Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Someone's in the Kitchen...

I LOVE to cook. It's actually an activity that all 3 of us enjoy, often together.  Eli LOVES to be in the kitchen, helping to cook. It goes well with another of his hobbies (eating everything in sight). We've tried to really let him do as much as he's ready to do, and we seem to be reaping huge benefits. I thought I would share what we've seen Eli learning (as well as some lessons we hope he's learning).

First, Eli is at an age where he would rather be with us than play by himself. We enjoy his company, and it's nice to have quality time together while also taking care of everyday stuff.

Eli will eat ANYTHING that he's helped to prepare...and he's excited about it. He's always been a good eater, but it's nice to see such enthusiasm for his own creations.

Eli learns a lot about ingredients, too. He loves to smell spices and to be told what they are. He knows several spice combinations that we use frequently. We often taste a bit of a spice or ingredient as we add it to a mixture so that he learns individual tastes.

Eli has an appreciation for where his food comes from.  There's nothing like seeing the pride on my son's face as he trims some parsley that he grew from seed so that we can add it to our lunch or dinner.

He's also learning that we reap what we sow on a less literal level. If we put great ingredients together and cook them well, we'll get a great meal. If we skip steps or skimp on ingredients, we don't get a great meal. In other words, he's experiencing cause and effect.

Eli is learning a lot about kitchen safety. He understands to be careful around hot dishes and sharp objects. He knows that the oven and knife block are completely off limits (we sometimes let him stir ingredients on the stove). We let him use a small electric skillet on occasion (with supervision) and this has gone a long way toward teaching him how to safely work with heat.

Did I mention that basic math begins in the kitchen? From measurement to estimation to proportions, math is embedded in all of our cooking. Eli likes to cut food into shapes and to experiment with how to create certain shapes. Eli is currently learning the difference between units (cup vs tablespoons vs teaspoons) and how to measure with measuring cups. He is also learning the value of a timer!

Reading recipes together reinforces the importance of reading and following directions in a logical manner.

Sometimes new recipes flop. Eli's learning that it's okay to take risks and try new things....and sometimes our best efforts don't work out. He's learning that having a backup plan is often a great idea!  He's also learning that trying things can be absolutely delicious, and that improvising and creativity can go a long way to creating something amazing.

He is learning how to use kitchen tools and is refining his motor skills. He uses a tiny pair of scissors to cut some ingredients, like green onions, chives, and parsley. He uses a butter knife to slice melon, bananas, zucchini squash, etc. He has become great at cracking eggs, peeling hard boiled eggs, washing produce, and peeling carrots and cucumbers. He loves to use measuring cups, stirring spoons and his spatula.

He is learning a lot of science. From obvious science, such as how heat or cooling changes food and how ingredients interact with one another to less obvious (but still important) scientific ideas such as experimentation and hypothesizing. We often ask questions: for example, what would happen to the taste of a dish if we add a new ingredient, or what ingredient might make this dish better?

The other things Patrick and I notice is that Eli seems to feel very confident and capable in the kitchen. He started with such small tasks like washing carrots or tomatoes, which is why it is amazing to see how sure of himself that he is now...even with more difficult tasks, like scrambling an egg in his skillet while we watch.

Patrick and I are preparing to expand the ways we encourage Eli in the kitchen. At this point, for many tasks, Eli is very independent. We are going to put in a small work station that is his size, complete with small utensils (whisk, tongs, fondant roller, etc). To date, Eli's been using a step stool to reach the countertops. We will still do this (probably a lot), but there's something to be said for Eli having his own tools and workspace for certain tasks. We found an inexpensive ($30) child's table with a folding chair that we plan on placing in our kitchen for him.  We had a couple child size utensils already...but recently found a few more at our local dollar store...and they are adorable and functional.

It is lovely to see our son take such an interest and pride in the kitchen, and I hope he continues!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Family Dictionary

Eli has some cute, often funny ways of expressing himself. I thought I would take the time to write down some of his new phrases that seem to have become some of our family's vocabulary....and to give some insight as to what he's talking about these days.

Strawberry Masher: to most people, this is a potato masher. We use ours for making strawberry jam in the summer, so Eli calls it as he sees it.

A: most people say "hey." Not Eli. He also frequently uses "A you guys...!" The word 'guys' is pronounced with 2 or 3 syllables, depending on desire for attention.

Cool: Eli, but only if he's wearing sunglasses and/or a hat.

Hot: Might mean hot OR cold. Sometimes means uncomfortable. This one keeps us confused. We're trying to figure this out.

Hot Mess: Another (affectionate) name for Eli, when he is in a very silly (or contrary) mood. Also synonymous with Tater.

Kitten claws: Eli's fingernails. There's not a sharper, harder substance in the universe....and they grow so fast!

Tooke: Eli's imaginary friend, of course. He lives at Wal Mart and changes color everyday. He also confuses the dentist.

Rabies Shot: Having blood drawn. The only other time Eli'd seen a needle was when the cats and dogs got rabies shots, so he assumed that's what he was getting. He had to have a small amount drawn for his doctor's visit recently. Thankfully, he asked about his "rabies shot" in the car and NOT at top volume in the middle of the public library.

Driver: A steering wheel.

Bad Guys: Anybody at ALL when Eli is in "Yoda" mode. Sometimes they are imaginary.

Airplane fart: Exhaust from an airplane that leaves white trails in the sky.

Worm poop: Dirt or soil from the garden.

Quarrel: A squirrel. More exciting than birds, not as exciting as snakes.

I Don't Like (insert name of food): I love it, and will devour every last bite when I think no one is looking.

Kentucky: the homeland of "Turtleman."  Eli still has hero love for Turtleman. He also loves Guy Fieri, who is from "the grocery store".

Will n Zoey: The TV Show "The Little Couple." Eli loves watching this family on TV, and seriously looks forward to it every week.

Eat at the Table: Eat in a restaurant.

Ka Mee Ya: Come here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Imaginary Friend

We have seen the appearance of an imaginary friend!  I'm kinda tickled, because I went through an imaginary friend stage when I was 3 or 4, and even though I don't really remember it, my family members do... and it's funny to hear them talk about it.  Eli's imaginary friend is an "alien" named "Tooke" (I though it was spelled "Tuke", which is how it's pronounced, but Eli corrected me...). Tooke changes color everyday, and defeats fire monsters with a water hose (which, incidentally, is exactly how Eli says that he defeats fire monsters...though he says a water gun is okay if he doesn't have a hose). Eli has been pretending to call "Tooke" on the phone to ask him questions or have conversations.

Earlier today, Eli pretended to call "Tooke" on an imaginary phone.  According to Eli, "Tooke" was at Wal-Mart (I am not sure if "Tooke" lives there, or was just hanging out).

Eli: Hey, wanna mochi ice cream?  It's chocolate.  No?  You sure?  OKay, I'll eat it for you.  Hey...Oma...Tooke says I can have his, so I get two of them, okay?

Nice, bargaining attempt, but no dice...Eli only got one mochi..."Tooke's" is still in the freezer.

And if you haven't had chocolate mochi ice cream, it's the BEST THING EVER.  Seriously.  Find some.  It's a dollop of rich chocolate ice cream wrapped in a sweet  rice-flour concotion that is delicious. We get ours from a local Asian market, but most international-type grocery stores should have it....and it's even gluten-free.  It you can't tell, it is a serious family favorite....right up there with my husband's awesome hot wings.

Even though "Tooke" is the only "family member" to pass up mochi ice cream and hot wings, he did, apparently, "tell" Eli to save him some broccoli from dinner....from Eli's plate, if you see where this is headed!

At least "Tooke" has been a great distraction. Poor Eli has had two allergic reactions this week to bug bites.  We are trying out some different types of bug bands to try to prevent bites - hopefully one or more types will work. We're trying to avoid having to use a DEET spray, but will if nothing else works.  One of the bites happened at school, and somehow, neither Eli nor his teacher realized that he had a golf-ball sized swelling on his tiny leg.  Our doctor did take a look at it, but advised antihistamines and prevention. Then he got bitten AGAIN, this time at home.  The crazy part is that he got bitten several times...while neither Patrick nor I was affected...and at least one of us was with him all day!  We want to find something that works (and quickly) because he loves to play outside.

Oh - and according to Eli, "Tooke" was sad that he missed going to the dentist today. Eli got to go and have all of the fun.  Yes, fun.  Eli loves his dentist. So much that I told him that I would take him for Christmas (as one of his gifts) - and he was thrilled : ).  I would very much like to know where the sticker-giving, "racecar toothbrush" wielding, cool movies-projected-onto-the-ceiling dentists were when I was a kid...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Say What?

Eli has surprised me (and others) with some of the things he says and does.

Yesterday, he proceeded to tell someone our address when they needed it. Complete address, except for zip code. It didn't surprise me (after all, I'd taught it to him), but the other person was shocked.

Today, he exclaimed how excited when he noticed an app I had downloaded for him "Oma, Oma, did you out this on here?  The Mahjong that I played with Grandma yesterday? Yay! Thank you! I love Mahjong!"  He actually does love mahjong solitaire...which is, of course, why I downloaded it!

He called his grandparents to announce to them that he knows their phone number (and proceeded to recite it). He also knows part of my cell number and part of Patrick's cell phone number.

He begged for a jigsaw puzzle that he saw at a local thrift store for $1. It has 550 pieces. He's been working on it a little bit at a time for almost a week. He's finished about a fourth of it...and won't let either Patrick or I help him. He's done 100 piece puzzles before, but this is certainly more challenging!

While cooking a few days ago, Eli asked if he could have a bite of "cookie salt." It took me a while to figure out that he meant table sugar. Since it looks like salt and had a cookie on the front of the bag, you can see how he got the name.

While waiting our turn in a long line, he proceeded to tell me that he was "Tuke, a blue alien. With lots of alien powers, and a water hose." The reason for the water hose? So he can defeat fire monsters like Dr. Who did on TV (except Dr. Who used a squirt/water gun).  Apparently, I also have a super power...the "power of veto."

We've had a lot of talks lately about another child, A, in Eli's class. He does not get along with this child AT ALL. He got angry last week and had a meltdown in class. Later, when he talked to me about it, he quietly said, "Oma, I didn't mean to upset Mrs. M. I was really upset and angry about what A did. A is not nice to me at all. Oma, what do you do when you're angry?"

Of course, now, when he's naughty, I tell him he's acting like A. He hates it when I say that, but it often will make him act a little better. Between that, and pointing out A's positive days, things are improving (but rocky).

Eli's definitely still in a very trying stage...tantrum/attitude diffusing without giving in to him has become an almost daily event. And I do mean attitude...complete with grumpy voice, arms crossed across his chest, pouty lip, and eye rolling. And a LOT of attempts at manipulation and negotiation.

However, he is still very, very sweet...and normally has a very sweet, loving disposition. At the store, when I pretended to let go of the shopping cart while it was rolling, Eli exclaimed, "No, don't let me go, I LOVE you!!" Best. Moment. Ever.