Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Little Miss Doctor

Mega is 2 years old

Mega has entered an era of enjoying pretend play.  She is really enjoying dividing up duties in our lives, telling us what to do and figuring out how the social aspects of life work.  Sometimes she will use dolls of stuffed animals to play out a situation.  Other times she enrolls us to help.   

Here are some pictures of Mega playing doctor as she cares for a couple of patients:
Checking vitals 

 taking blood pressure

 checking the ears

 a new technique - binoculars?

Uh-oh! Papa Bear needs some help! 

Looks like he is going to be ok!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sausage & Noodle Octopus

When summer vacation means kids are home more than normal it can get challenging to have to do all the cooking & meal preparation.  I've been trying to shared the load with the kids.  Here is an activity / recipe I've seen a number of times and finally was able to try!

Long, hard noodles stuck through sausage. 

 Boil the noodles as usual and they'll look a little like an octopus!

We had ours with homemade spaghetti and meatballs.
I learned that I don't like sausage in my spaghetti.  The kids, however, loved it and couldn't wait for dad to come home so he could try the leftovers!

Next time I think we'll make this with a white cream stew sauce...

Markers & Pens Storage

I've had these holder things for a while and they have moved around out kitchen a bit looking for hte perfect job to do.  A couple of weeks I figured out what the job is!

I like to keep markers & pens handy but with nowhere near enough shelf space that has been a bit tricky.  What we have an abundance of is strange wall spaces.  This one has finally been put to good use!

The holders can stand on their own or be hooked on something.  They are hooked on nails in the wall and can be easily taken off when in use.  Here is the whiteboard marker set hooked into the whiteboard.

Stencil Era

Zilla is 4 years old

A couple of weeks ago Zilla leaped into an era of loving stencils.  He found the couple that I had sitting in the art drawers and from his excitement you'd think he found gold!

One problem he quickly discovered is that stencils move when you are using them.  While you can use your hand to hold them in place, he thought that tape would work better.  However, tape would rip the paper so we settled on using blue tack / poster putty.  It worked out rather well!

After seeing he was really ready for them I pulled out the set I've been saving for this day.  It is an inexpensive one from Oriental Trading but with careful handling it works very well!

After a bit of using the stencils to create the intended designs he figured out that he can parts of various stencils combined together to make an original design.  He also discovered that markers, particularly thin ones, work better than crayons.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Heat = Fried Brains

Zilla is 4 years old
Mega is 2 years old
I'm crazy!

Here is proof that the summer heat has fried my brain...

Last week my husband was rather busy so when the kids and I found out he would be home in time for supper on Friday we talked about what would be good to make.  Normally that is our pizza and a movie night but we had pizza on Daddy's Day Off earlier in the week and we couldn't agree on a movie to watch.  Somewhere, somehow, for some unknown reason I suggested that we make lasagna from scratch - like make the noodles ourselves "scratch".  I had leftover (made from scratch) sauce which needed to be used up so this sounded like a good idea at the time.

After all, making noodles is really the same as playing with play dough, right? I found an easy enough recipe here: http://www.motherthyme.com/2011/11/lasagna-with-homemade-lasagna-noodles.html

 Zilla mixed up the dough

 We divided it into 3 parts to knead and roll

Mega was so careful with the dough!  
While cute, her technique was not very productive. 

 Here's our rolled out dough strips.  These where layered with pasta sauce and cheese, as the directions say.  I also added thinly sliced zucchini to each layer.

While fun (messy and stressful) I ran into one huge problem at the end.  When I was just about to put the top layer of noodles on Mega came into the kitchen to "help" me and ended up making a ball of the remaining dough!  I was able to pull off just enough noodles to make the top layer but oh... my... I wanted to scream/shout/yell!

 The lasagna turned out pretty well!  It tasted even better on the second day :-)

As if the homemade lasagna from scratch wasn't enough... we also made carrot cake.  The kids love it and if you substitute the oil with apple sauce (and cut out half the sugar) it can be pretty healthy!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Days 3

Zilla is 4 years old
Mega is 2 years old

We have almost reached the half way point in our summer.  Thankfully the kids and I are still enjoying our days together.  Of course they miss Daddy time but we should be able to make up some of that in the next week.  His summer schedule is often crazy/buzy but in a totally different way than his regular schedule.

Here is some of what we've been up to:

 Mega received a doll house and a few dolls for her 2nd birthday.  She was quick to assign them names/family positions.  They are named Mama, Papa, Zilla and Mega - go figure!  It is fun to watch her play as she talks/signs the whole time.  There is no questions about what she is thinking!
The doll house set matches with the yochien set that Zilla received for Christmas last year.  This kind of play is so helpful in introducing transitions in life as well as allowing roll play to help with problem identification & solving. 

Zilla has been working hard on learning to gallop and to skip.  He knows the mental aspect (what he should do, what it should look like) but has been challenged by getting his body to make the movements smoothly.  He loves that I can do them too and is now asking me to teach him to do a cartwheel!  Too bad we don't have any grass around to practice on... 

 Our regular chores (shopping at Costco - is that a chore?) include unexpected surprises such as these kitty cats...

 Or a pony at the train station!

You know your mommy used to be a lifeguard when you are the only kids at the beach who has to wear a life jacket...

Our main summer get-away plan includes a couple of days at ocean beaches (assuming the weather agrees - no typhoons, please!).  Even though Zilla takes swim lessons he's still just 4 years old.  Mega, who loves water a bit too much, has me fearing what she might try when set free in the Pacific Ocean!  Our trip to Costco put the American PFD (personal flotation device) in my hands as at a price that couldn't be beat.  I had looked at Japanese brands but found nothing that fit my level of expectations (<-- many safety regulations here are decades behind the US & some other countries). I really want to have something that will allow my kids to enjoy playing in the ocean but also give me peace of mind so that I don't spend the whole time in hyper aware lifeguard mode.  We have a life jacket for Zilla and now we have one for Meg.  I hope they will be able to enjoy playing in the ocean and building sand castles at the beach!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Days 2

Mega is 2 yrs. old
Zilla is 4 yrs. old

We are a week into summer and I think we have found a routine that is working fo us!  I have thought a lot about it over the past month.  I wanted to have time to play as I don't get to play with Zilla as much now that he is in yochien.  I also wanted to have time for structured learning to reinforce his English and to help him find some of the answers to him millions of questions.  Originally I had hoped to do a morning of homeschool with play time in the late afternoon but once the summer heat hit none of us wanted to be outside in the afternoon anymore!

Here is one of our days from this week:
On the way to the library we discovered what the yochien bus does during summer break - it gets a check-up! 

 Since the library opens at 9AM it is easy to get there before the day gets too hot.  Zilla got his first library card!

 A park near the library has this splash area which starts at 10 AM.  We lasted about a half hour before the sun got too hot.  The bike ride home took a while as we often stopped to drink water.  Zilla is good about letting me know when he needs a break.  Normally it would be a 10-15 min ride but in the heat is lasted closer to 30 min.

We got home in time for a light lunch and nap in a cool room.  Zilla actually falls asleep some days when we lay down in a cool, darkened room.  I love that I can get a little break then too!

 After the nap time we have activity time (home school) for about 3 hours till supper at 6 PM.  3 hours may seem long but with a variety of activities set out the kids can really get into what they are doing over the course of that time... and I can cook.
Zilla has been very frustrated with his kumon numbers workbook and over the past few months has tried to give up on it a number of times.  This week something clicked - if he uses the abacus to "make" the number then he understands them!  His work time was cut dramatically and he is now enjoying it.  We had to stop using the Montessori beads and number rods because Mega couldn't resist touching them - especially when Zilla was using them!

Mega working with number magnets on the fridge.  She would put them on and take them off, all the while counting in her own way. 

At some point Zilla usually asks for a tea break.  In winter we make a hot herb tea and use the "good" china.  In summer it is instant ice tea with a pastry or some cookies.  The kids enjoy setting/clearing the table and chatting while they eat.

Magic of Play Dough

If you need extra time to make supper and the kids are driving you to wits end...
 make play dough

almost a week later and any time they sit down to play they are quiet for a half hour at least with minimal fighting!  It is like magic!

I'd share the recipe but I don't really remember the details.  I had to make a number of adjustments based on supplies I had on hand... and the result is a bit more crumbly than I like so we'll probably make new play dough with a proper recipe again in a week or two.

And a note... getting the sensory table has been one of the best investments we've made for it is many uses, saves on messes and the kids love it!

Summer Days 1

Mega is 2 yrs. old
Zilla is 4 yrs. old

Here are how we are spending some of our summer days...

We are working through the "What's In The Bible" DVDs.  There are some great explanations and each DVD comes with a coloring page in the case. We have worked out way through the Pentateuch and Zilla has already learned a lot!  These DVDs are not a portrayal of Bible stories but more like a variety show (aimed at kids) which teaches about the books one at a time.  A very interesting concept and great compliment to other Bible based learning!

 This is why it is important to teach practical life activities!  
When the kids spill they know how to clean it up by themselves - and do so without having to be told to do it.  Anything that makes my life easier is one of my favorite things!!!

 We have been blowing bubbles (she's using a battery powered blower here...)

 We even cleaned and set up the pool one day.  

Now that she's two I feel more comfortable using the pool at home.  She doesn't get knocked down as easily by "brother waves" as she did last year!