Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's Dinner Time...Come to the Table

First of all I'm sharing a huge "Praise God" moment as I sit down at my computer to write with the window wide open.  The cool fresh air is such a treat, and I am incredibly thankful that maybe, just maybe, someday soon it will be fall.

I recently read an article in Parenting magazine that started by saying, "What if we told you there was a magic bullet for all of these childhood issues?" and then went on to list a host of really important things like eating more fruits and vegetables, loving to read, preventing eating disorders, lowering the risk of depression, etc.  The answer was so incredibly simple, it caused me to wonder what kind of society we are in that we need to remind ourselves about meals together.  That was it. 

The article, written by Dr. Alan Greene recommended seven family meals together a week.  Any meal, not in front of the screen, and start as soon as possible.  "Even without extra effort or conscious thought, family meals are associated with better nutrition, better weight, better health, better behavior, better school performance, and happier children," said Greene. 

Family meals is something that has been important to me in raising a family, to me it's second nature, and I never before stopped to reflect on how fortunate I was to grow up in a household where this was a closely held value.  Setting the table and helping mom in the kitchen.  Eating together as a family.  Saying a simple prayer.  Listening to one another's days.  Without question family meals are one of my favorite daily memories of growing up, and I think instilled a lot of roots within me that I didn't realize at the time. 

At the white Formica table with the mint green chairs I learned responsibility and how to pitch in by setting the table.  I learned to count peas and bargain with years of life, days of the week and months in the year so that I only had to eat the required amount of the smooshy green things.  I learned that mom meant business when she dumped my sister's plate and sent her to her room for being rude about the meal. (It only happened once. The message was pretty clear.)  I learned the importance of prayer as a family.  I learned how to listen and gained a love for conversation.  Reflecting back on those hundreds of meals, I also realize that is exactly where my love for business and being a professional comes from.  I loved listening about my dad's work experiences and daydreaming about someday being like him.  In the mornings I practiced memory work and learned how to manage time, microwave oatmeal just right (cookie dough consistency), and that it's not good manners to brush your teeth while walking all over the house, a problem I still have today.  We celebrated birthday breakfasts around that table, good grades, anniversaries, and the most amazing snow days on the planet.

Family meals with a hectic life, full schedules, and a toddler can be a challenge, but for me it's a priority.  At our cream colored Formica counter top we eat together at least once a day.  Jett has been a part of this routine since day one.  He and I also get the benefit of nearly every morning breakfast together with my mom around the table.  How do I know he's learning valuable lessons, even when he's still throwing Cherrios?  It's when he simply folds his little hands and reminds us to pray before every single meal. 

Yes, I would agree with Dr. Greene, family meals are very important.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Graduation Staycation Road Trip - We Survived! He Did It! And The Stuff That I Love!

"There was this really smart mom that kept pulling out new toys and snacks for her toddler during the ceremony.  He was good the whole time.  So smart!" - Random Amazing Graduate Student

Yup, that was me, the really smart mom.  At least I think that was me.  It might have been the other dozen or so brilliant mamas around the room that in addition to praying wildly before the ceremony for patience, good naturedness, silence, and an aisle seat, also were smart enough to pack "the goods" before the hour and half ceremony.  Regardless, it was a very nice comment from someone that told this to my husband as he walked up to receive his diploma and get hooded. (Hooded?  Receive his hood?  That's why I'm going back to school.)

The trip up was a breeze.  Jett was a fabulous, happy, rested boy when we left and jabbered happily until Lincoln, at which point we dropped daddy off at his coaches' meeting and ran off energy at the Lincoln Children's Museum for an hour.  He then promptly fell asleep and remained that way until we hit Kearney.  Ah-may-zing!  We arrived and I asked Kevin if he would be up for extending our trip to the Black Hills for the rest of the weekend, thinking this whole traveling with a kid thing was a cinch.  Luckily, he had the good sense to say no.

The ceremony came and I was that "smart mom" who stashed away all kinds of "never in a million years would I feed my child Handy Snacks if I didn't want him to be quiet during a very important event," kind of things.  Thanks to the aaforementioned congealed cheese, gummy snacks, and a host of new cool toys I broke out for the occasion, we made it.  Barely, but we did.  It also helped that Jett's four-year-old cousin Katie sat next to him, was SUPER good, and let him touch her blond curls and say "pretty" for about 20 minutes.

My child was good as gold through lunch, and then vacationitis hit.  You know, that rotten hang over feeling you get before vacation is actually over.  You want to crawl out of your skin, run around like a banshee, burst into tears, and detox after eating congealed cheese for days...Well, news flash, this hits toddlers after a mere 24 hours on a trip.

Luckily or unluckily depending on where you were sitting in the car, Jett slept to Grand Island (44 minute nap, but who is counting) where we met our wonderful friends and their three kiddos for a play date.  I love Chris and Amy and their boys.  A truly amazing family that I wish we saw more often.  The kids played for nearly two hours, and Jett loved their child-sized trampoline and giant St. Barnard puppy.  I thought for sure he would sleep until Seward, but no luck.  He was however, "stuck!" and I had a chance to try out the car toys and apps everyone had sent me. 

So here is the stuff that saved me.  The stuff I love.
  1. My favorite app was "Bizzy Bear Builds a House," very sweet, interactive and narrated with a British accent.  I'm not sure why that matters, but it was somewhat soothing.  Coming in a close second was the Disney Junior app that lets you watch select shows like Doc McStuffins. 
  2. Cow puppet.  I asked my mom what she recommended I bring and this was her fabulous idea. 

    3.   Playdoh - in a bag.  This is SO smart!  Whoever put Playdoh in a zip top bag knew what they were doing.  Now the people who give this to toddlers who think it's a gummy snack do not know what they are doing, but that's a different story.  Jett loved to smoosh it, after he took a bite.

   4.   Flash cards. Who knew? I picked these up after perusing the school supply section at Walmart.  Jett loved looking at these and repeating the colors as a gave them to him.  We also received some Thomas the Train cards somewhere along the way and he loved these as well.

5. 27 Quart Storage Box.  You will thank me later.  Now I don't fancy myself organized, but when I put all the car toys and handy wipes in this nifty neat little container, and managed to keep the car somewhat together without my usual bundle of tote bags, I thought I had arrived. 

6. I found Jack at the Lincoln Children's Museum and had a hunch we'd become buds.  This is magnetic paper dolls for boys and I love it.  Jett loved it too, score! (The only bad thing is Jack's container, he now lives in a Ziplock.  But I won't hold that against the guy.)

7.  I also loved the Crayola Color Wonder Stow and Go Studio.  It was a little above Jett who isn't quite loving markers...yet, but he did love putting the caps on and off, and the neat little package kept everything together in the diaper bag.  This was a big hit with his cousin Katie during the ceremony.

8.  Darn Handy Snacks!*
*For those of you who are offended by congealed cheese and judging me, I don't blame you.  For the record, Jett's mother also packed fresh cherries, (pits removed of course), homemade whole wheat and flax zucchini muffins, and veggie and fruit squeezy packs.  Oh, and some gummy bears...