Tuesday, December 21, 2010

picky picky

Often on weekdays we make a quick scrambled egg for the kids, topped with cheese. Elizabeth often views the scrambled egg as a delivery vehicle for melted cheese, but she also mostly likes eggs, too, though she vastly prefers the scrambled eggs made by our babysitter to those made my me or Daddy.

On weekends, we have more elaborate breakfasts, and sometimes we have scrambled eggs with ham, onions, other vegetables, plus cheese.

So on Saturday, Elizabeth requested eggs for breakfast, but quickly added some instructions:

"But don't put any food in the eggs, Daddy!"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Count by 5s!

video

There's lots of singing in school, and this is a favorite song. You might have to turn volume way way up as the iphone doesn't do sound well. Ignore the stage mother prompts in the background. Who was that?

She freaking loves that head thing I got her for her birthday, but in her mind, it is equal to her other headbands, meaning she thinks she can wear it to school while daddy and I disagree. So it's an after school option. And the sunglasses? Well, she is a star.

I could do an entire post on what she's doing when she falls asleep. I cannot resist pulling out my iphone and snapping pictures. Maybe next week I'll put them all together in one post, but this is her later that night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

stories

Like all families, my family has its share of stories that are told and retold, passed down for years. My favorite ones, of course, involve me.

So, 40 years ago, on December 12, 1970, my grandmother, my aunt, my mother and I were Christmas shopping in Salisbury. As I discuss endlessly, I am from Pocomoke, and you really need to get out of Pocomoke if you want to buy a variety of items. There's a walmart now, but people still head to the mall in Salisbury when they need to go shopping.

After a full day of shopping, my mother, who was 9 months pregnant, turned to my aunt and said, I think you should drop mother and me off at the hospital and take Susan home, please. Because I've been in labor all day and it's probably time I check in.

My aunt, who was childless at the time, was reportedly furious with my mom for shopping all day while in labor, but my mom was by all accounts fine and the plan went off. My dad was working in Australia at the time, and my mom and I were living with my grandparents, so my grandmother stayed with my mom and my aunt drove me back to Pocomoke.

I was 2 years and 4 months old. On the drive home, my aunt reportedly asked me if I wanted my mom to bring home a brother or sister from the hospital.

And my reply, repeated often to great laughter, was: "Well, what I really want is a kitten!"

And instead of a kitten, my brother Michael was born on December 13. So happy 40th birthday to my brother.

But back to the story. Here's the thing. I am in daily contact with a pretty chatty little guy who is 2 years and 1 month old. And it wasn't that long ago that I spent a lot of time with a highly verbal girl when she was 2.33 years old. It's not, exactly, that I doubt my aunt's veracity. Kids do say the darnedest things, and non sequitors are fairly routine. But, let's just say that I've wondered about this story for the past few years. Sadly, the other participants, besides my mom who was fairly occupied at the time, are no longer here to confirm details.

I like precision. Did my aunt ask, do you want a brother or sister? And I replied, no, a kitten? Or did she say something more vague, like what do you want your mother to bring home? And then I more logically replied a kitten? It's just that when you examine this story more closely, more details are required.

The truly happy ending part of the story is that my mother came home from the hospital with my brother, and then my father came home from Australia, and then we moved into the cutest little pink house (I was in heaven living in a pink house!) on Holiday Drive, and THEN we got a kitten. A very cute female Siamese kitten who was named Scooby Doo. And here again, I'm going to call foul. Because, the story has been that my brother and I named the kitten after our favorite show and of course my parents didn't plan to name our cat after the popular cartoon dog but we insisted. But look! I was just over 2.5 at the time, and my brother was a newborn!

Recently, we've started watching old Scooby Doo cartoons, which are shown on the Cartoon Network. Andrew calls it Dooby-doo, and he and Elizabeth loooove the show, even if (or maybe because) it's just ever so slightly scary and the dog talks.

So I've got all these threads here and no plan to tie them all together. I suppose the moral of the story is 40 year old family stories should be repeated, often, at the family table, preferably with aunts and uncles and cousins and generations gathered, rather than examined in detail in writing.

And second, happy 40th birthday Michael!

(And yes, there was another 40th birthday recently in the family, and there are some pictures that were planned to be added to the blog, but blah blah blah kidney infection camera cord....and we'll either get to it or not!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ele-fun

I need to get the camera cable and upload photos, so a video from my iphone for now.
video

Perhaps I need to add this game to the Little Guy's Christmas list!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Smart

Well, that whole NaBloPoMo thing was a total bust, huh? I just never was able to get back into the swing of posting once I felt better. But I did keep up with reading my blogroll, and it is fun to catch up with bloggers on a more regular basis. So with any luck and perseverance (something that is not my strong suit), I'll be a more frequent poster in December, and my blog readers will be so happy to have some content I'll get a ton of comments, right? I am going to backdate posts on Awwwclutter as I still am sorting through my shoes and did manage to wear (and buy!) shoes, so much to write there.

So I'll leave you with a little story I was planning to post right before I got sick.

Elizabeth had a soccer class Wednesdays at 5pm during September and October. Two rain dates meant two makeup days after Daylight Savings Time ended, which meant they played in the dark - literally in the dark - for the two makeups. The night before the first makeup, I thought I had a learning moment when we could discuss the change in seasons, length of daylight, and daylight savings time. Elizabeth, of course, had another idea.

Me: So, have you noticed this week it's getting dark earlier? Tomorrow you will have soccer practice after school and it will be dark for practice!
E: Yes, why is it so much darker?
M (gathering thoughts, realizing am unprepared and can't decide if I want to tackle change of season, the earth's rotation and tilt, or daylight savings, or exactly where to start): Well.....you see....
E (excitedly): I know! God is SMART.
M: um, yes, yes God is smart.
E: He controls all the holidays. So, he says to........um (thinking)....Mrs God, do you want it to be cold for the holiday? And then he does it. And that's how they do it. God and Mrs God are very smart.
M (realizing I have been beat): yes, yes they are.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Radio silence

I know it's NaBloPoMo and all, and it's officially been a, well, a while since the last post. I have my excuses, and it's a pretty good one. A kidney infection will sap any NaBloPoMo inspiration right out of you, I tell you. I'm on the mend, finally, though, so things are going to pick back up. I have posts from last week, but I can't decide if I'm going to try to backfill or just pick up from here forward. I think I'll backfill over at AwwwClutter. So stay tuned, we'll be back on the air with our regularly scheduled programming.....tomorrow.

(and, now, officially, my second NaBloMo post about posting. Pathetic.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The $10K cat

So, I was talking about Harrison, our cat, with one of my friends and I think shocked her by referring to him as our $10K rescue cat. That is a freaking large amount of money to spend on a cat, but yet, over ten years, that's my estimate of what he's cost us. I said that to Rich once and he scoffed there was no way, but once we totaled it up....well, maybe we haven't hit $10K, but we're closing in on it.

Harrison was adopted from the Siamese Cat Rescue Center. My beloved cat Andre died in December 2000, so once we moved into this house in 2001 it was time. He came to us at a year old, a little beat up from a rough life on the streets. In fact, one of his rear legs had been broken somehow, and obviously not set as he still walks with a bit of limp, though once he really settled in it became barely noticeable. One of his ears is a bit ragged, so he definitely got into it a time or two during his time in the wild.

In 2004, when my family as visiting for my sister's college graduation, Harrison developed a urinary blockage, something that is not unusual in male cats. There was a stay in the animal hospital, surgery, and follow up care, including a special diet ($$) to reduce the chance of recurrence. Harrison specializes in crises during busy times. I'm not going to get these dates right because it was all too crazy, but in the weeks after Elizabeth was born, he developed what we could only call severe lethargy, so another emergency room visit determined he had developed some sort of heart problem. We were supposed to take him to a cardiologist, but couldn't ever get there in those first few weeks and by the time we had the time, he seemed to have recovered from whatever it was (we did take him for followups at the regular vet), though he does have a heart mumur.

And I can't remember when this happened, or what event he disrupted, but the biggest ticket item was the intestinal blockage, which resulted in another long hospital stay, surgery, and extended follow up care. Oh, and a DIFFERENT special diet. Nothing has been related to anything else, it's just been a series of unrelated, unlucky events. And, each thing has been something that was easily, if expensively, fixable.

Harrison and Aggie had a complicated relationship - well, not that complicated if you simply consider that Harrison moved in and on day 1 decided it was his mission in life to terrorize our dog. But I think he had a certain fondness for Aggie. So with Aggie gone, Harrison has been lonely, and more importantly, bored. He's been an exclusive indoor cat since he came to live with us, but this summer, at the height of his boredom, I started allowing him to go outside in our fenced back area. He quickly discovered how to escape, though he mostly spent time sunning himself in our yard. I'd let him out for an hour or so in the afternoons. Given our financial investment in this cat, I should have put a stop to it, but he was so happy just hanging around outside (and that's all he mostly did) I let it continue, even when I knew he was in standoffs with a stray in the alley. It wasn't every day, and never for long, but still, he shouldn't have been going out unsupervised. It didn't help that he's learned how to open our back screen door. If it's not latched properly, he can push it open, but even when it is latched, somehow he works at the door until he jiggles it enough the latch slips.

So, two weeks ago - Harrison worked on the door while we were eating dinner and made it out. A huge no no, but he was gone before we could grab him. We expected him to just come back fairly quickly, as usual, but at 11 Rich was outside calling and calling for him. Finally, at 11:30, just as we were going to bed, I looked out the back door and there he was. But, when he came in, he was dripping blood from a wound on his neck - he had gotten into it with something. So, we got him cleaned up and put antiseptic on all his wounds. He slept most of the next day - after all he had just gotten beat up - but seemed to recover. He's been on lockdown since.

Friday night, we noticed a tuft of fur coming off his head, and realized he had a scratch there we hadn't treated, but the tuft of hair coming off generally means the scab is healing so I didn't think too much of it. Then, Saturday morning, he started cleaning, cleaning, cleaning his head. Which, again, I did'nt think too much of, until we took a good look at it and realized he had a giant oozing wound on the top of his head.

Great. Rich's parents were on their way down to celebrate Rich's 40th b-day, and the cat had a giant absess on his head. So, loaded him in the carrier and made my way to the vet for a couple of hours in the waiting room.

$225 later, it was cleaned out, he had a half-shaved head, and we had antibiotics. We'll just add it to the total. He was not happy about the vet, but they managed to clean him up even with the deep belly yowling that was going on. And now we have ten days of pills to get through.

Oh, and I'm forgetting to write about his hernia. When he had the intestinal blockage, at the follow up visit the vet who did the surgery (not at our usual vet) said, oh, I think I sewed all his fat into one area, he's got a little fat pouch. We thought that was odd, but everything seemed to heal ok, except for this bulge in his belly. It was another vet at our usual practice who said, um, he has a hernia. So I had to epxlain that to this vet, who really strongly suggested we spend another couple of grand to get that hernia fixed. Another $2-3K. For a hernia operation. Well, if we haven't hit $10K yet, we certainly will before too long.

Moral of the story - pet insurance for our next pet

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ball guy

One thing I hear from parents of older children is how you become an expert in a topic you never thought might be of interest to you. Parents of girls, for example, might get to know all the intimate details of every Disney princess tale, or the intricacies of the relationships between My Little Ponies, or not to be too horribly gender stereotyping, breeds of horses or I don't know, whatever interests them at the time.

Most mothers I know don't tend to complain about the typical "girl interests" possibly because they were once girls themselves. But I've heard more than one mother grimace when describing how she knows the name and function of every sort of motorized construction vehicle that exists, or arcane trivia about steam engine trains, or the entire taxonomic branch of every dinosaur species known to man. I cannot believe how much this post is embracing every gender stereotype. But the thing is, your kids are their own people no matter how you raise them. When Andrew was quite small, I looked for (because I thought it was interesting) any possible gender differences and noticed no obvious ones. No reaching for toys of one sort over the other, no preferences for dinosaurs over baby dolls.

And then he turned one. And it quickly became apparent what kind of boy we have, and it's very different that Elizabeth. Andrew is a ball guy. And they all pretty much interest him: football, soccer, baseball, basketball. Thus far, with the passing of each season, he's happily transitioned to the next sport and been just as interested. Rich and I are pleased. We can handle this interest while enjoying it ourselves. Whew.

Now, Elizabeth likes football, too, don't get me wrong. But she does not insist on carrying a ball with her at all times. Nor practicing pitching, catching, throwing, or kicking any of the various shaped sports balls that litter our house. Andrew really likes two things right now - kicking the football, and playing 'tackle.' Given the ongoing discussion of increasing violence in football, kicking is about the only position he'd ever be allowed to play, if this interest of his continues, and he's got a decent leg on him already, and loves both kicking it and being the holder.

The thing is, we don't have a no-throwing-the-ball in the house policy. Until recently, it's not like he could do much damage. But he acquired a real pro baseball this summer, and he's got some strength. And some of those footballs could do some damage, too, particularly to our thinly-paned original glass, historic windows, or yikes, our big screen TV, or our original built-in leaded glass-fronted cabinets. But, it is fun to play in the house, so we'll have to think through some house rules.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hallo-week

Four days, seven events. I think we're just now recovering. So let's see, I covered event 1, the school parade. Then there was trick or treating at Daddy's office. Then another party at a friends. Saturday we had a birthday party in the morning. Andrew woke up a little warm and grouchy, but seemed fine at the party. When we got home and I lifted him out of his carseat, I could feel the heat radiating from his body. A fever of 101, so he and I took a pass on event #5, a Halloween party at my brothers.
That's all we need to say about that. Andrew and Daddy took a break from #6, a princess birthday party. Somehow I neglected to take a picture of the adult princess, who seemed to be wearing my circa 1986 prom dress.
And that brings us to Halloween itself. Elizabeth loved trick or treating with her 3 best friends in the neighborhood. It was barely possible for Rich to keep up with her. Andrew was feeling better, but mostly wanted to stick close to home. He LOVED handing out candy to trick or treaters, which surprised me. I wish I had gotten a picture of him doling out the candy with a "here ya go" to each bag.
Seven events in four days was really too much. We had fun, but by the end we were all feeling pretty frayed around the edges.
Thankfully my friend Amy came over and helped us man the fort. Our street is insane on Halloween - I bought close to $40 worth of candy, and for once we didn't run out too early. Our last piece was handed out just after 8:30. The first bag had 83 pieces, the second bag 65, the third bag was cheaper laffy taffy and other smaller candies and while there was no label it had well over 120 pieces, bag four had another 65 pieces, and by bag five I had no idea, plus I had sorted the daddy's office candy and put stuff we don't like in the hand out bin. The past two years we've basically employed a neighborhood redistribution system - sending Elizabeth out to collect more so we could hand out more. This year Elizabeth was too savvy for that, though I was able to srot through it quickly and redistribute some undersirable candy (who hands kids chocolate santas? well, I guess we did), and we still ended up with a pretty healthy supply for the next few months.
Til next year!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

a preview

Still haven't taken pics off our camera, so just a preview of Halloween from my iphone. This was costume #1 for event #1. The younger grades suggested kids should dress as storybook characters and write a book report (yes, write a book report) from their character's story. So her planned Sleeping Beauty costume became Little Red Riding Hood, as we've never read the sleeping beauty story (and struck out at the library). But that's ok. She had 6 more events and I believe 2 additional costume changes to come.

And a photo sent by one of RIch's co-workers. Costume #2 from event #2 - Cinderella at Daddy's office trick or treating event. Andrew, as Elmo, had a pretty good time, though Rich reports Andrew would wander into offices and say, "I want candy." He's not subtle. And yet he's pretty darn cute, so this strategy worked well for him. The football helmet in his left hand is not an official part of his costume - Rich has a UVA helmet displayed in his office, and his office mate retaliated with a syracuse helmet. Andrew insisted on carrying it around the entire time.

They scored so much candy at daddy's office that I was able to sort through it and place any undersirable candies in our giveaway pile for the hundreds of kids we had for Halloween itself.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

still puzzled about this one

The weekend before last, Elizabeth and I were out and Rich put Andrew down for his nap. Andrew was having none of it though, and played and sang and talked in his crib. After about 45 minutes, he started calling Daddy daddy daddy. So Rich went in, only to find Andrew holding his diaper in his hand, with his pants pulled down to his ankles.

OK, so pants down, but still fully on both legs. Diaper off - but one side of the diaper was connected. It must have re-connected after he pulled it off, right? It's just not physically possible to take off a diaper with your pants still on without unhooking both sides, right?

Mercifully, the diaper was merely wet. And also mercifully, there have been no further repeats of any Harry Houdini-like moves. Fingers and toes crossed this was a one time occurrence.

(found the camera cord, but it's too late to upload a billion pictures and write the halloween post. That's tomorrow's goal!).

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaBloPoMo 2010

It's that time of year again. National Blog Posting Month. Once again, my friends and I have decided to accept the challenge and post (at least) once per day for the entire month of November. I chuckled when I read my friend Elaine's post this morning, when she said she was gonig for the low hanging fruit by posting bout Halloween.

Well, I never managed to find the camera cord today (not that I looked all that hard), so I'm gonig for even lower-hanging fruit - a post about how I'm going to be posting.

Pathetic, isn't it? (I can't even be bothered today o put up the badge or links!). It'll get better. Tomorrow. Promise.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Harvest Day Parade



Some days I stress out about our school choice decisions. And some days I stress out about how hard it can be to get things done and work to improve a school.

And some days, I am so happy and proud to be a part of it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

newest mimic


I've been giving Andrew short shrift lately, but we'll make that up soon. For now, I'm just wondering if we have a new mimic in the house.

Andrew has been following Elizabeth's path in music, with the exception of not getting quite a much kid's music and getting far more exposure to popular music at an earlier age. He happily sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the ABC song. He loves Music Together and requests/demands we play the CD or sing the songs. I'll often hear him singing to himself songs from Music Together, and he loves dancing. He might even have more moves than Elizabeth.

We keep one Sesame Street CD in the car, and he often demands Elmo. Sometimes when Daddy gets a little tired of the kid music and changes from CD to radio, hoping no one will notice, we'll hear a little voice pipe up from the back, "Hey! Elmo!" which is the cue to change it right back, thank you very much. (Elmo only sings one or two songs on the whole CD, and we rarely watch Sesame Street, but that Elmo has a magnetic appeal - his presence on diapers probably has something to do with the indoctrination since birth).

So last night, Eizabeth, Andrew and I were eating dinner, when he suddenly yelled, completely out of the blue, "COLD AS ICE!" Dumbfounded, I just looked at him, then hesitantly sang, you're as cold as ice, you're willing to sacrifice our love? Which caused Elizabeth to say, hey, cold as ice/sacrifice: that rhymes!

Rich was out to dinner with friends, so I texted him and asked if he'd been listening to Foreigner lately, but he was as puzzled as me. I doubt Gee is that into Foreigner, so it's a mystery. We weren't actually eating anything cold, nor was there any ice on the table. Who knows?

But I thumbed through my iphone and not surprisingly I have it on there, so we cranked up the music and boogied our way through clean up and had a dance party before the bath. Which is not a bad way to end the day.

You know how some poeple don't like musicals because they think it's silly that people randomly burst into song and dance? Yeah, that's kind of my ideal life.

And the dancing queen herself - ugh, I should use this picture on AwwwClutter to demonstrate how awful our hallway is right now!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Musicology

I've been planning since this blog began of doing a post on Elizabeth's and her music - from the time (at 6 months old) we drove 2 hours singing The Wheels on the Bus over and over and over again to keep her from crying, to the endless loop of Old McDonald (~12 months), to Music Together (1-3 years old), Sesame Street CDs (2-3), our salvation of discovering how kid friendly the Beatles are (2.5+), to her love of Michael Jackson (3.5-now), our girl has got it going on when it comes to music.

She's always been a highly verbal kid, and has picked up (from Daddy) an ability to mimic. So, it was a given that she'd pick up song lyrics. We listen to music a lot, either on the radio, our ipods/CDs, or satellite TV. And we don't really censor our music much. She's not listening to heavy metal (from Rich) or too-explicit lyrics, but she is exposed to everything. And we are mostly ok about that. It's very cute to have the radio on in the car and hear her singing along. One of her first favorite songs was The Plain White Ts 1,2,3,4: There's only 1 thing 2 say those 3 words 4 you, I love you! She also loves The Black Eyed Peas, and it is a little disquieting to hear her singing My Humps (my humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps), but it is a catchy song. I chose to believe The Black Eyed Peas are fairly intelligent people and have a healthy sense of humor about themselves and most of it is toungue in cheek, but maybe I am just deluding myself. She - and her friends - love all the Peas catchy songs. She loves Pink (Get This Party Started). It's also kind of surprising to realize how kid-friendly Culture Club's music is. When I was a young teenager, Boy George was shocking and the potential ruin of society. Now, he's kind of quaint and the music is charming.

Of course we worry now at pop cutlure, how over-sexualized it is, how nothing is innocent, how much raunch there is in every day life. But still, a broad exposure to a variety of music works for us.

Rich has been a wee bit disturbed by Katy Perry and her California Girls, a song Elizabeth adores. Daisy Dukes, bikinis on top. I asked her what Daisy Dukes were and she said, don't be silly mommy, daisies are flowers.

Luckily, her tastes are still fairly wide, and she still loves listening to Sesame Street CDs and Backyardigans and Music Together, and it's really just the music - she's not exposed to any of the videos, or Disney tween shows and has no idea who Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana is, and we'll keep it that way. But she does love some Miley songs, and heck, so do I - they're catchy and singable and have a good beat.

Which brings us to yesterday and grocery shopping. HT has small little kiddie carts for kids to push which have, until recently, been the bane of our existence. She'd always want to push them and have products on her cart but halfway through the store she'd get bored. Or, she'd ram my ankles with the fricking cart, causing crippling pain. But she's now old enough to really handle the cart herself, and she enjoyed trailing along with me, putting the interesting purchases (cookies, fruit) in her cart.

We rounded a corner and crossed in front of a 20 something woman shopping with her boyfriend, who saw Elizabeth pushing her cart and smiled at how charming she looked and exchanged a glance with her boyfriend. But then, my proud mommy moment instantly shifted. HT was playing Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus over the speakers, and the young woman's indulgent smile turned into a look of alarm as she heard my sweet girl singing at the top of her lungs (with accompanying gyrations):
I put my hands up
they're playing my song,
butterflies fly away
nodding my head like yeah,
moving my hips like yeah!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - bedtime

I can never quite manage Wordless Wednesday properly as I think everything needs a caption. I could do a whole series of pics on what we find when we go in at our bedtime for the final check on Elizabeth. That's a marker (!) in the left hand (she's a lefty) and there's a small notebook still clutched in her right.

Monday, October 4, 2010

No like

It's happened. We've made the leap from generally correct spoken English to picking up habits of speech. And it just happened this week.

Here for example, is what happened to Elizabeth at school today, verbatim: "well, I was like doing an art project and bent down when my paper like fell on the ground and when I stood back up I like banged my head on the desk."

AAAAUUUUGGGHHHH. Seriously, I did not think this started at this age! But Rich and I both say it (though generally not 3 times in one sentence), and, like, you know, it's not the worst bad speech mannerism she could pick up, you know?

We'll keep our eyes and ears on this.

Meanwhile, said sentence explains why she came home with a "head injury report" from school today, but all appears fine. School seems to be going well these days - I think we did just have a hurdle to overcome, and now things have settled down. Fingers crossed it like stays like ok.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pocomoke Middle School

I spend a lot of time thinking about education and education reform and have been semi-following the Today Show's Education Nation feature. But totally missed today, when my middle school was featured! Yay Pocomoke!




Totally recognize the classrooms, gym, cafeteria, library. The principal is new to me, and since she hired 82% of the teachers there, I only recognized one who was my home ec teacher back in the 80s. This was a good school, and the high school was a great school when I was there, despite all the challenges.

And yet, on the same day this incredibly positive story appeared on the today show, two of my cousins have facebook statuses that talk about a stabbing in the fields behind the middle school (can't find any online links). It seems like, as always, there is the good and the bad.

Here's the current online stabbing story.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

supersize

Just 11 months ago, many of my bloggy friends and I were complaining about the supersizing of Halloween - so many opportunities to wear costumes and get candy. I'm too tired to find the links. Because tonight, we're finally through almost all of the birthday.

Party at a park for ~50 people Sunday
29 cupcakes for school today
dinner for extended family tonight

A very happy 5 year old

And a very tired mommy and daddy

Whew.

Happy birthday Sweetpea. Hard to believe it has been 5 years. The days are long, but the years are short.

Monday, September 20, 2010

school daze

When I was in third grade, I had Mrs. Talbot for reading (and spelling, but that is a different long, long story). We had individual work books we all had to proceed through. I think you'd work on your workbook, then once finished have Mrs Talbot look it over and then hand you the next one. That you had to work through. By yourself. Ad Naseum.

I trudged my way through the workbooks, but I really disliked them. There were 25 in the whole series. My friend Amy L was, I think, the first to finish all of them. And a bunch of other kids finished theirs, too. I was still trudging along at around book 20 or 21.

And then one day Mrs Talbot came over to me, took me by the hand, and said, "here, dear, come over to the reading group." "But what about my workbook," I asked. "Just leave it, dear."

And over on the other side of the room, the kids who had finished all 25 of the boring tedious workbooks were reading. Real, actual stories. And discussing them! Out loud! With each other! And then reading another, real story! It was interesting! And fun! And I did not give those hated workbooks a second thought. Except I think Amy L raised the point I hadn't finished all my work, but Mrs. Talbot quickly shushed her (which cheesed her off, but nyah nyah nyah).

In third grade, I didn't really think about who were smart kids and who weren't quite as smart. But by 4th grade, it was apparent I was one of the best of the best readers in the grade, a title I never relinquished from that day forward.

I type this story for a couple of reasons. First, I never learned what the schwa is. That was covered in book 23 or 24, and I just never got that lesson. Still have no real idea, but I seem to have survived my academic career without that crucial piece of knowledge so that's ok.

But most importantly, THANK YOU Mrs Talbot, for recognizing I was dying a little death with each page of the workbook and I was just ready to read. I did not need to be doing endless workbooks, I needed to be reading. And discussing. And learning.

But, at the same time, that third grade me? Is so me. Give me a tedious task to do and I will procrastinate and procrastinate. I am not one to grit my teeth and get through tedious tasks. (Amy L just whipped through those workbooks without a care.) I am one, over and over again, who is still waiting for Mrs Talbot to recognize my innate talent and rescue me from tedium. (and, often enough, I did get rescued from tedium.)

So, sometimes I wonder. Should Mrs. Talbot have had me work through the rest of the workbooks? Would that have been a good lesson for me to learn? Should she have worked through them with me, to get me over the hurdle of tedium? How did she know? How did she know to move me into the top reading group? And, scariest thought of all, what if she hadn't known? What if I trudged along through those damn workbooks, dreading doing them, slacking off and doodling or daydreaming or reading my own things under the desk? Would someone else another year have asked, why isn't this girl is reading group 1?

Elizabeth is having a tough time in K. And we're all struggling. The teacher wants her to write. At home, with us, she writes all the time, letters that she says spells out words that we can't quite make out. But at school when it's time for writer's workshop, the tears flow. In the mornings, getting ready for school she whimpers she can't write sentence [sic] and why does she have to go to school. The teacher doesn't want the kids to draw pictures of hearts and flowers - she wants them to draw real things, things from their lives, and then label the pictures with arrows and sight words, like "me."

I don't want her, in K, to sit at her desk and clutch her fat pencil and copy sentences off the front board. I want her to love learning, and reading, and trying new things. She comes home excited about "tally marks" or questions marks or the plot of the chapter story they read every day. She sits at her little table and happily draws picture after picture, with arrows and letters surrounding the people and objects. At home, she eagerly and quickly completes the homework - a worksheet about a specific letter, tracing then writing Rs or Ms or Ss or Ts, or a worksheet counting and coloring objects, or a worksheet asking her to circle things that begin with the letter T. She is eager to learn, and she is learning. But if you ask her about class, her eyes fill with tears and she says she can't write.

Is the teacher - who says many of the kids will be writing sentences by October - pushing too hard? The teacher says Elizabeth is clearly smart, and is right on the cusp, and one day she will get it and it will flow. But, now, the teacher will ask her to write something specfic in class and Elizabeth loses it. She needs help, she can't do it, she doesn't understand. The teacher says to her to just try. To try and maybe fail and try again and she will eventually get it. And Elizabeth says no. She raises her hand, and goes to the bathroom (in the class) and sits against the wall for the entire writing period (30 minutes).

Elizabeth is bright. And in a lot of ways, I don't care if she's writing words in K. I know it will come. I don't think she needs to be pushed past her uncomfortableness. Or, does she? Is this just a hurdle that will be quickly overcome, and we'll never look back? Or is this setting up a struggle that will last throughout her school years? If she doesn't pick up writing now, in K, will she be behind and in third grade working on the workbooks (that I really hope they don't use anymore) while other kids are reading stories? The standards of learning for K doesn't say ANYTHING about reading or writing. K students should recognize most letters. Period. So why this push to write? Why not take it slower, especially in the first six weeks of school? But then again, the teacher reports there are kids in the class who are ready and eager for more challenging work. So she pushes everyone. Don't we want Elizabeth to be in that top group?

Why is this so hard? How do you know if it's just a mental block that once broken, will be quickly forgotten? How do you know when a kid needs a push to fly, versus a little extra time to be comfortable? Do we just wait it out, since her behavior and demeanor at home is still positive?

We've had one meeting with the teacher, and I've talked off line to the principal, who has told me one on one that she's working with the teacher to set her expectations in line with the reality of K students. And we'll meet one on one with the teacher again, we hope next week. Stay tuned......

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Starting school

Last two weeks of August and thoughts turn to....vacation? End of summer blowout? No, not us - we head off to school, two weeks before Labor Day. And yet school doesn't end for the year until mid June, so not sure what an early starts gets us, except for a long Christmas break and at least one day off per month. So, hi ho, hi ho, it was off to kindergarten.

Our school didn't tell us classroom assignments until we were actually in the school. The absolute sweetest thing of the entire day was seeing E's teacher from last year, with her entire class from last year clustered around her. Before school started, I tried to prepare E for what a new school year meant - a new classroom and a new teacher. Unfortunately, that made the week or so before school started worrisome for her, as she fretted over and over how she wanted to go back to school but didn't want a new teacher. Last year's teacher, Ms D, later told me that kids this age have trouble understanding the transition. That may be, I replied, but she was the only teacher I saw who had her entire former class clutched onto her that first morning. Despite our worries last year, clearly something good was happening in that class.

So we're now two weeks into the new school year, and the transition has been hard for E. Last year she went off without a look back, and loved nearly every second of it. We don't know entirely what it is, and we're trying to stay on top of things, but she regularly says she hates school and it's too hard. Her teacher says it's developmentally fairly typical for K students to get worked up about their "work." If they can't do something perfectly, they get frustrated very easily and want to quit. I had noticed this on our vacation, when playing skeeball. Andrew just loved rolling the balls around, and I thought Elizabeth would just enjoy flinging the balls, too, but if she didn't score points she would scowl and say she was no good at it and she didn't want to play anymore. At school, Elizabeth has been having trouble in the "writing center." I was worried perhaps the school was pushing her in ways that weren't appropriate, so asked what writing center meant - there are number of "centers" in the class, and they divide into small groups to be in each center. At Writing Center, they are given paper and crayons and asked to draw a picture and write whatever they want - a letter, scribbles, or whole words for those kids who are already writing. Elizabeth does this all the time at home, entirely on her own without any prompting from us. But when asked to do it at school, she's just losing it. Apparently there is a little boy in her clas who can write sentences, and this seems to have freaked her out that she also needs to write a sentence. But, yesterday she came home with a note that said she had a great time at writing center, and when I read it outloud she beamed with pride and couldn't wait to show Daddy when he came home, so maybe we're over that hurdle.

More worriesome for us has been the times she's said, I am bad at math, I hate math. This is not something an engineer and a science major want to hear from their daughter. And furthermore, it's not like they even have "math" in kindergarten! There is no math. No one says the word math. Clearly she is repeating something she thinks she should say, and as a firm believer in - nay, proponent of - gender equality in the sciences, I've got my eyes on this area. Our district uses EveryDay Math for their curriculum, and I've been reading the pros and cons. Essentially, the rub on it is the fundamentals get short shrift, because there is not much focus on drilling or the basics in favor of familiarity with numeracy. So there are lots of recomendations to supplement at home.

Stay tuned as we continue to epxlore life in a title I, inner city, rebuilding, non-adequate-yearly-progress-making school in our era of (badly needed but poorly understood and executed) school reform in the No Child Left Behind overly tested modern system. yee ha.





Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The haircuts!

And now what you've all been waiting for - the haircuts! Well, Andrew spent a few days with the odd sort of pageboy look before we made it to the salon. The hairdresser wanted to do Elizabeth first, thinking she would set a good example for the younger one. But no, Elizabeth was too nervous, and Andrew was eager to hop into the chair and watch an Elmo DVD.
He was perfect - never flinched or reacted at all.

Nothing seemed to phase him.
And there was a cool book about firetrucks.
And after, doing his patented pose. He liked our fussing over him and telling him he was handsome. Let the record reflect, though - it's Daddy who thinks we went too short.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was nervous about the whole thing. She clutched Rich's arm during the hairwash.
And she was really not eager to climb into the chair.
But she settled down, thanks to a Dora DVD.
Combed out when wet, her hair reached nearly to her waist. We had it cut to just below her shoulders. I was nervous going that short, worried it would curl up too much and be frizzy, but the cut really took out a lot of the wild curls.
It's a good length on her, though I think I'd like it to be a little longer. And of course Daddy wants it to be waist-length, still.
The hairdresser offered to french braid it, which I can't do and Elizabeth loves, so we took her up on it. So it's hard to see the finished result, but she was very happy.
Andrew was a little perturbed that there was so much hair on the floor.
And one picture from our vacation the week after the cut, that shows her with her hair down. It's got a fair amount of wave, especially in the front, but stays reasonably controlled. And Andrew is now a big boy. Everyone who sees him - in the neighborhood, at school, other friends - all comment on the change. But, if you ask Andrew who cut his hair, he scowls and says, dit da!

Monday, August 30, 2010

beach!

Wow, am so far behind in posting! Blame it on the elusive camera cord, which keeps disappearing! So before we get to some of the recent stuff (first day of school, the haircuts!), a little catching up.

First weekend in August (right after the Elizabeth teeth incident, but before the Elizabeth cuts Andrew's hair incident), we went to Chincoteague for a much needed break. They loved it!

And lucky us, it was the last weekend of the carnival.
When Elizabeth was Andrew's age, she HATED sand. Basically, visiting the beach was an exercise in torture. She's over that now, and Andrew? Well, he's pretty much a fan, too.
We spent an hour or so at the playground, and despite having fallen and banged up her teeth just the day before, there was no slowing down for Elizabeth.
Bottom line: a great trip!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not for the weak

What is it they say about parenting not being for the weak? Well, we've had a fun few days here.

Friday Elizabeth fell on the playground - with the nanny, not us. Knocked back her top two front teeth, and we can't tell if she broke a third tooth or if it got jammed up into her gum. The dentist is not worried, and we had just scheduled a checkup for three weeks from now, so we'll see what he says then. She woke up Saturday morning with a hugely swollen top lip and said, but I can't even kiss!
We've not been able to get good pictures - she's slightly self conscious and we don't want to make her more so. The swelling has gone down, and it is possible those front teeth will realign, so we will see what happens.

Apparently not content with her own damage, tonight Elizabeth took the scissors to Andrew's hair! We've been talking about getting haircuts, and I had a semi-firm plan to get it done Friday afternoon. That plan is firming up as he looks ridiculous. Rich has been suggesting we trim up his front bangs to get them out of his eyes, but Elizabeth decided taking the bangs up to the scalp was a better option.

She put a tiny heart sticker on his forehead when she was done. Sigh.
It just makes the rest of his curls look ridiculous. Andrew is not entirely happy - he kept touching the top of his head and gesturing at Elizabeth at dinner with some dissatisfied grunts and complaints.

She hid the chopped pieces under a cushion on the couch. At the sight of those chopped off pieces I couldn't help it and burst into tears. Have I mentioned he looks ridiculous?

But we'll get it fixed, it's only hair, and it was time, anyway.

She did say she cut some of her hair, but given her mop it's not noticeable, but she'll get it trimmed up on Friday, too.

Baby hair, baby teeth. And Rich left tonight for a work trip, back Wednesday night. It's all good. Though I think I need a drink.

Friday, July 30, 2010

hot days

If you haven't heard, we've been having a heat wave this July, the warmest July ever. On one of the 95 degree days, I asked Elizabeth to get dressed as we needed to walk to Target. This is what she came up with:

Toboggan (or ski cap for those not from PO), sunglasses, t-shirt, size 3 corduroy pants, and red flip flops. I hadn't even realized those pants were still stuffed in her dresser, and tried mightily to dissuade her, but she could not be dissuaded. From any of it. Even her stuffed kitty is wearing a coat. I knew the picture inside was of dubious quality, so I asked her to pose on the steps outside.

Well of course little mr me too noticed the posing and struck his own pose, which basically consists of lifting a shoulder and dropping his chin, like Elizabeth above, but with more awkward looking results:
He's getting there. He'll figure it out. After all kids, no matter how annoying they are (size 3 cords! in 95 degree weather! and toboggan!) fairly quickly learn how to appear charming.
I'm warming to my theme of eye rolling frustration with Elizabeth and her fashions. You know why the pants were still in her dresser even though they are a size 3? Because they'd never been worn.(*) A thrift store find, so not that huge a money waste, but she had refused to wear them for two years. 95 degrees out? Of course then they must be worn. That girl! Well, they are really cute. And they did match the shirt. Though I think I picked out the shirt after realizing she could not be dissuaded from the pants.

*ETA: Geez, my memory is failing! The very link in this post, about the toboggan story, contains a picture of her wearing the cords on inauguration day. It was a freaking freezing day, and we never went outside, so I guess it's accurate to say until the 95 degree July day at age 4.75, she's never worn the size 3 pants outside!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

the posing thing

I can tell you exactly when the posing for pics started. I had a work meeting in Cold Spring, NY, and Rich & co met me up there. The day after the meeting we explored the cute town and river and, well, I have no idea what happened but we started the trip with our newly-4 year old and ended the trip with a pre-teen pop princess. These pics are from the last weekend in September, 2009.