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Peanuts and Pomegranates

November 10, 2015
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child , OVParent

November. What is the first thing that comes to mind? Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie? Holiday travel? Black Friday sales? List-making to be better organized this year?

Maybe November is like "Toy Basket Upset." Remember the game toddlers play, dumping toy baskets then tossing the toys into the basket? Holiday momentum builds, your to-do list is made and your lovely basket of plans goes topsy-turvy. A midnight stomach bug rips through the house. On the first cold November morning, the car won't start, you break a tooth, and so it goes. With resolve, you pick up the plans, reorganize and hope for some semblance of order. Yet little by little, sneaky fingers of stress tickle you here and there. Eventually, the tickle becomes a pinch and, ultimately, seasonal stress sets in.

Considering November through a different lens may change your perspective and help diffuse the same old stresses that signal approaching holidays.

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November has some amazing commemorations. Some are serious, while many are not. Ask the kids how they think about November. Younger ones may say turkeys, pilgrims and Indians. Pull a big surprise with the news that November is also National Peanut Butter Lovers month. Check out this website with the kids: So much to talk about! And communication is always good. The site is filled with fun facts, pictures and serious information. According to information on this site, by the time kids graduate from high school, they will probably consume 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The world record-setting peanut butter and jelly sandwich weighed 1,342 pounds. It was assembled in Grand Saline, Texas, in 2010. Among other peanut-related Guinness world records is the 111-foot, 10-inch peanut toss in 1999 by Australian Adrian Finch.

Assuming no one has a peanut allergy, plan a surprise follow up - kitchen time with the kids. "Nutty Buddy Bites" is a simple, quick and kid-friendly recipe. It is also a good way to finish cereal that has lost its "crunch."

To make them: In a quart saucepan over medium heat, blend 1 cup chunky or plain peanut butter with a couple of tablespoons of honey until melted. Stir in a handful of chocolate or carob chips if you have them. In a large bowl, combine 3-4 cups of any dry cereal. A variety is fine. Add raisins or dried cranberries as desired. Pour the peanut butter mix over the cereal and stir to coat everything. You determine when the mix is cool enough to touch. Then the kids make golf ball size "Nutty Buddy Bites." Chill until set.

Older kids may want to bake a batch of traditional peanut butter cookies. You could bump it up a notch and make the peanut butter "blossom" cookies with the chocolate kiss on top. The "blossom" cookie keeps the kids engaged throughout the process as their fingers unwrap the chocolate kisses that are pressed into the freshly baked cookies. Home-baked cookies are tasty any time, but Nov. 2 is a great day for cookie baking and eating - it is National Cookie Monster Day.

What do middle-grade kids think about November? Are crickets chirping while you await their November associations? It's time to break the good news to these sometimes eye-rolling, deep-sighing young sophisticates that November is National Pomegranate Month. "What's a pomegranate?" they say as they give you that weird middle-grader look. Prepare ahead with a personal reality check. How many times have you passed the weird-looking pomegranates in the grocery without giving them a second thought? If you have never purchased a pomegranate, be brave - do it. Entering the pomegranate world could be an interesting experience. You may become a fan.

Pomegranates are an ancient Middle Eastern fruit dating back thousands of years. Biblical mentions of pomegranates are found many places, including in the books of Exodus and Song of Solomon. The pomegranate in Christian art represents hope and spiritual fruitfulness. The pomegranate is linked to Greek mythology, as well. As the story goes, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of grain, was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld. Persephone was taken to the underworld to be Hade's bride. Because she was tricked by her husband into eating six pomegranate seeds, the rescued Persephone was never allowed to leave the underworld completely. She must spend one third of the year underground, which is when the fields above ground are barren. The two thirds of the year she spends above ground, the crops flourish. If the myth is believed, then the logical conclusion is Persephone represents the annual cycle of vegetation.

Here is an entertaining communication opportunity for you and your middle-schoolers. Let the kids take the lead. Together, scour the Internet, the gateway to the weird world of pomegranates. There are a number of pomegranate information websites. However, the mother lode is, an especially colorful and informative website dedicated to pomegranate history, art and information from the very beginning of time to the present. Did you know this fruit is classed as a berry? Inside you will find 200 to 1,400 seeds. Most folks bypass pomegranates because they don't have a clue how to open them. YouTube to the rescue. There, you will find several step-by-step videos about how to open a pomegranate. Gather the kids, get the pomegranates and accept the pomegranate-opening challenge.

You never know how communication during stolen moments with the kids may open new doors -perhaps an interest in mythology or tasting new things. Add to your holiday fare something with pomegranates. When the predictable conversation lull happens, the kids might step up as accidental entertainers. Be they myth-tellers or nutrition gurus, the kids have a newly acquired wealth of pomegranate and peanut butter information.

So as November's holiday whirlwind approaches, remember a little more fun equals a little less stress.

Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is the author of six books, including her most recent, a novel titled "Fire in Progress." She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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