Tag Archives: PJCC

Dear New Kindergarten Mom

by on September 3, 2014

KSimon-PhotobyTraciBianchi-625Dear New Kindergarten Mom,

This morning, I bundled my boys into the stroller and went out for one last impromptu morning walk. Max will be starting kindergarten next week, and the days spent hanging out in our jammies and meandering to the nearest park or Starbucks are almost over. My best friend texted me a picture of her own 5-year-old a few minutes later, standing in front of his new elementary school. “How did we get here?!” I texted back. It was yesterday that we were pregnant together. Visiting the fire station with toddlers together. Welcoming second babies together. “How did we get here?!”

Well, Mama, I want you to take a break from packing lunches and tucking pencils into binders. Click out of Pinterest for a minute, and stop reading the list about the Top 10 Lessons You Need To Teach Your Kindergartner. Put down the chalkboard frame that you’re making for the perfect first day photo shoot, and listen up. This one is for you.

Kindergarten might be the beginning for our little ones, but it’s a graduation of sorts for us.

How did we get here?

We waited and we worried, reading the BabyCenter emails each week that compared our rapidly growing babies to kiwis and oranges. We mourned losses and said goodbyes to the babies who grew in our hearts, but not our bellies. We labored and breathed and screamed and prayed as our littles made their way into our arms. We ate celebration dinners in hospital beds, or put on our best outfits and brightest smiles as a judge declared us a forever family, or opened our hearts to new dreams as we embraced our partners’ children.

We cradled impossibly small newborn bottoms in the palms of our hands, cut hospital bracelets from tiny ankles and learned to swaddle little limbs into baby burritos. We winced at each bad latch, and exhaled with each great one. We filled bottles and emptied breasts, measured milliliters into droppers and g-tubes. We pumped and we mixed and we forgot to feed ourselves. We fed our babies with love.

We rocked, we paced, we sang. We woke every three hours, or every three minutes. We shushed and we danced and we dozed. We may have spent more time awake than asleep.

We cut grapes into tiny cubes. We cleaned pasta from the carpet and yogurt from their hair. We made sure that the green veggies weren’t touching the orange ones.

We were Batman and Thomas and a dinosaur and a policeman and a princess. We stepped on 47 Legos and built 72 towers and 298 spaceships. We hid in blanket forts and behind closet doors. Sometimes we hid in the bathroom, because it was the only quiet place we could find.

We drove to preschool and playdates. We practiced our goodbyes and perfected our hellos. We caught slippery bodies at swim lessons, and twisted perfect topknots for ballet. We played the tambourine at music class and sang the “Hello, friend” song at Mommy and Me 341 times.

We held chubby little arms and legs tight as the doctor gave each shot. We counted ounces and inches and celebrated each step. We met with speech therapists and occupational therapists and oncologists and radiologists. We elbowed our way down paths that we never thought would rise up to greet us. We fought fear and doubt and guilt. We woke up each day, and put one foot in front of the other.

We yelled at our partners and cried to our mothers and fell into the arms of the friends who became our family. We learned to let other grown-ups love our kids, and struggled to accept a night out or a lasagna or a hug. Or a mimosa.

We worried about TV time and Vitamin D and developmental stages and hearing tests. We celebrated birthdays and did the potty dance and doled out stickers and ultimatums.

We kept going. We got better at it. We surprised ourselves.

We’ve been exhausted, and fed up, and overwhelmed, and overjoyed. We’ve cheered for first words and first steps and first date nights in months. We’ve fallen asleep during Dumbo and memorized Goodnight Moon and Horton Hears A Who.

We’ve bargained with God over stitches and lab tests and “routine” operations. We’ve soothed bad dreams and inspired bigger ones.

We’ve stepped on 4,724 Goldfish crackers and 3,193 Cheerios.

We’ve kissed scrapes and cheeks and noses. We’ve bathed squirmy bodies and cut tiny bangs. We’ve whispered I love yous against giggling bodies. We’ve hugged and we’ve helped and we’ve explained. We’ve answered 17,000 whys and why nots.

We’ve made it.

They’ve made it.

There will be thousands of firsts that follow this one. Our jobs aren’t even close to being done. But on this first day, for the hours that stretch between squeezing his little hand goodbye and welcoming him back to the arms that he began in, be gentle with yourself.

In your heart of hearts, you know that he’s ready.

But I’m here to tell you that you are, too.

You might think this first day is all about him, friend. But it’s also about you.

How did we get here?

You.

You rocked and you fed and you soothed and you worried and you taught and you cuddled and you counted the nap time minutes and added up the ounces and marked the passage of time with pictures and gasps and tears.

So as that brave, crazy kindergarten teacher ushers you out tomorrow and closes the door behind you, be proud.

You did it. We did it.

That classroom of amazing, brilliant, imaginative, loving, self-sufficient (well, sort of), hilarious, unpredictable, completely capable little people? We made them that way. So before you walk away to worry about all of the first days to come and the homework and the life lessons and the setbacks and the TV time and the reward charts… come find me on the playground.

I’ll be looking for you.

Let me be the first one to tell you “Good job, Mama. You survived. You watched as your heart grew outside of your body, and then you prepared him to greet the world alone. He is ready, because when they placed him in your arms, you were.” For all of the times that we’ve told them “good job,” and “great listening,” and “you’re so brave,” and “I’m so proud of you,” not once did we say those things to ourselves. So on that very first day of school, as you take one last look over your shoulder to make sure that your little one is safely tucked into her classroom, and you wipe away the tears as you climb back into your (suddenly very quiet) car, remember this.

You did it. You are so brave. I am so proud of you.

Just look how much you’ve grown.

Happy graduation, Mama.

Love,

A Kindergarten Mom, bawling her eyes out in the car parked next to yours

Join Kim for an informal and informational support group for mothers at the PJCC beginning in October 2014 . Bring your little one and share your success and challenges in parenting and make new friends along the way. Kim Simon is a PJCC Preschool parent and the author of the nationally renowned blog MamaByTheBay.com.

Photo by Traci Bianchi

What Do Employers Want? Hint—It’s Not What You Think!

by on August 26, 2014

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At a recent employer panel on the peninsula, I had the opportunity to ask four high level executives (VP and Director levels) from four large organizations what type of technical training we should be providing our job seekers.

Strangely there was an awkward silence following the question. Finally, the HR person from the large, well established tech firm spoke up. His answer, paraphrased here, was that by the time he saw a candidate that person had already established that he had the technical skills needed. What he needed was someone who had empathy. WHAT?!?!  EMPATHY? What the heck does empathy have to do with tech?

But even more strange was how the three other panelists simultaneously breathed a sigh and eagerly jumped on this bandwagon. Each panelist discussed the importance of “soft” skills going so far as to say that there were hard skills and then “harder” skills and these emotional intelligence skills are more difficult.

So why empathy? And is it that hard to come by? Turns out it is. Empathy, put simply, the ability to understand the needs, feelings and point of view of others, is needed for any job. In tech, you will be working on teams to fulfill the customer needs. Same for finance and healthcare. At Sutter Health, job candidates must take a test to prove their ability to empathize. In the nonprofit arena, ditto and you need to understand both the needs of the donors and the recipients of the service.

Not sure if you are good at empathy?
You can start improving it now. First, begin by just listening. A special kind of listening I call “being in neutral.” Meaning, suspend your own opinions and advice. In the words of Steven Covey, listen to understand. Release any desire to be right, prove a point, or win a discussion. After listening, summarize what you think you heard including best guesses at content, feelings, and needs. Ask the other person something to the effect of “is that about right?” You will be surprised at how well your interpersonal actions go from here.

I’d love to hear how it is working out for you.

Container Gardening

by on August 19, 2014

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There’s nothing quite like fresh produce harvested at its peak. Even if you live in a space with only a small patio or balcony, containers provide a wonderful way to enjoy your favorite foods year round.

Make The Most Of The Space You Have
Most plants require between 5 –7 hours of sunlight a day to thrive. Choose a location that receives adequate sunlight, is protected from too much wind and temperature extremes, and is in a convenient location for care and harvesting. One of the benefits of container gardening is mobility. Placing your containers on platforms with casters will allow you to move your crops to the best location throughout the day or season. Also, keep aesthetics in mind. Vegetables and herbs can be quite lovely. Think of your edible plants as design elements by placing them in locations where you can enjoy their beauty.

Get Creative
Clay or wooden pots are commonly used, but explore wine barrels, kiddie pools, dresser drawers, salvaged window boxes, old toy bins, and buckets. The only requirements are that containers are large enough to hold the full-grown plants and their mature root systems, and provide sufficient drainage and air circulation. Choose healthy soil, seeds, and seedlings Container plants require a good quality potting soil that provides both essential nutrients and adequate drainage. It’s also wise to replenish the soil each season.

Whether planting directly from seed or transplanting seedlings, it’s important to know your seed company or nursery. Research companies who offer open pollinated non-GMO selections that grow well in your area.

Many vegetables and herbs dislike having their roots disturbed and do best when planted directly from seed. These include arugula, beans, beets, carrots, cilantro, corn, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, and spinach.

Others crops do best when transplanted as seedlings. You can either grow the seedlings yourself on a warm windowsill or in a hothouse, or purchase them at your local nursery. Basil, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower), chives, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, perennial herbs, squash, and tomatoes all do well when transplanted into gardens as seedlings.

Caring For Your Container Plants
Container plants require more attention than plants in the ground, so be sure to water your crops regularly. In the heat of summer, plants may need daily watering.

Feed your container plants with a liquid fertilizer solution, applying it to the soil about every three weeks. I recommend equal parts of diluted liquid fish emulsion and kelp.
Enjoy Most importantly, plant what you love to eat! An edible garden of any type should serve the primary purpose of providing you with fresh food to nourish you and your family.

High Blood Pressure – The Hidden Killer

by on August 5, 2014

blood-pressure

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sitting in his living room having his portrait painted by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, who later became most renowned for “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR. Also present was Lucy Mercer, Eleanor’s social secretary, but most notorious because of her affair with the president. His dog, Fala, and two cousins were in the room as well according to biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin. At 1:00 pm, FDR complained of “traffic pain at the back of my head,” and collapsed, unconscious. His cardiologist quickly arrived and recognized the signs of a cerebral hemorrhage, a type of stroke. One could argue that one of FDR’s visitors that day triggered his stroke, but it is much more likely that years of untreated high blood pressure led to FDR’s demise at the age of 63.

High blood pressure or hypertension still remains a hidden killer at large. It is estimated that high blood pressure kills approximately 1000 Americans each day due to its effects on Continue reading

Yearning For Peace

by on July 31, 2014

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Marla (left) and Stephanie.

I can’t read the news about Israel and Gaza. It is too violent. Too heartbreaking. Too familiar. And I also can’t stop reading the news about Israel and Gaza.

It is too important. Too urgent. Too familiar.

The situation is complex. There are no easy answers. There is no clear right or wrong anymore, except for this: too many people are dead. Too many people are being left to grieve and mourn those they love. Too many fathers are without their children, too many wives are without their spouses, and too many young people have lost their parents, friends, and siblings. Enough is enough. There has to be a better way.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002
The world woke up to news of a bombing at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was the first Continue reading

Looking for a Low-Impact Workout? Try Battle Rope Training

by on July 28, 2014

by Christopher Nash, PJCC Personal Trainer

Kevin, a fit software engineer, wanted to pursue cardio training. However, the 50-year old was concerned that running would be hard on his already-bad knees, the collateral damage of a 30-year love for soccer. He had also had a hip replaced the previous year. When Kevin asked me Continue reading

Don’t Let Go Of Hope

by on July 24, 2014

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As the violence in Israel and Gaza continues to escalate and claims more victims, the pain I feel is palpable.

My heart aches for the IDF soldiers killed in action, and for the Israeli civilians who suffer an endless torrent of rockets fired at their homes and their children. My heart aches as well for the innocent civilians of Gaza who are killed or wounded, caught as they are in a deepening web of warfare. My guess is that many of you feel this same way. My guess is, too, that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians share the common wish that their children grow up to thrive in the sunshine, without fear of rocket and mortar fire. At the very least, I need to believe that.

And yet, I and so many others are falling into a malaise of hopelessness. In the words of Israeli Continue reading

Summer Smoothie with a Vitamin Boost

by on July 15, 2014

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Strawberry Peach Refresher Smoothie
Serves 2

Are you ready for something cool, delicious, and good for you?

This smoothie uses the mild tasting green, bok choy, which is known as a cancer-fighting cabbage because of its good source of beta carotene.  In just one 9 calorie cup of bok choy, you receive 63% vitamin A, 52% vitamin C and 8% calcium of your daily recommended value.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups bok choy, fresh
  • 2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 cup strawberries*
  • 2 cups peaches*

*Use at least one frozen fruit to make the smoothie cold.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Blend bok choy and almond milk until smooth.
  • Next, add the remaining fruits and blend again.

Pour into glasses and enjoy!

 

 

Guilt-Free Edamame “Guacamole” Recipe

by on June 27, 2014

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Summertime barbeques, Superbowl parties, and taco tuesdays are all great excuses to serve some guacamole.  But, lets face it, we’ve all struggled with a little guilt over how many calories we are consuming chip by chip.  This Edamame “Guacamole” recipe is about half the calories of avocado guacamole and is higher in protein too. Delicious and healthy! You don’t need an excuse to serve this any day.

Edamame “Guacamole”
Half the calories and 3 times the amount of protein of guacamole made with avocados – 86.7 cal., 6.7 g protein Continue reading