Mommy’s Meatballs: Why Keeping Control Over Kids and Food Pays Off. Sometimes.

These aren't my meatballs (too much sauce!), but my boys sure do love it when I make them!

So the boys started their six weeks at the local YMCA camp yesterday. I love this camp. Love it. But as with any situation where kids gather, bad food options seem to be the norm. I work around it; I try not to get my hackles up when I see the Snack Shack stocked with Nerds and Sour Patch Kids and heaven knows what else. Kids like candy, right? The battle I’m having — already! on day one! — is whether I’ll give them money every single day for a trip to the Shack (or is it Shak?).

This intro is my way of saying that food — who’s in control of what’s eaten in and out of the house — is a major issue with me. I don’t care to give up that control, and I don’t think that I should. I’ve written about this before, here. But I also am not an autocrat, and I do remember my own days as a closet (literally) candy-eater. My Daniel has inherited my sweet tooth. (James seems to have inherited the other aspect of my childhood relationship with food; eating just enough to maintain his spaghetti-legs figure). So I want to walk a line between — in the case of camp — packing them healthy lunches, and letting them supplement that with sugar and corn syrup and whatever makes Sour Patch Kids sour (sour mix? Probably not. I think I’d rather not know).

And I must be doing something right, because as I wrote in a guest post on the wonderful Words to Eat By blog, some of my lovingly and freshly prepared foods occasionally rank in my boys’ top favorite foods, even edging out, from time to time, pizza and hot dogs. Which, as Daniel is relishing, are sold for lunch at the Y on Tuesdays and Thursday, respectively.

Oh, and after you read about me, my boys and my meatballs, spend some time on the Words to Eat By blog, by food writer and mom Debbie Koenig. It’s terrific; one of those food blogs you can easily lose an hour on, reading recipes and browsing through photos of the real food she really makes for her real family. Really! She’s working on a book called Parents Need to Eat, Too, by the way, so watch out for that.

And now, it’s just about four hours until I go pick them up, hopefully happy, streaked with dirt, sweat and sunscreen, and with all their socks and underwear and reusable water bottles (one never knows what will be, not not be, in the backpacks), and lips either blue or red from heaven knows what.

What food rules do you bend in the summer? And what dishes do you make that are surefire kid winners?