Category Archives: Family

TT Dear Dance Mom

Thoughtful Thursday: Dance Drama

As we enter a new season of dance, I feel compelled to write a little something about the drama that plays out after every audition season.  And believe me when I tell you that I have had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands…because I do not want to be one of “those” parents. So this is a reminder for me, and hopefully if even one parent who finds themselves getting wrapped up in their children’s activities can get a little peace of mind, then my intention with this post is fulfilled.

I see this every dance season: (mostly) mothers who are comparing notes as they receive their children’s schedules, complaining to the other mothers, asking their children why someone is in a class and they are not, going to the studio directors and asking after their children and their placement.

Number one: Your children have no idea why other dancers are the classes they are in.  Leave them alone.  Dance at it’s most primal element is an expression of emotion (joy when you are a child)…so let them revel in the joy of dancing.

Number two: When you hound the teachers, you become one of “those” moms. Do you really want to be one of “those” moms?

Number three: This is not about you. If you enrolled your children in dance classes to fulfill one of your childhood ambitions, then you are doing both of you a disservice. Children who feel pressured to do something will probably do one of two things: quit when they are ready to claim a little independence; or if they stay in it to keep you happy they may suffer the ill effects of stress: illness, injury, depression. What is this childhood ambition of yours really worth?

 

Here is the thing: if your child went through an audition process to be placed, their instructor saw them.  They see where they are today, and if you have history with the school, then likely, they have seen them the last 2-3 years.

Leave the schedule be. Even mindful teachers sometimes overlook children through the audition process, and when that happens then they will move your child into the correct placement. That is the key: THEY do it.  “They” as in the teacher, and “they” as in the child. You stay on the “cool parents” list, and your child has the joy of accomplishment as their progress is recognized and they on their own merit, get to move up to the next level.  When the child moves up on their own merit, they are not the kid whose mother got them in the class (people talk…both parents and children).  When a child does the work and gets promoted on their ability, the child knows they earned it themselves. Hence, the opportunity for a huge milestone on their journey to build self-esteem.

This is what it all comes down to in my book: either you trust your child’s instructors, or you don’t.  If you trust them, then deep down you can come to the realization that maybe your expectations for your child do not match their abilities “for now”. If you feel like the teachers are not doing their job or are not judging your child fairly, then by all means find another dance school that is a better fit for your family.

Bear in mind that “for now” doesn’t mean forever, it doesn’t mean for always…just for now.  Even though it digs at me sometimes, I have to go back to my mantra: I would rather see my child in the front line of a lower-level class, instead of pushing them up to the next level where they are relegated to the back line and lower self-esteem because they can’t quite keep up just yet.

I am not suggesting that you do not allow your child to goal-set.  Here is an idea if there is a class in which your child would like to participate, or you want them in.  Instead of appealing to the teacher to admit them, ask the teacher what the child needs to work on to be promoted to that next level. Then, if your child wants to, bring them in to the school a few minutes earlier so that they can work on those skills before classes start. I have seen other families hire some of the senior students help coach…that works, too, as long as it’s a child-led desire to do the extra classes to improve.

We have also seen our children flourish when they perform solos or small group numbers.  It allows them to receive more individualized instruction. In addition, a mindful teacher will choreograph a routine that plays to the child’s strengths while also putting in some sequences that challenge them to grow.

So trust the process, mama and papa. If you want your child to love dancing, then take them to class, feed them well, ensure they get plenty of sleep, keep them in shoes that fit, and enjoy watching them grow in the art of dancing. For grow they will, in their skills and their love for dance.

For tips on finding a good school, click HERE.

P.S. This is the cool part…when you leave your kids and their teachers alone, and you just sit on your hands and close your mouth because you trust the teachers and your trust their process…amazing things can happen.  One wish: your child becomes an amazing artist who is poetry in motion.

We had the honor of watching a very cool and collected Puma win not one, not two, but five national first place awards at the Dance Masters of America National Convention. Two for her solo, two for her duo with Night Owl, and one with her small group. She is a child who was “passed over” year after year as other children around her age were advanced. I trusted the process and stayed the course, trusting that her instructors are amazing, caring and capable people, and that they would move her when she was ready. Our beautiful, self-confident child reaped the rewards of HER hard work and dedication because SHE cared and did if from a self-drive to succeed. So very proud of her. For my part, thankful for the wisdom that comes with maturity. Because God knows that it took a lot for me to be still.

 

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Fessin’ Up

I want to take a minute to make something very clear because two people have made comments along the same thread in the same week.

My base belief is that those of us who choose to function in society are doing the best we can with what we have.  I try not to judge myself against others because the other thought I remind myself is that no one is perfect. We are all disorganized somewhere, and some are just better at hiding it than others. 

I am writing today as a reminder: When you look at someone, try not to assume that they have it all together or judge yourself for not doing enough…because unless people “fess up” like I am about to do, then they may look like they are, “doing it all”. In reality they are just getting along as best they can like everyone else.

Comment 1: “You had time to make dinner for all your kids?”
Because mama saw me at the dance studio with our little IKEA bento boxes at the studio, which our kiddos take because we hate buying fast food.

Answer: Our nannies cook. I make sandwiches and cut fruits and vegetables. When the nannies pack the boxes, there are meals in them. When I pack the boxes, there is *cold* nutritious food in them.

Comment 2: “How are you doing? Because you give, give, give and I want to make sure you are taking care of you.”
From a friend of the family we see on a weekly basis and who we interact with professionally in our birth classes. He sees what I do on social media and all the events we host/attend.

Answer: I am doing great. You know why? Because my amazing husband works his a** off for our family, and we make the choices that allow us to afford 2 **amazing** nannies that do all the cooking and the laundry, or at least 95% of it. Which frees up my brain and my time to do everything I love to do, which is give to our family by homeschooling, and to our community by teaching classes and promoting or attending events that support pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the family.

AND AND AND all our children are out of diapers AND they are all potty trained. It’s hard to understand just how momentous that is until you see a mom up to her eyeballs in babies and toddlers (that of course she loves very much, just like I loved our children so very much when we were in that stage). “No diapers, no accidents” is such a huge new milestone I am finally embracing; instead of grieving the fact that I will never birth again.

So even though I put on a good front, I have a huge amount of support that makes it all work…pretty well on most days.  If I am tired, I get snappy; if I am sad I cry, just like every other human parent out in the world.  Since we’re doing true confessions here…sometimes it gets worse than that. I had a meltdown in a parking lot last May and I was reminded of my humanity again in February of this year.

Just like many of you, I have days when I am completely overwhelmed, and I have days when I am filled with joy…sometimes in the same day. What is amazing is that as our children grow, they are helping more and that makes it all worth it. They are starting to take ownership for their part in making our family run smoothly, and they are funny and giving and helpful. They are also putting us through growing pains again as we are approaching the teen years. I love it all and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 There is one more thing I want to add: aside from all the earthly support and help that I have, I have an awesome God.  He lights every step of my journey on a daily basis.  I have lived through dark days when I tried to run away from my faith. Then I was welcomed joyfully back and have walked with the Holy Spirit in my heart every day since then.  I am by no means perfect, however I know that I am loved. That makes it all worthwhile and so very doable.

SPBFeb23

Wake-Up call – not prepared for dog attack

I am interrupting our fun Kitchen Science series to raise a little awareness.  I was in the horrifying position of witnessing a dog attack yesterday. It made me realize how horribly unprepared I am for that situation if it was one of our dogs or even worse, children, being attacked.

Here are the top three things I learned as I read as many articles as I could digest on the internet:

  1. DO NOT SCREAM. It is absolutely counter-intuitive however, that is the worst thing you can do. It will either agitate the dog and escalate the aggression and/or reward the dog’s predatory instinct that has been activated.
  2. Teach the humans around you to drop into a fetal position and protect their vital organs. HERE are more instructions on that strategy.
  3. If you are able to stop the attack, then get the attacking dog in a “wheelbarrow” position by pulling up on its back legs and keeping its front feet on the ground. This will cause it to become unbalanced and potentially lose focus on their prey. It also keeps you safely away from their mouth. The details of that strategy are outlined HERE.

There were many other things mentioned to stop an attack. They would only work if you were willing to punch the dog in the ears or nose, or if you were prepared with a wagon-full of dog fight deterrents. I will mention them briefly because some of these ideas might work if an attacking dog came onto your property.  These are things you would have handy: a blanket to throw over the dog and the victim, a backpack to try to shove between the attacking dog and the victim, access to a water hose to spray the dog, or if you carry a walking stick or pepper spray or mace.  This is NOT the way we take our walks. And many of the things I read emphasized NOT to put yourself between the attacker and the victim lest you become the next victim.

Here are four articles that outline the above information in more detail.  They all had valuable tips that doesn’t necessarily overlap too much.  Please take a minute to read them so that you have some ideas how to prevent or stop in attack if a dog was being aggressive towards your family or pets.

When Dog’s Attack from Cesar’s Way https://goo.gl/ml6Kir

How To Handle A Dog Attack from WikiHow https://goo.gl/DuUZB

How To Break Up A Dog Fight from Pet Friendly https://goo.gl/1OJpTP

What To Do When Your Dog Is Attacked from Pawsperous Pets https://goo.gl/enQRTi

SPFscience

Kitchen Science: Water Week 2

Happy Thursday!

Here are the experiments we shared with our park play group last week…building on last week’s fun and trying on some new elements for the Sweet Peas to ponder: Sink+Float, Taking Up Space, and Melting Point.

Our inspiration for these posts is this book by Usborne Books:

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The mojority of the activities in the book can be done with things mosts of us keep around the house.

Experiment 1
Will ice float in water?
This is a great follow-up to last week’s sink and float experiment. When a Sweet Pea reasons it out, it would seem that something heavy like ice should sink…surprise!! It floats!

One interesting correlation to explain is perfectly demonstrated in the winter. If ice was heavier as a solid, bodies of water would freeze from the bottom up, effectively freezing out all life every winter.  By floating, it creates a layer of insulation for the life below, that continues to swim freely throughout the winter months.
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Experiment 2
Taking Up Space
Fill a container with water and put on the lid. Place it in the freezer and see what happens!  This experiment helps to illustrate the idea in experiment above.  Freezing water takes up more space because the molecules spread out, hence making it light enough to float in water.

As you can see in our experiment, it did not pop up the lid as much as we had hoped, it did however bump out the bottom of our container and created a very visible difference the Sweet Peas noticed right away.

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Experiment 3
Melting Ice
Prepare three containers: one with warm water, one with cool water, and one empty container.  Have your Sweet Peas guess what will happen to the ice they put into each container.

Careful with this one that the warm water isn’t too hot if they splash it onto the counter or on themselves.

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Experiment 4
Melting Without Heating – Salt
Sprinkle and ice cube with salt…compare it with a plain ice cube.  When the salt mixes with the ice, it lowers the freezing temperature. This salty ice will melt because it now requires a colder temperature to make it freeze.

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Experiment 5
Melting Without Heating – Pressure
Press a spoon into the ice.  You will see the ice melt underneath the area of pressure…if you look closely in the picture you can see the spoon-shaped divot in the ice because ice always melts when it is pressed.

Ask your sweet peas how this would affect their ability to walk on ice.  If they said it would be slippery, then they are correct! When we walk on ice, a thin layer of water forms between our shoe or boot and the patch of ice. This layer of water makes it hard for the soles of our shoe to grip the ground, so in effect Mother Nature is creating her own slip and slide!

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That is it for today’s installment of Kitchen Science.  Enjoy trying these out with your Sweet Pea at home.  Leave me a comment and let me know how it goes for you and your crew!

SPFFeb9

Kitchen Science – Water Play I

Welcome to our new series…Kitchen Science!!

Instead of doing “preschool playdates” with our SPB students, we decided to do park playdates so that more families could feel like they were welcome to join us.  The home educator in me has a hard time offering no activity for the children to explore while they share time with us…so I started bringing kitchen science experiments to the park with us.

I am calling this series “Kitchen Science” because most of the activities we will be doing use household items, and all the exploring can be done on your kitchen counter.  Join us over the next few weeks as we share the activities we are enjoying with SPB friends of all ages!

The inspiration for all these activities is this book:

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We received it as part of the Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum that we use.

One of the first concepts we teach children about water is “sink” and “float”.  We used that vocabulary throughout all the water play.

WHICH ONE FLOATS BEST?

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This activity is to help the children explore the idea that some things are going to distribute weight differently than others.  When it’s dry, the basket would hold more things…this is what happened when we added water:

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There are lots of ways to add skills to this activity…

Level 1: Gross motor skills ~ place the glass beads in by the handful

Level 2: Fine motor skills ~ place the glass beads one-by-one into the containers

Level 3: Count the beads as they go in

Level 4: Science Journal ~ note how much each container held, and at which point it sunk to the bottom.

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We like these picture journals from Miller Pads and Paper.
The Sweet Peas can draw a picture to remind them of their experiment,
and also write notes or dictate notes to the parent.

You may have noticed the green lines on the side of the tub…we drew those to measure the starting and ending point of the food tray and the blue rectangular container.  After we emptied the water, the children could measure the difference between the change of the containers in the water.

BLUE CONTAINER

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MEAT TRAY

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Here is another variation on the theme using two metal containers.  I asked the children to guess which one would float.  Some said neither since they were both metal…they got a surprise, and also an “aha” moment when we talked about how giant ships made of metal can sail in the ocean.

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The solid container floated…the enjoyed watching the sieve gurgle bubbles and sink.
You might also fill the solid container with beads to see what it’s sinking point was.

DISTRIBUTION OF WEIGHT

Next we explored what would happen if the cargo on our “ships” was evenly distributed or one-sided.  We don’t buy plastic egg cartons so I had to improvise with a cardboard carton and some plastic wrap. For this activity we used 24 glass beads.

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For comparison on this activity, you could draw lines to measure the change in angle of the containers, and then measure the angles with a protractor after the water was drained.

AIR PRESSURE

Blowing bubbles!! This activity demonstrated what would happen if you forced air into a submerged container.  I added two glass beads to our container to better demonstrate the effect of air on an objects ability to sink or float.

We connected this experiment back to the metal containers that float. Showing how air adds buoyancy to an object, we talked about how ships and submarines use ballast to sink or float in the water.

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So those are three experiments you can do at home with household objects…I would love to hear how your Sweet Pea enjoyed them!

 

SPFgrounding

Thoughtful Thursday: Grounding

My only solution as I see the chaos building in our world is to turn inwards. It’s extremely idealistic and somewhat irresponsible. At this point, I am operating at the level of self-preservation. I have to find and create a false sense of calm because being kind to my children is my ultimate goal. As they hear of all the unrest in the world, my need to be their comfort and their sane guide outweighs my desire to listen to the 24/7 news cycle.  Because quite frankly, it feels like a replay.

We are studying World War I with Puma and Night Owl right now. Just last night, we read about the Armenian Genocide. I don’t remember learning about this when I learned about the World Wars in school. I also don’t think we covered all the colonial connections that brought this war to epic proportions (for the time). The loss of life among the military and the civilians, the complete disregard for people of other ethnicities fighting for a few European powers, the slaughter of the 18-24 year old generation of the time, is mind-boggling.

And yet, another genocide was going to play out again within 30 years.  Registration if you held a certain heritage and/or religious belief. Internment of suspect people groups. Plus more of the above-mentioned atrocities.

Here we are, not even 100 years away from the events of World War II, hearing what I can only imagine to be a similar rhetoric. Aleppo – AGAIN. I keep asking myself, is this really happening? How can we be in that place for a potential repeat? Where is the “storming of the gates” and the insistence that we will not be victims to the whims of politicians AGAIN?

As our children learn of current events, we have a clear metric: how is this similar to what happened in 1914 and 1939? What would be a different way to approach the situation? I also add this question: What’s one small thing we can do in our corner of the world?

We have friends in active duty in the military. We have friends who are Muslims. The fact that our children are aware and cognizant that the world is entering a period of unrest makes me glad to be raising sentient humans, and at the same time sad that they are having to wrestle with these questions and wonder about the safety of our friends. Worry about our own safety as people of Mexican heritage.

I received a great suggestion from a healer: what if we focused on grounding? Being in this place, where we are now, to foster a sense of security. To that end, I have made a more concerted effort to spend time outside with our children. It has meant shifting my focus from GO-GO-GO and being a slave to my daily outline, and instead taking an intentional break during our school day to go play outside.

She also offered the suggestion of creating a family altar. It will allow each of our family members to contribute a meaningful item that represents them or something they value, and serve as a focus point for our togetherness and our blessings. As we continue to grapple with all the change we have faced as a family personally over the last twelve months, it will provide a “constant”, a sense of stability.

It is also a signal of potential: we will create the altar with the intention that things can be added as we explore the world, or removed if they no longer serve us. This is a timely representation of the phase we are in now, downsizing and releasing the physical items that maybe we thought we needed, but in the final evaluation serve us no greater purpose other than to be something to hold on to just because we might need it or we might miss it or whatever else we use to justify things occupying a space.

Those are the two small things that we are doing in our home to create a sense of peace amidst the chaos, the calm in the coming storm. Personally, I have also added meditation and affirmations back into my daily routine. I created my own little altar of sorts on my bathroom counter…not the most sacred of spaces, but it is one that I occupy every day and in that sense, it serves me because I can see it and ground myself as MOTHER every day. Life is good.

If you are feeling this call to create a sense of calm and stability for your family, what are you doing?  I would love to hear your ideas – please leave me a comment below.

P.S. One thing I am not being is complacent.  Please continue to call your local, state and national representatives and make your voice heard. Even if they don’t listen to you or represent you, do not let this be another era where the people are questioned for remaining silent or doing nothing.

Find your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Find your local government officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Read about effective lobbying as a private citizen HERE.

Photo Credit: Tunc Tezel
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Monday Musings: Living

If you have been following along the blog for a while, you know that 2016 was a huge year of shift for us.  We sold our two homes – both of which we loved – in preparation for a possible move across the country.  We also lost many family and friends as they moved on to the next journey after life.

Just when we thought we were through the woods of all this shift, another beloved mother in our circle passed away suddenly in December. I am still not clear if it was a stroke event or a heart attack – what ever it was, it was enough to invite her to move on – and she did, leaving behind a husband and four children.

I am devastated for her child that is Night Owl’s age – she was the surprise baby after their three older children had basically made them empty-nesters.  And also for her three older children that will now go through all their adult “firsts” without their mother, to say nothing of her husband who is now going to have to find his new normal as well. It is so much to process…and yet I realize that they are not alone and someone, somewhere, is holding vigil tonight for a beloved soul that will pass along before all the goodbye’s have been said.

This woman’s passing hit especially close to home since she was the same age as my beloved husband. I came home from her services and told Daddy Bruss that the first order of business in 2017 is for him to have a complete physical and catch up on any tests that he hasn’t had in a while and/or yet that are suggested for people his age.  I also realized that it’s time for me to admit that I am practically in my mid-40’s  and it’s time for me to take me own advice.

Her passing also made me recommit to my intention to Live Life Today.  There are things that are important and things that really don’t matter.  It has made me really motivated to get rid of the junk and clutter that we accumulate because There Is No Time To Waste on Small Stuff.

My new intention for our homeschool day is to only do “things” until noon, and then have lunch and go out and have experiences with our children.  I don’t know if we are going to finish our curriculum as I had planned before I had these revelations, quite frankly I don’t think I care anymore.  As long as the Sweet Peas do math, read, write, make music and dance every day I think we are going to meet the rest of any requirements on field trips.

I watched THIS TED Talk tonight and it is right on point to where I am in my life. Thankfully my revelations arrived through the course of reflection over all the grief we experienced as a family last year, and not a highly stressful experience like this speaker lived through.

Since deciding that my ultimate goal is being the best parent I am capable of being, I have not felt a huge struggle with the yelling.  I close my eyes, I take deep breaths, I remember Lisa Reinhardt’s voice guiding us “to be” at the pace of melting chocolate, and I count until I can open my eyes and answer calmly.

Quite frankly, if I die tomorrow, I have a very clear picture of what I want my children to remember, and it’s not Crazy Mama.  We all sent her on a long vacation.  I hope that the intention to be Peaceful Mama is strong enough this time to leave her there a good, long time.

Peaceful Mama has huge hopes and dreams. I want them to remember a mother who showed up for them.  I want them to remember that my deepest desire is for them is to find their passion in life and pursue it.  I want them to remember that my love for them was deeper than the oceans and I hope they will use it to soar higher than the stars, because I believe in their greatness and ability to do anything with their talents that they set their mind to achieving.  I want them to remember that I am one of their biggest fans and that they are very, very loved.

I want them to know that their father and I conceived them in love, brought them into the world in love, and that they are loved in such a way that nothing can separate them from us.  We will always strive do whatever is in our power to help them learn, grow, explore and invite them to take risks so that they can learn who they are meant to be and what their God-given gift is to use for the benefit of others.  I want them to remember that we made choices in our personal life to facilitate the pursuit of our dreams, and that creativity and helping others is an honorable pursuit.

If the way I live my life in whatever time I have left conveys this to them, then my work on this earth is complete. It’s so easy to take time for granted and put things off because There Are Things To Do.  The bottom line is that there will always be Things To Do.  The time to be in relationship is limited.

I don’t know how much time I have left, so I am doing a lot more snuggling and saying more I love you’s than I used to.  I continue to remind myself of their love languages so that they receive the love in actions as well as in words.  Much of my desire to speak more and do more as it relates to my passion for birth and breastfeeding and the childbearing year has taken a back seat to my desire to be someone they remember fondly and with love.

So now I am signing off to have a late night snuggle with none other than Night Owl.  Good night.  Wishing you all a day full of love <3

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Preschool Playdate: Kindness

Play date: October 6, 2016
Theme: Kindness (in honor of World Smile Day on October 7, 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: what are actions that show kindness?
— Storytime: Knuffle Bunny
— Unsquiggle activity: Kindness Spider Web
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: The More We Get Together
— Centers | Free play
— Closing

Kindness Spider Web Game from BrightHubEducation.com:

“Have your group sit in a circle on the floor. Take a large ball of yarn and give the end of the yarn to the first child. Have this child roll the ball to another child and say one nice thing to that child. Then, this child rolls the ball of yarn to the next child and gives praise.

Now, make sure all children hold onto the yarn when it comes to them. After the game is finished, show the children how they are entwined in a spider web of yarn – everyone is connected to one another and has shown kindness.”

STORY TIME
Mo Willems is one of our favorite authors. This series is set in Brooklyn, NY, one of the Burroughs in one of our favorite cities.
This is the story of a preschool-age Trixie learning and her favorite bunny toy. It lends itself well to the theme of kindness and what kind actions are, as opposed to unkind. Both are evident through the course of the story.

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LITERACY CENTER
“K” sound box – the “K” sounds in our box were kangaroo, key, killer whale, kitty, and koala. The other items were thrown is as decoys so the children could say yes or no to the beginning sounds and decide whether or not they went in the sound box.
I really debated using the “killer” whale since our theme was “kindness” last week. Thankfully the kiddos (and parents!) gave me a pass and none of them voiced an objection.

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This was an activity for the older children from Enchanted Learning. The older siblings of the preschoolers enjoyed this reading/match activity, and the preschoolers just like writing with the dry-erase markers even if they can’t read.

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MATH CENTER
There were lots of different ways to play at this center last week…
Level 1: Identify the numbers and put them in order using the cards, foam numbers or magnet numbers.
Level 2: Match the cards ~ numbered cards to picture cards or cards to number manipulatives
Level 3: Memory game ~ turn the cards over and have the children find the matching cards.

These are cards that I printed with pictures from the Internet. I specifically chose images that represented children of different ages and skin tones. I feel as if normalizing variety in shape, size and color is part of teaching kindness.

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DISCOVERY TABLE
This was another activity that leant itself to the idea, “we are all the same and we are all different”. Some of the children put their thumbprints on our card, so they could see everyone has finger prints. Then we could point out how although each print is different, every human can benefit from kindness.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
We took paper chain dolls to the next level with markers and stickers. Although each doll was the same shape, the children had the opportunity to personalize each cut-out. The lesson here was, “we are all the same and we are all different”.

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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.

Come back next week to see the “Teddy Bear” Playdate we are having today in honor of Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day.  We are modifying it to “Take Your Teddy Bear to Playdate Day”.

See you next Thursday!  Thanks for stopping by. :)

SPFSept1

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.

 

spfextendedbf

Monday Musings: On extended breastfeeding

Recently I was asked, “What would you have said if someone had told you  that you would be nursing well beyond the first birthday when you had started your breastfeeding journey?”

My answer:
I would have told them they were on the crazy train…that I was never going to nurse beyond the first birthday. My plan was to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding for six months, and then breastfeed our child until their first birthday.  It was going to be one and done in all senses of the phrase: one child for one year, and then I was going to be going back into my career and dancing.

God had other plans for me…he must have laughed as he was growing me.

As it turns out, as Puma was approaching her first birthday, I told Daddy Bruss that I didn’t think we were close to being done with breastfeeding.  She still felt so small, and nursing a soon-to-be toddler wasn’t weird, as I had imagined it might be.

She went on to nurse for 22 months all together. There was a time when I got pregnant  when she was 18 months old.  At that point she started to decline breastfeeding. When I miscarried, she was back to the breast as she had been before the pregnancy.

She weaned herself at 22 months…about two weeks after she weaned, she asked to nurse again.  We tried, but it seemed the milk was all gone.

We went on get pregnant again (how could I say no to my amazing husband who has provided me my dream life?!!), and we welcomed Night Owl to the family.  He got to nurse for about 18 months.  When I got pregnant with Charger sooner than we had planned on being pregnant again, I started having contractions when I was nursing. Out of fear of miscarrying again, we made the choice to do an “emergency wean” and over the course of a week that breastfeeding journey came to an end.

Charger had different plans when I got pregnant with Otter, as we expected, around the time he was 18 months old.  I tried to wean him, because I was having contractions again every time I nursed.  He flat out refused.  I sought help from our IBCLC, Debbie Gillespie, and my La Leche leaders…they had lots of suggestions, none of which worked for us.  I decided to go with prayer and lots of self-talk.  For whatever reason, he was not ready to stop breastfeeding, I knew of other moms who had breastfed through pregnancy so I knew it was possible. I told my body every time I nursed that the oxytocin that was being created was just for milk and not for labor.

Eventually the contractions subsided.  I watched Charger’s bowel movements turn back to baby poops as my colostrum came in the last month of Otter’s pregnancy. He even told me the milk tasted saltier than usual. But he was not ready to stop nursing.  By the end of the pregnancy I could only nurse him for a few minutes at a time, once in the morning, once in the evening, and it always had to be in side-lying position.

We welcomed Otter to the family when Charger was two years and two months old.  He was thrilled to have creamy milk again – he LOVED it. It totally helped to have a nursling with a good appetite and more stomach capacity to ease engorgement. We set some guidelines down – Otter first, him second. We started offering other alternatives to comforting instead of going back to nursing now that he was enjoying milk again.

His third birthday came and went…still nursing.  When Otter went on an 11-day nursing strike around her first birthday (he was 3.5 then), I was so grateful to have a nursling to keep my body informed that I still needed milk.  As the two nurslings got older, they had fun with nursing.  Every once in a while they would nurse together.  They definitely had ideas about which “side” was theirs and got upset if the other would start nursing on their side first. Mostly, they enjoyed the camaraderie of having something in common, and would call out to each other when it was the other’s turn with mommy.

Charger went on to nurse through his fifth birthday.  Around that time, we did wean him. I really felt that at five years old, he could give it up.

To this day, he still tells me at least three times a week that he wishes he was still nursing.  When I ask him why, he says because the milk was warm.

Otter is turning five years old in October. I don’t know what we are going to do when we hit her fifth birthday. Since weaning Charger, I have learned that mammals nurse their young until they lose their milk teeth.  In the case of humans, that is the loss of what we call “baby teeth”.  Which does mean that all our children weaned too soon – and that we do as a country. None of our children had lost a tooth before they weaned. I really don’t know of anyone except our first Bradley Method teacher who was nursing a seven-year-old when we met her.

For anyone who is reading about extended breastfeeding for the first time, let me assure you that it is not the same as nursing a newborn, or even a toddler.  She only nurses in the morning or in the evening.  Sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day, sometimes not at all.  Nursing is still her safe place, our place of connection.  Every once in a while, when she is inconsolably upset, she will ask to nurse and we will connect during the course of the day.  I can’t express milk anymore, but I see it and hear it as she nurses.

I can only go back to what I know. Breastfeeding is a dance between the mother and the nursling.  The lead and the follow changes, and as long as both partners are willing, the dance can continue.  Charger definitely has memory about breastfeeding, so I know Otter will, too.  I want those memories to be peaceful for her, not ones of regret. So we will continue, dancing as long as it works for both of us.  I try to treasure each nursing session, never knowing which is going to be our last.

That day is coming, and my season as a breastfeeding mother will come to an end.  I hold on to the promise that a new season awaits, one in which my accumulated knowledge will still be able to serve and encourage other breastfeeding families although I am not an active participant any more.