Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cruisin' San Diego Bay

"Many people come here for vacation to see the sun, palm trees, beach and water....and, we get to live!" kept running through our minds as we spent Father's Day on San Diego Bay.

It was another typically gorgeous San Diego Sunday. Sunshine, ocean breezes and minimal crowds in the morning.

We were out on Coronado Island at the Ferry Landing complex to catch the Coronado-San Diego ferry. Its a bare bones ferry that reminded me of the ships plowing out to Suomenlinna in Helsinki. Only the adults needed the $6 round-trip ticket. The "cruise" takes about 15 minutes, but it gave us some great views on the city, the Midway, Seaport Village and Coronado Bridge.

Peanut and Tex got to pretend they were on a big boat and enjoyed spotting all the sailboats, motor boats and real Harbor Excursion ships.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sea World - Beyond the Splash Zone

We love Sea World.

Its a 20 minute drive away. Its just like spending the day at a gorgeous park. Its full of unique experiences every time we visit. Peanut and Tex can't get enough AND both their parents enjoy it just as much - a rare combination in child amusements :-)

We worked out the best season-pass combination for us:
> one adult and Peanut picked up the "Fun Pass" early in the year giving entry through 2008 for the price of a single day
> the other adult upgraded to the "Silver Passport", which includes free parking (otherwise its $10/visit or $12/visit during summer) and discounts on guest passes among other benefits
> little Tex is free until he turns three

We've also scoped out the back-trails and less-known entrances to shows to help avoid the crowds.

This insider info came in handy this past weekend as we sloshed through the massive crowds of vacationeers. We managed to hit all the major shows (Shamu's Believe and the Dolphin Show) and exhibits as well as a "no-line, no-waiting" lunch pit stop and shopping in under four hours!

Here are our favorite Sea World San Diego hints:
  1. Buy your passes online - skip the ticket lines and get access to the best-priced deals.
  2. Arrive by 10:00 am for great parking and a chance to look around before the Shamu Show.
  3. Check the map for Show times.
  4. First Shamu Show is almost always at 11:00 am. Get there at least 15 mins before the show.
  5. For Shamu - use the back entrance to the stadium. Go around toward Shipwreck Rapids to see it. Plenty of stroller parking, very little foot traffic so you can really get in and out quickly. We usually sit on the sides since the center stage seats are too loud for the kiddos.
  6. Dolphin feeding is often right after Shamu so you can go straight there or head for lunch along with most of the park :-)
  7. Lunch in the back of the park at Coconut Bay Cafe is a good way to dodge crowds and get a great view of Mission Bay.
  8. The Shark exhibit is nearby. You can choose to skip the viewing pool at the entrance as the real view is in the Shark Tunnel underneath.
  9. For the Dolphin Show, park your stroller to the LEFT of the entrance where there are less strollers parked and puts you in the right direction to head for the Arctic Adventure. This show is always packed so if you want a seat - get there early! We have also stood at the top and had the children sit on the railing space. The stadium seems to be facing the sun at all show times, so it will be hot and sunny - bring drinks & sunscreen!
  10. Risky Rescue show is one we had to leave because it had a mime that terrified both children. Grandy and Nana say its a fun show.
  11. The Arctic Adventure is one of our favorites. Similar to the Shark Exhibit, if you are in a hurry, you can walk past the first above water viewing station as the beluga whales are visible later from an underwater station.
  12. If possible - bring your own drinks, snacks and food for the kids. Save some money and have it all available when you need it. Though officially not sanctioned, we've never been asked to not bring it in and we've never hidden the fact we have it with us.
  13. Oh, and there's free beer samplers at the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center -- or so Gandy and Nana tell us :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The BEST kind of festival

Tex -- who loves to eat above all -- must have thought that an International Food Festival is the best kind of event ever!!! Booth after booth of food! More food! and more food!

We are here just to EAT!!!

On Sunday the International Houses of Balboa Park had their annual food fest and we happily strolled among the tents.

Hungary seemed to pop up on every corner -- the hot dishes here, a few tents down - desserts, at their house - a whole patio full and as we walked by they were bringing out a portable table of more sweets. So, how could we not try something? The Langos bread topped with cheese, sour cream and melted garlic butter went fast. Everyone kept trying to grab another bite. Papa & Tex stayed behind to savor a sausage roll while Peanut & I went for a bathroom break.

Palestine and Lebanon offered delicious shawarma. We picked up some empanadas Argentina to see what Dora the Explorer eats at her abuela's luncheon.

While Tex hungarily glupped down anything offered, Peanut soon decided she just wanted a hamburger. Luckily, the America House was nearby. They didn't have hamburgers, but a hot dog made an acceptable substitute.

We saved some space for dessert from the House of Finland -- freshly made lettu (pancakes) with whipped cream and strawberries. Peanut wanted to go back for a second round of desserts so we picked up some pulla and other pasteries. The House of Finland organizes a number of annual events and the hostesses were all keen to tell us about the upcoming Juhannus festivities at Mission Beach. While the group can't sleep out on the beach, they promised a bonfire and plenty of action into the night.

The Lorax

Perhaps it was reading classic Dr. Suess The Lorax that started me thinking about our environmental impact. Then, I just happened across the China edition of National Geographic and thought how similar the images in the tales were - though one was as real as the other fanciful.

I still clearly see myself in a classroom at Gulf Breeze Elementary as the lights are switched off and the projector started up for a viewing of The Lorax. Its always been one of my favorite stories.

A few months ago I found out that Dr. Suess spent many years here in San Diego (in La Jolla). When you see the wondrous purple and red flower-filled trees, plants of all shapes and sizes, you have to wonder how much the scenery here influenced him. I don't find it too far-fetched.

Peanut sits quietly as we read The Lorax. She stops me to ask where the bears, birds and fish go. And Why Mama? Why do they go? I try to explain that we have to share the trees, fields, sky and waters with the animals and take care not to use too much ourselves.

Lorax in Suessville.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Can I help China?

I was reading the China issue of National Geographic last night and tossed and turned for hours following the article about the pollution of the Yellow River. (The image is from that issue of National Geographic).

In short, the Yellow River is being destroyed by over-use and pollution from the factories driving China's impressive growth. Because the Yellow River is a source of life for people, animals and agriculture along its winding path, all those who depend on it are also being killed.

While I certainly don't know what percentage of those factories produce the many goods that fill our house, I couldn't help but imagine that we are responsible for a share of the destruction.

Its a complex issue and these are just very simple thoughts on it. Who is ultimately responsible? Yes, the Chinese government and regulatory organizations. Yes, the companies and people that decide to pollute. Yes, the US companies that order products from the Chinese companies or their JVs. Yes, us, as consumers who buy the goods. Yes, us, as consumers who want to buy cheap, disposable and always more. So, yes, me.

So, I'm going to begin considering where my goods come from. I'm going to give it all a second thought - do we really need it? is it durable? does it look like the raw materials are sustainable? I'm going to make an effort to avoid retailers that depend heavily on China for cheap products and labor.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Talking Dirty

We were grocery shopping the other day when Peanut starts to tell me a story about Cat & Mouse who we know from a library book.

Cat & Mouse were going to school. Cat ate Mouse's snot! From her nose!!!

Yewwww. Yuck.

Then Cat made a poo-poo!!


Its amazing the phases children go through. Peanut, unfortunately, hasn't been around too many other children the past few months as we moved and I haven't able to place her in a preschool yet. So, I can't blame this one on the influence of some other potty-mouthed children. Papa & I don't talk like this. Peanut has just discovered the joys of grossing her parents out -- all on her own. I'm so proud.....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Virtual Fridge Door: Humpback Whale

Whales, whales and more whales. Peanut drew a whole stack of them - this was the best. Its specifically a "mama humpback whale" she told us. Note the eyelashes around the huge eye that make it a mama :-)

Usually we have to cut them out, but this one she left intact. She's very picky about how her pictures are cut out -- right on the line, no extra white paper allowed!

Virtual Fridge Door: Spaceship

Peanut drew this picture of spaceship at the library after story time about astronauts, space travel and planets. You can see the astronaut faintly in the background - he was on the flip-side. Peanut just decided to do the additional drawing after she colored the astronaut.

Virtual Fridge Door - Dinosaur Bones

The "Virtual Fridge Door" is especially for the grandparents who can't come by and see what Peanut & Tex have most recently created.

We've been searching for dinosaur bones in our backyard for a week or so; ever since we attended a dinosaur themed story time at the library and brought home a collection of dino stories.

Peanut takes her bucket and shovel and heads off to scrounge through the undergrowth for fossils in the form of rocks, sticks and leaves. Tex often tags close behind not quite sure what he's supposed to be doing, but doing it anyway because Big Sis is.

Here I gave her some cardboard and glue so she could put her dinosaur back together - the arrangement is completely her own.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

I had a very nice Mother's Day -- a collection of cards were part of my wake-up, papa had brought home flowers & pastries from the Swedish Royal Bakery and we spent the day among the flowers at Carlsbad's Flower Fields.

Ever since I had Peanut & Tex I've gained a new perspective on my mom, my upbringing and who I am today.

My mom raised two children mostly as a single parent which I now can imagine was an exhausting role. She did it without a family network around her since we lived in Florida far away from her connections in Finland at a time when an international phone call was only for emergencies and very special occassions.

As we all as parents must do at some point or another - I find myself channeling my mom. But, I hope more for the positive values she modeled and the self confidence she instilled.

I want Peanut & Tex to be nature lovers who feel responsible for maintaining and contributing to the Earth's well being. I always knew that I wanted my children to grow up running bare foot outdoors searching for ladybugs, snails and other creatures. I hope they grow up admiring the beauty around us and wondering about the amazing events of nature.

I want my children to respect themselves and others in their actions, words and intentions.

I want to encourage my children to be creative thinkers able to express themselves in arts, crafts, music, words and any other channel they can imagine. I hope they will believe in what they create and feel passionate about its value.

I want them to fall in love with books, stories, poems, tales, newspapers, magazines -- and the Internet as a way to discover new places, ideas and answers to their questions.

I want them to value education.

Its a long list and I could go on, but in these areas I am thankful to have a mother who has shown me how to teach these things. And, most of all, I'm thankful to her for raising me surrounded by these beliefs.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Boy and his Cow

"Boooooo, Moooooooo" Tex suddenly called out one day and pointed to a black & white stuffed cow.

Since then, "Boo" has been his lovey. I don't know what inspired his attachment and why he fixated on this toy, but it is somehow appropriate.

I quickly tried to introduce Kitty-Cat as a back-up to Boo. Afterall, both these toys are black & white and fairly similar. Tex seems happy with the idea. Both help soothe him to sleep and when he's feeling a bit unsure. He loves to twirl his finger around in Boo's ear and use Kitty-Cat's tail to brush along his eyebrows. If these make him feel better, than I'm happy for him.

Peanut also honed in on her beloved Pooh Bear around the same age. Though now that she's three, Pooh & Blanket have been displaced by imaginary friends that easily go and appear where she is. I think this is a great development! We no longer have to worry about losing a precious friend or having to separate Peanut from her lovey for its much-needed bi-weekly wash. She'll just hold out her empty hand and say guess who's here, mama? It maybe Ice Cream Truck, it may be a Bee, there is a whole cast of characters to choose from.

As different as night & day

A very late night and a very early day that is.

Peanut takes after her papa and is a night owl. We've always had her bedtime around 7:30 - 8:00 pm so she gets enough sleep and we get a chance to spend some quiet time in the evening. Though were it up to Peanut, she'd be bouncing around until well past 10 pm. Now, I know why it was so tough for us to get her to bed peacefully when she was a baby - she just wasn't ready to go!

Lately, she's built up her arsenal of stalling techniques and usually isn't in bed until around 9 pm! First there's bath time. Then after racing around naked for a while, she selects a nightgown. Then she wants to "play for a little bit". Recently, she's started asking for an evening snack. This to be followed by stories - "only 5 books tonight mama" she imitates Olivia the pig. Then, its potty time which usually requires her to go through another book. With that over, its time to brush and floss her teeth. Well, finally into her room and in bed! Then its "I need fresh water". Followed by "tell me the belly-button story" and finally good night.

In the meantime, little Tex has shut-down when the clock struck 7:30 pm. If mama & papa are not watching the time in the evening and we are all still downstairs after 7 pm, Tex has been known to head for the staircase himself and start to go up cause he wants to go to bed. He can barely keep his eyes open after bath time and we only on the rarest occassion hear a peep (OK, in his case, banging on the wall) of protest. He's been that easy to put to bed since the very first night he was home from the hospital. I remember being so amazed that he didn't need anything to settle down.

But, come 6:00 am, Tex is raring to go. While going to bed was a dream, waking up has never been pleasant. Tex basically turns on - opens his eyes and mouth to start screaming right away. Even though I'm a morning person, this has been one of the most difficult transitions since he arrived. There is nothing gentle, forgiving or relenting about his wake-up yell. It demands you wretch yourself from bed immediately and see what he needs. Plus, we know Peanut is not a morning person so we want her to sleep as late as possible.

Tex isn't one for cuddling with us in bed. We try to bring him in in hopes gaining a few more minutes of rest, but he's interested in banging on the window, wiggling about and getting us downstairs to get him breakfast -- NOW!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Things I never thought I'd hear myself say

We don't eat lunch naked. Please put on your underwear at least!

No, cucumbers don't go in your ear!

Take your sister's underwear off your head --- No! not in your mouth!

Please don't sniff your brother's tushie anymore.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Love - All

As long as I can remember my dad has played tennis. He tried many times in my childhood to get my sister and I interested. It never really stuck. Maybe it was too slow, required too much skill to be exciting; or maybe I had too many other activities vying for my time.

For an embarrassingly long time since I became an adult, I've intended to sign up for a tennis class. FINALLY - I've done it! Its just with the local community activity center, but we've got a great coach (my dad got to play my coach and said so ;-)) and I'm having lots of fun. I can see how the game becomes addictive.
Grandy is also keen to get the next generation out of the court and has already bought Peanut her first racquet when she was about a year old. There must be something to it. Grandy bounced the ball around on the racquet when we visited him and the next time Peanut saw him many months later, the first thing she did was turn around, run out of the room to her room and return holding her tennis racquet.

During their visit here last month, Grandy took us all out for a little training session. It was Papa's first time on a tennis court and it was hard to break out of the squash playing mold as you can tell by the "I'm going to send this one into orbit" look of determination on his face.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Sandbox

Now that Tex has more/less (sometimes less) eating sand, we spend many mornings and afternoons at the many parks around our home. Here in California, most parks are filled with white sand -- its like being at the beach! The Texas parks usually had a mulchy-type of bark filling which I thought could easily give you splinters and really didn't provide a soft landing. The few Boston-area parks we visited also had bark.

I love the sand. The entire park is one giant sandbox and many children leave their shoes behind as they race around and climb on the equipment. We haven't found any nasty surprises hidden in the sand outside of discarded bandaids and the occasional piece of unidentifiable plastic.

Peanut and Tex both have a good time digging, shoveling and rolling around in the sand. Most of the area parks are known to us by the animals that live there - Camel Park, Whale Park, Shark Park.

I do find it strange that many people bring their dogs to the parks and then let their young children take the leash and run the animals in the sand. Or force them up the equipment and down the slides. It worries me since you never know how dogs may react to the rowdy children and perhaps their younger owners can't control them. Maybe its just me - I'm not a big dog person.

At most parks there is always at least one little child who I think of as the California Wildchild. Its always a girl, barefoot, very tanned with long tussled hair and often in a cotton sundress - no matter what the weather. A parent is not easy to identify as the child races around freely, taking an uncommon approach to climbing, swinging or what else she's doing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Peanut!

Our sweet little lady turned three yesterday!! Amazing how she has grown -- we are so lucky to have her in our lives.

We marked the special day with a batch of papa/Peanut cupcakes (which she no longer calls 'tuptakes') with decadent papa-made frosting consisting of butter, sugar and a sprinkling of cocoa powder. Yum!

For her birthday, we got Peanut her own little 2.5 gallon aquarium, now home to three guppies: Yellow Fish, Blue Fish and Red. They flit about among the seaweed and neon-pink flowers, hiding in the princess castle and gazing down at their hopefully-not-too-blindingly pink rocks at the bottom :-) I'm officially in charge of the health and well being of our newest family members.

Peanut remains a princess fan though fish, sea otters and whales come in a very close second. She carries on all sorts of conversations and imaginary games with her sea-life "friends" through out the day. If she's not dancing about, she loves to be outdoors digging in the sandbox, looking for snails or worms, or best of all -- at the beach! However, she still is a very sensitive little girl who doesn't like loud noises or potentially scary sights. And, if anyone has any ideas on how to get someone this age to sit still and eat an entire meal -- PLEASE -- let me know.

To make us laugh at the grocery store, she likes to take the cucumbers and stick them up to her ear -- "look mama! I have a cute-bunder in my ear, hahahaha!"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Shamu! Shamu! Shamu!

Grandy and Nana spent a wonderful week with us around Easter. We took the chance to visit Sea World - our first theme-park outting!

To be honest, I was dreading it a bit. Tex is one a year so I thought there wouldn't be much to hold his attention and once he is done with something, the little guys wants to MOVE! I thought we'd be floating in a sea of people, standing in endless lines and looking for the exit in no time at all. Our Peanut is very sensitive to noisy, large and electronic things like rides, characters, talking trash cans and quickly hides under her blanket when they frighten her. I imagined us having to carry her through the park shielding her eyes half the time.

But, none of it was true.

We all had a fabulous time. Tex and Peanut could not have been more enthralled the 45 mins we spent at the Shamu show (OK, at first the loud music got Peanut anxious, but once the whales appeared all was good), the 30 mins at the dolphin show and the hours we strolled around looking at the exhibits. Both little ones got a stuffed Shamu and now P

It wasn't crowded. It wasn't loud or obnoxious anywhere. There were no characters to run and hide from. Just a beautifully landscaped, breezy, very large park that happened to be full of opportunities to get close to wonderous and amusing marine life.

The only glitch in the system was the entry-point where eveyone was finger-printed which slowed the line. When I asked why we had to be finger printed, the Sea World employee tried to explain it wasn't finger printing, but a "biometric scan capturing five uniquely identifying characteristics of your finger". Really. You could opt to show your photo ID.

We can't wait to go again!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

5 Things I Miss About Boston

In honor of the tradition (5 Things I Miss about TX, 6 Things I Miss about Helsinki) - here's the latest installment of what I've left behind...

  1. My Hairdresser. I never understood people who went on about their hairdressers until I met Juletha. Ah, Juletha, who transformed my disobedient and ordinary do into glamour hair with a few swift swipes of her steady razor. Juletha, who brought extraordinary color to my dark tresses. She'd been trained in Bumble & Bumble salons and was a downtown salon lady until she had her son and wanted to work more flexible hours closer to home. Fate brought her to Green Tangerine in Burlington and then fate so cruelly tore us apart. *sniff*
  2. A decent local paper. The San Diego Union Tribune hardly rises above the Pensacola News Journal in their content or lack of biased coverage. Its great to keep up with local issues and events, but their adoration of Qualcomm is not even slightly hidden as is their disdain of Nokia. Its tough to compete with the Boston Globe.
  3. The lack of creepy crawlies. Its been warm recently and it seems the big black beetles, their hairy legged friends and other tiny critters are testing to see if Spring has arrived. Even though I grew up in Florida surrounded by a bounty of tropical bugs, they make me squirm -- and, I'm really trying not to so Peanut doesn't become as squimish.
  4. Verizon FIOS. Oh how the lame and outrageously overpriced monopoly of Time Warner Cable here annoys me. And, don't get me started on the outages.
  5. And, for the little ones: Ms. Gina's Little Acorns preschool that Peanut loved and the Burlington library which had a great puzzle, block and puppet playspace.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Breaking the Thumb Habit

Almost as soon as she could, Peanut put her thumb into her mouth. It gave her peace, it made her happy and it helped her sleep through the night. Pacifiers were spit out with a venegence that sent them popping loudly into the side of her cardboard KELA-box bed. Her choice was her thumb.

And, its been that way ever since.

Now, as she approaches her third birthday, I thought it was time to start weaning off her thumb. Sure, the pediatrician suggested I try it earlier, but the last year was filled with so much change for her from a new little brother to two new homes, I thought if her thumb helps her through it, that's fine with me. Her dentists have never made an issue of the thumb-sucking, but I think the sooner she can stop, the easier it will for all of us.

We started with a small talk about saving thumb for only bedtime. Then, we added some incentive to it -- the Princesses would reward her for her hard work. Yes, once again, I've recruited our friends Pink Princess (aka Sleeping Beauty), Cinderella, Ariel and Jasmin to help our cause.

Every morning, Peanut finds a little surprise from the princess who visited during the night: a coloring page and stickers dedicated to the princess. These lovely ladies also place a sticker on her wall poster and promise bigger rewards for the weekend.

So far, its worked like a charm. Peanut carefully puts her hands in her lap even in the car -- a very tempting place to suck your thumb. Sometimes she literally bursts into tears with longing, but fights the urge. I am extremely proud of are the princesses.

Testing Mobile Blogging

So, now I can send pictures from my mobile phone directly to my blog!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hooking up with moms via Meet Up

If there's one thing I've learned from the three major moves I've made in the past three years, its making friends is hard work!

But, since having friends is so important to making a new place feel like home, there's nothing else to do than get out, get out, get out, get out. Having children has got to be the best way into many groups in the fastest way. You immediately have some common ground to start on and a topic than can easily wind you in and out of many areas of conversation.

Finding new friends via the web has been one of my latest ventures. The website Meet Up coordinates people around an interest or geography to find each other, plan meetings and introduce members to each other.

I've joined a couple of Meet Up groups in San Diego - some mom's groups in my suburb and a Dutch culture group. (The Finnish ladies have their own group coordinated via the fantabulous and information saturated San Diego Finns website.)

My main Meet Up group has 3 - 4 activities organized each week. Park playdates, lunches, outtings to local attractions and even birth story sharing sessions number among the events. When we're available, I make an effort to get us out to the Meet Up. Sometimes its a great event where I get to meet several moms. Other times, its a total dud because I can't find the members and after asking 5 -6 random people if they are here for a Meet Up and getting that oh-my-god-ewww-creepy-internet-lady look, I call it quits.

Still, I keep going knowing that friendships form only after many, many meetings. First, you have to become a familiar face, then, perhaps get to know a handful of people and eventually, you find your connection grows beyond just the fact that 'hey, we are both moms, let's chat about diapers, food, preschool, lack of sleep, where did you buy that stroller?!'

It all makes me love my lifelong friends just a little bit more :-)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pies of Julian

Opa & Oma were visiting us last week so we took them on a grand tour of the area. One day we headed up for the mountains to the town of Julian, briefly a gold rush town, but now the local economy seems to depend on pies.

The main street is the central lure in town with its old wooden buildings housing gift shops, pie parlors and restaurants (with their own speciality pies). The elevation allows Julian to harvest a plentiful crop in apples which are the main ingredient in the town's pies. Though I didn't see it advertised, there must be a heated Apple Pie competition each year with probably all sorts of scandals involved from bribed judges, stolen recipes and sabotaged apples.

We sampled a couple - as one must. The Boysenberry-Apple (flaky not crumbly) from Mom's Pies got the family vote.

Outside the town's limits we saw some of the first signs of singed earth and scorched trees from the Fall's brush fires.

Friday, February 29, 2008

"What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?" WSJ Asks

From today's Wall Street Journal, a story about how Finnish high school students rated among the most intelligent according to a recent PISA assessment test.

US delegations to Finnish schools wondered how schools without tons of homework, gifted programs or uniforms manage to produce such results. And, more pertinent to the toddler-set I hang out with, how does it happen in country where children don't even start school until age 7!

Virtually all the preschools we toured in the San Diego area we live in touted their curriculum-based approaches -- even for babies like Tex with topics like 'socks' for a week. They all talked about how their students learn letters, numbers and other such skills in the 2 - 3 year olds classes.

Most of the Finnish mamas I've met in my time in Dallas, Boston and here are very laid back in that sense. They DON'T want to start teaching their toddlers these things. Certainly, its OK if they pick it up, but there is no pressure and they don't seek out schooling based on that criteria.

My feeling is that Peanut and Tex have plenty of years of formal schooling ahead of them, no need to spoil it now. Then again, I spent time to teach Peanut her colors, shapes and many letters because she seems to enjoy it. We don't do flashcards or anything like that. Mostly they come up as we are doing arts and crafts, doodling or reading. Peanut puts the words to use daily as she now has many ways to describe and ask about the world. In picking out a preschool for her, I look for one that offers more time for play than sitting in circles or filling in worksheets.

Tex, I suspect, may not have the patiences Peanut expressed for sitting and quietly exploring these concepts. So, with him, we'll take another approach.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Saving Pennies for a Rainy Day -- or Princess Crown

For a while now Peanut has been keen about "paying" for items when we go to the store or even the library.

I usually just use plastic, so I thought we might need something to help begin instilling the idea of money. And, when you can combine it with an art project - all the better!

Michael's carries a triple-pack of these porclein piggy-banks waiting to be decorated. An example piggy at the store had been graced with a pink fluffy tutu, pink paint and pink eyelashes, so unsurprisingly, Peanut also wanted her piggy to be PINK!

After we painted it, we talked about collecting coins for it, saving the coins to take to the bank or to take to the store to buy something. Peanut decided she wanted to buy a new princess crown to replace the one she broke. Though I would have liked her to be saving for a book or something along those lines, I have to respect her choice.

So, every evening when papa comes home, Peanut runs to jump into his arms and to ask "Papa, did you bring me some money?" He usually digs out some coins which have to be shared with little brother. Peanut is persistent about her income and her piggy is happily jingling already.

Its a start. We may not have yet really covered how to "earn" money, but she is getting the idea that you have to gather a pile together to take to the bank or to the store. I suppose we can work
on the details later.

Since Peanut & Tex each got a piggy, I thought Papa and I could use one for ourselves. Its saving pennies for a special vacation treat. This piggy has golden eyelashes, golden toe-nails and golden wings.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sunset Cliffs

Since I posted about Mission Beach, I thought I should also add the pictures from the nearby Sunset Cliffs.

There isn't much to the story -- just an awe-inspiring stop along the highway. Massive waves pounding and bursting against cliffs that seem to crumble into the Pacific Ocean.

Beach Babes

Over the weekend, we checked out Mission Beach.

In contrast to the $20 parking lots of the East Coast, its so wonderful here to find plenty of available and FREE parking along the coasts. Yesterday, an story in the San Diego Union Tribune said some communities, including La Jolla and Pacific Beach, were debating adding their first parking meters for beach parking.

First, we parked right next to a fun park for a picnic lunch while watching a group of children in scuba-diving school run squeling and splashing into the water.

After lunch, we drove to the Pacific Ocean-side thinking we'd just catch a glimpse from a jam-packed parking lot. To our surprise, we snagged a spot just along the boat channel heading out from the harbor to the ocean.

Tex spotted the surfers way out in the ocean with great excitement. He gleefully jabbed his little pointer finger toward them and made sounds of intent. He was even more thrilled by the riskier surfers who caught waves in the boat lane lined by massive boulders.

Peanut always loves the beach. Even though the water was positively frigid, she skipped along the shore gathering shells.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Little Pearly Whites

In tune with National Children's Dental Month, our Finnish playgroup recently had a discussion about the use of xylitol for children to help prevent cavaties and ear infections.

Xylitol, a natural sugar extracted from the birch tree and other sources, has been used in Finland for many years - most popularily in the Jenkki-brand gum. I remember as a child chewing Jenkki and even stuffing our suitcases with it when we visited Finland during the summers. I never wondered why my mom encouraged us to chew it, but now I see.

In Finland, xylitol's ability to impede the development of bacteria which cause cavaties is well known. As a result, children receive xylitol mints or chewing gum in childcare centers after meals. Local Finnish mom's here found it funny that when they sent xylitol in their children's lunch packs, the teachers either objected to the "candy" or refused to make sure that the child ate it at the end of the meal when its most effective.

Its important, however, to use 100% xylitol products to gain the beneficial effects. For example, Trident gum touts xylitol on its packaging, but its just one of many sweetners in the product, some which actual can cause cavaties.

I wish I would have been aware of xylitol's ability to ward off ear infections! A link has been established between pregnant mother's using xylitol and a decreased incidence of ear infections. Even if you missed that chance, xylitol's natural antibiotic property can even help with ear infections in children.

A quick search online, brings up several web-shops that sell xylitol products in the US:

Zellies - where I ordered a batch of mints and gum from. Peanut's been a big fan of the fruit-flavored mints and often requests the mint herself after meals.

Another very helpful piece of information, I'm surprised is also not covered is how infants and toddlers first get the bacteria that causes cavities: usually the source is their parents! I recall in Finland, hearing that you should never taste your baby's food off their spoon before feeding them as it passes the cavity-causing bacteria to them.

In fact, infants are born without the bacteria and can be kept cavity free if you can successfully keep them from getting the bacteria by avoiding transmission from family members. So, no sharing utensils, bites of food, toothbrushes, or other materials that could move bacteria from one to another via salvia.