Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week in Review–May 27, 2012


May25_LetterSchool is winding up. It looks like they mostly work on their iPads and prepare for graduation ceremony next Friday. There was also a note writing activity. Anna wrote me this lovely note – it’s very interesting to see how far her writing and spelling skills progressed in kindergarten. I hope we can keep up writing over summer, since it’s still not her favorite thing to do.May21_Science

Afterschool. It often seems to me that we don’t do enough at home, especially during ultra busy work periods I’ve been having lately, but Anna, of course, does a lot in her Y program. I love it when she brings different crafts and drawings home, and they also have “worksheet time” where Anna usually asks to do what her first or second grade friends are doing.

Places we are going – we have a couple of barbecues to go to this week, and we decided to take it easy overall, especially since I’ve been so busy lately and preparing for business trip in a week.

May24_BananagramsQuote of the week.

  • Anna: Mama, in my Y friend’s family, his father has a child, but this child is not T’s brother. How can it be?
  • Me: Most likely it means that this man is married again and had a child with another woman.
  • Anna: Well, I think that this man is magical and has a child all his own. In my world it’s possible, you know. All fat men are fat because they have babies sleeping in their bellies.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–May 26, 2012


Anna has stopped Magic Tree House books at Merlin Missions a few months ago declaring that they are too scary. Suddenly she decided that they are not scary after all and is making her way (on her own) through the remainder of our Magic Tree House collection. She had a free choice of a book for a book report this week, and did one on Season of the Sandstorms. I learned enough from her book report to know that it’s a good book about deserts Smile

Hand Rhymes

Anna’s class is practicing some action songs and poems for graduation ceremony, and she pulled out Marc Brown’s Hand Rhymes book from her book shelf and practiced some of the hand rhymes in this book. I like it when she chooses to memorize a poem or a song on her own. I highly recommend this book, since it has both classic action poems and some less known ones. According to Anna, this is the funnest book ever.

The Gypsy Princess

The Gypsy Princess by Phoebe Gilman was a straggler from our Romania week. The setting of the story is unknown, that’s why I didn’t chose it as a main Romania book. The story itself is pretty engaging and built on the premise that a cage, even a golden cage, is not as good as freedom. We both really enjoyed beautiful and detailed illustrations in the book – Phoebe Gilman was a very talented illustrator.


Dreamer from the VillageI had mixed feelings about Dreamer from the Village that introduces children to Marc Chagall. For once, I am quite upset that this book and another one we read says that Marc Chagall was born in Russia. He was born in my country - Belarus. Secondly, Vitebsk is not a village and even early in early 20th century it was a fairly large town. Of course, it might have been a village in comparison to Paris, but still… Also, I wish there were some Chagall’s works in the book. The illustrator tried to imitate Chagall’s style, but it’s easier said than done.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Exploring Art Materials–Watercolor Pencils


For Mother’s Day I bought myself a gift as well – Crayola Watercolor Pencils and a sketch book. I also was a lucky winner of Artterro giveaway from The Chocolate Muffin Tree blog, and so Anna ended up with her own Art Journal as well. We both enjoyed several sessions of drawing together so far. Both of us are not great artists, but I find it fun to try different things and to show Anna that you May22_Watercolorsdon’t need to fret about perfection, you just have to have motivation to experiment and learn. Here is her latest masterpiece.

Your turn: Have you tried any new materials or art techniques lately?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week In Review–May 20, 2012


School: It’s been a busy week! Anna and her classmates showered their teacher with flowers and gifts for Teacher Appreciation week. On Wednesday her school had an open house to showcase everything the students have been up to this year. Anna’s class had a special “iPad Academy” for parents, and then we were allowed to take a lot of artifacts home including fun writing samples that showed how much she progressed in the past few months.


Afterschool. I’ve been busy-busy at work and was “missing in action” on most days. But Mother’s Day was fun! I got an adorable card from my overexcited child and another one in Russian. Her Russian lessons are going well, and she now asks me more often for Russian words and sentences. Grandparents will be pleased Smile


Places we are going. We finally managed to go to one of Anna’s favorite spots – The Gilroy Gardens. Anna’s best friend’s family came with us, and the kids had a blast. It was a lot of fun for Anna to be a tour guide and take A on all her favorite rides, especially on “sky train”. Luckily, even though A is tall enough to ride more adventurous rides, he had no interest in them – he is almost as cautious as Anna is when it comes to thrills.

Quote of the week:May18_Outside

  • Me (playing a game): Name three differences between boys and girls:
  • Anna: Boys are stronger than girls, boys love gross and yucky stuff and boys can go bald, and girls can’t!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–May 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Mrs Piggle Wiggle

It was another Mrs Piggle Wiggle book in the house. I am reading Happy Birthday, Mrs Piggle Wiggle to Anna every evening, and we only had time for one picture book all week. She reads on her own a lot, usually more than 2 hours a day. She always has a ready answer for “favorite activity” question – reading! I was touched to get a book from her for Mother’s Day when she was answering prompts and describing reading as her favorite thing for us to do together and going to the library as her favorite place to go together. We are definitely quite successful in raising a reader!

Erika San

I really wish my daughter would pick Japan for our Read Around the World journey. There are so many wonderful books about this country. Anna and I both really enjoyed Erika-San yet again by Allen Say. It sort of reads like a modern fairy tale of a girl whose childhood dream actually comes true through her perseverance and knowing exactly what she is looking for. Generally, the story is better suited for 5+ and for country study.

Doll Hospital

I got the first book from Joan Holub’s Doll Hospital series at the library book sale. It’s called Tatiana comes to America: An Ellis Island Story. Anna mostly liked the fact that there was an actual paper doll in the book but she also mentioned that the story was interesting. I looked through the book and decided that it will be good to reread it together as it tells a fascinating story of a young Russian girl (and her doll) getting separated from her family and coming to America on her own.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Little Bit About Me

I was tagged earlier this week by Leah at Almost Unschoolers for “get to know each other” game.

The Rules:
1. Post these rules.
2. Post a photo of yourself and 11 random facts about you.
3. Answer the questions given to you in the tagger’s post.
4. Create 11 new questions and tag new people to answer them.
5. Go to their blog/twitter and let them know they have been tagged.


  • 1. This is my work mug shot. I work in a big well-known company. We’ve been in the news a lot lately… and not just because of the products we make and sell.
  • 2. I don’t like wearing business suits and mostly wear jeans and sweaters/T-shirts to work unless I have to meet customers.
  • 3. I hate shopping for clothes.
  • 4. My favorite place to shop is Amazon, and I have weakness for Michael’s and other craft stores.
  • 5. I am not at all crafty but want to pretend that one day I might be.
  • 6. I wanted to be a chemist. Marie Curie was my role model when I was a teenager. I wanted to get two Nobel prizes too.
  • 7. I find it very hard to focus. Maybe it’s because my work hours are full of unrelated meetings, emails and phone calls.
  • 8. I love Harry Potter and admired J.K. Rowling Harvard Commencement Speech.
  • 9. Regardless, the thought of failure still frightens me.
  • 10. I never thought I will marry a German. It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
  • 11. I love travel and I hope to be traveling again with my family soon.

On to Leah’s questions:

1. What was your favorite subject in school, and why? Chemistry – see above.
2. What sort of school did you attend for your K-12 years? Public, private, home based? Public. By the way, private school or homeschooling didn’t exist in the former Soviet Union.
3. Do you have a college degree (maybe a masters or doctorate)?  If so, in what? Bachelor in System Engineering with enough math classes to qualify for M.S. in Math here.
4. What do you think our educational goal as a country (or your educational goal as a country, if you're not in the US) should be? Interesting question. I don’t believe in No Child Left Behind for many reasons. I rather like track based educational systems where children don’t have to study things they are not interested in.

5. What US landmark would you like to visit, that you haven't already seen. US has landmarks? Just kidding, of course. I really want to go to Yellowstone!
6. What is your favorite summer family activity. Barbecue dinners with friends.
7. Read the Scribbit post about blogging, linked in the answers above.  What phase of blogging are you in currently. Interesting post. Adulthood, I dare say.
8. Can you tolerate other people's children as well as your own? Don't worry, I'm not planning on dropping mine off at your door.  I'm just curious. No, and sometimes I cannot even tolerate mine.
9. Do you set limits on "screen time" in your house? And why, or why not? Yes, and the answer deserves a separate post. I actually wrote one 2 years ago, and the practice is still pretty much the same in the house.
10. Do you have a family pet? If yes, what kind(s)? Lobbying my husband for a cat Smile
11. Do you use math, beyond the basics of what you learned in grades five or six, in daily life? And if yes, in what way? (I'd really like to hear in from anyone reading this post, on this one). Nothing over grade 8 and functions available in Microsoft Excel even though I went “all the way” in math. I still have no regrets about learning so much math, because I believe it gives me thinking skills and guides subliminally my decision making. I do catch myself assessing probability often and I am able to “catch” wrong assumptions quickly.

My questions to Debbie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn, Amanda at The Educators’ Spin On It and Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree:

  • 1. Why do you blog?
  • 2. How often do you feel guilty feeling that you could be doing more with your children?
  • 3. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • 4. How many siblings do you have and did it affect your decisions on the number of children you wanted to have?
  • 5. How did you choose your career?
  • 6. If you could change one choice you made, what would that be?
  • 7. Name three skills you would want your children to have
  • 8. If you got $1000 to spend right now, what would you buy?
  • 9. I think all three of my picks are stay-at-home moms. Do you consider going back to work? If so, why?
  • 10. Do you have a favorite pick-me-up song? What is it?
  • 11. Do you blog on schedule or when inspiration strikes?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reading Around the World–Romania

image image

When Anna picks a new country for our “reading around the world” activity, I always try to tell her a few age-appropriate facts about that country right away to keep her interest going. I actually visited Romania twice, but the first things that came to my mind were gypsies and vampires. Oops, I forgot Olympic champions in gymnastics. Dracula CastleAge-appropriate books were hard to find too, so I decided to introduce Anna to Carole Marsh mysteries and got The Mystery at Dracula’s Castle from Amazon. I looked through the book first to make sure there is nothing supernatural going on – my daughter is not at all a fan of supernatural suspense, but the book is a good “real” mystery with a lot of twists and turns. My only regret was that it doesn’t tell the reader much about modern Romania even though it’s set there. Every character “magically” speaks perfect English, and all my daughter got out of the book was that “Romania has castles, vampires,May13_Romania bats and treasures”. Not exactly an in-depth geography or history lesson, but good enough for kindergarten. I am sure she will have a big kick out of her mini-books a few years down the road. We also made this Romanian dish that, sadly, didn’t turn out as well as I expected despite an insane amount of garlic I plunked into it. No vampires in our house after that much garlic!

Anna wanted to do another book on Russia next, but I managed to negotiate with her and convince her to “visit” my own country of birth – Belarus. Here is a little trivia question – who do you think was the most famous person from Belarus’ in 20th century? Make your guesses, and I will reveal my pick in my next Read Around the World post.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week In Review–May 13, 2012

Little Wonders' Days

May8_ChalkSchool. Children were preparing for Teacher Appreciation week this week with parent volunteers. Next week will be busy with some sort of special events happening each day and a school Open House and an Art Show on Wednesday. Anna was pleased to finally get to “Outstanding” behavior in class on Friday – interestingly, children can get to “outstanding” not by being very quiet but by problem solving and helping others.


Afterschool. YMCA was also busy with special activities. Their May “club” had Mad Science option. Of course, Anna is in this club and enjoys it a lot. Their first week was about bubbles, and the second week had rainbow milk experiment. Sadly, Anna couldn’t explain any of them, but I wouldn’t expect her too, as the science behind them is fairly complex.

Places we are going – We decided to take it easy this weekend. We volunteered at our neighborhood pool and helped prepare it for an opening over the Memorial Day weekend. We can’t wait to go swimming!


  • Quote of the week: Anna: Mom, I feel that my brain is almost full to the brim.
  • Me: Goodness, where are you going to keep all the things you will learn in the next 12 years of school?
  • Anna: Hmm… I will have to free some space. I have a lot of chambers in my brain. I think I will free the biggest chamber.
  • Me: And what chamber is that?
  • Anna: A chamber of bad thoughts. I will keep only one there – when we went to that Egyptian Museum and I thought an unwrapped mummy. That’s the worst thought (memory) I ever had.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What My Child Is Reading–May 12, 2012

Dracula Castle

Our big “read-aloud” book this week was The Mystery at Dracula’s Castle set in Romania. I will review it separately in Read Around the World post, but it was our first introduction to Carole Marsh books. She apparently has two interesting mystery series – Real Kids, Real Places and now Around the World in 80 Mysteries. I was not sure how Anna will react to a mystery book targeted at ages 8+, but she is loving it, and I hope that we might finally have found a new series to get immersed in.


We are on Allen Say’s reading spree lately, picking one new book from the library. I love his illustrations, and the stories also have many levels in them. Allison is an adopted daughter of a white American family. Allen Say explores the feeling of a young child dealing with the realization that her birth parents gave her up to someone who doesn’t look like her and who is not her real parent. It’s a very interesting and touching story to read.

What Does Peace Feel Like

What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladimir Radunsky should be a must to read in elementary schools. The concept is pretty simple – children with different names (and therefore with different ethnic backgrounds) answer the questions, What does peace taste/feel/smell/look/sound like? The answers are very fascinating and they also opened up great discussions between me and Anna. I took a video of her describing her ideas – a precious memory of my daughter, the philosopher, at 5 years old.

The Mother Day Mice

Of course, we couldn’t completely miss Mother’s Day this year. Eve Bunting/Jan Brett offer a wonderful and gorgeously illustrated story of three brothers preparing surprises for their moms. It’s also touching how these brothers care and support each other. We read the same book last year and it still didn’t lose its appeal for me and for Anna. Now I am looking forward to my own surprise tomorrow Smile

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Read Around the World–California

Our California

Our next stop in reading around the world was California. Anna is still struggling in the whole state vs country concept, especially if state is so big as our California. The book talks about several distinct regions of California, and I am thinking that it would be cool to visit all of them eventually. Our California is gorgeously illustrated by Rafael Lopez, and I really hoped to do a painting in this style, but daughter wasn’t terribly interested so far. Instead she wanted to do more coloring – we both enjoy May4_Californiacoloring sessions when both of us color together for our mini-book and talk. That’s when I usually tell her more about the place we are studying. This time we started talking about famous man-made landmarks, and Anna wanted to know what top 10 are. Two in US made my list – Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge. When I got to Rio de Janeiro and its Christ the Redeemer statue, Anna wanted to know how did people know how Christ looked like which took us away from geography and on to religion, genetics and other topics.


We also watched this DVD from US Geography for Children series. I thought that it managed to cover quite a lot of ground in 23 minutes – touching upon history, geography, economy and culture of California. Still, Anna struggled a lot answering What is special about California? question. After some prompting she offered Golden Gate Bridge, redwoods, Pacific Ocean and… Statue of Liberty SmileAnd then she picked up another “difficult country” for our next visit – Romania.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Week in Review–May 6, 2012

Little Wonders' DaysMay5_Superhero

School. It seems that May is a very fun month in Anna’s school. Last week they had a field trip and a walkathon. This week they had a special lesson on reptiles with live snakes, lizards and turtles and a music performance by a local music artist. Anna is still wild about her iPad, and this is what she is mostly talking about when she comes home. She keeps asking for her own iPad or a laptop.


Afterschool. I was down most of the week with a very painful inflammation in my right foot, but I started feeling better yesterday and we got out paints to do a guided painting on the canvas. The canvas painting is not exactly finished yet, but Anna really enjoyed splatter painting. Note to self – splatter painting with acrylics is not the greatest idea – an emergency bath and emergency laundry was needed directly after this activity.


Places we are going. We were hanging out a lot with the family of Anna’s best friend from school. We are hoping that the kids will stay together next year, because they click so well, and they also manage to include A’s little sister in their games. When they were at our place, I set up the melting ice experiment for them. All three kids predicted that the water would overflow when the ice melted. Their explanation of the results – the water must have evaporated! We will definitely repeat this experiment in a cool place Smile


  • Quote of the week: Anna: You know, I would really like to parachute out of an airplane.
  • Me: Why not, but it’s something to do when you are older.
  • Anna: Can we do it for my 7th birthday party? We will jump out of the plane and then go to Pump-It-Up to finish celebrating.

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