Sunday, July 31, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Mellow Yellow

I'm still s-l-o-w-l-y getting through the color themes, left over from before she stopped posting weekly themes!

When my brother was born, he was severely jaundiced, and we had the biliruben lights installed on his crib so he could come home. My mom made a lot of "He's my mellow yellow fellow" jokes, and sang snippets of "They call [him] Mellow Yellow..." Hence the title of this MTM. It's just something that's been stuck in my head, like, forever, whenever I think of "yellow."

Mellow Yellow
Banana, PBJ "sun"dwich, frozen corn;
Baby Belle cheese "sun," hummus, pita chips
Since I don't have a yellow silicone muffin pan, I chose yellow striped paper liners (and turned them inside-out so we can see them!) [I may or may not have used photo editing to make the colors *pop!* I'll never tell!]

Half'-'nana: A trick I learned from another mom who brought half-'nanas for preschool snack is to use a knife to make 3-4 small cuts in the peel, just deep enough to go through the peel. This way, the little ones can peel them easily,  even if they get an end without the 'stem' to pull on. [I take it to another level when I cut bananas into thirds when at my sister's house, and slice all along the length of the peel on the middle segment, and call it a "boat." Then, instead of fighting over who gets the stem end (which they're more familiar with for unpeeling,) they fight over who gets the banana boat.]
If I had been thinking, I would have cut the peel more and peeled and fanned it out into a sun shape. Ah well.

Sunny Sammie: For the sandwich, I used our home-made mango-strawberry jelly to go with the peanut butter, since it was the yellowest spread that I have. And soooo yummy! I have a cutter set with mini-cut-outs that snap on to each of the larger cutters for making perfect sprinkles or powdered sugar designs. I just used my scalloped circle one to cut out a smaller scalloped circle from one of the bread slices so that the jelly could be seen.

Insert Corny Joke Here: Yes. That is a hint of green in the corn. I couldn't find a bag of just frozen corn, and when I was at the store, I didn't buy any yellow veggies, since I'd decided to use corn. I didn't want to hassle with a squash, and she hates the yellow wax beans. Plus we were all out, and Fred Meyer didn't have any anyway. But all we had was a bag of mixed veggies. So I had to pry each kernel out, one by one. So I got a little sloppy near the end. Turned out to be moot, since she never touched them. Which was kind of a surprise. Normally she's all about the frozen veggies. I'm guessing it was a grains day for her, since she kept asking for mac-n-cheese, and actually ate her sandwich. And the chips.

Sunshine Cheese: For the sun cheese, I carefully cut around the wax on the back of the cheese, and then sliced it into strips. I trimmed the edges and cut the strips in shorted halves, then cut grooves roughly evenly around the cheese (in the wax still along the sides) and jammed them in.

Hummus and Chips: The (garlic) hummus and (Stacy's parmesan, garlic and herb) pita chips were a last-minute addition to fill space. I remembered that I'd had something else planned, but couldn't remember what.
I had the lunch assembled and photographed before remembering to add a decorative food pick. I tucked a disposable paper flower pick from World Market into the hummus, and set the lunch down in front of Z to take another photo, but she had already snatched and dismantled the cheese before my camera finished turning on.

The first thing she said, upon seeing this meal was "You brought me SUNSHINE for my lunch!" Worth. It.
She was able to correctly identify all the foods (well... she called the sandwich a donut, but she hasn't been eating her lunch sammies lately, and has refused to try my mango jelly, so I figured she might try it if I left it as "donut.") I was super impressed that she could identify the hummus. Not that she ate any. She ate the pita chips ("I want to eat them plain,") a few bites of the cheese (a shocker. I figured she'd snarf it down first thing,) and the sandwich (despite realizing that I was trying to trick her into eating my mango jelly. I called it a "donut sandwich" later, and then she went "Heyyy.... is that mango jelly? I didn't want mango jelly!" Damn, she's good! She even identified an ingredient she's never even seen before. But I told her to try a "no thank you" bite, and reminded her that she had agreed to a "yellow" beautiful lunch, and mango jelly was the only yellow kind we have. She tried it and ate the whole thing. Scoooore!)

I finally remembered the part of the lunch that had been niggling at my subconscious during the whole prep. I'm still kicking myself over forgetting the yellow raspberries that I had bought *specifically* for this meal. Even though they were about 10-seconds away from moldering into oblivion. Normally, I would have just passed on produce that potentially ooky, but I really wanted them for this. Ugh. I knew I had something in the fridge waiting for this lunch. I managed to pick out some keepers and wash off any surface mold and she ate some the next day.

Other healthy yellow food ideas: apples (yellow skinned or peeled,) squash, yellow peppers (she hates them. I hates them. So I don't bother trying to get her to eat them anymore, since it means *I* have to eat them.) Saffron rice, yogurt or milk with yellow food coloring or unsweetened yellow Kool-Aid powder (or True Lemon.) Pineapple, yellow carrots, "white" wax beans (they look yellow,) macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs, yellow raisins, yellow sweet potatoes, yellow onions, apricots, pears, papaya.

Muffin Tin Monday at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WFLW - Lunch "With" Caspar Babypants

The local Summer concerts in the park start the same time her ballet class ends, but luckily, they are only a few blocks away. So we were only a little bit late to the Caspar Babypants show. Since there would be no time for lunch in between; and with ballet starting at 11:15, too early to eat before; I packed us both a yummy lunch to eat during the concert.
Top/Left (Z's lunch): PBHoney, green and yellow wax beans, sprinkles
mandarin oranges, Ranch. In red cup: yogurt.
Bottom/Right (My lunch): Turkey and cheese croissant, PB (crunchy,) apples.
As always, the concert was fantastic. Chris Ballew is such a great performer, and he makes the concerts so fun, even when he's the only one on stage! We have all of his albums (including the new one that isn't technically released yet!) and so I was able to actually sing along to most of it! [Except the new songs. Since I'd only just bought the album after the concert.] My hands-down favorite song is $9.99. (It's about a little teddy bear that is ragged and scruffy and dragged all over the place and looking for a new home. For a while Chuck E Cheese had the music video playing in their cycle, so you may have seen/heard it there last year.)
Chris Ballew aka: Caspar Babypants
(formerly lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America) 

Z wasn't interested in getting out of her stroller and dancing or singing (although I DID catch her mouthing the words at some point.) She doesn't really need a stroller anymore, but since I have to lug lunches and swim gear (the park has a spray/splash area too,) sunblock, (and in this case, library books,) along too, it's nice having someplace to put it all. Plus it's a ready-made seat (and eating surface) for Her Royal Highness, and has a built-in sunshade.

Guess who totally forgot to pack a spoon? Doh! So I tried to covertly confiscate the sprinkles before she noticed the container (mixed with unsweetened Kool-Aid powder, to flavor her Greek honey yogurt. I put them into a bento sprinkle/sauce container I got on eBay.) No dice. Luckily, she had insisted upon dragging along an empty cup with lid and straw from a restaurant we had eaten at recently, that was still in her car seat's drink holder. [Yes. My car's messy too. Surprise, surprise.] So she was able to mix in her sprinkles and flavoring, and 'drink' her yogurt with the straw! What a smart cookie! Who needs a spoon when you have a resourceful three-year-old?
She tried one of the mandarin oranges, said it was yummy, but didn't want any more. They were left over from a dinner at Red Robin, where they were ordered in addition to another fruit (for an extra $.99! Grrr...) and left untouched. But I got to eat them. They were quite tasty.
In hindsight, I could have packed the yogurt in the EasyLunchBox and tucked in a separate small container for the Ranch, but I had already packed the yogurt in my red Kinderville Little Bites Cup, and had a big empty slot left in the box after packing the rest of the lunch. I like the Kinderville Little Bites and Bigger Bites jars because she can open them herself by squeezing the knob on the lid. The downside, however, is that they can open by themselves inside the cooler if they are smooshed. So I'm just extra careful when I pack one, and try and box it in with the milk/juice box and ice packs to keep it upright and in the middle.
She only ate the green wax beans, and had me eat the yellow ones.

I ate all of my lunch. I dipped my apples (leftovers from McD Happy Meals) into the crunchy peanut-butter. Soooo gooood!

The park also has a carousel that comes out in the Summer and Winter, as a fundraiser for something. Since we had nowhere to be after the show (other than the library, but there was no rush there,) I bought a 7-ride pass for $10.
This carousel has not only the traditional horses, but also a carriage that slowly rocks forward and back, and a little spinning seat, like the traditional carnival "teacup" rides. Naturally, she chose THAT one first.
Just to give a little background here - I have an inner ear thing, and do not tolerate spinning-type rides very well. Most roller coasters make me ill too. Even carousels are too spinny for me. But the wheel on the teacup was way too hard for her to turn on her own, and she was so super excited to ride it, so I went with her. Barf.

We went pretty fast, since I knew I'd only be good for one ride anyway. So I made it a good one... for her.
Then she wanted to ride a horse, and she's finally big enough to sit without being held. I stood next to her for the next two rides, but then was just too faint and dizzy to go again. She decided she wanted to go again without me.

We did get to go to the library after all the carousel fun, since I had a ton of (late) books to return. Over a month ago we had borrowed Flat Stanley, which she loved, so we'd been looking for others in the series. I finally put a hold on Invisible Stanley, and it was there waiting for me. But we were disappointed to discover that it was a chapter book, rather than a picture book. She'd been asking for that one for over a month and was just crushed. 
Despite her protests that she didn't want to look for any books to borrow, she found a few when I made her come with me to the children's book area. We sat and read random books from the center display for a while to cheer her up, and she chose two books to check out. Orange Pear Apple Bear (she was thrilled that it mostly had the same words over and over - "orange," "pear," "apple," and "bear" - so she was able to 'read' it based on the pictures and guessing after identifying the first letter of each word.) And Peanut Butter and Jelly which is a fun, repetitive rhyme book about making a PBJ from scratch (baking the bread, mashing the peanuts, etc.)

Check out the other fun bento meals this week!
Bento Lunch


Monday, July 25, 2011

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge - Water!

This week's challenge is to have water incorporated into the photo. I chose a shot taken two years ago in Oregon, on our one and only vacation since Z was born. She was a little over 13-months-old, and had a hard time toddling around on the sand. After we got closer to the water, she ended up toppling over, which put the kibosh on any more beach time that evening!

This photo was entered into the I Heart Faces photo challenge
I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges & Photography Tutorials

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Gone Fishin'

Each week I tell myself that I'll squeeze in a Muffin Tin Meal, and each week I totally forget. It's been such a long time, I half expected to see cobwebs in the cupboard where my muffin liners and cookie cutters are stored!
Gone Fishin'
PBHoney fish, string cheese "worms," PBH fish,
Rainbow Goldfish crackers, spinach, raspberries
Since Unka Seesee (who normally does the grocery shopping) has been so busy studying for new certifications (computer-y stuff) to get a job, our larder has been getting neglected. We're down to a few green and white wax beans that I got at the Farmer's Market a few weeks ago, and some raspberries left over from jam-making (that were shockingly still good! LOVE my BluApple!)
She had asked for a PB-Honey sandwich for lunch, and since I had this theme mostly planned out in my head, I was able to bang it out pretty quickly so we could head outside to sort through more of the junk in our garage. I used a plastic cutter that came in a set with 2 other shapes for, like, $1 at Michael's I think. The smaller fish was just able to squeeeeze onto the rest of the bread. No clue where I got the little one. My only guess would be from this set, but it doesn't look like it. Maybe it was one of my thrift-store finds.
I cut a string cheese stick into fourths lengthwise, then those into half, and curled them into the liner to look more wormy.
Goldfish Crackers were both an obvious and cop-out-y choice, but she had asked for some at bedtime the night before and I didn't give her any, so I thought it would be fun for her lunch.
Luckily, my spinach has been growing like gangbusters out in the planter pot on the back porch. So I opted for some spinach to be 'leaves' for the fish, rather than the last of the beans to be more 'worms' or maybe 'poles' (she doesn't like the white ones, and there are only 1 or 2 green ones left anyway.) And she loves 'grazing' on the spinach leaves whenever she goes back there.
And the raspberries are clusters of 'fish eggs,' theme-wise.

I chose to alternate two patterns of paper liners because they looked really pretty together (I turned them inside-out to show off the design!) I got my assortment from Bake It Pretty, but I found a new supplier, Sweet! and they are much cheaper! I used aqua with brown dots and blue with white dots.
Picnicing in front of the garage
She ate the little sandwich fish, all of the raspberries (plus seconds,) all but one cheese worm (which she let me eat,) all the spinach, and most of the crackers (she dropped a few, and my husband ate some.) She was super excited about the spinach. I wasn't sure she would be. She loves eating it right off the plant, but I didn't know how much of her enjoyment was in 'harvesting' it herself. But we've always drilled into her that you don't just eat flowers, mushrooms, berries or leaves that you find, so when it first started growing and I told her she could eat the leaves off that plant, she felt some wicked little thrill, like she was doing something forbidden! She nibbled the plants all down to their stems! Even now, she still gleefully tells me whenever she 'got to eat leaves.' But apparently salad doesn't count. Ah well.
I ate the bigger fish sandwich. I made her lunch instead of making myself some breakfast, so it wasn't a hard-sell on her part to get me to eat her sandwich. And I don't feel bad at all, since she ate pretty much everything else! And considering that young children's stomachs are the same size as their fists, it's no wonder she didn't have room for the extra sammie!

Check out the other fun meals this week! Ahhh! So good to be back!
Muffin Tin Monday at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writer's Workshop: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby!

For this week's Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop, I chose the promt: "Sex education! How old were you when you learned about the birds and the bees? Who taught you? Describe that experience."

I can't remember if it was before or after my third sibling was born. So sometime between the ages of 7 and 10 (we had sex ed at school in Fifth Grade, when I was ten. My baby sister was born roughly a month before my tenth birthday, and there was only a month of school left after my birthday, so unless sex ed was crammed in at the end, I probably was younger.)

At some point, in the car, alone with my mom, I asked her "the question." Now, was it "Where do babies come from?" or "How are babies made?" I couldn't tell you. But I distinctly remember her answer.

A man and a woman fall in love, get married, and have a baby. 

To which I started bawling, because I hadn't been invited to the other weddings. Not even as a flower girl (I NEVER got to be a flower girl. A fact about which I was quite bitter, for a surprisingly long time.) You know... the weddings that had to have happened for my parents to have my younger siblings... since they have to get married to have a kid, since that's what she'd said.
Yeah... so then she actually told me the horrible, horrible truth. Now that I'm all growed up, it's actually quite fun. But then, it was the most disgusting thing I could even imagine. And she didn't pretty it up, with nonsense about birds and bees and seeds and flowers. Nope. She bought me "Where Did I Come From?"
Where Did I Come From?: A Guide for Children and Parents, African-American Edition
It was informative, and since it backed up what I thought were disgusting lies to mislead me from the truth, I finally accepted how babies were made. Ick. But the pictures left a lot to be desired. "Rubanesque" would be a generous way to describe the people in the illustrations.

On the plus side, possibly years later, when I told younger sister one day when I tricked her into asking me how babies were made, she was outraged at MY heinous lies (which were really the squicky truth.)

I still hadn't known what a 'virgin' was, sadly, since the book didn't go into that, and my mom wasn't exactly forthcoming with the vocab. So when some older kid asked me and my friends if we were virgins, I said no, which resulted in gales of laughter and teasing. But since Madonna's "Like a Virgin" had recently come out, I figured if she was a virgin, I must not be. Ah well. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Learning To Play; Playing To Learn

I was at a play activity with some people in one of my moms groups, and one of the parents complained that since his daughter didn't meet the cutoff date, she'd be almost four before she could go to preschool. I mentioned our co-op preschool, and ones like it in nearby cities, that offered classes from age 1 or younger!
Other Mom (OM): "But it's not a REAL school, is it?"
Me: Excuse me? "Well, they have circle time, sing songs, have different activity stations, art projects, sensory play, pretend play, and indoor- or outdoor-playground time."
OM: "Yeah. But they don't really teach anything. Not like a real preschool."
Me: "Well, first off, I don't know about the older classes, since we've only done the 1-2-year-olds class. But she learns to share, wait her turn, listen to the teacher, stay with the group... You know. Social stuff. Plus she improves her fine-motor skills and verbal skills." (Since no one else can automatically interpret her speech like I can, she has to learn to say it clearer, or use different words, so she can be understood.)

The girl's father, who had been the one looking for a preschool, just brushed the whole thing off, based on this one mom's snobbery (her child was older and already in preschool.) Look, buddy. You wanted a preschool for a child technically too young to go to other schools. What exactly were you expecting? Yale for toddlers? My child learned the alphabet from watching an Elmo DVD. I don't need them to ram it into her at school. Offer it? Sure. But at 1-2 and 2-3? Please. Next year we start the 3-4 class, and I'm eager to see what we get to do. I know they have a whole slew of fun stuff that we've only glimpsed at Open House night.

Even my sister scoffs at our preschool. It happens to be in a church, but not run by the church. But she just views it as a fancy daycare. I found a co-op out near her, through a community college, and still it's not good enough for her. She waited until her eldest was old enough to go to a Montessori preschool (which is my goal, but Z just wasn't ready for a 4-5 day drop-off this coming school year. *sigh*) But then complains that her daughter seems to slip through the cracks because she's quiet and low-maintenance. And the other kids are all at least half-a-year older or younger than her, so no one at her developmental stage. So, say what you will about preschool for under-3. But no one in our class ever got ignored or left in a corner by themselves the whole class! And for me, having Z learn to respect and listen to another adult is a huge accomplishment. Even if the only interaction she'd have was to go tell the teacher she wanted to go into the Mommy room to be with me! (*sigh*)

But all that disrespect for a "non-scholastic" preschool made me want to write a post about how even the simplest of play activities is really subtly teaching them. They're learning all the time. Even when we think we're too lazy to do anything enriching, we probably really are, and just don't know it!

Playing with blocks: Creative expression and construction. Teaches sizes and shapes, bigger and smaller, weights and balances, height and depth, and possibly colors and textures. Counting, numbers. And when playing alongside a friend, sharing and cooperation. Possibly even teamwork, as they get older. Hand-eye coordination. And exercise: fine motor skills to balance blocks or place them exactly where they want, as well as broader exercise when moving around for larger creations. Problem solving. Sequencing. Spatial relations. Likeness/differences. Matching and classifying. Introduction to math concepts.

Playing on the playground (or gym class... okay fine! McDonald's PlayLand. Whatever): Learns physical abilities and limitations. Learns safety and caution. Learns to take turns and share pieces of equipment. Experiences joy and pride in achieving new skills. Large muscle development, balance, coordination. Energy/tension release.
Playing with puzzles: Satisfaction in completion, building self-confidence. Improves hand-eye coordination. Spatial relations. Matching, likeness/differences. Can work alone or as a team. Skills learned while doing puzzles help with learning to read later: putting letters to sounds, making words with letters, and making stories with words.

Playing with sand and water (or other sensory media; rice, play-dough, beans, corn, etc): Learns size and measurement, experimenting with different sized containers, cups and spoons. Opportunity for solitary, parallel or cooperative play. Cause and effect. Experimentation: will this float? Sink? Basic science concepts. There is no final product, no "right way;" low frustration. Soothing to feel sand or water running through fingers, pouring. Relaxing, so attention can be centered on tasks. Tension outlet.

Playing pretend: Learns what the roles of mothers, fathers, children, firefighters, doctors, princesses, etc are. Uses imagination. Starts learning how to think or feel like someone else (empathy.) Learns how to cooperate with other children. opportunity to act out life experiences and feelings. Emotional outlet. Understanding family relationships.

Playing with paints and crafts: Uses imagination. Small-muscle development (controlling the brush, placing the sticker, painting details with fingers.) New sensory experiences. Self expression. Tension outlet. Choices and decisions. Emotional satisfaction in getting to make choices and express themselves. Learns about doing things for others (making a card for Nana?) Learns how to use different materials/tools like scissors, squeeze glue, glue sticks. Sense of pride in accomplishment. Learns about shape, color, size, textures. Whole/part relationship.

Playing with manipulatives (ie: toys, play-dough): Explores new concepts. Creative expression. Practices emerging skills, reinforces learned skills. Fine motor practice. Cooperative play. Learns about classifying, sorting, predicting, problem solving, and analyzing results. Symbolic thinking ("this rock is a cookie") which leads to reading skills ("this squiggle is an 's'.") Develop knowledge of the world around them by using real objects and concrete examples. Learns how to learn.

Playing with puppets, dolls, stuffed animals: Creative expression. Able to verbalize feelings. Can begin to understand the feelings of others (empathy.) Role-playing. Explore situations that may disturb or confuse them, and find solutions. Stretches imagination. Cooperative play.

Playing with computers and other technology (smart-phones, anyone?): Learns how machines work and how they can help them learn more. Using the mouse helps hand-eye coordination. Touch-screens use fine motor skills. Computer games and apps help with problem solving, making decisions, and uses imagination.

"Helping" cook: Learns to follow directions. Stimulates and uses all 5 senses (hear the instructions, names of items, etc; see the measuring and changes each step; touch, taste and smell the ingredients, each step, and final product. Learns to recognize colors, shapes and uses from different kinds of foods and kitchen utensils. Has an opportunity to improve small motor coordination by using different tools and equipment.

Listening to stories or looking at books: Learns to listen. Hearing new words increases vocabulary and hearing them in context improves syntax. Learns about different concepts, people and places. Learns to enjoy books and reading. Stimulates the mind; visualizing what is being heard.

Singing, dancing, listening to music: Learns to appreciate music from different countries, cultures and time periods. Learns to express self and ideas. Increases vocabulary and speech development. Gains satisfaction for participating in a fun, physical, enriching activity. Awareness of different sounds, rhythms. Learning to listen, follow directions, take turns. Respect for others' ideas. Visual, auditory and memory. Cooperative play. Listening to melody/rhythm leads to pattern recognition, which is used in early math skills.

Snack Time: Opportunity to practice social skills and manners. Practice pouring, passing. Nutrition awareness. New taste experiences. Listening, following directions.

Field Trips (ie: running errands, eating out): Gives a variety of experiences. Helps form accurate concepts of the world. Learning how to behave in a variety of situations. Awareness of environment and community. Cooperative participation.

Cleaning up: Teaches responsibility, respect for property. Sense of cooperation and orderliness. Satisfaction in helping and completing a job.
[Yeah... no pictures of this. I can show oodles of pictures of NOT-this, though!]

So you see? Set them down with some blocks and they're learning! Blocks 101! Talk to them while they're playing (about what they're doing; what color/shape/texture it is; which one is bigger/smaller, lighter/heavier; how many are stacked up in that tower; where are all the yellow ones, etc) and it's like a Master's Degree for them!
Even if they're just watching TV while you're (ahem) blogging, periodically ask them questions about their show. "How do you think that made Elmo feel?" "Wow. It sounds like he's angry. How would that make you feel?" "Dora needs you to say 'Backpack!' Say 'Backpack!'" "Oh, you want a Pillow Pet now, do you? Did you know that commercials try to make you buy stuff? Yeah. That 'show' is really an ad to get you to ask me to buy you that toy. Did it work? Did they convince you that you had to have one? Does that make you feel tricked?"
And while it may make you feel like a total fool, talk to your kids. All the time. Narrate your life. From infancy. We were out with a friend, and he scoffed at me for pointing out a mannequin in a store window as we walked past on our way to dinner. I explained to Z that it was a statue to show off clothing, for a clothing store. And then inside the restaurant, there was a Chinese soldier statue. And she points at it and says "Mah-kin. Sta-shoo." See? New vocabulary, categorizing/sorting (both items were humanoid and statue-like, thus in the same "category.") And she's interested in the world around her, since we help her learn new things about what she sees. (Our friend rescinded his scoffing as she continued to wow him with her growing vocabulary and observational skills.)

But I'm still bitter about our preschool being disparaged.