Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer List Review and September Plans

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Well, this summer is drawing to an end. Despite my busyness at work that is only expected to increase in the fall, it was a great time for our family. It’s time to see how we did on our Summer List:

  1. 1. Spend as much time as possible at the community pool.
  2. 2. Staycation in August.
  3. 3. Visit my parents
  4. 4. Fly a kite.
  5. 5. Go to “you pick” farm.
  6. 6. Go to the beach, dip our feet in cold Pacific ocean.
  7. 7. Make our own moon sand.
  8. 8. Make homemade clay and do heart pendants and other things.
  9. 9. Host a baby shower.
  10. 10. Celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.
  11. 11. Make homemade soap.
  12. 12. Make homemade face paint.
  13. 13. Celebrate my husband’s birthday.
  14. 14. Try melting crayons in the sun.
  15. 15. Make lemonade.
  16. 16. Go to “Forest Theater” (for adults)
  17. 17. Go to “Shakespeare in the park”
  18. 18. See “Harry Potter 7, Part 2” (I can’t wait!)
  19. 19. Go for a “night walk”
  20. 20. Go to Monterey aquarium
  21. 21. Go to the Gilroy Gardens

I think we did pretty well! I am still hoping to do a night walk and possibly “you pick” farm visit in September. But the most important goal of September is settling down into our new schedule. Anna loves her kindergarten, but she is now in school for 3 days from 8 am to 5 pm (she attends on-premise YMCA for 3 days), and she is quite exhausted when she comes home. Also she told us that school day involves a lot of sitting, so we want to make sure she gets more exercise. It’s awesome that she can walk to school, at least she starts her day by getting her body and mind moving. So here are the goals for September:

  1. 1. Make sure Anna goes to bed no later than 8 pm on school nights, lights off at 8:30 pm.
  2. 2. Play outside for 30 min every day in the late afternoon.
  3. 3. Continue our “rest time” traditions on Tuesdays, Thursday and weekends – we are firm believers in afternoon downtime reserved for quiet play or reading.
  4. 4. Start “game hour” tradition on Tuesday evenings.
  5. 5. Give “the last hooray” to our swimming pool and go as often as time and weather permit.
  6. 6. Start “cooking/baking” tradition on Friday evenings.
  7. 7. Continue “no TV” life.
  8. 8. Continue to limit computer time to no more than an hour on weekends.
  9. 9. Only do additional learning activities if daughter is asking for them.
  10. 10. Take it slow on weekends – everyone surely needs some downtime in this transition.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is Anyone Interested in an Afterschooling Linky?

Hello readers! As I travel the blog world, I am encouraged to meet more and more bloggers who choose to send their children to school while adding enriching and playful educational  activities at home. However, when I look at “week in review” link ups, they all come from the homeschooling world.

I am not up for hosting yet another linky single-handedly on my blog, but I think it would be fun for us “afterschoolers” to unite and organize a traveling weekly linky. It can be hosted on a different blog every week where we can all visit and learn how our children navigate school challenges and how they are challenged and entertained at home. As for the day of the week, I think Sunday link-up would work well to be able to catch all the activities of the prior week

If you are interested in participating and/or hosting, please drop me a comment on the blog or send me an email and say if you are interested in hosting, participating and hosting, and also if you would be able to make a badge for this link up.

Monday, August 29, 2011

If You Give a Mouse Some Blocks…

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Aug27_WP1She will want to build a playground with them…

Aug27_WP2… And then she will ask her Papa to build her a swing out of Tinkertoys…

Aug27_WP3  … And by studying papa’s swing, she will build one on her own “for big kids”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – August 27, 2011

Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

This week we tackled another FIAR book – Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk. It worked beautifully with our first ever circus visit. While both of us didn’t care much for sepia-toned illustrations, the story itself is wonderful and very optimistic. The only point that I didn’t like is that the job of a circus dancer is apparently a lot more fulfilling and happiness-inducing than a role of a hospital helper. I give this book extra points for mentioning my own city of birth (no, it’s not Moscow :))

Miss Bindergarten Circus

Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus with Kindergarten by Joseph Slate/Ashley Wolff has combined nicely two major themes of the week – a circus and a kindergarten. Unfortunately, the story didn’t hold Anna’s attention, but she is not very interested in alphabet-based books lately. I was hoping that she might be interested to try some of the circus numbers herself, but they were a bit exaggerated in the story. She was, however, fascinated with a picture of someone “lifting a ton” and pointed out that he is actually lifting two tons.

If I Ran the Circus

If I Ran the Circus is a typical Dr Seuss book. I almost twisted my tongue for real reading some of the pages. Anna, however, is in a sensitive period for language fun, and she really enjoyed this book. I saw her rereading the story and studying illustrations several times. I liked the story better than If I Ran the Zoo, because the main character cleverly incorporates someone else in his daydreaming, and those pages are really funny for adults (well, at least they are funny for me).

Annie Anya

My last recommendations to extend a circus theme is to read Peter Spier’s Circus, but I already wrote about this wonderful book twice. So instead I will give you an extension for Russia – Annie… Anya: A Month in Moscow by Irene Trivas. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but it’s a good story set in relatively modern Russia (more Russia of my youth) and it has a lot of Russian words woven into a story. For other suggestions on Russian theme, check out my guest post at Mama Smiles.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Week in Review – August 26, 2012


In our lives… the biggest change in our lives is definitely a start of kindergarten. What an exciting time for our daughter – so many new things to take in, so many new rules to learn and so many new opportunities to make friends – for her and for us. Anna’s kindergarten ends at 12:10 pm, and she will be attending an on-premise YMCA daycare 3 days a week until one of us comes from work and picks her up. Majority of her classmates have working parents as well and will go to YMCA with her. Anna’s highlights so far included a treasure hunt on the first day of school, doing “science with magnifying glass” on the second day and learning to play “hot lava monster” in YMCA.


Afterschooling… was very relaxed. Every day after school Anna was wandering off to her desk to do a bit of this and that. Eventually the bits of this and that have been converted into this circus collage, and she is very proud of it. We are also learning a bit about Russia, which might give you a hint as to what FIAR book we are currently on :) Yes, we still do a lazy FIAR with one “special book” a week.


Places we are going… This was definitely a week of “firsts”. Anna really enjoyed her first visit to the circus which was quickly eclipsed by the first school day and first day at YMCA. We have also signed her up for gymnastics, and she had her first class this week. We really hope that gymnastics will help her to develop the strength and coordination and keep up with her bigger and older classmates.

Favorite moment – watching my daughter walk confidently into a classroom full of unfamiliar kids who are all so much taller than she is.


A theological discussion with Anna:

  • Anna (out of the blue as usual): Death is worse than sickness. You can recover from sickness but you cannot recover from death. Only Jesus recovered from death.
  • Me: Jesus and some other magical characters.
  • Anna: Jesus is not magical. He is real. I believe in Him. I want to write a letter to God to tell him to make more good things in the world and make bad things go away.
  • Me: And how do you plan to deliver this letter?
  • Anna: Well, I’ll put it in the envelope, and I will write on the envelope, “To God in the Milky Way”. That’s where He lives.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kindergarten Liftoff


Aug22_FirstDay1On Monday Anna has crossed the border to her new life as a “big kid”. She had started kindergarten in our local public school. It’s a relatively small school for our Silicon Valley – about 300 families send their children there. She was wildly excited all week before the start, and her excitement rose even higher on Friday when we met the teacher and her kindergarten classmates (4 more girls and 5 boys). She was a bit disappointed that she won’t be riding a school bus, but our school is only about 15 minutes walk, and almost all elementary school children from our street walk to school together accompanied by two adults.


Anna is in a combo K-1 class that is taught by a 1st grade teacher. Her room is not a usual K classroom with toys and blocks. It’s a more serious 1st grade classroom, but Anna immediately loved the fact that it is overflowing with books and that there are computers too. I think starting in the combo class is the best thing for her – she loves the thought of being with “older friends”, and everyone is raving about her teacher, Mrs J.


Anna’s first couple of days went great. She went into the classroom without any prolonged goodbyes that she had mastered in preschool, and she was full of stories when we picked her up. She was also delighted to receive a schultuete on her first day of school – a German tradition that was carried on. Her papa personally made this “school cone” and we filled it with little school-related presents.

I am excited about the start of this new journey. Our daughter is thrilled to join the world of “real school”, and I am hoping that she will meet wonderful teachers and will make good friends who will last a lifetime, just as we did.

Monday, August 22, 2011



I was excited to be able to take Anna this year to the Ringling Brothers circus. I have very fond memories of traditional circus of my own childhood. I grew up in a large city, and we had a stationary, specially built circus. Our family relative was a director of this circus, and we went very often, especially when visiting troups were in town. I saw amazing performers and amazing animal acts, so my expectations were set high too. Russian circus is well known worldwide, and it was interesting to see that Ringling Brothers have several Russian performers. 

Before our visit we read an excellent book Peter Spier’s CircusCircus, and expectations were set very high. However, the show didn’t disappoint. The tightrope walkers and jugglers were amazing, and there were many unique acts as well. I was glad I didn’t take Anna last year since even with intermission it was a lot of new things to take in, and in the end I had a very exhausted child on my hands despite the fact that we went for a matinee. She was not  a big fan of human cannonball and was somewhat confused by clowns, but enjoyed all the rest, Aug20_Circus2especially the animal acts. While I am aware of the controversy surrounding traditional circus (in fact protesters were right there in front of the circus confusing the hell out of my daughter who can read), I happen to believe that being able to watch real animals actually doing something and not just sleeping in zoo cages engages children to learn more about them and learn how to protect and care for them in their own environment.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – August 20, 2012

We haven’t had a specific reading theme this week. I just took Anna to the library and she picked a big bunch of easy readers and picture books from the shelves. I added some more school themed books to her selections, and she also continues to read the chapter books from The Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles.

Meet the Barkers

Meet the Barkers by Tomie dePaola was my favorite from the new batch of school-related books that we read. I like how the story focuses on the fact that getting gold stars and being the smartest pup is not everything, and that making friends is also important. This is the message that I hope my daughter takes to heart, because she can be a bit bossy at times. It was also good to read a book by Tomie dePaola that has a very different subject than legends and biblical stories.

CircusToday we are going to the circus for the first time! I got Peter Spier’s Circus to give daughter an overview of what circus is all about. The book has Peter Spier’s signature super-detailed drawing, but it also had enough story to keep Anna’s interest. I loved that each act was done by someone from a different country, so it was also a geography book at the same time. I am only worried that this book set expectations super high for a real circus, since it had so many amazing acts, including many different animal acts.

The Watcher

Anna loved The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps so much that she asked me to read it to her twice in a row. This picture book talks about the life of this amazing woman in the way appropriate for young children. Anna said that American president should make a law forbidding using chimps in research, and I quite agree with her. Her favorite part, however, was a relationship between Jane and David Greybeard.

How to make an apple pie

I planned to do a FIAR week on How to Make an Apple Pie and see the World by Marjorie Priceman, but with the travel and vacation time we didn’t really get to it. Anna did, however, do a reading response page for this book, since she identified it as a favorite of the week. Her favorite part was a leopard napping under a kurundu tree in Sri Lanka. We also looked up all the locations on the world map. We both enjoyed the humor of the book – Anna was thrilled to see the hen and the cow parachuting down to Vermont.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Week in Review – August 19, 2012

Aug18_MamaAnna In our lives… We are enjoying our time back home even though Anna is really missing her grandparents. I took a week of vacation starting Wednesday, so we can spend the last days before a new school year as a family. Anna is finally very excited about starting school and can’t wait for Monday. She will be in a combo class K-1, where kindergarteners and first graders have separate curriculums, but also take some classes together. I think a mixed-age classroom will be good for her even though she will be by far the youngest child there. Everyone is raving about her teacher, and Anna is already walking around telling everyone that she has the best teacher in the world and the only teacher who is even better is Ms Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series.

Aug18_Homework Afterschooling was slowly restarting this week. Since daughter is so excited about her school, she has been begging for homework. I pulled out our Daily Math Grade 1 book, and we were doing “reading response” work. We didn’t have much time for anything else, since we decided to spend a lot of time in our community pool while we can.



Places we are going… We brainstormed collectively where we want to go during our vacation time and decided on Gilroy Gardens. Anna loves this park, and she had fun despite a rather hot day. We stayed a record 3+ hours without any whining or complaining. We also had the first playdate with her future classmates – a great way to meet the kids and the parents before the school starts. Today we will also have “Meet the Teacher” in her school.

My favorite this week is watching how far Anna has progressed in swimming this summer. She is very confident in the water – diving, floating on her back and practicing swimming – not because someone is making her, but because she really wants to be able to swim to the deep end of the pool. I don’t think she is quite ready for the deep end yet, but it’s exciting to see her developing this skill, which I view as an essential life skill.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reading Response Journal

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I really enjoy reading a helpful and informative blog waddlee-ah-chaa. The two sisters who write this blog generously share great books in giveaways and also have a lot of practical advice on promoting literacy and creativity in children. I was very intrigued by this very helpful post on introducing reading response journal to young children. I printed a page for Anna and invited her for some “homework”. Since we are all psyched Pandamonium up for kindergarten, homework suggestion was accepted with great enthusiasm. I asked her to pick any book that she likes. To my surprise, she chose Panda-monium, which we received from Tiger Tales. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice book, and I see it out pretty often, but the text and content are more appropriate in my mind for young 3 year olds than for mature 4 year olds. However, I didn’t argue with the choices of that 4 year old and Aug16_Writing1 presented her with a reading response paper. It took a while for her to think of a favorite part for this book, but eventually she came up with a sentence, and I wrote it down on the board. Once she realized that I don’t ask her to spell the words, she was quite happy to copy her reading response and illustrate her story. I hope to make this exercise part of our daily routine and bind the reading responses into a folder. It will be interesting to see how her writing progresses over a year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekend Snapshots – August 13-14, 2012

image Aug13_PoolThe last swim with Babushka and Dedushka in their “lake”

Aug13_AnnaGrandparentsBye-bye, grandparents! Come visit us soon!

Aug14_Home  Hello, my room and my toys! Let’s get everything out as fast as I can!

Travel went well, and we both enjoyed seeing family and friends, but there is no place like home… It’s good to be back!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – August 13, 2012

Since I was not with my child this week, I have decided to dedicated this post to our favorite books about kindergarten. We will be rereading some of them next week to prepare for the big day that is coming up only a week from now.

My Kindergarten

My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells has been so well received that I ordered a copy for our home library. It’s literary a kindergarten encyclopedia that covers the full year of kindergarten. The only unrealistic part in the book is that the class has only 6 students (Anna’s class is going to have about 25). Oh, and the students are all animals, but this is perfectly OK in my daughter’s eyes.

Kindergarten Portis

We loved every book by Antoinette Portis, an author of Not a Stick and Not a Box. Kindergarten Diary is more “conventional” in terms of illustrations and story, but we both really enjoyed the book when we picked it up from the library some time ago. The book starts with a little girl expressing a lot of concerns about kindergarten that are very similar to my daughter’s fears. It proceeds to tell the story of discovery and fun. Good read!

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready

We got Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten as a gift from Anna’s preschool for her preschool graduation, and I think we will pick up a couple more books from the same series by Joseph Slate/Ashley Wolff, because while the story is not terribly involved, it’s humorous and presents the start of kindergarten from multiple point of views. It’s also a good ABC book for parents and readers looking for entertaining alphabet books.

Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a classic book that just keeps giving. We got it for our home library when Anna started preschool, and she pulls it out when she needs some extra reassurance. We were using the kissing hand ritual often on those difficult mornings when daughter really didn’t feel like staying in her preschool, and I have a hunch that we will continue to use it when she goes to K. This book is a must-read for big life transitions.

Your turn: What are your favorite books about starting school?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Week in Review – August 12, 2011


Visit to Israel… While Anna was staying with my parents in New Jersey I flew to Tel Aviv to meet with our Israel team. The visit was intense, but very useful. I love coming to Israel, and I also have two cousins living there. It’s an amazing place, but this time I didn’t have time for sightseeing – I only went for 5 days, and most of the time was spent in the office. We went out a few nights and enjoyed great Mediterranean food. It was Aug_Mediterranean great to see my many friends from work too. I always find it very hard to separate myself from family for these business trips, but end up thinking that I should go more often in the end. I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t stay in the beach hotel (twice as expensive now in comparison to Tel Aviv center). Oh well, better luck next time… and maybe next time I’ll take a day or two for sightseeing too.


In the meantime… Anna had a very good time with Babushka and Dedushka, but she really missed us, especially at night. She kept telling me on the phone that she would rather have us here with her as well. Of course, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t enjoy all her grandparents had to offer, especially swimming in the pool that looks more like a natural lake in the town where they live. She was very excited to see me today and counted all her bruises and mosquito bites for me. Anyone else has a child who is so fixated on anything that is even remotely wrong with him or her? Every little scratch is an excuse for a big drama here :)

We are definitely looking forward to coming back home tomorrow! There will be one more week for her to settle back and enjoy summer before the school starts!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Didn’t Drop Off the Face of the Earth…

…But I am visiting my colleagues in Israel this week while my parents are enjoying their granddaughter. I had plans to share some pictures, but unfortunately I forgot to bring the cord to connect my camera to my PC. I hope to return to “regular programming” on Friday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – August 6, 2012

I was thinking of doing a FIAR on How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World during our plane ride to NJ, but both of us felt rather lazy and preferred to enjoy in-seat entertainment. For the part of the ride Anna was busy reading Pup at the Palace, a book in her current favorite series Animal Ark by Ben M. Baglio. A person sitting next to us on the plane couldn’t believe that she is really reading this book (grade level equivalent 4.5) until daughter helpfully read a couple of pages aloud. Here are some of her other favorites of the week.

First Painter

First Painter was a random library find. Anna enjoyed books about “first people” a couple of months ago, and it was interesting to see how much she remembered from those readings when we were talking about this book. We also talked about which parts of the book are “true” and which parts of the book are “make believe” (for this particular book the answer might depend on your religious beliefs).

An Apple Pie for Dinner

I requested An Apple Pie For Dinner by Susan Vanhecke from the library to accompany How To Make An Apple Pie book for FIAR. We both really enjoyed the story (trading one thing for another until you get what you were after in the first place), but the highlight of the book are bas-relief illustrations by Carol Baicker-McKee. I just wish I had the talent to create this kind of art!

7 Habits of Happy Kids

I think pretty much every person who is interested in self-help literature heard about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I thought that its reincarnation for the youngest audience was not bad. Anna enjoyed the stories, except the one about teamwork, but she was not at all interested in the discussion points offered in the book. She especially liked the story about “listening first”, but just laughed at the suggestion of spending an hour listening and not talking. Perhaps it will be better received a few years down the road.

Maggie and Max

Maggie and Max by Ellen Miles was another reading highlight of the week for Anna. This book is from another pet series she enjoys – Puppy Place. Anna was thrilled to discover a book featuring a puppy and a kitten, since she is actually a cat person, not a dog person. By the way, perhaps someone can recommend some good chapter books about cats? I don’t read this series with Anna, but she gives me a summary after each book. Now I just have to keep track of all the books she already read and keep bringing new ones from the library.

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