Meeting Non-Talkative Teenagers Where They Are

As they hit the high school years, moms of teens know our once chatty kids can become aloof or too busy to connect. They have irregular work hours, a challenging class load, and are busy with friends and dates.

There are moments though, to capture.

Make a point to greet your teen when they get home, even if it’s an odd time.  My son’s curfew was 11:30PM, so I always stayed up to say, “hello” when he arrived. If he got home from work at 8:30PM and was ravaging through the refrigerator for something to eat, I would sit down with him while he ate.

When my teen did homework, I’d offer to help. Sometimes we’d do

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Who Eats with Your Kids?

The Hour That Matters MostAt a signing for our book, The Hour that Matters Most, one mom shared her transforming story about one simple dinnertime change that made all the difference with her daughter. Because her husband worked a late shift, she always fed her toddler dinner early while she bustled about in the kitchen.  Later, when her husband arrived home, she would sit down to eat dinner with him.

This mom was so fun to meet as she excitedly told me about something she’d picked up from the book. She realized she was overlooking the connection opportunity with her daughter at mealtimes and implemented a new habit.  Now, she always sits down at the table with a cup of tea and enjoys her daughter’s company. What a difference it’s made! They chat, face to face, which warms her heart and their relationship!  This mom’s found a valuable opportunity to connect with her daughter while still saving time for dinner with her husband.

4 more tips for making sure to connect with our little ones at meals:

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Fill up your Summer Season with Fruits and Vegetables

Summer is the perfect time to focus on eating plenty of delicious, ripe seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with disease defying vitamins, minerals and fiber.  An adequate intake is good for your skin, immune system, digestion, and will help ward off high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Often our lifestyle goals focus on what not to eat; what if we tried the opposite? How about increasing our produce intake?

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10 Tips for Relaxing and Enjoying your Guests

When I host gatherings, my friends and family often say, “You’re so relaxed; how do you do it?” I didn’t know I was relaxed, but, I guess I am! Through years of practice, both at home and in the catering business, I’ve found a rhythm that works best for me.

family gathering and entertainingMy style is informal entertaining. Whether we’re in the yard serving a buffet or at the table eating family-style, my aim is to focus on our guests. I want to enjoy our company instead of fussing over something I could have done earlier.

Guests will pick up on our mood and quickly notice if we’re stressed or relaxed. Our emotions set the tone for everyone else. Relaxed entertaining has everything to do with:

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Make your Own Salad Dressing

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Each week, I pick up my bag of organic produce from our nearby healthy eatery and find renewed inspiration to mix up some fresh picked greens with my homemade salad dressing. I love that my produce is local and sustainably grown and that the ingredients in my salad dressing are natural. I’m not a purist, but, I do appreciate healthy food that doesn’t require learning ingredient names with a dictionary.

Making your own dressing is simple and fun to personalize. You can almost never mess it up, even if you don’t use a measuring spoon.  Mix it in a cruet or use any small sealed container to shake it up one last time before adding to your salad.

The following is one of my favorite dressing recipes that I keep on hand for the summer.

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Dinnertime Ground Rules

While visiting from out-of-town, Grandma (my mom), was having breakfast with us when her cell phone rang. This was a predicament for the kids who turned to me wondering what I’d do (knowing we don’t allow cell phones at the table). Since Grandma has disregarded our house rule before, I thought it a good time to kindly ask, “Do you mind not answering that?”  She looked at me, thought for a ring, and then answered it anyway!  We sat trying to enjoy our meal while she carried on a conversation with someone else at the table. She eventually got up and walked away.  But, by then, everyone was nearly done and our ‘quality time’ felt spoiled.

Now, Grandma LOVES her grandchildren. She didn’t realize what affect her choice had on us. No doubt, we’ve all made decisions that have been detrimental to quality mealtimes together. The point of having dinnertime ground rules is to enjoy one another.  Although unfortunate, this experience taught my kids a little lesson on why we don’t allow cell phones at the table – and I didn’t have to preach.

Since I’m making the effort of prioritizing family meals, it’s important to guard our time from unwelcome interference.  Although some meals feel like ‘eat-and-run,’ I want to make room for more: real discussion and heartwarming laughter.

When eating together, try these mealtime ground rules:

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Making Time for your Spouse

Men and women are a great mix aren’t we? We fall in love and want to be together every possible chance and then later we notice our differing interests take us apart. Being together often takes a compromise.

stephanie-vern-big-wheel-nightHere’s some ways I enjoy time with my spouse:

  •  If he’s doing a project, like working on the boat, I grab a book and just hang out by him.
  •  He loves the news more than I do, yet, we’ve made it a habit to record it on DVR and watch it together when we both get home. It always stirs up interesting conversation.
  • Even if I’m not interested in the sports he prefers, I make it a point to watch the last quarter of a game or the last 20 laps of Nascar. I’m learning to enjoy them too!
  • The best way we connect is by praying together regularly. We’re more vulnerable that way and it helps us feel supported by each other throughout the day.

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Are you a Skillful Listener? Learn to O.W.L.

family talking and listeningWould you like to really know how someone feels or what they’re thinking? We ask the question, “How are you?” all day long, but do we really know how a co-worker, spouse, or even our children are doing? Just Observe, Wait, and Listen (OWL), it’s that easy!

We adapt this approach from Speech Pathologists who began using OWL in language development. It’s a valuable communication tool for us all.

OWL encourages us to notice what has captured other’s interest and to patiently wait as they communicate about it.  Listening shows people their value.  When we aim first to hear what’s on their mind, rather than dominating conversation with our thoughts and opinions, we’ll discover just how much we’ve been missing!

Tonight, at your family dinner, I challenge you to OWL.

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Empowering your Kids to Cook

teaching kids to cookIt’s fun to see a renewed interest in nutrition, cooking, and canning in this generation of  20-somethings. Yet, many of this age group have been left behind in being taught how to cook.  A generation ago 80% of Baby Boomers could cook from their pantry without a recipe; today 20% of their children can prepare a meal from scratch.

Teaching kids to cook isn’t difficult and provides them with lifelong skills.  As the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  You’d be surprised what children can learn at a young age with a bit of coaching. Soon, they’ll have skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Follow this model for a helpful way to train kids to cook:

  1. You show them, while they watch you
  2. Do it together
  3. They show you, while you watch them

Here’s what your budding chefs can learn:

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Ending the Picky Eater’s Power Struggle

picky eatersThe Battle’s On
Your child might be winning now, but, losing later to finicky habits and poor nutrition.

Picky eaters can turn rational parents into obsessed, battle-weary, rationalizing, bargaining, pleading, crazy people!  Whew, I’m worn-out just from describing it! We’re afraid our ‘little darlings’ will never eat balanced meals and will become malnourished skeletons, vanishing away like a puddle on a sunny day. I know; I’ve butted up against my share of picky strong-willed wonders. Someone’s cornered, and it feels like me!

Tough Love is not Mean
If you’ve done your due diligence with the family MD and he’s assured you they’re not going to die, then maybe it’s time to heighten your strategy and offer a little tough love. Although very cute, picky eaters are typically masters of the power struggle. If this is your child, read on.

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