8 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Than Just Cheese Puffs

In my efforts to get my kids to eat right, I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded, but I have succeeded on occasion.

Interested in having your kids eat nutritious food that hasn’t been processed and pummelled into a dinosaur or star shape? It’s tricky, in this age of happy meals and cookie-flavored cereal, to coax our children into eating actual food.
In my efforts to get my kids to eat right, I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded, but I have succeeded on occasion. Below are a few proven methods that have actually worked. I hope that you, too, are blessed with a child who sometimes consumes food that doesn’t fall into the cheese puff family.

1 | Ban “candy”

No, I don’t mean ban actual candy. What with Halloween and birthday party bags and in-laws, removing all traces of candy from your home is impossible. But you can avoid the word “candy.”
The reason this is so important is because once your child is thinking about manufactured sugar, it’s tough to get them to accede to eating a food that only contains naturally occurring sugars (most of them do!). So take care around these two syllables. It’s a word that must never be spoken, kind of like Voldemort.

2 | Feign apathy

Sure. You really want your kids to eat the chicken and sweet potatoes you have lovingly prepared for them. Your heart breaks when they look at the plate and a stricken expression clouds over their features, as if a live goldfish had been placed in front of them.
But here’s the thing about getting your kids to eat well – the more you need for them to eat something, the less likely they are to eat it. It’s a control thing, and since children own their mouths, they will always win this very unhealthy power game.

3 | Obscure the goodness

This one only works if you have time to cook and bake, but hiding spinach in a batch of brownies really does work, as does sneaking carrots into a smoothie and disguising zucchini as a type of muffin.
Kudos to whoever thought of adding a cup of spinach to a cake batter. Also, who on earth thought of adding spinach to batter?

4 | Condiments!

Sauces and dips are a parent’s best friend. Solitary carrot sticks look as sad as they sound. But the same exact thing next to a bowl of hummus? Magic! That’s because anything that’s messy will appeal to your kid. You probably already deduced that by now, because look at the state of your house.

5 | Negotiate at your peril

“If you eat three more cucumber slices, I will let you drive the Lamborghini” is something you should not say under any circumstances, and this isn’t just because you have never owned an luxury Italian sports car.
Bargaining with kids – while tempting – usually backfires. You know this. We all know this. The fact that we all still negotiate with our children sometimes is concrete proof that parenthood addles the brain.

6 | Reimagine pasta

My kids, and most kids, do like some healthy foods. Pasta is one of them. But because my kids enjoy it, I sometimes forget what a good, wholesome food this is. We may never own a Lamborghini, but we’ll always have this awesome Italian export.

7 | Sous chef junior

To let your child help you in the kitchen, or not to let your child help you in the kitchen – that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to allow small people to feel as if they are contributing to the housework, or better to just get it done efficiently and neatly while they’re watching “Paw Patrol”.
Honestly, I don’t have the answer to this age-old question, but most kids are more likely to eat something when they’ve had a hand in cooking it. You know what they say: The course of true parenthood is completely chaotic.

8 | The DIY meal

Whether it’s tacos or pitas, kids like to put things in other things. That’s why you once found 23 pennies inside your favorite pair of wedge pumps. Assembling their own meals is fun for kids and, like with the condiments, they will make a mess. Making peace with mess is just part of parenthood. Just like dealing with picky eaters!

My 4-foot, 11 inch Mother is the Biggest Person in Any Room

If my parents had stayed in the Bronx, I might have grown up thinking my family was like all the rest.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. November’s theme is Gratitude. Enter your own here!
Mothers. We come in various ages, shapes, sizes, and temperaments. We bring our love, our quirks, our fears, and sometimes a little bit of our crazy to the job of parenting.
My parents grew up in the Bronx, New York, as next door neighbors. Yes, my mom literally married “the boy next door.” They are 100 percent Italian and grew up in a neighborhood of other Italians.
I’m sure they thought that everybody woke up to the smell of “gravy” cooking on Sunday mornings in preparation for the 3 p.m. dinner with 19 other relatives. I’m sure it was normal for families to scream and yell and gesture wildly during meals and for mothers to chase people around the house with wooden spoons and other impromptu weapons of torture.
If my parents had stayed in the Bronx, I might have grown up thinking my family was like all the rest. But my parents relocated us to Orange County, California, where it quickly became evident that my family was not the norm.
Let me rephrase that. More specifically, “one of these mothers is not like the others.” For anyone who has ever been driven crazy by their mother, I hope you can relate.
Here are a few things other moms definitely didn’t do:
Other moms did not make their child’s friends wash their underarms and feet when they came over to play after school. “You girls stink,” she would say. “You have B.O. and I don’t know if it’s your underarms or your feet, so go wash them both.”
Totally mortified, I would take my friends into the bathroom to wash up, and I would wonder if anyone would ever want to come over to my house again. Somehow, they always came back, probably because we had good snacks.
Other moms did not picket at school and start a petition when their youngest daughter was not named 8th grade valedictorian.
Other moms did not hire a stripper for their son’s family-friendly 18th birthday party in the backyard. Because what boy wouldn’t want his mother there when interacting with a stripper?
On a similar note, other moms did not also hire a stripper for their daughter’s 21st birthday dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas, with her boyfriend and all four grandparents present.

Finally, other moms definitely did not hire an older, unattractive man to come dressed as a pink monkey for their three-year-old grandson’s birthday party and then – surprise! – take off his monkey suit to double as a stripper for the 21st birthday of her youngest daughter, terrifying all children (and adults) in attendance.
Other moms did not write a letter to Rosie O’Donnell (who had one of hottest talk shows on TV at the time where their son has just been hired in the mail room) to brag about how talented he is and how he basically should be running her show. Italians calls this the “my son” syndrome.
Other moms did not somehow force the school district to re-route the entire bus schedule so that their children could be dropped off directly in front of their house rather than on the corner bus stop like all the other kids.
Other moms did not go against the wishes of their grown children and secretly baptize their grandchild in the laundry room sink. With “permission” from the local priest, of course.
Other moms did not fill their entire car with lemons and picket in front of the car dealership (standing up through the sunroof with a giant sign that said “Lemon by BMW”) when it had mechanical problems.

Other moms did not bring a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade to their 17-year-old daughter’s high school prom date’s house and give it to his mother to keep in the fridge because “Jami doesn’t like beer.”
Other moms did not tell their daughter’s new boyfriend, after knowing him for five minutes, that she wants another grandchild, then add that, at this point, she doesn’t care if they get married. She will even raise the child as long as they can just make one for her.
Other moms did not block traffic at the roundabout in front of the high school at pick-up time as they stuck themselves out of the sunroof waving a giant bouquet of balloons and honking their horn to wish their daughter a Happy Birthday.

Yes, my mom did a lot of things other moms didn’t do.
On second thought, perhaps other people didn’t have a home that was constantly filled with family, friends, food, and laughter, or a mom who let her kids’ friends live with them when they needed a place to stay.
Maybe other people didn’t have a mother who “adopted” the little old lady who sat alone in the back of the church every week and invite her to family dinner every Sunday.
Maybe other people didn’t have a mother who cooked dinner for her grown children and grandchildren every Tuesday night, year after year, making nine different dishes so everyone could have their favorites.
My mom stands only 4-foot, 11 inches, but I’ve never thought of her as small. To me, she was always the biggest person in the room (and by biggest, I mean loudest).
All kidding aside – from your eldest daughter who pours the milk before the cereal, to your only son who hasn’t touched a public door handle in 20 years, to your youngest daughter who will only eat ice cream with a fork – we may have turned out a little quirky, but all in all, I guess you did okay.
So thank you, my crazy Italian mother, for all those childhood memories, for being our fiercest protector, our strongest advocate, and our worst nightmare.

Determined…to Lighten Up

Lately, I’ve seriously resolved to take myself less seriously. It’s a paradox, isn’t it? Just like so many aspects of life. As time goes on, I’m finding that many age-old oxymoronic mantras ring true: less is more, pride brings low, humility brings high, giving is receiving, and so on.
As I find myself five-and-a-half years into marriage and two years into parenthood, I’m creating my own paradoxical saying. I’m determined to not be so determined, or I’m serious about being less serious (whichever you prefer).
I find striving for control a natural instinct. Though the motives of my heart may be pure (e.g. – “I just want what’s best for my family.”), the ripple effects of this habitual behavior in our home are almost palpable. It discourages, undermines, and steals away from what could have been an otherwise pleasant situation.
Manipulating the environment around me to be “just so” tends to go hand-in-hand with taking life too seriously in all the wrong ways, as well as fretting over outcomes that are beyond my control. Allow me to provide a few examples:
Correcting the way my husband loads the dishwasher.
Over-analyzing something he said innocently in passing.
Harping on things I want to get “done” around the house at a time that is only convenient for me.
Worrying excessively about my son’s milestones and whether he’s meeting them.
Comparing him to other children.
Being anxious over my every action as a mother, while spiraling down a wormhole of fear as I consider how each expression and word spoken might impact him as an adult.
(Cue: loud exhale)
There is a time and place to consider and address (almost) all of the examples above. I’m not suggesting that forsaking healthy order and parental responsibilities is the way to go. But letting these petty instances become the soundtrack in my home will suck the joy right out of the people living here.
To what end? That has been the question I’ve been asking myself lately. Why do I do this, and what is it all for in the long run?
Ultimately, the dishes will get cleaned, even if the way in which it happens is not the most efficient. My husband and I will hurt one another’s feelings, whether we intend to or not. Things around the house will get done, and it’s okay if it’s not on my preferred timeline. My son will reach his milestones at his own pace. He already possesses strengths and weaknesses, just like every other human being.
Yet, here’s the doozy for me lately: Not everything I say and do is going to powerfully impact my child. Sadly, it is pretty guaranteed that we’re all going to mess up our kids. This is unavoidable, so I can let that fear go right now.
We’re also going to do some really amazing things for them. Ironically, I think that the more we try to be perfect, the more we’ll probably mess them up.
When I take myself less seriously and simply be me – as a wife, mom, friend, and whatever other role I play in life – I’m reminded that I’m the best wife for my husband and he is the best husband for me because we intentionally chose each other, regardless of whatever our fleeting emotions might tell us.
Similarly, I’m the best mom my son will ever have. He was given to me and I was given to him purposefully, because we suit one another in spite of whatever challenges come our way.
So I will continually try to let go of controlling each facet of my life. I might even resolve to enjoy the imperfections as a sort of beautiful chaos. I aim to free up my husband and son to be themselves while providing them the extra respect, love, grace, patience, and understanding that I hope to receive from them.
I’m determined to stop wasting energy on the insignificant and the inevitable. It’s time to lighten up.

Kid Made Recipe: Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

This crispy, spicy vegetarian take on buffalo wings makes a great party dish, or the perfect  weekend movie watching snack!

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Cauliflower? You bet! This crispy, spicy vegetarian take on buffalo wings makes a great party dish, or the perfect  weekend movie watching snack! The double coating of the batter and the breadcrumbs make them super crispy, and the dipping process is fun for kid helpers too.
 

Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Serves 4-6 as a side
Prep Time: 20  minutes
Bake Time: About 30 minutes total
Total time: About 50  minutes
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 cup whole milk ( I cup of unsweetened coconut milk from a can works too)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup buffalo sauce

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Remove stem from cauliflower and carefully chop into 1-2 inch florets and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, paprika and pepper and whisk to combine.
  5. Add milk and whisk until smooth. It should be like thick pancake batter.
  6. Add the cauliflower florets and gently toss, using a large spoon, until all florets are completely coated in batter.
  7. Pour breadcrumbs into a medium bowl.
  8. Using tongs, lift each batter-coated piece of cauliflower and toss gently with the  breadcrumbs. Place breaded florets on the lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned.
  10. While baking, get your buffalo sauce ready.
  11. Coat your cauliflower bites in sauce!  We used the pour-over method, flipping with tongs to cover the other side. You can put all the bites into a large, clean bowl and pour the sauce over, tossing very gently to coat them all.
  12. When the bites are coated in sauce, return them to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until they are crispy.
  13. Serve with carrots, celery, and blue cheese or ranch for dipping!

Recipe Notes:

  • All ovens are different! Yours may take more or less time to get you the crispy cauliflower you’re looking for. When it’s in the over for its final bake, start checking after about 10 minutes, then check every 2-3 minutes until they’re done.
  • You can buy buffalo sauce or make your own! Just combine ⅔ cup hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot) and ½ cup unsalted butter in a small saucepan and whisk over low heat until the butter is melted and the sauce is smooth.
  • You can leave these un-sauced for little kids, or anyone who doesn’t like spice! Just serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

What it Means to Build a "Home"

I don’t have a home anymore. I have places where my heart belongs, and people I love in those places.

Home. I’ve grown up my whole life hearing phrases like “Home is where the heart is,” and “Home is where your story begins.” Many people don’t know how this feels, or they live in the same house with their families but it is not Home. For me, “home” was always this beautiful, close concept of being absolutely together with the people you love in a place that’s comfortable and safe. I was lucky enough to know this reality.
My family moved into what I grew up calling “home” when I was five. I lived there until I moved to Chicago to go to college, and moved back there when I graduated. I moved out again when I got married, and moved back in after that marriage disintegrated. I moved out again last summer, when the overwhelming force of turning 30 wouldn’t stop beating against me and I felt compelled to prove I was a grown up and could “make it” on my own. My license still bears this address and every now and then, when I tell my daughter we’re going to visit grandma, I refer to it as home.
With all that being said, I must tell you something. I don’t have a home anymore.
I don’t mean to say that I am homeless. I am not, as Juniper so aptly words it, “houseless.” I live in a house with my JuneBug, two dear friends, and a refugee from Eritrea. We move around each other and make meals together and share a kitchen and a bathroom and we make it work. We have a backyard and air conditioning and couches and happiness. But it is not my home.
I can easily go to my mother’s house, where I grew up, and stay overnight comfortably. I can get up in the morning and move around the house effortlessly, fix the coffee, make the breakfast, put things where they belong. Generally I feel like I could still belong within those walls. But it is not my home.
I don’t have a home anymore. I have places where my heart belongs, and people I love in those places. When I think of the concrete word “home,” I don’t think of a specific place because there isn’t one. Home isn’t a place.
My mother is home, and the way she holds me when she hasn’t seen me in awhile is home. Snuggling with my daughter in bed in the morning is home. Watching a movie on the couch with my boyfriend, whiskey in hand and a smile on my face, is home. Catching chickens and waiting out the sunset over vast fields of farmland with my dad is home. Sitting on the porch swings at my grandmother’s house, listening to the sounds of the universe and the creak of wood paneling that has seen three generations grow up, is home.
I’m starting to believe that I will never have a “home” again. I might move somewhere else, or change my address, or settle in somewhere, but the abstract concept of home will continue vanishing. Home isn’t where the heart is, or where your story begins, or even where you feel most comfortable. Home is where the memories live. Home is where you can feel vulnerable and safe all at once. Home is being loved and wanted and deeply felt by another human being. You could live in a box and still feel like you’re “home.” So, I will let this word remain empty, and instead soak up moments that I will look back on sometime later in life, and, as if looking a great distance through a telescope, realize I was building “home” all along.
This article was originally published on Diary of a June Bug.

The Lesson in the Succulent

It’s so many of us who have moved our own hardier selves right down to the bottom of the list of things that need to be cared for.

I’m losing another succulent.
Rather I am, in fact, losing the last remnant of my third succulent arrangement that I bought after the first two succumbed to the very same illness this last pathetic sucker has.
What’s the illness, you ask?
Neglect.
Succulents are easy, they say. They’re hardy. They don’t require much and they’re hard to kill and they look pretty and they’re totally trending on Etsy.
Sign me up.
Except around here, where there are two smallish humans and two medium-sized humans and two large humans and one dog who all are slightly less hardy than, say, a succulent, and require much more than a sunny corner of the house and an occasional squirt of water, all “easy to keep alive” means is you’re moving to the back of the list, buddy.
And the list is long, isn’t it? It’s three square meals cooked from scratch with farm fresh organic and locally sourced ingredients prepared with love (read: take out) that everyone hates and makes gagging noises over and feeds to the dog when you aren’t looking.
It’s a never ending mountain of laundry that we are doomed to cart up and down 800 flights of stairs everyday like Sisyphus, except worse, because it also smells like armpits mixed with old milk.
It’s bills, too, and groceries and work and worrying about them and worrying about us and worrying about our marriages and worrying about our parents and worrying about our cholesterol and cancer and trying desperately to remember if we locked the door before we laid our head down.
It’s taking on the full responsibility of an entire household like a martyr goddess because a) we’re good at getting this crap done and b) we love the heck out of these people and want to see them thrive.
So the succulent falls to the bottom of the pile. Tomorrow – we say to ourselves as we lie there debating whether to check the doors for the second time – we will take care of it. We will water it and trim it up nice and clean off the dead parts and put it in the sun and love up on it a little bit until it remembers that it’s supposed to grow and not wither away into another mess we have to clean up.
Tomorrow. Or the next day. Definitely next week.
Sound familiar?
This succulent is so many of us. It’s so many of us mamas and caretakers and lovers and servers who get so busy in the noble pursuit of keeping the people we love alive that we have moved our own hardier selves right down to the bottom of the list.
Where we are busy getting neglected.
Where we are thirsty and wrinkly and shriveled up and, well, kind of sad looking.
I get it. Believe me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in some silly mama task, like cleaning out the kids’ closets, and maybe the radio is on and I’m jamming a little bit and my caffeine has kicked in and it annoys the freaking hell out of me that I have to stop and pee or eat or attend to some other stupid basic human need like catching my breath.
Then other times, I accidentally sit down on the couch before it is sit-down-on-the-couch-time and my body is like “oh, thank God,” and my kids are like “oh, heck no,” and I can physically feel myself drying up and dying a little.
It’s times like that, when I feel this weird kinship with my succulent that was once lovely and is now sort of struggling, that I’m compelled to remind us all that “easy to keep alive” (a.k.a. “harder to kill”) doesn’t mean immortal.
Let this little sad guy be a warning to us all and maybe the impetus to take care of ourselves once in a while. Maybe even often. Because nothing thrives without a little loving care.
Including us.
This was originally published on the author’s Facebook page.

Alexa, What Does It Take to Be Human?

Could a tiny smart computer fill in all my gaps in parenting? The better question is, should it?

Mattel pulled a much-anticipated and hotly-debated toy recently.
Aristotle, a device geared for children anywhere from infancy to adolescence, was set up to be the kid’s version of Alexa. It boasted features such as the ability to soothe a crying baby, teach ABCs, reinforce good manners, play interactive games, and help kids with homework. Marketed as an “all-in-one nursery necessity” on Mattel’s website, it also offered e-commerce functionality that would enable Aristotle to automatically reorder baby products based on user feedback.
This little gadget would be the next big thing, engineered to “comfort, entertain, teach, and assist during each development state – evolving with a child as their needs change.”
You see where this is heading.
How much do we let artificial intelligence narrate our children’s lives? How can we put something like this in charge of soothing our kids to sleep, teaching the alphabet, and eventually helping with homework?
Could a tiny smart computer fill in all my gaps in parenting? The better question is, should it? I know what being saddled with my phone and Wi-Fi all hours of the waking day does to my psyche. What could it possibly do to a toddler or an 11-year-old?
The director of the M.I.T. Initiative on Technology and Self, Sherry Turke, said something in her approval of Mattel’s decision to nix Aristotle that made me pause: “The ground rules of human beinghood are laid down very early” and these machines have “changed the ground rules of how people think about personhood.”
Is this true? By creating Siri and Alexa and all manner of innumerable smart devices, have we changed what it means to be human?
Do you remember the little origami fortune tellers you could make out of a paper? You’d ask it a question – say, “who will I marry?” or “will I have a pool when I grow up?” – and then you’d pick a number, count it out, and open the flap to reveal your future.
I never got the pool. But I also never forgot that it was just a game. I didn’t really think I would marry David or Nick. But maybe if I carried it around all the time and asked it every question from age eight and onward, I would forget it was not, in fact, in charge of my fate.
Turke went on to say that “we can’t put children in this position of pretend empathy and then expect that children will know what empathy is. Or give them pretend as-if relationships, and then think that we’ll have children who know what relationships are.”
Have the things that used to define us as highly evolved creatures – our rationality and morality and curiosity – changed so much? Do we still care to defend right and wrong and ask why of the universe or are we content to ask Siri? Do we, the grown-ups, still know what empathy is? When I watch the news, I wonder.
Do we know what it means to develop and nurture and uphold sustainable relationships? I hope so.
Aristotle was a free-thinking scientist and philosopher. He was a man who believed in things acting according to their function. I do not believe he would have entrusted the development of our children’s minds to a computer. I’m not even sure where he’d put artificial intelligence in the hierarchical system. Is it animal, vegetable, mineral, or none of the above?
The ground rules of “beinghood” are constantly evolving, but the core of what makes us human stands. We still care enough to write great literature, fight injustice, love and lose and love again, and cancel a toy before it begins to raise our children. We still hold a tiny bit of prescience over the rightness and wrongness of where our curiosity is leading us.
As long as we are able to look up from our toys and ask of each other and the world, “What does it all mean?”, our humanity remains intact. Technology is a marvel and a necessary in the modern world, but it cannot define us. This is a new game we are playing, and we must play it wisely.

Kid Made Recipe: Butternut Fettuccine

This creamy, delicious (and vegetarian!) pasta dish will warm up any weeknight, and it’s ready to go in 45 minutes or less.

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This creamy, delicious (and vegetarian!) pasta dish will warm up any weeknight, and it’s ready to go in 45 minutes or less. Little kids can handle peeling, and big kids can watch over the simmering squash and take over  the tossing and garnishing.  This is so easy and so tasty you’ll want to add it to your weekly dinner rotation!

Butternut Fettuccine

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20  minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: About 45 minutes
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 2 ½ cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • ½ small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine the squash, onion, and broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the salt, and nutmeg, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, or until the squash and onions are very soft and breaking apart.
  3. Meanwhile, in another large pot, cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
  4. Add pepper to taste, remove from heat, and blend mixture until smooth using an immersion blender, or transfer carefully to a food processor or blender.
  5. Once smooth, add the half and half or heavy cream and blend again on low speed until no streaks remain.
  6. Add the 2 Tbsp parmesan and stir.
  7. Using tongs, toss sauce with warm pasta until well coated.
  8. Serve with more parm, chopped walnuts, and a sprig or two of fresh rosemary.

 

Recipe Notes:

  • If your cooked pasta gets sticky while you wait for the sauce to cook, add a pat of butter and toss before you add the sauce to loosen it up.
  • Add as much chopped fresh herbs as you like! We used rosemary, but sage, thyme or oregano would also be lovely and delicious!

This Holiday Season, I’m Breaking Tradition

I never want to confine my family to tradition. I want my children to experience it, of course, but I also want to mix it up.

Tradition is and always will be important. But what happens when tradition starts to control your holidays in an unhealthy way?
I will never forget this story, once told to me by a person with much more wisdom than I.
Every Christmas Eve, her mother-in-law would come to the house and enjoy a festive dinner. Once they tucked the kids in tight, they would do something (in my opinion) absolutely insane.
They would put up the Christmas tree, fit with lights and ornaments. While most of us have been enjoying our Christmas tree for a month, they save it all for just one night. The woman was quick to tell me that this was her mother-in-law’s tradition that became engrained into their family.
The children would wake on Christmas morning to find that Santa had been rather busy, and that Mommy and Daddy look rather exhausted. It was the true Christmas miracle of miracles.
“WOW!” the children would shout.
“Where’s the whiskey?” their mom would mumble behind sleepy eyes.
Looking back now, the woman wishes she was brave enough to say, “What a great tradition you had with your family, but no, thank you.” She never did that, so as long as her mother-in-law was alive, they were stuck.
Many of us have experienced, and still do experience, the traditional holiday festivities. On Thanksgiving, we wear pretty fall dresses and eat at 3 p.m. at Grandma’s house. We enjoy turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, casseroles, and top it all off with warm gooey pies. Sounds nice, right?
Now, look in the corner. There you see the kids aimlessly scrolling on their phones, trying to make conversation with Great Grandma, and giving their cousins wet willies.
What if one year – not every year, but every few years – you broke tradition? What if (hear me out) you took a vacation with just your immediate family for Thanksgiving? You and your husband pack up your kids and head to the coast. Instead of turkey, you eat lobster. Instead of watching football, you play frisbee on the beach. Instead of dressing up, you stay in pajamas all day long.
After a vacation like that, you may feel rested and relaxed, which is the point of the holiday season, right?
I never want to confine my family to tradition. I want my children to experience it, of course, but I also want to surprise them with fun outings and activities. Instead of baking sugar cookies on Christmas Eve, go to the movies. Instead of Santa popping down your chimney, he visits you at a ski resort. Instead of ham or roast beef, grill out hamburgers and hot dogs.
You will not only be setting your kids up for fun, but you might also get a break and actually enjoy the holidays for once. My cousin took her kids to Disney World one Christmas. Now that’s cool.
When I was a kid, I was in the car all day on Christmas. We visited all of the grandparents around the state of Georgia. We would open our presents and at 10 a.m. and have to leave. We never had any time to play with our gifts.
What if, one year, we didn’t drive all the way to Grandma’s? Wouldn’t it be amazing if they came to us for once, and we were able to stay in our pajamas?
I am so sad for the woman whose memories of Christmas with her children are laced with a chore she despised. I don’t want to do that to myself. I don’t want to do that to my children.
For Thanksgiving this year, we will travel to see family. Next year, we are going on vacation. One for tradition; one for fun.
 

Ten Proverbs That Unintentionally Taught Me to Be a Better Parent

I doubt some of the parenting advice I gleaned from these proverbs was exactly what the original authors intended, but it was helpful nonetheless.

I’m not really one for trite sayings in general, but especially trite sayings about parenting, like “the days are long but the years are short.” Then one day, I realized how much parenting wisdom is tucked away in our most common proverbs. Though I doubt some of the advice I gleaned was exactly what the original authors intended.
Here are 10 proverbs, modified to suit the parenting life:

1 | If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

True. Except here’s the thing. If a kid or spouse is doing it and you think you can do it better, ask yourself a simple question: “Do you actually want to do it yourself?”
If no, shut your mouth, carry on and, if necessary, take notes for constructive feedback later.

2 | A watched pot never boils.

Similarly, children can never put on their shoes and socks while you’re watching them. Watching kids struggle to get dressed is like trying to get through a “Lord of the Rings” marathon to impress a first date.
Seriously, walk away. Have a second cup of coffee.

3 | If you can’t beat them, join them.

Every now and then, when your kids are off-the-wall bonkers and you can’t calm them down, just join in. Nobody really wants to be the one sober person at the party.
I can tell you from experience that watching your kids toilet-papering your living room can send you into a tailspin. But doing it with them is oddly satisfying.

4 | No use crying over spilled milk.

My kids spill their milk and other things a lot. It used to upset me a lot. But there are only so many yells in one day, and I decided to save them for more important things.
Our current mantra is, “Well, at least it’s not blood. Now go clean it up.”

5 | Familiarity breeds contempt / Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I’ve lumped these together because they’re opposite sides of the same coin. Any parent who has ever spent several days (okay, hours) trapped in a house with their kids will understand. You start off at 6 a.m. with nothing but love, but by bedtime…pure contempt.
On the flip side, nothing makes me love my kids more than a little break. So when you find yourself climbing up Contempt Hill, work to arrange a get-away fast, even if it’s just a quick run to the drugstore to buy things you don’t need.

6 | Good things come to those who wait.

This can be applied to a million things, but comes in particularly handy for dinner and tantrums. When trying to get my kids to eat something not high on their list of top foods (i.e. anything that’s not pizza), I’ve learned to plop it down and walk away.
Don’t make eye contact, don’t cajole or discuss, just leave it and wait. At some point, they’ll eat it, if the dog doesn’t get to it first.

7 | You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

I love cooking and I love my kids, but initially, I didn’t love the two together. Eggshells got in the batter, flour got on every surface in the kitchen, butter got places butter should never be, and it took roughly two hours to complete a 15-minute recipe.
But, oh how they loved it. Once I embraced the disaster (and learned to have them crack eggs, one at a time, in a separate bowl), I loved it, too.

8 | No man is an island.

I really, really struggle with asking for help. I once cut my fingertip off with a mandolin and then pushed my two-year-old two miles in a stroller, while pregnant, looking for an urgent care that took my insurance.
Once I had two kids, I realized this wasn’t sustainable. Learn to ask for help, because most people don’t mind and you can’t get it done yourself.

9 | Better late than never.

This obviously applies to day-to-day lateness, but it hit home for me in terms of child development. My daughter didn’t walk until 18 months, and my six-year-old son, while showing early promise in engineering, still can’t tell me the difference between the sounds ch and th.
It’s easy to get caught up in intense worry over these things, but the truth is, kids really do develop at different rates. Comparing will make you crazy.

10 | When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Sure, we want to model how to stick it out for our kids, but we also want everyone to survive until they reach adulthood. No one benefits from a crazed parent. Sometimes, it’s best to just walk away.
Give yourself a timeout in your closet, preferably with a drink or snack of your choice.