Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Circus Day at Preschool

Today was my first day teaching our co-op preschool.  This post is probably going to be boring and a little lengthy because I'm just going to recap everything we did, mostly so I have a record of it and it can help me remember what worked best and what didn't work as well.
Since this was only our second day of preschool I stuck with continuing the introduction to the alphabet theme of last week and started in on the circus curriculum from Mother Goose.  It worked out well for me since we actually already had quite a few things that were geared toward the circus anyway, like the little circus tent in the corner and a popcorn counting game with jumbo-sized popcorn and buckets in graduated sizes with numbers on the side indicating how many popcorn go in each bucket. 
Anyway, I just moved the couches around in the living room to free up a wall and then taped up the alphabet, color, number, shape, sight words, and calendar posters that came with the curriculum.  Then I pulled out our Eeboo alphabet letter cards that I bought a while back (they have a bunch of different sets that you can find on amazon but I loved the landscape ones - each card has a number of things on it that start with the letter). 
I also set out a bunch of our alphabet books along with shape and number puzzles so that there were things for the kids to play with and look at while everybody was showing up.  Of course we didn't get to everything on the wall but we touched on a lot of it as part of the class routine once we got started.  We started with welcoming everybody to preschool and introductions (one of the girls was new this week because she wasn't feeling well last Wednesday) and then said the Pledge of Allegiance.  Clara held the little flag and totally surprised me by reciting the ENTIRE THING along with me (and a couple of times going ahead of me to the next word or two).  I have been saying it to her randomnly over the last week trying to expose her to it and asking her to say it with me and she has completely refused so I sort of thought that maybe it was just going over her head (words like "indivisible" and "liberty and justice for all" just can't have any meaning to her yet) but apparently all she needed was an audience to perform in front of to bring it out of her.  It was a proud moment.
After reciting the pledge I pulled out a big magnetic wooden puzzle map of the USA and did a quick geography lesson and explained the part of the pledge where it talks about the United States of America and how the puzzle showed the country we live in.  Then I had them point to California and we talked about the pictures on our state's piece (grapes, the Golden Gate Bridge, redwood trees, the ocean).
Then it was the "Days of the Week" song and pointing at the day of the week on the calendar.  After that I talked to them about the color red, which was the color for the day and told them to find something red around the room and bring it to me.  I had scattered a bunch of random red objects around the room beforehand (a measuring cup, a little wagon, a hairbrush, some of Clara's toy fruit, a toy guitar, etc.) and the kids loved that game.  Then we counted things that had multiples while we talked about each of the red things. 

The next thing was introducing the circus theme more and reading books about it.  First we read a Clifford book about the circus that the kids seemed to really like (I don't know why but I sort of loathe Clifford books but apparently kids love the big red dog).  Then we read this amazing animal ABC book created by the American Museum of Natural History (Katydids for "K" and one sentence of a fascinating fact like dolphins are mammals, not fish, and can't breath underwater - the kids really grabbed onto that one and we talked a lot about mammals the rest of the time and how whales and dolphins are not fish, they are mammals just like us) and "Olivia Saves the Circus" (great humor). 

I interspersed some songs to get wiggles out along the way but after a couple of books the children were getting restless so we moved into snack time and had circus themed snacks of popcorn, celery with hummus, apple slices, and cheese cubes.  So I guess only the popcorn was circus themed, but it worked.  I'm pretty certain that Clara has a little crush on the boy in the red hat.  Last week she kept talking about him and this week she interacted with him quite a lot.  And after preschool was over Clara made sure to mention him in our prayer at lunchtime when she was blessing the food, lol.

While I cleaned up after snacks I let the kids have some independent play time with the circus tent and the toys.  Then I had them each carry over their art supply box and we did a craft where we painted red stripes on a white rectangle (to practice making vertical lines as sort of a pre-writing technique and continue with our "red" theme for the day), cut one straight line into the center of a circle (learning how to properly hold and manipulate scissors and develop those motor skills while talking about shapes), and used glue sticks to stick a pipe cleaner onto a green rectangle which we folded over to create a flag.  Then I folded the cut circles into cones and taped the circus tents together for each of the kids.  Honestly, it was a little bit complex but the kids were so focused and I could definitely see how challenged they were but also so determined.  It's sort of an amazing thing to watch.

While we worked on our craft one of the letters fell off our alphabet wall so I improvised and we transitioned back into more of a class setting by looking for the letter that had escaped (it was the "e" which makes the "eh" sound so escaped was perfect, right?  I didn't go into all that for them but I was thinking it to myself.)  I made a big deal about "oh no! a letter is missing! this is a really big problem!" and asked them to help me figure out which letter was missing by singing the alphabet with me.  We sing through it a couple of times, identified that it was "E" that was gone, then "found" it on the floor and stuck it back up and then sang the full song again.  Seriously, the kids LOVED it and as soon as everybody left Clara was immediately begging me to take a letter off the wall so we could find out which one was missing again and we have gone through practically half the alphabet repeating the game over and over already until I finally told her it was time for a break. 

Then it was a couple more books before dynamic play time where I pulled out our fabric tunnels and the kids pretended to be lions at the circus going through hoops.  The went around and around in circles until I (the lion tamer) called them into the circus tent where they giggled with each other while I told them that when I closed the tent flaps they needed to roar as loud as they could.  Which we repeated multiple times until the other moms showed up.

All in all, I felt like it was a success although man alive it was exhausting!  But fun.  The biggest problem is figuring out how to manage wiggly bums and keep them on their carpets.  I'm going to have to brainstorm techniques and would appreciate any suggestions.  The kids are so cute and Clara did great sharing her toys and helping and not getting jealous.  Which I was nervous about because she told me more than once yesterday that she did NOT want the other kids coming to her house and playing with her toys for preschool.  We had some talks yesterday and this morning and I am super thankful they seem to have sunk in.  And now I don't have to teach again until mid-October! 

I'm thinking this is gonna work out just great.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Preschool, Gizdich Ranch, and Saturday Projects


Clara had her first day of preschool this past Wednesday (Sep. 3).  We are doing a co-op with four other moms/kids I have met through church so her first day was at her friend Molly's house.  They did an introduction to the alphabet, went on a number hunt, and read "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom".  We decided to start out at just 1 day a week from 9:00-11:30 a.m. for the month of September and then up it to 2 days a week for the rest of the year.  We ordered a curriculum called "Mother Goose" and are supplementing with "Confessions of a Homeschooler" materials and whatever else we find on Pinterest or that we think of on our own.  Two of the other moms were first grade teachers and one has a master's in education, so I feel a little intimidated (especially since this Wednesday is my first day as teacher) but grateful that we have support and experience on our side without having to spend tons of money for preschool. 

Clara was very excited about preschool and she did great her first day.  She woke up late actually (sleeping in until 8:00 a.m. is pretty much unheard of for my girls) so we kind of hustled to get out the door but made sure to take a few pictures first.  Then once I dropped her off, Rose and I went to the gym where Rose was one of the only kids in the kids club area since almost all the kids are in school in the mornings now.  After my class, Rose and I hung out in the car waiting for Clara to get done (since it didn't make any sense to go home and pull Rose out of the carseat just to get back in the car 10 minutes later for pick-up) and Rose took a nice little snooze.

The night before Paul gave Clara her first ever beginning-of-the-school-year priesthood blessing and Clara was so grown-up and proper about it, folding her arms and bowing her head reverently while listening closely to the words that were spoken.  We are so proud of her and the big girl she is becoming.

Gizdich Ranch

Last year Paul didn't get to go apple picking with Clara and me so this year we definitely wanted to find a Saturday to go together as a family.  And luckily our friends Johannes & Christine wanted to go too, which was extra fun because it meant Clara got to see her friends Silas & Liesel and Paul and I got to catch up and commiserate with Johannes & Christine about remodeling projects (they have been kitchenless for almost 2 months now because of their kitchen/living room/dining room remodel).  One of the hardest things about this move (and any move, frankly) has been missing our old friends so it is always fun to get together. 

Anyway, we didn't realize they had a strawberry patch by the apple orchards that were still bearing fruit and since the Fischlis were running late, Paul, Clara, Rose and I had fun picking strawberries while we waited.  They were AMAZINGLY good - sooooo sweet and juicy - and Clara loves picking strawberries and is good about only picking the biggest, reddest strawberries and leaving the ones that aren't quite ripe on the plants.  And Rose was content to just hang out and look around and enjoy chewing on the straps of the carrier. 

For some reason there weren't as many low-hanging apples this year as I remember there being last year but there was still enough that we filled a bucket with Pippins and Galas.  Paul helped Clara reach some from the higher branches but frankly, Clara was just antsy to be given permission to finally EAT one of the apples rather than keep picking them.  I'm thinking about making applesauce, applesauce snacking cake (so yummy - it is an America's Test Kitchen recipe and basically just a muffin recipe that you cook in a square pan and dust with spiced sugar), and apple fritter bread with our haul.  Apple picking is pretty much the perfect start-of-fall tradition and I'm so glad we went again this year even though the drive to Watsonville was a little long.

Bathroom Remodel

After we got home from apple picking everybody sort of crashed for a bit before we regrouped and got back in the car to go look at tile for the master bathroom.  Paul demo-ed part of the shower wall last week so that we could have a plumber come adjust the plumbing for the shower and vanity areas.  So now Paul has to finish the demo work on the rest of the shower enclosure, raise the ceiling height, and drywall it off with cement board or whatever that waterproof barrier stuff is.  Then we are hiring out the tilework. 

We found these two tiles that were pretty much just what I was looking for.  The hexagonal marble tile is for the shower floor area and the large greyish tile will be the shower surround and also the floor of the bathroom (we had picked out a different tile for the flooring but when we got the samples home and laid things out we decided that in the end it will just look best to go with just one tile design since the bathroom is still really small).  It still isn't going to be done for a long while but hopefully before Thanksgiving we will have a fully functioning, totally remodeled master bath. 

We also found a kitchen table that we think we like but didn't buy/order it because (1) we are trying to avoid impulse buys (although this is the second weekend we have spent looking for a table and probably the 6th home furnishings store we went to), (2) we wanted to come back home and remeasure to make sure it fit well in our dining space, and (3) the sales lady wouldn't negotiate on price which kind of bugs when making a big purchase like a dining table.  It is on sale through the month of September though and honestly it is pretty much exactly what we were hoping to find (and not completely horribly priced) so we will probably end up doing it so that we can (hopefully) have a real table for Thanksgiving and not just a cardtable like we have been using since moving into this house.

And that was our week!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sequoia & King's Canyon National Parks

We thought it would be fun to go camping over Labor Day since we haven't done any kind of a family trip all summer and we were able to find a camping spot to reserve in Sequoia National Park which we have been wanting to check out.  So we pulled all our camping stuff together and packed the car Thursday night and then Friday Paul left work a little early so we were able to get away a little after 3:00.  Rose had a little bit of a rough start to the trip and fussed quite a bit through the bad traffic getting out of the Bay Area but once we got past Livermore things cleared up a little bit and Rose dozed off and had a good little late afternoon snooze while Clara happily watched "Finding Nemo" (periodically making statements during more intense parts of the movie like "mom & dad - I was so brave!").  When Rose woke up, we had a quick dinner stop to give the girls a break and then it was back on the road where Rose fell asleep for the night, which was perfect as we had quite a bit of winding road to go through to get to our campsite. 
Unfortunately, Paul wasn't feeling so great Friday and didn't have a very good night sleeping in the tent (the campsite was in the foothills and was crazy hot and dusty).  He wasn't feeling any better on Saturday morning but we decided to just go forward with our plans and see if he improved as the day went on.  First we stopped at Lodgepole visitors center to buy dinner tickets for the Wolverton BBQ & dinner show that night, then we did the super easy hike down to see General Sherman. 
General Sherman isn't the tallest tree or the widest tree in the world but it is the largest tree by volume in the whole world.  It is 2,200 years old and the top is dead so it isn't getting any taller but it is still adding bark so every year it increases its bulk with enough wood to form another good-size tree.  There was an interesting board to read near the tree with a bunch of factoids like a 6-foot human looking up at General Sherman is the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a 6-foot human or that if the General Sherman could be filled with water it would hold enough for 9,844 baths which is 1 bath every day for 27 years.  And while it isn't the oldest Sequoia tree in existence (there are some sequoias older than 3,000 years), it is the biggest because of its location which gave it prime growing conditions.  Isn't that sort of stuff fascinating? 
On the trail down to the General Sherman tree there was this area where rocks inlaid in cement showed General Sherman's footprint to give an idea of how big it is at its base.  Clara was running circles around me while we were trying to take this photo.

There are a bunch of other huge sequoias in the park along this trail and other nearby trails but we didn't explore far because the most likely sounding trail was 2 miles long and Rose was starting to fuss and Clara was starting to whine so we opted instead to ride the bus to the Giant Trees Museum, which Clara loved (the bus ride - not the museum which was kind of lame).

After another bus ride back to the car it was a little after 11:00 and Rose fell right asleep so we decided to do a nice long drive between the parks.  Sequoia and King's Canyon are right next to each other and the views were interesting so we just snacked on chips and apples and other food we had in the car rather than stop back at Lodgepole for lunch.  Clara fell asleep partway too, which worked out perfectly.  So after an almost 2 hour drive we ended up at Cedar Grove in King's Canyon where we got out and waded in the shallow river for a while.  It was a lovely spot and it felt great putting our feet in the water.  Even Rose liked it despite how cold the water was.

I waded out with both girls told Clara to do a crazy balancing pose with me on this rock.  Rose didn't know what was going on. 

Unfortunately, or predictably, Clara sat down in the water (getting a little damp) and then "fell" in (could it have been purposeful?) so she had to strip down while her clothes dried on the branches of a nearby bush.

Rose took another nap on the drive back and then we spent some time exploring around Wuksachi Lodge and doing a teeny-tiny portion of a hike that might have been fun to do if we had the time and the girls were a little more interested and Paul was feeling a little better.  As it was, Paul still wasn't feeling great at all so after dinner at the Wolverton BBQ (which was pretty disappointing) we headed back to our campsite to pack up and head for home.  We left around 8:00 and got back around 11:30, which worked out well for us because Rose and Clara both fell asleep in the car and transferred to their beds pretty well once we got home.  Honestly, I had worried about how Rose would do on this little excursion because she isn't the best sleeper unless she is in her crib and things are silent but she did great and we were so grateful.  It gives us a lot of hope that she will do well with our longer Yosemite trip in October.

So, our first foray into camping with both girls wasn't so much of a success.  We only did 1 night instead of the 3 we had planned on.  But both girls slept great that first night and the real reasons we left were because it was too hot at our campsite to be comfortable, Paul wasn't feeling very well the whole time, and there wasn't as much to see in these parks as there is at other parks we like better. But at least now we can say we've been there, right?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Some Recent Summer Fun

Rose has turned into such a little snuggler lately and not just because of teething or tiredness or anything.  She likes to tease Paul by peeking out at him, then when he makes a funny face for her she ducks her noggin' under my chin and giggles right up against my neck.  It is seriously too sweet and I don't think I will ever get tired of it.

Blackberries were a big hit with Rose and she got them everywhere.

We have been on a pizza kick lately.  The other week we made a whole wheat veggie pizza (possibly one of my favorite things ever - it is seriously SO good) and Clara was my big helper.  (I also tried a Chicago deep dish pizza recipe from America's Test Kitchen that was sort of life-changing - recipe is on Tastebook).  She really loves rolling things out and pizzas are great because the dough is forgiving and then she has such a great time putting the toppings on the pizza.  I totally believe in getting her involved in the cooking process as much as possible early on.  Except that she ends up snacking on the mushrooms, peppers, zucchini and cheese that she is supposed to be putting on the pizza so I usually have to take over to make any progress and make sure that dinner actually gets made.  Incidentally, Clara has been crazy into wearing her leotards lately whether she has had gymnastics or not.  This was a non-gymnastics day because her hair was down and I always braid it for class.

Painting is still a favorite pastime around here.  Clara has finally started using crayons too but painting is her first love. 

Rose has actually started having success over the past two days with actually fairly consistently getting cheerios from her tray into her mouth using her thumb and forefinger.  Is it crazy how ridiculously proud I am of these little developments?

Along with dressing up in leotards, the girls have been wearing the fairy wings (which are apparently butterfly wings since Clara doesn't have a clue what fairies are) to dress up as butterflies.  Clara insisted that she was a "sleeping butterfly" when I was trying to take her picture.  You know how some kids refuse to take off certain dress up clothes when they run errands with mom?  That is how Clara tends to be with these wings and she will walk out to the car wearing them and I have to convince her that I can't buckle her into her carseat with them on.

The girls and I often sit outside in the shade in the evenings while we are waiting for Paul to get home from work.  He usually texts to let us know how far away he is since he rides BART and can give us a good ETA.  The girls love it and sometimes we take books out there and read for a bit in the front yard while we wait and sometimes we talk to neighbors who come by.  Clara likes to bring one of her babies (zebra or giraffe) out with her and push them up and down the sidewalk in the stroller or she plays with Gnomie (a Travelocity roaming gnome that sits on a rock by our entryway).


Waiting for Daddy to Get Home from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

Two weekends ago we decided to go swimming late in the day because we had been running errands and working outside in the heat cleaning up the yard.  We ended up at the Dougherty pool that is on the San Ramon/Danville border, I think, because the San Ramon Olympic Pool was closing too early for us.  It had a nice kiddie pool that was pretty basic (no climbing structure or slides or anything) and was practically empty.  The girls had a great time and Rose has finally seemed to really have come around when it comes to swimming pools.  It used to take her quite a bit to warm up to being in the cool water but she got right to it this time and started splashing and playing immediately.

This video is just a random one of Rose chatting with Paul the other day.  I like it because it shows what a wiggle worm she is and how she has little squeals and noises that are darling:

Rose chattering from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

We are still going to 24 Hour Fitness on a regular basis and it is seriously awesome.  The girls like it too and as I type this Clara is walking around chanting "I want to go to the gym, gym, gym!" because Rose is still asleep and we can't leave until she wakes up.  They have a huge playplace-type structure with slides and platforms and tunnels and that kind of stuff and Clara literally goes up and down that thing the whole time I am in class while Rose basks in the adoration of the staff who are totally enamored with her.  My favorite thing to do right now is go to a class called "Nike Team Training" which is sort of like a bootcamp class set to music but not involving any dance.  It has lots of steps and weights and squats and pushups and that sort of stuff without being all cheesy (which drives me crazy about group exercise classes). 

I posted this on instagram and am definitely tooting my own horn here but a while back I was watching Clara do gymnastics and started wondering why she gets to have all the fun and why did I feel like I was incapable of doing gymnastics myself.  So I set out to accomplish some feats of strength to prove to myself that I CAN still do gymnastic type things.  Doing a handstand is one of those things that I really wanted to be able to do.  I can hold it for a few seconds at a time and although my feet are cut off in this picture I was not touching the mirror behind me - I just like to practice next to a wall still just in case I kick over too hard when I am going into it.  It is so weird how I still have to overcome fears every time though - fears of looking dumb or of falling or getting hurt.  But I feel like it is good mental and spiritual exercise to push myself past those fears and do this.  Anyway, the next step is to try to find an adult gymnastics class and try it out.  (okay, okay, it is Wednesdays at 8:30 at night - I just need to go do it already.  My friend Bethany inspired me about this when she joined an adult ballet class last year and then posted a picture of herself in her costume at her recital this past spring.  Seriously, Bethany, you are my hero.)

This past weekend Paul and I participated in the ROC (Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge) 5K race.  Only it is not so much a race because it isn't even timed and most people don't run the whole thing (we did though - mostly).  Essentially, it is a 5k with obstacles along the way that you have to go through, much like the TV show "Wipeout".  There was a wall to climb, a giant moon bounce to jump across, a huge waterslide that you rode down in an intertube with a big bump at the end that dumped you into a pool of water, rotating padded "sweeper" arms that knocked people off a balance beam as they attempted to cross, giant swinging "wrecking balls" that knocked people into a pool of water as they made their way across a cylindrical padded beam, etc.  Paul made it past the wrecking balls which was pretty amazing since hardly anyone was getting across without falling.  I did pretty well and made it to about 4 feet from the platform before I lost my footing and ended up in the water.  It was a super fun day date, reminiscent of the Warrior Dash that we did a few years back, only we liked this one even better.  We would definitely do it again.

After we got home and the girls woke up from their naps, we went to explore downtown Pleasanton and check out a pretty wonderful soft-serve ice cream place called Meadowlark Dairy.  It is a drive through or there is a walk-up window (which is what we did) and it has been around since the early 1900's and was "the first certified dairy in California" (according to their website).  Paul and I both got vanilla/chocolate swirl cones and Clara got a strawberry/pineapple cone (I didn't like the pineapple to tell the truth but the vanilla/chocolate was excellent) and we sat on a nearby curb to eat them.  Rose even got a couple of tastes from Daddy's cone, thanks to her status of being the second child (ice cream was off-limits for Clara until she was 1 although Paul says he snuck her some when I didn't know about it).

And we have been playing lots of "Go Fish" around here with these darling Eeboo cards that I ordered after playing with a set that Emma has while we were visiting in Utah.  We also got "Old Maid" but haven't opened it yet.  The colors have more elaborate names like buttercup, turquoise, eggplant, café au lait, and indigo, which is kind of cool and Clara loves it.  When the three of us play together she only wants to ask Paul if he has the color she is looking for, never me.  And when he says "no, go fish" Clara grins and says "oh gosh!" and then draws her card.  It has us cracking up every time.


Go Fish from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

And finally, Clara and Paul love to do the wiggle dance together:

Clara and Daddy do the Wiggle Dance from Amy Nash on Vimeo.