4.26.2013

How to raise little men and women

My first baby was a darling little girl.

I should probably mention that when people asked me what I wanted during my pregnancy with Pearyn, I wasn't one of those polished mothers who replied with a "as long as the baby's healthy I'll be happy" remarks. Sure, I wanted my baby to be healthy, but I also really, really wanted that baby to have a vagina. 

It wasn't just the cute clothes (although, they are absolutely adorable) or the idea that I'd be able to paint her nails and make her into a little lady; it was quite the opposite actually.

I wanted a baby girl because in this world, it's easy for women to be pushed around. It's easy for us to be told we're too fat, we're too skinny, we're not pretty enough, we're too pretty, we should just have babies, shut our mouths and stay at home. No, wait, we should have babies and then work high-power, executive jobs so we can show people we really can "have it all." But while we have it all, we also need to clean the bathroom, shop for groceries and make the dinner. We should be sensitive and gentle for our men, but strong and stable for the other women out there.

In this world, it's easy as women to feel like we should be everything for everyone else. In this world, it's especially easy for little girls to try to BE like everyone else.

My mother is one of the strongest women I know -- sometimes, to a fault. And never once was I limited in believing all I was meant to do was have babies and care for a husband. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this either - it's an incredibly noble cause - but only if you CHOOSE this, only if you WANT it. No woman should be forced into believing it's her only calling.

So simply put, I wanted a little girl because I think our world could use more strong women. And I'll be damned if my little girl doesn't feel empowered to do whatever her little heart wants her to do - whether it's rocket science, being a garbage woman or getting married and having a dozen adorable babies - it's her choice and I want her to feel that way.

And over the last three years, we really have had our share of sugar and spice and everything nice. We've also realized our daughter, much to our dismay at times, is already a force to be reckoned with.

So when I found out I was having a little man this time around, fear took over my body. How do you raise a little man? What if I royally screwed him up? I am familiar with the struggles of women and being a teenage girl, but I don't have the slightest clue what it means to be a little boy growing into a man. 

Sure, I've got a wonderful husband to help me with this task, but I'm the kind of obnoxious person who needs to do things for herself, or at the very least, needs to know HOW to do them. 

So naturally  I did what I always do when I want to learn something - I searched for books. And so far, I've found a few that show promise. But in addition to finding that I could benefit from, I've found some that show me exactly what can be so hard about being a little boy.

For the good part of the last century, women were supposed to be pretty, delicate things. What I didn't realize in turn, is that little boys were supposed to be strong, unemotional things. 

Boys shouldn't cry. Boys shouldn't talk about their feelings, that will make them appear weak and no one wants to hear about them anyway. Boys should be protectors, fearless leaders and are responsible for all the people around them. They grow up being pruned to be the "head of the house" one day. And as a result of this training, we take a tiny piece of frivolousness, carefree, magical, be-whatever-you-want-to-be from them. 

In our world, even with the strives we've made, little boys are allowed to be whatever they want to be as long as it means they'll make a ton of money, support a wife and umpteen children and be the strong, sturdy stone of the family that never, ever breaks. 

Our world so needed these gender roles for men and women because it seemed like that was the only way it could keep spinning round. The big strong man, detached from his family and feelings, went off to work jaded and repressed. While the little woman stayed at home, repressing her own feelings and raising little men and women to follow into the same pattern. 

I think that's the most beautiful thing of all about our modern world, about America.

We don't NEED those gender roles anymore. Men and women can be equally strong and can rule the roost together. The man can enjoy the hell out of his family, change a few dirty diapers along the way and head off to work knowing he's definitely a provider, but that he doesn't always have to be big and strong.

And women, we can stay at home and raise little men and women, but also we can work, we can work from home, we can work on the side, we can provide for our family in ways other than just nurturing, if that's what we want. It doesn't mean we have to be little anymore. 

I'm not convinced that our society has yet embraced these ideas, as there are still mommy wars between stay-at-home moms who swear working moms are just jealous and working moms telling stay-at-home moms that they're doing an injustice to the women's rights movement. We still have men in severe depressions who can't talk about that sadness and ones who only feel it's acceptable to cry at their daughter's wedding or when watching Brian's Song

So I guess that's the trick about raising little men and women. We shouldn't be raising them to be what we want them to be. We should be encouraging them to be whatever THEY want to be, whether that means a little girl who wants to play football and be the President of the United States, or a little man who wants to write poetry, cries at sad movies or hell, wants to stay at home with the kids. 

I guess in the end, what I hope for my children, is that they live in a world without definition. A world where we don't congratulate a father who plays an equal role in raising his children, because it would be out of the norm to NOT. A world where a woman isn't labeled by mother or wife, not because she isn't those things, but because she's SO much more.

There's nothing wrong with gender roles, I just don't particularly believe that one gender has to buy into a single one. 

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4.23.2013

Get ANYONE to eat tofu with this recipe

I know, I know, it's a really big promise.

After all, tofu is the probably the one thing most meat eaters fear when they hear the words "vegetarian" or "vegan."

I can't say I blame them.

I think it took me a good year of being vegan to warm up to the stuff (outside of using it in the occasional dessert).

But boy, for all the wrong that tofu can appear (slimy, white, squishy, flavorless), there are so, so, so many right things about it.

For starters, it made an excellent finger food for our daughter when she was first starting out. And because it's so flavorless, it's basically like a blank canvas for you to mold into whatever you want. And speaking of molding, it comes in a variety of magical textures, from silken to extra, extra firm.

It can be the feature of a main dish, a plumper in a dessert, a binder for those baked goods or a protein boost for your smoothie.

It's basically magical if you think about it.

I've gotten a lot of flack over the years for our introducing our daughter to soy, in addition to consuming it while pregnant with my son. There are a lot of controversial studies on the effects of soy and boys and estrogen and every other thing under the sun (I implore you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions before you jump on either band wagon), so here is our family's stance on it, among pretty much every other nutritional requirement.

We take it in moderation.

We don't wake up in the morning and give our daughter a big glass of soy milk followed by some tofu scramble with some tofu sausage. She usually has a piece of fruit and some almond or coconut milk. Generally, the only soy she's exposed to throughout the day is the occasion shelf product with it added or one meal that features a little bit of soy.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about this tofu recipe I'm about to lay on you. It's seriously delicious and I'm telling you this dish will get anyone to at least TRY a bite of tofu.

And if they don't try a bite of tofu, then I have a feeling they're not human. Maybe a leprechaun, but not human. Because no human can resist a delicious little protein square soaked in a sweet mustard marinade and breaded with pretzel crumbs.

No one.


Pretzel-Breaded Tofu Bites
(serves 4)
Ingredients: 
One block extra firm tofu
2 cups pretzels
2 TBS pure maple syrup
1/2 cup deli mustard
1/4 cup lite soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 TBS ground flaxseed
2 TBS water
2 TBS plain almond milk
Oil for cooking

Directions:
Take the tofu out and squish it between some napkins or towels (this step is vital since we want to get the tofu moisture out and replace it with our delicious marinade). I usually have to use a couple towels to get it out. Just make sure not to squeeze it so hard that it gets all crumbly. After you've drained the excess liquid, cut into bite-size squares and set aside.


In a container with a lid, mix maple syrup, deli mustard, soy sauce and water thoroughly. Toss the tofu cubes into the marinade and shake it around, making sure each piece is coated. You want this to marinate at least an hour (shaking it and turning it upside down and on it's side from time to time), but the more time the better. I suggest getting it ready in the morning so it can hang out all day in a delicious liquid.

Once you're ready to cook your tofu bites, mix the ground flaxseed, water and almond milk in a shallow bowl and set aside for 10 minutes or so (it will thicken a bit and congeal). Measure out two cups of pretzels (I used the regular-shaped variety) and toss them into your food processor (a powerful blender might work too) and grind until a fine crumb has formed. Place the crumbs in a shallow dish (suitable for rolling tofu cubes around in).

Coat a saute pan with a small amount of oil and turn the heat to medium (around 4 or 5). While it's heating  up, take your tofu cubes out of the marinade and dip them into the flaxseed/water/milk mixture. Then drop them into the pretzel crumbs and roll around. Set aside and repeat until all the tofu cubes are coated. Toss those bad boys into your oil and cook on one side for about 4-5 minutes (or until a golden brown color) and then on the other for 2-3 minutes. You don't really need to cook all sides as it will cook up, just watch the pretty golden brown coating rise.

Place cooked tofu cubes on a plate with a paper towel to absorb grease and serve on top of a salad or as bite-sized bites for little ones. If you decide to top on a salad, I highly recommend you throw together your own dressing too!

Just make the marinade from above, add it to an empty salad dressing bottle (or another bottle with a lid that you can shake) and add 2 TBS of cornstarch. Shake this up super duper well and then pour into the saute pan you just used for your tofu (remaining breading bits and all).

Lower the heat to 2-3 and let the dressing cook until it starts to bubble and thicken (it only took mine about 2-3 minutes). Pour back into your empty bottle and serve over your salad.

SO good.

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4.17.2013

Want to win a documentary? Sure you do!

When my husband and I first met, he had been vegan for almost five years already and I was barely a vegetarian. I still wanted to eat fish, I smothered everything in cheese and I didn't want to know why my precious Ben and Jerry's was morally wrong.

After six months of dating and one month of living together, I decided I wanted to do something special for my him. I perused the internet for recipes, something elaborate I could make him that was so good he wouldn't even believe it was vegan.

And that's when it happened. In addition to a plethora of amazing recipes, I came across hoards of statistics about all the suffering I was still contributing to by eating fish and consuming dairy.

I read facts about fish living in schools because they didn't like being alone, some kinds even formed soul mates. And that while most people didn't realize it, fish almost always died by suffocation as they were pulled from the ocean and then sometimes beaten with a club.

And dairy cows, dairy cows would sometimes wail for days for their babies that were taken away from them; calves that would go on to become more dairy cows or even worse, veal. I read about how they were artificially inseminated so frequently that it resulted in a shortened life span, nearly half of what it should be.

I went home from work that day after reading all those facts on my lunch break and decided that was it. I was either going to go full-on vegan; I was going to quit half-assing it. I emptied our cabinets of things like coffee cereal bars; I tossed ice cream and cheddar cheese from the fridge.

That was the day I decided to be vegan.

It's not that simple for some people. Sometimes, it takes failing physical, mental and emotional health for people to realize we shouldn't be spending our lives stuffing unnecessary cholesterol-ridden animal products into our bodies.

That's what it took for Frank Ferrante, star of the documentary May I be Frank. He's an overweight, unhappy and unhealthy man who stumbled into a raw vegan cafe in San Francisco on accident. After befriending three workers, they challenge him to try out a vegan lifestyle and reevaluate how he feels after transitioning.

Over the next 42 days, Ferrante undergoes so, so, so much change - not just physically (although his weight loss is impressive) - but emotionally, spiritually and mentally. A man who was once overweight, a junkie and living with hepC, opens himself to something new and ends up better from it in the end.

Now don't mistake me, it's not all butterflies and sunshine while he makes his big switch. There is a lot of pain, a lot of resistance, a lot of what we cope with everyday in society. It's so easy in America to be making the wrong food choices that we hardly recognize the right ones when they're directly under our noses! The documentary itself is incredibly raw, incredibly real and while it might not be as polished as some of the critically-acclaimed ones, it's got so much heart and so much honesty.

After watching May I be Frank it makes it incredibly difficult for you to make excuses for your poor eating habits.

If Frank can do it, whether it be for 42 days or the rest of his life, what is your excuse for not eating better?

Are you ready to change your habits? I encourage anyone considering the raw or vegan lifestyle to consider getting your hands on May I be Frank.

Not sure where to get it? I'm going to make that easy on you. For the rest of April I'm going to be giving away two dvds of May I be Frank, courtesy of the amazing people at Cinema Libre Studio. In order to win, all you have to do is click that fabulous little follow button in the top right column and leave a comment on this post about why eating healthy is important to you or your family. Already a follower? Just leave a comment!

Want more ways to win? You got it!

I recently started a Facebook page for all things Chubby Vegan Mom! Because you want to win this DVD AND because you don't want to miss any of the awesome crap I do on a daily basis, you can "like" my page and then leave a comment on it telling me why eating healthy is important to you or your family.

In addition to entering on the blog, you can share this status on your Twitter for another chance to win: I want to win an awesome #documentary from Chubby #Vegan #Mom, you can enter too! #contest #free http://www.chubbyveganmom.com/2013/04/who-doesnt-want-to-win-free-movie.html

The two winners will be chosen by random on Tuesday, April 30 ARE ANGIEPEE and LAUREN MARTINDALE! I will be contacting both of you shortly to get shipping information!! Congrats and stay tuned for another awesome giveaway in May (Daiya fans, you don't want to miss this one!)

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4.15.2013

Dinner made easy, the cooksimple way

In case ya'll haven't figured out from my ranting and raving, I'm a busy gal.

Between working 40 hours a week at a job I love, spending 24/7 being a mother to my feisty toddler and needy infant and a wife to my husband, it can get really, really hard to find time to do the things I want (like baking cupcakes and then running said cupcakes off).

Heck, it can get really, really hard to find time to do the things I don't want to do (like clean the house, do laundry, wash the dishes and vacuum).

Sometimes, I'm the kind of girl that likes to pick her dinner from some assortment of menus shoved in our kitchen drawer; more often than not though, I'm the kind of girl that likes to make dinner for her family.

Unfortantely, I don't always have the time needed to acquire groceries to make said meal, let alone actually cook the food. Take the last two weeks for instance: I threw a gender party for a close friend, I had to fly to California for business, I had softball lessons and we had family in town. See, what I mean? Busy.

Thankfully, some super friendly folks from The Healthy Pantry contacted me about testing out a few of their products. They specialize in pre-packaged meal kits that are designed to not only taste good, but to suit diets of all shapes and sizes, from meat eaters to vegans.

 I was lucky enough to test out three kits of their current line up: cranberry wild rice, Tibetan dal and Punjabi Curry.


I'm not going to lie, I'm a real sucker for curry, so the Punjabi was the first thing I made. And let me tell you, it was by far my favorite of the meals I got to try. I love curry so much, but I'm so, so, so bad at making it. So to be able to pop open a box and add my favorite protein to it was great.

What's even better is most of the kits aren't just sensitive to different diets (some of the boxes suggest adding chicken, but also recommend plant-based protein such as tofu and tempeh), they're really customizable too. My husband and I aren't the biggest pea lovers, so instead of adding all the peas the kit provided we added half. The dinners vary in cook time, but the three I had took anywhere from 10-30 minutes tops (and some of that time is probably because I'm a bit clumsy in the kitchen).

I'm also a pretty big fan of all things lentil, so the Tibetan dal was the perfect blend of earthy and tangy by just adding tomatoes. The cranberry wild rice is a nice change of pace from your run-of-the-mill rice dish, and would make the perfect compliment to some sort of Thanksgiving or feasty type of meal.

In addition to the products I was lucky enough to try, Healthy Pantry's cooksimple kits are available in: Skillet lasagna, white bean chili, New Orleans jambalaya, tamale pie, cowboy chili and asian burgers.

 These kits are available at most health food stores, particularly the big-name ones, Whole Foods, Earth Fare and Wegmans. More information on the products I was lucky enough to sample, in addition to kit variations and ingredients can be found at http://www.thehealthypantry.com/.

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4.09.2013

"If someone shits their pants ... well, then we're just screwed"

Have you ever had one of those really long days?

Of course you have! You're reading my blog, which means you either enjoy women who talk like sailors, you're really terrible at cooking and read my recipes to feel better about yourselves, you know me personally or you're a parent yourself.

At any rate, I don't generally attract the calm crowd. I attract the people that have really long days.

Today was no exception. In fact, every day since last Tuesday (you know, like, eight days ago) has felt like one of those really long days.

Last Tuesday I was packing my bags and leaving on a jet plane. No, really, this time I was, I wasn't just singing a song. Because I have the coolest job ever, my team flew to California to have an all-day meeting about our goals for the year ahead and to take part in a big ole professional convention in Anaheim.

Also because I have the coolest job ever, we work in a completely virtual environment, which means when we get together (about three-four times a year), we really get together, like, all day. We eat, breathe and drink work while we're together (spoiler alert, sometimes this means wine too).

No, really, though, I have the most amazing job, I work for the most amazing company and I adore my family and husband for not completely wanting to behead me for leaving them with my less-than-easy spawns for four days.

It was a hard adjustment to make though; to not be concerned about Pearyn's school lunches and to go to bed without rocking my monster man. Most mothers would plead for this time away and while I loved it and loved feeling like I was something other than a mother (don't get me wrong, I love my kids, I just enjoy knowing I'm a career woman too), I had to make myself really focus on the moment.

Of course by the time I flew back to my crew I was itching to get back on a plane and get away with a few more days of work.

So I felt guilty. I've been feeling guilty for the last few days now because I went to the sunshine state and had adult time and did some awesome work with some awesome people.

To make up for leaving my family for four days I've been taking the kids to the park like every day. And giving my daughter fruit snack and suckers galore; not to mention making chocolate and peanut butter covered everything.

Didn't you know? The way to a husband and child's love is through their stomachs and the park.

Finally though, today was enough. Pearyn had asked me to go to the park for the 90 bajillionith time and I was over it. I had already promised to run her up there once I was done feeding her brother, so the fact that she felt the urge to ask me continually for the next 30 minutes was beyond me. I didn't even bother to pack the diaper bag.

Screw the extra panties and shorts for Pearyn; who cares if Braeburn has a blowout poosplosion? Pear doesn't need to hydrate after all, right?

I literally uttered to my husband out the door as he asked if I needed him to carry the diaper bag, "if someone shits their pants, well, then we're just screwed."

And the truth is, I meant it. I wanted so much to slip back into that California work-only mentality that I drove my recently-potty-trained toddler and three-month-old son in the car diaper bag free. By golly if one of them really did shit their pants I was in trouble.

Except that I was literally two minutes away from home and would probably have an easier time just running them home in the event of an accident as opposed to trying to clean them in the car.

That, and I figured if anyone was going to be urinating themselves it'd be me, the mother of two that should probably do more kegels.

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Five things we should stop telling new mommies

Because I'm at that magical age where everyone and their sister is pregnant, is getting pregnant, is talking about getting pregnant or was pregnant, I get to see more than my fair share of Facebook pregnancy updates throughout the day.

Some people get tired of hearing about pregnancy, however, having done 20 months of it myself I understand why the uterus-carrying half of the population feels the need (and the right) to tell us about every doctor appointment and every.last.gory. bodily fluid update.

There are several pivotal stages you go through during pregnancy, from the "omg it's your first bump photo" to the "127 people like this" birth photo of your baby, and thanks to social media and our obsession with telling everyone every little thing, we get to go through most of these together.

So with the help of my own experiences (and watching my friends go through some of the same), I've compiled a fabulous list of the five things I think we need to stop telling pregnant ladies and new mommies. Like on the giddy up.

No. 1: This is going to be the magical time of your life!


Now don't get me wrong. Growing a baby inside your body is a pretty damn amazing experience. Even if you don't experience that fun little thing called morning sickness, you get to hear a tiny heartbeat for the first time ever; you get to count 10 tiny fingers and toes inside of your body (maybe even a miniature penis if you're really lucky) and you get to feel firsthand what the victim's in Alien must have felt like when your tiny bundle of joy tries to arm jab their way out of your body via your stomach.

These are all seriously wonderful things. But if you ask most mothers, the real magic happens the minute they splay that blood-and-goop-covered baby atop your chest and it wails and wails until they finally leave the little thing alone and it finally gets to take you in.

And you get to take it in. And smell it. And stroke it's head. And see it try to leech onto any part of your body like it hasn't eaten in 10 months.

When you look into your baby's eyes: that's the most magical moment of your life; when you realize what you really were capable of creating - and did.

No. 2: Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can

I'm a firm believer that pretty much anyone who says this to you is either the mother of 15 children, doesn't have a uterus or didn't gain one pound during her pregnancy. You'll usually start hearing this gem when you're closing out the third trimester. You're maybe a month away and all you can do is bitch and rant about how much you want to meet your baby already. And then some smart ass mom know-it-all bitchface friend comes on and tells you "enjoy the peace and quiet while you can!" like she's somehow unlocked the key to giant ass pregnancy bliss.

Yeah OK, maybe you could enjoy the peace and quiet, if you weren't 900 pounds, training for the circus, fitting only into circus tents and your baby is so giant and misplaced that you can't even sneeze without urinating all over yourself.

You ask me if I'd rather be dealing with a screaming newborn or 38 weeks pregnant and fricking ginormous and I'm going to take screaming newborn. At least then you're allowed to be emotional and hormonal and bitchy. When you're 38 weeks pregnant you're supposed to be glowy and calm and ready to meet your baby; not the human version of some ground up sausage in a greasy casing.

No. 3: You don't need the epidural

This one is pretty simple. Anyone who tells you "oh, you don't need the epidural" should be met with an immediate "go screw yourself." The same commentary applies to anyone who tells you "you're crazy not to get the epidural."

What you decide to do pain-management wise is your business, don't let anyone bully you otherwise. Yeah, they'll cite a bajillion different studies about how epidurals are going to make your baby grow an extra ear or how not getting one will put too much stress on you and the baby, but every woman is different and so is every baby.

Go in with an open mind either way and let your body, your baby and your doctor help you decide what is best for you. Not some know-it-all, asshole already mother.

No. 4: Babies cry a lot




OK, it's true, babies do cry. My definition of "a lot" is different than the stupid pamphlet the state of Ohio passes out at childbirth classes. Are babies quiet and squealy and cooey 24/7? Of course not. But should they have moments of bliss where they're not raging assholes? Definitely.

Pearyn was a baby that cried, probably a seemingly normal to slightly above normal amount. Braeburn, on the other hand, was a little butthole. For at least the first eight weeks of his life if he wasn't asleep or didn't have a bottle shoved in his mouth he was crying. In fact, I don't even think what he did qualifies as crying, it was outright blood-curling screams. He hated us and we in turn hated ourselves. Luckily they grow out of it. And they're pretty cute when they sleep.

No. 5: Sleep when the baby sleeps

Clearly you should sleep when the baby sleeps, but sometimes that leaves you feeling like an infant yourself. You'll be covered in spit up, smelly, tired, hungry and crying as it is, if you sleep as often as your baby sleeps you really might forget what adulthood is like.

Sleep when the baby sleeps if you need to. If you're on your 80th cup of coffee and haven't laid down in your bed in three nights, sleep when the baby sleeps. If you've got 18 loads of laundry and a toddler to feed and ship off to preschool, get some shit done when the baby sleeps and sleep the other times the baby sleeps.

The way I see it these kids are going to be waking us up far too early for the rest of our lives, we might as well start rocking the dark circles, caffeine-addicted mom looks now.

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