Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chocolate and Grapes

This week M watched "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" movie. You know, the updated one with Johnny Depp. It's funny 'cause last time we tried showing it to him, back in January, he could care less for it. But now, it's a whole different story. Not only he loves it, but he even plays pretend chocolate factory. He's building one out of a ball of twine, a mailing tube, a workout mat, a bunch of pebbles and quite a few pretend components that noone but him can see. He even puts pretend gloves on, just like Willy Wonka! BTW, he figured out why he needs those gloves - so that his hands don't get sticky from all the chocolate.

As for the grapes, we finally found a pick-your-own vineyard, Lu Mil, growing Scuppernongs and Muscadines. It was quite a drive too, all the way in Elizabethtown, NC. But I think it was worth it. The place is really beautiful and my pictures don't do it any justice.
Picking grapes is much easier and more enjoyable than picking strawberries. So even though we spent plenty of time just running between the rows of grapes, looking for the biggest Muscadines and for huge insects, and snapping photos, we picked a nice bucket of grapes really quickly.

Then we got some grape cider slushies (great stuff!) and retired to a shaded patio to enjoy it. Except, of course, that M kept running back into the store to check out the old gramophone that they had as part of their room decor. He loved it since, of course, it worked and the did have an old record on it too! He kept spinning the record, but of course got little except noise and some garbled sounds now and then. Still, he was excited and said that we should buy a gramophone.

This is his new thing - "we should buy" this and that. Yesterday it was a puppy. A few days ago it was a different car. Then it was a chocolate factory, of course, and a cotton candy-making machine. And now it's this - gramophone. Well, I don't know about buying one, but we can probably make one pretty easily. Something to think about...

Today, when I asked M what was his most favorite part of the day (something of a ritual we have now every night before going to bed), he said "Going to pick grapes with you and Papa. We are going to go back, right?". Gotta love this kiddo!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

But What About Socialization?

That's what I get asked a lot when I mention that I plan on homeschooling M. I dunno, honestly, but so far we aren't suffering from lack of it. It's not like we stay home all day every day. And everywhere we go, there are people of all ages and we get to interact with them in various settings and in many different situations. Which, I think, is a more wholesome and balanced socialization that being in the same room with 20 other kids the same age day in day out.

Several times each week we have playdates with M's friends. Sure, for now it's more of a one-on-one playdates, but hey, he's only 3 years old. 3-year old don't play as a group. Instead, they end up either playing alone or with just one other playmate.

We do have a huge sharing problem though. I mean, as long as we're out and about and the toys aren't M's, he will take turns and share. But inviting anyone over to our house is simply not possible. I mean, we do invite kids over and sometimes things go just fine, especially if it's an older child (they seem to be more patient and understanding) or girls (since they aren't too eager to play with blocks, trains and many other of his toys).

From Last Week

Last week was the building week. Actually, M's been building lots and lots of stuff lately. Up in his room we set up a little Thomas the Train railroad (actually, it's a much cheaper Imaginarium set, but it works just as well). You can't really see any of the tracks though 'cause M built lots of tunnels out of all the suitable building blocks. He then used the unsuitable ones (too small) to build a sprawling settlement along the still-exposed tracks. He even started building with the Lincoln Logs. By his own admission, the result was "a very strange house, Mama".

Thus having run out of blocks, he now goes to Marbles, the kids museum, to build there. Fortunately, folks there are prepared. Here he is, building out of Tinkertoys pieces. It's funny that I thought about getting him Tinkertoys a couple of months ago, but he didn't show any interest in the ones at Marbles. So instead I got him a beginner set of Gears! (BTW, it's not me shouting, it's the toy's actual name - Gears! Gears!) And of course, right now he doesn't even ask for Gears, but instead is totally into Tinkertoys.

Then there are giant LEGO-like blocks on the 2nd floor of the Museum. Which is a dangerous area 'cause it is right next to the pizzeria playspace, the ball pit and the various conveyors, air cannons, tubes and rails that are used by kids to get all the balls into this big pink pig that hangs over the ball pit. You see, once the pig "eats" enough balls, the trap door opens and the balls fall down into the pit and kiddos love it. And all this fun envelopes a large play structure with a big twisty slide. They might as well put a sign at the entrance "Forget all hope of getting out of here quickly, ye parents".

I got side-tracked again... Sorry... ok, giant interlocking blocks... these are super cool and there are lots and lots of them so it is possible to build large structures, including houses, boats, big walls. Maybe even a maze. That would be a really neat thing, come to think of it. These blocks are also fun to crush since they come down with a horrific noise that M and his buddies L-O-V-E.

Back on the first floor, next to the play kitchen, there's a small tucked-in area with two shelves full of good old unit blocks. These are nice and heavy too and provide a good workout for M and lots of feedback to his muscles. Just this past week he's built two houses with them. The first house was a castle for a piglet. The second one was a 5-story tower that housed two piglets, two chickens and all their eggs. The eggs were put on the top-most floor so that "they wouldn't run away". M pays particular attention to decorating these structures, as you can probably tell.

From 2 Weeks Ago

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth right after turning 32. It's just now that I'm older and wiser and more responsible, I decided to devote more time to work and less time to frivolous activities such as blogging. Wait 'til next year, when I turn 33 (although I just might win lottery by then and get filthy rich).

So anyway, where was I? Ah, right, 2 weeks ago, right after turning 32, I decided to be a bit more diligent in homeschooling M (you see, I get these moods now and again). So I drew up a very flexible plan for the following week that included all sorts of activities for gross and fine motor development, arts and crafts, pre-reading and pre-math, etc. The theme was supposed to be SPACE. Yes, we were even going to build a rocket out of cardboard boxes. And I was going to finally make use of my land-water globe that I recently made.

Except, of course, M didn't care for any such thing. We still ended up doing lots of stuff, but if I was to try to pull it together under one theme, it'd be something like Farm-Kitchen-Anatomy (which, come to think of it, is weirdly logical).

Here is M playing with the shaving cream "snow" and making a fine mess out of it. The nice thing is he actually helped me to clean up by washing all the toys and utensils he used in the process (and that was lots and lots of stuff).

We also drew this cheerful dude. Yeah, body tracing seems to be catching on since M also did lots of chalk drawing and hand- and foot-tracing. You see, I was thinking that we'd do body tracing and then M would draw an astronaut (remember - SPACE). Instead, he wanted me to draw all the internal organs and various body parts. We split the work with me taking care of the heart, veins, lungs and digestive system and M drawing the brain (most important), facial features, arteries, hair, and muscles.

In case you don't know - ever since last winter M's been fascinated with various body parts and internal organs. It started of right after the Halloween (think - skeletons) and blossomed after we got him "Uncover the Human Body" book (he really-really wanted it). Since then we've read it to him countless times (we have to skip some of the longer explanations since the book is for ages 9-12). So he knows all his organs and "systems" by now with digestive system being his favorite (poop - funny).

Moving on now... After the body trace was thus decorated and labeled, including the content of the stomach, it was time for the kitchen play. Yes, he still plays with his toy kitchen that Chris made a while ago (truth be told, the blasted thing has never been finished which doesn't seem to deter M). He also did some art work, finger painting and using different size bottle caps to make prints.

I also gave him a new open-ended activity that I read about in one of the Mary Ann Khol's books. Mine consisted of a large piece of florist foam, 3 wooden BBQ sticks, a bunch of wooden spools, and a handful of fuzzy sticks (have no idea of what they are really called). I put the BBQ sticks into the foam and then let M invent. He came up with a structure that he called a Big Birthday Cake for Eeyor. And we had to sing the birthday song too.

Oh, and we've been reading tons and tons of books - Tales from Fern Hollow, Жили-были кролики, Именинный пирог Финдуса, The Big Pumpkin, Cloudy with Chance of Meatballs, the already-mentioned Uncover the Human Body book, Кит и Кот, and a couple of others.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Something Even a 3-Year Old Can Do

And that is "вареники" or dumplings. Not really Russian, but rather Ukrainian dish and I LOVE them. But not all vareniki are created equal in my eyes. "Вишневые вареники" or cherry-filled dumplings are the best! It's one of my all-time favorite foods every since I can remember myself eating.

Funny thing though - I've never made them before. Sure, I helped mom many times, but mostly by pitting cherries and filling and closing the little dumplings. I didn't make the dough nor did I roll it out. But I figured now that I don't live with Mom, I better learn or I'm in danger of never eating my favs ever again.

Turns out, it's pretty simple. Of course, it works better with tender sour cherries than with robust and even kinda crunchy sweet cherries from Costco. But whatever... Chris made the dough, M rolled it out and sized the portions of filling (2-3 cherries per). You're asking what did I do? Well, I pitted the cherries and pinched the dumplings closed. Oh yeah, I rolled the dough too.

С корабля на бал...

... which can be translated as "to dash from one place to another" (although this translation doesn't come close to capturing the meaning of the original "from a ship to a fancy party"). That's pretty much what was going on last week.

We got back from NY where M spent time with бабушка and дедушка just in time to greet M's paternal grandparents. We got back very late on Tuesday night and Ron and Ann flew in on Thursday morning. As you can imagine, we had very little time to get things ready. Basically, I unpacked, worked, and bought groceries so as to avoid feeding fast food to all (although I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that leftover pizza was served for lunch on Thursday. To redeem myself I did make a big tasty salad).

Ann is crocheting this really nice pink baby blanket and she had to go to Micheal's to get a new hook (as you can imagine, the old one didn't make it through the airport security). While there, she picked up a small wooden birdhouse and a set of paints for M. I never got this for him before since he's never been big on crafts. But he actually spent close to 30 mins carefully painting the birdhouse, covering every inch of it with several layers of paint, including as much of an inside as he could. Go figure! Well, I guess I'll try to include more projects like this in the future.

They also went to the music store next to Michael's. In case you don't know, Ron plays guitar and writes, sings and records his own songs. I guess that's where M gets his interest in music and, specifically, in playing different musical instruments (although he's more into drums and brass at this point).

Back to the music store though... Ron tried out a guitar there and played a bit and M got into it and was copying Grandpa's moves. Maybe next time Ron and Ann visit, we get to go to 2112 Percussions where M can show off his drumming (earplugs for all are on me).

The day Ann and Ron left was Ron's birthday. So we celebrated the day before with cherry vareniki (see next post) and a cake. Of course, M had to help to blow out the candles. And now, after two b-days in a row (mine the next day, post is coming up soon) he's pretend baking and playing b-day parties (with cake and mugs of beer).