Monthly Archives: October 2011

the soul of halloween

Tonight, Superman and a dinosaur left home to rush through the neighborhoods in search of (elusive because Mom doesn’t buy it) candy.

It’s funny because as a Mom of little kids, I sometimes forget that the concept of Trick-or-Treating is not a born intuition, nor is the deferred gratification of waiting until you get home to eat your candy.  With one piece successfully acquired, my toothy dino thinks: Mission Accomplished!  Hehe…not quite…oh, there is more to be had!

Lucky for them, the trusty wagon is available for tired legs and Thor (Dad) is leading the charge in which small boys will learn the rubric for successful Trick-or-Treating: porch light on (garage light or lights inside the house, or street lamps in the yard apparently do not count around here…lol), knock knock, “ToT!”, {candy}, THANK YOU!…run to the next house…or ride the wagon…

Yes, I know the picture is fuzzy, but you can still see the “happy” shining through.  I recall the first year we went out with a tiny Tiger, I was a bit taken aback that we only made it through five houses before our small boy communicated he was “all done.”  Wasn’t this part of the rights of childhood?  Candy, costumes, FREE candy at that, racing the dark…it never dawned on me that the enthusiasm and excitement wouldn’t transfer at 1.

The next year, we were better prepared and chose the five houses on the block who would most enjoy seeing our toddler dudded up, sharing full-size candy bars and hot apple cider with us along the way…mmmmmmm…

After that, at three, a vague sense of anticipation began.  An abstract notion of free, combined with the word “chocolate” made for some excitement, especially in the company of a good friend.  And yet still, after a block we were done.  Exhausted and wagon-bound, no longer able to postpone the gratification of free sugar, my 3yo sat peacefully and half asleep with a lollipop in the dark.

Now, this was also the year I learned the importance of intuiting the fear factor, for Cinderella in possession of Twix was perfect, but a reenactment of the Chainsaw Massacre spontaneously being performed from someone’s garage was not.  With a three year old in tow, the avoidance of anything that might cause night terrors (read: less sleep for me and the challenge of calming multiple children with hysterics in the middle of the night) was looked on like the plague.

But at four, we’re entering a new layer of childhood.  Gone are my expectations that Halloween will be for my toddler as I remembered it at 12.  That’s kind of how parenthood goes too…our kids begin to teach us early that each experience is their own, not our memory for them.  Now that I’ve done this a few times, I expect that we’ll need the wagon and that they will be done right about the time it gets dark and I start to really get excited.

But now too, for the first time, I see his own memory layering.  For the first time, I don’t have to explain every holiday as though we’re experiencing it for the first time.  The synergy grows with each day.  These crisp fall days marching toward Halloween, Thanksgiving and eventually Christmas are not just days.  The holiday itself is not just a day.  It is a momentum built over months.

A season where, whether your preparing for costumes and candy, the rebirth of light or the light of the world, our children begin to layer their experiences…building the excitement of the coming day with parties, festivals, celebrations, crafts…suspense knowing what is coming and having to WAIT!

Someone’s sweet ride to school that Gabe got a ride down the hall in.

There is a crossover that happens when your first child begins to remember.  No other child of mine will need to be told so painstakingly why we have joy during these seasons.  They will have a brother to watch and learn from.  And, not realizing it until today, there will be no need for me to patiently explain the nuts and bolts of each holiday.  You do it once with your firstborn (for multiple years in a row it seems), and then they begin to remember.  It has caught be by surprise after being so accustomed to the prior situation.  The child grows, absorbing the role of teacher and, in turn, gifting me the ability to be part of the magic rather than leading the torch trying to explain that there is magic.

Today, we talked about the joy of Trick-or-Treating with our beloved Papa and good friends last year…together.  I got to laugh at our first school party when every other child was off diving into the crafts, and it was my boys who were gently and obliviously helping themselves to thirds and fourths…and fifths.

This holiday season, we begin a new dynamic.  One where we get to reminisce…together!

One where a small boy takes the lead from his older brother.

One where a Mom is given a new role…no longer “explainer and facilitator of holidays” but something else…something exciting…

This is the good stuff.

 

 

 

cookies and cherries

So I know this blog is not the cooking channel, but when you’re building kids, mealtime and food in general is no stranger to exasperation.  We try to keep all stress to a minimum, and coercion nonexistent, but sometimes a little ammo in your arsenal is really helpful to ward off junk food attacks…both for the kids AND you!

Truth be told, it would be either impossible or cruel to hold the second child to the same PURE nutritional regimen that the first enjoyed simply because…well, there is an older sibling to expose them to all sorts of great things.  So, despite the fact that your first never had refined sugar until he was two, your second got a taste of the chips ahoy at one and decided that flavor was his favorite.  *groan*

If left to his own tastes, my sweet two year old would survive on chocolate chip cookies, applesauce, dried fruit, and peanut butter popsicles (any nut butter on a spoon).  The sweet tooth is strong with this one.  Lucky for me, green smoothies are also sweet, or I’d be worried.

However, a year or so ago a friend and I were toying with ways to make our own versions of LaraBars, known for their simple and wholesome ingredients.  For instance, the bar “Cashew Cookie” is made from: dates, cashews.

Epic.  Two ingredients, both pronounceable.

Downer, they are usually over $1 per bar.

So I thought for today I’d share our favorite non-junk junk food around here.  With a batch on hand, it’s an easy snack for a hungry kid or a quick fix for my moments of weakness for a sweet.

Every other day or so, we seem to find ourselves making up a batch of “cookie dough.”  Anytime Gabe is hungry, his little frantic self will hold his fingers together to make a circle…a clear request for “balls.”

Good news though!  These little “balls” of cookie dough will neither make your blood sugar tank in an hour or sentence you to self-inflicted guilt trips for eating them/feeding them.  They are just nuts and dried fruit.

So drag out your food processor and crank out a batch of yummy goodness you can keep on hand, sans guilt trip or upset tummy!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

1 cup almonds (process first)

1 cup brown rice flour (don’t worry about being hard core here.  You can use anything dry: unsweetened coconut, brown or white rice flour, an additional cup of almonds, some other nut you have on hand, grain, etc.  But if you want believable cookie dough, rice flour is going to smooth out the texture best)

1 cup dates (pop in with nuts/rice flour and process)

Add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla (1 tsp for you measurers out there) and 1/2-1 cup mini chocolate chips.

To avoid sugar crashes and milk issues, one bag of these vegan/soy, milk, corn, etc-free chocolate chips will make 3-4 batches of cookie dough.  But, use what you can find.  Binging on this cookie dough with or without milk chocolate is going to be better than binging on Chips Ahoy.

Pulse this all into the food processor.  Then to make it all stick, add small amounts of either honey or water while pulsing until it all *just* sticks together.  Maybe a Tablespoon or two.

Then smoosh what you haven’t snitched out already into a little dish of some sort (or, if you have little hands that love to roll, roll them into charming little balls…because you know tiny cookie dough balls are SO fun to eat).  Cut into a billion pieces.  This pan here is probably 5″x7″ and each little square a 1/2″ big.

Ta Da!

Happy boy, happy Mom.

Aside:

The fun thing about these is it’s easy to experiment.  The general ratio is 2:1, nuts/grain:fruit plus pinch of salt, tsp vanilla, water to make it stick and any special spices or flavors, just be sure to add flavors before the final water bits so they’ll mix in.

Ideas include:

Ginger snap cookie dough, coconut cookies, cashew cookies, carrot cake balls, cherry almond, peanut butter and jelly, lemon poppyseed, chocolate coconut…

And if anyone wants some of our recipes for the above, feel free to ask! 😉

show and tell

Did you have show and tell as a kid?

I have a vague recollection of knowing what it was but never having actually practiced it in any of my classrooms growing up.

My Mom does something with her middle school children where they get a chance to share, like show and tell, one day each week.  I love some of the stories she’s shared with me.  I associate middle school with a nightmarish social scene, and knowing that there are some kids out there having good, emotionally safe experiences is great!

So Austin got to take us on a show-and-tell tour of some of his favorite “work” he chooses at his Montessori school.

It was such a fascinating experience to see my son in a completely different context.  He was attentive to details, he was respectful of the materials and space.  The kids use real glass dishes and such.  He was focused…he was an enthusiastic professional in each “work” he showed us.

The younger brother who desperately wants to be part of all the things happening in the classroom but is not every other day went bonkers at the opportunity to actually touch the materials.

It was wild to watch Gabe’s untrained enthusiasm derail the ordered predictability in Austin’s experience.  When big brother is in school, he and ALL the children must treat each material a specific way.  They receive lessons on it, they practice and practice them, there is protocol.

A two year old in the mix was a hard thing to manage.  He was SO eager to be involved, included, to explore.  But of course he has had no lessons nor did we have time to perform one on each activity.  So rather than getting a mat to do the number sticks (this is not their “correct” name), he just did it on the shelf.

Austin’s togetherness deteriorated into this frantic pace, desperate to have his classroom back under control.  Makes me wonder what the best thing to do is.

But overall, it was wonderful to hear how he teaches the younger children to fold laundry (really!?!  I have GOT to get on this wagon).  We saw his projects, which we were impressed with (more to come when it comes home).  We were tutored in the numerous steps involved in washing one’s hands in the wash basin.  So careful and purposeful the kids move.

A bouquet was cut and arranged.

This picture sums up a lot of the dynamic.  A proud creation by big brother…little brother must.touch.creation.

His activity was pretty cool too though…

But even at the end, despite wild dynamics that little brothers *who are 2* bring to the classroom, they had a fantastic time.

As evidenced by the fact that it took everyone an extra HOUR to fall asleep tonight at bedtime.

Yes, other than Monday, the high of every day for my bigger boy is “Going to school” and the low is often “When I had to leave school.”

Sigh of relief.  Wash of excitement.

School can be so wonderful.

Did you get to do Show and Tell as a kid?  Any memorable ones?

adventurous eating

We had the chance to be wildly adventurous recently when I found a batch of bright pink DRAGONFRUIT.  I mean, seriously, naming a fruit “dragonfruit” automatically skyrockets it into a sub-super-hero status…so cool.

So our planned after school snack of wicked-awesome-dragon-fruit is planned and the kids are all fired up about it.  As a mom, I’m secretly thinking, “Bwahaha…my kids are fired up about fruit…yes!!” as they enter the house shrieking in excitement and joking that they’re going to eat a dragon!!

Opening it up, we are rewarded with the creamy white flesh and what appears to be star constellations formed inside.  Totally amazing.  I’ve got visions of bringing in dragon fruits for Austin’s class to let the kids try…

A tentative taste…

A bolder mouthful…

Followed immediately by questioning looks to me…looks that said, “Uh, what happened to our fruit?  It tastes of unflavored grits with the texture of very ripe kiwi.”  I returned the questioning look too as it took me by surprise as well.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly involved something that one could describe as “a flavor.”  Apparently in my research, I had found out how to eat the fruit but not that the fruit would not actually taste like anything.

Boo.

I’m not knocking the dragon fruit.  It scores big points in looking awesome.  It is like looking at a tall glass of pink lemonade only to find out it’s just water with a few drops of food coloring in it.   We’ll call the flavor “anticlimactic.”

So we moved on to oranges, and left the dragon fruit to supply fiber and vitamin C to our morning smoothie…which it did, as well as leaving it sufficiently devoid of flavor in spite of the banana and mango that no one drank much of the shake either…lol.

Well, that’s what an adventure is all about, isn’t it?!

 

into the woods…

After months of being in Dallas, hearing stories of all the dump truck loads of tires and trash pulled out of the forest…knowing that it exists, having driven past it, being shown where the trailheads are and the spots where “just a short walk in there and you’ll see one of the best views in the city” but never having actually gone yet, we finally went on a family tour in the Trinity Forest.

And guess what!  There are WOODS in DALLAS!  As in, a real trail with topographical interest, roots coming out of the inclines, and rocks crumbling in spots.  A brief walk through a little meadow full of new flowers and berries I’ve never even seen the color of before…

…and little boys playing with rocks in the dirt…

It was so refreshing.

With little kids, your expectations and reality of going “on a hike” drastically change from what you remember pre-kids.  Kids like to be involved, feeling, doing, exploring, oogling, and then when they’re little and tired, you better be prepared with a  backpack or a strong arm or *something*!

Gone, for a time, are the days of anything that involves the words “strenuous” or “miles” but it’s a good excuse to slow down and notice the little things…

Like the one tiny green branch shooting up toward the sun, the only vestige of life left on an entire tree hell bent on surviving.

There is a lot of hype about Nature Deficit Disorder.  I get it.  Being back in the woods is like coming home.  Left at the trailhead are the manicured boxwoods and lawns…sometimes even other things we find ourselves so accustomed to we forget it’s not the “norm”…walking into the woods leaves the ticky tacky little boxes in another world…

The show “Weeds” did a great portrayal of it.  Click on the link…NBC or whoever owns the song has disabled embedding, but it’s a great visual with the song 🙂

Rather than valuing aesthetic beauty in the conventional sense, the forest knows a different beauty.  The beauty of the forest is less pruning and more like a spectacular fireworks display of determination: shoots sprouting up out of dead stump, fallen limbs that refuse to die and continue to grow skyward.

It’s this wild contradiction to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy…that even while everything is tending to chaos with trees splitting and logs decaying…the sun creates life that defies it…growing and creating the forest.

Perfectly imperfect oak trees frame the vista of the forest at our picnic spot.

In horticulture, known for their strength, size and beauty, the mighty oak is revered like few other trees.  In this forest, the oaks are imperfect friends…content to sit with you on the bench and share their vista of the forest and city…at peace as their twisted trunks rumble each time the commuter train passes.  Yes, children need the forest, in any dose they can get it.

And on the way home, tanks full of adventure and tummies full of blueberry muffins, my boys fell asleep.

Perfect.

Do you have memories of playing in the woods as a kid?  Do you find them valuable now? 

taking time

Once school starts, it’s easy to forget the rhythm of a sweet, slow day.  A day where no car is involved and the only ones you’re responsible to spend the day in orbit around you in one form or another.

It’s the little joy of finding the library open…the peaceful pace which allows for time to stop and watch the tree trimmers on the walk there.

It’s the long, deep breath you take when you dust off an old, found table and discover that it’s just the ticket for an hour of peaceful coloring in the sunshine with a cup of tea.

It’s sharing the tea, and finding that a certain off-brand of crayons can actually color fingernails any color you want!

And then reinventing the table at the end of the day for a magical picnic in the sunshine.  Smiling and telling stories of the day…

It really fills your tank up.

So much so, that when you wake up the next morning to the kitchen floor covered in dog poop, a sore throat and a sick husband….it just doesn’t seem all that bad.

😉  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filling your tank for the next adventure…

post-it notes speak louder than words…oh wait…

Very few days go by when I don’t have a finger-in-the-nose moment where I can only wonder what the social “norm” might be for acceptable behavior based on the situation and age of the child who has spawned the brilliant idea.

A truly horrifying scene: running the streets after a torrential downpour, barefoot.  Could be.  We walk our street multiple times per day though and have a very clear idea of what is commonly found next to the curb.  Calculated risk.

The other day, we found ourselves early to a store on a lazy Sunday morning.  Needing to pass 5 minutes, we tried to get out and splash in the puddles, but it was just too cold.  So, we climbed back in and drove around the back of the empty building, splashed through a couple puddles with the car, and then found ourselves back where we started in the parking lot.

With two antsy boys, we made the seemingly benign decision to ask if the youngest would like to try “driving” the car around the back of said empty building.  Now, when I say “driving” in this context, it’s more like “holding onto the steering wheel…mostly…while occasionally picking a nose or checking out a puddle while we creep along at 2 mph.”  So, we crawl around the back, park, and finally go in.

Upon arriving back at our car, we find we’ve been post-it-noted.  In true passive-aggressive style, we find our van stickied with hot pink notes screaming, “CAR SEATS ARE THE LAW IN TEXAS!!”, “YOU ARE ENDANGERING YOUR CHILD!!!” and “A CHILD SEAT FOR EACH CHILD!!”

Really?  I was genuinely surprised. There were 5 cars parked in the parking lot when we showed up.  Not exactly Black Friday.

Positions ready…this is the game called, “Let’s jump at each other and try not to crack our heads open.”  So far so good.  But it does make my tummy jumpy 😉

Well, thank goodness for those sticky notes.  They’ve certainly taught me a lesson.  Phew…and here, this whole time I’d been operating under the misguided notion that car seats were just some optional piece of gear, a ploy by childhood equipment manufacturers to garnish more of our cash in the great get-parents-to-buy-all-the-fancy-stuff-at-the-baby-store conspiracy.

No, not really, but it did make my heart beat faster.  I did feel angry, as though I’d been judged and convicted of endangering my child without even knowing what was going on or giving me an opportunity to defend myself.

Running the dry river bed.  We did find one patch of water, which later became the source of thousands of the tiniest frogs we’d ever seen.  If adventure were a math equation, risk and discovery would be variables for sure.

So here is the catch about parenting…this is not an isolated incident.

I’ve been reprimanded at a bus station for not harnessing my son into the 5-point harness available on the stroller.  I’ve been told countless horror stories of birth *while pregnant*.  I’ve been informed that carrying my children in wraps/slings will deform their hips (studies demonstrate that the open-straddle position helps hip development), that my husband and I should have our children taken away because we practice Elimination Communication….the list goes on an on…

The touted death traps formerly known as merry-go-rounds.  I prefer the latter.

It’s tough to please everyone else. This is true whether you’re a parent or not.  With kids, there are lots of opinions.  It gets tricky to tease out which ones are yours and which ones are the fabricated what-ifs.

Someone could have a field day with this.  Filthy chickens, barbed wire…giggle…balancing keeping kids in a padded room and avoiding death is such a big gap to feel out.

So, I keep trying…feeling out each social context the best I can in the attempt to keep peace…some of us are wired that way.  Momentary conformity does not threaten me, rather it’s a means to an end…a hope that maybe I’ll get to see the better side of others rather than their horrified, attacking selves.

Post-it note: “Your son could be seriously injured if that sign didn’t hold and he just came crashing down.”  (I did wiggle the sign as part of my rigorous sturdiness-test).

And in the mean time, I found myself today nervously eying the neighborhood.  Hoping that somebody didn’t come flying out her front door waving her cane and railing at me about what an irresponsible mother I am for letting my son climb a sign.

I realized a while ago that, for this boy, climbing isn’t a bad habit to be tamed, it’s a compulsion to be supervised.Looks like a Gabey for sale!

So the next time someone tells me that they use Benadryl to help their kids sleep at bedtime, I’m going to turn off my Unsolicited-Advice-Reflex and ask her if she’s been having a rough time with bedtimes…they can be a challenge.  Who knows, she might ask your advice 😉

Do the best you can, in the place you are…and above all, be kind.

There’s a rubric I can aspire to.