Thursday, June 30, 2011

Birthday Party & Keeping Busy

Froggy Boots had her 2nd birthday party this past weekend!  I can't believe she's 2 years old already -- where did the time go?  Anyways, we all had a good time!  Froggy Boots had a Thomas birthday cake, which she could literally hardly keep her hands off. 

This is the 2nd year in a row that we've purchased a birthday cake from Kroger.  The frosting is awesome and the cake is really moist and delicious.  I've been pretty impressed considering they were just grocery store bakery cakes!  Here's a picture of the Thomas cake:

Froggy Boots received lots of fun gifts for her birthday!  I think the gift that was the biggest hit (with Froggy Boots and all of the kids at her party) was a Radio Flyer wagon from her grandma and grandpa Dahlem (my mom and dad).  Froggy Boots didn't notice the wagon right way, but when she did, she made a mad dash for it.  She ended up opening up the remainder of her gifts while sitting in the wagon!  Here are a few pictures of Froggy Boots and her new wagon:

If you look closely, Froggy Boots is holding the little Thomas train from her birthday cake.  She didn't let go of that until we got home after her party!


Froggy Boots riding in the wagon with one of her friends while myself and another one of her friends pulls the wagon.

Since Froggy Boots' birthday party, we have been keeping really busy!  On Tuesday we went to library story time at the Ann Arbor District Library downtown branch.  On Wednesday we went to the farmer's market and explored the many different types of vegetables we have never tried before.  I got a lesson about Kale from a woman from Tantre Farms (one of the local CSA farms) and bought a cookbook with recipes and information about cooking with seasonal vegetables. 

I have been inspired to try cooking with some different vegetables and would like to try and take advantage of the abundance of local produce we have available in the Ann Arbor area!  The cookbook I bought is called From Asparagus to Zucchini and has vegetables listed in alphabetical order along with recipes to use each one, information about where they originated, and when they are in season.  The cookbook also has lots of information about making a transition to cooking with seasonal food as well as how to store it for later use.

On Wednesday we also had an impromptu seed planting lesson.  While Froggy Boots was helping me fill the bird feeders with the new birdseed I just bought at (you guessed it) Kroger, she was very interested in the sunflower seeds that were mixed in.  So, I decided we would go ahead and plant some of them in a pot and see what happens.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get any pictures of us planting the seeds because my husband was not within shouting distance to ask him to bring the camera out.  But, I did manage to get a couple pictures of her watering the seeds after we planted them.  She really wanted to get the seeds good and wet, so she stuck the watering can right into the dirt!  Here's a picture:

My plan is to take a picture of the sunflower plants every day as they grow, print them out, and make a little book for Froggy Boots that shows how a sunflower grows!  Here is the first picture from yesterday when we planted the seeds:

On with the week so far...  This is beginning to remind me of the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  On Thursday (today) we went to Froggy Boots' playgroup.  We are only able to attend during the summer months since I teach preschool during the school year.  But, when we are able to attend, I really enjoy the company of other mom's and Froggy Boots enjoys being with her friends.  Today the kids enjoyed spending time in a kiddie pool. 

It's interesting to see the differences in kids depending on their age.  Froggy Boots spent most of her time playing by herself while the other 2 kids (who are 3 and almost 3) spent most of their time playing together.  Next summer will probably be a completely different story -- especially since Froggy Boots will have attended Montessori school for an entire school year by that time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Homemade Pizza, Amazing Finds, Swimming Lessons, Birthday, and Potty Training Updates

My husband and I have been making homemade pizza for a long time now.  We discovered how much cheaper it is to make your own pizza instead of buying it or even buying the crust, the sauce, and the toppings and putting it together.  Not that we never order pizza... but, most of the time we make it from scratch instead.   And, I guess not surprisingly, I like our homemade pizza the most out of all of the kinds of pizza I've tried! 

So, here's how it goes... I make the dough and the sauce from scratch.  My husband rolls out the dough, puts the pizza together, and bakes it.  I think we make a great pizza-making team!

Would you like to try the recipe?  Here it is:

Mieke’s Famous Homemade Pizza

The Sauce:

2 small cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Dried oregano
Dried basil

In a saucepan, stir together all ingredients.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  Use immediately, refrigerate, or freeze.

The Dough:

1 cup warm water
2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet active dry yeast
(or 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Italian seasoning

In the Kitchen Aide mixer bowl, whisk together warm water, 1 cup white flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and olive oil.  Let the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Add 1 cup white flour, 1 cup wheat flour, and Italian seasoning to the bowl.  Attach the dough hook to the mixer.  Turn the mixer on to the “stir” setting until the ingredients have combined into a ball of dough. 

Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and lightly coat mixer bowl with olive oil or canola oil cooking spray.  Shape the dough into a ball and put it back in the mixer bowl.  Soak a dish towel in hot water and ring out.  Fold the dish towel in half and cover the mixer bowl with the towel.  Place the mixer bowl, with the dough, covered with the towel, into the oven.  Note: Do not turn on the oven.  Allow the dough to rise for at least an hour. 

Once the dough has doubled in size (or it may even triple or quadruple in size), remove it from the bowl and gently push it down to its original size.  Store the dough in a storage bag on the counter if you will be using it soon, in a storage bag in the refrigerator for use in the next couple days, or in a freezer storage bag in the freezer for future use.  Note: If you store the dough either on the counter or in the refrigerator, it will rise again.  That’s fine -- just gently push it back down to its original size before rolling it out.

This recipe will make two large thin-crust pizzas. 

The Final Product:

Preheat the oven with the pizza stone to 450 degrees for at least 45 minutes.

Cut the dough in half and shape each half into a flat circle.  Flour your work surface and the dough lightly.  Roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Fold the rolled dough in half twice and place on parchment paper.  Unfold the dough.  Spread a thin layer of sauce on each pizza crust.  Cover with mozzarella cheese and your favorite toppings.  Using a large baking sheet or pizza paddle, quickly place the pizza in the oven on the pizza stone and close the oven door.  Bake for approximately 6 minutes.


 Or, you can download a copy here.

As those of you who know me already know, I am always on the lookout for amazing deals.  I love shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, etc.  It can be an obsession at times!  Usually I am looking for quality products at an amazing price.  Well, recently I actually found a quality product for FREE on the side of the road!  

Here is a picture of what I found...
I know what you are thinking.  Wow!  You found a beautiful little girl on the side of the road!  No, that's Froggy Boots (my daughter).  I found the chair she is sitting in!  This chair is from One Step Ahead and costs $100 new.  And, I found it for FREE!  I drove by it the first time and thought to myself, "They aren't really putting that chair out on the side of the road for free are they?"  So, I kept on driving.  Then, I decided I should at least go back a check.  And, sure enough, it was sitting out on the curb with a wooden changing table (which another couple was picking up when I arrived).  Now, that is what I call and amazing deal!

Froggy Boots loves the chair because she can get in and out of it all by herself!  When we had her sitting in a booster seat on the dining room chair, she could not climb up and sit in it by herself.  Anything that encourages independence is a plus in my book!

Since it's summer, Froggy Boots is taking her yearly swimming lessons.  Well, last year was her first time.  But, the intention is for her to take lessons every year.  She loves the water, but does not like swimming lessons this year.  So far she has had two lessons and cried through most of the lesson because she wanted to go swim by herself, not with the group.

Here is a picture of her during one of the rare moments that she was not crying.  We were practicing kicking while sitting on the side of the pool.
Froggy Boots just had her second birthday on June 19th!  I can't believe it's been two years since she was born!  We did not have a party on her birthday -- her party is actually coming up this weekend.  But, she did get to open presents from her dad and I and we went to a kids' rock concert at Top of the Park to celebrate both her birthday and father's day.  My mom and dad, my husband's dad and step-mom, and my brother and his wife all joined us.  It was a really fun time!

Here is a picture of Froggy Boots opening one of her presents:
No, I didn't forget that Froggy Boots is a girl -- she loves Thomas the train as much (or more) than any boy out there!  So, I knew she would like Thomas wrapping paper!

I'd love to post a picture of Froggy Boots at the kids concert, but she was running around all over the place and dancing in front of the stage -- it was almost impossible to get a picture of her. 

If you read my previous post, you know that Froggy Boots is in the process of learning to wear underwear and use the toilet.  She now wears underwear all day (except during nap and at bed time) and has not wet her underwear in several days.  No, she does not use the potty either.  She waits until I put a diaper on her at nap time or bedtime and goes in that.  That means that she is holding her bladder for about 5 hours or more at a time, but still not using the potty.

So, in order to try and maneuver past this little glitch in the system, I have ordered cloth training pants with an outside waterproof liner.  She can wear these when we go out and at nap time.  She does not like to wet her underwear, so maybe she will be willing to use the potty if she wears underwear at nap time as well.  We'll see -- she's both smart and stubborn -- a challenging combination! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Potty Training, Party Planning, Muffins & Montessori

Since the transition from sippy cups to drinking glasses went so smoothly for Froggy Boots, I decided we might as well get started on potty training.  So, beginning Monday morning, she has been wearing cloth training underwear.  I had already decided years before I even gave birth to Froggy Boots that I would not use pull-ups, which seem to be the most popular route for potting training these days. 

I have seen very few children actually do well with pull-ups.  They are essentially a diaper that can be pulled up and down easily -- which means that they give the child the same sensation when wet as a diaper would (basically they keep the wetness away from the child).  In order for potty training to work, most children must experience that uncomfortable wet feeling you can only get from wearing underwear.

Something I learned over the last couple weeks while doing research into the Montessori method is that the sensitive period for potty training a child is from around 18 months to around 24 months.  So, we definitely missed that mark with Froggy Boots.  A few months ago (around 19 months) she was very interested in using the potty.  She was using it about once or twice a day consistently until she got sick for the first time in her short little life.  At this point she lost interest.  If I had known then what I know now, I would have put her in underwear then.  And, my guess is, she would be potty trained completely by now.  Oh well!

So, Froggy Boots has been wearing underwear now for about 3 1/2 days (except during nap and at night).  She has only successfully used the potty once -- which means the rest of the time she is wetting her underwear.  Her interest in using the potty has definitely diminished (we are at the 24 month mark this weekend) since she was 19 months old.  But, we shall continue!  At some point she will get tired of having to change out of wet underwear over and over again and she will begin to use the potty.  Right now my number one job is to keep an even keel and let the process unfold as it may.

Here is an interesting article I found regarding toileting the Montessori way:

As I mentioned previously, Froggy Boots is nearing the 24 month (2 year) mark.  Her birthday is June 19th (this weekend).  Although her party is not planned until the following weekend, we do have plans to celebrate this weekend.  In honor of father's day (which is also June 19th) and Froggy Boots' birthday, we are going to attend a library sponsored children's rock concert!  I am not yet sure how we will handle the potty training while we are at this event, but a lot can change for a toddler in 3 days time, so we will just play it by ear at this point.

The following weekend we will be celebrating Forggy Boots' birthday with family and friends at a local park.  Since she loves Thomas the Tank Engine, the theme for the party will be Thomas.  I spent a couple hours yesterday during Froggy Boots' nap shopping for Thomas party supplies.  Some supplies I purchased at Target (because the Thomas party stuff they did carry was priced the lowest) and the rest I purchased at Party City, which is in the same shopping complex as Target. 

It was really nice to get out of the house for a while.  Since we started this whole potty training thing, Froggy Boots and I have literally not left the house at all, except to go in the backyard and play.  This was a huge change after the last couple weeks of having something planned away from home every day of the week.

Since we have been stuck in the house for a few days, I decided making muffins would at least give us something different to do.  So, with the help of Froggy Boots, I made some cinnamon applesauce muffins from some of the homemade applesauce I had in the basement freezer.  Froggy Boots really liked helping to add and stir the ingredients -- she would have been just as happy to try and do the whole thing herself!

During her nap, I also made some banana oatmeal muffins.  I had a whole slew of bad bananas in the freezer waiting to be used!

In my previous post, I included a link to some pink scheme Montessori materials that I made.  After printing the word labels out for the picture/word matching activity, I decided the words were to small.  So, I made them bigger.  Here are the updated pink scheme picture/word matching materials as well as the blue scheme picture cards and the blue scheme picture/word matching materials.  These are materials that I was unable to find for free online, so I decided to make them myself.  Hopefully they will be of use to others!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Graduation, Gardening, drinking Glasses, and some Great Montessori resources

I can't believe how busy I have been since preschool ended for the school year!  It seems like I've been gone for at least a portion of every day. 

This past Sunday we all headed to Dewitt, Michigan to see my step-daughter graduate from high school!  I can't believe that just under 8 years ago she was only 10 years old.  Time sure does go by fast. 

We got on the road as early as possible in order to get seats that would accommodate an almost 2-year-old toddler (Froggy Boots) who was quite possibly going to need to leave the ceremony at some point.  Fortunately for us, she sat through the whole ceremony without incident with the help of 3 new Thomas and Friends books and some snacks!  We were all truly amazed!

My step-daughter sang one final song with the choir before the ceremony began.  It was the same song that ended the final choir concert of the year as well -- "For Good" -- which is a tear jerker, for sure.  The choir did an amazing job as usual! 

The rest of the ceremony moved along pretty quickly -- it was probably the shortest graduation ceremony I've been to, which was a nice change of pace.  It seems like there is usually a speaker at these events that is determined to become the world record holder for the longest speech at a graduation ceremony.  Not the case with this commencement.  Everything was just about the right length of time.  There were a total of 3 speakers, including the principal and the valedictorian, and each spoke for a very reasonable amount of time.  All the way around, it was a nice graduation ceremony!

Here is a picture of my step-daughter as she is leaving the ceremony as an official high school graduate!

Here we all are after the ceremony.  Froggy Boots was a little camera shy with all the different people taking pictures of us.

Meanwhile, back at home, my vegetable garden has really made some major growth progress with all of the rain we were having up until recently.  Pay particular attention to the tomato plants to the left of the picture -- they have more than quadrupled in size since I planted them!

And, here is a picture of Froggy Boots helping to water the plants using the water from her kiddie pool.  She loves to help water the plants!

Also on the home front, our switch to child-size drinking glasses for Froggy Boots has been a great success!  She is using her new drinking glasses very well and does not ask for her sippy cups.  When we are in the car or out somewhere that it does not make sense to use a cup or a glass, she uses her water bottle.

Since we switched her to drinking glasses, Froggy Boots has refused to drink her soy milk from a drinking glass, so she just has not had any soy milk at all.  But, last night we finally had the breakthrough I knew would come eventually -- she asked for milk!  And, she drank almost a whole glass of her soy milk right before bed -- which is when she used to drink her milk from a sippy cup.

Here is a picture of Froggy Boots eating breakfast this morning -- with the glass of milk she asked for AGAIN!

Over the last week and a half since preschool ended for the summer, I have been searching all over online trying to find free printable Montessori pink and blue scheme picture cards to use in my classroom next school year.  For those who do not know, pink scheme picture cards are pictures of 3 letter phonetic nouns used with the moveable alphabet for word building.  And, the blue scheme picture cards are picture of 4 to 6 letter phonetic nouns used with the moveable alphabet for word building. 

After spending multiple hours looking, I finally came to the conclusion that I was either going to have to buy them or make them myself.  So, of course, I decided to make my own since that is much more cost effective and I already have plenty of materials that will need to be purchased, not made.  Here are the pink scheme picture cards for free download and here is some other pink scheme material I also made.  I am not finished with the blue scheme material yet, so I will post that when I have it complete.