August 2011 - Posts
During berry picking season, my kids were always coming home
with their t-shirts decorated with abstract, and only occasionally artistic,
purple splotches. Most of these garments
eventually ended up in the ragbag. That
was until my good friend revealed to me the ultimate secret cure for red, blue
and purple stains-plain old boiling water!
The sooner you go after those stains the better. Bring a kettle of water to boiling and hold
the stained section over the corner of the kitchen sink and pour a slow and
steady stream through the cloth. The
cloth should be fairly taut with the unfortunate stain front and center. You
may need an extra pair of hands to secure the edges of the garment to the rim
of the sink.
Another friend of mine says that the kettle should be at
least 3 feet above the garment. That
would, in my case, require standing on a chair!
I do, in fact, try to hold the kettle as high as I can, adding an extra
bit of force to the stream as it does its work.
I was delighted the first time I saw the stains fade and
finally disappear altogether. This is
the most useful magic trick that I know. It works great on tea towels or
washcloths that were used to wipe up messy fingers after dessert, too. Call
the children to come and watch. They
will be equally amazed and someday pass on the secret to their own little berry
In other words, when going hiking with kids, if we
can get ourselves dressed and fed in good spirits, packed and booted and out
the door at the beginning of an adventure, we are halfway to a successful completion. Because of this, planning, and also a light
touch are important. Our success with
family hikes requires preparation and a determination to remember the high
points and look on the light side.
We always choose a hike that is doable by even the
youngest children, and has a fabulous final destination like a waterfall, a
lake, or a phenomenal view. To sweeten
the pot we almost always engage in a delicious food adventure as well. My
family loves to eat together and so we always bring some wonderful, special
food for an outing, a lovely picnic and a hefty bag of trail mix for the hike,
and always stop somewhere special on the way home, some little diner or café
unique to the area that is memorable and soulful.
Nonetheless, it is best to prepare for
resistance. My kids put up resistance
at three key points in the hiking process;
1. Before we go- "Mom, again? We just went hiking last month!"
2. On the drive - "Are we there yet?"
3. During the elevation gain -usually half way up
-"How much father is it? I'm
In these cases a smidgeon of gentle sympathy mixed
with airy determination to persevere goes a long way. A hiking stick found by the way side makes
children feel bold and adventurous.
Holding the resistance with lightness and humor and knowing that it too
will pass, is also key.
It also helpful to remember the high points of
previous hikes, telling and retelling the story of when Lucy saw a deer or
Tobin found those luscious huckleberries.
These stories, especially during the process of cheerleading the family
out of the house or during the drive or up the mountain, keep up our momentum
up and keep things lively.
These are the moments that make all the huff, puff
and guff worth it.
arrival of the destination of the hike and hearing " Look, I can see the
whole world from up here!'
a well-prepared meal with a hearty appetite "I forgot that boiled eggs
tasted so good!"
downhill journey, fast and motivating
"Mom, can we run down?"
And finally the last
lap: We head off to a local place for a
food adventure and discover a new
restaurant or visit an old standby and talk about the day we've had.
So keep in mind, well begun is half way done and
set out soon on your next hiking adventure.
Favorite recent hike:www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/wallace-falls
Melissa Borden is a long time kindergarten teacher at the Seattle
Waldorf School in Seattle, Wa. She is the mother of three grown
children, two sons and a daughter. The following post is excerpted from a
longer article originally published in the book, You're Not the Boss of
Me: Understanding the Six/Seven-Year-Old Transformation, edited by Ruth
Ker. Copyright Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America,
In a fishing village in coastal Alaska, two six-year-old
boys strut down the street side by side. They are decked out in Xtratuff boots,
T-shirts, and shorts. Their mother has already disappeared into the grocery
store, giving the two boys the momentary thrill of being on their own. With
unabashed bravado, the taller one leans an arm on his friend's shoulder to say,
"Dude! You get the beer! I'll get the lollipops!"
Boys! We know them to be a confounding mixture of sweetness
and daredevilry. Our little dudes at six years old are already embarking on the
path to becoming men. These boys of ours can often display a brilliant aptitude
for being noisy, physically energetic, adventuresome, risk-taking, and,
certainly, naughty and defiant. They can also be emotionally tender and
sensitive and can have a tendency to struggle with expressing and integrating
strong feelings. As parents and teachers, we embrace these delightful
contradictions and hope to raise and educate our boys in an atmosphere that
cultivates healthy masculinity.
However, we may question the efficacy of societal and
educational norms that create environments in which boys in large numbers are
failing. A newspaper editorial titled "Has Boyhood Become a Disease?" discusses
classroom settings that discriminate against kinesthetic learners, where boys
comprise the bulk of failing students. We
may wonder..... whether boys have changed or whether societal norms around them
have changed. A Tom Sawyer in a modern classroom might very well be seen as a
boy suffering from hyperactivity or in need of drug therapy.
The current thinking suggests that boys tend
to be born with fewer neural connectors between the two hemispheres of the
brain. Young boys may need extra patience and support from parents and teachers
in developing good communication skills and tend to do better when parents and
teachers use simple, direct speech, and when they rely on less complex verbal
communications with them. Boys can
struggle to identify their own feelings and to express emotions. This often results in frustration and angry
behavior that may mask anxiety and emotional confusion. Because boys struggle to
identify and understand their own feelings, they can project a tough exterior
to protect a tender inner dimension. It is important for teachers and parents
to recognize this when interacting with boys.
When speaking of the physical development of the boys in
their lives, parents and teachers often refer to a certain recognizable "boy
energy." This kinesthetic energy shows us that boys have an evident need for
and an intrinsic love for physical movement. Often, with this comes an apparent
drive for physical contact, as boys of all ages seem to take infinite delight
in colliding with one another....
Boys tend to be kinesthetic learners. They are gifted
sandbox engineers and are given some social advantages in environments that do
not heavily favor verbal precociousness and fine-motor skills. The great
outdoors and the wonder of the natural world encourage little scientists to
explore and young artists to feel delight. Children, and most notably boys,
need space and permission to run, tumble, wrestle, and roughhouse. Daily walks
to local parks and green spaces can promote a sense of freedom and exploration
of physical movement. The rhythmic nature of walking seems to have harmonizing
effects on children, socially as well as physically.
Boys need to know who is the "boss." They easily
establish a social pecking order with one strong "captain" at the top. It is
important that an adult take on this role of "captain of the ship." There are
far fewer problems with bullying and social dominance if it is very clear to
the boys that the adult is the boss. Boys need clear, strong boundaries and
limits firmly established. They do better when the rules of conduct are simple
and do not require elaborate explanations. Humor
facilitates the management of conflict too. Teachers and parents find it a
wonder to observe little boys who just have been involved in a tussle now
parading arm-in-arm as if they are now best friends.
Boys are in desperate
need of healthy role models to help guide them along the path to adulthood. In
particular, men can help boys learn physical limits and how to manage strong
feelings. They can also model respect for others, especially women. What a
difference it would make for the boys if schools could make strong efforts to
include gifted male teachers in their programs. Male teachers can help bring
gender balance to the school environment and can help women teachers understand
the ways of boys
Soul warmth from parents and teachers is the food that feeds
a sense of well-being in children. Both boys and girls thrive, even in
adversity, if they dwell in an atmosphere of love and joy. Our sensitive little
boys, who can be such noisy, boisterous handfuls, ask us to embrace the
wholeness of who they are. Expressions of love and ample physical contact foster
healthy children. For boys, unsolicited affection, in particular, tells them
that we love them unconditionally. Our boys ask us to admire their intrinsic
qualities, to accept and support them as they grow, and to impart to them our
enthusiasm for their developing masculinity.
The sun draws us to it like a magnet, especially those of us
who live in temperate climes with long winters.
Sparkling mornings, sultry afternoons, and warm summer evenings conjure
up pleasant sights, sounds, and smells from past summers and also from our
For decades now, the concern for the potential dangers of
sun overexposure led to much slathering of sunscreen and less time outside for
our children. More recently however,
research on vitamin D deficiencies and the health benefits of sunlight
(especially for children and the elderly) has turned the tide on the issue.
Add to these seemingly contradictory messages, the recent
studies pointing to the toxicity of key ingredients in many sunscreens and the
issue becomes even more complex. This
season the Environmental Working Group [http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/]
recommended only 8% of the 500 sunscreens on the market. EWG recommends sunscreens that contain
minerals, either zinc or titanium, rather than chemicals that can be absorbed
into the skin to block UVA radiation.
In many places around the world, people wear lightweight
clothing and wide-brimmed hats to protect themselves in sunny weather. Until the mid-century, people in the United States
did too--particularly people who spent a lot of time working in the sun. Interestingly enough, on the EWG website, I
found this statement, "The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt."
If your child doesn't have a sunhat, look for one before the
season is over. A sunhat can allow your
child to be out of doors getting the benefits of sunlight and enjoying summer
activities with good old-fashioned protection.
Do your research on sunscreens for those times when they are exposed for
longer periods and plan alternate activities for the midday when the sun is
Enjoy summer and store up the goodness of all those rays for
the dark days to come.
One of the great benefits of living in the maritime Pacific
Northwest is that we can eat out of our gardens even during the winter. The hardiest crops are kale, collards and
mustard greens. A little frost actually
makes them sweeter. If you love cooked
greens, the end of July and the beginning of August are the time to plant a
Those of you who have a small garden or who didn't get back
from vacation in time to plants seeds, can still buy starts at the nursery or
grocery store and transplant them between now and the middle of August.
Hardy lettuce varieties can also be planted now and will be
edible right up to the first hard frost.
Keep all your transplants damp during the August heat until their root
systems are well established and the sun is a little milder.
You will also find cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli starts
available now. If the fall is mild,
these will be ready to eat before the frost.
In certain years, my cabbages and cauliflowers did not mature before
winter set in. Instead, they sat out the coldest months and then started
growing again when the weather warmed up.
All winter long, those cauliflowers looked just like the
cabbages. Then suddenly one day, creamy
white heads emerged from the green coverings, gleaming like the snow we could
still see on the mountaintops. Those
April cauliflowers were the loveliest and tastiest that I have ever eaten!
Thrift was a cardinal virtue in my family; and waste a
cardinal sin. So it's not surprising
that the lead article in last week's New
York Times Dining section "That's Not Trash, That's Dinner" caught my eye.
The article explores the trend of "stem-to-root" cooking with
vegetables that parallels the "nose-to-tail" approach to cooking meat. Now I'm not one to infuse cream with crushed
cherry pits to make panna cotta like the chefs in the article. But I do want to make use of every ounce of
organic broccoli I've purchased at the farmer's market. So I make stock. And it's EASY.
Whenever I prepare vegetables, I keep a container handy to
collect my scraps-asparagus ends, parsley stems, onion cores, carrot peels:
anything clean and fresh but too woody or too ugly to be eaten. At the end of a prep session, the container
gets dumped into a zipped plastic bag-my "scrap bag"-- and stored in the
When I'm ready to make soup I dump my frozen scraps in a
stock pot, add water to cover, bring it to a boil, and then simmer. Unlike meat/bone based stocks which benefit
from hours and hours of simmering, vegetable stocks are done in an hour. Even easier (but requiring a level of
forethought that usually eludes me) is making stock in a slow cooker.
Strain the stock or just pour off the liquid, holding back
the solids with a wooden spoon. If you
have too much stock, you can freeze it, or store it in the fridge for several
days. Add it to braises and sauces for
Occasionally, a vegetable stock will be bitter (I don't add
carrot tops for that reason) so taste before using. But I encourage you to give it a try. Homemade stock adds a depth of flavor to
soups that is indefinably yummy. Plus,
you'll have the satisfaction of using more of the produce that you buy.
The sun is high and hazy in a bright blue sky. Blankets and towels are stretched out over
the strand and brightly-clad bathers sit in attitudes of ease on chairs or on
the beached logs of the breakwater. The
sound of children's laughter and chatter hanging in the air is subdued by the
ever-present slap and suck of the waves and the deeper roar of distant
breakers. Here are the recognizable
signs of a happy day at the beach. We
all love to take our families for an outing to the ocean or a nearby lake. It seems like an absolute luxury, a day
stolen from the push and pressures of everyday life, fun, but is it more? Would you make the time to go more often if
you felt that a day at the beach was a true therapy for the family and especially for the children?
If you knew that it was a chance for your children to integrate their
senses as well as to explore the natural world, to organize their perceptions,
strengthen their eye-hand coordination , improve coping skills and promote
emotional stability wouldn't you go to
the beach more often?
It is a fact of note among teachers of young children that
more and more of our little charges arrive at school with difficulties in
coping with the rigors of the day. They
are not lacking academic skills, but are instead pale and thin, easily tired
and over-sensitive. Others are
particularly unaware of their own bodies, whirling like dervishes into the
paths of teachers and peers with little consciousness of where they begin and end,
brimming with what seems like a boundless restless energy. From Waldorf education we know that the
development of the four lower or foundational senses is critical to the health
and learning of young children. These four senses are the sense of touch, the
sense of self-movement, the sense of balance and the sense of life (or
well-being) It is upon these four particularly that sensory integration and
sense of self are based.
Over stimulation and
rushed schedules with too much time sitting, in a car or in front of a screen,
can upset the healthy development of these senses which need to be used and
stretched to grow and strengthen. So can
the general stress and pace of modern life.
These lower senses, when healthy, allow a child the solid place within
him or herself that makes it easier to get along well with others, to find the
stamina and attention to address and complete tasks, to move toward emotional
stability and find joy in both work and play.
A trip to the beach can be an excellent balm for all the senses, but is
particularly so for these foundational senses.
Walking barefoot in the sand and feeling the shifting of the
grains and the grit between their toes, children experience touch and the
subtle play of balance. As they make
their way precariously along a log or crawl on all fours to find a feather or
stone to adorn a sand castle, children are exploring their bodies and senses as
much as the world around them. At an
ocean beach they move through a world surrounded by the rhythmic voice of the
waves that smoothes out any abrupt or distracting sounds, those loud sounds of
urban living that may trigger a startle reflex and make youngsters anxious and
uncertain. Rolling, crawling and
swimming all activate the vestibular system which regulates balance and
movement. Free movement, unrestricted
by many clothes, brings joy and new exploration (especially to those children
with sensitivities) as they dig, tunnel and splash.
dreamy play brings to children a sense of well-being, and new tactile
experiences abound. There is an infinite
variety of textures between dry sand, moist and then wet sand, and pebbles and
water. The young biologist who catches
a live crab has now connected a rich bodily experience with the pursuits of imagination. If parents can alternate more intensely
engaged moments when all their loving focus is directed on their children (some
beach combing, a run or swimming together) with a little time to read and
relax, the benefits will be felt by all.
A day of exercise, fresh air and sun brings deep restful sleep to a
little body. A day at the shore is not a
guilty pleasure eked out from the important work of the week. It can be a great gift to your children for
the healthy development of mind and body.
See you at the beach!