Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Meals

I have found some great recipes and ideas for feeding kids that I thought I would share.

Chicken pot pie muffin and watermelon

Sandwiches -
I know what you are thinking, this isn't something new and unique. I promise it really is though. My kids will disassemble and play with a normal sandwich rather than eating them so I needed a better idea. Then I read about sandwich rolls. Basically you take a biscuit - the small ones, not Grands - and flatten it out. In the center you place meat and cheese. Then wrap up and cook according to package instructions. My kids happily eat these and don't even make a mess. Brilliant! I have also made these with peperoni, cheese, and a tiny bit of pizza sauce. They freeze well and I can make a ton of them and just thaw as needed.

Turkey and cheese biscuits on the go!

Muffins -
Jiffy corn muffin mix (or the cheaper Aldi brand if you shop like I do) as the starter for an entree. Once again, it sounds crazy, but just keep reading. One option is to mix shredded chicken and mixed vegetables in to make chicken pot pie muffins. Another option is ground beef and cheese for cheeseburger muffins. I have also made taco muffins, corn dog muffins, chicken and cheese muffins, etc. You get the idea. Sometimes I just take leftovers and mix to freeze for later meals. Other times I will spend a couple of hours to make a bunch of a particular type. Yesterday I made 71 of the corn dog muffins. I cooked hot dogs, cut them into small pieces and mixed into the corn muffin mix. I added cheese to the mix for the fun of it. It took  me about 2 hours, but well worth the time I save. That being said, they aren't a neat and clean meal. My kids like to crumble them and eat the bits and pieces before the crumbs. They do eventually eat it all, but it is not a clean process. Granted, they are toddlers so very few things we do are a clean process.

Chicken pot pie muffin and watermelon

Bread -
Sweet daughter has found an opinion on foods. Rather than just eating everything she is becoming picky. This is normal toddler behavior, but my child had to find a way to make it unusual. She won't eat white breads. Seriously, the girl only likes whole wheat. This made the sandwiches above a challenge since I can't find whole wheat biscuits. I did find a recipe I like for whole wheat bread. The big plus is it doesn't involve raw eggs so I let the kids help knead the dough. It's almost fool proof - I'm an awful cook and haven't been able to screw it up yet.
Two loaves
6+ cups of flour (it varies)
2 cups liquid (water or milk)
1 T yeast (do 4 t if doing all whole wheat flour)
2 t salt
1/3 cup oil (up to 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup honey or sugar (up to 1/2 cup)

Bake at 350 for 30 min for a loaf and for 12-15 min for biscuits.
We use milk and honey most of the time, but I have done all of the variations. I've made cinnamon raisin bread, sandwich bread, and biscuits.

Happy toddlers

Other than the bread recipe which I got from a friend, all of the other ideas listed are from one amazing web page. I didn't want to mention it before because you would head there and never finish this post!  She has been featured on the Disney web page, Family Fun magazine, and many other places. All of the lunches she makes are cute and healthy. While I haven't gotten around to making a single bento lunch, I do often steal other ideas from her, as you can tell from above. Our next cooking experiment? Everything muffins

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My blogging rules and statistics

For those that don't know me in real life, here are some interesting "rules" I have made for this blog. The photos, once again, aren't related to the topic.

I won't publish the names of my kids. First and foremost, this is for security. I don't want a stranger who has read the blog to see my kids in public and call out their names. This also makes me more comfortable sharing information. I'm hoping this limits embarrassment when the kids get older also.

Our family in Miami

The photos are a year old. I won't publish any photos that are less than 6 months old and almost all (95%) are a year old. All of the blog posts with what I have done are about last year. This also gives us more privacy. Kids change so fast and if a stranger sees a photo of my kids a year ago they aren't likely to recognize them now. This also gives me time to reflect on if something we have done worked or not. I can leave out all of the stories of the things that didn't work.

It's a tough life.

This blog is not a realistic view of our lives. This blog is all about the good, the successful, and the research. I could do 4 times as many posts of things that were bad, unsuccessful, and on how instinct often fails us. While that would be a much more entertaining blog, it's not the purpose of this blog and I'm trying to stay (somewhat) on topic.

Father's Day on the beach

I am fascinated by the statistics of who is actually reading this blog. The top 10 countries who have hits on my page are:  United States, Australia, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Germany, India, Netherlands, Guam, and Mauritius. Mostly English speaking, which makes sense. I even know people living in half of those countries. Granted, I had to look up Mauritius because I had never even heard of it. Hi Mauritites! Or whatever you prefer to be called...

She loves her Daddy! (He's blinking, but she's just too cute not to use the photo.)
My top referring sites are Facebook, Google (in 6 different countries), Bing, and a French site about baby wearing. My most read post happens to be the one that has been up the longest. It's nice when stats make perfect sense.

Getting dressed up is exhausting.

So here's where I ask for the help of readers. If you see any of my photos posted on another site and not credited back to this page, please let me know. I will also try to live up to my side of the bargain. My goal is 4 posts a month. Yes, I failed in May, but it is a goal. Once a week doesn't seem like much, but between the twin toddlers, the large puppy, and life, it doesn't always happen. For example, in May we had sick kids, my lap top died (every 20 minutes of use), and my kids were going through one of their more difficult phases. I just didn't have the energy to keep up with it. When it comes down to my kids, my sanity, and the blog, they will always be prioritized in that order. I'm sure any other parents reading this will understand!

Sorry this was a really boring post. I have 2-3 other posts in the works, but I'm just not inspired to actually finish them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Theories of Mind

There are many different theories of the mind and how it works. While many people know the nature v. nurture debate, that is the old tip of the iceberg. Here are just a few that I have been learning about and debating for awhile now. These photos have nothing to do with the post. I just know I would get complaints if I didn't include some photos.

Exploring different colors, textures, and patterns

Empty Vessel - A child is an empty vessel that brings nothing to a new experience. When you tell them or show them something new it will start to fill the vessel and they have "learned" it. A child can only learn so much before their vessel is full and things either don't go in or other things fall out. This is the most extreme of the nurture arguments. There is no Science to back this up and anyone who has spent any amount of time with a child laughs at the thought that a child brings nothing to a new experience or that they completely learn something after seeing it only once. I should note that this is the basic theory that the current US educational system is based on - this combined with the factory model, to be more accurate.

Yummy toys

IQ - The debate here is if IQ is something you are born with or if it can change with experiences. Can you learn to increase your IQ? The simple answer is yes. IQ changes throughout life (more than could just be accounted for by testing errors) and you can learn techniques to improve your IQ. Once you know that you can improve your mental capabilities there is an automatic measurable cognitive improvement over people who think it is set - before you even do anything else. The number one thing you can do to increase cognitive processing (as judged by fMRI) is aerobic exercise. Number two is nutrition and third is education. Education in this case needs to be something new, interesting, and challenging. Doing soduko puzzles is great, but will only help for about a year, after that you need to find something else. Learning to dance, rebuild an engine, or learning a new language will all benefit you if they are new, interesting and challenging. Children are much better at this than adults, as most adults tend to stick with the same hobbies/job for years on end.

Playing with buttons and our sweet little dog

Ladder theory - Your mind is like a ladder. You must learn everything for the first rung before climbing onto the second. You must learn how to stand before you learn how to walk. You will learn to walk before learning to run. This theory is how most people think we learn. Each subject is a different ladder and you climb up even, steady steps to work your way to the top. If you manage to only weakly develop a step or try stepping over, it will catch up to you and you will fall until you learn the material. Most people, when pressed, can come up with an example in their life of how this doesn't hold true. The musician who can perform a concerto, but doesn't know all of their scales would just be one example. This is a good basic theory, but it just doesn't hold true.

Playing with the doll house

Spider web theory - Each item you learn is a point on a spider web. The more connections that item has to other things you know the stronger the web. Things learned with no context or connections will quickly fall off and be forgotten. For example, a child learning about the fraction 1/4 could connect that to a quarter note in music, a quarter of a dollar, a quarter of a football game, 25%, .25, quarter of an hour, quarter pound burger, etc. You can see how this would make it a much stronger connection. There has also been research done showing that if you change the way and location of teaching an item the more likely it is to be remembered. For example, students taught the same math problems in class were divided into two groups for homework. One group did nothing out of the ordinary. The other group was told to do all of their math homework while sitting in the empty bathtub. The bathtub group did remarkably better. So if you are trying to teach a child something that doesn't have a lot of other connections, change up the where and how you are trying to teach it.

Playing in the doll house

Roads theory - You find yourself in the middle of the country - no roads or development of any type to be seen. First, you must find water. After walking awhile you find a stream of fresh water and you notice your foot prints on the path that took you there. Next you look for shelter and a little way off you discover a tree that offers shade and some fruit to eat. Over the next few days you keep exploring and you notice the path between the stream and the tree no longer has anything growing on it. It's a simple dirt path, while other paths are still foot prints. As you continue to explore and discover some paths fade away because you stop walking on them, while other paths grow and become more defined. Skip forward in the story - You now have dirt paths, country roads, streets, and even a few highways. The highways allow you to go faster, but sometimes the exits are just close to where you are headed rather than taking you right there. They do allow you to go over some streets without even acknowledging them.
Apply this theory to your mind. Those paths that you develop start to work faster. When you first learn to walk you have to think about being balanced, picking up one leg, moving it forward, setting it down, still staying balanced and doing it all over with the other leg. After spending a lot of time practicing this skill you can walk without any thought at all. When you were in first grade you knew all of your classmates names, yet 20 years later you likely don't remember very many. A road not traveled, grows over and is forgotten. If someone asks you what the Pythagorean theorem is, you are likely taken back to when/where you learned it. You quickly (highway) got there and know when/where you learned it or last used it (exit), but it probably takes a few minutes or longer to remember specifically what it is (lesser used roads). If you use this theorem daily, choose another example.

Playing with trucks

Each of these theories tells us something about our minds. The last two are the ones most supported by current Science. As you are teaching your kids, think about the differences in the theories and how you can apply them to your time. The more important something is the more times you want them to walk that path and the more connections to other things you want to make. When all else fails, sit in an empty bathtub!

 Happy with wet curly hair

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Water Babies

Where we live, we have hot summers. It's not uncommon to have weeks on end with highs over 100 Fahrenheit (38C). With this in mind, we purchased one of the cheap plastic baby pools for the kids to play in outside. They loved it.

 One "swimming" and one splashing
Better than a bath

Playing in water is great for gross motor development. All of those great benefits you hear for the elderly, pregnant, and injured adults when swimming are also true for babies. It's low impact - this is great for building muscle without as much weight bearing. It's not likely to cause injury and when you think of everything else babies are doing (learning to sit, crawl, stand, and walk) it seems it's all about falling down. Stress reduction seems strange to include here because most babies aren't (and shouldn't be) stressed. However, swimming with babies usually causes laughter and smiles both of which are great for physical, emotional, and cognitive development.

 Happy girl
Happy boy

Yes, they enjoy playing in the bath, but playing in water outside is different and better. They can splash more, move around more, and fall out. Yes, monkey girl did fall out of the pool and land on her face. Two babies in the pool, two parents sitting next to the pool within arms reach of both babies and she fell on her face.

Her nose healed with no scaring, just another bad mommy badge.

We also had the opportunity to introduce the babies to the ocean. We don't live near an ocean, but a vacation took us to Florida so of course, we went to the ocean. Monkey girl was unsure of the waves headed in her direction, but was willing to play along as long as she knew we were right there. Sweet son did everything he could to pull up his legs and feet so the water would not get to him. After feeling the water on his toes, he had a meltdown and we quickly went back to the pool.

 Are you sure about this?
I can't pull my feet up any farther!

As the temperature warms up, get in the pool and have fun!

Our family in a pool