Enter “Kids Make Dinner Night”

A month ago, a friend said her six and eight-year-olds take turns making dinner once a week, and after I managed to close my mouth, Voila! “Kids Make Dinner Night” was born at our house, too.

We’ve done it twice now, with the six-year-old going first and choosing to make vegetarian chili with buttered egg noodles.  Success.  The four-year-old decided to make “crunchy fish” and “camel broccoli” (Romanesco broccoli to those not in the know–it looks sort of like a cactus, which a camel would have no problem eating, I guess.)  Turns out this involves zero real cooking, but still, success!

How we are doing it:  On Sunday, they tell me what they want to make.  Monday, I either get it myself, or I bring the four-year-old along, depending on whether she needs an example of what true boredom looks like, or not.  Tuesday, the child makes dinner (with assistance from me) and the other child gets to set the table however they want (You would be surprised at the yelling matches configurations that can occur with only four people.)

I want them to learn how to cook, for now and for later in life.  I want them to know how much work goes into planning, buying, prepping and cooking.  I want them to try new foods and I want most of all for them to be grateful when someone else (especially me) makes them dinner.

Both kids are on board with this and immediately had a long argument about who got to make dinner first.  I haven’t established any rules about what is acceptable dinner fare yet, but I have a feeling, come Sunday night I’m going to have to make a rule “No, you can’t make chili every time it is your turn.”

Anyway, as luck would have it, I found a cooking class for kids, ages 2-6, for this past Saturday morning.  It was a little pricey, but both kids were excited when I brought it up.  “This hands-on and interactive class will help give children the confidence to try new foods. We will prepare some fun and healthy recipes using all the springtime ingredients! Parents are encouraged to participate or watch. Includes recipe packet and coloring sheets to take home.”

It was a fun little class.  We made granola collectively then Bugs on a Log and mini hummus pizzas individually.  My son was the oldest in the class at six, but didn’t seem to mind at all (especially when I pointed that out, and told him I was proud of how patient and well-mannered he is.)  Both kids want to go again, to the “big kid” class for 5 to 12 year-olds.  Yay!

IMG_3802 IMG_3803 IMG_3805 IMG_3813

Parenting the “Strong-Willed” Child

I just started typing “Parenting the….” in Google, and the words “strong-willed child” auto-filled in after it.  Ha.  Strong-willed.  Independent.  Spirited.  Such a positive place is modern parenting.  Well, at least I know I’m not alone if that’s the first thing that came up.

The first article I come across, “Parenting Your Strong Willed Child“, has all these gems that are making me laugh out loud.

“…we could also see strong-willed kids as people of integrity who aren’t easily swayed from their own viewpoints.”   Ha.

But there are other gems in here too, especially “You don’t have to attend every argument to which you’re invited!” Truth.  I get invited to a lot of arguments these days and I’ve been dressing up with my pearls and showing up early.

My current solution to the walking-out-of the-gym problem, is that she never goes again.  I suppose she wins.  But I also get the peace of mind knowing that I can work out for forty minutes and not have to wonder what she’s doing, that I don’t have to force her to sit in the kids room and sob or I don’t know what.  Part of that solution means that I work out when she is at preschool twice a week once on the weekend and a few times here at home.  Another part is I just signed up for some Beachbody on Demand videos so I can kick the cats off the rug multiple times and lurch around my own living room.  The kids can either do them with me or do something by themselves. (The third part will go into effect this summer when I go to workout at 6:20 in the morning and get back before my husband leaves for work.) This worked for two days this week, until today I went to start working out and The Young Lady stamped her foot at me and said “NO! You will NOT exercise.  You will play with ME.”

I either said some gentle things about how she gets to talk to me or I said some short, brutal things about making decisions about my own life and go to your damn room.  Or both.  It’s a bit blurry.

Anyway, as is the pattern, she retreated to her room to sulk and I worked out and checked on her after:  She is fast asleep in her bed.  I’m so unused to napping children (mine both gave it up as a nasty habit before age two), that I’m a little shocked.  She was exhausted, she made an ultimatum, we argued, she cried and fell asleep.  Aha.  This is exactly what happened last week, too.  I’ve got to work on catching this before things go south again.

Some other good ideas from the article address our “morning problem”, which I believe that everyone has–the problem of getting the kids out of the door in the morning.  Everyone has strategies and I keep seeing these articles about yelling less, so lets assume that lots of us are yelling at our kids in the morning.  I know I am.  I like this a lot more: “Let her take charge of as many of her own activities as possible. Don’t nag at her to brush her teeth; ask “What else do you need to do before we leave?”” Indeed.

The whole article is a good reminder, although there are things I know right now will never be said, like the following scenario:  “I hear that you don’t want to wear your jacket today. I think it’s cold and I am definitely wearing a jacket. Of course, you are in charge of your own body, as long as you stay safe and healthy, so you get to decide whether to wear a jacket. But I’m afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won’t want to come back to the house. How about I put your jacket in the backpack, and then we’ll have it if you change your mind?”

Blah, blah, blah.  I’m all about giving her authority over her own body, but I am tired, oh so tired, of being the One Who Holds Things and the One Who Gets Things.  You don’t want a jacket?  Fine.  Be cold.  End of discussion.  I know with this child in particular and also her older brother, the more I talk, the less they listen.

There is an interesting point in here about morality, and teaching children to do the right thing, not the thing that is yelled at them the loudest (I’m paraphrasing).  Now, I know some yellers and I’ve noticed that the only thing that happens with yelling, is more yelling.  No real effect on compliance.  I don’t remember the book, but I do remember the idea from a baby book that forcing independence early leads to the child who is independent when you don’t want them to be.  As in, push them out into the world (or play room) when they’re not ready and they’ll develop those skills and, then, um, use them against you?  Okay, no I don’t remember it very well, and it actually doesn’t make any sense.  Forget that.

Whatever.  The take home message is to stop having conversations that sound like that boss of Tom Hanks’ in “Joe Vs. The Volcano”.  Keep on keeping on, oh parents of strong-willed children.

The Week of Boredom

Maybe you saw this coming. In any case, it is probably long overdue.

I said this yesterday on Facebook:

“So. This morning’s walk to freedom was inspired by “boredom”. Apparently HER CHOICE of lying around, eating snacks, playing on the TRX cables is “not fun” to which I responded through clenched teeth “You have no idea how BORED I can make you.” Enter “It Is Boring And You Hate It, So We’re Doing It Now!” Week. First up, a trip to Home Depot in which you walk around after me for an hour while I look at tile, pick up paint chips and put together potted annuals in my head, then don’t buy anything. No Sulking Allowed. Next, a loooong drive home with (gasp) no snack, deliberately passing the bus stop and walking back to it from the house to pick up big brother and No, I’m Not Carrying You. Later, I think a nice Gross Salmon with Grosser Fennel Salad for dinner will round out the day nicely.”

I am so angry about her comment about being bored.  My right hand has been on fire the last day, so apparently demyelination is sensitive to fear and rage, too.  She has no idea how much I do, correction have done, so that she would NOT be bored.  The errands I squeeze in to the few hours I have when she’s at school.  The calendar filled with fun, little, enriching classes, the videos she gets to watch while I make dinner.  Well.  Not any longer.  All of that is over.  I’m nothing if not a reactive parent.

The next time she gets to sit down in my gym with snacks, books, unicorns and blankets, she’ll recognize it as a gift.  Instead of running to Target for two things and to Whole Foods for another this morning while she was at school, I went for tea and had a text conversation with a good friend about waxing versus laser.  (Spur of the moment.  I’m not used to this yet—next time we’ll try to actually have tea together I hope while we talk about Big Things .)

Instead of prepping the garden beds so she and I could plant peas this afternoon, I ate frozen cookie dough and read some Flavia de Luce.  Instead of picking up her room so I could put her laundry away, I sat and wrote this.

This afternoon, she can put her own laundry away after she cleans her own room.  She can help me turn over the garden beds.  She can go to Target and Whole Foods with me, and no, we’re not getting treats or whatever crap thing she sees in the checkout.  If I do it, she does it.  She thinks that forty minutes of sitting around while I workout is interminable.  You’re looking at whole hours, days of it even, now kiddo.

I’ve coddled her, I know. Because I can and I wanted to, and that got punched right out of me yesterday morning.  This morning, like every morning she dragged her feet and said “I don’t want to go to ‘chool.”  And this morning, unlike every morning before it, I said “Too bad.”  When she putters around and has selective hearing about the things I tell her, she doesn’t get the jolly song and dance, she gets one-word commands, mostly “NOW.”  I haven’t forgiven her yet for scaring me and I know, though she doesn’t yet, that our relationship has changed.

I feel for friends of mine who have children who abscond, sad that these parents have to have multiple strategies for keeping their kids safe.  I don’t think that panic goes away, and every time a child is missing it is terrible.  The thing the blew me away with my daughter is that I know she is completely sure of herself, but I always assumed her timidity and need for proximity to me would just last.  Forever.  Or at least until the first day of school when she would happily part from me and hop onto the bus.

I thing I’m getting it, this new part of the parenting thing.  One boring day at a time.

The Shortened Walk Home

There’s a story in my family lore about a time when I was in first grade.  The bus home from St. Catherine’s stalled or something, so my brothers, third and fourth graders, decided to walk home (I stayed on the bus).  The principal saw them and picked them up as they were walking down Brown Deer Road and drove them home.  I don’t remember if they got into any trouble, but it’s a sort of funny story we laugh at now and then.  You know, kids!  Ha!

Not nearly as funny when it is your own four-year-old daughter who decides she didn’t want to be at mom’s boot camp class any longer.

She is sitting in her bed with a tear-stained face and I am sitting in the living room still shaking.  Half-way through class, my beautiful barnacle left her spot in the gym where she lays around, eats snacks and occasionally looks balefully across the room at me.  I saw her putting on her shoes and assumed she was going in to the kids’ playroom across the hall.  Except that she wasn’t.  I saw her through the window a few minutes later across the parking lot, in her daffodil-yellow jacket near the road thinking about which way to go.  She was going to walk home.  By herself.

Never mind that it is 3 1/2 miles and she doesn’t know the way.

Enter the scene where I run out of the gym and grab her, haul her back inside and tell her to not move, at all, while I gather our stuff.  And then, while she cries, I buckle her in and scream at her the whole way home.  About leaving without telling me, about crossing parking lots and roads, about how little she is, about what could have happened, about fear.  I screamed at her about how little I care if she is bored for the forty minutes of the whole day that I get to myself, how she made a choice to sit rather than play with kids, about how she doesn’t know her last name, or her address, or her phone number, about what she would do if a stranger tried to help her.  I didn’t bring up the what if a stranger tried to not help her which is too hard to even write.

Finally, she said “Please stop yelling about this.”  And I took a big breath. And I did stop yelling.  We got home and I took a shower while she laid in her bed, and came up with the meaningless punishment of no screen time for an entire week and that she has no choice any longer, that she will be in the kids’ room at boot camp and will not get to leave.  She cried and quietly said, “Okay, mommy……..what’s a week?”

So, let’s applaud her independence, and hope to God that it has been properly squashed for now.  Tell me this is the story we laugh about when she’s 30 and a CEO.

Emboldened, Part II: “Clean Up That Shit”

Recent small victories and the insightful questions of my fellow moms-in-arms has got me thinking.  About travel, about summer, about technology, about time, about the future.  My thoughts on Travel came easiest.

What’s next?  This house.  There’s a list around here somewhere called “The 30 Week List”.  It is a list of stuff we wanted to finish before I was 30-weeks pregnant.  With our first child.  Who turned seven last month.

Too many friends moved away this last year.  I watched and helped so many of them pack up and I saw some of the things they did to make their home “saleable”.  Like fixing the creaky floors and the drooping door frames.  Fresh paint and working receptacles.  I looked around my own home and wondered why we don’t do those things and not move? We could live with functioning drawer pulls!  We could use the hairdryer on the living room window plastic without needing an extension cord to the bathroom!  So I vowed that 2015 would be the year to do all those things that have fallen into disrepair, and all those things we never got to on the 30-week list.  The next time the winter Solstice Spectacular rolls around I don’t have to be disappointed that somehow, the bathroom still has mold and flaking paint.

I just sent out inquiries for quotes on fixing things.  Other projects:  Tearing the linoleum from ’54 off the basement stairs and rehabbing the wood underneath, finding/replacing the missing/mismatched drawer pulls in the kitchen, replacing the sliding screen door the kids walked through, hire, what, the fifth electrician to finally restore power to the back wall of the dining room….

Week One:  Thank God For Google Image Searches.  I found the unfindable….four matching pewter tone drawer pulls for the kitchen, plus two extra.  I have been looking for these for nine years, hoping they would magically reappear in that unstocked bin. La!  I should get them in four to six weeks, because I don’t even know who pays $35 for three-day shipping.  I can continue to pry the drawers open from the bottom with my toes, thank you very much.

Week Three:  Drawer-pulls installed.  Several contractors contacted and I am overwhelmingly disappointed in lack of call-backs, general respect, and reasonable time-frames or estimates. So.. I scraped, sanded and repainted the bathroom and the basement by myself.  Started pulling up the linoleum on the basement stairs but had to stop for the buzzing in my hands.  All in all, a big week.


Week Five:  Summer with two children home at all times looms. Plans for The Refinishing are in my calendar but even I know that is just a pipe dream.  Then I heard about The Minimalists and their one-month challenge (Thanks, Kaisa!):  Oho!  I could revive The Purge!  I always feel like we’re drowning in stuff. So, the challenge is to get rid of as many things as the day number, i.e. get rid on one thing on the first, two on the second, three on the third…..Their rules are that it has to be gone by midnight.  I’m a bit more relaxed about that.  If it is out of the house in a bag for drop off, either at Goodwill or to a friend or Habitat for Humanities ReHome store or wherever, that’s good enough for me.  You can make it a competition and see how long you can go.

I’m good through Day Four right now.  Gone are some running shoes culled from my pack, some rude kitchen magnets I’ll never be able to use again anyway now that the kids can read, never-worn winter scarves and a size 3 winter jacket.  It is easy so far.

The thing I’m stuck on right now is the National Geographic magazines.  I have a few from the 1980s, and then almost a complete collection from 1996 on. (Yes, that is almost 300 issues, I know.) They need to go and I’m almost ready.  I have never once referred to them in the time I’ve been collecting them.  I certainly didn’t read the vast majority of the ones since my kids were born.  But here’s the thing.  I just read “Station Eleven” (Emily St. John Mandel) a dystopia set after the collapse of humanity, brought on by a virulent strain of swine flu. My thought is this, “What will I read after The Collapse?!?”  I’ll have almost thirty years of Nat Geo!  Me, getting the smarts, holed up in my basement!!”

 Okay.  But here is what Reason has to say:  “1. If they only way you’re going to read your National Geographic back log is when humanity fails, uh, get rid of them.  Also, 2. My kids are germ-magnets.  They lick things and wipes their noses on their hands.  We’ll never survive.  In fact, we’ll probably be Patient Zero.”

Sigh.  Fine.  Time to haul them to Half-Price Books for $0.37 total.

Yes!  That IS the holographic 1988 issue!
Yes! That IS the holographic 1988 issue!
There’s only, um, 300 I think


Fun 101

It started with a simple question.  We saw a billboard for Denny’s on our road-trip, and we asked each other “When was the last time you were in a Denny’s?”

It took a minute, but I came back to the summer I was 19, the summer of “Fun 101” a mandatory course “taught” to me by my brother.

It is no secret that my years in college were mostly miserable, that I graduated in 3 1/2 years, not out of academic prowess, but efficiency fueled by loathing and anxiety.  I am a true introvert, meaning I re-energize with solitude and quiet, the exact opposite of what a dorm life provides.  There were some bright, shining lights during that time, for absolute sure, like ballroom dance and the promise of gobs and gobs of overflowing crab-apple and cherry blossoms on campus each spring. But more than that was my corps of incredible, fun, funny people I had the extreme good fortune of knowing.  I had a Samip, a great, positive, true friend who talked with me for hours about all the stuff big and little, saved me seats in lectures, gave me Pepperidge Farm cookies and pep talks at my weakest.  Everyone should be so lucky.  I had a Sachin to take every single class with, to talk me down from the calculus ledge, to be the steady rudder.  I had a Pallavi, a true peach of peace and brilliance, a Becky, a Yoshie, a Robin, an Erika, a Jason, quirky, honest, incredible roommates and friends who made everything, even dire Women Studies, Russian history and Genetics courses  more fun, more amazing, more manageable.  .

I was also in over my head in the track of advanced chemistry and calculus and Spanish literature classes I had somehow fallen into.  I started getting migraines my sophomore year, triggered by an allergy to cockroaches and excessive stress, a soup I was apparently swimming in.  (Another strike against dorm living:  Cockroaches, who, even though supposedly were not currently residing there, had lived and died and left all sorts of lovely dross in the walls to be kicked up into the air during renovations. Yum.)

And then my grandmother died and my Yoshie somehow solved the problem of the poster presentation I was to deliver and I took a coach bus home to say good-bye the week before finals.  And it sucked.

I remember being at my parents’, finally, for the summer, and one of my brothers came home and spilled out of the Party Wagon, ran across the lawn and threw his shoes in the air, yawping and hooting.  “It’s summer! Can you FEEL IT?!?  HUH?  Can ya?”  He grabbed me and tried to toss me around too until I punched him in the stomach and he went back to throwing his shoes and taking off his shirt and throwing that too.

That’s when he came up with the idea that I needed to take “Fun 101 with Tiefsa!”  He would teach.  I would be his only student.  True, I was miserable, and while my summer job of working at my home-town’s Department of Public Works was liberating in how much it didn’t challenge me mentally, it also meant I drove a riding lawn-mower around my grandmother’s fresh gravestone while listening to Pearl Jam on repeat.  I was in a depressing slump and Dave meant to change that.  God bless him for doing that summer what my corps of faithful faithfuls had been doing all year—buoying me up.

Except that most of “Fun 101” meant I was a designated driver for my brother to parties, music festivals and beer tents, to the Harley rally on Water Street.  (That was my last class, through no fault of my brother’s.  Dave told me early on, “I’m done!  Stick a fork in me!  Take me home!!”, and I intended to, but hours later when we finally did make it to our driveway, his friend Brad told me from the back seat for the thousandth time “Jam on!” and I screamed at him “NO BRAD! JAM OFF!  GET OUT OF THE CAR!”  Fun 101 Fail.)

There were other Fun 101 requirements than being the DD, although most of them I have forgotten now….until the Denny’s question.  Ah.  Late night at Denny’s with my brother, and probably friends Art, Kerry, Adam and more.  We were drinking coffee and eating french fries, scrabbling to pull together a tip for the waitress and my brother brought out a two-dollar bill, probably from our Grandpa, and slapped it on the table, “BAM!”  And we fell all over ourselves in hysterics.  Ah, the enthusiasm of youth.

So.  When was the last time you were at Denny’s?  I hope it brings back good memories of good friends.

Sunset over a Waffle House
Sun sets on the Waffle House. ( Okay, so not a Denny’s, but like I said, it has been 17 years).  


Lexisms: Things My Four-Year-Old Says

She has lots to say and most of it makes us think or laugh and all of it makes me happy.  Check it out.

(By the way, she pronounces “them” as “wem”, “the” as “le” and “that” as “yat” among many other endearing peculiarities–those “th” sounds, I tell you.)

“Mommy!  Can I cut open yis dead worm to see what le meat looks like?  ‘Cause wem is already dead you know.”

Me:  …… “Um.”

Her:  “Did you know yat if you cut a dead worm in half, it is still dead!”

Me: …..”Um.”


Holding up an un-inflated balloon, “Somehow, my vitamin falled into ‘yis.”


At 2:37 am:  “Mommy.  MOmmy…..MOMMY!” What?  “I took off mine socks.” What?  Um, okayzzzzzzz.

At 2:38 am:  “Mommy.  MOMmy.   MOMMY! ” What is it? What’s wrong? “I was hot.  So I took off mine socks.”  Okay. Thanks for telling me. “You’re welcome.”


“Did you know ‘yat if a person was dead, you could cut off le skin and see what is inside?”

“First, there was deserts…….Then…..there was cowboys.”

“Do boys have to ‘queeze their penis to get the pee out?”


“When we go to South Carolina, I hope there are lots of butterflies, and a meadow of flowers, and a big beach, and sno-cones and no leeches.”

“Your mouth smells like a sting-ray.”


Walking in on me while I’m putting on a bra:  “Mommy……..Why do you cover your nibbles?”  (choked-down laughter) Um.  “Is it ‘cuz your boob-ohs are heavy?”  Yes.  Yup, that’s it.

Driving into Target’s first-floor parking garage:  “And now we are flying into le belly of….Le DRAGON!”

“How do you know if you are alive?  It seems like every day is just a dream.  Am I dreaming?”


Watching the 3-D printer at the library finish up what looks like a CD case.  “Yat looks like it is making a SOCK!”

“When I grow up I want to be a Chinese.”

On the swing:  “I’m as high as a COCONAUTILUS!”


“So there were NO people when there were dinosaurs.  So how could I be a tiny egg waiting my turn to be born if there were no people?”

Talking about the cat:  “Shamie got-ted out.  I tried to sit on his poochie belly but he ran too fast. So I yelled at him.  I said “HEY!  SHAMIE!  YOU FAT POOCH TURD!”

“Mommy!  I’m a pioneer girl! …..Actually, I’m not.”


About anything she has almost learned to do, like swimming or tying shoelaces:  “I am AWESOME  OF THIS! Look, MOMmy!  I am a champion of this!”

And lastly, she said this yesterday during a quiet moment at the picnic table, “Mommy.  Don’t you feel so lucky yat you gotted TWO such nice childs?”

Yes. Yes I do.

"Does yis fan make mine hair bigger?"
“Does yis fan make mine hair bigger?”

Tips from a Reform(ing) Slob

This is not a confession.  Everyone who knows me, knows I’m a slob.  But I want to be a reformed slob, a once-was slob.  I really do.

And I have two new mantras that are helping me do it.

1.  The two-minute rule.  I’m a list-writer.  It is the only way I can remember all the things.  But what I really like to do is sit down with a cup of tea and write out my list.  The trouble comes when I write down ALL the things.  All the stupid things just so I can cross something off and feel accomplished at the end of the day.  Write the check, brush the cats, clear the dishes, brush the teeth…..Enter the two-minute rule a friend introduced a couple weeks ago during a 10-day clean-sweep challenge.  If you can do it in less than two minutes, don’t write it down.  Just go do it.


The other rule, is essentially the same, just better.

2. “Clean that shit up.”  When you lament, publicly, that you really would move to a new home rather than clean up the gallon of juice that spilled under the refrigerator, because you’re nothing if not all about honesty, you find which side of the filth line your friends fall on.  And one of those friends tells you, point-blank, “Still. Clean that shit up.”  And you love it.  You were just waiting for someone to say that, apparently.

A few weeks in to this new era and  good things are happening.  Great things, even.  It turns out when you clean up the stuff and take care of the stuff and just do the stuff, plants get watered and thrive.

For the life of me, I can not remember what this is called.  But it's blooming!   Watering for the win!
For the life of me, I can not remember what this is called. But it is blooming! Watering for the win!

Tables and counter tops are clean.  Beds are made.  Well, mine is.

A well-made bed
Yep, There are TWO dream catchers above this, her secondary bed.

Making dinner doesn’t involve finding a clean knife or having to find a spot, any spot, to put something down.  My list is shorter, my house is cleaner, and I actually feel better.  Granted, I’m slipping in my reformation while I sit down to write about not writing my to-do list….but I’ll still take it.  Someday I’ll be conditioned to write nothing and just do the thing.  And then….I might not even need outside validation for doing it, but let’s not get too crazy here.