How are you holding up?

If I had a nickel for every time I typed that this week, we’d be living large on the craggy coast of Maine.  But seriously, how ARE you holding up?

If you’re reading this, you probably have kids.  Are they okay?  I posted some scripts for responding to the US election on my Funnermother Facebook page, groupe

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d by age.  Here they are.  I wish I could thank the author, but I don’t know who it is.

Some developmentally-sensitive scripts (just suggestions):
0-5 years old: “Grown ups are so silly! Can you believe that a lot of grown-ups voted for a meanie? I know, those grown-ups are so silly! We’ll vote for someone better next time. Now let’s play outside…”

6-10 years old: “I am so sad and disappointed. I really wanted this to be different. We have a LOT of work to do now! There are lots of ways that our family, community, and our friends are going to protect each other and work together to make sure that we have a kind and fair leader of our country in the future. Let me tell you about some of the things we can do….”

11-13 years old: “This is not the first horrible thing that has happened in the United States (refer to the history) and it won’t be the last, but for every horrible thing that has happened, there has

also been a group of people committed to fighting against it. Have you heard the word “revolution”? That’s when people know that so many things are wrong and that the only way to fix them is to change them completely. Let’s think about some of the things we could do to make a revolution happen in the United States….”

14+: “Let’s look at the exit poll statistics closely so we can see which groups of people voted for Trump”. Review BLM platform and demands. Review INCITE! vision statement. Make a family vision statement that includes social justice commitments. Mark organizing dates on family calendar.

I am in a lot of “ladies” groups, and I am heartened at how strong and hard we are responding to a power shift that scares us, as I am also saddened by reports of bullying, racial slurs, and sleepless nights over disabled kids losing their health care.

I am here for you.  Please don’t suffer alone.  Reach out and we can commiserate and I will pass along any and all resources that I have.  And know that I love you.

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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.  🙂

Let’s get your Butterfly to eat! Join me.

I drove Thing 2 to an all-day, picnic-style birthday party in a pavilion at our local city park. Perfect weather, crisp warm end-of-summer air, tall trees, and happy noises from other picnic table pavilions.  Bliss.

While a small cadre of tween girls ran through the playground from swing to swing to slide to climber to carousel

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Kids won’t eat any of this?  Tune in for help! Click HERE to register.

….one mom watched her lithe, sinewy butterfly of a girl and said wistfully: I hope she eats.

I wanted to curl my arm around her and bring her peace.

I’m inviting you.

Click to tweet:twitter-128 Bring me your sinewy butterflies, your picky little birds, your thoughtful dreamers with no interest in food… come, let’s build peace of mind.

This free talk is focused on you, mom.  And your picky eater.

I’m a cultural educator and a coach for moms — and I want you to know about my webinar on Parenting Picky Eaters. Sign up for my in-depth webinar  about picky eating here and learn the phrase that stops family dinner fights in their tracks.

If we think about families as microcultures, then we can see that we have some influence over this little culture’s language, entertainment, worship, and… food, on my talk, I’ll discuss incorporating food as part of your family culture, whatever your style.

And, on the  webinar you will learn the four words that are setting you up for failure.  Food struggle is awful.  Let’s find some comfortable ways to feed those pesky picky eaters.

I have very strong feelings about moms of picky eaters.  We live in a modern age where it’s actually a chore to shop for healthy foods if you happen to wander out of the produce department. And there’s momguilt.  There’s lots of momguilt, charging we need to take responsibility for diabetes, behaviors and socializing, and even health of the future.  It’s the perfect storm, babe. So join me Thursday or Sunday evening for some guilt-squashing.  Just sign up here.  It’s free!

 

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Picky Eating Has Returned: here’s what we are doing this time.

On vacation, salmon for dinner.  Dogs for the kids.  We’re surrounded by amazing garden produce — afternoon snack, I wasn’t there, and they say “I’m hungry.”  That phrase does drive me nuts.  I’ve explained to the Things that it’s just a declaration, and articulating your feelings is usually a good thing.  But behind it is the unspoken part — I’m making my hunger YOUR problem.

Regular readers know we have a family member who simply doesn’t believe in picky eating.  It shouldn’t exist or be tolerated.  Especially during happy hour, haha.  They found me, wisps of smoke coming out of their ears.

“I’ve offered him everything in the frigging house!”

I couldn’t ignore it any more.  Picky eating reared its ugly head. Again.FamilyDinner.jpg

At first it feels like a normal fluctuation, but it keeps moving, changing… then something forces you to see — a sea change is happening!  You think something has been handled once and for all, but it shifts and returns.  At 13, Thing 1 is changing, he’s taller than me suddenly, and I hear changes in his voice.  Middle school social life is raucous and sometimes cruel — he seems to have opted out of it, for better and worse.

Thing 1 and I do talk about picky eating: years ago he said he wouldn’t eat anything that looked  like vomit: stews, goulashes, lasagna, etc.  If you look for it, it’s everywhere!

Recently I learned that if we cook, say, button mushrooms (which he dislikes) with Portabella mushrooms (which he loved), it ruins his fondness for Portabellas.  Okay.  Also, his teeth and the roof of his mouth are sensitive, so he is wary of sharp tortilla chips and steaming hot pizza cheese (and his sister complains that he eats these noisily).

Click to tweet: I worked out a system with him: my Parenting Picky Eaters course.  It stopped working.  So we are doing it again!

And here’s the awesome part… it’s okay!  Once we got home — and I realized our previous agreements had an expiration date, it was all okay.  It now takes two of us to track what my elder eats, and it’s a real exercise in … intimacy to make space for him to be honest about school and snacks without punishment.  He’s 13.

But we have a process, he knows the process, and it’s clear that we are problem-solving together.  The outcome is already shaping up — a workable series of agreements and choices, and believe it or not, I welcome this project for us to do together at this time that he’s maturing away from his mama — funner or not.

If you have a picky eater, sign up for my free newsletter and look forward to problem-solving tips for picky eaters, new school or anxious kids, right HERE.

Travel time bonding activities

Before kids, I was leery of sitting near kids on planes.  Having two of my own now, I am committed to NOT being the one with the annoying kids!   The very best way to keep kids amused on planes is to give in to giving them your full attention.  I’ve skipped their naps and let them have bottles on planes, and that has worked.  But they are 9 and 13 now! Set them — and you — up for fun.

Travel time doesn’t have to be an annoying waiting game, even if your flight is cancelled.  It’s a great time to talk and bond!  Here is my list of tech-free strategies — no mind-numbing beeping or squeaky little voices:

*Phone Pictures 1348.jpgLook for unusual signs. Read them aloud, imagine why they are there (hilarious accidents leading to “one way” signs, for example), or imagine what they’d serve at this public supper, and photograph them. Look for and try regional, unusual, or new foods.
*What’s in there?  Trucks, cars, buses, wagons, warehouses.  To simplify for younger kids, make crazy suggestions like penguins, pingpong balls, or bean bag chairs when you see those cargo planes or big trailers on the runway. For biggers, figure out the system that it’s part of: shipping, luggage transfers, food access?
*Uno is a great card game for the plane, and in general the plane is a great place to capitalize on having your kids’ undivided attention to teach them card games or practice a foreign language.

*Tell the kids’ stories: one of mine came out with a small peep; one came out screaming her head off!  Haha.  The first one stayed in the hospital for a while; with the second one I said bring the car seat and winter coat tomorrow, and Running Mate said “It’s not like they’re going to just send her home with us.” But they did! haha.  One kid got a first bath from Nanny, one got a first bath from Running Mate (dad).  They had different baby songs, we lived in different places.

*Keep lists: when my son was small, on road trips we kept a list of mighty machines; my daughter likes animals.  You could adapt this for plane travel and your family’s personality: plaid pPhone Pictures 1291.jpgants? someone traveling with a pet? a bird, flying dragon, or good witch out the plane window? Spot a necktie or fuzzy hat in the airports or rest stops, keep track of your points.  At takeoff and landing, look for back yard swimming pools, parks, parking lots full of school buses.
*Mad Libs!  Filling in the blanks is great practice for learning nouns and verbs.
*Rock paper scissors – we’ve found that if you do this often enough, the competition goes out of it.  We also occasionally throw a new sign, the “thumbs up” sign might be a grenade, the wick of which scissors and sharp paper can cut. We did one with Chinese food – two fists beside each other for egg roll, two fingers for chop sticks, and thumb between the pointer and middle fingers (like “I’ve got your nose”) for fortune cookie.  Just make up the rules as you go.

*Cat’s cradle – another cooperative game for the kids.*Sound effects game – make a noise and have the other players build a story around it.  Creaking or clapping are good to start with, and using props like ruffling book pages is encouraged — but be warned, preteen boys and dads tend to deteriorate into body sounds. And this one is better for the car.

*With pen and paper, you can play tic-tac-toe, hangman, draw your pet and let the kids color it in, play an impromptu drawing-and-guessing game similar to dictionary,  draw the head (or spikes) of a dragon and let them finish it.*Hum-a-song — one person hums and the other guesses.  Itsy-bitsy spider, happy birthday, holiday songs.*Origami — teach your child one simple construction.  My 5-y-o made penguins till the paper was gone!  Then we gave them away everywhere we went.Phone Pictures 902

When I drive, my mind always wanders back to the Native Americans that lived here before the highways, and I imagine if one could come up this hill and know exactly where they were, or if they followed a river up to it’s source, or could fish out of my Dad’s pond.  I talk about it with my kids, but I don’t know yet if they really “get” it.  They indulge me, mostly.  I think Pioneer Culture, with wagons and paths, are more imaginable for them, and we do talk about that, too.

I’d love to know what kinds of games YOU play that aren’t on this list; please do add them in below and share with us.

And if you’d like to chat about making the transitions from vacation to home to school, shoot me an email at Funnermother [at]funnermother.com.  Happy dog days!

Summer ain’t what it used to be. But it can still be fun!

As a kid, Maine summers with Dad stretched on endlessly. I had a friend or two but spent my time on my treadle sewing machine, watching old movies, going to the library and reading the Nancy Drew series, walking downtown to look at fabric, or sitting on one of the big rocks around our little pond in the woods with my orange plastic typewriter, tapping out profound things.  I. Loved. It.

I had kids late, and summer ain’t what it used to be.

Forty years later, my childhood summer is unavailable…Children’s Services snaps up kids on their own, or worse, someone else does.  And though it’s statistically unlikely, the news warns us about both and we are all thinking about it all the time.  The little orange typewriter has been replaced by a keyboard in each pocket. It’s a long walk to the suburban library in the next town; we don’t have woods or pond.  And “kids these days,” including mine, don’t even want to do these things.  Harumph.

When I worked in academic libraries, my kids were in care or camps.  Basically, year-round school.  I couldn’t wait for them to spend the day reading on the lowest branches of our maple tree, or finding a little nook on the path that caresses the side of our house.  Or laying on a quilt with me and watching the clouds, you know, like you do.  For hours.

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None of those things has happened.  None!  I’ve stopped feeling bad, almost.

Click to tweet: twitter-128Expectations about our kids’ summers set us up for disappointment or guilt. We think they’ll be just like ours, or magical, or full, or blissfully empty.  On the other side of that, of course, is only compromise.  We can’t force a 1970s summer; authorities would step in! Ha!  But I’d love to help you work out a summer that leaves you and the kids happy.

With a plan and a laugh about how our kids don’t want our dream summer, we’ll hash out what you want and what will work. We’ll work out a screen contract, build in touchstones during the day and week.   We’ll make a fun summer bucket list, and a plan for moving those kids to the next level of independence and contribution before school starts up again.  For all the details click here, and if you’d like to talk about my Summer-Saver VIP day, let’s schedule time to talk.  Just email me at Funnermother [at] Funnermother.com or message me on Facebook.Facebook.Facebook.  Let’s make summer funner.

What’s a White Mom to Do?

I cried all the way to the library.  Then I told my kids about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  “Remember last summer when I said not to leave a black friend if a cop showed up or if you were all doing something and it went sideways?  Or if things started to unravel, or if any one of you did something wrong? To ask the cop if you can call us before you reach for your phone? And that we will come and support you all?”

They nodded solemnly.  When I cry it gets their undivided attention.

“Well that’s not enough.  I’m sorry that the world is not a perfect place.  But each of us by being here has the responsibility to leave our place better than we found it.  We need to figure out what we can do to heal this place.”

They blinked.

“I want us to try harder.”

How? they asked.  “Be friendly. Look people in the eye, say hi.  Let’s start there.”

My slightly atypical, rather antisocial teen bristled: But I don’t associate with ANY people, white, brown, or any race.  And I know this is true – we’ve been trying to figure that out already.

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Click this image to purchase this set or see other ceramics from Acme Humane.

“Just talk to Fred at the bus stop.  It’s just you two.  I’m not asking you to be his friend only because he’s brown, but I AM asking you to be friendly.  Just start by saying ‘hi.’  Do you ever talk?” If there’s something going on at school to talk about. “Okay, good, start by just talking.”  I know I am asking a lot of this kid, but I am asking anyway.

“And you, sister, have you noticed that the bus stop breaks into 2 groups by color when we’re there?  You have?  Talk to those brown kids, too.” But those are all boys and they’re rough and act crazy.  “Yep, I know, they’re younger than you and when they get together, they can act silly.  I’ll help you.”

I’ll help you.

Inside the library, an African American boy about 2 or 3 is being held to a very high standard by a black adult woman: “That isn’t yours.  Put that back.  Look at me. I don’t like that.”  And I wonder about how much the pressure on her has increased over the last 48 hours, the last year — or 2.  A white couple arrives with three biracial toddlers.  I wonder who is at the most risk, how the visible markers of skin color override history, behavior, rules, rights… Race matters, and being “colorblind” does not help, as Mamademics has pointed out.

We are white like salamander bellies.  It is up to US to breach this gap.  Imperfectly, perhaps, but we need to start.  Because we are outside the script that gets laid on people of color.  They cannot heal this rift alone, it is too dangerous.

We must.

We must start somewhere.

I would dearly love to hear what you are doing in your family or neighborhood to breach this gap.  Pop on over to Facebook and let me know; let’s talk.  And if you don’t know how to get started, pm me over there.  I’ll help you.  Or I’ll talk to your group, or share a reading list, or just listen.

 

On Hair: This Ain’t No Gerber Commercial!

I measure that kid’s life in hair.  Upon first glimpse, raw red scalp. A dozen weeks later, still in hospital, an elder-style ring of orange fuzz ran around back from ear to ear, then bald again. Next came yellow curls that we grew out like Kelsey Grammer.  Our towhead’s curls turned brown in a few years, just as each of his parents’ did.

And here and there we made the kid cut his hair.

otto haircut4Readers with sensory kids know: it’s a struggle.  It’s an itchy battle! Donning the crinkly plastic cape, getting your neck brushed with powder, smelling the smells and hearing all the sounds: running water, snipping scissors, buzzing clippers, spritzing, spraying, squirting and drying. But by some miracle we had moved in next door to an angel.

She’s a good natured hairdresser with a quick laugh and a back porch.  When it was time, she would — and still does — cut our hair.  Sometimes we’d all be on the back porch, two chatting neighbor families.  Hair clumps got tossed in the yard so birds could feather their suburban nests.  Rarely, we’d visit her shop.  Sometimes we’d be in the basement watching her adult son play video games.  She’d laugh at our exploits, ask about the sibling rivalry, and put up with wiggling kids.

And every time, she snipped away a little more boyhood.  She transformed my wee bairn into something closer to a man, and I cried every. single. time.  Including tonight.  Many times, she welled up, too.  We agree that we spent too much time being overwhelmed, juggling, multitasking.

Click To Tweet: twitter-128We were shocked to find out “this ain’t no Gerber commercial!”

But she was further along the parenting path; she knew.  She had us over for dinner frequently after our 40-minute commute from the city.   I was (and still am) an older mom, and it was like an hour-long vacation!  Not a care in the world!  Haha.  Thank you for that, darling neighbor.  Thank you for supporting me through those early, harried, commuting-with-babies years.

And if you, dear reader, are needing someone to have your back, to help solve the daily puzzles of working mom life, I’ve got you.  Sleeping, not sleeping, work, daycare, diagnoses, food, dare I suggest menopause?

Email me at Funnermother@Funnermother.com to schedule a free 20-minute call, and let’s chat.  I have an array of coaching options, and I want to help.

Parenting Picky Eaters: Tactics that Work!

I want to push us all to think about the family as a culture, not just mom’s responsibility.  And I’m starting with food.  Sign up for my free seminar:

stainedglassmama copyParenting Picky Eaters: Tactics that Work

One of my kids is a sensory averse white bread lover, the other is a seeker who snacks on raw onions! If I can feed these two, I can help you feed yours, too.

May 28, 8pm EST; 5pm Pacific
Click here for more details and to sign up!

If you’ve been reading along, you know: I’m frustrated with how much moms are on the hook for cultural problems, starting with kids’ diets.  Obesity, diabetes, test scores, long-term health, even behavior is linked to what moms are feeding their kids.  And yeah, moms.

I’ve written before about the decline of the “typical American family.”  Statistically, there is no longer any one family structure that constitutes a third of American families; there is no typical category any more. And yet simultaneously, the barrier to healthy eating rests on women — studies show.  Somehow it seems that women can’t seem to get out of the kitchen.   Still!

If you have a picky eater, rent those kids a movie, pick up your favorite beverage, and join me as I share some of my best secrets to taking the stress off mealtimes.  You’ll get a free .pdf of three Edible Tools for Fussy Eaters immediately upon signup.

Let’s do this.  See you on the seminar!

 

Methuselah Moms: Rise Up

In  Balance is a Bitch, I recently wrote about moms being immersed, about the struggle to achieve a life/work ‘balance’ that works, and about what our kids learn by watching us do work we love.  Older moms like me, caught between two parenting paradigms — the baby boomers and the millenials — need to hear this message about sculpting our own “balance.”

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Want help with your “bounce”?  Call me.

We older moms are established in our careers or professional/artistic paths, solid, and tired.  This very special position is an exhaustingly rich one, and one we recognize as a gift of this historical moment like none before.  And our kids are seeing new possibilities in what it means to age, to be a working woman, to be a mom.  But we are ready for a new metaphor  — to help us be happy, to help us conceptualize the often incongruent projects of parenting and careering, and to help us see our pattern and be okay with it.

The heartfelt comments that y’all wrote on “Balance is a Bitch” led me to think of  the big long swinging turns of giant slalom skiing: GS turns, strong and loving the turns, always in motion, first one way then the next.  Choose a word that fits your style: Braiding, three strands twisted around one another inextricably: working, parenting, and the self.  Or  weaving: one atop another over-under then under-over — many strands, colors, patterns, working together.  The pendulum has been my term (until the GS turns).  I go through periods of rocking parenting, and of being average, and of needing help.  Success at working, for me, is usually in inverse proportion to my success as parenting.

And that is okay.

Methuselah moms, fear not.  We have it “all.”  Where the ideology trips us up is in imagining that everything is always perfect — and of course it’s not, not in real life. Not always.

twitter-128Click to tweet:  Nothing’s perfect. But imperfection doesn’t mean failure, nor that work & family aren’t both worth having.

Imperfection does not mean it’s never good nor that it is effortless.  And in those moments of seeming failure, when we can’t gracefully patch everything together, those are the most important ones for our kids — because of what happens next.  You know what that is? You bounce.  You get a grip.  You rewind, apologize, hire someone to do it, just do your best, laugh at yourself, cry on someone’s shoulder, or reach out to a friend.  Knowing what to do is important; having coping skills is essential.  And imperfection gives us constant opportunities to model coping skills to the littles.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your braid or pendulum, or if you want someone in your corner strategizing, reach out to me at Funnermother@yahoo.com.  We can have a chat and see if we could work together on brainstorming, making some systems that work, or talking through what it means to bounce.

And as always, you can come on over to Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.  Come on, let’s hang out.  🙂