Simple As That: End of Summer Reflection

reflectingphoto by Vik Nanda

We are fast approaching Labor Day which traditionally marks the end of the summer season.

Today’s Simple As That is very simple: schedule time this week to sit down and reflect on Summer 2009.

What was memorable about this summer for your family?  What were the sweet moments? What was difficult or challenging?   In what ways have your children grown?  How have you grown as a person?

Jot notes in a baby book or plan a scrapbook page or order prints of those pictures you have uploaded.

The freshness of summer memories may have already started to fade.  Make intentional reflection a priority this week.  Even better?  Go do it right now while it’s on your mind.

August 28th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

bikeridephoto by Digital Plus Art & Photo

Can you believe it? Here we are, the last Friday in August.  We are on the downhill slide to the end of 2009!

I don’t have any Showcase submissions to share this week.  If you have a moment, please check out the Showcase FAQ for inspiration on what you could share in the Simple Kids Showcase!

And now, your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Be Different . . . Act Normal: Sundae Bar Made Easy
preschool daze: r is for routine
Hobo Mama: Rainy day movement ideas for toddlers (link via Momopoly)
Digital Photography School: 8 Tips for Mom-a-raz-zo Photographers

Simply Delicious

Foodie Tots: Preserving Summer: Peach Gelato
justJENN recipes: Inari Sushi

Inspired Projects

Preschool Playbook: Word Family Strips
5 Orange Potatoes: Make a Fairy Doll
The Baby Bunch Blog: Crafts for Boys

Inspired Images

flipflops & applesauce: crawl space
[ Ali Edwards ]: The County Fair in Photos

Inspired Words

Zen Habits: How to Let Go of Hyperparenting and Learn to Relax with Your Kids
The Grass Stain Guru: Your Right to Play Outdoors

Have a beautiful weekend!

Book Talk: Free-Range Kids (Save the Date!)

frk1Recently, I read a book that has profoundly influenced my parenting philosophies.  You may be familiar with Lenore Skenazy’s book Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, or perhaps you have read her blog – Free-Range Kids.

I think the approach to parenting that she takes is one that is very relevant to the Simple Kids community, and I feel sure that her ideas will strike a chord with many of you.

I am planning a Simple Kids Book Talk – a day we can come together as a community and share our reactions/responses to the Free-Range Kids philosophies.  The Book Talk date will be October 1st. I hope you’ll make plans to join the discussion!

What We’re Reading Wednesday Special Edition: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

This week for What We’re Reading Wednesday, Wesley Jeanne is sharing some thoughts on the a classic piece of American literature – The Wizard of Oz:

woo1Yesterday, August 25, 2009, marked the 70th anniversary of the premiere of the much beloved film The Wizard of Oz. So it was a happy coincidence when a dear friend recently gifted us with a thrift-shop find of a beautifully illustrated (by Michael Hague) 1982 edition of the L. Frank Baum classic on which the film is based: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. My five-year-old daughter Owen had never read the book, seen the movie, or even–gasp–heard of the story. Her much, um, older parents had seen the movie many times but had never actually read Baum’s original story. So we were able to discover its magic together.

In his introduction, Baum pays homage to the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, and then asserts that his story “was written solely to please the children of today,” calling it “a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.” Little did he know that his tale (written in the “modern” year of 1900) would mark the beginning of a number of books (14 written by Baum himself and numerous others written by followers), a hit play (written by Baum), and a movie that would make this one of the best known stories in all of children’s literature.

The book begins with a simple description: “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” Baum’s writing is simple, without being simplistic, and his descriptions quite lovely, evocative of a mood that feeds the plot. For example, in describing the land, he says: “When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color the been seen everywhere.” Even Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are gray, faded by the harsh life on the land, so that they “looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

Very soon this bleak landscape is interrupted by a cyclone. Uncle Henry rushes off to tend to the livestock, and Aunt Em heads for the storm cellar, but Dorothy and her dog, Toto, find themselves inside the house, being carried along by the twister. After many hours (and a nap), they land with a bump in a strange land populated by strange peoples who are awed and thrilled to find that Dorothy–or at least her house–has inadvertently killed their feared oppressor, The Wicked Witch of the East. As a reward Dorothy receives the Wicked Witch’s silvery (not ruby) shoes, some advice, and magical kiss of protection from the Good Witch of the North. And so Dorothy and Toto’s adventure, and their journey home, begins.

wizard-of-oz-hagueYou know the rest of the story…or at least you think you do, for Baum’s tale is far richer and more complex than the movie. You will still find the yellow brick road, the scarecrow who longs for a brain, the tin woodsman who desires a heart, the lion who lacks courage, even Dorothy’s blue gingham frock. But the trip to the City of Emeralds is longer, the challenges more numerous, and many more opportunities for demonstrating skills already possessed. There are deep ravines, tiger-headed bears (oh my), a broad river, helpful field mice, a country of dainty china. And there is intelligence and heart and courage.

Oh yes, and the happy party is not being pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West, but instead the travelers seek her at the behest of the Wizard of Oz. The flying monkeys (the terror of my young life) are not exactly horrid henchmen but oppressed slaves under a spell and helpful friends once the witch is dead and the spell broken.

So, even if you think you know the story, even if you are anxiously awaiting the DVD release of the still wonderful 70-year-old movie (scheduled for Sept), do yourself and your children a favor, find a copy of the book, and read it. Read it aloud, as a family, a little every night. Trust me. It’s magic. It’s wonderful.

Finger Foods: More Ideas for Toddler Meals

macncheesephoto by D Sharon Pruitt

This is part two in a series on Finger Food for little ones.  Yesterday, we shared some ideas on what to serve for breakfast and snacks to toddlers who are new to feeding themselves.  Today, I wanted to extend the idea into lunch and dinnertime ideas.

Several of you mentioned in the comments yesterday that your little ones eat what you eat at mealtime, and I have to agree this is the easiest way to approach meal preparation!  I also have to confess that when my oldest was a new eater, she absolutely would not eat meat in any form.  (She’s still a reluctant omnivore.)  Sometimes patience and a good perspective on the big picture are helpful when approaching how much and what kind of food your new eater is eating.  When our second child reached the finger food age, I was better about serving her what the rest of us are eating and not freaking out if she doesn’t eat much.  She almost always makes up for it later in the day or throughout the week.

Having said that, sometimes what we are eating just isn’t great for the new eater – particularly those who only have a few teeth!  And don’t we all love to hear what other families are eating for lunch?  Lunch is the biggest culprit of food rut blues for me.  How many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can one person eat?

Here are some thoughts on preparing meals for little eaters:

1) Realistic portions
Remember that toddlers don’t need a full serving, nor do they even need a half-sized serving in most cases.  They have little tummies that fill up quickly!  Start small and serve more if they are still hungry.

2) Accept the mess
Mealtimes are meant to be sensory.  Adults appreciate the smell and taste and texture nuances that eating offers.  Toddlers want to experience these sensations, too, but this oftentimes involves a mess!  Prepare yourself for this mentally as well as practically by employing full-length bibs, keeping wet washcloths closeby, and protecting the flooring with a drop cloth, vinyl tablecloth, or even a shower curtain.

3) Make each bite count
Think about ways to combine foods to increase the chance of your toddler getting an (almost) equal amount of protein, starch, and fruits/vegetables in each bite.

We have enjoyed:

quesadillas – These are a fixture in our home for lunches and dinners.  The girls love basic cheese quesadillas, but you can certainly power them up with proteins like chicken and beans.  I often shred carrots on top of the cheese before I cook them to get some veggies in each bite.  Did you know you can make sweet potato and black bean quesadillas?  Yum!  Quesadillas can be cut into thin slivers for younger toddlers.  I have even diced them into bite-sized pieces to serve those who are lacking teeth.

grilled cheese sandwiches – This is another favorite lunch option for us.  Grilled cheese offers another chance to get some veggies in – try adding diced tomatoes on the inside or stacking a few sliced tomatoes on top and securing with a toothpick (obviously not intended for younger toddlers).

peanut noodles – Each of my peanut-butter-loving children love these noodles!  They are fun and messy and you can add as many different vegetables as you have on hand.  When I make these for dinner, I make a double batch so that we’ll have some for lunch the next day.  They are very tasty served cold!

pasta – The combination possibilities for pasta meals are vast!  Whole wheat pasta spirals can be tossed with butter and diced zucchini.  Throw some beans or sauteed tofu into a bowl of ravioli .  Mix peas into your mac ‘n cheese.  Variations on the pasta theme rarely disappoint.

put it on a pita (or a tortilla) – Sometimes a simple departure from the traditional is enough to entice a hesitant eater.  Pita bread and tortillas can be used for roll-ups or pocket-type sandwiches filled with proteins and veggies.  (Once again, just slice down to a manageable size for younger toddlers.)

Some of the resources I have found to be the most helpful for feeding toddlers are

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron – Not just for making baby food!  She includes many recipes for the toddler palette.

Toddler Cafe – Innovative and fun recipes coupled with gorgeous photography. – Helpful information plus sample toddler menus to help you get out of your rut.

The discussion in the comments section has proven once again that the Simple Kids community is full of wisdom! What thoughts do you have to share on the Finger Foods season of childhood?