Category Archives: Parenting

Wondering in the Pancake Aisle (with more parentheses)

IMG_7528Sometimes I wonder, in this supposed season of wonder, if my family would notice if I served them pancakes for dinner every night during the next three weeks. Something tells me my kids would be thrilled, especially if I used white flour.

The reason I wonder is, for nearly six months, meal ideas are unbelievably bereft. The refrigerator is empty too. If you took a peak (now you can) about all you’d find is a jar of pickles, a dozen egg box with only one left, half a bottle of milk, a dehydrated bunch of parsley, one-quarter bowl of left over cranberry sauce, various jars of several-year-old containers of jams, jellies, and mustards, an almost empty tube of wasabi, and an empty butter dish.

In the bread drawer are several empty bags (reminds me of the butter dish) with only the heal remaining.

But the bean drawer is, well, full of beans, and millet, and barley, and a bunch of other grains that, while on a vegan jag in June, and in a bit of inspiration while standing in the bulk food isle, I bought and, for a time soaked and cooked regularly, and now I am sick of beans.

Up until this summer, right around the time of the vegan vacation, for years, I cooked chickens (the indoor kind) two or so times a week and had a regular supply of broth and makings for stews and sauces. We’d eat something different every night. I’d pour over cookbooks (sometimes literally) looking for interesting recipes, and then cook them, enjoying nearly every minute of the creativity.

Of late, (and probably only me cause I don’t think my family notices) I am amazed when I can still put something on the table, cause inside I’m wondering if it will actually happen.

Food is an issue for many people these days. Most of my mom friends share they too live in a desert for ideas. And speaking of that, is it our job to create meal after meal that’s interesting? No! So onward to pancakes, and no I’m not going to puree and then add spinach and kale so the kids will get “their” vegetables. Because then I won’t get the meal prep reprieve I’m craving.

Here are three questions:  Any place in your life where there are no more ideas? Oh and what’s for dinner? Could we join you?

Reading to A Village

IMG_0327The reading hasn’t started. Curious about the audience, it spans from ages two to 65 or 70, I wonder how to reach them all. “Do you like to write?” I ask a seven-year old girl? “Here’s what it’s like in my two-boy club home,” I confide with another mom, comparing notes about her two energetic girls and my two sons.

Los Gatos, California’s Village House of Books, a cozy house-like bookshop of nook-sized rooms filled from floor to ceiling with books of all shapes and sizes, perfect for browsing and buying, invited me last Saturday, November 16, to read MOM*ME.

“I like telling stories, but I don’t like (and then the seven-year old mimes the motion of holding pencil and writing words on a pretend page).” I know what she means, cause my kids used to feel reticent about the mechanics of putting pen to paper.

“How long did it take to write the book?” another mom asks. “The ideas came in bits over time,” I tell her, wanting to convey an accessible project that can be completed, “…It took four years, but that’s cause I’m a mom.” The audience giggles. “Kids could create a book much faster,” I reassure, “All those moments I used to fritter away, are committed now to writing” Heads nod in understanding. “How long to publish it?” another audience member asks. “About nine months,” I explain. And then the reading, “My mommy is not a tissue…” I begin.

Visit Village House of Books. You won’t be disappointed. See you in April when I return for a second reading just before Mother’s Day. As for the seven year old, I got to sign her book, “Happy reading — and writing,” was my message! IMG_0330

Homestead School

lettuce, berries, peppers_6135 copy

When my husband and I decided to take out the front lawn and use that space to grow vegetables, I leapt into the project. Same thing happened when we got chickens. Asked what I wanted for my birthday, I raised the coop idea, happened upon some chicks for sale on Mother’s Day and bought them—before my husband and the kids had even razed the yard to build the chicken house.


snow peas_0868 copysizedFirst planting began one fall four years ago when I sewed one crop — a package of snow pea seeds—in two large planters housed on concrete pavement in the backyard. These first plants yielded two to three bowls of peas. Crunchy and yummy, they lured my then seven-year old outside to graze in the garden—well, terracotta planters.

Since then, our 6,000 square foot yard has been through much resting, revamping, and rejuvenating, and sometimes many months of fallow. All along my gardening goal has been to create a circle of planting, eating, and composting from the plants out front, to the kitchen table, to the side yard and back to the garden.

“Plant something rather than nothing at all,” is my motto. The result is many salads and even some meals that are completely off the grocery store grid. This fall, we are still enjoying salad every night from 24 lettuce plants started mid summer.

In our four years, we’ve grown tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, oregano, thyme, lemon verbena, calendula, nasturtium, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries. And in an old sandbox, we dug in potato starters (homemade from under the kitchen sink).  Also in the backyard are four chickens that lay many eggs


A A science_6137 sizedcopyHomeschooling germinated like homesteading; it began in the kitchen because I wanted our kids to eat healthy food. I was concerned that once they started school, they would be enticed by packaged food, and lose interest in vegetables, fruit, and homemade lunch.

I also wanted them to play outside and all over the house and—as much as possible— to stay away from television and computers. I wanted them to invent their own games and stories.


Our homeschooling family is a bit more organized than our gardening. We’ve always studied math and writing, and have some history and science in the mix. We play sports and music. We don’t always have a happy idealistic group at the kitchen table eagerly factoring rational numbers and exploring the Lewis and Clark trail or another historical journey, but in our best moments the kids and I are learning to study, and converse, and write about it.

Alex Doug measure for deck_6162 copyAnd I adjust every minute. Just yesterday I finally realized that I needed to ask my younger son how many math problems he could do before he ran out of steam.

“Eight,” he told me as he whipped through them in five minutes, and then pointing said, “If I finish quickly, I can do this page too,” confirming he wasn’t trying to squirm away from doing more.

I also realized that if I wanted my older son to fully answer his biology questions, I needed to clearly explain how to do it. Probably seems obvious to some, but for me, it took a while. So, I told him what was expected, and he agreed saying, “I get it mom.” And away he went.

Homeschooling can be hard, but it’s also great. I’m constantly interrupted and often challenged, but every morning I get one, sometimes two, requests to sit on the couch as we wake up, and even in our toughest moments, there’s always the understanding that we’ll come back together.

Our threesome still eats lunch together, and there’s still quite a bit of home cooking.


Lately there’s even time for gardening. After all, until you can manage more than eight math problems, you have time for measuring wooden boxes, mixing vermiculite with compost and peat, and sweeping yard clippings.


Post by Peggy O’Mara



Two Boy Club

photoMoms with two boys form  a club, and we recognize membership like no one else.

“How many kids do you have?” moms ask when they first meet. “Two boys,” we share, and in one boiling point second, understand.

Alas, in my home, there’s never been interest in sitting and sticking colorful pom-poms on construction paper. The boys are more likely to wrestle, tussle, push, play tricks, walk fast arm in arm, talk and talk and talk and explain, both at the same time, and then, at least around here, support, advise, and wrestle some more.

We three create a triangle that, for a while, was so pointy I considered getting a dog to square things — pull the energy toward the center rather than tilted like a tippy boat.

Sitting at the top of the triangle, or, perhaps thinking I was, felt like trying to hold hands in an equilateral form while the other two were pulling the shape into an isosceles or scalene, that was an, at times, acute, sometimes right, and often obtuse, angle.

Older two brother families wrestle, jostle, and push too, but mom is bit more to the side. This summer I saw two boys sharing and shoving along a path. I searched until I found the nearby mother’s eyes. Her boys were 15 and 16. We understood  our two-boy club.

Any family club you are or were a member of?

They’ve Got My Number, and I’m Changing It (with lots of parenthesis)

My kids know I love to make them happy, and they use that information to their advantage. I do too. As a seasoned reporter friend said, “When your subjects criticize your stories, you’re doing a good job,” I think that feedback from our kids is helpful (to them) too.

My sister told me once one of her teenagers got too feisty (well maybe more than once) on a hot afternoon and not only missed the swimming pool outing, but also had to sweep the front porch. Interestingly, when the family got home, her child was reading peacefully in the living room.

“Raising children is like taming wild animals,” a friend advised. I squirmed at the taming wild animal part, but got the idea and decided that for me it’s more like pruning Swedish ivy. Plants gets scraggily at times and parts of them need to be pinched, clipped, or squeezed off to remove the leggy unruly portions. They grow healthier when they’re not getting the rule of the fence.

Now rest assure, I neither pinch (except when hiking and checking for dehydration — – kidding — we bring water) nor remove things from my kids (except when in the woods, and someone gets a tick). And I don’t squeeze, (except when hugging), or clip (except when cutting hair). But I do notice when I need to say, “No,” and I do, even when I know it would make them happier if I said yes, they settle in better. We all need a little grooming from time to time eh? Got a number you’re changing?


Eyeball Help

“Mom, I need help,” my 13 year old says.

I walk to the math page, sit beside him, and watch.

“Oh, now I get it. Thanks Mom,” he says, head still in the book.

Helped, but didn’t do anything.

“Mom, can you come mere?”

I appear at the erector set building table of my 11 year old.

“Oh, here’s the missing part,” he says, hands and fingers onto the next step.

“Mom, you still awake, I can’t sleep,” a kid calls.

I walk to his room. I sit by his bed. Sometimes I put my hand on his back. Other times I sit and watch.

“Ok, I’m sleepy now,” groggily, he says.

All done, for now.

Sometimes the eyes do have it.











Ever track your child’s height on the door molding? Mark it with a pencil on his birthday? I have.

But when’s the last time you looked at your child’s hands; noticed the dexterity they use to untangle a knot on their yo-yo, the stretch they have to play the next piano chord or some other skill they are learning?

When my kids were infants, they had long slender fingers that reached and batted at mobiles and homemade aluminum foil balls. Their six-month old hands held things like string and cylinder blocks, and sometimes their mom’s and dad’s pointer finger.

Their toddler and three-year old hands were pudgy and squishy. They opened a board book, held a spoon, threw and dropped a ball, squeezed a stuffy and sometimes a parent’s hand.

One day, maybe about the time my kids knew how to hold a pencil, draw, or write a word or two, I looked less often at their hands.

But of late, occasionally, I stop and observe them.

It’s not just their height that increases; their hands grow too. And if I don’t pay attention, one day, their child hands will have matured into adult hands. I don’t want to miss that.

What do you notice as your children grow?



Mother’s Day Advice

I listen to what people say and file away pieces of advice from nearly everyone. I rarely get advice from my mother. She’s never been one to tell me what to do, so when she does, I take note. Once she told me something quite simple:  As you get older, you have less flexibility about moving to new places and pursuing any interest you want, especially if you get married, and have children. She was right.

Of late, I’m amazed at how little time I can devote to my interests. But here’s something I’ve learned. Even though it’s difficult to make time for my projects, when I scrape aside a teeny bit each day, over a month or two, I can accumulate quite a pile of it.

Case in point:  Recently I committed to gardening 15 minutes each day for a month. Every day I’d carry my stopwatch, trowel, weeder, and gloves to the front yard, set the timer for 15 minutes and get to work. One day I weeded the section for strawberries, the next I planted. Another day I prepared an area for tomatoes, the next I potted. Some days I couldn’t get in my 15 minutes until after dark. Several evenings, I weeded the sidewalk strip by streetlight.

But did you know you can plant a 6-pack in 15 minutes? And you can fill 7 terracotta pots in the front of a garage in ¼ hour? Each day I chose a new area of my yard and each day I saw progress. Fifteen minutes a day over two months accumulated to 15 hours, a chunk of time I never would have been able to have all at once.

I have other projects in the cue:  more writing and theater. And I have grander ideas too.

I like to think I could use this 15-minute project technique to start a quiet revolution. I imagine things in the world outside my home that could be accomplished by working on them 15 minutes a day.

So feel free to take this mother’s advice. Our time may become less flexible as we get older, but if you have dreams and hopes perhaps you too could carve out a bit of time and plant your garden.