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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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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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I guess the only thing worse than no choices is having choices, right?

I went to the open house at the school very close to our house. This fall they will definitely have the Gifted Academy there (3rd-6th) and a neighborhood school Kindergarten. It sounds quite unlikely that they'll offer first grade this fall, as there had been a rumor going around about. That could only maybe happen if they have, say, 35 Kindergarteners sign up, and they could open a second K and make it K-1 if they got 10 1st graders. So this school is unlikely to be a choice for Dillo until fall 2013.

The Gifted Academy, on the other hand, sounds pretty good. The school manager spoke and ran the meeting, and I was impressed by her - she was frank and transparent about uncertainties (it's unclear how things will progress with the neighborhood school because a lot depends on how many people actually enroll). Next year the Gifted Academy will have 2 3rd and 4th classes, and 1 each of 5th and 6th. This means there is still room in 4th, and she implied when I spoke to her personally that there will be for some time to come, so we don't need to sign up immediately. She says the school is diverse ethnically, religiously, and geographically - it currently draws from 25 neighborhood districts in the city, and next year she expects it to draw from 35. The work is project-based. When I spoke to her one on one, I asked what sort of student the school was for - was it for the Hermione Granger types, or the wicked smart but more disorganized and more creative thinker types? She said there were both kinds of kids at the school and suggested I go over and talk to a current parent who has a 3rd grader plus 2 other kids at our current school.

So I did, and was really heartened by what this parent had to say. I re-used my Hermione Granger analogy (that was the kind of gifted kid I was) ad she totally got it, and she said her son was not that type, but he was thriving at Gifted, and they teach to the kids' learning styles. She obviously likes our current school - her other 2 kids are happy there, and she'll be president of the PTA next year - but it was good to hear someone else say that the very traditional pedagogy there is not right for every kid, even every smart kid. (I have been feeling guilty about being unhappy with one of the best schools in the city.)

We're getting Casper's Georgia gifted testing scores faxed over to our current school, and hopefully they will let us see them (they wouldn't fax them to us directly; ah, bureaucracy.) They do Ohio testing April 21, so if Casper's scores won't get her in, we can consider that, if we want to go forward.

I'd still like to go look at the Montessori public school our neighbors go to, and the School for Creative and Performing Arts downtown. Now that my job is, for the moment, over, I hope to have the flexibility to actually go to the schools, although the Open House season for them is basically over, and we might not be able to get spaces for fall 2012. But if one or both of them screams perfection, we might stick with the current school and plan a transfer in fall 2013 for Casper. We might, after everything, stick with the current school anyway. You remember what I said about the paradox of choice?

Dillo, I dunno. He is excelling academically at the current school, and while he isn't Hermione Granger in personality, he does have a really straightforward sort of high intelligence, unlike Casper. Everything academic so far comes easily to him. He hates change, which is an argument for keeping him in the current school. On the other hand, he did really well at his Montessori preschool, and the Montessori elementary might be a good fit. And as far as social atmosphere, the current school's traditionalism does extend to gender roles, and I think that's unhealthy for Dillo. His fundamental nature is beta, but the past 2 years of school social environment seem to have made him act out a lot and his primary emotional reaction to anything is anger. I'd like to see him in a gentler social environment. (In good news, there's a "feeling class" at school that's been started - by external researchers from a local college - about teaching emotional awareness and social skills to K-1 kids, and we got Dillo into it, and it's pretty damned awesome. I hope it helps him.)
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This kids went off happily to their second day of school today. Both had good days yesterday; Casper LOVES her teacher (who is impossibly young and cute and has a soft spot for Casper because beloved K teacher Mrs. E was current teacher Ms. T's mentor). (Mrs. E also won a award for excellence in teaching yesterday.) Casper had homework, and her spelling is back to IMPOSSIBLE. We worked a lot on reading this summer but clearly we neglected writing. I need to ask Ms. T about some ideas, and especially ask if she wants us to sit with Casper and correct her homework (which Casper hates and tells us not to do). I feel like she really needs to come to accept the need to edit her writing, because clearly no gift for ease with spelling is going to emerge.

Dillo is doing just fine, and seems to like Mrs. Y, who is older and very mellow. There are a few kids from his old class (I waved at Deyaneira this AM and she grinned and waved back) and a lot of new ones, and the class seems to just have a nice mellow vibe. I think this will suit Dillo just fine. He's interested in rough and tumble boy wildness, and if there are a bunch of boys like that in his class he'll act out, but he's actually more comfortable in a quieter, steretypical-girl environment. This class is pretty even but a little heavier on girls, and the teacher is very calm and low-key. Mrs. Y seems to have cleverly earned Dillo's devotion by using a dry-erase marker from the (huge bag of) school supplies he brought in. Dillo also told me, somewhat indignantly, at dinner last night that he hadn't learned to read yet! I explained that since there were many new kids who had never been to school before, the first few days are about teaching those kids the routine, which he already knows. Then they will get to reading.

mr. flea is in New Mexico today, flying home and back by bedtime, I hope. He has an interview that went very well, and expects to be offered the position, a post-doc. His current position ends next Tuesday. There is a permanent job that he's applied for that is a possibility, so if he is offered this new Mexico post-doc we will need to weigh our chances and make some decisions. I am actually feeling kind of good about New Mexico right now, although that may be in a large part due to the weather in Georgia in August.
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Back to school ice cream social this afternoon to meet the teachers, and this means I have baby names! Not so much babies at this point.

With Dillo in Kindergarten will be: Ana Maria, Lillian, Kr'eme (I do wonder how they pronounce that), DeAngelo, Maya, Mariona, Horumalachi, La'Neric, Benjamin, La Niya, Camaya, Deyanira, Sofia, Yvana, Kaleb, John, Tyrus, Joshua. Haru (if it's the same kid - how many kids named Horu/Haru can there be?), Deyanira, and Yvana were all in PreK with Dillo, and the rest are new (Maya had a dance class at the same time as Casper last year, so we've met her mother).

I do wish he'd gotten one of his special friends, and he got the K teacher I know least about, and not one of the two I hoped he'd get, so I'm not super-thrilled about it (though all the K teachers are good). He was VERY shy at first but warmed up over the 2 hours we spent there. I hope this year is better for him. He's so clever, I hope he can find his groove.

Casper is in 3rd grade!! Her teacher started as a mid-year replacement last year and knocked everyone's socks off, a just-out-of-school, very energetic woman. Wasn't my first choice but I am happy. Her classmates are named: Remington, Tyana, Juliana, Cynthia, Markah, Ashleigh, Lil Rodrick, Owen (not the Owen she sat next to last year), Angelo, Gabriel, Kourtney, Zariah, Allison, Alexandra, Trinity, Dillon, Aydan, Kimberly, David, Ietta. Most of these kids have been in her class at one point or another, and she is special friends with Ietta and Allison, so that is good.
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Dillo is obsessed with paper airplanes lately; the house is littered with them.  He makes them at afterschool, with A., S.'s twin, who is in second grade (in Casper's class) and working on a paper airplane science fair project in the Spectrum class.  Amusingly, A. and Dillo could be brothers; they have a very similar look.  Dillo is also obsessed with a new PBS show called Wild Kratts, a mostly-cartoon show about brothers who interact with wild, usually endangered, animals.  He wants to watch it constantly.

I worked a split shift yesterday and picked Dillo up at 2:30 as a treat. We scootered home (after scootering to school that morning with an inch of snow on the ground, so pretty!) and built a lego (duplo) garage, originally intended for his matchbox cars, but which in the event was used for jumping frogs.  We also changed out the toilet seat upstairs, and he turned the old seat into a rocket for his frogs. I love the way he says "blast-es off".

He remains unhappy with school, especially after school, which is boring for him. His ideal world would involve staying home with me and playing with me and watching Wild Kratts, so. He's pretty much always been like this.  They have started doing a little bit of reading group with part of his class, and he likes to play Starfall on my computer, so maybe he will start reading and have that outlet at school.

Casper has been a little fragile emotionally of late, and I emailed the counselor again and she replied but I am not sure she's met with Casper yet; she said she's been incredibly busy.  When there are 3 children at the school who've had parents murdered in the last 6 weeks, and many children living in poverty, the counselor is probably right to make the neurotic and depressive tendencies of an upper-middle class girl with neurotic depressive parents a second-tier priority - if Casper has a crisis, we have at least some of the tools to deal with it ourselves.  We've tried.

Casper's gotten a space - apparently these are in much demand and she's been on a wait list for it - with a program called Fast ForWord, a computer-based program for helping struggling readers. I've read the Wikipedia page and some of the product's marketing materials, and am somewhat cynical.  (Well, what else is new.)  It says it focuses on phoneme awareness and is especially useful for students with auditory processing disorders.  Casper does have troubles with phonemes, but she certainly does not match up with the symptoms for auditory processing problems, which include slowness to talk and trouble with vocabulary and comprehension.  It seems like auditory processing is a fad diagnosis for reading troubles right now, lined up with the fads of ADHD, dyslexia, etc.  I hesitate to get Casper formally evaluated (independently; they have done some evaluation at school apparently, which got her recommended for Fast ForWord, but we have not heard the results) and diagnosed with something because I am so cynical about the faddiness of diagnoses; on the other hand, I do feel like the right help could get her over a hump and reading well.  mr. flea is wary of diagnoses because of stigma.

Casper hates Fast ForWord (yesterday was the first day) because she got pulled out of class and missed making shadow puppets; at least she isn't feeling stigmatized?  There was torrential weeping about this, though.  I tried to present the program as a positive - she's improved so much in her reading that she's ready for an intensive program to jump-start her and get her improving fast, so she can read hard long books all by herself.  She is improving; she notices words on signs and reads them out often now.  I do think about whether we would even be worrying about her reading if she were in 1st grade instead of second.  And I confess that although I don't know a great deal about the science, such as it is, of literacy acquisition, Casper is a little confounding.  She does write some letters backwards; her handwriting is horrible (though if she tries it is fine); her spelling is awful, even with words she has known for ages; she stumbles over very easy very common words when reading sometimes (was, there, could) and yet manages quite difficult words with ease; her reading ability fluctuates extremely based on mood.  If anything, I think she has visual processing issues with letters; she is a very visual (picture) focussed person, and I wonder if Chinese or another pictographic language would have come easily.

Any suggestions for quality readings about literacy acquisition would be appreciated.
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We (me and the kids) went to the new roller rink in town last weekend.  We knew certain friends would be there - but also ran into several other families from school there, who had come coincidentally.  And to judge by facebook, another cohort is planning to meet up there tomorrow morning. It's a decent rink - concrete and not wood, and newly refreshed, with new skates to rent - the older rink is pretty darn grungy.  It's definitely family-friendly.  Dillo is too little to do much by himself - he hauled himself around the rink while yanking my arm out of the socket a few times and then spent most of his time watching the demos on video games, rather wistfully.  Casper skates badly, but was very proud of herself for not falling down.  None of the kids in their set are very good, really.  I find it all kinda funny.  I rollerskated a decent amount as a kid, both in Maine and Lexington MA.  It was definitely something Girl Scouts did, and birthday parties, and listening to Billy Joel... I guess I find it so funny that it's suddenly popular here because it is such a timestamped activity for me.  Rollerskating is 1982, and leg warmers, and yellow overalls and stuff.  And now it's back.

Unfortunately I don't actually like it that much, and this place is kinda pricey.  But it is healthy exercise and indoors, so when it's cold or hot it's an option.

I went to school with the kids today.  We all scootered in, which Dillo still LOVES doing.  I dropped Dillo off and then spent 2 hours in Casper's class, including going to the gifted class with her.  Then back to Dillo's class, and I left when they went to lunch (which they do at 10:45 AM OMG.)  Since I worked last night I hadn't had much contact with Dillo, so we spent circle time sitting together and snuggling.  He likes physical contact a lot.

It's good for me to go to school.  It lets me see the kids in their peer group, and see that while Casper has messy writing and can't spell, and is ridiculously distractable, she's actually quite normal for second grade.  Dillo was doing really well at answering questions in his class today.  I'm not stunned with Casper's teacher, who wasn't doing enough, IMO, to guide the kids and keep them on-task.  The gifted teacher is much stronger, and the kids there were impressively self-directed and involved in their projects (they are prepping for the science fair - entrance is optional, and Casper doesn't want to, but we are going to attend and see what it is like, since they are going to be entering next year.  Casper is working on an invention, a robot hair-cutter.  Because you wouldn't have to pay to get your hair cut and you could get it cut the exact same way every time.)
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There were two murders in my city last week.  Both murder victims had children who attend school with my kids; one of the children is in Casper's class.  I should note that while the city had a high poverty rate and a lot of public housing, it has a relatively low crime rate and not much in the way of gang or drug activity - and neither of these killings seem to be connected to those sorts of issues.

A single mother aged 25, with a 3rd grader, was stabbed to death at her job at a convenience store, alone and late at night.  The store was not robbed.  The daughter will probably be moving in with her grandmother; she lived alone with her mother in public housing.

A single father aged 30, with 3 children (but not residing with them; he lived with his mother) was shot to death while sitting in his driveway listening to the car radio, in a stable working-class neighborhood.  He worked for the city.  His daughter DaNaya is in Casper's class and he also had a daughter in PreK, but in the other classroom so I do not know her.

The school administration and the PTO are aware of this and doing what they can to be supportive of the families; the counselor will be coming to talk to the affected classes before the children come back to school.  It seems like a heavy burden for an elementary school class to bear.  And those poor little girls.
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I am at my wits' end with this Dillo child. We had a terrible night last night, with deliberate misbehavior and the customary fight to brush teeth and spanking and yelling and fighting. He can cry for 45 minutes, then start laughing at a joke as if he'd never been crying, which makes me concerned that he is fake-crying for 45 minutes. We fight - to the point of having to hold him down and force the toothbrush in - over dental hygiene almost every night. He is spanked most days. It has no effect on him and frankly doesn't make me feel much better either.

We need to change something but I don't know what. What seems to keep him fairly even keel is to pay constant attention to him when we are at home. Like, constant. Since we have another child, who needs intensive homework help every night, and we need to do things like cook meals and clean up after them and so forth, we don't manage this perfectly, and then he starts to throw things and break them, act up, and then I get mad and ignore him because I can't deal and we are in the downward spiral.

Every day he doesn't want to go to school and we are planning to send him to the YMCA Dec. 20-22 (where he has never done camp but has had swimming lessons, and I think for the Xmas camp they keep the ages together so Casper would be with him mostly.) He had already said he doesn't want to do that, and got so upset when Casper was trying to tell him it is fun that we had to direct the conversation elsewhere. I could take the whole week off before Christmas, but I can't take the whole summer off, and this is in a way a trial run for summer camp at the YMCA. I was planning to take the forms in today but I am torn now. But, as mr. flea put it, "Do you really want to stay home with him two weeks in a row?" (since I am going to be home with the kids the week of Dec. 27).

We are meeting with his teacher in a routine conference this morning but she's not the kind of teacher who will be much help in terms of dealing with him - she is old-school, not a modern philosophy of parenting type. In general he is doing well with the content at school - they think he is clever - and fine with the social part (which is the real work at this age). He has stopped having accidents for the most part and we never have a bad report of his behavior. He just acts up at home. And knows how to push my buttons BIG TIME.
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We managed to get after school to agree to allow Dillo to change his own pants if he wet them, and we send a ziplock with a complete change of clothes and plastic bag for the wet things every day in his backpack (because although he has the same in a cubby in his classroom, after school is not allowed to go and fetch that). In the week that elapsed since this change, he's only had one accident, which is encouraging. We've mostly been putting him in a pull-up to avoid washing that waterproof mattress pad and sheets every single day. In a pull-up he has a tendency to be dry in the mornings, go figure, though he overtopped it last Thursday. I went to school with him for 2 hours on Wednesday last and we was decidedly grumpy when it came time for me to go. It was worth it though - I think I will try to go every other week because it means he has a series of good days afterwards. He had a terrible Tuesday last week when his regular teacher was out at the doctor.

He remains sort of on-edge and needy a lot, especially if short of sleep or food, and can we get him to sleep on time or to eat appropriately? Of course not. Lots of LOUD CRYING today. His demand for snuggles is practically inexhaustible - I reached my limit after continuous snuggles from 5:30 to 7am yesterday.
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At 12:15 Mrs. R called me to tell me that Dillo (who went to school in a pull-up today, part of mr. flea's way of dealing with the after school accidents) had pooped in his pants and it had gone up his back and on his naptime sheet, and he was going to need a bath so I needed to come get him.

mr. flea is in the field this week, so I hotfooted it the two miles to school and found Dillo sitting in the nurse's office by himself, still fully clothed, holding his sheet wrapped up in a plastic bag. He complained about how long it had taken me to get there. We walked home and I asked about what had happened. He was initially indignant that his teachers has not let him have a nap and had sent him to the office instead (he didn't complain about the poopy pants; they smelled him and investigated). He told me he needed to go to the bathroom at lunch but there was no teacher to ask (my guess is this is untrue; the paraprofessionals stay with the kids at lunch) and so he pooped in his pants at naptime. We talked about how school "takes too long" and he doesn't have anyone to play with (since Jimmy, who was a behavior problem, left.) I asked about Eli whom he has talked about and he said Eli is always in time out all day. I asked about other friendly-looking kids but he says they are not his friends.

Just this morning we discussed getting him some new sneakers as a treat this weekend if he stayed dry the rest of the week. So that's out. He doesn't seem embarrassed or upset. I don't know what to do. I am thinking of trying to spend the morning with his class tomorrow, so I can see what's up (I haven't been able to do that yet) and then having a meeting with Mrs. R, the after school director, and us, to try to figure out what to do. I am honestly tempted to inquire if they can take him back at his old day care, where he had accidents, but at least he wasn't a sassy pain in the ass all the time.
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Both kids are having vastly different issues right now.

Read more... )
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Sunday night Casper cricked her neck and was in terrible pain and up several times in the night. I thought small children were supposed to be like unto elastic bands, but perhaps she is getting decrepit at her advanced age of 7. She stayed home Monday with mr. flea "working from home" (=watching Harry Potter IV.)

Tuesday night had some issues (Dillo woke up needing to pee - why do my children not wake up and take themselves to urinate in the night? Instead they cry loudly half awake and the parents must rescue them and deposit them on the potty. Both of them do this. Is it me?? Anyway Dillo made so much noise it woke Casper and she freaked out about her neck and spent the night in my bed, again.) Then when we went to take Dillo we found he'd had a nosebleed in his sleep. Sheets and mattress pad into the wash. Casper got off to school okay; Dillo too (and reported that the big blood-booger in his nose, named "Bloody," natch, came out at school.) mr. flea got a last-minute invite to a social event for work, and went, so I dealt with dinner and bathtime solo.

This morning Dillo had a nosebleed at 4:30. Sheets and mattress pad into the wash, again. I had randomly missed 3 hours of work in the last week (2 hours after Dillo refused to go back to school after his dentist appointment last week, and one hour dealing with Casper Monday morning) so I came in at 10 and will be here until 10pm. Joy.

Thursday we need to grocery shop and prep for the weekend and it's trash night and a bath night and we have the farmer's market pickup and... that's all, I think.

Friday is Bike to School Day, and a parent coffee until 8:30, after which I must dash to a meeting at work at 9, so maybe we will drive and not bike to school. At the parent coffee I hope to corral some parents into making Girl scouts happen. I emailed the PTO list asking for volunteers at 11:30 am today and have had no response yet. Very worried. Oh and it's FACT (Families and Children Together) day for 2nd grade, but I really cannot make it to school to spend time in Casper's class on Friday (see above: parent coffee and 9am meeting); must remember to ask mr. flea if he can.

Friday night we've been invited to cocktails with the Classics faculty (5:30-7) and a baby shower for mr. flea's coworker (7pm) and have not yet secured a babysitter. We are deeply incompetent about babysitters.

Saturday at 10am is the birthday party, so some cakes need to be baked and frosted at some point, and all the other assorted things associated with a birthday party (like PLATES and DRINKS and maybe FAVORS remember my birthday party paralysis, people?)

Then we're going camping. Which needs its own separate planning and organizing (but I really really needs to get out and it will be good to do). And then back Monday in time to catch Casper's makeup dance class at 5:30 and grocery shop for the week.

Have I mentioned I dismantled the dining room table to refinish it on Sunday? We've mostly eaten in the living room or on stools in the kitchen. The polycrylic is rather harder to get off than I'd anticipated, but I have only one coat of tung oil left on the table base and I am hoping to set it up with the spare leaves so we'll have some flat surface to work with by next week.

I hope next week is much less eventful.
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We moved the kids into one room this weekend, assembling the bunkbeds for the first time in this house. Bedtime is going okay - still too late. We've started with music at lights out (the Bernstein recording of Peter and the Wolf) which is helping. One problem is mr. flea is reading the crux of Harry Potter IV, and Dillo is bored by it. When he'd done I'd like to try reading to both of them together, whether in bed (chapter books with few pictures) or out on the couch. I think an "extra" birthday present for Casper (turning 7 on Saturday) will be an itty bitty book light so she can look at books after Dillo falls asleep. The other room (Casper's) is the playroom; I'd like to move the yellow futon couch in there for reading and snuggling.

It was Curriculum Night at school last night, so we had a more formal introduction to PreK and 2nd grade. Honestly, because of his home socialization and book-reading and his Montessori daycare, Dillo pretty much has all the skills they seek to instill in PreK: deal with others without hitting or messing with people; understand how books work; know letters and numbers. He accurately read "P E Z" on a pez dispenser last night. His fine motor work is weaker; we need to do more drawing projects, maybe while Casper does homework.

Casper is doing reading in a group with Mrs. H, in another classroom (they mix them up for reading time). She is with Nathaniel, who was in her class last year. She brought home guided reading books for the first time this week, and read them to me okay (reluctantly). Her homework often consists of "read for 30 minutes" and she says she does this at afterschool, but her idea of reading still does not necessarily include actually reading the words in the books. Mr. H, her teacher, said she is doing fine with comprehension and her tendency to guess at words based on context and first letter is a useful skill (this drives me nuts when we read together - I am constantly saying "look at the letters.")

Mrs. U, who is a parent whom I like, is the Spectrum (gifted) teacher for 2nd grade this year, and they are doing recommendations and re-testing this month. mr. flea wants to recommend Casper. You may recall she was tested but narrowly missed the cutoff in K; her increased maturity and test-taking skills (she did fine on the CRCT) should help her this time. I think if it were me I wouldn't bother recommending her again, but mr. flea feels strongly about this.

She's a little down about school right now and I'm not sure why. Complains she doesn't want to go in the morning; told me she doesn't want to do writing and puts her head down on the desk (which Mr. H did not mention.)

After school is still poking along; apparently they are interviewing new directors this week. I signed the kids up for a Spanish class at after school, taught by UGA students, that will start in a couple of weeks and run for a month. No word on Tae Kwan Do, though Casper asks about it. Dillo says after school "takes so long" so I really hope they get a director who does stuff with the kids so they are not so bored..

I called the Girl Scouts last week but they never called me back. Don't they know how hard it is for me to make phone calls, dammit?
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Casper was singing this song in the car on the way home from her first dance class (a great success!) and I was thinking, is this some song from Clifford? (Non-parents may not realize that Emily Elizabeth and Clifford move to Birdwell Island when Clifford becomes too big for the city.) I asked where she knew it from, and she said the YMCA, and they'd just played it in class. I said, "Maybe the lyrics are actually 'best of both worlds'?" Nope, she was sure - until I got home, put on Youtube, and found the Hannah Montana song "Best of Both Worlds."

I assure you we will all continue to sing "Best of Birdswell" and think of Clifford in our house.

School has gone great for both kids; I am stressed about the afterschool and Girl Scout situations. It turns out that external groups wanting to meet at school now have to pay $75 per meeting, so the Girl Scouts, not being made of money, can't meet at school. AND nobody wants to lead. I hate this idiot school district policy - last year GS was at 3pm on Fridays and as a result was the most diverse school-related activity Casper did (after school is more heavily middle-class than school itself, and TKD even more so.) I am so torn (short of Aims moving to GA and running the troop, which would be perfect!) - I honestly feel I don't have the spoons to make Girl Scouts happen myself, and yet I really really want it to happen. I have begun conversation with the new (adorable) 25 year old parent liaison at the school, and need to get over my phone fear and call the girl scout office.
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And you know what that means - a new crop of names!

Dillo is in a PreK class with 13 boys and 7 girls. His teacher, Ms. R., has been with the school a long time, is well-regarded, and reminds us both of Casper's old nanny Tonya. His classmates (all born before 9/1/2003): Clayton, Devin, Jimmy, Antoni, Deyanira, Dhaijah, Justus, Tekit, Brendan, Eli, Jaylen, Amos (who was the only one we met - total cutiehead!), James, Trinity, Yvana, Lizabeth, Jeimy, Kayden, Michael. The paraprofessional is Ms. W.

Casper for second grade has Mr. H, who has been at Chase since 2004 and has a good reputation as on the silly/goofy side (a major plus for Casper!), hand-on and pro-science. I've also been told he is much more comfortable with children than parents, and this was pretty obvious from our interactions. No parapro at this level. Casper's classmates from last year who are with her again are Danilo, Eliza, Angelo, Roan, and Dynasty. New this year are Owen, Anyssa, Dhuntez, Ja'Quan, Braiden, Taneia, Kourtney (too old to be blamed on the Kardashians!), Skylar, Anatasia, Gavin, Tyreon, Aydan (Siena's twin), Cassius, Da'Naya.

We registered for After School, and learned that the new after school director is about to leave, back to her old job within the school system. So they will AGAIN be basically leaderless, which is a problem. Two kids is only $10 total per day, which is a nice little bonus. There was no solid information about whether Tae Kwan Do will happen, but the rumor is yes, Tu/Th like last year. Two of Casper's friends are doing swimming at the YMCA Tu/Th, and we are thinking about that for Casper to. (Y after programs start at age 6, so not an option for Dillo.) There was no info about Girl Scouts, so I need to email a parent I know and ask what is up. If they are dying for troop leaders for Brownies, I could use my flex time from working Wednesday nights and take Friday afternoons off to do Girl Scouts. We'll see.
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mr. flea got new glasses last weekend. And he got a haircut, so naturally the kids wanted their hair cut too. Here's Dillo before:

bright eyes

Dillo wanted his hair out of his eyes in front, but refused to let me touch the sides and back. As a result, he looks like Prince Valiant now. In other Dillo news, we just got the letter confirming he's got a place in PreK at Chase, with Casper (it's not guaranteed, depending on demand, so I'm glad it worked out).

goofy face

Casper wanted a trim all around, *except* her bangs, which are pretty long. Which is what she got. I think I didn't mention that she lost the other front tooth recently. She lost it at school, which was her goal, because when you lose a tooth at school they give you an adorable tiny plastic tooth-shaped box to take it home in.

other front tooth gone
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I explained IVF to Casper last night too, because she asked if the whole penis-and-vagina thing was the only way to make a baby, and I said no, you could do it through SCIENCE!

This evening we registered the Dillo for public school PreK at the school Casper currently attends. Turns out, it's still a little shocking to register your 3 year old for school, even if it's your second kid (and he'll be 4 when school starts, which beats Casper, was was 3 for her first 4 days of PreK.) We won't officially get a space until late April/early May, but I think we should be okay. (If not, we're screwed, but we'll deal if that happens I guess.)
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mr. flea went in for a meeting with the Dillo's teacher today at lunch, so it seemed like a good time for an overall update.

He's 3.5 now, about 39 inches tall, 34 pounds according to the Wii. This means, IIRC, that's gained all of about 2 pounds in the last 18 months, which is not that surprising when you look at his figure and how it's changed (and is also developmentally appropriate). He's still got a round face and a round head and the snub nose he was born with, but the rest of him is no longer round - he's all slim and limby. He's definitely had a growth spurt this fall - I bought him 2T pants in September and they fit and now they are highwaters, so he's finally fully into 3T.

He's a bit fussy about clothes, and prefers "soft pants" (sweatpants and other elastic waist things - not jeans) and if given the choice would wear his black and orange striped pajama shirt 24/7. He likes stripes, and pajamas. We are laxer than we were with Casper - our rule is, you may wear ONE piece of your pajamas the next day to school (he usually picks the shirt) and you may not wear the same clothes two days in a row. (With Casper we had a "no pajamas at all" rule.) His hair is loooong and shaggy and I really should cut it, but he likes it long and you really can't cut the hair of a violently protesting child, can you? He dislikes having his hair washed at the moment, though liking baths otherwise, so I figure I'll wait until the phase passes before trying again with the scissors.

mr. flea reports that he's doing very well at school. It's a Montessori classroom, a primary classroom but the kids are almost all on the younger end of primary (3-4.5). His teacher says that in general she thinks he is advanced for his age, in social skills and skills. He and Evan and Adam are all very interested in their works, and spend more time together as a result. Dillo likes to do works and is really self-motivated and independent once he's understood them, and will sometimes move ahead before he is shown the next step. mr. flea came away feeling we are babying him a bit at home, and can give him more responsibility, on the one hand, and maybe expect a little more from him on the other. (Example: apparently he eats everything except tomatoes at school. At home, he's a pastafarian, and dinnertime is kind of a circus. So maybe we should impose a little more structure at meals at home.)

He's just starting figural drawing - drew a face of himself on the whiteboard last night, but was stumped about how to draw "his bones" and wanted my help. He speaks in complete sentences and is comprehensible. He knows some letters and sounds, and they work on this at school. He's interested in sound play and word play a little - replacing all the initial sounds in a sentence with the same consonant, like "BI'm the Biggest Barnibore, in the Betaceous Borest." Has been using his stomp rocket as a vacuum around the house, and we've had a lot of block and lego and train play - especially after mr. flea had the genius idea to use the Thomas duplo and dinosaur duplo together and make a Dinosaur Train!

His teacher reports that "butt" language is not a problem at school. It is one at home - every other word is "butt-butt" and he discovered the word "butt-hole" last week (I think at school - it's not something we say!) He teases his sister sometimes, and then cries when she gets angry at him. They're at a rocky point - he's old enough now to realize when she is being too bossy and to demand equality, but not old enough to be a real peer in many games. He's still a little shy/passive in the face of others' aggression at school, and shy with strangers - still buries his face in my neck. After a LOT of potty accidents over the break, he is mostly back on track, with occasional accidents rather than accidents as a matter of course.

I have been thinking of him as trying and exhausting and the other things I associate with being 3, so it was nice to get the glowing report from school about his maturity and self-motivation. He's a sweet boy, too, a cuddler, very lovey, in addition to being an energetic bouncy homework-distracting cookie-demanding three year old.
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Got an opinion on which we should buy? I am tempted by "chin" just because he's got this look like, "I am only three years old but I already know this is a super-dorky pose." I think I like the seated one best overall. (Click through to see bigger.)

chin

traditional

sit

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