Friday, September 21, 2012


I'm a cheerleader for CHILD'S PLAY...with a particular fondness for cardboard boxes.  Small ones, big ones, and the oh-so-perfect medium-sized ones.


To me, cardboard boxes are more than just corrugated cubes, and the carriers of something new, or basement storage... they are the gateway, the threshold, the precipice (!) to child discovery and imagination. (Warned you about the cheerleader part.)  

All of my children's books advocate good-old-fashion PLAY.  Sans technology. Simple-simple-simple.  Princesses and Super Heroes play inside/outside to their hearts glee.  In Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears? , brother and sister design/build a super sonic rocket ship from a few unsuspecting containers.  Play. Even when things get dramatic.  Play. It is the precursor to creativity.
(See Washington Post article on the importance of play.)

Give a kid some tape, boxes, crayons and scissors (the kid-safe variety) and let 'em roll.  Before lunchtime you will have, in your living room,  a submarine WITH sonar, or a dinosaur museum for T-Rex and Stegasaurus,  or a really awesome time machine, or grocery store.  Add some pulleys and string, and you'll have an elevator.  It's practically guaranteed.  3D at it's finest.  

Cardboard boxes ease the hard edges in a person, and make them more rounded. Bring on the blankies, and those boxes become a quiet haven, with sky lights, for gazing at books.

Granted, the little ones may need help getting things started, but once they glimpse a newly constructed pirate ship... they'll become cheerleaders for cardboard too.  "Arrgghh-Argh-Argh," I mean, "Rah-Rah-Rah."  There's simply no limit to the play potential.

Handspun cities are untidy and cumbersome, but trust me, your dining room will one day, soon, be a dining room again.  And you will, one day, miss the busy cardboard metropolis... and ESPECIALLY you'll miss it's co-creators.

(Nick was the king of cardboard at our house on E Warren Place. Here, at age six, he had just completed the finishing touches on his Sea Hunter.  Yep, 'caught many a shark and eel with that contraption.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ah, music! A magic far beyond all we do here! --jk rowling

Music forges the finer, more delicate compounds of learning, as aptly expressed in a recent guest commentary in The Denver Post, The Importance of Music in Schools.

This, many of us know to be true.  We know it personally.  We know it collectively.  And we know it to be true instinctively.  

It is this writer's hope that it's only a matter of time before public school administrators will lavish curriculums, once again, (or once and for all)  with music, art, dance and literature.   

I learned the flutophone when I was in 4th grade at Walt Whitman Elementary School.  Mrs Woods, the music teacher, taught us The Marine's Hymn using her trusty autoharp to keep us meticulously in time.  It was part of the curriculum. We practiced every day, the flutophone.  

Hardly the violin, or cello, but darn it, the flutophone was a musical instrument.  I performed my Marine's Hymn with the serious mind of a flutist.  Putting extra oomph into the notes, even adding a little vibrato.  Certainly, that flutophone facilitated my evolution to the penny whistle 20 years later, when my friend, Cindy Angel (now Schumacher,) suggested I give it a try.  Thanks, Cindy. 

Elderly Mrs Woods dressed gorgeously in raven black from head to toe.  Her hair was black, her glasses were black, her autoharp was... black.  I never learned the story behind all the black, but I believed there was one.  Was she in mourning? Maybe Mrs Woods was the forbearer of early Goth, wearing black pumps, black hosiery, and A-lines. Maybe. 

My own children were raised listening to classical music both at home and at school.  At the Denver Waldorf School, they learned the recorder in first grade, and then cello beginning in third grade, as part of the curriculum.  Even now, in college, they adapt to foreign languages, math concepts, technological complexities and social nuances with ease. 

There's something magical that takes place in learning... when children are allowed to "experience music."  Something happens to the brain.  Is it quantitative? I don't know. 
I hope so.  But it's not just the notes, themselves.  It's the yin and yang.  The knowing when to breath, when to strike, when to rest.  It's everything, the whole enchilada.  Mozart understood this,  "The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between."  Ah!  

Now that's what I'm talking about.   And I think... Mrs Woods would have agreed.  


Monday, September 03, 2012

Raising the Bar. Super Hero Energy Bars!

September three,  while on the brink of cooler mornings and all things yellow, orange, brown and red, I came up with this (mostly brown)  adaptation of my cousin Toni's chocolate energy bar recipe.  It's specifically designed for all you super heroes out there that may find yourselves in need of a little september-get-up-and-go.

I was particularly motivated to do this after talking by phone with my daughter, Annie, who, by noonish still hadn't eaten anything for the day, "because I don't have any foooood," she groaned, with a weak voice.  Not that I'm  suggesting she (or anyone) eat these energy bars first thing, but at least they could sit in her college fridge looking all sporty and super heroey for when she has finally eaten a solid meal.  And needs to scale a tall building, or something.

Tweak the bars... the possibilities are (almost) endless.

Beware:  this stuff moves like almond fudge in the mouth.

VRROOM Energy Bars

1 1/2 cup raw whole almonds
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup light maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil (room temp.)
sea salt

Grind the almonds well in a food processor.  Add cocoa powder and pulse a few times.
Add maple syrup and coconut oil and a few pinches of sea salt.  Pulse it around.
Should be thick and gooey, but not too gooey.  Spread in a brownie pan. Refrigerate.
Cut into pieces when cold.