Friday, October 19, 2012

Small Treats!

I'm always curious as to how other families do "treats".  Lately, I feel like it's gotten "out of control" for us.  But, I also realize my oldest is getting to be 4 and the little one for being 20 months has had her fair share of sweets even thought the older one had nothing at that age.  Isn't it always the case?

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few of our  "healthy treats" that I've managed to photograph along the way.  Some have been really fun to do.  And this is a good reminder of a few things I should go back to doing!

 Usually they just have warm milk.  To get all fancy, we froth it and sprinkle cinnamon.  If I really want to spoil them, I put a dash of non-alcoholic Vanilla flavoring (trader joe's brand)

 Home-made fig butter is used for lots of things.  We also add this and other preserves into plain yogurt.
 This was a gluten-free lemon yogurt muffin.
 Watermelon popsicles with blueberries and orange pieces. 
 frozen treats are best!  Avocado and yogurt and then frozen in silicone trays.
 Cooled custard with sprinkle of cinnamon.  Sometimes we bake it in a water bath and add various flavors. I think I have some pictures in other posts.
 Quick frozen yogurt!  Frozen mango, yogurt, honey, and vanilla.
 Zap, and in less than a minute you have this!
 Pumpkin or date bread.  mmm.. molasses.
 These little jewels are so fun and delicious.  Agar agar with fruit and then left to set.
 More fun frozen and gelled treats!
shared on: small footprint family

Friday, October 12, 2012

October = craftiness.

I used to hate crafts. Thought it was pointless and more stuff to clutter. The latter is true. But once you have kids(for me) it became fun. Something I look forward to and spend too much time online searching for ideas. 

So if you were/ are like me and kinda don't know what to do. Here's my list of October fun. Just do 1 a week. That's it. Then you can put it all away.

1. Whip cream/ shaving cream finger paint (with food coloring).

2. Leaf rubbings.

3. Leaf collages/ landscapes/ animals.

4. Pumpkin carving.

5. Go to a craft store and pick up a kit.

6. Paint rocks.

7. Cut out coffee filters in leaf shapes and use watercolors.

8. Bake pumpkin bread/ muffins ( ok that's not a craft but it kinda is).

9. Collect leaves and tape them on your window or wall.

10. Put push pins in shape of spider web and make web with white yarn. Glue a few spiders.

Check out these sites for ideas:
The Artful Parent
Crafty Crow

image above from: this site

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kids on the GO!

I often wonder how other mother's do it.  They seem to have time to be dressed beautifully, have all their stuff in toe, and be happy (or appear to be).  Now, I'm fully aware that that's my perception and it's hard on us all.  I wonder what it's like at home for other mothers.  I often hear, "oh it's too hard, so we're always out," or "yes, that's why we try to keep busy and stay out of the house."  Hmmm....  This has had me thinking, and re-thinking over the years.  This was something that came up with the first and now again with the second.  I tried for a short time to pack up and get out of the house as often with my oldest.  Now with the second, it's less likely since we have to go pick up the other one from school mid-day.  So, this is my schedule but I kept thinking there's more to this.  Why am I so hesitant to do this? Why does this NOT fit my life-style?  What is it that's preventing me from being a "park/playground mom"?

Over the past few weeks I've been taking myself out of being "me" and being tied down the the "drudgery" that I've felt in our daily activities.   I've tried to look at it in another perspective and in the last two days it hit me, or rather I reminded myself why I'm doing what I'm doing.  Yes, there was a reason I didn't think I was going to send my kids to the Toddler class.  I was home, so I was going to do these things myself.  I was going to show them how to eat at a table, sit down when eating, clean up, put their shoes on, help them become toilet-trained, help them get dressed, help them learn how a home functions, and how to function in society.  Aha! Eureka.

So, why do I stay at home and not roam all over town to a new park each day.  Well, we try to get out, to go to a museum, to go on a hike, to play at the beach, or visit the library, and lots of trips to various grocery stores.  However, there is a very crucial stage in which children need to be at home or a home-like environment which provides the necessary activities to become independent.  They need to be comfortable and know where things are.  If their environments are to be changing daily there is no structure and therefore no routine.  Children like to have order and they actually crave it.  They like to know where their things are and where things belong.  They like to know what is expected of them, to have a routine, to have some discipline (see freedom and discipline ), and to become confident in that environment.  Many changes and constant change sometimes leave children lacking confidence in their environment and therefore their abilities.   It is the age before 2-2 1/2 that we must provide structure so that as they grow older they can become accustomed to changes since they become confident in who they are and what they are capable of. 

I'm not saying that we must be locked up in our homes and stay here all the time.  Not at all.  Children should become part of our daily lives and activities. They should go to the grocery store and see the things we buy for our meals, they should become part of that process and allowed to help.  They should go to the library and pick out their books and hand the library card and put the return books in the bin.  All these things I hope to discuss in another post I've been working on.  We need to help children become part of a daily routine which is meaningful to them.

However, instead of constantly taking children to the playground, park, children's museums, jump houses, aka child-oriented activities solely, we deny them of the opportunity to learn and grow.  All of a sudden as they age, we expect them to know how to put their clothes on and to be toilet-trained but never giving them the opportunities along the way to develop these skills slowly.  Toilet training should not happen in a week or so, it is a gradual process and one that requires clean up, knowing how to change out of wet clothes, put them into something, and to find new clothes to change into.  All these things must also be ready and in a place where they have access to.  Now, as I write this, we have been having lots of misses and also lots of successes. I'm still in the process of setting up the little one's environment. 
Changing underwear

The stable home environment (or daycare/preschool) allows children to be active and productive if it is set up in such a way.  They can explore and discover many new things, and they can exercise their skills consistently.  Knowing that they must sit down to eat a meal, clean up, wipe up, sweep, carry dishes to the sink, or dishwasher; these are all things you can do in a stable environment and not in a park.  Often when we are out, foods are finger foods, hands are not washed, utensils are not used, and dishes are plastic bowls or sippy cups. This will happen, this happens when you have a picnic, and that's great, it's healthy to get out and to do something different, but for this to be a daily routine is not helping children develop proper habits.  Prior to the age of 2, food plays a central role in their lives.  It provides for many sensory experiences.  I loved Michael Pollen's statement when he said that what distinguishes humans from animals is that we eat food, and not feed.  There is a social aspect to food beyond the need to fill our stomachs.  Children go home for lunch, or mostly eat at home.  Eating in public spaces is not a very common thing in most cultures either.  The idea of fast food, and eating on the go is predominant an American thing, but now we've just adapted it to eating "healthy" food on the go; juice boxes, milk boxes, goldfish, carrot sticks, string cheese, etc,

Cleaning up and taking care of an environment, knowing to put away and to put things where they belong, knowing to care for yourself, your appearance, your hygiene; these are all things that are best done at home.  A 5 year old who is put on a changing table in a public restroom is not something you will see in the rest of the world.  We have been staying home mostly these days as the little one (20 months) has been wanting to use the toilet.  Mostly we have misses, but on a day like today, there's been a lot of positive results as well.  It's never consistent, and as difficult as it is for me, I have to do it.  The loads mounds of laundry are unbelievable.  The cloth diapers she once used are now used to clean up the floor.  We're going through underwear sometimes 3 in an hour.  We also decided to stop using a diaper on the older one (4) 2 months ago.  So, we are also dealing with night time bed wetting with sheets, down comforters, and pillows being washed daily.  My mornings are spent running out to the garage and in the back yard to hang up the loads and loads so that it will be dry by evening.  Yes, to add to the stress, we do hang the laundry out to dry.  We use the dryer about 4 months out of the year in the winter months when there is little to no sun in the backyard.

By no means is this madness for all, but there is a reason why we do what we do.  Again, I will address sustainable living in another post.  However, as a society, all we are teaching our children is to become individuals on the go.  When we do that, we are also teaching them to use more resources than necessary.  Even a young child uses more resources than they should.  When everything in our lives become disposable we prevent children from seeing the value in things. 

It is hard, it is beyond hard to sit patiently while they take 5-7 minutes to put on their shoes, but by no means does this mean I sit an watch or "police" them in how to do it.  We do it together.  I have little to no time for myself because each activity provides for an opportunity to learn.  Not always, as is the case now, she is happily playing with her doll and feeding it and swaddling it.  She has kept herself entertained opening and closing some boxes and bottles, cleaned it up and put it away, to then move on to another activity of putting her doll to sleep.

The entire day cannot be spent taking forever for children to do things on their own time. Of course not, we'd never get anywhere.  But, when we do have the time, it's best to show them how to do things even if it's one or two things a day.  Even if you're a working parent who has to be out the door early, we can still take our time for one thing and help them to learn that one thing for a week or two and then change it.  They don't have to learn it perfectly, after all what does that mean?  perfect only means for them to be able to do it on their own, it means giving them the opportunity to repeat, repeat, repeat.  If we constantly dress them, eventually they will learn to believe that they do not know how to do it and so will just stand and wait for you to do it.

Steps and Stages:  Help children in small steps. As young as 15-18 months, let children do 1 or two things and then gradually help them build up.  Show them how to do something and then allow them to do it as they can, but be mindful in how many steps it takes.  The fewer the better. 

When my older daughter was about 2 she insisted on picking out all her clothes.  OH MY!  I'm so glad we took lots of photos, but how adorable to see her in a skirt, pants, unmatching shirt and something else random.  When she started school the teachers asked us if she dressed herself as it was quite obvious.  Now almost 2 years later, she picks out her clothes at night and sets them out to dress in the morning.  It's not always smooth and there are arguments, and whines not wanting to get ready quickly, etc etc.

As I said, I will write a separate post soon about what we do at home and how our home is set up.  I hope this explains a little bit about why we don't spend our days out all the time.

When my first child was born, one of the first things my mom said was how her mother said, 'Children love to be at home'.  I thought she was crazy.  Over the years I see how my children love to stay home and play, they love to play with all the tupperware, my shoes, put random stuff in a push cart and go in circles, take all the plates and cups and have a "tea party" in the middle of the floor.  When we come back from a trip, no matter what time even late at night, they perk up and go running around looking at all their things. 

So, in my experience, and for my kids, they love being at home at certain times, and then there are times we like to go out.  This is our family, of course yours is different, so we look forward to hearing what you do and how you spend your days.  I love to get ideas from other moms and especially from other blogs. It's an ever evolving philosophy and way of living.

Shared on: honeyscreativehomemaking. ,
Small Footprint Family
Sunday Parenting Party
Mums Make Lists
HomeAcre Hop

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The neuroscience behind Montessori education

I wanted to share this wonderful talk by Dr. Steve Hughes a Neuropsychologist who has a wonderful talk about research comparing traditional education and the goals of educators all over with the Montessori education and the Montessori program.  He discusses the various neurological and developmental activity that goes on in a child's brain through the various activities and lessons.

I thought that it would be nice to share some current science and research that proves the impact and benefits of "brain-based" education that Dr. Montessori introduced over 100 years ago.

 "The hands are the prehensile organs of the mind" -Dr. Montessori.

"No child is left behind in a Montessori classroom"- Dr. Hughes

This first video is a bit lengthy but please consider watching it when you can.  It goes into detail about the research on "brain-based" education and various other functions of the brain and how we learn. He is wonderfully engaging and interesting to watch and listen to.

"Good at Doing Things" from Steve Hughes on Vimeo.

You can also read more and check out more videos by Dr. Steve Hughes at his website

Here's a quick video on youtube that gives you a glimpse of what his research and passion toward education, and the need for a change in how we educate children.

Also, be sure to read the following article on this blog.

"Physical movements are not the only method of brain development supported by Montessori education. Maria Montessori spoke of the “absorbent mind” of a child being like a sponge literally soaking up what they see and do. Although at the time she had little actual neurological research to back up her claim, a new discovery in the area of neurology, called mirror neurons, goes hand in hand with her hypotheses."

"It is amazing to me that Dr. Montessori was able to develop her materials without the benefits of today’s technology. She could not view a child’s brain to see which areas lit up when they were using the Cylinder Blocks, and yet through observation she knew that a child’s fine motor skills, shape and size discrimination, and hand/eye coordination were being strengthened through this work."

 Also, if you really want to get into it in depth check out Dr. Lillards book.  Here's a description of it and the link to the site.

"Dr. Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, has been studying Montessori's methods for more than two decades. In her best-selling book Montessori: The Science behind the Genius, articles, educational DVD, and speaking engagements Dr. Lillard presents Montessori’s theoretical principles, the science research that has followed them, and how they are implemented in a Montessori classroom.

Monday, October 1, 2012

On the day you were born.

Hello little one, welcome to the world.  Let me tell you a little bit about the day you were born.  You are now 4 years old and a lot has happened and changed, but on the day you were born everything changed.

On the day you were born two people became parents.

On the day you were born I cried.  I cried out of happiness, and pain.  I cried with anticipation and agony. I wept and screamed and thought the night would never end. I'm not sure this will not change for many more years to come.

On the day you were born I wished for many things to be different.  I wished for you not to be born in that hospital, and I wished for you to have waited in my belly for a few more weeks, even after being in labor for 10 days. Then I saw you, and I was so happy you were here.  Nothing else mattered.

On the day you were born I learned what love is.  I learned what it means to love someone with all of my being and for the rest of my life.  I know that I will never love anyone the way I love you.  Loving you changes all the time. 

On the day you were born it was hot, it was so very hot.  The Santa Ana's had come in and it was over 100 degrees.  I was sweating like I had never sweat before but I walked around that hospital with two gowns on facing both front and back, supporting myself on the IV stand and walking as fast as I could to get a glimpse of you.

On the day you were born, you came too early.  You were not expected for another 3 weeks.  After I locked myself in the bathroom and yelled at everyone, I was laid on my back and felt you moving down inside of me.  I didn't think I could do it.  I didn't think I would ever see your face.  I didn't think I had the energy to keep going.  I didn't think I could.  But i did.  I wanted to see you and so I pushed you out. 

On the day you were born I felt empty on the inside after carrying you for 9 months.  I heard your cry and saw them care for you on the side.  I heard your Daddy's excited voice and his hands holding mine.  I saw your tiny body all white and pink.  I reached out for you as they put you on top of me.  Your face full as an apple and your juicy legs all cramped up.  You black head of spiky hair was something everyone talked about.

On the day you were born, it was midnight.  You crossed over to a new day which made the day feel like a week.  I couldn't sleep and wanted to be with you all the time.  I hated not being near you and not being able to walk for hours to hold you.

On the day you were born, I became your mother, and you became my child.  This will be us for the rest of our lives.  You will become someone more than my child, but to me you will always be a part of me.  I see you and all the wonderful things you do and am happy to be with you through it when we're together.

On the day you were born many people were waiting anxiously to hear about you and to see you.  Friends and family all over stayed up though the night and got on planes quickly to come see you.  You have changed our lives forever.

One the day you were born, the moon and the sun, the stars in the sky and all the animals, etc went on about their business.  However, your daddy and I stopped our lives to have you.  Our day was filled with excitement and happiness.  We were also a little scared and unprepared. 

On the day you were born, you were born to us, to this family, and to become the person you will become one day. 
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