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Category Archives: Food

Dinner Conversations

When I was growing up, my family had dinner together every day.  Never with the TV on, usually with music playing in the background, glasses of milk for the kids and water for the adults.  We sat at the table every night and we talked.  Everyone talked about how their days were, what we learned at school, challenges at work, sharing the news about our friends and family; we engaged with each other every day.  On Sundays, the same rules applied except that the food was usually more labour intensive to prepare, and we always ate in the dining room on the fine china.

They say that you will do what you know, and so it’s really no surprise to me that every night we all sit at the table to have dinner.  Although, our fine china is not dishwasher safe like my parents is, so on Sundays we just eat on regular plates.  But I digress.

While I try to engage everyone in discussion about their days, some times that conversational tactic runs out before I’ve even taken my first bite.  On those nights, the kids ask random questions and we do our best to engage in discussion with them.  One night though, over the Christmas break, Connor asked, “So Mom: what is man’s work?”

The feminist in me immediately bristled.  “Where is he getting this from,” I raged internally.  MOMD dropped his fork, his terror shining from his eyes, while he tried desperately to see how I would respond, without looking at me thus to provoke my wrath.  Being in communications, he tried to firmly get control of the question and started sputtering something like, “Well Connor…”

Cooler heads prevailed however, and I interrupted MOMD with the faithful advice given by my OB many, many years ago.  “Well Connor, ” I said, “what do you think man’s work is?”

Connor: “I’m not sure.”
MOMD: “Well, let’s think about the kind of work I do, and the kind of work Mom does.”
Connor: “Oh…  ok.  So like, Dad does the laundry, cleans the bathrooms, washes the floors…  So I guess that’s man’s work.”
Me: “Well, my work is done here.”

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Family, Food, Raising Kids, Traditions

 

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It All Comes Back So Fast

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’m sorry.  It’s just that I was busy with this:

My baby, 12 days old

I suppose she’s not a “this”; she’s a her!  My daughter Elise was scheduled to be delivered via c-section on July 5, but on June 27 I went into labour, and so she was delivered that day.  It’s been a wonderful, exhausting, overwhelming (with love, of course), amazing 16 days.  My family feels complete now.  We’re all here and ready to face the world – Team Scrimgeour-Brown!

The title of this post might lead you to believe that I’m going to write about parenting a newborn.  I’m not.  What has “come back so fast” for me are all the bloody body issues…  I delivered a baby 16 days ago, and yet just yesterday I found myself fretting over how I look.  You know the routine: standing face-on in the mirror, checking the angles for ripples, rolls, bulges and then searching the side view for the same things.  Once the inventory is complete, you rip those shorts off your body and hurl them to the floor, stomping on them and then on yourself for how you look, how did you get there, get yourself under control… I’m sure you know the litany.

How quickly the pattern returns…

When I came home from the hospital 2 weeks ago today I was wearing pre-pregnancy yoga pants and a tee-shirt.  The yoga pants were giving me muffin-top before I was pregnant, but were not post-delivery.  The tee-shirt I was wearing, I was able to squeeze into last year but really: it was a squeeze.  Not the case on Friday, June 29.  I felt really good about myself.

My first day at home, with access to my entire wardrobe, I picked a long-time favourite sun dress from my closet.  It came from Marks’ Work Warehouse, and has a built in bra and everything.  I love this sundress so much that I have since bought another one.  They are both super-comfy, and they look really good too.  So I pulled the green dress out of the closet and put it on.  And damn!  I looked awesome.  So sleek and almost svelte!  Which is a big deal for someone who – before being pregnant – was about 75lbs overweight.  Again, I felt really good about myself.

A few days later, we had some company come to meet the babe: 2 of my cousins.  One of whom is pregnant, and the other is a mother of 3 herself.  They were both impressed by how good I looked.  Not just because of the weight I shed while growing a person, but also because I had had major surgery just 5 days earlier.  I was up and moving, hosting and entertaining, all without seeming to be in any pain at all.  Yet again, I was left feeling good about myself.

Those of you who have had children know what comes after delivery: the inevitable hormone crash.  Well it hit me with a vengeance, around the same time as darling little Miss Ellie decided that sleeping at night was for the weak.  The past 5 days have been tough.  And in their wake, the daemon inside of me has surfaced: to mock, to ridicule, to hurt.

I heard in my head the other day the voices of my 8th grade classmates calling out, “Sha-MUUU” down the hall to me (Shamu was the name of a whale at a theme park when I was younger).

I look in the mirror and instead of seeing skin that has been stretched to hell and back while creating the miracle of life, I see fat.  A flabby, lazy girl who cannot get herself under control.

Why?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  How is it that I can so easily and readily see the truth for others, point it out to them, and encourage them to be gentle with themselves and yet be unable to do the same for me?  Why am I habitually so hard on myself?  And more importantly: how do I change the internal dialogue?

So many self-help gurus talk about changing your self-talk.  They all agree that the first step in doing this is to  monitor what is going on inside, and then to replace those negative comments with positive ones.  I agree with the concept, and readily encourage those around me to engage in the process.  I am a firm believer in positive framing and re-framing, applying it to areas of my life on a regular basis.

I thought that I had this weight-daemon licked; I thought we were through.  And yet: here it sits, at my side, providing a running commentary.

Truly: it all comes back so fast.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Food, Food Issues, Sickness/Wellness

 

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Disconnect…

In the past I have shared about my ongoing issues with weight.  It’s been a struggle of mine for much of my life, and one that I do not want to pass on to my children.  While it’s true that from time to time we go to chain, fast-food restaurants, it is far from the norm.  In fact, my kids get so excited about Subway, those other burger-based joints are routinely skipped over.  There are days though, where we end up in one.  We talk a lot about how it’s not healthy food, and why is it that stuff that is so bad for us (deep fried potatoes are linked to cancer – did you know that?) can taste so good in the moment.  We talk about how if we go to one of the chain restaurants, it’s only because we have all eaten really well that day, and will not be having any junk to eat afterwards.

MOMD’s position is everything in moderation.  And while I really am opposed to fast-food intellectually, why do those damn fries taste so good??

Anyway.  Yesterday was McHappy Day.  On Monday, Connor brought home a little note from school advising parents of that fact (a fact the kids were all ready well aware of, thanks to classroom discussion), and explaining that staff from his school would be working at the restaurant on Bayly from 3:30-5:00.  Further, money raised that day would be directed to a local children’s organization – The Grandview Centre.

When I saw this note, I had a little flicker of unease.  At first, I didn’t know exactly what it was, so I pushed the feeling down and got on with getting homework done, starting dinner and chasing the boys around.  I actually didn’t take the time to address my discomfort until we were sitting in the restaurant yesterday, the boys having just finished eating their dinners.  As it turns out, I have several issues with this.

One: There is a strong sense of community in schools.  Particularly in my son’s school, which is a Tribe school. This is great in many, many ways and I admit that I love his school pride and spirit.  However, it makes it very difficult to say “we aren’t participating” in a school activity, because it’s a value statement.  As his parents, when we say no, we are telling him that what he values is not important to us.  And ever since this, I’m working really hard not to do that.

Two: I don’t want to send the message that supporting charities that focus on children’s welfare is not important.  Especially since we have used the services of the beneficiary in this particular case (Sam’s hearing assessment happened at Grandview).  It’s a great opportunity to have a discussion about what kind of needs kids have, what the charities help them with, and ultimately helps my kids to see how much they have in their lives.

Three: (And this is the biggie) Schools are more and more, becoming places of health.  Connor has gym 4 days out of 5, has outdoor play 3 times a day, and even has a “healthy snack” program.  Kids are taught about food groups, healthy choices, unhealthy choices, and parents are talked to when lunch bags seem to be consistently unhealthy.  There’s a strong focus on educating both the parent and child in an effort to have healthier individuals in society.  Connor has even had marketing education: he came home from school one day talking about the lies in commercials.  I for one, think this is great.

Here’s where the disconnect comes in.

If we are working so hard to raise healthy people, why on earth would a school link arms with a fast-food restaurant?  Many schools – Connor’s included – are free of vending machines now: no pop, no chips, no chocolate bars.  If you want to buy a drink at school, you’re choices are either white or chocolate milk (whether or not that’s “healthy” is another debate altogether, so I’ll skip over it in this post).  If you didn’t bring your snacks, or you forgot your lunch, there are fruits and vegetables and yogurts.  These children are looking to parents and educators for guidance, they trust us.  And telling them “Let’s go to McDonalds to help kids and support out community,” is a departure from their usual message.  It muddies the waters, and makes it more difficult to explain to my kids that french fries are unhealthy and are making us sick, so we have to eat less of them.  When the school aligned themselves for this community day – which again I stress is a great initiative helping many, many people who need our help – they put a stamp of approval on the restaurant, and the food it serves.

It is that which I take issue with.  But am I crazy?  What do you think?  Am I overreacting?  Have your say in the comments.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Family, Food, Opinion, Raising Kids, Soap Box, Vexations

 

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Comfort

Hi there, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  There’s a good reason for it: I’ve had pneumonia.  It’s true – me, a pregnant woman, caught pneumonia.  And yeah – that was highly shocking for me and I’ll admit it, a little scary too.  So here’s what happened:

It started out as a little tickle in the throat on a Friday morning.  I gave in on Sunday and let the illness run rampant, ruining all my plans for the day (including attending Connor’s 8th birthday party… very sad about that).  I decided on Sunday night to send Sam to daycare on Monday, just to recover some more.  Blessedly, I was feeling better that afternoon.  My voice was still on the fritz, but I wasn’t as tired as I had been on Saturday & Sunday.  In fact, when I tried to take a nap that afternoon, I could not sleep.  “I’m on the upswing,” I excitedly told MOMD!  On Tuesday morning though…  on Tuesday I was worse.  And when I woke through the night on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning coughing up blood, I knew it was time to see a doctor.

So it was Wednesday that I got the diagnosis of pneumonia.  I’ve been on some pregnancy-approved anti-biotics and I would say that I am much better.  The exhaustion is still hanging on, but I’m sure that will pass in the next few days.

Over the last week though, I’ve returned to something I’ve not done in a long time.  Comfort eating. Do you know what this is?  You feel like garbage, so you think of something to make you feel better, and you come up with food.  Sometimes it may be a recipe from my childhood, or it may be fastfood.  It might be just something I love.  This past week was full of these indulgences.  Which, if I’m honest, was okay since I had no apetite and was not eating otherwise.  There was Taco Bell on Monday, butter tarts and potato chips on Tuesday, chocolate croissants on Wednesday and pizza on Thursday.  I’m sure that if I had felt up to cooking (I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time last week – bloody exhaustion) there would have been a mac n’cheese casserole in there somewhere.

There has been a lot of research done on comfort eating.  The basic findings are that from the time we are born, we are comforted with foods.  If an infant is crying, the first thing we think of is, “Is baby hungry?” and we try to feed it.  You fall down and scrape your knee, you get a bandaid and a cookie.  You bring home a good report card, and you’re rewarded with ice cream.  Comfort foods are simply the foods that have been used to help make you feel better.  The list of these foods will grow as you do, because as teenagers we often don’t talk to our parents about what’s upsetting us.  So we find foods to comfort us: chips, twinkies, pizza, french fries, chocolate bars, DQ Blizzards, and so on.

A friend of mine recently learned that too, a comfort food can be something that you ate when you were profoundly happy.  Which makes a lot of sense to me: your brain remembers that moment of utter happiness and associates what you ate at that time with the feeling.  Since we had mushroom soup at my wedding reception, mushroom soup is very high on my comfort food list.  And now I understand why.

The thing is, comfort eating goes together with mindless eating.  And if I’m going to make this weight-loss stick* (I always loose weight when I’m pregnant; I am highly motivated to listen to my body’s wants and needs when I’m caring for my unborn child) I have to analyse these desires, and consciously convert them to mindFUL eating moments.

As I said before, I didn’t worry about too much analysis this week.  The point was that I needed to eat something, because a gestating woman cannot subsist on water and Emergen-C alone.  Interestingly though, I was really aware of what I was trying to recreate as I put the chocolate croissant in my mouth.  I was thinking about the memories that came with that flavour and I wonder if simply honouring them was enough to be mindful.

Have you ever dealt with comfort eating?  Did you overcome the tendencies?  and if so, how did you beat it?

 

*Do Not PANIC: I am NOT trying to loose weight while I’m pregnant.  I don’t count calories, I don’t exercise, I don’t eat “low fat” options.  My OB is very happy with my health (in fact, at my last checkup she said – and I quote – “You are like, the perfect pregnant woman.”) and please don’t fret about me.  Okay?  Okay.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Food, Oversharing, Sickness/Wellness

 

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Underweight? Hmmm…

It’s a funny thing, becoming someone’s parent.  You start to think about all kinds of things that you probably never thought about before.  And if you find they become thoughts you think a lot, they become Worries.

When I found out I was becoming a Mom, I didn’t have a lot of Worries.  Really, I just had one.  As someone who has battled her weight for all of her remembered life (really, I was about 7 or 8 when I started gaining; and I know why that happened too, but we’re not talking about that today) I knew I did not want to raise an overweight child.

No one actually wants that, I’m sure.  Many people think about it I’m certain.  Some people become actual Worriers about it.  I?  I became obsessed with this thought.  Every day we talk about food in our house.  When Connor was 3 or 4 we started talking about the food guide and how many fruits & vegetables we need to make sure we have in a day.  If he asks for a treat, we talk about what’s been eaten so far today, and what’s to come, and make a decision based on these facts.  My kids are very informed about healthy eating and unhealthy eating.  My intention is to ensure that food does not become a crutch (because man-o-man am I an emotional eater), nor something forbidden (because I’ve also been a horrific closet eater).  I want my children to have a healthy relationship with food.  And I think we’re doing really well.

Take, for example, a conversation that happened in the car today:

Sam: “Connor, what’s your favourite food?”
Connor: “Wow Sam, that’s a tough question!  I can’t pick just one thing…”
Me: “Okay Connor, top 5 – go!”
Connor: “Okay: strawberries, pancakes, bacon, french fries, broccoli.”

Sure – it’s not the healthiest list, but c’mon.  The kid’s just turned 8, and on his list of favourite foods are strawberries and broccoli???  That’s a pretty great list, in my opinion.

So imagine my surprise when we went to the pediatrician for his 8-year checkup today and she commented that his weight had “flatlined”…

For the last couple years, Connor has been tracking in 75th percentile for both weight & height.  His height stayed in position on the curve (52.5 inches, for those who are interested) but his weight is back at the 50th percentile (64lbs).  I say “back at the 50th” because when he was born, he was in the 50th for both height and weight.  And for the first 3 months of his life, he was always below that marker.

hmmm…  I may have just uncovered why this upsets me so much…  ok, I’ll come back to this thought later, because I want to STRESS loudly that the doctor did NOT say that she was worried.  She did NOT say that he needs to be fattened up and to start main-lining trans-fats ASAP.  She did NOT say that he has an eating disorder and should be checked into a clinic STAT.  All she said was, “Huh, his weight seems to have flatlined.”  And too, I want to stress emphatically that I am not in dire straits over this comment.  I am not headed for a bridge, nor am I looking for a high place to hang my rope from.  It’s just sticking with me, is all, and I wanted to try to uncover why that is…

Which, you may recall from the start of the previous paragraph, I think I have.

So here’s my revelation: Connor was very close to starving in his first 5 months of life.  He was born a healthy 7lbs 3 oz, and by the time we left the hospital (3 days later) he was down to 6lbs 8oz or something like that.  Breast feeding was not going well (it rarely does with the first child, so I’ve since learned), and he was tongue-tied, which I did not know made it almost impossible to latch.  I talked to the pediatrician about switching to, or supplementing with, formula but she was not supportive of this.  After his 4-month checkup, when he weighed in at less than 11lbs (I can’t remember exactly) I decided to forget her advice and go with my gut: we started formula.  When we went back for his next checkup, he was like 16lbs and she was thrilled to see him so big and happy.

So as it turns out, my barometer for how I’m performing as a parent to Connor is totally tied to his weight, and where he sits on the damn curve…

Well, that’s just crazy.

Here’s what I know: I have a kid who is very happy and jovial.  He is effective at expressing his emotions, generally in healthy ways.  He is reading almost at grade level (which is HUGE since when he started grade 1 last year he really couldn’t read at all), and he excels in math and science.  He loves gym, has lots of friends, can ride his bike and he even likes to work in the kitchen with me.  He’s a great kid.  And I’m a great Mom, 50th percentile be damned.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Family, Food, Oversharing, Sickness/Wellness

 

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Pancakes & Pork Products for Everyone!

Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday; or, more commonly knows as Pancake Day, or Fat Tuesday.  It marks the last day before Christians enter a period of fasting known as Lent, the idea being that you fill up on all the fatty, delicious foods that you’re going to be abstaining from to honour Christ’s 40 days in the desert.  For more on Lent, click here.

So every Pancake Day MOMD & I host a big ol’ feast.  Now, when we moved out to Ajax though, it wasn’t really realistic to expect the usual gang to come out here for dinner.  Not in rush-hour traffic, with young kids, who all have school the next day.  So we moved it to happen on the weekend immediately preceding the day.  What a happy coincidence that this year Family Day was just before pancake day!  We had 25 relations (of the blood or of the heart – we aren’t picky) come for the annual feast today and man.  What a feast it was.

6 batches of our renowned pancakes, 3lbs of sausages, 5lbs of bacon and 5lbs of peameal bacon, 4 dozen eggs and 36 cups of coffee to wash it all down (oh — and juice boxes for the kids too).  A bunch of plates (dish ware and disposable), cutlery, coffee cups, napkins and we had ourselves a feast.

At one point, while pork products were frying and pancakes were cooking, one of my Aunts (who I named Mistress of Pork today) said, “Michelle, I don’t know what we’d do if you guys stopped hosting this event.”  I laughed it off saying, “Someone else would carry on the tradition I’m sure.”

But here’s the truth: I don’t think MOMD & I would host this every year if the guests were not the people they are.  Here’s why.  Because they are happy to bring whatever we ask them to, they cheerfully pitch in in the kitchen with cooking, preparing, presenting whatever is needed, they’re there.  The best part though?  They always clean up too.  Seriously!  When the last of them had left, there was pretty much nothing for us left to do expect put away a few dishes.  So you hear that we had 25 people for brunch, and that we ate on real-live plates, with real-live cutlery, and you think, “Are they insane?!?!” And you know, the answer may be yes.  I’m not going to argue with that hypothesis.  I will say that it’s not quite so daunting a task when you factor in the help of all of the able-bodied adults who attend.  It really is a group effort, full of chatting, laughter and love.

So Aunty, not to worry.  As long as you all keep doing everything with us, we are happy to have you. And may there always be pork products for all.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Family, Food