No. No, I Don’t Want to Help End Childhood Hunger.

“Would you like to help end childhood hunger?”  The checker smiles sweetly as she drops a loaf of bread into the last bag.

I am distracted and straining to hold my patience. Guy, sitting in the cart, has managed to undo the safety buckle and is crouched on the seat, threatening to leap. And Bug is fingering every candy bar, begging  in her most whinny voice for a treat she knows I’ll never buy.

I glance at the checker, “What did you say?”

She smiles again, “Would you like to end childhood hunger?”  I stare at her stiffly.  I actually already answered this question.  The card reader asked me too, when I swiped my credit card.  Did I want to round-up my total as a donation for such n’such foundation, it asked.  I’d quietly pressed the “no” button, but now, now this lady is asking me again.  And I need to answer her.  Out Loud.

Do I want to end childhood hunger?

Yes or no.

The implications of my answer flush my cheeks crimson.  Of course I want to end childhood hunger, but wanting kids to have enough food is not the same thing as wanting to donate to some organization the grocery store has arbitrarily selected for me to support.  But what am I supposed to do? At this point the only way to avoid a donation is to literally say,”No I don’t want to end childhood hunger.”  And seriously, who the hell is going to say that?

I glance at the total shining on the register, $137.32.  I glance at my children, their well-fed, dimpled hands working to fish a quart of blueberries out of a bag.child hunger

The checker breaks in to my thoughts with a cheerful, “It’s just $.68!”

“Right,” I say, “Sure, why not.” Like I had a choice.

I leave the store in a rush of frustration I don’t totally understand.  Because what’s the big deal?  I mean,  come on, it is only $.68, and here I stand with a cart full of food, much of which, like blueberries, are not essential to basic survival, and I do, in fact, want to stop child hunger.  I care about that.  A lot.  So why wouldn’t I donate?

But you know what I don’t care for?  I don’t care for being railroaded into a guilt laden donation at the super market.

What I don’t care for is the manipulative quality of the grocery store interaction– the card reader asked me to donate; I said no, and that should have been it.  But then checker asked again , and with a contrived, scripted question designed to shame me into giving.

No bueno.

Look, I believe in charitable giving.   My husband and I give as generously as we can to organizations and causes we believe in– and TRUST.

I don’t mind being asked for donations– even at the store– that’s how charities raise money,  but I do object to having my emotions exploited.  I have a right to say no, and exercising that right doesn’t make me stingy or selfish, yet every aspect of this type of interaction is orchestrated to make the potential giver feel exactly that.  “Do you want to end childhood hunger?” is a much different question than, “Do you want to donate to Bla-Bla Foundation?”

When I give I like to give freely and from my heart.  But in this case, I only said yes because I didn’t want to say no.

Every time I go to the grocery store (so like 500x a week) I’m asked for a donation for some organization or other, this week it was hungry kids, next week it will be to find the cure for cancer, or to save beaten puppies, or for clean drinking water in developing nations– all worthy causes.  All causes I support.

But I will likely say no.

I will say no for the same reason I walk out of high pressure car dealerships, away from pushy “shop girls”, and hang-up on telemarketers.

I simply don’t like supporting groups who employ calculated coercion to make money.

It’s the principle of the thing.

What do you think?  Is this an issue worth being principled about?



Gross just got Grosser


Gross. Grosser than Gross.

Gross reached a whole new level in my house this morning.

Little Man has developed some Spring allergies and is in constant need of a tissue. I swear he blew his nose 10 times between breakfast and brushing his teeth. Poor guy.

So this morning after wrestling all the kids into the swagger wagon and a near-miss with a large yellow bus, I hear Little Man blowing his nose in the back.

I’m not sure what possessed me–but for some reason, I asked him if he had a tissue and he said NO!!!

I nearly slammed the swagger wagon into an on-coming car as I threw up in mouth.

What? I screamed back as I looked at him in the rearview mirror.

He was sitting there with big guilty eyes and two fingers in his mouth.

I don’t feel the need to explain further.

Gross. Grosser than Gross.

What have your kids done that just makes you sick to your stomach?


Unfat and Healthy: Battling the Toddler Diet

I have gained a few pounds lately. Weight loss and maintenance are such a struggle for me…a constant battle. A war-zone really.

AND, right now my toddler isn’t helping!

Have you ever tried to follow your kid around for five minutes? I mean really follow them, not just stand there behind them. But doing exactly what they do — squatting down to look at something and then jumping up; running around in a circle 4,000 times in 1 minute; climbing in, out, over, under your favorite piece of furniture filled with or next to your prized breakable item.

Just do it for 5 minutes and you’ll need a nap. They have so much energy it exhausts me.

So, how do they do that and still carry around that Buda belly or the remnants of those cute baby fat rolls on their thighs? You’d think they would all be shaped like sticks.

And then to add insult to injury–they can pretty much eat whatever they want in great amounts. What do they do? They start in with the picky eating. Sure, maybe you are blessed with a baby/toddler who eats anything, but really look at their plate. They eat bites and then move on leaving half-eaten chicken nuggets, leftover apple slices, a few grapes, a cheese stick with a bite out of it and some soy beans.

So here is how the toddler is effecting my diet and resulting in my larger than usual waistline: I can’t just throw it away.

I’m not so great with letting it all go to waste. Sure, I pack up some stuff for the next meal. But really are they going eat it then? Or is it worth it to put the 5 grapes and the 2 crackers away for the next meal. So….I just eat it. Basically this means, I’m eating my meals and Peanut’s.

Here is example from yesterday’s lunch–small portion of a PB&J, cheese stick and a couple chips:


Toddler Diet

I’m battling the toddler diet and I’m losing.

How do you handle the toddler diet? What are your tips and tricks to stop yourself from tasting or wasting? Should I really just be throwing it out? Or is there a way to force your toddler to finish? 🙂


Upside Down and Inside Out

upside down inside out

You may or may not have noticed, but I (Natalie) have not written in a LONG time. There are lots of reason for this, but  more than anything, I’ve just been upside down. Nothing catastrophic happened. Nothing even that out of the ordinary happened, it’s just, for whatever reason, my plate became (or felt) too full.  So I took a step back.

This may seem unremarkable to you, but for me laying down a responsibility; turning my back on an obligation; walking away, even temporarily, from a team-mate, was a significant and notable action.

I believe in honoring commitment.  I think you should say no if  can’t and follow through if you’ve said yes– even when the goin’ gets tough.  I’m not a quitter.  I have integrity.   So for that reason, more than any other, I don’t tend to give up midstream. No, instead I grit through.  I plant my feet, tuck my chin and meet the crashing tide head on.

You ever done that, in real life?  Met a tide head on?  I’m sure you have.  You know the feeling.   First the current pushes you down and then it sweeps away the sand beneath you.  You plunge under.  And then what happens?  Often, you flip.

Literally, mom upside down.

It might be cliché, but I think the metaphor is obvious.

Yes, my fear of letting someone down, or backing out, or not following through has landed me upside down and inside out more times than I can count.  And my willingness to power through an over-packed, over-whelmed life has  consequences, namely stress and frustration, which tend to come out in tiny, fiery blasts–usually aimed directly at my family.

Anyone out there know what I’m talking about?

This time, when the water started churning,  I did something differently.  This time when the lists of commitments piled-up, when the “fun” dates on the calendar started looking like more work than they were worth, instead of martyring myself on my to-do list, I picked up the phone and unapologetically backed out.

I’ve felt a series of emotions regarding that decision–everything from guilt at leaving Courtney on her own, to sweet, unrepentant relief.  Now as my head bobs back to the surface, I’m utterly grateful that this time I made a different choice.  Because by slowing the tide just a bit, this suffocating season went by more quickly and more smoothly than any time before. I feel more refreshed and better equipped to move forward.

There’s something to be said regarding the fortitude required to stick-out stressful seasons, but in this case, for me, stepping out really made it possible for me to step back in!




Coffee Chatter: Body Parts

Kids + body parts = funny.

Or…not so much

I am a firm believer in answering a child’s questions truthfully and simply. I don’t make up words for body parts. I just say it like it is. Sometimes it leads to trouble, but most of the time, they don’t ask more than they are capable of understanding.

Last night,  I was breastfeeding Peanut while Cricket and Little Man were playing. Cricket comes over just as the little guy was finished and she caught a glimpse of  my nipple. She asked what it was.

So, I answered. That is my nipple. You have them too. Little Man pipes up with “me too, see!” as he lifts his shirt for his sister. Cricket checks them out and says “Mommy’s giant, red and pointy.” Gee thanks kid.

One night during bath time, Cricket is talking about body parts again. She is pointing out her belly. She notes that I tickle her ‘underarm pitties” — you’ll recognize the reference if you have the book Tickle Monster. Then she states firmly, “boys have penises and girls have ‘ginas.”

“Yes Cricket, girls have vaginas,” I respond.
“You have a ‘gina, mama?”
“But your ‘gina is different; it has fur.”

I think to myself: dear god, I know I am a little behind on my grooming, but am I a dog? Way to call me out Cricket!

“Yep, it is different. But doesn’t have fur–my vagina has  hair.” “Time to go get dressed!!!”

A few years ago, I gave Little Man quite the fright. He was just over 3 and had wandered into the bathroom with me while I was showering (Note to self…I need more privacy).

I stepped out of the shower and was drying off…he was looking at me and asking me something. I moved the towel and his face goes white and his eyes grow wide. He starts pointing at me with a shaky finger and screams, ” Mommy, your penis FELL OFF.”

Yep. He is a man alright.

What have your kids said about your body?




May Challenge


Better Buns

How’d you do with the April Challenge?

Here’s how we did in April:


Arms, arms, arms.  I was pretty religious about doing the arm challenge this month!  But because I’m a rebel and can’t just do as I’m told, I modified the challenge to fit my life and time needs.  All the movements in the arm workout are static– but static weightlifting doesn’t burn calories like dynamic weightlifting, so I modified each exercise to a become full body movement.  For example, instead of just doing a standard standing curl, I did them with a lunge or as a squat thrust. This turned a weightlifting routine into a whole body workout!  Sweet!

I did not, however, do much meal planning with the kids.  Unless you count that one night Bugaboo begged for grilled cheese and I made it…

Sorry to say, I didn’t get behind the April Challenge to plan meals with the kids. I was so busy this month that I really couldn’t break out of my regular routine when it came to planning dinners. I want to try this again and be more proactive about the planning process with the kids.

On the flip side, I did a lot better with the arms routine. I didn’t get to each exercise as prescribed, but I focused on arms and followed most of the plan. Check out those guns! 🙂

Here is our May Challenge for those who want to join in!


May Fitness Challenge:   30 Day for Better Buns

Who doesn’t want Better Buns!  I do!   Especially before I start wearing a bathing suit! Check it out, 30-day Better Bun Challenge.

The plan includes Squats, Bridges and Lunges.  The website shows you pictures of each exercise for your reference.

May Well-Being Challenge:   Exercise with the Kids 

We want to get the kids moving and help teach them about life-long fitness. So this month we will get the kids doing some exercise. Not just playing soccer or tag (though those are amazing ways to get and keep kids active), but following along WITH US in a routine.

When you meet the challenge we’d love for you to post your success on our FB page (click anywhere on this sentence to find it!)– we want to see pictures of your progress and hear your stories!  That way we can all inspire each other to keep on, keepin’ on!


We look forward to hearing how you are doing with your challenges!


Checkout our past challenges.


Activities: How much is too much?

Like many parents, my kids are interested in several different activities. I try to fit it all in and give them a chance to try new things.

Currently, we do swimming, lacrosse, ballet, ice skating, gymnastics, soccer and after school enrichment. Little Man and Cricket each have four activities going on.

Wow, that is a lot.

When I go to write it down, it seems unbelievable that I fit all this in–and only feel slightly crazy. We still have time for homework, dinner together and a more relaxed bedtime routine than when I was working. Well, I should say that most bedtimes are better.

But is it too much for them?

They love their activities. They don’t seem overwhelmed. I do give them choices and they don’t get to do everything.

My ground rules:
1. We don’t have more than one activity on any given day.

2. If the sport has both a practice time and a game time that cuts down on the number of activities that the child gets to choose.

3. It’s OK to try something new. I try to encourage them to try new things so that we can see which things they are both good at and interested in. But that might mean giving up something that you already like.

4. They each get to pick two. Somehow right now, they are doing more…but I swear I started at two. It is a slippery slop.

I know when Peanut gets old enough for activities we will have to switch up things a little bit, so they each get to do things and I’m not a crazy person.

There are so many activities and sports that kids can choose from these days. They have access to many, many more, at much younger ages, than I feel I ever had. For example, last summer Little Man tried Fencing — seriously, that was not an option for me in Alabama. We had football and cheerleading.

There is music, sports (SO MANY), art classes, after school choices, running clubs, cheerleading camps, gymnastics, martial arts, computers,  Girl/Boy Scouts, skiing, horseback riding, etc. The question becomes how do you let them know their choices and let them try things — without it being overwhelming.? Or how to encourage them to stick with one thing, not to give up if it is too hard, but also follow their interests?

I’m taking it one day at a time, but it is a hard balance. I know many friends who have their kids in many more activities than mine and I know parents who only let their kids do one thing at a time. I guess you all find your way. You try and see what works for you — for your family schedule.

Hopefully we all find a little balance.


People Eat Meat?


“People Eat Meat?”

I love being outside and the weather is just staring to warm up, so I took the kids to the zoo.

Our local zoo is pretty small, but it is perfect for my kids ages. Every zoo visit includes a trip to the zoo playground. I am not even sure why they love the playground there so much. It isn’t that interesting.

Anyway, after the zoo we hit up the ‘farm’ area because Cricket wanted to see the horses. We walk in the barn and look at the chickens, horses, the giant pig and finally we get to the sheep. Little Man is now reading. So many things that used to go unnoticed are now very apparent.  He reads a sign for sheep out loud: “raised for wool and meat.” Here is the conversation that followed:

Little Man: Raised for wool and meat? Meat? What Meat?

Me: Meat, like you eat.

Little Man: What??? People eat them?

Me: Yes, people eat them, just like cows or chicken.

Little Man: People eat cows? I don’t eat cow!

Me: Yes, you do. You love hamburgers and they made from cows.

Little Man: What????? His mind is clearly blown.

Me: And chicken. Where do you think the chicken that you eat comes from?

Little Man: You mean we actually eat chickens?

His little head was spinning.

I was laughing so hard I almost peed myself.

We had chicken for dinner without a peep! 🙂


F*ing Minivan


My New Ride

I bought a F*ing Minivan.

Let’s back up a bit here. I had no intention of being a minivan mom. I purposely bought a crossover/SUV Thingy with a third row. The seats could slide forward, the small ones could climb back, there were cup holders for everyone and even room for a spare kid. There was even a seat heater and bluetooth upfront for mom.

All was right in the world.

Then my SUV Thingy contracted some bad juju. Let’s just say there were some extra dings, strange noises and expensive repairs in our future.

Uh oh.

We took the SUV Thingy in and decided we needed to buy a new car. We have three kids and am often carting around 4 or 5. The only logical, sensible choice was a minivan.

Arg. I was a bit deflated.

I just never thought of myself as a minivan driver. I live in a fantasy world. One where as long as I wasn’t with my kids, no one knows I’m a mom. I can hide out in my SUV Thingy and pretend. I don’t even let my kids eat in the car and if they bring a toy in they have to take it out. My ride is squeaky clean — if you overlook the carseats, kids don’t exist.

I have seen those minivan moms at school drop off. They ride up in their wagon, roll open those doors and the kids jump out like little ninjas. At Target they strut up to their car and the magic gate lifts allowing them to effortlessly load the van. I’ve even seen a mom put in groceries AND a couch. Amazing.

The thing is I wanted my fantasy.

But I got a minivan.

Let me tell you about this new ride — my Swagger Wagon (if you haven’t seen the video, check it out). The inside has everything — a TV/DVR; more cup holders than one family needs; and reclining seats that are softer than those cushy ones at the movie theatre. You can even plug in and/or charge any device you might desire. If it had a private bathroom, I would move in and let the kids have the house. The Swagger Wagon is like a limo inside — plush, soft, smooth, modern. However, you step out and it is still a F*ing Minivan.

I may not love it, but my kids do and their friends think it is cool. I recognize that this is only going to last so long — but I’ll take what I can get.


Read on the Run


Reading on the Run

Many mamas ask me  how I can read so many books in one year — I read about a book a week. I know it sounds like I am bragging, but I’m not. Ok, maybe a little. Last year I read 60 books– more than one book a week. OK, now I am bragging. Anyway, check out Book Worm, if you are interested in some of my suggestions!

I really like to read. Reading is an escape. It is my time at home or while I’m ‘watching’ some kid activity. Come on, you don’t seriously watch the whole time, do you? Admit it, you check your phone, return emails and follow-up with Facebook. Well, I’m reading.

I’ll let you in on my secret: I read while I run on the treadmill.

On the treadmill, I can get in a good solid hour of running and reading. I know, I take my life in my own hands. And, most of the time I enjoy a great run while reading a good book. Let me tell you though, a bad book equals a crap run. Anyway, 9.9 times out of 10…it is great. I stay focused and the miles fly by.

Not so much today.

I have been sick, so not only did I have my reader, water bottle, towel and phone on the treadmill. I had a pile of tissues up there too. Maybe that was too much?

So, I’m running and I am a few miles in and I have been blowing my nose constantly. I reach down to grab a tissue (again) and I dropped it. I guess I had a mental lapse that I was on the treadmill and I stopped and reached down for the tissue — which had already been whisked away.

As you can probably imagine, the tread doesn’t stop just because you stop running. Did I mention that I am also too cocky and never wear that stupid safety clip? So I stopped, the treadmill didn’t and I was leaning down…..

I nearly fell off the whole thing. I hit my head on the handle bars and I looked like a spastic cat jumping — maybe not even that graceful. Wait, you haven’t seen that video? Well, here you go: Spastic Cat Jump! but somehow got my legs moving. The old man next to me almost had a heart attack.

I continued my run trying to look cool or at least like I wasn’t some type of spastic fool. I’m sure I pulled it off.