Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post for Every Breath I Take

I am honored and excited that Jennifer invited me to share my story about practicing yoga in real life! I have always loved reflecting upon and practicing the intentions she shares about parenting, yoga, faith, and relationships!

    I love practicing yoga. It’s a bit strange for me to use that phrase as I’m certainly not a yogi or, frankly, even moderately trained in yoga. The last and only actual yoga class I took was over six years ago and only lasted a few months. I own a few books picturing and describing yoga poses, and I’ve bought two Yoga Journals in the past few months. I own a few yoga DVDs and did one religiously during pregnancy.  
     But, despite my lack of experience and expertise, I can’t imagine a week going by without taking a few minutes to complete my own little sequence of poses.

Read the rest here!

Monday, May 28, 2012

How to Garden with a Toddler

Tomatoes, squashes, peppers, eggplants, beans, and herbs!
   Dr. Montessori said, "[Gardening] and manual work are a great pleasure to our children. Gardening is already well known as a feature of infant education, and it is recognized by all that plants and animals attract the children's care and attention."
   This summer we decided to try our hand at a family garden. It has been a wonderful learning expereince for Q-ball and me. My plant-killing curse appears to have lifted, and Q-ball loves being outdoors and exercising her senses. 
   Dr. Montessori notes that gardening is one form of "muscular education" for children. All our time outside has certainly kept Q-ball physically active, so I can attest to that! Beyond this, Dr. Montessori explains that, "The education of the senses is of the highest importance for both [biological and social] purposes; the development of the senses precedes that of higher intellectual powers." 
    Here is how our garden has helped Q-ball foster her sensory awareness:
Smell: She loves to get close to the plants and sniff them- especially mint and basil!
Sound: Chirping birds, crunching leaves, flowing water, and barking dogs
Touch- rocks, various textures of plants, dirt, water. She loves helping weed!
Sight: With Q-ball's watering skills, our garden is growing every day with new flowers and plants to see!  We also get to watch for butterflies and birds.
Taste: Of course!  We love our veggies. Q-ball also loves to just chew on the herbs...and sometimes weeds...
If we can keep a garden, anyone can!  So, pull out your gloves and shovels and start today!

Montessori, M. (2004). The discovery of the child. Akkar Books:Delhi.
Montessori, M. (1914). Dr. Montessori's own handbook. Frederick A Stokes Company: NY.

Linking up with:
Montessori Monday

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Watch Her Grow

This Week's Foci: Language and Practical Life

Interactions with Materials
  • It seemed Q-ball's favorite reading materials this week were the catalogs that came in the mail.  She especially like the REI catalog as it had a picture of a car and a family with bicycles.
  • Like many children this age, she really is enjoying taking the tops on and off of anything. I haven't established a formal basket to allow her to practice, but it seems unnecessary at times as she is finding the objects throughout the house and practicing with them.
  • We also have a large cup full of pens and markers, and she spends a great deal of time taking the pens out and putting them back in.
Interactions with Others
  • She seems to be trying to interact with other children her age more than before.  We'll see if this happens.
  • She's getting closer and closer to catching Bailey- our not as friendly with baby cat!  She's trying as hard as she can.  
  • And, her friendship with our nice, fat cat is continuing to blossom, bless his heart....she runs up to him yelling, "ba, ba, ba!" and then slaps him or pulls his tail.  She also knows that he will chase after string, so she shows him a piece of string and then runs away, hoping he'll follow her.
    Interactions with Space
      • She keeps practicing her dancing.  Her favorite move is one in which she seems to be running in place. 
      • She is getting in lots of practice opening and closing doors and drawers.  She now recognizes these verbs and loves to have me give the command and then act.
      Interactions with Life 

        • Yesterday Q-ball met her potty!  We are taking a slow approach to potty learning, and I'm sure that I will share our experiences as we go.  So far, however, it's an awesome chair for reading.
        • We have finally succeeded in a regular snack time.  I've been working to get Q-ball to eat more solids so that we are not nursing every hour.  She eats tons of solids now...but, I can't say that we are nursing that much less!
        • The floor bed is still working well.  She certainly no longer has a desire to put herself to sleep, but she is clearly comfortable on it, and on some mornings, she'll just hop out of bed and come into our room for the day.
        To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

        Tuesday, May 22, 2012

        Positive Discipline with a Young Toddler

           Within the last Science Friday, in response to the criticisms that claim AP parents do not discipline their children, I promised to share as of the aspects of positive discipline that we are practicing with Q-ball. Q-ball is a little shy of 14 months, so we certainly have not handled every issue that we will face in toddlerhood.  However, she has been walking since 10 months, meaning she is now very mobile and for about the past month she has been exhibiting early signs of frustration with her inability to explain her wants and needs, which has led to more than a few tears.
           Before sharing tips, it is necessary to define discipline.  While the word discipline tends to carry a negative connotation and is commonly confused as punishment.  The word discipline, however, means to teach or train.  Within our household, we always ensure that our actions are a way to teach Q-ball behaviors that are developmentally appropriate for her and respect her rights as a person.
        Cleaning up!
           About 8 weeks ago, I began to encourage Q-ball to "clean up, clean up, clean up" when she was done with any of her materials. She caught on to the phrase quickly, but certainly needed many verbal cues. Within the last few days, she has started cleaning up even without a verbal reminder and even when she does not know I'm watching!  The tips below will show how we used positive discipline techniques to do this. 
        1. Establish and maintain appropriate expectations for your child.  I felt this was an appropriate time for her to take on this responsibility as she had the necessary motor skills and was able to comprehend my verbal cues.  I also knew that this practice would not become habit overnight, so I maintained the expectation that I would face many strewn books and blocks along the road to a better maintained space. The later expectation prevents me from becoming (overly) frustrated with Q-ball's learning process, while honoring the skills my daughter possesses.
        2. Model the behavior.  Of course, I cannot expect Q-ball to clean up her materials if I do not clean up with her or do not clean up after myself!  As Q-ball currently thinks I'm the 2nd coolest person in the world (Daddy takes top spot), she wants to do what I do. And, our house could certainly use some more tidying! 
        3. Repeat, repeat, repeat.  When Q-ball does not clean up after herself, she is not punished or scolded.  Instead, I just verbally remind her and work with her to clean up.  If she has run off to a completely different activity or cannot be brought back to her previous workspace, I'll happily announce, "I'm cleaning this up!" Or, we come back later and clean up together.
        4. Avoid praises. When Q-ball does clean up, I do not say "good job!" or provide any other overly positive reinforcement.  I simply say, "thank you!" Our goal is to foster an intrinsic desire for her to clean-up. Obviously, we are proud of her behavior, but given that this is a behavior that should be routine, we do not believe it needs to be celebrated.

        Friday, May 18, 2012

        How to Conduct Basic Research and My Response to the TIME Magazine Uproar

           As an attachment parent, I have naturally been asked by a few people what I think of the TIME magazine article and cover.  Upfront confession: I haven't read the actual cover story as I do not have a subscription to TIME and have not purchased the magazine.  But, I have read the accompanying articles and watched, read, and listened to the response that has been caused by the magazine.  It is my understanding that the article is primarily a bio of Dr. Sears that coincides with the anniversary of the release of their The Baby Book.  And, if that is not totally accurate, that is okay because I mainly want to address the media's response to the issue in this post.
        How could you not answer her cries?
           But, first, because I've been asked and it's the primary instigator of all of this, my thoughts on the cover. I believe that breastfeeding a three-year-old is normal as long as both mother and child are still comfortable with the arrangement.  As for breastfeeding while a child is standing on a chair?  Probably not very comfortable for either party.  This was obviously a photo to grab headlines.  The United States and some other Western countries are certainly the minority when it comes to our breastfeeding timelines- most children breastfeed for three to five years.  Overall, however, I am a proponent of breastfeeding in public, and I think that exposing the public to these images is a good thing in a move to normalize what is, frankly, totally normal.
            I have largely been disappointed with the media's response and coverage of attachment parenting as a result of this cover story, or, more accurately, cover picture.  Overall, they have portrayed an extremely narrow and, at times, inaccurate view of attachment parenting.  I will primarily focus on the following news reports: this CNN discussion, this NPR report through Here and Now, and this CNN interview.
          Now, how this is a Science Friday: it seems to me that the hosts and/or panelists of these shows did not do even the most basic research into attachment parenting.  Obviously, part of their job is to ask challenging questions, but I do not believe that these questions should ignore basic information regarding the topic at hand.  So, here is a step-by-step guide to conduct basic research.  I can only imagine how short these hosts are on time, so it's important to note that the following steps took me less than 2 minutes. 
        1. Go to
        2. In search box, type keywords about the subject.  For this example, I used "attachment parenting."
        3. Select a reliable source from the results.  While not all may agree, Wikipedia has largely been deemed a reliably source, especially for a brief overview, so I clicked on Wikipedia's article on attachment parenting for this experiment.   
        4. Skim article looking for more specific key words that support your research.  Based upon the questions asked in the interviews I linked above, I skimmed for the following words: breastfeeding, co-sleeping, discipline, stay-at-home-mom, and childcare.
        Using these simple four steps, I was able to uncover the following inaccuracies in the reports:
        1. The principles of API do not included "extended breastfeeding" or "co-sleeping."  Instead, they state, "feed with love and respect" and "ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally."
        2. Parents do not have to "strictly follow" any or all of the principles of attachment parenting.  
        3. Attachment parents do practice discipline.  It's called "positive discipline."
        Assuming the interviewers had 5 minutes to prepare for their interviews, they could have explored Dr. Sears's own site (a novel idea! especially as he was one of the interviewees!) and uncovered even more inaccuracies:
        1. Attached or "connected" children are typically more likely to be independent than their "unconnected" peers. 
        2. Meeting a child's demands means meeting their needs- not their every wants.  Attachment parents do set limits and do not let their children rule the household.
        3. You can be a working mom and practice attachment parenting.
        4. Research on attachment has been conducted in the United States.  In fact, I've discussed it many times on this blog!  For a review, check out an overview of Mary Ainsworth here.
           While this Science Friday was slightly more cynical than my previous, I was disappointed with these responses, especially the attacks on the "lack of discipline" within attachment parenting and the idea that attachment parenting leads to helicopter parenting.  My husband and I decided to follow attachment parenting largely because of the ideas behind positive discipline (and, more specifically, unconditional parenting, although, like extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, not all AP parents follow UP) and the fact that research shows these practices will make children MORE independent.  Next week I will discuss some of the ways we are practicing positive discipline at home in order to help foster Q-ball's independence. 

        Below are links to responses to the TIME article with which I agree:

        Thursday, May 17, 2012

        Watch Her Grow...

        This Week's Foci: Language and Practical Life

        Interactions with Materials
        • We've given her two of her own "tick-tock's" (Mama's old watches..) that she loves wearing.
        • Daddy gave her a new wooden car after her last one lost its back wheels in accident.  She loves "vrooommmming...!" with it and even took a nap holding it!
        • I work very hard to not use the computer in front of Q-ball, but sometimes there is actual work to be done, so I give her a little book and some to "write" (we are not actually marking on pages yet.) with.  She's started to love this ritual and has asked to do it even when I'm not at the desk.
        So much to choose from!
        Interactions with Others
        • The transition to the church nursery has continued to not happen.  This week Daddy stayed with her again to ensure she'd feel comfortable in the space and with the teacher, but I've been told there were still lots and lots of tears.  
        • She loves sitting in Mama and Daddy's lap.
        Interactions with Space
        • She has been signing "music" quite often and enjoys dancing and jumping to the tunes.
        • She loves being outside!  She will sign "outside" pretty much continually throughout the day or just point to the door and say, "eh, eh, eh!"  
        • And, while we were outside, we took our first major stumble.  I won't go into details so that grandparents don't worry too much, but you may notice some scabs in upcoming photos.
        Interactions with Life 
          • The past few meals, I've given Q-ball an actual plate vs. a plate made for toddlers.  It's just the bread plate that matches our dinnerware.  So far, I think it's actually helped with eating. I didn't like the other plate for meals (I do like it for snacks.) because it had a tall rim that Q-ball couldn't see over.  Thus, she didn't even know she had food to eat!  I'm sure something will break at some point, but who hasn't broken a glass?
          • We made great strides in cleaning up this week.  Q-ball has gotten much better at returning one book before reading another.  Also, when she drops something now she makes her own attempt at "uh-oh" and wants to clean it up.
          • Tough few days of sleep.  I think that she's been making some major advances in language, so perhaps it's keeping her up.  Every day she seems to recognize a new word!
          To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

          Wednesday, May 16, 2012

          Less Words Wednesday: Bowling!

          Bowling- what a wonderful activity for a 13-month-old!  Not exactly.  It was a bit overstimulating (so many blinking lights and noises from video games!) and the balls were not quite as light as the ones at home, but we did have fun, and there was a lot to explore.

          Thursday, May 10, 2012

          Watch Her Grow...

          This Week's Foci: Language
          Sorry no photo this week-- the camera hasn't been charged in quite awhile...but I'm charging it now!

          Interactions with Materials
            • Q-ball continued to work to be like Mama this week- she always pushes the laundry basket too and from the washer and dryer, she "swept" the back porch, and she is getting very good at "applying" eye shadow!
            • We have a plastic cup that has a straw you can remove- the top has the small whole in which to put the straw.  Q-ball has been very focused the past few weeks on getting this straw in the whole.  I'm going to look for some more materials to help her practice this skill.
            Interactions with Others
            • The clingy-ness phase continued.  Even Daddy got the cold shoulder a few times as she didn't want to leave my arms.  It may have been related to a little fever and stomach issue we had earlier in the week, but I think there are also some separation issues. 
            • Q-ball HATES the doctor.  It was a stressful expereince. 
            Interactions with Space
              • Still lots of twists and turns.  She also very focused on jumping. She's actually gotten slightly airborne!  She enjoys making a big deal out of the occasion by having Mama and Daddy count to 3 before she'll "JUMP"!
              Interactions with Life 
                • The "always wanting to be held" phase this week led to some setbacks with the booster seat.  Namely, she pretty much hated seating in it, and only wanted to eat at the table in Mama's lap.
                • Still seeming to understand new words everyday- it's amazing to say a phrase that I've been using since her birth, and suddenly see her respond to it.
                • Likely due to her fav book (The Ear Book) she has discovered ears!  She especially loves her Daddy's ears.  Wait till she sees her Opa next- what ears he has!
                To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

                Friday, May 4, 2012

                Your Child Chooses Right from Wrong

                     To make a very long and interesting story sort, our weekly play group was recently busted by the cops. No, apparently, they did not have better things do to as the raid included two uniformed officers (one of which was observing us for about 45 minutes before the raid), the police chief,  and one plain-clothes cop.  As a result, we have had to crack down on some of the unruly behavior that was taking place.  Namely, big kids on the baby swings, nerf guns (did you know these are actually illegal in some areas??), and dirt throwing. The children that meet at the park range in age from 5-months to 16-years.  Needless to say, each age group is adapting to these new rules a little differently- some of the younger kids are now policing themselves while some a little older are not at all interested.  Are these differences just personality driven, or is it something else?  According to Lawrence Kohlberg (I previously wrote about his ideas on children's dreams here.) there are six specific, set stages of moral judgement which could help us anticipate how the children might react to the new rules. 
                Following the rules at playgroup
                    To uncover his stages, Kohlberg and his staff interviewed boys and girls from different countries who were 10, 13, and 16 (although the initial sample only focused on boys from Chicago.)  The children were given a series of what I would consider pretty tough moral dilemmas.  Here's a breakdown of one:
                  A woman has cancer that might be cure by a new drug that was recently discovered in the same town.  The druggist is charging 10 times what it costs him to make it, making it too expensive for the woman's husband (Heinz), despite the fact he tried to borrow money from everyone he knew.  Heinz told the druggist his wife was dying and requested the drug at a lower cost, but the druggist refused.  So, Heinz broke into the store and steals the drug.

                   Was Heinz in the right or the wrong?  Why?  Follow up questions ask about how Heinz should be punished, whose rights he was violating, and if Heinz had a right to steal in the first place.  Kohlberg was especially interested in the "why" aspect of the question and the follow up questions as they is the foundation of his stages.  
                   Here are the six stages Kohlberg uncovered:
                1. Obedience and Punishment Orientation (preconventional morality): Here, children see rules as set from on high and hold them in very high regard.  They do not question rules that big people set and punishment results when rules are broken.  They believe Heinz was in the wrong.  
                2. Individualism and Exchange (preconventional morality): In this stage, kids are starting to see beyond the almighty rule of law and to different viewpoints and individual interests. (One child interestingly answered that if Heinz was ready to marry someone younger and better looking, then he didn't have to steal the drug.) They believe that fair deals can be made to solve differences, but these should still be made in an attempt to avoid punishment.
                3. Good Interpersonal Relationships (conventional morality)Children entering their teens are usually at this stage. They see beyond individual interests and look for who works for the good of the another person.  They typically see the druggist's actions as bad, and Heinz as good for protecting the needs of his wife.
                4. Maintaining Good Social Order (preconventional morality): In the last stage, children were typically focused on two-person relationships.  But, now children want what is best for society.(That's probably what you thought when you learned we were talking about teens, right??)  The vast majority believe Heinz is wrong because he broke the law. Interestingly, this stage is very similar to stage one because both believe you must obey the laws, but stage 4 thinking is more advanced in that it looks at how laws affect the whole society.
                5. Social Contract and Individual Rights (post conventional morality):  At this stage, people are much more theoretical when discovering what makings a good society.  While breaking laws is certainly frowned up, Heinz's wife has a innate right to live which must be protected.  Many in this stage lean on teachings from social or religious groups.
                6. Universal Principles (post conventional morality): The people in this stage are the big dreamers and thinkers.  They want to protect individual rights through democratic and non-violent processes. The rights of all people must be protected- not just the majority.  Kohlberg places Gandhi and MLK, Jr. in this stage. 
                   As you can imagine, not everyone reaches stage 6. Differences in stage development are especially dependent on culture.  In fact, most urban, middle-class Americans, reach stage 4, with a small number reaching stage 5.   Kohlberg also found that some children can be taught to reach the next stage of moral development, but the results are not dramatic and certainly not universal. According to Kohlberg's findings, then, moral development is a child-driven phenomenon. 
                   So, is this new knowledge going to help us handle the new rules at the park?  Not necessarily, but I now know that I can present rules in different ways to children.  For some, I can just state the rule, while for others I can explain how their actions might affect the community. Of course, if we happen to have any stage 6 kiddos, I could be headed for quite the debate!

                Do you notice differences in how children accept or question rules?  Do you believe you can shape your child's moral development?  

                Crain, W. (2011). Theories of development: Concepts and applications. Boston: Prentice Hall.

                Thursday, May 3, 2012

                Watch Her Grow...

                This Week's Foci: Language and Life Skills

                Interactions with Materials
                • She's continuing to work very hard on her stacking tree.  She's gotten quite good, although the concepts of placing the rings in any sort of order are a little out of her grasp.
                • It's amazing to see how much she notices in the world.  When we read books now, she points out small details in the pictures- toys that she also has or recognizes- that I wouldn't have even noticed!
                • She really loves pretending to drink from cups.  She takes a big sip and says "ahhhhhhh..."

                Interactions with Others
                • I think we are going through another separation anxiety phase. In the past week, I noticed she was more anxious around people at the park and very clingy to me during swimming lessons, even though she used to be quite comfortable with the coach.
                  Interactions with Space
                  • She's been doing interpretive style dancing and twirling around the house and especially when we are outside. One of her moves reminds me of the "fat man in a little coat" Chris Farley clip as we kinda have a tubby toddler.
                  • She's started some initial jumping on her bed!  I haven't done anything about it yet- I was going to see if natural consequences would work themselves out.

                  Interactions with Life 
                  • We are continuing to practice cleaning up.  Some days we have successes, some days we just keep modeling the behavior!
                  • She is doing well in her booster seat.  We haven't introduced a "grown up" plate yet, but she enjoys using her silverware (we actually found a very reasonably priced mini-set of silverware at REI in the camping section!  They are perfect!) and uses the same place mat as Mama and Daddy.  So far, much less clean up than with the high chair!
                  • She has started to want to "get ready" just like Mama and in the mornings.  So, I give her some old make-up brushes, and she loves it!
                  To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

                  Wednesday, May 2, 2012

                  Less Words Wednesday: Why We Montessori

                  This week I'm finally changing my Wednesday titles to "Less Words Wednesday," as I don't think I've ever published one that didn't have any words...

                  Some days it's hard not to think, "'d sure be easier if we didn't practice Montessori."  It can be a real pain to work to get Q-ball to avoid TVs and other screens and try finding any Montessori materials in your standard retail store.  Pain.  But, these images quickly remind me why we love Montessori!  You don't get this kind of active engagement from a TV!  The best part is that she initiated all of these activities herself!

                  Why do you Montessori?

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