Saturday, November 30, 2013

Teaching Young Children about Compassion

We all want our children to learn that it is better to give than to receive and the importance of putting others first. But sometimes it is difficult for our toddlers and pre-schoolers to look beyond themselves. Instead of giving in to the mindset of consumerism ("it's all about me") this holiday season, how about we work with our little ones on understanding the concepts of compassion and empathy? These are traits that all of us should be constantly striving towards.

Here are some books that can act as starting points for discussions on considering other people's perspectives and showing kindness on a regular basis.

1. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

This book introduces kindness as a metaphor that young children can visualize. It says that everyone in the world carries an invisible bucket that can be either filled or emptied by other people. If we show love to someone, it fills their bucket and makes them feel happy. If we ignore them or say mean things, it empties their bucket and makes them feel sad. This book provides examples that a pre-school aged child can relate to about how to be a “bucket-filler” and not a “bucket-dipper”.

I started reading this with Ryan when he was two years old. He understood the concept well enough to remember what it means to be a “bucket-filler” and to apply it to real-life situations. For example, if we noticed that a friend looked sad, I would ask Ryan, What could you do right now to fill your friend's bucket? and he would answer something simple like, Share a toy with her or Give her a hug.

2. How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath

This book continues to teach the idea that each person has an invisible bucket. The concept is taken to a deeper level through descriptions of slightly more complex situations, specifically at school. I would say that this book is at the perfect level of understanding for older pre-schoolers or kindergarteners. However, I think that it is still worthwhile to read this book with my three year old and to discuss the situations with him. He seems to enjoy reading about how the "big kids" act.

3. Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson

This book focuses on empathy and encouraging children to imagine what another person might be feeling. Since young children are generally focused solely on their own feelings, noticing how another person feels is huge deal. I like that this book encourages young children to start thinking outside of themselves in everyday situations. It reinforces positive things that Ryan already naturally does, such as helping somebody to clean up if they spill something and showing concern when somebody is hurt, while also suggesting new ways to practice this concept.

4. Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen and Kristina Swarner 

This book builds appreciation for various jobs that people do throughout our community. After reading this book, I feel like Ryan values these helpers more, and even notices the little things that mommy and daddy does for him around the house. There is a part that talks about cooks "working in kitchens, making meals for people who don't have homes". This immediately prompted Ryan to start asking questions and sparked a discussion about what it means to be homeless and hungry. This book seemed to opened up his mind to start thinking about good and helpful things that he can do.

5. Our Peaceful Classroom by Aline D. Wolf and Montessori School Children Worldwide

This book describes how to be considerate and peaceful while at school. Since a lot of children’s books depict a traditional classroom setting, it was fun for Ryan read a book that he could actually relate to his Montessori classroom. He immediately recognized the specific materials that he works with at school, such as the pink tower, brown stairs, taking care of classroom plants and pets, pouring materials, flags of different countries, materials from around the world, and the Matreshka nesting dolls.

This book also talks about the importance of sharing, taking turns, speaking using kind words, making friends with those who are alone, using hands for helping instead of hurting, picking up trash, and and sorting trash for recycling. It also provides some facts about Maria Montessori and her philosophy. It would be a great addition to any primary Montessori classroom.

Showing Compassion

I believe that living by example and demonstrating what it means to have a giving heart are the best things that we can do to help our children learn compassion. They look up to us and imitate what we do, so naturally, compassionate parents tend to raise compassionate kids.

I'm sure that you have all heard of random acts of kindness and paying it forward. These are wonderful things to do with children because, not only are they fun, but they teach them practical ways to serve others. I think that the holiday season is a good time to begin working on understanding and prioritizing these values.

Here are a few activities that several other mommies and I came up with:

1. Collect old towels/blankets for an animal shelter
2. Donate books to a library
3. Donate canned goods to a food bank
4. Take art supplies and stuffed animals to the children's floor of the hospital
5. Pick out clothes and toys for a needy family and help with wrapping the presents
6. Make a meal or bake cookies for a sick friend, a new mom, neighbor, baby-sitter, mailman, garbage collector, crossing guard, etc.
7. Write thank you notes/cards and send them to troops, fire fighters, police officers, etc.
8. Decorate holiday cards and pass them out to those in assisted living and elderly homes
9. Hand out balloons to kids at a grocery store or Target
10. Hide dollars in the toy section at the dollar store
11. Feed parking meters
12. Leave candy canes on cars in the parking lot at school or a store
13. Bring hot cocoa to kids at bus stop or anyone else standing outside
14. Pay for the person behind you at the drive-through or coffee shop
15. Clean up litter in the neighborhood and sort the recyclables
16. Make or buy a wreathe or holiday ornament for a neighbor
17. Help out with a chore that you don't normally do
18. Walk someone else's dog
19. Bring flowers or homemade gifts to a teacher, helper, or relative
20. Attend a friend's special performance and cheer him/her on with handmade posters

A Few More Ideas...

Sponsor a Child

We have enjoyed writing letters back and forth to Peter, who lives in Zambia and has 
the exact same birthday as Ryan. It has been fun to watch Peter grow, through 
pictures, over the past few years, and to know that we are making a difference.

Send Shoebox Gifts to Needy Children

When Ryan found out that some children do not have any toys and their parents do not have money to buy them presents, he was very eager and excited to pick out a few small tokens to send to a needy child.

Pray for Others and Thank God for Blessings

Ryan is beginning to understand what it means to talk to God and to sincerely pray for the people 
that he cares about. I love watching his little heart grow with compassion for others.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Themed Playdate (round 2)

We had a blast hosting a Thanksgiving-themed playdate for the second year in a row!

It was so nice to gather together with our new friends that we have met since we moved here. Everyone has been so welcoming towards us and we feel blessed to live in a neighborhood that is filled with lots of children. I think that it will be such a great experience for Ryan and Henry to grow up surrounded by friends and a family-centered atmosphere.

Thanksgiving Treats 

1. turkey sandwiches with cranberry jelly 2. orzo pasta with a random assortment of veggies 3. fresh strawberries and cranberries 4. acorns: donut holes, chocolate sprinkles, and pretzel sticks 5. pumpkin pie dip with apples and nilla wafers (recipe from girlwhoateeverything) 6. fruit turkey: pear, grapes, blueberries, cheese for nose and legs 7. snack mix with bugles, pretzels, m & m's, dried cherries 8. goody bag with pirates booty and fall stickers 9. turkey cookie pops: vanilla oreo, ritz cracker, candy eyeballs, candy corn


The little guys decorated turkeys with foam stickers and colored Thanksgiving masks. Most of their time was spent eating and running around the house playing with Ryan's toys and train table. They wouldn't really slow down long enough to snap a decent picture, but at least we got a few pictures of the moms. It was such a fun afternoon!

We are looking forward to seeing a bunch of family tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day and eating lots of food at my aunt's Thanksgiving feast. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!!

Ryan and his Cousins on Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pregnancy: Week 32 and Lovenox

Week 32:

Baby’s development:
-brain is taking on its characteristic grooves and indentations
-bone marrow has taken over production of red blood cells
-baby’s wrinkled skin is smoothing out
-lanugo is disappearing
-baby is gaining more body fat
-sleeping in cycles of 20 to 40 minutes
-looking more like a newborn

Pregnancy symptoms:
-heartburn, pretty much all of the time
-general uncomfortableness when I try to move from sitting to standing, laying to sitting, rolling over, etc.
-insomnia (REALLY hoping that this doesn't continue, but it is not a surprise for me to have sleep problems)

-chocolate chip flavored Greek Yogurt
-sweet potatoes
-anything pumpkin flavored
-sweet drinks (which I normally dislike)
-certain smells (I never knew that it was possible to crave smells!)


-yes, all of the time! I sometimes wonder what he is doing in there. It feels like an earthquake and shakes my whole body.

Gender: boy

Total weight gain/loss: +27

Belly button in or out? it's an outtie now

Best moment of the week: having success with giving myself shots, since I was really nervous (more about that below...)

Looking forward to: getting our basement finished this week and the new floors put in

My tummy is getting huge! I feel like I am running out of room, especially when I sit down.

Lovenox Shots

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may remember back when I was hospitalized for blood clots and pulmonary embolisms, during the same time that I was getting chemotherapy. (See this post and this post about it). After being on liquid IV antibiotics and Lovenox shots for several weeks, I was finally allowed to switch to a pill called Coumadin, which I was on for about a year and a half. Since last winter, I have only needed to take baby Aspirin to keep my blood thin enough from clotting. However… 

Late pregnancy, labor/delivery, and the time immediately following delivery are known “triggers” for blood clots, especially if you have already had them before. Blood clots and PE’s are extremely dangerous for mommy and baby, so my OB believes that it is absolutely necessary for me to be on stronger medication to prevent them. Since Coumadin is not safe for pregnancy, I will now be on Lovenox shots for the remainder of the pregnancy and the week following delivery. (See this post about needle phobia). 

I have already started the shots, and have successfully injected them into the sides of my tummy every night for the past week. During the final week of pregnancy, I will need to start giving myself the shots twice a day, instead of only once, and it will be Heparin instead of Lovenox, because Heparin leaves your bloodstream more quickly and is safer for delivery and getting an epidural.

This means that, so far, I’ve got 7 down and 64 more shots to go!

Okay, so honestly, it takes a while before you get used to voluntarily stabbing yourself with a needle and accepting the burning and stinging sensation that occurs for the next 10 minutes as the medication enters into your bloodstream. But, if all of my experiences have taught me anything, it is that sometimes you have to just suck it up and do things that are unpleasant, simply because you have to. 

It really depends on a person’s perspective. If you would have told me two years ago that ALL I had to do was take a shot a day, and then I would get to live life like a normal person and even have another baby (my biggest dream and passion!) I would have not believed you, because that sounded too simple and too good to be true. The torturous chemo side effects, weakness, fatigue, inability to walk, and excruciating mastectomy pain seemed to be never-ending, and my biggest hope was to just not die. I had to focus all of my concentration on suffering through each obstacle, and therefore, any other dreams/goals that I might have had were distant and seemed completely unreachable. 

But now, I am blessed with a new life that is far better than what I had before or could have ever imagined. I thank God every day for that. I would gladly inject myself with millions of shots for the rest of my life to ensure my health and the health of my babies/family. The 4 of us will have many exciting times and big changes coming up in the very near future. Please pray for us that we adjust well and stay healthy! 

Belly Pics

I can't imagine how big my tummy will look after 8 more weeks! Ahh!

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