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Dillo: I want to read more Hobbit after tomorrow [when we plan to finish Danny The Champion of the World].
Me: Do you mean you want to read it again? Because we already read the whole thing' we finished the story.
Dillo: I want to read Hobbit Two, and then when we finish that we can get Hobbit Three and read that. [beat] It only goes up to Four.

He was quite sorry when I explained to him that there was only Hobbit One ("why?") and also sore at me for laughing at him.
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We started reading Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World to both kids last night. After the success of reading The Hobbit over Xmas break, I want to do more reading to both of them at the same time, and we read Danny to Casper when she was 4 and she loved it. (Books that can engage both a 4 and a 7 year old are tricky; in a year or 2 it will be easier. Dillo did a lot of running around and playing during the Hobbit which he really liked, and was pretty bored by Wind in the Willows). Both kids love Danny this go around and beg for more, but Casper doesn't really remember it at all, although she loved it at 4! Very interesting. I've thought for a long time that things I love from my young childhood I remember well mostly because I got a second (and in some cases 3rd) dose of them with my siblings.

I have emailed the Girl Scout troop leaders telling them I'm not going to lead again next year. Now I just need to make it to May 17 without screaming at anyone.
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I go back to work tomorrow; the kids start school Wednesday.

They have written 3 thank-you notes with little fuss.  Casper's are somewhat routine but still decent, and Dillo writes his name and the name of the gift-giver (which I spell).  Dillo's writing is adorable - his es are backwards - and he has developed in figural drawing, too, with round eyes and smiles and bodies and limbs.  He still prefers drawing rockets to people.

We are almost finished with The Hobbit - read two chapters this noon in the sun on the porch, with the kids swinging in the hammock.  I'd like to finish tonight.  Dillo only partly follows, but likes to pretend he is little Bilbo with his sword Sting.

I didn't get much accomplished, and was stressed out by unstructured days in cold weather with the kids, but it was okay.
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I don't do Yuletide; Actual Christmas has got enough bears for me.  Yesterday we managed to take a picture, send it to CVS, and pick up the resulting cards (viva les internets), and I addressed them all.  Now I must write thoughtful notes to the people I only talk to once a year at Christmas and mail them (including acquiring stamps).  I am waiting on a package to arrive, then need to turn around and mail a package out, I hope tomorrow morning early.  I pushed and got mr. flea to deal with his family's gifts on Saturday, so that is done.  We attended the neighborhood Christmas party and exchanged small gifts with our neighbors.  No more excess gifts cluttering up my kitchen counters.

The major issue is The Big Present for the kids.  We have not acquired it/them, nor decided what it/they is/are going to be.  And the "last day to buy!" emails I am getting this morning from all the big catalog/online shopping emporiums are not helping my stress levels.  And mr. flea took Dillo to Target Sunday to pick out a present for Casper and everything was so picked over they couldn't find what they wanted.  So I think we're going to run out to Toys R Us on our lunch hour today, and try to be done.  But I'm terrified we won't find anything.  The backup is Amazon with rush shipping this evening, if the toy store (and possibly Dick's sporting goods) don't work out.  Curse you, evil craigslist piano seller!  The down feeling of that is still hindering me in the picking of some other present.

Good things: We figured out how to video chat with mr. flea's sister, and the kids got to do that with their cousins, and it's easy (they are on macs as are we) and we can do it any time.  I also tested gmail video chat with my sister, although her bandwidth or processor on the netbook can't really hack it.  But we achieved proof of concept so Grandma can chat with the kids on Christmas.

We built amazing train bridges in the kitchen/dining room Sunday morning, and there was cooperation and creativity and fun.

I told the kids a version of the story in The Hobbit at bedtime Friday night, and we started reading it Saturday, and Casper ADORES it and begs for another chapter at odd moments.  We're five chapters in, and finished Riddles in the Dark last night (Dillo listens some but does not fully have the attention span or sophistication necessary; he fell asleep during a very tense scene!).  Casper was full of really probing and intelligent questions about Gollum and his background and history, and I explained some of the stuff we learn in LOTR, that's not covered in Hobbit.  You can keep your Harry Potter - The Hobbit beats it all hollow as far as being a good read imo.

This morning the kids are at the YMCA for the first of three "dynamic days."  This is Dillo's first time at the Y and he was not at all happy about the idea.  He was scared and was able to tell me he was scared.  His main concern seemed to be that he would have to be with the Chiefs and separated from his sister, but the dynamic days are small enough that they keep the ages all together.  So after a lot of crying I got him dressed and we arrived, and lovely Miss Jacquie who used to work at his school was greeting everyone, and she was wonderful, and they're going bowling today, and after only about 5 minutes he went off with Casper who was teaching him how to dribble a basketball.  So now my only big worry about the day is the possibility of him pooping in his pants, which is unfortunately quite likely, given that he did it several times yesterday.  He has a packed change of clothes, so whatever happens, happens.  Hopefully not in the swimming pool.
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We did a cool thing with Casper last night - participated in a scientific study about learning to read in the Psychology & Neurobiology Department.

The study involved doing using a machine that captured eye movements as one looked at a screen. First I read a book to Casper as she looked at the screen and her eye movements were recorded. Then she got to watch the monitor recording my eye movements while I read the same story again. They asked her if she could tell where I was looking, and she said yes, at the words. Then I read a new story and Casper looked at the screen again. I could cheat my eyes sideways and just see the screen recording her eye movements, so I could see that she was not looking at the words as I was reading them - she was looking at the pictures, and specifically at the objects named as I was reading them (the story was about a father who lost things and his daughter who helped him find them.)

At the end I filled out a very brief print questionnaire about our home reading habits, and Casper did a long set of what must be a standard exercise - she had 4 pictures, and the graduate student read a word, and Casper had to point to the right picture. They told me at the end that she went much farther than most kids - apparently they get consistently harder and they stop when you miss X number in a set. Some of the ones she got were surprising to me - picked out a diagram of a heart from a set including lungs and guts and stuff, and there were a lot of complicated verbs illustrated by people doing things.

My unscientific interpretation of the way Casper did the study is that while she is an intelligent, extremely verbal, and understanding child, she just isn't at the place, developmentally, to be reading yet. She knows that people read by looking at words, and words are made up of letters, and letters have sounds. She recognizes some of the letters and some of the sounds, although by no means all of them. But when I read a book, even though she knows I am looking at the words, she doesn't. This despite the fact the we (mostly mr. flea) reads her a very simple and repetitive book as 'homework' nearly every night, using skills we were taught by her teacher - identify capital letters, talk about word groups, identify punctuation, run your finger under each word as you read. We've been doing this since September. If Casper was developmentally ready to read, she'd be reading by now! But she's not, and that is just fine.

At the end, mr. flea asked the graduate student (who is Chinese) if she would write the sounds of Casper's name in characters, since they have been doing some works at school about China. They have one of those polyester screens where you can dip a brush in water and write on it, and they practice writing characters - presumably as a combination of art and fine motor practice. Casper loves it. She was quiet, but I think very pleased at seeing her name written in characters.

book boy!

Oct. 8th, 2007 11:53 am
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The Dillo has hit that early-1-year-old book-obsessed phase I remember from Casper. We moved things around so all the board books are in the living room on a bookcase he has full access to, and we started reading to him more regularly at night. Almost instantly, he started bringing us books wanting to be read to. He sometimes gets into a jag where he brings a book, listens to one or two pages, gets down, goes to get another books, listens to one or two pages, repeat ad infinitum. He seems to really like Barnyard Dance right now.

He is indescribably, incandescently cute. This weekend he started marching in place when excited.

Casper likes me to read her a book in the time (often 5 minutes) between her wakeup and my house departure. This morning she fished Danny The Champion of the World out of the glass-front bookcase. I explained it was longer and we couldn't read it all at once, and she said, "yeah, it's a chapter book." I guess they learned that at school. But the chapters are good and short. Her attention span for reading aloud in books without pictures varies. We've been reading Peter Pan in the bath occasionally, and the other long book we read sometimes is Pooh. Both of those are stories where she's already familiar with the characters, and the Pooh is episodic. So we'll see if the greater complexity of Danny is something she's ready for.

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