Happy Summer!

Say Hello to Summer

It’s officially summer!  Now granted, our district doesn’t get out until the 29th (grumble, grumble), but after the winter we had (hence, why we’re getting out the 29th!), it’s nice to say hello to the promise of warm weather and fun things to come.

Please feel free to check out or follow my Summer Vacation Pinterest board, which I will be spending a good chunk of the weekend organizing and adding to – everything from summer food and drink recipes (both adult and family-friendly), bucket-lists, and seasonal fun and games.

As the school year winds down, I hope to find more time to work on this blog, and a number of other projects I hope to be able to share soon!

My Picky Eater in the Kitchen

I’ve never been a picky eater; at least not that I can recall.  My parents, too, seem to remember me being pretty open to new culinary experiences even as a kid, and as I’ve grown, my appreciation for new flavors has only increased.  I love trying out new recipes, new restaurants, and new cultural cuisine.

Which puts me squarely at odds with Bear, whose agenda seems to be “all carbs, all the time.”

And trust me, no one loves carbs more than I do.  But it’s the same carbs. And it’s bland carbs – grilled cheese on white bread, shoestring fries, white toast, buttered noodles, mac and cheese (but only Annie’s, not homemade.  God forbid, homemade). My husband, whose palate, as an adult, is just as expansive as mine, reassures me that he went through a lengthy phase as a “picky eater” when he was a kid, so, rest assured, Bear will grow out of it.

And, I mean, Bear is three-and-a-half.  Lots of kids his age have their safety foods, their comfort food, their routine.  I know it. I get it.

But man, is it frustrating.

Then, the other night, something happened.

I often get overwhelmed in the kitchen, especially when prepping a new meal.  I have trouble following recipes as they are typically written, and will often skip steps and have to backtrack, or forget to prep an ingredient before it’s immediately needed, and inevitably, I will have to read and re-read a step several times.  I either make a dozen trips to the fridge, frantically grabbing and returning items, or let things pile up on the counter and just hope at the end I’ll remember to make sure it all makes it back to the fridge (meanwhile, growing frustrated with the clutter).  So, given the already inherent frustration, it’s been a general rule that Bear stays out of the kitchen while I’m cooking.

But the other night, I was making enchiladas – a pretty low-stress meal, as I’d made it before – and Bear wanted to help.  Being that I don’t want to raise a boy who has no homemaking or self-sufficiency skills, cooking is pretty high on the list of things I want him to learn.  And if he’s actively interested and pro-actively asking about it, how can I discourage that?

I sat him a safe distance from the stove, but close enough that he could see what I was doing in the pan, and narrated each step as I completed it (Bear’s constant chorus of “What are you doing?” every time I moved spurred me along).  He helped as much as he could, wen he could; he gave the onions and garlic a stir. He opened the package of tortillas.

“Is this bread?”  Bear’s a big bread fan.  Classic carb lover.

“It’s like bread,” I agreed.  I pulled a piece off and handed it to him.  He ate it. Good to see, but not a huge surprise.  Again – carbs.

“You want to see the beans?”  I grabbed the colander full of black beans and brought them over.  “They look like bugs!”

Bear shrieked; he loves anything silly and gross.  The idea of bug beans was pure comedy gold. “Bug beans! Bug beans!”

“You wanna try one before we add them to the pan?”

Surprisingly, he managed to stay actively engaged through all the prep, and finished up by helping me pour the sauce and sprinkle the cheese.  He clapped when they went into the oven, and gave me a high five when I thanked him for helping me. It was a great moment.

And when they came out, he was waiting eagerly to see the finished product.  When I put a serving of it on his plate, he smiled and dug in with gusto.

…Hahahaha, no, I’m kidding.  He adamantly refused to eat it and demanded we give him chicken nuggets instead.  He didn’t eat that black bean I offered him, either, he just put in it his mouth, chewed it, gagged and spit it out rather theatrically.  I found a piece of it stuck to the kitchen door this morning, so he got some good distance on it, too.

But.

He put it in his mouth.  And he tried it. He didn’t like it – which is fine – but he tried it.  And he tried a tortilla. And this week, he tried prosciutto, and pear, and honey.  And cooked tomato. And pasta with homemade sauce. All recipes he helped make, or, at least, components of those recipes.  I didn’t turn him into a connoisseur, but I made him a part of something he was curious about, and his curiosity, at points, overwhelmed his stubbornness, and he tried things.

He eats pears now.  I’m okay with him not eating enchiladas.  He eats pears. That’s a start.

And having to narrate my cooking journey was strangely helpful.  Verbalizing what I was doing kept me more on track – maybe I didn’t take the most direct route, but I had fewer wrong turns, you know?  Being able to keep Bear in the kitchen in a way that didn’t distract me from my cooking meant I knew where he was and could keep an eye on him, spend some time with him, and introduce him to a life skill that would benefit him in the long run.  

And if he takes a bite or two of something new along the way, all the better.

PS:  Every. Single. Tortilla.  Had a bite taken out of it by the time we were finished.  Freakin’ carbs. He truly is my son.

Feel Good Friday/Friday Faves: June 15th, 2018

onnie & CaroleWe are officially in our last full week of classes!  Note, I said “classes,” not school.  the winter was brutal, and I am working straight through the 29th, sadly.  I’ve said it before, I’m incredibly lucky to love my job, but this truly has been just The Year That Never Ends.  Hopefully next year’s pre-Labor Day start will prevent this from happening again.

Anyway, things that buoyed me along this week…

First off, Dollar Tree (I have a bit of a Dollar Tree Problem™, which will become apparent in time) is carrying some really awesome Sassy n’ Chic acrylic nails, as well as Kiss brand gel polish and nail glue.  I absolutely love nail art, but have neither the time, patience, or money to spend on getting them done (and honestly, I don’t love spas/salons so much to start with).  These are an awesome alternative.  They look great, and I’ve had my current pair on since Sunday.  If you’re a fan of shorter nails, but still like the patterns, they trim and file down really smoothly, too.

Next, upon the recommendation of a friend, my husband ordered a book for Bear called Dragons Love Tacos.  It’s adorable, and this edition came with a little plushie dragon (with taco!) that’s Bear’s been bringing to bed every night.  He had fun recounting the book to my parents, and politely refusing to give the plushie to his little friend, Emmy, who had also fallen in love with it during their brief rendezvous.

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Next, guys, I just heard about Making It, which is going to air on NBC this summer.   A crafting competition.  Hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.  Are you freakin‘ kidding me??  And it’s going to kick off on my birthday???  No joke, I am so pumped about this show.

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Lastly, I’ll be honest: I’m just thrilled that it’s summer, and that summer break is fast approaching.  Contrary to popular belief, as an educator, I do not have summers free – I work as part of the Extended School Year program in a variety of capacities – but my hours vary between 8 hours and 16 hours a week during the summer (as opposed to 35), so I do get a lot more free time, and I am so, so looking forward to having time to myself.  I’m excited to work on my home, to write, to craft, and to spend some time with Bear and Andy at home, and on vacation in Florida this August.  Hopefully you have something fun and summery to look forward to yourselves.

That’s all for this week!  What got you through this week, and what do you have to look forward to this weekend??

Bear’s Weekly Book Haul: June 14th, 2018

Bear's book haulSo, last week we brought home a five-book haul that Bear’s dad had picked, which meant that this week, it was mom’s turn!

I love perusing the children’s section, flipping through the glossy pages, carefully selecting books based on their gorgeous illustrations, or easy readability (Bear is already sounding out words on the page), or because I think they’ll teach Bear a lesson or make him laugh out loud.  I think I got a nice selection of books this time that tick off a lot of the aforementioned boxes, but before we get to this week’s books, let’s talk about last week.

There’s usually a clear favorite among the books we pick out, both for Bear and for us.  This week, the clear winner for Bear was…

naked!-9781442467385_lg

We picked this book out specifically because Bear had so loved some of Black’s other books, particularly I’m Bored and I’m Sad, and it certainly did not disappoint.  The book is cute and simple and told from the point of view of a child not much older than Bear, and speaks to a subject near and dear to Bear’s heart – namely being naked.  And wearing capes.  And eating cookies.  And – oh man, living the freakin’ dream here – doing all three at the same time.  Truly, this book is the embodiment of pre-school hedonism.

On the flip side – and this is something that almost never happens – we had a definite low point in the last haul as well.

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In the middle of reading Smokey to our son, my husband let out an audible groan.  There are several pages in the middle of this book in which “Indians” misinterpret Smokey’s smoke signals, and there is a pretty offensive and out-dated portrayal of Native-Americans as violent and unintelligent.  Given the book was written in the 60s, this isn’t shocking (it’s pretty on par for the era it was written in), but not something we want to read to our son in 2018.  The rest of the story was pretty harmless, and we simply skipped over the offensive section (though we did bring it up with the children’s librarian, though).

Now, for this week’s haul!

  • Tobor, by Guido van Genechten [Amazon | GoodReads]
    GoodReads summary:  “Ben receives a very special present for his fifth birthday. Unlike Ben’s stuffed animals who can’t move on their own or talk, Tobor is different; with a press of his square nose, Tobor comes alive, suggesting and playing games, talking and asking questions and soon he becomes Ben’s best friend. Sometimes friendship develops where you least expect it.”
  • A Very Big Bunny, by Marisabina Russo [Amazon | GoodReads]
    GoodReads summary:  “AMELIA IS A VERY BIG BUNNY. At recess, the other bunnies tell her that her feet are too long for hopscotch, they say she’s too tall to jump rope, and of course, no one will get on the seesaw with her. Amelia is a very big and lonely bunny. But when a new very small bunny named Susannah arrives in the classroom, something amazing happens.”
  • There’s a Monster in Your Book, by Tom Fletcher [Amazon | GoodReads]
    GoodReads summary: “Bestselling author of The Christmasuarus, Tom Fletcher, has Gwritten a brand new picture book perfect for bedtime, where a mischievous monster has invaded the pages of your child’s book!  This read-aloud, interactive picture book treat invites children to make magic happen page by page, tilting, spinning and shaking the book, and then seeing the funny results when each page is turned. A fantastic celebration of all the fun that can be had with a book, with a wonderful wind-down bedtime ending!”
  • A Family is a Family is a Family, by Sara O’Leary [Amazon | GoodReads]
    GoodReads summary:  “When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways — but the same in the one way that matters most of all.  One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of stepsiblings, and another has a new baby.  As one by one, her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them — family of every shape, size and every kind of relation — the child realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, her family is special.”
  • I’m New Here, by Anne Sibley O’Brien  [Amazon | GoodReads]
    GoodReads summary: “Maria is from Guatemala, Jin is from Korea, and Fatima is from Somalia. All three are new to their American elementary school, and each has trouble speaking, writing, and sharing ideas in English. Through self-determination and with encouragement from their peers and teachers, the students learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity.”

That’s all for this week!  If you have any recs for great books for pre-schoolers, please comment and let me know!

Feel Good Friday/Friday Faves: June 8th, 2018

Time for Feel Good Friday/Friday Favorites!onnie & Carole

This was like The Week That Never Ends.  Between the chaos and disorder of Freshman MCAS, the ever-changing demands of my work schedule, and the fact that we all, in our bones, know that school should be done already – but we still have three weeks left!? – I am just so completely and utterly done.  Weekends with a toddler aren’t exactly silent oases of rest and relaxation, but at least I don’t have the added stress of work for the next two days.

Here are some things that carried me through this week:

J’s at Nashoba Valley Winery:  If you ever find yourself travelling to/through Central Massachusetts for some reason, do yourselves a favor and book a table at J’s for dinner.  The first time Andy took me was on our fifth anniversary, and we loved it so much we literally insisted my parents join us there two weeks later for my birthday dinner.  Lately we’ve really been loving their prix fixe, five course tasting menu and  wine flight.  We went again last night – I’ve got a pic or two of the food on Instagram – and it was amazing, as always.

Top 100 Songs of 1995 Playlist:  HOLY CRAP, NOSTALGIA BOMB.  I turned thirteen in 1995, and it’s the first year I remember really listening to and buying music.  I was getting bored with my usual YouTube music playlist and just sort of idly searched “hits 1995,” and oh my God, there are so many songs on this list I forgot about.  I think I spent three days just listening to “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” on repeat.  Also, my son caught me watching TLC’s “Waterfalls” and asked, “What are they? Are they mermaids?” so, like, come on.  That’s adorable.  How does that not brighten up your week?

Jose Cuervo’s Teagarita:  Every once in a while I send my husband out to buy me a bottle of wine and he comes back with a “treat” instead.  Recently, he discovered this amazing bottled concoction by Jose Cuervo called the “teagarita,” a ready-to-drink cocktail that is half-iced tea, half-margarita, and definitely one of the most perfect summer drinks I’ve ever had.  Toss a few ice cubes in a glass, pour it over, and enjoy the fact that it’s Friday.

The Good Place Official Podcast & Forking Bullshirt:  Last year, Andy and I fell head-over-heels for NBC’s The Good Place.  While I’m still waiting for an official release date for season three, they recently began a behind-the-scenes podcast hosted by Marc Evan Jackson.  I listened to the first episode last night, and so far I’m digging. it  That being said, if you are interested in episode analysis and discussion from a fan’s perspective (as well as some good old-fashioned squeeing), the fan-run podcast Forking Bullshirt is pretty awesome.

That’s it for this week; I told you, it’s been a long one, and my “self-care” this week was food, alcohol, and nostalgia.  Hey, we find comfort where we can, right?

What got you through this week?  What were some things that brought you comfort/joy/brightened your days?

Bear’s Weekly Book Haul: June 7th 2018

Bear's book haul

My family and I are big readers, or at least my husband is; I love books, and words, and stories, but between my schedule and my neurodivergence, I don’t often have the time or attention left to devote to it.  But reading was my first great love, and despite being a little touch-and-go, it’s a habit I try to keep up with.

My husband, enviably, reads voraciously, his schedule and attention-span infinitely more attuned to it – but both of us, despite the differences in our current relationship to reading, are eager to instill a love of it in our son.

We are big supporters of our local library, and libraries in general, and make it a point to take Bear every week.  It’s a great way to give him the chance to socialize with other kids in a safe environment, and involve him in selecting that week’s reading material.

I thought it might be fun to post our weekly book hauls here, tell you what books we picked out that week, and what books from the previous week were a success at home, either with Bear, or with Andy and I (or both; there are a few special authors who manage to tickle both the kiddo and the two of us – but that’s another post).

Our library day during the summer is Wednesday, so Thursdays will be haul days. Anyway, on with the haul!

  • Star Climbing, by Lou Fancher [GoodReads | Amazon
    GoodReads summary:  “Welcome to the magical night world of star climbing. Run and dance with Leo the Lion and Ursa the Bear. Dive into a shimmering star pool with Pisces the Fish, and rest on the glimmering back of Cygnus the Swan. Lou Fancher lets imagination soar during this fantastical journey through sparkling star constellations. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher’s breathtaking art brings the star animals to life, filled with radiance and glory.”
     
  • Naked, by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi [GoodReads | Amazon]
    GoodReads summary:  “Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi … have paired up again to showcase the antics of an adorable little boy who just doesn’t want to get dressed.  After his bath, the little boy begins his hilarious dash around the house – in the buff! Being naked is great. Running around, sliding down the stairs, eating cookies. Nothing could be better. Unless he had a cape…”
  • Captain Cat, by Inga Moore [GoodReads | Amazon]
    GoodReads summary:  “Captain Cat loves cats. In fact, he has more cats on his ship than he has sailors. On one voyage, he discovers a remote and lonely island where the little-girl Queen has never even seen a cat. When Captain Cat’s furry companions trounce the rats infesting the island, the Queen begs Captain Cat to trade her the cats for untold treasure. Does he? Could he? What happens next? Never fear, fellow travelers! The purr-fect solution is on the horizon — and is sure to satisfy both pet-lovers and adventurers.”
  • We Found a Hat, by John Klassen [GoodReads | Amazon]
    GoodReads summary:  “Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat. . . . Evoking hilarity and sympathy, the shifting eyes tell the tale in this brilliantly paced story in three parts, highlighting Jon Klassen’s visual comedy and deceptive simplicity. The delicious buildup takes an unexpected turn that is sure to please loyal fans and newcomers alike.”
  • Smokey, by Bill Peet [GoodReads | Amazon]
    GoodReads summary:  “Progress forces Smokey the switch engine out of a job until he discovers a new way to help people.”

That’s it for this week.  We’ll let you know which of them were hits with the family!


¹ (I just want to note here, I include Amazon links because I feel like Amazon and GoodReads together offer a good variety of reviews. As of this writing, my blog is not monetized in any way and I recieve no money for any purchases made through this post).