Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog


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Resolve Resolutions

Happy New Year!  I LOVE New Year’s!  Well, I love crafting New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t know why I get such a kick out of resolutions!  Resolutions to me are fascinating and powerful.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished if you work at it everyday.  Consistency is the key and also the biggest challenge.  I love slow and steady change so making yearly resolutions is right up my alley.  For the other half of the population, resolutions may not be your thing.  It’s not how you are motivated.  Before you give up too quickly or decide not even to try thinking of a resolution, check out one of my favorite author’s suggestions about keeping resolutions.  Gretchen Rubin wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home.  She is basically the closest thing to an expert on keeping resolutions!  Her conclusion – you can be happier through small changes in your life!  Check out two of her vlogs about New Year’s resolutions for inspiration on creating and keeping your resolutions this year: 1.) Hold Yourself Accountable and 2.) Preparation is Essential.

A few of my resolutions for 2014 are 1.) not to lose patience or raise my voice at my dogs (ever since B was born they drive me nuts), 2.) read three books a month (1 for book club, 1 for church, and 1 for work), 3.) dress for success (my nemesis – I’m completely void of style), 4.) post gratitude stickies in the bathroom and around the house, 5.) read a Bible verse to B everyday, and 6.) kiss and hug my spouse everyday (it’s surprising how many days I miss).  My plan for keeping my resolutions this year is to write them down and keeping on my computer, check them daily, and put reminders on my calendar to check my progress.  I live by my calendar so reminders will be helpful.  What are your resolutions for 2014?  How do you plan to keep them?

The best of 2013!

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Portobello Mushroom Soup

What to do with all those holiday leftovers?  Soup!  Since I had several pints of mushrooms and heavy cream leftover from Christmas, I decided to try making mushroom soup.  I love creamy soups in the winter.  I searched around for some recipes and picked out one by Wolfgang Puck on the Food Network.  I used portobello mushrooms in place of button mushrooms.  Delicious!

Mushroom Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe for Mushroom Soup by Wolfgang Puck.

Some other ideas for Mushroom Soup.

Creamy Mushroom Soup by Martha Stewart.

Mixed Mushroom Soup by Martha Stewart.

Cream of Mushroom Soup by Rachel Ray.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup by Barefoot Contessa.

What is your favorite soup in the winter?

 

 


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Merry Christmas Montessori Style!

Merry Christmas!  We had a wonderful morning opening presents with family.  This year was special because it was B’s first Christmas were he actually understood the concept of opening presents.

With all the gifts under the tree, an empty paper towel roll can be just as fun!  Goes to show the power of DIY activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Montessori-style in our home means most of the gifts are put away after an initial romp and brought out slowly as part of the regular toy circulation.  After opening presents Christmas morning, B became tired and overwhelmed by all the new toys and quickly fell asleep before lunchtime.  At just under 2 years old, he is sensitive to order and simplicity.  Me too!  Everything was cleaned up and put away before he got up from his nap and he didn’t mind one bit.  The old(er) activities were just as fun.  A few of the new trucks made an appearance later in the day but only one new toy at a time.  This helps minimize messes and allows B to clean up his own mess without getting overwhelmed.

On our shelf this week we had a couple of holiday inspired activities.  I pulled out some wooden Christmas mice that were fun to line up and organize by size.  We talked about the concepts of “large”, “medium”, and “small”.  I gave B a box filled with balls and he practiced opening the clasp.  B also enjoyed sorting the red and green popsicle sticks that I had stuck in a small stocking.  His new toys included a Brio train set, Tinker toys, a wooden truck, two battery-powered trucks, and puzzles.  I think that was everything.  His stocking had stickers, plastic bugs and lizards (for counting) and a book shaped liked a truck.  Christmas afternoon we went to a park to play.  By 6pm B was asleep again!  He normally goes to bed around 7:30 pm or 8 pm.  All the stimulation of Christmas wore him out!  Me too!

What are your holiday family traditions?  Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?  Stockings?  Have traditions changed as kids got older?  Favorite Montessori-inspired ideas for the holidays?  I’d love to hear from you!  Happy Holidays!!

Here are some other links to Montessori-inspired holiday activities:

Montessori Home – 5 Great Montessori Ideas to do with Your Children 

Racheous – Holiday Hop

Pinterest Holiday Board by Missmatchedcows

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Toddler Activities with Egg Cartons

It is especially fun to create toddler activities with recycled trash!  Cheap, homemade (of sorts) and DIY are some of my favorite descriptions for toddler activities.  So, egg cartons are perfect!  I keep a stack of different kinds of egg cartons in my craft cupboard.  They are great for sorting, counting, and art activities.  They are also great for holding small items and organizing your drawers or cupboards.  Ice cube trays also serve similar purposes.  Here are some basic activities with egg cartons but you can do so much more!  One-to-one correspondence activities such as placing wooden balls, puff balls or wiffle balls in cartons are early math activities.  You can also color code the egg baskets or assign numbers or letters.  You can use them for more complex sorting or use them as paint dishes.  I still remember uses egg cartons when I was in elementary school for painting projects.

Here is B (21 months old) is placing wooden balls in a 6-egg carton.  He did NOT like the activity with puff balls so try different materials and don’t get discouraged.  I usually have to introduce an activity several times before B wants to try it.  We counted each ball as he placed them in the carton.  I’ve seen other people write numbers or letters on the balls and in the cartons for a matching activity.  We’ll build up to that.

 

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is B with a 12-egg carton.  He enjoyed filling it with wiffle balls.  No puff balls, please!  Maybe it’s boy thing?   A major part of the activity is taking the carton off the shelf and putting it back when B is done.  He knows he can’t get something new until he puts everything back.  The practice of moving things on and off the shelf helps with body control.

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some more ideas from other Montessori mamas using egg cartons !

Living Montessori Now  – Color Walk

Our Natural Journey  – Repurposing Egg Cartons

Kindergarten Basics – Upcycle Egg Cartons to Building Blocks + links to many other egg carton ideas!

Gift of Curiosity – Math with Egg Cartons + several other cool Montessori activities

Any other ideas?  How have you used your egg cartons?

We’ll revisit this theme again in the Spring!  Say, around Easter time!  You, me and that crazy Easter bunny.  This will be the first year B really gets to open Christmas presents and will understand the idea of an Easter egg hunt.  Can’t wait!  Have a Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Tree from forcingthebloom

Christmas Tree from forcingthebloom

 

 

 

 


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Pairing Games for Toddlers

B has mastered several activities recently that have been challenging for months!  I’m excited for him but now I need to find more activities.  I introduced matching so that we could then work on sorting, which is a precursor to math.  A good icebreaker was sorting my shoes.  B loves my shoes!  He tries them all on, even my high heels.  One day I decided to mix them all up and have B pair them together.  He did not really get the concept at first but he liked the game.  A few weeks later I introduced an activity from a Busy Bag swap.  One mom had made pairing coins.  She cut and glued felt designs on wood pieces.  I brought them out several times but B did not seem interested so I put them away.  When I brought them out recently, he paired the designs together perfectly.  He went from seemingly uninterested to mastery!  It just shows how some toddlers learn – B absorbs information through observation until he feels confident in attempting the activity.  I’ve noticed his learning style in music class as well.  He observes quietly during class and then waits to practice clapping or signing or dancing when we are at home.

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I made another matching game based on B’s interest in transportation.  The First 100 Machines has always been a favorite book.  I made two copies of the front cover and laminated the copies.  I cut one of the pages up so that he could place the matching vehicles on the laminated page.  B really liked this game and had fun playing with Daddy.  I’m planning on trying this idea with other books.

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We are busy gearing up for the holidays!  B thinks it’s funny when I see “Jingle Bells” but otherwise does not seem to notice the holiday changes.  Amazingly, he has left the tree and the presents alone.  I’m sure next year will be different.  🙂

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Roll it, Pat it and Put it in the Oven!

My little guy (20 months) enjoyed helping me make homemade whole wheat bread today.  The last few weeks I’ve been learning to make bread.  It’s very satisfying to knead and pound dough.  I put my toddler next to me on a stool or in his high chair and let him maneuver the flour.  He likes to trace his finger through it and sprinkle it on our dogs.  Then I let him mix the flour and water and feel the sticky, pasty dough.  Ounce it gets completely covered with flour and is nice and soft, it’s like playing with play-doh.  We talk through the process of letting it rise and baking it in the oven.  He never takes the hot bread out of the oven but he likes to put on the oven mitts just the same.  It kind of makes me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Clean-up is just as much a part of the process as making the bread.  B loves to help wash dishes, wipe down the counter, and sweep the floor.  It’s amazing how difficult it is for me to let him do the work himself.  Maybe because I know I can do it MUCH faster and it’s easy to think the “activity” is over – now go play!  Today we worked for almost 30 minutes cleaning up dry rice that had spilled during a transferring activity (B will spoon the rice between two small bowls).  It was very challenging for him to push the rice into the dustpan!  Since he was intent on doing it and was not getting frustrated, I let him do it himself.  It was more challenging for me to keep quiet and not interfere!  He’s generally happier and more interested in helping the more I let him do things by himself.

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Homemade Wheat Bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon, we had to run lots of errands around town.  Everything goes much more smoothly (meaning no temper tantrums) when I go at a very slow pace, or I should say B’s pace.  I internally want to get the errand down AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.  I would think B would agree with me if he knew that meant more time on the playground when we are all down.  But that’s not how it works.  We have a much better time when I go at a slow, toddler pace.  That means, lots of breaks for snacks, singing, talking with people, checking out signs and picture, and generally observing the world.  At one store, B and I spent a LONG time swinging before getting back into the car.  We had to try both swings and switch back and forth several times.  Ah, I love how my toddler makes me a better person – someone who stops to smell the roses and not force the bloom!

 

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Daddy was very patient with B while they decorated the tree!  Everything is more fun with a toddler when you’re willing to go at their pace!  Even the cat got involved.  😉

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Toddler Activities: Busy Bag Ideas

I was very excited to have a second Busy Bag exchange with a group of awesome moms.  I am part of a mom group through Meetup.com and one of the organizers in the group hosted a Busy Bag Swap party, the second one of the year.  These parties are great!  Each mom picks a simple craft activity and makes one for each mom attending the party.  At the party, each mom shares their toddler craft.  So you go with let’s say 12 Button Snakes and you leave with 12 different activities!  How cool is that!  I have slowly been pulling out the activities and adding them to our Montessori shelf.  I like that these activities were educational, simple to make and cheap.  I made the Button Snake and was excited to discover I had most of the material already.  I recommend having a Busy Bag swap with your friends!

A few of the Busy Bag activities: 
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Here are links to several of the activities we received at the Busy Bag party:

Money Saving MomButton Snake

Some What Simple – Wacky Sacks 

The Rigneys – Felt Board and several other ideas!

Intrepid Murmurings – Pasta Sorting

Fun & Engaging Activities for Toddlers – Texture Boards 

Playful Learning – Chalk Blocks

Wise Bread – Moon Sand

Here are some other Montessori activities we have on our shelf this week, including a holiday activity.  On the top shelf we have two small puzzles, an empty feta cheese container filled with puff balls, a plastic dish filled with holiday mini-clothes pins, several heart shaped cookie cutters, and a block of flower arrangement foam with golf tees and a hammer to stick in the foam.  On the second shelf we have a basket of large foam letters, an old chai container with a hole on top for sticking in q-tips, more puff balls to place in a water color tray, and an empty Odwalla jug with red popsicle sticks to be placed inside.  The bottom shelf has art (a fireman to color), a shape sorting box (Ikea), and blocks.  Whew!

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I enjoy doing shelf work with B.  We sit together on the rug and talk about the activities.  He is very careful to take work down and put it back.  B is 20 months and often does not want to do what I think he should do with the activity – or at least what I had planned.  It’s tough to keep my mouth shut!  I show him the activity and then try and keep quiet.  I try and let him play and explore the material however he wants.  This is as much a learning process for me as for him!  I can NEVER guess what he will find interesting.  That’s also what makes it interesting and challenging for me!

Another favorite activity these days is taking pictures and videos so that B can see himself.  He laughs at himself and asks to see pictures of Nana and Papa (Grandma and Grandpa) on the phone!

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