I am not the biggest fan of packing school lunches, but my favorite part of lunch prep is surprising my kids with a a fun note! Neither of my kiddos enjoy my affectionate words showing up in their public lunch boxes (so NOT COOL mom!). But they secretly enjoy that I think of them. So, I compromise and I write out some positive quotes, or affirmations that they can feel comfortable if others catch a peep. And this way, other kids don’t feel left out because they didn’t have someone sending in “I love you so much” or “you are my sunshine.”
I began tucking little notes inside my kids’ lunch boxes when I sent them off to Kindergarten, and it has been a hit ever since. That first year of ‘big school’ we were all so anxious about being apart. It was really hard on my twins to separate from me and from each other, and it was hard on me to no longer spend my days with them. My silly notes transformed our anxiety into an ice breaker to empower my kids to make new friends. I won’t pretend to be perfect and say I’ve sent one in every single day since then, because let’s be real, our days can get messy. However, my kids honestly still look forward to these notes as a tangible reminder I am thinking of them in the middle of their day.
During COVID my elementary school aged kids ate lunch in their classrooms to avoid over crowding in the cafeteria. They began reading their notes out loud to the kids around them, and one day the kids started asking to hear what note was included in their lunch box this time. My daughter’s teacher sent home an email commenting how everyone felt encouraged by the notes and quoted my child, “I hope she never stops sending me notes, even when I’m in high school.” It is a great feeling to know both my tweens look forward to this lunchbox tradition. (And I have it documented in an email that I will waive at her when she claims she no longer wants the notes).
So far, my tools have been simple; I use a sticky note and a Sharpie. I Google some inspirational quotes, or funny jokes and write them on the stickies. I attach to each of my kids’ water bottles inside their lunchboxes. Do you want to laugh? My kids are in the 5th grade now, and it *just* occurred to me, that I can print out a bunch of colorful notes ahead of time to make it easier during those busy week night pack sessions.
I love making shareable content parents can really use! That’s why I created a free, fun printable exclusively for my subscribers. It contains three weeks worth of inspirational and motivational phrases, along with a blank page to hand write your own sentiments. That’s a full month of lunch box notes ready to go! And I’m sharing it with anyone who signs up for my weekly newsletter!
Once you download your free lunchbox notes, just clip and toss into your kiddos lunchbox or back pack– and you are MOM OF THE YEAR! Ha! If only it were that simple right? But this *does* make it easier to share the love with your children without spending a lot of time creating new notes every day.
Click the button below to get your free exclusive printable!
Do you have a favorite quote or affirmation? Comment below to share! I am always up for some inspiration and good vibes. 😊
If you would like to connect with a community of moms who are positive, uplifting and here to support, join me in my circle of moms private Facebook group.
Over the years packing lunches for my picky eaters has felt like a chore. The things they willingly eat will suddenly change, and it is usually right after I purchase that new favorite food in bulk size. What works for other kids, does not always work for mine. Only this year, one of my kids accepted ketchup and ranch as allowable dunking tools. Both of my kiddos’ natural eating habits are more like grazing than eating a full meal. All of this makes lunch planning stressful. But now I have a much simpler way to create lunches my kids will really eat.
For background, besides being picky, my kids also cannot have artificial dyes, need high protein, and we must limit their dairy. This limits their already condensed food repertoire. I’d love to be able to let my kids order anything they want from the school cafeteria, but without me there to read every single label, they can (and they have) ingest something that will be unpleasant later. Packing a lunch for school is a must for us.
Here’s how I learned to make lunch PLANNING easier:
CREATE A LIST OF FAVORITES
The first thing I do is create a list of things my kids willingly eat. I list each protein, fruit, veggie, and carb individually. I include all their favorites and most importantly things I know they will eat. This gives me a great a visual of items to choose from, and it helps me see just how many foods my picky eaters are already eating. My kids have been picky for so long that I was surprised by the length of the list! Next, I use this list to create balanced meal combinations that includes one protein, one veggie, one fruit and one carb or treat. I try to make as many nutritious combinations as I can using this list of trusted options to create a variety of meals my kids will eat.
Now that I have a list of meals my kids will eat, I write it on the lunch menu on the fridge so my kids can see what they will need to pack each night. If it is a hot lunch option, I will make it for them in the morning before school but have them pack up their water bottles and extra snacks inside the bag at night. There’s no shame in reheating leftovers they ate the night before and sending in for school lunch.
I noticed one thing that was contributing to my kids rejecting their packed lunches, I was over serving the same items. Whenever my kid suddenly fell in love with a new food, I served it so frequently that the novelty wore off quick. It became boring fast. Planning lunches ahead of time helps me see where I can space out those favorites to keep things from getting too repetitive.
I use a Bento box style lunch container that helps my kids see what they pack. There is a section for some fruit, a veggie, and a main food item. Hot lunches I make in the morning and put in a thermos, but I’ll have the kids pack up their water bottles and extra snacks in their lunch box the night before.
PUT THE KIDS IN CHARGE OF PACKING
Having my kids see what is going into their lunchboxes eliminates the surprise at lunchtime. There was a time the lunch box came back untouched because my kids didn’t like a single thing I packed inside. Getting their input and having them pack their own lunches, helps avoid any rejections later.
Does this sound easier for you? I know not everyone is a planner, but I feel like having things like meals and lunches planned saves me so much time (and stress) when I need to do the packing. It takes a lot of the thinking out of it because I thought about it and wrote it down three days ago. I also like to have grab and go options available for my kids to make it easier for them to pack lunches on their own, which is also a big-time saver in my week. I keep things like protein bars, 100 calorie packs of nuts or trail mix, individual pepperoni sticks on hand for them to toss in for snacks.
How about you? I’d love to hear in the comments below what you do to take the stress out of packing your kids school lunches!
Returning to school this year, like last year, is going to look different than what we are used to. Schools in New York are kind of making it work like they did last year. Based on our experience during the last few months of in-person school, they are already equipped with a plan, kind of know what to expect as far as what supplies are required and barriers and cleaning teams are in place.
My kids did great academically last year, but it took A LOT of motivation from ME! I’ve never been a cheerleader before, but last year I should have won a trophy! (Me and every parent/grandparent that survived remote learning!). My kids did not do well socially and emotionally because learning and connecting with friends through a screen all day, was not helpful at all. We did our best with what we had and even signed them up for in-person outdoor events, but it didn’t help them get through the school day. So, this year the plan is to send them back in-person following whatever protocols the school wants us to follow. The alternative of keeping them home, just isn’t going to benefit them.
We are still waiting for the official plan from our school district about protocols and practices, but I anticipate we will need the same supplies as last year, namely masks and hand sanitizer, plus whatever classroom supplies our teachers request. This can vary with every grade, and with two kids in the same grade I am buying doubles of everything!
I’ve learned how to save a bit on back-to-school supplies and shopping. My biggest suggestion is, don’t stress over the brand names or the exact size. The supplies you send in will get used. Teachers tend to ask for specific brands because they know they work well, however, if it doesn’t fit in your budget that’s perfectly OK too.
This is what our 2021 back to school shopping looks like:
Masks. At some point the kids are going to be wearing masks. Whether it’s the first day of school, or during the predictable indoor season where flu bugs and respiratory viruses run free, I might as well have some on hand to be prepared. Now that the schools will be at full capacity, I am switching up to a 5 layer mask for my kids to wear on the bus. I also purchased this 10 pack of mask lanyards for the kids to keep their masks attached to themselves. Otherwise, they lay it down they will lose it. And of course, they will lose the lanyard too and I’ll need back ups.
Sanitizing handwipes. The gels are so messy and always have such a strong smell. Hand wipes work better for my kids. I always toss an extra pack in the kids back packs to have on hand. Who knows when they might need to wipe something icky off the seat on the bus, or wipe their hands clean before grabbing a snack?
New backpacks – I try to reuse these from year to year, but my kids’ have had the same backpack for nearly 3 years now and I have been informed they are no longer “cool.” So.. shopping we go!
Lunch boxes – we reuse our lunch boxes as long as we can. I try to get a solid color vs. a fun character that my kid will outgrow when they fall in love with the next character. I just upgraded our lunch boxes for the first time in years to these Bentgo Deluxe lunch boxes because they are so roomy and hold our Rubbermaid Lunch Blox containers perfectly.
New sneakers – this is always hard. Not only do I buy two pairs at once, but I have yet to find a brand that lasts. So, I usually end up buying more than one pair each school year. My most recent find of Reima waterproof / washable high tops seem to be holding up well so far. I am finding that buying the cheapest pair of shoes, just means I’ll be buying a second pair in a few months. So, it’s actually worth it to pay a bit more for a brand that is going to get you through 9 months of gym class.
New outfit – I only buy one new outfit for the first day of school. A fresh outfit sets the tone for the new year. I have tons of clothes already stored away in bins for each new size and season. This has been my system since my kids were little. It helps me avoid those sudden “I have nothing left to wear” growth spurts. Plus, now, it saves us a lot of money during back to school. I spend an hour on a weekend morning going through their dressers to find what fits and what to toss.
Classroom supplies – sometimes I’m lucky to get a supply list with the last report card of the year. And when I do, I start combing through last year’s supplies that come home in my kid’s backpack. I set aside like new colored pencils, markers, erasers, rulers, folders, crayons, etc. to reuse for the next year. This saves a bunch of money and shopping time. I fill in whatever is missing by ordering online and having it delivered to my doorstep or pick up at the store.
Having to shop for more than one kid adds up quick. This is just how my family tackles back-to-school shopping. What money saving tricks do you have for back-to-school shopping? I’d love to read them in the comments below!
Ever comment on a post on social media, only to be completely attacked by strangers?
That was me last week. I replied to some original content on another bloggers Facebook post, in agreement. I didn’t tag anyone, call anyone out by name, tell anyone they were stupid. I just simply responded to the person making the post and said I agree.
I am not naïve, I know people of the Internet can be jerks for no reason, but it was still a shock to me to be on the receiving end of it. I have cultivated a small following of like-minded parents to purposefully weed out those jerks. I actively scroll by the stuff I don’t agree with and avoid commenting directly to people I do not know. But it still did not stop three strangers from coming out with pitchforks to demand I change my mind because they felt triggered. When I refused to engage, they started a side conversation determined to uncover “what was wrong” with me. In the end, I just couldn’t stop laughing. What healthy adult has the time to create a little cyberbully club? And what does that teach our children about how to engage online?
For the record, I wasn’t hurt by this. I was just shocked because it happens so rarely to me. I try to maintain a judgement free zone in my corner of the Internet, and I especially do not tolerate name calling and ignorant assumptions about someone else’s life. It pays to know the entire story before forming an opinion, and there is nothing wrong with a healthy, mature debate. But when you get into tearing people down, just to feel powerful, or good about yourself, that’s where my tolerance ends.
This kind of behavior was routine in online mom groups ten years ago, when I first became a mom. I couldn’t use the words “breast feeding” or “antibiotics” without an angry squad of moms firing their opinions at me like bullet spray. I remember feeling bewildered by their words piercing through the other side of the screen. The more I tried to have a rational conversation, or defend myself, the harder they came back at me that their opinion was the ONLY correct way to parent my children. How have we not evolved in a decade?
I felt alone and unsafe in those groups for a long time.
That’s why I started blogging in the first place. To give parents space to learn and grow through every messy age and stage of parenting. We all need room to develop our instinctual connection with our kids and we can’t do that if we are busy defending ourselves, or worse, trying to do all the things that work for other people.
So, when these strangers came at me last week, I felt bewildered again. But this time I wasn’t angry, or hurt because I recognize it is coming from a place of their own insecurity. The only way they can feel power in their own lives is to make someone else feel less powerful in theirs. That’s on them. I don’t owe them answers or help carrying their baggage. This was a jolting reminder of what a dark place the Internet can be, especially for moms who are new here and just looking for support.
To the new mom feeling like she is being judged by other parents, or her parenting doesn’t fit in with other people’s opinions, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too. I was there for a couple of years. When I learned to ignore the people lashing out and tearing me down to feel superior, I found there are plenty of other moms (and dads) who want to connect and be supportive. I also learned that we all do whatever works for our own families because strangers on the Internet aren’t responsible for raising our kids, we are. They aren’t losing sleep over their repulsive behavior, and we shouldn’t either.
To the moms (and dads) in the groups who are “just saying,” try notsaying it. Think about your words before you let them escape your fingertips and you push send. Ask yourself if it is helpful to the person commenting, or if it is something you’d want to hear if this were your situation. Are you leaving room for a conversation, or just responding to “own” someone? (If the second is true, find a new hobby). You don’t owe those commenters anything, but they also don’t owe you by changing the way they live their lives based on your personal opinions.
I want to introduce you to my new friend, Emily Heyer. She is a certified life coach focusing on motherhood and mental health. Not only is she living la Vida Loca with a two-year-old, but she is also learning to connect with her own personal joy and joy in motherhood. Yes, those can be two separate things that happen simultaneously.
One of the biggest misconceptions about motherhood is that we must give up our own hobbies, passions, or interests or even careers to focus solely on the needs of our families. We convince ourselves that all the busyness of taking care of our kids and our spouses is just the sacrifice we make to be moms. Sacrifice has become synonymous with motherhood, and it often comes with a cost to our mental health.
Sacrificing my own interests made me feel like there was a big missing piece to my life. I was disconnected from myself and the things that bring me joy because I had waited too long to nurture them.
It’s no wonder moms can feel so stressed out. When we sacrifice our own happiness too often, what is there to get excited about? There is not a lot of joy in swapping weekends at 4-star hotels for dirty diapers and cleaning up crumbs a million times a day with no breaks.
Wanting joy for ourselves, does not mean we take away joy from our families and it is not selfish. We are allowed to nourish ourselves with the same intensity and love we do our families. So, why is it so frowned upon?
Well, that’s exactly what Emily and I chatted about during our one-hour consultation. I was curious about the mom coaching she offers. We talked about how society defines our roles, how other moms can expect us to stay confined to those roles and the overall effect that has on our mental health.
Then, she asked my one simple question, “if you had a magic wand, what is one thing you’d change about your life right now?”
My answer was that I want to return to work outside of the house again, but my fear is that I don’t know where I’d fit in. I have been out of the traditional 9-5 workforce for a decade, and I may be too old or irrelevant for some jobs. I had two successful careers before motherhood but going back to them I’d be at the bottom of the ladder again.
Emily helped me unravel that thought process and determine how I am relevant right now. We discussed how the pandemic has changed the way people work and connect and that I am already well versed on how to work from home. Can I just tell you that shifting that perspective made me realize I still have valuable skills? I have been a SAHM and WAHM for nearly ten years. I may have lost touch with some traditional 9-5 aspects of my previous two careers in an office because I am not doing them every day, but I have picked up an entirely new skillset that not only makes me relevant but opens new opportunities.
Emily and I also discussed ways I connect with my own joy, what makes me happy and how I can participate in those things this week, not some day when my kids are grown and flown.
For one full hour, I was able to talk about myself with another mom who listened. I shared my stress with someone who could relate firsthand. And when we were done, I had small, actionable steps to take with me toward my personal fulfillment. I felt heard and validated, which as moms we don’t get to feel nearly enough. I felt empowered to re-align with my own interests again and to feel less guilty for wanting those things for myself. It was well worth it to meet with a life coach at this point in my motherhood journey. I really wish I had taken this opportunity sooner, especially in those early years when I tried hard to make everything perfect. Reconnecting to my personal joy makes me a healthier mom and a good role model for my kids. They deserve to see how to make themselves a priority too without the stigma of it being selfish.
It can feel overwhelming trying to pitch the plastics from our homes. And it might be unrealistic for families with young kids to eliminate every ounce of plastic from their lives. The busier we get, the more we tend to rely on convenience packaging, grab and go meals and water bottles for hydration. But there are ways to greatly reduce the amount of plastics we use on a daily basis, thereby reducing the amount of plastics in our water stream and landfills. And it can even save us some money.
If you try to eliminate plastic all at once, it can feel daunting. It might feel like too much change at once. But if you introduce one new habit at a time, or start with simple swaps, it will get easier in time. Once you have the hang of ditching plastics, you’ll discover you have an eye for earth friendly materials, and thinking about our environment will become second nature.
Here are my tips to families looking to purge the plastics from their lives:
START WITH ONE SIMPLE SWAP
For us, it was replacing our paper napkins and towels with cloth. This eliminates plastic wrappers that cannot be recycled. To make it more affordable, I shopped thrift stores for my collection of cloth napkins. We use them at every meal and toss into the laundry basket with our kitchen towels. To replace paper towels, I gathered up old hand towels and wash cloths (a great way to recycle baby bath cloths). I did purchase some Norwex cloths because they are absorbent and designed to last for years. It did take time to get everyone in my house in the habit of grabbing a cloth, or towel to wipe up spills instead of grabbing paper towels. Since we have a dog that makes some pretty gross messes, I do purchase a small number of paper towel rolls. I get paper made from bamboo and packaged in paper, not plastic. This feels like small change, but it will have added impact.
NEXT REPURPOSE, REUSE AND RELAX
Instead of cupboards filled with toppling towers of plastic cups, we only use glass. I know that just gave a lot of moms anxiety, but I use mason jars because the glass is more durable. For extra protection, I use a silicon sleeve for better gripping, and if my kid drops their glass it won’t shatter. If glass is still too much anxiety, you can use stainless steel cups which are quickly becoming a trend.
I reuse glass jars for pantry storage. I’ve already paid for a jar when I purchased my pasta sauce and pickles, why send them to the curb? My husband thought I was kind of crazy those few weeks I was obsessed with saving our glass jars, but it is worth it to revamp my pantry with a matching set of jars I didn’t have to pay extra for. And, if one breaks I won’t be heart broken, or have difficulty finding another matching jar. To make this truly zero waste and plastic free, I take my jars to the bulk bins and fill up in the store.
WHAT TO REPLACE
I went room by room and made a list of plastic products I want to replace. I focused on replacing things in one room before I moved on to the next room. This created new shopping habits and made the process much simpler and easy to manage.
In the kitchen, we replaced our plastic coated dish sponge with a net dish cloth. It was definitely an adjustment because I was convinced it was never going to work as well as a sponge. It actually works great! Plus, it lasts for 10 years, so I am saving my wallet and the earth in one step.
I stopped using plastic food containers or baggies for left overs. I use pint sized mason jars to store things like sauce, veggies, avocados, apple slices, lemon slices, canned goods, and more. The seal on the jar keeps things fresher longer than in plastic and with no chemicals leaching into my food. I also picked up a set of glass storage containers at the thrift store that were brand new. (My guess is they were a duplicate wedding gift). I can see what’s inside and toss right in the microwave and have hot food in minutes.
We made some big changes in the bathroom with our care products. Did you know that every plastic tooth brush manufactured since the 1940s, still lives in landfills today? As soon as I read that, I switched to bamboo tooth brushes. They work just as good as their plastic counterparts, but do less damage to our water ways. Bamboo is renewable and breaks down in your compost.
Instead of plastic floss containers, I use glass. This is such an easy, affordable swap. The glass container can be recycled or repurposed. I use this brand because it is produced with manmade fibers and not from silk moths.
Switching to toothpaste tabs was an adventure. My kids had zero problems with it, I think because it felt like chewing candy. It did take my husband and myself time to get used to crunching our tooth paste before we use it. Knowing the eco-impact of removing the most purchased piece of plastic helped us power through. The tabs come in glass jars, and you can subscribe to receive new tabs in paper packaging instead of buying a new jar each time, or simply purchase a new jar. Honestly, buying a jar to recycle or reuse is still avoiding significant plastics from entering our water stream.
Buying bars of soap without packaging is another super easy swap. My local grocery store carries a large assortment of package free soaps made from organic and natural ingredients. The price per bar is around the same as name brand soap. You can’t buy a mega sized, family pack. But, you can buy a few fresh scents and know there’s no garbage to toss later.
Lotion bars are a great way to eliminate plastic tubes that are rarely recycled. These bars are so easy to use and create less mess. I store my bars in a washable and reusable zipper pouch (I can toss right in with our weekly towel wash). The heat from my hands melts the lotion bar enough to apply to where I need it, but the bar stays solid.
HOW TO PITCH THE PLASTIC OUTSIDE THE HOME
We’ve stopped asking for plastic straws at the drive thru. We aren’t a family that needs to use plastic straws, so we carry a reusable and washable wet bag filled with metal straws. I keep it right in the glove box. When we are traveling, we use our plastic free utensils and put them back in the wet bag to take back home to clean.
We’ve stopped grabbing plastic water bottles at gas stations on our short trips. Instead, we bring water from home in our reusable stainless steal beverage containers. Plus, the double wall feature keeps beverages ice cold for 24 hours.
To avoid grabbing prepackaged foods, we often bring along our own snacks or meals in sustainable packaging, or seek out local family friendly spots who use eco-friendly containers. I have reusable snack bags that I use to fill from our larger container of snacks that I pack in our cooler bag. And I’ve swapped plastic containers for steal.
I bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and if I forget them, I request paper. Some areas charge to use the store bags, so by using my own I avoid the 5 cent per bag fee. Plus, my reusable bags are stronger and carry more in them, which means less trips from the car. I leave my bags in the trunk, so I don’t forget them.
It doesn’t have to cost a million dollars to pitch the plastic, and you don’t need to buy all new products for your home. Focus on your biggest priority for change, then when you have that down, move on to the next. It’s really easy once you get started and your kids will easily follow your lead. Convenience packaging and relying on the same products is easy, but true change takes a little extra thought and a new purchasing pattern.
How are you planning to pitch some plastic this month?
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Do you have an all-weather kid? One that plays real hard no matter what? There could be wind, or sleet, mud or snow and they still go out to paly? That’s my kids! They are non-stop energy and not about to let a little mud, or sand, or dirt stand in their way of a good time. We go through clothes and shoes quickly, not just because my kids outgrow them so fast, but because they destroy them. I have yet to find a shoe that can outlast their pace. In fact I have polled every moms group I belong to asking for recommendations, and still have not found anything that is long lasting for active kids.
There are two things I look for in a kid shoe – durability and materials. I’ve noticed the shoes with the synthetic materials that are smooth and lightweight, wear out much quicker and are not recyclable. My kids wear their shoes until threadbare and their toes are poking out. Our only option is to toss them into the trash because the materials aren’t recyclable. Those synthetic, low quality (high priced) materials do not make it through an entire school year before we need to purchase a second pair.
That’s why I am so excited to partner with Reima and try these all-season waterproof machine washable sneakers with Velcro. We need durable shoes that will hold up to different terrains and are easy to keep clean. These are machine washable, but we simply hosed off the shoes when we returned from the beach.
“Wow mom! I can watch the water roll right off my shoes!”
These high-tops have a Velcro closure and elastic built in laces. This should save a lot of time getting out the door, but my kids have never worn high-top shoes before, and it took a few minutes to figure them out. As soon as everyone was comfy and ready to jump into the car, we were off to our favorite river beach. The beautiful thing about the beaches along the Hudson is there is typically a park, lots of water and hiking trails. So, there is a good chance of getting messy.
To keep the kids covered and protected from the sun during our play break, my girls wore their terry cloth, SPF 50 cover up hoodies with matching shorts, also from Reima. These are soft and comfortable. One of my kiddos wears this new hoodie at home or just riding in the car. The long sleeves are perfect while near the water. It’s often cooler and the temp drops a few degrees, not to mention there are always bugs. The hoodies kept my kids warm and safe and comfortable. Which means a more enjoyable time for all of us.
“I am glad you made me wear the long sleeves, mom. Why is it always colder by the water?”
Overall, my kids love the shoes and the cover ups. But here are a few things about the company that makes my mom heart happy:
Reima uses non-toxic, fluorocarbon free and recyclable materials. The dyes used are free of carcinogens and the fibers are selected with the lifecycle of the product in mind. Everything is designed for active, playful children, and to be carefree for parents. Say goodbye to disposable fashion because these are made durable enough for your child to wear for several seasons before passing along to a sibling, or a friend. Reima has spent over 75 years future-proofing the next generations by creating long lasting, durable clothing that keeps our kids and our planet safe.
I am fully committed to sharing products I have personally tried, and I’ll share anything that makes my job as a mom easier. Purchasing washable, durable, sustainable clothes and shoes that our kids can wear season after season is a big budget saver! It makes sense for our bank accounts and for the planet. If you have an active kid and you need stress free activewear options, take a look at what Reima has to offer, and you can feel good about buying sustainably.
There are few things my husband asks for, for Father’s Day. But he does enjoy a good celebration meal. His favorite thing to eat is a grilled steak. It doesn’t matter what sides are served if there is the perfect beer to balance it out.
That’s it. He isn’t really picky about the details.
All the gifts he gets are from the kids and it is typically a silly joke between them printed on a t-shirt, or something handmade. They help me prepare dinner and set the table. The kids help me pick out the side dishes (usually things they will eat, and dad just goes along with). I don’t think there has ever been a takeout night or dinner outside our backyard to celebrate. I try to keep things low key and simple. The family seems to enjoy that most.
Do you have a traditional meal to celebrate Father’s Day in your home? Here are a few ideas for inspiration. And if you don’t celebrate Father’s Day, these are great meals to make any day of the year.
I have three kids and they are each quite different people. Even as babies, I could see how different their personalities were. One was very cranky but grew into a very calm, funny boy. One was the quietest baby I’ve ever met but is an Academy Award winning actress in the making. J, however, has always been a bit different than his siblings.
As a baby, he was so easy to care for we nicknamed him the “Buddha Baby.” He started talking in 3-word sentences at 15 months old. He was walking around one-years-old . He loved everyone and would hug you so tight that you never wanted to let go. He gave huge smacking kisses on everyone’s cheeks. This changed somewhere around the time he was age four. I thought that maybe the “terrible twos” had gone on a bit too long, and he was just going to be a challenging kid.
At first, I wasn’t worried. He was just a little more energetic than the other two kids and got mad a little easier. As time went by, I realized things weren’t that simple. He was getting more aggressive, hitting his brother and sister, and at one point, neither of them really wanted to play with him. He also started tearing things up at home. He also hit me. He struggled at preschool- he wouldn’t engage with the other kids, barely talked and even though it was obvious that he was very smart, he just wouldn’t participate. He also stopped giving the hugs and kisses that we loved so much. My J was gone. I’d lost my loving, sweet little boy. I had no idea what had happened to him, but I wanted him back.
I talked to his pediatrician, who recommended an evaluation. That evaluation went well, but neither of us agreed with the diagnosis-, Adjustment Disorder. It didn’t make sense. In the meantime, I started reading up online and in books. I just wanted to know what was going on with J. I wanted to help him, but I didn’t know how. It broke my heart because I loved him so much and knew he needed me, but I just couldn’t reach him.
Everything I read pointed to ADHD and autism.
AUTISM? What? J talked, but he was a bit quiet. He hated change, liked being alone, obsessed over certain things (at one point, dinosaurs, now it’s cars and video games). Other things sounded like him too. I never imagined having a child with autism, but then, who does?
The ADHD? I literally laughed as I read through criteria for this.
By the time J was four, he had broken a foot and arm due to not listening and being impulsive. He had cut a finger so badly he needed stitches. (He broke his arm later that week, five days before his fourth birthday, making that week the worst week in my parenting life until his brother’s hospitalization for heart issues). He had basically no attention span. I talked to his preschool teachers, and they agreed.
Getting a second evaluation wasn’t easy. By this point, my husband and I were clearly on different pages on what to do with J. This is common and probably accounts for why so many couples with special needs children eventually separate. It’s hard to get the other parent to agree. He eventually did, but it took two years and my almost filing for divorce before doing so.
J’s second evaluation was right before Thanksgiving 2011. It was meant to be one day, but went into two because he became uncooperative, which the neuropsychologist told me was common. I got the results in the mail on November 23 and sobbed with relief.
The diagnosis was ADHD, combined and traits of Asperger’s Syndrome. (this was 2011, when Asperger’s still existed.) That was later amended to High Functioning Autism (now Level 2 Autism) by his psychiatrist. I was relieved that I finally knew what was going on and what to do with J. This made a lot of sense. It explained his personality- he’s quiet, and if he doesn’t know you, he probably won’t talk to you. I have to prompt him to speak to people. He took a long time to understand humor, but now that he does, he’s hilarious, with a very dry sense of humor. He’s very smart and asks a million questions a day. He prefers to hang out by himself but has gotten so much better with making friends.
Now that we had a diagnosis, the next thing I tackled was treatment.
J was only five years old and in the middle of kindergarten. He was having problems sitting still in class when he wasn’t hiding under a table. I got in contact with a program at a local University and he began seeing a therapist to help with his social skills. He also began taking medication. That was a difficult decision to make, but he clearly needed it. As the medication began to kick in and therapy began to help, we began to see improvement. J stopped being so aggressive, was able to sit and engage in school and actually started having fun again.
Over the years, he has switched meds, gone through group therapy and changed medical providers. He has come a long way since kindergarten. He just finished the ninth grade. He has an IEP for school and does well with that. There were bumps in the road in elementary and middle school, but nothing is perfect. His middle and high school have been great with him, even during a global pandemic that shut down almost every school in the country. I have always made sure he knows that I love him exactly the way he is and that I have his back- always.
One big thing I forgot during this time was taking care of myself. I forgot how important this is! I had to relearn this. I was stressed out that I lost and gained weight. I developed Type 2 Diabetes, and had a small stroke in 2013. That was a wakeup call to start taking care of myself more, and I have done so ever since. I even stopped drinking in 2017 as it became a huge problem in my life. Today, I enjoy meditation, yoga, listening to music and podcasts, reading and coloring. And I no longer have diabetes.
What I’ve learned about selfcare as a special needs parent:
Take time for yourself. This may sound difficult, but even 10 minutes a day is better than nothing. Listen to music, read a book, watch a few videos on YouTube.
Get support. Seek out support in your family or friends, and if you can’t find support there, try finding support online. There are many support groups on Facebook, websites, etc. You aren’t alone in your journey.
Get your feelings out. Journal, exercise, talk, whatever you need to do. Parenting is rough, no matter how anyone puts it. When special needs are thrown in, it gets harder. Don’t let your feelings sit inside you.
KNOW YOUR CHILD. This helps in a million ways. Knowing your child’s triggers, foods they WILL eat, etc. will be helpful in many situations. Your child will be glad you know them so well and it will help them feel loved. Support them no matter what.
Special needs parenting is rough. It’s not all rainbows and flowers, but I have learned so much about myself along the way. J has been my tour guide through special needs territory.
Who doesn’t love a good guacamole dip for their chips or topping for taco Tuesday (or any day of the week)? It’s like a celebration every week when the fresh guac comes out! It is so easy to make at home and takes very little time.
I make “guac” every Tuesday because I love it, and because I have one picky eater that loves it too. That makes me picky about what I put in our guacamole.
I have tried dozens of guacamole seasoning blends, and never landed on just the right one. Until now. A friend of mine dropped off a bottle of Seasoned Delicious guacamole dip mix as a gift. (Even my friends know how much I love the good guac!). This mix is now my new taco Tuesday must have! It’s gluten free and vegan and sourced locally (to me!). Two of us in my household are gluten and dairy free, so I can serve this every week without worry.
The Seasoned Delicious company specializes in Jamaican/Soul Food fusion and uses traditional African cooking methods of slow cooking over a fire in their downtown Kingston, NY cafe. This minority owned female run business is invested in the community by standing as a role model for Black and Brown youth who come into the café. Representation matters and they want young kids to see the dream of owning their own business as a reality. They give back to the creative arts in the area and host a Caribbean festival bringing in new culture and flavors to their community. You can learn more about the heart and soul of the business here. I am in love with their mission and happy to support a business that is putting good out into the world.
As soon as I tried this seasoning mix, I knew I loved it. But when my picky eater gave me two thumbs up, I knew this is a keeper! We love this spice blend so much; I contacted the owner Tamika to chat. We immediately connected as moms and she shared that as a nurse and registered dietician, and as a mother to children with diet sensitivities, she has witnessed how changing the diet can help people feel better. Her passion for whole food nutrition without sacrificing good flavor is a driving force behind re-creating traditional recipes with gluten free and vegan ingredients. Tamika is a busy mom (just like me), running a business, and still makes it a priority to shine love out into her community by putting thought and care into her products, her branding, and her community connections. And I am so glad to be a part of her community. I always tell my kids that the secret ingredient to my cooking is love, and the foundation of Seasoned Delicious is bringing people together with love. Now, I can 100% guarantee love is the main ingredient in my guacamole!
I told Tamika how much I love this seasoning mix and that I plan to share my personal guacamole recipe with all my readers. She was thrilled! I don’t know if it’s as good as what Tamika makes, but I do put a lot of love into it!
2 ripe avocados (click here to learn when avocados are ripe)
4 TBSP Seasoned Delicious Guacamole seasoning
½ tsp red chili flakes if you want extra heat.
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by cutting your avocados in half (click here to learn how to safely cut an avocado).
Remove the pit and flesh from the skin. Discard the pit and begin smashing the avocado with a fork on top of a cutting board. Traditionally, this is done with a mortar and pestle, but I do not own one. Though I really should with the amount of guacamole I make.
Squeeze half of the lime over the smashed avocado, then sprinkle on the seasoning mix. Mix everything together by folding the edges of the avocado pile into the center or stir it all together in a bowl. I like quick and easy and less dishes to clean, so I just mix it right on the board. You can garnish with cilantro if you’d like, but no one in my house likes cilantro, so we skip it.
That’s it! You can add salt and pepper to taste and a little red pepper flakes if you want extra heat, but honestly, the seasoning mix is perfect as is. I slice the remaining half of the lime into wedges to use with our tacos.
I put the bowl in the middle of the table, pour out the chips and everyone digs in.
Is guacamole part of your taco Tuesday? Tell me in the comments below how you make it!