ivey league preschool: all aboard!

This past week we did a fun, informal preschool unit on TRAINS!  (One of Caleb's favorite things!)

It was all pretty laid-back.  I decided that if all we could manage was twenty minutes of preschool that day, that was a good start.  Caleb is ahead in some respects (he knows his letters and letter sounds, he can count objects up to 12, etc.) but isn't quite at kindergarten level yet with other areas.  Which is fine with me.  The kid isn't even five yet!

On Monday, we put together a cute train.  I did all the cutting, but Caleb was responsible for decorating and gluing.  He also insisted all the train cars have eyes "like Thomas."

Link to free printable!

On Tuesday we tried out some counting and math activities using a free printable preschool packet.  He successfully matched number cards with groups of objects (i.e., matched the number "3" with a group of 3 train tracks), found the missing number, and put together a puzzle by placing numbers in order:

He also decided on his own to work on tracing letters.  Since he's easily frustrated with this kind of activity, I just let him go at it.  We have plenty of time to work on pencil grip and on improving his fine motor skills.  As you might be able to see, our printer's running out of ink so some of the worksheets are a bit faded in parts (Caleb didn't seem to mind!).

On Wednesday we made a "name train."  I made the letter squares and railroad track, and Caleb had to tell me how to spell his name.  He got C and A right, but needed some help with the rest.  But all I had to do was enunciate the next letter sound in his name ("Ca-LLLLLLeb") and he would usually get it immediately, so he's close to being able to spell his name without help!  He glued the cars in order and added the wheels (it was also his idea to add the cotton ball steam!).

I also made an engineer hat for him.  I colored the stripes in since he's not big into coloring much lately.  He got a kick out of it when it was done though!

Link to free template and instructions!

On Thursday, we didn't do anything.  Oops. We ran some errands in the morning and time just got away from us.  But that's how it goes.

On Friday, we made chocolate chip train cookies!  He's had a train cookie cutter for awhile now and we finally used it.  I mixed up the dough and he helped me with the cookie cutter...as well as with eating the cookies when they were done.  I highly recommend this recipe; it's a great change from plain sugar cookie cut-outs, and the cookies hold their shape really well!

Link to recipe here!
Along with our usual reading, we also read several train books to keep Caleb excited about the theme:

Hey, Mr. Choo-Choo, Where Are You Going?  by Susan Wickberg
The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter
Train Song by Harriet Ziefert
The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet

The first one on the list was from the library, and the other three we own.  I was actually surprised we didn't have more train books since Caleb really likes trains!

All in all, this week was fun.  For both of us.  I didn't stress about Caleb meeting any kind of benchmarks; we just had a good time while learning a little.  And isn't that what you DO in preschool?  :o)


appliqued onesies!

So my little one was in need of some more short-sleeved onesies.  I found a set of five or six of them at Target and thought that was that.  But after I got them home I realized that some of them were just a little too plain.  So after browsing Pinterest for some ideas and digging into my fabric stash, I made some improvements:

There.  Much more personality.

I love this little dinosaur.  I just Googled free images of dinosaurs and found him.  I used a playful font for the "roar."  Unassuming, yet fierce.  Kind of like my little guy.

Next, some geometry nerd cuteness.  Sorry if you can't figure it out.  Didn't mean to be obtuse.  :o)

And finally, an ultra-casual look.  Because even little guys need a great pair of shades.

Of course we're having cooler weather today so he can't wear any of them yet.  I'm pretty sure that will change soon though!


Mommy Lunches : Baked Shrimp and Asian Slaw Egg Rolls

So right now I'm doing the Weight Watchers thing.  Some weeks are better than others.  But I've found that if I actually eat a substantial (yet healthy) lunch, I'm less likely to snack endlessly in the afternoon.  It turns out that endless snacking can actually impede your weight loss success.  Who knew?  :o)

For a couple of weeks I was on a big panini kick.  I got a panini press for free (yay credit card points!) and for awhile, there was nothing I wouldn't press between two pieces of bread.  But lately I've been craving egg rolls.  My husband isn't a fan of Chinese food so I haven't had any in a long time.  I remembered a baked egg roll recipe I kind of made up a few years ago so I gave it a try again today.  Yum!

I'm not a great food blogger so I didn't take pictures of every step.  Hopefully my directions are clear enough!  For some of the ingredients, I did a range of measurements (like 1-2 tablespoons).  It all depends on your taste.  Start with a little bit and then add more if you think it needs it.  I was okay using 1 tablespoon each of the rice cooking wine and soy sauce.  I also used nonstick cooking spray for everything since I'm trying to keep my WW points at a minimum.  I got 9 egg rolls out of this recipe...it all depends on how much filling you put in each one.

2 cups of bagged broccoli slaw (plain)
12-16 frozen shrimp, thawed and cut into small pieces
1-2 tablespoons rice cooking wine
1-2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
Pinch of onion powder
Pinch of garlic powder
Egg roll wrappers
Olive oil OR nonstick spray for pan (you could also use canola oil, grapeseed oil, whatever you like)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray (or cover with parchment paper).
2.  Heat oil/spray in a medium-sized skillet.  Add the slaw and move it around until it's moistened by the oil and starts to wilt.  Add the rice cooking wine, soy sauce, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Saute further until slaw is softened.
3.  Add shrimp and continue to saute until the shrimp turns pink (this only takes two or three minutes).  Add more rice cooking wine, soy sauce, seasonings, etc. if desired.
4.  Take skillet of heat and set out the egg roll wrappers and a small bowl of water.  Place a wrapper on a plate and moisten all the sides with a little water.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the mixture into the center of the egg roll and wrap it up according to the directions on the back of the package.  Place each egg roll seam-side-down on the baking sheet.
5.  Spray the egg rolls with nonstick spray (or brush with oil), then sprinkle a little salt on top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating (these suckers are HOT inside!).

Yum!  While these are pretty yummy on their own, a good dipping sauce wouldn't hurt.  And keep in mind that an egg roll wrapper is basically a blank canvas.  You can use cabbage instead of the broccoli slaw, or add more veggies and leave out the shrimp, or use other sauces or oils you find in the Asian cooking aisle of the grocery store, or go crazy and fry them as nature intended.  Have fun with it! :o)

Note:  According to my calculations, each egg roll is 2 WW points.  This is based on a yield of 9 egg rolls.  Keep in mind that using oil instead of nonstick cooking spray and/or altering the ingredients will affect the nutrition and points value.


big boy room!

So after fixing up Micah's room a couple weeks back, I had to do something with Caleb's!  His poor walls were so bare!

I had a couple of Hobby Lobby gift cards so I decided to go there and look around.  All of their metal decor was 50% off!  I was able to get a few things there and add them to the other items I had:

I was really excited to find the multi-colored chevron hanging...they had several of these at Hobby Lobby on clearance.  All they consisted of was heavy fabric stapled onto a wooden frame; I think they had used them as a display at one time.  Most of them were kind of ugly but this one just seemed to stand out and yell Caleb's name.  So I snagged it for $8.  The horseshoe, metal "C" hanging, and gasoline sign were also all from Hobby Lobby and 50% off.  I found the mustache/top hat fabric remnant at Walmart and used it to make a dresser cover and a wall hanging (I stapled it to a cheap canvas I found at Jo-Ann).  The mailbox is from Jo-Ann...Caleb loves getting mail so I figured it would be fun to leave little notes and surprises for him in there once in a while.  I got the clock from Target; he can't tell time yet but it will be good to have when he can.  And finally, I made the Cowboy and Engineer pictures from that Goodwill book I found a few weeks back.

I hung stuff up yesterday afternoon.  I thought Caleb would come running when he heard me hammering nails into the wall, but he was distracted by a movie he was watching, so in the end it was kind of fun to see him run in there and see everything at once!  He hadn't seen any of the stuff I found so it was all a big surprise!

Here's one wall....it's the one to your right when you first walk in, between his bedroom door and his closet:

Then there's the wall by his train table...you can see it straight ahead as you walk in:

And here's what's going on over his bed:

And finally, his dresser:

Hopefully that will help it from getting scratched...and dusty.  :o)

There's still a lot of blank space above his dresser, but we can figure that out at some point.  Whatever we put there, it'll have to be like his other stuff...cheap or free!


book-inspired art: Perfect Square


One of the books Caleb picked out at the library this week was Perfect Square by Michael Hall.  Turns out it's a really cool book, and a great jumping-off point for some art projects.  All you need is some construction paper, scissors, a hole punch, and a glue stick!

In the book, a square is cut, ripped, wrinkled, etc. in order to make other things.  We used the pictures in the book as a guide, but I reminded Caleb that his didn't have to look exactly like what we saw in the book.

See his dinosaur supervising?
The first object was a fountain...I drew lines on the square as a guide for Caleb and his scissors, and I helped him with the hole punching since he couldn't quite get enough grip on our hole punch to do it himself (note to self....find one that a kid can use!).

Next came a garden (this one was fun...all Caleb had to do was rip the square up into little pieces!).

Then a park (by ripping the square into strips)...he ended up doing this one by himself since his little brother needed a diaper change right then!

Then a bridge (the square was "shattered" in this case).  We were the most creative with this one since the bridge in the book was kind of intricate!

Then a river (Mommy got her pinking shears for this one!).

And finally, a mountain (lots of fun since we got to crumble up the square!).

Caleb had a lot of fun with this book.  It's just cool that a random choice he made at the library led to a good hour of creative fun (as well as an opportunity to work on his cutting and gluing skills!).


Mommy Workouts: Monsters, Inc.

photo source

Here's another workout you can squeeze in while your little one(s) watch Monsters, Inc.!  (Please note that this is the first movie, not Monsters University.)

Feel free to increase the reps or duration of any of these exercises.  Pay attention to elements that happen right after the other, or else happen for a sustained period (such as the scare floor montage where children are screaming a LOT!).  And as always, please remember that I'm not a fitness expert!

Monsters, Inc. Workout!

Opening credits:  Warm-up/stretch

Anytime a child screams: 10 crunches

Anytime you hear "Simulation Terminated" :  20 lunges (10 for each leg)

Anytime Boo says "Kitty!" or "Boo!" :  10 bicep curls with weights

Anytime someone says "Mike Wasowski!" :  10 tricep curls with weights

Anytime Randall disappears/reappears or blends in with his surroundings:  10 squats

Anytime someone says "Googlybear" :  10 jump-ropes

Anytime Roz mentions paperwork:  10-second plank

Anytime someone yells "2319!" :  10 burpees

Anytime you see Boo's door: Jog in place until it's not there anymore (i.e., it's taken back up to storage, the scene changes to another setting, or it goes through the shredder)

Lengthy scenes in Sully's apartment/factory locker room/Abominable snowman's cave:  Rehydrate and keep moving (jog in place, step side to side, jumping jacks, hamstring curls, whatever).  Or just take a break!

Closing credits:  Cool down/stretch



velcro belt

So my four-year-old has no rear end to speak of.  Even when he wears pants with the adjustable waist set at the tightest setting, he ends up flashing the world whenever he squats down to play.  Not a good look.

I didn't want to fork over the money for a little boy belt unless I absolutely had to, so I tried this tutorial from "I Am Momma - Hear Me Roar."  I already had velcro and a D-ring on hand, so I got a yard of brown belt material at the Lobby last time I was there and gave it a try this morning.

The tutorial is super simple, and I love that she includes pictures of every step for us visual learners.  In about ten minutes we had success!

Do you see a plumber butt or Spiderman underwear?  Neither do I.

I didn't tell him to hold his shirt up this high, I promise...guess he's proud of his abs and pecs too.

I love this belt, and love that it only cost me $1.74.  But even if I had to buy the other materials, I'm betting it would have still come in under $5.  Yay for cheap boy accessories!
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