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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... )

baby names

Sep. 3rd, 2012 05:58 pm
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Samuel Henry, big siblings are Alex and Emma, parents Jennifer and Chris
Rory Alexander, big siblings are Elise and Elliott, parents Alexandra and Brad

Sibling sets from the playground at the kids' new school: Rowen (M) and Sloane (F); Roman (M) and Ramsey (M); Alex (M) and Gr(a/e?)y (M).

In celebrity baby names, Elizabeth Nicole (better known as Snooki) named her son Lorenzo Dominic, and Tori Spelling named her fourth child Finn Davey, joining siblings Liam, Stella, and Hattie.
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The kids started school last Wednesday, at the newly-reopened public school that's a 10-minute walk from our house. Casper is in 4th grade at the gifted academy, and Dillo is in first grade as a regular civilian. So far, so good.

Dillo's class is actually mixed K-1; I think probably 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids are in 1 and the rest are K; they tested the incoming K kids and the ones who were more advanced were placed in this room. This could be good or bad (or both); Dillo has always been on the young end for his grade, and because of his shyness is undersocialized. Now he's one of the older kids, and could develop some maturity as a mentor to other kids, or have more social peers since they are younger. On the potential negative, academically he was already at the top end, so I worry that he won't be challenged enough if the teacher is also pitching to K students. I am not yet very impressed with his teacher; she seems nice, but I don't have much of an impression of her. She's only been teaching 3 years, after a career in HR, and is probably older than me.

At Casper's grade level, they have a homeroom and then rotate for the subjects: math, social studies, language arts, and science. Casper's homeroom is the math teacher, who is also older than me and just returning to the classroom after a few years as a master teacher/coach for developing teachers. I like her energy and air of cheery competence. Casper was very excited to find a couple of girls she knows from Girl Scouts in her class. We've just started getting homework in earnest, and there's something in each subject each night. It's assignments that would be manageable for someone who could settle down and focus on homework; as it is it's kind of a lot. Tuesdays, when Casper has dance class from 4-5:30 and soccer from 6:30-7:30, will be a problem. (We'll ditch soccer that night if we have to; we also don't have to leave for school until 8:45, which leaves some time to finish things in the morning.)

The content does seem more interesting and hands-on than last year. Tonight she's factoring numbers to 50 (only needs to do two factors per); writing definitions and providing examples of 4 terms in language (simile, metaphor, etc.); answering two questions about her favorite things to study in science; and doing a "quiz" of new vocabulary related to maps in social studies.

Today at pick-up time the science teacher - who is young and has a reputation as being very strict with the kids - came up to me and asked me if Casper had ever been diagnosed as dyslexic; apparently she noticed that Casper sometimes still reverses letters. I said no, that she's struggled with reading a lot but always came out as "at grade level" so was never formally evaluated, although I have my suspicions that she has some reading disability. She said they can certainly deal with kids who are both gifted and learning disabled, and I said I'd welcome starting a conversation about that. mr. flea is a little trepidatious - I think he fears labeling her - but I am mostly relieved and impressed that the teacher noticed an issue like this the first week of school, and brought it up with us. That never occurred in the 8 months Casper spent at her "excellent" elementary school last year; nor did it at the special reading camp for kids who struggle with reading at a local college's Education department this summer (where she was assessed as "reading at grade level" and so they focused on content. She GETS content; it's stuff like sounding out words and spelling she can't do.)

Interestingly, one thing I read today about dyslexic kids is they may have trouble memorizing math facts, which would certainly explain why despite drilling with flash cards all summer Casper has no more ability to recite her times tables than a kitten. (She can multiply; she just has to work it out every single time).


Aug. 14th, 2012 08:15 pm
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We spent the week in Annapolis MD (briefly, for my grandfather's 90th) and Cape Cod.

The Good:
Swimming lessons at the beach, small group, with teachers who are challenging, but good at motivating (quoth Casper!). Both kids learned a lot.

Whale watch off Provincetown, with very frisky humpbacks, at sunset.

Visit to New Bedford historic district and the very nice whaling museum.

Flying our kite at sunset at Nobska Beach.

The familiar places: drawbridge and ferry, Candy Ice Cream (a store), Pie in the Sky, swimming out to the jumping rock with the kids for the first time, seeing LuSeal and Bumper at the aquarium, measuring the kids on the wall where my first height marker is at age 2.

The Bad:
Waking up at 2:30am the day we left, and being up continuously until the end of the birthday party that night.

It was ridiculously humid, even for the Cape, and fairly warm to boot. Swimsuits hung in the sun at noon were not dry by dusk.

There was some very dubious pork sausage involved in one night's dinner.

Dillo's fairly new "beanie boo" tiger got left on our final airplane flight when he fell asleep. Luckily this $6 guy was easily replaced on Monday morning, and Dillo took the situation well.

The Ugly:
The usual problems that might be expected when one vacations with one's mother, in a house one's mother owns.

Pondering the possibility of doing same for three weeks in a row next summer, so the children could attend the Children's School of Science.
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I have been unusually sedentary this summer (because of the heat, and sitting around the house unemployed), and I am about to turn 40, and I have begun to live out my genetic destiny and develop my mother's little belly. (I must state for the record that I have very little to complain about in re: genetic destiny.) So I was trying to eat more vegetables and not eat just because I'm bored, which is about as close as I have ever been to dieting. mr. flea has a little more weight he'd like to lose, and is at the point of wanting to do something about it. I suggested he should keep a record of what he eats, as a first step to seeing what might be ripe for change. So we downloaded food tracker - slash - calorie counter apps (he on his iPhone, me on the communal iPod touch). Today was my first day.

The first thing I notice is how hard it is to enter things when a lot of your food is made from scratch. I guesstimated on the pizza, for example - I picked a lowish calorie commercial frozen pizza, because we make our own and are sparing with the cheese. I built my own salad and salad dressing in the calorie counter, which is sort of tedious (2 cups of lettuce, 10 cherry tomatoes, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, blah blah). I was thinking about baking tomorrow morning, but estimating the calories will be such a pain! Like, if there are 6 T of butter in 12 scones, then each scone has 1/2 T...

Overall, though, I guess I am not very surprised about what I'm learning, such as how many calories certain foods have, and such. I know how to eat well, is what the machine is telling me. Which is nice. I just need to do a little less of it, now that I am middle aged.

mr. flea immediately developed what I consider a potentially bad habit, of looking at his calorie count after dinner and saying, "ooh, I have 300 calories left, what can I eat?" While this could help limit his evening snacking (he seems to be good at following rules so far), what about those times when he doesn't actually WANT a snack, but feels like he needs to use up those calories? That seems kind of an unhealthy way to look at it.
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Took both kids to the dentist. Casper got a referral to the orthodonist; she has a "deep bite." Dillo got the real prize, though; one of the teeth that got a pulpotomy and crown when he was 4 is now infected, so he gets amoxicillin for a week and then gets it pulled. The tooth next to it will need to be crowned (capped, at this age; it's not a permanent tooth), because it has an existing cavity and can't support the spacer without being crowned. She thinks it may need a pulpotomy, but she can't be sure until the abscessed tooth is out. Cost for today: $425 (will be mostly reimbursed by insurance, but not for months). Cost for next week: $845. So much for our dreams of a new mattress.

Took elder cat to the vet. Talked about Feliway diffusers for her stress level; talked about switching foods (they recommend Iams hairball control); got blood drawn to look for other things that may be causing occasional puking; had anal glands expressed. I felt very knowledgeable, thanks to Homer and other b.orgian cats. Another visitor to the vet had 5 dogs in for a visit together. Could never be a vet. Or a dog owner.

Dropped cat off at home, went to get sandwiches, Casper started getting stressed out about the next event, which was an open house to meet the principal of the gifted academy, which she is enrolled for. Said freakout expressed itself in a horror of sandwiches. Luckily, the promise of a bacon sandwich on white bread calmed the situation.

The open house was okay. The principal is very experienced, originally from Brooklyn (a plus for me), talked a good game. The PTO/other parents are as obsessively organized as they were at last year's school; this stresses me out and makes me feel small. I am a little worried about Casper underperforming in the gifted academy; she's such a space cadet sometimes. Dillo is enrolled for first grade at the new school (in the same building as the gifted academy, with the same principal), but they have not hired a first grade teacher yet (school starts Aug. 22) and last I heard there are 5 first graders enrolled. So, while the principal is still officially saying that first grade will happen, I am pretty skeptical. Dillo at this point wants to stay at his old school, and we have not told him that there might be a switch, so I guess it's all okay if they cancel first grade at the last minute. It would be a pain to have the kids at 2 different schools, though.

Several really big thunderstorms rolled through at various points during all this. When it wasn't bucketing rain, it was in the 90s and soupy.

I am exhausted.
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I am doing better suddenly than I have been in a long time. Today I did work on my "hobby" projects, got the kids to help (a little) cleaning the living room, played a lot with Dillo as Casper was out at the neighbors' doing girly stuff all day, and cooked a proper dinner and dessert of raspberry fool and dark chocolate digestives, which we actually ate (well, most of us) at the table while having a sort of conversation.

Now I'm tired, but not depressed and mindlessly surfing the internet, they way I am mosy days at this hour.

(Now watch, tomorrow will be hell. Casper is going to work with mr. flea, a special program for employees' kids, and it's just me and Dillo.)
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Henry James, big siblings are John Emerson (Jack) and Catherine Eloise (Eloise), parents are Chris and Emily

Patrick Gregory, big brother is Philip, parents are Jack and Emily.

Both mothers are librarians.
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Sartorial Note: I did not let him leave the house in a sleeveless Spongegbob t-shirt and too-smart carpenter jeans.
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I mean to do this regularly, then forget. Read more... )
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Frozen smoothie fruit
Frozen blueberries
Frozen tater tots
Chocolate anything
Ice cream
Steamed broccoli
Plain cooked noodles

Hard boiled egg (whites only)
Sweet Italian sausages
Cooked plain chicken (must not be on the bone; must not have any spices, even pepper, added)
Vanilla yogurt, yogurt tubes
Grilled American cheese sandwiches
Baguettes, ciabatta bread, white pita bread, plain flour tortillas, stoned wheat thin crackers
Boursin cheese, American cheese
Apples, bananas, corn on the cob, carrot sticks
Frozen peas, frozen corn
Noodles with parmesan cheese
Plain white basmati rice

Pretty Much Never:
Everything else

I am getting very tired of trying to keep this skinny kid alive and growing with these options; when does the picky phase end? It's harder in summer, because at least in winter he'll eat the pasta or rice or whatever we have with soups or stews.
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Both Kids:
The Hobbit
Swallows and Amazons (no sequels yet, but I plan to read some)
The Penderwicks (and sequel 1 so far)
Danny the Champion of the World (lesser-known Dahl, my favorite)
Alvin Ho (we've done 1 and 2; Dillo especially loves these)
Farmer Boy (no other Ingalls Wilders yet)
Kenny and the Dragon (Tony DiTerlizzi)
The Rescuers
All-of-a-Kind Family
They've both read the Captain Underpants books with mr. flea (not my cup of tea, but GREAT for a 4 year old with a shorter attention span).

Just Casper (so far):
The Secret Garden (get the version illustrated by Inga Moore)
The Wind in the Willows (also available illustrated by Inga Moore)
Sarah Plain and Tall
Mr. Popper's Penguins
The Twenty-One Balloons
Homer Price (Robert McCloskey chapter book)
She read The Spiderwick Chronicles and is working through Harry Potter with mr. flea; they like both series but I don't love 'em.

There are so many more things I want to read.
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I browse the free romance novels for Kindle at Amazon, and download the ones that might be likely; I've found a couple of good ones, but many are examples of How Life Is So Terrible Now That Nobody Can Write Any More. One I tried last night had the advantage of some amusing word choice errors:

1. Laura shut her eyes as tightly as she could when she heard Nathaniel's admonition of love.

2. "No one wants to dance with me anymore!" Claire pouted. "How can you say no to your old friend?"

Leander looked back at his sister, letting her catch the pained expression on his face. ... "Very well," he capsized. "Let's go."

The book also uses "alright" throughout. Note, this is not self-published or anything; a press put this out.


I've had a bad week; at home, not working, not doing anything much worthwhile and as a result very unhappy. Each day I've meant to go out and do something but I have not yet succeeded (today I will; there's a school even I am going to.) It's Memorial Day weekend, and we were going to stay here because of a Girl Scout event tomorrow, but that's been postponed, so we could go somewhere. But I want a vacation, not a "listen to the kids act up and bicker in new places" weekend. We went out to dinner last night and Dillo was a jerk. I am so ready for the kids to act more mature, but I don't seem to be able to manage to teach them to be so.

Looong day

May. 19th, 2012 07:05 pm
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We left the house at 10 am and got home at 6pm, but in between we went to Kroger for hairspray, bobby pins, and a hairnet (and cheetos, scotch tape, and San Pellegrino Limonata, as one does); spent an hour and a half at the school carnival where it was hot and sunny and remarkably corporate although pleasant; ran to the Zoo, where the kids had (separate) classes and mr. flea and I sneakily ate ice cream cones, watched a nearsighted sloth, and canoodled on a bench; ran back to our neighborhood to the gym of a local Catholic school for a 2-hour+ rehearsal for Casper's dance recital, which ended in floods of tears, as much due to low blood sugar as the sense of failure for getting the leaps wrong in Dance, Dance, Dance.

I successfully put Casper's hair (which is still pretty short - was boy-short in October) all the way up into a semblance of a bun, with the tools mentioned above, plus gel. She looked quite different - both her teacher and our neighbor did not recognize her at first. She is incredibly beautiful; fine-boned, and all neck. Her dancing is great to watch. She has excellent arms, but a lot of trouble with toe-pointing.

I introduced her to the concept "Bad dress, good show," and hope she will be recovered by tomorrow.

Dillo really liked his one-hour Zoo class, and allowed as how it might actually be fun to go to a Zoo class every morning for a week. So I may have conquered his unreasonable fear of camps.
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This afternoon Dillo asked if we could go the the Alps. I asked why he wanted to, and he said so he could follow dinosaur tracks and then dig at the end of them.

So, maybe after the Badlands. (I can't think of any famous fossilized dinosaur tracks in the Alps, but he seemed very sure.)
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This summer I am planning to be home with the kids most of the time (Dillo all of the time; Casper will go to some part-day camps.) We'll do Camp Mommy again; I need the structure. I have to be careful not to get out of hand with the planning, but if I try to have a rough daily schedule, and theme weeks, I think we can manage okay.

One week is going to have to be Geology/Fossil/Dinosaur week; Dillo said this morning that he wants to spend the summer in the Badlands looking for fossils. (I told him that when he's a teenager we can probably find a volunteer project where he can do this.)

But! Cincinnati is actually very well-suited for fossil-hunting; my father used to do it as a child. Here be links to follow up on:

I should also talk to our local friend who is a geologist manque and looooves to do outreach about geology, and see what he can cook up.

I also want to do a weekend trip to Pittsburgh to go to the Carnegie and see the dinosaurs (One of my few memories of living in PA from ages 3-6 is the dinosaurs at the Carnegie.)

See what I mean about getting out of hand?
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Old friend who just had first baby: Anybody have a particular breast pump they can recommend?
Someone I don't know: Medea worked best for me.


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