My group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club, has a weekly Meal Planning Monday thread, and most people focus on dinners for the week. Totally valid, since decision fatigue kicks in and that's the meal that takes the most planning and coordination.
But for most of us with limited child-care options and closed schools for the last few months, and summer kicking off, snacks become the bane of our existence. Or you AND your kids are bored of the usual suspects.
If you missed it, I last posted 17 ideas for breakfast, and then 17 ideas for dinner, and now here are some ideas for snacks! Use them as a jumping off point, and substitute as needed. This is a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.
We definitely have bags of snacky foods around, too, but I try to get less processed items into them as well.
None of them are earth-shaking, but if you're stuck in a rut, just one or two new ideas can help mix things up enough. I've linked a few recipes, but there's no right or wrong variation of these. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful! (more…)
Our weekly Meal Planning Monday post in my group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club, has been a little slow lately. People said they're struggling to focus and plan ahead with so much uncertainty in the world.
I get it. We have definitely had more "scrounge in the fridge for whatever people will eat" nights than ever before. If you're in the same boat and just need a little nudge to get back on track, I made this list in the hope that you'll find some inspiration.
If you missed it, I last posted 17 ideas for breakfast. Here are 17 ideas for dinner, and next I'll post some snacks! Use them as a jumping off point, and substitute as needed. I have a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.
I've linked a few recipes, but there's no right or wrong variation of these. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful! (more…)
Every week in my group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama™ Club, we have a Meal Planning Monday post to share weekly menus, recipes, and other food inspiration.
Lately there hasn't been much engagement, so I asked why. Everyone said they're just too overwhelmed to even think about meal planning, grocery shopping is stressful, and it just feels like too much. But the whole point of meal planning is to AVOID feeling overwhelmed, because when you have to make decisions about what to eat (and feed your kids) multiple times per day, it's draining.
So I came up with 17 ideas for breakfast, snacks, and dinners to share with you for inspiration. Use them as a jumping off point, substitute as needed. I have a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.
Hopefully this will save a few of your brain cells so you can use them for navigating sibling squabbles, or remembering what day it is. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful!
17 Easy Kid-Friendly Ideas for Breakfast
Make ahead! Easily made gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan. Already egg-free and vegetarian.
Most basic: Combine 1/2 cup oats, and 1/2 cup milk (or alternative) in a container and refrigerate overnight. That's it.
I use gluten-free oats and almond milk, add cinnamon, shredded coconut, and raisins.
Get fancy with chopped nuts, diced fruit, chia seeds, nut butter, or even cocoa powder.
Scrambled eggs and toast
Use gluten-free bread if needed.
Or eggs over easy. Whatever!
Can't have eggs or want to make it vegan? Use scrambled tofu.
Many gluten-free/vegan options available.
Lazy but effective!
Make ahead! Gluten-free, dairy-free unless you choose otherwise, vegan.
Similar to overnight oats, chia pudding is an easy make-ahead option that's slightly more hippie-dippy. The base is just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, 3/4 cup of almond milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Combine well and let stand for at least 15 minutes, but overnight is easier.
Gluten-free, easily made dairy-free and vegan.
Smoothies aren't new, but have you made smoothie PACKS? Prepping smoothies ahead of time can be a game changer. Pack all your ingredients in a zip-top bag and toss it in the freezer. Bonus points for multiple bags. Then just grab one, dump the contents in the blender, add your choice of liquid, and you're set!
My favorite green smoothie is frozen mango, a peeled orange, a peeled lemon, 3 giant handfuls of leafy greens, almond or coconut milk, and I throw in a scoop of collagen (not vegan) and half an avocado if I have it.
My kids will only drink "pink" smoothies, so they like frozen cherries, strawberries, and mango in theirs.
Use non-dairy yogurt if needed, and not all granola is gluten-free.
Yogurt is an easy source of fat and protein, and adding granola and fresh fruit make it more filling, and more fancy! Serve in fancy bowls or jars if you need a little boost.
Bagels with cream cheese
We get gluten-free bagels and vegan cream cheese for one kiddo. We have not had luck finding GF vegan bagels ourselves (most contain eggs), but they do exist.
My oldest who needs a lot of sensory input does well with a chewy whole grain bagel in the morning, plus the fat in the cream cheese.
Lots of options depending on the bread.
My oldest has recently discovered the wonders of avocado toast and loves it. I like that he will eat whole grain bread with healthy fats. Use gluten-free bread if needed. I love mine with salt and pepper, and a poached egg.
Some people like sprinkling theirs with chili powder and lime juice, or Everything But the Bagel seasoning. Make sure you add a dusting of salt to kick up the flavor.
Sweet potato hash
So many options. Gluten-free, easily vegan or vegetarian.
This is my current go-to breakfast since I can't eat eggs (the baby reacts to eggs, and she loves this, too). The way I make it is a little fussy, so adjust, or prep the night before.
I sauté 1/4 of a small onion and a handful of sliced mushrooms in an oiled cast iron skillet while I peel and dice a medium-large sweet potato. Smaller pieces cook faster. Add the sweet potato and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the sweet potato is starting to soften, I add diced chicken-apple sausage (omit if desired, or sub diced tofu, beans, or top with eggs at the end), broccoli florets or a pile of leafy greens, and a minced clove of garlic. I cover the pan to steam the sweet potatoes a bit. It's done when the sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
I top mine with a small scoop of vegan kale-cashew pesto, and a dollop of garlic spread, both from Trader Joe's. Salsa or hot sauce are also delicious toppings.
Bacon and hashbrowns
Check that your bacon is gluten-free if needed. Tempeh is a good vegan option!
This is my kids' current favorite. We get frozen potatoes and toss everything in the oven.
Trader Joe's has frozen gluten-free vegan waffles which my kids eat with jam. Or make a big batch and freeze your own. If you're one of the many people with a new sourdough starter, sourdough waffles are awesome.
We've used the paleo Birch Benders mix from Costco (though now I can't have it because it contains eggs), or it's easy to make your own. It's time consuming, so this is another one to make a double batch of, then reheat the next day (or freeze and toast).
Oatmeal with nuts and/or fruit
We get gluten-free oats, and my kids love adding cinnamon, raisins, and almond milk. One likes peanut butter an chia seeds; the other does not.
You can make chewier steel cut oats in the Instant Pot, or using this cheater stovetop method. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 cup of steel cut oats to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, cover, and turn off heat. Let stand overnight. In the morning, turn the burner on low to reheat, and serve warm.
Make ahead! The egg version is gluten-free and dairy-free. Vegetarian optional.
It's like muffins, but with eggs. They're basically mini quiches and you can customize the fillings for various preferences.
Is it inherently a little crunchy to have a birth plan at all? You don't need need one, but many parents-to-be find the process of creating a plan incredibly helpful to discuss options and preferences for labor and delivery of their baby.
Some general birth plan tips:
Keep it to one page. It's more likely to be read.
Take it to your prenatal appointment so your desires can be put on file in case your practitioner cannot attend your birth.
In my years of teaching classes on introducing solids with baby-led weaning I always go around the room and ask everyone to introduce themselves and to share what their biggest concern they’re hoping to learn about. Number one worry, far and away, is a fear of choking.
It just seems scary to give a tiny baby actual pieces of food, doesn’t it? Possibly even dangerous! So why choose baby-led weaning to start if they could choke?
As I cover in my class, there are a few parts to this concern.
First is the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a natural reflex that actually prevents choking because babies are designed to survive even first-time parents. Choking is the obstruction of the airway by (in this case) a piece of food. Gagging is scary, but not dangerous; choking is to be avoided if possible.
If you haven’t taken an infant CPR class, you may feel better taking one now. You can also do a little YouTube self-study which is better than nothing. I cover this more in my introducing solids course, but choking is silent while gagging is not. My mantra is, “If they’re coughing, they’re breathing.”
Is There an Increased Risk of Choking with Baby-Led Weaning?
A 2016 study in New Zealand followed over 200 babies as they started solids and found that 35% of the babies in the whole study had a choking incident during the period they observed. The percentage was across groups who started with purees or finger foods, because the issue was that a high percentage of the babies were offered foods that were choking hazards.
The best ways to prevent choking during baby-led weaning are:
wait until baby is physically ready to start solids, and
offer foods that are developmentally appropriate for your child
Babies can’t read calendars, so it’s important to watch their motor development to ensure they’re able to eat food and maintain their posture to prevent choking during baby-led weaning.
As I mentioned, not feeding your baby choking hazards significantly reduces the risks! In the study I mentioned above, over a third of the choking incidents reported were due to raw apples. Learn from those parents’ mistakes!
For more in-depth information, my Introducing Solids class covers the when, why, and how of starting foods with your baby, including breastfeeding and allergens.
Hundreds of parents have felt more confident and informed while approaching solid foods with their babies. You can, too!
Children are keen observers of the world and can start forming biases as early as preschool. It's not enough to mention Rosa Parks a few times on the road to raising anti-racist kids. Books are the simplest way to expose kids everywhere to stories of people who are different from themselves.
Reading books with diverse characters can offer representation of marginalized groups, context, and a starting point for additional discussions about the world.
Here is a list of award-winning titles from 2019 for kids of all ages to explore and enjoy.
This Newberry Award Winning book for 2019 details the challenges of Merci Suarez, a young girl, as she navigates some big changes in her life as her family relocates from their comfortable home to a new and different community. This tale offers emphasis on connection, community and instills a sense of what really matters in terms of friendship.
This artful exploration of the origin of the solar system offers a poetic blend of science and art, and brings a sense of wonder and awe to kid of all ages. This 2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner offers a seamless exploration of our universal origin, bringing with it an understanding of how we are all connected.
This title won the 2019 Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience in the "young children" category, and for good reason. Rescue and Jessica are a girl and her service dog, and both unexpectedly find themselves in roles that they hadn't anticipated. As Jessica needs her dog, Rescue, to help her with every day tasks, he finds he truly is able to help her, and those around her to really see.
The story of a grandson and grandfather struggling to communicate across divides of language, age, and culture touches on a common experience for many families. Beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Dan Santat (my kids looooove his books), this story of connection through art and storytelling earned an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Picture Book category.
This Schneider Family Honor Award winner for 2019 offers a gentle insight into the world of changes that come with Alzheimers' diagnosis. The story revolves around the main character, James, and his grandfather's balloons, which are treasured family memories. Each one signifies an important event, and it becomes up to James to hold and share each one.
For older readers, this mesmerizing mystery is one of friendship and community, a realistic account of events surrounding the disappearance of a teenage girl, and the efforts to find her. This young adult book offers insight into truth, justice, and the experience of children and teens of color. The book won a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for Tiffany D. Jackson.
What are your favorite new kids books that engage children on topics of diversity and inclusion? This list was inspired by the American Library Association.
If you purchase from one of these links provided, I receive a small commission to help me feed my tiny hobbits--at no additional cost to you. Your support is very much appreciated.
And really, who couldn't with that lovelypostpartum hormone-induced stank? Yikes. No one warned me about A) night sweats and B) how strongly my underarms would smell.
I've found that deodorant is one of the first personal care items that people want to start switching out for natural options, and it's literally one of the most common questions in my Facebook group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama Club.
Lucky for all of us (and those who sit nearby), I’ve collected some of the most popular recommendations for deodorants that are free of aluminum, parabens and other ingredients you want to avoid. Check out the links below for 5 great options that actually work.
Just scroll toward the bottom for two recipes to make your own deodorant from simple ingredients. There are also a few bonus tips to detox and cleanse those mama pits. Your baby will still be able to find you, I promise!
Looking for a place to have semi-crunchy conversations, ask questions about parenting, motherhood, raising healthy (and semi-crunchy) kids? Join the club.
Primal Pit Paste was the most popular suggestion, especially the lavender roll-on. It works well for most body types. Most of these listed have similar ingredients, so it's mostly about finding the right option for your body.
What semi-crunchy fans are saying:
"Motherhood has definitely made my pits super stinky. I use Primal Pit Paste stick. And that works fine... until it doesn’t. I’ll occasionally put some ACV on a cotton ball and wipe pits before a shower. That’ll usually do the trick.” (See more tips at the bottom of this list!)
"The Primal Pit Paste in a roller is AMAZING! I've tried so many natural deodorants and I've always gotten stinky, but even here in swamp ass North Carolina I smell wonderful...well, my armpits do.”
Another club favorite! The great thing about Schmidt’s is that it comes in a wide variety of unique scent formulations that aren’t overwhelming and fade quickly. Schmidt’s does offer an additional sensitive option that is fragrance- and baking soda-free. The charcoal-magnesium was a popular choice.
What semi-crunchy fans say:
“I’ve tried a bunch of natural deodorants over the past 4 years or so. My favorite was Primal Pit Paste, but it stains my clothes, so I switched to Schmidt’s recently. I think it works better than PPP and have been using it for about 6 months. I started getting rashy in my pits though so switched to their “sensitive” version which doesn’t have baking soda and the rash is gone. So, long story short, my favorite now is Schmidt’s tea tree sensitive.”
“I have a different Schmidt’s but I love it! Works really well, doesn’t feel sticky, keeps me dry 90% of the time! I keep backup 'real' chemically deodorant in my work bag and have only used it twice. And it was just the feeling of being a little sweaty that I hated, I didn’t smell.”
Piper Wai has a strong following as well. The smaller 2 oz. size comes in a jar, or the sticks come in a 2-pack if that's your preference. Some people had great results; others not so much. Just use a tiny amount because while the activated charcoal absorbs odor, it can stain clothes if you apply too much.
What semi-crunchy fans are saying:
"I've tried everything you can buy in stores, but I'm not a fan of any of them. My fave I've found is sold online - Piper Wai."
"With Piper Wai, there’s not really a transition time. It smells really good and you could always reapply if needed through day."
Native includes a probiotic in the mix to combat the bacteria that causes odor in the first place. Like several others, it does contain baking soda, so make sure you don't react first.
What semi-crunchy fans say:
"I tried Schmidt's but it didn't work for me. I switched to Native and it's great.
"It works well enough for both me and my husband."
"Native is the first I've ever used that actually works for me... Highly recommend it!"
Additional Tips and Suggestions
Antiperspirant is generally aluminum-based, so these are all deodorant-only. It can be weird getting used to actually sweating again, but it's not the sweat that smells, it's the bacteria.
Some people find it helpful to do a little armpit detox (things you never thought you'd say). The easiest one is mixing a little apple cider vinegar (ACV) with some bentonite clay, applying to your pits like a mask for 10-20 minutes, then washing off.
You can also increase the effectiveness of your deodorant by swiping your pits with a little ACV, witch hazel, or rubbing alcohol, then letting them dry before applying.
If you get a rash, it's probably the baking soda, or possibly a reaction to that scent. If so, contact the company to see if they'll let you exchange it for another scent/formula! Or try one of the homemade options below.
Still stinky? A friend once suggested taking chlorella internally to combat odor, and I scoffed. Then I looked it up, started taking it for low iron, and it totally works. I linked a spirulina/chlorella combo I use, but I've heard the liquid works great.
I swallow the tablets with water, or throw a few in the blender with my smoothies. My kids eat them like candy for the "swamp mouth" effect.
Basic DIY Deodorant
3 TB coconut oil
¼ cup baking soda
1/3 cup arrowroot powder
Melt coconut oil. Add essential oils to coconut oil if desired.
Combine arrowroot & baking soda. Mix in oils thoroughly.
Store in a clean, dry container.
You may need to adjust the amounts slightly to compensate for the humidity in your area – if it’s dry/crumbly, add drops of coconut oil until desired consistency is reached. If it’s too wet, add equal parts of baking soda and arrowroot by the teaspoon until it’s solid and a little springy.
Sensitive Skin Recipe
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon shea butter
1 tablespoon beeswax
3-10 drops desired essential oils
¼ cup arrowroot powder
¼ cup cornstarch
Melt coconut oil, shea butter & beeswax in a double boiler on stove. You can also use a glass bowl on top of a pan with water in it. Stir in essential oils.
Combine cornstarch and arrowroot powder. Mix until well combined and store in clean dry containers.
You may need to adjust the amounts slightly to compensate for the humidity in your area – if it’s dry/crumbly, add coconut oil drop wise until desired consistency. If it’s too wet, add arrowroot by the teaspoon until it’s solid and a little springy.
Essential Oil Blend Inspiration:
Need some ideas for great scent combinations? Here you go!
3-5 drops tea tree, 3-5 drops lavender
3-5 drops sage, 2 drops rosemary, 3-5 drops lemon
3-5 drops lemon, 3-5 drops geranium
3-5 drops orange, 3-5 drops frankincense
Essential oils are potent. If you're sensitive to scents, 2-3 drops total would be plenty. For these recipes, no more than 8-10 drops is best practice.
How did your parents prepare you for your first period?
Did they prepare you at all?
My memories aren't very clear, but I remember reading about it beforehand, and I had an older sister go through it first. When I started my period at school when I was 11, she was there to support me through it, help me find a pad, and make sure I was OK.
Many of my clients and community members have a few years to think about this, but the years are short, aren't they? This came up in my Facebook group a few months ago. Here is Danielle's post, shared with her and Zoey's permission:
Zoey is 10, and hasn't gotten her period yet but is very excited about the possibility. I put together these period packs for her to put in her backpack and to keep in the car so wherever she is when it starts, she'll be prepared. I wish someone had cared enough to do something like this for me when I was a preteen. I got my period at 11 and had to save up my lunch money to buy pads. I used socks and washcloths when I couldn't afford it and was never given proper education on my options. Zoey carefully picked the period panties she wanted, decided on organic cotton pads after looking at cups and tampons as well, and they came with these cute little wipe packs that smell wonderful. I'm so happy I can give her a different introduction to menstruation than I had. This is so healing for me. Now I want my own unicorn period packs. 😂❤️"
Did someone say unicorns???
I ran into Zoey at school a few days later and asked if she would show me one of her pouches, and if I could take a picture of her to share with this post. How sweet is this?
How to make a period pouch
If you haven't, tell your child about menstruation so they know what to expect. (Tell your sons, too, so they understand what their siblings/peers experience!) There's nothing gross or shameful about how bodies work.
Discuss various options such as disposable or cloth pads, period panties, tampons, and menstrual cups. Just because they're not comfortable with some options now doesn't mean they won't be later.
Go shopping or order them items for the bag. Choose or make pouches.
Keep a pouch in the car, in their school bag, or wherever they may need one.
In the comments, Danielle shared links to the items that her daughter chose.
I’m a research nerd. When I was expecting my oldest, I read a ton about pregnancy and birth to help manage my expectations of that process. But pregnancy is a much shorter time period than parenthood, and most of us spend more time preparing for the hours of birth than the years after it.
I try to share helpful (or funny) resources on the Semi-Crunchy Mama Facebook page, but I have managed to read a few books in the last few years that stand out as having influenced my parenting in a big way.
Don’t have time to read? My secret is to download the Kindle app for your phone. I make the background black so it’s not as bright, and I read while I put my kids to bed or am up nursing at night. There are tons of ebooks available from the library, too! Another option is audiobooks if you have a commute, or you can listen while doing chores.
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
This is a great book to read even before your kids are born. (You also have more time to read when you don't have children yet.)
This book is more overall philosophy than practical application, but it offers a big picture view of what kind of parent you might want to be (and why) backed up by studies and research. Most parenting books tend to be based on social and cultural norms, but Alfie Kohn goes beyond that and talks about the kind of society and culture we could have if we parented in a way that was best for our kids, not that was best for the views of other adults.
It's an incredibly eye-opening book, since most of us base our approach on what our parents did, but don't always examine if that's the best approach or just the familiar one.
The downside is that it can make you think about what your childhood might have looked like if your parents had read this book, and you may be disappointed. The book made me rethink my views of praise, school, and discipline. When I'm feeling frustrated or disconnected from my kids, revisiting the principles found in this book help me remember what kind of parent I want to be so I focus more on our relationship than on my kids’ behavior.
I originally discovered Dr. Markham through her website, ahaparenting.com, and was lucky to hear her speak locally here in San Diego when my oldest was about a year old. I appreciate her approach, which is grounded in attachment theory, and provides a roadmap for “authoritative parenting” -- the happy middle ground between controlling authoritarian and unsupportive permissive styles.
She offers specific phrases and concrete examples that I can use in my actual life. I can't promise that my kids actually react like the dialogues in the book, but I have found it very useful, and her focus on empathy is incredibly important and valuable. Luckily, before I had my second baby, her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings was released as well. (I'll do a separate post on sibling resources another time.)
Much of her advice can be found on her blog and newsletters, but having the book as a resource I can revisit has definitely paid off.
Pro-tip: sometimes the Kindle version goes on sale for just a few dollars. It’s still worth it at full price!
Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen
I recommend this book so often that I ended up writing a blog post about it because I couldn't find a good summary to send to clients and friends. Cohen is a play therapist, and also a father, so he draws from both his personal and professional experiences.
My oldest was a toddler when I read it, but the activities apply until at least the tween years. He explains various approaches to enter the world of our children to meet them where they are, and how to use play to connect to our kids and give them an outlet for their emotions and struggles.
Being playful and silly does not come naturally to me, but having specific ideas gives me a starting point and ideas to at least get started. When I get it right, it’s like magic!
There are many activities and games described in the book, or he has an entire separate book called The Art of Roughhousing which has diagrams. He also wrote The Opposite of Worry (I’m halfway through) which discusses playful approaches specifically for kids with anxiety.
Two other books I’ve heard are great:
The Whole Brain Childby Dan Siegel I've started, but not finished. It explains normal brain development and what that means for managing expectations of behavior in young kids.
The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary comes highly recommended and sounds interesting as it explores the "parent-child journey" as we learn alongside our kids.
Have you read any of these? What are your favorites?
* I do use affiliate links for books, so if you purchase through me, I make a few cents for the referral. It goes toward feeding my kiddos who eat 9 zillion times a day, so I appreciate it.