First Day of Preschool (!)

Backpacks, still-pointy crayons, new shoes…ahhhh…back to school. Or, in our case, to school for the very first time. Yesterday was David’s first-ever day of preschool.  As a mom and a former teacher, I was VERY excited for this day to come. I love learning and, to be honest, I am really looking forward to having 2 mornings a week alone with Jacob (who still takes a morning nap…hehe…).

I was really hoping David would enjoy his first day of school because, let’s face it, he will probably be spending the next 20-25 years in school. I was also really hoping he wouldn’t poop his pants at school (we had an interesting weekend with potty training…). In the end, though, I just had to pray things would go well and send him off to spread his little wings.

Here he is getting ready to leave for school in the morning. He was pretty excited to walk to school and “see the pink ball” (a ball that was hidden on the top shelf in his classroom when we went by a few weeks ago for a tour). I’m sure he was also excited to meet his teachers and new friends and learn all that the world has to offer.

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David’s school is about a 10 minute walk from our house, so we loaded up the stroller and leashed up the dog for our great exodus to The Preschool.

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When we got to The Preschool, there was a definite buzz in the air. Parents and children were milling around outside the school waiting to be granted entry to this magical new land of learning. The Parents were busy snapping photos and The Students were busy trying not to topple over from the size of their ill-proportioned backpacks.

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After a few minutes of waiting, The Teacher opened the front door and welcomed her brood (about thirty 3-year olds…I’ll be praying for her). David hung his backpack on his hook, put his shoes on a shoe rack, and put on his slippers (you know it’s going to be a great day when it starts with putting on slippers).

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We stayed with David for a few minutes while he explored the classroom and checked out all of the cool Montessori supplies. His favorites were some pictures of balls on the wall (of course) and some scissors for cutting.

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While David was at school, the “toy fairies” came to our house and delivered all of his balls from Seattle (along with about 90 boxes of other goodies for Mommy and Daddy to sort through):

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At pick-up time I returned to The Preschool and waited for my little student to be released. It was a bit strange being on the other side of that school door, being the parent instead of the teacher. As soon as David saw me through the window he was literally jumping up and down he was so excited. When it was his turn to come outside, his teacher shook his hand and said goodbye to him in Irish. Then David ran to me and gave me the biggest hug ever–my baby, my big boy, my preschooler.

David’s school day goes from 8:45-12:15, so when I picked him up from school it was time for lunch. Since our house was littered with boxes and moving supplies at this point, I decided that a celebratory McDonald’s lunch was in order. On our way to McDonald’s David kept saying, “Stop, Mommy! I want to go back to school!”. I couldn’t get a single thing out of him as to what he did at school all morning, but the paint on his elbows leads me to believe there was some sort of art-making. In all, though, he seemed to have a lot of fun and he can’t wait to go back again next week.

This mommy-teacher is very proud of her BIG preschooler. A preschooler who is brave and adventurous and smart and kind and funny. A preschooler who is learning to be the man he will one day become.

A preschooler who, I am happy to report, came home with the same dry pants I sent him to school in.

Fun and Learning at the Farmer’s Market

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Today we went on a culinary adventure to our local farmer’s market. I’ve been wanting to visit this market ever since we moved here, and I’m so glad we finally made it! It’s a great farmer’s market with all locally-sourced food–and GOOD food, at that.

Farmer’s markets are really my dream come true: I love fresh produce, bread, cheeses and the like, but I have a hard enough time getting the kids fed and my teeth brushed each day to worry about things like gardening and baking (or cheese making, mind you. Although I can see cows from my kitchen window. Perhaps that’s in my future. We’ll see.). Thankfully there are plenty of people who enjoy doing those things and they gather together every week in the parking lot at my local shopping center so I can reap the benefits.

We had a lot of fun exploring the tents and tables of the farmer’s market…and sampling our way through the stalls. We all enjoyed this cheese (and by enjoyed, I mean the boys ate about 10 slices each) so I felt obligated to buy a round:

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It was getting close to lunch time and all of the food looked so yummy that I couldn’t resist getting a little something. We got some delicious pizza and raspberries–which David quickly smeared over his face like a clown with a bad face-paint job:

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And, since I’m always one to take the easy road for dinner-prep, too, I picked up some roasted chicken and veggies for tonight’s dinner:

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I would have been happy just camping out at a table in the center of the market and eating all day but, alas, my children had other agendas. Turns out 2-year old boys want to touch and smell and taste (read: lick) everything in sight. And babies who were forced to skip their nap so Mom could go to the farmer’s market get cranky.

Before we left, though, we made one last pass through the stalls to play a few quick “farmer’s market games”. The teacher in me couldn’t resist sneaking in a few teachable moments disguised as food-fun. For instance:

  • IMG_3341We compared the size, shape and colors of vegetables at one stand: What is the biggest veggie you can find? What is the longest veggie you can find? Can you find a red vegetable? Can you find a vegetable that is round like a ball?
  • We found vegetables that represented the different parts of a plant: Parsnips for the roots, celery for the stem, and broccoli for the flower.
  • We played farmer’s market bingo (print your own Bingo card here)
  • We played “5 senses”: we looked at, felt, smelled, tasted, and listened to the sounds different veggies made.
  • Together we came up with three questions to ask a farmer, and then we found an obliging farmer to “interview”IMG_3336
  • We counted: Can you put three apples in our bag? Which plate has more cookies on it? How many slices of pizza did Mommy just eat for lunch?
  • We voted for our favorites: after tasting three different cheeses we talked about which was our favorite and why
  • We learned about economics: Money is used to buy the things we want and need. See, Mommy stated with a wallet full of money and now it is empty. Now Mommy needs a second job to support her new-found market obsession.

With full tummies and a (truly) empty wallet, we left the market. Until next week, farmer friends!

The Ultimate “Busy Bag”

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When we moved to Ireland a few weeks ago I had a lot of concerns. Would I get homesick before we even left? Would we like our new home across the sea? Would I remember to pack all of the essentials? But the most important question of all: How would we survive a 10-hour flight with two boys under the age of 3?

Grandma to the rescue! My mother-in-law is incredibly gifted with all things crafty. She can take felt and a sewing machine and fabricate incredible creations (whereas I would take the aforementioned objects and make something worthy for display at a Kindergarten art show). She took her crafting skills to a whole new level when she created this: The Ultimate Busy Bag.

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Inside is a treasure trove of games and activities that could satisfy children not only for a 10-hour plane ride, but for weeks–nay, months–on end.

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She created the bag itself from fabric scraps and her own design. Many of the games were also her own creation, but she did get several ideas off Pinterest and Etsy. The bag is *literally* bursting at the seams with great ideas, so I thought I would share some of them with you here. If you wanted to recreate just one or two of these ideas instead of the whole bag (because, really, I don’t know anybody else who could make all of this in one sitting!) each would make a great small project in itself. These are great ideas to have tucked away for a rainy day (or even a long summer day when the refrain “I’m bored…” starts echoing through your home). I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

1. Felt pieces and finger puppets.
One of the sides of the busy bag is made out of felt. There are several felt pieces that can be arranged on the “felt board” for imaginary play or story telling. Most of the pieces were cut out of colored felt and then decorated (my mother-in-law’s 6-year old neighbor helped with many of these pieces).

There are sea creatures and an underwater scene:

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Fluffy clouds and an airplane (each of the windows and “decals” can be re-positioned on the plane):
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A house and garden (even our dog, Bota, makes her appearance here!):

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Noah and his ark full of animals (each animal is a finger puppet that can be used separately from the felt board for songs, stories, or pretend play):

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And, of course, the rain and the rainbow for Noah:

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Jesus and his disciples can even sail across the Sea of Galilee in their trusty boat:

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2. Dry erase markers and letter practice.

IMG_2923There is a folder filled with sheets of handwriting practice, each page inside its own plastic sheet protector. Each dry erase marker has a color-coordinated pom-pom hot-glued to the cap that can be used as an on-the-spot eraser. David uses the colorful dry erase markers to trace the letters and color the pictures in his handwriting book–when he’s done, he just flips over the marker and uses the pom-pom eraser to clear the page. It is easy to find handwriting worksheets online (just do a Google search for “handwriting practice” or “handwriting printable” and look under images). You could also insert pages from coloring books, outlines of common objects, or blank pages for your child to draw on with the dry erase markers.

3. The Mitten book and finger puppets

This is one of the boys’ favorite activities in the busy bag. My MIL found this activity on Etsy, and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. The activity consists of the picture book The Mitten by Jan Brett and a large knit mitten full of finger puppet versions of the animals in the story.

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If you haven’t read this story, you should. Jan Brett is one of my favorite children’s authors, and this one is a classic. In the story (a Ukrainian folktale) a little boy loses his white mitten in the snow. Woodland animals find the mitten and, one by one, they burrow inside the lost mitten to keep warm. As I read the book, David helps to put each animal into the mitten as they appear in the story. It’s a great age-appropriate interactive reading activity–and he just can’t get enough of it. If you don’t have your own mitten and animal finger puppets, you can print off your own mitten craft from the author’s website and make your own!

4. Felt Numbers and Letters

There are two sets each of felt letters and numbers for David to play with and manipulate. The possibilities here are endless! We’ve been using the letters to play “find the sound” (I’ll say a sound and he has to find the letter that makes that sound) and “letter match” (we’ll find a letter in a book or on an object in the room and he has to find the same letter from his pile of felt letters).

I used the numbers to show David representations (using balls, of course, because he will learn ANYTHING 10 times faster if it can be somehow related to balls):

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And we even practiced putting the numbers in order from 0-10 (OK, I did this, but he helped me count the numbers after I got them all set up):

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5. Art and Craft Supplies

IMG_2948There are several art and craft supplies that David can use for his own creative works: markers, scissors, a sketch pad, colorful pipe cleaners, stickers. We’ve been practicing how to use markers on paper ONLY and that we only use scissors when there is a grown-up there to help us. He’s actually been doing really well with all of his “big kid” supplies–especially the fact that he can now color a picture and then cut it into a million pieces. Toddler confetti!

We also like using the pipe cleaners to make “bowls full of worms”. The boys thread the pipe cleaners through the holes in the pipe cleaners (I put them in for baby Jacob) and then pull them out. It’s good fine motor practice..and also just a lot of fun!

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6. Some Personal Touches

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There are several smaller items that are personalized to David and Jacob. There is a little American flag so they can remember where they came from (represent!) and a little bendy bear that their dad used to play with when he was little. There is also a really cute set of “ABC Bible Verses” where each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding Bible verse (print your own here). We may have to use these for some memorizaton practice soon!

Thank you for the special gift, Grammy! We will treasure it forever!

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A Mother’s Job Description

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I have two sweet boys, ages 2 and 9 months, who are (almost) my whole world. I love them like nothing else and being a mom is the most crazy-awesome job I’ve ever had. And by crazy-awesome, I mean that it’s both crazy and awesome. Motherhood is the best “job” I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend I thought I would put out a little job description here for any of you who may be interested in taking on this role yourself.

Title:
Mother (also known as “Mom”, “Mama”, “Mommy”)

Term Of Contract:
Until you die.

Salary:
None. Unless you count heavenly rewards, in which case they are infinite and eternal.

Working Hours:
Depends on how much your children like to sleep. On average, you can expect your day to start at about 6:30 AM and conclude by 8:30 PM. However, you will continue to be on-call throughout the night and if you have a child under the age of 1 you can expect at least two periods of active duty between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Work is required 7 days per week, 365 days per year. There is no vacation time or sick leave built in to your role, so please just don’t get sick. Ever.

Desired Qualities and Skills:
Seeking a loving, nurturing, compassionate individual.  Must be able to tolerate sounds up to 500 decibels (approximately the same loudness of a train whistle) for prolonged periods of time. Applicants should have a strong familiarity with all children’s programming on PBS and Nickelodeon (if you can sing the theme songs to “Blue’s Clues”, “Sesame Street”, “Dora The Explorer”, and “Bob The Builder” then you’re on the right track). Ability to speak and understand a foreign language (i.e. “Baby Sign” or “Toddler-ese”) is highly desired. You must be able to operate at full-capacity on 5 hours of sleep per night, and you should be able act cheery when your darlings wake you up at 4:30 AM. Applicants should be high-energy and ready to conquer the world. Applicants should possess an immense amount of patience (this will come in handy for cases of your childrens’ whining, complaining, crying for no reason, and tattle-taleing. It will also be helpful when you are cleaning up spilled milk and Cheerios for the 100th time in a day.). Backgrounds and training in the following are strongly desired: Teaching, Cooking, Laundry Services (especially stain removal), Taxi Driving, Juggling/Balancing Acts, Pastoral and Counseling Services,  Crowd Management, CPR, first aid/first-responder, EMT, Brain Surgery, Rocket Science.

Job Description and Duties To Perform:
There is a 9-month training period in which you will receive little- to no-preparation for the job you are actually beginning. Your hands-on duties will begin at about week 40 of the training regimen. Your duties will initially include feeding, bathing, changing diapers, dressing, snuggling and spying on your adorable child while he’s sleeping. As your child grows, you will be required to attend to additional responsibilities. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to: teaching, guiding, disciplining, encouraging, helping, supporting coaching, respecting, protecting, scheduling, talking with and listening to, hugging, laughing, and loving your child.

Benefits:
Butterfly kisses, a full heart, a happy disposition and a rewarding life. And love. Lots and lots of love.