Parent’s Corner: September 2021


In one of my favorite books, Love in the Time of Cholera, the main character pushes his plate away and says incredulously: “This meal has been prepared without love.” It is true sometimes we miss the secret ingredient most needed when creating a meal. We can best prepare meals with love when we give ourselves a break from cooking perfection.

So I encourage you to find ways to make cooking fun, whether creating a pizza kit to have your kids deliver dinner to you all by their little selves or simply learning how to build momentum by allowing yourself to make flawed meals your family will enjoy creating. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to give our family healthy and delicious meals each night. And, most meals cooked at home are more nutritious than any you buy in a restaurant. I have cooked for a living where all the finest ingredients go into making something special. The freshest organic products, hard to find and difficult to cultivate items, were prized. There is no doubt that high-quality items are essential. But let me put it to you straight–just getting dinner on the table is a victory.

So make it a game. Make it fun! Break it down into steps. And above all, let go of the idea that meals need to be perfect. Following a recipe can be constraining. Recipes are like training wheels. When you’re learning, they are great. But sometimes, you have to let go of the handlebars to test your abilities.

Remember, you have your senses for a reason. You have your eyes to see if the ingredients are visually pleasing. You have your mouth to taste as you cook. And what’s more, you have your children’s able hands to help.

The astonishing thing about cooking is how many separate tasks a cook needs to perform before getting their result, the ta-da on a plate. There is planning, shopping, prepping, and then cleaning up at the end.

Tricks for Fun and Success in the Kitchen

Use your senses. It is best if you don’t have any distractions—like the TV, phone, or computer– besides your kids and the food. That way, you can focus on your end goal.

  • Layer flavor. Add flavor throughout the cooking process. For example, salt the water if you are cooking pasta. Every chance you have to add flavor, do it.
  • Serve hot items hot and cold items cold. Lukewarm is precisely that.
  • Clean as you go. This is obvious, but it helps to keep you organized.
  • Shop one day, cook on another. Realistically you can’t stop after work and put together a meal without undue suffering. Shopping is a job on its own. Stock your kitchen with staples that are there for you when you need them. Buy your fresh produce and meat weekly.
  • Eat a mix of foods, you’ll get a better mix of nutrients.
  • Play CHOPPED. One of my favorite programs is Chopped. On Chopped, contestants have a limited amount of time and limited ingredients. Hey, just like real life. Suppose you have mozzarella cheese, spaghetti, chicken stock, basil, and corn. You could make pasta or a frittata!
  • Be prepared for failure or exhaustion. It is always handy to have a backup plan, so you don’t fall into the instant gratification trap or unhealthy snacking. Have a box of macaroni on hand, a bag of frozen peas, and a frozen pizza. Planning will save you from the fast-food panic.
  • Make a Pizza Kit. I love that pizza is a canvas waiting for a painter, a saucy painter, that is. It is hard to teach kids to cook because it isn’t one of the most straightforward tasks, even for those who have made dinners for decades. So I recommend this DIY pizza kit to let your kids engage in cooking and hopefully learn to love it!

 What is a Pizza Kit?

A pizza kit is a pizza round, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and topping of your choice. Set your kids up with an uncooked pizza round, let them paint away, and add the toppings they select. I always found my daughter was more willing to eat food she made, even if it wasn’t something she would usually like.

Dinner may not be perfect in the end, but your family will go to bed with vitamin L in their bellies. They will remember that when you cooked, and they helped, the food was made with love.

Parents Corner: August 2021

ODP wants to acknowledge, support, and celebrate parents, mentors, teachers, and coaches. You are the real change-makers. The work of a parent can feel endless, and 2020 drove home that point. Our fast-paced world exposes children to new hazards that are hard to track. Technological advances move fast and open our kids to unknown risks through television marketing, social media, and even in local convenience stores. Change is inevitable, so we all need to stay informed and help minimize danger to our children by helping them navigate hard decisions and make healthy choices.

Tall Cop Says Stop

Last month the ODP staff attended the Northwest Alcohol and Substance Abuse Conference (NWASA) and came back with information parents might find helpful. Some of the information was quite startling. Substances like Delta 8, kava, and kratom, located in convenience stores and online in the U.S., aren’t yet regulated and pose serious dangers. Officer J. Galloway, who coordinates conferences all over the United States for law enforcement and school districts, listed numerous examples of products sold in vape shops, truck stops, and convenience stores in his keynote presentation.

Most of us assume a substance is safe if you can buy it at the corner drug store. However, new substances can enter the U.S., bypass regulators, and head straight into our children’s hands and mouths. Find out more on Officer Galloway’s website:

Project Filter

Project Filter reminded us that young people desire accurate information, not scare tactics. Kids don’t want lectures. They don’t like lessons about how they will turn into a horned toad if they vape. They want to know the actual health implications. And, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that breathing in chemicals, many of which are found in car exhaust, isn’t healthy.

Project Filter is a prevention-based program available free to youths and adults who need help ending their addiction to vaping and smoking tobacco.

If you or your child needs help ending an addiction to vaping or smoking, Project Filter is entirely confidential, and they provide free cessation assistance. To Find out more, go to

Social Media

Last year, most kids spent more time buried in screens, making them vulnerable to even more marketing to people who make their money by the click.

Our children are receiving messaging so customized it goes straight to what motivates them. I was shocked to learn in a lecture by Boise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Gomez about the hazards of social media. If you want to educate yourself about what your children face online, I recommend following Officer Gomez’s Facebook page.

Just because your kids have not left their room does not mean they are safe.

Karen Wiliams says, “Breath”

Williams is an educator and social worker, gifted at explaining the neuroscience of our children’s growing brains in simple terms. She says that a young person’s brain continues to develop well into their twenties. So that doughy-eyed look they give you is not an act. Williams suggested teaching youths how to manage stress and offered helpful tools to deal with stress without using drugs or alcohol. Karen’s talk focused on the differences between the adolescent brain and how acknowledgment is critical when working with teens.

Unmitigated stress on our children impacts their ability to cope. We can help our youth navigate the obstacles of life with simple tools like deep breathing.

Breathing comes naturally to us, but we seldom think about the importance a deep belly breath can have on our mental health. Karen Williams spoke to the NWASA Conference about the need to teach our kids to breathe deep, take a breath and activate our parasympathetic nervous system.

Resources for families: