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  The little orange typewriter has been replaced by a keyboard in each pocket.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

IMG_20160710_180032714_HDR

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.

Advertisements

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!

Perks of having atypical kids

preemie tee shirt

Click this image to purchase a tee from EliandRyn.

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

Click this image to order a shirt from CreativeandCatchy.

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.

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

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.

 

Grocery store games: Feeding the Finicky

shopping cart

Click this image to purchase these blank grocery lists from ClaireChadwickPaper/

A great way to get kids invested in food — and have a wider palate — is to take them to the grocery store.  Young kids love to learn their colors, feel the produce, smell things, and talk with mom.

Even my sensory defensive kid, overwhelmed by the lights and noises of our cavernous store, would go, wearing a hood or baseball cap — and if he could get in those enclosed grocery carts that look like cars (right) and “drive” around, he was in heaven. Some sensory kids like  ‘heavy work’ like carrying potatoes or a bag of flour.

produce market card

Click this image to purchase this postcard from Amy Lindroos.

My dear friend ran her family produce market, and I can’t recommend a small family place strongly enough!  Often she would have cut a melon or ambrosia apple or blood orange, and would give a little slice to the kids.  I credit her with a lot of our family’s health and regularity!  It was a great experience of community while it lasted.

Around kindergarten, we let the kids pick out our vegetable for dinner, or asked them to pick something new to try.  The grocery store is also a wonderful place to learn early math and learn to read!

Washington Apple

Click this image to purchase this vintage die cut from Retro Pickins.

Mine are past this age, and my 11-year-old son has started to protest that he can stay home.  And we have let him.

But we went to the store as a family recently, and I learned a LOT!

Thing 1 was a micropreemie, intubated, and sensory defensive.  He gags on gravy and yogurt textures.

So I have always served his food plain, and reserved the savory, tangy, and spicy sauces for us parents.  We went through the frozen food aisle and he pointed to the pictures of foods he thought he would eat.  They had sauces!

vintage look grocery sign

Click to purchase this double-sided sign from Plaid Ant.

I had him pick out a vegetable, and for a change, we did get a frozen dinner (chicken pasta ranch something or other).  I feel your frustration with your picky eaters, believe me I do!  But I’ve learned that it is an ongoing relationship with food that we are cultivating;  kids’ tastes change frequently and without notice, and given the opportunity, they usually want to eat something delicious and just need a little guidance.

I have a lot more to say about picky eaters!  I’m giving a free call Monday, November 10, at 12 noon.  Sign up here to join me, and if you can’t make the live call, you can listen to the recording.

 

 

 

My Top Two Tips for Picky Eaters

Walrus and Flamingo card

Click this image to purchase this hip card from The Blue Octo.

My kids are 7 & 11, and they are OPPOSITES.

I have one defensive kid who likes bread and cake; one seeker kid who is a devout carnivore and eats raw purple onions… and chives right out of the garden.

Successfully feeding them both is an adventure!

If you have a picky eater, it may even be a grown-up.

painted paperclay landscapes

Click this image to see the stunning details in this landscape, or to purchase, from Babelvis.

It’s funny what grownups bring along with them… unfamiliarity with flavors or vegetables, family prejudices or favorites…  kids or adults, I want us all to eat together and work on making that pleasant for everyone at the table.

But of course I want it to be easy on me, too!  🙂

My best tip to accommodate picky eaters is this: Keep your ingredients separated.  Soups, casseroles, sandwiches…  Most of the time, that’s all it takes. Thing 1 will eat noodles, chicken, and carrots.  But not if they are mixed together in a broth.

gentle rhino

Click this image to purchase this darling rhino on watercolor paper from Doodleslice.

Once I figured this out, it saved me so much stress and worry!

Most of the time, he’s eating the same things we are, after all.  Perhaps a little more noodles and a little less everything else, but he’s eating in each food group.  And that is progress — no more chasing him with a spoon for “one more bite.”

I have also been working on tip2: creating delicious smells for them to come home to, or to sneak up on them if we’re all at home, and asking them to smell new foods or dishes to get acquainted with them.

orange abstract painting

Click the image to study or purchase this original painting from Helmerick’s Design.

The olfactory sense is an integral part of taste.  Cultivating an acquaintance and eventual pleasure of something baking in the oven or simmering in the crock pot is a hassle-free way to introduce new foods and new flavors.

Sometimes those savory aromas will convince your picky eater to try something where the foods are all touching!  Indeed, I credit the school lunch program at the little hippie private school they attended — where delicious dishes were cooked by moms from around the world — with enticing my kids into eating Indian, Russian, Asian, and Mexican flavors.

I’ll be giving a free call with more tips for picky eaters soon!  Get in the loop by following me on Facebook, following this blog, or signing up for my biweekly E-zine.  Thank you for reading, good luck!

Radiolab Changed My Parenting

Thing 1 had a short playdate on the far side of the city that disallowed driving all the way home & back. I LOVE it when this happens. I’m a high-strung mom from Puritan stock… being idle wreaks havoc on my nerves.  But when gently forced to pause, I adore it.  Waiting rooms, city buses, friends who never show up.  Love!  So I sat in a parking lot listening to public radio and crocheting. Bliss.

parenting

Click the image to purchase this from graybearstudio.

I listened to Radiolab’s “Sound as Touch.”  I learned of Anne Fernald’s findings that there are a set of common tunes within the words that parents all over the world speak to their babies. Across cultures, parents sound the same.  “Sound is touch at a distance.”  I learned about the 1913 riots during the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring when brains could not make sense of the unfamiliar dissonance. And about the mechanics of how the brain understands sound.

Waves of vibrating air start compressed in your voice box, then upon iteration they travel through time and space into my ear, through a little tunnel — they vibrate a few very small bones, which in turn transmit the vibration into this salty sea where fluid literally bends little hairs to make sound, and then charged molecules rush into the brain.  “Sound is touch at a distance.” Dissonance (unpleasant sound) has chemical consequences – neurons revolt and dopamine is released into the brain.  Extreme dopamine release is one symptom of schizophrenia, and at lesser levels would have instigated the Stravinsky riots.

Yelling

Click the image to purchase this from Rundtom.

You see where I’m going as I circle back to parenting… But for me it was huge. I yell. It’s not my primary parenting tool, but I do.  And I had a theory that to withstand big emotions would be a good skill that I wish I’d had. But whoa. A stranger’s dissonance can drive a group of people to riot, we know.  When that dissonance is ratcheted up, what happens?  When it is one-on-one?  Coming from the person you love most, your life source? And then, what if you have sensory processing disorder, which one or both of my kids do?  Yes, there is a science behind why shouting at someone feels like an assault. It is. Sound is touch at a distance.

So I have joined an online group of moms who are all trying to stop yelling, and I have slowed down our nightly read-aloud time to bathe them in my gentle voice.  I try to look my children in the eye, look at the color of their eyes (he has dad’s, she has mine), at their souls.  I look for my triggers — and they are often sound!  I am overwhelmed by repetitive, jarring, or loud sounds.  As are my kids. Sigh. I am also humbled by the Radiolab story enough to share it with you, to hope that we can speak with kindness more often. To keep up with my progress, sign up for my weekly-ish Ezine over at Funnermother.com.

Listen to Sound As Touch and see what you think.  Then drop me a line on Facebook.

What’s your happy place?

Happy place

Happy Place from ArtPeaceCreation – Funnermother.com

This spring is about self-care in our family.  The ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard, packed boxes sprinkled around, and the punctuation of routine with frenzied clean-ups for potential buyers has put strains on all of us.

Obvious and subterranean strains.

A few months ago, we started meditating at bedtime.  We spent a week thinking about our happy places, imagining what they’d be like.

light house

Happy Place from Fairyland2000 – Funnermother.com

I admit, that was inspired by a pinterest board of “reading nooks” and I think we all do have books in our happy places.  If  you follow Funnermother on facebook, you know the kids’ mortifying addition to their happy places that left this leftie mom chagrined (happy servants to bring them happy snacks and clean the happy cat boxes!).

But we pushed on, and the happy place has become part of our nightly meditation.  It will eventually follow us to our new home, and it is always available if needed in the daytime.

Happy place

Happy place by HappyThursdayArt – Funnermother.com

And you know what?

My legendary insomnia is not as severe, and the boy has stopped asking the old standard bedtime question, “Can you help me think happy thoughts?”

He can do it himself!  Ah, resilience.

Do you have a happy place?

Whether it’s the wide ocean, a cozy cottage in the woods, a treehouse, lighthouse, or tiny house, whether you want sun or candlelight or cats or tea or coffee, you need a happy place, and I’m sprinkling a few into this post.

happy place

Hammock from PrincipalStress – Funnermother.com

Just click on one and you can purchase a print on Etsy, a handmade broker.

Or commit it to memory.

You deserve a happy place. Or two.

il_570xN.571038617_6mj7

Photo backdrop from PeekPrints – Funnermother.com

Other posts on sensory processing include:

Here, Feel This Fruit

Freestyle Recycling