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Archive for September, 2010

To view the previous post in this series, click here. ~K

When I was pregnant with my first baby, a good friend suggested that I start buying diapers well ahead of my due date.  I don’t remember her rationale for doing so, but I followed her advice! 

Babies: small parts, big changes.

I purchased two to four packages of diapers a month, starting in the middle of my second trimester.  I had a nice stockpile by the time my baby was born! Here is why I recommend it: 

Preparation boosts confidence.  Every action you take to get ready for the baby boosts your self-confidence as parents.  It’s good to feel “ready”.  Building up many week’s worth of diapers feels “really ready!” 

It’s one less concern.  Instead of  running to the store for a package of diapers when your baby is a week and a half old, you can do more worthy things with your time. Get to know the newest member of the family.  Grab sleep when you can.  Chat on the phone with all of your well-wishers.  Go get a pedicure.  Call your big sister and tell her that you would never have survived pregnancy without her timely, brilliant advice.  

You can get used to the expense.  Frankly, I was shocked when I took my first stroll down that foreign aisle stocked with rows of diapers, wipes, soaps, lotions and pureed human food.  Was it possible that it cost that much for disposable infant underwear?  At the time, we kept a strict grocery store budget of $50.00 per week.  A month’s worth of diapers increased that amount by just over 50%–if we bought the store brand. The first month that I purchased diapers, I bought only one package (about a week’s worth).  The next month I bought two.  By the time our baby arrived I was buying one package a week and we had adjusted to our new budget. 

It’s fun to shop for your baby!  It feeds the excitement, the giddy, joyful anticipation of that sweet little person you are waiting to meet.  Yes, even something as utilitarian as diapers contributes to the fun. 

There are other consumables such as wipes and formula that I also suggest stocking early.  Start slow if you like.  Ease into it.  Most of all, enjoy the preparation! 

Love, 

K

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I really don't know if this should be called a treat; health-food-on-a-stick, maybe?

Last week I first made these treats for my kids.   Sky-hued eyes were enormous above their chocolate smeared mouths. They affirmed yet again that I am the greatest mom EVER!  (This affirmation is often inspired by sugar, some form of media experience or a trip to the playground.) 

And  check out the ingredients:  fresh bananas, semi-sweet chocolate, lightly salted peanuts.  It’s practically health food!  Seriously, it deserves its own dessert. Okay, okay, so there is a weensy bit of heavy cream involved, but it’s hardly worth mentioning.  Besides calcium is important–can’t neglect your teeth and bones! 

You can google chocolate covered bananas and come up with a recipe that goes something like this:  skewer peeled, fresh bananas and freeze; melt chocolate melting chips; dip bananas in melted chips; freeze again and eat.  You will also find recipes that call for combining chocolate and paraffin wax.  

No, thanks.  If I’m eating wax, it better be in some awful, processed treat about whose ingredients I am blissfully ignorant.  I’m going to pause here for a melodramatic shudder.  You feel free to keep reading! 

Here’s how I turned a few ingredients into my kids new favorite frozen treat. 

Chocolate-Peanut Covered Frozen Bananas 

serves 6 

3 ripe, peeled bananas, cut in half and skewered on popsicle sticks or bamboo skewers 

Approximately 8 oz. of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips.  (I just eyeballed 3/4 of a 12-oz package of chips) 

Approximately 1 cup of heavy cream 

3/4 cup of lightly salted peanuts 

Place skewered bananas on a platter covered with foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, etc. and set platter in the freezer until bananas are throughly chilled. 

While bananas are chilling, coarsely chop the peanuts using a food processor, blender, or by placing the nuts in a ziploc bag and using a rolling pin to break up the nuts.  Put the nut pieces into a pie pan or large plate. 

They didn't last long in my house!

Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl.  Heat cream in a small sauce pan over low to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very hot. Do not let the cream boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and stir briskly until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  One by one, dip the bananas into the chocolate, thoroughly coating the fruit, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl.  Immediately roll bananas in the nuts, then set back onto the freezer platter.  Repeat with the rest of the bananas and return them to the freezer until thoroughly chilled (30-60 minutes) or completely frozen (at least 2 hours.) 

The chocolate and cream mixture is basically a heavenly concoction known as ganache, without the butter. If you have peanuts and some of the ganache left over, stir the peanuts into the chocolate and put the mixture in the fridge until chilled enough to roll it into balls. Now you’ve got yourself an easy-peasy truffle that’s essentially a spherical, luxurious Mr. Goodbar.   Or, you could just dip  other things in the chocolate:  sliced apples, candied orange peel, strawberries, grapes, pretzels, graham crackers, animal crackers, potato chips, ants, grasshoppers, smalll children…kidding!  Just making sure you’re still with me. 

Happy snacking! 

~K

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 A friend recently asked our advice on preparing their very young children for reading.  My husband responded first and you can read his thoughtful, more academic reply here.  Below is the explanation I offered for what works for us. ~K

Reading aloud is a great way to make time for your favorite books while you're busy with an infant!

J has provided an excellent response to your question so I will just add a thought of my own on teaching approaches and offer some examples of how we have implemented the priorities J described.  As far as teaching philosophies, etc. related to reading, I confess more ignorance than knowledge.  The few times that I have looked at teaching materials (for reading) whether through my own research or because I am in discussion with other homeschool moms, I eventually feel a little brain-numb.  Based on my own experience it all seems so unnecessarily complicated!

I think a fair comparison is teaching one’s able-bodied toddler to walk.  You don’t sit them down, show them pictures of kids walking, talk to them about walking, give them walking workbooks in which to scribble…you provide them the proper environment and encouragement from tummy-time at infancy through rolling over, pushing up and crawling, to wobbling along while holding onto your fingers around age 1 (or so.) And so it goes with reading!

We read to our kids as soon as they’re born.  I like this experience because I’m not concerned with anything except that they hear my voice reading aloud, so I can read whatever I want to read!  I specifically remember reading scripture aloud to all of the kids, Anne of Green Gables with my son (sorry, buddy!) and most recently, Pride and Prejudice with Z.  As soon as they are focusing enough to look at a book, then I start using the typical infant/toddler board books.  At this a ge, I try to read to them 5-10 minutes a day, but in addition I may read aloud bits from my own books and almost always have the child near when I am reading aloud to the older kids.

By the time they’re two, we’re regularly reading story books, nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss.  By now read aloud time has extended to 30 minutes a day.  (I definitely break that up throughout the day!)  Also, we’re starting to spell out the titles of books or simple words, having the kids say the letters with us. This is when they start to recognize letters–very fun!

As J mentioned, kids love to “read” books by themselves, and you’ll soon witness S “read” an entire book that she’s memorized because she’s asked you to read it to her so many times!  (Maybe she’s already doing this–knowing her parents, we’ve no doubt that she’s brilliant!)  One thing I’ve found that encourages their own reading is to read a couple of books aloud to them, then have them sit near me with their own stack of books while I read my own book.  This is firmly labeled “quiet time/reading time”and even the little ones will sit quietly for some time and “read”.

One final practice that really helps them start to “break the code” of recognizing letters and simple words:  after you have read a favorite book over and over, start to fall silent when you come to key words, and simply point at the word and ask if they know what comes next.  This is really easy to do with things like Dr.Seuss and Mother Goose.  They’ll love helping you read!

A tiny sample of our favorites.

Ok, if you’ve endured the e-mail this far, then I’ll end with this:  we try to expose our kids to good writing; quality stories, interesting characters, and beautiful language.  I have heard many times from various teachers and parents some variation of this claim, “it doesn’t matter what they’re reading, as long as they’re reading.”  But I don’t know any way for our kids to learn about and learn to appreciate good literature if they are  not regularly exposed to it by parents who also appreciate it; nor how they can develop a mature, extensive vocabulary without being exposed to a variety of words in appropriate context. 

I hope this is useful…

Love to all,

K

What others have to say about bringing up enthusiastic readers:

“Raising Discriminating Readers”

“How to Raise Boys Who Read”

Alphabet Fun: Teaching Reading, Part 1 (from Simply Charlotte Mason)

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Morning Meditation 2

As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…

Psalm 42:1 and 2a (NIV)

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Lines

We find them everywhere we go.

It’s fun to look for them; a linear scavenger hunt!

PS:  Dearest, darling math-nerd-friends, if I used “linear” incorrectly, please consider it “poetic license! Love ~K

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Crockpots can be tricky.  The thing is, food is trapped inside and cooked slowly for a long, long time.  Flavors meld, textures soften and disappear

I love fresh basil, but fresh herbs can be tricky in the crockpot so I use a basil marinara and it works just fine. You can use any marinara you like in this recipe!

 altogether.  Sometimes, with certain foods, this is bad news, and sometimes it’s delicious.  When utilized well, your crockpot can produce much more than a jumbo recipe of that dip with processed cheese and canned, spicy tomatoes.  It can give you something better than chicken thighs with condensed soup. How do I know this?   Several years ago a co-worker gave me a recipe for one of her favorite “easy meals”. 

I tried it.  We ate it. We ate some more. I filed the recipe in the family cookbook.  The End.

Well, not quite, actually.   I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, changing a detail or two whenever I feel sassy in the kitchen.  Here’s the current version, just in time for the cooler weather that I am expecting any day/week/month!

Beef in Red Wine Marinara

Serves 4-6

1 lb. stew meat

1 T. vegetable or canola oil

1/4 tsp of salt

3  grinds  of fresh black pepper (a couple of shakes if you’re using the stuff in the can)

1 medium yellow onion,  chopped

1  8-oz package sliced baby bella (or your favorite) mushrooms

1 cup dry red wine, divided (optional)

1 jar of your favorite tomato-basil marinara sauce

Hot cooked rice or egg noodles

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot.  Toss stew meat with the salt and pepper and add to skillet.  (Meat should sizzle and start to cook right away, but not smoke a great deal.)  Turn meat as necessary so that each side is browned and most of the meat is seared at least a little.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon and place in the crockpot.  Add the onions to the skillet and saute for about a minute.  Add half of the wine to the skillet, stirring to release any particles at the bottom of the pan. Add contents of pan to the crockpot.  Place remaining ingredients, except the rice or noodles, into the crockpot.  Cover the crockpot and cook meat on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 2-4 hours.   Serve over rice or egg noodles.

This keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer and is delicious the next day.

 

Happy cooking!

~K

  

 

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