Friday, July 30, 2010

SPD Speedway -- A Luke Engineered Game

part of a toy that was received from an auntie for a past birthday
+
the cotton from the top of Daddy's vitamin bottle
+
a straw that fell off a drink box at one point

What do these equal?


If you are our creative sensory-seeking Luke, they are the perfect materials to engineer an SPD Speedway!


Yep, last night when I came out from trying to get Nina down to sleep, I found Luke busily blowing cotton balls down the ramps of a plastic toy he'd "stolen" from the basement clutter the other day when I left the door open as I ran down to do laundry. The fact that Luke had engineered a game for himself did not surprise me.  He has always been quite the little construction king.  His creative use of materials did not shock me that much either.  He always manages to have vision beyond his father's and mine.  What did strike us both was just how perfectly Luke was attending to his own sensory needs at the moment through an activity he created, set up and went about playing all on his own.


A little oral-motor fun with the straw.  Some tactile stimulation with the soft cotton ball and the hard plastic.  Quiet, focused, calming concentration -- with just the right blend of excitement --  as a wind-down activity before bedtime.  Both Daddy and I were so pleased to see all this in Luke's self-engineered SPD Speedway game.  For one of our goals is to raise happy, independent individuals and Luke's play certainly evidenced that he is heading that way!

Yippee!


In what ways are your children learning to attend to their own needs -- sensory or otherwise?  How are you encouraging them to do so?  And, how are they demonstrating increments of success?  Please do share in a comment.  And, also, head on over to our family blog to see Daddy's SPD-related perspective on Luke as well as to Hartley's Life with 3 Boys to visit the SPD Blog Carnival full of links to photos of sensory fun. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Prayer Pegs - Wake Up Time

<-- Luke helps Jack say his Morning Offering.

Last week, we began a Prayer Pegs series to share how we are taking action steps to share our primary goal of loving and serving God here at Jammies School.

One habit we are trying to instill in our children is that of beginning the day with grace, gratitude and intention through praying a simple Morning Offering.  We hope this Offering also helps them open up a daily “conversation” with God, so that they might begin to "pray unceasingly." So, when the kids wake up, after giving and receiving “good morning” hugs and kisses with Mom and Dad, we help them say this simple prayer:

“Good morning, God!  I thank you for this day.  Please be with me in all I think and do and say.” 

Some days, Luke and Nina say this Morning Offering on their own.  Other days they say it in unison with me.  Still, at other times, they ask me to say it for them or tell me they have said it in their heads.  Each day is different.  But, the important thing is that each day begins with mention of – and thanks to – God!  The vital daily conversation with Our Father begins.

It continues, less formally, as the kids enter into free play while Mommy does chores and whatnot.  Case in point:  One recent morning, I heard Luke and Nina talking about church, God, priests, etc. while they played with their Little People and Mega Blocks.  Part of their dialogue was conversation with one another, but part of it became a sort of prayerful conversation with God.  All of it was completely kid-prompted and integrated into their play. It made me smile, confirming for me that our focus on pegging prayer to regular parts of our daily lives – even if not done perfectly nor consistently – has created an environment where “God play” and prayer come spontaneously and naturally.  That is just what we are aiming for!   What a great start to the day that was.

Eventually, we hope to add a more formal, traditional Morning Offering to our Wake Up Time Prayer Peg, as well as whatever other personal and creative forms of prayer and faith formation speak to us.  Your ideas, resources, links and stories about similar endeavors for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and “big ones” would be most welcome.  Please leave a comment to share your favorite Morning Offering prayer, way of praying unceasingly, etc.  And, check back with us next Wednesday for our continuing Prayer Pegs series.

works for me wednesday at we are that familyAlso, be sure to visit the Works for Me Wednesday links at We Are THAT Family to see what works for others this week at home, work, home education, and, of course, prayer.  Starting our day off right with a Prayer Peg sure do work for us!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Practical Life - First Bath

Okay, so you won't find young children bathing actual babies in a traditional Montessori classroom, but you will find them attending to all sorts of Practical Life tasks like those described here.  And as was so eloquently put in Michal Olaf's Child of the World, "The traditional work of the family is referred to in Montessori as practical life work. It is the single most important area of an education for life...These areas of practical life depend on the culture in which the child is growing up, and may include, but are not limited to:
(1) care of the environment—cleaning, sweeping, washing clothes, gardening, etc.,
(2) the care of the person—dressing, brushing teeth, cooking, setting the table, etc., and,
(3) grace and courtesy—walking carefully, carrying things, moving gracefully, offering food, saying "please" and "thank you" and so on...
...Allowing the child to participate in the daily work he sees going on around him is an act of great respect for, and confidence in, the child. It helps him to feel important to himself and to those around him. He is needed. "

So, when it came time to give Jack his first tubby lately, we focused on family and on Luke and Nina's desire to participate and made it a Montessori-inspired event!

First, we got out all the materials we would need and then, went step by step through the process of bathing a baby, from testing the water's temperature:

 ...to the actual bathing -- gently, gently!:

...to making sure to dry baby thoroughly before holding him tight to ensure we warmed our happy, clean bundle back  up:

And, finally, to commemorating special occasions such as this with photos.  Luke, who loves taking pictures lately, did a great job with this one:

Now, we know, true Montessori fashion would be to demonstrate the activity first and, then, let the child do it independently, but -- safety first!  We treasure Jack too much to let Luke and Nina bathe him on their own just yet. :)  And, we value teaching the practical lesson that some things require help, anyway.

What a blessing something as simple as a first baby bath can be.  We are grateful to have had the opportunity to share this experience as a family.  What are you grateful for this week?  How are you applying principles, beliefs and values in very practical ways on your household?

This post is linked to Heavenly Homemaker's Gratituesday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wearing SPD Lenses: What to Do with a Concrete Wall

A hot day.  A concrete wall.  Kids that need some focus, but also some fun…  What to do?  Grab you SPD lenses and see the possibilities.  Just what fun can that concrete wall provide?

Original Purpose: supporting the house

With SPD Lenses:  Gross Motor, Proprioceptive, Tactile Fun

Water Painting:  Get a big bucket, a dishwashing tub, or – in our case – handy green sandbox.  Fill it with cold, cold water (both to cool off from the hot, hot day and to provide some tactile input between the cold water splashes and drips and the steamy air. )  Coral an old  paint roller or two (or paint brush, or anything that will work.  Be creative.  That brush for getting snow off your windshield isn’t getting a lot of use right now…)  And, enjoy “painting” the wall with water.  All the bending and stretching to apply the water "paint" makes for some great gross motor and proprioceptive work.  Watching the wall change colors as it is “painted” provides interest for the kiddoes.

OR

With SPD Lenses: Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Proprioceptive and Tactile Fun

Wet Erase Chalkboard:  Before painting as above, grab some chalk.  With the kids, come up with a theme.  (We chose a dinosaur world and, later, an underwater scene.)  Outline some main parts and challenge the kiddos to fill in the details.  Or, simply create a big mural together.  The more you get the kids to add to it, the more fine motor exercise you’ll encourage.  And, if you challenge the kids to make any circular portions in the drawing counter-clockwise, you’ll be ensuring some great prep and practice for handwriting.  (Many letters are formed with counter-clockwise loopy strokes.)  Speaking of writing, remember literacy can be for concrete walls, not just for books and paper, so go ahead an label the drawing  Then, when everyone is ready to stop admiring the beautiful chalk handiwork, get out those brushes again (or rags or sponges) and use them as erasers.   If your wall is anything like ours, the rough surface will require extra-hard work to erase.  Some extra water.  Some extra pressure.  Some extra strokes.  All great gross motor and proprioceptive work.  And, all a part of the fun.

Finally, keep those SPD lenses on as you look around your yard.  What other fun sensory experiences can you concoct?  How can your lenses help you (and your kids) be thankful for the heat, the "stuff" you have about, the creativity God has given you?


Please share your own ideas for seeing concrete walls through SPD lenses and other outdoor sensory fun.  And, be sure to stop by the Thankful Thursday links at Spiritually Unequal Marriage to be inspired what others are thankful for today.






Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prayer Pegs

 Nina helps Jack say his Morning Offering on July 21, 2010 - Jack's due date and his three week old "birthday".

Somewhere along the way in my homeschooling Mom research, I heard the term “prayer pegs.” (See the note at the bottom of this post for a “giving credit where credit is due” attempt for this idea.)  The Prayer Pegs concept seemed a succinct way to name something I was already doing for myself and continually hope to train my children to do - basically “pegging” a habit of prayer and faith formation to different routine aspects of the day – wake up time, meal times, chore times, bedtime, etc. 

Of course, the idea of attaching prayer to regular parts of each day is not new concept for anyone, I know. The fun name just makes it seem like it!

So, with the “Prayer Pegs” name as a catalyst, I began to reflect upon our days, noting what key routine, non-negotiable and natural events occur regularly despite “whatever comes up”.  Then, I thought about our Jammies School Mission and Goals and how we might “peg” activities and action steps related to it to each of these rhythmic events of our day.

Since our primary goal is “to love God”, it made sense to me that the pegging should begin with prayer.  For, as anyone knows, if you peg too much laundry to a line, the line might not hold.  So, before I started randomly pegging things to each part of our day, I wanted to be sure I began with the most vital -- faith, leaving the stray socks and rags of life and studies, so to speak, to drape wherever they might fit in order to dry.  Thus, we could rest assured that the most important things had secure spots to flutter in life’s breeze.

What I came up with was a relatively simple vision of what Prayer Pegs should go where within our day:

Wake Up
Morning Offering
(Daily Readings for Mommy)
Informal Conversations With and About God

Breakfast Time
Daily Prayer
Grace
Bible Story and Devotionals
Eventually: Inspirational Songs

Snack Time
Grace
Praise

Lunch Time
Currently: Grace
Moving Forward: Hail Mary (Building to Angelus) or the Memorare

Tea Time
Grace
Sometimes, Faith Based Story Time
Sometimes, Saint Day Tea or Other Special Faith Event

Dinner Time
Grace
Thank You God for...
Build toward Family Rosary before Bedtime

Bedtime
Currently: A.C.T.S Prayer and, sometimes, Faith-Based Music
Over Time:  Examination of Conscience and Act of Contrition

Additionally, we participate in Mass at least once a week with our entire family, plan to celebrate our Name Days and our Baptism Days, and observe the Liturgical Year in our Domestic Church through special events, such as Saint Day Tea Times.

Over the course of the next few Wednesdays, I will share in detail about each of our Prayer Peg Times.  Please stop by to see what we are doing as well as to add your own ideas and inspiration to our “loving God” mission by leaving comments.

works for me wednesday at we are that familyPrayer Pegs are working for us.  To see what works for others this week, check out the Works for Me Wednesday links at We Are THAT Family.

*NOTE:  In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I have tried to find where I first heard the term “prayer pegs”, but cannot seem to do so.  I have traced the “pegging” concept, however, to Leoni from the CatholicCMason Yahoogroup with a developed example of  a “pegged” day posted by Melisa Wiley at Here in the Bonnie Glen.  If anyone knows who to credit for the “prayer pegs” idea itself, please share!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wearing SPD Lenses: Kiddie Sand Box

The sun is shining.  You’re itching to get outside.  But, you need a little something to lure the SPD child in your life into some sensory fun...  Well, grab your SPD Lenses and take a look at an old thing with new vision!

Today’s challenge:  What can one plastic sandbox (or kiddie pool) and a few inexpensive props offer in the way of sensory amusement this spring and summer?

Original Purpose: kiddie sandbox or pool

With SPD Lenses:  A sensory table that one can dive right into!  We’re talking head to toe fun for everyone... Read my post over at OJTA Sensational Homeschooling today for a handful of ideas.  And, be sure to let us know how you are enjoying your kiddie sandbox this summer.  Luke, Nina and Baby Jack will enjoy trying them out!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Focusing on Our Jammies School Mission and Goals

<- - As part of loving others, Nina joyfully washed her hands so she can play with baby brother.

 Having a Mission and Goals works for us in so many aspects of our life – homeschooling included.  And, today, I am refocusing myself on just that!

Why?
In the midst of trying to save all of our not-yet-backed up-files during our recent computer virus and hard drive failure, we ended up with multiple copies of many them.  As I slowly make my way through these, deleting the doubles, I realize that much of what was “saved” could have just as well have gone down with out former computer.  Yes, it has become quite apparent to me that the “clutter bug” habit I am trying to break extends from physical clutter straight to electronic clutter.  Yikes!  I really need to be a more discerning steward of all manner of things in my life and our home!

To help me do this regarding our physical and electronic Jammies School files and resources, I have decided to focus myself on our Jammies School Mission and Goals, which can be found here.  I figure, using it as a compass point, I can better delineate the paths we might actually take in the course of the next few years of early learning with our children.  With these mapped out – knowing the subjects, topics, themes and activities that complement them – I can do a better job of organizing (and purging!) our files and resources.  Wish me luck!
And, let me know what works for you in the way of early education mission and goals, organizing electronic files, organizing physical files and resources.  I am a big believer in not reinventing wheels and in rolling along with wonderful inspiration from others.  So, please leave a comment (and link if you have a relevant one!)

Luke helps baby brother to love movement by clapping his hands together. -->

And, to read what works for others this Wednesday, please see the links at We Are THAT Family.

Jammies School Mission and Goals

Updated as of 7/14/2010

We aim to experience a God-Centered, Catholic-Inspired Blend of Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Reggio, Classical and Other Inspirational Approaches in Tune with the Massachusetts Department of Education Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences

Our Mission

Each day, we will seek to follow “Our Rule of Seven”(*Giving credit where credit is due, please see the note at the bottom of this post!):
  • Love God.
  • Love others.
  • Love moving.
  • Love beauty (nature, art, music, culture, etc.)
  • Love working.
  • Love playing.
  • Love learning.
Some Goals We Have For Meeting Our Mission

Some ways we can love God are by praying, reading His word, exploring Bible stories, focusing on faith formation and trying to be like Jesus.  Nina adds “by kissing each other,” or showing our love to others in His name, and Luke adds “by cleaning up”, or creating order and being good stewards, as God asks us to do.  (Now, if Luke would only balk less at actually cleaning up!)

Some ways we can love others are by sharing, being kind and taking time to help and visit them. Nina adds “by going to Nana’s an Papa’s”, or spending time with loved ones, and Luke adds “by kissing and hugging”, or showing affection.

Some ways we can love moving are to enjoy lots of physical activity inside and out (outside whenever possible!) at regular times throughout our days.  Nina adds “climbing”, or practicing skills that use our muscles and coordination, while Luke adds “by moving flowers by digging them out of the ground”, or doing heavy work to make our home and yard more beautiful.

Some ways we can love beauty are by noticing interesting things in nature, enjoying making and listening to music, acting out stories and getting creative while doing and observing art. Nina adds “playing with flowers”, or noticing nature’s beauty, sketching, sculpting and enjoying it, while Luke adds “seeing fish and bumblebees, dogs and ducks”, or enjoying animals and nature.

Some ways we can love working are enjoying cooking and gardening, practicing new skills and having fun with clean up time. Nina adds “spraying”, or using a spray bottle and a rag to clean doorknobs, etc. in an effort to make our home a healthier one, while Luke adds “helping Daddy”, or working together with others on projects and tasks.

Some ways we can love playing are by using our imaginations, by playing inside and outside and by playing alone and with others.  Nina adds “making something …like triangles or something”, or creating shapes and structures out of Bendaroos, Legos, etc., while Luke adds “by building stuff”, or using his imagination to create cities and structures with a variety of open-ended toys.

Some ways love learning are by thinking of questions and discovering answers to them and by focusing our current learning on Our Core Four, Plus**, which is:
  • Faith Formation
  • Reading and Pre-Reading
  • Writing and Pre-Writing
  • Math Literacy  
  • Plus Bonus Topics, Themes and Subjects (Skills and Habits, Art, Music, Sensory Exploration, Nature Studies, etc.)
 *Our Rule of Seven springs forth from ideas initiated from reading Melissa Wiley’s post here.   After reading it, and enjoying hopping down all the little bunny trails it led me on, Mike and I made our own lists of what we feel is important for the kids and for us as a family.  We grouped our thoughts into seven broad headings which became our Rule of Seven.  Ideally, we attend to each part of the rule every day at Jammies School, but, in reality, we are happy if we touch on each throughout one week.  

** Our Core Four, Plus comes from a synthesis of many ideas, and, particularly, influence from Classical Education and the Well-Trained Mind.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Please Join Us as Paperback Swappers

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that we are big book fans.  Thus, we love our local library and Paperback Swap.  I think most folks know about PaperbackSwap, but, in case you don't, and are interested, please read below, and, then, if interested, click http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php?r_by=mmstangerjunk@comcast.net to join!  It will help us build our homeschooling library.  Thanks!!

Do you have any used books lying around? Ones you've already enjoyed, but you're never going to read again? I did, and I finally found a great way to share them with other people!

It seems that a few guys were sitting around one night talking about all the paperback books that they purchased over the years while traveling on business. Each of them had a large stack of books that they had read, so they decided to set up a website at http://www.PaperBackSwap.com/ that allows all of us to swap books with each other.

Let me tell you how it works -- because it is so easy! I listed a bunch of books on the site (listing 10 books gets the first member in your household free credits!) and I got 2 free book credits to get started. So you can order 2 books right away - free of charge -- and have them mailed directly to you! No strings attached. No gimmicks. No spam mail. Nothing. You just have to love reading books.

When another member selects one of my books that I have listed, I mail it to them. Yes, I pay for the postage. But then I get another book credit and I can select a book that I want. So another Club Member returns the favor and mails me one of his or her books free of charge. For every book I mail out, I get another book in return - a true shared system!

When someone requests one of your books, all you have to do is print two pieces of regular paper from your printer which includes the mailing address and the recommended postage. Apply the postage, and drop it in the mail. Hey, for a typical paperback, you don't even need to go to the post office.

Right now the annual club membership is free. Eventually the founders will ask everyone to help contribute to pay for the upkeep of the web site, but for now the annual club membership is free. The annual dues will probably be between $10 and $20 based on the number of people in the club. But again, right now you don't even have to pay any dues for at least one year if you become a Member.

You really need to check this out. And if you do sign up, please use the following link:

http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php?r_by=mmstangerjunk@comcast.net

If you use the link above to join, I'll get a free book when you post your first ten books (and you'll still get free books for posting them!)

For more information about the site, you can visit the Help area, by clicking the link below, and select 'About PBS' to read how it works:

http://www.paperbackswap.com/help/help_index.php

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Body Parts Games for the Senses

Want some quick sensory fun today using just a bit of imagination and some Body Parts Cards?  Head on over to Our Journey thru Autism to read my Don’t Lose Your Head! Keep Body Parts Cards Handy this Summer!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spotlight on Nina @ 3 yrs. 1 mos.

Yesterday, we spotlighted Luke. Today, we are doing the same for our big girl Nina, who is three years and one month old todayFull of energy, will and a smile that lights up a room, Nina brightens our days as often as she challenges them.  Her giggles, chatter and playfulness can be so cute.  Yet, "the other side" can be downright ugly and make us realize that if we don't maintain some sense of discipline, despite Nina's cuteness, we could end up training up a true terror.

Not that Nina could ever turn out to be truly terrible with the way she loves God.  She eagerly says grace at mealtimes, preferring to pray to Mary than to do the traditional grace and still sometimes breaks into “alleluia” song while raising her hands, cantor-style, often with our hand bells set one atop the other like a microphone.  And, when asked how she loves God, Nina declares that she loves God by loving Jack – a trend with our kids even when Jack was still in Momma’s belly.    
Unfortunately, like Luke, Nina now seems to have some aversion to Mass.  Case in point: Once this past month, after I had taken her to the back for being noisy, she "escaped" and ran down the center aisle of church.  With Daddy away and my ligaments giving me trouble, I was too slow to catch her so an usher offered to.  Just as she rounded the pews near the altar, she spotted him got scared and came crying back to me.  The usher felt awful for frightening her to the point that she cried, but I assured him that I was thrilled that Nina had gotten a little scare and felt grateful for his help.  Perhaps, Nina's former good church behavior will return…
With it, we pray Nina’s desire to show she is loving others by sharing with them will return.  For, in recent months, we have realized we did not escape the age-appropriate “mine” stage after all with Nina.  Where she used to share to the point that other moms at the library asked if she was small for her age because no two year old is ever so generous, she now can get quite territorial.  And, at home, Nina is displaying some rather frustrating and unladylike behaviors of loud and whiney tantrums, hitting, pinching and “don’t talk to me”s.  These are challenging.  But, luckily, they are not constant.  And, Sweet Nina still prevails most of the time, treating us with ubiquitous “I luvf you”s, exuberant attention to baby Jack and a continuing habit of enabling Luke by doing his chores for him and attending quickly to him when he cries or whines (sometimes even if she is the reason he is doing so!)  Indeed, with real people and with dollies, Nina already exhibits a keen womanly sense of being a compassionate caretaker.  And, her hugs and kisses melt hearts as they are offered in abundance!
Joy permeates Nina’s love for playing, too.  Dollie play, play kitchen play, real kitchen play… Nina loves most stereotypical “girlie” play.  She is equally keen on “rough play”, jumping on mattresses, even a bit of sports – which Daddy loves.  And, she becomes thoroughly engaged in water play, bubbles and chalk.  She is also a bit monkey-see, monkey do with big brother on many accounts, which leads her to lots of block and figurine play, and to enjoying playing Guess Who with Daddy, Mommy and Luke (which I forgot to mention yesterday is Luke’s current favorite game.)
Much of play, we know, demonstrates love of learning, and we witness Nina learning and practicing skills through play almost constantly. Pouring; stirring; crafting; cooking; developing fine motor control with scissors, stickers and beauty dollie-head hair tools; increasing gross motor skills with loads of jumping, some pedaling and lots of running about.  Nina continues to be driven by kinesthetic, auditory and verbal learning styles.  She loves hands-on crafts, practical life activities and any kind of construction materials; participates with glee in rhyme time, chants and songs, often making up her own songs as she goes about her day; and continues to chatter away to herself and all she feels comfortable with at home – asking questions, making connections and simply talking about whatever is on her mind. 
With all Nina's play and learning, "work" falls comfortably into place.  More often than not, she loves working! Making smoothies, waffles and pancakes with Mommy; setting the table; spraying and wiping doorknobs and walls during chore time; willingly tidying up toys; gardening; even bringing me breakfast in bed one morning when I was sleeping so hard I did not hear her wake up and sneak out to the kitchen...  Nina is usually a joy-filled and hard worker, who is as apt to pitch in on real tasks as she is to mimic what she sees Mommy doing– be it at the computer, in the kitchen or with child care.  Both a Martha and a Mary, at times, I pray Nina always keeps a heart for work, play, prayer and service.
And, because staying physically fit is such an important part of leading a healthy life, I also pray Nina continues to loves movement as she certainly does now!  Nina's movement quotient has been increasing with each day, it seems.  While big brother slows and even becomes relatively still more often these days, Nina winds up and keeps on going and going and going...  Jumping on the mattress that was Luke’s dedicated "heavy work" tool and now seems to be Nina’s indoor trampoline is a recent favorite pastime of our little girl.  She loves running, playing and riding on toys inside and out – especially having Tortoise and Hare races with Luke!  And, let's not forget running through the sprinkler with Daddy -- a recent favorite activity.
As for loving beauty... Nina continues to create and embrace beauty of all kinds.  She busies herself drawing with pen, pencil, chalk and crayons; making designs with do-a-dot paints; creating playdough sculptures alongside brother; making up songs and dances; telling stories…  She also enjoys nature walks, spotting creatures outside, music of all sorts, storybooks…  She seems to have a broad palette of interests (rather than hyperfocused ones like big brother sometimes has), seeking and creating beauty daily – and helping us see it both through – and in – her eyes and smile! And, if you ask her what the nmsot beautiful thing ever is, she might respond, "Ice cream!"  it seems to be her favorite food and greatest temptation lately.  So much so, in fact, that we cannot keep it in the upstairs freezer or we'll find her off in some quiet corner downing it by the spoonful as soon as we leave the room.
Overall, Nina has really been developing "personality" – usually a joy-filled one, but, occasionally a we’re-in-for-it-when-she-hits-puberty one.  She can challenge us with verbal and physical outbursts, sneakiness and “stories”.  But, she also charms us with ready giggles, gregarious chatter and helpful hands.  Plus, nothing can beat Nina’s bright wake up times.  Of late, her morning routine usually consists of her entering whatever room we are in to declare, "It's morning time.” with a big smile on her face, kisses at the ready and a “Where’s baby?”  This, she follows with snuggles and love for Mommy, Daddy and baby, as well as saying a morning prayer for Jack.  With a routine such as this, with Nina, almost every day starts brightly and, despite a few daily sour points, simple pleasures and treasures are easy to count.  At three years and one month, Nina is truly one of the finer things (or, more accurately, people) in our lives -- a blessing!

To read about what finer things others are enjoying of late, see the links at Finer Things Friday at The Finer Things in Life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spotlight on Luke @ 4 yrs. 7 mos.

Months ago, I posted a Spotlight on Luke.  I meant to make this a monthly thing for each of the kids on their birth date each month, but… Well, it just didn’t happen.

However, as I look at baby Jack today, I flashback 4 years and 7 months ago, to when we Luke arrived, and I am amazed at all the change, growth, challenges and celebrations he has brought to our lives since.  Thus, today, I spotlight our now “big boy”, who I am ever thankful for...  (Daddy, by the way, has also been moved to write about Luke of late as can be see in his post over at out family blog – Wonder and Will.  A good read!)
So how is Luke at 4 years and 7 months today?  Always busy!  Granted, he is not in constant physical motion as he seemed to be at one point.  Occasionally, his body stops now.  But his mind rarely does.  A thinker, an investigator, an explorer… Luke is full of curiosity and discovery.

And how has he been doing at our Rule of 7?

Well, if you ask Luke about how he has been loving God, he will say, “I haven’t been loving God.”  This would break my heart completely (and admittedly disturbs me), if his actions did not speak differently.  For, yes, Luke protests going to Mass, often tells me he said his morning prayers in his head “already” and, at times, refuses to join us in verbal grace before meals.  But, he also demonstrates interest in both learning about and practicing his faith.  He thoroughly enjoys (and even requests) Bible songs, prayers and stories at Morning Circle time, and he sometimes includes his own versions of these in his dramatic play times.  So, hope remains:  Our little man evidences love of God even if he obstinately refuses to speak of it lately.
And we all know loving God involves loving others.  If you ask Luke about loving others lately, he is single-minded about it.  There seems to be only one "other" for Luke many days of late as he proclaims, “I love Jack… by kissing him and holding his hand.”  Luke does, indeed, do both of these things often.  He also quickly responds anytime he hears Jack whimper or cry.  Immediately, he tells me Jack needs to eat and fetches our brest friend even before I can move to get it.  He also sings Jack lullabies, often tells him, “It’s okay” and showers him with affectionLuke’s sense of compassion and empathy seems to have grown tenfold since baby brother arrived on the scene.  Now, if only it would transfer to sister, who he continues to both love and torment in equal portions – defending her at playgrounds, playing with her sweetly at times at home and cuddling with her at bedtime, just as often as he yells at her, strikes out at her or tells her to “go away!”  Thankfully, with much guidance, Luke is beginning to control himself better when Nina antagonizes him back, becoming less likely to strike, hit, pinch or – yikes – bite Nina when she verbally or physically goes after him.  Neither Luke nor Nina is perfect on this account, but Luke definitely shows increments towards improvement.  Ah, siblings – love ‘em and lead them to learn how to love each other better!
And how does our big boy love playing? Of course, sometimes with Nina, sometimes with Mommy or Daddy, sometimes with friends and, just as often, alone.  With toys, with rocks and twigs, with just about anything...
Lately, Luke's favorite things to play with outside seems to be – odd as it may seem – clothespins and weeds.  Yes, while he regularly engages in play with bubbles, chalk, our outdoor play kitchen, the sprinkler, etc., when left completely to his own devices, Luke seems to gravitate toward whatever clothespins are not on the line, grabbing handfuls, going over to the weeds in the rocks and intently clipping one clothespin onto each weed.  When I asked him once recently to tell me about what he was doing, he quickly responded, with a look that said, “Duh, Mom!”, “playing dinosaurs.”  I should have known!   For our big boy continues to explore his long held passion for dinosaurs.

Indeed, inside over the past couple weeks, his favorite playthings seem to be dinosaur figurines, Little People figures and Mega Bloks.  Luke spends long periods constructing walls, castles, homes, volcanoes – you name it – with the blocks to enact all variety of dinosaur dramas in.  Just the other morning, he strung a long lace with wooden beads to add to one of these structures and started balancing little dinos across it, saying it was a log to help them cross the "scariest beyond”.  How fun it is to watch Luke’s skills and imagination come together like this.  It is truly a treat when we take the time to let him lead play – or simply observe him at play.
Likewise, it is a pleasure to share in Luke’s love of learning.  Two topics he has been exploring over the past two weeks are dragonflies and baby care.  The dragonfly exploration began one day when he spotted a dragonfly in our flower garden and decided he should catch it.  Various Luke-led strategies ensued, as well as countless questions and observations.  Since then, Luke has had us read him volume after volume of dragonfly books from the library, has observed different colored dragonflies in our yard, has traced dragonfly puzzle pieces and drawn them eating pray, has burned energy and attended to SPD needs acting out dragonfly dramas and activities with my lead, ...  Dragonflies, in Luke’s world, seem to be running a close second to dinosaurs.  And, thus, Mommy and Daddy are learning things they never knew before about the creatures.
Practical baby care is a big topic for Luke, too.  Sometimes, he initiates learning.  At other times, his behavior and Mommy and Daddy’s responses to it, mandate baby safety and care lessons.  Either way, Luke seems to know that hands should be washed before touching babies, that babies cry to tell us they are hungry or have another need, that bouncy seats must be moved gently, that you need to support baby's head when holding him… Daily, we learn and practice different baby care and safety things.  And, Luke cannot wait to help with baby tubby time!
So, it follows that Luke loves working when it involves little brother.  In fact, we can get him to do most things in the name of jack's safety and needs (for now at least).  But, just as often, Luke is reluctant to truly do anything he perceives as “work”.  To this end, he often replies, “I am too tired,” when it is time for ten minute clean ups or chores.  (This makes us laugh since Luke still frequently proclaims that he “never sleeps” and cannot shut his eyes.)  So, getting Luke to help clean up toy messes etc. can be a challenge and requires several strategies, such as tongs and double high fives.  He willingly helps set the table when we eat on the porch though and happily attends to the true “work” of childhood consistently – that is, play, exploration and developing skills.

With all the play, work and learning, Luke definitely loves movement each day.  Although he has yet to truly master tricycling and jumping, he is improving at both, and he certainly gets plenty of exercise both with focused "heavy work" -- including vestibular and proprioceptive activities -- and simply playing freely as a curious 4+ year old boy!
And, finally, what about loving beauty?  As you can imagine, Luke loves the beauty of all things natural – the vivid colors of dragonflies, the bursting blooms of flowers, the trails of periwinkles at the beach...  He also devours non-fiction books, asking us to read ones that seem far above his level, to include his recent favorite A Dragon in the Sky.  And, he loves fiction and fables, too, such as Peter Pan and the Tortoise and the Hare.  (How many times can one child listen to a Peter Pan CD by request before bed?!)  Plus, he is attempting anew, upon his request, the challenging task of learning to read, making his way through Bob Books in hopes of earning a free book at Borders.  And, he has a growing interest in photography -- sneaking our camera whenever he can to take photos of his perspective of the world!  Plus, not that I think computer games and DVD’s are things of beauty, but, if you ask our bib boy, Luke is sure to tell you that Starfall, TVOkids.com and Land Before Time are true treasures.  He begs for these “treats” regularly.
And that’s our Luke of late – filled with wonder, curiosity, investigations and constant explorations, but is also increasingly still and engaged at times (which, praise God, offers me a few more daily moments of quiet respite.)
Some days Luke is quite challenging for us to deal with – as he is willful and lacks the ability (at times) and desire (at other times) to listen and act well.  But, these times are fewer and further between.  Without doubt, our big boy is also showing more maturity, cooperation and desire to live with peace and happiness.  What a privilege it is to try to train him up in the way he should go!


We are truly thankful for our little man.  What are you thankful for today?  Link up at Spiritually Unequal Marriage to share.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hiking in the State Park

Here at Jammies School, temps have been soaring into the 100's in our Outdoor Environment.  With new baby Jack aboard, this has meant limited time outside.  We don't want Jack getting overheated and, of course, must protect him from the sun until he is old enough for sunscreen.  So, we've been gearing our fun and exploration time to indoor pursuits for the time being.

That being said, we cannot wait to get back outdoors, and, once Jack is old enough, back to nature walks!

As I think about this, I realize I never got around to posting about our last hike before Jack was born.  Just a few weeks ago, we enjoyed a hike at Massasoit State Park during a play date with a friend.

When our friends suggested the hike, despite the onset of ligament pain on Mommy's part, we went for it.  And, we were so glad we did.  For even if Nina got a bit tired, needed to carried part of the way, had a potty accident and got bitten by nasty mosquitoes despite being sprayed liberally with bug spray, she talked a lot about the hike afterward, proving she had fun on it, even as Mommy sometimes strained to carry her along the trails.


And, Luke had a blast the entire time, too.   Spotting a turtle along the path, and wondering if there was a hare nearby.  (He's been into the Tortoise and the Hare story of late.) Throwing rocks into puddles with Nina and his buddy.  Playing predator-prey with his buddy.  Observing plants and critters along the way.   Running down his buddy's sledding hill... Luke had quite a time on the trail to and away from the pond where we went to spot some swans that had recently made it there home.

And all thoroughly enjoyed our time at the pond.  Finding dead, dried fish.  Pretending to fish.  Calling to the swans to get closer.  Squishing our shoes into muck.  Contemplating how we might make a bridge to cross the "high" waters.  (Luke, inspired by a hike at Pratt Farm wanted to gather logs to make a crossing.)  Truly, it was a time of imagination, observation, exploration and just plain fun!

Can't wait to do it again -- this time with Jack in a pack and my leg ligaments back!

To enjoy others Wordful Wednesday photo stories, check out the links at Seven Clown Circus.


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