Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Oh, the Things You Learn …

Oh, the things you learn through hands-on experimentation!

We’re moving in one week, and school books have been packed away for several days. School these days has been reduced to a bit of online learning (Thank you, and!), a bit of reading, a whole lot of “practical life skills” (packing, cleaning, and playing nicely while Mommy packs and cleans), and whatever “we need to use/do/finish that before we move” activities I happen to find in various nooks and crannies of the apartment.

Today’s find?

One lone packet of powder waiting to be mixed with water and transformed into slime. We’d mixed the first two packets in this 3-packet set several months ago and set the third one aside for later. Unfortunately, the mixing cup and measuring syringe had not made their ways back into the canister, so tonight’s slimy fun was an experiment in every sense of the word.

So what did we learn?

(1) Extra water makes extra slimy slime.

Since we didn’t have the measuring instruments that came with the kit (and since the kit states measurement in terms of 1 1/2 syringes rather than oz. or milliliters), we had to “guess” at an appropriate amount of water. Based on the amount of slime we ended up with, I’m pretty sure we doubled or tripled the amount of water.

(2) Slime gets firmer over time.

It may start out as thin as green gravy, but it will get thicker and firmer. Who cares if it takes 10 minutes to reach optimal texture instead of 3?

(3) Slime can be molded into a variety of shapes. (But don’t expect it to hold its shape!)

(4) Slime can be flattened into a pancake. It should, however, be flattened on a non-porous surface. It does not peel off cotton knit yoga pants particularly well.

(5) And speaking of surfaces, the top of one’s head really is not an ideal work surface. (I should probably be washing Baby Bear’s hair instead of typing up this post.)

(6) The top of someone else’s head is also not an ideal work surface.

(7) Slime can be stretched thin enough to see through.

(8) Slime can also be stretched from the living room all the way to the office and back again! Impressive! (But not a lot of fun to pick out of the carpet.)

(9) Slime can be used to identify one’s body parts.

Baby Bear (touching the slime to her eye): “Eye!”

Mama Bear: Don’t put the slime in your eye!”

Baby Bear (touching the slime to her nose): “Nose!”

Mama Bear: “It doesn’t go in your nose either!”

Repeat for ears, mouth, teeth, hair, etc.

(10) Slime can entertain a 4-year-old for hours. Our slime ball is currently fashioned into a snail shape and is sitting on top of the piano. Little Bear is “playing” a song for it.

… I’ve got to say that I really wasn’t impressed with Alex Mix ‘n Slime the first time we used it. Packet one turned into a rock hard lump surrounded by slightly colored water. As we dumped it in the trash, we realized that we should have added the powder a little at a time while stirring vigorously. Packet two turned out a bit better, but was still more solid than slimy. Tonight’s fun, however, was more than worth what I paid for the kit. It’s starting to look like I’m going to have to pry the stuff out of my children’s hands to get them bathed and ready for bed tonight. At this rate, I might just buy the product again … especially if I happen to find it in a clearance bin again!

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Snakes, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails?

Left to pursue her own interests, Little Bear has developed an interest — bordering on an obsession — with snakes … along with spiders, lizards, insects, and all manner of other little creatures that Mommy would just as soon avoid. What’s more, she seems to have convinced Baby Bear to join her in her quest for creepy, crawly knowledge. I was accosted not once, not twice, but THREE times today by a Treasury of Animals & Nature (Know-It-All)-wielding toddler who demanded to sit down and once again look at pictures of “‘Nake! ‘Nake! ‘Nake!”

In an effort to feed my children’s quest for knowledge, I dug through our book collection after the girls went to bed last night to find books about snakes. I quickly discovered that we don’t own a lot of snake-themed books, probably because Mommy is NOT a fan of snakes. But I did find a few titles to keep my budding herpetologists until our next library visit:

Along with reading about snakes, the girls thoroughly enjoyed slithering around the living room, “tasting” the air with their tongues, and “hibernating” under a dining table “cave.” At Jessica’s request, I hunted down a picture we’d taken last spring of her petting a ball python.

Too close for Mommy's comfort!

Too close for Mommy’s comfort!

I promised her that we could visit the reptile room the next time we visited the zoo. I told her that yes, she probably would get to pet a snake again “someday.” I also assured her that she could have a pet snake of her very own … just as soon as she had a job of her own and a home of her own to accommodate her slithery friend.

Beyond our impromptu snake study, Little Bear did several jigsaw puzzles and built with Magna-Tiles this morning. She did a couple of lessons on while Baby Bear napped this afternoon. Then, we headed outside for some fun in the sun. Little Bear has been learning to roller skate and managed to skate to the end of our apartment complex today without falling. She moved slowly, but she kept moving and stayed upright. Much as I wanted pictures, I had visions of her sprawling head first on the sidewalk and dared not move far enough away from her to actually take pictures.

Once Little Bear tired of skating, both girls piled in the wagon for a walk around the block and a hunt for whatever creatures we could spy. Then, we headed back to our own yard, where Baby Bear chose to play ball and Little Bear hunted for bugs, twigs, and leaves.

A doll and a ball ... what more does a girl need?

A doll and a ball … what more does a girl need?


Finding a leaf with holes in it, she was sure it must have been food for a hungry caterpillar.


Oh, the joy of a V-shaped stick …

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New Year, New Goals

Goodbye, 2012. Hello, 2013.

Some people greet the new year with eager anticipation, embracing change and fresh opportunity. I, however, find myself greeting 2013 much like my toddler greets a strange dog. There’s excitement and anticipation, to be sure. But as the new year races toward me, there’s a definite moment of anticipation as I wait to see whether it proffers a gentle paw of friendship or knocks us flat on our backsides.

As we embark on the new year, Daddy Bear has officially joined the ranks of the unemployed. During the job hunt, we’re making an effort to cut all extraneous spending from the budget. That means no random book, game, DVD, toy, or craft purchases for the foreseeable future. (We have plenty of resources already. Mommy just happens to be a book/educational product junkie. …) We’re contemplating yet another move. We may also be facing weeks or months of separation if contract work takes Daddy to another part of the state or country. Any way you cut it, 2013 is going to be stressful. So what changes do I want to make to help us weather the year ahead?

    1. Love more. 

      Yes, we’re a family, and yes, we love each other. The girls hear the words “I love you” dozens of times each day. In fact, the first sentence Baby Bear uttered was “I yuv you!” But there are also times (plenty of them) that we drive each other crazy. As we move into a stress-filled year, my number one goal is to give my children the security of knowing that we love them — and one another — all the time … even at 4 a.m., even when we’re prying Play-Doh out of the carpet or cleaning up yet another potty accident, even when they’re grumpy or out of control, even when we’re grumpy and out of sorts.

    2. Play more. 

      I do a great job of selecting quality toys and games for the girls. I don’t do such a great job of actually sitting down and playing with them, however. My goal for 2013 is to spend at least an hour a day actively playing with my kids. Not “academic” play, mind you. Actual get-down-on-the-floor-and-roughhouse or play freeze tag or race cars down ramps or dress Snap-n-Style dolls for the 213th time play. We’ll still find time to build Duplo patterns, create healthy play food meals, and play math or reading games to be sure, but I don’t want academics to overshadow healthy, active, imagination-building and memory-making FUN.

    3. Listen more. 

      The most convicting Facebook quote of 2012?

      Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
      ~Catherine M. Wallace

      Ouch. How often have I scolded my children for “not listening,” only to turn around and tune out their childish prattle so I can get some work done? Really, what work could possibly be more important than the work of hearing and understanding my children’s hearts?

    4. Read more. 

      I spend at least an hour a day reading to the girls, but I honestly cannot remember the last time I read a “Mommy” book from cover to cover. I bought at least a dozen “for Mommy” books last year, eagerly read the first few chapters they arrived, then set them down next to my computer to read “when I had time.” This year, I want to take full advantage of the 24 hours I have in every day and make time to read books that inspire me, challenge me, and help me become a better parent to my children.Topping Mommy’s reading list for the next month?

    5. Find more enjoyment in what we already have.

      Though it may not seem so at first glance, this goal goes hand in hand with all the above. As we move into 2013, I want to make a conscious effort to enjoy my children, to enjoy playing with them, to enjoy listening to them. I want to help them enjoy the countless toys, games, books, puzzles, craft supplies, and other learning tools they already have. I want to take time to enjoy books already sitting on our shelves.

      Is part of this fueled by a need to cut expenses? Yes. But to a much larger degree, I’m realizing how blessed we truly are. We have enough. And frankly, I’d rather spend my time enjoying our blessings than participating in the feverish rat race to gain more, more, more.

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But it’s COLD!

We woke this morning to a whopping three inches of snow (a rare treat here in West Texas), and the girls could not wait to get out in the white stuff. Little Bear especially has been wanting to make snow angel ever since we read a story that included a bit about a child making a snow angel, and this morning’s snow gave her the opportunity to do just that.

Both girls ran out the door squealing with excitement and dove into the snow with both hands. Baby Bear pulled her hands out of the snow almost as fast as she’d put them in and ran straight back to my arms, indignantly declaring the snow to be “Code! Code! CODE!” Little Bear threw her whole body in the snow and happily made a snow angel. Note the singular article? She stopped with one and like her sister came running over to protest the coldness of the experience. My little snow critics were temporarily quieted by the appearance of a neighbor. Apparently, cold is more tolerable in the presence of friends. But when their playmate headed back inside, they too decided they’d had enough.

“I don’t like snow!” Little Bear announced as she walked back into the apartment.

“I thought you wanted it to snow,” I replied. “You were cheering for snow yesterday.”

“Well, I don’t like this snow!” she declared. “It’s c-o-l-d.”

… I didn’t know whether to try explain the science of snow or give her the old speech about trudging through a foot of snow in -40 weather to get to school in my younger years, so I kept my mouth shut and gave her dry clothes instead. Obviously, my child has forgotten the winter she spent in Upper Michigan where she briefly experienced REAL cold.

Beyond the snow play, Little Bear spent an hour playing on and today, where she’s apparently been learning to add and subtract. As we sat down for lunch, she asked me, “Mommy, what’s 5-1?”

“What do you think it is?” I queried.

“Four!” she replied instantly. “And 6-1 is 5!”

She went on to ask and answer half a dozen other basic addition and subtraction facts, then looked up with a twinkle in her eye: “Mommy, what does corn plus green beans equal?”

I shrugged. “A healthy meal?”

“Nope!” she said. “Fudge! Because if you eat all your corn and all your beans, then you can have a piece of fudge!”

Obviously, the Christmas treats have lingered too long, but I think she might just be on to something!

After Baby Bear’s nap and Little Bear’s computer time, we sat down as a family and spent about an hour using Magna-Tiles to build 3-D mazes for a Hexbug. Little Bear helped me create obstacles for the Hexbug to navigate in my single-level maze, and both girls enjoyed watching the Hexbug work its way down and out of Daddy Bear’s four-story maze. Little Bear built a nice large house for the Hexbug, while Babyzilla ultimately leveled all our structures and buried poor Hexy beneath a pile of rubble.

We rounded out the day with a slew of read-alouds, a couple of chapters from our current Bobbsey Twins mystery, and an introduction to nocturnal animals. We also read Katie and the Spanish Princess, the first of a several art appreciation books I’d purchased for this year. I’m not sure how much Little Bear learned about Spanish art, but she immediately fell in love with the books and asked if we could get the whole series. We don’t have the whole series, but I can’t wait to share the other books we do have with her in the days ahead.

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