The Danger of the "Too Helpful" Neighbor

As a child of the 90's, I grew up swinging from trees, chasing ice-cream trucks down the street, and doing things that makes the mom in me now cringe. The television in our house was rarely turned on, and not even the Nintendo could keep my sister and I occupied for more than an hour. In those days, there was universal understanding that children were suppose to be outdoors playing in the mud, building forts and doing kid things. It was expected. 

There was also a level of expectation within our community that if a parent saw a child playing at the park unsupervised, they would keep an eye out for them. It was no big deal, it was more of an unspoken rule. In 2015, however, the rules of protocol no longer apply. Now parents no longer keep and eye out for each other's children. That sense of community has been replaced with stories like Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, who temporarily lost custody of their two children after they were found at a park--unsupervised.

If you're unaware of the story, let me break it down for you: last November, the Meitiv's were contacted by their local child welfare services after they received a tip from a “helpful neighbor” that their children were playing at the park unsupervised. The Meitiv's, who are proponents of free-range parenting, are raising their children to explore their independence, this includes sometimes allowing them to play at the park alone. Their children are 10 and six years old.

As a self-proclaimed Mommy-copter, free-range parenting is not exactly my cup of tea. I hover unabashedly over Little J. In my mind, she is a miniature genius, just waiting for me to turn my back so she can jam a fork into an electrical socket, or attempt to test the theory of gravity on the jungle gym. So, I watch her like a hawk. I'm well aware that my behavior will most likely end with Little J requiring years of expensive therapy sessions. Some of my friends and family have told me as much. But that's okay. Because I've discovered an interesting fact about parenting-- we each parent in different ways, and just because someone decides to raise their child differently than I choose to raise mine, does not make them a bad parent-- it makes them human. Three years of parenting has taught me that this is not a shared sentiment.

And that's why I can't help wondering if perhaps the "helpful" neighbor who reported the Meitiv's to the authorities, did so with the best of intentions. Were they truly concerned for the well-being of the children? Or were they gleefully recording the incident on their cell phone and sending it to their friends as evidence of their superior parenting skills. When did we transition from a society that celebrated individuality and choice to one that feels that any beliefs contrary to our own are not worthy of being considered? When did we become so judgmental in our parenting styles?

Last year, a friend of mine posted a story on Facebook about a friend who had gone out to eat and was confronted with a child who was behaving badly.  According to this friend, she and her mother were eating out in a restaurant when said child began crying and acting out. Then he began loudly playing with his toys, being disruptive, and basically being a kid, all while the mom allegedly ignored her child and engaged in conversation with her dinning companion. At which point, this friend claims she took it upon herself to approach the table and loudly inform the mother that she must be ashamed of how her child was behaving. This friend claims that the mother gathered up her belongings and left the restaurant--ducking her head in shame as she fled.

Clearly I have doubts that the events of this story unfolded in this way, but had it, I have to wonder, did the person intervene because they were truly upset that someone interrupted their meal, or did they intervene because they needed to publicly shame a mother for what they perceived to be incompetent parenting?

It it my deepest belief that parenting is like walking a tightrope while carrying a 50 lb rucksack. On one side you have people who are singing your praises because you're raising  your child the "right way.  And on the other side you have people who believe you are clearly the worlds worst parent, because you are "doing it wrong." Both sides are staunchly divided and never shall the twain meet. Meanwhile, you're dangling alone, hundreds of feet in the air, being crushed with your own doubts and insecurities.

At the end of the day, I can't say that what the Meitiv's did was wrong. The law persists that it is, and maybe it's not what I would have done, but as parents, we have to choose what we believe is best for our children. And as a society, we have to be willing let each other. Maybe instead of immediately jumping to call the authorities we can try to understand and watch out for each other. Maybe then we can put the community back into parenting.

Beef and Mushroom Grilled Cheese

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day.  This was my first year celebrating the occasion. Mostly my desire to participate in the cheese-filled day was born out of the lack of food in the pantry. As a result, I was forced to get a bit creative with dinner tonight-- enter my Beef and Mushroom Grilled Cheese.

This is not your typical grilled cheese. This sandwich is packed with beef, onions, two cheeses, tomatoes and topped with your favorite spicy mustard. It's just hearty enough to fill you up without overwhelming you.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp of butter
1 tsp of minced garlic
2 slices of beef lunch meat (sliced thick)
3 slices of white american cheese
1 small handful of mozzarella cheese
about 1/4 of a red onion
5-10 mushroom slices
Bread of your choosing
Optional: spicy mustard

Pour 1 tsp of olive oil in pan and heat on medium. Add mushroom slices and allow to cook until softened. Add garlic and onions. Allow onions to cook until softened. Remove mushrooms and onions from heat and set aside. In another pan add 1/2 tsp of butter and turn heat on medium.

Layer your bread with two slices of american cheese at the bottom. Sprinkle layer of mozzarella cheese over the american cheese. Add beef, mushrooms, onions and tomato slices. Top with final slice of american cheese. Optional: add a squirt or two of your favorite spicy mustard for an extra kick.

Place sandwich in pan and allow to cook until golden crisp on one side. Carefully flip sandwich and allow to cook until golden crisp on the other side. Plate your sandwich and serve with a smile.

Want to give this recipe a shot? Be sure to pin it for later! Stay tuned for more tasty recipes from my kitchen.

Until then,

Sweet Mint Smoothie

Today I'm sharing the final smoothie of my week-long welcome back series--A Smoothie A Day. Today's smoothie is a relatively new concoction of mine. It features a hint of sweetness with a just the right touch of earthiness. The bold flavors blend together to make one downright taste beverage.

I'm typically not a fan of chocolate smoothies, but this is the exception. It has just a tiny bit of coca power, giving it a bit of sweetness without being overpowering. One of my earliest attempts included avocado. Needless to say, I was not a fan.

Here's what you'll need:

3 tsp of coca powder
2 frozen bananas
2 handfuls of spinach
1 cup of vanilla milk
3-4 mint leaves

You'll notice that the majority of my smoothies include vanilla or almond milk. Once upon a time, I was pretty big on using regular milk in my smoothies. But then I started paying attention to the amount of sugar and calories, and set out to find a healthier alternative. It wasn't long before I stumbled upon my trusty vanilla milk.  On average, vanilla milk has 4 grams and 20 calories less than skim milk. When you compare it to whole milk, those calories and grams of sugar increase exponentially.

As with most smoothies, this recipe is pretty no fuss. Add all of your ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Add ice as needed. Pour into glass. Add garnish or toppings if desired. Serve with a smile.

I hope you all enjoyed my A Smoothie A Day series. I've got so much planned for you guys in the upcoming weeks and months, but most importantly, I'm just happy to be home.

Don't forget, there's still time to win that $50 Earth Fare gift card. Use the rafflecopter widget below to enter into this giveaway. Remember, the giveaway is only open to US residents 18 years or older. Again, thanks for following along! Come back and see me soon.

Until next time,

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Sweet Potato Souffle Smoothie

Happy Saturday friends!

Today I'm sharing another one of my favorite smoothies. If you recall, juicing is also a big part of my life. Last year I discovered that you can juice sweet potatoes. Now it's actually one of my favorite juices. It's hearty, rich and VERY filling. Last week I decided that maybe the same rules applied to making smoothies. If I could juice it, then surly I could blend it. After a few fails on my part, it's safe to say I've finally perfected this particular smoothie. Today, I'm going to be sharing one of my newest smoothies with you-- Sweet Potato Souffle, and it's just as delicious as it sounds.

Here's what you'll need for this smoothie:

1 medium sweet potato
1-2 medium frozen banana
1/4 cup of vanilla milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
A few cubs of ice
Whatever garnishes you'd like (I found that a few slices of bananas on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon completes the look and taste.)

Since this recipe requires a sweet potato, it's best that you begin to boil the sweet potato at least 45 minutes before fixing this smoothie. I tried microwaving it, but in all honestly, it tastes much better if you boil the sweet potato. Once your sweet potato is done cooking, use a food mill or blender to remove the strings. Trust me, you do not want to skip this step! Next toss your sweet potato puree in the freezer and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until it cools down.

Then add your sweet potato, bananas, milk and extract to the blender. Blend well. Add ice if needed. Top with your garnishes, sit back and enjoy.

This smoothie is one of my favorites because it's so smooth. It takes a few seconds for the blender to mix up your ingredients and you don't have to worry about unsightly and annoying pieces of fruits or veggies not blending all the way.

Like it? Feel free to tweet, pin or share on Facebook! If you haven't already, be sure to enter into the giveaway to win that $50 Earth Fare gift card. Someone has got to win it, it might as well be you!

Until next time,

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