Saturday, June 30, 2007

Those Lazy Days of Summer...

... are, to misquote the B52's, not really here. We're trying to keep busy, busy, busy in an attempt to stave off the feelings of aimlessness and ennui that settle over me when I'm stuck in the house, even in the name of relaxing.

"Busy" was never an accurate adjective for summers of my childhood. I spent those days following a loosely cobbled together itinerary consisting of reading, loafing about, going to the pool, reading, and watching an unhealthy amount of TV.

Oh, the glories of summer TV. Morning TV, specifically. Afternoons were usually devoted to pool time, but the long stretch of morning hours were filled mostly by lying on the floor in front of the TV. To change the channel, I'd have to GET UP AND TURN THE KNOB. Really, kids, that's how we did it back in the Dark Ages before remote controls.

In no particular order, here's a little retrospective of some my favorite stops on the television sloth parade. I don't think I watched all of these in a single summer; there was actually a limit to how much TV my mom would let me watch. And I don't remember how old I was when I watched these shows. I suspect it was somewhere around ages 9 to 11.

Gameshows: The Price Is Right, The Match Game, Press Your Luck, $10,000 Pyramid, Joker's Wild. Words cannot describe how badly I wanted to spin that big ol' wheel with the glittering numbers on The Price Is Right. And how can you resist a show in which the contestants repeatedly chanted "No whammies, no whammies!"?

Bewitched: Poor Samantha. So much squandered potential for kicking the patriarchy in its behind. Even as a child I wondered how she could be so stupid as to even entertain the thought of obeying her husband's mandate not to use witchcraft.

Three's Company: I have no idea how this landed in the rotation. I actually hate this show. Perhaps it had something to do with the excessive effort involved with getting up to change the channel.

My Favorite Martian: I think this was a one-summer deal. I liked Bill Bixby from having watched The Courtship of Eddie's Father, enough to pique my interest in this show.

Gidget: What? Don't Look at me like that. It was on right before Bewitched. Something infectious about that young Sally Field and all that frolicking on the beach, I tell you.

Hogan's Heroes: What a jolly lot of fun those POWs had! Having heard about Bob Crane's rather sordid life, I don't think I will ever look at Colonel Hogan the same way again.

The Partridge Family: I don't care what anyone says -- this show was far superior to The Brady Bunch. It had a bit, just a hint, of edge, that even as a child I welcomed over the insipidness of the Bradys.

The Love Boat/Fantasy Island: Aaron Spelling, we miss you. Now, B- and C-list celebrities are forced to partake in reality shows like "The Surreal Life," whereas in the old days they could just hitch a ride on the Pacific Princess.

Well, that's an embarrassing list. Do you have any guilty summer TV pleasures from days of yore?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Almost Here

Camp starts tomorrow!

Camp starts tomorrow!

Camp starts tomorrow!

Camp starts tomorrow!

I am The kids are so excited.

Okay, okay, I myself am nearly salivating at the thought of being able to work during daylight hours for a few days instead of squinting at the computer through a haze of fatigue at 11:30 p.m.

What, me whiny? Never!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Well, How Did I Get Here?

Sean and Allie seem intermittently fascinated with Life Before Them. They love to hear about where Mommy and Daddy's lived pre-children -- first in an apartment and then in our current house. Their concept of time is so hazy that it's hard for them to grasp this vast expanse of years in which they did not exist. Or, for that matter, that at one point they hadn't existed at all.

Allie asked me today where (as in "Where in the Grand Scheme of the Universe") she was when we lived in our apartment.

"Was I in your belly?"

"No, not yet. You weren't even in my belly yet."

"Was I?" asked Sean.

"No, you weren't in my belly yet, either."

"Well then where was I?" Allie pressed.

I am not so good with the cosmic questions.

"Ummmm.... You weren't really anywhere yet."

"Was I a baby yet?"

"No, well, it's hard to explain, but..." Lordy, do I have to explain birds and bees already?

"Oh! Was I an egg?"

"No, not an egg yet."

"When I was an egg I was sad."

(Relieved that the conversation seems to be veering away from existential issues): "Why were you sad?"

"Because when I was an egg I wanted to be a baby. But now I'm a kid, so, no need to worry!" Having finished with this line of inquiry, she resumes pretending she is the Little Mermaid.

Phew! No worries, indeed.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Think Some Consumerist De-Escalation Might Be in Order

Allie: Mommy, let's play Target!

(It seemed so much more charming when we called it "playing store" back in my youth.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Readin', Writin', and Hand-Wringin'

My kids love to read. Okay, not actually read, as in "on their own," but "be read to." They clamor for books, ask for specific authors at the library, remember plots and characters from books we borrowed 9 months ago.

It's heartwarming for this bookworm to see, and it's lulled me into thinking that learning to read can't be so far off. We've got the constant exposure to books, we've got the good reading role models, we've got the love, man.

What we appear to be lacking is the ability and/or desire to read those books on their own. Okay, not "their." This is all about Sean.

Over the winter we seemed to be making good progress with learning to read. He was able to read a lot of words on his own, and even more with help. But at some point in the spring, he lost interest. Now when I ask him to read with me, he balks. "I don't think so," he tells me. When I press just a bit, he recoils. "I don't WANT to read!"


I know that part of my desire to have him read is selfish -- I read early, shouldn't he? Wouldn't I be just the best parent if my son could read before kindergarten? I'm not proud of these motivations, but they are very much there.

So I've backed off. I don't want to push him beyond his ability or interest at this point, and I certainly don't want him to be turned off by reading. I worry about frustrating him, or implying that reading is hard work that's best avoided. In the interest of fostering a true love of reading, rather than merely feeding my own ego (ahem), I'm now keeping the learning-to-read efforts low key. I point out words casually, in books or signs in stores or along the road, and ask if he'll read them with me. He still constantly asks how words are spelled, too, which I find encouraging.

And sometimes I ask if he wants to write some words. Unless we're at a restaurant with crayons at the ready, he's reluctant to write, too. I think part of this is related to fine-motor skills that could use some, well, fine-tuning -- his printing is almost but not quite terrible. I'm not overly concerned about it, and I don't want to be pushy. But I wonder if he should be practicing writing some letters each day so that his existing ability doesn't disintegrate over the summer.

I'm not exactly wringing my hands over this. It's just that I'm hoping my "okay, whenever you're ready" attitude doesn't harm Sean or put him at a disadvantage in school.

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Indentured Servitude, I Mean, Instilling A Sense of Personal Responsibility

I've been on a mini-campaign to institute some chore assignments around here. I want my kids to be self-sufficient -- to know how to perform basic household tasks, to be able to care for themselves and their household someday. And I want them to participate in the running of this particular household so that they do not become one of THOSE kids; you know, the ones who think their parents exist solely to cater to their every need. I've seen one too many of those, and it isn't pretty.

In some ways, it's simply easier to do everything myself, what with the endless nagging encouragement and the re-doing of assigned tasks that seem to go along with transforming the kids from the titled class to working stiffs.

Still, I think it's worth the effort. Here's the current chore list. Trust me, it's nothing terribly taxing -- it mostly consists of efforts to get them to clean up after themselves: making their beds, putting their clothes in the hamper each night, putting their plates and cups in the sink (I'm gearing up for a dishwasher-loading tutorial), setting the table, helping me put clothes in the washer and dryer, folding washcloths and hand towels, watering the flowers, wiping up spills (mostly Sean, because Allie's a little too uncoordinated to pour her own milk), and cleaning up their toys. Of all these, picking up their toys is met with by far the most resistance. And some days I am extremely disinclined to either supervise and cajole them or to clean them up myself. So we're still stepping gingerly over the toy-strewn floor surfaces every day.

Toys notwithstanding, I think it's working. Just this morning, Sean told me, proudly, that he made his bed without my asking him to.

As they get older, I'm looking forward to introducing them to the fine arts of dusting and vacuuming and laundry and bathroom cleaning and sweeping and mopping.... Heck, it'll be almost like getting a live-in cleaning crew.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Question for the Ages

Sean wants to know:

"What was Captain Hook's name before he lost his hand?"

He's beginning to think his parents know absolutely nothing...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kindergarten Part 2

Fresh from the kum-ba-yah experience of kindergarten orientation a few weeks ago, I'd been nothing but optimistic about the coming school year.

Then a few gray clouds floated into that sunny sky.

Last week Sean had his kindergarten assessment. I wasn't in the room with him, so my assessment of the assessment is based on the admittedly spotty reportorial skills of the study subject. According to Sean, he had to write his name, count to 20, name some shapes, cut a straight line, and identify letters. And *mumble mumble mumble*.

After much prodding, the most I could get out of Sean was that the teacher asked him a question, he couldn't hear her, but he didn't want to interrupt her.

I'm thinking that this was some type of comprehension or general knowledge evaluation. His preschool teacher conducted a similar test, and Sean did quite well. But now I am concerned that whatever difficulty he encountered here will somehow color the assesser's impression of his cognitive abilities. Parents are supposed to be receiving the results of the assessment at some undefined point; I've been wondering if I should contact the school to explain -- well, I'm not sure what I'd be explaining exactly. That Sean couldn't hear a question? That he isn't really slow in any way, it was all a big hearing mistake?

Can you say "helicopter parent"?

I guess I'll wait till the results come in before I come across as a pain in the neck parent before my son even starts school.

The second concern came to my attention quite serendipitously. At the park last week, I ran into a woman whose acquaintance has been limited entirely to, well, the park. I hadn't seen her since last August, and I asked how her son liked kindergarten at our school this past year.

"Well, we had some problems with the teacher."

(Heart sinking.)

Turns out the teacher was pretty poor. She was uncommunicative about anything happening in the classroom, to such an extent that the parents had no idea what was going on. Eventually they wrote a collective letter to the principal. (What response they received, and whether it made a difference, I don't know.) The teacher apparently didn't make kindergarten fun, she was too strict, blah blah blah.


I realize that at some point my kids will have a subpar teacher; I had just hoped that it wouldn't be in the inaugural schooling year! I fear that having a bad teacher in kindergarten could really tarnish Sean's opinion of school in general.

Nothing is certain, of course. The parent I talked to could have been over-reacting. Even is she was correct, though, there is a chance that this teacher could be reassigned (again -- she'd already been bumped down from a higher grade), or her contract could not be renewed (I don't think she's tenured). Even if she stays where she is, there will also be another section of kindergarten in September (two morning sessions and one afternoon instead of just one of each this past year), giving us a shot at a different teacher.

Tempest in a teapot? Perhaps. Still, I kind of wish the kindergarten forecast hadn't suddenly gone to partly cloudy.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Kindergarten, Part 1

I'd been meaning to write about some kindergarten stuff, and then came the New York Times article about red-shirting (holding kids back from kindergarten for a year).

If you're looking for a thoughtful analysis of the article, check out this post. As you could guess, a discussion of the greater socioeconomic implications of redshirting or anything else for that matter won't be going on here.

I'm not concerned about Sean's readiness for kindergarten. He turned 5 in March, so he will be around the median age group for his class. He seems both academically and emotionally mature enough for kindergarten.

Allie is the one whose birthday has caused me angst. Ever since I realized she will be missing the kindergarten cutoff in our district (October 1) by one day (and in a district that is not flexible about that date), I've obsessed over how to handle her educational path. Here's how it will shake out: Allie is starting preschool in the fall; she'll have two years of preschool and then will start kindergarten. She will be one of the oldest kids in her class, but given my experience with Sean's class, I don't imagine she'll be the oldest. Several of Sean's friends from preschool are going to transitional kindergarten in the fall instead of regular kindergarten because of their late-summer birthdays. They'll be 6 when they start kindergarten.

I'm pretty comfortable with this decision now -- given Allie's temperament and emotional immaturity I think that waiting was a good idea. (Our alternatives weren't especially palatable---she could have started preschool last year, had a second year of preschool this year, attended transitional kindergarten the next year, and THEN started kindergarten; I feared that by that point she would have been really bored. We also could have tried a private kindergarten for that third year, but even so the cutoff date for the public school would still have applied for first grade! A conundrum indeed.)

Though I think Sean is ready for kindergarten, a few areas of concern have cropped up. Since this is already long and my children are erupting in increasingly loud spats over who gets to play with the truck that plays "YMCA," I'll address those concerns in a separate post.