When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, April 29, 2013

So long

On Saturday morning I flung open many of the windows in our house to let the warm and sunny spring air that had finally arrived flow freely through all of the rooms.  In an instant, the weekend felt completely different than those that had passed in the previous several months.  We spent most of the two days outdoors, cleaning out gardens to make way for new green shoots, riding bicycles, playing baseball in the school's grassy field, grilling our favourite warm weather foods to enjoy for dinner.  The weekend was lighthearted and full of laughter, and it felt like we had suddenly been transported to a new and fun place.  While change is sometimes difficult to accept, this is one transformation that I embrace wholeheartedly every year when the spring season comes to stay.

The sudden shift in seasons this weekend also meant the end of an era in our family's life, though, and that added a bit of wistfulness to what was otherwise a beautiful couple of days. The boys' wooden play structure, that friendly old fixture that has had a prominent place in our yard for years and has provided the backdrop for many a summer's evening of happy adventures, came down for good yesterday. I've known this day was coming since the end of last summer, when it was obvious that the structure was on its last legs, and the decision was firmed up when I noticed on Saturday that the boys' rapidly growing legs were now too long to swing comfortably on it anymore. But I still felt a great pang of sadness when Matt asked me for the nod to go ahead and dismantle it. I remembered so clearly how two very little boys had stood watching excitedly as their dad and their uncle assembled the structure in our backyard one house and many years ago, and while the signs that so much has changed since then are all around me every day, I somehow couldn't believe that my oldest child was already big enough to don work gloves and help his dad carry the worn pieces of wood away. In that instant, it seemed impossible that all those years had passed so quickly.

Life is full of changing seasons, of building and taking down, of growing and moving on.  This is the one thing I am always sure of, and the reason why I try to really live the little everyday moments, so that the joy of knowing them will stay with me even after the experiences themselves are gone.  I'm so glad for all of the memories I have of the boys playing gleefully on those swings and in that fort; I smile over them now as I look out on the empty space where the wooden structure once stood and dream excitedly of the vegetable gardens with which I am planning to fill it.  The space holds the promise of new growth, of new experiences, of new ways of enjoying our summer evenings in the years to come.  Still, it always catches me off-guard to feel just how much it aches when I hear the echoes of laughing little boys flying bravely and barefoot on yellow swings, and realize that the memories are suddenly all I have left.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Let's talk about our gifted children

"Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally."

~Columbus Group~

"Gifted... children are intricate, contradictory, and complex, and the brain that drives them seems to intensify everything they do.  [They] can be exhausting, demanding, and perplexing enigmas.  They often amaze, delight, and confound the adults who know, love, and teach them.  Any day with a gifted child can bring a multitude of intense experiences for the adults who interact with them as well." 

~Living With Intensity, 2009~

I don't often say much about the fact that Matt and I are raising two gifted boys.  Even though Noah and Will's highly developed cognitive abilities and their emotional and physical sensitivities influence all aspects of our family's daily life and leave us asking many questions, I'm usually reluctant to talk outright about these experiences, for fear that my sharing might be misunderstood as some kind of bragging.  Even now as I write these words, I am self-conscious about other parents thinking that I'm only talking about my boys' brains because I'm trying to score some kind of bonus points in the very competitive society we live in today.  In my experience, the word "gifted" seems to make some people bristle.

The truth is, though, that most of the parents of gifted children I've met want to talk about their kids, not to draw attention to their wonderful abilities and potential, but in an effort to find information, understanding, and support around the challenges they face in raising them.   While every gifted child is unique, many of these kids experience life in ways that are hard for others to comprehend.  Along with deep curiosity, intense mental activity, and a rich imagination often come high energy levels that manifest themselves in constant movement and/or talking, heightened senses that can make experiences sometimes seem overwhelming,  and the capacity for deep and intense emotional responses.  (Further reading about Dabrowski's concepts of overexcitabilities in the book Living With Intensity will offer some fascinating insights on these qualities often seen in gifted individuals.)  Gifted children can struggle with anxiety, with perfectionism, with fitting in with children their own age who don't experience and understand the world in the same ways they do, with finding the appropriate educational opportunities to match their talents and abilities.  While it is a wonderful, enriching experience to parent such children, it is also not easy. 

I have been on a fascinating, emotional, and sometimes frustrating journey as Noah and Will's mom; trying to figure out exactly what they need and how to provide it for them has become a real passion of mine.  Today I want to talk about gifted children, and more specifically, where I've been able to find resources to help me parent and educate my own two.  I hope that this will be helpful to other parents who have learned that they have a gifted child and are looking for information and help.


The Association for Bright Children of Ontario (ABC Ontario)'s website is an excellent starting point for parents.  It provides a great deal of information in the form of definitions, articles, links to other useful websites, and opportunities to connect with other parents of gifted children in an online forum.  There are also links to individual chapters of ABC that exist in different cities within the province, so you can find out what is going on for gifted kids and their parents near you.

The Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted site, and the National Association for Gifted Children site are also great resources.

Books:  There are many books written on the subjects of parenting and educating gifted children.  I've found this reading to be incredibly interesting, and several books I've come across so far have provided especially valuable insights.

Being Smart About Gifted Education, 2nd Edition by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster is a wonderfully informative guidebook for parents that addresses what giftedness is and how it develops, answers questions about assessment, discusses the different options for meeting gifted learners' needs in a regular classroom and through alternative options, and suggests how to promote gifted children's well-being with respect to social, behavioural, and emotional concerns.  I found this book really helped me to know what sorts of educational experiences were possible for my boys, so that I could advocate with and for them at their school, working in partnership with them and their teachers to ensure that they continue to be challenged and engaged in new learning.

Living With Intensity:  Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitablility, and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults , edited by Susan Daniels, Ph.D. and Michael M. Piechowski, Ph.D explores the various sensitivities and intense experiences of many gifted individuals in relation to Dabrowski's concepts of overexcitabilities.  This was a very powerful, enlightening book for me that greatly improved my understanding of my boys' emotional needs.

The Gifted Kids' Survival Guide and The Gifted Teen Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith and Jim Delisle are great books to give to and/or read with your gifted children.  The books are full of definitions, advice, quizzes, quotes, resource lists, discussions, and strategies presented in a kid-friendly format to help your children learn more about themselves and how they can thrive.

Community Resources:

I've come to realize over the years that a gifted child's insatiable curiosity and desire to learn and create requires a rich variety of educational opportunities, some of which need to be provided outside of the school setting.  We are fortunate to live in a community that values exploration and innovation, and we have available to us various summer camp and weekend or evening enrichment programs that we take advantage of.  For example, the LEAP program at Wilfrid Laurier University, and ESQ and Math Circles at the University of Waterloo allow curious and highly able learners to explore their interests in engaging and in-depth ways.  We also frequent libraries, museums, and special events in our area so the boys can be exposed to a wide variety of reading materials and interactive exhibits that interest them.  The local chapter of ABC (Waterloo) has also been a good way for our family to learn more and connect with other gifted families:  it offers meetings, social gatherings, and lectures given by knowledgeable guest speakers.  Take a look in your own community to see what kinds of activities, programs, and groups might interest your gifted children.


Sometimes it may be difficult to find all of the answers we need to help our gifted children grow happily.  Engaging the help of a psychologist can provide us with more tools.  In addition to completing a psycho-educational assessment to identify giftedness and any other exceptionalities, and providing recommendations for home and school life, a psychologist can help gifted children (and their parents) cope with perfectionism, anxiety, and other big emotions.  Look for a psychologist who has experience working with gifted children, and one that you and your child feel comfortable talking with.

It is my hope that more parents will be open to talking about their gifted children and what it is like to raise them, so that we may clear up misperceptions about what being gifted means and encourage better understanding and opportunities for children with this exceptionality.  Through sharing our stories, we offer valuable insights and support for one another as we strive to help our children live happy, inspired, and fulfilling lives.

You'll find additional information and suggestions for parents of gifted children in the comments section below.  If you have any of your own to add, please do share them there.  We are all engaged in an on-going learning process!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kale pesto

When I was visiting my mom and dad a few weeks ago, I noticed that my mom still had some cubes of her basil pesto stored in their freezer.  Ever since I saw them I've been longing for the taste of summery pasta dishes tossed with fragrant green.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to track down large bunches of fresh basil this time of year, but what I do almost always have in my fridge these days is a large bunch of fresh green kale, so I figured there was no harm in trying to make a pesto out of that.  I used my mom's basil pesto recipe, making a few substitutions and adding a few new ingredients, and the pesto that resulted was far beyond my expectations!  Infused with the flavours of garlic, lemon, and toasted walnuts, this kale pesto has become a lovely addition to our family's spring meals.

Kale Pesto

2 cloves of garlic
4 packed cups of washed, roughly chopped green kale
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
the juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp sea salt

Drop the cloves of garlic into the bowl of a food processor while the motor is running at high speed.  Turn off the motor, and add the kale, toasted walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sea salt to the bowl.  Process all ingredients at high speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times, until you achieve a pesto with a nice consistency.

Kale pesto is delicious tossed with pasta (I use gluten-free brown rice spaghetti) or vegetables, or spread on a pizza crust or sandwich.  With this delightful lemony green pesto in my fridge now, I won't mind waiting until summer for basil. :) 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Natural consequence

Yesterday Will stayed home from school with me because he wasn't feeling well, so I put my plans to get groceries in the morning on hold until the evening.  I asked Noah to come with me after dinner, because he seemed to have a lot of energy and I knew that his good mood would make the task more enjoyable.  As the two of us were putting our shoes on at the front door, I looked out the window and saw a huge mass of ominous black clouds hanging over our house, and I mentioned to a t-shirt clad Noah that he might want to grab a jacket before we left.  He brushed me off (as he usually does these days whenever I suggest sensible clothing for the current weather conditions), telling me in an exasperated voice that it was hot out and he would be "fine".

I thought about this for a second, and then bit my tongue (a very difficult thing for me to do) and said nothing more.  As a mom of a tween who tries a little more each day to assert his independence, I am trying to learn to choose my battles, and this one didn't seem worth spending any energy on.  We headed out to the car and went on our merry way.

A few minutes later, the sky above us grew even darker and more threatening, and from the back seat I heard a faint little "Uh-oh".  I chuckled (was that mean of me?) and said with mock surprise, "Oh, Noah, it looks like it's really going to rain!". 

Just as we pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store (and I joked that I should probably find a parking spot as far away from the store doors as possible), the heavens opened up and buckets of water came gushing relentlessly out of the sky.  Noah was laughing nervously now, and frantically planning a strategy for how he was going to get from the car to the store doors without drowning.  He took a deep breath, threw open the car door, and took off like lightning, shrieking in a hilarious panic as he attempted (unsuccessfully) to dodge the torrential downpour. 

Once we were both inside (Noah looking sheepish and a bit like a bowl of cereal left standing too long in milk, and me looking smug and dry in my raincoat) we looked at each other and laughed crazily for a good minute together.  I could tell by the look on Noah's face that even though I hadn't made the jacket issue into a battle, somehow I had won.

They say that the best way to have children learn new ways of behaving is through experiencing natural consequences.  I can't think of a more natural consequence for refusing to wear a jacket when the weather calls for it than having to wring out your t-shirt in the grocery cart area and then walk soggily through the store aisles for the next half hour.  Thanks, Mother Nature, for helping me show my eleven year old (with no words at all) that moms still know a thing or two!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I feel as though I cannot say anything here without first addressing the terrible events that happened Monday at the Boston Marathon.  Over the past couple of days, I've been trying to find a way to temper the deep sadness I feel by focusing on the positive details of that day as presented by the media:  stories of people running towards the blasts to offer immediate help to the wounded, reports of marathon runners continuing on to the hospital to donate blood, mentions of the many running groups in all kinds of communities that have since laced up shoes and set to the streets together to honour the victims of the bombings.  There is strength and hope in the idea of runners' feet pounding the pavement in a steady, confident group rhythm; it is a show of human solidarity, an outward symbol for the hearts within us that can all beat in unison when we focus on love.  Deep down I still believe that there is infinitely more good in the world than bad, and that we cannot let our spirits be crushed by the few among us who choose hatred.  We all need to believe this if we are to have any hope for the future of our world.

Today, though, I am still feeling sickened, and tired, and heartbroken.  Sickened that someone could take an event that brings people from all over the world together to celebrate the human spirit and, in an instant, turn it into a horrific shattering of limbs and lives.  Tired of having to once again hide the morning newspapers from my children to protect them from learning too soon just how ugly our world can be.  So deeply saddened to see yet another child's sweet face smiling in a photograph and know that he will never grow up to see his dreams for peace or anything else fulfilled.  It is almost too much to bear.

As we have after each awful tragedy that has happened in our history, we humans will get back up and keep moving forward as the days go on, the memories of what we've lost making us ever more determined to help make our world a kinder, gentler place.  I hope you'll forgive me if I'm not quite there yet, though.  Today, all I really want to do is cry.

Sending love and healing thoughts to all those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

Monday, April 15, 2013

So Delicious Dairy-Free Recipe Contest Entry: Chocolate Banana Pancakes (vegan, gluten-free)

It's no secret that our family is crazy for pancakes; I've mentioned our Saturday morning pancake breakfast tradition several times and have shared a few different recipes for our favourite healthy gluten, dairy, and egg-free versions here over the years.  Apparently we are not the only ones who love a good pancake breakfast, either.  The recipe I shared back in February for chocolate banana pancakes has been one of my most popular food posts on Pocketfuls. (Who doesn't enjoy a little chocolate as part of a nutritious start to the day, right?)  When I saw that Go Dairy Free and So Delicious were teaming up to present a dairy-free recipe contest, I knew right away which recipe I wanted to enter.  Hearty, decadent, and good-for-you too, these chocolate banana pancakes are sure to make your morning a happy one!

Chocolate Banana Pancakes

1 1/2 cups certified pure oats
2 1/2 cups So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage
1 cup ground certified pure oats (I use a Magic Bullet to grind them)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp warm water (stir and let stand to make a gel)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 mashed ripe banana

Pour the coconut milk over the whole oats and let them sit for ten minutes. Sift the ground oats, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, and baking powder together, then add them to the oat/coconut milk mixture and stir to combine. Add the chia seed gel, melted coconut oil, and vanilla, and mix well. Fold in the mashed banana.

Ladle the batter onto an oiled hot griddle. Flip the pancakes when the edges begin to set, and then cook the pancakes on the other side until they are cooked through. (This recipe makes approximately 12 pancakes.)

To serve these pancakes, I topped a stack of them with a dollop of cashew cream*, then added a few fresh strawberry hearts and a sprinkling of finely chopped dark chocolate and drizzled them with pure maple syrup. Oh my.

*You can make cashew cream very easily by blending 1/2 cup of raw cashews with 1/4 cup of cold water in a high speed blender. I soaked my cashews in water in the fridge overnight to make them softer and easier to blend.  

To find other scrumptious dairy-free recipes made with So Delicious products, visit the contest Pinterest board, and vote for your favourites by "liking" them there.  The recipe with the most likes will win a $500 Williams-Sonoma gift card!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weather warning

Last Thursday as I was getting ready to head to the airport before flying to Sault Ste. Marie, it was nine degrees and sunny outside in Kitchener-Waterloo.  There were finally only a few small traces of snow left in hidden corners here and there in our yard, and the grass was even beginning to turn a soft shade of green.  Robins were everywhere, heralding the arrival of warmer weather with their laughing songs, and the brown rabbits who all but disppear throughout the winter months had started making a daily appearance on our lawn once again. 

As my plane began to descend near the Soo several hours later, I was greeted by the most unwelcome sight of white as far as the eye could see.  Snowflakes were swirling in the gray sky and there were banks and banks of crusty snow everywhere that simply refused to melt.  The airport parking lot was a mess of frosty slush after another very recent blast of winter, and I had to brace myself against a chill wind as I walked with my parents to their car.

The whole time I was in the Soo my dad and I joked about the weather (a subject we've teased each other about for years.)  He blamed me for the current conditions, saying I had somehow brought the snow with me and that the weather wasn't likely to improve until I went back home.  I grumbled repeatedly about having to wear BOOTS and a WINTER COAT in April, and reminded him that I had the good sense to live in a place now where April actually means spring.  I mocked the Soo's weather forecast for Wednesday and Thursday of this week when my dad told me that they were going to get another ten to fifteen centimetres of snow, and when I emailed my parents this past Monday to let them know I had arrived home safely, I made sure I pointed out that it was sunny at my house, and that I was wearing shoes while I walked on my green lawn.

Do you want to know what happens when you make fun of the weather misfortunes of others?  This.

I woke up this morning to freezing rain, icy trees and roads, cold winds, and the announcement that schools were closed for the day due to severe weather.  Schools closed, on April 11th, in Southwestern Ontario. 

Happy Spring, everyone!  (For the record, I stayed inside all day with the boys because I refuse to put on my winter coat or boots one more time.)  I think I can hear my dad laughing all the way from the Soo.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

At home

Well hello there!  I feel like I've left things pretty quiet in this space over the last little while, as my posts have been fewer and farther between than usual.  But while you may have been able to hear crickets chirping in the silence here, the past couple of weeks have actually been very lively ones filled with family, laughter, the sharing of favourite old stories and the creation of new ones.  I've enjoyed a chance to spend some time more surrounded by others and less inside my own head than usual, and the break from "normal" has left me feeling more relaxed, more inspired, and more appreciative of just how good my life is.

Over Easter weekend, Matt and the boys and I very much enjoyed the company of Matt's sister Rebecca and her family who came to visit us from Ottawa, and of his brother Nick, who joined us for many of our weekend activities.  We had great fun doing typical Easter things, such as colouring Easter eggs:


We made our own natural dyes again this year, using foods such as beets and red cabbage (which made for especially pretty eggs once they sat in the dye overnight and then were left in an egg carton in the fridge for a couple of days.)  Noah and Will had fun colouring the eggs, but were not too thrilled with the dye making process itself.  Let's just say that boiling pots of beets, cabbage, and cumin on the stove simultaneously does not result in a house that smells spring fresh and lovely.

Hunting for Easter eggs:

Will led his younger cousin over to a place where he knew there was an egg and then let her find it. So sweet of him.

Enjoying big family meals together around a table filled with favourite foods:

There were also some less traditional Easter weekend activities, like rowdy Nerf wars and football matches between kids and uncles that somehow found the uncles wearing child-sized race car and football helmets out of the boys' dress-up box.  I wish I had taken photos of that!

It was a really great weekend, and a wonderful way to celebrate Easter.  We said our goodbyes with full and happy hearts and hopes of all of us being able to visit with each other again soon.

A few days after our holiday guests left for home, I hopped on a plane to Sault Ste. Marie to go and visit my family, and to welcome in person my newest little niece, Helen.  Every now and then it's a wonderful feeling to take a trip on my own, to leave many of my responsibilities behind for just a little while and to focus fully on enjoying the company of people I love whom I don't get to see very often.  My parents and my brothers and their families and I caught up over some lovely dinners and evening cups of tea, and we recalled memories together over the pages of an old photo album.

The weekend was full of sweet moments between parents and children:

(I love the way my dad always makes me feel that even though I'm forty years old, I'm still his little girl, too!)

Grandparents and grandchildren:


And oh, how lovely it was to hold a soft, warm, baby once again!

It was sad to get back on a plane again yesterday, knowing whom and what I was leaving behind, but remembering that I'll be back there again in July with Matt and the boys made it a little easier to say goodbye.

As much as I enjoyed being away, I was also very happy to walk through my own front door once again yesterday.  I suddenly appreciated with fresh eyes the comfortable familiarity of our home, and I was very touched to find a vase of pretty flowers on the kitchen table with a little card signed by three boys who missed me while I was gone.

Last night I felt very content and grateful; my time away allowed me to once again notice and be moved by the many wonderful things I might sometimes take for granted because I experience them often:  Will's wide grin as I greet him after school, his endless chatter about interesting things, and the way his head feels resting on my shoulder while we read a good book together on the big lounge chair in the family room; witty banter and quiet and thoughtful conversations with Noah, who asked all about baby Helen yesterday and who suddenly strikes me as being suspended in a magical place between young and old;  Matt's easy and wonderfully familiar company and all of the kind and caring things he does for me.  I'm so very glad for the blessing of knowing so many different people and places that make me feel at home.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fresh Start: A Handful of Healthy Recipes to Kick Off Spring

Every year when spring rolls around I find myself enjoying the process of making small changes:  pulling lighter clothes and footwear out of storage to wear, reorganizing areas of our home and adding some bright little touches to its decor, feeling more enthusiastic about getting exercise outdoors.  Do you sense it too?  In the same way that everything in nature begins to grow and bloom anew this time of year, spring can inspire all of us to turn over a new leaf, encouraging us to make changes in our lives that will improve our feelings of happiness and good health.

I often hear people talk about how they would like to change their eating habits in some way, and what better time of year than spring to take a leap in this area?  Spring is when I often start dreaming of vegetable gardens and farmer's markets and meals made with fresh foods in every colour of the rainbow; the wide variety of healthy edibles that will be available in abundance in the coming months provides a great source of inspiration.  It doesn't have to be a difficult process to move towards healthier eating, and it doesn't have to happen overnight.  Tulips and crocuses take time to grow from tiny green shoots pushing their way through cold spring soil into beautiful blooms, and adopting healthier eating habits can be a similar process of growth.  Starting with small, manageable changes (learning a delicious way to prepare a new-to-you vegetable, replacing one unhealthy packaged food you habitually eat with something homemade that's more nutritious, remembering to drink more water) can provide a feeling of accomplishment that may serve as a catalyst for further positive changes.

Today I thought I'd share a handful of healthy recipes from previous posts on Pocketfuls, foods that our family really enjoys.  I hope that if you're looking to make some changes to your eating habits that you might find inspiration in these recipes, too!  (Click on the highlighted food titles to be taken to the corresponding recipe.)

No pomegranates to be found this time of year?  No problem!  I recently made this oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, raspberries and walnuts instead of apples, pomegranate, and pecans.  It was naturally sweet and so delicious!

Has the arrival of spring inspired you to make some changes to how and what you eat?  Have you got a delicious healthy recipe to share?  I'd love to hear from you!