What To Do With Leftover Halloween Candy

After all of the trick-or-treating, when the candy has been counted and the costumes have (finally) been removed (is there a Guinness Book record for longest consecutive days of costume-wearing?), that is when we parents grapple with what to do with the excess sugar in our homes.

I love the idea, from the SouleMama blog, of inviting the Candy Fairy to take the remaining Halloween candy at midnight tonight, but I wasn't organized enough to plan ahead for this fairy's arrival and prepare my little ones.

Instead, I solicited help from my upstairs neighbor who is a biology professor at Tufts University, and founder of SciSpark.com, a secular science enrichment resource for homeschoolers and others looking to enhance science learning. He got straight to work over the weekend devising a series of excellent left-over Halloween candy experiments to perform with our kids.

Click here for SciSpark's ideas on Halloween Candy Science and visit SciSpark often for some fantastic science resources!

Happy Halloween!

Knitting and Motherhood

I am learning to knit. I am in the early stages of acquiring this skill and am only just beginning to get in a groove. I've completed two very imperfect scarves and one equally imperfect hat, but I am enjoying it more and more each day. It occurs to me that, although mothering is so very much more important than knitting in every way, knitting and mothering make a great metaphor.

With experience, I gain skill and confidence and momentum with both my knitting and my mothering. I make mistakes, particularly in the early days and when encountering a new challenge. I practice and strive. I take on bigger goals. I surround myself with women who are more experienced so that I may learn from their wisdom and benefit from their hints. I see, amidst the repetition, amidst the effort, beauty unfold.

I am only just beginning this journey. I have a long way to go before I get even close to mastering knitting and mothering. But I'll keep working at it because these efforts bring so much goodness, so much reward, even when we're just learning.

First Snow Tradition

October has been an odd month. It began with record-breaking heat and autumn swims and is ending with a snowstorm tied to a classic New England nor'easter.

To celebrate this first, early snow we filled bowls with it for some after-dinner sink play and then decided to create a new family tradition: each time it snows, starting with the first flakes of the year, we will stop what we're doing and pop popcorn.

Great idea...except that we didn't have any popcorn to jumpstart this tradition. Luckily, the city is full of convenience and Daddy ran across the street in the wet snow to quickly grab a bag of kernels from the nearby market.

Creating a new, spontaneous tradition like this one is such a simple way to celebrate family togetherness through the changes of each season, and help us to more happily embrace the vicissitudes of New England weather.

Sibling Attachment

In our early days of joining our local homeschooling community, experienced homeschooling parents hinted at how closely bonded their kids were to each other. At the time, my little ones were much too little for me to really recognize this attachment, but now as they have gotten older I see their closeness deepen. They certainly have their moments of jousting and bickering, but being together all day every day creates a magical bond that enhances their play and improves their interpersonal communication.

Seeing this sibling attachment flourish is one of the most appealing effects of homeschooling. For us, homeschooling is all about focusing on family as the centerpiece of our lives, and watching our children deepen their relationships with each other each day reinforces why we chose this path.

Halloween Anticipation

Halloween anticipation is mounting around here and my almost five-year-old can barely leave the house without her costume.

Luckily in the city, there are more free Halloween celebrations in the week leading to the holiday than even we die-hard Halloween devotees can possibly attend. Playgrounds, schools, non-profits, for-profits-- everyone it seems is hosting Halloween celebrations between now and Monday.

I vividly remember the build-up, the enchantment, the adventure of Halloween as a child. As the holiday nears, may we all hold on, just a little bit, to that childhood wonder of all that's possible.

Weekly Mothering Challenge: Managing Interruptions

If there is one certainty in my day, it's that it will be sprinkled with interruptions. With little ones, someone always needs something while something else is getting done. Getting sidetracked while trying not to let the tea kettle burn down the house, or cautiously observing a nine-month-old's imperfect aptitude for climbing and cruising in between changing or washing diapers, create a steady stream of interruptions during the course of my day.

For this week's Mothering Challenge, I am working on accepting interruptions as an essential and expected part of the daily rhythm of my home. I am working on appreciating these interruptions, this multi-tasking, as the natural pace of life with three little ones. And I am hoping that among all of the interruptions this week, there are lots of books being read, lots of hugs being given, lots of laughter, lots of patience, lots of love.

Food As Medicine

I am growing increasingly fascinated by the idea of food as medicine. Not that this is a novel idea at all. Hippocrates stated some 2500 years ago: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." It seems simple enough: eat healthy, whole, real foods and overall health and well-being will improve, and use foods as remedies for sickness when possible. I am drawn to the idea of the home as the source of a family's health and wellness, and feeding my family unprocessed, homemade foods seems to be a simple way to boost our overall health.

I recently watched the excellent documentary, "Forks Over Knives," which expands on the important idea of whole foods as the key to health and well-being. With a thesis similar to that of Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, the documentary discusses the correlation between diet and illness around the globe, showing that those cultures that consume more pure, whole foods and fewer meat products are significantly healthier than those that do not. It makes sense, really, and I have happily hopped on the real food bandwagon.

I always thought we ate healthily, but when I think back to what I fed my oldest when she was a toddler, I shudder. Boxed white pasta, boxed cereal, boxed crackers, foods with refined flour and sugar, jarred baby food, and a variety of other processed foods filled our diet. Now I have shifted to foods that are as untouched by a factory as possible, including significantly increasing our consumption of organic fruits and vegetables, making all of our baked goods at home using whole wheat flour and honey over more processed flour and sugar, getting milk delivered straight from the farm, and eliminating meat.

So far, we all seem to be healthier and more energetic as a result of these dietary changes, but the real drive is one of selfishness. I don't like it when my kids are sick, I don't like it when my husband and I are sick, and I'd like to keep colds and illnesses as far away from my home as possible. So I am administering lots of doses of real, whole foods and hoping that this vegetarian army keeps us all in good health.

Cold Coffee

When we undertook our kitchen renovation last spring to make more room in our city condo for our now five eaters, we also purchased some new appliances, including a new over-the-stove microwave. This simple appliance was actually the most difficult to purchase, mainly because I wanted the most basic model possible. No basic models were available in the store, and in the catalogue, the salesperson kept showing me models with lots of bells-and-whistles, like convection capabilities and the like.

Really, all I need my microwave to do is reheat my coffee. In fact, if there is a microwave option with just one button, "mom's coffee," that would be the perfect model for me. I rarely use my microwave for anything but coffee reheating-- but that service is paramount.

I pour that early morning cup of coffee when I and my littles are barely awake and, if I'm very lucky, I get to enjoy that first, steaming, decadent sip before I am quickly called away to wipe bums, change diapers, pour milks, find socks, prepare breakfast, clean dishes, referee arguments, and complete a host of other mothering tasks that fill the morning's first minutes as my coffee grows cold.

There will come a time, so quickly really, when I will once again enjoy piping hot sips of my morning coffee, without interruption, without calls from my little ones, without the hum of my microwave. I wonder, then, how dearly I will miss my cold coffee.

Weekly Mothering Challenge: Embrace the East

As cold and flu season nears, I wanted to be as prepared as possible to naturally and holistically treat my children's wintertime illnesses if and when they occur. As such, I met today with a neighborhood friend, who has a local practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture, to gather information about holistic ways to prevent and treat sickness.

We talked a lot about how TCM helps to empower families to regain control over their health and well-being by trusting in the body's powerful ability to heal itself, and to prevent illness through good nutrition and lifestyle choices. To learn more about the idea of "food as medicine," take a look at the book, Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, by Paul Pitchford.

I left today's meeting with a greater appreciation for holistic healthcare and its role in returning health and wellness to the domain of family and home. I also left with a simple homemade remedy for nagging coughs and colds that I am happy to share:

Homemade Fever-Reducer/Cold-Alleviator/Cough-Soother Recipe
Boil one whole piece of fresh ginger cut into slices in four cups of water for 20 minutes. In the last minute of boiling add about one cup of sliced fresh green onion or scallions. Honey can be added as desired. Drink the strained fluid. The desired outcome is to induce a sweat.

So this week's Mothering Challenge is to embrace the East and identify natural ways to boost our families' health.

Finally Fall

This morning felt like fall at last. The summer-like heat and humidity of the past week were finally replaced with the crisp, fresh air of a New England October. Eager to spend most of this lovely fall day outdoors, we ventured early to the nearby Arboretum to catch glimpses of changing colors and falling leaves.

Along the way, we encountered some of the "Arboretum Interpreter" stations staffed by volunteers who were excited to share their knowledge of the Arboretum's trees, plants and animals with information and activities for children and adults. The city invites learning moments like these. Nature walks, which in and of themselves are brimming with organic learning opportunities, are enriched--happily and unexpectedly--by the people and places of the city. Hands-on, community-based, family-oriented, mostly free learning moments surround us in the city, making homeschooling seem natural, enjoyable, and straightforward.

A delightful afternoon of pumpkin-painting and potato-sack racing with friends topped off this glorious autumn day, reminding us that as much as we love summer, there is something extra special about fall in New England.

{this moment} Quiet Time

{this moment} - A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Visit SouleMama for more "moments" and to share your own...

Motherhood's Surprises

Motherhood is full of surprises. Before becoming a mom, how could I know how wildly in love I would become with my little ones? How could I know how easy it would be to give up a successful career and business to raise my children? How could I know how much I would love mothering, me who had never held a baby for longer than five minutes let alone spent much time with one.

Still, it's not completely unexpected that motherhood--parenthood--would broaden our capacity to love and nurture, and alter our perspectives and values. We had all, I'm sure, heard rumblings about how "life would never be the same" after welcoming children, and about the power of unconditional love to change us forever.

While some of motherhood's surprises may have been half-anticipated, there are a few that were not. One of my biggest surprises was realizing how physical mothering is. Chasing three kids under five around the city, and keeping up with general homemaking tasks, make these daily "work-outs" seem far more strenuous than any of my earlier days of competitive running. I also didn't fully realize how mothering would challenge my strengths and accentuate my weaknesses. I didn't realize that my moods would be correlated to whether or not my toddler ate a green vegetable. I didn't realize that I would relish the scents of wet cloth diapers or milk-stained shirts or freshly-bathed babes. I didn't realize that I would fall in love with the work of it: with the meal-making, with the bum-wiping, with the ouch-soothing; with the organizing and the planning and the peace-making. I didn't realize how much there would be to learn, to practice, to strive toward.

Behind all that laundry, and those dishes, and the tantrums, and the messes, I am most surprised to discover how much joy mothering brings and what a gift it is to share my days with three sweet treasures.

One More Day

We have had a beautiful stretch of unseasonably warm October weather for the past several days, and are grabbing as many beach days as possible before this autumn tease ends.

Even though we spend much of the summer in or near the water, there is something about warm fall days at the beach that signal the need to imprint these moments. Could this be the last beach day until spring? Could this be the last time I watch a four-year-old build an elaborate sandcastle for her fairies, a two-year-old splash in the waves with his invisible friend, and a nine-month-old try desperately to eat as much sand as possible before her mommy interrupts?

I know. Next summer will be just as wonderful with a five-year-old, a three-year-old, and a one-year-old doing equally remarkable things. But there is just something about one more day at the beach, in fall, that calls me to stop, to watch, to remember. Right now. This moment. This gift of time and space with these special people who will grow up--who are growing up--so fast it's hard to believe.

So, yes, I will treasure one more day at the beach. One more day to stop.

One more day to watch.

One more day to remember.

Mothering Challenge: Celebrate Babywearing Week!

Today marks the start of International Babywearing Week, and in cities everywhere local organizations are sponsoring an array of activities to celebrate the joy and utility of babywearing.

Here in Boston, the week-long celebration includes "carrier speed dating" to try-out various slings, and a festival with music and games and raffles.

I have used several carriers over the course of three babies and the Ergo remains my favorite for its ease, comfort, and practicality. With each successive child, it seems, babywearing becomes even more essential for me. How else could I possibly get things done or go anywhere in the city if my little one wasn't attached to me while I chase after a toddler and preschooler? My nine-month-old spends a lot of her time in the Ergo, happily nursing or napping or taking in her world from the comfort of mommy's perch while I cook or clean or walk or play.

We are lucky to have many babywearing choices these days, from snazzy new designs to basic cloth wraps, to help us perform the many tasks of motherhood while holding our babies close.

What is your favorite baby carrier and why?

October Warmth

It doesn't get much better than record-breaking warmth on a sunny October weekend. We spent a final few summer-like autumn days at the beach, splashing and searching and sun-soaking.

Thank you to Mother Nature for what will likely be our last reminder of summer before the New England chill sets in.

More Kids, Fewer Beds

When we had two children, we had three beds. Now we have three children, and two beds. And who sleeps where changes on a nightly basis.

It's Attachment Parenting month, and co-sleeping or bed-sharing is a significant component of the attached family lifestyle. As with much of Attachment Parenting, though, it just makes intuitive sense. Kids often sleep better nestled in among family members, and nighttime wakings are lessened or eliminated. If someone has a bad dream or needs a blanket, it can be quickly addressed without much interrupted sleep and everyone can wake happier and more refreshed.

For us, co-sleeping is a way of life and it just made sense to get rid of the barely-used crib to maximize space in our city condo. And instead of bed-sharing, we should call it bed-switching. Sometimes my infant and I sleep in one bed while Daddy and the big kids are in the other. Sometimes all of the kids and I are in one room and Daddy is in the other. Sometimes two are with me and one is with Daddy. Sometimes the two big kids are in one bed and the rest of us are in another, until one or more big kids migrate to our bed in the night. It all depends.

At some point down the road, it is certain that the kids will share a room and sleep in it all night. At some point, I won't have any more midnight elbow jabs, or leg pokes, or all-night nursing sessions. At some point, in a blink really, the nights will be very predictable and our king bed will once again seem spacious with just Daddy and me. But until then, we'll savor the sleepy snuggles.

Homeschooling's Many Teachers

One of the treasures of homeschooling is the opportunity it provides to expose our children to numerous teachers. Whether through formal, community-based classes like music, art, dance, or athletics, or through the informal interactions children have with other parents, neighbors, librarians, community members, relatives and friends, homeschoolers learn from many different teachers, gaining diverse perspectives, new ideas, and important skills along the way.

Our job as homeschool parents, I think, is much less about teaching and much more about facilitating: listening to our children's interests and needs and then connecting them with resources and people who can guide them to expand their knowledge.

As an example, several moms from one of our local homeschooling groups noticed how our kids were interested in learning Spanish, so we gathered together to host a weekly, in-home Spanish music class with local musician and educator, Mariana Iranzi. These organic, home-grown, child-led learning experiences are valued and appreciated for their relevance and for the sense of community that they nurture.

I think a significant factor in precluding interested parents from more seriously considering the homeschooling option is that, at least at first glance, homeschooling can seem daunting. How can I possibly be equipped to teach my kids all that they need to know? How can I be both teacher and parent? How can my children also learn from people other than their parents?

These are understandable questions for anyone considering the homeschooling option, but the reality is you don't need to know everything, you don't need to be both teacher and parent (parent is just fine), and you will discover many, many outstanding teachers for your children as they learn and grow.

Natural Parenting

I am honored today to have a featured post over at the Natural Parenting Group.

Natural Parenting is a broad term that encompasses many parenting practices aimed at being as natural, ecologically sustainable, and holistic as possible. It includes practices such as natural birth and breastfeeding, organic and sustainable food and consumption habits, cloth diapering or elimination communication, homeopathic and holistic family care, attachment parenting, and natural learning.

Natural Parenting is really about getting back-to-basics. These practices seem so simple and straightforward; yet American cultural and consumer trends over the past half-century have lured us away from the parenting practices that were once commonplace. Epidurals, baby formula, disposable diapers, packaged foods and imported goods, pharmaceutical-driven medicine, and efforts to enroll children in schools at increasingly younger ages may have gained popularity for their good intentions, but they have led us to unwittingly abdicate control over home, health and family, and lose touch with our own parental instincts and ancestral legacies.

Natural Parenting, then, is about recognizing the pervasiveness of our store-bought, quick-fix culture, and reconnecting with the essential elements of home and family. It is about discovering ways to shift our homes from consumption to production units. And it is about assuming personal responsibility for our family's well-being.

I am delighted to be part of the Natural Parenting Group community and I hope you will take a peek at the group's resources and forums to learn more.

Weekly Mothering Challenge: Blog

Motherhood is busy. With days consumed by all-things-kids in addition to daily homemaking tasks, blogging can help us step back, take a breath, and reveal the gifts of motherhood among all of the messes.

Whether a mom's blog is public, private, or semi-private, it can be both an empowering and peaceful space to reflect on the joys and frustrations of this important role, and to highlight those cherished moments of childhood that we wish to capture and cork.

Beyond the personal reward of blogging is the possibility of communicating our shared experience with other moms. I value the insights and reflections of the mom-bloggers I follow and eagerly await the latest snapshots of their lives. What are their current motherhood triumphs and challenges? What new tidbit can I gather from their mothering experience? What similar situations have I encountered? How do they approach the dailyness of motherhood? From these blogs, I gather countless insights to enhance my own mothering and am deeply grateful to their authors for publicly sharing their personal thoughts.

What about you? Do you write a blog you would like to share with us, or have a blog to recommend? How does blogging contribute to your mothering experience?

Attachment Parenting Month: Families At Play

This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International.

City As Playground

Attachment Parenting International is dedicating the month of October to celebrating families at play. Strengthening family bonds through collaborative fun and laughter is very much in line with the philosophy of Attachment Parenting, a term first established by Dr. Sears to describe a parenting philosophy focused on physical and emotional connectedness with children. And what better way to connect with children than through play.

We use the city as the backdrop for our family's play, often taking advantage of its many playgrounds and museums and festivals, but also tapping into its capacity to trigger spontaneous, creative play. Hide-and-seek games among the trees in Harvard Yard, subway rides to nowhere in particular just for the fun of it, statues and structures that lure us, street musicians and artists who enchant us, vibrant sights and sounds that pique our senses and tempt us to learn more -- the city as a whole becomes our family's playground, bringing us together to explore, to discover, to play.

As the folks at Attachment Parenting International highlight October to celebrate families at play, they remind us of the importance of play in children's development and family togetherness: "When parents engage in play with their children, priceless and precious time, attention and felt love are being shared and experienced in the context of fun."

We use the formal and informal activities of the city to enjoy this "priceless and precious time" of childhood. Whether it's exploring the art museum together, touching the stingrays at the aquarium, or skipping in a city park, the city fuels our play experiences, strengthens our family relationships, and builds enduring memories.