Trinity Sunday, (Three in One)…Days 82 and 83

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday and in my church we believe in one true God who is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity and equal in majesty.

3 in 1: A Picture of God– The Trinity can be confusing for anyone to understand, especially children, so I spent some time this weekend trying to explain it to my daughter. I was excited to find the perfect picture book, 3 in 1: A Picture of God by Joanne Marxhausen, to help my daughter gain a better understanding. The book, 3 in 1: A Picture of God, uses the analogy of an apple to explain to children the Triune God. With simple terms and illustrations, children learn how God the Father creates and protects them, how God the Son saves them and how God the Holy Spirit plants faith in their hearts. We found an animated version of the book online. CLICK HERE to view the video.

Apple Exploration– After reading the book we cut an apple open and reviewed the three parts. First we look at the apple’s skin and remembered it is like God the Father because they both provide protection. Next we looked at the apple’s flesh which is like God the Son, who was flesh and died on the cross to save use from our sins. Lastly, we examined the apple core which contains the seeds and it reminded us of the Holy Spirit that is planted in our hearts and grows like our faith.

Peel. Flesh. Core. Three parts . . . one apple.

Father. Son. Holy Spirit. Three Persons . . . one God.

3 in 1 Drawing– I found several apple handouts online that go along with the book. Most of them required a fee to download so my daughter and I created our own. We enjoyed working together and sharing our work with daddy and with Nana on Facetime.

 3 in 1 Children’s Message– Before we went to bed we watched a special children’s message recorded by the DCE at my mom and dad’s church. Mr. and Mrs. H. use the apple to explain the Holy Trinity just like the book. My daughter really enjoyed watching this video and I enjoyed seeing Mr. H, a former teaching partner of mine. CLICK HERE to watch this special children’s message.

A Monumental Sunday– With each passing day we find more and more things opening up in our community. This weekend our church opened back up for face to face worship. Our pastor made it very clear that we should come back when we feel comfortable and ready and that masks would be encouraged. Our family of three wasn’t quite ready to go back just yet so we continued to worship at home by watching our church through the TV. On this Trinity Sunday we sang one of my favorite hymns, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!

The classic hymn in a 1941 Lutheran Hymnal that my parents recently discovered in their basement.

The Laurie Berkner Band, (The Music That Got Us Through the Quarantine)…Day 81

Although our life is filled with a variety of music, there is one musician who truly got us through the 2020 pandemic and her name is Laurie Berkner!  Known as “The Queen of Kid’s Music,” when I look back at this time in my life, Laurie Berkner and her catchy melodies will be the soundtrack of our time spent in isolation.

Our Introduction– We were first introduced to the Laurie Berkner Band when our local librarian played the “Goldfish” song and the “Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz)” song, which are two of our favorites, during a library class my daughter and I used to attend. That introduction got us interested in her music and we would occasionally listen to Laurie’s music in the car, during playtime and while we cleaned the house.

Live Berkner Breaks– Then the pandemic hit and I began searching on-line for activities to engage my daughter. During our first week in isolation I discovered Laurie Berkner was having live Berkner Breaks on Facebook. We began watching them and had a blast dancing and singing along. In total she had 46 Berkner Breaks. Click Here to access all of them or watch the performances through the Laurie Berkner channel on YouTube.

Singing “These Are My Glasses” during a Laurie Berkner break.

We Love Laurie Berkner!- Now my daughter asks Alexa to play Laurie Berkner and songs like “Rocketship Run,” “We Are the Dinosuars,” and “I’m Gonna Catch You,” all off of her Best Hits album, are some of our favorites. She has also published books based on some of her popular hits and we have enjoyed listening to Laurie read several of them. Laurie’s music has brightened our lives from our first week in quarantine through today. Her familiar tunes, enduring lyrics and beautiful voice, have brought us comfort and joy. We looked forward to seeing her sweet face on the computer and continue to watch her videos and dance along to her creative songs.

Virtual Concert– The Laurie Berkner Band, unable to tour because of COVID-19, is having a virtual concert on June 21. If you and your favorite father are looking for something special to do together, I recommend buying a ticket and dancing along!

Musical Memories– I have a memory to go along with just about every one of Laurie’s songs. “Rocketship Run” reminds me of the historic SpaceX launch. “Airplane” reminds me of our drives past our local airport (which currently looks like a ghost town due to the pandemic), “Boots” reminds me of the fun my daughter and I had playing in the spring rain, “I’m Gonna Catch You” reminds me of sweet little girl giggles as I race around our house trying to catch my daughter whenever this song comes on. “Waiting for the Elevator,” “I Know How it Works,” and “Pig on Her Head” are just pure fun! But there is one song that really touched my heart and that is “Moon, Moon, Moon.”

Moon moon moon, shining bright 
Moon moon moon, my nightlight 
Moon moon moon, I can see 
Moon moon moon, you’re taking care of me

Thank you, Laurie Berkner, for taking care of us through your music and brighting our days and nights with song!

A Socially Distanced Field Trip ….Day 80

On Thursday we took a much needed field trip to the World Bird Sanctuary, a bird habitat about thirty minutes from home. The World Bird Sanctuary is an organization that protects and preserves the avian species of the world, while inspiring others to do the same. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed their education center as well as their outreach programs. A few weeks ago they began a free Drive-Thru Safari Experience, where you can see and learn about birds, safely from the comfort of your own car! This educational opportunity made us “flutter” with excitement!

world bird

The birds and their handlers were safely distanced around the perimeter of the sanctuary’s outdoor learning space and we slowly drove from bird to bird where we observed, asked questions and learned new things! The most important question on my five year old’s mind was finding out the name of each bird and discovering what each one ate for dinner!

Meet the Birds

The first bird we met was Patriot, the Bald Eagle. We learned her favorite food was fish but that Bald Eagles are known to eat other small birds and decaying prey from other animals as well. Patriot is 35 years old and was part of the opening ceremonies for the St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball division title in 2004.

Then we met Mia, a Spectacled Owl. She was beautiful but was being bothered by bugs that her handler kept swatting away from her face. My daughter already knew that owls come out at night and that they are nocturnal animals. We found our Mia eat mice and rats but enjoys watching the snakes in the nature center.

We see a lot of Red Tailed Hawks visit the pond in our backyard for a quick snack so we immediately recognized Willard. We learned that Willard’s favorite treats are fish, small mammals and rodents.

Oliver is an Eastern Screech Owl and he was much smaller than Mia. We learned that Oliver eats mice, rats and lizards!

Jet is an American Kestrel Falcon and I recognized him from an outreach program the Wild Bird Sanctuary presented at our local library last year. We learned that the black markings around Jet’s eyes protect his eyes from the sun. Athletes who wear dark tape under their eyes got the idea to do so from Jet! Jet eats insects, small rodents and small birds.

Lone Elk Park– After our visit with the birds we drove a few feet to Lone Elk Park and enjoyed a little more of nature. My daughter requested a photo with her stuffed Owl, Owliscious, so we pulled over for a photo op in front of the lake.

As we drove through Lone Elk Park we saw bison in the distance, spotted a raccoon and got a close up visit with some of the many elk who call this beautiful park home.

Even though this was a socially distanced field trip, it felt wonderful to get out of the neighborhood, enjoy some new surroundings and marvel at the beauties of nature.

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?…Day 79

Last year we got a few tomato plants and started a little patio garden. My daughter loved tending to her garden and her plants produced many yummy tomatoes for our family of three to enjoy! My little gardener has been begging to start a garden again this year, so we masked up and went to the local garden center to select some plants.

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Why Garden With Children?– Children are born to be curious and they learn best by doing. Gardening gives them an outdoor, hands-on experience in the dirt. By tending to a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction of caring for something over time and watching it change and grow. Through their observations, little gardeners can witness the cycle of life firsthand, gain environmental awareness and explore the workings of nature.

Gardening Builds Self-Confidence– The process of tending to a plant and seeing it bloom or produce fruit takes time and a lot of patience. When children see the payoff, they gain satisfaction and pride in knowing they contributed to the end result. 

You Eat What You Grow– My daughter is a very picky eater but I have found she is eager to eat what she grows in her garden. From different varieties of tomatoes to peppers and even wheat grass, if she grew it in her garden, she will eat it! In fact, we were all amazed when she gulped down a wheat grass smoothie! Gardens encourage good nutrition and healthy eating because anything you grow will be healthy!

What to Grow?– Although you can grow anything, most of the research I did recommended the following vegetables and herbs based on the fact that they are easy to grow and have short growing seasons: tomatoes (specifically cherry and grape), radishes, leggy pole beans, lettuce, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, mint, cilantro, basil and dill. The following flowers were recommended: sunflowers, nasturtiums, butterfly bush, sweet alyssum and succulents. 

How to Grow- My daughter has grown wheat grass, pole beans and wildflowers by planting seeds and watching them grow. This method will yield the most benefit as children will have the opportunity to observe growth from seed to plant to table. For our small patio garden we cheated and bought starter plants. Even with a combination of seeds and starters, I saw positive outcomes in my daughter and she benefited greatly from her gardening experiences. Next year I would like to expand our garden with a raised bed. 

Asking Questions and Problem-Solving– The day after we got our starter plants home, we noticed a predator had eaten the leaves off of our strawberry and pepper plants! This led to a great discovery as my daughter predicted and then researched… Who ate our plants? We decided it must have been a wild rabbit we had nicknamed Clover and we caught her in the act, nibbling more leaves the next day! We discussed ways to solve this problem and decided to hang the strawberries and put the peppers on a high outdoor table.

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes and can be filled with a variety of vegetables and flowers. Whether you have a patio garden like us, participate in a community garden or have an entire backyard devoted to nature, children who garden harvest a whole lot more than vegetables and flowers!

 

 

 

 

 

Together is a Wonderful Place to Be (Being Thoughtful, Informed and Brave About Race)…Days 77 and 78

Our country is suffering. As we navigate a “new normal,” as a result of a national pandemic, my heart breaks over the injustice and inequity that has plagued our nation for centuries. The recent death of George Floyd and countless others is wrong and intolerable. We can do better. For our children and for the future of our country, we must do better.

To my black friends and neighbors, although I know I will never fully understand, please know that I stand with you. I lift you and your families up in prayer. I will continue to implement an anti-bias classroom when teaching my young daughter and learners across our country. I care about you. You are not alone.

I stand with the peaceful protesters and pray that justice will be served, progress will be made and no more innocent lives will be lost.

The Anti-Bias Curriculum– My interest in the anti-bias curriculum began when I was taking graduate courses in curriculum and instruction some twenty years ago. As an early childhood educator who taught in a diverse classroom (with multiple races, languages and cultures represented), I needed help in creating a better environment for my students and wanted to become the teacher they deserved. Louise Derman-Sparks and her contributions to the anti-biased curriculum caught my attention. Derman-Sparks challenged me to reflect on my own practices and to do better. I implemented changes in my classroom and began to look at life in a new way, embracing opportunities to discuss our differences and having natural conversations with my inquisitive students. I examined my curriculum, restructured my classroom library (making sure I included books that represented the diversity in my classroom and not just books about animals and white people) and I discontinued celebrating “traditional kindergarten holidays” that were culturally inappropriate. 

“Because the realities of prejudice and discrimination begin to affect children’s development early. It IS developmentally appropriate to address them in our work with young children.” A quote by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen-Edwards

Below are some resources for families and educators

On the subject of race. This is simply a sample as there is a wealth of material available. I invite you to share the websites and resources you are using with the children in your life by clicking on the comment section.

prettygooddesign-too-young-to-talk-about-race-v4-single

The above graphic was put together by Pretty Good Design. CLICK HERE for a list of resources on their website in talking to your young children about race. Don’t be silent!

I watched this Zoom discussion titled, “Talking to Kids About Racism” a few days ago. Led by Dr. Kira Banks, with a panel of both black and white participants. I found the discussion helpful. CLICK HERE to watch.

Embrace Race– The Embrace Race website contains articles, lists and action guides to help us raise a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed and Brave About Race!

We Stories  We Stories engages white families to change the conversation about and to build momentum towards racial equity in St. Louis through the use of children’s literature and discussion. We Stories just launched their first national cohert.  

Inclusive Story Time– A website with information on children’s literature that contains diverse characters, authors and illustrations, Inclusive Story Time helps you raise conscious kids by diversifying your bookshelf. 

I am proud to be part of an organization that stands for justice and equality for all.

Come, Lord, Restore Us…Day 76

As my family of three worshiped virtually in the comfort of our family room, this new choral piece expressed what has been on my heart and mind over the past few days. “Come, Lord, Restore Us,” spoke to me as my heart continues to break over the suffocation of George Floyd and the pain, hurt, anger and unrest present in our country today.

CLICK HERE to listen to composer, David von Kampen perform the anthem. I pray it brings you some peace during these uncertain times.

History in the Making…Day 75

On Saturday afternoon my family of three gathered around the TV and watched a historic event. On May 30, 2020, we witnessed the first launch of NASA astronauts on American soil since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011 and the first private company (SpaceX) to launch people into orbit. SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, crewed by astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, successfully launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, with plans to dock with the International Space Station.

The launch was a welcomed distraction during an unstable time in our country. Watching the launch took me back to my 1980’s childhood when my elementary teachers would pull out the “TV on a cart” and we would gather with other classes in the hallway to watch the Space Shuttle launches. It was always a big deal and something they didn’t want us to miss. I was in junior high in 1986 when the Challenger exploded while taking the first teacher into space. I have vivid memories of watching the tragic footage during lunch as administrators wheeled TVs into the cafeteria. I will never forget that devastating day.

From my first visit to the Kennedy Space Center at the age of six, to my years as a a young educator spending multiple summers teaching a space themed summer camp, I have always been fascinated with the space program. I hope this historic voyage ignites something positive during a time when our country is filled with anger and sadness.

 

A Fence is No Barrier to a True Friendship (Who Are the Dogs in Your Neighborhood?)…Day 74

My daughter and I take a walk around our neighborhood almost everyday. It’s one of the many positive things that has come out of being quarantined for months. I lace up my walking shoes, she puts on her helmet, grabs her scooter and we’re off! We usually follow the same path by exiting our garage and walking North so we can visit Girlfriend.

Girlfriend is a dog that lives in our neighborhood. She barks at anything that moves, is turning grey around the muzzle and has a difficult time walking down the deck stairs to great us as age appears to be winning a race she didn’t sign up for. Sometimes Girlfriend’s furry housemates, Cookie and Pooch, join in the hello that always includes sloppy kisses, a back scratch and lots of love!

At first the dogs barked non-stop when they saw us but with each passing day, that changed. With my dog loving daughter insisting on stopping each time to give them attention, they began to recognize us and now when they see us they no longer bark, proving that a fence is no barrier to a true friendship. Over the weeks we met their owner and learned their real names. The names listed above were crafted by my daughter. We found out all three dogs are rescues and that Girlfriend’s name is actually Lady.

Although Lady (Girlfriend) is far from the prettiest dog in the neighborhood, a mutt with fur missing in several places, my daughter doesn’t seem to notice. They share a special bound that stretches beyond the exterior. I’ve heard people say that angels come in different forms. If that is true, we found one covered in fur that appeared just when we needed her. Lady (Girlfriend), thank you for helping us get through this time of uncertainty by bringing us joy, friendship and slobbery kisses!

My daughter made a drawing detailing one of the many visits we have had with Lady (Girlfriend) during the quarantine.

A Beautiful Birthday Celebration…Days 72 and 73

Yesterday we celebrated my mother’s birthday. Birthdays are a big deal in our family and nothing was going to keep us from recognizing Nana’s special day, including COVID-19!

The pandemic caused Nana’s birthday celebration to look a bit different this year. Thanks to my daughter, Nana received a homemade gift made out of recyclables due to stores being closed and my daughter unable to shop for the perfect gift. When we went to pick up Nana’s birthday cake, we found our order waiting on a table outside the bakery and we simply picked it up with no human contact. Since Nana’s favorite restaurant was closed, Pops prepared an Italian feast for all of us to enjoy. And instead of blowing out the candles on her cake, Nana fanned them out with a homemade fan crafted by my daughter! This is defiantly a birthday to remember!

Nana extinguishes her birthday candles with a homemade fan, lovingly created by my daughter.

From drive-through graduations, birthday parades, virtual trivia nights and streaming church services, spring celebrations throughout our world have been altered due to the pandemic. New traditions are being established as we find creative ways to recognize these important life events. And through it all, nothing is stopping us from celebrating!

To Dance or Not to Dance? Integrating Into the World After Quarantine…Day 71

My daughter’s dance studio opened up last week. Following CDC guidelines, the owners worked long and hard creating new procedures to keep everyone safe. They even released a video with step by step directions on how to enter the building, move about the building and what exit procedures would look like. From using antibacterial gel, wiping down surfaces and walking on green tape placed 6 feet a part, to creating socially distanced “parking spots” for dancers to place their gear and assigning dancers a spot to dance that is 6 feet a part, they carefully thought about everything. CLICK HERE to watch the video.

After months spent in quarantine I thought it would be easy to return to our beloved activities, but it wasn’t. My husband and I thought long and hard on whether we would send our little one to dance. After calculating the risks and reviewing the well thought out procedures, we determined we would send her. Then the time came to hop in the car and go and I couldn’t bring myself to grab the keys. Knowing we would see Nana in a few days made my mind race at the thought of putting my mother at risk. Why does this have to be so hard?

Another week has come and gone and I am faced with the same dilemma…to dance or not to dance? I reviewed the procedures once more and after two months of isolation, my daughter went to dance class. She happily walked inside, looking forward to something “normal” being brought back into her life. I was a mess the entire time. It was the first time in over two months I have been separated from my mini me and I experienced separation anxiety. Something I never expected.

An hour later my daughter emerged from the studio with a huge smile on her face, something that had been missing for months! The video prepared her for the new expectations and allowed me to help her process the changes, making my daughter’s return to dance class a success! As we continued our day she explained, “Today was the best day ever!” Fully unaware of the difficult decision her parents had to make, she was filled with joy and the innocence of childhood. Although some won’t agree with our decision, please know we did what we felt was right for our family of three.

This is the first of many decisions our family will make over the coming weeks and months. As states begin to open up and we find ourselves integrating back into society, like me, you might feel uneasy. COVID-19 has changed our world and even the familiar will feel unfamiliar. During this difficult time please be responsible, follow recommended guidelines and show kindness and compassion to your neighbors as they make decisions they feel are right for their families. And remember, you are not alone, everyone is in this together.