About our blogger: Jess

I am a 27 year old stay at home mom to Jonah, born in August of '08. Before having my son, I worked as a preschool teacher for eight years. I graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor's in psychology and philosophy. My studies there focused on human cognition, and early childhood cognition focusing on language acquisition and memory. I am hoping to return to school soon to work on my master’s degree in either speech pathology or experimental psychology. Hobbies that I enjoy are ballroom dancing, amateur astronomy, art, and scrapbooking.

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Posts by Jess:

January 2nd, 2012

Instant Chai Mix

When I was working in nursery school, I would often get sweet little tokens of appreciation from the kids and families that I cared for, especially around the holidays. It always touched me to see how much thought parents put into these typically home made gifts. They always had a personal flare on them from the child, whether it was a simple card that the child had drawn on or a sloppily finger painted ornament. They all made me smile from ear to ear. But one family touched my heart especially.

I had cared for all three of the brothers in the family, babysitting them as well as having them in my nursery room. I had really grown to know and love them right down to every red hair on their head and cute little brown freckle on their cheeks! On Christmas Eve, all three boys marched into the learning center, red heads covered with red and green santa hats and freckled cheeks turned up in smiles. The oldest shouted excitedly at my classroom door, “Miss Jessie! We made this for you! It’s a SECRET SURPRISE, but it’s TEA!” The mother explained to me that we had bumped into each other at Borders a month earlier, and I had been drinking a chai tea. I told the oldest boy that it is one of my favorite drinks. When the mom asked what the boys thought they should make their teachers for the holidays, the oldest boy had said, “We need to make Miss Jessie some chai, because she really loves it.” The family presented me with a mug, and tucked inside was a cellophane bag and a tag with pictures of all three boys. The boys had helped their mother scoop and measure ingredients to make homemade chai mix, just for me. I was so touched that the boys wanted to do something so personal for me, that they had recalled our chance meeting and had really put thought into what they wanted to make.

This year, we had quite a few gifts to give as tokens of appreciation. When thinking of something that the kids could help me with, I immediately thought of the chai tea mix. It is a very nice and unique homemade gift to show someone that you appreciate what they do in your life. And it is easy to make in large quantities. Young children can easily help you scoop and measure, as well as mix the ingredients. The ingredients were a bit more expensive than I had anticipated, but this is because of two factors: 1. our grocery store didn’t have a generic brand of unsweetened, unflavored tea…the larger boxes were all flavored or sweetened, so I had to get smaller containers of brand name tea, which was twice the cost; and 2. the cardamom was $15 a bottle! If you can’t find it cheaply, omit it to save money if you want to make this economical (although it will NOT taste the same; cardamom is a very unique flavor. It will be missing something, but will still taste very good without it.) Of course, I also made enough for us to have extra to enjoy at home!

Instant Chai Tea Mix:

2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
2 1/2 cups white sugar (Vanilla sugar is nice if you have it. Store white sugar in an airtight container with a vanilla bean stuck in the middle. Perfect for this recipe!)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea Read the rest of this entry »


December 6th, 2011

Mommy Moment #527: Don’t Stifle my Creativity

Looking over at my 18 month old during lunch, to see her side of the table completely covered in yogurt, I asked “What are you doing with your yogurt?”

Her response was an excited and self-affirming exclamation: “PAINT!”

November 30th, 2011

Red Cabbage

In my family, we have a rather odd traditional Thanksgiving dish. My parents meshed dishes from each of their family’s heritage to come up with our typical turkey day menu. From my dad’s German roots, we get pickled red cabbage. It is somewhat like sauerkraut, but sightly sweeter and more flavorful. While others might crinkle their nose, it just doesn’t feel like thanksgiving to me unless the aroma of roasted turkey and pumpkin pie mingles with the smell of red cabbage stewing in apple cider vinegar. There are many variations of this recipe floating around my family, but this is how (after a year of toying with the recipe) I have come to make it.

1 head red cabbage
apple cider vinegar (amount unknown, a few cups, but my dad and grandma would tell you “as much as it takes”)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion finely diced (I only use about 1/4 of it)
1 cup (or so) brown sugar
1 bay leaf
ground cloves to taste

Cut the cabbage into large chunks and put into a food processor. You can finely chop it by hand, but it saves a lot of time to use the food processor for a whole cabbage. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the cabbage. Pour vinegar over the vegetables until it is nearly covered. Add the brown sugar, bay leaf, and cloves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer for several hours, adding more vinegar as needed. If you don’t want sour cabbage, add water to the pot as the vinegar cooks down, and add more brown sugar. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

This is a great dish to serve with pork as well. It freezes well, which is convenient since one head makes quite a bit.

An attempt to make trying new vegetables fun and exciting, turned into the realization that a red cabbage leaf makes a wonderful klingon costume! We now have the tradition of wearing cabbage hats any time Mom makes the dish.

November 16th, 2011

Elimination Communication Round 2: Evie’s Review

When I was pregnant with Eve, a question I got often (and found odd) was whether or not I’d do anything differently with my second baby than I had done with my first. Obviously, I had known that this baby growing inside of me would be a different child, a different personality- a different parenting experience! Not only that, but I would have two children instead of one, so of course things will be done differently! I didn’t make certain plans for it; I would just wait and see how this baby likes things.

However, one thing that I just knew was going to be done differently was our use of elimination communication. We started this practice with Jonah when he was six months old. While it wasn’t flawless, I consider it successful, because Jonah was fully using the potty on his own at an “early age” and there was a long period of time when, even though he had to rely on me to recognize his need to go and to take him, he would use the potty on  regular basis even before he was fully “trained.” It had its frustrating moments, as do most processes in parenting, but I believe the benefits were well reaped.

Elimination communication is a relationship between mother and baby regarding baby’s need to urinate and defecate. In basic terms, we all have seen a baby making “that face,” grunting and squirming. We all have knowingly said “oooh, you’re making a stinky surprise in your dipey, aren’t you!?” or something along those lines. Read the rest of this entry »


October 25th, 2011

Mission Completion!

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been in “re-coup” mode. Aside from giving birth, running 13.1 miles and the journey it took to get to the start line was most likely the hardest thing I’ve physically had to do. Not only was my body tired, but I had a lot of catching up to do. Reconnecting with my husband, bedtime stories with my children, spending the weekend as a family rather than scheduling things around my training – I was ready to cross the finish line, and so was my family. I haven’t had much time for blogging since I finished the race, as any time not spent sleeping has been spent reconnecting with my loved ones and catching up on house work neglected for 12 weeks.

The week of the marathon started out kind of crummy. My right knee was in considerable amount of pain. Jonah brought home a bad cold, which everyone in the house caught. Reluctantly, I took the entire week off from training. I ran 7 miles the Sunday before the race, and then not again until race day.

On Friday, the day before the race, I went to see a sports medicine specialist. I had a gait analysis run. Basically, I ran on the treadmill for about five minutes while being video taped. The doctor reviewed the tape for about 20 minutes. I got to watch it in slow motion with her while she explained to me how I could be injuring myself with the strides I was taking. She told me that everything about my form looks perfect – good posture, good stride length, nice and relaxed – but the problem seemed to be that I come down too hard into the ground. She examined my knee briefly and said that the kind of pain and popping I am experiencing is commonly referred to as “runner’s knee” and can be fixed simply by correcting my heavy stride. Read the rest of this entry »

October 7th, 2011

A Lesson In Manners

One thing that I absolutely do not want to have is rude kids. I have tried to make manners a priority in things that I teach my children – table manners in particular. Every day, three times a day, my three year old learns how to properly use a napkin, how to ask politely for items to be passed, how to politely sit quietly (we are working especially on how to properly handle bodily functions such as-dare I say it- farting and burping at the table), and most importantly, how to ask to be excused from the table. Evelyn is introduced to these things but obviously not expected to follow social rules at age one.

Over the weekend, we were visiting the in-laws. We had a nice dinner in the dining room. Jonah announced he was “all done.” I said to him, “What do you need to ask me when you are done with your dinner?” This is our moment to shine, I thought. I am going to look like such a great mom, with such a well mannered young man!

His response: “MAAAAY I PWEASE BE SCOOOOOOOOSED??? BUUUUUUUUUURP!” It was the biggest most atrocious burp I have ever heard come out of such a tiny person.

We’ll keep working on it….

September 27th, 2011

Under the Sea Literature

I found a lot of books with an under the sea or ocean theme that I was able to tie into other activities. I love it when I am able to do this, because it really gets Jonah excited about a book and a theme. Here are the “Under the Sea” books that we enjoyed!

Wiggle Like an Octopus by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback:

I think Eve picked this book because of the neat holographic cover. Once we got it home and read it, the kids were hooked on what was inside! This book has simple colorful illustrations of many sea creatures, along with descriptions of how they move. We had a lot of fun getting out of our reading chair and moving around like the creatures in the book! This book is great if you’re looking for some gross motor ideas.

The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe: Read the rest of this entry »


September 21st, 2011

Under the Sea Art

One of the things that I enjoyed about this theme is that it is so easy to get creative with art projects. It was hard to pick just a few ideas, but the projects I chose gave us a chance to practice skills and concepts that I would like to work on with Jonah.

Sea Shapes, a lesson in geometry:

This idea came from a “take home bag” that I borrowed from the lending library at the preschool where Jonah has speech therapy. The bag came with the book “Sea Shapes” by Suse Macdonald, several foam stamps that corresponded to the book, and an ink pad. The book named several shapes, and then gave an example of how you would see that shape in the sea. For example, the crescent shape can be seen in a dolphin’s body, and some fish are shaped like hearts! After we looked at the book and discussed the creatures and shapes that we had seen, I let the kids use the stamps to make their own ocean pictures. At first we used a light blue paper, but we weren’t happy with how the blue ink looked on it, so we used plain white printer paper to make the shapes really stand out! Read the rest of this entry »

September 16th, 2011

What Do We See, Under the Sea?

The last couple of weeks, we have been exploring ocean life. I got the idea to do this “unit” because Jonah really had a lot of fun at a recent trip to the aquarium. He sat at each exhibit, wide eyed and taking in all of the colors and combination of shapes and textures, as I kept a very simple conversation with him about the names of the creatures and what he thought they were doing.

We started the theme by discussing what animals swim in the ocean. We had this conversation a couple of times: At breakfast, in the car while driving to speech therapy, while we were shopping and he was sitting in the grocery cart. I simply asked him, “What do you think swims in the ocean?” He could come up with a pretty impressive list on his own – fish, seahorses, whales, sharks. Then I asked him about various specific animals. “Do cows swim in the ocean??” or “Do jellyfish live in the ocean??” He thought this was a hilarious game!

Later in the week, we added to our conversation: “Where is the ocean?” We looked at a map and various pictures of coastal beaches, boats, and harbors. We talked about how we would get to the ocean if we wanted to go (plane, car) and looked at pictures of a vacation we took to the ocean.  We also talked about what to bring to the ocean/beach on a trip! If only it were possible to follow this particular lesson up with an actual trip to the ocean.

I wasn’t sure how much Jonah would be interested in a whole lesson plan geared toward an Under the Sea theme, so I had originally planned for it to only last a week. He was so interested, and Eve was also having so much fun, that I extended it and we are just now wrapping it up after two and a half weeks! This might be something that we will visit again if we have time later in the year.

September 15th, 2011

Feel Your Boobies!

Yes, you read that title right. But you can go ahead and read it again if you’re a little confused. In fact, read it over and over until the message sinks in. Feel your boobies!

Ladies, AND MEN, the best defense we have against breast cancer is early detection. A self breast exam takes only moments. You can do this when you take a shower, or before you go to bed; I promise that it won’t impede on your schedule. You should examine your breasts every year, and according to the Susan G. Komen foundation, get a clinical screening every three years starting at age 20 and a mammogram every year starting at age 40. states that simply “feeling” your breasts, or using the pads of your fingers to press into the skin, examining the underarm and collarbone areas, may be just as effective as a formal self breast exam. The founder of detected a cancerous mass in just this way. Feeling her boobies saved her life.

So instead of wasting time trying to pretend that you are pregnant on Facebook, playing on everyone’s sensitive emotions of joy, disappointment, and possibly even grief, please take those few moments to feel your boobies. Then, tell someone you love to feel their boobies. If you have a teenage daughter, talk to her about the importance of self breast examination. I promise you, those few moments you take to do this will raise much more awareness about breast cancer detection than pretending that you are pregnant on online social media. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, there was a game recently on Facebook where women were pretending to be pregnant. The idea was, when anyone would ask about the post, the woman would say “Just kidding! Breast cancer awareness!” But most people never got that message, they simply had their feelings hurt. To add to the ineffectiveness, the message of just “This is for breast cancer awareness” doesn’t really DO anything, now does it? We all know breast cancer exists, what we need to be aware of, is how to prevent it, and how to defend ourselves against it.) Read the rest of this entry »