Still Playing School: June 2012

Ice Excavating

This week, we tried ice excavation inspired by Happy Hooligans.  I froze toys, confetti, beads, and other fun bits in a large container over the course of a day layering as I went along.
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Exploring Emotions with Mo Willems

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!

A blog I read regularly, Toddler Approved, is hosting a virtual summer book club.  Each month will feature a different (awesome) author.  Bloggers will choose and read a book by this author and then plan a fun, educational activity based on the book.
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More Than Neighbors...

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
I want to get into writing something that I think about often.  I've told you this before, but we really love our neighbors.

We moved in around the same time several years ago, but until last year when we started talking regularly, we didn't even realize that we had kids 4 months apart in age.  Now, they are inseparable.

I once overheard two friends (who were also next door neighbors) talking.  One told the other that if they weren't home yet when the neighbor arrived at her house to let herself in the back and start making coffee.  I remember wondering what it would be like to have a neighbor that was that much of a friend as well.  Now I know and I am thankful each and every time I see them.  Going from not having that relationship and wanting it to having it become a reality makes it even better.

I don't let people into my close circle of friends easily, especially this past year.  Somehow even during the hard times lately, Julia knew when to ask the right questions, say the right things, when to stop by and when to keep walking, and most importantly, how to send me an email before bed that would have me laughing out loud two houses over.  She seamlessly merged into my life as I was shutting people out because of my grief.  She just fits there.  

I can't say enough about how much Julia has done for me (and us).  She is one of those people who is constantly doing something so simple, yet thoughtful, that you find yourself wondering, "What can I do so she feels the same way? What can I do to make ANYone feel that special?" She gave E an insect place mat for trick or treat, remembering her bug obsession. She suggested and let me sample sleepy time tea when I had insomnia before and after my pregnancy with V. She brought a meal after we were released from the hospital when V was born. She sold so many tickets for our raffle for V's fundraiser. She has offered margaritas on the porch after the kids are in bed when I wasn't pregnant and (since she was one of the first to know about our rainbow) she now brings freshly brewed iced green tea over when she watched the kids while I dig maternity clothes out of my garage. Then she brings over a few more flowing shirts of her own so that I can have something different to wear this pregnancy. She was the one I called when we had to run in for a spur of the moment ultrasound for this baby, thinking it wasn't a viable pregnancy, but instead my husband and I saw the flickering heart beat together because E was being watched by a neighbor I love and trust and could call at the drop of a hat.

She's everything a friend should be and I appreciate that so much at this point in my life.  The fact that she lives so close is just a bonus.

Thank you, Julia.

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A Grief Update

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 3 Comments

We went to the beach a few weeks ago and it was perfect.  A lovely little family vacation, familiar yet new though E's eyes.

One evening at high tide, my husband and I walked down to the beach and sprinkled some of Violet's ashes into the waves.  It was the most beautiful, symbolic thing as nature swept her away from me, once again.  I wrote her name in the sand and took this picture seconds before the waves you see washed that away, too.  We collected some sand to take home and on the walk back to the cottage, hand in hand, we found the most perfect, teeny, tiny little white conch shell.  A treasure.

I have always had a compelling draw to the ocean but now it's more meaningful.  My baby is there.  My baby is everywhere.

I feel much more in control of my grief lately.  I visit it like an old friend, an obligation.  I take a deep breath and look at her pictures and videos and allow myself to feel it intensely some times so that it doesn't sneak in with its tangled grip and pull me under (as often, anyway).

I feel a lot more sane now that the first trimester hormones have subsided.  Not only was I sick and tired, but I was SAD.  I was sad in a scary, overwhelming way.  I feel like me again.  Well, the after-V-me.

I'm allowing myself to start to get excited about this new baby in subtle ways, too.  I have unconsciously suppressed the thoughts of the end result (a healthy baby that comes home) to just concentrate on what we have now (a tiny little one hidden in my belly, just starting to make itself known through movements).  In that regard, Violet taught me to live in the moment.  That was how I had to survive her pregnancy and our time with her.  There was no thinking ahead or preparing.

But I also can't allow myself to be limited in the moment this time because (most likely, I keep adding adverbs, probably, all signs point to yes, most likely I will have the end result that most pregnant women take for granted) we have a baby to prepare for that will MOST LIKELY come home and need items here in its home.  In a month, we find out the gender and my husband is suggesting gently that we start talking about what needs done to the extra bedroom, where the baby items are stored, etc.

Oh, rainbow baby, this is all so bittersweet.  You are so intertwined with your sister V and her story, but you should be.  All siblings should be, whether they grow up side by side or not.  You will never meet your sister and I'm so sorry for that.  I am terrified and overjoyed and somewhat healed by the thought of you.
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My plan is to start home schooling a preschool program to E in the fall.  Since a new baby is going to liven things up in December, I knew I wanted to have the calendar part of the routine established by September by starting it daily this summer.

The calendar poster was about $3.00 at our local teaching store.  I put it on our freezer, which is a pull out drawer under our refrigerator so it provided lots of room at E's level for our work space.  I highlighted the weekends so we could differentiate the days when Dadda works from when he's home.  Every day, we count the dates already on the calendar, add the next one, sing The Days of the Week, and discuss upcoming events using the words tomorrow, this week, and weekend.  As the curriculum and E grow together, we will add more parts to our calendar time (seasons, graphing weather, counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, pattern of the day, months of the year, etc.)

I made the magnetic dates with my 1" button maker.  I also made some recognizable magnets for places we regularly go and people we see.  

I love that counting the dates is teaching E to go from left to right and where the next line starts when one ends which are important skills for reading.  By the time she is ready to pick up an early reader, this will be a habit for her.  She is also getting daily one-to-one counting (touching each date as we count), number recognition to 31, and days of the week.  For quite awhile now, we've talked about upcoming events, but this makes it more concrete to her.  Yesterday after using the calendar once, she could tell me that tomorrow we were going to the library and the next day we were going to Nana's house.

Calendar time is a small, concentrated, vital burst of math in a quick amount of time.
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Homemade Sidewalk Chalk Paint

We love using homemade sidewalk chalk paint to draw and write outside!  We use a recipe that my friend passed along to us!

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Dinosaurs + Mud Play Dough

Yesterday I had a project to work on, so I dug out the mud play dough we used at our last Play & Learn Class and added E's dinosaurs.  Before I even suggested it, she was making dinosaur tracks and impressions.

To make the play dough, I used this recipe.  It has cocoa in it, so it smells amazing!  This kept E busy for even longer than it took me to finish my project!

I'm going to "dig" this back out next week and add her construction vehicles to the mix!

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Fun with Cornstarch Packing Peanuts

Look what arrived at our house this week!

Well, not ONLY those packing peanuts.  Inside the box was a new portafilter for Dadda's espresso machine, but E was more interested in the packaging.

"Poc-corn?," she asked.  "I yike poc-corn!"

I came into the kitchen as my husband was explaining to her that it wasn't popcorn.  Then he started showing her they were made out of cornstarch so they would dissolve.

Impromptu project!  Everyone outside!

E wasn't too interested in building with them (which you can do my dipping your finger in the water and touching the end of a peanut, then sticking two together).  So we mostly just had sensory fun watching them dissolve.

Mush, smash, stir, squish, plop!

Yelling inside to Dadda about how they are changing, she said, "What happen?  Mix 'round, 'round, 'round?"
(her nose is still orange from a face painting activity earlier in the day)

Pretty fun for no planning on my part!

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Introducing Nonfiction Books to Toddlers

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 1 Comment
I recently taught my last Play & Learn class for the spring on insects.  I discussed introducing nonfiction books to toddlers and preschoolers by highlighting these tips:

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Recent Conversations with E

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment

Long car rides are now filled with conversations!  What happened to my baby and where did this KID come from?

Me: When we see Uncle Andy where is he taking you?
E: Chuck E Cheese!
Me: And what are you going to do there?
E: Eat pizza and drink...water!
(not sure how she knows they have pizza there...maybe from the commercial?)

E: Gramps likes candy.
Me: Oh, yeah?
E: I like candy, too.  Momma like candy?
Me: Yes.
E: Dadda like candy.
Me: Do you know anyone who doesn't like candy?
E: (thinks about it) Eli (our cat) no like candy!
Me: Right!  What does Eli like?
E: Cat food!

E: Baby robot (R2D2) has no hair.
Me: No, he doesn't.
E: You have hair, Momma.
Me: Yes, you do, too!

(randomly) E: I eat boogie!
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