Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nevermind, that's not what I meant

Here are some hard truths coming at you: I'm bored of this site.  I've only had it operating for under a month, but it feels like some annoying homework assignment when it's time to actually do the write ups that I had been anticipating when I came up with this idea.  I was really excited to talk about all the crazy mama-centered stuff that goes through my head all day.  And now I'm really, really not.

I think maybe the site is fine but my vision needs to change.  Instead of trying to make some generic, pinterest-worthy idea site, I need to let Simple Mama be a place where I can write about my kids, and my mama life, my family and our adventures.  I've been squeezing out a lot of my personality and opinions to create this generic, one-size-fits-all voice for this blog, and I realize now that I hate that voice. So I'm kicking that voice out.

I'm hoping that I can operate this site more like I operated my Simple Girl blog over the years; a wonderful outlet where I can record memories, vent, and connect without obsessing over hits, pinterest clicks, comments, or followers.  The reason I love blogging is because it cements my memories and lets me just flow.  My favorite bloggers write about their day-to-day lives and their families.  That's what I'm going to do.

I've been spending a ton of time lately thinking about my roles and my own personality.  I think it has to do with shifting from being a stay at home mom to heading back to teaching, and creeping up on 30, and edging towards a decade of being married.  All of it makes me think a lot about what I like, why I like it, and how much I can honor who I am at any given moment.  I've spent a lot of my life being a follower and a people pleaser; a lot of my self worth is wrapped up in good grades, lots of 'likes', being a yes man for my bosses.  I'd like to tune out some of the voice I hear saying "PLEASE LIKE ME" and try to find a way to sing "THIS IS MORE LIKE IT."  Hopefully some of that will translate into my writing here.  Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Two Under Two Review: Children's Museum at Holyoke

 The Children's Museum at Holyoke completely took me by surprise when Milo, Elliott, my sister Laurel, and I headed to check it out on Saturday.  I'd never heard of it until it was listed as a part of Fun Free Fridays this summer, and a glance at the website showed some cute exhibits, but I think we might have stumbled on one of my new favorite places.

Things I absolutely loved: 
-The city set up.  There were little rooms off of a main hallway that represented a post office, grocery store, fire station, veterinarian's office, and a diner.  Little people, little world.

-The huge climber that rivals the one at the Boston Children's Museum.  I would never let Milo go in the one in Boston because the sheer number of children is insane.  This one was just as cool with way less mess and Milo had a blast.  (So did Aunt Lulu.  Thanks!)

-Tot Lot, or baby room.  Cute place for Elliott to chill, but the half wall let me wave to Milo, too.

-Giant theater area with stage lights, painted sets, and tons of costumes to choose from.

-There was so much to do, but in a small, contained area.  I could lay eyes on Milo from most places in the museum, which was great and would have been even more helpful if I was there solo with both boys.

-The little corner dedicated to the "gift shop" has really great prices.  We got a ton of small plastic animals for a dollar a piece and Milo has a cute new shirt.

Things that were less awesome:
-The drive was a little lengthy- 90 minutes is too long for some families.  It worked for us because the kids sleep well in the car and wake up ready to play like crazy.  Plus I had my sister along for a chat, but when I don't have anyone with me, I listen to hours of podcasts and feel like an intelligent adult woman for at least an hour.

-Not a lot else is around.  It's kind of in the middle of nowhere.  Because I was familiar with the area, I knew that we could stop in Amherst on the way home and get a snack and see a friend, but some people would have trouble making a day out of the trip.

All in all, it was an awesome day.  It was a perfect visit to cap off our community helpers week, and we're definitely going to go back.  Have you been to the Children's Museum at Holyoke?  What did you think?  I'd love to hear what you thought!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

"Home School" Summer: Community Helpers Week

Community Helpers Week was a blast at our house.  We used the theme to give a little direction to our days, and having a loose plan helped me occasionally turn off the TV.  There was TONS of repeated language, which was my main goal for having themed weeks in the first place.  Here's what we did:

 On the first day, I introduced the theme with some of the nonfiction books from my first grade classroom.  These were obviously over his head, but held his interest long enough to repeat the words "fire fighter, fire truck, police officer, police car" several times.  I also have some small wooden figures dressed like professionals, so I would have Milo hold the fire fighter while we flipped through the "Fire, Fire!" book, and so on.  The books never really drew his interest again, but he consistently brought the wooden figures back out to play on his activity table.  It was a good introduction.

After the introduction, I fit in applicable activities whenever I could.  It was a holiday week, so there was no real schedule to follow.  We used a new chunky puzzle that had vehicles, focusing on the fire truck, and after a few traditional tries, Milo loved to use the pieces as toy cars, pushing them around and making engine noises.  I downloaded an app on the Kindle that had click and drag puzzles, giving us fine motor practice, and we repeated the one page that had an ambulance, police car, bus, and fire truck.

Milo is REALLY into cars right now, so the emergency vehicles really held his interest.  We have the Little People Wheelies police car and fire truck, and we used those to play make believe and to do some tire tread painting.  The tires were smooth, so I also filled it out with other cars and trucks that had a pattern to paint with.  A rice bin was really fun, even though Milo is still in a grab/drop/dump/pour stage with most sensory activities; I just threw in a bunch of the toys we had been using all week and we went to town.  Throughout the week, I browsed Netflix and ended up putting on Fireman Sam and episodes of Milo's favorites that have to do with fire trucks or police officers.  We watched Pixar's Cars five (million) times.

Two different field trips topped off our exploration.  The Fourth of July fell this week, so the parade we would have gone to anyway was a great place to see fire trucks and police cars in action.  Honestly, I'm not sure that Milo made the connection, but he enjoyed himself, and it's all exposure.  Later on, we went to the Children's Museum at Holyoke, which features a life sized ambulance and large fire truck with all the child-size uniform pieces you could imagine.  This, Milo went crazy for.  Let's just say I had to drag him away from an interactive defibrillator. Way more about the museum later, because it was awesome and we WILL be back.

If we had had more time and less heat, I probably would have packed everyone in the stroller and walked down to center of town where our police and fire stations are side by side on a relatively quiet street.  Without needing to make an appointment or get really fancy, I think just the sighting of the cars and trucks would have been exciting.  Other things I considered but didn't get to were emergency vehicles in a tray of shaving cream, more dress up opportunities, and finding videos on YouTube to watch.

Milo had fun, and I had fun, so this week was worth it.  At the flea market yesterday, he fell wildly in love with an old plastic fire engine that he has since carried everywhere and slept with.  His language is exploding, although not necessarily around the theme we're working on.  Regardless, we're looking ahead to a sensory theme for next week and calling the first week of "home school" summer a success!

*I've tried not to spend too much money finding things to fill our days.  We already had the toy cars and wooden people, and the puzzle I would have bought anyway.  We've been keeping our eyes peeled in the Target dollar bin and found some cheap plastic animals at Toys R Us, and Cutie Patuties in Leominster sells inexpensive toys both new and used.  You can find things at yard sales, flea markets, or on Amazon!

**I've been using these pinterest boards (homeschool summer and talk to me, baby) to help me come up with ideas.  You can also check out our plans for the rest of the summer here.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

"Homeschool" Summer

I wrote a post on my personal blog (normal non-professional writers don't normally rock 3+ blogs, but I'm pretty obsessed with hearing myself talk) about why I had decided to put a little structure on our summer. Milo is HOME for the duration!  This is the first time that we've been together constantly since Elliott has been born, and the first time Milo has had an extended break in his routine since his speech delay was diagnosed.  I knew we needed a plan so that I could continue enriching Milo's days with lots of language and that keeping him in a routine would reduce his frustration.  I also knew that without a plan, I would probably pack up and desert my family within three days of depressed, listless lounging around.

I decided to do something like what I did when I taught summer school for students with special needs; pick a loose theme and then build outside games, books, crafts, and sensory activities around it.  I used the Highlands Fun Free Friday program to help me plan.  There are tons of Massachusetts institutions offering free admission on specific Fridays all summer long.  Using that, our season pass to Davis Farmland, and a few other ideas, I came up with a theme and field trip weekly until we're ready to start the school year again!

Week 1 // July 1st- July 5th  // Community Helpers and Their Vehicles
Field Trip: Children's Museum at Holyoke (free July 5th)

Week 2 // July 8th-July 12th // Sensory Play
Field Trip: Boston Children's Museum (NOT free this week, $1 after 4pm on Fridays)

Week 3 // July 15th-July 19th // Farm Animals 
Field Trip: Davis Farmland (NOT free this or any week)

Week 4 // July 22nd-July 26th // Food and Cooking
Field Trip: Discovery Museums (NOT free this week)

Week 5 // July 29th-August 2nd // Zoo Animals
Field Trip: Franklin Park Zoo (free August 2nd)

Week 6 // August 5th-August 9th // Eric Carle **may change to general picture book theme
Field Trip: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (free August 9th)

Week 7 // August 12th-August 16th // Sea Creatures
Field Trip: New England Aquarium (NOT free this or any week)

We're not going to live and breathe these themes.  It's just going to be a little guidance that helps me be deliberate with our books and puzzles and the episode of Curious George that I'm going to slap on when I'm exhaustedly turning to Netflix to watch my children.  It's a schedule that is 50% for Milo and 50% for me; without it, I can assure you that I would waste most days with our family in front of Sprout, pinning obsessively.  This will save us.   I'm going to be sharing pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #homeschoolsummer.  Check us out!

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Hello, I'm Ashlie, and I'm so excited to share my new blog!  Many of you have followed along over the past few years as I wrote for my Simple Girl site.  I've loved sharing every rambling thought and grand plan that has crossed my mind, but I thought I'd like to have more specific space to talk about my boys and where we're going and what we're doing.  A parenting site about the place I live and the ways I'm figuring it out (or not).

Of course, everything isn't perfect yet, but I had planned to launch on July 1st, and so I'm launching today!  Stay tuned for parent interviews, a resources section, blog buttons, content in each of the categories, and much more.  For now, I've given a little example of what each section will offer, and over in the sidebar I pointed out some hashtags you can use with Instagram (or Twitter!) to share your books and activities with everyone!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to check out my site.  I've said it many times, I'm the furthest thing from a parenting expert, but I'm in the throes of it and I'm pleased to have company as I'm bumbling along.  Now, I'd LOVE to get to know you!  In the comments, please introduce yourself (even if I know you in real life, because, real talk, it will be more exciting to see more comments) and let me know if you live in Central Mass, if you have kids, and especially if there is anything you want to see in this space!  One last, glorious time, THANK YOU!