Monday, October 29, 2012

The Pumpkin Challenge!

    This blog typically focuses on parenting or Q-ball, but one of the principles of Attachment Parenting is "strive for balance", so I thought I'd talk about one way that I meet some of my own needs for this post. To help celebrate this season and honor my husband's love of pumpkin, I decided to embark on a "pumpkin challenge" for the months of October and November. Each week I am making at least one new recipe that includes pumpkin. I love trying new recipes and exploring food blogs, so I've had a blast!
  A few real-life friends and even a blogging friend have asked me to share what I have made so far. It should be noted that while I love to cook, I cannot claim to have created many stellar recipes on my own, so these are pretty much all links to some of my favorite food blogs. But, in our household we typically avoid dairy, gluten, and sugar. And, I don't eat meat.  So, some alterations are necessary, and I've added my notes to the side. But, we also have a sweet tooth that we satisfy about twice as week...Enjoy!
  • Pumpkin Chai Latte- Forget Starbucks! Make this easy treat at home- it's even better if you make fresh whipped cream for topping!
  • Baked Pumpkin Penne- Here, I used quinoa pasta for a less-gluten and higher protein version. I used almond milk, reduced the amount of cheese, and doubled the leeks.  It honestly wasn't my favorite, but Daddy and Q-ball loved it.
  • Butternut Squash Pizza with Pumpkin Crust- I loved the creativity of this recipe! We just ate gluten this night.  I halved the amount of cheese and doubled the amount of brussel sprouts.  But, I love saucy pizza, and I think this needed more sauce. Next time I'd use a whole butternut squash- it was delicious with the sage!
  • Veggie Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce- I loved this recipe!
  • Pumpkin Cream Pie Oat Bran - I actually found this recipe in the cookbook Peas and Thank You and super loved it.  I didn't write it down before returning the book to the library, but this blog does the best job of explaining it.  The secret step she mentions it putting everything in the blender to make it really creamy.  Because of this step, I just used rolled oats instead of oat bran.  But, this blogger is right, you should check out this cookbook!
  • Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal - I used almond milk. 
  • Chocolate Chip Pumpkin bread- just a standard recipe for one of my cookbooks
  • Pumpkin oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies- A recipe I made for a bake sale and saved from a previous cookie swap
  • Pumpkin Muffins- Our favorite version of this classic.  I use whole wheat flour and reduce the amount of sugar and oil.
  • Boston "Scream" Pie- I've made this recipe for four Halloweens now.  It's delicious and pretty!  Wonderful for a party.  But, not at all healthy...

Q-ball painted her pumpkin while Daddy did the carving.

Who are you looking at???

Here's what's coming up:
What are your favorite pumpkin recipes?  I'd really love to hear!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Practical Life

Interactions with Materials
  • We are still doing lots of pretend play.  Her baby doll loves to go potty, play ball, eat, go on errands, and even nurse! This morning I ate breakfast at the table with her baby while she ate at the counter.  But, she does let me know when her baby is not happy- she's developed a high-pitch cry for the baby.
  • She has continued to enjoy loading and unloading bags, baskets, and boxes.  This activity alone can keep her interested for several minutes.
  • I think she has started to want to work with real books over board books.  She seems to have taken a keen interest in the correct way to turn pages.
Interactions with Others
  • Q-ball is certainly trying to exert power over others. At the end of church last week, Q-ball stood at the door and pointed for everyone who passed to get out.  A similar situation happened at the park, where she dominated the water fountain, shooing away any other thirsty tots. 
  • It is interesting to watch her practice social norms like laughing or showing disappointment. When we read some of her books, she'll see something she thinks is funny and start laughing really loudly.  Or, if I do something she's not happy about (often...) she makes a little "oh..." sound.  I can only assume I do these things too- it's just interesting to see them mirrored. 
Critical Thinking
  • I'm amazed at her memory and the connections she makes.  When we are out and about, she'll see something that will remind her of something we recently did and work to tell me about it.  At the grocery store, she saw a picture of a tractor and happily pointed it out and yelled "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" I think she was remembering last weekend's pumpkin patch and tractor ride.
Interactions with Life
  • We've had some more major potty success.  Yesterday, Q-ball actually started to have an accident and then ran to her potty to finish.  Certainly not 100%, but we have the concept!
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Less-Words Wednesday:Mazes and Pumpkins!

Last weekend we continued our celebration of fall by visiting a corn maze and pumpkin patch.  We had such an amazing time!  Q-ball loved running through the corn maze, and we actually made it through the first maze following her intuition alone.  However, by the second maze, Q-ball was getting a little worn out.  In this post, I quoted Dr. Montessori and talked about how young children can run forever.  Well, I think we found Q-ball's point of exhaustion as she started to stumble aimlessly into corn stalks.  

We said "baa!" to the goat.

Leading the way!

Exploring the corn stalks.  And, starting to get a little tired.

Q-ball was very excited to take a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch!

Selecting the family's pumpkin.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Language

We've been doing lots and lots of climbing!

Interactions with Materials
  • Q-ball has really started to like pretend play. The baby doll that Grandma and Grandpa gave her has been spending lots of time on Q-ball's potty.  Q-ball is even making the sign for potty the our verbal cue for pee for the baby.  She also has continued to enjoy the old computer keyboard and mouse that we gave her awhile ago.
  • She has started to enjoy art more. She likes drawing with pens and pencils.  I have not done a good job of setting up an art area, so right now it seems colored pencils are everywhere, so this is certainly in the works for our next home. (Yes- we are moving in just about 2 weeks!)
  • And, of course, we have continued reading!
Interactions with Others
  • Yesterday at a neighborhood playgroup, we had one of our first breakdowns with other children.  Who knew that a slinky was really so cool?  All of the kids wanted it, but the stronger 3-year-old took it from Q-ball.  Many tears and screams ensued.  We eventually got the slinky back, but then it was time to go, and again giving up the slinky to its owner was very, very stressful!  Q-ball was not interested in making friends with any of the other kids involved in this stressful situation.
Critical Thinking
  • She is continuing to practice speaking. She often attempts to imitate words that we say, repeating them over and over.  Additionally, she is clearly interested in new words. If I am reading a book and say a new word, Q-ball will often ask me to stop and repeat that word.
Interactions with Life
  • We (finally) got around to getting Q-ball her own glass cup for drinking during meals.  As she had shown quite a bit of interest in drinking out of a cup, I thought she love it.  However, the novelty quickly wore off, and she began requesting her straw cup.  She has practiced a bit and is getting closer to mastering drinking from a cup.
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Fall Sensory Basket

   Fall offers such amazing and incredibly easy opportunities for sensory play for little ones! Because we had so much fun with the activity last year, I couldn't wait to pick up some gourds for Q-ball this season. In fact, I've been making several "field" trips to the grocery store throughout the week to let Q-ball explore their huge selection of pumpkins and squashes (really I've never seen so many, so I like to check it out too!)  It's closer and cheaper than the Children's Museum.  And, Daddy helped add a special addition to the basket by bringing back some pine cones from our recent vacation.  Q-ball has even added her own pieces as she picks out some fallen leaves during our time outdoors to bring inside.

   Here are the skills I've noticed Q-ball honing as she's been exploring her basket for the past two weeks:
  • Touch:  With such differences among the gourds it's easy to explore different textures!
  • Sound:  Q-ball is able to make the well-known crunchy leaves sound of fall when she is exploring the leaves.  And, like any good toddler, she has enjoyed rhythmically banging her gourds around the house. 
  • Sorting/Counting: Q-ball has enjoyed counting the gourds and pine cones and carefully sorting them by placing them into a basket or placing them on a shelf.  At 18 months, she hasn't mastered numbers yet, but she chants a "nah-nah-nah" for "1-2-3."
  • Sight:  Of course, fall is best known for it's variety of colors!  While sorting by color is something we have not mastered yet, she has certainly seen the contrast between the gourds.  
  • Movement:  Q-ball loves moving!  Especially running and jumping! As with pretty much all of her materials, the gourds eventually made it into her wagon and joined her for circles around the house.
  • Balance:  In addition to moving her gourds around the house in her wagon, she was been working on carrying the basket, full of gourds.  She really has to concentrate to ensure that nothing falls out of the basket.  If she continues to be interested in practicing balance, I plan on introducing pouring and having her carry her plate to the table.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Music and a Baby's Brain

  As I have mentioned in several of my updates, Q-ball loves music.  "Music" was one of the first signs she made, and she quickly started asking to listen to music.  We get all sorts of CDs from the library (rather archaic in these modern times, I know...).  Sometimes we have the music playing in the background, and sometimes we dance along.  I've also created a music box for her with several instruments (maracas, a tambourine, xylophone, a castanet, and bells) that we take out every few weeks.
Q-ball, actively engaged with music.
   We explore music because Q-ball likes it.  But, I know that I've always heard lots reports about parents playing music for babies, even fetuses, because of its benefits to a developing brain.  I was surprised to read in Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, then, that these benefits are largely based on studies that have been overblown by the media.  The basis for what is now commonly referred to as the "Mozart Effect" (i.e., that idea that listening to music enhances brain development or increases a person's IQ) started after a study in 1993 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh demonstrated that students received higher tests scores after listening to Mozart.  
     While the media latched on to this point, the lead researcher tried to point out that the participants in the study were college students (so, not babies), the effects only lasted 10 to 15 minutes after listening to Mozart (so, not permanent brain changes), and the test only looked at spatial intelligence (so, just one tiny aspect of intelligence.)  More importantly, in 1999, Nature and Psychological Science officially renounced the findings from the original Mozart study!  Despite many attempts, other researchers were never able to repeat the original findings.  Obviously, no one told the many music and toy manufacturers that advertise with these findings today!
   But, just because music doesn't increase a baby's IQ, doesn't mean that there are not benefits.  And, it certainly doesn't mean that babies don't notice music.  While the research into this field is still rather new, studies have confirmed the following:
  • Humans are innately musical and, even as infants, can use music as a form of communication. (We are the only such species.) 
  • Infants listen carefully to music and can pick up even subtle changes.  Research has shown music alters a baby's heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.
  • Brain responses to music are identical in adults and in infants, proving that even at this young age, the brain is able to process music.
  • All cultures seem to have motherese in which people speak to infants musical tones. (To read more about motherese, check out this post.)
  • Early introduction to music does affect the organization of a person's musical brain.  So, early exposure to music may increase the likelihood that a person may be more musically inclined later in life.
  • Studies have shown that music can be used as a reinforcement to encourage learning.  Premature newborns have been taught to strengthen sucking, leading to their eventual ability to self-feed.  Music is also positively used to "cue" various activities to help schedule a toddler or baby's day.
  • Music can enhance listening skills, language development, motor coordination, and cooperation.
   So, how can you provide these wonderful benefits for your child?  The benefits of music are most seen when children are actively involved.  While music played in the background can change create a certain mood in a room, it does not necessarily encourage active engagement by the child.  To play an active role, a child should be encouraged to dance, sing, or make music themselves.  Even small steps like taking the time to point out changes in a piece of music that is playing in the background increases a child's active engagement with music.  
    Despite the mixed results from research, everyone seems to agree that music is a great and innately human way to bond.  So, perhaps the best benefit from music is an addition opprotunity to bond with your child!

Fox, D.B. (2000).  Music and the baby's brain: Early experiences. Music Educators Journal, 87(2), 23-27.
Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R.M. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards. Rodale: USA.
Hodges, D.A. (2000). Implications of music and brain research. Music Educators Journal, 87(2), 17-22.
Standley, J.M. (2001). The power of contingent music for infant learning. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 149, 65-71.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Language
Here are Q-ball's 18 month stats:
24.8 lbs, about 65 (up from 23.5 lbs at 13 months)
33 in, about 80 percentile (up from 30.5 in at 13 months)  
She's obviously thinning out!  Her tummy is disappearing before my eyes, and it turns out she even has a neck under the baby fat!

Interactions with Materials
Listening to music at Oktoberfest.

She's starting to model for the camera.
  • I've said before that Q-ball loved books, but in the past two weeks, she has set new reading records.  She has been able to sit and read the same book for 20-30 minutes.  At this time, I'm the one that needs the break, so we move to something different.  But, within a few minutes, she'll want to sit and read another book for just as long!  We've done this several times a day!  In fact, she walked out of storytime while signing "book."  The librarian was saying a few too many nursery rhymes and not reading enough, I guess!
  • We introduced our Autumn sensory  basket with gourds and pinecones, and Q-ball has loved exploring it!

Interactions with Others
    • I think Q-ball has really made some gains with interacting with others. When we are at the library or the park, she always tries to initiate interactions with other little ones by handing them a book or a rock.  She's also much more eager to say hello and approach other little people.  I can't necessarily say the same for adults, but maybe soon.
    • Q-ball is baby crazy!  She started saying "baby" a few days ago, and now says it constantly.  Most books we are reading are about babies, and she loves looking for babies when we go out.  This morning someone passed her and said, "Hello, baby!"  Q-ball started looking about for the baby.  Apparently, the passerby did not realize that Q-ball is a toddler.
    Critical Thinking
    • She seems to really be near a little language explosion. I thinks she's saying a new word every day.  We seem to be up to almost 10 words.
    Interactions with Life 
    • Biggest potty learning success yet happened yesterday! She peed in the potty! She was very excited to get to wipe and flush just like grown-ups. Since this happening, she seems more eager to sit on the potty and keeps looking inside the potty to see if it's full- even if has hasn't been sitting on it...
     We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings.  See what the other kiddos are up to here! 
    To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Less Words Wednesday: Socks

      When we are just hanging out at home, Q-ball is typically minimally dressed.  Frankly, thanks to potty learning, she's typically not dressed at all.  So, we really haven't bothered with socks since the newborn phase.  But, lately there's been a chill in the area (ok, it was 60...), so I decided we needed socks!  Q-ball found the Thomas the Train socks at the store and has been very proud to wear them ever since.  She runs around the house (carefully, of course- socks, we've discovered, are slippery!) saying "choo-choo" and making her version of the sign for train.

    Still a little groggy. No one likes pictures when they first wake up!

    Awake enough to show off her socks.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Watch Her Grow- 18 Months!

    This Week's Focus: Likes and Dislikes

    This past week, Q-ball hit the 18-month milestone!  As usual, we'll be going to the doctor about a week or so after the day, so height and weight info is forthcoming. To celebrate (and to meet my goal of up-dating the baby book...) I thought I'd change up this week's update.  

     We are blessed to have a very happy baby!  I'd plan to list "likes" and "dislikes" today, but I realized that Q-ball pretty much rolls with the punches, and I couldn't think of many dislikes!

    Q-ball likes... 
    • Bicycles
    • Airplanes- we just got back from an airplane trip where she was excited to say we were going, "up, up, up!"
    • Any type of moving- dancing, running, jumping
    • Washing machines and dryers
    • Pretending to type on keyboard (and sometimes trying to work her way to the actual computer.)
    • Barnum, the cat
    • Nursing (she's gotten quite verbal about this request now, often chanting "" while running around the house)
    • Trains
    • Old MacDonald (she's nearly mastered E-I-E-I-O!)
    • Jokes!  Her personality is really coming out, and she loves playing jokes on us!
    • Roughhousing with Daddy
    • Going to the park, especially if there is a slide!
    • Meat- who knew this vegetarian would have a kid that could probably eat more meat than Daddy!
     We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings.  See what the other kiddos are up to here! 
    To see the rational and purpose for the Watch Her Grow series, please check out this post!

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Less-Words Wednesday: Ah, Fall..

    We just returned from a wonderful vacation where Q-ball was able to expereince a bit of an actual Autumn. 
    Coming home is hard!

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Easy, Independent Activities for a Toddler

    I've shared some images of Q-ball's Montessori environment in previous posts.  The materials I have out are typically rotated on a monthly basis, so Q-ball stays rather engaged.  But, there are times when I guide her to other engaging activities so that I can clean, cook, or take a deep breath.  Here are some activities we've tried that have kept her attention, if only for a moment...

    1) Felt Board: So simple even I can make it!  Just get a big piece of felt and tack it to the wall.  Using smaller pieces of felt, cut out various shapes.  These shapes magically stick to the big piece of felt! 

    2) Sorting: I give Q-ball a colander with small holes and toothpicks.  I model placing the toothpicks into the holes, and then let her take the lead. This activity is excellent for developing fine motor skills.  And, for practicing "clean up" afterwards for any toothpicks that somehow end up all over the floor.

    3) Sorting (Take 2): After completing the last activity, Q-ball actually thought of this next one on her own.  She found a box of straws and proceed to drop each straw in a hole in her Learning Tower.  Luckily I noticed rather early on in the box of 50 straws and was able to place a basket beneath the Tower to catch the straws.

    Linking up with Montessori Monday
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