Product Review: Batter Blaster

If you're like me, you get a Million Dollar Idea every couple of hours or so. Anything from a Monkey Ranch to train monkeys to replace dropped pacifiers in the middle of the night, to very elaborate public toilets in NYC, to a full-body parent suit that would keep us dry and comfortable when pushing a stoller no matter what the weather, to any number of baby gadgets which I'd tell you about except I still harbor plans to manufacture them and sell the in the One Step Ahead catalog (aka SkyMall for Parents).

So I admire people who come up with a Million Dollar Idea and then actually act on that idea. Like the guy who thought, "I could make pancake batter out of organic ingredients, then put it in a Cheez Whiz can, so people could make one pancake or waffle at a time."

And if you're doing something that brilliantly goofy, you might as well call it Batter Blaster.

It's a completely bulletproof idea. Kids like pancakes, but adults don't always have time to mix up a batch. (Apparently it's also marketed to empty nesters or single people who only want a few pancakes at a time.) The mixes cut out some steps, but aren't that delicious, plus they contain a bunch of added preservatives and crap. Batter Blaster is made of organic ingredients and very few preservatives, so technically it's probably healthier than anything you could whip up yourself (unless you buy all organic cooking flours and sugars, etc.).

Confession: I don't like pancakes or waffles. (Although I love French toast. Go figure.) So this is perfect for me. My kids can have pancakes whenever they want, but I don't have to mix up a batch and then feel guilty for not wanting to eat any myself. I tried it out on the kids, and they both gave thumbs up on the flavor. I'm not sure it's better than my mom's recipe, but since I rarely make my mom's pancake recipe because I don't like pancakes, the kids are coming out ahead with the Batter Blaster any way you look at it.

The kids had fun spraying it into the pan themselves. And all I had to clean was the pan. No mixing bowl and measuring cups.

As far as I can tell, there are only two negative things about Batter Blaster. One is that it's on the pricey side: Around $4.80 for one can that makes 24 pancakes. (Although still way cheaper than going out for pancakes.) The other is that it's made of actual food and not chemicals, so it only lasts so long in your fridge before it goes bad. That means you can't stockpile cans of it in your emergency kit. So no pancakes In Case of Emergency.

But if you're willing to pay the money to have good, easy pancakes in the next few days, Batter Blaster is one of those iedas that makes you annoyed you didn't think of it yourself.

The thing I think would make Batter Blaster truly amazing is if they'd make a gluten-free version. Think about the awesomeness of being able to make gluten-free pancakes or waffles by the piece. One GF person in a house of gluten-eaters could still have pancakes! But maybe I shouldn't have given away that particular Million Dollar Idea…

(The Batter Blaster people sent me a can to test out, but I got no compensation except the actual batter.)

Oh, what the heck?

Let's just go whole-hog on this school thing. If you hate me you hate me.

Slim writes:

"I don't want to be That Parent. I amtrying to find the right point between sending the message that the world
revolves around my child and sending the message that his opinion doesn't
count. I don't think my child's personality meshes at all well with his
teacher's, and I was thinking of sending her an e-mail asking how she thinks
things are going and, depending on her response, saying that if there's
another kindergarten parent who's really jonesing for a move, we would
be happy to have our child swap.

But have any of the Moxites ever had
their child change teachers? How and why? Looking for data points, especially
for parents who weren't dealing with an utter disaster, but who had a situation
that was suboptimal."

I *love* a princess-cut Moxite in a white gold setting.

Anyway, yeah. Good question. I was in exactly this place last year. The whole year I'd wished I'd switched.  OTOH, if I'd switched I may have convinced myself we could make it at that school and my son wouldn't be with the teacher he's with now, being a student instead of a teaching assistant.

There's definitely the opinion that kids need to learn to get along with people even when they don't like them, and I think there 's a ton of value in that. However, I really think kindergarten is too young for that, since at that age the teacher is such a huge influence and big part of their week.

The other question is how the teacher's going to feel about it. The teacher might think it's a great idea. Or the teacher might be completely insulted and then you'll be seen as That Parent for sure.

I wish I knew what to tell you. 54 weeks ago I'd have told you to talk to the principal, but I've lost a lot of my trust in the objectivity of the system and the players in it (the legacy of last year). (Which, incidentally, sucks, since my entire family are public school teachers and administrators. Nine of the people who show up for Thanksgiving dinner in my family work(ed) in public schools. It may have been extremely naive of me to think all educators were like them.)

Have you talked to any of the parents of kids in older grades? They might be able to tell you if the administration would even allow a switch, and can give you the low-down on the different teachers to see if one might be a better fit for your child.

I'd also think about whether it's just a matter of not getting along (so he isn't in love with her) or if it means bad things are going to happen to him in class. If it's just not getting along, then it may not be worth it to switch.

Anyone out there who switched? Or considered switching but didn't? How did it come out, and would you make the same decision again?

Wrung out

So last week completely wrung me out here on Ask Moxie. It was just too much, and I lost a lot of sleep over it. I was thinking about it, and decided that the first week of school is just way too emotional and fragile a time for me, so from now on I'm going to take an Ask Moxie vacation the first week of school.

I'm still trying to decide if I have it in me to file a formal complaint against the teacher from last year. I know nothing's going to happen to her and she'll still be doing the same stuff to kids every year until she decides to retire, so it doesn't seem like the effort would be worth it, except that it might help me get over it.

Responding, not reacting

I'm sorry things got so icky yesterday. The irony that I was shocked that someone would hit their child to get them to stop hitting, and then I was forceful while trying to get someone to rethink discipline isn't lost on me.

I should have phrased myinitial comment about the spanking differently. I hope people do feel
safe here, and for the record, I think almost everyone has the best
intentions for their kids. It doesn't mean we're always doing the best
thing, though, so I'm hoping we can all help each other improve*. In hindsight, I should have commented something more like "Hitting to teach your child not to hit doesn't make a lot of logical sense to me. Is there a reason you chose spanking over a different discipline method?"

Everyone doing the best for their own kid doesn't mean that there aren't some practices that are better absolutely, and some that are worse. Spanking "works" in the short run, but all it teaches the kid is that their bodies aren't safe with their parents (which sets them up for all sorts of strange body stuff later on), and that they need to do what their parents tell them or else they'll be hurt. It's not teaching internal controls or decision-making.

I think the effects on the parents are almost worse, though. Think about how bad you feel when you accidentally hurt your child (whether it's stepping on their foot by mistake, or doing the reflexive hitting thing). To consciously decide that physically hurting your child is the way you're going to interact with them removes your authority as a parent. All you have is your physical power over them, and as soon as they're bigger than you are your authority evaporates. Plus it sucks you into a dysfunctional little control game. It doesn't matter what kind of rules you concoct about how you hit them, it's still using pain to control someone else, and that's a weak position for a parent to be in.

If you're reading this wondering how on earth you're going to get cooperation without spanking, there are all sorts of other discipline techniques that are going to increase the connection between you and your child instead of building up walls the way spanking (and hot-saucing and all the other punishments that rely on pain) does. If you have toddlers or preschoolers, please please go look at Sharon Silver's site She's spent the last 17 years figuring out discipline methods for that age that honor both of you and help you live a relationship of fullness with each other. If your kids are 4 or older, check out either (or all) Haim Ginott's Between Parent and Child, Lawrence Cohen's Playful Parenting, or Faber and Mazlish's How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. They are not going to solve all your problems and make you a SuperParent overnight. But they will help reframe things for you so you can start to figure out how to motivate and discipline your own kid in a way that helps both of you grow as people.

I hope no one thought I felt that the commenter who posted about spanking is a bad person or a bad parent. But I do wish she'd consider the very real repercussions of spanking, and explore some methods that work better, because I think it would help her relationship with her child and her development as a parent.

* And
I'm glad I learned something about the study showing that giving a substitute for the physical aggression isn't effective. Now I'm really trying to figure out if my great success with the dog-chew toy wasn't more about the distraction than the substitution of something to bite. Any thoughts on that?

Hitting, biting, pushing, etc.

A blogger who may not wish to be named writes about her 2-year-old:

"[Kid] is hitting. When disciplined, she laughs. And then hits again. I'veslapped her hand (now for the third time, something I'm not proud of)
instinctively (why does being hit make you want to hit back?), which
she also thinks is very, very funny.

Today, she picked up her toy computer and, full force, smacked the
dog in the head with it and when we
tried a time out (I know you don't like them, but I don't know what
else to do) she laughed. She reacts, a bit, to our anger–meaning she
stops what she's doing for a second and then starts to run away–while
continuing the action.


I'm at wits fucking end here. We do 1-2-3 magic with
most things and that has been working really, really well. But not with
the hitting. Help?"

Man, I hate that reflexive hitting. I've done it, too, and it just seems to happen before I know what I've done. It makes me feel like a big old jerk, although apparently it's acceptable <eyeroll>, at least according to the people who make those V8 commercials in which the wife sees that the husband isn't eating any vegetables and smacks him on the forehead. Srsly, why they wanna play us like that? We don't have enough problems with 1) eating vegetables, 2) relating to our spouses, and 3) expressing anger appropriately already? They need to make that stupid commercial with the tired old gag from the 70s?

I think the not instinctively hitting back is just something else we can work on, and I'm guessing eventually the instinct just goes away. People who never reflexively hit and have never had the urge to: Were you hit as a kid? Because it's my suspicion that the reflexive hitting happens because it happened to us when we were small.

But anyway, on to the problem. It sounds like she's frustrated or angry. It's certainly the right age for it. And it's a problem that a lot of kids that age have. Some manifest it by hitting, or biting, or scratching, or kicking, or whatever.

I've talked about this a couple of times in the past, but the important thing to keep in mind in this phase is that it's totally OK for your kid to feel frustrated and/or angry. It's not OK for your kid to hurt people or animals. You don't want to try to make your kid suppress their rage or act "good" or anything that teaches them that what they're feeling is wrong or doesn't matter. The end result of that is that they go underground and start hiding from you.

But you do want to teach the kids that there are things they just never do. And hurting animals is one of them. One way to do this is to give them a designated alternate thing to hit. Some people have gotten a little pillow that they carry around, and whenever the kid starts to hit they reinforce that they can't hit mommy or the dog or whatever, so they should hit the pillow instead. Help the kid hit the pillow, and while it's happening help the kid verbalize the feelings. ("You're angry!") Here's a post from the wayback machine about how I used this idea to get my older one to stop biting people when he was this age.

Giving them a substitute allows them to feel and express their anger when they're still too young to verbalize it well, while also teaching them that there are always ways you can express anger that don't hurt other people.

Anyone else? Did you do things that you thought worked well when your kid went through a phase like this? And how did you deal with the reflexive hitting if you've felt the urge?

Q&A: terrified of preschool social scene

Christy writes:

"With the upcoming school year approaching I was hoping to get you andperhaps your wonderful commenters to help me through something. My
daughter (who just turned three) is starting preschool in September and
I’m so incredibly nervous. Not for HER. For ME. This child is one of
the most outgoing, excited, adventurous little people on planet earth
and she wants so much to be out of the house and exploring with other
kids. (For some back round- she was in home daycare until she was 13
months and I’ve been home with her since. Aside from a couple of gym
classes, this will be her first real classroom experience with lots of
other kids.) I certainly don’t expect perfection but I know she’ll do
great. So onto me. I don’t have an easy time making friends and parent
involvement is a big part of the preschool we chose. I did this on
purpose because I know I have to make the leap into the league of 
“preschooler parents”, but I truly am scared shitless. I really don’t
have any other mom friends my age (late 20’s) and I feel so intimidated
by the whole process. I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for
here…maybe an idea of what other moms look for in their “parent
friends” or some helpful preschool parent etiquette? I certainly don’t
want to use my child to gain a social life but it would be nice to feel
comfortable with a couple other moms to share the experience of life
with a 3 year old. ANY advice surrounding this topic would really help
ease me in to preschool life!"

I think making friends is a system. People who do it naturally don't think of it as a system, but it's something that can be learned. I'll break it down into the steps I can think of, and if anyone else thinks of more, please add them.

1. Be yourself. Your mother's been saying it for years, but she's right. You have a ton of outstanding qualities that would make people want to be your friend, whether you're shy or loud, an optimist or a pessimist, snarky or earnest, or you like dark chocolate or milk chocolate. People want to be around people who are comfortable with themselves, so make no apologies, let your freak flag fly, and be who you are.

2. Pick the right school for you and your child. This all goes back to #1, which is that you have to be able to be who you hare. If you've gotten yourself into a school in which everyone else is waaay different from you, you're going to feel like the odd woman out all the time.

If your interests are in sustainable agriculture and environmentalism, then you probably won't be super-happy at a school in which everyone drives Denalis or Canyoneros or whatever the hugest SUV is. If you like lots of structure then the crunchy preschool where the only curriculum is running around and painting each other purple may not be the place you're going to find bosom friends. That doesn't mean you focus on externals, because the mom wearing the Motorhead T-Shirt and the mom in heels and a suit for work could be best friends because they just click, but if you find displays of wealth crass and your preschool is a feeder school for the cast of Gossip Girl, then things may not be a great fit.

3. Join up, in a way you feel comfortable with. The best way to get to know other parents is to be around other parents. So volunteering is a good way to meet people. But pick something that you'll at least halfway enjoy doing. Maybe you want to help sort and label books for the library, or plan fundraisers or put together information packets or do the newsletter. All of these things are giving you opportunities to talk (or email with) other parents. I definitely believe that 90% of life is showing up, so pick something and keep showing up.

4. Take it off site. After a couple of sessions of sorting permission slips or editing copy, you can suggest that you take it off school grounds or off email. "I could use some caffeine. Do you want to get a cup of coffee?" Memorize it, then use it.

5. It's for the children! If #4 scares you too much, then turn it into a playdate. "Poindexter comes home every day talking about Tigerlily. It sounds like they like to play together a lot. Do you guys want to come over on Saturday at 10 for a playdate?" Because then it's not about you, it's about the kids. But you'll be talking and getting to know each other. Unless the playdate ends in violence, you'll probably have another one.

6. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Sometimes it's easier to approach someone if it's kind of a group thing. Plus, if you end up not really clicking with one person, there are a couple of others to mitigate at that, and maybe you'll click with one of them. You can approach it as a group playdate (outside works really well for groups of kids) or as a kind of "parents night out" kind of thing.

Anyone have anything else?

Calling extroverts and SAH parents

Now that school is starting, you guys (whether you're an extrovert or a SAH parent or both) have the chance to do a really good deed.

If you're a SAH parent, you could buddy up with a WOH parent to make sure s/he knows what's going on in the classroom. Yes, you're supposed to get all the same notifications and stuff sent home, but any SAH who's been in any school for a few weeks know that the ones who can put in face time know lots more about what's coming up and what's really going on than they ever send home.

If, perhaps, a WOH mom should hand you her business card with contact info, it means she really wants to be in the loop and wants to be your friend, and you'd be doing a super-good deed by keeping her connected about what's going on.

(I'd like to give a super-special thanks to Brandy, Kim, and Amy for telling me what was going on all last year.)

If you're an extrovert like me, please be aware that there are introverted and/or shy parents in your class that would love to be your friend but won't make the first move. They are fabulous, interesting, funny, snarky, trustworthy people who just aren't hard-wired to approach you. You'd be doing them and the world in general a big favor by approaching them and including them so they can give what they have to offer. Because they're not as enthusiastic about meeting a zillion new people as I am you are, don't give up if your first two volleys aren't accepted.

Thank you.

First day of school

And I am so relieved. My older son started at a new school today. You may recall that I hated his teacher last year–not as a person, just as a teacher–and thought the school wasn't set up to deal with kids who were already reading. It's a long story about why he was going to our neighborhood school, but the short version is that we had been planning to move to another city in another state, and I'd done all the school search stuff there. He'd gotten into my dream public school (K-8, with siblings automatically accepted). Then I had my gut-wrenching epiphany and asked for a divorce, and that plan fell apart.

So I hadn't done any leg work in Manhattan, including taking the G&T ("gifted and talented") test. Rumors were that our local school was good, so we went there. I don't really believe in pulling kids out for special G&T programs, in the abstract. I feel like teachers ought to be teaching to all the kids, and it's possible to structure things so that you can give kids at each level what they need. But the problem with that theory is that if everyone else has pulled their kid out into a G&T program, then your kid is going to be the one coming home complaining of boredom every single day. And, compounded by a teacher like we had who just shouldn't be in the classroom, it was even worse.

So we did the G&T test. And then had a wacky adventure with the NYC DOE that caused this crying in the conference room episode. And then we got assigned to his current school, in the G&T classroom for his grade. The school is a solid 25 minute walk away, unless some miracle occurs and he gets assigned to a bus route. But, but, but–his teacher! She's young and idealistic and not jaded by the whole thing yet. She's going to come in with her A game, instead of just phoning it in to accumulate years until her pension. And she looks like she isn't going to be tipped over by precocious, mischievous boys.

I walked out of his classroom and burst into tears. Not because I was particularly sad about school, but because I'm so relieved.

The next couple of posts are going to be more about you as parents and school and the social scene, but if you want to talk about anything specific to your kid or teacher or any of that, please post here. Homeschoolers, feel free to express your frustrations and happinesses, too.