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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Water Girl

Flannery has lately been singing a new song she made up.  It goes something like this:

"I'm a water girl
I'm a water girl
Every every day
in the water girl"

And it's true!  We've been swimming every day the weather was semi-cooperative this week.  It's been wonderful! 

It's amazing the difference in Flanna's confidence level in the water since last year!  She's like a little fish this year!  When she was swimming at the pool with "just floaties" for the first time, she kept saying, "I can do this!  I'm swimming!" over and over.  A few moms nearby flashed me little grins because she was just so adorably cute and proud of herself. 

There's just nothing like being a witness to pure joy. 

How did you learn to swim as a kid?  I just remember freezing constantly at pools!  And loving warm towels in the sun!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Things I'll Miss

Because of our fast-approaching move, I'm trying to enjoy all the things I love about Durham this month.  Mostly the people.  There are so many wonderful people I'm going to miss when we leave here, and we're trying to squeeze in playdates and get-togethers like crazy before we go!

But also, there are places here that are dear to my heart.    The path we walk back and forth from Flanna's school.  The low brick walls she loves to climb and balance on each day on her way home.  The honeysuckle bushes on the way to the park.  And, oh, our neighbors' flower gardens.  When we pass them on our way somewhere, Flanna has to smell the flowers, notice the elephant ears, point out the monkey grass.  I'll miss those little things. 

Another thing I'll miss is Trinity Park.  A wonderful park just a few steps from our front's been such a blessing, a place where I met so many friends, where I've watched Flanna go from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2.    From needing help getting on the swing, to pumping her legs herself, to almost crossing the monkey bars by herself now.

And, lest I forget, a park where the Durham Symphony plays a free concert every spring.  Right in the middle of the street.

Yeah, I think I'll miss that.

What do you love about your community right now? 


Friday, May 27, 2011

Little Monkeys

Our neighbors are really the best.

Climbing trees in bathing suits is just more fun.
Oh, my, my heart was in my throat at times during this tree climbing experience.  But the kids loved it and didn't get a single scrape, of course.  They really are little monkeys. 

Do you know and love your neighbors?  If not, make a point to get to know them!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's the Little Things

My mom showed me last year how to cut an apple in horizontal slices when I'm making a peanut-butter-on-apples snack.   Who knew there was a little star inside every apple, just waiting to be discovered?   And every time I see that star, I picture my mom cutting her apple just the same way, all the way across the country in Texas. 

And it makes me feel a little bit more connected to her.  Which makes me happy. 

It's the little things. 

What little thing made you happy today?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Little Artist

sketching the princess
For Flanna's 2nd birthday, my friend Dana got us some pretty big canvases and nice paintbrushes for her, and it was such fun to let Flanna paint with such nice materials.  We've continued to use the brushes regularly, but I admit I hadn't given her any big canvases on which to paint since then! 

So, when I saw two canvases on super 75% off sale recently, I just had to buy them.  We painted the blue sky background about a month ago (oy, how time flies!), and just this weekend got around to getting the real art on them.  Flanna drew the sketches out (I helped with the butterflies; she did the princess all on her own) and then told me what colors she needed in her palette.  I can't wait to hang the finished products in her room once they dry!

Nothing like cantaloupe for inspiration.

She said she knows butterflies are symmetrical, but these aren't real.

How have you displayed kid art in your home?

Funny Flanna Quotes

1.  On Mothers' Day:  "Mom, when's it gonna be kids' day?"

2.  At the doctor's office; the doctor asks her what she's going to be when she grows up, and she says,  "A princess."

3.  Upon hearing a song we used to sing her as a baby, but that she probably hadn't heard in several years:  "Wow!  I haven't heard this song in like, 18 days!!"

4.  Waking up on the morning of her half birthday:  "Today's the day!  That's right, four and a hay-ulf!"

5.  To Robi:  "Tell me a secret.  I promise not to tell anyone!"  After Robi tells her a secret, she says, "OK, tell me again, so I can tell mommy!"
Robi:  But it's a secret!
Flanna:  That's ok, mommy won't tell anyone!
Robi:  OK, you can tell her.
Flanna:  OK, whisper it in my ear.
Robi:  But I just told you.
Flanna:  Oh, well, I forgot.
Robi:  You really are the best secret keeper around!

6.  After painting a princess picture to hang in her room:  "We have GOT to show this to Dana!" (our friend who's an artist)

What made you laugh today?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

5 Tips for Getting Your House Clean While Home Alone with a Preschooler...Without Resorting to TV!

Numero uno:  Pull out the paint set.  In the kitchen.  Reiterate the "no paint anywhere but on paper or canvas" rule, perhaps 17 times.  Only after child can recite the "no paint anywhere but on paper or canvas" rule, do you actually give the child paints and paint brushes.  Load dishwasher, sweep floors, start a load of laundry, all while checking back in with child every 5 minutes.  Provide more blank paper and/or canvas every 5 minutes or so.  Also, keep reiterating the "no paint anywhere but on paper or canvas" rule.

Numero dos:  Find a box of toys you were thinking of donating to Goodwill because they'd been in the back of the closet for so long that you'd forgotten they existed.  Put said box of toys on the rug in the living room.  Introduce your child to this amazing and cool toy.  This should buy you perhaps fifteen minutes to fold some laundry and vacuum a room or two.

Numero tres:  If you happen to have any type of refrigerated cookie dough in the house, break it out.  Supply your child with cookie sheets, and ask them to make "tiny" balls of dough for each cookie.  While they are scooping, shaping, and placing cookie dough onto the sheets, you may possibly have time to unload the dishwasher, wipe the counters, or even clean out the fridge.

Numero cuatro:  Play dough.  In the kitchen.  With real cooking tools.  Maybe a garlic press?  Maybe a lemon juicer?  Maybe a melon baller?  Maybe a potato ricer?  There's something about real kitchen tools that makes them so exciting for preschoolers.  I've also found that throwing in some real birthday candles (no matches, though!!) can help extend the independent-play-life of the activity. 

Numero cinco:  The natives are getting restless.  You must pull out the big guns.  Search in your closet for an old shoebox.  Scrounge up some pipe cleaners and tape.  Bring out the paints yet again.   Yes, you know what I'm going to suggest...Let your child try to make their very first diorama.  May I suggest a pond or a farm?  This might perhaps provide you with enough time to dust and declutter one room.  (I recommend telling your preschooler to save anything they can't get to stand up for the end, when you will come in and be the tape-master extraordinaire.)

And there you have it.  Five tips for getting your house clean without having to resort to putting the preschooler in front of the TV.  (And here I must admit that having a friend take your child to the museum for a few hours on a Saturday also works wonders!)

How have you kept your children occupied in creative independent play when you're super busy?  Ideas are greatly appreciated!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The School Garden: Progress!

A Sweet William in bloom
Our little garden at school is really coming along!  Little by little, my writing groups, social skills groups, fifth graders, and classroom of kiddos with autism are making a difference in this little plot of land by our basketball courts!  (See the "before" photos here.)   It's so neat to see the changes from day to day in the garden.  It's like a little bit of magic when a new plant takes root or flower blooms.  

And the neatest thing?  The big, burly, ultra cool fifth grade boys who beg me to let them work in the garden during their lunch breaks.  Apparently pulling weeds is all the rage these days.

Butterflies on Daisies

A pond flower...just gorgeous! (I took this with my phone, but will have to get a better shot with my real camera for you soon!)

planting some herbs (rosemary & basil)

This is my new favorite picture in all the world!

pulling weeds

What little project is bringing you joy right now?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Let's Get Fancy

Tonight before bed, I told Flanna she could choose anything for us to play for 15 minutes.  Of course, she chose something princess-related.  Princess dress up, in fact.  I was to be the queen, and she was the princess, complete with a "real" crown (thanks to my friend Dana, who recently gave Flanna her old high school homecoming queen crown!).  We played for a while, and then we "pretended" to brush our teeth as royalty, to read bedtime books as royalty, and even to clean up a bit as royalty!  We also pretended that we really hoped the king won his soccer game that night (since Robi was out playing soccer with some friends).   It was so interesting to me that just pretending we were royalty, and talking in fancy English accents, and calling one another "dahhh-ling," made the evening routine go so smoothly, and seem so special. 

I mean, Flanna changing into PJs without protest?  And brushing teeth the first time I asked? 

I think we'll have to be royalty more often.

Every fancy princess wears a tinkerbell dress. 

Can you do a convincing British accent?  Mine's pretty good, if I do say so myself.  :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Importance of Catch Phrases

There are certain phrases that, when I say them, instantly give me a happiness boost.  These little catch-phrases or mantras are so helpful for me when I need to redirect my thoughts from worry or negativity.  I find that when I really examine my thoughts, I'm often pretty hard on myself.  If I'm not mindful of my thoughts, I won't even notice myself thinking negative things like, "I'll never get this all done." or "I'm so drained."

But once I'm mindful of the little phrases that are running through my thoughts, I can pretty easily replace the judgmental or worried thoughts I might have with my little mantras.  (Social skills guru Michelle Garcia Winner calls this "using my inner coach.")

Here are some of the cheerleader-ish phrases my inner coach tells me:
You can do this.
No biggie.
Do your best and be done with it.
Respond with a blessing.
Do it now.
Be silly; have fun.
It'll be fine.
You will succeed in everything. 

I think that mantras are really helpful, but first we have to will ourselves to be mindful of our thoughts to really figure out what phrases are flying through our heads making us stressed or anxious or sad.  Are we letting un-guarded thoughts mess with our mood?  If so, let's guard our thoughts!  Let's only allow those thoughts that build us up inside our minds. 

And now, because I'm tired of hearing myself think, "I'm so tired," every day at work, I'm going to get myself to bed.  And tomorrow, I'll say, "I got enough sleep," which will make all the difference.

What phrases boost your confidence or happiness just by thinking them?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Create Name Songs to Teach Preschoolers Spelling of First Names

Has anyone else created a song to help your child learn to spell her name?

I thought that I was soooo creative for coming up with this idea.  And then I mentioned it to my friend, Lisa, and it turns out that she had come up with individual name songs for all three of her kids, to help them spell their names, too!

Aren't we both just brilliant?  And you can be brilliant, too!  Here's how:

First, you try to sing your child's name letter by letter, trying a variety of different tunes.  You can add in lines such as, "That's how you spell _____."  I think it's harder for very short or very long names, but here are some suggestions of good songs to try:

When the Saints Go Marching In - good for 4 letter names, you can just repeat the spelling a few times:
Oh my name's John.
J - O - H - N
Oh my name's John,
Oh, yeah, my name is easy to spell.
John is spelled J-O-H-N

My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean:  good for 5 letter names; For example:
My name is spelled E - L- L -I - S.
My na-ame is easy, you see.
My name is spelled E- L- L- I- S.
Now, spe-eell my name with me.

The Farmer in the Dell - best for 6 letter names:
A -M- A- N- D- A,
A- M- A- N- D- A,
That's how you spell my name,
A- M- A- N- D- A.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - good for 7 letter names:
That spells Madison.
Madison, yes, Madison.
That's how you spell Madison.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat - good for 8 letter names
That is how you spe-ell

 Good luck!  (And, I'd love to hear how your song turned out!)

What mnemonic device do you still remember from school?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Does it Sink or Float? A PreK Science Vocabulary Activity

I was visiting a local scrap-shop last weekend, The Scrap Exchange, when my daughter and I found some cool corks in one of the bins.  She seemed to like the smooth and light feel of them.  As she was  holding one in each hand like tiny weights, I told her, "The cool thing about corks is that they float in water!" 

So, of course, we just had to buy a few (for 3 cents each, how could I pass them up?).  And of course, right when we arrived home, we just had to make them float in some water.  And then, of course, we just had to collect some other little objects to see whether they float or sink.  And then, of course, we just had to make a graphic organizer (Okay, so I might've initiated that step...) to show the results of what sinks, what floats, and what sinkish-floats (Flanna made up the last category name, if you didn't already guess that!).

My husband pointed out that it wasn't just weight that determined what sinks versus what floats.  It has to do with which objects don't break the surface tension of the water, and their density or something like that.  (I'll have to do some research before I teach that part of the lesson!)  But for now, I was happy with the idea of teaching some science vocabulary:  sink, float, heavy, light, above water, under water, and with helping Flanna learn to observe things carefully and record our process and results.  The idea of making knowledge more visual (with graphic organizers) and helping kids organize what they learn is one that I'm always thinking about with my students, and with Flanna, too. 

What science experiment or project do you remember enjoying from when you were a kid? 

By the way, HOORAY!  Just when I was overthinking and making myself crazy about job stuff, I got a fantastic job offer, and accepted it!  Starting this summer, I'm going to be a baby language/literacy guru!  More on that later!  And, YAY!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Need Overthinkers Anonymous

Gretchen Rubin asked on her blog today, "Do you fall into the trap of overthinking?"

And I didn't have to overthink that--the answer was a quick, "Yes!"

Right now, I'm waiting to hear back about whether I got two jobs I recently interviewed for.  And I'm feeling pressured to tell several great jobs I've already been offered whether I'm going to take those jobs or not.  And I'm trying to find a good preschool for Flannery that would fit the schedule of, oh, say, any of the jobs I might possibly have.   And I'm trying to find a good place for us to live that will be convenient to my work, Robi's work, and Flannery's school.  All of these factors are swimming around in my head constantly, as I try to come up with a good solution that works for all of us.  It's like a giant sky of stars that I know can somehow make a coherent constellation together, if I can just connect the dots in the right way. 

And I'm mulling all these things over long before I really know all of my options, mind you.

So, yes, that's definitely over-thinking.

So, I've decided.  I'm going to focus my energy on other things for a week.  I'm going to get my files in tip-top order and organize my speech room for the next SLP.  I'm going to clean out stuff at home that we don't need and donate it so we'll only have to pack our treasured items when moving day comes.  I'm going to finish that darn photo book I started two weeks ago on Snapfish. And if my mind turns to things that I can't yet decide, I'm going to turn up my music and just will the rumination away. 

Wish me luck!

Are you an overthinker, or more impulsive in your decisions?

By the way, my "respond with a blessing" challenge is still going on!  How have you been doing with that?  As for me, I honked at a car that almost hit me yesterday, and then immediately thought, "Oh, no, I didn't respond with a blessing!"   Baby steps, I guess!  :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Life in Pictures: Strawberry Festival Fun

building a "playhouse" at the festival -- this was a great exhibit!

On Saturday, we enjoyed an afternoon of fun at the Strawberry Festival here in Durham.  We had a great time! I especially loved the kite-making and building with the cool connectors above. 

A Strawberry Manicure

Our sunshine girl

Making a kite
Flying the kite--it really flew well!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Speechy Sunday - Mothers' Day Language Activity

I've been working on getting many of my speech students to use "descriptors" (adjectives) in speaking and writing, and for Mothers' Day, what better person to describe than their moms?  For students who don't live with their moms, they can describe their grandmothers, step-moms, foster-moms, or aunts (just modify the center to say the title of who they're describing).

For this flower card activity, I pre-cut the flower petals, stems, and leaves to save time.  I let the students choose 6 petals to put around the flower center.  They glued the stems first, then leaves, then the petals, then the center.  Next, they wrote, "My mom is..." (or "my grandmother is", etc., as applies) in the center of the flower.  On each petal, I had them come up with words to describe their moms or grandmothers.  We used brainstorming to come up with descriptors when kids got stuck and couldn't think of any.  For some kids who needed extra support, we flipped through the book "Quick as a Cricket," to see if any of the descriptors in that book would work for their moms.  After the card was finished, I had the students read or say the full sentence for each of their descriptors, such as, "My mom is...lovely.  My mom is...brave.  My mom is...determined." 

It was neat to see what words each student thought of first to describe their moms.  The most common descriptors were "nice" and "pretty."  I loved that some kids' moms were "silly," and "fun," as well.  I hope everyone enjoyed their cards. 

Happy Mothers' Day to all of you out there who mother!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mothers' Day Tea

On Friday, my daughter's preschool had a Mothers' Day Tea for us.  The kids were so excited to show their moms the classroom, and their favorite "work."  Flannery and her friends kept saying, "Look!  This is my mom!" to one another.  It was really sweet. 

Flannery showed me where she does "spelling work" and where they sing their scales (the piano).  She even played some notes and let me feel the piano strings vibrate while she played, which was neat.  I especially liked that the teachers had the kiddos serve their moms the food and tea.  The kids were so proud pouring tea into tiny cups for us!

The best part of the visit was just watching Flanna with her sweet classmates.  She has such kind, silly, and just generally good friends at her school.  I know she's going to miss them when we move. 

Do you still know any friends you had from preschool?  I'm lucky enough to say I do!