All posts by magickitchen

The Joys of the Autumnal Season

Before we begin, a bit of disclosure: perhaps my all-time favorite word in the English language is “autumnal.”  Definition: of, characteristic of, or occurring in autumn.  Rather than the vibrant colors, or pumpkins, or cooler temperatures, or football, or comfy sweaters, or Halloween, I enjoy autumn because I get to work “autumnal” into my everyday conversations and writings more often.  I’m weird like that.

However, I realize that other people enjoy fall for the traditional reasons listed above.  Therefore, this post will focus on them, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude me from using my favorite adjective in this post as often as humanly possible.

Look, there’s only one real way to enjoy the joys of autumn and that is to get outside if at all possible.  And with the cool autumnal weather, you won’t have to worry about sweating your ___fill-in-the-blank___ off.  There’s just so many things to do out there this time of year.  So, from Friday, September 22 at 4:02 PM eastern daylight time until December 21, at 11:28 AM, get out there and try a few of the following autumnal activities.

  • After enjoying nature’s colorful canvas of leaves, rake those same autumnal leaves into a ginormous pile and jump into or run through it like you were eight again. Or, better yet, hide in that pile and have a co-conspirator lure a friend by the leaf pile you’re lurking in and then pop out and scare the ___fill-in-the-blank__ out of said friend, who may then become a former friend.  This little trick, rather than treat, works well around Halloween.
  • Perhaps the best way to enjoy the autumnal reds, browns, oranges and yellows once the leaves lose their chlorophyll is to view them from a unique perspective, and two methods to do so are in a hot air balloon and/or from the center of a tree-lined lake. Use that internet machine to see if any fall festivals are offering hot air balloon rides. Or rent or borrow a canoe or kayak and then paddle around that tree-lined lake on a calm, cool, sunny autumn morning when the mist is rolling across the water.
  • Find a picturesque spot that accentuates the autumnal foliage and then take a photograph everyday from the same spot at the same time of day throughout autumn. Then, line up all 91 photos and you’ll be amazed how the colors build gradually, then brighten, fade and eventually disappear as the season progresses.
  • Have your family design and create autumnal scarecrow twins of themselves and then place them in your front yard. Make them the same size and use actual clothes that family members would wear to dress them and perhaps include things that represent hobbies, such as a soccer ball, coffee mug, baseball bat, or cycling helmet.  You could then have a contest by asking autumnal visitors to pick their favorite.  Winner gets all the autumnal food they can eat.
  • Find the largest autumnal corn maze in the area and then have a race with family/friends to see who can complete it first. Just be sure to provide all participants with food, water and a flare gun should they become lost for an extended period of time.
  • Use that internet machine and learn how to build a medieval pumpkin-launching catapult or trebuchet, find a large field, one which you obtained permission to use, then let those pumpkins fly and explode upon impact. Or find an autumnal festival that demonstrates what I just described.  It’s actually quite awesome to see how far a well-built trebuchet can make a 15-pound pumpkin soar.  The resulting orange explosion is quite awesome also.

Yes, you could also go for an autumnal hike through the woods, or attend a bonfire, or pick apples, or bake some autumnal desserts, or tailgate at your local college football game, but why be boring?

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What Are Your Kids in College Eating?

What Are Your Kids in College Eating? Couch pizza, convenience store chili dogs, and every kind of fast food imaginable, such as fried chicken that’s more “fried” than chicken, roast beef sandwiches with enough beef to choke a starving tiger, and 1,000 calorie milk shakes…that’s the most likely answer.

But wait!  There’s more.  A recent survey found the most common dorm foods included: instant Ramen noodles, candy, instant mac & cheese, cereal, chips and microwave popcorn…and that doesn’t even include the beverages consumed like soda, those ubiquitous energy drinks and potent potables (I’m a huge Jeopardy! Fan…I’m geeky that way).

Needless to say, the above paragraph does not convey an image of nutritious eating.  But let’s take a closer look at the nutritional content of some of the above- mentioned items.

Ramen Noodles: Each package of this dried soup stock and noodles contains about, depending upon your delicious flavor selection, 380 calories, 7 grams of fat, 790 milligrams of sodium (or 33% of your recommended daily allowance), 26 grams of carbs and two flavor enhancers known as disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.  On the bright side it does contain 8% of your rda of iron.

Microwave popcorn: A standard bag of inflatable popcorn…sidebar (I was pre-law in college for a month): remember jiffy pop and watching that silver foil magically expand on your stove top, in the era before microwaves, as the popcorn, well, popped?…and then being heartbroken when you realized it was burned?  Good times.  Anyway, a bag of nukeable popcorn has roughly 465 calories, 26 grams of fat (or 40% of your rda and some bags contain trans fat which is terrible for you), 665 milligrams of sodium (28% of your rda), and 50 grams of carbs.  The positive: 342 milligrams of potassium, 9 grams of fiber (it is corn, alter all) and 10% of your rda for iron.

Arby’s Classic Roast Beef Sandwich: Yeah, this place has the meat alright.  I decided to list the “classic” rather than the ginormous Half Pound Beef and Cheddar or the Mount Italy Sandwich to be kind.  So, this average-sized sandwich has 370 calories, 14 grams of fat (to include 5 grams of saturated fat and .5 gram of trans fat), 50 milligrams of cholesterol, and a whopping 1,150 milligrams of sodium.  And if you’re looking for protein, this is for you as it contains 23 grams.

Three pieces of KFC original recipe chicken: Ok, I’ve got to admit that this one even surprised me and I tend to pride myself about knowing nutritional information.  One breast, thigh, and drumstick combines for 800 calories, 48 grams of fat, a massive 275 grams of cholesterol (92% of your rda), and an even more massive 2,530 milligrams of sodium (or 105% of your rda).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the items listed above are the nutritional items they lack.  Where are the vitamins and minerals?  Where are the antioxidants?  Where are the things that grow on trees, vines or in the ground?  You know where you can get those things for your nutritionally starved college student?  Yeah, you saw this one coming…MagicKitchen.com of course.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids in college ate healthy once a week or so?  Damn straight, it would be nice, for them and you!  And the food is so good, they’d totally forget that it’s good for them as well.  As always, we’ll deliver to just about any address, be it a dorm, apartment, frat, sorority or commune.   After all, a parent’s job never ends, even after they leave the nest.

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Surviving the Back-to-School Madness

(Written by a 51-year old as if he were eleven)

There I was, two weeks ago, wasting the day away playing video games with friends, hanging at the pool, sleeping in and generally not having a care in the world.  Then it happened…school happened, and all heck (or, as dad says, “hell”) broke loose.  My summer, care-free world was suddenly turned upside down.  I was expected to follow a new, bizarre schedule that forced me to get up at 7:15, get myself ready for school (since, as mom says, “I’m now in 6th grade and it’s time I started taking care of myself”), keep track of all my assignments, go to trumpet practice, get ready for baseball practice, take care of our lazy cats, AND still find time to play video games.  I’ll tell ya, it ain’t easy being eleven.

And to make things even tougher, since I’m “growing like a weed,” none of last year’s “school” clothes fit me this year…duh!  So, my parents drug me to the store, on a school night, no less, to shop for clothes which is big time BOOOOORING!!!  What the heck happened to shopping online?  Then, with all of my and my brother’s activities after school…oh yeah, my parents claim to be busy as well, but, come on, dad stays home and plays on the computer all day.  He claims he’s writing, but I mean really, who would read the drivel he writes?  Anyway, we’re all running around like chickens sans (French for “without.”  I just learned that) heads in the evening stuffing food down our faces and trying to find all the things we need for wherever it is we’re going.

Sidebar: you know what would help around dinner time?  Healthy and great-tasting meals delivered to our house that could be kept in the freezer and then re-heated in minutes.  That would be much better than scarfing a burger and fries in the back of the family truckster on the way to some practice or game.  Wait, dad has talked about writing for just such a company…one that creates just such meals and ships them right to your door.  What’s he call it again?  FantasyKitchen.com?…no.  MiracleKitchen.com?…no.  MagicKitchen.com?…That’s it!  Why not use MagicKitchen.com to ease the back-to-school madness?  I’m a frickin’ (dad would use another word) unappreciated genius!

Other things the folks could do to help me out, cuz Lord knows I need it, would be to:

  1. Get all the things I need for the day ready the NIGHT BEFORE. They could get my backpack ready, put my trumpet by the door, lay my clothes out, and have anything else I need for the day ready to go.  Oh, wait, I’m guessing they’ll tell me to have all that stuff ready myself…crap.
  2. Car pool! Instead of taking and picking me up from every practice, lesson and game why not use the neighbors to help out and make, like, a neighborhood uber?
  3. Place all of my upcoming events on a family calendar and force me to look ahead a day so I know what’s coming up. Man, I hate responsibility!
  4. Try to create some semblance (that’s a “dad” word) of a routine so I know when to do homework, when to practice trumpet, and when I can kick serious butt on the x-box. Maybe even create a check list like, mornings: get up, get dressed, make bed (UGH!), feed cats, eat breakfast, play Street Fighter IX (sorry, that’s mine), head out for the bus.
  5. Yeah, I know bag lunches can be healthier than school lunches, but simply buying lunch at school means one less thing my poor, dear old mother has to deal with.
  6. Allow me to start to take responsibility for my own life and don’t freak the F out when I make a mistake, like leaving my trumpet at school when I have lessons later that day. I can’t believe I just wrote that, but at some point, I’ve got to become an autonomous being (another, what I like to call, “dadism”).  Simply set expectations for me and create rewards and consequences for when I succeed and/or fail.  Believe me, I’m going to do plenty of both!

Back to school can be as frustrating for me as it can be for my parents, but helping me transition from my lay-about summer routine to my hectic school routine will make life easier for the whole family, don’t cha think?

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A Message from My Sons Regarding Climate Change

Hello devoted MagicKitchen.com blog readers.  As the title implies, this week’s topic deals with a rather controversial issue for some, climate change, although I don’t fully understand this controversy.  The fact that the Earth’s climate is changing is not disputed except by a small group of flat-Earthers.

What most people, at least in America, argue about is the CAUSE of this climate change and it essentially boils down to the role of humanity in this phenomenon.  Is human activity responsible for climate change or is it just a cyclical occurrence that happens every few thousand years or so?  In seeking how to answer this difficult question, I decided to ask my two sons, one eleven and the other thirteen, what they thought about this whole human-caused climate change controversy and here’s a rough summary of what they had to say.

“Dad, we really don’t care if climate change is caused by people or not.  Pollution, whether it causes climate change or not is never a good thing.  It can make us sick, the air stink and force people to wear surgical masks all the time like they do in China and we don’t want to wear those masks because they look stupid.  It would also be nice to breath…duh! (from the 13-year old).  I don’t think anyone thinks pollution is a good thing and even if it causes a little bit of climate change, shouldn’t we try to stop it?”

“Why do we have to burn so much coal?  Why are all the forests being cut down?  What the heck is palm oil and why do we need it? (after I explained one reason the forests in South Asia are being removed).  Can’t we produce energy with solar and wind power?  I don’t think they make an SPF 5 zillion sun screen, do they?  Why does it rain, like, every day around here?”

“All we know is that we’ve got 80 more years on this planet and it would be nice if the adults don’t destroy it before we get a chance to enjoy it like they did, and yes, Dad, you’re one of those adults.  It’s like the whole world is hooked on burning coal and wood and oil and gas and all that other stuff like it’s some kinda drug.  Well, how about all those countries that signed up for that Paris thing (after I explained the recent Paris Climate Accords that 192 countries signed on to, except, of course, the United States…oh yeah, and Venezuela and Syria) get hooked on some other drugs like wind and solar?”

“Wasn’t it like 120 degrees in Arizona a few months ago?  And doesn’t every year set a record for being the warmest ever?  (actually, 2016, the hottest year on record, was warmer than 2015 which was warmer than 2014 and then the string gets broken by 2010 which holds fourth place).  And aren’t sea levels rising?  And aren’t the coral reefs all dying?  And didn’t we have, like, no snow days last year?  I think the Earth’s broken and needs fixed, but the problem is, either no one knows how to fix it or they don’t want to fix it or they just don’t care.  And it’s us and our friends and our kids that are gonna get screwed and that’s just not fair especially when we didn’t cause this mess.  Why can’t Trump and all the other world leaders fix this before it’s too late?”  That last bit came mostly from my 8th grader who is obviously, and fortunately, learning about all this in school.

There you have it, the musing of a 13 and 11-year old regarding climate change.  I must admit, they asked some questions that were very difficult to answer (try defining “bureaucracy” and “vested interests” to an 11-year old).  Despite their limited base of knowledge, they kept coming back to the fact that they’re afraid that things are only going to get worse for them and their futures after all the people who caused or failed to fix this problem are long gone and I’m afraid my response was not that reassuring to them.

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12 Foods that are High in Potassium

If you’re having leg cramps, people will say, “Eat a banana!”. Why? Bananas are widely thought to have a lot of potassium, and leg cramps can come from a lack of that mineral. Leg cramps can come from a variety of sources, including dehydration, overuse of muscles, magnesium deficiency, abnormal nerve activity, sudden loss of blood to the muscle, or, as with most things, getting older.  (Tendons tend to shorten with age, which can cause nighttime cramping.)

So the wisdom of eating a banana for cramps is suspect. However, potassium is a very important mineral. It regulates heart electrical activity and controls fluid balances in the body. And yes, it regulates muscle electrical activity as well.

Know what foods have the most potassium is also important to those who have diabetes or kidney disease. People with diabetes often have decreased kidney function, and can’t excrete potassium as we normally do. So people with diabetes and/or kidney disease need to eat foods that are NOT high in potassium.

So what 12 foods are highest in that important mineral? Here they are, with mg of potassium per serving.

 

 

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Long-Distance Caregiving Tips

So, your elderly parent(s) lives over three hours from you and you’re more than a bit worried about their well-being.  Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger.  34 million Americans are the primary caregivers for an elderly parent and, of that number, over 5 million live more than an hour away.  Subsequently, an entire industry has become centered around, not just elderly care, but long-distance elderly care due to the fact it presents its own set of challenges for both caregiver and care recipient alike.

The top priority in this special type of long-distance relationship is, of course, ensuring your relative receives the proper care and to do so with the least amount of stress on you and/or your own family.  The vast majority of long-distance caregivers do, in fact, have families and careers of their own that they need to care for simultaneously, and attempting to tend to a career, your own family and an elderly relative can create mountains of stress.  And since we here at MagicKitchem seek to alleviate stress, here are some tips for all you long-distance caregivers out there.

  • Take care of yourself. No, that’s not a typo.  How can you care for elderly parents if you yourself needs care as well?  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know the drill here.  Eat right, try to get some exercise, find your own personal stress relievers, and ensure you visit YOUR doctor on a regular basis.
  • Enlist as much help as humanly and financially possible. If you and/or your elderly relative can afford an in-home care provider or geriatric care manager…get one.  If not, impose upon, beg, guilt-trip or buy off (whatever works best) other family members, friends and/or neighbors to help as much as they are able.  Have them visit, provide home and yard maintenance, get your relative out of the house, and anything else they’re willing to do to assist.
  • Gather all important documents in one place and keep them readily accessible. This includes all financial, medical, insurance and legal documents you believe are important, to include social security numbers, medications required, medical history, powers of attorney, etc.
  • Stay in touch. And there are plenty of ways, with the internet machine, to do so.  Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks…not that I’m referring to your dear old mother as a dog…it’s just an idiom that means old folks can learn new things…you get the idea, right?  Anyway, both my parents, who are well into their seventies, recently learned how to Facetime and now they won’t leave their grandkids alone.  And if my parents can learn this amazing feat, so can yours.  If they still prefer the old-fashioned land-line phone, then use it, but at least introduce them to Skype, Snapchat, etc.  You never know.
  • Keep a list of trusted contractors if your relative still maintains their own home. Inevitably, your folks are going to need some form of home repairs or upgrades, and having a contractor or handyman you can trust can be invaluable.
  • Look into a meal delivery service, like…wait for it…com! Many elderly folks require a special diet and we provide for just about every need, whether it’s low sodium, fat, and/or carb; diabetic, dialysis, or renal-friendly; or gluten free, we’ve got you (and your elderly relatives) covered.  Remember, you’re trying to provide all the necessary care with minimal stress, and we are the experts at stress relief as it applies to ensuring the people you care for are eating properly.
  • Check out these online services.
  1. Eldercare locator. This site will locate all the elder care service providers near your relatives.  http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx
  2. Area Agency on Aging. Each local Agency on Aging can provide you with a suite of services on things such as caregiver support, information and referral, insurance counseling, nutrition, transportation, and financial advice within a specific area.   https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/longtermcare/find_aging_agencies_adrc_aaa.html
  3. National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. As the name implies, this site can assist you in locating a reputable elder law attorney on a local basis.   https://www.naela.org/
  4. Family Caregiver Alliance. This site is a one-stop shop for those caring for the elderly.  It also offers localized assistance and advice.  https://www.caregiver.org/
  5. National Council on Aging Benefits Checkup. This site can help you determine if your elderly relative is eligible for state and/or federal assistance programs.  https://www.benefitscheckup.org/
  6. National Volunteer Caregiving Network. The NVCN is a network of volunteer caregiving service providers with hundreds of branches throughout the U.S.  http://www.nvcnetwork.org/

Caring for a loved one that lives across the state or country can indeed be a challenge.  Hopefully, this post lessened that challenge just a bit.  Just remember, don’t be afraid to ask others for help and provide care for yourself as well!

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Cool Ways to Stay Cool During the Dog Days of Summer

What the heck are the “dog days” of summer and where did that term originate?  Well, avid readers, I am not only paid exorbitant amounts of money to write these blogs, I am also expected to do a bit of research too.  The term comes from the heavens, or, more specifically, a star constellation called Canis Major.  That constellation has a star within it called Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky.  This star and constellation, which is shaped like a dog and follows Orion the Hunter across the sky, played a significant role in the ancient Egyptian calendar and its significance was them passed on to ancient Greece and Rome and then, to us in the form of that classic Al Pacino movie, Dog Day Afternoon.

When Sirius rose in the Egyptian sky in late July it usually signified a time of excessive heat, drought, bad luck and general malaise.  Since Sirius was, and still is, part of the Canis Major constellation, this month to six-week period during which it was, and still is, visible in the night sky from late July to late August came to be referred as “dog days” as a result.  And the term has been with us ever since.  Now, take this vital information and go amaze your friends with your depth and breadth of knowledge.

As for staying cool during the dog days, here are a few tips that don’t involve just sitting around in air conditioning:

  • Take a sheet of blanket, place it in a large plastic bag and then put it in the freezer for a few hours. Then, take it out and wrap yourself in chilled comfort or take them up to bed with you.  For added cooling power, dampen the sheets slightly prior to placing them in the freezer.  I like to think of this tip as being the opposite of Kramer’s idea (Seinfeld, season 7, episode 20 “The Calzone”) of placing clothes in the oven prior to wearing them…just don’t burn them in a pizza oven!
  • Just as some warm their beds up at night during the winter months (why don’t we have a term for the coldest days of winter, like “penguin days?”) with a hot water bottle, you can cool it down with a frozen water bottle as well.
  • If you’re using a fan, place it in an open window and flip it depending upon what part of the day it is. During the cool of the evening, have it pull that cool air into the house.  During the heat of the day, turn it around and create an exhaust fan that pulls the hot air out of the house.  There is also the tried and true method of placing a roasting pan of ice (ironic that…placing ice in a roasting pan) in front of the blowing fan.  A large, shallow roasting pan works well as it increases the surface area of the ice that the breeze is blowing across.
  • Another use for a kitchen pan or bowl and ice is to fill one with ice water and then sit in front of the TV or computer with your feet soaking in it…just don’t later use it to make some mac and cheese.
  • Every so often, during the course of the day, run your wrists (or any other pulse point, but wrists are the easiest to access) under cold water for 15 seconds or so. That cold water will cool all that blood that passes through your wrists so close to the skin’s surface and then circulate it to other parts of the body.
  • Pull the curtains or blinds on the windows of your home that are receiving direct sunlight. Think of how hot your car is when you first get in it after it has sat in the sun all day…well, the same phenomenon occurs in your house also.
  • Keep your moisturizers and perfume or cologne in the fridge. I think this is self-explanatory, no?
  • Acquire (buy, beg, borrow or steal) a chillow. It’s a memory foam cooling pad that can be inserted into the pillow case of your favorite pillow.  Check it out here: https://new-chillow.myshopify.com/

As always, stay well hydrated, wear light, loose clothing, avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages and ensure that you check on your elderly friends.  If you are one of the elderly, ensure you have someone to check in on you, especially during the doggiest of dog days.

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Summer Fun WITHOUT the Kids

If you remember, valued readers, last week we discussed some ideas for summer fun WITH the kids, which goes a long way to explain the topic of this week’s post.  As a father of two tween boys (yes, “tween” is a new, 21st century life stage), I’ll be the first to admit that my wife and I look for “adult only” things to do on a regular basis.  And by “adult only” all I’m implying is fun things free from the “complications” of having our sons watching our every move.  Now, what you do with your kids while you indulge yourselves is up to you…babysitter, pawn them off on family, drop them at a friend’s place, wrap them in duct tape (I jest, of course), is entirely up to you.  So here you go, a random list of “adult” fun ideas for summer, in no particular order.

  • Find an “adults only” night at a usual kid’s place in your area. Many establishments that cater almost exclusively to children have begun to offer “adults only” nights, complete with “adult beverages.”  My wife and I have been to adult nights at our local zoo, pool, water park, and science center and a wonderful time was had by all.
  • Eat outdoors at an unusual location. By “unusual location” (I seem to be using “quotes” a lot in this post…not sure why) I mean like the roof of a building, your backyard rather than your back porch, a dewy meadow by a babbling brook, a shaded forest glen, an out-of-the-way pavilion at a local county or state park, the beach.  You know the deal, get creative.  And to make this even easier, allow MagicKitchen.com to help you out by having us prepare and ship your meal to you…such as our hickory-smoked sliced beef brisket that’s basted in Kansas City style BBQ sauce, or how about sandwiches made from our delicious corned beef, or some chicken cordon bleu that can be eaten like a sandwich.  And don’t forget about our wide selection of side dishes.  Oh, I almost forgot, August 31st is National Eat Outside Day, so you have plenty of time to prepare.
  • Host a themed party. Yes, it could be a Game of Thrones, or Star Wars, or Walking Dead, or superheroes themed party, but there are other ways to go.  Such as having all your guests perform a little stand-up comedy routine, or a Jimmy Fallon inspired lip synch battle, or a good-natured Dean Martin inspired roast of a friend.  I guess now that I think about it, this could be conducted during any season.
  • Purchase, set up, and USE a hammock. And I use the term “use” (more quotes) loosely due to the fact that it will be “used” for reading, napping and general relaxing.
  • Take out-of-town friends on a walking tour of your town. Especially if your town has a centralized downtown area.  And you’re not required to take them to the local tourist traps.  Take them to an outdoor market, or a great breakfast joint, or sites of historical significance (theclio.com can help you here).
  • Take a hot air balloon ride. There’s got to be one offered within driving distance of your location and they are awesome…the views, the peaceful feeling of floating in space, the anticipation, not wanting to come down.  It really is a great, all-around experience.

These last two are for the more daring and, shall we say, young-at-heart among my readers:

  • Go skinny dipping. Just try not to get arrested, especially if you climb a fence to get into a public pool…not that I’ve ever done anything like that.  You’re better off finding a secluded lake or section of a large lake, preferably one with a dock, and then take it from there.  Just beware the full moon.
  • Crash a wedding. Not in the manner from that horrible movie “Wedding Crashers” of course, but in a more subdued manner.  Just ensure you know the names of the bride and groom and you SHOULD be fine.  The number one rule of crashing a wedding is: if you’re talking to a friend of the bride, you’re a friend of the groom and vice versa.  Also, don’t push your luck by staying too long.  Get in, eat, drink and get out.  You’ll be amazed how the feeling of possibly being found out can be scary and exhilarating at the same time.

OK kids…oops, I mean adults, before you look back in September and wonder where the summer went, get out there and do a few fun things without the encumbrance of children…just be careful out and if you do get caught in the water sans clothes or doing shooters at a stranger’s wedding reception, run like hell and laugh the whole way home!  Have fun this summer!

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Summer Fun with the Kids

That’s correct, summer fun WITH the kids.  It is possible.  Although, the topic of my next post will be summer fun WITHOUT the kids (boy, that was a hell of a teaser, wasn’t it?).  Anyway, if left to their own devices, most kids will spend the summer on their devices, whether its video games, social media, or a combination of both.

With that in mind, here are a few summer ideas to get the kids out of the house and some rainy-day ideas to keep the kids occupied and, who knows, you might even find yourself having some fun as well.

  • Backyard camp out. Obviously, you aren’t required to spend the night sleeping on the ground with roots in the middle of your back (unless that’s your thing), but it is up to you to create some fun activities to go with the camp out.  This works especially well if you have a fire pit to cook s’mores and mountain pies…a mountain pie maker is required to make these hot, fruit filled, mini-pies of delicious goodness.  Find or borrow an old telescope for some star/moon gazing.  Just remember to leave the backdoor open.
  • Just about anything that involves water. Yes, oceans, lakes, and pools work well here, but I’ve found that kids can spend hours exploring small creeks and streams.  Simply strap some water shoes (or old sneakers) on their feet and off they go, turning over rocks to find crayfish and nymphs (no, not THAT kind of nymph, the larval dragonfly, damselfly or mayfly type of nymph), chasing various kinds of water bugs, minnows and other small fish.  Yes, they’ll come back to you a wet, muddy mess, but that’s the whole point.
  • Take them to a demolition derby. There’s nothing better than watching cars, trucks, vans, and sometimes buses, crash headlong into each other.  Kids are so conditioned that vehicle accidents are bad things (and they generally are), that it’s quite exciting to watch them crash into to each other, intentionally, until only one vehicle is left moving.  Yes, monster truck shows are also cool, but there’s something about being at an outdoor kinda-stadium on a summer evening, usually at a county fair, that promotes family bonding…OK, maybe not.
  • Outdoor art. Find an old, white bedsheet, spread it out in an area you don’t mind getting paint on, provide the kids with some brushes and paint and watch them become little Jackson Pollocks.  If you’re feeling bold, permit them to use application methods other than brushes, such as shoes, hands, balls, or any item other than a brush…let them get creative, within reason, of course.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Team the kids up or just have teams of one, depending on how many kids (yours and the neighbor kids) are participating.  Give them a complete list or a list of clues to make it a bit more difficult, have a non-lame prize for the winner, and send them off.  You might have a theme for your hunt, such as a nature theme, or an A-Z hunt, or a photo hunt if they’re old enough to operate a smart phone (so age 2 and above).  If it’s a rainy day, conduct the hunt indoors or, better yet, in a local museum.  I’ve found museums of natural history work best as they’re usually quite large and have a wide variety of things to find.  And remember, no running.
  • Indoor science experiments. First rule: safety first.  Here’s one to get you started…”soap clouds.”  Ingredients: a bar of Ivory soap and a microwave.  Simply place the bar of soap on a paper towel and nuke it for a few minutes.  The bar will eventually begin to expand and usually the newer the bar, the larger the cloud.  Once it stops expanding, turn off the microwave as you don’t want cooked soap.  The “soap cloud” is kinda hard to describe.  While it looks wet and slimy, it’s actually not.  It’s dry and when crumbled, it creates soap snow flakes.  And if you’re having trouble getting your kids in the bath this summer, it’s been my experience that they can’t wait to jump in the tub with their newly created “soap cloud.”  Next, hit up Google for some other examples of in-home, safe science experiments.

Yes, some of these ideas require a bit of work on your part, but no one ever said parenting was easy.  And yes, most of these ideas require a bit of supervision, depending upon the age of the kids involved, but you can supervise AND participate at the same time.  From personal experience, I’ve found the participatory supervisor role to be the most fun, but my wife has always said that I still have a lot of kid left in me.  I’m not sure if she means that as a compliment or not.

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Parental Summer Survival Tips

Well, by now, if you have school-aged children, your family should be well into its summer vacation and all the chaos and boredom that comes with it.  The “get up, get ready for school, go to school, attend after-school activities, then eat dinner routine”, as Alice Cooper so eloquently put it, “has been blown to pieces.”  Now, your kids can stay up till 3:00 AM playing video games and getting into God knows what on social media, sleep in till noon and then start the whole process all over again.  It’s enough to drive a parent to turn to, as the Rolling Stones so eloquently put it, “Mother’s Little Helper.”

I’m guessing, by now, you’re more than ready to re-assert your parental authority before the inmates are running the asylum.  If that’s the case, then here are a few tips to restore that God-given parental authority (without constantly screaming “Respect my au-thor-e-tie!” ala Cartman from South Park) that has disappeared from your household during June and a few to simply make your and your children’s lives, less stressful.

  • Re-establish some sort of routine – with reasonable bed and wake up times. A household chore list can really help here, preferably on a white board where the kids can check off each chore as it’s completed.  You know, stuff like putting on a new roof, adding walk-in closets, and/or landscaping of the front and back yards…I jest, of course.  How about sweeping (with or without a vacuum), loading/unloading the dishwasher, tending to pets, folding clothes, dusting, taking out the garbage, etc.  In order to ensure these chores get completed you might want to incorporate a combination of the carrot and the stick…obviously I do not condone rewarding your kids with carrots, unless they place a great deal of value on them, or punishing them with a stick.  After all, the saying has to do with the best way to get a mule to haul a plow.  How about an allowance and the threat of losing devices for a period of time?  Yeah, those sound better than carrots and sticks.
  • Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids – We all have limits, and running from clarinet lessons, to gymnastics, to the pool, to girl scouts, to a sleep over can wear out parent and child alike. In your and your kid’s busy schedules, be sure to schedule in some downtime on a daily basis.  Sit on the couch and eat Bon Bons while watching Judge Judy for a half hour every day while your kids play Minecraft if you have to. Play board games, or watch the kids playing outside with friends.
  • Day camps of any kind – Baseball, parkour (Google it), Webelos/Camp Fire Girls, swimming, Barbie/G.I. Joe, math…whatever. Any camp that gets the kids out of the house and doing something constructive is, well, constructive.  Consult with your children or simply drive to the camp location, get the kids out of the car, and then drive away at an unreasonable speed…it’s up to you.  You’ll be amazed how they’ll enjoy getting out of the house and how much you’ll enjoy having them out of the same house while you remain.
  • Have a freezer well-stocked with delicious, easy to prepare meals – from MagicKitchen.com, of course! It’s so nice, during those over-scheduled days, to pop a nutritious and great tasting meal from MagicKitchen.com into the microwave, serving it to your kids, and then laying the guilt trip on them about how you worked for hours preparing and cooking said meal.  Seriously, having frozen meals on-hand lessen stress levels by 76%…Ok, I just made that stat up, but even if it only reduces your stress level by 1.7%, isn’t that enough?
  • Have them create an “I’m bored” jar – with your assistance, if required. If you had a dollar for every time one of your kids whined, “I’m booooooored” you’d have several parental stand-ins to care for your kids.  Solution:  flush Swimmy McSwim the goldfish and use his former home to place slips of paper that have “I’m bored” ideas written on them and then have the kids pull one every time they utter that noxious phrase.

    Some ideas: various games (20 questions, board games for when they’re bored), compose your own comic strip, write a song that expresses your love for your siblings and parents (tongue-in-cheek, obviously), card games, make a time capsule and bury in the backyard, build a fort, bake cookies, have an OUTDOOR water fight, build a puzzle, plan your ideal (and realistic) vacation…the ideas are endless.

Summer can be, at times, even more stressful than the school year, but it doesn’t have to be if you do a bit of pre-planning…you know, just like your kids do.  Just remember to get creative and include them in developing the ideas that have such an impact on their lives.  Do this and you’ll find, as The Who so eloquently put it, “The Kids are Alright.”

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