Tag Archives: Parenting

Kids in The Kitchen: 10 Tips for Teaching Kids to Cook

My mother never shooed us out of the kitchen. Instead she put us to work! Since I am from a very big family (12 children), in a word, it was chaos, but it was beautiful chaos. I prepared my first full meal when I was only 8 years old. My mother grew up in a family where everything was cooked from cans, so it was very important to her that we know how to cook from scratch. As a teenager she taught herself to cook real food and then took over the family meals. One of the first things that I ever learned how to make was bread, and the first job we had as kids was to knead the dough. I can imagine now that my mother may not have wanted to do all of the kneading herself – she baked bread every Saturday – but at the time it was great fun!

When I was in college, I found out that not everyone’s mothers thought that learning to cook was important – I taught a few roommates how to do some simple things – like read recipes, boil water to make pasta, make dinner rolls, and to bake cookies (a skill that no enterprising – and starving – college girl should be without!) But I appreciate the skills I learned as a child even more as a mom. After meeting people who didn’t even know how to boil water or follow simple instructions on a box of rice-a-roni (which I honestly had never even HEARD of until I was in college), I decided that ALL of my kids would learn to cook because there is nothing sadder than an adult college student struggling on a small budget, who can’t even take care of themselves in this most basic way.

So here it is! My list of ten tips to help you teach your kids how to cook:

  1. Never shoo your children out of the kitchen. Instead, put them to work! Even small children can do something, even if you just give them a small piece of dough to play with. At 3, measure ingredients and let them put the measured ingredients into the mixing bowl. At 4 and 5, you can hand them a vegetable peeler. At 6, let them read the ingredients out of the recipe book and show them how to measure. You can set them up with a knife to chop vegetables (supervised of course) and at 7, let them measure out ingredients for you, or even try a simple recipe all by themselves. At 8, let them prepare a simple meal for the whole family without any help.  Not only have they learned an important skill, but they have realized that they can be an important member of the family, and they have earned confidence!
  2. Provide your children with easy access to healthy recipes that are easy to follow, and that are in a format that is easy to use and can take a beating. You may be interested in my Healthy Kid’s Recipe Cards, which you can find online here
  3. Hold a weekly family night or regular family activities so that you can provide additional opportunities for your children to make snacks or treats to showcase their newly learned skills.
  4. Praise them when it is warranted. Do not overdo it by ignoring faults and flops though – good food is expensive and good instruction that includes correction when needed helps avoid unnecessary waste. I recommend a sandwich style praise and correction model. If the recipe turned out badly, praise them for what they did right (wow, you did this all by yourself?) and then provide gentle instructions (next time, call me in if you need help with measuring the salt.) Then another good thing (It looks like you baked these for just the right amount of time!)Your child will want to know what went wrong so that they can make it better the next time around.
  5. Expect your boys to learn as well as your girls! Boys need these skills just as much as anyone now! You can’t make the mistake of assuming that your son’s wife will know how to cook or you may end up with grand kids who are part of the McD’s generation. Besides, it might be just the thing that will help him catch the girl of his dreams! My husband cooked for me on our first date. Children who learn to cook are less expensive to support through college, and will be healthier as well.
  6. As your children get older, do not hesitate to give them more responsibilities. Alternate the responsibilities for making breakfasts, allow them to pack their own lunches for school, and assign them one night a week to make dinner for the family.
  7. Always verbally thank the one responsible for the meal publicly around the dinner table. Point out the best parts of the meal and say exactly what you like about it. This is not the forum for corrections unless the child acknowledges something himself – like if a cake fell or if there was too much pepper in the gravy.  If they point it out themselves  in this setting, you can down play it for the moment (“yes, but the potatoes are perfect!”) and help them fix it later.
  8. When your child is old enough, help them plan a month of menus and execute a shopping trip. This lets your child learn the logistics of planning a meal from start to finish, including what constitutes a balanced meal, what you have already on hand and which items they will need to buy, and how much those things actually cost.  A child should be able to plan one day’s meals at the age of 7 or 8, a week’s worth of menus at 9 or 10, and a month of menus at 11 or 12.
  9. Don’t hold back on letting your child make a complicated recipe. I made bread on my own for the first time when I was not even 8 years old. You as the parent can trust your instincts about what your child is capable of at what age. Allow your child to challenge herself even if you are not sure if she can do it on her own. I was pleasantly surprised the first time my daughter made apple pie.
  10. Avoid relying on boxed items or pre-made foods for teaching kids how to cook. Children can read and understand recipes and it is a good opportunity for kids to learn about measurements, how ingredients work in a recipe, and many other things that kids can’t learn by making ramen noodles or microwavable boxed macaroni and cheese. Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for, and besides, teaching from scratch allows your child to form good nutritional habits early on, which will allow them to have a healthier lifestyle and a better quality of life.

But He Made it All By Himself . . .

What’s a mother to say???

I guess I ought to explain . . . this hideous creation is a teddy bear that my 12 year old son spent two months knitting for Bee for Christmas. And she loves it. She named it Suzy and she carried it around for a few days after Christmas. I am really surprised that the head hasn’t fallen off or that it hasn’t come unraveled or something yet. Now Suzy lives in Bee’s bed with her baby dolls.

The 10 Natural Laws of Parenting

  1. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong it will.
  2. The parenting law of invisibility: If your kids want something they can see you. If you want something, they can’t.
  3. The Law of Increasing Disorder: The closer it gets to the hour of some important event, the more chaotic things get. This is directly proportionate to the level of importance of the event in question.
  4. The Law of Regularity: If you ask a child to do something, he/she invariably need to use the restroom. The converse of this law is that your child will never need to use the restroom unless you are in your car at least 20 miles from the nearest restroom.
  5. The Law of Inverse Hunger: The more excitement, dessert, etc. the less hungry a child will be.
  6. The Parent’s Four laws of Motion:
    • Parental Inertia: If you want your child to do something, you will have to prod them along every step of the way. If you do not want your child to do something, this fact in itself provides all the needed inertia for the task to be done without any prodding whatsoever.
    • f=ma: If your child is running away from you, the speed at which they travel is directly related to your body mas multiplied by the speed at which you are traveling in their direction. The best way to catch up with them is to stop running, or to run in the opposite direction.
    • Every action has an equal and opposite reaction: This is why kids retaliate in kind after being hit, bit, scratched, etc. If you want it to stop, you have to step in and stop them yourself or it could go on forever.
    • If you have several children and you are moving toward them with the intent to capture, they will all move away in separate directions. (Please refer to the Parent’s Second Law of Motion)
  7. The law of Parenting Relativity: If you sit down with a child on your lap, all of the children in the house will gravitate toward you and it will not be long before all of the children have dog piled on you, with the smallest child somehow on the very bottom of the pile. This invariably results in kicking, biting, and screaming about who was there first or who should be the one who should be allowed to stay for whatever reason. This will continue until you get up and throw All of them off.
  8. The Parenting law of Conservation of Mass-Energy: Matter is neither created or destroyed, therefore missing left socks, missing keys, and other mysteriously vanishing objects have either been: a) sucked into a black hole, b) transformed into another form of energy, or c) have been buried in your child’s sandbox.
  9. The Parenting law of thermodynamics: your child’s desire to play outside and get healthy exercise, fresh air, and sunshine is directly related to the temperature. They will not want to go out because it is a) too hot, or b) too cold. The temperature will never be just right unless one of the other laws has influenced him/her in one way or another.
  10. The Electrostatic law of Parenting: Teens will only want to venture forth to any activity if there is a satisfactory electrically charged particle to with whom to join with to create an electrostatic force field (i.e. a “hot” member of the opposite sex). Be very wary if they are excited to go ANYWHERE!


This morning, as I was getting everything to go to a Christmas party at my sister’s house, I dropped a plate of 2 dozen hot coconut macaroons on the floor. I had just gotten my kids in the van . . . an ordeal in itself! Child#1 changed clothes 3 times, because she couldn’t wrap her brain around the fact that this was a breakfast PAJAMA party. Child 2 screamed for at least a half hour because he wanted to go to the church primary party that was also that morning and since we had to choose, family came first. Finally after he realized that the family party would be longer (more games, more treats, etc.) he got in the van, quite happily too. (grrr) I on the other hand after trying to get them going, had not quite been able to get it all together and I was still trying to round up cookies for the Christmas cookie exchange. So now the kids are waiting for me while I am scrambling to get the cookies out of the oven and onto a plate, which I then dropped on the floor . . . lovely!

So, I scooped them up, all mashed and broken and left them on the counter to cool. (We fed them to the chickens when I got home — I hope they don’t die . .)

When we got there, we were short on graham crackers for the little gingerbread village the kids were making.  So I went to the store to get more. And as I am waiting for someone to back out some hot guy in a red fire bird swoops in between me and the row of parked cars and steals my parking space!  It wasn’t even a packed parking lot. I mean there were plenty of available spaces, that one just happened to be opening up and was a little closer to the door, so I was like hey! maybe something will go my way this morning! (because it really was super cold outside) BUT NO! So I rolled down my window and yelled “Merry Christmas! I Hope it’s an emergency!” and he looked at me and said “It is!”

Well I didn’t buy that crap for a second! So when I went in the store and saw him there I walked right up to him and looked him in the eye and said “So, what’s the emergency?” He said something lame about getting a money order for his wife and I said, well there were lot’s of other open parking spaces. He looked uncomfortable and I just turned around and walked off. Maybe there was some kind of emergency that required a money order, sure, I can see that, but how much longer would it really have taken to park the next row over? It’s just that I was already quite obviously in position to take that spot. It’s like a plate of cookies sitting there, and I reach out to take one and he snatches it up off of the top of the pile just because he can. What a JERK! I thought of so many good things I could have said later of course — like “Thank you for reminding me what a great husband I have. I hope that money order keeps your wife happy, ’cause you don’t have much else to offer.”

So, I’m really fine with it. Maybe his wife is really horrible. Maybe I should feel sorry for the poor guy . . .

Did I mention that I had also toted along a casserole for the church Christmas dinner? I took it with me so I could bake it at my sister’s house and have it ready to drop off at the church by 4pm.

Again I am trying to round up my kids so I won’t be late dropping off the casserole. Again, I am invisible. I say get in the car, and they are out jumping on a snow covered trampoline 2 seconds later. Is what I am asking really that horrible? Because I am looking at the snow out there and that is not my idea of fun! By the time we are actually on the way, it is 3:45 and we are a good 45 minutes away. I drove fast and made it there only 15 minutes late. And someone had put their hand in the casserole. There was a big dent in one end where the foil had been completely mashed in.

“Who did this?”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

Three innocent pairs of eyes are staring at me.

“Come on, it was hot. There is no way you could do this and not notice!”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

blink, blink, blink.

So I pull out the guilt trip.

“An honest person would tell their mother if they did something like this.”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Whaaaa ok, it was meeeeee!”

Now it’s my turn to feel bad for yelling. But I don’t. Not really. Ok, maybe a little . . .

I told the lady I handed it to to just stick the serving spoon in there and maybe no one would notice, and then I left. very quickly.

I took the kids home and had them change. We went to the church for dinner — No way I was going to try to cook after all that. And my casserole was already out on the serving table, and there was only one serving left.

I guess it wasn’t such a really bad day . . .

Milestones for Mommyhood

I am hitting some mommy milestones this year . . . I just turned the big 4-0 in November. That is taking me some time to adjust to, but it’s not so bad now. Also, in November we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. That sounds so long to me, but really it seems like we were still just starting out, and technically, I suppose that 18 years of marriage isn’t really a milestone, but it sure feels like one to me.

Some other milestones — J just turned 12 on Wednesday! He will be ordained as a deacon tomorrow, which he is really excited about — he really is looking forward to passing the sacrament in church. Also, his teacher in school has recommended that he test for the gifted and talented program this upcoming week so he can take honors classes in Jr. High next year. Jr. High! (help me!) He is really excited and is crossing his fingers to get back into a good chess club again. It’s been nearly two years since he has had a good chess program, and he misses it a lot. I think it will be really good for him. I really do . . .

And Alex is turning 15 in January . . . this is a milestone because, as she has been reminding me since last year, she will be able to learn how to drive. YIKES!! and next year, dating . . . but . . . deep breaths . . . one thing at a time . . . breath, breath, breath . . . OK. I’m OK now . . . I think I am OK now. Can you please hand me that paper bag?

Childhood Ambitions

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Kid Quotes

Alex came to me today and said “Z said he wants to be an author when he grows up.”

This was news to me, because last time he told me about his life’s ambitions, he said he wanted to be a fireman. He has actually wanted to be a fireman for a couple of years now. He is 6.

Z’s first childhood ambition was a lot more interesting. After his second Christmas, he went around saying “Ho, Ho, Ho!” in a loud voice, and then he declared that he wanted to be Santa Claus when he grew up. He was 22 months old. I assured him through suppressed laughter that he could be that and many other things. He continued with the Ho, Ho, Ho-ing for several months — It was a real holler.

Then at the age of 3, he saw the movie Fat Albert, and he decided that was what he wanted to be when he grew up (“Hey, Hey, Hey!”). At 4 he saw his first fire engine, and was duly impressed. Other than a Jedi Knight, that has been his one ambition that he keeps going back to.

But an author is a new one for him. I didn’t even know he knew that word, although it shouldn’t surprise me, since I write, and have taken the kids to a few book signings to meet authors that they have enjoyed, so maybe his wanting to be an author and write stories wasn’t such a stretch after all.

I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. “Oh?”

“I want to be an author. I want to write books,” he declared.

“What kind of books do you want to write?” I asked.

“Church books. I’m going to be the holiest man on earth.”

At this point I am sorry to say that I was unable to help myself, and I nearly choked on the mouthful of the apple I was munching on. Z is the one kid that I have had to drag out the door kicking and screaming “I don’t want to go! Church is so boring!”

“But you can’t stay home by yourself, it’s too dangerous, and there won’t be anyone to take care of you. It will be just as boring here,” I always tell him, shivering at the thought of coming home to a burning house or some other equally frightening scenario.

“The holiest man on earth?” I ask, struggling to keep my voice even.

“Why? Who is the holiest man on earth?” (He is totally serious.)

“Probably the Prophet,” I tell him.

“Well, then I’ll be the second holiest man on earth, ’cause I am really trying to be like Jesus.”

At this point I wondered if, at the age of 6, Moses’s or Elijah’s Mothers ever thought that their sons would take their turn as the holiest men on earth. Or Alma the younger, or Saul of Tarsus — what would their mothers have said?


My oldest at the age of 14 has decided that she really likes to cook. It’s been great! This week she called me at work and asked “what’s Gram’s Pie?”

“Why?”  I ask.

“Well, I just found this recipe card and it says gram’s pie.”

“Oh – that is your great grandma’s pie recipe.”

“Your grandma?”

“No, your dad’s. Why?”

“Can I make it?”

Now I am thinking Grandma Sandage, the legendary pie maker who no one dares to make a pie since she died because it always brings on these irritating comparison sprees, where the pie is analyzed from all possible directions and never ends up being as good as grandma’s, so that the “how is it?” question is always met with “it tastes OK, but . . . “

“What kind of pie do you want to make?” I say.

“well there are all those peaches downstairs that need to be used.”

I had forgotten about those and thought she was going to suggest using canned fruit which never really turns out that good, so I am surprised again. and then I think, Why not let her try?

“OK, go for it.”

“Really?” she is in shock.

“Yeah, just don’t make a mess.” I imagined the house covered in flour and mashed up peaches.

She paused and then asked.  “Will you pick up some ice cream on your way home?”

How could I say no to that?

When I got home, the house was not a wreck as I imagined, but instead, there was a beautiful pie sitting on the oven. WOW! the edges of the crust were a bit dark, but I had forgotten to tell her to put foil over the edges of the crust while it was baking. The crust was flaky and the filling was divine.

The next day she made two, using up the rest of the peaches and she picked some apples off of the tree in the back yard for the second pie. This time she used foil on the edges of the crust.

“Your going to make me really fat,” I say as I bite into a piece of hot peach pie.

The legand lives on . . .

The 20 Day Challenge

The idea behind the 20 day challenge is that if you do something for 20 days, it becomes a habit, and then you will continue to do that thing (hopefully) for the rest of your life.

Writing in a journal can help you:

  • make difficult decisions
  • get rid of anger in a positive way
  • think more clearly when you are confused
  • understand yourself better
  • set goals
  • sort out your feelings
  • solve problems
  • preserve memories
  • develop dreams

“You don’t have to see miracles or change the world in order to have something worthy to record in your journal–your thoughts and feelings are exciting enough. When you catch the greater vision of writing in a journal, you’ll find it can become one of your best friends.”  –unknown

Since my daughter was challenged to write in her journal for 20 days and was given a handout with 1 journal prompt a day for 20 days worth of journal writing, she has, as I said in my previous post, become almost a different person. I remember how much writing in my journal helped me when I was her age, and I understand what a powerful outlet for the emotions writing is for many people.

She has run out of writing prompts on the handout that her teacher gave her, but she has kept writing, using writing prompts out of ‘”The Write Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate your Writing.” I have also given her a new list, using the same format as her original handout, and you can see it here: The 20 Day Challenge

Who Are You, and What Have You Done With My Daughter!?

My teen has a very strong controlling personality, and when things don’t quite go her way, she gets angry very easily. All her life she has butted heads with me, but a few months ago, I discovered a little trick to help avoid out and out war . . . when she is irritated about something if I could figure out how to make her laugh before she starts pushing my buttons, (remind me to have surgery to get those removed) then I am usually spared most of the temper tirade. And still we have had many difficult days. Until recently. I suspect the body snatchers, but I’m not sure.

But wait! I am NOT complaining. The body snatchers can keep her for all I care — she has been heaven to be around. She cooks, and does an occasional load of dishes without going nuclear, and she comes in my room and engages in intelligent endearing conversation when I get home from work. She even kissed me on the cheek yesterday.

What a darling adorable girl has taken her place, and it has gone on for nearly three weeks straight.

What have I done? absolutely nothing. But I did learn about a change that she made on her own about three weeks ago that could have a huge part to play in this little drama.

My daughter wants to be a writer when she grows up. She ‘made’ her fist poem when she was barely 4 years old, by grabbing my hand and demanding “Type!” as she dragged me to my computer keyboard. I didn’t mind much, since she didn’t bite me as was her usual approach in those days. She put my fingers on the keyboard and assumed a calm thoughtful pose, and began to recite:

A Tree was in my back yard,
with a yellow leaf that falls down
I went in my house.

I asked her what she wanted to call it. She said “Tree.” and then she ran off.

Of course, a writer myself I was beside myself with giddiness. After that, she would ask me to type every once in a while, and now at age 14 she fills up notebooks all on her own. Sometimes she will be sitting there on the couch staring into space and I used to have to shake her a little to snap her out of it. “What are you doing?!” I asked her once. She said she was making up stories.

So what does all of this have to do with her transfiguration? Well, I learned that she had been given a 20 day challenge by her teacher. 20 days of journal writing. 1 writing prompt a day for 20 days. And she had been doing it. As it turned out, it was exactly what she needed for her emotional constipation. Will it get rid of her temper completely? I doubt it. I think her old self will resurface occasionally, and if she doesn’t I will be pleasantly surprised. At the same time, I am also going to make darned sure she has as many writing prompts as she needs.

Looking Forward to Back to School Shopping?

Only 16 more days until school starts and I have not even touched back to school shopping . . . I really wonder where I am going to scrape up the money this year. They have all grown out of everything, and I no longer have hand me downs that will fit anyone. This is the breakdown:

New clothes, backpack, and school supplies, plus $91 in school fees for a 9th grader:

  • 6 pairs of jeans — $40.00 (I hope, if I can find them at thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $30.00 (again thrift shop prices)
  • 1 pair of new gym shoes — $15.00
  • 1 messenger bag — $12.00
  • Socks, etc. — $45.00
  • Notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, pens, index cards, binder, etc. — $25.00

Total: $167.00

New clothes, backpack, and school supplies, plus $65 in school fees for a 6th grader:

  • 6 pairs of jeans — $40.00 (thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $30.00 (thrift shops)
  • 1 pair of new gym shoes — $15.00
  • 1 backpack — $15.00
  • Socks, etc. — $45.00
  • Notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, pens, index cards, binder, etc. — $25.00

Total: $170.00

New clothes, backpack, and school supplies for a 1st grader:

  • 5 pairs of jeans — $15.00 ( thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $25.00 (thrift shops)
  • 1 backpack — $12.00
  • Socks, etc. — $30.00
  • Crayons, glue, etc. — $10.00

Total: $92.00

New clothes and a backpack for a preschooler:

  • 5 pairs of jeans — $15.00 ( thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $25.00 (thrift shops)
  • 1 backpack — $12.00
  • Socks, etc. — $30.00

Total: $82.00

Grand Total: $667.00

assuming that I will be able to find some killer deals, (I usually do) my clothing and supplies budget is going to stick right around a grand total of about $500.00, not counting school fees — this I think I will be able to manage, but if I end up not finding what I need at thrift shops, I am going to have to cut back quite a bit since this does not include instrument rental, reeds, rosin, extracurricular activities, or anything else . . . wish me luck!