Making Family Meals Simple

family cooking

When you have children, you’re going to find that you take on a whole lot more responsibility than when you were only catering to your own needs or your own and your partner’s needs. You suddenly become entirely responsible for another person’s happiness, health and wellbeing. This means that you’re going to find yourself focusing on all sorts of areas that can help your little one to lead a better life. You’ll spend time understanding parenting methods. You’ll spend time looking into good schools for their education. You can take time to make sure that they’re attending healthcare appointments like vaccines, dental checkups and more. You can ensure you’re helping them to invest themselves in hobbies and social activities. The list goes on. But one key area that you have to focus on is their diet. All people, including kids, need to enjoy a healthy balanced diet, but many parents find that they struggle for time when it comes to delivering on this front. Here are some suggestions that can make family mealtimes as simple and straightforward as possible.


Meal Planning


The first step towards making family meal times good and healthy is to take time meal planning. When you have a clear idea of what meals you’re going to enjoy throughout the week, the more likely you are to stick to the healthy meals you had in mind. All too often we turn to convenience food for – well, the sake of convenience. The issue is that convenience foods are often nutritional void and may contain excess salts and sugars. Meal planning doesn’t have to mean coming up with difficult to make options. Keep things simple, but keep them balanced. You may be able to find inspiration from recipes like Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Tenderloin. There are plenty of options out there and you’re bound to find a few favorites that will become a more regular part of your routine.


Meal Prepping


It’s all good and well having a meal plan in place, but many people will still fall off the wagon here. They’ll have good intentions, but won’t actually follow through with them. You can help to keep things on track with meal prepping. Meal prepping is when you collect and partially prepare your meals ahead of time. This means that no matter how busy you may be, or how little time you may feel you have on your hands, you will be able to put together healthy meals with minimal effort and time involved. Look at what elements of each meal you can prepare beforehand. This could be chopping vegetables, marinating meat or anything else. You may even want to fully prepare meals that can then be frozen or stored in tupperware for heating up at a later date.


Hopefully, some of the information and ideas above will help you to create healthier and more wholesome meals with less effort. Give them a try and see how you get on with them.

One Year Since Goodbye

One year.

This is the last photo I ever took of you. Not a great photo- I couldn’t get you all to look in the same direction at the same time.  I knew, I just knew I was never going to see you again- you weren’t acting like yourself, you were too keen to have us go (it was such a quick visit, it made me frantic), you had been physically dragging, and talking about everyone who was already gone. Not to mention, you actually let us within 6 feet of you, and you hadn’t done that since the pandemic started. All our in person visits were outside, and across the lawn.

All the recent phone calls we had had, you seemed sad. Well, more tired then sad- but tired in a way you’d never been. Just before I got “the” phone call, I was talking to John, and I told him that I thought you were about to leave us. I wish I had been wrong, but you just seemed like you were done.


I’m not going to talk about your transition, which was complicated and sad and not the way you would have liked it to be. I AM going to say how much I miss you- and that I realize this is wildly self indulgent, you won’t read it because you can’t, and there isn’t really a “reason” as it were to write it. But, it’s been a year, and I want to memorialize it, even if it’s just here.

I love you and miss you terribly.  You were so many things to so many people- and you were so many things to me. That’s not for here, though, that’s for us.

Your hutch sits in my living room now, like you wanted it to. It smells like you when I open it’s doors. I wear your white sweater around the house most days. I’m not a person who really wears white, but hey- it doesn’t really show any dog fur, so I tell myself it’s a doublegood reason.  😉

Reunited with your husband of so many years, I hope it’s everything you wanted it to be. I miss you both so much. Love forever.

Raise Your Kids the Right Way: Tips for Good Parenting

Raising kids is a tough job, but it’s one that many people are willing to take on. As your child grows up, there are some things you can do to help them grow into good citizens. 

Below are tips for raising your child the right way.

Nurture Empathy 

This is a fundamental concept to teach your child. Empathy is the ability to feel what other people are feeling, especially those who need help or support. Children should learn how powerful empathy can be and that they have a great deal of control over it. 

They will respect others more when they understand their words and actions because this can influence everything from schoolwork to simple social interactions with peers at recess time. You can also foster empathy by watching movies or documentaries with your child that highlight people’s emotions. 

Limit Usage of Various Electronics 

Electronics are an excellent way for children to entertain themselves and spend their free time. However, too much screen time can be counterproductive as it limits social interactions with other kids or adults, which is essential in helping them build healthy relationships.

Furthermore, excessive usage of electronics may lead your child to develop poor health habits such as lack of exercise and obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle. Here are a couple of suggestions to get started on electronic usage limitation. 

Offer Rewards Sparingly 

Offering rewards is a great way to show your kids that you care. However, rewards should be given only when the behavior is good and not just because it satisfies your self-interests. If you give in simply for the sake of giving something in return, your child will never learn how to feel grateful about anything on their own accord.

Discipline Well 

This is an essential aspect of parenting. A child who believes that they are not getting disciplined for the right reasons will have a hard time growing up into an honorable person.

Bad behavior should be punished, but it is always better to explain why you are punishing them rather than just saying no. This way, your kid understands what they did wrong and learns how to behave appropriately in future situations when similar circumstances arise again because now they know the consequences of their actions don’t comply with social norms.

Teach Them Good Manners 

Good manners are excellent skills to learn. They are like good habits that you can mold your kids to create polite, well-mannered people who contribute positively to society. 

Teach them the right way of performing specific actions and resisting temptations by giving examples or role models when they make mistakes (thus teaching empathy).

Show Your Kid How to Volunteer 

Volunteering is a great way to show your child the importance of giving back. Volunteering also builds character, teaches them to value their time, and instills a sense of appreciation for all they have in life. 

You can find volunteer opportunities around town or even offer up some one-on-one time with an elderly neighbor – who may not get many visitors otherwise!

In conclusion, if you want to raise your kids the right way, it is essential to show them empathy and teach them good manners. In addition, you need to limit their usage of various electronics and reward sparingly – while disciplining well. Finally, volunteering can also be an excellent thing for them to do to learn more about giving back!

5 Ways That Motherhood Takes Its Toll On You

When you start having kids, people try to warn you how tough it can be but we don’t think anyone really warns enough. Yes, we love our kids unconditionally but there is a real toll that it takes on us mothers. Here are some ways that it can take its toll that you might not realize.


Your back

During your pregnancy, your back is one of the places that gets it the most, especially at the end. Your back is one of the most important areas of your body and it gets a lot of issues as your pregnancy goes along. In the years that follow, you might need to see a Chiropractor to ensure there is no lasting damage. Plus, lifting your babies is one of the toughest workouts that your back can get and sometimes they can wriggle and hurt your back. 

It can age you

We sometimes wonder if having kids ages us because we feel so tired but it turns out, having kids actually ages you. And we mean this literally. Researchers have discovered that each pregnancy ages a woman’s cells by two years. So, when you are feeling drained after a long day, it’s not in your head, you have actually aged with every pregnancy. With this in mind, you need to get those super fruits into your diet.

Childbirth is painful

This is one of those things that people do try and warn you about but they don’t do a good job of explaining how painful it is. Yes, it is painful but manageable. However, in the days and weeks that follow, you will still feel sore. It is rare that you will be able to skip about like a spring lamb after giving birth. I some cases, you can still feel the pain from stitches years later. It is a good idea to keep an eye on these pains and niggles in case they develop into something else.

It can be lonely

Getting out of the house to see anyone can be tough. And if you are the first of your friends to have a baby, they will not understand what you are dealing with. Over time, you might discover that your friends drift away as you are busy with parenting stuff. We would like to point out, this can be lonely at first but over time, you will make new mom friends. Or your friends will start to join the parenting club too. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other moms if you a feeling the strain of motherhood.

It is expensive

If there is one place that gets hit hard, it is your wallet. Having kids is expensive and at some point, the cost might stop you from having any more. From the medical bills to the stuff that you need for them as a baby, to the items they need for school and their clubs. Having kids is one way to ensure that your savings get a pounding. There are some places that estimate the cost of a child can be as much as $10,000 per year, every year until they are 18 years old. 

2021’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family

best places

With families looking for a fresh start once the COVID-19 pandemic dies down and moving becomes practical, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family, as well as accompanying videos.

To determine the best states in which to put down family roots, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 52 key indicators of family-friendliness. The data set ranges from the median annual family income to housing affordability to the unemployment rate.

Best States for Families Worst States for Families
1. Massachusetts 41. Nevada
2. Minnesota 42. Arizona
3. North Dakota 43. South Carolina
4. New York 44. Alabama
5. Vermont 45. Arkansas
6. New Hampshire 46. Oklahoma
7. New Jersey 47. Louisiana
8. Washington 48. West Virginia
9. Connecticut 49. Mississippi
10. Utah 50. New Mexico

Best vs. Worst

  • Minnesota has the highest median annual family income (adjusted for cost of living), $85,473, which is 1.5 times higher than in New York, where it is lowest at $57,450.
  • Utah has the lowest separation & divorce rate, 15.74 percent, which is 1.7 times lower than in Nevada, where it is highest at 26.07 percent.
  • New Hampshire has the lowest share of families living in poverty, 4.60 percent, which is 3.4 times lower than in Mississippi, where it is highest at 15.50 percent.
  • South Dakota has the lowest average annual cost of early childcare (as a share of median family income), 7.22 percent, which is 1.8 times lower than in Nebraska, where it is highest at 13.19 percent.
  • Maine has the fewest violent crimes (per 1,000 residents), 1.15, which is 7.5 times fewer than in Alaska, the state with the most at 8.67.

To view the full report and your state’s rank, please visit:

Entertaining the Kids During the COVID-19 Lockdown

Those stay-at-home parents with little ones already know how stressful it can be to be stuck in the house all day with kids that need your attention all the time, it seems. Then again, before you would be able to take them to the movies, the park, the zoo, or to visit a friend to entertain them. Now, you are all quarantined to the house together. Those who have school-age children or who usually leave the kids at a sitter while they work outside the home are suddenly realizing how hard stay-at-home parents really have it. But we can help them keep the kids entertained with some simple tips that do not include going anywhere or seeing other people.  

  • Treasure Hunt: Write a list with items that kids can find outside. Some of these items can include things that are already there like four twigs, three white flowers, five small rocks, etc. You can also hide items outside for them to find like small toys, clothespins, a plastic cup, a penny, etc. For kids too young to read, draw pictures. You get the picture, right?
  • Crafts: Use those items the kids found to make things. Color the rocks with markers or paint, tape the flowers to the sticks to make a bouquet, color the clothespins and add the small toys to them to make a decorative chip bag holder. Use your imagination and theirs.
  • Television Time: Although you don’t want to just park your kids in front of the TV all day, some television time is fine. In fact, a lot of the shows on children’s channels are learning shows. There are still the old favorites kids tv show such as Sesame Street, the Magic School Bus, and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. But they also have new ones like Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Doc Mc Stuffins, and Sid the Science Kid. Give the kids an hour or two of TV time during the day when you just need some peace and quiet. 
  • Projects for Older Kids: Older kids can be harder to entertain because they are way too “cool” to watch Dora or find rocks in the garden. Give them some harder projects like building or fixing something. Or find a website that they can get on where they can actually learn something while playing games or talking to others.
  • Online Therapy: Believe it or not, many kids can benefit from online therapy, which they can get from a mental health site like Of course, they will need parental permission and supervision, but has pediatric counselors on staff who can help your child deal with the thoughts and emotions that they may be struggling with during these worrisome times. 

Do Some Redecorating

These are just a few things that you can do with the kids to keep them busy. And to keep yourself busy too. Stay up to date on the facts but don’t sit and watch the news all day. Get up and play with the kids. Redecorate their rooms with them, however they want it decorated. Let them be creative and choose where the bed or dresser goes. You may be surprised how creative they really are. And, as always, if you are feeling overly anxious, depressed, or angry, reach out. There are people who can help. also has online therapy for adults, so go ahead and check them out.

Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

Are You An Overprotective Parent? 4 Ways To Let Go And Let Your Child Grow

Good parents want to be involved in their children’s lives, but for years educators and psychologists have been asking the question: How much parental involvement is too much? When does trying to help your children in school, sports, and myriad other ways go too far, hurt their development, and become over-protective?
The explosive college admissions scandal seemed to answer that question. Television actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to jail for paying $15,000 to influence the boosting of her daughter’s SAT score. Fourteen other parents in the probe have also pleaded guilty.
While most parents don’t cross that legal line, early education expert Christine Kyriakakos Martin says too much parental involvement can be harmful in a variety of ways, sometimes leading to children becoming ill-prepared for the challenges of adulthood.
“The consequences of being an overprotective parent is that your child will lack self-confidence to make decisions and take risks,” says Martin (, author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years. “They’ll lack the coping skills to get up when they fall down from a bad experience and try again.”
Martin offers four ways for parents to stop being overprotective and promote more strength and independence in their children:
Stop teaching fear. While there are non-negotiables when it comes to teaching your child safety — for example: wearing a helmet when biking, no talking to strangers, no texting when driving — Martin says sometimes parents overprotect when they create too many boundaries, which in turn may teach children to live fearfully. “When you don’t allow them to play outside much, you’re impeding their freedom,” Martin says. “Play develops the imagination and self-confidence. Overprotective parents don’t want their children to fall down, and getting back up and brushing themselves off is a necessary component for healthy growth and development.”
Don’t be their full-time problem-solver.  Martin says many parents want to take care of all of their chidlrens’ problems and make things easier for them. At some point that needs to stop, she says, because adult life is rife with adversity and unforeseen obstacles that we must learn to deal with independently. “Teaching children problem-solving skills encourages them to be independent,” Martin says. “Learning to resolve conflict on their own and work through problems builds resilience and teaches them how to handle adversity.”
Teach responsibility. “If you make their beds and clean their room, you’re doing them a great disservice,” Martin says. “It’s about learning early lessons in responsibility. Doing these things for a prolonged time can debilitate your child and set them up for a lack of life skills as adults. Let your child take on reasonable responsibilities and let them feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Let them branch out. Sometimes parents develop a comfort zone with their child’s pursuits and restrict them when the child wants to expand. “Let your child have some freedom to make some of their own decisions about their interests,” Martin says. “Interests change, and the more varied experiences they have, the better for their ability to make decisions and adapt to different situations.”
“Parents are right to protect their children in a dangerous world,” Martin says. “But having them grow up in a bubble hurts them and their ability to deal with the world as adults. The best thing you can do for your children is to find that balance between protecting them and teaching them to be strong and self-sufficient.”
About Christine Kyriakakos Martin
Christine Kyriakakos Martin ( is the author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years. An early education expert and consultant, Martin is the founder and owner of Sunshine Preschool in Hopkinton, Mass. She has spoken on child-development topics at national education conventions and colleges.

5 Things Foster Parents Should Know About Navigating The Court System

The important role foster parents have in a child’s life expands significantly when they go to court.
To make decisions in a child’s best interest, judges need good information, and foster parents ideally can provide that. Thus, foster parents having a complete understanding of how to participate in court goes a long way toward ensuring a safe, loving home for the child.
Here is a priority list foster parents should know in advance of a court appearance.
  • Be prepared. Foster parents are the voice for the child and must do everything they can to ensure that the child is heard in court. Do not come to court unprepared. The more information you bring, the better.
The judge largely depends on the foster parents’ testimony to decide what’s in the child’s best interest. The idea is to have enough information so you can answer the judge’s questions in a clear and beneficial way. To prevent being overwhelmed with documents days before court or scrambling for information, the best way to prepare is to begin keeping a journal well in advance. Taking notes about what happens in your foster child’s life creates an organized record, showing progress, behavior patterns and how they express themselves in different situations. Include school records and doctor’s appointments as well as notes about interactions between the child and their birth parents. Include highpoints, lowpoints, and milestones in the child’s development while in your care.
  • Know your rights as a foster parent. Foster parents should receive notices of all hearings. If you are not getting them, contact your social worker and/or a juvenile department clerk.
Foster parents also have a legal right to attend review hearings, usually held every six months, until the foster child receives permanency or the case is closed. They also have a right to attend permanency hearings and post-termination of parental rights (TPR) hearings. Permanency hearings have to be held before a child reaches one year in foster care, then every six months. Post-TPR hearings are held every six months until the child is in a permanent home.
  • Should you bring the child to court? This decision is often left up to the social worker. What’s most important is what’s in the best interest of the child. If the child is uncomfortable going to court, it’s worth considering having he or she write a letter to the judge.
  • Educate yourself on common questions. There’s a list of questions judges commonly ask of foster parents; some of those questions can be found on websites under “foster care hearings.” Examples: How long have you been a foster parent? How long have you known this child? What changes have you noticed in the child’s behavior or emotional state since being in your home? How is the child doing in school? Let your social worker or attorney guide you and ask them any questions you may have, including what the objective is of the specific hearing you’re attending.
  • Speak respectfully and concisely. Don’t get emotional in your discourse with the judge, and don’t throw the birth parents under the bus. The court listens best to foster parents who have tried to work well with birth families and who aren’t on their own agenda, such as getting the child to stay permanently in their home. Speak up and speak clearly, and refer to the judge as “Your honor.” Be as clear and complete as possible so the judge will have sufficient information to make a decision.
One of the most important duties for a foster parent is to act as an advocate for the child in their care. That requires the foster parent to be able to tell the court all they know to help the court decide the child’s future.
Jennifer Lynch, author of the children’s book Livi and Grace (, is an educator and child advocate who serves as a guardian ad litem, a person appointed to represent a child’s interests in a court case. She has worked as a special education teacher for an elementary school and as a preschool teacher. In addition, Lynch created the You Are Good brand of T-shirts and other products for sale and for donations. Thousands of the shirts have been donated to children and teenagers in the system. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University.