Monday, June 27, 2011

Elmo's World

We are counting down the days until our trip to Sesame Place this week. We had SO much fun last year, we are super excited to go back. This week it's all about Elmo. We are making Elmo crafts and getting all of our Elmo books, DVDs, t-shirts, and toys out. I have to say I am so happy to be back in the Sesame phase again. They boys went through this phase when they were around 18 months. But, grew out of it quickly. So last year when we went to Sesame Place it really re-ignited that Sesame Street love for our whole family. The boys were really happy to meet Grover and Cookie Monster and I was so excited to buy Abby Cadabby stuff for my little Princess! This year Isabella is old enough to enjoy it all with us and she really loves all of the Sesame characters, especially Cookie and Elmo. The kids really got into their crafts. We made Elmo masks and Isabella thought it would be fun to paint herself to look like Elmo too.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Monkeys & Mixology

Science has been such a fun endeavor that I ended up buying out practically the entire section of kits and experiments at the Teacher/Parent store this week. So we are growing Sea Monkeys and have become color mixing experts! Sea Monkeys start off microscopic so it was a challenge for 4 year olds to get the concept that dust like particles are actually alive and swimming. And it took some explaining for them to understand that Sea Monkeys do not have fur or eat bananas. And we will not be bringing them to the Rainforest. Luckily, the Sea Monekys are very low maintenance. You add water, sea monkeys from a packet of dried eggs and on the 5th day you feed them a teeny tiny scoop of powdered food. They eat every 2 days after that. I can handle a pet that requires to eat only every 2 days and takes up just a smidgen of space in its tiny aquarium on our kitchen counter.

Thankfully they have grown a bit so we can see them swimming now without a magnifying glass. It's very exciting!
Color mixing was very cool! Its exactly like mixing Easter egg coloring. You take a tablet of color and put it
in water and then observe the fizzing and dissolving, etc. From there we took drops of each color and mixed them in a special container with 24 different compartments. All kinds of color combos are possible. Then we tried some experiments like mixing the colors in milk and adding soap to see the different reactions. At the end you add crystallizing powder to the colors and they form gel like crystal. The boys were so impressed at all we could do with a few drops of water and some food color. They LOVED seeing new colors form and the crystals were just amazing to them!

Fairly easy activities, but it definitely took some managing. I had to make sure The Princess was asleep first. So we worked during her morning nap. She really loves all that is going on and wants to be a part of everything, but she is so little and knocks everything over and wants to taste all of the experiments, so there ends of being so much mess and crying when she gets involved with activities that are not age appropriate for her. So for Sea Monkey and Color Mixing she napped. It was nice to spend that time alone with the boys and it kept them quiet so she could rest. They like the idea that they get to "big kid" stuff sometimes. When she woke up, she was able to observe the Sea Monkeys with the magnifying glass and she did really well with it! And the boys have been great about including her in their playtime so she doesn't feel left out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great Bug Hunt

Science was such a bit hit for all 3 kids on Monday, so I decided to stick with that theme throughout the week. Tuesday morning we geared up with binoculars and magnifying glasses and took our Explorer Notebooks with us for a Bug Hunt Mission. I am by no means a nature type. So walking off into the woods is not my thing. The nearby Shrine grounds is about as woodsy as I like to get, it makes me feel comfortable to know there is a snack bar for lunch and a gift shop for when we get bored of bugs. So, with that in mind off we went on our adventure. The kids and I love to visit the Shrine.There are plenty of wooded areas and paths with trees and streams, but its small enough that I know my way around and there are always people walking and visiting. When we first got there I saw something small and furry run across the path and I nearly fainted. But, I quickly reminded myself I was about 2.5 feet from the car and could always run back if we needed to. So on we went.

The kids had so much fun chasing bugs and checking everything out with the magnifying glasses. Thank God we didn't find anything too scary. Mostly ants, a couple beetles and few gorgeous butterflies. For over an hour we just sat in one spot watching ants come in and out the little sand hills they had built. I think it may have been the first time all 3 of my children have sat anywhere together for that long without seatbelts or a TV. So it was exciting. And I have to say those darn ants are interesting. How DO they built those little tunnels? And wow they are strong! We were amazed at the size of the dead things they were able to carry, other dead ants and centipedes etc. Very exciting stuff!! We tried to observe and respect nature and the bugs we found in a gentle way. But, gentle isn't exactly Isabella or Luccio's strong suit. They were a bit overzealous with the magnifying glasses and tended to smother their subjects just a bit by completely covering them with the glass and looking at them with their little faces pressed right against the ground.

After ant watching we enjoyed a yummy lunch at the snack bar and spent another hour just throwing rocks into the stream. It was so relaxing! To relax out with 3 kids, it just doesn't usually happen. But, given some water and rocks they stayed entertained and were too busy to even fight with each other. Bliss!

Monday, June 20, 2011


This was the first official week of Summer Vacation for the kids. Preschool "graduation" ceremonies are over, no more school bus, no place to drop them off for 2-6 hours on any given day. So, it was time for some reorganizing around here and I had to come up with a really great Summer Plan to keep us all from losing our minds. Summer is our family's best time of the year. Hubby onlyworks one of his jobs in the summer which gives us a to more family time, we plan fun day trips and vacations and we enjoy eating grilled food in the backyard. I have really been looking forward to these upcoming 2 months together. Especially since this year with Luccio in full day school we got a feel for what it will be like for the boys to both be in all day Pre-K in the Fall. I feel like these are some of our last moments to spend together with a sense of carefreeness that goes along with life with young kids. Once they are in school all day, every day, things will change, time will be so limited and I know the years will rush by one after the other. So this summer I really want to slow the pace and enjoy the days together. But, at the same time I have to be realistic and know that I have 2 very energetic boys to entertain and one very busy and opinionated baby girl to keep up with.

On that note, I have decided to have what we are calling Summer Homeschool. We had good friends visit a few weeks ago and they are a homeschooling family so my kids were able to get an idea of what it means to have "school" at home. Basically we tried to convey to the kids that homeschooling means living life and taking notice of all that is around you so you can learn and reach your full potential. But, we told them that in terms 4 year olds can understand, "homeschool means we do fun stuff together and learn new things. And I will be expecting the best behavior, just like your preschool teachers." So that is our mission: to explore, to notice, to revel in wonder and hopefully learn a little something along the way. I have tried to put my teaching skills to use and put together a loose format and some lesson planning to give a bit of shape to our days. But, mostly we are going to go where the interest takes us.

On Monday morning they couldn't wait to get started. I thought we would start off with handwriting lessons and packets I made up about the colors of the rainbow. So I brought out dry erase boards and markers and we were going practice writing their names. That took about 1.5 minutes. Everyone was doodling, bored and more concerned about using the eraser. I could see their eyes glaze over and their ears shut off as I showed them the "cool" rainbow packets they could write in and color. I was told immediately by Vincenzo that Summer Homeschool is boring and then everyone else started asking when we were having snack. It was 8 am, exactly 37 minutes after breakfast, ugh.

Well... I quickly summed up that we were going to need Plan B. So my adorable booklets and worksheets went back into the Art Closet and we went with Science instead. I luckily had been to the Teacher/Parent store and bought a few Science kits that looked interesting . I also remembered we had gotten Dinosaur Eggs from a birthday party the day before. So I got a few cups of water, let each of the kids put an egg in and explain we would wait for it to hatch. They didn't care that it would take 12-48 hours for this to happen. The idea of that egg hatching kept them so excited they couldn't think of anything else. I saw how they responded so well, so I set up a plastic cart on the back porch and announced that it would be our Science Center. We put the cups with the eggs on it and it was as if I made magic happen before their eyes.

They were so overjoyed at the new Science Center! So I thought let's keep on this track. I quickly opened up the planting kit I had gotten and when they saw that small dome shaped terrarium, they went wild. Planting seeds in dirt, now that was fun! Summer Homeschool was back on! Most of the day they sat on the porch with little chairs watching the eggs and checking the dirt for signs of growth. They didn't even want to go to the park with friends, I had to actually bribe them to go. Then they hurried home to be on watch for dinosaurs. It was all they could talk about that day. How were the eggs going to hatch, did they have enough water? What would the dinosaurs look like? And all day we were all on the same page - the dinosaurs were NOT real because as Vincenzo reminded us - dinosaurs are extinct. Everyone understood that the eggs were to show you how a dinosaur egg hatched, but they are NOT actually dinosaurs. Everyone got it. Until bedtime. Then there was a moment of panic as the lights were going out that the giant dinosaurs might hatch while they were asleep and come into their room looking for them, and on and on. So we had to go through the garbage and find the box the eggs came in and see for sure that they are toys. And we read dinosaurs A-Z that assured us, dinosaurs are in fact extinct. Relief!
Nearly 24 long, excruciating hours later dinosaurs hatched!! We did a lot of celebrating and dancing around. We got out our book to identify each of the 4. Apparently we had one brontosaurus, one T-Rex, and one triceratops. And the last egg hatched the following morning containing a yellow duck. So that was a a whole new mystery to figure out.

Vincenzo claimed the T-Rex right away and has named him, Homeschoolasaurus.
We filled a bowl with water for the dinosaurs to swim, which created endless scenarios for fun times and messes.

So we survived the first week of being home together, we learned a little, we had a lot of fun, we had a few adjustments to make along the way, we had to "reprogram" behavior expectations here and there, but all in all it was great. As we got into the groove of the week it got better and better. And we even ended up with our own mascot, Homeschoolasaurs!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Don't Be A Weaner

A couple of months ago I went to a La Leche League Conference. I came home with lots of new insights, educational materials and a few fun slogans! Vincenzo latched right onto one of the sayings (pun intended!) A button I got says, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." He thought that was hilarious! He even made up a tune and turned into a jingle. So every once in a while he will chant, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." And when I least expect it he will give me his unsolicited advice and manage to work in the jingle. For example, one day I had a bad headache so I was resting on the couch. The children cannot stand it when I rest, so they do everything they can to remedy any ailments that may bring me to needing rest. "Well Mama, why does your head hurt? Are you sick?" "You know you should breastfeed because it's good for your health." And then ~ the jingle, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." Always sung in a LOUD, high pitched voice, which certainly does not help a headache.

Last week, I was going out in the evening. A MUCH needed break. I was telling my mother how excited I was to use my Mother's Day gift card for a mani/pedi and have the night off. Vincenzo overheard that and had a fit. "Ya know some moms stay with their kids all the time, every day and never go out." My reply, "Uh, yes I know that because I AM one of those moms sweetie!"
He kept going, "Well, you should stay home with us." When his logic and pleading didn't sway me, he knew he needed to take drastic action. So he went over to Isabella and said, "Well baby I guess you won't be getting your special milky tonight because Mama is going out. Sorry!"
And then the jingle, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." UGH

And he is not alone in his mission to promote the "breast is best" belief. Luccio is right there with him advocating for Isabella to have the liquid gold that will make her grow strong and healthy. When Luccio heard I was going out that night, he put in his two cents. "Mama, you need to pump. She needs her milky!" Reasoning with him was useless. He is 4 and male and just unreasonable most of the time. He didn't care when I explained that Isabella would be fine and that she could drink water or even some of the organic milk in the fridge if she needed a drink while i was gone. He didn't want to hear that. He was appalled at such suggestions and said, "you should just pump!" Even though I haven't pumped in months, he knew that machine was somewhere in the house. And the next thing I knew they were both chanting the jingle.

When Isabella was born I knew all of our lives would change. A brand new baby in the family mixes up roles and lives and schedules and adds so many blessings and new dreams to the mix. But, I didn't quite foresee the path leading to my sons becoming staunch breastfeeding advocates. the first night we brought her home from the hospital, the boys (3 years old at the time) asked us when the baby was the going to eat. And could they give her a bottle? Well...I took out the book we had been reading about preparing for a new sibling and I showed them a picture of 2 moms. One giving her baby a bottle of milk and the other breastfeeding her baby. I explained some moms use bottles and some don't. Immediately they said, "We want you to use bottles." It took some adjusting in the beginning for all of us to get used to the idea of nursing.
I hadn't planned on nursing past a couple months. I certainly wasn't planning to nurse a toddler or attend La Leche meetings, no way! I didn't even know breastfeeding conferences existed at the time, but if I did I would have said I would NEVER attend one. Then I read a book called Breastfeeding Made Simple and it changed my life and mind forever. It is a wonderful resource.

I could go on and on about the benefits, challenges, pros, cons, etc. But, that is another blog post. And when Isabella is weaning I will write that post and reflect on the life giving experience it has been. For now, I will just say that for our family at this time in my life with Isabella it has been the right decision and perfect fit into our lives. And over the last 19 months her brothers have become educated supporters and advocates for the benefits of breastfeeding just by simply living life in our house. They are proud of the way she is growing, how healthy and smart she is and take great pride in the fact that I make milk. It reminds me of the other La Leche League slogan, "I make milk, what's your super power?" I love that one!

There have been funny moments, lots of questions, even slightly hurt feelings when the boys realized they were not breastfed, but received pumped milk in bottles and formula. Lots of questions and comments about that! The horror on their faces was evident and it made them all the more determined that Isabella get her "milky" for as long as she needs it. La Leche should hire these 2 to go out and campaign for them. They are convincing and even if you don't agree with them, they will try to talk you into doing what they think is right.

Or they will sing you jingles until you can't even think straight!