Thursday, December 29, 2016

Using Raddish Kids Cooking Kit for the First Time!

Two years ago at the Great Homeschool Convention I encountered a curriculum that almost took my breath away. I desperately wanted to do it, yet I knew that it just wasn't the right time. My daughter was ending her fourth year on this earth and food was such a deeply emotional topic for me that I couldn't even fathom using a curriculum with her that was based on food.

Tiny B is a former micropreemie who is a smart and enthusiastic child with the sweetest personality ever seen. She had been tube-fed since the age of nine months and I had devoted my life to simultaneously tube-feeding her and trying to get her off of that tube. That tube was life-giving but it also threatened to steal my joy every single day. As the years wore on, it became painfully evident that she did not need the tube anymore and was tube-dependant. There are many children and adults who will need this giver of life forever and for them, the tube is merely a part of themselves. For Tiny B, it was causing migraines and other side-effects. I had gotten her to fifty percent oral over a few months and due to several factors, she regressed to zero food by mouth. This was approximately when I saw the Raddish Curriculum for the first time, and now you can see why it caused such a visceral reaction.

Little did I know that only a month later, after nearly going out of my mind with sadness/worry/anger,  I would enroll her in a  tube-weaning program that would change all of our lives forever. The following year brought weight loss and fear for her but it also brought a new-found love for food. It was not an easy year by any means and she spent the year essentially learning to eat. She conquered that but still struggles with listening to hunger cues. Due to her severe growth restriction in the womb, her body is just used to not having food.

We are struggling with getting her to grow and I walk the fence daily of encouraging her to eat but not causing her future issues with food. It continues to be an area of anxiety and fear within myself. This summer at the Great Homeschool Convention I saw the Raddish booth and knew that it was time for me to try the curriculum, and so I asked if they would allow me to try it and review it.

Tiny B is six years-old and Strong B is four years-old. Strong B loves learning as well and is extremely curious and kind. 

When they saw the box arrive they were delighted and keeping them from opening it before I was ready was quite a feat. You can see in this first picture that Strong B really couldn't contain himself and ripped it a bit before I gave him permission to open it. (Seriously, they were obsessed with this box for about a week before we dove into it).

I love the enthusiasm that both of them have for learning. I am homeschooling Tiny B through a public charter school. She is in kindergarten and attends her school two days a week and I homeschool three days a week. I formerly taught public elementary school for ten years and homeschooling was something that I just could not understand but has now become a calling for me. Finding curriculum that truly speaks to me and the children is absolutely crucial. When I was teaching a classroom of students, I came across curriculum that I loved and curriculum that I didn't love so much at all. The beauty of teaching my own children is that I get to choose the tools with which I'm going to teach them.

Upon opening the box, we saw the aprons with the Raddish logo and the kids wanted to wear it right away. They took out the various compontents in the box. The absolute first thing that stuck out to me was just how adorable and well made all of the cards were. There were illustrated recipe cards and a shopping list and a tool to use in the kitchen and so much more! It was like Christmas. The graphics and shiny, well-made paper was extremely inviting to all of us.

Strong B was very interested in the patch with a cupcake on it and I told him that we were going to put the patch on his apron after we completed our recipes.

There were three main recipes which consisted of roasted chicken with root vegetables, sweet potato smash, and beet red velvet cupcakes. You can see the materials needed and steps of the recipes, It also had adorable illustrations which means that children using this program do not have to be readers yet. This opens it up to a much younger age group.

I sat with the kids and went over our shopping list and we discussed when we wanted to make our creations and whom we wanted to cook for. All of the things involved in cooking quality recipes--the planning, the excitement, the actual food preparation, the enticing aromas during the cooking, and finally, the mouth-watering end products--all encourage a love of eating that Tiny B so desperately needs. Strong B loves to eat so this is not something that I need to actively encourage in him, but I do need to encourage the importance of prepping our own food which will always be healthier than processed options. He also needs to see that healthy food that isn't weighed down by preservatives and laden with sugar can be pure yummy-ness! 

We invited my parents and my granddad over to cook for them. Tiny B and Strong B were so excited during the week prior to our grand gathering.

(Please excuse my not-so-pretty kitchen. I live in a rental home that is definitely the opposite of beautiful! I literally have a tile piece held on my scotch tape. It's lovely.)

I used to be afraid that Tiny B would freak out if she knew that we ate adorable chickens and cows, but she truly doesn't care and finds it very interesting. Buying a whole raw chicken was a first for me and I must admit that I was freaked out to cook it because I'd never been daring enough before! I didn't teach myself how to cook until I was pregnant with Strong B four years ago. I've been married for almost twenty years now, so you can see that I am definitely still learning. It was something that I had always feared and now I truly love it. Anyway, sticking my hand up the chicken's cavity was quite an experience and I'm happy to say that I survived.

We "read" the directions together and assembled the chicken.


Our guests came over as the chicken was cooking. The smell of the chicken was quite possibly the best thing that I have smelled, ever. Knowing that we actually were cooking something capable of that smell was so much fun!

I handed my mom the sweet potato recipe and they got to work with the next step of our meal. Including my mom was a purposeful move on my part. They ADORE her and I wanted the kids to see that cooking can be a communal activity. 

Tiny B loved mashing up those sweet potatoes and it was absolutely perfect for her fine and gross motor skills. Pulling parts out of a chicken, slicing onions, sprinkling herbs, and mashing potatoes are all excellent ways to exercise the hands and coordinate the fingers, which in turn help her in her writing skills! Her occupational therapists have always encouraged me to do real life activities to strengthen her hands and fingers, and it doesn't get more real life than cooking.

Next we started the cupcakes and Tiny B was so very excited for this that she put out an exorbitant amount of cupcake liners. It was too adorable for me to stop her. (And once again, her fine motor skills are at play. For the rest of my life, I believe I'll be watching for fine motor experiences for her, even when she's thirty and spoon-feeding her own child!)

These cupcakes were super special because one of the main ingrediants was beets. That's what produced the lovely red color, instead of food coloring. I made sure to share with them how healthy this was. 

Would you believe it if I told you that I actually forgot to take a picture of them using the tool that came with the kit this month? It was a thin spatula-type tool that was used to take the cupcakes out of the pan. Every month a tool is included in the kit.

We sat down to eat and we were so proud of the food that we had lovinly created. Our kitchen isn't the prettiest and I don't know how to make perfect place settings (yet) but I can guarantee that this table was filled with love and amazing food. 

My dear grandad was tickled pink that they wanted him here. He doesn't look it, but I promise that he was. And the food....was AMAZING. I saved every recipe to do again and again. Just looking at pictures of the chicken makes my mouth water. 

As we ate our cupcakes in the family room (luckily we can do this because our carpet is just about as fancy as our kitchen tile) we did Table Talk which is a key ring with questions attached, meant to spark conversation at the dinner table (or the family room table). We learned that my grandad has a hard time picking out his favorite dessert because he's not much of a dessert person as well as some other fun facts about each other! A conversation involving a four year-old and a ninety year-old plus lots of ages in between is not only fun but a huge learning experience in the give and take of conversation.

I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed our experience and so did the kiddos. Not only did all kinds of learning take place, but I felt that I made definite steps towards helping Tiny B towards a love of food. This is the kind of curriculum that children will remember forever. They will remember waiting for their box to arrive, opening it to see what it is they will make this month and what tools they will use, and what patch they will earn to put on their apron.

I can't wait to do it again.

I was given a free kit in exchange for a review but I promise that my opinions are one hundred percent honest. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thank You Santa's Workshop and MGT

Thank you Santa's Workshop for giving us such sweet memories for two years in a row! Mother Goose Time is the giver of beautiful memories, I've decided. This Christmas kit was the same as last year but it felt new to the kiddos. At four and six, each year is new! 

It was a coooooold and drizzly night. (I say this only to improve the ambiance of this post. We live in San Diego County, so how cold could it really have been?!)  We lit up the Christmas tree and and began with "Twas the Night Before Christmas" participation story.


I read to Tiny B and my hubby as Strong B moved the story pieces as they happened in the story. 

Such sweetness. 


When the story was finished, we did a game using a spinner where they acted like reindeers. It was so much fun! Here they are reindeers freezing in place. 

My husband acted like a reindeer who accidentally pulled his groin again while being a jumping reindeer. Oops.


Then the long awaited Santa's Beard Game. We picked up number cards and filled up Santa's beard as we covered the chosen number with a cotton ball. Both are working on their number recognition skills, so this is perfect. They had to add three cotton balls if they chose the robber. Every time Tiny B went, Strong B said with such anticipation, "I hope you don't choose the robber!" I love preschoolers!


I love the monthly celebration kit that comes within each box. A huge dose of fun and learning and it just doesn't get much better than that. 

*I  receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.


A Quick Example of Process-Based Art with Sensory Play

I wanted to do a follow-up post about another process-based art project! My aim is to make this quick and just describe exactly what happened so you can get greater insight into what a Mother Goose Time (MGT) process-based art lesson looks like!

Is it possible for me to create a short and to-the-point blog post? I'm not entirely sure but I am certainly going to try.

This "Invitation to Create" project was a toothbrush painting. Tiny B and Strong B already had some background knowledge on teeth and toothbrushes (as most kids do) because Strong B has had two cavities and Tiny B has gotten three teeth pulled so far.

The project called for me to lay out shaving cream, toothbrushes that were included, a paper cutout of a tooth, and confetti which was included.

They were both timid about touching the shaving cream with their hands. I teased both of them for this as Tiny B used to have sensory issues with food (obviously. Feeding Tube. Need I say more?) Strong B grabs spiders and bugs every day. But in all seriousness, this sensory play was extremely beneficial to them. Opportunities to touch safe things and bring them out of their comfort zones contribute to building courage and adventure. We all need that.

Strong B used his pincer grasps and put confetti on the tooth. This was excellent practice for fine motor planning.

Oh, look! Their hands are in the shaving cream! They are willingly touching it! And having fun!

We discussed brushing our teeth and the dentist and cavities. Just working with shaving cream and being in control of their own creation allows them to think more about the subject matter rather than copying an art project perfectly, which can be extremely stressful for some children. They asked me tooth-related questions and we discussed all things teeth. 


Now they're really getting into it. 

The project was getting so enjoyable that I forgot to take more pictures.When mama forgets to take pics, you know that things were really exciting. I got one pretty bad pic of their hands covered in shaving cream, but that was it. It really was that enjoyable. As for what their end project looked was just the tooth with wet shaving cream on it that melted away and a few pieces of confetti. To a person who has no idea about this kind of art experience, it would look like a project that was lacking. To the kids and myself, it represented a whole-lotta different types of learning and skills as well as just plain fun. 

I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Processed Based Art: Hedgehogs

The "Winter in the Woods" theme this month for Mother Goose Time (MGT) has been so much fun. I love the theme, I love the art, I love the manipulatives for the month. I love all of it.

So does Jack the Standard Poodle, incidentally. He took a real interest in the Hedgehogs process- based art lesson, being that his favorite toy is his very own hedgehog.

I wanted to show you the little bit of a different turn MGT has taken with art this year. Fifty percent of their art projects (I believe that's the correct number) are now process-based instead of product-based. Essentially this means that the focus is put on the actual making of the art project and not on what the end product looks like. It can be confusing for parents to see some of these projects as they typically might not turn out as "beautiful" as a product-based project would. Parents might not even be able to tell what the art project is without their child describing it to them. As a homeschooling parent who actually does these projects with my children, I can assure you that they are taking part in a beautiful learning opportunity.

This is the Teacher Guide for the month. Isn't that picture adorable? I remember last year's winter picture being adorable as well.

The Teacher Guide contains the lesson plan for the "Invitation to Create" which is what the process-based art projects are called. However, a "recipe" card is also included with each project. I love that I can leave it on the table for easy referencing.

I gave my kiddos the materials and we discussed hedgehogs. We referred to our prior knowledge we had regarding these animals as well as the new information we had learned.

And they created.

Both chose to start with using a paint brush and paint.

Tiny B progressed to using a Sharpie.

The project took them roughly ten minutes to complete once they started creating. There was discussion about hedgehogs, why she wanted to use a Sharpie, why he wanted to make a smiley face, and if they needed more paint.

The end product would certainly not be inspirational to someone who had not seen the discussion that took place before, during, or after the making of the project. Tiny B's looked like a blob of black paint. But I can assure you that she went through a big thought process to create what she did and she learned that layering marker and paint is not going to leave her with a product that looks exactly like she had pictured in her head! If I had given her the "correct" steps (really, what are the correct steps and does that even exist in art?!) she wouldn't have learned all that she did with this project.

Where someone might see a black blob, I see quills of different colors and a cute nose that is now covered and a former micropreemie who is truly learning how to perfect her fine motor skills that were once so troubling to her and us.

I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others. 


Denise Austin Program Week 8: Blog Post 6!

I can't even begin to describe how busy we've been this holiday season. It's really too busy for my taste. Not enough time to really focus on the things that I want to focus on, such as togetherness with my children, joy in the small things, and just time spent relaxing. I can whole-heartedly say though that I have been focusing on my physical health. I'm now in Week 8 of my second round of the Denise Austin Program. This is really Week 18 for me since each round consists of 10 weeks.

That means that it's Week 18 of clean and healthy eating and working out. That is a big deal. I've come out of a very difficult spring and summer that threatened to stampede me, and I've not only gotten myself back on track with my health, but I feel that I'm physically healthier than I've been in years and years. Perhaps in my adulthood? I'm 40 years-old, so that's a pretty big deal. My sweet daughter isn't eating enough (she was weaned from her feeding tube at 5 years-old last year) and that has caused me significant worry but I'm plowing on, knowing that this will not last forever. We will find a way for her to physically grow and be healthy and in order to do that, I've got to be at my physical and mental best. It has been seven years (since she was in my belly) of a combination of worry and faith and I've had periods of health and periods of not-so-much-health, but one thing remains constant, and that is the fact that if I am healthy all-around, I am so much better able to serve her and my entire family!

My stats so far: I lost 65 pounds but then I gained 19 back this spring beginning in May. I got myself together and joined Denise's program (you can read my backstory here) and in the last 17 weeks, I've lost around 15 pounds. I say "around" because about 3 days ago it was more than that, but then Christmas happened! I am not worried about this though because that will come right off in a few days. That brings my total weight loss to about 65 pounds.

More importantly though, I am a fitness queen! I have challenged myself to do every single workout this round, and I've only missed 3 workouts and that happened in the last few days when I had a kidney stone (OUCH). I have once again grown to love working out.


Her workouts this round included yoga. I'm not much of a yoga girl but I welcomed practicing something which is new to me.

On this particular day, I had missed the workout from the prior day, so I combined the day's workout plus half of the yoga workout from the day prior. That racked up some nice calorie burn for me.

At the end of every workout, Denise tells me how wonderful I am and she has this infectious smile that makes me smile. She often tells me to smile during workouts and I truly believe this has an emotional effect!

Her recent "Denisiology" was on putting myself first. And that's exactly what I've strived to do these past 18 weeks. (Not in a selfish-not caring about anyone else, but in a- I'm going to put my oxygen mask on first so that I can take care of everyone around me too-way).

I can't believe that I'm almost done with Round 2 of the program. I am amazed at the change in me.

Denise just announced that she's got a "new membership in the works starting in 2017." She says that it's more than about looks, but how to love yourself at any age. She says that many things in our lives affect our health, and boy I can attest to that. Raising a daughter with special needs has brought me such highs and lows and it has taken a toll on my physical health. But I've chosen to take the challenge and allow it to propel me forward in my fitness. I can't wait to see what this new membership is all about. Sign me up!

I have been compensated by writing about Denise's program, but I promise that I am 100 percent honest regarding my opinions. I love it.

You can look back on my previous Denise Austin posts here:
Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 4
Post 5

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mother Goose Time Coloring Sheets?!

You ever keep putting something off, and when you finally do it, you regret waiting so long? Well, that's exactly how I feel about the Mother Goose Time (MGT) coloring sheets! Every now and then MGT reminds us that there are coloring sheets to print off for every monthly theme. This month I finally did it! I knew we were going to be so busy with Christmas activities that we would need something to do for relaxing down time. It's really turned into so much more than that! Strong B has been coloring his MGT "book" that I made for him during Tiny B's kindergarten lessons. 


(Yep, that's my laundry. I'm too tired to crop the picture). 

He's been sitting at his lap desk on the floor and coloring. 


Tiny B has not been a fan of coloring in the past. Perhaps it's because it hasn't been easy for her? She's recently been enjoying coloring more than usual and she even wanted me to put together a book for her. She didn't want every page like Strong B did, but I loved that she felt ownership of the ones that she chose. 


She is in love with hedgehogs right now. She read a hedgehog book by Jan Brett and there was a MGT hedgehog lesson this month...I love it when her kindergarten and MGT intertwine!

There's a picture for every day's lesson. This is my favorite and I might even print one for myself. 


You just go to MGT's website and go to member resources and click on "coloring sheets." You do need the password that you get with your monthly box. 



Who would have thought that coloring sheets would bring me such joy? Finding joy in the simple things is the best.