Monday, September 29, 2014

Dear Charlotte { 7 years old }

Dear Charlotte Wray,

Today you turned 7... 7... wow, we can't believe another year has flown by. We have now had the privilege of celebrating 3 birthdays with you... and yet, it feels like we've known you, your whole life. As soon as you woke up this morning (bright eyed at 7 am) you came rushing into the room and exclaimed, "Hey guess what? Today is my birthday... I'm 7 years old... and I'm taller." You have this need to grow up, and get bigger... and yet, we wish we could just press pause on "time" right now... stunt your growth... keep you the way that you are right now... smart, spunky... and full of sass.

This year, you've developed in so many different ways and accomplished much. You graduated Kindergarten and learned how to read and spell like a pro. You taught yourself how to do a flip on the trampoline, which in turn taught you how to do a forward and backwards flip into the pool. You figured out how to climb a rope. ... and climb it high. You learned how to do a cartwheel... and are doing so well at listening and paying attention during your weekly gymnastics class. You started wearing hearing aids this year, and that helped in so many areas... in the listening department for starters (of course) but also with phonics and other speech related difficulties you used to have. You became a big sister to yet another little baby... but this time a brother... and you adore him with your whole heart. Your heart is a heart that is meant for nurturing and you take care of Marley and Finn in such a way... that no one else could.

Some things that you are loving these days include: Your favorite meal is still spaghetti with meat sauce (in fact, that was your birthday dinner per your request). Your favorite color still continually changes from day to day... but today, you said it was purple. You love the movie Frozen... or really ALL Princess movies. One of your favorite things to do, is play "doctor" with your kit, and give people "check ups", Marley is your forever patient. You love swinging on your rope swing, and jumping on your trampoline... and you SO loved the pool this summer. You still love gymnastics... but say that your favorite thing to do there now, is the balance beam or uneven bars (as opposed to the trampoline like last year). You snack ALL day long... and chocolate is still your flavor of choice. You love Saturday dates with Daddy to Lowes' Build and Grow... and lunch outings to Jersey Mikes with Mommy... playing blocks with Marley on the front porch... and tickling Finn's toes. You don't mind school at all, but would rather go on field trips every day (so would Mommy).  You've gained quite a few teeth, 6 to be exact.. and weigh a whopping 42 lbs... 42 lbs of pure lean muscle.You still sing ALL DAY LONG... in fact, it's as if your life... is a musical.

Today during breakfast, Mommy thanked God for your biological mother, and that she gave you the gift of life, because it was one of the greatest gifts that she could have ever given... So, naturally, today was the first day that you really started asking questions about your past... "When I was born, how did I come out? Was I through c section or from... you know... ?" "Did the lady who had me in her belly sleep with me in the bed at the hospital?" "What was the lady who had me in her belly's name?" "Was I big when I was a baby?" "Did I have a lot of hair when I was a baby?" "Did the lady feed me from her boobies?" So many questions... just kept coming out of your mouth. Mommy tried to answer them the best that she could... but little girl, some things we just don't have answers for. We're so sorry that we don't have those answers... but we do know we are thankful for those questions... it means things are starting to "click" in that brain of yours, and that the healing from that past can happen.

You my dear, are our little light... you shine every where you go... and we love that about you. The world is your stage, and you're giving it the best production that you could ever give. You speak, you feel, you think, you are... any way that you choose... without any cares what others think...  You truly believe that life is meant to be explored and enjoyed, embracing every second of life that God gives you... you amaze us.

We love you sweet Charlotte,

Daddy, Mommy, Marley and Finn

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Celebrating Fall

It's my most favorite time of the year... wait, it's a tie between Spring and Fall in my book... so it's actually one of my most favorite times of the year. Autumn is here... and we couldn't be more excited... the smells, the lower temperatures, the beautiful colors, and of course pumpkin everything. We try and celebrate the beginning of most seasons (Winter is a tough one to celebrate...) and therefore today, we celebrated Fall. The windows were open since the day before, we wore longer sleeves in the morning (shorter in the afternoon), ate hot oatmeal for breakfast, homeschooled outside, and created "stick crowns" to wear for the rest of the afternoon. A dear friend posted this link on my Facebook page the other day, and I KNEW immediately, with Fall on the horizon, that we needed to create these lovelies.

The first thing we did was gather sticks... easy enough, that even Marley joined along.

I picked up some acorns in the meantime, for a future craft...

Although the stick crowns from the link are absolutely precious... I always have to make it a little different... you know, just because... because I'm Karen... because I have to put my twist on things... I know how much Charlotte enjoys using paint. So, I had her pick 4 colors (Didn't sway her decision at all... she's THAT good at picking out colors)... and used a tiny little medicine measure cup to pour a little from each paint, at a time. 

I then had Charlotte dip the ends of each of the sticks into the paint... and we set them in a mason jar to dry.

Once dried, we picked back up with the instructions given from here, and finished up the crowns.

We tried them on this afternoon... and they fit perfectly... the girls spent the rest of the afternoon dancing, singing, skipping and running throughout the yard. We ended our Fall Celebration with some apple dumplings, and called it a day... such a wonderful... wonderful... day. 

Don't have a little one around to make a crown for them... make some sticks for yourself... and set them up in a little mason jar or vase... they make a darling Fall decoration as well.
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Wiggle Out Loud

One of the joys in Charlotte's life... is music. When we first met her, in the orphanage... a little over 3 years ago... she didn't speak one word.. no Russian, no Ukrainian... nothing. The only sound that came out of her mouth, was a hum of some sort of tune. Her room in the orphanage was in the same hallway that the music room was... so, it all makes sense. The only sounds she heard, she recreated... it was the sweetest little hum ever. Even now, the girl can REALLY carry a tune... it's truly impressive... music is her life. I joke around a lot, and say that her life is a musical... and obviously she's the star in it. She sings EVERYWHERE she goes... and I'm okay with that... there's worse she could be doing (whining, crying, melting down, etc.)

I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Sunday morning, during one of Finn's feedings... seriously, that's all there is to do, when the little man is eating... and came across an advertisement for a Kid's Music Festival in the city... Even though the hubby was leaving to head out of state for the week for work, I knew I needed to take the kids. There's no way, I could have missed it, with Charlotte as my daughter. We kissed the hubby/Daddy goodbye a few hours before his plane was heading out... and made our way to the festival. It's called, "Wiggle Out Loud"... and that is exactly what she did. There were musicians geared towards children, totally family friendly performances... fun vendors... yummy food trucks... and tents filled with fun activities (making music with garbage-like bottles, cans, etc.) It was a great way to distract the kids from the fact that Daddy would be gone for the week... you know, anything to kill time, and make the hours fly by faster until he returns back to us.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

... To The Zoo

I can't even count how many times I've written about our Zoo on this blog... I probably have done it about once a month... because the Zoo... it has our hearts. Who knew it'd be our favorite place? When people come to town, we take them to the zoo... when we are bored, we head to the zoo... when we have to get school done but don't want to stay inside, we head to the zoo...

After we created our little Zoo Book the other day, of course we needed to go to the zoo and have a lesson on fact finding/gathering. Typically we get all of our basic subjects (Math, Reading/Writing and Phonics) done in the morning, and by 11:30 am, we're ready to head out of the house. Once we're at the zoo, we hit up the playground, which typically is one of our first stops... the kids can get all of their energies out... and my dear friend and I, can get some adult conversation in. It's a win win for all of us, not to mention we eat our lunches or snack a bit.

After that, it's animal time. We walk around and see some of our favorites... each visit, they're doing something new, so we never get bored. The larakeets, are among our favorites...

We also manage to squeeze in our lesson for the day.  We let the kids decide on which animal to write about. Thursday's pick, was the Samatran Tiger... we observed the tiger, read it's informational signs, and got to work in our Zoo Book... and within a few minutes, our lesson was done. It was super fun, and interesting... and the best part, is probably the drawing. I love seeing how different everyone's tigers turn out... and what facts are summarized.

More animal sightings happen after that lesson... and before we know it, 4 hours have passed.

The Zoo never gets old. I'm super impressed by how each visit is so unique... sometimes there are different animals out and about... sometimes animals have babies... sometimes we go to the Zoo with different friends, or just ourselves... sometimes the seasons are changing, which means a different "view" to take in... and sometimes just using a different potty makes the trip different from the time before.
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Friday, September 12, 2014

Fact Vs. Fiction (and a little DIY)

Schooling, has surprisingly gone super well over the last 2 weeks. Sometimes we're not on a schedule... other times, we're spot on... all depends on the day. I'm okay with this... because at least the schoolwork/learning/teaching is getting done. Allowing myself some grace, has made a world of difference in how I'm approaching life these days. If we're still in our jammies at 3 pm... that's okay... If we don't get to Math one day... that's okay... If we have to eat takeout food because dinner couldn't get prepped or cooked because Finn needed to be fed... that's okay too.... grace.

One of the things I want to teach Charlotte this year, is fact vs. fiction. It's still hard for her little mind to comprehend a lot of things, but I always want her to seek the truth... a skill for her to take along her way, especially when she's older. She questions a ton of our reasoning, these days... so I always give her a truthful explanation, instead of "well, just because..."

When walking around at the store the other day, we heard a little child ask their Mommy, "Why can't we buy this?" and the Mom answered, "Because." ... "But why?", asked the child... and the Mom completely ignored her child the second time she asked... so over Charlotte goes... and states, "Because it's what your Mommy said... because we can't have everything... that would be having the gimmies." 

So, this isn't the BEST example... I'm sure I have other great ones, but my mind is completely fried these days from the lack of sleep... but I think you get the picture. Kids want to KNOW why... a generic response isn't good anymore after a certain age... and rightfully so. We wouldn't want our kids to NOT challenge things that are unfair/unjust/etc. later on in life... "just because". I'm definitely guilty of answering Charlotte with a "Because I said so..." but, I'm trying my darndest to add a fact/reason to that statement. Most of the time, it squashes other "Why" questions from forming on that topic... sometimes she doesn't quite understand, so she asks "Why" again... which means I usually have to change my wording, and then she gets it.

So we're practicing gathering facts/data in school, through our Zoo Days. Since the weather is cooling off... the zoo is where we head at least once a week. At the Zoo, Charlotte is free to run around and play for most of the time, except during the exercise. During the exercise, Charlotte must choose an animal to listen to facts about, summarize those facts, and then draw the animal... Well, we needed a a quick little book for her to write these in... so off to creating we went.

We crafted the book with simple materials, Kraft paper, white drawing paper and writing paper... 

Before we got started, little fingers played with the markers... needless to say, someone wasn't too happy when they were gathered, and put away from reach from her... 

But handing her a little "washi tape" solved all cries... and we were able to continue with our project. 

I had Charlotte alternate between blank pages and writing pages... fold them... and then we hole punched. 

After the holes were punched, we strung baker's twine and tied little bows through the holes, so we could always undo it. Just in case we need to add extra pages. 

Next... I let Charlotte take complete creative control over the book... let her color the way she wanted to color it, put tape (and I have a lot of tape) all over it... however she wanted to do it... this is my favorite part... to see what colors she picks... and what she comes up with. 

You can totally use a composition notebook, or a little notebook that's all theirs to write down the facts, but as Charlotte stated, "It's way more fun to make our own... it's different from all the others."... yes little one... fact gathering is super fun now.  

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