Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Couple of Learning Books

I stumbled upon another great learning resource at Goodwill the other day. It's Smithsonian Institute's Make Your Own President book. The presidents up through George W. Bush are pictured in this spiral-bound book. Each picture is divided in five strips, so you can mix and match parts of pictures to make a crazy-face. Always fun. The back of each strip has a quote from that particular president.

Three strange things: The presidential portraits are not placed in historical order, not all presidents are included, and the book only goes up to George W. Bush because it was published in 2006. But all the presidents (up to President Bush) are included, in order, in a graph in the back.

Three great things: It's fun enough that Xander asked me on his own if he could read the book, he will get a chance to familiarize himself with portraits of 24 "favorite" presidents, and, along the way, he will be exposed to famous presidential quotes.

While I was rhapsodizing about this book, Nick asked for another book we've borrowed from the library that I like very much: The Usborne Introduction to Art: Internet-Linked. I had been reading a couple pages a day to Xander because I liked the way it explained groups of paintings in terms of what theme or time period or method they shared. I should mention at this time that the kids, especially Nick, have also been watching episodes of Where On Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

Today, Nick said he wanted to look at the painting book. I figured he wanted to look at The Usborne Introduction to Art. He did, and he started paging through it. Then I heard him say, "Where is the one from Carmen Sandiego?"

I said, "You're looking for a painting that's in Carmen Sandiego? Okay, keep looking through, see if you find one."

Finally, he said, "Here it is!"

He was pointing to the Mona Lisa, which is indeed in an episode of Carmen Sandiego. He even knows its name. How cool is that?

Telling Stories

The boys are composing stories for each other. Even Nick knows to "read" by chapters and to end something that a character said with, "he cried."

When Xander was about four years old, I wrote down several of his stories. Maybe I can catch Nick in the middle of one of his:

" Sandy Crocodile said, 'What could I have for this time? I could do for this time is do something weird about the sound.'

"Okay, the next chapter of Sandy Crocodile.

"'What could I do to play this thing now? Hmmmm. Play Imaginext,' Sandy Alligator said.

"I only have two chapters in this book.

"Okay. I'll read Myths and Legends. [pronounced Miffs and Wegends]

"Once upon a time, Sandy was a myths and legends book. Xander, Sandy's in the Myths and Legends book. Once upon a time, Sandy was going to swim and um he said, "Excuse me," Sandy said. Now the guinea pig has a [interruption by Xander]...not your time tomorrow.

The End"

Circumstances are not as ideal to catch Nick's stories as they were when Xander was his age. When Xander was his age, Nick was a baby who had about two naps a day. I sometimes sat with Xander all by himself to do learning activities or listen to him play. I do learning activities with Nick, and spend time listening to him play, but there is usually an older brother around to put in his two cents at some point. Or maybe I am just busier and not ready to drop everything to type up a transcript of Nick. But I wanted to catch something today to show that Nick has the same tendencies as Xander to tell stories with large vocabulary.

Right now, he is reciting "The Adventures of Imaginext Sandy," who is looking at a cake on a table and who is getting an Imaginext battering ram for his birthday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mad Libs

We have reached the point in time when Xander has discovered Mad Libs...and loves them! I'm picturing all the practice he'll get with parts of speech and the writing in small spaces and the reading... I'm in heaven!

Story time at the library yesterday was an Elephant & Piggie party. One of the activities was a group Mad Libs story about Gerald and Piggie. Xander very badly wanted to do it at home, so I found a Pinterest link with all kinds of Elephant & Piggie activities, including the Mad Lib story that we did at the library. Follow that link above to see for yourself.

Xander filled it out, asking Nick and me for nouns and verbs. He explained to Nick that a verb is an action word, something you do. And Nick was able to give him a verb, on the first try! Xander wrote the words in the small spaces, occasionally asking me for help with spelling. He read the Mad Lib back to us. That's four subject areas in one fun activity that was entirely Xander's idea! Woo hoo! Nobody tell him how much learning he did in those few minutes. ;)

I am going to find some of their favorite short picture books and use excerpts to make our own Mad Libs pages. Milking this for all it's worth.

On a related note, I must have left my vinegar-and-water spray bottle out, because both kids have asked to use it. I told them they must do it on a glass surface, like our back doors, and they must wipe the glass surface clean. And now I have two people cleaning the glass in our house. Good times.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Working Hard at Having Fun

waiting at Hickory Street Grille for Grandpa Mike and Grandma Lesley

captivated (again) by the pond at Great-Granddad and Great-Grandma Janet's house, this time with 2nd cousins

at Book People
We did sooooooooooooooo much in the last week. My granddad turned 90, so the whole family on my dad's side came to town. All of Granddad's children were there and half of their children. Jeff and Rieko stayed with us (yay!). We met Dad and Lesley early at Hickory Street for lunch. On Saturday, we met up in New Braunfels with EVERYBODY. It was awesome. Three second cousins for the kids, plus some of Janet's grandkids and the kids next door. I got to meet my cousin Sarah's and cousin Meagan's kids for the first time. We stayed in the guest house on Saturday night so we could hang out even more with a few of my aunts and uncles and Dad and Lesley and of course Granddad and Janet and my cousins. It was just epic.

Sunday, instead of going straight home, we went downtown. Got some food truck eats and went to the epitome of local independent book stores.

Monday, we went to a preserve nearby and saw a waterfall and natural pool which happened to be very high in bacteria, so no swimming. Tons of wildflowers. I will never get tired of looking at them. We passed right over a cottonmouth...yikes. The kids did great walking and climbing on the rocky trail, but we did have a couple small casualties. Nothing having to do with the cottonmouth. Phew! We picnicked, then came home for naps and cooking. Then we watched the kids' last soccer games of the season and went to Sonic for treats. Then home for more treats and a couple rounds of Pandemic for the adults, after the kids went to bed.

And this morning, the airport. :(

Back to the workweek.

Monday, May 13, 2013

If I Had to Predict a Career For Them...

If I had to predict what career our sons would choose today, I would say...


Fun prediction: Executive Director of National Resources Defense Council or a veterinarian
Boring prediction: Biologist with a private company


Fun prediction: Soils researcher or farmer
Boring prediction: Teacher

Anyone else who knows them want to chime in?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Signs of Growth

At a birthday party

Remember when I posted Xander's height and weight on April 8th? He has grown half an inch. In less than a month. It feels like he is just steadily growing without showing any dramatic growth spurt behavior. The one thing he is doing that could relate is sleeping in late in the mornings, but I have a feeling that is going to be his preferred pattern for the rest of his life.

His freckles are really coming out in the springtime sun. Mine too. It's funny, he looks just like his dad and not like me at all, but our freckles behave the same way.

I read in a parenting column that seven-year-olds are in a sunny period of development. They are friendly and still like their parents (on top of loving them) and like to have meaningful conversations with them. This is the type of period we are having with Xander. Wonderful. I try to hug him all I can, recognizing that I may not always be able to. (But I hear from some parents that their teenage sons remain affectionate.) I've also noticed that he responds to my explanations of why we need to do certain things. I can be logical with him and he is logical in turn. This is the phase I was dreaming of, pre-mommyhood, when I thought about having children!

With Nick, we are in a different phase. I am enjoying his phase just as much. He is acting more mature and understands, or at least talks about, many more concepts. He goes around talking about words and what letter they start with. Right now, he asks me to come be with him more often than before. I recognize this phase from when Xander was about this age. I am trying to drink up this time when he wants me to be around. (While taking breaks from them at other times. :)

But more about Master Nick in a month or less. He will be turning 4, quite the young gentleman.

I keep thinking, "Xander was younger than this when he became an older brother!"


Constructing with boxes in preschool

Nick woke up with a little bit of vomiting. He was definitely under the weather this morning but seems fine now.

This is what, it turns out, Nick eats when he is under the weather: a full bowl of chocolate-chip oatmeal, a couple pieces of summer sausage, melted cheese on a tortilla, a peanut butter honey sandwich, some dry Cheerios, a couple pieces of cheese, and a peanut butter honey tortilla. So far.

Don't worry, he is feeling fine after all that.

And today was not a preschool day, so we haven't been anywhere.

Doesn't he look tired in that blurry photo from preschool? Preschool wears him out. He really loves it, but it can be a little too much sometimes.

Shall we examine what Xander has eaten today?

A full bowl of chocolate-chip oatmeal and leftover spaghetti.

Their appetites are so different. Xander has a fine appetite, but with food, he can often take it or leave it. Nick can take it, and take it, and take it, and take it, and take it....

Nick and I are alike in this way, and Xander and Erik are like each other.