Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Giveaway: Woodrow, the White House Mouse

If you’re trying to help your little ones make sense of U.S. government and the electoral process, Peter and Cheryl Barnes’ books make a great starting place. To help you build your collection, this month’s giveaway is for a copy of Woodrow, The White House Mouse. This artfully-illustrated tale is perfect for introducing younger children to the electoral process and the role of the President. Beginning with the words, “Every four years, like the rest of us do, The mice of the nation elect someone, too,” this book is part fiction, part fact, and wholly enjoyable.

To enter, simply comment on this blog post. I’d love to hear about the Election Day activities you’re planning on doing with your on children, but no partisan politics, please! Please make sure to include your e-mail address so that I may contact the lucky winner. You may earn additional entries by liking Preschool Years at Home on Facebook and/or tweeting about this giveaway. The drawing ends at 11:59 p.m. Friday, September 21. As always, free media mail shipping is offered only within the United States or to APO, FPO, or DPO addresses.

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If you’re looking for other kid-friendly ideas for learning about the elections, please take time to check out my Election 2012 post as well.


Wacky Wednesday

A confused Little Bear woke up in our bed this morning with no memory of how she — or her menagerie of stuffed friends — got there. And so Wacky Wednesday began.

In fact, she’d ended up there because she was congested and had coughed herself awake several times over. And she woke, as she’d gone to sleep the night before, thoroughly miserable — with watery eyes, a runny nose, and a sore throat.

“Mommy, I just want to be with you,” she cried. So I temporarily set aside my “plan” for the day and instead pulled a well-loved copy of Wacky Wednesday off the shelf. (Dr. Seuss has a way of making everything better!) We hunted for all the wackiness in the book, then hunted for more signs of Wacky Wednesday around our own apartment. Since we we’d started the day with two /w/ words, we brainstormed as many more as we could think of, and Little Bear practiced writing the letter Ww on her MagnaDoodle. We read Where the Wild Things Are, listened to Wemberly Worried, checked out the weather forecast, and introduced Baby Bear to the fun of Who Hoots?.

Then, Little Bear was ready to tackle something on her own. She pulled our old Fantacolor Junior Pegboard Set off the shelf, did a couple of picture cards, and showed Baby Bear how to put the pegs in the board (though truth be told, Baby Bear much preferred pulling pegs OFF the board). We played a memory game, then ran some errands.

Making progress …

By early afternoon, Little Bear felt a little more human. She asked if she could color and cut some hearts, so I printed out a page filled with hearts of varying sizes. She colored them, cut them out, and sequenced them from smallest to largest. She also completed a pasting activity, a tracing activity, and a coloring page — which she did surprisingly well, given that trying to control her crayons and color inside lines is not her favorite task!

We took a break to read several Magic Castle Readers, part of an out-of-print vocabulary-building series that I recently found on eBay. Baby Bear listened to the first couple along with Little Bear, then started exploring various nooks and crannies in the office until she discovered a tub filled with dried beans. Little Bear had used the things to practice her scooping, pouring, and measuring skills last year, and I hadn’t wanted to “waste” them (or return them to the kitchen …) afterward, so I stuck them on a shelf. I have to say that I’ve never before seen my 16-month-old focus on a single task for 20 minutes (and given her personality, it may be years before she does so again!). But for today, at least, this simple activity fascinated her:

Fun for little hands …

We wrapped up our formal work for the day by tackling several activities in our thinking skills books from The Critical Thinking Company. Little Bear breezed through a whopping ten activities in Can You Find Me? before I cut her off and worked through two puzzles in Mind Benders Beginning Book 1 (PreK-K). She would gladly have done more, but Baby Bear’s refusal to nap at nap time caught up with us, and she was ready to crash in Mommy’s arms.

Getting good and dirty!

After play time indoors and out, dinner, and baths, we did an informal review of the continents before reading tonight’s bedtime stories, Tikki Tikki Tembo, set in China, and “The Clever Baker,” a Scottish folktale out of The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book.

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Some days …

Mess? What mess???

Want the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of our day? See above. For all the gory details, keep reading.

The alarm detonated far too early this morning. Oh, both the clock and the sun said it was time to start the day. But I’d spent more hours awake than asleep last night, thanks to the EIGHT teeth currently pushing through Baby Bear’s gums. (What can I say? The child does nothing halfway!)

Little Bear heard the alarm and hit the ground running.

“Mommy, does that mean it’s morning now? Can I get out of bed now? Will you go into the living room with me? Can I have a bowl of cereal? And some orange juice? Mommy, are you getting up now?”

“Shhh.” I mumbled. “Don’t wake your sister!”

I staggered into the kitchen, served the requested cereal and orange juice, and had just turned toward the coffee pot when another little voice pierced the morning quiet.

“Mama? Mama? MAMA!” Baby Bear cried, as she burst into the kitchen looking for The Person Who Left Her in Bed All By Herself.

A few minutes of snuggle time, morning nursies, wet diaper removal, and a potty attempt later, Baby Bear was ready to start the day, though NOT ready to accept a dry diaper. I was too tired to care. I wanted — needed — that morning cup of coffee.

… The coffee and I made it almost to the recliner when a disconcerting clatter made me quickly turn to the dining room.

“Mommy,” came a small voice, “I accidentally flipped my whole bowl of cereal off the table.”

And indeed she had. I’m still not sure how she did it, but Little Bear managed to catapult a bowl half full of soggy Cheerios and farm fresh milk from the table top, up into the air, then face down onto her chair. There was milk on the blinds, milk on the wall, milk on three dining chairs, milk on the carpet. There were soggy Cheerios plastered under the table, on the legs of the table, on the wall, on two dining chairs, and on the carpet.

In the midst of the mess sat a wide-eyed little girl, also covered in soggy Cheerios and milk. “Mommy,” she said solemnly, “I don’t know what happened. My bowl just fell off the table and made the biggest mess ever!”

“Yep, it’s a big mess,” I sighed. “A BIG mess. A Mommy-sized mess. Go play with your sister while I clean up.”

… I was about 10 minutes into the clean-up process when I remembered that Baby Bear was still diaperless. So I grabbed a diaper and ran back into the living room … about a minute too late.

“{Baby Bear} just wet the carpet,” Little Bear informed me.

I soaked up as much of the liquid in both rooms as possible, sprayed carpet cleaner on the dining room floor, and sprayed Bac-Out on the living room floor. “Get your shoes,” I told the girls, “we’re going outside.”

Outside usually makes problems disappear. But this morning was hot, and neither girl was at her best. We reached what I thought was a truce, with Baby Bear playing with a dump truck and shovel in one spot, while Little Bear filled a frisbee with twigs in another part of the yard. Then, Baby Bear went to see what her big sister was doing, and I heard a blood-curdling scream. Little Bear came running to me, tears flowing and her hand on the side of her head.

“{Baby Bear} just hit me with the shovel!” she cried. Sure enough, Baby Bear had apparently wanted Little Bear to help her fill her dump truck, so she toddled over and tried to hand Little Bear our metal gardening shovel. When Little Bear didn’t immediately take it, Baby Bear conked her over the head to get her attention.

It was at that point that I decided our safest bet was to head back inside and spend the morning reading. I slathered Arnica gel on the knot on Little Bear’s head, then sent both girls to choose books. Little Bear came back with all of our My First Raggedy Ann books in hand, while Baby Bear hauled as many Karen Katz books as she could carry over to the recliner. Then, both girls piled on top of me and we read for the next hour and a half, with no “crises” beyond a ripped dust jacket and a torn flap. We even managed to squeeze in some social studies, reading about homes around the world in A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World, locating each of the continents on our globe, and exploring life on each continent through our Atlas of People: A First Discovery Book.

As lunch time approached, I considered telling the girls to go play. But with The Shovel Incident still fresh in my mind, I decided instead to let Dora babysit entertain while I fixed lunch. (Bananas, celery with peanut butter, and milk constitute a meal, right?) Had I taken time to think, it might have occurred to me that Baby Bear’s nap time comes right after lunch and that animated television programming doesn’t really help short people unwind and get ready to sleep.

Thankfully, I had a drawer full of fine motor activities ready for Little Bear, and she was eager to tackle them. She completed two cutting activities, a gluing activity, three coloring activities, a couple of tracing activities, and a phonics lesson while Baby Bear fought her afternoon nap. Finally, Baby Bear succumbed to sleep. Mommy Bear needed a break as well, so I logged onto and handed the computer over to Little Bear.

I wish I could say the day settled down after that, but it didn’t.

  • Baby Bear took a headfirst plunge off the recliner.
  • Little Bear poked herself in the eye.
  • Baby Bear tried to eat the sidewalk chalk.
  • Little Bear accidentally erased her sidewalk chalk artwork with the skirt of one of her favorite dresses while sitting on said artwork in an effort to keep Baby Bear from erasing it. (Sigh. Any suggestions for removing “washable” sidewalk chalk stains?)
  • Baby Bear brought a dump truck full of dirt into the house to show me while I was refilling her sippy cup.
  • Little Bear didn’t feel like eating her dinner.
  • Baby Bear happily availed herself of her sister’s half-eaten dinner, dumping the barbecue sauce-covered plate onto the floor in the process.
  • Little Bear announced that she was sunburned.
  • Baby Bear crawled into the tub with her clothes on while I was digging through the medicine cabinet to find aloe for Little Bear’s sunburn.
  • Little Bear started coughing and complaining of a sore throat about half an hour before bedtime.
  • When I brushed Baby Bear’s teeth, I discovered that her tongue was white. Looks like the poor child is dealing with another round of thrush on top of the teething.
  • Oh, and did I mention that Baby Bear has now figured out how to take her diaper off THROUGH her clothing? I may be transitioning her to pocket diapers with snaps sooner than planned … preferably pocket diapers with snaps that are really, really hard to unsnap!

All in all, though, we managed to have fun despite the craziness of the day. We got all of our planned work done and spent close to three hours reading. Little Bear allowed that today was a “great day” and that she hoped tomorrow would be “just like it.” I can only hope and pray that it’s not!

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Labor Day

Labor Day may mark the unofficial end of summer, but someone forgot to share that tidbit of knowledge with our local weather. Thankfully, the triple digit temps generally hold off until noon, so we squeezed in as much outdoor fun as possible today in the relative morning cool.

Daddy Bear wanted to play disc golf this morning, so the girls and I decided to join him. They lost interest in the game by the third hole; but a sprawling, deserted college campus offers plenty of room for little people to run around and explore.

The girls enjoyed chasing bugs, watching birds and squirrels, examining flowers, collecting leaves and acorns, and running barefoot through the grass. Little Bear made patterns from green and brown acorns, while Baby Bear compared the tastes of the two. But the highlight of their morning was the pine trees. Yes, pine trees. Massive pine trees surrounded by huge beds of pine needles.

Pine needles galore!

Little Bear piled her Frisbee full of pine needles, then tossed them up into the air and let them rain down on her. She gathered pine cones, examined them, and counted them. She broke fallen pine twigs in half to see if they still smelled like Christmas. She built a pine needle nest for the squirrels. And she reluctantly moved on from the pine tree “playground” only after getting assurance that we could go back another day.

Beyond the pine trees, both girls enjoyed playing in the grass — inspecting weeds, twigs, blades of grass, rocks, soil, and flowers. No toy ever marketed captures these girls’ interest like a large open space!

Little nature lovers …

Of course, we had to play Peek-a-boo and a quick game of hide-and-seek amid the trees.


As noon approached, Baby Bear decided she’d had enough of the heat. When “Bye-bye!” and “Go! Go! Go!” didn’t get her people moving back toward the air-conditioned car, she decided to take matters into her own hands:

Time to roll!

Little Bear crashed under a shade tree, content to enjoy the morning sun while Daddy finished his game:

Contentment …

Then it was time for lunch, naps, stories, and a couple of episodes of Dora before hitting the pool for a late afternoon swim.

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