Easy Kale Salad Recipe

 I love an easy recipe. Extra points if it's healthy. This is one of those box checking recipes that is not only easy, but healthy, inadvertently vegetarian and gluten-free as well as having the possibility of being vegan. I KNOW, right?!

Every time I have made this, I have converted non-kale eaters to kale eaters. And when I made this the other day, and posted it to my Instagram Stories, I knew I needed to do a blog post because I made yet *another* discovery about this totally easy, totally amazing recipe. You wanna know what it is? Brace yourselves....

THIS KALE SALAD TASTES PHENOMENAL WHEN HEATED! 

Additionally, this is one of those recipes that you can add into your weekly meal prep rotation and enjoy all week, IF, (and this is a big IF) you can keep yourself from eating it within a day, which, in my house, we can't. Also, any of the ingredients in this salad are merely suggestions. If you prefer rice in place of quinoa, go for it. If you've got green onions on hand, throw them in! Fan of dried cranberries or cherries, by all means, DO IT! This is a recipe you can continually switch up with new ingredients, or just use to clear out the veggies in your fridge at the end of the week!

All of that, and you can shovel this delicious salad into your gob with zero guilt. What's not to love? Now, I like to buy the pre-washed big ol' bag of kale in the store, but I don't want to tell you how to live, so you can buy whatever kale you love best. My mother-in-law recently purchased purple kale and said it was miles above regular ole green kale. And, when it comes to the dressing, I kept it simple with olive oil and vinegar, but if I had lemons I would have squeezed them in too. Heck, an orange would also give it a zing. This is a salad you can take citrus risks with. So don't hold back--just taste as you go!


Lastly, I want to take a moment to build the tension and wax on the beauty of the colors in this exquisitely beautiful salad. Ever heard the phrase "eat the rainbow" when it comes to veggies? It can be easier said than done, but I feel so good when I can cram a bunch of colors into a dish. I mean, just beautiful amiright? Of course I am. I'm always right. I'm the rightest McRighterson that ever lived. That's why you came here--for my rightness and my recipes. Or at least my recipes, right? Right I am. 



Easy Kale Salad
Time: 30 minutes | Serves 6-8 | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need:

A really big bowl, preferably with a lid 

1/2 bag of pre-washed kale 
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked according to directions, and cooled slightly 
1 purple onion*, diced
1 bell pepper, diced 
3 carrots, peeled and shredded (I use my food processor because it's so easy!) 
Handful of nuts, your choice, I like pecans, pine nuts, walnuts or slivered almonds. 
6 cloves garlic, minced (you can use less if you prefer) 
2 heaping handfuls of parmesan cheese
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
salt and pepper 

Other (optional) additions:
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Feta Cheese or goat cheese 
Roasted beets 
orange or lemon juice 
Fresh broccoli (uncooked) chopped finely 

Method:

 You're going to spend most of the time on this recipe chopping, dicing and slicing and then basically throwing everything in. It's your call whether you like to add as you go, or to prep everything ahead of time and add all at once. The only consideration you'll want to make is for the quinoa, which you will want to have cooled slightly. 

Start by filling your gigantic bowl about 3/4 full with your kale. Remove any large stems from your kale, and if you wish, tear it into smaller pieces with your hands. Add all of your veggies to your bowl and then mince the garlic into the bowl. Add your parmesan (if using) and then begin adding the vinegar and oil. 

What I like to do for the dressing is go a few times around the bowl, pouring as I go, first with the oil and then with the vinegar. This would be a fine time to add your citrus juice, if using, too. Then give the whole big bowl and big toss, taste and add salt and pepper. Repeat the process with the oil and vinegar until you've reached a balance that is good for you. This is the point where I like to call my husband in and say "hey can you taste this--does it need anything?" And then we taste and add and taste and add and basically we are just eating and it's delicious. 

If your bowl has a lid, it's also great to put the lid on and give the whole thing a good shaking!! Store in the fridge. Serve as a side to practically anything OR throw it in a bowl and pop it in the microwave for about a minute or two and enjoy hot! Mmmmmm. So good. 


*I will not say "red onion" because the onions are not, in fact, red they are PURPLE. I even did a not-even-close-to scientific Instagram poll which confirmed by visual hypothesis that these onions are not RED as originally named. So hitherto and therefore, such onions will only be referred to as purple herein. And whatnot. 

Stuff I Love: Spelt Flour

Last summer when my acupuncturist told me I needed to give up traditional wheat, I agreed with a reluctant heart. I knew that it was worth the try because I had literally tried everything else, but for god's sake, I'm Italian-American. NO PASTA? NO BREAD? It felt so...wrong. I was unhappy to admit, though, that cutting wheat out of my diet had a big impact on not only my gut health, but my mental health.

I would repeat to myself, as I prepared pasta for my husband and daughter, or watched them gobbling down a delicious wheat-based confection, "Nothing tastes as good as mental health feels." And it's true. Still, I'm a solution oriented kind of gal, and I am quite crafty in the kitchen, so I knew I could nail this problem of needing a substitute close to wheat that gave that same mouth-feel. Hehe. Mouth-feel.

That was when I came across two little words in a book about eating for your blood type... Spelt flour. It peaked my interest so I bought a bag on Amazon to see how it made me feel, and also how it was to cook with. Turns out, this stuff is pretty gosh-darn amazing, and I've been using it ever since. I order about 4 pounds at a time and it lasts about a month. In fact, it's nearly replaced flour in all my recipes, and my even my husband (ever the skeptic) likes it, too.

So what's so great about spelt anyway? 
Spelt is an ancient grain, so it predates modern wheat, though it's like a cousin to wheat in some round-about way that I will butcher trying to give an explanation on. Spelt has a super hard outer hull, which makes it naturally more insect resistant. This means it doesn't require the pesticides that are traditionally used on wheat, so it's free of pesticides, which I love. It also has less chromosomes than it's modern wheat counterpart, and a lower gluten content, so it's easier on the digestive system.

In addition, it's chocked full of good stuff like vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, copper, phosphorus, protein, and fiber. It tastes a lot like whole wheat, with a slightly nutty flavor.

Application
So, I will admit that spelt flour isn't 100% like regular flour. For one, the color is darker, and the taste is a little bit different, like a whole wheat. Maybe I would classify it as a "tang" that only nature can provide? But after going months without flour, for me, this made little impact. Like, when you haven't had a steak sandwich, or any sandwich, in months and then you have a freshly baked whole wheat flavored bun for the first time, you're just eating, eyes closed, and everything fades away.

The thing is, it absorbs water differently than wheat, but you CAN pretty much use it cup for cup if you're willing to experiment here and there with adding a little extra, and testing the waters. For example, I've used it in chocolate chip cookies, and the cookies will spread farther, and turn out a bit more crispy, but they are delicious. But in my fig cookies and chocolate crinkle cookies this Christmas, this flour performed beautifully (both those doughs, though, had to be chilled in the fridge for 24 hours.)

At this point, I use spelt for everything from pie crust to bread to tomato pie dough, and even slippery dumplings. The more I have worked with it, the more I know how to use it, so it's like any relationship in cooking: it gets better as you are more versed in using it. Pinterest is amazing because it has a wealth of recipes for using spelt, and below I am linking some of my favorites!

Spelt Flour Hamburger rolls
--> I use this recipe to make rolls, French style bread, and even focaccia bread (which I then turned into Philly style tomato pie!) This is a real winner.

Spelt Flour Tortillas 
I also don't eat corn, but these are super awesome and do the trick. I make a bunch and then freeze them so I can just pull out a couple when I need them.

Spelt Pie Crust (vegan option)
So you can make this with butter (which I do), but the recipe is for a vegan pie crust. This recipe also works for a double crust (top and bottom), which I used to make a chicken pot pie. YUM!

Spelt Flour Flatbread- 
This is my own recipe for a regular flat bread which you can replace spelt flour in cup for cup. It doesn't rise *quite* as high as traditional flour, but some people prefer it (some people being me). In my home, we eat this every Friday night, and it's one of my daughter's favorite meals! I half the recipe and make spelt flour flatbread for myself, and traditional wheat flatbread for my two lovelies who prefer that style because I am cool like that. 

Take-Out Fake-Out: Cold "Peanut" Noodles

Let me tell you about me and my group of friends: we are a chef's nightmare. Half of us are gluten free, some of us are dairy free. One is vegetarian, another is vegan. And I don't eat peanuts (among other things).  Most people would be intimidated by this set of challenges, but we manage to get together around food, like, a lot. We have become agile in cooking for different dietary needs. Seriously, you should come to one of our houses for dinner.

Under this shining review I just rendered, you would think that this <<AMAZING>> recipe would satisfy all of our gluten-free, dairy free, peanut free needs...alas, there is one person in our group who cannot eat this because he is allergic to almonds. You can't win them all.

All of this is to say that if you, like Charley, are allergic to almonds, you can swap out the almond butter for peanut butter, unless someone else in your group doesn't eat peanuts (like me) and then maybe you can try cashew butter (which I haven't). In addition, you could also use traditional wheat pasta instead of gluten free pasta. Your choice. Mah point: this is a versatile recipe that can feed a diverse crowd of 30 and 40-somethings with a whole range of dietary sensitivities and needs. And kids love it too. How's that for a tasty introduction?

This really is one of my very favorite recipes. It pairs well with a salad, or a meat, or a soup. You can make it ahead. You can enjoy it hot, or you can enjoy it cold. I know it says "cold" in the title, but trust me, it's good either way.

I do want to take a moment to talk about why I use a more traditional noodle instead of say, an Asian-style rice noodle. Because, after all, this is an Asian-ish dish. (I say "Asian-ish" because honestly, I don't know the roots of this dish. While it appears on many a Chinese take out menu, my understanding of Chinese-American food is that it's a largely American incarnation.) So maybe we are just heathens and enjoy these exclusively in America... if it's wrong, I don't want to be right.

The problem with flat rice noodles, or even vermicelli style rice noodles is that they tend to fall apart as you stir them with a sauce, and this really get under my skin. I have found that spaghetti and spaghetti-style rice noodles (my favorite brand is Tinkyada, by the way) stay intact and absorb the sauce really well. The ONLY problem with rice noodles is that they don't tend to stay as fresh in the refrigerator over time so you wanna eat these within a day or two, or heat them.

For serving, you can top these noodles with sesame seeds if you have them, diced green onions if thats your jam, and if you stray toward the spicy, Sriracha. YUM!

Okay. With all the formalities out of the way, let's dive into this recipe, shall we?!

Cold "Peanut" Noodles

Time: 25 minutes (active) 2+ hours (passive) | Serves 4 | Difficulty: EASY! 

You Will Need:

12 ounces noodles (spaghetti, gluten free or regular, your choice)
3/4 cup almond butter 
4 cloves minced garlic 
1/4 cup rice vinegar (I have also used apple cider, which is terrific too!) 
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil 
1/2 cup soy sauce 
1/8 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup pasta water 

Special equipment- blender or immersion blender (I prefer to use my immersion blender, but this totally a personal thing.) 

Method: 

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. 

While you are waiting for the water to boil, you can blend your ingredients to make the sauce. Place the almond butter, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and olive oil in a glass jar or in the blender. Blend until nice and smooth: 


You can taste the sauce and adjust a little if you like more acid (vinegar) or more salt (soy). But be warned, once you taste the sauce, you are literally going to want to eat all the sauce because it's outta this world! 

By now your water should be boiling. Go ahead and cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. When it's finished, I like to pull the pasta from the pot with a pair of tongs rather than draining it. 1) It makes it easier to get the 1/4 cup pasta water you'll want to add, and 2) it leaves a little extra moisture on the noodles. These noodles are going to absorb a hell of a lot of this sauce and the sauce will become nice and thick, so don't worry. Mama got you. 


Put your cooked noodles, your prepared sauce, and your 1/4 cup pasta water into a bowl and give it a good stir. I like to use tongs, but that's just me. You do you. The sauce may seem runny. It may seem like maybe you did something wrong. You didn't. Trust the process. 

Generally, I will let my noodles sit on the counter a little while until they aren't so piping hot. Maybe I eat some noodles out of the bowl while it's hot and yell, "YUM" into the void of my empty house (because everyone is at work and school and it's awesome.) When you're ready to stop plucking those hot, delicious noodles from the countertop bowl, put your noodles in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, giving it a stir in the middle somewhere to help it cool evenly. When it's time to eat, top with sesame seeds or green onions, and serve with a salad or a nice piece of meat! 


Enjoy in the company of people you love! 


Why I Made The Decision Not to Drink

For months leading up to this past summer, I had been saying to myself, as well as out loud, that I wanted to take 30 days off of drinking alcohol. There were a number of reasons for this, but chief among them was that I was having a lot of digestive problems and I was trying to heal my gut. Clearly, alcohol wasn't helping when it came to any stomach upset, and I felt like it was making it worse.

Another reason was that I had noticed drinking simply was becoming less fun for me, and it was even causing me worry. For example, if we were attending a party and there was going to be drinking, I would obsess about whether or not I would drink at all because someone was going to have to drive home, and drinking and driving gives me metaphorical hives. Rather than enjoying myself, I would have a drink, glug down copious amounts of water and then spend a lot of time ruminating in my head about how I felt and whether I was reaaaaalllly good to drive home. On the other hand, if we were hosting an event at our home, I often found that I wouldn't really drink all that much, but would feel an internal pressure to drink with my friends or family (this was totally on me, not them.)

This dance was playing out in my mind over and over and it was becoming exhausting.

In June, I began treatment with an acupuncturist and changed my eating habits pretty drastically. Finally, I felt like the timing was right for me to take an extended break from alcohol while I actively worked on my health. I was mentally prepared. I took a six week hiatus from drinking, and to my surprise I saw a huge difference in my mental health, and my overall enjoyment of life. I had expected to feel physically good, but I hadn't expected to feel so much like...myself.

For my birthday, which falls in late August, I decided to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine throughout the week of festivities. They tasted magnificent, but I noticed some key things. The first was that I had a lot of trouble sleeping after drinking, and I didn't feel well rested in the morning. Also, while I didn't experience any panic attacks while imbibing, I had heightened anxiety in the days that followed, and I had an extremely intense panic attack the day after I drank one time.

Then, as I was scrolling through Instagram, as one does, I came across a re-post that read:           "DRINKING ALCOHOL IS LIKE POURING GASOLINE ON YOUR ANXIETY." 
The quote was from Laura McKowen. It hit me a deep place and sent waves of panic through me. This immediately registered as the truth for me, which was illuminating and, ultimately, a little upsetting.

The sum of all these experiences left me in a state of confusion about my relationship to alcohol in general, and what this meant for me moving forward. I am pretty prone to overthinking things (in case you couldn't tell) so I decided to go ahead and allow myself a deep analytical dive into my relationship with alcohol. While I was thinking through my relationship with alcohol, I decided to once again abstain from drinking for a minimum of six weeks.

Initially, it was pretty scary to think about my life in terms of "never drinking again" and I often wondered whether I was making a decision to be "sober." I questioned whether I might have an issue with alcohol since the prospect of not ever having a drink again made me feel very boxed in. Simultaneously, I worried about the fact that I can be quite given to swinging from one extreme to the next, and I didn't want this to be one of "those things."

As I was processing all of this, I looked to some my hero on social media, who I realized were actually sober women. Glennon Doyle, Brene Brown, and January Harshe are all sober women doing amazing, inspirational things, and their work is very fortifying for a person grappling with tough questions surrounding self and alcohol. I also have some relatives who don't drink, and I was able to gain perspective from them. Some don't drink because they feel they go overboard, and others are simply uninterested in drinking. In conversation with them, and after some deep and thorough thought over several weeks, I came to some surprising conclusions. Here is what I found...

Was I getting Sober? 
Sifting through this question was important to me for a few reasons. Sobriety is a hard-fought path for many, many people, and I wanted to give reverence and respect to that process. I didn't want to call myself "sober" unless I was truly in recovery because that is a distinct path. Also, I wanted to consider what the future held for me...was it okay for me to open ended about my not drinking? Or was this an all-or-nothing decision I was making?

I concluded that I was not getting sober, which is an important distinction. First of all, I don't have a problem with alcohol. I had a waning interest in it, which I struggled with partly because I was worried about the social impacts of that. And, I've noticed that my sober friends have to actively work to stay sober. I do not.

Are there still triggers? 
You don't have to be an alcoholic to have situational triggers when it comes to habits like drinking. One thing I noticed about not drinking is that sometimes the fleeting moment where I want a drink will come up. Let's say it's been a particularly trying day, or, alternatively, I'm in a social situation, and I think for a moment "oh, would a glass of wine be nice?" At first, I thought I might be tempted by these moments, but then I would stop to think about the reasons behind why I was wanting a drink and the impacts of my decision (like, the net day)... do I really want a drink, or am I just in need of some self care (maybe even just a deep breath?)

What is interesting is that when I stepped away from alcohol culture, I realized how pervasive it was. We tell ourselves that we "deserve" a drink because we've had a hard day, or that it's "wine o'clock" or whatever. And some of it is totally funny and harmless, and some of it is less so. As I got more and more time under my belt without drinking, I was able to more easily discern how I was REALLY feeling and what I needed to unwind or relax. Being a person who mostly doesn't drink has made me much more thoughtful before I take a drink, and 9 out of 10 times I will simply choose to abstain.

Does it need definition? 
I struggled immensely with this one, which is somewhat odd considering I am less than conventional in so many ways. Yet, I found that I was drawn to labeling the fact that I wasn't drinking. I was able to reason my way into the unconventional on this one, though, and concluded that I don't have to label my drinking as "sobriety" or even as "I never drink." The truth is that I mostly will not drink and this is what I have chosen for myself, and overwhelmingly choose to abstain on a daily basis. But there may come a day where I am compelled to have a cocktail, or enjoy a glass of wine, and if I want to, I absolutely can. I don't have to label that, either.

Maybe it's tougher when we define ourselves because then we think we have to stick to something even if it's not how we feel in the moment. It's been a few months since I've had a drink, and I haven't had a desire to drink...but that doesn't mean that can't or won't change, and I am open to that possibility and seeing how I feel in that moment. I don't have to define it for myself.

What is this really all about? 
What does this decision really come down to for me? Mental health, and overall health. And this beautiful realization that when I don't drink, I feel more like myself for consistent and long periods of time. As I am getting into my mid-30s, I am coming into a whole new self-love vibe. I am comfortable with the fact that I am a pretty serious person who likes to be in tune with the world around me. It's easier for me to do that if I don't drink, and that allows me a lot of enjoyment.

The simple answer: it just feels good. 

Anatomy of a Panic Attack

For any of you who may not know me: I'm Billie. Wife, mother, and bossy Italian human with anxiety. I've written some over the years about my struggles with anxiety (which you can read about by clicking HERE and HERE) and over time, my relationship with my anxiety has changed. I had several (blissful) years where my anxiety lived on a shelf somewhere in my brain and didn't bother to show itself.

Then I became a mother. My entire chemical makeup got a one-two punch and was transformed. My anxiety re-emerged as an entirely new beast. I had postpartum anxiety, and I struggled immensely. Now, I am in a much better place mentally, and physically, but I STILL experience anxiety and, on occasion, full-blown panic attacks.

One of the bits of feedback I always get is that the people around me would never know I was having trouble. I seem totally steady and "put together" on the outside. The "you seem fine to me" phenomenon, I suspect, is not something I experience in isolation. In an effort to bridge the gap between what people think they know, and what happens for a person in the grips of panic,  I want to attempt to dissect a recent panic attack. I hope this will help people without anxiety understand what happens to those of us who have it, despite whatever we might seem to look like externally.

I feel it's important to note this is merely my experience. There are as many types of panic attacks and  presentations of anxiety as there are people. It's a highly individualized thing. I also believe in the universality of our experiences, and I want to give voice to something that simply isn't talked about with enough regularity. At the end, I'm also giving a short blurb on what I think is helpful when I am experiencing anxiety or panic. I am hoping readers will comment in and give every one more helpful tips as we collectively raise awareness!

The Lead Up
It was a normal Monday, and I knew my head didn't feel quite right. After lunch, I tried to rest a bit to try and cool off the "buzzing" I was experiencing in my head. After about 40 minutes, I decided I needed to go run my errands--that it would be easier without my daughter in tow, given how I was feeling.

I was knocking out the grocery shopping for the rest of the week. The grocery store was packed to the gills, a common occurrence for our small beach town when it's brimming with vacationers during the hot, summer months. The lines were about three people deep no matter where I went, so I pulled up my cart and prepared to wait patiently. As I got in line, I began to feel some tingles in my body and I thought I had better distract myself while I waited.

Being an anxiety veteran, I am unsure if this distraction tactic is a coping mechanism, a reflex, or a bit of both, but I worked to pull my focus from the "bigger picture" of the bustling noise of the store to the more "close up" details around me. I did this through observation...a magazine with a picture of Megan Markle on it, Cosmopolitan Magazine with some ridiculous headline about some sexual position that will change your life, a man tapping his thumb on his cart... I tried a little too frantically to concentrate on something because I noticed I was being pulled from one thing to the next and  quickly getting overwhelmed.

**The distinction for me with my panic attacks is that they are not brought on by a specific fear, or thought. While that may have been true in the past (I once was deathly afraid of thunderstorms for a period of about a year), at this point, I seem to only experience the physical side of anxiety. My inability to focus is almost like having the opposite of thoughts...there were no thoughts, but an over-abundance of feelings.

The Attack
That was when the switch flipped. All at once I felt a strong sense of disorientation come over me. It is akin to suddenly feeling the ground shift underneath of me. I had been cold in the store, so earlier I put on a light sweater, but at this moment, it was as though someone threw a ball of fire into the center of my chest and it suddenly exploded, sending a fiery sensation up through every limb and out of my head. A burst of heat overtook me swiftly, as I struggled to get out of my sweater. My heart was racing wildly. My palms were suddenly clammy, sound began to take on a "wonky" quality, and the inability to focus turned to sheer panic. In this flight/fight/freeze scenario, I was frozen on the spot.

On the outside, I probably only looked as thought I got a little warm and needed to remove my sweater, but on the inside, I silently wondered if I was going to faint and hit the floor or dissolve into thin air. I took a breath, and I told myself to bend my knees, which I did. The lights were overwhelming, and I wanted badly to run from the store because standing still--staying patient--seemed an insurmountable task. Simultaneously, I needed to sit down and/or run a marathon, neither of which were possible in the moment because I could barely move. I realized I might cry. I tried to orient myself, even though my vision was somewhat obscured by my mental experience. I repeated to myself in my head "stay. stay. stay." (This is a technique I got from meditation.)

My hands were shaking as I saw a tiny sliver of the conveyor belt had opened, and I began to put my items on the belt, still unsure if I was going to be able to talk to the woman behind the register. I felt desperately alone in a sea of people. There was all of this brisk life happening around me, and I was struggling to catch up to it... in the grips of anxiety to this degree, it's as though sound and light, even faces, were distorted and the ability to process and recognize what's happening was delayed.

I focused on putting each item on the conveyor belt, my hands shakily grasping them, I worried I would drop them. By the time I was able to connect my eyes to the familiar woman at the register, the worst was, in fact, passed. I was still not myself, and I was fighting back tears. I said very little as the transaction concluded.

The Comedown
By the time I was able to pay for my groceries and began walking out the store, a huge relief was settling over me. I knew that by the time I reached the car I was "safe" and could go on with my day, so to speak. I was still shaking, and not quite myself, but I was in a phase of recovering. I can't really remember putting my groceries in the car, but I did.

Once I was back in the driver's seat, I slid on my sunglasses and let the tears roll. I want to note that crying during or after a panic attack may be common for many people. For me, though, this was pretty new (and not unwelcome as it felt like a concrete release). I put my hand on my heart, told myself I had done well, and I told myself "I love you." And I made a decision right there to allow myself however much time I needed to cry it out.

After this ordeal, I was quite tired both mentally and physically. It was an overwhelming moment that lasted about 10 minutes or infinity, depending on your perspective. I fell asleep quite early that night, and needed extra rest to accommodate what had happened that day. I was grateful that the people around me were as gentle with me as I was with myself in those moments.

How you can help 
In this case I was by myself when my panic attack occurred. Sometimes this is a blessing, and sometimes this is a curse. If you are in the presence of someone who is experiencing a panic attack, they are likely feeling very overwhelmed. The first best thing you can do is to say as few words to them as possible. Start with something along the lines of, "I am here with you, and you're safe. I'm not going to say much until you are ready. Let me know."

Offering a loving presence without expectation, at least for me, takes the pressure off. I don't want to explain how I feel because sometimes I can't. But it's nice to know that someone is with me. Another thing you can do is breathe deeply (and sort of exaggerate your breathing sound) so that the person having the panic has something to latch on to. You could even say, "I'm going to take some deep breaths, if you want to do it with me."

Lastly, wait for their cues. They may want to walk, they may want to sit still. They may request something from you, if only you give them the time. If this is someone you are close to, like a family member, I would highly suggest asking them in advance of a panic attack what the best reaction for them is...a sort of panic action plan, if you will. You can make agreements like, "I will not touch you unless you touch my hand, then I will know it's okay for me to hug you." or "We will immediately find a quiet place alone and ask others who may want to help to give us ten minutes."

I hope that those who found this helpful will share it with their loved ones, and open conversations (both online and in real life) about how they can support their loved ones with anxiety, or how they can be supported. If you have a technique that has worked well for you, please share!!! 

Yes, I Yelled At Your Kid(s).

There are two types of parents in this world: those who believe that no one should ever discipline their children except for them (not me), and those who believe that if their kid is being a butthead, other parents have the right to step in tell them so (me.) I was reminded of this the other day when I yelled at a child who was not mine. Let me back up a little...

It was the most exquisite beach day and we headed down to our favorite beach spot for a couple of hours of playing in the sand. When we first arrived, I spotted this little boy, a couple of years older than my daughter, and I knew he was going to be trouble from the moment I laid eyes on him because the second I saw him, he was holding his boogie board above his head, ready to clobber mine over hers.

Since he relented, I said nothing. I also said nothing when just moments later, I saw him splashing and splashing my daughter and repeating the phrase "You will die!" in an effort to eradicate her from the area by the rocks where he was also playing. She got the message, and eventually left. In situations like that, I try not to intervene if I can help it because, you know, kids have to learn how to handle things for themselves.

But my nerves became frazzled past the point of reason when, just several minutes later, I observed the same kid, this time in tandem with his older brother, trying to muscle my daughter off of her Beater Board in the ocean. I marched over there, and yelled a little louder than intended "HEY! I saw you splashing her, and now you two are trying to push her off her board! That's hers! Beat it!" And the boys, sort of shocked, I assumed, by this tiny woman in her floral bathing suit and not-even-matching-a-bit striped sun hat, aborted their mission and backed off. The older boy carried on in the water. The younger boy, went and told his mom.

Back up on the beach, I overheard the boy telling his mom, "a lady yelled at me." I raised my index  finger in the air and copped to what I had done, explaining what had happened. She made him sit in the beach chair, and I heard threats of his iPad being taken away. I figured it was over...until...I heard another member of her party in the ocean, yelling at my husband. She even threatened to get her very large husband to "take care of this situation." Oy vey. Thankfully, the husband's solution to "taking care of the situation" was to placate his wife, and he calmed her down. After all, it was not even her child I had reprimanded.

In those moments, though, I felt bad for the larger issue this stirred up. I could feel the adrenaline in my system, and I took some deep breaths to calm myself. I knew I had stepped in a parenting landmine...Probably I shouldn't have been so harsh with those boys. This isn't New York City, it's a sleepy beach town, and I should have used my sleepy beach town voice when telling the boys that they couldn't pick on someone half their size. Later I apologized to the other mom, (when her agro friend left the beach) and she was pretty cool about it, even admitting, "it was probably well-deserved."

Now, I'm fully aware that some people will say that I was just flat out wrong, and I get that. Others will argue that I was justified as the day is long. As I noted in the beginning, there are two camps here, and they are pretty clear. But rather than pitching my tent on either of those sides, after giving this serious thought, I would like make my camp right on the line, and maybe you will join me because I can't stop thinking about the moral dilemma of it all.

You see, I trust other parents in the broad sense of the word. If my child had gotten yelled at by another parent on the beach, I would have marched her over, had her make an apology and thanked the parent for stepping in, and gotten the rest of the story later. Because why else would a parent step in like that? Sometimes kids are straight up jerks, and as adults we have to rely on one another. We are the world, as they say.

The other thing is that this other mom, or rather, the people she was with, undermined adult authority in a sweeping way, and the kids were watching. Whether they meant to or not, they sent those children the message that if an adult you don't know tells you to knock it off because you're being a jerk, then you can get your posse and they'll bully those people. Or, they basically said, "You don't have to listen to the village." I feel that this attitude contributes to an imbalance in our society where kids think they are running the joint, and it worries me.

When we talk about how unruly today's children are, or how they don't respect authority, we have to take some responsibility for that. As adults, we should have faith that others are, overwhelmingly, doing the right thing. I do think I (mostly) did the right thing because both of those boys--who had been running roughshod over the beachgoers--finally calmed down enough to play nicely with everyone else on the beach. And the day was really awesome! I think the other mom also did the right thing in asking me what happened because, of course she should. But everything that happened after that was complete and utter bullshit, and I have to speak truth to that.

Yes, I yelled at her kids. Next time, I would be nicer about it. I would use my "teacher voice" and not my "mama bear" voice. Lesson learned all the way. However, if you fall into the category of "no one should ever tell it to my kids except for me" you may want to consider about the greater consequences of undermining the overall concept of adult authority. Sometimes adults will be wrong, but we have to also weigh the messages we unconsciously send children when we don't let strangers (in public places) tell our kids when they have stepped over a line, even if they do it differently than we might have as parents.

My Favorite Chewlery

For the last several months, we've been using Occupational Therapy techniques with my daughter. It's been a great tool for our family and has made our daughter, The Bird, feel tons more comfortable in her skin as well as helping her to overcome anxiety, especially at school.


While she has the most issues in the proprioceptive realm, this manifests in a few ways. The neat thing about proprioception is that it crosses into other territories, one of those being oral. For us, this meant that my daughter wanted to lick her hands a lot, or mouth and bite a lot of toys. While this may not seem like a big deal, when it comes to cold and flu season, or toys in shared spaces, it was really becoming quite a nuisance!

Luckily, this was really easy to us to remedy because we came across jewelry that was meant for chewing called Chewlery. After looking at several different brands, I settled on the Munchables brand and ordered a necklace. The day it came in the mail, my husband and I walked down to the mailbox with The Bird, telling her there was a surprise in the box. The minute we opened it and showed it to her, she took one look and popped it into her mouth! Viola!

We knew it was a good fit for her. And it was really cute, too. It just looked like a cool necklace that a gal her age would wear! Most people in our extended family didn't even know that its purpose was for chewing on. It's really made a huge difference for The Bird. She enjoys chewing on it and it's directed her away from chewing toys and the hand licking completely resolved. I was unsure, at first, if she would even wear because classically, she's never liked having things around her neck, but the ability to chew outweighed that!

I was so excited about the product, I reached out to the company, and talked with Laura May, the owner. She's a mom of two, and she runs her company from home in Canada. (Shout to her because working from home with little kids takes moxxy!) She says, "Munchables kids’ products are perfect not only as fashion accessories, but also for children that chew. Our sensory chewelry provides a safe alternative to chewing on collars, cuffs, fingers. Redirecting chewing to a safer option can increase focus and confidence."

I can definitely say that I have noticed these benefits for my own child. Also, a word on the necklaces themselves. The owl, which was our first necklace, is for lighter to moderate chewers only because of the beads on the sides. I learned after receiving the second one (the unicorn) from Laura, that The Bird is a heavy chewer, and so that one was a more accurate fit for her. However, my child loves to wear both necklaces at the same time, so when she chewed through the smaller beads on the owl necklace, I just removed them and it continues to be a favorite!

These necklaces are durable, fashion friendly, and safe. I love that they unsnap (so that a child won't be in danger should the necklace become twisted) and they are pretty lightweight, too! If you have a child that munches on their hands, or has sensory issues, these are an awesome solution. I got my first one on Amazon, but you can also order directly from their website BY CLICKING HERE.