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!'"