Helping your Kids Have a Hospitable Heart

hospitality in kidsThere’s something so heartwarming to see my kids practice hospitality as young adults. As parents we spend years teaching them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ among a host of other manners, so it’s nice to know it eventually pays off!

Arrive with a gift in hand.
Besides the usual table manners regarding napkins, elbows, and full mouths, I taught my kids to never go to a party empty-handed. They would always bring something to share like a bag of chips or soda. Today, it warms my heart when my daughter makes grandma dinner and my son brings her flowers.  Recently, my son went to a friend’s in Eastern Washington and I asked him what he brought. After mentioning donuts and some other items he chirped,


Outdoor Cooking Tips

No matter the season, more and more of us are cooking outdoors. During the warm summer months outdoor cooking and dining are even more popular. Here are some steps you can take to stay healthy and reduce your risk of illness during the summer months.

When meat and other protein foods are cooked at high temperatures, chemical compounds can form that are believed to increase risk of some types of cancer. To decrease formation of these compounds use a lower flame on your grill, trim away fat on meats to avoid flare-ups and marinate meat prior to cooking.


Making Dinnertime a Priority

I remember well, my years spent at the Snohomish Soccer Fields. Both of my kids played and their staggered practice times not only cut into our family dinnertime, but bulldozed right over them. Even the weekends were affected since my son’s games were on Saturdays and daughter’s on Sundays.

soccer practiceEventually, I realized, “This isn’t working!” Sometimes it takes a while to catch up to the reality of our circumstances.

My friend had an ah-ha like this too, she realized that treating her toddlers to fast food had become a habit.

Her mentor asked, “How many meals do your kids eat in the car staring at the back of your head?” Ouch!

We all wake up in moments like this to realize we’ve somehow slipped from our priorities; the casual exception has unintentionally become the rule. This is the learning curve of life when we get an opportunity to do a little realigning.


Making a Difference, No Matter How Small

In just one morning at a Mother’s of Preschoolers Group, I heard two real-life stories that begged me to ask myself, “How do I encourage people when their need hangs heavily on a scale – too much for me to resolve?” One mom was expecting to move to a new home in a week and a half when suddenly their arrangements fell through and they have no place for their young family of four to live. The other mom is raising two small kids while her husband is serving away in the military. She planned to visit him after 5 months of being apart and now they can’t afford it since she lost her job.

Real hardship and suffering are all around us. Often our own resources are not enough to help. Yet, doing nothing because we can’t do everything is no solution. We certainly don’t want to just pat people on the back and say, “It’s all good; you’ll get through it.”

On March 22nd, a massive landslide in Oso, a rural northwest Washington town,


Developing your Kids’ Conversation Skills

family conversationCan your kids keep an interesting conversation going?
My young adult son and I were recently noticing other people’s inability to hold a conversation. Perhaps you’ve observed conversations that fizzle once you no longer carry the dialogue by asking inquisitive questions. My son works in an industry with a lot of adults, and although younger than most, he finds this same challenge. We soon discover that age, education, and leadership position are no guarantee for the ability to dialogue with others. The point is not to depreciate the person who has a difficult time with conversations, but, to ask, ‘How can I make a difference in my family to develop this life skill?’


How’s conversation modeled at your house?
Growing up, we learn basically by being modeled or taught. When were you modeled or taught to have conversations? How do kids learn to dialogue today? A healthy conversation includes eye contact, reading body language, showing interest, empathetic listening, and offering feedback. It won’t happen in front of a computer, TV or smart phone.

With my kids, dinnertimes were the best setting to have conversations as a family. (Bedtime stories and tucks-in were a close runner up!)There’s so much research supporting the value of family meals in the well-being of children. They develop a richer vocabulary; have higher grades, self-esteem, and resilience. Most likely, it’s not the food that’s making this difference but the quality interactions happening at the table. So, how can you develop your kid’s conversation skills?


What Does your Food Speak?

potluck food partyPotlucks at my work are the best! From homemade tamales to quiche and fruit, we’ve got it covered. The dishes we share with each other hints of our heritage, hidden talents, and favorite indulgences.  Potlucks are hospitality ‘group style.’ They’re a chance to say, ‘You matter to me.’  Who knew food could speak so much? Well, it can, if you want it to.

What does food speak in your home?
This week, my husband went out of his way to bring home Wild Mountain Blackberry Cobbler from my favorite restaurant after my long fast from such delicacies! That spoke love. Yesterday, we all dug into the refrigerator for leftovers since our kitchen plumbing was torn up. That spoke, hum, real life.


The Puget Sound, My ‘Home Away from Home’


vern-driving-boatBoating in the Puget Sound with my husband Vern at the helm is my favorite ‘home away from home.’ There is something peaceful about inhaling the salty breeze, watching sunlight dance on the water, and taking in the grandeur of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges from the east and west. I love rushing out to snap photos of sunrises and sunsets, always unique and saturated with color. Time on our boat never gets old. “Ah,” I’m often in wonder at the beauty surrounding us. This is my heaven on earth.

At night, waves lull us to sleep; we hear the lines moan and the water splash the stern. By day, we drop anchor in our favorite bays and come ashore to enjoy the beaches and island hikes. Other times we moor at charming ports like Salt Spring Island or Roche Harbor and enjoy the quaint shops and local fare.


Dreaming the Dream 12 Years Later

Spring sports are in full swing (think baseball, mowed grass, and lots of time in a lawn chair on the side lines)! What spring sport(s) do your cheer on: baseball, softball, track, tennis, lacrosse, girls’ soccer, golf, swimming, and/or volleyball? Who knew there were so many options? Although wonderful and meaningful, they impact our schedules more than ever.

The novice parent has little foreknowledge of just how much life is going to change when junior joins the team or how challenging it will be to have family dinners together again. Maybe after they graduate!

My children are older now so the change in seasons doesn’t have the impact it once did. Back in the day I struggled to juggle work, family responsibilities and the never ending sports schedule.


Go Green!

Family Wellness | March 14, 2014 | By

green vegetablesWe wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, why not eat green?

Dark green vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have the ability to boost immune function, support healthy eyes, skin and bones and fight conditions such as cancer, and heart disease. They’re low in calories and packed with nutrients. What’s not to like?

Here are some green vegetables that are great additions to your dinners.  All have something in common – they are all cruciferous vegetables (members of the cabbage family).


When are Expectations of our Kids Healthy or Harmful?

boy_homework_mom_cookingThis week we were talking with our son about his grades, all Bs and two Cs, and I joked, “I always thought you would get A’s!”

It wasn’t funny like I thought.

I apologized, as I know he does his homework every night. But, then I asked him, “How did that make you feel.”  (This is a magical question I’ve come to know).

He said, “It makes me feel stupid, like I’m not good enough.”


I take it back. Is it too late to take it back?

My crash lesson woke me up to the fact that my expectations can have power, and sometimes negative power to discourage and deflate my kid’s self-image.