Category Archives: Pregnancy
At the very beginning of this year, I shared why I am so excited to “homeschool” this fall. I use the quotes because most of the time, “homeschool” with my almost-4-year-old son and almost-2-year-old daughter is woven into everyday playing and errand running rather than appearing more “school-like,” such as doing worksheets at a table. But sometimes we do worksheets and crafts at the table, too. And sometimes our sole goal is to make it through the day. But ideally, these are the skills and activities we are aiming for in a given week.
Our “curriculum” is a hodgepodge of different things. I started my planning with the Letter of the Week Curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler, which I’ll refer to as LOTW. It’s a great curriculum at an awesome price. It features one letter a week with accompanying blending ladders, a Bible verse, and optional Spanish language vocabulary, plus one shape and one color per month. However, the LOTW falls squarely in the middle of my kids’ current academic levels, as my son knows the content already but my daughter is not quite ready to tackle letters. But the crafts and activities are so cute, I decided to plug in and/or modify any LOTW activities I could into the content areas that are important to us. This is the list of categories we are working on this fall and what we are using for these subjects:
June does parts of the LOTW curriculum including an introduction to the letter in written, spoken, and ASL form and some large letter or coloring pages which don’t require advanced fine motor control. I don’t think she’s quite ready to learn the alphabet, but I think she’ll enjoy being introduced to the ASL alphabet concurrently since many of the ASL signs she knows already utilize the letter handshapes.
Rowan occasionally uses some of the letter crafts from LOTW which require more fine motor control, like lacing. Additionally, he has sight words on the felt board and letter discs to match to interesting words (both very cool activities from Confessions of a Homeschooler). At this point, we just want Rowan to have access to things he’s interested in, rather than dragging him down any specific path or timeline. And with access to our local BBBS resale sites and a big homeschool resale store, we can try out different things without investing a ton in each rescoure. Rowan is quite interested in letters and reading, but he *really* wants to do everything himself. He has maintained interest in the sight word felt board and letter discs, with game-like pieces that can be used independently. But engagement with the more directed, school-like activities have fizzled out very fast with him, including Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Bad fit for now! Maybe when he’s older), Bob books (I think he’ll like them once he can read them himself without prompting and supervision from us) and Explode the Code (The uncertainty of what word the drawing is representing greatly frustrated *me,* so we set that one aside for now). He can also complete lessons on ABC Mouse, but even in the guided lessons mode, the difficulty of the work seems to vary widely, and his engagement with it is hit and miss.
I separated actual reading from the “language arts” category above, which contains skills needed to read like letter recognition, letter sounds, phonics and blending. For “actual reading,” I strive to read to the kids each day, signing along with the book in June’s case and having Rowan read frequently occurring words or sound some out from the story. Thankfully, both kids love snuggling up with a book- with or without someone reading it to them!
Both kids can participate in these activities, which involve moving, balancing, and generally jumping around. The LOTW curriculum has a few activities and we also find fun ones on Toddler Approved like Alphabet Pillow Jumping and via Pinterest like Toddler Color Hop from Learn~Play~Imagine. But mostly the kids take care of this category all by themselves. They are forever climbing on furniture and building obstacle courses with the couch cushions.
*A few notes on this:
1. This is how the kids get their exercise when we’re cooped up for RSV season. Or when it’s too hot to go outside. Ok, anytime they’re bouncing off the walls but we can’t go out, really.
2. Yes, this is the usual state of my house currently. Unless it’s Monday. That’s pick-up-and-vacuum day.
3. That formless mass of energy is in fact Rowan. I think it captured him quite nicely.
4. June’s looking on like, “I got next.”
This is an area we emphasize with June because her history of prematurity, frequent hospital stays and her mild hypotonia all impede her natural process of learning these skills, somewhat. Even with all of these factors, she does very well in this area. So mainly we try to offer a variety of activities to keep her practicing. LOTW includes tracing, cutting, and prewriting practice sheets which I sometimes provide to June, but they are a little advanced for her. Mostly, we provide dry erase surfaces or regular coloring activities for her to practice holding markers and crayons, and we get the felt board out with felt shapes of different sizes for June to play with. Much of the fine motor practice occurs naturally with household objects like picking up small toys, coins, and stickers, using latches and buttons on educational toys, and building with blocks. Signing is also a huge fine motor work out. We always model the correct execution of signs, and occasionally we focus on correcting June’s handshape or placement when we feel that she might be ready to perform a certain sign more correctly. I anticipate that her interest in the ASL alphabet will propel both her signing accuracy and fine motor skills forward this fall.
For Rowan we replaced the LOTW letter writing activities with a dry erase handwriting pack (Lets Get Ready for School Activity Pack: Letters) and making our own word tracing worksheets which Rowan chooses the content for (translation: he’s tracing dinosaur names). Rowan also gets much more than his daily quota of fine motor practice in by playing with Legos.
Both of the kids are naturally interested in these activities, so we make various options available around the house including puzzles (toddler for June and preschool for Rowan), blocks and Legos. We try to point out or make patterns in every day play. Occasionally I also try to get the kids interested in the mazes and object hunt activities in their kid magazines- without much success; here again, self-directed activities are WAY more fruitful than mom-directed ones.
Because she cannot vocalize with the trach currently, American Sign Language is June’s only mode for expressive communication. We play at least one Signing Time episode in the background during playtime every day. Usually several. The kids love it , and they know more than half of the signs in the series already. As part of our morning routine when we update the board with the day of the week, we sign the days of the week, numbers up to the current day, and review the signs for colors with the Rainbow Song from Signing Time. Greg and I are really striving to sign concurrently when we talk throughout the day, but that is challenging because true ASL is not a word-for-word translation of spoken English; even the basic sentence structure differs between the two. But we always sign when communicating in basic sentences with June and when reading to her.
Art and Music
Art activities occur naturally around our house as well, and as part of the other learning categories. Rowan likes to excavate dinosaur toys from playdough. June likes to write with anything, on anything right now. My written objective is to do letter, shape, and color crafts along with our current LOTW curriculum, but those are good intentions that just don’t happen, especially since the kids are self-directed in this area anyway.
For music, we listen primarily to Dinosaur Train and Jurassic Park (Rowan’s picks), Signing Time songs (June’s picks) and pop music (my picks) on my iPhone, YouTube or the radio. Listening naturally develops into recognizing the rhythm, notes, and new vocabulary (English and ASL). I’m always on the lookout for NON-ANNOYING educational songs on YouTube that the kids like. Current favorites are StoryBots, Signing Time/Rachel and the Treeschoolers, and Coilbook.
We opted not to use the LOTW curriculum for counting activities because I felt we had ample opportunities to count during the day without printing many-paged activities out specifically for that purpose. For June, we often count up to 5, like counting the medicine syringes she’s receiving (#medicallycomplexlife) and for Rowan, we often count up to 20 by counting up to the date, estimating the number of crackers etc we pour, and talking through simple addition and subtraction word problems that come up during the day. We also have a Let’s Get Ready for School Activity Pack for numbers, but I don’t plan to use that until a later date when we venture into written math problems.
This is everyone’s favorite. I try to do one simple science experiment a week that we improvise, like vinegar and baking soda variations, freezing stuff, or our weight capacity of boxes experiment, or experiments that stumble upon online, like Magic Milk from Lemon and Lime Adventures, DIY Dino Excavation Kits from Live, Craft, Love, or the Solar System Scale Model with toilet paper from Adventures in Learning. Baking and cooking fall under this category, too, because any homeschool activity that results in chocolate for me is a winner.
We have to stay away from crowds and close contact with kids during the winter time due to June’s susceptibility to respiratory viruses, particularly RSV. We also remain sheltered when June has a critical procedure coming up. But whenever possible, we make up for lost time and jump on [economical] opportunities to learn “in the field” whether it’s nature observations at the park, community/holiday events, free museum days and discounted family memberships to a favorite spot (“the dinosaur museum” and the zoo). So much learning occurs naturally as we encounter the unexpected on these outings, like when we happened upon a giant iguana (with its baby sitter) sunbathing on the steps outside the Natural Science museum. The kids are so curious and observant at this age, even trips to the grocery store are educational, as they ask about people they see, our food choices and how money works.
Those are our goals this fall! We think of this list more like a flexible guide to our intentions rather than a to-do checklist. Life gets very busy at the Safari House, but thankfully, many of these objectives are accomplished through natural play. In fact, with a newborn on the way in early September, I’m certain that in upcoming weeks those “naturally occurring” objectives are the only ones which will get done. That’s totally okay. Forecasts predict a season of Legos and couch slides in the future.
Originally I planned to share a tutorial on how I added waist and hip room to a pair of maternity pants by adding tapered upper side panels. I soon discovered, however, that the pants were too worn out to carry on with, even though they fit beautifully now. See….I know what I like, it doesn’t change in time with the store window displays, and I despise shopping. If it were up to me, my current wardrobe would serve my needs forever. This can sometimes blind me to the fact that a garment is beyond saving. So rather than sharing my own tutorial, I’ve linked some awesome posts by other bloggers here on altering pants. But take a lesson from me and assess the overall condition of your item thoroughly before deciding on altering. 🙂
Altering Pants to Expand Waist/Hips or Convert to Maternity
Adding a Pregnancy Panel Two Ways from me at Yes This I Know, which includes the wonderful post below from Shwin and Shwin
DIY Maternity Pants by Shwin and Shwin: Remove a non-stretch waistband and add a stretch maternity panel
Remove a Dart in Shorts or Pants from Refashion Co-op: This is a sneaky way to get some extra width in the waist of pants, if a dart is present.
Take Out (Expand) Your Jean’s Waistband Tutorial from Cotton and Curls: This is a fast way to add width to a waistband. You’ll need to keep the work covered by your shirt, unless you are using the added fabric as an fashion accent to show off your alteration.
DIY Materity Pants from Your Favorite Jeans by Say Yes: Similar to the tutorial from Cotton and Curls above, this alteration adds width but also stretch to pants by using elastic for the panel inserts.
Adding Width to a Waistband from Mad Mim: This is a more labor intensive way to add width to a waistband, and you won’t need to hide the band with your shirt if you’re able to reattach the label over your work as suggested.
Tomorrow marks one month that June has been in the hospital, and we had originally planned on just a 4-day stay. To recap, the various reasons the stay has lengthened include the switch from the two-stage LTR that was planned to the one-stage version, difficulty extubating after the LTR, which led to the need for a new trach to be placed, and most recently, June’s difficulty eating after the surgeries necessitated getting a gastronomy-button (g-button) and Nissen fundoplication. Hospitalizations are always a wild ride for us.
During the hospitalization, I’ve been staying at June’s bedside during the week, and Greg has been working and caring for Rowan with help from family. On the weekend, we switch, and Greg stays with June while I hang with little dude Rowan. This is the first hospitalization that we’ve been able to switch off at the bedside because previously I was still nursing June. It’s so nice to have this flexibility! But it’s far from the ideal of having everyone at home. I’ve gathered several amusing quotes from the kids recently which note ways in which Greg was particularly missed in the situation at hand. Some things are simply a job for Dada.
Out of nowhere in the car, Rowan formulated a manufacturing business plan that I know Greg- proud Papa and engineer- would have loved to ask him more about:
R (holding the new T-rex model he saved up for): Do we have model stuff at home?
Me: To make dinosaur models?
Me: No, we don’t. It takes big machines to make dinosaurs.
R: It’s ok, we’ll just buy a big machine.
Me: Well it takes a lot of money, so what if we just buy a model that someone else made with their machine?
R: No, models cost $25. I need my own dinosaur pressing machine. Is dinosaur rubber expensive?
R: I want to buy expensive things but not use much money.
(Welcome to Capitalism 101, bud!)
At bedtime Rowan was scared by loud thunder.
Me: Do you know what thunder is?
Me: Yes, well lightning is electricity and thunder is the sound.
R: And can electricity go in water if lightning hits it?
Me: Yes, it can zap you if you’re in water.
Me: That’s just how electricity works. Would you like Daddy to teach you more about it?
R: I want you to teach me more about it.
Me: Well, I didn’t learn very much about electricity in school, but Daddy studied it a lot.
R: Did Daddy have more school than you?
(I briefly discussed how Greg and I have the same amount of schooling- a lot- but Greg needed to learn about electricity to be an engineer and I didn’t need to in order to counsel people. And I made yet another mental note to learn some basic physics.)
Also on the topic of science, this came up in the car randomly:
Rowan: Why did the forest catch on fire in Walking With Dinosaurs?
Me: Lightning hit it, and lightning has energy in it that made the fire.
R: Is it the same energy that’s in our muscles?
Me: Kind of. The energy in lightning is electricity, and the energy in our muscles is from glucose, sugar. [I’m questioning my answers as I say them at this point]
R: And why does fire eat everything?
Me: That’s just how it works…let’s ask Daddy….
I am expecting our third kiddo in September, and Rowan insists that he is growing babies, too. His 10 dinosaur babies will be born in September as well. While I was driving home from the hospital recently, Rowan surveyed the back seat of the Prius and asked,
“Where will all of the car seats go?”
Me: Your baby brother’s seat will go right between you and June. Does that sound ok?
R: What about my 10 dinosaur babies?
Me: Hm, there’s no more space in that seat. What should we do? Are their car seats small?
R: Yes. Me and Daddy will have to build 10 more car seats. They can go in the back where the dogs sit.
At the hospital, volunteers brought the toy cart to our room, and June got a Rubik’s cube. I put it slightly off center and handed it to her.
She looked up from it and signed “Dada.”
(It’s true, Greg is the Rubik’s cube expert in our house.)
I was just napping with June in the hospital bed and she woke up before me. She signed all about wanting to listen to the voicemail Daddy had left for her. So I played it about 5 times, but I was so tired I fell asleep between each 45 second playing, and June had to wake me up again each time. Finally losing patience, June signed “want” “you” “me” “stand up.” She proceeded to stand up, emphatically signed “you,” and towered over me in the bed indignantly with all of her 2.5-foot-tall height until I sat up.
And other gems from this month:
While waiting for surgery, June wanted to put on some of her real clothes over the hospital gown. June seems to have inherited a fashion gene that skipped a generation in Greg and me. After helping her dress, I asked June excitedly-
“Are you wearing a beautiful shirt?”
She replied quite seriously in sign language: “And shoes.”
Later she kept pointing to her pile of clothes signing “hat” even though there weren’t any hats there. Clearly she felt her ensemble was not complete.
June loves shoes. She insisted on wearing some into surgery, excitedly signing to the surgical team all about her shoes during the transfer down to the OR. The team kindly waited until she was under anasthesia to take them off.
Several staff have joked with June, asking if they can have her shoes. She answers matter-of-factly in sign, “You have your shoes.”
While he was waiting to visit June in the hospital, a kind stranger asked Rowan about his prized T-rex that he bought at the dinosaur museum recently. After roaring and playing pretend with Rowan, the stranger remarked,
“What a neat dinosaur you have!!”
Rowan stopped in his tracks and replied, “This is a *model* of a dinosaur.”
Driving home from the hospital one day, Rowan asked:
“Are we going in the direction of home?”
Me: Yes, we live northwest of here, so right now we are driving ‘north.’
R: And is this the road the snow comes down?
Me: Um, no, we don’t get much snow here. Why were you thinking there might be snow though?
R: Because there’s snow at the North Pole.
Me: Oh, well we’re only going a little bit north. Not to the North Pole.
Next up in the maternity sewing series is two ways to add a full pregnancy panel to a below-the-belly pair of maternity pants. The first way is for drawstring or elastic-waist pants, and the second is for less flexible waistbands.
Pregnant women are pretty sharply divided between those who prefer the below-the-belly waist bands and those who prefer a pregnancy panel. I am 100% in favor of the panel because it provides better coverage- I won’t accidentally flash my belly if my shirt shifts, hangs, or flutters- and because it distributes the elastic pressure used to hold the pants over my entire belly instead of only on my lower intestines. Apparently, I’m really prone to the myriad of reasons for GI upset during pregnancy, and I also have bouts of sciatica and round ligament pain which affect my midsection. It is not an exaggeration to say that when I put on a pair of intestine-squeezing, below-the-belly pants, it initiates a countdown to debilitating abdominal pain. So, when I find a pant style that is only available in below-the-belly, I use one of these techniques to convert it to a mercifully more comfortable full-panel version.
Converting drawstring or elastic-waist pants to a full panel
I forgot to take a before photo, but this method preserves the existing waist band, so you can see it in the photos below. I had two pairs of these Old Navy maternity capris with an elastic waist band as well as a draw string. This is a simple conversion that requires only a few cuts and a straight line of sewing.
1. Locate where the elastic is sewn down within the waist band casing. You’ll probably see a vertical line of stitching somewhere on the casing marking this spot, and it’s likely at the back of the pants near the tag. Cut through the inside wall of the casing at this point.
2. Cut the elastic to the left or to the right of the vertical stitching. Don’t cut on both the left and right because the elastic will retract into the casing where it’s cut. Also take care not to cut the drawstrings if you have them.
3. Starting on the side you did not cut, begin to pull the elastic through the opening in the casing to remove it. If the elastic won’t pull through, it is likely sewn down at another spot, so cut through the casing at that spot to either remove the stitching or cut the elastic free on either side of it, if you don’t mind leaving a little elastic remnant inside. Once the elastic band is out of the casing, cut it free on the other side of the vertical stitching and discard, again without cutting the drawstrings. You’re left with a little patch of elastic attached to the drawstrings.
4. Dealing with the drawstrings: if you don’t want the drawstrings, remove the elastic patch and the attached drawstrings at this point. If you want to retain them, refashion the draw strings such that they are pulling on either side of the elastic so you have more give in the band. I had actually already completed this step when I took the photo above. I cut the drawstring free on either side of the vertical stitching and reattached each side of the drawstring to the corresponding half of the elastic. This way there is a tiny amount of give when the drawstrings are in use.
5. Prepare your elastic panel. You can use a pre-made maternity panel, upcycle fabric from an old garment, or use any kind of stretchy fabric you want. Like my last project, I used the hemmed bottom of an old cami that no longer fit right but was still stretchy.
6. Pin the panel. Because you’re preserving the existing waist band and it’s not meant to be seen anyway, there’s no need to make a traditional right-side-to-right-side seam which would hide your line of stitching BUT add uncomfortable bulk inside the band. Instead, with both the pants and the panel right side out, arrange the bottom edge of the panel inside the waist band of the pants- exactly how the finished pants will look- and pin inside the waist band, taking care to keep the drawstrings low in the casing below the pins.
6. Sew the panel to the pants. After pinning, fold the elastic panel down around the outside of the pants to reveal your pins inside the waist band. Using matching thread*, sew a straight line around the entire waist band where the panel and waist band overlap, being careful not to catch the rest of the elastic panel, the opposite side of the pants fabric, or the drawstrings inside or outside of the casing. Remember, you aren’t sewing a typical right-side-to-right-side seam- the raw edge of the panel will be visible below the line of stitching inside the waistband…but only to the wearer!
*TIP: You may want to use elastic thread if your waist band fits snugly, and if you can manage it. I haven’t gotten elastic thread to work on my machine, and I’d rather risk a break in the thread (which usually doesn’t affect the integrity of the garment and/or is an easy fix) than try to hand sew the elastic thread.
You are ALL done!! Put on your new comfy pants and relax.
Converting side-panel, semi-fixed, or fixed-waist pants to a full maternity panel
I defer to those who have come before me on this topic. I successfully converted this pair of side-panel maternity jeans to a full-panel using this helpful tutorial from bloggers Shwin and Shwin. This tutorial can actually be used to add a pregnancy panel to non-maternity pants as well as existing maternity pairs.
Here is how mine turned out. After the alteration, they became my favorite maternity jeans for all three of my pregnancies.