As I think about how to celebrate my daughter’s upcoming birthday, I remembered a party we recently attended that stood out for many reasons, but mainly because it was a simple, fun-filled event at a local park. The invitation read:
"Please come to our mystery party!
How did these guys get to be five already? It's a mystery to us!
Join us for some clever clue-sleuthing fun and games in G Park to celebrate the birthdays of E and G. Pizza and light lunch served - and cake, of course. Siblings are welcome, too.
In lieu of gifts, let's have a book exchange. Please bring one new wrapped book. Each family will be able to take a book home."
There are three elements I love about this party and will plan to use in one of my future birthday bashes:
If you have any other practical and fun ideas for children's birthday parties, please share. I always have these elaborate visions of hosting beautiful themed parties where everything is perfectly planned and executed, but let's face it . . . who has the time?
The winner of last week's Fun Friday Giveaway was chosen this morning at random, and the winner is Christina Brundick! Congratulations! We will be sending your green lollacup and straw replacement pack out this afternoon. Enjoy and have a great week!
In celebration of the launch of this blog, we are giving away 1 Lollacup and 1 Straw Replacement Pack. This is the perfect opportunity for you to give Lollacup a try, add to your collection, or gift it to someone special. To enter, simply "Leave a Reply" at the end of this post with your favorite color. The winner will be chosen (at random) and announced on Monday, March 26, 2012.
I was thinking about blogging about an interesting article I read the other day, but I received an email late last night that read, "Today would have been G's 5th month birthday. On 3.16.2012 at 2 a.m. G had her last meal. I stayed up with her until 3 a.m. that morning, checked up on her and fell asleep."
The niece of the pastor who officiated my wedding passed away on March 16th at around 7 a.m. I had heard the little girl had been born with complications, but I was under the impression she was getting better and doing well.
When I read this email, I cried and my heart literally hurt. I don't know if other parents feel this way, but becoming a parent has made my level of emotion and empathy skyrocket. I find myself getting choked up watching a Google commercial or reading Love You Forever by Robert Munsch to my girls at bedtime.
I am going to need a while to process how a family can even begin to cope with a loss this great. The email went on to describe how one of her older children responded to the news of his baby sister's passing, "He wanted to see her. He wept by her bedside where she was laying down and just wanted to hold her. He's very quiet in his demeanor and not very emotional. He kept thinking that she was going to wake up. He grabbed our stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat. He was desperately searching for G's heartbeat."
I hope this blog post is today's reminder to hug your children and show & tell them you love them. I find myself simply going through the motions and trying to get through another day as a busy mom. This incredible loss has given me a renewed sense of thankfulness for my family and loved ones.
For the past few months, my husband and I have been visiting various preschools, trying to decide on the “right” school for our daughters. To preface this discussion, our girls have been attending a childcare facility since they were 18-months-old, because we both work full-time. We had a nanny for the first 18 months, but once the girls began to walk and needed more socialization, we decided to put them in daycare/school/early childhood education center/preschool - what have you. Whether you’re on the hunt for a pre-kindergarten like we are now, or just beginning to think about preschool, here is my synopsis of the varying philosophies of early childhood education, as I saw them on the tours I went on.
Academic - The classrooms in academic preschools were orderly, spotless, and displayed all the things you would expect (A is for apple posters, calendars displaying the date & weather, and nametags neatly taped to desks). This type of preschool would fit into the most traditional philosophy of teaching and learning. The classrooms & days were structured, “teacher-directed,” and focused on formally preparing for kindergarten (learning letter names & sounds, how to count, etc.). Play happened during recess times and classroom etiquette was en pointe: raising hands, following instructions, and sitting at desks. The academic preschools reminded me of my own experiences with schooling.
Montessori – Montessori classrooms were also very orderly and clean, but the artwork on the walls had more variation than the ones in the more Academic classrooms. Children were quietly working at desks, some on math, others on reading. A few things that stood out as different/unique were the mixed age groups coexisting in one classroom, children choosing what they wanted to work on, and the concentration level of the children.
We toured a few Montessori schools and the most confusing part was that anyone can use the name “Montessori.” Therefore, XYZ Montessori, does not necessarily mean that they teach using the Montessori method. There is, however, a website (http://www.montessori.edu/) dedicated to providing detailed information on how to recognize real "Montessori.”
Play-based - In the play-based preschools, children were playing indoors and outdoors, with, what appeared to be, very little structure. The artwork displayed on the walls was varied and unique, and I did not see any traditional posters (alphabet, numbers, and calendars). Maybe two children were sitting at a desk at any given time, and teachers really took a back-seat, for lack of a better description. Play-based schools believe that children learn best through play, so children choose their own activities based on what interests them at the time. Teachers serve as facilitators whose role is to challenge children to expand upon their particular interests.
Waldorf - Children were working in small groups around the classroom and outdoors, and seemed to playing or engaged in other hands-on activities. Like the play-based school, the Waldorf school had unique artwork on the walls. Waldorf programs emphasize a “child-centered” philosophy, based on the idea of educating the whole child—body, mind, and spirit. They do not focus on academics, in the traditional sense, but instead offer a heavy dose of hands-on activities, imaginary play, and teamwork in a warm, nurturing environment that feels more like a home than a school. You can learn more about Waldorf preschools at www.whywaldorfworks.org.
I hope you found this superficial description of a few early childhood education philosophies helpful. If anything, it will give you a few new terms you can use in your Google searches.
The best advice I got on choosing a preschool was to go with your gut and do what makes sense for you (your child may be on the active side or more reserved, you may need longer hours, your child may not be potty trained, etc.). As time-consuming and confusing as this journey was and still is, it has been the perfect opportunity for my husband and me to openly talk about what we want for our children in schooling and in life.
I will end with a piece of unsolicited advice. Although parenthood is taxing, and we often feel like we cannot add one more thing to our days, start thinking about schooling early. Unlike elementary schools, preschools are not free and often have ridiculously long waiting lists. You will have many more options if you start the process early.
Many parents ask us why Lollacup was designed as a straw cup rather than a traditional sippy cup. Well, when it was time for my daughter to start drinking from something other than a baby bottle, I had no idea I would be faced with such a myriad of choices. Being a confused, first-time parent, I turned to my pediatrician who recommended I try straws, if at all possible.
If you conduct a basic internet search about transitioning your child from the breast/bottle to a sippy cup or a straw, you'll find a slew of articles written by bloggers and the like about the advantages of straw use in infants and toddlers. I delved a little deeper and talked with a few speech pathologists, pediatricians, dentists, and parents about the real reasons some people recommend straws over sippy cups.
Here is my take on the issue and the reasons I prefer straws over sippy cups:
- Speech advantages: "At the therapeutic level, straws have the promise of addressing a multiple array of disorders and muscle groups far beyond traditional practice." taken from "Advance," a publication for speech-language pathologists and audiologists. If straws are frequently used in speech therapy, they must contribute to the development of important muscles that enhance or at least support speech. You can find more interesting articles (from WebMD, Livestrong.com, etc.) on the straw vs. sippy cup debate on the FAQ page of the Lollacup website.
- Convenience: Weaning a child from anything (breastfeeding, bottles, pacifiers, thumbs, etc.) can be a nightmare, and I just didn't see the need to wean my daughter from a bottle to a sippy cup and then later to a straw/regular cup. I found that getting my daughters accustomed to drinking from straws or regular cups at meals and snack times meant one less thing (bottle/sippy cup) to pack when going out, since most restaurants provide small plastic cups with a lid and a straw.
As parents, we are always trying to do what's best for our children, and everything we do on their behalf involves careful thought and consideration. I believe that decisions like using a straw vs. a sippy cup are largely a matter of preference and may not have any long-term affects on children.
However, my husband and I weighed the options, chose to use straws with my daughters, and just couldn't find the right cups for them, so we created the Lollacup.
I got an email last week (March 5, 2012, to be exact) from someone I greatly respect and admire. The email read, "You need to start a blog . . ." So, I started a blog. Although I call this the official weblog of Lollaland, the company, it's really just a platform for me and my husband (and business partner) to share what's relevant to us, our business, and the little ones who inspired it all. We hope you enjoy (& engage in) all the interesting posts to come.