Keep the Peace: phrases to protect your sensory kid

Have you ever done a ballet or tap recital? Synchronized swimming or skiing? Line dance? Waltz? You learn, train, practice, rehearse, perform: building muscle memory. Families are just like that!

15645354_10155788423503916_1725267477_n

You might have moved away and changed your dance, maybe you took up modern jazz — but when you come home, the old gang is still doing the funky chicken. The old dance. Your muscle memory kicks in and you flap your elbows, shake your booty to the floor, and your hands “cluck” like you never stopped. But stick with me, and you don’t have to dance that old dance. Nor do you have to pull the rug out from under the other dancers.

Let’s rehearse some ways it could work for you, your kids, and your extended family. Then work your plan both ways – you are the hinge between your parents and your kids. Work your plan with both of them. Scripts are great for this.

twitter-128Scripts help us decide what’s important & how to speak up about it — respect our parents & protect our kids. <= Click To Tweet

Scripts help us keep relationships with our extended family.

Plan with or speak with your nuclear family, your partner, kids, lodgers, and pet-sitters about the holiday plan. It has taken me some time — and embarrassing momfits — to see that sometimes I should not try for the democratic process. Either I really have a plan or I don’t, but sometimes I (or Dad and I) need to be in charge of how we play it by ear with our families, or maybe I just don’t have the energy for the kids saying, “I vote we just stay home.” Sometimes they don’t get a vote.  And that’s ok.

Lately Thing 1 has been exemplary at checking in with himself and explaining how he feels – he doesn’t like to be surprised by my last-minute planning. Sigh. Teaching self-help skills means having to deal with it when the kids use those skills.

Think in advance – be prepared to compromise. Think about your top three foodie areas where you do NOT want to compromise around your kids’ food. Write them down. I’m a big fan of sleeping on it – go back to your top 3 list later, and then decide if they fit with your desires and travel plans – are you willing to do the work during a 3-day drive to ensure that the family eats leafy greens at every meal? Keep it realistic, reasonable, perhaps even easy.  Are you going to be mad at the extra work, or mad at missing your greens? Weigh that out.

snowman If you are having guests coming, ask if you need a backup food for their fussy or sensory kid, and withhold your judgment … they may show up doing a waltz, but you can still show off your jazz hands.

Your kids. It’s tempting to just buy chicken nuggets or prepared mac and cheese, and while that is one strategy that I use on occasion, I want to propose some ideas that taught our family to be better guests.

  1. Tell social stories about the trip – why you’re going, what to expect, how it might go, another way it might go, how they might feel and it’s okay to feel our feelings. Give them some scripts, too: “Mom, it’s too loud in here, can I sit in the car?” “Mom, I don’t think I can wait until dinner. I’m hangry. Can I have a healthy snack?”
  1. Strategize about where a kid can get some peace and quiet. In the car, bathroom, a big cardboard box, grandma’s porch, even under the bedcovers. Tell them how to excuse themselves, where to go, and what to do when they are overwhelmed — even if it’s at the dinner table.
  1. Teach them how to decline politely. Don’t hurt the cook’s feelings and don’t “yuk on someone else’s yum.”
  1. Discuss in advance that your family “new food” rules always apply (if they do. If they do not, clarify what the traveling rules will be), then expect them to stick to your one-bite rule, or smell or lick, or a bite for each year old they are. Tell them this before you go.
  1. Tell your kids that they can come to you if someone says something that makes them feel sad, mad or bad so that you can handle the situation for them — or if they are being pressured to eat something or to clean their plate or whatever else happens. Be sure they know that they can, and how to do so with respect, perhaps out of earshot or even by text message.
  1. Show your kid(s) three recipes and have them choose a healthy one that they will eat to make and bring – even if it’s not a potluck. Veggies-n-dip, fruit-n-yogurt, a side of snap peas, or a healthy yeast or sweet bread, all make great hostess gifts. Or consider a bowl of melon, pomegranate seeds, or berries.  Older kids might be trusted to peruse the cookbook, but set some parameters – a slice-and-bring dish? High fiber? Crockpot warmable? Bring a side, a vegetarian or gluten-free or allergy-free dish, offer to bring a side and bring 2, and even something just for your kid.
  1. 15349645_1354173004595977_3822187472669593966_n-1Involving them in making the dish is a great way to teach executive function. Have them decide, list the ingredients, shop for what you need, make the recipe, clean up, store the dish, and make a plan for warming and serving it when you get there. “Math it” out loud if you are doubling or halving the recipe. If you can include granny when you get there, all the better.
  1. Look away if you can. If the food is not a dangerous allergen, let them flounder just a little … if they’re hungry, they may stretch a little or a lot. Also, looking away changes the food dance. Your stepmom, mom, or dad become the food bearers, which changes the dynamic.
  1. At the same time, set them up for success. My pickiest eater would cross a line and just not be hungry any more – especially when he was smaller. So before grown-up dinners, parties, plane rides, and the like, we would snack him or full-on feed him. As he got bigger, around 5th grade, I started looking away more. He is usually well-mannered enough to at least try. Be sure to teach them the manners that they need to take care of themselves without offending.

Your parents.  You are the hinge between these two generations. You don’t want their judgment, but don’t give them yours either. A friend says “apathy is your personal savior.” And that’s a good phrase to remember when bringing toddlers to grandma’s house. Explain to them, “We’ll be out of our schedule, we’ll be on the road three days, no, this is not the way we live all the time, but I’m going to let them stay up late or eat junk (or or whatever it is) so I don’t spend our time together punishing them.

Everyone has someone who needs to be “always right.” I have those people; families are full of them! Haha. But you can protect yourself by actively believing that they just want to help, or make themselves feel better, or be loved – no need to bristle at them. I am not above taking All. The. Blame.   Then we can get on with dinner or building a fire or skiing or whatever it is we are doing.  I’m willing to do that.

  1. Some people have no skills for respecting boundaries, being kind, or self-regulation and many of those people have kids – you might even be a kid of someone like that. If you’re here reading this, chances are pretty good!  We’ve solved some of these issues by staying in a hotel in town, staying in a camper in the yard, scheduling a couple of short trips instead of a longer one – we may break up a week with grandma by spending a few nights with Pa, or Auntie, or with my old high school friends. When you are in their house, they may ask you to abide by their rules, and if that’s a conflict, offsite housing or offsite visits might work best if you’re not willing to go toe to toe on why junior does not have to clean his plate, even if s/he is at grandpa’s house.15673533_10155788423513916_1458279869_n
  1. In advance, tell your parents social stories about the trip – what they can expect, how it might go, or another way it might go. You can say something like “It’s just impossible to stay on schedule while traveling, so we’re going to just go with the flow in terms of planning the week, or sticking to time limits on the ipad or eating leafy greens at every meal.” And then repeat that in person when your kid throws a fit, or when you don’t bring down the hammer on some infraction – even if you would at home. My dad is a merciless tease, and before one trip I just came out and said “he wants to grow his hair and I just don’t care – it seems like harmless self expression. But he’s very sensitive to being teased, and I just don’t want you to hurt his feelings.” He might have rolled his eyes over the phone, but he did not tease my kid about his hair. Or his disdain for chewy meat!
  1. When they make suggestions about how to solve a parenting problem, nod, give a thoughtful look (this is usually called active listening – or just acting haha) and say something like:

Huh, I’ll have to do some research on that.

Oooh, I’ll look into it.

I’ll ask the pediatrician about that (or physical therapist, feeding consultant, teacher, school psychologist, occupational therapist…. defer to a higher authority than either you or your parents).

  1. Or you might shrug, give an apologetic look (even if you feel annoyed) and say something like: **We’ve consulted with the pediatrician and we are just going with this for now.

 

I love my elders, but they do drive me nuts. These tactics have helped me keep my relationships with them, keep them in relationship with my kids, and teach my kids both how to be respectful to their elders and also how I want to be treated when they are adults.

Good luck and happy holidays!

If you have a sticky situation or shocking success, drop it in the comments and I’ll chime in or cheer you on!

Winter Holiday Sensory Tips for Kids

Is your kid easily overwhelmed?  You don’t need a formal diagnosis to notice sensory preferences, and if you see a trend in meltdowns and over-stimulation, chances are you’ll see more of those over the winter holidays.  I’ve got some guidelines for preventing those meltdowns, and they might be applicable to adults in the family, too.  Ahem. (That bell ringing over the kettle for donations makes me do a u-turn right out of the parking lot, muttering under my breath!)

First, manage expectations: yours and theirs.  Parents with sensitive or sensory kids may review what they think “typical” families do: is that an achievable expectation for your family without getting tied up into knots?  As the family planners, consider i15349645_1354173004595977_3822187472669593966_n-1.jpgf you might need to give up on your vision or modify it. Kids’ expectations can wreck an otherwise great event, and getting a handle on those expectations will help the season go smoothly. A great  way to do that is to talk!  Before you go out, as you plan the holiday meal, schedule events, or invite folks over, find age-appropriate ways to check in with the kids and tell them who is involved and how long you think it will be: 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days?    Will there be food?  Other kids? Will they be expected to sit quietly, sing songs, play tag outside?

Kids’ expectations aren’t always clear to THEM: all the presents, all the sweet treats, read from the Torah, do the reading, not do the reading, light the candles, decorate the tree, travel, crowds, manners, strangers…  take the time to check in before and during events, and be open to offering descriptive language to younger kids and getting more information from them as it dawns on them.

Second, have a plan: Coach your kids on a way to indicate that they are overwhelmed or have had enough.  We agree to two fingers on the arm while I’m talking.  When I reach a break in the conversation, I’ll tend to the kid.  When the fingers push harder, I know it’s a bathroom emergency (or some other “emergency” and we are refining what counts as an emergency haha).  Have an exit strategy — or two.   If you’ve gone over how long you think the event will go, have a strategy in place for if the meltdown comes…. it might even be yours!  Haha.  Everybody gets their own coats and meets at the front door?  Designated parent takes melting down kid to the car?   And waits for a cool-down so they can return, or waits for the family to leave the event (does the rest of the family finish touring the conservatory of leave right away)? A quick review of the family plans can extend how long everyone can stay — just knowing there is a meltdown plan can increase everyone’s endurance.

Third, bring supplies.  Discuss the event, air the kids’ concerns in advance, and take this opportunity to prepare for the overwhelm: bring sunglasses or a hat with a visor for light displays, bonfires, or even crowds.  Bring earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, or even an iPod.  Consider a snack and drink, a comfort toy, quiet entertainment, extra binkies.  A couple of times we even brought a friend!

Kids’ engagement and endurance aren’t 100% predictable.  Even at 13, my son may grit his teeth through an entire event, or he may find his niche and really enjoy it.  His enjoyment may be due to talking to other adults, finding a kid with similar interests, or just finding a place to zone out with a book or tv.  He does always expect to grit his teeth through social events, so having a review of what we think will happen, supplies, and an exit plan help us get there in the first place.  And in case you experience unexpected delays, check out my list of games and bonding activities HERE.

Other things to consider:

Lights: displays, on the house, at events.  Twinkling, flashing, and color-changing lights can be overwhelming to sensory kids.  For kids with seizure disorders, they can even inspire a seizure.

Sound: Malls, adult parties, kids parties, THAT BELL!

Gift expectations: getting less than you hoped for, getting an overwhelming amount, presents that don’t come with batteries, don’t work, or fail in their advertised promises.

Eating schedules: Stealthily sliding your kid a granola bar when you realize that food is delayed, or snacking before leaving home to avoid HANGRY meltdowns, can really save the day!

If you’d like some support around any of these issues, or want to sit down and map out strategies that work for your family, just hit reply to this email.  We can schedule a free 30-minute chat, and if you’d like to set up more time after that, we can!

As always, do follow Funnermother on Facebook. 🙂

 

 

Chocolate, Gummis, and HUGS, oh my! Three interventions in the Halloween hangover.

THIS year I walked the hood instead of handing out candy, and it was glorious, like a tiny suburban, clean (but scary) Mardi Gras!  It has taken me a long time to come to accept that Halloween will happen.  Year after year.  I’ve slowly chipped away at my “candy is immoral” position, eeking my way toward a more workable, reality-based one.  I’ve actually come to enjoy dressing as, say, Phyllis Diller.  14938286_1310713398941938_580177616813119416_n.jpgSharon Osbourne. PeeWee Herman.  And I’ve got strategies for the candy!

First, managing The Candy: 

Lots of trading and organizing and negotiating happen between the two kids, and those are ALL GOOD SKILLS!  Haha.  We’ve consistently said that the kids could have 2 pieces after dinner. On weekends they negotiate for more, and *I* think we’re lenient, but Running Mate does not.  Nor do the kids.

Running Mate does ask for and eat some of their candy, the Dad Tax.  That’s the closest we get in our family to tithing, but we are community-oriented parents who believe in taxes and community services.

Second, teaching with The Candy:

Candy overload is a great teaching tool for both kids and parents, as we learned from a kid vomiting in the car because of too much birthday cake and ice cream.  Twice.  I just did not get it the first time, I guess.  It was ages ago, and it didn’t take much cake.  Vomit is a great tool for parents;  we can talk plainly about the perils of evil evil sugar, and about moderation, and about taking our advice.

Stupid tiny wrappers are a great chance to practice picking up your own garbage. Ug.

A few years in a row, Thing 1 wanted to melt down and mix together a bunch of candies and make some kind of Frankencandy or fudge.  Kitchen experiments are fun sensory experiences, they encourage executive function skills and basic chemistry lessons (probably more than basic if I knew more).  The Frankencandy looked too yukky to garner more than the obligatory taste.  The fudge concoction looked edible, we nibbled on it a little, but it wasn’t what he’d expected and we didn’t eat it all.

This year, while  doing dishes, Thing 1 made a joke and I laughed and laughed.  He offered me a peanut M&14955805_1312471322099479_4602202210808270260_n.jpgM. He was sweet and funny and we hugged. He offered me a peanut M&M.  I thanked him for helping me with the dishes, UNASKED.  He offered me a peanut M&M.  Big Bang Theory fans will know why I stopped laughing and asked, “Are you trying to Penny me?”

His turn to laugh.  HARD.  “Yes.”

Third, giving The Candy:

This is a great opportunity for the kids to GIVE!  Yes, you have a large amount, you have things that other folks might want more than you (trying to say nicely to give away the stuff you don’t like) and lots of people on your “thank you” list: send a special piece to each grandparent, give to the crossing guards on your way to school, to the neighbors who did not participate this year, sadly, because their kids are grown.

Your candy will be gone in no time.

As always, I’m here for you.  Please do follow along on Facebook, and share this post widely.  🙂

Picky Eater at the Library Party

Academic library folk can party!  Every year we went to a swank restaurant owned by an Italian celebrity chef.  My former micropreemie, now toddling, came to work with me a couple of days a week and was also invited.

It was a pasta restaurant, his favorite! Yummy comfort foods — what’s not to love?

There was a much-anticipated $5 gift swap, wine, and small talk.  A little more wine.  Appetizers.  Then we picked from a special menu pulled together just for us — a trio of extremely lovely highbrow pastas. Gnocchi with duck; garganelli with Prosciutto, peas, and cream; ravioli with wild boar and rosemary.

Fudgey, creamy, or spicy.  Uh oh.

Luckily, I had backup.

I found our waiter and, with big smiles and nodding my head, made my request.  My cheeks felt flushed. Again.  I sat at the big round six-top with Peanut on my lap.

WillNotEatClick

Click here to receive three quick videos with tips for your picky eater.

I ate; he didn’t.

CLICK to tweet:  If you have a sensory or food-averse kid, you know — you cannot wait them out.   They’d rather not eat.  At the six-top, my coworkers noticed, looked worried, asked if he was feeling okay.  I was still smiling wide, nodding, and now sweating, too.  And still flushed.

If you have a picky kid, you’ve probably stuck food in your purse a time or a hundred.

Finally the waiter came out with my secret weapon — purse nuggets!  In those days purse nuggets were my constant companion; just throw them in frozen and by lunch they’re ready to heat up.

He’s still picky at 13, but it’s okay. In the decade since then, I’ve worked out a system and he’s come a long way.  He’s no longer underweight and I don’t fret about his diet.

Purse nuggets got us through some scary times, and I am grateful to the nugget inventors of the world.  But shifting to a deliberate family culture around food has changed everything.  He’s become curious and he even eats outside his comfort zone — and points it out, haha.

If you want tips for building food curiosity in your picky kid, click the link above to get 3 quick videos sent right to your inbox.  And stay tuned, I have a webinar coming up in May that will help you ditch those purse nuggets forever!

If you can’t wait another day, check out my Parenting Picky Eaters program.  And as always, follow along the antics in the fun house on Facebook.

Purse nuggets be gone!

Burning up: shame about my picky eater.

Her turquoise eyes were snapping!

She looked me right in the eye, inches from my face.

“Well then, what WILL he eat?”

My face burned.

My beloved stepmom is a locally renown cook; she’d been feeding my two man-nephews for ten years while they tried to eat the entire town out of house and home.  It’s her joy, her gift, and her bragging right.  She is a great cook.

“Chicken nuggets.”

She did not blink. Flinch. Or show any emotion.

I felt ashamed.  The burning increased.

If you have a picky eater, a sensory kid, or a food-averse child, you know that burning feeling.  We’ve lived it more than once, and you have, too.

I felt accused and worried that someone might think less of my wee child.

Food in general left me feeling like a failed mom and  even more protective of my picky eater out in the world — even as I negotiated my own frustration about that pickiness.

I was an older mom.  The generation before me had their answers: wait them out, don’t give in.  The generation after me had their answers: let them graze, give them multiple clean choices.  Neither paradigm felt right for us.  My kid had been intubated at birth; my kid had a couple of diagnoses; my kid was an awesome miracle.  My kid was picky.  And still is. But we have a working system around it.

WillNotEatClickClick here for three quick video tips on picky kids — delivered to your inbox.

A recent article in the Boston Globe did a great job pondering if picky eaters are made or born.  Kids, with too much power, with new diagnoses, with more serotonin receptors in their guts than their brains.  Parents, not wanting or affording to waste food, not wanting to struggle in the little time available to families, told by pediatricians as long as the kid eats, it’s ok.

I believe picky eating is normal.  Extreme picky eating seems to be on its way to the new normal — for too many diverse reasons to simply choose one.  Having control over something in a quickly whirling world, so many delicious available choices, so many processed foods, so many sensory diagnoses, so many anxious parents, so much judgment.  There’s biology at play, as well as: family dynamics, working conditions, money, those serotonin receptors, time, wellness and its lack.  It is historically emerging.

I believe it doesn’t matter why.  Moms in the trenches need a plan and they need it now.  We can’t wait for researchers to figure out why picky eaters are on the rise.  I have a plan to share, and you can get a taste of it (ha!) by clicking the photo above for 3 free video tips of low-key ways to expose your kids to new foods.

My Parenting Picky Eaters program builds a family culture of curiosity around food.  It helps you track what your kid actually eats — it’s almost never as bad as it feels.  It’ll give you tricks for sneaking in the good food while you simultaneously expose your kids to new foods and ignite their curiosity about food. You’ll learn the four words that hijack dinner and add some new terms to the conversation.  Family traditions, teamwork, and a bonus book-and-movie list round things out.

As always, pop on over to Funnermother on Facebook to see what else we’re up to in the Fun house!

Sensitive, Picky Eaters? Listen in as I’m interviewed on this very topic!

Listen in tonight at 7 as I discuss with Donna Ashton my signature system for building food curiosity into your family culture.  Learn the four words that are derailing family dinners.

Donna is the founder of The Waldorf Connection, where parents can get support giving their children an education of art, music, and movement.  Donna is a champion of home-schooling ease and a mentor for family-first home-based businesses.
My talk is free, so just click here to jump on the call.

12357091_1082451701768110_9172795724673176083_o

Planning Now for A Kids-At-Home Summer

kids running through field

Click this idyllic image to purchase this print from Vickie Wade Fine Art.

I’m setting up some daily structure for the summer now.  We have one important rule: no computer before 11 am. They are allowed an hour a day during the summer, and it works better if I give them “time to earn” that privilege.  This summer they’ll also be allowed an hour of playstation time, but not before 3.  And they are required to read for at least an hour a day. That’s our day by day.

They are looking forward to ending their first year in public school and having a long leisurely summer.  They did a great job tackling a big transition, and I’m happy to have the chance to stay home and allow them the kind of summer I had as a kid.

But I also asked them to put a couple of fun things on their wish list for the summer, and here’s what they picked.

vintage circus camel

Click this image to purchase this fun instant download from Digital Design Vault.

Thing 1: Living Treasures Animal Park, Build A Cactus Garden, Grow a jade plant

Thing 2: Get good Pokemon cards, Ride a camel, play laser tag at Lazer Storm

All pretty manageable goals for a summer vacation.

We go to the library regularly year round, we have a big-for-the-suburbs garden to tend, and I’m going to continue having them prepare dinner one night a week. So those are our weekly activities.

I’m also going to get them to the water park, to Maine, and with luck I’ll get us ALL organized for a camping trip.  Our first.  Eek.

colorful waterpark print

Click this image to purchase it from Supkophoto.

My friend Gina over at Sister Serendip has a great summer plan for loose weekly themes and manages to keep five little ones lightly focused and fairly busy all summer.  Check her out, too.  And then tell me what YOUR plans are, over on Facebook or in the comments below.  Here we go!

Use edible flowers to entice picky eaters

salad seeds

Click this link to purchase these edible organic flower salad seeds from The Garden Studio.

purple chive flowers

Click this image to purchase organic chive seeds from Cubits.

Gardening with kids introduces them to the freshest of foods.

A family garden teaches them growth cycles, harvest techniques, and teamwork.

Plants are the only living things that make their own food.

Once the novelty of the garden wears off, reintroduce it with edible flowers.

Eat them right out of your window boxes!

The smallest gardeners will need guidance, of course, as to which flowers are edible.

Play scientist!

 

edible flowers clip art

Click this image to purchase edible flowers clip art from Corner Croft.

 

What colors are in the flower?

Smell and feel the flowers, crush them in your hands and smell them again.

Ask if they are sweet, peppery, minty.  Crunchy?  Chewy?

Play researcher!

 

lavender

Click this image to purchase lavender seeds from All About Seeds.

Search out if you can cook the flowers, and how.

I have a New England friend who swears that fried dandelion flowers taste like fried mushrooms.

This summer we are trying that!

A coworker used to bring in lavender pizelles (this crispy italian cookies).

hand drawn card

Click this image to purchase this card from Lucy Auge.

Salads with nasturtiums, fried zucchini blossoms, daylilies, echinachea tea…

Have a garden playdate and try them all (clear it with the moms first, just in case of allergies).

Brew sun tea outside, make a salad right from the garden and eat it there, too.

Pretend you are dinosaurs, you’re on Master Chef Junior, you are on a journey to search for the magical golden flower that will make you able to fly…

just ask the kids, they’ll take you on the wildest adventures ever.

yellow marigolds

Click this image to purchase seeds for these marigolds from Kenyon Organics.

If you’d like more ideas for making mealtime with your picky eater fun, sign up for my list of Tools for Finicky Eaters (hint: they’re edible!) here.

And if you want to work one-on-one, we can give your family mealtimes a total makeover.  Just look over here.

Tools of the trade: eating in style

hand painted cutlery

Click this image to purchase these colorful wooden forks.

Kids love having and making choices.

They always want to have choices and to feel empowered.  Who doesn’t?

Sometimes, though, they don’t have choices about what they eat… like when they don’t want to eat the healthy meal you’ve made.

peas in the pod

Click this image to purchase these from Smileware — or check out her other cool cutlery.

It happens.

And when it does, offer your kids some fun alternative eating utensils.

I’ve shared some recipes that sneak in healthy food, and I’ve written about some grocery store games to engage your kids in the family’s food choices.  Add imaginative cutlery to your bag of tricks.

alternative cutlery

From left: yogurt foil lids are meant to be used as spoons; K’nex, popsicle sticks, pickle fork, decorative butter knives, a Nuk tool for our sensory defensive eater (our seeker also loves it, even without dipping it in food!), cob knobs, dixie cups, colorful cutlery, measuring spoon, toothbrush, chopsticks, and a medicine measuring device from the pharmacy. See what YOU have on hand.

 

 

Here are some items we’ve used over the years to coax and play with our defensive kid and satisfy a desire for input for our seeker kid!  🙂

Even at 7 & 11, if I just set down a plate of pineapple or cheese cubes with a toothpick in each one, they are far more likely to eat.

I’d love to hear about any crazy tools you come up with… please share them in the comments below, or join in over on Facebook!

Dinnertime: A Seating Plan and Surveillance

rustic farm table

Click this beautiful image to purchase it from Keith Dotson.

Lilith's drawing

Thing 2 made a seating chart with plates and silverware drawn in.

We talked about making a family resolution a month ago…I suggested we start eating at the dining room table.

We usually eat in the living room, but now we have a tween in the house, he’s been squirreling away alone.  I didn’t like it, but it seemed like a harmless way to let him have some independence.

So I broached the idea tentatively.

And they surprised me.

I came home in the dark after working one Sunday at the swish boutique that carries my crocheted items.  Thing 2, age 7, was scurrying around in an apron setting the (newly cleaned off) dining room table.

She had drawn a seating plan, and had taped to the table pieces of scrap paper with our names written on them.

It wasn’t January yet!

We’ve eaten at the table every night but two, and we all seem to enjoy it.  My more traditional neighbor always sang the family meal’s praises.  She did it her kids’ entire lives, and still hosts the whole family plus a son-in-law every Sunday.  I continue to be surprised at the immediate change it made for us.  Everyone comes to the table, we talk, tell about our day, laugh, get antsy, do dishes together, and more.  And the “more” is this — I think my cake-eater eats more of his healthy dinner this way!  It could be because Mother Is Watching, or it could be that it has turned dinner into a more social affair.  I’m pleasantly surprised, and most of all because they actually did it without me!  Try it at your house and let me know how it goes.  Or tell me how to mix it up after the novelty has worn off.  And if you want the lo-down on inspired ways to feed those finicky kids, get my free 20-minute talk HERE.