Saturday, March 31, 2012

Our Color Discoveries - Following up on my Weekly Kids Co-Op Post!

When I started the process of trying out the great activities from Carrots Are Orange that I featured yesterday as part of the Weekly Kids Co-Op, I ended up making a lot of adjustments (of course). 

For her magnetic paint samples, my first adjustment came because of frugality. I didn't want to by magnets, so I used some business card magnets we had left over from a 2006 event. Then, I forgot to get the craft sticks. So, mine became super simple. I pasted the business card magnets onto the paint samples with Guerilla Glue. Done! Not exciting, but effective (especially for a toddler). My toddler actually started pulling the scrap pieces out of the recycle bin and bringing them to me to help him identify what color they were too!

Next time I'm out, I will get craft sticks because (as you can see) when he tried to grab the yellow one, he pulled some of the paint sample off. :)
When it came to the paint strip clothespin activity she did. My toddler thought the paint strips with the clothespins connected looked like trains (everything is a train to him). So, we went with it and created a rainbow train: 

I had just found some of these round tags when cleaning out the office today, and they seemed perfect for the round front of the trains (just like Thomas!). I decided to use the tags as an opportunity to write the names of the colors too. If I had more paint strips, I would have done color combo trains in which the red train would connect to the yellow train to create the orange train, etc.

We also did a simple (and free) color activity during our walk. We spied colors on one of our walks this week. Here's the colors he found (and the photos he took with his Fisher-Price camera). 


He loved identifying the letters on the sign too!




ORANGE (Very Dirty Orange)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Kids Co-Op: Toddlers and Colors

My toddler is doing great with numbers and letters, but colors are coming more slowly. So, this week, we've been focusing colors. I checked out several books from the library that focused on colors and have been pointing out colors on our walks, especially noting the red stop signs and green leaves. I plan to get paint samples this weekend and try out these great activities:

From Carrots are Orange

I love that the paint sample activity above does not intimidate me to make (as someone who does not consider herself crafty -- they are magnetized). She also used + and = magnets to demonstrate how primary colors create other colors -- so you put the red strip up on the fridge or cookie sheet the plus sign the yellow strip the equals sign and the orange. Simple and effective. I think that paint strip activity would connect well with the simple food coloring mixing activities suggested by little lovely

Pink and Green Mama uses paint chips with her children to create a matching game (think Memory), which she says come in handy at restaurants. Tips for restaurant entertainment are always useful.

I'm thinking of other ways of utilizing the paint samples, such as putting matching buttons onto the paint sample or using the clothespins to grasp felt fabric scraps of the same color. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cesar Chavez and...Thanksgiving?

Friday is Cesar Chavez Day and a lot of people use the celebration of Cesar Chavez to focus on Community Service. I'm using it as an opportunity to focus on the ways we can encourage our little ones to be aware of improving the world in which they live. 

For little, little ones (like my 2 1/2 year old, Sky), formal community service, such as volunteering at the local food pantry, is clearly not an option. However, teaching little ones to care for others and their community is possible.

Something that Sky seemed very aware of early on was messes and trash. What a blessing to have a child that likes to clean up. Even when he was first walking, if he saw trash at the park he could not play until he had picked it up and thrown it away. He's still like that and, of course, it is something that we encourage -- cleaning up after one's self, not littering, and picking up trash outside if we see it. 

Perhaps he knows somehow that picking up trash was something he experienced in utero. My mother and I walked through the neighborhood the days leading up to Sky's birth squatting down and pick up trash in hopes of rushing him along.
Leading by example is important. Through this, we can foster community service and generosity. This past year, we took fruit to a Thanksgiving Dinner for the needy and helped out. One of the things they needed volunteers to do was clear tables as people left. Holding Sky's hand, we got a trash bag and began to clear tables.

Of course, he loved it and saw it as his mission to find every little piece of trash on the ground. He surprised guests as he crawled under their feet to pick up stray plastic spoons and such.

As we left the community event to head over to friends for our family Thanksgiving meal, my husband and I agreed that helping out should definitely be part of our family's Thanksgiving tradition!

For more service ideas for children and families, check out these Pinterest boards:

Be the Change
Pennies of Time

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Meditation Monday - Week 3 - "Understanding is the Essence of Love"

I'm now on Week 3 of my 20 week meditation series inspired by Marc and Angel's 20 Things to Stop Doing to Others.

I got a little behind, so I'm posting a day late, but I am glad I've committed myself to this practice.

I realized during last week's focus, "Stop Complaining," that Week 2 was particularly important as a parent, since children often reflect their parents' traits back to them. (If you yell, your children will yell. If you eat junk, your children will eat junk. Likewise, if you read, your children will want to read. If you demonstrate kindness, your children will also). Complaining as parents often gets reflected back to us with children who whine. So, the importance of week 2 for me, as a mom of a toddler and baby, is clear, and I definitely find myself with a lot of incentive to carry that one forward.

If Week 2 was about the kiddos, Week 3 is about the spouse, the life partner, the best friends. #3 on Marc and Angel's list is "Stop Meaning What You Don't Say." They remind us: "People can't read minds. Communicate regularly and effectively."

I think often with our spouses, we expect them to read our minds and may get upset with them for not meeting a need, even though we actually haven't made that need clear. 

I know I have been guilty of this. With this week's meditation, I must remind myself that it is unfair to my loved one to hold him accountable for something if I am not communicating clearly and effectively what I need. I will focus on honesty and openness with my spouse (and with others in my life). I will make sure I am communicating with others in a way that is clear and true. 

This week's chapter from Thich Nhat Hanh's book, True Love, is chapter 1, which outlines the Four Aspects of Love: maitri (loving-kindness or benevolence), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy), and upeksha (equanimity or freedom). With all of these aspects, understanding comes through as important. TNH stresses that "understanding is the essence of love." 

When I look at this photo, I see love.

Understanding is only possible when we communicate effectively with one another. We must practice deep listening, attentiveness and observation -- with ourselves, so we can communicate effectively, and with those we love, so we can truly hear their needs. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weekly Kids Co-Op: Our Quiet Book

A couple of weeks ago, as part of the Weekly Kids Co-Op, I highlighted two quiet books (a sew and no-sew example). 

Inspired by the Eliza Loves Quiet Book, my mother made Sky a Quiet Book. I am flying to NYC with him (he'll be about 2 1/2 then and my infant). We're hoping this wonderful book will make the flight a little easier.  

My mother is an amazing crafter, quilter, seamstress, etc. She runs a bazaar at her church that is a great fundraiser for their church and engages many women (and men) in crafting and creating. She brought a lot of fabric scraps, buttons, ribbons, etc. We looked at what we had, thought about what Sky liked and created this. 

This is the cover. We recycled a maternity shirt. We also used laces to tie the book, so that we could exchange pages relatively easily.

The balloons are velcro. The chicken is also velco.

There are eggs hidden in the nest.

This is the jungle hide and seek page.

With farm animals opposite the jungle. Animals can be moved from inside the bibs to the smaller pocket, and the overalls can be undone and redone.
Sky can fly the kite and take the little clothespins on and off the kite. The butterfly comes out of the cocoon. (Sky loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar).

Counting beads and learning colors.

He loves Thomas the Train, so we have Thomas and Clarabel and James. The snap and buckle that connect the trains are a bit challenging right now, but he loves counting the wheels and touching the buttons.

My mother lives in Texas, so he can help Grandma fly to visit him and his brother (Benjamin David). For the plane, she cut out an ad from a magazine and covered it with contact paper. The letters are velcro.
He puts his thumb and pinky through to catch the ball This is really challenging.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Meditation: Week 2

Last Monday, I initiated the first of a 20-week Meditation series, inspired by and centered on Marc and Angel's 20 Things to Stop Doing.

Week 1 was Stop Holding Grudges and the week's focused intention and energy led to important realizations and understandings of grudges and why letting them go, and not creating new grudges is important.

Week 2 is a big challenge. Stop Complaining. My apologies to my mother today, who is visiting and to whom I spent much of my day "venting" my frustrations. Venting is just another word for complaining isn't it?

When we hit harder times in life (and the little ones are both sick and you aren't sleeping through the night), venting seems essential, necessary and inevitable.

I am trying to learn that it is not. I am hoping to retrain myself. After Stop Complaining, on their blog, Marc and Angel say, "instead, spend your time and energy to do something about it." 

Feeling lost makes it harder to stop the complaining because you may not know, yet, what the "do something" is. However, complaining is definitely not the something that needs to be done -- easier to know than implement. This will certainly be a challenge and will build on last week as one complaint today reminded me of a grudge I had not let go.

I guess that means this 20 week meditation is like a snowball rolling down a hill with each week bringing with it continued focus on the goal from the week before, as well as the new goal.

Today, I failed, utterly failed. I complained and complained. To stop I must admit that I sometimes do not know what to do about a challenge I am facing. I don't need to know, though. I can start by finding a way to sit quietly and release the negative energy wrapped up in the challenge. I can invite positive energy into my world because continued negativity will not get me there. It will not get me to the ideas and actions that will lead to positive change. Negativity will only lead to more things to complain about -- and that I definitely don't want. 

So, I have a long way to go. It's not easy to stop complaining, but it is necessary. With each week, I am connecting one chapter of the Thich Nhat Hanh book, True Love, with that week's goal. The chapter I am focusing on this week is called "Learning to Speak with Love Again." 

He speaks of pacifists who can write letters of condemnation, but not letters of love -- and of the importance of writing and speaking in a way that encourages receptive listening. Complaining does not. I've noticed that when others complain a lot, I can shut off/close down. I do not want to speak in a way that brings others down or pushes them a way. I must learn to speak with love -- and speaking with love requires meditation and the examination, TNH reminds me, of one's suffering and joy. By understanding the true source of our suffering (of our complaints), we can gain solidity, freedom, calm and joy. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy Accidents-Learning with Letters


As a parent, sometimes great tips/tools/activities are stumbled upon accidentally out of a necessity.

My recent discovery of another wonderful use for a muffin tin (upside down) just such a time.

Many of the fellow bloggers that are part of the Weekly Kids Co-Op (linky below) utilize muffin tins in amazing ways, and I started using it for snacks for my toddler because of a blog.

The other day, though, while cooking dinner, I wanted my toddler in his high chair in the kitchen with me, so as to not worry about what he was doing in some other part of the house. He was not as excited about being in the chair while I was still cooking.

We had recently got some letter magnets, though, so I placed the high chair within reaching range of the magnets, which were on the side of the fridge, then would ask him to see if he could find a letter.

As he found the letters, he wanted somewhere to put them, but would sometimes drop them if they were just on his high chair tray. So, we turned his muffin tin upside down, and it became the perfect magnetized surface for him to place his letters on. Back and forth letters went.

I loved this discovery because I realized that this muffin tin exercise would be great for early spelling and directional learning. "Find the S. Put it on the left. Find the K. Put it in the middle. Find the Y. Put in on the right." (Our muffin tin he uses is 2x3). The activity builds on the concept of left and right, and he spells his name(even though at not quite 2 1/2 he doesn't really realize it).

Another cool element to doing this game while dinner is being made is that you can connect the letters to the food. "Mommy is making pasta. Can you find P for pasta?" It allows the little one to feel involved in the process, which they often really want, without making things more difficult.

We also, after dinner last night, started with BOY on top and SAD on the bottom and then switched letters out one at a time to make other words. For example, BOY become BAY and the MAY and SAD became SOD and then MUD. The fun goes on and on.

Follow Up - on Meditation Monday

I'm following up regarding how my weekly meditation/intention focus is going, so let's call this Thoughtful Thursday -- the follow up to Meditation Monday.

In Monday's post, I focused a lot on letting go of grudges with those we are close to, with loved ones.

While I agree that those types of grudges rank at the top of the list, something I realized during a meditation focused on releasing grudges was that sometimes the most deep-seated grudges may relate to people we don't even talk to anymore, people we aren't even connected to through Facebook, such as a former boss or colleague, a former classmate, etc.

These grudges may be ones we already think we have let go or that are so old and deeply held that we don't pay them must attention. Yet, still holding onto that anger, resentment or ill-will from the time we were "wronged" by that person so many years ago, does weigh us down. It does increase the amount of tension we're holding in our shoulder. It does limit our ability to live our life in a loving, compassionate, joyful way.

Holding the grudge does not change anything -- it doesn't undo the past, so why we do let it keep us from happiness now?

So - Week 1 continues and I'm still working on it. Stop Holding Grudges!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ten for Tuesday: Grandparents

Today's Ten is just ten great photos of Sky with his grandparents (or doing things related to their grandparents). It is my dad's birthday today, and my mom is flying in today to visit her grandchildren, so this seemed appropriate. (Okay - the first 3 count as one photo because they are related to Sky making a birthday card for his grandpa.)

Sky "sewing" with his grandma, who is an expert seamstress.

I love the interchange here between them.
This was when Sky was just about 6 weeks old.

From the day Sky was born.

This photo is a cheat because it of me, my brother
and family friends with my dad at the Grand Canyon.
It's just one of my favorite photos of my dad (aka grandpa) so I included it.

Sky with my grandmother, a month or two before she died.
She was his only living great grandparent at the time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meditation Monday

I've decided to do a 20-week series called Meditation Monday, in which I focus on a different meditation or growth goal for the week. I'm starting with 20 because a friend shared this blog.

I love this list of 20 Things to Stop Doing to Others and have decided to focus each week on one of the items on the list. It pushes me to start the week with focused meditation and to set positive intentions for the week.

This week is #1 on the list: Stop Holding Grudges. My meditation today will focus not only on holding grudges, but also on being honest with myself. Unless I recognize the grudge, I can't let it go.

Inevitably, we all feel that we have been wronged in some way by someone. We harbor feelings of resentment. Holding a grudge and clinging to that feeling of being wronged gets in the way of present happiness. Letting go liberates us. This week I will focus on letting go of negativity, so that I can embrace the happiness and joy that exists around me.

During my 20-week commitment, I am connecting each week's meditation with a chapter from the incredible Thich Nhat Hanh book, True Love. The chapter for me that connects to the issue of grudges is "Overcoming Pride."

TNH writes, "in true love there is no place for pride," and encourages us to seek help/ask for help of the person who has hurt us (particularly when that person is someone you love). We often hold grudges against those we love when we feel they have hurt us or let us down. As he notes, when it is the one you love who hurts you, it causes the greatest suffering. If we hold on to that hurt and carry a grudge, the suffering will only grow and love will not be able to grow.

So, this week, stop holding grudges.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

When Your Kid is "That Kid" AKA How I Learned to Stop Judging Other Parents

It was very good timing that the morning before the Fire Station field trip, I read this article.

The article talks about the realities of parenting and how, pre-children, we may find ourselves judging other parents (and may still do this even after we have our own children). She sites examples of the friend whose toddler is watching "too much tv" or the parent that is giving their child junk food. We often think that will not be us. Then, reality hits, and everyday is not the perfect day, and we may find ourselves, as a parent, doing something we thought we would NEVER do.

Well, during the Fire Station field trip it wasn't so much that I was finding myself doing something that I would never do, but that I was feeling very self-conscious (and slightly embarrassed) around the other parents as my kid was the kid being "that kid." I used to think my kid would NEVER be "that kid." Then it happened. My toddler, who is usually a good kid (naps when I ask him to, goes right to bed, listens well) was whining, fussing and impatient to get to the fire truck. He was not being the good listener. I felt mortified -- thinking, "I hope everyone in the mom's group does not think he is always like this." Of course, those feelings made it harder for me to redirect my child and to be as patient as I needed to be. Another 2 year-old was behaving much better. I didn't want everyone else to think I was a "bad mom."
Then, I thought back to the article and had to remind myself that in addition to not judging other parents, we also cannot judge ourselves too harshly. One experience is just that -- one experience. We work on listening skills at home. We teach proper behavior. We have appropriate consequences to help him learn. We still had a bad outing.

I hope I am able to think back to this experience the next time I am tempted to judge another parent who is out with a cranky child. It happens to all of us. We can't let those moments define us as parents. They can help us improve our parenting, but are also unavoidable, so we shouldn't judge ourselves (or others) harshly when a "bad day" happens.

Will I even remember the fussiness later when I look back at the pictures?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Weekly Kids Co-Op: Fire Safety Crafts

The mom's group I'm a part of has arranged for us to go to the local fire station with our kids. So, I decided I would also do a fire truck craft with my toddler.

Making a fire truck, I realize, is a good way to reinforce shapes, which my little guy is very interested in. You have circles for wheels and the rectangle for the truck and can do a square for the cab.

This construction paper fire truck
from No Time for Flashcards, a fellow Kids Co-Op blogger, is one of my favorite fire truck crafts.

And, I love this handprint firefighter craft from Tippytoe Crafts.

Photo from Tippytoe Crafts

Another simple idea is to do a big F is for Fire (and covering the F in scraps of orange, yellow and red paper). (This pinboard has lots of other fire safety activities - including a fire safety sensory tub).

Since, I have a firetruck crafts, I thought I would also link to some books about fire safety. Here's a pretty good list. There's also at least 1 or 2 books on the pinboard referenced above.