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What's this on the cake???
Last year it was WORMS...this year it's DINO EGGS!
Our own little Enzosaurus hatched 4 years ago...
Since then, we have been slowly collecting other little egglings as friends along the way.  The guest list grows and changes.  Every year, we reflect on our life with our sweet boy... How he came to us, who he is, what he has and will become.  Apparently, he became a dinosaur at some point between 3.5 & 4 years old this year.

My ideas always start simple...
then without fail, like a welcomed weed, they grow.  I go from a "small cake cutting" to a full blown carnival.  My mind just takes off.  Not wanting just a frilly sugar fest, I designed the activities to engage the kids so they can learn, observe, and have a great time.  I know, I know, it's a party.  But who says having fun and learning are independent of each other, right?  RIGHT???
Below is the party programming.

Kids LOVE to dig!  We set up our train table with sand and fossils for our Fossil Dig!  The inspiration came from seeing some plastic dino fossils on Amazon.  With their dino names at the bottom, this was a fantastic option to bury the bones and have all the kids excavate them!  We threw in some rocks, leaves, and extra seashells to flush out the loot.
Ingredients :
1)  Train Table
2)  2 - 10lb Bag of Sand
3)  24 Dino Fossils
4)  Large Canvas Drop Cloth
5)  Various rocks, bay leaves, and seashells
The Observation Table
We set up an Observation Table for our young archaeologists to explore their findings.  Brushes, magnifying glasses, labels, bags, and markers were provided as part of the Lab Work.  

After the sand...we threw in the WATER!  A very textural party so far, we wanted to stimulate all senses!  These Dino Capsules took over an hour to grow, so it was a sensorial lesson with patience built in:)  We asked the kids to label and leave their experiment cups on the shelf so they can check in on them throughout the party and take them home at the end.  We did a "sample" at each station so the kids can visually "self-serve" without any adult assistance.
1)  Tray
2)  Pitcher with Water
3)  Clear cups
4)  Dino Sponge Capsules

Have a kid that prefers some quiet time on his own?  We set up a small reading station with a bucket of Dino books in both English & Chinese.  Next to it, a coloring station with a stack of Dino coloring sheets, crayons, markers, and dino stickers to decorate.  A large cork board was provided with laundry clips to hang the finished pieces.

Our own Enzosaurus takes a quiet moment at the reading corner.

OK, nuff of the learning and reading.  Let's RUN!!!
This is a guarantee crowd pleaser.  Now run AS A DINOSAUR?  No way.  We handed out dino masks and asked the creatures to line up for a RACE TO EXTINCTION! Guess you would actually want to loose this race for survival purposes?  Any-Hoo...
The tot claws came out at the line up.  This is going to be one tough race.
A fight to the finish!

Phew...We are famished!  After the race, it was cake and grub time!  Each year, I design the cake and Dalee creates it.
1)  Low sugar
(minimal to no icing)
2)  Easy to make
3)  Fun!
With all the organic wave patterns, a "Tiger Skin" roll cake was the perfect base our Jurassic tort.  The natural bubbles and toasty stripes is a great backdrop.  Dalee kept the top of a pineapple for some prehistoric foliage.  We flushed out the display with a dino nest using coated peanuts:  A crunchy outer shells with a peanut in the middle.  Fantastic for giving the illusion of biting into real dino eggs!

Dalee pumped out the Choco Dino Minicakes with their own egg nests.

...wanna try one?

And with that, the Dino Fest came to an end.
We sent the kids packing with their choice of a box of Dino Puzzle or Dino Origami to continue the fun at home. Coloring books were given to the younger siblings to eat, tear, or to color.  Yes, some parent participation IS required, but again, the LAB loves interactive play!  As a rule of thumb, one large favor/activity always works better than a bunch of small trinkets.  Or you can say, I just got lazy since it's way more simple than putting together a goodie bag.
Minimal Work + Bigger Impact = One Happy Mama.

So for next year's birthday...
I'm thinking a nice small cake cutting.


The Earth Goes Around The Sun...

"The Earth goes around the sun,
The Earth goes around the sun,
The Earth goes around the sun, 
and it take one year!"

Ever wonder how you do Birthdays the Montessori way?

The celebration is a quiet one.
15 mins, no cake, no sweets, no presents.
There's something soothing about being so simple.

Zozie slowly traces the sandpaper Number 4 as he preps for his birthday circle at school.  The number is laid on a number rod with 4 sections, red being an odd number, blue being an even number.  Today, Zozie's #4 is on the 4th blue section.

It starts with setting up a "Sun" with monthly calendar tags as rays, January - December.  This reinforces the idea of 12 months adding up to one year, going through 4 distinct seasons indicated by the 4 trees on the birthday mat.

Teacher highlights the various months making up the year.
We were asked to provide 3 photos, one for each year of Zozie's growth at 1 year, 2 year, 3 year.  A candle is lit and places in the center as the actual sun.  A small Earth globe is handed to the child to walk around the sun one time to simulate the passing of one year while the class sings "The Earth goes around the sun..."

At the end of the 4 circle walks around the sun, there is not a photo of him at the current age since he is standing live before the class.  So the class is asked to take 4 "finger photos" of the birthday child!

And with that, the candle is blown out.  The birthday circle comes to a close.

The birthday child starts to hand out a small snack to each of his classmates, and the teacher presents his class gift to everyone.  Often times, it can be a book, a plant, or something of that nature.  We decided to give the class a potted pink orchid to take care of...

This method of celebration really focuses on the child himself, his growth each year, and his relationship to the Earth & sun with the passage of time.  After all, what does a cupcake have to do with a child's birth-day?  Don't get me wrong, we are having cupcakes later at a home party....but that's more for me!  I really do love the shift in focus and the simplicity of the Montessori celebration.  As a bonus, Grandma & Grandpa flew in today just to catch Zozie's special birthday circle, a sweet addition to the day.

Zozie's Earth has started to take it's next circle around the sun.  
My birthday wish?  
Hoping this circle would somehow be just alittle slower than the first 4 loops.


Mei-Mei. (妹妹)

Meet my "Mei-Mei".
That's my baby sister.
My pretend baby sister.
I love her SOOOO much.
(Atleast while she's still just an inanimate plastic dolly.)

We took Zozie to the "Sibling Hospital Class" yesterday.
The class where you walk in and see pairs of expectant parents gazing anxiously at their older toddler and accessing their "handling" of their assigned plastic sibling, shrouded in various baby blankets.
Do they seem jealous?  Happy?  Indifferent?
The nurse teacher spoke in a soft voice and instructed the children on how to handle their faux sibling.  After a quick book, a dated-not-so-high-production-quality-short-film, some basic swaddling techniques, and getting a very gender-specific "I'm a big Brother" sticker on Zo's chest, we were all off to the maternity ward for our grand hospital tour.

Upon visiting the Labor & Delivery room, the children were captivated by the "robot bed" that elevated the mother to a seated position.  They looked around, bounced on the pullout sofa bed next to the window and was ready to move on to the NICU, hoping to see a real newborn.

Meanwhile, I'm still staring.  
My mind flashing backwards and not knowing what's forward.  Even with the nice warm wood tones, comfy paint colors, and home-like surroundings (as much as can be with all the medical equipment trying to hide), I looked at the metal bed rails and remember the cool steel in my 2 hands while I clutched through another "birthing wave".  I was about to go through another transformation soon.  The taste and smell of that state of being is coming back.  Or maybe never left.  But just not acknowledged again, until now.

As we shuffle our way down the hall, some excitement is building...voices of children go from murmurs to squeaks.  We all see something, yeeping softly under a glowing indigo blue lamp...a REAL baby.
My gosh...those things are small.  Just tiny.  Yet, I feel my ever present belly for a second, and oh man, I feel just enormous.  Not sure if I wouldn't explode if I sneezed too hard.
"Is that a REAL baby, mama?"
"Yes, Zozie.  It is..."
We both stared.

Like Zo 4 yrs ago, this little guy is being remedied from a case of newborn jaundice.  I remember sunning Zozie in our stairwell at home, not being quite sure if his bout of jaundice was just due to the fact that he was half Chinese.  I went along with the plan and turned my little baking Buddha every 5 mins in the stairwell.  Sure enough, with in 1.5 weeks, he's complexion became creamy butter korma, sans the curry powder.  This particular goggle-sporting little man will be just fine too, and we thanked him for showing us his bravery in these first few days of life.

But, Zozie just stared and stared.  
So many pretend senarios of a new baby sister.
So many imagined conversations.
So many make-believe interactions.
I can see he's finally getting it.

It was a day of staring.
I find in silence observation, one grows.
Cut the noise, just stare, and see.
A new life is about to bloom before us.
The three of us, just staring together.



Presentation:  Threading.
Got a bag of pasta, some string, and nothing to do?
"Mama, I wanna make a ne-ka-lass."
With our noodles?
Heck, why not.

This turned out to be another fantastic threading exercise.
I quickly brought out some leftover red yarn to tie the food jewelry together and Zozie got to work.

The Goal
Hand eye coordination and pincher skill

The Set Up
1)  Tray
2)  Bag of hollow pasta (Penne or Rigatoni)
3)  Cut yarn
4)  Small bowl

The Presentation
1)  Invite the child to bring the tray to the table
2)  Tie a small knot on one end of the yard
3)  Pick up one piece of pasta with thumb and index finger
4)  Hold up the cut yarn with the other hand
5)  Slowly thread the yarn into the pasta "bead"
6)  Repeat and continue
7)  Can make necklaces, bracelets, or crowns

Boy, I look great.
This exercise tied us over for my entire dinner prep time, a welcomed surprise for an otherwise regular evening.  At only $2 for the bag of pasta, this was a cheap and easy tool that can be rinse and cooked to be eaten at a later meal no less!  Enjoy!