My husband was born with a gift: he’s absurdly coordinated. Give him a ball, a bat, a racquet or a club and he’s in his element.
Thank goodness, because with him donating half their genes, our kids have at least a fighting chance. They need him to offset my DNA, which is pretty much coded for clumsiness. I stumble over nothing, collect random bumps and bruises all day and have even broken a bone while walking around my house. And sports? Let’s just say I’m still the last kid picked.
It’s no small wonder, then, that we’re together. Through courtship and the early years of our marriage, he was always out mixing it up on some field, course or court. Not to mention his marathon bike rides and two-day hikes on the Appalachian Trail or the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. You’d never find him inside, much less cooped up at the gym, which he deemed a spot for muscleheads and uncoordinated folks like me, who needed to sweat it out in a controlled environment. He always maintained he’d rather be out playing.
But lately, something has changed. The poor guy is falling apart. He’s got weak ankles; early signs of arthritis; and, at 6’4”, a back and neck perpetually inflamed by living in spaces designed for much shorter people. What’s worse, a round of golf can put him practically in traction, and jumping for a fly ball while coaching our son’s Little League team recently landed him in a neoprene ankle brace, hobbled for three months. (more…)
Water buffaloes, yaks, goats, mares, cows and even soybeans make it. You can eat it, sip it like a soup, or drink it as a drink. It’s yogurt – beloved by dieters and made famous by happy, bearded nomads living past the ripe age of 100. Yogurt made its appearance on American shelves in the mid 20th century, but it’s been around for thousands of years and is a staple in diets around the globe, including our own. Walk into the most remote of gas stations in the smallest of communities and you’ll find a container or two of this creamy concoction.
Many cultures claim yogurt as their own and each has a special recipe variation. It’s curious to think of how the first yogurt came into being. Who was that daring young herdsman carrying dairy in his goatskin bag on a warm summer’s day, suddenly deciding to give his soured milk a try? And would you be brave enough to try anything you thought had turned a biological corner?
Thankfully, someone did and now we get to benefit from the experience. Many yogurts contain live bacterial cultures that break down the milk sugar (lactose) to produce lactic acid, which gives it its refreshingly tart flavor. Breaking down the lactose is good news for lactose intolerant people, many of whom are able to eat yogurt without ill effect. Your body needs a certain amount of good bacteria to keep the body healthy and some yogurts contain these bacteria. (more…)
The days grow shorter, the morning air nips, and my three children prepare to head back to school. Signs of Autumn? Absolutely. But before we settle to fleeces and apple picking, we first have to navigate that tricky time of year I call “check-writing season.”
Launching two middle schoolers and a third grader into the academic year has turned me into a human cash machine. Almost daily, I’m shelling out for sports, activities, instrument rentals, PTA memberships and fundraisers. Not to mention school supplies, clothes and the sequined sneakers my daughter absolutely needs.
Luckily, with a few simple strategies, I’ve stemmed the September cash leak to a manageable trickle. (more…)
It was great while it lasted.
My kids have floated through the past six weeks in a haze. Baseball…camp…lazy afternoons at the beach…meandering bike rides…sleepovers… day trips. It’s been an idyllic summer.
But today, the party is just a tiny bit over. I’m not talking about heading back to school; we’ve still got a couple weeks to go for that. This bright sunny morning they are being made miserable by nothing other than their summer math packets.
Along with suggested reading lists, our school district provides grade-appropriate worksheets to sharpen students’ math skills over the summer. This helps stem “summer slide,” where even good students lose academic ground, particularly in math. Unlike summer reading—which is a beloved tradition in our house—summer math often leaves me feeling like a taskmaster. One year I actually scrapped the packets altogether and spent the summer teaching them card games. Yes, my boys learned their addition facts playing Black Jack. (more…)
Until recently, I thought “core” meant the center of an apple. I certainly never identified it as a part of my anatomy. But evidently, I too have a “core.” And boy, did it need work.
I’ve never jumped on new exercise fads. I know my limits. I’ve always been far too clumsy for the fancy footwork of kickboxing, aerobics or dance. Instead I stuck to cycling class and weights, which kept me strapped in or safely planted on the ground. It turns out, however, that my clumsiness is partly the result of a flimsy core. Simply put, the core encompasses the abdominal, back, pelvic and hip muscles that provide stability and balance. They can be weakened by underuse, aging and, certainly in my case, pregnancy.
My fitness-instructor friend, Lauretta, recommended suspension training. Designed to strengthen core muscles, this class looked like circus school: people were hanging in all sorts of tortuous positions–pikes, pull-ups, lunges and worse. They had their hands and/or feet in long straps clipped to the ceiling and were using gravity and body weight for resistance. Yikes.
I was terrified, but enrolled anyway, certain I’d topple over once I got in the straps. And that’s exactly what happened. But I got up, and spent the next two months holding the wall for balance. I also couldn’t keep myself in the plank position for more than five seconds, much less do a push up while down there. It was brutal. (more…)
My eight-year-old daughter spends more time upside down than right side up.
Cartwheels, backbends, flips…and then there are the handstands. I’ve got footprints on every eye-level wall in this house. I feel like I’m living in a gymnasium.
I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. As a pre-schooler, Anya’s favorite activity was shimmying up the inside of a doorway with her hands and feet. I’d walk into a room to find her hanging out up at the ceiling, suspended like a spider. We almost lost a few babysitters over that one.
She’s also quite the escape artist. Anya was the only one of our three kids who managed to climb out of her crib (her older brothers being too lazy and/or rotund to free themselves). Another time, her dad and I made the mistake of walking out the kitchen when she was in the high chair; within minutes, she had slithered out of the belt, motored across the table and was literally hanging from the chandelier. Naturally, she hated to be confined; I had to muscle her in to her car seat every day. After one mighty struggle I looked back to see that–while technically still buckled in–she’d unlatched the entire seat from the car, effectively turning herself into a human projectile. (more…)
My brackets are busted.
A couple of upsets and I’ve now got zero shot at this year’s NCAA pool jackpot. But being out of the money isn’t so bad; I still get to watch the hoop dreams unfold with my friends, many of whose teams are still hanging in.
In a sports world defined by lockouts, salary caps, endorsement deals and trade deadlines, the NCAA basketball tourney is a breath of fresh air. Most of these kids aren’t going pro—they’re playing for the love of the game. They’re taking their best shots, and it’s a delight to see. Best of all, the tournament is a great excuse to shake off the dregs of winter and gather with friends to watch and wager.
My buddy Andy is the Grand Master of March Madness. For the past 20 years, he has scheduled his annual “TV Vacation” just in time for the Sweet Sixteen playoffs. He and his pals gather at his place for a day-long marathon of food, drink and basketball on the giant flat screen. Over the years I’ve seen people come early…come late…come with spouses, children, neighbors and even work colleagues in tow…but they all show up for this can’t-miss party. And everyone brings food, typically of the frat house variety.
My 12-year old is a picky eater. And I don’t mean won’t-eat-his-green-beans picky. I mean only-eat-ten-different-foods-drive-me-crazy picky. I’ve heard all the advice: offer everything…don’t give choices…he won’t let himself go hungry. So have…and I don’t…and he will, in fact, choose to go hungry. Sigh.
To be fair, he had some sensory issues as a preschooler and got turned off by strong tastes and textures. He is also, to his credit, trying more new foods as he gets older. Or at least attempting to try them.
But, as you can imagine, I’ve had my challenges. It’s hard to get healthy, unprocessed food into a child that doesn’t even like mashed potatoes (what kid won’t eat mashed potatoes?!). Happily, though, for him and me, there is one healthy food he’s taken to from the beginning: popcorn. He eats it by the bowl.
My three kids couldn’t be more different. I’ve got two sons—a thirteen-year-old musician/writer and a ten-year-old sports nut/math whiz—and a seven-year-old daughter who loves hip-hop and art (this week anyway). Partner these diverse personalities with the usual sibling squabbles and it can get a little tough to find family-friendly activities that keep everyone engaged and happy.
Sure, we do Family Movie Night (if they can agree on a DVD) and Family Game Night (if the middle child swears not to embezzle the bank) but I’m always on the hunt for something different. As a mom, what I cherish most are the spontaneous times when we grab a few moments to build, make or do something together. And, because we spend most of our time in the kitchen (meals, homework, pets!) lately we’ve been trying our hands at cooking together.
I’ve got three basic criteria for cooking with my brood: whatever we make has to be simple, delicious and have some redeeming nutrient value. Lucky for me, these yummy Brown Sugar Lolli-Pops fit the bill perfectly. In just a few minutes, we can whip up a treat made with whole-grain popcorn—food I feel great about giving them.
With my busy kids running around, this house sees more than its fair share of play dates. Oh, wait: my middle schooler has banned me from using that term. I’m supposed to say that he and his friends are “hanging out.” Whatever it’s called, I’ve got hungry kids raiding my fridge and pantry several times a week.
Some of these children—thankfully, not mine—have food allergies (mostly to nuts) ranging from slight to severe. There’s only so far I can get offering fruit, and lots of the nut-free cookies and packaged snacks are loaded with fat and sugar. Not to mention, some of the labels can be difficult to interpret. If a product doesn’t actually contain nuts, but is processed in a facility that handles nuts, it can still cause a reaction in a super sensitive child. And while most of my kids’ friends have become fairly good at self-monitoring, there’s always my concern that the allergic child will feel uncomfortably singled out.
I’ve also learned that allergies are not just for kids…and not just to nuts. Several years back, after the birth of her son, my friend Marty grew increasingly ill whenever she ate certain foods. After two years, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition in which the immune system reacts to gluten–wheat protein–and damages the lining of the small intestine. Among other symptoms, celiac disease can cause severe malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. To manage her disease, my friend eliminated all gluten products from her diet…and, if you read labels, you’ll find that gluten is everywhere. I’ve even seen it used in hard candy, as a binder! (more…)