Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead


At first glance…
March 3, 2012, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Children, Motherhood

…my packing organizational methods might elude you. But this way, I won’t forget to pack the baby. See?

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10 Ways to Nurture Positive Body Image for Your Daughter

I’m not an expert. My daughter’s a baby and whether she’ll turn out to have a positive body image is yet to be seen. But, I’ve learned a few things about the challenge of nurturing a positive body image over the past two and a half decades from growing up as a girl in our weight-obsessed culture, watching my mother thoughtfully and intentionally raise me, and as a ballet teacher seeing even very young girls struggle with the cultural messages of body image constantly before them. Here’s my two cents:

  1. Love Your Body: If you want your daughter to grow up confidently loving her body you will have to model this behavior for her. Dissatisfied looks and critical statements when you look in the mirror will not go unnoticed by her. Constantly complaining about weight and your plans for dieting will affect how she views her own body. This is a tall order. I know that I don’t always look in the mirror and have lots of positive thoughts. I see things I think are flaws and wish I looked different. But I never see room for improvement when I look at my baby girl—she is absolutely perfect in my eyes. She is a precious little body and soul beloved by her family and by her Heavenly Father. And if I want her to see herself that way I have to remember that I, too, am made in the image of God and that He looks at me, his creation, with tender affection. If I want my daughter to be confident and at peace with her body, I must show her how.
  2. Eat as a Family: I know there might be overwhelming demands on your time in the evening with extracurriculars to attend and family members moving in a thousand different directions.  Eating a leisurely meal together on a regular basis might feel impossible. Change this and make time to eat as a family. By eating dinner together and enjoying each other’s company, you are impressing upon your daughter that partaking of food is a positive experience. It’s not just calories in your mouth, it’s a MEAL. Over the dinner table you connect with your kids and spouse. I’ve read several times that the occurrence of eating disorders in preteen and teenage girls decreases dramatically when their family regularly eats dinner together.
  3. Cook as a Family: Take the family togetherness a step further. Cook together. Now you’re not just opening up a packaged meal with a label explaining how many grams of this or that is contained within. You’re creating culinary art together! Food isn’t just sustenance, it is a delight. And you’re also providing your kids with skills they can take beyond your kitchen. When they move out, they can take positive eating habits with them!
  4. Grow a Garden: OK, so now you’re cooking together. Great. Now, start a garden in your yard. Begin with just herbs if you’re overwhelmed! Fresh herbs are easy to grow and so fun to use in recipes. Grow some veggies in a little raised bed and let your children be involved in every step. Then food isn’t just associated with sustenance and positive family experiences, but it takes on an entirely new role: the bounty of nature, God’s creation. Watching plants grow is exciting to children! My 3-year-old will run inside to tell me that the tomatoes “ARE TURNING RED! And RED MEANS RIPE!” Then we will go out so he can pick them off our tomato plants and he will devour a juicy, sun-ripened tomato that HE GREW. Often before cooking begins, he will participate in harvesting what we need for our meal. He sees us prepare it and then we sit down to eat it. Food becomes downright miraculous!
  5. Tell Her That She Is Beautiful: She needs to hear this from you and, perhaps more importantly, from her father. She must know that you think she is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. And start using the word “beautiful” to mean more than physically attractive. Say, “that was a beautiful thing to do,” when she acts kindly. Note that a woman you admire is a “lovely person.” Help her expand her idea of beauty from what our culture says it is (sexually attractive) to include: virtuous, feminine, courageous, self-sacrificial, loving.
  6. Tell Her She Is More than Beautiful: Note and praise her other attributes. Mention that you think she’s clever, interesting, determined, kind, fun, delightful, talented, etc. Don’t allow her identity to be limited to her physical appearance. Nurture in her the understanding that her identity rests in her status as God’s child—so beloved that Our Lord sacrificed himself for her.
  7. Be Honest With Her: When we as mothers fall short of #1 (confidently loving our bodies) we should offer those experiences to our daughters to learn from. It was incredibly helpful to me to hear about my mother’s struggles with healthy body image as a college student. She was very open with me about her bouts with anorexia. She explained what pressures caused her to harm her body by not eating, her need for control over her weight, the dangers of her behavior, and her road to recovery. This provided me with the ability to see red flags in my own thought patterns when pressures arose in my life and environment. When, knowing intellectually that I was at a healthy weight, I looked in the mirror and didn’t see a thin girl, I remembered her explanation of how our minds can get sick and our perspective warped so that we can no longer see reality and, instead, become obsessed with being thin. I was able to stop those negative thought patterns in their tracks because of the honest conversations my mother offered me.
  8. Discuss Cultural Messages of Beauty: Another awesome thing my mother did to guide my way to healthy body image was to point out positive and negatives messages in advertising, toys, movies, etc. For example, although my mom never bought me a Barbie doll, she didn’t ban them from the house when they were gifted to me by others. Instead, we talked about them. She noted the length of the Barbie’s legs and her tiny waist in proportion to the rest of her. “Have you ever seen anyone who looks like that?” she asked. No, I hadn’t. “That’s right. This isn’t what women really look like, is it?” she explained. “Do you think the people who made this doll want us to think she’s pretty? How do you think a girl would feel if she thought she was supposed to look like Barbie since no one really looks that way? Do you think she might feel bad about how she looks—how women are really made to look–since she can’t ever look like that doll?” Open a dialogue. Teach your daughter to question the subtle messages that are being presented to her. Teach her to distinguish between lies and the truth about her body. Expand her views of what beauty is beyond the narrow box of the runway model.
  9. Don’t Watch Commercials: When I see a commercial for makeup or clothes or razors or whatnot presenting skinny models as the epitome of beauty that I should be seeking to imitate, I know it influences my thoughts. I’ve got almost 3 decades under my belt of learning to fight those messages. How much more dangerous are those messages to a young girl who hasn’t yet learned to see the lies presented in commercials for what they are! Your daughter will be receiving negative messages about her body every time she steps out of the house. Don’t let those messages invade her household as well.
  10. Provide Her With Positive Role Models: There will come a time when she will struggle with these issues, so give her some good company for her journey. I grew up with my head full of wonderful characters like Anne of Green Gables. I watched Anne struggle with her body: she felt ugly and wished she was pretty like her best friend Diana. “Why doesn’t Anne like herself? Anne is SO COOL!” I would think. Then I watched Anne grow up to be a confident, amazing woman during Montgomery’s wonderful series. These sorts of tales served me well when I felt awkward or ugly as a girl and compared myself to friends I thought were prettier. Anne was in it with me. I wasn’t alone and I wanted to be as confident, clever, funny, and kind as Anne. Because after all…who wants to be boring and pretty Diana when you can be amazing and exciting ANNE?! Here’s my list of the 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter that might help you get started. And even more importantly, give her the wonderful gift that Our Lord gave to us when he was on the Cross: the Blessed Virgin Mary as her mother. Pray that Our Lady will be her model and guide. For who is more truly beautiful than the Mother of Our Lord?

Do you have anything to add? How do you nurture positive body image for your children?



Our Backyard Friend and Other Instagrams
February 27, 2012, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Children

Benjamin ran into the bedroom while I was changing Lucy to tell me with eyes as big as saucers, “I looked out the window and GUESS WHAT I SAW?! AN OWL!!! A BIG ‘OL OWL!” Sometimes Benjamin makes up little animal tales like, “Mama, a little kitty cat is coming to visit you!” so I’m never sure exactly what’s really happening. But he was VERY excited so I ran to the window and sure enough: giant owl. Benjamin told me, “At first I thought he was STUFFED because he was so STILL! But then he MOVED!”  It was all very exciting.

Benjamin looks so much like his uncle in this one. We’ve been going through some “terrible threes” with this little guy. We’re trying some new approaches to discipline. Time outs haven’t been very effective lately so I started taking away one of the stuffed animals from his menagerie on his bed when he is whining, talking back, or disobeying. Any advice on how to deal with the threes? Benjamin was really very sweet during the twos so these challenges are pretty new to us…and a little exhausting.

And this little girl is still sweet as pie. She is always squealing with joy. Almost 15 lbs and I’m loving her chubbiness! She just started rolling over consistently this week. Benjamin rolled over super super early but Lucy is so delightfully laid back. I think she’s going to take her time with everything. I can’t believe she’s already 4 months. I am so not looking forward to moving to solid foods–nursing her is just so easy. I’m definitely waiting until 6 months and maybe even later depending on her interest. Unfortunately, being sick recently really messed up her awesome sleeping habits and she’s now waking up 3-5 times a night. It’s a big bummer after getting spoiled with only waking up once, maybe twice a night. This mama is feeling pretty exhaustified.

And for less interesting news, I finally got my hair cut after months and months and dyed it red again, yay!

Oh, and I found a great deal for the National Geographic Little Kids Magazine that Benjamin LOVES to get in the mail. It’s usually $23 for a subscription but you can get it for $8 by using the code: NATGEOLK2. I think the deal is over tomorrow, though, so if you want to order it you should probably do it today. He gets so excited to receive mail just for him. It’s pretty cute.

I am loving having a healthy household after a lot of sleepless nights when everyone was sick!

 



GIVEAWAY! (NOW CLOSED): Penguin Clothbound Edition of Pride and Prejudice
February 15, 2012, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Books, Children, Giveaway, Health | Tags: , , ,

Well, it’s high time for a giveaway! Due to the flu bug hitting our house, Lucy getting pneumonia, and Benjamin having asthma attacks…it’s been a pretty lousy past few days. We’re still kind of under the weather and Lucy is still coughing, but I think we are at least on the mend. But wow, with two sick kids and a sick mama…mark down yesterday as a big, fat mothering fail that included tears, desperate threats, and hollering. Apparently, I’m not great at handling a 3-year-old asthmatic wired from albuterol and prednisone, worry about my sweet baby girl (how scary is the word “pneumonia”!), and tending to the two of them while muddling though the day with my flu symptoms. I need a little fun today so…..giveaway? Yes.

Everybody needs one of the beautiful clothbound Penguin classics editions of Miss Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, amirite?

I am completely obsessed with these gorgeous clothbound classics. I talk about them all the time. My in-laws gifted me several for my 26th birthday and I have them all on a pretty shelf in the bedroom. I love that when Lucy reads Miss Austen for the first time, she’ll be reading such a lovely edition. And since I have such wonderful readers, I want to share my love for Austen and these Penguin Classics by doing a giveaway and sending a copy of Pride and Prejudice to a lucky reader.

So, here’s the drill: subscribe to Carrots for Michaelmas via email or an RSS reader and then leave a comment to say you did. If you’re already a subscriber, leave a comment letting me know. For a second entry, leave an additional comment telling me which Austen novel is your favorite and why. For a third entry, share this giveaway on Facebook (you can use the FB “like” button at the bottom of the post under “share it”) and leave an additional comment letting me know that you did. For a fourth entry, you can link to this giveaway on your blog and remember to leave an additional comment telling me you did. Be sure to include an email address or blog where I can reach you if you win! I can only ship the giveaway prize to readers in the continental US. Giveaway ends next Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 at 12pm EST. I will use a random number generator to choose a winner. Giveaway will be announced soon after it closes and I will probably have a book sent to the winner directly from Amazon.

Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with Amazon.com, Penguin, or (unfortunately) Miss Jane Austen (unless being a fanatical admirer counts). I just like giveaways and saying thank you to my dear readers!

p.s. Does anyone use the Amazon affiliate program on their blog? Do you like it? How does it work?

WINNER IS: MANDY (COMMENT 27)!



Lucy Pneumonia Update
February 13, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Children, Health, Motherhood | Tags: , , ,

Thanks to everyone whose been praying for Lucy! She seems to be fighting the parainfluenza bug and the bronchial pneumonia really well. No fever so far, praise God. And she’s been sleeping upright in her bouncer to help her breathing.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to get any sleep last night since she was sniffly and since she’s used to sleeping in bed right next to me and would have to sleep upright in the bouncer, but she did great. She woke up every 2-3 hours to nurse (which is a good sign!) and slept very peacefully between feedings. We have the humidifier going full blast in the bedroom, too, to keep her breathing easy. Today she’s been taking lots of good, long naps but when she’s wakeful she’s alert, happy, and eating well. We’ve had some trouble getting her to take her antibiotic but for the last dose, I mixed some breastmilk in with it and gave it to her a little bit at a time right in the side of her cheek which helped her swallow it, I think. She’s still snotty and congested, but I would have had no idea that she had pneumonia if the Dr. hadn’t listened to her chest yesterday. I mean, does this look like a baby with pnuemonia?

How about this?

This is her Lucy Skywalker outfit:

I love this sweet little lady so much and just hate hate HATE that she has pneumonia. Please keep praying for our girl to get better!

I am feeling so much better today. I used some of your natural remedy recommendations and didn’t need to get any antibiotics. Hopefully, I’ll be all better tomorrow so I can take care of Lucy and Benjamin (my sweet mama took care of him today so I could sleep and rest with Lucy).



Wanted: Your Natural Cold Remedies
February 12, 2012, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Books, Children, Giveaway, Health, Husband | Tags: , , , ,

Ironically, I’m a little bit awesome at going through childbirth without meds, but I’m a complete baby when it comes to dealing with the excruciating condition of having a cold. I think Raleigh’s final words in this clip kind of sum it up:

That little Tenenbaums reference was for my big brother who HATES Tenenbaum references. Just a little sibling banter. Cute, right?

First Benjamin got a runny nose which triggered his asthma. Breathing treatments weren’t enough to make the wheezing/coughing go away so Daniel had to take him to Urgent Care to get his oxygen levels checked and to get Prednisone. Daniel slept in his room last night to comfort him when he woke up coughing and to give him a 2am breathing treatment. Benjamin seems to be a little better today. Poor sweet boy!

Last night Lucy woke up coughing and sneezing and I woke up with what feels like a sinus infection. Not much sleep was to be had after that. I can tell that she’s not completely herself, but she’s still a precious, sunny, smiley baby today. I on the other hand, am a whining, miserable mama. So, since I’d like to try some natural remedies before taking anything over the counter since I’m still nursing Miss Lucy, I want all your cold/sinus infection natural remedies. Give them here! And in return…I think I’ll post a giveaway in the next couple of days that involves Miss Austen and those beautiful clothbound Penguin classics.

Carrots for Michaelmas is about to hit 20,000 views and 50 subscribers (as far as I can tell from Google Reader and WordPress, how can you really tell accurately?) so as a thanks to you guys, I think a Giveaway is in order.

My current plan to fight this monstrous cold is to drink unreasonable amounts of hot tea and all the raw garlic I can stand in between hot baths. Now let’s just hope that Daniel doesn’t get sick because then the household would REALLY fall apart.

p.s. Your recommendations of miniseries, etc currently streaming on Netflix would also be greatly appreciated. What’s the use of being miserable if you can’t watch a whole lotta Masterpiece Theatre?



A Dinosaur Birthday
February 8, 2012, 6:58 pm
Filed under: Books, Children | Tags: , , , , ,

Ever since his farm-themed two year birthday party ended, Benjamin has been telling me that he wanted a dinosaur birthday when he turned three. “Well, you shall have it, my love,” I told him.

Daniel’s parents picked out some pretty fantastic decor and our Little Bear dressed like the paleontologist he is with his special dinosaur fossil digging hat. I told him that he could invite whoever he wanted but he just wanted it to be family: uncles and aunts, grandparents, and mama, daddy, and Lucy. And hey! I wasn’t going to argue with that!

The little stinker was VERY specific about what kind of birthday cake he wanted: “Chocolate with chocolate frosting and with dinosaurs on top that look real…but you can eat ’em.” Since he requested chocolate, I knew I would make my favorite chocolate cake of all time that my friends Lara and Rachel made for me years ago on my birthday. They covered it in edible flowers. It was gorgeous and scrumptious and I was overwhelmingly awed by their combined artsiness and culinary skills. I won’t post the recipe because it’s their family recipe, but I’ll make it for you if you come over. Their aunt created it and she passed away recently. So, as I stayed up late the night before Bear’s party to bake it, I thought about his precious little life just beginning and I remembered Lara and Rachel’s aunt and praised God for her life, too. I will tell you this: the recipe includes coffee and cinnamon so…yeah, it’s amazing.

My friend Jenna who owns a cake business took pity on me and told me how to use chocolate molds to create the requested edible decorative dinos. They’re not perfect (Jenna is probably giggling as she looks at this) but Benjamin thought they were pretty cool and we’ve been making dinosaur shaped candies all week to his delight.

“Happy Birthday, dear Benjamin…”

Bear was quite taken with his birthday “grappler logging truck.”

What a nut.

And I was quite taken with the treasure box, treasure (buffalo nickels), and beautiful illustrated Treasure Island from my folks for our boy. (Treasure Island was one of the honorable mentions from 10 Books You Must Read to Your Son and one of the books most likely to be found on the shelves on Downton Abbey’s Nursery in that delightful guest post from Katherine.)

As for other birthday loot, the birthday boy is currently snuggling with his Benjamin-sized T-Rex stuffed animal named “Ronny” from my brother and he’s been moving dried lentils all around the kitchen floor with his new construction equipment set from Aunt Vanessa and Uncle Travis. Win.

So glad we got to celebrate our boy with such wonderful extended family!