Better than bubble wrap

Everyone hopes there child will be able to withstand what is “out there” in the world. That first drop off at Kindergarten is often like opening up the cage at the lion’s den and waving, “See you later, I love you.” Wrapping your kid in bubble wrap just won’t cut it.

Creating resilient children builds up armor, shields, and strategies like army training and boot camp, empowering them to be safe and make good choices in situations when you are not there to “save” them. How do we create resilient children?

Every single parent has those moments lying awake at night wondering how or what because that lion’s den is knocking at our door, moving in strong and quick. Cute posts, including ones about family meals and goofy traditions may seem trivial yet give critical strategies that build up fortitude one day at a time. Be careful to not dismiss looking for something bigger or a quick fix because that is not the answer.

The exciting thing is that psychological, sociological, medical,…research support that creating resilient children is not about going BIG, (except for big passion) but zeroing in on the significant. Consistency is the key.

Today’s post puts another strategy in your hands and another link to the armor to save childhood and grow resilient children.

Power of family stories

Creating a sense of family; that we are joined in a team has power. It is an invisible shield that surrounds our children, and our own lives. Dr. Lisa Miller, in her book, The Spiritual Child created my favorite statement, “the supersized “WE.” Your family does not need to be perfect. In fact understanding we are not perfect is part of the glue that helps us learn and know we have others who have experienced imperfect lives but have made it through. Together makes resiliency.

Begin sharing brief moments. Ask lots and lots of questions to those who are still living to preserve the stories.

TALK. Talking with your children is the key! Talk and talk and talk. Tell family stories in the car ride about yourself as a kid; especially the imperfect stories. Tell stories while waiting for the dentist about how you used to get toys out of a toy box after your tooth was pulled. Tell about your grandparents’ first car, your uncle’s funny firewalk story, the tree house you built. Tell why you hate tuna fish but love sushi. Tell family stories and link your child to a group of people that wrap around them and protect them because they are part of the supersized “WE.”

One mother I know, reads family stories at night as part of the bedtime ritual.

My daughter-in-law creates family videos of regular day occurrences besides extended family excursions, which her children watch over and over and love them. This can create so many chances to remember and talk. It’s a digital history to talk about.

And when that phone picture pops up naughty, those hurtful words hit hard, the offer to take that pill or smell that vapor is offered, or your child feels alone or dumb, they have been trained, they have been prepped, they are better equipped to face the adversity…

Keep the stories going on and on your whole lives. Help them tell theirs to add to the whole. Because the power is in the connection.

Tell. Share. FORTIFY!

There’s only one childhood.

Arm them with family! It’s better than bubble wrap…

 

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Big stories in small moments

Like a symphony, my last post was written with passion and momentum ending in an expressive crescendo reverencing motherhood.

Yet what I really hoped was for it to trigger memories of moments with your mom, or as a mom.

There are big stories in small moments.

“Not in loud words but in great works.”

James Talmage

Mom’s shake the earth

For all the vomiting. For all the body rearranging, for pain both physical, emotional, and mental… undescribed. For clothes that smell like sour milk. For giving up high heals to sit on the floor or quaffed nails from washing your hands incessantly. For nights never slept through and being so tired you were numb. For being okay with pooping sounds, burping sounds, whining, crabbing, complaining, being shunned, doors slammed, the “silent treatment, squabbles, or coos, giggles, laughter, snuggles, the word “mom” called out in night terrors, or waving at a Halloween parade. For fevers, stitches, driving to and from and then driving to and from again.  For folding clothes late into the night, looking for costumes, pulling apart sports paraphernalia to go in the wash, ironing a prom dress crease. For meal after meal after meal and school lunches. For packing for vacations and then recovering from vacations. For art work and letters and report cards and open houses. For the latest toy, another story read, looking for the lost bunny, french fries stuck in the seats of your van you swore you would never buy. For drums shaking the house, music lessons, life-guarding at the pool, beach, lake, friends house, for chores, messes, strange smells, shoes at the door, pants that have been outgrown. For family photos, recitals, sports events, miles stone events, tears of sadness, tears of joy…there is nothing in this world that could ever replace or come close to the blessing and gift of becoming and growing as a mother.

It is a position that cannot be replaced by anything else. Not even close. You can bask in achievements, hold prestigious positions, have lots of titles before or after your name. You can be the guest speaker or attend famous universities, conventions, seminars or even travel to space. You could discover inventions that will change mankind or shake and move the world through politics . You could make all the money in the world. But there is nothing more important, nothing as significant, nothing as precious as being a mother. Do you know why? Because you are a maker of a human being. There is nothing more important in the whole world. It begins with the heart and continues in love. That is the biggest achievement on earth. No one would be here without you. Everything happens with you at the beginning and hopefully along the journey of life. YOU ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PERSON TO THE EARTH. NO WONDER THEY REFER TO EARTH AS MOTHER…It is you that is honored. It is you we run to…

Eat like a kid #4

Much of parenting is a sales job. Eating and meal time is often a sales job especially when you have kids.  It is endless consumer/product motivational pitches and you can tell when an exhausted parent has been worn down.

Meal menus often become a family battle. My advice is to lighten up a bit. While you have kids, stay more flexible. The goal at meal time is not only to get your choice of calories into your family’s stomachs, mealtime is something far bigger…

Here are some sales tips:

#1. Think like a kid

Your kids do not care about all those fantastic nutrients they need to grow. But because you know doesn’t mean you can’t make meals that appeal to your children and still taste good and get in those vitamins–AND be enjoyable.

Rule 1: Face it, if you have kids you need to remember what it was like to eat like one. If you believe it is important to get your children to eat adult foods, you are in for some…moments.  Let go a bit. Have some fun. Eating like a kid is so much funner than adult foods anyway. (If you go with this attitude you will be surprised what your kids will eat and enjoy–like lots of adult foods…)

Rule 2: Most kids like their food separate not mixed; usually not even touching. Kids like to know what they are eating and need to have choices, but not too many choices or they will drive you crazy and control the meal. Remember you are the boss. Just a nice boss.

Rule 3: Most kids like dips of all different kinds and cool ways to dip, including not bugging them about using fingers. Let them “experience” food because it is a full on sensory experience.  You can still maintain manners but also use your own fingers on occasion. Isn’t that why napkins were invented? (Too many children these days are sensory-phoebic and cleana-phobics and become afraid to experience their senses, not only at meal times.)

Rule 4: If you have a finicky eater get them to help prep food in the kitchen. All tasting allowed. Finicky eaters are all about holding on to power so relinquish your need to be in control when its not that big of a deal. It is a tricky dance. You are in charge but let them think they are. But they MUST eat the food there–(remember you made something you know they will like before hand to have them want to be there you are just adding something new) Too many parents allow their children to chose a different dinner. You go down a very tiring road if you continue to do this. They control you then.

Rule 5: Supper time is family time and all need to be present at the table; no excuses unless you are a toddler. Even then, help them feel they are missing all the fun if they toddle off. This is one area there is no negotiation! Everyone is there at this time!

Rule 6: Meal time is to be relaxing and enjoyable at all costs. It is not a time to be frustrated or angry. Your food does not digest well if everyone is stressing and tense.

Talk Talk Talk. and Laugh Laugh Laugh.

#2. Make up names for some of your family meals just because it’s fun

Do children really ever like Chile? Yeserree when it is now called “Cowboy Dinner.” The sell is to tell them all cowboys eat this dinner out on the range. If you want to go crazy use pie tins and a big spoon to be authentic. Offer cheese and some cornbread with honey butter, some chips to dunk, or lovely french bread. Sell it baby.

Those noodles that have the cool Italian names, we changed them up. Bow Ties are Butterflies, wagon wheels are, well, wagon wheels, shells of all sizes are straight from the sea (ah-hem Mermaid food–adding tuna if your kids love it), pasta comes in letter shapes, and are thick and thin. It is so FUN! Use your imagination and put a story with that pasta. Your kids will eat it and love it.

Recipe 1: Pioneer Wagon Wheel Dinner (Don’t forget to sell it with a made up tale/ maybe about the Indians surrounding the wagon train and they smelled this this exact dinner cooking and the dinner was shared and they taught the kids how to use a bow and arrow….you get the idea).

1 lb ground beef or ground turkey

2 c. wagon wheel pasta

1 can 14 oz. stewed tomatoes

1 box frozen sweet corn

1/2 c. BBQ sauce

Salt and Pepper to taste.

(Serve with corn bread or corn muffins)

Recipe 2: On nights I forgot to plan dinner I would often boil potatoes then cut them in cubes, ground some ground turkey with a small portion of onions (camouflaged)  and mix the whole lot together and called it “French fries and Hamburgers.” I put a large jar of ketchup on the table with a whole dill pickle and no matter what vegetable I made with it– all of it was gone in a snap. I love that dinner!

#3. Food IS fun/(4 simple ideas)

Everybody loves the chance to help bake with a parent. But sometimes the parent is just too tired to have little hands help. That is okay. But keep in your pantry items that the kids can play with, involving foods, especially when it is the witching hour just before dinner.

  1. Baked Snowflakes (Or whatever happens next)

Fajita-size flour tortillas room temperature

1 T. Butter

Assorted colored sugars

1/2 c. powdered sugars.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Let your little artists use washed scissors to cut pretty snowflakes or shapes out of the tortillas. (Let them eat while creating)

Place the snowflakes on a cookie sheet, and let your kids brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle each one with assorted sugars or cinnamon and sugar mixed.

Bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve for dessert.

YUM! How proud they were to make!

2.  Eat Breakfast for Dinner?  YES SIR! Pancake shapes

My son makes pancakes in the shapes of his children’s first letters of their names or he spells words. (I can’t think of a better way to learn the alphabet!) He often puts food coloring in and adds some yummy toppings like syrup, whipped cream, etc. What a fun breakfast to eat! They could help flip, beat the batter, crack eggs, and pour syrup when they are old enough. Get a small measuring cup full of syrup. Let them pour, but you decide how much. They are going to pour it all–just so you know.

3. On occasion we had a “hard-times” dinner where we set the table with odd things from the kitchen. For example one person may get a pan lid for a plate or a 9×13 pan, a baby bottle or measuring cup for their dinner glass, and a whisk or ladle for their utensil. Use your imagination and pull out all sorts of funny things. Paper towels are the napkins, the table cloth is newspaper or plastic. Serve spaghetti because it is the messiest and laugh together as everyone struggles with their crazy dinner plates, cups, and utensils. We have done this with friends and it has been great fun. Especially when they were surprised.

4. How many peas? Mamma in this family hates green peas. But I want my kids to like them. So we have to eat as many peas as we are old. Of course I have to eat the most and the children make sure I eat every one. Then they keep on eating more.

#4. Hors d’oeuvres before dinner? Why not?

We all get grouchy before meal times because our blood sugar level is low and our gas tank is running on empty, sort to speak. Children begin to whine when parents are trying to hurry to get food made. It is a perfect time for you to  offer foods to your kids that they may not usually eat. Make it simple.

Create a small plate of cut up fruit with yogurt dip or a vege plate with Ranch Dip in the center. Place it on the table and tell them they can eat it all while dinner is getting ready. If they fill up on that…great!

Birthday Candles- Hors d’oeuvres

cheddar cheese cut in one inch cubes, stick pretzels stuck in the cheese. Place on plate and sing happy birthday every time you serve them.

Kids LOVE to use little toothpicks or different types of utensils to poke the food like those corn holders. Roll lunch meat in a tube, stick with a toothpick and its now a gorgeous treat.

Bunny Carrots: A giant whole peeled carrot is no longer simply a carrot, it is a “Bunny Carrot” the best kind. Give with Ranch or let eat raw just like the bunnies. Let them peel. (You gotta learn sometime)

Pickles, olives, little beans or peas all are a blast with a toothpick and can be used for before dinner Hors d’oeuvres.

(Watch closely for children using toothpicks–they can do it, but be careful)

Even if your family has dietary challenges, food and dinnertime can still be enjoyable. You have to sell it.

Sell supper time.

It is worth every challenge.

 

 

King of Camp Campbell #3

One of my fondest memories of my childhood was meal time at a family camp we attended every August called Camp Campbell. It was a YMCA camp up in the Santa Cruz mountains. The caretakers and cook, (Alfred and Olga) were patients of my father, and my mother was the only woman (very prestigious at the time) as part of the board of trustees. Three of my mother’s sisters and their families would come from far away and also attend with our family. They all were in charge of many of the staff positions running all the “fun stuff” happening. It was pure childhood freedom with all of my cousins; swimming, row boating, stay-up-late camp fires, family fun nights doing skits and square dancing, mini hikes, and even a real life “Snipe” that lived in the woods who scared little children who did not go to bed.

One of the traditions I love and remember most was right before meal time. To call all the families, who stayed in small rustic cabins in a half circle around a larger lodge and outdoor chapel, was this big metal bell that was screwed into the side of a wood post, part of the covered walkway structure of the wooden lodge near the entrance to where we ate. The bell was so cool and big. It sat there shiny and strong like a sentinel for the camp. It was a serious job to ring that bell. No one was appointed the job. It was the one who sat by the bell at the time Olga, the cook gave the signal it was time to eat. The bell was rung three times a day.

What happened next was that every child that attended camp wanted to be the one to ring that bell. So earlier and earlier in the day, we would sacrifice our adventures or craft time to go sit on the wood ledge next to the bell to claim our position and mark our territory. It was a tricky strategy to try to figure out the best time to go. Sometimes siblings would get in push-off-the-ledge and I-was-here-first-you did-it-last-time squabbles. But when the signal came to ring, the fiercest and noblest one holding on to the bell-pull that connected to the clapper was literally appointed King of Camp Campbell for the moment (this was not a gender issue, all of us wanted to be king). The rest of us submitted to the position, tucked our sorry tails between our legs and left to eat.

Until the next meal time…

After we stood on the benches to match the height of our parents and sang the same Scandinavian dinner prayer before we dove in to the delicious homemade food. (I’m guessing it was Olga that contributed to the choice of blessing.)

“Be present at our table Lord. Be here and everywhere adore…” (I made up the rest with my own words and don’t remember the real ones). “Peace ber sing let angram that we. May ever let we eat now in peace.” And then the long…”A   M  E  N.” I loved that part and sang it with an actress flair; loud and strong with my best “churchy” voice.

We climbed down and sat, waiting for the table helpers (which I never got to be because I was too young to carry the food) to bring our meals. Then we ate and connived when we would line up to do the bell once again.

Often, after eating, we would pass by the poor sucker who gave up all his afternoon swim or boat time by sitting on the ledge by the bell directly after we ate. We would stare him down as kids do, and he would stare back understanding the sacrifice. Those kind did not deserve the title as “king” because they did not fight for the sacred position. Then off we ran to play–free.

“Be present at our table, Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
Thy creatures bless, and grant that we
May feast in paradise with Thee. AMEN”

(I was pretty close…)

The Power of Family Meals #2

Have you ever looked at old photos of yourself as a baby and absolutely not recall the moment even though you were the central character?

Have you ever been asked things about your past as a child and absolutely not remember?

We only can recall small moments from our childhood that effected us in someway. Our memory blossoms as our brains start to mature. The child’s brain is continuously firing off millions of neurons learning about their world, but the memory part of their brains is still just a baby. We don’t really begin to recall things until we are teenagers and sometimes not even then.

So all those big expensive birthday parties, all those vacations, all those visits to amusement parks or pee-wee sports teams. Do they matter? The answer is yes and no. Time and effort building love and bonds together is what truly matters most. The expensive parties…not so much.

In childhood many of the fondest and stable memories come from the consistent routines that are repeated over and over. Such as suppertime together, bedtime rituals, holiday traditions, religious attendance, visits with grandparents, etc. These are often the things that can be recalled the most, unless a moment felt traumatic or frightening.

One of my favorite thoughts that sits comfortably in my philosophy for living goes like this:

You will not remember what was said.

You will not remember what was done.

But you will remember how you felt.

Childhood is about an accumulation of moments that will not be completely remembered from their memory. But it is recorded in the heart and mind in creating a human. The child will accumulate “feels,” until they are old enough to place moments with those pleasures or challenges.

This is why suppertime has potential to be one of the fondest memories of your child’s life and your collective family “feel” time.

 

deliciousness right under our noses

You looked on Pinterest for that salmon rub. The potatoes are baked to the exact crispness with just a drizzle of Olive Oil and sea salt. The salad is tossed and the table is set. You are tired, but you’ve taken the effort and made your family a yummy dinner. But husband can’t be there, the teenagers have games or practice or homework buddies or…, the tweens are playing that video game they hate to leave, the baby is crying. Why do we even try to do this dinner thing…when it gets harder and harder…

Humor me by reading the quote:

“What if I told you that there was a magic bullet–something that would improve the quality of your daily life,  your children’s chances of success in the world, your family’s health, our values as a society? Something that is inexpensive, simple to produce, and within the reach of pretty much everyone?

“Then, after you had me committed to the Asylum for the Incurable Optimistic, you might come and visit me from time to time. And while you were there, if you were lucky, I would invite you to join me and my fellow inmates for supper….

…research that’s been accumulating from very, very disparate fields..shows how eating ordinary, average everyday supper with your family is strongly linked to lower incidence of bad outcomes such as teenage drug and alcohol use, and to good qualities like emotional stability. It correlates with kindergartners being better prepared to learn to read. Regular family supper helps keep asthmatic kids out of hospitals. It discourages both obesity and eating disorders. It supports your staying more connected to your extended family, your ethnic heritage, your community of faith. It will help children and families to be more resilient, reacting positively to those curves and arrows that life throw our way, It will certainly keep you better nourished. The things we are likely to discuss at the supper table anchor our children more firmly in the world. …eating together teaches manners both trivial and momentous, putting you in touch with the deeper springs of human relations.

When families prepare meals together, kids learn real-life skills. They assume responsibilities, become better team members. Sharing family meals helps cement family relationships, no matter how you define family” (Weinstein. pg. 1-2).

Weinstein. M. (2005). The Surprising  Power of the Family Meals. How eating Together Makes us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press.

It may seem too hard. But insisting on having family supper together, no matter what your dinner is like, is not such a little thing after all. Hold strong it is accumulate and worth every moment.

Here is a few more tasty morsels from her introduction:

“I know that young children will wander away from the table, and that family life is never smooth, and that life itself is full, not only of charm and warmth and comfort, but of sorrow and tears. But whether we are happy or sad, we must be fed. Both happy and sad people can be cheered up by a nice meal. ”    Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

More to come…