Emotional intelligence (what the heck is it?)

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Your child is super frustrated about something, but isn’t able to communicate clearly what has gone wrong. You feel your emotions getting the best of you as you also become aggravated trying to help. Instead of getting to the root of the issue, tempers rise. With a younger child, an extreme temper tantrum may erupt or an older child may resort to yelling or even crying. Sometimes our emotions get the best of us, but they are essential to our development and ability to deal with social situations.

Emotional intelligence, also knows as EQ, has been discovered to be an important aspect of how we respond to social situation, such as our child throwing a temper-tantrum. A child develops his emotional intelligence through experimenting with imaginary play and having positive behavior modeled to him. When children feel supported and comfortable emotionally, they are better able to effectively learn and are more apt to be physically fit, score higher academically, and get along better with friends and family. As parents, we can assist in a child’s emotional intelligence advancement through simple steps that will encourage his ability to learn, behave, and problem solve effectively.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The study of the emotional human being can be traced all the way back to Darwin and his evolutionary research, but was not highly publicized to the main-stream until the publication of Emotional Intelligences by Daniel Goleman. His book brought a greater understanding of how emotional intelligence plays a role in children’s behavior and learning and how high IQ doesn’t always lead to success. Goleman also finds that social skills and understanding of how to succeed in challenging situations is also important in the development of children and their evolution into a smart and well-rounded adult.

How to Teach Emotional Intelligence

According to Goleman, life skills can aid in building one’s emotional intelligence and help children in learning how to best respond in social situations.  The next time a frustrating situation arises, following a couple of simple steps may lead to stronger parent-child interactions and a greater awareness of problem-solving skills.

Try discussing with the child:

1. What are you feeling? When a child has the basic emotional skills to understand his feelings and put a name to them, he is on his way to mastering self-awareness. Focusing on the emotion a child is feeling helps him understand and label it.

2. Why are you feeling that way? Knowing where an emotion came from or the reason why a child is feeling a certain way is key to solving the problem. When a child can verbally express the reason for his feelings, he’s able to manage his emotions. This is a bonding opportunity between an adult and child fostering nurturing and emotional growth.

3. How can I help? The ability to understand when someone is hurt, sad, or happy and respond appropriately with empathy encourages emotional growth. Taking the time to listen carefully to a child’s concerns or thoughts allows for understanding and comfort.

4. Let’s talk it out. When a child can properly express to others his emotions without frustration or judgment, he builds his life-skills. Encourage a child to use words he best feels express the situation also encourages his language skills.

5. Here is my suggestion. When a child is able to listen to others and really hear what is being said to him, he is able to improve his emotional intelligence. As an adult, set firm and realistic boundaries when problems arise, along with appropriate discipline if needed.

Improving Emotional Intelligence

As parents you can improve your child’s (and your own) emotional intelligence as well as foster positive academic learning. It is easier than you think and can also be incorporated into the classroom. Along with following the above suggestions for working through challenging situations, try to:

Identify feelings – It is never too early to help a child better recognize why he is feeling the way he does. Find ways to aide a child in giving his emotional state a name by asking clarifying questions such as, “I can see you are frustrated because you can’t get the scissors to cut. Would you like me to help you figure it out?” Encouraging a child to find a way to problem-solve along with labeling his emotion opens his mind to new thinking – better expanding his emotional intelligence.

Stay positive – Before resorting to “no” find ways to encourage a child engage him in a positive way.  Set strong limits along with being understanding and patient in challenging situations. Communicate with positive language and in a clear, direct way, which will encourage a child to also do so in the future. Not only are you encouraging your child’s emotional intelligence, you are boosting your own, too!

Have some quality one-on-one time – Fostering a child’s positive attributes encourages his self-confidence as well as his emotional intelligence. Instead of always focusing on academic skills, take the time to find out what your child is interested in and also excels at, and encourage that skill. When a child feels positive about his special talents, he is more excited about learning as well as exploring and experimenting.

Listen – When your child is frustrated, angry, or just really excited, take the time to listen and listen closely. We all like to feel others hear what we are saying, and it is the same with kids – it is just that they seem to have lots to say! In a heated situation, take the time to attentively listen to what your child has to say along with encouraging his communication skills by asking questions and offering support. Once your child has finished communicating, it is time for him to listen as you offer your response. By modeling positive listening skills, your child will pick up on your clues and, in time, respond appropriately.

Problem solving with emotional intelligence strategies does not mean behavioral issues will disappear, but when time is taken to implement positive emotion coaching, children are better able to deal with emotions helping them to feel more confident and develop in wonderful ways.

Fall leaf mobile

While cleaning out my craft drawer the other day I came across some fabric fall leaves I used for a project last year. My tot has really been into stringing beads lately and figured we could combine the two into a simple and beautiful autumn art activity.

Fall leaf mobile.

Stringing beads actually benefits fine-motor skills and encourages the understanding of mathematical concepts such as patterns and addition and subtraction. While your child is making this lovely fall project, she can explore color combinations and counting the beads on each string – or the whole mobile!

And if you don’t have silk leaves hanging around, real leaves will work, too. Just use extra-gentle hands while creating.

Gather the materials needed for the mobile including silk fall leaves, fishing line, mason jar lids (just the outside rings), scissors, colorful beads, and a whole punch. Now your child can brainstorm combinations of beads and leaves she’d like for her fall leaf mobile.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Next she can punch holes in the leaves and string with a one to two foot length of fishing line, securing with a knot. Help younger kids by tying on the leaves and then handing over for your child to string with beads.

Invite your child to string on as many, or as few, beads as she’d like. She can create patterns, single lengths of colors, or random combinations. When the lengths are finished, she can tie them onto the mason lid. About four or five beaded leaf strings creates a nicely balanced mobile. Finish things off with a one to two foot piece of ribbon or twine for hanging in an entry way or corner of a room.

Your child can continue stringing and beading more fall leaf mobiles and hang them all together for a really stunning autumnal display or give to friends and family as gifts!

Happy fall!

It’s been awhile…

© Dean Lipoff Photography 2011

His hand was back on her neck and she felt her heart skip a couple beats. She was starting to freak out and the baby was fussing. She snuck a quick peek at him out of the corner of her eye. He didn’t look like a crazy person or a serial killer or anything, but she knew you couldn’t judge a book by its cover.

That’s what her 8th grade English teacher always said.

She noticed a tattoo on the underside of his arm tucked up tight under the sleeve of his t-shirt. She remembered getting her small tattoo in high school and the biting pain it caused. It was like a whole bunch of bees stinging at the same time. While she was getting it, the guy told her she picked a good spot.

If you get one in a delicate place it hurts a hell.

Well she sure remembered getting pinched by her husband in that area under her arm one night when she wasn’t saying the right thing at some party. He had put his arm around her and tucked in his hand right there. She had kinda liked how it felt and then he squeezed so tightly it left a small purple mark for almost a month.

Almost like this guy’s tattoo. A small round circle with a design in the center. Like a brand mark she saw on the bottom of fancy food packages.

“I see your tattoo,” she said.


“Yeah. It’s been awhile.”

“Awhile since what?” she mumbled. She wasn’t sure why she had started talking to him. The truck was bouncing so much she wasn’t sure how to fix herself to the seat.

“Awhile since anyone else has seen it,” he said while staring straight ahead.

*Yeah, yeah, no one wants to jump into a story that’s already started, but hopefully this was enough to get you interested in reading more…

So, here, here, here, and here.

There. Now you’re all caught up.

This was a writing prompt from my friends over at Write on Edge: This week, we’d like you to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently.

How’d I do?




Sunday Spectacular – Candied Bacon

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

While cleaning out the fridge the other day, I happened upon the last dredges of some home-grown maple syrup that had been neglected during the warm summer. The weather had started to cool down, so that maple syrup imprinted on my brain pretty serious.

So much that I spent a couple of hours (which should’ve been spent working or enjoying the new sentence-structure abilities of the tot) looking for maple syrup recipes.

I had to dig a bit, but then, there it was.

Candied Bacon.

The recipes I found mostly called for brown sugar and fancy, schmancy cooking equipment. I made it my way – and it turned out amazingly good.


8-10 thick slices of bacon (about 1 pound)

1/2 c brown sugar

1 Tbsp maple syrup

(that’s it)

What you do

Preheat the oven to 400 F. While things are cranking up, line a sheet pan with heavy-duty tinfoil (or a few layer of the regular stuff) and get out your bacon.

Line those slices of lovely ham on the sheet pan so they are just about touching, but have some room to grow.

Now, mix together the brown sugar and maple syrup in a bowl. Please, do one thing for me. Don’t use maple syrup out of a plastic squeezie container. Use the yummy, good stuff. Sure, I know it costs more in glass bottle, but, chances are, you’re paying for the real stuff. Not color-added high-fructose corn syrup…

Get your hands in the brown sugar maple syrup goodness and crumble half the mixture over the bacon.

After you (lick your fingers clean) wipe off your hands, pop that bacon in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes.


Turn the bacon and sprinkle the fresh sides with the remaining brown sugar/maple syrup mixture. Pop back into the oven for another 8-10 minutes.

It’s up to you how crispy you want your candied bacon. If you like things a bit browner, let that bacon hang out. You can even give things a flip to keep the total goo-factor going. Once you’re happy with how things are looking, remove the pan and let the candied bacon rest for about 10-minutes.

Remove the slices from the pan and place on a nice, clean plate. DON’T put it on a paper towel – think bits o-paper all over that yummo bacon.

Depending on how you plan on using your candied bacon (sure, you can eat it all now), place in a plastic zippy-top bag and in the fridge. Or, chop it up and add to dinner. I did….

© Dean Lipoff 2011

Want to put a spin on things? Add a couple dashes of one or all of the following:



Ground Ginger

Fresh Ground Pepper

Dried Mustard


Pumpkin Pie Spice

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Fine art for kids: Bending with Giacometti

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Wire is such a fun art medium and is safe for kids of all ages – just offer some adult supervision with the young ones. Wire is also forgiving, so if things get a bit frustrating, everything can get smoothed out and the project can be started all over. There’s nothing like taking something malleable and bending it into a three-dimensional creation – and wire is just the thing to use for this project.

Think crazy, tall sculptures depicting people and animals with elongated limbs. That sums up the famous sculptures of Alberto Giacometti, who was a Swiss born sculpture and artist who left home as a young man to study in Paris. After only a few short years, Giacometti was showing with other artists and getting lots of attention. His somewhat Surrealistic and Modern style of creating the human form evolved over the years. But those amazingly tall and elongated forms are what created such an impression on the world.

Along with seeing a human form taken to its bare essentials, the viewer recognizes the empty space around his sculptures creating a tension between the artwork and its surroundings. Although many of Giacometti’s sculptures evoke a sense of loneliness or sadness, they also have a feeling of movement and progression.

After taking a closer look at Giacometti’s sculptures, invite your child to create a couple of quick sketches for his elongated form sculpture. He can focus on a pose or part of the body to create a feeling for his creation.

Now he can get out some wire to use for bending and shaping his sculpture. Along with different gauges of wire (which can be picked up at any craft store) a nice, sharp pair of scissors and needle-nose pliers comes in handy. If you don’t have a needle-nose hanging around, a regular pliers works great, too.

Invite your child to cut a few length of wire, about 3 to 4 feet in length, and get started bending and twisting to create the base for his sculpture. Once he’s feeling good with how things are going, he can cut and bend more wires to fill in his Giacometti inspired form. Encourage your child to also think about balance and how to create a sturdy sculpture that will stand on its own (with a little help).

To finish things off, offer your child some plain old masking tape and start wrapping his finished wire creation in tape. If some of the wire pops through, no big deal.

Most of Giacometti’s sculptures were created from cast metals with a black finish. Your child can accomplish the same result by coating his tape wrapped wire creation with some black tempera paint.

Now he can stand up his sculpture (with the help of some clear plastic tape) on a piece of painted black cardboard for a completely finished effect.

Your child can keep bending and forming Giacometti inspired sculptures and create a collection perfect for displaying in a special spot in your home!


Ahhh, the wonders of home ownership.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

This time of year is all about rain where I live. Sometimes we get a couple of really nice, warm and toasty days intermingled with spattery rain showers. It’s nice because it’s not the full-on-downpour rain we get in December or January and those warm days make it all better.


Our house leaks.

(Okay, there, I said it.)

And the truth is it’s leaked since we bought the place. I just pretend it isn’t happening and that it’s quaint putting a few drip bowls out when the monsoon season starts.

This year the mini-drip leaks actually turned into light streams after just a sprinkling of rain.

I knew we were in trouble.

So, since Tuesday, I’ve been a bit AWOL trying to figure out how to manage this. I haven’t been able to concentrate, bake, create, get cozy with the tot, sleep….

Until, the other day, the husband did the right thing and called someone to take care of it. He did his best (and I applaud his efforts – even going up on the roof in the rain), but getting a pro over here to take care of our ever-raising living room water was the best decision he’s made in a long time. Yes, we were both up all night fearing thousands and thousands of dollars going to our roof, but were delighted when things turned out to be a quick fix, and easily accomplished in a few, short hours.

It’s been raining all day and there hasn’t been a single drip.

Totally awesome.


Pumpkin whoopie pies


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I don’t know about you, but fall has totally arrived at my house and with it a big craving for pumpkin goodies. While searching around for something fun to make, I came across a recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies that inspired me. But I wanted to put my own spin on things and maybe healthy them up a bit.

We love plain yogurt at our house and always have a ton of it around. With a bit of patience, I knew I could turn that yogurt into a fluffy, delicate filling for a couple of flavorful pumpkin cakes with a bit less sugar and butter than the other recipes called for.

The results were totally fantastic.

(We ate them all up)


1 ½ c pumpkin puree

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 t vanilla

¼ t ground ginger

1 egg

½ c vegetable oil

1 c packed brown sugar

½ t baking soda

½ t baking powder

Dash of salt

1 c whole-wheat flour

1 c white flour

*For the filling…

1 c plain yogurt strained overnight (This is simple, but takes time. Line a strainer with paper towel and then plop that yogurt on top and pop in the fridge for eight hours or so. It’s helpful to place that strainer on a plate so you don’t end up with yogurt goo all over the bottom of your fridge….)

½ t vanilla

½ c powdered sugar

1 Tbsp butter

Here’s how you make them

Start by prepping your yogurt. Really, you can’t rush this step, so just succumb to the fact you can’t saunter into your kitchen right now and make these tasty goodies. Seriously, you’ll be thinking about tossing these babies together all night, which will make them even tastier tomorrow. So place your yogurt in the paper towel lined colander, put it in the fridge, and go hang out on Pinterest or something.

The next day that yogurt will have released lots of liquid and have a similar texture to cream cheese. If you’re there, it’s time to make some pumpkin cakes!

Place the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, ginger, egg, vegetable oil, and brown sugar in a big mixing bowl and whisk until everything is all happy. Now you can add the salt, baking soda and baking powder, along with the flours, and mix everything together.

Heat up your oven to 350 F and line your baking trays with parchment or give them a light oil. Once your oven is ready, spoon your batter on the pans in 2-inch rounds. If you want mega-huge whoopie pies, go crazy. But, I found the smaller ones were lovely and didn’t make you feel all guilty after devouring one.

Place the rounds in the oven and bake for 12 minutes – give or take. When you see the tops of the cookie/cakes turning brown and cracking, it’s time to pull them.



While your cakes are cooling, whip together the filling by placing your now strained yogurt in a small mixing bowl, adding the vanilla, sugar, and butter, and fluffing with a hand mixer.

Sure, you could use a knife to slather that filling between two cakes, but it’s so much more fun to use a pastry bag. What? No pastry bag? Yeah, I don’t have one either. But, a nice plastic baggie does wonders! Spoon that filling into a plastic bag, squeeze everything to one corner, and snip the end (just a little bit) with a scissors. Voilà! Pastry bag!

Grab a (COOL) cookie and swirl on some filling. Simply top with another cookie and eat.


This recipe makes about 20+ finished pumpkin whoopie pies, depending on how big you make your cakes. Don’t expect them to last….

*Don’t feel like going through all that yogurt-straining work? Pick up a container of cream cheese frosting and pretend you made it yourself.

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Monday spectacular: Fall in Marin

Rain showed up today. It’s unavoidable – welcome to fall in Marin.

The thing is we have a flat roof and it’s in need of some help. The hubs went up and did some tarring and caring and loving… But, today, when we got a bit of a sprinkle, we had a few leaks.

Nothing big.


A leaky roof is a leaky roof.

We also had our first fire of the season.

As you can see – one of our cats wasn’t fazed by any of it.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011


No more crib…

© Dean Lipoff 2011

Today is a momentous day, or night, for the tot. We ditched the crib and transitioned to a toddler bed.

Well, kinda.

You see we have one of those recalled cribs with the drop-side, which we purchased at a re-sale shop, so it’s not like we could send it back. When the big hizzy went down about how unsafe the drop-side cribs were, we didn’t have the luxury of having a few hundred dollars to pick up a new one. We just never dropped the side down.

I spent lots of time researching toddler beds and drooling over all the cute options, but, yet again, empty pockets. I decided to get a bit inventive and turn what we have into something that would work better.

With the help of a wonderfully handy screwdriver, I took the front drop-side panel off the crib (yes, I’m fully aware someone is going to tell me this isn’t safe) and sweet-talked the hubs into helping me cut the tot’s door in half, creating a safe and functional room she would hopefully wonderfully slumber the nights away in.

Our house is a split-level and she’s downstairs all tucked away when it’s night-night time. I’m not about to hang out with her down there while I wait for her to blissfully fall asleep.


Mama needs a bit of down time.

So instead of heading out and spending some cash on a baby gate I told the hubs to get out the saw and make himself useful. A new door costs about $40 at our favorite home-stuff store when we’re ready to replace it with a whole one. I figure she doesn’t need a big that she can go slamming all the time – she’s two.

(Maybe she’ll just have a half-door forever…)

All my friends said their kids figured it out. Other people with kids get sleep at night without their kids running amuck through the house.

My tot can figure this out.

She’s ready.

She’s going to go to sleep even if she’s not in a crib…



I’ll let you know how things go.



Well, friends, I wrote this last night and was prepared for a night of dealing with a falling-from-the-crib tot, waking to a sneak-attack-child standing in front of my face, or ending up with the babe in the bed.

But, guess what?

She slept.

In her own bed.



Homemade prosciutto and spinach mac-n-cheese

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Last night I headed over to a wonderful friend’s house for an after-work play date. I wanted to bring something both the kids and us mamas would enjoy for dinner and figured mac-n-cheese would do – with a bit of a twist. Adding some spinach and prosciutto would make things a bit more flavorful and special.

Don’t be afraid of making homemade mac-n-cheese, it’s really easier than you think. And you can use whatever type of cheese you love best (along with controlling how cheesy you want it). Using whole milk ensures your sauce won’t get all clumpy and any shape or size of pasta works great.

And, it was ready to go in less than 45 min.


12 ounces pasta shells

Big pot of boiling water

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp oil

1/4 t salt

1 clove garlic chopped

Dash of pepper, paprika, and ground mustard

1/4 c flour

2 c milk

2 c fresh spinach

4 slices prosciutto chopped

1 c shredded cheese + 1/4 c for topping

How to make it

Start by boiling a big pot of water and dumping in your pasta. Any size or shape of pasta works wonderfully, but I sure like shells. Let the pasta simmer for at least 12-15, or until just cooked.

While the pasta is boiling away, get out a saucepan and make the sauce. A béchamel is a traditional French cooking method for creating a lovely and rich milk sauce perfect for something like mac-n-cheese. Don’t be afraid of the fancy name, it’s really just simmered butter, flour, and milk. Place the butter, oil, and chopped garlic in the pan and heat slightly over medium heat.

Once the butter has melted, create the roux for the sauce by adding the flour and whisking together with the butter and oil. A roux is the base that will help create the flavorful sauce. Stir things together for at least a minute to ensure the flour has cooked. You can let the roux cook for a couple of minutes to deepen the yumminess, but keep things over low heat – you don’t want a brown, burnt roux!

Now add the milk and whisk a bit more until the sauce starts to thicken and start to bubble. Turn off the heat and add the shredded cheese. Keep whisking until the cheese is all incorporated. Give things a taste and add more salt or pepper to your taste.

And, just about now, your pasta should be ready for straining. Go ahead and dump into your strainer and let rest for a minute while tossing together the spinach and prosciutto.

Place a sauté pan over medium heat and toast up the chopped prosciutto and then add the spinach. Once the spinach has wilted, take it off the heat.

Now place that happy pasta in an oven-safe serving dish, cover with the spinach and prosciutto, and then coat with the cheesy sauce. Sprinkle with the extra cheese and broil for a few seconds before serving.

A nice, big salad would turn this savory gooey dish into a perfect family dinner!

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