Monthly Archives: March 2016

PPDspringflowers

Preschool Playdate: Flowers

Playdate: March 24, 2016
Theme: Spring Flowers

— 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: passed around seeds and plants for children to observe
— Storytime: Book from Enchanted Learning.com
— Unsquiggle activity: growing plants

Unsquiggle: after the children got to see the seed, roots growing, first leaves, and flowers, we invite them to act out the growth cycle.  They ball themselves up into little seeds, start shooting roots, then stem, leaves and flowers. A parent or another child can be the sun shining and the water falling from the sky or a watering can.  Whoever is the water can visit each child individually and water them to grow. (Idea from Mailbox Superbook)

STORY TIME
We used a book we made when Puma was a preschooler. It shows all the stages of growing from seed to plant, and you can print your own copy HERE at Enchanted Learning.com.

We passed around these samples for the children to look at and get to experience the live version of what they were seeing on the page.

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LITERACY CENTER
This was a fun activity to put together. I was trying to incorporate uppercase and lowercase letters, and then it occurred to me that each letter could also be a color of the rainbow.  I decided to add a little Spanish into the color identification games.

Level 1: Match the colors

Level 2: Match the letters in the same case (Uppercase to uppercase)

Level 3: Match the letters to the opposite case (Uppercase to lowercase)

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MATH CENTER
This was a number correspondence game. The children would place the correct number of buttons in the corresponding basket. The game could be played with random placement, or with instructions like, “same color”, “same size”, or, “make a pattern”.

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DISCOVERY TABLE
This is a felt activity where children could play with the arrangement of the flower parts and also identify the print words. A parent can ask a younger preschool to turn the letters the correct way. If the child is already sounding out, they could start to read the words.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take

This is a print activity.  You could use paint or ink – we opted for paint this time.  I didn’t lay out any “sample” with this activity…simply put out the sponge shapes and plates of color and waited to see what would happen. As you can see, there were lots of ideas on how to make flowers.

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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.

Stop in next week to see all the fun we have exploring caterpillars and butterflies today.

 

SPFMar28

Just One More

Our sweet friend that I was praying for was called home to be with our Lord last week.  I really feel like we got a miracle, although it wasn’t the one for a complete recovery.  She was able to have two lucid days to recognize, share and laugh with all the family and friends that came to see her. The doctors were shaking their heads in disbelief on Sunday…and she lived for two more days beyond that. It was a gift to share two more days with her here on earth – for that I am grateful.

As I looked for pictures of her, I started to panic. I knew I had one of her that I loved…and it took almost two hours to find it because I had to go that far back in our digital files.  After I finally found it, it was bittersweet. I had the picture I wanted, yet in the process of looking, I realized how few I had of her to remember her by, and I have not even one of the two of us together.

Neither of us was crazy about having our picture taken, and knowing how much I hated to have my picture taken, I wanted to honor her wish not to be photographed.  In my head, we had years with her…why would I need a picture to remember her by? This was a person with whom we celebrated birthdays, who we saw over the summer in the mountains, who we could pop in and see on the weekend…why would I risk upsetting her for the sake of a memory when I knew she was a forever kind of friend?

Along those lines, I am also going to encourage you to make memories now. We are all tired, short on time, and have homes in various states of disarray.  Lately, every time she was on my mind, I would hear she was in the hospital again.  Instead of taking the time to go see her after each discharge, I said a prayer of thanksgiving that she was well, thinking that there was still plenty of time. I had envisioned that we would travel with them after our children were older – and by then we wouldn’t care about taking pictures, right???

Wrong on both counts – our friendship is out of time, and I sit here with a short stack of pictures to share with our children when we talk about this wonderful friend who came to visit each of them after they were born, who came to baptisms and birthday celebrations, who kept special toys in her home for the times when children came to visit…so little of that is recorded because I wanted to honor her desire to stay off camera.

What is the fine line between respecting someone and recording their presence in your life? I still don’t know. Personally, it has made me grateful that I heard Jen McClellan of Plus Size Birth speak at a conference two years ago. Her message to “Capture Motherhood” really resonated with me, and since then, I have made an effort to be in more pictures with our family.

So today, I am going to add one more voice to the growing body of posts on the blogosphere that say: take the pictures. Life is messy, and for too long we have been deceived that the only worthy pictures are the “perfect” ones that we would print on a holiday card.  The truth is that out of the whole year, there are only 2-3 days that we really dress up for; that leaves 362 days of “real life” that we have the rest of the time.  Catch some of it on camera…so those that want to remember you in pictures will have something to look at and share along with all the wonderful stories of living life with you.

Along with taking more pictures, I am also going to try to remember to tell people what I love and appreciate about them more often. This friend was part of my journey of becoming a mother – I don’t know if I could ever thank her enough for her help the first time I tried to breastfeed in public. Without her by my side, I would have been even more of a mess that first time.  She calmed me down, found a way for me to latch Puma in privacy, and sat by my side as tears of pain and embarrassment rolled down my face. I know I thanked her that day.  Looking back, I can see how pivotal that moment was for me, and I wish I had told her again how much that moment means to me today. It always felt silly to want to say something…now I wish I had.

If you have those special people in your life, give them an extra big squeeze today as you tell them why they are important to you.  And get that picture with them, too.  Capture life.

My story of hearing Jen speak HERE

Jen’s Plus Size Birth blog HERE

Birth Without Fear events HERE

PPDireland

Preschool Playdate: Ireland

Playdate: March 17, 2016
Theme: Luck o’the Irish

How perfect that this playdate was on St. Patrick’s Day!! It made for a lot of neat activities. We did not focus on the saint aspect so much since we honor that not everyone shares our belief system.  We made it more about The Emerald Isle and all things green!!

— 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)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime: Great Irish Legends
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers) to welcome any latecomers to our playtime and sing one more time to the other children

 

STORY TIME
I found this book on Amazon. We chose the story about the king with the donkey’s ears. It was a great story that taught about tolerance and acceptance – very poignant during this turbulent political season.

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LITERACY CENTER
I found this idea on the B-Inspired Mama blog. I adjusted it to focus on uppercase and lowercase vowels since there are too many children and too little time (and too few foam shamrocks from the Dollar Store!) to make them all their own individual game.  We turned the shamrocks upside down in the containers for an element of surprise.  I also set out fishing poles with blue and yellow strings since blue + yellow = green :)

Level 1: Name the letter and match the letter case to the corresponding game card.

Level 2:Name the letter and mix the case and the card so that they have to match uppercase to lowercase.

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MATH CENTER
This was a printable from the B-Inspired Mama blog that I modified in order to add more print elements.  I wrote in the word names for the numbers in both English and Spanish before laminating the puzzle.

Once the sweet peas put the puzzle together, you could also have them count the elements in the picture: how many children, shamrocks, rain drops, etc.

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DISCOVERY TABLE
We had two activities for the children to explore…

Sensory Bin
We made green rice via the recipe on the Mama Miss blog. It is so easy to do – it literally takes five minutes to make. The only caveat is that you have to leave enough time for it to dry.  When we remember, we will make it the night before we need to use it. If not, luckily our AZ sun is hot enough to dry it out in a couple of hours, or spread it out and dry it on cookie sheets under a ceiling fan…we have done all these to get rice ready for playdates!!

We added pom-poms, buttons, and foam for different textures for the children to find under the rice. Of course, scoopers and kitchen utensils completed this area.

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Green Food Taste Test
This is an idea that I have seen across Pinterest as a way to engage picky eaters…sorry that I don’t have exactly one blog I can credit here.  Our sweet peas and I brainstormed green foods and made a mad dash to the local Sprouts to get some green!

We prepared a tray for each child individually in the kitchen. The parents got a tally sheet so that they could write down the food and circle a happy face or a sad face after the child tasted the particular food.  If my memory serves me, I think that the idea for the tally sheet was from B-Inspired Mama…we simply made our own instead of using her printable.

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Spinach, green pepper, grape, green apple, lime, cucumber, celery, kiwi, pear, broccoli

ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
These Wee Little Men are from the Sweet and Lovely Crafts blog – you can find the instructions HERE.  As a preschool teacher, I tend to save toilet paper rolls – it was nice to finally put some of them to use!

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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.

Check in next week when I share the activities we enjoyed for our Green Thumb playdate from yesterday.

 

 

SPFMarch21

Praying

I heard a sermon more than ten years ago that explained how the very simple “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) could serve as an outline for making prayer requests.   That teaching has stayed with me to this day, and it has become a guideline for my prayer life.  Since I am deep in prayer for some loved ones, I thought I would share how this prayer sustains me in times like this.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name
When we open with this statement, we honor God – and the Bible tells us often that he likes to be praised.  I also use this time to praise and thank God for the blessings he has bestowed upon our family – it’s wonderful for my soul to just start with gratitude.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
This is where I put in my request.  It’s a great reminder that this is just our temporary home, and that we are striving for our heavenly home.  Whatever I ask, I recognize that I am asking what I will; beyond that, I ask God to help me accept his will for what is going to happen in answer to prayer.

Give us this day our daily bread,
This is where I ask God to grant me whatever tools I need to get through this day, and if I am praying for someone else, that they will also be granted whatever resources they need for the day ahead.

and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
What a great opportunity to inventory – what sins do I need to let go and allow myself to release the guilt so that I can walk forward in peace?  Who do I need to forgive for real or imagined transgressions so that I can walk forward in even more peace?

Lead us not into temptation, 
Especially when I am hurting, I pray for release from the temptation to blame God or question his will. I also pray for protection from the temptations of doing things the easy way (i.e., as a mother: yelling is a great temptation – it’s easy! I pray that instead, I will breath first and take stock of a situation before I speak)

and deliver us from evil.
Here I pray for protection for our family and friends – may we be under God and the angels loving care for the whole day.

This part is not in the Bible, but I still say it since it’s part of the Lord’s Prayer song I learned as a child…
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

Back to praise – and a great reminder that we are under his care, and that he does all things for the good of his children, whether we like the answer or not.

AMEN.

My dad also sent me this verse today…sharing it here in case it will lift someone else up:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

– Deuteronomy 31:6-8, NIV

SPFMarch17

Gluten-Free: Legoland California

We have been on break from Preschool Playdates for Spring vacation.  We will start up our Playdate recaps again next week when I share all the fun we are having today as we celebrate Ireland.  This whole month is Irish-American Heritage month…so even if you are a little late to catch the St. Patrick’s Day theme, you can celebrate the Irish all month long.

Last week, I showed you how we did gluten-free at Disney California Adventure Park.  Today I am going to share the second part of our California trip in Carlsbad, CA.

We have a Lego problem at our house…as I imagine happens to many families who have children that are constantly playing with these little building blocks, they hardly ever turn down the opportunity to play with Legos.  A whole park full of Legos and Lego-themed activities?? YES, PLEASE!!  Every year we go, at least one child asks when we are going to move in…

Anyway, I digress.  Here was another park that went above and beyond to assuage my anxieties over the phone before we visited the first time.  After a successful first trip, by which I mean we could feed our children in the park without having anyone get sick, we have made it a regular stop on our visits to Southern California.

The third year we went back, we were also able to stay and enjoy the Legoland Hotel.  They have the same policy as the Disney parks: the head chef will come out and talk to us.  They listen to what our food allergies are, take us on the tour of the buffet to show us what is and isn’t safe for our family, and then they can also prepare gluten-free items that are not out on the buffet.  For breakfast, the extra gluten-free items are muffins and gluten-free bread; for dinner it is macaroni-and-cheese and brownies.

Even with the items that are prepared in the kitchen, there is plenty to eat out on the buffet.  We get up early enough that I was able to take pictures of breakfast choices…dinner is too crazy, and I am too self-conscious to run around with my phone snapping photos when it’s busy.  Since there are no photos, I’ll tell you that at dinner there are plenty of gluten-free protein, grain, and vegetable items to choose from – you will not leave hungry anytime you eat at the hotel buffet.

It just so happens that one of our favorite areas to hang out also has all the gluten-free food available restaurants we like.  Castle Hill is home to Castle Burgers, where they will do gluten-free hamburger buns, Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ that has salads and GF meats and sides, and Granny’s Apple Fries, hands-down our favorite snack pretty much anywhere on earth.

(See a map of the resort HERE)

Although we have never eaten there, there is a salad and sandwich restaurant where we might be able to eat at Pirate Shores.  We are usually in that area at the end of the day getting wet, so it has never been on our lunch stop.  The other place we have gotten food that is safe and yummy is at Wok N’ Bowl Raman, which used to be part of Duplo Funtown. That part of the park has been redesigned and updated to be the Lego Friends Heartlake City.

Although we couldn’t stay as long as we usually do this year (only one day of apple fries – boo hoo!), we had an awesome time at the park and at the hotel. They do offer different hotel pricing for peak times and off-times, so go if you can swing it!! The themed rooms are amazing (we may or may not have gotten a sneak peek at the new Friends room – squee!), the play area is every Lego aficionados dream – parent and child alike can be found building to their heart’s content.

So here is a visual tour of some of the food we enjoyed while we were on our Legoland California trip.

BREAKFAST

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Gluten-free items on the children’s buffet: sausage, tater tots, fruit This bar is just the right height for a child to serve themselves.

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The oatmeal is gluten-free. Potentially, the grits may be – if you eat grits, you can confirm with the chef.

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Hot cereal fixings on the right; yummy lox and all the fixings on the left: lox, tomatoes, lemon, capers, onions, hard boiled eggs, cream cheese – Oh My Yum!!

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Fresh Mango and Berry smoothies are blended up every morning.

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Breakfast potatoes and vegetable selections are gluten-free.

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Omelet and egg station – made to order!

SNACKS IN THE PARK

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Fresh fruit and gluten-free fruit snack options.

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lucy’s gluten-free cookies!!!

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Fresh apples

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Potato chips

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LUNCH

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Salad, vegetable fries, and corn-on-the-cob. In all fairness, I didn’t ask about the vegetable fries – check first if you have celiac disease!! Mine is just a sensitivity after eating gluten-free for the last 8 years so that the Sweet Peas don’t feel isolated or alone in their allergy.

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Gluten-free hamburger+hamburger bun; fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer

DINNER

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Macaroni-and-cheese – Puma declares that this is the best mac-n-cheese in the world.

SPFMarch14

Humor – not funny.

I mentioned this last week: Often, when I lose my cool, I reflect back on it and wish I could have used humor instead of reacting the way I did.

So last week, after an icky incident on spring break with another adult, I finally resolved once and for all to stop wishing and do something about it. (Spring Break story HERE)  I started poking around the internet for tips on “how to be funny”, “learn to be funny”, and “funny one liners”.

Guess what I found out? Humor isn’t that funny.  Well, the consensus is that it is if you are born with it.  If not, you have to learn it; the theory of learning humor surprised me.  You either have to learn the theory, and then you’re always looking for a place to apply it (which negates the whole idea of “being present” if your mind is always racing ahead). The other option is to memorize good jokes. I can’t see how knowing a funny joke is going to calm me down enough to diffuse sticky situations. For one, it takes time to tell it…and maybe I won’t always have that kind of time.

THIS article opened with an interesting quote: “Humor is criticism cloaked as entertainment and directed at a specific target…”  It was not the only article to mention that humor uses hostility, bitter truths…umm, wow – definitely not what I had in mind.

My goal is not to criticize or “make fun”.  When I reflected some more, I realized that what I really want to be able to do better is to diffuse tension.  To that end, when I looked up funny one-liners that might serve me, many of them were insults, albeit funny ones!

So maybe my goal isn’t to “be funny” after all. I think a more accurate intention is to become adept at diffusing tension.  For now, sticking to my opera voice or using funny accents is what I am going to keep using with my children…but what to do when it comes to adult interactions? I am thinking that if I break out in operatic song in public, I will be promptly carted away by security personnel…

It seems like my mantra of “Live Love” is going to have to be more present in my life on all occasions, not just when I am interacting with my family and friends.  If I had asked myself, “How do I speak with love?” before opening my mouth a couple of weeks ago, then maybe I wouldn’t have sounded irritated when I made my request.

So here is the affirmation I came up with:

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Heart Collage by Courtney Darby

So now it’s printed and up on my affirmation wall that I look at every morning when I brush my teeth.  Here’s hoping that it sticks in my brain, and that all my interactions are laced with more love this year.

 

 

 

SPFMarch10

Gluten-Free: Disney California Adventure Park

Our older Sweet Peas got to dance at Disney California Adventure on March 5th with their dance school, Talent Factory based in Tempe, Arizona. It is always such a great day for our family.  We go in early and stay as late as the collective Sweet Peas can handle. Sometimes we close down the park; this year they were toast by 8:00 pm.  Then again, they rode more rides than ever before, so they were definitely tired out!!

The first time we did this “field trip” with their dance school, I was freaking out about feeding our gluten-free children at the park.  What could they eat? Where could they eat? Wouldn’t the opportunity for cross-contamination be theme-park proportioned?!?

Instead of continuing to freak out, I made a phone call to the park. After a few minutes on the phone with one of the park’s dining reservations specialist, my mama bear was able to calm down.

1.) You can bring your own snacks.

2.) There are gluten-free dining options in the parks.

3.) A chef will come out and personally take your order and prepare the food themselves. They will give you a run down of the menu items that suit your allergy. (They have been able to accommodate gluten, dairy, and nut allergies for our family.) They take care to avoid cross-contamination.

4.) Our children have never gotten sick after spending a day in the park and eating at Disney restaurants.

In the past, we have enjoyed Ariel’s Grotto and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta (overviews HERE). An annual family favorite is Wine Country Trattoria. We first ate there as part of the World of Color ticket; and have returned for lunch even when we don’t have to eat there for the Color show.

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Image Source: Disney.disney.go.com

This is the first year when our server took our order and we never saw the chef. Nonetheless, she was versed in the gluten-free menu, took our order, and adjusted it accordingly so that our gluten-free kids only ate gluten-free foods.  They also have amazing gluten-free rolls!! Puma and Night Owl ate them heartily!

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My Cuattro Pomodoro with micro-greens and gluten-free spaghetti

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Puma’s penne pasta with butter and shaved parmesan, and one of the amazing gluten-free rolls

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NIght Owl had the bolognese with gluten-free spaghetti and shaved parmesan

Another “safe’ place for gluten-free families to get some snacks is Mortimer’s Market.  They feature several different options for fresh fruits and vegetables, and they also offer hummus. There are no gluten-free crackers in the hummus pack, but you could dip the carrots and celery in the hummus, or BYOGFC 😉

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Say hello to Khanh for us – he was very nice and knew lots of Disney trivia!!

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Night Owl with his favorite – red delicious apples!! We asked – a lot of the produce is locally sourced – yeah, Disney!!

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Fruit is naturally gluten-free: this case had watermelon, mango, and pineapple on ice. So refreshing on a hot day!

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More good options: carrots+celery, hummus, pickles, grapes, apples+caramel

We continue to be impressed with the amount of options and the level of consideration offered to families that travel in spite of their food allergies. I generally have anxiety about traveling with our family, and we pack A TON of snacks for the car/hotel because God-forbid we get stranded somewhere, without a place to feed the sweet peas! (I’m kind of kidding, but I’m not – my allergy-mama tribe feels me, right?)

It is nice to just enjoy the park and not be completely obsessed or over-anxious about all the ways they might get sick from accidental ingestion or cross-contamination.  It’s safe to say that we will continue to participate in this trip and enjoy our fun-day at the park!

We will see what next year will bring – we found out that Otter loves roller-coasters…maybe she will be tall enough to try out some Disney screamers next year!! And then God only knows how late we will be staying in 2017 😉

For more gluten-free Disney 411 check out these posts:

TOP 10 Gluten-Free Options from Chip and Co. blog

Eating Gluten-Free in Disneyland from the Disney Food Blog

 

LODGING: On a side-note, we stayed at the Embassy Suites Anaheim South. They offer complimentary breakfast every morning…our kiddos enjoyed krispy rice cereal, eggs, oatmeal, omelettes, breakfast potatoes, fresh fruit and lots of bacon!! They even offered almond milk, although none of our kiddos drink it, if I had read the menu under “beverages” I could have had some (decaf!) coffee.

Here is a sample of their children’s grill menu available for lunch or dinner. We tried both the gluten-free pizza and the gluten-free pasta – both were good. They don’t have gluten-free hamburger or hot dog buns, so Night Owl had his hot dogs without buns both evenings. I watched him for a reaction (sometimes hot dogs have fillers even when the menu says “all beef”) but he didn’t have a reaction. Phew!

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SPFMarch8

Mirror, Mirror

or, Peaceful Parenting IRL

I parent very intentionally – affirmations in the morning to set my intention for a peaceful and loving day with our children, meditation to clear my mind, magical chocolate and enchanting elixirs to insure my mood is as kind, patient and loving as it can be…all with the desire to be in Peaceful Mama mode as much as I can be throughout our crazy, full days.

When I do slip into some version of Crazy Mama, I try to learn from it.  I reflect on what happened, and hold up to the mirror to see if I can find the lesson I need to learn, or maybe I need to see a hypocrisy in myself that I need to address.

Here is a recent IRL scenario that taught me some lessons:

We are just coming back from a trip with our children that involved several other families from their dance school. We went to Disneyland to participate in their Performing Arts Days: the teachers put together a 30-minute program, and the kiddos get to perform it on a stage at either Disneyland or California Adventure Park.

I cannot even begin to tell you how ludicrous the seat jockeying is. Normally sane people turn into strange creatures devoid of reason. The last four years we have attended, by the time I try to find a seat for our family, the very limited seats are all gone. I have no idea how people move that fast…maybe that is my irritation – that I am not part of the “in” group that knows how to do this (Reflection/Lesson #1)!!

Knowing full well that this kind of behavior brings out the worst in me (my JUDGE has lots of things to say about people who are not fair), I have circumvented the whole seating thing by adjusting my expectations. Instead of looking for a seat, I just want to find a place to photograph and film our children.

After sitting on the ground last year, my solution this year was to bring a tarp that we could lay on the ground so we weren’t sitting on cold cement. I parked our stroller next to the front row, set the tarp in front of it for anyone in our group who wanted to sit down, and then I stood behind the whole set-up well in advance of the show starting so that anyone off to the side and/or behind us could infer that I was not going to move. There is plenty of room off to the side of the benches, so I really hoped they could find their own clear shot to the stage if they wanted pictures/film (Reflection/Lesson #2 maybe I am also being a “hog” even though not of a “seat”, I was definitely unyielding).

What do you think happened? One of the people who saved a whole row for themselves and their family came and sat in front of Charger, who was sitting patiently ON THE GROUND for the show to start so he could watch his siblings.

I was ready to lose it. I felt my ears steam, my voice splutter, my body started to sweat. WTF?!?!?!?! The way I saw it, I had three choices in that moment. I could say nothing. I could lose it. I could try to control myself and point out how inconsiderate they were being and ask them to kindly move over.

In the few seconds I had to reason out how this interaction was going to go, these things ran through my mind: I blog about peaceful parenting – losing it isn’t peaceful. I can’t lose my temper in front of a bunch of people who I will see one way or the other for the next several months (until recital time in June) or for the long-haul if their families continue to take classes like ours does. I have written about body-positivity and self-love – I wouldn’t be showing any of those if I resorted to childish name-calling. And, above all, I profess to be a Christian…and we are usually judged by our worst behavior…so I would be doing a great disservice to my faith if I lashed out with ugly actions and words.

I already knew that I wasn’t going to stay quiet – after all, IMO, I wasn’t the one being “not fair”.  So I opted for trying to control myself and “say something”. I certainly wasn’t as kind as I wanted to be, nor was I as ugly as I could have been. After I said something, she did at least scoot over, so at least part of the problem was solved. Yet I felt sad that I had to say anything at all, and irritated at myself that I didn’t do better in a human-to-human interaction: I hadn’t spoken with love.

In situations like this, when the best version of myself fails to show up,  I generally kick myself afterwards and wonder how I could have used humor. What would have been a funny way to approach this situation so that we all could have laughed and she still would have moved?

So my biggest takeaway from all this is to actively start working more humor into our day (Reflection/Lesson #3). I am going to find, or sit down and write, a good affirmation so that I can print it and add it to my affirmation wall. Since humor is not intrinsically on the tip of my tongue, I could also probably do with some time looking up some opening one-liners that I can tuck into my brain and access the next time I feel the steam rising.  For as sure as the sun rises and sets, there will be another next time when my patience is tested.

And hopefully, little by little, humor will become part or my parenting/dealing with other humans toolbox so that Crazy Mama only comes out when she’s really needed. Since I can’t imagine any Fight or Flight scenarios I would intentionally place our family in, maybe that will allow for Peaceful Mama to keep hanging around more consistently everywhere, not just when we are within the safety and security of the walls we call home.

UPDATE: As it turns out, I don’t want to be more funny after all…what I decided is that I need to be better at diffusing tension.  After doing the research I wanted to do, I did come up with an affirmation that I think will work.

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Preschool Playdate: Carnival!

Play date: February 25th
In honor of Carnival Day

— 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: What is a carnival? Children+Parents named some of the different places they had been to a carnival.
— Storytime: Manner Monster
— Centers
— Poem/Song before we say goodbye

 

STORY TIME
I searched high and low on our bookshelves for a story with a carnival theme, or even a mention of going to a carnival.  For once, they came up short!! I could have used one of our word dictionary books…however, this provided a great opportunity to share a book I bought with playdates in mind, The Do’s and Don’ts by Hayley Rose.  I marked the pages that would work as basic guidelines for a safe carnival experience and shared those, rather than reading through the whole book.

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Before breaking for centers, we also shared an tumbling show with our guests. All our homeschoolers take tumbling classes, so they threw together a quick little routine to perform for our guests.  The Sweet Peas were kind enough to show their appreciation by yelling, “More!” when we turned off the music – my big kids were tickled pink!

LITERACY CENTER
What’s a carnival without a fishing game?? I chose six letters that the children had seen over the last few months.  The game/pieces are from Discovery Toys, and the letter magnets are from Lakeshore Learning. The sweet peas could fish for lowercase letters and then match them to the correct uppercase letter.

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MATH CENTER
This was inspired by the ring toss games on the carnival midway.  I modified a cookie game from Lakeshore Learning (it was a big hit when we did our Cookie Playdate). So I decided to give it a reprise as today’s counting game, and also incorporate colors and shapes…hence the Cookie Toss!
Level 1: Practice gross motor skills and simply toss cookies on the plate.
Level 2: Roll the dice and count out the cookies to throw
Level 3: Roll, count, and then name the color and shape on the plate where the cookie landed

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DISCOVERY TABLE
We had three “discovery” centers today:
TUMBLING
Puma and Otter helped the kiddos with some basic tumbling – Otter demonstrated and Puma coached.  They taught our guests spider walks, stoop jumps, somersaults, and straddle rolls.

 

BEAN BAG TOSS
This was another gross motor skill activity. We stacked up some of our upcycled tins and created a stacking tower with them.  The kiddos took turns throwing a bean bag at the tower to see how many they could knock over with one throw.  The can-counting also gave us the opportunity to work in some math :)

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FEED THE DOG
I pulled out this game with all the “in the basket” games that are prominent on carnival midways.  This was a no-pressure fun way to get the bones in the dog’s mouth – no tossing involved!  The sweet peas could use the tweezers to work on fine motor skills, or simply pick up the bones with their fingers and put them in front of the stuffed pup or inside the dog’s mouth.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
There was no planned craft today – I had a couple of ideas that I just didn’t get around to executing.  I always have art paper and art supplies around the house.  The group very organically started grabbing sheets of paper and drawing supplies and before I knew it, there was a gaggle of children on the floor having the best time drawing!!

It was a good reminder for me: simple can be enough!!

 

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.  There were several favorites today: tumbling, bean bag toss, feed the dog, and fishing were all named more than once.

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.

We are taking a two-week break from hosting playdates while we enjoy our Spring Break!  Join me the next couple of Thursdays for a peek inside our vacations at Disneyland + Legoland.  I will take the time to blog about how amazing both theme parks are for our gluten-free family.

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I am enough: How the struggle with self-worth affects our children

True confession: I am a Birth Without Fear fangirl!!

I started following the FB page way back in 2010 when it first started as a simple message that birth without fear is possible. Since then, the message has expanded to support and validate all birth journeys, the postpartum period, and the crucial role that fathers/other partners play in the family.

My first experience hearing the founder, January Harshe, was in April of 2013 when she spoke at a MommyCon mini offered in Phoenix, Arizona. It seemed like maybe she was nervous, and then she found her voice and delivered a powerful message about being supported in birth choices. Come to find out later, our group in Phoenix got to see the first BWF presentation ever!! Super-cool.

Later that year, I got to see her again in LA for another MommyCon event, and then in 2014 we traveled to Austin for her second Birth Without Fear conference – it was life-changing for me. 2015 ushered in a year of “Meetups” – one-day events designed to bring the best of Birth Without Fear to more communities. Although we didn’t get to a meet-up last year, Puma and I did get to see January speak at a fabulous Club MomMe event, the Fall Family Fest at the LA Botanical Gardens.

Listening to the amazing @january_harshe from @birthwithoutfear speak @clubmomme #FamilyFest #BestDayEver #birthwithoutfear

A photo posted by Sweet Pea Births (@sweetpeabirths) on

Imagine my delight when I found out that there was going to be a meet-up right here in my backyard in February!! Super-yeah…especially when I found out that the keynote speaker was going to be Jade Beall, the amazing and conversation-shifting photographer from Tucson, Arizona.

Jade did not disappoint.  Her message of body positivity, and the way she wholeheartedly embraced the changes of pregnancy – OMGosh – I hope that there was not one person in the room who left without believing in their deepest cell that their post-pregnancy bodies are inhabited by goddesses of the highest order.  She gushed over the rolls we try to hide, the beautiful stretch marks that shine with the pride of growing life, and showed us the beautiful human body through her lens.

Flashback to my own journey with food and semantics: Since I struggled so much with body image, and I am a huge believer in positive thinking, I knew that the words I used about my body would be very likely to influence my children. I have made a concerted effort to talk about my food choices in relation to the amount of activity I do. I don’t eat less because I am on a diet, I eat less because I am not as active as they are. I make green food choices and smoothies because those foods give me energy, not because I’m on a “diet”. When we talk about their bodies, we use the words like, “muscular” and “strong” and “healthy” when we talk about shapes, sizes, and foods we are buying for them to eat.  Will they add health? Or do we avoid them because they compromise our health?  I try so hard not to make it about weight and body shape/size.

So as far as the food conversation, I hope I am already on the right path with our children.  What Jade gave voice to, and it applies to body image as well as the bigger picture of motherhood, is the idea that if we are tearing ourselves down with our words, imagine what it does to our children (loosely paraphrased):

If mama is talking crap about herself, MY QUEEN, then what am I?

If MY QUEEN is not worthy, what is going on in my world?

To our children, we are the whole world.  We are their mothers – we are beautiful in their eyes simply because they love us!! How amazing that the universe placed this wisdom in my path this week, “You know how when you get to know someone you see their inner beauty and stop noticing how they look on the outside? I wonder if that’s how kids see everyone all the time.”

Um…YES…until, as someone wisely pointed out, they are taught to judge.  Unless we tell them we are unworthy, they do not see us as unworthy. Until we give them the words that exclude everyone except the photoshop images in glossy magazines – they do not know their mothers are anything but the most beautiful mother in the world.

Here are more gems from Jade’s presentation:

  • The story of growing a human and pushing it out/birthing is not restricted to one body type.
  • Who likes lies? Truthfulness is so empowering. What is so wrong with cellulite? What’s wrong with being human?
  • Today this is me. It is enough.
  • All of us together in our skin are beautiful in our diversity.
  • Love yourself – love yourself – love yourself. It is the key to awesomeness and to being able to live the life you want to live.
  • Self-love is a complete practice.

And my favorite: “As soon as we are free from the shame, our epicness can happen.  Epicness enters your body, and amazing things start to happen.”

After Jade concluded her presentation, January shared her keys to embracing body love: start replacing the negatives with the positives.  Instead of waking up and naming all the things we don’t like about ourselves, find some things you already love about yourself. Then, start the day with those affirmations of what you love about yourself. Little by little you will find that your conversation about who you are starts to shift.

She made the great observation that body-love and self-acceptance has a bigger effect beyond ourselves and our families…it’s about people.  Everyone is struggling & judging in one way or another.  Skinny, fat, pink, purple, there is no magic formula to being happy – everyone has a story they are telling themselves that colors their perspective.

Here are the gems I wrote down from January’s follow-up to Jade’s presentation:

  • What am I worried about?
  • I’m the only one in this body. I’m the only one on this journey.
  • The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to others.
  • When you use your voice, you give other women the power to use theirs.

What both of these ladies touched on matters in such a deep, profound way to mothering. Can we love ourselves enough to teach our children the gift of self-love? We have heard this, read this, seen this over and over: Actions speak louder than words.

If we tell our children to be confident and that we love them just as they are, will they believe us if our actions towards ourselves completely contradict our words? When we have a double-standard, one for them and one for us, how will they know which one is right?  If the current state of our collective self-esteem is any indication, self-loathing wins that battle every time.

I left the event on Saturday with a renewed commitment to be body positive and to live in self-love every day.  I am actually excited to release this body shame and allow my own EPICness to take a firm hold.  It’s been rooting around in there, trying to get a good hold since hearing Jennifer McClellan of Plus Size Birth in Austin…now it’s time to really plant it in the tilled soil and start to thrive.  I am the Queen of my queendom…in all the world, only one.

 

How about you? How can you embrace your EPICness today? What is one small step you can take towards self-acceptance?

I invite you to be curious – say one thing you love about yourself and hold it inside you today.  The QUEEN of the tribe can be as radiant on the inside as she is on the outside.  The little people who love you already see you as a shining star – own it – breathe it – live it.  See what happens – what kind of epic will you unleash today?

Get to your own Birth Without Fear Meetup this year!! Find the full schedule HERE.