Thursday, November 23, 2017

Carter and Elise are Thankful

Two years ago I started the tradition of having Carter write down something he's thankful for each day in November to use as our countdown for Christmas in December. We write what he says he's thankful for each day on a strip of scrap paper and then staple the strips together to make a chain. In December he'll tear one off each day as a countdown to Christmas. Since I use scrap paper we end up with random colors. Then when Carter rips off his chain in December I read him what is written on it and it reminds him to continue to be thankful even though Thanksgiving is over. Last year I recorded what Carter was thankful for along with random words Elise yelled at me when I asked her what she was thankful for in a post here. I also documented what he was thankful for in 2015 here. It's cute to see how things have changed over the years with his responses. It was also a lot of fun for Elise to be involved and actually add things to her chains. So here is what Carter and Elise are thankful for this year:

1. I'm thankful for moms and dads to take care of us.
2. I'm thankful that Cheesus made everyone.
3. I'm thankful God made all the world.
4. I'm thankful God made all the Thanksgiving food.
5. I'm thankful God made all the people.
6. I'm thankful God made all the farms.
7. I'm thankful God made all the food.
8. I'm thankful God made all the librarians.
9. I'm thankful God made the oceans and the waves.
10. I'm thankful for God made all the games.
11. I'm thankful for my markers.
12. I'm thankful for Harper
13. I'm thankful God made all the coldness.
14. I'm thankful for all our food. I'm thankful for all our drinks.
15. I'm thankful for babies.
16. I'm thankful for people who are sick getting better like Addy.
17. I'm thankful for hurt people getting better like Liam Bean and Uncie J.
18. I'm thankful for God made the world.
19. I'm thankful that God takes care of all of the people.
20. I'm thankful for God is taking care of all of the people who we love.
21. I'm thankful for all the money from daddy working.
22. I'm thankful for my teachers and my school.
23. I'm thankful for my teachers from last year.
24. I'm thankful for police officers to help us.
25. I'm thankful for God made all the dogs, especially Harper!

1. I'm thankful for my mommy.
2. I'm thankful for NUFFIN!!!!!
3. I'm thankful for mommy.
4. I'm thankful for Harpy.
5. I'm thankful for mommy (for you!).
6. I'm thankful for mommy.
7. I'm thankful for Harpy.
8. I'm thankful for macky cheese.
9. I'm thankful for kitty.
10. I'm thankful for you give me macky cheese.
11. I'm thankful for macky cheese.
12. I'm thankful for sleeping with my dollies.
13. I'm thankful for kitty.
14. I'm thankful for kitty.
15. I'm thankful for kitty.
16. I'm thankful for Harpy.
17. I'm thankful for hot to make eggies.
18. I am thankful for kitty.
19. I'm thankful for kitty.
20. I'm thankful for Harpy.
21. I'm thankful for me!
22. I'm thankful for Oma, Opa.
23. I'm thankful for kitty.
24. I'm thankful for Gma, Gpa.
25. I'm thankful for Carty. I thankful for my Carty!

Hopefully you take a nice nap after you fill your belly today!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Elise trying on a mask at the art museum.

Museum Babies at the art museum.

Everyone going for a ride when we had friends over.

Showing off their new penguin socks from Oma and Opa.

My little helper as I was raking leaves.

Birthday Party at BounceU.

We were making orange cranberry bread and realized we were out of eggs. It was the day after the marathon and I was tired, so I let the kids make homemade orange juice by squeezing oranges.
I tried to get a picture of my new shirt but Carter kept sneaking in the way.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Route 66 Marathon

The best way to describe this race in one sentence would be: the race that didn't go at all as planned. But I'll go ahead and describe it in lots and lots of sentences. Thomas came to our house to ride to the race with us. Mom, dad, Thomas and I all headed out around 7:20 and Ty stayed home to get the kids ready to go out and cheer. On the drive to the race I drank my one scoop of protein powder mixed with water like I have before each of my long runs. I was worried we wouldn't find Jeremy before the start since my whole race plan was to run with him. We arrived in the same parking lot as him so it worked out perfectly. We walked to the start area together and then I stood in line for one more restroom break. Jeremy decided to go ahead and head into our start corral and Thomas waited for me. When Thomas and I headed into the corral we couldn't find Jeremy. I was expecting him to be toward the back of the corral. Dad walked along the outside of the corral and found Jeremy so we were able to catch up with him. I handed mom my sweats over the corral fence and then we were ready for the race to start. The temperature at the race start was 35 degrees but it was supposed to get up to 55 degrees by the time I would finish so I wore shorts. I was assuming I'd be pretty cold at the beginning of the race since it was colder than I'd normally wear shorts but I was fine. I think mostly because the weather was so beautiful, it was very sunny with nearly no wind. Perfect weather for a race!
Walking to the race start.

They did the countdown and then shot off the confetti which is always such an awesome way to start the race! Jeremy took out pretty fast and we immediately had quite a few runners between us. The pace felt a bit fast and I looked down to see we were running 7:30 pace. I slowed down right away and figured once Jeremy's excitement died down, I'd catch up to him and we could run together. I went through the first mile in 8:02 and I still had an eye on Jeremy. I was freaking out a little bit about how fast I ran the first mile. I started to worry that the rest of the race was going to be so painful! I spent most of the second mile in a panic over how fast I'd run the first mile and about how far ahead of me Jeremy was. During the 2nd mile I started to lose sight of Jeremy and I was really worried about him. I was afraid he'd gone out way too fast and was going to have a really rough race. I had slowed down quite a bit during the 2nd mile in an attempt to get more on pace. I went through the 2nd mile in 8:43. I was shocked to already see mom, dad, Ty and the kids. I told them Jeremy had gone through the first mile under 8:00 and they didn't seem as panicked over that as I felt. I threw my gloves to mom and felt a bit more at ease. I finally decided it wasn't that big of a deal that I had run the first mile so fast because there is a lot of downhill during that mile. Mile 3 was 8:38 and mile 4 was 8:37.
Dad and Elise watching for us to come by.
Trying to get over to my family, I'd been on the inside of the turn when I saw them.
Miles 5-7 were 8:48, 8:33, 8:31, and 8:25. I kept searching the packs of runners ahead of me looking for Jeremy. I knew he was wearing the blue half-zip jacket from last year's race but the color of it was really similar to this year's jacket which a lot of people were wearing so it was really hard to distinguish. I'd get excited thinking I saw him only to realize a moment later it wasn't him. I tried to let go of worrying about him and just ease into my own race. It was mentally hard because my race plan had been to stick with him the whole race. I wasn't prepared to run alone. I kept telling myself it was fine, I had run a 22 mile long run completely alone. I could do this race without someone by my side the whole way. I was feeling really good and started to enjoy myself. There were tons of spectators out cheering and lots of kids giving out high fives. I high fived everyone who had their hand out during the race. I also saw some funny signs along the way, such as "You run better than our government," and "If Trump can run, so can you!" I ran past the running store that sponsors my race team and got to high five the head of the race team. I saw my family again at mile 6 and asked my dad how Jeremy was looking. He said Jeremy was looking good but was way ahead of me. Getting the reassurance that Jeremy looked good helped me finally relax. I decided he must just be feeling really good and was going to have an awesome race. I also got the sense from how he went to the corral without me and took off so fast without me at the start that maybe he wanted to go it alone so he could run his own race. At mile 6 I ate a Gu and then when I hit mile 7 I realized that hadn't been my plan. I had planned to eat a Gu at miles 8, 16, and then 22 if I felt like I needed another one. I decided I'd shoot for 6, 13, and 20ish since I ate my first Gu early. I was still cruising along around 8:30 pace for most miles and pleased with how I felt. Each time my mile split would beep I'd get excited thinking, "I'm still popping off 8:30's!"
This is my favorite picture from the race. Days later Elise is still telling me, "I cheer for Uncie J!"
High fives for my loves!
We had a couple flatter miles in this section and I went through miles 8-10 in 8:25, 8:32, and 8:38. There's an out and back section around mile 11 and I saw Jeremy wasn't too far ahead of me. We waved and cheered for each other. I also noticed the 3:40 pace group wasn't that far ahead of me either. I went through mile 11 in 8:17 and finally caught up to Jeremy at mile 12. As I ran up beside him, he told me was going to need to stop off at the bathroom at some point and I once again got the feeling he wanted to go it alone so I decided to go on ahead. After the race he told me he didn't end up stopping but him telling me that was what I needed to go off and run my own race. I saw my family again around in here and pulled my long-sleeved shirt off from under my tank top and threw it to mom. As I was doing so I accidentally ripped both the holes on the right side of my bib. Luckily it wasn't windy so I didn't have any trouble with only having my bib pinned on the left side of the number. As the full marathon turned off and the half marathon continued to the finish, I got excited thinking Thomas was finishing and looked forward to asking my family how his race went the next time I saw them.

I went through mile 13 in 8:25 and then I went through the half a little under 1:52. I realized if I could run a 1:48 second half I could run a PR. My PR going into the race was a 3:40:05 from 9 years ago in my first marathon when I was 22 years old. I didn't know what pace a 1:48 half would be but I knew it was over 8:00 so I went with it. I knew 1:44 was 8:00 pace but anything over that I wasn't so sure about. I looked it up after I got home and realized it was 8:14 pace which is funny because I was shooting for 8:10 pace without even knowing. Had I known for sure that I needed to run 8:14 pace for the rest of the race, I would've been a bit hesitant to believe I could do it. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. Without knowing for sure what I was asking of myself, it was much easier to believe it was possible. I think the fact that I believed I could average 8:10 pace or under for the rest of the race shows how good I was feeling at that point. I told myself I might as well go for it. If I crashed and burned I'd still break 4 hours and at least I'd tried for a PR. There were a couple of flatter miles and I felt great so I picked up the pace maybe a little too much at that point. Miles 14-16 were 7:49, 7:52, and 7:52. I was really reeling in the 3:40 pacer and kept telling myself, "One mile at a time, hit them at 8:10." I ate another Gu at mile 13. We ran through a neighborhood where kids were handing out leis to the runners. A little girl was standing in the middle of the road passing them out. She tried to hand one to the guy running in front of me and he didn't take one. She looked disappointed so I took one when I went through. I threw it over my neck and ran with it for the next few miles until I saw Carter and Elise and passed it off to them. When the wind was at our sides it would blow the lei to my side and it rubbed my shoulders but other than that it just bounced along behind me on my back. I kept my eyes forward and trained on the yellow balloons of the 3:40 pacer.
I was laughing that mom got a picture of me taking my long sleeved off which was under my tank top before I put my tank top back on because it reminded me of a picture from the half marathon I ran 32 weeks pregnant with Carter.
Half marathon and marathon, five years apart.

A little after mile 16 I caught up to the 3:40 pacer and ran with him for a little bit. Miles 17-20 were 8:10, 7:55, 8:01, and 8:01. I was pretty pumped about how good I was feeling. I kept wanting to pick up the pace but told myself to wait until the last 10k and see how I felt then. I saw my family again at mile 18 and that was wonderful! They were at perfect places for passing off clothes and I was so excited I got to see them so much during the race. Each time I saw them it was a huge morale boost! I noticed my mile splits were about a tenth of a mile over what the race mile splits were so I added an extra minute when figuring what I needed to average for the last few miles to still run under 3:40. I was passing a lot of runners but wasn't even paying attention to the people around me, I was focusing on staying ahead of 3:40 pace and the pacer. I'd hear people cheering for the pacer after I went past and didn't like how close behind me he was. At mile 20 I was pretty pumped and was thinking about how I could actually train for a marathon, doing speed work and tempos, and run the marathon again next year so I could really have a great race. Miles 20-22 were 8:01, 8:01, and 8:04. I saw my family again at mile 22 and was so excited! In my head, they saw I was ahead of the 3:40 pacer and would know I was running a PR! Right around that time I felt a gush and noticed I was bleeding through my tampon and all over my shorts. I wasn't supposed to start my period until Monday but, unfortunately, started a day early on Saturday which meant marathon day was my heaviest day! I also started feeling a little rough and my mindset switched to, "I'm never running another marathon again!"
Passing off my lei as I ran with the 3:40 pacer.

Miles 23 and 24 were 8:08 and 8:11. I calculated that I could run the last 2 miles in 8:30 and still break 3:40. At that point I started to get another wind and started thinking, "I might run another marathon but I think I'll need awhile." I think I can thank that extra perk to the Gu I ate at mile 22. I don't remember which mile it was, but one mile when I went past the course clock I saw I was at 2:23 and told myself Shalane Flanagan would be finishing around then if she were running. I got excited to be in the last 5k of the race and started to try to push the pace a little but my legs were getting tired. I also knew there was a decent hill in the last mile. During the race I got a kick out of how much easier the hills felt running 8:30 for the marathon rather than 7:00 pace for the half. The hills really hadn't bothered me at all during the race. I kept telling myself, "You can slow down but then you'll just be in pain for longer." 
Thomas getting some post-race snuggles from the kids.
When I saw this picture I was so glad I went out of my way to high five all the kids on the course!
Once I hit mile 24 the downhills were starting to get difficult and there were some long ones! I struggled the most during mile 25 and it felt like the longest mile of the race! I went through it in 8:29 and told myself to just keep it under 8:30 for the last mile. One spectator told me the course was flat the rest of the way but I knew we had to go under a bridge and then back uphill with less than a mile to go. I was still irritated he told me that even though I knew he was wrong. I was so excited that unlike last year I was not only holding onto my PR but shaving more time off in the last few miles. I caught up to a woman running with about 3 guys and passed her. Then she passed me back after the uphill. I wasn't trying to go with her but when I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I got excited and took off. I overtook her and the guys she was running with. I went through mile 26 in 8:05 and kicked as hard as I could the last portion which I ran in 7:45 pace. As I passed the sign that said mile 13 for the half marathon I reached down and took a pin out of the right side of my shirt and repinned my bib in the actual bib since the hole was ripped. I didn't want to miss having finishing pictures because my bib was flapping around. You know because that's a priority when you've run 26 miles, haha! As I neared the finish line I saw I was well under 3:40 and got excited pumping my fist as I crossed the finish line. I almost cried during that last stretch to the finish. I felt like it was redemption to not just squeak under my PR but to break it by over a minute after just missing my half-marathon PR by 14 seconds a year ago at this race. It was a pretty powerful feeling to be running under the pace I needed at the end rather than struggling not to lose too much time at the end like I had last year. I felt strong and determined.
These may have been the only race photos I've ever had where I was smiling as I finished.

At first I was disappointed that I didn't run the race with Jeremy as I had hoped. But the more I thought about it, I think it worked out best that way. I was glad Jeremy felt free to run his own race and do what was best for his body. I think if I had been running with him he would have felt pressure to keep running rather than walking when he needed to. No matter what pace he runs, his hip gets sore where he has pins holding his bones in place. I think even if he'd started the race at 9-9:30 pace he would've gotten sore at the end and had to walk some anyway. Long runs are harder for him with the injuries he's recovered from. Jeremy was definitely pleased with how things went. He was excited for me that I had run a PR and was really happy to have finished the race. It was a huge feat for him! He has such a wonderful mindset going into races, making goals based on his workouts and then adjusting throughout the race as needed. He said he originally hoped to be just over 4 hours. Then as the race progressed and he needed to walk some, he decided it would be neat if he finished in 4:20 and was tickled when he thought he'd finished in 4:20:20. He actually finished one second faster than that. If it hadn't been for Jeremy going out faster than expected, there's no way I would have run a PR. Had I taken off and followed my own race plan, I would have started out at 9:00 pace. Those first few miles around 8:30 pace is what helped propel me toward believing I could sustain that pace for the rest of the race. Although, ideally, I wanted to run the whole race with Jeremy, the way the race panned out ended up being pretty perfect. There's nothing like giving up on a season thinking you have no shot to come back and run any PRs or decent races after battling minor injuries, only to unexpectedly come out of the season with a new PR! I can thank Jeremy for that! I never would have been brave enough to chase that PR if he hadn't taken me out too fast for the first mile and then left me chasing him down!

The minute I crossed the finish line I felt terrible. My legs were so done and every muscle from my hips down started twitching. I decided I might run another marathon, but it would need to be in another 8 years. I hobbled over to the fencing on the outside of the chute and grabbed on for support. I stood there holding on and catching my breath until a volunteer came over to check on me. Then I started walking so I could avoid being dragged off to the med tent like my most recent marathon. That was a horrible experience! I fought the urge to cry partially from excitement at my new PR, partly due to fatigue, and partly due to being in the most pain I've ever been in my life. It took me a long time to make it through the chute and I was in so much pain! I think that may have been in part because I ran such a huge negative split which meant I ran a 1:47:07 second half! I also believe I wasn't quite in as good of shape as I was when I ran my PR 9 years ago but I just ran a smarter race (although not tactically planned) and had absolutely perfect weather with 35-55 degree temps and virtually no wind which is unheard of for Oklahoma! I definitely ran much faster than I'd trained for which probably made it hurt more as well. I trained more for a sub-4 hour marathon with no tempo runs and my last speed workout being 5 weeks out from race day! After the Tulsa Run I was a bit in shock over how much under my 1:10 goal I had run and I rode that runner's high for, I'm not kidding, at least a week! I think going into a race just hoping to run under 4 hours and then running a freaking PR tops that for sure! I'm definitely feeling really good about it!

I finished the race with an official time of 3:38:58 and a new marathon PR after 9 years! I was pleasantly surprised when I got home and saw I had placed 3rd in my age group out of 77 runners. I looked at the half splits and I was running 11th in my age group at that point, moving up to 3rd by the finish! I was 124th out of 1,566 total finishers and 23rd out of 737 females. Since I set my phone up to track me, Jeremy, Thomas, and one of my friends running the marathon it showed all my splits and what pace I ran for that segment of the race. I went through the 10k in 53:45 which was 8:39 pace, then the 10 mile in 1:26:07 which was 8:33 pace, then the half in 1:51:51 which was 8:19 pace for that section, 2:47:19 for the 20 mile which was 8:03 pace for that section, and ran the last 6 miles at 8 minute pace. My Garmin showed I ran 8:17 pace but the official results show 8:22 pace. My Garmin also showed I ran 26.42 miles so either I did a terrible job running the tangets (which I know I did since I ran out of the way to high five, get to my family, and get water at the stops, but not sure I did that bad of a job) or my Garmin is way off with distance. After seeing my mom's pictures I realized how much distance I added running over to high five the kids and see my family as well as on other sections of the course when I went out of the way to high five kids on the course, so it is likely that I did add around 2/10ths of a mile to the distance. Since my goal was to finish and have fun I put more emphasis on enjoying the spectators than on running the tangents and I don't regret that at all. I also know I was checking my Garmin mile splits compared to the course mile splits and they were pretty close for the first few miles but I kept being more and more over the longer the race was and probably the more I ran longer around turns.

The course is decently challenging with about 700 feet of elevation gain, but not too bad. Jeremy finished in 4:20:19 which put him 417th out of 1,566 overall! It's amazing to think he finished faster than over 1,000 people while running with a rod in his femur and pins in his hip! That evening Jeremy was walking much better than I was and I said, "Jeremy's walking better than me because he has the advantage of having a rod in his leg." Everyone got a kick out of it and I think it also reminded Jeremy of how amazing it was that he was able to do what he did. He and dad went up to the NTSICU that afternoon to pass out survivor shirts for the nurses who asked for one and they got to see Jeremy and hear about how he had run a marathon that morning, it was pretty cool! I'm still in awe that Jeremy was able to finish the race, especially considering how much under his projected pace he ran the first half of the race. He really gutted it out in the second half and showed tremendous strength. He continues to inspire me each time he races. Thomas had a really good race in the half as well, finishing in 1:43:32, 202nd out of 4,728 finishers. He'd like to shoot for a sub-1:40 now that he's close to it. I think he could easily do that in the spring at the Aquarium Run since it's such a flat, fast course!

We ended up having quite the trek back to the car after the race and all the walking definitely helped my legs. By the time we made it home I was thinking I may run the marathon again next year but don't quote me on that! Outside of the first half hour after the race my recovery has been pretty spot on to what I remembered from my 3 marathons back in 2008 and 2009. It has been hard to get up and down stairs but other than that I'm back to walking pretty close to normally today. I'm not sure why I was in so much pain right after the finish, but holy moly it was rough! I had a hard time walking and couldn't sit or stand still. I had to keep moving. I sat to watch Jeremy finish and was near a family with 2 small kids. The boy kept asking me questions which I was fine with answering but his grandma kept telling him, "Leave her alone, she just wants to rest after her race!" I told her I have a 4 year old and 2 year old at home so I'm used to getting done with a long run and immediately being inundated with questions! After sitting for a while and not being able to stand it anymore I decided to walk back over to the grassy area of Guthrie Green and that's where dad found me. He had my sweats and made sure I put them on which helped. Then he rubbed my calves for me which were still twitching and that made a huge difference for me. We walked back over to the finishing area when I was ready and waited for Jeremy with mom. I saw one of my running buddies and found out she had broken 4 hours after telling me her goal was to run around 4:30! She looked great. Then we saw Jeremy and he looked so happy. I was worried he'd be limping or looking run-down but he looked fabulous! We all enjoyed chatting as we made the long trek back to our cars and Jeremy saved us by remembering exactly where the parking lot was! Overall the race was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed almost every moment of the race and the "marathon legs" these past few days have been so worth it. Now I'm looking forward to getting my age group award mailed to me because if they are similar to last year's awards, it will have my new marathon PR printed on it! Read about last year's Route 66 Half-Marathon here, 2015's race here, and the run-down of all our races at Route 66 up to 2016 here.
Walking back to the car.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Nocturnal Animals

I thought a theme on nocturnal animals would be a lot of fun and could piggy back off our theme on Halloween. I used some of the same materials and just changed up the sensory bin a little bit. We actually did this theme before Halloween but I was way behind on learning theme posts and figured it would be better to get the Halloween theme done closer to Halloween so I did it before writing up this one. Doing this learning theme before Halloween was a way for me to pull out some of the fun Halloween stuff I was excited about without actually getting out all the Halloween things. It worked out great. Carter had a lot of fun with this theme and we'll say Elise did too, but who really knows. She only half pays attention most of the time. Carter was obsessed with wanting to go outside when it was dark so he could see the nocturnal animals out. It probably didn't help that I told him when I run early in the morning and it's still dark I see owls, rabbits, and even a coyote once while running! Then he really wanted to go see some for himself!

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten and are appropriate to his age and development right now. I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually. I have added working on his name as his teachers at school have asked us to work on it at home and I want to remember to include working on it in some form during each of our learning themes. I'm also adding in a section for Elise now that she is a year old. I don't considers her bullet points objectives, they are experiences I want to make sure to expose her to frequently. Her experiences are listed below Carter as bullet points rather than numbers.

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:

Writing Skills:
  • holds a pencil with 2 fingers and a thumb grasp.
  • draws a circle, plus sign, and square.
  • uses scissors to cut a 4 inch line. 
  • uses pictures to write a story.
  • writes name.
Reading Skills:
  • blends sounds to say word.
  • chunks words into syllables.
  • hears and identifies rhyming words.
  • recognizes and names uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • isolates and identifies beginning and ending sounds in spoken words.
 Math Skills:
  • counts to 20.
  • counts with one to one correspondence.
  • represents a number of objects with a written numeral (0-10).
  • compares objects in sets with more, less, or equal to.
  • creates and extends patterns.
  • identifies shapes and describes attributes. 
  • understands that addition means adding to.
  • understands that subtraction means taking from.                   
 Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  1. Continue to improve fine motor skills and drawing (specifically I'm looking for her to be able to copy a circle and a square as well as eventually draw a person with 2-4 body parts).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors. 
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature such as size, color, hard, soft).
  7. Count and understand what the numbers mean.
  • I wrote out Nocturnal Animals on a sentence strip and we did the typical naming of the letters and practicing blending the segments I said to him to make a word.
  • I put together a sensory bin with black beans for the base since the night sky is dark. Then I threw in a few star beads to emphasize nighttime. I added some different nocturnal animals such as owls and bats for the kids to play with. As Carter played we'd do things like count to see how many bats there were and how many owls there were.
  • I found some nocturnal animal cards here. I cut them apart so the picture of the animal and it's name were on separate pieces. Then I had Carter match the animal up to its name by using the beginning sound of the animal's name to help him. Then I helped him read the different names by telling him the sounds and having him blend them together. He was able to segment and blend bat and cat on his own. I just did about 6 animal cards at a time so he wouldn't get overwhelmed and he did a great job! When he was finished matching the animals up with their names we put the animals in alphabetical order. Carter enjoyed practicing with the animal names so much that he wanted to write them down when we were done and did that on his own.

  • We used bat toys and foam bats to make patterns. I've noticed Carter has gotten so used to making color patterns that he only thinks of color patterns. I want to broaden his understanding of patterns to anything that repeats over and over so I've started making sure we do patterns based on other characteristics. He enjoyed making patterns based on size but still wanted it to be a color pattern as well.
  • I came across black sand while wandering through Dollar Tree and got so excited to use it for this learning theme. I asked Carter why he thought we were using black sand and he said because the night sky is black. I had him write his name and then practice some shapes. I also had him listen to me say sounds and then write them to make a word. He wanted to show off and wrote bat and cat without any help. Then I asked him to come up with some words that rhyme with bat. I thought he might use bat and change out the beginning sound in the sand, but he just started listing them without any help. I wrote the words he came up with down on a foam bat. When it was Elise's turn she drew a circle and then I showed her how to make a square. She attempted one and then drew some more circles. I wrote her name and told her the letters in her name as I wrote.
  • We also read a cute poem about nocturnal animals I found here. I had Carter listen and see if he could identify any rhyming words in the poem.
  • We watched a few videos of spiders creating their webs. I had Carter really pay attention to how the spider made the web and what order she went in along with what shapes she created. It was really neat to watch and see how a web is actually made. Then we did like what the spiders did to create a tape web on the table. I ran out of masking tape while creating the base of our web. It worked out great because Carter asked me how we were going to make the middle part of the web sticky like a real spider's web. We left the outline the way it was even though I didn't make all the lines we wanted since that portion of the web is made with a different kind of silk that isn't sticky. Then we made the inside of the web with double sided tape. I had the kids help me peel off the paper after we'd made the web. They used foam spiders to play on the web and we used pom poms, pretending they were insects stuck to the web. We threw the insects at the web and watched to see where they'd stick. Carter liked making his spider go over to the insects to eat them. I didn't go into too much detail about how a spider eats insects, just that it wraps it up before sucking out it's food.
  • We used some finger puppets the kids made to retell the story of Stellaluna. I pulled out a small bird's nest we have with our craft supplies to use in the telling of the story. Carter had a lot of fun retelling the story and then changing it up to his own version after that.
Playing with the finger puppets.
Elise loved the baby birdies and kept putting them in the nest.
  • I pulled random animal toys from around the house for Carter to sort based on when they are awake. He made a pile of nocturnal animals and a pile of diurnal animals. I was impressed with how quickly and easily he was able to do it! When he was done sorting I asked him which pile had the most and which had the least. He discovered they had an equal number. Then he counted to check and see how many he had in each pile.
  •  We read a Scholastic News all about bats. Carter liked looking at the picture of a bat body and finding different body parts on the bat. I had Elise compare our body parts to bat body parts and helped her describe how they were the same and how they were different. We also read a Scholastic News about night hunters and discussed how the animals were the same and how they were different.

  • I played some nocturnal animal sounds and asked the kids to identify what animal might make that sound. Carter would get so excited, he'd scream it out the minute he heard the sound rather than give Elise a chance to guess. She seemed pretty clueless on most of them anyway but was excited to guess wolf correctly. Carter got stumped on bat for a while but finally figured it out.
  • A Scholastic News about owls had a graph on the back. I asked Carter which animal there was the most of and which there was the least of. Then Carter and I read the questions about the graph and I had him answer them.
  • I had another Scholastic News about bats. On the back there was a section to compare bats to bids. We discussed how bats are similar to birds and how they are different. I told Carter bats are actually mammals and explained to him what makes them mammals.
  • One of Carter's favorite Scholastic Newses we read showed different kinds of bats. We read about them and Carter liked pointing out how they looked the same and how they looked different. We discussed the names of the bats and talked about why they might have been given that name.
  • I talked with Elise about day and night. We described day as the time when the sun is out and it is light outside. We described night as the time when the sun is no longer out and it is dark outside. I asked her when we are awake and told her that some animals are awake at night.
  • We read the book The Very Busy Spider and I had Carter and Elise both feel the raised up spider web on the pages. Then we created our own spider webs using glue on dark paper. We let them dry and then ran our fingers over them to feel the web. Elise didn't want to make one but enjoyed watching us do it.
  • I printed bat finger puppets I found here and bird finger puppets I found here so the kids could use them in retelling the story of Stellaluna. Carter and Elise each colored a bat finger puppet and they each colored a few bird puppets. They were so proud of them and Elise would actually walk around wearing her bird finger puppets like they were rings. It was pretty cute!
    Working on their finger puppets.
  • I saw an adorable fox craft here. I figured it would be a perfect craft for the kids to practice their scissor skills. I folded the paper plates down to the triangle of the head and drew lines for them to cut on. I turned Carter loose and he cut all by himself and did a great job. I held Elise's plate for her and helped guide her scissors onto the line by moving the plate as she cut. She really already does such a great job with scissors. I think it probably helped that she's seen Carter cutting so she already knew how to hold scissors. She's never tried to hold them with two hands like most kids do when first experiencing scissors. Ripping apart the tissue paper to decorate the fox's face was more practice with the fine motor skills needing for cutting as well. I gave the kids scraps from the paper plate with triangles drawn on so they could make ears. Elise didn't want any help so she cut her ears down to mostly nothing.

    Carter's finished fox.
  • I always love paper plate crafts because they are cheap and easy and I have a ton of paper plates still leftover from my classroom. So when I saw this cute porcupine craft I knew I could change it up by using a paper plate. I gave Carter a paper plate with a line drawn down the middle so he could cut it in half. Then one half was his and the other was Elise's. They decorated their porcupines and then glued toothpicks to the back. I thought they'd love gluing the toothpicks and figured they'd go wild with them but they both only did a few, I was surprised!
  • Carter made an adorable owl craft at school while we were doing our learning theme on nocturnal animals. He told me they made it by using a marshmallow clipped to a clothespin as a stamper.
  • Carter  made a fun spider web craft at school where he laced yarn through holes in a paper plate and then they added a spider ring to the yarn so he could move the spider along the web. It was a really neat idea.
  • Carter also made a cute bat craft at school where they taped down a bat and then painted the paper. The paint left the bat silhouette on the paper.
  • I had some foam bats I got on sale after Halloween last year. I got them out for the kids to draw on and decorate. Carter loved that he knows how to write the word bat so he made sure to write bat on his foam bat. It was very cute!
  • We also made paper plate owl crafts. The kids each decorated two paper plates. Then they cut one of the paper plates in half to use as the wings. I asked them to draw circle eyes and a triangle beak for the owl's face. Elise decided she didn't want to draw eyes on her bat so she just left the face blank.
Special Snack:
  • I had fun pulling out my bat cookie cutter and making lots of bat shaped food for the kids. During our learning theme I cut Carter's lunch meat and cheese into a bat multiple times. Side note: Neither of my kids really eat sandwiches. They just pull the meat and cheese off the bread and eat them separately so I just skip the bread. It's really better for them that way anyway and I've taken their lead on that.
  • I saw an adorable idea for raccoon bread on Pinterest and changed it to use what we already had and to make it easier for me. We made toast and then I buttered it with some special white chocolate peanut butter my mom gave us. Then I used some dark chocolate peanut butter she'd given us to make the rings for the raccoon's eyes and the stripes on the tail. I used marshmallows for eyes. The kids loved it and asked for a second serving. I ended up just giving them each a spoonful of peanut butter because it was hard to make the raccoon toast!
Make Believe:
  • Carter and Elise always have so much fun pretending to be animals. I told them we were going to pretend to be nocturnal animals. They both picked bats and had a lot of fun flying around the house and then hanging upside down from the bed.
  • There were so many cute nocturnal animals songs on Pinterest. I found quite a few I liked and we enjoyed singing them together. We sang a cute song called Bats are Sleeping that I found here. Another one we sang was I'm a Little Raccoon to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot. Find the song here. The kids enjoyed the actions that went along with it. Flutter, Flutter Little Bat was also a hit because Carter still adores Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The song can be found here.
  • We played The Great Nocturnal Hat Hunt on PBS Kids here. Carter got so excited seeing the different ways he was going to be able to search for the hat and trying to guess which animal it was before the game told him. He showed Elise how to play and let her have turns. It was very sweet!
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • I used the animal cards I printed to make us a sheet for recording which nocturnal animals we saw at the zoo. Then when we went to the zoo I forgot it in the car because I was flustered from running an emergency errand that caused us to arrive way late. I just had Carter identify any nocturnal animals we saw and then when we got home he recorded which ones we'd seen by placing an x next to their picture. I actually didn't even have to remind him to look for nocturnal animals, he was so excited about our learning theme, he'd yell, "This is a nocturnal animal!" as we walked up to an exhibit. He also remembered that they feed the raccoons, river otters, and beavers during the day at the aquarium so they will come out and we can see them, otherwise they wouldn't come out since they're nocturnal. At home once he'd marked which animals we'd seen I had him sort the animal pictures based on whether we'd seen them or not. Then I asked him which pile there was more of, animals we'd seen or hadn't seen. Then we counted to see how many were in each group.
    Excited to see the river otters which he pointed out were sleeping since they're nocturnal.
Recording the nocturnal animals he saw at the zoo.
Looking to see whether there were more we saw than didn't see.

  • What the Sun Sees/What the Moon Sees by Nancy Tafuri
  • What's Special at Night by Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood
  • Moon Child by Nadia Krilanovich
  • Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin
  • Owlet's First Flight by Mitra Modarressi
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • Who's Next Door by Mayuko Kishira and Jun Takabatake
  • Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge
  • Hooray for Today! by Brian Won
  • Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel
  • Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
  • Sunrise, Moonrise by Betsy Thompson
  • Night Animals by Gianna Marino
  • The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein
  • Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan
  • When It Is Night/When It Is Day by Jenny Tyers
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
  • While the World Is Sleeping by Pamela Duncan Edwards
  • The Fox in the Dark by Alison Green
  • Night-night, Forest Friends by Annie Bach
  • The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara
  • Moon Forest by Patricia McCarthy
  • Amazing Animals at Night by Alix Wood
  • I See the Moon by Jacqueline Mitton
  • Whoo Goes There? by Jennifer A. Ericsson
  • One Nighttime Sea: An Ocean Counting Book by Deborah Lee Rose
  • Nighttime by Jill Esbaum
  • Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor
  • Forest Bright, Forest Night by Jennifer Ward
  • Nocturnal Animals by Kelli L. Hicks
  • Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin
  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn