Lots of Little Updates! (Book + Fancy Bistro)

It’s been a little while since I last blogged- whoops.  Time just seems to fly away from me sometimes, especially since I like to pack my days full! I always joke that I’m allergic to boredom. It’s not that I don’t know how to relax, it’s just that life seems so much better when I feel like I’m doing a lot with it, you know?

Spring is finally here!  I have been soooo happy to be able to take my kiddos outside to run around in the grass and play in the sunshine.  Pretty soon it’ll be warm enough for picnics at parks with friends!  Oh! And isn’t Easter coming up soon? I tend to forget, since I’m working with a Jewish family. I guess it’s time to pull out some Easter crafts!  I’ll do that soon.

I started a new book: Will My Kid Grow Out of It? by Bonny J. Forrest. It’s a super interesting overview of some typical childhood issues that can help you determine what kind of help your child might benefit from. I’ve always been fascinated by children’s minds. I haven’t finished the book yet, but it’s been easy to read and incredibly insightful.

Amy’s Fancy Bistro has continued to be a big success!  There have been hits and misses, but the kiddos have enjoyed each week and have tried everything I’ve put in front of them. Last week, I made tilapia fillets baked with a lemon-honey-soy sauce brushed over the top. Both kids LOVED it, and my pickiest eater has already been asking when we can have tilapia for dinner again!  The younger one is apparently a fan of salami now!  One of their favorite nights was when I had a “Japanese” theme and made three kinds of faux sushi. I flattened slices of bread (with the crust cut off), put different things on the bread, then rolled it and sliced it into little “sushi” rolls. The fillings that night were peanut butter and banana, pumpkin/ cream cheese spread with apple, and cream cheese with grated carrot. I served it with edamame and let them eat using chop sticks (in any way they wanted). I also put on the “Yoshida Brothers” station on Pandora for some asian flare, which they also enjoyed.

That’s all for now!  Easter crafts will be next!

“Raising my Rainbow” book and blog

The latest book I read on my kindle is called “Raising my Rainbow” by Lori Duron.

This is a lovely book, an expansion of Lori’s blog, also called “Raising my Rainbow”, which chronicles her challenges and adventures in raising her youngest son, C.J., who is gender- nonconforming.  He is a boy who likes “girl stuff”.  Lori’s blog is great, and her book didn’t disappoint either.  Both of them are filled with compassion and love and heart ache, and they can really change the way you look at the world. I’ve never been a fan of pushing children into traditional gender roles.

I think it’s perfectly fine for ANY child, regardless of gender, to like any combination of sports, dolls, nature, construction toys, crafts… basically, I think children should be able to like whatever toys, activities, and colors they want.  Why shouldn’t they? I currently work with a 6 year old boy who is definitely a boy.  He’s active in sports and enjoys playing with cars and legos.  But he has a tender, creative side, too. He likes to play with his stuffed animals and do art and his favorite colors are all of them, even pink and purple. *gasp* And even in kindergarten, he got teased by kids because he said he likes the color pink.  Really.

I think every parent and caregiver out there should read Lori’s book or blog, or both.  It’ll help you look at the world with a little less judgement and a little more compassion for differences. And hopefully, you’ll start getting angry at the “boy” aisles and “girl” aisles of the toy store that send a message to kids about what they can and can’t like.  Toys are for everyone.  Colors are for everyone.  Every kid should be able to enjoy whatever activity they want without shame.  It’s really not that difficult, is it?

Brain Rules For Babies: Part 2

I’ve finished the book now, and I loved it all! In case you didn’t read “Brain Rules for Baby Part 1”, I’m referring to a book by the marvelous John Medina.  You can find it on amazon here. I would definitely recommend it for any nanny or parent to read.  So much great information, along with studies to back it all up.  Here’s another topic from the book that I think is important.

How do you praise children? What’s the best way to praise a child?

Praise is so important- you probably already know that.  But Mr. John Medina talks in his book about how important it is to praise in a certain way. Many people think that telling a child that he’s really smart will convince him that he is and give him the self esteem to tackle difficult problems.  But it’s not true.  Let’s look at an example.

When little Brian, aged 5, showed a proficiency for spelling words, he would often fly through spelling homework.  His mom would praise him again and again, “Brian, you are so smart!  I’m so proud of you!” Brian would beam with pride because it was so easy for him to do so well. Fast forward a few years, and Brian was struggling with more difficult words and the more complicated rules of spelling in the English language.  In his mind, he believed that he must not be smart anymore.  Or maybe he was never smart in the first place.  His parents wouldn’t be as proud of him now because he couldn’t fly through spelling tests and reading tests like he used to.  So he gave up. And his grades plummeted along with his self esteem.

Brian didn’t know what to do when things get hard, and he thought that “being smart” meant that you knew things without much effort.

So what could his parents have said instead?  They should have praised his effort.  Examples of praising his effort would be things like, “Brian, you worked so hard to finish your homework!” or “That homework wasn’t easy, but you kept at it and did a great job!”  When a child has a hard time, remind them that sometimes things are hard, but if you keep trying, you’ll eventually get through it.  You want a child to know that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that those mistakes are part of the learning process.  Challenges require more effort, not ability.

Be sure to always think about the messages you’re sending when you praise your child.  What are you teaching him when you say “You look so handsome!” instead of “You must’ve spent extra time combing your hair today!”?  How about “You’re such a great artist” versus “That art must’ve taken a lot of time and patience!”?



Brain Rules for Baby Part 1

I’m reading a fascinating book right now, and even though I’m not done with it yet, I’m afraid I’ll forget some good parts, so I’m just going to write about stuff as I go along.  The book is “Brain Rules for Babies” by John Medina.  You can get it from Amazon here.

I can’t say enough great things about this book, even though I’ve only read about half of it so far.  The title is deceptive, since the advice given can apply to children up to 5.  The book is practical, but based on research and studies that the author often references.  It’s a great guide that talks about what you can and can’t do to give your child the best start possible, and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it.

I won’t be able to talk about everything in the book.  If I could, I promise you, I would.  But it has too much material to cover.  So I’ll talk about the things that interest me most as a nanny.  This time- I want to talk about IQ and intelligence. What does it mean to be smart?

The book talks about the history of the IQ test, but in the end, the author states than an IQ test doesn’t tell you how smart a child is or will be.  He uses a great analogy for what intelligence is- his mom’s beef stew.  Apparently, it was amazing, but it was never the same recipe.  The recipe would change depending on who was coming over, or what she already had in the house.  She said that if the quality of the beef was good, and if the gravy surrounding the beef was good, the stew would be a success no matter what else was in it.  So how does this relate to intelligence? The two essential things your brain needs in order to be intelligent are 1) the ability to record information and 2) the ability to adapt that information to unique situations. The better you can do these two things, the smarter you are, basically.

But there are other ingredients as well that must work with these fundamentals.  The author points out five that he thinks are most important to address:

  • the desire to explore
  • self control
  • creativity
  • verbal communication
  • interpreting nonverbal communication

You can’t completely control how well a child does with these things, but you can help encourage children to develop them to their fullest.   Notice that “good at math” and “knows the whole alphabet” aren’t on this list.  Don’t worry- each child will learn his ABCs and 123s in time. So put away the flash cards and the “Baby Genius” dvds and help the children you work with to become curious, imaginative, creative problem solvers, self-disciplined, good communicators, and good observers.  I’ll talk about some ways to do this another time.