Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May in Review and Plans for June

image May18_MamaAnnaMay was a very different month for us, since my load at work has literally doubled early in the month. I was so busy that it seems to me that the month just flew by. Despite this business, it was a good month. Anna is coping well with having less mama, because my husband is always there for her when I am not. These two make a fantastic team when daughter is not in “waiting until mama comes home to play with me” mood.

May27_HikingAnnaMamaSince all these work-related changes came unexpectedly, all my plans for May took the backseat. We compensated somewhat by having fun during weekends – hiking, spending time in our backyard, playing and reading together. June brings a week  away at our biggest customer event of the year, hosting a baby shower that actually became a “welcome baby” event since the baby in May27_HikingAnnaquestion had decided to come 7 weeks earlier (luckily, he is doing very well!), Anna’s preschool graduation, our wedding anniversary, my parents’ birthdays, Father’s Day… Phew, June is going to be one busy month for our family, so I’d better to plan nothing and just go with the flow. Wish me luck :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – May 28, 2011

Usually I read Anna one or two picture books before bed, but this week was somewhat different. I held on to two books that I wanted to read together, since I didn’t think she can comprehend them on her own. Anna was pouting every night begging for me to leave these books in her bed so she can read them herself. It’s too funny to fight with your four year old because she wants to read more than I am willing to let her, but this seems to be the norm here. My review this week will be limited mostly to the books we read together, since I didn’t have time to discuss Anna’s favorites with her.


Anna really liked Anansi the Spider story by Gerald McDermott. She liked enough to ask me to read it to her, so she could talk about it. We discussed what super powers she would love to have, and she chose “worry seer”. She does seem to be very inclined to worry ahead – just like me. People with more art imagination and more free time could do a lot to extend this story with art, and it is short enough for younger kids to enjoy too.

Dodsworth in London

We are tackling United Kingdom in our country studies, and so you might notice a pattern in the books we read together. Dodsworth in London by Tim Egan. To be honest, neither of us was thrilled by the book. Anna didn’t have enough context for landmarks mentioned in the story and most of the time they were not in the illustrations either. I forgot by now how boring it can be to read an early reader book where all the sentences seem to stop in the middle. Anna never reached to reread this book on her own, so overall it was a flop.

Look What Came to England

Look What Came to England made the repeat visit this week. We read this book about a year ago, but this time Anna was more interested in details. She was fascinated to learn that a lot of her favorite nursery rhymes as well as trains, TV, spring mattresses and lawn mowers. I think the book was also a lot more successful because I didn’t allow her to skim through it until we finished it together.

Since Anna likes The Magic Tree House now, I had this “brilliant” idea to introduce her to the original legends of King Arthur, especially since they King Arthurare also set in England. It is a little embarrassing to admit, but I only knew bits and pieces of these stories. The movies that I watched didn’t stay with me for long, but they surely came back when I started reading Anna King Arhur and the Knights of the Round Table and paged to the end of the book. Oops! We have only dipped our toes into the first chapters, and things are already getting quite intense. Now I have to figure out how to wean Anna off this book, since she is very interested and wants to know what happens next.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Week In Review – May 27, 2011


It’s been another very busy week for me at work, and I didn’t have any energy for “afterschooling”. Anna doesn’t seem to miss it much as long as I am still available to play with her a little bit after work, have dinner together, read books and tuck her in. We made one big art project over the weekend – salt clay, and she enjoyed it a lot. Her theme in school was Vacation. I can’t believe that her graduation is only 2 weeks away. I don’t take graduation too seriously, since she is still going to stay in the same classroom with the same teacher for summer camp. We did some reading at home about United Kingdom, since this is our next stop in country studies.


Field trips: On Sunday we went to the Emma Prusch Farm Park in San Jose – nice (and free) outing to see some farm animals up close. Last year Anna didn’t care for animals, she wanted to go to the playground as soon as possible. This year, however, she was quite interested in all the fowl they have and insisted on feeding them. The highlight was when a resident peacock joined other birds pecking at chicken scratch seeds. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me at that moment.


Arts and crafts. From time to time Anna gets an urge to do what she calls “stickering”. My mom gave her this Mellisa & Doug sticker collection and after ignoring it for a few months, she is now all over it. Sometimes she uses crayons or pencils to add details to the sticker scene, but mostly she is just using them to make up stories. Our only guided art project was “salt dough creations”.


Play. Anna and papa make the best of their new afternoon time together that used to be my domain. The other day when I came home late Anna was busy making “tools” out of her Tinkertoys. One of her tools was a paint brush. She took some empty cups and proceeded to “paint” her whole room in different colors. It’s interesting to see her imagination at work. This picture was taken when she was playing school – she was “teaching my students about different animals”. The teacher was a sock pupper, and the students were mostly smurfs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baked Goods


One of the items for my Summer Bucket was to make ornaments out of salt dough. Anna’s school has Teacher Appreciation Day this Wednesday, and I thought that it’s a good opportunity to make some homemade presents. We used the recipe and some ideas from the book Super Simple Clay Projects. The clay itself was really super simple – 3 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt and 1 May21_SaltDough2 1/4 cup of water. It mixed well into a pliable dough that was easy to work with, but it was a lot! We ended up working for 2 hours and filling up 2 baking sheets of various clay creations. The baking took longer than expected – almost 6 hours at 200F, so we moved the decoration to Sunday. It almost didn’t happen, because we had other plans, but Anna insisted in the evening that she has to paint her clay goodies. It’s not often that May21_SaltDough3 she is so raring to go on the project that requires paint, so I set it all up and we painted about half of our creations in about 45 minutes. We used acrylic paint, and then I plan to seal the goodies with Mod Podge to make them last for a long time. Anna is already looking forward to playing with her new plates, lollipops, candies, donuts and other props for a tea party. I can see working more with baked salt clay in the future, and in the meantime I can cheat and cross the first item off my Summer Bucket list :)

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Week In Review – May 20, 2011


This is going to be a short review, but the week was long for me. I was asked to step up temporarily for my manager and he couldn’t have left at the worst moment because of all the events unfolding within and outside our team. I was working pretty late, but Anna had fun with her papa including baking, playing with playdoh and visiting neighbors. She always plays much better on her own under his care too – he claims that I am spoiling her too much. Anna’s theme in school was Sports. Speaking of sports, swimming is going well, and my husband has decided that he should be able to take over from when this class ends and teach Anna to swim once our community pool opens for summer.


Fine Motor Skills and Arts. Anna’s favorite game this week was “Thanksgiving” with her paper dolls and variety of drawn foods. The best part for her was being able to cut her food into pieces. She was also writing invitations for imaginary guests and drawing pictures. We finally did our Morocco craft – Paper Hands. Anna was delighted to try out her new glitter markers, and I was surprised to see how well they work.


Quotes of the Week: I think that your boss should do his job and your job too. You have a little one who needs you. And you spend too much time on the phone. He can just talk to himself.

Why is it that the bad day always arrives without me knowing it?

When I found Morocco on the map, I was overjoyed. I knew that we read about it before. And I was also overjoyed about seeing Moscow. Is it true, mama, that for people who are not Russian Russia is a big fat “nyet” (the last phrase is a quote from the book she was reading).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Visiting Morocco

imageMay13_Morocco We returned to geography studies by pulling one country geocard at random. It turned out to be Morocco. I have never been to Morocco, but I lived in France who has strong ties with Morocco including many nice restaurants. Still, I had to prepare for this. We looked up Morocco on the atlas and discussed how it is so close to Europe, but has Strait of Gibraltar in between. I told Anna The Butter Man how I saw Strait of Gibraltar from the other side visiting Spain a few years ago. She colored (reluctantly) “follow the instructions” map of Morocco, and we read a great book The Butter Man. This is a good introduction to the idea that food on the table doesn’t come for granted to many people around the world. There is also an author note in the end of the book about traditions and customs of the Moroccan Berbers. I had all intentions to follow up this book with a chicken tagine (we actually have a real tagine at home), but with my crazy work schedule it didn’t happen yet.

Morocco Since I wanted Anna to remember something about Morocco long term, I made a set of cards for our scrap page. They will go in an envelope of “famous things” on the same page as a map of Morocco. We talked about these famous things, watched some photos of Morocco online and tried our belly dancing moves while watching videos of professional belly dancers on YouTube. Anna was interested to learn a bit about mosques and the fact that not everybody believes in Jesus. She was able to recall our previous conversations about Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, so she does retain some parts of our geography studies.


Our Moroccan craft is supposed to be “good luck hands”. It’s simple, but Anna had no desire whatsoever to do it, at least not yet. In fact, she “countered” me with her own idea – let’s get our face paint crayons and decorate our own hands instead. I was very fashionable with “pretty designs and curricles” of every color we had. Anna has requested a flower and a lizard. I still want to make “paper hands” for our scrapbook, but I have to wait for inspiration to strike.

Monday, May 16, 2011

To the Infinity and Beyond

image May14_Ames2As you all know, my daughter is fascinated with space, and I planned a visit to a nearby NASA research facility for a while. We finally made it to Ames Research Center on Saturday, and we were pretty lucky with our timing, since they had a guided presentation on the Solar system with terrific photos of various planets taken by NASA and European research craft. The talk was a bit long, but  Smarty listened fairly attentively and wanted to ask a question in the end. HerMay14_Ames1 question, in essence, was, I understand about Big Bang, but how will our world end? The guy who conducted the talk responded, Well, when you grow up, perhaps you tell me. The rest of the museum was a little underwhelming. They advertise Mars exploring area on the website, but as it turned out, lack of funding caused them to close that outdoor exhibit. Still, Smarty had a lot of fun and was delighted to get some goodies in a gift shop – a freeze-dried Astronaut ice cream and a shuttle model to assemble.
 First Encyclopaedia of SpaceConveniently, Usborne First Encyclopedia of Space arrived on the same day from Paperbackswap order. It’s a newer edition covering many of the same topics that were in the NASA talk. Smarty was delighted to find the whole page on space disasters – she is very fascinated with the losses of Challenger and Columbia, and I expect to have a lot of discussions about Apollo 13 after she reads this book. As I type she is sitting in her room hugging her blanket and devouring it.
Now I was delaying posting hoping that we will actually eat that icecream or assemble the kit, but daughter hasn’t asked for them yet – she can be strange about not using new toys directly unless they are very much in her line of sight.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – Friday 14, 2011

It was a rare week when daughter seemed to be more interesting in playing than in reading during her “rest time”, and I am quite excited about it. Even though I love that she loves reading so much, I also think that it’s important for her to actually do things, not just to read about them. Here are a few of her reading picks from the week.

Rebecca Passover

Anna picked up Rebecca’s Passover in the library and it was clearly her favorite book of the week. Last year she was terrified by the idea of the plagues, but now she was very fascinated with them and asked innumerable questions. The book does a really good job explaining a pretty complicated ritual. It is fairly long, therefore it was her favorite pick for reading before bed. Anna’s favorite part was an unexpected arrival of a special visitor.

Mr Bear

We really like books written and illustrated by Debi Gliori, and Anna really enjoyed our latest read – Mr Bear to the Rescue. She was already familiar with the characters from another Mr Bear book that we read recently and was delighted to meet them again in this suspenseful (but not scary) story of brave rescue in the stormy night. The story might still be a bit long for younger kids, but 3+ book lovers will surely find it engaging.

Mr Putter and Tabby See Stars

Mr Putter & Tabby is another of easy reader series by Cynthia Rylant. Seriously, I can’t imagine how one person can be so prolific and rather good (for her target audience) at the same time. Anna was never too intrigued by Henry and Mudge, but she is always looking forward to reading Mr Putter books. Maybe, like myself, she is a cat person, not a dog person :) She keeps looking for Mr Putter & Tabby Catch a Cold, since she just loves reading about someone getting sick recently or she invents her own stories about sick people.

Beezus and Ramona

I was curious to see how my daughter will like Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (our library had only this movie tie-in edition available when I looked for the first book in the series). I read Anna the first chapter, and then she took over from me. It didn’t seem that she was very taken by Ramona – she was horrified by the fact that she wrote in the library book. In many ways Anna seems to be more like Beezus than Ramona even though she is Ramona’s age. I plan to continue to read it to her hoping that she will ask more questions, and I will pick the next book in the series before starting Kindergarten.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Week In Review – May 13, 2011


This is going to be a short post, since I am really short on time this week. There are major management changes at work, my boss is leaving, his boss is new to organization, his own boss is leaving – and it’s all happening in the middle of our traditional next year planning cycle. You get the picture – busy, busy, busy. Anna is mostly taking it in stride, since papa plays with her in the afternoons, and I am home to play with her just a little bit, have dinner, give her a bath, read her a book and put her to bed. She got her Kindergarten readiness evaluation from school this week – needless to say, it says that she is perfectly ready to start K.


Arts & Crafts. Anna rarely asks to do crafts, but is open to it when I have everything prepared. This flower vase, however, was an unplanned craft. I had this pretty salt shaker forever and finally gave her some pipecleaners, buttons and challenged her to make something. She really enjoyed making me a “Mother’s Day” bouquet. She also made me a card, and at school they made a body scrub out of brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and olive oil. She was very excited to give it to me :)


Science and Social Studies. Anna had a lot of fun with our edible experiment that she organized entirely on her own. She was very fascinated this week with a story of Passover due to a book she read (I will share it tomorrow). And we started on Morocco in geography – I was hoping to do more but we will continue next week. Her favorite part so far was watching Moroccan belly dancing on YouTube and trying her own moves.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reentering Geography


May4_EarthWe were not focusing on geography this year – I felt that both of us could use a bit of a break from traveling the globe. I also saw with amusement how quickly unused trivia evaporates from daughter’s head. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t do anything at all. We read many books about different countries, played with our globe and talked about world events if they were “age-appropriate” (no mention of Osama Bin Laden here). Now I finally feel Geo Cards like returning to country studies. The final push came from finding the set of country GeoCards on sale in Barnes & Noble. It made me realize how little even I know about some countries that made it to the list of 50 biggest countries in the world, so I figured that traveling this list in the next 12 months will be fun. Anna was very excited about this, and randomly pulled the card for the first stop – Morocco. This time I also want to maintain some sort of a scrapbook for our country travels, so imageshe  can revisit it later at will. I am also excited about participating in international postcard exchange hosted by Playing by the Book this year. There is still time to sign up if anyone is interested. It would be great to receive mail from some of the countries on my list. And I am also looking to participating again in History/Geography exchange at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn and in the new geography feature at Mama Smiles.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An Edible Experiment


On a cloudy and unexpectedly chilly Saturday afternoon daughter has informed me that she wants to do an experiment and that she doesn’t want to do anything from “the science book”. She very specifically requested me to provide her flour, water, salt, sugar and food coloring. She said that she wants to “mix and stir”. What Anna neglected to mention is that she planned to use as many May07_Experiment3 senses as possible and for once taste her experiment. I guessed it, however, and made sure that the salt shaker had only very little salt. Anna was very content to mix, stir and taste for a good hour making a dough that quickly turned into a rather watery slush. From time to time I tried to give her some advice about her dough, but she firmly informed me that it’s her experiment, not May07_Experiment2 mine and she will do as she pleases. She said that now she is not doing a dough any longer, but is making a “delicious pudding”. I was a bit worried that eating all that flour-sugar mix will give her a tummy ache (I got it rather quickly!), but daughter didn’t seem to suffer at all and happily ate her dinner afterwards. She said that making dough was a lot of fun and that she certainly wants to do it again soon.

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