Friday, October 31, 2008

Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair

First Witch: Round about the cauldron go:
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelt'red venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' th' charmed pot.

All: Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble...

...Second Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

--William Shakespeare, Macbeth IV i

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Season's Greetings

After tomorrow night's tricks and treats, the holiday season will be upon us. And it's certainly not too early to be looking ahead. Nothing like a custom family greeting card or family portrait as a gift for grateful grandparents. Finali design puts an artistic twist on the idea. (Via Tangled & True.)
Just send in a photo and this talented Seattle Mama will turn your photo into a keepsake card for the holidays. Visit her etsy shop, and do it fast! Santa is waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Child's Play

It's been a while since I posted anything that belongs on my "Wish-I-Had-Time-To-Read-This" List. Recently, a lovely Mama recommended to me a book that's shooting straight to the top of said list. The book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., examines what children need to grow into happy, healthy selves, while also looking at common stumbling blocks parents sometimes place in their paths, namely focusing on achievements and placing unnecessary pressure on kids for early success, academically or otherwise. It also touches on the value of imaginative play, and all the ways modern society infringes upon this integral component of childhood.

It looks like an interesting read and a nice reminder to slow down and let our children experience all of the magic and hope of childhood. It is an investment as much in their present as it is in their future.

Ed. note: A wise Mama had a hard time purchasing this book but finally found it in stock here, at Borders Books. Thanks Ruth!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kidney Stones & Kindergarteners

Kidney stones, once an affliction of the aged, have begun plaguing American children, says a report in today's New York Times. Doctors have seen a significant rise in the number of kids--some as young as 5 years-old--who develop this painful disorder.

What's causing it? The consensus seems to be that it's the much maligned diet of the American kid, which includes a lot of sodium, much more than their little systems seem to be able to handle. From fast food to processed meats to "power drinks" kids these days are ingesting more sodium than ever before. And they're not drinking enough water, say the experts.

The article, by Laurie Tarkan, does a good job explaining the biology of kidney stones and the fix for kids unfortunate enough to develop them. Tarkan also highlights the symptoms, which can be difficult to diagnose in children.

So, Mamas, keep reading those food labels, cook fresh as much as you can, and push that water.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Treats

We shifted into Halloween high gear this weekend with a trip to the home of Washington Irving (author of the quintessential spooky story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). We enjoyed the music of a hammer dulcimer and haunting tales sung by a masked balladeer. We watched as shadow puppets played out the drama of Irving's much beloved story. We made a scarecrow and played with a hoop and a stick. All of this under an azure autumn sky along the banks of the Hudson River.

After coming home and carving our own pumpkins (our roasted seeds turned out perfectly!) I was looking for some last minute fun treats to make this week with my little one.


How cute are these?

The "Witch on a Stick" looks particularly easy to make. Find the recipe here. And the "Frankentreats" are just Rice Krispy treats in costume. You'll find those here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Boo!

Taking the day off today, Mamas, to explore the gorgeous, autumn landscape that's all around us! We're planning on collecting some leaves to press, hunting down some local Maple syrup and--hopefully--doing some grave rubbings at a nearby historical cemetery, where there are headstones that date back to the Revolutionary War.

Have a lovely weekend, Mamas! See you on Monday!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Photo Finish

I have boxes (and boxes and boxes!) of photos of my little one. I have printed photos, photos on discs, photos on my computer. Organizing these wonderful snapshots of our life into books and albums is an ever-present item on my "to do" list. Yet somehow, it never, ever gets done.

Apparently, I'm not the only one with this problem. In fact, Cookie has published a step-by-step guide to organizing and completing these picture books of our lives. Of course, the most important and effective step toward finishing (starting?) these projects is to simply make them a priority.

I'm going to have to put it at the top of my list!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just a Little Patience

When I was a small child, my mother used to tell me over and over, "Patience is a virtue." Then, one day, upon passing a memorial statue in a town square I said, "Look mom, there's patience." Virtue, statue, it all sounded the same to me.

Unfortunately, I carried that unfamiliarity with this sanity-saving state of mind into adulthood. Then, I became a mother. Since the birth of my daughter, I've had a crash course in learning about patience and how to practice it.

Today I found this amusing little article over at CNN highlighting how to adopt this more graceful attitude. Not only will you be more pleasant to be around, but you'll probably lower your blood pressure, too. The article outlines how to go from road rager to Zen Mama in four easy steps.

Can't get it quite right the first time you try it? That's alright. Try again. "Practice makes perfect," my Mama always said.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No Pink Ribbons

In yesterday's New York Times Health section, there was a raw and powerful essay by N. West Moss about one of the most underdiscussed topics women face: miscarriage. The piece is pitch perfect, full of truncated pain, but brimming with hope.

Generally, we don't discuss miscarriage. It isn't a happy topic. We don't blog about it. And when it happens to us or someone we know, some consoling words are whispered and the expectation is that we all move on, and quickly. The tears, the pain and the blood that accompany such an event are usually experienced by an audience of one. As Moss observes, there are no pink ribbons for this cause, to raise awareness or muster sympathy. It is a reality that many, many women endure alone.

Miscarriage--while deeply painful--is not, as Moss writes the death knell of hope or motherhood. So maybe we should stop treating it as such. It is not contagious. It is not a bad omen. It is a heartbreaking disappointment that is neither shameful nor uncommon. It is the loss of a dream, the end of a very new reality. But it is not a final analysis. Hope always remains and endures.

We are all sisters, even before we are Mamas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

We're gearing up for a Major League Pumpkin Carving Bonanza around here. (I promise to share a photo or two when we're finished.) What Jack-O-Lantern carving party is complete without some savory roasted pumpkin seeds? They couldn't be easier to make. Since I was a kid, this is the recipe that I've munched on every October.

This recipe is for about 3 cups of pumpkin sees (share them with your neighbors!).

Thoroughly clean and rinse pumpkin seeds and pat dry. Set seeds aside in a mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and pour over seeds.

Sprinkle salt over mixture to taste.

Spread an even, single layer of seeds on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until seeds are a toasty, golden color.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

SuzySaid...

Where does a Mama get all her best information about what's going on, what's on sale, what the kids are into? From her girlfriends, of course! That's the inspiration behind the terrific Mama-centric site, SuzySaid...

With more than a dozen local editions and a comprehensive "Anywhere" edition, reading SuzySaid... is like being BFFs with the hippest, most connected gal in town!

I'm also happy to announce that I'm now writing for my local Westport edition, which makes me a little hipper by proximity, I guess.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

Put Another Dime in the Jukebox Baby

Two mornings in a row, I've awakened to the sound of my little one's voice over the monitor saying "rock 'n roll, rock 'n roll!"

To indulge her musical cravings and to really get into the Halloween groove, I've compiled a fun, diverse playlist for our Halloween crafting:

1. The Munster's Theme - Jack Marshall
2. Witch Doctor - Sha Na Na
3. This is Halloween - Citizens of Halloween (from the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack)
4. Spooky - The Classics IV
5. Witch Queen of New Orleans - Redbone
6. Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac
7. Witchcraft - Book of Love
8. Ghostbusters - Ray Parker, Jr. (I know, I know, but how could I not?)
9. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach
10. The Theme from Dark Shadows - recorded by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

Have any fun Halloween tunes on your playlist?

Recycled Halloween Crafts

I love Halloween. I love doing crafts with my little one. And I love reusing and recycling materials for art projects. Here are a few, good ideas I found for eco-friendly, low or no cost Halloween crafting with your kids:

Tin Can Luminaries

Wooden Spoon Puppets

Milk Container Pumpkins

Plastic Bag Ghosts

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Comfort Food #2

One of the best parts of being a Mama is that I eat more macaroni & cheese than I did before. I'm not talking about the day-glo-powder-in-a-box macaroni & cheese. No Mamas, I mean the gooey, creamy fresh stuff.

You can imagine my joy when I found this recipe for macaroni & cheese all grown up, over at the New York Times. This mac & cheese doesn't mess around. It's got basil, oregano, garlic, tomato, goat cheese and Parmesan cheese. It's a mac & cheese that' sure to please the sippy cup crowd as well as the pinot noir sippers.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vitamin D Revisited

The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed their recommended child's daily dose of Vitamin D from 200 units to 400 units. As CNN reports, this is significant, because most children do not drink the 4 cups of Vitamin D fortified milk that it would take to meet the new requirement. The Academy is recommending supplements for infants (specifically breast-fed infants), children and adolescents.

The reason for the change "is based on mounting evidence" of the health benefits of more Vitamin D, including a potential reduction in risk of developing cancer, heart disease or diabetes.

In addition to milk and supplements, doctors say that daily exposure to sunlight (minus the sunscreen) is one of the most effective ways for your body to absorb Vitamin D. Additionally, foods rich in Vitamin D include salmon and tuna.

The research seems compelling enough, to me anyway, to convince me to add Vitamin D supplements not only to my little one's diet, but to my own as well. What about you? Will you take the Academy's advice and begin supplementing your family's diets?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Onslaught

Have a daughter? Know someone who does? Then you might want to watch this video from Dove (yes, the skin care company). And yes, that makes it "advertising." I do, however, still find it relevant, frightening and accurate.



We absorb so much data--data that inform our choices, our aspirations, our self-worth--without even realizing what's happening. The younger the "consumer," the less able she is to filter messages and images or discern fact from fantasy. When you watch a video like this, it isn't hard to understand why so many of our girls are unhappy or unhealthy.

As parents, we must act as filters for our children. We must help them develop strength, character and self-esteem, before marketers help them identify their "problem areas."

And while we're at it, we should stop holding ourselves to other's irrational standards, before our girls start to learn from us what we keep the marketers from teaching them.

Motherhood: Unplugged

In the spirit of Olivia's pick this week, I'd like to introduce you Mamas to a terrific blog, about a family's adventures beyond the world of television: Unplug Your Kids. I've written before of the whys and the wherefores of our family's TV-free existence, and so of course I was thrilled when I found a whole blog about this very topic!

But Unplug Your Kids is relevant for all families, not just those of us who have killed our televisions. This Mama has compiled a whole craft curriculum on her blog, along with some great book recommendations and other patterns for dynamite DIY fun!



Unplug Your Kids
is a first-rate resource for inexpensive, homemade fun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sky is Falling

Nothing like a classic tale from pre-school to shed light and insight onto a global economic crisis.

The more Chicken Little runs around, wings flapping, shouting "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" the faster panic and distress spreads throughout the animal community. She whips the animals into a mass hysteria, which leaves them vulnerable.

In this story, as in life, panic spreads like wildfire. The more the panic spreads, the more we damage our own cause. 24-hour news media flashing hourly updates of "tanking markets" fans the flames with the same urgency as Chicken Little's flapping feathers.

The moral? Have courage. Temper emotional responses. Otherwise, we'll act as harbingers of our own downfall. "Keep calm and carry on," or we could just end up pulling the sky down on top of ourselves.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rosy Glow WINNER!

Congratulations, Dawn! You're the lucky winner of this terrific giveaway, the "Get Your Glow Back" Pack from Rosy Glow! One more reason you'll be glowing: these all-natural products also come in a cute, reusable bag. Email me your mailing address and I'll get the package out to you shortly.
Thanks to everyone who participated. And thanks to Margo, the Mama behind Rosy Glow!

The Crisis, The Crunch and Our Kids

As many of you know, I'm an avid NPR listener. It's how I get most of my news. I listen to it at home and in the car. A week or so ago, I realized just how much I listen to it when my little one (she's 2) looked at me and, with her "someone's been naughty" tone, said "The economy's in serious trouble."

It was funny. For a minute.

Obviously, there's nothing amusing about our collective economic reality. As we parents struggle to trim budgets and stay current on mortgage payments, how much is our anxiety affecting our children?

Melissa Schorr, an msnbc.com contributor, addressed this question earlier this week. The prevailing opinion is that the our stress is affecting our kids. Most experts also agree that families need to be honest--in an age-appropriate manner--with their children about their particular situations.

Janet Bodnar, author and deputy editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, says "What younger kids are looking for is reassurance." She also cautions parents against their own "fear mongering," advising that "kids take you literally when you say things like, 'We're going to end up in the poor house.'" Also, Bodnar suggests tuning out and turning off the news once in a while.

So much for my NPR addiction.

Finally, Schorr reminds us that this whole crisis might also serve as a "lesson in perspective." Schorr's article points out that, while our lists of worries grow, how to find clean water or schools for our children to attend aren't things that concern the vast majority of Americans. The same cannot be said for millions and millions of other people throughout the world.

Most of us still have blessings to be counted. My most treasured blessing is ready for me to turn off the radio and the computer and read her a book.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rosy Glow Giveaway!

Miss your pregnancy "glow" that everyone admired? Wondering when those under-eye circles will disappear? Well, Mamas, you can get your glow back sooner than you think with this bag of goodies from Rosy Glow!

Rosy Glow is a line of all-natural skin care products developed by--you guessed it--a Mama! The brightening treatment for your eyes will make you look like you got all 8 hours of your beauty sleep. Simple, chic and totally natural, Rosy Glow's line of products are perfect for Mamas whose pampering routine has been replaced by boxes of Pampers.

The generous Mama behind Rosy Glow has kindly offered this "Get Your Glow Back" Pack to a lucky Mama's Cup reader. Leave your comment here Mamas, by 5:00 PM Eastern Time tomorrow, to win this bag of natural beauty.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Scary Sweet

When I was a kid, Halloween was one of my all-time favorite holidays. I would come home, dragging a pillow case full of sugary sweets behind me. My friends and I would start candy-swapping even before the plastic capes and pancake make up came off. And let me tell you, I'd trade just about anything for the coveted Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

But these days, I'm less inclined to promote a nougat-fueled binge. Like many parents, I am now focused on healthier living, and want to encourage my little one to make good choices of her own.

But how can you keep a kid from eating too much Halloween candy?

Today in CNN's Health section, some sneaky Mamas share their tricks for limiting their kid's treats. One Mama employs someone she calls the "Switch Witch." The "Switch Witch" arrives in the night and leaves behind toys in place of candy the children leave out for her. The more candy they leave for her, the bigger the toy she'll give.

Another Mama's approach is more direct: she buys the candy back from her kids. Her current rate of exchange is a nickel for every piece of candy the kids like and a dime for each piece they love.

Some might call it bribery, but it might just save you money on dental costs down the road. And employing a little creativity might lesson your fright when you here your kid's voices as they call out in unison: "Trick or Treat!"

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Hope of the Hobbits

The mood in my neck of the woods--and elsewhere, I imagine--is decidedly grim these days. Layoffs, falling home values and bank failures abound. Anxiety is mounting and people--many that I know, anyway--are, quite frankly, frightened.

In the midst of such chaotic uncertainty, I am reminded of one of my favorite treasures of literature, one I discovered and fell deeply in love with as a child: Tolkien's books on Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings. I still remember my father's hardbound volumes, complete with maps of this imagined landscape. They were already well-used when gifted to me, slightly warped and brittle, from long forgotten water damage.

Out of these beloved volumes, a specific exchange between Frodo and Gandalf comes to mind:

Frodo, despairing over the fate of their bedraggled and disheartened band, says to Gandalf "I wish none of this had ever happened."

To which, Gandalf sagely and truthfully replies, "So do I...and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

We find ourselves in a similar state of despair--or at least disbelief--frightened of what is to come, wishing we would awake, heart racing, from the nightmare we feel is descending upon our waking lives. But like those mythical stand-ins for our 20th Century forefathers, we too must move forward, consciously and with purpose, extending hands and hearts to help our families and those around us navigate this crisis.

Together, we will endure. Of this, I am certain.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Milk, Melamine & Motherhood

The latest toxic product to emerge from China is melamine-tainted milk. I'm sure most of you have heard or read about it. Melamine is nitrogen-rich and can trick tests administered to determine the amount of protein in a product. Companies trying to cut corners by diluting their milk products have been adding this extremely toxic substance to artificially boost the nutritional value of their products. This practice took a particularly sinister turn when Chinese babies started dying of kidney failure after ingesting melamine-laced baby formula. Tens of thousands of infants and children have been sickened. Talk about terrifying.

Since then, dozens of products in many countries have been recalled, because they contain melamine-tainted dried milk from China, included products in the U.S. and Europe. Some are brand name products you know and possibly use, like Cadbury.

Through all of this, one question has been repeating in my mind: How are mothers in China coping with this? My dear friend Jodi--Mama, writer and Beijing resident--has blogged about it. Her son just turned one in the midst of this scare. Read about her experience at her blog, Blonde in Beijing.

Belle & Boo

I'm always on the lookout for new artwork for my little one's room. Today, I found these sweet and ethereal images by artist Mandy Sutcliffe, available from Craftsbury Kids. I think I'm so smitten with these straight-out-of-a-storybook pictures that I'm going to have to purchase one for our very own. Now, how to choose just one...?


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Creepy on a Budget

I think I mentioned how much I heart Halloween. I love to decorate, and am a champion pumpkin carver, if I do say so myself.

Look at these fantastic decorating ideas from Good Housekeeping. They're so simple, it's scary! You don't need to break the bank to throw a spooky soiree. Below, some creepy decorations that set the scene for an especially eerie evening.

To accomplish the effect in the first photo, you only need sticks or stray branches from your own yard, and some time and creativity to carve your pumpkins. You could scatter some fallen leaves as well. The birds are fun but totally optional.

The second look is pure genius: photocopied black and white portraits from history books or encyclopedias. Mount them on some black poster board and display them, clustered on shelves or mantelpieces.

And the third photo is so effective because the pumpkins--aside from being so artfully carved--are different shapes and sizes and clustered together. You don't need two dozen pumpkins of your own to create this effect. A carefully chosen few would have a similar, spooky look.

Fall Festivals

Autumn is my favorite season. The cooler temperatures, the fiery-colored landscape and the fantastic festivals that fill the calendar. Leave it to Cookie Magazine to compile a list of some of the best fall festivals across the country, from California to New York. Get uplifted by hot air balloons in Albuquerque or shuck some oysters in Wellfleet. Pick your festival, pack the kids into the car and get on the way for a weekend adventure! We can't wait to check the Jack-O'-Lantern Blaze festival in super-spooky Sleepy Hollow, NY.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Keep Calm and Carry On

My favorite recent purchase arrived in the mail the other day. An apt message for these uncertain times, this vintage WWII poster emblazoned with British stoicism is also a perfect mantra for the harried Mama. Mine is displayed proudly in my kitchen, where I have many occasions to look at it and take a breath. Want your own? Check out sfgirlbybay's hip little Etsy shop and make it yours!

*Bonus: This great art is printed on recycled paper! I love it when I can shop without guilt!