We are beyond excited to announce that we’re working on Christine Koh, otherwise known as the founder of Boston Mamas and host of the amazing podcast Edit Your Life, on making family-friendly additions to our Add-On Marketplace that make life easier while keeping it delicious. Christine is a busy mama to two, entrepreneur and foodie so we jumped at the chance to get her input on which Add-Ons would make her and her readers’ lives easier while keeping things local, high-quality and most importantly, tasty! Keep an eye out on the Just Add Cooking Add-Ons for special Boston Mamas approved picks from Christine!
In the meantime, Christine’s stopping by the blog to share her top tips on editing life down to what’s important and clearing the physical and mental “clutter” we all experience. Here’s her advice on editing your…
Morning Routine (with kids!)
Our mornings are shockingly smooth in the sense that my kids don’t fight their way out the door. That’s partly due to their dispositions, I suppose, but there are a few tactical things I recommend that definitely help! First, my kids choose their clothes for the next school day the night before. This completely eliminates wardrobe meltdowns or “I don’t have any clean underwear!” crises. Second, we always pack lunches the night before. My middle schooler Laurel is out the door by 7am (yes, 7am!) so it reduces morning stress to take care of lunches the night before. And third, we have a predictable stable of breakfast options on hand. For breakfast we generally always have on hand: bananas, peanut butter, green smoothie, and some kind of carb (e.g., bagels, raisin toast, wheat bread, cereal). Developing a simple morning routine with your kids is so great because eventually your kids will get in the groove and be independent. Laurel gets herself ready for the day totally independently, while I just sit there sleepily chatting with her with my coffee, trying to wake up!
I have one immediate tip and one long-game tip, both related. Most immediately — and this may sound contrary to drilling on homework! — build downtime into your after-school, pre-homework routine. The school day can be stressful for kids in different ways, including just the general stress of being “on” all day. So down time really is essential in order for kids to be able to focus on their homework. And for the long-game tip, like the mornings, develop a simple after-school routine. The ultimate goal is that your kids take ownership of getting their homework done (read: edit out the nagging and reminders on your side!). Our routine after school is as follows = empty lunchbox containers into the sink (Laurel even washes her containers!), put school notices or papers requiring signatures on our kitchen console, wash hands, have a snack, relax, and chat about the day, and then get homework done so we can enjoy some relaxed family time in the evening.
Maintaining friendships and a social life in a busy life
Between the different professional hats I wear, I have a lot of work commitments so it’s very tempting to hide and hibernate the rest of the time! But I’ve found that when life is busy with work things, purely social touchpoints are even more important and nurturing. For me, it’s all about putting things on the calendar and it’s helpful if there is even vaguely any structure around it. For example, my Mom and I have a standing arrangement to meet for lunch the first Tuesday of every month. Sometimes the date gets pushed around a little but it’s on my to-do list to check in with her about it before that first Tuesday. Another helpful tactic is not letting the friend moments slide by. For example, it’s common to bump into a friend on the playground or in town and say, “Oh, we should get together!” and then just let it slide, but lately I’ve been like, “OK, let’s toss a tentative date in the calendar now!” Or if it’s a group of people we’re trying to get together, I’ll start a text thread immediately to get the planning train rolling.
OK, so I love to cook but I’m not always the best about meal planning, in terms of figuring out a specific meal for every day of the week, but one idea I picked up from my Edit Your Life co-host Asha Dornfest is that even just loosely identifying a few anchors totally counts as meal planning. It’s pretty funny, we were talking about meal planning just a few weeks ago at dinner and my 6-year-old Violet made this hilarious menu. It’s admittedly not the most nutritionally well-balanced menu, but Meatball Monday is actually a thing around here (either rolled up in flatbread or with brown rice and vegetables) and I am game for tacos any day of the week! And actually, totally relevant to Just Add Cooking, the weeks we order a box are like a magical food unicorn showing up. We typically order a 3-meal box since we usually have evening commitments to work around, and BOOM, half the week is planned! The week our latest box arrived, I wasn’t able to cook the first meal until Tuesday and on Monday I said to Laurel, “Man, I’m bummed I can’t cook dinner until tomorrow!” I’m fairly certain those are words no mom has ever utttered before!
As I mentioned earlier, neither of my kids have ever purchased school lunch. And both of them have needed packed lunch since babyhood when they were in daycare so we are talking about, collectively, 19 years of packed lunches! So, part of editing out the lunch crazy involves: 1) flipping dinner leftovers into lunches (so, sometimes our dinner menu planning is based around this), and 2) having the kids help pack lunches, because lunch making should not just be on the shoulders of one person in the household!
Developing healthy food habits
When it comes to food, in our house it comes down to balance and moderation. We always have lots of produce in our house because vegetables or fruit are pretty much always on a plate to balance out other items. And moderation is key because my kids and I love to bake. I mean, really love to bake! We are the crazy people who actually do things like make yule logs and ombre cakes! So we have to keep a check on the sweets both for general health and also so my pants will continue to fit! And I have two specific recommendations for families and developing healthy food habits. First, just relax and keep presenting when it comes to the vegetable situation. At some point I decided that my job was not to force my kids to choke down vegetables, but to keep encouraging them and putting it on their plate. Both Laurel and Violet were laser focused on carbs and cheese as toddlers and preschoolers and pretty routinely rejected vegetables, but I just kept putting options out and inviting them to try things. At 13, Laurel now eats everything (and was a vegetarian for 4 years), and at 6, Violet (who was even more stubborn with her resistance to anything other than macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese) will routinely eat carrots, cucumbers, peas, and corn and will try more and more vegetables and other dishes, even if it’s just a tepid taste here or there. My second recommendation is to get your kids in the kitchen! I have had my kids in the kitchen with me every since toddlerhood, mostly because I get so bored playing on the floor with dolls or whatever — it’s just not my thing! Cooking and baking are awesome; it’s a sensory activity, it involves math and science, there’s a tasty result at the end, and kids are more likely to try things if they have had a hand in making it. Laurel has truly become a peer in the kitchen and she loves throwing down a gorgeous dinner. My mind was pretty blown when she made these shrimp adobo tacos with grapefruit jicama salad + herb rolls!
Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle
For a long time my fitness was very solitary. I would swim or run, and while those activities are awesome, my greatest joy these days is being active as a family. Family hikes have always been a favorite, but a couple of years ago we started skiing as a family, and it’s been so fun to do something where we all started as beginners! And last summer Jon, Laurel, and I started playing tennis while Violet would ride her bike around on the other empty courts. Just the other week when the weather turned gorgeous in Boston, Laurel and I laced up our sneakers and ran/walk alongside Violet while she rode her bike. We’re not particularly skilled at the newer activities like skiing and tennis, but we get out there and we laugh a lot!
More About Christine
Christine Koh is a music and brain neuroscientist turned Internet unicorn. She spent a decade in academia – during which time she was awarded prestigious fellowships from the National Institutes of Health to fund her Ph.D. (Queen’s University) and joint-appointment postdoctoral fellowship (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and MIT) and was about to become a professor when she decided to hang up her academic spurs in favor of more flexible and independent ventures. Christine is an award-winning blogger (Boston Mamas), author (Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less), podcaster (Edit Your Life), creative director (Women Online), and advocacy apparel designer (Brave New World Designs). Christine has received repeated Iris Award nominations for her creative work: In 2014 work resulting from Minimalist Parenting was nominated in the Game Changer + Philanthropic Work categories. In 2016 Edit Your Life was nominated for Best Parenting Podcast and Christine’s lifestyle solutions video series was nominated for Best Parenting Vlog. In 2017, influencer campaigns Christine designed were nominated for Philanthropic Work (Muscular Dystrophy Association) and Best Sponsored Content (Heifer International), and Edit Your Life won Podcast of the Year.