Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

No Guarantees …

As  I sit down to write tonight, I’m not even sure where to begin. I’m still reeling from the senseless tragedy that unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday morning. I cannot even comprehend the fear the victims experienced in their final moments or the pain in the hearts of those they left behind.

I spent much of Friday glued to the computer screen. I refused to turn on the television news because I did not want to burden my own young children down with the heaviness of the situation, but I surfed from news site to news site to keep abreast of developments. I guess in some way my former journalist’s mind hoped that getting answers to when, where, what, who, why, and how would somehow help me make sense of it all. But each round of news updates brought more questions than answers, and by nightfall, I finally realized that no report would ever make the tragedy make sense. Because it was senseless.

A broken man in a broken world did the unspeakable.

Breaking into what should have been a place of safety, he snuffed out 26 lives … silencing laughter, destroying potential, shattering dreams. His vicious act not only tore through the hearts of 26 families that cruel morning, but dealt a crushing blow to the carefree innocence of every child in that school and countless children beyond. … There’s just no way to “make sense” of a crime like that.

Ultimately, I found myself searching for lessons in the tragedy, and one that stood out above others was that there are no guarantees in life. There is no place I can take or send my children and guarantee their safety. My knee-jerk reaction would be to keep them home, virtually tethered to my side. Yet even that is no guarantee of safety — or even of tomorrow.

So how am I choosing to respond to the events of December 14, 2012? By making the most of the moments I do have with my precious girls. Yesterday we had a picnic at the park, played outside, read stories, sang songs, and decorated a gingerbread house. Today we went to church, then went out for lunch. I forgot Baby Bear’s bib, but somehow ketchup and honey mustard stains didn’t seem like such a big deal. We came home, piled in the recliner, and watched Adventures In Lalaloopsy Land. We went outside and played freeze tag and hide-and-go-seek, and for once, I didn’t worry about the noise. We accepted a last minute invitation to join in a birthday party for a new neighbor. We skipped naps and ate birthday cake close to dinner time. Baby Bear crashed about 5 p.m., but instead of fretting over what a late nap would do to bedtime, I chose to enjoy holding my sleeping baby and listening to my bigger girl play happily in her blanket fort. DH seized part of the quiet time to introduce Little Bear to Ticket To Ride. She’s not old enough to play the game as designed, but she enjoyed collecting cards and building trains, and she especially enjoyed one-on-one time with Daddy. Baby Bear hit the ground running about 7 p.m., eliminating all chances of an 8:30 bedtime. So I put a tired Little Bear to bed at the usual time and enjoyed a couple of rare hours of one-on-one play time with Baby Bear.

Nothing I do can change what happened on December 14. No amount of tears will put those precious children back in their mothers’ arms. But the choices I make today, tomorrow, and in the days ahead can make a difference in the lives of the two precious girls I still hold in my own arms, and I pray that I use each moment to its fullest potential.

… Because life comes with no guarantees.

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Christmas Time’s A Comin’!

We’ve been counting down the days until Christmas this month — a great way to sneak backward counting, beginning subtraction, time concepts, and various other math concepts into the daily routine! Little Bear turned our Christmas countdown blocks to the number 14 this morning, then squealed with excitement when she realized that 14 days equaled two weeks.

During my classroom teaching days, I found the days leading up to Christmas almost torturous. It was a constant struggle to keep excited little people on task, on schedule, and focused on The Curriculum with all the excitement of the winter holidays in the air. Now that my “class” has been reduced to my own two girls, I can breathe a silent prayer of thanks that we had no rigid schedule to observe and no curriculum that must be completed by a certain date. Instead, we’re free to follow their interests … which at present seem to center on CHRISTMAS.

So what did we do today?

We read … a lot.

We read the Biblical account of the journey of the wisemen and read a retelling of the same story from The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. We read a fictionalized narrative about Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem, their search for a room, and the Holy Child’s birth in a stable from The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book along with several traditional Christmas tales from other parts of the world taken from the same book. We even made a blanket fort in the living room and curled up inside it to read a stack of just-for-fun Christmas books (along with all the Maisy books and Karen Katz books Baby Bear insisted on adding to the read-aloud stack).

We did crafts.

Little Bear thought we needed a wreath on the door, so I picked up a $2 foam wreath craft kit at Hobby Lobby and helped the girls put it together this morning. It might look like cheap foam to the rest of the world, but Little Bear dubbed it a “masterpiece” and couldn’t wait to show it to Daddy. We also fingerpainted Christmas trees to be decorated with sticker “ornaments” tomorrow.

We sang carols.

We sat around just listening to Christmas music and enjoying the lights on the tree. (Doesn’t every child of the South deserve to hear “Thistlehair the Christmas Bear” at least a few times each holiday season???)

And somewhere a long the way, we managed to squeeze in a phonics lesson, a bit of handwriting, a couple of Mind Benders puzzles, and at least half a dozen Can You Find Me? riddles … along with a couple of board games, some outside playtime, and plenty of indoor dress-up and make believe fun.

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Say what? It’s December???

Well, the calendar may say that today is December 1st, but the weather tells an entirely different story. We’ve still got afternoon temperatures in the 80s and signs of autumn all around.

This morning, the girls and I went on a leaf hunt. We matched leaves to trees, reviewed the parts of a leaf, then collected the prettiest leaves we could find to make leaf creatures.

Little artists …

We created a leaf person —

Leaf person …

— and a leaf turkey —

Leaf turkey …

before Little Bear decided that the sun was entirely too bright and that she’d had enough outdoor crafting for the day. After the girls ran and played for a bit, we did some quick leaf rubbings to preserve nature’s display of autumn finery.

Leaf rubbings

Then we headed inside for some more traditional December fun. Little Bear narrated her annual letter to Santa, signed it, and decorated it:

Letter to Santa

Once the letter was finished, we headed to our local toy store to deliver it and take pictures with the Man in Red. Unfortunately, Little Bear panicked when she actually saw him and refused to go near him. Baby Bear, on the other hand, saw jingle bells and candy canes and was all over him.

Pictures with Santa …

Oh, well, one out of two isn’t too bad!

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