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A little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of blah blah blah....

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mommy & Me Camp Week 4: Let's Go to the Zoo

What's cooler than feeding a giraffe?
It's a total *-zoo here, and I'm cool with that! Our Mommy & Me Camp theme this week is zoo animals. Our city zoo in Richmond, VA is absolutely amazing and we are hoping, weather permitting and preparations for Shabbos permitting, to be able to take S this Friday afternoon. But just in case that 60% chance of rain delays our trip from this week to another one, there is plenty of zoo themed fun happening here at home. Here's a peek at some of our activities this week as promised in this post. (In case you can count and noticed the absence of Week 3's theme, it was all about Father's Day and I am terrible at keeping surprises. We spent last week reading and singing about Tatties, Fathers and Dads, Oh MY! We also worked on a card booklet for my husband using several great ideas from Pinterest.)

There are a lot of wonderful classic and newer children's books out there about zoos and animals. S has a few favorites at home, like Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann and Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino. His favorite book of all time is Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. He also has really enjoyed hearing The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort using a popsicle stick puppet set I made to go along with the story this past year when I was teaching.

We checked a lot of great books out of the library as well. One of our favorites is Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and we are working on some different types of fingerpainting using a variety of colors and materials and textures to create a laminated set of animals to go with the story. S also really likes using a laminated set of pictures from the library with the book If You're Happy and You Know It: Jungle Edition by James Warhola. I learned a lot about the history of zoos in A Zippy History of Zoos: What's New? The Zoo! by Kathleen Krull. Who knew zoos have been around for thousands of years?!

We have had a lot of fun playing with toy animals inside and outside, too for that matter!

With temperatures in the upper 90s this week, the kiddie pool has been a popular attraction!

Today we have some bigger kids coming to visit for a few hours. S loves bigger kids! And it will be a great opportunity to test out an adaptation of this idea I found on Pinterest

Yup, it's a zoo here and we're loving it! Now we're off to the playground before the temperatures hit triple digits...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Baby S!

Yesterday was hey tammuz on the Jewish calendar, the date corresponding to the 5th day of the month of Tammuz, the day on which my son was born last year. To honor this special milestone, we had a very quiet family celebration at home. On a Jewish birthday, it is customary to give extra tzedakah, to learn Torah and it is an auspicious time to receive and offer brachas (blessings). For S, we got a couple of birthday balloons (he has ALWAYS loved balloons) and considering that it is Zoo Week at Mommy Camp this week (more on this later), we made a great find at our local thrift store--a wonderful zoo animal play set. I am holding out on the obligatory chocolate cupcake until his secular birthday on July 3rd, but I did make S some chocolate pudding and whipped cream parfaits (he liked his strawberry-banana-cherry smoothie better). We got some party hats (which we all kept on for less than 15 seconds combined) and sat around the table to sing birthday songs, give tzedakah and help S say his first pasuk. Later, after S had gone to bed, my husband counted up all the tzedakah we had collected in the pushkes in our home over and we made a donation in S's merit to this wonderful and vital organization. At one (even though my baby boy is obviously a genius), a birthday is more about us celebrating and honoring the last year. S has grown so much this year and so have his parents. When I was pregnant, I often wondered when you become a mother. Is it when you see the two pink lines on a test strip indicating that your life and waistband will significantly change? Is it the moment you feel those first fluttery kicks inside? Is it when you first hold your newborn child in your arms?
After a year with my son, I can tell you now exactly when motherhood begins: it begins in every moment. Again and again. It begins when you hold that tiny little creature that now invaded your home and heart, your face washed out with that deer-in-the-headlights look of exhaustion as though being thrust into parenthood somehow took you by surprise. It begins when you are exhausted and nursing every two hours and hormonal and drenched in sweat, breast-milk, spit up and who knows what else, but somehow you find the energy to do it all again. And again. And again. It begins when you walk the longest mile home ever after being away for less than two hours on your job interview, just having signed a contract and are convinced the entire way you can hear that baby screaming, only to find him fast asleep at the neighbor's home and a cat in heat in the parking lot who was responsible for that aforementioned screaming. And bit by bit, moment by moment, motherhood begins again. You come to know and also to really love and adore this little creature--who now smiles, and "talks" and laughs and plays. Motherhood, like all aspects of my identity, turns out to be yet another perpetual state of becoming. It's not the destination you arrive in at any given moment, but rather your means for getting there in every moment.
Motherhood is a lot like Yoga--stretching you and increasing your flexibility (only often a lot less graceful). It is limitless and immeasurable. It is process rather than product oriented. It can be messy and spontaneous and unpredictable--not the easiest characteristics for someone who loves organization and planning and knowing exactly what to expect.  S's birthday was such a classic example of it. We woke up and began our daily routines--getting dressed, eating breakfast together, our Mommy Camp morning meeting and activity. We had fun singing and playing and after a couple of hours, S was ready for his morning nap. He nursed, we read stories, and I snuggled him close as he drifted off into a peaceful and blissful sleep. That lasted for 16 minutes. I carried him downstairs, still swaddled and held him in one arm while I finished hardboiling the eggs I was making for our lunch and switched over a load of laundry containing our swim clothes for later. Sixteen minutes was not a very long naptime and he would definitely need more rest to be able to play and splash around that afternoon. So after completing those tasks one-armed, I carried that little snuggle bug back upstairs and spent the next hour getting him back down to nap. He wasn't cranky or resistant; he just wanted to lay next to me and cuddle for an hour before his nap! So that is what we did (instead of Mommy folding and putting away the last three loads of laundry). When he woke up after a proper nap about an hour later, we had lunch, called his Safta back on the phone, played a bit and went to visit a friend in the neighborhood.  It was a little later than usual for his afternoon nap, but his kiddie pool was filled, complete with zoo animals to play with and there was a homemade grape juice popsicle with his name written all over it. So he had a quick splash and snack and I changed him and proceeded to nurse him and get him ready for that belated afternoon nap. He happily and hungrily nursed as usual and then started to cough a bit. I thought he just ate a bit too quickly and sat him up in my bed to recover, which is when he vomited. All over my bed. And not baby spit up or even projectile spit up--no--we're talking big boy vomit with remnants of all the delicious foods he so heartily enjoyed that day.
Anyone who knows me well knows how I feel about vomit. I love kids, I love teaching, I can handle diapers and noses and lice and pretty much everything, but not vomit. In my teaching, I do what I can to support children from a safe enough distance to keep it that they are safe and I am not throwing up along with them. Those who know me well also know that my husband was recently very sick with Lyme Disease. When he threw up, my gut reaction (pun totally intended) was to inform him as I walked out the back door that I would be living with our neighbors and perhaps he could stay with his mother until he got better because I just don't do vomit. Yeah, not the proudest moment in my marriage (although the most humorously repeated one). And anyone who knows me well knows how I feel about my bed. After a long battle with a sleep disorder, my bed is sacred. When everything else is undone, my bed is still made--just as I like it, with no fewer than three blankets, five pillows, two favorite stuffed animals and my tempurpedic mattress topper to add four inches of coziness and comfort to my now CPAP assisted sleep each night. And now there was a lovely pile of applesauce, peaches (DID HE CHEW THEM AT ALL?), sweet potato, hardboiled egg, cereal, grape juice popsicle and don't forget all the breast-milk seeping through all five layers. But in that moment, motherhood happened again. Instantly, my desire to comfort my son in an event I know to be scary and uncomfortable overtook my selfish feelings about vomit and beds. I rubbed his back as I unzipped his barf covered swaddle sleeper and unclipped his barf covered pacifier and picked up my barf covered baby and held him close. I told him I was here and within minutes he was smiling, laughing and splashing in the bathtub. I gave him clean clothes, a clean swaddle sleeper, a clean pacifier, nursed him, read him stories and put him down for his very belated afternoon nap on our other bed. Then I tackled several more loads of new laundry and proceeded to make chocolate pudding and whipped cream parfaits for his birthday party that evening since his vomit incident had, thank G-d, been an isolated event unaccompanied by any other signs or symptoms of illness.
And there you have it. A year in review. The state of our union. In every lone Cheerio you find in some unsuspecting corner after you're sure you've swept them up for the last time, motherhood begins. In streaks of green and blue and purple fingerpaint, motherhood begins again. In chunks of fried egg propelled across the room because he doesn't like fried eggs, he likes hardboiled eggs, motherhood begins again. Hours after you changed his diaper but swear you can still smell something only to find that one of the white polka dots on your favorite sweater is brown and not white anymore and you did in fact still smell something--motherhood begins again. And now that he is napping so peacefully beside me, my sweet, squishy and smiley little boychik, I can't WAIT for him to wake up from his nap so motherhood will begin again.
And because in her song "The One Who Knows," Dar Williams can say it better than I could, here are her beautiful lyrics and a link to the song (kol isha alert):

Time it was I had a dream
And you're that dream come true
An' if I had the world to give
I'd give it all to you
I'll take you to the mountains
I will take you to the sea
I'll show you how this life became
A miracle to me
You'll fly away but take my hand until that day
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job's done you'll be the one who knows
All the things you treasure most
Will be the hardest won
I will watch you struggle long
Before the answers come
But I won't make it harder
I'll be there to cheer you on
I'll shine the light that guides you down
The road you're walking on
You'll fly away but take my hand until that day
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job's done you'll be the one who knows
Before the mountains call to you
Before you leave this home
Wanna teach your heart to trust
As I will teach my own
But sometimes I will ask the moon
Where it shined upon you last
And shake my head and laugh and say
"It all went by so fast"
You'll fly away, but take my hand until that day
(Until that day)
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job's done you'll be the one who knows

Since a Jewish birthday is such an auspicious time to give and receive brachas, I bless S that he should always know how loved he is and let that guide him toward all he desires for good. And my I be blessed to continually become a caring, patient, loving and good-enough mother.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Mommy & Me Camp Week 2: The BIG DIG!

Construction & Transportation

It's the second week of our Mommy & Me Camp and our theme is construction and transportation. S is loving days with Mommy and we are settling into a gentle routine. Last week was cool and rainy--perfect indoor weather. This week the sun is shining and the temperature is rising. We will definitely be enjoying some water and sand play in our backyard and maybe some playground and park visits as well. Here's a peek at what we're doing this week:

S's activity mat has been transformed into a road with plenty of construction vehicles and transportation themed toys

Discovery baskets are filled with theme related books & toys he can explore independently

He's digging it!

I LOVE handprint and footprint crafts. I saw this idea on Pinterest a while ago and this was the perfect time to try it out. I love these washable ink pads for this type of craft. Clean up is quick and easy, especially if you keep some wipes or a wet washcloth nearby.

Our story times are filled with some favorite books about construction and transportation, like Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, and many board books with photographs and pictures of vehicles. We are fortunate enough to be living very close (but not too close) to a construction project, which will make for a great walking field trip. I also created a set of laminated vehicles based on this idea to use for our own storytelling of "Orange Dump Truck, Orange Dump Truck, What Do You See?" These work well for another song adaptation based on "Where Is Thumbkin?" that I call "Where Is Dump Truck?" S really loves songs, fingerplays and action rhymes right now. 

I'm looking forward to trying out toy cars in paint and playdough later this week. For now, I'm off to recycle and refurbish a cardboard box into a car for S to play in...

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

School's Out, Summer's On! Welcome to Mommy & Me Camp

School is out for the year and routines are changing here. It is just one month away from S's first birthday and as I shift into the summer flow of being a stay-with-S-mommy, I am amazed and excited with how he has grown, how I have grown and how we have all grown as a family. In September I was eager and terrified to go back to work. I still had that deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face as though even after 40 weeks and 3 days, I had still been unexpectedly thrust into the front-lines of motherhood. I recently had a conversation with a fellow working momma in our community. She asked me if I felt becoming a parent made me more confident in my work. I responded that actually the opposite was true. Going back to work, a venue in which I do have confidence and clarity helped me cultivate these feelings in the home. I also have an incredibly supportive husband, childcare provider and work environment. All of these supports were invaluable. My husband was there to cheer me along and take on more than his fair share of household tasks and care for baby S. Our amazing childcare provider who is also an amazing friend and neighbor helped instill a sense of security and routine for S while I was away and modeled peaceful and gentle parenting in her home in a way that inspired and empowered me to practice the same in ours. In the workplace, I was nurtured and encouraged as a teacher and supported as a brand new working mom.

Bit by bit, I found my rhythm. In the classroom I could always maintain calm, find balance and create a sense of fun and wonder. It requires planning and adaptability, perspective and flexibility. More and more, I found that these same concepts worked in my home routines, and while the idea of being at home with S this summer was potentially scary at first, I decided to go into it much in the same way: with a plan and a promise to myself and S that we will be flexible, adapt, and as needed, step back and take some perspective. And that is how Mommy & Me Summer at Home Camp was born. I created a week-by-week schedule of themes my husband and I thought would be fun and interesting for S and then I created a tentative daily schedule. We hung our schedule for all to see on the door to our pantry closet, and while it is a chronological list of activities, I am not glued to a time schedule. Wearing a watch over the summer just leaves an awkward tan line! And on the inside of the door is a list of game changers to try if best laid plans fall through--self care is very important whether you are a play at home mom, a work at home mom, or a mom working away from home.

Our theme for the first week of Mommy & Me Camp is Arctic Animals--perfect for cooling off in the summer, no? Here's a little peek at what we've done so far:

We start our morning in the same way we always do, with morning davening (prayers). He has always loved the songs and now he's really enjoying the props as well!

He really loves the arctic animal songs and action rhymes I found HERE
For some sensory fun, S really had fun playing, dumping, kicking and sucking on ice cubes!

We used blue paint and epsom salts in a ziploc bag to decorate this polar bear and S even liked it well enough to do some tummy time!

S helped mix ingredients and knead homemade spelt dough for pizza. It was supposed to be polar bear pizza, but my dairy oven was too small to accommodate the ears--I had to turn them into calzones and my polar bear became a puppy! Either way, it was very yummy!

 And that's a wrap for now, since S has woken up from his afternoon nap and is trying to help type with his feet... We're off to read some arctic animal books from our local library!