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If you are like me, your abilities to create with playdough are limited. An Israeli friend recommended I check out the products of Rony Oren, a master clay animator and artist. His distinctive, easily taught method of working with clay is conveyed through a wide range of books and merchandise, available on his site. Rony sells how-to book series, story books, board books, clay-kits as well as internationally broadcast short animation films and worldwide workshops.  Rony likes to work with special clay, but his creations are easily replicated with simple play dough, as well. Check out his site to buy his amazing books, or just to get inspired.

http://ronyoren.com/

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My friend Erica sent me a link to Counting Coconuts, an amazing blog for mothers of small children. The blog is full of creative ideas, projects and inspirations. I especially liked their “sensory tub” ideas. Sensory tubs, are, in essence, plastic boxes filled with stuff joined by a unifying theme. The lady behind Counting Coconuts Blog is very organized. She writes detailed lists and instructions for every tub and project. I  hate lists, can’t follow instructions and love to feel moved by inspiration, even though I admire those that are better organized than I am. Like my husband, for example. He puts everything in files.

Anyway, this is how we got the idea to do The Earth Project.

Firstly, we got a large plastic box. Then we went on a treasure hunt. While the twins were sleeping, my boy and I went outside in search for interesting Earth-themed” items, like pine cones, twigs, tree branches, rocks, dry leaves, etc…We put all of these treasures in the box. Then, we raided the Dollar Store. We bought gummy worms, caterpillars, rubber snakes, fake flowers, a tiny shovel and a fork.We also bought some green paper and cut leaves out of it. Then, we put some of our dollar-treasures into the box, filled with earthy items and – voila! Project Earth was ready.

My son loved digging in the box for hours and finding the same worms over and over. He loved wrapping the rubber snakes around the twigs and putting a plastic caterpillar on the rock, so that “he can sunbathe.” If you want to try something like that, remember that nature and a Dollar Store are a winning combo.

We did this yesterday.You will need two colors of finger paint: red and green. Let your child put the red all over their hands and make “stamps”on a large sheet of paper. Then, let them put the green on their fingers and draw leaves and stems.

There are many things I like about the Waldorf philosophy of child-rearing. I love the importance of free play, the connection to nature and the simple chores for kids. I like the absence of television and the emphasis on reality-based crafts. I love the handmade dolls and the beautiful pieces of fabric , which are used as toys. I don’t agree with the theory that children should not be taught academics until they are seven years old: if my kid is interested in reading earlier, I will teach him how to read.

My favorite thing about Waldorf is its emphasis on rhythm and rituals. According to Waldorf philosophy, there is nothing as important for the child’s healthy growth and development as the work you do to maintain consistent rhythms in their lives. Noticing the change of seasons with your child is important. Noticing the times of day is important, as well. Paying attention to simple things in nature, like sunshine coming after the rain, helps your child to better connect with their inner rhythm and to tune into the world around them, which they are a part of.

The Waldorf philosophy states that a child develops a sense of self through a carefully-guided, secure and stable childhood. Keeping close ties to the natural rhythms and cycles helps your child develop a sense of well-being and certainty that the world is an understandable, safe, and predictable place. Here’s how to develop a natural rhythm in your home, according to Waldorf: Make a list of the chores and errands you do each week. Include “basic” things, like cooking and cleaning, as those present a wonderful learning opportunity to a child. Assign each errand to a specific day of the week ahead. Make your schedule and stick to it.

Here’s what we do:  ( letters and numbers are not supported by the Waldorf philosophy at an early age,but I choose to teach them, because my kid is interested)

Monday: Learn and play with numbers
Tuesday: Cook, play dough
Wednesday: Learn letters and do a craft project, involving letters
Thursday:  Field trip
Friday: Housekeeping (washing, polishing, dusting.) Watercolor painting.

We usually do the chosen daily activity in the morning an then repeat it a few times throughout the day,as a theme. If the theme is housekeeping, we dust in the morning and learn about different tools,used for cleaning, while going for our afternoon walk.

While choosing your daily schedule, the Waldorf philosophy suggests to alternate between activities of expansion and those of contraction. Reading, writing, doing crafts- all require concentration and are, therefore, contracting. Free play is expansive. This theory of expansion and contraction sounds very true to me, because I apply it to my daily yoga practice: the only way to maintain a perfect balance in the body is to even out the constant play of the expanding and the contracting forces: those of power and engagement with those of broadening and stretching. A daily schedule of alternating contracting and expanding activities gives your child time to run and play, as well as sit and learn.  Alternating between the two is the most effective way for your child to process new information.

Here’s a typical Waldorf day:
• opening verse
• daily activity
• independent play (inside)
• clean up
• circle time
• independent play (outside)
• story, puppetry, drama
• closing verse

Songs and verses are very popular with Waldorf, as they contribute to the daily rhythm. When children hear the verses, related to specific activities, the transition to these activities becomes smoother. Many verses are available in A Journey through Time in Verse and Rhyme, a book of poetry, verses for morning and evening, blessings and meditations for parents and teachers.

According to Waldorf theory, when a family gathers for their evening meal, it’s a good idea to use place mats, decorated by the kids. Dinner becomes an art project. The place mats can be drawn, sewn, knit. They can have ornaments, glued to them or you can try patchwork – most importantly they should be lovingly decorated as a family art project. Then, there should always be a candle and a prayer. If you are not religious, something like:

” Thank you, Earth, for growing our food,” is good enough.

Keeping a consistent daily and weekly schedule, simple chores and activities, outside play – are crucial tools for raising happy kids, according to the Waldorf philosophy and I wholeheartedly agree. What do you do to keep a sense of rhythm in your child’s life?

      My son loves to build. So, I bought him three different kinds of blocks and eventually, he got bored with all of them. It  was time for a new project. We cut different shapes out of colored papers. We made rectangles, triangles, squares and  circles. Then, we put them all on a table and started building a town. We made houses, trees, cars, trains and people. My  son loved the game! The best part is that this game is portable ( just put all the pieces in a ziploc bag and take it with you  to a restaurant or on a plane ride.) While building , you can also discuss shapes, sizes and colors, therefore, learning them.  You can count shapes:  “Find how many circles we have?”or count shapes and colors: “Find how many blue squares we have?” … etc. Additionally, this is a perfect rainy day activity.

Hummus is a chickpea-sesame dip that works really well on a  sandwich or with veggies.  It is also a good source of  vegetarian protein and fiber. It is rich in monounsaturated fat,  if  made with olive oil.  Hummus also contains calcium, iron,  magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and a few other trace minerals. It  contains a little of the B vitamins, including a good  amount of folic acid and a little vitamin A.

Most people buy hummus in the store and get a bunch of preservatives and artificial ingredients with their chickpea dip. I  make my hummus myself, since I spent quite a few years in Israel, where hummus is eaten every day and the standards for hummus are quite high.  Very few recipes are as easy as the homemade hummus one.

My hummus can be fed to babies, because its protein will help them grow and all of its ingredients are completely natural.  Older children love dipping veggie sticks and crackers into the hummus. You can cook your chickpeas or use canned ones, if pressed for time. You can add things to hummus to keep the dip new and exciting every day: adding whole chickpeas to the finished hummus gives it an interesting texture, cilantro or parsley or chives or garlic or even curry or paprika or pesto sauce change its flavor. Mashed carrots or sweet potatoes add sweetness, while avocado makes it more subtle-tasting. You can even be as adventurous as I am sometimes, making this hummus into a completely different dish altogether, using white beans, instead of chickpeas.

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked or canned chickpeas

1/3 cup tahini paste

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4- 1/3 cup of olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Process everything in a blender until smooth and taste. Some people like their hummus to have a more pronounced sesame flavor (add tahini) and some want its consistency to be more liquid ( add 1/4 cup warm water.) Add the spices I mentioned above if you feel like it and serve on a plate with some more olive oil, poured on top (but not mixed in.) You can also serve it with a pinch of paprika on top. Hummus can stay fresh in the fridge for about 4 days.

 

My son will be three years old in less than a month. Most of his buddies are already in preschool or are starting preschool this fall. Supposedly, going to preschool can help the child’s social development and teach them colors, numbers, letters and some basic reading and writing. Preschool can also help with learning arts and crafts, since there is a lot of coloring and working with play dough going on.

I don’t have anything against preschool, especially if you have an only child, who is beginning to get bored at home. Or, if you want  a little break from your kid to do yoga, hair and nails. Every Mom deserves some free time!

However, I noticed that many of my friends had second babies by the time their first ones turned two or three years old. This way, they can send the oldest to preschool and spend uninterrupted time at home with the youngest, so that the youngest feels as special as the oldest felt, when they were a baby. This sounds logical. Unfortunately, this thinking appears to be against nature.

The second child was not meant to get the same attention and one-on-one time as the first one. This is why they were born second. They were meant to have an older sibling to learn from (something the first one didn’t have.) If you send your older child to preschool and play at home with the little one, you are creating an artificial environment for both. You are robbing the younger one from hours of learning from the older one and you are not letting the older one learn how to lovingly share. Children learn from each other. They also learn to adjust to the new family structure. The older one needs to understand that the younger one is here to stay and the younger one needs to learn that the older one needs his or her time with Mommy, too.

This is where “at home preschool” comes in. I teach my older kid numbers and art and letters, while my 8.5 months old twins try to eat our crayons and I think it’s the best setup, because it minimizes any jealousy or sibling rivalry there may be. My oldest learns about socialization right in our living room and my youngest twins learn how to build castles and read books. A kid who comes home from preschool wants his or her Mommy. The little baby wants his or her mommy all the time, and this is a problem for both. This is where the older one can get aggressive or whiny. If the older one stays home, both him/her and their little sibling learn to lovingly co-exist with the limited amount of  “Mommy-time.”

The problem of socialization with the kids outside of family can be easily solved, as well. You can join  a local mommy group on meetup.com, you can go to playgrounds, you can enroll your child in various classes and activities. You can organize your own playgroup, where you and five other mommies agree to meet at a specific time in a specific place once a week. I know many will disagree with my view, but I believe if a woman is a stay at home mother, she should stay home with ALL of her children, not just some. What do you think?

 

Healing Cream

With a complete overabundance of “natural treatments” available on the market, it’s very hard to tell which ones work and which ones don’t. A lot of herbal creams do not have the herbs, listed as ingredients, in high enough concentration, to make a difference. Coyote’s Natural Medicine products are as pure as they can get. They are made with loving care from pure organic herbs and this is why they work like magic. I have been using them myself and advertising them to all of my friends ( without being paid for it.) These natural remedies are made form organic herbs that my midwife and her husband grow in their beautiful garden in Florida. Their Coyote’s Natural Medicine line offers  baby products, ointments, vitamins and more. Their “healing cream” is probably my favorite product and I believe everyone should have a jar. I used it post-partum and it helped my sore bottom like the best anesthetic. I also used it on my kids’ bruises, burns and cuts.

Remember the carrot ginger soup recipe I posted recently? What would you do with the pulp that’s leftover from juicing 3 cups of carrots? I made a casserole that turned out pretty good.

 

 

 

Ingredients:

3 cups carrot pulp (or grated carrots)

1 medium onion

1/2 cup olive oil

4 small zucchinis, sliced

1 cup of grated cheese ( I used the almond cheese variety)

2 eggs or chia gel substitute

a few drops of tabasco

1 tsp curry

1/3 cup parsley, chopped

Sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sautee the onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil. add the carrots to the onion and some more olive oil. Saute, mixing periodically, for about five minutes. Add the parsley and the spices and sautee for another minute or two. On a separate pan, sautee the zucchinis in some more olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add the zucchinis to the carrots and mix well. Mix in the cheese and the eggs. Oil the baking dish and (optionally) sprinkle some breadcrumbs on it. Put the casserole mixture in and bake for about 35-45 minutes.

I served this casserole with quinoa and  a salad with avocado in it. Avocado’s moisture balanced this casserole’s flavors really well.

Father’s day is his weekend.

Daddy can get a new electronic gadget, a wallet  or a pair of cufflinks, or he can get something funny, like this Tshirt I found (with a matching onesie):

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