The BEST Countdown to Christmas EVER!

Book Advent Calendar

Cape Elizabeth, Maine – Stop EVERYTHING and do this…. RIGHT NOW! People, I stumbled across an idea that has changed our countdown to Christmas. Instant family tradition material… to be passed down for generations.

Normally our Advent Calendar is filled with chocolate. NOT THIS YEAR.

Because someone mentioned a life changing concept… a BOOK. ADVENT. CALENDAR.

That’s right, TWENTY-FOUR books wrapped up under the tree. Each package labeled only with a number.

I know what you are thinking…. this sounds EXPENSIVE. Not so! This isn’t about getting 24 NEW books. This is about unwrapping a moment together under the tree. In our collection of 24 books, we have some brand-spanking new books, some gently used books (picked them up for a buck a piece), and books we already own. Friends, wrap up some library books!

Book Advent Calendar

Make it yours, make it perfect for your family. Let it reflect all the wonderful things you celebrate this time of year.

NO, this is NOT about getting 24 presents… this is about going on 24 adventures, together, all quietly waiting for us in the pages of a book. A surprise that takes us places…TOGETHER.

Now that we have a kindergartener in the house, his teacher is emphatic that we fan the flames of a true, deep, and abiding LOVE of LITERACY. I can’t think of a better way. BOOKS + ANTICIPATION + SPECIAL TIME TOGETHER + TWINKLY LITTLE LIGHTS = well, look at these faces…

Happy Readers!Happy Giggly Readers

Happy Holidays!

Anna

An Island Time Forgot (No, this is not the title of a book, but a real place you can visit!)

Swan Island, Maine

Swan Island, Maine (Not to be confused with Swan‘s Island, Maine) – When our boat left the banks of Richmond, Maine, crossed the Kennebec River, and docked on Swan Island, I had no idea that we’d just traveled back in time to the 18th century.

But when we took the island’s only road up the hill, there was no question.

Swan Island Historic House

Swan Island, Maine is home to an abandoned town.

Swan Island Salt Box

Five period houses remain, punctuating a landscape that includes evergreen forests rich with the scent of balsam, river banks where Sweet Fern wafts in the fall air, and vast fields full of deer, turkey, and grouse.

Main Road Swan Island, Maine

When you walk the many trails, you are following in the footsteps of Captain John Smith, who traveled to the island in 1614 to the meet with the Kennebec tribe of Native Americans. Colonists settled the land in the next century during the height of the French and Indian War.

In fact the island’s most famous resident, 13-month-old Fanny Noble, was kidnapped by attacking natives, taken to Canada, and sold to a loving French couple who had just lost a child of their own. Twelve years later, government officials arrived in Canada to take Fanny back  to Swan Island. Distraught to leave the family who raised her, Fanny begrudgingly left Montreal and returned home.

The colonists built a successful economy. But, eventually advances in technology spelled the island’s doom. Ice cutting succumbed to refrigeration. Fishing evaporated as pollution filled the river. Wooden ship building also took its place in history. The Great Depression dealt the island town its death blow.

The residents sold off their land to the state. And today Swan Island is a wildlife refuge, maintained by the Maine Department of Island Fisheries and Wildlife.

View from Swan Island, Maine

And the island is open to the public.  I have to admit I sort of wondered about the wisdom of going to an uninhabited  island with my boys (ages 2 and 5). Would they get bored? Would I? What would we do?

Um… it was incredible.

The island’s expert and caretaker met us at the dock, ferried us across the river, and loaded us into the back of a modified pick up truck for a tour. We were the ONLY people on 1755-acre island.

Not only did we discover a bald eagle’s nest, but we witnessed three of these majestic birds take flight, fish, and perch in the high branches of evergreens.

Bald Eagles in flight - Swan Island, Maine

Then our expert, Dennis, took us mushroom hunting. We found Chicken of the Woods, learned how to harvest them (and cooked the fungi later at home!)

Chicken of the Woods - Swan Island, Maine

There is a children’s fishing pond stocked with trout. Fishing poles are provided, but bring your own worms!

Fishing Swan Island, Maine

In the boathouse, experts can show you the skulls, antlers, eggs, and feathers of animals found on the island.

Boat House Nature Lesson - Swan Island Maine

A campsite offers ten Adirondack shelters for camping with fire pits and a view to knock your socks off. (TIP: a real bathroom with running water is adjacent to the campsite)

Campsite - Swan Island, Maine

In a single day, my boys saw bald eagles, held a deer skull, felt an owl’s feather, harvested mushrooms, learned to fish, touched history, and found their inner scatologist.  For eight bucks a person, I’ll take it!

Swan Island, Maine

In the Maine, you, too, can visit an island time forgot.

Anna

P.S. Looking for other ideas on getting every ounce out of fall that you can, check out this post on our woodsy word hunt!

Welcoming Fall!

Portland, Maine – It’s Fall, Y’all! Okay, no one else in Maine is saying it quite like that… but the excitement of leaf peeping, pumpkin hunting, and all things Autumn is here. I was seriously daydreaming about whether I could travel the globe to spend an entire year in Autumn – an entire year.

For now, the not-so-baby-Q and I are headed to the kitchen to welcome my favorite season. What’s inspired us? Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Moose a Muffin

Baby Q Reading Laura Numeroff's If You Give A Moose A Muffin

This book is one our favorites. It’s one thing to read about muffins. It’s another to bake and eat muffins while you read! And the best thing about making muffins, it’s like blending a smoothie. You can hide so much healthy stuff in there. The kids will never know.

Today, we added flax-seed, whole wheat flour, apple sauce and chia seed. You can also throw in wheat germ, whatever goodness you have on hand.

Baking with kids - Banana Muffins

Here’s our Banana Muffin recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 2 eggs or egg replacer
  • 4 mashed bananas (honestly I throw mine in whole)
  • 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoon chia seed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon flax-seed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream butter  and sugar
  3. Add Maple syrup and apple sauce
  4. Add two beaten eggs
  5. Add bananas and combine well
  6. Add dry ingredients to combine
  7. Add vanilla and cinnamon
  8. Spoon into muffin tin
  9. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until an inserted knife comes out clean

Yield:  A dozen muffins (we had enough for two extra : )

Banana Muffin Recipe

SHORT ON TIME?

BUY your muffins at the grocery store. Pop them into your muffin tin. Sprinkle them with water. Put them in a preheated oven for 5-10 minutes. Pull them out. Call the kids into the kitchen and read the book. The only one who will know your secret is your CLEAN kitchen sink. And that’s a happy place unto itself.

SEWING?

Here’s an idea for a child’s romper featuring a moose appliqué. If you haven’t yet tried sewing for your little ones, check out this tutorial for the full lowdown. I think this little moose would be adorable!

Moose Jon Jon - Sewing for Kids

WANT TO SEE A  REAL MOOSE IN REAL LIFE?

If you are in Maine or plan to visit, check out the moose exhibit at the Maine Wildlife Park.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

Anna and Co.

Trash Your House (and make an engineer)!

Portland, Maine – Well let’s just chalk this up to one of the ten thousand things I swore I would never do when I had kids. But here we are.  We taped our trash to the walls. And it was awesome. For someone who used to iron her guest bedroom sheets, this is huge.

Trash Engineering Run

Some cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, toilet paper rolls, and duct tape transformed the recycling bin into an engineering and math extravaganza.  We used all of these materials to make a ball maze. It was fun.

Running a golf ball through the trash obstacle course

This is a project that captured the attention of both my 2-year-old and 5-year-old.

White Ball flies through the track

Once the boys had each piece exactly where they wanted it, we held time trials.

STEM activity up cycling

Which ball completed the course the fastest? We used a wooden lemon, a golf ball, a puffy craft thing and a ball made up of aluminum foil. We timed them and noted the results in a chart.

Trash Time trial results

The wall was our canvas. But I have seen other people use giant pieces of cardboard or a sliding glass door. This turned out to be a great opportunity to prepare little minds for concepts like gravitational pull and the relationship between weight and speed. I’m not saying I’m going to win a home decorating award with this one. But maybe one day my boys will marvel at how we taped our trash to the walls when they were little!

Enjoy,

Anna

Toddler Take-Aways and Preschool Perks

  1. Fine motor skills
  2. Engineering
  3. Physics
  4. Math
  5. Technology
  6. Science
  7. Upcycling
  8. Problem solving
  9. Fun!

Maine Maple Sunday

Pure Maine Maple SyrupPortland, Maine – The first sign of spring in Maine is NOT daffodils… it’s sap. Taps and buckets start appearing on maple trees everywhere. And then steam rises from the wood fired sugar houses.

Maine Maple Sunday Tours

And the best part of all… these amazing smelling sugar shacks open their doors to the public to celebrate the sap flow. They call it Maine Maple Sunday, the 4th Sunday in March. A map shows you which producers are welcoming maple fans.

It’s a great chance to teach the kiddos about the whole process and to learn a thing or two myself. Factoids like… it takes 40 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of syrup.

Most farms offer tours of their barns, a chance for your children to meet farm animals. Some producers offer carriage or sleigh rides. And all of the participating farms offer a maple syrup tasting, usually on pancakes.

If you want to give your children a hand’s on experience with maple syrup making, Pineland Farms offers a children’s sugaring program. Click here for more information.

No where near a sap producing maple and still want to learn more? Curious George can help. PBS offers an entire episode (Maple Monkey Madness) on the process of boiling down sap into syrup. There is a book to match.

13 months into my Maine life,  I can tell you maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes. It’s a teaspoon in your morning coffee. It’s a drizzle atop crostini with arugula, pear, and a young pecorino. It’s a dollop on bacon wrapped scallops just before you slide them into the oven. It’s everywhere. And this coming weekend, you can buy it in bulk.

Maine Maple Syrup Jugs

In the Maine, sap is flowing. Spring is here. Thank God.

Enjoy!

Anna

Toddler Take-Away and Preschool Perks

  1. Exploring the world
  2. Science and Nature Fun
  3. Kitchen Science
  4. Math
  5. Connecting food to environment
  6. Old Fashioned Fresh Air

Enjoy Every Second – Why I finally know what they’re talking about

Portland, Maine – You know, in the dead of winter, here in Maine, leaving the house is often an exercise in emotional torture. It takes 30 to 45 minutes and the clock resets itself with every “I gotta pee!” or poopy diaper. And it usually ends in raised voices, deep breathing exercises, or tears.

You can imagine what goes through my mind when we finally leave the house and someone sees my boys and comes up to me and whispers, “Enjoy every second.”

Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea what we just went through? Have you  forgotten what it’s like to never pee by yourself? Have you blocked out what your mouth smelled like after a couple of days of not seeing a toothbrush? Don’t you remember what your hands looked like after changing a 2-year-old’s poop filled diaper when a temper tantrum strikes… in the middle of it? Do you mean enjoy those seconds, too?

Just last week, I was dressing the children for 16 degree weather in an effort to leave the house. It’s not like I was taking them to get a root canal. No, our destination was the children’s museum. Voices were raised. Deep breathing commenced. Everyone was near tears. And then my phone rang. I glanced quickly to see who was calling.

I froze.

I stopped what I was doing. I looked at my phone again. I did NOT answer. Because I knew immediately. I can’t tell you why. I just felt it. I knew what was about to happen. I knew what was about to be said. I knew immediately that one of my dearest friends was dead.

Just nine years ago, we planned out the rest of our lives while on a girls’ weekend. We giggled about the possibilities. Would I become a mother? Would she take her equestrian dream to the Olympics? Would her sweet daughters follow in her footsteps? Could there eventually be a PhD in our midst? The world was full of possibilities. We were blissfully unaware that time was slipping away.

Grief is like walking in the ocean. A wave of  sadness washes over you and then another and another. And it was during one of those waves that I finally understood what those enjoy-every-second people really mean. Have you ever looked at the people who say that? Not a single one of them is in their 20s. They are not in their 30s. It starts with the 40-somethings. But these words are mostly spoken by folks in their 50s, 60s and older. They have lived long enough to know. They get it. They already know what I just experienced: We’re not all going to make it to the finish line. Every moment we have here is a gift.

No, EVERY SECOND.

Even when you are encasing a screaming child into a snowsuit with the skill of an origami master. Even when you are covered in vomit, pee, poop, or who knows what. Even when you are sure you’ve had enough (and your kids feel the same way).

You are still here. And so are they.

So I’m whispering to you, “Enjoy every second of it.”

Because all of this is so fragile and so truly dear.

Anna

Boredom Buster: Window Paint

Boredom Buster: Paint BagsPortland, Maine – Want a colorful way to drive boredom from your house? We do! And, to tell you the truth, with the bitter arctic cold we’ve experienced this winter, I’m taking every chance I get to change our perspective on spending another day inside.

All you need is some paint, freezer bags and tape. I poured two gobs of paint into each bag (roughly two tablespoons each).

Yellow and Blue Make Green

Seal the bag and tape it to the window.

To teach color mixing, I put yellow and blue in one and red and blue in another. I also put like colors together. This a great opportunity to talk about words like ‘hue’ and ‘gradation.’ There are tons of variations to be explored here.

Writing with paint bags

As open-ended play, this activity doesn’t last long (at least with my munchkins). But when you add layers to the activity, they see it in a different way. So we held spelling and writing challenges. You can even “draw” by moving the paint around.

This adds a lot of color to a winter day!

mixing color fun

COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA:

  1. Resist the urge to get fancy. I added sugar to one bag for a little sun sparkle. Didn’t take long for the grainy texture to create pin sized holes in the bag. You can guess how that turned out!
  2. Make sure your children’s nails are trimmed and filed….(not that I learned the hard way : )

Enjoy!

Anna

TODDLER TAKE AWAYS AND PRESCHOOL PERKS:

  1. Color Mixing
  2. Color recognition
  3. Sensory Activity
  4. Literacy
  5. Writing Practice
  6. Fine motor skills
  7. Early Science Skills

Happy Valentine’s Day to Chocolate Lovers Everywhere

Mamawa's Best Ever Chocolate Cake

Portland, Maine – The backdoor of Mamawa’s house led right to the heart of our family: the kitchen. There waiting for you on any given day was Mamawa’s Best Ever Chocolate Cake. You couldn’t help but gasp or smile or make a bee-line to the kitchen counter the moment you smelled the sugar.

All it takes for me to go back there… is to bake this cake myself. I know now why she smiled as we devoured it. Because I smile, too, when my children and husband lose their minds the minute that chocolatey smell wafts through the house.

When I was first a reporter in Utica, New York, I was invited to a cook out. I had no idea what to bring, but I knew I’d bring something because as my Memphis-born grandmother always said, “Anna, you don’t ever show up to someone’s house with your arms swinging!” I called Mamawa immediately for help. She dictated this recipe to me over the phone. I attentively and carefully wrote down every ingredient, every instruction.

It was one of the last conversations we had.

And so every time I grab that same sheet of paper to read the recipe, I find myself standing in one of my first apartments listening carefully to my grandmother. I hear her voice teaching me how to make a cake that will bring her great grandchildren so much joy many years later.

Enjoying Mamawa's Chocolate Cake Recipe

Mamawa was a chocolate lover. Valentine’s Day is Mamawa’s day.

Happy Valentine’s Day to Mamawa and may all of you bless your families with some of her cooking.

Enjoy!

Anna

Mamawa’s Best Ever Chocolate Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  1. 2 Cups of Sugar
  2. 2 Cups of Flour
  3. 1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
  4. 1 Stick of Butter
  5. 3 Tablespoons of powered cocoa
  6. 1/2 Cup of oil
  7. 1 Cup of water
  8. 2 eggs (or egg replacer)
  9. 1 Teaspoon of vanilla
  10. 1/2 Cup of Buttermilk

Frosting Ingredients:

  1. 1 Stick of Butter
  2. 3 Tablespoons of powdered cocoa
  3. 1/3 Cup of milk
  4. 1 box of powdered sugar (16 oz)
  5. 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
  6. 1 Cup of chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Cake Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Mix sugar, flour, and baking soda and set aside
  3. Put butter, cocoa, and water in sauce pan and bring to a boil
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over dry ingredients
  5. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla
  6. Pour into greased 9 x 13 cake pan or casserole dish
  7. Bake in oven at 375 for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

Instructions for Frosting

  1. Place butter, cocoa, and milk into a sauce pan and boil
  2. Turn down heat
  3. Add confectioner’s sugar and mix
  4. Add vanilla
  5. Stir in nuts
  6. Pour over hot cake

This recipe can be easily customized. Over the holidays, we added thin mints to the frosting for a peppermint flavor. It was delicious.

Finding Science in Snowflakes

Snow filled wood at Ft. Williams Park Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Portland, Maine –  This winter has brought some fantastic snowfall. And more is coming! But I must confess, we’ve gone sledding, snowman building, snow angel making, and even thought about building an igloo. But even with all of this snow, we never actually looked at it. I mean really looked at it.

But this book changed that. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson. And it deserves a spot on your shelf, too. This nonfiction children’s book is told with the wonder of your favorite picture books. And it’s packed with fascinating snow facts that I enjoyed learning just as much as my munchkins did.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonders

After seeing the amazing photographs of snow crystals and after learning that six is a snowflake’s magic number, we held a cookie sheet (covered in black construction paper) outside to catch snowflakes for close inspection. (Note: following the author’s directions, we put our cookie sheet outside and under shelter for 10 minutes to make it cold enough for catching snow.)

We used a pocket microscope to examine our snowflakes.

We used a pocket microscope to examine our snowflakes. The author suggests a magnifying glass which is a great idea!

Judging by my 4-year-old’s reaction, he’ll never look at falling snow the same way. And neither will I!

Tips: The back of the book has instructions for catching and examining snow crystals. That said, suit up and do this science project outside as opposed to opening the window. You’ll have longer to examine the crystals before they melt.

Enjoy!

Anna

TODDLER TAKE AWAYS AND PRESCHOOL PERKS

  1. Science Investigation
  2. Math Concepts
  3. Familiarization with scientific tools
  4. Fun with nature
  5. Time with you!

Valentine Craft that’s Fun, Easy and (dare I say it) Even Pretty!

Tissue Paper Valentine

Time to dig through your recycling bin. This craft is easily made with bits of tissue paper, cardboard, ribbon, paint, and glue.

Grab your munchkins and you’ll have this Valentine decor ready to display in no time at all.

Paint your hearts. We cut ours out of cardboard boxes. Cereal boxes will work well, too.

Painted Cardboard Heart

Once the paint is dry, cover one side of the heart with glue.

Cardboard heart covered with glue

Now take tiny bits of tissue paper. Crunch them up (an activity your toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy) and mash them onto the heart. Repeat.

Apply Tissue Paper to Heart

Tissue Paper Heart DecorOnce they are dry, you’ll need a hole puncher to make one opening at top  of the heart and another at the bottom. Thread some ribbon through the holes and hang. BEAUTIFUL!

Wouldn’t it be fun to try this project with letter cut outs? Your preschoolers can arrange the letters to spell LOVE or CUPID or any of the other great Valentine’s Day words. We might just give that a try this week!

A note for parents working out of the home: This project can be broken down into three evening activities. Paint your hearts the first night. Glue and apply tissue paper the second night. String with ribbon and hang the third night. Short and simple!

Preschool Perks and Toddler Take Aways:

  1. Sensory activity
  2. Shape and color recognition
  3. Fine motor control
  4. Upcycle activity
  5. Time with you!

Enjoy!

Anna

Boredom Buster: Treasure Hunt

Pirateology-our inspirationPortland, Maine – I don’t know if you’ve been following our weather lately. But like a faithful metronome, we oscillate between windchill 28 below and 46 above. Either it’s unsafe to leave the house or it’s raining so hard that huge chunks of ice floating by also make it tricky to play outside with my munchkin men.

If you need a boredom buster for your house, too. Try this!

We stumbled upon an awesome find at the bookstore, PIRATEOLOGY. My four-year-old is convinced a pirate left it there by mistake. And once you open this book, you’ll wonder, too. It’s filled with letters written in pirate code, envelopes to be opened, a touch-and-feel bag of gold, pieces of treasure map and an encyclopedia’s worth of factoids and lore.

Burned edges of pirate map

And that inspired us to make a pirate map of our own, complete with burned edges. We cut out a panel of a grocery bag. I burned the edges over the sink. Grocery bags catch fire a little quicker than I anticipated. Needless to say, my kids do not get to help with the fire bit. They can only watch.

Next, we take a wet sponge and dampen the pirate letter to give it a weathered appearance.

Before we draw our map and mark it with the ‘x’, get your matey to hide the treasure. We used an old jewelry box filled with mostly foreign coins.

Coins as treasure

Now have your pirates draw the map and put the ‘x’ where the treasure is hidden.

Drawing the pirate map

Time to hunt for treasure!

Treasure Hunter

This was fun for all of us and a great boredom buster! This is an entertaining way to bring books to life. Want to add other pirate adventures to your day? Check out our blog on building a pirate ship out of cardboard boxes.

Enjoy,

Anna

Preschool Perks and Toddler Take Aways

  1. Imaginative Play
  2. Spatial Memory
  3. Cartography (the art of map making)
  4. Expressing spatial relationships
  5. Fine motor control
  6. Literacy

Upcycle: Be Mine, Holiday Cards!

Upcycled Valentine

Portland, Maine – I guess it’s a week after Christmas when I think of an old friend I’ll call Sally. Sally told me that every year, she takes everyone’s holiday cards and puts them in an album. What a respectful thing to do, especially when you consider the thought, time, and expense spent on holiday greetings. I look at the stack of wonderful well wishes we received, the family photographs, and then I face the facts–my children’s baby books are not finished yet. I’ll never get these put into an album. GUILT. GUILT. GUILT.

SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM? UPCYCLE!

With a nearly 5-year-old roaming these halls, our world is all about words. Read them, write them, repeat (for the foreseeable future).

So here’s a great way to support your preschooler in their quest to conquer the language and upcycle those beautiful holiday greetings into Valentine’s Cards!

Take your stack of cards. Grab a pair of scissors and cut out the words.

Holiday Cards in need of new life

Add construction paper, markers, ribbon, glue sticks and anything else you can find.

Holiday words for Valentines

Next let your word-smith-to-be put together the words to make Valentine wishes. And there is something sort of fun about taking well wishes and transforming them into Valentines.

Upcycled Valentine Cards

Enjoy!

Anna

PreSchool Perks

  1. Fine Motor Control
  2. Increase Vocabulary
  3. Sight Word Exposure and recognition
  4. Mixed Media Art
  5. A great primer in the art of showing love!

Reading Leaves

ImagePortland, Maine – Nothing like combining reading and writing with a great big adventure!  The falling leaves give us a great opportunity to find lots of words in the woods. Here’s what we are using to capture them!

A DECOMPOSITION BOOK –  I’m so glad we stumbled upon this decomposition book. It’s the perfect field journal for C to write down his observations and some of the new woodsy words we discover.

IN OUR BACKPACK, We also have a Tree Fandex. It’s the world’s coolest tree identification guide.

Tree Fandex

But the best part is, the sturdy pages are leaf-shaped for easy matching.

Identifying leaves

As soon as I pulled the guide out, the boys immediately started matching leaves on the ground to the leaves in the guide. I found this at an online Montessori store. You are going to love it.

Leaf lamination

We brought some of our adventure back home! Using the boys’  beautiful fall leaf collection along with a piece of birch bark, we matched the leafs to the correct label. Then we laminated them. If you don’t have a lamination machine (at lot less expensive then I ever imagined), you can press them between wax paper. Then, simply staple them into your journal.

Sentence Scramble for Preschoolers

No more leaves on your trees? Try this craft using crayons to recreate them.

TwoTeachingMommies offers free leaf themed printable activities. This pack includes an activity which teaches preschoolers the different parts of leaves.

We found another fun freebie at TeachersPayTeachers (I could go on and on about that website.)

It’s a sentence scramble. Perfect for preschoolers who are trying their hand at writing and recognizing sight words. The fall theme includes scarecrows, pumpkins, leaves, etc.

TeachersPayTeachers is full of creative resources developed by educators. And no one is paying me to say that.

Back in the woods, all of that leaf identification and running around can make you hungry. So while siting and eating our snack, we had a little story time. It was tremendous fun to bring our stories into the woods. It has a way of connecting the story to the environment around us. Two of our favorite fall books are Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein and  A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen.

Wherever your fall exploration takes you, Enjoy!

Anna

Toddler Take-Aways

  • Good ol’ fashioned exercise
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Problem Solving
  • Science and Nature Fun
  • Vocabulary building

In the leaf pile!

Can You Hear Us Now?

WARNING: To my southern aunts (the keepers of all that is proper and right as taught by my dear grandmother, Mamawa) Save yourself; Stop reading NOW!

Portland, Maine – “Woo! Woo! Woo!” yells my almost 2-year-old so loudly you wonder if you can still hear. Until–

“The fire truck, Deedah!” shouts his brother, “The FIRE TRUCK! We have to get it! We have to!” Desperate, my 4-year-old repeats himself ad infinitum. He stops only when the car is parked and he is safely strapped into the fire truck grocery cart at Whole Foods. Thank God, there are seats for two.

At the same time, another family pushes a police car grocery cart. Two parents and two children about the same ages as ours. But they are girls. They are quiet. They do not move. They just smile. They look around. The. Whole. Time.

My husband sheepishly pushes the boys right past them. Our cart is not quiet. No, it is a virtual rolling cacophony of fake fart noises, loud singing, and songs sung again using the forearm fart sound as an instrument. It’s punctuated with belly laughs and bigger efforts to make the next one louder and longer. All while Michael tries to remember our grocery list simultaneously apologizing to anyone within earshot of our cart.

And the timing is perfect because they meet those precious little angels in every aisle. It’s the fart cart verses the rolling example of how children should behave in public.  And when I hear all about it, I can’t talk because I’m crying from laughing so hard.

One day I’ll hear from other Moms how their Sally or Amelia could not believe how well-mannered my son was on their date. One day, my sons will impress college recruiters. One day, they will not need me to quiet them with whispered threats in a church service. One day, I will humiliate them at their rehearsal dinners with these stories (and somehow the audience will not be able to imagine them as true). One day, I will walk through the grocery store in peace–by myself. The whole time, I’ll wonder if my boys are eating well wherever their adult lives have taken them. And I could just about cry at the thought of it. Because this will be over.

Even when I am cutting my 4-year-old’s hair and he shouts, “The hair hurts me! It hurts me! Help!” And he says it over and over again until I hear a sucking noise that sends a chill up my spine. Because that sucking noise can only mean one thing. The baby that was playing with a towel on the floor… has dipped it in the toilet and is sucking it dry! Even then, I am charmed by the outrageousness of the journey. Outrageous… and funny.

I have never been so deeply moved as I have as a mother. And that part, Mamawa would be very proud of.

Enjoy!

Anna

Me:Mamma:Age2

Mamawa and my dad

Gain Five Pounds the Easy Way

Standard Baking Company

Portland, Maine – Want to gain five pounds? Want to enjoy every bite of that journey? Done! Eat here EVERY WEEK…One of the joys of living in Portland, Maine – Standard Baking Company.

croissants at Standard Baking Company

This French bakery is across the street from the ferry terminal on Commercial Street. There is something absolutely intoxicating about walking out of the cool morning air and into the sugary warmth of this bakery. INTOXICATING.

Fresh Baked Goods

You need to get there early on a Saturday morning or you’ll wait in a line that snakes out to parking lot.

ENJOYING Yummy Baked Goods

Best treat for little fingers? Vanilla Bean Madeline. The four-year-old’s favorite? Pain au Chocolat. I haven’t had a bad bite there yet.

WARNING: In the Maine, five pounds await you!

Enjoy!

Anna

P.S. Not coming to Maine? Still want warm sugary yumminess first thing in the morning? Grab your toddler and head to the kitchen! We made this super easy recipe together. Check it out!