Monday, August 31, 2009

Laundry Wrangling

Howdy Pardner!

Who wants to do laundry the traditional way?

Not us. Boring!

Why not wrestle up your dirty clothes, corral them into their pens and gallop them into the bathhouse?

That's the way a cowboy does laundry.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Love Notes

For the Picnic Post at ABC's and 123's today, the topic is encouragement. How do we encourage our children, spouses, co-workers, friends, etc. I immediately thought of love notes.

Love notes have a special place in my heart. From as early in my life as I can remember, I have cherished the little notes given to me. My mother is a fabulous encourager. She was constantly sneaking little notes into lunch boxes, suitcases, backpacks, on pillows and in drawers as I grew up. She had the uncanny gift of knowing what to say and when to say it. She still writes little notes and it's one of the many reasons why I love her.

My grandparents served missions for our church when I was younger, one in Atlanta, GA and another in Mexico City, Mexico. I loved writing to them and loved receiving letters even more. With them far away, I loved opening the mailbox to find a colorful postcard or letter with my grandmothers beautiful, artistic script, or my grandpa's bold, clear accountant printing. It made me realize they really were close by in spirit. What a unique window into their lives, and now, with Grandpa gone, cherished treasures.

My husband served a mission for two years in Mexico soon after we met. With letters as the only form of communication permitted, we were able to encourage one another in our own paths. We wrote happy, supportive, news-filled pages, and kept the "mushy stuff" to a bare minimum. Oh how I pined for those posts! Now that we are married, those letters are a little peek into our past and into the years that really formed so much of who we are today, as individuals and as a couple.

I still get the occasional love note from my hubby, and they mean the world to me. I love sneaking a note into his lunch or onto his pillow every so often, too. You gotta keep the romance alive.

My very favorite part of the day when I was teaching was "good news time." I would take a few minutes at the end of the day to highlight something wonderful I saw one of my students doing and I would write them a little good news note to take home with what I saw them do. It was a chance to recognize and reinforce the good deeds that were done in our room. I would always play up the good deed and how fabulous this child was to the class before giving the student's name. Then, the child would come up, get their good news note and enjoy a little applause from their classmates.

Because I have been on the receiving end of so many hand-written treasures, I feel the need to pass this tradition along to my children too. I wrote a simple I love you note and slipped it into my oldest's backpack on the first day of preschool. A little tangible reminder that Mommy loves him on that important day of firsts. Even though my little ones cannot read, I love writing them little love letters and reading them aloud. I love Valentines Day for the excuse to be a mushy-gushy mom to two little boys who would rather be crashing cars or playing in the dirt.

I truly believe that a hand-written note says more than a simple spoken thank you or I love you. There is something stronger about professing your feelings on paper, a commitment of sorts. In the world of instant messages and express lanes, and fast-fading fads, the hand-written letter is a welcome, slower, enduring, change of pace.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sticker I Spy Art

Here is a simple little activity we did (when my brain returned temporarily from its vacation...).

I have many random stickers accumulated over the years, so we put them to good use yesterday afternoon.

After reading some of our favorite I Spy books, we created our own I Spy art, using stickers. We looked at some pages in the books and I pointed out how many different things were hiding in the pages and how much more fun it was when there was more variety. (This was for the benefit of my car-loving son who probably would have just stuck with car stickers, literally.) I simply placed a pile of stickers on the table, and let the kids stick away. They loved it, and then we played "I Spy" with their masterpiece.

Stick away my friends!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mental Vacation

I know I haven't posted much lately.
I think my brain is already on vacation in California.
Enjoying the cooler weather and ocean breezes.
On the beach.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Perfect Potty Practices

A few weeks ago, after cleaning up another overflowing toilet (I will spare you the grisly details. Thank you Mike for being our super cleaner...), we decided that enough was enough. Andrew has been potty trained for a long time now, but I guess we just didn't do a thorough enough job of explaining how the toilet works, or what to do if it isn't working.

Things like, you don't need to use half of the roll of toilet paper in one sitting. If it doesn't flush the first time, it probably won't flush the second, or third, or tenth time.

After a little talk about what not to do in the bathroom, we made this little book as a reminder of some of the what to do's in the bathroom. He told me the rules, I wrote them on the pages and he illustrated the pages. It stays in the bathroom and is reviewed as needed. I think it worked. So far, no overflowing toilets. I'll keep my fingers crossed...

I will run quickly to the bathroom so I won't have an accident.

Use only a little bit of toilet paper.

Flush one time.

Get mom or dad if it doesn't flush all the way.

Wash your hands (no playing in the water).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Off to School

At 6:25am, my sweet Andrew slipped onto my side of the bed and curled up beside me. I don't think he was awake just yet. I enjoyed the few moments of quiet before the loud vibrating of Mike's cell phone startled us out of dreamland. (Seriously, who knew that a phone could vibrate loud enough to wake one up?)

6:45am and the morning routine began. Our new routine. My baby is going to school today. I realize he's only in preschool, and it is just 3 hours, 4 days a week, not the whole day, but this is monumental. We brushed our teeth, did hair, put on clothes (checked to make sure he could button and unbuton his shorts himself), checked and re-checked the backback (breakfast money- check, I love you note from Mommy- check, no sneaky cars in the little pocket- double check), filled the brightly colored Cars waterbottle, took a few first day picures, said a morning family prayer, and we were off by 7:35.

As we rushed, hand in hand, to the little fenced-in playground, the rain gently drizzled down. I kissed my baby goodbye, smiled and told him to have a wonderful day. He gladly got into line with his little classmates and smiled a big boy smile. Only for a second did I see that look of uncertainty when I kissed him and he knew I wasn't going inside. Then he was gone into his room, in an instant. I was brave. I didn't cry, although I admit that I am just a bit as I sit and type this. Maybe the sky mercifully spilt a few tears so I wouldn't have to on this most important of mornings.

He's off to his first adventure in academia without me as his guide.

I have been preparing the both of us for this day for over 4 years. Up until now, I have been the navigator in his learning. I have been the captain of the ship, the encourager, the fellow discoverer, the cheerleader of each new skill mastered. From smiling, to sitting up, to self-feeding, to walking, to talking, to potty training, to buttoning buttons, to writing his name and learning the abc's and 123's, I have been the teacher. I must now pass this torch to another and stand in the background as the support system (although I will never truly give up my role as a teacher). I have to admit, this is difficult. There was a time where I felt I could continue to be his teacher forever. After all, I have the training and experience. A quiet voice assured me that I needed to share this wonderful boy, and I knew this was the right choice now.

I still want to be there, but I realize that for my boy, no longer a baby, progress is best now in a new classroom. He needs the experience of learning with others, the chance to resolve the little conflicts with his peers, the chance to experience the joy of learning with a new guide. Those things will allow him to stretch and grow. I know it is something that I could not give him alone. I am so blessed to live in an area with wonderful schools and good teachers. Sometimes your chicks just need the chance to fly. How grateful I am that I could be central in his learning for his first few years. I know I will continue to be there to share in his journey, learning apart and together, for many years to come.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Too Much Love

(Image from

Yesterday, in the middle of cooking a large meal, in the midst of pots and pans and things in the oven, rolls that didn't want to rise, and impatient and hungry little boys, my husband wrapped his arms around me, dipped me and kissed me. I stopped worrying about dinner and kissed him back.

Doesn't every woman want to be swept off their feet?

In the middle of a giggle from me as Mr. Croft kissed my neck, Andrew proclaimed, "You guys have too much love in there!"

Too much love? Mike said, "Mommies and Daddies can't have too much love!" and kissed me again, with our boys looking on.

Is there such a thing as too much love? In a world declaring the need for me, me, me, there seems to be no room for "we". We would all be better off if we just took a moment and thought about fulfilling another's needs instead of our own. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of life, we all need to be reminded that we are genuinely loved, and soak up those moments. (Thank you handsome husband!)

Dinner will still get ready on time. The kids will get fed. You'll always have the dishes to clean later. The difference is that you and your spouse will have fed your marriage, and you will have taught your children that there can't be too much love in your home.

Love is taking time to recharge your relationship, even if it means ignoring dinner and letting the dishes remain dirty for a bit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Now That's Talent!

I have always felt that my children were filled with talents galore.

As a "totally unbiased mom" I know this is true. (All moms understand this truth.)

I find it amusing that Ben's latest talent is turning any mealtime into art time. Do you know a toddler who can get one tablespoon of peanut butter to spread from the top of his head to the tips of his toes?

Now that is talent, baby!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to School Read Alouds

This week's prize picnic topic is storytelling. I am not a great make up your own story person, but my family loves read alouds. With my big boy starting preschool next week (!!!) we have been dedicating reading time to some great "get ready for school" books. Here are some of my favorites.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (be in the right state of emotion for this one, I almost always cry...)

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
(can you tell I really love Keven Henkes books?)

Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London

David Goes to School by David Shannon

Margaret and H.A. Rey's Curious George's First Day of School

If You Take A Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus

Lastly, we have been LOVING the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. We are currently reading number three in the series. I only read a few chapters a day, so it's not overwhelming. Then, before we read the next day, we review what was going on before. Even though Junie B. is a bit naughty, it has actually been a springboard into some great discussions about what we should do to behave.

Reading aloud is a great way to bond with your children. It encourages them to talk about their own feelings and emotions. It shows your children that you love reading and encourages them to read on their own. Little ones can read favorite stories by turning the pages and retelling the story in their own words. Those starting to read can follow along and read a special word with you (for example, have them read all of the "my's" in the book), or stop an sound out one or two words along the way. Chapter books are a great tool for encouraging sharper listening skills and promoting imagination as they have to see the pictures in their minds. Happy reading! Hop over to ABC's and 123's for more storytelling ideas.