Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Happy World Read Aloud Day to you!

From the LitWorld website:

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.

In celebration of worldwide literacy, we are going to share one of our new favorite picture books, Max’s Words by Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov.

Is anyone else addicted to Pinterest, or is it just me?  A few weeks ago I pinned this really amazing craft from Mommy Labs, creating a self-portrait with magazine clippings and mixed media, and someone repinned it with the comment that it would work well with a reading of Max’s Words.  Which, of course, it totally would!  (I wish I could figure out who it was so I could give credit where credit is due – but thanks for introducing us to this book, whoever you are!)

max's words by kate banks pictures by boris kultkovPoor Max – his brother Benjamin collects stamps and everyone admires them, but he won’t share with Max.  His brother Karl collects coins and everyone admires them, but he won’t share with Max.  So Max decides that he is going to collect words, and he finds that his collection is way cooler than his brothers’ because while their collections don’t really do anything, his can tell stories!

As a writer, reader, and word nerd I love how Max comes to appreciate the beauty and versatility of words.  Some are small but necessary, some make you feel good, some you say to other people.  Just one word has the power to completely change a sentence or a story!  And when you share your words with others, you can build whole worlds together.

Enjoy a book with your kids today (and every day, of course)!  Here are some resources for finding your next great read-aloud:

I’m a big lover of public libraries, but if you come across a book that you simply must own or would like to give as a gift, I encourage you to purchase from Better World Books.  It’s an amazing company that saves books from landfills, sells them, and donates the proceeds to literacy projects worldwide including Books for Africa, Invisible Children, The National Center for Family Literacy, Room to Read, Worldfund, and more!

What I’m reading: Supermarket Vegan and The Conscious Cook

I am not vegan.  I am not even vegetarian.

I was vegan for a long time, and vegetarian for a long long long time.

Yet, I never felt good eating that way, and after a number of health issues arose culminating in a very difficult pregnancy, birth and recovery with Bess I made the decision to re-introduce meat to my diet.

There are other issues at play, too.  I have become more committed to eating local and unprocessed food as much as possible.  I avoid tofu, tempeh, seitan, and other heavily processed soy  and vegan substitute foods.  While the animal rights issues are undeniable, I find the environmental benefits of this diet compelling.

I eat locally-raised grassfed animals.  As part of my choice to eat food with a face, I made a pact with myself to visit my food while still on the hoof (or wing, whatever).  The least I can do is look these animals in the eye and say thanks.

For what it’s worth, I have come to believe that different bodies have different nutritional requirements because they evolved in different ecological niches.  People who live at high altitudes or latitudes where plants don’t grow have traditionally subsisted on animal protein.  People who live in tropical climates where a wide variety of plants grow have traditionally been vegetarian.  My body is healthier when it is given animal protein, and I don’t think that makes me a bad person.

That said, our weekly menu includes plant-based meals, and I am always on the lookout for recipes that will satisfy my family.  (My baking is always vegan because Bess has egg anaphylaxis and does not tolerate diary well, in addition to being gluten-free because she has Celiac disease.)

conscous cook by tal ronnenWhile browsing the cookbook section of the library, I picked out two cookbooks that looked promising.  The first one, The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat by Tal Ronnen, is a beautiful book.  The photography and graphics really caught my eye and I decided to take it home for a closer look.  Unfortunately, the usefulness of the recipes did not match the book’s aesthetic appeal, at least for my family.  The recipes were much too fancy for our palates and way too labor-intensive (Sweet Onion Beggar’s Purses, anyone?), and they included a lot of wheat and processed foods like Veganaise and Gardein.  However, if I was hosting a dinner party with a guest list that included vegans, this book would definitely be a useful resource – and I wouldn’t mind having it on display in my kitchen as a piece of art.

supermarket vegan donna kleinOn the other hand, Supermarket Vegan: 225 Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes for Real People in the Real World by Donna Klein is an understated, text-only volume (with a cover price of $18.99 as opposed to $29.99 for The Conscious Cook).  But the recipes are perfect for a new vegan who is wary of unfamiliar substitute foods, or for a time-pressed whole-food family like mine.  The recipes are straightforward and simple, the ingredients are readily available, and Celiac-friendly substitutions are easy to make where required.  I think I’ll be buying a copy of this one.

 

Portobello Mushrooms with Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes (from Supermarket Vegan)

  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon finely chopped or pureed canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce (these are HOT so go easy if you’re cooking for kids!)
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 6 large portobello mushroom caps

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with sides or a shallow casserole and set aside.

In a large saucepan, place the sweet potatoes in enough salted water to cover by a few inches.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain well and return to the saucepan; add the coconut milk, 3 teaspoons of the oil, chili, garlic, and pepper.  Mash until smooth but still slightly chunky.  Add the scallions, stirring well to combine.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Mound equal amounts of sweet potato mixture on the gill side of each mushroom cap.  Transfer the mushrooms to the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops evenly with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil.  Bake in the lower third of the oven 10 to fifteen minutes, until mushrooms begin to soften and release their liquids.  Place on the center oven rack and bake 5 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are lightly browned and mushrooms are tender when pierced with a knife.  Serve immediately.

What I’m reading: The Anti-Romantic Child

This review of Priscilla Gilman’s book The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy is running over at Woman in Washington.  I hope you’ll visit, and if you like reading and talking about books on motherhood in all its agony and ecstasy, I hope you’ll join the MOTHERS Book Bag group on Good Reads!

the anti-romantic child by priscilla gilmanIn her book The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, author Priscilla Gilman chronicles her experiences as the mother of a special-needs child. Though Gilman harbored suspicions that Benj was unlike other children, it was not until he was almost three that Gilman’s worries were confirmed. The director of a potential preschool delivered the upsetting news that he suspected something was amiss.  What their pediatrician had initially assured them was perfectly normal turned out to be hyperlexia, a disorder characterized by early reading and vocabulary acquisition coupled with a delay in spontaneous speech, motor dexterity, and social skills.

Gilman and her husband, Richard, quickly had Benj evaluated and started him in various therapies which ultimately helped him to achieve a relatively high level of functioning. With the help of expert educators and therapists, Benj learned skills that led him to overcome, or at least cope with, his difficulties. Gilman’s unwavering commitment to her son, her absolute conviction that he possessed unique and wonderful gifts, was undoubtedly the major force fueling his success.

A high achiever who grew up immersed in the arts, Gilman met her husband when they were both students in the Ph.D. program in English and American Literature at Yale. She brings her literary background to bear in The Anti-Romantic Child, scattering quotes from Wordsworth liberally throughout the book. She uses these works as a jumping-off point for examining the ways in which her romantic notions of love, marriage and childhood shaped her expectations and heightened her disappointment over the failure of her marriage and the struggles of her son.

Gilman’s seemingly superhuman efforts on behalf of her son are impressive, but her story left me vaguely disquieted. After all, my children are mostly healthy and high-functioning, I have a stable marriage, and my paying job is relatively undemanding, and yet sometimes I lose it. I do not “listen attentively to [my child], at every moment…to always make sure I’m giving him what he…needs.” I am a mostly attentive mother – but every moment? Gilman recounts the extraordinarily amicable divorce she negotiated with Richard and describes the ingenious therapeutic activities she concocted for Benj. What she does not do is delve into the depths of frustration, despair and loneliness that she must have felt. The story would be more authentic, and more interesting, if the reader was given a real glimpse into the inenviable struggles and failures of Gilman’s life.

Perhaps her reluctance to shine a light on her difficulties is a function of her desire “to make life just right for those [she] loved,” or perhaps she was trying to protect the privacy of her family and friends. She dances around the issue, admitting that she periodically “felt so lonely, in a disconcerting, frightening way,” that sometimes “it can be extremely exhausting and overwhelming” to be a wife (and ex-wife), a mother, an advocate, a daughter, and an employee. Yet, she is quick with the disclaimer that “the blessings…far outweigh the worry and stress and fatigue.” In this, Gilman is no different from any mother who feels the pressure of perfection and confuses isolated failings with utter failure. We are so concerned with justifying our choices and validating our parenting that we are afraid to expose our inadequacies. The brave among us couch our admissions with declarations of maternal devotion or cite fatigue or busyness in self-defense. How much more support and validation could be gained from candid and compassionate discussions of the dark moments of motherhood!