Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Montessori for 21 to 22 Month Olds

We have continued to work on letter-sounds and color recognition these past two months, so many of the works from my last Montessori post have remained in the rotation. This age is so much fun because Ryan can now clearly communicate his thoughts and ideas about everything, which allows me to plan activities that he really enjoys.

Here are some of his new favorites:

Fine Motor (Pouring and Threading)
Ryan has been working on pouring and cleaning up his mess afterwards. He has already shown much improvement in his pouring abilities since choosing to practice this.

Threading cut paper towel rolls onto yarn (for necklaces) and cheerios onto pipecleaners (for bracelets) have also helped Ryan to improve his fine motor skills.

I remember having a lot of fun these nesting dolls when I was little, so I decided to pick up some for Ryan the other day. He worked with them for at least fifteen minutes, opening and closing them, and putting them inside of each other. At this point, it is challenging for him to figure out the correct order so that they all fit together, and I think that is what makes them so interesting.

Ryan likes to sort these wooden pieces by shape and color. This seems to be one of the easier activities this month, so I try to encourage him to count the shapes as he places them.

Practical Life
This is, hands down, Ryan's absolute favorite thing to do this month. I can't believe how long he likes to sit there and scrub vegetables. He takes pride in "preparing" them (and then eating them) so I will definitely plan more work that involves food in the future.

I picked up this Melissa and Doug basic skills puzzle at a kids' consignment sale for $3. Ryan explores the different pieces and attempts to zip, snap, button, buckle, and tie. (It will be a few months or more before he fully grasps these skills, but he seems to enjoy it nonetheless).

It has been a while since we have done finger painting (here and here), so I decided that it was time to get out our easel for Ryan to start using it on a regular basis. We love spending time outside on the balcony, and this is a fun way for us to relax and work at the same time.

Ryan recently started to become a little uneasy about having messy hands. I always make a point to get my hands in the finger paints too, so that he sees that it is okay (and even fun) to be messy. I need to come up with some more "messy" activities so that he doesn't become too obsessed with staying clean!

Large Motor
Ryan likes to practice keeping his balance by walking a straight line (simply a piece of masking tape stuck to the floor) and he enjoys sweeping the floor with his little broom.

He also has tons of fun with a hula hoop: rolling it, jumping in it, and tossing bean bags into it.

These are Ryan's bean bags that we got from Etsy seller, IcingOnTheCupcake. He has had these since he was born. Not only are these bean bags fun to toss, but they are great sensory items too. Even as an infant, he enjoyed looking at the black and white patterns and touching the different materials on the back.

Imaginative Play
I'm sure you know that my posts are mostly Montessori-inspired, but I also want to share some of our Waldorf-inspired imaginative play activities because I think that creative free play is a vital part to child development. Ryan loves to play pretend, and these are some of his favorite materials right now:

Knit food- fruits, veggies, cheeseburger, cupcake, and cookies

Wooden play kitchen (from a tot swap)

Noah's Ark and animals

Knit farm animals and barn

Puppets (less than $1 each on consignment)

Ryan continues to amaze me with how quickly he learns and how much he already knows. I especially love his creativity and imagination. It is so hard for me to believe that he will be TWO years old soon! I thank God every day because I am so blessed to be a mommy to such an incredible little boy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our First Cooking Class

For those of you who have not seen my facebook post, here is a picture of my new look!

I finally decided to get my extensions taken out so that I wouldn't have to deal with all of the tangling, shedding, and gaps that needed fills. This is the first time that I have ever willingly cut my hair short, and I am actually pretty happy with how it turned out. My hair feels much more light, free, and easy to take care of.

A few days ago, Barry and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary. We took a cooking class together, which was super fun, relaxing, and educational at the same time. They had all of the ingredients ready for us (which were fresh and from the local farmer's market) and taught us the techniques for cooking a full-course meal. Our menu included:

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Prosciutto Toasts
Crab Cakes
Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
Potato-Pesto Salad
Green Bean Salad with Tarragon and Goat Cheese
Peach Tarts

Although I knew that this was a beginner's level course, I was surprised at just how easy all of these dishes were. I will definitely recreate every single one of them again at home.

They have a wide-range of classes to choose from at L'Academie de Cuisine, and we chose this one based on the menu, the date (a weekend that Aunt S could baby-sit Ryan), and skill level (very basic due to my lack of cooking abilities, ha!)

I would love to take more classes like this in the future, and I highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for a unique "date" idea, or who wants to become more comfortable with basic skills in the kitchen, and even to those who are more serious about cooking.

Here is Barry's final product:

And mine:

And this was our dessert:

Our instructor even served us homemade ice cream to go along with the peach tarts. Mmmmm... yummy in my tummy!

Many of the recipes for these dishes can be found in the cookbook, Plenty.  I just ordered it and I am looking forward to discovering even more delicious vegetarian combinations.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Water Play for Toddlers

It’s too hot to spend the day scorching at the park, but your toddler is going stir crazy sitting around indoors. So, it’s time to get creative with water play. Here’s a list of simple and inexpensive ways that you and your little one can stay cool under the sun and have fun too.

1. Fill a baby pool with water and watch your toddler splash around

2. Run a sprinkler or water hose in the backyard

3. Set up a water exploration table filled with interesting household items

Instead of buying a water table, just make your own out of a plastic storage tub. Include sponges, measuring cups and spoons, ladles, whisks, tongs, bath toys, cups, funnels, buckets, colanders, etc. 

4. Have a toy car/bike wash

5. Jump in puddles and make footprints

6. Run and play in fountains

7. Visit a splash park/water park

Here, we are at a splash park that is geared towards young children.  This one costs $5 to get in, but there are many other nearby fountains (free of charge) that we also like to visit.

8.  Blow bubbles and try to pop them

9.  Water plants in a garden

10. Rescue iceberg toys

           Put small, plastic toys inside an ice cube container, fill it with water, and put it in the freezer.
Later, bring it out into the hot sun and your toddler will be excited to “rescue” the toys as the ice melts.

11. Have a group of toddlers do a wet sponge pass (over their heads and under legs)

12. Play wet sponge tag

13. Have a squirting contest with bathtub toys 
(or use empty and cleaned out ketchup/mustard bottles)

When I was squirting him with the fish, Ryan was screaming with excitement and saying “Mommy, I get you!”

14. Play a guessing game (sink or float) with everyday objects

15. Set up a Slip n Slide

16. Make rainbow water using different containers and food coloring, and then mix some of the colors together to create new colors

17. Paint a fence, wall, or sidewalk with water

Ryan took this job very seriously. Lucky kept sniffing around his bucket, and he said,
“Go away, Wucky!” (Poor Lucky.)

18. Create a homemade water wall, as seen on familylicious.com  

19.  Practice throwing water balloons into a mini basketball hoop or playing catch with them (be careful to throw away the popped balloons immediately)

20. Write the ABC’s with sidewalk chalk, then call out a letter or letter sound and have your toddler spray it with water

~ Ryan absolutely loves water and being outside.  We are having so much fun this summer! ~

Sunday, July 8, 2012

PET Scan (Year One)

One of these days, you will die. We don’t know when, or how, or under what circumstances, but it is a 100% definite fact that each and every one of us will die. So will our parents, our siblings, our best friends, our spouses, and even our children.

Since these types of thoughts make many of us uncomfortable or upset, we generally try to push them out of our minds. But if you or a loved one faces a terminal illness, thinking about dying is only natural and inevitable.

With my mom, we prayed that she would not have pain or suffering, and that she would be here for the next milestone: our wedding, my pregnancy, the birth of her grandson, the holidays, Ryan’s first birthday, etc. We were so blessed that she was able to be here for these significant moments.

There is no guarantee that anybody will be here next year, next week, or even tomorrow. I am not saying this to sound morbid (I am actually a positive/cheerful person) but because it makes me think about the value of my own life and the lives of those around me. 

I am always thinking, if there are only x amount of days left in my life, have I spent today doing something that is worthwhile, meaningful, and that makes a positive difference for others? How do I want to be remembered when I am gone? What do I want to accomplish while I am here?

I am not at all scared about what will happen to me afterwards. I know that my mom is already waiting for me there with opened arms. My greatest concern is being able to provide enough love to my family while I am still here, while I can. 

I read somewhere that if a child loses a parent before age five, they usually don’t remember much about them. I also read that there is a 30% chance of recurrence, within the first three years, for triple negative breast cancer. I know that these are only statistics, but I just can’t help but wonder.

Will I be able to be here for Ryan’s first day of kindergarten, or for his high school graduation, or to dance with him at his wedding? Will Barry and I have the opportunity to fulfill our dream of growing our family and having more children?

These are the impossible questions that preoccupy me as I go in for my latest PET scan. It has been fourteen and a half months since my last dose of chemotherapy, and we are hoping and praying that the cancer has not returned to my body. 

The radiologist sticks me with a needle and injects dye into my veins. I have to lay completely still and silent for an hour. Then I am pushed through a large, cylinder-shaped machine that can detect any indication of cancer in my body.

This one test determines my future. Our future.

We are anxious and eager for the results. A few days later, we receive the call from my oncologist. 

My PET scan is completely clear. I am still cancer-free!

Praise God! I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Our future suddenly looks so bright! I have never been more happy to pass a test in my life. Here’s to hoping that I continue to pass this one over and over again.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Independence Day

I hope that everyone had a happy July 4th!  We decided to just stay in and watch the fireworks from our balcony.  (We are on the 17th floor, so we usually end up seeing at least 10 different sets of fireworks, including the big ones in DC).  There were only a couple of fireworks this year because of the widespread power outages.  Ryan was not impressed with the random flashes of color, but he did have fun dancing and staying up past his bedtime.

We actually lost power for four days ourselves, so we had been staying at my dad's house until we got it back last Tuesday.  Thank goodness that we had somewhere to go, because it would have been miserable without air conditioning and temperatures reaching 105!  We ended up being quite cozy with me, Barry, Ryan, and Lucky sleeping together on the couches in the basement (ha!)

L Family Summer Pictures

A few weeks ago, we had some family pictures taken with Tyler Plank of Tyler Plank Photography.  Here are some of our favorites...

We got to do an outfit change halfway through.  I did my best to match both of Ryan's outfits to Barry's.  These two have always looked so much alike, ever since Ryan was first born.  He is just like his daddy!

The best part of the photo shoot was when Ryan found four baby bunnies inside a hole in the photographer's backyard.  He was so excited and kept talking about how the bunnies were "hiding" (which is one of his new favorite words).

I am so proud of our handsome little guy for being in cooperative mood the whole time that we were taking pictures, even on a super hot day.

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