Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day

Ah, the first day of school

I have to confess, today felt a lot less momentous to me than our previous first days. After all, this was our third first day of preschool! (Isn't that insane?) And today we were returning to last year's school and teacher. In fact, standing in the school hallway this morning, the entire thing felt so normal it seemed as though we'd really only been away for the weekend.

It was the first time, in many, many, many years, that I didn't have that back-to-school stomach feeling. I still love this time of year, but it failed to strike me in my gut this time around.

Harper was another story...


She was really, truly excited, and just a tiny bit nervous in the car this morning. I know it felt like a HUGE day to her and I made myself take a little extra time; I turned off the radio on the way to school and said appropriate beginning-of-the-year-mom things. You know: listen to your teachers, be kind, learn something, tell someone if you have to use the bathroom or don't feel well, we're proud of you, we love you.

Then Harper was all, "Mom, it's not my first time!"

(Your time will come all too soon!)


Harper had no patience with me when I tried to take her picture outside of the school building. It was TOO! BRIGHT!

Nana and Dziatku came to stay with Michael this morning, and I did some word testing with second graders while Harper was in school. Then we all met up and had lunch together at a favorite local stop -even Matt was able to meet us.

I can tell Harper had a terrific day, mostly because she behaved fairly appallingly at lunch (too worked up), but also because when we got in the car to head home she hollered, "It was AWESOME!"

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Check and Check (and check and check and check)

Forms have been filled out (and copied).

Supplies have been purchased.

Art wall has been cleared.


Hair has been cut.
Bag has been packed.

Child has been bathed.

School starts tomorrow!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I'm Sad About the End of Reading Rainbow

Earlier today I listened to this NPR report about the end of the PBS children's program Reading Rainbow. And I'm not kidding when I tell you I was on the verge of tears.

Reading Rainbow will live on for a long time on DVD and I'm willing to bet there are copies of it at your local library right now. So I'm not so much upset that my children won't ever see Reading Rainbow again, I'm upset because of the shift in priorities that means Reading Rainbow isn't considered a good use of money any longer.

Simply put Reading Rainbow wasn't in the business of teaching the fundamentals of reading, it existed to help children learn to love reading - to take joy in reading books, and in thinking about books, and in making connections between what they read and the world around them - all of which are wonderful, important skills a reader should have. But they aren't phonics, and they aren't spelling...

For me, today, this strikes me as one small example of what I fear we're doing in our schools, which is to take the joy out of the equation. Standardized testing has put a great deal of fear and stress into the mix for children and teachers alike. While I know there are many wonderful schools and teachers who are still helping children love learning I think the current educational environment makes it more difficult for them to do so. We get so caught up in the results that we aren't taking enough time to be attentive to the process.



Of COURSE I think it is important for children to know how to read, I'm not denying that at all. I just think it is unfortunate when learning to read has to come at the expense of loving to read.


I'm aware that I'm grossly oversimplifying here. I wish I could articulate my point more efffectively.

Sigh.

Good-bye Reading Rainbow. I'll miss you.


(I love this picture of Harper and Erin's Calum from our recent visit. And speaking of our visit, Erin took the opportunity to interview me while I was there. Her interviews are hilarious so you might want to check it out!)

Almost Caught

I was trying to sneak up behind Michael and catch him walking behind the popper (Oh how I HATE that thing, but we don't have any other walk behind toys...), but then he started crawling instead. As per usual, ahem. I kept taping because I know how much I'm going to miss that little butt-waggle when he's permanently on his feet.

video

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mobility Updates

First of all, Michael is not walking yet, but have I mentioned that the boy has started climbing?

It started on July 29th, my sister's birthday. We were in the family room playing with some wooden puzzles and the holder they slide into just happened to be resting against the front of the couch. So Michael stepped up onto it...



Next thing I knew he was sitting up on the couch, just as pleased as could be. Lord help me!

As is the way with these things, he has mastered up long before mastering down. I have become accustomed to spending a significant portion of my day running across rooms to catch him before he tumbles head first off of some piece of furniture.

His favorite climb is the plastic slide in the basement - he would like to climb to the top and then step off.

Near-toddlers just don't have any appreciation for gravity.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Trippy

We are doing some cleaning out of the basement, or rather, an area of the basement that is overrun with very old stuff of mine. I have two large file boxes filled to the brim with old letters and I've been sorting them into a better storage situation, but it is taking a very long time.

Though I have improved over the years, I am a fairly sentimental person and I do attach lots of memories to things like letters and other odds and ends (ticket stubs, bits of candle wax...). Every once in a while I'm coming across something and I don't know what it is, or I will find a letter from someone I can't remember at all, and those things are unceremoniously disposed of. However, most of it is just wonderful, and, despite the many hours it will take me to organize it, I'm so so glad I have these boxes.

Perhaps the best find of the day? A birthday card signed by my (now all grown up) brother from back when he could barely write his own name.

I'm aware there may come a day when I come across these same letters again and find they don't seem so important to me anymore. OR my children may have one heck of a time reading them when I die!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Heart Public Libraries

Okay, I'm cheating a little here by using last summer's pictures, but I wanted to talk for a minute about how much I adore our public library and the entire public library system. Go libraries!!!

Just this morning I was explaining to Harper that Summer Reading Club was over and that we'd have to wait until next year for another reading club. AND THEN we were at preschool story time this afternoon and found out that there is a special fall reading club, just for preschoolers, sponsored by the libraries and the metro parks. We signed up immediately. It's especially cool because there are several themes - each theme has a bookmark and each bookmark has a reading list and an activity list. You read a book off the list and do one activity off the list and then you can get your bug stamp for that theme. The idea is that you read books and they inspire you to get out and DO things.

Um, it sounds more complicated than it is. Harper is excited and so am I. It gives us something to focus on for the next couple of weeks until school beings. It's also good motivation to get out into our parks more. We are good at taking advantage of library programs, but not as good at utilizing the many amazing parks around here...

Anyway, back to the libraries. We consistently attend both baby and preschool story time. Harper has been going to story time since she was a toddler, about seventeen months old, and, when given a choice, she has never once told me she didn't want to go to the library. Michael already gets excited if you ask him if he'd like to go to story time, or if he'd like to go see our librarian, Miss Pat.


There was a huge uproar in Ohio this year, when the governor planned to cut the budget for libraries by 50%. Thanks to the public outcry the cuts ended up being only about 30%, better, but still such a shame. Our libraries provide wonderful public services, not only do they make books, music, and movies available for free, but they also offer all sorts of classes/services to help improve lives in our communities: literacy services, job services, computer access, etc. I know I'm not really even skimming the surface here, and a lot of that stems from the fact that the libraries offer a host of services that I don't particularly need, but I know my community needs them.

I wonder, sometimes, if all the parents are aware of how many early literacy skills are embedded into those story times. I wonder if they realize how much effort our librarian puts in to make sure those 30-45 minutes really count.

If you could see the number of books and CDs in my house (especially children's books) you would wonder why on earth I would ever bother with the library. But, as much as I may have tried, I don't have all the books. :-) And I love that the library carries things my children will enjoy temporarily so I don't have to buy them - like the 47 Land Before Time sequels.


I have loved the library since my dad used to take me there on Saturday mornings to look for Blue Bug books. Where I grew up our public library was inside a small building which was originally a church. It was tiny, but I wonder now if the stained-glass windows have anything to do with the reverence for libraries that I've always felt.

Libraries are easy things to take for granted, but I am hoping the people in my community don't, because they are going to be asked for money when we vote in November, and it will be badly needed.

(If you need convincing to feel good about your library, go there and find the book Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack!)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On the Road Again

A lot of the time I feel like I have to actively stop myself from worrying too much about Michael's development. All indications are that he's healthy and moving along just fine, though he is taking his sweet time with some of those milestones. Lately, as though he needed to reassure me, Michael seems to have ramped up to some new level of awareness of the world around him and his place in it.

For example - all of a sudden it is often important to him to do what Harper is doing. Therefore, if Harper colors...


Michael colors.


He thinks he's such a big boy, watching the cars, holding his crayons... For a moment I have a vision of homework sessions and afternoon snacks shared around this same table.

Then Michael starts to eat his crayons, and they have to be confiscated.


With Matt and his parents busy all weekend, I'm packing up the kids and taking this show on the road. Tomorrow afternoon we're headed to visit Erin and Tracy and I can't wait to throw our six kiddos together and see what happens, it's been far too long since we've visited. Put away your crayons Ladies, here we come!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Deer Park

Instead of either a) celebrating the fact that school starts soon or b) bemoaning the fact that school starts soon (for Harper), I thought I would take this stormy day to share a piece of our Wisconsin vacation.

Harper is a pretty big animal lover, so I thought we'd check out the Wisconsin Deer Park - which has been a fixture of the Wisconsin Dells since I was a child.

One thing I always, ALWAYS think about with a place like this (any animal interaction experience) is whether the animals are fed anything that might contain peanuts or peanut traces. Not surprisingly the regulations for animal food are different that those for our food, making it much, MUCH more difficult to obtain accurate information, in most cases.

I was delighted when the people I spoke with at the deer park were knowledgeable, kind, and helpful. And we determined that it was safe for Harper.

I have to say the grounds of the deer park aren't exactly impressive to look at, but the experience is pretty cool.


We purchased food, crackers made specifically not to upset the animals' stomachs, and entered the deer enclosure. Immediately several deer approached us, which Harper loved but Michael did not. Despite the signs asking us to avoid loud noises his first reaction was to shriek at top volume. After that we kept the deer a little further away from the stroller until Michael got used to the seemingly giant creatures walking around him.


The deer were pretty calm and mostly avoided us unless we were holding out food. When we did have food they walked over and kind of snuffled it right out of our hands, I was impressed with how gently they ate.


I was not nervous about having the children so near the animals at all, it was such a different experience than those frenzied goats you normally see at zoos...


Please note Michael is in his defensive position - thumb in mouth, but he did stop shrieking.


We were probably there for about an hour. I don't think it is something we'll necessarily do every time we visit the area, but I can imagine going back in a few years if Michael expresses an interest. I don't think Harper will forget feeding the deer any time soon.

video

Saturday, August 08, 2009

MIA

My sister came to visit this week, bringing two of our cousins, ages 10 and 12. For years the girls have been asking to come visit and they were finally able to. Harper and Rebound, especially, are in mourning today w/out the two playmates that had been here most of the week. I had next to no "free time" for the computer - did you know that cooking and cleaning up after four kids is a lot more work than doing so for two kids????

It's been a great week overall and I'm so glad Natalie and Nicole (and Shannon!) were able to spend this time with us.

Where have we been?

The Art Institute
The Arboretum
The Children's Garden
A Baseball Game
The Air Force Museum
Picnicking
Playing
Entertaining







What did you do this week?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Score!

As far as I'm concerned, furniture is expensive. Any furniture, even the supposedly cheap, put-it-together yourself stuff. And when you buy the cheap stuff, it may not, despite your best efforts, be very sturdy. We've (I've) been in want of several pieces of furniture lately, including:

1) A comfortable pull-out couch situation for our family room

2) A recliner for Matt (that's more of a thing HE wants, but we've been looking at them so I'll add it here)

3) Some kind of long, closed, storage piece to go on the long wall in the dining room

4) A kitchen table and matching chairs (we have a table and chairs now, but they are kind of a mishmash and not in the chic way)

5) A new dining table and matching chairs

Until recently #6 on that list would have been bookshelf for Michael's room.

It seemed like time to remove the rest of the board books from Harper's shelf, then we had some on a shelf above the changing table (but Michael has been resembling a monkey lately and that shelf needed to come down), and the rest were sort of unceremoniously flopped into dilapidated* wicker baskets which weren't working so well as of late. So I was thrilled when, a few weeks ago, my friend MaryEllen (Auntie M) said her sister had a bookshelf she didn't need anymore and did I want it?

My expectations were not high, not because MaryEllen's sister has poor taste in furniture, but because if it was a GREAT bookshelf maybe they wouldn't be getting rid of it. But oh it is, it is a great bookshelf. And I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. And then we moved it into Michael's room, put things on it, and now I love it even more. It actually reminds me of something I would see (and covet) in a catalog like PBKids or Land of Nod - but we got it for free!!!

See how pretty:





One man's trash is my happy, happy day.


*I seriously always thought the word I wanted there was dilapiTated and I'm pretty sure I've always pronounced it as such. Embarrassing! I had to look it up three times after I saw the suggested spelling to make sure that was the word I meant. Which is a lot of effort for a blog post about a free bookshelf, but at least I learned something.