Our boys have taught us so much from their interactions in kindergarten. Each day when our oldest got off the bus, I would ask him how was school, who did he play with, did he sit with anyone at lunch and how was recess. He would tell me the names of the kids he sat with, how they played tag and so forth on the playground. That was pretty much all that he shared.
In October, I went on a field trip with his class. Imagine my surprise when his “best friend” didn’t speak a word of English. He was assigned to my group and the teacher asked me to help explain the names of animals to this little boy as we saw them on the farm. As I was telling this boy, that the animal in front of us is a turkey; my son interrupts me and says, “Mommy, he doesn’t speak English. He speaks Mandarin Chinese!” It amazed me that in all the afternoons he talked about playing with this boy and eating lunch with him that his lack of English never came up.
Our youngest started kindergarten this week. At dinner we were asking him about his day and who he played with, ate lunch with etc. His continuous answer was “my best friend”. We asked him what his best friend’s name is and he simply answered “I don’t know”. By the end of the week, he did know his name but it was not important.
We have chuckled over these stories; but it really is amazing what doesn’t matter to little kids. They simply enjoy playing with certain people and the details don’t matter. It doesn’t matter what they wear, what they look like or even what language they communicate in. We could all learn to look at the person and not the details. The more open we are the more we will get from our daily interactions.
When our oldest was one, we began a tradition of taking my mom on a whale watch. Every year we trek down to Provincetown for the first boat of the day. There is an amazing Portuguese bakery where we get coffee and croissants and then we are off to visit the whales.
This was our sixth whale watch and each one has been completely different. Of course the weather varies, but so do the whales. When I was younger, the humpbacks had pretty much left the area and you were lucky to see a minke whale or maybe a fin back. This year we saw minke whales on our way out of the harbor. It wasn’t long until we were surrounded by humpbacks feeding.
The whales were bubble feeding, where they essentially work together, swimming in circles, blowing bubbles and basically trapping the fish. Then they swim up the center, mouth open to eat the prey. We had learned about bubble net feeding at the Mystic Aquarium on a family trip. The kids were so excited to see it in person. We were literally surrounded by bubble nets. There were some whales swimming across the surface with their mouths open, drag feeding. Often when you go on a whale watch, you see the large backs and of course the fluke (tail). Rarely do you see the head so well.
The kids’ experience has been different every year. In the beginning they just knew everyone was excited and they could see the whales but didn’t really understand. Now they have read about whales, seen information in aquariums and local museums. Our youngest, kept going inside to our stuff to circle the animals we were seeing in the guide they gave us.
It was also the first year that the boys were spotting whales themselves. Having so many nearby helped, but they were getting good at spotting spouts and fins. Even the youngest was pointing away. Watching them put all of their resources together was really fun. They knew lots of information and they were excited to share. When they didn’t know something, they asked. It was a great experience for all of us.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up on the ocean and to be sharing that experience with my children. We live in a beautiful part of the country and are only a short drive from a variety of beaches. Growing up at the beach, I truly believe that salt water cures EVERYTHING. When we were young, our parents would tell us to soak our bumps and scrapes in the water and they would get better. As we became young adults, we discovered that salt water can help cure the “tiredness” from the night before. Now, as a mom, I have discovered that it can fix arguing children.
Our boys are 5 and 7. We go through phases where they get along and times when they don’t. Right now, is a time that they aren’t getting along. It has been weeks of squabbling with each other. Last weekend, we were lucky enough to sneak in a few hours at the beach as a family. Pulling in the parking lot, everything changed. The kids were helpful bringing their stuff down the beach and stopped whining. After sunscreen, they played in the sand and went swimming. Not an argument to be heard. Of course, everything started up again on the ride home, but it was a great two hours.
The boys are well-trained beach bums. They have been going to the beach since they were born. We have gone through the not wanting to put our feet in the sand, not liking seaweed, trying to eat rocks and shells and not wanting sunscreen – and it’s all been worth it! Now, they both know how to swim, are complacent about sunscreen (they know it’s not an option) and truly enjoy everything the beach has to offer.
We are beach minimalists. Everyone is responsible for their own beach gear. Generally, we bring boogie boards, lunch, towels and sunscreen. I carry my chair and sometimes the boys bring their chairs down. We don’t lug a lot of toys down. A few shovels and buckets do the trick. In the heat of the summer, they spend most of their time playing in the water. During the shoulder seasons, they play in the sand and look for shells. It is a great environment for them to explore. They love looking for fish and shells. Some beaches offer great tidal pools where they look for sand dollars and starfish. The beach is constantly changing as the tides bring in new treasures.
On the weekends, we spend the entire day on the beach as the family. These days are a little different because we drive onto the beach and can pack up our car. This allows us to bring books to read and paper and crayons to color. I am so lucky to raise boys with sand between their toes and the knowledge that salt water cures everything!!
I recently read an article on Mashable about who is the typical mommy blogger. After reading what they said, I looked at the comments as they asked people to share blogs that they write. Instead of finding new blogs to read, I saw the many, many complaints about the term “mommy blogger”. The feeling was that it’s a derogatory term. Many felt that these women should not be referred to as “mommy” and they should be respected for their professional writing backgrounds.
My kids are 5 and 7 and I am very much so a mommy. The boys, like their peers, still call me mommy. I know this will change in the not too distant future and I am embracing this short period of time that I am Mommy. I am also not a professional writer, so I think that puts me square in the realm of “mommy bloggers”.
Ironically, I feel the same negative gut reaction when I hear people refer to women at sporting events as “pink hats”. As a female sports fan who has attended many sporting events over the years, it drives me crazy. Then I realized – I don’t wear a pink hat. I have always worn a navy blue hat (often to the point it turns a different color).
We all have a trigger; some description that we find derogatory. Sometimes, we have to sit back and revel in the fact they may not be talking about us. What about the term makes you angry? For me, I am proud of being a mommy and someday I will be proud of being a mom. The term “pink hat” often refers to women who don’t know much about the sport they are viewing. I look at my experience and don’t consider myself in the same category but I applaud these women for trying something new.
So often today, people are expressing their negative feelings towards each other. Perhaps we could embrace our differences and realize that people aren’t always referring to us and maybe others should be celebrated for what they are trying. Maybe, we can realize that these labels are no more important as adults than they were in high school. I went to a large high school and it was straight out of a John Hughes movie. Many years later, the labels are gone and most people get along. Instead of labeling the type of parent or person you are; follow your own passions and leave the labels behind. Then, you will be certain to find your personal happiness.
Spring is an extremely busy time of year for parents, especially if your kids are in school. The last few weeks of school are filled with events to attend. You add in any extra activities winding down and it is a lot.
However, it’s a great time of year for making new friends. You are essentially forced to hang out with new people. Over time, more and more faces are familiar; but in the beginning you meet many new parents at the school and at your children’s activities. Think about the random conversations at baseball games, dance rehearsals or sitting outside art classes. It is a group of people, often from different backgrounds, coming together because of their children and sharing a unified experience. Conversations often start with talk about how crazy everyone’s schedule is; this is an easy way for moms to relate. It also provides an opportunity to find out what other moms do. Often in these moments we discover what someone does for work or as a volunteer because it is naturally added to the verbal to-do list she’s sharing with you.
It is also a great time to find new meal ideas. Everyone has to eat and it is difficult to come up with quick, healthy choices. Last night, was a busy one for us and everyone was heading in different directions. We decided to make turkey meatball subs for dinner. It was quick and everyone eats them (not an easy feat in this family). If I have time, I throw chicken in the crock pot with barbecue sauce and serve broccoli slaw (bought at the store and I add a little coleslaw dressing). These are my primary, go-to options but I really need more and I’m always curious about what other people do in the same situation.
Please share any ideas that work for your family at this busy time of year. If you don’t want to comment you can always send me and email at email@example.com Thank you
Drawing ducks in Central Park
When we decided to bring new sketch books and markers with us, we couldn’t imagine the impact they would have on our trip. We carried the books and markers with us all over New York City. The biggest lesson for me was to not influence what they drew. This lesson came pretty early in the trip when the boys wanted to draw a nuclear power plant that we were driving by. It seemed to defeat the point to say no, so each of their sketch books begin with a drawing of the gray towers of the power plant. The next few pages are filled with a variety of cars, trucks, rocks and water towers. A five-hour car trip is definitely a good portion of the trip so it seems appropriate to document it.
Stopping to draw when inspiration struck helped us to slow down and truly enjoy our surroundings. When we visited Battery Park, the boys colored the Staten Island Ferry, water taxis, helicopters, flowers and of course the Statue of Liberty. They were having so much fun coloring, we bought bagels and coffee and just relaxed, enjoying the view. We stopped throughout Central Park and of course the Museum of Natural History. Before going to the museum, we anticipated the dinosaurs being the big draw; but they really enjoyed drawing the Aztec artifacts.
By leaving the days open to change, we truly wandered and enjoyed the sights. We were a little early to dinner with friends in the Village and the boys played chess in Washington Square. They couldn’t wait to draw this experience when we got back to the hotel. They also drew pictures of themselves with the Smurfs in Times Square. There is a great collection of what they saw in the city.
It is fun to look through these great keepsakes and see a new city from the perspective of a five and seven-year old. There are many differences and similarities in their books. One is much more animal and nature oriented while the other is more interested in the structures. They have shown their books to friends, family, teachers and classmates. It is so much fun to hear their animated stories as they explain each picture. Hopefully, they will continue to enjoy drawing and we can continue to build great memories in our heads as well as in sketch books!!
Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th Avenue and West 47th Street in Times Square in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We live in Massachusetts and are on April vacation this week. Unlike February vacation, we went away with the kids this time. When the boys were very young we traveled all over the world with them and then didn’t travel for a while. Surprisingly, a lot of the planning is similar. When preparing for long distance travel it is essential to bring a bag of tricks. This bag includes new activities and special snacks. Now that the boys are older, we packed new sketch books and markers so that they can document their trip to New York City. I didn’t anticipate the desire to draw different cars and sights on the five-hour drive, but it entertained them. We also bought a new DVD to play in the portable player, but didn’t use it until our second night in the hotel. We have found that it gives the boys some downtime in the hotel. We also plan a small budget to pick up a small toy in the new place. This rewards the good behavior and mixes up the items that you brought. I also packed snacks that would both fill them and provide some nutritional value.
Another crucial step comes before leaving the house, research. With two little boys, space to run is very important! We always look for parks on the map and make sure we leave open time for them to run around and play (this does not work in Paris – you aren’t allowed on the grass). It is important to pick age appropriate activities. Remember that you are on a family vacation and that it’s important to pick places that work for everyone. Don’t expect small children to behave in long lines – they don’t understand what they are waiting for and it can be stressful for you.
Before traveling to New York, we looked up the different museums and the Met http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/ offers a variety of itineraries for different age groups. It was on this site that I got the idea for the sketch books. Last year, we brought printer paper stapled together and the boys made a book of our overnight trip. So this seemed like a natural progression. They also give suggestions for families with different age children. We are planning to visit the Museum of Natural History tomorrow – what is better than dinosaurs when you are 5 and 7? As part of our research, we discovered they have a discovery zone in addition to the general exhibits. The plan is to complete the museum outing with running around in Central Park. One of their favorite parts of the trip so far has been walking to Times Square. You never know what will excite them, but you want to have a variety of options. We have changed our itinerary everyday to go with the kids moods and level of energy. We had considered taking them to a show, but they have been falling asleep at dinner (6 PM) so a show seems like it would be a disaster – something to save for another trip.
The key to positive family travel is planning, a few treats and flexibility. If you are prepared, you can go with the flow! Enjoy your travels!!!
Finding a relatively healthy dinner on a busy night can be a burden for the most prepared parent. Personally, I teach evening pilates classes twice a week and I’m always looking for quick and easy dinners. Here are a few that I have tried recently with my family:
BBQ chicken in the crock-pot: take a package of chicken breasts and place them in the bottom of your crock-pot. Pour about a cup of barbecue sauce over the chicken. Cover and cook on high for three hours. I serve mine with quinoa and peas. I defrost two cups of frozen peas and cook one cup of quinoa (following the instructions on the package). When the quinoa is ready, I stir in the defrosted peas and serve with the chicken.
Garlic-lime chicken fajita: Truly, I use the pre-measured package that McCormick sells, but you can always measure out your own spices. In addition to the pre-measured spices, the recipe calls for 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice (I often squeeze fresh lime juice but juice from the container works too), some olive oil, chicken, peppers (I use red, orange or yellow because the kids eat them) and onions. The marinade can be made ahead and it cooks quickly in a skillet. You can use corn, whole wheat or flour tortillas. Warm the tortillas in the microwave or place them in a warm oven. This meal also creates another way to add veggies. You can cut up tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and anything else you would like to add. Place them in bowls and let your kids build their own fajita. It is a fun and easy mid-week meal.
Lemon-oregano chicken: I came to this recipe after forgetting to marinate my chicken. I cut up chicken breasts into small pieces (they cook faster this way) and placed them in a skillet, zested one lemon and squeezed the juice directly over the chicken, sprinkled a little salt, 1/8 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, smashed three garlic cloves and tossed them in, a teaspoon of oregano (tablespoon if you have fresh oregano) and a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir it all around and cook over medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes (depending on how big your chicken pieces are). I love sautéed spinach with this meal. I add about a tablespoon of olive oil to another skillet – you can use just oil - I add a tiny amount of salt, pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg. Warm the skillet to medium-high and add fresh spinach. Continue to swirl the spinach around for about 5 minutes, until it is all wilted. You can add brown rice or quinoa to round out the meal.
These are just a few ideas for those mid-week doldrums. Enjoy!!
Veggies from the patio garden
I have the opposite of a green thumb and yet I try to grow a garden every year. Over the last few years, I have learned my limits and where to put my plants. My yard is very shady, so I use a lot of planters on my deck (the sunniest spot on our property). Each year the kids and I plant seeds and watch them grow. Given my lack of a green thumb, this usually results in my buying seedlings when the weather is warm but the kids enjoy selecting seeds and watching them sprout.
It is fun to take the kids to the store and let them pick vegetables to grow in our garden. You would be surprised at what they pick out. I don’t sway them from picking vegetables that they don’t usually eat or limit them to foods that will grow better in New England. Once the weather warms up, we plant the vegetables outside and the kids play an active role in watering the plants and picking our vegetables. They are willing to try anything off the plant. The cherry tomatoes rarely make it into the house. It may not become their favorite food, but at least they try something new. My youngest also picks herbs off the plants and eats them on the deck. He can smell very minty at times
Involving the kids in the process makes for a great project and helps them learn about where food comes from and makes it more fun to eat their vegetables. My older son’s school took this philosophy and created a garden at the school. A group of volunteers and a lot of help from the community has led to a great garden. The entire school planted seeds and the kids were able to go out and check the progress. Each student was able to pick from the garden at the beginning of the season and again at the end. They were even able to supply the school cafeteria with lettuce and vegetables for salads in the fall. Being New England, the growing season isn’t very long but they certainly made the best of it.
It doesn’t take much to start a few plants. Put soil in an old egg carton and then have the kids place one seed in each spot. Continue to water and you will see sprouts quickly. The squashes tend to have big sprouts so the kids really like to see them. They will need to be transferred to bigger containers as they grow or they can go outside if you live in a warmer area. Making it a family adventure helps to ease the work and more fun to share the bounty. A fresh salad from the garden makes summer dinners that much more fun!
Here are a few links about starting a garden: