The benefit of having a friend who writes for an online paper is that she can write about you. Okay, okay, I know…it’s been a loooong while since I’ve written but in motherhood time, it’s only been a blink of an eye. But when I can, I still like to write when something interesting or important catches my eye (or email). And this chica did just that.
Her name in Michelle Calva-Despard and she has started her own business…not primarily to make money but to help educate others with information that she has gleaned because of her own passionate living and research. I know her motivation because I know her: her commitment to her kids, her commitment to parenting, her commitment to the betterment of her community. Consequently, she holds nutritional and organizational workshops to help other parents become more efficient and knowledgeable.
I met Michelle about 7 years ago in MOMS Club of Altadena. I was immediately impressed by her strong personality and confidence. Michelle is one of those people who has a seemingly limitless amount of energy and essentially exhausts you by watching her, but her personality, while strong, has a softness that immediately makes you feel comfortable in her presence. And it doesn't hurt that she has a wickedly bright smile. As our children aged and we moved on to different avenues in our lives, we would occasionally run into each other at different events around town.
I learned that she started a new business: Kickin’ it in the Kitchen. I could seriously imagine her doing Rockette kicks while she prepared meals. Nonetheless, I knew if she was hosting workshops for parents, it was a worthy business. So I contacted her and asked her to give me some information about what she teaches so I could include her in one of my columns. She suggested that I attend one of her workshops so I could experience it firsthand.
Now before I get into the who, what, and why, let me give all you ADD readers the stuff you want to know right now. Michelle has a fantastic blog that despite being a guide to nutritious, organized living it is whitty and so not preachy and despite being a mother to 3 kids will be appealing to everyone: Kickin' it in the Kitchen You’ll glean ideas on organization, nutritious and tasty (yesssss, tasty, I promise) recipes, and all kinds of other great tidbits. You can find her workshop schedules and other teaching engagements there as well. You can also find her and LIKE her on Facebook and keep up to date on her newest posts and insights. She offers a variety of workshops including Standard Workshops (Meal Time 101, Welcome to the Table Little One, Thinking Outside the Lunchbox, and Homemade Baby Food), Personalized Workshops, and Private Kitchen Coaching. The titles essentially say it all. She will be featured on Hometown Pasadena next week…for more about upcoming workshops and appearances…KEEP READING!! It’s worth it!
Michelle suggested I attend a Meal Time 101 workshop. This workshop focuses on preparing healthy, tasty meals in a time efficient manner. I knew I probably wouldn’t learn much because I’m fairly organized—hey, stop the laughter, I’m trying to write here and I can hardly hear myself think. But, I do already implement extremely healthy eating habits in our home. Not laughing now are you? I was surprised and pleased that I learned some great tips for better organizing and managing my mealtimes, so much so that while she had offered the workshop to me for free, I felt it worthwhile to pay her for it.
I thought it was enough to know that she was a hardworking mom who never (seemed) to miss a beat. Michelle had grown up with a connection to food—her grandparents lived on a farm and her mother always raised a large garden. Her husband, however, had a poor diet of largely fast food. But I learned that her quest to feed her family better had everything to do with her kids, but not the way I had thought. It wasn’t simply a want…it was a need, and, as she says, “it was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to learn about and change our nutritional behavior”.
Michelle’s first child was born with digestive issues and was eventually put on laxatives, which the doctor explained she would have to use the rest of her life. Michelle notes that she was not given any nutritional education, which, considering the nature of the disease, seemed imperative. As it is with her nature, Michelle wouldn’t accept that her daughter would live her life forcing her gut to do what nature intended. She began to educate herself with the assistance of her sister who was a nutritionist (herself with a large family). After lots of troubleshooting and trial and error, Michelle discovered that with simple nutritional changes, her daughter could avoid laxatives and live a normal, healthy life simply by eating a “clean”, balanced diet. The main person to convince was her husband, but even he no longer craves a saturated, preservative-laden diet.
“Most everybody knows what you should be doing, it’s how you organize it and how you get the kids to eat it,” explains Michelle. “Just like anybody else, I wake up and don’t feel like having to pack a bunch of lunches and make three breakfasts, but then I look at the picture with my kids and think that it’s worth it…I’m doing it for them”. Among some of the guidance that she provides in her various workshops is how to stretch your dollar by utilizing ingredients over several meals and ways to prevent all that beautiful produce you just bought at the farmer’s market from rotting because you’ve either forgotten about it, you haven’t stored it properly, or you bought too much and didn’t plan accordingly.
She will also provide helpful advice on time management, meal planning, and while I fortunately don’t personally have issues with mealtime fussiness, she addresses that as well in her “Welcome to the Table Little One” workshop. She draws on her experience as a teacher with behavior management and discipline education and her favorite behavior theories. She also has her nutritionist sister at her beck and call for allergy or other nutritional issues that she can’t fully answer herself (although you might be surprised at the wealth of her knowledge).
And finally, in addition to your mind, she will fill your belly with one or several of her favorite healthy recipes just to prove that healthy food can be easy to prepare and taste great and then she will send you home with a stack of your own. I have never liked fajitas, really could not find the appeal in them. But she served homemade fajitas (I silently sighed) and with the first bite couldn’t believe my taste buds. They were delicious and have become a staple dinner item at our home…even my daughter loves them despite being jam-packed with vegetables.
Michelle is currently researching a new workshop that “focuses on helping girls look at food in healthy ways”. She says, “specifically, I want to find some approaches that parents can take in the kitchen and at the table to help their daughters strike a balance between positive self image/health conscious emotional state while at the same time not becoming obsessive about being thin or having a particular body type”. This all stems from her older child asking her if her jeans make her look fat (“I swear I don’t do this!!" she exclaims). She wisely adds, "healthy eating habits are a big part of the game here, I think, but current culture sure isn't going to hand us the tools to figure things out!" Yet again, she is taking personal issues and finding answers to help us all.
I highly recommend to anyone who might feel mealtime and its preparation isn’t quite as efficient, pleasant, or nutritious as it could be to check her out. I personally wasn’t sure I would gain all that much as I am pretty efficient in planning nutritious meals, but I was surprised at all the great tips she provided that I could utilize, especially with the efficiency aspect. She holds Standard Workshops just about every month. You won’t find a lag in the 90 minutes you spend with her and for $75 (groups of more than 3 get a negotiated reduced rate), it’s a better deal than those make-and-take meal establishments and you’ll learn lessons that will last a lifetime.
Her upcoming workshops are: Meal Planning 101 on Tuesday, February 5th from 9:30am -11:00 am. and Welcome to the Table Little One on Wednesday, February 13 from 9:30am – 11:00am. You can contact her at mdespard@msn to sign up for upcoming workshops or to set up a private, small or large group presentation.