Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear Turn Around

Posted on 6/30/2013 07:55:00 AM
This school year has been long and hard fought.The Caterpillar finished kindergarten and didn't even kill her teacher before it was over. She did, however, try to help that teacher with her fashion sense and instruct her as to whether or not her outfits each day were correctly coordinated.  I'm betting that teacher might be happy to see her go, just for the ego boost it'll mean to not have a five year old telling her that skirt looked better with the blouse she wore last week.

I was looking up something for a friend last week and realized that last year at exactly this time, we didn't even know if The Caterpillar would be starting school in the fall. Our district has a ridiculously early birthday cutoff date to enter kindergarten.  If I lived two counties over, there would have been no question that The Caterpillar was ready to start kindergarten last year, but in our county with her birthday, she wasn't eligible and they told us she had to wait a year.  This happened with The Dormouse too, but if they're within a certain window of the cutoff date, you can petition for them to start early if they pass a readiness evaluation.  The Dormouse went into the classroom for her evaluation and read all the words on the signs of the fourth-grade classroom where the evaluator was sitting that day.  There wasn't much question in anyone's mind whether she was ready to start kindergarten or not. But The Caterpillar is a different kid.  I was pretty confident she was ready for kindergarten -- more confident that another year of pre-school was really not the right thing for her -- but not one-hundred percent. So we went through the process to see if she could enter kindergarten last fall despite the fact that the district would have her wait another year.

We had her "evaluated," which as they explain it, is certainly not a curriculum-based decision, it's a readiness-based decision, but it is also apparently a magical, secret process that no one can talk to you about because no one, including the kindergarten readiness pamphlets they bandy about, will explain how they determine readiness.  They tell you over and over that it's not a test you cannot prepare your kid for and they can't study for it.  If they are ready they just are. But then you're also not allowed as a parent to be IN the evaluation nor can you ask any questions ABOUT the evaluation.  They won't even share with you what they'll ask the kids, but through our process, someone I talked to let it slip about something The Caterpillar "wrote in her workbook," so it's really hard for me to believe they didn't just ask them to do a bunch of kindergarten worksheets and grade them.

At the time, The Caterpillar was a confident kid who had a vocabulary bigger than mine (if you take out the curse words) and she had been adding and subtracting single digit numbers in her head for a year.  I knew she was ready for kindergarten in all aspects but one: I wasn't sure about her reading readiness.  She knew all her letters and the sounds they made, but she showed almost no interest in reading.  She would get frustrated by how long it took her to sound out letters and put them together and quit trying, so if anything were to keep her out of kindergarten last year, we figured it would be her reading skills, I mean, "readiness."  So when they came back from the evaluation and told me that she met the threshold in two out of three areas, reading and emotional readiness, but not math readiness, I was incredulous. That was the one area I hadn't worried about. We petitioned the decision.  I wrote an appeal letter that not only explained my concerns clearly and eloquently but also cited research articles that supported my case and all but accused the district of "academic redshirting" to improve their test scores.  In the meantime, I had had her evaluated and accepted into a private school kindergarten and included that information in my appeal letter -  how she was going to start school regardless but I believe in and wanted to support the public school system and keep her in the same school where her sister is attending.  I guess it worked, because in July I got a response letter that allowed her to start school in the fall. I'm glad they didn't call my bluff, because we couldn't really afford the private school tuition.

She's done spectacularly well in Kindergarten, by the way; I haven't regretted that decision.  But I did worry a little about the reading.  She just wasn't interested and when she was, it was slow going.  She understood how to put letters together, but it wasn't consistent and it drove us all crazy that you help her sound out a word and then literally two seconds later, point back to the word which was still on the same page and she couldn't read it again.  Her teacher wasn't terribly concerned, but we were.  Then at some point this Spring, the reading just took off. She broke through the brick wall of educational blocks and started sprinting.  It's not like she's reading chapter books without help or anything, but she's at grade level, reading spontaneously, and when she needs help with something, it's usually some appropriate part of the English language that trips her up like "Ghoti."

I was musing all last week about what changed.  Did she just develop the maturity? Did something happen to motivate her?  Maybe someone held her hostage and told her she couldn't go until she could read that stop sign on the corner? And then we went to her dance recital.  



To many, this probably looks like a bunch of kids on stage with Tourettes Syndrome manifesting only in their legs, and it does to me too. (h my lordy, the shuffle kicks! Could they be on the beat just once?)  I've been taking her to dance class every week without fail since January.  It's not my favorite thing.  I considered quitting more than once, because dear heavenly stars, it's a pain to drive to One.More.Thing each week, and the studio we go to is less than organized and dance moms are not my favorite people and HOLYTHREEHOURLONGRECITALBATMAN.  I'll leave it at that. But it didn't occur to me - the music therapist - until last week, that a good part of the reason for the reading breakthrough probably has to do with music and movement creating order and opening neural pathways in her developing brain.  Skeptics might claim that it's just a coincidence. It all happened around the same time and there's no causal relationship.  But even if that's the case, I sure got a buttload of cute photographs.









The Stage Makeup Thing, I'll have to come to terms with later.




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It's a Mystery

Posted on 6/26/2013 07:12:00 PM
There is a house in our neighborhood where garden gnomes mysteriously appear in the yard on a regular basis. This has been going on for about five years now.  Sometimes new gnomes appear.  Sometimes they just move around the yard.  Lately, the gnomes that have been appearing are all holding a weapon or threatening in some way.

This book recently appeared in his mailbox

And now, the Gnome Army mobilizes to prepare for attack.

 
When I speak to the homeowner, I steadfastly claim to know nothing about this gnome business... 

...and will continue to do so until I die...

...despite the $70 in Amazon gnome sales charges that also mysteriously appeared on my credit card this year.

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Remembering

Posted on 6/16/2013 08:32:00 AM In:

Back in 2002, we lived through a month of craziness in the way of the Beltway Sniper Attacks.  It was a very strange and disconcerting time here and there was a mixture of legitimate fear and overreaction everywhere you turned.  I have a difficult time verbalizing what it felt like here that fall, only a year after the September 11th attacks.  We all walked around trying to continue living life like we weren't afraid of getting out of our cars at the gas station to pump gas or walking from the parking lot to the grocery store, but also carrying around that small seed of very real concern inside.  This is a memorial to those who were killed and injured that October.  It says it so much better than I ever could.

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Sunbather

Posted on 6/15/2013 08:21:00 PM In:

It's so nice of Baltimore to put these tanning beds out at the Inner Harbor for folks to use.  Wait, what's that officer? These are sculptures and not for tanning? OK, we'll move it along.

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A Whole Evening of Stuarts

Posted on 6/13/2013 10:49:00 AM
Last week our church held a talent show.  I've managed to make sure I was out of town for the last couple of these, but we happened to be around for this year's extravaganza and The Dormouse really wanted to perform the piano piece she's been learning.



What's amazing about this video clip is the self-control she demonstrated with the tempo of the piece. This is the tempo it's supposed to be played at, yet I've never heard her play this at a reasonable speed before. Rather, she enjoys practicing it as though the keys were on fire and she couldn't run out of the building until she got to the last note of the piece. I'm posting this for her teacher.  See?  Success!  Sometimes they do listen to you.   

She also memorized it and had the guts to play it in front of people without the crutch of the printed music in front of her, so I officially cede piano awesomeness to The Dormouse as I was never, ever confident enough to be able to do that like she just did, the biotch.  Wait, was that out loud?


The Caterpillar wanted to perform as well. This was a much more difficult proposition as I suggested at least a dozen things she could do and she either rejected them out of hand or wanted to do it, but refused to practice or plan in any way.  I suggested she do the dance routine she's been learning in dance class for the past six months and will perform at her recital this month - I even found a copy of the music they use, but for some reason that idea was right out.  Finally, we had a big fight about it and I told her she didn't need to perform at all if she wasn't going to prepare anything because the point of a recital or a talent show or any performance is to work on something really hard and then show off all your hard work and you can't just take up stage time with a microphone while people watch you hem and haw about what you're going to do.  Then two things happened: 1) I felt like a huge heel about it all, and 2) she agreed to practice a dance with me playing the violin for her music.  It was enough for me, so we threw this together on the morning of the talent show.

I tried a host of bluegrass tunes that I know well, but none of those seemed to work for her style of dance, so finally I pulled some Celtic music off the Interweb and she happened to learn that the name of this particular tune is The Irish Washerwoman.  Once she heard that, she steadfastly refused to wear her tap or ballet shoes and wanted to dance barefooted because, duh, an Irish Washerwoman wouldn't wear shoes, MOM.  Except for her, for the first time in her life, barefooted meant "with stockings."  I suggested she take off her stockings before we left the house, but she didn't want to and I had lost too many battles at that point to care, so I was all eh whatevs.  That is why you'll see her sliding across the floor like a runaway ice skater occasionally.  Which is actually the only reason for this post today. So one day I am able to show her this and say, SEE? SOMETIMES YOUR MOTHER KNOWS STUFF. TOLD YOU SO.






The KingofHearts didn't bring any of his talents to the event. So when, at the end, the emcee asked if anyone else who hadn't gotten a chance to "show everyone what they could do," I suggested he raise his hand and do this:




He rolled his eyes and said, "I think there's been quite enough of that already tonight."

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My Family Iz Smart

Posted on 6/10/2013 06:00:00 AM In:
Caterpillar: "How do Kindles work?"

Dormouse: "They have pixels and sensors and it's very complicated."

Caterpillar: "Daddy, how do Kindles work?"

KoH:  "Well, it's like this: they have pixels and sensors and it's very complicated."

Caterpillar:  "Oh. I see."

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Purple Flowers

Posted on 6/09/2013 05:00:00 AM
And for your Sunday nature shot, meet the Eastern Red Bud... and a bee.





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Shameless Promotion

Posted on 6/08/2013 12:36:00 PM
I can't remember how much we paid for the face paint at a local carnival last month, which I later let them wear to my symphony concertSome people in the audience that night weren't amused.  In fact, those some people weren't amused my kids were there at all. To those some people, I say, Tough Noogies.  Go find a concert that doesn't let in all children under the age of eighteen for free if you don't want to see my better-behaved-at-a-concert-than-most-adults kids sitting in the back with their father while you listen to one of the noisiest symphonies in the repertoire. Some of us in the world still think it's awesome to expose kids to classical music before they're too old to learn to hate it and hope that those efforts will contribute to the notdying of the art form.

What I do remember about the face painting booth is it was a bit more expensive than the typical face painter at a local carnival, but not a lot more.  One woman walked up while we were standing there, asked how much, and then stomped away, muttering to her disappointed kid that it was way too expensive.  I believe she expected the usual $5, teenage kid paints a heart on your kid's cheek with watercolors from a drug store and if that's what had been provided, I might have thought it was expensive too.  I had enough cash in my pocket to pay for both of the Shortlings and when she finished the first one, The KoH and I looked at each other and said, "TOTALLY worth it!" and then started scheming how we could combine the girls' birthday parties next year and make this artist the main attraction.  She based all the face paint designs she did that day to the outfit each model was wearing so every one was completely unique and individualized.

I'm not being compensated in any way to rave about and subsequently link to Face Creations by Mama Mia.  I just think that when you find someone who does their job very, very well, they should stay around for awhile and others should know about them. Go keep her in business, people.



 



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Bouncy Swingy

Posted on 6/07/2013 05:00:00 AM
I love action shots the most. If there was enough light in the day, I'd leave the shutter speed on the fastest setting and never ever change it. They love them too, but for an entirely different reason.







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Chessmen

Posted on 6/06/2013 05:00:00 AM

The KingofHearts and The Dormouse took some time at the farm last week to play a game of Very Large Chess. Not being one to ever not play his best, he kicked her butt. Not being one to ever give up, she intends to win next time.

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Curly Tree

Posted on 6/05/2013 04:37:00 PM

I wish this tree could tell me how it got these awesome curls because I spent thousands of dollars and whoknowshowmany hours in beauty shop chairs in the 80s trying to get my hair to look just like that. (It never did.)

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Minutae, Early Summer Edition

Posted on 6/04/2013 09:45:00 AM
Say hello to random.


I finally broke down and got a new phone.  I loved my old phone.  I loved the size, the user interface, the features, the feel of it in my hand... It had one of the bigger screens on the market, yet it still fit into my pocket.  I resisted for more than a year and even cheated on my phone with an iPhone for a couple of days, but then I realized that was just a youthful dalliance and I went back to my first love after successfully fixing the broken screen.  I resisted "upgrading" for the longest time, but finally caved last month, not because I needed to have the latest gadget on the market or because I was "eligible" under my plan, but because my old one just started to randomly restart itself and go through a 15-minute boot up process at the most inconvenient times, like when I'm using it to navigate to a meeting I'm late for but haven't yet committed the address to memory or when I was trying to take a picture after The Dormouse won her first karate trophy and The Caterpillar was so excited for her, she ran out of the stands, into the ring and tried lift her four-year-older sister up on her shoulders a la the final scene in Karate Kid. I tried many things to fix my phone and that kept it limping along for more than a year, but I finally gave in to the old adage, computers are like milk, when they start to go bad, the only thing to do is just throw them out and get more.

My new phone is "better" than my old one, but I still miss her.  One difference is the voice of the audible directions lady on the navigation system.  Despite it being the same program, this voice is decidedly sexier than the old one.  So now every time she says, "take the exit onto route 17," in my head I hear, "take the exit onto route 17... and I'm not wearing any underwear."


The girls both go to children's classes during the last hour of church and it's usually my practice to ask them what they learned when I go to the room to pick them up.  This is probably more to determine if any brainwashing has happened while I was away and whether I need to do damage control rather than out of actual interest in what they are learning, but it's also a topic of conversation in the car on the way home that doesn't involve the following exchange:

"Stop it." 

"No YOU stop it!" 

"No YOU!" 

"STOP!" 

"You."

"STOOOOP!" 

"That's enough. Everyone stop."

*whispers* "you stop"

"SHUT UP BOTH OF YOU! NO MORE TALKING IN THE CAR EVER FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES!" 

(You can probably guess what part of the conversation is staffed by adults.)

Aaaanyway...

Last Sunday in the car on the way home, I asked The Caterpillar, "What did you learn in church today?"

"We learned how they used to communicate in the olden days.  Like with smoke signals.  Or by writing a letter." 

Suddenly, I feel incredibly ancient. 


And in the same conversation on the way home from church, somehow a discussion of Adam and Eve came up.  Someone asked "Where did Adam and Eve live?"

The Caterpillar started in with the Arnold Horseshack method of answering a question and said, "Ooo!  Adam and Eve lived in the Enchanted Forest."

We of course laughed and then she realized she was wrong so she corrected herself, "Oh wait! No. It was the Garden of Even."

Dormouse: "Right. And the animals only came in 2s, 4s, 6s, or 8s."

See what I mean about damage control?


One of the rules at The Caterpillar's dance class is that when they wear their actual costumes for the actual performance, they are not to wear any underwear.  I know this seems strange at first, and it did to me too, until I realized that a) they wear dancers' tights that are meant to take the place of underwear and b) no matter how un-french cut any leotard might be, little girls' underwear desperately wants to be seen. So you can pull them up, you can push them under, you can roll up the leg holes, you can buy different kinds, you can make them wear a size smaller, it doesn't matter. Their underwear will be hanging down under the leg holes of the leotard within five minutes of starting to dance.  No one really cares about this in weekly practice, but on stage and for pictures, it's considered a bit gauche.   

Last week was picture day and therefore the first time I put The Caterpillar in her good dancers' tights with no underwear. After explaining the reasons (because, of course, that was an Issue) I pulled up her tights to her waist and stepped back to grab her costume.  

She wiggled her hips back and forth a couple of times and then announced:

"This feels... unusual."


You know it's gotten hot when you lose your kid at the outdoor nursery and then when you finally find her, it's here and in this position, with a look of ecstasy on her face:


Of course, then everyone else has to get into the act.



Over Memorial Day weekend, we drove out to a farm in rural Virginia. I just really wanted to pick strawberries and make jam  But when we got there the strawberry fields had been closed because they'd been picked over the day before.  As it turns out, it was one of those agritainment places. They often bother me, because they're charging ridiculous piles of money to see and do things that they would normally have to hire and pay people to do for them. But then again, my kids are city kids and we hung around because I'd like them to know the difference between a dog and a goat, just on principle.

I'm not certain this was the best place for that kind of an education.





At the same place, there was a nice pond where you could fish if you brought your own equipment.  They claimed it was stocked with fish, but I'm dubious.  What it did have, however, was a large duck, goose and pigeon population.  

So what do you do when you want to sleep under a tree next to a duck pond, but you don't really care to have flying fowl defecate on your head?  This guy has the answer.




I guess he just doesn't care about his wife.

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In the Rabbithole

Posted on 6/03/2013 04:35:00 PM
School ends next week and I've had it in my head for a couple of months now to summarize this year in a blog post. But every time I sit down to write it, this is what goes through my head:

I can't.

There are just too many conflicting feelings to even be coherent. So, while I sort that out in my head, I'm gonna just punt on the reflections for awhile.  Someone the other day asked me if I was dreading the end of school for my kids and I immediately shouted, "NO!" probably a little too loudly in everyone's ears.  Both the ankle biters need a break and I, personally, want to stop doing homework for awhile. This last month has been so full of activity that I've been unable to keep up, or breathe, or have any desire to complete anything at home other than just the bare minimum of what must be done.  

As my kids' teachers clean out their classrooms, The Dormouse has been bringing home papers that have been stored in or hung on the walls.  I usually try to look through them, but the truth is that most gets thrown away because as it turns out, you can't keep it all.  Last week, the following two poems came home in her stacks which I fortunately did not throw out.  When I read them, I felt exactly like I did as a freshman in college when I accidentally stumbled into registering for the only honors English class available that semester, Contemporary American Poetry.  With the exception of that one Robert Frost poem everyone knows, I hadn't read many poems at all, much less one written by anyone born past 1910.  I was completely floored by the incredible images from the likes of Mark Strand, William Stafford and Anne Sexton.  It was as if a world that I never before knew existed had suddenly opened up and I wanted to jump into it and say "Please sir, I want some more?"   This window into my child's brain was much the same experience.

Untitled
I am a free, imaginative girl.
I wonder how birds fly south for the winter.
I hear mockingbirds chirp.
I see the sunset in the evening.
I want to be amazing.
I am a free, imaginative girl.

I pretend to fly like a bird.
I feel the warm sun on my face.
I touch the silky red petals of a rose.
I worry when I am lost.
I cry when I am afraid.
I am a free, imaginative girl.

I understand that I choose right or wrong.
I say that everything is great.
I dream to be famous.
I try to read as many books as I can.
I hope to be an actress.
I am a free, imaginative girl.



Joy
Joy is blue.
It sounds like ocean waves crashing on the ocean shore
It smells like a fruit tart.
It tastes like blueberry pie.
It looks like new paint on a house.
Joy feels like a warm blanket on a cold winter's day.



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Azalea Blossoms

Posted on 6/02/2013 08:02:00 AM
It's azalea time in D.C. Oh happyness.




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Playing with F-Stops

Posted on 6/01/2013 06:48:00 AM



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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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