Living Life, Parenting, Travel

“Where’s the Paper?” Nicaragua Part 1: San Juan del Sur

Playa de Madera SunsetSan Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Pacific coast beauty.  Lush tropical growth butting up against dry dessert-like landscape.  Hippy surfer beaches with clove-smoking tanned Americans, riding in the backs of pick-up trucks.  Mango trees. Banana trees.  Monkeys and roosters.  San Juan del Sur had a bit of everything for the first of three stops in our 8-day, whirlwind journey around southwest Nicaragua.  Me, my husband, our three kids (ages 11, 9 and 5) and my mom; first time to Nicaragua for all of us and it did not disappoint.

We decided to travel to Nicaragua for many reasons:

  1. Easy flights from the Washington DC area (we flew Delta via Atlanta into Managua.)
  2. Affordable airfare (we flew Tuesday, returning Wednesday for $400 per ticket.)
  3. Crime against tourists in Nicaragua is lower than in some neighboring Latin American countries.
  4. The tourist infrastructure is enough established that we could plan our accommodations and travel, but not overly developed and “touristy.”
  5. We wanted to show the kids a part of the world very unlike what they know.

Mango RosaWith the help of a close friend, we decided we would visit three places in Nicaragua: San Juan del Sur, Isla de Ometepe, and Granada.  We plotted our actual itinerary based on accommodation availability and timing of our flights.  For San Juan del Sur, I found Mango Rosa while reading travel reviews on www.tripadvisor.com  I don’t think we could have navigated this adventure without the great feedback and advice on Trip Advisor!  I’ll add my own review of our hotels there as well.

Getting to San Juan del Sur was more of a trek than we had anticipated.  Our fault — we only skimmed the details in the guide books, and relied greatly on friends accounting of our itinerary. Arriving in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, at nearly 8pm local time (2 hours behind EDT) meant the kids were already beyond tired.  Our prearranged transport through Iskra Travel was waiting for us outside of customs, and our driver, Mike, whisked us away from the dark airport — at which point we learned that Mango Rosa was nearly 3 hours away!  The kids quickly conked out (with husband to soon follow) while I tried my best to see beyond the headlights and take in this new country.

  • Cow crossing signs (just like our dear signs)
  • Pick-up trucks filled with everything — goods, people, animals, speeding down the dark 2-lane highway
  • Pedestrians walking in the road.  At night.
  • Cyclists, in the middle of the lane.

This kind of highway travel is not for the feint of heart.  Coming up behind a car without taillights on, at full speed, requires an adept and alert driver.  Mike did great, but I must admit feeling great relief when we arrived safely at Mango Rosa at 11pm.

We quickly settled into our private house, and soon found out that good sleep is hard to get for us city folk!  Howler monkeys, roosters (who don’t just cockle-doodle-doo at the crack of dawn) and dogs make for a night time cacophony many decibels louder than I personally appreciate.  The trees over our house were filled with monkeys.

Time change + sunrise at 5am + very loud roosters who sing out “WHERE’S THE PAPER?” endlessly (+ excited kids) meant we were up EARLY.  Mango Rosa offers a lovely menu of breakfast choices, and fresh fruit smoothies, which got our first day in Nicaragua off to a great start.  My mother arrived shortly after breakfast (her flight was delayed from the previous night, thanks to an earthquake warning in Managua, something that didn’t deter our Delta flight from arriving, but her Copa Airlines flight through Panama was stuck.) We generally vegged out by the small pool and lulled in our hammocks until late afternoon.

Pick Up TransportWe took a ride to one of the small Pacific beaches, Playa Madera,  in the open back of a pick-up truck, and spent many hours luxuriating in the warm waters and enjoying local beers while people watching.  Most of the beach goers were American or Canadian — with some Nicaraguans in the mix as well.  Two bar/restaurants (one with a hostel above) dotted the small beach, known for its killer surfing, and competing loud music blasted from both — sending us out into the sun to escape the noise.  We enjoyed watching fabulous surfers and obvious first timers, jumping our own waves and watching a great sunset before returning to Mango Rosa again in the open truck.  The kids thought it was fantastically dangerous, exciting and “lawless” to get to ride that way.

Another loud night led to a gloriously hot and windy morning where we had to hide the kids from the sun.  I forgot to pack the aloe and our SPF 50 didn’t do the trick (or we failed as parents and didn’t reapply often enough.)  That afternoon we charted La Pango Rosa (a fishing boat) to take us onto the Pacific for hopefully some dolphin spotting, fishing and swimming.  Right out of the beach we saw a whale breach and that was it for water mammals.  The waters were choppy and the ride was nerve wracking for a couple of the kids.  Once we anchored at another beach and had a cooling swim, the water was calmer and we then enjoyed some drag fishing.  My husband reeled in the first of two 8-10 pound fish.  We were bummed that it wasn’t something more tasty — but were assured that the local staff would take the fish home to use for soups.  The kids were thrilled to catch the fish!  I found myself contemplating  vegetarianism again.

San Juan del Sur SunsetGetting to enjoy another glorious sunset over the Pacific was a nice conclusion to our last night in San Juan del Sur.

Mango Rosa was so comfortable, and easy — with an American owner/manager and a fully fluent English speaking staff, I knew that this was a great entree for us into Nicaragua, and I also knew that our next destination wouldn’t be quite the same.  We left the next morning after breakfast, bidding our tree full of monkeys and the flock of roosters goodbye.

Our Regret

We didn’t actually visit the town of San Juan del Sur.  We were in Nicaragua during the popular vacation week around Easter, when Nicaraguans flee to the coast and create what was described by locals as a crazy party scene in the town.  The American who ran Mango Rosa likened it to Mardi Gras, Nicaraguan style.  I’d have liked to check it out; but my kids had seen on the bar tv an accounting of a death the previous night in the town (and another staff member at Mango Rosa warned that thefts of tourists go way up during the week,) so the kids and my mom (age 71) were deterred and we didn’t push the idea.

Where’s the Paper?

That’s what I heard when the first rooster loudly cried out — I must admit that not everyone in our group heard that, but once I heard it, I couldn’t not hear it.  I will probably forever more hear “where’s the paper?” when others hear “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

grief, Living Life, Parenting

Mourning Other People’s Loss

Some deaths are simply tragic.  Three in the past year have hurt me to the core.  though none were people who were close to me (or that I even knew,)

Rachel, mom of 3
Tal, age 3
Jennifer, mom of 3

Each loss hit a nerve and made me stop and assess my life, my abundance, my perspective; and I become all too aware of how quickly life can be taken.

Every mother’s greatest 2 fears in life are 1. losing a child and 2. dying and leaving our children motherless.

This week, a mom named Jennifer was killed while putting her small child in the back of her red Honda mini-van.  She was in front of her kids’ school, a few neighborhoods over from mine; close enough that I know many people who attend the school.  I never met Jennifer, but given how connected our community is, I could have.  She was doing what we moms have done hundreds, thousands of times over the years.  What should have been an innocuous moment became a tragic moment.

Of course, I immediately put myself in this situation and applied my own family to this tragedy — how would my boys cope, my husband, my friends?

Less than a year ago, friends lost their 3 year old child in a tragic drowning accident.  (A child I hadn’t met.)  One of my kids went to preschool with one of their older kids many years ago, and then I had the pleasure of working with them not long before Tal died.

It is so unfair that Tal  died, a little boy who was just playing and trying to have fun — taking normal kid risks no different than the kind my own boys have taken.  While Tal’s parents have been strong in the face of their loss, all of the parents in our community were left wondering how they could possibly handle it themselves, if something so tragic happened to their own child.

Every-day, simple living turns tragic in a moment.  Jennifer being a mom; Tal being a kid.  Even though we buckle seat belts, put helmets on heads, hold hands while crossing streets, we simply hold our breath and hope that nothing tragic will happen.

Not long before Tal died, our community lost Rachel. It has been many years since we’d seen each other.  But in the early years of having kids, we were at park play dates, and mom’s group events, and we babysat each others little ones in our babysitting co-op.  I had known that she was battling breast cancer, but wasn’t aware of how advanced it had become, when she died.

The loss was big.  Her three kids are my 3 kids age.  We babysat each others’ kids.  How could she be gone?  Regret that I didn’t know how sick she had become was overshadowed by an extreme sadness for her family.  Her wake was like a reunion of the moms from those early years — all of us just heartbroken for her children and husband.  All of us wondering how our families could handle it if had been us.

When tragedy happens around us, we are selfishly thankful that we are unscathed.  We are sad for those lost. We are sad for the families and close friends who we know grieve far worse than we do.

And we feel ridiculously lucky to NOT know that horrid empty feeling of loss, to have been spared tragedy.

Though, We DO IMAGINE what it feels like.

So we hug our kids and spouses harder;
we speak more gently;
we get perspective on how good things really are.

And as a community, we share our sadness for the passing of Rachel, Tal and Jennifer, and we grieve with their families.

My heart goes out to Jennifer’s family, and to Tal’s family, and to Rachel’s family.   I hope that they feel the support and love that flows from the community, and I hope they know that many of us hurt for their loss and are awed by their courage and strength in the face of tragedy.

Food Allergies, Living Life

Dairy Free Chocolate Lava Cake (To Die For!)

chocolatemoltencake214 1/2 years ago my darling husband proposed to me over a decadent chocolate soufflé at a local French restaurant.  For our annivesary yesterday I intended to try my hand at the classic dessert for the first time!  However, as I researched recipes and considered my options, I worried that converting a classic souffle to dairy free would leave me wanting.  We aren’t always dairy free, but for special desserts, we don’t want to leave out our youngest son, who has multiple food allergies.

So, I found this mouth watering recipe from Paula Deen, and converted it a bit.  Even though I’m no professional chef, I would venture to say that my recipe was amazing. My kids loved, I loved it, and my husband loved it.  Each individual serving is rich, smooth and satisfying.  Though we about polished off our own servings, we could have easily shared one!

Now, I know this isn’t 100% in-line with our new real food way of eating — I didn’t quite have the nerve to substitute honey for the powdered sugar, but otherwise the recipe is real! I have substituted honey in other sweet desserts with no difference, and as soon as we use up what little powdered sugar we have left in the house, I will only use honey.  I would guess that this would have been just as delicious, so now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I didn’t try!

My modified recipe, with my changes highlighted in red. 

INGREDIENTS:
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
4 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup  whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.Grease 6 small ramekins with olive oil spray and dust with cocoa.  Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange extract. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. Place on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates. Dust with powdered sugar.
Living Life

14 Years of Marriage (And Not Sick of Each Other Yet!)

Happy Anniversary to us!  Today my husband Prithvi and I are celebrating 14 years of marriage (and almost 20 years together!)

October 10, 1999
October 10, 1999 — Indian Wedding

Not only did I get to marry my soul mate, I got to marry him twice in one day!  Like today, it was a wet day — requiring some last minute changes to our wedding plans, but it was a fabulous day nonetheless!  Its hard to believe that 14 years have gone by, seeing as we haven’t aged a bit from these photos 😉

Spending the last twenty years with Prithvi has been so much fun.  The countless trips together, the stupid tv watching together, raising babies, creating a home, the late nights with good wine (the late nights with bad wine!), amazing dinners out and homemade, terrible take out and burnt attempts to cook, parent-teacher conferences together and errands — I enjoy every day that we get to spend together!  I am lucky!

October 10, 1999
October 10, 1999 — Jewish Wedding

I’m not a marriage or relationship expert, but I am confident in saying that being each other’s best friend is a key ingredient to our being so happy together.  I’m not saying that living with someone doesn’t pose challenges, but having a strong friendship makes it easier to work through life’s struggles.

Being such good friends means that we go out of our way to spend time together.  We prefer to run errands together — even when it means we won’t get as much accomplished.  We make the other wake up so we can sneak a quiet coffee together before the chaos of the day.  And we value and protect our alone time after the kids go to bed — even keeping each other company if one has to work after hours.

I feel absurdly lucky that I got to marry my best friend.  That he got to be the father to my kids.  That he picked me and that he let me pick him.  Happy Anniversary, Prithvi!  I love you, and I look forward to many more years ahead!

Food Allergies, Healthy Food

Homemade Granola

My Homemade GranolaI did it!  I made homemade granola on request from my 5 year old.  He’s my cereal addict, and can burn through a box of Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola in a few days.  At nearly $5 per box, it adds up.  But more troubling to me, in our new Real Food way of eating, are the added sugars and maltodextrin (seriously, tell me you cook with maltodextrin?!)

Despite being certified organic, this cereal is neither real, nor all that healthy (so much sugar!)

CascadianLabel
Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola

As we use up our processed/packaged foods, I’m having to make things from scratch.  I used this recipe for my granola, but ended up modifying it a bit since my son is allergic to nuts and seeds.  I added an extra half a cup of oats, and omitted the nuts/seeds.  I also used coconut oil in place of the butter, since my son is also allergic to milk.  (I plan to make another batch loaded with those goodies, for me to eat!)

Want the truth?  It is good!  It isn’t as sweet as the boxed granola, but both of my cereal eating kids like it.  You can taste the subtle coconut oil flavor, but it isn’t overwhelming.  The cinnamon is the strongest flavor.  Also, this took minutes to prepare (but stays in the oven a long time.)  The only negative was heating up my kitchen on a hot day.

Making the granola felt like going up the next step on our real food journey.  I’m already wondering what next store bought staple will be replaced.  I’m also stuck on what to do about our store bought “O’s” cereal.  I’m buying the Whole Foods 365 brand — its organic, and pretty clean but does have added sugar. I suspect I will phase it out soon.

Please share your favorite granola recipes.  I am excited to try new versions!

Uncategorized

Real Food

A couple of years ago I started following a great blog, 100daysofrealfood.com, looking for inspiration on healthy meals for the family.  I have wanted to “go real food” for a long time, knowing too much to be comfortable with packaged foods and synthetic ingredients.  We’ve been buying mostly all organic food, as we could find it, having committed to organic dairy and meat many years ago.  But as you know, organic does not mean healthy, and we certainly were buying our fair share of organic junk food.

  • Chips/Pretzels
  • Mac N Cheese
  • Crackers
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Bread (yes, organic junk food bread, more on that in a little bit)
  • Cereal bars/Clif bars
  • Yogurt (full of sugar)
  • Packaged cookies

And more. But then we made a decision, starting September 1st we’d give the real food thing a serious try.  And we are loving it!

The woman behind the 100daysofrealfood.com blog set out a number or “rules” that guide her family; and I agree with her assessment.  No refined sugars, 100% whole grains only, no prepared foods with more than a few ingredients.  We haven’t converted 100% yet, but we are on our way.

Image
Whole Foods Brand White Whole Wheat Bread

First Step: Swap Our Bread
The most major change for us is in the bread department.  Before September, I would mostly buy organic, Whole Foods brand, whole wheat bread.  Sounds good right?  Until I started on this journey, I felt pretty good about this choice.  But, I knew that with homemade the ingredient list would be shorter.  So, we bought ourselves a low-end breadmaker (thank you Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon) and got to work.  Now I make about 2 loaves per week, and it is delicious.   And it really only take 5 minutes tops to get all the ingredients (whole wheat flour, olive oil, sea salt, yeast, honey) in the breadmaker!  We’ve already improved our slicing skills, so we don’t have thick pieces anymore.  I use this recipe.

I also have made homemade pizza crust (also whole wheat), dinner rolls (that we also sub for hamburger buns) and bagels.  We plan to make homemade pasta soon.

The other changes are more subtle.  In packing the kids’ lunches, instead of sides of chips, they get fruit, or homemade whole wheat muffins.  We also are converting away from canola oil and only using coconut and olive oils.  And instead of refined sugar, we use maple syrup or honey. My recipes are still fabulous, and using these alternative oils and sweeteners have had no impact on taste!

I still buy packaged pasta (whole wheat) and found a spaghetti sauce that has no sugar added and made with olive oil, but I plan to try my hand at a homemade batch soon.  The key is to make large quantities so I can freeze for future meals!  We did switch away from a real staple in our home, frozen meatballs from Trader Joes.  My kids loved them. But they are terribly high in sodium and full of weird ingredients.  My first batch of homemade meatballs were a little heavy on garlic, but otherwise really good.  I’ll make up another 2 pounds soon (they are great for lunches!)

Planning is Key!
You may think I am in the kitchen all the time, but I’m not.  However, this new lifestyle does demand more planning!  And we can’t run out of fruit or else my kids would go hungry at snack time!  My husband and I do a very detailed meal plan on Saturday or Sunday, even thinking through lunches.  Then we do a huge shop (or 2, if we can hit the farmers market) to stock up.  The interesting thing is that we are coming home with fewer groceries, since it is all raw materials.  No more bulky boxes.  Then I do a fair amount of cooking over the weekend — but really I’m making our regular meals at the same time, so its only an incremental increase in kitchen time.  And knowing that we are set for the week makes it so worthwhile!

Challenges
This hasn’t gone down without a few hiccups.  First, Kid #1 (10 1/2) is a super picky eater.  Super. Picky. Eater.  His diet includes 1. Mac N Cheese 2. Pizza 3. Cheeseburger 4. Tacos and 5. Nachos with cheese.  He’ll eat an apple.  And maybe some carrots.  Don’t ever suggest he dip an apple in cheese, he thinks its gross.  But, the same kid has been overheard in recent days to say “this real food thing isn’t so bad.”  See, he likes my homemade mac n cheese.  He also has surprisingly accepted zucchini muffins (knowing that they contained zucchini!)  But, he has also been grumpy and has skipped a few meals out of protest.  He does get to buy lunch once a week at school, and it is undoubtedly a cheese slathered affair.  But I’m ok with it for now.

We also would love to do all real food, but struggle with our allergy son.  To be “real” would mean forgoing some staples that he eats as alternatives to dairy.  So for now, we aren’t turning away from our beloved Daiya cheese alternative or Earth Balance margarine, or the soy products.  But, we have stopped plying the boy with packaged junk!

Middle child (8 1/2) has welcomed this lifestyle with excitement.  He’s our good eater.  Loves to try new foods.  Craves veggies and fruit.  Begs for chicken and ethnic food.  His attitude has certainly made the transition easier!

So, at the end of our first month of real food, I have to say that it has been easier than I thought, more rewarding, and the food has been all the better.  I look forward to furthering our transition, learning more recipes and buying less packaged foods.

Have you made any healthy food changes?  Please share!

Here’s to healthy eating 🙂

Uncategorized

Accidental Activism — Fighting the Arlington Public School Bus System

I am  “week before vacation” crazy busy;  and yet, I’ve found myself thrust into the center of a community battle.  I went to a neighborhood “call to action” meeting on Saturday, and darn it, I never can walk away without taking on assignments.

Background
I live in Arlington, VA, and pay a ton in property taxes in large part so I can send my kids to truly fabulous schools.  I also bought a house on a bus route; in a neighborhood separated from the local school by some pretty significant commuter roads.  About a week ago a bomb was dropped on the entire neighborhood that after having busing for decades, we now lived inside the “official walk zone.”  Um, what?!

Following the APS advice to check their “official walk map” on the website, I find my map shows me OUT of the zone.  It took them a week to realize their mistake.  But instead of saying “we screwed up”, they try to argue that those maps were never the official walk zones.  Seriously?  They say “walk zone” right on the darn thing.

Getting Activist
I started the Facebook page called “Arlington Parents for Safe School Transportation”.   From a dozen of us down the street to over 260 people from all over Arlington, this little page is driving media coverage, organizing a public information assault on the school system and giving a lot of people a place to complain in good company.

Our group also started a petition calling for a moratorium on implementation of the new plan, and its getting a lot of traction, with over 400 signatures in 3 days.

Dr. Murphy, are you listening?
Numerous inquiries, letters, appeals have been sent in with no reply.  Dr. Murphy, our Superintendent wants us to follow their cockamamie 3-week appeals process; um, school starts in less than 2 weeks.  I want to know:  Dr. Murphy, why did your staff say nary a word, for more than a year, about a plan that tosses kids off of buses?  Oh, but I have more:

  • How can you NOT know how many people have been kicked off the bus?
  • Why do you insist on justifying this scheme by claiming that loads of kids were jumping the bus against the rules, when you know that was a tiny issue that could have been addressed otherwise?
  • Dr. Murphy, have YOU read the actual report that was commissioned on “modernizing” our bus system?  Did you see that the consultants write that the problem was not a lack of seats, but a poor utilization of the buses already in use?
  • Are you the type of leader that accepts shutting the public out of major policy changes?

But then there the actual bus changes are so wacky that even more questions come to mind:

  • So you say that routes are more efficient, and yet we have kids who are now getting on the bus MUCH earlier than before?
  • You keep claiming that only 5 schools have been impacted, and this is so not the case.  More than 15 schools have been impacted, just check out our Facebook page and you can see who is claiming they’ve been booted.
  • And this expensive software program that you are using to “route” our kids, did you realize that many kids have been routed through major intersections?
  • And more about that software; how come some people who never had busing before because they already lived so close to schools are now getting bus vouchers?

Might I add that when your “test” implementation goes terribly poorly, typically, whatever is tested is not put into service until all the bugs have been fixed.  Ask any technology person and they’ll tell you never deploy a system full of bugs.  And yet, that is exactly what is happening.

Wake Up!
APS is in ignore and defy mode.  But ignoring the public isn’t good.  Dr. Murphy, esteemed members of the school board, in case you haven’t noticed, people are pissed off.  People feel betrayed and lied to.  People all over Arlington think you let us down, and we don’t think you are trying to take any responsibility for the poor manner in which all of this bus stuff has been handled.

So, despite being busy, I happily and without reservation continue to work with my fellow Arlingtonians to stop you from forging ahead on this stupid transportation scheme.  I will see you at the next school board meeting, and you can count on hearing from me after that.  You may have your hands over your ears and eyes, but discontent is GROWING, Dr. Murphy; people are not accepting this change, and people will not stop demanding answers.

I look forward to a day when you realize that it is in your interest, in our district’s interest, in our entire community’s interest to hold public forums to discuss this issue.  I promise I will come, I promise many many parents from one end of this county to the other will be there to discuss.

Read the press
http://www.arlnow.com/2012/08/22/hundreds-of-parents-protest-against-aps-bus-changes/

http://washingtonexaminer.com/arlington-parents-fight-new-bus-rules/article/2505573#.UDQzTmt5mK0

http://arlingtonmercury.org/articles/school-parents-are-fighting-back

Lend your voice
Email the APS School Board:  school.board@apsva.us
Email Dr. Murphy: superintendent@apsva.us

Parenting

Helmets on Swing Sets? The evolution of protective gear and keeping kids safe.

The other evening, my 9 1/2 year old, highly active, fun loving daredevil of a child took a fall.  From our swing set that was only installed 48 hours earlier.  It was pretty bad, he was swinging high, and on the front approach he slipped off, flipping forward and taking the blow to the top of his head.  Luckily, he says his knees hit the ground at the same time.  I heard the thud, though my back was turned and I didn’t register what happened until he was screaming.  The fact he jumped up assured me that his spine was ok, but I was worried immediately.

We got lucky.  Aside from a severe headache for 2 days, and some mild nausea, he did not get seriously hurt.  I know because we called the after hours doctor.  Twice.  I slept with him that night to make sure he was ok, and to keep him on advil through the night.

Now I’m nervous.  I haven’t let him back on the swings just yet.  I know his fall was a fluke; but my fear (all parents have at least one major fear), well my major fear is head injury.

Just a week before we were ice skating.  I make my kids wear helmets.  Yes, they look ridiculous, and no, I never wore one as a kid.  But knowing that son #1 is a daredevil speed skater, I take heart in knowing that even professional speed skaters wear helmets.  Kid #2 is just the family klutz.  And kid #3, it was his first time skating and I expected lots of falls.

But how have we as a society evolved to a point where our kids wear helmets when ice skating?  I was not the only parent making the mandate.  Certainly our society has embraced helmets for biking for a long time, and I’m pretty much a stickler on that front, as well as when scootering or skateboarding.

But, isn’t the chance of serious damage GREATER from a fall from high up on a swing compared to other activities where helmets are socially acceptable?  How ridiculous is it to want my kids to wear their helmets on the swing set?  (Very.) Even though I was scared beyond belief with his fall, I can not allow myself to become that overbearing.  And my instinct that this isn’t a good idea is backed up by people who know safety!  The CPSC recently wrote a blog post saying that helmets do not belong on the playground, as they pose risks like choking.

So, how much protection is too much?  I’ve seen parents yell “no running!” while their kid is at the playground (seriously) and there are parents who hold their kids across the monkey bars long after the skill has been mastered.  Finding our own rules, knowing how much to protect our kids, I think that is every mom’s gut check.  I’d like to think that I have not held my kids back from their own exuberance, but have just required protective gear so I can breathe easier while they be the boys they want to be.

But that doesn’t mean that my heart won’t be in my throat while the kids soar high, and it doesn’t mean that I won’t say “be careful” as they head out to swing set from now on.

Living Life

Homegrown Watermelon and Hot Lazy Days Make Best Summer Yet

This is the best summer I’ve had in many years.  Its not hard to beat last summer, with my dad very ill and then passing away in July.  But even the previous years, I don’t think I was as immersed in all the glory that summer has to offer.  My job, though part-time, was structured; my kids were in a ton of camps; and I had a little toddler who sapped me of all my energy.

Summer 2012 rocks!  By building my own company, I am also ensuring a lot of free time this summer. I’m busy with work, but have been able to schedule it around our needs as a family and our goals for having fun.

So why is this summer so good?  Perhaps these make good tips for anybody looking to maximize their experience in the hot months!

  1. We go to the pool as much as possible.
  2. We planted a vegetable garden.  This has been so much fun!  Its my first time, and we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but the kids and I love checking it daily, and while I can’t keep them from eating all the grape tomatoes right off the vine, hey, they are eating grape tomatoes (my kids are kinda picky!)  The single watermelon that is growing now increases in size a lot every day, so the habit is to run out and check it first thing every morning.

    Watermelon yesterday

    Watermelon today
  3. The kids are only doing 2 weeks of camp!  This is a huge change from previous years, and had much to do with my work schedule changing.  Also, I was tired in previous years from driving three kids to 2 or 3 different places every day, and we never got to let go of the school-time routine of packed lunches and early wake ups.   And even though camps are fun, the structure didn’t allow enough down time.  I want the kids good a bored at the end of summer, I want them to want to go back to school!
  4. We made a summer “to do” list on the first night of summer break!  I am not certain that we’ll get to everything on the list, but it has made it easy to fill our days with all of the must dos.  I am sure that had ‘roller coaster’ not been on the list, we never would have gone to the amusement park in Ocean City after a camping trip to Assateaque Island!

    Our Summer To Do List
  5. We camped at Assateaque Island; we had wild horses in our campsite both mornings!

    Wild Horses at Assateaque Island
  6. We went to the zoo.
  7. We visited grandma, and the other grandma & dadda (what the kids call their grandfather)!
  8. We are eating homegrown or farmers market tomatoes every day.
  9. The kids donated the revenue from their lemonade stand for the Animal Welfare League, $86!  Just when we worry that the kids were too self-focused and obsessive about their own ‘stuff’, they were so motivated to do this for charity!
  10. The kids play with sprinklers, a baby pool and water guns a lot.  I also “let” them wash my car!

Nothing here is extraordinary or unique, but I find it is the sum total of all of it that makes this summer awesome. (Is there any meaning to the fact that ‘sum’ is part of the word ‘summer’?)   I hope you are also having a wonderful summer, no matter how you are filling your days.

Living Life, Marketing

Survival Mode: Newborn Business is Not Unlike Newborn Baby

In the past few weeks I’ve advised more than one client to blog more often; both to keep up the habit and help their SEO!  And yet, I find I have fallen out of the practice myself.  I am exhausted, exhilarated and just plain busy.  My business is going great.  The logo is done, the website is almost ready, and the client work is fun and engaging.  And I am having the most fun I’ve had in ages.  But I am so busy that some things that were normal are becoming hard to get to, like blogging, laundry and socializing with my mommy friends.

I realized today that this is the sort of fall-out I experienced after the birth of each of my kids.  Survival mode (but this time I’m getting adequate sleep at least!)  There is never a moment of being “done” — my business to-do list is equal or longer than my personal list, and the business is getting more attention than the personal.  Like a dirty diaper can’t go unchanged, a client email or prospect inquiry gets my full attention.

I am NOT complaining.  I chose this.  I love this.  I am giddy that, for the moment, things are hopping.  But I do look forward to the point where my pace can normalize, when the routine will emerge from the chaos.  With a newborn, its somewhere between 6-12 weeks (mine were always at least 12 weeks.)  But with a new business, when does the chaos subside?  I know some business owners who claim it never normalizes, and others that proclaim victory with running their own gig and the rest of their life.  I’m aiming to be the latter.  To schedule clients in such a way that my personal life get its fair due.

So if I fail to blog as often (or family, if your meals are boring and your house a tad upside down), please understand that I am in survival mode.  Drop off  made meals welcome, invite the kids for play dates, and somebody, please, offer to help me with my laundry.