Sunday, October 31, 2010

Preschool - Halloween

Day 1: What is Halloween?

We started out our day by reading Halloween.

I think that's the one we read.  I already returned it to the library and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find one book out of the hundreds called "Halloween"!  But regardless of which one it was, I liked the simple text and photographs.  I also had Halloween Is...

and we ended up reading this one too.  They both covered the same information, but one with photos, which are always good, and one with a little more detail.  So you might not need both.  Either one by itself would be fine.

Then we read the books Scary, Scary Halloween and In The Haunted House.

Both Halloween themed without the scary part.

Them we put on the song Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens and did our best scary Halloween dancing.  Alex was a little reluctant at first, but the crazier I got the more comfortable he felt and we had fun in the end.

Then we cut Halloween shapes out of construction paper and decorated them to hang in the window.

Pumpkin and cat by Alex, ghost and bat by me.

Day 2:  Pumpkins

We had a special sick visitor today who couldn't go to school thanks to a nasty sinus infection, so twice the fun!

We started our day with pumpkin toad-in-the-hole!

This was not planned.  We just decided to have this for breakfast and ended up finding a pumpkin cookie cutter in the drawer.  They didn't look anything like pumpkins when they finished cooking, but they were tasty!

We started our official school day with the book Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie.

This was a great book with photos and easy to understand text that talks all about how pumpkins grow and what they're used for.  I was just going to read this book and leave it at that, but the kids saw that I also had From Seed to Pumpkin and insisted I read it too.

The reason I chose the first one is From Seed to Pumpkin had just a bit too much info and the pictures felt too fiction story to me and I wanted the kids to get that what I was reading to them was fact, not story.  But they ended up with a double dose and all was well.

We were going to read Big Pumpkin, but the copy we got from the library had double pages of the second half of the book and no first half!  So we skipped that one and moved on to Pumpkin Soup and The Biggest Pumpkin Ever.

Both fun stories.

Then it was time for pumpkin science!  We made a pumpkin report.  Each kid got a piece of construction paper folded into a book.  We labeled the front and they drew a picture of their pumpkin.  We measured the circumference of a mini pumpkin with a string and glued the string on the inside and labeled it "My pumpkin is this fat."  We measured the height of the pumpkin with a strip of paper and glued that down and labeled it "My pumpkin is this tall."  Then we pulled out the balance and found out our pumpkin weighed 107 pennies and 114 Bananagram tiles.  Alex used the pennies and Ella the letter tiles.

Then we glued that down and labeled it "My pumpkin weighs this much."  And that completed the report.

And then we had to take a pumpkin field trip!  But we're cheap.  We didn't head to a quaint pumpkin patch.  Nope.  We headed off to the grocery store.  But where else can you buy 70 pounds of pumpkin for $5.50?  Alex was very particular about his pumpkin.  He took twice as long to find one as the rest of us.

Because we ran out of time we continued our activities the next day by making pumpkin whoopie pies.  These are dangerous.  If you make them, be warned, you will eat more than one, and possibly more than two, and just maybe you will eat them for breakfast claiming that they are made from pumpkin so they can't be that bad.  Just saying.

There are no longer this many in the container.  There may be significantly less than one. :(

Day 3:  Carving Pumpkins!

I didn't plan anything for this day so we'd have time to carve our pumpkins before daddy had to go to work.  Last year we swore we wouldn't buy four pumpkins to carve until the kids were old enough to carve theirs themselves.  Somehow we forgot about that and got four pumpkins again this year.

So after I had scraped out three pumpkins and helped Ella carve hers, I was pooped.

I had a super cool pumpkin too, and it ended up with the lamest face ever.

But the kids made cute ones.  They designed them themselves.  A washable marker is perfect for letting your kids draw on the face they want, and then once you're done cutting you just wipe off any marker that's left.  Here they are in all their glory:

(Grandma's, Alex's, Mine)

(Cowgirl Ella, Ella's witch, Anton's, skeleton Alex)

Trick-or-Treating was Saturday and was tons of fun.  The kids filled their buckets to the top.  Though it was marred with a trip to the urgent care for what appears to be the second case of pink eye in a week.  Sigh.  Such is life!

 Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mirena IUD and Depression

I'm writing this post in the the hopes that I can help even just one person out there who may be having the same problems I suffered through for four years.

Right after I had my second child I knew I wanted some sort of birth control, however, anything hormonal was not an option.  I had tried the mini pill after my first kid and spent three months on the couch thinking that was normal after having a baby.  Thankfully I talked to a friend who had suffered through depression and she suggested I stop taking the pill.  I did the next day and fell 100% better.

So fast forward 2 years to after the birth of kid number two and I was very clear with my doctor that I couldn't have anything hormonal.  I had heard about Mirena and liked what I heard - five years without having to think about birth control, no periods, no pills to take, etc. - but I was definitely concerned about the small amount of hormones that are in the IUD.  My doctored assured me over and over that since the IUD is in your uterus, none of the hormones ever travel through your blood stream and it would not affect me whatsoever.  I read through all the information I could on it at the time, which pretty much consisted of a three-fold flyer, and didn't see anything to make me concerned, so I went ahead and got a Mirena IUD.

When child two was about 8 months old we moved to the back waters of Florida and I started feeling depressed again.  Over the next few months it got to the point where I was angry about everything and couldn't get off the couch and so on.  Classic clinical depression.  I went to therapists who told me it was situational.  I tried three different medications that all made me worse than before.

We moved again, and I hoped this would remove the "situation" and I would feel better.  It didn't.  I saw more therapists.

All this time my relationship with my husband was pretty much nonexistant.  We were glorified roommates.  Physical relationships were a joke.  I didn't want it, and so it was always a fight.  Nothing was fun to me.  I wanted to stay home and do nothing.  Most everyday about midafternoon I would have to go lay in my bed and cover up my head because my anxiety levels had risen too high for me to cope anymore.  I was living in a dark box that I just couldn't get out of.

Then we moved again.  More therapy.  I didn't bother trying new medications because we didn't have insurance and I knew the side effects would be awful.  This is now four years after I had gotten the Mirena put in.  Over this time my depression symptoms had gradually lessened, but they were definitely still there.

Then one day a light bulb went on.  I realized that I had been feeling depressed since I got the Mirena put in.  The fact that my symptoms were slowly lessening made me think that it might be because the dosage of hormone in the IUD was slowly wearing out, which makes sense since I was about a year away from needing it removed and replaced.

So I went to Google.  The magic search terms "Mirena depression" brought up nightmare story after nightmare story.  I was not alone!  There were so many stories of people who had been suffering just like me. There were marriages ruined, relationships on the brink, lives practically destroyed.  It was so sad to read, but also so wonderfully hopeful at the same time.  Maybe I wasn't broken!  Maybe this was something that could be fixed!

The next day I called around to all the doctors in the area to find someone who would take my Mirena out without charging me $300 dollars.  I found a place, made an appointment, and three days later it was gone.

I knew I wouldn't have a miracle turnaround like after the mini pill.  But let me tell you, seven months later my life is where I never thought I would be able to have it again.  I'm happy.  I am able to enjoy things.  I leave the house willingly and sometimes have to drag my family because they don't want to go.  I've only had to crawl into my bed because of anxiety two or three times compared to the daily occurrence before.

I look back on those four years and all I see is fog.  I can't remember a lot of what went on.  I feel like they've been stolen from me, but I can't tell you how glad I am to be able to take the rest of my life for myself and not live under that cloud.

So please, if you have a Mirena and you've not felt like yourself, think about having it taken out.  Read the information that comes up when you Google "Mirena depression."

I've since found this quote in the Mirena product monograph:

"Patients with a history of emotional disturbances, especially the depressive type, may be more
prone to have a recurrence of depression while using MIRENA. In cases of a serious recurrence,
consideration should be given to removing MIRENA since the depression may be drug-related."

Nowhere in the information I was given when considering this product did it ever say that depression was a possible side effect.  But trust me, it definitely is.  And while I'm a little bit bummed that I now have to suffer through my period again, a week's worth of inconvenience is far better than a life of nothing.

Please pass this on to any friends or family you think it might help.  Please don't suffer needlessly!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Preschool - Birds, Week 2

Day 1: Birds of North America

Today was supposed to be about birds in our area, but somehow it ended up being more about the bird songs of North America.  We first looked at a little fold-out bird guide specifically for Utah called Utah Birds.
Who knew there were so many!  We picked out the ones we had seen before outside.

It was kind of long and involved, but having Ella help keep Alex focused allowed us to get through it all.

Then we read the book Birdsongs.

Then we went to the computer, and using the Web site What Bird, we listened to the bird calls of the birds mentioned in the book and ones we have around here.  Then the kids picked their favorite bird of the ones we've talked about and I printed out that page from a bird coloring book you can find here.  Alex picked the crow and Ella picked the Bluejay.  

After they finished coloring we read the book How Robin Saved Spring.

Ella is in love with this book.  She's crying right now because I won't read it to her.  (She's being punished.  I promise I'm not just ignoring her for the computer.)

Then we gathered up paper and pencil and took our bird guide and headed outside.  We walked around the neighborhood trying to find as many different kinds of birds as we could.  We had to be really quiet to find them.  Ella kept telling me to make my flip flops be quiet.  We found a magpie, robin, chickadee, sparrow, and quails.  It was a bad time of day to do this.  The next morning on the way to the bus stop we saw that many birds in one minute.  Oh well.

Field trip time!  We went to the Tracy Aviary.  Most of the birds there are from around the world and not just North America, but since everyone in the family was home today, this is the day we decided to go.

The kids loved the condor.  Ella declared it her favorite.  Alex first loved the pelicans, and then changed his mind to the peapock, as he calls it.

There were actually really attentive and interested in all the shows and talks we went to.  It was a lot of fun, especially watching Anton get whacked in the head by the great horned owl in the birds in flight show.

When we got back the kids helped Grandma fill the birdfeeder in the hopes of seeing some birds in our backyard!

Day 2:  Birds Around the World

Since we saw a lot of different birds from around the world on our field trip the other day, I didn't spend a whole lot of time introducing them.  We went straight over to the map with our hefty Complete Birds of the World.

I printed out little discs with a different bird on each one, and we looked the bird up in our book.  Each bird showed a map of where the birds live, and we would stick the disc up on our map wherever it belonged.  Some birds lived in more than one region, so we would pick the biggest one.

After we'd stuck up all the birds I'd printed out, we played a game where I'd flip the pages of the book and Alex would stick his hand in to stop me.  We would look and see what bird it was and where it lived.  We are really familiar with Madagascar and Australia now.  Who knew they had so many unique bird species!

Here's the bird discs if you want them:

I've labeled their names and where we stuck them on our map.

After that we read the book The Emperor's Egg.

Which was written at the perfect level for Alex.  Then we read Mud City: A Flamingo Story.

This one was a little above his level.

And that's all we did today.  A nice laid back day.  

You want to know what makes me super happy?  Alex was "reading" the book The Lion and The Mouse (I say "reading" because it has no words), when all of a sudden he screamed, "LOOK!"  I jumped out of my skin and turned to see what the matter was.  He pointed to a picture on the page and said, "It's a great horned owl!"  And sure enough, it was.  So he must be learning something!

Day 3: Birds of Prey

The end of bird week!  I actually liked spending this much time on one topic.  My kids have really absorbed it.

We started today with the book Amazing Birds of Prey.

We just looked at the pictures and talked about the different birds that are considered birds of prey and how they eat other animals and have special claws and so on.

Then we read Good-night Owl.

And talked about owls sleeping at night.

A bit above Alex's story level.  I think if I'd spent some time talking about Native Americans and their culture and such and the desert, this would have meant more, but it wasn't really about how birds of prey act or anything like that.  Oh well.

Then we waited for Ella to come home to finish up our school day.  I had ordered some owl pellets from Home Science Tools, and we dissected them!  

The kids lasted about one minute doing this.  

Ella was disappointed that my big end of week surprise wasn't coloring.  Alex started doing his, but as soon as Ella abandoned, he did too.  He probably would have sat longer otherwise.  So I ended up doing all the dissecting of one pellet, and I left the other one for Anton to do when he gets home from work.  It was pretty tedious, so I would leave an activity like this for older kids.  Though maybe my kids' little hands would have been an advantage!

There's all the bones I found in my pellet, and you can see all the fur in the bag above the plate.  I would never have guessed this much stuff would have come from a pellet smaller than a golf ball.

Look at the teeth on that thing!  Speaking of teeth, Ella lost her first tooth today!!

(Excellent photography by Alex)

Here's all the bones laid out in their skeleton shape:

It's either a mouse or a vole.  The only way to tell the different is from it's teeth, and they're so small I couldn't tell whether they had roots or not.  Plus, I think this guy had at least 6 hands and feet from the number of minuscule bones I pulled out of the pellet.

So I thought this was pretty cool, but probably not for preschool!

And that ends our bird weeks!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Preschool - Birds, Week 1

Day 1: What is a bird?

We started out with the book Bird.

It's not very young child friendly as far as the text goes, but I just used the pictures and talked about them in words Alex would understand.

We talked about bird feathers and how they help a bird fly and keep them warm in the winter and keep some birds dry.  We talked about different beaks and how they are used to eat the different foods birds eat.  We talked about different feet - webbed, claws - and what they're used for.  We talked about their tails and how they are used.  We talked about some of their habits - migrating, changing colors, eating.

Then we read the book Birds.

This one was more on Alex's level.

Then we did a fingerplay that goes like this:

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill,
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Fly away Jack.  Fly away Jill.
Come back Jack.  Come back Jill.

You pretend your two index fingers are the birds and put them behind your back when they fly away and bring them back out when they come back.  Simple, but Alex thought it was fun

Then we read the book Flap Your Wings.

This book would have been better on the day we talked about eggs, but I didn't realize that until after I read it.  And since Alex is right now sitting on the floor behind me reading it himself, I'm not going to complain.

Then we made a bird book.  I copied it out of our science book.  Each page has different birds on it.  Some needed beaks added, some needed branches to sit on, and some needed their wings glued on.  We looked up each bird and made sure they were all colored correctly.  It took a while, but Alex stuck with it.  Then we stapled it all together.

This would also have probably been better next week when we talk about the birds of North America, but oh well.  Everything bird kind of all melds together.

And last but not least, we played a migration game online.  Find it here.  It goes pretty quick so we played it a few times.  I also kept winning so we had to play until Alex won.

Another thing I would have had us do if I didn't think grandpa would freak out about it, we would have spread peanut butter on rice cakes and hung them in the trees outside.  But it would have been messy and attracted animals, and we wouldn't want that.  :)

Day 2: Nests

We started out today with the book Bird again, but this time we looked at the pages about nests.  We followed that up with the book Birds, Nests, and Eggs.

We focused just on the nests on each page today.  We talked about how different birds build different kinds of nests, some out of mud, some out of sticks, some by water, and some up in trees.  Then we used the duvet off my bed and built a nest for Alex.

While he was all curled up and cozy we read the book The Perfect Nest.

Fabulously funny book.  The kids have had me read it to them over and over again.

The we read the book The Magpies' Nest.
It's a story about after the creation of the world the magpies try to teach all the birds how to build a nest, but they don't all listen to all the instructions so they end up making nests all different ways.  It's a cute story and it describes how to build a nest.  So that's what we did next.  We headed outside with the book and followed the instructions on how to build a nest.

We started with a base of a rolled down paper bag and went from there.  We lined it with mud, then sticks, then grass (we used pine needles so as to not pull out the lawn), and then we put some acorn "eggs" in it.  Alex loved this.

Though he was pretty disappointed that we weren't going to build a mud nest on the side of the house like a swallow does.  He was pretty hooked on that idea and it took grandpa telling him he would lose a limb if he built a nest on the side of the house to get him to drop it.  :)  If the weather had been inclement, we would have made rice krispy nests instead.  And that's it for nests!

Day 3:  Eggs

We had big sister in tow for school today thanks to UEA, but we had fun anyway!  We started by talking about where birds come from (eggs), and we looked at pictures of bird eggs in the Bird book.  There are some pretty cool eggs out there in the world.  Did you know there was a bird that lived on Madagascar 700 years ago that laid eggs bigger than any dinosaur egg?  They held over 2 gallons of fluid!!  That'd make quite the omlette!

We talked about how eggs must be kept warm if you want them to hatch.  Then we pulled out the same book again, Birds, and looked at the pages showing baby birds hatching.  It shows step by step how a baby bird hatches out of an egg.  It's pretty cool.

Then we looked through the book Eggs.

The actual text of the book would have been way over the kids' heads, so I just summarized each page for them.  This book talks about other animals that come from eggs too, not just birds.

Then it was science time!  I had a hardboiled egg for each kid and we performed a few different tests on them.  First, we put them in a glass of water to see how much water they would displace.  Ella impressed me by being able to say that the reason the water level rises is because the egg pushes the water out of the way.  Then we used our balance to see how many Unifix cubes our eggs weighed.  I purposely picked different sized eggs for the kids so we would have different answers.  Alex's was 17 cubes and Ella's 15.  Then they had to guess how many squares on a grid their egg would cover when traced, then trace their egg and see if they were right.  All of these experiments were recorded on a sheet from our science book.

And then the final test was the taste test, of course.  Perfect snack.

And then since I hadn't showered yet, I sent the kids to watch the Reading Rainbow episode of Rechenka's Eggs.

Later on after lunch (which was supposed to be egg sandwiches but the eggs were consumed after science instead) we went outside and had an egg hunt.  We had a bunch of plastic eggs from Easter so we used those.  We did a couple of rounds and then the kids took over and hid them for each other.  They have been hiding eggs around the house ever since.

And then after that we took the sidewalk chalk outside and drew pretty eggs all over the driveway.  I was going to draw all the different eggs to size so they could see how they compared, but the Bird book did a really good job of that so I just let the kids draw and have fun.

And that's the end of our first week of birds.  More next week!