Monday, November 22, 2010

Do You Know How to Read to Your Children?

Do you read to your kids every day? 

Are you aware of all the benefits? 

  • The bonding and closeness of cuddling up on the sofa creates a strong relationship. 
  • It helps develop their vocabulary, comprehension and listening skills.
  • They are more likely to read more on their own as they grow up.
  • Once in school, they will be more prepared to learn.
  • Encourages curiosity and creativity.
So, is reading a book before bedtime every night a good idea?  Of course, but the real question to ask here is do you know HOW to read to your kids? 

Yes, I know you can read.  If you couldn't you wouldn't be here on my blog.  Duh. 

I'm talking about active reading with your child.  When you read a book, you might be telling a story, but the best way for your child to learn is for you to really display what the story is about.  I'll give you a few examples so you get the idea.

Let's start with an alphabet book.  At a young age, these are usually books that simply show each letter and a picture that begins with it.  An A would have an apple next to it, and so forth.  The way to turn this into an actual learning experience is to spend a moment on each page talking about what you see.  Help your child trace the letter with his finger.  Point to the letter where it's found in the word.  What other words start with "A"?  Talk about the color of the apple.  Where can you find apples?  At the store?  In a tree?  This is also a great technique for making the book have a different story every time you read it.

How about a book with a moral?  The Berenstein Bears and the Little Critter books are some of our favorites that usually tell a tale that ends in some sort of lesson.  As you read, take the time to find out if your child understands what is happening.  Ask if a character is mad, sad or happy and why.  Point to different parts of the pictures to discuss what is going on.  Ask if your child knows what will happen next or what the character should have done.  This is great for instilling good morals and decision making.

Another category of books to read, my personal favorite, are Dr. Seuss books.  Any silly, funny, nonsense type story that may not appear to have a lesson can still help your child learn.  Name colors in the pictures.  Ask your child if she thinks that could really happen.  Have them repeat a word or phrase that seems silly for a good laugh and a great lesson in pronunciation.  (Fox in Socks is superb for this one!) 

Learning doesn't start at school, it starts in your home.  When you build a strong foundation before sending them off to school, they are much more likely to succeed. If you feel like life is too busy to sit down and read, make sure to at least do it at bedtime.   A bedtime routine helps your child settle down and fall asleep easier each night.  They will even be less likely to put up a fight when it's time to get their pajamas on because they know it means some quality time with mom or dad.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

When Halloween and Thanksgiving come around, my family always looks forward to all the pumpkin goodies.  Pumpkin lattes, cookies, ice cream and pie are the most obvious favorites.  While we drool over most of these at the store, I have one recipe I love to use that can double as a great party pleaser. 

You will need:
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups canned pumpkin (about 16 ounces)
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 & 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger

Preheat the oven to 375.

Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl.  Stir in the oil, sugar, pumpkin and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves and ginger together.  Then add to the pumpkin mixture gradually until well blended.  It should be thick and well mixed like cake batter.

Oooo....lookin' good

Make sure you have greased two loaf pans thoroughly.

See? WELL greased

Pour the mixture into the pans as evenly as you can.  You don't need to measure exactly.  Do the ol' Rachael Ray with know..."eyeball it".  Go ahead.  I trust you.

Then bake them together, side by side is fine, in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes.  The original recipe said to bake at 1 hour, but my oven is an overachiever and was done in 45.  I'm not sure how old the recipe is, I got it from Mom. (Thanks, Mom!)  However, ovens today run a bit hotter, it seems, so it's best to know your oven and check on the bread at about 45 minutes.

I'm not much of a cook, but I love to bake.  If you don't know the tricks to being able to tell when something is done, a toothpick inserted in the middle is a great tester.  If it comes out clean, you're good to go.  Another telltale sign is if you can see the sides of the bread pulling away from the pan.  You can get them out before those edges start getting dark.

When all is said and done, you should have two gorgeous little loafs of holiday goodness that look like this:


Saturday, November 6, 2010


As a parent, what is the one thing you can't get enough of?


I have never been very good at sleeping.  Some people can hit the pillow and be out cold for a solid 8 hours feeling rested and ready to go in the morning.  Others are like me.  I toss.  I turn.  I generally have strange dreams that wake me up, or even make me feel like I've been awake.

One of the worst problems I was having was I couldn't quite get comfortable.  Whether on my stomach, back or side, some sort of pain ailed me.  If I was lying on my stomach, a spring would poke me in the ribs.  If I remained on my side, my shoulders, hips and knees would hurt from the pressure.  And let's not forget about the mid-bed abyss.  You know...when you lay down on one side of the bed and somehow roll into the sagging center springs.  When I was pregnant with my daughter over 3 years ago, all of this made trying to sleep completely futile. 

My husband and I set out to the stores to find some relief.  I immediately gravitated to the memory foam choices.  They were a rising addition to the market and I had heard nothing but praise about them.  However, even though sitting on them seemed like a seat on a cloud, the price stabbed me like springs that pierced my sides every night. 

Finally we decided on the Sealy Posturpedic True Form mattress.  All the comfort of the most popular brand at a fraction of the price.  It has been 3.5 years sleeping on this bed and I fall in love with it every time I climb in.  When you first lie down, the lack of springs is an obvious benefit.  You don't actually sink in to a soft, fluffy mattress, though.  It's firm enough to maintain it's shape and provide give where your body needs it.  And in the morning, my body was surprisingly pain-free.  Any position you choose is a comfortable one.  The bed will mold to you.   

If you have difficulty sleeping, this mattress could be a great solution for you.  It has made a tremendous difference in my life while sleeping or awake.  Getting a better night's sleep has helped me to be more awake and attentive during the day.  Without the joint pain, I am much happier and able to concentrate on helping my kids start their day out right.

You might even feel good enough to skip that morning coffee.