By Emily

This is a great, quick primer on the Jewish High Holy Days!

High Holy Days in 1000 Words or Less

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It’s September. School has FINALLY started. We’re about to get back into a groove. When — wait — what’s this? Why do we have two days off one week and another day off the following? Rosh Hashanah? Yom Kippur? What kind of holidays are those, anyway?

This is a great, quick primer on the Jewish High Holy Days!

Whether you’re the unsuspecting non-Jewish parent in a school district that accommodates major Jewish holidays, you simply notice a higher rate of absenteeism in school right after school starts, or you just noticed those strange sounding holidays on the calendar and wondered what they were about, this post is for you.  I will attempt to provide a very succinct summary of these holidays, complete with links to more details. (Please remember I’m not a Judaic studies scholar, so this is most certainly a layman’s description!)

Apples and honey are a staple during the High Holy Days! We like going apple picking before Rosh Hoshanah and serving different kinds of apples to taste test.
Apples and honey are a staple during the High Holy Days! We like going apple picking before Rosh Hoshanah and serving different kinds of apples to taste test.

We’re in the midst of them now: Rosh Hoshanah has ended; Yom Kippur is looming around the corner. They are one of the major sets of Jewish holidays. These are the holidays that, even if you are generally not an observant Jew, you are likely to observe these two.  Like all Jewish holidays, there’s a little bit of happy, a little bit of sad, and a whole lot of food.

Rosh Hashanah comes first and is the joyous part of this holiday duo.  It celebrates the Jewish New Year; the birthday of the world. It’s celebrated for two days, largely in the synagogue. It has it’s origins in agriculture and is associated with a time of sowing seeds and beginning a cycle that will end with a harvest.  

Shofars may come in all sizes, but they are ALL very difficult to blow!
Shofars may come in all sizes, but they are ALL very difficult to blow!

Religiously, it’s known as the day everyone’s fate for the next year is inscribed in the book of life. (No worries, though – we have ten days to repent and seek forgiveness before our fate is sealed!)  Synagogue services during Rosh Hashanah (and Yom Kippur) are lengthy, but beautiful; the culmination of months of preparation by the clergy.  During the service, a shofar (ram’s horn) is blown at certain times in a specific cadence. One of my favorite Rosh Hashanah customs is Tashlikh. On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we pray near a flowing body of water, throwing bread or pebbles into the water to symbolize the casting off of our sins.

My own round challah from this year. I usually make one plain and one with raisins.
My own round challah from this year. I usually make one plain and one with raisins.

Like all Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah begins the night before. Many have a large meal on Erev (Eve of) Rosh Hashanah and again the following evening.   The menu varies, but the Jewish standards can usually be found: brisket, roast chicken, potatoes, tsimmes, kugel.  We usually have a roast chicken the first night and fish the second. Apples dipped in honey are the key traditional foods, as are apple cake and honey cake. Challah is a must, but is braided in a circle to represent the cycle of the year.  Before the dinner begins, blessings are said in honor of the holiday.   If you know someone who observes Rosh Hashanah, a common greeting is “Shana Tova”, or “have a good year”. After Rosh Hashanah and before Yom Kippur, the greeting is “G’mar chatimah Tova”, or “A good final sealing”.

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, begins ten days after Rosh Hashanah. It definitely has a more somber air, as it’s the time at which our judgement is sealed by God.  Yom Kippur is considered the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, and as such has a few additional observances: no eating or drinking, no wearing of leather shoes, no bathing, no use of perfumes, and no marital relations.  The purpose of these rules is to make yourself feel uncomfortable and, therefore, feel empathy towards others who are in pain.  While not a rule, a common custom is to wear white clothing on Yom Kippur as a symbol of purity.  The services are just as beautiful – if not more so – as those on Rosh Hoshanah and also a bit longer. They contain an additional service and elements to allow for repentance and confession.

Bagels: a staple of so many Jewish holidays! Photo courtsey of http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/yom-kippur-break-fast-menu.
Bagels: a staple of so many Jewish holidays! Photo courtsey of http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/yom-kippur-break-fast-menu.

Fasting on Yom Kippur begins on sundown and ends after sundown on the following day.  To support a full day of fasting, a large meal is eaten before the evening services on Erev Yom Kippur.  After the last service has ended and the sun has set, Jews break the fast by having a light dairy meal.  Bagels and cream cheese, salads, fruits, desserts, and drinks compose a typical menu.

Now, for a couple of my favorite children’s books for the high holy days:

The PJ Library has a great, more comprehensive list, as well.

And a few links to High Holy Days children’s activities:

True to my promise, this description is wrapping up at just over 800 words.  I hope it demystifies these holidays a bit for those of you who are curious.   

G’mar chatimah tovah to you all!

Have a kid who struggles at drop-off times? Check out these ideas for help.

School Drop-offs: Easy Peasy or Dreaded Disaster?

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Have a kid who struggles at drop-off times? Check out these ideas for help.

Transitions are hard for us.

For the past year or two, my now nearly six year old son had a hard time separating from me.  It didn’t matter if I was dropping him off with a friend or even leaving him with his dad while I went for an evening out.  There was nearly always a few minutes before I left in which he was uber clingy, whiney, and teary-eyed.  The worst, however, was when I dropped him off at school.

School Drop-offs: The worst punishment for your child since eating vegetables for dinner.
School Drop-offs: The worst punishment for your child since eating vegetables for dinner.

On good days last year, everything was fine leaving the house, on the drive in, and going into school. The closer we got to his classroom though, the slower his steps got. He got clingy and the whining started. On bad days, it started at home, with passionate pleas on how much he didn’t want to go to school. It continued on the drive in. The actual drop off was devoid of actual complaining, but instead had an onslaught of body clinging that would put an octopus to shame.  (One morning involved a full-on, writhing-on-the floor tantrum.  That was fun.  Nothing like putting your parenting skills on full display to start your day.)

I know with certainty this is how my child looks & behaves 2 seconds after I leave the school.
I know with certainty this is how my child looks & behaves 2 seconds after I leave the school.

Importantly, there was nothing wrong at school. His PK class was a tight knit group of friends, having been with each other since they were babies or toddlers. His teachers (and all the teachers in the school) are world class and he’s known them since he was a baby. And once he’s there (2 seconds after I leave), he has a great time. So much fun that pickup at the end of the day can be another challenge.

We had dealt with separation anxiety before — when he was much younger.  When it cropped up again, I was thrown for a bit of a loop.  Initially, we had to brute force it, with a teacher holding him while I left. No amount of distraction by other kids or activities — strategies that used to work — would make for a pleasant experience. We tried all of the usual strategies (like those found here and here).  Simply saying goodbye with a kiss & promise to see him that evening would not make things easier.  Letting him keep his taggy (or other beloved item) was a must, but not sufficient for an easy drop off. Quickly, however, we developed a goodbye ritual that almost always allowed him to separate easily.  A conveniently placed window and access to a small outside play area from his classroom allowed us to wave and blow kisses to each other after I left the building. When the weather was nice, he was allowed outside for a “fence kiss”.  To get him to the window/fence after saying goodbye, we always had a race to determine whose shoes were faster: his sneakers or my pumps/boots/flats.  (A couple of times, he let me win.)  The final piece to our drop-off puzzle was a reward.  My son earns stars for making good choices about his behavior, so easy-peasy drop-offs earned him more stars.  A quick race, a kiss through the fence, and some earned stars got us through 95% of the clingy drop-offs.

How I imagine my child looking at school drop-offs this year.
How I imagine my child looking at school drop-offs this year.

With the end of the school year and the beginning of summer camp, I was worried about changing up our process.  Rather than dropping off at his daycare, he took a bus to summer camp each day.  Transitioning each morning was still a bit of a challenge, but we established a few rituals to make it easier.  Quickly getting on the bus, waving through the window after he was on the bus, and blowing kisses as it pulled out of the parking lot was our summer ritual.  We’re making progress.

Kindergarten starts in a few weeks.  I have no idea what drop-off will entail or what rituals we will come up with.  He and I have starting talking about it a bit, prepping ourselves for the change.  I’m not so naive as to think it will be easy-peasy from the get-go.  But we’ve learned and grown a lot this past year (both of us!).  I’m optimistic that Kindergarten drop-offs will continue to get easier and easier.  When drop-offs are always easy-peasy, I know I’ll miss these days of him needing me constantly.  However, my pride at his independence and confidence will overshadow my nostalgia.

Summer Shabbat Traditions

Friday Night Sand: Our Summer Shabbat Tradition

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Friday night traditions: pizza and movies; coveted approval to stay up past bedtime; going out – maybe even with a sitter watching the kids. We all have them. They help us unwind from the week, placing a marker that separates our work from the play that awaits us in the weekend.

Summer Shabbat Traditions

Our family holds Friday evenings, the beginning of Shabbat in Judaism, very close.  It’s our time to take stock of the crazy, hectic week and celebrate the beginning of a time of rest.  I usually make dinner a little more special than usual. We bring out ritual objects: candlesticks, fancy silver cups, and a special plate for the Challah. The kids get grape juice with dinner (a real treat); my husband and I get to slowly finish the bottle of wine we started. Special blessings and prayers are said.  We all linger over the dinner table…or around it, as the 2.5 year old starts to run in circles to amuse us and keep her energy up, and her 5.5 year old brother practices delivering his latest knock knock jokes.  Finally, we clear the table.  The kids take a bath & are put to bed.  My husband and I finally have a moment alone together. So begins our weekend, with a beloved celebration of Shabbat.

Dinner on the beach -- it's not fancy, but ambiance is superb.
Dinner on the beach — it’s not fancy, but ambiance is superb.

But in the summer, we all look forward to a variation on this theme. During the day on Friday, I take a few minutes in between meetings to round up some fruit, cheese, veggies, crackers, dips, and a little dessert.  Nothing elaborate; just enough to satisfy.  I pack it into a cooler, along with some juice boxes, a bottle of wine, and a bottle opener. I quickly load the car up with the bare necessities for a quick trip to the beach.  You see, in the summer we take advantage of the late summer evenings and warm air to welcome in Shabbat on the beach.

Leaving my home office as soon as possible, I pick up the kids early from their summer camp/day care programs. Another treat, especially for my oldest, who wants nothing more than to spend precious time with me.  Twenty minutes later, we arrive at our favorite beach. Usually reserved for locals, no one checks our car in the parking lot so late in the day.

The beach is intimate, protected by boulders that are the perfect size for climbing.  The sand is soft and warm, singing to us as our feet quickly pass through it.  The other people there are like us – looking for a quiet, uncrowded place to unwind and eat a bit of dinner.  We pull our small load of food, chairs, and towels to a spot that marks the edge of high tide. We won’t stay long enough for the ocean to reach us, but we’ll see the gentle waves draw nearer and nearer as the sun sets.

She could do this for hours.
She could do this for hours.

The kids get their swimsuits on first, help me set up, then play with their sand toys.  While we wait for their dad to join us, we wade in the surf and climb on the boulders. As we do so, the weight of the week falls away.  Decisions made (or avoided) don’t seem terribly relevant. Meetings looming first thing on Monday haven’t made a dent in my consciousness. Parenting struggles fade away. The kids are happy – no, ecstatic – to be free. Free to play, to roam, to laugh & yell.  There is something about this way – this place – of ushering in our respite that is so very different from our usual Friday nights.

My husband arrives and what constitutes dinner is pulled out. Juice and wine are opened.  No ritual objects are placed or blessings said on these evenings.  Just our family’s ritual of enjoying such a wonderful spot on this earth with each other. It is blessing enough to be where we are, mindful of all we are thankful for.  The kids are too busy playing to eat much, but (for once) I don’t worry.  While we nibble, buckets of water are brought up from the ocean to make sand soup.  The kids see how far up they can climb on the boulders. Cell service is blissfully unavailable, reducing our phones to cameras. We stay as late as possible – later than we should, pushing the kids to a state that threatens the tranquility we’ve been enjoying. No one wants to leave.

Eventually we do leave, of course. Everything is packed up again. Sand is brushed from our feet with baby powder (pro tip for sand removal), if I happen to remember it.  We leave with windblown hair, a little sand in our teeth and between our toes, and baby powder sprinkled in my car.  We leave with reluctance, but also with a fresh attitude.  We leave ready to embrace the weekend.

Keep young kids entertained with Fizzy Moon Rocks. Good for ages 2 - 8.

Celebrate the Moon Landing, Fizzy Moon Rock Style!

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My 5.5-yr old brought home one of the coolest activities from school a few months ago: Erupting Moon Rocks.  Why so cool?  Keep young kids entertained with Fizzy Moon Rocks. Good for ages 2 - 8.

First, it’s about space: one of our family’s favorite subjects. (It really is.  We named our oldest after an astronaut, his room is all space-y, and – so-far – he loves space as much as his father and I do.)  Second, anything that fizzes or erupts is pretty darn cool, in my book.  When I saw it, I knew that we would have to try it out ourselves when the weather got warm.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin left this bootprint in the lunar soil at Tranquillity Base, July 20, 1969. According to the Air and Space Museum, the impression demonstrates the fineness and cohesiveness of the lunar soil.  Maybe something like baking soda??? Image Credit: NASA
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin left this bootprint in the lunar soil at Tranquillity Base, July 20, 1969. According to the Air and Space Museum, the impression demonstrates the fineness and cohesiveness of the lunar soil. Maybe something like baking soda???
Image Credit: NASA

A few weeks ago, a trifecta of circumstances occurred. First, the weather finally got warm. Second, each of the kids had a friend over. I needed a fun and novel activity that both the big and little kids would enjoy.  Third, I miraculously had ALL of the required ingredients.  (Really, the glitter was the only one I had make an effort to get.  I do my best to keep glitter out of our house unless it is VERY FIRMLY and PERMANENTLY glued to something.)  And for those of you reading this now, you can add a fourth reason to do this: the anniversary of the first manned moon landing is coming up! July 20, 1969 is the big day – so start planning your space activities now.

The sample moon rock sent home from school conveniently included a short description of how to do this at home. So, here is what you need:

  • Lots of baking soda
  • Glitter
  • Water
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolor paint (optional)
  • Vinegar

The instructions are pretty simple and this seemed to be good for a range of ages.  The 5.5 and 2.5 year olds all had fun, each in their own way.

I love these little vials of glitter!
I love these little vials of glitter!

Step 1. Pour a bunch of baking soda into a container.  I gave each kid their own plastic box to mix in.

Step 2. Add as much glitter as you want/can stand.  I found a multi-colored package of little vials of glitter that were just perfect for this activity. Each kid chose three colors, dumped them in, and mixed it up.

Getting your hands messy is half the fun of this activity!
Getting your hands messy is half the fun of this activity!

Step 3. Stir in enough water to make the baking soda stick together when you play with it with your hands.  Too much and it’s soupy; too little and the mixture is too dry.  To make it easier for the kids to add the right amount of water on their own, I filled squirt bottles up for them.  We used both spoons and our hands to mix.  They all did really well, save for my own 2.5 year old.  She decided she would much rather make sparkly soup, so that’s what she did.

Here is a close-up view of pieces of breccia from the Moon, courtesy of http://www.uml.edu/News/stories/2013/NASA-Moon-rocks.aspx.  The moon rock my oldest brought home from school looked remarkably like these!
Here is a close-up view of pieces of breccia from the Moon, courtesy of http://www.uml.edu/News/stories/2013/NASA-Moon-rocks.aspx. The moon rock my oldest brought home from school looked remarkably like these!

This is also the step where you add the food coloring, if you want. To make them really look like moon rocks, add enough black/blue so that it looks gray.  (With the glitter, this really does look neat.)  Our crew decided to do their own thing, of course.  We ended up with blue, green, and pink moon rocks.  I used liquid watercolors (and not very much!), because I was worried the food coloring might stain clothing.

Finished moon rock mix, all ready to shape into moon rocks!
Finished moon rock mix, all ready to shape into moon rocks!

Step 4.  Play.  The mixture is a great texture at this point — kind of like a very fine, barely wet sand.  The kids played with it for a while, then wanted to get on with the erupting part.  In theory, this is the step where you form the mixture into rocks. We did that a little bit, but really — the kids just wanted to see it fizz, so on to Step 5…

Pouring the vinegar on our moon rocks!  We loved how they bubbled and fizzed.
Pouring the vinegar on our moon rocks! We loved how they bubbled and fizzed.

Step 5. Pour on the vinegar!  We put the rocks we had made on the driveway and squirted vinegar to see the fizzing & erupting.  As with the water, I chose to fill squirt bottles with the vinegar. This made it easier for kids to get the vinegar in the right spot and helped prevent dumping the vinegar all over.

Forget about the moon rocks -- let's just see the baking soda fizz!
Forget about the moon rocks — let’s just see the baking soda fizz!

Eventually, the kids were just squirting the vinegar directly in the containers.  The activity held my 2.5 year old’s activity the longest. Long after the other kids were done, she was still having fun pouring all of the containers together and then dumping it all on the ground.  I had a very sparkly driveway after that!

Cleanup was really pretty easy — with all that baking soda and vinegar everything ended up VERY clean.  And the latest rainstorm took care of the sparkly driveway!

Help! I’m drowning in artwork!

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Practical Ideas for Managing Kid's ArtworkLike many parents of small children, I have a love/hate relationship with the artwork coming home from school.  I love the clever uses of paper plates and hand prints.  (I mean, really — who knew so many animals could be made from hand and foot prints?)  And I love that the kids have the opportunity to get messy and creative.  However.  Like most parents, I struggle with the amount of it coming home.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not asking for less artwork.  I’m just struggling to find a process for dealing with it.

http://tampabay.citymomsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2014/10/FullSizeRender.jpg
http://tampabay.citymomsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2014/10/FullSizeRender.jpg

I figured out long ago that I need to triage.  I keep the “firsts”, the kids favorites, and my favorites,  letting the macaroni covered items go out with the trash.  I’m actually pretty good about that.  (David at Unclutter has some great tips for figuring out which pieces are the keepers.)  And I have a plan for dealing with the art in the long term.  I will take pictures, store an even smaller amount of artwork in a box, and print a photo book of selected artwork…not that I’ve implemented that part yet.  When I’m ready for it, Artful Kids has great advice on how to take good pictures of your child’s artwork.  And apps like Keepy, Canvsly, Artkive, and Art My Kid Made all provide good options for storing and using digital images of your kid’s artwork.

My pain point is the in the immediate term.  When we get home, the bags go on the floor, the kids go off somewhere, and I make dinner as fast as humanly possible.  When we (ahem, I) get around to cleaning out the school bags after dinner/bedtime, I’m not up for doing an immediate triage.  I’m up for going to bed.  So, all of the paperwork from school ends up in a pile on our countertop.  The same countertop that the kids try to eat breakfast from in the morning.  The same countertop that ends up being a repository for our mail.  The same countertop that…well, you get the idea.  Monday is not so bad, but by the time Friday rolls around, the kids are lucky to find a place big enough to place their little cereal bowls.  And let’s not talk about the chaos that ensues when someone spills their milk.

And so, once a week, I manage to cull through the accumulated paperwork.  A part of it goes in the recycling bin.  Some of it sticks around, waiting for me to hang it up on the wall for a brief period of time.  Rotating the artwork is a pain because I use tape to hang it to the wall.  Tape that tears the paper, doesn’t really stick to the wall, etc.  It’s a pain.  So, I usually end up with a Valentine’s Day picture still hanging up in May (if, in fact, it is still hanging).  Some of the artwork continues to stick around in a pile, waiting for me to take it upstairs to its final resting place in a box.  Which I do. When I remember.

When it comes down to it, I have an artwork intake-and-display problem.  And here is my fix.  It involves hanging storage baskets, magnetic boards, and getting the kids to help (really, they’re old enough!).  First, I got two wire storage baskets big enough to hold a reasonable amount of paper.  (These are very similar to the baskets I got at a local home goods store.) The storage baskets are hung on the wall, at a level low enough for my kids to reach.  When we get home, their new task is to take out the papers from their bag and put the artwork and worksheets into the baskets.  Triage is not necessary at this stage; they just need to show me the art or worksheet and put it into their basket.  The baskets are a couple of inches deep; I estimate I’ll need to clean them out once or twice a month.

Art they would like to immediately show off can now be quickly hung up on two new magnetic boards.   The ones I got are from Steelmaster (from the Soho Collection — ooh-la-la!) and are AWESOME. They solve the problem of easily displaying the artwork and let me quickly swap out artwork. In addition, the magnets are so strong the artwork would stay attached through a minor windstorm.  Bonus: It’s so easy, my kids (at least the oldest one) can do it.  Two of the boards fit together perfectly over my countertop.  I used a few 3M Command strips to adhere them to the wall, making installation a breeze.  Here is what the magnetic boards look like installed:

 

Magnetic artwork boards
Magnetic artwork boards

There are, of course, lots of great ideas on how to display kid’s artwork.  Jean at The Artful Parent has some really clever ideas making artwork displays reusable and beautiful.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to one or two of them.  For now, I’m hoping that my intake problem is solved and art “clutter” will no longer plague my kitchen countertops.

Is Dinner Ready Yet?

Is dinner ready yet? I’m STARVING!!!

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Is Dinner Ready Yet?

It’s 5:30 – pick-up time at daycare.  I am – quickly – learning about the kids’ day from their teachers, collecting their things, and trying to ward off melt downs.  Why so quickly? Because, with or without the meltdowns, I know the kids are hungry. And if they’re not absolutely STARVING now, they will be by the time we get home.  In the car, the dinner menu is socialized with the kids to avoid a huge “I don’t like that!” meltdown at the table.  (I’ve noticed that it’s helpful to do this when they are buckled up and stationary.)  Luckily, the 2 year old lets her 5 year old brother do most of the what’s-for-dinner whining.

Hungry little monster
Image Credit: http://ivan-bliznak.deviantart.com/art/Monster-Hungry-209060090

But the real challenge lays ahead.  At home, my goal is to make a tasty and healthy dinner as quickly as possible.  And to keep the kids from turning so hangry they won’t eat a bite of it.   If I’m really on top of my game, I can get dinner done in 30 minutes.  Most of the time, though, I’m looking at 40 – 45 minutes.

I’ve tried strategies to be more efficient; most of them don’t work for me.  For example:

  • Meal plan & prep on Sunday.  My husband and I both work during the week. Our weekends are spent with our kids and catching up on sleep.  The last thing I’m motivated to do on Sunday is meal prep for the coming week.   I’m lucky if I make it to the grocery store and have a general idea of upcoming meals.
  • Freezer meals.  I make some freezer meals, but opportunistically.  If I’m making a time consuming casserole, I’ll double the recipe & put one in the freezer for later.  Or I’ll buy an extra big package of meat, use some, and marinate the rest in the freezer.  My biggest challenge in using a frozen casserole is remembering to take it out of the freezer the night before.
  • Crock pot meals.  I’ll use the crock pot on days I work from home.  But when I go to the office, I don’t have enough time in the morning to put it together and my day is too long for even the most forgiving of crock-pot recipes.  By the time we get home, dinner is a soggy, overcooked, unappetizing mess.

So, what strategies work for me?  It’s not rocket science, but here are a few that I use:

  1. Set up the meal for quick cooking.  For example, I’ll use boneless, smaller chicken pieces that will cook quicker than a whole chicken or bone-in pieces.  If I want roasted potatoes, I’ll cut them up into inch-size pieces in order to speed cooking.
  2. Choose dishes you can cook at the same time.  So, if your oven isn’t large enough to cook a meatloaf and roast the potatoes at the same time, make boiled potatoes instead.
  3. Sequence your cooking.  Start each dish so they are (mostly) finished at the same time.  Start prepping the items that will take the longest first. I usually focus on the carbohydrates and protein.  If I want to marinate the chicken strips before sauteing them, I’ll immediately get them marinating.  Rice is always started dishes early; once it’s done, it can rest off the heat just fine until we’re ready to eat. Similarly, put a pot of water on to boil first.  I may wait to add the pasta, but at least the water will be ready.  And potatoes always get priority cooking treatment.  Veggies are almost always last, since they cook pretty quickly.
Hungry Toucan
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/florida_photo_guy/15664318563/in/photostream/

Even under the best of circumstances, I still need to do something to quell the rumblings in the two little people’s bellies.  Or distract them.  So, here’s what I do:

 

 

 

  1. Get them something to eat.  It seems obvious, but it took me a while to come to terms with this. You spend time making a homemade meal; the last thing you want is for your kids’ appetites to be ruined.  The key, I’ve found, is WHAT to eat.  I give them options that, if they do ruin their appetites, I won’t mind (so much). They are welcome to eat any of the raw veggies I’m prepping for dinner.  They can also grab a cheese stick out of the fridge.  This is their typical choice and I love it.  They can get it on their own and since neither are big fans of meat it helps them get enough protein.
  2. Distract them. The older one is now big enough to chew gum.  Giving him a stick to chew on the way home from school has cut the hangry whining by at least 80%.  Once we’re home, a short TV show is just the thing I need to keep them out of trouble until dinner is ready.  TV has it’s place in our home and this is it.

Hangry

If you need some new dinner ideas, here are a handful of quick dishes that are proven winners in our household.

  • Tacos (preferably on Tuesday, since the kids LOVE to say “It’s Taco Tuesday!”).  Leftover taco meat is usually used later on in a taco casserole.
  • Teriyaki chicken.  I use a store bought marinade to make life a little easier. This is one of the few meat proteins the kids will eat seconds of.
  • Macaroni and cheese.  If time is very short or I’m exhausted, the boxed version will do the trick. But really, homemade doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, we all like it better, and I usually have leftovers for lunches.
  • Chopped cucumber and tomato salad.  Sometimes I had chopped peppers. Olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar, S&P go on the table so we can all season it ourselves.  (If I have half a lemon, the kids LOVE squeezing the juice on themselves.)  The kids eat this salad up.
  • Quesadillas. I can turn these babies out faster than Ming Ming can say “This is se-wious!”.  Add some veggie sticks and you’ve got a meal.  The adult version has sauted veggies and black beans in the quesadilla.
  • Pasta with garlic, cannellini beans, parmesan cheese, and a smidgen of red pepper flakes. I often don’t serve a separate protein with this meal — just a nice veggie.  The kids love the cannellini beans, which always amazes me.

What are some of your proven winners?