Today is Megnut.com's birthday. In the past I've let this day slipped by, but this year I thought I'd count down to it with the best posts from each of the past twelve years. But Ollie was sick last week and didn't go to school hardly at all, so my limited free time disappeared. And well with all life, etc. I didn't get a chance to read through twelve years of archives. Also? It's kind of weird and depressing to do that. So for now, Happy Birthday Megnut.com! It's hard to imagine twelve more years of this site, but I also can't picture it going away either. So be sure to check back in 2023. Or maybe just later this week, when I'll hopefully share some of my favorite posts of all times.
Perhaps in response to my rant about marketers and bloggers, I received an email yesterday inviting me to join #WelchsGrape Twitter Party! The purpose of this "party" is to spread the idea "Moms can help their families live a heart healthy lifestyle with Welch's 100% Grape juice made with Concord Grapes."
One easy and delicious way to add more purple to your family's diet is to drink 4-oz. of grape juice, which offers a full serving (1/2 cup) of fruit and no added sugar.
This is pretty disingenuous. Grape juice is loaded with natural sugar. I can't even imagine how you'd drink it if they added sugar. A 64 oz bottle of Welch's Grape Juice contains 8 8 fl oz. servings. Each 8 fl oz serving (1 cup) contains 40 grams of sugar. One can of Pepsi (335 ml or ~1 1/2 US cups) contains 40 grams of sugar.
40 grams of sugar next to a Pepsi, image from funnyz
Think about that: 1 cup of grape juice is basically 1 can of Pepsi. Official US Guidelines advise a maximum of 40 grams refined sugar for every 2000 calories consumed per day. So give your kid even 1/2 cup of grape juice and you've given them more than half the sugar maximum an adult should consume as day. This isn't right because the guideline is for added sugar, like when you see "sugar" in the ingredients list for tomato sauce. Grape juice has no added sugar, but it's concentrated to make it sweeter. There is no guideline for how much naturally-occurring sugar you should ingest.
It's hart to believe any possible heart benefits associated with grape juice outweigh the risks of ingesting so much sugar (with none of the fiber or slower digestive process to access it that you get from eating whole fruit rather than mainlining juice!) If you haven't yet read Is Sugar Toxic?, get thee to the New York Times post haste:
The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form -- soda or fruit juices -- the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.
In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it's clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.
The whole article is worth a read. Then you can decide for yourself if filling your kids with juice is "heart-healthy" and if you want to join the Twitter party to spread the word. Or you can crash the party with me (if naps coordinate with party time) and point people to some sane information about kids and sugar.
And I don't even want to get started on the idea that drinking juice counts as a serving of fruit! That's about as specious as ketchup being a vegetable.
The other day I got myself all worked up thinking about the Mom 2.0 Summit, "An Open Conversation Between Moms and Marketers" that's currently happening in New Orleans. The gist of my rage: why not organize mom bloggers to exert their influence on real change for things like decent paid maternity/paternity leave, affordable child care, flex time, equal pay for equal work, etc.? But my anger has cooled a bit, and I'm thinking that if I were having an open mom conversation with marketers, I'd start with a few points:
1. Please stop trying to sell me something I don't need. A newborn baby needs: someplace to sleep, limited amount of clothes, some diapers, and lots of love. Maybe a bottle and formula if breast feeding isn't an option. That's it. Enough will all the other crap to buy for babies. Big kids need even less.
2. Really please stop using fear and guilt as a tactic to sell me something I don't need, like eight zillion kinds of baby-proofing items and cages to corral kids and leashes so they don't run away, etc.
3. Do something about all the cross-promotional commercial crap that's being produced and invest in original content and ideas. Keep your Disney Princess off my lunch box. If you can't come up with something original, I'd take Cleopatra instead, or Queen Elizabeth I.
4. Enough with the gender-specific junk, can we have a season of bright colors for all kids? Market orange as the new pink, and red or green as the new blue.
5. Help moms do more with less, whether that's less time, less money, less space.
Ok, so that's more than a few. But that's where I'd start. You?
On one of our best days in Mexico we made friends with another couple who had two kids close in age to ours. Their son was an excellent swimmer and after lots of beach time, we all headed to the pool. Once Ollie saw his friend go solo on the slide, he was up for it. Next thing you know, Ollie's going down head first. Then sideways. Then feet first, lying down! We practically had to drag him from the slide after more than an hour. The water slide was awesome and this video shows a bit of the fun.
Apparently there's been a big right-wing blow-up about the above ad that appeared in J Crew. So while girls must dress in pink to be girls, if boys do anything with pink, they'll turn into girls! Towleroad has some choice quotes and more information, including some thoughtful comments by readers about gender politics.
I will admit that I find this ad disturbing, though not because his toenails are pink. In general I'm pretty anti-make-up, especially for children. The idea of painting little kids nails, boys or girls, pink or blue or whatever, just freaks me out. That's probably because I didn't wear enough pink growing up and thus failed to develop my feminine side properly. And now I'm a humorless polish-hating feminist. (via Adam)
When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? looks at the issue of gender-specific clothing for children. This issue has irked me forever, but especially now that I have a daughter and my son's in school. Nearly all the girls in his class come to school dressed head-to-toe in pink. And if I don't have Minna dressed in some shade of pink, people inevitably think she's a boy. I grew up in the glory days of the gender-neutral seventies and early eighties and I've always hated pink. Keeping the pink away from Minna is a battle I'm determined to fight.
Before we had kids, Jason and I did a fair amount of traveling. While we never ate cobra eyes or camped on the floor of a straw hut in a remote village someplace, I'd say we were more adventurous than the average American. We'd eat local food and try to explore the spirit of the place we visited. On our honeymoon to Mexico we made a point of driving the free roads, rather than the toll highway, because the free ones passed through small towns. The highway sped by everything.
Since we've had two kids, we've continued to travel with some success. Last year we had a so-so trip to Mexico and a great trip to France. This year we decided to return to Mexico again. Last year's difficulties stemmed from trying to eat out every meal with small kids on Mexico time (= waiting thirty minutes just for chips and salsa to arrive at table) and staying at a tiny hotel with no windows, only screens and a breakfast that took forty-five minutes to arrive. I got it in my head that if we stayed at a resort this year, things would be better.
We've never stayed at any kind of big resort hotel because frankly, there's nothing about being in another place when you stay at one. The uniformity that makes it comfortable and familiar obliterates any sense of what makes the destination unique. It was like going to Mexico without having to go to Mexico. For lots of people, this is ideal and I thought it was a trade-off I could make. I thought our room with windows would mean a better night's sleep for the kids. I thought three onsite restaurants -- kids eat free! -- would mean easier meal times. I thought multiple pools would give us something to do if the ocean was too rough to swim.
Can't complain about beach side drink delivery
But as we drove to the airpot in Cancun, we passed a little stand on the side of the road selling "cocos frios", cold coconuts, and I was suddenly so sad. We'd spent a week in Mexico and never once had tortillas served with our meals, never mind the kind of food being served at the roadside stand. The kids ate free for sure, but it was hot dogs and fish fingers and burgers. And aside from quesadillas at lunch, which is hardly real Mexican food, most of what we ate was basic American hotel fare. The ocean was so warm and lovely, and the pools were super fun. But we had round-robin of family sickness. And Minna decided after one meal that she would no longer sit in a high chair and screamed when we put her in it.
Traveling with kids is really great because everyone gets forced from their routine and you discover, "Hey, that routine wasn't so necessary after all!"
This year? Not so much. Of course the routine I like that we have at home is that Minna sits in her own seat at meals. And that my children don't eat junk "kids' food" at every (or any) meal. And that Ollie sleeps more than ten hours at night. I'm chalking this trip up to a "learning opportunity". For future trips, I know I'll do better when I can control some aspects of our meals, like if we rent an apartment and can cook. More importantly: if we're visiting a place, we need to experience it as fully as possible. If not, there's no upside to the disruption of travel, and no sense for me in going away.
A little over a year ago I moved this site to TypePad and used their templates to give it a redesign. But it was never quite right, and there were always little things that irked me. So another move to a new home and a new platform and here we go again. This time I'm feeling better about the design, and most of the irks are gone. Plus it's got plaid, which is all the rage in web design these days, or so I'm told. Here's to a fresh start, and more writing, now that this stupid redesign is done!
We went to Mexico last week, which I hope to write more about shortly. But for now, my favorite picture from our trip. I was sitting and reading, and when I looked up I saw this scene, grabbed my camera, and made a mad dash towards them to capture it. I got off one shot before Ollie stood up to walk towards the water.
I rarely get interview requests anymore, and usually when I do, it's because people want to hear about Evan Williams. If you haven't read this site since 1999, maybe you don't know that he and I co-founded Blogger together, and that he went on to co-found Twitter. Anyway, last summer I talked to Bloomberg about Ev for a program called "Game Changers". But there's quite a bit about the early Blogger days in the show, including some old video footage of us in our offices (and me with short platinum blonde hair!) and some old photos. It was neat to see, and made me kinda sad. Bonus for viewing: you can hear me talk about Ev, kinda like those "Behind the Music" shows where some old band mate no one remembers talks about the guy who went on to become the huge star.
A beautiful spring day in New York and after doing some errands, I let Minna out of the Ergo carrier. She walked all the way from Spring and Wooster to Prince, walked down Prince to West Broadway and made it halfway up the block to Houston St before was sat for this nice rest. She was so happy to be out walking the streets and every time she saw a dog she squealed and pointed and said, "Dog!!!" And of course every time someone passed her they smiled and waved and pointed at this tiny little person, holding my hand, wobbling along the streets of the city.
If there's some way you read this site but you don't read my husband's, you should know that he's launched a new web app called Stellar. The story is here on kottke.org if you're interested. I'm totally addicted to the site these days and check it like five times a day. And that's a lot for me, considering how little time I spend online. Also I have a few invites, so shoot me an email if you'd like one. Also also? I'm so proud of him! He's been working very hard on it and I'm happy to see it open up to more people. Yay!
Update: All my invites are gone. If/when I get some more, I'll let you know. And if you're using the app I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Feel free to comment here or drop me an email. Thanks!
After dropping Ollie at school, Minna and I headed to the suburban-esque Whole Foods in Tribeca for groceries. Though she's been in a shopping cart once or twice before, today she wouldn't have it. She screamed "Nooooooo!!!!" and cried and did that back-arching thing so I could barely cram her in the carriage. Then she tried to climb out and continued to scream and cry so that after three minutes I had to remove her and put her back in her baby carrier. It made for difficult shopping.
It also made me think of this photo, which is one of my all-time favorites of Ollie and my grandmother. He's nearly one and this was his first time in the cart. He clearly enjoyed it!
Awhile ago I read Tom Sawyer in large part because I wanted a window into how kids, and boys in particular, used to live. I know it's a work of fiction, but I figured it would still provide insight into what was expected of kids more then a century ago, and what they were capable of. I loved it, and now don't feel so badly about giving my kids a bath only once a week, if we're lucky. Now as Ollie and I read together, I'm struck by world children used to inhabit.
In 1962's The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Peter wakes up to a snowy morning and goes outside to explore, all by himself.
At the end he goes home and tells his mother about his adventures outside, but the key thing is that he's had them unaccompanied, all by himself. And he's pretty young, because he's not able to join the big boys in a snowball fight. Maybe the whole thing's supposed to be a fantasy. Maybe when it was written young boys didn't go outside alone for snowy adventures, but I don't think so.
In the 1972 book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day clearly things are different. There are obvious technology differences, like going to school in a car with no booster seats (and from the looks the mom's not wearing a seat belt and there's a child in the front seat, no air bags!!), but also Alexander and his brothers are left all alone, out on the street.
By the looks of the picture, they're even in in the street. I don't need to tell you the plot point is not that their mom is irresponsible and the children should be taken away. At school, Alexander's friends have sweets and candy ("a Hershey bar with almonds"!! NUTS!!) for dessert. Do you see what kids climb on during recess?
And have you read The Tale of Peter Rabbit? Their mother leaves all the children alone to go off to the baker, even though the very farmer who killed her husband and baked him in a pie is close by! While the daughters eat blackberries, Peter gets in all kinds of trouble by himself and is almost captured by the very same farmer.
I don't read many contemporary children's books, so I can't tell you if they're filled with helicopter parents shuttling kids to music lessons and soccer practice, or if they tell the story of kids trapped inside watching videos instead of dragging sticks through snow. But the more stories I hear of kids living without the opportunity to explore and play and be kids, the sadder I get. Every time I read one of these books to my kids, I want them to experience more than just a Very Bad Day, or a snow day, or a garden adventure. I want them to see what kids used to do and to know they still can.
I love giving books as presents and lately I've been really into older children's books (more on this in another post) so I figured someone had a list on Amazon of all the Caldecott Medal Winners, right? Easy ordering for all your gift-giving needs! But I only found a Caldecott Winners Gallery 2010 to 1971. So I created a list of the rest: Caldecott Medal Winners 1938-1970.
Looking back at the covers was especially fun, as I had many of the winners from the seventies and had forgotten all about them! And the illustration/design time-travel scrolling through the covers is fascinating too.