Thursday, April 29, 2010

Having Trouble with Meal Time Complaints? How Cottage Cheese Changed My Life

Cottage cheese gets a bad rap. It has the misfortune of being thought of as a diet food (and a pretty awful one at that). But let me tell you how it changed my life.

My daughter likes cottage cheese. She doesn’t LOVE it, would never choose it over something preferable – something like sushi, steak or even mac ‘n cheese – but when I serve up meatloaf, a spicy chili or a new dish that doesn’t quite make it, cottage cheese is her “go-to” meal.

I learned a long time ago that giving my daughter the option of eating cottage cheese whenever she didn’t want my dinner enabled me to cook whatever I desired. And that opened up the culinary world to my husband and me – and, as it turned out, to my daughter as well.

Cottage cheese is our backup. And, sometimes, having a backup is all you need to turn a tense meal around.

Kids have all sorts of reasons to decline your meal: they don’t like it, they don’t feel like eating it today, they’re cruising for some control. Having a backup eliminates the sting of your kids’ snubs.

Having a backup means you don’t have to beg, bribe or cajole your kids into eating, you don’t have to cook an alternate meal (or multiple alternates if you have a couple of kids) and you don’t have to worry about starvation. You can simply say, “There’s always cottage cheese.”

A backup gives your children the safety net they need.

The backup gives your kids control over what they eat because they know exactly what the options are: they eat either the meal you’ve prepared or the backup.

The backup gives your children the freedom to try new foods because they know there’s always an out: the backup.

The backup eliminates the power play.

Your children don’t have to like cottage cheese.

Don’t panic if your kids don't like cottage cheese.

There are lots of other foods you can use as a backup: tofu, hummus, plain yogurt, beans (or anything else out of a can that can be consumed without cooking).

Whatever backup food you choose, make sure it meets the following criteria:

1) The backup must always be the same food item. Pick ONE food and only ONE food to use as a backup. It will undermine your efforts if your give your children choices for the backup of if the backup changes from time to time.

2) The backup must always be available. Use a food that isn’t highly perishable and which you usually stock. Cottage cheese works because it comes in small snack sizes that stay fresh for weeks at a time.

3) The backup must be nutritious. That way you won’t worry when your children choose it.

4) The backup must be a NO COOK item. The point is to make your life easier, not harder.

5) The backup must NOT be a preferred food. Don’t choose cereal, sandwiches, flavored yogurt, or anything else your children would rather eat. You don’t want to give them an incentive to choose the backup. Instead, select something your kids like, not LOVE, and which they find kind of boring.

The backup works by changing the dynamic at the dinner table. When you set the overarching parameters, and your children make the choices, you alter your interactions so there's no more fighting about food. And your kids end up eating more of what you serve. Now that's a habit to cultivate!

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~

By Dina R. Rose, PhD, food sociologist and author of the blog and future book: Reprinted here with permission.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

GIVEAWAY: Win a Voila Workbench!

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Must Read for National Autism Month

THREE LITTLE WORDS By Ellen Notbohm (reprinted with permission)
Valentine’s Day comes and goes each year, and making twenty-something times I will not have received a Valentine from my husband. He has a long-standing allergy to what he calls “commercially mandated” holidays, declaring that he doesn’t “need Hallmark to tell me how and when to love my wife.” And I really don’t care because 365 days a year, he shows his love in dozens of ways. It isn’t that I don’t care about hearing those “three little words.” Who doesn’t? My son Bryce has autism, and when he was young and only minimally verbal, I had my blue moments wondering if I might never hear “I love you” from him. But when the day finally did come – oh my! Those three little words were not whispered in my ear or crayoned on a card, but announced at a school assembly. The students were supposed to describe themselves as a dictionary entry with three definitions. The typical definitions were along the lines of soccer player, math whiz, love to draw, etc. Bryce’s definition of himself was “someone who loves my parents.” It was, of course, a moment that completely redefined the word “unforgettable.” When a child struggles with verbal language, social communication or emotional issues as many children do, it gives new meaning to old clich├ęs like “actions speak louder than words” and “a picture is worth a thousand words.” We may shower our kids daily – hourly! – with the words “I love you,” but after all, the glory of love is its infinite abstraction. We can’t assume that children will ascribe the same meaning to the word as we do, no matter how often they hear it. The good thing about growing older is that your kids grow older too. One day they emerge from childhood and pre-adolescence (“pukey pubes” as one friend good-naturedly calls them) and, rather than telling you all that you do wrong, they begin to tell you everything that you did right. My son Connor is 21 now and Bryce is 17, and they tell me that although they certainly heard those three little words “I love you” from me on an ad nauseum basis, it was a number of other three-word phrases and the actions that accompanied them that really imprinted the I-love-you message on their hearts. “I’ll be there.” At the hoary age of 11, Connor got up at his grandfather’s funeral and told 200 people that his “Grandpa was all about devotion. He was at every baseball game, every birthday party.” He’ll be able to say the same thing about us when the time comes. To us it was the most natural thing in the world, not an imposition at all, that we would be at every ball game, every swim meet, every Halloween parade, every school performance, art show and parent conference. Also for every nasty doctor appointment, call from the principal, broken window and broken heart. I’m sure we put in thousands upon thousands of hours being there, but those years flew by and what we are left with now is kids who may not remember their bygone teammates or birthday presents or illnesses, but do remember that their parents were always, always there for them. “I was wrong.” So many people find it terribly difficult to say these three little words, and yet nothing is more loving than giving your children the gift of being content with their own humanity. By freely admitting when you are wrong, you are modeling strength, grace and humility. These are learned skills that we cannot assume will come naturally to our children. For some children, all errors come in only one size: colossal! By freely admitting when I was wrong (which was frequently), my children learned that, not only will the world not come to an end with such an admission, but that trying again and/or making amends can feel great. “I am sorry.” This cousin of “I was wrong” has been immortalized in music, film and print. Elton John got it right with his song “Sorry seems to be the hardest word...” and the movie Love Story got it wrong with its idiotic premise that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I recently read a magazine article entitled “50 Things You Need to Know by 50.” One of them was, how to say you’re sorry. OHMIGOSH!! This is something everyone would know how to do by age 5, not 50. This skill most certainly will not drop out of the sky for your child. Teach him through your own actions and words that love means learning to say you are sorry when you have honestly wronged someone, intentionally or not. “Let’s read together.” We all parent from our own experience, whether we (for better or worse) emulate our own parents or consciously choose a different way. My parents read to me every night and so I did the same with my kids; it was like breathing to me. In my naivety, I assumed all parents read to their kids every night and, in my naivety, was mightily stunned to find it was not so. But it’s one thing my kids refer back to almost daily, endlessly quoting favorite lines from the books we read all those years. And how fondly they remember that good-nights were always said at bedside -- never, ever called up the stairs from the phone or the TV room. “I’m Connor’s mom.” Connor swam varsity at Wilson High School for four years. Each year the kids and parents ordered team sweatshirts with customized printing on the back. Most chose clever nicknames, but I chose the three little words, I’M CONNOR’S MOM. I could never have imagined the response this would bring. People would (and still do) walk up to me and say, “Hi! And how is Connor these days?” It took me a while to figure out that these were strangers; they didn’t know Connor or me. But they all told me they adored the walking “I love you” billboard that was my sweatshirt. Even now, my son warns people not to mess with me because “she’s Connor’s mom!” “Just be yourself.” My sons have both told me that these three little words were the most important ones of all. As children grow older, they mingle with more and different kinds of families, and they begin to be able to place themselves in the context of the larger world. My kids heard “just be yourself” enough to ultimately learn that whatever their doubts about themselves and their various limitations, they have the power to decide whether to be their own best friend or their own worst enemy. That’s a power no super-hero can touch. Three little words. We say them, we hear them, we live them, we re-live them. Writing this column has been a joy for me, recalling a lifetime of love expressed so many three-little-word ways. But I saved the best for last, the three little words I whispered – and still whisper -- in my boys’ little ears at the end of each and every day. I’m so lucky. *** Origninally published in Autism Asperger's Digest magazine, March-April 2008, Reprinted with permission. © 2008 Ellen Notbohm Three-time ForeWord Book of the Year finalist Ellen Notbohm is author of the best-selling Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew and three other award-winning books on autism. To contact Ellen or explore her work, please visit .

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wooden Workbench by Voila Toys

The Voila Workbench is hands down our best selling work bench for kids! There are so many things about this toy that we love. First, and most obvious, is the eye-pleasing design. The solid wood bench is accented with bright, beautiful colors and lots of accessories. We also like that the bench has a wide base with a bottom shelf that adds to its stability. The Voila Workbench also includes many more pieces than most other wooden work benches. For example, all of the pieces shown left are included with the Voila Workbench. Additionally, the quality of the "saw", "screwdriver", "hammer" and "wrench" is unmatched. For play value, this work bench has lots of activities. A child can use the top of the bench and the front of the bench for practicing basic carpentry. Additionally, there is a vice that can be used which is great for practicing small motor skills. One of our favorite things about this workbench is the denim tool belt that's included. Shown in the photo, it's hanging along the back of the work bench. It can be removed and worn as a tool belt. It has several pockets and a tie back. Although there are many wooden workbenches on the market, we think the Voila Workbench is the nicest looking with the most play value that we've found. For more information or to purchase: Voila Workbench Free Shipping Included :) See web site for details.
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