Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

Nothing makes my hair stand on end like the words “I can’t.” In my years of conducting lessons, I’ve encountered more than a few children who, when faced with a simple task, too quickly drop it in frustration and say, “I can’t do it.”

I also have a three-year old who’s learning how to put on her own clothes. I hear “I can’t” a lot. Usually the words “I can’t” are tinged with a whine. Sigh.

She’s only three. I get that there are truly some things she isn’t yet capable of doing. As a parent, it’s my job to help her find the line between “I can’t” and “I can” and keep moving it forward. Take socks, for example. It’s much faster to simply put a toddler’s socks on for her and call it good. Some days, that’s all I have the time or patience for. But every time I do it is one less opportunity for her to develop the skill and confidence to do it herself.

Naya shoes

Shoes and pants are complicated for 3-year-olds to put on. Our rule is to say “I can try” instead of “I can’t.”

So when we have time, we talk it through. “Here’s the heel of your sock. Where’s your heel? Here’s the toe of your sock. Where are your toes? Okay, so when you put your sock on, your toes need to end up in the toe of the sock, and your heel in the heel of the sock. Remember, ALL of your toes have to go into the sock, otherwise it’s not going to work. Yay, Naya! You did it!” And she’ll do it again, and again, proving she can.

Invariably, a few days later, she will halfheartedly try to put on one sock, snag a toe in the opening, then whine, “I can’t do it!” And no amount of “Yes, you can,” and “Remember, you showed me you could do it yesterday” will overcome her self-defeat.

Recently, I found inspiration to try a fresh tactic. It was a Facebook meme of the words “I can’t” written in crayon, then transformed with a different color to read “I can try.” A lightbulb popped on in my brain. I decided to try something new.

I first tried my new approach at bedtime. Naya got frustrated while trying to put on her nightgown and wailed, “I can’t do it!” “Wait,” I said. “It bothers me when you say you can’t do something. Let’s try this. Instead of saying, ‘I can’t,’ I want you to say, ‘I can try.’ If you try and still need help, say, ‘Mommy, will you please help me?’”

By golly, it works! (Some of the time.) Now, when she says “I can’t,” I give her my “Oh, really?” look and she’ll correct herself, saying, “I can try.” She knows that “I can try” means she has to actually try. Quite often, she succeeds on her own or with just a little help. Parenting win!

Sometimes, though, “I can’t” really means “I don’t want to.” This is a harder nut to crack. I’ve noticed this is as true for adults as it is for toddlers. But adults are savvier. To avoid saying, “I can’t” or “I don’t want to,” they invent reasons why they don’t need to learn new skills, new technology, or new information. They attack the thing itself, as in, “We all got along just fine before smartphones and they don’t work as well as regular phones.” Some go further yet, disparaging users of new tools as lazy or stupid. “In my day, we didn’t need GPS because we knew how to read maps.” It’s a bit like if my toddler threw down her sock and said, “Socks are silly, and people who wear them are, too.”

naya strider

My daughter had her balance bike for a year before she finally said, “I can try” and ventured to ride it.

I’m not arguing that we all must learn every new thing that comes along. But I believe we should recognize and admit whether we can’t or don’t want to learn something, and not disparage the thing or those who do learn it. Figure out, for example, if you find social media frustrating because you struggle to learn it (can’t), or because you simply would rather not deal with it (don’t want to). If you realize you can’t, you recognize your limitations. If you acknowledge you don’t want to, you choose to limit yourself. Either is okay. Just don’t try and disguise those limitations by expressing disdain towards the thing or the people who use it.

Besides, whether you can’t or don’t want to do, there’s no harm in saying “I can try,” and “Can you help me, please?” You might surprise yourself.


This post also appeared as the “Stray Kernels” column in the June 2016 issue of DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s Connections magazine.

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Edamame glee croppedAfter 16 years of marriage, two-thirds of which we spent in pursuit of parenthood in one way or another, my husband and I adopted a beautiful baby girl. During the time we were trying and waiting, we had innumerable conversations about how we were going to parent our someday child.

One thing we agreed on during those pre-baby parenting conversations was that we weren’t going to be crazy overprotective. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was the “mama bear” instinct that would kick in when we actually had our child. Nothing I’ve ever felt compares to the feeling of sweet, ferocious love that engulfs me when I hold my daughter close. I want to protect her. I want to do everything in my power to make sure she has a safe, bright, and healthy future.

I worry about her exposure to the diesel fumes, paint fumes, and household chemicals. I get nervous when she is anywhere near cords or ribbons longer than 5 inches. Now that she’s eating solids, I compulsively cut up or smoosh any food she could possibly choke on. I stress over whether her meals are nutritionally-balanced.

What DON’T I worry about in regards to her health?

GMOs. Not even for a second.

I know, I know—a lot of people DO worry about them. Heck, there’s a whole segment of the book, movie, media, and food industries focused on instilling fears over genetically modified organisms. I’m not biting, and here’s why.

I trust science. Good, peer-reviewed, thoughtful, thorough science. Not the debunked “research” which concluded rats developed tumors from eating GMOs. Not the Facebook memes that supposedly show that squirrels choose non-GMO corn over the modified kind. (Seriously?) I trust groups and agencies such as the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association, who confirm the safety of genetically modified foods. I trust my friend Tom who plays French horn two chairs away from me in band and who also happens to be a plant molecular biologist.

I trust agriculture. Modern, technologically-advanced, careful, sustainable agriculture. Not the foodies who would have us believe “big ag” is actively trying to kill us. Not the e-mail from a friend which warned, “these products are virtually poisonous and can negatively affect DNA.” Not even the TV celebrity doctor who claims there is a global conspiracy to hide the truth about GMOs. I trust the dozens of farmers I know personally who grow genetically modified crops.

So, tonight for supper we are having chicken (likely fed with GMO corn and soybeans), sweet corn (probably GMO), baby lima beans, and crescent rolls. For the baby, I’ll cut the chicken into really small pieces and make sure it and the sweet corn aren’t too hot before I give it to her. I’ll give her one or two cut-up lima beans; so far she hates them. I’ll tear part of a crescent roll into tiny pieces. We’ll probably try her on a bit of whole milk (from cows fed GMO grain) in a sippy cup. And I won’t question for a moment whether the food I’m giving her is safe.

After all, scientists and farmers care about their children, too.

This post appeared as the “Stray Kernels” column in the March 2014 issue of DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s Connections magazine.


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Almost two months ago, my whole world changed. I became a mommy! On a mid-March Monday my husband and I weren’t parents, and on the very next morning—after a phone call from our adoption counselor—we were.

I think of it as my six-year paper pregnancy.

So I took some leave time from work to stay home and get to know my baby girl, and to come to grips with motherhood. Aside from checking my work e-mail now and then, I stopped thinking about agricultural literacy for a while.

I didn’t stop thinking about agriculture, however. In fact, I began appreciating it in ways I never had before. Two agricultural products in particular now play a huge and welcome part in my life.

The first of these is cotton. I always loved my cotton jeans and sweatshirts, of course. Now I have a new realm of cotton baby products to appreciate. Here are some observations about my favorites:

  • Cotton sleepers – They are soft, warm, dyed in cute colors, and adorably decorated with critters like monkeys, bunnies, or giraffes. They cover my baby from neck to toes without riding up, bunching or falling off. They come with snaps or zippers. (I prefer the zippers. Ever tried to fasten 12-15 snaps on an energetically kicking baby? Not. Fun.)
  • Cotton burp cloths and bibs – Like the sleepers, these are also soft, also adorable, and most importantly, very absorbent. I thought people were giving us way too many as gifts until I realized the baby will pretty much nuke one of each with leaked formula or spit-up during every feeding. For the first several weeks of her life with us, she ate about 8 times during every 24-hour period. You can do the math. Oh, and now she’s starting to drool, so I leave a bib on her all day.
  • Cotton swaddle blankets – Those things are the BEST! If the baby lets us know she is overtired by crying while flailing her legs and arms, swaddling her is the surest way to regain peace and cooing. The best swaddle blankets are lightweight muslin, resembling good dish towels only a lot larger and with more attractive prints. For bedtime use, cotton swaddle sleepers with Velcro are also wonderful.
Ag Literacy Facts about Cotton:  ♥ Texas is the leading cotton-producing state.  ♥ One bale of cotton weighs 480 pounds and can be made into 215 pairs of jeans.

Ag Literacy Facts about Cotton:
♥ Texas is the leading cotton-producing state.
♥ One bale of cotton weighs 480 pounds and can be made into 215 pairs of jeans.

My other new-favorite products from agriculture are superabsorbent polymers. Actually, sometimes these amazing substances are plant-based and sometimes they are synthetic. Either way, the superabsorbent polymer industry was born with the invention of “Super Slurper,” originally developed using corn starch. Why is this stuff so important to me now? In a word: diapers. Never before have I fully appreciated the ability of a product to reliably absorb and hold a lot of stinky liquid!

Ag Literacy Facts about Superabsorbent Polymers: ♥ The first superabsorbent polymer was developed by scientist at a USDA research lab in Peoria, Illinois. ♥ Superabsorbent polymers can be found in fuel filters, potting soil, communication cables, hot/cold packs, and diapers.

Ag Literacy Facts about Superabsorbent Polymers:
♥ The first superabsorbent polymer was developed by scientist at a USDA research lab in Peoria, Illinois.
♥ Superabsorbent polymers can be found in fuel filters, potting soil, communication cables, hot/cold packs, and of course, diapers.

As so many people told me it would, my life has changed forever. One thing that has stayed the same, however, is my constant reliance on agriculture.

How do products from agriculture enhance YOUR quality of life?

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