Kids in the Kitchen: Part One

The following is by contributor Jaimie of Two Chicks and a Hen.

When I talked about surviving the witching hour with small children last March, one of the suggestions I gave was including your children in the cooking.   Next week I’ll have lots of tips for how you can accomplish this in a way that keeps everyone happy and sane, but first I’d like to talk about why you should consider making this a regular part of your routine. 

Some of us cook with our kids all the time, and it’s no big deal, but some of us cringe at the thought of flour all over the floor, more clothes to clean, messy hands, ruined meals, etc.   Although there is some validity to those fears, you can eliminate most of them and successfully cook with kids by being intentional about the way you do it.  A little planning goes a long way in the kitchen.

Why You Should Consider Cooking With Your Kids

If you have yet to invite your kids to cook but would like to, consider the following:

Time Together

Our time is limited.  Most of us, even those who aim for simpler lives, find ourselves busier than we’d like, and this can sometimes mean that we wish we had more time to bond with our kids.  When we think of cooking as something that needs to be done without the kids, we squander a perfect opportunity for bonding and togetherness.   Cooking with our children gives us time together that we might not otherwise have. 

Even if dinner means walking in the door, throwing together a salad, and putting a frozen pizza in the oven, doing these things together is a great way to be with our kids and reconnect, especially if we’ve been away from each other for the day.

Some of us prep all of our food on Sunday for the week because the evenings are too busy.  Again—this is a great time to spend with our children instead of shuttling them off to the next room to watch a movie while we get “work” done.

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Surviving the “Witching Hour” as a Single Parent (and a Dinnertime Distractions printable, too)

The following is by contributor Jaimie of Two Chicks and a Hen.

Our March theme, “Routine and Rhythm,” is something I think about often.  For single parents, it’s especially important to plan ahead for the difficult times.   With some thought and effort, we can create consistent, positive rituals to help us through the tough periods.

The witching hour, that period between afternoon snack and dinnertime, is challenging for most parents. As a single or sometimes-single parent, you cannot let the witching hour burn you out.  Your day is still long from over, and there’s no one coming home to take over the reins or even to field your complaints. There’s still cleaning, the bedtime routine, and, for many of us, paid work that we accomplish after the kids are asleep. We can’t allow ourselves to run out of steam by the time dinner is on the table.

Managing the Pre-Dinner Hour

Whether you’ve just walked in from work or you’ve been home all day, and whether your kids have been with you for a week or have just returned from their other parent’s house (perhaps especially in this case), this time of day has the potential for chaos.   Thankfully, since the witching hour is a daily occurrence, we have the luxury of planning for it.

If you’re having trouble managing the pre-dinner hour, try some of the following ideas:

1. Take five or ten minutes to center yourself before the witching hour begins.

This is something I’ve just started to do recently, and I’ve been amazed at how helpful it is. This ritual will differ from person to person, but you might spend five or ten minutes meditating, doing yoga, knitting, or having a cup of tea. Give yourself a moment to breathe, focus on your intentions for the next several hours, and start over from scratch, putting behind you whatever challenges you’ve already met during the previous ten to twelve hours.

2. Involve the kids in dinner prep if they’re interested.

Kids love to cook, and having them help you is a great way to pull them into your realm during this challenging period. It also gives you the opportunity to casually chat, something especially important if you’ve been separated from them for any period of time. If you’ve never involved your kids in cooking before, you might find that it prolongs the cooking time a little bit at first. After a very short time, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised to see that once your children master a few basic cooking prep tasks, their help truly does make a contribution.

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Meet Jaimie: Our Single Parenting Contributor

The following is by contributor Jaimie of Two Chicks and a Hen.

Two years ago, when I was a relatively new stay-at-home mom, I googled “stay at home mom routines.”  I had been working outside of the home since high school. For the first time, upon the birth of my second daughter, my work took place inside the home, and I needed some help adjusting and getting organized. It was at this time that I found Simple Mom, and I found Tsh’s advice really helpful.  I started reading other mom blogs and really identified with a lot of what I was reading.

Fast forward to September 2009: I became a single mom.  I still needed and valued the ideas and inspiration the parenting blogs offered, but it was at this time, and not a moment sooner, that I started to notice something: the vast majority of the parenting media is aimed at married mothers and two-parent households. And this is fine if you live in a two-parent household.  Advice and ideas for those homes is valuable and necessary.

But what about the rest of us?

Solutions like “to encourage night-weaning, send your husband in when your toddler wakes” are only helpful when there is another parent in the home.  And after awhile, you either learn to tune this out, or you start to feel alienated.  If you’re a single mom reading this, what I’m telling you right now is not news.  You’ve no doubt read lots and lots of suggestions that you under no circumstances could actually use.
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Four Tips for Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent

The following post was written by Jaimie.   Jaimie is a single, work-at-home mom to a toddler and preschooler who blogs about her adventures in creating a simple, creative, sustainable life for her family at Two Chicks and a Hen.

With the holidays approaching, it’s time to think about how to maximize enjoyment while minimizing stress.  Here are four simple ways to keep things running smoothly and maintain peace as a single parent during this season:

1. Keep Some Old Traditions; Start Some New Ones

This is especially valuable during the first few holiday seasons as a single-parent household. With ritual and continuity being so comforting for children (and, let’s face it, adults too), it’s important to repeat some of the traditions you had as a family before you began life as a single parent. Your family may not look exactly the same, but small children will value, for example, making the trip to the same Christmas tree farm you’ve always visited to chop down your tree.

Children might remember and think about previous years when the other parent was present, and this is fine. Moments like these may bring some amount of discomfort for you, but it’s nice for your children to be able to verbalize their feelings about the changes in the family. Engaging in pre-divorce traditions helps reinforce the idea that, while some things have changed, the core of who you are as a family still remains.

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