February 20, 2015

Nurture Shock

I just came across this summary I wrote of a book I read several years ago, called "Nurture Shock." The authors took some of the most common child-rearing beliefs and practices and evaluated them using research, and came to some counter-intuitive conclusions. I thought the book was so interesting, and when I read back at what I wrote, it was just as surprising as when I first read it. I love reading things like this because I love the art of research and child psychology (I work at a child psychology practice). Anyway, if you are interested, I summarized the nine main points in the book (one for each chapter). Because Blogger stinks, they all have a 1 in from of them.

  1. “Esteem-building praise” often backfires. Constantly telling kids they’re smart can actually undermine their confidence and lead to under-performing. Kids who are praised for their smarts or innate abilities view their failures as a result of being “not-smart” and thus avoid difficult tasks. When kids are praised for their effort, they view failure as a result of not focusing hard enough and try harder next time. “When they get to college, heavily praised students commonly dropped out of classes rather than risk a mediocre grade and they have a hard time picking a major ; they’re afraid to commit to something because they’re afraid of not succeeding.” One really cool study discussed compared Chinese vs. American mothers’ responses when told (falsely) that their child under-performed on a task. American mothers avoided making negative comments and stayed positive, mentioning the test briefly and then focusing on something else. Chinese children were more likely to hear “You didn’t concentrate” or “Let’s look it over.” The Chinese childrens’ scores jumped 33% on the next task, 2x that of the American children. The Chinese mothers smiled and hugged their kids as much as the American mothers did.

  1. Lack of sleep in kids and teens is more likely related to rising obesity rates and learning difficulties in kids and teens than is TV, lack of activity, or internet/video gaming. 90% of parents think their kids get enough sleep when 5% of teens actually do. The authors label it “the lost hour.” The fragility of children’s developing brain is way more sensitive to sleep deprivation than an adult’s, and a lack of 1 hour of sleep a night for a week can result in the equivalent of losing 2 years of intelligence in performing (a sixth grader performing like a fourth grader in school). It is highly related to many of the traits that plague teens: depression, moodiness, impulsiveness, and disengagement. Part of this is that schools start too early. Ten hours of sleep is ideal for children and teens, with a minimum of 8 hours for teens.

  1. Racism isn’t necessarily “taught.” We actually promote racism by not talking about it. Kids naturally categorize and develop racial constructs at an early age. They are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism. When parents fail to talk about race because they don’t want to say the wrong thing, or they want their children to “see everyone as equal”, it backfires because it is not possible to create a color-blind environment in kids’ minds… they end up developing their own “my group is better” attitude. Really fascinating is the research that shows how the strategy of exposing your children to diverse environments doesn’t result in more integrated friendships or attitudes. The more diverse the school, the more kids tend to self-segregate and their likelihood of cross cultural friendships actually go down. What impacts kids views on race is whether their parents talk about it at an early age. Children’s minds are forming their first racial conclusions early, so talking about it when their attitudes are most amenable to change has the most impact. First graders were found to be impacted by cross-racial playgroups and discussion but third graders were not, implying that the early age is the most influential when it comes to racial constructs.

  1. The truth bias- Kids lie way more often than parents think, and they are better liars than they think. Parents often fail to address early lying (ages 3-4), and the strategy of focusing on how bad lying is doesn’t have much of an impact on future lying. Alternately, emphasizing the worth of telling the truth has the biggest impact on decreasing children’s lying. In one study, lying on a task significantly decreased when read “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” over “The Boy who Cried Wolf” because the character received praise and worth for telling the truth, rather than punishment for lying (they used a control of replacing George Washington’s name with a neutral one so it wouldn’t impact the final outcome).

  1. Sibling relationships- the single most impact on improving siblings relationship was teaching kids conflict prevention rather than conflict resolution. Teaching them how to enjoy playing with each other (how to find common activities, how to read when what other siblings is feeling and when he or she doesn’t want to play, etc) had the biggest impact on early and future siblings relationships. Despite books and TV programs that portray sibling squabbles with “happy endings”, kids were more likely to start conflict with their siblings after such media. Why? Simply by hearing the types of verbal insults used in the books and TV programs.

  1. TV and aggression: Any type of child-programming TV is related to an increase in aggression and bullying; the type of programming, whether it violent or PBS, is irrelevant. Power Rangers is actually less likely to impact verbal aggression/bullying than are non-violent child-targeted shows like Arthur. Why? Children aren’t like adults- they don’t simply get the “take home message” of a show. Instead they absorb all that occurs, and they are more likely to learn and use verbal insults and bullying tactics displayed in non-violent programs (“you’re not my friend anymore”). Ninety-six percent of children’s programming contains verbal insults. “When we changed the channel from violent TV to non-violent fare, kids ended up learning the advanced skills of clique formation, friendship withdrawal, and the art of insult.

  1. Parents who pause mid-argument to “take the conflict upstairs” can actually make the situation worse. Pro-social behavior in kids increases when exposed to parental constructive conflict when they can witness the final resolution.

  1. Children who watched Baby language DVDS (Baby Signing, Baby can read, etc) on a semi regular basis had significantly poorer vocabularies in future years than babies who did not. The single most way to encourage language development is not even talking continuously to your baby. It is responding promptly to any and all babble sounds that your child makes.


Today's Savings

To illustrate how I love Aldi, and how much it's saved us on the increasing cost of groceries, here is a look at my receipt today. If you shop regularly, than you know the average cost of these items at a typical grocery store. This is without having to worry about coupons or special sales, which I find to be a headache. The Aldi brand cereal and other foods are just as good, if not better, than their brand-name counterparts.

Organic soymilk: 2.19
Organic Almond Milk: 2.79
Aldi Honey Brunches of Oats: 1.79
Aldi Shredded Mini Wheat: 1.99
Aldi round "Ritz" crackers: 1.79
Feta cheese: 1.79
Bag of lentils: 0.79
Bag of brown rice: 0.99
2 pre-made pizza crusts with sauce: 2.99
Block of cheddar cheese: 1.79
Pure Vanilla Extract: 1.99
Spices: 0.99 each
Olive Oil: 2.99
White flour: 1.99
Mushrooms: 0.79
Almond butter: 4.99
Box of instant couscous: 1.29
Bag of 10 organic Gala apples: 4.99
Carton of organic grape tomatoes: 1.99
Bag of 5 sweet onions: 1.99
Bag of 8-10 russet potatoes: 2.99
Avocado: 0.49
Strawberries: 1.69
Can of green beans: 0.49
Can of organic pinto beans: 0.69
Can of Aldi "Rotel": 0.49
Cucumber: 0.49
Can of wild Alaskan salmon: 2.39
Aldi tortilla chips: 1.19
Hormone-free gallon of milk: 3.19
Medium bag of peanut M&Ms (yum): 2.35

February 16, 2015

The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake Ever

Literally. That's what the name of this recipe is. I've tried many vegan baking recipes, and most are a poor counterpart to their egg and dairy version. Once I found this beautiful recipe, I knew it would be our staple birthday cake recipe. The best part is that it's super easy. It doesn't require any beating, and it uses only common ingredients.

1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened coca powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp dairy-free margarine
2 T soy milk
2 T unsweetened coca powder
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt with a fork, making sure it is really well blended.

Mix together water, vanilla, oil, and vinegar, really well blended and then add to dry ingredients.

Pour into baking pan or sheet (8x8) and bake for ~30 minutes. Cool completely. Makes one small cake, good for a family of 4-5 (double if you want a regular size cake). We like to use a bundt pan because it's pretty.
For cupcakes, bake for ~20 minutes. Makes 1 dozen.

Chocolate Glaze:
Mix ingredients together well and pour over cake.

Happy 31st Birthday to me!

February 11, 2015

Making a Wall Collage

I've been wanting to make a collage for our master bedroom for a while now. The ones  I like combine pictures and art and are visually interesting and appealing. I decided to try my hand at it. I always have old frames lying around, so I combined them together, trying to make the best formation. I tried to make some frames line up so there would be a few clean lines, but overall I experimented with different mismatched placements. I chose pieces that were varying in (coordinating) colors and textures to keep it interesting. Here's what I came up with. I did this on the floor of my bedroom.

Then, in order to see how it would look on the wall, I cut out pieces of paper that fit each frame using paper from the girls' art roll. I used masking tape to move them around on the wall until I was happy with how they looked. 

Then I took one piece down at a time, and hung it up directly over the paper. I used a level to keep everything straight. This is how it turned out. I love it!!!!

February 4, 2015

Girls' Room Redo

I've been wanting to redo the girls' room for so long, and when we were able to transition Kimmie to a big girl bed with her sister, we could finally get rid of that crib! It makes the small room look so much bigger and less crowded. I always try to re-use things that I have in other rooms, freshen something up a little, or move things around instead of spending a lot of money. For this room, I wanted to change the paint color. It's hard to tell here, but it turned out more Easter-eggy than we preferred. After some thought, I decided to save the time, hassle, and money, and try to soften the color with other items. Sorry for the dark shadows. I took these pictures with my phone.

I wanted to keep the room looking 'young' but not baby-ish, so that the girls wouldn't outgrow the decor, and when they got older, things could just be tweaked a bit. I replaced the blackout curtains that my mother had made, because we no longer needed them. For this small window, I bought one curtain panel from Target and cut it in half. Two panels would have been too much fabric (and twice the cost), but one panel worked beautifully. Trying to keep things as less-crowded as possible, I nixed the dresser that was already in the room and put it in the closet instead. It was old and ugly, and it's convenient to have all clothing in one place. Plus it frees up room for something a little nicer looking. This is a hall tree but I thought it would look cute in the bedroom. There are some of my favorite pictures, the shells that the girls were baptized with, their Rosie and Lily dolls, a lampshade that I covered a few years back, and baskets of nighttime books. The little chair from Ikea was a gift from my mother, and so was the handmade pillow. I have some lacing boards and beads in a basket there, too.

Here is the bed the girls share; it's my old one from college. It's low to the ground so it's easy to get in and out of, and there is not much damage to be had by a possible roll-off. The birdcage frames used to be gold and on the family room wall, but I never liked the way they looked. They also contained 4x6 prints, and something about small print 'collages' on a family room wall reminds me of dorm-room college days. Instead I took the frames, spray painted them white, and filled them with pretty scrapbook paper. It's hard to see but the paper is bright and beautiful.

This is the other wall. Some art pieces that I thought were beautiful and reminded me of a fantasy land- from the Christmas Tree Shop, the best store ever for extremely inexpensive home decor.

I printed this off from the computer and framed it. It's kind of hard to see:

And lastly, the dresser that I stuffed in the closet. It really is convenient.

Pretty hair bows all in a row:

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and how I was able to repurpose things. The room looks much softer and spacious now.