May We Sing

I’m gearing up for about seven days of parenting sans husband/daddy over here and I’m trying to bring myself back from the ledge of a poor me mentality about another week without my spouse. I’m honing my skills at choosing my attitude instead of letting my attitude choose me, so here are my thoughts on the matter.

Our days here in the Freitas house start early, often before 5am. God bless the baby, who is a great sleeper and doesn’t make a peep until at least 6:30, but I have one beautiful, insomniac of a child who has been an early riser his whole life, and who thinks that 4:45 is an acceptable time to start most days. I am home full-time and my husband is often out-of-town for work, so a 5am wake-up often means that I have 15 hours, alone, with two kids ahead of me. Some mornings I wake up feeling really excited about the day, with a real June Cleaver kind of attitude toward parenting and homemaking. On those days I feel so lucky to be home with the boys, excited to make the most of every minute and ready to craft and snuggle my way through an idyllic day. Other times I wake up to face the day and feel so daunted by the hours ahead. The simple tasks that await me overwhelm me; the three meals and snacks I have yet to cook and clean up after, the errands to run, appointments to get to, keeping the boys entertained and happy, surviving without adult interaction for another 24 hours, and so on. I would imagine that this is universal to stay-at-home and working parents alike. The many tasks, meetings and care-taking responsibilities can just feel daunting at the beginning of the day. Sometimes bedtime (aka cleaning time followed by junk food and Netflix hour for mommy) just seems so impossibly far away and I find myself checking the clock way too often.

I hate the days that I wish the hours away, because my kids are growing up too quickly and some day I will wish so badly that I had those long days back. I want desperately to enjoy every minute, and I do enjoy so very much of it. Sometimes though, I think that we get caught up in the concept of happiness and enjoying everything to such a degree that we are crippled when parenting just doesn’t seem fun, enjoyable or fulfilling at the moment. Where did I get the idea that the worth of my day as a mother was in how much I enjoyed myself while doing it? I would imagine that this is a first world kind of problem. I wonder if mothers raising children in extreme poverty or in war-torn communities stop to think about whether they are enjoying motherhood on a daily basis. I imagine that when keeping your family fed and safe is a real challenge every day, considering how much personal satisfaction you are getting out of mothering would be a rare luxury. Yet, here I am, concerned about how much I am going to be emotionally fulfilled by my day in my comfy sweat pants, with my latte in hand and two safe, well-fed kids near me all day. Ugh.

One of my favorite songs lately has been Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons. I heard it for the first time in church a while back and one of the verses became a sort of theme song for my days at home with the kids. Said verse is as follows:

The sun comes up

It’s a new day dawning

It’s time to sing Your song again

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me

Let me be singing when the evening comes……….

Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Recently I wrote these lyrics on a chalkboard at the bottom of my staircase. The hope is that I will see it when I walk down the stairs at 4:45 am with a kid who is ready to play ninja turtles and already asking what I will be making him for breakfast. The verse reminds me that I have a choice to make at the beginning of each day. Like choosing what to wear in the morning, I have to choose what attitude I will bring to that day with my kids, regardless of what kind of day lies ahead. I have a choice whether I focus my attention on the piles of dishes and number of tantrums ahead of me, or on the sparkling eyes and eager faces of the kids who miraculously have been placed in my care for another fleeting day.

I can decide that the day is going to be long and tedious and hard (which, of course means that it pretty much will end up being so). I can start throwing my mental pity party right then and there, dwelling on how hard the stay-at-home gig can be, counting how many hours I haven’t slept or how long it’s been since I’ve eaten a meal sitting down. Those pity parties usually involve stupidly angry texts to my innocent husband, simply because he has been sleeping for 8 hours uninterrupted in a hotel room and eating at nice restaurants, while I drown in mac and cheese and spend hours building Lego forts. (Luckily, he has learned to take these belligerent messages as a sign that I just need a little pat on the back and a few hours sleep when he gets home, and he forgives me). When I decide to start the day off with a mental rundown of why the day is going to be long and hard, I typically only last about two hours before I am grouchy with the kids, can see my mood rubbing off on them, have to ask their forgiveness for being said grouch, and consciously reset my attitude before we all melt down. Worse, I totally miss out on what could’ve been a nice morning with my kids.

My other option is to forgo the mental drama and decide (like the song says) to “sing praise” from the start, even if it doesn’t feel natural or gratifying to do so. I can decide that whatever the day brings I will find the good, I will be thankful, and I will try to give even when I feel like I have nothing left. I can pray that whatever may pass (kids may get sick, plumbing might break, car might not start, boys may be fussy all day) and whatever lies before me (meals to cook, laundry to do, kids to entertain), I will be “singing” when the day ends. This doesn’t mean that I’ll always feel like singing. The point isn’t that I’ll always feel joyful, even when the day is long and tedious and full of frustration. It means that I’ll praise anyway. I will be grateful for what was, I will focus on evaluating what I gave to my family and others, rather than dwelling what I got out of the day, and I will seek peace and strength for the next day to come so that I can be better at finding and giving joy tomorrow.

Justification for praise surpasses circumstances and emotions (good or bad) and means acknowledging that God is good no matter what. It means recognizing that the value in a day isn’t measured by how fulfilled we were by it, or how great it felt for us. This is true about life in general, but especially about parenthood. We aren’t missing out on the parenting experience just because some days don’t feel awesome and inspiring. We are missing out if we fail to recognize that the privilege of raising our kids is wonderful and beautiful, even when the daily tasks parenting requires sometimes feel totally sucky. (You following me here?) A great side effect of this approach is that when I focus on singing praise from the beginning of the day, even when it feels un-natural, I often end up in a much better mood, and thus a more patient, kind parent than I would’ve been otherwise. It’s a fake it ’till you make it kind of thing.

So sing through the dishes, sing through the diaper blowouts, the school drop-off lines, the meetings with your boss, and the grocery store line toddler meltdowns. There are always 10,000 reasons, and if you have small children in your home you don’t have to look far to see a few of those reasons right in front of you. Sing on friends, and please feel free to remind me to do so the next time you hear me complaining when I should be praising.

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Building a Sensory Library

As a mom with two energetic little boys to entertain, I am always looking for new activities to break up our day and keep the kids engaged and learning. A while back I stumbled upon the idea of sensory bins on Pinterest and I started making themed sensory bins to coordinate with whatever concept we were working on that month. The boys loved them so much, and wanted to play with them so often that I thought it would be nice to have a variety of them on hand to easily access when the kids needed something new to do. In addition to just being fun and easy to make, they are great for my sweet, sensory-seeking three-year-old, who can’t get enough stimulation. We are always looking for ways to help him meet his sensory needs in a socially appropriate way and sensory bins have become a really great tool for him. I find that when he is starting to have a hard time, stopping what we are doing and finding a calm, sensory stimulating activity for him can really help us avoid meltdown. For all of the above reasons, I decided to create a library of sensory bins for daily use here at our house.

I started by buying a variety of plastic bins of various sizes and depths. It is hard to tell from the photos below, but most of mine are about the size of a 9×13 baking pan. I wanted mine to stack in a cupboard so I bought ones with lids that stack easily on each other. Then I scoured Walmart and Joanns for anything affordable that looked like it might be fun to feel, scoop, dump, squish, etcetera. I tried to look for items that provided a variety of textures and ended up with the following:

  • Dry Oatsimage_7
  • White Rice (there are a million ways to color and scent rice for added variety)image_6
  • Lentilsimage_8
  • Pinto Beansimage
  • Plastic Beadsimage_3
  • Buttonsimage_4
  • Craft Pom Pomsimage_1 image
  • Foam Peanuts (the colored, crafting version that can be sculpted into shapes)image_2
  • Vase Filler/Water Beadsimage_2

Note that some of these objects (especially the water beads) aren’t for the little siblings, as they could be choking hazards. Even big brother is only allowed to play with them when I am watching, but the water beads are his favorite. They have a slimy feel that is just too much fun. The lentils are also great. They have a sort of silky texture that is kind of addicting. The really inexpensive materials, like the rice, I bought lots of, and filled a large bin so that there is enough for the kids to bury their arms up to the elbows. I also bought a clear, vinyl tablecloth to use on the ground when we get these out to play. That way, if there is any overflow the mess is easily contained.

At least once a day I let the boys choose one of these bins and then I mix up the tools that we use in them.  Examples of ways to play with these are:

  • Scooping and dumping with measuring cups
  • Blowing the contents around with straws (this is especially fun with the pom poms and is a great way to get a kid to focus on their breathing, something else we work on with D).
  • Using plastic funnels
  • Kid friendly tweezers make for a great, challenging fine motor task with these materials. GW school supply has many varieties of plastic tweezers and really cute animal-shaped tongs that the kids love.
  • Using kitchen utensils like a ladle, slotted spoon, potato masher
  • Hiding objects inside for the kids to dig out
  • Manipulative objects such as small, plastic animals can make for hours of fun pretend play in any sensory bin
  • When using more for a therapeutic purpose, we just sit and listen to soft music while the boys use their hands inside the bins without toys or tools. It is so simple but it really is calming for them.

Never once have my boys turned down playing with these bins and I usually end up taking them away before the kids decide that they are finished. The great thing is that the possibilities are endless and you can mix it up every day. Plus, if there is ever a global disaster and we can’t access food, we could live for a good while off of the contents of our sensory library. Have fun!

Every Little Last

If you ask my eldest son how old he is, he will tell you that he is “almost four.” We are starting to talk about plans for his birthday and, like every year, mama is a little sentimental. Like everyone said that they would, his baby years flew by in the blink of an eye and I find myself wondering how this happened to me. When he was a baby I remember seeing moms with older kids and thinking how sorry I felt for them, because they weren’t at the beginning of parenting anymore. I thought that it must be so sad to know that some of the years of their kids being small and living at home were gone. Back then I had as many years with my kids remaining as I’d ever have. I would never have as much parenting ahead of me as I did at that point in my life, and I liked that feeling. Now I am the mom with an (almost) “big kid”, and I look at first time moms with babies and I am envious, because they have more time left before their kids are grown than I do.

I am the kind of mom that will be a total basket case when my kids leave home someday. Every birthday brings a total ugly crying meltdown over how much I love them and how I’ll never get this time back. Some days I want so badly to back up and slow down that I literally feel like I’d be willing to give a limb or my life savings to just have one day with them when they were a year younger, smaller and more baby-like than they are now. I realize that moms of older kids will roll their eyes at this. After all, my kids are only one and three years old! Still, every day D seems a little more like his own person, with his own thoughts and ideas. Every day he needs me a little less, or in a different way than he did before. Every day S becomes more independent, his chatter more comprehensible and his movements less baby-like. Sometimes I pick him up to snuggle him, just to check if he still has that miraculously soft, smooth baby skin, as if it might’ve worn out overnight.

This morning we were at the playground, the two boys and I, and something happened that got me thinking. One of our favorite rituals has always been swinging together. Dawson has always loved to swing with me, and for the past 3 years he would straddle me, arms tightly around me, often asking me to sing to him, with his mop of curls nestled in my neck. I often shed a happy tear during this sweet time because it was just he and I and pure love on that swing. This morning at the park I asked him if he wanted to swing with mama and he politely responded, “No, thank you.” I immediately grabbed the baby and cuddled that little bundle of sweetness on the swing instead, but it made me realize that Dawson hasn’t asked to swing with me for a couple of months now. In fact, I don’t remember the last time we swung together. I don’t know if he’ll ever want to do it again. Yes, I realize that this is a totally age appropriate thing to give up. I don’t intend to have my ten year-old son want to swing on my lap in public. Nevertheless, it is sad. It was something special we had, and I loved it. It may be over now and whenever that last cuddled-up swing was, I wasn’t aware in the moment that it was the last time. Did I hold him tight, breathe in that wonderful little boy smell? Did I think to myself how lucky I am or tell him that I love swinging with him? Or I was I thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner, reading texts on my phone or hurrying him off so that we could get on to our next activity? I hope to God that I was drinking that moment in.

Sawyer is only 18 months old, but even with him the lasts come in droves. The last night with a pacifier, last time he needed to be sung all the way to sleep before being put in his crib, the last time he walked his cute, clumsy, baby walk before it became a sturdy toddler walk. Someday he will graduate a toddler bed and I will miss going in and picking up that warm little body from the crib each morning. Someday it will be the last time that he needs me to interpret his incomprehensible babble, because he will blurt out his first clear sentence. Some of these lasts, the ones I have control over, like the last time I gave him a bottle, I make ceremonial in my own mind and say goodbye to consciously. With others I look back and have no clue when they ended or when a new phase began. I just realize, eventually, that somewhere along the line they changed.

I’m learning that every age seems like the best age, and that every stage brings new, fun things that you didn’t expect. You keep loving them more and more, even though you’ve always thought that you loved them as much as was humanly possible. I am sure that with every last, a new first is also on its way and those firsts are exciting and wonderful too. Nevertheless, those lasts sting, and they cut deep to the heart of this sentimental mom. I know that there will be a million of these lasts as my kids grow. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being sad about them, but maybe I can be more aware that the really awesome, simple things in parenting won’t last.

As a result of the awareness that all things baby and toddler-like are fleeting, I am trying to say yes to more. I try to say yes to getting in the bathtub with them when they beg me to (even though sitting in a mixture of what is likely mud, tempera paint, baby urine and 12 hour old food is not really my idea of a good time). I will say yes when they want me to carry them down the stairs in the morning when I’m barely awake and can barely lift the weight of their sleepy bodies in the dark. I say yes to reading under a tent made of sheets when it’s already past their bedtime (how something so small makes them so happy I have no idea). Despite my early objections to sharing my bed with my kids, I now let Dawson sleep in our bed every night because someday he will decide that it is his last night in our bed and I will be DEVASTATED! I will try to put down the Windex and pick little brother up when he is standing at my feet with arms in the air chanting “ma-me.” I will hold him and talk to him while he drinks his morning milk instead of hurriedly putting him down so that I can get a head-start on cooking breakfast. I will try to stop what I am doing and go to them the first time they ask me to look at their artwork, because they won’t always care to have me look.

I don’t mean this as another “cherish the moment” rant, because I realize that sometimes they need to wait for you, sometimes the answer has to be no, and sometimes real life just prevents us from relishing every little thing. Heaven knows I am terrible at this much of the time, mostly because I like to get things done all day, often at the expense of being in the moment with my kids. I’m just saying that it’s worth thinking about the fact that all of the small, sweet things are temporary. We can’t stop the lasts from coming and often there is no way to know when those precious lasts are happening, but we can keep ourselves from missing out completely on the little things that we will long for when they are over.

Now I’m going to clean up the pile of Kleenex at my feet, take a Tylenol sinus and eat a pint of ice cream. By then the kids will be up from their naps and I’m going to love on them until they are begging me to leave them alone. Tomorrow I’m sure I will relapse back to my hurried, busy self. But for today, at least, I will remember that each seemingly tedious, small thing could be a last that I’ll wish I had remembered.

Address Learning Activities (Free Download)

We’ve been working on personal information like phone numbers and addresses around here. With one pre-reader and one pre-talker in the house this is kind of tricky, so we are focusing on learning to recognize their written address, and reciting it aloud (for big brother). As a life skill, reciting the address aloud is really most useful anyway at this age (for example, if they were to get lost and have to tell a stranger where they live).

Here are some ideas that we have used around here for practice, including a free download you can personalize with your own information. Some of the photos here are funky looking as I am trying to hide our personal address (probably a parenting fail to put my kids faces and home address out on the web simultaneously). Enjoy!

  1. Stacking House puzzle. This fun and easy puzzle has the address in sections on various parts of the house. They have to be stacked in the correct order to complete the address. You can talk to your kids about what the house number, street name, city and state mean. Note that the top will have the house number and second section will have the street name, I just didn’t want to show ours here. You can type your address in accordingly in the power point attached below.  image
  2. Personalized address puzzle. I took a photo of our house and used it here, but you can use the generic house graphic in my download. Type your address below the photo, print, cut into strips and laminate (optional). The kids have to put the numbers and words in your address in the correct order to complete the photo.image_1
  3. Envelope addressing activity. This printable can be personalized with your family’s information and the kids can practice putting the address in correct order, as you would to address a letter. Add the stamp and it’s ready to go! I cut, laminated and used velcro with this to make it re-usable.image image_1
  4. Mail sorting game. This was my boys’ favorite of the activities listed here. They were given about 20 pieces of pretend mail, half of which were addressed to them. The other half of the letters were addressed to fictional characters. They had to sort out the letters that were addressed to them, with our address, and put them in the mail box. Because of the stage my kids are in, they aren’t actually reading the addresses, but they are learning to visually identify their own, which is a great first step. 
    image_2
    5. Singing a song with your address to the tune of a nursery rhyme is another fun activity. Songs help us all to memorize auditory information and this has worked great for my kids. I used the tune to Do You Know the Muffin Man and made up the lyrics that follow. It’s not going to win me a record deal any time soon, but it does the job! Here is an example:

Do you know my address, my address, my address? Do you know my address? It is where I live. 

1113 North Brown Street, North Brown Street, North Brown Street. 1113 North Brown Street, that is where I live. 

Fresno California, California, California. Fresno California, that is where I live. 

93722, 93722, 93722, that is my zip code.

Lets put it all together now, together now, together now. Lets put it all together now, this is where I live. 

1113 North Brown Street, Fresno California, 93722, that is my address. 

Finally, we downloaded this great freebie from Powerful Mothering Name Tracing Printable and instead of putting their names in them, we used our address. This allows for practice with writing and reciting the address aloud as they trace.

That’s all for today. Here is the free download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store: Address Learning Packet

Tools for Teaching Kids to Spell Their Name

This week we are working on learning to spell names. D can verbally spell his but isn’t able to write it yet, and I’m under no delusions that I am teaching my 18 month old to spell, but don’t want to leave him out of the fun.

Of the various activities I made for this unit, this file folder game was my favorite. All of the letters of D’s first and last names are on the little apples. The apples are attached to the tree with velcro dots. The goal is for him to “pick” the apples and put them in order on the velcro on the bottom of the file folder. Of course, if you don’t want to laminate, etc they can just pull the apples out of the tree and lay them on the table in order. 

image

Next is the rainbow clothespin activity. Their name is on the rainbow, each letter I wrote on a clothespin with Sharpie and they had to match the letters and clip them on. This is a great fine motor challenge and it was fun watching D think hard about how to rotate the rainbow to get them on correctly.

image_2 image_5

The third activity we did was a fill-in-the-blank name rubric. The idea is that they start by filling in only one blank and work up to completing the whole name. As always, I put this in a sheet protector and used a dry erase marker so I can correct mistakes and use it for repeated practice. image_1Finally , we made name puzzles. I put each of my kids’ photos into a word doc and simply typed their names below in large font. Then I printed on card stock, cut into strips and laminated. They have to put the letters in the correct order to complete the puzzle. We all know little kids love anything having to do with themselves, so this should keep their attention. My boys have done these over and over.

image_4

I also found these awesome, free and customizable name tracing printables at Powerful Mothering Name Tracing Printable. She has a lot of great resources. I used this one to print names, addresses and phone numbers to trace.

Other things we’ve used for learning names include writing in sand with our fingers, cutting the letters out in play dough with cookie cutters, and spelling with letter magnets on a cookie sheet.

Due to copyright issues I cannot provide a download of these activities, but you can easily recreate them with your own twist. The rainbow and tree graphics I used were found at:

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/store/cheerful-classroom

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Revidevi

Other Mothers

If you know me then you know that I have an awesome mother, a total rock star, do-it-all kind of mom. I recently had this epiphany that when I was five (around the age that most kids start to consolidate long-term memories), my mom was 30, the age that I am now. That means this is the first time in my life that I am old enough to remember her when she was my age. She was once like me, a mom of young children, hoping that we would turn out to be decent, happy people and trying to put together a life for us that would lead to that. She did a lot of really great things for my siblings and I that I could write about for days, but this article is about one specific, really important thing she did. She made really great girlfriends. My mom had many good friends but she surrounded herself with three specific women (if you are reading this you know who you are) who were awesome mothers themselves, and also just plain exemplary people. These women and their families were who we did life with, and still do to some degree. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of those adult friendships that I only glimpsed from a child’s perspective through the years. I am sure there were imperfections, but I do know that they were there for each other and that they showed up when it mattered.

I didn’t know it back then but I now know that these women impacted my life just by being there for my mom. Moms are better moms when they have good friends holding them up, reminding them that they are worthy, giving advice and making them laugh when it’s needed. The other thing that made all the difference, and my point here, is that these ladies truly loved my siblings and I, as my parents did their kids. They cared about us and they invested in our lives in a million ways from the time that we were little into adulthood. So many times throughout my life these women were there for me in ways that really mattered. From comforting and cleaning up after 10-year-old me when I vomited in one of their living rooms at a sleepover, to supporting me emotionally and medically through a serious eating disorder, to counseling my now husband and I through our dating years. These women gave me extra perspectives, extra examples of womanhood and motherhood and marriage. There were three extra women cheering me on into adulthood, celebrating my accomplishments and loving me through my failures. My mother didn’t need help loving us. She filled us up with love and set an awesome example on her own. But how amazing is it to have bonus moms to look up to? (I also have six amazing Aunts who are all of this and more, but that’s for another really long and emotional blog post).

I’m betting many of you have these kinds of women in your life, “other” mothers who influenced you, were there for you, who are role models for you. The question I want to pose here is: who will be YOUR kids’ “other” moms? Are you surrounding yourself with women who will love on your kids, set examples for your kids, give sound advice when your kids are in the throes of adolescence and will listen to anyone but you? Are you investing in deep and meaningful friendships that will last? Most importantly, are you being real with those friends so that when stuff is hard and ugly with you or your kids you can reach out instead of being inhibited by keeping up a façade? Are you asking your friends for help? Are you letting them into your life in a real way?

Finally, are you being “that mom” to your friends’ kids? Are you truly there for your girlfriends in this motherhood walk? Are you giving grace and encouragement and refraining from gossip and judgment? Do you care about your friends’ kids enough to take the time to build relationships with them? Would you be there for them if you knew they needed it? My kids and most of my friends’ kids are currently under age five, so their version of needing me in their lives includes that I bring good snacks to play dates and am willing to wipe their boogers if their mom is unavailable at the moment. But this is where it starts. If I want those kids to give a darn what I have to say when they are 12, I better start building trust now. I need to look those little ones in the eye, get down at their level, offer to babysit so that my friends can get a break and so that I can bond with them. Invest. I’m not suggesting that you become best friends with every kid of every acquaintance you have. But think of the handful of people you hope to do parenthood with for the long haul. Can you invest in those friends’ kids? If you want the keys to the hearts of your close friends, show their kids love, grace and compassion.

I’m not all that great at this right now, thus why I am writing about it. I can barely keep my own two kids afloat some days, so investing in other kids in a real way can seem daunting. I want to be better though. I want my kids to have what I had growing up, and I do truly love my friends’ kids, so I want to be that for them too.

Thank you to my friends who love on my kids and allow me the privilege of loving theirs. And thank you to the bonus mothers in my life. If you have good ones (or even if you don’t), pay it forward and be one.

The Mom I Was Supposed To Be

Here goes my first attempt at writing about more than my pinterest-obsessive preschool parenting, so bear with me. I think the key to a good mommy article is being relatable and real without being a total narcissist, so hopefully I accomplish that here. I’m more than aware that no one is sitting around hoping for insight into my deepest thoughts. On the other hand, I know that motherhood can be terrifying and lonely sometimes, so if someone out there can relate to anything I have to say and feel less alone, then mission accomplished.

Motherhood is wonderful and motherhood is terribly hard. Hard beyond anything I could’ve imagined and for reasons I couldn’t have imagined. I would venture to guess that if you ask most moms, everyone has their own version of hard, things they thought they would be good at but aren’t, things that they feel guilty about, aspects of this privilege of raising children that they just plain don’t enjoy. For me the hardest thing about motherhood, and also one of the greatest gifts motherhood has brought me, is having to mourn the loss of the picturesque mother I thought I would be.

I was one of those girls who always wanted to be a mommy. I played house like the best of them, I knew my future kids names by age 10, and when I met my now husband at 15, we talked about our future children pretty early on in our relationship. I spent my early twenties in college, graduate school and starting my career, but I always saw parenting as the end goal in my list of life plans. My short career as a school psychologist gave me plenty of opportunity to contemplate the super awesome mother I was going to be. My job entailed advising parents and teachers on various student issues, something I think I did with empathy and at least some degree of success, but I often laugh now at how much I thought I knew back then and how much better I thought I could do things compared to some of the parents I worked with. It was easy to know it all when I was still a perfect future parent in my own mind. I was recently in the check out line at Toys R Us (a.k.a. hell for parents with toddlers) with my two boys. Of course my three-year old was throwing a tantrum of epic proportions because we were buying a gift for someone and he wasn’t going to be getting anything. He was lying on the ground kicking and telling me how truly difficult his life is. I turned around and in line behind me was a family I had worked closely with at an elementary school three years prior. I knew that they recognized me, and all I could think was, “Yep, its me! Aren’t you glad you had me advising you on your kid’s behavior? Clearly I have my kids totally under control!” Insert laughing and crying emoji here. Karma…….

One of the added bonuses of our family being built via adoption is that I have detailed written proof of the mom I planned to be before my boys were born. In the album that was shown by our agency to expecting birth mothers, ultimately the book that led D’s birth mother to choose us to be his parents, there is a two-page letter from me explaining what kind of parent I planned to be. A similar letter was shown to S’s birth mother in our second album, at a time when I was more realistic but hopeful that with my second child I would do it all right. After all, I had learned my lessons with the first! Then S was born and, lo and behold, a plethora of second-child specific parenting challenges and new types of guilt.IMG_5465

Some of the things in those letters came to fruition, others I’m working on but failing at regularly. Sometimes thinking of those letters brings me heartache. I wish I could go back to the beginning when I was blissfully unaware of the many mistakes I would make. I didn’t know then that sleep deprivation could drive you to literal insanity. The first day I met my eldest son I didn’t think that I could ever lose my temper with that sweet blue-eyed baby. IMG_0986I didn’t know that I was capable of being as frustrated as I’ve been sometimes. I didn’t know then that my husband would have to love me through days when I would be just plain ugly because I’m tired and frustrated and fed up with the hard task of keeping two kids alive (and I’m not referring to the kind of ugly I am when I don’t get a shower and have been wearing the same yoga pants for three days, though I’m glad he loves me through that kind of ugly too). Sometimes thinking about the ideal me that I planned to be with my kids brings me guilt. I sometimes struggle with feeling like I don’t deserve to be my boys’ mother, because they deserve someone who would never ever lose patience or say no to their hundredth request to play Candy Land, or grip their arm a bit too tight on the way to time out. They deserve a perfect mommy because they are perfect and innocent and amazing.

Some days I really kick butt at motherhood and at the end of the day I hit the pillow feeling pretty good about myself and about my relationships with my kids. Other days I am crushed by sadness because I am still broken and flawed and unfortunately, my kids are going to have to see some of the yuck that is in me. About a month ago I was having a hard week with my boys and I think I had lost my temper with my oldest and I just started crying for no reason and couldn’t stop. I found myself crying on my bedroom floor, texting my angel of a friend Whitney. I was basically begging her to relate to me on the total crappiness of being a flawed person who is trying to raise good people. She reminded me (like she frequently does when I have a mommy meltdown) that I am not alone, and of the hope in all of this. Here comes the take home message………

GRACE. I am a million miles from truly understanding the depths of God’s grace, but motherhood has shown me that it is real. I HAVE to believe in His grace and, even more important and difficult, I have to accept it or I will be ruined. I completely believe that my children were meant to be mine way before they were ever conceived. If I believe that, and I believe that God is good and has my children’s best interest at heart, I have to believe that He thinks I can be the mother they need. Here’s the catch: I can only do it with Him. I can only do it if I wake up every morning and say, “God, I’m pretty much going to suck at this job without you so please show up and help me be enough for them.” Then, when I inevitably do or say things I wish I hadn’t, or am emotionally absent or anxious or edgy or (insert one of many possible mommy fails here), I have to remember for the hundredth time that day that His grace is enough. This doesn’t mean that I resign myself to my parenting mistakes and not try to improve. I will try every day to be better than the day before because my kids deserve that. I will take action and seek wisdom and help and rest so that I can be better for them every day (a topic for a whole other blog post). It does mean that when I slip up I can get out from under the guilt and move forward. I can try to see myself as my God sees me, a child myself, learning and growing and broken and trying to do a decent job at raising two little men in a really harsh world. I adore author and blogger Glennon Doyle Melton and her blog, Momastery (if you haven’t read her books or blog you are missing out, I want to BE her). Glennon says when you mess up or are just feeling too tired or down to face life, you have to just do “the next right thing.” That has become a parenting mantra for me. I can always make the day better. I can always apologize to my kids and make amends. I can ignore the laundry and (literal) spilled milk, and be kind and patient and fun for the next hour.

Forgive yourselves moms!! Don’t let guilt and shame steal what is amazing and wonderful about this job you are doing. When you figure out how to actually be infinitely patient and perfect and fun every moment of every day, please let me know. Until then: GRACE! You are enough.

Shape Learning Activities (Free Download)

One of the things in our lesson plan this month is reviewing shapes, number of sides each has, etc. From what I’ve gathered in my online research, kindergarten now includes learning about 3D shapes (something I’ll have a packet for next month). Littles are learning terms like vertices and faces and more complex geometric concepts than I would’ve expected. So here is my attempt at starting to teach this. I am SO not a math person but shapes I think I can handle.

The PDF containing all of these activities is available to download for FREE at the end of this post.image-9

The first activity is this ice cream cone matching task. I printed, laminated and then made mine into a file folder game using velcro dots so that my kids can attach and remove the scoops from the cones. You can also just print and cut out and let them match the shape to the number of sides each has. 
image_2The second item is a worksheet for identifying the shape that is different from the rest in each row. (Same/different is also a good kindergarten readiness concept). I put it in a sheet protector and used dry erase so we can use it repeatedly.

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The last thing in the packet is this fun roll the dice game, which teaches shape identification and graphing/quantity. Print the dice on card stock and assemble. Note: I laminated it because I love to laminate but it made it really hard to fold up so I’d just leave it un-laminated. Print the graph (again, put in a sheet protector and use a dry erase marker if you want to play this repeatedly). Take turns rolling the dice and record each shape that is rolled on the graph. Whenever you decide you are finished you can talk about which shape you rolled the most of, the least of, or if there are any two that you rolled an equal amount of. So many good math concepts in one easy game. 

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We also use this large shapes poster I bought for a few dollars at a school supply store, for many fun games. One of the boys’ favorite things (which is gross and weird) is using the fly swatter. So I shout out shapes and they have to swat them as fast as they can. image_1

We also did painting with a shapes stencil because I happened to have one &  I like to incorporate art into each lesson if I can.

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That’s it for today! Hope it is helpful.

Download these fun activities for FREE from my Teachers Pay Teachers store at the following link:

Shape Learning Activities

The cube outline, ice cream and shape clip art used here came from the following artists. Credits are also included in the download file.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Namely-Original-Designs

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/For-His-Glory

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Creative-To-The-Core

Five Senses Fun

imageThis month the boys and I are learning about the human body and the five senses, starting with sense of smell. Their favorite activity so far has been these smelling jars. I purchased the plastic spice bottles on amazon.com, though I know you can get them at the dollar store, or just save them up as you empty the ones in your pantry.

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I put two cotton balls in each jar, each with a few drops of essential oil or cooking extract (mine included vanilla, cinnamon, cherry, lemon, lavender, rose, mint and almond). I printed and laminated photo labels for each but left the jars themselves blank so the boys could guess and match the bottles with the photos. D has begged for this activity multiple times a day ever since. I printed the labels on card stock, cut around each image and laminated for longevity (my home laminator and I are best buds).

As a related and equally fun activity I purchased scented markers (my neighbor mama pal and I had fun flashbacks to elementary school sniffing them all with our boys), and the kids colored with them and guessed each smell. image-4Beware! Their noses will look like a piece of abstract art after all of the smelling of the marker tips.

For exploring sense of taste I put a variety of snacks in a muffin tin and asked D to label each as sweet, salty, bitter or sour.

We spent one day on hearing/listening, starting with a hearing scavenger hunt. We went on a walk early in the morning and listened for crickets, birds, traffic, wind, water (we live near a creek), our footsteps, the dog panting etc. D got really into it. We talked about which things in our house we can hear and which things we cannot hear.

Studying touch mostly focused on textures/pressure/temperature. I gathered things around the house and we sorted into soft/hard/rough/smooth. We made a handprint by gluing various items from around the house onto each finger and labeling the textures.

Sight day was fun. We scooped googly eyes from a bowl of water and used these great flashcards and matching games from an Eye Learning Packet I downloaded for free from this great blog: Every Star Is Different


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Enjoy!

Here Goes Something

Hello all. Apparently it’s time for me to jump on this blogging bandwagon (feel free to roll your eyes now, sigh and click the exit button). I’m not here to chronicle my family’s every move or write profound opinion pieces (though maybe someday I’ll get fired up enough about something to share my thoughts), I just wanted a way to share some of the things I spend time creating for my boys so that other moms can use them. I have found so many resources and ideas from other mommy bloggers who are way more talented and creative than I am, but who have shared their work online so that moms like me can benefit. So while I’m pinterest-ing my way through parenting, I thought perhaps sharing templates, lesson plans, etc. here may be of some use to my mama friends. Thanks!