I was skeptical when I first saw at this salad on the snack
table at a conference that I was attending, so I took a small helping. I came back for seconds, though and would
have come back for thirds, if there had been any left. It was a hot, muggy day and nothing could
have been more refreshing.
What makes this salad so unique is the blend of sweet,
savory and salty ingredients. To a large
bowl of watermelon chunks add pine nuts, crumbled feta cheese and fresh basil
leaves. I am generous with these
ingredients, but you can vary the proportions of all three to suit your own
taste. Drizzle with olive oil and a few drops of white wine or balsamic vinegar
and toss everything together gently.
Serve as an afternoon snack or a side dish to a summer meal
that suits the palate of both children and adults and is a beautiful to look at
as it is to eat. I have no doubt that your guests will be coming back for
May I be a father who is:
to myself, my spouse and my son. May I
act in ways that build trust.
to participate with my full attention in the big and little events of my son's
life, experiencing the joy of everyday life.
Less iPhone, more eye contact.
in word and deed, balancing my fear, anger and appetites with faith, compassion
and self-discipline. Aristotle and
Thomas Aquinas believed that temperance (prudence) was the most important
virtue, helping us discern how best to apply all the others.
in my habits. Would I want my son to
grow up to have the same kinds of relationships that I have today with my body,
work, family, friends, alcohol and drugs, media, money, sex, food, sleep? If not, let me work on those things in me.
in my presence, so my wife and son will know that I'm there for them
emotionally. When that's the case, I
feel closer to them and we can solve problems more effectively.
in my treatment of my wife and son, even when we disagree. They will respect me because I treat them
with respect and act respectably, not because I demand it.
Any day I make progress in these
areas is FATHER's day.
can be passionate about rhubarb. I am
one of those people. Rhubarb, along with
artichokes and asparagus, are the tastes that I long for most in late
spring. Though rhubarb is often matched
with fruit in sweet dishes, it's actually a vegetable. While most people prize rhubarb for its tangy
taste, it is also good for you- full of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
are whole websites devote to rhubarb, its history and how to grow it. It is also called the "Pie Plant." My
mother-in-law always made rhubarb pie for me when I came to visit. But rhubarb is extremely versatile. One website boasted of 300 different recipes. Besides making terrific crumbles and crisps,
it also makes delicious compotes,and chutneys, glazes and jams, sorbet and
smoothies, and even cocktails!
have two rhubarb plants in my garden and when I need a quick dessert or side
dish, I pick a few stalks and make a rhubarb sauce. The stalks are the edible part of the
plant. In the market, you will only see
the bright red stalks, already trimmed from their large green leaves. The
leaves are very high in oxalic acid and are not edible. Rhubarb is most often combined with
strawberries, but if local strawberries are not yet in season, I will use
whatever berries I have in the freezer from last summer.
and cut up rhubarb stalks into I inch pieces.
Put 3 cups of chopped rhubarb into a saucepan with 1 cup of water and ½
cup of sugar or 1/3 cup of honey. You
can add ½ to 1 c berries or substitute berries for up to 1 c of rhubarb. If you substitute berries for rhubarb, you
can reduce the amount of sugar or honey.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. (Flavors
that are sometimes added to the sauce are lemon, thyme or ginger.) Serve warm or cool, with a dollop of crème
fraiche, yogurt or ice cream. The sauce
will keep well in the refrigerator for a few days. It can also be frozen.
sauce is so easy and so tasty, that after a few bites, I am guessing that the
whole family will want to join the club! Check out the rhubarb websites for
more inspiration and amazing recipes.
My kids are very excited about this project!
Here is what you will need:
1 empty egg carton
Gardening dirt and seeds for:
Place dirt and seeds in the empty egg container. Place the egg
carton in the window sill. Water as needed and watch the seeds sprout. When the soil warms up, transplant the seedlings outside into your garden. If
you live in a place where some of these plants may not mature by fall, buy
starter plants instead, and dedicate one garden bed to pizza.
An irridescent hummingbird flashed into view, framed for two
perfect seconds by my kitchen window. My
heart leapt- a true sign of spring! That
happened last week, before we were cloaked again in clouds and rain.
A friend and I were talking yesterday about the contrast
between the glowing parade of early spring blossoms and the heaviness of heart
that we were both experiencing.
Suddenly, I remembered. Nature
can be new again, usher in fresh colors and young life because it let go in autumn: sent out seeds, let the withered foliage fall,
released its life forces. All the
creatures responded to the shifting energies, as well, as autumn turned to
The ennui that hung around me as I listened to the
full-throated trilling in the camellia bush, was just the wintery dying away
that had to be completed before something new could grow up in my soul. I am sure this thought had come to me before,
but knowing that it was true was not sufficient. What is the particular thing that had to be
let go of this particular spring?
Finally, the rain stopped and I headed out to the garden. Working
up the soil in the garden beds is always instructive. The earth is rich with last year's compost.
The children squeal with delight at the worms that are wriggling free of the
overturned clods. With each shovelful,
the bed grows lighter and so do I. Soon
we will be planting this year's seeds.
Then we'll watch the robins gathering straw from the beds
for their nests. Later we'll walk down
to the pond and see if the baby ducklings have hatched. One day the hummingbird will visit us again.
How do family members show
their care for one another on Valentines Day and beyond......
A few Family Year folks
talked about this question and here is what we found was a common denominator
for us all. Expressing care is really about doing little things for one
another, without being asked- love in the form of unsolicited acts of kindness.
In the family, it might mean a spontaneous foot or shoulder rub,
playing a game with the kids while waiting for dinner, or offering to put
things away for someone who has had a long day.
In the classroom, it could be sharpening someone's pencil or
cleaning out someone's desk or locker.
At work, it might be bringing someone a fresh cup of coffee or
making a co-worker a handmade lunch.
Paying attention to other people and what they might need and doing
it, if you possibly can, is love in action. Things that we do without an
expectation of being seen or acknowledged are an expression of an overflowing
heart. Kindness can change the day for
someone and can collectively change the world.
We parents, as models for our children, need to be thoughtful and
considerate, and eventually our children will be, too.
On Valentine's Day and whenever you remember, take time to tell
family members and friends that you love them, even though your actions will
already have spoken loudly!
Making your own Valentines
The new moon on January 23rd, marked the start of
"Chinese New Year": a time of presents,
and feasting, and celebration with family and-wait a minute, didn't we just do
After cooking, cleaning, and hosting from Thanksgiving
through January 1st, fulfilling Chinese New Year traditions
always seemed like too much work: the
spotless house, the long life noodles, the lucky dumplings, the sticky rice
cake, the red envelopes filled with cash.
Combine all that work with its emphasis on money, and
Chinese New Year was definitely one of my least favorite holidays. Where Thanksgiving is about gratitude, and
Christmas is about giving, Chinese New Year is unabashedly about money, money,
Still I grew up with this holiday. At this time of year, the urge to clean
underneath my refrigerator feels as automatic and inevitable as carving a
pumpkin at Halloween or having mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.
To make it easier, I spread the work out over two weeks
(traditionally, Chinese New Year runs from new moon to full moon). That's about how long it takes me to make a
few of the special foods my mother used to pull off in one spectacular
And the cleaning?
Instead of trying to sweep out all the bad luck at once and clean my
entire house, I limit myself do one odious job each year-this year it's the
dryer vent. Maybe next year I'll get
under the refrigerator....
But there's still that money issue. Early on, my kids parroted the traditional
greeting "Luck, happiness, success and money!" without realizing what they were
saying. The red envelopes of cash were
As our children grew, we needed answers. So we took a long
hard look at this ancient holiday. Could
we make it meaningful for our lives while still honoring the heritage it
Like most things that we really think about, it became a
lesson in values. When the kids asked
"Isn't money bad?" we could clarify:
"Greed is bad. Money is just
something to use-- for good or bad.
Centuries of desperate poverty lead the Chinese to focus on money. Our family has enough money, and we're just
wishing for others to have enough too."
Balancing who you are, with where you came from, is the work
of a lifetime. Traditions should tie us
to memories we want to keep, not tie us up.
Anyway, it's something to think about as I clean that dryer vent. Happy Year of the Dragon!
If you have a hard time getting your children to eat enough
veggies, try making this blended nut and seed dressing. Every ingredient is healthy and the
combination is a winner in the taste category, too. It's totally enticing as a
dip for raw or steamed vegetables; the kids (and the adults) just keep on
dipping. It also makes a creamy,
protein-rich salad dressing. Sometimes I
spread it on a rice cracker and garnish it with thin slices of avocado. This dressing and dip is really versatile and
only takes 5 minutes to make.
Here is the recipe:
½ c raw cashews
½ c sunflower seeds
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/3 or ½ c olive oil
¼ c vinegar
½ c yogurt
2Tbsp nutritional yeast
Grind the cashews and sunflower seeds in the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend well. The nutritional yeast is
optional. If the dressing seems too
stiff, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water and blend it for a few more
seconds. It should be well blended, but
able to be poured out of the blender.
Enjoy and let us know if you find another tasty way to use
it to enhance your winter menus.
Our children learn life-long lessons from how we approach
gift giving. Presents are a holiday
tradition for many families, but what is exchanged in those festively wrapped
packages? When we put something of
ourselves into the giving or are truly thoughtful of the recipient, something
more passes between giver and receiver, something that can warm the hearts of
Making things for family, friends, neighbors, and even
strangers, is a way to be active and creative in our gift giving. Gifts from the kitchen: cookies, holiday breads, nuts, teas, as well
as home canned goods; are gifts that children of any age can help make. Simple crafts are also ways for children to
give something of themselves to others.
Sometimes the most heartfelt gift is something that cannot
be wrapped up at all. How about doing
yard work for your grandmother? How
about teaching a friend to knit or sew?
How about playing music at the senior center? If your children are older, engage them in
finding the right gift by asking, "What shall we do for our neighbors this
These kinds of activities can add an invisible, but
meaningful dimension to the exchanging of gifts; and can help balance the
strong tide of commercialism in our culture at holiday time.
I did many of these things with my own children when they
were young. Now grown, they share with
me their own perspective on giving.
"Mom," they tell me, "giving needs to feel free." It's not about lists or limits, but about
the spontaneity of the heart. I agree.
With its crisp
mornings, blustery afternoons and early sunsets, the short days of autumn have
arrived. As the sun recedes several
things rise within us to fill the gap.
We turn to steamy cups of tea and coffee and the company of friends and
family as the outward gaze of summer turns inward. Autumn is a good time for reflection, and
some of the traditional autumn holidays, like Yom Kippur, are times for
introspection. It is also a perfect time
to light our candles and lanterns and celebrate our unique human ability to
bring light to the dark days.
and clever-fingered, we don't have to fade or fall with the leaves. Neither do we have to hoard and hibernate,
waiting for winter to pass. We can chose
instead to gather as a community and celebrate the fruits of the sun left to us
in the harvest, apples and pumpkins, very pictures of the sun that made them
swell so big and round. We can kindle
our deepas, or little lamps, to show God, in the form of Lord Rama, the path
back from exile and into our homes and towns again as people do at Divali. We can bring our loved ones closer with gifts
of bread, flowers and fruit, with photographs and mementos flickering in the
light of votives on an offerenda for los muertos.
We can take
our light and liveliness out into the world too, braving the cold with mittened
hands and rosy cheeks holding lanterns
aloft, a gift of cheer to the wider world as we give coats, clothes and food to
the donation drives of the season. We
can remember the past and look to the future as the menorah glows more brightly
and more splendidly through each of 8 nights.
unquenchable light, the one that shines on the darkest night, the midnight sun,
is the light within us, the spark that we share with all living beings. A journey through the coil of matter to the
bright source within is a path of self discovery. We seldom fail to return from the source
without a gift to help on our way. A
winter spiral of lights can give our children a picture of this inward solace to
take into the coming winter. Lights on a
tree tell a story of love reborn in a cold world.
chose to carry your light into the shortening days or autumn and approaching
solstice, even if it be a candle over harvest fare at dinnertime, know that you
are in good company. If we each bring
light to our own little corner, our world will be radiant!
In the darkest night
The world will be bright
And shine like a star
You and I, I and you, We
will bring our light too
When my family sits down outdoors on a warm summer evening
to a dinner that includes fresh corn, tomatoes from the garden and fresh peach
salsa over grilled salmon, everything just seems right. Having that bounty of
fresh, local food gives me comfort. I know where everything on that plate comes
from, that the gardeners and farmers who grew it are part of my community. It
all just feels right. I sure wish I could recreate some of that feeling of
security - not to mention the taste - in, say, the middle of January when the
dark, damp dinnertime offers none of that summer warmth.
This year, I will. Thanks to a few extra hours in the
kitchen this fall, I have a larder full of sweet local corn, Eastern Washington
peaches and spicy peach salsa. On top of all the canning, I froze about two
dozen full ears of corn on the cob just for the fun of gnawing its buttery
goodness on a chilly winter eve. In the next couple of weeks, I'll trade some
of our 30 cans of corn to a friend for this season's tomatoes and beans.
Then, some rainy night in January (and December, February
and March) I'll scamper out to the grill to cook up a salmon fillet and my
family will get to recreate that summer meal, albeit without the warm outdoors
Full disclosure: all canning is not created equal. Some
foods are a snap, others take some work. Peaches, for instance, are easy. Drop
them in boiling water for a few seconds, pop the skin off, quarter them and
you're ready to put them in jars with a little sugar water and seal them in
your canner. Corn, on the other hand, takes more effort: shucking, blanching, cutting
kernels off the cobs before you put them up in cans. I did 60 ears this year
and spent about 6 hours in the process. Not an eternity, but not anything,
So, sure, there are easier ways. At least easier in the
sense that you don't have to work as hard in your kitchen. But, like so many
items of convenience, there are hidden costs. Take corn. Most of what you buy
off a shelf or from a freezer is not from around here. In fact, much of it,
even organic corn, is grown in China or Mexico. Which is fine, I suppose. But
it does mean that after it is processed by machines and low-wage labor, it is
propelled by petro-fuels around to world to get to you. You know, it's a cost.
I'd argue there's another cost, too. Call it a psychic
opportunity cost. There's just something fulfilling in popping the lid off a
jar of food that you had a hand in preserving. You planned for this moment. You
put your own effort and love into the jar along with the vegetables. You can
taste those things along with the goodness of the food. It's worth it to warm
up the dinner table on a drizzly winter's night.
Our family loves Halloween.
We love the costumes, the decorations, the running around the
neighborhood after dark on a school night.
Really. But then, at the end of
the night, comes the pile of individually packaged, high fructose corn syrup
laden, tooth decay promoting Halloween candy-and that I do not love.
But I gave out candy last year. And tho' I hate to admit it, odds are, that's
what I'll be giving out this year too. I
know it's not healthy for my kids or the planet--I've been to www.GreenHalloween.org. But despite all that inspiration, I still
haven't kicked the candy habit. And
neither have most of my neighbors.
Oh there are mavericks out there. One friend gives out Halloween pencils,
another doles out balloons. Someone in
our neighborhood hands out dental floss every year.
But whenever I suggest that our family too could celebrate
Halloween with healthier, more sustainable, non-candy treats; my children wail
Kids: "NOOOOO!!! It's HALLOWEEN! Candy is the whole POINT of Halloween. No one wants to get dental floss."
Me: "Okay, I
understand about the dental floss. But
what about something fun like cool erasers or seashells or pinecones spray
The kids hold firm. "No Momma," they
say, casting a withering look my way.
Which is strange because almost all of their candy goes to
the Sugar Ghost. This benevolent
creature lives on Halloween candy and needs to gather all its food for the year
in one night. If you leave candy for it
at the foot of your bed on Halloween, it will leave a magical present as
But I digress.
My kids don't' really like candy all that much, but they are
adamant about tradition and not being "weird."
How to overcome their resistance-and let's face it, mine as well? Because indeed there is a small, secret part
of me that looks forward to a stash of leftover candy bars
This year, we'll go slow and try mixing glass pebbles in
with our usual "treats." It's not a
break with tradition, just offering a choice.
Like having a vegetarian entrée alongside the turkey at Thanksgiving.
After all, we've learned to love our alternative fuel car,
and their alternative education. Surely
we could all learn to love alternative Halloween treats as well.
When the berries are ripe, I love to make shortbread
cobbler. It is the perfect foil for
sweet, juicy fruits. When apples are in
season, I prefer to make crisps with a crunchy oat and nut topping. My favorite recipe for peaches and plums,
however, is a French specialty called, "clafoutis."
A clafoutis is part cake, part pudding and part soufflé. It
is easy to make, adaptable to whatever fruit is in season and delicious. Most recipes do not call for separating and
beating the egg whites, but I have found that folding in the beaten egg whites
just before baking makes the clafoutis lighter and prettier-and more like a
1 c milk
2 TBSP sugar or honey
½ c flour (wheat or any other combination of flours for a
Line the buttered bottom of an 8 X 8 or 6 x 9 baking pan
with peach slices or plum halves.
Separate the egg yolks and whites.
Put the egg yolks, milk, flour and vanilla in a blender and blend
well. Beat the egg whites and fold them
into the blended batter. Pour the
mixture over the sliced fruit and bake at 375 in a preheated oven for 25-30
The clafoutis will fall a bit as it cools. It is most delicious while still warm, but
still tasty once it cools and can even make a nice addition to the next
morning's breakfast. To ensure that there will be leftovers, double the recipe
and use a larger baking dish.
Here's a super simple soup to make as school is
starting-or anytime life is feeling crazy.
I serve it to my family with bread and a salad, and call it a meal. Or if there's no time to pull a salad
together, I'll toss some frozen spinach into the soup once the lentils are done. Tomatoes are nice too.
The wonderful thing about soup is that you can toss in a
bit of this and some extra that and it will all taste delicious. This recipe is fine made with water, but is
extra yummy when made with stock.
Really Easy Lentil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups raw lentils
8 cups water or stock (or more)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onions in oil until they start to brown. Add the celery, carrots, lentils and
stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the
heat. Add thyme and simmer until the lentils
and carrots are tender-about an hour--adding more water if the soup gets too
thick and is in danger of scorching.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In some parts of the country, roses are still
blooming. If you are lucky enough to
have roses in your garden, you might want to bottle some of that summery scent
by making rosewater.
Used for centuries as a flavoring and skin conditioner,
exotic rosewater is actually quite easy to make..
An internet search turned up countless tutorials on
distilling rosewater, but we used a simple method from All Year Round,
by. Ann Druitt et al. We've enjoyed the crafts,
recipes and stories from this Waldorf family classic for years.
The instructions for making rosewater go something like
pot with rose petals
enough water to cover the petals
for 3 mintues
It really is that simple!
Things will start to smell divine as the water heats up,
but keep the lid on-it will help concentrate the aroma. As a flavoring, our homemade rosewater was
delicate at best, but it was a wonderfully luxurious rinse for hands and face! Next time we'll try making a simple sugar
syrup with our rosewater.
We used yellow roses with just a few red petals, and our rosewater
ended up a lovely amber color. Using
pink or red roses would probably produce a "rosier" color. Also know that a bottle kept at room
temperature showed signs of mold within a week.
But the jar in the refrigerator kept for over a month.
Finally, almost all florist roses are heavily sprayed with
pesticides. Make sure to use only roses
you know are unsprayed.
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
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!
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!
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My husband's mother had to work summers, but she made the
season special by eating outdoors as often as possible. When she got home from work, she packed the
picnic basket while the kids gathered up the Frisbee, softball and gloves, or
the croquet set.
There were several parks in their neighborhood and they
visited them all regularly. Sometimes
they just ate in the backyard. On
weekends, they often went out of the city for a more adventurous outing, always
with the picnic basket in hand.
A well-outfitted picnic basket is a lovely sight to behold,
but it is also possible to put together dishes and utensils from what you have
around the house or the local thrift shop.
An old blanket for sitting on and a small tablecloth are nice to have as
they separate the eating and seating areas for the youngest picnickers. Consider packing a squirt bottle of water and
a washcloth for cleaning little hands before or after eating.
My mother-in-law's picnics were mostly composed of traditional
fare- cold chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs and dill pickles. There was always a jug of lemonade. While I sometimes make potato salad, my menus
are more varied.
Here are some of my favorite cold suppers: quinoa tabouli and a Greek salad; soba
noodles with tofu and vegetables; humus and pita sandwiches with yogurt and
cucumber dip; ratatouille, French green lentil salad, marinated beets and a
fresh loaf of sourdough bread.
Some young children have difficulty eating when surrounded
by distractions, as there might be in a park setting. If this describes your children, you might
want to start with backyard picnics. Or
give them a substantial snack in the afternoon and have clear times for eating
and playing. If you are consistent with
your expectations, the children will soon be able to manage.
For thirsty picnickers, try making some herbal iced tea
early in the day so that it has time to brew and then chill in the
refrigerator. Or try our recipe for
fresh mint and lemon balm lemonade, posted earlier in the month.
Summer is short, so make it memorable with the time-honored
tradition of summer picnics.