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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cooking With Kids

Do you want your kids to try more foods? Then get them into the kitchen and let them have some fun helping you experiment with new recipes. We have a lot of fun looking on Pinterest and Facebook at usual and unusual recipes throughout the year. I don't wait for special occasions to try things, because that adds too much stress to the process. Sometimes when I have a few minutes free I'll grab an iPad and a kid and drag them into the kitchen to help me. Yes, they chop with real knives and cook on the real stove. I'm there supervising and they are learning kitchen safety and self-confidence! Here are some of the more and less successful kitchen experiments we've tried.

Pumpkin soup in a pumpking was fun to make, but burned and didn't taste as great for the boys as it smelled. But it was nice to remind them pumpkins are food, not just decorations. 

Pomegranates were a huge hit here for their teeny tiny tanginess. Also we had visited the city of Grenada in Spain this summer, so it tied in nicely to cultural lessons and family memories. 

Serving new foods in tiny bowls can make it lots more fun. 

A pumpkin pie made from scratch was also a fun experiment, and a good lesson in handling mistakes. We had one of the ingredients wrong the first time around. 

Peeling potatoes isn't a chore for a kid who's never tried it before. Also, he isn't a fan of eating the peel, so this gave him some control over preparing the food the way he prefers, which meant he ate more of it! 

Mashing by hand isn't something you can do everyday, but he loved creating this simple dish for the entire family. 

Some recipes are really visually exciting. This lovely tomato, mozzarella, and basil wreath is made of my son's favorite foods and was a chance for him to contribute to the family Christmas party. 

Don't forget to record the new foods your child makes, tries, loves, hates, invents or discovers! 

Friday, January 23, 2015


Soccerifice. Verb. 1. The act of giving up several weekday evenings and weekends in order to take your child to soccer practices and games. 

2. The act of gluing together certain household items that have been destroyed during indoor soccer play. 

3. The act of learning the names of every player on your child's favorite soccer team and debating the merits of their unique hairstyles, shoe choices and best goals. 

4. The act of standing in front of a goal while your child kicks a ball at your face. 

5. The act of not screaming at the ref who didn't call that penalty when the kid from the other team clearly tripped your child. 

6. The act of doing laundry late at night so the right combination of shorts, jersey and socks are ready for the next day. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Praise Your Kids

Volunteering for the Food Bank

Recently my oldest son came home and complained to me that his teacher was mad at him. She told him he had given her a rude response.

This isn't like my son, mostly, so I asked for details. Apparently he hadn't done a homework assignment and when the teacher asked why, he replied "I had a really busy weekend."

Yikes. Totally rude in my opinion. 

Then the teacher told him she had 22 years of busy weekends. (That cracked me up, but I kept it to myself.)

My son proceeded to blame everyone for not reminding him of the homework, except himself. He just didn't want to admit he had made a mistake. So I reminded him teachers have always told me he is one of the people who always admits when they are wrong. He's flipped his card at school and admitted misbehavior when others have lied. I praised his honesty, then we sat down and did the assignment. 

This little incident got me thinking about how praise changes when our children get older. 

When kids are little, we praise them for using the potty, using a fork and spoon, sharing with friends. As they grow up we praise them for learning to tie their shoes, write their name, and helping around the house. A lot of the praise I give now is about personal hygiene and good manners: wash your hands, say thank you, don't sneeze on the buffet.

But my oldest is turning ten, and our praise is now shifting away from mastering physical skills to choosing positive social behaviors, things that we often expect in a harmonious society but aren't mentioned in parenting books. 

I want them to think about others. But I can't hear their thoughts, so I have to look for actions that show they are thinking about others. Lately I've been focusing on "catching the door" and not just walking through thinking someone else will hold it for you. They have trouble with this one so there have been a few door-to-the-face reminders. 

I want them to not answer rudeness with rudeness. So I'm talking out loud when I'm driving about how I navigate situations where people cut in front of others or honk their horns impatiently. I find this helps me calm down, too, when I'm frustrated. 

I want them to be generous so I signed them up for volunteering events this year. They were nervous at first and tired at the end, but I believe they learned about the gratitude that comes from volunteering.

I asked my friend who is a mom of three and a school psychologist what she's working on with her kids. 
"Perseverance! Effort over outcome, definitely admitting mistakes, giving up something they want to give to another. It's tricky because I think often people of strong character do the right thing without drawing attention to it and our kids may be doing the same and we (or their teachers, coaches, friends) might not catch it.  The negative things are more obvious and grab our attention but we should be focused on the positive." 
I don't praise my kids for every little thing, but I try to use praise to reinforce my expectations. But no one's perfect, which is why I'm modeling how I handle mistakes and how I have to admit them, try to make things right, and forgive myself. It's hard to screw up in front of your kid and admit it! But when my kids make mistakes, like forgetting homework, I want them to handle it the right way and not blame others.

As your kids get older, what are you trying to teach them? How has your praise changed?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Travel with Kids: New York City

In November we took the kids to New York City! As my middle son eloquently explained in an elevator on the way down from Top of the Rock,  they have been to the airport and seen the city but this was their first time really going around the town. We stayed at the Hotel Edison in Time Square. Thanks to Yelp discovered the most delicious cookies in town were only a few blocks away. We were only there for three days but we ate Schmackary's Cookies for two days. I still remember the melting coconut goodness of the Schmackaroon as it melted in my mouth. The Elvis cookie, the candied yam and the sweet corn cookie were also amazing. 

In between visits to the cookie place, we also saw the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and from the harbor we could see the 9/11 Memorial.  

This was my first visit to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island. I was really amazed at the beauty of the Statute but I also learned that no last names were changed on Ellis Island! It's a myth.

The boys were completely overwhelmed by the Lego Store in Rockefeller Plaza but all I could think of was getting more cookies.

It was a short visit but a memorable one. We were also fortunate to visit our good friends who live in Long Island City and I had another chance to practice my rusty Spanish with our friend's parents from Argentina. The boys have great memories of the city and with the impending arrival of the New York City Football Club, I have a feeling we'll be back before too long! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Born to Be Wild

The youngest in our family turns 5 today, so it's time to rock out! Happy Birthday to my cool dude.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Into the Woods (A Three Little Boys Tale)

One day, three little boys and their parents went walking in the woods near Pigsburgh. As they started down the trail, the oldest little boy noticed a strange thing.

"Look at that," he said. "It looks like a little house made from bricks."

 The family gathered around and marveled at his discovery. Then they continued walking.

A little farther down the path, the middlest little boy noticed another strange thing.

"That looks just like a little tumbled-down house of sticks," he said.

The family gathered around and marveled at his discovery. Everyone was very curious about what they would find next so they continued walking down the path.

The youngest little boy was so curious that he ran ahead.

"Come and look at what I've found!" he cried. "It's a big pile of straw!"

His family hurried up to him and they all gathered around and marveled at his discovery.

The three little boys were delighted!

Then they spotted something on the trail.

"Is that?" pointed the oldest.

"Looks like it," gulped the middlest.

"Run!" cried the youngest.

And the three little boys and their parents ran out of the woods and straight back to their cozy little home.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kids Need Health Insurance! Healthy Together Can Help

What's worse than a sick kid? A sick kid without health insurance.

This week I participated in the Healthy Together Thank You party hosted by at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Here's the first main thing I learned:

Currently, there are approximately 9,000 uninsured children and youth in classrooms and childcare centers across Allegheny County, and almost 2,000 of these children reside in the city of Pittsburgh. Most qualify for but are not enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP. According to research, these children are five times more likely to have an unmet medical concern and three times more likely to not have access to necessary medication such as asthma inhalers. (Source)
The mascot for this campaign is Enrollobot, a cool link to the robotics aspect of Pittsburgh. You can check out #enrollobot on Twitter to read about more aspects of this campaign and see who else is involved. When I brought home some Enrollobots for my kids to color we talked about healthy insurance and why kids need it. We've been pretty lucky in my family health-wise and health insurance-wise.

Not everyone is as lucky. My friend Dr. Debi Gilboa has first hand experience with families that face the challenges of taking care of their children without health insurance. These families are making the tough choices that no one should have to make.

But I also learned there are systems in place in our city to get these kids covered. Healthy Together is a plan to get the eligible children enrolled in healthcare programs. Our new mayor, Bill Peduto is partnering with Allies for Children, Consumer Health Coalition, Allegheny County Health Department and other organizations to make this happen. Also, the city received a $200,000 from the National League of Cities to fund this effort.

Check out this message from Mayor Peduto:

So how do you get an eligible child enrolled? Call 2-1-1 and get connected to the Consumer Health Coalition.

Need to learn more? Visit the Healthy Together website.

And if you really, really need a robot to color, get one here!

Sometimes I write sponsored posts about issues that matter to me. This post is sponsored by Allies for Children, because keeping kids healthy is important to our entire community.