Grocery Shopping Pains

The things I consumed as a child, I would never feed to my own children. My parents did the best they knew how with the information given at the time. I also believe our food was vastly different form today. Lucky for us that we know more now. Shame on me if I knowingly feed my children fast food and a plethora of soda, candy and sweets.

The more I learn, the more I’m discouraged at the direction of our food production in this country. Since the birth of our first born, Nishad, my trips to the grocery store have doubled in time. Why? Because I read the ingredients. My rule of thumb? The less ingredients, the better. The more local the product, the better.

We knew organic was better, however, when he was little didn’t know that much about it. So like any pro-active parents that want the best for their little ones, we researched the topic and drew our own conclusions. He’s been drinking organic milk ever since he made the switch at 12-months old.

Since our children were born we’ve made some changes in our diets that would directly influence our children’s diet and health. Our children are vegetarian. Ashish only eats fish. I eat chicken, turkey and fish. I haven’t consumed pork, lamb or beef in about 7 years. Ashish has been vegetarian since he was a child. Research states, it’s simply better for you. It’s also a very ‘green’ thing to do for our earth. If everyone were vegetarian, or at least cut out three ‘meat’ meals a week, we could tackle world hunger. Now that’s something to sink your teeth into! Do I miss ‘meat’ in the carnivore sense? Not really. Morning Star veggie bacon, sausage and crumblers are fantastic. In fact by substituting Morning Star products, I can make an excellent vegetarian chili and stuffed peppers – just like Mom’s, biscuits and gravy and a mean potato salad that tastes exactly like my Aunt Linda’s.

I also grew-up eating sugar-coated cereal and continued to do so in my adult years. My objects of affection (always at eye-level) in the cereal isle were Frosted Flakes, Coo-Coo Puff’s, Lucky Charm’s and my two favorites, Fruit Loop’s and Capt’n Crunch. As of last December, I shared with Ashish my decision to banish these cereals from our household as I didn’t want Nishad to start eating them.

Soda was never is short supply at our household. The brand of choice was Coke. I’m not sure when I had my first sip of coke, but surely, my love for sugary soft drinks began instantaneously. First generation “Happy Meal” kid that I was, milk wasn’t offered- coke was. We all know how much I patroned Mc D’s as a kid. I don’t blame my parents at all. How can I? It was marketed to them as a ‘perfect’ well-balanced meal. I feel like I have to spend the rest of my life detoxing from the wicked clown.

Mental check list: while at the grocery store avoid products with:
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup.
2. Partially Hydrogenated Oil or Shortening
3. Genetically Engineered Food

Dear Sugar, NOT Fructose,
Since January, I’ve been on a high fructose kick…as in kick it out of our diet! Which, if you every read a nutritional label on the back of your favorite foods, it’s difficult to do. I am constantly amazed at how much stuff contains fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup provides the sweet zing in everything from Coke, Pepsi and Snapple iced tea to Dannon yogurt and Chips Ahoy cookies. It also lurks in unexpected places, like Ritz crackers, Wonder bread, Wishbone ranch dressing and Campbell’s tomato soup. HFCS is linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

The truth is that fructose and HFCS, as large-scale commercial sweeteners, didn’t exist 20 years ago. We all grew-up hearing about how ‘fructose’ came from fruit. Well, that’s not true today. It’s not only bad for you, it’s highly addictive. In addition, it manipulates hormones and chemicals in your brain that gives you a signal of when you are full. Mc D’s even puts it in their wonder burgers. I call them that as one can only wonder what exactly is in them- similar to their surprise chicken. We won’t even touch their coffee as if you are putting stuff in burgers, who knows what you are putting in the coffee. Besides, I can pay a little more at Caribou or Starbucks for a cup of Jo, but at least I know they are a bit more eco-friendly and participate in free trade…unlike Mc D’s or BK.

I’ll Pass on the Trans-Fat, thank you!
Well, you’re standing in the grocery isle finally holding a product that doesn’t have HFCS and you’re set, right? Mission accomplished. How Bush of you! Check to see if it contains a lethal trans-fat, that is literally like poison for your body- Partially hydrogenated oil. Don’t fall for the marketing trick of “Zero-Trans Fat” either- read the label for yourself. See, it’s harder than you think, isn’t it? Partially hydrogenated oil is found in many snack and convenience foods such as popcorn, cookies, crackers and cake, as well as in many fried food such as donuts and fast food places. This ingredient is relatively cheap for production, it has a long shelf-life, and its ability to be used as a substitute ingredient for other more costly ingredients is attractive to companies. Prior to the widespread use of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, companies and fast food places would use coconut oil and butter. However, due to the higher cost of these two ingredients, as well as their relatively short shelf-life which resulted spoiling food, a cheaper, longer-lasting ingredient was sought. Now that thereโ€™s more awareness, some corporations have changed the name of these trans fatty oils to mono-diglycerides.

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and allergies that can cause arthritis are all linked to hydrogenated oils, my friend. It also disables your body from properly absorbing good essential fatty acids (necessary to sustain healthy life) found largely in polyunsaturated oils. Instead of being absorbed and providing your body with what it needs to function properly, the essential fatty acids are eventually stored as fat cells, causing you to gain weight.

Every apple is the same.
Genetically engineered food is a touchy subject for me that I have a lot to learn about yet. I understand that before we were born, farmers were already busy splitting seeds and modifying plants to make stronger, more bountiful crops and harvests. However, I don’t think I’m ready to hand over our food production to a few big companies that weigh production and profit before the health of our children. I’m not sure I’m ready to consume animal genes in plants and vice versa. One also has to think about the impact on human health (allergens, antibiotic resistance, etc.). I can’t say that I fully support tampering with nature. At least label all genetically engineered food.

Food for PLU~
Here’s a little something I learned from Jeff Fox, former editor of Organic Gardening magazine. PLU codes are the codes you find on produce and fruit.

  • A five digit code that begins with the number 9 means it is completely organic.
  • A code that begins with the number 8 means it is genetically modified.
  • A four digit code means that it was grown the tradition, standard way with pesticides and chemicals- however, it is not genetically engineered.

Phase-in Complete

Nishad wanted to share his home-grown veggies with his teachers and new friends at school. He went to the garden last night and picked 3 cucumbers and about 15 cherry tomatoes. He proudly waltzed in school with his veggies in hand. He spotted his teacher in the office and stopped to say “Good-morning” to her. The teaching assistant was ready to greet him at the door. He changed into his inside shoes, once again, all by himself, hung up his backpack and off he went. I said, “Can I have a kiss?” He turned around and gave me a hug and a kiss as I said, “Have a good time.” Dad, Arun and I turned and walked away. Mommy that I am, I shared with his teacher that he wanted to wait to go to potty in the classroom.

Ashish and I went grocery shopping while we waited out the 2 hour phase in session. We had some time to spare so we drove around and looked at houses in the area and took some brochures of the few houses that were for sale. It’s a beautiful neighborhood.. We have some big decisions to make. If we plan on living here for the next three years, this will be Nishad’s school, and then Arun’s. So, do we move closer as the school is such a central part of our lives and activities- only to then move again in 3 years? Or, do we hold out until Nishad graduates in 3 years and then make our move to a part of the country that we really like?

Arun was sleeping so I went in to pick-up Nishad. Pick-up for phase-in is different as you actually go inside to pick-up your child. Starting next week, cars line up outside and the staff escort the children to each of their cars. I found him as happy as can be, working away in the outdoor environment with a little girl in his class. His teachers both told me how much they loved the home-grown veggies and how Nishad shared it with his friends for snack. He even washed, peeled the cucumber and cut it! He’s done that at home, but it was exciting to hear about his experiences at school.

Little did he know, waiting for him in the car was a balloon for him. We picked it up because we wanted to celebrate a successful phase-in for our BIG BOY! Ashish and I let him pick out were he wanted to go for lunch; Noodles and Company. He wanted the Pad Tai, just like Mamma!

Busy Bee

When I was an assistant in my 20’s at a Montessori school, the directress always told the children, “Are you a busy bee that is busy at work or are you a bumble bee that just flys around?” Nishad is our busy bee!

Now, here’s something to ‘buzz’ about… Nishad’s first day of school!

He proudly walked in with his new backpack (“forest patrol” with a bear on it- so cute and designed for toddlers), filled with his inside shoes and plant in hand. Immediately, he saw a familiar face, “Baby Balu!” (Which means bear in Hindi). We must have forgotten him at the ice cream social. Nishad and I thought it was funny that Baby Balu slept in the school over night. We walked him inside the class, kissed him goodbye and said “Have fun!” Off he went with his teacher in search of the perfect spot for his plant.
Ashish, Arun and I walked out of the building. I couldn’t help but tear up. Not that I didn’t feel secure about enrolling him, but I couldn’t help but feel emotional over yet another milestone- a BIG milestone.
Ashish, Arun and I headed to Caribou and it was so odd not to have Nishad with us. A lady from the school that also dropped her son off recognized us and we have a brief conversation. She asked if I stay home with Nishad. Then she made me feel good by acknowledging how hard that has to be for me as a Mom as I’ve been the only one with him and taking care of him up to this point.
Ashish and I are so proud of that too- that we were able to take care of our children until it was the right time for them to interact with their peers and go to school. I’m proud that we made the right choice. Ashish is an incredible provider and I try to do my part by rearing our boys so that they reflect our values and morals. We as parents are invested in our children so much that we consider it not a ‘job’ to rear them, but an honor.
Ashish and I sipped on our coffee, as baby Arun looked around for his brother. I couldn’t help but keep an eye on the clock. Ashish suggested we leave at quarter to, I quickly said, “twenty minutes to.” The trip back seemed so short. We pulled in the parking lot with other phase in parents awaiting their children. Ashish said, “Let’s wait two-minutes before we go in.” I quickly replied, “It will take you two-minutes to get Arun out of the car. Let’s go!” I could not wait to see my baby, hug him and let him tell me all about his experience.
The teacher opened the door and there trotted Nishad through the door as proud as ever. We greeted him with a big “Hello” and a hug. He started changing his shoes without being prompted. His teacher told us that he did really well- he didn’t cry even once. His teacher said that he even already started ‘work’ in the classroom. He found a place for his plant too- By the globes so everyone could see it. He told us that he even went poop there!
After we asked Nishad if he wanted to go to the Nature Center to see the frogs, turtles, snakes and birds. The boney bee’s exhibit is also on display. On the way there he filled us in on his day at school and we shared in his excitement. We took him out to lunch too. When asked where he wants to eat he’ll reply, “Jalapenos” – at which we know he wants Mexican!
Last night when I tucked him in bed, he told me that he wanted the blanket that my Grandma Bessie made me. So, I re-told him the story of how she made it with her own hands. I told him of how it was my special blanket that I felt safe under when I was a little girl. Then he replied, “And Daddy?” I said, “What about Daddy?” He said, “He was safe too?” I smiled, “I didn’t know Daddy yet.” In which he said confused, “No?” I gave him a hug and told him that I met Daddy when I was older because God knew that he and his brother Arun were suppose to be here on earth.” With that he gave me a big dinosaur kiss.

Ice Cream Social

This evening I loaded up the kids and met Ashish at Nishad’s pre-school for our first social gathering; an ice cream social. Ashish’s work is only a few minutes away from Nishad’s school. Ashish was quite the social butterfly! He met someone that works with him and another person that went to the same college as him back in India. There were so many families from various backgrounds. Everyone was so nice and the children were so well mannered, calm and so content.

When we entered the building, we headed right to Nishad’s classroom to show him where it was and to meet his teacher personally. He instantly felt comfortable in the classroom. He picked up the number rods and was ready to go to work! This is not only a credited Montessori School, it is also an AMI school. This means that they not only prescribe to a holistic approach, but everything, even the architecture of the building has to adhere to AMI standards. Everything is designed with the children in mind.

After he met his teacher, we headed upstairs to the ice cream social. The event was held in the outdoor environment, which is amazing and huge! It definitely could be in a magazine- though this garden is for the children. We chatted with some wonderful parents. People we just met even took turns holding Arun. He certainly made his rounds today- and we were appreciative of the respit. Ashish learned a lot about the Wayzetta and Osseo school district from people that live there. Nishad played and played in the sand environment.

When we told Nishad is was time to leave, he surprised me…he started to cry and say that he didn’t want to go. I reassured him that we would be back tomorrow as his first day of phase in begins. He stopped to greet the directress, while Arun was ready to jump out of Ashish’s arms into hers. We made a last stop back at the classroom again to say “Goodbye” to his teacher. Nishad surprised me again…after showing him where the bathroom was, he used it! ๐Ÿ™‚ His teacher told him that there is another little boy in class that shares the same birthday as him. Nishad was still wanting to linger (which is good, right?!), and when we told him we had to get going and we would be back in the morning, he became a bit sad again. His teacher said, “Don’t forget to bring your plant. You’ll have to find a place for it tomorrow!” How could he forget the plant he picked out with Mom a few days ago? He wanted to bring it with tonight.

I feel very confident that he’ll do great…it definitely will be harder on me than on him. He’s only been with Mom. It’s a good thing though…He’s an amazing person and the school seems to be wonderful. They were made for one another!

School Readiness

Note to self, from an except of a little story I read:
“Shamu is a performing whale, to the delight of many. However, she sometimes gets distracted and refuses to do her tricks. When that happens, her trainers stand around in dripping wetsuits and wait for her stubbornness to pass. They know that when a 5,000-pound whale decides she doesn’t want to flip her tail on cue, there is very little anyone can do about it. But whales like to play, and sooner or later Shamu returns to the game of performing for her audience. Shamu’s trainers know this so they’re always patient, they’re always confident, and they always make performing fun.

While helping your child become a reader is certainly different from training a whale, the same qualities of patience, confidence, and playfulness in your approach will get results. If, from time to time, your child gets distracted and loses interest, take a break. Children love to learn. Give them a little breathing room, and their interest will always be renewed.”

It’s all comes down to these final hours. The hunting for elastic wasted pants, new school clothes with no logos or characters, a plant for the classroom, labeled “extras” for school, Croc shoes for inside and more forms than I filled out for college completed and submitted. I’m debating on getting a toddler sized backpack as we have a “Target” ready, sit, read one that Nishad received for free, but I don’t want to be the cause of 20 pre-schools breaking out in song, “You say Goodbye and I say Hello!”

Ashish attend a mandatory parent meeting this morning at 8AM. He said he enjoyed it and exciting time are ahead. He said, “Nishad is going to love his classroom!” I think so to! Ashish also paid the material fee, first tuition payment and submitted the health immunization record and form.

Yesterday we had a doctor appoint for Nishad’s 3 year old wellness check- even though it was 2 months early (we needed it for admission to his school). He’s 38 1/2 inches tall (above 95%) and 32lbs (slightly below 50%). Tall, lean and strong. I think he was apprehensive about the doctor this time as he had such an awful experience at the eye doctors. They put the solution to dilate his eyes in his eyes twice because he has brown eyes. When the doctor was examining him, he just wasn’t his usual self. Sometimes I forget he is just a 2 year old. Because he is capable of doing more, I also have expectations for him of a 4 or 5 year old- and that’s wrong.

I’m excited to announce that Nishad isn’t only reading stories to us (he loves to read to people as he has memorized what happened and in some cases verbatim dialogue written)- but he IS reading! We’ve been working on sounds and correlating the letters to sounds since he was born. ๐Ÿ™‚ However, he has started a series of books called BOB Books, in which, just after a few days, he’s reading! I found them originally online at Montessori Services, but then picked them up at a store for one steal of a deal! Nothing replaces working with your child on letter recognition and sounds. When you are ready to make the next step and your child is exhibiting behaviors of reading readiness (strong interest in spelling, sounding out, writing, reading to you, etc.), this is a great platform to start from.

In addition, The Library of Congress, Children’s Literature Center prepares an annual list of more than 100 of the best children’s books recently published for preschool through junior high school age. The organizations below also publish lists of children’s books and other helpful brochures that are available free or at a nominal cost, as well as books for parents on helping children learn to read. Request titles and ordering information directly from:

  • American Library AssociationPublications Order Department50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
  • International Reading Association800 Barksdale RoadP.O. Box 8139Newark, DE 19714-8139
  • Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. Publications Department Smithsonian Institution 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20024-2520

This evening, we have our first school event; an Ice Cream Social. At this social, Nishad will meet his teacher, the teaching assistant, peers, and we will connect with other families in the community. Tomorrow begins phase in for new students.