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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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:
Hunting for Easter eggs:
Enjoying big family meals together around a table filled with favourite foods:
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:
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
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!