Creamy Spaghetti Recipe

I’m not a great cook by any means.  But, sometimes, I throw together a meal that turns out really good.  I share it here because maybe someone else will like it and so I don’t forget how I made it.

The other day I put together this Spaghetti recipe which was a hit with the whole family and it was super simple.

Ingredient

Pkg spaghetti noodles (about 3/4 of the package)
1 lb ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 jar tomato based pasta sauce (I used Classico Roasted Portobello Mushroom)
1 cup + 1/2 cup Chedder cheese
Parmesan cheese according to taste

Method

Cook the pasta noodles according to package directions.  While it’s cooking brown the ground beef and drain.  Add the mushroom soup and 1 cup of cheddar cheese and some Parmesan cheese (however much you’d like, I just sprinkle a bunch from the jar) and heat, mixing well, until melted.
Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot.  Add the ground beef mixture to the pasta and the jar of pasta sauce.  Mix well.  Top with 1/2 cup or more of cheddar cheese and sprinkle of parmesan.  Cover and let the cheese melt then serve.  Yum!

A little more Waldorf

So I’ve been away for a while.  I’m now 17 weeks pregnant.  I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from Hypermesis Graviderum when pregnant.  This has been my worst pregnancy so far.  I spent 2 weeks in hospital and had to get a PICC line for TPN which made me worse and was eventually used for my IV meds.  I spent October and November bedridden and lost 18lbs.  Thankfully I’m now through the worst of it and am slowly recovering.  Baby has stayed strong through it all (if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I had a miscarriage at 13 weeks two years ago and so this is always a worry).

However my pregnancy has not only been difficult for me but for my husband and children as well.  My husband has been amazing taking on all the responsibilities and taking care of me.  The children suffered a lot and many behavior problems came up due to lack of consistency, attention and boundaries and way, way, way too much TV.  As I was recovering I began to plan how our life would look when I was well and what we’d do about homeschooling.  I felt that the nourishing routines, simple, natural toys, and quiet rhythm  and activities of Waldorf was really what our family needed as we healed from this difficult time.  Having a mother sick and in hospital is very traumatic for a child.  Their world is turned upside down, their mother doesn’t have time for them and needs to be alone, she’s hooked up to wires and nurses come, they don’t understand what’s wrong and it’s scary to see her sick.  So I’ve rearranged the playroom (again), we’re not doing any formal school for December and are focusing on creating a rhythm, stories, songs and traditions of Hanukkah.  I purged toys and they will be getting more natural, Waldorf inspired gifts for the holidays.  I still have a lot to put back in order in my home but my strength is limited so I’m careful not to push myself or I relapse.  In the new year I’ll do a video of our new play/school room.

One thing I changed was to put the dollhouse in the basement (I’ll probably sell it) as it was so big and was rarely played with.  I put the lovely Plan Toys furniture in a basket and the kids love creating their own house with blocks.  It’s so much more imaginative and saves on space.  And now the furniture gets more play.

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Parenting without Spanking, What Works?

After a controversial post on my personal Facebook wall, there was a big discussion on spanking, something I don’t believe in using as a discipline method.  Same goes for yelling.  Now this isn’t an anti-spanking post.  Instead it’s a “how do you discipline if you don’t spank?” post.  The thing is, saying not to spank is pointless if you don’t give a parent tools that actually work instead.  For me it’s not so much about spanking being harmful but about it being an ineffective parenting tool that often makes a situation worse rather than better.  As you’ve seen in my post about parenting advice that annoys me because it doesn’t work, I’m about what works, what is effective, not just in the short term but the long term.  Now I don’t pretend to have it all figured out.  Parenting is a constant challenge and learning processes as our children are always changing and growing and there are always new challenges.  But these are some of the advice and methods I’ve gleaned from different sources that I’ve found to not only be effective, but practical for a busy mother with other children to care for.

  1. Deal with issues immediately, don’t ignore them.  
    It’s so easy to be caught up and busy with something that we ignore our children jumping on the couch and we yell at them a few times while continuing to do what ever it is we are doing and they ignore us until finally we get really angry and scream at them or march over there and spank them or generally it all goes down bad.  And, in the end, what we’ve taught them is we don’t mean it until we’re screaming or spanking and they can ignore us until then.  Instead, what we need to do is stop what we’re doing and go over there and remove the child, get on their level and look them in the eye and tell them to stop.  Then we need to be ready for them to try to disobey and deal with them again immediately.  There can be a consequence like time out.  For young kids consequences should be immediate, not future things like “you can’t go to Tommy’s party tomorrow”.  When we respond right away (which is really hard to do because we’re often busy) we teach our children that we mean what we say and we no longer need to yell or get to the point where we’re about to lose it.  It also shows them they’re important to us.  When we make the effort it is easier in the long run as our child learn to obey the first time and discipline only takes a few minutes rather than 10 mins of yelling and 5 of losing it and 5 of screaming and spanking and then 10 of a crying child in meltdown.
  2. Playful Parenting.
    This is a great tool for young children and doesn’t need to be used all the time.  It works well when you need to get children to do something they don’t want to do.  Make things into a game or fun and suddenly you have your child interested.  Why fight over wiping their face while you try to hold still a sticky toddler who suddenly has 10 arms and the strength of a gorilla.  The cloth is a little bunny that wants to give kisses.  Here’s kisses all over your face.  Muh, muh, muh.  Recently my kids weren’t coming upstairs for their bath and I was too tired to go get them a haul them upstairs.  I started singing “Five Little Speckled Frogs” really loudly and talking about how their toy frogs were jumping into the tub.  They came running and wanted to play with the frogs.  Yes, this takes a little imagination and creativity but that’s really less energy and work than trying to convince a stubborn toddler to do something or physically wrestling them into it.
  3. Keep a child close.
    A child that is being defiant often and seems to be acting out for no reason often needs to reconnect with you.  This is true at any age.  Relationship is so important in parenting.  Something could be bothering them, maybe a bully at school, or a fight with a friend or they’re scared about an upcoming test.  Giving them time to connect with you and talk and feel loved will do wonders.  One on one time with your children is so important.  My children are so happy after I take just one of them with me somewhere.  Even just taking a child who is having a bad day on your lap and reading them stories may be enough to turn around the day.  They feel so special and loved. Now of course as a mother with more than one child as soon as you take one kid on your lap the other one wants to join in.  If you can convince your children one at a time do so, if not move to somewhere where you can call cuddle and read a book together. Family time should be very important. Plan family trips together.  Have family game nights.  Have family dinners.  Make connecting as a family top priority.  The book “Hold on to Your Kids” talks about the importance of spending time with your kids.
  4. Give a child independence.
    Children crave to be independent.  As a parent you know that your child has a mind and opinions of their own.  That’s good.  You are raising someone not to live with you forever, but to one day be independent.  There is nothing more confidence building in a child than independence.  There are many ways to do this.  Simple things like a stool in the bathroom so that they can wash their hands themselves.  Letting them pick out their own clothes to wear.  Who cares if it doesn’t match.  Let them climb the slide at the park.  Teach them to put their dishes in the dish washer or to help empty it.  Teach them to put their clothes away or to put their shoes on.  Give them responsibility.  They can have a spray bottle and wash windows or feed the dog.  Let them help make dinner.  Young children are quite capable of doing many things if they’re taught and given the opportunity.  A child that has more independence is less likely to turn every single thing into a power struggle because they feel that they have some control over their life.   The Montessori approach has lots of information about teaching and allowing our children to be independent.
  5. Take time to step back and think.
    Now this seems to be the opposite of dealing with issues immediately.  But there are so many different parenting situations.  This is for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or you’re about to lose it or you’re not sure how to deal with a behaviour.  It’s ok to not respond right away at these times.  If you feel you’re about to lose it then walk away.  Go somewhere alone (the bathroom works well) and just try to breath and think clearly.  (of course make sure your child is safe before leaving them alone).  Often when you stop to think you’ll realise a better way to handle the behaviour than your initial response would be.  Maybe you’ll realise that your child is hungry and so giving them a snack would help.  Maybe you’ll realise that they’re upset about something that happened earlier so you can talk about that.  Maybe you’ll realise that they need time alone to calm down and you’ll put them in their room or time out.  Maybe you’ll realise that they need a talk about hitting or they need to learn alternative ways to deal with their anger.  There are so many situations, only a clear head will help you think of the best way to deal with that particular one.  Now I will warn you, if you lock yourself in the bathroom your kids may stand outside the door and scream and bang on it.  But just not having them in the room with you does help.  And I tell my children often that parents get frustrated and angry and sometimes need space.  That sometimes mommy needs to be alone to calm down and I’ll be right back after.  That when mommy needs space you need to leave her alone for just a few minutes.  I let my children know what I’m doing and that I’ll be right back so they don’t feel abandoned.  It also is a great model for your children about how they should handle their anger.  Also be aware of times you’re under stress or tired, these are times you’re more likely to have a “mommy meltdown”.  Be kind to yourself on those days.  Keep your daily plans simple.  Try to get enough sleep or have a power nap, make sure you eat and drink.  Remind yourself that your lack of patience is coming from these things not your children.  Just like it’s hurtful when our spouse’s takes out their work or money or other stress on us, it’s hurtful if we take out our stresses on our children.
  6. Lower, Look, Touch
    When you correct your child you need to get down to their level, look them in the eye, touch them by holding their arms or shoulders (gently but firmly) and speak in a low firm voice.  Yelling across the room is not as effective at all.  It seems like more work (especially when your kids are short and you are tall) but it’s really more work to yell and yell and yell again and then march over there and yell and spank or whatever you end up doing.
  7. Be consistent.
    Don’t discipline your child one day for throwing their cup because they don’t like that colour and then not the next day.  If a child gets away with a behaviour one day but not the next it’s confusing for them.  If you scream at them one time and then ignore them another, they’re going to experiment and see what happens the next time.  You also need to keep a pretty consistent routine.  Bedtime should always be at the same time except for special occasions.  If you let them stay up one day they’ll want it the next and the next.  Routine helps a child feel secure.  They don’t know what the plan is in your head.  They can’t read the calendar and they have little concept of time, so having a consistent routine gives them security and predictability.  And let them know what they can expect.  “Today you have a doctor’s appointment.  After we eat breakfast we’ll get in the car and go there and then we’ll come back and have a snack”.  Give them warnings before a big transition is about to happen.  “In 5 minutes it’s time to clean up your toys and then get ready for bed”.
  8. Always follow through.
    Don’t make threats you’re not going to keep.  Children are smart.  If you threaten that if they don’t go to bed now that you won’t go camping tomorrow, they know that you don’t mean it.  Especially if you’ve been saying it all day long or you make threats like that often and don’t keep them.  Think before you proclaim a consequence.  Do you really mean it?  Are you really willing to follow it through if the child doesn’t obey?  Once a child knows that you mean what you say, then when you make a threat it has a lot of power.  It just takes one time of telling a child, “if you don’t put your shoes on you can’t come grocery shopping with mommy” and then you leaving without them because they didn’t put their shoes on, for them to jump into their shoes the next time.
  9. Natural consequence are best when possible.
    Natural consequences aren’t always practical or desirable, but they do have an important place.  A consequence tied to the negative behaviour is more effective.  Like the above example of a child not being able to go with you because they didn’t put their shoes on.  Or a child won’t put their coat on so they’re cold when they’re outside.  Or they won’t clean up their toys so the toys are taken away (ours go in the basement for a few days to weeks).
  10. Time Outs
    We use time out often.  Tantrums end fast when there isn’t an audience.  We have a gate at the top of the stairs and I always tell them: “You need some time to calm down.  When you are calm you can call me and I’ll come get you.”  I don’t usually time it.  It’s based on their being ready to come down rather than a certain number of minutes.  Sometimes a child just needs to cry and scream.  I know even as an adult there are times I want to just scream.  So allowing them to do that in a safe place that isn’t bothering everyone else can help them let out those emotions so then they can get control of themselves.  I find my kids are much happier after and then want to cuddle.  When I come back I look them in the eye (the Lower, Look, Touch) and tell them the behaviour that is not allowed and give them acceptable alternatives and then I hug them.
  11. Lots of active gross motor play.
    Children are active.  They need to run and climb and jump and roll and throw.  Often they can’t control those urges just like they can’t often control the urge to go to the bathroom until older.  Giving your child chances to meet that need makes them more settled and relaxed.  Also learning to control their body by developing balance and coordination later translates into self control in other areas.  Children need this type of play every day. If you have the space, create an area for active play in your home for days when you can’t get outside.  You can also try indoor play places like at McDonalds or just pushing the furniture back and putting the couch cushions on the floor.
  12. Limit screen time.
    Though TV initially can be a lifesaver and seem to calm a child down, in the long run it over stimulates them and makes them mentally tired and we all know tired children are difficult.  If you do need to put the TV on look for calm shows that don’t have a lot of jumping around and scene changes and noise.  Slow shows like Mr Rogers Neighbourhood or Mr Dress-Up are good.  Little Bear, Franklin or even nature shows.  My daughter loves watching Chris Hadfield’s videos on YouTube over and over again.  It’s similar with noisy, flashy toys that entertain rather than engage a child.  Focus on open ended, battery free toys like blocks, building toys (like lego), simple dolls, playmobile, puzzles, books.  If you feel overwhelmed by a toy that is singing and flashing over and over, your child probably is too but they don’t have the brain understanding to realise that the toy is making them feel overstimulated.
  13. Create a peaceful home
    A cluttered over-stimulating environment can contribute to cranky overstimulated kids.  Your house doesn’t have to look like a magazine but our children often have too much stuff and it’s overwhelming for them.  Purge their toys and rotate others and organize.  Less is more when it comes to calming environments.  The book Simplicity Parenting explains this well.
  14. Work with their brains not against them.
    I highly, highly recommend the book “The Whole Brained Child“.  A child isn’t fully developed.  You wouldn’t punish a 6 month old for pooping in their diaper, so why punish a 2 or 3 year old for behaviour they can’t control?  The book helps you understand their brain development and how to help them make more connections.  Here are some of the tips from the book to help your child integrate the parts of their brain that often aren’t connecting when they’re misbehaving.
    -Connect emotionally with the child by naming their emotions and voicing their feelings.  Now you’ll probably find this often makes the child think that you’re going to give into them and then causes more crying, however it is important that you help a child understand what it is they’re feeling and why.  People who grow up not understanding why they feel and do the things they do often struggle as adults.  A person who can say, “oh, I’m feeling angry with my spouse because I’m sill disappointed that they forgot our anniversary last week”will be be better able to work through their emotions and heal their relationship.
    -Get the child moving.  Movement helps the brain reconnect the parts.  After acknowledging their feelings get them moving by tickling, roughhousing, racing.  Find some way to get them active.
    -Help your kids exercise their memory.  The books gives examples of how to do this but memory helps develop the brain and helps children to learn to use logic rather than emotions when responding to circumstances.
    -Talk about the day with your child.  Talk about the good parts and the bad parts.  Discuss ways they could deal with a situation better next time.  Discussing things when your child is relaxed and open is going to influence them more than yelling when they’re frustrated and angry.  And let it be a discussion not a lecture.  Let them think of ideas and explain their feelings.  The more they exercise critical thinking the better they’ll be able to use those skills when emotional.
    -Teach your kids that emotions change.  Young children don’t realise that in 10 mins they won’t be mad any more.  Tell them what they’re feeling right now isn’t who they are.  They are not sad, they feel sad.  Reminding them of how they felt yesterday when doing something fun shows them that feelings will pass and they’ll feel better.
    -Teach children to direct their thoughts and relax their bodies.  Your physical body has a huge impact on how you feel.  Though the term “mindsight” sounds newagey it’s probably something you already do.  Thinking of a place that you feel relaxed, like a hammock by the lake when you’re feeling stressed, or imagining that vacation last month.  Slowing your breathing or trying to relax each part of your body when you’re trying to fall asleep are all examples of mindsight.  Children can be taught these techniques on a simple level.  Changing what we’re focused on can change how we feel.  It works for us as parents too.  When we’re feeling overwhelmed or furious with our kids, thinking about how cute they looked when sleeping or how they came a gave you a big hug this morning can instantly change your emotions.
  15. Social Stories
    Just telling a child not to do something is only half of parenting.  The other half is giving them alternatives to deal with their feelings and situations.  If your boss yelled at you and told you that’s not how you use the photocopier but then stormed off and never told you how to actually use it, how would you feel?  What would you do?  Stories can be great ways to give our children the tools they need to change their behaviour.  We have a a couple great books about feelings which lets the reader pick different endings for how the child deals with their emotion.  They also give me ideas to suggest to my children when they’re dealing with those emotions.

Parenting is hard.  There isn’t a one size fits all solution to every situation.  But you can parent and discipline your child effectively without spanking or yelling.  You won’t be a perfect parent, I’m definitely not, and you will make mistakes because you’re human and you have emotions and needs too but when you have some techniques that actually are effective, things are much easier.  We have a huge responsibility as parents and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  There are a ton of parenting resources out there and just as in our jobs we do professional development, we should take time to do that as parents.  Here are some resources I have found helpful and I got most of the above suggestions from:

Websites:

Dr. Neufeld’s Hold On To Your Kids

http://www.janetlansbury.com/

Books:

Story Cubes

I’ve mentioned these before and how much the kids loved them.  I recently found a set with 3 cubes from 3 add on sets for sale at our local toy store and had to get them.  They sparked a renewed interest.

From the Story Cubes website:
As the brain thinks in pictures but communicates in words, having a visual aid to creative problem solving would be advantageous. Using images to trigger stories would help the brain think in new ways.

 

Story telling is beneficial in many ways whether the parent is telling the story or the child. Listening to story telling increases vocabulary, encourages the child to visualize the story in their head, promotes auditory skill and challenges their memory.  For a child telling a story it helps them develop linear progression in thought, creativity, imagination, speaking skills, memory, brain connections and more.  It’s also a great way discuss and work through anything the child is struggling with.  A parent could make up a story on the subject giving words for the emotions and ideas for solutions.  Story telling is used often in Waldorf pedagogy to address issues with children.  The book, “The Whole Brained Child” talks about getting children to tell the story of something that happened to them to help their brain integrate their emotions with the reality.  A child who is scared to relive a traumatic incident can project those events into a story about someone else.

The more stories your child tells and hears the better they will get at doing it.  You’ll also find your own brain being stretched as you come up with stories.  That’s great for preventing dementia later in life.

Here’s some snippets of a story Pumpkin 1 was telling me.

 

Great Sounding Parenting Advice That I Hate

Because it doesn’t work!

There’s just soooo much parenting advice out there.  It can be overwhelming.  Some of it is just plan dumb, some of it is great and much falls in the middle – it sounds good but doesn’t work on your kids.

 

Give your child choices to get them to do something.  Sounds great.  Trick them into thinking they’re in charge.  Too bad they know what you’re up to and will NEVER chose out of the options you give them.  Even if they like the options.  They will pick whatever it is they can’t have.  Every.Single.Time.  Followed by a kicking screaming tantrum for said item.

Don’t get into power struggles.  This can actually be good advice in certain situations where you can’t win.  Like toileting.  But my children can turn breathing into a power struggle.  It’s like their pass-time, seeing how many things in their life they can make a struggle for supreme power.  Like just the basics of life.  Walking?  Power struggle.  Sleeping?  Power struggle.  Eating?  Power struggle.  Talking?  Power struggle.  Everything must be a power struggle.

Don’t frame things with yes or no answers so that they can’t say no.  My kids don’t care how you frame your question.  The answer is still no.  “Do you want to put away your stuffies first or your doll?”  “Nothing!”  “Do you want to wear your red jammies or blue?”  “No”  “No what?  No red?”  “No jammies!”

Don’t tell your kids “no” but tell him yes within a different scenario.  In other words don’t say, “No you can’t jump on the couch” but say, “the couch is not for jumping you may jump on the trampoline”.  Honestly, my kids look at me like I must think they are dumb.  They know that whole long sentence is the same as saying no.  They now throw a fit because they want to jump on the couch and not the trampoline.  I try saying the magic sentence again and again but they scream harder and finally I’m spewing, “NO! NO! you can’t jump on the couch!”.

Don’t punish your kids but give them boundaries.  Really?  What does that even mean?  How do you even enforce a “boundary” without a consequence?  Oh?  you drew all over the wall after I told you not to?  You broke the boundary but taking away all your crayons is a punishment so I’m just going to say nicely, “it’s not nice to draw on mommy’s walls” and my child will never draw on the walls again.  I actually have learned that “punishment” is a bad word.  But if you use the word “consequence” that’s ok.  So just remember that you don’t use punishments, you use “consequences” and everyone will think you’re a great mom.  That ties in with the next one.

Don’t tell your kids they need to obey.  Like how dare you expect your children to obey.  Don’t you know that will make them vulnerable to predictors?  If you teach your child to obey you’re practically setting them up to be molested.  Only defiant children are safe.  It’s ok to use the word “listen” though.  You can tell your children they need to listen, when what you really mean is obey, but because you used a different word it’s all good.  Then you can get upset after because they only listened to you and didn’t actually obey because they were confused by your wording.  And did you know predators never will tell your child that they need to listen?  They only use the word obey.  That’s how you can tell who they are.

Never force your child to do anything they don’t want to do.  See above.  This makes them vulnerable to predators.  It makes them passive and unresistant if you force them to brush their teeth.  Or if you pick them up when they don’t want to be.  You must reason and convince your child to do what it is they need to do and if they don’t then you must let them have their way.  You don’t want them to become passive and get molested do you?  ‘Cos child molesters will always use force and will never charm and bribe your child into doing things.   (yes, I’ve actually had this conversation with someone in real life about how forcing your child to brush their teeth means they will be molested one day).

Sympathise with them so they feel you understand and connect with them.  I do do this but every time my kids think it means I’m going to give in to them and then they flip out more when they realise that it doesn’t.

Let kids work things out themselves and don’t get involved except to stop someone getting hurt.  I’ll just save you the time right now.  If you don’t get involved, it always ends up in someone getting hurt.

Sleep when the baby sleeps.   Sure, because my kids sleep.  And because we don’t need to eat dinner or have clean dishes or clean clothes to wear and because my other kids can take care of themselves while I sleep and because my baby sleeps longer than 20 mins at a time.  Sleep is overrated anyway.

Don’t bribe your kids or they won’t be intrinsically motivated.  This may be true but I don’t think my kids will ever be intrinsically motivated to eat their vegetables, to clean up their room or to do anything they don’t want to do.  They only start doing these things on their own when they want to; when they start wanting a clean room or they start liking vegetables.  I mean, do you clean because you’re intrinsically motivated or because company is coming over and you don’t want to look like a slob?  Or you like having a clean house?  Do you eat your dinner because of your motivation or because you like your food?  There’s always a benefit to us for the things we do.  We’re motivated by the rewards we get though they’re not always visible rewards.  You can’t force those internal rewards (which I guess is intrinsic motivation), they come with maturity.  So until my kids start enjoying eating because I’ve made them taste food they’re insisting is yuck though they have never ate it before, or they realise they feel more relaxed in a clean room and can find their things, or realise their little brother is bigger than them and it’s better not to bite him, I’ll resort to bribery.

So how do you parent your kids?  What does work?  I’m not sure.  I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.  And if I do my kids are too smart and will probably figure out a way to make it not work anymore.

 

Why I Don’t Play With My Kids

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It sounds terrible doesn’t it.  “I don’t play with my kids”.  What a horrible, checked out, selfish mother.  She must not love her kids.  Her kids must not be bonded to her.  But I think I’m not alone and I think that there are many mothers out there forced to play Dora for the millionth time while the dirty dishes are piling up or they just want to read the last chapter of that book and they’re sooooo bored.

Yes, I don’t play with my kids.  First, I should clarify what I do do with my kids beyond caring for their needs.  I read to my kids, I take them for walks and to the park and splash pad.  I help them put together their marble run.  I teach them (of course, since I homeschool), I set up and help them with crafts, I snuggle in my bed with them in the morning and giggle, I roughhouse, I sing to them, I cuddle them, I bake with them, I tell them about when they were little, I comfort them, I push them in the swing, when they were babies I played peekaboo and patty cake and occasionally I play a board game with them.  I do many things with my kids and much of my day revolves around them, but I don’t play with them.

So what do I mean what I say “I don’t play with them”?  I don’t sit down and play Barbies. I don’t act out Frozen.  I don’t play tag at the park.  I don’t play in the sand with them.  I don’t line up cars with them.  I don’t play with the barn with them or the dollhouse.  I don’t pretend to fight monsters with them.  I don’t play restaurant.  I do activities with them but I don’t play like a child with them.  And I believe my children are better for it and I’m happier for it.  My children play independently for hours, since they were babies.  They come up with great imaginative games and I have freedom to do housework and do my own thing, yet we have a wonderful close relationship.

Why don’t I play with my kids?  There are a number of reasons.

1) Frankly, it’s boring.  I love hanging with my kids but it’s insanely boring to play Barbies or to drive cars around or pretend to have a tea party over and over and over.
2) I have things to do.  There’s always housework and laundry and cooking and preparing school materials and things I like to do such as crochet.  There’s paperwork and things to research and well, life is busy.
3) My kids don’t need me to entertain them.  They have learned to entertain themselves and can play for hours and hours without me.  This gives me time to do the things in number 2.
4) I don’t like to inject my adult perception of the world into my kids’ play.  Their minds are so pure and innocent.  I find I just can’t play on the same level as them and feel my adult experiences influence things too much when I try to play.  I’d rather leave them to their own child minded, pure, imaginative play.
5) My kids don’t want me to play with them.  If they catch me watching them play they get embarrassed.  They want to play without any judgement, good or bad, from adults.
6) Play time isn’t teaching time.  There are times for teaching, but pure play should be fully child led and full of exploration, not me trying to show them something or teach them something, taking away the chance for them to discover it themselves.
7) My children play longer, with more concentration and focus, without me.  When I’m involved I often have to interrupt the play to make dinner or deal with something or because I’m bored.  Without me they are free to play for long periods without interruptions.

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I do like to listen to my children play, their play makes me smile and often laugh, but I try not to let them catch me watching.  And I have the advantage of having my kids 18 months apart so they have a ready playmate.  Daycare also brings in new friends to play with.  I’ve worked hard on creating an environment that promotes play.  Open ended, battery free, quality toys, an organized playroom, toys that engage, limiting the toys so it’s not overwhelming, a safe outdoor place to play.  Play is very important to me.  So important that I feel my children’s play is better without me in it, only there when needed and creating the opportunity and environment for it.  I’m like the stage hand, in the background of their performance.

Unleavened Lunch

I used to really struggle with what to give for lunch that was easy and healthy and my kids would eat and didn’t involved a lot of prep in time or dishes.  I’ve been LOVING our muffin tin lunches and do them almost daily.  Having the sections really helps me to try to think of a variety of foods to give but keep the portions small for kids and it allows the kids to pick what order they want to eat their food.  We’re eating more fruit, a little more veggies, and the kids are actually eating.

This is our Passover/Unleavened Bread week lunch.

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Yogurt cup, Avocado Banana pudding, blackberries, pickled egg, avocado hummus (store bought), matzah.

 

What We’ve Been Up To.

Pumpkin 2 is growing up fast.  Not only is he potty trained day and night, he no longer sucks his thumbs (thanks to some applications of juice from our Aloe Vera plant) and he no longer has a nap.  The no nap has meant huge changes to our daily schedule and including him in “school time” now.  It has also meant a lot of changes for me to figure out how to work with both of them but, it has been going better than I expected.  It’s also had benefits as the day can be more relaxed since we don’t have to make sure nap time is on time.  Yesterday he preferred to dump the shapes from the pattern pictures everywhere and to make the coloured peg people crash into each other, but he is also having periods of work too.  Here’s him sorting Plant and Animal Cards.

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We’ve been doing music as a group activity.  We match bells and then work on rhythms.  Rhythm is way too advanced for Pumpkin 2 but it’s something he wants to be a part of.  They really like this drum I got from Amazon.  Pumpkin 1 has been resistant to learning rhythm but she needs to for her piano lessons so the drum was a great motivation.  We did have a good talk about how to treat the drum (I could just see Pumpkin 2 trying to stand on it) and it’s kept up high to only be used with me.

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Pumpkin 1 is working on linear counting.  She got bored with the Golden beads so I thought it best to take a break and work on something new.  It worked because she was interested in them again the other day.  I also found out that you don’t have to do subtraction with them before multiplication and since she wasn’t keen on subtraction, multiplication will probably be the next step.

These are the Teens boards I printed off and laminated from Montessori Print Shop.  I put some velcro on them because I think it makes it more fun and eliminates the frustration of accidentally shifting the cards.

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We’ve been learning about Vertebrates and the types of Vertebrates and I got a skeleton of a pigeon on huge discount from Affordable Montessori.  The kids were fascinated.  Pumpkin 1 is holding a laser light I was using to point out the spine or Vertebrate.  I thought they’d be scared of it but I guess they haven’t been exposed to the idea of skeleton’s being scary.  Pumpkin 1 as been asking a lot of questions about the body and so I plan to do a unit study on the body soon.

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Here she is sorting out the Types of Vertebrates cards I made.

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I also got these from Amazon and the kids love them.  They’re quite fun and were cheaper than X-Rays of bones.

Pumpkin 2 is my cuddly boy.  He’ll sit on my lap for hours if he could.  It’s funny because he can be so full of energy, literally bouncing off the walls (yes literally, he loves to crash into them and fall on the floor) but he’ll sit so nicely on my lap and just look at a book or play with cars or watch his sister.  I try to soak it up as much as I can because I know it’s not going to last forever, but I also need to get things done.  It’s such a difficult choice, snuggle him a little more, or get to the list of things I need to do.  I usually pick snuggle.

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Educational Games We Love

I’ve started building up our stock of educational games.  I’m trying to make it part of our routine to play a game together as a family after dinner.  Games are a great way to learn and reinforce concepts in a fun way.  When Pumpkin 1 is in a funk and doesn’t want to do any school activities, she’ll always agree to a game.  They’re also great for social skills and teaching team work, taking turns and critical thinking.  With Pumpkin 2 only 2.5 I’ve tried to find games he could join in too.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug:  I think this one is the most loved one of them all.  It’s made by Peaceable Kingdom and is a cooperative game rather than competitive.  There’s different ways to play from simple to more challenging.  It’s won a number of awards.  Pumpkin 2 is able to play it quite easily.  It teaches counting skills, colours and shapes.  I’d say it’s great for about age 2/2.5 and up.  It’s available at Mastermind Toys.

 

Hoot Owl Hoot:  Pumpkin used her Christmas money to get this one.  She likes owls.  This game is also by Peaceable Kingdom.  Pumpkin 2 requires some help with this.  It’s more of a strategy game though they don’t have to quite get that to play.  I’d say it’s better for age 3 or 4 and up though Pumpkin 2 can play with my help.  It has also won awards.  It’s a great team work game.  It’s available at Mastermind Toys.

 

Feed the Woozle:  This is also a Peaceable Kingdom game.  This is Pumpkin 2’s favourite.  It’s a great one for toddlers.  It teaches counting and body awareness, motor skills and balance as well as taking turns and team work.  The snacks are pretty silly which the kids love and there’s different challenge levels for each age group.  Discovery Toys carries Feed the Woozle.

 

Jungle Jive:  This one is great for developing core strength and balance.  Balance is key for learning to write.  It’s tricky for Pumpkin 2 but that doesn’t stop him from trying!  Discovery Toys carries Jungle Jive.

 

Raccoon Rumpus:  This one is a great toddler and preschooler game.  It’s very simple to play.  It’s a good introduction to games and taking turns.  It teaches colours and you can discuss different jobs people have.  It’s available from Discovery Toys.

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Shelby’s Snack Shack:  This is a really good one for counting and 1 to 1 correspondence.  It’s also great for fine motor skills, the pincher grasp and finger strength.  Both my kids are able to play it and enjoy it.  I’d say it’s perfect for ages 2.5 and up as long a supervised due to the small pieces.  It’s available here.

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Memory Game:  There are lots of memory games out there.  I really like this one because it looks so nice and is great quality.  It has a bunch of different cards so there’s many games in one.  It took a bit of playing for my kids to figure out that they had to remember what they saw and for Pumpkin 2 to not try to turn everything over, but now they can play it nicely.  Great for ages 2 and up.  It’s called Memory Moves.

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Bus Stop:  This game is one I don’t get bored playing (that’s important too).  It’s too advanced for Pumpkin 2, he just tries to drive the bus card over the board and messes everything up.  But it’s perfect for 4 year olds.  It teaches counting, dice number recognition, and simple addition and subtraction.  My only negative is I think the buses would have been better if they had been done like a ten frame so children could see the amount of people in their bus without counting.  We purchases our game from Amazon.

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Hebrew Lunar Calendar

Our family follows the Hebrew Lunar calendar for religious holiday dates.  I wanted to start teaching Pumpkin 1 the Lunar calendar so I put together this.

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The pocket chart is this one from Amazon.  The pictures below is for that week’s Parsha reading from Chabad.org 

I made my own cards to use in it.  We start a new month on conjunction but the great things about this calendar is you can set it up any way you want.  You can download the cards for your own calendar through the link.

Hebrew lunar calander

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It’s hung with removable Command hooks.
Pumpkin 1 is always asking what phase the moon is in now.  We check the moon out the window at bedtime.  I’d love to get this one day.  It automatically syncs with the moon outside!

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But of course nothing beats the real thing!