for the love of junk food

I remember the first time my oldest son ate a chicken nugget. We still lived in Brooklyn and he was not quite walking yet, so around the one-year-old mark. I used to push him in a stroller down the streets of Bay Ridge and that particular afternoon I was hungry so we went to McDonald’s.

I sat him down in the high chair and gave him a nugget. I felt the eyes of judgment from everyone around me. The shame of feeding my baby something genetically modified and greasy and unhealthy washed over me. I could barely look up for fear of eye contact with someone else. I was like a dog who’d made a mess on the rug and didn’t want to look at my owner.

Serious. I really felt this way.

E, for his part, ate it with no drama. He didn’t appear to love it or hate it. It was food. I justified it to myself by reminding myself it was a rare occurrence and surely other parents fed their babies fast food daily and so in comparison I wasn’t that bad…

I kept this snooty attitude up for many more years. We’d go to a playdate and I’d secretly roll my eyes when I’d see other moms pulling out cold McDonalds to feed their children. Why do we do this? I’m not usually a judgy person, so I am embarrassed to admit it. It seems like moms fall into two camps: the ‘real’ deal moms who embrace feeding their kids junk and don’t think much about it, and the sanctimonious crunchy moms (like me) who shame other moms and then on the sly feed their kids’ junk with a healthy side dish of remorse.

I’ve obviously relaxed since then.

I’m on the other side of it too. I remember talking with a passenger back when I was a flight attendant and his proclamation that his 5-year-old had never ever had McDonald’s prior to that day; that day of course due to weather delays there was nothing else at the airport to feed her so he tried to give her McNuggets and she absolutely refused to eat them, choked on them, and he was so proud of her.

What a pretentious asshole I thought. And, honestly, I hope he doesn’t ask me if my son has ever had a McNugget…I don’t want to admit to it….

Just last year, at the ‘bucks, a young pretty Mom came through the line. She was holding one of those fruit pouches we sell and asked in a rush, “Do you have any more of these?”

I searched and searched the labyrinth of boxes and cabinets for her, and told her no.

“What am I supposed to do?” she pleaded.

“Kids like Cake Pops” I offered.

She turned red. I could see the stress starting to build up inside of her. “I. Can’t. Feed. My. Kids. Chemicals.”

I really didn’t know what to say to that – I mean, chemicals sound scary and all, but I’m pretty sure the processed fruit gunk in the plastic pouches contained “chemicals”, and besides, what did she think, just because the pouch says “Organic” it meant a kindly old grandma was hand crushing the strawberry and apple puree in small batches?

Ok, I’ve gone off the deep end here, so if you are still reading, HI! The real reason and inspiration for this post is I had a moment of weakness at my favorite place, Costco, last week, and bought my kids garbage cereal. Like, junky, colorful, sugary crap. I don’t know what came over me. My kids eat plain old Cheerios like they are jelly beans, yet I’m opening the door for them to realize there is a whole other world of cereal yet to discover.

In my defense, my husband is gone for 10 days (away at upgrade training $wohoo$) so I figure the 90-odd servings of processed fructose can distract and buzz them up well enough on this long stretch of solo parenting.

Anyway, they are now requesting the “good Cheerios” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and while I’ve managed to only let them have it for dessert, these moments of indulgence brought on a slew of emotions.

First, guilt. That terrible, specific to first-world-mommy-guilt. As I pour them a bowl of fruity colored “Froot Loops” and watch their eyes light up I start to question my every parenting choice and wonder if I’m leading them on a path to obesity.

And then I catch myself in that spiral and chastise myself. Kids have eaten cereal with cartoon characters on the boxes for decades and it’s totally normal and not going to harm them. Besides, I tell myself, it’s not like it’s an everyday occurrence.

And then I catch myself justifying it and feel guilty on top of that… and then start thinking about mommy wars and the rising waist sizes of society and how I wish I was disciplined enough to have my entire family on a paleo style diet and it all builds up. All this thought, worry, and emotion over a box of cereal. That my children love. And rarely have.

Like most things, a little in moderation is fine. I’ve even poured myself a delicious rainbow colored bowl for dessert the past few nights, and my kids and I sit around the kitchen table together happy and slurping and you know what? There’s something to be said for small indulgences like these, especially when you consider a simple bowl of kid’s cereal can make your kids so happy.

it’s 3 am

It’s 3 am.

I’m awake.

More aptly, I’m awake because H is awake. H isn’t happy, nor am I. His struggle is my struggle and as he whines and moans and kicks my inner dialogue bats around inappropriate words towards him (at 3 am even 7-month-olds are capable of being labeled ‘assholes’) but also that motherly instinct – I’m concerned for him, he’s obviously not happy as he whines and tries to sleep.

I’ve had 7 months of an easy baby, even at night. He wakes up 2 times a night, but I just feed him and put him back to sleep. Every once and a while he wants to snuggle with me, not sleep in his attached co-sleeper, which is fine. I’ve felt in tune to his wants and needs and I’ve bragged over and over on Instagram of his “Best Baby In The World” status.

But the past week he’s throwing me for a loop.

He sleeps a good clip, between 7-12, with a wake up to eat, but then around 3 am he struggles. He fits and kicks and moans, a sad “mmmmmm” over and over, next to me. No matter what I do to comfort him and settle him down, he stays up for at least an hour. I’ve tried ignoring him, coddling him, soothing him, patting his butt, rubbing his back … I’ve tried it all. Nothing works.

I wish I had some introspective, comforting thoughts about this problem. All I can think is it has something to do with him eating solid foods. His little tummy doesn’t seem to handle solids well at all, yet I keep trying. My daughter took to BLW (Baby Led Weaning) straight away and never looked back, H seems to want to play with his food but nothing excites him.

And why is it in the dead of night that discomfort hits him?

I found this really great essay,  here, which basically says there is no way to fully solve sleep issues. I agree with her. I could put H in another room and just let him cry, but my heart breaks over that. Plus, it wouldn’t solve the problem. He wants to sleep just as bad as I want him to sleep. Even though I’m not my best person at 3:30 am and wisdom is hard to come by when my sleep schedule is interrupted, I know he is really really trying to settle back down.

Hopefully, his 3 am struggle is just a short phase and it’ll pass. In the meantime, there is always coffee and lazy days to remedy this serious lack of sleep.

the traveling salesman

Ok.

I feel for you.

I do.

Schlepping around town, door to door, on foot. Knocking on stranger’s doors. My sympathy is evident. You take that kindness, that slight been of empathy, and exploit it for yourself. Your gain. When you open the door in the least bit, these marketers push through.

It’s rare that anyone knocks on my door, unannounced. I should know by now, if I’m not expecting someone, I should just let my scary (by appearance to people who don’t know her) dog scare them off and not bother with politeness. The only person that comes calling is someone looking to make a profit.

A few weeks ago a nice, eager guy promised us “No commitment” and “No pressure” for an estimate for new siding. Our 1950’s ranch has mustard yellow aluminum siding, which I’ve grown to like but does look old.  He informed me it was expected, nay, encouraged for us to get at least “3-4 estimates before deciding” and that their estimate would last at least two years.

Seemed like a good idea. We are looking to move in a year or two, and maybe a facelift could up our sales price on the house.

So, imagine our surprise, when the day of the “free estimate” turns into a high-pressure sales pitch. I shoulda known, the guy pushed his way in, took his shoes off, put his jacket up, and made himself very comfortable. My husband and I watched silently as he pulled out a large-screen iPad and proceeded with a Power-Point Presentation. He was on a roll for a very long five minutes before my husband spoke up, “You don’t need to sell the company, we don’t have time, just give us the estimate…”

“Yeah I can tell you guys don’t want to beat around the bush” he agreed, nodding, and yet, he managed to still promote and pump up his company for 30 minutes before even touching on OUR property and OUR siding.

Then came the intense, hard sell. I really should have looked up the reviews of this company beforehand, because it all came clear to me as I watched the salesman try his hardest to get us to sign a contract in that moment; even though they are “no pressure” his job was to get us to sign that day. From the guy who scheduled the estimate to the person in front of me, they were all following a script and I was foolish enough to fall for it.

So we rejected the “pay us 21k today to save 4k in the future” pitch, we watched Willy Loman walk away, and I promised my husband to never fall for a doorman salesman.

Then, today. I’m in my room, snuggling H and trying to put him to sleep, and my dog starts going crazy. I sit up, confused. I’m not expecting anyone… I think, but still, I go look. I see a young man in a nice polo. Big bright eyes. Hopeful expression.

I open the door to him saying We were doing work in the neighborhood and I couldn’t help but notice your siding is very old.., and I felt this sinking Deja Vu and I feel alarms going off, my inner critic warning it’s a trap! but since I am hardwired to please and incapable of blunt, honest rudeness even though I’ve lived in New York for nearly a decade I let him go on and on, denying any schedule or appointment but still the guy was relentless and finally he got it, I wasn’t biting, so he left and I felt relief but also shame. Shame because I could have saved myself (and him) 5 minutes by just saying “Not Interested” the moment I saw his brochure.

From now on I’m going to stop people from the beginning and offer a little white lie. I’m a renter! The landlord? Oh, his number is (a variation on my own) but he’s out of town but you can call him! Thanks so much! Bye!

It’s a cop-out. It’s weak. But, it’s better than the alternative. I can nicely turn them away and they can go bother some other lonely housewife.

 

mom

I work with kids. Literally. Kids so young, some don’t have bank accounts. Last week I traded a shift with a boy who had to get permission from his parents in order to work an evening shift on a school night.

I also work with people my own age, and also a handful who are older, but – most of the time, at work, I’m the “old lady”.

It’s an odd role for me.

I’ve been working customer service jobs for over half my life. In fact, as long as some of the kids at the ‘bucks have been alive. There are times I find myself frustrated with a young’in, like a new hire’s blank, devoid-of-all-personality personality, and I have to remind myself that I was once 16 at a new job, too. And I was scared, overwhelmed, didn’t know what to do with myself. When the older, or “old” as I thought of them, coworkers would talk to me, I’d stutter and look at the ground. So I work hard to engage with the shy kids at work, encourage them.

And this is hard, sometimes, because like the old adage says, you can lead a 16-year-old to an espresso maker, but you can’t make them suddenly have a sparkling disposition.

I do find myself having those old people thoughts of “What’s wrong with kids today?” It’s trite and easy to fall into that pessimistic, critical thought pattern. Each generation thinks they are superior to the next, so I’m not saying this, exactly. But, the differences between someone who brags they “Once used a VCR” compared with an aging old fart like myself do seem to widen as the years past.

The oddest role I have there, the label that doesn’t fit me exactly, is “Mom”. Like, I know, I’ve been in the “Mom” game for nearly seven years, but it is odd to hear it all the time. “Oh, Nicole, she’s this way because she’s a Mom”, or “Oh my God, Nicole, you’re such a Mom!”. I still think of myself as “lady with kids” but that label, “Mom”, seems so formal or something.

A part of me likes to imagine they are referring to me as “Mom” in  *this way* but I know it means I’m a fuddy-duddy lady completely out of touch with what the cool kids are doing these days.

And I am fine with that.

Really.

The idea of being 18 again, but adding in the expectation of a perfect selfie at any angle, having to present myself in an ideal way online, and having to wade into the dating waters in this age of zero-phone-calls and the idea a guy will ghost you; oh man. I’m glad I was born in the cusp of the generation of men who called, and I got to meet guys (back when I was single) the old-fashioned way, in person, not online.

It is sort of funny, on a Friday night and a 19-year-old is eager to get released from their shift to “Go Out” and I’m steaming milk, I think “this is my social life, right here”, because, in a certain sense, that’s true. Slinging drinks, blending fraps and mopping the floor are my escape from ‘mommy-hood’ and that might be a role I never once imagined I’d find myself in.

 

vs.

Growing up in a rural, farming community, there was a common us vs. them debate. You were either a John Deere or an International. Green against Red. I had NO inkling of what they really meant, but due to some outside influence, I still to this day have an opinion leaning for the Deere Green. Why? What did a damn engineer’s daughter really know about tractors anyway?

The division didn’t stop there. I had strong opinions on Nancy vs. Tonya (Nancy K all the way), Chevy vs. Ford, and even to this day, I am a proud “Cats Rule and Dogs Drool” (Washington State over University of Washington). In fact, when UW made it to the National Football Playoffs this year, I could hardly muster a “Meh” and didn’t watch it.

These chasms are silly, and a precursor I guess in a way to today’s hotly divided nation.

But this isn’t a political post.

This is a post about my love of Costco, and how here on Long Island people are either BJ’s or Costco fans. The majority of my friends go to BJ’s. I’ve never been there, but I know without a doubt BJ’s patrons are not nearly as enthusiastic, nay, inspired by their choice of vendor.

I consider myself a minimalist in most ways, but there is an ineffable euphoria from the consumerism with each Costco trip. Why? There isn’t anything particularly special about a Costco run: the warehouses are huge caverns and nothing is pretentious at all. But something about a trip there makes me excited, happy. I see my cupboards full of “Kirkland Signature” products and it gives me pride. Pride. Over a generic store brand. I need new hobbies I guess.

A few weeks back I went out on a girl’s night with three other women, and another woman and I bonded over our mutual love of Kirkland Signature. The other two women both said they liked BJ’s but it ended at that: meanwhile Ellen and I talked extensively about which Kirk Sig products we liked best, about how Friday nights are the best time to shop there (no crowds!) and wondered why the mere act of walking through a store feels like such a treat. Later that night, on a Uber ride home (and very buzzed) I saw through my Instagram that John Mayer posted a picture of a “Kirkland Signature” tee-shirt so I sent it to Ellen and since then we’ve been texting about it every few days.

Do BJ’s members feel this same sense of affection? I don’t think so.

As a confession I do have to report that I am not getting paid in any way shape or form to promote Costco, because I’m not nearly as important as other bloggers are 🙂