Monday, February 27, 2012

A new kind of teaching

We are just starting our third week at home. I should probably stop counting the weeks now. This is the new normal. It's definitely interesting to see how we are all adjusting to the new lifestyle. I'm slowly relaxing and realizing that I don't have to hurry up and do stuff. Jack is starting to realize that he has a LOT more time with mom and dad, so he's not acting out as much for attention. Reid is figuring out a nap schedule, and a nice one at that. And Steve, well, he's trying to get over a rotten cold that has not been helped by traveling for work.

Last week I planned out a week of activities around the theme of Ocean Animals. With the help of Pinterest, it was lots of fun to plan and do. I'm really following the model of Little Wildcats Day Care. They do such an amazing job with kids, and we miss our friends and activities there. Monday was Octopus Day; Tuesday, Jellyfish; Wednesday, Sponges; Thursday, Fieldtrip to the Shedd Aquarium; and Friday, Sharks. I'm pretty sure both Jack and Reid enjoyed the week.

In case you are interested, here's a rundown of what we did each day, with some pictures thrown in.

Monday - Octopus
Steve was off for President's Day, so we took a family trip to the library in the afternoon.  But we started the day with Octopus math and making a paper plate Octopus. We picked up an octopus book at the library that we read later in the day. The library was pretty cool. We found all kinds of fun books about the animals we were going to "study" as well as an Iron Man book. There was also a Fun with Frogs program going on, so we stopped in there to see some Tree Frogs, Toads, and Frogs.

Tuesday - Jellyfish
We read our Jellyfish book and learned about feeding arms and zapping tentacles. I also found a fun little song about 5 little plankton and a jellyfish. I think Jack had already learned it at Little Wildcats. He sang it with me to Reid, much to Reid's delight. For a craft, we made cool paper bowl and ribbon jellyfish that I found on Pinterest. It was a little hard for Jack to put together, but he liked the painting part.

Wednesday - Sponges
Jack had preschool in the morning, so we saved our sponge activities for after our rest time. We read a book about sponges and made sponge balls. Jack had fun creating patterns with the sponge sticks. Later, he had fun with the sponge balls in the bath.

Thursday - Fieldtrip to the Shedd
We invited Pepere to come along with us as we headed for the city. The Shedd has a special exhibit on Jellyfish right now. It was pretty cool to see lots of jellies, although the exhibit seemed pretty small overall. We walked through the whole thing in about 10 minutes. We also saw the sharks and stingrays, beluga whales, penguins, and even the arm of a hiding octopus. I think the most exciting thing for Jack was seeing the scuba divers cleaning the tanks in the Wild Reef exhibit. He loves scuba divers. It was a pretty fun trip. Jack loved the jellies and the penguin play area. Reid loved the neat light coming from the exhibit tanks. Pepere and I loved the quiet ride home.

Friday - Sharks
I think this was my favorite day. I had set up play stations on our table all week, and Jack would kind of check them out, but he wasn't really that intrigued until Friday. I found a shark chomping letter game on Pinterest. I made the shark while Jack was eating breakfast. He loved the game. He picked up and named every letter and letter sound before feeding the letter to the shark. If he didn't know the name of the letter, he would trace it with his finger and then I would tell him what it was. He stopped me from telling him until he had traced the letter with his finger. He told me this method would help him remember. I love this kid!


We also set up a shark bean bag toss. A simple poster board and the old Nemo lovey made for lots of fun. We played the bean bag toss all weekend!

We also made an ocean jello snack: blue jello with fruit snacks suspended in it. The fruit snacks got a little too hard and didn't maintain their flavor. But that didn't stop Jack from enjoying fishing them out. I think next time I'd use a real fruit instead.

To top off this day, it was Jack's first snow day from school. I don't think it meant much to him though since he doesn't go to school every day any more.

Overall, a pretty fun week. I also had some other fun letter tracing and recognition activities on the iPad and on the table. But I think I've bored you enough already with the details! I'm really enjoying turning my teacher brain focus to Jack and Reid. It's reminding me that I am a teacher at heart, no matter who or what I am teaching.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Happiness Project Update

Part of my New Year's Resolution this year was to restart my happiness project. For the month of January, I focused on Energy. I had three goals:

1. Go to bed by 9:30 p.m.
2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes at least 3 times a week.
3. Act the way I want to feel.

I feel that it is good practice to reflect, and now that January is over, it seems to be a good time to reflect on the Energy focus.

Overall, I definitely feel more energetic. The days after I go to bed by 9:30 are much better than those when I miss my bedtime. I also learned that wake up time is just as important. I had a few days when I would go back to bed after feeding Reid and we would both sleep until 10 or 11. I found the extra sleep on those days actually made me feel more tired, and then I had missed out on time to get things done. My ideal wake up time is between 7:30 and 8. But Jack's ideal time is between 6 and 7. So, as long as I get to bed by 9:30, the 6 a.m. wake up is tolerable.

The exercise goal was much tougher to meet. I am back at Jazzercise class when I can get away from the house. So far, I've made it about once a week. I only had one week when I got all three workouts in. I did that by going to Jazzercise one night and then walking on the treadmill on two other nights. Not my ideal workout schedule, but I did it. I think in order to make this work, I have to get up on weekend mornings and hit the early Jazzercise class. I always feel good after them; I just hate to miss out on time with the boys and Steve.

Acting the way I want to feel worked out pretty well too, when I remembered to do it. This is actually what helped me conquer the earlier wake up time. This is a hard one when you've had a bad day or others around you aren't feeling so good. I think I still need to work on this a little too.

So energy-wise, I think I am on the plus side of things. I can't just give up on these goals, but I think I have the ideas planted well enough in my brain that I can move on to a new focus.

And that's a good thing since it is a new month, and a new month brings a new focus. I've decided to work on Time this month. With the major change of careers for me, this seems like a good time to look at how I use and manage my time. Here are my goals for Time:

1. Be reasonable about what I can actually do
2. Create a to-do list and use it every day
3. Update Google Calendar to schedule to-dos and events each day
4. Tackle the nagging task

Wish me luck!

A few things are going to change around here

Sometimes when things change, they really change, and they change quickly.

A year ago, we thought we would be the happy parents of one child, I would be the newspaper adviser at WHS forever, and eventually we would sell our house and move closer to the city.

Now, we have two wonderful boys, we refinanced our home and plan to stay for a while, and I am a stay-at-home-mom for at least a year and a half. 

Change is good.

After Reid was born, Steve and I began to talk seriously about me taking a leave of absence from WHS. We crunched the numbers, and with a little smart budgeting, we realized we could make it happen. So I put in for a full-time leave of absence for next school year. The admin at WHS came back and said, sure, and if you would like, we can even let you take the rest of this year. A little more figuring, and now I am focusing on my family and figuring out my new lifestyle.

It's amazing how happy and free I feel with this change. I love thinking about cool activities to do with Jack and Reid. Today, I found a recipe to make butter using whipping cream and a baby food jar. Jack's going to love it! I love having lunch with Steve when he works from home. I love that every night has family time. Trust me, even on the bad days (which I know there will be), I am going to cherish this.

Because of this major change, Jack has a change ahead too. He will be leaving Little Wildcat Day Care next week and starting at a local preschool the following week. We are all pretty excited about this. He will only be in school for 2 1/2 hours each morning, which will leave us all afternoon to play and have adventures. His new school is about 5 minutes from our house, which will be a marvelous change from the 45 minutes one-way we are traveling to get to WHS.

Even with good changes, there is a little sadness. Both Jack and I are going to miss seeing our friends at Wheeling every day. We love our friends there, and we have a lot of fun with them. Luckily, this does not mean that we will never see them again. We will have to be much better about scheduling play-dates.

Reid is not one to be left out. Of course, his changes are much more developmental. At 2 1/2 months, he is smiling and interacting a lot now. He loves his play mat with a little cow and a little pig that hang down for him to punch and kick. He loves diaper changes. He smiles and coos the entire time. He could screaming and overtired, you put him on the changing pad and he starts to smile. 

Overall, change is good.

Playing on the play mat

A little blurry, but a shot from some family time bowling

2 months old


Jack's Birthday!

We can't believe that Jack is already 4 years old. When people say the time flies by, they are so right!

We celebrated his actual birthday (Jan. 11) by having waffles with whipped cream for breakfast, followed by a day of fun. He went to school and celebrated with his friends. They read his book "Press Here" and ate cake pops. Then we went out to dinner at "Big Door Pizza" as a family and had cupcakes made by Grandma for dessert. In true Jack fashion, he only ate the fruit on top of the cupcake. But that's okay with me, I finished his!

As he has gotten older, Jack loves using my camera to take pictures. In the interest of keeping my camera in good working order, we got Jack his own camera for his birthday. He loves it. He took it to school that Friday for show and tell, and he took a bunch of pictures.

We then had a birthday party for Jack on Jan. 21. It was his first "friends" birthday party. We invited 22 friends to play at Kids and Company (or Kids' Town USA) and they had a blast. They had scooter races, obstacle courses, parachute play, play houses, freeze dance contests, and all kinds of fun stuff. Of course, there was also cake and ice cream. For only 90 minutes, Jack was pretty worn out afterwards. Luckily, Auntie Bubbles and Uncle Mike came over and helped with the presents and dinner. It was a pretty fun-filled day.

Steve and I are constantly amazed at what our oldest boy says and does. A few weeks ago, he went through a stage of telling me about all of the "classes" he had gone to and what he had learned. He learned about clouds (rain and all) at cloud class. When we saw the power lines along the highway, he told me he learned about them at electricity class. It was pretty funny. Anything we talked about, he had gone to a class about that. He also loves to ask questions. While this can get tiresome at times, this is also the trait we wished for our child. We want him to question things and learn. And boy does he! He wants to know how the toll booths work and whether they take our picture every time we drive through them. He wants to know how we know he got out of bed at night. He wants to know what words are in the books we read. It's fantastic!

Well, I've written a lot here; I think it's time for some pictures.

On his birthday at home with his birthday crown from school

Just being his cute self

Celebrating with his friends at school

I'll post more pictures of his party later.