tot school - the five senses - age 3 1/2

We had a great week in tot school exploring the five senses!


For this activity, we played a few different songs in different styles and genres. Ethan got to color or draw while listening to music, coloring how the music made him feel. The uptempo songs made him scribble quickly using red crayon and the slower songs inspired him to use blue and make slow loops on the paper.


For this one, I filled a ziploc bag with hair gel and taped it to one of our trays. Ethan and I would discuss words and how to spell them and he would practice writing each letter using his finger on the squishy bag. This was a fun sensory activity and he loved the way the bag of hair gel felt. We ended up practicing number writing as well, which is something we haven't really worked on too much yet in tot school.


This was the first tray to catch his eye when we walked into tot school on Monday morning, naturally. The popcorn tray was our perfect introduction to the five senses. Ethan went through all the senses to let me know how the popcorn tasted (buttery), looked (yellow), etc.


I've been wanting to include more open ended activities in tot school and when a bag of these gumdrops leftover from Christmas fell out of the cabinet, I knew they would be perfect. I paired them with some toothpicks and let Ethan go to work building whatever he wanted to with them. Before he began building, he let me know which of his senses enjoyed the gumdrops the most (it was taste, of course) as well as describing how they feel, look, sound and smell.


This was another take on our typical name writing practice and tracing trays. I wrote Ethan's name for him and he got to trace the letters with glue. I also included a dry cup of rice and Ethan got to stick each little grain of rice on the glue. He had a blast with this activity which surprised me because I was expecting it to be his least favorite of the week. He did a great job!


For this one, I put some spices out with a cup of water and a little tray (I believe it was once a baby food cube freezer tray, actually). Ethan shook each spice into it's own square and added the water to make paint. Using qtips, he painted a picture that smelled very strongly! He had fun smelling each spice as he painted.


This was a fun one for Ethan to taste. He sliced each lemon and then tasted each one -- hoping one would taste good. He quickly learned they were all sour. We squeezed the lemons into a glass and added sugar. Ethan wasn't a fan of the way the lemonade tasted so he decided we could save it for daddy.


I made some baked cottonballs and wrote letters on them. There were a & t cottonballs to add the -at part of each word. The others each had different letters that when paired with -at would spell one of the -at sight words we were practicing. Ethan got to sound out each letter and read each -at word. Each time he figured out the word, he would get to smash the cottonballs up -- which was his favorite part. He really enjoyed this tray and I think I may keep it around for future weeks, too!


I filled Ethan's lunchbox with some fruit and different items from the kitchen. With his eyes closed, he got to feel around and guess what each item was. And, you know, since it was five senses week, he insisted he had to taste them all, too.


Tot School Montessori MondayI Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flash CardsFor the Kids FridayThe Weekly Kids Co-Op


keep your germs to yourself and other sick day pleas

I don't do sickness very well. It's the one area of motherhood that makes me feel stressed and anxious and like I'm not at all remotely qualified to handle anything that transpires. Ethan will sneeze and I'll fall to pieces on the floor sobbing and surrendering to an inevitable pediatrician visit the next day while my concerned husband gives me the side-eye and asks why I can't just wait to see what happens in the morning. And, sadly, that's likely an accurate scenario.

Many parents like to spew some garbage about "just the sniffles" or "just a cold." Sometimes they wipe their kids snot with the bottom of their shirt and say "maybe it's allergies" when we all know that this sudden onset of first-time allergies is totally a cold. Or a virus. Or something that requires antibiotics and throat cultures and medicine that takes CVS four hours to fill while my kid screams in the backseat because he will inevitably catch it. And, considering he gets his crappy immune system from his mama, I'll get it, too. I always do.

I just don't play the "just a cold" game and for good reason: Ethan never, not once in his little life, had "just a cold." His very first experience with illness happened to be a nasty bout of RSV that landed us in the hospital and served as the start of our formal relationship with his nebulizer (or "Nebbie," as the blue plastic bastard is called around here in an attempt to attach some affection and fondness towards it). RSV quickly spawned into RAD which, let me tell you, is anything but rad and basically stands for "you will have major respiratory problems that will one day become asthma, sucker" (or Reactive Airway Disease). From that first sickness on, Ethan couldn't get "just a cold" or "just the sniffles." It's an impossibility completely. A common cold that another child kicked to the curb in forty-eight hours becomes two weeks of respiratory misery for Ethan. Two weeks of treatments and lung steroids and sitting inside our house feeling stifled and bored with every project on Pinterest that we must have done at least seventy-four times each. Oh, and the coughing and the "breathing breaks" weeks after "just a cold" is finally gone, the promise that weeks later Ethan still won't be able to keep up with the other kids or play on the playground without flushed cheeks and a shortage of breath a la asthma. Yeah. No. Take your "just a cold" and shove it, please. We don't play that game. And don't pretend your kids crusty, goopy eyes and face full of snot is the result of being "really tired," either. We don't play that game, either.

If there's one thing other people love to share, however, it's germs. This has made living among society a challenge for someone like me who has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sharing germs. (Keep those suckers to yourself, please.) If I had a dollar for each time a mother toted her sick kid to a mommmy and me class, museum or playground and had the audacity to utter the words "we just couldn't stay cooped up at home any longer" with the intention to garner sympathy and understanding from me, I would be be rich. Or at least able to fund the Germ Restricting Bubble that I dream of inventing for all kids who are sick of the germ sharers among us.

Dude, just keep your sick kids home. Commend yourself on being noble and brave enough to survive the confines of your home during a time of illness. Take your kids on a car ride or a walk around the block for fresh air like the rest of us, not to the children's museum where your strep-ridden kid is free to lick their hands and then touch everything in sight.

I guess you can figure out where I'm going with this. We're sick. Again. It's been weeks since we left the house (aside from the one day, after day six of my antibiotic and finally feeling fully healthy, I let my friend take me out for a pre-birthday foot massage) and the germs inside these walls are keeping me up at night. No, they really are. Just when I thought we were all healthy, Ethan woke up barking like nothing I've ever heard before which, two hours later, was diagnosed as croup. For some reason, Ethan is really into having croup. He hasn't stopped telling me "I have the croup, mommy" before giving me a totally exaggerated cough which, thankfully, has finally lost the bark. Apparently croup (or "the croup" as Ethan says) does best in cold weather and, luckier yet, it's actually been chilly in Florida so in an attempt to beat cabin fever, my stroller-hating child leaps into his stroller every morning and we've been walking miles upon miles just breathing in the fresh air. We don't do good trapped at home. We become desperate and cranky and stressed out and frantic. On his third bubblebath of the day (because, you know, it's something to do), Ethan declared that he missed My Gym and his friends and hoped they would remember him when "the croup" went away. I assured him that they would. He smiled sadly and gave me an exaggerated cough.

We're miserable.

Miserable and ready to play rock, paper, scissors, throat punch with the next person who thinks sharing their germs is a rite of passage all children must endure to build their immune systems.


celebrating valentine's day with pear tree greetings + $25 store credit giveaway

I love Valentine's Day. I absolutely love it. Spare me your woes about consumerism and commercial holidays and obligation chocolates. The thing is, there's this entire day dedicated to hearts and glitter and love and hugs and goodness (okay, fine, and chocolate) and I just can't help but get behind that. While it's true we should tell those we love just how much we love them all year 'round, I love having a special holiday to get all mushy and gushy with emotion and feelings. I'm a sap, okay?

Remember being a kid in elementary school and decorating little mailboxes for your classmates to stick Valentine's Day cards in? It was so much fun to sit after school and read through each card. Somehow, someway, the sheer beauty of Valentine's Day cards sort of lost their popularity once we finished school. Valentine's Day cards have become very underrated, unfortunately. Sometimes it's nice to get some love and cheer and joy in your mailbox, even as adults!

We've had a ton of rain lately here in South Florida, but a little rain couldn't dampen our Valentine's Day cheer. Ethan and I had a little miniature photoshoot to get some festive Valentine's Day photos that would be perfect for our cards (and let's be real, you knew I was going to share a couple):

Tee by The Blue Envelope, use code TBEREP3 to save 10%

After sorting through our photos, we picked a favorite. Then it was off to Pear Tree Greetings to pick a favorite card! As per usual, the options are endless. Pear Tree Greetings offer so many great Valentine's Day Photo Cards that it was a challenge to pick just one favorite.

Here were some of our top contenders:

If you're in need of some classroom Valentine's Day cards, think outside the box and check out Pear Tree Greetings wide array of Kids Valentine's Day Cards, too!

After much deliberation, I finally picked a favorite that does a good job at capturing the hearts-and-love-and-hugs vibe that I so very much love about Valentine's Day!

So cute, right?!

I'm excited to be able to share my love for Valentine's Day cards with my readers as well. Pear Tree Greetings have offered one of my readers the opportunity to win a $25 store credit to pick up some of your own Valentine's Day cards as well. A winner will be chosen on January 28th, 2015. Good luck!

Even if you don't win, click here to place your order and save $20 (and Pear Tree Greetings will donate $20 to charity, too!).

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thirteen years

As the sky grew dark on January 17th, 2002, I sat at the computer in the guest room of my parent's house busily burning the latest of volume of a mix CD set I was working on. This CD set was titled The Aaron Doesn't Like Me compilation and that night, I was creating the 6th disc in the set. They were a series of CDs featuring the saddest songs I knew, mostly acoustic, low budget recordings from independent emo songwriters with the occasional -- and necessary -- tracks by Dashboard Confessional or The Juliana Theory. Mostly I cried while I made them, letting the sadness of the lyrics resonate with me: unrequited love, the pain of seeing the person you love so desperately have no romantic interest in you. Better off just friends? Better off just dead, I would scribble on the front of each of the CDs in black Sharpie -- a la my favorite Keepsake lyric -- feeling a punch to the gut each time.

Just months earlier, in August, I had started the 10th grade at a new school. Before school even began, a tall boy in a Volcom tee and argyle socks pulled up to his knees walked by me. I didn't know him. We made eye contact for about thirty seconds and I told my friend I was in love. She thought I was crazy but probably rightfully so. Between 8th grade and the start of 10th grade, I was sort of addicted to unhealthy, overly intense relationships with boys who weren't really worth the inevitable tears and drama. Of course, I had professed my sheer love for each one of these boys at least once before they left me sobbing in my bedroom wanting to vomit the remnants of my broken heart. And, you know, when a fifteen year old girl is so in love, an eyeroll is usually appropriate. Over the course of the next few days (teenagers work fast, okay?), I found out that this boy played in a punk rock band and somehow, by the start of the following week, he was meeting me in front of the school to give me an autographed copy of his bands album. We became friends instantly. It was the quickest friendship that I'd ever been able to form. I felt him swallowing my entire soul each time he smiled and I knew things were different. "This is going to be the boy I marry," I told my best friend on video. "I'll give you a million dollars if you actually marry him," my best friend replied on video. (I love to rub that one in her face.)

Our friendship reached that point where a relationship felt inevitable. The point where you swear that the world explodes each time their arm brushes yours and you are almost certain they feel it, too. Of course, then it all flatlined. "What do you think of so-and-so? I think she likes me," he said to me one day. I went home and cried until my pillow case was completely soaked through. That's when my mix CD collection came to fruition. That's when I went on dates with boys in hopes he would feel jealous or in hopes I could force myself to care about someone else and forget him. It didn't really work that way. That night, January 17th, 2002, I sat burning my latest mix CD and talking to this boy on AIM (showing my age?). He began to tell me how much he liked me. How much he always liked me. How nervous I made him. How he never knew the right thing to do or say. And then, at 11:36 p.m., he asked me to be his girlfriend. I mean, he asked me over AIM (typical!) but it didn't matter. Nothing else really mattered.

We had our first date at a local show the following weekend. He had just gotten his license but my mother let me drive with him because he had manners and no facial piercings or criminal records and had straight A's in school. We barely spoke that entire first date but, halfway through it, he reached for my hand and that was it. My future was sealed. I told him I was going to marry him and he promised me that he was going to marry me.


Through the years, other important dates welcomed themselves into our relationship. I loved our wedding, but I felt that our wedding anniversary date could never make my heart swell with the emotion that our dating anniversary did. Every January 17th that passes, I can still feel myself sitting at that desk burning those CD's. I can still feel myself holding his hand for the first time. I can still feel myself being a fifteen year old girl taken over by such adult feelings, by such deep and immeasurable love.


Today marks thirteen years since the tall, handsome bass player in Mr. Varsity asked me to be his girlfriend. Thirteen years since Punxter36 sent an instant message to KissMeImEmo12 asking the most important question that I've to this day ever been asked. We have been through a lot together since those days of driver's licenses and report cards and high school graduations. We have lived through and loved through the unbelievable joys that life brought us and the deepest of pain and heartbreak. In his 11th grade history project, he wrote that he wanted to be a rockstar for a living and spend life out on tour. In real life, he became an accountant who works tirelessly to provide for our family. I am grateful for so much. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to grow up alongside the one true love of my life. Thirteen years later, I can just barely make out he and Ethan singing The Story So Far by New Found Glory during bedtime and, for a minute, my heart swells the way it did that January evening back in 2002.

Teenagers are notorious for making bad decisions. I've made more than my fair share. But that day, I made the best decision I could ever make. There is no one else I would rather spend my life with. There is no one else I would rather grow up with. There is no one else I would rather kiss goodnight every night for the rest of our lives. There is no better father for our children. There is no better husband in this world.

Happy thirteen years, Punxster36. KissMeImEmo12 loves you even more than I did that day when you looked down at me as you passed me in front of Building 7. I'll love you forever with the same desperation and intensity I loved you with all those years ago as I sat in my bed and swore to my journal that I would never survive the pain from not being loved by you in return. You loved me in return all along and you never stopped loving me in return. You stopped wearing argyle socks pulled up to your knees and I stopped wearing a good five inches of black eyeliner but we never stopped loving one another.

And we never will.

It was always you, in my big dreams.


spare the rod, change the world

My sweet boy,

A hundred million years ago, I was in the 6th grade and my friend received a detention. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed over that slip, rotating it in our hands as if we'd just been handed our first pass to adulthood. That night, I asked my mother if she would be mad if I got a detention. "Not really," she said. "It depends on for what. It's normal to make mistakes. It would be abnormal if you never made them and never got a detention." Two weeks later, I purposefully neglected to turn in a project in hopes I would receive a detention. I did. We sat in a portable and did homework while the teacher read a book at the desk at the head of the class. It wasn't exactly the stuff The Breakfast Club was made out of, but it felt completely magical. I felt so validated. I felt so human.

I'm not telling you to mess up on purpose, of course. But the truth is: you will make mistakes. We all do. It's what people do. We make mistakes, bad judgment calls; we do things that, if given time to think about it again, we probably wouldn't do. Purity is a fallacy; the quest for perfection is boring.

I don't expect you to be the best. I simply expect you to do your best. Sometimes your best is doing or saying something that, given a second chance, you realize you shouldn't have done or said. Realizing that, learning that lesson, that's the best thing for you. What's in your heart is what is best.

People remark often how sweet you are, how kind. I like to think I have had a big hand in that. From the moment you were two pink lines on a pee stick, your father and I were committed to raising you gently and peacefully. I mean, we have access to the internet. We see what a huge chunk of the world thinks about kids who are raised gently and peacefully ("spare the rod, spoil the child," the internet trolls will bark behind their computer screens). Still, we knew in our hearts that it was what was best for you. If it were up to me, you would always only know kindness and warmth. All I can do is my best to ensure that my arms, our home, your world are filled to the brim with kindness and warmth. All I can do is prepare your heart to be the kindness and warmth that the world needs. Spare the rod, save the child; spare the rod, save the world. Spare the rod, change the world.

You, my love, have the power to change the world. You can step out into the big world and paint it with kindness, love and warmth. You can charge hearts and minds. Your best could very well be the best thing that happened to the world. In a world where we limit our children in fear of what the bullies may say or do, I want you to be the warmth and goodness that eradicates the idea of bullies.

I want you to argue with me, even when it's hot and we're trying to leave Target and the 78 year old woman in the Buick keeps honking over and over in hopes to get our spot. I want you to challenge me. I want you to take what you know and teach me something new. I never want you to be in a place where you think you know everything and have nothing else to possibly learn. And, more than that, I never want to be in that place, either. I want you to use your heart and conscience and know that respect begets respect. I want you to know that fear is not respect, that love is not fear. If I have done my best as a parent, you will never fear me but simply respect me as I do you. I want you to do your best when presented with any of life's challenges. I want someone to see you as disobedient if it means taking the path that your heart beat out for you and not the one they've set out in an etiquette blog somewhere. I want you to know that it's okay to fail. It's okay to forget how to spell cat, it's okay to do a science experiment that doesn't pan out, it's okay to fail a test or not be accepted into the college your best friend got accepted into. It's even okay to get a detention one day, in the sixth grade, with visions of Molly Ringwald dancing in your head.

Your best will always be my favorite draft that your life has written.

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