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  The little orange typewriter has been replaced by a keyboard in each pocket.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.

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To cheat or not to cheat… on your kids

Eat more veggies.

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Smiling veggies

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I haven’t been a fan of sneaking food into kids.  But.

New studies point more to clearly to the importance of healthfulness in kids’ early diets in predicting long-term health “What your child eats now will make an enormous difference to his adult health….Produce may ward off asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, artery-clogging plaque” and more (Parents, June 2015, p. 66).

When my micropreemie was two and still underweight, my mom put a cotton ball on the ceiling fan and hit the switch.  Yes, one could see it as an early introduction to mindless eating, sneaking it in while he laughed hysterically.

vintage botanical print of spinach

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When he was about 5, I bought a cookbook of recipes for foods that had healthy ingredients secreted inside them.  Unnoticeable.  Don’t ask, don’t tell — toddler style.

Does that strategy “teach” kids to like or tolerate, say spinach?  A nursing student mom I know says yes, some other moms say no.  I opted for a little sneaking in while I worked on educating their palates.

But what if — what if we re-thought brownies let’s say.  What if brownies could just BE a dessert that had a healthy dose of spinach?  What if “spinach” came to be associated with spinach pie, greek pizza, salad with bacon, AND chocolate spinach cake, aka brownies?

What if we eliminate the stigma on healthy foods?  What if we just stop sneaking, but don’t stop making those same recipes? This is my goal.

Our chocolate chip cookies have mashed beans in them, and Thing 2 just doesn’t care any more.  “They taste good, that’s all I need” he says.  A few of my best dessert recipes are available on my Free Resources page… then head on over to Facebook and tell me how they turned out for you!

Moms’ self-care: yet another task?

bath tub at the ocean

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I admit, I despair of those articles telling me all the things I must, should, or could be doing for myself.

Take 15 minutes, practice mindfulness, reach out to friends, take a bath.

self care is not selfish

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They are all great ideas, they are not selfish or outlandish, and they sound so do-able.

But they’re not.

Not for me.

I am a little jittery already, and taking time to smell the roses just… makes me uncomfortable.

Those self-care ideas still feel selfish, even though I know they’re not.

Or they feel like tasks: things I need to remember, maintain, or organize.

And before I could take a bath, I’d have to clean the tub.  Boo.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some alternate self-care strategies!

self care

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I have, and they fall into three general categories: incorporate, schedule, outsource.

Incorporate nurturing things into your life.

After finishing a huge project I paid myself with luxurious flannel sheets, and every time I use them it is a treat for both eyes and skin.

Add a scent to your nighttime routine.

self care

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Or a luxurious soap to your morning routine.

self care

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“Surround yourself with” sounds like an enormous task of planning and commitment to me.

Instead, find one image that you love.

It could be a place, a trip, a person, a color, a dream.

Something that you will see and smile.

Then, put it where you will see it.

Or plant a perennial — my lilac tree looks good, smells good, and throws some shade.

Done once, enjoyed daily.

Schedule the things that get you through the week.

If you are reading this, you probably know that I love Mondays because it’s moms’ night out.

self care

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Every Monday, rain or shine.

And it must work, because our families respect it and make sure it happens.

Lunch, massage, a britcom, playing cards, a knitting or exercise class, a drink, or Wednesday evening gardening.

Schedule it once, enjoy it regularly.

Outsource what you can.

Start by getting your kids to do whatever age-appropriate chores they can.

self care

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Getting my kids to take out the garbage and recycling, and wipe and put away dishes, was far more gratifying and stress-reducing than I imagined.

And Thing 2 loves food prep: retrieving, washing, slicing. She loves setting the table.  Thing 1 loves lighting the candle if we have one.

It all adds up, and she chatters through the whole thing to the “audience” of her imagined cooking show.

Maybe you have someone who does your taxes, teaches your kids an instrument, or cleans your house.

self care

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And if you are juggling food sensitivities, diets, picky kids, or newly declared vegetarians– you can also hire an experienced researcher and planner to work with you on streamlining your family meal.  Me!  🙂  We can work together to get mealtime back on track.

Visit my website to see details on my short course on Feeding the Finicky and my more intense family meal overhaul called Kitchen Coaching.  And as always, pop on over to Facebook to catch daily tips and quips.

Use edible flowers to entice picky eaters

salad seeds

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purple chive flowers

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

What’s for dinner… who, ME? Pressures on family meals.

What's for dinner

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what's for dinner

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I’ve marched for women’s rights for 30 years. I’m old!  Ha ha. So I’ve earned a certain right to grouse.

Sociologists from North Carolina State have released findings on a study of the stress related to cooking healthy homecooked meals night after night.  Their findings are disappointing.  The stress on women just isn’t worth it.

On women? Still?

Yes. According to TodayParents, they “interviewed 150 black, white, and Latina mothers, with family incomes ranging from poor to middle-class, and spent more than 250 hours with 12 families during meals, grocery runs and children’s medical checks. Most mothers, regardless of income, were feeling the angst.”

What's for dinner?

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Pressures on home cooking are increasing!

 

Medical folks, tv foodies, even the US government (think food pyramid and anti-obesity campaigns) are putting increasing importance/pressure on home cooked meals.

The study recorded inadequately stocked kitchens in many lower income families (one family lives in emergency shelter in a hotel room), and picky children and husbands all across incomes.

Families do share duties sometimes; the report mentions a married mother of 3: “Although her husband sometimes helps with cooking, the task is largely in her court.”  In 30 years of feminism and cultural studies, I hardly expected such stasis!

home cooking refrigerator

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As Salon reports, “the main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It’s expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway.”…

I admit to feeling this way myself sometimes.  And my Running Mate does a LOT of our cooking.  But a national trend?  An epidemic? That’s not right.

Let’s start with picky children, shall we?  Sign up for my free weekly-ish Ezine at Funnermother.com and watch for details about my upcoming free talk on finicky kids.  I have two, and have some great tips.

Check out these recent articles on the endangered family dinner study in Salon and in Today Parents. Leave your comments below, and of course come join us on Facebook.