Sunday, August 28, 2011

pies and flannel board: warm and fuzzy projects

Two pies: apple pie and pot pie. Neither of them will EVER compare to my mother-in-law's pies, but a girl has to try! Thanks to my BFF, my apple pie was amazing! The pot pie...well, I don't want to talk about it.
And while I had some time on my hands during E's nap, I got started on his flannel board. I've been using recycled cardboard packaging to write alphabet letters (one day he'll be old enough to make his own). My thought was that these could have velcro on the back and be used on a flannel board for spelling. But first, I had to make one.

Supplies: fabric to fit your board, good scissors, staple gun with staples, ribbon, and hot glue.

If you can get past our messy art room/play room, you can see that the backs of these small book cases divide mommy's art room from E's play room. And since they're cheap book cases, it's just a sturdy board backing that can be stapled into.

So I went through my fabrics and found some scrap flannel, fleece, and one other weird yard sale fabric that the velcro seems to like. Next I started stapling it onto the cases. It's important to me that the finished board is safe, so after all the fabric is in place I will hot glue ribbon on top of the staples. Here's my progress so far:
You can see the ugly brown backing of the book cases here. Anything will look nicer than that!
Almost all of the fabric is in place. (Still need a strip of fabric on the far left.)

The stapled seams are ugly! The next step is to cover them with ribbon.

This is the start of our alphabet cards.
When the flannel board is complete, I will update the post!

Finally, Friday was E's last day of camp. I think this photo about sums it up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

music together

Me and E had the pleasure of taking a great music class this summer called Music Together. It's an interactive, mixed age approach to music that takes place during 45-minute sessions. This national program is an outstanding introduction to music-making, group singing, and creative movement.

The song circle is always full of engaged care givers and eager little ones from infants on up to preschoolers. All of the children respond to Miss Bettina (our amazing teacher) differently. Some listen or observe while others sing, tap, or dance along. My little guy enjoys listening but when the music gets too loud or boisterous, he wanders away to listen from a distance.

I love that our instructor varies her methods to stimulate interest the whole time. She incorporates scarves, instruments, and other manipulative props to keep toes tappin'. I hoped that E would benefit from the class musically, but I didn't realize how much I would get out of it. I've learned many new ways to sing and make music with him. It's very empowering!

She also provides music CDs and a song book to keep singing at home and in the car. We use them daily!

The music book is excellent because I can follow my finger along with the notes while we sing - a great way for E to start to understand a music scale. The CD is great because the quality of music is tops. And between the songs, periodically, a voice will sing a short melody followed by a child's voice repeating it back.

Since the class, my husband and I have clapped out simple beats and E will clap them back. Pretty amazing! But even better, yesterday out of nowhere E starting saying "ba-ba ba, ba-ba-ba ba". I know that sounds like nothing, but he was SINGING in the same syllable as the voice on the CD! My baby can't say much yet but he was already SINGING!

Needless to say, we'll be continuing our music education with Music Together for many years to come. Thank you, Miss Bettina!

Our little guy brushes up on his tunes in the Music Together song book.
Note all of our scarves and percussion instruments that we use when we sing.

Monday, August 22, 2011


E has his first week of "camp" today! Alright, so it's more of a mommy & me class everyday, but it's at the Nature Center where I know we'll get to hike, meet animals, sing songs, etc. (Let's face it, I planned the camp in June.) Nevertheless it's wonderful to participate as a parent and not the teacher!

He enjoyed his first day. He loved staring up at the tall trees in the forest and romping through the tall grass in the meadow. We used a sweep net to catch insects and found loads of big grasshoppers and crickets. He even picked one up on his own! He oohed at some huge mushrooms and fungus growing on an old tree. He actually turned around three times to wave bye-bye to the fungus. Further down the trail we stopped to feel moss on some tree bark. All the parents melted when he kissed the tree (no prompting from me, mind you). That's my little nature boy!

It was a cool morning with a hint of fall in the air. As we walked back to the Nature Center, the wind was gently swishing in the tree tops. "Wishhhh wooshhhhh" I whispered in his ear. He whispered the same back.

After the class, we spent some time in the amazing Outdoor Classroom. We had so much fun climbing in this huge hollow log. It's so big that I can sit inside of it with him. It was a wonderful first day of camp!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

land of odd

Great way to start a vacation...asleep!
You can see the bay from our porch.
It's fun to watch the boats go by.
We just returned from a great mini-getaway downee ocean, hun. Our trip was way to short, but then, I guess that's always how it goes.

It amazes me how adaptable kids can be. Despite the newness of the place, our little guy closed his eyes for every nap and bedtime with no qualms and slept, well, like a baby. (It helps to be wiped out from the sun and sand, too.) I'm talking 3 to 3 1/2 hour naps, people. And no waking during the night! He somehow knew and understood that daddy and I were going to be right there when he woke up.

In this strange land of Ocean City, Maryland our tot learned many things. For example, rubbing sunscreen in your eyes doesn't feel nice. Sand tastes gross with granola. Sun hats are non-negotiable (for both SPF and cuteness factors). Salt water taffy tastes like...well, mommy still won't let you have any but Gram and Pop will let you eat anything in exchange for kisses or smiles. To our amusement, your first taste of salsa at La Hacienda was magnifico!

Chasing sea gulls, a fave new pastime.

If only we'd had time for Thrasher's vinegar fries and Fischer's popcorn on the boardwalk. We'll be back, O.C. We'll be back.

See mom, I didn't need to wear that sun hat!

Friday, August 12, 2011

daily walks

Every morning after milk and books, we head outside for a walk in our jammies. Sometimes the milk and books go outside with us and we get our snuggling under the tree. But either way, E really looks forward to taking a "ack" outside. He stands at the door looking out and begs "at! at!" (which means "out"!).

I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to let the grass slide under our toes still cool with dew in the morning. We don't mind the rough sidewalk, either. I like for our feet to connect with the ground.

We have a great little neighborhood garden where E likes to play with rocks. Today he learned how to say "ock" as we sorted the gray and black ones. There are lots of rich textures and smells to explore there.

During our walks, we stop at a series of huge bushes and look inside for birds and spider webs. We observe clouds in the sky. We pick up cicada molts, helicopter seeds, and acorns. We stomp on the grates in the sidewalk because they feel bumpy on our bare feet. We listen for lawn mowers, airplanes, and "ruck"s (trucks). We admire his favorite parked cars. "UH-OH!" he exclaims every time we walk past the car missing a hub cap. We feel the wind and E stops to touch and kiss Mrs. Betsy's tree. We trace our fingers over the numbers on yard address signs. We stop short to watch (or chase!) rabbits. We examine mushrooms and look closely at bumble bees.

We make a game out of just walking - great big steps and baby steps. Then we RUN!

We also have a routine evening walk where we say hello to all the neighborhood dogs and bump into other kids. The light is different and the air feels different, too. It's a wonderful way to wind down together.

Today during our evening walk, some of the neighbors had sprinklers on. The sprinklers were spraying water in our path which turned out to be a fun game. I tried to consciously absorb how precious E really is during this beautiful, fleeting time with him. It all seemed so perfect - the sun was beaming on our faces and making the arcs of water sparkle as they gently moved up and down the sidewalk. E and I tried to race back and forth dodging and squealing as the water trickled down on us. He wanted to do it again and again, so I let him savor the moment too.

The morning and evening walks are a staple now and I cherish them. We have each other's undivided attention and we do something together that we both enjoy. And it's our time take in all the things that make our community feel like home.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

what's accreditation?

Lots of things come with a seal of approval, a certification to acknowledge high quality. I've worked (and am still working) diligently to create an outstanding nature-based preschool and, honestly, I want to shout about it from the mountaintops.

This leads me to the next phase of my planning which is NAEYC accreditation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the bees knees where standards for young learners are concerned. Regarded both nationally and internationally, NAEYC sets the bar for the best early childhood programs and care centers. And since offering the very best educational experiences is my goal, accreditation is an important distinction for my preschool.

Yesterday I spent the day in D.C. doing a workshop to prepare for their lengthy accreditation process. The emphasis was on self-study and reflection. They ask candidates to take an honest look at all aspects of their programs: staffing, curriculum, the physical environment, health/safety practices, relationships with families and children, and on-going assessments of what the children learn. I'm bracing myself for the work ahead of me.

NAEYC outlines 10 standards by which they measure over 400 criterion. Yes, you read that right. There are over 400 criterion that I must meet by showing evidence for each one in a program portfolio and in classroom portfolios. Long before anyone ever comes to observe our program, we will need to scrutinize how we implement these best practices and set up improvement plans where we fall short.

As I was reading through the criterion I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. But at the same time, I wanted to race back in to work because I know we already have tons of "evidence" for our portfolios. I'm eager to meet with my team and get everyone on board and reved up about this!

If you are looking for high quality preschools or child care centers for your little one, I highly recommend that you find NAEYC accredited programs in your area. These are places that have decided that a fully enrolled program is not their only goal. Just because a center has a wait list doesn't mean they are offering the highest quality care - it just means they are meeting their budget goals! Programs that seek to constantly improve work hard to achieve accreditation. It says a lot about a program.

(Now, I should also note that there are many places that don't know about the benefits of accreditation or have decided to wait on doing it. I don't mean to discount all of the wonderful programs out there that are not accredited. This is an extra step centers can take to distinguish themselves among the best.)

And this is not just a one time thing and then you're done - in order to maintain accreditation, a program must re-submit materials and do another observation every five years. This is an on-going commitment to offer the highest quality program possible, and to be confident enough to locate chinks in the armour and fix them.

I'll keep you posted on our progress. This will take over a year to complete!

Monday, August 8, 2011

'sup cuz?

She's a girl after my own heart.

My oldest niece spent the weekend with us and E was in heaven! He loved having his cousin around, especially since she could teach him some new tricks. And the bonus for me was that during naptime, I had a buddy to paint with!
Mommy lets me do this, I swear. Just spot me, K?

Hey, it's YOU! You're still here!

Can we keep her mom?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

weird menu

As I was feeding my toddler his dinner last night I thought WOW. What a weird combination of foods. Since I'm vegetarian, I don't prepare meat or seafood for him so I'm always concerned that he's getting enough protein. I found these nutrition guides online at and the American Hearth Association if you're curious like me. I just want to make sure he eats well-balanced meals but it's easy to fall short.

One thing that surprised me on the health guides is beverages. We only give E water and milk - NO JUICE. I am surprised that anyone includes juice as a regular part of their child's diet, and as early as 6 months old! It's not nutritious and contains a lot of sugar. My philosophy is why start so early? They don't know what they're missing if they don't drink it until much later! If parents want the vitamins or calcium fortified in some juices, it's much healthier for kids to get them from nutritious-rich foods instead.

As soon as he's tasted something he points to the fridge and shouts "ack!" (which means he wants a different "snack" - there's no word for "food" yet). This means he will eat three or four different kinds of food during a sitting. And even though his "acks" are organic, I still try to avoid processed foods during meal times.

So as I was replaying last night's smorgasbord in my head, I thought, this actually could have been a very adult menu. Here's my translation:

sliced grapes                             
(could have been a spinach salad with grapes)
naan flatbread                           
(could have been a pesto flatbread with the mozz and soy sausage)
fresh mozzarella cheese
soy sausage
whole banana in plain yogurt   
(could have been a piece banana cream pie or cheesecake!)
cup of water

On second thought, he did alright with dinner last night! Tonight I'll try to work some veggies in.

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!
Our little guy at 15 months, February 2011.