Sugar on Snow #Protips

Catch the freshest, cleanest snow for sugar on snow by putting mixing bowls outside during the big snowstorm.

Sugar on snow is the best. It’s a delicious, easy, seasonal treat for all ages. Simply heat real maple syrup on the stove and drizzle it over packed snow. The maple syrup instantly transforms into a kind of chewy, icy taffy.

Many New Englanders eat it with a fork, accompanied by a pickle and a donut. I grew up eating it with a side of saltines. Now I enjoy it with coffee or malty beer.

Sugar on snow is most popular in in March, during maple sugaring season. However, my family uses any snowstorm as an excuse to make it. My tips:

– As mentioned above, leave mixing bowls during snowstorms to catch the freshest, cleanest snow

– Use a candy thermometer to get the syrup up to 230 degrees. But don’t let not having a thermometer prevent you from making sugar on snow – just heat up the syrup on the stove.

– Don’t use that maple flavored corn syrup stuff. Use the real thing.

That’s it. Enjoy!

Lists for Winter Storm Preparedness

Blizzards and snow days can create havoc with schedules, commuting and childcare. They can also bring families together for some of the best days of the year.

A key to enjoying stormy days is preparing for the worst. This includes potential power outages and running out of food or water.

I’m a fan of simple checklists for managing daily life. (More about the Checklist Manifesto.) There are many checklists available online to help prepare for winter storms. The CDC and Ready.gov have useful lists for winter storm preparedness that include reminders for easy-to-overlook items, like medications, pet food and baby supplies.

I like the list from the American Red Cross, with a few considerations:

Extra cash, passports – The Red Cross suggests keeping these on hand for the big storm, but I don’t think they quite get the concept of “snowed in.”

Food – A 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food. Pretty much all I ever buy. Done.

Hand-crank radio – Reminds me to hit up Sky Mall before it shuts down.

Extra batteries – Can’t I just use the batteries from the smoke detectors?

First aid kit – We have a Hello Kitty first aid kit. Bleeding out has never been so cute.

Cell phone with chargers – so everyone on Snapchat knows you’re SOL IRL.

Alternate heating methods – trash can + lighter + credit card bills. Done.

Water –  A gallon of water per day. Good call – takes a lot of water to make ice cubes for gin & tonics.

 

5 Links: World’s Worst Mom, Glitter Bombs, Evermotion

1 – The never ending debate about kids safety vs independence became a reality show from Discovery Life. Go behind the scenes with the New York Times article “Parenting Advice From ‘America’s Worst Mom.’” More about the show and its star Lenore Skenazy from Reason magazine.

2 – This video is funny. A dad gets glitter bombed for reading his kids mail. This video is uplifting. Kid President addresses the nation: “When life gives you lemons, you gotta make lemonade. And drink it. And then you dance.”

3 – Another New York Times link in the Well – “The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk” The mood and brain-boosting benefits of a lunchtime walk are legit. Even here in bitter, frozen Vermont I make this happen most days of the week. I’m cheating a bit though –  it’s also to walk the dog.

4 – Here’s a fun and slightly educational new coloring book about robots and computers. Buy it for $10 or download and print pages for free.

5 – I love the new Guster album Evermotion. Love it. The Boston Globe calls it “terrific,” rooted in three key Bs — Beatles, Beach Boys, and Bacharach. You can play it around the kids; none of the song have swears, guns or overt sex talk, just a ton of great melodies. It also sounds great through headphones, which is how I’ve listed to it every other hour for the past couple of weeks. http://www.guster.com

Take an Internet Field Trip: 5 Links to Share With Your Kids

Share great links with your kids on an Internet Field Trip curated for Parent Co by Today Box, a website designed for curious kids.

Share awesome, fun links with your kids on an Internet Field Trip curated for Parent Co. by Today Box. Today Box curates fun and educational daily facts, videos, photos, and jokes for curious kids and the grown-ups who raise them.

FOR THE WEEK OF January 24 2015

wetnessExperience the raw sounds of mountain biking through the woods. Hear the splash of mud and muck as your tires smack the ground in this short film called “Wetness” by The Coastal Crew.

 

Tour the World

 

Take a trip around the world with the clever rhymes and music of Renald Francoeur and drawings by Craighton Berman in this music video by Marbles The Brain Store.

 

 

animals talk

 

Do animals talk? New Scientist explores animal sounds and what new research shows about animal communication in this animated short film.

 

 

Paperholm

 

 

Take a peek into the wonderful world of Paperholm, a mobile paper city created by artist Charles Young. You can see more images of Paperholm here.

 

 

Evolution of Lego

[Tweet “Watch a lego brick evolve over millions of years in this stop motion short film from the Today Box archives.”]

 

View over 750 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.

 

Girls Play Baseball: Lessons From Youtube

Girls can't play baseball? Hold it right there, grasshopper.
Girls can’t play baseball? Hold it right there, grasshopper.

 

A few days after Christmas, we slowly started relocating the gifts that remained under the tree to their proper resting places. Among the clothes, forsaken for noisier more exciting things, lay the baseball and glove given to my three year old daughter by her uncle. She had unwrapped it and accepted it graciously, if not enthusiastically, yet hadn’t touched it since.

“I don’t want this, Mama.”, she declared as she plopped it into my hands.

“Why not? Uncle Paul gave it to you. He’s the best.”

“I don’t want to play baseball. Girls don’t play baseball.”, she offered, matter-of-factly.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care how my kids suss out gender “norms”. It seems perfectly natural that there comes a point in each child’s life, when they begin to make delineations between themselves and the rest of the world. Having just started to wrap a rapidly developing brain around the fact that they are an individual, a being completely separate of their parents, there’s comfort in compartmentalizing what they observe. I just don’t want them to get lost in absolutes.

Without even bothering to argue, I ushered her over to the kitchen table.

“Come with me. Sit on my lap.”

As I sat the glove down alongside my computer, I pulled her up and typed “Mo’ne Davis” into youtube.

She watched quietly as the powerhouse of a teenage girl disproved that theory faster than the ball could fly.

After watching a few more, per her request, I asked, “So, do you still think girls don’t play baseball?”

“No. But I still don’t want to play it.”

That’s fine, little girl. So long as you know you can. I can live with that. And may your stubbornness serve you well.

Have you ever used Youtube to teach your kid a lesson? Any favorites that lay down the law?

Couples Therapy Will Make You Better Parents

Last week I talked about a few of the reasons I think you need couples therapy. Now I’d like to expound on one that I’d place in the “So Obvious it Hurts My Feelings” category: Going to therapy together will improve the way you function as parents.

Even if parenting is not the focus of your hour on the couch, the permeating effect of the work you’re doing will no doubt reach the very core of who you are to your little ones and how you treat them.

Here are the top three lessons that my husband and I have found to be the most immediately applicable to parenting:

Words matter. Who better to prove this than my then-three-year-old daughter, who bristled when I jokingly told my husband he was being “a bad friend” for not sending a timely RSVP for a friend’s wedding. “But he’s a not a bad friend,” she said. “He’s my daddy and he’s a good guy.”

I felt like such a jerk, and was instantly saddened for all the kids whose parents insult, name-call and disrespect one another without a thought for what it does to their children.

Through the process of therapy you learn how to speak to and about one another in a way that is constructive, loving and honest. You realize that even a flippant comment said in jest or out of frustration can carry long-lasting consequences.

Messages are delivered and quickly take root, so be sure that you mean exactly what you’re saying. Modeling this thoughtful approach for your children will serve them well in their own relationships.

Your happiness is everything. This one seems particularly important for moms to hear and internalize. Though we’ve come a long way, as they say, women still tend to postpone their own happiness for that of others – especially our children. But guess what? Your kids are not happy if you are not happy. Neglecting yourself and your needs is a well-trod path to a sad little household.

[Tweet “Neglecting yourself and your needs is a well-trod path to a sad little household.”]

It’s okay that you need a break and it’s imperative that you take it. Plan a girls’ night, a date night or just a night off. Exercise. Do something that recharges your soul so that you can be truly present when you’re with your children.

They’ll feel your distance more acutely if you are absent-mindedly sitting right next to them than they do when you leave their side to take yourself out to lunch.

Your kids will feel about things the way you feel about things. We parents spend a lot of time wondering how certain events will impact our children in the long-term. Instead of trying to predict the future, devote your energy to more consciously deciding how you react to those events now.

An example: My husband travels a bunch for his job as a touring musician. I miss him when he’s gone and it can be a pain in the ass being the only parent at home for days or weeks at a time (sincerest kudos to single parents). But I have a choice to make. I can wallow in my loneliness and harbor resentment towards my husband and the requirements of his career.

Or, I can keep in mind that I’m lucky to be married to a wonderfully creative man who loves what he does and has the freedom to spend a lot of time at home when he’s not on the road.

By choosing to focus on the joyful aspects of my husband’s frequent departures, I’m able to share, in words and energy, a positive message with our children. When our daughter says she misses her Dada, I remind her that he’s away because he’s making people happy by playing music for them.

I assure her that he misses her a bunch, too, and that he’ll be soooo happy to hug her when he comes home. I know this message reaches the very important layers of her heart and mind when, each morning until he comes home, she wakes up and says, “Dada will be soooo happy to hug me when he comes home!”

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Week 1: Clothes

Less Clutter, More Joy

There was a time in my life when I lived out of a suitcase. I lived in Italy for a year and carried only the bare necessities with me. It surprised me how easy it was for me to part with my material possessions and live with so little. Life felt simpler and more carefree.

When I returned to the United States, the amount of boxes I had to retrieve from storage felt daunting and overwhelming. It bothered me at first, but it wasn’t long before I surrounded myself again with tons of useless stuff.

Years later my partner and I moved in together and combined our belongings. This led to a packed garage, stuffed closets, and a $125/month storage unit. We recently decided it was time for a simpler lifestyle and drastic change.

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and recruited my family in a project to help create a more minimalist lifestyle in our home. Kondo is a bestselling author and world-renowned home organization specialist from Tokyo, Japan. She recommends decluttering the home by category, rather than by room in order to avoid reshuffling clutter to other spaces in your home.

The first category to focus on is clothing.

We’re a family of three. We’ve tried several systems to organize our clothes, yet none have stuck. Getting dressed for our six-year-old means emptying half the contents of her bureau onto the floor. Her closet looks like an exploded Laundromat. We can’t find items in our overcrowded closets. The family needed a once-in-a-lifetime purge.

My partner and I included our daughter in the process. We reasoned that our daughter will never learn how to tidy up if we don’t actively teach her how to do it. Rather than sorting through her clothes for her, we decided to involve her in the process and give her some autonomy in the decision-making, even if it meant she might decide to discard an item of clothing of hers that we love.

It started as a game. We let our daughter grab armfuls of clothing and throw them down the stairs. Kondo recommends removing every item of clothing from closets and dressers and bringing them into one room. It’s laborious to do this, but the task is important because it lets you visually see how many clothes you own.

Our daughter made signs for various clothing categories and placed them where she wanted to in the living room. Then the three of us sorted the clothes to the correct sections of the room. Kondo recommends sorting clothing by the following categories: tops, bottoms, clothes that should be hung, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for special events, and shoes.

Most people make the mistake of asking the following questions when sorting through clothes: Does it still fit? Do I have fond memories attached to this? Will I fit into it one day? Will I offend the giver of this item if I get rid of it? This is how you end up with 20 sweaters you don’t need.

Kondo recommends you only ask one question: Does this bring me joy? Reframing the question and going by intuition, rather than logic, helps one purge more clothing. The point is to only have clothes in your home that spark joy in you and create a more minimalist lifestyle.

We chose to create a sell, donate, and trash pile even though Kondo doesn’t recommend a sell pile since most of the time people don’t get the items out of their homes in a timely manner. Rather than sort through all of our clothes at once, we did it by family member.

My partner went first, so he could role model for our six-year-old. The six-year-old went next, as we worried she’d tire halfway through the project (she did). I sorted last since I have the most clothing in our home and knew I’d need more time.

Items that were difficult to part with included a custom-made tweed coat given to my partner from his deceased grandmother, the first leather jacket I purchased in high school, and superhero shirts that no longer fit our six-year-old. Our daughter broke down in tears at the thought of parting with these and said, “2015 is turning out to be a nightmare!”

We took photos of items that once brought us joy and were difficult to part with, so we could remember them. That helped.

We ended the day with three bags of trash, five bags to donate to Goodwill, and five bags to sell to used-clothing stores (we made $105.00). My partner and daughter parted with 30% of their clothing, and I managed to get rid of 45% of mine. We discovered that we suddenly had plenty of room in bureaus and closets once we returned our clothes to their proper rooms. And we could now say that every item of clothing we owned sparked joy for us.

Having less clothing in our home already makes our space tidier. It’s easier to locate clothing and stay on top of laundry. The six-year-old is still working on not emptying half the contents of her bureau onto the floor, but at least there’s less of a mess to clean up now.

You can learn more about our family’s home organization project here

Looking Back at the Most Popular Baby Names of 2015

Need help naming your baby? Choose from one the most popular names of 2015. #dumpcake

Baby Name Trends 2015
Parent Co projected baby naming trends of 2015. Do you want a kid whose name is on lists?

So, you’re going to have a baby.

Sure, you could pay this Swiss Company $32,000 to scheme up an original, completely one-of-a-kind name for your snowflake. But let’s get real. $32,000 is a huge investment in someone you haven’t even met yet. Yes, people name their kids before they’re born all the time, but it’s a roll of the dice.

“MY name is Steve! Steve’s a great name! WE HAVE TO NAME HIM THAT.” And then “he” comes out minus parts the sonogram wrongfully promised because the technician had too many daiquiris at lunch. Imagine putting $32 grand behind that decision. Steve will look beautiful in her prom dress, by the way.

[Tweet “Here at Parent.Co, we’re offering baby name services for a slashed price of $15,999.”]

As team of professional parents, we’ve collectively named over a dozen children we actually care about and 3 more that people have paid us to. One of our kid’s names even inspired the name of the main character in a blockbuster film. Trust us. We do juice cleanses and put fish oil in our espresso. We know things.

  • We scan the finest drugstore shelves, tropical farmers markets, pedigree dog shows, even the NASDAQ for the highest quality inspiration.
  • We will quadruple check for unfortunate acronyms by consulting with texting teens and cross checking medical journals.
  • We arrange hypnotherapy for both parents to compile an honest list of every sexual partner they’ve ever had to avoid subconscious leanings which could later, be grounds for divorce.
  • We have an in house team of particularly ruthless children of varying ages who participate in round table bullying sessions to determine the likelihood that your offspring could suffer based on our choices.
  • We will provide you with 3 choices. Feminine, masculine and gender neutral. You retain full license to all 3, which takes into consideration those who choose not to find out the sex ahead of time or the event the child’s “jaw line is not strong enough for such a bad-ass moniker”. (Thanks for your review, Tad from Greenpoint!) Should the child decide you got it wrong (listen, it’s not going to be the only time they’re going to challenge your authority. Get used to it.), the remaining two options are theirs for the taking. However, if your 18 year old daughter exercises her right to go rogue and renames herself Tawny Cherry to go work alongside the interstate, well, you probably went wrong at plenty of intersections besides name choice. We can not guarantee that invoking our services puts you on the perfect path.

Once our experts have compiled a list of six choices, we bring ourselves to you. With real life application, we’ll help you determine the 3 original one-of-a-kind namesakes for which you write your check.

  • One of us will accompany you on a shopping trip to TJ Maxx where we’ll hide in racks of clothing while you shout our proposed choices 57 times each. We will take notes from between the dresses on pitch and tone and which sit most naturally in your register. You will have the final say in the event our observations do not take into account that one of them makes you want to shave your head completely bald by utterance 43.
  • We’ll come to your house for the morning rush and spill a full bowl of cereal all over your freshly laundered work clothes while simultaneously recreating Van Gogh’s Starry Night all over freshly painted walls. (This is merely an example. We believe the element of surprise elicits the most natural reprimand on which to draw conclusions.)
  • We will provide you with a four inch stack of school intake forms, pediatrician questionnaires, little league sign ups, and permission slips so you can practice writing the sequence of letters you’ll have to scrawl several hundred thousand times for the rest of your life. Decide before committing that an eleven letter first name is too much to ask of anyone. Or not.

Feel free to contact us to set up a consultation.

 

Need to Know: Invisibilia Podcast

Busy parents Need to Know, so every week we highlight one album, book, app, movie or show that’s about blow up. More.

Perhaps you’ve already heard about Invisibilia, the latest blockbuster podcast from NPR. Filling a void left by Serial (and driven by NPR’s marketing), Invisibilia is already the #1 podcast on iTunes.

It probably won’t get a brilliant SNL spoof, but it will spark a million dinner party conversations, Twitter posts, and Facebook updates. It’s already trending on both platforms (that’s partly how we choose our “Need to Know” subjects.)

People enjoy pop entertainment, but we’re most engaged by information and facts. Discussing “the latest research” is our modern conversation crutch. “Backed by Science” will make anything sell. We’re drawn to stories woven together by data and real-world information, especially as they relate to the mystery of human behavior.

The producers of Invisibilia understand this perfectly. They say the show “interweaves narrative storytelling with fascinating new psychological and brain science. Listen and research will come to life in a way that will make you see your own life differently.”

With a description like that, it’s no wonder the show is trending. It will get bigger as new episodes come out and people begin discussing them over meals, at parties, and on social media all spring and this summer.

This season of Invisibilia promises extra juciness. It will “dig deep into our innermost minds — examining our dark, disturbing thoughts” and how they shape our identity and emotions.

The show’s production is as compelling as its subject. Co-hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller (from Radiolab and This American Life) balance facts, anecdotes, story, and conversation to keep the show flowing.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the first episode. At least you’ll be able to say “yeah, I listened to the first episode” when everyone is talking about it. It’s a bonus if you get hooked and keep listening week after week.

Learn more and listen to Invisiblia online.

Here’s how to listen to a podcast on a Mac, iPhone or Android devices.

Follow the show on Twitter [stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/nprinvisibilia” size=”18px” new_window=”no”]. You can also follow co-host Alix Spiegel on Twitter [stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/aspiegelnpr” size=”18px” new_window=”no”]

Download the podcast on iTunes [stag_icon icon=”apple” url=”https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/npr-invisibilia-podcast/id953290300?mt=2″ size=”18px” new_window=”no”]

Read more about it in the New Yorker and on the Daily Beast.

How to Listen to a Podcast

Everything you wanted to know about podcasting but didn’t feel like Googling.

Everything you wanted to know about podcasting but didn’t feel like Googling.

Podcast was the word of the year… in 2005 (10 years ago!!) Serial was seemingly listened to by everyone on Earth. However, a few people have sheepishly asked me how to listen to podcasts. They’re not alone. The question is common enough that Ira Glass made a video to help people listen to Serial (embedded below.)

As Ira says in the video, Apple’s Podcast app is probably the easiest way for people with iPhones and iPads to get started. In iOS 8, the  Podcast app is included by default. You can also download it for free here. In my opinion, the only nice thing about this app is that it syncs podcast settings across devices. Otherwise, I’ve found it buggy and unreliable.

I use and recommend Overcast to download and manage Podcasts on iPhone. On my Mac I simply use iTunes. You can see how to do that here.

For Android phones and tablets, try the Stitcher app on Google Play (it’s also in the App Store). Search for the podcast you want to listen to and click the plus sign (+), to add it to your Favorites List. Now go to the Favorites List.  Tell it to download new episodes by clicking the gear in the upper right corner.

The Next Web listed “8 Great Apps for Listening to Podcasts on Android and iOS

Here’s that video from Ira Glass and Mary on how to listen to podcasts.