Monday, January 30, 2006

Love the Planet, Love Gore

Check out what Al Gore has been doing, other than flying coach class.

Cupcakes, Anyone?

This came up a while back - someone mentioned that stay at home moms don't bake cupcakes these days. Au contraire! Check out this beautiful and fun cookbook on none other than cupcakes. I try to limit the amount of sweets that we bake, just because they aren't the greatest for us. But a treat now and then is awfully fun. And the kids love helping out.

Medium Image

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Last Child in the Woods

Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder

On Saturday, February 11, Cincinnati Nature Center and the Environmental Council at the Cincinnati Country Day School will present a lecture by Richard Louv, internationally acclaimed author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder.
Louv will speak about the growing disconnect between children and nature … and the potential negative impacts this disconnect has on their emotional, physical and spiritual development. Louv makes a case for immersing children in the natural world, whether during summer camp or during school recess. He chronicles the physiological and psychological benefits of nature education, including reducing childhood obesity and symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). He suggests simple ways that parents, teachers and caregivers can make a positive difference in a child’s life by reconnecting with the outdoors.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to overcome the epidemic of Nature-Deficit Disorder that is sweeping the country. The lecture takes place Saturday, February 11, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. at the Cincinnati Country Day School, 6905 Given Road, Cincinnati. To register, visit or call (513) 965-4249.

• Admission for the lecture is just $10/person. Parents and teachers can browse an environmental resource fair, and enjoy a book signing and light refreshments following the lecture.
• Admission for children’s activities is only $1/child. Hands-on outdoor activities for children ages 3-10 are provided concurrent to the lecture.
• Preferred seating is available for $50 and includes admission for two and a hard bound copy of Last Child in the Woods.
• Discount admission is available for Cincinnati Nature Center members and for affiliates of the Cincinnati Country Day School.

Resource fair participants include: Cincinnati Earth Institute; Cincinnati Nature Center; Cincinnati Observatory Center; Cincinnati Waldorf School; Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden; Crystal Clear Science; EchoBats, Inc.; the Environmental Council at the Cincinnati Country Day School; Gorman Heritage Farm; Greater Cincinnati Chapter Wild Ones; Greenacres Foundation; Hamilton County Park District; Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District; Highlands Nature Sanctuary; Imago; Mill Creek Restoration Project; ORSANCO; ORSANCO Educational Foundation; and Oxbow, Inc.

Cincinnati Nature Center is a nonprofit environmental education organization whose mission is to inspire passion for nature and promote environmentally responsible choices through experience and education. CNC has been reconnecting people with nature for more than 40 years. For more information, visit or call (513) 831-1711.

Rhonda Barnes-Kloth, Assistant Director for Marketing & Development at (513) 965-4895 or Heather Hahn, Marketing & Development Intern at (513) 831-1711 x414

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Breaking into the Momforce

Subtitle: How to Meet Other Likeminded Moms

So, you need a job, you polish up your resume, and try to break into the workforce. Easy enough. There are books published about how to do this. What about the stay at home mom? How do you break into the Momforce?

My family and I moved to a new town about 5 months ago, and I am having huge friend withdrawals. We only moved an hour and a half up north, but sometimes the distance is a little depressing. Being a Stay at Home Mom can be lonely at times. When I lived in Portland, I had a regular, albeit small, group of mom friends I'd get together with on a regular basis. For instance, every Wednesday morning, one dear friend and her son would come over for coffee. We would sit and chat, while the kids played. I met these moms all before we had kids, when I was still in the workplace, full time. Last Thursday, missing my coffee conversations, I packed up the kids and dropped in on this friend of mine. What a breath of fresh air!

So, rather than drive to Portland every week, how can I break into the Momforce, and meet some other Stay at Home Moms, whose personalities are in sync with my own? Easier said than done. How to meet moms? Sometimes I feel like this is more stressful than dating! Here are some of the things I'm trying/have tried/will try:

-Storytime at the library: We go faithfully, every Wednesday. Books are a big part of our lives, so maybe I'll meet another mom and co. with the same values. So far, no luck. Moms come with friends, and chat pretty much only with each other.

-Church: I tried this about 4 years ago. I taught Sunday School for a half a year, hoping to meet some new people. I learned a lot about the Bible, but it turns out I'm not a very religious person. So this was not a very good idea.

-Striking up Playground Conversations: We live 2 blocks from a playground, so in good weather, we go there on a regular basis. We've met up with a lot of kids and their parents, but no connections have been made. It's the same experience I've run into when taking my sister's dog to the dogpark: I know all of the dog names, but heaven forbid we talk about ourselves! I know all of the children's names AND ages, but nothing about the parents. Conversation comes to a dead end. Why? Does every other mom out there already have her own social world, and not need another friend? I doubt it.

-Join the La Leche League: I attended a meeting, but although I love breastfeeding my son, I can't wait to wean him, and to start wearing dresses instead of pants and skirts. And getting together to talk about breastfeeding, well, that's right up there with teaching the Bible. It's just not me.

-Convince my friends to move up north: I'm working on it.

-Future Things to Try: Attend a French Speaking Luncheon (it's ongoing, every Monday). Look for a bookgroup to join.

Any other ideas? Do I need to start a website, How to meet Likeminded Stay at Home Moms? Here's what I'd advertise:

On the Move - Coffee Loving SAHM interested in occasionally hanging out with likeminded SAHM. Interests: books, the Brontes, grammar, hiking, cooking and baking, languages, children, picnics, gardening, field trips.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Finding a New Name for "Stay at Home Mom"

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she refers to herself as a "Full Time Mom".

I can remember saying "full time mom" once by accident, while I was working full time, to one of my friends that is a doctor. She was so offended, and said to me, "so what, does that make the rest of us 'part time moms'?"

So I'm looking for a new catch phrase for my new career as a "Stay at Home Mom." We don't stay at home. Not at all. Point of the matter, we try to spend as little time in the house as possible. I think the title stay at home brings back pictures of Moms of the 50's that bake cupcakes, have a spotless house, read Good Housekeeping, and watch plenty of daytime T.V. So what about those of us who go to the zoo, museum, nature hikes, library story time, and other events on a weekly basis? We can't be called "Stay at Home Moms" and we can't be called "Full Time Moms" either. So send in your comments if you have any ideas or suggestions.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Food Generation Pad Thai

This New York Times article was sent to me by a friend. I too am shocked and slightly judgmental when I hear parents say, "I have to add strawberry syrup to his milk or he won't drink it" Or "eating M&M's is better than not eating." Like these chefs surveyed, I thought I would always get my kids to eat what we ate at dinner. Often my three year old went to bed hungry since she didn't like the dinner option, and would wake up in the middle of the night crying since she had an empty stomach, or would eat so much at breakfast that I couldn't help but feel guilty. I (with the influence of my fussy palleted husband) started to give in with the peanut butter sandwich option at dinner. After reading the article, I'm starting to think maybe I shouldn't have been such a softy. Not too many kids starve to death just because they are fussy, right?

Click here for the link to the article, and a Pad Thai recipe that I'm looking forward to trying

Friday, January 13, 2006

Something Old, Something New

Last week I decided I needed some fresh air, sans kids. I really needed it! I was a grumpy mom. So I put my 9 month old down for his morning nap, and set the two older kids up with some Fisher Price toys they hadn't seen in a while. My husband works from the home, so it's time I took advantage of it. I left him in charge of the peaceful situation, and got on my bike.

No big deal, right? Except that I haven't ridden a bike in 5 years. Even this isn't SO weird, except that for most of my life, the bike has been my sole mode of transportation. I didn't learn to drive a car until I was 29. I used my bike constantly - I did my grocery shopping, commuted to work, rode everywhere on my bike. The first strike against my trusty companion of years was a drivers license. Then I started graduate school, halfway through that, we started our family. My first summer of non-riding was when I was pregnant with my daughter. By the time she was born, the idea of sitting on a bike was less than appealing. Next spring, I promised myself. Next spring I'll start riding again.

And next thing I know, I have 3 kids, and haven't been on a bike in years! I was SO nervous, getting on my bike. Would I remember how to balance? Would I get hit by a car and leave my children motherless (not that many people ride bikes in the winter in Rockland, compared with Portland, Boston and San Francisco)? Would I get stuck on a hill, and have to (horrors) get off and push my bike?

But I did it, and have to say, it was the best bike ride I've had in ages. I felt like I was in my 20s again. Carefree. Sure, my bike was in awful shape - I couldn't get it out of a low gear, the back brake rubbed constantly, new rust spots are everywhere - but who cares. I didn't crash. A car drove past me and honked. The driver was waving frantically, giving me the thumbs up. My own personal cheering section.

I rode down Main Street, and made my destination the grocery store. I loaded up my bike, as in old times, and carefully rode home. This simple act snapped me out of my cranky mood, and make me realize that it's important to do me things, not just Mom things, from time to time. Maybe on a regular basis!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

For Our Readers

I have had a few comments from our readers stating that they were a little perplexed by some of the new articles, mainly stating that I have three kids and now live in Maine.

Our new Editor is known as StuntBec, and she will be submitting articles in effort to have something new for our readers on a daily basis, and to add another perspective. Added at the bottom of each article is a note identifying the author. Hope this clears things up for everyone.

Welcome StuntBec!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

I must do a little product endorsement this morning since I'm so excited about the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I love this sponge! I know, some of you are thinking Procter and Gamble is paying me to write a little bit about this, but no, I'm giving them a free endorsement since I LOVE this product.

When I'm in my second trimester of pregnancy, I get a little cleaning crazy. I know, too bad it only happens when I'm pregnant, but anyway..... I've been living with crayon on my painted stairs for about 6 months now. I've tried and tried to clean it off, but with flat paint, it is impossible. So last night, while I was out grocery shopping and in the cleaning isle, I thought, heck, I'll give this Mr. Clean Magic Eraser a try. It says it cleans up crayons.

Shock of all shocks, it really works, and better than I thought. I was able to get the crayon off with very little elbow grease, and then I took to all of the scuff marks on the stairs, and they came off too with little effort. I am so in love with this product! It's funny, they sell them in boxes of 2 and 4, but I thought, wow, who would need 4? The 4 pack buyer must have some unruly children, but I really see the uses now in a 4 pack box, especially since the first sponge lasted for only the staircase.

Really, great product, it saved me from painting my stairs.

Visit if you need more proof.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Year's Goal #1: Better Time Management

Now here's what I like most about being a stay at home mom: planning and working in fun activities to do with the kids. We've done some great stuff, like ridden the Downeaster (train) to Boston a few times, visited sisters in OH, MA and NY, had numerous picnics at the beach, taken ferry rides to Peaks Island, etc. Before my sons were on the scene, my daughter and I went to Chicago with my Ohio sister and her daughter two times. This is the stuff we do while "staying home."

I've been home with them from day one, but have been lucky in that I've continued teaching English twice a week, in the evenings. When I'm off teaching, my husband takes care of the family. He feeds them dinner, and puts them to bed. This has been a nice routine we've had, up until now. It's kept us organized. But over the summer, we moved up the coast to Rockland, where ESL teachers are not in huge demand. I tried a semester of driving down to Portland and back for my evening classes, but what with the cost of gas, and the 1.5 hours of driving each way (79 miles) for a 2.5 hour class, it just seemed silly. And this past September, I realized that my daughter is going to start kindergarten in exactly a year. Kindergarten! It just crept up on me. Where did the past four years go?

Rather than squander the rest of the year (perhaps there's a better verb - the past four years have not been a waste), I've decided to give our lives a bit more structure. I have found that when I'm not teaching, and don't have any sort of schedule, the days just slip by. I'm determined not to let that happen. So, I'm going to try and give us a schedule, to give us some structure. I shared the following plans with my mother (see below), and got the response, "Now, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment." It's true, she knows me pretty well. But her doubt fuels my motivation to make these plans work! I've never been one to make New Year's Resolutions. I don't buy new exercise equipment at the beginning of the year, with hopes of magically finding time to work out more often. I've never tried to quit drinking coffee on January 1rst. I don't decide to try and make drastic changes to my personality when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. But this time, the New Year is as good a time as any to start my plan. Even if I succeed in only 50% of the ideas, I'm still better off than before. Although I tell my students to avoid cliches, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Here's the general outline. Seeing it in print, it's not so intimidating!

French lessons: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I'm the instructor. Sorry kids, you're going to have a bit of an accent American. I'll work on pronunciation.
Baking Day: On Tuesday, bake bread from scratch. We did this every week for a good two months last year, but for some reason, just fell out of practice.
Hiking Day: Every Tuesday, I want to take the kids for a hike. Part of why we moved up the coast was to be closer to nature. A decent hike was at least a 45 minute drive from Portland. We now live near mountains and parks.
Bath Night: Bathing the kids will happen in the evening on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, spontaneous on Saturday and Sunday. No more jumping in the shower with me in the morning. I want and need my privacy these days.
Visit Nana and Pa: We've been doing this all along. But Thursday will be the day to drive to my parents' house and spend the day. Of course, we'll be flexible, if need be.
Storytime: Every Wednesday, 10:30, at the Rockland Public Library. It's a good time for the kids to play with other children, and hear new stories. We live just a block away, so we can walk there, no matter what the weather.
One Night Off: My husband has promised me, now that I'm not teaching an evening reading and writing class, that he'll give me one night off a week, to go do whatever.

And now that a week has gone by, I am pleased to report that my 4.5 year old Beatrice and 2.5 year old James know some basic colors and animals in French. We've had a lot of fun (even during the mess of yesterday, I worked in the French lesson), and the new schedule has kept me on track and focused. On Tuesday we went to Merryspring Nature Park in Camden, and walked around the trails for a bit. We did not visit my parents on Thursday, due to freezing rain. We reupholstered some kid chairs, something I've been meaning to do for a year, instead. We made it to Storytime, and the kids were bathed as planned. I did not get my night off, but plan on scheduling one next week. We didn't bake any bread, because I just thought of adding that into the schedule right now. Not bad, for the first week. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, January 06, 2006

StuntNotes Missing: Maybe I Need Some Organizational Help

I've been busy jotting down a few stories over the past week in my usual style - on the backs of used envelopes. I've been writing drafts in this way since graduate school. A good idea comes to me, and I grab the closest piece of paper, which is usually junk mail. We get a lot of unsolicited mail (even though we religiously call and request to be taken off mailing lists). "The Widespread Acceptance of Domestic Violence in Othello" - first draft composed on 13 envelopes, front and back. So I've been writing down StuntNotes in my way, and feeling comfortable, as my ideas are "safe". While the kids are playing well together with some new blocks, I thought I'd type up and revise some of those stories. My desk is finally clear, thanks to a 4 AM cleaning spree yesterday morning (the desk area was out of control). And now I can't find my precious bunch of envelopes. Frustrating.

I started writing this back at 8 o'clock this morning. It's now past 11 PM. What happened to my day? I finally found the notes, after tearing the house apart. (I must confess that I first accused my husband of recycling them. "I KNOW you moved them!") In the course of searching for my notes (where I had also jotted down a list of people who need thank-you notes sent to), I decided I needed to tidy up the children's books. They've been in a huge pile in the "library" - the room which also happens to be my self-employed, work from the home architect husband's temporary office. (I can't wait for him to finish the work on his future office - a space in the house that is currently not winterized, and has no heat source.) I moved the mountain of books out of his work space and into our family room. To make room for the books, I had to move some toys into the laundry room, which led to reorganizing the laundry room. Need shelving. No money. Solution: I went out to our barn and repossessed one of my husband's tool shelves. He wasn't using it efficiently, anyway. Which led me to switch around the pantry, which is really the closet in the laundry room. You see what's happening, right? My husband had to cook dinner tonight. I was just on a tear to make my surroundings - and that of my family, of course - more tidy.

I almost forgot to add the children into this mix! They didn't magically play quietly in a corner while I ran around making and cleaning up messes. The television didn't babysit them. (Small aside: My husband and I are united in raising the children without TV. We do have a television, but it's kept in a closet in an unheated back bedroom upstairs. We lug the heavy beast out for the occasional movie night, or if one of the kids is sick.) So the kids were in the middle of it all. My nine month old finally discovered the huge potted rosemary bush in the dining room. My two and half year old decided that today was the day that he would like to start using the potty. With a lot of coaching, he managed to keep his diaper spotless for the entire morning. My 4.5 year old is pretty good at entertaining herself - just give her a fresh box of crayons, scissors, and paper, and she stays busy. But I still had to act as referee between the two older kids. Anyway...

We've been in the house for 5 months now. Everything should have its proper place! I should not still be trying to figure out where to put stuff. I was thinking that in the new year, what I need to work on most is time management. I want to organize my time with the kids better. That will be the next story. But now I see that I could still use help in the physical way. So StuntMom, let me know if you read anything worthwhile in the Real Simple book. I don't want to read the book; I'm afraid it will tell me I need to spend at least $200 on shelving, bins, etc. to get where I need to be. If take-out pizza on a day like this is out of the question, organizational tools definitely are. Share the low-cost tips!

Day totally wasted, spinning my wheels? Sure feels like it. I'm going to bed, and tomorrow, the kids and I are going to hang out at my parents' house, where everything is neat and tidy, and all stuff has its proper place.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Our Garden in Kentucky

On the topic of getting our kids to eat- One of the things I always wanted to do, but didn't have time as a working mom, was to grow a vegetable garden. This year we did it!

We have the good fortune to have grandparents with a lot of land down in Kentucky. Once or twice a week over the summer, we drove down to the farm to tend to our plants. (It was also a great way for my kids to see more of their great grandparents.) My oldest daughter helped plant the seeds and then had the pleasure of picking the ripe fruits of our labors. One would think this would be a perfect example for getting your kids to eat the vegetables, but no such luck. From seed, to fruit, to the table, there was still zero appeal for the fussy 3 year old palate. A friend of mine, and a fellow reader suggested that getting kids involved in the cooking process really helps- for example she makes pumpkin muffins with her son, so now he eats the healthy muffins. I imagine it's too late since the harvest to remind her that "this is the winter squash we planted this summer", but it's something to think about for next summer. And maybe by the age of four, she will have outgrown the fussiness. Who knows.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Yet Another Way To Get the Kids to Eat or Shrimp, Anyone?

My big daily goal is to create a supper (from scratch - no processed foods allowed - criteria set by my husband) that all five members of my family will eat and enjoy together. Needless to say, a crowd pleasing meal doesn't happen very often. "I don't like squash" comes out of my 4 year old daughter's mouth. My 2 year old son cries, "I'm not hungry" when he sees his plate (even though I know for a fact that he's had no afternoon snack and is very hungry indeed). My 9 month old has just learned to let food he doesn't like roll back out of his mouth and onto the floor. Grrr. At least I could depend on him being a cooperative eater. How can I get my kids to eat their suppers?

Plan #1: Ask Mom. My mom says I give them too large of portions, that the kids are overwhelmed by the amount of food I set in front of them. Fine. I cut down on the portion size. Sorry, Mom, no changes have been detected. Nice idea, though.

Plan #2: Educate. Being an Educator (in my past life, I taught various levels of English and Writing), I decided to teach my children about the foods I put on the table. My theory: If I get them more involved in what we eat, they will embrace mealtime. They will ask me what's for supper in an interested and happy sort of way. Could this be possible, or am I setting myself up for more heartache and mealtime frustrations? I might as well try. As it's shrimp season here in Maine, I decided to start with shrimp. It's a short season, just a few months, when you can buy these tender shrimp from the dock or from shrimp trucks parked at the sides of roads. It's a very tasty yet economical food to buy right now - only $1.65/pound for whole shrimp (and the locals tell me I'm getting ripped off at that price. But support a local industry, right?).

Anyway, the kids and I went to the shrimp truck, and bought $20 worth of shrimp from the fisherman. He told the kids how he caught the shrimp with a net from his boat. We took the shrimp home, and I poured them into the sink. I then had my kids hold one in their hands. My 4 year old was a bit hesitant, but as her younger brother was doing it, she timidly held out her hand, too. At first they touched the shrimp with trepidation, but eventually checked them out with enthusiasm.

At this point, I considered my shrimp class over. What I have always considered "the truly gross part" was to begin, and I didn't plan on involving the kids. I can just barely stand this part. When you buy the shrimp, they come with their heads on. So the next step is to snap off the heads. Bravely I started the process. Intrigued, the kids pulled their stools over to watch me. Next thing I knew, my son had a shrimp in his hands, and was removing the head! Never to be outdone, my daughter followed suit. Together, the three of us cleaned the 12 pounds of shrimp.

Final outcome: we had shrimp rolls for supper. Guess what? Everyone ate their shrimp with no fuss. No whining at this meal. Mission: accomplished. Did they eat the shrimp because of this hands-on experience? Because they now better understand where the crustaceans come from? Maybe. I know I have a deeper respect for the little critters now. But I think I'm going to follow up the Shrimp Lesson with a coloring activity next week, just to keep the enthusiasm alive!

Maybe next week we should go visit a beef processing warehouse...learn where our hamburger comes from!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolution- I'm Getting Organized

I've never been a big fan of New Year's Resolutions. Sure it's a fresh start on a new year, but one should eat healthy and exercise year round, not just the first few weeks of the new year. This year, I'm putting it in writing what I'm hoping to accomplish this year- or at least the first few weeks.

First, I'm going to get organized. For Christmas, my husband bought me two books that should help with the process. They are by the editors of Real Simple magazine. My opinion on the magazine is if you are looking to simplify your life, start by getting one less magazine. But these books really seem to have the highlights needed to get organized without all of the advertising and extras.

Real Simple

Second, I'm going to try a little harder to not to look like a stay at home Mom. I know this is stereotyping, but while I was at the museum center with the girls yesterday, I took a look around and noticed that I was surrounded by people who clearly stayed home for a living. I'm not saying I'm going to wear dry clean only clothes on a daily basis, if at all, but I'm going to start making an effort to look a little more put together. I saw so many moms in sweats- not trendy yoga pants or anything- just sweats and that really woke me up. How can we feel good about ourselves if we look like we could either be out for the day, or at home cleaning out the garage?

Third, I'm going to go grocery shopping with a list, and a plan. Often I come home from the grocery store with nothing to cook for dinner, just the staples- milk, bread and cheese. I imagine this will be a cost savings too.

So who knows how long all of these goals will last. I'll keep you posted as I fall off the resolution train, but until then, things should be changing for the better around here.