Friday, January 30, 2009

Parent-Teacher Conferences

I love Parent-Teacher Conferences. It's so interesting to hear about the kids' personalities and strengths, and even areas for development, from their teachers' perspectives. Some things the teachers note are personality traits we have picked up on, too, and serve as a confirmation that, yeah, they do see what's special about each of them. Other things tell us that our little sweeties are growing up and maturing in ways even we hadn't noticed.

Jack's teachers call him 'Sweet Jack'--I could even see that typed up on Ms. Melando's conference summary. She says, like all boys, he'll probably have "his coming out party" one day and start playing rough (if only she saw him with best friend Noah!), but right now he's still very gentle. She talked about how he can recall little details from stories they read weeks or even months before. His pencil grasp and cutting have improved. Even they have noticed that he has more endurance these days (maybe he used to say "I tired from running" to them, too). And, apparently he's got a little crush on a girl named Claire. Yup, he's our Sweet Jack.



Ella's conference had to follow more guidelines, to highlight any development areas in preparation of kindergarten. Basically, the gist of the meeting was that Ella is ready for kindergarten and will thrive in any educational environment. Ella was assessed on over a hundred skills related to awareness of self, social skills, gross and fine motor skills, problem solving, thinking logically and symbolically, listening and speaking, and reading and writing. She has mastered all of the noted skills with the exception of recognizing a few lowercase letters and focusing on one task (not a big surprise--she does tend to get distracted). A few, more specific things the teacher noted weren't surprises as well: Ella loves to do art slowly and deliberately, she enjoys the writing station more than most of her peers, she likes to look at books during quiet time and especially loves to review the book that was read during circle time, and she is excellent at creating and completing patterns (something she loves to do at home while stringing beads). Other observations about Ella, well, I wouldn't say were surprises, but were definitely interesting. First of all, she thinks the moon is made of cheese, but that was probably just something we read in a book. Ella, apparently, is very mature compared to a lot of her peers. She can reason and understand compromises. She offers up new solutions to issues. Ella "respects" books. She plays independently or with the group, depending on what SHE wants to do. Ella can be a leader or a follower. And, she has a great desire to learn. Like I said, I'm not surprised by these things, but from the moment she gets home until the moment she's asleep that girl is wiggling and moving and jumping. To hear about how collected she seems at school is a little amazing. There's no denying, Ella is a SPAZ! She'll spin in circles until she falls over, it could take her an hour to finish her dinner if we weren't constantly hounding on her to focus and stop shaking her head around, and every free moment we're at home she's jumping on the trampoline. Each night when I'm singing goodnight songs to her in bed, she's kicking her legs around and wiggling. It is just so refreshing to hear that at school she's there to listen and learn and participate. There's no doubt that Ella is more ready than I am for her to start kindergarten.


We're so proud of Ella and Jack. They're becoming such amazing little people. It is very exciting to see them thrive and grow in an environment away from us--although, I'm still glad, at least for a little while longer, that they spend most of their time with me...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Children of Children of the 80s


Yes, Ella is sitting there listening to a story by Teddy Ruxpin. He's telling the same story I listened to over 20 years ago....and, come to think of it, I've still never heard past the first tape--do Teddy and Grubby ever get their treasure? Ella also has original, circa 1984 Care Bears and some My Little Ponies that look like my old ones (although, she does prefer the fancier, modern ones). Jack and his friends love playing with Transformers, Star Wars toys, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which I think goes to show that our generation had THE best toys). Strawberry Shortcake, Pound Puppies, and even Cabbage Patch Dolls can still be found on toy store shelves, too. I keep hoping they'll bring Rainbow Brite back. Ella would dig her. And we all know the 80s also produced some great kid shows like Fraggle Rock, Smurfs, Gummy Bears, and The Littles. We've already got our kids hooked on the Fraggles, and the rest are admittedly in our Netflix queue. However, with the exception of leg warmers and berets (both of which Ella has), the 80s can definitely keep their fashions and hairstyles--I've been reminded of that lately with all of the crazy old pictures my 80s friends have posted on Facebook...definitely embarrassing...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

T.V. Turn Off



We do so many creative projects and activities at home, we go on a ton of exciting adventures together, we have wonderfully interesting friends, and the kids learn so many new things at school each week, yet, what is the kids' #1 topic of choice?? T.V.
Ella and Jack don't watch very much t.v.--there really isn't much time for it. But, it seems like every time we talk in the car or sit down and have a conversation they start asking questions about a movie they saw or a show they watched. It's driving me nuts! Jack wants to know why Ursula is mean or when we can borrow Dumbo again. Ella keeps asking me how old Ariel was when she got married (something I don't want to answer--I think it's 16! Yikes!). Then, while at the library, Ella sees a sign for The Tale of Despereux and asks if we can see the movie--at the library! I think that's the straw that broke the camel's back--the idea that every story comes from a movie. So we have cut t.v. out completely this week. We're making our own stories and putting on our own shows. The kids actually didn't even really notice and had fun hamming it up tonight for us in an "Incredible / Ballerina" show. Hopefully soon we can spark some thought-provoking conversations that don't revolve around what some character on t.v. did...

Monday, January 26, 2009

B.F.F.

Ella and Sydney have been best friends since they were in daycare together as infants. No matter how few and far between their playdates are, these two pick right up where they left off every time. I came across a great quote recently in an old anthology I'd made for a friend in college that made me think of this friendship and all of the old friends I have reconnected with recently through this blog and Facebook.

No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth.
- Robert Southey


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Artists' Day


We were not meant for school this week. Monday was MLK day, Tuesday was a snow day, Wednesday Ella was sent home early with a fever and headache (she's fine now), and Thursday Jack and Ella both stayed home sick (Jack has a pretty bad cold). So since the kids were home from school today to rest, we needed to come up with quite a few quiet projects to keep them busy while taking it easy. I recently finished reading a book called The Creative Family and one neat idea I took from it was for us each to have our own sketchbook and to periodically sit down together and sketch. Ella had checked out Draw 50: Princesses from the library, so with a page from that book in front of us, Ella, Jack, and I sat down with our sketchbooks and drew. Ella was a bit discouraged at first (the drawings were pretty complicated) and wanted me to help her. We talked about how she should develop her own style and make the drawing her own. After a few minutes she was totally enthralled in the project and added even more detail than the inspiration sketch from the book. Meanwhile, Jack had fun doing his own "messy" interpretation. And, it was fun for me to get back to putting pencil to paper--maybe this exercise will help my handwriting...

Next, since we were all set up for art projects and we had another library book about Henri Matisse (my favorite artist as a kid), I gave the kids each some colorful construction paper and scissors and they went to work on their own cut-outs. Jack did a cool abstract piece (not afraid to use pink, much like Matisse) and Ella did a Valentine's Day inspired heart picture. This was great cutting practice and was so free form that the kids really got their creative juices flowing.

We also made heart-shaped birdseed biscuits that we hung outside on the trees and then dyed some dry pasta noodles for necklace-making and art projects later. By midday, Ella was calling it "Artists' Day" and saying I had "made one of [her] dreams come true". She has always wanted an Artists' Day, apparently. She even went so far as to say, "This is the best day ever." I said, "Better than Disney?" "Well, maybe the best day since Disney..." Nothing makes me happier than to hear from Ella, just about every other day, that we've had the best day ever.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oh No!


Ella's most beloved Puppy's nose is coming off! There isn't even any fabric or thread on the part that is unattached (not that I can sew)....what to do, what to do.... I need that mendit stuff I saw on t.v. You wouldn't believe how much Ella would dig that, if we ordered something from an infomercial. We're convinced she's destined to be a QVC spokeswoman. She gets so fired up whenever she sees an infomercial and actually starts selling it to us. She still tries to talk me into buying those water globes that water your plants as needed. And, she'd love to have a huggie (?) blanket robe thing--"they fit kids, too" apparently. But, that fabric mendit glue stuff did actually look pretty cool....

Another Reason I Love Charlotte

YESTERDAY
TODAY

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Day!

Jack had to establish the ground rules before we went outside. "So, I can eat any snow falling from the sky." I guess someone mentioned to him not to eat snow on the ground...I don't suspect PaPa because then Jack's inquiry would've been more like "Don't eat the yellow snow, right?".The snow was dry and powdery--not something this East Coast girl is used to. You couldn't pack it into big snowballs or make a snowman until later in the day when it had started melting. It was fun for "sledding" and easy to shovel, though!"Sledding" Southeast style--with a boogie board! We have the only sloped front yard on the street so I was running neighborhood kids down our hill on the boogie board all morning.Ella loved the sledding and Jack loved the snow. I'm so excited that we got to experience this in our own backyard. I love Charlotte!
Our little snow angel.This was a surprise--even Gator loved the snow. He was actually frolicking! Ready for another ride.
"Is it going to snow forever?" This is Charlotte, kid, enjoy the precious hours it is here.

...and another. What a fun snow day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning New Tricks


Sometimes it's so nice to have a day off from school, to just hang out together, and to finally have time for all of the toys and activities we always have waiting for us at home. Today, Ella and I had a chance to sit down together and read her BOB books (a collection of books to help kids learn to read, i.e., "Dot has a hat. Dot has a cat. Cat has a hat."). Ella did terrific and was reading sentences on her own! I'm so proud of her how she took right to it and how she stuck with it. She read 4 short books and I think she surprised herself. The other night when we were reading together I pointed out a few words here and there that I thought she would be able to sound out. She read the words bump, bus, hat, man, and quite a few others. She's driving this charge and, I tell ya', I'm glad she's as excited about it as I am!

Ella and Jack also did quite a bit of creative play. They took turns pretending to be a salesperson, selling the other one toys and checking them out with the cash register. They took turns without intervention--amazing! They're growing up right in front of my eyes! Jack even played with his small Legos without getting frustrated (there was apparently a Lego-throwing incident on Christmas morning). We spent over an hour doing activities in our learning workbooks. The kids loved it! What a great day it was. Good thing we enjoy our time at home because it's looking like we might be having a snow day tomorrow. Weather.com called for 100% chance of snow--now that's confidence! They're calling for 4-5". Hopefully it's good get-out-and-play kind of snow. I keep looking out the window to see if it has started. Check back tomorrow night to see how our snow day was!

So we spent a lot of time today learning new things. What was Ella's favorite new "trick" she learned today? She figured out, for the first time, how to make her own bubbles in the bathtub....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Feed the Birds

We loved watching a bird today partake in the peanut butter and bird seed treat that Jack made at school. This picture just speaks "Winter" to me--bare tree, hungry bird, gray forest behind. And it is Winter for sure up here. Tonight the low is forecasted to be 8 degrees! We'll be thinking about our little feathery friend tonight--hopefully his full belly helps keep him warm and comfy!
p.s. Thanks, Nonni and PaPa, for the zoom lens!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

She's 4, Going on 17

Ella and Jack quite often proposition me with ideas about what they should be able to do and when they should be able to do it. These little people have so much to teach us when it comes to fully living each moment, but I wish they wouldn't try to grow up so fast! Usually, it is all about when they're 7 years old. For some strange reason, 7 is some landmark age to them that opens up a whole array of possibilities. I get these questions quite a bit:

"Mommy, when I'm 7 can I watch Transformers on tv?"

"Mommy, when I'm 7 can I ride a big roller coaster?"
"Mommy, when I'm 7 can I watch Ninja Turtles on tv?" (Most of Jack's questions center around shows he's not allowed to watch.)
"Mommy, when I'm 7 can I be on a swim team?" (Some of Ella's are things she can probably even do earlier.)


This past week, however, Ella has skipped ahead a decade and now wants to look forward to what lies before her at age 17.
"Mommy, when I'm 17 will you teach me how to drive?" Yes, Ella, let's teach you how to drive when you're 17.
This morning on the way to school she hit me with one I wasn't expecting this young. "Mommy, when I'm 17 can I have my own phone?" "Ella, why do you need a phone?" "To talk to my friends." She has never talked to any of her friends on the phone. I'm not really sure where she's getting this stuff! I swear she doesn't watch Hannah Montana! And so it begins... Yikes! I'm definitely not ready for a teenage daughter!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Reenactment

Ever since Jack could walk, when he gets scolded or told he can't have/do something he puts his head down and walks quietly away. His shoulders sink and his entire body expresses his sadness. We call this his "deflated look" because he looks like one of those yard snowmen or Santas when the air blower has been turned off and they start falling over from the head. He looks completely defeated and as if his spirit has been crushed. All that considered, it is still the most adorable and endearing look and I have to admit (however cruel this may seem) it truly makes me smile to see it.

If any of you caught the Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals game last night, you saw this look several times out of Jake Delhomme, the Panthers quarterback. There were two pictures of Jake all deflated and defeated in The Charlotte Observer this morning. Since Jack has a Delhomme jersey and has mastered this look we thought it was the perfect opportunity to capture this look on film, in a fun way, for posterity's sake. This oh so sweet, signature Jack look is one I never want to forget (but honestly do hope not to see often).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Go Panthers!

As I am incredibly superstitious and, like every fan, believe that I can affect the outcome of the game I had to give the Carolina Panthers the same fighting chance I gave our beloved Gators on Thursday. So here is our good-luck, full of team spirit picture for tonight's game. Go Panthers!

Seeing Spots


Ella told us yesterday that every time as she blinks she sees "foggy rainbows". Well, at first she started telling us that she sees this all the time. I was getting very concerned, but now we've determined that it's only as she is blinking. I asked her to draw what it is that she sees. This is the completed product. She told me that she sees any of these things when she blinks. You might notice me blinking repeatedly these days--I keep trying to recreate what it is that Ella is seeing. She's seeing hearts I guess! Is she describing what we all see when our eyes are closed or should I be concerned? It's so hard to tell at this age!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Go Gators!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Rather Blustery Day

How nice to come home to a nice cup of hot cocoa on a cold, rainy, blustery day. Ella and Jack were definitely more interested in the marshmallows, but they loved their first taste of hot cocoa.









Kids really help you enjoy the little things, don't they?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

There's a First Time for Everything

Ella came to me the other day just bursting with excitement. You could tell she was totally amazed with herself. All bright-eyed and with lots of inflection she said, "Mommy, mommy! I put a toy back where it belongs when I was done using it! That's the first time I've ever done that! Can you believe it?!" Truly amazing. What a concept, eh? Hopefully I'll look back on this blog entry and see it as her moment of epiphany...instead of simply a brief moment of clarity.

Here's our little fairy trying out her wings on the new trampoline. Thanks, Nonni and PaPa, for the great indoor energy sapper!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Boys Morning Out / Girls Night In

We had the Browns over in the morning and then went out for lunch with them and then we had the Miners over for dinner. It was busy day! But, how fortunate we are to have such wonderful friends.

I just love that Ella fits right in with Jack and the three Brown boys and then Jack doesn't feel left out playing with Ella and the Miners' two girls. I hope this kind of inclusive bliss lasts for years and years.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Good Fortune for the New Year!



Happy New Year! Last night, to celebrate New Year's Eve, we went to P.F. Chang's for dinner--definitely nicer than the restaurants we usually hit with the kids. They didn't have a traditional kids menu so we had to be a little creative. We ordered crunchy green beans, brown rice, and milks for Ella and Jack, plus they could share with us. The kids were actually chanting "We love this dinner!" midway through the meal. So now I know how to get them to eat their green beans--bread them and deep fry them! Okay, so that's not very helpful in my constant battle to get Ella and Jack to eat a well-balanced diet, but at least we had a lot of fun!

Of course, at the end of dinner we each got a fortune cookie. Our wonderful fortunes give us all something to think about for this new year:

Ella's - Your virtues are priceless treasures.

Jack's - Treasure what you have. (Great food for thought coming off the Christmas season.)

Jonathan's - A small gift can bring joy to the whole family. (As long as we're not talking about a small bundle from the stork, I'm game.)

Mine - Big journeys begin with a single step. (Brooke--maybe this is the year for that triathlon...or perhaps a 5K.)

Growing up, my family's Christmas Eve tradition was always dinner out for Chinese food. I think maybe we'll just adapt that tradition for our family and make it a night out for Chinese food on New Year's Eve.
So, Happy New Year to you and yours! And, may we all have good fortune in 2009!