Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fall drink: Sparkling apple cider sangria

When selecting our fall drink, Thanksgiving was on our mind. We meticulously plan our Thanksgiving food menu in advance, but drinks are always an afterthought. We always default to wine, beer and bourbon. I’m not complaining. Those are all enjoyable beverages, but I wanted to try something a little more festive this year.

Sparkling cider sangria was exactly what I had in mind. Adapting a typically summer drink with fall flavors, such as apple, seemed like a welcome way to transition to the cold months ahead, and the sparkling wine adds a nice celebratory feel, which is perfect for a holiday or special occasion.

A modified, non-alcoholic version of the drink is easy to make for guests not consuming alcohol -  the pregnant host, for example (sorry, Amanda). Just replace the wine with sparkling water, and omit the cognac.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

That song could be a lullaby

When Amanda was pregnant with Ezra our interests in music took a slight detour. We continued listening to the same types of music we always enjoyed, but heard songs from a new perspective. We would listen to a song, in most cases one we had heard dozens or even hundreds of times, and realize, “this song could be a lullaby,” a genre we previously did not need in our lives.

We sing to Ezra to help him fall asleep. This is a playlist of our bedtime songs:

Some of the songs, like Puff the Magic Dragon and Rainbow Connection, are common choices for a lullaby playlist. They are songs from our own childhoods, and Amanda and I probably filed both in our brains long ago as songs we would one day sing to our children. The rest of the playlist came from songs Amanda and I heard while she was pregnant or Ezra was an infant, and we recognized their potential to sedate.

As we look back at the playlist, we realize that the melodies of many of the songs may be calming, but the lyrics less so. The songs deal with intense subjects like social injustice, racism, unfit working conditions, drug use, poverty. These are not peaceful topics, and may explain why Ezra takes so long to fall asleep.

In our defense, the lyrics are pretty subtle. They seem more likely to soak into Ezra’s subconscious and encourage social awareness rather than encourage nightmares. Then again, maybe effective lullabies are meant to unnerve.

The most traditional song in the genre begins with a soon to be slumbering child peacefully rocking to sleep. He then crashes to earth “cradle and all.” Why is the baby sleeping in a tree anyways? This is the type of scenario that would keep me awake at night not put me to sleep.

Now that Amanda is pregnant again, we are thinking about new lullabies. We listen to music, and we search for the songs that might be the perfect addition to our new baby’s bedtime playlist.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What we’re reading: books about the body

Ezra’s first daycare was a parent run co-op. In addition to administrative duties, each family helped provide care to a dozen kids, ages 6 months to 4 years. I worked ten hours a week at the daycare for 2 ½ years, and spent many of those hours reading to the children in a group and one-on-one.

I always enjoyed watching a child fall in love with a favorite book. He or she would come across a specific book that captured his or her curiosity, and we would spend the next month or two reading that same title over and over.  Then, a new favorite book would suddenly replace the old. Each selection was a wonderful glimpse into the child’s developing personality and emerging interests.

My time at the co-op was also a great opportunity for me to learn what types of books attracted different types of kids. The one book that almost every child became fascinated with as they approached the age of four was the Usborne Flip Flap Body Book. Ezra was no longer at the co-op when he reached this age. So, I knew he would not have the opportunity to share the dog-eared copy I had read so many times to his friends, but I couldn’t forget how important this book was to the children at that age. So, I purchased a copy of the book at a used bookstore anticipating Ezra’s impending obsession with the human body.

Ezra was drawn to The Usborne Flip Flap Body Book right on schedule. The book is divided into three sections. The first introduces the parts of the digestion system. The second explains the five senses, and the last focuses on pregnancy and fetal development. Ezra, like his peers, only took a cursory interest in the section dealing with the senses, but he is enthralled with the first and last sections.

The Usborne book provided a wonderful introduction, and encouraged us to find books with even more information about digestion and reproduction. Our search led us to our library where we discovered The Quest to Digest by Mary Corcoran, a fun and fact filled book on preschoolers' favorite topic: how we make poop. You are lead through a tour of the digestive system with plenty of descriptive text explaining each part of the system; the role it plays in digestion; and how it functions.

Corcoran manages to present an amazing amount of information in The Quest to Digest. The book was a great review of the digestive system for me, yet never becomes overwhelming or dull to a young reader.

Ezra, as a big brother-to-be, is becoming more interested in how babies are made. The best book we found on reproduction is not only Ezra’s favorite new book, but mine as well. Where Willy Went by Nicholas Allan is “the big story of a little sperm!”

Where Willy Went is a fun book that focuses primarily on fertilization through a wonderful blend of nonfiction and fiction. All of the facts about fertilization are accurate. The book explains that sperm are created in men; that sperm need to find the egg in a woman; and that the first sperm that reaches the egg unites with the egg and starts cell division that will eventually develop into a baby. All these facts are explained through a storytelling device of Willy, the sperm, preparing for the big race.

What impressed me most about Allan’s book was the perfect mix of story and basic information about reproduction. Because the book primarily focuses on the narrative of Willy, many of the details about reproduction are playfully implied rather than explained in great detail. This allows the child to lead the discussion, and the specifics of the “facts of life” can be elaborated on or overlooked depending on the child’s own curiosity or development.

What else have we been reading? Check-out more "What we're reading" posts:

Moo, Baa, La La La
Peek a Who
Manhood for Amateurs