Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SHARE - the forced politeness

Share.  This is a word an infant hears repeatedly probably before they are even crawling.  A word that is said, over and over, and over and over again.  Share.  Share your toys, share your space, share your food, share your love, share your mommy, share, share, share.

Today, while I was in the playground I heard a grandmother (I am assuming this) tell the child, "SHARE!"  2 second pause.  "SHARE!"  "I said SHARE!".

I write it in caps and punctuate it as I heard.  So, if this is what I hear as an adult, can you imagine what the child hears?

I know I'm totally out of the box, down the road, across the hills, and deep in the woods, when it comes to this idea that we have to tell, yell, and force our children to share.  I don't think it's natural.  It's not.

Dr. Montessori talks about how the ages of 0-3 are when the child is developing his sense of self, also called Ego formation.  In this very fragile state he is building his sense of self unknowingly. It is an unconscious process in which the child absorbs the environment which includes behavior and social etiquette.  She also says that at this stage the child cannot "obey you" because he is listening to his inner teacher or his Will as she calls it.  The child's will is to develop himself, his strengths, his motor coordination, his ability recognize and categorize, and so much more.  At this stage, while all these high functioning processes are going on in the brain, he is unable to put himself outside of his body and consider how his actions are impacting the child next to him (who for the most part is a stranger in the playground).

It is essential and very important that we integrate and socialize our children to the culture in which we live, however, there is time.  The time comes just after 3, closer to 4 when the child starts to realize how his actions are impacting another.  After 3, the child has a conscious mind, a mind that seeks to learn from you, become a concrete thinking relating to his/her environment.

So, how do we get from the formation of the ego to a well adjusted and considerate child?  By modeling that behavior ourselves.  If we are polite and courteous to others, if we smile and open a door to another adult or child, if we offer assistance to another person, if we use words like "please," "may I," "thank you," and truly embody the sentiments of compassion and consideration to a fellow human being, then just then will our children become aware and understand what "share" truly means.

It saddens me to see what rude adults we become, sheltered in our own world, self-reliant, self-absorbed, self-centered, and all the while believing we are better for it.  Believing that being this way is being independent.  To me, independence is also knowing when you need help, knowing the difference between solitude and solace, empathy and sympathy, reaching out to others, and being true to oneself.

If we are to demand our not crawling, not walking, not talking children to SHARE!  Then maybe we should start by demanding the same of ourselves.

If the notion of sharing is that of; walking a mile in another man's shoes, then we should start by taking small steps in our children's shoes.  Understanding the complexity of an adult world through their eyes would be far better than forcing them to SHARE!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

4 year old makes dinner

Last night my 4 year old insisted on helping to make dinner.  It turned out she mostly made everything that didn't require the stove.  Since we've been doing this for years now I'm very comfortable and confident in her abilities.  I hope the photos can tell the story alone.  We made it all up as we went along.  She helped me mix the salts and spices for the rub to go on the chicken.  .

 Grating nutmeg for the mashed potatoes.

 We ended up calling it Prosciutto wrapped stuffed chicken with garlic spinach and mashed potatoes

Shared on:   wildcrafting wednesday, simple lives thursdays, small footprint family, fresh eggs daily, Fresh Bites Friday, Sunday Parenting Party, Family meal ideas,  hip homeschool moms, kids in the kitchen

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Road to Independence

Independence is a word many parents adopt into their vocabulary early on.  From the start we all want to help our children become "more independent".   Independence, however, is not given or earned, it is a quest of the human condition.  Dr. Montessori stated that Independence is psychological and biological.  Therefore, as parents and caregivers to these human beings that are newly entering the world, we must respect that need for independence and allow the child to come to his/her full potential.

We do what we can with what we have (financially and with physical space). We didn't have everything we wanted for our first, we accumulated items along the way, and have a wish list that we ask our family to consider for birthdays and holidays.

Here are some ideas on helping your child become more independent based on things that have worked for us:

* Have all items they will need in a low shelf so that they can help set the table, get their bowls, plates, spoons, cups, on their own.

* Use real plates, glasses, cups with handles, forks, etc that are child size so they can feel a part of the family and learn good manners along they way rather than struggling it with it later.

*Keep a routine (vs. a schedule).  A routine will help a child know what comes next.  Keeping to the same order of things at each meal, cleanup, getting ready for bed, making the bed, getting dressed, etc, will allow them to repeat the same actions over and over thus perfecting that skill.

* Start with small and basic steps.  When helping a newly walking child clean up, give them the spoon or fork to take to the kitchen.  When they have mastered that, they can then take the cup, and once that is mastered, they can add on carrying the plate, and disposing of the remnants in the trash.  (This is a larger topic which I will expand upon in part 2)

* Set up the child's room so that they know where their things are.  Keep all clothes in low shelves so they can pick out their clothes and dress themselves.  Both my children (very strong willed), loved to pick out their clothes and get dressed by  18 months.  It tries my patience frequently at their choices of attire, but in allowing them the freedom to choose and become independent, I must let them make those choices which are also times they can learn a lesson from- like wearing not enough clothing on a cold day.
 I had hoped to make picture labels for each cubby, but within 2 weeks both children by 18 months knew which drawer had what clothes.  At first the entire thing was for my older daughter, now the top is hers and the bottom is for the little on.

*Washing hands and blowing noses.  Early on, as soon as they start eating, carry your child to the sink and wash their hands.  The routine and consistency of washing their hands in water will help them to have control and independence to do it on their own when they start to walk and are able to get to a sink on their own. Think of it as saving the environment from all those wipes.
 I realized my mistake when I took this picture.  For months we've had a small bar of soap, but recently, we put this giant one and the little one had such a difficult time holding this.  The hotel bars are perfect for them. We also prefer bars of soap over liquid.  Less waste.

*Have appropriate size stools or step stools so children can reach up to wash hands, brush teeth, and help out at the counter.  Do not put their dishes up high and have them climb up, instead move the dishes lower so they can hold them while having two feet firmly on the ground.  

These chairs are great for them to be able to get up and down on their own when sitting at the dining table.

*Give children the opportunity to help in the kitchen to prepare food, set the table, and cleanup all areas of the house.  Having child-size brooms, dustpans and such will enable them to be successful.

*One ability must be mastered before being challenged with a new one. Challenges not obstacles was a constant reminder to us when taking the course.  When challenged there is a new skill to be learned.  When an something becomes an obstacle, we tend to give up or feel inadequate. Mastery of a skill will help the child feel confident so that they can readily acquire new skills.  

* We cannot expect children to know what to do just by telling them.  We must demonstrate, even if it means letting go of control, and slowing down to a pace that is comprehensible to them.

*Practice a task yourself putting yourself in  your child's shoes.  This will help you to know how to present the activity to your child.  When carrying a glass, use two hands holding it carefully and walking slowly.  Children will imitate this behavior and you can encourage them to walk slowly so they can be successful by not dropping it.

Most of all, be patient and slow down.  Life is difficult for us as adults, having children adapt to a grownup world is challenging for them, so it's up to us to sometimes change our world to adapt to their needs.

Also check out cooking with kids for ideas in the kitchen and with food prep, and freedom and discipline on the importance of responsibilities which ultimately lead to independence.

Shared on: hiphomeschoolmomssmallfootprintfamily. Sunday Parenting Party, fresh eggs daily, Kids in the Kitchen,  mums make lists,
Living Montessori Now

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Giving Thanks, and Feasting.

I might just let the pictures do the talking.  I was inspired by Martha Stewart's magazine, and some from Sunset.  I changed many recipes to make sure they were gluten free.  All except when it came time to making pie crust.  Trader Joe's offered an easy out with ready made crust.  

The last three years have been my turn to make our Thanksgiving meal.  It is the one time of the year my family comes to my house and I get to cook a meal from scratch for everyone.  We keep telling ourselves we're not going to complicate it, but I cannot help but be excited and want to try out a new and different recipe each year.

I had placed a heritage turkey on hold from Whole Foods, but when I got there later in the evening on Wednesday, they had oversold and so I was offered an organic bird and half price.  Well, considering I was going to pay near $80 for a heritage bird, paying significantly less for an organic one sounded like a great deal.  I was disappointed but there's always next year.  

I don't have a picture of the stuffing, but switching bead to quinoa was healthy and tasted ok, but it really would have been much better with bread. 

 Prepping a selection of mushrooms and hazelnuts for our wild-mushroom-leek-and-filbert-dressing

 I used gluten free ladies fingers and amaretti cookies for a tiramisu trifle.

 Rubbing the bird with an herb butter
The cranberry-maple-jelly was amazing.  It didn't set too well in my fish mold.

 The creamed onion and sage was delicious but more of an adult taste.  I used a gluten free flour for both this and for the turkey gravy.  I learned a little goes a long way due to the tapioca starch in it. 

 Since I couldn't find delicata squash for this, I simply used acorn squash which was quite tasty.  I also used a combination of prosciutto and bacon.

Cooking such a feast leaves me exhausted since it's a two day job.  However, I'm always thankful to have my family and friends be a part of it.  The joys of making a meal and sharing it with others is something that I have always enjoyed.  Making it from scratch and with wholesome and healthy ingredients while also being mindful of where they come from and how they are grown and processed is making me appreciate everything that I buy and serve my family and friends.  I hope that sharing such an experience will not only enhance our relationships with each other, but also cultivate a better appreciation and gratitude for those who provide our food.  Making this year's thanksgiving a sustainable feast was a challenge that was worth taking on.  It was also a challenge to shop for most things before we left for a trip to Zion and came back with a few hours left on Wed to shop.

As it's been a tradition of ours for 8years now, we participate in a 5K on Thursday morning so that the homeless will have meals throughout the year.  This year there were over 7,000 participants.  Being mindful of what we have as a start to our Thanksgiving day has made the day even more enjoyable.

As I sat in mass today for the first day of Advent, I was reminded that even though Christmas is a season to welcome the new and look forward to the gifts of the new year, it is also a perfect opportunity to take a moment to look back and be grateful for all that the past year has provided for us.  Be it a small gesture, a new adventure, a large gift, or just the new people in our lives, taking the time to appreciate what we have and have had gives as much meaning as looking forward to the new.

It's been difficult to see the positives in my life in the last few weeks, but I took a day to myself yesterday, and simply having time to myself gave me the opportunity to reflect on all that has come to pass this year.  Of all the things I am thankful for, I am (even if I don't seem like it), I am deeply thankful for the time I have with my children at home.  I am thankful that I get to see their smiles, their first words, their joys at learning something new, their hearts being filled with excitement as they discover their abilities, the times we spend cooking and dancing, and even the more dreadful ones like potty training.  It is trying to give of yourself all the time, but I am grateful that these will be my memories of my children.  I struggle with not being fulfilled in my career that has been left on the back burner, but then I realize what greater personal development could I have than watching my own children grow.  Knowing the struggles of parenthood will only aid me once I step back into a classroom.

So, for the light, wisdom, and guidance my children bestow upon me day after day, and with each gray hair I grow and pound I don't shed, I am thankful for a year of love and happiness that I have been surrounded by.  There can be no greater sensation that little giggles and small hands that reach out tenderly, and to have that throughout most of my day- I am thankful.

Shared on:  smallfootprintfamily

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Importance of Practical Life.

I was talking to my daughter this morning as she was grumbling and having a fit about being too tired to put on her clothes by herself for school. In somewhat of a rant and lecture, I went off on her about how she has to stop saying "it's too hard" and "I can't do it". I kept telling her that she can, and she has to and that no one will help her if she can't help herself.  It was something that I thought important enough to write down.

I said, "You can do anything you want, you can build a plane, you can fix a house, you can do anything you want if you just tell yourself "I can".  But first, you need to learn how to dress yourself and get yourself ready for the day.  If you can do this by yourself, then you will learn to do anything on your own."

After thinking about it for a short time I realized, ah, yes, this is why Practical Life is so important in the Montessori environment.  This is where we give them the tools to do it on their own, the ability to be confident in themselves and their work, to move forward from caring for yourself, to caring for others and the environment.  Being able to care for yourself has more implications in the greater realm of life than we can put down into words.

I have so much more to write about this as I have been documenting in photos all that we do at home and how our home is set up to help them become more independent.  Of course, then we have days like today, where I want to pull out my hair and wonder what is going on that she can't do it on her own when she's been doing it all by herself since she was 18 months.  Well, the answer to that came when I thought, I've been working with 4 year olds for years, but this is my first time parenting one.  This, is completely a different process.  My friend reminded me how at 4 they come to realize they can do so much, ask the most amazing and profound questions, and realize the world is so much bigger than they knew before, and this, this very thing is what makes them come back to you and want to be held and comforted.  In some ways, they are unsure and not quite ready to face it, and rather than pushing them, I need to be encouraging and loving, and go back to the way I am with my little one.  Slow, and small steps. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dinner Menu

Over the last month I decided that I was going to try going to the store only once a week and trying to finish up what was in our pantry.  I wanted to figure out a way in which we can use up all the food I have stored in there replenishing only produce and dairy.  The experiment went well for about 2 weeks and then I got really tired of figuring out new things to cook all the time, kids got sick, soup had to be made, meals were eaten out or picked up, I grew tired of figuring it out.

But, it was a good experiment, and I'm still trying to keep it up as much as I can, but maybe not being so hard on myself to do it for every meal, everyday. So, here are some of the things we came up with.  Hope you enjoy, hope it inspires you, and I hope to hear what you are doing for meals as well.

Our Facebook page gets updated often with current meals and quick photos.  Come see what's cooking tonight! 
 Growing mushrooms from Back to Roots
 Pasta with oyster mushrooms (above), shallots, anchovies, olives, with olive oil
 Pan seared Salmon with pomegranate and balsamic. Steamed cauliflower and asparagus
 Roasting squash for soup.

 Gluten free pumpkin and pear pancakes.
 Purple cauliflower, beets, and sweet potatoes.
 Beet cream cheese with cucumbers and olive oil drizzle.
 Salad with radishes, Parmesan cheese, sprouts and warm anchovy dressing.

 Grilled chicken tacos with black bean and corn.
Korean short rip BBQ and Kimchee (purchased), with rice, two types of seaweed, and cucumbers.

Shared in: gnowfglins,  Nature's NurtureFresh Bites Friday, Wednesday Fresh Food, More the Merrier Mondays, Eco-Kids Tuesday, Tuesdays with a Twist,  wildcrafting wednesday, Farm Girl Blog Fest,  Food Renegade, Eat Make Grow, Saturday Show and Tell, Kids in the Kitchen, Learning for Life, Mums Make Lists, Back to Basics, Family Meal Ideas,
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