Thoughtful Thursday – Hands Free

This week I started my new job!  I have been loving it, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to post an entire blog entry this week.  Lately, I’ve been reading the Hands Free blog, and I wanted to share an entry that touched my heart and that I thought every parent and caregiver should read.

http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/05/07/how-to-miss-a-childhood/

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Thoughtful Thursday – Questions!

My oldest is deep in the why stage.  If you’ve never experienced this, or if it’s been a while, I thought I’d give you a little insight into what life is like in this stage.  Here is a conversation we had in the car:

J:  Why does William live so far away?

me:  He lives in a different state than we live in.  He lives in New Hampshire and we live in Massachusetts.

J:  But he didn’t live far away before and now he does.

me:  That’s right.  He used to live in the same town as us, but he moved away.

J:  I know our town (tells me his name and address).  You live there and Dad and Matthew too.  But I can’t remember how to call on the phone.  What is it?  (he’s been working on memorizing his phone number – we repeat it a few times)  Like when George calls the fire department.  He presses the numbers on the phone.

me:  Yes, but not the same numbers.  The numbers we said only call our house.  George dialed the emergency number.

J:  what is it?

me:  911.  You only call that number if its an emergency though.  You can get in big trouble if you call it for fun.  Just like George.

J:  Why?

me:  The number is only for people that need help.  If they said the emergency workers for someone just having fun then someone that really needed help might not get it.

J:  Why?

me:  They would be busy seeing if you needed help and the person that really needed help would be waiting and waiting for them?

J:  Why?

me:  The emergency workers have to check and make sure there isn’t really an emergency if you call, so they will come to you  instead of someone else.

J:  Why?

me:  That is their job

J:  They come when you call 991?

me: no 911.

J:  Why is it 911?

me:  That is the number that they picked for emergencies.

J:  why?

me:  I don’t know.  I bet Dad knows.  Let’s ask him when he gets home!!!!!

Yes, that is just a short glimpse into the never ending questions I go through every day.  My dad line at the end is a favorite when I just can’t go on.

This leads me to a blog post I just read and thought I’d share because I found it interesting!

http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2012/05/21/early-education-are-we-doing-it-wrong/

Thoughtful Thursday – All or nothing

I know I’ve mentioned Wife Swap before.  It’s like a guilty pleasure.  I don’t like to admit that I watch it – and I definitely don’t follow the show – but I do, on occasion, like to catch an episode.

One thing that I think really turns people away from the show is that the families are it are SO EXTREME.  A mom that works 3 jobs and does all of the housework swaps lives with a mom that has nannies watching the kids and housekeepers cleaning her house, while she goes out to shop and get pampered.  A mom that believes her kids should have the freedom to make their own choices about EVERYTHING swaps with a mom that schedules every minute of her children’s lives and enforces severe disciple to the most minor offense.  Sometimes it does seem like they learn something from each other, but often they spend their time defending their choices and pointing out how the other people are wrong.

I’ve seen these extremes in teaching styles in classrooms, and in available curriculum.  It just makes me wonder why the middle of the road isn’t an option for some people.  Do you really feel like you have to choose between having children that are free thinkers and children that are well-behaved?  A huge movement in parenting right now is what I’ve heard people call the “yes” movement.  It’s like the Montessori teaching philosophy taken to the extreme and applied to home life.  Allow children to explore and do what they  want, and they will naturally learn because it follows their interests.  They will also learn natural consequences to control their behavior.

I do think that children are often more intelligent than people give them credit for, and their ability to learn their desire to explore is phenomenal.  I think this movement is particularly seen as being needed among those parents that take an extreme view of discipline as reaction to the belief that young adults now are lazy and feel entitled.  However, I don’t think using it 100% of the time is best for kids, and seems like many are taking it as all or nothing.

Anyhow, watching Wife Swap makes me want to scream, “Compromise!  Take lessons from both sides!  Use the best of both worlds!”  Also, sometimes reading other mommy blogs and parenting philosophy articles makes me want to scream the same thing.

So yes, relax and give your children freedom.  Realize that you can believe in them and trust them, but also don’t be afraid to teach them.  Teach them what is important to you and what you believe.  You are their parents!

What extremes have you experienced?

Bonus – Soup!

Our dining room is a mess.  That’s my secret.  That is how I get my kids to eat a variety of foods and have the fine motor skills to do it independently.

We let them try.  We don’t clean up during dinner (also sometimes we don’t clean up after lunch or breakfast).  Yes, we’ll probably wipe up at the end of the day or if people are coming over, but not during meal time.  We let the kids do their best, and don’t worry if their best is all over the floor.

Matthew was recently very pleased with himself after pretty successfully eating a bowl of soup.  I thought I’d share:

This is Trader Joe’s creamy tomato soup by the way (which everyone in the family is a big fan of).  He had 1/2 a grilled cheese sandwich as well, which you can tell was not as popular as the soup.

On a side note, the boys have a new cousin named Catherine.  We are so excited to meet her.  I bet you want a picture, but I am on strict orders not to post a picture!!  (Just picture a really cute little baby girl with lots of pretty dark hair and eyes).  Congratulations Uncle Dan and Aunt Lizz!!!!!

Thoughtful Thursday – Modeled Behavior

I have been thinking a great deal lately about how incredibly influential a parent’s behavior is on their child.  How often do you think about which parent a child reminds you of, or think just how similar a child is to a parent?  If you’re a parent, how often do you hear your child imitating things you say and do?

I find more and more that the behavior I model for my children is much more influential on them than the rules I set up for them.  Yikes!  What a great deal of pressure!  I can tell my children not to yell, but what if I yell?  I can tell them to be kind, but what if I lose my patience?  I can teach them how to be friendly, but what if I don’t even acknowledge the boy checking out my groceries?

So really, I just wanted to say, I’m working on me.  I’m trying to be the person I want my children to be.  I’m working at modeling for them what is important to me.  I’m trying to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

This week I’ve really noticed how I speak to them and to others.  I’ve been working on speaking respectfully to them.  Talking respectfully seems obvious.  I wouldn’t say I’m disrespectful, but I can tend to not be very respectful.  For instance, adding please to requests, even when they’re time sensitive.  Looking them in the eye when I talk to them.  Making sure to thank them when appropriate.  Asking their opinion on certain things.  Speaking in a calm voice at all times.  Considering their requests, even when I feel like laughing at them.

As far as speaking to others, I feel I am usually courteous and kind.  I wouldn’t say I’m particularly friendly.  I think as a young woman, I learned it was better not to be too friendly.  I think I must have the kind of face that says, “Talk to me strangers!  Tell me about your lives!  Tell me all your troubles!  I’m a great listener, and I want to be your friend!”  Often when I was out alone, I would hear people’s life stories.  I learned to avoid eye contact and to keep small talk to a minimum so I could go about my business.  This probably sounds kind of strange, but its true.  Now, though?  I have more time to linger and talk.  I also have the perfect excuse to go if need be (the baby is hungry, it’s nap time).  So, I’m working on being friendlier.  You know what?  I like being friendly!  I feel like I’m coming back to the person I used to be.  I don’t want my children to be afraid to smile and speak to others, because they kind of are now.  “Stranger awareness” is  something I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble with.  We’re completely on the other end of that.

Anyhow, that’s just what I want to work on now.  There will certainly be more things I need to watch for in the future, but for now, I just wanted to point out what a terrifying and amazing opportunity parents have to model behavior.

Thoughtful Thursday – Black History Month

The past few generations have really been through a lot in race relations in our country.  We have come far, but how do we keep moving forward?  How do we encourage young children to view everyone as valuable and equal?

During my student teaching experience, I was charged with teaching fourth graders some history that included segregation.  I was teaching in a city, and had a small group to work with.  Only one student in the group I had was white.  They were surprised about the discrimination I told them about, and had many questions.  They were upset that people would behave that way.  I was glad that they immediately realized the ridiculousness of the way people were treated, however, in a way, I wish I had not told them about it.  I do think that history is important to learn, and prevents it from repeating itself.  At the same time, it made me feel uneasy.  It was as if they had this innocence about humanity, and I ruined that.  I just didn’t want to be the person to do that.  In a way, it was wonderful that what I told them was unfathomable in their minds.

My children are young, and cognitively, I don’t think they are ready for a history lesson in discrimination.  So, I have been considering what I can do to foster the valuing of all races.  After talking about this topic with some friends this month, I have some ideas.

1.  Foster friendships with children of other races.  If children have a positive view of another race, it may prevent stereotypes in the future.  Of course there are people of every race that are mean or rude.  If a child has a positive image of a specific race at a young age, it will help them realize this and not generalize in a negative way.

2.  Toys and books that feature people of different races.  It’s not always easy to find, but it can be worth it for your child to have more exposure, especially if they live in an area that is predominantly white.

3.  Answer questions carefully.  Don’t get embarrassed or make a big deal.  Kids ask questions innocently, and not to offend.  For example, “Why does that man have skin like that,” could simply be answered, “God made everyone different and special.  I have brown eyes, your dad has blue.  Some people have blonde hair, and other people have black hair.  God also made people with different colors of skin.”  Your embarrassment or discomfort with questions can sometimes be picked up by children.

What have you done or experienced that could be helpful to parents concerned about racism?

Make It Monday – Meal Ideas – Eat your veggies

I know many parents struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables.  Below recipe ideas that can include many different kids of vegetables.  Most of these ideas were used with my husband before I had kids.  He’s more opposed to veggies than they are!  I like to also serve additional vegetables as a side for many of these.  Typically I serve a salad and/or steamed veggies as well.  There are many ideas for encouraging the behavior of eating vegetables, but this post is just to focus on actual recipe ideas.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and just do what works with kids, so here are some ideas we use to spice things up a bit.  What recipe makes your kids love to eat their veggies?

Roasted Root Vegetables are sweet and crunchy

Dip for cut fresh veggies made from nonfat plain greek yogurt mixed with dry ranch seasoning (thanks Stephenie)

Veggies in a quesadilla

Veggies in a calzone

Veggies on a pizza (also use crushed tomatoes in place of sauce)

Steamed, pureed beets used as a dip in chicken before dredging in breadcrumbs for baked chicken fingers

Macaroni and cheese with chopped tomatoes and steamed broccoli or spinach

Veggie and cheese omelet

Replace 1/2 of basil in pesto with spinach and/or kale (thanks Kim)

Soup (some of our favorites are creamy tomato, Portuguese kale, vegetarian chili, and lentil)

celery with peanut butter

Quiche

homemade pasta sauce loaded with vegetables

baked potato topped with broccoli and cheese

homemade salsa as a dip for veggies

homemade guacamole as a dip for veggies

mashed potatoes with 1/2 potatoes replaced with cauliflower (also add steamed spinach or cauliflower)