything.  Apart from a packet of stale ginger crisps, cookie stockpiles have gone to zero.  One half bag of white corn tortilla chips sits alone, as if potato chips had never been invented. And there’s no sign of any kind of ” -itos” whatsoever.  No candies, no frozen pops, chocolate, sweet rolls, toaster whatsits, mini cakes, sodas, or bags of sugar coated anything. It’s a crises.  We need to get to the bottom of this.

I blame my wife.

‘The house is full of food’, she says when I call.  Eggs, she tells me, and I repeat it to the kids.  They shake their heads.  Salad, rice cakes, popcorn, cheese, turkey, tuna, tortillas, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, fruits, whole wheat crackers, chicken, nuts.

‘Nuts!?’ they shout.

I try to reason with their mother.  ‘They’re not buying it’, I say.

‘There’s plenty of food’, she says, ‘and when they really get hungry they’ll eat it.  They just figure you’re a pushover and will go buy them junk.’

‘Your mother thinks you’re fat’, I tell them.  Not the thing to say to three girls, but I realize it a split second too late.  My son’s so skinny he knows I’m just blowing smoke.

‘You have to go to the store, NOW!’   They’re starting to get that wide-eyed ‘remember the time you left the sliding door open and Herby the hamster got out, permanently’ look.

‘I tell you what’, I say. ‘I’ll make you all a quesadilla’.

‘OK,’ they say, like maybe that was really the plan all along.

I fry up some onion til it’s just starting to get transparent, still crunchy. Then I melt a little butter in a pan, coat one side of a wide flour tortilla, and set it aside on a plate.  A little more butter, low medium heat, melted and the second tortilla goes in.  Spread on a layer of cheese, some chopped tomato, the onion, a little shake of cumin spice, some chopped up chicken, and the second tortilla goes on top, fast as I can.  I put a lid on, and lift it every minute or two to check the underside of the bottom tortilla. It needs to get light brown and flaky crisp, which it does just shy of four minutes. Then,  big spatula, hand on top, flip the whole thing in one smooth motion, cook the other side til it’s light brown, flaky crisp.  Hot and melted inside, done.

It takes two, but they polish them off and are gone.

Later I check again whether there’s any missed sweets,  behind the vases in the top cupboard.  Just to be sure.  Nada.  Well, that spared me having to get rid of them.  For the good of the kids, of course.

Winner By A Nose

It seems about the Homemade bread cooking Dadonly way for a Dad to succeed with kids today is to grab them by the nose, sit them down at the kitchen table, and put your money where their mouth is.  Let me explain.

Being a father’s always been a challenge.  Some of us spend a lot of time out of the house, so we have to wear the name tag and introduce ourselves on a regular basis.  But I don’t think men ever had to compete for kid’s attention the way we do today.  When I come home and say, ‘let’s go play’, I hear ‘I’m busy’.  What ever happened to kids being bored stiff and wishing somebody’d want to go do something?

The problem, it turns out, is we’re now sharing the house.  With a whole crowd of visiting families.  Cosby started it. Now we’ve also got Homer and Bernie Mack, George Lopez, Billy Ray Cyrus, Peter from Family Guy, and the list just goes on.  And all day long there’s this stream of tweeters and facebooking fans, inhabitants of farmville, and busloads of characters from gameland all tramping through.  Getting elbowed aside by Shrek and the whole Hollywood universe.  It’s a miracle to get a word in edgewise.

My brood was becoming a bit like snow leopards, rumored to exist but only occasionally spotted.  They still dished out hugs and smiles when they saw me, but sightings were rare.  And, it occurred to me, if I wanted to protect them, I was only one voice in a very big and noisy wilderness.  When it came to having an influence on what they think, and how they saw things, some food corporations managed to get in more messages a day than I did.

I decided it was time to compete.  Time to tag and track.  Rebuild the pride.

And the one guaranteed place I knew I could catch them was where they came to feed.  The kitchen.

The question was, what to use for bait? Candy, chips, fast food they could find anywhere, and shouldn’t.  I needed something they’d come out of hiding for, and come back for, and keep them purring while we spent time getting comfortable together.

It didn’t come to me til I was out in the garage one afternoon, feeling low.  I came across a bread machine, still boxed.  I couldn’t remember where it came from.  But, for some reason, I decided to give it a go. Instructions didn’t look hard at all.  It looked like something I could do.

I can tell you, if you haven’t experienced it yourself in a while, there’s nothing quite like the warm, wafting scent of fresh baking bread in the nostrils to grab attention.  It’s a primal thing.  A raise-the-head-up and wonder where that smell’s coming from kind of thing.  And no loaf in a wrapper from the chain store has it.

I lit the thing up one evening after dinner and in an hour had a crowd standing around waiting for a slice.

In the end, I’m not sure what the best thing about it was.  Everybody chatting around the warm oven like long-lost relatives around a campfire.  Mouth watering homemade bread.  Dad holding court and doling out slices for toast and jam.  Or, over the years we’ve been doing it since, the things we’ve learned about each other, and the memories we’ve made. With something truly special, they can’t get anywhere else.

I do know this.  In my family, we have a tradition.  One that’s stood through good times and teary nights.  A simple loaf and a little time in the kitchen. And Dad, a part of it.

Top 10 Reasons Men Won’t Cook

Dinner is a tad overdone tonightWomen wonder why guys stay away from the stove, and leave them to do all the heavy kitchen lifting.  And after my last post, my wife hinted I should take a look. Why won’t men cook?  Well, what she said was more like, why don’t take your own advice and help out more in the kitchen and put out the garbage while you’re at it.  So, I took the suggestion to head over to the laptop and come up with this list.  Throw in your own ideas.

1.  Taking Directions I can count on one hand the number of men on the planet who like being told what to do, and how to do it.  We put up with it at work or home when we have to.  But the natural tendency when facing a list of steps that need to be followed in some order, is to ignore the directions and try and figure it out on our own, or, skip as many steps as possible.

2.  Learning Curve The average guy believes that cooking is basically magic, and he’s the audience.  Cow parts go in, beef stroganoff comes out.  Bulbs and leaves are transformed into flavors.  Pastry.  I mean, tell me that pastry isn’t magic.  So, when the magician pulls us from the audience and says we need to fill in for the evening performance, that blank look isn’t faked.

3.  Epic Fail Nothing motivates a man less than the opportunity to publicly jump a motorcycle just about half way across the Grand Canyon.  Or spend mealtime trying to explain how dinner was supposed to have turned out. And tasted.

4.  Cleanup Most modern recipes will tell you right up front how long it will take to prepare a dish.  And keep absolutely silent about the time you’ll need to clean up the mess you just made.  The fact is, after all the trouble to make something, you’re only halfway done in the kitchen.  And men love kitchen cleaning the same way we love periodontal cleaning.  Any surprise that Teflon was invented by a guy?

5.  Getting Out of Trouble There’s a certain confidence men have, that we can get out of most trouble we get into.  But when a cooking expedition starts to go bad, it’s a lot like doing the black diamond ski run backwards.  This thing is only headed one direction, stopping is not an option, and you are just along for the ride.  Yeah, let’s do this every night.

6.  Payoffs Somewhere along the line women get that domestic activities, like cooking and caring for kids, go on day after day, in an endless cycle of repetition.  Guys, more tuned to crossing a finish line, catching something, or earning an atta-boy, are disoriented and mystified by having to cook again as a daily reward for doing it yesterday.  It takes years of hard and dedicated monastic training to accept that the doing IS the payoff.

7. King of the Hill Who set up the cupboards and drawers in your kitchen? And decides what goes where?  What would happen if you had a mind to re-arrange things the way you think is best?  If you’re sharing a kitchen, odds are you’re sharing her kitchen. With her.  And while you may have guest privileges, when it comes to what’s on the menu, what’s in the fridge, and what’s healthy or not, chances are you’re still on probation for the number two slot.

8.  Patience Many of the finest tasting foods take time to cook, and get better from all that cooking time.  Waiting while food cooks takes patience.  Knowing this, men have invented TV dinners (Gerry Thomas), the microwave oven (Percy L. Spencer), Hot Pockets (the Merage brothers, Paul and David), and fast food (1921, Walter A. Anderson and cook Edgar Waldo “Billy” Ingram, White Castle).  Any questions?

9.  Mom Face it, we learned early that food came from her.  For at least a decade and a half we were conditioned to expect she would make food appear whenever we got hungry.  We’re hungry now.  And last time we checked in the mirror, we didn’t look anything like mom.

10.  Just Too Feminine Probably thanks to number 9, it’s impossible to shake the deep-set notion that the kitchen is a female clubhouse, and what we’d look like in a pink apron.  Men who want to cook have to go open a restaurant business, or call themselves Iron Chefs, to compensate.  Doesn’t everybody pause just a moment to wonder why George Foreman hung up the gloves and made a kitchen appliance?

I have to ask myself, writing this, when it comes right down to it, are any of these good reasons? Maybe all the reasons men won’t cook are really just excuses, or fears to overcome.  You’ve probably got your own list, so feel free to share, here or at the forum on my companion, how-to site, Dad’s In the Kitchen!.