Maybe being a medieval peasant wouldn't be so bad...

We just recently switched to a once a month grocery shopping budget and I feel a bit like a 17th century sea captain stocking a giant barquentine.  Granted my chicken these days comes pre-neck-wrung and sometimes even precooked by Squire Costco, but the modern trade off means I don’t spend my days tearing my hair out getting enough food for my family, instead I tear my hair out trying to make sure they’re literate and well educated.    

For kicks and giggles I added up our monthly food consumption:

58 lbs of Grains

186 lbs of Dairy

63 lbs of Meat

83 lbs Vegetables

61 lbs Fruit

9 lbs Fat

Total- 460 lbs of food

Which came out to be 2.5 lbs of food per person in our family (per day). That seemed like a tremendous amount of food to me, but according to the national health statistics the average American eats 4.5 lbs of food per day. However since we aren’t wasting away I have to assume we make up the rest in eating abroad. Also, that number is the mean average for our family, some of us consume far less...or more than others (Jamie...cough...Jamie).  

According to the FOA, the world average is 4 lbs/day, which is why America is a bit on the hefty size.  It’s intuitively obvious that height averages increase when there’s a max amount of minerals and nutrients being absorbed...but interestingly if you go too far over onto the obesity side of the graph, average height starts dropping again.   A lot of research suggests this is not because fat makes you short, but that the high processed diet making you fat, also makes it difficult for your gut to absorb any minerals and nutrients from your food.  

In further randomness, the average prosperous peasant in the Middle Ages ate 2-3 lbs of bread a day, 8 oz of meat/dairy and 3 pints of beer.   

 

I fully endorse this being the next new diet craze after the Paleo one dies out...in fact I may be already on it.    



 

A Mom's Minimalist Guide To The Beach

  Frankly I knew it was inevitable. Life is always a Faustian trade of evils (or joys...depending on how rose colored your glasses are). When the two older kids left for their very Parisian-esque rural outsourcing of summer (see   Bringing Up Bebe  ), I was tempted to think of all the amazing things I was going to accomplish. It’s hard to get anything done when you’re doing your best impression of zookeeper/professor/therapist twentyfour-seven for nine months of the year and I was much looking forward to the break.      Well I got it. Truly. From  everything   . No violin, no sports, no therapy, no school meetings, no staying up until midnight trying to grow rock crystals on a toothpick. I traded the busy life of four kids where I couldn't keep the house clean, but did accomplish important things (like how to take a booger out with tissue), to a the slower easier life of two kids where the house stays clean but not accomplish anything big. Mainly because you belatedly realize the younger two are stuck to you like glue without their built in entertainers and playmates. But going backwards in family size (temporarily) does have its fair list of perks. The laundry stays only one or two loads behind, the kitchen is almost always in a mildly presentable state (the fruit flies are suing for breach of contract), and the house actually gets vacuumed regularly.    But I was kidding myself to think I could get any big mind-blowing projects accomplished. Thus it was with great difficulty I let go of my pipe dreams and resigned myself to sleeping in every morning, putzing around the house teaching my preschooler how to fold washcloths before finally going to the beach or pool.     I would like to say that I’m so organized that going to the beach is a painless affair, but instead it’s the opposite, I’m so unorganized     going to the beach is a (mostly) painless affair. Of course I’ve got “science” to back up all of my justifications for this, and I thought I’d share them in case someone else is looking for a way to spend more time having fun and less time trying to get out the door.      Disclaimer:  (If you are one of those uber prepared types that has a ziploc baggie for your ziploc baggie, then please close your eyes and don’t read this.  The world needs more of you and less of me.  In a Darwinian experiment I’m the first to die out i.e. I’m more than grateful for the times I’ve been helped by the preparers)      Don't bring sunblock or snacks and only bring a limited amount of water (or none if you know there's a drinking fountain)     I say this somewhat tongue in cheek because I do actually have a thing of sunblock that stays in my beach bag, but it usually takes us the whole summer to get through it. And the logic is this. Your body is an amazing machine that knows when it's hungry, tired, and had too much sun. Things like pretzels, doritos and sunblock override this built in safety mechanism which means you end up at home exhausted bloated, overly slathered with chemicals and cranky from the combination of artificial cheese flavor and that sunburned spot behind your knees you missed. Trust the human body to go “ugh, I’m really hot and hungry and I swear I can feel cancer cells forming on my body right now.” That’s when you know it’s time to load up the kids and head home. On the plus side, this usually means everyone gets their naps (or have gotten their naps), and you have time to plan dinner, paint your toes and eat bon bons.  (     here is a harvard medical publication advocating the health benefits of moderate sun exposure).           Don't bring a picnic blanket, chairs or umbrella      In the book     “Blue Mind    ” Wallace Nichols talks about the science behind going to the beach or even just being in water.   Dopaminergic pathways, neuro plasticity, auditory cortex physiology, textural and vestibular input are all scientific ways to say the ocean is really good for you. The chemical makeup of the salt water, the minerals, the ebb and flow of the waves, and the sand are all incredibly soothing and healthy for your brain and body. I like to think of a little beach trip being like a soft reboot. Between all of that and the vitamin D, I also try to take my kids to a deserted beach when they’re under the weather. But back to the packing list… most of those things don’t work if you’re sitting on a chair, on a blanket, under an umbrella, with water shoes, rash guard and sun hat on. If you have kids who are low threshold on the sensory spectrum then they likely won’t want to budge out of the little fortress of protection against the dread elements and will take any suggestions to the contrary as torture of the highest degree with you as the grand inquisitor. It may take awhile, but they'll be happier in the long run. (note: ignore this if you have kids with severe processing disorders)        Don't load and unload the car      There’s no scientific theory behind this one, unless it’s Newton’s first law of motion (An object at rest remains at rest until mommy decides the towels are starting to smell). I use a big green plastic container from IKEA and that’s where the sand toys, floaties and towels live in the back of the car. The baby carrier also lives in the car so literally all that needs to be done to go to the beach or pool is getting in the car and leaving. (which if you have kids, you know is a feat in and of itself)         Do  pack a magic sand eraser      There’s only one gimmicky item that’s made it into my super lazy...er minimalist beach container and that’s a     bamboo swaddle blanket .    I discovered this black magic entirely by accident last summer.  West coast sand has these gold flakes in it that stick to skin like glitter (which isn’t nearly as pretty as it sounds). Anyone who has tried to get four kids rinsed and sand free before they get in the car, knows it’s on the same level as completing a triathlon (one armed with a wet cat zip tied to your leg). Once, in desperation I yanked the blanket off the weakest member of the tribe in an assuredly futile attempt to get at least some of the caked wet sand off…. and Lo and behold it worked! So the swaddle blanket earned itself a permanent spot in the beach bag. I have considered getting myself a booth at the county fair “Step right up and let me show you the one and only MAGIC SAND ERASER for a low low price of $49.99 today only!!”. If however you decide to get yourself three for that price on Amazon, it does have to be the bamboo one. The cotton ones don’t work as well for some reason.      And that’s it. Simple! Easy! (I’m kidding, we all know it’s never easy). And sometimes I do pack all of the foods and huddle under my friends umbrella and lust after all of the cool beach stuff everyone else has. But hey do whatever you gotta do. (and if you’re a preparer and you’ve made it to the end of this, then here’s a Valium and some wine, thank you for loving me).      

Frankly I knew it was inevitable. Life is always a Faustian trade of evils (or joys...depending on how rose colored your glasses are). When the two older kids left for their very Parisian-esque rural outsourcing of summer (see Bringing Up Bebe), I was tempted to think of all the amazing things I was going to accomplish. It’s hard to get anything done when you’re doing your best impression of zookeeper/professor/therapist twentyfour-seven for nine months of the year and I was much looking forward to the break.  

Well I got it. Truly. From everything. No violin, no sports, no therapy, no school meetings, no staying up until midnight trying to grow rock crystals on a toothpick. I traded the busy life of four kids where I couldn't keep the house clean, but did accomplish important things (like how to take a booger out with tissue), to a the slower easier life of two kids where the house stays clean but not accomplish anything big. Mainly because you belatedly realize the younger two are stuck to you like glue without their built in entertainers and playmates. But going backwards in family size (temporarily) does have its fair list of perks. The laundry stays only one or two loads behind, the kitchen is almost always in a mildly presentable state (the fruit flies are suing for breach of contract), and the house actually gets vacuumed regularly.    But I was kidding myself to think I could get any big mind-blowing projects accomplished. Thus it was with great difficulty I let go of my pipe dreams and resigned myself to sleeping in every morning, putzing around the house teaching my preschooler how to fold washcloths before finally going to the beach or pool.

I would like to say that I’m so organized that going to the beach is a painless affair, but instead it’s the opposite, I’m so unorganized going to the beach is a (mostly) painless affair. Of course I’ve got “science” to back up all of my justifications for this, and I thought I’d share them in case someone else is looking for a way to spend more time having fun and less time trying to get out the door. 


Disclaimer:  (If you are one of those uber prepared types that has a ziploc baggie for your ziploc baggie, then please close your eyes and don’t read this.  The world needs more of you and less of me.  In a Darwinian experiment I’m the first to die out i.e. I’m more than grateful for the times I’ve been helped by the preparers)

Don't bring sunblock or snacks and only bring a limited amount of water (or none if you know there's a drinking fountain)

I say this somewhat tongue in cheek because I do actually have a thing of sunblock that stays in my beach bag, but it usually takes us the whole summer to get through it. And the logic is this. Your body is an amazing machine that knows when it's hungry, tired, and had too much sun. Things like pretzels, doritos and sunblock override this built in safety mechanism which means you end up at home exhausted bloated, overly slathered with chemicals and cranky from the combination of artificial cheese flavor and that sunburned spot behind your knees you missed. Trust the human body to go “ugh, I’m really hot and hungry and I swear I can feel cancer cells forming on my body right now.” That’s when you know it’s time to load up the kids and head home. On the plus side, this usually means everyone gets their naps (or have gotten their naps), and you have time to plan dinner, paint your toes and eat bon bons.  ( here is a harvard medical publication advocating the health benefits of moderate sun exposure).

 

Don't bring a picnic blanket, chairs or umbrella

In the book “Blue Mind” Wallace Nichols talks about the science behind going to the beach or even just being in water. Dopaminergic pathways, neuro plasticity, auditory cortex physiology, textural and vestibular input are all scientific ways to say the ocean is really good for you. The chemical makeup of the salt water, the minerals, the ebb and flow of the waves, and the sand are all incredibly soothing and healthy for your brain and body. I like to think of a little beach trip being like a soft reboot. Between all of that and the vitamin D, I also try to take my kids to a deserted beach when they’re under the weather. But back to the packing list… most of those things don’t work if you’re sitting on a chair, on a blanket, under an umbrella, with water shoes, rash guard and sun hat on. If you have kids who are low threshold on the sensory spectrum then they likely won’t want to budge out of the little fortress of protection against the dread elements and will take any suggestions to the contrary as torture of the highest degree with you as the grand inquisitor. It may take awhile, but they'll be happier in the long run. (note: ignore this if you have kids with severe processing disorders)

 

Don't load and unload the car

There’s no scientific theory behind this one, unless it’s Newton’s first law of motion (An object at rest remains at rest until mommy decides the towels are starting to smell). I use a big green plastic container from IKEA and that’s where the sand toys, floaties and towels live in the back of the car. The baby carrier also lives in the car so literally all that needs to be done to go to the beach or pool is getting in the car and leaving. (which if you have kids, you know is a feat in and of itself)

 

Do pack a magic sand eraser

There’s only one gimmicky item that’s made it into my super lazy...er minimalist beach container and that’s a bamboo swaddle blanket. I discovered this black magic entirely by accident last summer.  West coast sand has these gold flakes in it that stick to skin like glitter (which isn’t nearly as pretty as it sounds). Anyone who has tried to get four kids rinsed and sand free before they get in the car, knows it’s on the same level as completing a triathlon (one armed with a wet cat zip tied to your leg). Once, in desperation I yanked the blanket off the weakest member of the tribe in an assuredly futile attempt to get at least some of the caked wet sand off…. and Lo and behold it worked! So the swaddle blanket earned itself a permanent spot in the beach bag. I have considered getting myself a booth at the county fair “Step right up and let me show you the one and only MAGIC SAND ERASER for a low low price of $49.99 today only!!”. If however you decide to get yourself three for that price on Amazon, it does have to be the bamboo one. The cotton ones don’t work as well for some reason.  

And that’s it. Simple! Easy! (I’m kidding, we all know it’s never easy). And sometimes I do pack all of the foods and huddle under my friends umbrella and lust after all of the cool beach stuff everyone else has. But hey do whatever you gotta do. (and if you’re a preparer and you’ve made it to the end of this, then here’s a Valium and some wine, thank you for loving me).  

 

Multitask Your Way To A Skinnier You

Every now and then I get into a hardcore debate with someone who thinks Myers Briggs is scientific rubbish.  I don’t mind.  Life is multiple choice that way, the other options for conflict include theology, politics or parenting and after you’ve been in a few nuclear showdowns about baby led weaning vs. rice cereal at 3 months ( that are so passive aggressive any eavesdropping man would have mistaken the napalm as showers of lily blossoms) you find joy in discussing whether or not sixteen personality types force 7.4 billion people into a box or not.  

Multitasking is another thing that’s scientific rubbish these days.  But I would argue (regarding this and Myers Briggs) that it all depends on your perspective and definitions.   

Sometimes I feel like  a terrible female.  I know I’m supposed to love yoga, small dogs and world travel, but I prefer to practice pàisdean (gaelic for “children”, i.e. muscle suavity obtained by chasing four active little boys around all day), I only like dogs large enough to eat bad guys, and would happily claim a plot of earth with my husband and swear fealty to it.   When my beloved little sister asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding...across the country, I immediately started charting “how much do I love thee” on an x y axis.  After much denial, head-in-the-sanding, and throwing my phone at outrageous ticket prices I summoned the strength of my inner viking ancestors and sallied forth on a metal coffin with no leg room and eight dollar drinks.    

Unfortunately I don’t have a phobia of flying or germs or anything conveniently treated with valium.  I prefer to pack my demons with me in their more tangible form.   Small children you have to trundle along to your destination without a) them killing themselves, b) someone else wringing their neck c) you doing all of the above.   J being the wiser half, decided he had work requirements that kept him at home.  

But on to the secret cure-all workout.

  1. Fly a budget airline that doles even water out with all the stinginess of a desert crossing nomad.   Pack all of your belongings into carry-on.  

  2. Bring a lap child.  Make sure your connections are too tight to gate-check a stroller.

  3. Sabotage the weather so those short connections turn into multi-hour delays.  

  4. Release the kracken...er toddler into a busy airport and follow it.

What this will gain you (besides a cardio and functional strength workout that rivals Crossfit) .  

This is where the multi-tasking comes in.  At the end of three hours you will have…

  1. Memorized the floor plan of every concourse.  This is helpful if there is a mass shooting as you are on a first name basis with all of the emergency exits your child tried to go through.  It is also helpful for your career as a virtual signpost, pointing bedraggled travelers to their port in the storm.  

  2. You will have an in depth comprehensive analysis on what the current fashion trends are and who should and should not wear them.  

  3. You will start to see patterns of human behavior.  Like creepy men smile and look side to side a lot, and attractive men stare straight ahead like a predator. I know...it doesn’t entirely make sense and surprised me too.  Normal looking people have facial expressions that are totally neutral and chill...like they too were once a toddler who cut their teeth terrorizing every square inch of the place.  Also, grandmas of every nationality like to give out candy and treats.  I can only assume this is how the Hansel and Gretel story originated.

I was worried I would come back from the south ten lbs heavier from a steady diet of biscuits and beer, but instead I’m slimmer and wiser.   The nervous twitch, and tick bites are barely noticeable at all.