Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Teaching children to cook

We have always encouraged our children to learn to cook and become self-sufficient in the kitchen, starting at young ages. (This sounds a lot better than I want them to get their own breakfast and lunch because I don't want to do it, doesn't it?) Even the littlest toddler can help tear lettuce for salad and preschoolers can learn to carefully wield a small knife to cut vegetables. By the time our children are developmentally in middle school, they can each cook a meal by themselves if I need them to. Of course some children are more interested in doing this than others, but the abilities are there. 

This paid off for us significantly when I was expecting G. and L. and pretty much spent the last three months sitting in a chair. It was about all I could do. M. did the grocery shopping with a list I made and M. and B. (with some help from A.) did the cooking. I would direct from the sidelines. 

For a while, I had it set up that each of my older children was in charge of fixing dinner one night a week. This worked when there were just two or three children to cycle through. It seems a bit much to be doing cooking lessons with a different child every night, which is what would happen if I were to re-institute this plan. Since I want my younger children to have the same skills, as I was redoing the jobs list for this year, I decided I needed to add something in. So, I have gone back to another version I have done off and on over the years... the assigned kitchen helper. This year, each of the children (minus R. at this point, but I hope eventually she will get to a point where I can add her in) will take turns helping me in the kitchen. This way they can gain skills without the heavy-duty help that learning to prepare a meal solo can entail. Plus, I get an extra pair of hands. It feels like another way that life is starting to get back to a new normal, and that's good for everyone.

Of course, letting your young children cook is not without its drawbacks. Young chefs are still honing their skills, and if your mother is constantly hovering at your side, accidents happen. And if your parents decide that egg cooking is a good first stove top skill to conquer, then sometimes this happens.

That would be the remains of not one, but two different eggs that were sacrificed for kitchen skills. Who knew that cracking an egg into a frying pan was such a technical challenge?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It all started at IKEA... or a Venn diagram activity box

I was at IKEA a while ago and saw these adorable little containers. They were so cute I had to buy some, even though I had no earthly idea what I was going to use them for. But I love little containers and these were cute and happy and came in more colors than these and you should be impressed I only bought a few.

Then in the midst of homeschool planning, I ordered a bunch of peg people blanks. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but when they arrived, I realized I had absolutely no memory of what that good idea was.

So I had cute little containers and bunches of peg people. Surely I could do something with them. And then it came to me... Venn Diagrams! (Bear with me, here.) I love Venn diagrams. I love the sorting and the logic they require. I always thought they were fun. Peg people are fun. Cool containers are fun. Venn diagrams are fun.

Thus the Venn diagram activity box was born.

First, I painted a bunch of peg people with different attributes.

Some are happy.

Some are sad.

Some have glasses, some don't. And there is three different hair colors and six different base colors. Here is the box all put together.

To play, a child selects two attribute cards and places them above the two circles. Then a peg person is placed depending on where it fits. Sometimes the circles will overlap, and sometimes they won't. Sometimes all the peg people will fit in a circle, and sometimes they won't.

For example, here I grabbed 'frowning' and 'no glasses'. I then picked up each peg person and put it in the correct place.

The frowning people.

The people with no glasses.

And the intersection of frowning people with no glasses.

In this example, the happy people with glasses didn't get to stand in a circle, so they are off to the side.

I keep making interesting looking stuff, and my children keep asking me, "Do we get to start school yet?" Hehehe... it's all part of my secret plan. By next week, they will be practically begging me to begin.
Oh, and check out this new adoption site that has linked to one of my articles, Truth and Consequences

Monday, August 29, 2016

Block Party 2016

It's a good thing that I have block party photos to share with you today because otherwise, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be a post. R.'s three hour EEG turned into a nearly six hour fun fest, for no apparent reason. I got home just in time to swallow a plate of lunch, grab Y. and head back out for her PT appointment. I'm home now, have a cup of tea, and am beginning to recover.

But, I'm going to leave all that now and focus on something else. Like the fun of yesterday. D. started the day off by expanding his bread baking horizons. (He already bakes all of our bread and sells a couple loaves on the side as well.) He decided he wanted to try cinnamon bread. It turned out beautifully. See?

I'm ready for him to make a whole bunch of loaves of the stuff. It tastes as good as it looks.

Then the street was blocked off and the block party began. There was badminton...

and hanging out...


and street hockey...



and finally, at the end of the day, a movie in a neighbor's front yard.

There were some very tired and happy children by the time it was all over. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon painting these guys. I'll share more about them tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

When life gets in the way of blogging


Everyone is now in bed.

We have enjoyed a day long block party.

B. and A. moved their stuff out and back onto campus for the new school year.

M. set up a studio in the basement because Chicago apartments can be so annoyingly small.

Piano lessons.

And one distraught L. because the Tooth Fairy forgot to take her tooth and leave a quarter for the second night in a row. If it hadn't been for the distraction of a block party, a stern note was going to be written.

Pictures on Monday. Of the block party, not the stern note to the Tooth Fairy. I'm hoping we can dodge that bullet.

If you need something to read in the interim, you can take a look at my new article: Is International Adoption Right for Me? 

Friday, August 26, 2016

In which I pretend to be part of the media and my children eat their weight in snacks

Who says blogging doesn't sometimes pay off? It's just a little harder to see it if you so strongly dislike advertising that you don't put it on your blog even if it pays you money and product reviews are few and far between. Every so often I will say yes to an offer that arrives in my inbox and the invitation to a sneak peak at the new Regenstein Learning Campus at the Chicago Botanic Gardens was one of those times.

So this afternoon I loaded up nine children (no P., who had a guitar lesson, but we had B., a special treat) and headed up to the gardens. The new campus is really lovely, and it was doubly nice to have it virtually to ourselves. The first thing you come to are outdoor play areas.

There are grassy hills for climbing and running and rolling up and down.


And other areas with rocks to climb on and tree trunks to crawl through.

L. (on left) and G.


More grassy hills

There is a winding stream where children can play or walk through.

And a little waterfall to splash in.

But those grassy hills do beckon. 

R., who wasn't sure she wanted to climb up, but did make it eventually.

Y. made it, too. At first she looked at them and announced that she couldn't do it. When I said that was silly, of course she could, she gave it a try and kept climbing.

See her go?

Then we got to go inside. The first stop was the preschool classroom that will hold a nature-based preschool. It was a lovely classroom filled with all sorts of cool activities. My younger crew could have stayed here for much longer than I let them.

In the outdoor area of the preschool classroom was this water table. I am in love. Swooning, see it in my dreams love with this water table. You can't really tell from my photograph, but it has three tiers that the water can run down. It was fantastically well designed and once again, I had to drag people away. I loved it so much that I came home and found it online. Well. It is just going to have to live in my dreams. Reality and budgets kind of stink sometimes.

After the preschool classroom, we got to see the kitchen classroom. (See the movie camera? This was a real 'thing' we got invited to.) Everyone got to make tortillas and then eat them.

R., H., and Y.

The last stop for us was the children's growing garden. There they had a nice selection of activities to do with plant polination and a really cute hummingbird puppet that I may have to fine for our house. They had some really interesting plants there for the children to look at and investigate. Even some not-so-welcoming ones such as this one. Not only does this thing have spikes on the tops of it leaves but has equally wicked spikes on the underside as well.

R. trying to get a grasshopper to sit on her hand.


Y., G., and B.

There's the puppet I mentioned.

In another part of this same garden are watering cans and a spigot so that children can go and water the plants.


Y. carrying her watering can


Y. and H.

We had to leave before the saw the water area with frogs and things. (Yes, you can tell that M. was not with us, as this would otherwise would not have been allowed.) 

Thank you to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. We had a fantastic afternoon, and good snacks that my children ate their weight in weren't so bad, either. 

If you have a chance, you should go and visit. The grand opening to the public is September 10 and 11. Check it out.

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