Monday, May 31, 2010

May in Review

Ten Minute Solution Pilates

May was a good month overall. The work-family scales were balancing nicely, but I expect work pace to pick up in June after I come back from vacations. I finally made good (or at least better than before) on my exercise goals. For my Mother’s Day present my husband gave me the same pedometer I gave him for Christmas, and now we have a mini-competition going on who is going to walk more steps. I remember to get up from my desk at work every so often, walk around and drink more water. Ironically, I walk a lot less steps on the days when I work from home. I also got myself 10 Minute Solution Pilates DVD, May31_Reviewand it is working rather well, since I can get myself to do 10 minute workout at least 3-4 times a week, and I really enjoyed Pilates at some point of my life. I might have overdone my new exercise program though, because a few days ago (right on time for our vacation!) I woke up with excruciating pain in my back, and it’s still bothering me. A visit to my chiropractor didn’t help, but I hope that I feel better while I am away. Then I can continue my exercise program and maybe fit better into this shirt. it’s not my shirt, by the way – it’s a “child-size shirt” that Anna won when we went to a community event. She wanted to wear it. I put it on to demonstrate to her just how big it really is.

I enjoyed being with Anna this month. Her imagination is really taking off now, and I enjoy watching her play and answering her endless questions. I hope she is having a wonderful time with grandparents now, and I am looking forward to more time outside in June – this May was incredibly cold and rainy for Bay Area, and I am yearning for summer weather.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Am Not Really Here


As you are reading this, my husband and I are boarding the cruise ship that is about to take us on our first real vacation since Anna is born. She is staying with my parents who are certainly going to spoil her rotten. She is moderately excited about her first big independent adventure, and I think that she will have a wonderful week with two adults who adore her and want to entertain her non-stop.

It’s a strange feeling – two of us leaving our daughter for the very first time. I went on business trips before, but I always knew that Anna is still in her familiar environment with her father. Now she will be at grandparents’ place for the whole week, and we will be out of reach. At the same time I am really looking forward to the trip. I love my daughter, and I love spending time with her. But I am not a person who wanted a baby (or the whole bunch of them) all my life. I always wanted to have a career, to travel the world, to enjoy adult conversation. When I am with Anna, I feel that 90% of my energy is focused on her, and I only spend 10% of my brain power on the rest of my surroundings. Luckily, my husband doesn’t begrudge this. We still spend a lot of couple time after Anna goes to bed, and we have very interesting conversations, but they all happen on our couch in the living room. He is very excited to be able to get off that couch and go dancing and walking on the beach without our daughter in tow. And I am hoping that having a relaxed vacation will help me to regroup and rediscover some passions that I lost in my juggling act as a working mom.

In the meantime, I have some giveaways and guest posts scheduled for this week, so you won’t miss me too much. See you all soon.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – May 29, 2010

This week we read an eclectic collection – some books that Anna chose from library shelves, some that I chose for the science topic of “germs”, dinosaur books, books about France and everything in between.

Countdown to Grandma's HouseI got this book at the library book sale and set it aside knowing that we are going to go to grandma in the end of May. Now I pulled it out of my secret stash, and Anna enjoyed the story a lot. It has a counting component, but the story doesn’t make a big fuss about it. Now I have to take this book with us and show it to my mom – I am afraid Anna’s expectations are seriously inflated after reading all the fun things that the girl in the book plans to do with her (very young looking) grandma. I am confident though that Babushka will meet and exceed them :)

Ziggy PiggyIndependent reading. It was Anna’s choice from the library, and even though we like Frank Asch, I was not thrilled with this book. In the story it’s not the most hard-working brother who saves the day – it’s the fourth lazy brother who builds no house at all. Anna, however, quite liked the book. My guess is that she liked it because the illustrations were not very threatening – she didn’t think that the wolf will really eat those pigs. Anyway, it might be an interesting book if you want to compare and contrast several versions of Three Little Pigs against each other.

The super hungry dinosaur

Independent reading. This was another one of books that Anna chose herself, and it was a good choice. It also showed me how she grew in some ways lately – just very recently she would have deemed this book “too scary”. Now she could appreciate the humor and was happily reading the book many time to anyone who was willing to listen. By the way, it’s written by another of our favorite authors – Martin Waddell.

David Drawings

David’s Drawings was my own favorite from the books we read this week. I liked both the illustrations and the story that looks simple, but can bring some interesting discussions with older children. In the book one boys starts the drawing, and his classmates “improve” on his drawing by adding different things until it becomes “class drawing”. In the end of the book he does create his own version at home. I was thinking of using this book for StArt and making a joint family picture with all of us drawing together, but we didn’t get to it this week.

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Something Interesting This Way Comes

Did you know that there is a virtual store out there that sells nothing but bathroom vanities? I didn’t know that either until good folks at CSN Stores approached me with another fun opportunity to review one of the products in their 200+ stores and to give away something to my readers. So please come back next week for your chance to spend some money on outrageous selection of merchandise in this paradise for online shoppers. And please consider participating in What My Child Is Reading tomorrow for an extra chance of entering and winning some of my upcoming giveaways.

Week In Review – May 28, 2010

preschool cornerAnna is 3 years 7 months old. May26_MamaAnna

We had a good week. Anna’s school year is winding down, and this week her class visited preK classes. She was very excited and is already looking forward to the time when she will become a Bear. She will still attend a summer camp in between. Her theme in school was “vacation”, and at home we were talking about France for geography and germs for science.

Berenstein Bears Collection

Reading and Phonics. We got Anna several easy reader collections from Barnes & Noble recently. She loves all of them – The Berenstein Bears, Mouse Tales, Frog and Toad, Winnie the Pooh. I like it when she asks for the definitions of the words that she doesn’t understand, and she is now able to put them back into sentence to help us understand what she is talking about. The latest one was musty from The Berenstein Bears’ Cleaning House story. I am glad that she is really trying to comprehend those stories fully and not just reading them “by rote”.May25_PatternBlocks

Math. I wrote a post about our math activities earlier this week. Basically, we had a lot of math play. Writing continues to intimidate Anna, and she rejects all activities requiring writing, especially writing numbers. But she is humming along nicely in addition, patterns and logical reasoning, and she loves playing Teach Kindergarten on my iPod Touch.

Science. Since all of us were sick last week, I decided to Germs Make Me Sicktalk more about germs and how to fight them. Germs Make Me Sick was a pretty good book from Let’s Read and Find Out series. I was worried that Anna will suddenly turn into germophobe reading how germs surround us everywhere, but the book also explains how our body fights the germs and gives some good advice on how to stay healthy (including rest, healthy food and exercise).


Geography. We had time “visiting” France this week, learning a few things about Paris landmarks, reading books about France and painting. Anna’s absolute favorite from each week is cooking a local recipe from the country we are visiting. Of course, it’s even better if it’s a dessert, and chocolate dessert is a sure way to have a very happy and very helpful child (I will skip the “sugar rush” part).

May24_DrawingArts/Fine Motor Skills. I can observe that Anna’s drawings became somewhat more deliberate lately. One day she surprised me twice – she wanted to do a page out of one of her workbooks and she chose a task that instructed to draw particular things – a flower growing in a pot, a butterfly under a rainbow and a dog. It’s nice to see her becoming somewhat more interested in drawing, but working with paper still remains least favorite of her activities.

For more preschool and kindergarten wrap-ups visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Geography Track - France

Discover France with preschoolers through a book, an art activity, and a dessert that they can help make.
Preschool Geography: Discover France
This post has been refreshed in May 2014 with new graphics, text and links. Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

A Preschool Book About France

Everybody BonjoursEverybody Bonjours by Leslie Kimmelman illustrated by Sarah McMenemy is a great introduction to France for preschoolers. The text is designed for a very short attention span and most of the story is told in colorful illustrations. A big plus of the story is that the landmarks and highlights are chosen not from adult’s but from a young child’s point of view.

Look at the Maps

Map of France

I know that it’s early, but I always try to point out countries on the map of the world to Smarty and give her some comparison points. We learned that France is in Europe, that its capital is Paris, that it’s a neighbor to Germany where Papa is from and that I spent almost 2 years working there and living in Paris. We also learned that France is almost as big as Texas, the biggest continental state of the United States.

Preschool Art Project – the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Resist Painting
For the art portion I wanted to finally try a  resist painting. Smarty immediately recognized the Eiffel Tower on the page and got quite excited. I suggested using the colors of the French flag for the painting – it’s harder to produce “dirty brown” by mixing blue, red and white. She still gave a color mixing a good try. Interestingly, she was disappointed when I pulled the masking tape off – she said that she liked her Eiffel Tower blue.
Here is a fun memory from this project. My husband came home from work and said, Oh, you did the Eiffel Tower! I said, I am glad it’s recognizable, and he goes, Well, I know that you are talking about France, otherwise I would think that it’s a weird letter A.

A Super Easy Chocolate Mousse Recipe

Easy Mousse Au Chocolat
Smarty was super excited to make a French dessert that featured her favorite ingredient – chocolate. Most of chocolate mousse recipes are a little involved, but we followed the recipe from Look What Came from France book, which is pretty similar to this egg-free chocolate mousse recipe that I found online. took minutes to make in our Magic Bullet, and, as you can see, Smarty enjoyed it a lot.

More Resources About France

More Preschool Geography?

Follow my board Preschool Geography

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do We Still Do Math?


I realize that I didn’t post about our math adventures in a while, but I couldn’t pull our math activities into a decent blog post. I am always impressed to read posts where children do trays or worksheets out of workboxes – believe me, I tried this approach many times only to discover that it doesn’t work. Maybe it would be different if we were really homeschooling, but Anna thinks that l earning and effort belong in school while home is for play. So that’s what we are doing for math – playing.May25_PatternBlocks

Daughter is also not in favor of any kind of “copy work”. She never warmed up, for example, to using templates that came with pattern blocks. She is only interested in creating something on her own and seems to have an inherent sense of symmetry in her creations.


We also make up math stories using various props – buttons, play food, Playmobil people. Anna gets better with simple concrete addition and subtraction when she works out answers to these word problems, and I usually write math sentences for her to show her a beautiful language of math. What I want to show her is that math is not dry, that a simple 2+3=5 sentence hides infinite number of stories that can be made up and told. This appeals to her, since she is so verbal and loves to make up her own stories.

Kindergarten Count to 100

And, of course, we also read “live math” books. Not all of them are great. Anna doesn’t care much for counting books any longer and prefers stories with some sort of story line. It’s even better if they rhyme, since she enjoys poetry. This book doesn’t rhyme, but it has a page with 100 steps to count in the end. For some reason daughter likes to count those steps even though she normally refuses to count higher than 40. In other words, all that she does in math, she does on her own terms and in her own time. I like it that way and don’t plan to change anything radically soon.

To see other math activities, visit Math Links at Joyful Learner.

We Play – Picnics

We Play


Picnics are ever popular in the house. They always involve very elaborate food preparation and packing for a picnic. This is one game that daughter can play for an hour by herself talking non-stop and making plans for what she is going to make, what she is going to eat and who will be coming with her. She rarely sits down to act out an actual picnic – usually her picnic is disrupted by a hungry pretend bear, and she switches into chasing games. But this time she was pretending that her picnic is rained upon, so she found herself a shelter under her high chair.

Come over and play at Childhood 101.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Science Sunday – Dinosaur Teeth

I dreamt I was a dinosaur

I didn’t plan to have dinosaurs and their teeth as a science topic of the week, but Anna thought otherwise. For some reason her fascination with dinosaurs grew even more lately once she decided that they really died out and therefore not likely to come and get her. She pulled several dinosaur books from the shelves of the library including this book. I Dreamt I Was A Dinosaur is gorgeously illustrated and might encourage a lot of crafting for moms and May22_DinosaurTeethkids who are craftier than us. The  story is quite simple, but in the end of the story there are a couple of pages on paleontology and on different dinosaurs. Anna was mostly interested in who was a plant eater and who was a meat eater. Then she said that she wants to write her observations in the journal. She filled several pages drawing sharp teeth of meat-eaters and grinding teeth of plant-eaters. She insisted that plant eater teeth had bumps to help grind food – I guess there was May22_DinosaurTeeth1 a reference to this somewhere in the books she read. Those heart stickers were mostly to complete each drawing until she decided to switch from drawing teeth to making butterflies with her stickers. She also talked while she drew about human teeth and how we have front teeth for biting and molars for grinding, because we are omnivores (this bit of useful information is courtesy of Sid the Science Kid). She also informed me that she wants to watch Dinosaur Train again – she banned it a few months ago as “too scary”.

To see more science for young kids, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What Would You Say?


We entered a wonderful age of “what if?” here. Anna runs all kinds of scenarios by me, and usually I am able to either give her an answer or to help her come up with an answer on her own. But sometimes she manages to stump me. Here is our conversation from a couple of days ago:

  • Anna (after playing sword fights and pretending to be “a bad guy”): Mama, what if I grow up to be a bad guy? What if I steal if I grow up?
  • Me: Well, you won’t grow up to be a bad guy. You are a good person. If you work hard and are kind to others, you will grow up to be a good guy.
  • Anna: Well, I work hard on my art projects… But I am only kind to people I like. I don’t want to be kind to people I don’t like.
  • Me: Umm… Er… Well, sometimes we don’t like people, because we don’t understand them. There is good and bad in each of us, and sometimes we need to get to know people better to find something to like.
  • Anna: Do you know any bad guys?
  • Me: Not really. All people I know are good people. Most people are good people.

I always find those moral talks interesting and a little difficult. Am I kind to everyone? Not really – I avoid people that I don’t like, so I don’t have to interact with them. How about you? What would you say to your child about being kind to others.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – May 22, 2010

We enjoyed a relaxed reading week – we only have 21 books checked out at the moment. This is a record low for us, but I am a little tired of never reading the same book again. Here are some favorites of this week. I marked the books that Anna read on her own (with me listening in) as independent reading.

Get Well Good Knight

Independent reading. This book and two more from the same series (Good Night, Good Knight, and Happy Birthday, Good Knight) was the star of independent reading this week. Both Anna and I really enjoyed the series, especially considering our recent focus on knights. Get Well, Good Knight is especially cute and funny, but you need to read Good Night, Good Knight first, because it “defines the world”. The only “con” is that the books are quite long for new readers, but Anna read each of them in one sitting – she has no problems with “reading endurance”, if she is interested in the story.

Christmas in the Big Woods

Every time we go to the library I am getting at least one book from My First Little House Books series. Anna especially enjoyed Christmas in the Big Woods and selected it as her “reading in bed” book. I am trying to keep the books more or less in order, so we are still in Wisconsin. She answers comprehension questions correctly, but she doesn’t ask any questions herself about these books. What’s interesting is that from time to time she starts quoting from them almost word by word, so I am sure she is digesting them in her mind.

My Pony

Welcome to Our Wonderland has reviewed another pony book by Susan Jeffers recently, and I was interested to get it. Anna has never expressed any interest in horses before, but requested this book several times and read it by herself as well. It’s a beautifully illustrated story about a young girl’s dreams and power of her imagination. We are going to get My Chincoteague Pony next time we are in the library, since this one was so successful.

First experiences

Independent reading. I know that I already reviewed this book at least twice before, but it’s still the most frequently read book of our home collection. This week Anna was all over it again, probably because three of the stories deal with doctors and dentists. It’s another book that I always find in her bed when I come to check on her in before going to bed myself. Luckily, we have hardcover edition, because I think paperback would be “loved to pieces” by now.

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Week In Review – May 20, 2010

preschool corner May16_Bear Anna is 3 years 7 months old

It was a mixed week. Anna started it sick, and by Monday managed to give her nasty virus to both parents. I was hit the worst, but she was mostly back to her cheerful self by the end of Tuesday (her nose is still running though). Since I was not really up for activities requiring thinking and supervision, I mostly let Anna play. Her theme in preschool was Vacation, so she played camping, going to Redwood forest and picnicking on the beach.


Reading and Phonics. We finished the last available book in Advanced Progressive Phonics! It is bittersweet – we started this journey less than a year ago, and now my daughter is reading very fluently. In fact, I have to remind her to slow down during our “reading together” time, because she is moving more and more into reading silently and her tongue cannot quite catch up with her reading speed. It’s been an amazing journey, and I am very happy that I got to observe it from start to finish.


Math. We got this sheet from Anna’s preschool with the comment from the teachers that she can recognize all the numbers, count and trace them “almost” independently. “Almost” applies to the tracing part – I mentioned many times before that daughter strongly dislikes writing. At least she gave it a good effort – it would have been impossible to make her do this worksheet at home. I noticed before that she applies herself a lot more in school than she does at home. She is quite solid in number recognition and counting by now, and we learned it mostly through games and “live math” books.


Science and Social Studies. The science topic of the week was “lungs”. Anna watched many Sid the Science Kid human body episodes – this is one area of science that she is genuinely interested in. We did this simple experiment to see how the force of air in our lungs can move light objects. We were still in England for our geography track and enjoyed traditional tea party with scones.


Arts and Crafts. We didn’t do much on arts and crafts this week at home, but Anna brought a couple of interesting drawings from school. This one is my favorite. She said that this is Humpty-Dumpty with her daughter. Daughter is afraid of the dark, so Humpty-Dumpty is carrying a lantern. At home I ask her every evening after dinner if she wants to draw, write or do math, and she always chooses math.


Practical Life. Anna loves helping in the kitchen. Baking is absolute favorite, and she usually stays on it from start to finish. She is not so keen on cleaning up after cooking even though I try hard to model it for her. One day she announced suddenly that she wants to mop the floor. I gave her the mop, and she did a reasonably good job. She was very proud of herself – she loves it when she can do something well. Unfortunately, she is a “checkmark” girl – she did it once, no need to do it again. We are working on it :)

To see other weeks in review, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

StArt - Calendar

Parade Day

We got Parade Day from “new books” section of the library. The book features a parade for each month of the year and pretends to rhyme. The illustrations are colorful, but I thought that some pages are confusing. For example, April features ticker tape parade which doesn’t even happen every year. It’s beyond me why the author didn’t do Easter Parade instead. In the end of the book there is more detailed information on each month and its holidays as well as instructions on making your own calendar, so overall the book is good for reinforcement of calendar concepts. For some reason Anna really wanted to try making the calendar, so I decided May17_Calendar to use a calendar-making kit that I got some time ago at $1 store. It became clear very quickly that Anna was overwhelmed with variety of options. We could somewhat focus on filling in names of the months, and the dates and special stickers for birthdays and major holidays. She didn’t last long, especially since both of us were sick and cranky. I was hoping that she will at least color one or two pages, but she was not in the least interested. However, we had a funny exchange during this project:

  • Anna: May is the shortest month of the year.
  • Me: No, February is the shortest. Why did you decide that May is the shortest?
  • Anna: Because it only has three letters.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Geography Track – England

Planet Earth Look What Came from England
We had a great time with our geography topic of England. It was the first country Anna specifically requested. As always, we read different books, but focused around something that Anna could connect to. In case of England it was castles and tea parties. By the way, Look What Came from England book disappointed me, since it mentioned neither.
Incidentally our Target had foam swords in their $1 bins, and I couldn’t resist. Daughter really enjoyed the whole castle unit, and we read The Knight at Dawn from Magic Tree House. I was skeptical throughout the whole book about Anna’s ability to actually comprehend the story, and I am pretty sure that she didn’t grasp it fully. In fact, we read every castle chapter twice because it was clear to me from simple comprehension questions that she couldn’t absorb the vocabulary and the story line in one pass. But still the book kept her interest and now she also knows that there are more books available. She already begs to start reading the next one. I think a return visit to Egypt is in the cards :)
I wanted to make something British with Anna, and on Sunday we made a proper British tea party with freshly baked scones. Somehow I always have the same experience with baking to the new recipe – the dough is a lot stickier than I expect it to be, and I end up adding a lot more flour than recipe asks for. I am curious if experienced bakers have any remedy for it? Anna was very good helping May16_TeaParty me with flour – even though we don’t do a lot of Montessori activities, she gets better and better with scooping and pouring. While we were busy with scones, papa prepared a proper tea, and Anna got the “real tea cup” from our tea set for the first time. She was beyond pleased, and the whole tea party was a true “create a memory” experience, because it just doesn’t happen often enough in our house.
For more history and geography, visit History/Geography Exchange at Children Grow Children Explore Children Learn.

Follow me