Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tot School - The Letter M

We hung out with the letter M this week - here's what we did:Art & Music:
We made a mosaic M and painted an M using marbles. James threw me for a loop on both of these projects. I wasn't expecting him to stay focused on putting the little squares of paper on the mosaic grid, yet he did. And then I thought he'd love the marble painting, but nope - he only wanted to play with the marbles. :)

We checked out an art exhibit featuring various masks - it was really neat!

James and I rocked out with his big box of music instruments. Here he is shaking the maracas on his head. Such a funny little guy; always making me laugh!

Letters & Numbers:
One day James asked me to write numbers on sheets of paper so he could jump on them. :) Seriously, he came up with this "game" all on his own. I was so impressed! He jumped around *shouting* out each number as he landed on it.

I had prepared a mitten number sequencing activity, but James though he'd use them to practice his tearing skills instead. :(

We read the Alphatales book, Monkey's Miserable Monday, as well as On The Moon, by Anna Milbourne, and Magic Thinks Big, by Elisha Cooper (such a cute read - cat lovers will appreciate this book).

James spent a lot of time with the M drawer from our alphabet box. The objects are: millipede, monkey, milk, mouse, and moose.

Also on the shelves were the Melissa & Doug See & Spell puzzles. LOVE these.

Science & Nature:
I pulled out our space flashcards and found several that begin with the letter M: Moon, Mars, Mercury, Meteor, and Milky Way. These cards are awesome - very real looking and on the back there are lots of facts about each photo. James would turn the cards over and pretend to read. :)

James can find and name a good handful of the US states, so we added to this by finding all the M states: Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Montana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and, our favorite, Minnesota. :)

Of course I had to do a little something extra for my home state, so we read this awesome book: V is for Viking, A Minnesota Alphabet. This book is part of a series that has a book for each US state. While hunting for this link for where to purchase this series, I ran across this site too - it looks to be an amazing resource for anyone teaching older children about the US.

Other activities:
James really enjoyed his M themed muffin tin meal which included: melon, milk, marshmallow, meat, macaroni & mango.

This winter playscene was a big hit - James played with it nearly every day!

These pattern blocks are really fun!

I made a "mommy puzzle" for James to put together. He really liked this and on more than one occasion I found him carrying around my smile. :) Such a sweetie!

Of course we did lots of Montessori activities, too - we had a lesson on magnetic vs. non-magnetic items, James poured macaroni, spooned Mung beans, and helped me make muffins. These activities, as well as several others, can be found in tomorrow's Montessori Monday post.

I'll be holding off on letters for the next couple of weeks while we focus on Valentines! Yay for hearts and all things red and pink!

Visit Carisa's blog to see what others are doing with their children.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm Baaack!

I had a wonderful bloggy break, and I got a lot done in the evenings (when I normally blog).

  • finished my Craft Hope scarf,
  • made LOTS of fun things out of felt (I'll be posting about these soon),
  • planned a ton of Valentine activities for the next two weeks,
  • got waaaay ahead in my study schedule for my Montessori training,
  • responded to loads of emails,
  • prepped and mailed out all (20!) of the Postcard Exchange postcards,
  • watched the entire 5th season of LOST in preparation for Tuesday's episode (SO excited!)
  • and I even managed to get on the treadmill a couple of times. :)
My hubs also rebuilt my laptop and upgraded everything, so I took some time to get acquainted with my new programs. Oh and best of all - my sweet man fixed my commenting problem!! Yay!!

So, a good week to be sure. Funny thing though... even though I got a lot accomplished, I didn't find my break as liberating as I thought I would. Truth be told I really, really missed blogging and I found myself just writing posts in my head instead. And, as you may have noticed (from Wednesday's post), I couldn't even stay away a whole week anyway. :)

I'm so glad to be back and I'll be posting every day this week to make up for lost time! Hooray!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

I interrupt this bloggy break because I'm excited to share something with you (also, I miss blogging... it's only been 4 days, but sheesh, seems like forever)...

It's finished! The Craft Hope scarf (and my very first knitting project) turned out to be a success!

I learned a lot while making this scarf - about knitting and patience. :) I made several mistakes and I had to start over a few times, but in the end it came together nicely.

I laugh when I look at the beginning of the scarf {note: I still have to weave the ends in}...This is when I was still concentrating on every.single.stitch and when my tension was all over the place.

Compared to the end of the scarf...
This is when my knitting needles were cruising with confidence and my tension was (mostly) consistent.

To be honest, I'm almost embarrassed to send this to the charity center. Hopefully the person who receives it will take one look at my rookie work, nod and smile fondly, and think of how sweet it was for a child to knit such a scarf for charity.

My knitting teacher, while a lovely woman, is not-so-great a teacher. That said, I have to admit I learned how to knit this scarf almost completely by way of studying a knitting book and watching several knitting videos on YouTube (Love YT). I figured out how to cast on, add a new ball of yarn and bind off all on my ownsome. :) Yay me!

I should be done with James' hat soon. Hopefully it'll still be cool enough that he can wear it once it's finished!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


This week is going to be a "crunch week" for me and since I have more than usual going on I need to step away from blogging, commenting and the lovely Google Reader in order to focus on these other things right now. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

James and his friend stopping to enjoy the view.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can You Feel the Love - Part I

I recently won a some awards and I'm happy to pass on the bloggy love. I decided to break this little "awards session" up into 4 posts because Blogger is having a conniption about there being too many links in one post.

Now, even though I've been given these awards a few times over, I am truly grateful to each of these people for thinking my blog worthy of such love:

Hugs and thank yous to...
Mi Escuelita Montessori for your sweet comments and the positive energy you send my way all the time!
Leptir and Lily Tots for your uber creative and inspiring Montessori ideas.
2 Pequenos Traviesos for being such a good bloggy friend!!
Quixotic Life for making me laugh with your hil-ar-i-ous sense of humor!!
The Adventures of Bear for our ongoing chats about Montessori and the seemingly endless supply of clever ideas you share with everyone.
Handmade Beginnings for all of your crafty inspiration - check out Eva's Etsy shop to see the awesome placemat I purchased for James.
All About Aidan and Chasing Marcus for all your fantastic Tot School ideas and supportive comments.
The Picky Apple for being my identical blog twin and always writing about something I can relate to.
Montessori Beginnings and Little Fingers, Big Dreams for being such amazing Montessori mamas and for sharing all of your ideas with everyone.

In the interest of avoiding duplicates and as much as I LOVE the blogs by all of these gals, I decided to pass the awards onto people who I haven't already nominated in the past. **Hope no one is offended by this!!**

The CreativOnline Award
This award is dedicated to bloggers with a lot of creativity and who love to share their work.

I'm passing it on to...

The rules for accepting this award:
  • Put the logo on your blog (copy and paste it) or within your post.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) blogs to pass the award on to.
  • Link the nominees in your post.
  • Let the nominees know you've given them this award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link back to the person from whom you received this award.
~Page down for Part II~

Can You Feel The Love - Part II

The Your Blog is Over the Top Award
For this award I'm supposed to answer a huge list of questions, so here goes:

1. Where is your cell phone? no clue. I never know where my phone is, nor do I usually care.

2.Your hair? lookin' a little dry. Time for some deep conditioning.

3. Your mother? in heaven.

4. Your father? hardworking, young at heart, my number one fan. :)

5. Your favorite food? potatoes. I love 'em any way you make 'em.

6. Your dream last night? don't remember.

7. Your favorite drink? grape juice with ice in a tall, plastic cup. Yes, I'm picky like that.

8. Your dream/goal? to be a good person.

9. What room are you in? our office.

10. Your hobby? I have lots! Crafting, sewing, scrapbooking, knitting, photography, gardening, writing, reading, shopping...

11. Your fear? death.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? happy, healthy, and surrounded by love.

13. Where were you last night? at home studying.

14. Something you aren’t? political.

15. Muffins? lemon zucchini.

16. Wish list item? sewing machine.

17. Where did you grow up? St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

18. Last thing you did? kissed my sweet baby James goodnight.

19. What are you wearing? a nice, warm, cable knit sweater. (It's cold here, people!)

20. Your TV? making annoying sports sounds in the other room. ;)

21. Your pets? both are sleeping away the hours on our bed. Gotta love the life of a cat.

22. Your friends? far, far away. :(

23. Your life? a complete and total blessing.

24. Your mood? happy, but tired.

25. Missing someone? Celly Sue.

26. Vehicle? a Toyota and some type of foreign scooter... I have no idea what make it is. These things don't matter to me. I had to look out my window just to confirm we have a Toyota!

27. Something you’re not wearing? socks. (my woolly slippers are doing a fine job on their own!)

28. Your favorite store? depends on the need/desire. First that comes to mind is Antropologie - loooove their clothes.

29. Your favorite color? blue.

30. When was the last time you laughed? a few minutes ago.

31. Last time you cried? yesterday.

32. Your best friend? I am blessed to have 2! Paul and Dana (aka Celly Sue).

33. One place that I go to over and over? the grocery store.

34. One person who emails me regularly? My papa.

35. Favorite place to eat? that's a toughie... lots of good places... I'd say El Burrito in Minnesota. I grew up on Mexican food and this place is the only place that makes beans and tortillas the way my grandma does!

I'm passing this award on to...

The rules for accepting this award:
  • Put the logo on your blog (copy and paste it) or within your post.
  • Answer the questions I've listed above (this is optional, of course).
  • Nominate 5 (or more) blogs to pass the award on to.
  • Link the nominees in your post.
  • Let the nominees know you've given them this award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link back to the person from whom you received this award.
~Page down for Part III~

Can You Feel The Love - Part III

The Lemonade Stand Award
This award is given to bloggers who show great attitude and gratitude.

I'm passing it on to...

The rules for accepting this award:
  • Put the logo on your blog (copy and paste it) or within your post.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) blogs to pass the award on to.
  • Link the nominees in your post.
  • Let the nominees know you've given them this award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link back to the person from whom you received this award.
~Page down for Part IV~

Can You Feel The Love - Part IV

The Happy 101 Award
For this award I am supposed to list 10 things that make me happy. :) That's easy and fun! (I cheated a little and added a few extras here and there)...
  1. The two loves of my life, James & Paul.
  2. Creating anything with my hands.
  3. Thrifty shopping, online shopping... ok, any type of shopping. Even grocery shopping. :)
  4. Music - I love almost any kind of music, but my favorites are classical, jazz, movie scores and 80's music!!
  5. Comforting smells - lavender, beeswax, bread, my cat's fur, rain, paper, coffee, my guys... I could go on and on.
  6. Traveling to and exploring new places.
  7. Spending LOTS of time with my best friend of 17 years, Dana.
  8. Organizing and list-making.
  9. The wooden toys made by Ostheimer & Engleberger.
  10. And, of course, all things Montessori.
I'm passing this award on to...

The rules for accepting this award:
  • Put the logo on your blog (copy and paste it) or within your post.
  • List 10 things that make you happy (this is optional, of course).
  • Nominate 5 (or more) blogs to pass the award on to.
  • Link the nominees in your post.
  • Let the nominees know you've given them this award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link back to the person from whom you received this award.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Muffin Tin Meal - The Letter M

In honor of our M week, I made this yummy muffin tin meal for James. :) Aside from the marshmallows, he loved everything in this tin.Melon (of the water variety) ;)
Mangoes (dried)

This is just what I had on hand, but if you wanted to make your own M tin, you could add these, too:

Muenster cheese
Mozzarella or Muenster cheese
A little cup of Minestrone
Mashed potatoes

I think we'll do a muffin tin each week based on the letter we're focusing on. Fun!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Shy Little Guy

Ok ladies, I'm reaching out to all of you for some help. {I apologize in advance for this long post.}

We are going through a difficult thing with James right now and I could really use your advice, support, input, or any constructive ideas you might have.

James is shy. He always has been, even as an infant, but lately his shyness has reached a new, unsettling level. Whenever someone unfamiliar comes nearby him he either cries, runs to me, calls out: "Help, Mama, Help!", says: "No, no, no, no!!!" or all of the above depending on how out of place he's feeling. When he reacts this way I try to comfort and reassure him. I give him hugs and let him know that everyone here is his friend, that he's safe, that it's a fun place and he has no need to be scared or worried. He hears me, but he doesn't seem to believe me.

Today at Kindermusik (which he usually loves) he was so out of sorts, we had to sit out a portion of the program just so I could calm him down. Of course the instructor (a lovely woman) came over to give him some words of comfort, too, but her close presence only made him freak out more. When we did join the rest of the group, he sat firmly in my lap and would NOT budge to join other children, despite gentle and positive urging. It's incredibly disheartening to see him acting so insecure. And, I'll be honest, it's disappointing, too. I'm ashamed to admit that I really wish James were one of the other kids who gleefully runs up to the circle for storytime and... I get annoyed that he's not. (Please note: I never get annoyed with James about this - he has no idea I feel this way.) And I'll say this, too: I get a bit defensive about it. I really don't appreciate the smug parents who point out to me that their child isn't shy. Yes, I actually had someone say this to me.

At home and with close friends James is extremely chatty and happy. It's just whenever he's in a new place or seeing new people that he becomes scared and shy. I know this isn't uncommon, but it's still sad, frustrating and difficult to deal with.

Several people have recommended daycare as a means of "socializing him". Paul and I contemplated this, but in the end neither of us felt comfortable with the idea for a variety of reasons. Most notably because James was in daycare before and it didn't make any difference. The only thing that came of that was a seemingly endless stream of colds, stomach bugs, and other unfriendly viruses.

While we engage in playdates and participate in organized functions such as art class, storytimes and Kindermusik, I have to admit we don't really do a whole lot of socializing with other kids. Part of the reason for this is because I'm a bit shy myself. I know you may not believe it given how much I blather away on this blog, but it's true. However, I am well aware of my shyness and I have tried many, many times to push past it and strike up conversations with moms at playgroups. Only I think they can smell my fear because usually the conversations last only a few minutes. :) My husband is shy, too. More so than I. Close friends don't believe it, but it has taken us many years of training ourselves to not act shy in front of others. But the shyness is very much there under the surface. I point all this out because I recently read that studies have shown that shyness is an inherited trait. Even if the parents of the child aren't shy, it could come from another relative. Aside from Paul and myself, Paul's family is chock-full of shy people, my sister is a bit shy, and I think my mother was too. That said, James has likely received a good dose of the shy gene.

Anyway, knowing where the shyness may stem from is all fine and well, but how do I help James overcome/work with it? Do any of you have shy children? What have you done to help your children through this? I don't expect James to STOP being shy altogether - it's clearly just a part of his personality. But I would like to get him back to where he was just "a little shy" and not terrified as he is now.

I have decided that over the next several weeks I will take James to as many playgroups as I can. It'll be hard for him, but I *think* it's the right thing to do. Perhaps the more exposed to groups he is, the more commonplace they'll become to him? And I'll do my best to ignore the germs and to be as outgoing as possible, too.

On a quick side note, I won't be doing as much Tot School with James while we focus on this. You can either expect my posts to be shorter (hooray!) or non-existent.

As always, I appreciate your input. Many thanks to those of you who took the time to read this. :)

I've decided not to stress out about this any more- it's not doing anyone any good. I've also resolved to accept James' shyness whole-heartedly and to put a positive spin on the rude remarks I get from parents. Paul and I also decided we're not going to force the playgroup situation, but we will try going to just one for now and allow him to warm up to it, IF he wants to. I agree now that bombarding him with new, unfamiliar situations is NOT a good idea. And, whenever we do attend a function, I'm going to "prepare him" in advance so he knows what to expect. Most importantly, we are going to watch his cues, offer him choices and respect his decisions.
Thank you so much to each of you that took the time to write out your thoughts and even share your own personal stories with me. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Montessori Monday

(on Tuesday) :)

I'm so glad Nicole thought to host a Montessori carnival! We've been doing Practical Life work for quite some time now, but with our new classroom in check we've recently begun using our Montessori materials, too. This will be a fun way to share what we're both learning.

I feel compelled to point out that while I've done lots of research and reading on the Montessori method, I have just begun Montessori teacher training. That said, you will undoubtedly find flaws and errors in my lessons. Thankfully, my darling son is a gracious guinea pig while I find my Montessori footing. :) I have many, many resources I refer to - see my sidebar for a list of books I recommend.

At James' age (2.9), Practical Life is the area of focus. It just so happens this is my *favorite* of the Montessori subjects and I really enjoy putting this work together.

Pouring "Ice" (clear plastic crystals):
James does really well with pouring. Unfortunately by the end of the week I found these crystals scattered around his playroom on two occasions. That's what happens when mommy takes a shower. Silly mommy.

Matching Nuts & Bolts:
James worked on this several times this week. He can match the sizes perfectly, but is still working on the concept of twisting on and off.

Marble Transfer:
This was a big hit. James was really focused whenever he did this work, which was often. Another great way to improve those fine motor skills.

Nut Sorting/Matching:
I think this is considered Practical Life. In some books sorting is listed under PL and in others it's listed under math. Ah well. Until I know for sure, I'm just going to throw it in with our PL lessons. Anyway, see how cute and inviting this tray is? The squirrel, the nice wooden bowls displaying the magic that is my new laminator? Think James was impressed with all this? Nope. He did sort the nuts once, spent some time looking at the pictures, but that was it. Boo.

Scooping Letter Pasta:
James worked on this a few times, but it was left untouched later in the week. Normally he likes spooning, but in this case he was more interested in the letters. :)

I've also introduced a few Sensorial materials recently...
James LOVES the cylinders (both knobbed and knobless). But I made a rookie mistake and put out on our shelves all 3 of our knobbed cylinder blocks (don't have the 4th one yet) for him to use... without giving a proper presentation of all of them first. I presented the first block and just assumed he'd be able to manipulate the others as well. Nope. Silly me to forget Dr. Montessori was a genius when she designed these materials and that each and every one has a separate purpose. So, before he got too attached to all of them, I removed all but the first block. He's quite content learning this set for now. Phew! Montessori crisis averted!

We spend a lot of time working with the knobless cylinders - they're so colorful and interesting. (note: this won't be the first time you get a sense of me longing to have been exposed to such lovely things when I was little - re-living my childhood vicariously through my son? Just a tad.) ;) I really enjoy watching James go to town on these cylinders. I have extension cards, but I'll hold off on them for now. He's doing quite well with them on his own.

You can click here to read about my attempt at presenting the Pink Tower to James. I'm SO bummed he has zero interest in it. Well, that's not altogether true... today he knocked it over on accident and was forced to take notice of it.

With regard to these posts, I just want to point out that while our Practical Life work will vary week to week, it won't be long before you see some repeats with the actual Montessori materials. The main reason for this is that these materials are meant to be presented over a period of time and in stages so that the child can really master the work (lesson learned after the aforementioned cylinder faux-pas) Also, the materials are crazy expensive, and as a result I don't really have a ton of variety here. Sigh... if only my Hubs were good at woodworking - he could make so many of the materials for us. :)

I found James "reading" Dr. Montessori's The Absorbent Mind. He finds my books around house and loves to pretend to read them. And I love that he chose this book to read. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tot School - The Letter N

~James is 34 months~

Art & Music:
James had a blast making our N craft, and kept saying: "Numbers begin with N!"

We jumped, waddled, twirled and danced at Kindermusik this week. We also listened to Native American music. We've had this CD in our collection for a while now - I love it and listen to it whenever I want/need to relax. :)

Letters & Numbers:
As always, we read lots of books, but read our Alphatales N book, The Nicest Newt several times this week. We also received this month's Animal Babies magazine and I was excited to see this N is for nuthatch flashcard on the back!

Thanks to Susan, I found out about this awesome site, Making Learning Fun, that has loads of free print outs. The N is for nest and N is for nine pages fit right into our theme. James used flat marbles to cover each dot. Excellent fine motor activity.

Once in a blue you'll find a good deal in Bermuda and such was the case when I stumbled upon a set of number and letter playdoh molds. James spent sooo much time playing with these this week!

I'm pretty pleased about this activity. It's all homemade (including the little drawstring bag!) and entirely thought up by yours truly! Hooray for original ideas! :) I posted about the cute little Le Hoots here.
I created this with the intent of it being a quantifying activity, which has proven to be just the right amount of challenging for James. Well. He blew me away when he began adding and subtracting the owls!! He set all four owls on the branches, placed the number 4 counter beside the tree, then proceeded to say, "4 owls take away 1 owl, now 3 owls!" and he continued on this way until there were no owls left on the tree. Then went the other direction and added them individually back onto the tree. I literally sat there with my jaw open the entire time, not making a peep out of fear of distracting his train of thought. Maybe a lot of 2 year olds do this, but I was just shocked and, of course, very proud!!

Science & Nature:
Lots of outdoor fun was had this week since it was the first week in oh, say, SIX where it hasn't rained

Saturday was a mommy day (knitting class, then hair appt.), so my boys spent the whole day together. They were seaside by 845am! James kicked the soccer ball around the beach and up on the dunes and later they went to the playground. These chickens aren't chicken at all - they'll come right up to you to pose for a photo op.

We went for our usual nature walk and found lots of pretty treasures in our yard and on the beach. That glass bottle we found washed up on the shore and the giant pods are from our tree.

We also counted all the nests around our house. Clearly the birds have declared our house the Hilton For Birds because we counted 6 nests!!

I was inspired by this post and decided to make a nest of our own. James had LOTS of fun doing this. (You'll see in the 4th picture the nest is still drying in the bowl.) I'm noticing more and more each day that James' attention span and ability to focus is increasing. It's great because we can actually get into our projects now.

I was tempted to do a little lesson on Neptune, but decided to hold off for our big space/solar system theme we'll be doing in the spring.

How many of you have heard of a narwhal? I didn't know about it until a few years ago. It's not one of those creatures you hear about too often. But it IS one of the coolest creatures God made!! I was surprised to find this narwhal figurine at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute as well as the alphabet card from this beautiful flashcard set. James really likes comparing things, so he spent a long time exploring the narwhal and matching its various features to the flashcard. We also watched this National Geographic clip to learn more about them. Fascinating creatures, really.
** I just remembered this: when James saw the narwhal figurine for the first time he smiled, pointed at it and said, "Hey! You swim in the ocean!" as though he were trying to recall where he last saw it. And then did a little dance. :)

Other activities:
James is c-r-a-z-y about Finding Nemo. (It's one of few movies he's allowed to watch) Good friends of ours gave James this awesome Nemo activity book - it's a storybook with a removable I Spy tube. Throughout the story the child is encouraged to look for various characters in the tube. James loves loves loves it!

I also made a Finding Nemo Tot Book after seeing it on Carisa's blog. I actually made this last fall and forgot all about it. This is such a great little book because it incorporates many learning aspects: numbers, letters, counting, matching. Carisa has loads of Tot Book ideas - check them out here.

We also sorted nuts and worked with nuts and bolts, but they fall under my Montessori lessons and as I mentioned last week, all of our Montessori/Practical Life activities will be posted on Mondays (Tuesday this week) so I can link up to Nicole's blog. :)

Click the button to the left to see what others are doing with their children.


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