I'm not really a crunchy mom.
I think that I wanted to be, back when I was pregnant, during those three weeks in the middle of my second trimester when I felt great. I could cloth diaper! I could only use organic! I could do prenatal yoga! I bought a Moby Wrap and an attachment parenting book and was ready to go.
Then, halfway through the prenatal yoga DVD, when I found myself cursing at the "pregnant" woman bending over backward and coaching me into positions my too-short hamstrings had no hope of ever reaching, I gave up. I compromised by stowing a reusable shopping tote in my diaper bag and moved on.
Sometime in the beginning of the year, I bought Pamela Druckerman's book, "Bringing up Bebe". Ms. Druckerman got her much deserved 15 minutes of fame when her book hit the shelves and the news media made a big deal about American versus French parenting. I read the whole book front to back in about two days (some of that time while breastfeeding my kiddo - an attachment parenting no no, since I should be spending the 10.28 hours a day he's attached to my boob staring lovingly into his eyes and cultivating our special bond, not playing the occasional game of Angry Birds). I loved the idea of giving kids a strict framework of boundaries while still allowing them the freedom to explore and discover the world around them, and the balance the French have between enjoying themselves as adults and still being attentive parents. However, the reality is that I don't live in urban Paris, I live in suburban Philadephia, where subsidized daycare is a figment of my oxytocin riddled imagination.
A few weeks ago, I discovered Mei-Ling Hopgood's book "How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm". In it, she sheds some light on parenting practices around the world, from baby wearing to potty training to bedtimes. After each chapter, I would point my finger in the air and make silly statements like "I can potty train my son by 12 months!" and "Bedtimes are for overly strict, uptight American tyrants!" Of course, I could definitely follow those things - if I lived in rural China, where peeing in the middle of the road is acceptable for toddlers or in laid back, less schedule-dominating Buenos Aires where family dinners start at 9 and last until midnight. However, I live in New Jersey, where kids have to wear pants and my job starts at 7 am, not 10.
During all this soul-searching, I came to realize that by taking little pieces of all this parenting wisdom, I had created my own parenting style. Diana-parenting. I love wearing the kiddo in the baby sling when we go to sporting events or the aquarium, but I don't feel bad about putting him in the stroller for our daily 2 mile walk with Layla. So far, I've made homemade baby food (just by pureeing fruits and veggies), but I have nothing against the Gerber generation - it's just something I enjoy doing. I breastfeed on demand most of the time, except for when I go to work, when he gets the occasional bottle of Similac (and, funny enough, has survived with his happiness intact). I don't have the time or the patience for cloth diapers, but I do love The Honest Company's eco-friendly disposables. Sometimes he's asleep in his crib by 8, but sometimes not until 10, and when he wakes up in the middle of the night, I don't mind bringing him into bed with us so we can all get some sleep. Because, you know what? This is what works for my family, for my kiddo. I try to educate myself as much as possible about babies and children and what they need, from all perspectives, foreign and domestic. From all of that, I take the advice and practices that make sense to me and work for my family, and I walk away from the others, without guilt or apology or judgment. After all, who has the energy for negative feelings, when you're trying to cram as much happiness as possible into this short time we have with our babies?
What parenting decisions have you made that you're the most proud of?
(Here's my cheesy segue of the day.) We have to take the basics and change the flavors to suit our lives. That's what I did with these whoopie pies. Traditional whoopie pies (or gobs, as we called them when I was a kid) are chocolate cake with marshmallow creme filling. I took the typical recipe and switched it up for summertime: strawberry lemonade! These are lemon flavored cakes with strawberry buttercream filling. If you like these whoopie pies, or feel like making some whoopie of your own, check out this book, Whoopie Pies, by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell. Happy almost-summer!! :-)
Strawberry Lemonade Whoopie Pies
(from Whoopie Pies)
For the lemon cakes:
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons shortening (I used butter flavored Crisco)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the strawberry filling:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries (found mine at Wegman's)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons Marshmallow Fluff
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons milk
Time and temperature: 375 for 12 minutes
Preheat your oven and line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugars until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the buttermilk, beating well between additions. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat until well combined, about 2 more minutes. Add the flour mixture in halves, mixing on low until just incorporated. After adding the second half, increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Space 1 rounded tablespoon of batter 2 inches apart on the baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, until browned on the edges and the centers spring back when touched. Cool on the sheets for 3-5 minutes and transfer to wire racks to finish cooling. Match each cake with a partner of the same size and shape.
For the filling, pulse together the strawberries (I got mine at Wegman's, you can find them in the organic section of your grocery store) and sugar until the berries are crushed. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the strawberry sugar, butter, vanilla, Fluff, flour and milk until light, smooth and creamy, approximately 4-5 minutes. Pipe or spoon filling onto the bottom of one cake, then top with the partner cake. Store in the fridge, tightly sealed, or the buttercream will melt and you'll be sad.