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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

For Parents: When life gives you lemons

December 15, 2008

Lemon bars for everyone!

Lemon bars for everyone!

Last spring I extolled the virtues of my lemon tree… particularly its knack for living out all the chapters of its life simultaneously. Can you imagine having to deal with the mishigas of your own childhood, adolescence, sexual prime, pregnancy, middle age, decline and death all at once?! And yet, when it’s April in Lemon Land, it’s all happening and it’s all good.

But now it’s December. Different story. Here in planting Zone 8b, the entire tree is synched up to its “Pick me NOW!!” mode.

I love living off the land. Like most backyard gardeners, there are times we eat our homegrown tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We praise Demeter and offer tomato-scented incense in her name. And at the end of the summer we’re grateful to swim in peaches and apples too. But keeping pace with a bumper crop of lemons is just not that easy.

It’s true that lemons have tons of non-eating uses like: bringing out your hair’s blond highlights, polishing chrome, keeping guacomole green, and providing your garbage disposal with a refreshing chaser after you’ve stuffed it with moldy onions. But let’s face it, lemons are food. And when it comes to stuff that I’ve grown, I really hate wasting it.

So, yesterday, when we got word that David’s band concert was rained out, Ezra and Sarah, Mr. Trombone and I decided to have some fun while seriously reducing our lemon footprint. Because we’re foodies, we agreed that it was perfect baking weather. An online visit to Food Network yielded this recipe for lemon bars. Not only has it received an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars from 110 people, it calls for a whole cup of lemon juice! In case you’re wondering, we had to sacrifice 13 large lemons to the cause. The worms in my bin got the peels and if they turn into blonds, I’ll know why.

So there we were, cozy in the kitchen, happily grating, measuring, pouring, scraping and rolling. We also cooperated, speculated, communicated, brain-stormed, problem-solved, and laughed. And yes, later on we ate.

This recipe gets a solid 5 stars for taste. 5 stars for an excellent use of lots of otherwise purposeless lemons. And (most important) 5 stars for providing us with a blueprint for a fun time together.

So what did we learn? Couple of things, actually. When you’re faced with a thick-skinned problem, instead of complaining, minimizing, wishing it would just go away or pretending that it is so not a problem for you, just get in that sucker’s face. Peel it down to its essence. Squeeze the life out of it. Then add a bunch of sugar and enjoy.

Pretty sweet stuff!

Clearly, the Lemon Law applies to anything you may view as a problem, present time or upcoming. Take the upcoming Winter Break. This one is longer than most as school doesn’t resume until January 5th. Maybe you’re starting to think of those days upon days of family time as a problem… or is it? Here’s a free suggestion, meaning that you’re free to ignore it: Have a family meeting in advance of the holidays. Turn off cell phones and open the floor to suggestions of how the family might spend some of that free time. Stay at the table until you’ve all agreed on at least two fun things to do together during the holidays – maybe one traditional activity that everyone enjoys plus one off-the-wall new idea.

Having more unstructured stress-free time together is good for families. It’s also what we wish we had more of during the school year, right? Well, now’s your chance to orchestrate some fun.

Good luck and let me know how it went.


Filed under: Holidays,Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 5:17 pm


  1. Having fully tested the above plate of lemon bars (yet again tonight to be sure), I can assure you they’re really good! And much better than the solution of using extra lemons for freshening up the garbage disposal!

    Comment by David — December 18, 2008 @ 12:43 am

  2. What fun! I adore cooking challenges like that when you suddenly find yourself with an absurd surplus of one ingredient. I once had six eggplants on my hands, or more challenging, the time I acquired a big bag of kiwis. Your lemonbars sound delicious.

    Comment by Fayette — December 24, 2008 @ 5:19 am

  3. Well, I’ve just picked another dozen lemons so we’re going to have to come up with some other great (edible) uses. Here’s a recipe for lemon curd. Sounds yummy but it only uses 2-3 lemons.

    Comment by Annie — December 31, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  4. I got hungry just reading your story!

    Comment by Hannah — January 12, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

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