Category Archives: Family Mealtimes

Veggie Pizza

In my post on eating dinner with my teens I owned up to sometimes cutting corners by ordering pizza for dinner. During a recent interview with the group Thriving Schools I also referred to surviving the work-kid juggle by ordering pizza. I was asked about the wisdom of these admissions. Perhaps @KPKiddoc should be putting a healthier face on her slice of life?

Let’s face it – pizza is everywhere. Hard to raise kids without pizza. Schools serve it often. Every soccer team party features pizza. And yes, tired working moms depend on it. Pizza can indeed be a nutritional nightmare. Given this and its ubiquitous nature, it is not surprising that I might be warned to appear more health conscious.

We want to feed our kids well. We are looking out for tips on how to do so; a google search of “is pizza healthy?” generates 132,000,000 responses. My answer is yes – it can be.  Here’s how:

Have just one or two pieces. One piece is more than enough for a small child; consider cutting it in half. Two pieces are sufficient, even for my athletic teens. At the dinner table discuss the concept of moderation with your kids.

Fill the rest of their plate with salad. 

Have a whole wheat crust. And definitely don’t “stuff” it.

Order or use less cheese. You can order extra cheese right? (don’t do it!) Turns out you can order less cheese also.

Skip the meat. Your kids will be happy with pizza – they don’t need to pepperoni to bribe them into eating it… just say no.

Add veggies. Same concept – kids like pizza enough that they usually will choke down some veggies with it. If not – that’s what the salad is for.

Skip the fast food restaurant version.

Make your own. Ok, not for a night when you are tired but – definitely a fun family project. Try this healthy recipe from 9-year-old Kayla Wayman of Montana.

Given that 93% of Americans eat pizza once a month, 3 billion pizzas are sold annually in the U.S. and 350 slices of pizza are eaten each second – it seems that our love affair with this meal is here to stay. Let’s just work to make it a healthier message for our kids.

In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl
Here’s what they sing

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie, that’s amore

– Jack Brooks

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Teens and Table Talk

Before kids and when they were very small, I used to fear the teen years. Visions of my sweet cuddling tots turned goth, rude teens hiding in their rooms with ear-buds in danced through my brain. Now, with 2, nearly three teens at home I no longer fear. Their reality is a thing of wonder to me. They are not rude. Quiet at times but, not rude. I have to pull out the ear buds all too often but, they do not sulk behind closed doors. And most reassuring, they are still quite cuddly – when they want to be.
Given this reassuring state, I can be taken aback when they momentarily act like “real” teens.
I have held family dinnertime sacred in my house. Even through change, upheaval and redefinition of family itself, dinners together come first. Last night at dinner I asked the kids why they thought dinners together were so important. My middle child said with a snarky tone, “because they keep us connected at the heart.” Her hands acted this out with fingers first intertwined and then in the shape of a heart. Eyes rolled. But then, thankfully there came a smile.
The evidence continues to pour in. Eating meals with family is good for kids.  In 2010 a study of nearly 9,000 4 year-old children published in the journal Pediatrics concluded (in part) that young children who regularly ate the evening meal as a family had a significantly lower prevalence of obesity. Other studies recently published in the journal Obesity have supported the idea that teenagers who eat with their family are less likely to be obese at baseline. Then last month yet another group of researchers published data showing that teens who eat with their families have higher well-being, lower depression and fewer risk-taking behaviors. More work has shown frequent family meals were significantly associated with a lower likelihood of adolescent alcohol and tobacco use. In the May 2010 issue of Journal of Health Psychology teens’ experience at the mealtimes was found to be connected with this decreased rate of substance use.
Looking at all of this evidence makes it very clear. We need to eat dinner with our kids for the sake of their health. We need to cultivate ways to make our dinnertime conversations meaningful, interesting, thought-provoking. Sure, some of the research shows a benefit to simply sitting around the table together but, you might as well have fun while you sit there. Around my table we have through the years talked about almost everything. Any topic is acceptable if brought up with good intention and true curiosity. Politics, sex, religion? We have covered them all. We have played games. I have been repeatedly accused of being a pain about their manners. There have been giggles, anger and tears. We rate the meals so I know whether to cook the recipes again. Lots of meals have been rejected. And instead of cooking, many pizzas have been ordered.
Now with so many sports teams, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and social engagements that my head spins keeping it all straight, we don’t all sit together every night. But, whomever is at home sits and talks. Sometimes I wait up and eat with the late-after-practice arrivers. Sundays we all meet – even if other invitations have to be turned down. I’d like to think this commitment has paid off through the years.
My eldest can be a bit quiet. I generalize this into fitting his teen boy status – they all keep to them selves a bit don’t they? Once not too long ago, I challenged him on his laconic nature. I asked if he would talk to me when it really mattered? He stopped, looked at me and said yes. I asked why? How could I be sure? He explained that he knew I could handle talking about anything. After all, we do just that on any given Sunday around the table.

All the Cool Cowboys Eat Yogurt (or, Nutritional Soundbite #3: limit drinks that taste sweet)

Two of my patients came into the office recently with their parent for check ups. I was a bit late coming in to see them so, started of with the all too familiar apology. Then we chatted about the heat and then summer books, movies, camps and camping. I asked what questions they had and, they asked if they needed shots (one did, one did not – always awkward to explain, that one!) All the while I realized I was stalling, dancing around the issue at hand.
Both children have weight problems. Technically speaking, their body mass indexes or, BMIs  are well out of the normal range or, in the range we physicians rather horribly term “obese.” They are both attractive, happy, smart and one is really quite funny. They like each other, they are respectful and fun. How on earth am I to find the words to tell them they are dangerously overweight without wounding their young confidence? Without alienating their parent?
I breathed in and began with the usual questions and followed with a display of their growth charts. It turned out the family had already been discussing change. They were walking each night. They were trying new veggies and thinking about serving sizes. I asked about what they thought I wanted them to drink?
Water!
And, what do you drink?
Juice! Apple and orange!
Ah, there was the change to focus on. I offered the rule of thumb that one 8 oz cup of juice a day has enough calories to cause a 15 lb weight gain over a year. That one usually works. But the parent looked at me and said with an exhale
But, it is just so hard to say no.
I get it. My 17 y/o son has a close friend that I adore. They have know each other since preschool days. I have watched this boy move from sandbox play to stellar sports play,  through cowboy costumes to awkward gangsta-style hats and now to be a rather stunning, clean cut young man. He is at my house often and when he arrives he walks straight through the door, around to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. Spoon in one hand, he then heads to the boy-den in the garage with his bounty. It makes me happy every time. There is something in my refrigerator that he wanted? Cool.
We get such joy out of feeding our children. I cook well, my kids eat well and usually healthfully. My refrigerator staples are rather boring from a kids perspective. But, every now and then I will head off to the store and come home with some major treats. Watching the glee that comes as the kids root around and find these treats is fun. I feel, oddly as if I have done a good job. But after a bit, I get a bad taste in my mouth (and it is not from the chips 🙂 )
In fact, doing the right thing by our children means being a bit tough. Don’t buy the juice. Definitely skip the soda. Cut up the apples and put them in a central location. Skip the chips. You’ll never know what they learn to like. My friend the cowboy-gangsta-lacrosse star? He devours, container after container, case by case, high-protein, low sugar greek yogurts. And, go figure, all this time I thought I needed to bribe them with junk.

How to Resist Chocolate (or, using art for appetite control)

Yesterday my chickens again woke me up too early; they seem hell-bent on making me into a morning person. And grudgingly, I will admit I enjoyed the chance to have my coffee and catch up on my reading alone. I picked up the latest issues of Nutrition Action Newsletter and Bon Appétit. What I found to read was too fun to not share.

Apparently some researchers in Zurich (Appetite 58:1109) are looking into the effect of subtle food related cues around us as we eat. What things in the space around us cause us eat more or less? Well, right up my alley, these wise Swiss researchers examined the effect of different works of art on one’s appetite for what else? Chocolate. If the study subjects were given free access to those fabulous Swiss chocolates while in a room where a screen portrayed images of skinny Giacometti sculptures they ate less than if the screen portrayed Rothkos. How cool!

In the same magazine, there was an article discussing the need for people to eat fewer calories per day after age 50 in order to maintain the same weight. Depressingly, as we age our metabolism slows no matter how much hard exercise we get each day. Now putting the two articles together in my mind made for some fun. What works of art should I put over my kitchen table? The Giacomettis might send the wrong message to my soon to be a teenaged daughter. The Rothkos are too expensive (one sold earlier this month at Christies for nearly 87 million). What else then? Carravagio’s David with the Head of Goliath could slow even my 16-year-old son’s appetite and might help decrease the food bill a bit. What would our appetites do under a Bruce Nauman neon sculpture? The Wedding Feast of Cana by Veronese might upstage my cooking (this enormous painting is most notable in my mind for thoroughly upstaging the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, if you are ever able, go to the Louvre, stand in front of the Mona Lisa with the crowd then, turn around and look at this magnificent piece to see what I mean). We might eat more fruit under a Cezanne. More soup under a Warhol? Would I hang a Rubens to warn my subconsciousness of the consequences of eating those chocolates? No, more likely when redecorating my kitchen I would just throw wisdom about calorie restriction to the wind, let my sweet tooth take over and happily hang a Thiebaud.

After daydreaming in this way with my cup of coffee growing cool, I opened the Bon Appétit. It featured a yummy looking recipe for Roast Chickens with Pistachio Salsa, Peppers, and Corn. I may not be able to afford the Rothko but… I know where to get the chickens. Cheep.

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Son, Eating Your Beets Will Make You Run Faster

I heard once some time ago that my influence over my kids’ final outcome ended when they turned five. That by age five they had soaked up all the manners, values and habits they ever would from me. I have thought about this snippet of trivia often. Is my role as family educator done? Did I squeeze enough knowledge into them before they left for kindergarten? Now, on the occasion of my first child’s sixteenth birthday I find myself again wondering if perhaps I have become dispensable.

His manners are for the most part lovely. Check. He is usually kind and generous. Check. He is clean and well dressed. Hmmm…clean, check. But do the pants around the buttocks count as well dressed? (before having kids there were several silly things I said in the category of “I’ll never”. “I’ll never let my boys wear their pants sagging” was one). He works hard in school. Check, and room to grow. He has commonsense. Um, not always as demonstrated this week when he donated blood in the middle of lacrosse season and then wondered why he was so winded while running. Sigh. He understands the importance of physical fitness. Check! He understands the importance of good nutrition. Uh oh. Wait, yes, I am sure he understands. But this point is where I see the wisdom of the five year old rule.

As a mother there are household chores that I do happily, there are others that drive me slowly insane day after day. Making lunches leads the list of things making my hair go gray. One recent afternoon on the way to his lacrosse practice, my son asked if we could stop by his school locker to pick up something too big to carry on his bike. Indeed, the sack of old lunches filling his locker was big. And smelly. Turns out he wasn’t eating much of what I had packed. The carefully cut veggies, the fresh fruit, the wholegrain bread all…moldy. That was IT. Later that night I had one of those look out-mom’s-head-is-spinning moments that all children should see occasionally. Now I no longer make lunch, they do. I made some rules: each lunch must have a fruit, a veggie and some protein. It has worked well for the most part. Those were rules they knew age five, right?

Yesterday my friend told me a story. She was at the grocery store during the high school lunch hour and happened to see our sons there. She quietly watched them go through the checkout aisle. My son had a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Hers a family-sized bag of Cheetos and their friend had a bag of Oreos. Well, I guess that explains the lunches in the locker. Why eat vegetables when you can eat your Cheetos with Mountain Dew? So, by age five he knew the food pyramid well enough to scold me when I crept up too high on it, but by age sixteen he is apparently very comfortable at it’s apex.

Now, I am left both looking back and hoping I taught him enough and gazing forward and hoping that the knowledge will resurface in time. His recent choice of a birthday dinner reflects this split in a way. He requested steak (“to replace the iron lost from donating blood this week so I can run better”), potatoes and … a vegetable. Great! Which one? Asparagus?

Ew, no.

Beets?

Are you kidding Mom?

How about roasted broccoli?

No mom, just carrots.

The endless stream of baby carrots was part of what made me hate making lunches so much. Maybe if I show him this recent article about how eating beets before running can make you run significantly faster he’ll change his mind? ©

My Top 10 Nutritional Soundbites

  1. make snacks count
  2. you serve, they choose
  3. limit drinks that taste sweet
  4. don’t worry
  5. don’t be a short order chef
  6. go with their strong suits; average nutrition over a week or month
  7. talk with your kids about nutrition
  8. allow treats
  9. raise cooks
  10. family meals

What’s a parent to do? The news is so full of nutritional advice it can seem impossible to know where to begin an attempt to feed children well. Sugar is increasingly viewed as a dietary mistake. Fiber is fantastic for preventing constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and is linked to a reduction in colon cancer. Blueberries and walnuts have antioxidants, salmon and tuna have vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Too much tuna has too much mercury. Too much cow’s milk can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Too much soy milk is risky as well. How does a parent put all of this advice into action?

My patients’ parents often ask questions about nutrition. I offer them a collection of nutritional advice soundbites. Over the next few days I will share details of my top 10 of these soundbites. Please, comment and join in with yours!

Sugary Cereal, Cornchips and S’Mores or, Moderation in All Things

What’s a parent to do? The news is so full of nutritional advice it can seem impossible to know where to begin an attempt to feed children well. Sugar is increasingly viewed as dietary suicide. Fiber is fantastic for preventing constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and is linked to a reduction in colon cancer. Blueberries and walnuts have antioxidants, salmon and tuna have vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Too much tuna has too much mercury. Too much cow’s milk can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Too much soy milk is risky as well. How does a parent put all of this advice into action?

My patients’ parents often ask questions about nutrition. I offer them a collection of nutritional advice soundbites; the top ten of which may form my next blog posts. One bit of “wisdom” I have always put out there is this: “Make snacks count”. Snacks are a great chance to get in the foods we most want our kids to eat. As a mom of 15, 12 and 10 year old kids I certainly try to practice what I preach. Sometimes though, I fail. It struck me today as I watched the 12 year old gleefully eat her bowl of very sugary cereal complete with colored marshmallow bits,  that there is something about summer vacation that seems programmed to allow these failures.

My childhood summer vacations were spent on the beaches of Virginia, North and South Carolina, in the woods around my grandparents home on the Chesapeake bay and on a lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They were formed of long days of freedom, swimming, exploring and happiness. Sand and heat, mosquitoes, crabs and fireflies, lemonade and Fritos formed the texture of the days.

Fritos? Yes. Now looking back on those days I realize how much of my summertime memories center around foods enjoyed only then. Some of course were healthy summertime treats, some were not. S’mores, Fritos and the occasional bowl of sugary cereal were a wonderful break from the extremely healthy diet my mother usually fed me. Now I realize that I have programmed my own children to expect the same sort of nutritional holiday. Sugary cereal never enters my house and to their credit, the kids don’t ask for it either. They know though, that on vacation away from home they are allowed to get a box of the junkiest cereal their little hearts desire. It seems to me that this kind of holiday has a place in their lives.

I may have benefited from being allowed to lie in a sunny spot on a houseboat with my bowl of chips. How? It taught me moderation. As the Roman writer Petronius said:

moderation in all things, including moderation.

Perhaps if we allow our kids the occasional nutritional holiday they will crave the junk less regularly. Outright prohibition doesn’t seem to work well, for adults or for children.  Allowing junk food holidays at times provides us an opportunity to discuss why it is usually not allowed. Maybe they will appreciate it more. I do know for certain that as I sit here now I am certainly enjoying my bowl of Fritos.

Fava Beans: Slow, Dangerous and Tasty

I am having trouble getting these people I live with to appreciate fava beans. What on earth is their problem? For me, favas have a prodigious quality; they fill me with wonder. This family of mine and a few good friends, seem to think I am a bit screwy.

I plant fava seeds in September, maybe October. The summer crops are finished and pulled out to the compost pile, the winter garden is planted. Most of it is meant to be eaten through the winter; chard, kale, parsley, broccoli, onions and more. But, I fill in wherever possible with fava seeds. They germinate, sprout in the fall then are sort of dormant in the winter as we eat all those cruciferous veggies (my family complains some here also). Then, in the very beginning of spring the fava plants wake up and take off for the sky – easily hitting a height taller than me. Many people plant them as “cover crops”; they are nitrogen-fixing plants and renew the soil, nourish the compost. For this purpose they are plowed them under or composted this time of year. But I wait. Wait until those pods are hugely pregnant with beans. Then some random day in May I recruit helpers to haul out the plants and find all the pods (they are by then about 9 in long and swollen with about 6-8 beans). We then take the pods into the house and begin shucking them, forming more compost and a surprisingly small pile of beans. These beans are next briefly dipped into boiling water to blanch them and loosen their skins. After diving them into an ice bath I start shucking each bean out of its whitish covering. “I” because by then I have usually lost all my helpers who somehow do not see the beauty of this process.

Then with my shockingly small pile of bright green beans, I can cook dinner. I usually get two meals out of a harvest. My favorite two recipes are a ragout with sausage, favas, tomatoes and papardelle and, mashed favas and mint as a bed for halibut. Both yummy indeed but, both more delightful for the celebration of the passage of the seasons and the miracle of growth. Eating them creates a zen-like experience. It becomes one of those times when you pause, breathe in and really taste the food on your tongue.

Briefly though, there is a danger to eating Favas. People with the X-linked recessive hereditary disease Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency can develop a fatal hemolytic anemia after eating favas. People of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian descent are affected most often. It could therefore be surprising to hear that favas are most commonly enjoyed in theses very parts of the world. The theory behind this is that the condition of “favism” offers a protection against infection against malaria.

Slow, nourishing, dangerous and tasty… How could you not be awed by these beans? Indeed, it seems one other person around here “gets” them. For mother’s day I was given a poem:

Dear Mom,

You are as exciting as radishes, as pretty as flower.

You are as spicy as peppers and you always have thyme to help me.

You are worth the work like fava beans and as sweet as blackberries.

Worth the work? Me? Hmmm.

Minimalist Art Provoking Maximum Discussion

An article by Carol Vogel in yesterday’s New York Times brings me to focus here on item number one in The List. The article was a review of Glenn Ligon’s upcoming retrospective at the Whitney museum in NYC. Glenn Ligon is a modern painter and conceptual artist whose work focuses on his view and exploration of American history. There is much here to use as fodder for a dinnertime discussion with your kids.

First a bit of art history to set the stage with. His work seems to fall well into the broad category of Conceptual Art. This movement followed Abstract Expressionism (think Rothko and Pollock) and Pop Art (think Warhol). Ligon’s work seems heavily influenced by a Neo-Dadaist artist: Jasper Johns (think American flags and numbers), …and if all this is making your head spin either skip on through or, see the bottom of this post for examples of work by these artists. Conceptual Art is a cool ah, concept to talk with your kids about. It very simply put, is art that focuses on ideas rather than aesthetics. The Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp was amongst those setting the stage for conceptual art by leading us to question what art is exactly and to stretch our expectations of what art should be.

The work of art is always based on the two poles of the onlooker and the maker. Marcel Duchamp

Years later, Conceptual art began to look at the context and perception of words, objects and ideas. In Ligon’s work he often uses words or phrases from other people and reproduces them in ways that urge the viewer to look longer and harder at what has been said. Taking these words into a new frame or focus pushes us to contemplate their ideas as those outside our own experience bringing us possibly, to a new understanding.  As Ligon himself said:

You have to be a bit outside of something to see it

The New York Times article about his work is well titled: The Inside Story on Outsiderness. Look with your children at his art; doing so may move them towards that first item on our List: to widen their perspective and encourage cross-experience understanding. Glenn Ligon’s art is about important and challenging concepts developed in large part by his experience as an African-American gay man  and yet, is presented in ways that are approachable. Challenging but not crushing of a child’s interest. My friend described them as “minimalist art provoking maximum discussion”.

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Representative works discussed above:

Glenn Ligon "All traces of the Griffin I had been were wiped from existence" (inspired by words from The book "Black Like Me")
Jackson Pollock
Mark Rothko
Jasper Johns
Andy Warhol

What is in a title? Or, Rapunzel Redux.

This weekend I went with my daughter to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and saw a work named Rapunzel #10. It was breathtaking and moving. Literally moving. It was a computer generated image of hanging flowers swinging in a computerized breeze positioned in a stairwell. As we walked up to begin our afternoon of art-looking, we were both taken by its beauty. So much so that at the end of the day, after lots of great art (and a yummy piece of cake and tea) we went back to Rapunzel. We sat in the stairwell, side by side quietly watching the flowers swing in the breeze.

The night before the two of us had gone to see the movie “Tangled” also a reference to the story of Rapunzel. This coincidence made me pay special attention to the title of our stairwell art and to ask her, when it comes to art, “what is in a name?” This question blossomed with the hanging flowers into a good discussion. My daughter noticed that in another equally notable exhibit we saw that day The Color of Light, that the painter named many of his paintings “Phenomena”-this or “Phenomena”-that. We started asking why? What was he asking us to pay attention to? With the installment Rapunzel #10 a placard asked us to consider the story of Rapunzel and the image’s relevance to addiction and child abduction in contemporary society.

Hmmm…I just wanted to enjoy the emotionally and literally moving flowers. I wanted to meditate on my own response and here was the artist jumping into my experience and demanding that I turn my thoughts elsewhere.

What is in those pesky names? Perhaps ask your kids at dinner tonight. Why do they think an artist leaves a work named “Untitled”. Why would they instead choose a powerful reference like “Rapunzel”? How does that change our experience? Perhaps – turn the question towards a book your child is reading: why did the author choose the title… can you come up with a different title? Or, look together at some art and discuss the names you find. In reference to the name of his work Women and Bird in the Night, Joan Miro in a rather satisfying explanation said:

It might be a dog, a woman, whatever. I don’t really care. Of course, while I am painting I see a woman or a bird in my mind, indeed very tangibly a woman or a bird. Afterward it’s up to you.

A Turkish artist, Ihsan Cemal Karaburçak, explained his very different approach of leaving works untitled:

I essentially do not give titles to my paintings. A landscape could portray any given place. What does it matter! A tree, a house, a mountain, a cloud, a flowerpot or an apple can be found at anytime, anywhere. The important thing is how it is tempered with, how it is interpreted and depicted. The object is only the means through which the artist reflects his inner world on a board or on a canvas. What matters is the inner world of the artist.

Or, create some art of your own and try coming up with names. You may of course end up choosing “Untitled”.

Jennifer Steinkamp‘s website has a video of one installment of Rapunzel.

Paul Jenkins is an abstract expressionist painter. This means that simplistically put his work is in the same general category of other artists I have written about here, Rothko and Pollock. You can see his Phenomena at his website.

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New Year’s Resolutions For Kids? Seriously?

A few days ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) parent education site Healthy Children published a list of New Year’s resolutions for kids. They ranged from “I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong” for preschoolers to “I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol” for teens. My first and lasting reaction was “Seriously? New Year’s resolutions for children?” You see, to me New Year’s resolutions have always smacked of being insecure and impetuous – certainly not traits I wish to instill in my children. While the first day of the year is a powerful time to sit back and take stock of one’s self, I would rather have my kids work on an ongoing and even basis to improve their actions. It seems making resolutions once a year sets one up for failure. Why not simply assess our path as we walk it?

Better perhaps, to explain my thinking by looking at my own past history with resolutions. As a teen and 20-something the resolutions I made were the usual ones: “I will lose 10 lbs” or “I will exercise everyday”. They to me conveyed a sense of dissatisfaction with myself or an insecurity that was only fed by the inevitable “falling off the wagon”. I mean really? Who exercises every day? Eventually I came to a comfortable place of completely swearing off New Years resolutions completely – no unrealistic goals and no inevitable failure to start the year off with. Much better! I have broken my no-resolutions-resolution a few times. Twice I resolved to stretch daily…and, you guessed it! I failed after about two weeks both times. Last year, I loudly resolved in front of my family to NOT answer anyone who was yelling to me from another room or part of the house. If they wanted to talk with me they would learn by my stubborn silence to come talk with me face-to-face. It has had mixed results. They still try to yell but I feel a sense of liberation as I ignore them!

Returning to the AAP’s list of children’s resolutions, instead of teaching our children that on one night a year we make personal goals I have a different idea. As parents let’s plan to make family dinners a priority and enjoy the discussions that bloom when we eat together. At those dinners talk about goals and actions. Work into our weekly lives self assessment and improvement. Children will learn more from looking together with us at specific daily examples (playground tussles, hallways taunts, forgotten homework) and answering our questions of “how can you do this better tomorrow?”. Taking self-improvement in small steps sets them up for success and a lifetime of being comfortable admitting their faults and failures and used to taking steps to “make it right” – every day, not just at New Year’s.

A few years ago a close friend at our yearly dinner party on New Year’s Eve announced that her resolution was to start a Facebook page! “What? Why?” We all asked with giggles around the table. She explained that she wanted to stay current, to see what all the hoopla was about and enjoy the fun. I realized her wisdom. The resolution did not show insecurity but rather strength, it was fun and humorous. It was certainly easy to stick to – we all know the addictive power of Facebook (I wonder did she resolve to spend less time on FB the next year?).

Now, having thoroughly dissed New Year’s resolutions here…It looks like I am starting a long thought-about blog. Is this perhaps my 2011 resolution made in the spirit of fun and exploration that my friend resolved to join Facebook?