Monday, December 28, 2009

Gifts for the Grandparents

For the second year in a row, I made calendars for the grandparents and great-grandparents using I have been very happy with the quality of the photos and durability of paper on these calendars. This year I even made one for us to keep. :) If you decide to use Walgreen to make a calendar, I would wait until they offer a discount since they do this pretty often. I saved $27.00 on five calendars.

Snow in Texas??

I never would have thought that I would see snow in our neck of the woods, let alone on Christmas Eve. The day before we were playing in the yard in our t-shirts. It was truly a Christmas miracle. Diego has only seen snow once in his life and this was the first time for Mateo. It was not a lot of snow compared to other places in the country but we could not have been happier!

Toys my children ACTUALLY play with.

The boys received a TON of cool toys and games for Christmas and for Diego's birthday. I think that I have plenty of material to keep the Toys my children ACTUALLY play with posts going for a few more weeks. :)

I asked for help with choosing games for preschoolers a couple of months ago and Danita From The Land of Pleasant Living wrote an awesome post about her children's favorite board games. Following her recommendation we purchased the game Zingo and we all LOVE it. It is recommended for four years old and up. Basically each player gets a card and similar to Bingo they must try to match up the tokens to the items on their cards. Each token and card shows a picture of the object and the written word. I like this feature because both pre-readers and readers can play together. I think that I will use this game in the future to practice sight words in English. Which brings me to my last point. This is an easy game to play in Spanish or any other language if you just call out the objects in that language. For example, when we play and I have a cat on my card I call out "gato." This would work for any bilingual family to practice vocabulary in your second language while having fun.

ThinkFun Zingo

Do you have some toys or gifts that your child received that you would like to share? Here's the MckLinkey. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with your families!

Feliz Cumpleaños a Diego

This week my "baby" boy is turning four years old. I love to celebrate his birthday but I have a hard time seeing him grow up so fast. I remember the week after he was born being extremely emotional and at one point I was crying (again) because I realized that he would go off to college some day and leave home. Now I am not (nearly) that irrational but I do sometimes wish I could keep him little and innocent. I know that is not possible so I just try to appreciate every day that I am lucky enough to spend with him. He is such a funny and caring little boy and I just love him so much. Ok, I will stop before I start crying.

Since my family is in town for Christmas we have had a small birthday party for Diego a couple of days after Christmas for the last two years. We are thinking about a new plan for next year since this is overwhelming for all of us. We have not decided what that will look like but we maybe doing a half-birthday party in the summer.

Here are some pictures from our Pirate party:
First, the pirate ship cake. I can not take all of the credit for the idea for this cake. After I decide the theme for my kids' parties, I head over the the Coolest Birthday Cakes for ideas. Real moms submit photos of cakes that they have made to share with the rest of us. For my cake I used two chocolate sheet cakes stacked and cut in the shape of a ship, Rolos in the wrappers for the "gold," Rolos out of the wrappers for the "portholes," Whoppers for the "cannonballs," chopsticks for the masts, Lego pirate men, shark and treasure chest, coconut dyed blue for the "water," and crushed graham crackers for the "sandy island."

I ordered the pirate hats, sticker sheets to make treasure maps (seen below), the small plastic treasure chests (shown above) and gold coins from Oriental Trading. Two of the activites of the party were making the treasure maps and then a treasure hunt. The treasure hunt was basically the kids using the treasure chests to look for gold coins that we hid around the house. I would have liked to do it outside but it was very cold.
We did venture outside to break the piñata. Dale, Dale, Dale..... My in-laws always buy the piñata. This year it was a huge pirate.
Overall the party was a success. Diego was happy and that is all that matters. Later when I put him to bed, I asked him his favorite part of the party and he said that it was his cake. Did I mention that I love that kid? :)


We just celebrated Christmas and Diego's fourth birthday party in the last three days so I am exhausted. Both turned out great, but I am exhausted. Did I mention that I am exhausted ?? I can't wait to share pictures from both but today my plan is to get my house back into some sort of normal and REST! If you would like to know some the fun ways that we celebrated Christmas in our house this year, check out the article that I wrote for Spanglish baby about our bicultural traditions. If you already read it..... THANK YOU!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Feliz Navidad- Graham Cracker Houses

We are not huge fans of gingerbread over here so we decided to make our "gingerbread houses" out of graham crackers. They are also much easier for little guys to help with.

First the kids laid out the pieces to icing and decorate with candy.

We laid the pieces out to dry for a little while and then we constructed the walls and roof using massive amounts of icing to hold it together.
Diego and his cousin and very proud of their houses.

Mateo didn't get to help building them because we purposefully waited until he was napping to make them. Luckily his big brother and cousin were nice enough to share.
Feliz Navidad

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Early Christmas Present

My husband finally finished the Lego Table that he built for the boys. I am very pleased with him because instead of the spending $100+ dollars to buy one like we had planned to, he made this one for under $30. Diego already knew about the table so we decided to make it an early Christmas present and distract him from his constant "Is it Christmas yet?" questions. It has already provided HOURS of fun. Thank you, Papi!

These are a couple of cars that Diego built that day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Diego's birthday-Last year

I can not believe that my baby boy is about to turn four years old. He is growing up so fast that I am really trying to appreciate every minute with him. Last year we had a dinosaur birthday party for Diego. He was (and still is) a HUGE dinosaur fan. I was not blogging back then so I would like to share some photos from that day.

My wonderful suegros (in-laws) brought Diego this Triceratops piñata. It is his favorite dinosaur. Can you tell that he liked it?

I made Diego this volcano cake and decorated it with a set of plastic dinosaurs. We used a little dry ice in a shot glass to make it smoke. This was also a BIG HIT!

Next week...... a pirate party!

Plate Making Kits

At one of our playgroups a few weeks ago, one of the mothers brought this plate making kit for the kids to do as Christmas presents. She bought her kit at Hobby Lobby but this looks like the same product. Basically the box contains pieces of paper that your children draw on or decorate. You mail the papers off to the company mentioned in the packet and for $7.00 they turn your child's drawing into a plastic plate. We just got our's back and I love them! I plan to do it again when Mateo is old enough to draw. Since they are gifts for Mami and Papi, we have not yet used them. I will update this post after we use them if there is any news to report about their condition.

Diego drew a Triceratops sleeping.

On this plate Diego drew a picture of his family. My favorite part is that our dog "Nacho" looks a lot like Mateo. :)

Toys my children ACTUALLY play with.

This week has been SO busy. Christmas parties, finishing up school, and preparing for Christmas AND Diego's birthday. Diego has the unfortunate luck of having a birthday a couple of days after Christmas. Every year I toy with the idea of celebrating his birthday a few weeks before or after Christmas. I always change my mind because my parents, sister, and niece are already here for Christmas and they would miss his birthday party if I did it any other time. Anyways, I have been busy and did not get to the "Toy Recap post" yesterday. I am sorry if you were anxiously awaiting it. ;)

The boys' favorite toy for the last couple of days might surprise you. They have both loved playing with an old, worn out calculator. Mateo thinks that it is a cell phone and has had lengthy conversations with his Papi. Diego thinks that it is a videogame. If only I could continue making them believe that until they are about 16. I would save a fortune!

Against my best intentions, I have once again bought too many toys for my children. Some will be used for Diego's birthday and I think that I may save a few for Mateo's in a couple of months also. If you have NOT gone overboard on toys and still need some ideas, you may be interesting in these links for "Toys my children ACTUALLY play with." Please do not just look at the post, but also check out the links and comments to find other great ideas. I am including this post from my giveaway because there are LOTS of great toys ideas here as well.

One more thing. I had some very nice ladies suggest that I keep the "Toys" MckLinky going after Christmas. Since I imagine that we will have lots of new toys to review after Christmas, this post will be back in two weeks. If you have a toy that your child loves, there will be a MckLinky up on the 31st.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My article for Spanglish Baby TODAY!

Please check out my article that I wrote for Spanglish Baby!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I am constantly amazed at the ease in which Diego can switch back and forth between English and Spanish. Spanish is definitely still his dominant language but his English is improving. He waits to find out what some speaks and adjust accordingly. I have spent the last 15+ years learning Spanish and at almost four years old my son is fluent in two languages. It is truly amazing how their little brains absorb languages like a sponge. Now that I am confident that he will be successful with Spanish and English, we are considering adding a third language. There is a critical window of opportunity in which learning languages is the easiest and most natural. That is not to say that you can not learn and even become fluent in another language later in life. It is just MUCH more difficult and time consuming. (Take it from me.) So here is our challenge. Neither my husband nor myself speak a third language. We would all be starting from scratch and learning together. We are lucky to live in an area with many choices for language classes and resources. What we have to decide first is what will be our third language. I suggested French since it is similar to Spanish and less taxing on my poor tired brain. My husband likes the idea of Chinese or Arabic since they are more difficult and Diego will have the easiest time learning them while he is young. The debate continues. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Geography Lesson- Postcard Exchange

We have a large map of the United States and a globe in our playroom. Diego can identify Texas (our home state) and Florida (where he visited his great-grandpa) on the map. Debbie at Children Grow Children Explore Children Learn had a fun idea for a geography lesson. She is hosting a postcard exchange so that our little ones can receive mail (a big hit around here) and learn about different places in the country or around the world. We already received a postcard from Selena in Washington and Diego was thrilled. We are placing a sticker on each place that we receive a card from and I am hoping to find a book or website about each place so that we can learn even more. Since it is crazy busy right now I know that I will start this in January when we will be completely crafted-out. If you would like to participate and receive a postcard from us and are willing to send one to us in return, please leave a comment. I know that Natalie at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns is participating as well.

Map of United States

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Math- Mazes

I consider this a math activity since it helps with spacial skills. I found this maze and several others here. I like that there are mazes of different difficulty levels. This one ended up being too easy so I printed off a more complicated one. I cover them with a piece of contact paper so that Diego can use a dry erase marker. It drives me nuts when he marks on something for 2 seconds and then throws it in the trash. I am hoping to keep these for next year and then for Mateo in a couple of years.

Giveaway- Mama Latina Tips

Mama Latina Tips is having some awesome giveaways this week. One that I hate to tell you about (but I will ;0) is a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to Staples. Check back often because she is having seven consecutive days of giveaways.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spanglish Baby-Check out my article

The awesome chicas over at Spanglish Baby asked me and some of the other mamás blogueras (mommy bloggers) to write an article about our family's bicultural holiday traditions. I was very honored because this is one of my favorite sources for information about raising bilingual children. My article will come out next Thursday. Come over to Spanglish Baby and check it out. Don't worry, I'll remind you next week. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reading in English

First of all, I need to send a big "GRACIAS" to Debbie and Selena at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn for our new book "Green Eggs and Ham." We were the lucky winners of her recent giveaway. The book came with an added bonus of bubble wrap that kept the boys entertained for quite awhile. :)

If you follow this blog, you know that we speak and read to the boys only in Spanish. I often get asked by friends and family when we are going to "teach" them English. This is WAY too big of a topic to completely cover here but I would like to touch on it. Living in the United States and being surrounded by the English language, it would be nearly impossible NOT to learn to speak English. The more difficult challenge is to provide enough exposure to Spanish to make the boys truly fluent. The English that Diego does know is from some television programs, playing with neighborhood children, and my family (who unfortunately do not live close.) I continue speaking to the boys in Spanish even when we are around English speakers (even my parents.) However, I encourage them to speak to the boys, ask them questions, and read to them in English whenever they are around. I have tried on several occasions to read a book to Diego in English. He flat out refuses to listen. Last night when we received our new "Green Eggs and Ham" book, I was excited to read it to him since it is one of my favorite books. I explained to D that the book was written in English so Mami had to read it in English. He very politely told me, "No, español por favor." I thought for a minute about the monumentous task of translating a Dr. Seuss book into Spanish off the top of my head and insisted that he let me read it in English. He reluctantly agreed and really enjoyed the book. I am sure that he did not understand all of the words but I pointed at the pictures and stopped after each page and translated a few key words. I still plan to read most of our books in Spanish but I think that I will start reading one English book a day also.

Toys my children ACTUALLY play with.

Last week I posted about Diego's love of all sorts of building materials. This last weekend my dad came to visit us for the weekend and see Diego perform in his Christmas program. While he was here Diego and "PaPa" played with Legos for hours. Here is a picture of the two of them with the partially finished Lego table that my husband is making. (Hopefully, it will be done by Christmas.)

Diego adores his grandpa so we were so happy that he can visit. An added bonus is that Diego gets to practice his English. Since we only speak to each other in Spanish (Diego and I) it is very strange to hear him speak English. He does speak in English considerably slower than in Spanish but I am always amazed at his large vocabulary and ability to form complete sentences.

The actual toy for this week was Play-doh. Besides blocks, nothing keeps Diego busier than playing with Play-doh. He seriously spent FIVE hours one Saturday morning with his Play-doh. We have a few of the Play-doh tools that you can buy, but generally he just likes to use his hands. Lately, he has been making Play-doh Transformers. He builds them, smashes them, and then "transforms" them into something else. I love to listen to him while he is playing and making up stories about the Transformers. Sometimes we make homemade dough and sometimes I buy it. He refuses to keep the colors separate so we just end up with grey no matter what. Lately, I have let him play with it on the floor since Mateo wants to play also and he can't play at the table without falling or sitting ON the table. We usually end up with quite a mess I think that the amount of time that it keeps him occupied versus the time spent cleaning up is worth it. Here is a picture of Diego one afternoon after preschool in the middle of a two hour play-doh marathon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giveaway- My Two Happy Homeschoolers

My Two Happy Homeschoolers is giving away this dry-erase wipe-off alphabet book. I am going to start working with D on the English alphabet soon and I think that this would be a big help!
Hurry up and enter because the giveway will end Friday December 11, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Feliz Navidad- D's Christmas Show

This morning D had his Christmas program at his preschool. The two year olds cried, the three year olds kids danced and sang to Christmas songs (en español of course), and Santa even made an appearance. I was very proud of D. A year ago I know that there is NO way that he would have stood in front of the crowd at all, let alone sang and danced. This picture is of D dancing to the song "Los peces en el rio" (The fish in the river) which is a very traditional Christmas song in Spanish. I have more cute pictures of the program but they include other kids in his class and I do not want show their pictures without their parents permission.

This is the first picture of D with Santa since he was 11 months old. He has refused to sit on Santa's lap since. Today we told him to ask Santa for what he wanted. He asked Santa for Legos and Transformers.
This is M's first picture with Santa. Since D was so against last year, we just skipped it for both of them. He did pretty good but I do think the concerned expression on his faces says a lot.

Christmas Math- Shapes

One of the Four Preschool Math Goals is to identify at least four shapes. D knows more than four so I used this activity more for cutting practice (something that D loves to do.) I drew the shapes on different colors of construction paper and D insisted on doing EVERYTHING himself after that, from the cutting to the gluing. D will be four at the end of the month and I am amazed at how much he has grown and matured in last year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Math- Counting up to 8

One of the Four Preschool Goals for Math is counting up to 8 objects. I first cut out a Christmas tree from construction paper. Next, I covered the tree with Christmas stickers. You need several of each type of sticker.

Next, I made an "answer sheet" with one of each sticker represented on the tree. D's challenge was to count the stickers on the tree and tell me how many there were. I wrote the numeral on the notecard. So that we could do this activity more than once, I covered the notecard with contact paper and I wrote with a dry-erase marker.

Toys my children ACTUALLY play with.

Today's Toys my children ACTUALLY play with post is dedicated to my son's love of all building materials. Given a choice my son would spend about 50% (or more) of his waking hours building something. I try to provide him with a variety of different materials to make his towers, castles, boats, spaceships, and, of course, robots. Some of his favorites are megablocks, wooden blocks, and Legos. My husband is in the process of building him a Lego table for his birthday. Here are a few pictures of some of his creations.
Do you have any toys that you would like to suggest? If so, please link up or leave a comment below.
12/10 Last regular toy post
12/17 Recap of suggested toys
12/31 Last post. What did your kiddos get for Christmas and do they ACTUALLY play with it?

Christmas Math- Number Matching

This is our second Christmas math activity. To see our first activity and to learn about the Four Preschool Math goals, go here.

I found this printable at DLTK's website. There are several versions of the "Dauber Coloring Pages." You can choose below the present, a Christmas tree, wreath, angel, candle, and elf. You can do MANY different activities with these printables. I used ours to practice number matching. I filled in the circles with numbers from 1-16 and wrote the same numbers on small plastic squares. D then covered the numbers on the paper with the number blocks. It was a very easy activity for D so I was surprised that he wanted to do it three times in a row. He was busy working alone so I started doing the dishes. When I came back to check on him, he was using the blocks to make a tower. That's my boy.

Any other ideas of what to do with these? Please leave a comment. I made several copies. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Sensory Tub

My nineteen month old is driving me crazy by pulling off the ornaments from the Christmas tree. To satisfy his desire to touch the pretty, shiny ornaments, I made this Christmas sensory tub today. First I filled it with a TON of cotton balls and then added some of the ornaments from the tree. I still had to sit with him as he explored since some of them are breakable, but he loved being able to touch them. I plan to change out the ornaments each day. Hopefully, this will prevent me from having to buy all new ornaments next year!

For more great ideas check out the posts that I am linking to: Adventures of Bear, Activity Mom, and Our Worldwide Classroom.

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