Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Vacation and an Anniversary

Each year, we spend a week at my Mom's beach house in North Cape May, NJ.  After we all left the nest, Mom decided to retire to her little beach cottage, which she has since renovated into a warm, inviting year-round home.

Two years ago, on July 1, 2011, Josh and I were married on the deck of this little beach cottage and we're lucky enough to spend our anniversaries there as well.  We're not much for fanfare, especially over an unexpected wedding we planned in four days that came after a five-year relationship and our first child, so an anniversary at the beach is just right for us.

Although there's not an overwhelming amount of things (besides hitting the beach) to do in North Cape May, NJ, we always manage to find ways to stay busy.  We've visited the Cape May County Zoo 
Monkey with 'Baba', checking out animals.

and the Aviation Museum.  

Last year, we took Monkey on his first ride on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
Monkey and Mama - and Bear on the way!

Because the trip is always during 4th of July week, we get to sit on the deck (which is only one house from the beach) and watch fireworks, which is the highlight of Monkey's trip.  This year will be Bear's first fireworks experience and I can't wait to get some great reaction photos.

I'm looking forward to lots of fun beach activities with the boys and to sharing them with you when we return!

* Happy Summer! *


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Play Dough Pasta Bugs

We're keeping things simple this summer at Seedlings, so posts have been a bit sporadic, but I thought it was time to check-in.  

As I mentioned a while back, we've decided to adopt a grain-free diet due to some digestive issues Monkey was having.  I'd intended for this change to be temporary, but we're all feeling so much better, I don't see an end anytime soon.  The decision to continue on this new dietary adventure was even easier to make after two consecutive nights of grain/gluten ingestion on my part left me with two consecutive nights of belly-ache.  No thanks!

So, what to do with all that pasta?  Use it for preschool, of course!!

Monkey was getting a bit stir-crazy this past week after temperatures reached 108F and he wasn't able to get in his usual few hours of outside time each day, so play dough was the first thing that came to mind.

I cooked up a pot of fresh dough, throwing in some lavender essential oil for good measure, set out bowls of pasta: spaghetti, rotini and elbow macaroni and the little ones got to work.

The spaghetti was by far the most popular pasta to work with and even though there was quite a lot of pasta-breakage, the children never got frustrated, they were enamored with this new sensory material.

And, as is the way with play dough, someone always makes a pancake:

But Monkey decided he was making a bug and here is the finished product:

How'd you like to find this guy in your house??

I hope to gather some material to share on our upcoming vacation to the beach!  What are you and your little ones up to this summer??

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Childhood Illnesses: Blessing or Burden?

We've been really lucky with our kiddos thus far when it comes to illness.  As a family, we're rarely sick and out of the four of us, it's usually Daddy who gets the worst of it.

I have the advantage of having spent the last 15 years or so of my life up to my elbows in kid germs and have built up an immunity to practically everything.  My boys, having been breastfed (Monkey until 14 mos. and Bear currently), also benefit from my ridiculous immunities and have been around other children (and their germs) practically since birth.

Recently, however, we had a battle with a virus that knocked Monkey out for nearly a week - something that has NEVER happened in his 3 1/2 years.

It started off as just a slightly elevated temperature, nothing to even be worried about.  He'll sometimes get a slight fever for a day, spend the day sleeping and be fine the following day.  I always say it's his body's way of catching up on the rest he tries so hard to avoid.

By day two, he was definitely not himself - asking for food, but not eating; wanting to be held; listless.  By the end of the day, the fever had hit 102 - still not a huge deal for me, I figured he'd be fine by morning.  He was still getting plenty of fluids, so I wasn't too worried about the lack of food.

Day three rolled around and he was still not better, just getting worse.  By evening, the fever had reached 104.7 (before fever reducer) and I was starting to worry.  I also noticed a rash on his palms and soles of his feet, leading me to believe he had hand, foot and mouth disease.  

I've worked with children a LONG time and I've seen many cases of hand, foot and mouth, but I didn't recall ever seeing a fever this high or the other symptoms he was exhibiting with that Mama's really getting worried.

The following day, he woke with a very high fever, but it was controlled by the fever reducer and once that kicked in, he was hungry - phew!  All he would eat was cereal, but at that point, I would have given him anything just to get him to eat.  He ate three bowls and seemed much better, even managing to get off the couch for a while and work on some puzzles.

After about an hour, he was back to being completely exhausted and listless.  The weekend was fast approaching and I thought it best at this point to get a professional medical opinion, so we took him to the pediatrician who confirmed the diagnosis of hand, foot and mouth (or a related virus) and told us to push fluids and rest and continue fever reducer as long as it seemed necessary.  So, basically, keep doing what we're doing!

Things were still spotty for the next two days, but by the end of the weekend, he was back to his normal self - though he'd lost 2lbs, which is quite a bit when he only weighed 27lbs to begin with.

We went back to our grain-free diet and things started settling down. 

Only then did I realize that Monkey had spent countless hours sleeping both on the couch and in bed and hadn't had any potty accidents.  He's been diaper-free during the day since he was 21mos old, but nighttime has been an issue.  He decided a few months ago that he no longer wanted a diaper at night, but was unable to go all night without having an accident (or two).  I had to wake him to have him use the bathroom each night before going to bed myself and occasionally, he would still have another accident before morning.

At first, I just figured it was a fluke since he was ill and wasn't eating or drinking as much as he normally would, but I decided to just let him sleep and see what would happen.  Much to my surprise, he is now capable of sleeping through the night with no potty breaks!

And this isn't the only change we've noticed.  His language skills and vocabulary have increased, his appetite is better (for the most part, though there are good and bad days), his energy level is more stable, his muscle tone (and the weight he lost) have come back extremely fast and have shown signs of increase/improvement.  Even his facial features have changed.

There are schools of thought that believe that childhood illnesses are a time of great change and growth and I must say, after this experience, I tend to agree.  Obviously, I would never wish illness on any child, nor would I wish any parent to feel as helpless as we did watching our little guy fighting off this virus, but I do have faith in the body and mind and this recent experience definitely makes one think and wonder if childhood illnesses can really be both burden AND blessing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pirates in Preschool!

We've been getting into the pirate spirit with our Montessori-Inspired activities and our fun cloud dough pirate-themed sensory bin, but here is what else we've been up to this week.  Lots of amazingly easy pirate activities suitable for kids of all ages!

We started off with the requisite eye patch and pirate flag - so everyone would see us coming!  The flag is constructed from an extra large craft stick and half a sheet of 9x12 paper.  I glued the stick inside a small fold in the paper and then stapled for extra strength.  I cut the eye patch shape freehand, but left a little tab at the top to secure it to the yarn.  I ran a bit of glue along the inside of the tab before stapling, just so it wouldn't slide around.  Just a tip, staple the eye patch so the smooth part of the staple is on the inside closest to the eye - no freak staple accidents on my watch!

I had the kiddos color their flags with a white crayon, which was a huge hit, because, really, how often do you actually get to use the white crayon?

Here's my little pirate, showing off his ensemble made from play silks - which are quite possibly the BEST thing to have in a preschool classroom - they can literally be ANYTHING.  And if you practice, you can learn to fold, tie and shape them into shirts, dresses, hats, dolls, animals, etc.  I got mine here, but they are widely available and you can also purchase them in bulk and dye them yourself - which is how I got that orange one in the picture.
Here's a look from the back in case you are wondering how all that is folded and tied.  Perhaps a tutorial is in my future.

Next up, treasure maps......on parchment paper, of course!  I tried a few methods - markers, crayons, etc, but the colored pencils won out this time.  I plan to try some painting methods on parchment paper soon, though!

Hmmmm.......where DID I leave that treasure??
Daddy even got in on the action today!
This is how the maps went home, because it's all about presentation....

And here's what can happen when you invite your artsy-fartsy husband to draw a treasure map....

Arrrrggghhhhh, Matey!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What We're Up to in June

Summer Camp is here which means we clear the classroom of an overabundance of activities and keep things simple with one or two themes for the whole month.  This month, one of our themes is Pirate Adventures!!  This is my first year doing a pirate theme and I'm super-excited.

I started off with a sensory bin:

Starting with a cloud dough base (8c. flour to 1c. oil), I added necklaces and coins (Dollar Tree) as well as some other things I had around the house: shells, cork boats, beach-themed play dough tools and a treasure chest from our Cariboo Island game.
I'd like to point out that about three seconds after this bin entered the classroom, my son dug his hands in and it will probably never look like this again - so feast your eyes! 

Keeping with the pirate theme, our writing salt this month is actually fine craft sand and I've made it kind of a treasure map invitation by adding gems and tongs for 'digging' treasures.  This is such an open-ended invitation, I can't wait to see what the children create!

I've set up another writing invitation with a white board, markers, felt for erasing and handy pirate-related word cards that I found at Homeschool Creations.  She has some seriously awesome free printables, so if you haven't been there, you should now.....I'll wait.

Last up and not very pirate-related at all, our opening and closing activity inspired by the Dollar Tree that you can read all about here.

Opening and Closing and Sorting, OH MY!

Every month, I head to my local Dollar Tree to see what kind of goodies I can find for my classroom before I venture into more expensive territory.  In general, I go in with a few ideas/themes and leave with stuff I actually didn't intend to buy.

This month, I was standing in line when I saw a little medicine sorter.  Each section was a different color and all of them stacked up nice and neat into a fun rainbow-colored tower.  I had no idea what I was going to do with this handy device, but I grabbed it anyway and by the time I got home, I had a plan.

As soon as I saw this tray sitting out needing a new activity, I knew it would work perfectly for sorting.  I broke out my trusty label-maker and assigned each section a size: small, medium, large, using appropriately-sized text for pre-readers.  

Inside each section of the medicine sorter, I placed three matching buttons, one in each size.  When all of the sections are open, it looks like this:

And those buttons are just begging to be sorted!

Of course, once everything has been sorted according to size, all of the buttons must go back to their compartments according to color and then little hands have to twist the sections back together to create the rainbow tower again.  How many more skills could I have crammed into this activity?

Thanks for the inspiration, Dollar Tree!

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