Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wake up, wake up! It's a bright, big, beautiful day!

If you're a parent of small children who watch/watched Lazy Town, you may recognize the reference in the title of this post. This song has become our family's get-going theme, and it's so bouncy and catchy, you can't help but want to bounce out of bed when you sing it.

Not everyone is bouncing out of bed so easily, however, with school starting. This is a cool idea I found in FamilyFun magazine, and tailored to my kids.

It's a checklist placemat, perfect for solving two of our morning problems in one: milk spatters all over the kitchen table from the bowl of breakfast cereal, and helping our kids to know and do what we expected of them every morning before school. FamilyFun just had a written checklist, but with one emerging reader, and one still learning her letter sounds, we needed something more visual. So, I took pictures of the kids doing everything I expected of them in the morning. That was the really fun part for them.

Then, on the computer I made a checklist out of thumbnails of their pictures next to the written task that they check off as it is done. Then I printed it on a white 6x12 sheet (I found that it would have been better if I'd stuck to an 11 inch sheet, but it was simple to format to fit a 6-inch wide list in Photoshop), and mounted it next to a full sheet of scrapbook paper on poster board. Then I took them to Kinko's and had them laminated. This was the really fun part for me. However, it was more expensive than I was anticipating because you can only use the self-serve lamination for 11x17 or smaller. My placemats were 12x18, so if you're making them you can just make them an inch smaller both ways, or use clear contact paper instead. Stick a Velcro dot at the top and on a dry-erase marker, and you're good to go!

My kids have really liked the placemats and the dry erase markers. Katie loves feeling grown up as she "reads" and checks off her list independently, and it has really helped with getting Isaiah completely ready and off to the bus stop on time.

P.S. If you notice in the picture of Katie above, pointing at the chore chart: yes, we have a chart reminding us to use a chart. I'm a little chart obsessed. I haven't even shown you our lunch chart yet, just wait! My obsession has gotten so bad that when I showed Isaiah the lunch chart he got all excited messing around with it, and then said, "We should make a chart showing us what to put on here!" Yeah, a chart for our chart. He really takes after me. He even wrote a list today of his invented superhero's super powers. Whew, I'm getting jitters to make another chart, somebody stop me!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Max - 10 months

10 months
approx. 21 lbs
approx 31 inches
red hair
blue eyes

Loves: music, dancing, water and splashing, eating "grown up" food, straws, nursing, Katie's toys, crawling around and getting into things, the broom, small bottles and tubes, touch-and-feel books
Hates: weaning, eating baby food, being tired, being held or buckled in too long, having "toys" (dangerous things) taken away
Milestones: 3rd and 4th teeth, first fair ride, move from infant carrier to convertible car seat, crawling on hands and knees, clapping, cruising

Oh, Max, there is no way you can be 10 months already! But you are, and you're getting so grown up. You have been so fun this summer because you love the water and have no fear of it splashing in your face. In fact, you love the waterfalls at the Main Street Park in St. George, every splash pad, swimming pools, the bathtub, and even the hose and spray bottle. The first thing you do in water is splash, splash, splash.

We've recently noticed your love of music. We put on music, and you wave your arms as if you're conducting an orchestra, or you bounce inches off the floor to "dance" to the beat. You especially love when someone holds your hands and dances with you, like Katie and Grandpa Doug are doing in this picture:

You are enjoying the expanding array of foods you can eat. Lately, we've found you like yogurt, pizza, bread (especially breadsticks), and thawed frozen peas and carrots (as you can see in the picture below, gobbling them up!).

You are not so fond of cottage cheese, bananas, and apples (although applesauce is still okay).

You are crawling in full force now, but only about 50% of the time. You are much faster and proficient at army crawling, covering several feet in a second. Here you are, teaching Aunt Anne to army crawl. You were much better at it :)

Lots has been going on around our house with your older siblings starting school. But you and I have actually had more time to spend one-on-one during the day, and I am loving every minute of it. It compensates a little for the snuggles we are losing as I wean you so Dad and I can go away for our anniversary in about a month. We have only dropped one feeding, but you are not happy about the situation, and it breaks my heart. Just this week you signed for milk, and I told you no. Angrily, you shoved me away, squawking. In fact, every time I am around you are hugging me, grabbing at me, and signing for milk (I think the sign for "milk" right now is actually you saying "Mom"), and it takes a lot of crackers, books, water, and other distractions to keep you from mauling me. I still cradle you as I give you a bottle, hoping you still feel loved as you're fed. This is hard for a mommy who loves nursing so much, but I know you will be fine and it will all settle soon. About half the time when you are nursing you lose interest quickly, anyway. You're a busy body, and I think you'll do better when all your nutrition is coming from regular food.

Pretty soon you'll be a year old, and then I'll have a toddler, not a baby! But until then, I am thoroughly enjoying my little (baby) Max Man.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First day of preschool

Katie was really excited for her first day of preschool. Can you tell?

After breakfast in bed (hard boiled egg and bacon, juice on the side), new school clothes, and a "fancy braids" hairdo it she was ready to leave for school. Unfortunately, it was only 10 am and school didn't start until one. It was hard to convince her that just because school was after lunch, that eating lunch early wouldn't make it come more quickly.

Katie is attending her Aunt Shelli's preschool. She loves Aunt Shelli, and her cousin, Keirra, even more. I had to laugh when she came out of school chattering about what "Teacher" had told her today.

It was a fun day at school, meeting new friends and learning new things, and she can't wait to go back on Thursday!

An auspicious beginning to a long educational career!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The difference

between a new mother of one and a veteran mother of three became apparent to me today.


Isaiah at 17 months, 2004

as cute as it was, used to frustrate me to no end.

When I saw this

Max at 9 months, 2009

this morning, all I thought was, "Oh, good, he's entertained."

First Day of First Grade

Isaiah survived his first day of school--and even enjoyed it! It turns out that he knows three kids in his class, one a little boy who lives very close to us. He rode the bus with no problem, found his class without trouble, and loved having lunch at school. He didn't even seem too tired at the end of the day, but he did sleep really well, and didn't wake up until almost 7 this morning! (He is an early riser, usually up by 5:30 or 6.)

Here are the kids waiting for the bus:
And Isaiah as he got on the bus:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

School is coming . . .

School starts tomorrow!! I took Isaiah to meet his first grade teacher (who was changed at the last minute due to a new charter school opening in the area that has ruffled things district-wide) this afternoon. Miss Rolfe seems very nice, and very organized (thank heaven!). We found his classroom to and from the bathroom, to and from the office, to and from the bus drop-off, and checked everything from the familiar location of the awesome library.

He's still apprehensive, and with good cause. He was going to have four little buddies from our ward in his class, but now it's all been changed. He's riding the school bus for the first time. He'll be at school all day, and eat lunch at school. It's a big deal! But I think ultimately excitement will prevail. He can hardly wait to wear new clothes, make new friends, and have morning and afternoon recess!

And not to leave Katie out, she'll embark on her first year of preschool in a couple of weeks. She can hardly contain herself! But I'll post more about that as it comes.

I haven't done very much this year to prepare for school, but there is something about this time of year that fills me with excitement. If I could I would share this excitement with everyone and, to quote Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail, "I would send you bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils!" In the spirit of education, I want to share some things with you that help my kids learn.

Leap Frog Sing-Along Read-Along
My mom bought this for Katie a few weeks ago, and I thought it would be, you know, just okay. But I looooooove it. It is so great for teaching early reading skills: short vowel sounds, making 3-letter words, changing the consonants to make different or rhyming words. And it teaches these skills through silly short stories set to music. They characters and stories are just quirky enough to hit my kids' funny bones. And it comes with books of all the stories, so you can read them as you watch or independently. Right now reading the books alone is just above where Katie is developementally, but I think she'll be there within the next few months, and the shows are right on for her. (Don't tell, but I'm singing the stories all day after watching them, they are so funny and catchy.)

Leap Frog Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Word Whammer
I've probably talked about this before. But I cannot emphasize enough the greatness of the Letter Factory DVD. The Talking Words Factory is the logical next step, and it's really good, too. And whether or not your kids are fans of these DVDs, the Word Whammer is great for working on building words. Katie is just now growing into it, but she's been singing the Letter Factory songs for over a year now.

And here's a collection of my favorite educational iPhone apps. We've tried them, and not only do I like them, but the kids do, too. (And most of them are free!)

Pop Math Lite
This is great for memorizing math facts, no more, no less. The kids match the balloons that have a problem and its correct answer, and pop them. They can move up levels, etc.

Math Drills Lite
Also a great app for memorizing math facts. However, what I really love about it is that it shows you how to solve the problem several different ways (on a number line, on your fingers, geometrically, etc.). Really awesome for all different types of learners.

iWriteWords Lite
Awesome for practicing handwriting. You trace the words, and the letters fall down and bounce around the screen according to how you tilt the phone, then fall into a hole to move to the next word. I like to do it, and I'm an adult. Also plays the alphabet song as you tap the screen. So fun!

First Words Sampler
This is a good, not great (probably because it's the free version) game to teach building words. It's cute and Katie likes it. If I were to design it, I would use different words, but it's fun.

Shape Builder
This is the only one I've spent money on, and it was a whopping 99 cents. It's a great preschool puzzle game that Katie has played and played and played.

Of course, there are so many educational things you can do without spending a dime on fancy toys or programs. Some of our favorites are spotting letters or words on signs while we drive in the car, playing I Spy with colors or shapes to build observational and description skills. Telling silly stories and making up silly songs--especially rhyming ones. We've tried making letters and words with our bodies, cookie dough, noodles, and cereal. I love our letter cookie cutters.

Yard sale-ing is one of our favorite summer activities, although we haven't done much of it this year. It's great for teaching money values, as well as money management. Our kids are very fond of shopping, so we're working on finding things within a certain price range, making shopping lists (Isaiah is fab at this, so adorable!), and staying within a budget. Katie is also great at finding packages of different colors or products that start with different letters.

While we are waiting for our food at a restaurant, Isaiah and I will change three-letter words and see what we can come up with (beg to bog to dog to dig, etc.). This is also where Katie loves to practice counting by doing dot-to-dots.

And there's nothing that beats good, old-fashioned reading. Read, read, read! Isaiah earns more video game time by reading independently, and this summer we've been reading Charlotte's Web together, and the kids are loving it. I only wish I'd been less sporadic at it, but we'll finish it eventually. And, wonder of wonders, Isaiah read a whole verse of scripture this morning during scripture study! I thought he would stumble at the word, "Jerusalem," but he didn't even hesitate! Goes to show that they can handle much harder material than we sometimes anticipate, so don't hold them back.

Anyway, happy back-to-school season, and I wish you all you other parents out there the best in teaching your children!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Squeeeeeze . . .

As a busy mom of three, I am learning that time to do anything not kid- or baby-related is very short. I am lucky that I have a full-time partner in parenting, but even with two sets of hands, the kids outnumber us. It is increasingly difficult to find time to do all the millions of things we have to do, not to mention the things we should be doing. And let's just face it, exercise is not at the top of my list. In fact, even though I go walking (around two miles, four times a week), I only go because a) if I don't Shelli will think I'm a slacker, and b) I totally need to talk to an adult female on a regular basis. So, basically, if I'm not forced to and it isn't fun, I'm not going to exercise.

That's why I liked an article in The Spectrum this week about the women who came up with, where you can watch videos on exercises you can do around the house or in your everyday mom tasks. If you're looking for some toning techniques that you can fit into your everyday activities, check it out. It's a very nicely designed site, and the videos are quick and easy-to-understand (there are written instructions, too, but I like how the videos demonstrate how to do the exercise and what you should be feeling, etc.).

Now if you see me doing "Schoolyard Squats" at the park or "Squeeze Backs" in the freezer aisle, you'll know why I'm in that ridiculous position.

PS When Adam read the article in the paper he started making fun of the idea. Not for everyone. And you can be sure I'll be hiding from him while I do my "Countertop Push Ups" or "Laundry Legs" so he doesn't laugh at me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Max - 9 months

9 months

21 pounds 2 ounces
(50-70th percentile)
31 inches
(97th percentile)
red hair
blue eyes

Loves: eating paper and anything else found on the floor or ground, playing with small bottles and tubes, chasing the guinea pigs, opening and closing CD players, climbing on Isaiah and Katie, pulling hair, eating "real" foods and finger foods, staring at new people, playing peekaboo
Hates: diaper changes, naptime, being constrained, the binkie
Milestones: waving "hello," sitting up, scooting on belly, army crawling, pulling up to stand, first ice cream, rocking on knees

You're big!! This has been the month of change. You've turned into a grown-up baby, scooting from one end of the house to the other, eating everything you can find, getting into everything, and reacting like a real little person in all kinds of situations. One day I went into your room to get you up from a nap, and you were sitting up, smiling at me! There was no holding you down from that point on. You insist on sitting up, no matter how messy the diaper, or how exhausted you are. When I lay you down for naps, you pop back up, laughing at me, playing peekaboo at me as I blow kisses from the doorway.

Despite learning baby signs, you've found your own way of communicating what you want. Instead of squeezing your hand for "milk," you pound on my chest. Instead of touching your hand to your mouth for "food," you make the sign for "more" by beating your hands together. When I try to give you your binkie for a nap, you pull it out of your mouth and shove it into my face as if to say, "Here! See how you like it!" (I've taken to nursing you at nap and bed time, against my better judgement, just to find a way to get you to relax. You almost never fall asleep that way, though, you're just too busy pulling on my hair and earrings, or poking my eyes and pinching my nose and mouth.) And if we take something from you that you've claimed as yours (scrap of paper you're choking on, a sharp pencil, a coin, the broom, a garbage can), watch out! You have an incredible decible level.

Quite possibly your favorite thing of the moment is the guinea pigs. The first time you pulled up to stand was on their cage, and you can kneel or stand there for the longest time watching them and grunting at them. When they are out and running around, you are frantically scooting after them, chasing them around the room.

You continue to light up a room; even the kids' friends always ask for you and play with you during every visit. Your bright smile and mischevious attitude make you a joy to chase and cuddle every day.