The Littlest Food Critics

After several months of research and writing around oil spill related topics, it was nice to have my 7 and 8 year old niece and nephew up for a diversion, I mean visit, over the last week. This was their first time staying at our house without their parents. Since we live in Knoxville now and they live in Mobile, we all met in Birmingham to make the switch.

The drive home really set the tone. We began by instituting our “everybody plays, nobody whines” weekend theme. They had to chant it 5 times to ensure they got it. Since they hated saying it, that was a handy little gem during their tenure with us.

We then embarked on a discussion ranging from cellular regeneration to the placebo effect, eliciting rapid-fire questions from the 8 year old, who was totally engaged. It’s so funny how quickly children can switch between intelligent adult conversation and random make-believe. I wish there were a physical switch for adults for just that transition! We could go from a business lunch to a city-wide game of tag in seconds.

Their biggest challenge turned out to be in the food area. We have fairly strict food guidelines in our house (nothing with HFCS comes through the door, we avoid packaged, processed foods, buy local and organic to greatest extent possible, and all meat comes only from grass-fed and/or free range, hormone-free etc. animals, for example). So when the kids said they wanted “hot dogs” apparently what we served them is not what they had in mind.

Another great thing about kids is that they are brutally honest. Well, it CAN be great. After about the third meal setting down a dish in front of them, only to be followed by: “I don’t like this!” I started to wonder if honesty really is always the best policy! It’s a little ego-damaging to be told, meal after meal, that you’re a complete culinary failure, even by an 8 year old.

I did discover that my idea of “parenting” was all wrong. If you aren’t a parent and haven’t had the joy of extended trips with little ones, I would best define it as: slave labor. I felt less like their caretaker than their personal servant!

We watched Harry Potter, which they’d never seen. Although we’ve seen the movies already, I found it was a totally different experience to watch with the kids and to see them through the eyes of the children.

I got to have lots of little side conversations about how the brain works and of harnessing the power of our minds to influence our realities and to positively impact not just our lives but the lives of those around us. This is one of my favorite topics so having the little ones so interested in it gave me great joy.

The dogs however, were a bit less pleased. Occasionally I’d glance over to see one of them covered in kids and casting a glance my way, as though to ask: Why?? But we all survived, even the kids, I’m happy to report! They went home yesterday, and I returned to two happy puppies, both of whom think I’m Julia Childs meets Emeril Lagasse! Ahhh… everybody’s happy, nobody complains!

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