Fall 2012

Fall 2012
[learning to live a perfectly imperfect life]

Up To


You've all had lots of questions.

"What have you been up to?"

"Why haven't you been blogging much lately?"

"Was there really an Easter egg hidden among all of those logs?"




"Did you really even have a birthday party for Carter?"





Did Rylee ever blow bubbles for you to capture on camera?




Are your kids climbing in with the cows?





(Okay, so no one's really asked any of these questions.)

We've had a very fun, eventful April... Easter Egg hunts, birthday parties, bubble-blowing, trips to the farm.

Everything has been enjoyed and captured on camera (765 photos this month if you're curious) and this lame post with only 5 photos is not going to replace more detailed posts about these exciting events... it's just simply here to reassure you that I am still alive.

Kind of.

It's been a very busy month with my volunteer work (working on a website for our Down syndrome association and recruiting sponsors for our Buddy Walk.)

I'd say that it's also been a month full of spring cleaning, exquisite meal-making, and dutiful laundry-doing. But the truth there is that you can write your name in the dust on the mantle, the kids have had more than one two meals of peanut butter and jelly, and I'm wearing the same jeans for the 3rd day in a row.

I love what I'm doing. Just lots of it right now.

So, for now, until things slow down a bit...

just know we're having fun and staying busy...

and soon, you'll find out just what on earth our dog Zoe is doing.


What do you think she's doing?

It All Started....


with this.




Life in a Home


Remember Kelle?

Recently, on her blog, she posted this:

"I've been thinking a lot about "Life in a Home" and how there are certain corners, nooks, rooms where life seems to evolve a little more beautifully in every home. As I mentioned the hustle and bustle of the kitchen on a holiday, there are others. The magic that awakens in a bathroom when littles are bathed at night, the hum of supper conversation around a dining room table when Dad comes home from work, the creativity that erupts from spools of ribbon and scraps of fabric in a craft room...

where does life occur in your home?"

She asked for a short write-up, along with pictures, and said she would post some of her favorites on her blog.

It didn't take long for my mind to flash on a spot that life occurs with our family. I was excited to share. Here is what I sent:

Though our house has lots of spots where memories are made, it is outside our house -- in our backyard -- where life occurs.

I'm not sure if it's the partnership -- the ability to swing alongside your sibling -- that evokes the most giggles?

Or if it's the feeling of excitement... when you're pushed to the highest high, your belly does a little flip-flop with the excitement of nearly touching the clouds?

Or if it's Daddy, who tries to sneak kisses each time you sail past him, often pretending to miss you just to elicit louder belly-deep laughter?

Or is it the feeling of belonging... where no matter if you're a boy or a girl, if you have 46 chromosomes or more...

you belong right there, right then, on that swing...

in that life.

Whatever it is, it's magic.

And no matter how long you spend on the swing,

it just isn't quite long enough.




Kelle wrote me a quick, thoughtful email in return, commenting on the true happiness she saw in our kids' faces. She has shared some of her favorites over her past few posts, and it's been neat to read where others find "true life" happening in their home. Yesterday, I clicked on her blog, and some familiar smiles jumped out at me. I was excited to see that she chose to include two little kiddos on a tire swing on her blog! (Thanks Kelle!)

So, hop on over to Kelle's blog to read about where life occurs in others' homes!

When?


When you're little, the concept of time is a difficult one.

Heck, it's difficult when you're 30, too.

"Today is Thursday? I swear it was Thursday yesterday?"

"Didn't I just buy groceries yesterday? Oh, it was last Monday? Sure felt like yesterday."

Anyway, it's hard for kids to understand what a "day" really is... and a "week?" Forget it. Impossible to really grasp. When they know something exciting is coming up, it's hard to know when it's really going to be.

"Mom, when is it my birf-day?"
"In a few weeks honey."

(the next day)

"Mom, when is it my birf-day? Is it today?"
"No babe... in a few weeks."

(the next day)...

"Mom, is today my birf-day?".....

Does this sound familiar?

When Rylee was in Preschool, having a break over the winter holidays must have been confusing. I'm sure she was thinking, "So, is school over? Why am I staying home today? Am I ever going back to see my teachers? My friends? What's up with this?"

We hung a "Countdown" in the hallway... each night, before bed, we took down a snowflake. It helped us practice counting, and it helped Rylee understand that she was, in fact, going back to school... when the snowflakes were gone, back to school she would go.





(You might be wondering what's up with the mirrors and ballet-type bar in the hall. When Rylee was little -- I mean crawling little -- we hung a mirror low in the hallway for her to see herself. When she was learning to pull herself up to stand, we put a ballet-type bar above the mirror to help her... along with that, of course, came another mirror above the bar. I mean, who wants to pull yourself up to stand to look at -- a bare wall. It was the best thing ever. We had lots of fun memories -- funny faces and belly-deep giggles -- in front of those mirrors! Carter enjoyed them, too!)

We've found that Rylee really likes knowing what's coming up in life. Being prepared for things to come. I mean, don't we all really like knowing what's happening next?

So, we do LOTS of "Countdowns" in our house.

A few months ago, Rylee had swimming lessons 2 times a week... when her 4-week session was done, it would then be Carter's turn (to swim with me) during his lessons. After a few of Rylee's lessons and fielding Carter's question of "When is it my turn to swim, Mom?"a gazillion times, it hit me. Countdown! So, up it went... a little different this time -- no numbers, but instead pictures of each lesson we could cross out. (Didn't realize I'd never taught Rylee how to put an "X" through something until then... something else to practice!) When Rylee's pictures were all crossed out, it would be Carter's turn! Rylee knew when her lessons were over, and Carter knew when his would start. Perfect!





The signs take me less than 5 minutes to make. Toss a picture on a page, add some words, and print. (Don't even print on good photo paper... print on regular typing paper because you're going to hang it where the kids can see it daily, which means it will get rubbed against... corners will get bent, the paper will get wrinkled, and when the countdown is done, the kids will take it down, play with it for a few days, and it will eventually get thrown away!)

You can let the kids help you make the numbers... write on Post-It notes if you want. If you want to get fancy, head to an Educational Store and purchase some shape cut-outs. (I had a bunch from teaching.) If you think you're going to become "The Countdown Family" and use them more than once (like us), spend a few extra bucks, have them laminated, and cut them out. (Just a trick I learned from teaching: laminate them first, and then write the numbers on them. And use a permanent marker - not a dry-erase one. Dry-erase markers will rub off too easily -- permanent ones won't, but can be removed with some fingernail polish remover and good 'ole paper towels if you'd ever want the numbers off.)




The kids love counting and taking numbers down each night. They like knowing when something exciting is happening... and you will like not having to answer "not today... in a few days" a hundred times.


This was our most recent countdown....





Stay tuned for pictures from Carter's birthday party!

"When?" you ask.

Probably in a few days... I'll start a countdown for you. *smile*

Three


Three years ago today...





this little guy stole my heart.





And he still hasn't given it back.

Is It Something I Said?


"Please don't lick the mirror."


"Why is there cereal in Zoe's dog dish?"


"Please put that back. Lipstick is for Mommies to wear on their lips -- it's not for your cheeks."


"We don't eat cotton balls.... well, then go brush your teeth."


"Is that mascara on your lips?"


"Please get Buzz Lightyear out of the floor vent."


"Dogs don't need lotion. Did you try to put some on her through the kennel door?"



Please tell me you've heard yourself saying things like this.


Wordless Wednesday







A Teacher, A Mom, and a Basket of Eggs


I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I'd have to ask my parents at what age I began talking about it, but I'm sure it was very young. I remember playing "school" in our laundry room, where Mom had hung a big chalkboard for my sister and me. My sister and I would take turns being the teacher, and we would make up names for ourselves. I also remember this very long wooden dowel we used as a "pointer" for the chalkboard. I don't remember any special stories about that pointer... just that we used it. Isn't it strange what your mind remembers?

I also wanted to be a Mom. There was never a time in my life that I questioned having kids. Okay, maybe once when Rylee was screaming about having to leave the toy section at Target, and Carter was smearing lip stick from my purse all over the shopping cart, but the feeling didn't last long. My sister and I played "house" growing up. My "kids" were 3 dolls named Ryan, Megan, and Elizabeth. (Megan is a doll that Rylee now plays with -- and yes, her name is still Megan! I find myself a bit more protective of that doll than some of Rylee's other dolls. "Rylee, be sure Megan doesn't get dirty outside, okay?" Isn't that goofy?!)

Conveniently, being a teacher often requires some Mom-like qualities.... I often found myself kissing owies and giving lots of hugs at school. And, being a Mom, naturally, is just like being a teacher to your kids. So, these two "careers" just fit well together.

(I'm not exactly sure where the "career" of window-washer would have fit in... something my parents tell me I also wanted to be for a short period of time. Apparently I was in love with the squeegie thing.)

When it was time for choosing a major in college, it was easy. I got an Elementary Education degree with an emphasis in Early Childhood. After graduating, I got a job teaching Kindergarten, and I taught for 3 years. Just after we had Rylee, I decided to resign and become a full-time Mom.

It's strange to think that I've actually been out of teaching longer than I was in teaching. I had such a great 3 years as a teacher, and loved every minute of it. There are many things I miss about it, but also just as many that I don't.... and I don't regret for a second the decision to stay home and raise our kids.

People often ask if I will ever go back to teaching. The truth is, I just don't know. I have so many interests -- so many things I'd like to do in my life -- that maybe my run as a teacher is already over. And maybe it's not.

But, the truth is, right now I am teaching.

I have two students.




(Yes, I agree that our student-teacher ratio is excellent.)

Our school hours vary, depending on other activities we have (or the mood of the teacher and students.)

We often squeeze in little activities here and there, which works best for our schedules and attention spans. None of them take much preparation or planning. Few of them require many supplies, and none of them are going to win the "Most Creative and Never-Before-Thought-Of Activity" Award.

But, the kids love them. They are learning (and they don't even know it!) Plus, I love it because I can "play teacher" for a few minutes a day!

I mentioned a game we had been playing to a friend, and she suggested that I share it on my blog. So, here it goes. It's Easter-egg related, so you'll have just a few short days to play it. (What the heck... if your kids like it, play it until the 4th of July -- who really cares!?!)

"The Hungry Easter Bunny"

I wrote the numbers 1-10 on plastic Easter Eggs with a permanent marker. (Let eggs dry for a second before letting your kids grab them. I threw away 2 smeared eggs.)




Let the kids put them in order. Then, choose which one of you will be the "Easter Bunny."

It's fun if the "Easter Bunny" wears some fluffy bunny ears. (Your kids don't care if you look ridiculous, and unless you're Kate Gosselin, no one is video-taping you being a Mom. So, put on some bunny ears!)

We all sing "Do You Know The Easter Bunny?" (An adaption of "Do You Know The Muffin Man? -- I often make up words to familiar tunes. No, I can't sing, but fortunately, my kids don't care.... yet.)

"Do you know the Easter Bunny?
The Easter Bunny?
The Easter Bunny?
Do you know the Easter Bunny?
Well, he/she is very HUNGRY!"

I know. Silly. Simple. But my kids are nominating me for Songwriter of the Year. Honestly. They love it.

(You can even keep a beat with a "clap/lap/clap/lap" of your hands... for those of you who have children in music therapy!)

The 2 people who aren't the "Easter Bunny" cover their eyes... or put an Easter Basket over their heads... or whatever floats your boat. The "Easter Bunny" takes one of the plastic Easter Eggs out of the row and hides it in his/her lap. Then, he/she says, "Delicious!" That's the sign for the other 2 people to look, and it's up to them to determine which number the "Easter Bunny" ate! Then, someone else has a turn at being the "Easter Bunny."

Simple? I told you!

But you know what? I get this request all the time these days... "Mom, can we play the game where the Easter Bunny eats eggs?"

For each of the kids, I try to incorporate things they need a little extra work on. For Carter, he gets tripped up on his counting... somewhere along the way this boy learned that 7 comes after 4! So, I often ask him to count all the eggs before the Bunny eats one!

For Rylee, we are working on the concept of what comes "after" or "before" certain numbers, which will be helpful when we start adding/subtracting. When the Bunny eats an egg, instead of starting at 1 and counting, we look at the egg right before the space of the missing egg. "Here is number 5. What number comes after 5?" We can also get some speech therapy in our activity by having her ask the Easter Bunny in a complete sentence... "Did you eat 5?" instead of just "Eat five?"

It's great for encouraging working together and helping each other, too. If Carter doesn't know, I remind him that he can ask someone... he can say, "Rylee, can you help me?"

So, I try to think about what they need extra help on and incorporate that into the game.

Adaptions: There are lots of ways you can adapt this, depending on the age/skills of your child.

* Just use numbers 1-5, or go higher with your numbers.
* Have the Easter Bunny eat 2 or 3 eggs at a time.
* Write the ABCs on the eggs instead of numbers.
* Draw shapes on the eggs and put them in a pattern... star, star, heart, star, star, heart. Taking out an egg will disrupt the pattern, and your child can figure out which shape is missing.
* For early writing (not handwriting, but sentence/story-writing) skills: Write words on the eggs... use some basic sight words, such as "the" "is" "to" "a" and pick out some nouns and verbs to write as well. Let your child build some short 4-5 word sentences with the eggs, and then have the Easter Bunny eat an egg. See which word is missing from the sentence. Remember to use their name in some of them... they love it! (Examples: "Rylee likes to swing." or "The dog is playing with Carter.")

So, there you have it! Rylee and Carter love it! Here's Easter Bunny Rylee enjoying the game! (Easter Bunny Carter hopped away before I could get his picture!)





Who needs Milton Bradley when you have plastic Easter Eggs, a black marker and some Bunny Ears?!