Monday, December 10, 2012

St. Nikolaus

This week, we kicked off the holiday season by lighting our advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent.  Each following week, we get to light yet another candle until Christmas.  Eva and I put together this simple wreath using the candles from last year:
Eva and Emma are in the background making funny faces into Eva's camera

We also celebrate the countdown to Christmas with Advent Calendars.  Eva’s is a Playmobil one, where she opens a new door each day, and it contains a little treat.  In this case, each door contains a component to a  winter animal-feeding scene.  Did I mention before that we love Playmobil in our house?

A beloved character in German history is St. Nikolaus, who is loved by children because he is the bringer of gifts.  In America, we know him as Santa, who comes on December 25.  In Germany, he comes on St. Nikolaus Day, December 6.  Eva and Emma are lucky, as we let them celebrate the American, German and Swiss Christmas traditions!  On December 5, all the good boys and girls clean their boots and then put them out on the doorstep in case St. Nikolaus comes by.  If the children were good, they get a treat, and if not, they get a tree branch (“Rute”).  Eva spent quite some time scrubbing her boots, and on the morning of the 6th, discovered a delicious treat of candied almonds in the boots (wrapped of course, St. Nikolaus must understand my need for cleanliness). 

St. Nikolaus also came to IDEXX, which was quite a coincidence, as we were there for a little holiday get together!   As he appeared, a hush grew over the crowd of children, and the mood was quite reverential.  Here is a photo of how he looked:
Here is Eva giving him the drawing she made

Checking out her cool new pen

After greeting all of the children (In German, French and English), he took out his magical golden book, in which was written all of the things about the girls and boys that were there.  St. Nikolaus told Eva that he was so pleased with her writing and crafting, and that she usually takes good care of her little sister.  However, he said that sometimes, she should be a bit gentler with Emma, and should listen better to her mom and dad.  He told Emma that he was so proud of her for being such a happy baby and smiling throughout the day.  However, she needs to learn to sleep better at night: that is not the time for smiling and laughing.  Once he read from his book each of the children got some treats!  Each child got a sack full of treats (chocolates, haribo candy, mandarine oranges, nuts), an official IDEXX stuffed animal, and a fantastic pen!  Eva had drawn a picture for St. Nikolaus, which he told her he would put in a very special place.  As for her part, for the first time, she was speechless. 
Here is Eva's Nikolaus Sack alongside the stuffed animals she and Emma got

Here are the contents of the sack, minus the giant chocolate Nikolaus and two mandarine
oranges that were already eaten!

Daniel was part of the committee that organized the whole thing for the families, and I am so proud of him for helping to start this tradition at his work!  I am also proud of him for leaving out a bit of the St. Nikolaus tradition.  You see, in Germany, St. Nikolaus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus, nasty little demons who take the bad children away.  Here is how Krampus looks: 

Is that terrible or what?  It looks like the gates of Hell have opened.  Now you can see why Daniel skipped this part of the tradition.  I think I’m going to have nightmares from looking at this stuff, let alone the kids.  Daniel was scared of St. Nikolaus as a kid, and now I no longer laugh at him for this.

Since we live in Switzerland, Eva also got to meet “Samichlaus”, thanks to her soccer club who organized the whole thing.  He also has a creepy little sidekick, Schmutzli, who has a little whip.  All the kids that are good get treats, and when Samichlaus’s bag is empty, Schmutzli stuffs the bad kids in and kidnaps them.  There is nothing quite like terrorizing children to ring in the holiday season.  In many households, children must recite passages or songs before getting a treat, but all in all, the tradition is the same as St. Nikolaus. 
So on Saturday night, we headed to the forest where a beautiful Christmas tree was lit with real candles.  The kids all had a snowball fight until we heard bells jingling.  The kids were all quiet as Samichlaus, Smutzli and their donkey made their entrance.  Each child got their bag of treats.  Eva bravely got hers from Schmutzli.  Here she is with her treats!
Schmutzli and Samichlaus

Eva got some goodies!
Here are the gingerbread cake and bag Eva got

The contents of the bag: Yummy!
 We spent the rest of the weekend dealing with a stomach flu in both kids, although they did feel well enough to get outside for a bit:
Our beautiful Emma, loving her outdoors outfit!

 Then on Monday morning, it was back to work/school with the Papa taxi!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stone Age/Steinzeit Week

This week was extra special for Eva and Emma, since their half brother Tobias came to visit from America!  It was the first time he met Emma in person, and here they are getting acquainted:

Eva and Tobias had lots of fun this week.  Here they are playing at the zoo.

Although we were mostly busy doing outdoor activities since the weather was wonderful, we did buckle down and do some Stone Age learning activities.  First, we made our own salt dough and used it to craft some stone age weapons, such as arrowheads and grinding tools.  This was Tobias's great idea!  We used some books on the stone age as inspiration.
Here is Tobias preparing the dough

Eva mixed the dough in a freezer bag in an attempt to contain the mess

Here, Eva paints her clay arrowhead
Painting the tools
Here are some of the finished tools

The next activity we did was cave painting.  We read about the mysterious cave paintings and decided to create our own.  First, we soaked copy paper in black tea for several minutes to "age" it.  We also crumpled it so it looked a bit like a cave wall.  Then we used watercolor pencils to create some prehistoric masterpieces!

Soaking the paper in tea

Here is our finished paper, along with the watercolor pencils and books for inspiration.
The kids are hard at work making their cave paintings!
Eva's painting
Tobias's painting
My painting: Oh deer!

The original cave paintings were often signed with a hand print.  This gave us the idea to craft a present for Daniel using the hand prints of his 3 wonderful kids!

Eva and Tobias were keen on making another gift for Daniel, so I cut out some letters from craft paper and had the kids pose with them to spell out "Dad".  Even though they call him Papa, I went with "Dad", since this seemed easier than having another child to hold up the 4th letter.

We also spent some days at the Freibad since they weather was lovely and the kids love to swim.

Victory Pose!

Here is a videos of fun at the Freibad.  I love Eva's happy dance!

Here are the books we used for this week:

Wir entdecken die Steinzeit
Frag mich was. Steinzeit
Frag mich was: Steinzeit

Die Steinzeit Menschen

Finally, we borrowed an awesome playmobil set from the library that both children enjoyed!  Have I mentioned before that I am a big fan of the library?

I recommend playmobil to everyone!  Even I never get bored with it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

South America week

This week we chose to learn about two countries in South America: Chile and Brazil. We learned about all of the interesting climates in Chile, the longest country in South America. We printed out some animal flashcards with the name in Spanish, and Eva colored the animals in. We made a tasty snack food from Chile that we learned from our friends, Francisco and Tamara. It is called the completo: a hot dog on a bun with various toppings. We made the "Completo Italiano", which is comprised of mashed avocado, diced tomatoes and mayonnaise layered on top of the hot dog. It doesn't have anything to do with Italy except for the colors! We also had plans to call Francisco and Tamara, who live in Chile, but sadly I had laryngitis for the whole week and couldn't speak!

Animal flashcards in Spanish and the flag of Chile

"completo italiano" and tater tots

For Brazil, we learned about the rainforest and the Amazon river, the (just barely) longest river in the world! Eva made a very cool rainforest diorama, demonstrating the 4 basic layers of the rainforest: the forest floor, understory layer, canopy layer and emergent layer. Then, we cut out photos of rainforest animals, and Eva put them in the appropriate level of the rainforest. We even bought a cool carnivorous plant for the diorama, but then chose to just let it live outside.
First, Eva painted the inside of a cardboard box green

Eva adding some finishing touches.  We used wrapping paper rolls for trees.  The leaves are made out of real leaves, crepe paper and craft leaves.

Emma is not so sure about the work in progress!

Eva giving her best jungle predator impression while showing off her masterpiece!

We also made some rainforest animals flashcards and did some basic lap book exercises. We made a variation of a Brazilian drink, the caipirinha, using sprite along with fresh squeezed orange, lime and lemon juice, and garnished with a mint. We learned a few basic words in Portuguese and ate a coconut, which Eva was allergic to :(  We also learned the song "5 little monkeys", and made crocodile and monkey puppets to go along with it.  I simply printed out some clip art monkeys from Microsoft Word, which Eva cut out and pasted to sticks.  The crocodile is made out of a wooden clothespin painted green with some googly eyes.

Modified caipirinha

Rainforest Flashcards
5 little monkeys and one hungry crocodile

Here is a puzzle Eva already had, which fits nicely with our theme

We also made a cool rain stick by putting nails into a sturdy cardboard tube (we used one that  aluminum foil is rolled around).  Next, we added some red lentils and then sealed each end with some felt hot glued on.  When you turn the stick, the lentils get slowed down by the nails, and it makes a tinkling sound like rain.  Finally, Eva decorated the stick with various colored paper scraps.

Red lentils for the "rain"

Here is how the inside looks after Eva hammered all of the nails in

The finished rain stick

A very cool place we went that has the rainforest theme is the Tierpark Papillorama, which is about 20 minutes away by car. It is composed of 3 large "bio domes" which are all tropical habitats. One houses a large variety of butterflies, one is a nocturnal habitat and one is a replica of a hectare of a Central American rainforest, including plants and animals. Aside from that, there is also a nice outdoor petting zoo, playground, marsh observation area and an outdoor butterfly garden. We always have a great time when we go here and I highly recommend it for people To see if they are in Bern!
Here is Eva in the Jungle Trek dome looking at a spoonbill

Little cutie in the jungle!
Learning is fun!

Eva playing in the Jungle playscape

Here is a photo I took of the nocturama.

From Papillorama website:  Inside of butterfly enclosure

From Papillorama website:  Inside of nocturama

From Papillorama website:  Inside of nocturama

From Papillorama website

From Papillorama website:  Inside of butterfly enclosure

Here is an insect hotel, with many little habitats for insects to live in.  We plan to make one someday soon!

Here are some of the butterflies found in the outdoor exhibit.  We also saw a lizard!
Here is Eva observing the marsh
Eva liked the donkeys at the petting zoo!
The goats were not interested in us

The books we used for this unit were: Licht an: Leben im Dschungel and Der Dschungel. We also revisited our Kinder dieser Welt book, focusing on the page on the Amazon.  I couldn't read them to Eva since I had laryngitis, but they are nice picture books that she could explore on her own. She also used the Tierlexicon with her Tiptoi pen, which has many interactive games and songs as well. Overall, it was a quiet week since I was very sick, but we still had a fun time!

Our books for the week

I'm having a blast now that I know how to roll over!