Archives for August 2009

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?

August 21st: SK Showcase and Weekend Links


What a beautiful week of community it has been here at Simple Kids!

  • Monday’s post on Toddler Meals {less is more} elicited some great discussion and helpful advice in the comments.  In fact, it has inspired me to revisit the topic next week with some more ideas on toddler meal times!
  • On Tuesday we met the newest contributor to the SK community – Robin, our storyteller.  I know many of you were enchanted by her enhanced account of The True Story of Jack and Jill.
  • And of course on Wednesday, we received more great book reviews from our Book Review Team.
  • I am happy to report that Simple Kids hit a new milestone this week when the subscriber number grew past 1300! What an honor that so many parents and caregivers would choose to make Simple Kids a part of their daily reading.

In the same way that our children’s art work is enhanced by a vivid variety of colors, this community is only possible because of the unique and brilliant insights offered by each of you. Thank you so much for your contributions!  And starting today, there is another way we can interact with one another – the Simple Kids fan page on Facebook.  Prior to today, there has been a Simple Kids Facebook group which allowed me to communicate through messages with group members, but I believe the fan page will allow another level of interaction amongst members of the Simple Kids community.  I invite you to join us there today!

And now, your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

New Mommy Help: How To Make Books Come Alive With Your Toddler
Laurel Plum Online: Working Toward Back To School – The Daily Routine
Simple Nest: Tiny Nurseries
Simple Mom: 20 Indoor Activities for Kids – besides TV

Simply Delicious

honey & jam: Homemade Butter
Skip to My Lou: A Recipe for Making Strawberry Fruit Leather

Inspired Projects

Plot 55: Art with Pressed Flowers and Plants
creative jewish mom: Modeling Clay: A Classic Craft Activity for All Ages!
Playful Learning: Making Concoctions: Children and Aromatherapy

Inspired Images

Remodeling This Life: Tiny Toes
exhale. return to center.: laughter

Inspired Words

the creative mama: Rediscover Your Home
serene journey: Do You See What I See?

Hope your weekend is full of color and laughter and maybe a little messiness, too!