Raising A Moral Child

The New York Times had a great article last week on Raising a Moral Child, written by Adam Grant. I think it’s worth sharing and talking about because it seems like it is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Why is it that the more information and resources we have, the harder it is to ensure that our children are thoughtful and hard working?

Before reading the article, I was under the impression that it’s more important to compliment the behavior of the child than the character of the child. Research is showing the opposite, however. So next time, instead of saying, “thank you for helping,” say, “thank you for being such a good helper” and you might find your kids repeating their kind actions more often.

Happy to Help!

Happy to Help!

Another important point the article brings up is that guilt is different than shame. Grant says, “Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing.” Guilt is a feeling that can be changed by changing your behavior, but shame runs so deep you can’t get past it. None of us want our children to feel like they are bad people, so instead of expressing anger or withholding affection when they misbehave, it’s better to voice our disappointment and explain, “why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation”.

Grant also points out that the old tenant, “do as I say, not as I do” is as ineffective as ever. Research proves this. He cites an experiment in which school kids earn tokens for winning a game and have the opportunity to donate some of the tokens to a child in poverty. The children most likely to give, and who gave the most even weeks later, were those that watched their teacher give tokens to a child in poverty without saying anything about it. You might think that the students who not only saw their teacher give, but heard her lecture about giving might be the most generous, but this wasn’t the case. Kids who only witnessed the generosity, and weren’t preached to about it, were more likely to be generous months later.

I thought Grant’s article was so interesting, I might have to pick up his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success In the meantime, I’m going to make sure I praise Franci’s character and lead by example, instead of merely lecturing about good behavior.

What are you doing to make sure your kids grow up to be kind, thoughtful and helpful? What methods do you find to be most successful?

When to Start Daycare

Daycare

Daycare

I’ve always thought that eventually Frances would go to daycare for a few hours a week. It might be “wasted money”, since I work from home, but some days it seems like she’d have a lot more fun at daycare than sitting around the house listening to me say, “not now, sweetheart, I’m working”.

Daycare offers more than just a break for me. We’re still new enough to town that we haven’t met many people, so Franci doesn’t have a lot of play dates. We’re talking once every 8 weeks or so. I would like her to be exposed to other children a little more often, not to mention other people in general. She’s very wary of new people right now, and I can’t help but think that’s because she only sees the same half dozen faces regularly.

We do things a particular way in our house, and I imagine things operate quite differently at daycare. I figure it would be good for Franci to be exposed new things and new ways of doing things. It can’t hurt, right?

Right now I’m going through a big internal debate concerning the best time to start daycare. Our “first choice” has space opening up in June, and Frances will be 15 months old then. She would go for three hours a day, three days a week. If we don’t start then, we’d have to wait until February for the next enrolment opportunity, when Frances would be almost two.

Is it better to start early, or wait until she is a little older? I’ve read that kids under two aren’t developed enough to “play” together, but I don’t know if that is true. If we wait until she’s two, will it be harder her to be away from me for the first time? Or is the separation period difficult no matter when you start?

A Series of Salad Recipes: Spanish Salad

Spanish Salad

Spanish Salad

I became a big fan of the Spanish Salad when I was studying in Spain. It’s quick and easy to make, with lots of “optional” ingredients, depending on how much you want to put into it. My room mates would make this salad with just iceberg lettuce and dressing. It might be a little sad, but it is surprisingly good!

It’s a refreshing salad that can be filling if you add in tuna and hard boiled eggs, and it’s a nice option if you are serving Spanish, Mexican, or Cuban food. For some reason a vinaigrette or kale salad just doesn’t pair with latino food flavors for me.

Spanish Salad

Salad:

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Canned Sweet Corn, drained
  • Canned Tuna
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Sliced Hard Boiled Eggs (optional)
  • Pickled White Asparagus (optional)
  • Manzanilla Olives (optional)

Dressing:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing ingredients.

Planning for Baby Number Two

Preparing for a New Sibling

Preparing for a New Sibling

I’ve often heard it said that there is no “right” time to have a baby. How likely is it that your career, finances and home-life are all perfectly stable at the same time? If you wait for everything to be perfect, you might be old enough to be a grandparent! Sometimes it’s best to just take the plunge.

When it comes to planning siblings, there are multiple theories. Personal preference is the biggest factor, but it turns out there is some interesting research done on the subject of the healthiest time to conceive.

Some parents think it’s best to have another baby right away. Then you get all the diapering and late nights out of the way and the siblings are close enough in age to enjoy the same activities. Plus, you’re still in baby mode. Your breast-pump is still handy and you haven’t given away your bumbo or boppy yet. If you’re taking time off from work to raise your kids, you’ll be back in the game sooner if your kids are closer in age.

Of course, two under two is a recipe for chaos. The oldest isn’t ready for school yet, and you’ll be dealing with two sets of diapers, tantrums and teething all at once. The first two years of this arrangement, so I’ve heard, can put a lot of strain on a marriage.

Other parents prefer to wait a few years. They want plenty of time to enjoy each child’s first milestones, and they want to be well rested before thinking about 2 a.m. feedings again. They’ve had years of experience as parents, and have a lot of wisdom under their belts. Plus, the older sibling will be in preschool which means you’ll have more one-on-one time with the new baby. Or if you work outside the home, you’ll have plenty of time between maternity leaves to make yourself invaluable to your boss.

The flip side is that as soon as you’re finished with diapering and naps, it’s time to start it all over again. Your older child is so used to your attention, she may have a harder time adjusting to sharing you with a new baby. You’ll be chasing after an energetic preschooler while keeping an infant entertained, and exhausting prospect.

A third option is to wait until the first is in full-time school before having another baby. Each child gets the benefit of full attention, and the oldest is responsible enough to help out and be a mentor for his new little sibling.

However, he might not agree that this new responsibility is as great as you say it is and long for the days when he was an only child. Not to mention, switching between baby mode and grade-school mode isn’t for everyone. And instead of spending 20 years raising kids, you might be spending 25 or 30.

How far apart are your kids spaced? What’s your theory on the best time to have another child?

A Series of Salad Recipe: House Salad

House Salad

House Salad

I call this our “house salad” because if you come to dinner, you will more than likely be served this salad. It’s our go-to salad, and I make all the ingredients ahead so I can throw a salad together each night. I’ve discovered that if I always have shredded carrots and cabbage, washed lettuce and prepared dressing on hand, we eat a lot more salad.

We always eat salad at the end of the meal, and Franci has started anticipating the “salad course”. She loves Gorgonzola so much, she gets very pushy about demanding her fair share. I’ve had to start adding extra to the salad, just so there’s some left for me!

Dinner guests frequently ask me for more info

the recipe for the vinaigrette dressing used in this salad. Since “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” isn’t a satisfying list of ingredients, I finally sat down and figured out what the measurements are. This dressing recipe will make enough vinaigrette for multiple salads.

House Salad

Salad:

  • Butter Lettuce
  • Shredded Carrot
  • Shredded Root Vegetables (i.e., beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes)
  • Shredded Cabbage
  • Candied Pecans
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 4 tbs Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tbs Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to emulsify.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and dress with the vinaigrette.

p.s. Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for a set of Cuppow canning jar lids and adapters!

A Series of Salad Recipes: Kale Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts

Kale Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts

Kale Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts

Earlier this month I decided to do a series of posts on salads, in hopes of finding some good new salad recipes.

Now that you can easily find washed and shredded kale, this recipe is a breeze.  As long as you remember to soak the currants over night, that is.  I’m not a huge fan of kale, but this recipe has made me like it more than ever before.  Maybe now I’ll branch out into other kale salads.

Unlike most other “green” salads, this one is even better the next day. It’s a good choice if you are having company or want to make a big batch ahead and have a little each day.  The original recipe includes parmesan shavings, but I prefer the recipe without.  I’d rather add in shredded carrot or red cabbage for a little color.

 

Kale Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts (adapted from Bon Appétit)

Currants

  • 2 tablespoons dried currants
  • 5 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

Salad

  • 12-16 oz package of pre-washed and shredded kale
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar from currants
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Place currants and 5 tbs of white balsamic vinegar in a bowl to soak over night.  Drain before proceeding, reserving 2 tbs for the dressing.

Put kale, currants and pine nuts in a large bowl.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small box and mix until the honey is well incorporated. Pour over salad and let marinate at least 20 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Work At Home Moms

Work-At-Home-Mom

Work-At-Home-Mom

The Huffington Post reprinted a popular article on their blog recently that originally appeared on The Healthy Doctor blog, A Letter From a Working Mother to a Stay-At-Home Mother (and Vice Versa)

I think they left out an important percentage of the mom-population: Work-At-Home-Moms (WAHM). In my casual surfing of Facebook and Etsy, I’ve come to realize how large this group really is.

Perhaps we’re hard to categorize, because working hours aren’t always consistent. And while one WAHM may work 5 hours a week, another may work 40. And that could even be the same mom, just in a different week!

Since we are all about inclusion these days here in ‘Merica, I’ve decided to write my own letter, from one Work-At-Home-Mom to another:

Dear Work-At-Home-Mom:

You’ve made the decision to stay at home to raise your children, because the thought of missing the smallest milestone compels you. What you didn’t count on was the possibility of missing them any way, while at your work station or blocking out all distractions for just ten more minutes so you can reach a stopping point.

You might avoid cabin-fever, unlike many SAHMs, because your work connects you to the outside world. Whether it’s emailing back and forth, or talking on the phone, you’re interacting with other adults more than just answering “cash or credit” at the grocery store. But the physical isolation can get to you as well. It’s hard to fit in play dates when there is a stack of chores to tackle after work hours.

It’s a struggle to find the right balance of working enough hours to satisfy monetary and professional goals, while not working so many as to reach a breaking point or drive your family crazy. Since no one can “do it all”, don’t count on having a hobby. Unless your hobby is also your work, in which case be careful not to get sick of it! Maybe your new hobby now is cooking or cleaning, or listening to books on tape while doing chores.

Since you must become a multitasking, organizational expert to navigate the WAHM world, it’s hard to set that all aside and do something unplanned. Or to just do one thing at a time! Perhaps the biggest challenge is to dedicate undivided attention to your family. To sit down and play with your children, and not with your smart phone in one hand, checking email with one eye while admiring a tower of blocks with the other. To color at the kitchen table with your kids, instead of sitting them down to color while you make dinner.

As tempting as it is to burn the candle at both ends, a good night’s sleep becomes the most important thing. Too little rest and you will make more mistakes and your work will take longer, or your patience with your children will wane. You don’t have the luxury of napping when your baby naps, since that is prime working time. And you certainly can’t sneak in a nap in your car on your lunch break.

Hopefully we can find and connect with each other locally and online and foster our own community. If there can be a “buy locally” trend or a “buy American” campaign, why can’t we start one that focuses on supporting other WAHM moms? Whether you’re looking to make a website for your own business, or buy a cake for your child’s birthday, you can bet there is a WAHM that can deliver the goods. Let’s give it a try!

Love from the trenches,

Work-At-Home Mom

Confessions of a Parent

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

Being a parent requires a lot of sacrifices and compromises, most of them on the part of the parent.  Every once and a while it’s your baby’s turn to make the compromise.  This often results in a great story to be told to other parents, grandparents, and your spouse! If things can’t go as planned, they may as well be good for a laugh!

Last week I confessed that Franci sleeps in a second-hand drop-down crib. It gets even worse! Some of your kids may have rooms “as small as a closet”. Frances doesn’t have a room: she actually sleeps in our closet. The space is just big enough for a full-sized crib, so she sleeps with hangers full of clothes looming above her.

She’s actually slept in several closets in the past year. One time while visiting family, we didn’t bring our portable crib and so she slept in a large tupperware. Which we put in a closet. It was nice and dark and very quiet, and she slept like, well, a baby.

So, fess up! What’s your biggest confession?

First Birthday Gift Ideas

Rocking Horse

Rocking Horse

wooden-tricycle

Tricycle Walker

Hammer Set

Hammer Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frances is coming up on one year at the end of the month, and the grandparents have started asking for gift ideas. I don’t remember what it was like to be that young, so I’m not sure what to suggest. She has certainly outgrown some things since Christmas, like her bouncy seat and jump-up, but I don’t know if they even need to be replaced with anything.

She’s too young for crayons and still prefers to chew on books rather than read them, so I don’t want to request art supplies or more books. She loves her wooden blocks and stacking cups, but I don’t think she needs more of them. She’s too young for a Doll House, and I think I would have more fun with that than she would.

What about a Hammer Set? Will she be into that soon? What about a Tricycle Toy? Or a Rocking Horse?

I was trying to think of some bigger items that would be nice to not have to purchase ourselves, but I can’t think of anything we don’t already have: high chair, car seat, backpack. Is there some expense we’re overlooking?

As a new parent, each stage is something new and different so I’d love to hear what some of you veterans have to say!

When Babies Mimic Animal Behavior

A girl and her dog

A girl and her dog

Frances has always been curious about our pets. She loves to crawl over to our dog and give her pats and pets. Before we could get Franci to reliably say “Papa”, she could tell you a puppy said “arf-arf”.

Since she’s so in-tune to our dogs, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when she started barking along with them. If someone knocked on the door, she would happily join in on a round of alarm barks. What really came as a shock was the time when the UPS truck could be heard rounding the corner, and Franci started barking even before the dogs did!

I’ve heard of dogs teaching babies to crawl and go up and down stairs. You can find videos of dogs teaching babies to play fetch, and even one of a cat teaching a baby how to walk!

Have your kids learned any skills from your pets?