February and the Beginning of Spring Fever

It’s Minnesota and 18 degrees. Like it has been for weeks. It has been a long winter here, with the weather snowy and cold since November. Now that it’s February, we feel entitled to have some weather hinting spring will arrive someday. You know..temperatures above 30 degrees would be amazing! My husband could retire his coat for the season! (I’m serious, by the way. The man was made for cool weather. His coat looks brand new and he’s had it for as long as I’ve known him.)

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It’s this time of year that I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t plant something. This year I am channeling this planting energy into lesson plan! Tada!

 

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Audrey is about as excited about planting as she is about everything at this age, which makes every new thing exciting and fun. We started out by scouring the kitchen for anything we could plant. We finally decided on garlics. We took a plastic bottle and filled it with damp paper towels, then stuck two garlic bulbs in. Within 2 days we saw the start of roots! Two more days and those roots were shooting out of the bulb! A week and we had some green popping out of the top. So exciting!

 

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You can do this with any type of seed. Garlic is great because it pops roots very fast!

 

 

 

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All done! One garlic on each side.

 

 

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This was day four, I believe. This garlic was VERY excited about growing.

After the roots established themselves, we planted them in some good starter soil! When we pulled the garlic out of their paper towel pot, we talked about where the roots were, where the stem was, and why plants need soil too. She loved planting them!

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They each got their own little pot. Happy plants!

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They grew a LOT in just one day after we put them in soil!

We continue to watch them flourish and grow! When they grow out of these little makeshift pots, I will put them in a long window box, perhaps, and plant a few more. We love garlic in this house. It completes us.

While all of this exciting hands-on planting went on, I wanted to really connect in her mind that what was happening in front of us (seed is planted, seed is watered, seed begins to grow, etc.) happens to most other plants, and is a natural process. We made a little picture chart to remind us all of the things that plants need to grow!

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Three key ingredients to make a plant flourish: soil, water, and sunshine!

We used cocoa powder to make the dirt because we didn’t have really anything better to use. Coffee grounds or actual soil might be better next time. Cocoa powder is MESSY! This was also a great exercise in gluing things together. I saw this idea on Pinterest where you use a cupcake liner for the flower. Isn’t this great?

As our little garlic was growing, we decided to do some more planting, thanks to Walmart, who has a million seed packets for sale right now, along with lots and lots of gardening supplies! Audrey and I each picked out some seeds to plant and we came home and talked about how flower seeds needed soil, water, and eventually sunshine to grow.

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We carefully watered them each day, but through a mysterious and unfortunate event, I ended up vacuuming them up off the floor…

Next, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the parts of a flowering plant!

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I cut out the pieces and together we glued them on a piece of paper. After we finished, I pointed to each part and asked her if she knew what it was. The roots she knew right off the bat. We labeled them and moved on until everything had a label. Prominently hung on our fridge, the chart reminds us to go over the names of the parts of the plant whenever we notice it. Kids memorize this stuff in no time at all!

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A lot of school right now is playtime. What better way to learn how a table is set and how to use proper manners than a tea party? This is my dream come true – having a tea party with my daughter and her very favorite stuffed friends. This was a Christmas gift from her Mimi. Since then, we have been enjoying tea parties most every day!

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And because we live at a big hockey/figure skating school, whenever we can catch some free ice time, we use that opportunity as well!

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She loved it! And this time Miss A. figured out how to slide forward a little!

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Charting the weather continues to be a daily event. I have to ask her if she sees sun, clouds, wind moving the trees, snow or rain falling from the clouds, etc. My hope is that with enough practice, she goes through the list by herself and can do the weather chart all on her own, if need be.

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So many trains to play with!

If you live near the Twin Cities, I recommend you set aside some time one day to visit Choo – Choo Bob’s train store (2050 Marshall Ave, St Paul, MN). This place is amazing – even if your kid isn’t into trains. They have little moving model trains running on some very interesting tracks, lots of different train related toys – even the sets that cost hundreds of dollars! And the best part? The back of the store.

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All set up for kids to play on!

Complete sets with glued down tracks for kids to play with. I think I saw eight different tables, all surrounded by bench seating for parents. We spent an hour or two relaxing while Audrey jumped from table to table, exploring all of the different train worlds. I believe they do birthday parties and even have a story time in the mornings. And all of this, my friends, is free.

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And painting! She asks to paint every day. I need to buy this stuff in bulk, now.

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With the new year came the feast day of Saint Basil. He is a very much beloved Orthodox saint and we celebrate his feast on January 1 (old calendar)/January 14 (new calendar) with the traditional Vasilopita (Saint Basil’s cake). . This tradition is kept in honor and remembrance of one of Saint Basil’s miracles. Long ago, a spiteful emperor demanded a large tax on Caesarea. The people donated as much money as they could in hopes to spare their home from destruction upon the emperor’s return from war. While away, the emperor was slain. After praying about it, the saint baked all of the tax money into large “pitas,” or cakes. When the people came to church, they each received a piece of Vasilopita, and miraculously found inside the exact amount of coins they had been taxed! Exactly everything was returned to them in this way. It’s a very interesting story to read about. So! This year, for the first time, we tried making our own. Now, the tradition is to put a coin, wrapped in foil, into the cake batter before you bake it. Audrey loves this part. Once baked, you bring it to church and the priest says a special prayer over it. The first cut piece is dedicated to our Lord, the second to the Theotokos, the third to Saint Basil, and finally the rest is cut for the faithful to enjoy. It’s a special blessing to whoever gets the hidden coin in their piece. And also very exciting for the kids!

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Saint Basil’s Cake “Vasilopita”

INGREDIENTS
2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups sugar, and 1/4 cup separately
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Set oven to 325°. In a large bowl, mix butter, oil, and 1 2/3 cups of sugar until smooth. Add egg yolks, vanilla, and yogurt. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add to first mixture, along with yogurt; mix well. Set aside. Whip together egg whites and salt until foamy, then beat in 1/4 cup sugar. Continue beating until stiff. Fold into first mixture. Pour into greased 9″ round. Insert coin wrapped in foil. Decorate with sliced almonds. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover in foil and bake another 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

(Recipe adapted from www.orthodoxmom.com)

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Signing out for now!

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December Week Three

This week has been a count down. 4 days until Daddy is on winter break. 3 days…2 days…last day! And today, Friday, Audrey woke up and guess who was still home? And I must say, I am very proud of us for doing school on a day when Andrew is home. The temptation to sleep in with him, to laze around and binge-watch Bones, and blow off all cleaning efforts is intense. However, it is also fun to show him what we do on a “normal” day of school. My husband takes an active interest in Audrey’s budding intellect. He himself is rather bright (and I’m not just saying that. The man can do ridiculous math in his head and carry on deep, insightful conversations that well surpass myself and many others. Okay, AND I’m saying it because he’s my husband and I’m proud of him. Full disclosure here.)

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Isn’t he cute?

CREATIVITY

I want to incorporate some shape and color recognition into our crafts, just to see where she is now versus two months ago, which is the last time we really did anything on colors. So! One project we tried I saw here. You simply cut out three candy canes and adhere them to a sheet of paper. Then you cut out your three different shapes (we did triangles, circles, and squares) in different sizes. I chose to glue an example of what shape I wanted on each candy cane. It was up to Audrey to sort out the different shapes from a pile and place them on the appropriate candy cane.

 

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Yes, I thoughtlessly glued the wrong side of the last candy cane. Great job, Mom.

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She loved it! Unfortunately, I don’t think it challenged her enough. She whipped through it! Andrew suggested we try pentagons, octagons, and squares. Shapes she has to distinguish upon closer inspection.

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Tada! All in less than two minutes..

 

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Another project we did was make a little hand wreath for our Christmas card door. We made a smaller one, similar to this idea. At Audrey’s age, she did very little, and I did a lot. But in the end, she was very proud that we made a wreath out of her hands.

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I think it turned out very festive!

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ORTHODOXY

Every morning, as soon as we are ready for the day, Audrey and I say morning prayers. They are short, and Audrey usually sings her own version (with the aid of a church book of her choice) of “Lord have meeeeercy” through them. I want her to get into the habit of starting and ending her day with prayer.

The feast of Saint Nicholas was Thursday. We love Saint Nicholas – not to be confused with Santa Claus. The Orthodox celebrate Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker as a bishop who was known for his love for others, which he practiced especially through alms-giving. An excerpt from his life many people know is the story of the three poor girls, whose father, out of desperation, planned to sell them into the life of prostitution. Saint Nicholas tossed a bag of money through their window at night, three different times (one bag for each girl.) It was enough for the father to use as a dowry and he married off each one of his girls, not knowing who this secret benefactor was. In the end, the father discovered it was the bishop, and Saint Nicholas made him promise not to tell anyone. Even after his repose, the blessed saint has appeared to and helped many people. The Orthodox love him very much.

So you can see why we make a big deal on his feast day! This year, Audrey and I made Saint Nicholas cookies to give away to friends at the school and church. I found a great dairy-free recipe for sugar cookies here. I mean, they are AMAZING. It’s hard to find a good recipe for cookies during the fast. We personally dislike the taste of soy-made dairy substitutes. I frosted them with Pillsbury icing we bought from the store, which, should you care to know, is also dairy-free and amazing. I tried to make them look like the icon…but..there is only so much you can do before things start to look confusing.

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Isn’t it cute? You can buy the cookie cutter here. I bought the Austrian one and bent the Catholic bishop’s hat into a circular Orthodox bishop’s hat. The copper is super bendable! 

We went to a beautiful vespers on Wednesday evening, to kick off the celebration. Thursday, after Andrew came home from his half day of work, we sat down as a family and read the life of Saint Nicholas. Then we ate cookies and opened a few very small gifts (again, this isn’t Christmas. By giving little gifts we carry on the spirit of giving of Saint Nicholas.)

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The cat, of course, had to be a part of everything.

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For the life of me, I couldn’t find Audrey’s Saint Nicholas book from our little collection of the Paterikon for Kids. Maybe next year! It’s nice to have the pictures for little ones. And next year we will be reading the life to Audrey and baby B. If you have young children, you ought to purchase this set! It’s a little spendy for laminated paper books…but they cover so many important feasts/saints!

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NUMBERS

Not a whole lot new going on here. Audrey is a flash cards kid, and she picked out her numbers flash cards, most days. We practiced counting dots, recognizing numerals, and spelling the number names. We have started practicing numbers in the 20’s.

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After reading the Well Trained Mind, my husband has been very excited about giving Audrey lots of math things to memorize even far in advance before she will be able to use them. This is the age of mass memorization, why not lay out a few foundations? So we ask Audrey every day, or whenever we think of it, “what is the inverse of addition?” and she answers, “subtraction!” “What’s the inverse of subtraction?” “Addition!” She has it down, and she is VERY excited. Now we ask her the inverse of multiplication/division. It doesn’t mean anything to her now. In a few years, it will make my job of explaining mathematical concepts to her a little easier!

I knew a 4 year old who could recite the Greek alphabet completely. It was his little party trick. He loved impressing people for his parents. Feed your kids information, folks. They can handle lots of it!

LETTERS

Since Audrey seems to be getting her letters down, I thought, “Why not introduce a few sight words?” Why not. From this idea, I formed my own toddler-friendly version. Who doesn’t like ice cream? I cut out four ice cream cones and glued them to white paper. Then I laminated it to help it hold up under heavy use (one use, really, is heavy use.)

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Next, I cut out different colored ice cream scoops – three to each cone. Each cone gets a word, each scoop gets a word, and you have the kid match the three ice cream scoops to the matching cone, for a delicious, non-edible treat.

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Different fonts are nice, but in retrospect, I would have used lower case AND upper case letters.

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This exercise was pretty challenging. She wasn’t looking at the letters in the words, really..

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So it turns out this was pretty challenging for her. She understood “I” because it was simply a letter out of the alphabet to her, and eventually she started to see “is.” The words “and” and “see” she often confused. Whenever she picked up an ice cream scoop, we spelled out the word, sounded out the word, said the word, then looked for the cone with the matching word. I’m going to pull out this exercise every day because although she is young to be doing sight words, really, I think continuing to practice letters will get old to her because she knows them so well already. Onward and upward!

I caught Audrey doing her alphabet train all by herself the other day. It was heartwarming. Kids really do have amazing powers of learning and they love to exercise them.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

December Week 2

Finally, a “normal” week with nothing extraordinary that happened. Andrew went to work (he had been out 2 weeks over Thanksgiving break, thanks to the flu turned into pneumonia) and Audrey and I spent most of our time at home! It wont be long though. Eastern Orthodox Nativity is celebrated January 7, and there are lots of things to do before then!

NUMBERS

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Oh numbers. We love numbers here. This week I made a little game for us to play, which I saw here. You basically draw a little man on a piece of paper, and fill him with numbers 1 through 6, multiple times. I made two of these – one for me and one for miss A. To play, roll the dice. Whatever number faces up, say you get to look for that number on your paper and color it in. Whoever colors in all of their numbers first wins! Audrey loved rolling the dice (which, it turns out, we do not have…so the resourceful mom that I am, I went to the app store on  our iPad and downloaded a free dice app. It worked just fine, I say to myself, smugly).

We also pulled out the parking lot game, which I mentioned in a previous post. This time around, with a few more months behind her, A really focused on this one. She loved driving her cars into the right spaces, and I think I will make a new parking lot page with numbers 11-20 to challenge her further. We also discovered that one of her cars, when pulled backwards on the coffee table, will roll forwards on its own. Very exciting.

CREATIVITY

Nativity is coming up. My husband could no longer hold me back. This week our tree went up! Audrey and I both spent an hour decorating it, and since then, A and the cat have spent hours un-decorating it. Needless to say, the tree has been a very exciting center of attraction as of late. We have conversations about it with every person we meet.

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For a creative project this week, I gave her materials to make and decorate her own little trees! There were different ones for different days. We practiced cutting and gluing and glittering (well, to an extent..) She loved having her hand traced! (Adapted from this blog.)

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First, I drew an outline of her hand on some green paper. Then I let her dot on ornaments with a Q-tip and 3 colors of paint. When the paint was dry, we cut out the hands, layered them on top of one another, and glued them on a black background. Further decorating with pom poms was inevitable.

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We also experimented with ornament making. I glued 3 Popsicle sticks into the shape of a snowflake, and gave them to A to paint. Before the paint was dry, we sprinkled glitter on them. Later I glued a loop of yarn on the backs so we could hang them on the tree. THAT was exciting. In retrospect, I would wait for the paint to dry, smear a light layer of glue all over it, THEN sprinkle on the glitter. An egregious amount of shimmer has fallen off some of the ornaments.

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Audrey desperately wants to cut with scissors. I don’t care for this style, but we have them now, so I suppose until I remember to buy the kind I prefer, we will use these. Basic cutting skills! I gave Audrey a few strips of paper that I drew certain types of lines on, and told her to cut on the lines. (Adapted from this blog.)

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Now, that isn’t exactly what she did…but it was the process that was important! For her first time…not too shabby!

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We tried bubble wrap painting too! That was a LOT of fun, but warning: it will use up a lot of paint… We later cut the cool parts out into shapes and made a little card for Daddy. All you do is tape a piece of bubble wrap (bubble side up!) on your work space, and hand your child a plate of different colored paints. Have them paint directly onto the bubble wrap. We used our hands, because…why not! Then you take white paper and lay it over painted bubble wrap. Tada! It looks so cool.

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LETTERS

I made some simple flash cards to introduce her to her upper and lower case letters. I laid out the uppercase, which she is already familiar with, and gave her a pile of the lower case letters. She had to match the lower case with the uppercase. Since Audrey seems to be very interested in objects having mommys and daddys, and those objects being reunited with such parentals, this was an easy game for her to get into. We had to match all of the baby letters with their daddys.

I also introduced…the alphabet train! I found the idea here and loved the concept. I made a few changes of my own.

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Instead of lower case letters only, I made my train cars have upper case letters, and the wheels lower case letters. That way we could continue to practice matching lc with uc. Also, instead of taping the wheels on as we did the activity, I cut up a clear plastic paper sleeve into pockets which I slipped over the base of each car and taped to the back. Now, we can take the wheels out of the pockets and do the game over and over!

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This activity really challenged Miss A. A few letters are very similar to other letters. Letters m and w, u and n, for example. We talked about this and I decided to let her interpret which one each is.

SENSORY

What can I say. Sometimes the most simple things are the best..

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The WEATHER continues to be a daily activity.. We try to be as accurate as we can.

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That’s all for now!

October through November

Hello! Yes, it’s been a while. We have been up to some fun stuff! Audrey, through her enthusiasm to learn her letters has been spelling words wherever she sees them – our shirts, the bag of flour in the kitchen, signs, books, you name it! She has the capital letters of the alphabet down pat. So this week I made some uppercase flash cards and lowercase flash cards. We have been playing a matching game. There are lots of ways to practice matching letters, but we started out with flash cards. Maybe we will move on to a different game next week. For now it seems to keep her attention! The next step, I think, will be the sound letters make and beginning sight words. I am so excited.

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No matter what we do, if there is a name or word involved, I try to encourage Audrey to spell it. For instance, I made a bunch of number cards in an effort to help her understand that the sound “eight” has a number and quantity attached to it. The cards have the number, the word, and appropriate number or dots. Even if she knows the number by sight, we always count the dots and spell its name. We still seem to be having a problem with her skipping dots or adding when she counts them.

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Crafts have been a hit every time we do them. In celebration of winter, we recently made puff paint! If you have never made this amazing stuff before, you ought to try it. TODAY. I promise it will be a hit. All you do is squirt some shaving cream into a bowl, squirt in a gob of white glue, food coloring if so desired, and lightly mix. It dries puffy! I first came across this at Audrey’s early childhood class when we made puffy snowmen. At home, we decided to use black paper, puff paint for snow clouds, white paint and a Q-tip to dot on some snowflakes, and put on a finishing touch of white glitter.

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Audrey made two different “scenes” before we ran out of time that day and had to move on to other things. She showed her apparent displeasure at having to move on through tears. We are working on this.

Another festive winter activity we did was make “snow.” This idea I saw on Pinterest and finally decided to do it! WARNING: This is a very messy sensory activity. I recommend you don’t try this if you plan on having company over or have to take your kids out anywhere soon after. By the end I wasn’t sure if there was more “snow” on the floor or Audrey.

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So here is what you do! (Taken from http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com)

SNOW

1. Empty 2 boxes of cornstarch into a box, plastic container, tub, or any other container you have lying around. A lid comes in handy if you want to be able to keep your “snow” to use another day. I just transferred it to a Ziplock tub to store it for later.

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2. Add the shaving cream to your cornstarch. I used the whole can. Non-scented is a good idea.

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3. Let the little ones mix the cornstarch and shaving cream together until it forms a crumbly powder that sticks together if you form it into a ball. If it won’t stick together, just add a little more shaving cream.

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It’s messy as you mix it, but once it’s good and combined, it’s not bad. I gave Audrey a cup and large spoon and it kept her busy at least an hour. Again, tears when we had to clean it up and put it away. Many tears. Apparently there was a snow castle still in progress.

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Audrey really likes talking about the weather. Our morning conversations first thing tend to sound like this, “Mommy, bit nippy outside!” or, “It’s cold day.” and even, “It’s raaaaaining!” The parent in me decided to channel this enthusiasm into a daily project, so I made a weather chart! If you have felt hanging around the house, you can make one pretty easily. I simply cut out a sun, clouds, wind, rain, lighting, and snow flakes out of my scraps of felt, and hung a sheet of felt on the wall to stick them on.

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We look out the window every morning, see what the weather is like, and put the right weather on our chart. As an after thought (always encourage that word recognition!) I added the name of each weather condition. I think it turned out well. Audrey LOVES this activity, and I think it will lead nicely into a science program later on.

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Gymnastics seems to be the highlight of our week. Faribault Gymnastics just moved to a new gym and things are looking good! I think the space flows much better. I caught Audrey practicing “good gymnastics toes” in the bath the other day. I’m glad she is putting in the extra effort. 😉

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Shattuck’s Mandarin for Babies program has really brought out the social butterfly in Audrey. The senior kids run it with the help of other kids who are looking to fulfill community service hours. Audrey really enjoys being with her big kid friends AND she has learned some words. The main idea of the program is to get kids used to hearing the sounds of the language spoken, as the inflections of the words are very important in Chinese. Every Friday we head over to the middle school campus, and Audrey says, “Chinese children!!” I have to say, I wouldn’t give up life at the boarding school for anything. My daughter is forming relationships with kids of all ages, from every different culture.

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Since I haven’t updated the blog in a while, I think I will just post a few pictures of things we have done in the past few months:

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Finger painting breakthrough! Audrey now LOVES having her hands covered in paint. In fact, it may be her favorite craft.

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Practiced cutting with some toddler scissors I bought. They ended up hindering her more than anything. I’m just going to forget them and buy some preschool scissors. Anyway, we made an owl! There was some gluing practice involved as well.

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As the leaves began to change I thought it might be fun to do a little nature walk around campus one morning. Collecting leaves from under every different tree proved to be very exciting…

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…until we arrived at the playground…

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And by the way, at 18 weeks we had THE ultrasound! The one where you find out boy or girl. Or both, if you are having twins (we are not.)

20 weeksAnd it’s…. a GIRL! From now on she will be referred to as Baby B. As of this week we are 20 weeks and 1 day. Half way through, baby!

Thanks for reading!

Big Steps: Potty Training!

Wednesday I looked into my diaper drawer. Five left. That wouldn’t last very long. So the question was: do I spend $30 on another month’s worth of diapers OR should I give potty training another try? I say “another try” because this same consideration pops into my head every six months or so. Every time ends in Audrey not trained and me covered in pee. It hasn’t been pleasant. However! The inspiration and high hopes had returned! So we gave it a try. Through Pinterest I found an amazing blog by Krysta Casey featuring a post on this potty training method the blogger used on her kids. I read it and decided to give it a try.

You can find it at:  http://www.themoesfamilyintexas.blogspot.com/search/label/Potty%20Training

So here is what we did.

First, we played with Baby. Baby got to wear big girl panties today! All of the sudden I jumped up and said, “Audrey! Baby has to go potty!!” So we both ran Baby to the potty, pulled her panties off, and popped her on the potty!

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Using an infant nasal un-plugger we got when Audrey was born, I sucked up some water with it and hid it behind Baby. From Audrey’s point of view it looked like Baby was REALLY going pee on the potty. Audrey was ecstatic. We made a BIG deal out of Baby’s success and gave the doll some chocolate chips as a reward. Back to playing. Soon (with the help of the nasal un-plugger, of course) Baby had an accident on the floor! Oh no!! We ran with her to the potty shouting “No pee pee on the floor, pee pee in the potty!!” over and over. Baby sat on the potty. Whew!

I had been pumping her full of watered down juice, milk, and water since she woke up so she would have a full little bladder. A few minutes of playing in our dining room and we again took baby to the potty while chanting, “No pee pee on the floor, pee pee in the potty!!” over and over. Baby did it! Next it was Audrey’s turn. She hopped onto the potty. Success! I pretty much exploded with happiness. There was dancing. After she wiped, and got her pants up, we flushed the potty and waved “bye bye” to the disappearing water. Audrey got to pick 2 chocolate chips as a reward. She lives for chocolate chips.

I set our ladybug kitchen timer for 15 minutes and we stayed over hard floor, playing and reading and drawing until the timer went off. Wouldnt you know it, Baby had to go potty! We ran her to the potty. Audrey wanted to go after baby did, and did pee! We did this all day, eventually taking Baby out of the process and simply running Audrey to the potty. I wrote each time down, success or fail.

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Now, eventually there was an accident. We ran to the potty chanting, “No pee pee on the floor, pee pee in the potty!!” Onto the seat! Success! I went through  most of the day not knowing that the key to this blogger’s success was repeatedly chanting and running back and forth from the accident to the potty, 10 times. This gives the child repetition. Thankfully, my child has learned to survive through my silliness. At the end of the day we were running back and forth 10 times every accident. I think it really clicked for her during this time.

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Nap time happened at the usual time after lunch. Krysta Casey suggests going all in. No more diapers. (I had to find my plastic covers, so we DID use a diaper the first day for nap and night time, but that was it.) After this first day it only got better. Day 2 we treated like usual – no extra liquids – but we did try to avoid carpet. I think she did pretty well!

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By day 3 I stopped keeping track of times, and simply asked her every so often if she had to go potty. She still received a LOT of attention for using the potty successfully, and I rewarded her with chocolate chips. At the end of the day she wanted to call her Aunt Tatiana and tell her about it. It was an exciting day.

Now, after a few nights and nap times where she had dry panties when she woke up, we no longer feel the need to use the plastic covers. I took the towels and extra blankets off her bed (I didn’t want to have to change her sheets every time there was an accident) and we see her, completely on her own, run up to the potty and use it! Yesterday was completely accident free. It hasn’t even been a week and she is doing so well! Soon we will retire the reinforced panties and buy her a second pack of regular panties. They will probably also be Hello Kitty. Cats are a favorite for her right now.

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After day 2 we even held a little celebration ceremony where we took every thing diapers out of Audrey’s room and put them in a storage closet. No more diapers, wipes, changing pad and covers, portable changing pad from my purse, diaper geanie, or little potty training singing potty (which we never used…) She is a BIG GIRL now!

SO! If you are planning on giving potty training a go with your 2 to 2 1/2 year old, I highly recommend you read Krysta’s blog. Read her replies to the comments as well. This method worked so well for us, and very quickly. We have one very independent big girl now! I can’t express how proud I am of her (and how happy I am not to have to change any more diapers!)

Week Two

I learned a lot from week one about how much concentrated learning Audrey would do in one morning. Some days she would do numbers, letters, and something creative. Some mornings she could only sit through  numbers. The nice thing about this age group is that it’s no big deal if you only get to one thing that day! Some days the kid will handle more than others. The important thing, I think, is to keep it enjoyable for her and let her go play if she is clearly not paying attention to the activity at hand. There will be a day and age when she needs to be able to sit still and train herself to concentrate on her school work, but that won’t be for a few years!

This week we planned very similarly to the last. I don’t want to move on to new things until I see she has solidly understood the present.

 

Every Day: Morning prayers, read at least 5 books, and a creative activity. 
LETTERS: A through E

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Have her point out each letter in order and say it

Match foam letters to corresponding flash cards (I promise to tell you what works and what doesn’t. I started out with felt letters and she stretched them all out! I remembered I had these foam bath letters I had bought from Walmart for maybe $4? They are great because they are solid! The pack came with numbers 1-9, so we use them for counting too.) [http://cloisteredaway.com/2013/04/19/pre-school-at-home/]

Have her put shuffled letters into order

At the very end of the week she really had her letters down, so I added “F” and “G.” On a whim, I also taught her the sounds each letter makes. I hope that by the end of next week she can say the letter’s name, visually recognize the letter itself, and say the sound(s) it makes. 

NUMBERS: 1 through 5

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Parking lot numbers game [http://www.littlefamilyfun.com/2010/02/parking-lot-numbers.html]
Recognize foam numbers 1 through 3

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Use pennies to show “how many” each number represents; mix and match

The parking lot game, I think, is a great idea. You draw a parking lot on a piece of paper and number each space. Then you ask her to park her toy car in the space with X number.  Audrey did it for a few minutes and then lost interest in anything other than driving her car up my arm. I think we will try this after a few weeks when she has memorized numbers 1 – 10 visually.

Using pennies with the foam numbers proved to be a hit. She asked to play this game over and over. First, I put the numbers out on the floor, in order, and asked her to identify them. This refreshed her memory as to what each number looked like. Then I had her put the right number of pennies next to each number. She still has trouble with it at the end of the week, so we may still be working on numbers 1 – 3 again next week so she has it down before we add number 4. Next, I mixed up the numbers and had her put the right number of pennies with each number. After a few times of that, I gave her the numbers and I laid out the pennies. She had to count each group to see what number went with them.
CREATIVE:

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Fall tree painting with Pom poms and finger paint [http://www.buzzfeed.com/popsugarmoms/the-best-toddler-crafts-for-little-hands-arr7?sub=2238260_1187808]

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Make a blue flower

I tend to start the day out with a concentrating activity (memorization with numbers or letters), then let her do something creative before heading into another concentrating activity. It gives her a break.

PROBLEM SOLVING:

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Gather random items, outline them on paper, and have her put the items in their outlines [http://www.cbc.ca/parents/2013/01/play-date-idea-homemade-shape-puzzle.html]

This activity really captured her interest and was…are you ready? Free! You can do as many of these as you want! 

This week was also her very first class in gymnastics. At first she didn’t want to do anything. This is my child – she has to observe before she jumps in. Once she started doing the balance beam, and then realized that most of the other things included bouncing, she was off! The kid had a blast. She went through the entire obstacle course by herself and at the very end didn’t want to go. I’m so glad this is working out! Because we live at a boarding school and eat most of our meals at the dining hall, I don’t worry about socialization for Audrey. She has a bunch of other kids around to play with after dinner, and we always sit with other people during meals. It is nice though, to have some play time at gymnastics where she learns to wait in line, listen to other people’s instructions, and make new friends! The whole gym is like a huge trampoline. How can you NOT want to spend 40 minutes out of your Tuesday there? Next year she will be three, and old enough for figure skating lessons. I know her father has planned fencing in her future too! OK. Enough day dreaming for now! Thanks for reading!

Okay, Here We Go: Week One

WEEK ONE: This first week I introduced home schooling. I planned each activity to last about ten minutes, which turned out pretty accurate. She did very well and I can tell you each activity we did was a hit. Except finger painting. The idea of getting her fingers wet looked obviously repulsive to her! That’s okay! Thankfully I had bought some paint brushes.  [Lesson planning time: 40 minutes]

Oh yeah, and I spent $60 at Walmart buying a bunch of cool stuff in the craft aisle. I planned to use it for every area of learning, not just creativity.

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Every Day: Morning prayers, read at least 5 books, creative. (Note: we ended up doing all of these activities every day because she wanted to do them!)

LETTERS: A through E

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Have her point out each letter in order and say it

Match felt letters to corresponding flash cards (http://cloisteredaway.com/2013/04/19/pre-school-at-home/)
Sing alphabet song

NUMBERS: 1 through 5

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Count pom poms

Have her sort pom poms into cups with corresponding numbers
Stack blocks and count them

CREATIVE: Colors

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Finger painting on blank paper

Coloring with markers

Introduce blue by making a butterfly with colored paper and other monochromatic crafty stuff (pom poms, pipe cleaners, finger paint, stickers, glitter). Talk about the color blue and have her find other blue things in the house. Throughout the day, ask her what color the butterfly she made is.

Introduce green by making a butterfly as before.

Home Schooling Plan

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Having read through Chapter 4, “Unlocking the Doors: The Preschool Years” in The Well-Trained Mind, and spending an inappropriately extensive time perusing Pinterest, I put together an over-all plan for the first few months. These are my initial thoughts of “organized play” for my two year old.
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Areas of learning: Reading, Orthodox life, creativity, letters and numbers, physical activity, colors, and problem solving
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Every Day
Reading – Simply reading at least five books a day. This can be five different books, or one book over and over. Repetition is good for young minds and helps with sight words later on.
Orthodox Life – Morning, evening, and meal time prayers and weekly church services.  Later, memorization and recognition activities.
Creativity – Have organized and free time planned, do different types of art and have on hand lots of different stuff to make things with, as well as different media. Have a few days planned for the current season.
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Monday/Thursday
Letters and Numbers – Practice visual recognition and begin hand writing, sing the alphabet song, count stairs as well as anything else we see, practice putting scrambled letters and numbers into order, combine with arts and crafts creativity.
Story Time at the local library
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Tuesday – gymnastics
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Wednesday/Friday
Colors – Naming the colors, recognizing objects and being able to say what colors they are, using crayons or whatever to color in the right hue for different objects, combine with arts and crafts creativity.
Problem solving – Challenge her with different types of puzzles and shape recognition and matching, learning prime and composites.