My sweet, strong-willed, spitfire Arbor girl. It feels like just yesterday I was arguing with her in the early hours of labor, telling her not to dare be born on April Fools Day, so she waited 38 hours to make her appearance on April 2nd. She did what I asked… but in her own way. It never surprises me when she decides to take a strong position on something. That’s her nature and I know exactly where she gets it from.
While driving home from school the other day, I was half-way engaged in her chatter, trying to respond to her while also paying attention to the congested neighborhood after-school traffic.
“Mom, lambs are baby sheep. *chatter continues* Do you like lambs?”
“Yes, they’re delicious! Especially in gyros or kababs.”
“No, not like meat lambs like animal lambs.”
Oh my damn. We’re having one of those parenting moments where I can teach my kid a bit about the facts of life or I can protect her innocence just a little longer. My daughter is a smart kid. We’ve talked about some of the big things like childbirth and the permanence of death. She can handle some abstract discussion. Okay. Let’s tell her the truth.
“Well, baby, it’s the same thing. We kill animals so we can eat their meat.”
“What?! That’s so mean! I’m never eating meat again!”
“Okay, baby, that’s fine with me. But you know there’s a lot of foods you won’t be able to eat, right? Like bacon, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, spaghetti with meat sauce…”
I continued giving her the practical disadvantages of choosing to be a vegetarian. She insisted she didn’t want to eat anything from animals. I asked her about eggs and milk, explaining that we get these products from animals but don’t have to kill them to get them. She insisted, no food from animals. Well, I guess my daughter is a vegan now.
Much to my delight, I was a vegetarian up until I became pregnant with Arbor. Severe anemia made me crave meat, then pregnancy caused me to become sensitive to nuts. Vegetarianism was out the window for me. Having the very child that caused me to change my lifestyle decide of her own accord that she wanted that lifestyle for herself was a singularly special moment for me. And to have her so committed to her values on the topic that she would go full-blown vegan? Impressive, to say the least.
Forty-six minutes later, Arbor was on the couch eating a cake pop, made with butter and eggs and who knows what else. I razzed her just a little, reminding her that it would be really hard to never eat these foods again. She softened her stance and decided animal foods are okay as long as they aren’t meat. Fair enough, kid. Fair enough.
It was at this moment I knew her vegetarianism would probably only last until dinner time. When she saw her options for meatless proteins on short notice, she was less than thrilled. Her prospects included about four varieties of canned beans, vegetarian breakfast sausage, sunflower seed butter and eggs. She settled on kidney beans and much to my surprise, cleared her plate of beans, mashed potatoes and green peas. Alright, I see you, Arbor. You can do this.
Before we headed to bed, I loaded the crock pot with celery, carrots and onion, then filled it to the brim with water. All night it cooked together to make a simple vegetable stock for me to use to cook for her. Over the course of the next week I would be all in on finding vegetarian and nutritions foods to keep her diet balanced and her taste buds happy. She tried bean and barley soup, seasoned kidney beans, mock meat spaghetti sauce and every lacto-ovo vegetarian’s go to– eggs.
The week carried on and I continued to cater to Arbor’s newfound dietary choices. She was still excited to be living her truth, even if it was mildly inconvenient. She visited her dad that weekend, and I packed leftover mockmeat pasta for her dinner and lunch. I’ve got your back if you wanna do this, baby. When I picked her up on Sunday, I felt certain she would have succumbed to the fragrance of bacon in the morning and given up. Much to my surprise, she held strong.
Then a couple days after she was home, Arbor came to me between meals and said, “It was fun trying to be a vegetarian but I’m ready to be my regular self again.”
“You did a great job, baby! The first time I tried to go vegetarian, I don’t think I even lasted a full day! I’m so proud of you for trying something new, sticking with it and having the courage to say you were done when you didn’t want to do it anymore. Good job!”
See, here’s the thing. Not everything is worth fighting with my kids about. Trying to cook for my babies when one of them was living her principles was a bit of a pain. But it was so worth it. I was able to show her that I can support the decisions she makes for herself, that we can all pull together and try new things to support one another and that just because we try something doesn’t mean we have to stick with it. Since our vegetarian week, Arbor hasn’t fought about the food on her plate as much. She’s more open-minded and feels empowered in making choices about herself. Whether she decided to be a vegetarian again or not, I know that we all left this experience admiring Arbor’s dedication and feeling good about our ability to rise to the Occassion to support her.
Last year, I had my first Thanksgiving as a single person in ages. So I decided to take that opportunity to host Friendsgiving for some of the people I adore. It was a great time but ultimately, a little stressful to organize for that many adults. This year, we had planned on having another new experience: spending Thanksgiving with my family in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, my budget didn’t end up allowing us to take another road trip but it did allow us to have a modest meal together as a family of three.
The drowsy kids got all of Wednesday off of school, so we used that time to get to enjoy a proper day off together. Since separating from their dad, I have the kids all week, but they spend just about every weekend with my ex. This allows them to get quality time with both of their parents regularly, while also allowing me to work on weekends so we can avoid the massive childcare bill that comes with me working a nine-to-five gig. As their school days have gotten longer, we’ve found less and less time in the evenings to really DO a lot of family stuff. So random Wednesdays off from school are a cherished treat for our family. Alistair, Arbor and I went with our neighbor (and honorary brother to me & Uncle to the kids), Ant, and his daughter to the Science Museum of Virginia to see one of our favorite planetarium films, We Are Stars. Afterword, we all went to play in the exhibits for a while, then a drive thru lunch at Burger King. I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. We spent the afternoon watching TV and movies, hanging out and rolling the kids into a two-headed blanket burrito.
On Thursday, we had a simple meal that actually meant a lot to me. I made a baked ham with pineapple and brown sugar glaze, mashed potatoes from scratch, ham gravy and green peas. This time last year, Alistair was still diagnosed with food allergies to soy, green peas and pork and being considered high risk for peanut and tree nut allergies. This year, he has been cleared of all food allergies and has been enjoying trying everything from PBJs to bacon. Arbor was recently cleared for green peas but is still undergoing testing for nuts. She’s never had a pork allergy. So this seemingly simple meal really highlighted some things we are quite thankful for– the ability to enjoy more food experiences together.
Ant joined us for a plate around lunch time, then I took the kids to visit their dad’s side of the family for the remainder of their fall break. We saw many of the aunts, some cousins and they even pulled together a last minute Thanksgiving meal. Check out the delicious plate I got to take with me for after I was done driving Uber. I’ve gotta admit it really hit the spot to shove my face with sweet potato pie, mac n cheese and sweet potatoes when I got in. Lucky for me, I only decided to Lyft until about 10:00 PM before getting an invitation to play some cards, drink a few beers and enjoy the company of some of my favorite humans.
This Thanksgiving was easily the least stressful Thanksgiving I’ve had so far. It’s my favorite holiday but I always meet it with a little bit of grief and sadness. My parents live 1200 and 3000 miles away from me, respectively and my geographically closest relatives are my sisters who live three hours away. But this year, it felt simple. I was having dinner with my tiny humans and feeling exceedingly thankful for the incredible friends who have become closer than family to me.
Thank you for letting me rave about my low key holiday.
2016 was weird. 2017 is weird. Life is weird. In my home, things have been changing quite a bit over the past year. I’ve enjoyed getting settled into entrepreneurship and single-motherhood and really doing some self-discovery in the process. I’ve been attempting to apply mindfulness as a conscious goal of my life, which often means setting dedicated and undivided attention time for my children. Last summer, I decided my kids needed to start getting some summer vacation experiences. So we enjoyed our first day-trip to the beach and our first backyard camping experience together. Both required a few hours in the car and were incredible family trips. During our camping trip, I set an out-of-office reply inspired by another parent who sought to make memories with his family. Here’s my message from last August.
The drowsy kids enjoying some sandbox fun during out backyard camping trip last summer.
Last Summer’s Auto-Reply
The other day I was listening to a great story on NPR about Michael Merschel’s art of the out-of-office-reply and felt so inspired. Over the past month or so, I have been working non-stop to try to get Carlene Can up and running for each of my new clients. Thank you all so much for helping to keep me busy and motivated! But a weekend has finally come along where I have the time, motivation and cooperative weather to give my children their first ever camping experience. We are packing up the Prius with our tent, some books, coloring supplies and bathing suits and going off the grid for a couple of days.
I have an immense love for the digital world. It’s both enabled my livelihood and helped me to foster some incredible long-term friendships with many spectacular people. But in my love for the internet and technology, I want to be sure that I am sending the right message to my tiny humans. Work matters. Business matters. But unplugging and spending time with family and nature matters just as much. Nothing compares to teaching my preschoolers how wonderful it is to read a good book until the sun goes down then telling spooky stories with flashlight shadow puppets and trying to spot constellations under a country night sky.
I hope you’ll forgive my inability to answer your calls or emails until I’m back in the city. I assure you they will be taken care of with a fresh, rejuvenated mind on Monday. If you’d like to hear about our camping trip, please feel free to check my personal blog for an update in a couple of weeks. For faster updates and hopefully some amazing photos, follow me on Instagram and Facebook. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch on Monday to help you grow your business through digital marketing solutions.
Have a wonderful weekend,
I’m excited to say that at four and five years old, I think we are ready to level-up our game to a full-blown road trip! Later this month, the drowsy kids and I will be going 2,567 miles over 38 hours (not including stops) and visiting my family in Oklahoma. I know, I’m a crazy person to go on an adventure like this while I’m outnumbered by persuasive, feisty kiddos but crazy or not, it’s official!
This trip will be our test-run for being able to make road trips a frequent part of our lifestyle. We’ll be packing up tablets, old cell phones, and audiobooks to pass the time on the road, as well as a cooler stocked with sandwiches, bottles of water and other healthy snacks. With a healthy dose of patience and determination, I’m hopeful that we will enjoy some quality time together and build some meaningful memories.
If you’d like to follow our journey, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram, sharing our travel pics and how I’m balancing mindful, quality time with family against bringing my business on the road. There will be laughter, there will be tears and most importantly, there will be food! We plan to spend one night camping, yes, real camping. I don’t have words to describe how excited the kids are to get their first ever campfire, complete with s’mores. We’ll get to spend three days and four nights with my family before we head back to Virginia, pop in on a friend in Tennessee for the night and make it back to Virginia the next day. We’ve got this!
If you would like to read my auto-responder for this upcoming trip, shoot me an email at Carlene@CarleneCan.com during the week of June 18-24.
Now that I have finished school, I hope to dedicate more time to the love that got me into the social media business: blogging. You can expect to see some web design updates and some blog posts sharing the things I accomplished on the Unemployment Bucket List, reflections on our new lifestyle and information on a new podcast I am working on. I hope to see you next Sunday for my post about chasing a sense of fulfillment during this transitory period of my life.
Do me a favor and leave a comment below to help me prepare for my trip in a couple weeks. Have you been on a road trip with young children before? If so, what words of wisdom can you share? Any advice or tools you would recommend to make the trip as easy as possible?
In my family, “nerd” is a compliment. A couple of years ago, I got really frustrated trying to find a good gift for my Mars obsessed toddler. Now her fifth birthday is just around the corner and I’m in the same conundrum. In case any other parents or people who love kids are also struggling to find awesome gift ideas for nerdy kids, I’ve made a list of ten ideas that I’m considering for my Arbor girl. By the way, this post contains affiliate links.
1. Bill Nye the Science Guy Plush
You simply cannot beat the classics. I can hear my kids yelling, “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” Wait… they’re actually yelling… BRB.
2. Microscope for Kids
At this price point, I seriously wonder why my science teachers were such pains in the butt about how we handled the classroom microscopes. But I digress…
3. The Magic School Bus Books
Like literally any of them. And just in time for the new Netflix series. As if I didn’t love Kate McKinnon enough already…
4. Glowing Terrarium
Nerdy, meet magical. Magical, meet nerdy. I take my terrariums with a side of awe, if you don’t mind.
5. Star Projector Kit
While we’re talking about glow-y stuff, let’s go ahead and build our own home planetarium.
6. 100% Star Dust Tee Shirt
Not sure if I’m trying to keep the kids humble or inspire them to their potential for greatness. Either way, this shirt will be well loved before it’s handed down to little brother and eventually turned into a throw pillow or play baby carrier.
7. Solar System Kit
So let’s just say that her last solar system kit failed to impress me so it got left behind in the move. And let’s also say that Arbor noticed really quickly and still holds it against me. I probably need to replace it sooner rather than later.
8. Solar Rover
Did you know the Mars rover sings itself happy birthday every year? Arbor does. And she’s super sad that he’s alone. So maybe her own solar powered rover will help her feel better about it.
9. Girls Think of Everything
Last month, I heard a story on NPR about how girls don’t think girls should be super smart. We’re not having that in this house. Inspire greatness with this book reminding the littles of how awesome women really are.
10. Gemstone Kit
Arbor has been really into collecting rocks of the playground. Time to level up. [Insert obvious birthday card pun].
Have any other suggestions I missed? Drop them in the comments!