Monday, November 30, 2009

December Specials

Holiday greetings!

This can be a stressful time of year. Our regular routines are often disrupted. We may feel as though we have to pull off the "perfect" holiday for our kids. Plus we're dealing with longer periods of darkness and cold. In an effort to help ease some of your stress, I would love to help you on your path to empowered parenting and successful family meals. What better gift can you give your children than the gift of a confident parent?

As my gift to you, I am offering the following specials for the month of December:

Free Teleclass Thursday 12/3/09 at 9pm with Courageous Loving with the opportunity for discussion of questions and concerns about parenting during the holiday season. To register, click here. Also, take this survey to submit questions and content suggestions for the teleclass.

Dr. Cuneo's Parenting Assessment, only $40 (regularly $50). The Parenting Assessment is ideal for anyone who desires a clear roadmap for building confidence in their parenting and strengthening their relationship with their children. See here for more information about the assessment.

Dinner Together Assessment, only $40 (regularly $50). The Dinner Together Assessment is ideal for anyone struggling with making enjoyable family meals a regular part of their routine. Aspects of cooking and meal planning as well as child eating behaviors will be reviewed in this assessment. Learn more about Dinner Together here.

These offers expire 12/31/09. Each assessment includes a phone consultation, which can be scheduled anytime up til 3/1/10. Gift certificates for these offers are also available. Why not give a loved one the gift of empowered parenting? E-mail to make arrangements or for more information about any of these offers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fostering Gratitude at Thanksgiving and Beyond, Continued

Earlier this week, I wrote an article, "Fostering Gratitude at Thanksgiving and Beyond" for my Dinner Together newsletter. In that I asked for readers' ideas for activities or crafts to do with children on Thanksgiving that truly highlight gratitude and thankfulness as part of the Thanksgiving celebration.

I wanted to share some of the responses I received. One reader shared an activity that she had done with her family.

One year we found a small branch with several smaller shoots coming off of it. We made a "Thanksgiving Tree" by cutting out construction paper leaves and attaching them to out "tree" with yarn. Each family member got a few leaves and wrote on the leaf something they were thankful for. We anchored our "tree" in a terra cotta flower pot and put it on our kitchen the table. On Thanksgiving day we brought it to my mom's house and we passed it around and each person read aloud what they were thankful for. Of course younger children can draw a picture of what they are thankful for.

Another reader directed me to her blog, where she had just posted on article on "Teaching Your Children the Meaning of Thanksgiving." Her blog, in turn lead me to another post on cultivating gratitude in children. An idea mentioned in that post, the family gratitude journal, struck home with me. We had started a family gratitude journal back in 2002. I pulled it off the shelf. It has a spattering of entries over the course of several years. My 8 year old was excited to see this because she really didn't have much memory of this journal from its early years. The older two, however, were not so enthusiastic. More like, "Oh no. Not the gratitude journal again." I was surprised at their negative reaction, but as they talked I realized that their negativity had more to do with the process than the content of the activity. In the past we would try to do it at the dinner table. I think they felt too pressured and inconvenienced to do this during a meal. So now I said I would just leave it out and whoever wants to write in it can whenever they want. We'll see how it goes.

But we did have a discussion last night about what gratitude activity we will be doing this year at Thanksgiving. I brought up a few suggestions, but they came up with their own idea. And I have to say, I'm very proud of them. So what we will be doing is creating a sheet of paper for each of us, all our Thanksgiving guests, and some of our family who won't be with us that day. The kids will decorate and personalize these papers before the guests arrive. We will leave them out on a table in the living room for each guest to write on each other person's paper stating something that they are thankful for about that person. Then each person will bring home their personalized paper.. Hopefully everyone will feel affirmed, grateful and blessed.

I'd love to hear any of your ideas for working in gratitude traditions with your family. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Easy Spinach Lasagna

I haven't posted a recipe in a while and have been wanting to. Tomorrow night my family will be eating a spinach lasagna that a made last month and froze. I never make just one lasagna. Whenever I make one, I make two. I either give one away (perhaps to a friend who just had a baby) or freeze one for later. No friends have had babies lately, so I saved the second one for us this time. Consider this recipe to be more of a guideline than an exact recipe. I usually make my own marinara sauce, but feel free to use jarred. Sometimes I use fresh mozzarella, sometimes I use the pre-shredded bagged cheese. Use whatever you have on hand ~ or whatever is easiest! This is also a great recipe for including kids as helpers. The recipe below is for 2 lasagnas.

8 cups marinara sauce
3 lbs. ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 8-oz boxes Ronzoni Oven-Ready Lasagna, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine ricotta cheese, eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, and spinach.
  • Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce at the bottom of two 13x9x2 pans (you can use a disposal foil pan if you're giving one lasagna away, or if you don't have two pans).
  • Layer in the following order: lasagna noodle, ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, sauce.
  • Repeat. Each lasagna should have three layers and be topped with a lasagna noodle.
  • Cover the entire lasagna with sauce. When using oven-ready noodles, it's important that all the noodles are moist and covered with sauce.
  • Top with mozzarella.
  • For the lasagna you are cooking, cover with foil.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes.
  • For the lasagna you are freezing, cover first with plastic wrap, then with foil. When you're ready to cook it, remove the plastic wrap and replace the foil. Bake frozen lasagna covered for about 90 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.
Each lasagna serves about 10-12.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mistakes with Feeding and TV

In last week's guest post from TwinToddlersDad he wrote about some of his family's struggles applying Ellyn Satter's division of responsibility in feeding. One of the struggles involved managing TV time for his children with dinner time for the family.

It reminded me of some of my own struggles with my oldest child, who is now in high school, back when she was a toddler. Dinners together as a family did not come so easy back then. During the week, the "family" was often just me and her. Sometimes I might eat with her, sometimes I would wait for my husband to come home. But we definitely did not have a consistent routine of the three of us sitting down together at the same table for dinner. It became much easier somehow with a second child two years later. Suddenly, it seemed more like a family meal to me.

How does the saying go, "if I only knew then what I know now." Well, I did not know about the division of responsibility back when my oldest was a toddler. Even without that knowledge, I think I did fairly well with providing the structure of when she ate and I was okay with making choices about what she ate. But I let the ball drop with the "where." She would often eat standing up at her little plastic desk in our living room. She was not then, and is not still, a child who can stay still for very long. Letting her stand and walk around the room and come back for her food didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time. But in retrospect, I know that I didn't provide her with much opportunity to learn how to sit at the table.

She would often watch videos while she was eating or snacking. She was adorable as she danced around in between bites. I'm happy to say that she can now sit for a meal at the table. So those early years did not do irreparable damage with setting up a bad pattern for where she ate. But I could have saved myself and my daughter from some of our battles around mealtimes if I had done it differently from the start.

The TV has not been on during mealtimes for a long time in our house. My husband and I are very comfortable in our authority to turn the TV off. And most of the time now, the kids are pretty accepting of that. Now that they're older, we seem to be past the stage of fearing a meltdown. Well, at least the meltdowns are different ~ and not likely to be brought on by turning off the TV. But I remember that fear. It's a powerful feeling. As TwinToddlersDad said, sometimes "you can't resist anymore and give in." What I've found with all aspects of parenting, an overall pattern of consistency is vitally important, but no one is perfect, and sometimes rules are bent and patterns are changed. If the overall pattern is well-established, with most children, occasional variants in the pattern will not "ruin" all that you've previously established.

Last month I was interviewed for the blog, on the practice of watching TV during family meals. Studies have shown that the benefits of family meals can still take place even if the TV is on, but I don't recommend it as a regular practice. As I said in that interview, television can be a distraction and barrier to tuning into, connecting with, and talking to the people with whom you are eating.

What do you think? How do you manage TV with your children and with your mealtimes?