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!

Amy’s Fancy Bistro is Now Open!

I work with some picky eaters who are incredibly reluctant to try new things. Even more difficult, I have a picky eater who doesn’t like to try new things but also doesn’t like to have the same things too often or he gets burnt out and doesn’t like them at all anymore. It’s a tough situation that I’ve been struggling with for years. I have gotten him to try new things and have definitely expanded his “Things I’ll Eat” list.  But there’s still a lot of room for things to improve.

For help, I decided to re-read the chapter from “No Whine with Dinner” that lists lots of tips for getting picky eaters to try, and hopefully enjoy, new foods. There’s some great ones, and it seemed like a lot of them were pointing towards the same main idea- get the kids involved, and find ways to make the experience fun and positive. I’m hoping to get Mr. 7 in the kitchen helping me pick out recipes and cook them, but until we can get that started, I decided to work on the “fun and positive” part.  Soooo…

I decided to open up my own restaurant!  It’s called “Amy’s Fancy Bistro”. It’s not real, of course, but I tried to make it feel as real as I could. I went to Target and got plastic plates, bowls, and cups that look like they’re fancy porcelain and crystal.  I didn’t want them to worry about the dishes accidentally breaking.   I put on pretty piano music (Thanks Pandora!)  I dimmed the chandelier in the formal dining room and lit a vanilla-scented candle. I put their plates on nice placemats and folded their napkins neatly with their forks on top. And when I put their food on the plates, I made sure it was presented as prettily as I could make it, like an expensive restaurant would.

For dinner, Chef Amy served Crispy Chicken Bites (chicken breast cut into small chunks, rolled in olive oil and then breadcrumbs, and baked at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until cooked through and slightly browned), Roasted Squash Noodles (spaghetti squash), lightly buttered and topped with grated Parmesan cheese, and Freshly Diced Strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar and a small star of Whipped Topping (from an aerosol can- don’t judge, it’s all there was in the house). The beverage of the night was chocolate milk.

The kids were asked to call me Chef Amy, and I gave them some simple etiquette. Food shouldn’t be eaten with fingers unless the Chef says it’s ok to.  If you like the food, please compliment the chef!  If you don’t care for something, the chef would appreciate some feedback about could be better, but be careful not to insult the chef.  And the last rule- Enjoy your meal and let your server (me) know if there’s anything you need.

They LOVED the whole thing. There was no arguing or pestering each other, no whining, no bad manners, and best of all, they tried everything on their plate without being asked!  Neither of them liked the squash, which was the one brand new item on their plates, but I didn’t have to fight them to give it a try, and they gave me feedback about what they didn’t enjoy about it (it seems to mostly be the texture of it). And I got more compliments on the other things than I ever have at dinner before!  It was a win-win for all of us, and they can’t wait to do it again next week!  I’m hoping that Mr. 7 can give me ideas for recipes to try from the cookbooks I got at the library.  And if he doesn’t, I’ll come up with something interesting and delicious!  So all in all, the experiment was a huge success!

PS- this is how my bistro looks in my imagination:

Valentine’s Day Crafts!

It’s almost February!  If you’re helping your kiddos hand-make all their valentines this year, you might want to get started doing V-day crafts now!  If you don’t have many to do, maybe you don’t have to get started yet, but it’s good to have some ideas so that you can make sure to have the right supplies.  I’ve been asked whether or not Jewish families celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I can’t speak for all Jewish families, of course, but mine does.  For me, and for them, V-day is a secular holiday that celebrates the love we have for our family and friends. Anytime there’s a holiday that focuses on gratitude for other people, I’m in!  I think gift-giving is important for youngsters, and this holiday is perfect for that. 🙂

For infants/Toddlers:

Handprint/Footprint “Love” picture– There are so many ways to do this! You can make it simpler by just making a double handprint or double footprint heart. And if you have a wiggly infant/toddler who won’t let you get the prints in the right place, let them enjoy the paint and put nice prints wherever, then cut and paste them into the shape you’re going for. Don’t let art get frustrating!

Marble Art Valentines – I couldn’t find a picture illustrating this idea completely, but marble art is fun!  How to make it kind of cool and amazing too? Before your kiddo does the marble art, cut out one or more hearts out of contact paper, and stick those hearts onto the paper the paint will go on.  Make sure the paper gets very well covered with paint, and when it dries, peel off the contact paper and reveal the hearts!  You don’t have to do this with marble art, though. You can just do some free form painting on the contact papered heart paper instead!

For Preschoolers: 

Both of the above projects would be fun for preschoolers, but here’s more ideas!

Paper Roll Heart Stamps Fun and cute!

Animals made out of Hearts– Because really, who can ask for more? Miss 4 loved making the cats last year when she was Miss 3, but there are so many choices!

For School-Agers (is that a word? Oh well.)

The heart shaped animals are still super fun for older kids, and BONUS- most of them can cut out their own hearts with or without a little help! But that doesn’t mean I’m not giving you more stuffs.

Heart-Shaped Borax Crystals– Craft + Science = Double Awesome.

All-in-One Valentine Card– For more instant gratification, there’s this project, which can also work well for younger kids. The tutorial shows how to fold a heart into a cute envelope, so you can write/draw secret stuffs and then deliver it in an adorable way.

I have so many other great ideas on my Holiday/Seasonal Pinterest Board!  So if you’re not fulfilled yet, go check that out!  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Welcome to 2015!

It a new year, and you know what that means, right? It’s time to reflect on the past year and decide what we can do this year to be a better person. Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you hope to continue to become a better caregiver. I know I do.  It’s a constant journey, you know? So I’m here to help you out.

There are some wonderful child care books out there, but there’s so many, I know it can be daunting to decide which ones to read.  Here are some of my favorites.  I’ve read each of these and have loved them.  Hopefully you’ll get just as much out of them!

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elain Mazlish

I literally re-read this book once a year, sometimes more often.  The strategies are simple, but oh so helpful, especially with kids that are school-age.

Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elain Mazlish

Another one to read more than once!  Everyone who cares for siblings should read this one.

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five by John Medina

The title of this book is deceptive. You don’t have to have a baby to find this beneficial.  It’s all about early childhood development, based on science and psychology, but written so that it’s easy to understand.  I’ve written a few blog entries already about topics from this book.  Definitely worth a read.

Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron

This is more of a memoir than an advice/idea type book, but I think it’s an important book to read.  If you’ve read much of my blog, you may have noticed that gender roles are a hot-button topic for me.  I think it’s beyond important to allow a child to enjoy whatever it is that he/she enjoys, and not put gender labels on those things.  Lori’s book is fantastic and heart-warming.  You’ll love it.  I promise.

No Whine With Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes by Liz Weiss, MS, RD & Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD

Great recipes and great advice on helping picky eaters to branch out- this is a well-organized, super helpful book!

—–

I already have some books on my 2015 reading list! Here’s the ones that I haven’t read yet, but plan to!

Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing by Rushworth M. Kidder

Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! Dr. G’s Guide to Effective Parenting by Deborah Gilboa MD

Life, Animated by Ron Suskind

The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years by Rebecca C. Hains

The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes

Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine, PhD

Do you have any child care related books that I should add to my list? Let me know!

Teachable Moments! Your Doll’s Body

I had a perfect opportunity for a teachable moment today!  I go to the library in the mornings once a week while the two kiddos are in school. Before I go, I ask them what kind of books they especially would like.  Today, Miss 4 said she wants a book about what’s inside our bodies.  I thought that was awesome!  I found two- one that has lots of awesome microscopic photos and images of the different systems and parts of our bodies, and a Dr. Seuss book about our bodies that we could read out loud.

We looked through the first book and read the second one before her nap.  After we did that, I noticed that she had her new Monster High doll in bed with her. I am NOT a fan of those dolls- their body shape is even thinner than Barbie’s!  However, she likes them.  So I took this opportunity to say, “Good thing your Monster High doll isn’t a real person!  Even if she was as big as a person, there wouldn’t be room inside her chest for lungs!  And look at her arms! She wouldn’t have room for muscles in those tiny things, so she wouldn’t be able to move them!  And see how tiny her tummy is?  All of the intestines that we have inside us DEFINITELY wouldn’t in there, so she wouldn’t be able to eat properly.  And her head is so big that she wouldn’t even be able to lift it!” At some point, Miss 4 started contributing as well- “Good thing she’s just a pretend monster!  Her legs couldn’t even run because she can’t fit muscles in there!”  I said, “If she were a real person, her body would have to be a lot thicker to have space for all the important things that make our bodies work.”  Miss 4 agreed, “Good thing she’s just a doll!”  It was a wonderful little conversation that made me feel much better about her playing with toys like that.  I’m going to continue to reinforce those ideas for her in hopes that she doesn’t see her Barbie and Monster High dolls as body shapes that she should one day try to have.

P.S.-  On the same note, I got my Lammily doll in the mail yesterday!  I helped fund the project when it was new, and am super excited about it!  Lammily is around the size of a Barbie, but has the proportions of a healthy 19 year old.  She has super soft hair, adorable toes, flat feet, and no make-up.  She’s wonderful.  I’m going to try to create some awesome clothes for her, and then I may get one for Miss 4 for her 5th birthday in the spring.  🙂  I’ll leave you with a Lammily/Barbie comparison:

What I Learned from Laryngitis

I have weak vocal chords.  They strain pretty easily.  This is typically not a big deal because I’m also not a loud person. I only yell when I need to call someone from far away.  I’m more of a soft-spoken type of person.  But last week, I had bronchitis (don’t worry- it’s wasn’t that bad), and that strained my vocal chords enough that without any yelling at all, my voice went away completely. It was pretty rough. I couldn’t talk at all for 2 days, and for another 2-3 my voice sounded super funny and I had to be careful not to use it too much.

A week later, I am almost entirely better. My voice is back (thank goodness!), and I’m reflecting on what I learned from not being able to talk to my charges. It was an interesting week.

1)  You’d be surprised how much you can say without words.  Facial expressions and some general pointing and made-up sign language can get you by alright for a while.  You’d also be surprised how much you CAN’T say without words.  It got pretty frustrating at times. I ended up just giving my younger charge (who’s 4 and can’t read yet) lots of hugs when she couldn’t understand what I was trying to tell her. That helped.

2) Laryngitis can lead to a fun game in which your old charge pretends to have laryngitis too!  He got a lot of practice reading and writing. 🙂

3) Google Translate is pretty awesome. After a frustrating first day with no voice, I discovered this wonderful program, which allows you to type whatever you like and have it spoken by the computer. Side note- your younger charges might decide that they suddenly have a lot of questions for the computer.  The computer at my charges’ house, it turns out, is quite silly. Who knew? 😉

4) Maybe I talk too much sometimes.  I was a little amazed at how effective one little look could be in replacing a whole sentence.

5) Tiny nurses are adorable and wonderful.  Mr. 7 scolded me if I tried to talk to him, “You need to stop talking, Amy! How is your voice going to get better if you don’t rest it?”

I got by very well without my voice, all things considered.  However, I won’t be in this situation again for a very long time. 🙂

Jewish Holday Crafts: Sukkot Edition

Since I work for a Jewish family, I have learned a bit about Judaism and its holidays. I have to admit, Sukkot is my favorite! If I understand correctly, it’s a celebration of nature and the fall harvest. There are some great opportunities for learning about nature and making some beautiful crafts!

The Sukkah: A sukkah is a temporary structure built outside, with 3 walls and an open roof made of organic materials (branches, palm leaves, bamboo, etc). Depending on the family’s custom, it is traditional to spend time in the sukkah by eating, sleeping, or praying in it during the week of Sukkot. The sukkah can be decorated as much as you like, as long as the roof remains open (you can see the sky). Here are some ideas for making sukkahs with your kiddos:

  • Use a shoebox as a “sukkah” for small toys.  Decorate with stickers, paints, drawings, pictures from magazines, or things from nature like acorns and leaves.
  • Challenge your kiddos to build a “sukkah” out of legos!
  • Build a sukkah together with popscicle sticks and glue and/or yarn.  Don’t forget to decorate it!

Sukkah Decorations:  You can decorate your full-size sukkah with lots of different things!  Just keep in mind that they will be exposed to the elements- dew, rain, wind, sunshine, outdoor animals.

  • “Weather-proof” paper chain:  Instead of making the chain out of paper, buy sheets of foam and cut it into strips!  Then you can just staple the strips into a chain!
  • Citron Sun Catchers– Make sure to laminate them or cover them with contact paper to make them more durable outside.
  • Leaf Lanterns– I posted these in one of my posts about leaf crafts, too. They’re just so pretty!  And imagine how pretty they’d be outside in a sukkah!

Other Fun Sukkot things:  Sukkot is a big celebration, so decorate indoors too!  And go on nature walks, too!

  • Autumn Leaf Garland- Let the kiddos pick their favorite autumn leaves (but keep in mind that you can’t use the ones that are crunchy- they need to be flexible). Cut off the stems, put a hole in them with a hole punch, and tie them loosely onto a long piece of yarn.  I like mine overlapping, but you can spread them out more too. This wouldn’t be durable enough to be strung outdoors.  The holes would too easily tear open.
  • Apple or Leaf prints- Put a little paint on half an apple or a flexible leaf, and see what happens when you press it gently onto thick paper!  You could also try making prints with other things- acorns, pinecones, mini pumpkins, rocks…
  • Books about Sukkot and coloring sheets- these can help to educate your kiddos (and if you’re a non-jewish nanny like me, they can help educate you as well!) about this lovely holiday. Here’s a few pretty coloring sheets to get you started.