background img

Whodunit? Our Halloween Mystery Ghost(s)

We have had some paranormal activities Chez Johnson that are wreaking all sorts of havoc and sending a shiver down my spine.

Our ghost first put holes near the top of our blinds. Then, the florescent light cover in our kitchen not only crashed to the ground but these spirits somehow carried it all the way to the garbage can outside. And don’t get me started on the jar of peanut butter that floated to the basement, the most minor of the trespasses but still a head-scratcher.

All of these situations have been met with the  doe-eyed innocence of our kids. “Mom, I have no idea how that happened” or “maybe it was Fat Kitty,” which makes me seriously worry about their power of persuasion if they’re trying to convince me that our obese, declawed cat could become airborne (though peanut butter might be a good motivator). 

To their credit, they haven’t turned each other in but when you’re only one of two siblings, the odds are not ever in your favor. We’ve repeatedly trying to instill within them that lying is worse than the actual crime but to no avail.

I have yet to catch them red-handed but got a kick out of toddler Jack’s blue-faced lie about the free cupcake he’d swiped in a celebration for the New York Giants.

The good news is that we are making some progress. I’m not sure about the topic in my daughter’s Sunday School class last week but she finally confessed to her teacher, “YES, IT WAS I WHO TOOK THE PEANUT BUTTER TO THE BASEMENT AND ATE DIRECTLY OUT OF IT WITHOUT A SPOON.”

If only the trespasses of my little spirits could always remain so innocent.

The powerful lesson my son taught me at Little League

It was a 73 degree, bluebird-sky Colorado morning on the Little League field, and I had my Starbucks and a newspaper. It was also the second to last game of my 10-year-old son Caleb’s second season as a Dodger, and I should have been able to just sit back and enjoy as he and his teammates warmed up for their game.

But my gut was clenched as I watched Caleb practice. I was actually stressed out because of Little League. Caleb, #5, wanted to pitch, but he missed the plate each and every time he threw the ball.

If my husband Larry had not been the Dodgers’ coach, I might have asked Caleb early into his first baseball season last spring whether he really wanted to continue. I knew of course that Little League was supposed to just be for fun, but I wondered how Caleb could be having any fun when he couldn’t hit or catch the ball. It just seemed so clear that baseball wasn’t going to be his “thing.” But Larry insisted that Caleb was learning. That he understood the game and that his short, scrawny body just needed to catch up with everything he knew in his head. So, since Caleb seemed OK with it all, just happy to be out there playing and part of the team, I bit my tongue and kept schlepping him to practices and to games.

littleleague1During his first season last spring, Caleb struck out every time he went to bat. And he groped clumsily at the ball every time it made its way to where he was standing in the outfield. But then, finally, at the beginning of this season, he started to make contact, bat to ball, and he even got a few runs. He also developed a truly solid ability at second base.

Back to Saturday’s game. We were in the 5th or 6th inning when Larry decided to let Caleb try his hand at pitching. And it was painful, just as awful as I’d feared, and maybe even more so. The ball made it directly over the plate a few times, but for the most part, Caleb threw it above the batters’ heads or too far to one of their sides or way too short of home plate.

But still, my son kept pitching. He stood on the pitcher’s mound, totally determined and focused, and he kept going, trying his absolute best, until the other team had walked so many runs that Larry finally replaced him.

At this point, Caleb walked away from the pitcher’s mound with a satisfied grin. “Great job, Caleb!” I yelled from the stands. “Way to go, Caleb!” cheered my friend Mary, another Dodger mom. Many of the Dodgers became easily frustrated when they struck out or messed up a play in the outfield, and Larry had to work hard to instill in Caleb and his teammates the lessons of baseball beyond winning. Fortunately, the Dodger parents were a levelheaded bunch. I smiled at Mary and relaxed. How lucky was I to have such a kind community in which to raise my son? How lucky was I to have such a cool kid?

Maybe Caleb is OK with baseball because he has other endeavors in which he excels, like karate, skiing, and math. And he might not need baseball to be his thing because he’s got other talents and skills. But I also think he just gets the real meaning of a game in a way that is seriously smart beyond his years.

I am so proud of Dodger #5 for his tenacity and for the ways in which his Little League efforts reminded his recovering perfectionist of a Jewish mama that I have to stick with things I enjoy even when they are hard. And that life is a marathon, not a sprint. And that if I quit because I’m not an all-star, I end up off the field, not playing the game at all.

I’m also pretty thankful, by the way, for #5’s wise and patient coach.

Evelyn Becker is a writer, activist and mother who is currently working on her first book, “Three Sabbaths: a memoir of rebellion, repair & love.” “Three Sabbaths” is the story of the spiritual journey that took Evelyn from a frustrated and lonely adolescence in Silver Spring, Maryland’s insular Orthodox Jewish enclave to the healing strengths of nature and a meaningful Jewish family life in the Rocky Mountains. Evelyn lives with her husband and two young children in Denver, Colorado.

Fun Fall Books and Activities for Kids!

School is back in session, there is a chill in the air, pumpkin spice lattes are back and I even had a fire in the fireplace for the first time in over five months… Fall has arrived!

As an educator and mom, I love the combination of reading books followed by an “extension activity”. Extension activities have lots of benefits such as getting children excited to read and teaching them how to connect a book to real life. Activities give a child a chance to use the language from the book in a new way and of course, you have more positive parent-child interaction! Extension activities take reading to a whole new and exciting level and don’t need to be time consuming or cost money.

This summer I fell in love with Usborne books after a friend of mine introduced them to me. There are a unique company that makes books for all ages that include fiction, non-fiction, activity books, pop up books and more! I ordered a bunch of them this summer for birthday gifts as they are typically a bit harder to find so I don’t have to worry about kids already owning the book. The best news about these books is that they can be found right here at any of the Denver Public Libraries. Just enter the titles and place a hold at your closest library.

Since I’m excited that Fall has arrived I wanted to share a few of our favorite Fall books and an extension activity for each as well. Happy Fall!taleoftwobeasts

  1. A Tale of Two Beasts” by Fiona Roberton- When a little girl rescues a strange beast from the woods, she takes him home. But for some reason, the little beast is not happy! There are two sides to every story, and this funny and charming tale is no exception. Fiona Roberton offers both points of view in this discussion-starting tale of the importance of seeing the world in different ways

Extension Activity:

a) Have your child create their own story with two perspectives. Older children could write their story themselves, younger children could verbalize it to the adult.

b) Ask a child to think of a situation in their own life that presented a problematic encounter with a friend or adult. Encourage them to share the situation that made them feel unhappy, mad, embarrassed etc.. Try and have them see both sides of the event from each persons perspective (just like in the book). This is a wonderful way to teach empathy, understanding and problem solving.


  1. Secrets of the Apple Tree, Shine-A-Light Book” by Kane Millersecretsofappletree

Explore a tree up close and you will find a small world filled with great surprises! From worms wriggling among the roots, to birds nesting high in the branches, the hidden wonders of this amazing habitat are revealed when the page is held up to a light.

Extension Activity:

a) Do your own apple picking at a near by apple orchard! Look and touch the tree- the leaves, bark and fruit. Here are a few favorite around Denver: YaYa Farm & Orchard 6914 Ute Hwy Longmont, CO 80503; Happy Apple Farm 1190 1st Street, Penrose, CO 81240

b) Head to the grocery store and let your child pick out their own apple for a healthy snack. Talk to them about the different colors, textures and flavors. Have a taste test with a few different types of apples. Finally, cut open the apple horizontally across the middle and you will see a star with the seeds. There is a story you can share about the star here.

farmc) “ 1001 Things to Spot on the Farm” Usborne – This charming picture book shows scenes from farms around the world, and on every page, there are dozens of things to spot. The detailed pictures provide hours of looking and talking, and dedicated spotters will be unable to put the book down until they have found all the water buffaloes in the rice fields, the cocoa pods on the tropical farm, or eight lambs on the sheep farm. Counting sheep has never been so much fun!

Extension Activity:

  1. Bring the book with you in the car and have you child find what they “spot in the book” out the window! They will be amazed how many things from the book they find within their own world.
  2. Create your own Things to Spot. Use a sheet of paper and crayons or markers and have your child create their own Things to Spot page or book! Suggest they draw their house, playroom, or favorite place to play like a park or zoo and place special things to spot in their picture.



Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family and 1 year old son, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW




How Movin’ and Groovin’ Can Help Your Child’s Early Literacy

Children are being taught how to read earlier and earlier. Gone are the days of kindergarten being about the ABCs, snacks, and naptime (although I’m sure there’s plenty of that too!). In fact, I read an article recently that explained that most kindergarteners are spending at least three hours of their school day learning to read.

movinBabies, toddlers, and preschoolers might not be able to read on their own, but there are plenty of things you can do to give them the early literacy skills they will need once they’re in kindergarten. In addition to reading to your child daily and making plenty of books available to them, a hugely important piece is allowing your kiddo to engage in active learning through play!

If you want to know more about how to use movement and play to teach your child early literacy skills, Jefferson County Public Library has just the thing! We’re hosting a FREE Movin’ and Groovin’ workshop led by renowned author and physical activity specialist, Rae Pica, on Wednesday, October 14th at 6:30 p.m. at the Lakewood Culture Center and you’re invited! 

This two-hour workshop is designed help parents, teachers, and childcare providers to better understand the relationship between physical activity and the brain; the value of play; and how to use movement, play, and active learning to nurture a child’s ability to learn to read and think.  Once you’ve learned how to use movement and play to develop early literacy skills, join Jefferson County Public Library staff at one of our Movin’ and Groovin’ Fests to practice active learning with your little one.

Save your seat for our Movin’ and Groovin’ workshop today!

10 Ways to Kick Sugar From Your Kids’ Diet (without them even knowing it)

We all know it.  Our kids consume too much sugar.  It’s everywhere.  Cereal, pancake mix, yogurts,  pre-packaged oatmeal,  cookies, candies, juice drinks and the list goes on.  We all know we should cut our kids’ sugar intake but how?  Here’s my Top 10 list for kicking that sugar out of your kids’ mouths: 

  1. Bake your own goodies. Prepackaged cookies contain much more sugar than homemade goodies.  You get to control how much sugar goes in.  If you’re making chocolate chip cookies or pancakes, cut the sugar called for in the recipe by 1/2.  You still have sweetness from the chocolate chips so they will never know.  Some other great ways to naturally sweeten goodies is raisins and dates.  Also adding cinnamon and a dash of salt will bring out the sweetness. 
  1. Limit those juice boxes. Juice contains about the same about of sugar as soda.  Substitute whole fruit instead.  Apples, oranges, pears, etc.  Your kids will get the necessary fiber from eating the whole fruit and it will fill them up.  Make homemade popsicles with 50% water/50% juice.  You can even freeze berries in them for a fun surprise 🙂 
  1. Read Labels. You will be amazed at the amount of sugar in your foods.  Four grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon.  Many cereals kids are consuming are 40-50% sugar.  That includes prepackaged oatmeal  too. 
  1. Use other natural forms of sugar for added health benefits. We use 100%  Organic Pure Maple Syrup on our pancakes.  The kids use less and it’s all natural.  I prefer  Organic Stevia in my  coffee.  When I drink tea, my sweetener of choice is honey.  My kids love it too.  
  1. Never use artificial sweeteners. They fool your brain and actually make you crave more sugar. 
  1. Use smaller bowls. This way they are getting less sugar, but they don’t think so!!! 
  1. Buy things labeled unsweetened or no sugar added. 
  1. Focus on more protein and healthy fats. Avocados, nuts, seeds will fill your kids up and have great brain boosting fats. 
  1. Give your kids more water. Most kids do not get the recommended amount of water they need.   As a general rule, your kids need around one ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day.  Some fun ways to get your kids do drink more water is:  add fresh citrus fruits or frozen berries to their water, make cool cubes with a piece of fruit in each ice cube tray, have them pick a crazy straw or a fun water bottle.  
  2. Moderation, not deprivation. Moderation is the key to any healthy change we want to introduce to our kids and ourselves.  Have fun kicking that sugar out !!!

sugarMary Tate is the owner of Tree of Life Health & Wellness in Parker, CO.  She is a Certified Health Coach and a Wellness Advocate for Doterra.  Her passion is to educate families on how easy it is to incorporate nutrient dense foods into their lives so they can achieve optimal health.  For more information check out her website at or give her a call at 720-236-6243.

Learn how to get your kids “Movin’ and Groovin'” with this free workshop!

If you’ve been to a storytime at any Jefferson County Public Library location, you know that children’s librarians are all about using song and dance to engage children in active learning. In fact, I’ve never been to a storytime that didn’t involve some sort of physical activity.

One of the very best ways to prepare young children for reading is through movement and play, which is why everyone at Jefferson County Public Library is super excited for the upcoming  Movin’ and Grovin’ workshop with author, educator, and physical activity specialist, Rae Pica.

Parents, teachers, and caregivers will love this FREE workshop on October 14th at 6:30 p.m. Leave the kiddos at home so you aren’t distracted while you learn all about the relationship between physical activity and the brain; the value of play; and how to use movement, play, and active learning to nurture a child’s ability to learn to read and think. 

raeRae is the author of 17 books, including Experiences in Movement, Great Games for Young Children, Jump into Literacy, and A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity and Free Time Create a Successful Child and her expertise has been shared with groups like the Sesame Street Research Department, the Head Start Bureau, Centers for Disease Control, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues, Gymboree, and state health departments throughout the country! She’s even served on the task force of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) that created national guidelines for early childhood physical activity.

Wednesday, October 14, 6:30 p.m.

Lakewood Cultural Center

470 South Allison Parkway

Lakewood, Colorado

If you spend lots of time with a kid under the age of five, you have got to check out this free event. The library also encourages you to save your seat so they know how many people to expect!

What’s in a [weird] name? A lot!

My eldest son is one of those kids with a “weird” name. We had the best of intentions when choosing it, but he’s still young and doesn’t care we named him with his Algerian heritage in mind. He wants to fit in, not to explain his name every time he introduces himself.

My husband is Arab, and though we know the stigma around all things Middle Eastern, we wanted an Arabic name. Before our son was born, I spent considerable time poring over the Arabic names book for contenders. Whatever we chose would have to be easily pronounceable and without negative associations. We therefore made a long list, progressively whittled it down, eventually selected “Yassin.” I liked it, but also didn’t think it could be mangled too badly; after all, it almost rhymes with “machine.” But you wouldn’t know that unless someone said it for you first, which is where the problem lies.

The other day, for example, I went to school registration to fill out forms. At the table they’d set up near the office, a friendly blonde asked me for my last name to locate the boys’ registration forms. She rifled through the stack of files to get ours, found Yassin’s first. “Yah-sun?” she pronounced awkwardly. I just smiled and gave a little nod of acknowledgement, didn’t bother to correct her. It wasn’t her fault; I’m sure there had not yet been another Yassin-Machine at registration this year.

Why should I expect she know how to say his name? It’s not common here: it is weird. Tell it to the average stranger, and they give you quizzical looks and hope they misheard you saying “Jackson.” I just sighed inwardly and thought about how it cool it had been when we were on vacation in Algeria and you’d hear that name all the time. Someone saying “Yassin!” as he called to his friend in the car, a person calling it out to get the attention of a guy on the other side of the street, a kid yelling it as he passed the soccer ball to his buddy.

More than once my Yassin turned around thinking someone was calling his name and was surprised when there turned out to be Yassins everywhere. We’d hear the name, I’d cast him a quick glance, and we’d share a little smile knowing that there, halfway around the world, he wasn’t the only guy with the odd Arab name. Yassin was as commonplace as Charlie or Sam. Nothing odd, just a name. Nothing that required explanation or assistance.

Our vacation is over, but I hope that now he’s back here in Denver, some awareness of that ordinariness elsewhere will remain. I hope he’ll stop disliking the name no one can pronounce, stop feeling like an American kid with too-heavy Arab baggage. If he doesn’t feel it now, I hope someday he’ll know he’s a kid whose name isn’t actually so weird and that instead, it’s proof that he fits in a few different places in this enormous world.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Senouci is a software localization engineer, translator, occasional writer, and mom of two boys. She enjoys traveling, running, and sitting on the couch.

Children’s Advocacy Boot Camp

Have you ever wished you had the knowledge and tools to call up your state representative to discuss a health care issue faced by your family or your child? Have you ever wanted to build support within your community or your child’s school for a specific cause related to children’s health? Have you ever felt the need to speak up in a health care setting but not been sure how you would be received? Children’s Advocacy Boot Camp is for you!
Children’s Hospital Colorado is proud to announce its second Children’s Advocacy Boot Camp—a program for adults who want to learn how to advocate for children’s health issues that matter to them. Consisting of seven monthly half-day sessions featuring expert speakers on a variety of advocacy-related topics, Children’s Advocacy Boot Camp will resemble traditional leadership programs but will be geared toward teaching the fundamentals of becoming an effective advocate—be that at the Capitol, in your community, or in a healthcare setting, and other places.
Develop key skills
After completing Advocacy Boot camp, you will be able to:
• Find your voice, believe you can effect change, and know how to improve your community for children
• Be able to identify community resources and supports for children and understand how to utilize them
• Build confidence in communicating with elected officials and other community leaders on behalf of children
• Develop public speaking skills and strategies
• Learn the importance of the media and how to leverage it to make positive societal improvements for children
• Gain an understanding of the legislative process and state budgeting
• Be able to navigate the State Capitol
There is no charge to participate in the program; however, interested individuals must apply. Class size is limited. Questions? Contact Kay Jenner at:

Take the Leap: How I Made a “Great Play” to Start My Own Business

Watch a child at play in our gym sometime and you’ll quickly learn how much fun a simple thing like jumping can be. The child will run at full speed and then leap into the air, hovering for an almost endless moment… only to land safely, tumbling onto the soft mat. The smiles and peals of laughter tell you how much fun making that leap is. In a similar fashion, I made such a leap years ago and never looked back.

I was a born-and-raised New Yorker and after college I moved back to the city, working for 19 years as a recruiter, and for 12 of those years in Manhattan. It was fast-paced and rewarding, and there were quite a few things that I loved about it… but at some point I began to feel like I needed something more, something different. It was time for a change, and I myself made that uncertain leap to Colorado.

Once here, I searched for something that would not only fit me but allow me to contribute something to the world. I wanted flexibility, I wanted to own my own business, and since I loved being a mom, working with kids was a huge plus. I considered going back to school in social work, but when I came across the opportunity to open Great Play Cherry Creek, all my friends and family agreed that it was right up my alley.

Great Play’s mission is for every child to develop a love of physical activity, leading to an active, healthy and confident life. Because I love activities such as hiking, cycling, playing tennis and skiing, I know how important physical activity can be for everyone. And while not everyone has the desire to become a professional athlete, every child does have the capacity to be physically successful if taught the essentials. What’s more, experiencing the rewarding feeling of physical activity early on carries through a child’s life, so they’ll want to play and be physically active for life.

Flash forward to today: I have a 7-year-old son in second grade, a wonderful husband, a cat named Lulu and two fish that are named… um… well… the truth is, I take care of the fish and I love them, but they’re named after Broncos players, and I always forget which ones. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!)

More importantly, I love coming to work every day. (I’m not even sure I can call this work!) There is nothing like Great Play in the Denver area and I’m excited to have brought this unique kids gym to the area. Whenever I see the kids being active in the gym, whenever I see a child throwing well or catching a ball for the first time, whenever I see the smiles and hear the laughter, I think back to that leap I myself made.

That’s when I’m sure I made the right decision.

P.S – Dream Big, Jump High, Sing Loud!

Guest blogger Laura L’Herault is the owner of Great Play of Cherry Creek, which offers classes that are not what you’d expect from the children’s gym market – they’re high-energy, interactive events. Great Play offers 50-minute classes for ages 6 months to 8 years. Your first class is always FREE so you can see what they are all about. In addition to sessions for the younger kids, they offer sport and PE classes, create amazing birthday parties, have special camps during the school year, Parents Night Out and so much more. In partnership with Mile High Mamas.


My Journey with Secondary Infertility

“I’ve been meaning to tell you, we’re expecting number three!”

It had been 18 months since we found out we were finally pregnant with our second child via IVF, and the words still stung. After all the time that had passed, why did I continue having the same gut wrenching reaction to this sort of news? The glowing expectant mother was the mom of my son’s preschool friend. Her two children were spaced almost two and a half years apart, and this new addition would be as well.

My secondary infertility trauma kicked in full gear.  

Chances are, someone in your life has experienced, is experiencing, or will experience secondary infertility. Perhaps this is you. It is a diagnosis that threatens the emotional and physical well-being of millions of people worldwide, a diagnosis that is not frequently discussed.

infertilityAccording to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, secondary infertility is “the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications.”

For a long time, I was unsure how to diagnose myself. We conceived our first son just shy of a year of trying, but we used fertility drugs to achieve this. I am a “Make it happen!” kind of person, who will go to any length to accomplish something I am passionate about. My gut told me something was wrong early on, and I was right.  We sought help, and were blessed with a beautiful and wild, I mean active, baby boy!

Like most people I know, we wanted more than one child. Because we conceived our son relatively quickly (according to the infertility community), I assumed my body would just know what to do. It did not.

Attempting to add to our family, we suffered a twelve week miscarriage, three failed Intrauterine Inseminations, a chemical pregnancy, and a failed In Vitro Fertilization frozen embryo transfer.

As a stay-at-home mom, I was engulfed with all things children related, constant reminders of what I was lacking. I didn’t have the choice to avoid kid/growing family situations, so I grudgingly endured them. And on more than one occasion, I secretly broke down in tears. I was caught between two worlds; one in which I was a parent because I had my son, but another in which my family wasn’t yet complete.

From the outside, it might have appeared that I was content. On the inside, I was drowning.
fertility Every time I opened my computer, answered the doorbell, checked Facebook, met up with a friend, retrieved the mail, got a phone call…I braced myself for what I might discover, and how I would react.

That was a few years ago, but those surprise announcements continue to have the ability to take me down if I’m not in a healthy mindset. I have a feeling it will take quite a while before I can react with genuine enthusiasm. Regardless of the fact that I am now a mother of two, what happened during my dark days didn’t happen overnight, and healing will take some time. And this is okay.

 A passionate primary and secondary infertility advocate, Jen Noonan is the author of In Due Time: A Journey Through Infertility, Loss, and Embracing the Unknown, released September 2015 on Amazon. She is a freelance writer and Licensed Professional Counselor attempting to destigmatize the shame and guilt surrounding infertility and miscarriage.