Thursday, March 31, 2011

Talking with kids about strangers

We had an incident at our preschool last week in which an unknown man came on our campus.  I have to tell you that, while it was unsettling, I was thrilled to know that our procedures work.  We immediately went into lockdown, and handled the trespasser appropriately.  It was so reassuring to me as a parent! 
Below is the email that our director sent to parents:

Dear Parents and Staff:
To recap this week’s events, on Monday, a man pulled up near the playground and was responded to immediately by our staff. He showed up again on Tuesday and was cited for trespassing and told that if he returned to the Bay Leaf property, he would be arrested. As an additional security measure, we pulled the children from the playground for the rest of this week until we could procure security services.

Beginning Monday of next week, we will have an increased security presence on our property through the end of the school year. This person will stay on the playground, walk through the parking lot, and walk around the building while we are in session. If we are unable to be on the playground due to weather, this person will be in the building with us.

We understand many of you are concerned for the safety of your children. It is our highest priority to make sure we do everything we can to keep them safe while they are here at Little Lambs. I want to reassure you that we continue to be confident that your children are very safe at Little Lambs.

Please continue to let me know if you have any questions.


In response to this, we had parents ask lots of questions about talking with their children about strangers.  I prepared a list of things for parents to take into consideration.  As I wrote, I realized I have probably not talked to Lana often enough about this, and thought maybe others might benefit from these reminders.

Parents and Staff:

A few of you have called or emailed and asked about talking with your kids concerning the events of this week. Here are some helpful tips that were put together by our Education Coordinator, Rachael Davis.

1. The most important thing is for your child to feel safe. Assure them that it is the job of their parents and teachers to keep them safe, and that those adults can be trusted to do that. Reinforce the simple and fundamental rule that you (their teacher, or whomever is responsible for their care) needs to know where they are at all times.

2. Be appropriately honest with your child regarding the dangers of strangers in general, while avoiding introducing unnecessary stress into their life. Parents are the best judge of their child's temperament, and can adjust their conversation accordingly. As a preschooler, your child doesn't need to know the graphic details of what COULD happen.

3. Answer their questions without "over-answering." They don't want all the details. For example, when your daughter asks
Q: "Why couldn't we play on the playground today?"
A: "We stayed inside for safety today."

Q: "Why did we have to be safe? What's wrong?"
A: "There was a stranger in our parking lot. We stay away from strangers."

4. Listen to their concerns. 4 and 5 year olds might want to talk about how it makes them nervous to think about strangers. They might want to talk about that it made them mad to have to stay inside.

5. Use this incident as a launching pad to talk about safety in general. Rather than talking about strangers once or twice, bring up the subject regularly. Children need to know the rules well enough to be able to act without too much thinking if a situation arises. Do lots of role playing. A few ideas of situations to role play:
-A nice-looking stranger comes to where you are playing on the playground and asks for help finding their lost puppy.
-A woman who lives across the street but whom your child has never spoken to invites your child inside her house for a snack.
-A stranger asks if your child wants a ride home from school.
-Your child feels like someone is following him/her.
-An older man, like a grandfather, tells your child that he has a superhero (princess, etc.) to show them.

6. Talk about who a stranger is. A stranger is NOT merely someone your child doesn't know, someone who looks mean or scary (sometimes dangerous strangers look normal/nice), or someone who doesn't know your child's name (sometimes dangerous strangers might know your child's name). A stranger IS anyone to whom your child has not been introduced by you (or other caregiver).

7. Instead of issuing the extreme rule of NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS (What if the store clerk says hello? What if another teacher asks how their day is going?), make this better rule: NEVER EVER GO ANYWHERE WITH A STRANGER (or for that matter, a relative or friend!!) UNLESS THE PEOPLE (S)HE KNOWS AND TRUSTS BEST SAY IT'S OK.

8. Talk about what to do if a stranger tries to get them to go somewhere. One way is to teach them "NO, GO, YELL, TELL." They should yell no, run away as fast as they can, and tell a caregiver what happened. Sometimes we teach our children that they can't say "no" to an adult. Make sure that they are assertive enough to tell an adult "NO" in a dangerous situation or one that makes them uncomfortable.

9. Talk about what (s)he should do in case he gets lost. Talk about the difference between uniforms and regular clothes. Teach your child to ask for help from someone in a uniform (police officer, security guard, waitress, store clerk). Uniformed strangers can be called "safe strangers." If they cannot find a uniform, tell them to find a Mommy with children and ask her for help. (She likely won't rest until your child is safe.)

10. Teach your children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell a trusted adult. Tell them that sometimes adults they know may make them feel uncomfortable, and they should still get away as fast as possible and tell a trusted adult what happened. Reassure your child that you will help them when they need it.

*Recommended reading for parents: Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin DeBecker.

If you have any additional questions or need help discussing this with your children, please contact Rachael Davis ( or Eva Mathers (

We look forward to seeing everyone on Monday morning.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Low-fat Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I came across this recipe on SkinnyTaste,
and after reading her rave reviews, I had to give it a try.
Today was a gloomy, rainy, cold day - 
perfect for baking with my big girl.

Low-fat Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup all purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350*.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  • In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, followed by the applesauce and vanilla extract.
  • Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain.  
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop heaping tablespoons (approx 3 Tbs each) of the dough onto prepared baking sheets, flattening each cookie slightly.  You can place them fairly close together, as they don't expand much.  
  • Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies become light brown at the edges.  The key to have these really be chewy cookies is to not overbake.  If you know your oven runs hot (like mine does), pull them out right at 10 minutes.
  • Let cool on baking sheet for 3-4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  
  • Store in an airtight container so you don't eat them all in one sitting!  (Makes about 30 cookies, roughly 3 Tbs each.)
Servings: 15     Serving size: 2 cookies     Old points: 4     Points+: 5     Calories: 190     Fat: 6.3g     Protein: 2.6 g   Carb: 34.2 g                    Fiber: 2 g          Sugar: 19.3 g

I am here to tell you that if you didn't just read that recipe,
you would have NO IDEA that these were low-fat.
They were chewy and rich, with lots of chocolate chips in every bite.

Tucker gave his stamp of approval!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just like Mommy.

(When I asked her about the long red hair, she said it was fancy Ariel hair.  
Which she is sure she'll have when she grows up.)

Our graduate

This picture makes me so proud.
And it makes me cry.
How did this HAPPEN?
They told me that the days drag, but the years fly.
I didn't believe them, but it's true.
I couldn't be more proud of the girl she's becoming,
I just wish she would "become" a little more slowly.

I think she looks so much like Dan in this picture.

Monday, March 28, 2011

2010-2011 Class pictures

We win the teacher lottery every single year.
My children have the most wonderful preschool teachers you can imagine,
and I don't say that lightly.
I'm a teacher by trade,
and have high expectations.
These teachers have met my expectations,
and far exceeded them.  
My children have been loved, taught, encouraged, disciplined, challenged, encouraged, hugged, and celebrated.
I'm so thankful for these teachers, and for Little Lambs Learning Center.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fairhope K-1 Center

I graduated from college at the age of 21,
and got my first job teaching at the Fairhope K-1 Center.

This school is more precious than you can imagine - 
it's located within walking distance of Mobile Bay.
It's right in the heart of downtown Fairhope,
and the town merchants embrace the community school.
They open their doors to the students all year long: 
from trick or treating to the Mardi Gras parade.
Many children walk to school.
I taught in a cottage at the back of the school,
and had a raised vegetable garden behind my classroom.

It's the kind of school you dream of for your children.

It's the kind of school you dream of teaching in.
I got to teach there for 4 years,
before I had Lana and we moved to North Carolina.

This past week, the school board made the decision to close down the school.
I've read everything I can get my hands on,
and still don't understand.
I feel like something has been stolen from me,
but here's what I know for sure:
something has been stolen from the Fairhope community.

Fairhope will never be the same once the K-1 Center closes.
The children of Fairhope will never be the same when they move the smallest of students to the big elementary school.

Here are a few of the reasons why:

field trips

Thanksgiving feasts outdoors

a gym full of 5 and 6 year olds: the colors of K-1

Writing Workshop, first grade style

raised vegetable gardens behind our cottage


release of the butterflies

parents who do things like paint rocking chairs for you

first grade plays

classroom parties

awards from the mayor

I am so grieved for my friends who are still teaching at the K-1 Center.
I am grieved for those families who will be affected.
I am most of all grieved for those Fairhope children who will never get to experience the community school - who will become a number at a large elementary school.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dentist visit

When you have a dentist appointment at 8:00 a.m., 
cartoons at the dentist office make it a little easier.

So does a train table.

Dr. Buddy is so good at what he does,
and his office staff is superb!
Lana does so well when they clean her teeth. 

Amazingly, Tucker did so well, too!  
Ms. Amy is our favorite.

He wanted to hold his toothbrush the whole time - fine by us!

This giraffe is Tucker's BFF.
He sat on it, hugged it, talked to it - he had us all cracking up!

If you are looking for a pediatric dentist, you want to go visit Dr. Buddy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stephanie's Chocolate Gooey Cookies

My friend Stephanie is a wonderful cook,
and she quite frequently passes on some amazing recipes.

My very favorite kind of recipe that she shares are the ones that are very simple, 
but look like they required a lot of work.
She has several of those, and this is one of my favorites!

Seriously, every time she has made these for a gathering I've attended, I have embarrassed myself.
They are the perfect combo of brownie and cookie,
chewy inside and crisp outside.
Trust me - these are a crowd pleaser!
And you are going to D.I.E. when you see how easy they are.

Stephanie's Chocolate Gooey Cookies
  • 1 box Devil's food cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • (small dish of table sugar)

  • Preheat oven to 350*.
  • Mix cake mix, oil, and eggs with electric mixer.
  • With greased hands, roll dough into 1" balls, then roll the ball in the sugar evenly to coat.
  • Place 2" apart on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake for 8-9 minutes - remove even if they look gooey.
  • Let them cool as long as you can stand before eating.
                                                  Before                              and.....                             after!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

First Day of Spring!

Happy Spring!!
One of our most favorite signs of spring are the beautiful cherry blossom trees in our front yard.  They just show off spectacularly every year around this time.  I think they are more full this year than ever before.

Lana thinks it's too cool that her front yard has big trees full of flowers that are her favorite color.

Last year, we started a new tradition of giving the kids spring baskets instead of Easter baskets.  

This year's spring baskets got a little out of control, 
but only because I found some amazing deals that I couldn't pass up.
I snagged them, and tucked them away in the storage shed for spring surprises!

Tucker's spring basket included the big Fisher Price garage, a football, some chocolate, a peek-a-boo book, a slinky, and a Shutterfly book all about him.

Lana's spring basket had a cardboard house for her to color and play with, watercolors, colored pencils, chocolate, bubble tape, and the next set of Tag books. 

Lana was beside herself....she could hardly WAIT to get to her stuff!

Tucker closely guarding his two favorite things from his basket:
a football and chocolate.

Spring is my favorite season of the year!
Warm sunshine, outside time, fresh breezes, new freckles, new life....