I love spending time with my kids, but in the words of Ralph Covert, “I need, and I need a lot of what I need...that’s C-O-F-F-E-E.”
I admit it: Whether it’s coffee, chocolate, or both, I depend on food to boost my mood and help me through the long summer days.
My strategy of choice is to make a pan of brownies and then sneak morsels here and there.
Sure, it’s embarrassing when my kids call me out: “Mommy, why do you smell like chocolate?” – but I bravely work through the shame:
"Mommy just needed a little something - now you finish your strawberry yogurt smoothie!"
Some people ground themselves via mindfulness or exercise or gardening. I have sugar.
Oh – and books. You know that hour between the park and dinner when your kids not so much melt down but catch fire and burn everything in their path?
At that point, I read to my kids. Getting lost in pictures and stories and whole other worlds transports me and my kids back to the green zone.
Technically, books may be highly flammable, but in my house, storytime puts out fires better than anything else I know.
So – given my love for reading and eating, it would make sense that another way to pass the time productively would be to cook with my kids, right? But for me, cooking with kids can be kind of like camping – it’s more fun when it’s over.*
I genuinely admire those who manage to do it without a second thought. However, I need to be in a mood good enough to keep me smiling through dripping eggs…flour explosions…a million dirty dishes. Which doesn't happen as often as I'd like.
So when I don’t have the energy to actually cook with my kids, we biblio-chow: read a little, snack a lot.
Think Blueberries for Sal, paired with washing and eating blueberries.
Munch popcorn while reading The Popcorn Book (popcorn is just as magical whether it’s cooked in the microwave or on the top of the stove).
"Yum...yum...extra yum!" See if you can get your kids to eat spinach alongside Little Pea. (For a truly perfect accompaniment, find some spinach-flavored Jelly Bellies®.)
Of course, there's always The Very Hungry Caterpillar…although with that title, you run the risk of serious caterpillar envy: Alone, in a cocoon, for two glorious weeks? Sign me up!
But I digress. Read it, weep, and then make a fruit salad or, if you’re feeling ambitious, fruit kebabs.
If cooking with kids is no big deal for you...then first of all, I want to be just like you when I grow up.
(How do you handle the chaos? Can I come live with you?)
Next, browse our collection of kids’ cookbooks - start with some titles listed below that complement our Summer Reading Club theme.
No matter how you involve kids in the kitchen, take a page from the very hungry caterpillar’s book, and make your way through one leaf every day. Whether a leaf from a book or a bona fide green plant leaf, I’m sure that will help us all feel much better.
But just in case, I’ll also take some advice from a really smart mouse, and I’ll make an emergency pan of brownies to go with it.
*If my children are reading this: I have many happy memories with you in the kitchen, and I love our traditions of smelling the vanilla and taste-testing the chocolate chips. I wouldn't trade the time we spend together for anything. What I mean to convey is that I'm tired. All the time. Maybe it's all the sugar.
Whether or not freshly baked scones make it to your table, register to attend the Chicago Children's Theatre's Beatrix Potter & Friends performance at the library on June 30.
Read about the land of Chewandswallow in Judy Barrett's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, then recreate the adventures at home using Grandpa's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Cookbook.
Travel to magical lands! Fairy Tale Feasts does the planning for you, combining a fairy tale with a recipe from the prolific author Jane Yolen.
One of my fears as a parent is having to wait somewhere without a book to read to my kids. Checking out e-books to download from My Media Mall for Kids onto my phone is a great way to make sure that I always have something for them to read.
If it ends up being a frozen pizza night, check out Secret Pizza Party to go with your meal...or if you're feeling more adventurous, bring some magic to the kitchen and try out some recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman celebrates all the amazing resources that go in to an apple pie. Non-negotiable: Eat an apple pie after reading. It's educational!