Monday, August 31, 2015

The Six Mom Camps of the Breastfeeding vs. Formula Battle

Heads up, moms. I'm giving you fair warning now, while you can still prepare yourself and build a thick skin for what's coming. You're about to stumble into a hotbed of heated debates. There is no way to avoid it. You will get the side-eye, no matter what you choose, as someone won't be happy with your personal, none-of-their-damn-business choice. You will find your nearest and dearest, who you never thought capable of it, extolling the virtues of their choice as they try to make you one follow suit. Moms you've never met are about to pounce on you in the store and even online. No one is safe. You, my unwitting friend, are about to be blindsided with the new breastfeeding-or-formula-feeding throw down. There are six main camps of moms you're about to encounter.

The Breast is Best, Screw the Rest Mom
This mom is loud and proud about her breastfeeding. No covers or modesty for her. If baby is hungry she'll whip that boob right out while sitting in the middle of a crowded room and leave the other uncovered for good measure as well. She'll be the one glaring down everyone within 50 yards, daring them to make one comment about her tatas flapping in the wind. Should you dare to mention formula, you'll get an hour-long lecture about the evils of it and the horribleness of the moms who would dare to expose their children to such horrors. As far as she is concerned, if you don't breastfeed you don't care about your baby enough and are not a good mom. Every mom can do it, if she really wants to.
The Breast is Best, But Do What's Best For You Mom
She's a firm believer that breastfeeding is best for babies, but also understands that not all moms can breastfeed. She supports everyone's choice and recognizes that it's a very personal decision. When feeding her baby, she may whip out the boob or keep it covered up. It's her choice, please don't make a thing about it. As long as the babies are fed, she doesn't give a care how it's done. Why can't we all just get along?

The Do Whatever You Want, Leave Me Alone Mom
This mom may breastfeed or formula feed. She doesn't really talk about it and is usually discreet with her method of feeding no matter what it is. Quite frankly, she doesn't give a damn, my dear, how you feed your baby and doesn't think it's any of your business whether a boob or a bottle nipple is served up to her baby. If you try to start a debate with her over baby feeding, she'll probably ask you how the weather is. If you still don't get the hint, she'll mysteriously be hearing the baby cry to escape your soap boxing.

The Breast Feeding Didn't Work Mom
This mom tried breast feeding and gave it her absolute best shot. It simply, for whatever reason, didn't work. Maybe she didn't produce, the baby didn't latch, it drove her to the edge of her sanity, or her milk just didn't have the needed nutrients. There are many valid reasons why breastfeeding doesn't always work, and she knows it. She wanted to nurse her child and feels bad for using formula. Seeing "breastfeeding is best" on the formula cans, reading it all over the internet and having it shoved down her throat at every turn is more upsetting than she'll admit. Preaching at her about breastfeeding and giving her tips is just a slap in the face. She's heard it so often she's about to puke. Given the chance, she'll tell you to back the heck off and mind your own leaky tits, hers are dried up and the damn formula is just fine.  

The Formula is Great, Save Yourself a Hassle Mom
She has heard all about how breast feeding is best, but she also knows formula is just fine. Either she tried breast feeding and found it to be too much of a hassle or avoided it all together after hearing it's not always so easy. She also may or may not find the idea of another human sucking on her nipples to be gross. Happy with her choice, she stands behind it and encourages other moms to do what's best for them. Don't like her choice? Good for you, she doesn't care. So stop with the guilt trip.  

The Formula is Best, Forget the Breast Mom
These moms tend to be a rare breed. She doesn't go in for this breastfeeding thing. Formula was the go-to for years, why is everyone going on and on about boobs now? Give it a few years and everyone is going to be yammering on about formula again. She knows formula is best and doesn't care what anyone else says. Pass the formula can, please, her boobs are staying right where they are.

The Rest
Many other moms fall somewhere in between these camps. It's amazing how heated people get over the personal choice of how a mom feeds her a child. Wait until you're in the hot seat about your decision. I wish you luck.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Easy & Healthy Herb Chicken and Fresh Roasted Veggies

Preparing healthy recipes for dinner that aren't complicated and don't take forever to do can seem daunting at times. This recipe for herb chicken and fresh, roasted veggies is so incredibly simple you'll be amazed you haven't made it yet. It's low calorie and very healthy. The veggies are the focus of the meal. They are all fresh, upping the yum factor, and the chicken is boneless and skinless without added sauces, marinades, etc., to keep the calories down. If you want, you can add rice as a side for the dish. I find it isn't needed and not having it helps me keep the carb-count down.

aa Easy, Healthy Herb Chicken and Fresh Roasted Veggies

Easy & Healthy Herb Chicken and Fresh Roasted Veggies

Makes 5 generous servings
5 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 zucchini
3 medium green peppers
16 oz (two packages) whole mushrooms
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 pineapple
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
Any veggie seasoning from the seasoning aisle at the grocery store that you like
Any chicken herb seasoning from the seasoning aisle at the grocery store that you like

Peel and cut zucchini into slices
De-seed and cut peppers into strips
Cut mushrooms in half
De-core and cut pineapple into chunks
Peel and cut onion into chunks
Melt butter and toss with veggies in mixing bowls, sprinkling on veggie seasoning as you do
Spread veggies onto cookie sheets evenly, then cover with foil 
Place chicken on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with seasoning and cover with foil
Set oven to the roast setting and 350 degrees. If you don't have a roast setting, set to bake at 375 degrees
Roast veggies first for 15 minutes, then put the chicken in the oven as well
Roast/bake for an additional 30 minutes (or until chicken is done). Remove foil from chicken for the last 5 minutes to crisp the outsides
Remove chicken from the oven and let it rest
Remove foil from the veggies and roast an additional 15 minutes to give them a bit of browning
Enjoy your easy, healthy dinner!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Attacking a Divorcing Mom

Recently I read something that drove me up the wall. A syndicated radio personality and his wife, a SAHM, are getting divorced. I've followed her for years because she's a fellow mom blogger. Apparently, he spilled quite the load of info on the radio that he probably shouldn't have. It lead to his wife being trashed across social media. People attacked her not even knowing her side. Left right and center, Instagram, his Facebook, her Facebook, you name it, she was getting slammed. One of the common themes was, "How dare she leave with HIS kids? How dare she take HIS money? This was obviously premeditated!" A healthy dose of, "You cold-hearted bitch," and "You monster!" was splashed around as well. Like watching American Idol or the Kardashians, it was a train wreck of epic proportions I just couldn't yank myself from reading. And I just got more pissed as I did.

When it comes to a SAHM leaving her husband, it's even more difficult. SAHMs don't have a source of income other than her husband's. All SAHMs work, and work hard, too. We just don't get paid for it and often don't even get recognized for it. When it comes to leaving her husband, a SAHM may have to take THEIR money as she won't have any income. Especially if it's a situation where she can't trust her husband to not cute her off. She's doing what she needs to for herself and her kids.

Why the hell wouldn't a mom take HER kids with her if she is leaving her spouse? Yes, they're the spouses kids as well and the kids should see their dad (under most circumstances) but why should the mom leave her kids behind? That can be, and really is, abandonment. Especially when it's a SAHM who is the primary care giver and there won't even be anyone to take care of the kids while the spouse is at work. Telling a mom if she leaves her husband she should leave her kids is down right cray.

I should sure as heck hope that leaving your spouse, whether for a separation or divorce, is premeditated. I don't think any sane person would make that choice lightly and just up one day and walk out. There's going to be thought behind it. Hopefully, planning, too. Especially when there are kids involved.

The mom being dragged through the mud kept it classy, simply posting that she wasn't going to comment on the details on Facebook. She's right there. No separation or divorce should play out on social media with a whole he-said-she-said-you-bitch-you-asshole debacle for all to read and judge. There's no reason to get all Real Housewives about it. Even if all your friends and family are secretly entertained, keeping a fresh bowl of popcorn handy for the next round.

No one ever knows what all exactly goes on in a marriage except the two people in it. Each has their own views, too, so even then you won't get the same story. Marriages are complicated. All relationships are. Marriages aren't easy, either. Like anything in life, there are ups and downs. Sometimes, one or both partners reaches a breaking point and decides a break, either temporary or permanent, is needed. That's never an easy choice to make. No one needs to be trashed over doing what they think is best for them, and in the case of moms, for her kids. Especially not publicly. 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Family Fun at Mystic Aquarium

As part of our recent escape from daily life, we planned a trip to Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn., to get in some much-needed quality family time. M2 love animals of any kind so we knew she'd love it. It was her and Baby B's first time at an aquarium. My mom came along for the full multi-generational family experience.

We went on a Tuesday and were surprised how many people were there. Mystic Aquarium is a popular place to be with all the nifty activities available. The aquarium is set up pretty cool. You enter through an outdoor circular entrance area that branches off via different paths to the indoor building, 3D movie theater and sea lion theater and the outdoor exhibits. It's like a little village, complete with wooden walkways and a cute restaurant. The set up makes you feel like you're more a part of the aquarium and interacting with it.

The outdoor area is really neat with a walking path that takes you around lakes with frogs, the penguin section, the sea lions and the beluga wales. Unfortunately for us, the day we visited there was a pretty consistent downpour. We didn't get to enjoy the outside parts as much as we would have in nice weather. Even with the rain, it was fun to see all the arctic animals. None of us had ever seen beluga wales before. We spent a good amount of time watching them swim around and send off spouts of water into the air. The penguins were enjoying some fish when we stopped so M2 got to watch them being fed.

Inside, there are so many hands-on exhibits to engage the kids (and adults). Three touch tanks with rays, sharks, shelled critters drew my attention. I am much too chicken to actually touch them (I'd jump and scare the poor things!) and M2 has a bad habit of splashing water all over so we watched others enjoying the tanks.An area to dig up "bones" in a "sandpit" was an area M2 loved. There was even a Jeep, polar bear and dog sled to pose with for pictures. There was a lot more, too, I can't even remember it all! The aquarium really draws in and helps the kids to learn, engaging them rather than just showing. We had to check out the cute sea lion show which lets you see the cute critters in action.

My favorites were the jellyfish -- some even lit up!! -- and the angel fish. Angel fish have always been my favorite since I was a little kid. Another highlight for me was the Titanic exhibit. I've been obsessed with the Titanic since my first trip to the library when I was seven (long before the movie). It was so neat to see the displays. One showing shoes was especially touching as it explained that there are no bodies at the site of the wreck. The bodies would have disappeared within 5 years due to the ocean environment, leaving nothing behind but the shoes the people wore as they fell. M2 loved the ray and shark tanks. A came right up to the glass to greet her. She was thrilled to make a new sea friend. Even Baby B stared at all the tanks, enthralled.

We all had a great time exploring the aquarium and could even have spent more time there than we did, especially if it'd been a nice day. If we have the chance to, I would totally go again! If you're up in Connecticut, be sure to stop by Mystic Aquarium to check it out for yourself.

This post is sponsored by Mystic Aquarium.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Tea for Two for Mom and Me

M2, B, A and I spent the last week visiting family in Connecticut. With A's job changes, my medical issues and M2's diagnosis, it was a much needed break from daily life. Plus, I got to meet my newest niece who was just born in July. We all stayed with my parents as a hotel and small kids, especially a baby and a child on the autism spectrum, do not mix. My mom and I took advantage of the time together to have a mother-daughter day out. One of our absolute favorite things to is is try out tea rooms for afternoon tea. We've visited tea rooms in a few states so we eager to visit Tea with Tracy to add Connecticut to our list.
Tea with Tracy opened in Seymour, Conn., back in 2011. Tracey grew up loving tea and having a dream to open her own shop. Once her kids entered high school, she made that dream come true. Her shop offers afternoon tea, savory and sweet treats and, of course, any number of wonderful teas.

From the adorable location in downtown Seymour with a charming sign to welcome you, Tea with Tracy starts your visit off right. I love the large picture windows and historic building the tea room is situated in. Walking inside is like stepping into a long-ago time that is simpler, more elegant and where a leisurely afternoon tea is an oft-enjoyed delight.
The tea room has two cozy rooms with tables laid out with white cloths, china, silver sugar bowls and cloth napkins. A chalkboard announces the specials of the day while shelving along one wall is filled with tons of teas to suit every type of tea drinker. The larger room offers a fireplace, sitting area and even a table for larger parties situation in a bay window. Tea with Tracy is the perfect balance between elegance and simplicity, proper and relaxed. The dress code is casual so there's no need to worry about having to wear your Sunday best. A steady stream of guests came and went while we were there. It can get busy, so if you're able, call ahead and make a reservation. You can even arrange to have a bridal shower, baby shower or party in the private side room. 

An entire menu is devoted to the teas on offer. You can choose from over 210 blacks, greens, whites, oolongs, herbals and decafs in flavors from complex to simple. No matter the type of tea you prefer, you'll find a variety to choose from. I was in heaven with all those teas and took WAY too long deciding! I loved seeing the Downton Abbey limited edition teas, the queen's special Diamond Jubilee tea and one named for the Titanic on the menu. There are even teas named for princesses and super heroes! Mrs. Patmore's Pudding black tea called out to me while my mom went for a classic lemon blueberry. Your tea order is served in an individual pot with a beautiful china cup and saucer to complete the experience. If you have any questions about the teas, the servers are very knowledgeable and happy to help. For those that may not like tea, there's a selection of gourmet hot chocolates to tickle your taste buds. They're super-friendly to boot, plus give you the right amount of service without making you feel neglected or rushed.
For your dining experience, a specialized menu offers a selection of tea sandwiches, scones, cookies, cakes, soups and salads. You can also select a cream tea (scone, clotted cream, jams and tea), afternoon tea (scone, sandwich, dessert and tea) or tea-for-two option which lets you enjoy the afternoon tea option for two people. Everything is very reasonably priced. My mom and I had the tea for two with the regular and herb chicken salad tea sandwiches, cranberry and white chocolate scones, carrot cake and apple tort. Your selections are brought to the table on a tiered platter to make the tea even more fun. All the food is fancy enough without being overly fussy and it is SO, SO good. I don't know which part I liked the most, it was all that good. I even had to keep stealing bites of my mom's carrot cake when usually, I don't really care for carrot cake at all.
Tracy stopped by our table to say hi. She is so nice! Very laid back, warm and welcoming. The tea room really feels like an extension of her personality. After she went back to whipping up the delicacies on the menu and we finished our tea (we took our time savoring everything) I had to check out the wall of teas. I'd been eying it the whole time with it's floor-to-ceiling selections of loose teas and tins of bags. For you Downton Abbey fans, the teas are for sale along with being on the menu. Little tins are next to each tea flavor so you can see what it looks like and smell each to help you pick what you'll like best. I loved the names of the teas, each was so fun. There is seriously something for every tea drinker. I enjoyed the selection even more than Teavana's! I could spend an hour there just smelling each tea. It's like Yankee Candle for tea lovers, so much to sniff! Many of Tracy's teas are available for purchase online as well, so check them out.
 My mom and I both thoroughly enjoyed our tea-for-two and plan to go back the next time we're able. Afternoon tea is a special experience. I'm going to be book marking the site for my next tea order! If you live in Connecticut, are visiting or even just passing through, stop by Tea with Tracy for a relaxing atmosphere with a tasty cuppa, some yummy treats and a new flavor of tea to take home.

This post is sponsored by Tea with Tracy. All opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back-Yard Edibles

For this post, I'm welcoming back guest-blogger Lindsey. You can read her previous article about life with Asperger's here. She's my go-to person on gardening, plants and living off the land and is going to share some of her edible plant knowledge* with this article.
The recent movement toward local and sustainable farming practices has seen a wonderful uptick in the breadth of available resources for people concerned with the sources of their nutrition. New product labeling, local farmers’ markets, and home gardening and canning have all had a revival of interest as effort is paid by the consumer to make ethically- and environmentally-conscientious diet choices. However, I’ve found one aspect of this resurgence rather under-appreciated – the wild edible.*

For a long time, and not without just cause, there has been a stigma over foraging wild plants for food. Misidentification of species, harvesting the wrong part, or failing to prepare them in a certain way, has led to serious illness and death for many well-intentioned people. Outside of the legal and potential health ramifications, there are also longer-term sustainability concerns when a particular species is over harvested. A well known example is wild American ginseng. It was once a common plant through forested regions of the country, but its popularity has led to severely reduced numbers in the wild from indiscriminate harvesting.

Given awareness of these issues, I believe it is possible to legally and sustainably add wild edibles to our diets. And the best part is that we often need look no further than our own backyards. Since most public land is protected by anti-poaching legislation, starting your search on private property presents the smallest legal risk. Additionally, caretakers usually know what chemicals have been used on the property and if there are any serious biological concerns such as pet waste. My own small backyard here in Maryland is free of applied chemicals and is surrounded by a six foot fence that discourages casual interference from neighbors and outdoor pets. Thus far I have identified and harvested three wild species in addition to the efforts I put into my cultivated garden plot.
Mulberry branch
Morus sp. – Mulberry
Mulberry trees, of which there are many species, are relatively widespread in milder climates. The tree in my yard might be the native Red Mulberry (M. rubra) or the invasive White Mulberry (M. alba), and unfortunately mulberry species often hybridize where ranges overlap. Mulberries are much loved by many bird species, who perform some interesting acrobatics to get to the more inaccessible ripe berries. Because of this, I have not yet been able to collect enough fruit for a large recipe from my young tree.

The berries ripen in the spring, and are culinarily similar to raspberries, blackberries, and other small, soft fruits – mulberry pies, tarts, jams, and even wines are popular delicacies. This last spring, my consumption was mostly opportunistic, sneaking a few ripe berries while I was out weeding the garden or removing invasive vines from my hostas.

Wood Sorrel
 Oxalis sp. – Wood Sorrel
A relative new-comer to my personal list of backyard edibles, “sorrel” describes hundreds of species in the Oxalis genus. Often mistaken for clover, the heart-shaped leaves are distinctive once you know to look for them. The raw flavor is bright and lemony, with a little bit of tanginess from the oxalic acid in the plant. Because the oxalic acid content can exacerbate kidney stones and similar maladies, excessive consumption is not recommended.

Thus far I have added washed raw wood sorrel leaves to salads made with lettuces from my garden, as they add an additional intricacy of flavor. I plan to try wood sorrel tea, and if possible, dig the roots for wood sorrel tubers to cook.
Pokeweed seedlings
Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed 
 The most divisive plant on this admittedly short list, pokeweed is toxic. Pretty much the entire thing has some level of toxicity, from the highly poisonous roots and berries to the slightly less poisonous stems and leaves. Special preparation is needed to reduce this toxicity before consumption, and even then I would not recommend feeding prepared pokeweed to high-risk groups like young children. So why do I bother with this toxic wild edible? Three reasons: Pokeweed is otherwise nutritious. Pokeweed is delicious. And pokeweed is quite prolific. I’d been removing it from my yard as weeds for years before I realized I could put it to use.

Because pokeweed toxicity increases with the plant’s age and size, I only harvest seedlings as a food source – those plants that are less than a foot tall. After harvest, I carefully cut each leaf from the plant, discarding the roots and stems. The leaves I boil for a few minutes, drain the water, and immediately add clean hot water from another pot to continue boiling. This boil I let go for at least 15 minutes before draining well. This parboiling removes the majority of the toxic substances from the leaves, and will substantially alter the smell. After the parboil, I fry the greens in bacon fat. One of my favorite uses is to add eggs and cheese to the fried greens for a complex and wholesome scrambled egg indulgence.
Blackberry cane
 BONUS: Rubus sp. – Blackberry
While not truly a "wild" edible for my own backyard, I include it here since I do not specifically cultivate blackberry canes. Quite the opposite, in fact – I vehemently remove it whenever it pops up in an unexpected place in my yard. Any gardener who runs into an unseen cane or hopeful berry-lover trying to pick the fruits can sympathize with what an absolute nightmare blackberry brambles can be. If you haven’t experienced brambles, count yourself fortunate to have avoided a plant that is a paragon of “death by a thousand cuts”. This particular invader creeped under the fence from my next door neighbor’s yard, where he was trying to eradicate established canes used in landscaping.

All the grumbling aside, blackberries are delicious treats. I’m considering moving a few errant canes to an out-of-the-way portion of my yard for an attempt at pseudo-cultivation. As with mulberries, birds adore the ripe fruit and make off with a good portion of them before I get to harvest. Bird netting would decrease the loss, but as I’m a rather lazy gardener who enjoys the wildlife, I don’t bother. So the blackberry canes stay in the gray area between wild and cultivated.

These wild species have become an occasional part of my diet, supplementing my small gardening efforts of vegetables and herbs. Even though I live on a small lot inside a developed neighborhood, nestled in one of the largest cities in Maryland, these ‘weeds’ are abundant and persistent around me. With a little research, there’s a great chance you’ll find edibles around you, too, to add nutritious variety from plants not readily available for purchase.

*DISCLAIMER: This article touches briefly on sensitive and potentially dangerous topics regarding nutrition. I am not a botanist or medical doctor, and any knowledge I describe here is based solely on my own experiences and research, and should not be taken as informed advice or recommendations.
Author Bio
Lindsey is a graphic designer who lives, works and plays in the D.C. metro region, and has known and loved Melissa, A, and their kids for years. She is currently available for freelance design work and is interested in full-time graphic design positions as well. Find out more about her services and experience.

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