Susan R. Johnson MD
There has to be some advantage to
commuting. Every other Friday I commute to the Bay Area to take my son to visit
his father. As I drive back late Friday night there is a lot of time for
thinking and reflection and sometimes listening to a book on tape or CD. Two
weeks ago I listened to Stephen Covey's book called "First things
First". He said there are four different quadrants or categories of how we
spend our time, and how we choose to spend our time depends on whether we
perceive something as "Urgent" or "Not Urgent" and
"Important (essential)" or "Not Important
First we have the Urgent and Important
quadrant. Spending time in this space is easy to figure out. There may occur a
sudden illness in a family member or an injury that requires a trip to the
emergency room. We may have neglected our marriage and now it is in crisis. Our
child may be having tremendous difficulties in school or there is some
financial catastrophe at our workplace. This category is easy to recognize and
often requires our immediate response.
The next space or quadrant is often a
place where we spend too much time and energy. This is the Urgent but Not
Essential category. This is where other people are telling us what is urgent to
them, and we are running around trying to meet their needs. In this category,
we are spending our time and energy doing things that someone else, and not we,
think are essential. This can happen at the work place, in our home life, or in
the community. If we stay in this category too long, we can experience burn
out, exhaustion, and loss of our spark for living.
Then there is the "Not Urgent and
Not Important" third category. This is the place we often go when we are
exhausted, and we want to vegetate and escape the stresses of our world. It
might be to drink a lot of alcohol, play violent video games, or just watch a
pointless movie or television show. The activities we do in this category do
not nourish our body, soul, or spirit. They don't reflect goodness, truth, or
beauty. We do them just to escape our life. Often when our life is filled with
the non-essential, when we can't find meaning, we find ourselves spending too
much time in this wasteland.
Finally, the fourth area in our life
where we can choose to spend our time is the "Not Urgent but
Important" category. This is actually an important area to spend our time,
and yet we hardly find the time to be here at all. This is where we really
nourish our relationships with ourself, with our children, with our partner,
with our friends, with our community, and with the Divine. Taking time to go on
a walk, visit a friend, play catch with our child, go dancing, sing in a choir,
plant a garden, meditate, paint, sculpt, or read inspirational poetry. Because
these activities aren't "Urgent", we often neglect this category, put
things off, until something catastrophic happens like we get ill or a
relationship falls apart. When that happens, we finally do spend the time
because the situation has transported itself to the "Urgent and Important"
category. Unfortunately, we then have the monumental task of healing a
relationship (to ourself, our partner, our child, the Divine) that has
experienced many years of neglect.
So how do we sort out what is important
or what is essential in our life? Steven Covey talks about always holding up a
vision for one's life, and having separate visions for the well being of our
body, our soul, and our spirit. A vision for our physical body may be to do
specific things that keep our body healthy such as exercising, eating
nourishing foods, and getting plenty of rest. A vision for our soul may include
ways of loving ourselves and learning how to love and give to others. A vision
for our spirit may have to do with our specific destiny or path, our purpose
for living. So all one needs to do is spend time looking at the visions one has
for body, soul and spirit, and this will help clarify our goals and guide us to
those essential and most important activities in our life.
We can often spend one moment in time
that satisfies several visions at once. For example, to go with a good friend
to a movie, like "What The Bleep Do We Know ..." , may satisfy both soul and
spiritual needs. In addition, if we happen to walk several blocks to get to the
theatre and share a nutritious meal together before the show, then we have also
satisfied some physical needs.
Once we have a sense of our own vision,
those places in our lives where we want to express love, then we will know how
to more effectively use our time. Long ago sages would travel to very isolated
and far away places to get connected with their Spirit. In our lifetime, it is
not so much the specific places we go to that matter, but rather it is how we
spend our time and whether we can remain fully present in those moments.
We all know that sleep is essential for rejuvenation, but if
you find yourself paddling hard all day long, you may also want to find a quiet
mooring place somewhere in the middle of the day.
Naps give younger children a chance to rest and recharge,
but calm times during waking hours are necessary for children of all ages to
balance their active taking in of new experiences. Parents also need time to reflect and center
Each of us has a different picture of that elusive place of
tranquility. When I was a young parent,
our main source of heat was a woodstove.
In the wintertime, we would sit and watch the fire. In warmer weather, we loved to lie on the
grass and watch the clouds. Every
afternoon, I made myself a cup of tea and took a break for ten or fifteen
minutes. The children knew instinctively
not to disturb me until I picked up my cup and carried it to the sink.
Some of the ideas below may resonate with you, or inspire
you to discover what works for you and your family. They include respites for the whole family, for
children, and for parents:
- Soothe young and old with
the rhythmic motions of a porch swing, glider or rocking chair.
- Pore over a beautiful
picture book, slowly, without speaking.
- Hum, strum or sing a quiet
melody while wrapped up in a blanket on the couch.
- Give older children a
gentle foot or back massage, or draw shapes and letters on their backs.
- Roll a skein of yarn into
- Knit or sew with your
children. Many toddler moms have
become avid knitters because of the relaxation it provides.
- Recall a happy memory and
together make up a little poem about it.
- Wash the dishes together,
enjoying the warm, soapy water.
- Sweep the floor in the
same frame of mind.
- Get outside and breathe
the fresh air.
- Take a walk around the
block. Look with your child's eyes;
notice what is around you.
Any activity done in an attentive mood can be restful and
restorative. The main point is to allow
yourself and your children to breathe out deeply, even for a short while. Your children will take in this important
lesson and your whole family will be healthier and more resilient.
Sometimes parents need to head off to their own tranquil
isle all by themselves. You won't need
directions, but you may need to be reminded that it is both permissible and
healthy to set anchor in that beautiful harbor now and again.
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.
is a reason The
by Gretchen Rueben became a #1 New York Times best seller. The words ‘happiness' and ‘happy' show up in
over 50,000 titles on Amazon's book lists.
Why does this word touch many of us so deeply? The book brings up
topics that nearly all of us connect with. Is it possible to become a happier
person? Is personal happiness a meaningful and worthwhile
goal? Happiness is something just about every human being wants, right?
It is the goal that motivates much of our day to day striving. Then why
do so many of us have that sense of discontent, the uneasy questions? Is this
really my life? Isn't there something
the book, the author, a graduate of Yale law school and mother of two daughters,
details her own life, her personal happiness project. The reader follows her
attempts to be a happier person by setting monthly goals. She then attempts to become more organized,
make time for friends, boost her energy through diet and exercise, and so on.
This method is helpful and thought-provoking. She cites current scientific
studies of positive psychology and this is one of the most interesting aspects
of this book for me, as is her integration of the lessons of pop culture. Act the way you
want to feel,
she advises. And is she really happier after a year? She says yes!
what is happiness or, to put it bluntly, are you happy? (for more on
happiness see our next post on 9/22)
Cynthia Lair is the author of the cookbook "Feeding the Whole Family," and a faculty member at Bastyr University where she directs their culinary degree program. She studied nutrition in New York City, paying her tuition bills with money she made as an actress. Shortly after moving to Seattle, Cynthia enrolled her daughter in a Waldorf kindergarten. Her ten year interface with Waldorf education helped shape Cynthia's views on the importance of family meals and healthful food for children. Cynthia's acting and culinary passions have finally merged in her online show at CookusInterruptus.com where she shows viewers "how to cook fresh, local, organic whole foods despite life's interruptions."
Here are some suggestions for caretakers who pack lunch regularly for children.
o Make a lunch box chart (a sample is printed below). If your child is five or older, let them help plan and make the chart. Children are more likely to eat the food if they have helped plan the menu. Renew the chart as the seasons change. Post your chart for easy reference.
o Include one item in the lunch box that is a “growing food” (a protein source). Choose either a vegetarian protein combination like whole grains with beans or nuts or include some animal protein.
o Always give your child something fresh (fruit or vegetable) with in their lunch box. This adds vitamins, minerals, and enzymes!
o Though many food companies make convenient happy-looking foods for lunches remember to be discerning and read labels. Avoid giving young bodies foods with additives, preservatives, food coloring, cheap oils and non-nutritious sweeteners (i.e. corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, splenda, sucralose).
o Rather than packing juice, tuck in a small container of fruity herbal tea or sparkling water. This helps to avoid children drinking their meal and discarding the real food their body needs.
o For an earth-friendly lunch box, use a bright-colored cloth napkin and silverware instead of wasteful paper and plastic.
o On days where you feel like adding something extra, add a fresh flower, a poem, a neat rock or crystal, a jingle bell, a cartoon, a finger puppet or a note from you instead of candy.
o If your child’s school is open to the idea, consider having “Hot Soup Fridays” where parents bring in enough hot soup and bread for the whole class on a rotating basis. This is especially nice on cold days where warm food can be so satisfying.
You and your child can use the chart to plan some favorite combinations. Post your chart for easy reference.
Once the children are in bed, there are so many things that
a parent may want to do. Getting ready
for the next day is probably not high on the list. Still, a few minutes strategically spent in
the evening can help avoid potential stress for both children and parents and
dramatically change the mood of the morning.
Here are some suggestions:
In the bedroom: Remind your older children and help the
younger ones to lay out their clothes for the next day. If children are in a picky phase, you can
offer two possible outfits and let them choose one or the other or some
combination. Allowing a child to choose
from a variety of acceptable possibilities is much less likely to lead to a
parent or child meltdown.
In the kitchen: Clean and set out the lunch containers on the
counter. Decide what the lunch menu is
going to be. Look for an upcoming post
on packing wholesome lunches. Some items
may be able to be packed already. Put
the ice packs in the freezer.
In the dining room: Set the table for breakfast. Decide what you are going to serve. Soak oats or other grains overnight for quick
cooking in the morning.
In the entry: Make sure everyone's outerwear is in order
and that backpacks, homework, musical instruments and sports equipment are
sitting by the door and ready to be picked up on the way out. If there were any requests from the teacher or
the school, get those things together and put them near the door as well..
Now you can answer those emails, make that phone call or
curl up on the couch with a book, knowing that you have done your best to
smooth the way through the coming morning.
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
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!
Traveling with children falls into two categories: visits
to relatives and other ‘obligatory' excursions, and adventure travel. If you
are planning a trip with your kids to see new places, then you probably love
traveling for traveling sake. As with
anything you love and want to pass on to your children, it can help to put a
little thought into the matter.
Of course there's no way to guarantee that your kids will
share your wanderlust, but there are ways to stack the deck in your favor. Here are some of my favorite suggestions for
traveling with kids.
Let some rules
slide. For our family it's
sweets. We seldom have dessert or sweet
snacks at home. But when we are
traveling, it's another story. I keep a
supply of hard candies in my purse. And
I have been known to promise lemonade AND ice cream if they will only walk up
to the top of the hill with us. Another
gelato won't kill ‘em...
Hold fast on the
important stuff. Speaking
respectfully is our one ironclad rule.
No matter how tired or lost or desperate we feel; we still need to speak
kindly to one another-and apologize when we don't.
Be aware of your
child's routine. It's impossible to
stick to your usual schedule when you've just crossed twelve time zones, but
sometimes it helps to know what our body clocks are telling us. Daddy changes his watch to local time, while
I keep mine set to home-that way I can see at a glance that it's 3 am in Seattle and we all need to
cut one another a little more slack.
everything. You hurry everyone along
only to find that the flight is delayed.
Or the restaurant is closed. Or
the puppet show is cancelled.
Frustrating? Disappointing? Yes...but these situations give us parents the
chance to show our kids how to roll with life's punches gracefully. Take a deep breath and show them how it's
developmentally appropriate. My
husband and I love museums, so we wandered the British Museum
while our nine month old baby slept in her stroller. Five years and another kid
later, I refereed races down a little used corridor while my husband ogled
porcelains at the Shanghai
Museum. In Munich's
Pinokothek, with a nine and seven year old, we challenged the kids to find
which painting had the most dogs. This
year, at ten and almost thirteen, our kids outlasted us at the Prado in Madrid. Sweet.
Balance. Someone wants to eat. Someone wants to play. Someone wants to read every exhibit card in
the museum. How to meet everyone's
needs? Well, you can't. But you can
use all the tools in your parenting toolbox. Is it time to divide and
conquer? Let the kids lead? Call it a day? Just remember: even on the trip of a lifetime, the rest of
your life will unfold with these people.
Treat each other gently.
When our first child was nine months old, we flew from Seattle to London
to Tel Aviv. We've flown across at least
one ocean with our children almost every year since, so they've logged a lot of
time in airplanes. How to keep them
entertained on those long flights?
Endless games of peek-a-boo kept my babies happy all the
way to Europe.
Now that they are tweens and teens, a good book (and some healthy snacks)
are usually sufficient.
In between, it helped to have a few tricks up my
sleeve. Waldorf kids are taught to use
their hands at an early age and all those quiet handwork activities are ideal
on a plane (or in the back seat of the car).
Depending on your child's age, knitting, origami, drawing pencils (not
markers-the caps always go missing), paper, and lots and lots of stickers will
help wile away long hours on the airplane.
I cut pages of stickers into individual pieces before our
flight and my toddler spent many happy miles offering them to other passengers
as she waddled up and down the aisles.
Tiny presents, individually wrapped and doled out over
time, helped break up the monotony of long flights. A collection of tiny farm animals or dessert
shaped erasers then become props in other games played out on the tray table.
Another unexpected hit was face crayons. Since face painting is not an everyday
activity at home, the kids were totally captivated by the novelty of being able
to draw all over Mommy, Daddy, and each other.
We looked frightful when we landed, but with a little forethought we
could have cleaned up before arrival.
And despite considering myself to be a Waldorf parent, I
am not above popping a pre-approved DVD into the laptop while something far
less appropriate is exploding all over the cabin screen. Most international flights now have
individual screens with a special children's channel, but we still bring along
one classic film just in case.
Lastly, don't forget to talk to your kids. When else will you have 14 hours to tell them
stories? With any luck, they'll tell you
a few too.
Spring is here and there's a lot
of yard work to be done. But the
children are only able to help for a short while. They need something else to do while you are
finishing up your list of tasks.
Children, especially boys, love
to dig. Give them a small plot of ground
in the yard or garden, some trowels and a shovel (child-sized one works
best). They will be busy for hours. If the digging spot is in the sun, you can
construct a simple awning over it or make sure the children wear their sun
Like treasure hunters, they will
delight in unearthing rocks, roots, wriggly worms and maybe even an iridescent
black beetle. On warm days, the offer of
a full watering can will, no doubt, inspire the sculpting of streambeds and
dams. Unlike sand, dirt will hold its
shape and allow for more permanent geographical features.
A metal cake pan will make a good
pond on which to float leaf or bark boats.
The landscape will grow, shrink
and evolve with the fancy of the earth sculptors. Parents might even have to stop their work
now and again to admire the latest work of art.
For a child, the act of putting a
tiny seed in the soil, watering it and waiting, and finally watching the green
shoot poke itself up into the light is a wondrous experience. Without a word of explanation, the child
apprehends an essential aspect of the mystery of life on earth.
More lessons emerge as the plants
grow and mature. Caring for plants gives
children a sense of time, weather, and seasons that are tangible and not at all
abstract. At the stage of the harvest,
ripe fruits and vegetable are picked and eaten (often even before they get into
the kitchen) bringing the whole experience full circle to
a tasty culmination.
Even if you do not have a large
yard you can still grow a few things in pots on your deck or at the front of a
flowerbed. Lettuce, strawberries, basil, and cherry tomatoes do well in pots.
Many herbs are hardy perennials and look nice interspersed with flowers. Mint and lemon balm make wonderful iced teas
on warm summer days.
No matter what you grow, do not
underestimate the importance of this experience in your child's education. Growing food forms the basis for a not yet
conscious appreciation of humanity's relation to nature and the archetypal work
of farmers past and present.
This charming custom combines the
excitement of "Ding-Dong Ditch" with the warm glow of anonymous
philanthropy. On the first of May, a
small basket of flowers
is hung on a neighbor's doorknob. The doorbell is rung and then the giver
scurries off to hide. When the door is
opened, the neighbor is greeted only by a basket of flowers and hopefully some
May baskets are a simple project
for children, requiring only scissors, paper, staples or glue, and a few
flowers. Even dandelions (which grow
abundantly in our
yard) will give a very satisfying effect.
Start by making the basket. A simple basket can be made from a single
sheet of paper. Old calendars are ideal
for this project because their glossy, colorful
pages make sturdy, beautiful
Cut a long, narrow strip from one
side of the paper. This will be the
handle of your basket. Roll the
remaining paper into a cone. Secure with
staples (or glue or tape), attach your handle and you are done!
Perfect cone shapes can be achieved by
starting with a perfect quarter circle of paper but we try not to bother since
we are constantly fighting perfectionism in our household.
Add flowers to your basket (wrap
the stems in damp newspaper and plastic if you think your neighbors might not
get their gift right away), then run out to make your deliveries.
Even if the flowers have wilted
by the time your neighbors find them, a May basket will always delight. It's a reminder that summer is coming and that thoughtful neighbors are thinking of them.
the glory of the spring sun dulled by the gray film on your window panes? Then it might be time to gear up for a bit of
old-fashioned spring cleaning. Kids love
to help wash windows.
by taking down the curtains; you'll be surprised at how dusty they are! Wash them by hand if they are delicate and
hang them outside in the fresh spring air.
Most young children can't wait to get their hands in soapy water so take
advantage of that! Next you can clean
the windows together.
homemade window washing solutions contain white vinegar or ammonia. Mix ¼ tsp of liquid detergent (to remove
grease) and 3 tbsp vinegar (or ammonia) with 2 cups of water and pour the
mixture into a spray bottle. Make sure
there's a spray bottle for everyone - you and each child - and set the sprayers
to the widest mist. Spray each window
and wipe dry with a clean cloth. Linen works well, although some people prefer
to use newspaper.
the vibrant views! Once you have cleaned
the windows, you might notice the cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling, the
dust under the bed and lots of other things that you hadn't noticed during the
winter months. Stay calm, however, and
don't be tempted to take it all on immediately.
Try doing one task or one room each week.
started is the hardest part and the clean windows will be your inspiration to
carry on with the other seasonal cleaning chores. Your children will ask when they can help
again and that will surely spur you on!
Some recipes, when I first
read through them, seem dauntingly complicated.
But if I follow the directions step by step, they often turn out to be
easier than I expected. Once I have the
hang of a new dish, I usually throw away the recipe and start improvising. Here
is a favorite recipe of mine for those dark and chilly mornings in January. It
needs to be started the night before, but it is well worth the time and
A beeswax candle
napkins (clean and ironed)
(with favorite family toppings)
Stewed or fresh
(brewed and cool enough for the kids to drink)
The Night Before
children lay out their clothes for the morning (or remind them if they are old
enough to do it for themselves). Make
sure that their outerwear, coats and boots are ready by the door, as well as
their backpacks and homework.
Soak the cereal
in cold water so that it will cook quickly in the morning. Soak the dried fruit or set out the fresh
fruit for cutting.
Set the table
with clean placemats, napkins, bowls and spoons. Put a candle and matches in the center of the
Decide what is
going in tomorrow's lunches and pack what you can. Put the lunch bags on the counter ready to be
completed in the morning.
Tidy the kitchen
and dining room so that they are relatively free of clutter and welcoming.
In The Morning
Get up before
the children, cook the cereal, prepare the fruit, and make the tea. Make coffee
or tea for the adults.
Turn off the
lights in the dining room and light the candle.
children and ask them to come down quietly once they are dressed. You might even ring a little bell when
everything is ready. Tell the children
to listen for the bell.
to sit down at the same time. Enjoy eating and drinking together in the
flickering light of the candle.
Go over the
plans and logistics of the day, but keep your voice in tune with the mood
Clear the table
- everyone can help - but leave the candle burning.
children to brush hair and teeth while you pack the last things in the lunch
bags and wash the dishes.
Give hugs and
kisses, blow out the candle and meet the rest of your day fortified with a
truly nourishing breakfast.
Note: Recipe can be revised to suit most family
Isn't it nicer to do the dishes when the house is quiet
and you can think your own thoughts?
When you don't have to worry about your 3-year-old splashing water all
over the counters and herself, your 5-year-old dropping your favorite cup or
your 10-year-old going on and on about what he would rather be doing? "Yes"is the logical and likely answer; but
what would be missing if the children never saw or participated in the work
around the house?
For the youngest children, there is no distinction between
work and play. Naturally they want to try to do what they see us or their older
siblings doing. In purposeful activities
they are gaining important fine and gross motor skills, making essential
neurological connections, as well as gaining confidence in what they can do and
Of course, with the youngest family members, there are
still tasks that need to done when they are fast asleep, but whenever possible
we want to meet their wish to help with encouragement. Of course, we will need to
give them appropriate tasks and allow enough time for them to do the job at
their pace. Their pace helps us slow down too, and better savor what we are
IF YOU ENJOY YOUR WORK, YOUR CHILDREN WILL LEARN TO WORK
Some of the tasks your child can participate in include:
helping with meal preparation, setting and clearing the table, rinsing the
dishes, feeding the dog or cat, watering plants, folding laundry, sweeping the
porch, raking leaves.
For the family with grade school children, other factors
need to be considered. Around the age of
six, children like to see household chores on a chart (with pictures as well as
words) and sometimes be able to choose their chore for the following week or
month. When my kids were all between 8
and 13, everyone helped with the preparation and cleanup of dinner. Every Saturday morning, we all cleaned the
house together. Your family might choose
another time, but working together made all the difference.
We did not give sermons about how "we all have to do
things that we don't feel like doing." We just did what needed to be done and
expected them to participate. Grumbling
happened, but not very often, especially if we were sensitive to when one child
or another was ready for a more challenging task, like mowing the lawn, washing
the car, or pruning the roses. Baking and cooking, window washing, furniture
polishing and gardening are other chores that bring new challenges to older
children. They are not only gaining new skills but also learning how working
together builds a sense of community.
Here is a second helpful maxim: RHYTHM BUILDS LIFELONG HABITS
How about letting your teenagers do their own
laundry? Cooking a whole meal? What else
can they do that gives them a feeling of independence and allows you not to
nag? Housework is not usually high on the teenager's list of priorities. Still, if they have grown up caring for their
surroundings, they can still rally when needed.
My son (in his thirties now) actually said that one of the things he
appreciated most about his childhood was the family doing projects
together. That's not exactly saying that
he liked doing chores, but it's close enough.
So if you are casting about for a new New Year's
resolution, consider adding family chores to your household rhythm in
2011. You may find yourself reaping
unexpected benefits now and far into the future.
I'm fortunate to live
in a climate with a long growing season and wonderful autumn bounty. Yesterday
I walked farmland being readied for impending cold weather and marveled at the
bins of beets and lovely purple top turnips that were being harvested, the crew
working tirelessly in the diminishing daylight. I breathed in the musty odor of
a dark storage room where winter squash shared space with potatoes, a sign on
the door saying "Quiet Please! Potatoes Night Night." While washing the field mud from my boots,
boxes of bunched radishes and bok choy were being moved into the cooler.
With the fall harvest
comes thoughts of Thanksgiving and celebrations of seasonal abundance with
family and friends. I've long been a proponent of eating local for the
holidays. With year-round and longer
running farmers markets plus fall and winter CSAs, it's easy to feature local
foods on our tables.
This weekend will be
one of the year's busiest farmers markets, and the variety couldn't be better.
Apples and pears are at their peak right now, and even after years as a farmer
market regular I am still amazed at the variety that our region produces.
Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and all their brethren in the Brassicas family,
plus lots of dark leafy greens abound. Root vegetables, foraged mushrooms,
locally raised meats and of course potatoes and squash will be straining the
tables. Many think the season is over when in fact the diversity and volume
available at the late fall markets rivals a summer day.
A great way to enjoy
these local flavors is to commit to eating local for Thanksgiving. This
commitment can range from every dish on the table to just one - The important
thing is that purchasing seasonal foods supports area farmers and the local economy
while providing a delicious and healthy Thanksgiving meal.
Here in King County
Washington, take the Eat Local for Thanksgiving pledge
organized by Puget Sound Fresh. In addition to boosting awareness of what is
grown in our region, the site also has great holiday recipes and information on
where to shop.
I hope you'll join me
and Eat Local for Thanksgiving!
Brussels Sprouts with Shallots
This is a favorite
Thanksgiving side dish because the sweetness of little cabbages paired with
just-harvested hazelnuts is oh-so tasty. Steam the Brussels sprouts for just a
few minutes so they hold their shape; if they do get a bit soft they'll still
taste delicious. For a fun treat look for Brussels sprouts still on the stalk
at your local farmers market. Ask the farmer if they've been touched by frost,
which makes them even sweeter.
2# Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2# hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hazelnut oil (optional)
- Steam Brussels sprouts until
tender, about 4 minutes.
- Melt butter over low heat in a
large braising pan until it begins to brown. Add the shallots and sauté
until lightly browned.
- Add the oil and Brussels sprouts
to the pan and sauté for a few minutes to mix everything.
- Add the hazelnuts and sauté for
3-4 minutes until everything is heated through. Season with salt and
- If hazelnut oil is available, add
a few drops and stir in as a finishing oil.
If, as a child, you got to pick out your own pumpkin from a whole field of possibilities (or from an overflowing bin at the farmer's market), you're not like to forget the day. If your family lives in the city, visiting a farm is also a great way to help your child(ren) build a connection to the seasons and growing; the cycle of seeds, plants, fruits and lo and behold, SEEDS again!
Check online for places to go (LocalHarvest.org has information on U-Pick farms and more all over the US) and remember to bring along proper shoes or boots and outerwear. Fields can be mucky. Take a picnic lunch and make it a day's outing if you have time. Let the children experience the shape, form and weight of their pumpkins by carrying their pumpkins or pulling them in a wagon. A pumpkin that's too big to lift may be awe-inspiring, but lugging around their own perfectly sized pumpkin will teach children more.
Enjoy the pumpkins on the front porch or steps for a few days before carving them. They only last for two or three days in the house after they have been carved before getting moldy and starting to melt, although that is a good lesson in the life cycle of a plant, too.
In Europe, the tradition of hollowing out a large turnip or beet or potato and putting a candle in it evolved from the earlier Celtic practice of keeping a light burning all night. In the United States, European immigrants found the pumpkin to be the perfect vegetable for making Halloween lanterns or Jack-o-lanterns.
Pumpkins are essential for Halloween decorating, both inside and out. While glitzy decorations in the local stores may beckon and beguile, pumpkins are best set off by things you can gather or make with your family. Other items that you might be able to find in your neighborhood, even if you don't have a garden are: bare branches or ones with a few scarlet leaves still attached, cornstalks, dried grasses, poppy flower heads, thistles or bright orange Chinese lantern plants, and grape vines. Try draping reusable cheesecloth instead of the ubiquitous polyester cobwebs, or making black construction paper silhouettes in the windows, and put lots of tea lights around the room and on the dinner table.
Nibble on some roasted pumpkin seeds, admire the glowing orange globes, and dream about planting your own pumpkin patch next summer.