Homemade Gummy Bears/Healthy Fruit Jello Squares

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My Pinterest friends and I decided it would be fun to try and make Gummi Bears. They ended up being more like Jello square or Knox Blox (if you remember those) or Fruit Animals, depending on the mold you use. We used strawberries for one batch and orange juice for another. You can mix and match and go crazy with any blended fruits.

Here is the fresh fruit we pureed using the immersion blender with some lemon juice, water honey. It was brought to a low boil. We whisked it constantly while adding the gelatin. We used about 3 TBS of gelatin per 1 1/2 cups of fruit or fruit juice. You could experiment to see how much you do or don’t need.

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Gelatin and honey.

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Here are the molds we used. They are cheap at Ikea.

It was pretty hard to get the fruit out of the molds. You put them in the freezer for 20 minutes, according to the recipe. You almost had to bring them back down to room temperature in order to get them out.

After this batch I made another batch with orange juice and lemon and then just put the mixture into a glass loaf pan and put it in the fridge and it set up in a few hours. Then I just cubed the jello. Ready to serve and easy to get out of the pan. It would be a good food for babies and toddlers too.

http://www.diynatural.com/healthy-snack-ideas-homemade-gummy-bears

So the website above makes it look easy and perfect. Not so much. But I do like what I learned and I will be making more fruit squares in the future, without all of the sugar of the Jello.

 

 

Choices: A Story of Marriage and Divorce

 

As a person who is involved in the family law area of mental health, I see people every day who are faced with very difficult choices. A few months, I had a couple call to make and appointment to see me. They wanted to come in so they could get help preparing their preteen child for their divorce.

The couple’s marriage had been unstable for years and the father wanted to end the marriage. They only have one child and he felt as if the child were being put in the middle of their conflict too much of the time.

As the couple began to talk about their marriage and their history, it became evident to me that the marriage could potentially be saved. I, as a therapist, had a choice to make. Do I reflect back my observation that the marriage could potentially be saved or do I adhere to the goals with which they had presented?

I chose to have the “what if” conversation. What if you tried to work on the marriage? What if you worked on the things that have brought you to where you are today? What if another reality could be imagined?

The father was surprised. He said to me, “This is not what I came here to discuss.”

“I realize that. I understand why this could be confusing. It was not my plan to talk with you about working on your marriage either. However, I see a lot of couples and with the two of you I see potential.”

We have since had several sessions of marital therapy and last night we had a session with the child. We discussed how family life could be improved and what family life meant for the three of them. I explored with the child his emotions around his family life. We worked together to repair.

At the same time, I made it clear to the child that no one can predict the future and, yes, the thought of divorce is scary. At the same time that I was providing hope to this young child, I was also careful not to make any promises that I, or his parents, couldn’t keep.

I chose to help this family try to get back on its feet and the family chose to follow that path as well.

I hope they continue to make the right choices for themselves as individuals as well for their family. The end result may be divorce or it may be a healthier and better relationship and family life. Either way it will be continue to be my job to help them through this process and to offer alternative choices and realities along the way.

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In May and June of 2014 the Chain Reaction Theatre Project will be performing a production called “Choices” in Bloomington and Minneapolis. For more information go to http://chainreactiontp.com/performances/

My Book: Skin-to-Skin Contact After Cesarean

I am currently writing a book about skin-to-skin contact after Cesarean.

AND A DRAFT HAS BEEN SENT OFF TO THE PUBLISHER!

Yeah!!!

I also took some amazing pictures of a mother breastfeeding her 2 week old baby…I just love them. I hope they make it in the book.

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Follow me on Facebook for more current information on the book and other skin-to-skin events.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Single-Mom-On-the-Run/240591162705061

Young Children and Music Lessons: Kindling the Spark and Keeping it Alive

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Last week my four and a half year old child listened to two different pieces of music that were on the radio. One was a piano only instrumental and the other had a violin accompaniment. She heard the one with the violin first and then the one with only the piano second. After the second one started she promptly said to me, “Those are different songs. This one doesn’t have a violin.”

I was shocked! It took me years to develop the ability to pick out different instruments while listening to a piece of music. Either she has some skill that I don’t…OR, it’s because she is four and still has a skill that was “unlearned” with time.

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What I mean to say is that most children probably have the ability to learn to discern various instruments in a piece of music, or learn the basics of being able to carry a tune or follow a beat, if exposed to music early on and on a regular basis.

This actually takes me back to an incident that just happened a few weeks ago. My daughter’s piano teacher had sent out an invitation to a free and open to the public classical music recital that she was going to be performing in at a local church for Christmas. I decided to take my 4 ½ year old because I thought it would be a good experience for her. We sat very far back in the pews in the balcony and she behaved well. At times I carried her around and whispered in her ear. “Do you see the violins?” “Do you hear them?” “Do you see the conductor telling the musicians what to do?”

At other times she sat on the floor and colored with the materials in the quiet bag provided for church services. Although she was coloring she was still listening as she would occasionally move and sway to the music.

This is all music education.

Some people may ask why one would take a preschooler to a concert as they “wouldn’t get anything from it anyway” but I disagree. I’ve wrestled with whether it is worthwhile and now I believe it is.

When she was younger we did the “Music Together” program which was wonderful. There is lots of singing and musical activities that involve rhythm and tonal competence for both mommy and baby/preschooler.

As for “formal lessons” she started taking piano lessons about six months ago. As soon as she started to show a real interest in banging the keys and pretending to play, I decided it was time. I called my own violin teacher and told her that the lessons were to begin. I made it clear that these lessons could be about whatever grabbed her attention and kept her engaged. There should be no pressure for her to be able to perform or master any skill. She does not have to practice anything in particular and nor do I ask her to. My goal was for her to stay with the teacher for the half hour once a month without leaving. I talked to her a lot about her piano teacher and her “music time with Stephanie.” At the beginning I avoided the use of the word “lessons.” I wanted it to be fun and engaging. We have recently gone to twice a month and for now that seems just right. And now she loves her lessons. “When will my piano teacher come again, mommy? Soon?” Now that music time has caught her interest and she is engaged and excited about it, I use the term “piano lesson.” My initial goal for her with the lessons was to just get used to the idea that someone would be coming to spend time with her for a set amount of time and that during that time her job was to be with that person. I wanted her to get a feel for what lessons felt like and for that to be something that she not only was committed to carrying out but something that she enjoyed.

It has only been about six months and she has changed immensely since she started. In the beginning it was a huge challenge to get her to stay with the activities for the full half hour, even though the activities included stuffed animals and animal sounds! Now she will sit for full minutes at a time doing the child-focused activities that are in her first lesson book and even hitting a few keys at the right time. She LOVES it. When her friends come over she wants to bring out her book and bang around on the piano; she wants to pull out the CD and sing to the songs and do her music activities.

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I do not interfere with her process of developing a love for music and for creating music in whatever form that may come. My goal right now is to keep the spark alive and that is all. As she ages this will certainly change, but right now, her four year old musical self is coming alive and I love it! I hope it will never die.

Why Hopscotch Matters

I love this blogpost on hopscotch. My daughter and I have been doing a lot of hopscotch lately because she really struggles with standing on one leg for any length of time.

This is from  http://movingsmartblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/why-hopscotch-matters.html

Hopscotch was one of my favorite games as a child and it still is today. In fact, Hopscotch proves one of my pet theories that (in most cases) what’s fun for kids is good for kids. 
 
 

Here’s my Child-At-Play/Play-At-Work analysis of this timeless, universal classic or 11 Great Reasons to Rush Out and Buy Some Chalk Today!

 
1. HOPPING = MIDLINE DEVELOPMENT
CHILD’S PLAY. For kids, it feels good to move, and when it feels good, they want to do it over and over again… just as the rules of Hopscotch require.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Believe it or not, hopping on one foot is one of the most complex movements the human body can perform. The technical term for it is homolateral movement, defined as one side of the body moving while the other side of the body is still. For children, hopping signals sophisticated advances in both physical coordination, balance, AND cognitive development. You see, as your child refines her physical coordination, she is also building essential neural pathways in the brain. It’s those exact same pathways which will one day become the conduits for left/right brain thinking tasks such as creativity, reasoning, and self-regulation.
2. DON’T STEP ON THE LINE = BODY CONTROL
CHILD’S PLAY. Whoaaaa! Don’t hop on the line! As much as we think kids don’t like rules, rules provide the challenge that make games like Hopscotch so much fun!
 
PLAY’S WORK. As much fun as hopping is, it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it unless something gets in your way. And that’s where the mechanics of Hopscotch are so brilliant, forcing kids to hop, jump and stop with deliberate control. As such, Hopscotch is a master at helping children master self control.
 
3. STOP & START = BODY RHYTHM
CHILD’S PLAY. The thing about hop-hop-hopping is that in order to get good at it, you’ve got to get into a regular rhythm. Hopscotch gives kids lots of hopping practice, of course, which helps them find their rhythm. But more, the rules of the game require you to stop hopping, do something else, then start again. And that’s the best practice of all for developing rhythm.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Think of Body Rhythm as an internal metronome… the constant “beat” of how we move our bodies, which in turn, helps to develop a whole host of other skills and capabilities that extend beyond movement. For instance, Body Rhythm underscores language acquisition by helping children tune into speech patterns which in turn, aids memory. For instance, what comes to mind when I say, “e-i-e-i-o.”
 
4. LEAPING = MUSCLE STRENGTH
CHILD’S PLAY. Once children have tackled hopping, leaping comes next, which is also a big part of Hopscotch. As the game progresses, it’s often necessary for children to leap over two or more spaces at one time. Two-footed, that’s hard. But Hopscotch requires a one-footed leap, and that takes a lot of strength.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Strength builds physical stamina, of course, but it more, when young children push themselves to new, physical achievements, the brain is recording these sensations and preparing itself to take on even bigger challenges in other areas of life and learning. For instance, when confronted with a gnarly math problem, children who understand the effort it takes to leap stand a better chance of sticking with the problem.
 
5. ONE-FOOTEDNESS = BALANCE
CHILD’S PLAY. A typical turn in Hopscotch looks something like this:  Throw… stand… hop… stop… bend… pick up… straighten up… leap… jump… hop… hop.. land… turn… and repeat. Now do most of that on one foot and that’s a real test of balance!
 
PLAY’S WORK. Balance is an essential building block to all physical movement, and cognitive, emotional, and social growth as well. Hopscotch is ingeniously designed to challenge children’s sense of balance and orientation.
 
6. SPACES = SPATIAL AWARENESS
CHILD’S PLAY. The iconic spaces of a Hopscotch board determine the playscape, define the rules, and present the challenge.
 
PLAY’S WORK. So often today, we encourage children to “think outside the box” or “color outside the lines.” These metaphors for creative thinking and problem solving are great, and I’m all for them. But there are times when boxes and boundaries are necessary to help children develop fundamental skills. And Hopscotch is one of those times. You see, by fitting themselves into the boxes on the game board they are developing  spatial awareness which helps them understand how they “fit” in the world and even more, how the world “fits” together… just like the spaces on a Hopscotch board.
 
7. PITCHING PEBBLES = EYE/HAND COORDINATION
CHILD’S PLAY. The game begins by pitching your pebble onto the game board. Until you get the pitch right, you can’t play, making Hopscotch a natural motivator for eye/hand coordination.
 
PLAY’S WORK. This humble beginning is actually a test of a child’s ability to see a target with her eyes and translate that knowledge to her arm and hand to determine the right aim and amount of force necessary to reach the target. That’s eye/hand coordination at work, and while we don’t see it, there’s a ton of body-brain computing going on. And of course, with each turn, the target changes, getting further and further away, challenging her ability to make tiny – but important – adjustments for accuracy.
 
8. PICKING UP YOUR PEBBLE = FINE MOTOR CONTROL
CHILD’S PLAY. Achievement is part of every turn, signified by retrieving your playing piece from the game board. But Hopscotch doesn’t make it easy for little ones, which is all part of the fun!
 
PLAY’S WORK. Stopping mid-way through the game board on one foot is hard enough. Now the rules requires the player to bend over and pick up their pebble. Yikes! That takes a lot of body control and concentration. But Hopscotch adds one more wrinkle — the delicate control of the finger muscles to reach and retrieve the pebble.
 
9. STRATEGY = SEQUENCING & PRIORITIZING
CHILD’S PLAY. Because the game board changes on each turn, children have to work out how they are going to approach it each time… hop-hop-leap-jump-hop-stop, etc. What fun!
 
PLAY’S WORK. Planning and strategizing are life-long skills learned through play. But unlike sedentary board games, an up and at ‘em game of Hopscotch allows children to physically realize their plan while developing on-your-toes adaptabilty.
 
10. TAKING TURNS = SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
CHILD’S PLAY. Hopscotch is a great “social campfire” for children. The simple, repetitive rules make it easy for children to learn and play and stay engaged in the game when it’s not their turn.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Friendships begin on the playground because kid-sized social experiences like Hopscotch create the framework for learning about peer relationships.
 
11. WINNING/LOSING = CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
CHILD’S PLAY. When light-hearted competition is introduced into play time, kids naturally push themselves to be better. No one needs to stand on the sidelines encouraging them. The natural, human drive to succeed is all the incentive they need to try harder.
 
PLAY’S WORK. When children develop good sportsmanship, they are developing the skills and attitudes they’ll need for a well-balanced approach to life. Because in the end, winning feels great but losing build character.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/awareness/#.UjDJHD-0ySo

I was contacted by a mother who wants to bring awareness to Mesothelioma. She writes the following:

“Hi there!

The reason I have reached out to you is because of your blog! My name is Heather and I am a wife, mother, and a mesothelioma survivor. When my daughter was 3 ½ months old, I was diagnosed with this rare and deadly cancer, and given 15 months to live. Despite my grim prognosis, I knew that I needed to beat the odds for my newborn daughter, Lily. It’s been 7 years now and I feel that it’s my duty to pay it forward by inspiring others.

In honor of upcoming Mesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26), I want to use my personal story to help raise awareness of this little known cancer, and to provide a sense of hope for others facing life’s difficult challenges. I would love it you would help me spread awareness by sharing the campaign page on your blog so hopefully your readers will participate! My goal is 7,200 social media shares – your support will help get me there!

Here is the link: www.mesothelioma(dot)com/heather/awareness/

Heather”

Learning to Love Again. Every Day.

momma in me

When they are babies it is easy.

You rock them; you cradle them. You hold them; you kiss them. You do it out of pure love.

You do what a mama is designed to do.

You feed them and burp them and keep them alive and breathing. You check on them and worry over them and fuss over them.

Is she eating enough? Is she sleeping enough? Why isn’t she sleeping? Why is she sleeping so much?

Is she happy? Is she suffering?

We wonder and worry and love, love, love.

But they don’t give much in those early days.  Just their gentle sighs and their smiles in their sleep.

They don’t say, “I love you.” They don’t reach out to hold you and hug you.

But you keep giving.

You do it because you love them. You do it out of love.

They don’t talk and give back in the way that one normally gets back love, but you love them nonetheless.

But as they get older this changes.

Your little baby is no longer a baby, she’s a toddler.

And then that little toddler is gone and in its place is a little fresh preschooler.

And with each change you learn to love again. You learn to love in a different way.

Just last week my little girl was wrapping her arms around my neck as hard as she could. She’d whisper in my ear, “I love you soooooooo much….” And I’d say it back. “I love you soooooo much…” and then I’d wrap myself up into the warmth beside her and drink up that love.

But she doesn’t do this today. She no longer wraps her arms around my neck and says “I love you sooooo much” like she did just yesterday.

In one week that has changed.

Today, I whisper to her, “Who loves you more than anybody in the whole wide world?”

“Mama,” she says, without missing a beat.

“And who do you love more than anything in the whole wide world?” I ask. “Dada,” she says.

My heart skips a beat. What do I say?

And just for a moment, out of my own need, I test the waters.

“You don’t love mommy?”

Of course she does. She loves us both, she says.

Her idea and expressions of love are changing and with that I must change to.

She’s speaking now, thinking, loving with her mind, not just her heart.

Love is no longer an unadulterated instinct that wells up from within her and springs forward out into my arms. It’s a thought and a decision and a test.

She’s maturing.

The irony is that where she needed me more in the past, I am growing to love her more with every day that passes.

And with every day that my love grows deeper and stronger, she is moving a little bit away from that precious, sweet love made strong by the mommy umbilical cord.

So I need to learn to love all over again. I need to learn to love the way that she needs it and want to.

With each passing day, I need to learn to love again.

Learn to love again.

Every day.

Visiting the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Discovering “The Learning Center”

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I’ve been to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum many times since I moved to Minnesota but today was the first time I’ve been to The Learning Center. The play areas reminded me a little bit of the outdoor play areas of Wood Lake Nature Center and the Tamarack Nature Center. As far as young children go, this was probably the best of the three!

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I was amazed and surprised at all I’ve been missing out on! They have beautiful outdoor spaces for toddlers and preschoolers and a garden where summer camp kids grow vegetables.

Inside they were having a special event and activities related to bees. We spent half the day at The Learning Center alone!

Inside the greenhouse. The little butterfly hat was an art project they had set up for the kids to enjoy.

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Flowers in the greenhouse.

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The children are spraying the plants in the greenhouse with water bottles provided by the arboretum for visitors to use.

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In honor of “Bee Day” they had a bee costume for kids to try on.

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Some sort of bird house in one of the four outdoor areas surrounding the Center.

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The first free outdoor lending library and outdoor reading area I’ve ever seen. There was a canopy of crabapple trees and birdfeeders all around. More nature play objects as well.

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Enjoying one of the books on birds and the sheltered reading area.

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Each outdoor space as items for the children to use and to enjoy. Most of the items for creative play were items found in nature.

I think the children enjoyed this table the most. They painted slices of tree trunks with paintbrushes and water.

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An interesting crawl space/fort made of iron stakes and some sort of mesh-like burlap.

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This area had a water spout and PVC tubes to build waterways.

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“The Capital View Cafe”: A Hidden Brunch Gem in St. Paul, MN

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I love “The Capital View Cafe,” a local diner/restaurant located on the outskirts of downtown St. Paul, MN. And more importantly I loved the mommy/daughter brunch we had there today. It’s warm and cozy; the staff are nice; and everyone appreciated my daughter’s unique sense of style and self expression. Plus, the kid’s meal consisted of a HUGE plate of eggs, bacon, pancake, and a drink for the low price of $5.00. Can’t beat it. We’ll be back. We LOVE pancakes.

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