My Biggest Parenting Secret

Wouldn’t motherhood be so much easier on everyone if we all shared our secrets? Those little pearls of wisdom that make us feel at least we have done one.thing.right today? Good news — I’ve decided to share one of my best go-to parenting tips. You can thank me later.

One of the biggest challenges moms face is getting their kids to eat vegetables. Because, seriously, what kid really gets uber psyched over broccoli? Um, yeah. Not mine.

Neither does my husband. Unless you count corn chips as a vegetable.

So from the time the pediatrician said I could start introducing solid foods to my first kid, I have tried to create the perfect vegetable. That one vitamin-loaded side dish that would ensure my kids would not only ace the SAT and be an incredibly gifted athlete but also solidify my position in the Mom Hall of Fame.

How hard could it be?

Side note: why they call puréed baby food “solid” is beyond me.

So I started buying veggies. I cooked them, puréed them and froze them into cute little cubes in ice cube trays.

Cute, right? And so handy. My mom friends were totally impressed, I’m sure.

It made my husband gag. “Are you really going to feed him THAT?” he asked, already taking sides in the vegetable war I would fight for the next 18 years.

Traitor.

But one by one, those little cubes were thawed, heated and maybe even mixed with other “solid” foods like rice cereal or something else (ricotta and peas, anyone?). I took pride in creating these one-of-a-kind combos, especially when they didn’t immediately come slithering back down my baby’s chin and onto his lap.

And then, finger foods.

Smoothly pureed vegies like carrots, butternut squash and green beans are not finger foods, regardless of what your toddler might like you to believe. So I had to change up my menu and start thinking of vegies that my wee one would actually eat with his fingers, rather than simply using his fingers to throw them over the side of the high chair.

Side note: cats do not like green beans.

We tried lightly steamed green beans, small cubes of roasted butternut squash, peas (that didn’t end well), tiny little broccoli “trees” and small pieces of avocado until we found a winner.

Carrots.

The little dude liked carrots.

And so began an 18-year obsession (mine) with the baby carrot.

You could steam them and cut them small for little ones, or set out a bowl of them at snack time for older eaters. Stumped on what to serve for lunch? A bowl of baby carrots can easily elevate dinosaur chicken nuggets or mac and cheese to healthy lunch status. Playgroup at the park? Grab a plastic container and fill it up with baby carrots. They’re the perfect snack in the car, because unless your kid uses it for a magic marker or spits them out, they aren’t messy. Sure, I still included the always-handy pretzel sticks, goldfish crackers or pieces of string cheese. But the carrots were always there. Like a vitamin A packed BFF.

When my kids went off to elementary school, the carrots trudged along… safely wrapped up in a wet paper towel and a plastic container or sandwich bag (don’t judge). After a few years my son asked if I could leave the carrots out of his lunchbox, claiming he “didn’t have enough time” to eat all of the items I included.

Looking back now, I can clearly see. It was the beginning of the end.

My kids continued to grow, in part because of (or in spite of) the baby carrots in the bowl on the table.

I mean, what’s not to love? They are crunchy, colorful, small and easy to eat. Full of vitamins. Like a little mommy insurance policy that I’m doing this gig right.

Until about three months ago, when it all came crashing down.

I had still been putting the baby carrots on the table, even though my kids are old enough to choose their own snacks and lunches.

But I noticed that nobody was eating them.

They would dry up and turn a chalky white before the bag was even half empty. I was worried that my one tried-and-true mom trick had lost steam.

Then? The intervention.

I decided to put it all out on the table. Bare my soul.

“Um, hey… so I’ve been thinking that maybe we’re a bit tired of baby carrots?” I choked out at the dinner table. My mind was racing with ideas for our next veggie star. Rutabaga? Baby bok choy? Beets?

And my husband and daughter let me down easy, gently. They admitted that yes, they were tired of the old stand-by vegetable and that they would be perfectly fine if I stopped buying them. My chest tightened a bit. How would I keep them all healthy?

And life went on, amazingly much the same as before. I stopped buying the baby carrots and resisted the urge to quickly substitute a new crunchy vegetable in a bowl at mealtime. Chinese snap peas? Jicama?

Until fate introduced me to the spiralizer.

This incredibly cool kitchen gadget has opened up a whole new world of vegetables to me. I can turn vegetables into noodles! Substitute them for pasta! I can spiralize parsnips, beets, zucchini, butternut squash, jicama and broccoli stems.

And carrots.

And suddenly, I’m back on my game.

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This essay originally ran on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop site. I may have been giddy about it.

A Mother’s Best Asset

She steps into the exam room, staring at the chart the nurse shoved into her hands and is quickly trying to assess my medical history in the 5 steps between the door and the exam table.

She looks up, squints at my forehead a wee bit too long, and then fixes her gaze just a bit lower.

“Your friends must be envious of your skin!” she proclaims, making me question either her eyesight or her medical credentials.

Possibly both.

Apparently she missed the reason for my appointment that clearly states “35-year acne sufferer” and “what the hell can I use for these wrinkles” as reasons for my dermatologist visit today.

“Um, NO,” I say, maybe a little bit too quickly. “My skin is nothing to brag about,” I add, instantly wishing I were sitting in the dental chair instead.

With nitrous oxide.

“Your neck!” she exclaims, “The skin on your neck is smooth and firm, beautiful,” she says, with a glint in her eyes that almost makes me believe her. If she wasn’t young enough to be my daughter.

Maybe she had wine with lunch.

At this point, I am forced to ponder my neck… a part of my body I have never considered as a separate entity, I guess. The biggest job my neck has is holding my head up and supporting a necklace now and then. And even then I have been known on many occasions to simply rest my head on my desk after a particularly strenuous bout of editing. So even my neck can be lazy.

My neck? Never a point of conversation until now.

My babies have nuzzled my neck after midnight feedings, when the lure of sleep called to me from the bedroom but motherhood won and I stayed just a few moments longer on the couch to drink in their sweet, milky scent. My neck has comforted a little girl with a broken arm, a boy who lost his grandfather, kids mourning the loss of their first family dog and a dear friend who lost her husband too early and too tragically. My neck snuggled my mother when she lost her husband too many years too soon and cradled my husband when he lost not one but both of his beloved grandfathers.

I have craned my neck ever-so-slightly to see if a teenager’s car has pulled up in the driveway yet… at half past 11. My neck has betrayed me with osteoarthritis and sent me to physical therapy on more than one occasion.

My neck? It may not be much to brag about, or a part of my body that my much-younger friends will envy. But this neck — my neck — has proven to be an incredibly valuable part of my anatomy that I simply take for granted most days.

“Yes,” I stammer. “My neck is amazing,” I finally say.

And I smile a little bit bigger…

In spite of the huge zit on my chin.

neck and necklacs

All I want for Christmas is at Neiman Marcus

When I was a kid, Christmas was all about me. Starting each November, I would carefully turn down page corners in the huge Sears catalogue and circle my must-haves with a marker. Then I would carefully craft my annual letter to the portly man in the red suit, reminding him of all the good deeds I had accomplished that year. There may have been embellishing or a few little white lies, but he always came through.

I miss those days. Sure, running the whole Santa gig is awesome when your kids are young, but I’ve been Santa’s Helper for 19 years now.

It’s my turn. The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book has arrived.

Dear Santa,

It’s been a long time since I last wrote to you, but I’m sure you will remember me. I was the one who was always kind and caring to her little brother, even though he was always getting into my stuff. I always did what I was told, made my bed, said my prayers and did my homework. That’s how I remember it, anyway. Except that one time when I cut my own hair.

I’ve been a mom for more years than I can count now, Santa. I don’t like to brag, but I’m an amazing mom. Except for those times I had to call 911, locked a newborn baby in the car, burned a few dinners, ran out of diapers, said things my mother would never have said, fed small children Doritos and rice for dinner, cried over Algebra homework and lost my cool at Target I really rock this job. So I am sure you can see why I deserve some swag under the tree that’s just for me.

Jimmy Choo Biker Fox Fur and Floral Suede Shoulder Bag ($5,595)

A dramatic play of texture and color, this Jimmy Choo Biker fur bag is for far more than holding your things—it will finish any ensemble with extravagance.

If I had this bag, my status would instantly be raised from simply Soccer Mom to Uber-Chic and Trendy Mom. My yoga pants and ratty Old Navy sweatshirt would suddenly be extravagant. With all that thick fox fur I might even be able to trick my daughter into thinking this is an actual puppy, which is a win-win for me. Lined in leather, so those random pieces of chewed gum and sticky used tissues will be a breeze to remove.

Sofia Cashmere Diamond Cable Knit Cashmere Throw ($1,150)

These posh throws are one warming trend that will never go out of season.

I really need one of these, Santa. I need time on the couch with my remote control, a strong cup of coffee, a pound or so of peanut brittle and a cashmere throw. Maybe even two of them, so I can cover those stains where I spilled my wine and the dog threw up. As an extra bonus, this throw could double for an outfit when the UPS man comes to the door and I need to cover my yoga pants. See how beautiful and relaxed the woman in the picture looks? Totally me.

Michael Kors Leather-Bodice dress ($3,995)

Michael Kors applies true Yankee sensibility to his tweeds, plaids, lace, and leather. All-American sportswear with an English accent!

Well, there you go — I want to be all English-y and have people think I am sophisticated when I pop into Target for laundry soap or drag
the dog to the vet to have her anal glands expressed. And leather? So sexy, especially on someone my age because it wrinkles in a pattern just like my skin. The skirt is made from angora, wool and cashgora which I am pretty sure is some endangered species of mouse found only on mountain tops in Tibet. The model looks like she just stepped on a Lego, so she obviously knows my life. I would totally rock this dress.

Jean Paul Gaultier Lace-Mesh Long-Sleeve Dress ($395)

The only thing better than a fitted dress is our exclusive lace-embellished Jean Paul Gaultier sheath in a bright, sprightly emerald hue.

I want to be bright and sprightly too — like I feel when the holiday break ends and I drop the kids off at school. What this dress lacks in coverage, it makes up for in versatility. The meshy fabric would be great for attracting dust and dog hair. Why buy just a dress when I can have a shirt,
nightgown and dust rag all in one?

Heritage Hen Farm Beau coop ($100,000)

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined.

Poshest hen house? This place rocks! Forget the hens — this is going to be my own little mommy hideaway. It has a living room, library, an elegant chandelier and a broody room — I have no idea what that is, but I think I need one at least once a month. Fold your own laundry people — mommy’s tending her flock of magazines and martinis.

Teardrop Tailgate trailer ($150,000)

A chorus of cheers rings out the minute you pull up. Tailgating will never be the same now that your Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer is on the scene. You park, open the hatch, and slide out the bar—cocktails anyone?

I have to admit it — I am not the best school volunteer/homeroom lice checker/team mom/PTA coordinator. At best I can volunteer to bring juice boxes or send a check for the field trip. With this awesome trailer, I could erase years of bad karma with the uber-reliable room moms! Hook it up to the trailer hitch on my gas-guzzling SUV and haul it to the PTA meeting. Instantly I become the bestest, funnest and most in-demand mommy
on the playground. Extra bonus points if I can play old episodes of Parenthood on the flat screen TV.

Tom Ford Beauty Exclusive 16 Color Nail Set ($480)

Tom Ford Beauty debuts a wardrobe of high-performance polishes, offering mega-watt shine, while staying true to color. The extra-amplified gloss and shine nail lacquer — in a wardrobe of shades, from alluring brights to chic neutrals — lets you express your mood and complete your look.

Who knew that all I really needed was a coat of expensive nail polish? I thought my Old Navy jeans were a “look” but hey, why not take things to the next level? With so many interesting colors I might have to have the kids walk home from school because I am busy doing my nails — in my hen house. I am especially enamored of the colors all moms should recognize: Naked, Fever Pink, Coral Blame, Bordeaux Lust and Bitter Bitch. Seriously, I am not making these up.

Tweezerman Crystal Tweezer and Stand ($200)

Add some glamour to your bathroom and a little dazzle to your brow beauty routine with this Luxe Edition of Tweezerman’s award-winning Slant.

I need these tweezers, and not just because they are beautiful and sparkly. My rusty old tweezers have seen one too many gray eyebrow hair or splinter-in-the-foot and I am only slightly exaggerating when I say the whole family may need updated tetanus shots. Plus, these are classy
enough that I can tweeze my eyebrows (or nose hair) anywhere I need to – even in the nicest restaurants.

all photos courtesy of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book
 

And, Santa? If you are having a tough year – with the price of gas and bacon being so sky high — I would also be just as happy with a new
umbrella, some socks without holes in them and a popover pan.

Love,

Sherri