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.

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.

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.  🙂

 

Balance is a Bitch

Decades ago I was talking to my smart and artsy friends about balance.  We were graduate students, activists, feminists trying to make a mark on or a space in the world.  We went to protests, cultural theory classes, and dance clubs.  We thought deep and hard, organized conferences, started women’s groups, wrote a lot, pulled all-nighters, cooked together, talked nonstop, took road trips, or slept for an age.

ladies at a party

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And when we took a pause, we wondered how to achieve balance.  We all wanted it and thought we should have it; but nobody could really do it.  None of us felt we could strike a balance.  One day, one of us said it: balance is a bitch.  Indeed,

twitter-128 the chase for elusive “balance” was frustrating;

I felt throttled, guilty for not slowing down, so that I could do all the things.  And I was not alone.  That turned out to be one of my best college lessons.

Sometimes balance is just unattainable; and… here’s the important part: that’s ok.

I tapped my fingers through a scheduled massage.  A poetry reading.  A walk in the woods. I had shit to do!

Not every time, but most times.  My fingers would type out what I was thinking while I was trying to force some “balance” on myself.  And feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do it without typing on my leg about the thing I would rather do.

The search, the struggle, for that slippery idea of balance can actually be harder than allowing yourself to live without it.  There is nothing wrong with passion, hard work, or immersion.  Passion projects lend themselves to lack of balance — have you ever been so involved in a project you love that hours slip away like minutes?  To me that’s a really good feeling.

I’ve had no bigger passion project than parenting — where striking a balance implies constant stability, regularity, discipline —  foundational to making a happy home.  IMG_20160314_091030007

And while one kid in particular may enjoy having a more organized home, a less spontaneous schedule, regularly scheduled weekly one-on-one time, it’s not happening right now.  Not every month, month after month.  Maybe two weeks in a row, maybe three.  And I have stopped beating myself up about that.  Instead, I do spontaneously say “we haven’t had our time together, let’s play a game.”  And they have yet to reach the age where they won’t come sit.  And sometimes, too, I am happy to spend a full afternoon and evening playing board or card games. Cuddling. Chaperoning. I love spending a few days in the car, traveling. Camping.

We are finding our own pace, and I’m not tapping my fingers on the sides of my legs while we take a “leisurely” walk by the river.  We still take walks, but sometimes five minutes of eye contact works, too.  And it’s ok.

They know when I’m distracted, and they know when I’m present.  They are learning to ask for time, to keep themselves entertained, and sometimes, to wait.  We all love each other and their grades are good.  They see me taking care of business, following through on commitments, making mistakes and fixing them.  They see a woman following her heart, make time for herself, and make time for them.  It’s not always balanced, and we are all learning that it’s okay.

If you’d like someone in your corner as you find or re-calibrate ‘balance,’ I have some spots in my “funner” coaching programs made specially for moms.  Message me here or on facebook to schedule a free chat.

Perks of having atypical kids

preemie tee shirt

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My first kid came 16 weeks early.  I see your math-wheels turning, converting that into months.  Yep.  He spent 3 months in intensive care and 3 weeks in a transitional hospital.  He was about 6 months old when he first brought his hands to midline (the center of his body in front) and 8 months old when he passed a toy from one hand to the other.  Two important firsts for which we had been watching and waiting.

On each occasion we photographed the event, reported it to our parents, physical therapist, occupational therapist, developmental followup personnel, pediatric neurologist, and family friends.  And each time one friend or another said “I didn’t even know that was a milestone.  I wonder what else I have missed.”

A friend on a parallel path called to tell me when her daughter reached for a tree branch outside, around age 8, and how she and her partner wept with the joy of it.  That takes vision, planning, desire, cognition, hand-eye-mind coordination!  States away, I wept into my phone too.  We rejoiced together.

I survived tee

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The highs and lows of raising atypical kids are extremely low … and extremely high.  There are ways that parents of “typical” kids don’t get to experience the intense joy, love, and gratitude that we get to feel.  Initial diagnoses, possible outcomes, and planning courses of treatment are shocking.  Keeping track of appointments, services, medications, medical histories, and both short- and long-term goals are hard, and parenting atypical kids is hard, even grueling, with spurts of hopelessness and a constant quiet drone of worry –like that annoying neighbor who is always mowing his lawn.

In most cases, that’s not ALL it is though.  While the bulk of parents quietly check off those big visible milestones — tick, tick tick — we warriormamas study that list and all the wee steps leading up to each developmental check mark. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.  When it happens, it is huge.  A prayer answered, a celebration inside and out.  Hearts a-burstin’, eyes a-dancin’, skipping, cartwheels, screaming, and jumping for joy.  Jealous?  Our victories aren’t celebrated as points on the way to college, tech school, moving out, or adulthood, they are self-contained victories, and the joy we feel is so enormous, it can almost break us.

A facebook friend recently shared a report on which colleges graduate those students who end up making the biggest salaries, disappointed that his kid’s college wasn’t on the list.  As a parent, that is so far from my frame of reference, I can’t believe that we are both talking about parenting.  As I type this I am reveling in one good day — how it sounded smelled and tasted — and I know that in some deep way, I am the lucky one.

Come on over to Facebook and tell me what your hardest joy in parenting has turned out to be.

We need to be tougher on kids. Really?

preemie onesie

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mothers at beach

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A first-time mom to a wee preemie, I was scared.  Hovering.  Defending. That was a great skill for the nearly 4 months he was in hospital, but he did come home.  Then I got confused.  I was just as vigilant. Historically, I was not “a kid person” — small family, not a babysitter, and for some years sported a lapel pin that said “non-breeder” haha.

Then he came.  The best surprise, my biggest challenge.  I turned to my elders with minute-to-minute questions.

“You’ve got to be tough on him to make him a man; slap his hand; bite him back; don’t give in or he’ll be a brat.”

Their answers pained me.  I’m a lover not a fighter, and could not work up that opposition to my wee fledgling. Between helicoptering and slapping, there is an ocean…

Imagine parents holding little kids at the ocean. That kid is hearing the roar, feeling the water, freezing their toes, getting pushed by the waves, wide eyed and squealing.  That parent is watching, excited, proud, and ready to sling that kid to the hip when they reach up.  That seems about right to me.

You are my sunshine

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Alissa Marquess’s recent blog post over on Creative With Kids about folks saying we need to be tougher on kids, Is This What Causes So Many Kids To Be Brats?, led me to understand that not wanting to raise a brat is really based in anger, animosity and an imagined future. And opposition.

“Once we start name calling by thinking of our child as a brat we’ve stepped away from our role as a leader and instead we’re parenting based on fear. “

I believe that we don’t need to be in opposition to our kids, we don’t have to see them as little enemies… though that witching hour right before bedtime is a real test!  Fear and opposition take the fun out of parenting.  Rules can put some of that fun back.  Yep, rules.

List the top three family squabbles.  Make one rule about each.  Write that down, done.  The only thing left to do is point to the written rule!  Well, it’s not that easy, I know.  But I’m finding that talking about the problem with my elementary kids and offering them two or three possibilities for The Rule (one very very strict) usually gets us on the same page.  So if they agree to it, the rule can’t be disputed later.  Consistency is key, and they’ll stop questioning the rules if you don’t back down three or four times in a row.  Don’t crack!  Don’t even let them see you THINK about cracking!  Haha, give it a try and come share your success over on Facebook.

Slumber Party… with a helicopter mom

Slumber Part clip art

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Thing Two had a slumber party!

Her friend came for dinner, and when I asked if she’d eat spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread, she responded “I don’t care what I eat.”  Heaven!

The sleepover was a cliche, with every element you might imagine when 8-year-olds have slumber parties.

There was giggling, squealing, whispering, stuffed animals, nail polish, and puking.

What?

Slumber party art

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Yes.  I was holding a long blonde ponytail watching a colorful work of art develop.

And panicking.

Someone else’s kid was at my house!  Sick!

Running mate was out with our car, and our guest was starting to cry.

I couldn’t take her home!

Luckily we had ginger ale.  I called her mom. “Oh, yeah, this is her first sleepover without her sister.  And she’s overtired.  Just send her to bed.”

Oh huzzah. Reaching out is a crucial skill for helicopter parents.  Whether it’s a friend, a coach, another parent, the pediatrician, the insurance company health hotline, poison control…if you have a finely tuned panic reflex, brainstorm an outreach list right now and put a post-it note on the calendar or fridge.  You will thank me in the middle of the night one night!  🙂

If  you are struggling with parenting stress, find me on Facebook, Pinterest, or reach out for help.

I love Mondays.

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“I’m always hungover on Tuesdays.”

On the phone scheduling a date, we laughed, but it’s true!  Monday nights are moms’ night out.  I go with my neighbor to the local pub, where they can set their watches by our arrival.  We catch up, comment on the news, and laugh. Those hard and long belly laughs that cause chemical changes in your brain.  Have we been doing this for half a decade?  Yes, I think so.  That’s a lot of chemical change!

ladies at a party

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This is part of my self-care.  I love Mondays!  Who can say that?  It’s just a couple of hours, but it erases so much strife — like how exhausting the mundane can be, especially when there are bumps in the road. A system can’t just be implemented for kids; it’s constant change.  Rethinking the same questions over and over: rules, food, screen, bedtimes, friends.  Keeping them fed with healthy food, fresh air, challenging books and some kind of spiritual wonderings…  Exhausting and mundane is not part of that sexy cultural narrative that convinces us to choose parenting.  But that’s a real part of the experience.  I say that with love, but I don’t know if I could, were it not for Monday nights.

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On Mondays we talk about those mundane things too, though her kids are grown. There’s still so much to laugh about, so much the same.  And it’s working.  Our proof?  Our mates!  They bend over backwards to drive us, rearrange schedules, give us cash…  They make sure we don’t miss a Monday.  We laugh that we must be pretty hard to live with when we miss a week.

What’s your treat?  Your regular self-care?  Let me know in the comments.  And if you’d like to chat about managing the mundane, drop me a line.  🙂

Bye-bye, Typical American Family: Diversity is on the rise

diverse family

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Remember when families were either typical or “broken homes”?  I do; I was from a broken home.  I’m happy to report that those two easy categories are officially irrelevant.  Yep, they’re dead.

The New York Times  reported in fall 2013 on astonishing research about changing family structures:  “Families are more ethnically, racially, religiously and stylistically diverse than half a generation ago — than even half a year ago.”

fabric owl print

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“In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans and start talk shows. Good friends join forces as part of the “voluntary kin” movement, sharing medical directives, wills, even adopting one another legally.  …We’re sappy family romantics. When an informal sample of 52 Americans of different ages, professions and hometowns were asked the first thought that came to mind on hearing the word “family,” the answers varied hardly at all. Love! Kids! Mom! Dinner!”

Free to be a family

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Interesting four words, right?

In fall 2014, the Council on Contemporary Families released Paul Cohen’s study on the shape of the family that found that “Diversity is the new normal.” The report says that it’s not simply that families move from two-parent homes to single moms, either: “we can better understand this transformation as an explosion of diversity, a fanning out from a compact center along many different pathways.” At the end of the 1950s, 65% of kids lived in a family with two parents, the father employed and the mother not.

biracial family

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“Today, by contrast, there is no single family arrangement that encompasses the majority of children.”  The 2012 census counts kids who live with: neither parent nor grandparent, grandparents only, single father, formerly-married mother, never-married mother, cohabiting parent, married parents both unemployed, married parents mother employed, married parents both employed, married parents father employed. “Family” means kids in this study, which charges that public policies need to understand and keep up with these changes.  When we factor in all the same-sex relationships, racial diversity, political and religious affiliations mentioned in the NYT article last year, it’s pretty mind-blowing, right?

woman in kitchen

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I wrote a few weeks ago on a recent sociology study’s findings that home cooking might not be worth the stress it puts on women. Women.  Certainly there are single dad families where “the woman” doesn’t cook.  And two-dad families. The point of the study was to show the stress.  But I’m a little concerned about the women.

And I have been.  As Funnermother, I’m in some big groups of other women in business, and it really can be stressful to feed everyone!  And yes, maybe its our elephant-like memories or our octopus-like multitasking, but the feeding falls to the women still, we chat about it all the time.  I want to change that.

I really want to change that.

Women in the kitchen

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So I’m designing a Kitchen Coaching program where, for 8 weeks or so, we’ll talk all about your family meals.  In a no judgement zone. We’ll talk for an hour or two and you can tell me how it is.  And tell me how you’d like it to be.  And we’ll work together on the structural and/or mindset changes that will get you there — or as close as humanly possible!  I mean, I’d love to have a home cook or eat takeout every night.  But I’ve found some great hacks for simplifying it IN SPITE OF two very finicky eaters and one slightly finicky eater.  🙂  I’m working with a couple of clients right now, and will clear space for more soon.

Stay tuned for details.  Here, or on Facebook, or sign up for my weekly-ish newsletter.