Still Playing School: January 2012

A Fundraiser in V's Memory

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 7 Comments

My best friend, who is holding and meeting V in the picture above, approached me with an idea a few months ago.  What if we could raise money in honor of V to donate to one of the foundations that helped us when we were pregnant with her?  I immediately agreed, knowing how therapeutic it would be for me (and others) to help future families in our situation.  Because, unfortunately, the idea haunts me every day that other parents are learning right at this very minute that something is not perfect with the baby they are expecting.  The baby they already love and want so much.  My husband and I have discussed how the day we received the news was the worst day of our lives, far worse than the day that we lost her.

In order to help these families, I am thrilled to announce that we will be doing a Zumba Fitness fundraiser on Friday, April 6th.  Since this is on Good Friday, we are hoping for a great turn out from local friends and family that don't have work or school that day!  You can join us by pre-registering to Zumba from 9:30 - 10:30 am for a $10 donation.  We are asking all participants to wear purple in honor of V.

We will also be raffling off prizes donated by local businesses that I love.  You can purchase tickets for the raffles at the event or before since you don't have to be present to win!  Tickets are $1 each or 12 for $10.  I will be listing our donation prizes here soon!

All money raised will go to Sustaining Grace, a non-profit that provided us with a non-medical ultrasound when we were pregnant with V.  This allowed us time to bond with her since we were unsure of whether or not she would be born alive.  We also got videos, pictures, and a teddy bear that plays a recording of her heart beat which are now priceless and so comforting to us.

We also have opened up a PayPal account to accept donations from long distance family and friends.

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Our First SPLAT Studio Visit

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 3 Comments
While our Kindermusik class was on semester break, we went to SPLAT Studio's The Art of Reading preschool class one Wednesday morning.  At first, E was a little hesitant because she saw the Kidmazium play structure downstairs and thought we were going to play there.  Okay, she was a lot hesitant, throwing a full blown tantrum.  But the teacher at SPLAT were amazing at getting her to settle down by showing her what we were going to be making and asking her what color clay she wanted!

We started by reading a book which tied in with the art lesson:

Linking art to literature?  The teacher in me was getting very excited. No Two Alike was a great pick.  The assistant teacher who read the story was fantastic at engaging the kids by asking them questions and pointing out the illustrator's style.

After the story, we compared 2D shapes to 3D shapes using real examples the children could manipulate.  By this point, I was ecstatic.  While E was handling the shapes she was saying words like, "cone, sphere, cube, and cylinder" in an age appropriate way.

Finally, the teacher tied in the 3D shapes we were discussing by showing us how we were going to use them in our sculptures.  We were each going to make a bird (parents included, yay!) and, of course, no two birds would be exactly alike.  They pointed out that while our child's bird might not look exactly the way we (or they) want it to, we were going to concentrate on the experience of creating the art.  Process not product!  Yes!

We watched the teacher model how to roll spheres and cylinders from the clay and pinch cones into beaks.  We ended the class by making clay nests and eggs for our birds.  E started blending two shades of brown clay for the nest which was beautiful.  What a fun technique!

Sadly, I have to report that one of our cats thought that our birds looked so realistic that he should try to eat them.  Here is a picture of them, beakless and a bit chewed, still protecting their nest and eggs from the scary cat!  I will have to get some clay so we can fix them.

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Snowy Play Dough

We made snowy play dough using the recipe I found at Ten Kids and a Dog.  Only we didn't have plain glitter so we used blue.  It was so pretty!  

We sprinkled some glitter on each kid's piece and had them knead it in themselves.

Play dough is a great way to work those finger muscles for pre-writing skills. 

We played with cookie cutters to make fun shapes and chop sticks to practice pencil grasps.


 poking, poking, poking...

pinch and pull!

Kids' ages: 18 months - 2 1/2 years
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Snowman Abstract Art

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 5 Comments

After we scooped cotton balls for fine motor practice, we gave them to the kids to make a snowman on blue paper.  This was E's first time with glue!

We gave them paper hats and let them choose their own googly eyes.  I really enjoy when kids pick two different sizes!  We used sequins for buttons and decorations.

The glue was a sensory experience, too!  I love art that focuses on the process and not the product.

The kids had to aim their cotton balls right at the glue dots and then press down with their little hands practicing fine motor control.

Here is the finished art!  E's is the one on the bottom right.  I love how hilarious artistic they all turned out!

Kids' ages: 13 months - 2 1/2 years
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Bringing Snow Inside for Sensory Play

Snow is a plentiful and free resource for sensory play where we live but at times it's just too cold to keep the little ones outside for long. We often bring snow inside for fine motor and sensory play!

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Shaving Cream/Ice Sensory Fun

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This was a simple, but messy and FUN addition to our snowman play date.  We started with three glass baking dishes on the floor on top of a blanket to manage some of the mess.  
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2011 Goals Revisted

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The following were my 20 goals for 2011:

1. Take a family vacation (preferably to the beach) Went to Avalon, NJ.

2. Visit Oma regularly or, if she refuses to see us, adopt a "grandparent" from the local nursing home. Oma did refuse to see us in the beginning of 2011 and sadly, she passed away in the early Spring. We miss her so much. Adapt for 2012 goals.

3. Read about and use my bread machine. I read about it, I used it, and I decided I don't really like it. I plan to sell it on Craigslist.

4. Complete framed photography project for living room. We did this and I love it. It was a lot of work for both my husband and I, but so worth it. He mentioned the other day that we should add more and then change the photos out every 6 months.

5. Read 20+ books, with at least 3 being non-fiction. I know I didn't get to 20, but I did read 3 non-fiction. V's diagnosis made it very hard for me to read, which was sad because that is one of my favorite past times. I couldn't even keep up with People magazine. I had no attention span.

6. Walk to library story time when above 40 degrees, take E to the playground on unscheduled days above 50 degrees. We quit going to story time when they got a new teacher. But we did go to playgrounds a lot.

7. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger once a month This was very difficult to do. I did it for a few months, but it was hard to spontaneously think of an appropriate thing to do that a stranger would welcome!

8. Paint E's bathroom It's bright blue and I love it.

9. Learn more sign language We took a Sing & Sign Kindermusik class and both became pretty active in signing.

10. Stretch daily and find an exercise regimen that I like Last year E hated the child care room at the gym and I got pregnant in February. Move this goal to 2012.

11. Add 10 vegetarian meals to our regular dinner rotation I need to count to see how many we found, but I KNOW it wasn't 10.

12. Travel to Ohio so Grandma can meet E We didn't get to Ohio, but E met her at a graduation party in May. =)

13. Start volunteering for a homeless pet shelter again I emailed several places but couldn't find a good fit for regular volunteering. Adapt for 2012 goals.

14. Organize and clear out the spare bedroom It's cleaned out. It was going to be a nursery, but for now it sits empty.

15. Get a professional massage Must keep doing so regularly!

16. Put jewelry away properly after taking it off I'm better than I was at this, but it still doesn't happen constantly.

17. Meet 3 neighbors I love having neighbors nearby that we like!

18. Continue fruits for AM snack and veggies for PM snack for both E and me We aren't consistant with the AM/PM thing, but E is definitely a fruit and veggie eater and I join her! Yum!

19. Complete fabric project for kitchen Move to 2012 goals

20. Get pregnant Got pregnant, had the most beautiful daughter who taught us so much about life, and we also lost her all in 2011.

12/20 complete, 4/20 adapted for 2012 goals, 2/20 partially completed, 2/20 abandoned. Not bad!
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Snowman Lunch

When the kids came over for a snowman play date, we had a snowman themed snack and lunch planned.  In both cases, I gave the kids all the ingredients to make snowmen, but it was pretty much a flop.  They just wanted to eat without building.  Then once we modeled it for them E didn't want to eat and essentially "ruin" her snowman so she asked for more food.  

I had some prepped bread left over so the other day, I tried again.  This time I built it for her and presented it to her as a finished product.  

Originally, I thought if I gave the kids the snowman already made, it was not as fun for them because they didn't get to build it.  Just the opposite happened, though.  She ate his raisin eyes, M&M buttons, grape hat, yogurt mouth, and carrot arms and nose.  Then she asked for more to rebuild him!

We talked about how many eyes she'd need, so we were counting.  She liked the buttons to match so she was sorting by color.  She delicately added more yogurt to his mouth, using the spoon like a paintbrush.

In the end, observing her work taught me so much more about how to better present activities in the future in a developmentally appropriate way.

She was so proud of her finished snowman!  She ended up eating more this way.  

E's age: 24 months
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"Snowball" Cotton Balls Fine Motor Activity

Winter days may technically be shorter but with lots of hours indoors we need to fill our time with engaging and motivating activities for our little ones. We set out this "snowball" cotton ball fine motor activity at our snow themed sensory play date!

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Missing V

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
How appropriate to find this on the fridge this morning.  Unintentional.  Coincidental.  And so true.

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Snowman Play Date

E's best friends are all boys.  Yesterday we invited two of them over (along with one's little sister who does a great job keeping up with the "older" kids) for a snow man play date.

 We worked on fine motor skills by playing with "snow" (cotton) balls.

We made our own snowy play dough.  We took a break for a snow man snack.

We created some snow man inspired artwork that ended up somewhat abstract!

And, of course, we got messy in a sensory way!  We ended with a snow man lunch.  I will write about the activities in detail over the next few days.  We are already starting to brain storm ideas for next month to make this a regular event!

Kids' ages: 13 months through 2 1/2 years
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And She Was There

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 9 Comments

I was fortunate enough to attend a reception at the Mulberry Art Studios this weekend.  The gallery was showing art work and writing by grieving families who have lost a baby.  The exhibit was called Five and was put together by the Sweet Pea Project which is an amazing local nonprofit started by Stephanie Cole who is an artist, author, but most importantly a mother.  

My first baby loss Momma friend, Michelle attended with me.  We had lunch first, then drove to the studio together.  It was a gorgeous old (cold) building.  We went upstairs and viewed the art work and writings with tears in our eyes for our sweet babies.  One of the most striking parts was all the candles lining the window sills with the names of babies lost written on them.  I read every name.  

Before the poetry reading started, I told Michelle I had to find a bathroom.  We searched upstairs then decided to head back down to ask the people who checked our coats.  A woman told us the bathroom was down a long hallway and she went back with us to turn the lights on for us.  So, before I went into the bathroom, as I was walking down the hall with Michelle behind me, the lights in the bathroom came on.  I stopped in my tracks as I looked in.  

The wallpaper...

I turned around to Michelle behind me with a look of wonder on my face and she said, "Hi, Mommy."  Because I've always thought and said when I see or hear violets in a random setting it is my baby saying hello to me.  But this was not random.  This was V being present when I was stepping out in a daring way to honor her, to celebrate her, to intentionally mourn her.  And I think she was welcoming me, proud of me, and showing me that I should be there all at the same time.  

The whole bathrooms decor was violets.  The soap dispenser, the wall hangings.  Every detail.  I was surrounded by here in this place where I had come to specifically think about her.  I was amazed.

We went back up to the gallery for the poetry reading where I tried not to cry too loudly.  We lit candles for V and R and added them to the window sill.  We met some wonderful, inspiring mothers and talked about our babies and cried and hugged and nodded with the unique understanding that filled the room.

It was perfect.  And she was there.

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Valentine Sensory Bin

We created a Valentine's Day themed sensory bin.  The contents were irresistibly fun for our daughter as she worked on both early math and fine motor skills

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Mama Loves Baby

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
We listen to Yo Gabba Gabba cds in the car.  A lot.  And we don't mind because it is among some of the only children's music that my husband and I enjoy as much as E.  With bands like Hot Hot Heat and and The Roots singing about things you have to talk to your kids about anyway, it's catchy.

So the songs get stuck in your head and we often find ourselves singing them as we wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.

One of these songs is by Solange Knowles (yes, Beyonce's sister).  See video:  Mama Loves Baby

When I saw this on the show, I was a bit creeped out by her eye makeup, but it quickly grew on me and I started singing it to E.

The day that we went to the ultrasound where we found all the problems with V, we were driving home with E in the car and we had just told her she was going to have a sister.  All the "markers" they had seen at the ultrasound were slowly adding up in my head and then the song came on.  I started crying and my husband asked if it was because of the song and I said yes.  I was thinking about all the things that I may not be able to do with V that I had done with E.  That "Mama's Love" wasn't going to be enough this time.

But then, as the months of the pregnancy ticked away, the song started to comfort me.  I would rub V in my belly when it came on in the car, telling her that she would "never be alone."

It was one of the songs I sang to V during the 2.5 days she was with us.  I loved it.  "Together we are one.  Together we are one.  Mama has warm love hotter than the sun."  And I knew when she was born and she could hear (when we thought that she might have been deaf) that she was definitely listening to me sing and listening to my heart as the song promised.

She was never alone.  When I hear the song in the car now, I think about how it evolved with us and how much you are capable of when you don't even realize it.
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By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
I just want her back.
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Felt Snowman

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment

When I saw these felt snowman kits on I Can Teach My Child I just knew we had to make them.  I made sets for favors at E's 2nd birthday party.

She got an easel for Christmas.  I bought and cut a large piece of felt and clipped it on to one side.  Instant felt board!  Our friends came over to help her make a snowman!

Unlike the one I was inspired by, I decided to cut the body of the snowman apart into a large, medium, and small circle.  This allows E to practice sequencing in order of size when building her snowman.  

I did use the suggestion of cutting out different colors and shapes for buttons and eyes.  We can make patterns or match by similarities.

Here she used a tiny triangle for a hat, which I love!

E's age: 24 months
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Making Letters with Duplo Blocks

Today's boredom buster was trying to make letters out of Duplo blocks.

How can we make an E?

Success!  For older children, you can discuss which letters you can make with the blocks and why (straight lines vs. curves).  

We used our magnetic letters for inspiration.

Then E quickly got bored, saying, "No (insert whatever letter we were trying to make)," and went on to building a town.  I let her attention take the lead.  

E's age: 24 months
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Who was I then? Who am I now?

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments

I love this picture because it was taken when we were on vacation in Avalon, NJ.  I was 3 months pregnant and 2 months away from knowing of V's diagnosis.  I love that E is sitting on her sibling.  I remember wondering if V was a boy or a girl (I was sure she was a boy.  I was totally wrong).  I captioned this on Facebook as "Me and my TWO babies (!!!).  I remember that it was finally sinking in that I would be a mommy of two.  

E would have a hard time sleeping at the beach so I would lay down with her until she fell asleep.   I remember being curled up with her on our double bed and thinking, "I am holding both of my children right now."  It was amazing because it was the first time I thought of that.  Then I remember the sinking feeling I felt when I remembered thinking that after the diagnosis and I realized time was running out to do that again.  I started rocking E to sleep more at night while I was still pregnant with V because it was a way for me to hold them both one more time.  I would dance with E in my arms at our Kindermusik class and know V was swaying within as well.  

I have read that a lot of fellow Baby Loss Mommas look at pictures of themselves before and wonder at who that person in the picture is, if she has any idea what's ahead.  Of course not.  Look at that smile!  I still smile, but I cherish that I have that smile recorded for all time.  The smile of a mother expecting to live a life with her two healthy, perfect children.
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A Long, Sad Hiatus

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
I haven't written here since before we found out about our second daughter's diagnosis.  In July, we got news that would change our lives forever.  We learned we were having another girl and that she wasn't going to live very long, if she was born alive at all.

This news sent us reeling, of course.  The past six months brought a lot of planning, doctor's visits, grieving, and stress.

November brought us our beautiful daughter V.  We had 2.5 days with her.

Part of the reason I stopped updating here was the crazy hectic mess of the past half year and part was because I kept thinking how the "about me" said I would be "teaching" two students in the fall.  It turned out that V taught me much more in her short life than I could have ever taught her or anyone else for that matter.

I am back here now because I feel the need to write.  About her, about us, about our every day living and our life as it moves forward.

This blog is going to have to change to encompass all of me and all aspects of who I am now.  I'm learning who that is day by day as I stretch to fit into my new normal.
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