Spiders, Spiders, Spiders!…Reading, Art, Music and More

October is the month for spiders, those often feared but very helpful eight legged arachnids. My daughter and I found ourselves “caught up” in a lot of spidery fun this month!

Spider Mini Book– I created this book when I taught kindergarten and it was a big hit with my mini me. This spider book teaches young children all about spiders. CLICK HERE to download the book.

Spider on the Floor!– I fell in love with the song “Spider on the Floor,” recorded by Raffi in 1976. We used spider rings and acted out the song which is great for identifying body parts, following directions and rhyming.

Spider Web Painting– My daughter and I love to marble paint and this time of year is the perfect time to grab some paint and marbles and make a spooky masterpiece. If you use black paper and white paint your creation looks like a spiderweb. My daughter drew a spider and glued it to her web. She has learned a lot of interesting spider facts and made sure her spider had eight legs!

Spider Snack– Another idea from my book is this easy and nutritious spider snack. Use two crackers as a body and peanut butter, cheese spread or some type of spread to make a cracker sandwich. Stick eight pretzel sticks (four on each side) inside the cracker to create the spider’s eight legs and use raisins as eyes. Although my daughter pointed out that spiders have eight eyes instead of two there wasn’t enough room to add that many raisins! CLICK HERE to download this yummy snack!

Charlotte’s Web– I have begun reading chapter books to my daughter and this was the perfect time to introduce her to the beloved book, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. The book tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a pig named Wilber and a barn spider named Charlotte and my daughter and I enjoyed reading and discussing the book together. Now I want to introduce her to the Charlotte’s Web movies. The 2006 movie is currently on Netflix and the 1973 animated version is on Amazon Prime. I enjoyed watching the animated version when I was a little girl and it will always be my favorite!

I hope you and your family enjoy some of these spooky spider activities. And remember, most spiders are our friends. They eat insects that harm gardens and crops.

A July 4th Egg Hunt?…Helping a Small Business and Beginning a New Tradition

The year 2020 has brought unimaginable events so adding an egg hunt to our July 4th celebration doesn’t seem too far fetched!

Plastic eggs at stores in July.

When COVID-19 cancelled Easter egg hunts throughout our country, American Carnival Mart (ACM), a small family owned business was in trouble. ACM depends on Easter egg sales to support their business throughout the year. They also partner with Canterbury Enterprises, a local sheltered workshop that employs people with disabilities. The Canterbury workers fill the eggs for the egg hunts and without any sales in 2020, there won’t be any eggs to fill next year. Dierbergs, a St. Louis area grocery store chain, partnered with ACM and plastic eggs filled with candy and small toys began to appear on their shelves in late June. Dierbergs is giving 100% of the proceeds to ACM and to Canterbury Enterprises.

In our ongoing attempt to “Live Generously,” my husband and I bought some of the treat filled eggs and held a July 4th egg hunt at the lake house this year. My daughter met a new friend down the street who is from CA, and we invited her to join in the fun. The two girls had a blast hunting for eggs in the backyard with the lake serving as picturesque backdrop.

My daughter enjoyed the egg hunt at the lake house.

I overheard out of state shoppers questioning the colorful eggs they saw on the store shelf. My family of three were delighted to spy the eggs and look forward to making an egg hunt part of our July 4th celebration for years to come!

The Tale of Two Dads and Two Ducks…Happy Father’s Day!

During my quarantine cleaning I discovered two ceramic duck banks purchased last year from the dollar store. Planning to have my daughter and her BFF paint them during a trip to the lake last summer, I asked my daughter if she would like to paint a duck for each of her grandfathers for Father’s Day. My mini me excitedly answered, “Yes,” and part of the afternoon was spent painting ducks and decorating cards for the important men in her life.

After gathering all of her supplies my daughter began painting the first duck. She studied the box with intent and proceeded to paint the duck exactly like the one on the box, copying every detail from the orange beak and yellow body to the dark eyes. She grinned, proof that she was proud of her accomplishments. When I asked her who was going to be on the receiving end of the “traditional” duck, without hesitation she answered. “Paw Paw!” Then she eagerly set out to paint the second duck but this time chose blue and green along with the yellow paint, covering the ceramic with an abstract design that resembled a miniature model of the Earth. Taking great effort to cover every last spot of white, a huge smile emerged as my daughter declared the “abstract” duck was for Pops because he is an artist who likes lots of colors. I shook my head in amazement because at five years of age it was clear my little one has us all figured out.

The painted ducks represent her two grandfathers with perfect accuracy.

Paw Paw– The “traditional duck” is perfect for Paw Paw. He is an engineer who can fix anything. He loves Cardinal baseball, playing golf and reading. He dresses conservatively and always wears khakis and a collared shirt. Paw Paw is passionate about history and genealogy and has traced his family tree back to generations. He remembers everything with clear precision and retells events in great detail.

Pops– The “abstract duck” is perfect for Pops. He is an artist who can transform the mundane into a thing of beauty. He loves old movies, gardening and sunsets. Pops is creative. He has an eye for color, draws effortlessly, creates beautiful table scapes and can easily stage a home for resale. He is the party planner extraordinaire who helped me plan the wedding of the century along with themed birthday parties all without missing a single detail. He is outgoing and passionate, often exaggerates the retelling of events and has never been seen in a pair of khakis!

I have been on shopping excursions with both grandpas and the experience was drastically different with each one. Paw Paw would be found holding his wife’s purse and taking a nap while she tries on clothes in the dressing room while Pops would be browsing the racks, putting together outfits with just the right accessories for his wife to try on. While Pops enjoys browsing the aisles and bargain shopping, Paw Paw is a “get in and get out as quickly as possible” kind of shopper who would gladly stay at home and shop online.

Although the two grandpas are as different as they can be, they do have one very important thing in common…they both love their one and only granddaughter! She is their little princess and without hesitation they would move mountains for her! We were blessed to celebrate Father’s Day with Pops on Saturday and with Paw Paw on Sunday. These two individual men are a true blessing in our lives! Happy Father’s Day to Pops and to Paw Paw!

Joy Appears Out of the Ordinary

This weekend I was given time to beautify, to reconnect and to rejuvenate and it felt wonderful! I even checked a new digital book out on my tablet and retreated to my bedroom for 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading!

Saint Louis Wind Symphony Members Meeting– Unable to play our last concert, the SLWS never found closure to the 2019-2020 season so a Zoom meeting was held this weekend to wrap up an unprecedented spring and summer and share possible plans to perform once again. It was nice to see familiar faces and talk about the possibility of playing again. COVID-19 has prevented a challenge for performers and audience members across the globe. Some possible solutions were shared…outdoor performances, smaller chamber groups, even a virtual concert. We don’t know what the future holds but our goal is to perform again and connect with our audience while keeping everyone safe.

I’m Gonna Wash That Gray Right Outta My Hair– The day I had been waiting for finally arrived…a visit to the hair salon for an overdo cut and color! As Ms. Kelly worked her magic, gray streaks slowly washed away and with each snip of the scissors came a feeling of weightlessness. I emerged feeling beautiful and ready to face a summer of social distancing, virtual Vacation Bible School and inventing new ways of creating summer memories!

It’s Time to Clean Up– After virtual church on Sunday we spent the afternoon cleaning out the garage. We made some progress although to a bystander it would appear we hadn’t even begun! I forgot to take a before and after picture but two boxes and a few bags dropped off at Goodwill provides evidence of our efforts.

During normal circumstances my weekend would appear to be nothing but ordinary at best. Somehow all of those days spent in isolation have changed me. To think that I would find myself giddy at the thought of getting my haircut and actually look forward to a meeting with great anticipation! The fact that I found joy in cleaning out a garage (a task we have spent years avoiding) is proof. COVID-19 has transformed me, giving me a greater appreciation for my life and all of its simplicities.

When the Familiar Feels Unfamiliar (Navigating Our New Normal)

Our city is slowly opening up and after weeks and weeks in isolation, my family found joy when we had the opportunity to engage in some familiar activities. Although familiar, COVID-19 continues to hold a threat and precautions were put in place to keep us safe, making the familiar feel oddly unfamiliar, in many ways.

Therapy Session- My daughter returned to occupational therapy at Leaps & Bounds this week and things were a bit different. The number of therapists and students was limited, temperatures were taken at the door and parents were asked to wait in their cars. Masks were required. We finally found a face mask that my daughter can wear comfortably. The masks with adjustable elastic straps are a must for little people! My daughter did a great job and mentioned she couldn’t wait to go back next week!

Communion at Church- Our church offered communion by appointment this week. Three families could sign up for each 15 minute time slot. Our senior pastor recommended that families bring their children to communion as a way to ease back into coming to our physical church building. We agreed and found communion to be the perfect way to make our little one more comfortable about going back. We were greeted by our music director and each family stood in the narthex, waiting for one of our three pastors to greet them and walk them to a different part of the alter where they individually led each family through the Service of Holy Communion. We are blessed with a big, beautiful, sanctuary so there was plenty of room to spread out. I appreciated the short conversation my family of three had with our pastor before and after communion. Seeing familiar faces, being in God’s house and receiving His body and blood brought us pure joy. My daughter agreed, saying, “Church was too short!

The Library– Our local library system opened up for curbside pick up this week. We went online and reserved several books and then after receiving an email that they were ready for pickup, we drove to our local branch, parked at a spot and followed the directions on the sign. A friendly librarian, wearing a mask, put our books in our trunk and we headed for home. This isn’t the library experience we are accustomed to but we were grateful to get some new books! Our library system has done an amazing job providing online programming throughout the quarantine. From cooking demonstrations to story time to live concerts, the programs we enjoyed in person at the library have moved to on line streaming. Our library is streaming a special program for children every Monday afternoon as part of the summer reading program.

While summer usually brings travel and new adventure, this summer we find ourselves slowly returning to our “new normal.” The adventure comes in new ways of doing things that just months ago felt ordinary. New library books, fun at Leaps and Bounds and receiving Holy Communion, made for a very exciting week!

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.

 

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.

 

Now What?… Day 66

Our school year is over and summer vacation has officially started. As I sit here thinking about the days ahead, all that comes to mind is…Now What?

As states begin to open back up many uncertainties remain. And our media is no help as it is flooded with mixed messages and different opinions. Early on I thought once the stay at home order was lifted things would go back to “normal.” Now I know that transitioning out of isolation will be a gradual process. Through the transition we will need to continue to practice social distancing. Will we be required to wear masks? Hand sanitizers and extra hand washing will be imperative. So many unanswered questions remain… Will swimming pools open up for the summer? What will worship look like when our church reopens? Will we have VBS in person this year or will it be virtual? Will schools conduct professional development sessions and will I train teachers this summer? What will the 2020-2021 school year look like?

Among all of the unknowns, one thing is known, the pandemic is something we have never experienced before. As we transition back to “normal” we need to be accepting of others, allowing every person, every family, to enter back into society in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We shouldn’t judge others but focus instead, on what feels right for our family.

I continue to find comfort through God’s word and am reminded not to worry about tomorrow. Although COVID-19 has changed our world and the summer continues to hold many unknowns, we will get through this together.

End of the School Year Celebrations… Days 64 and 65

Although the last two months of the school year brought the unexpected, the 2019-2020 school year is one we will never forget! Although it was unprecedented and filled with great adaptation and a few tears along the way, our school year ended with the closure we were desperately seeking. Over the past two days we had proper summer send offs with a memorable visit with my daughter’s preschool teacher, an end of the school year car parade at Zion and a new tradition with water balloons and pizza!

End of the Year Memories– I’m happy we had an opportunity for a private send off with my daughter’s preschool teacher and assistant when we went to pick up my daughter’s end of the year bag. Although my daughter will be leaving preschool and beginning kindergarten in the fall, this isn’t goodbye. She is simply moving to a new classroom down the hall and will continue to see her beloved preschool teachers at weekly chapel and at special assemblies. And when our church opens its physical doors, we will worship together once again!

It was bittersweet to open up the red bag filled with memories of my daughter’s last year of preschool. When we got the bag home we found a children’s bible with a special inscription inside. Along with an extra set of clothes, preschool master pieces created on construction paper, summer wishes and a portfolio full of growth and learning; was a container of Clorox wipes and an interview my daughter had with her teacher over Zoom, titled, A Preschooler’s Perspective on a Pandemic. She says she misses her friends most of all and when the pandemic is over she looks forward to play dates and spending the night at her grandparents house. Although she misses school, she has enjoyed spending time outside and learned to write letters to authors and have birthday parades. Her answer to finding a cure for COVID-19 is medicine and Jesus’s healing hands.

Items from my daughter’s red bag.

Special Early Childhood Closing Chapel– The marvelous preschool teachers at Zion Lutheran School recorded a special closing chapel for their students. Sitting socially distanced on the alter, in our sanctuary, we joined in when they sang and danced to familiar songs the children had sung throughout the year. They shared best wishes and recognized the children moving into kindergarten. They ended by inviting us to join them in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, something we discovered my daughter could do independently when we began virtual church in March. CLICK HERE to view this special chapel.

Car Parade– End of the year car parades are the popular way to bring closure to a school year that ended virtually due to a pandemic. We enjoyed decorating our car for the school wide parade through our school’s parking lot. It made us smile to see all of Zion’s teachers, support staff and administrators waving and wishing us well. At the same time we were sad because we miss our Zion family so very much and the parade was simply too short! We hope everyone has a safe and happy summer and we can’t wait until it’s safe for us to be together again! CLICK HERE to view part of the parade.

New End of the School Year Traditions– Last week one of my daughter’s dear friends left a bag of water balloons on our doorstep. During normal circumstances they would have asked friends to join them for an end of the school year water balloon / pizza party. Since COVID-19 kept that from happening, they gifted us with balloons so we could have our own party. We had a blast playing with water balloons and ordered pizza for dinner. Next year we look forward to this new tradition and celebrating with school friends will be the best part!