Friday, December 21, 2012

Blogging Hiatus

I'll be taking a blogging break until January 2, 2013 when I'll return with a Wordless Wednesday post.

Blogging about fun things to do with your kids hasn't felt right since the news about the tragedy in Newtown, CT broke last Friday. I know experts say that for most of us, getting back into a normal routine as soon as possible is the best approach. And I've done that with my family. But somehow I'm not ready to do that here. I hope you understand.

I'll use the break to spend time with family and friends, enjoy some time in nature, and read by the fire. 

I hope you hold your loved ones close this season. Find some quiet. Find some peace.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy in Newtown Connecticut

I've been avoiding the internet since Friday. I've been avoiding nearly all media, actually. I had to, for my own mental health. I confess, I've had moments of guilt- the families in Newtown, CT can't avoid it. Their lives are forever altered. How will they recover? I truly don't know.

But watching the unending media coverage- the interviews with third graders, the photos of utter chaos and unthinkable horror will not change life for those families. Making myself suffer through every horrific detail only makes my life worse. Makes my mental health worse. Makes me less able to effectively help my children navigate this horror.

And so, I've tried my best to maintain a normal life for my children. I don't tell them I can't sleep because I'm crying for children and families in Connecticut.

On Saturday morning my husband and I had the most difficult conversation of our lives with our children. Until we sat them down, they had no idea what had happened. How do you tell a ten year-old and a seven year-old that a man killed 20 children in a school? I kept thinking, "I'll just wait 5 minutes. Let them be innocent for 5 more minutes." But we had to tell them. They haven't seen any news, but there's no way in this media age that they wouldn't hear about it from kids at school or on the bus.

Before we sat them down, we consulted a few resources. So today, I offer them to you in case they can help you talk with your own children.

And here's a list of Ways You Can Help the Newtown Community.

Finally, please take care of yourselves. If you find you or your children struggling, don't be too proud to seek help. If you don't know where to start, try your children's school. School Psychologists and Adjustment Counselors work with therapists and counselors in your area. They can help you find and access resources in the community for you or your children.

If you participate in organized religion, speak to your Imam, Rabbi, Pastor, or Priest. Talk to your friends and relatives. Hold them close.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Today's Post Removed

Today's post was up before the horrific events in Connecticut occurred. The post was about keeping your family safe in the woods during hunting season. It feels wrong to leave it up now. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I don't want it here so I took it down.

There are no words to express how I feel for all of the families suffering in Newtown right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Shurit Ads (Egyptian Lentil Soup)

In order to simplify my life during this busy holiday season, once a week I'll be re-posting some things that newer Polliwog readers probably haven't seen. This recipe will take your taste buds on a little vacation.

This post originally ran on 11 February 2011.

On Monday, I posted a book you can read with your children or students to teach them a bit about modern Egypt. Today... a recipe! Once upon a time this was practically a staple in our house, but for some reason I stopped making it. With Egypt in the news, I was inspired to make it again. It's perfect for the cold winter nights we've been having here. Both of my kids devoured it.

Shurit Ads (from Global Feast Cookbook edited by Annice Estes)
Yield: 4 servings
2 Tbsp minced onion
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup dried red lentils (Usually available in Natural or International food sections of the grocery store. In a pinch, I've used green lentils).
4 cups chicken stock (vegetarians, substitute veggie stock)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped *
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt*
4 lemon wedges

*In the dead of winter when good, fresh tomatoes are unavailable, I double the recipe and use one 15 1/2 oz can of chopped tomatoes. Leave out the salt if you use canned tomatoes.
  1. Rinse and sort lentils. (This is a great job for kids).
  2. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add lentils, 1 chopped onion, tomato and garlic. Reduce heat.
  3. Simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  4. Meanwhile, saute 2 tablespoons minced onion in one tablespoon butter. Set aside.
  5. Puree soup in a blender or food processor and return to the pot. (This may take several batches, or use a stick blender right in the pot).
  6. Stir in cumin and salt. Simmer for a few minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter.
  7. Ladle into bowls. Top with reserved sauteed onion. Serve with lemon wedges. (The lemon brightens the flavors).
Will you try this recipe? Let us know if you like it. Do you have an Egyptian recipe to suggest?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Recommendation: Fed Up With Frenzy

Have you seen this book? (Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World by Susan Sachs Lipman). I hadn't until recently when I was browsing around in my library. The funny thing is, author Susan (Suz) Lipman and I follow each other on Twitter. We've even interacted with each other directly a few times. Yet, somehow, I managed to miss her book. I guess it got lost in all the Twitter "noise." Now that I've found it, I realize even her Avatar on Twitter is the book's cover.

I love that I found the book when I was doing what the book promotes- slowing down. I was poking around the library with my kids. My daughter was working on something at the craft table. My son had his nose in the latest nonfiction book. I wrapped up an informal chat with our librarian and wandered over to the new non-fiction section. And there it was... this book that you must read. As readers of this blog, you will certainly find it appealing.

The introduction answers the question, "Why become a slow parent?" and provides suggestions for getting started. The bulk of the book focuses on things you can do with your children (including a materials list and directions for each). Activities range from games to nature activities to kitchen cooking and crafts. You'll recognize a few of the activities as ones you've seen here, but most of them are different.

As many of us enter this frenzied holiday time, I encourage you to take a little break and peruse this book. You might even want to give copies as gifts to other parents in your life. It's that useful.

Do you celebrate a December holiday? How will you slow down this December?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

From the Archives: Travel Tuesdays: Holiday Travel

This post originally ran a year ago. It seems just a relevant today so I thought I'd re-post it.

In an earlier post, I encouraged you to pack your sense of humor when you travel. Today, as we enter the holiday season, I also encourage you to pack patience as you set out to visit friends and relatives.  If you'll serve as host/hostess, be sure to dig yours out, as well.

Of course, patience isn't a thing you can literally put in your suitcase. But as you pack your bags, you can take a minute to consider the virtues that will make your holidays more enjoyable. The holiday season can be a wonderful, joyous time of year. It can also be incredibly stressful. Perhaps you try to squeeze too many activities into too little time. Or maybe you squeeze too many people, related or not, into a small space. Or you set too high expectations about what the perfect meal or party should be...the variety of stresses I could list is endless. You know what they are for you and your family. Plan for them so you can get on with the important business of enjoying your family and friends.

Once you pack the clothes, shoes, presents, and toiletries, take some time to mentally prepare for the stresses you'll face. Then toss your sense of humor and your patience in your suitcase and go have a good time.

Do you celebrate a holiday in November or December? What holiday? What will your celebration be like?