Button Snowflake Decorations

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Eli is so excited to be living in a place where we will get snow this year. The first week we moved here last August he asked me excitedly if there would be snow when he woke up in the morning. For a four year old, these last three months have been a long wait. We still haven’t seen any snow but the temperatures have been getting low enough that it is at least possible. (I know many of my friends and families in other parts of the country are drowning in it right now.)

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I recently saw this seasonal decoration idea in my Facebook newsfeed. It is so simple and self-explanatory that I didn’t even follow the link at the time and now can’t remember the original source.

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I have a big basket of buttons, and many of them white as I never throw away a shirt without first saving the buttons. I had the kids sort out a couple of little bowls of white ones for this project and I glued popsicle sticks and tongue depressors with the hot glue gun. IMG_3324

I let the kids squeeze their own Elmer’s glue (hand-over-hand for the 20 month old, of course) on the snowflake forms and then place buttons along the lines of glue. IMG_3322

This is an excellent fine motor activity. I let Eli use the smaller popsicle stick snowflakes with tiny buttons while Zoe did the tongue depressor ones with the bowl of larger buttons. Zoe loved squeezing out the glue but the feeling of glue on her hands drove her to distraction. After using a few wipes she was ready to get at it again and did a good job of carefully placing the buttons on without getting her hands coated again.

IMG_3330Now our button snowflakes are floating down over the dollhouse.

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When they were finished Eli and Zoe played together with the rest of my buttons and their garbage truck for the longest time. 🙂

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Letter to Zoe, 20 Months

Dear Zoe,

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Today is one of those rare days when both you and your brother are taking a nap… at the same time to boot! I guess even this nasty cold making the rounds in our family has its perks because I’ve been wanting a chance to sit down and write a letter to you for quite a while.

You are loving the sesonal changes in our new home so far... so very different from California!

You are loving the seasonal changes in our new home so far… so very different from California!

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A lot has happened since I last wrote. Your father was offered a job in Virginia, and six weeks after we first heard of the possibility we were here. It’s almost been three months now and our heads are finally no longer spinning. I received a call from the Regional Center that you no longer qualified for services as you had caught up developmentally just before we left California! Now your days are spent at home with me and your brother who began homeschooling this year. We have so much fun together.

During a relatively warm rain you and Eli played outside having the time of your lives... I love that you have so much more opportunity to experience Nature in all of her forms here.

During a relatively warm rain you and Eli played outside having the time of your lives… I love that you have so much more opportunity to experience nature in all of her forms here.

You had NEVER before been so dirty!

You had NEVER before been so dirty!

It has been interesting to me that most everything I do with him you are able to jump right in on as well. In fact, on many days, you are more interested in any planned activities I have than your brother who loves free play with every fiber of his soul. You LOVE to paint, glue, write and draw (which of course look just the same though you are pretty specific as to which activity you are engaging in)… as long as it doesn’t get on your hands! We’ve also been shocked to find that you quite naturally already hold a pen or pencil with the correct three point grasp down toward the bottom, just like you’re supposed to.

You are definitely going through a "pointillism" stage... you love to paint dots, saying "dot, dot, dot" as you apply each one.

You are definitely going through a “pointillism” stage… you love to paint dots, saying “dot, dot, dot” as you apply each one.

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You saw this patch of dirt as we walked, shrieked “draw!” and threw yourself down to do just that.

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Language continues to grow exponentially each day it seems. Two word phrases are common and we hear three word sentences a few times each day. You are using the pronouns “I”,  “me” and “you” correctly and often. You are obsessed with pointing and telling me the names of things to the extent that it is really hard to get you to settle down to nap. For some reason sleep has a hard time competing with “door!”, “light!”, “window!”, “pillow!”, etc. You surprise me with the words you already know and I don’t know where you have picked them up… “Eagle!” while holding up a puppet in the store the other day, and “Hawk!” while pointing at the large bird soaring in a large circle above us.

You are now engaging in pretend play. Here you are having a tea party with your giant sock monkey.

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You are able to enter into Eli’s elaborate play scenarios to enough of an extent that he seeks you out to play with him constantly. He refers to you as “my partner, Zoe” and tells you that you are his best friend multiple times a day. He decided you would both be police officers for Halloween… you didn’t mind a bit.

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Saying “cheeeeese!”

You reciprocate his affection very well. You feel you have to do anything he is doing…

Doing everything just like Eli extends to wearing his underwear superhero-style.

Doing everything just like Eli extends to wearing his underwear superhero-style.

The best way to get you to eat is to just let you graze off of his plate… thankfully he isn’t territorial at all. You are still holding steady at a diminutive 20 lbs.

When we are out of the house you rarely will hold my hand but will insist on holding his, whether he want to or not. The view we get walking behind you is about the cutest thing ever! Well, that and turning around in the car to see the two of you quietly riding along holding hands in the backseat.

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You love anything and everything with fur (or feathers) and breath. You fully expect to have a little love-fest with each and every dog you pass on the street, but are beginning to learn to wait until given permission and assurance that the dog is child-friendly. And this mama is thankful that squirrels aren’t so very easy to catch.

Petting a 3 month old Great Pyrenees... You love it when dogs lick you and squeal "Kiss! Kiss!" every time.

Petting a 3 month old Great Pyrenees… You love it when dogs lick you and squeal “Kiss! Kiss!” every time.

Our new neighborhood is full of deer and you check out the window for them often saying “Deer? Deer?” followed occasionally by “DEER!”, or more often (deep sigh) “No deer….”. You enjoy watching birds at the bird feeders and take the job of refilling them quite seriously.

IMG_2918While we still have no pets (not sure we’re ready yet for a dog and I’ve developed a most unfortunate allergy to cats… I really hope that by the time you read these letters that our pet-less-ness will be a thing of the distant past), we plan to get chickens this coming Spring. I’ve long wanted to have them for the sake of the fresh eggs, and since moving to our new home in the forest their deer tick-eating habits make them even more desirable, but a recent visit to the home of one of Daddy’s co-workers who has a small flock sealed the deal.

IMG_2199IMG_2202IMG_2275You chased those poor chickens until one just gave up in exhaustion and let you sit next to her and pet and pet and pet her. Who knew chickens were such a rich source of toddler entertainment as well? It is becoming increasingly evident that you need some form of critter to love on and call your own.

The quest for independence is a hallmark of this stage of toddler-hood and you are not immune. You have to climb everything, blow your own bubbles and now prefer the “big kid’s swings” at the play ground.

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The last couple of weeks have been especially sweet for our family as we were visited by 2 grandparents and 3 aunts. You are completely smitten by your Grandpa Jim (and he with you, I might add).

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Enjoying the music of a street musician with Grandma Susan. Just after this photo was taken the two of you participated in an adorable session of toe tapping to the beat. You had it down!

It helped that on the day he and Grandma Susan had to leave Aunt Jacki arrived.

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Now the countdown is on to when we will see them all again over Christmas.

IMG_2530And so, dear sweet Zoe, you have little glimpse of yourself at a most adorable stage in your life. You are a constant source of joy and amusement. Your father and I feel so blessed that we get to share our lives with you.

Since moving I’ve managed to step up my game a little bit by posting what you and Eli are up to a few times a week on Facebook for our friends and relatives who are now so very far away. Even though you are not getting the monthly letters like your brother did, I hope you will have access to those archives when you are old enough to be interested in them, for there you are now well documented :-).

I love you so very, very much!

Mama

Homeschooling Preschool- The Bat Unit

We’ve been slowly getting started with our homeschooling journey as we settle into our new lives here in Virginia. Eli is still just preschool-aged and little Zoe is just along for the ride so we haven’t done any purchasing of curriculum or investing in any programs. I’m mostly taking a play-based approach and following the Eli’s lead as to what he is interested in exploring. After a steady diet of all things police and fire-fighter related with Eli giving no indication of moving on anytime soon though, I was in the mood to push for just a little more variety. It being October, it seemed to be a wonderful time to learn about BATS!

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Eli had a lot of fun with a little face painting… (Zoe not so much!)

rice sensory bin with bats

Little plastic bats frolicked in the rice bin, until they escaped and are even now being found in odd places around the house. They worked well for counting and making up little addition and subtraction stories.

bat books from the library

We brought home a bunch of bat books from the library to read together. Eli found it interesting that bats come in many different colors and sizes.

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We made a Halloween bat garland out of a couple of empty egg cartons and he really enjoyed mixing colors to match some of the bats we had read about.IMG_1719

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Zoe also got in on the painting, but found it more fun to just paint her work tray.

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Here in Virginia we have encountered a horrible problem of mosquitoes. They especially love my boy and he reacts to the bites so each one swells up to a quarter or half-dollar size. The first couple of days we were here he got 51 bites even with bug spray on! (We have since found Avon’s Skin-So-Soft to be much more effective.)

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Because of this we are quite appreciative of the fact that a bat can consume up to 600 mosquitoes an hour. We purchased a bat house from Amazon.com and are hopeful it will be occupied come Spring.

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It has to be hung at least 15 feet up so as we were scratching our heads over if we were going to need to go out and buy a tall ladder just for this job a group of teenage boys came to our door looking for yard work. I think it was the first time anyone had ever asked them to hang a bat house but they were happy to do it.

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One theme that Eli really grabbed onto during our time studying bats was that of being orphaned. It was a theme of a few of the different storybooks that we read or watched being read on the iPad. We learned that up to one in ten baby bats are not the biological offspring of the mother raising them. Some of the mothers that go off to hunt in the evening never return, usually due to predation, and some babies die during the mother’s absence. Bereft mama bats will then adopt abandoned babies. Since then he has been playing through a lot of scenarios where my husband and I die and he and Zoe have to go live with  another family. (Usually it is Caillou’s Mom and Dad… so he builds rocket ships to take him into cartoon-land.) This isn’t what I envisioned being his take-away when I thought it would be fun to study bats, but it has opened up a great opportunity to discuss foster care and adoption with him. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. After two years of classes and jumping through the required hoops we were in the process of waiting to have a foster child placed with us as part of the foster care system’s adoption program when I became pregnant with Eli. In fact the day I called the social worker to tell her I was pregnant and needed our file to be placed on hold, she said she had been just about to call me because they finally had a little boy to place with us. I often wonder about and pray for that child… who he was and where he ended up.

There is a lot that we didn’t do in our bat study and I’m sure we will hit this topic again when Eli and Zoe are older. I was surprised that he didn’t show much interest in echo-location but he didn’t so we moved along. We’ve also done a lot that hasn’t been bat related. My biggest goal at this point is being accomplished… Eli is really enjoying learning at home.IMG_1742Thanks for reading!

Karen