Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jeremy's Survival Run

It felt weird writing this post from my perspective. I felt like it made it too much about me and not enough about Jeremy but then I realized my experience is the only one I can write about. So here we are, me writing about my experience at Jeremy's Survival Run. A little over a year since his accident where he broke his femur, pelvis, and skull and suffered a very serious traumatic brain injury. His chances of survival looked bleak in the first few days (and even weeks, to be honest) and his chance at a full or near full recovery were pretty much non-existent but here he is having made nearly a full recovery in the months since his accident. Read more about Jeremy's accident here, my first run after his accident here, when we nearly lost him here, and to read the updates on his progress through those first months check any posts from January-March 2016.
Dad, Jeremy, and mom posing by the finish line which I accidentally cut out of the picture.
The week before Jeremy's Survival run it seemed like spring with daily highs reaching even into the 80's! Friday night the weather was predicting around 32 degrees for race morning which was going to be a shock for everyone who had been getting used to the spring-like weather! Saturday morning as I prepared to head out to the race site to mark the course I checked the weather and it was even colder than predicted, 25 degrees and felt like 17! I had to change out my clothes I had laid out the night before to clothes for colder weather. My plan was to run the course to mark it with chalk and then run out a little more to finish out 4 miles for the day. That way I could be at the finish line to cheer people on. Although it was pretty chilly the sun was out and the wind was very minimal. It was absolutely perfect running weather. I had woken up before my alarm feeling so joyful and excited for the race and the sunshine was only adding to my happiness. I kept thinking about how the whole event was so remarkable! A year ago we felt somewhat foolish hoping that Jeremy might be running again someday. Now not only is Jeremy running again, he's running fast and long!

I took off to run the course armed with sidewalk chalk in my pocket. I had so much fun writing encouraging messages, marking the miles, and outlining the route with arrows. A few people out using the trails asked me what race I was getting ready for so I got to share with them the great news of Jeremy's recovery. When I made it back to the starting area mom, dad, and Ty had arrived with the kids along with some other family and friends. We got the finish line area set up and then I talked to a few people who were already there. One of my friends whose kids I had in class a few years ago was shocked when I told her I wasn't running the race. She declared that I must run it and that she would man the finish line with my dad (who has a stress reaction in his shin, boo to injuries!). I was so excited to get to run the race but ran the idea past Ty and my dad to make sure they felt it would work out. Ty pointed out that I probably wouldn't miss many people finish anyway and I realized he was right. Elise was miserably cold because her gloves kept falling off and was crying so we decided I would run with her in the stroller with the weather shield on. Ty got her ready for me and then headed over to the turn around point to set up the water stop.
A picture I took at the turn around spot while marking the course.
As we gathered at the starting line Carter announced that he wanted to run so I had him come over by me. I gave some information about the course and dad introduced everyone to some people who played big roles in Jeremy's recovery and then we were off. In honor of Jeremy's classmate, Dylan Meier, who died in a hiking accident we started the race by saying "Get Busy Livin" rather than ready, set, go. I had planned to get a video of the race start but forgot since I was worried about making sure Carter stayed with me to start. We said "Get busy livin!" again after the race to capture it. Carter was so excited and took off running wonderfully. He made it out about 1/10th of a mile and decided he was done so we turned around and I ran him back to his Opa and then headed back out onto the course. It was fun cheering for everyone as I went by. Then on the way back I took pictures as I ran along. It was especially neat to see Jeremy out toward the front of the race. I wanted everyone at the race to feel like winners for coming out on a cold day and for celebrating and supporting Jeremy through his entire recovery so I brought streamers to stretch across the finish line. Everyone got to "break the tape" which I've always felt, no matter how bad or tough of a race you have, is a wonderful feeling. It seemed like everyone enjoyed that and Carter really liked holding the streamers too!
Dad talking to everyone before the race started.
Jeremy after the turn around. I was taking pictures as I was running and the sun was making it hard to see what I was taking a picture of.

Mom crossing the finish line.

After the race I got the chance to speak to the man who was on the scene when Jeremy got hit. He was driving behind the truck whose trailer hit Jeremy and stopped to help. He held Jeremy and willed him to live, talking him through all of it. I was so glad I got the chance to thank him for being there for Jeremy in a way we wish we could have but were not able to be. Hearing the story from him brought goosebumps to my arms and tears to my eyes. He said he was in the army and had a fellow soldier die in his arms. When he was holding Jeremy he told himself, not again, this man will not die in my arms. He yelled at Jeremy to come back, to fight, even after a doctor on the scene had pronounced Jeremy dead. He said Jeremy showed his fighter spirit when he not only came back but attempted to stand up! My heart will forever love that man and what he did for our family, going against the directions of the 9-1-1 dispatcher who told him to roll Jeremy over onto his back as he knew Jeremy would drown on his own blood if he did so. I feel deep in my heart that he was perfectly suited to be the person to help Jeremy that day and I am eternally grateful for the angel on earth he was for Jeremy that day. Today and every day I am thankful for Jeremy's life, Jeremy's ability to walk, ability to run, and my ability to do those things as well. I am so glad we have the opportunity to keep moving forward together and Saturday was a wonderful celebration of that!
Carter playing with the kids after the race.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Valentine's Day

We did this learning theme during the week of Valentine's Day. I'm just a bit late in getting it posted. As you all know, I LOVE Valentine's Day and all things love and heart related. I have so much fun planning out our Valentine's Day learning themes and putting together a Valentine's Day themed play date each year. This year was particularly fun because Carter can write his name to sign his valentines by himself and can now cut out hearts as well. We had so much fun during this learning theme. Read last year's learning theme here and 2015's here

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:
  1. Begin to organize and focus on writing. (Dictate stories, plan out a story, draw pictures and scribbles to create a book).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors.  (I'm moving on to looking for a thumb and forefinger grasp with writing tools and holding scissors appropriately)
  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).
  7. Count with one-to-one correspondence, begin to identify numerals, being to use ordinal numbers (first, second, last). 
  8. Recognize the letters in name, arrange them to spell name, begin to write name.
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Play make believe/Imitate the behaviors of others (adults and children).
  • Know the names of and be able to point out body parts.
  • Groups things together by size or color/matches like objects, understands hard and soft.
  • Names common objects and is able to point them out.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously. Can draw a line. Differentiates between a circle and square.
  • Follows simple instructions (focusing on words such as in, on, beside, under).
  • Others: counts to two, refers to self by name. These I want to start to expose her to, but she isn't quite ready to master then yet.
  • I wrote Valentine's Day on a sentence strip. I had Carter point out the letters he knew and tell me the sounds they make if he knew. Then I chunked Valentine's into parts and had him blend it together. He was very proud of himself.
  • Carter got a lot of practice writing his name during this theme. He made valentines for all of his friends in class and took them to school. I had him sign his own name which meant he signed 16 cards. We started about a week ahead of time and I had him sign 2-3 at a time. We finished them up the night before which worked out great! I again used leftover heart mazes from Ty and my wedding reception and we now just have a couple left for our sensory bin. I definitely didn't imagine using the leftover mazes to make valentines with my son during his first year of school back when we were buying them on sale after Valentine's Day 6 years ago, but it sure worked out perfectly!
  • Carter really enjoyed a Valentine's Day Scholastic News I had about red and pink animals. We read it and then he flipped it over and looked at the graph all on his own, counting the number of boxes colored in above each animal. It was neat to watch!
  • An awesome blog I read posted a really cute raining hearts name activity here. I printed double the materials so both Elise and Carter could complete it. I let Carter do everything on his own while I worked with Elise. He found the letters in his name, arranged them in order, cut the string, taped the hearts to the string, and taped the string to the cloud. He was upset that his strings were such different lengths when he was done so I helped him trim them down to be closer to the same size. I wrote Elise's name on her cloud and then found each letter of her name one at a time and put it up against the letter on the cloud telling her the letters matched. I let her pull off tape and then had her help me tape them. When we were done I told her the letters and said they made her name, Elise. She got a bit mad at me a few times, throwing all the hearts on the floor, but we made it through with a cute finished product.
  • After making their raining hearts projects, I also used the hearts with letters on them to practice with the kids. I showed Carter the letters he didn't have circled on his assessment page from school and had him practice telling me those names. Then we practiced matching the capital letters with the lowercase letters. When I paired them up I had Carter point out how they looked the same and how they looked different. First I matched up letters like C and c, U and u, V and v, and S and s. We talked about how the capital letter and the lowercase looked the same. Then I matched some that look really similar like M and m. We talked about how they looked the same and then what was different about them. While we did that Elise played with the blank hearts and I talked about colors with her.
    Identifitying the letters he missed at school.
    Comparing E and F because he confuses an F for an E.
    Matching capital and lowercase letters and then comparing them to each other.
  • I printed some prewriting pages here. To practice with scissors we used a few of them as cutting pages. Carter really liked the mazes and was excited to trace and decorate the L-O-V-E pages. Elise drew while Carter worked and then tried out using scissors as well.
  • I had Elise play with a big foam heart, putting it on different body parts. I started out showing her the heart on my body and telling her what body part the heart was on. Then I gave her the heart and asked her to put it on different parts of her body.
  • We played with conversation heart candy to practice different skills. Carter sorted the candy by color and arranged them into lines to create a bar graph. He estimated which color had the most and which the least. Then we counted to see. I had him look at the candy and tell me some letters he saw on them. Then he tasted each color and we talked about which were our favorites.
  • One of our favorites is playing Play Doh. We used heart cookie cutters with the Play Doh. Before we played we sorted the cookie cutters by color and then by size. When we sorted by color we really emphasized the word red for Elise.
  • I made a little game of heart races. I have some conversation heart pillows I got after Valentine's Day on sale at Target one year. I put them in a bucket at the end of the hall and had the kids run to the bucket, pulling out a pillow that matched the description I gave. We started with color. Elise didn't follow directions and just pulled whatever color she felt like so I just told her what color she had when she brought it to me. Then I moved on to letters with Carter, asking him to find a pillow with a certain letter on it for me. Of course, I initially chose a B thinking one of them said Be Mine, but that pillow was missing so Carter couldn't find it. After that I checked all the pillows before sending him after a letter!
  • We did the same activity as last year where we glued hearts to numbers. Carter decided part way through that he'd rather draw the number inside it. Then Elise glued the hearts while we counted with her. She loved getting to glue the hearts and having our attention while we counted with her. I made a big deal about what a good team they made and it was so much fun to see them work together!
  • We used foam hearts with holes punched around the outside to practice with lacing. Carter is old hat and did a wonderful job with it. Elise liked working to put the string through a hole and then pulling it out the other side. I was actually pretty impressed with her fine motor skills and ability to do that.
  • Last year I used some hard card stock cards and hearts to create heart cards. We used them again this year to play a game of heart memory. Carter impressed me by flipping cards over and immediately recognizing the number without having to count the hearts. It wasn't until he got to the number 5 that he needed to count the hearts.
  • Our sensory bin had a fake rose petal base. I threw in some heart shaped bracelets, heart mazes, scoops, heart bead necklaces, foam hearts, heart glasses, and some other heart decorations. Elise's favorite things to do were to pull out all the bracelets and put them on and to dig through and pull out all the heart beads and put them down her shirt. She was so funny walking up to me and jumping up and down so I could hear the beads bouncing around in her shirt!
  • Once I showed Carter how to cut hearts out of paper, that was all he wanted to do. He loved for me to fold a piece of paper and draw half a heart on it for him to cut out. Each time he opened the paper to reveal a heart he was so proud and got so excited to show it to me.
  • Carter had a blast making valentines. We spent over an hour one morning making valentines and he worked on them off and on throughout the week as well. I just set out supplies and let him create them however he wanted. He came up with some really cool ideas. My favorite was a train he made. I wrote "Choo, choo, I love you!" on it. For Elise I cut hearts out of read construction paper and wrote "Happy Valentine's Day, Love, Elise," on them. Then I had her decorate them however she wanted. Most of them she colored on, but a few she used stickers. She got a lot of practice holding markers and drawing while working on her valentines.
  • We went to the aquarium for their special Aqua Tots storytime during our Valentine's Day learning theme. Since Valentine's Day was coming up, the special craft that day was a raccoon made out of hearts. Carter put the glue on all the pieces but wanted me to place them for him because he wanted his to look just like the example. Elise also wanted to use glue but had no interest in putting the pieces on the raccoon's face, so I ended up doing all the placing of pieces.
  • Each year we have created valentine bags together as a family but this year we never had an evening where we had the chance to do it. Instead Carter and Elise made theirs during our Valentine's Day playdate. Carter loves using stickers and so does Elise!
  • Carter made a couple of adorable crafts at school. One was a caterpillar with the letters of his name on hearts for him to put in order and glue down. I had planned to do something similar with him but didn't since he'd already done it at school. The other craft was a cute little teddy bear holding a heart.
Special Snack:
  • On Valentine's Day I made heart shaped pancakes for the kids for breakfast. I went all out and even made them pink! Carter thought they were the best ever and kept holding his up to say he loves me. Elise just likes to eat so she gobbled hers down!
  • The heart shaped food didn't stop there. After I picked Carter up from school I asked him if he wanted to use his Valentine's Day money from his Gma and Gpa to go out for lunch or if he wanted to eat at home and have heart shaped food. He told me that he wanted to eat heart shaped food, he is definitely my child! He was disappointed his fruit wasn't in a heart shape, but I'd forgotten to buy strawberries that week grocery shopping as they are easy to cut into hearts. Grapes were our only option and Carter didn't think slicing down the top a little looked like a heart and he was right, it didn't. The heart peanut butter and jelly and heart sweet potato were hits though!
  • For dinner on Valentine's Day it was heart pizza and heart cake for dessert. The kids loved helping me make both of them. We made the cake first and it took significantly longer than I had expected. I let Carter pick out what kind of cake he wanted to make and he picked a rainbow cake. That meant we had to split the batter into 6 different bowls and add food coloring to each. Then we poured them one at a time into the pans. We used a square pan and a round pan. Then we cut the round pan in half and used it to make a heart. We were cutting it a little close making the pizza once we put the cake in the oven but it worked out perfectly to where the cake was out of the oven when we had the pizza ready. Carter loved making the pizza into a heart shape. After dinner I iced the cake and the kids decorated it.
    Working on the pizza dough.
Make Believe:
  • Last year Carter and I made some heart puppets. We pulled them out again this year and played with them a little bit. My favorite was making it peek out at Elise and surprise her.
  • When we were playing with the foam heart and I was having Elise put it on different body parts I started singing the teddy bear song where it says, "Put it on your head and walk around the room..." Then it has you put it on different body parts. We sang that song a few times following along to the words.
    Put it on your head and walk around the room!
  • We also sang Skidamarink multiple times during the week and read Carter's book he wrote last year which was loosely based on that song. 
  • I found a Valentine's Day songs for kids playlist on Youtube which we listened to each time we made valentines. Carter just loved it!
  • Carter really enjoyed a Valentine's Day puzzle game here. It was a box of candy and they all spilled out. His job was to put them back where they belonged. When he was finished he got to click on each one to "eat" it and there was a chomping sound. He loved that!
  • Another fun game was a Counting Hearts game here. Carter did a great job counting the dots on the heart and matching it to the correct numeral on the other side. I was really impressed with how well he did, even just looking at the dots and knowing how many were there without even counting!
  • Carter loved the Curious George Hearts and Crafts here. It was a puzzle game where you had to find the other half of the heart and put the heart together.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We hosted a Valentine's Day playdate at our house. I had the tables set up with materials for the kids to make valentines. Each kid made a bag and then they passed out valentines to each other. Then the kids all decorated brownies that I had cut out into a heart shape.
  • I Love You, Little Monkey by Alan Durant
  • Love Is You and Me by Monica Sheehan 
  • I Am Small by Emma Dodd
  • Everyone Needs Love by Sophie Piper
  • The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond
  • Kiss Me, I'm Perfect by Robert Munsch
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
  • I Love Valentine's Day by Hans Wilhelm
  • Hugs by Alice McLerran
  • Love, Splat by Rob Scotton
  • Valentine Friends by Ann Schweninger
  • How Spider Saved Valentine's Day by Robert Kraus
  • I Love Hugs by Lara Jones
  • I Like It When by Mary Murphy
  • Valentine Mice by Bethany Roberts
  • The Best Thing About Valentines by Eleanor Hudson
  • Franklin's Valentine by Paulette Bourgeois
  • Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
  • Counting Kisses by Karen Katz
  • Bear in Love by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
  • If You'll Be My Valentine by Cynthia Rylant
  • My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall   
  • Llama Llama I Love You by Anna Dewdney
  • I Love You with All My Heart by Noris Kern
  • Just Because You're Mine by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • Valentine's Day Is... by Gail Gibbons
  • A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy
  • Big Hugs, Little Hugs by Felicia Bond
  • The I Love You Book by Todd Parr
  • We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu
  • Bear in Love by Samantha Davis
  • The Way I Love You by David Bedford and Ann Jones
  • Melvin's Valentine by Jon Scieszka
  • Happy Love Day, Daniel Tiger by Becky Friedman and Jason Fruchter
  • Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George by N. Di Angelo
  • Pride and Prejudice: A BabyLit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams
  • Romeo and Juliet: A BabyLit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams