Busy Bees

Y’all, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written.  Because, well, life.  I think I probably have started the last umpteen posts that way, if I’d go back and read them.  But seriously, life.  Three busy kids and assistant teaching two days a week has a way of keeping me busy.  We’re getting set to start building our new house, and finally getting settled into the rhythm of life living in our rent house.  This week is our Spring Break, and I must admit that yesterday threw me for a loop.  I had one fun outing planned for each day this week, but that was it.  I mean, that was IT.  I had nothing else planned.  I didn’t really think about the weather forecast for rain several of our days off, or what that would do to all of our spirits.  So they had done pretty much everything I had thought of for them to do including our outing for the day, and it was only 2pm.  Seriously.  I had pulled out worksheets, given them a craft project to make a Leprechaun trap from recycled materials, everything I could think of… I thought I might lose my mind if they kept asking me for more activities!  Yesterday was ROUGH, y’all.  Because I really don’t want to turn the tv on or let them have their kindles for the whole day… but they did end up with about three hours of screen time.  (Which I’m not proud of, but honestly admitting!)

So this morning I decided to get smart.  I pulled up my Pinterest boards and went through my sensory activity pins.  And I was reminded of all the cool, fun things I used to do before I was too busy to make stuff for my kids.  Or maybe lately I’m just too busy to care… hmm.  Need some self reflection there.  I determined we’d see what we had at home already, and then would grab a few things at Walmart to make our week a little more exciting.  So I’m combining here some things we pulled out and did yesterday, some things we’re doing today, and then some links to some activities we’ll be doing later in the week.

Hopefully these ideas will keep your kiddos busy bees this spring – through rainy days, holidays, and any other “I’m BORED!” moments!  (Although I did hear a great idea recently from an older, more experienced mom – she said if her kids ever say, “I’m BORED!” she gives them a rag and has them clean the baseboards.  BRILLIANT!!! I plan to do that later in the week… maybe we’ll get some spring cleaning done around here, too!)

Activity Ideas

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I wish I remembered where I originally saw this idea.  This one came back to me when I started going through my supply box looking for liquid starch, and there I saw the yellow colander.  This time around, I have two kiddos doing the activity, though, so I got out my good one too.  You can get an inexpensive colander at Dollar Tree or Walmart.  I love that yellow one because it’s fun for art too – you can trace around it to make a huge flower!  lol.  It’s as simple as the picture looks – give your child the colander and a bunch of pipe cleaners, and just see what they do!  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with, and the fine motor practice is phenomenal.
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This one came straight from Crystal Underwood over at Growing A Jeweled Rose.  I already had the pipettes – I ordered a big pack of them a long time ago off of Amazon.  I’m no longer an affiliate with them, but here’s the link just to be helpful!  They had a blast, and it kept them occupied for quite a while!  (I presented them with 6 bowls of colored water (the colors of the rainbow) and then they each got a bowl of vegetable oil – for more info, check out her blog!)
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I’m all about rice sensory tubs – my kids LOVE them.  They both absolutely love the feel of the rice between their fingers, and they beg for rice tubs frequently.  I had a pink, red, and white rice mix set up for Valentine’s Day, so for this one, I just scooped out most of that mix, pulled out the Valentine’s add-ins that were in the tub, and dumped in some older bags I had already mixed of blue, green, and white, and then I colored a little orange and purple just to add more spring color.  Then I hid foam letters that spell Happy, Easter, Becca, Grayson, and Elle.  I made sure to write the words on a card and attach to the box since Gray doesn’t know how to spell.  I also took some old foam egg and bunny stickers I got a couple years ago (also in that supply box with the colander…), peeled the backs off, and stuck them together.  Then I hid the eggs and bunnies and the letters to make a fun treasure hunt of sorts!

More Activity Links To Check Out!

Here are some more links to things we’ll be doing later in the week (I won’t promise a blog post because, well, life!)  And also, if you’re just looking for some fun time fillers, be sure to check out Doodle Art Alley – Samantha is an AMAZING artist and does some brilliant work.  She shares TONS of it for FREE on her website – all of it is there just ready for you to download and print!  I printed off a bunch of stuff today and not only did I color with the Bigs earlier, Becca and I enjoyed Cody joining us this evening after the Littles had gone to bed in coloring bookmarks!  We’ll take them and laminate them later this week and then she can use some, and share some with friends when she goes back to school!

Jell-O Scented Moldable Dough for Sensory Play from Sixty Second Parent

Rainbow Fruit Loop Sensory Bin from Love Play Learn

Liquid Starch Slime from Schooling Active Monkeys

Plus, here’s some stuff we’ve done in the past that is worth revisiting for St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Rainbow Celery

Bell Pepper Shamrocks

We also picked up at Walmart a new super fun Paint by Sticker book – the kids love those!  If your kids haven’t tried them, I highly recommend them for fine motor and numeral recognition practice… and plus they are just downright fun!  Here’s one from Amazon (again, no longer an affiliate, just sharing for your benefit!) that we have and the kids love!

So between all of this and a ton of wonderful books, fun outings planned to a couple of parks, and a plan to hit up Dollar Tree for some window clings, some more stickers, and hopefully an easy crossword puzzle book for Becca… I think we’ll survive the rest of the week, and be better set up for some successfully fun weekends in the future, as well! 🙂

Advent Books

Our Advent book box

This is going to be a fairly quick post- it’s 2:30am and I’m only awake because a certain sweet little guy woke up needing some snuggles and some cough meds. (Tis the season!)

But I wanted to answer some questions about our Advent books project! There are a couple of different ways to do this, and it’s all over Pinterest, I feel sure. But here’s what we do:

I sift through all of our Christmas themed books and pick out 24 favorites. Each year I make sure that each child has at least one (this year it’s two) brand new books in the stack. Christmas Eve always ends with Becca reading us “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Some certain books get wrapped every year- like the tiny Little Golden Book about a Christmas snowman that was mine as a kid, and the book Too Many Tamales, which is just one of my absolute favorites of all time. We also have to Take A Mouse To The Movies, and we have a favorite version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I wrap each child’s books in their own pattern of paper (this year, I ran out of Gray’s paper, so he has two different patterns.) I also label each package with a sharpie and write the date in a LARGE “font” so that if the books get dropped, they can easily get put back into order!

We also do several other things for Advent. We have a felt Advent calendar whose pockets hide pieces of the nativity scene, and we add a piece each night, telling and retelling the story of Christ’s birth each night. This year, I added the Jesus Calling advent book to this, and on Becca’s nights, she reads us the next page in the book. We also have the Lego City Advent calendar, and a bowl of mini candy canes.

So the way I do this, is I plan the order of the books, and we begin with night one on our felt calendar being started by Becca pulling out the palm tree in Bethlehem and reading Jesus Calling. Then she opens day one of the advent calendar and builds the tiny toy. Gray then gets a mini candy cane to eat and opens book number 1! I read the book to both of them while he eats the candy cane, and then it’s off to bed! This occurs on all the odd nights. On the even nights, it flips and Gray does the felt Advent and Lego, and Becca gets the book and candy cane. Sometimes the book they open has a special significance with the felt character for the Advent story, but usually they are just fun Christmas books!

Another way I have heard to do this is to have a brand new book of any theme to open each night, and it’s a big gift of lots of new books at the end. I prefer the more frugal way of wrapping favorite books and making it a big fun surprise all over again! Talk about reinforcing a love of language and of reading!!

Happy Advent and happy reading!!

I See You

I see you.

You’re the friend who lost her baby too soon and lives daily in agony.  While I can’t fathom your pain, I can imagine your grief.  I see you.

You’re the friend who had a miscarriage last week.  You walk around trying to live life as though nothing ever happened, but I feel you pain and I know the depth of your grief.  Some who find out will say, “at least it was early,” as if that somehow makes it less of a loss.  Trust me.  I know.  I see you.

You’re the friend who has a baby up at all hours of the night.  You’re so thankful to be home after five painfully long months in the NICU, but you really just. want. sleep.  And it’d be so nice if a nurse could just cover this feed for you… but oh yeah, you’re at home now.  I feel the depth of your thankfulness, and yet I also know how very hard it is to adjust to life after the hospital.  I see you.

You’re the friend whose husband didn’t turn out to be the man you thought he was.  He abused your adopted children and in the process, ripped out your heart slowly in a way you never thought he could possibly.  I can’t begin to fathom the depth of your pain, or your sorrow over all that was lost.  I see you.

You’re the friend who would deeply love to be loved.  You try to hide it by laughing it off and saying you’ll be single forever, but I know.  I see it in your eyes.  I would dearly love to find you your Mr. Right.  You pour your heart and soul into your nephews, but I know you would have loved to have been a mother to your own little motley crew.  I see you.

You’re the friend who pulled her son from public school as a last ditch effort to not lose him completely.  He has so. many. unique. needs.  He is an amazing kid, but you often don’t know who he is.  You’re giving him your everything in an attempt to save him – from himself.  And to save his siblings from him, too.  I see you.

You’re the friend who just started sharing your knowledge online one day, and suddenly became a “sensation” in certain circles.  Now, your entire life is critiqued and judged by women you’ve never met, and you feel you have to justify everything you do and don’t let your kids do.  I have no idea how many emails and messages you receive on a regular basis, but I know it has to be overwhelming, all while you’re just trying to be a mom who helps her kids the way they need to be helped, and makes some money while doing it.  I see you.

You’re the friend who moved hundreds of miles away and is now dealing with the fallout of the world of friendship – few are for forever… most are just friends for a time.  And it hurts when people you thought were for forever, are actually just for a season.  I’m still here.  And I see you.

You’re the wife of a pastor in a tiny remote town, just trying to do what God called you to do.  You’re an awesome mom, but you’re just plain lonely.  You long for in-person friendship and fellowship from other women who can relate to you and don’t avoid you because you’re the pastor’s wife.  I so deeply wish our long-distance friendship could be the in-person relationship that you so desperately need.  I see you.

You’re that teacher at the car drop-off line at my daughter’s school.  I don’t know what grade you teach, but I know your well-groomed look.  You’re dressed to the nines and hair curled just so.  You’ve got cute makeup and an empty left ring finger.  When I rolled down my window and told you you looked nice today, I saw something else, too.  You almost cried.  You’re hiding something inside.  And I’m so glad I said something.  You told me I made your day, and I’m so glad I took those two seconds to really see you.

Maybe you’re a mom who is battling cancer, or a mom who just started a second job.  Maybe you’re single, or maybe you’re married.  Maybe you’re just out of college, or going back in your 50s because you never really followed your calling.  But whoever you are, whatever you are dealing with in life, I see you.  I feel your heart longing to be loved.  I feel your heart desperate to break up with fear.  I know the weight of your worry.  I know your need to be beautiful.  And you are, sweet sister, you are.  You might not fit into a six or even a sixteen, but either way, you are exactly who God made you to be.  And I see you.  Do you take the time to see others for who they are?  Do you allow yourself to feel their pain?  It’s overwhelming.  But it’s beautiful.  God gives us friends to help pick each other up when the going gets rough, and to encourage us that God will never leave us, either.  Because most importantly, He sees you.  And He is your King.  He is your Father.  He is your Abba (Daddy).  

Life After the PICU

Haven’t read about our hospital journey this spring?  You can still visit our CaringBridge page any time here.

 

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time.  Not because “nothing” is going on, but because I just don’t have anything to say.  Not because there is nothing to say… but because there’s too much, and not really all the right words to express it.  I’m not political.  I didn’t used to get into “current events,” and now I really don’t.  Perhaps because my world goes so much deeper than whichever politician someone chooses to bash at the moment.  Because I have been changed.  Because I still think about the kids and the parents and the nurses and the doctors every single day.  I wonder who is there now, and what they are going through.  I wonder if there is some small way I could help.  And I feel.  Deeply.  Madly.  I love my kids more than I could have ever possibly before.  I treasure every. single. moment.  I find myself wishing there weren’t so many fights, of course.  I find myself wishing I didn’t have to discipline, sure.  Not every moment is perfect and treasurable.  But yet, it IS treasurable – simply because I have them.  All three of them.  Here with me on Earth.   Every moment is a blessing – a gift that I’ve somehow been granted.

They are growing and healthy and ALIVE.  And I now know what that means.  What is REALLY means.  Because I feel the pain of those who have lost.  And I know how easily I could be one of them.  So I stand beside them and I pray for the right words to bring comfort.  I pray for the knowledge of when to be silent, and when to speak.  And I treasure the little moments on their behalf.  Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what life would be like if April and May had never happened.  Would I really soak it all in?  Would I resent dirty diapers and having to teach her the difference between right and wrong?  I think of all the friends I have now and the amazing people whom I have met that I wouldn’t even know existed.  And I think of all the work God has done in my heart and how He has strengthened my faith, and I can begin to see a glimpse of the purpose in all of it.  And I am finally to the point where I’m grateful.  Grateful for the pain.  Grateful for the terror.  Grateful for the countless nights of lost sleep.  Grateful for life.  

So when I see someone ahead of me in traffic cut someone off because they almost missed their exit, I wonder what is happening in their life.  I wonder if they even realized they cut someone off, or if in the fog that is their world, they just went where they needed to go because they are robotically going through the motions and just barely surviving moment to moment.  I’ve been there.  And I wonder how many people I may have cut off in traffic without even seeing them.  How many accidents my angels prevented  – how many cracks in the sidewalk I never tripped on, how many playground mishaps the bigs never had… because God was working on a much bigger plan in my life.  

No, it isn’t that I’ve had nothing to write.  It’s just that right now I’m seeing a bigger picture than I’ve ever fathomed, and it’s hard to see the world like other people.  You could say God gave me a teensy tiny nibble of a morsel from an apple from the tree of knowledge, and I’m still processing it.  He’s still teaching me from it.  He decides when we’re ready for that knowledge, and sometimes I still don’t think it’s fair that I had to take that nibble.  I don’t think it’s fair that mamas and daddies have to go through such immeasurable sorrow that we have witnessed in friends.  This life is certainly not fair.  But I’m starting to maybe get a glimpse of the truth – that the purpose behind each and every moment for each and every person is so much bigger than we’ll ever comprehend.  

I guess it’s just that my life right now is so much bigger than who is or isn’t president, or what some policy is on something, or what happened in someone’s past that does or doesn’t make them eligible for a job.  Not that those things aren’t important, but right now my brain is processing at so much deeper of a level that I just can’t focus on that stuff.  I have three kids and a job and medical bills that roll in every month like clockwork.  I have a house to keep decent for realtor showings and the stress of trying to find a new place for our family.  I need to help get homework done and communication journals signed and books read and letters learned and pen pal letters written and bottles made and diapers changed, oh and chase a very mobile baby.  Those things?  They are everything.  And yes, I’m thankful for those mundane, exhausting tasks.  Because they remind me I’m alive and that He has placed me here with a purpose.  They wear me out.  They wear me thin.  They threaten to shift my attitude on a daily basis.  But something stops me every day and causes me to pause and realize my focus.

I’ve lived on the mountain.  I’ve been in the valley.  And right now I’m relishing the climb.  It’s hard work.  Every day is a different struggle with new rocks to step over and boulders to crawl across.  I know that this climb back up the mountain is not my last climb.  We’ll fall down again.  But just like every time before, He will pick us up and set us right, and begin the climb again.  We don’t make this climb alone.  And we won’t make the next one alone, either.  

 

 

I’m Baaaack!!

So guess what, y’all? I’m back! Not long before I quit writing last year, we found out we were… SURPRISE!!!!… pregnant!  And then last fall, I got back into the classroom at a fabulous private preschool in San Antonio – teaching three days a week as an assistant to a simply amazing teacher who has become a great friend as well as coworker.  I absolutely LOVE teaching Pre-K, and look forward to getting back to teaching this summer for a few days of summer camp, and then to diving back in in the fall.  So anyway, on February 2nd, Mirielle (a French name that means miraculous, because, she really is, ya know?) was born… and the rest of her story is yet to be written!  I’m sure God has an amazing plan for her life!

Now, I’m starting a new adventure in my life – not only being a mom of THREE, but also I have now set a new path for my career! My master’s degree is in curriculum development, and I have long loved creating products for my own classroom, so I figured my maternity leave would be a great time to join the wonderful set of teachers on the fabulous website – Teachers Pay Teachers.

The very first free product I’m offering is a cute little book I’ve titled, “My Colors.”  It’s rainbow inspired for the spring, and was created specifically with Gray in mind, because he really wants to learn how to read, and since he knows his rainbow colors, I thought a simple little reader might help him pick up the color words as sight words.  Instead of merely creating a book on plain paper, we did a super fun art project to tie it all together, and then because Sis wanted to get involved, she colored her own copy of the book for me to use to show y’all as a sample!

Here’s the link to get your free download of the book.  Directions on how to put it together can be found below.

And here’s how we did the art!  Y’all, it’s so simple, it’s like falling off of a log!  I put some rainbow paint colors in an old egg carton, and made stampers from folded paper towels and clothes pins.  First, I had Gray do the craft part – the specific stamping of the colors in order – one purple spot in the middle, surrounded by blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.  I showed him on my plate how to do it, first.  Then, I let him loose and let him just create art!  He used the sponges, his hands, and even asked for a paint brush!  I love that he was exploring with the textures, and we talked about how each material he used made different marks on the plates.  We had such great discussions, and he was happily occupied for a good 45 minutes!  (Total mom score!!  Right??)  (Sidenote – did you notice how I called this activity both a craft AND art?  Check out my post here about the difference between process art and crafts...)

rainbow plates

We’ll be using the other plates he painted as book covers, too… be sure to check my Teachers Pay Teachers page soon for more free downloads, and for other fun book ideas using the covers we made!

How to Assemble Your Books:
To put any of these books together, you’ll want to first make sure your plate is thoroughly  dry, then fold it in half, and cut.  If you’ve done the rainbow circle, it magically becomes a rainbow!  You can simply add a cloud and it becomes much like this craft from Fantastic Fun and Learning.  Or, keep going and turn it into a book cover!  Take your colored “My Colors” book, and cut it in half.  Then, placing the bottom left corner of the book pages in line with the bottom left corner of your rainbow plate, cut around the top to make the arch.  Make sure the pages are all in rainbow color order, and then staple in the bottom left corner.  Use a sharpie to write your title and name, and then enjoy reading your book over and over!

book assembly

Thank you for checking out this post!  If it’s your first time to visit, welcome!  I share lots more on Facebook, so be sure to click on over and “like” my page.  I’d also love for you to follow my Teachers Pay Teachers page – as I’ll be adding lots of files in the coming weeks and months!  I love teaching preschool, and I love that now I get to share with y’all the fun things I’m creating!  I’ll also be throwing a few older kid downloads out there as well, when I make little things for Sis!  So you won’t want to miss anything – I won’t always do a blog post for every file.  If you have something you’d love to see me create, or a topic you’d love to see covered here on the blog, please be sure and let me know!  Just shoot me an email any time – I’d love to hear from you!