Awareness vs. Acceptance

So it’s Autism Awareness Month. In case you weren’t aware. (See what I did there?)

I think everyone is now aware of autism. To the point of panicking and coming up with a dozen different theories on both causes and cures. And maybe some of those are true. I won’t pretend to be an expert–I’ve only been at this “Autism Mom” thing for about nine months. And though I now know it much better than I had before Anna received her diagnosis, I was still aware of it.

If you didn’t know, there is actually quite a bit of division amongst the autism parents and autism community at large (encompassing autistic individuals, parents of autistic children, therapists and specialists, teachers, etc.) in regards to awareness. There are actually quite a few “counter-campaigns” against “Autism Awareness Month”.

There’s “Tone it Down Taupe”, the source of which I can’t seem to find. However, if you just google it, you’ll find all kinds of individual pages that are sporting their taupe ribbons to spread their message. What message, you ask? Well, according to one blog, that message is: “It is taupe (or tan. Or beige. A non offensive, non obtrusive color) to symbolize the toned-down sensory and emotional experiences of those lacking autism.”

And then there’s “Autism Acceptance Month“, put on by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), which aims to refocus the energy spent on finding a cure, on building support and improving the quality of life for those experiencing autism. The important thing to note is that ASAN is an organization founded by and run by autistic adults, meaning there is no doubt about their goals and whether or not they know what is important to the autism community.

Both of these campaigns are opposed to the fear-based, panic-inducing multi-million dollar fundraising campaign put on by Autism Speaks (AS), which was the organization which declared April to be Autism Awareness Month. Their current pitch is called “Light it Up Blue”. They’ve had that slogan for a few years now, from what I understand, and there is quite a bit of controversy over the whole thing.

I’ve heard totally different sides of it, and honestly I’m slightly ambivalent as to where I stand in regards to Autism Speaks.

ASAN and other self-advocating organizations insist that AS has made too much of a profit, and does nothing to actually serve the autism community. According to these autistic adults, and many parents of autistic children, AS has used a double-edged marketing ploy to “raise awareness”. First, there is the “everyone gets freaked out” part of the campaign, wherein they talk about the statistics (which I’ve already discussed in an earlier post), and say that autism has “stolen our children”, or that it’s an “epidemic”.

Is autism more frequent? Perhaps, and I don’t want to get into that debate at the moment. But as a lover of words (logophile?) I have to object to calling it an “epidemic”. An epidemic infers that there is a contagious disease–a singular pathogen–that is spreading from one person to another. This is simply untrue of how autism works. It has many different causes, and it looks different in each person (that’s why it’s a spectrum!). It cannot, therefore, be called an epidemic.

But on with the point…

From some parents of high-functioning autistic children (including PDD-NOS and Asperger’s), I’ve heard that they have not felt represented–that there’s too much tragedy and terror in their marketing, and not enough of the positive side of autism.

And yet, on the other end of the spectrum (pun absolutely intended), you have the parents and guardians/caretakers of low-functioning autistic individuals, who also feel that their child’s autism is not being represented, because of all the fuss about autism creating geniuses and all of the inspirational stories of “recovery”. We are one of those families, whose autism looks a lot more complicated and intensive than HFA/Asperger’s looks like.

So which is it? Are they too panic-inducing, or too rainbow-and-unicorn?

Well, it would seem that AS is not really serving anyone.

But with such a complex disorder, with so much variety, it’s nearly impossible to represent everyone. But what AS could do, which they haven’t done, is provide actual support for autism families, regardless of the level of functioning. Sure, there are some “resources”, but it’s just a bunch of literature, which families already have access to through their other care providers. I’ve looked all over their website, and I can’t find a single thing that is provided for autism families that wasn’t already provided to us through our local resources. For an organization that is supposed to be the “big kahuna” when it comes to autism advocacy, they don’t have much to offer.

Most of their money goes towards research, research, and more research. Oh, and marketing for more money. For research. They are intent on finding a cure, though autistic adults have insisted that there is no cure, because it’s not a disease. I’m inclined to agree with them on this point.

I believe I’m getting slightly off-track, but I wanted to give that foundation before I explain my predicament. You see, I am still torn on whether or not to participate in Autism Awareness Month, or in what fashion I would do so.

Awareness can be good, because it can bring about more understanding and patience with autistic children in public, and it can encourage people in positions of power (like school board members, heads of health insurance companies, politicians) to enact measures that will help families with autism to get the services they need. Unfortunately, most of the “awareness” we see these days is all about fear, panic, and finger-pointing.

Acceptance is also good, because it doesn’t try to “cure” autism, but meets the autistic person (at any age) where they are, and simply helps them to create their best life, whatever that means for them. Acceptance is loving the families and providing practical support for their daily lives. No fear, panic, or finger-pointing. But acceptance also tends to create this rose-colored version of autism that doesn’t apply to all families, particularly those with low-functioning autistic individuals.

So acceptance removes the “dirty word” stigma and promotes more love, understanding, and support for individuals with autism. But awareness reminds us of the reality of a total lack of speech, of changing a nine year old’s diaper, of the constant mess, of wandering away and disappearing, of sleepless nights, and those screaming fits where all you can do is contain them and try to stay calm yourself. And our life? It’s somewhere in the middle of all that. We’re somewhere between awareness and acceptance. Between chaos and unending love.

So I’ll change my Facebook profile photo and cover photo, and my Babycenter avatar. I’ll “Share” whatever great articles or memes come across my news feed. I’ll rally with those who want to rally, sigh with those who want to vent, and create my own “Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month”, where I can nod to the hardships while still smiling fondly at my Sweet Girl, who loves to cuddle, sings without words, dances despite her motor skill difficulties, and adores animals. Because really, isn’t that what life with autism is? Some days you are at ease, comfortable, peaceful. But the next day could be torn apart by an unexpected screaming fit, or a common illness like a cold or flu, which becomes so much harder because they can’t tell you where it hurts. One day is laughing in the park; the next is crying in the middle of the night. It’s all of these things, and families need both awareness and acceptance–the fight as well as the embrace.

 

 

Everyone Else is Talking About It. Why Not Me?

If you are anywhere on social media (which of course you are, because you’re reading a blog), you have most likely heard about the new “scary” statistic of 1:68 children having autism.

Is there a reason for this? Does this point to an environmental cause? Better diagnosis? A link to modern medicine, particularly prenatal care? These are the questions I’m seeing floating around the internet. But not by autism parents. Because guess what? We’re already living it. And there’s an interesting trend among the other autism parent bloggers. In short, we’re tired of the fear. That people tremble and panic when they see that the world is being invaded by children who are just like ours–that is hurtful and frustrating to parents who are already in the thick of it.

In fact, this post was “inspired” by a friend’s Facebook post on that statistic. She hadn’t said much on it, but some of her friends (who I do not know) had made some comments about the usual suspects as far as the causes of autism. This was my reply (which I will in turn expand upon in this very post):

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A recent study found commonalities in the brain structures of autistic children. This seems to indicate that autism occurs in the late-first or early-second trimester of pregnancy, when the cortex is being developed. What’s also not accounted for in studies like these is the fact that autism is a set of behaviors. It’s not a disease. It has MANY causes. A good portion of people with autism also have other disorders (such as Downs, Fragile X, MTHFR, seizure disorders, and Rett’s–which is what my daughter has). So autism is presented alongside those other disorders, and is not necessarily a solitary diagnosis. That needs to be taken into account when seeking a “cause of autism”. Because the fact is, there are many causes, and it can be different for every child. I’ve known parents whose children presented with autism within two days of a particular vaccine. I also know parents of non-vaccinated children who have autism. And even if the actual rate of autism is growing–even if this statistic is not merely the result of better diagnosis–it’s not the end of the world. It’s not a death sentence. There needs to be less fear and finger-pointing and more support for the families who experience life with autism.

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And now to go a little deeper than my knee-jerk Facebook response…

It’s important to realize something when reading statistics: Autism is a set of behaviors, not a singular disease caused by a specific pathogen. There are many causes, and it looks very different in each and every person who experiences it. So to try and pin autism on ONE cause, or ONE toxin… it’s simply inaccurate and using faulty logic.

As I said in my Facebook post, some people have autism because they have Down’s Syndrome, or Fragile X, or MTHFR, or Rett’s (what Anna has). It could also be caused by a traumatic birth, a severe head injury, an illness, or a number of other “environmental” factors. Point being, the cause can be different for each and every person who has it. There is no one cause. There is no one cure. In fact, there’s no cure, regardless of the cause. Therapies are there to make life easier for the person with autism. But their brain has already been wired with it, so they will always have it. Detoxes and intense ABA and hours upon hours of “floortime”–these are all great things that, for some people with autism, will greatly improve their quality of life. But for those whose autism is caused by something non-environmental (like a genetic mutation), those autistic behaviors are more likely to stick around. That is not to say we should give up and not try to make things easier for them. For those with severe or “low-functioning” autism, it’s even more crucial that they receive the therapies that will help to make their lives easier and more enjoyable.

So looking at it from a more realistic perspective, recognizing that there are several factors at play here, and now knowing that the fear surrounding the “A-word” can be hurtful to those already experiencing it–I would hope that Typical families would take a more appropriate response.

What would that response look like?

First, stop trying to point fingers. Not only do you not know my child, or what medical procedures may have been done, or what environment she grew up in, or what may have “pulled the trigger” on her autism, but it’s simply not your place. It is the place of the parents to determine the underlying cause–if any can be found–and deal with it in a way that works for their family. “Finding a cause” sounds like a good idea, until you look at the facts and see that there are dozens of causes, and each person with autism is unique. Finding one cause will never happen. So please stop jumping on the band wagon.

Oh, and pointing fingers will many times lead to pointing at the parents. And while it’s true that, perhaps in some cases, there were cases of autism being the result of toxicity from vaccines, or too much Tylenol, or too many ultrasounds, or Pitocin, or whatever they’re saying these days… Even if that’s true–even if it is the result of something the parent chose to do–parents of children with autism have loads of grief and guilt already. They don’t need yet another “well-meaning” friend pointing out what they’ve done wrong. We second guess everything. We play things over in our minds, wondering if we could have made another choice that would have kept our child “normal”. We carry the burden of our child’s diagnosis every single day. The last thing we need is someone telling us it’s all our fault and if we had just skipped that ultrasound, or eaten more organic food, or not given them a painkiller when they were screaming from teething… If we had just… then our child would be fine. You don’t know that. And we wonder that enough already. So please just stop.

Second, what that statistic says to me is not that we need to find a cause or a cure (because, as mentioned above, that’s impossible), but that we need more supports in place. In schools, in churches, in community groups, in doctor’s offices. More therapies available; more teachers being trained; more time with therapists. More approval from insurance companies to cover (at least partially) more appropriate therapies. More cohesive support and communication from state-funded support systems. More flexibility in the classroom to meet the individual needs of the child. More specialists in more locations. These factors can make a big difference in the autistic child’s quality of life, and their future success and independence as an adult.

But even outside of the “professional” arena, we need more support from Typical families–our friends and relatives. We are pretty much always tired and have a lot on our minds. Being able to have some respite–a date night, an afternoon coffee with a friend–is such a precious gift. Even if you don’t know an autistic family personally, you can still find a local ministry or support group, and offer to be a respite care provider. Or maybe you’re busy yourself, but you can offer some funds to pay for a respite caregiver. Or take a special family a meal, just to give them a night off. Offer a play-date; give an ear to listen; give a hug; offer to clean their house or run some errands. Between therapies, special schools, doctor’s appointments, meeting with specialists and school administrators, and just paying that extra attention that a child on the spectrum needs, not to mention caring for siblings and working–this leaves little time for errands, cleaning, and cooking. We get by. Our house is not a disaster, and we eat home-made food six nights a week. But sometimes it would be nice to not have to do those things, and spend a little more time with our special kiddos.

Third, what this statistic says to me is that we need more education for the general public. That not every child screaming in the store is simply undisciplined. That the child wandering down the road isn’t trying to ignore you, and they may be in danger. That we need less fear and more support. That we need less awkward silences and apologies, and more hugs and questions like, “How can we help you?” That we need less pity and more encouragement.

Believe it or not, I may have actually run out of things to say on the subject. I hope this gave you something to think about the next time you hear a new cause, a new cure, or a new statistic for autism.

A Shout-Out to Leah

I recently read an article about siblings of special kiddos, and how they do so much and yet are frequently overlooked. The article was very positive, thanking the author’s children for loving on their little brother, who has Autism. He talked about how they cuddle him, tickle him, and help to teach him. The article touched me, and I realized how much I needed to acknowledge Leah’s hard work and love for her sister.

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So Leah, while you may not be reading yet, and it may be a while before you truly grasp what I’m attempting to convey here, I hope that some day, you will read this, and realize how much we appreciate you.

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You hold your sister’s hand in the parking lot, so she doesn’t wander off and get hurt or lost.

You play with your brother and, while to you it’s just playing with the baby, for me it’s keeping him occupied and engaged so I can have some down-time.

You patiently and graciously just give a little sigh when your sister hurts your toys, or takes something from you. Sometimes you get frustrated, or sad–and rightfully so–but you (almost) always forgive her right away.

You advocate for her at birthday parties and play-dates. When other kids look at her strangely, wondering why she isn’t talking, you tell them simply and confidently, “She has Autism, so she doesn’t talk. She wants…”–and you then tell them what she wants. Because…

You understand her–or at least you try.

You help me–constantly. You pick up toys, take things out of Anna’s mouth when I’m with your brother and can’t get to her quickly; you help me keep an eye on her when we’re out and about.

You forgive me quickly when I’m short with you. And I’m sorry that happens much more than it should.

You tickle and play with your sister, giving her a serious case of the giggles.

You let me know when Anna’s getting into something she shouldn’t, or when she’s (once again) putting something in her mouth.

You accept alternative activities when Anna’s too tired or too upset for us to go out and play. I know that’s really hard for you, and sometimes it upsets you very much, but you do accept it and move on.

You give me hugs and kisses when I’m having a hard day. You have no idea how much that means to me.

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I’m sure there is much, much more that Leah does–and will do–for her sister, and for us. As the first-born, she also has more expected of her, and sometimes we expect too much. Sometimes we take advantage of her willingness to help. Sometimes we don’t listen to what she has to say, because we’re in such a rush to get things done. And sometimes we forget to say “please” and “thank you”. Especially “thank you”. Because there is so much you have done, and will do, that we can never say “thank you” enough. Your life will be different than most, and I hope this love and affection, this attentive guardianship, that you hold for your sister, will last long after Daddy and I are gone. In the years to come, when we are too old, too sick, or too dead, to care for your sister, it will come to you and your brother to care for her. To advocate for her, to make decisions for her care, to love her, believe in her, stand up for her, listen to her, and protect her. I hope you’re up for the challenge. It’s a lot of hard work, but the reward is great.

Thank you, Leah.

Thank you.

 

On Seasons, Challenges, and Follow-Through

This year I’ve felt a burden to challenge myself. I know, with three kids (one of whom has special needs), you wouldn’t think I’d need any more challenges. But these challenges I’ve been considering are all things that will improve our quality of life, and will instill good habits for the future. Throughout scripture, I see that people are regularly called into seasons of life and various personal challenges. They include fasting, being in the wilderness, financial hardship, and illness. These are times of refinement and purification. And many challenges keep presenting themselves to me. I feel that I ought to answer that call and push myself to complete them.

And yet, as I chronicle this, I am faced with the legacy I’ve had on this very blog, of not finishing what I start. I’ve begun many different series’ and themes, following them closely for a few weeks, then losing interest or becoming too busy, and letting them fall to the wayside. In January, I challenged myself to keep a food diary. While I did follow through with the initial challenge of only using THM recipes for the whole month, I did not follow through with the diary. Partly because it was not getting much of a response from readers (not their fault… my food diary would not be very exciting to most people), and also because I allowed myself to neglect it. I would say that I became too busy, but… here’s the thing.

I’m always going to be busy.

I’m always going to be filling my time with something. But making the choice to fill my free time (those precious spurts of time when the kids are asleep or otherwise occupied) with one thing over another, that can vary from day to day. And sometimes I don’t want to take the time to write, perhaps for fear that the moment will be too short to get all my thoughts out; or it may be that there is simply something else I would rather be doing, like talk to my sister on the phone, or catching up on a favorite TV show. We don’t always choose the same thing for our leisure time, and a that’s a good thing. Otherwise, that one thing would either become boring and no longer enjoyable, or it would become an obsession.

But maybe that needs to be the challenge this year. To actually follow through on a blog series; to complete a challenge; to do what I say I’m going to do.

And so here begins my goal for the year: From this point forward, I will endeavor to complete one challenge per month. January was changing my food. February was simply about sticking to the changes to food, and evaluating how I could make it last for a lifetime. March? Well, this month I’m doing two challenges: First, I’ve joined a “Put away the scale” challenge on the THM Facebook group, which is not weighing myself for the month, and not obsessing over weight loss, but simply focusing on healthy eating and trusting the Lord with my health. The second one is to name gifts, as seen in the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp (which I am one chapter away from finishing!). That one is lasting into next month as well, as I have timed it to coincide with Lent, though I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily practicing Lent–it just seemed an easy/convenient way of measuring out roughly six weeks.

So now I must set to the task of choosing challenges for the next nine months. Some things I’d like to do include reading more pregnancy, birth, and early parenting books; completing a study or devotional (another activity I frequently start but never finish…); stop yelling at my kids and be calmer as a parent; work on, if not complete, one of my novels; do some various acts of kindness that let my friends know I care about them; begin training for Postpartum Doula certification; and lastly (for now), begin a regular exercise regimen.

Which goals will be in which months is yet to be determined. But taking on each task in an organized manner, one month at a time so I can focus on that one thing, will hopefully make the difference between accomplishment and (yet another) failure to complete a goal.

So while New Years’ Day has passed, and we are no longer figuring out our “Resolutions”, we can still continue to give ourselves something to reach for. Call it a goal, a challenge, a dream… Whatever it is, make it yours. Own it. Do it. Make it happen. Don’t let yourself slip up like I have done so many times. My challenge for the year is to actually reach my goals. My goal is to accomplish all of those little tasks, one by one, month by month. It can be done; it will be done.

I hope.

So what is your challenge for this month? What goals are you setting for yourself? How do you keep yourself from slipping and giving up? What words of advice can you offer to those who have a history of slacking off on their goals?

Different, Not Less

It’s the mantra of Autism advocates world-wide. You can find it on t-shirts, stickers, and websites. It’s a quote from an Autism self-advocate, Temple Grandin. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. If you haven’t, go look her up. There’s a movie about her that I can almost guarantee will make you cry, especially if you love someone with Autism.

This post has been floating around in my head over the past week, and at first its focus was going to be the things that are harder for families with Autism. But that just felt too negative. Too self-pitying. So instead, I wanted to point out some things that are different for us than with other families, thanks to Autism. Whether “good” or “bad”, these are our experiences. And I share them not so you will feel sorry for us, but to educate and shed some light on aspects of our life that may not be quite so obvious.

1. Testing

ASD kids go through a lot of tests. Psychological observations, speech/language evaluations, blood tests, MRIs, EEGs, and more. Currently, we’re waiting on the results from a blood test, just recently received results from an MRI, and we have an appointment for an EEG in a couple of weeks. Thanks to this testing, ASD parents soon learn intake procedures, know the terminology to explain their child’s speech delays, understand the distinctions of various motor skills, and can fill out a new patient registration in their sleep. Everyone wants to figure out what’s going on. And that’s a good thing! We’ve been so blessed by the doctors we’ve encountered, and putting pieces of Anna’s puzzle together has been key in knowing how to help her at home. But testing has its downsides. It can be traumatic for your child. It can also be awkward or just plain annoying for the parent. For the MRI, I had to crawl up into the machine and simultaneously hold Anna’s hands away from her face (not easy when she is addicted to sucking her thumb!), and hold her head still, while not getting in the way of the imaging. For her EEG, we’ll have to wake her up at 2am and keep her awake until her appointment at 10am, and possibly longer depending on the wait, and how long they want her awake during the EEG. For her blood draw, I had to hold her arm and shoulder still while one nurse held her arm down and a second nurse drew the blood. But having those answers will help us to help her, so it’s worth it.

2. Birthday Parties

Anna is sensory-seeking, which means she loves loud noises, new faces, and lots of activity. But she is also gluten-free (actually has nothing to do with her Autism, but can be common with many ASD kids), and doesn’t understand the concept of “this is another person’s food”. So even if the host has kindly provided gluten-free snacks and cake for her, there is still the more-than-likely possibility that the other children will leave their food on the edge of the table, where she can–like lightening–grab fistfuls of glutinous cake and shove it in her face before I even notice she’s near the table. She’s a sneaky one. And quick. And then of course there’s the decorations she pulls down, the party favors and toys she “explores” with her mouth, and the other children that she may decide to lick, bite, pat forcefully, or grab. She loves hair, and she has been known to pull it on other kids. It sounds like typical concerns for a 12-18 month old, but she is 3. And of course there are the semi-awkward moments of someone trying to talk to her–asking her questions and such–and her just staring at them with a smile, and they look at me somewhat questioningly when I answer for her. “Her name is Anna… She’s three…” I’ve now overcome the urge to explain to everyone I meet that she has Autism. It’s not really any of their business. But I used to make this excuse for her every time we encountered someone who wanted to talk with her and she did not respond. They can wonder or ask if they like, but it’s exhausting to explain to everyone we meet that she is non-verbal, that she doesn’t even respond to her name, and that she has poor motor skills.

3. Going Absolutely Anywhere

Getting out the door with three kids is a challenge. But when a three year old doesn’t understand safety issues and is prone to sudden sobbing meltdowns, it makes it much more complicated. I feel so victorious when we get out the door on time and without complication. It’s such a wonderful feeling! And when we arrive somewhere that is contained enough to keep her safe without me having to hold her hand the entire time? Oh that is pure bliss! But sometimes even just taking a walk, running a quick errand, or stopping by the library, can be more trouble than it’s worth. I must praise my oldest, though. She can be so incredibly helpful in keeping her sister from wandering off in the parking lot while I open the van, or in helping me keep an eye on her in a play area. I’m so grateful for Leah’s mothering instincts! Now, if I could just get Damien to like his carrier a little bit more…

4. Playdates

I would like to point out that I have some truly amazing friends. One friend also has a special needs child, so she totally understands our challenges. Another friend had a foster child with Autism, so she also “gets it”. And yet another friend has a degree in child development. You’re seeing the trend, I’m sure. Without even intending to, and before we knew about Anna’s Autism, I was making friends who would be understanding and supportive. I’ve heard of ASD parents losing friends after their child’s diagnosis. Life got too busy with therapies, other kids weren’t keen on having a playdate with the ASD child, or the other parents just didn’t want to bother making accommodations. But my friends are amazing. Even though playdates are harder to come by–though our schedules don’t always mesh, and sometimes kids have meltdowns and we need a day at home–the times we do get together, the time is sweet and such a relief! Being able to allow my kids to play without explanation or apology–it’s wonderful! It’s still different, sure. My 3 year old has no interest in playing with other kids, and sometimes we have to leave early if she’s overwhelmed. But the love and acceptance from my friends and their children is beautiful, and greatly appreciated.

5. Milestones

When you have a child with a severe language delay (including a complete absence of spoken language, such as Anna has), every grunt, every little sound, is so much more exciting. With Leah, she met most of her milestones early, or at the very least, right-on-time. But with Anna, most were delayed, and some she still has not met. So when she does make a new sound, we’re thrilled. We’re excited to see her climbing on the table, pestering her sister, and trying to show affection to her brother. It’s absolutely exhilarating when she meets a new milestone, as meager as it may seem. And you learn to appreciate the little things. Her bending down to sit on the ground may be annoying when you’re trying to walk somewhere, but knowing that she didn’t do that six months ago, hardly ever bending her knees, is exciting. And her taking the initiative to walk up a step without prompting or supporting? Absolutely incredible. When you have a child with special needs, you learn to appreciate and see the value in each and every seemingly minor milestone.

 

Well, that’s about all I have for now. I hope that some of you were inspired to be aware of the needs of children with Autism, or that perhaps you thought of a new way to support a family with special needs. Or maybe you simply thought it was interesting to note the differences between an ASD family and a typical family. For us, this has become our everyday life. It has its challenges, set-backs, and annoyances; but it’s our life now, and we are so blessed by it.

Disney’s Princess Journey

I’m not a “huge” fan of Disney. But having a daughter who is very attracted to the “princess” theme and story, I can’t help but be constantly exposed to Disney Princesses. No, unlike other hippie mamas, I don’t keep my daughter from watching them. I didn’t encourage it, either–it just happened.

So over the years, I have watched many Disney Princess movies, both as a child and as an adult. I must say, my view and response to these movies has changed greatly since becoming an adult, and even more so, when I became a mother. A mother of two daughters, at that, whom I wish to protect from damaging images of romance and expectations of womanhood.

I don’t call myself a feminist, but I do find it very important to experience the fullness of womanhood as God intended. And that includes some perspectives that may sound somewhat feminist.

In this post, I will look at the Disney Princess movies (that I have seen–there are a couple I haven’t seen) through the last eight decades, and give a brief response to their message of womanhood and relationships. And yes, I know that many of these were adapted from fairy tales from ancient times, but I still see a trend growing, and have witnessed a change over the years.

Enough prefacing already! :) In order of their release dates, here are the Disney Princess movies:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

The first of the Disney Princesses, this is the classic tale of Snow White. I don’t think I need to explain the plotline, as it’s well-known, even across multiple cultures (though it can vary slightly from culture to culture). As far as relationships are concerned, this is a very typical princess story: Princess is abused by step-mother. Prince hears Princess singing and is in love. Princess is in trouble. Prince fights for Princess. Prince and Princess live happily ever after. Sure, there are some unique details (like the short, bearded men she lives with), but it’s a fairly common premise. But the message conveyed is one of demonizing step-mothers, and praising the “love at first sight” nonsense. Also, can Snow be any more gullible?? Apparently her dearly departed father never taught this girl any kind of “stranger danger”.

The things wrong with this movie are much the same as any other “princess in distress” movie. Girl is in trouble (from her own foolishness and naiveté) and the prince is the only one who can save her with a “true love’s kiss”, because of course it’s true love, even though they only interacted for about five minutes prior to her being drugged. Okay, I think you get my point. On with the next one.

Cinderella (1950)

Nearly 15 years later, we still see the same story: Evil step-mother’s abuse… Yada yada. And although the prince doesn’t save the girl from physical harm, and it’s actually Cinderella who “makes a way” to follow her dream (or whatever you want to call it), there is still the “love at first sight” notion. The prince is so enraptured by this girl after just one evening with her that he’s willing to marry her. After one evening. Probably just three hours, maybe four hours tops. And his father is so desperate to marry him off to anyone, that he declares “Whoever fits this shoe is the one the prince will marry!” Sure, it makes for some interesting scenes, and allows Cinderella to prove she was the one at the ball (by producing the other glass slipper), but what if, ten houses before the Duke ever reached Cinderella’s house, some other girl just so happened to have the same sized feet?

So again, same issues–love at first sight coupled with the “poor abused girl” scenario. Though I understand these heroines must endure some hardship to complete the Hero’s Journey, I don’t understand what the obsession with step-mothers is.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Just nine years later, we see a slightly different opening scene: Rather than an evil step-mother, it’s the evil Queen Maleficent, who curses Aurora. I’m honestly baffled at the twisting of logic that was required to make this story work. So, King Stephan and Queen… Whatever-your-name-is, your daughter has been cursed to die on her sixteenth birthday. This means you have sixteen years to openly teach her not to go near spinning wheels. But rather than enlighten the girl about her predicament, they hide her away in the forest with the three fairies, and burn all of the spinning wheels. Is anyone else wondering how they made new clothes during those sixteen years? Just me? Okay, anyways, you could have protected her better by keeping her close, educating her on the curse, and giving her the willpower to not poke her finger. But instead, confused and upset by her true identity being revealed, she wanders off and, not knowing what the curse was, she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and falls asleep. The whole mess could’ve been avoided with a little education. The whole hiding away thing was completely unnecessary.

And the prince? Once again, they spent one whole afternoon before deciding they were in love. And she didn’t even know his name, nor did he know hers. But they were both willing to throw away their birthrights, essentially, by rebelling against their parents (Phillip more than Aurora–she mostly just cried) for the sake of this “love”. And of course he risks his life for “true love”, killing the dragon (aka Maleficent), and wakes her with “true love’s kiss”, and they live happily ever after.

The Little Mermaid (1989)

After a 30 year gap, we see Disney attempt a faint image of a woman’s independence, but they miss the mark. Rather than a girl standing up for herself against a tyrant or forging her way through a difficulty, we see an impulsive teenage girl rebelling against her father to pursue a potentially dangerous relationship based on her seeing Eric for a few minutes. Let’s make this clear: Eric and his countrymen fish for their food. I have no objections to this, but I would if I were a mermaid whose closest friend was a… fish. Think about that. She pursues this man whom she does not know (basing her “love” on a few minutes watching him party with his crew, and singing to him on the beach while he was mostly unconscious), at the risk of her friends being killed and eaten by his people. Her father understandably wants her to stay away from humans, but she foolishly ignores his warnings, seeks the help of a witch to pursue this man, and then endangers her friends as well as her father’s kingdom, all because she “loves” this guy she doesn’t know. Of course it all turns out all right in the end, but her choices revealed a severe lack of judgment.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Ah, a breath of fresh air! A bookworm–smart and witty–who tames a wild beast and becomes a princess. But let’s break this down a little. Though it’s nice to see the two romantic leads actually knowing each other before they fall in love, and though Belle did know that the castle was “enchanted”, she didn’t know the whole story. She didn’t know–for certain–that the Beast was actually a prince. Yet she loves him. Isn’t that bestiality? Okay, fine. We’ll give Belle the benefit of the doubt that she maybe read a book in the library, or overheard the servants explain the curse in detail, or something–so that she actually knew that the Beast was really a man trapped inside a beast’s body. We’ll let that one slide. And I’ll pass on the Stockholm Syndrome accusation as well, because the Beast actually did change, so I’ll give them that.

So the romance isn’t so unbelievable, and the story is fine on that. But there are a few holes in the plotline. For instance, if Philippe ran away before the wolves chased Maurice to the Beast’s castle, how did he take Belle to the castle to find him? And exactly what season is it? It seems to start in fall, and clearly goes through winter, but in the extended version, there’s a song in which spring comes. So Belle stays there all through winter, into spring, and her father takes THAT long to look for the castle… that he’s already come from? And actually, it shows Maurice coming home, asking for the town’s help, and immediately after being turned down by them, goes out alone to search for Belle. And in that time, he falls down in the snow and becomes sick. But if he had, as the time-lapse of Belle’s time in the castle asserts, been out looking for her for the whole winter, he would have died by the time she got around to looking for him. So then let’s assume that she only spent a few days there, allowing Maurice to still be believably alive, and then we’re back at the start with, “She just met him and now she’s in love??” and also, “It’s unlikely he would have made lasting changes in that short amount of time.” You were so close, Beauty and the Beast. And I think we’re getting a little bit warmer. Not the immature girl rebelling against her father, nor the helpless girl in need of rescuing. It’s getting better. And then…

Aladdin (1992)

Wham! One year later, we meet Jasmine. A strong-headed princess who refuses to marry someone out of obligation and wants to love someone, and wants to be respected by that “someone”. Sounds great. Until once again, we see this “strong woman” interpreted as a rebellious teenager, putting herself in danger for the sake of “freedom”. And in the end, she was in need of rescue. But that wasn’t so much of a big deal, in the grand scheme of the movie. Taking the focus off of the princess, though she is still a “Disney Princess”, and narrowing in on Aladdin, we see the message of “It’s okay to steal as long as you really need it…” Aladdin never attempts to work for his food. He resorts to stealing and never seeks any other alternative to earn his food legally (and ethically). And then he lies to get in with Jasmine, thinking he has to be a prince to impress her even though he knows they got along great when they met in the marketplace. Stealing, lying, and rebellion, all glossed over and almost praised. And shall we also comment on how Aladdin doesn’t immediately release the Genie, but uses him for his own purposes, keeping him in slavery, until he gets what he wants? Well, I guess it’s an improvement over the original story, but if you’re already going to change it, why not change it to have a better message?

Okay, on with the next. I think we might be moving in a better direction here…

Pocohontas (1995)

Plenty of people have pointed out the blatant historical inaccuracy of this story. But let’s just take it completely out of its historical context and look at the story itself, pretending for a moment that it’s not a terrible interpretation of actual history. A girl meets a man in the forest and magically understands him. After one afternoon alone with him, she finds herself “drawn” to him. She finds out he’s a threat to her people, and both she and John try to work towards peace, despite their superiors wanting to go to war, basically. She is the heroine, and it seems a great improvement for her to be the one saving the man, rather than being the damsel in distress. I must say, that is an improvement, and that’s probably the ONE historical fact they mostly got right. Other than the names. And it didn’t end with them living happily ever after. They went their separate ways, and they just fondly remembered each other. That was a little more realistic of relationships–I’ll give them that. Sometimes the ones we feel strongly about wind up being just a slight detour, and not someone we spend the rest of our lives with. And I haven’t seen the sequel, so I have no idea if they ever wind up together.

Mulan (1998), Mulan II (2004)

Mulan is not actually a princess, but we’ll just go with it, because she is considered a “Disney Princess”. She’s the daughter of a middle-class family who goes to war, pretending to be a man, to keep her aged father from going to war and possibly killing himself. Having been rejected by the matchmaker, she feels she ought to do something to bring her family honor. Though clumsy and not the “perfect bride” (as the song “Reflection” points out), she does have integrity and wants to protect her family, even though it means running away in the middle of the night and lying about her identity. And though she never becomes a princess, she does meet a “special someone”. And at the end of the movie, you’d almost expect the typical “happily ever after”. And Mulan’s grandmother even asks him to stay “for ever”, but Mulan quickly interjects “for dinner”, and Shang agrees to “dinner”. So we see that–hooray!–it’s not a love at first sight premise! These two spent time at war together (though Shang didn’t know she was a girl), and though the romantic feelings were only on Mulan’s side (once again… he didn’t know she was a girl), Shang did have respect for and trust in “Ping” (Mulan’s alter-ego). So there was something to build upon, and no rushing into anything.

Then in the sequel, it opens with Shang proposing to Mulan, but then they are both called into service to the Emperor. And on a journey to escort a trio of princesses, trouble ensues, and they nearly break up. It shows typical misunderstandings and a lack of communication, which is common in real relationships. It wasn’t a perfect fairy tale ending, and it showed the real struggles of a couple, and the amount of consideration and selflessness that must be incorporated into a romantic relationship. This story definitely made a turn for the better in Disney’s princess line.

[I have not seen "Princess and the Frog", so I am skipping that one.]

Tangled (2010)

There were a few things that some people might find distasteful in this movie. The hero is a thief, and that is largely seen as “no big deal” (other than him being chased by the royal guard), and the viewer is even moved to root for him to escape justice. The fact that Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel, though it is obvious, is never viewed as horrible as it actually is. She basically gets away with it, never facing true justice for her crime. Sure, she’s no longer a threat, but she just sort of “goes away” and doesn’t go to prison or anything. And though Gothel was very, very wrong for keeping her in the tower, it was an act of rebellion that took Rapunzel out of the tower; not an attempt at freedom from her bondage. She did not know she had been abducted as a toddler, nor that she was being used and abused by her mother, and some would even praise the realism of Gothel’s verbal and emotional abuse.

Personally, as entertainment, I very much enjoyed this movie. It had some great songs, it was a nice twist on the Rapunzel story, and in the end, Flynn did make the right choice, we saw an act of sacrifice and heroism on Rapunzel’s part (not the “prince” saving her, but her saving her man), and they didn’t immediately get married at the end of the movie. The epilogue/voiceover at the end said that they “eventually” got married. As in, after a time of courtship. So we’re getting there! Bit by bit, it’s getting better!

Brave (2012)

And now, finally, we see a princess story that has absolutely NO romantic storyline! Merida actually competes for her own hand, beating her suitors and “winning” the freedom of not being tied to an arranged marriage. Though the reality is that she would eventually be expected to marry, we at least see that she fought for herself, even using the confines of the law (tradition) to do so, and not merely resorting to outright defiance or sneaking around to accomplish it. Though she does run away to the witch, and then seeks her help, she does learn that using magic is dangerous and has a price. But more importantly, she repairs the relationship with her mother. The relationship in this movie is not one of “prince/princess” but of mother/daughter. That is a vast improvement for a princess movie. To focus on a non-romantic relationship and show the confidence of this girl to not settle for less than the best suitor for her, is a much better message than prior princess movies.

Frozen (2013)

[SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.]

I will admit, I really love this movie. I’m singing “Let it Go” as often as my five year old. The focus on the sisters’ relationship, the exposing of the “charming prince” as the villain, and the scoffing at the “marrying someone you just met” trope? Beautifully done, Disney. You’ve finally delivered what we’ve been wanting for a long time. Strong female leads with a desire to mend the damage done by well-meant but poorly executed parenting, plainly stating that it’s not wise to marry someone you’ve just met (and depicting the real-life scenario of a girl being so desperate to marry, she’ll say yes to the first man who asks), and bringing in the uncharismatic Kristoff as Anna’s better love-interest… and yet still not having them married at the end of it. Because who marries someone they just met, right? And of course, Anna’s sacrificial protection of Elsa as the “act of true love” that saves her, rather than Kristoff–that was not only unexpected, but a very strong choice for the overall message. Not relying on romantic love to save us but seeing sisterly love as “true” and able to bring us out of the cold–literally, in this case–is something that has never been attempted.

Yes, Merida and her mother had to mend their relationship to break the spell, and that, I think, paved the way for Elsa and Anna to give an even stronger picture of family relationships being the “act of love” rather than romantic relationships. There is usually such an emphasis on a romantic partner being the only “true love” that we often forget about–and take for granted–the relationships between siblings, and between parent and child. And what’s so great about this particular story is that the parents, though misguided, did all they could (and what they thought they should) to protect their daughters, even though it was the wrong call in the end. The parents didn’t become the lesser villain. There was no anger or resentment or rebellion against the parents. And the two sisters, though at odds and of very different personalities, came to respect, love, trust, and rely upon one another. And in the end, they balanced each other out.

I’m not sure why it seemed so much stronger and impacting than Brave’s depiction of Merida and her mother having to work on their relationship, but somehow, this one was different. Perhaps because it took a step in an entirely new direction. The other princess movies do touch on relationships between parent and child, though it’s not the exact focus. The fact that the parents are hardly in the picture at all (though they did create the distance between Elsa and Anna by trying to protect them both) is something very new for princess movies. And any step in a new direction is refreshing.

They showed what true sisterly love is all about, and that, I think, is what I really connected with in this movie. My sisters are two of my closest friends, and I know not everyone can say that about their siblings. I consider it a gift, and I hope that my daughters can say the same thing when they are grown.

So there is my synopsis of all the Disney Princess movies (that I have seen). I’m no film student or a critic. I’m just a mom, daughter, wife, and sister, who wants to see improvements in the images of womanhood that are presented to all of womankind. And I think we are moving in the right direction. Let’s hope the trend continues.

How to Sabotage Yourself as a Parent

I’m not a child development expert, nor do I have a Ph.D. after my name. I only have three children who are quite young, so I haven’t run the full gambit of parenting yet.  But over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern, not only in my own parenting, but in other families as well. I want to chat about those and offer some very basic, logic-based suggestions of how to make very small alterations to create big changes in your family. So below you’ll find a handful of ways to sabotage your parenting efforts, and an alternative method or phrase to gain better results.

1) “…Okay?”

If you are giving your child directions (like putting on their shoes), or asking them to do a required task (like a chore), why would you ask if it’s okay with them? Adding this little word at the end of your instruction takes away the authority you hold, and puts them in charge. They are people, and are entitled to choices, but only within the boundaries of reason, under their parents’ authority. Authority seems a strong word for a “peaceful parent” like myself, but keep this in mind: Your children must have someone older, wiser, and more mature to guide them and show them how to be a mature, wise grown-up. Without asserting some kind of authority (and I don’t mean being “authoritarian”), the child will not know which direction is right or wrong. There will be too much ambiguity and they will simply follow their [selfish] primal instincts, and will not learn how to control their temper, treat others with kindness, or–in the case of “…okay?”–learn how to brush their teeth or be responsible for their own things.

What to say instead: “Do you understand?” or “Understood?”

I think for the vast majority of the instances of “…okay?”, the parent is merely seeking acknowledgement. They are not actually asking the child if it’s okay; they are wanting the child to acknowledge that the child heard them. But what the child hears is, “Mom is unsure about this, and now she’s asking me if I’m okay with it. I’m not–I don’t want to clean up my toys!” So rather than inadvertently asking their permission, seek acknowledgement a more direct way, while maintaining your authority.

2) “Do you want…?” or “How about you…?”

Like “…okay?”, this phrase removes the parents’ authority and gives control to the child. Asking, “Do you want to flush the toilet?” or “How about you pick up your toys?” will give them too much of a choice. If it’s something you are requiring, don’t leave it up to them. However, if you really do want to give them a choice, like “Do you want to go to the park?” or “How about you color this picture?”, and you intend to leave it up to them, by all means, ask away!

What to say instead: “I’d like you to…” or “Please…”

You can still model good manners and prompt them politely, without ordering them around. I think that’s what’s at the root of the “Do you want…?” phrase. The parent doesn’t want to snap or order their child about, so they weaken their phrase to be gentler. But they weaken it just a little too much. Model the polite way of making a request, and if they don’t follow it, use a firmer voice and reiterate what you are requiring of them. For example, I’d say in a pleasant, happy voice, “Leah, I’d like you to clean up your room, please.” And if she doesn’t, I’d say in a firmer voice, “Leah, you need to clean up your room as I’ve asked you.” And if she still doesn’t comply? Well, that’s coming up next…

3) “Do you want a timeout?!?”

This opens you up to an empty threat. Asking the child if they want X or Y consequence seems like a good way to shock them into compliance. But not only is this just abrasive enough to put them into panic/defense mode, which will only escalate the situation, but it is just ambiguous enough that you could say it multiple times and each time, weaken your authority, and result in a string of empty threats.

What to say instead: “These are your choices.”

I had heard this basic concept a handful of times, but it was really driven home to me when I attended a special needs parenting workshop just recently. This gives your child the feeling of control, by giving them choices, but because you’re creating the options, you are still in authority. Here is an example of how this works. Leah has difficulty finishing her dinner. Sometimes she is unwilling to even taste something, or other times she will say she’s not hungry. When she uses the “I’m not hungry” excuse, we will tell her, “These are your choices: You can finish your dinner, and tomorrow you’ll get a snack after quiet time; or you can not eat your dinner, and you will not get a snack tomorrow, and you won’t eat anything else tonight.” And then we simply follow through with what we said. Another example is if she doesn’t want to pick out her clothes for the day. I’ll say, “I am going to do X task that I need to do, and when I get back, these are your choices: You can choose something while I do that, and start getting dressed, or you can let me choose your clothes when I’m done.”

Obviously the goal here is to tailor the choices so that the one you want them to do is more “attractive” than the other choice, so that they will be obedient and see the value in what you’ve asked them to do. This also shifts the “blame” of consequence to the child themselves. It was their choice and not the parent “being mean”. That was the choice they made, and they must live with that choice.

4) “Don’t be bad”, “Be good”, or “Stop being bad”

Any phrase that turns the child into the action will, like the empty threats mentioned above, put the child on the defensive. And though I feel very cheesy saying this, it’s also true that it will damage their self-image. If you keep calling them “bad”, they will start to think they are bad, and they will act on that. Children sometimes act badly or make foolish decisions. But turning that into a state of being puts the child into a position of feeling like they are always bad, and that hurts. Even telling them to “be good” has the implication that they aren’t currently “good”. Christians will say, “But there is no one good, according to the Bible!” Parents, I’m not talking about the term “good” as it pertains to holiness or salvation. I’m talking about the child’s perception, and how to have clearer conversation and more specific goals, in order to encourage cooperation and better behavior. And this is how:

What to say instead: “Please cooperate,” “Let’s make a better decision,” or “Treat them kindly”.

Focus on the action, rather than the state of being. Help the child to see the wise choice in that specific situation. Remove the verdict of “good” or “bad” child, and point out, instead, the action that the child should take. So if a child is acting out in a mean way towards another child, rather than tell them, “Stop being so naughty!”, you can say, “Oh no! I see you’re frustrated, but we can’t hit our friends. Let’s treat our friends kindly and use gentle hands.”

5) “Don’t…”

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that in order to encourage cooperation and cohesiveness, you ought to use “do” phrases rather than “don’t” phrases. Saying what a child should do brings about more cooperation and willingness to obey than pointing out what they shouldn’t do. It also closes the door on any “bad” behaviors you may have forgotten. An example of this? I have a sister who, as a child, would find the things that mom hadn’t specifically said were not allowed. Mom said no hitting or pinching, but didn’t say, for example, no licking. So she would lick me and my other sister. Or mom would say “Don’t touch your sister”, and what did she do? You guessed it! She would point at us, about an inch away, and claim, “I’m not touching you!” But emphasizing on the positive will both give you leeway to encompass all unwanted behaviors as the opposite of that behavior, and will encourage more compliance on the child’s part, as they will feel “empowered” to act rightly, rather than weight down by the list of “don’ts”.

What to say instead: “Please do…” or “Let’s…”

When I created a list of house rules, I endeavored to only say positive “to dos” rather than negative “don’ts”. So rather than saying “No hitting or kicking” (which still leaves room for pinching, biting, head-butting, and more), I say, “Treat one another kindly”. By saying this, I’m also opening up the umbrella to words and attitudes, and not just physical contact. Another positive phrase that is used frequently here is “Let’s calm down; let’s take some deep breaths…”. Adding “Let’s” turns it into a group effort. The child will feel more supported, and more eager to try, when they know you are doing it with them. Even better would be to acknowledge the child’s feelings–give them a name, with empathy–and then show them how to work through them. In the “calm down” example, I would first say, “I know you are frustrated that you’re not able to do that activity. It’s okay to feel frustrated, but it’s not okay to scream and hit things. Let’s take some deep breaths so you can calm down.” This has been infinitely more effective with Leah’s fits than yelling at her to “Quit it!” or “Be quiet!” or “Stop your fit!” I can’t say that I’m perfect and that I do that every time, BUT I know that it’s worked much better, and I am working towards changing my language and maintaining my calm when she gets into those modes.

I am certain there are many more types of phrases that parents say which sabotage their parenting efforts. But those were all I could think of at the moment, so I’ll leave it there. I hope you found some good tips on how to have more effective–and more pleasant–parenting.

What are some phrases or actions you’ve heard or seen that sabotage parents? What are some tips you could give that might encourage other readers to have a more positive parenting experience?

Daily Food Journal 1/18/2014

Breakfast: Egg Omelet (S); Coffee with Cream (S)

Modifications: Though the omelet I made last week was from the book, I took the same basic concept and added a bit to it, though I didn’t actually follow the recipe.

My Thoughts: I feel like exploring these recipes has given me the confidence to attempt variations of them, as well as other new recipes, without the notion of “I don’t know how to make that” in my head. I like that.

Lunch: Quick Tuna Medley (S), page 306; Just Like Wheat Thins (S), page 396

Modifications: The recipe is designed to be flexible. It can be any fuel style, and encourages variation in vegetables and condiments used. Mine included the base ingredients, as well as green onion, green olives, and Dijon mustard.

My Thoughts: This was delicious and filling. I was actually surprised at how full I was by the end of it. And the “Just Like Wheat Thins” crackers were a perfect pairing! I did have a little “drama” with those (I spilled almost half of the dry ingredients on the floor while making it… oops), but they turned out great!

Dinner: Hearty Green Soup (E), page 334; Trim Healthy Pan Bread (E), page 266

Modifications: None to the soup, although I did forget to add the cream at the end, and added chicken breast (though that was a suggestion in the book). For the bread, I added rosemary and thyme as seasoning.

My Thoughts: So yummy! I really enjoyed this soup, and the bread!

 

 

Random update: I’ve lost eight pounds so far! Not bad for less than three weeks, eh?

Daily Food Journal: 1/15/2014

You may have noticed that I have skipped a day (or was it two?). But while I may not be keeping up on the journal, I am keeping up with the plan.

Today was a picture of “I need to change this meal at the last minute!”, but if I do say so myself, I handled it very well.

Breakfast: Eggs Over Easy with Sauerkraut (S); Coffee with Cream (S)

Modifications: Not from the book.

My Thoughts: I had originally planned to make the Savory Protein Muffins (page 221), and had only made one in a ramekin, since I didn’t have enough eggs for the full recipe, but I was short on time. I needed to take Anna to therapy, and there simply wasn’t enough time for it to finish cooking, and for me to actually eat it. So I cooked it, and will have it for breakfast tomorrow morning, but for today, I had to do a quick change. It worked out well enough.

Lunch: Cheeseburger Pie (S)

Modifications: The recipe in the book is basic, and encourages you to create your own “burger” with various ingredients. I included bacon, pickles, onion, and Frank’s hot sauce.

My Thoughts: This was actually leftovers from last night. I had only a short window of time between getting home from having Anna’s blood drawn (directly after therapy) and taking the kids over to my in-laws’ house while I went to a meeting at work. So rather than making the meal I had originally planned (Deli Roll Ups, page 299), I just warmed up the leftovers and ate it while nursing Damien. Because that’s just how some days go around here…

Dinner: Alfredo Beef and Broccoli (S), page 340; Salad with S-dressing

Modifications: Made my own alfredo sauce; added spinach, parsley, and fried eggplant (no breading).

My Thoughts: To round out this meal a bit more, I added the extras, and I think it worked very well. It was a big hit with everyone. Well, almost everyone, but sadly I rarely count Leah’s opinion on new foods, since she is insanely picky and completely unpredictable with her pickiness. Anyhow, I gave the kids rice with theirs, and for hubby and I, I fried up some eggplant and laid the broccoli/beef mixture over top of it. It was really delicious, but I think next time we’ll pare the eggplant first, as the skin was rather annoying to deal with.

This was the other meal I had to change at the last moment. Since we had been out of the house for the vast majority of the day, I wasn’t able to make the chili that I had originally planned to make. So at 5:30pm, when everyone was hungry and the baby was in his ridiculously fussy state, I threw this together. I had planned to make it on Friday, so I had the ingredients and knew a little about the basics of it, which made it a lot easier. But it wasn’t what I had planned. That’s life, I suppose.

Daily Food Journal 1/13/2014

Breakfast: Oatmeal (E)

Modifications: It’s a basic oatmeal recipe, with chia and hemp meal added to it. I also added about a third of a scoop of vanilla protein powder, some brown Truvia, and around a teaspoon of half-n-half.

My Thoughts: Admittedly, I only ate this because we were out of eggs. But it filled me just fine and kept me satisfied until lunch–even through my shopping trip!

Lunch: Exotic Green Curry (S), page 287; Bread in a Mug (S), page 265

Modifications: None to the curry, but did add Frank’s hot sauce and cheese to the bread.

My Thoughts: It was a great combination! Very delicious!

Afternoon Snack: Deli Meat Rolled Up with Laughing Cow Cheese (FP); Coffee with Unsweetened Almond Milk (FP)

Modifications: This is not a recipe from the book, but both deli meat and Laughing Cow are spoken of in the “snacks” section.

My Thoughts: This was so simple, and tasty, too! Gave me just enough protein to keep me going until dinner, but wasn’t so filling to impede my appetite at mealtime. Will definitely keep this on hand as a good snack.

Dinner: Spinach Chicken Italiano (E), page 314; Brown Rice with Lentils, Zucchini, and Carrots (E); Salad with E-friendly dressing

Modifications: I didn’t follow the book precisely with this recipe, but it’s the same basic concept. I added some fresh parsley, and only used one onion (rather than the 2-3 they suggest). I also omitted the balsamic vinegar, since hubby detests all vinegar.

My Thoughts: So yummy, and so filling! I may have liked it better with the vinegar, but–alas!–this is the meal I must have if my husband is to partake of it.

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