Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Updates

The Kindergarten

The first month of kindergarten has gotten a thumbs-up from Sean. He loves his teacher, loves school, is generally happy with life. I don't know if I ever followed up on my post about the teacher situation -- he did not get the teacher about whom I had fretted. Instead, his teacher is actually an acquaintance I'd made last year at the park. She's new to the school but not the district; I think she's been terrific so far.

I have a few quibbles with the school: inadequate supervision on the playground before school, and no aide in the classroom. With 20 kindergartners, I'd have thought the teacher would have an assistant. It's a wonder she can cram any teaching into the short 2.5-hour morning, what with the herding of cats that seems to be her primary task. Back to school night is tomorrow; perhaps I'll work up the nerve to ask about this.

The Preschool

Allie seems to like preschool -- once she's there. Getting in the door is tricky. She hesitates each morning in front of the classroom, and sometimes I have to lift her up and carry her into the room. After she's settled in, she's happy. Mostly.

On Wednesday, she hit a boy on the face. When the teacher asked her what happened, she completely shut down -- folded her arms, glowered, refused to speak. The teacher recognized this as atypical behavior for Allie (she knows Allie from seeing her in Sean's classroom last year) and surmised that the attack was probably provoked. I asked her how Allie seemed to be getting along with the other kids -- Allie can be as sweet as pie one minute and demanding and difficult the next. The teacher said that Allie does play with the other kids sometimes, and sometimes just prefers to do her own thing. That's about what I expected. Hitting, to be honest, I did not expect. She has never hit anyone other than Sean, and that in itself is rare; it's pretty much the response of a desperate woman at the end of her rope.

After some gentle and persistent prodding later in the day, I coaxed the following information out of Allie: The boy pinched her, so she hit him. She wouldn't tell me the boy's name or anything else. She wouldn't even look at me while we were talking. I dutifully delivered the "Use your words, not your hands" sermon. Secretly, though, I'm kind of glad she stood up for herself. I'd just prefer that she had chosen a less physical response. And I hope this is not the beginning of a behavior pattern.

The Soccer

Both kids are playing soccer, Allie for the first time. I'd have to say that it's been a wash for her so far. The coach doesn't seem to have any idea how to engage a bunch of 3- and 4-year-olds in anything resembling an organized manner. Instead we have hodge-podge soccer drills, and players who wander off the field periodically. Or, in the case of my daughter, refuse to go onto the field at all. For the first 35 minutes of our 45-minute soccer "game" this past Saturday, she just sat on the sidelines. "I'll play at home," she told me. Finally, after an extensive amount of encouragement, she agreed to go on the field with me. By the end of the last 10 minutes, she was having a great time. "Do you want to go back next week?" Jeff asked her. "Oh, yes!" she said. Here's hoping she agrees to 15 minutes of playing time.

Sean had started off spring soccer a bit slowly. By the end of the season, he had shown a lot of progress. Progress that, it seems, completely dissipated over the summer. He is still enthusiastic about soccer, and loves his coach. He enjoys going to practice and to the games. On the field, however, he traipses about as if he were in his own little private fantasy world. He doesn't seem the least bit engaged with the game itself. If the ball is here, then Sean is half a field away, skipping toward the scene of action with all the competitiveness of someone going to a tea party. I don't really care if Sean is a terrific athlete. And it might just be that soccer isn't his sport. Maybe an individualized sport would be better for him. Maybe I should just chill out about it and let him have fun. But would a LITTLE effort hurt?

The Self-Deprecating Conclusion

If you've slogged through this dull post, thank you! Good gravy that was boring. Now you know why I don't write long updates very often.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dinner Menu: Pasta with a Side of Linguistics, Hold the Expertise

At dinner, the kids were quizzing each other on what sounds different letters make. (Unprompted by me, I might add. Because I'm not above initiating that sort of thing when there's a lull in the conversation. I thought it was pretty cool that they were doing this on their own.)

Never one to miss a chance to grind an educational point into the ground, I joined in. "What two letters make a shhh sound together?" I asked.

"S and E!" Sean replied proudly.

"No, not those two letters, " I answered primly. "S is one, what's the other... Oh. Okay, let me explain this." See, I do catch on eventually.

"Your name, Sean, is actually an Irish name. In the Irish language, S and E do make a 'shh' sound when they're next to each other in a word. But in English, those two letters usually make a different sound."

Picture the blankest of stares in response. Time for visual aids.

"Here's another way to write your name [writes in my best printing, which is still fairly awful]: Shawn. And like this: Shaun. So Sean, Shawn, and Shaun have different spellings, but they all sound the same!"

Either he was humoring me, or the lightbulb popped on. "Oh, I get it! So S and H make the shhh sound in Shaun."

I guess it's a good thing we didn't choose Siobhan as Allie's name.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Budding Anglophile

(Rebecca might appreciate this.)

Jeff's been spending a fair amount of time in London lately. His job calls for a lot of European travel, and London seems to be the hot spot. I think it's starting to affect him.

Peering into the refrigerator this morning, he asked, "What's in the take-away container?"*

Hmmph. Here in the United States, sir (summoning my inner Stephen Colbert), we call it a take-OUT container.

*Leftover pasta from a restaurant dinner one week ago, if you must know. Because, umm, I want to teach the kids about microbes. Yeah, that's it! (Doesn't that sound more responsible than "because I keep forgetting it's there"?)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Little Gourmand

I've chronicled our struggles with Sean's poor eating habits before. For those of you just tuning in, here's a recap: See your right hand? With five fingers on it? That's about how many types of food Sean would eat. A veritable smorgasbord of grains (noodles, waffles, bread, bagels), a smidgen of dairy (grilled cheese, string cheese), an additional gram or two of protein (soy milk), plus more graham crackers and peanut butter granola bars than you can shake a stick at.

It boiled down to this: Park the boy next to a field of wheat and he'd be perfectly content.

Were we happy with this? Nope. Did we try every single piece of advice floating in the parenting ether about how to encourage picky eaters to embrace new foods? You betcha. Did any of it work? Not in the slightest.

We never gave up, though. We continued offering him whatever food we were eating, continued to make sure he was exposed to fruits and vegetables and nongrain food. We tried not to make food a Big Deal, we kept our anguish private.

Ever so slowly (think geologic epochs), a shift occurred. Somewhere along the way, Sean became more ... amenable, I guess, to trying certain food. He agreed to eat chicken fingers at a restaurant. ONLY at a restaurant. Then, over the summer, he grudgingly accepted an invitation to eat my homemade chicken nuggets (so fancy, that chicken cut up into small pieces, dipped in egg, and coated in panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese!).

Next up: carrots! He now can eat a carrot without complaining! Flush with excitement, I felt brave enough to attempt weaning him from his mainstay: ramen noodles (*Hangs head in shame* I know, it's probably healthier to eat cardboard. I try to expiate my guilt by telling myself that, hey, at least I don't put the 900 mg of sodium, I mean flavor packet, on them.) It's been a battle, but he'll now eat multigrain pasta.

This week, dear readers, he has been eating apples! Small bites, to be sure, and not with much enthusiasm. But the fact that this super-picky eater will now eat a meat, a vegetable, and a fruit makes me inordinately happy.

Today, apples, tomorrow, edamame! Or maybe at least celery.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How Green Was My Conscience

So we bought a car last week. Between an air compressor that went kaflooey and a variety of hoses that were gnawed apart by small woodland creatures, our trusty sedan had just exceeded our age-to-upkeep-expense ratio. (Okay, it's not an exact number; it's more a general sense of how much money we wanted to sink into maintaining an elderly vehicle.)

The new car is a hybrid. For a while I thought pretty highly of ourselves for purchasing a car that minimizes our carbon footprint. I envisioned a halo shining above us as we tooled down the road, spewing fewer emissions than all those SUVs towering over us.

Now, however, I am inclined to think that the purchase is mere ego-stroking. Considering all the resources that went into producing the car, does it really matter all that much that it causes less pollution to drive? In the battle against global warming, it feels as if my buying a hybrid car is the equivalent of hanging a "We Support Our Environment" banner outside my house.

It makes me wonder if all my attempts to be green are also merely chump change. I try to do my part, but the efforts seem paltry: using cloth bags at the grocery store (when I can remember to bring them), cloth napkins instead of paper ones, "green" cleaning products, fluorescent light bulbs, Sigg water bottles .... All good things, yes, but if I were committed to the cause, shouldn't I push for true sacrifice, for action that actually might hurt a bit? Like not using the air conditioner in the summer, and keeping the house at a cool temperature throughout the winter. Like not buying so much damn stuff all the time. Like choosing local produce and less packaged food.

Oh, I have terrific reasons for not doing all those things: You know, I get so HOT in the summer, and why should I be HOT? And my God I hate winter enough as it is, should I freeze my way through it as well? And we NEED all this stuff, honest. Fresh local veggies? Great, except I don't even LIKE vegetables.

Can you say "lame"? I knew you could.

I'm hoping that I can turn this self-loathing into something slightly more productive than a whiny blog post. I'm hoping that it will motivate me to do more, buy less, that sort of thing.

And in the meantime, those chipmunks had better stay far away from that environmentally friendly new engine.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Puzzle Me This

I am not a puzzle person. The prospect of methodically assembling puzzle pieces into a whole does not entice me. After all that effort, what do you have? A picture that you will disassemble and put back in the box. This is not very Zen of me, I know, but in this respect I am all about the destination, not the journey.

My nephew, on the other hand, loves puzzles. The more complicated the puzzle, the better. He has a gift for putting things together that frankly I am in awe of. He's just 10, but his spatial awareness and logical mind have long been in evidence.

Lately, he's been building three-dimensional puzzles. I admit that having a hefty building as the culmination of all that effort rather than a flat picture is appealing. But to get there? To be faced with THIS at the outset?

Makes me want to weep uncontrollably.

My nephew, however, is thoroughly undaunted by the 3000 pieces it will take to assemble a facsimile of Venice. I told him to take a picture of the puzzle when he's done building it. If he does, I'll post the photo here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just So I Don't Forget

Some cute things just need to be recorded lest they leak out of my mind. Both are from Allie:

Upon reading a book about dinosaurs: "Mommy, look at that big Dinosaurus rex!"


Apropos of nothing, in the car on the way to school: "Will I marry Sean when I'm grown up?"

Oh my. I hope not.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

First Day of Preschool

It was Monday, actually. I am running several paces behind schedule.

This was no more apparent than on Monday. All summer I had wondered, and sometimes worried, how I would manage the pick-up and drop-off of two kids in two different schools with concurrent school hours. Both start school at 9 and end at 11:30. Sean's school is a few blocks away; Allie's is a 10-minute drive.

Dropping off in the morning works out okay; Sean goes first, then Allie. With luck Allie will just make it to school by 9:00. Dropping off is more complicated. And given Monday's debacle, I'll need to refine my original plan.

Here's how it went: Sean was dismissed promptly at 11:30. He and I ran to the car, then battled traffic and a torrential downpour to get Allie. We arrived at her classroom, sopping wet from our sprint from the car to the building, at 11:45. Allie was the only child in the classroom. And the building, I think. She seemed content enough putting together a puzzle, but I felt just awful that on her first day of school she had to wait so long for me. Once I arrived, her teacher had to bustle out the door to pick up her son from his kindergarten (she wasn't late, but it just made me feel worse somehow).

Today we're trying something different. I'm going to pick up Allie first; she'll have to leave a bit early, but at least it will be during her playground time and she won't be missing too much. If the traffic gods are pleased with me, I'll then be able to arrive at Sean's school at 11:30. In my favor is the fact that traffic going home from Allie's school is always lighter than in the opposite direction.

In a few weeks this timing conflict won't be an issue because Allie will be starting what her school calls "Lunch Bunch," a program in which she can stay at school for lunch and additional playtime.

Oh, and the first day itself? "I forget," was the report I received from Allie.

At least I know she looked cute.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My Daemon

This was too cool to pass up. Care to assess the accuracy of my daemon? It is starting out as a spider, which seems ironic given my arachnophobia. Thanks to Chichimama for the link.


Friday, September 07, 2007

And So It Begins

I got only mildly choked up in the schoolyard yesterday morning. I don't think Sean noticed -- he was too busy taking in all the hub-bub as he waited to go into his classroom.

He had a big smile on his face when I picked him up. He said kindergarten was great. Just don't ask him for specifics. Where I want a detailed, minute-by-minute description, he prefers to give me a simple summary statement.

I think he still doesn't understand what going to school every day entails. As he was dawdling over breakfast a few minutes ago, I reminded him that we didn't want to be late this morning. "Where are we going?" he asked. "School, remember?" I said. "Oh, right!"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not Exactly My Plan for the Night Before Kindergarten

It was a lovely evening -- clear skies, cool breeze, the last night before the chaos of the school year descends. The kids were playing a game of ring around the rosy with our neighbors across the street. The grownups were chatting about back to school plans.

The kids' game ended suddenly as one neighbor's older daughter erupted in shrieks of pain. Almost simultaneously, Sean did as well. After a few panicky moments we discovered that ring around the rosy had disrupted a yellow jacket nest.

We hustled our kids indoors. Sean was screaming, Allie was unhurt. While I was tending to his sting, I felt a sharp pain in my own arm from a yellow jacked that had hitched a ride inside my shirt. I tried to be nonchalant about it, but even my slight wince set Sean off even more: "Get it out! Get it out! Make it go away!" I'm not sure if my inept swatting succeeded.

Pulling Sean's shirt off of him, I saw another angry yellow jacket still on his pale, smooth skin. This one I killed for sure. Fueled by fury, I was, at this creature who hurt my child. After removing the stinger (that scraping with a credit card suggestion really does work), I cleaned and tended to all the stings. Four of them! I can attest that just one is rather painful.

Sean's hysteria waxed and waned over the next 45 minutes or so. He was both in pain and terrified that there were more yellow jackets in the house. I haven't seen him this upset since he woke up from anesthesia last year after his tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. Finally, the Benadryl appeared to kick in and he relaxed. By the time he was in bed, he seemed back to his normal self.

Throughout all this, Allie was remarkably helpful. She relished the role of primary tissue- and and comfort item-fetcher. She does need a little instruction in bedside manner, however; as Sean was sobbing that he couldn't lift up his arm (site of three stings), Allie noted that since SHE hadn't been stung, she could in fact lift up her arm. "See?" she asked, raising and waving her arm. "Umm, sweetie, I'm so glad you didn't get stung, but it might make Sean even sadder to see that right now," I said, to no apparent avail: "Oh, okay. See, Sean? I didn't get stung!"

My neighbor called to check on Sean; her daughter had just two stings. Next step, I suppose, is for our other neighbor, around whose tree the kids were playing ring around the rosy, to tend to the now-disturbed nest. I don't think we'll be playing over there any time soon!

I'm sure that tomorrow, the first day of kindergarten, will be far less traumatic.