Archive for ‘Parenting Book’

February 10, 2014

Tooth Fairy Pillows & Kissy Lips

by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard  38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

My daughters were supposed to be brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed. Instead, they were ransacking the bookshelf. The youngest, Hannah, cried while Laura murmured words of comfort. As I approached the doorway, the words “She won’t forget. It’s a tradition” stopped me in my tracks.

Although the “she” must mean me, I could not imagine what tradition Laura expected me to remember.

I silently cursed Laura’s second-grade teacher. Traditions were a big focus of her family heritage unit each year. With two older children, it was a project I had come to dread. Many families could trace their lineage back to Germany or Sweden, Japan or Africa. Their children made cute little cutouts, decked out in cultural regalia. Presentations involved tea ceremonies and recipes for Wiener schnitzel.

My ancestors had not kept track of lineage. And, as for tradition . . . well, did watching football and eating turkey on Thanksgiving count?

Luckily, my husband’s family is English and Irish. They have whole books on their family history. So far, our children always survived the heritage unit, even if their family trees were a bit lopsided.

Laura’s comment about traditions must have meant the cursed unit was upon us. What tradition could be relevant at 8:30 on a school night? The beginning of February didn’t exactly call for Easter eggs or a candlelit Mass. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday. Sparklers were reserved for July; costumes for October. I still had a few weeks until Valentine’s Day.

By the time I entered Hannah’s room, the girls were cuddled together in bed. They scooted over to make room for me. Hannah’s gap-toothed grin accentuated the air of expectation. “Ready, Momma?” Laura asked.

Just as I was about to break down and admit that I apparently had forgotten some vital family tradition, Katie ran in and plopped a book on my lap: “The Real Story of the Tooth Fairy.” In her other hand she held a lace-pocketed pillow. “You can use mine, Hannah. Mommy’s still working on yours.” She gave a grown-up wink, indicating she knew that I hadn’t even bought the fabric yet.
After tucking Hannah’s tooth into its little pink pocket, Katie snuggled in with us. I gave her a special hug.

At 14, she is already aware of something I hadn’t realized: Tradition is not always spelled with a capital T. It’s the little things, quirky family rituals, that mean the most — not just to children, but to us all.

The next day, I brought up the subject over breakfast, asking the children what other traditions we had.
They all shouted ideas at once.
Hannah: “Catching snowflakes on our tongues.”
Katie: “Family game night.”
Laura: “Birthday candles in our Pop-Tarts.” (Okay, so this is not the most healthy of traditions.)
“Dad’s haunted trail.” This from our teenage son, Chris.

The list grew and grew. Christmas stories with Dad, gingerbread with Grandma, Frisbee golf with Uncle Jerry. Snow cream and snowball fights with one grandpa, putt-putt with the other.

As they named all of the ways our family stayed close, I realized many of the traditions had been initiated not by me or my husband, but by one of the children.

It was Katie who suggested last Thanksgiving that we create small gift boxes out of wood for each family member. In them we put little notes praising each other for our contributions to the family.

In kindergarten our son, Chris, told us about St. Nicholas. If it weren’t for his enthusiasm, we would never have known to leave our shoes on the stairwell each Dec. 6, so St. Nick could fill them with treats.

Laura’s tradition involves planting a tree each Arbor Day. That, and sneaking Nana’s cream wafers faster than they come out of the oven.

Hannah, young as she is, has already influenced our family to put “kissy lips” on all the mirrors every Valentine’s Day.

If tradition is the glue that binds families, we’ve concocted our own adhesive out of flour and water, so that we are the sum of the little moments we create together. And while Tooth Fairy pillows and kissy lips may not be as exotic as tea ceremonies and Wiener schnitzel, they define our family better than any hand-me-down ritual.

A few Tooth Fairy Books:

night before tooth fairyTitle: 
The Night Before the Tooth Fairy
Author: Natasha Wing
Illustrator: Barbara Johansen Newman
Genre: Picture book

Title: What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth?what does tooth Fairy
Author:
Denise Barry
Illustrator: Andy Boerger
Genre: Picture book

Ask your children what your family’s traditions are? Surprised by their answers?

September 5, 2013

Hosting a Super Sleepover (Of course there are books involved!)

by Angela Verges

Angela Verges

Angela Verges

The kids are back in school and will make friends and soon invite them over for play dates and sleepovers. I remember my boys being invited to a friends’ house for a sleepover, so we didn’t have to host many ourselves. When the boys returned home I would hear stories about their escapades.

“We had a pillow fight, played games and stayed up all night.”

Now when I ask my teen boys about their first sleepover, they claim memory loss. I asked questions such as, “Did you tell scary stories, what kind of games did you play?”

The response I received was, “That was six years ago Ma, I don’t remember.”

Since I was planning a sleepover for my nieces, I thought it was also a good idea for the boys to read a book related to sleepovers. Maybe this would help them remember their days of sleepovers and help me with the planning.

jigsawjonessleepoverThe book my son read with me was A Jigsaw Jones Mystery – The Case of the Spooky Sleepover by James Preller. The first page of this chapter book begins with a description or Ralphie Jordan, a popular kid and a “world-champion smiler.”

Title: A Jigsaw Jones Mystery: The Case of the Spooky Sleepover
Author: James Preller
Genre: Early Reader, Mystery
Age:  Elementary

Ralphie wasn’t smiling when he talked to Jigsaw about his problem. Sitting in Jigsaw’s treehouse and backyard office, Ralphie explained that he heard ghost sounds at his house. And so the idea of a sleepover at Ralphie’s house was formed.

The Jigsaw Jones series has a recommended age of 7-10 years. The language was age appropriate and fun to read. The mystery was solved in a satisfying way that left this reader with a smile, just like Ralphie Jordan.

9780316734189For the younger reader, Olive’s First Sleepover by Roberta Baker does a good job showing escapades that occur during a first sleepover. Olive played with her friend Lizard many times, but had never stayed the night with Lizard.

Title: Olive’s First Sleepover
Author: Roberta Baker
Illustrator: Debbie Tilley
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: whenever they are having their first sleepover!

During the sleepover the girls created a petting zoo with caterpillars and other bugs they collected and charged the neighbors a small fee to visit. For dinner they made pizza with crazy toppings like marshmallows and chocolate chips. When it was time for bed the girls made a blanket tent and used pillows to create a tunnel.

Of course the night didn’t end without Olive becoming homesick. After listening to a ghost story, every sound that Olive heard was magnified. The ticking of the alarm clock was loud as well as the dripping of the rain as it trickled down a gutter. The girls experience more mishaps before finally sleeping soundly.

If you’re planning a sleepover either of the books mentioned in this post would be fun to read. If you’re looking for activities to incorporate into your party check out The Sleepover Book by Margot Griffin. The book included ideas such as flashlight tag, radical relays and a recipe for making glow-in-the-dark body paint.

thesleepoverbook

Title: The Sleepover Book
Author: Margot Griffin
Illustrator: Jane Kurisu
Genre: Parenting, Crafts, Cookbook
Ages: Old enough to host a sleepover

If you want to host a super sleepover, include the kids in the planning. Or at the very least, enjoy a good book about sleepovers.

What has been your experience with sleepovers?

August 1, 2013

leeks, boys, and those long afternoons

Today, I’m posting about tough parenting days over at the awesome Leanne Shirtliffe’s IronicMom.com for Whiteboard Wednesday (today making a super special appearance on Thursday!). I’m excited to be there so click here to read my post!

She would post herself, perhaps, but she’s celebrating the awesomeness that is her latest (and firstest!) parenting book, Don’t Lick the Minivan. Leanne is funny, honest (mostly I think), and makes you think you are not alone in the world of parenting.

dontlicktheminivanTitle: Don’t Lick the Minivan
Author: Leanne Shirtliffe
Genre: Parenting, Humor
Ages: Old, or at least those people who feel that way because of their kids 🙂

Here is a description of her book from IndieBound: (but warning, if you read this, you are going to want to buy it immediately!)

As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia’s sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia. In Don’t Lick the Minivan, Shirtliffe captures the bizarre aspects of parenting in her edgy, honest voice. She explores the hazards of everyday life with children such as: The birthday party where neighborhood kids took home skin rashes from the second-hand face paint she applied.The time she discovered her twins carving their names into her minivan’s paint with rocks.The funeral she officiated for “Stripper Barbie.”The horror of glitter.And much more A delayed encounter with postpartum depression helps Shirtliffe to realize that even if she can’t teach her kids how to tie their shoelaces, she’s a good enough mom. At least good enough to start saving for her twins’ therapy fund. And possibly her own. Crisply written, Don’t Lick the Minivan will have parents laughing out loud and nodding in agreement. Shirtliffe’s memoir might not replace a therapist, but it is a lot cheaper.

If you are done laughing yet, head on over to see my own post at IronicMom.com.

July 19, 2013

The Journey

Kathy Higgs-Coultard, Director of Michiana Writers' Center

Kathy Higgs-Coultard, Director of Michiana Writers’ Center

By Kathy Higgs-Coulthard*

When my son, Christopher, was little we used to take frequent walks. Or, more accurately, I would take walks and Christopher would ride along—first in a snuggly (think papoose), then stroller, then wagon. I chose the destination, the route, and the purpose of the trip. Often, our trip was designed to be educational in some way: To the pond to capture tadpoles or to the weeping willow to picnic and read. But eventually Christopher grew less and less content in the role of passenger, until the day came when he insisted on walking.

At first that seemed like a win-win. He could walk and I wouldn’t have to pull the wagon. I decided one of our first excursions would be to the park about a block from our house. The excursion would fit perfectly in the after lunch, before nap slot—five minutes there, about a half hour of playtime, five minutes back. No agenda, just playtime. We sunscreened up and trotted out the door.

Christopher was so excited to be in the lead that he made up a song about going to the park. Wish I’d had a video camera with me (partly so I could share it with you, but mostly so I could use it to blackmail him if the need arises later in life). So, he’s singing “Park, park, PARK, park, PARK!” and  then he stops at the end of our yard and climbs on a big rock, jumps off, climbs back up, repeat. I lure him off the rock, remind him of our destination, and we’re off again, singing.

Until we get across the street. The frogs are thrumming up a storm. Christopher’s eyes light up and he bolts for the cattail forest. Twenty minutes later we emerge, mud-crusted and carrying a new (temporary) travel companion named Ribbit. I look at my watch—naptime is quickly approaching, but it’s okay. We’re really truckin’ now, singing “Park, PARK, park.”

Until two houses from the park. The neighbor’s yard is covered with sweet gum pods. If you’ve ever seen one, you’ll understand Christopher’s fascination—the spiky seed pods look like creatures from another planet. Christopher nearly drops Ribbit as he scrambles to fill his pockets (and mine) with pods. Of course the neighbor comes out laughing. She provides a bucket and Christopher completely fills it. We’re so close to the park I can hear a child squealing “Higher, higher!” presumably as someone pushes him in a swing. I thank the neighbor for her bucket and lure Christopher back to the road, singing “Park, park, park.”

Until we reach the park gate. The squealing child and his daddy are leaving and Christopher has to show them his treasures—his “sweet gummies” and his froggy. The little boy says he wants some and before I can say a word, Christopher is leading them down the street away from the park. Both children are singing “Gummy, gummy, GUMMY.”

In some regards the afternoon was a wash. We never did reach the park. Naptime was very late and only accomplished by allowing Ribbit to sleep in a bowl by Christopher’s bed. But when I really think about it, this trip was the most worthwhile one we’d taken so far. So what if we didn’t swing at the park? Christopher had changed the purpose of our trip, and in so doing, had gained a pet, a new friend, and several dozen spiky seed pods. But the real treasure was the sparkle in Christopher’s eyes the next day as he asked me if we could go on another walk.

A few of my favorite books about the discovery nature of child-directed play:

itsrainingitspouringTitle: It’s Raining! It’s Pouring! We’re Exploring!

Author: Polly Peters

Illustrator: Jess Stockham

Genre: Picture book

Ages: 3-7 years

Celebrates the joy of imaginative play as three bored children face a rainy day. Fun rhyming text, playful pictures. Love that Dad and Mom work together making lunch!

notaboxnotastickTitle: Not a Box (And the companion book, Not a Stick)

Author: Antoinette Portis

Genre: Picture book

Ages: 1-6 years

What child doesn’t like to play with an empty box? Especially if the box is big enough to climb in! Inspired by the author’s memories of sitting in a box as a child, this book explores the power of imagination as a child transforms his ordinary box into a spaceship and flies to another planet.

preschoolersbusybooktoddlersbusybookTitle: The Preschooler’s Busy Book and The Toddler’s Busy Book

Author: Tish Kuffner

Genre: Nonfiction

Ages: Adult

Although the point of my blog post is that kids need times to direct their own play, a parent can only take hearing “I’m bored” so many times before they cave in. Instead of turning on the TV, try some of the activities in these books.

*You can read more about Kathy here. Kathy normally blogs on the second Monday of the month. Except when the months go by so quickly that I accidentally schedule her post for August instead of July and don’t notice until she politely asks where the post might have gone. In case you were wondering.

July 10, 2013

A Vegan Mac and Cheese for the Healthy Family

Okay, so I am so excited to introduce one more new writer. I had been following Ophelia’s blog for some time now and have made almost every recipe she has posted. Seriously. Her chocolate-avocado pudding is one of my favorites. And now she is writing for us! Because I’ve always wanted to make sure that the Family That Reads Together is also Eating together. But let her introduce herself:

I am French and vegan (no, it’s true!). The French part, well, I obviously didn’t choose, but the vegan part was a decision I made about 10 seconds after watching a slaughter-house/factory farm video (thank you liberal arts schools!).

Cue 2009, the birth year of my daughter. I realized the moment my daughter was born that not only was I entirely clueless in my new role as a mom, but that my vegan cooking skills were going to be put to the test by the brand new palate of a child! Overwhelmed by the magnitude of this new responsibility, I had to dig deeply for a creativity I didn’t know I had.

And so here is some of that creativity! Welcome Ophelia! Thanks for joining us! (You can find her own blog at lapetitevegan.com.)

A Vegan Mac and Cheese for the Family that Eats Healthy Together!

Yes, everyone needs a good vegan mac and cheese recipe. Let me rephrase that: everyone needs at LEAST one good mac and cheese recipe. If you search around, you will find that there are many out there and most of them will be satisfying (you know, the whole point of this dish). BUT, what many lack is a bit of originality (yes!) and a wise ratio of good nutrients. Just a roundabout way of saying that many require WAY too much margarine for my taste and (boringly) rely on flour to thicken the sauce. Cue this recipe.

Title: Vegan Fusion World Cuisine
Author: Mark Reinfeld and Bo Rinaldi and the chefs at Blossoming Lotus
Genre: Cookbook

This recipe comes straight out of the Blossoming Lotus cookbook. I love it because it covers my two most basic mottos: it’s easy (I mean, all you need is a blender!), and delicious. This one comes with an added bonus: it’s also original. Its originality comes from the main ingredient: tahini. Tahini is just another word for sesame butter (as in, ground up sesames). Most of us unknowingly consume tahini in hummus or perhaps even in the occasional “tahini dressing” (recipe to come!). Regardless, let’s be clear about this butter: it’s high in calcium, iron, good fats and protein. Win!

Ok, so gathering the ingredients is what will take you the most time, though they can all be easily found in your local health food store. This recipe also calls for raw garlic, which many little ones might find too strong/spicy in flavor. I recommend trying it anyway at first and if you notice a reluctance, perhaps blend it with less or even without garlic, take a batch out for your child and then go to town with the garlic for yourself.

If you want to make this entirely gluten free, simply replace the oats with ground up flaxseeds (same ratio), and use quinoa pasta instead. And you know, it doesn’t HAVE to be poured over pasta. Clearly you can use it as a dip, pour it over veggies, rice, quinoa or even eat it with a spoon (yeah, I said it). Enjoy!

Mac and Cheese (or “Cheez” if that makes you more comfortable!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 1/2 cup soy, rice or almond milk (unsweetened preferrably)

2 TBSP rolled oats

2 TBSP tahini

2 TBSP nutritional yeast

1 tsp soy sauce (or tamari or bragg’s)

3/4 tsp dijon mustard

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

Place all these ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth.

Pour over pasta

and stir.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Top with sauteed or raw veggies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what do you think? Are you in for vegan mac and cheese? And if you try this recipe out, let us know how it worked for you and your family! Happy eating!

June 3, 2013

Putting Down Roots

kathy headshotHi! I’m so excited to introduce Kathy Higgs-Coultard, who is a new contributing writer for The Family That Reads Together. This post is great timing for me as my son and I just planted our first garden; we will see how THAT goes. Kathy’s writing will be featured on the 2nd Monday of each month. Kathy’s contributions will mainly focus on the traditions, (mis)adventures, and discoveries she’s experienced while raising her four children to be voracious readers and writers. You can read more about Kathy at our about the authors page or visit her at Write with Kathy.

Putting Down Roots

I have never been much of a gardener.  I think the problem stems from my love/hate relationship with plants—I love them, they hate me. No matter how much care and attention I give a plant, it always dies. So when we decided to transplant our four children from Forest Hills–a subdivision dominated by pachysandra, myrtle, and impatiens, to a new home on two acres of wooded property, I panicked. Especially when Laura (then six) announced, “Now we can finally have a garden.” Her face was so bright and hopeful, I did what any good mom would do. I lied. “Yes, sweetie,” I said, “a garden. We can do that.”

To my defense, I did not intend it to be a lie. Laura and I researched plants and chose those best suited to shady areas. We fertilized. We watered. We prayed. We really, really tried. But the hostas we used as a border along the back of the yard were nibbled down to nubs. The tulips we planted in a mulch bed were gnawed to nothing. And the purple azeala Laura loved withered to barren sticks when some creature burrowed under it. “Why does everything I love die?” Laura asked.

I knew how she felt. I’d begun to wonder if maybe Mother Nature herself hated me. It was possible that she still held a grudge from that time I cut every bud off my grandmother’s rosebush and used them to frost a mud pie. Maybe Mother Nature had sicced her forest friends on our garden.

Then, in the serendipitous way things always seem to happen, I came upon one of my favorite childhood stories while leading a book drive. “I loved this book,” I told Laura, showing her the cover of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. She liberated it from the pile and insisted we begin reading it that night.

Night after night we worried over Mrs. Frisby’s plight to move her sick child before the farmer could plow up her home. When we got to the part where Mrs. Frisby goes to visit the rats living under the rosebush, Laura jumped up and yelled, “That’s what happened to the azeala!” To test her theory, she set up an observation station by the picture window overlooking the backyard. It took a few weeks of on and off again observing for us to learn that it wasn’t rats living under our azeala, but hosta-eating rabbits. We also discovered that deer enjoy a tulip or two in the evening. Most impressive were the variety of birds flitting through to snag berries off the wild bushes at the wood’s edge. We even spied a family of wild turkeys, although they seemed more interested in using our yard as a shortcut to somewhere else than a feeding ground.

“We need to go back to the garden guy,” Laura announced when we talked about her findings. I nodded. Tim would be able to give us tips on protecting our garden from our furry friends. But Laura shook her head. “No! We need to find out what other animals eat and plant that, too! Maybe we could see opossums, and raccoons, and unicorns.”

Oh my.

mrsfrisbyTitle: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction
Ages: Listening 5 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

1972 Newbery Medal Winner. Although some older books do not capture the attention of today’s children, this book pulled my kids right in and held them enthralled as they worried for Timothy’s health and Mrs. Frisby’s safety. Side note: O’Brien’s daughter wrote two sequels to this book.

touchabutterflyTitle: Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids
Author: April Pulley Sayre
Genre: Nonfiction
Ages: Adult

Beautiful—in photos and lyrical language, April invites parents to create nature adventures in our own yards. From helping readers understand the necessary components of a habitat to providing advice on how to build a low maintenance, sustainable environment for wildlife, April encourages all to approach wildlife gardening with confidence and to include their children in the adventure.

What about you? Do you have gardening attempts to share? Successful or otherwise?

April 13, 2012

I’m buying my own mother’s day present this year!

I’ve always tinkered with writing: I have notebooks full of poems and essays from high school, college, and even yesterday. But I never really considered it seriously until one fairly awful trip through airport security after 9/11. It wasn’t pretty. As I started to think about my experience on the way home, I took out my laptop and typed an essay: an essay, I thought, that like all my other essays would just get filed away for my own pleasure.

But then on a whim, I edited it and sent that essay to the Christian Science Monitor. And what do you know? They published it! Well, many articles and essay submissions later, I’ve learned that the odds aren’t always that good.

But recently I found another break: an essay I submitted to the radio show This I Believe many years ago was to be included in their newest book of essays called This I Believe: On Motherhood. I held my breath throughout the entire editing and publishing process, expecting something to wrong, but it didn’t. And now, the book is out in stores and I’m so excited!

So if you get it definitely check out the essay “Motherhood Is Real” by yours truly on page 161. And then buy an extra for a mother you know–it makes a great Mother’s Day gift!

You can get it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an indie bookstore near you!

December 8, 2011

cook-it-up-and-eat-it-up

If the holidays aren’t a time for cooking, I don’t know what they are for! And my 3-year-old seems to have sensed the vibe, because he’s been spending an average of 30 minutes a day in his play kitchen recently.

He loves to cook, and I love cooking in my own kitchen while he putters away in his mini-version right next to me. As I simmer away the tomatoes and onions, he chops his velcro and wood fruit, mixes them in his mini pans and sticks them in the oven. Then he brings it over to me for a taste or insists that I sit down for a more formal meal.

And it’s even more fun when he gets up on his “learning tower” to cook along with me. So when we got this cookbook to review from OwlKids, we were both really excited. My son was very proud to show his dad that he has his very own cookbook, and it’s provided us with fun, great times together, and some really good food.

Title: Eat it Up!
Author: Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Genre: Nonfiction, Cookbook
Age: 3 and up!

What to do with the kids:

These are simple, easy, and yummy recipes. Let your kid pick one out: the pictures will allow even kids who are too young to read to choose for themselves. Then take them to the store (or a farmer’s market if it’s summertime!) and let them help buy the ingredients.

The first recipe my son chose, much to my surprise, was the meat pie. I don’t eat red meat, and I don’t usually cook with it at home, so we used Field Roast Apple Sage sausages (which are meat-free, soy-free, and dairy-free and absolutely great). It was delicious! It was even better smothered with some Apple Butter. Hey, it’s the holidays, right?

November 1, 2011

natural parenting if it kills me, aided by THE RHYTHM OF THE FAMILY

“Look, look at that one!” my son screams from the back seat. “And that one. It’s Very, Very, Very beautiful!” There is nothing my son loves more than the fall colors on the trees, and nothing could make me smile more than to hear him wax on about their beauty. Introducing my children to the world they live in is something truly important to me, and it’s something that can be too often overlooked.

In addition to instilling an appreciation for nature in my children, it’s also important for me to bring nature into the home. Right now, I’m on somewhat of a crusade to buy natural items. I consider it an important part of creating a healthy home. Alway in the back of my mind are two things: a responsibility for the planet that seems to have been ingrained in me since growing up in the 90s (when people cared about such things) and the memory of my mother dying way too young from a disease about which we know way too little. I remember the oncologist telling her she couldn’t have conventional strawberries anymore and she should try to eat organic as much as possible. I think about that conversation almost every time I’m at the grocery store, wondering if the $3/pound apples are really worth spending the entire paycheck on. These two thoughts are always with me and since having kids they’ve been percolating, growing, until my desire to buy natural has become somewhat of an obsession.

For example, my kids don’t have a lunch box without at least an hour on the internet trying to find the safest material to transport food. Those plastic cups he used to like to drink from? Sorry, they had BPA; they are gone. And the other ones, without BPA? I’m just going to stay a step ahead of the research this time and get rid of them, too…what are the odds that there is a kind of plastic that is actually healthy for us?

No new purchase is safe from scrutiny: I recently spent probably no less than five hours researching puppet houses and puppets as a present for the kids from their great grandmother. It’s frustrating to me that I can’t find out exactly what things are made of. I finally chose one theatre because I saw a reference to “environmentally-friendly wood” and “non-toxic” paint, although I have no idea what either of those things mean. I found some wool and felt puppets to go with it.

As I take my role of nurturer more and more seriously, I find myself going further and further back to nature. Today, it’s a stainless steel lunch container. Tomorrow, it’s chicken-farming in the backyard. (My husband is really excited about that one.)

Which is why I loved finding this book at a country store in Mazama, Washington. I grabbed it immediately and flipped through it, but I knew I was going to buy it before I even opened the pages. I’ve already read it more than once. I’ve made the strawberry muffin recipe and purchased the ingredients to make my own lotion. The book is a great reminder that you don’t need to buy all the stuff you think you need. There are so many alternatives for making better, simpler, and cheaper options at home.

Chemicals, be damned. I will be a natural mom if it kills all of us.

And my husband thinks it might.

Title: The Rhythm of Family
Author: Amanda Blake Soule with Stephen Soule
Genre: Parenting
Age: Adults

Summary and Review: This book is part how-to guide, part story of a family, part annotated calendar of a wonderful year. Co-written by the mother and father of a family with four (now five if you read their blog) children, they talk about the beautifully natural ways in which they celebrate the seasons, living outdoors and in concert with nature as much as they can. The book itself is a wonderful celebration of the importance of family and the world in which we raise our families. While there are specific recipes and craft ideas, I found it to be more inspiration than resource.

Follow up with your family:

After reading this book, I’ve been inspired to cook more with alternative ingredients–coconut oil instead of butter, brown rice syrup instead of sugar. I bought BPA-free canning jars and am about to start canning my own food. I now make my own face wash and shampoo, and even though those recipes aren’t in this book, it’s the beauty and persuasion of this book that started me on that path. (And the face wash, let me tell you, is amazing! Here’s a link to another blog that describes a make-at-home oil wash if you are interested.)

I have no doubt that if you read this book you may get something entirely different out of it. Maybe it will inspire you to sew or knit. Or maybe it will just make you smile and appreciate how good the simplicity of life with children can be.

August 22, 2011

right now I’m all about homemade soup, but I remember the workplace and BOSSYPANTS

I have a confession to make: I love being a mom. I love being a wife, even (in whispered tones) a housewife. I love staying at home. I love making dinner for my family. I love being in charge of my children’s day. I love showing my husband what they’ve learned.

I love the look in my husband’s eyes when he sees my 3-year-old zoom down the street on his bike–only a few days before that he had been so tentative, but I worked with him, I challenged him to let up on the brakes–pedal three times in a row, I said, then four, then five. My husband is impressed and looks at me, raising his eyebrows and questioning to see if I, too was seeing this for the first time or if I had something to do with it. I smile and he knows: I worked hard for that. Every time, every new thing, he gives me that eyebrow raise. Every time, I give him that smile. “Our boy is growing up,” I say. That was only a couple of weeks ago and today I had to take the bike away for going too fast, for not listening when I yelled “stop.” They go so fast–cycling and life.

I love family dinners, every night. Asking my son to tell his dad what he learned today. Not on a school day, but on a mom day.

I love it when I cook something good and my husband loves it. I love it when I cook something bad and he tells me the truth. I love paying at the grocery store, watching the fresh food slide by, knowing that our stomachs will be filled it it, knowing that I am taking care of the people that I love.

Sometimes I feel the need to defend myself. Writing a book, being a mom; neither are exactly financial success stories. Was my liberal arts degree really necessary to teach beginning bike-riding and supervise violin practices?) People who choose one job over another may think on their choice (sometimes my husband will wonder out loud why he’s a doctor and not a pianist), but this is more a mental exercise, a momentary imagining. It isn’t the emotionally, politically, and socially laden debate of the working versus not-working mother.

But working moms or not-anymore-working moms or moms who never worked or moms just starting to work–we have to think about our decision every day. (Or maybe we don’t? This would be news to me.) But I would argue (I am arguing actually) that society expects that we voice our decision out loud. Often. (And preferably with regret–regret at missed time with the kids if we work or regret at a wasted dream if we don’t.) If we work, we are supposed to justify it by saying “it keeps me sane” or “I’m setting a good example for my kids” or my personal favorite “a happy mom makes a happy family”. If we don’t work, we are supposed to say that it’s our “favorite job” as if it’s a job and not just who we are.

My husband works.  He works a lot. Way more than 40 hours a week. And he has two kids. And he loves them very much. And yet I’ve never heard him say that he does it to keep sane, to set an example, or to be happy for the sake of the family. He does it because he chose to be a doctor. And I’ve never heard anyone question that.

It really pisses me off.

Oh sure, I have professional goals. But that’s not what I’m talking about right now. Right now? If I’m being totally honest? I just want to go to the zoo, take car trips to the space museum and the aquarium, listen to really horrible-sounding violin lessons, teach someone how to draw the letter “A” or how to say “red” in Spanish, and make lots of really good, homemade meals. I want to feed my family, to keep them healthy and to support them. I don’t care if it’s cheesy or out-dated, I want to be the “wind beneath” everybody’s wings.

It’s important to note that I am using “I” statements.  By no means am I saying this is what everyone should do. (It’s stupid that I even have to say that, but I do. Read the news–any of it.) I, like most women who are tired of thinking of themselves as an issue to be debated, can get worked up about this. Which is why I like to have a good laugh about it all. And for this I highly recommend Tina Fey’s memoir about being a girl, a woman, and a working mom, Bossypants.

Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Genre: Memoir, Humor
Age: Old

Review and Summary: Disclaimer. This is not a parenting book. The chapter on how she was running from working with Oprah on 30 Rock to a Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live to picking out her daughter’s Peter Pan birthday cake was my favorite. Because yes, all three of those things are equally important.