Oct 31, 2009

Don’t Forget the Face Paint Pencils!

Ethan went to an amazing day camp this summer. Each week there was a specific theme…Nature, Music, the Circus, the 60s, Independence Day, etc. Every Friday we would drive up to music blaring, big banner, and teachers and counselors dressed for the end of the week celebration of that week’s “theme”. Ethan jumped out of bed every morning looking forward to camp, but Friday celebrations were especially exciting for him.

Now, you know how it is…things get busy…and you (as a parent) sometimes forget the “to do” list from school or camp. Hate to admit it…but it’s true!! So one Friday morning we got up and Ethan reminded me it was “Circus Day”. He needed a costume. So…what to do in 20 minutes or less? YES, the inevitable “Clown” costume. One of Daddy’s ties…crazy patchwork pants (yes, I did buy those for him at a Polo Factory outlet store, not sure why as he had never worn them)…t-shirt (that was easy)…mommy’s plaid sneakers (yeah, not sure why I bought those either!)…hat and clown nose from recent trip to circus in NYC (whew, that was lucky).

Now, the most important part to Ethan was…getting his face painted. BIG problem. No face paint pencils. What? But you own a toy company, don’t you? You sell really great, high quality face paint pencils, don’t you? Yes! But you know what they say about “the cobbler’s child has no shoes.” So I brought out “mommy’s makeup case” and did my best. Luckily, kids are easily pleased and Ethan was thrilled with his “quasi” clown face.

Clowning Around: Happy Clown Face

Clowning Around: Sad Clown Face

Now, I had learned my lesson. So, the next time around, when Ethan needed to "dress up" for camp, I was prepared. I had face paint pencils. What week was it? 60’s week!!! Yes, you’ve gotta love it! 1960’s week at camp! Tie-dyed t-shirt with peace sign (yup! Have that from trip to San Francisco when visiting Uncle Buddy and Aunt Jen!)…jean shorts (no problem!)…cool cable bracelets (have those from hanging out in Vermont!) and a fun shopping trip to get mood ring (a must! Ethan loved this!), peace sign necklace, blue tone sunglasses (Ethan had to have blue!) and matching cool bandanas for Ethan and our pup Kayla. And this time we had face paint pencils!!!

"Peace, dude!"

"Peace, doggy!"

Ethan was very clear on what he wanted painted on his face. “I want a peace sign on my cheek, mommy.”

Thank goodness for face paint pencils:

And “I want some tattoos like Uncle Buddy.” “OK, Ethan. What would you like your tattoo to say?” “Love, peace, and friendship, mommy.” Wow! Great conversation while trying to create a “love, peace, and friendship” tattoo with face paint pencils. (Note my limited tattoo ability!)

Ethan loved his first tattoo:

And then I had to ask. “Ethan, how about a ‘I love my mama’ tattoo?” He loved that idea!

And I sure do love that little boy!

Love the mood ring:

So, hey, don’t forget the face paint pencils! You never know when they may come in handy!

We also bought some white converse sneakers for a fun project for 60s week. Ethan and I colored his sneakers with markers and tied them with colorful laces. Ethan thought this was the coolest project.

Wearing his “art”:

Ethan got in the car after camp one day during 60s week and said “What does peace mean, mommy?” Wow! What a great conversation ensued. Wow! What an amazing camp to bring these concepts to a not yet 4 year old! Wow! Love it.

So, wishing you love, peace, and friendship. Peace out!


Oct 25, 2009

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies!

"Eat your vegetables!" How often did we hear this as kids? How often do we say this as parents? Well....I'm avoiding those words. Taking them out of my vocabulary. Completely. Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of our diet...not what a child "has to eat before the treat!" (Hate the word "treat" too because it usually refers to stuff that we shouldn’t be encouraging kids to want all the time!)

Childhood obesity is a real problem in this country. Too much processed food…too many unhealthy snacks…not enough exercise. Children are suffering. We do so much to protect them in so many other ways…eating right is really one of the best gifts we can give our children that will last their entire lives!

So, how to encourage healthy eating with a preschooler? Here is my approach with Ethan:

1 - PICK IT YOURSELF! Kids love to make their own choices whether it's picking the apples at a farm, choosing which peaches to buy at the farmer's market, filling the cart at the grocery store, or picking their favorite fruit from the fridge for a snack. I find that giving Ethan choices is a win-win. I’m happy because I offer 2 or more choices that are healthy and he’s happy because he chooses. Taking Ethan different places to “pick” fruits and veggies makes it more fun for him. To the farms: apple picking, blueberry picking (start young – Ethan was not yet 1 year old and I carried him in a baby bjorn carrier the first time we went blueberry picking!). When I visit my friend Karen in California, we can walk into the backyard and pick the most delicious avocados from a gorgeous tree. The colors, smells, and tastes of farmer’s market are always a big hit! Taking a note pad with us to the grocery store that Ethan has “written” our shopping list on makes the trip a fun adventure for him.

Pick of the Day:

2 - GET THE GADGETS AND THE GEAR! Kids love gadgets --- things like an old-fashioned lemon juicer, apple slicer, apple corer, zester, egg slicer, garlic press are fun for them to use--- even a simple vegetable peeler is a big hit! And, of course, what child doesn’t love the puree button on the food processor? Kids also enjoy "dressing the part". Ethan LOVES his apron!! And oven mitts are great fun too!

Peeling carrots for “carrot pennies” recipe from Pretend Soup (notice the intensity!):

3 - MAKE IT YOURSELF! Kids love to slice, dice, mix and make things --- and everything is better if they make it themselves! Making snacks, smoothies, meals --- whether simple or complicated --- is always a fun activity. Ethan loves to help in the kitchen; packing his own lunch is empowering. Making our own "ice cream” from frozen fruits is always a favorite (Just throw some frozen fruit into the food processor with yogurt or orange juice and whip to an appealing consistency.) We love the recipe book for kids called Pretend Soup. It has easy to make recipes with easy to follow-up sketches for children not yet reading. My friend Karen was visiting and Ethan was so excited to show her his recipe book. I laughed so hard when I heard him say to Karen “Look at my Fake Soup book…it has lots of recipes!”

Reading Pretend Soup:

Easy to follow sketches:

Ethan loves cooking "Carrot Pennies" and "Zucchini Moons" from Pretend Soup.

"Hey! I can cook 2 things at once!":

4 - ALWAYS AVAILABLE! I follow the approach my friend Bonnie recommended…always have fresh fruits & veggies available for snacks. We keep a bowl of fruit out on the table and veggie snacks in the fridge.

A bowl full of healthy choices:

5 - TRY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT! Try new fruits and veggies…and try new recipes! Ethan loves “samples.” We had a blast at the Marin Farmer's market while visiting my brother and sister-in-law. It is a wonderful market where you can sample lots of things...Ethan's favorite was all the choices of peaches. Now anytime we have peaches, he says "remember those really good special organic white peaches we had at the Farmer's market with Aunt Jen and Uncle Buddy?” Whole Foods does a great job of offering samples that entice children to try healthy options. Also, try new recipes & new ways of eating veggies. Ethan loves to eat frozen veggies as a snack (his favorites are frozen corn and frozen peppers). I just joined an organic fruit and veggie co-op that has been great. Since our “share” is composed of different fruits and veggies each week, Ethan gets to try new things each week and it forces me to try new recipes so things don’t get boring.

Part of our bi-weekly co-op share (Yum!):

6 - MAKE IT FUN! We make up funny/silly names like "absolutely amazing atomic asparagus"; "mean green St. Patty’s Day green beans"; “crazy cool cantalope”. Ethan loves when we make up silly names together!

Most of all....start from the beginning! Give kids good healthy fruits and veggies as babies! Try new things: frozen pepper circles make great teethers (more great advice from my friend Bonnie). Ensure fruits and veggies are flavorful. Eat at the peak of ripeness for the best flavor. Prepare in flavorful ways. (I added spices to Ethan's baby food much to my pediatrician's dismay...but I'm convinced it helped him to love flavorful food.... some baby food is so bland....). Make fruits and veggies appealing in all ways! Check out our fruit and veggie board books by Sara Anderson. I love Sara's work. What child won't love fruits and veggies with their first look at these appetizing pictures!!!

Love these veggie rattles and board books!

And don’t forget to eat your fruits and veggies – your children are watching!

Oct 20, 2009

An Apple a Day

Apple pie. Apple cobbler. Applesauce. Apple cider. Apple juice. Apple pancakes. Apples in oatmeal. Apples with cheddar cheese. Apples. Apples. Apples. Everybody loves apples! And what is the most fun thing to do in the Fall in the Northeast? Go apple picking!!! And so off we went. A gorgeous, windy Fall day. “We’re off to pick the apples!” An hour and half and 25 “are we there yet?”s from Ethan, we arrived. Green Mountain Orchards was beautiful.

Arriving at the orchards:

125 acres of apples. Rows and rows of apple trees.

A beautiful view:

So many apples. So many choices. Cortland, Empire, Fortune, Gala, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Ida Red, Macintosh, Macoun, Mutzu, Northern Spy, Red Spy. Who knew there were so many types of apples? And who came up these names?

Have you ever seen so many apples?

Luckily after some conversation and taste testing in the barn, we were able to fine tune our apple picking quest: Honey Crisp for chomping and Northern Spy for pie.

In the barn...taste testing!

Off and running to the apple trees!

Wow! Look at them all!

Honey Crisp...our favorite!

Need a ladder?

Going up...

"I got it!!! I got it!!!"

Working hard...what a view:

Hey, you're driving the apple truck?

This says it all!


I loved it when Ethan said, “Mommy, these apples taste crispier than the ones we get in the grocery store.” “These apples are better!” Yup! They are! Always better if you can pick from the tree and eat! Note to self: sign up for that fruit and veggie co-op! And buy local! A few hours and a bushel or so of apples later...we had a lot of eating and baking lined up to do!

Our favorite apple pie recipe is from Blue Heron Ranch in Cooking Off the Grid. We skip the corn starch and cut back on the sugar. Love the whole wheat crust option!

Our favorite apple snacks:
Sliced apples & Grafton Vermont cheddar cheese
Sliced apples & nuts (almonds, walnuts)
Sliced apples & seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
Diced apples & granola

And just plain APPLES!!!!!

What a fun day…running with Ethan through rows of apple trees, admiring the beautiful views, and picking picking picking lots of apples!

Ethan's words before falling asleep on the way home...“Mommy, I want to go apple picking again…tomorrow!”

Just remember...

Oct 6, 2009

"Egg"-cellent "Egg"-venture in Vermont

This is a story about a boy…a chicken…and an egg. A few weeks ago we were in Vermont for the weekend. Our kind neighbors, Kathy and David, invited my son Ethan over for an adventure…to collect Henny Penny’s egg. This is at the top of the list of “fun” in a preschooler’s life. The morning of the "egg"-venture we woke up and explained the schedule to Ethan, “…sometime after noon, we’ll go and visit Henny Penny…she has laid an egg…” Well, the next 5 hours were all about Henny Penny and the egg. “When are we going? What will we do? How many chickens? What happened to the other chickens? Why do they have a chicken? Why do chickens lay eggs? How many eggs? Why only one egg? Is it time yet? I’d like to….” --- you get the picture! (Note to self: do not notify a 4 year old 5 hours in advance of activity. 15 minute advance notice is sufficient!) There was much anticipation...ahhh…the joy of the simple things! Finally, the big moment arrived. We put on our coats to head out on our “egg”-venture and as we were walking out the door, I realized we had forgotten to bring something to carry the egg. We explored the options. A small paper bag – no, not quite right. A colander – no, not quite right. A pocket - no, not quite right. Ethan’s choice was his toolbox sans tools. We put 2 kitchen towels in the toolbox and headed out the door.


So excited, Ethan practically skipped the whole way to Kathy and David's house! Although it was just a short jaunt down the street, it seemed too long to Ethan.


Kathy explained how Henny Penny had laid just one egg and then she opened the Hen House. The fabulous Henny Penny came strutting out!


Ethan peeked into the Hen House and tentatively stepped in. He looked around and found the egg. "I found the egg Mommy!!!!" “Are there any more?” He carefully lifted the egg from the straw and with the biggest grin he put it into his toolbox and brought it out of the hen house.


Ethan gently cradled the egg in his hands to show it to everyone. He couldn’t have been happier!


Ethan had a few questions: “Is there a baby chick in here? How do you know? Can I eat this egg? What if I eat the egg and there’s a baby chick in there?” He carefully put the egg back into his toolbox.


Ethan followed Henny Penny around for a bit (she is the cutest little chicken and doesn’t even mind being petted!).


Ethan couldn’t wait to go home and cook this egg. He thanked Kathy and David and off we went. Ethan saved the egg for dinner as he thought it would be great fun to eat breakfast for dinner. It was, in fact, “Egg”-cellent!



Every time we pass by Kathy and David's house, Ethan asks “Mommy, do you think Henny Penny has laid another egg yet?” “When can we go back?” I just love to see the joy he has at the simplest things!

Needless to say, Ethan and I talk a lot about chickens these days. And when something is really good, we call it “EGG”-cellent!! Thank you Kathy and David for Ethan’s “EGG”-cellent “EGG”-venture!


P.S. The next day Ethan and I found a delightful book at the local bookstore called “Tillie Lays an Egg”. It is an engagingly simple story about a hen who lays her eggs in unexpected places. Children love finding the egg on each page. I couldn’t resist adding the sweet “Tillie Lays an Egg” to RosieHippo.com. I think it will be a new favorite!