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Usually we stick to outdoor activities during the weekend, but since it was cold last week we ventured to one of my favorites libraries. Since my husband was with us I had a some extra to really browse the children's section. Yay, extra eyes! I hope you enjoy this week's s selections.
Rooster's Off to See the World Eric Carle 2 and up
Quack, Daisy, Quack! Jane Simmons 2 and up
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons James Dean 2 and up
The Lion and the Mouse Jerry Pinkney 2 and up
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type Doreen Cronin 3 and up
Olivia Saves the Circus Ian Falconer 3 and up
Owen Kevin Henkes 3 and up
Inch by Inch Leo Leonni 3 and up
Red Riding Hood James Marshall 3 and up
Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever Richard Scarry 3 and up
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! Mo Willems 3 and up
The Little Scarecrow Boy Margaret Wise Brown 3 and up
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Mordicai Gerstein 4 and up
A Birthday for Francis Russell Hoban 4 and up
Little Cloud and Lady Wind Toni and Slade Morrison 4 and up
What's your favorite children's book? Leave some suggestions in the comments section.
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I am continuing the Celebrating Moms Series with a wonderful piece by Amanda Pruss. It is not often that you hear a mother speak with such honesty about the choices mothers must make as they balance career and motherhood. I appreciate Amanda's ability to share her heart with Homegrown Friends.
by Amanda Pruss
Every time I look at my daughter I see the miracle that she is as pregnancy did not come easy for us. I had planned for a three month maternity leave from my full time job. It wasn’t long enough! I loved my time at home and absolutely cherished it. After going though such agony to have a baby, I relished in being a mom. It was not without its challenges. Like all new moms I was learning the ropes in a crash course style, but I enjoyed it. My time at home with her was amazing, poopy diapers, screaming, sleepless nights and all.
I felt nervous and sad in the days leading up to my return to work. I was dreading having to leave my baby. I really struggled with returning to work. I knew it was what was best for my family, but that didn’t make it any easier. The reality is we are a dual income home. By working we are able to save for our retirement and our daughter’s future. We will be able to provide a good education and a healthy lifestyle. We can afford the medical bills that come along with infertility or pay adoption fees. I want a sibling for my child and this is how we can do it. Even though I knew this was the responsible choice for us, I didn’t want to leave her. I felt like I was paying strangers to raise my child.
We put our daughter in a top quality daycare (we toured everyone one in our area). The transition was rough! Though the first week was the hardest, I cried at my desk every day for at least a month. I knew she was receiving excellent care, but it was just heart breaking for me to leave her. Transitioning her to a bottle wasn’t easy and all the breast pumping was exhausting. The whole thing just seemed silly to me. I spent half of my work day looking at pictures of her and daydreaming about quitting my job.
During the early months I was getting up at 5:30 nursing four times a day, pumping five times a day plus nursing throughout the night. I was mentally and physically exhausted plus my nipples were really hurting! I constantly worried about my daughter. I hated going to work, and I was starting to resent my husband and dreading the day to day. I wanted to be home raising our daughter. I was jealous of my stay at home friends. I longed for that life style.
It took several months but things got better. I made a conscious effort to enjoy the day to day. This is what I always wanted, and now I had it. I was lucky! It wasn’t picture perfect, but it was my life and I choose to love it. My husband stepped up and starting to do more around the house and I started to do less. If the cleaning or food shopping didn’t get done, well, frankly I didn’t care. Anything that took time away from me being with my daughter got cut. Weekends became strictly family time. We stopped visiting friends and family as often, dates continue to be rare, and that is okay with us. If we can’t bring our daughter with us, it usually isn’t worth the effort. I cut back at work stepping down from a few committees and stopped volunteering for extra assignments.
Now that my daughter is approaching 18 months, I feel like we are in a great place. I still would prefer to be a stay at home mom, but that just isn’t going to happen. Our daughter is excelling at daycare and our pediatrician is thrilled with her development. She is running, jumping, dancing, talking, expressive, growing like a weed and best of all she is a very happy toddler. She hasn’t been sick in months (knock on wood!), and I even received a promotion at work. (Grateful for this because daycare is crazy expensive!) I have made some great friends with other working moms and I absolutely love my daughter’s teachers.
I still struggle with the guilt of putting her in daycare. I still daydream about quitting my job and staying home, but now I also wonder, could I do as good of a job? Her teachers are amazing, and frankly I don’t know if I would stack up. If I was home all the time, would I become complacent and let the TV become the baby sitter? Would she have as good eating habits, or would I just let her eat fruit all day? Would she be physically developing as well and hitting milestones way before the average? I don’t have the luxury of knowing those answers. What I do know is that this works for us, at least for now. If we are lucky enough to have more children we may price ourselves out of daycare. (Two kids in full time care would be more than our mortgage payment.) I’m not sure what the right answer would be in that case. I do know that is a bridge that I would be delighted to cross if given the opportunity.
Life is not perfect, but I LOVE my life. Like all moms I wish there were more hours in the day and that I could slow down time because it all seems to be going so fast. However, I consider myself very fortunate to have a beautiful healthy daughter, a loving supportive husband and a good career. I thank God everyday for how blessed I am.
About Amanda Pruss
I am the mom of a 19 month daughter, Stella, and two huge lovable dogs. My husband, Andy, and I have been married for five years and we live on an 85 acre farm in central PA. We feel blessed to be able to raise our daughter in such an idyllic setting. We both work for The Pennsylvania State University, I in the College of the Liberal Arts and he in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Our home has turned into a giant play space for Stella and we love it! Our days are hectic with us both working full time but we take advantage of every minute of family time we get.
Are you a mom that has a story you would like to share? Please submit articles to Meredith @ email@example.com.
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Such a fun day! My girls and I had the opportunity to share our recipe for homemade bug spray with a journalist at a local CBS affiliate. The girls enjoyed the experience and I loved the opportunity to switch things up from my normal every day life as a stay at home mom. The only thing I am currently kicking myself about is that I didn't get any pictures (okay that and my shaky hand when pouring ingredients. Ugh nerves!).
Did you know that you can keep your children free of bug bites without spraying those conventional bug sprays filled with nasty chemicals like DEET? Essential oils such as peppermint, clove, citronella, lemongrass, lavender and tea tree oil are natural bug repellants. Amazing! I'm in love with this bug spray. The beauty of this bug spray is you can tailor it to a smell you like. We use peppermint, clove and lavender. Plus, no toxic chemicals mean your children can help you make it.
HOMEMADE BUG SPRAY
4 ounce spritz bottle
1/4 cup distilled water
1/4 cup witch hazel (located in grocery store or pharmacy near hydrogen peroxide)
15-25 drops essential oils (combination of any of the following: lavender, clove, spearmint, tea tree oil, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass)
Using a funnel pour 1/4 cup of distilled water and 1/4 cup witch hazel into a spritz bottle.
Add 15-25 drops of the essential oils. I like a combination of peppermint, lavender and clove. Choose whatever you enjoy! If you are looking for tick repellent make sure to use tea tree oil.
Screw the top on and shake to mix the ingredients. That's it! Your very own bug spray without any of the worries that come with many of the commercial brands.
Do you make any of your own products? Share some of your ideas in the comments section.
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Over the net few months I will be featuring guest posts by mothers sharing their stories of motherhood in their own words. Instead of focusing on "moms who can do it all" my goal is simply give a platform to celebrate motherhood in all its forms. I am honored to be kicking off the Celebrating Moms Series with an amazing piece by Erin Kyler. Each time I read Erin's story I have tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms. The strength of parents is inspirational.
by Erin Kyler
I feel like every first time parent’s biggest worry is how to cope with the unknown. More specifically, something that it totally out of your control. I’m talking more than just the not sleeping, the “I have no idea what I’m doing” and the million other cliché questions. I’m talking about my brand new baby has something seriously wrong and I am totally lost and it is out of my hands.
Rewind to July of 2008. My husband and I were brand new parents to our adorable 6-week-old daughter Mckenna. We were lucky enough to be down the shore for a month long vacation with my family. Not only were we at the beach, but we had help! That meant we could get some sleep, which is what every parent secretly desires. One night, everything began to spin out of control. We were actually given the night off because my aunt was visiting and had grown children and couldn’t wait to get her hands on the baby. What we weren’t expecting was for Mckenna to cry for a solid 12 hours without stopping. Here we were telling my aunt, “Two or three times she will probably get up, no big deal.” After another sleepless night we got out of bed to see the belly of our little girl expanded to the size of a small basketball. I immediately knew that something was wrong; call it that “motherly instinct.” My father took her temperature and it was a whopping 104. Off to the emergency room we went.
I was an absolute wreck, as was my mother. I feel like it is always the man’s job to keep it together, although inside, I knew my husband was terrified. We walk into the ER of Shore Memorial and they immediately took her temperature. Now we were at 105. They admitted her right away. After a very long day/evening/night, they ran some tests and told us that something was wrong, but they had no idea what. I’m thinking to myself, how is this possible, you are a doctor. Truth be told, this doctor actually saved my daughter’s life. She told us that they did not have a pediatric unit there to look into this and suggested we get Mckenna to CHOP in Philadelphia immediately. An hour later, our little 6-week-old baby was on her very first helicopter ride, without her parents. We were not allowed to accompany her due to weight limit restrictions.
My husband and I got in our car and made the hour and a half drive to Philadelphia in silence. Too nervous for words. When we arrived, I felt like a celebrity. They knew who we were and were waiting for us in the emergency room. We rushed as fast as we could to see our brave little baby. The nurse from the helicopter told us that the entire ride Mckenna looked out the window taking in all the sights, not a peep from her. Never scared, never worried. The same kind of girl she is growing up to be.
The doctors took her back for testing and told us that our baby had fluid in her belly that isn’t clear, something terrible. They had no idea what it was. As I held my tiny baby, the doctor turns and said to me, “Your baby is critically ill.” I turned and looked at the horror in the eyes of my family. I looked back an the doctor and said, “I watch TV, critically ill means people die.” She replied, “Mam, your baby is critically ill.” I lost myself at that moment and the next 12 hours were a complete blur. I woke to even more of my family at our sides in the surgical waiting room. The doctors came out after 5 hours of surgery with very unpromising looks on their faces. I thought we lost our baby. They proceeded to tell us that Mckenna had a hole in her bile duct and that bile was poisoning her. She was hours away from not making it. They told us that because everything was so inflamed they couldn’t fix the hole and that there were currently tubes draining the bile that was spilling into her little body. It would be another two months or so and they would do surgery again to fix it.
The moment that I will never be able to erase from my mind was seeing my baby for the first time after her surgery. On a ventilator, two tubes coming from her belly, a tube up each nostril, and multiple IV’s. I spent that entire night at her side, crying, thinking why us. That question still to this day has not been answered.
Fast forward four weeks later. We spent sleepless nights at CHOP, the most magical place on earth. We awoke one morning to the tubes not draining any more bile. The doctors thought maybe the tubes had slid or it wasn’t catching the bile any more. More worrying as they ran countless tests again. The doctors come back with incredible news. There was no more fluid in her belly. The hole had miraculously closed. It was impossible to believe what we were hearing. They were going to keep her there for another few weeks to monitor her, but it looked as though another surgery would not be needed.
And that was the case. The doctors call her the “miracle baby”. Her surgeon asked if she could write a report about her. What happened to Mckenna had only happened to a very small number of people. About 100 reported cases ever, in adults only. She was an anomaly. For years we went back to CHOP to get checked and every time they sent us away saying how our child was a miracle. I knew that was the truth. Throughout those two long months, I never gave up hope.
The point of this story isn’t to simply tell of our horrific experience, but to give hope to any parents out there, especially first timers. Being a parent is simply the most gratifying job in the world, but there are times when it is absolutely terrifying. If you are reading this as a first time parent or a future parent, just remember, no matter what gets thrown at you, you can handle it. You are stronger than you know.
About Erin Kyler
I am the lucky mom of two awesome kids. Mckenna, who you just read about, will be five next month. The past five years have been a whirlwind of excitement and unknowns. We all have learned so much about life and about each other. Mckenna recently became a big sister in November! Zane is our little man and he has made our family complete. Mckenna is just an incredible big sister and Zane adores her. The love and affection between them melts my heart!
My husband Ean and I have been together for 7 years and are celebrating our 4-year wedding anniversary on May 8th. Dinner out without the kids! What a treat! Being a full time working mom has been a learning experience, but it has made me a stronger person for sure. Teaching is my passion and I love my job. My husband works in the solar industry, keeping the world green!
In our free time we love to play outside and take walks to the park. Mckenna loves to dance and is not into sports right now (nothing like her mom)! For now we are enjoying this adventure of being parents and raising a family, all the accomplishments and mistakes, and taking each day as it comes!
Do you have a story to share about motherhood? Please submit your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother's Day is just around the corner. Here is the perfect gift for your little ones to make for someone special in their lives. These flowers and vase are an easy Mother's Day gift or the perfect "I love you" gift for anyone!
YOU WILL NEED:
FOR FLOWERS- tissue paper (or craft paper, printer paper, etc.), scissors, popsicle sticks (or craft sticks, pipe cleaners, etc.), tape
FOR VASE- glass mason jar, colored tissue paper, scissors, glue, paint brush
To make the flowers begin with a piece of tissue paper about 8x11. Fold the paper length wise like an accordion.
Carefully cut slits into the paper almost to the end. Leave 1/2 inch between cuts.
Beginning on one end wrap the cut paper around a popsicle stick.
Secure with a piece of clear tape.
Make a variety of colors for a beautiful bouquet that never needs water.
Of course we need a vase for our flowers! Start with a medium size glass mason jar. Cut small square and rectangle pieces of tissue paper. Prepare a small dish with glue thinned by a small amount of water (about a 5:1 ratio).
Holding a piece of tissue paper on the mason jar, brush the glue mixture on the tissue paper to make it stick. Add more tissue paper pieces in the same way until the mason jar is completely covered.
Let dry and and then add the flowers. Give to someone you love. Expect lots of hugs and kisses! Our flower bouquet is shown here with our Melted Crayon Flowers to created a mixed bouquet.
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My kids were very excited when the frozen yogurt company, Pinkberry, came to our town. For six months we walked past the construction site on the way to the library. Though my son had never heard of Pinkberry he knew what those beautiful photographs of frozen yogurt meant. Time to beg mom to take him as soon as the place opened. When I finally took all three kids two things were clear. #1: Pinkberry is delicious. #2: Holy moly, Pinkberry is expensive! So we made our own. With only three ingredients and no refined sugar this is the perfect treat to serve your kids.
Greek Frozen Yogurt
3 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1-3 tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want it)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mix together the yogurt, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
Pour mixture into an ice cream maker. Because the yogurt mixture is quite thick it will take less time to thicken than ice cream. Once thick (about 15-20 minutes) your frozen yogurt is ready to enjoy! No ice cream maker? Put mixture into a dish, freeze and then chop it up and mix.
Often times as I am writing about an art activity I will speak of the importance of 'process over product'. In simple terms this means that we value the play experience more than the end result. I cringe when I walk into a classroom or see photos on the web of a bulletin board with 15 pieces of artwork looking exactly the same. So many learning opportunities are lost when we expect children's artwork to look a certain way. Today we are exploring rock painting through the lens of 'process over product'. I will be sharing the way I invite children to a new play experience, the language we use during the play and the importance of tailoring the play to the individual. Come play with us! If you have any questions please take the time to comment below. I am happy to help!
Today is a picture perfect Spring day, 70 degrees and sunny. After dropping my son off at school my girls were desperate to paint and I was desperate to get outside. Some quick mama thinking got us both. "Today we are going to do rock painting! Hmmm, but we don't have any rocks! Let's go outside and search for some!" I gave each of my girls a small bag and they ran off barefoot to explore.
This is a great time to focus on your children's senses. "Oh, look at this rock. How do you think it feels? This one is bumpy. This rock is smooth."
After collecting rocks I set up a rock cleaning station. I filled shallow pans or bowls with soapy water. Tip: if you are doing this indoors I recommend using the kitchen floor with a bath towel. Give your children small sponges and let them enjoy the soapy fun.
The soapy water is a wonderful sensory experience for your children. In addition to cleaning the rocks, allow time to explore how the soap feels on hands, arms and feet. You can aid these discoveries by giving language to their discoveries. This will aid their understanding. "Look at all the bubbles on your hands!" "Oh, the rocks are dirty! Time to make them clean. Back and forth, back and forth in the water! All clean!"
Watch for signs that your children have had enough of the activity. Sometimes they will become irritable or start to look off into the distance. And if they are my daughters they will simply get up, take their clothes off and walk away. Time to take a break and have some free play.
While we played the rocks dried in the sun. My girls tired of playing outside so we brought the rocks back inside and set up the painting activity. Each girl received a plate containing small amounts of red, yellow and blue paint. At age two I want the girls to focus on the basic primary colors and the self-discovery of coloring mixing. As they gain experience I will add white and black.
Painting exploration is a perfect example of 'process over product'. I could have told the girls "Now we are going to paint the rocks blue. Then we add yellow spots", but we would have lost out on so many learning opportunities. Instead I let them lead the play and heightened the experience through language. When speaking to children avoid stating "It looks like a..." instead focus on what you are seeing. "Look at the way you are pushing the red paint around on your rock. Now I see you added yellow." Avoid statements that begin with "I like" as this implies that at some point you may not like the artwork and takes the focus away from the process.
Even the cleanup is part of the learning process. "Look Mama, there are bubbles in the water! The water turned purple!"
When you focus on process over product the end result may not be the most beautiful image to an adult's eye, but if you look closer you will see your child's pride, a deep level of critical thinking, language rich moments and the freedom to explore.
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This list contains a lot of the books we gravitate towards again and again. Children learn through repetition. Familiarity in a world that is often so confusing to little ones is incredibly comforting. Click here for a printer-friendly version.
The B Book Jan and Stan Berenstain 2 and up
Hey, Little Baby! Nola Buck 2 and up (* my daughters' favorite)
Good Night, Gorilla Peggy Rathman 2 and up
Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You? Dr. Seuss 2 and up
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak 2 and up
Dandelion Don Freeman 3 and up
Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs? Carmela LaVigna Coyle 3 and up
What Do People Do All Day? Richard Scarry 3 and up
Press Here Herve Tullet 3 and up
Knuffle Bunny Mo Willems 3 and up
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born Jamie Lee Curtis 4 and up
Frederick Leo Leonni 4 and up
The Dot Peter H. Reynolds 4 and up
One Kathryn Otoshi 4 and up
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I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Behind closed doors, in the early morning hours, as my family tries to get ready for school and work there is a whole lot of pleading (please eat your breakfast, please get dressed, please find your shoes), which leads to a whole lot of crying kids, which leads to more pleading but in not as nice a voice and inevitably ends up with a flustered group of crazy people leaving the house (always late). It was time for a change.
As an educator I pride myself in my classroom management. When a classroom is well planned out and educators take the time to teach children routines and independence a deeper level of learning occurs. This knowledge of routine and independence was missing from our home.
To foster this learning opportunity I created a Morning Routine Chart for each of my children that focuses on the three most important parts of our morning routine- getting dressed, eating breakfast and using the bathroom before we leave. Because my children are 4 and 2 years old I focused on three parts of our morning so that the steps would not overwhelm them. It is important to set children up for success from the start.
I purchased cheap frames from Michaels. Using basic printer paper I printed a photograph of each of my children and wrote "Good Morning Quinn!" This paper was placed inside the frame.
I cut three square pieces of colorful craft paper and drew symbols on blank index cards of each of the routines I wanted my children to focus on (you could also print out pictures or use real photos of your children). I taped the drawings onto the craft paper and punched a whole in the top. The back of each card has a smiley face.
Simple hooks (like the 3M Command small hooks) were attached to the outside of the frame. These are perfect to hang the routine cards on.
Each morning my children come down the stairs to this happy sight. All children love to see their photographs and names in print (added bonus: this is a wonderful way to promote name recognition!).
The chart is simple. After my children complete part of their routine they flip their cards over to reveal smiley faces. There are no rewards as I do not believe it is necessary to provide rewards (or negative consequences).
When three smiley faces are showing the morning routine is complete! If there is extra time before we need to leave the house my kids are free to play.
This Morning Routine Chart works because it gives children ownership over their actions, helps them organize their responsibilities and stay focused and feel successful.