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Our Family Read-Aloud
  • The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
    The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
    by Daniel Pinkwater
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  • Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene
    Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene
    by Louise Bates Ames
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    Book of Days: Personal Essays
    by Emily Fox Gordon
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book)
    The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book)
    by La Leche League International
  • Gilead: A Novel
    Gilead: A Novel
    by Marilynne Robinson

Signs of spring

It is with a great ferocity that I am greeting the spring this year.  The winter seemed particularly long and dim.  Mine may even have been a two-year winter. 

Even on a day like today with rain sprinkling down slowly on us all, I just want to be outside.  Walking the streets, I am unlocked.

This spring my heart is gathering with the sunshine as if we two are long-distance loves finally reunited.  We have forgotten all flaws and hurts.  Together again, we are consumed with remembering each other.  The rest of the world slips away. It is just the two of us and everything is perfect.

There is a favorite day with my preschool class each year.  It is the day when we trudge through whatever horrible early March weather is being offered to us on a search for the first signs of spring.  The children are bundled in their layers, eyes barely peaking out from the wrappings.  They get confused because when we step outside, instead of heading east into the park, we turn toward the west and cross the street into the nearby apartment complex where the grounds people faithfully planted bulbs in the fall. 

A year ago on this day there were still inches of snow on the ground and the sprouts peaked out from the snowy drifts triumphant.  The children responded appropriately.  Upon seeing the green showing through the snow, they began to rejoice, jumping and spinning, dancing and running wild with excitement. 

This year’s group got quiet at the sight of the signs of a coming spring.  They crouched low and their pudgy fingers collectively reached out to touch.  Their world is so much in the present, I could tell they had forgotten that there is green. 

I had forgotten too.  The flowers blossoming on the pear tree outside of this window and the leaves pushing out of buds on the trees in the park, these are the sweet, soft colors of the spring.  They will be with us for only a moment.  I want to see them and be with them and grow silent in their presence.  I too want my pudgy fingers to reach them, touch them, remember them.

As we come to the end of this March, it is fierce.  In like a lamb.  Out like a lion.

This post is part of Steady Mom’s 30 Minute Blogging Challenge.  If you are a blogger, why don’t you give her Tuesday carnival a try?  It is a great way to get a midweek post up without ignoring your other responsibilities… for more than 30 minutes anyway.  This post, start to finish? 28 minutes!


Pomegranate green tea

Dave and I used to make unsweetened, decaffeinated iced tea in a big plastic pitcher to keep in the refrigerator.  We made it using kind of a sun tea approach.  Basically, I would drop about five tea bags into the pitcher, run the hot water to fill it up, and put the whole thing into the refrigerator to finish steeping and cool off. 

But then came all of the talk about the dangers of BPA and I began to eye that pitcher and wonder if our attempt at avoiding soft drinks was actually creating more of a problem for our health.

In September, I shared our new solution with you here.  I have been making iced tea concentrates in mason jars stored in the fridge.  One of my favorites at that time was a tea flavored naturally with peaches.  Obviously now, as the winter drones on, peaches are out of the question.

Here is my new iced tea favorite. Pomegranate Green Tea.  Simmer four or five green tea bags in several cups of water until you have achieved a rich amber color.  When the concentrated tea cools, pour it into a quart-sized mason jar.  You should fill the jar about halfway or more.  If not, add a little water to reach the halfway mark.  Then fill the jar the rest of the way with pomegranate juice.  Antioxidant heaven!

I don’t sweeten, but you could very easily with some agave, simple syrup, stevia, or honey.

To drink, pour a few ounces (a quarter to a half a cup) of the concentrate into a glass and fill to the rim with water.  In the winter, I leave out the ice. 

This post is part of Steady Mom’s 30 Minute Blogging Challenge.  If you are a blogger, why don’t you give her Tuesday carnival a try?  It is a great way to get a midweek post up without ignoring your other responsibilities… for more than 30 minutes anyway.  This post, start to finish? 23 minutes!


Plenty bright enough


A year ago, Dave and I were having many discussions with each other, with WJ’s teachers and school director, and with family members and friends all in an effort to make a decision about what to do about WJ and his schooling.

To send him to kindergarten or not?

I have been unable to avoid this desire from deep within my motherly pride to make it clear that this was never a question of intelligence.  So, here it is… This was never a question of my child’s intelligence.* 

WJ is “plenty bright enough,” was the message from the school.  Every indicator in front of us pointed toward a child who could learn easily, make connections, remember like an elephant on gingko balboa, and who was well equipped with pre-academic abilities. 

Plenty bright enough, but a little young. 

Whenever I wish on an evening star or a birthday cake candle from this point on, it will always be a wish for schools that start in January. WJ had been in school part-time for a year and a half when we made the decision for him to wait for kindergarten.  Many of you with children who have late summer birthdays may know the pattern we had already begun to see in the school year.

At the beginning of each school year, as the leaves changed colors and carpeted the ground with sweet smelling piles, I donned battle gear to cope with our morning routine and after-school exhaustion.  In the morning, WJ became Captain Loophole, devising clever strategies to avoid the getting-ready-for-school tasks.  When we finally got out the door (and it was a miracle if we reached this point with no yelling), we began the Walk to My Certain Doom. Six blocks of whining, dawdling, complaining, questioning, tugging in the opposite direction, sometimes even crying. 

WJ then proceeded to have a perfectly lovely day at school.  He loved his teachers, his friends, exploring the materials, singing the songs, playing the games.  Everything from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM was pretty much golden.  He gave each day his very best.

But then his class walked down the stairs to the pick-up area and WJ immediately morphed into Mr. Crabby-Pants.  The three hours of sustained focus at school left him with no reserves.  And he saved his worst for me.

In the autumn, school was exhausting for WJ.   His resistance in the morning was a sign of things being a little overwhelming, a little too hard.  Again, not in terms of his cognition, but in terms of his stamina.  His inability to cope, the ease at which he dissolved into tears or spacey-ness, his continued long naps (which often lead to poor sleep at night—oh, the cycle!), his general afternoon malaise, these were all more signs that his school placement was not the strongest fit.

But then after the winter holidays, suddenly things would begin to change.  WJ got ready in the morning without the fight.  He would take his clothes into his room, wanting to surprise me with how quickly he could get ready alone.  We would have pleasant conversations on our walk to school.  His teachers would begin to talk about an increased energy and involvement in the classroom.  Our afternoons would become the stuff of a mother’s dream—reading together, cooking dinner together, minutes upon minutes spent playing happily alone while I read a magazine or got on top of my to-do list.

School was just a little too much in the fall but by winter it was a perfect fit.  If only schools began their programs in January.  Or even February—alleluia!  

But we are working within a well-established system.  And a year ago, as I thought about my child’s school experience, I was clear on this… I did not want for the beginning of every school year to be hard.  I did not want to live with a child who kicked into gear sometime before Valentine’s Day.  Plenty of experiences happen at school between September and January.  Who would want for her child to be struggling through the laying of the groundwork of the school year? Every school year?

It was instead my hope that WJ would meet each new school year with energy and strength.  And for that to happen, given the equation of his late summer birthday, the school calendar and its cut-off dates, and WJ’s unique cocktail of developmental growth, waiting a year to begin kindergarten seemed the best choice.

Stamina was one of the biggest reasons we decided to wait a year for WJ to begin a full-day kindergarten program.  (Other issues were at play as well, however, including physical and social development.  More on those in later posts.)

Stamina is a key consideration as you ponder the placement of your child in a school setting.  Stamina, physical and mental and emotional, does often increase with development and age in children. 

Is stamina an issue for your child?

*Note: If intelligence or cognitive functioning or a classifiable disability is an issue, most research actually points at not retaining a child.  Federal statutes protect children from being held back when another year in the same setting with no additional supports will not begin to skim the surface of the learning issues at work.  If you would like more information about protecting your child’s placement in a least restrictive environment, please go to


Road signs


When I imagined life as a mother, I don’t think I understood the gravity of being the one making all of the significant decisions.  There are these moments we experience as parents when we seem to be living in some kind of Robert Frost inspired universe, standing at the fork in the road and trying to discern which path is best. 

We squint into the darkness, the haze and the fog, trying to force a vision of the future into being, searching for signs about which path is right.  Or which is wrong.  And the haze is hazier, the fog thicker, the light dimmer because the one bearing the weight of the consequences of these decisions is not ourselves, but the little people standing beside us on the road, clinging to our pant legs and asking pesky questions like: Where are we going now? What’s going to happen? Why? Should I be afraid?

Maybe what we are looking for as we peer out toward the future are road signs.  DO NOT ENTER would be helpful. WRONG WAY. CLEARLY THIS IS THE BEST CHOICE. There are no such signs for us.

As crazy as it seems, many of us are making decisions right now, in February, for school placement next fall.  For our family, the decisions this year are pedestrian compared to the weighty choices we faced at this time last year. 

A year ago we were debating the possibility of waiting a year to begin kindergarten despite WJ’s chronological age.  He would turn five before the cut-off date at our school and would qualify to enter kindergarten.  But the teachers and school director and even we, his parents, had questions about whether or not WJ was ready. 

I have been working this year to document the effects of our decision, which ultimately was to wait.  But many have asked that pesky question, Why?  Why did we decide to wait for kindergarten?  I would like to unpack that a little in the next few weeks.  The reasons were manifold and complicated.

But for now, I am wondering, what have been the toughest decisions you have been faced with on behalf of another?  How do you decide which road to travel?


Snacks vs. treats

I feel like I have been standing in murky waters for most of my parenting life, up to my knees in confusion about how to define the relationship with food that I was going to have on behalf of my child.  The Food Rules have helped. But before they worked well, my family needed to unpack the idea of a snack a little more completely.  

Dina Rose, over at It’s Not About Nutrition, wrote this post recently about redefining snacking and her wisdom has influenced my thinking on the topic.  Dina makes a worthy distinction. We typically think of a snack as a type of food when really a snack is a time of day.  

A snack is just a time of day, not a type of food. Snack foods don’t have to come from the snack aisle of the grocery store.  A snack is a small meal eaten in between our larger meals and any type of food can be available for that small meal.

Remember those Gerber food puffs?  I think that is exactly where this whole debate about what foods I should be buying began.  It is the place where the snack food industry began to bully me with their convenience and portability and designed-just-for-kids mind tricks.  When I started thinking in a new way, following Dina's ideas about what makes a snack, the foods that have been worrying me because of their refined flour and sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and artificial ingredients began immediately intimidate me less.  They became treats, not snacks.  And the murky waters I felt like I had been standing in since WJ’s first bites of finger food began to clear up for me. 

This is a picture of the snack shelf in our cabinet.  It used to be full of boxes of cereal bars, pretzels, and crackers of all varieties.  It was like a delivery direct from The Little Engine That Could.  I am proud that this shelf is nearly empty.  In fact, I have been thinking about repurposing it altogether, maybe moving my spices into the newly cleared real estate. Snacks don't need their own special place.  They can be found all throughout our kitchen, in all the places you might find fresh, good food.

It certainly is not that we never have a bag of Goldfish in the house or that I am forbidding WJ from eating fruit snacks when his friends offer them in the park.  But those are treats.  Sometimes we have treats… sometimes we don’t.

A snack, on the other hand, can be any food.   Of course, I am not whipping up a little roasted chicken or rack of lamb for a snack. Our snacks mostly come now from the breakfast and lunch categories.  I am working to make sure we always have plenty of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as whole grains and dairy options available for the mini-meals in our day.  My grocery shopping anxiety is cut at least in half. 

Here are some common choices from our repertoire of snacks:

  • Apple slices and a mozzarella cheese stick
  • A slice of whole wheat banana bread
  • A handful of almonds or cashews
  • Yogurt
  • A clementine or orange sections
  • Popcorn
  • Cubes of cheese
  • A handful of grapes and some nuts
  • Bread (sometimes with butter or apple butter, often plain)
  • A bowl of Kashi cereal with milk
  • A whole-grain pumpkin mini-muffin, or other homemade muffin
  • Ants on a log (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins)
  • A mini-bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter and honey
  • Salami
  • Half of a peanut butter sandwhich
  • A soymilk smoothie with banana and berries
  • Carrot sticks

Most of these can be slipped into my bag if we will be away from home at a snack time.  They are convenient. But few of them are overly processed.  And all of them offer actual sustenance.  WJ does especially well if his meals and snacks offer some protein.  These snacks are also a big part of his getting in those five servings of fruits and veggies a day.

A snack is a time of day, not a type of food.  A treat is a treat.  These are two principles that have made The Food Rules more livable and enforceable and have helped me relax, knowing that WJ is eating well.

What are the favorite snacks in your house?

By the way, if you are not familiar with Dina Rose, check her out. Dina is a food sociologist and her blog, It's Not About Nutrition, is a site full of useful information.