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Thursday, August 29, 2013

"So what did you do today?"

Do you remember hearing this as a child?  Have you asked this question of your child?  I think most of us can remember times when we got this question after coming home from school...or at least some variation of it..."What did you learn today?" "How was your day?" "What did you do?"  All good questions that could start wonderful dialogue with your child...but they won't :) 

In all honesty, when someone asks you - What did you do today?  What do you say?  Can you even remember?  I'm sorry, but with my mommy brain and with all that goes on during the day...I have no idea how to answer that question!  I'm lucky if I remembered to eat and shower...much less what I did that morning!  We can't expect our children to either.  I taught my daughter last year in prek4 and sometimes, when my husband asked us what we did that day...I honestly and truthfully drew a blank!  That's what having kids does to you :)

If you are a parent of a child that has just started preschool or kindergarten, or if you have a child already in elementary school, I KNOW you are dying to know what goes on at school, what your child learned that day, did anything happen that you need to or should know about...and so on.  I certainly feel all these things.  But getting the information out of your child - much harder than it sounds :)
On this day I got to help them make these uber cool lorax hats :)

I was fortunate enough last year to be able to volunteer in my son's kindergarten classroom.  This helped me tremendously, he loved it and the teacher, from what she has told me, was grateful :)  Being there helped me know what he did during the day, what to expect from him when he came home and gave me a perspective of "his day".  It also helped me put myself in his shoes...and when I wanted to ask him a question about his day, I first asked myself - "ok, if i were him, how would I answer?"  And I realized that I had been asking all the wrong questions. 

So, if you want to know how your child's day went and you're not getting anywhere...let me help :)  Here are 5 questions to ask you children that WILL get you answers.  Not only will you get answers, you will jump start conversations and those will jog their memories about other things that have happened.  AND, if you keep asking them the same questions every day (say, over dinner) consistently, they will begin to prepare their answers in advance! 

I'll start with our "littles" - if you have a 3-4 year old this will be harder, but you CAN get answers :)
1.  What made you happy today?
2.  What made you sad today?
3.  Did you help anyone today?
4.  What did you make today or What was your favorite thing you played with today?
5.  and my favorite...(believe me, if the answer to this question is "yes", you will hear a long and detailed story :) Did you cry today OR Did anyone in your class cry today?  (this evening, the answer from my daughter...the kindergartener...was this - YES!  Louis cried today.  me:  Why?  her:  cause he had to move to yellow and lose 5 minutes of play time.  He cried the whole five minutes.  I just learned a little bit more about my daughter's day ;)

For your elementary kids, you can use the same questions but change the language:
1.  What was your favorite thing you did today or What was the best thing that happened to you today?
2.  What was your least favorite thing that happened today?
3.  Who did you help today? (so important for them to understand that God wants us to have compassion towards others and to help them...prevent bullying!)
Helping others is very important!!

Teach your children that it is Ok to ask for help!

4.  Who helped you today?  (I've found this one is hard for them...but I like it because it reminds them that it's ok to ask for help)
5.  and still my fave...Did you cry today OR Did anyone in your class cry today?

personally, since the first day of school this year, I have asked my kids the first four questions (for the elem kids).  Depending on how our conversation is going, I throw in the fifth - especially if I want a good story :)  After a week of doing this every night over dinner, and encouraging them on their way to school to help someone and to not be afraid to ask for help, they are now coming home from school with at least one answer ready.  My oldest monkey came in the door today and said - I helped someone today! :)  I love to hear this!

On a side note:  A policewoman who came to talk to a group of moms I was meeting with also said this - at a young age, try and ask them every night about something "good" that happened and something "bad" (I just re-worded it to favorite and least favorite).  She said it will help you as a parent come to understand your child's definition of good and bad and could  help you in the future if something bad were to happen.  Interesting thought.  I learned last year that my son's definition of "bad" is when "Robin" or some other friend had a bad day and had to move their "frog" down :)  "Bad" meant when others misbehaved and didn't didn't have to directly affect him.

Tomorrow, I get to start volunteering in both their classes.  I'm looking forward to putting a face to the names I'm hearing about and to assist their teachers in their classrooms.  I'll get a little closer to understanding "how their days go" :)

How do you get your kids talking?  Any questions you would add to my list?

God bless!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Getting the classroom ready!

To keep myself busy while both my kids are at school I've been working on my classroom :)  I teach 3-5 year olds in a Parent's Morning Out program.  I started it a year ago and I'm still trying to get the word out and bring in more students!  Harder than I thought it'd be - and being patient is even harder!

I'm organizing and creating materials for the class and I thought I'd share my latest creation :)  I needed some large, colorful signs to put on my bins and containers so the kids know where things go.  I got some free borders/frames from this seller at  Then I just collected random pics that suited my needs.

My finished product turned out pretty good :)  Now I just need to laminate them and put them up!                                  

I also have FELT, DRESS UP, DOLL CLOTHES, GLUE STICKS, CHALKBOARD and more.  I'm still trying to figure out how to post things you can print on my blog, so if you can't get these to work, or if you're interested in the whole set respond below with your email address and I'll send the document :)

I don't consider myself super creative like some people but sometimes I can get  good ideas-esp when I start browsing Pinterest and get inspired by others :)  Here are a few things I've made for my classroom-they aren't my original idea but rather tweaked inspirations I found on Pinterest (you can follow me here if you want).                                    

This is part of my calendar for circle time. After we do a devotional and say a little prayer, we do the calendar and this-which includes the weather, letters, shape, Bible verse, color and the date. You can find the template for the weather chart here

As you can see I velcroed my calendar to four crates tied together with zip ties. I store my carpet squares and calendar "extras" in the bottom two most accesible crates and felt activities and my Sunday school song books in the top two. 

I have a nice little corner meant for a fridge that I use for our book nook. I made it with two tension rods and a shower curtain :)

This is how I discipline. When they do something good I give them a color on their rainbow. Likewise, I take one off if they do something they're not supposed to do. I use this a lot during transitions and I try and watch for kids playing nicely together during centers. At the end of the day, if their rainbow is full, they get a sticker and/or smelly (I put a cross on their hand with a smelly Chapstick-they LOVE it :). I'm thinking of changing the rainbows with my themes (although they take a bit of work to make)...make a snowman for winter, fill in your star at Christmas, your heart for February, etc...
I made these for my oldest child's nursery but now am using them in the classroom. I'm currently writing a curriculum for church prek classes and this goes well with it. I found the material at a fabric store, cut the squares out and attached them to a thick form board-with glue and pushpins. Easy :)

I have limited wall space because of windows, mirrors and closets so I'm using the fridge for our class jobs.  They put their picture next to the job they want. 
Lastly, because of my limited wall space I am going to have a word "book" instead of a word "wall". It's a flip book that we'll add to as the year progresses.  I'll post pics when i've put it together :)

Well, that's about all I've got for now :). Now I just need more kids!!  Love to hear your ideas for your classroom!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to school church party

Back to school!  Getting ready to walk to school!
 At church on Sunday we had a back to school pizza party during our children's church!! After doing something last year at valentines day with rocks for our neighbors, I decided we needed to do another "reaching out" to our neighborhood...or you could call it a "random act of kindness" (RAK) which I love doing. Especially anonymously :)  What better time than the first day of school!  I also had them make a small craft for their teacher.
I found this at Positively Splendid's blog.  

I also did a little something for their teachers :)
Found this print out and idea at the Crafting Chicks' blog

I put sanitizer, chap stick, kleenex, a little post it note and gum/mints :)

 I printed out the little blurb then the kids punched a hole in it and tied it to the pencil. We made over 50, divided them up, and strategically placed them around the neighborhood on sidewalks today where the kids walk to school :). Fun!!
Then came the time that I had to say good-bye at school.  Tough!  Especially since this year they surprised me by not letting us in the classrooms!  Last year I got to walk my oldest into Kindergarten, see his desk, his friends, say a little prayer with him then mosey on out.  This year, as my youngest was standing in line outside the classroom the teacher said - Ok!  Everyone say good bye to their mommies and daddies!  WHAT?  :(  So, I got my kissing hand and left :)

Then I headed off to say goodbye to my oldest who seemed to be doing great :).

Praying for my little monkeys that they are safe, good "scholars" (a word they use there) and good friends...and for my nieces and nephews that are also starting!!  God Bless all the kids starting today and the days to come! :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to school haircuts and s'mores!

pre-hair cut
Every time I told my kids that they were going to get back-to-school haircuts this week they groaned and whined :). I'm not sure why this is bad...but they've decided that it is. Actually, the older one has, and the younger just follows :)

so I decided to couple the haircuts with an activity we have wanted to try all summer. The weather was perfect for it today so it seemed like perfect timing!  
Car s'mores!  

You put all the ingredients together for a s'more - graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows - then you wrap them up in tin foil. 

Place them on your dashboard in the summer heat and in 15-20 minutes-voila!  S'mores!!

  We put them together at home with the promise that once their haircuts were over, their s'mores would be ready. They were awesome - and I got two smiling (dirty:) faces with new haircuts! :)
ok, so the older one isn't smiling...he's too "cool" for that :)  but believe me he was happy!
Btw, if you try this at home and eat them "out" like we did - make sure and take lots of wipes :)

Happy "back-to-schooling"!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why I'm happy (*sigh) that my youngest is going to Kindergarten :)

So, I recently read a blog from the Happy Home Fairy that gave me this idea.  As humans, we sometimes dwell on the negative, worry about the inevitable and, instead of enjoying the moment, ruin it by living in the past or future.  So, instead of being sad and thinking of all the things I'm going to miss when my youngest goes to kindergarten, here are all the positive things that will hopefully keep me from crying the first day of school ;)  God wants us to give thanks to Him in ALL things - even the things that are not fun or easy.
Trying on mama's clothes

  "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."  1Thess 5: 16-18 

What do i have to look forward to when my youngest goes to K?...
- a cleaner house - less people to mess it up and more time to clean it

monkey #2 and i at the mother's day tea at school

- no one to distract me when I am setting up for school
- lunch dates with my husband
- volunteering in their classes so i can get the "behind the scenes" info 
- two days for just myself (what?!)-of course, these will be used to clean, run errands, work for the church and plan school...but still...I'll be by myself :)
- reinforcing what they learn at home (sounds corny, but looking forward to it:)
- more time to write a blog
- more time for pinterest :)
- more time for "crushing candy" (don't know you play it too ;)
- possibly squeezing in a nap time and not being woken up after five minutes with "MAMA!!!"

- going to the bathroom by myself and with no interruptions (we mamas seriously have no privacy!)
- washing, drying and putting away a load of laundry all at one time
- more time to try out crock pot meals on the days I work
- exercising (nah...think I'd rather nap)

mother's day at the beach

- having my own devotional - not just the one we do with the kids in the morning
my crazy kids playing "crazy fashion show"
- being free to do what I want after my prek class is over and before I pick up the kids
- did I say lunch dates with my hubby?
- getting to watch Blue Bloods, Hawaii 5-O, Elementary or Craig Ferguson during the day before they get home (and not having to wait until they go to bed :)
- beach trips by myself
- If i'm sick (at least monday or friday) I can actually be sick!
- reading
- eating a bowl of ice cream for lunch and not worrying about hiding it
- and finally, getting time to miss my kids :)  It's makes for a better mommy when they come home!

ok, so I still got nostalgic while writing this...but I'm looking forward to all these things as well...just gotta keep reminding myself of that :)  What are you happy about?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Laid Back Birthday

So this year, after surfing pinterest last year and putting together awesome birthday parties, I decided we'd have a laid back - combined birthday party.  My youngest monkey was born in July and my oldest in September (almost 2 years apart). It made sense for us to do a party in August - for both of them - before the craziness of school starts.

It turned out pretty well!  We did it at one of those bouncy house places so they took care of the decorations, paper products, food, drinks and most importantly - set up and clean up :)  Oh!  and entertainment :)  We did the smallest package so each of the kids only got to invite four friends - but that turned out to be plenty.  All I had to bring were the cupcakes and the birthday kids!  I have to say I felt pretty slack the whole time I was there and our hostess kept having to tell me, "I'll get that!" :) 

they had a great time in the ticket machine but didn't quite get the concept.  we told them to catch them and stuff them in their pockets - but only some flew around.  most stayed on the ground.  we kept yelling and them to pick them up and put them in their little little one actually did it once then threw them up in the air :)  too funny! 
our hostess felt sorry for them i think and started stuffing tickets in their aprons :)  they ended up with 350 each :)

Since all I had to do was make cupcakes, I let the kids decide what kind.  Monkey number 1 (my oldest) is into frogs and wanted frog cupcakes.  I searched online and showed him two options (below).  He picked the one with the froggy on top which made my job even that much easier!
Monkey number 2 (youngest) is into Max and Ruby and of course, that isn't sold in stores.  There are things you can buy online but since they are rare, they are quite expensive and cheap looking.  So, I figured I could make something just as nice!  Using my colored printer, laminator, paper, scissors, toothpicks and glue I made my own cupcake toppers.  Easy!

 I made the cupcakes from scratch (before you judge, remember I literally had nothing else to do :) because monkey 1 can't have soy, monkey 2 can't have peanuts and I don't eat artificial colors/preservatives/flavors.  So, I try to make things from scratch so we can all eat them!

getting a little gift from monkey joe...sitting in the "big chair".  monkey 1 really liked this :)

getting crowned :)

We paid a little more for the venue than we were hoping (there are always those hidden costs!) but since it was for both of them, I figure we probably evened out...and factor in that I did hardly any work maybe we even came out ahead :)

With that out of the way, we can now concentrate on school...on Friday we have our two open hasn't sunk in yet.

One young mother told me once - "I was ok dropping my child off at kindergarten.  I didn't cry, he didn't was hard, but we both kept it together.  HOWEVER, when he went to first grade and I sat down at his desk and saw all his hit me.  This is real.  He's in school."  And that's when she started bawling like a baby :)  Do I foresee this in my future?  I won't say it's impossible...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) - Having someone with special needs in the family...

I'm going to go off the topic a bit from preschool and my kids to talk about my extended family.  This was on my heart last night so, even though I posted something yesterday, I wanted to get it down today while I was thinking about it...

I'm sure some of you have someone in your family that has special needs.  Perhaps you grew up around them, maybe you never saw them, maybe you're very close with them or you are their main caregiver.  Whatever your role is or was, it effects you - positive, negative, whatever - it will effect you.
Seriously, is she not a doll?

I have a niece with special needs.  She is two years old and has PWS.  Thank the Lord, a doctor in the NICU was educated enough on the signs, that he was tipped off immediately and she was diagnosed within the first month of life -from what I understand most PWS kids aren't so lucky.  Because she was diagnosed early, she was able to start receiving growth hormones and other such help very early.
It's not easy hearing such a diagnosis for someone in your family. I can only tell you what I went through when I heard the news - but it was nothing compared to the pain and suffering Adelaide's parents went through.  I went through different stages of denial, grief, anger...and more grief.  I'm not sure any of us are quite to "acceptance" yet.  It's still early.  However, the more time I am blessed to be with her, the closer I come.  Unfortunately, because of the distance between us, we only get to see her a few times a year.  I think the worst part about hearing the news is for one - I couldn't do anything to help my sister.  She was suffering and I was stuck far away.  I could only offer prayer.  And two, the evil thoughts that go through your mind.  You may read this and think I'm crazy - but that would only be because you've never been through it.  One of my first thoughts when she was born was - maybe she won't make it.  It's hard to stomach that now since we know and love this little squirt...but the thought was there.  End the suffering of my sister, make life easier in the future for them...thankfully God understands and forgives such thoughts.  He knows how we hurt and He knows how we deal with hurt.  When the shock wears off and we begin to think normally again, those thoughts go away.  But they were there.

Adelaide had a tube for a while because she wasn't strong enough to suck.  Because she started the hormones early though, she was off of it after I believe 6-9 months. On the plus side, she slept through the night right away because she had the tube ;)
If you haven't heard of PWS (and unless you've studied children with special needs you probably haven't), this is the norm.  She will progress slower than other children.  She will probably start walking this year at 2 years old and she has just started talking (first word was Elmo...too darn cute :)  Eventually, we know, that she will hit a stage in her life where she will no longer have the ability to know that she is full.  She will be hungry all the time.  This means, if allowed, she could literally eat herself to death.  Horrible to think about, more horrible to know that it has happened to some children with PWS.  For the family, this means locked cabinets, locked fridge and locked pantry.  It means a strict diet.  It means that when we get together as a family, our gatherings will no longer be centered around food, but fellowship.  We will have to change for this little girl and we will be happy to do so.  She is an angel and we know God has placed her in our lives.  
she LOVES music and the horsey plays a song :)
The good news for children with PWS is that there are MANY researchers out there looking into why and how this happens.  It's actually trending in our world today because there are many "normal" people out there who want to feel full ALL the time and therefore lose weight.  Crazy, but true :)  Models, actors, the morbidly obese...These researchers are getting very close to pinpointing where exactly in the brain this happens and how to fix it.  That is exciting and gives us hope that Adelaide may have help with this when she gets older.  
To speed along the process, the PWS foundation sponsors a walk every year to raise money for research.  My sister has bravely decided to organize one in her area and has found neighboring businesses to be extremely generous! :)  If you would like to donate to the research for PWS and the walk, you can go to my page and sign up.  It's quick and easy and you could win something as well :)  If you aren't financially able to donate, please say a prayer for Adelaide and her family. The path to acceptance is long and hard, but we will get there.  

To end with...
I worked with prek children with special needs for almost five years.  I didn't have kids at the time and could not have imagined what those parents were going through.  Even after I had children I couldn't really relate...because mine are "normal".  It wasn't until Adelaide was born that I began to see those parents in a different light. 

Me, my kids and Adelaide
 There were four types of parents that I saw - those that really didn't care, those that cared but hadn't accepted it, those that cared and had accepted it; and then those that cared, had accepted it and were advocates for their children.  I saw a fair amount in each group and couldn't understand why they all weren't in the last group.  How could they not be advocates and speak up strongly for their child?  I know now, and I wish I had had this understanding when the parents were in tears during the meetings or when they looked at me with a look of - I just don't know what to do - on their face. It's hard.  It's almost impossible.  My sister is an advocate for her child, and I admire her greatly for that.  

Here is a video of Adelaide that my sister made...enjoy :)  and please donate if you're able.

God bless,