Making Time for Play

MarshmallowRoastWhen was the last time you did something a kid would do? If it wasn’t yesterday, you are definitely overdue! I recently had the honor of attending a presentation given by Captain Jerry Linenger, a retired US Navy flight surgeon and decorated NASA astronaut, who is the father of four. Captain Linenger shared with us the perspective he gained from facing numerous life threatening events during his 5 1/2 months aboard the space station Mir with two Russian cosmonauts who spoke no English.

He talked about the exponential growth of children and challenged us all to do something a kid would do every day. I loved this advice and decided to give it a try. Here are some of the things I did: played volleyball on my front lawn, played freeze tag, played “What time is it Mr. Fox?”, played poker and played catch with a yackle ball. What’s the common theme here? Play… I played! What else did I do? I laughed — a lot. How could I not laugh at seeing my son trying so hard to run slowly enough for me to catch him that he resembled a chicken — elbows flapping up and out in an attempt to slow himself down.

Eugene O’Kelly, former CEO of KPMG, talked about the difference between time and energy in his book, Chasing Daylight. Mr. O’Kelly lived only a couple of months after being given a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, yet he managed to fill those last months with more of what he described as “Perfect Moments” than one would think possible in such a short time. My time spent chasing my kids (who have become way too fast!), were definitely perfect moments. How do we create perfect moments? Are they planned or spontaneous?

Mr. O’Kelly suggests that merely being in the present creates the opportunity for a perfect moment and I agree. When you’re flipping through your mental rolodex, wondering what you’re going to make for dinner, what your spouse asked you to pick up from the store on the way home, or when you’re going to get ______ (fill in your task here) done, you’re missing the moments.

A busy mom of two little boys shared with me that some days, in her zeal to be “productive” she spends the entire day cleaning the house and doesn’t really “do” anything with her kids. “I stayed home to spend time with them, “she said, “and just physically being in the house isn’t the same thing”. We all have to live up to our responsibilities; but we can bring great energy and presence, for a small amount of time, and reap huge rewards.

Play and laughter is a wonderful release and a surefire way to break out of a rut. As for spending your playtime with your kids, nothing beats it for reconnecting you to the joy deep within you. Last week I saw my youngest nephew, Michael, at a family wedding. I told him all about Captain Linenger‘s adventures in space (which, on the “light” side, included vacuum cleaner races) and the homework assignment he gave us to do something a kid would do every day. I asked Michael for some suggestions,” In case I run out of ideas” I said, “And for my clients who don’t have any children.” “Oh Aunt Julie”, he sighed, “If you can’t think of anything else, just run around for a while.”

In June, as we celebrate Fathers, and for all the Moms that we celebrated last month, a poem to help us keep it all in perspective…

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again
by Diane Loomans

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.

I would care to know less and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.

I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often and affirm much more.
I’d model less about the love of power,
And more about the power of love.

Food Focus: Traveling Healthy

AirportTravelingWhen planning for summer vacation, putting a little thought into your food can go a long way towards making travel easier to digest! Things like making a travel survival kit, packing a few items from home, and doing a little research can make a big difference in how you (and your family) feel while you’re away from home.

In addition to any prescription medicines you may take and, any supplements you and your family use daily, a good travel survival kit includes a variety of items to keep you healthy and energized from take-off through return home. There are many different ways to accomplish this so here are just some items to consider. Powdered Vitamin C, in a mineral ascorbate, which is sold in convenient single serving packets, can give your immune system a little boost before flying. You can start using this a few days before you fly and while you’re flying -just add to your water bottle and shake. (A lower dose children’s version is available for children over 4 years of age). Ginger pills are handy for those who are affected by motion sickness – it’s best to take them at least a half hour before you get on a plane or into a car. Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic ayurvedic herb, is a great jet lag herb to know about. Green powders provide additional green power and are a terrific energy booster. You can also bring along a variety of herbal teas – some stimulating like Yerba Mate or Celestial Season’s Morning Thunder and some relaxing like chamomile. Echinacea and Echinacea Throat Coat teas support the immune system, and ginger and mint teas promote better digestion. Probiotics are extremely helpful in the unfortunate case of diarrhea, and magnesium citrate can help with constipation, among other things.

Eating the food served on airplanes is always an adventure but start by calling the airlines ahead of time to order a vegetarian meal. Even if you’re not a vegetarian these special meals are often of better quality and more appetizing than the regular ones. Pack favorite snack foods for small children and let older children carry and manage their own snacks.

Packing compact nutritious foods like nuts, seeds, dried fruit and protein bars can keep you going through long waits before, during and after flights. Drink a lot of water; and avoid caffeine and alcohol on the flight as air travel is dehydrating, causing headaches and irritability. Stretch your legs as often as possible – every hour – and try to stay on the schedule of the time zone of your final destination. Spending time outside when you arrive will go a long way towards helping your body adjust to the new time zone.

What to eat when you get there? Often you can find hotels that include breakfast. These breakfasts vary from “continental” style to full meals. When traveling with family, hotels that include breakfast save you money and can provide you with basic foods to get your day started on the right note. Stick with the types of food choices you would make at home. It’s OK to try a freshly baked croissant or muffin if it smells heavenly – after all, you ARE on vacation but that’s not the same as scarfing down danish every morning instead of the hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, yogurt or many of the more healthful options.

Hotel breakfasts often include whole fruits such as apples, oranges and bananas…if everyone chooses to take their fruit “to go” you won’t need to worry about getting hungry too early or dealing with traveler’s constipation! Strive to eat 2 whole fruits a day while you’re away. Raw foods and salads are cooling to the body and are always a great choice if you’re visiting an area with a hot climate. In some cases when traveling abroad, however, eating only cooked foods served while they’re still hot, drinking only bottled water, and eating only fruits that can be peeled are the safest choices.

When choosing restaurants take advantage of the locals to find the good places that are not tourist traps. You can do some research at home to find out if there are restaurants that serve organic foods and support sustainable agriculture in the area. You may start to feel a bit sluggish if you’re used to cooking your own food, but here are some tips that can help. Eat dinner as early as possible. The longer time you have to digest your food before going to bed the better you will feel in the morning. If you want to order dessert, share it between two people or a whole family – you’ll still be having a treat but it won’t break your diet or your wallet! If you really overdo it one day, eat more modestly the next day – it is a balancing game, and keeping yourself from getting too out of balance is the key to feeling great. When appropriate, try out the local cuisine – it can expand your horizons and may even inspire a new meal or two when you get home.

Where-ever your travels take you this summer, I wish you many fabulous adventures along the way!

Recipes of the month

jicama-orangeSaladJicama and Orange Salad
I got the inspiration for this salad while visiting Arizona with my family last month. Arizona is close to the Mexican border where these yummy root vegetables are grown. Jicama (pronounced “hee-ka-ma”) is a relative of the potato. They are sold in natural food markets and in the fruit aisle at many Latin markets. They can be eaten raw in salads and they can also be cooked in stir fries. Jicama has the same consistency as a water chestnut and makes a fine substitute. They are generally available year round and you should select jicama with smooth, unblemished skin. They can be quite large and are sold by the pound. Unlike potatoes and other roots, store them in the refrigerator and use within two weeks. Jicama are high in vitamin C and fiber (1/2 cup serving has 3 grams of fiber) and low in sugar and calories – that same 1/2 cup serving has just 25 calories! They don’t have a strong flavor of their own but take on the flavors around them and offer up a satisfying crunch.


3 oranges, cut into sections (Organic California Valencia are great this time of year)
2 cups jicama root, in wide matchstick (about 3/4 of a one lb. jicama)
1 – 2 Tablespoons of cilantro (according to taste), chopped finely

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Section oranges as you would grapefruit, omitting white pith. Peel and cut jicama. Wash and spin cilantro and chop. Mix all ingredients for dressing using the juice and zest from the empty orange halves. Pour dressing over salad and serve.

Serves 4 as side salad.

rhubarbRhubarb Crisp
from Eating Well Magazine 6/07
A seasonal crisp that is appreciated in our household, where the Dad doesn’t like blueberries!

1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped peeled apple
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon instant tapioca
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or steel-cut)
1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.
Toss rhubarb, apple, granulated sugar, tapioca and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl. Divide between two 10-ounce oven-safe ramekins or custard cups.
Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, butter, maple syrup, salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture. **
Bake until bubbling and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool for five minutes before serving.

** The topping (step 3) will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes 2 servings.

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