Happy New Year!
Wow! I can’t believe it’s 2017 already! What was your favorite part of 2016? I just realized yesterday that I spent all of 2016 pregnant! (Well, part of it with a newborn, pictured here getting a kiss from her big sister!) So for me, welcoming my baby girl to this world was my proudest moment of the year for sure!
The fact that I had my dream birth of delivering her naturally, at home and in the water (while her sister was having dinner at the restaurant across the street with the babysitter, what to do with Big Sister was my biggest concern before birth!) proves to me yet again that what ever you set your mind to, you can achieve!
What ever you think about, comes about! (tweetable!) 🙂
We rang in the new year for the first time as a family of four! We had our traditional lucky New Year foods for dinner (get the recipes here!) and made our traditional New Year’s Day beach visit.
The baby girl is already 3 months old! Now that the fourth trimester is officially over (eek! That went SO quickly!) I plan to get back to work more full time at the end of the month! I have SO much to share with you all but I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle a newborn, a toddler, home life, AND work! Kudos and props to all the hard working mamas out there (stay at home, back in the office or both!)
Today’s guest “Babysitter Blog” post is from Ted Lai, A.K.A. Wok Wild Side… Vegan foodie, blogger, cook and hockey dad. I love this guy and his entire adorable family! Although Ted and I were both guest head chefs at JOi Cafe (not on the same night) and both have daughters 3 years apart, we first officially met at the Vegan Street Fair in 2015. He’s not only a source of inspiration for me professionally but personally as well. He doesn’t know it yet but I’m applying to be an adopted member of his family (or at least to have dinner at his house one night?)! 🙂
I probably am so fond of him and feel a kinship because our life and parenting models are so similar… I truly agree with what he says, and strive do the same with my girls! 🙂
PS – Stay tuned for my next recipe collaboration with Hynt Beauty (hint: earl grey/bergamot might have something to do with it)!
Our Vegan Family
by Ted Lai
Many people know my wife and me as @thisistheveganlife and @wokwildside, our social media handles. However, we’re probably better known by sight as the “vegan family.” It helps that my wife, Trang, and I have two relatively well-adjusted teenage daughters, Zoe and Genevieve, 19 and 16, who actually enjoy spending time with their parents at various public and private gatherings. There are other vegan families, but we’re a couple with kids who are old enough to have adult conversations but not old enough to have moved out of the house. As we go to vegan events together and invite people to our home to share our food, people often compliment us and tell us we are a model they’d love to emulate. So whether it’s Trang and my relationship or our daughters making a good impression, people often mention us with the hashtag #lifegoals.
We often get asked for the secret to our “success” – raising two vegan daughters and having a vegan family – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there isn’t a model that guarantees success. We’ve lived a life where we have had the same challenges that most parents face: kids who don’t always love the food we prepare, surviving the terrible two’s and teen’s, being okay with increasing freedom and responsibility, and navigating the tricky world of nutrition, identity, and compassion.
That said, as I reflect on things we’ve done, mistakes we’ve made, conversations we’ve had, there are some things that I think have helped us over the years:
If you want your children to eat their vegetables, then you have to eat vegetables. If you want your kids to try new things, then you have to try new things. If you want your children to have a global perspective and empathize and develop compassion, then you need to go to events that enrich, broaden, and deepen your experiences.
Whether it was a trip to a museum, festival, rally, new restaurant, or a charity event, we made sure that our daughters were never considered too young to participate and learn. For as long as I can remember, we have volunteered time, services, and money because we believe a variety of experiences and causes can help shape a more balanced view of the world. It’s the understanding that there are things in life that can make our lives more “rich,” whether it’s an appreciation for art, volunteering for a cause, or just meeting great people and eating vegan food, our lives are better with experiences that develop compassion for others and ourselves. One or both of our kids were right there with us visiting the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, marching to protest the passing of Proposition 8, and helping make and sell baked goods to benefit the Gentle Barn… not to mention all the different compassion-based and vegan events like Vegan Street Fair, SoCal VegFest, Green Saturday LA, and more.
Without this outlook and attitude, we would not have tried (and loved) Ethiopian food, we would not have developed an appreciation for art installations, and may not have learned that we can make a difference in our world.
As parents, we try to always support each other. In my opinion, having one lenient parent and a more severe one is a recipe for disaster in family dynamics. We want our kids to know that when we make decisions as a team, there’s no running to the other parent for a change.
Consistency goes a long way towards making sure that there can be discussions, but there are ultimately decisions as well… and these decisions may or may not be 100% aligned to what our kids want, but there’s a reason for them, and we can still enjoy the outcomes.
We also try to be consistent in food choices as well. Being vegan is part of who we are, but so is avoidance of junkier foods and moderation on deep-fried items and sugary sweets. Consistency is what developed our girls’ taste for kale at a very early age. One of our food rules was that they always had to eat a serving of anything… That serving could have been a single bite… they could ask for more, but they couldn’t ask for less. There are so many foods, from kale to chocolate, that our girls didn’t love at first but have grown to love. The same goes for me. Mushrooms, cilantro, and dandelion greens are just three of the foods that I have disliked at one time in my life, but have tried over and over in different forms and now look forward to.
Over the years, I think it’s also helped our girls understand that their actions and beliefs need to have consistency as well. Compassion for animals, attitude in life, helping others… the more we have a baseline and showcase consistency the better. You can do more, but you should never do less.
I will be the first to admit that when we sit down to eat, I can sometimes be found checking Instagram. That said, we try to be present as much as possible. Whether it’s attending one of their concerts, watching our little one play hockey, or simply shopping for school or art supplies, we try to be be there as much as possible. If a personal activity is important enough to our girls, it’s important for us. We try to have family meals together as often as possible. We celebrate special events together. We vacation together. There are definitely times that Trang and I have a date night, but it isn’t often… we’ll have time enough for that when the girls move out.
There are times when we’re out somewhere and all four of us are on our devices, and we think that’s okay because if nothing else, we’re all still together. Then without warning or anything said, we put them away. Maybe it’s because food has arrived. Maybe it’s because one of wants to take time to talk. There’s no hard and fast rule, but somehow, we understand when to put the devices away and be there for each other to listen and share. Most of all, these opportunities give us time to have fun with each other.
There it is… the not so secret to our ‘success’ in this extraordinary ordinary life. I can’t guarantee following these habits will lead to your own family growth together, but it can’t hurt. The fact is, I wish all families were close, compassionate, and fun, but I also wish ours could always consistently be close, compassionate, and fun too… we’re a work in progress, but we have fun trying.
From humble beginnings as a four-year-old making peanut butter and pickle sandwiches to his current work starting a food business and sharing food with friends, family, and at special events, Ted has always understood the power of food in life. A vegan father of a plant-based family, Ted is best known on social media as @WokWildside but also hosts the @VeganMacGyver show through YouTube (on the VeganFoodShare channel) and FaceBook (on the Vegan Outreach page) where he creates meals in a hotel room with minimal equipment and ingredients. You can find his small-batch Seitan and vegan cheese business, Plant Alchemy, through Instagram and Twitter via @EatPlantAlchemy.