Monthly Archives: August 2015

All My Reasons

I wrote about how extended breastfeeding looks in our family last week (HERE).  As I wrote today’s post for SPB, it occured to me that I have so many reasons why this choice has worked for us that I have never written down.  I will share five that I can think of right now.

Why do I breastfeed children long after they can ask for milk??

P.S. that is a common reason why people say they are disgusted by extended breastfeeding, “Once they can ask for it, it’s over.”  FACT CHECK: Did you stop giving your child other liquids or solids once they started speaking??? A: NO! Nobody in their right mind leaves a small child alone in the kitchen to fend for themselves simply because they can make requests. Just because your child can ask for milk does not singly disqualify them from being breastfed ever again.

It keeps us connected.
Toddlers are a force of nature to be reckoned with.  Constantly moving, constantly building new skills, and testing the limits of what they can do (or break!).  These little balls of energy can be a challenge to keep up with as they learn about the world around them and their place in it.  Breastfeeding has provided the opportunity to look them in the eye and share a moment of stillness in an otherwise crazy day.

It provides more good stuff as they age.
The older the child, the more antibodies and DHA are found in the milk.  So, as your child grows in exploration, the mother’s body naturally increases protection against all the things the child is touching and putting in their mouth.  In addition, the DHA brain-building component increases as your child’s age increases.  It continues to increase throughout the breastfeeding relationship to keep up with brain growth, which has a one-year growth spurt.  If biological breastfeeding is followed through until a child loses their milk teeth (aka baby teeth), they will receive the benefits of DHA through all the years of brain growth, which plateau between 5-7 years of age.  (True statements!! I will add some references to this section tonight when I don’t have our homeschool day looming ahead of us!)

It protects me.
The longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to develop breast cancer.  This one is huge for me since two of my aunts are breast cancer survivors.

Find the study HERE

About the study from an American Cancer Society article examining the claim that breastfeeding lowers cancer risk.  Overall, the article says that more research is needed, but I liked their concise summary of the study.:
“For every 12 months of breastfeeding (either with only 1 child, or as the total period of time for several children), the risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3%, compared to women who did not breastfeed. Risk decreased by 3.4% for each child breastfed, compared to women who did not breastfeed.  This lower risk did not differ by women’s age, race, numbers of births, age at birth of first child, family history, or country of residence.”

Even though the American Cancer Society says that more study is needed, the fact that several studies have shown some decrease in risk is enough for me to err on the side of caution and keep breastfeeding as long as the Sweet Peas are willing to keep on nursing.

It makes me sit still.
Between homeschooling, projects, and a list to work through every day, I am my own tornado moving through the house.  Breastfeeding makes me sit down, breathe, and take a deep breath.  It forces me to respond to my Sweet Pea instead of doing “one more thing”.  Once the days of babywearing are over*, sit-breaks to breastfeed provide think-time in an otherwise busy day.  I usually practice a little meditation to settle down and be present with my Sweet Pea.

It helps me forgive them.
The constant testing, NO responses, testing.  It can be so frustrating when all you want to do is get from Point A to Point B in a straight line, and they insist on taking every detour and side-trip along the way.  The biological hormone loop that happens with breastfeeding not only makes more milk, it makes us fall in love with them a little bit more every time we put them to the breast.

There are days when this response has been the only thing to keep me sane.  I am eternally grateful that we have had this biological mechanism in play during Otter’s Reign of Toddler.  No matter how crazy the day has been, they end with me cradling her in my arms as she nurses to sleep and turns back into a sleeping angel on earth.  And me squeezing her a little tighter, and maybe shedding a tear or two as I thank God that we have survived another day.

It brings them back from the brink.
Speaking of testing boundaries and going over the edge, having the option to offer nursing when all else has failed to solve a problem has been a great boon.  Crying? Tantrums? Disappointment? Frustration?  Mommy can fix that with one cradle into the breast and a little warm milk can solve a myriad of toddler acting-out scenarios.  Is it forever? Absolutely not…yet while it works, it feels like a miracle.  LIttle by little, they start to say, “No!” and honoring that helps us to help them learn more coping mechanisms when they are ready to learn them.

So there are five of my “whys” – hopefully this will help you with words to say to the people in your life who are questioning your choice to breastfeed beyond six months or the first birthday.  Breastfeed on your terms – you will not regret doing what your instincts are telling you are best for you and baby.

*Going back to work with Puma made me an expert in breastfeeding in a carrier.  Hence, hands-free breastfeeding *and* getting things done.  I usually wind down daily use of carriers or slings on a regular basis after the second birthday simply because our children get too heavy to wear all the time.  I know plenty of families that babywear well beyond this age; just like breastfeeding, it’s a personal choice dependent on what works for the family.


Preschool Playdate: Under the Sea

Preschool Playdate: Under the Sea

The inspiration from this theme came from a toy set!  I love the “Toob” toys, and finding this set on sale at a craft store led to a lot of fun on April 16, 2015.

Getting Started:
We start with the same order of circle time activities every week:

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Double story-time again this week.  We started with a Richard Scarry Page to see if the Sweet Peas could identify the plastic boats.
Instead of a traditional story, I marked the pages in our “Encyclopedia of Animals” by DK Readers, that corresponded with the plastic animals in the toy tube.  I started by asking the children to name the animal in English, then I told them the Spanish name, and we read out a fact about each animal.


Play dough is always a big hit.  THIS is the recipe I use from Imagination Tree.  The children had to find their “fish” hanging on the “fishing line” attached to the activity table.  Then they could work on writing their names using playdough.  There are lots of options here: shape the letter, roll out thin “strings” of dough to “write” the letters, or they could roll out a “clay tablet” and scratch their names into the dough.  That activity in particular led to a discussion about how the earliest writing was similarly recorded in Sumer.


Fishing for numbers!! The fish all have a magnet on them.  We are using a Discovery Toys game base, and wooden fish from assorted sets we have collected through the years.  Each of the fish was programmed with a number from 1-5. Sweet Peas would “fish” out a number, and then place it on the corresponding number on their game card.  Most of the cards are also programmed with the correct number of bubbles above the written number.  I thought of that *after* I made the first one.



Water, water, everywhere.  This activity reinforced identifying the animals we read about as they pulled them out of the water.  We also worked on motor skills as they used the tongs or slotted spoons to pull them out.



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
I used a printable from The Mailbox Superbook for today’s craft.  This allowed for a little “painting” as they spread a thin coat of glue on their outling, then fine motor skills as they placed the tissue, and then cutting after the glue dired to make a neat “stained glass” decoration – our Sweet Peas enjoyed seeing the light come through their creations.



We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave right away will stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives at noon.

Breastfeeding a Toddler

I posted a little bit about our choice to let our children self-wean over on our SPB blog since it’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the USA.  Based on one of the comments that post received on FB, I am going to write more about the “hows” of breastfeeding an older child here today.

As of today, Otter is about two months shy of her fourth birthday, and continues to show interest in nursing.  I plan to continue until she self-weans.

1.) How it works for us.
I am not breastfeeding a toddler or a preschooler as often as I did a newborn.  I want you to know that the analogy of “a dance between two people” is applicable.  Unlike ballroom dancing, in our relationship there is no set leader or follower.  Sometimes I set the boundaries, sometimes my Sweet Pea says no or demands, “now!”…all are acceptable in our breastfeeding relationship.  I encourage you to find what works for you.

It became clear to me that Otter was using breastfeeding as a way to control access to Mommy.  If she didn’t want anyone else to have my attention, then she would demand to breastfeed and would make it impossible to do anything else.  That is when we started to set some boundaries and expectations, and pretty much stick to them.

The boundaries in our relationship: I told her she was always welcome to nurse first thing in the morning, or before bedtime at night.  If she wanted to nurse during the day, she would have to wait until I could lay down with her in bed, or until we could sit in our nursing chair.  If her teeth get involved, it’s an immediate cessation of that nursing session (this does not happen more than once or twice a year).  I also told her that nursing is primarily done at home.  When we are out in public, I ask her to wait.  Occasionally, there are exception: the times that I know she is super-tired or overstimulated and nursing really *is the answer*, we will nurse.

2.) Why my husband supports it, even with a male child.
My husband became an advocate of breastfeeding as we took our first Bradley class in 2004.  I will let him share why he has, and continues to support extended breastfeeding.

Extended Brestfeeding: A father’s viewpoint. By Bruss Bowman

Krystyna and I are parents to 4 wonderful, healthy and happy children.  We committed to together to have the best, healthy pregnancies and labors for all our children.  We took Bradley method birth classes for our first two children and then became certified to teach Bradley and have helped well over a hundred couples on their own personal birth/parenting journeys.  That philosophy of healthy pregnancy/labor/parenting extends into breast feeding of our children, the health benefits of which are well documented and I support whole-heartedly for all our children and extending to those families that we have helped through Bradley as well.
I was posed the question of father’s support for extended breast feeding, that is (in my opinion) a breast feeding relationship that extends beyond 2-3 years.  It is an interesting question for me, given my support for the healthy, natural path of pregnancy, labor and breast feeding; yet a big part of me is unquestionably old school…I wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming to my first Bradley class, I went with a desire to support Krystyna to best of my ability whatever that path might be, but I certainly had a level of skepticism.  Yet my skepticism has fallen away through the years as I have learned and experienced, first hand and through our students, the undeniable benefits of the things we teach and live everyday.
So back to extended breast feeding, this was yet another challenge to my old school dogmatic thinking and I was not 100% comfortable with our family doing this.  But like so many things that came before,  through some introspection and prayer I did become comfortable with this extension, not so much of breast feeding itself but of Krystyna and my commitment to healthy, happy children and being the best parents we can be.
I will tell you that the single thing that made the difference in my decision to support extended breast feeding was the trust that I have in Krystyna as a great Mom who *always* does what she believes in her heart to be the very best things for our children.  Given that trust, her strong desire to extend her breast feeding relationship with our last two children is reason enough for me to support her parenting choices as I have done since we walked through the door of our first Bradley class.
Everyone’s parenting journey is unique to them, so ultimately you must do what is right for you as partners and parents.  Dads, if you are faced with similar circumstances, it is important to communicate and to remember the big picture of health and happiness for you and family.


3.) Extended breastfeeding in our family.
All of our children have been breastfed past their first birthday.  They nursed 22 months, 18 months, five years, and 3 years&counting, respectively.  The more I learned, the more committed I was to continuing the breastfeeding relationship until the child self-weaned.

Puma self-weaned, Night Owl was an emergency wean since I was pregnant with Charger and I was having a lot of contractions when I nursed.  I learned more for the next pregnancy, so I was able to nurse Charger through Otter’s pregnancy – and wow, was he excited when the rich, creamy, newborn milk came in!  You can read about that experience over at the Nursing Nurture webpage, where I shared about our breastfeeding journey. (Part 1: Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy, Part 2: Tandem Nursing)

I weaned Charger a little after his fifth birthday.  If I had heard Dr. Nils Bergman speak about the evolutionary biology of breastfeeding sooner, I would have let him nurse until he started losing his milk teeth, aka baby teeth.  Having learned that all other mammals nurse until the milk teeth fall out, I will be letting Otter nurse until she starts losing her baby teeth, or until she decides that she is finished nursing, whichever comes first.

4.) Tandem Nursing
With the help of my IBCLC and my La Leche League group leaders, I felt ready to tandem nurse.  I set the expectations of what was going to happen well before Otter was born, and I kept reassuring our then toddler that I was still going to be his mommy, and he was going to be able to get milk when we felt he needed it.

The baby was the baby, and she was going to nurse first when she was hungry and he wanted to nurse at the same time.  Since he was a big boy, I encouraged him that he could eat lots of neat things with his teeth; not the baby, she’s too little.  No fun for her. I also had a stack of books next to the bed that we could read together while he waited patiently.

As soon as the baby was finished nursing, he would be invited to nurse.  Or if the baby was napping, of course I would be available to him.  Little by little, that time turned into snuggle time.  By the time he was three, he was only nursing in the morning, for naps, and at bedtime.

Every once in a while, I would nurse them together. I didn’t really care for it at the time, so I didn’t do it very often.  Later as I realized our time as a tandem was ending, I regretted it.  There are so many lovely stories about children’s bonds who are nursed at the breast together.

The two of them did enjoy taking turns.  Sometimes they got possessive about which “side” was theirs, however, most of the time, it was a comedy.  One would finish and call out to the other, “Hey – it’s your turn!!” And a conversation would ensue between them about turns, sides, and which breast had more milk that day.

5.) Other places I have written about extended breastfeeding if you are interested:

Our Journey Into Tandem Nursing May 2012 intro about our chosen path

Still Tandem Nursing August 2012 update

Tandem Nursing – Extended  July 2013 update

My Take on Toddler Nursing – Today August 2013 photojournal of “gymnurstics”…thank goodness that was only a phase!

Nursing By Example: The power of peer-to-peer support

Nursing a Toddler: Benefits, and why it’s good to follow your instincts and your children’s cues

Extended Breastfeeding: the science behind why it’s beneficial

Breastfeeding & Tandem Nursing: Encouraging parents to follow the right path for their family

Now that I know people are looking for more info, I will be adding more links to the breastfeeding resource page about tandem nursing, how to deal with biting and nursing strikes, and other topics related to nursing older children.

In the meantime, I hope this gives you a clearer picture about what breastfeeding older children looks like.  It isn’t common, however, it would be nice if it was normal.



Preschool Playdate: Gardening

Preschool Playdate: How does your garden grow?

We built this theme around spring planting.  The playdate was on April 9, 2015.  We got to watch our seeds grow through the month of April.  As soon as the kiddos arrived, they would go check on the progress of their “garden”.

You will notice that there was a lot of dirt involved in today’s theme!  Drop cloths were the order of the day.  We also needed lots of damp cloth wipes on hand for all the kiddos that don’t necessarily like their hands dirty.

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers


I feel it is important that children understand where their food comes from. The two books we shared this day emphasize the idea of “farm to table”.  We used the “The story of seeds” by Richard Scarry to start off our discussion of the theme.  During Story Time, I read the Spanish translation of “Growing Vegetable Soup” by Lois Ehlert.



The children could use the popsicle stick or their fingertips to draw letters in the dirt.  I tried to make mud – didn’t work out so well.  We scaled this from the first letter of their name for beginners; kiddos with more writing skills could write their whole name.  I always lay out all the names so that the Sweet Peas have to find their name, which reinforces name recognition.  It’s amazing how this becomes their first “reading” activity – after several months of finding their own name, they can also recognize their friends’ names.



Vegetable counting today! The printouts are free line drawings from the internet.  I printed them on cardstock and laminated them for durability.

Level 1: Parents order the baskets and have the Sweet Peas count out the number of vegetables that match.

Level 2: Children order the baskets and count out the vegetables that match.

Options: Have the child sort vegetables and fill their baskets with only one kind of vegetable, or create a pattern as they place them on the numbered card.



There were two activities today:
Make and Take: planting grass seeds to water and grow at home



Gardening: Playing in the dirt and planting beansIMG_5382


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This was another free line drawing from the internet; printed on yellow paper.  The Sweet Peas could plant as many sunflower seeds as they wanted to onto their picture.


These are tiny containers from the dollar store.  I am addicted to these – so handy for lots of different things, especially making games!  I printed pictures of the mature plant on the lids.  The Sweet Peas could match by lid, by seed if they flipped them over to see the clear side; or you could play by having one half turned up and one half turned over, and then check your matching.

It also allowed the opportunity to talk about the size of the seeds and the size of the grown plant.



We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning – planting was the big hit on this day.

We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.

Preschool Playdate: Children’s Books

We held this playdaye on April 2, which also happened to be Children’s Books Day.  It was hard to plan for any specific theme since we invited our guests to bring theire favorite book to share.

Getting the morning off to our regular start:
— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Here are the books our guests brought to share:

  • Opposites by Sandra Boynton
  • The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurray

We alternated sharing books with unsquiggle games.

You can read the instructions for this center in the photo below.  I wrote the child’s name on an envelope, then put their “carrot” letters inside the envelope. They had to find their name, and then sort their letters to spell their name.

We added another component to this center by having the children separate the stuffed animals into two groups: carrot eaters and non-carrot eaters.



This was a simple sorting center since I didn’t have a theme to guide me.  We used buttons and egg cartons for this activity.  The kiddos could sort by color and/or by shape on this one.  Another idea was for the parents to start a pattern and have the children finish the pattern.


Another improvisation since the there was not a particular specific book/theme.  I chose containers with different size holes so that the kiddos could experiement and see what kind of “rain” would fall on the boats.

They could talk about small and large, fast and slow, sink and float.  They could also talk about the different kinds of rain: drizzle, sprinkle, rain, storm, hurricane.


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This idea and pattern came from the Toddler Calendar.  I printed the duck on white and yellow cardstock, and cut out the umbrellas from some fun Spring paper we have in our stash.  Kiddos used glue to put it all together, and then the cotton swabs to paint the rain.


We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents are welcome to stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.



Discovering Truths

I found this in my “Drafts” folder from last summer – I wanted to share it with you because it is a peek into the process that led me to decide that I really was not in a season where I want to spend lots of time on the computer.  If things happen organically, that is one thing…however, pursuit of an audience is not my number one priority right now.  I learned that when I went to BWF in Austin (read about that aha moment HERE).

And I can also see that my reality check was way off. The reality is that making my kiddos a priority means that blogging regularly isn’t going to happen. I am enjoying reaching out to you this summer while we are on a hiatus from our homeschool days…after that, we will have to wait and see what happens.

July 25, 2014

It has been five weeks since we have been without our nanny.  Life is MUCH different without her.  I am not only in charge of homechooling and guiding our Sweet Peas – now I have to be a housekeeper, too.  I get to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  It is not for the weary or faint of heart.

We did really well the first two weeks.  Now, six weeks into it, the house is not as tidy as a like it, the laundry takes a couple of days to go from “dry” to “put away”, and we are eating A LOT of quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Thank goodness for summertime produce – at least the Sweet Peas are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with their carbs and cheese.

By virtue of our summer plans, every year the nanny gets a 2-month sabbatical from the wild, wonderful circus that we are.  While it is great for all parties involved, it continues to be my yearly  reality check.  I often tell people how grateful I am for my loving husband who recognizes that in order to homeschool, work on my writing, and support our students from our Bradley classes that I really *cannot* do it all. I love and appreciate him all the more for his hard work that affords us the luxury of a nanny when we are without her.

It also makes me reflect on what I really want for myself and for our family.  Is it really important to be a up on the latest and greatest research, and trying to be a social media maven: building an audience, tweeting and Instagram-ing all day long? Not if it means that Crazy Mama shows up…because I haven’t gotten enough rest…because I am trying to keep up with it all when I should be sleeping.  I can truthfully say that I don’t like her very much, and that is not the person I want around our Sweet Peas.

So far, it has been a good “dress rehearsal” for the upcoming school year.  When our nanny is around, the last three hours of her day with us after we finish “school” is usually “me time”.  It is the time I use to work on writing, post to our blogs, answer emails, make phone calls, meet a friend for lunch…in all likelihood, that is going to be gone next year.

For the first time, I will be “officially” homeschooling all four children this September.  Otter and Charger will be working on the Sonlight PreK Core together; Night Owl and Puma are starting on Sonlight Core C (Intro to World History – II)  together.  My time to homeschool has increased by at least another 2 hours.  So if I want to exercise, homeschool, sleep, breathe and pray….you guessed it – the computer time is going to take a lower priority.  to say nothing of being the supportive spouse I want to be to Coach Bruss.  Yikes.

My foray into the social media world has been wonderful.  I enjoy connecting with other like-minded individuals from all over the world, and learning from them based on what they share about what they know.  I would be sad to give it all up.  I really like to be scheduled, so this summer is a great opportunity to play with that schedule and see just how it’s all going to fit in if I want to have computer time – and I do want to squeeze it in!!

I cannot help but go back to, “But, Peaceful Mama!” At the end of the day, my children will not care if I got to interact with the amazing people I learn from on the internet, or the latest and greatest research that I read and can use to improve our classes.  Especially if Crazy Mama shows up and takes a shift or two.  We all hate it when she shows up – it means that yelling and sad tears became part of our story.

Recognizing that I can be two mamas and which one shows up is up to me – that is part of the lesson I learned when I did the life coaching with Blue Russ last summer.  I know I feel better about my role as a mother (and myself as a person!) when Crazy Mama who yells and carries on is on vacation, and Peaceful Mama  who operates from a place of trust and respect that honors our children as whole, complete and worthy individuals is the one running the circus.

As I keep going back to my desire to be Peaceful Mama every minute of every waking moment, then I have to start to embrace the idea that I cannot do it all.  I am human.  I have to find joy in what I can do, and keep in mind that I am being who I need to be so that I can mother the way I want to mother – Peacefully.  If I am meant to be the public speaker that I want to be, then I need to keep in mind that the door will open when the time is right.

Until then, I must keep attending to the four people that inspire me to be better and do better every day.  They deserve Peaceful Mama, and have a right to my time and my energy above everything and anything else because we chose to invite them into our lives intentionally, and they are wonderful gifts that are to be enjoyed, as the saying goes, In The Present.

I also want to be the best childbirth educator and mentor that I can be to the students that chose us to walk on the journey of birth with them.  I want the students attending classes as new parents to get a great, fresh class every week.  Most of the focus is to help prepare them for the BIrth-Day.  We know that is just the beginning of the journey! We want to be a place for them to come for help and guidance.  I get the same answer: we cannot do that if I am too tired, or short on time to answer questions or respond to emails.

So I guess I found my truths:
1.) Peaceful Mama + Loving Wife
2.) Best childbirth instructor I can be
3.) Everything else

What are your truths?  How did you discover them?

Post-script 7.19.15:
The one things I can see is that my priorities were right on.  The Sweet Peas and I are so good with Peaceful Mama being in the driver’s seat more than 90% of the time.  And, connections with our students over the last three classes felt to be in a good place, too.  So, writing everything down ended being like a goal-setting. It worked out well this time!!

Preschool Playdate: Red Cross Day

Every March since World War II, the president of the USA declares March, “Red Cross Month”.  We focused on the Health and Safety aspect of the Red Cross mission:

From their website:
“The Red Cross is the nation’s leading provider of health and safety courses, such as CPR, First Aid and Lifeguard training. Each year, more than 9 million Americans participate in our training programs, including first responders, educators, babysitters, and people who want to be prepared to help others in an emergency.”

Read more about the Red Cross HERE

How we start our play dates:
— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

This week, I read a Spanish translation of a story from “The Best Storybook Ever” by Richard Scarry.  It focuses on several safety rules that every Sweet Pea should be familiar with.

  • Cross the street at the cross walk.
  • Do not throw objects at others – you could hurt them.
  • Do not push people around – no one likes bullies.
  • Do not ever play around deep water – there might not be anyone around to rescue you.
  • Do not stick your head out of the window of a moving vehicle.
  • Do not chase a ball into the street.
  • Play on your sidewalk or your yard – never in the street.
  • Do not ever go anywhere with someone you do not know.
  • Be on your best behavior when you are a passenger in a car.
  • Above all, do not ever take a crocodile home – they might bite you!

Spanish story:

English book:
I believe it’s called “Officer Montey of Monaco” in the English edition.
BLOG SPF RichardScarryBestStorybookEver

The starting point for this activity came out of The Mailbox Superbook.  I printed out their “Alphabet Soup” page on cardstock, and then I put it inside a page protector so that we could reuse the pages.

Option 1:
Trace the letters with a dry erase marker, then erase them with our home-made erasers.  I worked in the cotton balls that we had at the Discovery Table and the Arts&Crafts station in our literacy station, too!

Option 2:
Match the “soup” letters to the letters on the page.  These are alphabet soup pasta letters from Trader Joe’s.


For this center, I adjusted the commonly known use of dice to teach counting to fit our theme.  Instead of plastic counters, we used cotton ear swabs into this activity.  This served to reinforce the vocabulary of the items they would see at the Discovery Table and the Arts&Crafts station.

Level 1:
Roll 1 die, count out cotton swabs to match the dots on the die.

Level 2:
Roll 2 dice, count out the cotton swabs to match the sum.  Parents reinforce addition by saying the sums out loud.


We put out all manner of play animals and medical supplies to let the children explore, learn and use vocabulary, and be doctors and/or veterinarians – which ever role they identified with.

  • Antiseptic cream
  • Bandage
  • Bulb
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Gauze
  • Gloves
  • Patient
  • Prescription
  • Otoscope (to look in ears)
  • Stethoscope
  • Syringe
  • Thermometer
  • Vial


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
The Sweet Peas got to make a First Aid Kit to take home and continue the play after our play date.  This idea came from The Toddler Calendar.

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.

I hope you enjoyed the tour through our Red Cross Day.  The biggest hit, if you can believe it, was erasing with the clothespin-cotton ball eraser!



Monday Musings: When Plans Change

I became aware of the breadth and depth of postpartum depression when I started attending ICAN meetings four years ago.  Since then, I have learned that it is not exclusive to cesarean mothers, and have decided that part of my purpose in life is to break the silence around postpartum depression and encourage mothers to find a path towards healing.

Some people are helped by inspiring words as part of the journey towards healing.  One of our SPB mamas was kind enough to shared this amazing article that really helped her articulate how she feels about her planned-homebirth-turned-cesarean-birth.

HERE is one link to the article on the internet – it has been reprinted many times.  Since I am having a hard time finding a link that I can “pin” it for future mamas to find easily, I am reprinting it here.  If anyone can PLEASE tell me how to contact the author to request permission, please do. (I did find one link with suggestions and I think I’m covered, but it doesn’t cut it for me – I really would like to make it official.)

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

When I was searching for the original article to request permission to reprint this, I found  THIS update on the Stop discrimination against special needs Facebook page.

“Welcome to Holland (Part 2)” by Emily Perl Kingsley

 I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned.

I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger—the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay. Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time.

I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land. I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends.

Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn’t so bad.

I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?

Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its’ tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.

I have come to love Holland and call it Home.

I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.

Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!

These words are offered with the prayer that if you are coping with the loss of the vision you prepared for, whether it was your birth or otherwise, that you may start a journey towards finding peace.

Note: Header image via WikiCommons