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Motherhood is such a source of happiness, as well as a privilege. Hard work, yes, but beautiful work. I love Mother’s Day for the chance to celebrate my maternal lineage and to pay homage to family bonds that are unbreakable even through space and time. Mother’s Day is a time for me also to celebrate my own children and my love for them. Tomorrow I am looking eagerly forward to a quiet breakfast at home and then time with all four of us playing at the park, followed by spending time with my mom.

Really, though, the celebration started Thursday:

The kiddos and I had tea with my mom, Nana, and Aunt Debbie in Yorba Linda. We have so many good memories at this little tea place.

Nana opens her presents

Katie and Eric with their maternal lineage, four generations

A better view of Eric, but I think Katie may have been perturbed that her lollipop was done!

Eric loved his bit of Earl Grey tea. Seriously. He has started taking sips of mine, once it is lukewarm, at home. He will say, “Tea! Tea!” I don’t ever give him much, and his cuppa was full of milk in this picture. He’s my little English boy!

Sharing his tea with “E” (Eeyore). E is Eric’s best buddy.

Katie visits with Amie and Aunt Debbie. We so missed Jed and Fon and Violet and Oliver (finishing up travels abroad at the moment).

After our tea, all of us drove just down the street to visit Great-Great-Uncle Ross at his place of care. Uncle Ross is Nana’s older brother, and his wife Aunt Bella passed three years ago. Uncle Ross and Aunt Bella originally lived in Temecula, and were one of the reasons my mom and dad knew of this developing area many years ago when looking to move. Uncle Ross and his great-great-nephew Eric had quite a moment on Thursday, as they compared wheels—Uncle Ross’ wheelchair wheels and Eric’s stroller wheels. Eric also liked looking at the break on Uncle Ross’ wheelchair. Katie was a bit more reticent, but she seemed to pay close attention to Nana and Uncle Ross’ sister and brother relationship. I am so grateful we have a chance to spend time with our family elders, and that my children are being filled with these memories and seeing how the family bond stretches across generations, as far as the eye can see and as far as a limitless heart can know. They need to see, too, the glory that comes of being every age a human can be. I want to fill them up with these mysteries—so that they can spend their lives figuring out the human condition, and where they fit in it.

On Friday, after a full day which included music class and a backyard playdate, we got the kiddos settled early and dinner prepped….and then it was off to date night with my husband! Thank you to my parents for watching our kiddos! Bill and I went to see The Avengers—totally awesome and worth seeing in 3-D in the theater. I loved spending time with my sweet and handsome guy, and also having a reason to get a little more dressed up and cute for him than usual! We had a great time together, and we were still home in time for lullabies and bedtime cuddles with the kiddos—not something I want to miss!

Then today, it was rise and shine to go pick blueberries! The blueberry season at the local farm opened yesterday.

Katie has turned into a professional blueberry huntress! Her bucket was full of big juicy blue ones. This is the fourth year we’ve come together—we first came when she was seven months old. My mind could start to boggle when I think about that—and how Eric wasn’t here yet, but how he feels eternal like he was here all along—but I just have to marvel instead. The blueberry farm is a special place for us.

And then? When I came home, Bill surprised me with these amazing red roses for Mother’s Day. Want to know something funny, though? I was so busy preparing lunch for the kiddos that I didn’t notice them for a full 15 minutes; in fact, Katie was the first to find them in the dining room, which can be seen from the kitchen! They are just lovely, and such a beautiful thought from my husband. We don’t have any kind of tacit understanding that flowers appear on certain days/holidays, so this really was a true, true surprise—and one for which I am deeply grateful. He made my day and my weekend so much better because he thought of it.

And in the afternoon after naps, we played:

Magic girl

Eric splashes with his feet

The kiddos and I are crazy about these homemade fudgesicles. This is our second batch. I found the recipe on Pinterest. Ready? It’s 1/3 cup Nutella and 1 cup milk (we use 2%). Then freeze. It makes four using my molds, though some claim it makes six. That’s it. And they are delicious.

My handsome boy with red windswept curly hair.

Toward evening, Eric and Boppa (mainly Boppa) put a new tarp on the play structure. Thanks, guys!

Such a fun Mother’s Day weekend!

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Eric has been showing an interest in the alphabet lately, pointing at letters and mostly calling them “B.” In my mind our homeschooling day is comprised of two sessions: a morning session when the kiddos learn together, and an afternoon session for Katie during Eric’s nap. For today’s morning session, I decided to design a mini-lesson around the classic book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for Eric, with Katie participating also.

We had breakfast first this morning, since we all three were lie-abeds. (Usually they do a bit of work first). I made this for the kiddos, after seeing the design on Pinterest:

It’s the coconut tree! When I saw it about a week ago, I thought it would be a great tie-in to Chicka Chicka.

Eating their coconut trees…

After breakfast, we had calendar time and then circle time. I read Chicka Chicka, which we’ve read many times before. Then we brought out our felt set:

This was a breeze to make. Just cut out a palm tree base, fronds, coconuts, a set of capital letters, and a set of lowercase letters. Maybe 45 minutes of cutting?

I had the kiddos assemble the palm tree, and then we tried to reenact the story with the felt letters. Eric was super into it at first. He loved putting on the coconuts! Then he had a realization and he said, pointing at the coconuts, “Boppa. Nani (he calls “Amie” by the name “Nani”—so now she is kind of “Amie Nani” in our house). Then he made his sign and sound for plane. I hardly thought it was possible, since we went back in January…but I asked him, “Are you thinking about seeing the coconuts and palm trees with Boppa and Nani in Hawaii?” He actually nodded yes… Which would be incredible, since he was approaching only 17 months old when we were there. I knew that kind of beauty would impress itself on his mind forever…

Then a little while later, Eric wandered off for awhile. But dutiful sister kept on playing and learning.

Next we worked on an alphabet puzzle all together. Eric placed several letters himself, and I quizzed Katie about vowel sounds and so on while we worked. Then Eric started taking out the pieces and throwing them around the floor. Hm.

After we picked those up and quickly put them all into the puzzle, I suggested we play with their big bouncy balls from Easter (yes, in the house—I personally love playing ball in the house, crazy, huh?). The person bouncing the ball to the other person would call out a letter, and the person catching the ball had to give the sound of the letter as he or she caught it.

Then I needed some time to clean up and get us ready to transition, so I put on The Muppet Alphabet Album, and we played it through the letter “G.” Oh I love this album. My dad actually took my old album that I used to listen to as a girl and converted it to a CD, which I then imported into my iTunes. I remember spending quite a bit of time in my room listening to my Muppet album, and my Disney albums. The memories are vivid—so relaxing and peaceful to be with the music, sprawled on my floor, looking at the covers. I wasn’t much older than Katie. I love that my dad did this for us. Bonus: we’ve been using the muppets/monsters as part of our “monsters and imagination” unit, so playing this album today  helped to give Chicka Chicka Day a place in what we’ve been doing.

In the afternoon, Katie and I buzzed through some work. She is doing great with time telling, and we love love love her Kumon book for that. We also worked on: adding pennies, nickels, and dimes; review of “long A” and the start of “long I”; review of word family “-ick” and start of word family “-ack”; penmanship; and number sets (identifying “which is less” at a glance without counting).  The proudest moment today? She was writing out an answer to one of her money problems (“12 cents”), and she reflected and assessed herself, completely unprompted. “Mommy, I need to work on writing my 2s.” I told her okay, and I set up some “2” traces on one of our slates (we have three, and one has actual lines for writing on it). She traced and then practiced, but still she wasn’t satisfied. So I asked her if I could hold her hand and do it with her so she could feel it. We did that, and then I explained how the first swipe of the pen is like making part of a heart. Something inside her clicked, and then she made a bunch of 2s—the best I’ve seen yet from her.

I told her earnestly how PROUD I was of her, and above all, how much I RESPECTED her for identifying her own area for growth and for setting her own goal. First time she has done that so specifically, outside of asking to practice her reading.

That’s what this is truly all about: getting her to be a reflective learner and instilling in her a desire to seek out actively what she does not know and then to know it. I believe reflective learning and a passionate love for learning go hand-in-hand. Mrs. Altaras and Mrs. Dutton both really showed that to me in my 10th grade year of high school. So important…

That single moment of seeing Katie reflect and then set her own goal—and meet it because she wanted to from within herself—was better today that watching her add three nickels or even work her way through her word families. It was as exciting to me as watching her take her first steps, because I know if she can feel that in herself, her journey will be beautiful and passionate in this life.

 

Our big news at the McGaugh Academy this week is twofold! First, we were officially assigned our Education Specialist (ES) through River Springs Charter for the upcoming school year. We are meeting with her soon, and then all the fun begins of prepping for Katie’s Kindergarten year. I am so excited!

Also, we moved around our living room furniture (again) and have made a second “school area” for both kiddos. I brought the little table and two chairs down from the play room and set it up by our calendar. Katie and I will still use our space in the kitchen (last month I ordered a storage cabinet which fits under the kitchen bar next to the bookshelf and the play kitchen, so many of our materials are in that space); however, this new space makes access to learning much easier for Eric. Eric, at 21 months, is ready for more deliberate and focused learning activities. He has been working at the big kitchen table…but this new set up is better for all of us. I might move our Montessori trays into our new space, because Eric always joins us in the morning school session.

When they got downstairs, they went immediately to their new learning space to see what I had prepared for them last night. In this picture, you can see our calendar (which we had not done for the day yet when I took this), and you can see the play cottage has now been moved over to the window. That means the couch is now parallel to the wall with the hutch and the calendar, out of range of the camera. The whole space feels more contained, and yet with the coffee table moved, there is plenty of “circle time” and play space. The coffee table is now in a “trial position” elsewhere by the stairs with some of our instruments (keyboard, xylophone top) on it.

Today, they had their journals waiting for them. I love their journals, and Eric especially does, too. Some of their pages contain the same activities; some of their pages have differentiated work. Even on pages that have the same activities, I differentiate the instruction a bit or I extend the discussion with Katie later. In my mind, even though Katie starts Kindergarten next year, Eric still needs the same enrichment I was giving her at his age. This is going to get interesting in a few months!!

So I found this telephone printable online (the templates are at the bottom of the instruction page). Nevermind that telephones/cell phones really look nothing like this now, LOL! I cut out the numbers that came with it last night (one set for each kiddo) and had the numbers in bowls. They had to find and glue down the number in the spaces below the telephone as I called out our phone number. Then we put our phone number into a song (I used “Wheels on the Bus” as our tune).

After breakfast, we read the lyrics to Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection”—a song about the power and optimism of imagination and believing in beauty. One of our guiding thematic questions for the “Monsters and Imagination” unit was about the positive and negative qualities of imagination, and Katie and I discussed that question more as we talked about this song. We found two clips of Kermit singing this song (the movie, and then a TV special) on YouTube and played them through our Apple TV. Technology is an awesome homeschool tool. The kiddos loved that. Eric pointed to Kermit and said, “More that. More that.”

Then we went back into the new school space and they made tissue paper rainbows in their journals. Last night I cut out and pasted the lyrics into their journals and then drew a rainbow on the opposite page so that they could remember the order of the colors as they pasted.

Katie, of course, did all of her rainbow by herself. I did help Eric, uh, shall we say—substantially? He did glue a few… We also looked at his “Counting Colors” book as Katie finished each arch.

Eric tears some orange tissue paper.

There have also been projects galore going on at our house! I finished sewing Katie’s dress today after lunch, and Bethany’s baby shower gift is also all sewn and ready to go. Katie and I also worked on a Mother’s Day project for my mom this afternoon, and I finished making a “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” themed felt set for our felt board. (Palm tree, coconuts, and all the uppercase and lowercase letters—I am planning a mini lesson for the kiddos, mainly for Eric, tomorrow).

We’ve also been experimenting with new recipes: baked kale chips (kiddos scarfed them, and I did, too—thanks, Mom, for the recipe), Nutella fudgesicles (thank you Pinterest), water flavored with lemon, cucumber, and mint, and for dinner: coconut tofu curry over basmati rice and served with zucchini bread.

I want to blog/post about resources for some of these discoveries…I am so enamored of Pinterest right now, I must say. Constant inspiration!

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

-Hans Christian Anderson

Happy 1st of May! It was fun to see our new May-themed dates on our calendar during circle time this morning!

To begin the day, I surprised Katie and Eric with hot chocolate, muffins, and a fruit and yogurt flower in honor of May Day. There is a dollop of strawberry Greek yogurt in the middle, and the rest is made from bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi. It’s so much fun to play with their food! Whimsy and novelty are great for their little growing brains!

We also made tissue paper flowers after during calendar/circle time:

I regret that this is not the most flattering of pictures for the two of them, but both of my kiddos have the sniffles this week (Bill had a cold last week).

We used the directions on Kaboose for our flowers.

Then there were other happy moments today:

Playing trains. Dance party. Cuddles. Reading. The scent of fresh mopping and the feel of vacuumed floors. Building a “tree house” with a bunch of branches recently cut from a plant that needed to come out. Playing in the misty day. Lemon ginger tea. Finishing the sewing of a gift for my cousin Beth’s baby shower. Homemade chicken soup burbling on the stove (made stock from last night’s roast chicken, added a roux and veggies and milk and chicken picked from the bones—so comforting and nourishing for sniffling children on a cold day). Seeing a hummingbird up close. Boppa coming over the play with the kiddos while I served up dinner. Laughing with Eric over something Sister Bear says in one of the Berenstain Bear books.

And by way of catching up:

The kiddos are still working through our Monsters and Imagination unit. I love the site Making Learning Fun for free thematic printables. Prepping for our unit, I found a bunch of Cookie Monster activities on that site.

 

I found these plastic letter tiles (for use with any applicable printable) on Amazon.com, but I also saw them recently at Joann’s. Here, Eric used the tiles to spell out “ten” over a laminated card.

Today, Katie and I worked through a series of literary analysis questions for Where the Wild Things Are, questions that progressed along Bloom’s Taxonomy. That was a fun discussion! I intended to put up a bunch of flowers all labeled with the stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy (bloom as a play on words for “flower bloom” and May Day seemed to coincide so well!) but, no, I didn’t quite get around to that…yet. I am a huge believer in reflective learning. I want her to understand what cognitive tasks she performs as she performs them. I wish I had about a million hours in a day!

On Sunday, we were supposed to head out to a fun birthday party for a colleague’s little girl, but the kiddos started showing symptoms. Eric had a very runny nose and a low grade fever. Katie’s nose started plugging up, too. I had tried so hard to keep them away from Bill’s cold, but to no avail. We haven’t had an illness since last year… Oh well. So, no party for us. We stayed home instead and Eric (literally) wanted to be cuddling or on my hip all day. He is such a mama-boop when he feels bad. And sooooooo fussy, but in the absolute cutest way—and I mean that. His cold-induced whining actually makes me chuckle, because he is so much not that way normally. He didn’t want to nap in his crib, which has never happened before, not once. So I decided not to enforce it (because really, why put him through that when he feels bad?), and I cuddled him downstairs watching Cars 2. He eventually fell asleep, and Sister watched over him. It wasn’t a terribly long nap, but thank goodness, it was long enough for Katie and I to get our Sunday bread rising and to prep the broccoli and tomato roast as one of the sides for dinner.

And yesterday, this came! My friend Shil of over 20 years is getting married this summer. We’ve had a “save-the-date” awhile, but the official invitation is so beautiful! Three day long Indian wedding/party? So fun! I remember Shil showing us videos in high school of family weddings, and he taught me the bhangra. Can’t wait. Bill and I have been talking for awhile now about how to travel to the wedding (it is in Pennsylvania, on the Philadelphia side). At first we thought, fly. But very quickly we started thinking about having a fun road trip instead. We really love the freedom of having our own car with us (and carseats), and we cannot wait to explore parts of old Route 66 and maybe see some friends along the way back. We’ve started discussing our routes there and back…and are talking even of going up into New York before heading back after the wedding. Epic United States road trip? We’ve both talked about a cross country trip at some point, and Shil’s wedding is a good time for it. Thankfully, my husband and I are highly compatible road trippers. We know this from experience, though our longest trip was only to Oregon. It will be an adventure attempting this feat with two kiddos—but I’m game! And what a great chance for them to see new places and historical sites!