Still Playing School: March 2012

Shaving Cream Painting Marbled Easter Eggs

We painted Easter eggs using washable paint and shaving cream.  They turned out so swirly and marbled!  

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Baking Soda and Colored Vinegar

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 2 Comments

Our allergies are horrible right now.  We haven't gone to any of our regular activities all week since going outside makes us feel so much worse.  And you KNOW I schedule us to frantic busyness.

Last night I was wide awake at 2 am, trying to occupy my mind with what I could do with E today.  I made a list:
- file folder games
- painting a present for Mutti's birthday
- April hand print art for Nana and Mutti
- wash the couch covers and let E jump on the couch while they are drying
- scrub the kitchen floor (hey, E likes to clean)
- experiment with baking soda and colored vinegar

I've seen this on a lot of creative blogs.  You give your kid a dish of baking soda, color vinegar with food coloring, and they use a dropper to make colored mini-fizzes in the dish.

Sorry for the lack of enthusiasm on E's part.  She doesn't feel well.  She did announce each color as I tinted the vinegar.  When she added the vinegar to the baking soda she said, "Bubbles!!!"

We all know what happens when you combine baking soda and vinegar.  But toddlers don't.  Watching her reaction made it exciting for both of us.  Plus adding in the colors let us pretend we were in a science laboratory mixing up concoctions.  She especially liked using the red vinegar because when it landed on the white baking soda, well, you know E.  "Pink!!!!"

We talked about how the dropper worked.  "Squeeze the top, then put it in the vinegar and let go!"  It was a lot easier when I asked her to completely take her hands off and watch it slowly fill with vinegar while it sat in the glass.

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When You're Sleeping

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 7 Comments
E is sick, which means I get the rare opportunity to nap with her.  Usually she can't settle down enough in our presence to actually rest.  Today as she slept, I watched her and wrote this.

I need you to remember this message, E,
Whisper it in your sister's ear.
Ever since she left us,
I feel like she's a bit too far to hear.

I have the feeling it's at night when you dream
When my two girls get to play,
Love on each other with hugs and kisses ,
as you would if she were here each day.

She wears purple and you wear your pink.
Do you teach her songs you know?
Tell her about things she never had a chance to see
Before she had to go?

Tell her Momma loves her so,
Tell her Daddy misses her touch,
Tell her we're trying our very best
On the days it hurts too much.

Give her all the kisses and extra love
We give each day to you.
She's not in our arms to receive it,
So this message will have to do.

Because just when I feel I need to remind you
So no memories get replaced,
I look at you while you're sleeping
And I know you see her face.

(pencil sketch of V generously done and gifted to us by a talented friend of a friend)
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Let's Pretend

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 10 Comments

"Bringing back the art of pretending, one family at a time!"

That is the motto of Let's Pretend, an inspiring hands on play center.  We had the pleasure of visiting last week after I had discovered their Facebook page.  I had been hearing the name Let's Pretend from others who had visited and reported back that their kids had a blast!  We planned a play date with some of E's best friends to occupy the morning using our imaginations.

E spent most of her time in Grayson's Grocery Corner shopping for food and Griff's All American Diner serving it to us.  I really wanted to watch her create in Kennedi's Center for the Arts which had the most organized art supplies (with recycled materials, yay!).  Kids are encouraged to use as many supplies as they'd like to complete their projects.  I was quite excited about the sock puppet area, but E decided to paint a picture (PINK, of course) then was content to sing Twinkle, Twinkle with her friends on the stage, complete with working microphone!  I laughed and cheered so much at their performance!

Let's Pretend is located in Middletown.  The business was the dream of Kerri and Rick who took the leap and made it a reality in January.  Kerri discovered when her oldest son was young that there was a need for local places for families to learn through play together.  The facility is divided into awesome themed rooms, named after the owners' four children, including those listed above as well as Carter Grammar School, G Brothers Construction Company, and Nana's Nursery for the littlest pretenders.  There is also a post office where E enjoyed using a date stamp and real stamp pad. 123 Main Street is a pretend house complete with two closet sized bedrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls.

E's little buddy X loved the train table and sand table!

 Admission is $7 per person (adults and children) because adults are encouraged to pretend along with their child.  Visitors are allowed to bring snacks.  It is evident that Kerri and Rick put their hearts and love for kids into every detail of the facility.  Kerri was a pleasure to talk to so I look forward to continuing to get to know such an influential mom in the early childhood business in our community!

Not only did Let's Pretend donate 6 admissions for our raffle prizes, but they also agreed to be our first Still Playing School giveaway!  To enter, leave a comment telling us which play area you think your child would enjoy most.  Entries close Sunday at midnight and a random comment will be selected to win one FREE admission to Let's Pretend!
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Gardening Starts

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
Here we are, ready to start planting seeds.  This year I am splitting my efforts between the salad tables my dad made us last year, the container gardening I usually do, and the new garden plot that I am splitting with my neighbor/friend, Julia.

My salad tables look like this, but lower.  They are the perfect height for E to help me water, plant, and harvest.

Here is her Little People farmer helping me last year.

This weekend I planted radishes, leaf lettuce, and spinach.  I'll do a few more rows of each in about two weeks to stagger the harvests.  I also started tomato seeds indoors.

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Play & Learn Class - St. Patrick's Day/Rainbows

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This week we held our first Play & Learn class.  I am partnering with Kindermusik with Carol Anne Friesen to offer these monthly pilot classes this spring.

I divided the class into three exploration centers.  Each center provided an invitation for parents and children to Play & Learn together!  Posted near by were objectives, the PA Dept. of Education Early Childhood standards that each activity met, and vocabulary word suggestions to use for language development.

This month we had a St. Patrick's Day/Rainbow theme.

We painted with Happy Hooligans' homemade watercolor paints discussing wet/dry.   We experimented with a resist technique using crayons to draw, then painting over the drawing with the watercolors.  White crayons created secret messages for us to uncover!  

We engaged our senses while exploring rainbow rice sensory trays.  We poured, scooped, and searched for gold that the tricky leprechauns hid!  I used Pink and Green Mama's directions for dying the rice.

We sorted paint chips, matching them to the pictures of every day colors around us.  Our older learners made their own rainbows with them as well!  This is an awesome FREE activity that you can repeat at home by getting paint samples at your local hardware store (that's where I found the pictures of the everyday objects as well)!

Families went home with a handout summarizing what we did in class which provided suggestions on how to extend the learning at home.

Check out which centers were the children's favorites on our Facebook page.  I'm looking forward to our Earth Day theme in April!  

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By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 7 Comments
Two very dear friends now have two girls.  Each have one E's age and recently had a new baby girl as well.  I am so ecstatic for them, and yet...

I can usually handle the baby section in stores.  I can celebrate baby boys.  I even held a baby girl yesterday.  But sisters together send me over the edge.  That and E's current baby obsession.

This week she went carefully up to my friend's baby girl and just looked so intently.  She touched her teeny, tiny baby hand gently and I had to look away.  Later that night this friend did what so many are afraid to do and it was perfect.  She brought up what was happening:

"[E] is too cute! And she is so gentle with H. I love the way she looks at her. And I don't want to make you sad but I always think that is how she must have looked at baby V. She is such a good big sister even though she can't smile at her little sister in person.

I never want to bring these things up with you because I'm just not sure how much you want to talk about V when you are trying to focus on E (and just getting through the day... and remembering to breathe). I honestly cannot imagine how you must feel. I had trouble conceiving and it used to break my heart when I would hear about friends getting pregnant or new babies being born. And that was just feeling the loss of something, someone I hadn't yet met. Your loss is one million times harder. You are a very strong, brave woman and a wonderful mother to your two precious baby girls."

I replied:

"First of all, I need to thank you for acknowledging the situation. I think often times, friends want to avoid bringing up V in case it will make me sad, which it might, but it makes me even sadder to not have the opportunity to talk about her. I have seen that look of understanding in your eyes as E touches H's tiny hand and I just know you know and you care. So thank you.

I will admit that more than anything seeing E interacting with a baby, especially a girl baby around V's age...well, I don't know how to describe it. There is nothing more painful. It is one thing to constantly try to navigate my own grief, but it is a whole separate entity to grieve what E has lost. I also have to consider what she understands now, what she will understand later (when we bring another baby home hopefully and she starts asking why baby V never came home), and how her life will always be colored by that loss.

That being said, while I might have to turn away for a moment and breathe, I am desperately fighting the urge to avoid the situation because I love you and I don't want our friendship to be altered because of my ability or lack there of to deal with something you certainly can't help or change or control.

Thank you for giving me this chance to be honest and get it all out. I love you."

So while they are posting pictures of their beautiful girls, E is blowing bubbles over V's stepping stone and I am desperately trying to let that represent the pictures I can never take of my two together.  

If you are a mother who lost a child, would you rather someone acknowledge your pain rather than keep it silent?  If you are a friend of someone grieving in any way, I think the best thing you can do is say out loud what you are thinking.  Most likely, your friend will be glad you've opened the flood gates and given them permission to share with you.

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The Question

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
We were at a wedding last night (congrats, Jen & Mitch, we wish you the best!) when it happened.

It's a question you probably know before I type it if you've grieved a baby.  It's one we expect to deflect as naturally as a boxer weaves away from an oncoming punch.  Because we are bracing for it often.  And yet, when it unexpectedly makes it's connection, it's just as painful.

There was a mother of a former student catering the event.  She recognized me, made small talk, and then said, "So, any more kids?"

"No," I answered as I grabbed my salad.  No, for simplicity's sake and how long do you really have to listen since you are carving and serving more pork and do I want to cry since I actually put eye makeup on today and no.

On the walk back to our table, though, my heart screamed, "YES!"  Yes, more kids, another sweet baby girl, one I met and lost in the span of a third of a week, one who I carried and named and loved and wanted and I miss with every fiber of my being that is physically aching now that I said no!

I read a lot about perinatal grief before I lost V.  I still do.  No matter how much you read, talk, or know about what other mothers say will sting, sometimes it surprises you.  I remembering hearing about this from other families and thinking, "Then next time just say yes," as my husband suggested last night after I told him how bad I felt for denying V.  If you aren't a baby loss family, maybe you are thinking that right now.

It's not that simple.  In a split second of what is well meaning and polite conversation you have to weigh how well you know this person, how long you have to talk, if you will ever see them again, if you are strong enough to be explain if you say yes, if you are strong enough to handle the impact the rest of the day if you say no, if you can handle how their eyes will look at you and their face will change if you do tell the truth, and if you are wearing eye makeup.

If you are a baby loss family, are you nodding?  Or have you found a solution to this somehow?
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Blog Challenge #4

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Day 4: A habit you wish you didn't have

A few weeks before V was born, Lexi from Purify Salon gave me my first shellac manicure.  It was a french manicure and a gift from Lexi, her mom, and sisters who are like a second family to me.

Having beautiful nails was a nice treat as we waited for the V's birthday to arrive.  Even as I was being checked into the hospital, I kept getting compliments on them.  

Now when I pour back over every detail of her pictures, I think, "Hey, nice nails!"  Try to notice them among the irresistible cuteness that is V's feetsies!  

Have you ever had a Shellac manicure?  It lasts FOREVER and I promise you it does not chip.  I am so hard on my nails, but these continued to look perfect until one finally got too long and broke.  Seriously, no chipping for about 4 weeks (but 2 weeks is average).  ON MY FINGERS.

Shellac is applied like regular polish, but set under a special UV light.  There is no damage to your natural nails.  It takes a bit more work than regular polish to get off, but it's totally manageable even at home (shhhhhh).  

So what is my bad habit?  Well, for some reason, even while I was anticipating the most nerve wracking meeting of my life, I somehow resisted chewing my nails.

Now?  Not so much.  I don't actually bite the nails, though.  I bite the skin around them.  I know.  EW.  Gross.

I have another appointment with Lexi, though, in a week so I need to knock it off!!!

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Blog Challenge #3

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 1 Comment
Day 3: A picture of you and your friend(s)

I chose this picture so I have a chance to write about someone who means so much to me.  Karen was a relatively new friend this summer when we got V's diagnosis.  Both our toddler daughters are in the same Kindermusik class.  

In July, I sent out the messages regarding our devastating news in layers, like peeling an onion.  Those closest to us received the details first, then the next round of friends, etc.  I needed to put the pain in writing.   I needed to beat the awkwardness to the punch.  I couldn't imagine walking back into Kindermusik for the new semester with everyone thinking we'd have a new baby joining our class this winter.

Some people never responded to the emails, some did so in brief one sentence replies talking of miracles and how doctors can be wrong, and some poured their hearts out via the internet.  Friendships started to shift in position, with those supporting us coming to play key roles in my life.  Karen was a perfect example of this.

She asked to meet at the playground to hear more.  As the kids played, we shared stories of loss, pain, grief, trials.  She offered to find us a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer.  She offered her own amateur (professional in my opinion) photography services when V arrived.  At the time, I had no idea how I wanted the day of V's birth to look, so I hesitated.

I asked her to do maternity photos for us.  The hours, care, and skill she put into the photos and slide show are frozen in time.  They were the greatest gift as we waited for V's arrival.

Our friendship continued to grow and soon I knew that no only did I want her at the birth to take photos, but I needed her there, as my friend.  She arrived very early the morning V was born, photographing the sunrise as she traveled, and stayed until late until the evening, capturing moments that are foggy in my mind because of stress?  Lack of sleep?  Medications?  Maybe my mind is just allowing me to remember things on a timeline that will be easier to handle.  Regardless, Karen was there to record that special day and returned again the next day to take some special posed shots that I wanted.

I couldn't believe all she was doing for us.  Her husband took off work to watch her daughter so she could be there.  We laughed as the automatic faucet in the sink turned on every time her camera's flash went off.  Because she was there, I was comfortable telling our Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer that she could leave after a few hours.  I am so grateful, though, that before she left, she took the photo you see above of Karen arriving.  That picture defines all that she is to me.  You can just read it all in her face.

I also love this one of her holding teeny tiny V.  

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Resist, Relax, Remind, Rejoice

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
Our Kindermusik Maestro Carol Anne sent me this mother's reflection on allowing our kids to have control over the creative process.  It reminded me of what I recently read about nurturing independence through art.

I thought of something I experienced with E last week:

We arrived home after a morning of activities.  I needed a quick project to keep E occupied while I cleaned the kitchen.  We were planning to visit my home town this weekend for Nana's birthday.  I folded construction paper into a card, handed E some markers (at her insistence, "No, Momma, NO CRAYONS.  Markers!"), and went about the chores I needed to get done while she drew.

I had to remind her once that "markers are for paper, not booster chairs" (don't worry, they're washable) but she was content to be making something for Nana on her own.  This held her attention for a long period, in toddler time.

With my chores complete, I sat beside her to see what she had drawn.  I always have her tell me about her picture so I can label it for her, introducing the writing process as well.

What you see is Nana, E's first drawing of a recognizable person, with eyes, a nose, and a mouth!  Inside she drew our house and Nana's house, expressing her excitement over the fact that we would be traveling there and representing that she knew these were two separate places with distance in between.

As I stepped back (out of necessity), E had time to concentrate without me intervening.  She knew I trusted her to make something that Nana would love all on her own.  In the end, her artwork exceeded what I imagined she would do.  Not only do I want to record this milestone here, but I also wanted to freeze in time this reminder to myself to allow her to have creative control by using these steps:

1.  Resist - Resist the urge to take over or "suggest" things to draw or make.  Hold back and see what your child does naturally, allowing their personality to shine through.

2.  Relax - If you have an idea in mind of what the finished product "should" look like, let it go.  If we all were asked to draw, cook, or sing as adults our completed products wouldn't be the same.  It important to realize that your child's work doesn't need to end the way you want.  Give room for your child to take ownership of the creation.  Sometimes I have to focus on my breathing during this part when she is really making a mess, I mean, masterpiece.

3.  Remind - Stay close enough to remind and refocus the attention IF necessary.  In this case, I needed to remind E that markers are for paper, not furniture.

4.  Rejoice - When I returned to see what E had made, I had genuine surprise and much pride in her creation!  Together we discussed what she drew as I labeled her artwork.

I do believe there is a time and place for arts and crafts with steps where the finished projects resemble each other.  I think that suggestions to your child in what to make can be helpful at times, since we all get inspiration from others.  Sometimes, through, we just need the freedom and space to create and express ourselves, toddlers included.
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