Monthly Archives: September 2016

Preschool Playdate: Fall Fun

THEME: First day of Fall
Play date: September 22, 2016


— 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 is a treasure from a Scholastic book box I purchased early in our homeschool days.  I like this book because each page has a bold call out that can be read as an easy reader, and in regular font there is more detail for the child that is ready to read/learn more about the topic.


Letters:  F-A-L-L and A-U-T-U-M-N

Lots of opportunity for play and learning today:
Level 1: Talk about uppercase and lowercase letters. Have the child find the letter cards that match the words.

Level 2: Scramble the letters for one word and have the child line them up with the corresponding card.

Level 3: Scramble the letters for 2-3 of the words and have the child line them up with the corresponding cards.



Magnet Leaves – Fishing for pairs 1-6

I was inspired to create this center by the magnet lessons I have been doing with Otter and Charger. They love “fishing” with their magnet fishing poles.  So I took some of our fabric leaves that could withstand the wear and tear of continual use and paired them with a number. I try to incorporate print as much as I can when we do centers, so aside from the number I also wrote the name of the number on the circle. One set is in English, the other is in Spanish.

With more time and/or if you have the storage space, you could make more pieces and some game boards that have a leaf outline on them and numbered leaves. Instead of lining them up in a row, they could be matched to the corresponding spot on a game board.


The other activity we did was half discovery, half math.  We hid ten “acorns” in the leaves.  Then we gave the children rakes to dig through and find as many acorns as they could find. They got to count the acorns and then hide them again for the next sweet pea.


Leaf rubbing

We used the age-old and oft enjoyed crayon rubbing art idea to explore leaves. First you get the sensory experience of rubbing: it has a feel and a sound to it.  Then there is the magical aspect of creating art that “magically” appears.

What I noticed yesterday and pointed out to the older children was the difference between our desert plant leaves and those that are pictured in most books about leaves.  Our water-deprived desert leaves and small and/or long and thin, and many are spiky. Looking at the picture books that feature trees of the more temperate forest climates, we can see that those leaves are bigger and come in many more varieties. They could make the connection that the more water is available, the larger the leaf size.

Another reason I like this as a discovery table for toddlers is that once the papers are finished, we can look and talk about similarities and differences using their art instead of the more fragile leaves.


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
Leaf necklace idea is from Kiwi Crate

One of the things I love about doing crafts with young children is that it provides an opportunity for organic learning. “How many leaves do you want in your necklace?” ” Can you count out “x” number of leaves?” “What color bead is going to be first?” “Which color would you like next?”

All this on top of the fact that you are working to improve their motor skills and hand-eye coordination, as well as inviting them to use their imagination. The different textures of the materials also help stimulate their senses…no wonder this is one of my favorite stations to pull together each week.


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


Preschool Playdate: Hat Day

We are back with “sneak peaks” into our daily activities!  One of our favorite days of the week is Thursday, when we host Preschool Playdates for our alumni families.

Our first playdate for the 2016-2017 school year fell on the celebration of “Hat Day” on September 15th. We had lots of fun exploring around hats and the letter “H”.

Harry’s Hats, by Ann Tompert, illustrations Marcelo Elizalde
I picked this book because of it’s obvious tie-in to our theme. I also like it because it helps teach the days of the week.  We follow the main character, Harry, through a week where he wears different hats and enjoys different activities.


This week we kept it simple.  I put out mini-whiteboards and dry erase markers so that the Sweet Peas could explore writing.

We also had this “H” sound box for the children to play with different toys that either showed the letter H or started with the letter H.  The items included: handbag, hair bows, headband, and horses. Other great “h” words: house, hippo, hydrant – we didn’t have small toys to represent those!


We used hats for imaginative play, counting, and sorting


Craft hat and magnet play!

We upcycled some oversize coloring pages the kiddos had outgrown, then we folded the colored papers into hats! They enjoyed wearing the points in front and on the side.
You can also use the letters to teach sounds and upper case and lower case, as well as reinforcing the theme.


paperhatInstructions from

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.

Next week: Fall Fun!!

Thoughtful Thursday: Who is your clan?

As our family continues to move through this season of flux, something occurred to me…if we move across the country, I am losing my clan.  My call text-at-the-spur-of-the-moment crew.  My people who I can reach out to with no notice, and they show up for me.  As I would show up for them.

I have two aunts who live on our end of the metro area who are pretty reliable if they are in town.  I have a whole crew of dance moms at the dance studio who help keep an eye on the kids if we have errands to run instead of sitting at the studio to wait for our kiddos. There are a few former birth students we are privileged to call friends.  I haven’t had to call on them yet; I imagine if we did, they would help us out.

Then there are my birth people. These incredible (mostly) women who I can call or text when I have questions about anything. Whether it’s an answer I need for class or a situation I’m seeing at a birth, they are there and they answer back almost immediately.  A lot of the time it’s a crazy-time of day text to clarify a finer point of breastfeeding or hospital care to make sure that my words are informative without crossing the line of giving advice that I am not licensed to give.

Connections of family, common geography, or common interest that we take for granted…it literally just hit me that we would have to start all over in a new city if we move. We do not have the amount of family there that we do here, they are not close to where we would live, we would literally be strangers to everyone.

I had to go back and think about how we built our clan of support here in this area.  Family is built in – which is such a lovely way to live – hurrah for family.

As for the rest, the dance studio moms we have known for upwards of eight years since our Puma started dancing, and slowly as the other get involved and we figure out which families are sticking around, we get to know them as well.  Thanks to social media and texting, we are in touch with those that we can trade “let me know if my child needs anything” help with when we need to run an errand.

Aside from the community we have formed through teaching, the library was another place we found families that would go on to become friends.  I guess we’ll be going to the library a lot if we move.

As I put my thinking cap on to think of other ways to build a new clan if we move: I will have to seek out the local La Leche League meeting, see if there are any doula groups that meet-up on a regular basis, and see if anyone is hosting birth circles or birth story sharing groups.

The thought of starting over as a childbirth educator is a little daunting.  We know several midwives in the area now, and we have a good working relationship with a couple obstetric practices, and we know lots of good providers for all the things that are not in our scope as childbirth educators.

And now for true confession time:
As nervous as it made me, I loved performing on stage.  I could put on make up, put on my costume, and assume a persona. I knew no one else out there knew my routine and that they would admire me as a performer.  Once the music started, I knew my routine and I just went out there and enjoyed the moment.

Meeting new people in a new group does not involve music. It does not involve stage makeup or costumes or performing. It requires me to take a risk and put my true self out in front of others – and we all just want to be loved. It makes me vulnerable in a way that brings out my inner eight-year-old: “what if they don’t like me?”

So today’s realization is that I need to start getting used to the idea of meeting new people and starting over just in case we are really moving across the country. I think that the purpose of finding our new clan will be a good motivation to do some mindful meditation and build up my self-esteem: I am loved, I am lovable, and I radiate love.  Maybe a little crazy.

BUT worth it – because if we move, our children are going to be in the same boat. I need to be able to be a good example for them so that they can go out there with confidence…as they say, I need to” fake it until you make it” so that I set a good example. I will have to be honest and tell them that I am nervous…I don’t want to be fake to the point of creating an expectation that our children find unrealistic.

So here I go, boldly forward with a new focus for meditation. Whether we move or not, bathing my mind with loving intentions will ultimately benefit the four little people I love the most. And that is always worth it.


Thoughtful Thursday: Ageing

Wednesday, 6:00 PM

When do we start caring about what others think of us?

I am sitting her watching our youngest dance joyfully in the middle of the coffee shop.  Puma is mortified because Otter is hopping around; doing her best estimation of the steps she has watched her siblings do in class today.

Puma hisses at her to stop.  Otter keeps dancing away without a care in the world.

I love it.  I wonder – will I ever be able to find that exuberant spirit again? And I ask you: Do you remember being little and just doing whatever came to mind and not caring who saw or who commented?

I have dreaded ageing.  I remember doing the competition makeup for some of our older ladies when I was a pro dancer in my 20s and comparing their sagging eyes to my fresh, tight ones.  Now as my eyes look more and more like those I used to despair at having, I have to face the fact that I am closer to being that older woman now.

What have I gained in those years between tight smooth eyes and my puffy aged ones?  What have I learned since my hands were smooth and clear, now that I look at my wrinkled and newly spotted ones?

I won’t lie – I am so tempted to buy into the miracle creams and soothing tonics to tighten my eyes, smooth the wrinkles, and lessen the look of age on my hands.

What stops me?  The refusal to deny all that my body has endured since my 20s when I was the picture of vibrant youth.  I have loved deeply.  I have been heartbroken.  I met the perfect partner for me. I have been pregnant five times and birthed four humans into this world.  I have faced fear and overcome.  I have triumphed.  I have been humbled.  All of it has happened in this skin that houses my soul. A soul that is constantly evolving, learning, and growing.

I know that I could do all those things and still look ageless, and I applaud those women who pull it off whether it’s by genetics or products. A part of me envies you.  When I look at the sum of things, I realize that I don’t want to look ageless. I want to carry my age with grace.  I believe that if I continue to feed my body with good food, then I don’t need chemical peels on a regular basis to allow my beauty to shine (I’ll keep it as my guilty pleasure on vacations! Love my facials!!).  If I continue to exercise moderately, I won’t be a tight, taut figure ever again. However, I can keep my heart fit so it can keep beating and meet future generations of our family.

So here I sit…closer to 45 than I ever imagined.  I once thought that I would like to die by the time I was 65 – I never wanted to look old.  Now I realize that if I died in 20 years, I would miss out on the greater portion of our children’s lives…and that I’m not afraid to be old anymore.  I am more afraid that I won’t have the time to do all the things I want to do before my life ends: raise our children, travel as a family, go back to school, study pregnancy and nutrition at a PhD level, and continue to speak on the things I am passionate about: pregnancy, the birth journey, breastfeeding and parenting.

In the interest of transparency, here is my true confession…I don’t like my gray hair.  I will be coloring my hair until it looks ridiculous and the rest of me points to the fact that I should indeed be a gray-haired old lady.

BUT the best part of being that gray-haired old lady that I also learned from our older dance students: they got to have fun again…with no filter. Those older ladies flirted mercilessly, told stories of their youth, danced without censure, and loved being alive.  Many of them enjoyed being able to pass off as a blond!  I don’t know about the flirting…actually I do know…since I am happily married I will refrain from that for now. I will probably try everything else.

I will take the lesson to be carefree from our little love and the little old ladies…today is the day to start dancing again, without a care for who is watching, who is judging, and what they have to say about it. And be in this day, present, and living my life to the fullest measure. I will be enjoying the fact that I was gifted another 24 hours to breathe, live, love, and age another day.

Thoughtful Thursday: Sorting Through

As we continue to unpack, I dread the fact that we still have LOTS of boxes in our garage. On top of all those boxes, we have LOTS MORE boxes in storage.

It’s stuff.  Literally just stuff. Holiday decorations. Cherished baby items and favorite outfits from when our sweet peas were little.  Toys.  And papers. And old artwork. All of it reminding me that we have too much, I keep too much. I have so much to release.  Especially: books!!!

As I was moving things around today to clear some space in the garage, I found a laundry basket full of books…and I have to face the fact that there is literally no more shelf space for them.  (I cannot buy another bookcase!! Where would I put it?!?!)

We are bursting at the seams in our home – I don’t want to bring anything else inside.  Right now, everything has a spot. Nothing is piled up or so full that I can’t easily put it away in the right place…but there are still boxes.

So now I have to decide: am I going to let things go? Or am I going to insist on holding on?

It almost feels like a metaphor for our children. As we are in the midst of the 64-day span in which we celebrate the birthdays of our 3 younger sweet peas, I am struck by the fact that they are *really* all growing up.  Our “baby” is turning five this year…she is in kindergarten!!  We are only six years away from our oldest going off to college…and she is making noises about wanting to try out for a performing arts school next year.  I hear a rustle in our little nest…

They are all stretching their wings and getting ready to fly.  It makes me take inventory of what we are teaching them…will they be equipped? Will they have the confidence to spread their wings? Will they know how to do critical thinking?  Will they have the courage to do what is right instead of doing that which is most convenient or gratifying?  Sometimes those things intersect; and when they don’t, will they be able to live with their choices?

So here I sit…wondering.  Wondering what will become of the pile of boxes.  Wondering how our sweet peas will grow.  I hope and pray that they will grow and mature in their faith and self-esteem, knowing that they are loved.

Letting go…holding on…the art of living a meaningful life. The inspiration continues to choose and lead with love. My filter is the question, “Am I living love right now?” If I am, we go onwards. If I am not, it’s time to adjust an attitude, a voice, a tone…and live with love, nurture with love, grow with love; trusting that the end result is going to be greater than I can imagine.