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

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

Special Projects Take a Lot of Time and Mess

“Mom?”

“Mmmm?”

“They’re voting for student officers at school and I want to run. I can spend $40 in materials and can give out gum and mints and need to make some posters.”

I eyed my oldest from my peripheral vision, so as to not crash into anything whilst driving. Trying not to panic him nor myself, I thought before phrasing a question. “Okay. And …when do you need to have them done?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe Friday.”

It was Wednesday. Given his usual record, that was a pretty long time to prepare.

“Okay. Well, I can’t buy you supplies right now. We need to get home and clean for your brother’s baptism this weekend.”

“That’s okay. I’ll have time.”

I wasn’t sure. He had a history of not only springing things on me the half hour before they were due, but also of completely breaking down over the inevitable failure from not being prepared. Fortunately for me (and him), whoever was in charge of the campaigning sent all parents of interested students an informative e-mail.

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Did I say “fortunately?” More like “indispensably.” For one thing, she said the materials were due Monday instead of Friday. For another, there were size requirements on posters and ….a campaign video.

Which is what he we have been working on since church this morning.

After a meltdown yesterday in which he yelled about not needing us to suggest campaign ideas but that he really just needed us to suggest campaign ideas, he came up with a Minecraft theme. Actually all on his own; he crafted a zombie, squid, villager, and slime poster with pun-laced slogans like, “Don’t be a Zombie, Vote For Me.”

He took my suggestion to use some of our thousands of Lego Minecraft sets to do a stop-motion video. His father is helping making the whole thing on the computer.

I am very proud of my son, but try to avoid special projects like this. When he (or his brothers) get the look and start discussing supplies and cost and what I need to do; I foresee the stress, yelling, meltdown, extra store trips, last-minute failures, and special project hangover when it’s all over.

I am frequently left -not only holding the bag; but buying the bag, filling it with expensive things we can’t reuse when most don’t get used, driving the bag to school when they accidentally leave it at home, and then cleaning up all the bag scraps left over the next day.

Yet… this is childhood. This is learning. This is trying and mistakes and all that important stuff I want my kids to learn.

Not that remembering those things makes the mess and the stress go away. What really makes it worth it is the other look: pride. It’s that look that lights up my kid’s face, even subtly, when he surveys what he has done. It’s when he smiles with a sense of accomplishment.

Having him clean up afterwards is a nice perk, too. We’ll do that as well. Probably Tuesday.

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Sunday, May 12: Shared a previously-written bit on Mother’s Day: “Happy Mother’s Day?

Monday, May 13: Trotted out a short poem titled, “Just a Little Housework.”

Tuesday, May 14: Shared a quote I found online.

Wednesday, May 15: A toast! -to toast with “Breakfast Tip 3.

Thursday, May 16: “Time Out!,” a snippet setting the ‘punishment’ record straight.

Friday, May 17: Reminisced on Pregnant Times and how we ought to lay off ourselves in “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself.

Saturday, May 18: Shared WTFDAD‘s tweet about scary(?) stories.

Sunday, May 19: That’s today!

Photo Credits:
Annie Spratt
Samuel Zeller

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Happy Mother’s Day?

The sun isn’t very bright yet when she wakes to the sound of loud whispering, to the sight of a homemade paper card a few millimeters from her face. The smell is that of unsorted laundry; bedsheets a tad late for their cleaning, with an infusion of overdue diaper. She doesn’t seem able to lift her legs, or one arm. Even her lower extremities are penned as the sleepy man to her side wakes enough to stretch and embrace what he can reach affectionately.

Using her free hand, she grasps at the paper and pulls it to the range at which she can make out its contents. It’s too early, her brain complains, to decipher Cyrillic. She blinks and refocuses. Ah, she realizes, those were flowers -and probably people. Maybe letters.

Taking a guess, she attempts speech. “How nice, Sweetheart!” The artist frowns at the unusually croaky sounds. She clears her throat some, and tries again. “I see you drew me and you and flowers…” She relaxes as his scowl turns to smiles. Satisfied, he turns and falls off the bed, relieving one pinned leg.

The next boy thrusts his offering at equal facial distance to the first, then turns and frowns disinterestedly at the wall. This one is definitely English; it’s even partially typed. She sees he is clearly the most talkative child on paper, too, with so many one-word responses to this standard form his class was given. Age: 33, Hair: brown, Favorite food: food. She smiles, then looks more strained at the next two answers he’d supplied: She likes to … do dishes, She’s really good at … doing dishes. She tries to look grateful as he’s pretending not to watch but really is. “Thanks, Honey,” she smiles and is not surprised as he shrugs and dodges her attempts to hug him. He, too, leaves the bed and another leg free.

She looks to her other arm and her other half. Both smile up at her with similar expressions. Genetics will do that. “I love you, Mommy,” the wet diaper owner says sweetly. He cringes adorably as she kisses a plump cheek.

Dad sighs again and sits up. “Let’s go make Mommy breakfast,” he tells his youngest. He scoops her remaining impediment into the air playfully. He looks down at the bedheaded beauty who birthed them all.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he says, and leaves.

Finally alone, she looks over her offspring’s offerings, and cries.

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(I originally wrote this and posted it on Facebook on May 14, 2017.)

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Sunday, May 5: “Parenting is Hard, so Why Still Do It?,” a fantastic piece that came after a really long week.

Monday, May 6: Wrote a ‘poem’ titled, “Short Mom Rap.”

Tuesday, May 7: Shared a quote on patience by Paulo Coehlo.

Wednesday, May 8: Recommended against Sour Patch Kids cereal and others of its milk.

Thursday, May 9: “Those Little Shutterbugs,” a snippet hoping that all those phone pics will lead my kids to a productive life as a photographer.

Friday, May 10: “Take Time for You. Ish.” Advised parents, everywhere, to eschew the guilt and get out.

Saturday, May 11: Shared Heather is a Hot Mess‘s tweet about Magic Socks (or Magic Couches).

Sunday, May 12: Happy Mother’s Day!

Photo Credit:
kevin liang

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Parenting Is Hard, so Why Still Do It?

Some might think that I’m a super mom from what I write online. Buy ahead, I admonish. Or, set boundaries with children. Even through the sarcasm I sound as if I always parent with love and patience and such.

Guess what? I don’t. I am human.

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Looking at the reactions other parents have to life, motherhood, and children; I’d even wager I’m more human and imperfect than most mothers. I’m terrible at time management, chore management, and child management. I can’t juggle the balance between firm but don’t-screw-your-kid-up some days. I yell when they’ve punched each other for the umpteenth time that day and cry when they’ve kicked each other for that many times plus one.

Given all that, I still try. Why? Frankly, I try because they still wake up every day needing me.

I’ve literally given up some days. I’ve shut myself in the closet with nothing but a blanket and a pillow and resolved to never come out. “Let them figure it out,” I say, tears leaking into the carpet.

When they were younger, they’d poke their little fingers under the door crack and beg me to come out again. Now that they’re older, they put on “10 Hours of Screaming Goat” and see how much I can stand.

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I often resent my position of The Only Toilet Paper Replacer and Sole Lint Trap Cleaner. I sigh as I throw away empty cereal boxes left on counters. I cringe when I pick up dirty underpants left behind couches or stuffed in a houseplant.

But, whether to tiny fingers or screaming goats, I always get up.

No, that doesn’t mean I feel better. It doesn’t mean I feel a surge of affection and motivation. I’m just not the sort who is able to snap on a pair of rose-colored glasses when reality keeps slapping my face with empty boxes and misplaced underpants.

So, what keeps me going? They do.

Even as I type this, my five-year-old asks me questions about The Avengers. Two minutes later he wonders when lunchtime will come. Thirty seconds after that, he’s wondered if I’ll play a game with him. He’s not the only one; behind his questions is a chorus of noise in the form of the morning’s dishes, yesterday’s garbage, and every day’s laundry.

When I am in the thick of parenting, the only thing that gets me off the floor is the compulsion to keep them alive. All you parents know this and have experienced it. Yet; you also know something more. I’ve written about it before and it is still as true in the moment of immediate responsibility as it is in the times they are finally asleep.

It is love. We love these miniature humans. We always will.

They may not fully appreciate that love till we successfully kick them out and get them to make their own humans, but it’s enough for now. It’s enough to keep them alive and fed and hugged and scolded and kissed and forgiven till then. It’s at least enough to keep the toilet paper full.

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Sunday, April 28: “Me Time Just Might Be Wishful Thinking,” an observation on how possible it is to take time for ourselves as parents.

Monday, April 29: Wrote a limerick called “A Limerick About Tardiness.”

Tuesday, April 30: Shared a quote by Diane Keaton.

Wednesday, May 1: Plated a fifth dinner tip about trying new recipes.

Thursday, May 2: “Early to Bed??,” a quick thought about the accuracy of old adages.

Friday, May 3: Advised in favor of the occasional special family photo session in “Go for Perfection …Sometimes.”

Saturday, May 4: Shared Sarah Lake-Mitchell‘s tweet about accidental naptime.

Sunday, May 5: That’s today!

 

Photo Credits:
Image by Mandyme27 from Pixabay
Image by marcisim from Pixabay
Image by skalekar1992 from Pixabay