Nature's Classroom

2.26.2015

February has been a COLD month.  We've had four or five days of temperatures below zero (breaking all sorts of records), and many of our days have been in the teens or single digits.  (Yesterday my car thermometer registered -2.)

The cold weather has kept our family from going outside and enjoying the snow as we've been choosing indoor activities instead, but this doesn't mean that Lewie hasn't been enjoying the outdoors.  Since he goes to a kindergarten that has "Nature's Classroom" as part of the curriculum, they've been going out on explorations in all kinds of weather.  (Last week, I picked him up in the middle of a snowstorm, and he was outside making a snow fort!) 

Here's a letter that was sent out by his wonderful kindergarten teacher in mid-February:

Dear Families,

What fun we have been having with all of this snow! The children and I have gone on snow hikes, done some sledding and shoveling. Next week, we are going to get out there on snow shoes! Thank you all very much for your cooperation in providing the children with safe and appropriate outdoor gear. It is much appreciated.

Winter has been a time of great inquiry for the children. We have been experimenting with the ice and snow. We learned that liquid flows. It does not have a shape. Water is a liquid. A solid has a shape. It is hard. Ice is a solid. The children have been tracking their adventurers and discoveries in their nature notebooks. They have been drawing and labeling.

In the coming weeks, we will be tapping trees and beginning our maple syrup project. Keep your eye out for more news and information on that.

Last week we read about groundhogs in honor of Groundhogs Day.  We read some silly fiction books about the holiday and funny groundhog characters. We also studied groundhogs and worked with non-fiction materials. We learned some great new vocabulary. We now know what kits are and how groundhogs hibernate in burrows

Through our gardening lessons we have met many objectives:
We understand that change happens to many things
We can describe proper body care such as eating a variety of foods
We recognize that food is fuel for our body
We use observation skills
We understand plant adaptations for winter 
We understand that insects, birds and other living things depend on plants for winter survival

We have been hard at work with our reading! The children are doing beautifully with the literacy centers that I now have in place. They really enjoy rotating through and spending "private time" with me, partner work time with friends, listening time with books on CD and skills reinforcement time on the computer. Reading is great fun and celebrated in our room!
 
 
I have to say that getting letters like these really make me happy that Lewie's attending this kindergarten.  Childhood should be about fun, wonder, exploration, and imagination.  Building snow forts is just as important as learning to read; taking outside hikes is just as important as math drills.
 
I hope many years down the road, Lewie will look back at this time in his life with fondness.  I only wish there were more schools that would adopt this type of curriculum...
 

Happy Valentine's Day Week!

2.16.2015

This year, we're celebrating Valentine's Day for seven straight days.  This decision came partly out of necessity (the snowstorms here have been brutal), but it mostly came out of our desire to celebrate our friends and family for longer than one day.

For us, Valentine's Day Week started last Friday, February 13th.  Lewie had his school Valentine's Day party, and parents were invited to attend.  I was thrilled to be able to use my lunch hour to go participate, and Lewie was ecstatic that I was there. 

Instead of the usual store-bought Valentine's Day cards, we spent Thursday evening making our own heart cards out of construction paper.  We also went to our local pharmacy down the road to buy everyone little gifts.  Lewie picked out pretty pens and stickers for the three girls in his class; "cool" little tow trucks for the two boys in his class;  a colorful scarf for his art and Spanish teacher, Miss Gabby; and a Willow Tree Angel for his very special kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Kranz.

When we picked out the gifts, Lewie immediately started to daydream about what his classmates might buy him.  I stopped him in his tracks: "Lewie, I have an important secret to share with you.  Getting presents is nice and it makes us happy, but giving presents to others is pure joy.  You'll see."  I then proceeded to tell him that we were buying these gifts for our friends because we want to make them happy and to show them how much we love and appreciate them.

The Willow Tree Angel Lewie chose for his teacher because she loves flowers.
 It's called "Sunshine."

Making our heart Valentine's Day cards.


Lewie w/ Mrs. Kranz and his classmates.


Yay for Valentine's Day!!
After Lewie's Valentine's Day party at school, we spent the weekend making sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies to deliver to some of our other special friends this week.  Since we had a snowstorm/blizzard on Valentine's Day, we barricaded ourselves inside.  My husband and I agreed we would have a date night sometime this week, and in the meantime, I'm prepared to use our last four days of "Valentine's Day Week" to show Lewie the true joy of giving.  Just like last year for Random Acts of Kindness Week, we'll be delivering special surprises to unsuspecting friends, family, and even strangers.
  



All set to go!

How was your Valentine's Day?

Miss Kristen

2.10.2015

Like all parents, I am so proud of my little boy.  I am proud of what he learns in school; I am proud of his imagination when he builds amazing objects with LEGOs, and heck, I am even proud of how he can jump and swim under water without holding his nose. (Yes, I'm a pretty typical mom!)

Still, there is one thing that makes me the proudest, and that is that we are raising our child to be one sweet, kind, compassionate soul.  From day one, Little Lewie has been a very sensitive boy who is genuinely concerned about other people's feelings.  He likes making people laugh, and he easily becomes distraught if he thinks Mommy or Daddy might be angry, frustrated, or disappointed in him.  Although I would like to take credit for Lewie's "good behavior," I myself can't really pinpoint whether his loving personality comes from nature or nurture.

As you can imagine, his warmheartedness extends to the classroom.  His teachers adore him, and over the years, we've had teachers offer to babysit just so they could stay connected.  Two of his teachers from last year even came to Lewie's birthday party!

Still, we were pleasantly surprised when Miss Kristen, Lewie's summer camp teacher, called us out of the blue to come visit during her winter break!  Since she was home from college, she asked if she could visit Little Lewie, and so a pizza party was arranged.  She even bought Lewie a special Thomas the Train puzzle and "match" game for Christmas (which was so not necessary)!



Little Lewie was so happy to spend the afternoon with his favorite teacher, and we were absolutely thrilled to see her again too.  In fact, as far as we're concerned, Miss Kristen is now family.  We look forward to another great get-together in the summer when she moves back home from college.

Yes, we've been blessed, even spoiled, to have such amazing teachers for Lewie.  (Even his current teacher, Mrs. Kranz, has been bringing in her son's train toys, so Lewie can enjoy them during "Free Choice Friday.")  I am so happy Miss Kristen reached out to us last month.  Staying in contact with a teacher that's known my son since he was three is pretty special.   

Let it Snow!

2.01.2015

It's hard to believe only a few weeks ago, I was complaining about having a "snowless" winter.  Now we have about 12 inches of snow on the ground due to a blizzard and some other random snow days. 

My colleagues at work want it to end, but while they're praying for an early spring, I'm secretly wishing for a few more weekends of white stuff.  It's fun to play in the snow, and it's even more fun to play in the snow on a day when I would normally have to be at work!

Here are just a few pictures of our 2015 winter adventures both at home and at Woodbury Ski area.

A quick winter shot of Lewie sitting outside on our snowy porch.

Daddy building a snow man.  (We helped, but it was definitely his project!)

Our long, skinny, pine tree from our side yard.  It was once a Christmas tree of ours from the 1980's.
 (Yes, I still live in the same childhood home.  I'll write a post about that someday.)

Playing around when he's supposed to be helping Daddy with the snowman.


Riding on the "magic carpet" to go snow tubing.








I wish I could have taken more action shots of us snow tubing, but quite honestly, standing at the bottom of the mountain put me right in the "line of fire" so to speak.  The tubers were basically bowling balls, and I was the pin ready to be knocked down at any moment from all directions...

While snow tubing has definitely been the highlight of our winter so far, I must say that our snowball fight at home came in a close second.  It was Daddy against Little Lewie and me, and Daddy kept winning by using his Ninja moves to throw us down in the snow. 

I couldn't fight back because quite honestly, I couldn't stop laughing.  Heck, I was laughing so hard, I couldn't even stand up...  Little Lewie made me laugh even harder because he kept saying, "Look Mommy, I'm protecting us," but the reality was that his little snow balls weren't even hitting a target...  We were no match for Daddy; he definitely had the upper hand.  Still, one day, the tables will turn...

Three Whole Days of Fun!

1.22.2015

January has been busy.  It seems like the minute our family returned to school and work from the long Christmas break, we have been operating at full speed (and then some).  It even feels like the days have been blending into one another.

The transition from Christmas break to a full five days of school didn't resonate well for Lewie either. Tears would begin to form in his eyes as he had to say goodbye to us at school, and his hugs became tighter and longer.  "Just one more hug, Mommy!" he'd announce before I left his kindergarten classroom to go to work...

So when this past Saturday finally arrived, we decided to kick away the usual routine of laundry, errands, and housework.  Instead, I'm happy to report that friends and family-time came first.

Saturday - On Saturday my husband had a chance to play his new bass guitar with friends from college; meanwhile, my mom, Lewie, and I went to the movies to see Paddington.  Boy, we sure did enjoy watching Paddington and his innocent blunders as he stows away and tries to navigate the world of London.  Lewie loved the movie, but he admitted that there were some parts that made him "nervous," such as when Paddington starts a flood in the bathroom and ends up riding down a wave of water in the family bathtub.  (Sometimes I forget he's only six--it only makes sense that he would find some parts a little overwhelming.)


Courtesy of the Paddington.com Movie Website
After the movie, we treated ourselves to milkshakes at a nearby diner and talked about the movie.  Paddington was Little Lewie's favorite character, the father was my mom's favorite character (he's a risk analyst, which is just like my mom's work in insurance), and the mother was my favorite character.  I really enjoyed hearing my son's opinions of the movie; it reminded me that he's now a little boy that has the ability to think and reason for himself.

Sunday - On Sunday, we went to church and had the joy of visiting family friends for some homemade pizza!  Our friends spoiled us not only with yummy pizza but with a delicious chocolate cream pie for dessert too.  While the four of us (Sue, John, my husband and I)  blabbed in the kitchen about life and recent happenings, Little Lewie and his good friend Ryan enjoyed playing LEGO Minecraft in the next room.  Every now and again, they would bring their adventures into the kitchen only to head right back to the living room.  It was interesting to learn that both boys had recently developed a fascination with Minecraft, which seems to be the trendy, pop-culture choice for young boys these days.

Ryan and Lewie

Monday - On Monday (Martin Luther King Day), we ended our three day vacation with a trip to Roller Magic.  We discovered that Lewie outgrew his little, adjustable roller skates, so we had to buy him rentals, which had must faster wheels than his other skates.  Our little guy had a hard time just standing in them, never mind "rolling" in them.  Still, he practiced with Daddy and me on the carpet and had a chance to go out onto the rink a handful of times.  I left feeling hopeful about his progress and wondering if I might be able to fit in weekly trips to Roller Magic so that Lewie can get the practice he needs...  It would be fun to have a weekly, family Roller Magic date night!



Of course we had to stop for dinner after Roller Magic!  We definitely worked up an appetite.

Now, of course, it's back to school and work, but we were happy to enjoy these three days!  We're looking forward to February break, which is on the horizon...  I can't wait!

Lewie-isms (Age 6)

1.13.2015

Every now and again, I'll write a post about Lewie's favorite and funny expressions.  I have four Lewie-ism posts, the earliest one starting at age three.    Back then, I'll admit, I thought the cute sayings would disappear by the time my son turned five, but I'm happy to learn that kids don't grow up that quickly...  There is still plenty of cuteness at age 6!

Lewie's School Picture
 Here's just a few of the many six year-old conversations we have in this house:

Watching Youtube...
Lewie:  "I can't understand this video.  We speak in different English."

On the way to school...
Lewie:  "Mommy, please drive slow.  I get motionable when you drive too fast."

A normal day of school and work...
Lewie:  "Mommy, can you stay home with me."
Me:       Lewie, I can't.  You have to go to school, and I have to go to work."
Lewie:  (Grabbing his pretend phone)  "Hi, Hi Boss.  I can't come to work today because I'm perfectly  ill.  Can you get somebody else to do it?"
Me:      (After laughing) "Lewie, were you calling your place of work or mine?"
Lewie:  "That was your work Mommy.  You don't have to go today."

A conversation about life on the trampoline:
Lewie:  "Mommy, where is Uncle Terry now?"
Me:       "Lewie, he's up there (pointing to the clouds) with God in heaven."
Lewie:  "What is heaven like?"
Me:       "It's a beautiful place where you are happy and at peace."
Lewie:  "Are there lots and lots of trains there?"
Me:       (Wondering where he's going with this...)  Yes.
Lewie:   "Mommy..."
Me:       "Yes..."
Lewie:   "I wish we were in heaven right now..."

The day after Christmas:
Lewie:  "Mommy, Tootie is still here...Tootie is still here."
Me:       (Recognizing that Tootie, our Elf on the Shelf, should have left.)  Oh, well, I think he wanted to stay a day longer to watch you enjoy your presents."
Lewie:   "Yea.  I want to write a thank you letter to Santa."

Other silly mispronunciations or sayings...
"That looks vamiliar."
"I love my stuffed aminals."
"Mommy, I am going to build you the awesomist Lego train.  It's going to be so big!"
"We are going to Florida, Tampa."
"Santa bought me a "Tindle" for Christmas."  (He really means a Kindle.)

Oh, to be six again... It's still very much an age of wonderment, curiosity, and joy.   My little boy never sleeps past 7 a.m. for fear that he might miss out on life, and he never wants to go to bed before 10 p.m.  (We struggle with earlier bedtimes because then he's awake by 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.)  We always end the day with the same question, "Mommy, can you read me three stories?"

I want to bottle up this age forever... 


Happy 2015!

12.31.2014

Yesterday we took a quick one-day trip to New York City.  My son (who continues to adore trains) had his very first opportunity to take the train into the city and then take the subway to Times Square.  The City, just as we expected, was mobbed for the holiday, so it took a little extra time to get anywhere.  Still, we didn't hear a single complaint from Little Lewie about the long lines or the waiting...he was just too mystified by the tall buildings, the lights, and all the people.

I must admit that it was exhilarating to see the City start setting up for New Year's Eve.  The street barriers were already out and in position, and there were tons of trucks everywhere delivering alcohol, food, and ice.  I could already feel the energy.  One day...just one day...I'll be there to see the ball drop!

Starting our trip at Grand Central Station.

Lewie's first trip to the Big Apple and Grand Central.


Times Square (You can already see the police barriers lining the streets in preparation for New Year's Eve.)

So much fun!!


Rockefeller Center...

(So happy to have a picture of the three of us...)





The Lego Store's "replica" of Rockefeller Center.

On this New Year's Eve Day, as I reflect back on 2014, I must say that it's been a year of mixed blessings and emotions.  In the very same month, we both welcomed a new little baby cousin to the family and then lost a cherished uncle.  Our father-in-law became more ill but still kept up the strength to stay home and be with his family during the holidays. 

On the home front, my little boy started kindergarten and has matured exponentially in comparison to years before...  I love his cherished age of six as Christmas, Santa, and the holidays in general mean more to this little guy; still my heart misses years past when this little toddler wobbled his way to the Christmas tree and was satisfied playing with Christmas ornaments all day long.  My husband's and my marriage has grown stronger, but as a couple that both works full-time, we're still learning how to balance the ever delicate schedule of work, household chores, family, friends, and free-time.

At work, I received an unexpected promotion, which both provided more income while also requiring more responsibility.... 

Yes, 2014 has been a year of "trade-offs" so to speak.  For each new blessing has also come a new hardship or a new lesson to be learned.  Still, it's been a good year as our own little family has been healthy and has had many, many moments of laughter and smiles.

This 2015, I'm keeping my New Year's Resolutions simple.  Yes, I still have a list of goals for myself like eating healthier, spending more quality time with friends and family, and being the best mom and wife I can be...  Still, my main resolution, like last year, is to LIVE, LAUGH, and LOVE.  Each year seems to go by faster and faster, and so when I start feeling like life is at maximum speed, I need to take a day off (or two) and remember my priorities, first and foremost, are to making lasting memories with my loved ones while I am blessed to have them with me.

Happy 2015 to you and your beautiful families.  May it be a year of Happiness, Love, and Laughter!