Sunday, February 28, 2010

Germany Wrap-Up

Planet Earth


We couldn’t possibly “visit” Germany without trying some of delicious baked goods that come from this country. I didn’t plan to bake a cake, since we try to cut down on sweets here. But we have an upscale supermarket in the neighborhood called Cosentino that specializes on European delicacies. Usually I don’t shop there (too expensive!), but I splurged on a piece of nice chocolate cake to Feb27_BremenM be shared between the three of us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the famous Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, but Anna was in paradise (and we enjoyed it too).

We also watched my Russian version of The Bremen Musicians after all, and Anna enjoyed it a lot even though she consistently calls the tale German Magicians. She played more with her wooden toys, and at some point pretended to throw an imaginary dice, called the numbers and made various animals move. She makes up a lot of games with convoluted rules – maybe she will grow up eventually to be a game designer – just like her papa :)

Of course, we just scratched the surface of German culture and traditions with this brief stop in Northern Germany. We will return again when Oma and Opa visit us in the end of March. Anna will hear a lot more German then. We have also decided that my husband will take Anna to Germany for 3 weeks in the summer while I’ll stay at home. We hope that this trip and immersion into a real language environment will help her latent German develop into speech. She understands German OK, but she always responds to her father in English. It makes it difficult for him to speak German consistently – he lapses to English more and more, especially if he wants to have a meaningful conversation with her.

Our next stop is Russia (but of course :)), then we will sort of review what we learned before hopping on to Ireland for St Patrick’s week. After that I will let her have more say in choosing the next country to visit or in deciding to spend more time on the country that we already covered.

February In Review


Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this review when I am having a cold and in a sour mood. Somehow it feels that I fell particularly short of my goals this month. I still didn’t get anywhere with more exercise or more reading, and I feel constantly rushed and pulled in too many directions. Work has been stressful this month – we are all waiting for certain executive decisions that will probably affect my own direction quite a bit. No, I don’t mean that I am on the way to an unemployment office, but I might be doing somewhat different things. It makes it harder for me to focus on business at hand.

It doesn’t help that I only see Anna dead tired now, especially on her school days. I work from home on Mondays, and it’s so fun to see her bright and energetic before she goes to school. She used to be that way in the afternoons after her nap, but now she plays and reads through her nap time. Doing anything with her is a bit of a struggle, and I feel that I fall back in the trap of following my agenda instead of following her lead. I think sometimes – how much of what we do is good for her and how much of it is just my desire to do something that is “blog-worthy”.

On the positive note, we ate many healthy, cooked-from-scratch meals this month, and we spent more time outside when the weather allowed it. We had some fun outings on the weekends, and we spent some time with friends. Anna saw her best friends every week, sometimes twice a week, but it was all in the mornings. She was too tired for any play dates in the afternoon.

In March I want to chill. If things don’t get done, they don’t get done. I know from experience that our best activities are quickies, so I shouldn’t plan and prepare for something big and then be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Now, when Anna got more of a hang of how our geography track works, I am going to let her choose whether she wants to spend more time on the country that we already covered or select a new country for a study. I also want to reduce somewhat the amount of books that we bring from the library for joint reading. We are always hovering at 25+ library books at home plus a dozen more for Anna’s independent reading. It upsets us both when we have to return a book to the library after only having read it a couple times.

I am going to drop book reading from my goals. I just never seem to find time for it. Theoretically I could read before bed, but I find myself too tired. I’d rather spend an hour talking to my husband and watching one of our DVD shows together. But I want to try to do better in exercise and finally report some progress in March.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – February 27, 2009

Tom Goes To Kindergarten

Kindergarten/preschool books are popular here, since Anna can connect very well to the content. This book was a straggler from our China week, since it features pandas. I liked the family dynamics described in the book – when daddy comes from work he can’t play with his kids, because he has to take out trash, cook and iron some shirts. Anna is quite used to her father cooking, cleaning and doing laundry too. The fun starts when the whole family discovers the joys of kindergarten. I won’t say more, because I hope that you will read the book and enjoy it as much as we did.

Dream Snow

Dream Snow was another winner from Eric Carle in this house. We don’t own a lot of “noisy books”, so anything with a button inevitably attracts a lot of interest. Fortunately, the story itself is lovely even though I admit that the snow panels didn’t quite work for me, because I had to first show them on and then reveal who is under them. It makes a very nice relaxing bedtime story of just the right length.

Henry Show and Tell

Anna has a sharing day in school every month, so she really enjoys “Show and Tell” books. She personally selected this book in the library. It was our first experience with Nancy Carlson books, and we are going to read more in Henry series. In this book Henry is very nervous when he has to speak in class, but eventually overcomes his anxiety. There are some fun twists in the story that Anna really enjoyed. She kept asking me why Henry feels “shaky” when he has to speak – she has an opposite problem of staying quiet while it’s someone else’s turn to share.

Pea Pod Babies

Anna really enjoyed Pea Pod Babies and didn’t want to return it back to the library. I found the illustrations are charming, but I didn’t like the split panel format of the story in its second half – it was difficult to read three story lines, and I also happen to really dislike the books that try to be poems, but don’t quite rhyme. So this is the book where we disagreed, but she won :)

What are your children reading? Please link up and share – the linky is open all week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The School Corner – February 26, 2010

Anna is 3 years 4 months


It was “ups and downs” week. The weather was rainy, the work was stressful, and daughter was dead tired in the evenings after playing and reading through her rest times. I wasn’t feeling well, and this contributed to the general feeling of being in over my head. Her theme in school was Wild Animals. Not all of my plans for this week materialized, but we still had a few things done.


Reading. Every week Anna reads about a dozen books independently. Elephant and Piggie series continue to rule, but she also read some more advanced books from Cat in the Hat library. We moved on to Advanced section in Progressive Phonics. I thought that all the rules will just zoom over her head, but she is doing fine – mostly because she can read so many words by sight at this point, and she seems to remember pronunciation of a new word after just seeing it once.Feb21_Money1

Math. We played some games with real and pretend money. Anna loves pretend shopping and she enjoys counting. As always, we played board games and revisited our pattern blocks, colored craft sticks and bottle caps. Anna was also pulling her ruler a few times and was busy measuring things. And we read a book that has a lot of interesting counting poems – Counting Our Way to 100th Day! Seriously, this girl will probably be interested in learning nuclear physics if it were presented as a poem.

Look What Came From Germany

Social Studies. We hoped to Germany this week, visited Bremen, and read several Cinderella books. We also read Look What Came From Germany book and discovered that a lot of things familiar to Anna were invented or originated in Germany. This includes among other things, a birthday cake, a Christmas tree, helicopters, jets, cars, alarm clocks, and shampoo.


Fine Motor Skills/Prewriting. Not a whole lot to report here again. When I am home, Anna is not interested in arts or crafts. Again, it’s somewhat related to her energy level in the end of the day. She was happy to draw with papa when they were hanging out at home together on a rainy Tuesday morning. At least she enjoyed some coloring on wood as part of our Cinderella Start project.

Gross Motor Skills. No pictures, because Anna thinks that the best way to “do sports” is when she is not wearing any clothes. She played a lot more “sports” games this week, and her best friend was my old breastfeeding boppy pillow. That pillow was a balance beam, a trampoline, and a diving board. She just loves to see how far she can jump from it, and it’s embarrassing to admit that I actually have to apply myself to jump farther than she can. I want to believe it’s because the pillow works like a spring for her weight :)

To learn what other preschoolers are up to, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

StArt - Cinderella

Cinderella2 Cinderella1


Cinderella4 The only Disney movie that Anna watched so far is Cinderella. Interestingly, this story is amazingly international and repeats in the folklore of different places around the globe. Both Charles Perrault (French) and Brothers Grimm (German) recorded it in their collections. Since we are “visiting” Germany this week in our geography track, I decided to get a non-Disney version of the book in the library. I found three different ones and decided to let Anna choose which one she wanted to read. To my surprise we ended up reading all of Feb24_Princess_SM them, and Anna also read Cinderella at the Ball by herself. It would be a good activity for an older child to compare and contrast those stories, but Anna is still a bit young for this. I tried to draw several princesses for her, but she was very uninterested in decorating or coloring them in any way. However, Anna was pleased to see a wooden cutout complete with markers. I continue to be amazed what can be found at Michael’s for $1. She also stayed with the task relatively long – usually she stops coloring in about 2 minutes, and she really doesn’t care much for it. When she was done, she commented how it would be nice for this princess to have a button on the back, so she could walk, talk and do things. What it is about toys with buttons and batteries that attracts children so much???

For more story stretchers visit StArt at A Mommy’s Adventures

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Geography Track - Visiting Bremen

Planet Earth Germany - Feb 008

My husband is born and raised in Bremen, a large city in Northern Germany. I first came to visit with him in 2004, and this picture was taken during that visit. Bremen is a beautiful city with a long history. To give you an idea – this City Hall in the picture was built before Columbus sailed for America. I really love this city, and it would be my second preferred place to live after California. Germany_138

We visited Germany (mostly Cologne and Bremen) with Anna in 2008 when she was about 21 months. She doesn’t remember any of it, of course, but she was very interested to look at the pictures of Bremen and pictures of herself as a “baby” on our computer. Unfortunately, we don’t have many pictures from that visit, since we had a really bad point-and-shoot at the time, and a lot of pictures are blurred.

The Musicians of Bremen

Bremen is one of the few places in Germany that made it to the title of a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. Of course, we had to read it. I have to admit, however, that the story itself is sort of sad, and this retelling that I picked up from the library turned out to be pretty bad. It looks like the author was really trying to fit as many SAT words into the story as he possibly could, and I had to simplify it a lot while reading. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite works here, since Anna usually tracks where I am reading and asks, where did it say “sadly”. I don’t see it. Well, the story said, dolefully. It was funny that in the end of the story she said, But they didn’t really come to Bremen! Why is the story called The Bremen Town Musicians?

Bremen Musicians

I remember Bremen Town Musicians to be a lot more fun than this grim story from the Brothers Grimm. I grew up with an animated Russian version of it that took quite some liberties with the story and has wonderful songs. In the Russian version the animals are part of a traveling circus and a human troubadour is an important part of the story. We have a DVD from my parents with this cartoon, and I was amazed to find it on YouTube with English subtitles. There is only one problem – getting my daughter to watch it. For two weeks now she refuses to watch anything but Sid the Science Kid.


We had some Bremen souvenirs since before Anna was born. She was quite happy to lay her hands on them and retell the story in her own words: All the animals were going to die. Then they went away to Bremen, but they didn’t get there. They came to the dark forest and there were bad people there. Animals scared bad people away. Mama, did the bad people die?

For more geography and history, visit History/Geography linky at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Math Box and Science - Money


This week math and science was all about money. I brought our loose change jar over to the kitchen, and we talked about various coins. Anna happily sorted them into four plastic boxes based on their denomination. Nickels were the hardest for her – hey, even I sometimes cannot distinguish them from quarters. We also had a few foreign coins mixed in, so we talked a little how different countries use different money.Feb21_Money2

We took the pennies and we looked at them more closely. We talked about how some of them are shiny and new and some are looking very dark. Then I explained Anna that pennies can be cleaned in different ways. We set up three bowls – one with clean water, one with soapy water and one with the solution of salt and vinegar. Anna had a lot of fun scrubbing her pennies in the soapy water and then compared them to those that just lay quietly in salt-vinegar solution. We agreed that salt-vinegar cleans best, but I actually expected it to work better than it did. I probably didn’t use the right mix. Anna also wrinkled her nose at the smell of salt-vinegar bowl, and I explained to her that the coins there are being cleaned by a very sour liquid called an acid.


After the coin cleaning turned into trying to splash water from the first bowl all the way into the third bowl we wrapped up our science project and played shopping. Anna was delighted to play shopping “with real money”. By the end of the game she could kind of connect to the idea that a nickel is the same as five pennies, and that was about as far as I thought she could go at the moment. She still can’t grasp the idea that 8 cents can be made with a nickel and 3 cents, but it’s OK. We had a fun time learning and doing, and that’s what really matters.

For more science ideas, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom

Monday, February 22, 2010

Interview With Anna


How old are you? I am 3 years 3 months old and one week older.

When is your birthday? In October. I will be 4 then!

What is your mother’s name? It’s you, mama! You are Natalie!

What does your mama do? Plays with me!

Yes, but what do I do when I don’t play with you? You go to work.

What does your papa do? He works in our office. Sometimes you have conference calls in the office too.

What is your favorite color? Yellow, but it changes all the time.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A dentist.

Where do you want to live when you grow up? I want to go and be a dentist and then I want to come back home to California.

What is your favorite food? Rice and pizza.

What is your least favorite food? (Looking blank) Rice?

Least favorite means the food that you really don’t like. Oh – ummm…. garlic.

Who does our family love most? Me!

Do you know what church is? No, what is it?

It’s where people go to talk to God. Oh, yes, and God is all of us.

Where do you like to eat? Red Robin and everywhere with French Fries.

Who is your best friend? S & D.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Geography Track - China

Planet Earth

Feb14_ChinaShipping It was our first week of trying a country hop in our geography track. In the interest of “keeping it real” I will be the first to admit that it didn’t go over as well as I hoped. I am still trying to analyze what exactly didn’t work, but I can definitely see a pattern based on my previous experiences – the more I prepare and the more I plan – the less successful we are. Somehow I couldn’t “sell” Anna theFeb15_NB_AnnaPortrait idea that it would be great to learn more about China. It’s not that she resisted the books and toys and games, but I felt that she didn’t “connect”. She didn’t play a lot of her own games incorporating something of what she learned and she didn’t ask a lot of questions. I am thinking that I was trying to cram too much into her, and my daughter always takes time to warm up to something new. Also it seems that one missing component was TV or computer. I might not like it, but Anna learns a lot from TV and seems to mull the content of what she sees a lot more and a lot longer in her mind than she does for most books. I still don’t want to make TV a major part of our days, but I will be looking for something to extend our book learning in the future.

Anyway, I think we are going to wrap up our China adventure this week and head over to Germany. I am hoping that daughter will be more interested. After all, she is a German citizen, and it’s the only foreign country she has visited so far. I had a lot of plans, but I am really going to keep it simple and focus on German fairy tales. Cinderella, here we come.

For more geography and history, visit Postcard Exchange/Geography at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – February 20, 2009

I Love My New Toy

Last Saturday we brought home one of the books from Mo Willems Elephant & Piggie series. It was highly recommended by Julie from My Book Retreat. It’s perfect for Anna’s independent reading level, and she fell in love with this book. On Tuesday we brought home 6 more books from the same series, and Anna just sat and devoured them all one by one. I had to help her with a couple of words in those 6 books, but she just couldn’t stop reading them and begged to take them in bed. I can see now why these books are so well liked – the number of words on each page is not overwhelming, and each tells a cute story of friendship. It’s also perfect for predicting

Chicka Chicka 123

We own Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Anna really liked it when she was younger. But we never read Chicka Chicka 123 before. We got it in the library, and Anna really enjoyed the book. She asked for it many times and quoted from it just for fun. It also seemed to help her to figure out the difference between, say, 16 and 60. And I personally like how clever this book is – it introduces skip counting by 10 and counting backward in a very playful way.

Koala Lou

It looks like every week we have another book by Mem Fox among our favorites. What is interesting is that they are all illustrated by different artists, so they have very different feel to them. People who watch Olympics (we don’t) might find it extra interesting, since Koala Lou competes in Bush Olympics in this book in an attempt to impress her mother. I planned to keep this book until our Australian “expedition” but maybe we will reread it again then.

Around the World in 80 tales

We got this book in the library, and I think that we are going to acquire it eventually since it’s a book that can be read many times over years. It’s a collection of fairy tales from different countries. Most of them are over Anna’s head and mostly deal with getting rich with the help of some sort of local magical creature. For example, in Chinese story it was a green dragon. I really disliked Russian story that they included – I guess Anna has to be at least 10 to even understand its premise and moral. Still, she likes the book because she really likes long books with many stories inside. I am pretty sure she will be a voracious chapter book reader when she is a little older.

What are your children reading this week? Link up and share – Linky is open all week!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The School Corner – February 19, 2010

Anna is 3 years 4 months old.


It was a good week. I had Presidents’ Day off, and the weather was gorgeous. We had a full weekend of seeing friends, going to the library, sailing in San Francisco Bay and hiking in a beautiful eucalyptus grove. Anna was in a good mood most of the time and even was taking her naps… occasionally :) Her school theme of the week was Senses, and our theme at home was China. It’s interesting to see what she likes to do when she has time to herself. She doesn’t play pretend as much as other kids – she never really liked dolls. Instead she pulls 20 books from her bookshelves and finds the ones that she can read or she plays with her Lego. She builds more and more complex structures and she can spend a lot of time tinkering with her “trees”.

Reading continues to explode here. I don’t have to do anything to encourage independent reading any longer. In fact, we have debates every night about just how many books she will read to me. Anna just doesn’t want to stop and is very proud of herself. Obviously she is getting strong positive reinforcement from everyone who observes her reading, and that makes her even more confident.


Math. We had fun this week with math activities related to our China theme. We played with dominoes and tangrams and did some connect-the-dots. It looks that two-digit numbers are finally clicking with her too, since she is reading them correctly most of the time on the game boards and on book pages. I am still considering on how I can do math activities as much a routine as our reading activities, but for now I just go with the flow and ebb of her interest in the subject.Feb17_China

Social Studies/Science. We had a busy week learning about China. We played with things that came from China, we read books about Chinese New Year and other traditions, and Anna got this GeoPuzzle of Asia that I saw on one of my favorite blogs – Joyful Mommy and Joyful Child. The puzzle, is way over her head, but I really enjoyed putting it together :) Feb18_Writing

Fine Motor Skills/Arts. Not a whole lot happened here this week. I am really glad that Anna goes to preschool that focuses on arts, because at home she is not that interested in arts. She will choose board games over arts every time, and she was not interested in her art box or in writing this week. I also suspect that she is “resting” after being “crafted out” for Valentine day.

Feb17_HopScotchGross Motor Skills. Since the weather was great this week (and it’s going to rain again this weekend), we tried to spend some time outside every day. We had great field trips and also visited our neighborhood park. Anna watched older kids play hopscotch and tried herself – it was quite funny since she cannot jump on one foot yet. She is now telling us that she wants to play soccer – we’ll see about that.

To see what other preschoolers are doing, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

StArt – Bringing In the New Year

Bringing In the New Year

Since we are “in China” this week, I brought quite a few books about China from the library. Bringing In the New Year was definitely the favorite – Anna asked for it many times. I think she could connect to the story because it featured a family with three girls, so she could track who is who on each page. It talks about the traditions for Chinese New Year on just the right level for her – not to complicated and not too easy (she didn’t like My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz much).


I thought it would be a good idea to make a lantern. I found pretty detailed instructions for inept crafters like myself here. What I realized quickly is that there wasn’t a whole lot for Anna to do in this craft, since she wasn’t interested much in decorating her lantern and bailed out of cutting after cutting once. She was very anxious to help me tape it together though – it was her favorite part.


Now comes an interesting insight into how my daughter’s mind works. After the lantern was done, she looked at it and announced, It doesn’t look right. It doesn’t have a candle. I attempted to explain to her that this is a pretend lantern. She just shrugged and said, No, it’s not right. It has to have something on the bottom for a candle. This is when I came up with an idea to tape a plastic cup to the bottom. This instantly made her happy, especially since she could put things into her lantern. I suggested to pretend that we are celebrating Chinese New Year, and she looked at me funny and said, New Year already passed! This is my Halloween Chinese bag for candy!

For more story stretchers, visit StArt at A Mommy’s Adventures.

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