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Chatter: Why I Will March

I felt so helpless when my nephew was diagnosed with cancer. It seemed so unjust and unfair that this beautiful, healthy boy would have to spend nearly a year in hospital fighting this horrible illness. Aside from phone calls, visits, cards and gifts, there was very little any of us could do to help. It was always going to be terrible and stressful and we just had to get through it. Out of this feeling of helplessness I decided to grow out and donate my hair (which I will finally cut this summer after four years). It is such a tiny thing compared to the suffering my nephew experienced, and the upheaval and heartache those who cared for him experienced, but it was something I was capable of doing that would make a difference, however small. I feel the same way about my decision to march this Saturday in London.
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Chatter: My Hometown Mass Shooting

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I lived in Washington, DC for eight years and have now been in London for nearly six, yet when I think of “home” I always think of the Skagit Valley. The beautiful, green oasis filled with farmland and the winding Skagit River, and surrounded by snow topped mountains. Where tourists flock to from all over the world to view the hundreds of acres of tulip fields. Where strangers smile and wave when they pass on the street, and you can’t go to the grocery store without seeing at least three people you know. The Skagit Valley is a very wholesome, small community to grow up in; it is certainly not the kind of place where you would expect someone would walk into a department store and kill five people with a rifle. 

With Seattle over an hour’s drive away, residents of the valley tend to stay local. My friends and I used to go to our local mall–The Cascade Mall–for anything we needed to buy: clothes, gifts, etc. I flirted with boys in that mall, I bought my prom dresses in that mall, I even worked in that mall (as did my sister and my nephew). As an adult, I have taken my kids to the mall, had family pictures taken at the mall, and spent many hours shopping at the mall with my mom. The Cascade Mall is a fixture of life in the valley and this horrific act of violence came as an absolute shock to this small community. 

In retrospect, however, it was really just a matter of time before a mass shooting came to my lovely valley; gun violence in America has become unavoidable. It doesn’t matter how close knit your community is, or how friendly the people are, or how beautiful your surroundings are. Gun violence in America is no longer something that only happens to other people.

I want to shower you with statistics on gun violence, and explain how it is completely avoidable, but I won’t. Surely you have seen it already. I want to discuss how more Americans have died from gun-toting toddlers this year than from terrorists, but surely you already know this as well. What I do what to tell you is that if a mass shooting can happen in the Skagit Valley, it can also happen in your community (if it hasn’t already). You are no longer safe to go to church. Your kids are no longer safe to go to school. You are not safe to go to the movie theatre. Very soon, if it hasn’t happened already, you or someone you know will be personally affected by gun violence. It has become an inevitable part of life in America.

Should your skin have more pigmentation than mine, you are at even greater risk. You are not able to drive a carhelp someone who is having a mental break down, or even go for a walk in your own neighbourhood. (PS: #blacklivesmatter) But what most Americans don’t seem to realise, is that though this is a reality in the US, this isn’t the case in other comparable countries.

After one mass school shooting in the UK in 1996, the government decided they wouldn’t allow it to happen again. The UK has had one mass shooting since the one in 1996. By comparison, the US currently clocks one mass shooting every single day.  Every. Single. Day. It’s not that we have fewer instances of mental illness here in the UK, or fewer radicals, it is simply that people do not have access to guns here. Even most police officers in the UK don’t carry guns (yes, really). It is a basic fact that restricted access to guns in the UK has resulted in less gun violence. Yet many people in America continue to argue that more guns will result in less gun violence. So far the opposite has been true.

My friends here in the UK are shocked when I tell them that I have to ask my parents to hide the guns in the house before I bring my kids to visit. They are even more shocked when I tell them that my dad is licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Is he a police officer? No. Does he live in a particularly dangerous neighbourhood? Nope. Is he just a bad ass? Not really. In fact, my dad is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but he is a typical American in this way: he loves his guns, and believes it is his right to carry one; I will never convince him otherwise. This is completely normal behaviour in America, but absolutely bizarre to much of the rest of the world. America always been “extraordinary”, in good ways and bad, but the balance is heading in the wrong direction. (PS: when I called my dad to ask him if it was okay that I write about this, my mom got on the phone and wanted me to make a note of the fact that she is going to get a gun as well.)

After the Sandy Hook shooting I was certain that America would make a change. The deaths of those 20 children and 7 adults were so horrific and the nation was so outraged that I was certain we had finally reached the tipping point . . . but nothing happened. Then the next day there was another mass shooting and the next day another. Soon, to add insult to injury, instead of discussing gun control, politicians discussed the need for even more guns. More guns to prevent gun deaths is such poor logic. Guns will not make America safer. More guns will only mean more gun deaths. Just as fire won’t put put out a fire, and alcohol won’t cure an alcoholic, more guns won’t solve the gun problem in America. That isn’t a political statement. It is just basic logic.

My hometown is now forever changed, and for those of you in America, soon yours will be as well. Soon you won’t look on an article like this in an abstract way. You will look on an article like this and you will tear up because you will finally relate to it. You will think about the senselessness of the deaths that occurred in your community. You will remember those who died and think of the families they left behind. You’ll be frustrated and angry that this sort of nonsense has been allowed to spiral out of control with absolutely no real efforts made to stop it.

This week it was my home town, but next week it could be yours. Until Americans decide that the lives of its citizens are more important than their desire to bear arms, this is the future of our great county.

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Chatter: Meal Planning

This is an article I wrote on meal planning last year for Babyccino Kids before I started this blog. I’ve often thought that I should have this info on my own blog and finally asked the girls if I could repost it! I’ve made a few edits, but it is mostly the same content as it originally appeared. 

Bethie xx

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I try to make meal planning as easy as possible. For me, this means using my smart phone to help me plan and organise. There are three apps I use to help me prepare our nightly meals: Pinterest, iPhone “notes”, and my grocery app. I use Pinterest to inspire me to try new recipes (though flipping through favourite cookbooks also works!), my iPhone “notes” to make a list of dinners for the week (with links to online recipes), and my grocery app to make sure I have all the groceries I need for the week in advance.

When I browse Pinterest during the week I keep an eye out for easy, weeknight meals. Pictures can be deceiving, so I always read the recipe to make sure there isn’t anything too involved. If I find something that looks yummy, relatively healthy, and easy to make (or easy to adapt), I’ll pin it to my “Vegetarian/Pescatarian Dinners“, “Meaty Meals“, or “Crockpot Adventures” boards. I also follow some fun and inspirational Instagram accounts. These also serve as great inspiration to help me add new recipes into the mix.

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Once a week, usually on Saturday, my daughter (Charlotte) and I sit down to meal plan together. We start by looking at the calendar. What does our week look like? Are there any nights where we won’t be in for dinner? Will we have guests? Any nights where we need a really quick meal? From there I go to my “notes” app where I have an ongoing list of our weeknight meals. (I started this a few years ago and now have a big list to browse if I’m stuck for ideas!) Depending on what our week looks like, I choose a few meals to cook from scratch and a few quick meals. Charlotte likes to help me choose meals which is helpful to make her feel a part of the process. She is less likely to complain at mealtimes this way! I try to choose things she can help with, and any given week could look like this (see my “weekly meal plans” for more examples):

Monday: Sweet Potato and Kale Quinoa Patties
Tuesday: pre-made falafel with hummus, spinach and pita
Wednesday: Salmon Curry Hungerpot
Thursday: Lentil Soup
Friday: pizza

Tuesday’s pre-made falafel and Friday’s pizza are the quick meals for the week. They can be prepped and cooked in under 30 minutes. The other three meals are also prepped in under 20 minutes or so, but take additional time to cook.

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On a side note, we aren’t vegetarians, but we eat primarily vegetarian meals during the week. Vegetarian meals often cost less and take less time to cook which is helpful. I also like that my kids can help with the meal prep more with vegetarian meals (mashing potatoes, adding ingredients, stirring, etc.) where I would worry about helping as much when raw meat is involved.

Once I have a plan for the week, I order everything from my grocery app. (We don’t have a car, so ordering online is much easier for us!) This way I have no excuses when dinnertime rolls around on Monday.

There you have it! This is what works for me and my family, but I would love to hear what works for you! Please share!!

PS: These pics are from our old flat with its tiny (but super cute!) kitchen!

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Chatter: 5 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Try New Foods

Hello from Colorado! This is our last stop on the Hungerford Family Tour before we head back to London. It has been a long time away, but we are still very much enjoying the remainder of the trip. 

A few months ago I had the opportunity to chat with today’s contributor at a Mother’s Meeting. I invited her to share some of her expertise with us on the blog and she sent over some fab tips for getting your kids to try new foods this summer! 

Thanks, Fran! 

Bxx

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5 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Try New Foods – by Fran Roberts

Hi I’m Fran from LittleHealthyHabits. I live in Bristol with my husband, our energetic toddler daughter and am 5 months pregnant with baby number two.

I’m passionate about children’s health and work with parents to empower them to raise healthy kids, turning fussy eaters into great eaters and giving them the best start in life possible.

Of the many things that can be upsetting for parents, their children’s eating habits often come top of the list.  Fussy eating can be a distressing and frustrating experience for everyone, especially during the long summer holidays when you are responsible for all of his or her meals.

Only giving them foods they enjoy may often seem like the easier option for now but will only escalate their fussiness and deprive them of essential nutrients they need to grow and develop.  What’s more, it makes dining out and eating at friends /relatives houses especially tricky, so helping to create healthy habits now will be beneficial for everyone.

So, here’s my top 5 tips for encouraging your kids to try new foods this summer holiday:

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  1. INVOLVE THEM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE  – make them feel like a part of the process.  Older children can help with meal planning, shopping and cooking under your guidance. You can explain to them the concept of a healthy, balanced meal (proteins, good fats, vegetables etc) and task them with creating a menu including one or two foods they don’t normally eat. They will likely rise to the challenge and are far more likely to eat those new foods.  If they are really little, involving them might simply be letting them help stir with a spoon or pushing the blender button for example. Again, they will be far more likely to eat what is prepared if they even think they’ve helped create it!  Additionally, children seem much more inclined to try anything they can assemble themselves. Prepare dinners that they can serve themselves  – try summer rolls, pizzas, platters of finger foods (see my easy summer rolls recipe below for some inspiration).
  1. PAIR NEW FOODS WITH FAVOURITES – Always offer foods you know they do like alongside new foods – a whole plate of new foods can be really off putting for them and demoralising for you if it’s met with a flat refusal to eat it. But a little taster alongside something that they love is much more likely to appeal to them. Make sure you have some of these foods on your plate too – If they see you really enjoying (or pretending to enjoy) eating your greens for instance, they’ll be much more likely to enjoy eating theirs. If you want them to be adventurous eaters, you can’t be seen to be refusing to try new foods yourself.
  1. MAKE SURE THEY ARE HUNGRY – This may sound obvious but laying out snacks and constantly offering food without it being asked for is not conducive to tempting them with new foods.  They may well eat what they love and know but they are most likely to try new things if they are truly hungry. What’s more, it doesn’t teach kids to listen to their hunger cues and become mindful eaters.  Make sure they’ve run around a bit and built up an appetite before meals, that you’ve asked if they are hungry and that snacks are requested. Try to allow for flexibility with timings to make it easier to eat this way. Observe your children and see when they are hungriest and use this time to introduce the things you want them to eat.
  1. DON’T COAX OR BRIBE – “Just have a bite” “If you try this I’ll let you watch more TV” “If you finish that you can have some pudding” etc. are all phrases you should try to avoid.  Don’t let mealtimes become a battle; eliminate the power struggle and hide frustrations with a more nonchalant attitude. You’ll be surprised at how effective the phrase “you don’t have to eat it” can be.  Children wont often make a fuss if you don’t react and you’ll find that meal times will be a lot less stressful with this approach and eventually that nonchalance will make them more curious to try the foods on offer.
  1. STAY POSITIVE – Don’t give up when your strategies don’t work overnight.  These aren’t all quick fixes but ways to help your children become better eaters in the long term. Go easy on yourself and remember that any positive steps you make will impact your children in some way and be setting them up for a healthier future.  Your efforts may go unappreciated now but they will thank you when they’re older and enjoy a range of foods.

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PS: I had to include a pic of Pete devouring a seaweed salad last week. We encouraged him to take a bite and he finished the entire bowl! -Bethie

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Chatter: Going with my Gut: why I post pictures of my kids online

I joined Instagram in 2010, right after my first child was born. I posted a few photos here and there, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I became a regular user. We had just moved to a new neighbourhood here in London, and I didn’t know anyone. After a few lonely months, I figured out that I could connect with local mums by following them on Instagram. I could see which mums frequented my local parks and check out their profiles to see if we had much in common. I connected with mums all over the world, and we bonded over our similar interests or having kids of similar ages. All of a sudden, I went from feeling completely isolated to having an entire community of mums at my fingertips: it was truly life-changing.

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Not only did my baby daughter and I make new friends through Instagram, but I was also able to more easily keep up with old friends by getting fun glimpses into their daily lives (as opposed to just getting to see their favourite memes and links on Facebook . . . ).  As a whole, my Instagram community is an amazing group of parents with whom I share the joys and frustrations of parenthood. I turned to this community when we were struggling through three miscarriages and was met with support, comfort, and the much-needed feeling that I wasn’t alone. I turn to them to share good news and bad news, as I know that this community is full of other parents who can relate and offer advice. Through Instagram, we made friends in our neighbourhood, friends in other parts of England, and friends around the world. These people aren’t just abstract connections: they are actual friends, many of whom we see in person, who come over for dinner, who invite us to stay in their homes, who were on my speed dial when I went into labour . . .  Just as online dating revolutionised the dating world, Instagram has revolutionised the world of friendships. As it is now quite normal to say you met your spouse or partner online, it is becoming increasingly normal to say the same about friendships.

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A few years ago, my friend Courtney had her Instagram account shut down for showing a picture of her daughter that had her pants (underwear) showing. Her daughter was eighteen-months-old (still very much a baby!) at the time and had just potty-trained herself. Needless to say, my friend’s daughter was proud to be in pants like her older siblings, and my friend was proud of her daughter. The picture was an innocent capture of a proud moment. To make a long story short, her account was eventually restored (without the offending picture), but the surrounding conversation had me thinking.

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I went through my own Instagram feed and deleted every picture of my daughter that possibly could be interpreted the wrong way: a sweet video of her reciting a nursery rhyme when she was two because she didn’t have a shirt on; a funny picture of her on her training potty in the park; a sweet picture of her playing in a bubble bath. I stopped posting anything that could possibly be misconstrued from that moment on. It was the first time I saw this community as anything but positive and though I became more careful, I wasn’t about to let a few bad apples spoil what for me has become such an important part of my life and my kids’ lives.

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The simple truth is that I am not in general worried about posting pictures of my kids online. I’m “not worried” in the same way that I’m not worried about taking my kids out in public where people can see them in person. I wasn’t worried about my daughter appearing in an online video with me when she was a baby. I’m not worried that her image is used to advertise the school she previously attended, just as I wouldn’t be worried about her image appearing in magazines or on a box of cereal if she were a child model, or her face being on TV if she were an actress. I’m not convinced that her mere image being in the public domain is something to be concerned about.

Yes, I am aware that there are horrible people in the world who are looking to hurt and exploit our kids, but there are also terrorists looking to blow up the city my family and I live in, and there are people in America shooting strangers at random. These people don’t keep me inside or keep from visiting my family back home, and they won’t keep me from sharing in my Instagram community either.

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Some people have expressed concern that the pictures we post of our kids will come back to haunt them later in life. If I were posting intimate or embarrassing pictures and details of my children’s lives, I could see how this would be a concern. However, the pictures I post are usually just of Charlotte curled up with a book, or Peter laughing on a swing, or both kids sitting on a park bench. They are just sweet moments or our sweet life that I love sharing. I hope that my kids will love having the opportunity to look back through my pictures and comments on Instagram when they are older to be reminded the beautiful life we have shared. I suppose someone could say that I’m taking their “choice” as to whether they are public or not away from my kids, but in 2016 I am not sure this is a choice:  digital presence is normal today, and we don’t have a useful analogy to our childhoods.  I would predict that Charlotte and Peter and their contemporaries will not, in the world they will inherit as adults, understand what all the fuss was about.  Like it or not, we are dinosaurs assuming that there are lines between our in-person and digital lives.

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I’ve tried changing my Instagram profile to private, but having an open profile is something that I really love about Instagram. I like that my followers can tag other people on a photo of a good-looking recipe or of a fun art project I’ve done with the kids, and that I can do the same. I love that I can connect with people in my community when we both tag ourselves at the same cafe. If I have a private photo to share, (like a particularly EPIC pic of my son I took whilst he was shirtless on the toilet with heart sunglasses on), I will just text it to my family and close friends without bothering with a second, private account. The thing is, it would be impossible for me to completely edit my kids out of the photos of my life, and it would feel very unnatural to do so if I could. So much of my life revolves around my kids, and I want to include them in the memories I’m documenting. A private personal account just doesn’t make sense to me because I can’t imagine there would be much to share that I don’t mind sharing with everyone.

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In an attempt to scare myself into understanding the concern so many other parents have, I’ve read any article I come across that discusses images of children online. I’ve sought out conversations in person and on social media with parents who don’t post pictures of their kids online: everyone always tells me to go with my gut. I’ve given the issue a lot of thought and have occasionally stopped posting pictures of my kids whilst I think things through, but I always come back to it. I realised that I’ve only ever stopped posting pictures of them because I’ve read so many suggestions that this is what good, concerned parents do. It just took me a while to believe that I am also a good, concerned parent who happens to think posting pictures of my kids online is natural and normal. In the end, I’ve decided to go with my gut, and my gut says that sharing pictures of our life is a good, positive, and healthy thing for me and my family.

[All photos by the absolutely lovely Katrina Campbell. The kids and I had a fantastic time spending the morning with her wandering around Dulwich Village last month. I was so pleased with the images she caught of my kids as they really captured their little personalities.]

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Chatter: Eating with Kids on Holiday

Before kids, Jason and I did quite a bit of traveling. We vacationed everywhere from Costa Rica to West Virginia, and always made a point of trying interesting local cuisines, shopping at local grocery stores, and seeking out restaurants where the locals eat. Since having kids, we really haven’t had to adjust how we travel much at all, as we’ve found that this suits the kids quite nicely.

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Amsterdam 2014

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Chatter: How I Cured My Picky Eater

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People tell me that I’m lucky to have kids who will eat anything, but in reality it has very little to do with luck: I’ve worked hard to get them to eat well! My daughter (now five) was two when I finally admitted that I was raising a picky eater. After lots of reading, discussions, and quite a bit of trial and error, we came up with a plan that eventually turned the situation around. Here is what worked for us: Continue Reading…