Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Never Too Old

The children have a routine of snuggling up in our bed to fall asleep at night.  Then, whenever Daddy is ready for some space in the bed, he relocates them to their own rooms.  An interesting conversation ensued yesterday evening.

Daddy: "I'm getting tired of carrying you down the stairs, Babe. You're getting too big."
M: "Well, I'm not tired of you carrying me down the stairs!"

A quick Google search will reveal several interesting insights, none of which this post is about:

 M's lesson this evening is about perspective.

As the Carrier, you bear an ever growing weight.  The load gets a bit heavier, a bit taller, a bit stronger each day. And let's face it - your back's not getting any younger.  The responsibility of raising a child is ever more challenging as she continues to mature.

But as the Carried - you're never too heavy, too big, too tall, or too strong. Never too old. You're never too old for your Daddy to carry you down the stairs one more night.  For him to hold you in his arms, carefully maneuvering you down the stairway, so as not to bonk you on the door frame or the railing.  To hold you tight against his chest, protecting you, laying you gently on your pillow and tucking the blankets snug around you.

How does one respond to such an honest, innocent, and wise disclosure?
Daddy's response: "I guess I gotta keep carrying you then!" Amen!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cattail Snowstorm

Uncle M had some cattails as fall decorations.  The tails spontaneously combusted into an outpouring of seeds and fluff.  We decided to make a fun adventure of it: a cattail snowstorm!

How cool is this? The roots of the cattail are edible and there are all sorts of recipes for them!  I also learned more about the problematic nature of cattails as a weedy and invasive species.  Perhaps I'll have to go uproot all of the seeds we spread and cook them up into something yummy.

Also, check out this adorable and clever Cattail poem by Eric Ode. Perhaps you'll be inspired to go out and have a cattail snowstorm of your own.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Family Portraits

Surprisingly, besides with our point-and-shoot, we've never had family portraits taken.  Hubby and I prefer to be behind the camera, with the cute kids in focus.  But a great opportunity came about, and we went for it! We are really pleased with the results.  Can't get enough of these adorable children! Now to order lots of prints and put them on every shelf, wall, and decoratable surface.


Cussing Cultural Cartoon Characters

Similar to the way The Simpsons shaped our childhoods with curses such as  "Eat my shorts!" and "D'oh!", the Spongebob Squarepants generation has many an obscenity.

C stubs his toe and shouts "Barnacles!"

M loses a game and response with "Oh, tarter sauce!"

This cartoon even has the the blasphemous swearwords covered: "Neptune!" and "Holy guacamole!"

Spongebob, gotta love him, and all his expletives.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Green - Yellow - Red

As we approach an intersection the signal turns yellow.  My brakes squeak to a stop.

"Mommy!" C barks from the back seat, "The yellow light means GO FASTER!"

And if you ask him where he learned that little gem, he'll proudly shout out "DADDY!"  Ha!

And now for another silly traffic light joke:

What did the traffic light say to the car?
Don't look! I'm changing!


Speaking of the car.  Seems like this is all C ever does in the car any more.  Did you ever hear of looking out the window now and then?  Ever since we got the Kindle Fires for the car, its hard to get him to put it down.

And a pic of what M likes to do in the car (pass out):


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hometown Heros

We had an amazing opportunity last month, along with M's Daisy Troop, to get an inside look at our local Fire Station One and to meet the real life superheros who work there.

We got to try on the firefighting apparel;  Got inside an engine, a ladder truck, and a medical emergency vehicle; Learned all about how they load the trucks and how all of the different tools are used.  The most interesting thing I learned was that there is a tool called a Halligan bar, which was invented by a fireman, and is the only tool that was specifically made for fire fighting. The pick can be driven into a wall, providing a foothold/step for a firefighter to stand on - as well as many other prying, twisting, punching, and striking uses.  All of the other axes, pry bars, tools and equipment are re-purposed for fighting fires and responding to any other variety of emergencies.

Firefighter M.

Fireman Jake, in full firefighting gear!  Apparently small children are often scared of firefighters in full gear, and are afraid to accept help during an emergency.  So, Jake dressed up in front of the kids so they could see he is just a regular guy, wearing extra fancy firefighting clothes.  It was really effective!  He breathed through the ventilator and C was quick to point out that he sounded like Darth Vader, which he thought was super cool.

Firefighter C!

The firemen also reviewed fire safety with the kids and gave them all firefighter hats and badges.  The men were so generous with their time.  You could tell not only that they enjoyed teaching children about the fire station, but they also loved their jobs.  I was impressed and humbled.

To end the trip with a bang, the station got an emergency call over the loud speaker just as we  wrapped up our visit.  The entire crew left in a hurry - every engine, ladder truck and medical vehicle, sirens blaring! Wow!  Talk about exiting in style!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Perfect is, as Perfect Does

Back in October 2012 M was administered a standardized test called the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test.    This test, a multiple choice test, is administered to 1st graders with little to no experience with standardized testing or with multiple-choice answer formats.  The test administrators are staff from the school, not their usual teacher, and the test is administered in the library, not their classroom.

A letter was sent home to parents in September letting us know of the impending testing.  We didn't think much of it, never said anything to M, and went about our merry way.  A follow-up letter was sent in December with the final test score. 50th percentile.  Ok, my daughter is perfectly average.  It's fine to be perfectly average.

Naive 1st grade parent I was.  I did not realize at the time that gifted/enrichment selection hinged solely on this score.  This test aims to determine which 2nd-5th grade students are eligible for gifted classes, or pull-out enrichment services in schools without designated gifted classrooms.  Without a score of over 80th percentile, my child would not receive a more enriching educational experience.  Whoa now - say what?!  My daughter is at an educational disadvantage because of a piece of paper?  Because of a test that was administered to her with no preparation, in an unfamiliar testing environment, with a novel testing format? 

I felt overwhelmed, misled, and uninformed.  How did I let this happen?  How could I have been so passive from the beginning?  Am I to blame for detrimenting my daughter's learning potential?  Bring on the mother bear.

I'm not usually a confrontational person.The idea of me tackling "the system" felt harrowing and insurmountable.  But who else is there to stand up for my daughter's education?   I think my daughter deserves more! I think my daughter is the best! After all, my daughter is perfect(ly average)! 

I decided it was best to face this problem head-on, rather than sitting on the side to watch it play out.  I began communicating with the principal, which led to emails with the Enrichment Coordinator and the Director of Curriculum for the school district.  My request was simple: please retest M.   Luckily, everyone was helpful, courteous, and happy to comply with this request.  Not only did staff provide me with a packet of information about the test they also included two examples for us to review with M prior to the retest, to familiarize her with the format as well as to reenforce the importance of her concentrating, rather than picking an answer in a whimsy way, a defensive behavior any 1st grade may use when faced with such an uncomfortably foreign test.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  M was re-administered the test directly by the Enrichment Coordinator for the school.  And the results are in: 92nd percentile! M now receives enrichment services.  She is pulled from her classroom to be challenged with additional math and reading skills.  And she loves it.

Not only that, but I feel fully vindicated.  I feel justified, encouraged, and acknowledged.  I feel supported by the school and district staff who heeded to my request in a professional, sincere, and timely way.  I stood up for what I truly believed was best for my child.  I've had my first glimpse of what it is to truly be a parent.


The Meandering Maze

Back in the day, my godfather/the kids' Uncle M owned and operated a preschool for gifted children.  While Creative Discovery School hasn't been operational for over ten years, it is still all over a Google search!  One of the highlights of the year was the Summer Program, in which kids had a little less structure to their learning and whole lot more fun.  Each summer the kids would choose a main project, in which to invest their time and energy for the parent open house.  The themes changed, but a recurrent project was often the box maze in its varying appearances.  The last year the school was open, I student taught as a junior or senior in high school.  We made the biggest box maze of all time - you had to go down the stairs in a box-maze-slide to enter the maze that encompassed the entire lower level of the school!

Uncle M decided it'd be wise to teach M and C the ways and windings of the box maze. We started collecting and adding boxes over time, decorating, rearranging, taping them together.  It's been fun and nostalgic to teach the kids to use the box saw.  The smells of cardboard shavings and masking tape.  They've enjoyed coloring inside and outside - C made many a member of a lion family out of the cut-out scraps.  We've added strands of lights, windows, doors, and even a lookout tower.  We have over a dozen boxes now, taking up quite a large chunk in the basement.

When will it end, when will we stop?  I say not til there's a box-maze-slide down the basement stairs!



C: "Did God make robots?"



Sick Day

Two weeks ago, M came down with a case of walking pneumonia.  You know a girl who loves school is really sick when she can't get out of bed!  She missed three days of school.  She was so concerned about her homework getting turned in by the deadline that she asked me to go to school to submit it to her teacher.  Sweet sweaty little thing! (the girl, not the teacher!)

And of course, since we teach our children to share, after a 10 day incubation period, she promptly passed her illness on to me.

I was sick as a dog with fever, chills, and a nasty cough.  As C was winding down for the evening, he heard coughing emitting from the sick, sad lump curled up under the sheets.  Without saying a word, he scurried to the bathroom, filled a glass full of water, and hurried to my bedside.  "Here mama, for your cough," C said.  That was the best medicine of all.  Whetted my sore throat and melted my heart.


M has been working on reading stamina in 2nd grade.  They practice Read to Someone and also Read to Self.  They are challenged to increase their reading time on each attempt.  Read to Someone typically happens on the couch after dinner, with any variety of books on hand.  However, M is content with a single book for Read to Self, as she curls up in bed each night: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.  A gift from my good friend O, M reads this book with so much anticipation and concentration.  In fact, during a week that her teacher expected a stamina of 12 minutes, M read for over 20!

To honor this amazing poet, whose words enchant my daughter many a night, and whose poem consoles me during this bout of illness, I give you Sick by Shel Silverstein:

"'I cannot go to school today, '
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
'I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more-that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut-my eyes are blue-
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke-
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is-what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is...Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!'"


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Ant-tastic Art of Ant Finding, Feeding, and Friending

We didn't realize the strength of C's empathy for the insect world until one afternoon he ran up the stairs and to his room bawling after M ran over an ant hill with her bike.  He was beside himself at the senseless devastation.  C has a passion for ants.


Here he is holding his "friend" ant.

We were able to calm his heart by suggesting that we feed the ants some animal crackers.  Which he has done again and again since that day.  He enjoys taking others out to the ant his to introduce them to the ants and asks them to help him break up and spread the crackers. 

C will fit right in when he starts Nature Day Camp in a week!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Sacrafice

What are all of the animals doing in a circle by family group, you might ask?

"The lion gets to choose which one to eat!" ~M


Spring Rain Joy

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain" ~ Vivian Greene  
Today's rainstorm involved strolling three laps around the block with umbrellas, stomping in the puddles.  Just for fun.


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Vegetable Dichotomy

Funny how to offspring can have totally different opinions on the same vegetable.  Especially because the vegetable in question is corn, and those offspring come from me, and my absolute all time favorite vegetable is sweet corn.

A story from a few weeks ago:
As M rushes the dinner table: "Ewwwww! Do I have to eat this?"

C is moments behind her, when he reaches the table he exclaims: "YES!!! CORN!!!" and proceeds to chow down.

photos from 2009 - even baby C loves his corn.

See?? There was a day that my daughter used to like vegetables...Those days are long gone.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fuzzy Wuzzies and Creepy Crawlies!

We enjoyed so much this year the Insect Fear Film Festival put on by the entomology graduate students at the U of I.  What a great free community event to get kids excited about insects.  We took along some friends, and met several friends there too!

Here were some photo highlights:

M is very excited to be holding a tobacco hornworm!

family photo with the friendly millipede

The best story from the evening was while we were trying to take the above picture with my bestie A and Baby A, the Lubber Grasshopper leapt onto Baby A's head!  She was oblivious, while the adults buckled over in laughter and took lots of pictures:

"Grasshoppers go in many a thumming spring
And now to stalks of tasseled sow-grass cling,
That shakes and swees awhile, but still keeps straight;
While arching oxeye doubles with his weight.
Next on the cat-tail-grass with farther bound
He springs, that bends until they touch the ground."

 -John Clare

Despite the crowd and excessive noise, C found a quite moment to put together some insect puzzles.

We didn't stay for any films this year, since the selection was not child friendly, but we enjoyed running the rows of Foellinger Auditorium's upper level, and visitng with friends before heading home!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reading Review

As part of our evening routine we spend anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour reading books before brushing teeth and getting ready for bed.  It's relaxing to cuddle up on the couch and share stories, especially now that M can read to us too (rather eloquently too!).

I thought I'd share a book we've read repeatedly.  The kids were attracted to the story and it has become one of those that we read almost every night to the point of overload!  Daddy instituted a new rule because of this book - we give preference to new books in the stack.  If there is a book in the stack that we read the day before, it is moved to the bottom of the stack, to be read after the new arrivals.  This helps us continue to expose the kids to new books, while still reading the favorites - otherwise they'd just read the repeats and we might skip over the new books.

The book is called Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood.  When a mother of seven goes off to market, promising to bring each child back a gift, a witch arrives at the house and turns the children into food.  The mother must figure out which food is which child in order to turn them back into their proper children form - or else the witch is going to eat them for supper!  Somewhat fairy tale, somewhat folklore, somewhat mystery, somewhat horror story!  The illustrations are absolutely stunning and move off of the page.

M is intrigued by the children, who are named after the days of the week.  She also enjoys the matching puzzle the mother solves to discover which child is which food by matching them to the gifts they requested at market.  C is a bit terrified of the whole thing, and won't look at any page with the witch on it, but he enjoys the story, especially the end when the witch jumps into the river and is never seen again!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Innocent Firsts

First day of 1st grade!

First bus ride ever on the first day of preschool!

First tooth lost, with many more to come!

First ice skating adventure!

First ever ride in an amish horse-and-buggy before the Arthur Christmas parade!

Hard to think about all of these firsts going by, without pondering the innocence of children as they come upon each new experience.

Little Pieces of Innocence

"Sweet sleep, little pieces of innocence,
While dreams so serenely fair,
Fill their heads with joyous thoughts,
How gladly do I stand and stare,
Upon the gifts that love has brought.

No darkness spreads her sorrow here,
Sleep on dear children, rest, but know,
Your father watches with such delight,
This moment of truth, and with heart aglow,
And filled with love this night.

Those little pieces of innocence,
So serene, so full of grace,
Sweetest gifts that Heaven imparts,
Fondly shall I long embrace,
The innocence in their hearts.

Those little pieces of innocence,
Their youthful years so few,
Enjoy now as you grow,
Joys of innocence, pure and true,
That only children ever know.

The hour is fleeting, and morn is nigh,
Innocence so filled with truth,
Awake! enjoy your childhood years,
Before time sweeps away your youth,
And innocence disappears.

Never, never can I lose them,
No time or distance shall stake a claim,
Though saddness may overcome me,
My heart will stay the same,
And those little pieces of innocence will forever be."

-Richard Netherland Cook


Wildlife Prairie Park

In fall 2011 my best friend A and I decided the coolest thing ever would be to stay aboard a train caboose cabin at Wildlife Prairie Park.  Unfortunately for us, we decided this in November, and the train caboose cabin season only runs April through October.  So, October 2012 was picked, and a full eleven months of anticipation ensued (and a Baby A was born!).  But it was worth the wait!  How much fun it was to sleep in a train car (that even had built in motorized rocking motion to simulate a moving train!) and wake up in a beautiful natural area.  Plus, they have lots of neat animals to see there. Here are some of the highlights,

Here we are!  (Friends A, J, and Baby A not pictured)

We took two train rides while we were there.  It was a little bit strange because the park puts on a big night-time Halloween event which includes a haunted train ride.  It was running in the evenings on the same weekend we were there.  So, the train loops were all set up with their Halloween decorations, which M was dead-set on taking pictures of every piece. 

These two were the strangest:

Stuffed animal cemetary

creepy skeleton animals with party animals painted on the reverse!

M conducting the playground train

We really enjoying hiking the grounds seeing bison, reptiles, very territorial wolves, wild cats, live stock (a donkey tried to kick me!), and many other animals.

But most of all we enjoyed sleeping in a caboose! How cool  is that?!

The family boarding the caboose!

Caboose cabin #2!

Big 4 year old conductor!!


Christmas 2012

We had such a great Christmas.  This was our second Christmas at the new house and it was nice to be able to decide what worked last year for decorations, and change those we wanted to change.  The kids of course helped decorate the tree (on Thanksgiving Day - a day earlier than usual!!)

M and Uncle S reading stories in front of the tree.

We sat on Santa's lap (three different times!)

This last one was from a special Breakfast with Santa at Silvercreek that we attended with Aunt D & Uncle S.  They put on a really good program - crafts, cookie decorating, face painting, balloon animals, and a breakfast buffet!  It's really a great way to celebrate the season with children.

We enjoyed lots of time with family, hosting the annual family Christmas party at our house, as well as attending Christmas festivities up with our Chicago family members.

Cousins galore!

Christmas morning was as magical as ever at G-ma and G-pa's house.  M proclaimed "I got everything I ever wanted!"  C was slightly disappointed that, despite Santa's best efforts, Santa was unable to produce a blue army tank or a green robotic shark.

Three generations with Grandpa.  C made sure to point out that he opened his mouth on purpose in every picture that night. ;-)

On the Epiphany, as we prepared to take down the tree, I forced the kids kicking-and-screaming into formal attire and insisted on a photo shoot in front of the tree.  This was my favorite of the pictures, currently still the background picture on my work computer, bringing me giggles every day!