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Vegan Children: World’s Best Salt Dough Recipe for Hours of Play

I have tried many dough recipes, this is the best I have ever found and was given to me by a worker at a children’s museum years ago. You can add natural food coloring and essential oils to the water before mixing to make scented and colored dough, as well as glitter. The whole thing can be made with organic ingredients too, especially in Portland where Bob’s Red Mill is readily available to visit and makes a nice trip for the kids.

1 1/2 cups hot water

Vegan Salt Dough for Play

Vegan Salt Dough for Play

3/4 cup of salt (I buy the 99cent Mortons)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of flour

Place flour in a large bowl, I pour the salt around the outer edge and make a well in the center. In the well I pour the oil, then the water and stir with a big ole spoon. Once it has formed add about 1/2 cup of more flour gradually until you reach the less sticky consistency.

Viola! You have salt dough, it can be kept in a sealed mason jar and will retain moisture for about 4 days.

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My Apocalyptic Life and Finding Gratitude

Hectic is an understatement. I recently graduated in May from an AMI accredited training program as a Primary Montessori Guide. Two weeks later my family packed up our small (895 sq ft) apartment and headed to Baltimore, Maryland so I could finish an intensive Masters of Education program at Loyola. We stayed in the Charles Village neighborhood a block from Hopkins and two blocks off of York Road which puts the phrase “night and day” in new perspective. On one side of the Victorian painted lady we were occupying (without air conditioning in 100 degree weather) were preppy young co-eds and on the other side, a lower socioeconomic neighborhood that had lines of police cars with rollers on stationed at each corner come 5 pm and helicopters circling above all night. It was a little surreal.

Flash forward three weeks and the kids and I were on a plane to Nashville, TN for a job in a small town school while my husband headed back to Oregon to facilitate the expansive and expensive move of our belongings via UHaul’s U Boxes. UHaul missed the mark at several stages during our move but here we are using them again because they are convenient, cost effective and offer onsite storage. My job did not pan out the way I had been expecting which was sad because I had gotten used to the smell of sweet grass as I cycled to work, a 2400 sq ft updated town-home, the donkey in the field behind our home, and had even resigned myself to living in a town without a library, where the biggest attractions were the fountain in our fabricated village neighborhood and the Sonic drive-thru. I had also secured a second part-time job teaching fitness and yoga classes at a local gym. I liked that when I was late coming home my husband had two places to look for me and could find me and my bike in under 10 minutes. What I could have done without fills a small part of my personal journal journeying my road to becoming a Montessori Primary Guide and I am sure I will never forget all of the reasons I left this job and town – but I am trying my hardest to bring my past life as a yogi into play and leave it all behind me.

Zip forward to the day after we unpacked our last box and then decided we were not going to stay in TN. Instead, we were headed back to Portland – the place I kept referring to as home. To solidify this idea we took a 6 hour car trip back to Illinois to visit our previous home and take care of some errands in person. Then back to TN after three days and onto a plane for Portland, OR -just me and the three kids. Not a big deal for most people, but I really abhor flying, think panic attack, white knuckled gripping of armrests fear – with three kids in tow.  I have a great game face.

So here we are; you, me and my kids on the end of my first full day back in Portland. I have not yet found a place to live, I have been to the ice rink more times than I care to recall in this day and a half but that knocks out steps to my older son’s dream of skating in the Olympics. I have watched and listened to my children deal with the stress of moving, uncertainty and a missing father with very open eyes and wounded heart. My own relations with them are strained more than I like because of all of the stress. I have been reading The Biology of Beating Stress: How Changing Your Environment, Your Body, and Your Brain Can Help You Find Balance and Peace and of course reading that stress could literally kill me, cause cancer, and obesity does nothing to help my mounting stress – I jest, a little. We tried a no yelling or screaming day, it lasted exactly one and a half minutes before one from the backseat yelled at one in the front seat as I tried to calmly diffuse the situation through gritted teeth. I realize more and more how having a second adult helps, my son commented “When daddy isn’t here I am a better son because I have to be, when he’s around I’m worse”. That prompted a discussion about independence and responsibility, I corrected him that all of them are the best thems they can be, but when daddy isn’t around they have opportunities to take on more responsibility. For example, I had to have the kids come with me to a job interview today because there was no-one to watch them my eldest did so by taking his younger siblings around the neighborhood and giving them snacks.

I want to cultivate gratitude so that I don’t get into this kind of situation again,  looking for something better and not appreciating what I have, but even more than that because I really do know the value of all that I have, sometimes I don’t have gratitude for myself or grant myself the time to just be.  I rushed to find the perfect job and what that boils down to is a lack of gratitude for who I am and the special talents I bring to any situation.  I hope to recognize all that I actually do accomplish and instead of playing it down or worrying what someone else thinks – I want to validate myself and be grateful for who I am.  Along this line I decided to document this next year, I hope daily,  to prove to myself that I am doing the best I can do and making the most out of my time with my kids.

Some of the things we did and places we went today:

  • Mio Sushi – extensive menu for vegans with gluten free tamari and kids’ bentos.  I love the use non-dyed ginger, the wasabi is delicious and the kids like eating here.
  • Portland Children’s Museum- a great place rain or shine with newly opened outdoor exploration area.  You now have to pay for parking but it isn’t too bad.  Great little cafe with vegan options inside.
  • Llyod Center Ice Rink – a great place for kids or a date and reasonable rates to skate.  Located inside the mall so you don’t have to watch a lesson, you can shop!
  • New Seasons Market – one of our favorite places to shop, somehow it feels friendlier than Whole Foods, the stickers flow for kids and the Williams St. location has my children’s favorite cashier so we had to go and say hi today.
  • Back to Eden Bakery – gluten free vegan bakery serving soft-serve ice cream and some really great baked goods, the scones are scrumptious and the rotating selection always impresses with innovation.
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Olympic Dreams

The Role of the Adult in Supporting Child Development

The Montessori Adult is commissioned with the task of leaving his past history behind in order to best serve the child. At its core this statement means within the controlled Montessori environment but in practice this should apply to the interactions with all children, whether they are members of the Casa or not. Ideally we would not just train self-realized Montessori guides but all adults who ever experience contact with a child would be moved to change their self-constructed views of childhood and children and in turn shift their interactions with children to be more aligned in a developmentally appropriate manner.

In order to give a child the breadth to create her complete self the adult world needs to turn its thinking on its head, and kick it down the road a ways. If adult’s could halt the creation of obstacles to child fulfilling their self-manifestation by creating an environment within our own adult world that catered to the developmental needs of the child that would be a start. But it is not merely the act of making a safe environment or child-sized environment that will change the world for children and future mankind. The adult also needs to discontinue the act of interference. It seems imperative to development that the caregiver or adult learn the difference between mothering, healthy child driven response to needs such as nourishment and comfort, and smothering, obsessive adult driven needs for control and adult order.

With humility and patience adults can redirect their actions to create a more child-centered, developmentally appropriate environment in which the child can flourish. The old ways of dealing with children are not working and have produced many unhappy, unfulfilled adults. It is up to the adult to take up arms in the task of solving our current problems of conflict with children through our own self-development and refinement.

Refinement of the adult has three major areas; the physical, the mental and psychological, and the spiritual aspects. Physically the adult should appear well kept, tidy, graceful and enticing (once normalization occurs the adult should fade into the background). Mentally and psychologically the adult should be aware of biases and past experiences. The adult should also strive for more information. This starts with education or training in the developmental stages of children and the materials. Then through consistent practice and experience the adult will gain knowledge that can be applied to interactions with children and with their own self-dialogue. Spiritually the adult should have a deeper investment in their work, a deep rooted belief that change is needed for the good of humanity. There also needs to be an understanding that children present a unique life force we can no longer visit ourselves and this alone should help to cultivate humility and patience, as if dealing with a new and awe inspiring life form all together.

These outlined tasks are not insurmountable for the adult and because we have left the absorbent mind behind we are able to move from being a child driven by forces beyond her control to an adult who can form abstractions and adaptations from and to the environment. Becoming a Montessori Adult isn’t an overnight task. Due to our past self-construction and the adult’s propensity for least effort work the change needed may be difficult at first; however, brain plasticity lasts long into adulthood and if we continue to travel the paths physically and neurological to becoming a Montessori Adult it will soon be our very nature.