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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cousins, Cousins, Everywhere

Playing Wii with the boys
We've had such fun getting to spend time with our extended family these past few weeks.  Flannery just loves all of her cousins.  Even the big burly boy ones!  (Who happen to be really sweet and gentle with her, actually!)

We had a game night last week with Robi's cousins, and a birthday party on Saturday with my cousins.  Flannery's gotten to experience so many new things with all these cousins--from playing new Wii games, to making dominoes lines to knock down, to riding motor-powered little trikes, to having home-made ice cream.  What a joy it is to have these fun times with our family.


She figured out how to "drive" pretty quickly!

My cute hubby with the kids.

Happy birthday to Hailey!

Who did you spend endless hours with as a child?  Isn't easy to be back with them again?  This is the beauty of old friendships and family, I think--the ease with which we can just comfortably hang out together again. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Be Creative

When I was sitting in the waiting room at the children's hospital last week convinced that Flannery had broken her arm, I told her all about casts, and how once you get a cast, it's really fun, because all your friends get to sign their name on it and decorate it.  Flannery was excited about the possibility of getting a cast.  She wanted a blue one, and she wanted to glue sparkles to it.  

So when the doctor told us that the arm wasn't in fact broken, but was only sprained, my poor, sweet, Flannery seemed a little dejected.  A little disappointed.  

"I wanted a cast..."  she whimpered in a tiny whisper to me.  

So, I assured her that we could glue sparkles onto a sling.  That we could decorate a sling.  That we could sign our names on it if she wanted.  

Which helped a bit.  

The next day, we got out the sparkly fabric paint and some fancy gems.  Because sometimes you just have to do something crafty to cheer up the sad girl with the non-broken arm.  :)

Did you ever break a bone as a kid?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Uncle Chris is the Best Ever

 Uncle Chris got Flannery a Crayon Maker for Christmas last year, and we got it out the other day when we needed something creative to do.

First, the girls broke crayons into tiny pieces.  Then, we placed them in a melting tray on the little Crayon Maker.  A little light bulb heated the crayon bits, and then once they were melted, I poured the wax into the crayon molds to cool.  It took about 30 minutes to make each set of crayons, and we really enjoyed it!  The crayons we created color in rainbow streaks, which was neat.

We had used the Crayon Maker at Christmas, and when I pulled it out of the box, I noticed that "someone" had scraped "Uncle Chris is the best ever!!" in the waxy layer of melted crayons that remained in the melting tray.  That Uncle Chris is a character.

This little activity could be done without a Crayon Maker, too.  You could just put some tiny crayon bits into a muffin pan and heat it slowly in the oven until the wax melts completely, then pull it out of the oven and let the wax cool.  You'd have some neat round flat crayons that could be fun, as well.

My favorite thing about the Crayon Maker was that it was a very natural way to introduce some science vocabulary to the girls.  We talked about states of matter---solids, liquids, melting, heating, cooling, and that the light bulb was the heat source.  By the time we made two batches of crayons, the girls were pointing out when the crayon bits shifted from solid to liquid and then when they cooled back into solids.   Pretty exciting stuff!

The End Product

What science words do you try to work into your day to teach the kids in your life?  I use the word "hypothesis" any time we're trying to guess something, and Flanna has really gotten the hang of using that one!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our New Digs!

I promised pics, and I finally had time to follow through on that!  (That's because Flanna's sleeping late today--a small miracle!)  

Annnnyway.  Here's our cute new house!

I'm going to paint the bedrooms this weekend if all goes as planned!  The lime green is cute but just doesn't match our stuff. 

the master bedroom

Great tile, huh?

The living room

The kitchen.
I'm considering these all the "before" photos, and hopefully the "after" photos will be much more inviting!  We move into the house in about a week or so.  Those of you who live close by, please come visit!

What project are you starting?  I love painting a room, how the results are so immediate and satisfying!

Experience Nature: The Amazing Bug Catchers

the tiniest lizard ever!
Flanna's Grammie got her a bug box in the spring, and she has just fallen in love with bugs since then!  Her favorites are roley poleys (sp?).   She found a tiny lizard on the back porch the other day, and she kept it in her bug catcher for a few hours before we released it.  She even caught a little bug to feed to the lizard all on her own!

Then, on Wednesday, the girls caught a butterfly.  They made it a nice little habitat with flowers and leaves and kept it for about 30 minutes so they could observe it a bit.  They were so gentle and careful with the butterfly, and I was really proud of their empathy toward it.

When we're all feeling grumpy and stressed and tired and grouchy, just going outside can really lift our mood.  But going outside AND interacting with tiny creatures--now that just makes us plain giddy.

the butterfly in its cozy habitat

searching for bugs

on a mission to find nice bugs

Poor Flanna - this was the day after she sprained her arm, and it still hurt anytime it moved.  

How are you going to experience nature this weekend?

Tiny Dancers: Share a Family Tradition

Flanna and her cousin participated in a ballet camp last week, and they had a mini-recital yesterday.  Robi and I had to work, but Flanna's Grammie and my sister went and took pics for us.   Warning:  there are serious amounts of adorability to follow!

My sister and I took dance together as kids for many, many years, and I remember summer dance camps as being really wonderful experiences.  It was so nice to get to pass that experience down to our girls, and especially neat that they could be in the same class for the camp.  Yet another perk of living near the fam!  I've found in doing my happiness project that sharing and creating family traditions brings me real joy, and I hope dance camp can become a regular part of the girls' summers from now on.

This one's my favorite!

What traditions do you want to pass on to another generation?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Functional Writing Activities for Preschoolers

The more I read about the development of oral and written language, the more I am convinced that there must be a function, or a use, for all of our learning activities with children.  Some way to tie the activity to real life so that it's meaningful for children and motivating for them to participate with us.

Before we moved from Durham, I had a few things to finish up at work, and I brought Flannery with me to the office.  I was bustling around making copies, filing documents, and checking off my to-do list, and talking through my list with Flannery, when she asked if she could make me a to-do list.  I grabbed a pen and a post-it for her, and here's what she wrote for me, all on her own.

It was such a meaningful activity, tied to what was happening in our life.   Her writing had a function and really meant something to her.  That's what early writing activities should be like.  Not worksheets focused on letter formation.  There's a time and a place for handwriting practice, but we're just going to turn our preschoolers off to writing if we focus too much on form rather than meaning at this age.

Another neat activity Flannery did was to create her own scavenger hunt for us.  We came home from work one day, and her Grammie said that she had created a scavenger hunt for us to follow.  Here are the clues she left for us.

The scavenger hunt activity was incredibly motivating for her, and she's returned to it several times since.  It's so exciting to see her invented spelling taking shape, and the beginning of little sentences.   She also helps me make lists for grocery shopping, appointment reminders, and wish lists for her birthday (yes, already, even though it's not for 4 more months!).  I love that she's already using little transition words like "then," "when," and "now," and how complex her little sentences are.

Follow the squares

When you see mom's room go in there.

Now turn to the hall way

Now you have to go to Flannery's room

Now go to my bed. 

Now go to my shelf.

Now go to the closet. 

Take it out then find this.  (We found a treasure box with necklaces and gemstones!)

How have you supported children's written language development?

Oh my, what a busy summer!

Oh, my!

Things have been so busy this summer since we moved!

My work has been wonderful and really exciting!  I'm helping to set up a model birth to three childcare program that floods the babies' days with language and literacy experiences.  We've been hiring teachers and assistants (still interviewing if any of you need a fun job working with infants/toddlers!), creating a two-week institute to train our teachers in language and literacy, organizing class lists, planning orientations, ordering neat materials and books for our classrooms, and just generally doing all that is needed to prepare for opening an ideal infant/toddler program.  It's really exciting work, because our end goal is to prepare our little students to be on a path to "read to learn" by third grade.

Also, we've found a home!  A cute two story "yellow house" as Flannery calls it.  It's walking distance to a park and a few restaurants, and it has a huge fenced yard.    The dogs and Flanna will be thrilled!  We picked out paint colors last weekend and hope to paint the bedrooms this weekend so we can be ready to move in by the first of the month.

We've also had some craziness.  Poor Flanna sprained her left arm on Wednesday and has to wear a sling for about a week.  She's being very brave, but it really hurts her.  I was convinced that it was broken, but the radiologist who read her X-rays said no.  Thank goodness!  Robi really didn't feel well a few weekends ago, too, and we took him to the hospital concerned about a possible heart palpitation or something.  All the tests came back fine, and now we're thinking it might've just been GERD, but it was really scary in the moment.

The thing that has really kept me from blogging, though, is our awful commute each day.  Luckily, Robi and I can carpool, but it's really rough to have to be in the car for at least 3 hours a day going back and forth to work.  I can't wait 'til we move!  I hate to move further from our families, but our commute will be so short once we're in our new home, and those extra two hours a day will make such a difference in our stress level!

Anyway.  Amidst the busy commutes and scary hospital visits, we have gotten to have a bit of fun, and we've really been enjoying being with our extended family so often.  We've gotten to spend time with our friends and family at birthday parties, dinners out, cookouts, and little spontaneous visits here and there.  Flanna has been doing ballet camp (or at least she was before she sprained her arm) with her cousin, and we've had sleepovers every weekend.  My mom has been visiting here and there, and my dad's making the trip with her soon.  This coming weekend, we have a game night planned and a birthday party with some cousins, and it's just so nice for us to feel such a part of the day-to-day life of our extended families.  It's a real blessing, and I'm so thankful to be "home" now.

I'm not sure how often I'll be able to blog before we move, but I promise I'll be back to regular posts as soon as I get settled in at our new home!  (I also promise to post photos of the new place as soon as I can!)

What have you been busy with this summer?

Our friend Finn's birthday party!

The birthday boy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Experience Nature

I had the sweetest little moment this evening.

After work, Flanna and I had dropped by my friend's house (where we're  keeping all of our boxes and furniture until we find our place) to pick up a princess dress from among our packed boxes.  (Apparently I was severely mistaken to think that Flanna could go 6 weeks without her princess dresses.)

Annnyway, we thought we'd check to see if the horses were around so we could see them and pet them a bit.  (There's a barn with 2 horses behind the house.)  We called to the horses with our clicky little noises, and both horses--one dark brown, one light brown (am I revealing how little I know about horses?)-- came eagerly to the fence.  I wasn't sure how calm or gentle they were, so I pet them a bit at first to see if they were gentle enough for Flannery.  And, oh, my!  They were so calm and sweet!

Flannery pet the light brown horse for so long that the horse actually closed her eyes, lay her head atop the fence, and seemed to be falling asleep while we were petting her.  It was such a peaceful moment of connection, and just a completely different world from the traffic and craziness of earlier that day.  I think Flannery and I both breathed more deeply.

Time spent in nature is restorative.  Is beautiful.  Is good for us.  Is a real gift.

And I'm thankful for it.

How can you experience nature this weekend?

Oh,  by the way, if you want to see some adorable pictures, just google "horse nose."  Who knew horse noses were so photogenic?

Thursday, July 7, 2011


 Last weekend, we spent a gorgeous 4th of July weekend at the beach with my parents, my sister, my niece, and our little family.  It was such a nice time together as an extended family, and it brought back so many memories of other times spent together there at the beach.

For instance, when Flannery was about 2, we visited the beach with my family, and sitting around the breakfast table, we mentioned that we were going to head to the beach later.  We weren't even sure that Flannery was paying attention to the conversation, but she perked up when she heard that, closed her hands into excited little fists, and squealed,  "The beeeeeeach!"

Now, every time we're at the beach, we remember that cute moment.  My niece brought it up in the car on our ride down to the ocean, and we all couldn't help but laugh.

Those little family "inside" jokes help us feel connected.  And reminiscing helps, too.

We spent some time reminiscing during our long drive.  We found a few old home videos stashed in our DVD wallet, and the girls watched them on the car DVD.  They were so sweet in their carseats in the back seat-- cracking up, holding hands, smiling, and just generally bonding over those adorable little videos from years past.


It's easy to do in some settings (like being back home where I grew up!, or on vacation at our favorite beach!), and it really does give me a little happiness boost.

What happy memories can you call to mind to lift your spirits this summer?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Poppa's Birthday

We celebrated Robi's dad's birthday by taking him out for dinner.  
Oh, and there was a crown.  A birthday crown.  

Handmade by Flannery.  And proudly worn by Poppa.

In public.

Now that's love.  

Who do you love so much that you're willing to be embarrassed for their sake?