My word – What a world

So I just started my facebook business page for momscape. I’ve had a personal facebook page for a little while, but I haven’t bitten down and created one for momscape, partly, I think, because I so identify with my business. It’s like it’s my baby, a member of my family, a fourth kid – and so the word “fan” sounds so presumptuous. It actually makes me giggle. Could I seriously look someone in the eye and ask them to be my fan?  We would both start laughing. I am not the kind of person who has fans. Friends, yes. Fans? no.

I have known for some time that I had to do it. I needed to join the social media world before it passes me on by, but I’ve been kind of resistant – for reasons noted above. Plus, I feel like I’ll lose my focus or something. But then, once I started, it was amazing. I felt like I did when I first started Momscape 10 years ago.

The world got smaller.

Suddenly, I can see the faces of you – my subscribers and friends – and we can talk back and forth about things. It’s like the Internet is growing up. It’s shaping into something earthshattering. Exciting. It gives me butterflies. Who knows what will happen next!

And then later that day, I was still kind of marveling about it all, and I was listening to the storm outside. It has been snowing like mad up here  in tiny flakes, the kind that come down only when it’s really cold. These flakes are so little they get caught by the wind and swirl around and skitter against my windows before settling on the ground.

As I generally do during those first big snowstorms of a long winter, I started to feel a little trapped and panicky. And then I heard a little tweet from my tweetdeck. And then I had a facebook conversation with a friend who moved away, and then I checked out photos of my friend who is currently off enjoying Amsterdam, and then I checked my email to see photos of another friend’s new baby. And then I researched some randonee skis and boots on And then I listened to a TED talk while eating a reheated bowl of last night’s chili. And then I went for a walk in the wide, wide world while listening on my ipod to an audiobook that I downloaded from audible.

My word. What a world.

P.S. Will you be Momscape’s fan?

Our Legend of Sleepy Hollow: A Tribute to Weekend Adventures and All Things Fleeting

There is a place we go. It is a lone but semi-modern house, unreachable by car and perched on a hillside deep in the valley where we once lived.

It’s unlike anyplace else. It’s not a county-maintained backcountry hut. It’s not a decayed mining cabin. It’s a home: A home where the owner is never present, but the door is always open. And someone is usually there, whether visiting for a moment like us, or staying for a day or two on some kind of exotic life journey, which they are generally willing to tell us all about.

The front of the house is almost entirely glass, smeared with old smoke, which filters the sunlight and makes the view hazy and ethereal. And the view from the living room couch is jawdropping: jagged peaks 14,000 feet high soar skyward on either side, dwarfing the river that roars down the valley below.

People of all ages come to this home, which we have always called Sleepy Hollow, and it’s hard to leave without making a contribution of some kind. One year, we brought a swing to hang near the front door. Just a simple rope and a fingerpainted slab of cedar.

Other visitors’ contributions are poetic in nature. Quotes from Thoreau and Lao Tzu are scribbled in blue and red and green Sharpie all along the interior walls. These are scattered in amid a variety of drawings: sketches of mountains and spruce trees, portraits and caricatures, mushrooms and dancing Grateful Dead bears.

I have photos of each of my three children holding a Crayola marker in their tiny hands and writing in their own way on these walls about their love for this place and this valley.

On each visit, we stay just long enough to note the changes since the time before and to read the entries in the guestbook that is tucked into a shelf by the woodstove.

Since we moved from this area, we have the intention of coming back every summer – and then something happens and we often don’t. But this past weekend, we realized that this was our chance to do it before the snow started to fly, so we shoved a dozen markers in my camera bag and made the half hour or so drive to the trailhead.

When we arrive, it seems everyone remembers the way. We scramble across sheets of rock to the trail, where roots have surged through the earth in great gnarled lumps. The kids see this as a kind of staircase, a red carpet, an invitation to explore deeper into this mysterious woods. This is a forest they don’t know in the same way they know the forest around our home.

We walk, and we walk, and we walk. Soon, the roots have disappeared and there is only hard packed trail and rocks. We are close to tree-line now, so high in elevation that the only trees able to survive in this oxygen-starved place are stick-like, their trunks poking like shards of glass from the rocky ground.

“We must have missed it,” Ty says. “Let’s turn around and everyone look a little harder.”

We missed it? How can you miss a house that you know is just off the trail and that five of you are looking for? Were we too busy talking and walked right past it? Did the spruce and shrubs grow up thick around it, hiding it from view? Did it burn down? I suggest maybe we dreamt it and it never existed at all. My son suggests maybe aliens took it.

So now it’s a mystery. What was once a simple hike has become an adventure of mythic proportions for my little hobbits, and they are starting to skip. After walking awhile, I see a knoll that looks like the one the house used to stand upon, so I tell the rest of the family to find a comfortable spot to wait for a minute. “Mama’s goin’ in.” I say, and I slash and stomp through the brush. At one point I have to get down on all fours to duck under some low branches, and my Labrador leaps around me and licks my face like he’s so glad I’ve finally come to my senses and left those lanky two leggers to join him in a more primal sort of life.

Finally I emerge at the top of the hill, but there’s nothing there but more trees and shrubs and dried grass. There’s no house and no clearing and no empty burned-out foundation, so I half-tumble back down the hill and meet my family down the trail a bit. They are sitting on an outcropping and taking turns sucking water from daddy’s Camelbak.

That’s when my husband sees a tiny break in the trail we hadn’t seen before. He jumps across it, and we follow, matching the length and rhythm of his stride like ducklings. My kids are no strangers to breaking trail, and I watch how they point out the muddy spots to one another and hold the branches as they go so nothing snaps back on the hiker behind. This makes me proud in a mountain mama kind of way.

We duck and jump this way for 10 or so minutes. And that’s when we see it.

Sleepy Hollow. The house is standing there, plain as day, about half a mile from the parking lot where we started. We had overshot it by 7 or 8 times. We all laugh because hiking as a family is much, much easier  than it was on even our last visit. We no longer have to carry a kid on our backs. We no longer have to stop twice for a snack break. What used to be an ordeal would have now been a quick jog from the minivan in the parking lot.

But now we’re here. We start to scramble headlong up the hillside like goats, but it doesn’t take long to realize that something is different.

A black and red sign hangs in the front window. “Private Property. No Trespassing.” From where we stand, we can see the walls inside have been painted a semigloss white. The grass has grown around the property, concealing the once well-worn path. The swing is gone altogether.

We all just stand and stare. Ty says something about how you never know when things are going to change and you just have to enjoy them while you can. My oldest daughter nods and looks at the dirt. My other daughter shares a memory. My son wants to know if we can get our swing back.

I don’t say anything because I am filled all at once with a kind of longing. Raising my kids — out of their infancy and toddlerhood — has been kind of like this. The memories take on the cast of a dream. It’s all so wonderful and yet sometimes so strange and so distant that I can start to question whether I really lived through all those years at all. It just doesn’t seem possible.

And then I realize that I’ll probably be saying the same thing about the place I am right at this very moment in five or so years – and so there’s nothing to do but get on with the business of living this part of their childhood and enjoying it as much as I can before it, too, feels like a dream.

Today, that means a hike in the woods with my family and a hot cup of cocoa with double the marshmallows back home.

Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder of Momscape.
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Related Articles on Momscape:
It Does Get Easier: A Message to Mothers of (Very) Young Children
by Susie Michelle Cortright

Girls and Bullying

Erik FisherAs we are teaching girls “girl power,” let’s also teach them healthy ways to find it. Here is an important article from Dr. Erik Fisher (aka Dr. E at

The Bully in Pigtails: Girls and Bullying

I think we all have begun to see a disturbing trend in recent years. More and more often we are seeing girls bullying girls, but not like it used to be. Historically, girls have not been immune to bullying, but the way they approached it was through typically manipulation, name calling, getting others girls to not be friends with a girl, or even making up very painful stories about a girl. What we are seeing now is that bullying is becoming much more aggressive and physical. All across the country, more and more stories are surfacing about brutal types of bullying among girls. Research is showing that bullying behavior with girls is in the rise since the 1990s.

Why are seeing these trends in girls with aggressive bullying? As the school year begins, it is important, as a parent, to be aware of what your children are facing and be in a position to help them through their challenges. We will discuss some of these issues in this brief article… (Click here to continue reading > )

Master the Art of the Salad

I’ve just published a great new article from Cheryl Tallman of FreshBaby.
Become Salad Savvy
Master the art of the salad. Here are recipes and mix-ins for healthy salads your family will love. Easy homemade salad dressing recipes, too.

Healthy Breakfasts: Just How Much Does Your Child Need?

Healthy Breakfasts expert Cheryl TallmanBy Cheryl Tallman,

It’s a fact – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies have proven that children who eat a healthy breakfast perform better at school, have more energy and are less likely to be overweight. A healthy breakfast should include four types of food.

Healthy Breakfast = protein + fruits or vegetables + grains + calcium

PROTEIN: From our head to our toes protein is in every cell of the body and we need it every day. For adults, protein is used for repairing our bodies, but for children it is used to grow bigger bodies.

How much does your child need? Young children (age 1-10 years old) need between 16 to 28 grams of protein per day, depending on their age, gender and activity level.  Aiming for about 6-9 grams of protein at breakfast is a great way to start the day.

Sources of Protein: Common Breakfast Foods
Egg, 1 large – 6 grams
Bacon – 1 slice – 3 grams
Ham – 2 ounces – 12 grams
Milk, 1 cup – 8 grams (soy milk maybe slightly less – read the label)
Yogurt – ¾ cup – 5 grams
Soft Cheese – 1 ounce – 6 grams
Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons – 8 grams
Nuts or Seeds:  ¼ cup – 6-9 grams

FRUITS OR VEGETABLES: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential nutrients to keep your child healthy and growing strong. Fruits and vegetables of different colors contain different nutrients, so it is best to eat a colorful range.

How much does your child need?  Young Children (2 - 6 years old) should eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day. Older children (over age 6), should have 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit.  It is recommended that only one of the daily fruit servings come from juice.

Fruit & Vegetable serving sizes:
1 medium whole fruit (apple, pear, banana)
1/2 cup of cut up fresh, frozen or canned fruit
1/4 cup of dried fruit
3/4 cup (6 ounces) of 100% fruit or vegetable juice

GRAINS: Eating grains, especially whole grains, provides the body with energy. Along with other vitamins and nutrients, grains also provide us with fiber which helps the body digest foods and fight disease.

It is recommended that at least half of your daily grains should be whole.  Choosing whole grains is easy – read the labels on breads and cereals. For the most part, “whole-grain” food products will list the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the name (for example, whole wheat bread).

How much does your child need? Children ages 2-8 should get 3-5 ounces of grains per day, half should come from whole grains.

Whole-grain breakfast foods and the size of a 1 ounce serving:
Whole wheat breads & muffins: 1 slice
Buckwheat pancakes & waffles: 1 pancake/waffle
Oatmeal – ½ cup
Whole Grain Cereal  – ½ cup
Granola – ½ cup

CALCIUM: Everyone knows that calcium builds strong teeth and bones. It is very important to children, because their teeth and bones are growing. Recent studies indicate that as many as 50% of all children are not getting enough calcium in their diet.

So how much for children? Your child’s need for calcium increase as they grow. Here are the guidelines:
Age 1-3 need 500 mg per day.
Age 4-8 need 800mg per day.
Age 9 to 18 need 1300 mg per day.

Milk is the best source of calcium, because it also contains vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium. An 8-ounce glass of milk has 300 mg of calcium, and one cup of yogurt has 400 mg of calcium. If your child is not a milk drinker or has a dairy allergy, there are plenty of other food sources for calcium such as soy milk, oranges, broccoli, and salmon.

About the Author:

Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week and So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at to sign up for her newsletter and her blog feed.

See Cheryl’s article on Kid-Friendly Breakfasts, too