Still Playing School: July 2013

The Top Five Educational Preschool Shows

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 8 Comments

I've written before about how I feel technology is an advantageous tool in a child's education when used appropriately.  Lately I've implemented a television rule regarding Silly Shows vs. Smart Shows.  E is allowed to choose one Silly Show per day (SpongeBob, FanBoy and Chum Chum, and other nonsensical shows that she and Mr. SPS laugh about and enjoy together) and then the remaining TV viewing for the day will be Smart Shows.  She understood this concept almost immediately.  She is already learning to carefully decide whether to save her Silly Show for when Mr. SPS is home or watch it during the day.

Here are our favorite Smart Shows for the preschool age group:


Team Umizoomi - Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., 2010 - present (4 seasons, 65 episodes so far)
Milli and Geo solve math problems with the help of their robot friend Bot.  This show covers patterns, counting, geometry (Geo, get it?), measuring, and more.



Ni Hao, Kai-lan - Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., 2007 - 2011 (2 seasons, 40 episodes)
Kai-lan and her adorable friends work together though emotions with appropriate response modeling, identifying emotional signs in others, and calm down coaching.  The show also teaches some words in Mandarin Chinese.  I used to wonder why they didn't put the text up on the screen to help me say the words with E, but then Mr. SPS reminded me that I can't read Chinese writing.  Oh, riiiiight.



Daniel's Neighborhood - PBS, 2012 - present (1 season, 27 episodes (broken into two segments) so far)
I'm a huge Mister Rogers' fan and while E will watch it, she much prefers this animated version that teaches the same social and emotional concepts (such as parents always returning after they leave children with a babysitter).  The characters are all the children of the characters from The Neighborhood of Make Believe, too!



Super Why - PBS Kids, 2007 - present (2 seasons, 80 episodes so far)
Super Why(att) and his friends solve story book problems by earning letters for tackling mini-literacy puzzles.  At the end of the episode they use the letters to spell a word that will solve the problem.  This show is great for practicing letter recognition and learning letter sound relationships.



Blue's Clues - Nickelodeon and Nick Jr, 1996 - 2006 (7 seasons, 145 episodes)
An oldie, but goodie.  I love this show because it covers such a wide range of early childhood concepts, but my favorites include the use of American Sign Language, predictable sequencing, and modeling how to draw (when putting a "clue" in the notebook).  I'll admit that I prefer Steve over Joe.

I've included the channel for each, but we watch most of these on demand through Amazon Prime.

What are your favorite television shows that your children watch?  Do you allow Silly Shows, too?

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Lancaster Creative Reuse Center

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 3 Comments
Lancaster Creative Reuse is a glittered gem of creativity in our community.  They are a project of the Keystone Art & Culture Center non-profit out of Lancaster.  I first discovered the LCR when a friend liked them on Facebook.  I had never heard of a reuse center, so I had to dig a bit deeper to see what they were all about.


The more I discovered, the more I fell in love.  The store meets several of our needs:

- It's a place to go to search for, find, and purchase creative craft and project items.  Inventory is an eclectic mix of traditional craft supplies, recycled materials, and other excess products from building companies and classrooms, for example.


- We can donate items to be used for projects.  I have a hard time parting with anything that I imagine can be useful with a bit of creativity, even if I myself do not currently possess the needed skills or time to transform the item into something artistic. Now I put items in a box for the LCR and I drop off the goodies the next time we stop by.  If you'd like to donate, please check the donations tab on their website to read what they currently do and do not accept!


- For $2 E (and I) can create to her heart's content at the open craft table.  They have many more supplies than we could ever contain at home and they are sorted in the most organized way.  This is the perfect spot for a artsy play date.  Bring your child to complete home and public school projects without having to gather materials around your house.  (Psst, all summer long, the craft table is free on Fridays from 10 am - 2pm.)  There is also a small kitchen play set next to the craft table for younger siblings or for when attention wanes.


- LCR's inspiring ideas reminds me that we need to return soon for a shopping/crafting session!  They are full of great crafty ideas on their Pinterest page.  They regularly update their Facebook page showcasing interesting supplies complete with clever captions. When you head over to like them, please post a note to let them know that SPS sent you!

- Many cute incidents happened during our visit:

An volunteer's son (who was a bit older than E) helped her browse for something to transform into a coffee coaster for Mr. SPS for Father's Day.  Their back and forth conversation was darling, including a debate about the logistics of using textured tile to securely hold his coffee mug and what type of markers E should use to personalize the gift.

When I asked if there was a private room for me to nurse a much distracted D, they suggested I use their staff break room.  Upon hearing that I was headed that way, a charming gentleman volunteer explained that he needed to get his tea out of the room first.  "I'm still nursing too," he joked, "but there is a bit more sugar in mine."  I stumbled into a breastfeeding friendly facility with staff that made us feel so welcome!


We will be visiting again regularly.  We can't recommend the Lancaster Creative Reuse Center enough!
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Show & Tell: Em, Eva's Bereaved Mama

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

Em and I follow each other's blogs and are both bereaved mommas to beautiful girls.  She is desperately missing Eva and writes about it so passionately.  She also has a young rainbow baby boy. I am introducing you to her now as she plans her annual fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House in Eva's honor.

How did we find each other?

I can't remember exactly how I found your blog but, as a teacher and now homeschooler, I connected with your homeschool preschool of E. I also connected with your grief and love for Violet.

What is the most important thing we should know about you?

That I am a mom. A mom to four sons on earth who bless me daily and a mom to one little girl in heaven who has touched more lives with her brief spark of a life than I will ever know this side of heaven.

Who do you share your life with?

I share my life with one amazing husband, four great sons who make me crazy sometimes, one super cute foster daughter and the memory of my one beloved daughter in heaven, who I miss daily with all my heart. We also share our outdoor lives with two big dogs and three horses.

You inspire me because of how you mother in the face of grief. Can you tell us about all you are doing to honor Eva's memory?

To be honest, I don't feel inspirational. I'm just putting one foot in front of the other. Just like everyone else.

We started a bike parade in honour of Eva. We're doing Eva's (2nd annual) Ride on August 10th to keep her memory alive in our family and community and to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta, where we stayed when Eva was sick. Our children can be pledged as they ride to remember Eva.

What was your grief like when it was fresh? How have you gotten to where you are now?

When Eva died I felt like the only person in the world whose child has died. I know now how completely untrue that is, unfortunately. I felt like I was in a black vortex of grief. I didn't know how the world could continue when my daughter had died. I wept every.single.day for 11 months after she died. I could go on and on about how terribly awful that time was.

I went to a grief counselor for a long time and I still seem him irregularly now. I found an online community of bereaved parents and I started my blog. Those things combined helped me to get a little sane. The birth of my rainbow has also breathed life into me in a way I never imagined up until the moment I held him in my arms.

I have written a children's book about Missing Eva from a child's perspective, based on conversations with Eva's brothers in the early days after losing Eva. I hope to publish it one day in memory of our precious girl and in honour of her brothers.

Ideally, how do you see yourself honoring Eva's memory in 5 years? 10 years? How do you plan to accomplish this?

I plan on honouring Eva's memory by continuing Eva's Ride for RMHNA and by helping there whenever I can. For now I am continuing with my blog but that may not last forever, unless I'm able to change the focus a little. I want to keep it out there as a little beacon of light for the newly bereaved. For those who are suffocating under grief. I remember how I felt then and to find a blog that was still active over a year from the time of death was rare and, when I did, I clung to it.

What are your passions?

My passions are my children, writing, and homeschooling..

What are your challenges?

My challenges are raising my children in a kind and God-honouring way while maintaining my sanity, grieving my daughter, loving my husband and keeping our house livable.

Who else inspires you and why?

I am inspired by those grieving mamas who have gone before me and who are still standing and still able to honour God despite their loss. I am inspired by moms of sick kids who advocate and fight for the best possible care and outcome for their child (even though I am a little bit jealous too that I do not get to fight that fight for Eva anymore).

What advice can you give our readers regarding baby loss and grieving?

I don't really feel there is any advice to give...we all process in our own way and find our own path to healing. And I guess that's the nugget of advice that I can give. Despite it all, there is healing. Despite the days of sobbing on the kitchen floor, healing comes. Slowly and stealthily like a trickle in the spring, under the snows of winter, healing comes.

Where can readers find you to learn more?

I can be found at my blog www.aftereva.blogspot.com. I welcome a personal contact as well if a grieving mama connects with my writing
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Violet's Story: July

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
July 2011 was the worst month of my life.  It was much worse than November, when she died, because in November she was also born.

As the heat of the mid-summer settles in, it is heavy and it reminds me of my grief.  I spent so many hours on our back deck on the phone that summer.  As the cicadas hummed in the background and the AC roared below me, I told people the worst news of our lives.  Now the heat and those sounds bring it all flooding back.  I don't enjoy sitting on my back deck in July anymore.

Here are excerpts from July directly from our CaringBridge that I used during Violet's pregnancy to update family and friends privately.

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Next Steps
Written July 22, 2011 6:09pm

On Wednesday, I start counseling with a therapist that specializes in trauma and grief and women's issues.

On Thursday, we have an ultrasound appointment. We will be meeting with the Infant Palliative Care team immediately afterwards as well as getting the process started to have ourselves tested to see if we are carriers for this issue in future pregnancies.

We have been enjoying meals made by friends all week and it has been a huge relief to have one thing less to do to provide for E each day. THANK YOU to those who have been helping us out with this!

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Grateful
Written July 23, 2011 6:39pm

I am grateful for your phone calls, texts, and emails to check in on us.

I am grateful that it is the weekend because having (Mr. SPS) at home gives me such strength. He is amazingly supportive and even when we aren't discussing Violet, he is comforting me just by being there. He is also great at making me laugh.

I am grateful for E, even more than I was before. She is our sunshine!

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Written July 26, 2011 12:25pm

I am in awe that E knows how to comfort me when I'm sad. I don't want her to see me cry too much, but when she does, I just tell her in a calm voice that I'm sad about baby Violet. Lately when I say this she wipes away my tears and hugs or kisses me. How does a 19 month old know just what to do? It's amazing. She also sometimes babbles a little when she is comforting me in baby talk and I sure wish I knew what she was saying because this little girl is so good for my soul.

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Written July 28, 2011 12:25pm

My therapy appointment went well yesterday. We are going to work on stress and anxiety management including guided relaxation videos on YouTube (she suggested this when she saw my smart phone) to help with sleep as well as journaling in order to focus on one day at a time. Next week (Mr. SPS) and I have an appointment together and then I go the following week by myself again. I am glad (Mr. SPS) can go with me because I have heard a lot about how couples can grieve differently and at different paces so I want to have someone overseeing not only my grief process, but ours together as well. She seems to be a great therapist and she rearranged her schedule to meet with us after her regular hours so (Mr. SPS) wouldn't have to miss any work for the appointment.

I have been having dizzy spells the past two days. At first I just thought I was overdoing it out in the warm weather carrying E and walking around. But it happened again last night at 7:30 when I was home in the AC, so I called (Mr. SPS) to come home right away (he was at work) because I was afraid I would pass out. I can't tell if these are panic attacks or a sign of pre-eclampsia or just regular pregnancy side effects or because I'm still not eating well/drinking enough water. I am trying to be better about that, but it seems to be the first thing I forget to do when I am taking care of everything else and I don't really have an appetite anyway.

I contacted and heard back from a foundation called Sustaining Grace. They were started by a couple who had a daughter with a similar diagnosis to Violet's because they found it helpful to have regular ultrasounds to see their baby, Grace, before she was born. I initially asked if they could help us cover what is not covered for our medical ultrasounds, but they suggested we have at least one non-medical ultrasound because it is relaxing and less emotional to see your baby without a doctor pointing out the medical issues and what will occur because of them. We are going to try to make an appointment somewhere locally (they also suggested we go somewhere that can make us a DVD of her) and then we let them know when and where we are going and they will contact the facility to arrange payment for it. What a wonderful idea of what can do to help other families going through similar situations in honor of your sweet baby that you lost. You can check out their website at http://sustaininggrace.org

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In April 2012, we organized a fundraiser for Sustaining Grace in memory of Violet and coincidentally, today is Grace's birthday.  I'm thinking of them and sending love and peace as they miss and celebrate their sweet girl.  
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Zuchinni Soup, Roasted Veggies, and a Cat's Birthday Cake

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
I haven't been very dedicated with my meal planning since it's been too hot to serve warm meals.  Cool salads, sandwiches, and chilled soups have been on our menu.  I made a vegetable macaroni salad and a Japanese cucumber salad to use our veggies from our CSA.  I roasted cabbage, sweet potatoes, and beets.  Pull whatever looks good out of the fridge at mealtime and add some fresh fruit and veggies on the side!
 

D looks like he got in a hockey fight here, but really he loved trying the beets after a week of being back on solely breast milk.  We reverted his diet due to what I am suspecting is a dairy intolerance.  I'd love to hear any insight you might have to this.  Without getting into the gory details, something was not agreeing with his tummy several times a day for a week so we eliminated all solids again to regulate his digestive system.  Looking back closely at what I had been feeding him, it seems like some dried nonfat milk in a few foods may have been to blame, which makes sense since he couldn't tolerate dairy in my diet for the first 6 months of his life. 

Today is our cat's 8th birthday, so naturally, we had to make a cat paw cake. 


Mr. SPS and D particularly enjoyed my chilled zucchini soup.  I was inspired by and combined two recipes so I'll write ours out for you.


Chilled Zucchini Soup

olive oil
medium white onion, chopped
equivalent of 2 cloves of garlic (I used dried minced)
2 teaspoons curry
6 small or 4 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
6 cups vegetable broth

Saute onions and garlic in oil until soft.  Add curry and salt & pepper.  Add zucchini, lower heat, and cook until soft.  Add stock and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.  Cool completely, blend, then chill before serving.
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Our Preschool Ocean and Beach Theme

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments

The first month of our co-op home school preschool was planned with an ocean and beach theme. We started at the beginning of June when both of our families were returning from our beach vacations!
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Heather Moore, Jamberry Nails Independent Consultant Review & Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 6 Comments
Jamberry Nail Shields are an easy, practical alternative to painting your nails.  They are applied with heat and adhere to your nail, but they are easy to remove with no damage and they never chip.  They are available in so many patterns making them much more creative and versatile than polish.

When Heather Moore, Jamberry Nails Independent Consultant contacted me about reviewing and hosting a giveaway for her Jamberry business, I jumped at the chance!  I have been a fan of Jamberry for over a year now, but I hadn't purchased out of the most current catalog so I was excited to try a new pattern.

I chose Turple Ombre, but End of the Rainbow was a close second choice!  I also recommend the sparkle collection because I love the glitter, but loathe removing real glitter polish from my nails!


The sheets arrive like this so as you can see there are enough shields for 2 to 3 complete applications (maybe more) depending on the size and length of your nails.  What I failed to consider was the fact that my nails are short, so the it was tricky to showcase the ombre well.  I put them in my toenails to get more color showing.  I alternated colors between turquoise and purple on the smaller toenails. 

Let me be honest with you guys, though: Feet are weird.  It was difficult for me to get a picture that I would share with you, because my nails look great, but the rest of my foot?  I haven't had a pedicure since I D was born.  And feet just look weird, don't they?  The more I took and edited the pictures, the stranger I was convinced my feet look.  Without further ado:


I also applied another pattern from my stash to E's nails for the first time.  While they make them specifically for children under the age of 8, we haven't purchased the kids' sheets yet.  (These would make a great gift idea for E if any family members are reading this!) We used the rice bag application method instead of the hair dryer for E as Heather recommended.  We still had several off soon after though, probably because she is a picker.  (An hour after a temporary tattoo application and she is ready to scrub it off.)  I'm hoping this will get better as she gets older!

  

They are totally cute on her, even if she did choose the most adult pattern I had in my collection.  It was a nice change of pace for our mommy/daughter nail nights!

In addition to the $15 gift certificate for one sheet that we are giving away to one reader using the Rafflecopter widget below, we are hosting a Still Playing School Jamberry Party on Facebook!  The details are all outlined by Heather on the event page, but basically if you invite friends or order through this party or post a picture of your Jamicure, etc. you are entered to win the hostess rewards. (This means free and discounted products for you!)  You can join the party without committing to purchasing anything just to get to know Heather and see what patterns and tips she posts for the next few weeks!

You can also find Heather on Twitter and she has helpful tutorial videos on YouTube!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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We received the Turple Ombre nail shield sheet for writing this review, but as always, all opinions and enthusiasm are completely our own! 

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Home School Word Wall

We love to create tiny nooks of home school curriculum around our home.  Here is one way we fit in a literacy resource for early reading and writing by creating our homemade word wall!

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Violet's Story: The Amnio and Diagnosis

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
After our anatomy scan, we did our research and knew that we were most likely dealing with a trisomy diagnosis or possibly DiGeorge Syndrome caused by a chromosome deletion.  Best case scenario we were dealing with our daughter being handicapped for her life and worst case she would die before she was born.  It was a lot to process in a few days.

Four days after that ultrasound and a long worrisome weekend, we reported to Maternal Fetal Medicine for a more thorough scan of our sweet girl.  The first thing I remember is laying on the table and watching my information pop up on the screen in front of us.  It had all the vital stats identifying us, but it also listed what the previous ultrasound had found, so right away I saw that there were even more markers that we hadn't discussed with our midwife.  The ultrasound technician took measurements and pictures for the doctor to review and we waited.

We were relieved to have the same doctor that had done E's follow up ultrasounds because familiar is comforting.  He explained in detail all of the physical abnormalities he was seeing, but after a several descriptions, something happened.  I'm not sure if I went into shock or if I just couldn't absorb any more of what he was saying, but I found myself later asking Mr. SPS for clarification on many things that were discussed.

The doctor suggested that we do the amnio immediately and we agreed.  He made it clear that based on her markers, he thought for sure that we were dealing with a condition more severe than Down Syndrome (which is Trisomy 21).  Since there is a chance of miscarriage with amnios, I had read not to be persuaded if you weren't sure, but there was no question in our case.  There was no denying that something was very wrong with our baby.  We needed to find out exactly what to have all the information we could.

The doctor told us that we would have the option to terminate but that most families choose not to do so. I'm not sure if he based his statistics on his practice alone, but I feel that this is important to mention.  In future discussions with many parents in our shoes, I have learned that many felt persuaded one way or another on the decision of termination by the medical team when they were given a diagnosis.  I think the doctor was trying to show us all options, but even in saying that "most" choose one thing, he was influencing us when we weren't (yet) asking for statistics.

I cried a lot in that room that day, but I held still as they inserted the needle into my uterus through my belly. It was surreal to watch it on the ultrasound.  I felt the cramping they had warned us about, but it was done quickly and again, now all we could do was wait.

I turned to the doctor before he left and said, "I don't think I can do this."  I wasn't referring to our impending decision about termination or carrying to term.  I was just marveling how I would simply survive the next 48 hours until we got her diagnosis, then the next few days or weeks or months until she arrived, then after.  The rest of my life.  How?

"You'll find the strength," he said.  I thought he was utterly wrong.  It was the first bit of advice I received regarding Violet's journey that I simply didn't believe could be true until it happened.


My husband worked from home two days later so we would be together when we got the phone call.  It ended up taking an excruciating extra day, but the phone finally rang giving us an answer.

Trisomy 13.

I held up my fingers to my husband, one then three.  A week ago we didn't know that Trisomy 13 existed but that afternoon we both knew exactly the weight that those two numbers carried.
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Violet's Story: One Last Hopeful Weekend

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 3 Comments
Before we know a baby's gender I always feel that it's a bit tricky for me to complete the bond.  They are a bit of a mystery before that, but the gender and a name help me solidify everything and imagine the little person we'll soon meet.  With Violet's pregnancy, we found out that she was a girl on the same day we found out that she was not healthy.  I came home from our anatomy scan that Friday feeling more alienated from her than I did before we knew she was a girl.  I felt that maybe deciding on a name would help.

My best friend from childhood, Vickie, came to stay with us that weekend.  Together we measured the nursery and baby furniture, scaling everything down to graph paper to figure out how it would all fit in such a tiny room.  After Violet's diagnosis, the room would lay dormant, empty and untouched until we were expecting Daniel.  But for a few days it was comforting that we imagined her in that room and planned for a rainbow themed nursery, searching Etsy for handmade baby items.

E was playing with an alphabet app on my phone (Of course she was!) and when she pressed the V, it said, "V is for Violet."  I had considered some girl names that started with a V but I'm not sre I had included Violet.

Violet.

"What about Violet?" I asked Mr. SPS.  He agreed!  We had our girl's name.  Violet.  She would have my middle name, too.  Violet Marie.

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The Snickerdoodle Shop Review & Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 3 Comments

You know we love anything that organizes the Still Playing School household!  Last year, E won a custom bow holder from The Snickerdoodle Shop to display her hair accessories (most of her favorites are from Izzy's Little Bowtique).  We worked with The Snickerdoodle Shop to choose the colors to coordinate with E's room.  We had the bow holder personalized with her initial, or course!  We use her prize daily and it doubles as organized storage and cute bedroom decor!

 

In addition to the bow holders, Erin also personalizes several items in her shop, including wall letters:



banners:



and custom subway art:


But before we received our bow holder, I knew of Erin, creator of The Snickerdoodle Shop, for another reason.  We connected as she is a fellow baby loss momma to handsome Christian.  In addition to her very missed boy, she is also momma to Chase and her (new, delicious, adorable) rainbow, Will.  I love their blog for so many reasons, but primarily I am inspired by her strength and I love to follow the fun and educational activities she plans for her preschooler. 

I am happy to introduce you to Erin today because she has offered to customize a bow holder for one lucky reader!  If you are new to our weekly giveaways, please check out our Rafflecopter tutorial to see that you are entering correctly!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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We were not compensated for this review either with money or free products! As always, all opinions and enthusiasm are completely our own!  The Snickerdoodle Shop did generously donate the custom bow holder for you to win for our giveaway!
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Homemade Moon Sand Recipe

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


Our home school preschool made homemade moon sand for our ocean theme.  The recipe is one part water to 2 parts cornstarch to 4 parts sand.  





It was fun to let the kids measure and mix.  I didn't get a finished product picture because we all dug in, but it makes mold-able, shape-able sand.
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Violet's Story: 20 Week Ultrasound & Anatomy Scan

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
The Fourth of July 2011 is my last truly happy memory of Violet's pregnancy.  We were at a cookout surrounded by friends who were feeling her kick in my belly and making their final guesses about her gender.

Two years ago today, we were ecstatic to go find out if our second baby was a boy or a girl.  Because the pregnancy had different symptoms than E's, I thought we were having a boy.  When we dropped E off with her grandmother, we excitedly explained to her when we picked her up we'd know if she was getting a brother or a sister.

We were actually a bit past the typical 20 weeks mark for our anatomy scan.  They immediately told us that she was a girl (and I was thrilled!) then went on to take a very long time measuring her heart and her head.  It didn't register for me to be concerned about this until later.



Since we had an appointment with our midwife right after the ultrasound, Mr. SPS and I returned to the waiting room between to let the news of our second daughter set in.

He said he had always imagined himself with a son and a daughter.  I explained that we didn't have to stop with two kids.  We could have one more to try for a boy.  He agreed, but pointed out that he had always seen himself with only two kids.  I said I've always seen myself with three.  Now, all of these scenarios are true.  We have three kids total; he has two, his son and his daughter, here with him.

At our appointment our midwife explained that Violet had a two vessel cord so we would be referred over to Maternal Fetal Medicine for a follow up ultrasound.  We had been sent there twice with E to double check other small markers which turned out to be nothing so I still wasn't concerned.  The midwife also mentioned that Violet was showing a cyst in her brain and some other markers but she seemed upbeat about it.  I was still so ecstatic about finding out that she was a girl that I kept telling myself that E had markers, too, and everything had been fine.  Surely Violet was fine as well.

We picked E up, told her and my mother-in-law that the happy news that she would have a sister, then started the drive home.  On the way, I called my mom to tell her about her new granddaughter, but while on the phone something happened.  I started crying, saying that I just wanted a stress free pregnancy (E's hadn't been either.  After discovering her markers, I joined a few forums online where again all the babies were born healthy, but I worried until she was in our arms.)

Mr. SPS went back to work.  E was down for her nap and I started searching the internet for other babies who had the markers that Violet had but were born healthy.  I found none.  In the cool AC of our basement, I realized that something was wrong, very, very wrong.  I messaged Mr. SPS who was at work, simultaneously searching for information online and coming to the same realization.

Maternal Fetal Medicine called us that same day (another bad sign) to schedule our follow up with them for the following Tuesday, which was four days away.

The pieces were starting to come together, but we had one weekend left of savoring the possibility that our daughter might live.
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Ask Me Anything

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 10 Comments
To complete our 2nd blogversary celebration I'm hosting a Still Playing School Reddit inspired Ask Me Anything.  Imagine we are sitting down to have coffee together, then ask me anything on your mind.  If you'd like, you can hold D while I answer.


- Leave your question(s) in the comments asking literally anything and I promise to answer it to the best of my ability.

- You may ask more than one question.  You may ask follow up questions after my answer.

- Your questions can be directed to me, E, or even Mr. SPS (though he may choose not participate).  You may also ask anything about D or Violet, but of course, I'll be doing my best to answer for them!

- You may ask about our family, parenting, education, topics I've written about, something completely random, something you've always wondered, ANYthing.

- If you ask an advice question, I may use if for our Guidance Office feature.

- Similarly, if your question prompts a lengthy response, I may use it as its own blog post.

- Please don't worry about offending me as that doesn't happen easily.

- If the answer to your question is too personal to publish, I will answer you privately via email.  

In exchange, I'd love to know which of our features or topics are your favorites (Show & Tell, educational activities, giveaways, art/crafts, recipes, grief work, infant development, etc.) or what you'd like to see me write about more often (new topics, elaborations on past posts, something completely different).

As always, your comments will have to be moderated before they appear so you won't see them right away.  (I only do this in case someone we know IRL comments with one of the kids' names instead of their initials.  Well, and to prevent spam.)
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Sublime Cupcakes Review & Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 7 Comments
Who doesn't love cupcakes?  And what better way to celebrate our 2nd blogversary then by giving away a dozen of our favorite cupcakes?!


But first, a story:  Long ago, before we had kids, Mr. SPS and I traveled on a day trip to NYC in search of the most delicious cupcake.  This was before all the shows on television spotlighting cupcakes, but my sister-in-law is a foodie, so she suggested several shops to stop and sample.


And we were disappointed with each and every one.  Don't let the forced smiles fool you.  It was a sad trip.  Then we ran into (literally, Mr. SPS bumped shoulders with) Bon Jovi, so it was a long, strange trip.  I digress.

Little did I know that a few short years later the most delicious cupcakes that we'd been searching for would be so close by!


Sublime Cupcakes' second location in Lititz is a convenient stop for our family.  My mother-in-law used the Snickerdoodle flavor as favors at my sister-in-law's bridal shower!  Mr. SPS's new job takes him right past this location on his commute.  I won't even tell you how many times I've called him for an emergency cupcake stop in the way home because it's just been one of those days.


We stopped by on a Thursday with the kids for the first time last week after our co-op homeschool preschool field trip!  E was in heaven and selected a Strawberry Shortcake cupcake.  I got the new(er) Snickers flavor for me and a Dandycake for Mr. SPS.  

I don't have any pictures of the beautiful cupcakes because it was hot, hot, hot in my car so they got a bit droopy.  I do have a blurry picture of a very excited E about to eat hers (in her pajamas), though.

   

I think we need to stop back soon for these new dirt cupcakes that I first learned about via their Facebook page!  "Topped with a happy worm!"

Now is your turn to win a free dozen cupcakes from Sublime as a fun giveaway for our 2nd blog birthday!  Check out our Rafflecoper tutorial to assure that you are entering correctly!  Winner must be able to pick up the cupcakes personally from the Lititz location.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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We were not compensated for this review either with money or free products.  We purchased our cupcakes because we truly love Sublime!  They did generously donate the dozen cupcakes for you to win for our giveaway!  
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Three Easy Ways to Follow the Blogs You Love

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
This topic is inspired by a reader's email:  How can I make sure I get all of your updates when you write?

Some of you are veteran blog followers who had full RSS feeds and just made the switch from Google Reader (RIP) to where?  Please tell me in the comments!

And some of you, like the friend who asked the question, are new to following blogs.  Maybe you started reading Still Playing School because you know us and so you are old school checking back periodically, sometimes missing posts.

There are three easy ways that you can follow SPS to get updates:

1.  If you are on Facebook, you can like Still Playing School's Facebook page.  I post there every time I publish, but the trick with Facebook is that you will only see 100% of these updates from SPS if you are active with us.  This means the more you like and comment on our posts, the more Facebook will show you from us.  If you don't like and comment, Facebook decides you don't want to see as much of us and they hide most of our updates from your feed.  I always make sure to like as much as I can from the Facebook page of our CSA, for example, because I want to see each and every item that they post on Facebook in my feed.

2.  You can subscribe to us via email.  In the right hand side bar, you can type in your email to get a message every time we publish a new post.


3.  If you have multiple blogs that you love to follow, you can start using a RSS feed reader.  I use Feedly.  You create an account, add the blogs you follow, and when you check back in to the site (or use the app) all of the updates that you want to read will be ready and waiting for you!  

You can choose which way works for you or use a combination of the three!  If you are a regular reader, how do you make sure you get SPS's latest posts so that you don't miss these adorable faces?


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How I Write: The Ins and Outs of Writing and Maintaining a Blog

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
A recent meetup with other local bloggers at Folklore Coffee & Company inspired me to reflect on how I write here at Still Playing School.  Sara Bozich and Ken Mueller shared their tips of the trade.  Some were new ideas and some I'd already been implementing which was encouraging!

One thing I aim to do (that they mentioned) is write often.  It's a big time commitment, but it definitely provides an increase in traffic.  I've made it something I'm dedicated to so my family knows to expect me to prioritize SPS as part of my day.  (That being said, they also know that they come first and I have the luxury to drop everything if someone needs me.)

I use Google Calendar to outline my post schedule.  Some features reoccur regularly (another tip suggested).  Other posts are inspired the day they are written.  Usually this is the case with grief related writing.  There are some ideas that are born as just a draft scribbled down until I have time to elaborate and develop the idea (also a suggestion from Ken).  I can dig back through on a day when I'm not sure what to write.  Ideas are also constantly spinning off of conversations and questions from and for my friends.  I write what we live.  I blog what I would (and do) discuss with you if we are friends in real life.


I write when the kids are asleep because I'm obviously more efficient when I can focus my attention solely on the blog.  There are two problems with writing when they are asleep.  Sometimes I should be sleeping too, especially when baby D has a week like he's having right now where he is up frequently at night and needs lots of my help to settle.  The other issue is that most SAHMs use nap time to clean the house, prep dinner, workout, or shower.  I often let some or all of these things go for the sake of SPS.  I wouldn't trade it for the world because of the mental health booster it provides me, but I often frantically tidy up the house before someone comes over because it is in a constant state of disarray.

"Doing work" like Momma.

There is more involved with writing a blog than simply writing, though.  I am taking, editing, and sizing the pictures, providing links, researching topics, and checking my writing for errors.  (Some always still slip through, so I have some go to proof reading friends who I love!)  I meet with and interview people who I would like to feature or experts who can add their experience to our conversations.  I love the opportunity to review products, but we have to plan ahead to fit the products into our lives (with pictures!) to have accurate information before writing our opinions.  I gladly guest post monthly for Lebanon Macaroni Kid.  Giveaways need Rafflecopter widgets to be created.  I've created our logo and worked with friends on marketing and advertising.  The design of SPS needs a total re-haul, but I don't think I'm quite ready to take that on yet.  

Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter will add to your blog, but again, it takes time to be involved.  I can usually grab a minute here and there while the kids are awake but entertained to stay active in these communities.  

When anyone wonders if they should start their own blog, I always say yes, mostly because I will want to read it!  My advice is to write about what you love.  Come up with a solid name.  Everything else that I've outlined here (social media, features, logos, etc.) will develop over time when you're ready for them.  We're two years in with all we've accomplished.  I can't wait to see where we'll be in two more!

If you have a blog, please leave the link in our comments and weigh in with your tips and techniques for writing!
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