Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Reason for a Season

A Baby Born in BethlehemEven though we are not religious, I believe in teaching my daughter that Christmas is not about Santa Claus bringing presents and Easter is not about Easter Bunny. We kicked off the Christmas season right after Thanksgiving by pulling a book from our own library – A Baby Born in Bethlehem by Martha Whitmore Hickman. Outside of Joseph being pictured as quite a young man, the book narrates Nativity story pretty well. We also got out our Playmobil characters to replay the story: 

Nov26_Nativity1Mary, Joseph and donkey are leaving their house in Nazareth. By the way, my husband made this house and also made the reconfigurable fence around it.

Nov26_Nativity2No room in the inn! OK, the inn looks more like a Roman fort (also made by my husband)

Nov26_Nativity3A kind innkeeper has offered them a nice warm stable…

Nov26_Nativity4Adoration of shepherds and beasts (including a dinosaur!).

Nov26_Nativity5I didn’t get Wise Kings in action, they had a hard time getting back into their Playmobil robes and finding their gifts. That’s a problem of Playmobil sets – so much of small plastic stuff floating around even if it’s high quality plastic stuff.

How do you get into holiday spirit?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week in Review–November 27, 2012


ISchool was closed for a Thanksgiving break, but YMCA was open, and Anna went there for 3 days, since both of us were busy with work and pre-Thanksgiving prep. Luckily, Anna loves her afterschool now. She brought a variety of Thanksgiving crafts home. She was also saying that she is missing school even though she missed it a lot less during the days we were all home and she could sleep until 9 in the morning.


Afterschool. Anna enjoyed helping me with the turkey. One of the leaves on her thankful tree had “cooking” on it. This year she was writing and writing her thanks – my parents, my grandparents, my house, my classroom, writing stories, being happy, cooking, art, books and toys, Thanksgiving – all these things were on her list. The tree didn’t actually have enough space to fit all the leaves, we will go back to the bigger version next year.


Places we are going. We had a great Thanksgiving at our place with three other families including one from Anna’s class. One curious part about the Silicon Valley is the number of “transplanted” families that don’t have relatives in the area. On Saturday we went hiking – it was good to get out of the house and get some exercise. Anna enjoyed bringing her fancy lighted magnifying glass (a present from Babushka and Dedushka) and investigating things that were interesting to her in more detail.

Castle Rock 2jpg

Favorite quote: (After reading a religious Christmas book):

  • Anna: Mama, when we die, will we be with God?
  • Me: Yes. Everyone who knows about God will be with God (that’s my current “party line” to alleviate her fears of death).
  • Anna: When you laptop died, did it go to be with God?
  • Me: Umm… My laptop was not alive.
  • Anna: But we looked things about God on it, so it knows about God.

Please join Afterschool Linky Party hosted this week on What Do We Do All Day?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What My Child Is Reading–More Picture Books

We continued to read books for a Picture Books month this week. We had some great library finds too, since daughter always craves new books, but I will focus again on the books from our own library. I actually introduced three out of four of them this week out of my “stash for the future”.

Around the World with Mouk

Around the World with Mouk is obviously the “travel the world” book. It’s gorgeously illustrated by a French author/illustrator Marc Boutavant who has a very distinct style. He also illustrated one of our favorite books by Mary Ann Hoberman – All Kinds of Families. Every spread takes the readers into a different place with great variety of details – local food, local games, local animals, etc. I made a mistake reading all book in one evening – it took more than an hour. A journey over a number of days would be a much better idea and could be done with younger children as well.

Snow In Jerusalem

We read Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah Da Costa for a pet theme together with a couple of other pet books from the library. As you could guess, the story is set in Jerusalem and split between the Orhodox Jews’ Quarter and Arab Quarter where a street cat befriends two boys with very different backgrounds. Eventually they meet and realize that even though they have differences, they do have something in common. It’s a better story for kids over 4, since the story is rather long.

Stone Soup

We read Stone Soup retold by Ann McGovern for “Folk and Fairy Tales” day. I also gave Anna a thick book of classic fairy tales that I got at the library book sale. She read it but didn’t comment or ask questions – she is not really into fantasy world at this moment. However, she really enjoyed Stone Soup. Interestingly, I recall Russian version of the same folk tale where the soldier made soup out of an ax.

MSB Human Body

I scored big during the last Library Book Sale by getting about a dozen brand new Magic School Bus paperbacks at 25 cents each. Anna loves these books, and I finally let her have them all (by her request) for “school” theme. She quickly read through them but now “studies” her favorites in more detail during her rest times. I always find one or two of them in her bed as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I really enjoyed reading all the thankful posts in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving and wanted to take an opportunity to write my own, but I will try to keep it short:

1. I am thankful for my parents who gave me a good start in life, helped me develop my strengths and always supported my choices even when they seemed less than ideal at the time. Thanks for the turkey recipe too, Mom. I miss you!

2. I am thankful for my teachers who challenged and encouraged me. I am thankful for a Soviet school system (yes, really!) that was designed to support and grow talented children. I am thankful for a free college education in the former Soviet Union that gave me enough skills to be quite competitive in the US workplace.

3. I am thankful for my ex-husband and his family who brought me here. Even though my first marriage didn’t work out, I am thankful for an opportunity to discover a new life in a new land.

4. I am thankful for making an outlandish choice more than 10 years ago, taking a paycut to become a traveling consultant for a small startup company in the Silicon Valley. That choice brought me where I am today.

5. I am thankful for an opportunity to travel for several years for my job, visiting many states of the United States and practically every country in Europe.

6. I am thankful for coming to California in 2002 “for a few weeks” and staying here for good. I am thankful for my diverse and tolerant neighbors and great climate of Silicon Valley

7. I am very thankful for my husband – an amazing man, a friend, a partner in good and bad times.

8. I am thankful for an “accident” that turned into a beautiful, happy and bright little girl. She is definitely a light of my life.

9. I am thankful for my friends who are there when I need them. I want to believe that I am also there for them when they need me most.

10. I am thankful for my health, because without it nothing above would be possible.

There are so many reasons to be thankful every day. I have to remember this simple thought as I am off to start my turkey.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A “Free” Saturday Morning

imageWe are a rare family in the Silicon Valley that doesn’t sign up their child for a million of afterschool activities. We keep our weekends free to enjoy trips, playdates and hanging out as a family. We happen to believe in the value of free time which is even more precious for children who spend most of their time in schools:Nov19_CookiesTrying out a new cookie recipe – you can’t go wrong in our house with Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies. Big hit!

Nov19_NecklaceWhile the cookies were baking, Anna was working on a friendship necklace from the kit she got for her birthday. She loves alphabet beads.

Nov19_BikesGetting out the house just in time before the rains hit. Our neighborhood is very colorful right now, but most leaves are still on the trees.

Nov19_FloweDrawing flowers from observations like Georgia O’Keefe. It was harder than Anna thought!


Making a mini-book using the last of Melissa and Doug Sticker Collection, a present from the last year. It was a great gift, by the way (hint, hint Smile)

Nov19_MSBDisappearing with new Magic School Bus books that I got during the last library sale – she finally laid her hands on them and read about 10 of them in one sitting.

Nov19_BooksWhile she was busy doing things of her choosing, I was sorting through our Christmas books and hiding them. I have a lot of plans for December!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week in Review–November 20, 2011


Nov18_FastCheetahSchool. Anna’s class was doing a lot of Thanksgiving-related activities. Social studies are done on the first grade level, so she learned a lot about Native Americans and chose an Indian name that cracks me up – Fast Cheetah. They also needed to bring a collection of nature items to school to be traded in Trading Day. It’s not very visible in this picture, but trading day was also a Crazy Hair day – she was wearing a lot of small pigtails, and her hair was sprayed pink – she loved it.


Afterschool. It was a turkey Saturday last week. We made turkey hats and some hand turkeys too. Then I went on a business trip. In my absence Anna made a couple of books in her YMCA book club and painted rocks during a playdate. Once I came back, we returned to our “artist of the month” – Georgia O’Keefe – more on that next week.


Places we are going… Looks a lot like real Venice, doesn’t it? No, not really, the hotel in the background gives it away. I was in Las Vegas for our Sales Kickoff, which meant several days of drinking in the evening and working during the day. It was good to see a lot of people face to face including most of my team. Unfortunately, the schedule didn’t allow to catch any shows – maybe next time. In the meantime Anna went to her usual places – school, gymnastics and playdates. Even though she had fun with papa, she was delighted to have me back Smile


Favorite quote: Mama, you are the best cuddler, but papa is the best tickler. I love it when he holds me down and tickles me all over. But he has to remember not to tickle me in the places where I am ticklish – I only like to be tickled in the places where I am not ticklish.

Join Afterschool Linly – hosted this week by Amanda at The Educators’ Spin On It.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What My Child Is Reading–Thanksgiving Books

This week Anna continued to read picture books following Picture Book Month themes, but I was traveling on business, so I didn’t read them with her. Instead I will share our favorite Thanksgiving books of this year.

Thanksgiving Day

We really like Anne Rockwell holiday series, and Thanksgiving Day is one of my personal favorites. It’s the third and probably last year we are reading it – Anna is getting a bit old for it, but it’s an excellent book for 4-5 year olds, which describes Thanksgiving celebrations through a school play. The level of detail is not overwhelming for a young child and there is no mention of death like in some other books we read.

The Can Do Thanksgiving

The Can-Do Thankgiving Marion Hess Pomeranc is a new book we read this year. It’s the first Thanksgiving book that is focusing on sharing food with people who are less fortunate. Anna’s school doesn’t have a food drive for Thanksgiving, and she was a bit disappointed about that. Perhaps this is something we might want to organize next year. It would be also interesting to actually see where this food goes and help out in the soup kitchen.

Friendship First Thanksgiving

Friendship’s First Thanksgiving by William Accorsi belongs to our home library. It’s a story of the first Thanksgiving told by a dog who came with the Pilgrims. The illustrations are not “mine”, but the story appears to be historically correct and provides a lot of details about the first year in New England.

Cranberry Thanksgiving

We read Cranberry Thanksgiving by Harry Devlin for the first time this year, and I understand why I saw so many people raving about this book! There was just enough suspense to keep Anna jumping all over the room in anticipation of what will happen next, and the story is mostly focusing around food and friendship – some of her favorite themes. I think some cranberry bread will be coming our way this weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A New Online Reading and Math Program

I learned about K5 Learning from my friend Debbie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn and curious to try it out.

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their  open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Preschool Craft - Turkey Hats

Are you and your children tired from hand print turkey crafts? Do something very different and craft a feathery turkey hat that works perfectly with a Thanksgiving book Thelonius Turkey Lives.
Thanksgiving Craft for Preschool: Turkey Hats
This post has been updated on October 21, 2014 with new graphics 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!

Thelonius Turkey Lives

Thelonius Turkey LivesMy daughter thoroughly enjoyed Thelonius Turkey Lives! by Lynn Rowe Reed. Thelonius is one smart turkey, and he is determined not to become dinner on a Thanksgiving table. He asks other farm animals for help, and they try various tricks to make their owner give up on what they perceive as her quest to pluck Thelonius while he is still alive. Of course, as you can guess from the title, all ends well. Felicia, in fact, has very different use for Thelonius’ feathers, and the end of the book is somewhat given away by our project below. The book itself also opens all kinds of other creative possibilities with its bright colors and mixed media illustrations.

Paper Plate Turkey Hats

We used paper soup bowls for our hats to make them “wearable”. The first step was, of course, paint them. For once, my 5 year old Smarty did fairly well with not mixing colors into muddy brown, but she put so much paint on hers that it took about 2 hours to dry out. Therefore, she quickly volunteered to decorate the hat that I painted.

Painting Thanksgiving Turkey HatsI loved to see my non-crafty Smarty working very independently on this project and being engrossed in it. We set out feathers, buttons, and pipe cleaners to decorate the hats. Smarty wanted to have a silk maple leaf for the tail, but then she went wild with feathers, so you can’t quite see it.
Ta-da! The fashion model is ready for a turkey hat show!

More Turkeys and Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids

Check out our preschool Thanksgiving turkey art from years passed.
Preschool-Art-Thanksgiving-Turkeys Follow my Pinterest board Thanksgiving.
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board Thanksgiving on Pinterest.

Your Turn

Do you have a “go to” Thanksgiving craft for the kids in your care?

Pin it:

Turkey Hat Craft for Preschool - Perfect for Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week In Review–November 13, 2011


Thank you to everyone who linked to Afterschool last week! My favorite idea comes from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational (what a fun name for the blog, by the way). She featured an African mask out of a milk jug, but it could also be an Indian mask to honor Thanksgiving.


Nov6_KeyboardSchool. Anna had another great week in school. On Monday she was recognized as “Student of the Week” during the assembly. She was super proud and very happy when we celebrated with cupcakes. The letter that came with an award praised her for courage to speak up and to share her opinions. It made us laugh – our daughter is anything but shy, and we are happy that she is not intimidated by bigger kids in her class. In fact, she seems to get along well with everyone. November is a Thanksgiving month in school, and they are learning a lot about Thanksgiving history. I wish they had more art, but she does bring home pictures and collages occasionally.


Afterschool. Most of afterschooling was happening on the weekend, since I had to come home late several days this week. We made homemade playdoh, read a non-fiction book about giant pandas (they were discovered in China in November 1927) and we keep reading picture books for Picture Book Month. Anna watched a lot of movies and did quizzes on Brain Pop Jr, but I decided not to subscribe at this point, since I don’t want her to constantly beg for more computer time. I am not a believer in “educaiment on demand” and feel that she needs to spend more time in free exploration.

Places we are going. We haven’t gone out much, but Anna had a lot of playdates this week. She and the boy who lives a couple of houses away are becoming pretty tight and often go to one of the houses to play together. She was even invited to a fancy Japanese restaurant with his family and really enjoyed seeing food cooked directly at the table. I also had some interesting outing this week – wine tasting in Santa Cruz mountains (in the rain) with some members of our team.


Quote of the week: Anna’s friend is banging on the keyboard keys, Anna is bouncing around.

  • Anna: Look, I am dancing like a real ballerina, and L is a real musician. Don’t you recognize the melody, mama?
  • Me: Umm… No. What is it supposed to be?
  • Anna: It’s a Nutcracker!

Join an Afterschool Party that is hosted this week by Little Wonders’ Days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – Favorite Picture Books

Anna’s reading assignment this week was Harry the Dirty Dog. I was originally contemplating a dog theme, but my daughter is not really a dog person. I was intrigued by the entry from My Book Retreat that is participating in a Picture Book Month Celebration by reading books from their own home library. We were a little late getting started, but I have printed a calendar of themes and gave them to Anna. She was delighted to join the Celebration trying to read as many books from our own library as possible. So here are our favorite picture books from the first 9 days:

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

We happened to enter the Picture Book Month Celebration on Transportation Day, and we had an absolutely perfect book for it – Cars, Trucks and Things to Go by Richard Scarry. Richard Scarry is one of my favorite picture book artists, and this book is an ultimate in transportation – anything that you could possibly want is there together with a funny story and a look-and-find challenge. I seriously think that anyone with a child under 5 should own this one :)

Animal Jamboree

We have cleared the shelves of our own home library of “concept books” and gave them to friends. However, Anna wanted to keep ABC Animal Jamboree by Giles Andreae, because she really likes the rhymes. Illustrations by David Wojtowycz are very colorful and work well with short poems. We got this book from Tiger Tales some time ago. One word of warning, however – this book is a combination of Commotion in the Ocean and Rumble in the Jungle by the same author. If you don’t have other books by Giles Andreae, definitely get this one – it’s like buy 1, get one free :)

City Dog Country Frog

We gave away all toddler books about seasons as well, but I love the picture books that gently incorporate the change of seasons into their story line and illustrations. City Dog, Country Frog is one of these books. It’s written by Mo Willems, but not illustrated by him unlike majority of his other works. It’s a great story even though daughter picked up on its somewhat sad ending. I am glad that we have this book in our library.

Miss Rumphius

Our book for the “gardening” day was Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. I was saving it in my stack of library sale book finds for a possible FIAR unit, but we don’t seem to be able to get back to FIAR mood. The gardening doesn’t even get mentioned until about two thirds into the book, but Anna really loved the thought of trying to make the world more beautiful. This book is somewhat long and more suitable for 4+ kids.

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