Thankful Thursdays

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Today marks the beginning of our ‪#‎ThankfulThursday‬ campaign, and I want to hear from all of you! Gratitude doesn’t have to look pretty or fancy (see our jar-and-masking-tape combo) — it’s about making a choice to be happy with what we have already been given. We’re already seeing reindeer and jingle bells in the stores, and what better way to combat the Christmas gimmies than by reminding your kids how much they already have in this world?

Each morning of November, my kids and I sit at the breakfast table and put one thing into our “Thankful” jar that we are grateful for that day. It was an idea I got last year from a dear friend who is one of the most thoughtful and caring mothers I know. So far, our slips of paper hold thanks for things like our teachers, the unseasonably warm weather that’s been letting us play outside all week, a couple spooky erasers from Halloween, and even “thankful that kid at the playground threw up JUST on the tire swing and not on the swing I was on.” (Good one, Evie.)

So each Thursday leading up to Thanksgiving, I want you to ask your kids what THEY are thankful for. This project is meant to spark a dialogue with our children about gratitude, and then make a daily habit out of it — rewarding on its own, but I want to sweeten the deal. Share their answers here, and for each comment here or on Facebook (facebook.com/chokingonapplesauce), you’ll be entered to win a gift card to help with your holidays. The winner will be announced on Thanksgiving Day.

So let’s hear it : what are YOUR kids thankful for today?

Finding nature again with my children

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“As a child, my playground was the woods.

The end of our street opened into a vast wooded forest, defined by a thin dirt footpath that stretched into a world of exploration for us. Our friends and neighbors, our siblings and dogs, all found peace and adventure under the shade of sky-high oaks and cedars.

It was there that we breathed in our first taste of independence, running freely through the creeks and over wooden bridges. Banding together despite our varied ages, we carved our names into trees and spent afternoons searching for lost treasure. We learned about ourselves and saw each other in a new light, as if sunshine cast through an umbrella of leaves had the power to illuminate our truest selves…”

I’m so excited to be featured in the Washington Post today with this new post that is so dear to me. This is for all those who spent their childhoods running freely through the woods with us — and, more importantly, for all those who came after us, whose adventures are still out there waiting for them. It’s a call to not let ourselves become the first generation to deny our children the freedom to explore their world.

Find the full post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/10/13/finding-nature-again-with-my-children/

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Join the Teal Pumpkin Project!

Fall is upon us, and Halloween can be especially tricky for the millions of children who manage life-threatening food allergies.  This year, please consider including some safe, non-food items for the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood who aren’t able to enjoy Halloween candy with their friends and siblings.

Examples of inexpensive candy alternatives include stickers, pencils, bubbles, glow sticks, and dollar store trinkets.

Then, paint a pumpkin teal for food allergy awareness and put it in your front yard to let these kids know they can trick-or-treat safely at your house on Halloween night.

Evie and lots of children like her will THANK YOU! 💙 Plus, unlike the furry Snickers in the back of your pantry from last Halloween, the leftovers from these treats never go bad and can be reused year after year.

To learn more about FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project, visit http://www.foodallergy.org.

#TealPumpkinProject

teal pumpkin

 

How to Survive the Apocalypse with Kids

A few nights ago as I began to drift to sleep, my husband sat up in bed and turned to me. “Do we have a meeting place?” he asked. “You know, like if there’s an apocalypse.”

While I made a mental note to cancel the alien show from our DVR, I began to wonder what an apocalypse would really look like for our family — mostly, what my chances of survival would be should I ever have to traverse a post-apocalyptic terrain on foot with three small children.

Could I bring the double stroller? Would there be diapers? What if my two-year-old started doing that thing where she throws herself on the floor and screams for 15 minutes and an alien/zombie/violent looter was nearby? So many questions…

Are there still Cheerios in the apocalypse? Here’s the thing: one of my kids is allergic to almost everything edible, one is a baby with four teeth, and the other will not touch any kind of meat with a 3-foot foam sword. My children have proven they would rather eat dryer lint than a steak dinner, so if we have to start hunting bunnies that aren’t made of cheddar, we’ll be moving into hangry-mode before you can say, “You don’t have to eat ALL the squirrel! Just try one bite!” We’ll have to at least get some kind of sharp cutting implement — for protection, for hunting, and for halving grapes. I feel confident no one will want to eat my children if times get tough, since they probably taste like plain noodles and obstinacy, but we’ll have to figure out how to smuggle crackers or something because the attitudes that flare when they haven’t eaten in more than two hours? WATCH. OUT. My son could catch an entire plague of locusts on his outstretched bottom lip.

How will we carry all our stuff? The meeting place suggested by my husband is about three miles from our house and in the middle of the woods. With the baby in a carrier on my chest and an overstuffed diaper bag slung around my shoulder, I’ll have to bank on the adrenaline rush triggered by the fear of face-eating zombies to rally through the pain of my collarbone caving under the weight. If my four-year-old is walking, he’ll make it ten minutes before his pockets are weighted down by all the rocks and garbage — I mean, treasure — he picks up along the way, at which point he’ll sit down in the grass and stare at the sky until Jesus waves to him from a cloud (or until we bribe him with cookies). If my two-year-old is on foot, she will run for as long as I can convince her she’s an airplane and then cry until I “hold her like a baby” the rest of the way. We’ll also have to bring the stuffed monkey, so many cuppies of water, and approximately 7,000 diapers. I can at least count on not having to carry wipes because I swear I forget the freaking wipes every time.

Where will we go? The meeting place is presumably only the first step along our road to survival — the place we meet my husband. On a standard day, I’d have already made several frantic calls to his office to say the sky is falling and he should hurry home, so if it really happens I’ll have to up my ante so he knows I’m serious. By the time he arrives, then takes his usual sweet time peeing and changing out of his work clothes, I’ll have had time to finalize a plan. My first instinct would be to get out of the suburbs, ’cause you know the entire city is heading this way to fill their packs with our bottled fizzy water and to convert our Pottery Barn cribs into makeshift guerilla zombie blinds. We can’t go to the country because most of them have been mastering their shotgun aim since they were knee-high to an alien predator. Can’t go too far south because every time we go to a Mexican restaurant, my kids accidentally offend 8 percent of the world’s population by saying “Olaf!” as a greeting. The answer? Head for the nearest Target. We always blend in there.

How will we stay alive? My husband is a brilliant man, but his idea of “working with his hands” is mastering three monitors with a single keyboard, so he’d probably be the first to die. My kids and I would be useless in building a shack without popsicles. Moreover, if there is any type of killer virus floating around, we’d be among the first to start oozing eyeball blood — we catch EVERYTHING. My kids are afraid of strangers, spraying water, and that cat in Cinderella, so if someone (or something) attacked us, our best chance would be to play dead. Then again, asking my children to lay down and be quiet is like asking the four horsemen of the apocalypse to live-Tweet their ride into town, so perhaps we’ll just hope for a divinely-inspired early exit — like in that Kirk Cameron rapture movie where some people get to ditch their clothes and skip straight to heaven. Am I the only one who’s seen that?

“So in the event of an apocalypse, we don’t even really need a plan,” I sighed to my husband, my head falling back on the pillow. “Our family might as well bend over and kiss our needy, suburban asses goodbye.”

We turned off the lights, but my mind wouldn’t quiet. Who are we, after all? We already live off everyone else’s discarded food scraps, function on minimal sleep, and never shy from getting our hands dirty. I carry basic living essentials like hand sanitizer, scissors, and Barbie Band-Aids in my bag every day. Plus, just ask my baby-toting biceps how strong I’ve gotten these past few years.

We’ve survived colic, for crying out loud!

The light flicked back on as I shot up in bed, pointed a determined finger at my husband, and kissed him square on his needy, suburban mouth. “See you in the woods!”

When Your Child Hides Your Keys

“You rifle through the junk drawer, the baby purses, the refrigerator, and that little hole on the side of the TV speakers – to no avail. Even the pantry, where you found a tiny Baby Jesus last spring, is full of only food and an errant container of Play-Doh.

Frustration builds as you begin to suspect these keys were not simply misplaced but hidden. Looking the children in the eyes and menacingly reminding them that this search is wasting their play time, you interrogate them under the searing light of Snowglobe Elsa. ‘WHERE ARE THE KEYS?’ Your furrowed brow is met with a shoulder shrug and … was that a smile? A SMILE?”

Inspired by maddeningly true events, I’m over on Scary Mommy tonight with a new post about that time I lost my keys for two hours.

This is why we drink, people. Happy Sunday, and remember: sharing is caring!

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In Defense of Kid-Craft Walls

For those of you following our story, I’m so excited to tell you that we have found our dream home. It’s everything we had hoped for, and we’re counting the days until we get to move in. We know the sellers, too, so it was only moderately embarrassing when our kids made themselves at home the first time we toured it by immediately throwing rocks off the deck. Hello, new neighbors! You’re going to love us!

We’re still two months from closing, so we have the luxury of packing at our own pace. This is both a blessing and a curse for someone like me because now I get to agonize over all the memories attached to the clutter we’ve stuffed into every nook and cranny these past three years — this single baby boy shoe that’s been lost for ages, the old sticker charts documenting new words spoken, homemade games that have been broken and lost pieces but still stir up nostalgia remembering the joyous 18 minutes we played with each.

Pulling me out of my sentimental haze is the anticipation of getting to decorate our new home. As years-long renters, we’ve never been able to choose paint colors or window treatments. Having married and gotten knocked up five minutes out of college, we’ve never had the extra money to spend on “nice” wall-hangings, furniture that isn’t hand-me-down, or upgrading out of the self-assembled Swedish fare. We’ve always told ourselves that it wasn’t worth the money to decorate a temporary space, but rather we should save up for the real thing since we had no way of knowing what style or space we’d be dealing with.

And so I have decorated our walls the only way I could. Rather, I let the kids do it:

Noodle art, puff balls, and enough paper plates to host 79 toddler birthday parties.

I realize this is neither soothing nor aesthetically pleasing to the untrained eye. But these walls have evolved over time, telling our family’s stories and charting our children’s growth.

For instance, guests may walk into our kitchen and see nothing but a piece of paper covered in jungle stickers; I see a hesitant 18-month-old boy passing time as his mommy nurses his brand new sister on their first day home from the hospital. It took far longer than either of us anticipated, and so the stickers began to overlap and diminish all the white space as time drew on. I see that picture and I feel his patience, feel the guilt that crept into my heart that day. I look at that picture and remind myself of the sweet beauty that came out of the apprehension and nerves that day. I see my baby growing into a boy, able for the first time to command the stickers in his clumsy fingers.

At some point, we graduated from single crafts to duplicates as Baby Sister earned her glue-and-sequins badge.

At some point, we graduated from single crafts to duplicates as Baby Sister earned her glue-and-marker rights.

Friends may see splotches of paint, where I see progress as little hands grew and the tools they used became more sophisticated — from crude finger swipes to a rubber duck whose head became a handle while its body became a makeshift stamp when dunked into paint. I see where we graduated from foam brushes swiping through a single color to the intricacy of having to rinse and dab a paintbrush before moving to a new well of color in a tray of many.

This looks like it came straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue if you’re drunk enough.

There are handprints and footprints for every occasion, decorated as reindeer and ghosts and fishies and turkeys. They may all look the same to you, but I know which chubby little fingers belong to each child, and I remember the painstaking effort it took to dangle those tiny kicking feet above a canvas, trying to make a clean print. I see the smudges that inevitably encircle each and laugh at my naivety — the nerve of a rookie mother, thinking she can expect perfection.

Antlers are hard.

A friend recently introduced me to the teachings of famous de-clutterer Marie Kondo, and as I begin the great purge that precedes a move to a new house, I’ve found success in thanking every thing for its service before tossing it in the can. There’s something about these walls of crafts, though, that ping the little hoarder center of my brain. Perhaps a blog post in their honor is my own way of thanking them, and one day soon I’ll be able to recognize that my kitchen is not a preschool and it’s time to part ways.

Soon I will be living in 50 shades of Restoration Hardware gray, blissfully ensconced in the grown-up decor we’ve been dreaming of. And I know I can take photos and even pack these crafties up to take with us if I can’t get a grip and pitch it all if I’m so inclined. But for now, I’m content to sip my tepid coffee in a room that matches my state of mind: haphazard and busy, but full of love and color — and largely overwhelmed by the shmears of young children.

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5 Reasons House-Hunting Is Not For the Faint of Heart

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From the first time I toured the hot pink mansion with Barbie and Skipper, I’ve fantasized about what my own dream house would one day look like. Granted, I don’t expect to have an in-home elevator and my husband doesn’t (usually) wear teal mesh tank tops, but like Barbie, I long for a beautiful home for my family.

We’ve had our share of starter situations, some dumpier than others, and are now in a position to find what we hope will be our forever home, a concept both idyllic and fraught with dangerously high expectations. And though we’re still in the trenches of this agonizing pursuit, I have learned a thing or two along the path to our dream home — mostly, that it’s not easy:

1. Attention to detail is critical. The first apartment my husband and I shared didn’t have working drawers in the kitchen — just faux drawer fronts. It wasn’t something we thought we needed to check when touring for new digs, and it somehow slipped the realtor’s mind to mention. Want to test the strength of your marriage? Infuse the newlywed phase with pregnancy cravings that must be sated in a kitchen whose storage capacity rivals that of a Tic-Tac dispenser. (Shout-out to the restaurant next to our apartment building!) Now we know: try to imagine the weirdest and most inconvenient quirk they could be hiding from you before handing over your money. And always check the drawers.

2. There’s a reason you never see small children on HGTV. It’s not easy paying attention to detail when you’re chasing little ones off other peoples’ furniture and convincing them not to pee in all the potties. I feel compelled to bring them, thinking of course they should have a say in this monumental family decision. The problem is my kids base their opinions of a house on the quality of its bath toys and on the depth of its staircases when tumbling down them. Does the house have a sandbox? If so, they are ready to sign and will not want to leave for several hours. Our family even had to adopt a new rule: any toys left in someone else’s pantry are GONE FOREVER. Seriously. We mean it this time. Not turning around. Nope. Not doing it. Okay, last time.

3. You must do your homework. When I was pregnant with our third, we found a big, beautiful home for rent in an affluent suburb, at the end of a lovely cul-de-sac. It had been recently renovated, and to our surprise, was well within our budget. What luck — it didn’t even seem haunted! And then a simple Google search yielded an alarming result: The house was, and apparently had been for years, the headquarters for an adult escort service. It was an actual, illegal whore house, which (thankfully!) had several Yelp reviews — because God forbid you unwittingly hire a two-star suburban hooker. At the thought of my children running through the halls, tripping on sequins and broken dreams while sleazy websites continued to direct oblivious, ehr, clients to our home, we decided to stay put for another year.

4. It’s okay to get emotional. We’re house-hunting in a highly competitive seller’s market, with a wisp of savings and lots of big dreams. Houses sell in a day here, and we’ve lost bidding wars to people crazy enough to pay cash for one.  (Sidenote: Who ARE these people? And if they have so much cash laying around, why aren’t they using it to buy an even better house? Oooh, I have more dollars in my pocket than a suburban prostitute; I’m gonna go live DEBT-FREE. Whatever.) I’ve had my heart broken a few times over the loss of what I thought was our family’s forever home. I’ve cried into my fair share of cheesecakes after seeing house after house that we can’t afford or won’t fit us or smells like old people breath. It’s a big decision that will have a lasting impact on a family, and the most amount of money a person can reasonably expect to ever spend on anything. Go ahead and feel the feelings. Bring cheesecake.

5. The dream might not exist. This is a tough one for sentimental romantics like myself, especially when we place so much pressure on ourselves to find a house that will suit us until we’re old and gross. We hope that in the short window of time we have, our perfect home will become available and we can buy it and live happily ever after. What I’m chasing is a feeling, more than a bedroom count or proximity to a blue-ribbon school. Just like the cosmic click you’re supposed to feel when you meet your soul mate or first catch a glimpse of yourself in THE wedding dress,  I want to walk into a house and have it feel like home, feel like us. As our window of opportunity closes, though, we have to accept reality: that we may have to settle for walking down the aisle in polyester shoulder pads toward the smelly groom with a receding hairline. I think this happened to Barbie’s friend, Midge.

Maybe we’ll find it. Maybe we’ll create it in whatever space we find. Maybe a dream home only becomes just that when you fill it with your family’s love. The dream lives on in all of us who know we are lucky to be able to house-hunt at all.

To all the other first-time home-buyers out there, I wish you good luck in your searches. But know this, as the most important piece of advice I can bestow upon you: If you show up to my dream house with a mesh tank top and a wad of cash to buy it out from under me, I will cut you.

Happy house hunting!