Friday, February 22, 2013

Fall in love with fruit salad

Last week, Lila's preschool class celebrated Valentine's Day. The students designed their own bags to collect cards, treats, and handmade crafts from their friends. This was the first year that Lila actually crafted her own Valentines-- she wrote a short message in each (copying off of conversation hearts for inspiration and spelling), decorated them with lots of stickers, and signed her name with a heart embellishment (instead of a dot) over her "i." Impressive!

We brought in a delicious Valentine fruit salad to share with her class. We thought this would be a fun, healthy alternative to candy. Lila used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for the watermelon while I cut a "V" in the tops of the strawberries to make them heart-shaped as well.

When I picked Lila up after school, all that was left were the empty containers. She reported that the fruit salad "was a hit!"

The cookie-cutter fruit salad could work for any occasion-- perhaps shamrock melon for St. Patty's Day?

Enjoy! -Tara

Our lovely heart-shaped fruit salad.
I just loved Lila's personalized Valentine messages--
reflective of her technologically advanced generation

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top 10 Valentine's Gifts That We Really Want

Every Christmas, I find adorable, practical, or yummy little surprises to stuff into Lila’s and my husband’s stockings. And every Christmas, my stocking is empty. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a great gift-giver, but he’s not into the extra niceties that I take pride in. I’ve learned not to expect a card and I know that my gift may or may not be wrapped, (it might still be in the bag from the store) but it is always very much appreciated— like the Keurig I use on a daily basis or my Uggs that I practically live in. My husband’s good like that. He pays attention. He usually knows just what would be the perfect gift.
One exception was this past Christmas when we decided instead of exchanging big gifts we would ONLY do stocking stuffers. Lila, of course, had a room full of presents and, the sweetheart that she is, noticed that none were labeled for mommy or daddy.
Mid-paper-tearing, she paused and began to worry—“Didn’t Santa bring you anything?”
“Of course! Santa put our gifts in our stocking this year!”
For Lila’s enjoyment, I exaggerated my excitement as I pulled my “surprise” out of my stocking from my thoughtful husband. It was lacy and red-- Victoria’s Secret?!
Lila was confused. “Mama! Santa brought you… underwear!?!?!”
Nice. A little warning would have been appreciated.
So, now that another gift-giving holiday is just days away, I thought I would share the Top 10 Gifts that moms (or at least this mom) would really want for Valentine’s Day.
10) Nothing. A whole day of nothing! No cleaning, cooking, prepping, packing, wiping up, picking up, loading/unloading… you get the picture. I would love a little time totally by myself.
9) Pampering. A mani and pedi, massage, facial... any spa service is a wonderful, relaxing indulgence! (Well, not any spa service—a Brazilian wax or anything of the sort? Not a good suggestion.)
8) A yummy meal at home. There’s nothing sweeter than a guy who cooks. Breakfast or dinner, even if it’s something simple, sitting down at a nicely set table and being served (and not having to clean up afterwards) scores major brownie points.
7) Something sweet, but special. Chocolate? Yes, please; but preferably not from the local drug store. How about a specialty chocolate shop or a fancy bakery? If you are going to give a box of chocolates or another sweet treat, it should be something irresistible and worth the calories.
6) A custom photo anything. Maybe because I am still a fairly new mom, I love a cute photo of my ‘lil family on a mug, key chain, mouse pad, whatever. Corny as it is, who doesn't like a picture of their sweeties?
5) Something delivered. When the flower delivery guy enters the room, guaranteed every gal in the office perks up and wonders “Are those for me?” This is an easy one and a bit cliché, but it’s sort of charming and reminiscent of the wooing before marriage.
4) A carefully selected card. Trying to find the perfect card takes time. Since we know this, opening a card that expresses the right thing at the right moment in the best way is like gold. Funny or mushy, flowery or short and sweet, it must be sincere and sound like “you.”
3) Something from the little one. I love it when Lila and my husband secretly go out and get mommy a surprise. Something that Lila picked out or something handmade, I just adore the idea that my husband helped her to find a special gift. This is definitely a way to evoke happy tears and to win big hugs and kisses.
2) A real date. My husband pretty much sees me in three types of clothing—work attire, yoga pants, and PJs. It’s nice to dress up once in a while and go out like adults do. A real date, like before we were married, at a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids menu and coloring pages, is so appreciated.
1) A weekend away. I’m a sucker for cute little B&B’s and in New England we don’t have to go far to enjoy a romantic getaway that doesn’t cost much. When I’m home there is always something that needs to be done, cleaned, put away—the only way I can truly relax and spend some QT with the hubby is to just get away for a night!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Acceptance on Ice

Parenting has challenged me to find acceptance for what is actually happening in a given situation even if it is different from what I expected. When we signed Clara up for ice skating classes last winter in January 2012, I envisioned her white ice skates gracefully gliding along the ice and her classes ending with triumphant spins. I'll admit I come from a family of high achievers.

Instead, what happened was that Clara was scared. She was scared of falling, and that meant she was scared of doing virtually anything on the ice because of the potential that she might fall. To try to ease her out of her fear, I wrote and illustrated a hand-made children’s book for her, “Cautious Clara” to help teach her that it was OK to fall, that even though nearly everyone falls when they are learning to skate, that they can get up and keep going.

Fast forward to January 2013. Clara and I went ice skating after a year's hiatus, and we were both delighted to see that she was comfortable on the ice. She triumphantly skated around the whole rink by herself three or four times. She begged for ice skating classes because she loved it so much, and a trip to see "Disney on Ice" helped to reinforce her new passion.

Between last year and this year, Clara advanced from the “Snowplow Sam 1” level class to “Snowplow Sam 2” class. My husband brought her to skating classes and seemed disappointed when he came home that the teachers had split the class in two and Clara ended up in the “remedial” class. I figured my husband was being overly critical. Hadn’t I just seen Clara confidently skating on the ice with me a couple of weeks ago?

Fast forward to class three of Snowplow Sam 2. I went to take a look myself. It was true, Clara was lingering behind the others. Once again, it seemed that her fear of falling was preventing her from fully participating in any move that involved lifting one of her feet off of the ground. She was talented at doing the “swizzle”- moving her feet simultaneously back and forth in a V-shape, but as soon as the teacher asked her to lift one foot or balance on the other, she froze.

My husband and I were not star athletes when we were children, and so why this feeling of disappointment that Clara was not excelling on the ice? For my husband, it was the idea that she wasn’t giving her all by fully trying. For me, it was the idea that perhaps she was learning to be fearful from us and that she might hold herself back in other parts of her life by not believing fully in herself.

Before I could get too wrapped up in my thoughts, Clara skated over to me with a big smile on her face, “Wasn’t I so good today?” She was proud of the improvements she was making. Even though she wasn’t near the top of the class, it was true that she was getting better during each class.

Clara’s ice skating adventure proved to be an opportunity for me to re-examine my expectations and to strive for accepting “what is” whether Clara is at the top of the class or the bottom. From the smile on her face, it was clear that Cautious Clara was turning into Confident Clara despite my hesitations. Now, I just have to find some time to start writing a new book, “Confident Clara,” for my little skater and to remind myself that a happy child is the most important goal I can hope for.