On the run

Friday, August 19, 2016

Last year The Big Sis wanted to join Girls on the Run, but their meeting schedule conflicted with Girl Scouts, so we were unable to make that work. For those who don’t know, Girls on the Run is a 10-week curriculum for 3rd-5th graders “that inspires girls to define their lives on their own terms.” It also encourages positive emotional, social, mental, and physical development. The Girls on the Run mission statement reads as follows: “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”

In addition, the organization’s core values are to:

  • Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making
  • Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
  • Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions
  • Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health
  • Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent
  • Stand up for ourselves and others

GIRL POWER, YEAH! I love the idea of this organization and the values it instills, so I was excited when The Big Sis brought home this year’s flyer and saw that the twice-weekly meetings will work well with our schedule this year. The participation fee is a bit steep considering we’ve had a lot of other back-to-school expenses this month, but as long as she was willing to commit to the activity, then we would gladly pay for it.

In signing her up,  I saw that there was a place to designate a “running buddy” for her. The running buddy will do the 5K in December with her to offer encouragement. Who would I know that would be a good running buddy for her? Hrm, well, it turns out that I’ve been looking for the right motivation to put exercise back into my schedule regularly (OMGNOTENOUGHHOURSINTHEDAY), so this is a great opportunity to actually do something about it. I’ve got someone COUNTING on me, so I can’t let her down. Now, I really don’t particularly LIKE running anymore (or ever, really, if I’m being totally honest), but I do know that I can handle a 5K, so it should be fine. I was doing some running earlier this spring, and I know it’ll take quite a bit of work to get to where I want to be post-ankle surgery (which was one year ago today, actually). I’ll give it my best shot, though. RAWR!


The fire drill

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Over the past year or so, we have come to realize that The Big Sis is prone to anxiety and worrying about everything whether it relates to her or not, and even (especially?) if it’s something pretty minor. She latches onto her worry, obsessing about it and unable to shake thinking about it.

One of The Big Sis’s major worries over the summer was about The Little Sis starting kindergarten this year. Mind you, The Little Sis wasn’t worried herself, but The Big Sis was worried for her, times 10. I tried to talk to her about it to see if we could pinpoint exactly what it was that she was worried about so I could allay her fears (at least somewhat). She finally revealed that she was worried there would be a fire drill and The Little Sis would be in the bathroom at the time and wouldn’t know what to do and would be scared.

I tried explaining to both of them what The Little Sis should do if that happened: Leave the bathroom, try to find her teacher (who’d already know to look for her), but if she couldn’t find her teacher/class then she should go outside with everyone else and find another teacher and tell them whose class she’s in, and that person would help get her back to her teacher. I also explained that her teacher has a list of all the kids in the class that she grabs when the fire alarm goes off and so she knows to look for the kids who aren’t there. However, The Big Sis continued to focus on this worry big time, despite me pointing out that the likelihood of that exact scenario happening was very low. She still never really seemed settled about it, but she moved on from obsessing about it (outwardly, at least).

Their school had their first fire drill yesterday. And THE LITTLE SIS WAS IN THE BATHROOM WHEN THE ALARM WENT OFF!!!! Of all the unlikely scenarios…then it came true! Thankfully The Little Sis reports that she didn’t freak out — she said she pulled up her skirt, decided to skip washing her hands, and by then her teacher had come to the bathroom (really close to their classroom) to collect the kids who were there. I’m a little afraid that The Big Sis is going to use this turn of events to justify her constant worrying, but part of me is a little glad this had come up beforehand and helped The Little Sis know what to do.

Bring it on

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

And in another blink of an eye, summer has vanished. The calendar tells us differently, of course, as does the hot and sticky weather that persists, but with the dawn of a new school year, we have moved on from the lazier, more relaxing days of summer and have been whisked into the upcoming frenzy of the academic world. Time keeps on ticking into the future, as they say.

This year is a big one for us: In addition to The Big Sis starting 4th grade (say what?), we also have The Little Sis starting KINDERGARTEN (get out!) on the heels of celebrating her 5th birthday (jawdrop).

Our littlest baby is starting her own school adventure, and you know what? I actually couldn’t be more excited for her. I don’t feel sad about this transition. I wouldn’t even say that I feel bittersweet about it. Maybe I’m in denial and it’ll hit me later, rather unexpectedly. But part of it is because I know she’s excited. And I know she’s beyond prepared for this. But mostly I feel like I try to put an emphasis on truly enjoying the current stage my girls are experiencing without looking back too longingly at the past. Yes, we have great memories from her baby days, and from her toddler days, and from her preschool days. We soaked up our experiences in those stages and made as many memories as possible. And I know that new adventures await her — and all of us.

We choose to look forward, lest we stumble looking backward. Onward and upward! Fourth grade and kindergarten? Bring it on!

New doesn’t always equal bad

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One of the hot topics in elementary school these days is Singapore math, or what people commonly call “new math.” In short, Singapore math teaches kids mathematical concepts in three ways: concrete, pictoral, and abstract. “Old math” — or, the way most current elementary parents were taught — was largely abstract, putting a focus on rote memorization and not as much with understanding the whys behind the concepts or how numbers can be manipulated once you understand place-value concepts. New math aims to add these other approaches in an effort to get kids to understand the meaning behind the math calculations they are doing.

Parent reaction to new math is often negative and very vocal. Part of it is that it’s often difficult to help your kids with homework when you know one way to do a math problem, but that’s not the approach the homework is asking for, leaving you feeling helpless as a parent. And one weakness is that there’s not much effort to educate parents about the new math approach, leaving frustrations high for both parents and kids.

But I think part of it, too, is the fact that many parents refuse to see value in anything out of their comfort zone — or rather, different from what they learned themselves — and they do not give new math concepts a fair shake. They are quick to declare that it’s “the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen” and “This is not math, this is garbage.” (Two direct quotes from a friend’s FB post on the topic.)

And what’s even better is when these people criticize the new-math approach, then a few sentences later talk about how they themselves are “bad at math.” Well, if that’s the case, then rote memorization DIDN’T do the trick for them, did it? Should we want better for our kids, even if (especially if!) it means taking a different approach than what you did in your own education?

I think if most parents took a few minutes to look at their kids’ homework with an open mind, they might see that this approach really holds some value and shouldn’t be brushed off just because it’s different from previous methods. A big part of new math is knowing how to do manipulations with numbers — which many adults do all the time in everyday life.

Let’s say I need to figure out a 15% tip on dinner, but I don’t have any scrap paper handy to do the exact calculation the old-fashioned way. And we’ll just pretend I don’t have access to a calculator, either. Well, I don’t know right off how much 15% of my total is, but I DO know how to calculate 10% easily, then I halve that amount and add it to my 10% calculation. Voila — I’ve just figured out 15%, but I didn’t do it the traditional math way — I did it using the new-math approach.

Another example: The other day, I blanked out on what 11×11 was. So I did 11×10 in my head first, because I knew that right off, then added the remaining 11 to it to get my final answer. Yes, I blanked out on what I once had memorized, but I still reached the answer I needed because I knew how best to manipulate the numbers. So much of everyday life math is done in your head — often there’s not time to pull out paper to write it out or even grab a calculator. Knowing how to manipulate numbers is a useful skill to have.

And it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. So far all of The Big Sis’s teachers have said they still teach concepts the old way in addition to the new way, that some kids are more comfortable with one method while other kids are better at another way. So why not offer an additional tool to students so our own kids don’t grow up proclaiming to others that they too are “bad at math”?

Activity shift

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I’ve never been one of those parents with a great desire to overpack our family’s schedule with endless sports and activities. Most of the time, The Big Sis has just one activity going on at one time, especially if it involves a weeknight commitment. (Weeknights are crazy enough just getting dinner together, homework done, and everyone to bed at a semi-decent time.) Last year we did allow her to do dance (September through May) and then academic challenge team (I think that was from October until March), which at times was a bit much to juggle, but we managed okay.

At first we thought she wanted to do a different dance class this year, but when we got the class options, she was more interested in the cultural arts offerings than in any of the dance classes. These cultural arts classes run from October to December (10 weeks) instead of the whole school year, and they’re about half the cost of the dance classes. The two she was most interested in were Youth Drumming and Archery — and, miracle of miracles, they were being held on the same night of the week, back to back. (Youth Drumming = 6 to 7 p.m.; Archery = 7 to 8:15 p.m.) It’ll make for long Tuesday nights, of course, but I think I’d rather do that than have two activities on two different nights.

Once we got her signed up for those, she came home with an information sheet for Girl Scouts. She had shown interest in doing that last year, but we ended up passing on it. I’ve heard of others doing Girls Scouts or Boy Scouts and having just a once-a-month or twice-a-month time commitment, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to let her do that as well. Well, come to find out, her Brownie troop has basically a once-a-week commitment, which is more than I was counting on, but she’s very excited about doing this, and I do think it’ll be good for her, so we’ll let her participate this year and see how it goes. (And clearly it’s not like she has to attend EVERY week if it becomes too much.)

This week she ended up bringing home a flyer for the Girls on the Run program, which I think she’d like and would be a good experience for her and I’d really be interested in having her sign up for it because it’s a good program, but unfortunately that requires a time commitment of two days a week (Mon and Wed) right after school, which would mean The Husband or I would have to leave work early both of those days to pick her up, and that’s not ideal right now. Maybe she can consider doing that during another year, or perhaps even in the spring when she won’t have the drumming and archery classes at the same time.

Now, we’ve figured out The Big Sis’s activities for the immediate future, but we’ve sort of neglected doing anything for The Little Sis this year. Granted, a big reason is because we tried doing a preschool tumbling class for her last year and that didn’t go well (she didn’t want to leave my side, so we had to quit after three classes during we she never actually participated), and I’m a little gun shy about trying again. I’m considering, though, whether we should find a Saturday morning class for her this fall, perhaps swimming or a shorter (8-week) dance or movement class — one of the types of things that The Big Sis was doing at that age. I definitely don’t want another weeknight commitment at this point! I don’t love the idea of getting up early on Saturdays, but it’s better than another night of fractured dinners and rushed bedtimes.

When we get in the midst of this and I’m cursing myself for taking on more than we’d planned, remind me that at least we’re not doing something like soccer or softball that requires multiple weekday practices plus weekend games and tournaments!

Spring conference

Monday, April 13, 2015

We had The Big Sis’s spring conference at school on Thursday, and this one is structured a little differently than the others. For this one, it’s a student-led conference rather than a teacher-led meeting, so The Big Sis was in charge of telling us what and how she’s doing in school, and we also received her third-quarter report card. The Teacher did comment that The Big Sis is one of her best students, and she’s great at making effective use of any down time in the classroom because she grabs a book and reads so as not to disturb the other kids who might still be working.

This was The Teacher’s comment in her report card this quarter: “[The Big Sis] puts her best effort into all the assignments. She stays on task with little supervision. She is a self-motivated student. She is a joy to have in class.”

As part of the conference, The Big Sis got to share with us a piece of her writing, and I couldn’t believe how long and complex it was! We only had time for her to tell us about the characters and plot, but I can’t wait until it comes home and we can read the actual piece. She seemed so excited by it, though a little shy and nervous to share it with us. The Teacher didn’t say this to us, but I would definitely say one of her school weaknesses is a lack of confidence in herself even though she performs well, so we’ve certainly got to figure out how to boost that so she can more clearly see the skills and talent she has.

Reinventing games

Friday, November 21, 2014

At dinner the other night, The Big Sis told us that she and her friends were playing Truth or Dare at lunch. As a parent, hearing “Truth or Dare” automatically triggers red flags, though I figured it was pretty innocent considering it was taking place in the school cafeteria. My curiosity piqued, I asked her for some examples of what they did. Before sharing that, she proudly declared, “I always pick dare!”

I’ll just say that I am not surprised by that.

Anyway, she said that one she had to do was to dip her tortilla chip into her cheese sauce, then put some applesauce on it before eating it. Okay, that sounds innocuous enough.

Then she said, “Do you know how we know whose turn it is?”

No, but I was certainly curious.

She said, “We take [my friend’s] empty Capri Sun and spin it around, and wherever the straw points, that’s whose turn it is.”

I was amused and horrified and impressed all at once.

But mostly amused, to be honest. All I could think was, “Oh my! They just ‘invented’ the 2nd grade version of spin the bottle!”

I’ve gotta keep an eye on this one!

Volluntiering for reeding thyme

Monday, November 17, 2014

One of my favorite things each week is my volunteer time in The Big Sis’s classroom, as I am fortunate to have work supervisors who allow me this flexibility each Friday morning. This is the third year I have done it: kindergarten year I did literacy activities with the kids and then read with them one-on-one each week, and last year I did something a little different by leading groups of five in automaticity drills (basically giving a timed test so they could practice quick recall of their addition and subtraction facts).

This year my volunteer time coincides with their literacy block, so I happily returned to working one-on-one having the kids read to me. I didn’t mind helping with the math drills last year, but reading is my first love, and I like the idea of doing what I can to help other kids hone their reading skills.

Confession: I am not a great out-loud reader, even now as an adult.

Looking back in school, that’s one thing I wish I’d had more opportunities to do — reading out loud to someone else — as I would rate myself just a so-so to poor verbal reader nowadays. We never really read out loud in small groups (that I remember…), but instead it was always done in front of the entire class. Something about reading for the whole class jangled my nerves, and I never performed very well in those situations. But I feel like if I’d had more practice reading aloud in smaller groups or one-on-one, then perhaps I’d be a better verbal reader now.

I remember one time when I was in probably 7th or 8th grade, I was chosen to read a passage out loud, much to my chagrin, and I came across the word “annihilate.” I knew what the word meant — and I’d even said it in casual conversation before — but somehow the connection hadn’t been made in my brain, and much to my embarrassment, I pronounced it “ANN-hill-ate.”

Then one time in 5th grade, the whole class (no joke!) had to write sentences because I mispronounced the word “participle.” (I pronounced it “par-TIS-uh-pull,” which you’d better believe I know now. The whole class had to write sentences because no one volunteered to correct my pronunciation when asked.) It’s funny, but even now as a newspaper copy editor, I need to know how words and names are spelled, not necessarily how they are pronounced, so very often I say a word a certain way in my head so I remember it better, even if that’s not really how it should be pronounced. I have to be very careful when I speak to make sure I pronounce it the real way instead of phonetically.

So I’m glad to give these 2nd graders some my time each week so they can practice reading out loud in a non-pressure environment. Some of the kids have no problems whatsoever, while others struggle a bit more and could use further practice.

I can certainly relate.

What IS art?

Monday, November 10, 2014

One big pro of daycare for me is that it has allowed The Girls to do plenty of artwork. I am not an artsy or craftsy person by nature myself and, quite honestly, have little desire to do such projects at home in the time we spend together. (Though, for the record, I do suck it up every once in a while and do something really basic.) So, the fact that they get a chance to do this at daycare (and school for The Big Sis) is awesome. Three cheers for daycare!

However, one big con of daycare for me is all of the artwork (“artwork”) they come home with. At our last daycare, I thought I had finally figured out a pretty good system to determine what to keep and what to recycle. Basically anything with a handprint or a footprint was kept, as well as anything that showed a noticeable developmental progression. That way I was keeping a small selection of the good artwork but didn’t feel pressure to keep every little thing.

Then we switched daycares.

I swear the ONLY projects our new daycare does involve handprints and/or footprints! This is overall not a complaint, as they produce some nice kid artwork — much cuter projects than our last daycare — but it doesn’t help me pare down the volume of artwork that comes home if I continue with my previously successful system for what to keep and what to toss.

Thankfully the amount of artwork to come home has slowed down in elementary school, at least compared to daycare standards, so presumably there’s an endpoint to it within the next couple of years.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

I know these MAP assessments often don’t mean much for a variety of reasons, but the fact remains that they are one tool to assess a child’s school performance, so I just wanted to record The Big Sis’ winter MAP scores here for future reference:

Reading: 194 (above 2nd grade level)

Math: 205 (above 3rd grade level)

This ‘n’ that

Monday, December 9, 2013

I found out that our dollar movie theater was playing The Wizard of Oz this past weekend, so I offered to take The Big Sis to see it. I gave her two choices: We could get popcorn and candy and call that dinner (the movie was at 5 p.m.), or we could get something small at the movie and grab a quick dinner after the movie. I thought for sure she’d go for the popcorn and candy option, but she did not. As she told me, “Because popcorn just isn’t a very healthy choice for dinner.” What the heck, kid?! I mean, yay for her! But what the heck?


The Big Sis lost her third tooth last night, her top right central incisor. This one has been very wiggly for weeks, and despite trying to pull with string on two different occasions, she had no real luck with it until last night. She’d tried for a good 45 minutes before bed but we eventually had to give up. Around 9:45 p.m., she called out for me, and I went in and she said she was pretty sure it was almost out. I let her get up, and within a couple of pulls, she finally had it out!

I was sort of sad at her first two teeth being gone since it changed her look so much, but this one hasn’t bothered me for some reason.

Her top left central incisor is also wiggly, though I don’t think that one is coming out for a while. All she wants for Christmas (at the moment) is just one of her front teeth.


The next time I get the idea to make Chex Mix and Christmas cookies, please — someone stop me!


A couple weeks ago, The Big Sis read a story in school about Sarah Hale, who led a letter-writing campaign to get Thanksgiving recognized as an official holiday. For one question, she had to answer, “Who was the hero of Thanksgiving?” Her answer: “Sarah Hale was a Thanksgiving hore.” Cracked me up.

Also, she had to answer which president made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Her answer: “aper hand linkens” (translation: Abraham Lincoln)

This ‘n that

Friday, May 24, 2013
I’m so incredibly behind on kid updates from the past couple of months, so I’ll just rattle off what I think of right now:

*The Big Sis (finally!) has her first loose tooth (and her second loose tooth). I don’t think they’re coming out anytime soon (the first one has been loose a couple weeks already), but there’s definitely some wiggle to them. It’s interesting — with nearly all of her (and The Little Sis’) milestones, I haven’t found them to be sad or even bittersweet. I tend to embrace the stage she’s at currently and welcome with open arms the new things to come. But for some reason, the tooth thing is getting to me, and I can’t quite pinpoint why. Maybe it’s because to lose the teeth she had from so early on really seems to be sealing the deal on ushering out babyhood. I don’t know.

*The Big Sis completed her spring MAP reading test and improved her score 9 points from her winter test. With a 186, this puts her at above-average reading level for 1st grade; in fact, she’s just 4 points away from being considered an average 2nd-grade reader. She absolutely loves reading — both being read to and also reading herself — and it’s so amazing to reflect on this school year and think about how far she’s come with just this one skill. But it’s an important one, and like all parents, I hope she continues to nurture this passion and ends up with a lifelong love of reading.

*Over the past month, The Little Sis’ communication has exploded. She has just started to say a few very basic sentences (“Mama, come!” for example), she knows way more words than I can count, and she is at the stage where she will parrot nearly anything you say to her, if you ask her to repeat it.

*The Little Sis has taken to calling The Big Sis “Sissy” now, as well as by her real name. However, she still calls the dog either “dog” or “dog-doh” but won’t repeat his actual name to us yet. (Confession: I’m going to miss the word “dog-doh.”)

*The Little Sis’ #1 current obsession: buckles! She insists on doing the chest clip of her car seat by herself, which was frustrating at first because she took so long to do it (and insisted on no assistance), but now she’s much better at it, so it doesn’t take 15 minutes just to leave the driveway. She also loves fastening the buckles on the booster seat. We can set her to doing that and she’ll seriously keep herself occupied for 15 or 20 minutes.

*I’ve discovered that The Little Sis loves to have her back patted at bedtime. I put her in the crib after stories and songs, and she lies on her side, then twists her arm around and taps her back and says, “One mo’?” I’m guessing they do this to her at daycare for nap, as it’s not something we’ve done with her since she was a few months old. I love indulging her when she insists, though. 🙂

*The Little Sis is really starting to use her manners, offering a polite “thank you” when appropriate. And also sometimes when not appropriate. 🙂

*There is probably nothing The Big Sis would rather do than play outside with her friends on our street. This is both awesome (yay for being active!) and hard to get used to, as it takes away from her time with us. It also leads to many battles, as she still hasn’t accepted that our rule is that she’s not allowed to go play outside after dinner even though apparently everyone else is allowed to (there’s not realistically enough time before bedtime, plus it’s impossible to bring her inside if she goes out again, plus it makes it harder for her to settle her body for bedtime).

*I know kindergarten graduation is rather pointless, as it’s not like they’re graduating to a different school or anything. (I know some people think junior high/middle school graduation is pointless too, but I actually can understand that one, as it’s a big transition to high school and usually involves physically changing schools.) Many schools around here seem to be doing a kindergarten graduation anyway, but ours doesn’t seem to be. I mean, that’s fine, but I just find it a little surprising, I guess. The last day of school is this coming Friday. We’ve almost survived the first year! Just 12 more to go!

Goodnight Moon. Again.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When The Big Sis moved out of the stage where we read her simple board books and into the stage where we read her longer books, we put away most of her baby board books, mostly to save them for The Little Sis eventually. It didn’t occur to me then, but I realized recently that those simple board books? Those are the perfect first-reader type books for The Big Sis to read now, so we pulled them out for both girls.

And I thought we were done with such stupid non-favorite books as Goodnight Moon. (Seriously, goodnight bowlful of mush?? Goodnight mittens? And why in the world is there not a single comma when using direct addresses in the book?) But it turns out that these books are right at The Big Sis’ reading level right now.

And so we return to the land of Goodnight Moon, Hop on Pop, and Pat the Bunny.

In a way, it feels like we’ve come full circle with The Big Sis and these books, as we first introduced her to reading with them, and now she’s introducing herself to REAL reading with them. So I don’t mind patting the bunny. And I don’t mind saying goodnight to the moon once again.

Even though, for the record, I think it’s super lame to rhyme “moon” with “moon.”

Wordless Wednesday: Kindergarten pic

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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Progress report

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In mid-October, we had our first parent-teacher conference with The K/1st Teacher, and last week progress reports came home, so this was our first real chance to get an assessment on how The Big Sis is doing in K/1st. We do homework every night with her, and I felt like she was doing well, but it’s hard for us to know since I don’t really have anything to compare her to. However, I’m pleased to say that the report from the teacher was glowing on all fronts, including academically and socially. To my relief, behavior does not seem to be an issue at school, and The K/1st Teacher actually said that The Big Sis “makes friends easily and is easygoing.” I had to stifle a laugh at the second part of that — I’m not sure I’d ever call her easygoing, at least not naturally. With helping her work through the many daily transitions this can be the case, but I don’t necessarily think it’s her default. Still, it was nice to hear this and I hope it continues.

At our meeting, The K/1st Teacher went over the results of a test that The Big Sis did earlier in the year. It’s called MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), and it tests a student’s skill level in reading and math. The test is given on the computer and takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete, though it’s not timed. The assessments are designed to measure individual student performance in reading and math, therefore the computer adjusts questions so each student receives an individualized test. The test is given three times a year — fall (beginning of year), winter (midyear), and spring (end of year) — to help track the students’ progress over the course of the year.

For reading, she received a score of 154, which puts her above grade level (147+ is above grade level) for kindergarten. (Though she’s in a class that completes 1st grade level material, her scores are assessed as a kindergartener.) Her 154 puts her almost at grade level for 1st grade, and I’m confident she’ll do even better for the winter test, as her reading skills have blossomed over the past month or so. (More about that in another post this month.)

For math, she received a score of 163, which puts her above grade level for kindergarten (149+ is above grade level), as well as above grade level for 1st grade too. The Big Sis loves to read, so of course we continue to encourage that, but I’m so pleased to see a good amount of skill in math, and I’m especially trying to talk that up, as I never want her to get to the point of thinking, “I hate math” like so many girls do. In watching her do her math homework, it’s encouraging to see her really put forth a good effort in mastering the material, and I hope that continues.

The progress report we received last week showed a similar snapshot of her school life. In kindergarten they don’t get letter grades but are assessed on a number scale of 1 to 4: 1=not yet within expectations; 2=progressing with help; 3=meets expectations; 4=exceeds expectations. The Big Sis received a 3 in all areas except for two: uses correct letter form in handwriting (which I can see), and writes numbers 1 to 20 (I’m not sure what happened there, as I know she can and does regularly do this). We weren’t told this, but I’m guessing it’s nearly impossible to earn a 4, as there are so many of these assessments where she probably should have received a 4 but did not. Gives them something to work toward, I suppose.

The K/1st Teacher’s comments on the progress report were: “[The Big Sis] is a joy to have in class! She works hard and always tries her best.” Most of all, I was happy to see that she received a 3 in each of the Citizenship categories: participates in classroom discussion, listens and follows directions, displays best effort, demonstrates self-control, demonstrates responsibility/organizational skills, shows respect to others. After our behavior issues hit a low point during the first part of this year and I was particularly concerned about how she would do as it relates to this stuff in kindergarten, I am relieved to see that she has adjusted to this big change well. WHEW! Of course, that could change at any moment — we know that better than many — but I’m just glad that she’s starting off her school career on a good note. The kindergarten adjustment is a big one for all of us, and I think so far we’re doing pretty darn well.

The ears have it

Thursday, October 4, 2012

After having a random ear infection in her right ear a few weeks ago, The Big Sis woke up overnight last night crying with ear pain in her left ear this time. Sure enough, I took her to the doctor this morning and found out there’s a nasty-looking infection raging in there. The first one came without any other symptoms and was completely out of the blue. This time, The Big Sis has had some minor congestion for a few days (I currently have a cold as well), but nothing that’s presented as a typical cold for her, so it was still a bit of a surprise.

I felt so bad for her last night — every time she’d try to lie down and get back to sleep, she’d cry out in pain and writhe to find a comfortable position. I immediately canceled my early-morning workout alarm and grabbed my pillows and stayed the rest of the night in her room in case she had trouble sleeping. Thankfully she stayed asleep once she finally got back to sleep, and the even better news is that she’s feeling much better this evening — some pain, but not nearly as bad as before.

I learned from the ear infection from a few weeks ago that keeping her home all day from school was not necessary since she felt fine otherwise (and was acting completely normal…and ear infections aren’t contagious), so I was able to take her in to school around 9:45 this morning and she didn’t have to miss  the entire school day this time. I guess it was a tiny risk (if her pain did become more pronounced and she was unable to focus), but it ended up working out just fine.

Now here’s hoping the ear infections stay away!! I’m glad that’s all she’s had of late, but I’d rather not deal with them at all.

The F word

Friday, September 28, 2012

What IS it about potty words that send kindergarteners into fits of giggles? Now, it is true that we saw something similar in preschool, where these words were much desired, probably because they were considered taboo to them. But I swear, the appeal of these words has increased exponentially in kindergarten, particularly with the word “fart.” The Big Sis has taken this to a new level that I’d almost be impressed with, if it weren’t so annoying.

Sometimes it’s used in name-calling. You’re such a fart.

Sometimes it’s used in a more straightforward manner. If you don’t do that for me, I’m going to fart.

But most often right now it’s used as a word substitute, ala the Smurfs’ “smurfy.” I went to fart class today. I was talking to my fart in the cafeteria. I took my fart on the bus.

Believe me, there is no end to the creative uses of the word.

Movin’ on up

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Last week, The Big Sis kept coming home from kindergarten and telling us that she was going to another teacher’s room for the morning. The first day I brushed it off, but then when it happened a second and third day, I decided to e-mail the teacher and ask about it — I just couldn’t figure out if this was somehow a good thing or if it was bad and they were trying to separate her from another student or something. And I’m sure they didn’t really tell The Big Sis much about why she was moved, so I wasn’t getting many answers from her. All I knew was that she was going there for reading time.

Her teacher wrote: “[The Big Sis] has been going to Mrs. M’s room for Literacy block. This is from 8:00 – 10:30, she teaches kindergarteners and first graders that are moving at a faster pace in literacy.  We felt this was a good placement for her and she has adjusted well.  We would like to have her spend the entire day in the K/1 class and her homeroom teacher would then be Mrs. M. She will be getting all of the kindergarten curriculum but at a quicker pace and may go more into the first grade curriculum as the students are ready.”

They continued doing the partial days last week and moved her full time to the K/1 room yesterday. To say I am proud of her doesn’t quite cover it. We knew she had the potential to do well, as she was certainly prepared well during preschool, but I’m so happy that she’s performing well enough that her teachers see the potential in her as well. One of the triggers for her challenging behavior is boredom, so I’m hoping this will help nip that in the bud. We haven’t met her new teacher but will have a chance to when we attend Curriculum Night tomorrow night. In reading through her classroom information, so far I’m happy with her new teacher and think she’ll be good for The Big Sis.

Her K/1 class will have weekly homework that includes a phonics worksheet, a rhyming worksheet, and a worksheet meant to teach them how to follow directions. Each week the class has five “wall words” — basically sight words — that the kids need to practice reading and writing. On Fridays, there will be a quiz to test the mastery of these words. (For example, this week’s words are: my, an, in to, come.) In addition, we are to dedicate at least 20 minutes of reading time per night, which can include us reading to her, her reading to us, or us listening to books on CD. (We do this anyway; last night we had 30 minutes, which is pretty typical.) Last night we also took things a step further on our own in an effort to reinforce the words and had her point out her wall words in our stories whenever she saw us read them.

The Big Sis is a little hesitant to move full time because she’s already made friends in her old class, and now she is sad she has to leave them behind and make new friends. I personally know this is a good move for her and that it’ll turn out fine and she’ll probably have a new BFF by the end of the week, but it’s hard for her at the moment. We will continue to reassure her that she’s good at making friends and will get to know the kids in her new class.


In other school news, we let The Big Sis ride the school bus for the first time yesterday morning. The Husband will still probably drive her most of the time (especially once waiting at the bus stop means being COLD), but she wanted a chance to take it and see what it was like. I walked her to the bus stop and was pleased to see that there were probably six or seven other parents with their kids as well. (I wasn’t sure how it worked since I didn’t take the bus in elementary school. I was hoping I wouldn’t be the only parent there, but I definitely wasn’t.)

I think she was a little nervous, but her eagerness won that battle, and she lined up perfectly when the bus arrived. She found a seat with a neighbor who’d gotten on at another stop and tells me she had a great time. Not surprisingly, she’s asked to ride the bus more often, though we’ll probably make that a reward for good behavior.

Signs you are living with a new kindergartener…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

She now calls all bathrooms “restrooms.” Even in her own house.

She can’t wait to get home from school, not so she can spend time with you but because she wants to hang out with the neighbor kids.

You need the sharp interrogation skills of a state prosecutor in order to find out about any part of her day.

There is more paperwork to shuffle through each day than what you had to sign when applying for your home mortgage.

She comes home singing a song in Chinese.

She asks you raise your hand if you want to take a turn talking at the dinner table.

You try your best to straighten out all the friends’ names she throws at you, but you’re met with only sighs and eye-rolls as if you should just KNOW it.

When there’s a behavior flareup, you briefly reminisce about age 3. (And age 3 was a nightmare.)

Her day is so action-packed that she is already asleep by the first time you check on her after leaving her room at bedtime. (Score!)

K is for kindergarten

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I’m writing this as the mom of a kindergartener. Say what? Yes, a kindergartener! We’re still learning the ropes — all of us — but I think we’re adjusting well so far.

We had orientation on the 13th, two days before the first day of school, and we were able to go and meet The Big Sis’ teacher. She said she has been teacher for 25 years and has been at this school for 13 years, so I’m happy that she’s established and (presumably) knows what she’s doing. Unfortunately we were unable to visit her classroom that day, as the kindergarteners are in portables this year (nice ones — with hallways, water fountains, and bathroom and everything), and they weren’t quite ready on orientation night. But we were able to see her classroom when we took her for the first day of school, and The Big Sis was most excited to find out there are two guinea pigs, three turtles, and some hermit crabs in her room. One of them is named Sparkle, but so far I haven’t been able to get the other names out of her.

That’s one of the things I notice that is different so far — we have to ask very direct, pointed questions to get anything out of her now. Really, if I think about it, she was somewhat like that before. However, whereas before I could corroborate information with her teachers and fill in the blanks after talking with them daily, that’s not really the case now. (And it’s really not cool to call or e-mail the teacher to ask the classroom pets’ names.) Thankfully, The Husband and I are Master Interrogators and generally get out of her the information we are seeking, but it can be exhausting sometimes.

The Husband drives her to school, and they just started using the car drop-off line (parents are allowed to walk kindergarteners to class the first few days, but not after that). Yesterday her assistant teacher met the class in the cafeteria (as she did last week), as it’s a long walk outside to the portables, but starting today, they had to walk to their classes all by themselves. I know she did fine, but The Big Sis was kind of nervous about it. It’s actually a pretty straight shot, through the school, out the back door, and following a single paved sidewalk to her portable (first one) right by the playground, but I can imagine that to her it feels like a much longer walk. (Side note: We often had portables in school, as every school I’ve ever attended has undergone renovation while I was there. But we never had paved sidewalks leading us there! Instead, we had gravel sidewalks. That ruined your shoes. Bah!)

She has several “specials” throughout the week, including P.E., art, music, Chinese, library, and computer. I’m excited to have her teach me some Chinese. And who knows — maybe she’ll be able to explain to me the point of Twitter. 😉 The Big Sis will have homework soon, probably toward the end of the month or beginning of September. (They have ordered special folders that they’re waiting to receive.) I’m unclear on how often it will be (see also: trouble getting answers out of her), but she should have time to work on it at her after-school program.

Oh! The after-school program. We had two realistic options: 1). The program at her school. This was cheaper (by $10/week), didn’t require her to be transported anywhere off-site, and would allow her to get to know other kids at her school. However, their big drawback was that they are not open during any days school is not in session and we would need to arrange other care. Or 2). The program at a church two blocks from our house. This was more expensive and required them to pick her up and take her there, but they are open during most school holidays (except major ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), all breaks, and snow days. Chances are decent that The Husband or I could arrange to work from home on her holidays, breaks, and snow days, however, we didn’t want to be in a position of both of us needing to be at work and not having anyone to care for The Big Sis.

So, we ultimately chose the church program near our house, which also has the advantage of giving us priority for enrollment in their summer program, which is what I would like to look into for next summer. (Crazy to be thinking about next summer already when technically it’s still summer now.) At this after-school program, The Big Sis will get an afternoon snack, have a chance to at least begin her homework (which will be a huge help since our evening time is pretty limited, though we still plan to be involved and go over her homework with her ourselves, even if she’s already completed it), and will get time in either their gym or outdoor playground. On the days she’s there all day long (like this Friday for teacher professional development), I think they often try to do a field trip or something else different for the kids. There are kids from both her school (including a couple in her specific class) as well as from a nearby school (including one of her best friends from preschool), so hopefully it’ll be a good way to branch out socially for her.

We all have to get up earlier, and we’re just a week into it, of course, but so far we’re doing well on that front. At the moment, The Husband is dropping off and picking up The Big Sis, and I am in charge of dropping off and picking up The Little Sis. We’ll continue to do that and see how it works and tweak if needed, but so far that’s the arrangement that makes the most sense. There will be some times that we will need to change (like next week when The Husband is out of town — ACK!), but for the most part I think this should be our new routine. We have tossed around the idea of seeing about moving The Little Sis to the daycare portion of the church program (there have been a few things at our place that I’m currently not happy with, and I gather that their financials aren’t that stable), but we’re waiting a bit to see how we like it there. No need to rush a decision like that.

Wordless Wednesday: First day of kindergarten

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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