Monthly Archives: December 2014

I’m not here to entertain you

I’m feeling kind of like doing nothing today. It’s half-way through the second day of Christmas break and so far we’ve made pumpkin pancakes, gone to the dentist, had three playdates, decorated Christmas cookies and ridden bikes at the park. Strangely enough, I’m starting to run out of steam. But the reality of it is, I’ve been cramming our time full of fun stuff and having friends over to avoid the inevitable responsibility of actually playing with my kids.

tea party-1

This is how you make it look like you’re playing tea party when you’re actually just taking a picture of your KIDS playing tea party while you do dishes.

I’m going to admit something to you all. Get ready. Here it is: I do not play with my kids. There. Now you all know my secret. And you know what? It doesn’t make me a bad mom. I can very clearly remember my mom saying to me, “I am not here to entertain you,” and no truer sentence has ever been uttered by a mother. It took me a number of years before I, as a mom, was able to come to terms with and accept the fact that it’s okay not to play with your kids. Social media really makes it feel like you should be making cupcakes, throwing glitter, and having dance parties with your kids all day long. But no matter how many amazingly crafty, family-fun ideas you see on Pinterest or how many of your friends are posting photos of picture-perfect family events on Facebook or Instagram, you don’t have to be like that. And chances are your friends aren’t actually like that either. If I were that kind of Facebooker, I easily could have posted at least 10 pictures of my kids having a smashingly good time over the last day and a half that made it look like I’m Mom-of-the-year. I could make it look like I never yell, always snuggle on the couch with my kids, and end each night with books and kisses. Instead, in reality, I yell more than I would like to. Snuggling on the couch with the kids always ends with one of them kicking me in the face. I can only commit to a make-believe game if I’m also drinking a beer, and usually by bedtime my patience is so thin I have to close my eyes while the kids brush their teeth so I don’t have to see the toothpaste all over the sink. They’re lucky if I actually make it through a book before I fall asleep putting them to bed.

Here’s the thing: I am not six years old. I don’t enjoy playing dress up and pretending I’m a ladybug. I don’t like drawing pictures of rainbows. I don’t like playing Go Fish for the seven billionth time, and I don’t even really like to build with Legos. Don’t get me wrong – I can and sometimes do those things. I can play one or two rounds of Uno. Sometimes I do feel like making and pretending to eat a plate full of Play-doh cookies. I can color a picture. But then I’m done. I’m not doing it another fifty times because it was only marginally fun the first time. We all know that kids don’t just want you to play chase around the house for 10 minutes, they want you to do it for an hour. But like I said, I’m not six, so I’m not going to do that. Since I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over six years, I HAVE done all those things. A gazillion times over. So I don’t feel obligated to do them anymore. Which is why I sometimes have to remind myself that Mommy Doesn’t Have to Play.

playing in a field-3

Instant playmate.

Lest you start to feel like I’m a bad mom, let me assure you that I’m not a bad mom. I do love my kids. And when they were younger, or when there was only one of them, I did get down on the floor and play games. I did chase them around the kitchen island. I have made up stories and let my kids put stickers all over me and I have built a carwash out of unit blocks that we drove matchbox cars through. But now that my kids are four and six – they can play with each other. My job here is to make sure they make it through the day. I do the laundry, I clean the house, I cook every single meal, I do all the grocery shopping, I plan and coordinate all the doctor’s appointments, the playdates, and the swim lessons, I set up the watercolors and clean up the mess, I walk with them to the playground and try to make sure they don’t get hurt while they’re there. But I don’t play.

My job is not to entertain them, and that’s just fine. By not playing with them, I have fostered their ability to entertain themselves. Which, frankly, might be one of the best lessons I can teach them. Life is not one big parade of constant entertainment. No one is offering you a list of things that you can do when you’re bored. In fact, when my son starts telling me he’s bored, I start listing off chores for him to do. (That is exactly what my mom used to do to me, now that I think about it.) I can tell you what you’re not going to do, buddy: you’re not going to watch TV and you’re not going to play the iPad. Go find something to do or you’ll end up folding laundry.

So, don’t feel bad about giving your kids the little “scoot along now” motion with your hand this winter break. You don’t have to play with them all the time (unless you feel like it.) That’s real life. And it’s OK if you want to drink a cup of coffee and look at the Internet. They also need to learn that you do things for yourself that don’t involve them. You can still be a good mom even if you don’t play. I am, and I’m proud of it. You should be, too.

 

 

 

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Go ahead. Lick the spoon

It’s that month again: December. The month of Cookies and Chaos. The month where you swear this will be the year you don’t eat too many cookies and that you will rein in the geyser of presents that spills forth from the Christmas tree. Each year I promise myself these things, and each year I fail. We leave a party and I think, “Wait, did I just eat a dozen cookies?” and on Christmas morning I look at the aftermath and sigh. Next year, I think, next year will be different. But it probably won’t be.

cookie story-2So, I’m embracing it. Let’s do this. I just renewed my gym membership. Come at me, cookies, I’m ready.  January is the month for change. December is the month for shoveling food in your face.

Now that we have accepted the situation, let’s talk about something that I’ve always pondered but never investigated: how bad is it, really, to lick the batter spoon? I’m pretty sure I always licked the spoon growing up. And the beaters and … maybe even wiped batter directly out of the bowl with my fingers and licked them clean. I never got sick, and I never really thought anything of it. But now that I have mom goggles I think about things differently (you know, the ones that make everything in the entire world look dangerous when your kid is present? Even sidewalks and ordinary chairs look dangerous because you know at any moment your child might spastically fall face first into something without warning. No cause, just effect.) Every single time we make cookies or cake my kids beg to lick the spoon because I’m pretty sure my mom lets them do it at her house. And I always want to let them, but my husband gives me the hairy eyeball and so I say, “No, you can’t. It has raw egg in it, and you could get salmonella.” But I really want to let them, because as I turn around to put the bowl in the sink, I make sure to lick the spoon without anyone seeing (husband included).

I decided it was time to look into that age old adage and see how risky it really is to eat raw cookie dough. The risk comes from the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis that can be present in raw eggs. Laying hens who are infected with salmonella don’t display any symptoms, so it’s very difficult to know if the bacteria are present in eggs until people start getting sick (vomiting, diarrhea).  Salmonella can be present both on the inside of the egg (if the hen’s ovaries are infected and she passes the bacteria into the egg) and on the outside of the egg (contamination through contact with infected material either from the henhouse or from handling.) Contamination on the outside of the egg used to be a common problem before the 1970s when strict procedures for inspecting and sanitizing the outsides of eggs made it extremely rare. So the real risk today comes from inside the egg, although only a small number of hens might be infected and even then, infected hens can lay many normal eggs while only occasionally laying contaminated eggs.

The reality is, though, the risk is exceptionally low these days. Back in the 80s, 90s and again in 2010 there were outbreaks of salmonella-related illnesses that were traced back to eating raw eggs. As a result, in 2010 the FDA began requiring that egg producers implement preventative measures to reduce the incidence of Salmonella Enteritidis. They estimate these measures will reduce the number of Salmonella Enteritidis infections from eggs by nearly 60 percent. I

cookie story-1ndeed, the incidence of egg-related illness has been reduced since the 1990s when most of us where being told not to lick the spoon. In fact, scientists estimate that only one in 20,000 eggs might contain the bacteria, giving you a 0.005 percent chance that your egg is contaminated. That means that an average consumer will encounter a contaminated egg once every 84 years. Considering that most of the eggs I eat are cooked (which kills the bacteria), the chances are even lower that the one contaminated egg I will encounter in my lifetime turns out to be the raw egg in my cookie dough batter.

Furthermore, even if you do encounter that one egg, you’re probably not going to get sick from it for a few reasons. First, proper refrigeration (at or below 45 degrees F) prevents the bacteria from growing to dangerous levels.  Most outbreaks have come from restaurant settings where eggs are pooled together allowing one contaminated egg to infect the entire batch and then the batch of eggs is kept at unsafe temperatures so the bacteria can grow. If you’ve kept your eggs in the fridge and kept the number of bacteria low, you might not even encounter the infected part of the raw egg (maybe that part gets left behind in the shell, washed down the drain, or cooked thoroughly in the oven.) If, however, that infected raw portion does end up in your mouth, if you’re got a robust and healthy intestinal tract, your own body will do a pretty good job of preventing you from getting sick.

Now, it would be irresponsible of me to recommend that you eat raw eggs. And, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not encouraging anyone to rush into the kitchen and start cracking raw eggs into your green smoothie (yuck). The CDC states that approximately 42,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year. Of course that includes all types of salmonella, of which Salmonella Entereditis is only one, albeit the most common one. Those statistics also include illness from sources other than eggs (pork, raw milk, beef, sprouts, or even nuts like in this recall just last summer), but eggs are the most common source of Salmonella Entereditis. Those infected with the bacteria usually experience stomach flu-like symptoms that are resolved in less than a week without treatment. In rare cases the symptoms can be extreme and cause hospitalization or even death. Additionally, if you’re immune-compromised, you’re more likely to get sick from consuming just a small amount of the bacteria. The most sure-fire way to avoid illness from eggs is to always properly refrigerate eggs, cook them thoroughly, and consume them promptly.

While I’m on the subject of proper cooking of eggs, think about this: how many eggs have you eaten where the yolk was a little bit runny? What about true Caesar dressing that calls for raw eggs? What about traditional egg nog, aioli, mayonnaise? (Don’t freak out, commercial varieties use pasteurized eggs. The process kills the bacteria and the USDA considers pasteurized eggs to be safe for use without cooking – it’s also what’s used in commercially available refrigerated cookie dough. You can also buy pasteurized eggs and do the same if you want to have a bunch of teenage girls over and throw a big raw-cookie-dough-eating party.) You’re still taking a risk every time you eat soft cooked eggs. What’s the difference between that and taking a few licks of the batter spoon?

Now, I realize that in a true risk-benefit analysis, there would have to be an actual benefit to eating raw cookie dough, and there isn’t. cookie story-3(Other than the fact that I like it.) If I were properly analyzing this, I would have to say that any small risk outweighs the benefit when there isn’t a benefit. Therefore you shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough. But, like I said, I like it. And I’m not really concerned about the risk because I think it’s a very small risk.

So, in conclusion, and in my opinion – let them eat (raw) cake! Not a lot, of course, but this December when I make cookies with my kids, I’m not going to feel guilty about letting them lick the spoon.

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