Slow Down Summer!

By: Jessica Aldred

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this, but where is summer 2015 going?! It seems like school just ended last week and here we are approaching the mid-point of summer vacation already. My older kids are certainly enjoying their time at camp and the nice weather, but I feel like I haven’t had time to stop and enjoy it with them. It seems like every day is a repeat of the last (much like the school year), unpack backpacks, repack with fresh towels, bathing suits, etc., pack lunches, dinner, baths and off to bed. What ever happened to the rest and relaxation that summer in New England used to provide? I’m wiped!

Knowing myself and our manic lifestyle, I intentionally built a few weeks into our summer where we don’t have a full week of firm plans. In the latter half of summer there will be family trips and outings to enjoy. There will be spontaneous trips to the beach or playground and random stops at local ice cream pool-690034_1280joints. Between all the snow we had this past winter-that pushed the school year further into summer- and an early start this coming fall, summer is literally 9 weeks and 1 day for my children this year. It’s near impossible to squeeze in all our standard summer activities that they’ve come to know, love and expect never mind adding in new activities or time with newly developed friendships.

They enjoy being busy and I enjoy when they’re having fun and burning their energy off, but I could totally go for some low key pool days. Just a few lazy days where we throw in the towel, order pizza, and let the laundry pile up bit. I envision sitting by a glistening pool while the baby naps and my boys perfect their cannon balls. I long for time spent chatting with other parents with no timeline, no pick-ups, bed times or commitments sparking an end to the day.

Much of the blame for our manic lifestyle lies with me, but with three little boys staying home and relaxing is really not an option. It would be better phrased as ‘stay home and fight with each other’, ‘stay home and nag me for a snack every 5 minutes’ or ‘stay home and tell me how bored you are because we actually have a down day’. I know someday I’ll look back and miss these super busy times when my kids were bubbling over with excitement for the next day’s activities and when they needed me for every little thing. There soon will come a time when they outgrow me, are too cool for me and would rather spend their summers with their friends. So for now, manic it is! I’ll slather the sunscreen, over pack their bags and keep their minds and bodies fueled and busy. After all, there will always be time to rest and relax later. Right?

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Mom’s Trip to the ER

By: Martianne Stanger

Last week closed with drama for me as strange, sudden discomfort in my pelvis and back turned to acute pain that landed me in the ER for the day.  All’s well now, but, I will tell you, that having such sudden, severe pain come on when I was home alone with my children was daunting.

I think I was more concerned about getting care for my kids than I was about dialing 9-1-1 for myself.  I just could not bear to call for an ambulance until I knew that my children were safely in the care of someone we knew. Thankfully, I have a wonderful neighbor who answered her door and came right over.

Just as thankfully, my husband was able to leave work almost immediately upon hearing about my plight, and my parents, too, came to our instant aid.  My mom drove over to my home to relieve my neighbor from watching my children, so that she could get on with her day, and my dad went straight to the hospital to meet me shortly after I arrived in the ambulance.  He stayed with me there until my husband could get there.

Other family and friends offered love, prayers and support as soon as they heard about what was happening.

And, of course, ambulance and hospital staff took great care of me.

So it was, even as I suffered through physical pain, I was immersed in gratitude.  When Momma went to the ER, her network of support was strong.  I am truly blessed.

I pray that other moms, dads, adults and children who need emergency care are buoyed up by such support, too.

May you stay healthy, and, should you not, may you at least be held in literal and figurative hands of love, service and skill.

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Simple Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Bacon

By: Kathy Trainor 

This easy corn salad makes a great addition to any meal or serves as a great side dish to bring along to a summer cookout.



2 bags of frozen sweet shoepeg corn, thawed

3 large Roma tomatoes, diced

2 scallions, chopped finely

1/2 large red onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

Handful of Cilantro, chopped

4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 TB olive oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste


1. In a large bowl add corn, tomatoes, scallions, red onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and bacon. Stir to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

2. Let chill, or serve as is.


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Avoiding the Summer Slide

By: Sandy Churchill

Many cringe if the word “school” is somehow mingled into a discussion about the joys of summer vacation. But a sad truth is the near-inevitable “summer slide” where a good chunk of learning is forgotten in the heat and expanse of July and August days. I’m the first one to say this is largely preventable—and not in the dusty heat of summer school! Of course, this is not an argument for stacks of textbooks or a moratorium on beach time, playgrounds, and picnics.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 6.08.56 PMRather, it is a call to invite learning, summer-style! Free Fun Fridays (sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation), local concerts, library programs (not to mention discount passes to zoos, museums, and other ‘field trips’) are a great way to squeeze in some history, delve into fine art, or otherwise engage in fun learning and adventure.

Showcase Cinemas merges reading and movies by offering four “Bookworm” events on Wednesday mornings in July that are free for kids and their chaperones, provided each child submits a one-page book report in place of a movie ticket.

This year’s summer library theme of superheroes has spurred programs spanning Greek mythology, science wizards, pet care, and even local war heroes.

At our house, we’ve made a long-time practice of asking the kids to share three facts they learned at any zoo, museum, or other excursion during the car ride home. Despite an occasional bit of eye-rolling and a rare groan, they quickly learned to be on the lookout for cool facts and odd tidbits of information that kept them attentive as they wandered through zoo exhibits, art displays, or museum halls. Want to up the difficulty level? Have mom and dad play too—and no fact can be repeated twice!

Summer gazebo concerts are offered in nearly every town across the state of Massachusetts, providing a free musical “field trip” through the genres of jazz, Big Bands, rock, pop, reggae, classical, and theatrical hits.

Got a reluctant writer? How about launching a super-short summer journal program where a certain number of daily entries lands your son or daughter a reward—extra screen time, a pool party, mini-golf, or a trip for frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Pop in audiobooks in the car and those frequent beach trips or errand runs fill your drive time with literary magic!

Posted in field trips, kids, learning, Sandy Churchill, summer slide | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bean Salad

By: Rachel Ventura 

Looking for something healthy, filling and delicious to eat? Look no further!! This is perfect to bring to parties and cookouts, to make as a side dish for dinner, and you can even top your green salad with this and no dressing would even be needed!

Bean Salad:

1 can black eyed peas

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

½ red pepper, chopped

½ yellow pepper, chopped

½ orange pepper, chopped

¼ small red onion, chopped

1 jalepeno, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 TBS raw honey

beansalad1Drain and rinse all beans.


Mix all ingredients together and chill.


Enjoy this beautiful, delicious, healthy salad!!

*You can add or substitute ingredients to your liking. Don’t like a certain kind of beans? Switch it out for another. The last time I made this, I forgot to get celery, but had an English cucumber, so added ½ of one, chopped. It was good! I also sometimes add the juice from 1 lime, or 1 lemon, whatever you have, and some fresh, chopped cilantro, very yummy additions. You really can’t go wrong with this one. Mangia!

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Chasing Frogs

By: Jessica Aldred

Today I walked barefoot through the mud. I dropped small rocks in big puddles. I watched a wide-eyed little boy study a caterpillar and startle at the sight of a frog jumping. I watched a toddler experience nature, get filthy and squeal with delight. Despite an entirely too busy life, I took the time to hold his hand and stomp in puddles, to study things for the Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 5.26.01 PMfirst time and to appreciate his inquisitive nature. Perhaps I did all these things with my first son, but I certainly did not with my second. I had two kids under 2 when he was born and we were in damage control mode (to put it mildly.)

While I do harbor some inner guilt over not having the time to truly enjoy my middle son as I have with my 1st and 3rd, I do my best to take the time now. In the middle of a busy day, I try to give them the 1:1 attention they need and take time to head outside and embrace the little things. We wander to our central mailbox, we make caterpillar houses and all those other things that a mom of only boys learns to love. These are things I intended to do with all my children but time, work, stress –you name it- always seem to get in the way.

I’m far from the perfect parent, but I have come to realize that I can only do the best I can with the situations I’m given. If that means 20 minutes wandering around the yard exploring, I’ll take it. If that means lying in bed talking about our summer plans, I’ll certainly take that too. I signed up to be a mom to these three mini-me’s and, to them, I’m one of the most important people in their world. If I don’t take the time to talk about the shape of their bruises or the bug on the ceiling, they won’t think I’ve got the time or patience to stop and listen to the increasingly important things that they’ll need to talk to about in the future.

I’m a planner and while sometimes that gets the best of me, when it comes to my kids and planting the seeds for their teenage years, I’m well aware of what I’m doing. I’m creating a foundation of trust, patience and an open door that they can feel free run through whenever they feel the need. In theory, I’m adding upon their natural instinct to trust your mother and value her input so that, as we approach more difficult developmental times, they innately come to me with whatever is on their minds.

It starts with long stints chatting during bath time and dancing to silly songs in the kitchen. And hopefully, it ends with respectable young men who value their mother as a confidant and friend. I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to lay this ground work while they’re so young. What tips or tricks do you have for building strong relationships with your little ones?

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SPD DIY: Geoboards

By: Martianne Stanger

This post first appeared  in 2012 at the now defunct SPD Blogger Network blog.  I am re-sharing it here since the idea makes for a fun and easy DIY activity that can be adapted to any season.  Plus, it can be made with children and, then, used just about anywhere — in the car, at a park, on a rainy day inside, out on the lawn on a blanket…

Image Credit: Training Happy Hearts

This morning, just after I hung up from a phone call, my son called out, “Mom, there’s a little, sharp piece of glass on the floor.”  Knowing his baby brother and sister were in the room with him, I rushed to see what they had all gotten into, thinking maybe they’d knocked over a lamp. Instead, I found a glass broken half-in, half-out of the closet, surrounded by spilled ball pit balls.

My face betrayed my frustration and surprise. Glasses belong in the kitchen, not in the bedroom closet. My son explained, “Mom, I didn’t think it would actually beak.  I was just pretend-smashing it.”

Ahhh.  Breathe.  Don’t yell.  Try to keep the sharpness out of your tone and move everyone to safety so you can clean this mess. I coached myself.  Meanwhile, the phone rang, the Behavior Modification Specialist who had just arrived came into the room and, in less than 30 minutes, what had been a decent morning began to dissolve into chaos. (Isn’t that what always happens when you take one phone call, then troubleshoot what happens while you’re on the phone, just to have the phone ring again?)

Luckily, the chaos was short-lived and the clean-up a bit easier with our Behavior Mod specialist present as back-up.  So, the floor is again safe for walking and the children have been reminded about why we keep glasses in the kitchen even when Mommy is not home. (The glass, I understand, was brought to the kids’ room the night before while I was at work.) 

No harm was done.  In fact, there was a boon to it all: a sensory DIY was brought to the forefront of my mind.

What’s that DIY? A Geoboard!

It’s pretty obvious from the glass incident that my children are needing some pounding input.  So, I am thinking of adapting our Mini-Weather Geoboard from a few springs ago to a winter activity by making some new boards and adding a snowflake shape into the mix.

Image Credit: Training Happy Hearts

Want to do similarly?  It’s not difficult:

Just get an old block and some push pins. Start each pin, and then if your child is up to it, let him or her hammer the pins in the pins the rest of the way. Make sure you wear goggles and use common sense because sometimes the pins will split or shatter. Or, you can also use a piece of scrap wood with nails or screws. Then grab some elastics and draw a snowflake shape on a card and you’re all set!

Depending on the size you make your geoboard, you can even make it into a Montessori-and-SPD-inspired activity bag, like this one we made before:

Mini Weather Geo-Board (Proprioception, Sensorial)

Image Credit: Training Happy Hearts

Proprioception activity for fingers (stretching rubber bands isolates the index and middle fingers and provides traction to those fingers), which helps with control of movement, reinforcement of shapes, motor planning, etc.

Activity Directions: Using the picture-word cards, try to create similar outlined shapes with the elastic on the mini geo-board.


(1) Make shapes freely.

(2) Use multiple elastics and layer the shapes.

(3) As a hammering or construction activity, make larger geo-boards together using scrap wood and nails or push pins.

(4) Practice numbers by challenging child to put elastic around a certain number of push pins.

(5) Use tweezers or other “pincer” grasp objects to move the elastic about.

Control of Error: unable to create shapes to own satisfaction

Bag Includes: 1 miniature block-and-push-pin geo-board, 1 elastic, 4 picture-word cards

Source Inspiration: Montessori Services

Seasonal Connection: seeing shapes in spring (or winter)

WARNING: Although intended for children to use somewhat independently, this activity includes a plastic bag, which may pose a suffocation hazard if placed over head and small objects which may present a choking hazard. Adult supervision is required.

Have fun, and please share your own sensory DIY ideas — especially ones the kids can be involved with making. Such activities not only speak to my son’s needs, but build on his strengths (while keeping him from breaking more glasses.)  Thanks!

UPDATE:  Sensory diet activities and other strategies have done wonders!  We have not had the need for Behavior Modification Specialists in our home for year and, thankfully, no one hammers at glasses anymore.  Mishaps, of course, still happen.  When they do, I do my best to reflect on what the root cause of the mishaps is and to act and react accordingly, just as I did the day this post was still written.  When I do, it helps so much!

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