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Since I just entered all of these into a spreadsheet, here are the rising 3rd graders who will be Dillo's cohort at the gifted magnet public school:

Adam, Addison, Sophia, Reid, Analucia (Lucy), Nicolas, Marie, Sebastian, Jaydrian, Rishika, Brooklynn, Simone, Love, Benjamin, Graham, Withwala, Ea (F), Courtney, Nicholas, John, Peter, Charles, Benjamin, Barrett, Leandros, Samanyu (Sammy, M), Selima, Tonee, Tyler, Theo, Nelson, John, Jameh, Owen, Gavin, Sheridan, Ravanth, Iraj (M), Nia, Aahan, Ian, Elizabeth, Niranjan, Hanniel, Megan, Kirsten, Stefan, Walker (M), Peter, Dennis, Fatima. I only know about 10 of these kids; where gender is not obvious and I know, I have noted. (Soooo many boys.)

Dillo seems to have grown up a lot lately. He turned 8 last month. He managed 2 weeks with my mother without parents pretty well. He's about 4'4", not sure of weight - quite skinny to look at. He sits in a booster in our car, but we don't worry about it for other people's cars. His last of 8 adult incisors is coming in, finally; he hasn't lost any other baby teeth yet. He's fair and a little freckly, definitely brown-haired and not at all blonde. Still has lovely big blue eyes. He's been doing karate over the summer and will start group piano lessons this fall; not sure about continuing soccer. Probably will continue karate. He loves science and reading nonfiction and the Warriors series and stuffed animals and picked a Lego Eiffel Tower kit for his birthday present. He's still a cuddly kid, and still on the shy/intellectual side.
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I think everything is from the Hearthsong catalog. Last year was MUCH cuter.

1. Squad copter
2. Space age crystals
3. 10 in 1 super set
4. huggle pod
5. Hexbug - crab
6. Plasma Ball
7. Sipfy Mini Luge
8. GBOP
9. Slackline with training line
10. remote control Hamer Head
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This is the one who didn't get the gene for spelling.

1. relly x 100,000 big box or bag of twix
*2. everything circled in big A.G.D.(american girl doll) mag. (mag. comes with list) [list was paperclipped to the catalog]
3. red corduroy super skinny pants (strechy!)
4. salon date with mom! :)
5. chocolate orange
6. own set of bathroom towles
7. cute stuff for forever house room (style = tooter [Tudor] colores = black white blue/gray furniture = black + bunk beds)
8. girl-friend for Morese [Maurice is a stuffed monkey puppet] (he's getting lonly)
9. ipod mini!

[added after we visited the zoo]
Zoo Gift Shop
10. manity [manatee] stuffed animal
11. purple owl watch
12. glass animals (at least 3)

*last year you did not relly get me any A.G.D. stuff :(. Could you get me some this year! :)
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Dillo has always processed stuff at bedtime, talking out new thing he's learned. I have memories of him saying, "Ess Tee Oh Pee STOP," right before falling alseep, and a long conversation about place value in arithmetic. We still lie in bed with him before he falls asleep (yes, he's 7), but mr. flea almost always does it now. Last night both kids were still awake when I got home at 9:30 so I visited a very coughy Casper, and then Dillo cried and acted left out, so I went to lie with him too. I got him to stop crying and lie quietly and eventually he started saying, "I have an albus shirt. Albus Dumbledore has an albus beard." Then, "White shirt mine is, not my shirt is white." Yes, he's taking latin (the whole school has it an an elective), and yes, they're doing colors and he is trying to sort out why latin word order is not like English word order and maybe getting the glimmerings of noun cases.
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And the homework. Tonight Dillo - in a different room, with me - kept buttinskying in Casper's spelling studying with mr. flea. Every 15 seconds, literally, as I kept trying to get him to focus on his own work. In extra obnoxious news, he can spell most of the words that she can't, and was explaining quirks of English to her (she was frustrated, like, "Why does would have an L?" and he was explaining that even walk has an L.) I can only imagine how annoying it is to have a 3 years younger brother who can spell better than you can. However, this could not excuse kicking him in the shins.

I am in a bad mood because I am working Saturday and Sunday of this week (though I have Thursday and next Tuesday off), and I owe a short academic essay to someone (now 1 week overdue), and I need to email more delegation stuff about the book fair at school (a deadline is this week), and I am going into the Uni on Thursday to meet with a co-author (assuming e write the paper) and work on some classics stuff, and next Tuesday I am supervising volunteers at school. So I have tons of stuff to do besides my actual job and making the children do homework, and almost no time to get any traction on it.

Okay, solution time: bite the bullet and email-delegate the book fair stuff tomorrow at 6am when I have energy; the Tuesday volunteering thing is a GOOD thing, because I am teaching other people to do my volunteer work so I can delegate to them in the future; the academic essay is drafted and I can work more on it tomorrow at work since I am on email monitoring all day; the classics stuff on Thursday is no-deadline except self-imposed.

I just wish it didn't take near-continuous reminding and herding to get the children to do anything at all. It takes so much out of me. It was almost easier when I just brushed their teeth, instead of asking them 47 times over the course of 20 minutes to do it and reminding them when they get distracted and forget (Casper, in particular, has a tendency to start looking at herself in the mirror and 10 minutes can pass without her brushing.) It was certainly faster.

My baby!

Sep. 17th, 2013 08:59 pm
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Today Casper left school as a walker, met up with 3 6th grade girls (2 the other girls on her soccer team) and they walked to the public library (about a block away, through a very preppy posh shopping district) and did their homework. Then a parent picked them up and took them to one family's house and fed them, and took them to soccer.

Everything was fine, of course, but we had no contact (not that we were expecting any) from school drop-off at 9am to soccer pick up. I am a little bit like, "My Baby!" and kind of pleased that this was no big deal. Casper said the 6th graders did tend to imply she was a bit of a baby, but she thinks they thought she was only in 4th grade, not 5th. They seem like nice girls.

Dillo, for his part, asked for a spelling test tonight at snack time. Because mr. flea was helping Casper study her spelling words Monday night, and he was all boastful that HE could spell those words. (Which he can. His spelling instincts are pretty good, while hers are abysmal, although he did get caught up with "goat" this afternoon (he tried "gote" and thought that seemed wrong, but couldn't decide what was right so he stopped at chickens.) He's getting gifted testing on Oct. 5 to see if he can get into the gifted program, and I am a little worried. It's a CogAt test, which he had in K and just missed the gifted cutoff (95%ile). But if he doesn't make it this round they also take results from the content-based grade level tests he'll take later this year, and I suspect he will ace those.
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Zachary Ethan
Rumi
Palmer (F)
August
Evora
Aerin, Devon, and Drew (F)
Angelica Rebecca and big brother Hugo
Lila, big brother Jonah
Henry Martin
Olivia Ines, big brother Joaquin
Charlie Ray
Emilia
Grace Hartley
Martin
Ayla J.
V. Grant
Mercedes "Mimi" Myers
Ada Zeynep
Jacoby
Henry
Fulton Keverling (M)
William Henry
Daphne Gautam
Juliet Jay
Ryan Rose (F)
Ryan Coddington

Note there were births reported from only the high school classes '94-'00, now aged approximately 30-36, and clearly in the prime childbearing years for the upper middle classes.
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This week was spring break, and mr. flea took Friday off and we went down to Mammoth Cave National Park, in KY. It's about a 3 hour drive, via Louisville. Friday we got there at about 2pm (they're on Central time) and set up camp in the very nice park campground. We headed over to the Visitors' Center and luckily got tickets to the self-guided tour of the cave from the Historic entrance right before they stopped selling them at 3pm. There would have been some unhappy kids if we had not gotten into the cave on Friday. The self-guided tour is actually rather dinky, but for the first day it was good enough. mr. flea managed to hit his head on the cave roof. Friday evening we went to a presentation by a ranger in the amphitheater after dinner, and this day's subject was animals in the cave, illustrated by a bunch of really great and often startling photos by the ranger's husband. Some actual animals helpfully showed up, including deer concealing themselves very well in the dusk, and bats flying overhead.

It was our chilliest night ever camping, probably down to about 40, but everyone was plenty warm in the tent. It was getting out of bed that was a little more problematic. But we made it out to the Cedar Sink trailhead at 8:45 for a hike with a ranger billed as Wildflowers and Water. This particular ranger was much more into the latter than the former, and mr. flea talked to him quite about about the hydrology of the region; a large area of farmland outside the park is karstic topography, dimpled like a golf ball, and it all drains into the cave. Apparently the park has had good success working with farmers to reduce water-borne pollutants. There were some wildflowers, but not as many as are usual for the date as we've had a cold spring. We saw some trillums and trout lilies, and the ranger said that in a week the sink area would be in full bloom. The sink itself is huge and an underground river surfaces in it. The kids listened well to the ranger, even Dillo who was quite serious.

We drove out of the park to a little town - really, an intersection - called Pig, KY, where the chocolate pie at the Porky Pig Diner had been recommended. Sadly for the children the pie-maker relied rather heavily on cool whip, which was not to their taste, but mr. flea was perfectly happy. We had a lazy lunch at camp and worked on the Junior Ranger booklets we'd picked up the previous evening, a great program they apparently have at 400 National Parks but don't always advertise well (we heard about it and asked here). Great age-appropriate workbook activities drawing on various displays and presentations. Then, with great excitement, off to the Visitor's Center for a 1:30 New Entrance tour. We went by bus to the New Entrance, with our headlamps at the ready. The first stage is a long descent, mostly very wet, on very narrow metal staircases (good non-slip treads, though) through vertical shafts. Then there's some slow up and downs through horizontal tubes - some eroded directly by past water flow, others with broken edges where the rock was weakened by water and broke off. The last section of this tour includes the Frozen Niagara room, the only area of the cave with stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, and flow rock. As we were about to leave we saw a single tiny bat (brown bat?) hanging near the Frozen Niagara entrance. We also saw cave crickets thoughout.

The kids loved it, and we thought it was pretty good, too. They got their Junior Ranger badges, and we did quesadillas over the fire, and the kids took up whittling in pursuit of the perfect marshmallow stick. Casper proved very good at starting fires both nights - she did Friday's nearly by herself - and Dillo was very eager to help but had a lot of trouble the whole trip with impulse control and listening to safety directions (he ran out into a road with his binoculars once, without even looking, which I'd had said was very unlike him!)

Saturday night was warmer, and Sunday we did the short ranger-led walk on Slavery at Mammoth Cave and then headed home.

Things I'd like to remember for future trips: a hatchet and a whisk broom would be useful; we need to find the sleeping mats and water bottle that are lost in our house somewhere; we should make out a Kaper chart like the Girl Scout do to make the kids help out more with camp chores.
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New Year's has turned into a difficult holiday for me the last few years. Instead of a happy taking stock and striving for new accomplishments in the coming year, it tends to be "sum up all your failures of the year, and oh by the way the things you plan to resolve are exactly the same things you resolved and failed at the last 4 years in a row." What the hell kind of holiday is that?

It's exacerbated by the fact that most of the most active people I follow on twitter (classics and digital humanities types) are currently attending national conferences (AIA/APA, MLA, and AHA are all this weekend) and I feel like a professional failure. I know that in the long term the odds of my career continuing and being satisfactory are good, but I am having a hard time keeping my eye on the long term. On a day-to-day basis I am keeping busy (personally), and keeping an oar in professionally (I attended two by-invitation professional meetings this year, was asked to review grant proposals for a prestigious funding body, and have been asked to develop a summer week-long course). But every couple of weeks I have panics that I don't actually have a JOB and may never again. Work and busy-ness is nice, but so is money, everyday feedback, coworkers, and professional esteem.

The year overall was good. The kids are attending a school that is better for them than last year's, and they are doing well. They are good kids. mr. flea is happy at work and seems well-regarded, and this year managed to become An International Expert in His Field (was invited to lecture in China.) Me not working means less stress on me and everybody, and we've dealt just fine with the lower income. Our house in Georgia is rented through July, and maybe it will sell this spring. We've set up 529 college funds for the kids, thanks to some family generosity. We have nice things, a safe and warm and fairly pleasant place to live, plenty to eat, and more wealth and security as the average family. I am not a failure; I am doing my best to balance what's good for my family and myself in the face of a challenging economy and the stresses of middle-class life. Right?
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We finally got a school directory. Although this school has Asian students adding some name diversity, as a rule it is much less interesting than our school in Georgia in terms of names. There is ethnic diversity at the school, but little class diversity, so kids of all ethnicities tend to have upper middle class white people names.

Girls: Elle, Ellie, Kyla, Kayla, Chaya, Lila, Lila, Lily, Emma, Amy, Savannah, Vivienne, Danika, Alexandra, Reilly, Delaney, Sena.

Boys: Alexander, James, Elliott, Nicholas, Noah, Charlie, Henry, Owen, Owen, Max, Robert, Robert, Sean, David, David, Jonah, Matthew, Tate, Gabriel, Brayden, Kaden, Rohan (South Asian, not a LOTR fan), Raj, Ajai, Ziyin.

One thing that's interesting to me is that in all of the gifted classes at the school, boys outnumber girls, usually at about the rate seen above in the 4th grade. I know that at extreme outliers males tend to test higher (and lower) than females, but the requirements for the school are only testing in 95%ile, and as far as I know there's no inherent gender disparity in giftedness at that level. But my suspicion is that gifted boys are not as successful in mainstream classrooms, as a result of the way boys and girls are socialized at school and in our culture generally (girls - organized, high achieving, good behavior; boys - disorganized, underachieving, boredom causes disruption). I would guess that of the percentage of kids who are eligible for gifted, more girls than boys are already flourishing in their schools, and parents are reluctant to change something that works, whereas more boys are not doing well in their schools, so when they test into gifted, the parents are open to change.
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Dillo: If Mitt Romney wins we'll have to move...
mr. flea: Why would we have to move?
Dillo: Because he's going to shut down the EPA.

He has, in fact, threatened to do so - at one point in the primaries every single candidate was vowing s/he'd shut down the EPA - but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't actually do it.
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Seven and a half years ago, we bought a comfy chair at the Mitchell Gold outlet in Hickory NC. (I think I blogged about it.) It had a faded red slipcover, and quickly became known as "the pink chair." A lot has gone on in the pink chair: nursing, reading, cat sleeping... It's basically where I sit in the house.

The cover faded, and got scratched up by kneading cats, and about a year ago developed holes, which got covered by fabric over the arms, but the seat cushion was developing holes. Today I got a new slipcover in the mail (viva ebay), and the pink chair has become the blue chair.

It's sort of a weird change. The cover is really nice, and soft, and I like the blue, but I'll miss the pink chair.
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Dillo and I are in his bed, discussing the teachers at his school.
me: So, of all the teachers and the other grownups who work at your school, who is your favorite?
Dillo: My favorite is the lady who works in the library in the mornings, and arranges the books.

(That lady is me.)
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After I suggested she get out her times tables flash cards last night after dinner, Casper confessed that she didn't actually want to work on her basic math facts, but the self-guided conference required them to choose an area that needed effort, and she couldn't think of anything better. I pointed out that the fact that she didn't want to work on her basic math facts did not negate the valid point she herself had made, that her lack of mastery was holding her back.

I giggled on the inside. She half-heartedly flipped through the flash cards for a bit.
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Because school doesn't start until 9:15, they do conferences in the early mornings. So we hauled our sorry western-edge-of-the-time-zone asses out of bed at 7am in the full dark, had a mishap involving hot coffee and Dillo's ear, nearly lost mr. flea when he didn't realize we were in the car waiting for him and started wandering off down the street on foot, and got to school at 7:45. (I pointed out that last year, when I was working, we left the house at 7:20 every morning. Nobody believed me.)

Casper led her own teacher conference, following a script she'd prepared as a class exercise. She identified her strength as organization, and a weakness as spelling. She also noted she enjoys and is good at group work. She identified assignments she felt were her best work in all 4 subject areas, and assignments where she felt her performance showed a need for growth. She decided to focus on her math, noting her grade of 100% on a recent homework assignment made her feel good. She said she wanted to work on her basic math facts (i.e. the time tables) so she could succeed on future assignments like that.

Wow! I agreed with almost everything she said. She is doing very well at staying on top of her assignments and being responsible for getting work done, with almost no need for checking by me. I know that this issue is a big one for many 4th graders, and I feel like she's really stepped up in this area. She knows she's weak in spelling and basic math facts, and wants to work on them (!). We'll see how well she follows through, given that she hated the flash card times tables project of the summer and resisted it often.

I also met with all 4 of her teachers, and the school psychologist, last week, about assessment for possible interventions (the required precursor to any formal testing for a learning disability). Her reading teacher did an assessment and reported she was reading at a 3rd grade level. Her math teacher said she was able to do the work and understood concepts, but she was very slow. The teacher was already cutting down the number of problems she was giving Casper for in-class work, to allow her to have a reasonable chance of completing them in the allotted time; the example was she have Casper 3 problems, when some students were doing 20. (Whoa.) The Social Studies teacher, who has the most experience working with gifted kids, and who is Casper's favorite, noted that her test scores on file were very mixed - overall she passes, but she either excels at a section (scores "enrichment") or bombs it (scores "reteach.") They noted that she is compensating for her struggles remarkably well, that she works very hard, that she knows where she has trouble and asks for help, and that she is cheerful about it all, and does not seem to be ashamed. This made me really happy. The next step is some assessment by the school psychologist to try to pin down what exactly are the areas she has trouble with. (I've been doing reading and I am pretty sure she is dyslexic - probably mildly so, and really good at compensating for it. Among the things that make me think this are her troubles with learning to read, especially around inability to sound out words, coupled with problems memorizing times tables, which is a very common symptom of dyslexia apparently.)

Dillo's conference followed a more traditional format. The teacher said he was doing very well, and there were no areas that seemed to challenge him or that he needed to work on. The class is 12 K students and 6 1st graders, but she is mostly teaching at the first grade level. Dillo needs no help, and generally finishes in-class work with extra time, which he is allowed to use reading. She sat a new student next to him because Dillo is good at helping others figure out how to do their work. She mentioned she might start looking to pull some 2nd grade work out for Dillo and a couple of other kids who are at his level. I ran into the paraprofessional for his class yesterday (whom I like and suspect is actually a better teacher than his teacher), and she is working with the top readers, and wants to get them into reading some chapter books at the Magic Treehouse level. (I was in the school library showing her what we have.) He's also doing just fine socially; he's got good classroom behavior down but is friendly with the students and has a friend at every table. She recounted social interactions with the 2 boys Dillo has identified as his two best friends.

As a note about "gifted", Casper, who is pulling low Bs, is reading below grade level, and has other struggles, is the one who tested into gifted. Dillo, who is working well above grade level and has not yet had anything academic challenge him, took the same gifted test Casper did (CogAT) and while he scored high, did not qualify as gifted on the first go-round (they test 'em all in K, and re-test the ones that score high but don't qualify later on.) So there's that. I would like to see Dillo challenged, as I think Casper's struggles have overall been a boon to her, in terms of character development. We're talking about music lessons or sports as a way to introduce the idea of working hard for a result to Dillo, since right now school is not going to be able to provide that.
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From http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/realestate/city-to-suburb-trial-by-rental.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

Aidan and Dylan (m); parents Alistair and Jennifer (both British)
Sam (f) and Eli; parents Brian and Kara
Isla, Avery (f), and Jagger (m); parents Jonathan and Amber
Georgia and Constance; parents Judith and Scott

(not all of them are actually from the UWS)
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No, not Who.

I dragged the kids on bikes to the doctor together - about 2 miles there, then 2 miles back to school. They were okay with it, although Casper complained some, largely because she had a heavy backpack. Bad luck - the math textbook had come home. Dillo got his training wheels off a couple of weekends ago, so he is gung-ho for any biking, and Casper had a brand new (Craigslist) bike after her old bike got stolen off our porch yesterday. We got a bike rack for the car this weekend, so biking excursions are a thing now. (Except for me since I do not own a bike.)

Dillo had a full checkup and is 48" tall and 47.5 pounds, on the tall side and average weight for age. She said he looks skinny but it is perfectly fine. They did an eye chart and it seemed to me like he struggled a little bit, but they said he passed. Something to, uh, keep an eye on.

Both kids got flu mists.

Baby Names!

Oct. 1st, 2012 10:54 am
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My new (half-)nephew was born today: Landon Thomas, to Gracia and my brother Chris.

A friend from high school had twins: Benjamin Eli and Gabriel Ian. Parents are Alexa and Scott.

K-1 Students at Dillo's school (from artwork on the wall; we don't have a directory yet): Elijah, Danny, Marcus, Symone, Nicholas, Michelle, Allyson, Sofia, Baylee, Alice, Blake (f), Burke, Claire, Mekhi, AJ, Dougie, Julian, Andrew, Aubrey, Leo, Rowen (m), Jake, Sydney, Melanie, Liam, Mia, Roman, Audrianah, Jack, Roniya, Kailey.

I am mostly struck by the presence of 3 names that I think of as dating pretty firmly from the 1970s - Michelle, Allyson, and Melanie are all much more common among my peers than Dillo's.
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Aug. 15
"Mom, would making a friend from earwax be over-weird?" (Dillo)
Read more... )

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