Raising Assertive Kids

Something I’ve been worried about since the day Karissa was first born is unwittingly passing on pushover syndrome. I want her to be strong, confident, and able. How do you teach that?

So much of parenting is flying by the seat of your pants. It creeps up unexpectedly, and then suddenly you’re in a seriously significant moment. It’s easy to not even notice, but that little growing, budding child is now your audience, looking to you for guidance.

Today the girls got shots. Karissa got MMR and she was VERY unhappy about it. We tried to cheer her up and go about our routine, so we took her to a thrift store that we frequent. She was playing near a 5 or 6 year old boy.

It was friendly and nice at first, but something weird happened. The boy began playing in the halloween section and came over to her in a Nixon mask. She was freaked out–and rightfully so, Nixon is a scary looking fellow! So he found this amusing and decided to start sort of following her around in halloween masks with props…where his parents are I have no idea. Great. Some kid is terrorizing my two year old.

We didn’t even really notice until he came over with a different mask. He had upgraded from Nixon to some monster mask and she whimpered and clung to me. “I want mommy.” Poor baby.

“Is that boy bothering you?” I asked her, frowning as I pick her up. Madilyn is strapped to my other hip.


He pulls the mask up and smiles. He wasn’t even being malicious, he was just enjoying the attention.

I continued, “is he scaring you?”


And here we were in this odd situation where I had to help her. I could tell her to ignore him, or tell him to leave her alone, or any number of options. I didn’t realize all of the options or their implications at the time, of course, I just told her what made sense to me:

“Tell him no. If you don’t like it, tell him NO, GO AWAY.”

And in her sweet little voice she shyly echoed my words: “No, go away.”

“Baby, you need to say it like you mean it. Say it like mommy talks when she is trying to get you to listen.”

She smiled a little. “NO. Go away.”

“Very good. If you don’t like something then it’s okay to say how you feel. If you want to be left alone just say GO AWAY.”

She smiled a little and we were talking and he comes back over swinging a plastic scythe at her. She started to bury her head in my chest and I said, “No baby, tell him.”

She looks at him. “Go away.” He looked surprised, turned around, and left.

My girl stood up for herself. She was very pleased with herself and I told her that I was impressed. As we were walking to the car she said in her sweet little two year old voice, “Thank you mommy.”

“For what,  baby?”

“Mommy helped. Mommy taught Kissa.”

And the emotions that I felt in that moment, and that I feel now remembering that, are simply ineffable.


Cinnamon Fried Apples (gluten, grain, egg, soy, dairy free)

I started making these for my kids, but everyone loves it! We made a batch for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. It’s still sugar–it’s apples–but there is no sweetener and the fat balances the sugar out quite a bit. Fair warning, this will make your house smell like apple pie.


Cinnamon Fried Apples

Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Author Kristy


  • 3 Tbsp Coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • Dash Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 5 Apples


  1. In a large skillet, melt coconut oil over low heat. 

  2. Peel and dice your apples.

  3. Move apples to pan. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and fry over medium heat until apples are soft. 

If you are making this for a younger baby, simply blend with a small amount of liquid (water, breast milk, whatever) to an appropriate consistency. You can freeze this in little batches for later, but if using something like an ice cube tray it might help to oil it beforehand–mine were difficult to get back out. These would be fantastic with some homemade streusel crumble and homemade whipped cream on top or stuffed into fathead crust and baked into little mini apple pies!

All Things Flow

I’m growing restless and feeling tired again. Both of the girls are going through serious clingy phases and it’s got me feeling beat. But hey, Karissa’s birthday is tomorrow! She will be two–that’s insane! She’s so big and so loving and sweet, and such a brat. She’s speaking in sentences and knows the alphabet, colors, shapes, numbers. She’s trying to spell and count! I can’t believe it’s been two years. Some not so fun doctor’s appointments in a week, though.

My two year old who climbed into the exersaucer. 

Matt and I are so ready to get out of California and start a new adventure in Texas. We are both so impatient and waiting is a bummer. I’m burning myself out trying to do too much lately, so I decided that I need to go back to basics–slow mornings with bacon and snuggles, playgrounds, grass and sunshine. I need to enjoy my two year old and her awesome budding personality, and I want to cling desperately to baby Madilyn, the 10 month old that is already talking–she has at least 40 words–and trying to walk. Just be my baby for a little longer, sweetheart.

Anyway, we are talking about packing and trying to find somewhere to live even though Matt doesn’t have a job in Texas yet, and today he tells me that he finally got an update on an application. It’s not big, but it’s a step and it’s encouraging. It’s a reminder that all things flow. If we can find where we need to be we’ll float right down the stream to where we need to be, the trick is finding where you belong.

Often with life buzzing around you it isn’t easy to figure it out where you need to be, but there is so much wisdom in the old saying “mind over matter.” It’s all connected, and if your mindset is right things can flow accordingly, but if your attitude is wrong it’ll all go wrong. Who knows if it’s a causal or consequential relationship? But it doesn’t really matter so long as you acknowledge it.

The other day I took the girls to Target with me and we got inside and I lift Karissa to put her in a cart (with Madi strapped to me). She is getting BIG, so it’s a pain, and I started to push the cart when the dreaded CLUNK CLUNK happened, you know the one–it’s basically the worst cart available, trumped perhaps only by the terrible carts that pull so hard one way that it counts as a workout by the end. Anyway, I’m pushing and sigh while thinking, damn, it’s going to annoy both of us and she’s gonna make me change the cart anyway. I should just bite the bullet and do it now. I ask Karissa if she wants a better cart to ride in. Big grin “no.” Crap, she’s going to make me do it later, I thought. I was so wrong, and it was amazing. The whole time that cart banged she DANCED to it like it was the most fantastic music she had ever heard. I ended up dancing with her. What a beautiful, wonderful thing to hear music and see beauty in the most simple and mundane things. Imagine how much happier most of us would be if we could borrow a little bit of that innocence and enthusiasm for life. She knows that everything is right and things are perfect, she’s where she belongs.

So anyway, if you ask me, the key to happiness is finding your stride.

Taste Safe Slime

Karissa likes to paint, but Madilyn is a bit too little to be handed tempera paints yet. Instead, I tried to make her a baby substitute…except that I don’t keep wheat flour in the house. Say what I may about wheat, but the gluten makes for great stickiness with craft type projects. Anyway, I substituted psyllium husk powder, and the results were acceptable, but not really paint. Instead I got goopy slime stuff–not the intended result, but fun sensory play regardless!

Be careful with this,  while technically taste safe psyllium husk can cause constipation.


1-2 tbsp psyllium husk powder

1 tsp salt

1-2 cups water

Food coloring



1. Combine salt and psyllium powder in a bowl. Add water and whisk with a fork.

2. Separate into multiple small containers.

3. Add whatever food coloring combinations you like. If you don’t need it to be taste safe you can also add glitter, sequins, beans, rice or beads as well–get creative. We added glitter for Karissa and she loved it!

Adventures in Breastfeeding

Even before Karissa was born, I knew how important it was to me to be able to breastfeed her. I knew that it was undoubtedly the best nutrition that she could get, I wanted the bonding experience, and I felt that it was the greatest, most natural thing that could happen. The thought of holding my newborn in my arms as she happily chugged away elated me.

When she was born, however, it wasn’t all that easy. She breastfed, and it wasn’t bad, but we had some problems. We had some correct latching issues. She had a bubble palette. I had sore nipples from lazy latching (with both kids). She was constantly comfort nursing. The real big problem, though, was the milk itself.

A word of wisdom through personal experience: don’t believe people who say that all breast milk is the same and diet doesn’t matter. A few weeks into it my sweet newborn baby had this horrible green and red mucous poop, a red ring around her butthole, she was spitting up constantly, she was wheezing and she had a terrible rash. The consultants at my lactation clinic and her pediatrician both said that what I was eating wasn’t the problem and scoffed at me for thinking that the breast milk could have been causing her problems, but intuition and Internet research indicated otherwise. Always trust your gut (ha). So began my quest into starvation in an effort to find out what she couldn’t tolerate. I already don’t eat most grains, so this was going to be tough.

First I eliminated dairy, since her awful rash had first appeared a day after I had eaten cheese. Dairy takes a while to leave your system, though, and waiting to see improvement was maddening. My mother in law thought that I was nuts and made it very obvious. It’s understandable–our parents didn’t know as much when we were kids as we do now. After about a month her skin looked a little better, but she clearly wasn’t healed. I went back to the worldwide web in search of clues.

Next came soy–dairy and soy protein intolerance very often coexist. I guess the proteins are similar. Now, I’m used to glancing at food labels, but you really have no idea just how much has soy in it until you can no longer eat it. Suddenly hot dogs, sausages, and trail mix were no-go. Marinades too. Anything fried in oil that I didn’t fry myself was a strict no fry zone (har har). We learned that the effects of soy scared us most–it caused the wheezing, skin problems, and digestion issues–but also went away the fastest if I accidentally ate it, 24 to 48 hours. We were figuring it out, but still not there.

Last was eggs. She was around 3 months old now, and grandma thought that I was an uber-nuts extremist for cutting all of this out of my diet, but I needed to know and I wanted her to have exactly what she needed. Finally her bloody poop and rash went away completely and we knew what I had to avoid. I did accidentally eat oat flour once too which prompted a 24 hour rash (I guess that a lot of oat flour can be contaminated with gluten). I was on an autoimmune paleo diet, eating ridiculous amounts of sweet potatoes and coconut flakes to try and keep up with milk production, but I lost weight at an incredible rate with so little variety. I lost 50 pounds in 6 months.

Then we discovered that I was pregnant again. I was devastated when Karissa  began to lose weight and fuss constantly around 8 months old because, unbeknownst to me, I was not longer making milk (I had been told by a nurse that this wouldn’t happen and that I didn’t need to worry, so our baby STARVING didn’t evdn occur to us). We met with a different pediatrician who finally agreed that it sounded like she was intolerant of many various proteins. Since there is not a mainstream formula that is both dairy and soy free, he suggested that we ramp up her solid intake and use milk alternatives. He also advised that I stop trying to breastfeed–he thought that it would encourage her to eat. When we left his office I broke down crying–how could I give up nursing her? I wasn’t ready, and neither was she. This was a new world of pain, not being able to provide what my daughter needed. Luckily I found Sammy’s Milk–a goat’s milk alternative formula–read her story, and cried with both sadness and relief as I placed my first order.

The first week of bottles and extra solids was a nightmare, but we both adjusted. She seemed like she was scared that if she ate or drank it meant that I wouldn’t let her nurse, so the routine became that she got to comfort nurse after meals for as long as she wanted. I spent all day in the kitchen with her for weeks trying to get her to gain weight, and finally we hit our stride. Karissa comfort nursed throughout my entire pregnancy with her sister in spite of the fact that all I had to offer was colostrum. I am so thankful that neither of us never gave up: in spite of the intolerances, milk loss, teething and soreness we refused to let it go. Because of the laxative effect of colostrum she pooped a ton; her diaper consumption nearly doubled overnight!

Towards the end of the second pregnancy I remember just wanting it to be over so that I could see Karissa’s reaction to the milk coming back. I was able to resume eating eggs and dairy since she had outgrown her intolerances and was now eating them herself. Madilun was finally born and when it came to breastfeeding she was a born natural. She immediately latched herself and rarely needed help.

I am incredibly lucky: I’ve never had major complications with breastfeeding, never had mastitis or anything serious. I had milk blisters for a few weeks–that sucked (ha). The hardest thing for me was painfully sore nipples at the end of my pregnancy with Madilyn–Karissa wanted to suck and it would drive me crazy, but I let her. Ah, the things we do for love. Me and the girls are tandem nursing now, which is incredibly great and very rewarding. I love seeing my girls together snuggled up in my arms or gazing at one another while holding hands. Sometimes I wonder how long Karissa will want to breastfeed because of the difficulties we had, and I intend on letting her choose when to wean within reason (if she gets to 4 or 5 and hasn’t weaned perhaps we’ll reevaluate). She still wakes me up a few times a night to nurse, whereas her sister already sleeps pretty well. I can’t blame her, I really appreciate the comfort of the ritual as much as she does. She wants to lay in my arms and fall asleep, and I love knowing that she’s there next to me.

Thus far in my parenting adventures breastfeeding has been a crazy, hard, and great experience.