A Bona Fide Reason to Cook with Your Kids

A few weeks ago we had some new friends and their kids over. I wasn’t feeling totally up to snuff and therefore could not think of what to make for dinner. Turning to my 13-year-old, I said, “Do you want to make dinner?”

To my surprise, he assented. He rifled through our freezer to see what meat lay in wait, looked up a recipe, and grilled marinated chicken breast tenders for everyone.

At some point I realized how cool this was, that I could ask my oldest if he wanted to cook and he would. He could. I also realized this could be seen as showing off -when, in reality, I just felt too tired and sick to make anything fancier than packaged Ramen.

Still, it brought up the discussion of allowing our children to cook.

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One of the best things my mother did for me was teach me to cook and bake. When she made anything, my sister and brother and I helped. I probably started out ‘helping’ the way all inquisitive toddlers and preschoolers do, yet do not remember ever being yelled at or discouraged from what I was attempting.

Likewise, inviting my children to help where they wanted was never a question. From toast to scrambled eggs to pancakes to boxed mix brownies, I have always had mine work with me. At a young age I asked them to stir this or measure and dump in that.

The family friend told us she did not let her kids in the kitchen. She didn’t like them messing things up.

I remember blinking and looking at my teenage son. He’s expressed surprise and a little concern over his peers who say they can’t or don’t want to make basic foods. He and his brothers are so unafraid of the kitchen that I frequently find they’ve made themselves an omelet or attempted chocolate lava cakes.

And, yes, it’s messy. I’ve had to carry egg noodle-crusted hands to a bathroom sink whilst yelling to another child to not turn the stove on without me there or I’d light him on fire (we have a gas stove). I came down to breakfast yesterday morning to find that my 8- and 5-year old had made French toast and coated the entire counter in spilled egg and milk. I’ve had to clean the oven after those same two ‘invented’ their own cake recipe and it overflowed the pan and the smoke alarms went off.

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But it’s worth it. Now, I can look back and know that their cooking confidence was because of me. Because I allowed the mess. Because I encouraged the involvement. Because I pushed my children to try.

So I say to let them mess things up. Allow mistakes. It definitely leads to tasty rewards.

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Sunday, June 2: “Why Give Teachers Presents?,” a post about how important it is to reward our hard-working teachers.

Monday, June 3: Wrote a poem titled, “A Chauffeur Mother’s Prayer.”

Tuesday, June 4: Shared a funny meme about toddlers I found online.

Wednesday, June 5: Dinner Tip 6: Buy and make frozen dinners.

Thursday, June 6: “Love is an Open Door,” a quick thought about real love as a parent.

Friday, June 7: Suggested one saving tip for doing laundry in, “NeverEnding Laundry… Na na na na na na na na naaaa.”

Saturday, June 8: Shared MumInBits‘s tweet about watching your favorite at the park.

Sunday, June 9: That’s today!

 

Photo Credit:
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay
Image by LaterJay Photography from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

NeverEnding Laundry… Na na na na na na na na naaaa

The two constants in my life are laundry and dishes, the true NeverEnding Story of anyone in charge of a household.

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Likewise, I feel I am forever searching for The Secret or The Quest or The Answer to The Laundry. After many years of fruitless searching and with almost all hope lost, I am beginning to think the Nothing will win after all…

Without a powerful relic or small boy with a secret name to solve all my problems, I’ve had to accept that Laundry will continue to be a NeverEnding problem for the rest of my life. So, what’s a parent to do? I can’t pay someone else unless it’s a laundromat and I fork over $20/clothing item. I can’t buy new clothes instead of washing the dirty ones because we need money for food. I can’t force the children to wear the same outfit over and over since we have all boys.

Guess we’ll go through it.

But. But. We hardly need to go it alone. In the words of a former neighbor who birthed 11 children: if a child is old enough to dress himself, he’s old enough to operate a washing machine.

In my experience, this is true. Some of mine have needed a lot more help than others, but they can at least dump the soap in and push the right buttons. It’s not like they have to beat the garments on rocks and keep lye from getting in their eyes, after all.

I’ve even started a family rule that everyone is in charge of his own laundry starting at age 10. All I had to do was show the old-enough child how to start a load, what clothing not to mix, and how much soap to use. Then, all I’ve had to do is remind them every single time their hamper is full that it’s time to wash the clothes.

Still, it’s progress. They’re learning life skills. And, they’re screwing up their own clothes when they ignore what I taught them.

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Wikimedia Commons, By Michael Kleinhenz from Bonn, Germany

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

Why Give Teachers Presents?

My children have had a fair mix of school teachers over the years; good, bad, never ugly. Some could have been ….better at their jobs. -You know, jobs where they should have known they were working with small children and might need a smidgen of patience and crowd control. One or two others were phenomenal and more than earned their middling teacher’s salary. The rest land just lower than that, which is fine for a normal human.

But that’s it: teachers make the same whether they put a movie on at least once a week day or whether they split children into ability-appropriate groups and organized educational games.

And all of them take my children all day. That right there is enough to earn their pay.

On top of that, they manage to teach my kids a thing or two that I couldn’t. I’d say that’s good for a candy bar on their birthday.

Best of all, that saint with a yardstick did not end up killing that one child (who looked a lot like my son) who dumped water on her on Field Day and ran off laughing about it. I’m …still working on what to get her.

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Teaching is a highly underrated and underpaid profession. Yes, teachers only work 9 months of the year. Technically they work from 8-3 instead of 9-5. They get summers off and Christmas Break and the occasional PTA present of a mug. Some do not try as hard as they might and some go into the profession intending to not try.

In actual practice however, teachers spend the ‘extra’ 3 months setting up lesson plans, classrooms, and schedules. Their days run from 7 a.m.-whenever they finish grading homework. Many work summer jobs to make ends meet (often also in an educational position like Driver’s Ed). Some have so many mugs they donate them straight to Goodwill. Most do not go into teaching to make money, but to make a difference.

Even the (two) times my children have had barely passable elementary instructors, I made sure those women received some token of appreciation at Christmas and during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Why?

The very people teaching my boys with positive reinforcement could use a little of their own. Teaching is difficult. The pay’s not worth it. In several areas of the world, the children and the parents put stress on already impossible expectations.

And maybe every time a child (who looks suspiciously like mine) acts up a bit, they’ll feel somewhat better knowing a parent out there loves them and appreciates what they do.

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Sunday, May 26: “Happily Ever After is Possible, but it Requires an Epic Journey,” a post encouraging couples to work at their relationship.

Monday, May 27: Wrote a poem titled, “Summer Vacation -Almost.”

Tuesday, May 28: Shared an appropriate image about real life expectations.

Wednesday thru Saturday: Nothing, nothing; tra-la-la.

Sunday, June 2: That’s today!

Photo Credit:
Nicole Honeywill

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

Happily Ever After Is Possible, but It Requires an Epic Journey

It’s happened again. Another couple we’ve known and loved announced the big D-Word: Divorce.

As a child raised in a nuclear family around other nuclear families, divorce was a word we heard on TV. It was almost akin to the cuss words my parents muted whilst watching films like “Hook.” Sure, I knew a few kids at school whose parents had split, but that wasn’t close. That wasn’t real.

As an adult, however, my perspective is quite different. Why? Well, frankly, because that ol’ D-Word has come up in conversation with my own spouse. As in, applied to us. As in, “What; do you want a divorce?”

Mature, I know.

Now, divorce is not always a villain. It is often a very good idea. I have a close friend for whom The Split was necessary for the welfare of herself and her children, and that was mostly from an emotionally abusive aspect.

In other cases, however, I can see it for what it is: giving up early.

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My husband and I know this because we chose to fix our relationship. We chose counseling, to try and follow the counseling, and to try to work on us every day. And believe me, it’s not like the movies. If we don’t do our ‘homework,’ the counselor’s advice does not work.

Countless hours and advice and helpful correction has helped enlighten me. I’ve realized that love goes through stages. From my own perspective, they are:

  1. The Honeymoon Stage. When you’re dating, flirting, or first married you don’t have to really try to love. I thought the husband and I didn’t have this going into marriage because we dated a while and knew each other pretty well. Believe me; we still did.
  2. I’m making these up, but I’d call this The First Itch. The wife sees an old friend or a new boss. Husband sees a hot young thing at the office. You’ve still got your good looks and vitality and someone else seems interested. You still love your spouse but the attention is sure flattering. And tempting.
  3. Mid-marriage slump. Remember when I said I didn’t think we had that first stage? I know we did, because we’ve entered this third period with definite feelings of dislike at times. The love that came naturally, the one that simmered in the background all the time -even while we had newlywed fights- is absent. Why? Because we are not trying to feel it.
  4. I’d guess that one or two other stages come next, like Midlife Crisis and Reconnection. I’m not positive since we’re not there yet.
  5. Acceptance and Mature Perspective. I think this is the age we all hope to get to, the one older couples are at. They’ve seen all the warts, moved past all the warts, and decided the warts are not what matters after all. They’re mature and their love is mature.

As the number of divorces climbs to a point of shrugged acceptance, I see patterns of behaviors in those who choose it. Most often the pattern is that one or both parties wants the constant feeling of Stage 1. When love isn’t exciting or doesn’t just happen any more, surely that means they are “out of love.” Surely that means “we just drifted apart” or “we realized we didn’t have much in common after all.”

I know an older couple who raised seven children together and went through a #2 Stage after #3. What happened? She forgave him. He repented, reformed, and is a much different husband to her now. They literally have little in common regarding shared interests but they sit by each other holding hands, each with his own set of headphones, each watching his own show on his own television.

Now that there is love.

C’mon, people. Try harder. Stop looking at Happily Ever After stories as fantasy. They’re not. You just may need to slay a few dragons or journey to find the lost stone before you’ll (again) win that princess.

It’s not easy. It’s not. You both have to work. You both have to know what’s most important. You both have to think a little bit about the future. I mean, do you really want to end up with only a trail of broken relationships to look back on; or do you want to share retirement (and possibly grandchildren) with a sweet, old person who understands you?

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Here’s what I wrote this past week:

Sunday, May 19: My procrastinating son inspired me to write “Special Projects Take a Lot of Time and Mess.”

Monday, May 20: Wrote “A Poem, I Think.

Tuesday, May 21: Shared a quote by James Baldwin.

Wednesday, May 22: Suggested fancifying your food for littles.

Thursday, May 23: “Don’t Forget Your…,” a snippet about my forgetful boys.

Friday, May 24: “Mom, What Can I Do?,” a post about taking a quick hour for your kids.

Saturday, May 25: Shared TwinzerDad‘s tweet about being an example, technically on Sunday.

Sunday, May 26: That’s today!

 

Photo Credits:
Henry Hustava
Hannah Busing
Marisa Howenstine

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

“Mom, What Can I Do?”

My five-year-old has a habit, lately, of laying on me and asking, “What can I dooooooo?”

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The boy can self-play. He can group-play. He can understand complex games and is beginning to read. But I hadn’t realized, in my ignorance, that he’s developing normal childhood things like attachments, fears, and desires for acceptance. Besides those, he is the youngest child and normally has three other miniature people to play with.

When he’s stuck at home with just me, then, his options are limited to what I’ve planned. And that’s usually Wal-mart.

Yay.

Or dishes, laundry, bathrooms, floors, yard work….

Double-yay.

Perhaps due to my usual daily activities, The Bored One is an excellent worker. He comes along to the store, enjoys helping with dishes or toilets, and likes showing me how strong he is pushing his little wheelbarrow outside.

When I’m just sitting with my laptop, though, he does not know what to do. He can’t help with Mom saying, “I need to focus for 30 minutes.” Even if I hand him a coloring or activity book or an entire marble works set, he wants my attention -the very attention I wanted for writing.

So… this is the point at which I remember my priorities.

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I set the laptop aside and play a game with him. We build a tower for the marbles. Together, we draw or paint or color.

I know that some parents need to work from home. Some can’t afford day care. I also know that the work can get done and there is still time for a game. It’s what’s most important, right?

 

Photo Credit:
Magdalena Smolnicka
Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay
Paige Cody