Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pineapple Kale Smoothies - I Love It When I'm Wrong

I read A LOT of parenting books.  A lot.  Probably too many.  Anyway, my recent favorite is Positive Discipline for Preschoolers.  It came recommended by Will's preschool for next year, and it's amazing.  It's built on the premise that parents need to be kind but firm with their children, and that many of us go back and forth between being kind without enough firmness (letting our kids walk all over us) or being too firm without enough kindness (erring on the side of strictness).  

This book is one of the first books I've read that's given me confidence in every parenting situation.  By just repeating the "kind but firm" mantra in my head, I am better able to decide how to respond to each situation.  Before, I felt like I read so many parenting books that I was unable to decide in a given moment how to apply the advice, or what the author of the book would tell me to do.

The book had a lot of chapters that summarized concisely the advice on a given topic that I'd read whole books on, and wouldn't have needed to, if I'd just read this book first.

I would recommend this book to any parent, grandparent, or teacher of small children.

But I digress.  This is about pineapple kale smoothies.

looks disgusting, right?  that's because it's HALF KALE.

The chapter in the book about preschoolers and eating mentions that kids are much more likely to try new foods that they've had a hand in preparing themselves.  (I've read this a lot of places, and I know it to be true, but it can be hard to let Will assist in food preparation when Andrew inevitably wants to help, too, and they end up pushing each other on the stool and fighting over kitchen spoons.)

One of the anecdotes in the book is about a preschool teacher that had kids make pineapple kale smoothies.  The ones involved in the preparation tried them, said they were great, and went back for more.  The kids in the class next door who hadn't been involved wouldn't touch the stuff.

Hah, cute story, I thought.  There's NO WAY that Will would drink a pineapple kale smoothie, even if I let him make the entire thing himself.  That's the most stereotypical, new age healthy mom, trying way too hard, why don't we eat chia seeds, oh my goodness bread is bad for you, kind of drink you could make.

So I decided to try it.  I googled "pineapple kale smoothie" and got about 3,700 recipe results.  (No seriously, this sounds disgusting, but it's totally a thing.  There are A LOT of recipes online for this.)

I took the number of recipes to mean I could do whatever I wanted, so we dumped a can of pineapple juice in the blender with some ice and kale and Will zinged the @#*$) out of it.

And then he drank it.  All of it.

Wow.  I love it when I'm wrong.

The moment I thought for sure I was right!

Huh.  Really?  Seriously?  Ok.
(They actually aren't that bad, pineapple has A LOT of sugar in it.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mimi & Grampa's Solar Power Heated Kiddie Pool

My parents have a warm water pool on their deck.

I can't make this up.  My parents got a kiddie pool on their deck for when the boys visit, and it's got heated water in it that keeps them submerging and splashing and swimming all afternoon!  They recently installed solar panels on their roof, which means that during the day when it's sunny they get tons of hot water at no additional heating cost.  So my Dad, being the inventive genius that he is, hooked up a hot water line to his hose.  Now he can flip a switch and put hot water through the outdoor hose to wash his cars or fill the kiddie pool for his grandchildren.  All on solar power.  They had the water warm enough for the boys that they were tossing in ice cubes and letting the kids play with them because the temperature was like bath water.  INSANE.

How cool (warm?) is that!

The only problem for me is that I'm going to have to bring out tea kettles of hot water to mix into my kiddie pool on the deck or the kids won't want to use it!

They had such a great time in it, it's no wonder Will woke up this morning and wanted to go back to Maine.  We got home yesterday.  It's a long car ride.  He says he'd still like to go back.  Now.  (I kind of would too.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

removable chalkboards for menu planning

I'm still in love with those removable chalkboards!  They're called wallies and you can find them on amazon.  I've got two on my fridge now that I'm using for meal planning, and it's been working great.

I used to get overwhelmed trying to meal plan for an entire week at a time, so now I meal plan and grocery shop for three or four dinners at a time, and that's it.  I don't plan specific lunches, instead, I pick up some lunch and snack options and keep an updated inventory of what's available using the chalkboard.

I've found myself feeling calmer because I'm planning three meals at a time, which is manageable to shop for in one grocery trip with two toddlers.  I don't waste as much food because I'm shopping with purpose, and because I'm keeping track of my lunch and snack options so I remember without opening the fridge door that I've got blueberries in there.

I don't even make a grocery list all the time - I just snap a photo of the meal plan and reference it when I'm at the store.  I then e-mail the meal plan to Greg so he doesn't go out for a burrito on his lunch break when I'm making enchiladas for dinner.

I've even started a folder on my computer for meal plan photos that I can reference later when I need some inspiration for dinners.

Yay, chalkboards!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why I Love Montessori

We're sending Will to a Montessori preschool next year, and I couldn't be more excited.  Since I'd never heard of Montessori before I had children, (despite a master's degree in secondary education... wish I'd had more early childhood development classes!) I thought it might be worth mentioning Montessori here.

Montessori is a style of education that focuses on letting the children be leaders in their own education.  Rather than paraphrasing better articles on what Montessori is, if you're interested in learning more you can check out the Montessori 101 page from Will's school for next year:

Things I love about Montessori:

The choice it gives children to pursue their own interests, which I believe cultivates curiosity by rewarding it, and makes education fun

The guideline for parents to "never do for your children something they could do for themselves" which has inspired me to take the time to help Will learn to do things like assist me with setting the table, clear the table, get his own shoes on, put himself down for his own nap after he has a diaper (with plenty of hugs first of course) and other things that give him a sense of pride and actually make my life easier.

The way that Will is visibly happier when he's included in things like mixing up pancakes (which he then eats more of) or putting together a step stool.  By taking the time to encourage him to learn and try things he's interested in, even when it would take me half the time to do it alone, I've increased his happiness, decreased his tantrums, and gained a little helper around the house.

When I first visited a Montessori open house, I was a little freaked out.  They had counting cubes designed for four year olds, and no toys.  Isn't childhood a time for kids to be kids?  Where are the dress up clothes?  But when I started to really think about the things that interest Will, I realized that he would love a school where he gets to make the applesauce for snack using a food mill, or learn to do laundry, or practice using a real screwdriver or vacuum cleaner.  I have plenty of things for him to play with at home.  Why not send him somewhere where they'll teach him letters if he's interested, and if he's not, he can go pour liquids, or work on different metal hinges, or other practical life skills that toddlers are intently interested in but don't always get access to.

By the time Greg and I left the open house, we were frantic to get our application in the mail.

Even if you don't decide on a Montessori preschool, there are a lot of great ways you can implement some of the Montessori ideas in your own home.  A great book is "How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way" by Tim Seldin.  Will's preschool recommended it to me, and I've already enjoyed making some changes in our home to make things more accessible for Will and help him do things "all by himself".

There's so much he's capable of doing, if I give him the chance... and it's better for both of us!

Ok they're probably not getting that clean.  But the kids are having a great time!

He loves brushing his teeth now that he has a stool to reach the sink and do it all by himself... hopefully his enthusiasm now will continue!  He can turn the water on, get his toothbrush, put toothpaste on it, and brush his teeth.  

Will can poke the egg yolks with the whisk to break them, whisk the eggs with the oil, then gently stir the dry ingredients in for pancakes.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Face-timing with Mimi

We live two states away from our children's grandparents, and it can be really hard sometimes.  Not only do we not have the support of family nearby, we also miss out on a lot of little moments where the kids are growing and learning and changing and Greg and I are watching it alone.

At the same time, it makes our trips to Maine to see family extra special events that we look forward to and talk about long afterwards.  

We're also lucky to live in a time where technology is an amazing tool for staying connected.  I email my parents, my in-laws, and even my grandparents' and Greg's grandmother photos of the kids on a regular basis.

We call often, and both sets of grandparents have an i-phone so they can Face-time with Will.

I am all about minimizing Will's screen time (he doesn't watch any t.v.) but when Will face-times with Mimi and I listen to them while I make dinner, I realize that this is the opposite of stereotypical screen time where a child is passively entertained.  They talk about their day, Will asks to see things in Mimi's house, and she walks all around and shows him things, pausing for him to process them, and then talks about them.

Will puts the phone places and plays hide and seek with her.  Mimi shows him the collection of plastic beads he likes to play with at her house, and pretends to push them through the phone.  "I got it!" I've heard Will exclaim.  "Can you send the white one, next?"  

Their conversations are filled with creativity and imagination, and real connection.  Whether Mimi is getting a ride on Will's firetruck, or showing him what her pets are doing, I know he's thinking and interacting and working on both his creative and his social skills.  

Here's what Mimi said to me about it recently in an e-mail:

When I FaceTime with Will, I often think of Mr. Rogers and how he would show something and then just let his audience look at it awhile to process it and then ask a question or say something about what he was thinking or feeling.

I try to remember to do this with Will: show all the steps when going to the attic, up the stairs, past Merry, close the door, pull down the stairs, turn on the light . . . Push the beads (imaginative play) through the phone.

You get it.

It can make for better quality screen time, I think, than just a talking head.

In today's tech, we need to practice ways to make things slow down and have more meaning.

Will is so into it that he's taught some of Mimi's tricks to his other grandparents, who now get asked to push things through the phone when they're face-timing with him!

All I know, is that it compensates a little for the hole in my heart that exists when you raise your kids apart from your own family.  It also can make a big difference in my ability to get dinner on the table without any tears.

And whenever we visit Maine, there's no question that Will and Andrew have an extremely close relationship with all their Maine family, despite the distance.  I think the phone calls, the face-times, and the postcards and mail my family sends all help.

Mimi takes Will up the bleachers for his first baseball game on a recent trip to Maine

Will's Nana is a former school teacher - she's got some great tricks up her sleeve too for connecting to kids and teaching them creativity :)  He sure loves spending time with her.

A special trip to my Dad's parents' camp with both sets of grandparents - moments we cherish 

Grampa has a lot more bravery and patience than I do!

Gardening with their great-grandmother on a week long trip to Maine in June

Monday, July 1, 2013

Homemade Canopy for the Deck

Our deck canopy, which can go up or down in about five minutes
Greg and I recently had one of those stereotypical sitcom husband/wife moments where I cornered him, smiled really hopefully, and pointed emphatically to a picture in a magazine of something I wanted him to make for me in our backyard.
(Oh, Martha... ruining men's weekends everywhere.)

"It looks easy, honey!  I know you could do this.  Wouldn't it be perfect to have more shade on the deck?!"

Meanwhile, poor Greg is probably thinking, "Here we go.  She'll never even use this.  The magazine staff had a perfect location for theirs that didn't involve putting any holes into the side of THEIR house. There goes my afternoon.  Every Sunday for a month."

Luckily for me, I was right in thinking that my engineer of a husband could most definitely figure out a way to put up a canopy on our deck so our boys would have a large shady area to play.

Luckily for Greg, he's an engineer so while his concerns about us not having the best place to attach the canopy were valid, he solved them with some ingenuity, extra poles, and zip ties.

Yay, summer!  Yay, Greg :)

The boys enjoying their shaded deck on a 90 degree day recently.
The shade keeps their feet from getting too hot on the deck as well as reducing their sun exposure.

I got my husband to drill a hole in the side of our beautiful house.
This was not easy.  He's wonderful.

Still need to paint the other half of the pole!
He attached it with zip ties so the poles can be easily removed for a gathering or at the end of the summer season. 
Andrew knew Dad needed some help.

Luckily he was on hand to give assistance.