Monday, October 26, 2009

Carving Pumpkins

After Zahra's soccer game on Saturday, it was time to carve pumpkins! It's been rather warm here lately, even though the nights and early mornings are pretty cool, so I'd been trying to postpone carving pumpkins as long as possible. Knowing we'd be busy all day Sunday (JJ's 2nd birthday party in Riverside) and wouldn't want to do it on a weeknight, I thought Saturday afternoon would be the best time. Dad and Carol had already bought Zahra a pumpkin from Ralph's. (Above, in the "before" picture, third pumpkin from the left.)

We went to Stater Bros. on the way home and picked up 3 more pumpkins. They were way cheaper than buying them from a pumpkin patch or even other grocery stores. (19 cents a pound! What a deal!) We also bought some pumpkin-carving kits and this was a great idea. In years past, I've used kitchen knives and just kind of free-handed the designs. These kits had perfect little saw-tools, lots of stencils to choose from, and an oil-based crayon to help transfer the designs on to the pumpkins.

Here's Zahra, using the special crayon to transfer the design she picked on to the pumpkin. She wanted to help cut the pumpkins but since this wasn't safe, this was about the only other thing she could really help with. (She was not at all interested in helping to scoop all the goop and seeds out.) Her attention span didn't really last all that long since she wasn't really allowed to help with the process very much, so after helping put the design on the pumpkin, she retreated indoors to play.
This is what Maxwell did while we were working on the pumpkins. Zahra actually took this picture by herself. Max didn't last very long in the activity center though. He watched us for a little while, ate a few Ritz crackers, then got very impatient. Turns out he was hungry and tired, so after he was fed, he took a nap inside. While he was sleeping, I finished up on 3 of the pumpkins.
This is me working on Zahra's pumpkin.

Willie picked a stencil from the internet. Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas movie. Here you can see him using a little tool, kind of like a tiny plastic spur, to transfer the design on to the pumpkin. After rubbing the spur over the paper, little indented dots get left on the skin of the pumpkin, indicating where you should be cutting. (Zahra and I had stencils that had little holes in them so you could rub the crayon over it and leave colored dots on the face of the pumpkin.)

Close-up of Zahra's ghost pumpkin.
The stencil was titled "Boo!"

"My" pumkin with the scary skull design

The free-hand design I did on the little pumpkin

A close-up of Willie's work
Jack, the Pumpkin King
Zahra outside on the front porch with the pumpkins all lined up...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Polliwog Award

This morning, Zahra got a Polliwog Award at school for having read 25 books at home with us. It was her second time receiving an award at Toad Hall (the name of her school's auditorium). I didn't think to bring my camera the first time, but since a lot of other parents had them then, I remembered to take mine along today. The first time, about 25 kids got awards, and today there were 42 (some kids got 2 or 3 awards). Out of maybe 130 kindergarten students, I kind of expected more kids to get the awards, since it seems pretty easy to read 25 different picture books to your child. So, since not everybody got them, it seemed kind of special that Zahra got to go up on stage and hold her award for the audience.
Here, you can see Miss Shikuma (another teacher) counting the kids with the audience to see how many awards were received. She mentioned that a lot of times it's a good indicator how well a child will read when you look at how often the kids are read to at home. I definitely love reading to Zahra each night while Max is asleep in his crib. I think Zahra also likes looking at the pictures and hearing the stories, so I feel lucky that it's something that both of us enjoy. One of these days when Max is a little older, it will be fun to have both of them listening to books. I said this before, but I really hope that both of my kids love to read as much as I do when they get older...

Gingerbread Cookies

Zahra seems to be quite fond of the children's books by Jan Brett. I don't know if it's the pictures or what, but every time we are in the B section of the library, she seems drawn to her books. We've read several of them many times. We had borrowed "Gingerbread Baby" a while back. Then, the other day, this was one of the books that Mrs. Conton read to the class while I was volunteering. Since I remembered Zahra liked it, I made sure that we borrowed it from the library again so she could make the connection with the book she had listened to in class. Since there is a little boy who tries to make gingerbread men in the story, she wanted to do the same. (In the story, however, the boy isn't patient enough to let the gingerbread men cook in the oven and he opens the door to early and a little gingerbread baby pops out and runs away. A chase ensues and the story takes off from there.)

I found a recipe online for chocolate gingerbread cookies, since I didn't think Zahra or I would really like plain gingerbread. The dough came out very chocolatey, but a little on the plain side.

So Friday after school, we went to the store to pick up the ingredients we didn't have. We also looked for cookie cutters but they didn't have any at the grocery store, so we went to Michael's. They didn't have any little people shapes, so we settled for a bear shape and a heart. Here's Zahra pouring in the molasses. We had a bit of a molasses accident prior to this shot and somehow the sticky stuff dripped all down the side of the cabinet. After that was cleaned up, we proceeded with caution. For a five year old, Zahra did pretty well with listening to directions and actually participating in helping me to combine everything.

Here she's mixing the melted unsweetened chocolate, butter, and molasses mix to the flour, baking soda, baking powder, etc. mix.
Although she looks like she's having fun here, she said she didn't like the process of rolling out the dough between two sheets of wax paper.

After the cookies were baked, Zahra did most of the decorating. I think this was the best part for her.
The sprinkles came out SO fast! I had sprinkles everywhere! All over the counter, in the sink, on the floor. I had to do a lot of cleaning to get the kitchen back to normal. But, in the end, I thought it was all worth it. I think Zahra enjoyed making the cookies and was proud of herself for helping me. She shared some with the neighbors and her Grandma.

Here's one of the finished-product cookies. The end!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Self-Portrait of the Artist

I wanted to share a picture that Zahra drew yesterday. It's supposed to be a self-portrait. This is one of the skills the kids are working on in her class... being able to draw a person with certain features, like a head, trunk, arms and legs, and whatever else they'd like to include.
Last night, when I saw Zahra drawing this, I asked her why she looked so scary. She just giggled and said she wanted to be scary-looking.
I said, "But you don't look scary like that in real life."
She paused for a second, threw her arms up in pretend claws by her face, and threw on her scariest looking face. "Yes, I do."
"What about your fingers and toes? Look at how many fingers and toes you have in the picture. Do you have that many in real life?" I asked.
She studied her fingers and started to count them. She knew she didn't have that many. She said that's just the way she liked to draw them. "Where's the brown crayon, Mom? I want to color my hair."
We had a bunch of crayons sitting in a box on the table where she was drawing but the brown one was not among them. It's probably somewhere in this living room but at the moment, it's MIA.
She decided since she couldn't color her hair brown, she'd just use a myriad of colors.
When I asked what color her eyes were in real life, she said they were white.
"But what about the middle parts? The middle parts aren't white, are they?"
"No, those are brown. But we don't have a brown crayon," she argued. So she chose green, presumably since it is her favorite color. Also, she knows her arms aren't pink and purple but she was just trying to be creative. The color of the torso was supposed to be the color of her skin, so that was one thing she was attempting to do accurately. Also, she described her lower extremities in the picture as "[her] big fat legs!" (while laughing hysterically). Since her legs are about as skinny as you can get on a kid her height, it was pretty funny. The orange splotch on her leg is supposed to represent her boo-boo, as she calls it. (She really does have a little scab on her knee right now.)

As more pictures and drawings that seem of interest come along, I'll try to remember to scan them so I can share. I particularly liked this one because it took up a whole 8 x 11" paper and there was nothing else on it. I also had her write her name in the corner so you could see her progress with that but it's kind of hard to see. She chose the upper left-hand corner (above the purple line, which she drew to distinguish her name apart from the drawing).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Namely... Zahra

One of the things I noticed when I was volunteering in Zahra's classroom was that she needs more practice writing her name. The other kids are pretty proficient at writing their names without any assistance. When Zahra doesn't have an example of her name in front of her, she sometimes mixes up the order of the letters. She always remembers to start with a capital "Z" but then, sometimes, an "h" or an "r" might follow.
So on this lazy Saturday afternoon, I decided to have her practice. (She's in her soccer uniform because today was Picture Day, but there was no game to play.) I found this really cool website where you can create your own writing worksheets. ( You type in any text you want and then you can print out the sheets for the kids to practice. It was much easier than sitting there and putting little dots in the shapes of the letters I want her to practice (which I have done in the past).

I'm trying to take an easy approach and just work on it a couple times a day. Not too much pressure, so that she doesn't get tired of it and come to dread the practice. I think she will soon be proud that she's able to write her name by herself.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Max Pack

Look at the sleepy little guy. (Sometimes Willie calls him "Max Pack.") I usually lay him down in the middle of the crib and cover him up with that blanket that Auntie Colleen made for him. Somehow, he scoots in his sleep so that his head is tucked in the corner.

I hope I don't jinx myself here. But I feel it's worth sharing. After all the trouble we went through the other night, with Max waking up 6 times... last night was much better. He went to sleep and didn't wake up until 7 hours later! Woo-hoo.

Yesterday was Back to School Night at Golden View so Willie and I walked over there to meet with Zahra's teacher. She went over things like the daily schedule, skills she expects them to have and things they will be learning this year, parent/teacher conferences, reading incentive programs, homework, stuff like that. After we finished with the school stuff, we decided we wanted dessert. So we took the kids to Golden Spoon and got some frozen yogurt. Then we went by Willie's muay thai facility (they moved to a new location and it's really nice). After we got home, I got Max to sleep around 9:30. Zahra had taken a nap that afternoon so she wasn't tired and didn't go to bed until almost 11. (She's probably really tired today, unfortunately). The little guy slept without a peep until 4:30 this morning. After nursing, he slept from 5 o'clock on, until we had to go downstairs. I was going to leave him in his crib and let him sleep until Grandma came over to watch him (since I volunteered again this morning). Zahra said I should take him downstairs with us in case he woke up and felt lonely. I thought that was nice of her to think of him like that, so I took him out of the crib and brought him with us. He woke up cranky. Luckily, the doorbell rang just then and Grandma was there to console him as I fixed Zahra's hair and got her lunch ready.
If Max could talk, I think he'd be asking,
"Why are you looking at me and not picking me up? I don't understand."

Now that he can pull himself up on the bars, he likes to cruise along.

There's my happy little guy.

And although it is October first, it's HOT!
(Thus the cool little Aloha shirt and short set.)
All summer long, things were pretty cool along the coast here. Mild and not too hot. But now, the typical Indian summer and Santa Ana winds have begun in earnest. Right now, it's 86 degrees outside! Above, the picture of Max shows him intently watching all the cars go by, zooming down Edwards street, in front of the house. I couldn't get him to look at the camera because the cars were too interesting.