Archive for September, 2011

This Week’s Happenings 9/18-9/24

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

On Sunday we headed back out to the bush (check out Ben’s post for details on last week’s bush walk) to play some disc golf.  I know what you are thinking, Africa has disc golf??  Not really, but we managed to create a few holes of our own.  We played to fence posts, soccer goals, trees, pretty much anything that was off in the distance with a few obstacles in between.  It wasn’t the same as playing at Keriakes with our friends in BG, but it was pretty fun.  Mikayla even threw a couple of disc!

I finally convinced Ben to hang Mikayla’s art wall this past weekend.  Back in BG she had a homemade art wreath, but due to space limitations it got left behind.  I am pleased with what we have though and now we are able to display all the fun projects she does at school!

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 001

Before we left for Swaziland I saw homemade bowling sets floating around the Internet and made a mental note that I wanted to make one for Mikayla.  They are super simple, just some empty two liter bottles and ball.  Sure you can jazz them up, but I am not that jazzy of a person, so we just left them plain.  I have been collecting empty bottles for a few weeks now and finally had enough to resemble a set of bowling pins.  Last night she was getting restless so we pulled out the few pins we had and started bowling.  She loved it!  Please note her concentration and determination in each picture!

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 033

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 022

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 036

We also found and set up a mosquito net for Mikayla’s room.  The mosquitos are already out in full force, just ask Ben who got almost 20 bites in one night!  She is very excited about her fort/tent she gets to sleep in each night. 

Fort and Mango tree 001

Mikayla has been really into asking "WHY?" lately, for everything!  Don’t get me wrong, I love that my daughter is inquisitive, but the constant "whys" are wearing me out!  Her "why’s" can go on forever it seems like.  Is this an all toddler thing or just my daughter??

Can anybody guess what these are? 

Fort and Mango tree 010

They are starting to form in the trees by our house.  If you guessed mangos you are absolutely correct!

Attention Kickert family:  We played ten thousand as a family the other night and you would be happy to know that Mikayla really beat up on Ben and I.  She immediately rolled 650 and each round made good choices in when to roll or stay.  Quite the competition!

Fort and Mango tree 005

Can I just say that I am loving having access to Food Network?  This is the first time in my adult life that my home has had it and I am addicted!  I am pretty sure it is the only channel I have watched this week.  Who knew it would take moving to Africa to get it?  (Disclaimer – I only turn on the TV at night after Mikayla has gone to bed so please don’t think I am watching Food Network all day everyday!)

Posted in Life |

Toddler School–The Letter A

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Each week I have decided to focus on one letter at a time and create various activities revolving around it.  I will also throw in counting activities, fine motor activities, arts and crafts, science activities (when relevant), cooking activities and whatever else my brain comes up with!  I am sure we will do more as we get into a good routine, but I figured this was a good start.  I am always open for suggestions on how to do things differently or for new ideas (as I am coming up with most of them on the fly).  Here are some of our activities from the last week. 

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 052

Clothespin color matching.  As simple as it sounds, match up the clothespins with the correct color of cardboard.  I hope to find some colored paper clips to do a similar activity with.  She is getting really good at maneuvering the clips, something she struggled with a month ago. 

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 054

For this activity she had to identify each shape, color them a certain color depending on what I said and then match them up and glue on top of the correct match.  She loves to glue so anytime I can incorporate that into the lessons she is fully focused!

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 055

My friend Lara mentioned she was going to do an activity similar to this with pom poms – tweeze the pom poms or "apples" onto the apple tree.  I didn’t have any pom poms so I went to the cabinet to explore what I could substitute and came up with some large circular brads.  This worked out pretty well, although I think the pom poms would have been easier for her.  After she was finished putting the "apples" on the tree she proceeded to "eat" them all and then throw her trash in the storage bag.  Such an imagination my child.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 057

Letter sorting activity.  While we are only focusing on capital letters at this time, I still thought it was important to at least introduce the lower case letters.  For this activity she is sorting a stack of big and little letters into the correct bowl.  I did this with the M’s too and she is having so much fun with it I think I will incorporate it into each week (as long as she isn’t getting bored with it).  The black letters you see are sandpaper letters I made to help her focus on letter formation.   She can rub her finger along the letters to feel how the letter is written.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 011

More fine motor practice with some lacing.  Made from a cereal box and shoe string I found laying around. 

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 014

Push pins into thick cardboard.  After a few times this game was too easy because the holes were too big!

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 015

More big and little letter matching.  Letters were written on poker chips.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 017

Clipping correct number of clothespins to numbers.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 018

Apple stickers on the letter A.  This kid loves some stickers!

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 019

Apple craft – thanks Lara!  Torn paper for apple, handprint for leaf and real stick for stem.  She was very patient in finding her stem, as she wanted it to be perfect. 

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 022

Since ants are everywhere here (and I mean everywhere) what better snack than ants on a log for Letter A week?  Bananas with peanut butter for the log and craisins/raisins for the ants.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 038

Number matching on apples.  We sang songs about how to make the numbers and then traced them and glued over top the matching number.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 040

Apple counting book.  Each page has a different number and she had to glue the correct number of apples to each basket.  She did very well for the first three pages and then the last two she lost focus.  Maybe too many pages at this time for her.

Letter A, Birds and Bowling 046

Making some of my Grandma Clark’s famous apples.  Mikayla loves helping "cut" things in the kitchen!

We also did a few activities I failed to take a picture of.  We have felt storyboard pieces to go with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, so we incorporated these into two different activities.  One was a color activity.  She drew out one animal at a time and had to go find something in the room that was the same color.  She loved this game a lot, so we played it several times.  The second activity was acting like the animals.  We even took an apple and worked on position words and following directions!  We also practiced writing the letter A.  She did a great job, although she still regularly switches between her right and left hand.  Anyone know when it is normal to choose one hand over the other to write with?  We even talked about the parts of the apple and colored a picture.  I really wanted to paint with an apple, but I have only been able to get my hands on water color paints so far.  Maybe later we will just for fun!  We did more, but my mind is drawing a blank at the moment.  Some of these activities we will continue on through next week, but we will have many new ones to do as well. 

Next week we will be studying the letter B (think bears, boats, bananas and butterflies) – any good B activities or related art/math/science/fine motor/color ones floating around??  I am also open to suggestions for the letter C!

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 9/12-9/18

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

We started Mikayla’s Toddler School this week.  If you missed that post you should check it out for more details!  This week Mikayla learned a lot about the Letter M! 

The kids returned to the hostel this week, which means the twins also returned (although they left our care last Saturday).  The transition was really smooth.  Mikayla is doing well being the only child again (she was only in time out one or two times the whole week, compared to the numerous times daily when the twins were here).  We miss the twins, but have fallen easily back into our old routines.  Meal time is much less stressful now, only trying to feed one kid and not three.  The twins are having a bit of a harder time with adjustment, Nosipho especially.  She is grumpy as ever and is much clingier than she ever was with us.  Their sister (probably five years old) lives at the hostel as well and Nosipho has really taken to her.  The other day she didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone else besides her.  Neither are walking yet, but Nosipho did take a few independent steps.  Simo is scooting along on the floor and trying really hard to pull himself up on furniture and the like. 

Speaking of the hostel Mikayla has magically transformed her behavior while at the hostel.  Before the break she was really clingy and whiney when we were there.  This week she has marched right in and started playing immediately.  Of course it helps that all the kids are offering her sweets (candy) and biscuits (cookies)!!  On Saturday she played by herself with me out of sight for a good hour.  She has even buddied up with the twins older sister.  And she partook in dance lessons from one of the girls the other day.  She is becoming quite the Swazi and definitely has more rhythm than both her parents!

On Wednesday we spent an entire day in the capital city, Mbabane to get our fingerprints taken.  We are still working through the process of getting our work permits taken care of and this is just part of it.  Mikayla thought it was fun though and she even took her baby’s fingerprints in the car on the way home. 

After our day in Mbabane we went on a mini safari to see some animals.  We saw mostly deer like animals (impala, kudu, etc), some warthogs and most excitedly of all some zebra.  Mikayla had fun scouting out the animals and only complained of the rain once and got right over it.  We drove around for awhile and then walked around the main lodge area in the rain for a bit. It was fun to introduce Mikayla to some real African wild life and not just cows and goats!

We didn’t have to make a lot of home purchases when we arrived because our house was furnished; but we have picked up a few minor things along the way like some Tupperware and of course my mixer!  However, this week we got one of our biggest home purchase yet (including home purchases back in the states).  We had a custom table and chairs built by a local carpenter.  It is really beautiful.  The chairs need some cushions, but besides that it is amazing.  We have never bought new furniture before, so this was exciting for us.  For the table and six chairs we paid E1660, roughly  $230!  Amazing!  Too bad you can’t get custom made furniture like that everywhere!

When we arrived in Swaziland the sisters told us that we could have the satellite that was on another volunteers house and use it at ours, we just had to move it and get it hooked up.  We finally broke down this weekend, and by we I mean Ben and a maintenance guy named Esau, and hooked it up.  I came home for a parents meeting and entertainment at the hostel to find the Food Network!  Ah the simple pleasures in life!

Table and school 004

Macaroni necklace.  Mikayla was actually really good at threading the noodles onto her ribbon.  Any good suggestions for activities dealing with fine motor??

Table and school 005

Counting caterpillar – she was putting the correct number of macaroni noodles on each number of the caterpillar.  He goes to 10, but we stopped at five this week.

Table and school 008

What better way to celebrate the Letter M than to make muffins!  I hope to incorporate cooking activities in with each letter.

Table and school 018

Our new table and chairs!

Table and school 012

New chairs, aren’t they pretty?

Ani-muls 082

Zebra, aren’t they beautiful??

Ani-muls 067


And so it begins…

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Today we started Toddler School and we both really enjoyed ourselves.  It was nice to be working one on one with Mikayla and I think she enjoyed the structured time as well.  She has had a lot of "free" time lately with the twins being around.  She is so smart and caught on to things so quickly.  I think she would have kept at it all day, but I didn’t want to use all my ideas up the first day.  The only thing she wasn’t crazy about were songs, so I think I will have to sneak those in at first!  She did like our goodbye song though.  The plan right now is to allot two hours in the morning to "school" and then see how it goes from there.  Today we had about 1.5 hours of structured time and then some independent learning time.  She has been asking for school since this morning so I think she enjoyed it.  I wish I could upload the video of her talking about her first day of school, but the Internet is just too slow for that.  Maybe one day!  She woke up this morning excited about choosing her clothes, clips and hairstyle for her first day of school.  Here are some picture highlights of her at school.

Moon and first day of Toddler school 015

Cheering for school.  She wanted to stand next to her learning baskets of school things.

Moon and first day of Toddler school 016

So grown up!

Moon and first day of Toddler school 017

Counting money in egg cartons.  She got pretty good at 1 to 1 correspondence today.  She knows how to count to 12, but has never been really good at counting objects.

Moon and first day of Toddler school 018

Alphabet soup sensory tub.  This is one I made awhile ago before the twins came, but we haven’t gotten to use very much.  She spent a lot of time doing this today and got really good at digging for the letter M.

Moon and first day of Toddler school 019

She was very proud of of M Muffin art project.  She basically colored a muff and then glued M circles (pretend they are the berries in a muffin) on top of the muffin.  When it was finished she tried to unglue them and start again!

Moon and first day of Toddler school 020

Another favorite activity, felt Monkeys jumping in the bed. 

These weren’t all the activities we did, but just a few I managed to snap a picture of.  I hope the rest of this week is as fun as today was!  If anyone runs across any good letter, number, shape or color activities send them my way because I am just thinking of stuff off the top of my head, can’t really spend hours searching on the Internet for ideas. 


This Week’s Happenings 9/4-9/11

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Recently Mikayla has really been enjoying watching some Disney movies (it is pretty much Disney or Signing Time if she wants to watch something).  Some of her favorites include Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, and Cinderella.   The other day she was digging around in the silverware drawer and pulled out a fork.  When I asked her what she was doing she responded by saying that she was brushing her hair like the Little Mermaid.  Love that kid!

Speaking of Mikayla, she is doing so well with the potty training thing.  At Christmas she decided to potty train herself; however, she was only day time potty trained.  That meant she still wore a diaper at nap and night time.  Within the past week she has stayed dry and worn underwear during each of her naps and stayed dry in her diaper 1 or 2 nights.  I think we are on the way to getting rid of diapers!  Of course now that I mention this she will probably have a wet diaper every time!

Last week Sister Barbara approached me with a job offer.  It is working part time with the education aspect of the childcare program – the education coordinator.  At first I will be helping out with the after school tutoring program and the bridge school, but eventually I will be doing more.  The bridge school is basically a school that bridges the gap for students who began school later in life and need to basically play catch up.  It will be very part time since I still want to save time during the day to have Toddler school for Mikayla, which we hope to start on Monday. 

This was our last week with the twins.  We took them up to the clinic to be weighed on Friday and found out that Simo weighed 9kg and Nosipho weighed 8.9 kg.  This is up from the 6kg they weighed less than two months ago.  We must be feeding them pretty good!!  They will spend the weekend at their homestead and then be picked up on Monday when the rest of the hostel kids return. 

Twins last week 047 

Twins last week 065

Twins last week 072

Twins last week 105

During our mini photo shoot the kids decided to have a screaming fest!  Here are their screaming faces.

Twins last week 124

Twins last week 118

Twins last week 125


Twins last week 130

Since Friday was our last official day with the twins we had a "Pancake Picnic" for breakfast. 

Twins last week 009

For Mrs. Dacia – Mikayla admiring herself in your headband saying how pretty she looked!


Then and Now–Twin Edition

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Then – August 13, 2011

twins day 1 001

twins day 1 003

Now – September 9, 2011

Twins last week 068


Twins last week 088

Twins last week 122

Tags: ,
Posted in Life, Parenting |

For Jana

Monday, September 5th, 2011

This is a post specifically for Ben’s cousin Jana to see specifics of Simo’s development in crawling and walking.  Let us know what you think Jana!

 African basketball, Simo's leg 034

Simo attempting to pull up.  It is almost like he can’t get his right leg to move in the right direction, like it is stuck or something.  Is this normal developmentally or is there something we can work on to strengthen this?

African basketball, Simo's leg 021

African basketball, Simo's leg 023

Scooting along the floor, again struggling with his legs doing the right thing.  The right one stays tucked again and he can’t seem to get it in the correct positioning for crawling.


African basketball, Simo's leg 027

African basketball, Simo's leg 030

In the standing position after I have helped him up.  Notice how his right leg turns out.  If we try to walk holding both his hands (with us behind him), both his feet do this.  But when just standing there it is only his right leg. 

Jana – let us know what you think and if you want feel free to pass on to your friends who deal specifically with Pediatrics.  Thanks for the help and suggestions!

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 8/29-9/4

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

This week Simo went to see a physical therapist about his leg.  He was diagnosed with developmental milestone delays due to malnutrition (which we already knew).  He will see a therapist twice a week starting mid-September.  Hopefully that will help him catch up to his sister in movement. 

The twins’ Gogo (grandmother) came to visit this week.  They seemed to know who she was immediately and sat and played with her for almost an hour.  It was good to see them interacting with family members because we don’t want to lose that connection. 

Tea parties, baths and Gogos 084

Mikayla hosted a tea party at our house on Sunday afternoon.  Sister Diane and Katie (a volunteer) both came and partook in some tea (but really coffee because we didn’t have any tea) and biscuits (cookies).  The kids enjoyed themselves and I think the adults did too.

Tea parties, baths and Gogos 016

Tea parties, baths and Gogos 020

Tea parties, baths and Gogos 040

Tea parties, baths and Gogos 047

We also built a fort this week.  Nosipho and Mikayla liked to just crawl in and out of the fort more than they did sitting in it.  Simo enjoyed his time in the fort looking at books.  Mikayla even requested to sleep in the fort!  She didn’t in the end, but has been asking for her fort back ever since. 

Tea parties, baths and Gogos 078

Mikayla and I went on our first homestead visit this week.  She rode in true Swazi fashion in the back of a buckie (pickup) on another worker’s lap.  I sat up front in the cab with both twins.  She seemed to really enjoy herself and was only moderately upset about not riding in her car seat.  I would never have thought to go somewhere in America without her car seat, but here people look at you funny when you bring a car seat.  The family we went to visit wasn’t actually there on the first try but we tried again the next day.

I made breadsticks the other night.  They turned out great and were super easy.  They were no Olive Garden breadsticks, but they tasted pretty good with our spaghetti.  We must have liked them pretty good because out of twelve we only ended up with 1.5 as leftovers!!

Posted in Random |