Fire Safety

My five-year-old Drama Queen is fairly sensitive to the topic of fire safety and loves to talk through what to do if there is a fire in the house.  From time to time she has asked about us making a map showing escape routes through the house, but unfortunately, it’s never been a good time right then, and I always forgot about it later.

So this morning during breakfast when she asked again, I said, “Yes!”

A little bit later in the morning, we sat in the living room with a piece of construction paper and a small basket of crayons.  I didn’t have any actual plan in mind, but figured I’d start by drawing a crayon map of the house.  A very, very basic map of the house, mind you, but a map nonetheless.

Once I had drawn the map, I paused to think about how to actually show escape routes.  I wanted the kids to see different possibilities based on where they were and where the fire was.  I decided I could show multiple options if I laminated the map.  As I jumped up to do that, I quickly thought of a whole game we could play with it.

I left them on the couch while I ran to get dry erase markers, an eraser, and a red die.

To play the game, each person chose where he/she was in the house and made a smiley face or some kind of mark in that room on the map.  We usually told the context of what we were doing as well, such as all three of us were in Drama Queen’s room having a tea party, or Drama Queen was doing dishes in the kitchen, I was setting the table in the dining room, and Mr. BANG was playing with trains in the playroom.

Next, someone got to roll the die.  Wherever it landed was the location of the fire.

Now, sometimes they were very strategic with their “rolls.”  Mr. BANG, in particular, liked to make sure the fire was in a room with one of us or even on Drama Queen’s hair.  That was just fine, though, because it gave us additional situations to think through – and opportunities to get down on the floor to Stop, Drop, and Roll!


Once the fire was in place, we strategized how each person could escape the house safely.  If the fire was in a room with a person, or blocking the doorway of a person, that person got the first turn to “escape.”  We talked through the exit and route options, including feeling closed doors and banging on windows.  We verbalized crawling under smoke when appropriate.  With our markers, we drew the path we would take.  They both know very well what our outside meeting place is (a pair of trees in the side yard), so they usually continued their escape lines all the way to that point.

When everyone was safely at the trees, both children would chant, “Again, again, again!”  One person would get to erase the map, and we’d start all over again.

We played at least 15 rounds before it was time for lunch, and even now Drama Queen is sitting and playing by herself.

We certainly didn’t go through all the possible fire situations, but it definitely got them thinking through how to escape a fire safely!


“I do not think it means what you think it means”

There is a phrase that I hear rather frequently by fellow moms of young children:  “But she loves it so much!”  This phrase seems to be used to justify pretty much anything that the mom allows her child to do, but has at least some idea that it isn’t necessarily good for her child.  For instance, the mom lets her child repeatedly watch a movie or t.v. show that has inappropriate language and behaviors – which the child is modeling and having to be disciplined for.  “But he loves it so much!”  Or a mom lets her child spend multiple hours a day in front of a screen (iPad, video game, t.v.) instead of encouraging the child to have hands-on interactions with the real world.  “But she loves it so much!”  Or the child eats several packages of fruit snacks in the afternoon, then barely touches dinner.  “But he loves it so much, and they are at least made of real fruit!”  I hear it over and over in all kinds of contexts.  And the mom usually has a big smile on her face as she says it, like she’s providing something wonderful by giving the child what he loves so much.  My interpretation of the statement would be, “I choose to not put proper boundaries in place, so, yes, my child gets to do such-and-such.”

The important thing we moms have to keep in mind, though, is that we are the parents, and our children are the children.  As children, they don’t yet have the mental capacity to know what is good for them or how much of something is healthy for them.  That’s our job as parents.  They don’t have the internal self-control, so it is up to us to provide the external self-control.

Think of it in terms of yourself.  I, for one, am pretty much obsessed with chocolate.  My favorite kind of salad is an M&M salad – plain, peanut, and peanut butter mixed together.  I love it so much!!  But…I don’t get to enjoy it very often.  It’s not good for my teeth, my weight, or my general physical health.  I have to set my own boundaries, have the self-control to hold to those boundaries, and make use of accountability from my husband (not to mention the bathroom scale).

We need to be loving enough to our children to provide those types of boundaries for them.  To be clear, I’m not talking about those once-in-awhile special treats, and I’m not talking about when the parent has really thought through the matter and decided this particular thing is okay.  I’m referring to when the mom clearly is feeling somewhat guilty internally, and justifying their decision with those words:  “But she loves it so much!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but understanding what types of boundaries are appropriate and how to set them and stick to them has been very challenging for me.  That’s something that honestly I never really knew much about until a few years ago when I read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  That book is about setting boundaries in general, with anyone in our lives.  However, the same authors also have one specifically for parents titled Boundaries with Kids.  I really want to read that, but haven’t yet.  It sounds really helpful.  Have you read it?  If so, I would love for you to leave a comment and let me know if/how it was helpful in your own family.

The Secret Is Out

I’m not good at keeping the “I have a fun surprise for you” type of secrets.  If I’m excited about something, it’s really hard for me to contain that excitement!  Thankfully, my children were able to hear a good amount of related conversation between The Brain and myself and not put it all together and figure out that we were making plans for a playset to be built in the back yard.

Today, however, they got to join in the excitement themselves.  The builder arrived half an hour early, which ended up making The Great Reveal even better.  When Drama Queen and Mr. BANG woke up and came downstairs, The Brain and I told them we had set up a scavenger hunt for them.  We explained that they would find one item that would be completely out of place.  That item itself would be a clue for a big surprise we had in store for them.

Almost immediately – before Mr. BANG even started looking – Drama Queen found this:

A swingset and slide made from Bendaroos, hidden under the love seat by the back windows of the house.

They started guessing that they were getting new dolls, or that there was a new playground in the playroom.  Not quite…

We led them to think about where a playset would be.  Once they finally guessed “in the back yard,” we pulled up the window shades.  There was Shane and his assistant, already in process of building a playset.  Perfection!

During the two hours of construction, the kids frequently watched out the window and once went outside to watch.  (They had a better view from the window!)


After the truck drove away to fulfill a dream for the next family, outside we ran.  Drama Queen immediately immersed herself in new Peter Pan games.


Mr. BANG tried out the glider horse for a few minutes…then spent the next 45 minutes digging in dirt.  When you’re three years old, pretty much nothing compares to God’s greatest toy: dirt!


The hard-to-keep surprise was definitely a hit.  And now my backyard looks the way I’ve envisioned since we moved in nearly two years ago!


*If you live in TN, GA, KY, or AL, and you’re looking for a great, wooden playset, I highly recommend Hop’s Fun Factory!

Leap Year Fun

When you are three and four years old, as my two children are, four years is pretty much an unimaginable amount of time.  While trying to help them understand the concept of Leap Year, I decided to do a fun project with them.  This was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing, so without any preparation, we spent the first part of our morning yesterday putting together a Leap Year time capsule.  We did some math (just using fingers) to figure out how old they will be four years from now when we open the time capsule.

I let them start decorating the box as I explained more about what it was for and how we would use it.  (I just grabbed an Amazon box that hadn’t been taken to the recycling center yet.)

We tried to think of things to put in the capsule that express who they are and what their interests are right now.  Mr. BANG immediately brought out his Cranky toy (the crane from Thomas and Friends), saying that that’s his favorite toy.  Once I reinforced that the things in the box would be put away for four years, he quickly put that back on the shelf.  However, Drama Queen brought out a single piece of wooden train track – perfect!  They have a huge bin of track pieces, so they’ll never miss that one.

We thought of some more things to put in that represent activities they enjoy:  stickers, a crayon, WikkiStix in the shape of a balloon (their favorite thing to make with WikkiStix, a little puzzle, etc.


Drama Queen helped me choose some recent photos of the two of them doing fun things, such as making Daddy’s birthday cake, meeting Daisy Duck in DisneyWorld, and Drama Queen dressed in her own self-made Peter Pan costume.  I just printed those off on my printer since I hadn’t planned ahead and ordered prints of them.

Mr. BANG got to work on making some artwork for the box.  He loves dot painting, so he chose a picture and started painting.  Drama Queen later made one of her own.


One activity Drama Queen loves repeating during school is to make booklets of her number writing.  She added one of those to the box as well.

As they worked on those things, I wrote out a list of things that would be interesting for them to reflect back on when they’re older.  I included items such as Favorite Thing to Do Outside, Favorite Thing to Do in School, and, of course, What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.  For the most part, I wrote down exactly what they answered, but there were a couple times that they said something random, so I put my observation of the real answer.  For example, when I asked Drama Queen about her favorite thing to play, she answered “truck driver.”  What?  She had driven a ride-on dump truck in my bathroom that morning…for about five minutes.  What she spends all day doing, though, is acting out Peter Pan, her latest obsession.  So I wrote down Peter Pan.  Also, I started out asking Drama Queen each question first, but quickly realized that Mr. BANG would parrot her answers.  (As he did with “truck driver.”) For the rest of the questions, I asked him first.

As we moved into our normal school lessons, I decided to take pictures of the children as they did their work.  I compiled those photos onto a couple pages and included them in the time capsule, along with a written out schedule of the day.


Once everything was in the box, they helped me tape on a note reminding us of when the box can be opened, then we stashed it away in Mr. BANG’s closet.  That may not be the best place for it as he gets older, but for right now his large, walk-in closet is used for family storage so it’s a perfect spot.

I realize that I’m posting this after Feb. 29, the special day of Leap Year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do this project with your family.  The Leap YEAR is no where near over yet!  🙂

DIY: Green Boards

I’m actually a bit baffled by the subject of this post, the Montessori Green Boards.  I have two pages about them in my Language manual, and they are presented as an important exercise in developing beautiful handwriting.  When I was preparing to introduce Drama Queen to them recently, I assumed I would likely make them, but decided to check prices online first.  To my surprise, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere!  I checked several of the discount Montessori websites as well as Nienhuis, and haven’t found anything like the Green Boards described in my manual.  A search for the term “green board” only brought up personal-sized green chalk boards on which to practice writing letters.  Strange!  I considered skipping the Green Boards, thinking that they must not be very important if no one even sells them.  However, upon further reflection, I decided that I really like them and really thought Drama Queen would benefit from working with them.  So, I gathered materials to make my own green boards.

The Green Boards are an extension of the sandpaper letter lessons.  First, the teacher gives the child one-on-one lessons with three sandpaper letters at a time until the child is familiar with all the letters.  Then the child is able to play games with the letters, such as guessing which letter the teacher is tracing in the air, writing the letters in sand, or tracing a letter blindfolded, making the sound of it, and having a friend verify the correct sound.  The next step is for the child to work with the Green Boards, which contain several letters on each board.  The purpose of the Green Boards is to help children understand the relationships between the written letters – all the letters of a similar formation are grouped together on one Green Board.  This is how I grouped the letters (keep in mind that the letters are in cursive on the Green Boards):

c o a d g q

i u w t

n m v x y z

s r j p

e l b f h k

My Language manual’s description of the Green Boards is that they are similar to the sandpaper letters in terms of the size of the letter and the fact that the letters are made of sand, to be traced by the child.  Instead of on red boards (consonants) or blue boards (vowels), they are all on, wait for it… green boards.  I didn’t want to spend the time to cut sandpaper letters or even felt letters, as I did when I made the Sandpaper Numerals.  Instead, I wrote the letters in pencil (about half the size of the sandpaper letters).

I then used a black Sharpie to trace over the top and bottom lines and the middle dashed line.  This is the child’s first exposure to lines in letter writing.

I traced over the letters in glue, then sprinkled sand from the children’s sand table over the glue.

At first I was using Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue, but it wasn’t working well.  I ended up switching to plain old Elmer’s glue.  In this pic (which I couldn’t get to stay turned the right way), you can see the top with Elmer’s and the bottom with Aleene’s.

I made these with 12×12 green cardstock I already had on hand.  I didn’t have enough of one shade of green, so I used two different shades.  Also, I couldn’t fit all the letters on one strip, so I did some taping together once the glue dried.  (I also went back over the Aleene’s letters with the Elmer’s glue.)


I let them dry overnight, then they were ready for Drama Queen’s fingers the next day.  She initially was very excited about working with them, as she is with any new material.   I first introduced the “c” board.  I explained that all the letters on that board start the same way when writing them.  We went through the letters one at a time, with me tracing, then her tracing.  It was a good review for her.  Then we traced through the whole set quickly to really feel the similarity.

After the first board, I told her she could practice with that one more on her own, we could stop for the day and continue again the next, or we could continue right then to the next board.  To my surprise, she wanted to keep going through every board that day.  At one point, she proclaimed, “I never knew this would be so much fun!”

I put them back on the shelf after the lesson, but that evening I taped them to the closet door.  In that location, they can be an easy visual reference when she is writing, and they are low so that she can still trace them with her fingers at any point.


Living in the Real World

Do you ever feel like you were born into the wrong time period?  I totally do.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love being able to wear blue jeans every day, and I really would not want to trade that for long, heavy dresses and corsets.  And I’m all about having a shower with hot water and a washing machine that takes care of my kids urine-soaked and paint-splattered clothes.  BUT…this whole virtual world thing, where we keep in touch with everyone we’ve ever known by means of very shallow interactions through a flat screen and some buttons that we push to express our words…that’s not what I want.  We even try to express our emotions through those same buttons.  🙂     😦     :*-(     :-/     😛     😉

Even the people around us, who we see casually on a regular basis, are also virtual friends.  We run into someone while picking up a new jar of natural peanut butter, and suddenly have to race through mental images of facebook screens:  “She just said something important on fb, what was it?!”  Or we get moderately irritated because we have to explain something to a fellow facebooker that we already explained on facebook.

It seems like we don’t even expect to develop deep relationships where we really share our lives with each other.  We’re too busy keeping up with everyone to focus on a few real relationships with people currently surrounding us.

I think I would fit much better in a time period when the people in your life were the people who lived right there with you.  I love the idea of being fully present with the people in my own community.  Right now, I can see out the window to my neighbor’s house.  We’ve been to their house and they’ve been to ours, and we talk in the yard sometimes, but you know where the majority of our interaction is?  Facebook.  How strange!

I also don’t fit in a world with all this crazy computer technology stuff.  Albeit, my house, clothes, and food are provided by that crazy computer technology stuff because my husband’s job involves him typing stuff into a computer in languages I could never dream to comprehend.  But all these things like iPhones, iPads, Nooks…is there something called a Nano?  Oh, I just don’t get all those!  I’m only 33, but I’m such an old grandma when it comes to those things.  Actually, that’s not fair to say – my 70 year MIL is more up-to-date on these things than I am.  The Brain from time to time offers to buy me some new something-or-other for birthday or Christmas.  I pretty much always turn him down.  I don’t need some expensive gadget that I don’t even understand!

So, really, all of that is to explain part of the reason this blog has been silent for the last month.  I spent a mainly-computer-free week at my parents’ house between Christmas and New Year’s.  It was wonderful!  When I got back home, I did of course make use of the computer some, but I just haven’t had that same desire to reach out to that world of people that exist beyond my screen somewhere.  It is so much nicer to be available to play games and read books with my little active, imaginative munchkins.  Our homeschool preschool has been better this month than it ever has been, because I’ve been more invested in it.  We have been having SUCH a great preschool experience!

I got to have another completely computer-free experience for most of this week.  We spent the time at my dear friend’s house, and it was such a refreshing blessing.  She and her husband have five children under the age of 8, and they are the most incredible kids I have ever had the opportunity to know.  Normally with that many young children (my two were also thrown in the mix, of course) there’s a fair amount of chaos and loudness and resulting headaches.  Not with this crew.  Not at all.  They have a fabulous time playing together, but somehow manage to do so without getting out of control.  There are many reasons for that, of course, but I think two main aspects of it are that their mom is fully present (she’s not half-listening/half-computering), and that t.v. is, for the most part, not a part of the kids’ daily lives.  They fully live in the present.  Now, they do have their own detailed imaginary world that all four of the older ones play together, but it’s from their imaginations!  There is no virtual world for them, other than the imaginary one they themselves create with their own minds, and they pull visiting friends right into that one.  They don’t copy inappropriate phrases or actions from t.v. or movie characters.  They are fully themselves, confident in their own thoughts and opinions, and respectful of the opinions and desires of others.  I truly love being around these kids!

So what does this have to do with anything?  I don’t know.  I’m rambling-typing on a computer instead of taking care of some personal e-mails that are waiting for responses.  I could just call those people.  But I’ll stick with the virtual interactions for now.

I did pull up the blog today specifically for a Montessori/Mason compare and contrast post, based on some reading I’ve been doing.  I don’t seem to have made it to that.  (shrug) I’ll get to it sometime.  You know, Montessori and Mason both lived prior to t.v. and computers.  Maybe that’s why I like them.  🙂

Disclaimer:  This whole post may be a result of reading the Little House books way too many times over the past few months.  I want to be in that family.  Although, I’d probably be Mary, who is significantly less cool than Laura.

Disclaimer #2:  I actually wrote this a week or two ago, whenever it was that I got home from Corrie’s house.  I’m a bit slow in posting.

Disclaimer #3:  I kinda feel like I should put some pics on the blog to make it a little more visually appealing.   But…I think I won’t bother with that.  Sorry.  Again, I’m Mary, the boring one.

Light the tree, unplug the computer

My family (as in my parents and siblings) are doing something new for the first time this year:  we’re leaving computers stashed in bedrooms during our family Christmas gathering.  This is incredibly strange for us, and I’m not really sure how it’s going to work – or what we’ll do without computers to stare at!  This has always been the norm with us…

(Picture a roomful of people sitting on couches, each staring at the silver or white laptop balanced on his/her lap.  I can’t find the actual photograph.)

Even more important, though, is that I am able to completely focus on my husband and kiddos over the next week.  When the kids want me to build a train track with them, I want to say, “Yes!” instead of “Yes, later today I would love to do that with you.”  When they’re ready to play chase, I want to immediately start running without having to clear my lap first.  When they want me to fully be engaged acting as this character or that character…okay, that will still get just as old, just as fast.

So, my friends who for some reason read this blog, I’ll see you after New Year’s!

Merry Christmas!

“This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. “

(1 John 4:9-10 The Message)