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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Inch By Inch, Row by Row: How Does a Garden Grow?

After a couple of week's to adjust to the transition from being a working mommy to a stay at home mommy camp counselor, we're getting into the rhythm and slower pace of summertime. Continuing on our overarching theme of Inch By Inch, Row by Row, we're beginning by exploring how a garden grows. The garden we planted from seed in the early spring is now a natural area for play and exploration. We even got it into the ground last night just in time for a majorly rainy and stormy day today!

We are still in the (perpetual) period of noticing what works and doesn't work as well with our days together. Planning our themes and activities on a weekly basis has worked better than plotting out our whole summer in one fell swoop. S has really had an interest in the theme of gardening and so we've settled in it for a bit to explore his interests. I plan and prepare for a theme related activity or two each day but some of our favorites were the unplanned ones--like a parts-of-a-plant nature scavenger hunt we went on at a local park yesterday. S collected all kinds of leaves, twigs, bark, seed pods and pine cones to add to a nature bin at home (just an empty plastic shoe box).

S has loved getting his hands dirty in the garden and in the house. Here's a peek at some of our art and sensory activities
"Dirt Dough & /River Rocks Sensory Play" (baking soda and water plus food color) High Five

We read Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed and used some flowers that were on their way out to paint a paper plate sunflower. Afterward S glued on seeds in the center (dried beans and corn kernels)
Invitation to Play: Parts of a Plant Playdough

S especially loves on of our favorite Friday morning rituals: Invitation to Create Art--I throw a disposable tablecloth on the table and some theme related art supplies. He has at it (and so do I) and clean up is as easy as taking and tossing the tablecloth afterward--just in time to set the table for Shabbos! This particular week was flower themed.

One thing that wasn't working as well was overdoing it on the outings and field trips. We limit longer ones to after naptime to avoid the disastrous accidental car nap and enjoy shorter activities in the morning. One thing that did work very well at home was doing a massive toy rotation. S usually plays downstairs, so I did a selective swap of the toys that were out in his play area and the ones that had been put away in his room for a while.  He was so excited to be reunited with some of his old favorites that he was content to play at home for most of the afternoon yesterday. I'm definitely glad I did this before today's unexpectedly rainy day!


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Inch By Inch, Row by Row

Mommy & Me Camp is back in session! School's out, Mom's home, and Little S (well, not as little--he'll be two in just a couple more weeks) and I have let the adventures begin. There are a few things I've taken with me from our home camp program last summer.

  • Be "planful", but also be mindful. Three week's before my preschool let out last year, I had an utter moment of panic. I was about to become a stay-at-home-mom for the first time. I signed my teaching contract and started setting up my classroom when my son was just 5 weeks old. I began teaching two weeks later. Now, here we were after 9 months, and I had no idea how to structure that time. So I did the only thing I knew how to do--built a curriculum with themes and activities to touch upon all of S's developmental areas and interests. I planned a lot. I planned too much. Very quickly, we were having a lot of fun together, but about 50% of my activities were going untouched. And very quickly, I realized that this was OK. We were moving at a different pace. Some things held S's interest longer, some not at all. Some days were wild and busy days and some days were slow and cozy days. Hours within each day held different and evolving energy levels and I loved moving with it rather than against it. 
  • Have a Plan B (and C, D, E...) There were parts of days and days as a whole that went exactly as I'd want them to--and then there were those other moments. I kept a colorful list entitled What To Do When All Else Fails inside my walk in pantry closet (i ncidentally also where the chocolate is kept) just in case I should need to hide in there for a moment to gather myself. I think I only hid in the closet once, but it felt great to know that list was in there even after the chocolate had disappeared.
  • Get OUT. When you are at home, it is easy to forget to leave. It can also be hard at times to get out the door. Last summer, I also added the factor that I did not yet have my drivers license (a factor I finally remedied this past fall) and so my options for outings were pretty limited to my neighborhood and where I could get on foot/via stroller. Still, it made a world of difference to get out that door every day even if it was just for a walk to the pool in our development or the playground around the corner. There's a lot of value in fresh air and vitamin D.
  • Review, Revisit, Reassess and Readjust. And do it again and again. What I learned last summer is that I loved being home with my son. Furthermore, I gained a great deal of confidence in being at home with him. I learned that I knew him and through that, I knew myself. I can recall a barely rounded belly when I was pregnant with S when I first announced to the world that I was going to work after he was born. I love teaching and I "knew" about myself that in order to be good mother at home, I would have to be out of the home for part of the day and working. Now, two years later, I think I could reword my previous statement from I "know" that I should be a working mom to "I was most confident in being a working mom." 
After my first year of teaching, an acquaintance asked me if I felt more confident as a teacher now that I am a parent. I said that the opposite was actually true; I felt more confident as a mother after going back to teaching. After many months of discussion and thought on the matter with my husband, we made the decision that S and I would take this following year to be home together. I was truly blessed to teach in an amazing school over these past two years. I was supported, encouraged and nurtured as a teacher--particularly as a teacher who was also a first time mother. We had an incredible team of staff and students alike. It is that factor that makes it most difficult to set something aside and also that factor which makes it possible to go forward on this next leg of my family journey. I am reminded of the popular folk tune "Garden Song" by David Mallett:

Inch by inch, row by row, I'm gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below 'til the rain comes tumbling down
Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones, we are made of dreams and bones
I feel the need to grow my own 'cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain, I'll find my way in nature's chain
I tune my body and my brain to the music of the land
Inch by inch, row by row, I'm gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below 'til the rain comes tumbling down
So plant your rows straight and long, temper them with prayer and song
Mother earth can keep you strong if you give her love and care
Now an old crow watching hungrily from his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I'm as free as that feathered thief up there
Inch by inch, row by row, I'm gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below 'til the rain comes tumbling
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below 'til the rain comes tumbling down

So summer is here, camp is on and S and I are taking it inch by inch and row by row. In fact, that is the overarching theme of our program this summer. Here's a brief peek at some of our activities so far: