Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Read Little Man

Since DayOne we've read to the boys. Anytime they ask. Drop everything.
I was at IKEA with a friend recently and found these adorable boxes in a set of 3 (one large, two small) for $2.
So...I bought 5 sets. Hey, you never know when you might wish you had that many to fill a bookshelf or something....$2!

I figured out what to do with the first set pretty quickly. I put the long box in Curly's bed and the two small ones in Spike and Trilogy's cribs. Curly and Spike have their books in theirs and Trilogy (when he can someday) will be able to grab from his lovey and some small chew toys.

The boxes are soft cotton, foldable and extremely flexible. They're also reversible and have a zipper closure on the bottom. I feel very safe having these in the beds with the boys. They also came in red.

It eliminates one extra step when I go to bed - prying a book from Curly's hands or unsticking it from his chin or trying not to laugh at the crease across his forehead when he's fallen asleep on top of The Very Hungry Caterpillar =)

Mom, Can My Invisible Friend See Himself?

Ironically, Curly, our oldest, has been mentioning a friend from school, Benjamin, being around the house during free-play, dinner time and naptime. I wasn't worried in the slightest and used it as a teaching moment to "remind" Benjamin about the rules in our house. This came to my in-box today.

Imaginary Friends

Why pretend playmates are good for children's development.

by Heather Turgeon

February 22, 2010



t's a sunny day at the park. Susan and her three-year-old daughter, Emily, are swinging happily, chatting about friends and the day's preschool activities. "Mom, don't forget to push Cartoons!" shouts Emily. Mom sidles up to the empty swing beside them and gives it a few good shoves. Cartoons is Emily's baby sister. She lives in Alabama with her mom and dad and she likes stuffed animals and rattles. And she happens to be invisible.

Imaginary friends used to be a cause for concern, but research is finding that kids with elaborate tales of friends who aren't really there are getting ahead in learning and social development. So what makes children who dream up pretend playmates so advanced?

Studies Show Imaginary Friends have Real Benefits

In the days of Dr. Spock, imaginary friends were seen as a symptom of social problems. If your child was spending her time talking to thin air, prevailing wisdom said she probably needed more attention and company. Seen as a way to deal with loneliness, stress, or conflict, imaginary friends had a bad rep for most of the 20th century.

But the tables have turned, with psychologists touting pretend friends as boosters for language and social skills. Last year a study from La Trobe University in Melbourne found that three- to six-year-olds with imaginary friends were more creative and socially advanced. Earlier studies had shown that kids with imaginary pals use more complex sentence structure, have richer vocabularies, and get along better with classmates.

The explanation? Kids who create a playmate get a chance to practice taking both sides of the conversation. They try on different roles, think abstractly, and conjure up original ideas. An elaborate fantasy world is like a test lab for some of the most important childhood skills.

How Imaginary Friends Affect Brain Development All pretend play is critical for brain development.

The regions of the brain that make imaginary friends possible — among them the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe — start picking up signals around eighteen months of age, and they tap into some of our most advanced, higher-order thinking. When you hear your toddler make a chu chu noise with his train, this is your first clue that abstract thought has begun. It's no coincidence that the birth of pretend play synchs up with children recognizing themselves in the mirror — these are skills that mean our little monkeys are becoming conscious beings.

The Message for Parents

In all the excitement over imaginary friends, though, the real message seems to have gotten lost. It's not that made-up playmates are the key to success (no need to start nudging our kids to "get to work and make up an invisible friend"). What the results really suggest is that all pretend play is critical for brain development. When kids create worlds in their heads, they're flexing vital regions of the brain, and if we want their imaginations to really run wild, kids need space and unhurried time. If they get it, the pay-off can be significant (The recent book Nurture Shock cites research demonstrating that kids in preschool programs that dedicate extended time to pretend play jumped miles ahead in school achievement).

So maybe we should go lighter on the music and ballet lessons. Kids get a lot of stimulation and encouragement to be competitive in school and in their interactions with other kids. Let's make sure that they get the same support for directing their own play — whether it's at the playground with an invisible sister from the South, or at imaginary tea parties or forts at home. Hang back and let them exercise their imaginations — and think of all the brainpower they're building.

You Know You Deserve It

SpaFinder's Deal Days is back! Think DineLA but with your body and not your taste buds.

March 8th - March 14th ONLY $50 gets you a variety of 50-minute treatments from participating spas nationwide. Yes, for just $50 each. "You will be able to choose a sampling of a variety of treatments, like a mini facial and mini massage or a manicure and pedicure combination, or full 50-minute treatments such as facial, massage, pedicure, or body treatment. Spas with medical treatments will be offering laser hair removal, and dental spas will be offering teeth whitening."


Yes, just $50. That's like a dollar a minute. You KNOW you are worth more than that, but you can justify that at least once.

Besides, your toddler charges more to walk on your back and the spit-up mask the baby gave you last night clogged your pores.

Click here to sign up for email notices starting Feb. 26th.

Eat this one up!

A Greener You

A free guide to reducing unwanted or intrusive advertising

Stop junk mail, unwanted credit card applications, etc. Click here for a comprehensive list on small things you can do to save the world =) No excuses...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Does this explain why Mom kills them and Dad rescues them?

In our house, if you are an "8-legged" as we call them, you have 2 paths to choose from to determine the remainder of your days:

1) stay OUT of the house and you will survive to spin another web.


2) enter Mom's domain and basically commit suicide. If I find you, I kill you. Even Curly knows that now - one afternoon as I dozed on the couch while he played blocks, he woke me up with a wadded up bundle of toilet paper - "See Mommy. I got the bug."

There is a 3rd option, but I don't like to share involves Mr. P and only if you're lucky will he be the one to find you and put you outside. But if word gets out that you can tempt fate and risk it, I'm afraid we'll be overwhelmed by the WoodStock of 8-leggeds. That's the last thing I need - a bunch of hippy arachnids running around my house all naked and high on illegal websilk.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Flip over this Free Pancake offer!

IHOP is sharing their specialty with you! What a generous way to start a Tuesday....February 23, 2010. From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,

"we'll give you one free short stack (three) of our famous buttermilk pancakes. All we ask is that you consider making a donation to support local children's hospitals through Children's Miracle Network or other local charities." Click here for more details.

I know my kids won't finish all of theirs...Sad for them. Happy for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Speaking of CSA..reusable bags for those veggies!

I think I'm having deja vu and can't remember if I posted this before..but here are some wonderful reusable vegetable bags that I found on etsy. My mother in law also got me some of these. I really like them so far. I just need to get more now that we're overwhelmed with healthy stuff.
Our box came today and, again, vegetables GALORE. Check it out...

And for those of you who aren't able to participate in a CSA and still purchase veggies from the brick and mortar stores =), the EWG has this handy-dandy pocket guide for use at the store when purchasing produce.

Natural Health Remedies

I like to review articles like these every 6 months or so....depending on my brain power.

Parents Mag's 14 Natural Health Remedies

You Capture - Kisses

Brotherly love!

"Think It Through With Me" Thursday's one I need help on this week:

A grandparent spanked my oldest last week while we were staying in said grandparent's home. Curly was disobeying my direction to get dressed and ran into the living room. Grandparent went in to get him, Curly got upset and apparently hit his grandparent in the face.

I heard the commotion and asked what happened when they walked back down the hall. Grandparent responded with "He's fine" and no more detail. Curly told me what happened right then and I explained to the grandparent that I would attend to the fact that Curly hit but that it was NOT Ok for Grandparent to spank my son.

I was shaken and really upset afterward. I felt awkward spending the last two days of our vacation there. I told Mr. P who agreed with me on all accounts. Grandparent has advised us before to use spanking more often as a discipline strategy, but Mr. P and I both agree that we're really not ok with it.

Should I address the situation again? Thoughts?

Anything you want help thinking through? Post and let us know..we'll try to be of service =)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yum, yum. Vegetable fun!

What's up, Doc?

Peter Rabbit never had it so good.
Posted by Picasa

I've been circling the CSA world for about a year now. Paying careful attention to the costs, the pros, the cons and the local produce wave as a whole. Thanks to a few MOMS Club members with a bit more time than I, I was able to finally wet my appetite and that of my family. Local farm, Tanaka Farms, partnered with the MOMS Club and a few neighbors to start our own CSA being delivered right here in W every Thursday.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and has been around for over 20 years. According to Local Harvest, a network of 2,500 farms, CSA has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Originally scheduled for our place with the covered patio and driveway accessibility, we had to move the drop-off/pick-up location due to scheduling. Minor detail. It is no chore to drive 1/2 a mile every Thursday to pick up a cardboard box full of deliciously fresh veggies such as those below.
Seriously, this is just one box.

Tanaka coordinates with over 100 different groups (mostly schools and churches) to deliver seasonal vegetables and fruits picked THAT morning supporting the group through fundraising and perpetuating the simple joy of local farming. Subscribers do not have a choice as to what's in their box, but for $30 ($5 goes to MOMS Club), it's a cost-effective way to feed a family of 4 (or 5 =) with variety and freshness without having to worry about running to the store or contributing to global warming.

We're just finishing up the contents of our first box and it's been almost 2 weeks. We even split our weekly box with another family. I don't think I've ever tasted a salad so fresh, nor have I ever though to use radicchio in anything, including my vocabulary. Mr. P takes some with him to work too.

NurtureBaby has an adorable Nutrition Checklist that I'm hoping to laminate and put out for the boys to reference. Curly is very attentive to the colors of our food and we talk about "Eating A Rainbow" each day, which I got from my teaching days and the USDA's website. Click here to make a customized MyPyramid plan for your preschooler. Blueberries and milk being Curly's two favorite colors to complete, of course..

Clean your plate...yum, yum!

EDITED to add this great video from Jamie Oliver via ZRecs.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Craft - not to be done while nursing..

Hit Michael's this weekend with Curly in tow. I am new to the crafting world so I figured we'd start small.
Can't be f*cked up.

AlphaMom had this adorable and EASY Valentine's Tic-Tac-Toe idea so Curly and I spent an hour (total) on it.

Notes to anyone trying to replicate this experiment:
  • Wear gloves. Hot glue with a preschooler nearby can be deadly.
  • Pumping while hot gluing can also be humorous. Especially after you've tried nursing the 6-month-old and he attempted to chew on the hot glue gun cord.
  • Balancing the craft tray, the 6-month-old and the glue gun cord along with the excitement of the preschooler...not too easy. Makes the craft not so fun.
  • Preschooler might not want dinner after ingesting so much of the rice while helping you pour it into the "bean bags."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunday's Simple Start - A simple, inspirational quote to get your week going

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” — C.S. Lewis

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Project 52: Date Night - with a welcome third wheel

Thanks to Papa, BabyDaddy (Trilogy too) and I got a nice evening out tonight. The two older boys were fed and bed and we left around 8. Romantic adventure to The Container Store and then The Cheesecake Factory for some apps and small plate samplings. I could fill up on their pork wrapped dates anytime...

Very nice and relaxing to have time to chat and especially enjoy some two-on-one time with Trilogy who decided to wake up just as the food arrived. It was almost like back in the old days when it was just Curly and us =) We got to talk about grown-up stuff like which car to buy, our veggie CSA and friends we miss. No surprise we also got to laugh at the antics of our boys today (Curly protecting Spike from the geese, Spike letting his balloon go in the parking lot of Color Me Mine) and revisit our united front on discipline. We decided to forego the infamous dessert when Mr. P remembered that we had one last It's-It left in the freezer. And Magic Shell...score!

A shout out to Papa who juggled #1, #2, the two four-leggeds AND a crossword puzzle for 3 hours. I guess it's ok that you ate the last It's-It....

Project 52: Date Nights logo

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Mo

As a teacher, pre-kids, I always thought I'd want to start academics with my own children at an early age. Once Curly arrived and I saw how precious his face was when engaged in some serious playing, all twisted and contemplative, my whole tune changed.

My teacher training means I know where kids should be academically by Kindergarten and my expectation for what they should know in order to succeed is high. But seeing how excited my students get when given free time to explore and imagine reminds me that the only standards they should meet are the ones that help them achieve a smile. My mommy training means all I want for them is happiness.

As Curly's first year of preschool approached I became nervous about finding the right school for him. One that would balance both of the above desires. I put him on the wait lists at 6 different schools before he was 9 months old. Three near our home and three near my work, not sure if I'd be staying at home at that point or back to full-time teaching. As 2009 would have it, I was blessed to be home full-time with the 3 boys so Curly was able to enroll in my first choice of preschool near our home. A HIGHLY recommended, play-based preschool with no required emphasis on letters or counting other than the obvious teachable moments and seasonal theme curriculum.

Two weeks into the school year my friend's daughter brought home a project for her "Letter of the Week." I drooled with envy. Curly's beautiful art work hung in the living room window but it appeared as if the only letters he knew were the 4 spelling his name and he learned those from working with me.

I spent that whole night tossing and turning and analyzing whether or not I'd made the right decision for Curly. My first real decision with regard to his education. Had I screwed him up for life ALREADY?

Trusting my gut, I discussed my concerns with a few friends and they reminded me of what I already knew - he'd be fine. Wasn't I the first grade teacher who reassured my students' parents that most, if not, all kids read by third grade. Didn't I repeat 20 times each year that just because the Dept. of Education says kids must know x,y and z by June that it's not realistic to expect EVERY kid to do so?

I remember asking a parent of an older child how she made the decision to enroll her son in the pre-K program at our district instead of send him with his age-alike peers. Her son was the most well-adjusted, curious, independent, kind, bright kid I knew. She said, "Would you rather your child have another year of childhood or another year of adulthood?"

For me the answer was and still continues to be simple - I'd rather my boys have the former, but along with it, another year of play, not work. So what if I have to remind myself of that every once in awhile. I'm learning to play more too. =)

And for the record, yes, I do "Letter of the Week" with the boys. I want to engage them in play-based, child-centered activities that have learning as a by-product. But for heaven's sakes, the teacher in me can't just let that beautiful easel and those perfect teachable moments just sway in the wind. Curly knows 20 of his letters and can count higher than the number of times he gets off his bed at night...and that's a lot =)

This article, Choosing a Preschool from Disney is the best summary I've found so far about the different types of preschools out there. It really enlightened me to the different curricular goals of each type of school and also helped me to justify how I know my son is in the right place for him. For now.

PS - Last week at Spike's Mommy & Me class, the director of Curly's preschool spoke. Here are the notes for you to eat up too:
Best Way to evaluate a preschool: By recommendations or "dropping in."

What to look for in a preschool:
The Benefits of a half day vs. a full day. ( Full day of school has its benefits but can mirror daycare)
There should be large blocks of time for a child to get engaged in an activity
Minimum Paperwork/Dittos
A clean and Safe environment
Title XXII Regulations should be followed (e.g. school has proper licensing, ratio of 12:1 not including administrative staff, etc)
Children should be behaving appropriately in class
Low staff turnover
Calm atmosphere
Do children seem happy?
How is the staff handling unhappy children?
What a good preschool offers:
Opportunity to develop cognitive skills
Exploring through five senses
Has toys for learning through discovery
No sitting for long periods of time
Books available for reading
Topics covered at school are different that what is learned at school (e.g. themes like citizenship, rain forests, etc)
Opportunities to learn and trust outside the family
Children learn to share, follow directions, verbalize feelings, how to handle negative behavior, and finding one's place in a class
Builds a positive self image
Encourages creative skills
Teaches separation, citizenship, and small and gross motor skills
Art materials
Reinforces foundations learned at home in a new environment


How Does She....?

When people learn that my husband works out of town and that I'm with the 3 kiddos by myself all week, they often say, "I don't know how you do it!" Well, I don't either. But it gets done. Maybe not during daylight hours, but hopefully before the sun's next appearance.

A lot of my to-do list gets crossed off at night after they've gone to bed. That's when I get to read emails, blog, lurk on Facebook or bookmark all the awesome craft projects that I'll never have time to do.

Like this one from How Does She...? It's a recent find and I've wanted 3 servings of it a day. Uniting inspirational women. Sharing inspirational ideas.

This project, a 2x4 that says "We Love Daddy" looks like a manageable one for me. We actually have 2x4's in the garage and even a Daddy.

Now if only Michael's was open 24 hours....

Eat this one up fast...Father's Day is just around the corner...Yes, I know it's's a long corner.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do Unto Others

"How we treat the child, the child will treat the world." -Pam Leo

Friday, February 5, 2010

See what you've been missing...

Friday Family Fun

A family that I greatly admire does "Friday Family Movie Night" every week. They have 2 daughters, both of whom have been in my first grade classroom and are well-balanced, amazing little women. Even before Curly was born I suggested to Mr. P that we start this tradition ourselves. I grew up going to the movies, every weekend, on holidays even. My extended family has more nicknames and random quotes from the big screen to fill Leonard Malten's next book. I've always enjoyed the feeling of escaping into a well-filmed and well-presented story even if the "well-" part isn't exactly there...

Popcorn, picnic dinner, make-your-own desserts were some of the other ideas we thought we'd try. The boys are still too young to sit through a movie, but I look forward to sharing with them the flicks of my youth. Those that stayed with me and those that I never got the chance to enjoy. (Believe it or not, but I don't think I've ever seen "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" all the way through...) Put every Disney film on the list, please.

Mr. P has a cousin whose family does "Friday Night Wii" and they always require costumes.

Here's a list from Daily Babble that might help you get started. Some are for the older crowd. Mostly live action so let's generate our own animated features list.

20+ Top Family Movies

1. Planet Earth (2006)

2. Young Tom Edison (1940)

3. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

4. Pride of the Yankees (1942)

5. Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

6. The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)

7. The Miracle Worker (1962)

8. Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)

9. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

10. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man

11. Young Frankenstein (1974)

12. Hoosiers (1986)

13. Rocky (1976)

14. The Natural (1984)

15. Chariots of Fire (1981)

16. Bad News Bears (1976)

17. The Simpsons

18. Wallace and Gromit

19. Plymptoons — The Complete Works of Bill Plympton

20. The Red Balloon (1991, France)

21. Skinny and Fatty (1959, Japan)

22. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

23. Modern Times (1936)

24. City Lights (1931)

25. The Princess Bride (1987)

26. Groundhog Day (1993)

What are some of the traditions that you have that may center around flicks or family fun on weekends?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Curl up with a good book and your best boy!

As a teacher for almost 13 years, I'm more than happy to get up on a soap box and preach about the importance of reading and modeling a passion for reading. Mr. and I started reading to Curly the first night in the hospital. I find such joy in overhearing Curly read to his bear, his brothers and himself. We have book baskets in every room of the house - paperbacks, hardbacks, board books, flip books, magazines. The boys even see me flipping through the Pottery Barn catalog in the bathoom (the only time I have to do so =)

My dad taught me to read when I was 4 using Little House on the Prairie books. Since I don't really remember, I take his word for it =) But what I DO remember is the feeling of comfort and encouragement I felt when we would have that special time together at night. I wanted him to hear me read, wanted to hear him do the character voices and wanted to fall asleep dreaming about myself in the action of the story.

Throughout my training as an educator and literacy specialist, I've paid special attention to the discussions about reading and boys. Fittingly, I have 3 future male readers of my own.

Here are some recent blogs and posts I've come across that you might be interested in too, sons or daughters:

Guys Read - a web-based literacy program for boys

Books for Boys

Big Guys Books - stunning photography and graphics

Daddy's Heroes - a fun book for dads to share with their kiddos - I got his for my niece for Christmas. My brother LOVED it.

Starfall - an online learning game site - FREE and fabulous!

Reading Rewards

I've also shared my website from last year's class (updated mid-decision to take this year off, so please forgive its "crumbs.") I wanted the parents of my students to have everything they needed at their fingertips to support their child in all academic areas. I put a lot of time into the links page so please take a LONG look there =)

Have fun READING.'s not the quantity, it's not the book, it's the READING that matters.