Monday, December 27, 2010

A December Tradition

Our family celebrates Christmas and it has been fun keeping up some old traditions and starting new ones with our 18 month old this year. One new one is the "Book-A-Day" Advent calendar. Basically you wrap up 24 books and one is unwrapped each night. We plan to use the same collection of holiday books each year. This year we only had 21 books, so we started Dec. 4. We plan to add a book every year or two until we get to 24. Another option would be to wrap up library holiday books instead of buying them, since most library systems check out for 2-3 weeks and can be renewed online. I kept the book for Christmas Eve out of the basket; it was my husband's copy of The Night Before Christmas from his childhood. We let Owen pick any book from a basket after dinner each night. We missed a night or two due to scheduling so we ended up not opening all the books anyway. Next year we plan on numbering the first 10 and then letting the kids (!) pick the rest. Yes, I said kids! We are due in a month with our second child, a little girl. Hence the lack of posts this year. I've been a busy working pregnant momma to a toddler. It was funny how Owen ended up picking most of the board books toward the beginning of the month, and the longer picture books toward the end. The first few days he was more into the unwrapping the the reading, but by the end he would sit through the whole book. My hope was that he would go back and reread the books during the month, but that didn't happen this year. Here are some of the books from our collection.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Playdough

I have been looking forward to making homemade playdough with Owen and this week we finally did it! I used an easy recipe and we were playing with it within 15 minutes! I added Tang drink mix to the recipe for a light orange color and orange smell. Then I used a black Food Writer marker by Wilton to draw jack-o-lantern faces on the small balls. O played with some and I packaged the rest up as treat bag favors for his parent-tot class Halloween party. My first mommy project!

First mix up a batch!
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup hot water
2 T oil
add Tang or Kool-aid for desired color/smell

Roll into balls and use a Food coloring marker to create designs. This way, playdough is edible just in case. (I am lucky O. doesn't put everything in his mouth, but always nice to know he could.)

bag it up and add a cute ribbon. You can also attach the recipe if giving as a gift or favor.

Having fun with the results!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Owen's spanish language development

Owen now says agua and ojos for water and eyes. I end up speaking in Spanish about 80% of the time to him. He loves paging through books and one current favorite is an alphabet board book with realistic pictures on each page. He spends a long time turning through and pointing to two or three pictures on each page asking "uh?" or "di" or some other syllabic question meaning "What is this called?" So I name them repeatedly in Spanish. He does the same with other family members who answer in English. It seems like it might be confusing to him. I hope not.

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Friday, September 3, 2010


Our plan with Owen is to expose him to both English and Spanish at home, using the OPOL (One parent, one language) method. Before his birth, I read up on the idea (mostly on blogs of others trying the same or a different method) and at first it was pretty fun and easy. But I found myself wanting to use my mother tongue a lot. Reading to him, singing to him, naming things. Spanish was fun too, but I felt a little trapped. So I use it when I can, often translating something I just said in English to Spanish. He knows several spanish words, (especially for things he loves), like zapatos, perro, and "mira mama". He responds by finding his shoes, barking like a dog, or looking at me, so it's fun to know he is picking up the meaning. I've decided not to stress about trying to use Spanish with him 100% of the time, and to simply continue to expose him to the language and the culture. We are planning on an extended visit to South America next summer, and I know that will make a huge difference. In the meantime, we are having fun reading Spanish books, singing songs, and playing word games just for fun, like counting his bath toys in Spanish and naming the colors of things.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Relax

Friday my Kindergarten class had an Introduction to Relaxation during P.E. time, with some unexpected but delightful results.
Earlier in the week, I had the students copy a rectangle onto their writing papers, and then proceed to guess what it could be. They were used to doing this with circles and squares, but I wasn't sure what they would come up with for rectangles. One said "wagon", another said "door". I went to the cupboard and pulled out a purple rolled up yoga mat. As I unfurled it I saw the eyes around the classroom grow wide. They were hooked. I knew that just saying "It's a mat." in a room half full of English Language Learners I would not get my point across. But walking around with a life size rectangle made of squishy purple stuff? Oh, yeah.
Soon everyone was digging for their purple crayons and furiously copying the letters m-a-t onto their writing papers. There was no question about what a mat was in my room that day. A few lucky kids even got to touch it. Then I engaged them further. "Later this week, we are going to learn how to relax with these." With that I rolled it up and put it away.

Friday near the end of the morning, (it is a half-day program.) I instructed the students to sit in a circle and pulled out the mat again. I laid it out in the center of the circle and showed the children how to line up the heels of their shoes at the end of the mat so they wouldn't step on it while lying down. I modeled how to lie on your back and relax your arms and legs outward, palms facing up. How to close your eyes, and how to breathe. "Watch my stomach move up and down," I said. "Imagine there is a toy boat on it and it's floating on the waves of the ocean." (My toy boat yoga props have become bath toys for my one year old at home.) "Would anyone like to try it?" Flurries of waving fingers filled the room. As the kids each took their turn, an interesting thing began to happen. The kids began to sit cross legged around the circle and chant "mmmmm". Now granted it wasn't exactly "aum", but hey, close enough. The kicker? It was the boys who were doing this. And loving it. Can't wait to see what happens when we all get to relax at the same time next Friday.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

South American dreams

My first visit to a Spanish-speaking country was when I got on a plane by myself at age 18 and flew to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia to be a Rotary exchange student. The year was 1991. I had graduated from high school two months before, and decided to take a gap year before going to the University of Miami. I had applied and deferred a scholarship to participate in the exchange. I was armed with 10 years of Spanish classes, 1 summer at the International Language Village for Spanish in Bemidji, Minnesota (where I bunked in a cabin with a girl from Rancho Santa Fe, California who actually knew Joaquin* Phoenix and his sisters Liberty and Rainbow and his brother River, whom I adored), and a letter from my host family which was accompanied by a shadowy picture of them standing in their backyard. It was tough to make out the individual faces in the picture but one thing was sure. There were a lot of them. I would have four sisters in my new family, two of whom were already married with babies and living in the same family home. When they met me at the airport on August 26 they greeted me with hugs and flowers and I instantly became "la quinta", the fifth daughter. Eighteen years later, my host family and I keep in contact. Two sisters live with their families in the Washington D.C. area and there are cousins here in California where I now live. The experience was half a lifetime ago for me, yet it has shaped every day since. Mostly because after four months of listening so much that my ears physically hurt at the end of the day, I learned Spanish there.

I have visited other Spanish speaking countries since then, including Mexico, Spain, and Costa Rica. I have been back to Bolivia twice, in 1994 and 1997. Now that I am making the effort to speak to my 7 1/2 month old son in Spanish, it is awakening memories and a desire to travel with my family back to Bolivia for a visit. So much has changed there, politically and economically. My husband has traveled to Argentina and Chile and would be game for a trip to Bolivia. I would love to see Argentina, Chile and maybe even Peru. His paternal grandfather, Joe, retired to Costa Rica a few years ago. My husband and I visited the Christmas we got married, in 2006. We plan to bring the baby for Christmas this year. Then we can start planning our South American odyssey. The more authentic language he hears, the better!

*During that time he went by the name Leaf.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Developing Children's Intuition

"Just go with your gut," is a popular phrase that refers to the intuitive guidance provided by our bodies. "I had a gut feeling" is another. If you've ever picked up the phone and just known who was on the other end (without the benefit of caller id, that is) then you've made use of your intuitive skills. Humans have so much untapped brain power and intuition is just a tiny sliver of it. There are many ways to have fun while developing intuitive skills with kids. Guessing games are great for developing and enhancing intuition. Here is a game that is fun with groups of three or more kids. (best for ages 5-10)

1. Put a colored stone (marbles or decorator glass pebbles work great) inside a small bag.
2. Pass the bag around, encouraging the child to take their time while holding the bag to get a "sense" of what the color might be.
3. Have each child predict what color the stone is before passing the bag to the next player.
4. After everyone has had a chance, reveal the stone.

Variations: To avoid "copycatting", change the stone for each player. -or- instead of using stones, have one player visualize a color and the others write down (or use a crayon if they do not write yet) their guesses. Have players take turns visualizing.

This game stimulates brain activity and can also be played by guessing almost anything. For example:

How many pieces of mail are in the mailbox?
Who will be the next person to call or email?
What animal, number, letter, or object am I thinking of?

Developing intuition is all about trusting your instincts; that inner knowing. People often second-guess their first feelings about something, but it can be highly beneficial to attune to the signals of this guidance. In some cases, it even saves lives. There are dozens of stories about people who followed a hunch to not board a plane that later crashed. By playing guessing games and helping children learn to trust themselves, they will be that much more prepared for all the decisions and demands required of them as they grow.

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Friday, January 1, 2010


Twinkle: verb (of a star or light, or a shiny object)* shine with a gleam that varies repeatedly between bright and faint
noun *a sparkle or gleam in a person's eyes
* a light that appears to continually grow fainter and brighter

Spanish: papadear (star, light) brillar (eyes)

Twinkle is my theme word for 2010. For the past three years, I have selected a word to focus on for the year. In 2008, it was "sparkle". In 2009, it was "bounce". I wanted to be more resilient. This year, I selected twinkle, mostly because it is a synonym for sparkle and I loved feeling sparkly all year. Looking for the glitter in life. I am looking for a balance between inner and outer focus, so twinkle seemed appropriate because it incorporates the brightness and the faint, quiet glow of each. What is your theme word for 2010?

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