I can do this.

I really do believe that there's so much about parenthood that's not understood until you're in the trenches.  A dog is a fabulous trainer for parenting.  I know for me, it was an experience to learn to put the need of a little precious and innocent canine above my own.  Bonding came from the tough things--like potty-training that seemed unending and nighttime walks at 3:30am for the first few months of puppyhood--because it was what he needed, and those needs of his became more important than my need for sleep.

And then enter kids.  Whoa Nellie.  What a way to rock a world and change you to the core.  I am truly a changed woman and glaring evidence presented itself today in the form of a call from Elliott's school.

I received a call informing me that Elliott had fallen backward off of a swing, bumping the back of her head.  Now at first, I thought, you know, it's nice to be informed  but I opted to just assume that things were fine and leave Elliott at school because, well, if she learns that her Mom will come whenever an injury occurs, I have a feeling a habit will very quickly follow. Something along the lines of a little boy who cried wolf.

But when I hung up the phone, the tears and self-doubt got the better of me.  I texted my husband, looking for a reassuring "you know she's fine", but he was in the midst of a meeting so the affirmation didn't come immediately.  So I sobbed a bit, feeling stuck in the thick of some grand parenting dilemma. First, she needs to learn that not every injury is a big deal and needs to be able to find comfort independently and learn to count on the others who are around her for support.  And she has a wonderful support group where she is--and learning to depend on them will serve her well in her confidence of being away from me.  On the other hand, what if something truly is wrong and she has a concussion and I just blew it off and I'm a terrible mother?

Needless to say, I was quite worked up.  I saw myself in the mirror, and said out loud, "You're not even the one who got hurt!"  And consequently, I thought, all of this ridiculousness needs to be shared.  And it needs a good illustration.  So I took a quick photo of my red-faced puffy-eyed exhausted self.  This, my friends, is why I don't even bother wearing make-up.

Now, I'm not a Mom who jumps up immediately when one of my kiddos gets hurt--it's not that I don't want to--I've just learned along the way that my reaction has a lot of bearing on their own reaction.  That's no grand secret to parents.  So, maybe I might even seem unsympathetic at times, which may be true.

But this time, I realized that the dilemma I faced had more to do with confidence as a parent.  Or, rather, lack of confidence.  I move fearlessly forward on the outside, but inside I'm quivering and letting self-doubt reign.  So many times when I make a choice, set a standard, make a demand or have to punish, the little voices eat at me telling me I'm "doing it wrong".  Sometimes the voices say I'm not tough enough--sometimes they tell me I'm too tough.  So much of modern wisdom tells us that we're psychologically damaging our children at every turn.  There are lists on Pinterest of things you should never say to your child, lists of the "proper" way to praise, and doggonit even though Freud is highly criticized, I still think about how every problem later in life can be traced back to the mother.

Parenthood is riddled with crippling doubt and insecurity.  And that's something I never expected.  I also never expected the swelling love-you-so-much-it-hurts feelings.  And when you mix all that together, it's...exhausting.

In the end, everything I do is for the betterment of my children.  Every rule I set, choice I make, stand I take--it's to get them where they need to be as productive and independent human beings. So, today I share and write.  Jumping up and getting Elliott and bringing her home wasn't the answer today--all signs pointed to the fact that she'd be perfectly fine.  Letting her "be" and letting out a sigh of relief and sharing my joys and frustrations as a mother seemed to be the route to go.

I can do this.  Phillipians 4:13.

Keeping Lunch Safe

I'm starting this post with Cliffs Notes in case you can't stand paragraph after paragraph of my lunchbox ramblings and such:

-Igloo Mini Tote 8 Fits a Goodbyn Bento perfectly while keeping it horizontal
-There's plenty of room for water bottle and snack, too.
-It also keeps the food very cool and safe (see the last photo)

But if you're interested in lunch box ramblings, then hey, thanks for sticking it out with me.

I'll admit, I looked like a fool in Target when back-to-school time came.  In search of the perfect lunch solution, I headed over to the lunch box section and made myself comfy, trying to fit different bento styles into different lunch boxes.  It's a far cry from the days of my childhood where we all carried the same hard-sided Aladdin-brand lunch boxes with matching thermoses with our favorite TV characters on them--or brown paper bags.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  There are just so many choices and the reviews found on the internet only further throw me into obsessiveness in making "just the right choice".  It comes in part from just wanting to have the perfect solution and also, I really want to buy something that works and not have to buy anything again for a long time.

All that leads me to say that for the Goodbyn Bento, the Igloo mini tote 8 is a great choice of lunchbox.  Now, initially I chose the Igloo Leftover Tote 9, which is great, but as it would turn out it's rather large and cumbersome for an undersized five-year-old like mine.  I can't tell you how many times we heard "That lunch box is bigger than she is,"--and it was a totally correct statement.  When I ordered the Igloo Leftover Tote 9, I received the wrong item and what was sent was the Igloo Mini Tote 8.  The Amazon seller told me to keep the incorrect item and they'd send the correct one, so I ended up with two lunch boxes--but let me say--their mistake was a huge benefit to me because it helped me get the better lunch box, I just didn't know it yet.

The Goodbyn Bento nestles perfectly down into the Igloo Mini Tote 8.  I place two ice packs on the bottom before I add the Bento, and then I'm able to keep the Bento horizontal which was a requirement for me.  There are SO many lunchbox options if you're not concerned about your Bento going vertical, but I wanted to be able to place silicone muffin liners of multiple items into one of the compartments, so going vertical didn't seem like a great idea in our case.

The Bento fits snugly into the mini tote but can still be easily removed by small children with unrefined motor skills.  There is additional room in the top to hold a snack (including the Goodbyn snack containers) and a good-sized water bottle.  (We switch between a Nalgene kids bottle and a Camelback Kid's Eddy.)

Here's the best part of the lunch box solution.  Call us nerds, but we love our digital surface thermometer.  My husband bought it to measure results of some home improvement projects (insulation and the like) and it turns out, we use it a lot.  I even use it in place of a candy thermometer.  I digress (obviously, since this ENTIRE post is about something as lame as lunchboxes!) but this tool helped me to know that our solution is keeping Elliott's food safe.
The pic on the left shows a bowl of watermelon straight from the fridge at 7:30am.  To the right, this is the measurement of Elliott's leftover watermelon after school.  Mind you, the lunchbox has been removed for a period of time, midday, so that she can eat her lunch--and even still, the temp increase at the end of the day is only 8 degrees. Food safety experts tell us that the "Danger Zone" for food falls between 40-140, so all-in-all I feel like an 8 degree increase over the course of 8 hours is pretty impressive.  

I had to do this checking, you see, because I hate hate hate food waste and if Elliott hasn't finished her lunch, then her lunch leftovers are her afternoon snack when she gets home.  (Some things, even at a decent temp, I don't do this with, however--like leftover egg salad for instance--but in the case of this watermelon and many other leftovers, I feel perfectly fine encouraging her to just eat her leftovers as a snack when she gets home.)  Call me crazy, but do you know how much food Americans throw out every year?  I try to keep our grocery budget minimal and a large way that this is successful is by not wasting food.  Keeping our lunches within a safe temperature range helps a lot, in our case. 

In this case, I'd like to think my obsessiveness in finding the right solution has paid off in a number of ways.


Week #4 Bentos

Day 1: Craisins, corn dog muffins, sweet potato, yogurt, watermelon.
Day 2: Tortilla chips and bean dip, leftover broccoli/bacon/cheese frittata, watermelon.
Day 3: Apple slices, boiled peanuts, pastrami/meunster sandwich, chia pudding.
Day 4: PB&J Spirals, apple slices, full-fat large-curd cottage cheese (the only way to eat it!) and a banana.

It's official--I feel totally settled into school.  I'm not saying that things are running smoothly--it just feels like we're finding a rhythm.  Every morning, I play drill sergeant;  I start off really nice but at a certain point I'm barking orders and (gasp) sometimes shouting.  "Put your shoes on!" I promise, I sound really nice the first 6 times I say it, but by the time the 7th rolls around, I lose my cool.

I've made a "getting ready" chart to help Elliott navigate her morning tasks (it literally consists of using the restroom, brushing teeth, getting dressed, putting shoes on, doing hair and getting backpack prepared and by the door) but somehow we still end up pushing to make it to school on time.  A good talk with a pal of mine helped me realize that I'm not the only one, but seriously--any tips on helping a lolly-gagging 5-year old get ready in a reasonable amount of time?

I guess if this is the most I have to complain about, then life is good.  And most likely, it's a battle we're going to have throughout her childhood so I may as well learn to love it.  Elliott's just so funny--there are times in which I see SO many similarities between she and my older brother, it's just not even funny.  I find myself saying it more and more, and I love the constant reminders of him.


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