Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Coloring to perfection

Yesterday afternoon, I learned that Rosie didn't finish her assignment again, and the teachers sent home a very disappointed note along with the incomplete work. I was determined to figure out what is going on, so I sat down with her and asked what was happening.

"I'm too slow, " she said. "And my fingers get tired. All that coloring is very tiring."

It dawned on me that all the work she's brought home is very densely colored and thick with crayon. She's holding the crayons too tightly!! And pressing down too hard!! She's also using multiple colors to fill tiny spaces, so is spending a lot of time making color choices.

We took out all her pages and spread them out at her new desk. There were 4 pages of work, with 3 images to color on the first, 6 on the second, and 18 on the third. Once the images are colored, then she's supposed to trim each of the little pieces out (27 total, mostly circles) and glue them to the fourth page. She spent the entire 45 minutes of classtime coloring in the first page alone! I really think this is crazy boring busy work, but I didn't get anywhere when I told the teacher my opinion about it.

I gave her some tips on how to satisfy her teachers. Press lightly on the crayon, use longer strokes, and use fewer colors to speed up the process. If her fingers get tired, shake out her hand and try holding the crayon in a different position. These suggestions are very dissatisfying to me, on her behalf, because she really seems to love the density of the colors and the process of choosing many different hues for a single shape.

She wants to talk about each (one-inch square) image and make up stories about it, carefully choose the right colors for it. While she's talking, she's not coloring. It took us close to an hour to finish the remainder of her work, with me right there, egging her on. The time quickly ebbs away. This is not creative work. All I can figure is that the teachers just want the students to whisk some scratches of color on, slice away at the paper, glue willy-nilly, and move on to the next segment of the day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rosie's first day at soccer practice

Rosie's first day at soccer practice! She is wearing pink & is the only child holding the ball in her arms. I'm sure they'll be setting her straight soon enough.

It was so nice of the coach to send a photo! They said she had a great time.


Originally uploaded by nylonthread
Bonne anniversaire to one of my sweetest pals, Todd. It's wonderful to have such a delightfully funny, warm, and loving friend in our lives. On behalf of all the Strings, we wish you all the bestest with plenty of music, health, and engaging college classes in this coming year.

Visit his blog and wish him a happy day!

Week 5: Yes, another entry in the K-12 saga.

Thanks all for your suggestions on motivating Rosie. We have some action! plans! underway which I'll describe (eventually). After receiving that message from Rosie's teacher 2 posts (and weeks) ago, we were informed that the very next day Miss M. had been hospitalized (blood clot in brain--Yikes!). There is a substitute in place, but she may not be back in the classroom for possibly a month or more (Rosie painted her a lovely get well card). I left a few VM messages to the assistant and an email during the week to find out some details on Rosie's situation with the classwork, but didn't get any feedback. Until this past Wednesday.

On Wednesday, she was sent home with a large folder packed full of unfinished assignments, all coloring/cutting/glueing projects, each with a sticky note indicating the date that the assignments were to be returned. Oh, and a ziplock bag with a couple locks of HER OWN HAIR inside. WTF?? No explanation.

After leaving a freaked-out message with the school's office staff on Thursday, I finally talked with the substitute, Mrs. S, who had been substituting for one week at this point. She gave me this information:

"Rosie is distracted and unfocused. She hasn't finished a single assignment since the first week of school. When she is working, she leans forward so far, her nose is practically touching the paper. When she isn't working, she is fiddling with her hairband, her jewelry, her buttons, her chair. We would appreciate it if you didn't send her in with hairbands or jewelry. She ignores authority and refuses to work any faster no matter how we present the assignments."

When I asked about the hair, I was told that "she was working alone, separated from the other children in hopes that would eliminate distractions. When we discovered she had cut her hair, she told us that 'it was in the way.'" They had taken her hairband away...

The good news is that on Wednesday evening, we had a heart-to-heart with Rosie on how important finishing work is in the Kindergarten environment. Her preschool didn't mind if she wasn't engaged, but in Kindergarten, she is learning how to develop skills and habits she'll need to be a good student. On Thursday afternoon, she was sent home with "Terrific!" and "Nice Job!" on the assignments that she finished that day. Hooray! Progress.

Even so, that evening, getting Rosie to focus was almost impossible. We set her up at my craft table in the basement while I worked on the computer, but she would only color for a few seconds before announcing, "I'm done." It didn't help that Dash was watching cartoons in the next room.

Here's what we did:
Gave her a place to work. Her room is cluttered and distracting and there isn't a place for her to work. Friday, I went to the Container Store and bought the desk piece for her Elfa shelving (I've been meaning to do this for years). I also picked up several bins for her to stash all her stuff in.

Eliminated distractions. We declared that this would be a no-TV weekend, until she finished her assignments. No going to the pool, or playdates, or games as well.

Gave her a haircut. No explanation necessary. :-)

All Saturday, in between visiting Grandma Ikiko, ballet class, going to a work-BBQ, and helping Rosie along, I set up her room. I dumped out all her random toys and put them in the new bins, moved her old craft desk into Dash's room, and set up the new Elfa desk. The room looked pretty freaking cramped by the time the desk was in (the door won't open up all the way, for example), so I had to make further adjustments on Sunday.

Sunday, I moved her bed and wardrobe-closet to opposite sides of the room. I installed shelves to get items off the floor. I moved her largest toys down to the basement. Auntie M and I took Granddad Jim out with the kids for an after-lunch outing in Old Town (it was his birthday last week), and I finished up when we got back. By the time dinner came around, everything was done. Rosie's first few assignments were complete, her room was rearranged (hopefully easier for her to de-clutter on her own!), and she got to watch a TV show. I got to have a drink. Nothing else got done this weekend. No laundry, no dishes, no shopping, no maintenance.

Oh and by the way, Sunday was our 11th wedding anniversary. What did Monkeyrotica and I do to celebrate? Clink our wine glasses together over dinner (that he cooked) while the kids watched Spongebob. Happy Anniversary, baby! I hope we are getting the message through to Rosie: we do care and her schoolwork is important to us. She is a sweet little girl and this is new ground for all of us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Don't Forget Tomorrow Is...

Talk Like a Pirate Day!!

The official site for Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is an annual international holiday on September 19th, is HERE.

If ye need some brushin up on yer Pirate lingo, best ye visit yonder site.

To celebrate in yer place o' work, check out Joanne's list!

Arrr, in the String's house, a favorite Pirate book for the kids is this one: How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long and David Shannon. Great for getting the kids to talk like pirates, too!

Have at it tomorrow, and let me know how ye displayed yer pirateattude!

Here's a pic of my pirate, li'l Cap'n Patch! Avast!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Week 3, K-12: First kindergarten dilemma

Kindergarten Schoolwork 3
Originally uploaded by Noell
Rosie's teacher, Miss M., just volunteered this information to me:

"Rosie seems to work very slowly. She hardly finishes any work assigned during instructional time, and will not pick up the pace, despite the numerous amounts of encouragement given to her. I have provided her with one-on-one assistance, as well as positive reinforcement, but nothing seems to work. Today she had to sit and complete her morning work during storytime, as we got nothing from her to check over this morning. Please talk to Rosie about the importance of finishing her work in the allotted time."

We did encounter this non-participation issue around this time last year in pre-school and I blogged about it then.

Please, if anyone has suggestions on how to motivate a five-(almost 6)year-old to get it done, post them in the comments! Thanks!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 2 in K-12 World

School Bus
Originally uploaded by nikki.jane
We are at the end of Rosie's second week of Kindergarten and now can answer the question, did it rock our world? Answer: Yes.
Here are the big changes:

• We no longer commute together
B.K. (before kindergarten) We'd all pack up as a family into one car, drop me off at Metro, then Mr. Monkey would take the kids to daycare. We had extra family time together in the car and saved $$ on gas and auto repair bills.
• Mr. Monkey changed his work schedule (AWS, in Gov-speak)
He's leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. now, just as I'm getting up. We exchange a kiss and he doesn't even see the kids in the morning before he's out the door. He picks up Dash and is home by 4:30 p.m. We roughly see each other (awake) between 6 and 8 p.m. on weekdays now.
• Grandma Sheila takes Rosie to and from the bus
My mom is a saint. She's been arriving at my house at 6:30 a.m. so I can get Dash to daycare and on to work, then feeds Rosie breakfast, helps her dress, get her things ready for school, and takes her to the bus stop (with fewest dogs). In the afternoon, she retrieves Rosie from the stop and they wait at home for Mr. Monkey to show up. She's actually even done a bit of housework for me, and I'm just beside myself in my good luck here.
• I'm clocking a lot more Beltway time
I've gone from being a passenger in the family car and Metro rider to being a solo driver in my work commute. I tried using public transit once last week, but I was an hour late getting to work and then an hour and a half late getting home. I missed dinner and just arrived in time to get the kids in bed. That was on a clear day with no delays, so I don't see it getting easier. Our fuel budget is wrecked. Question: I need to let my auto insurance know this, right? And they will increase my premium? Aieeee!
• I'm teleworking, but just once a week
I've teleworked twice in the past two weeks and it really worked well! The first week I actually went for a mid-day run. I'm about to submit an application to make it a more formal deal with two days a week (mostly because everything about my previous bullet bites).
• Dash is starting to get jealous
Dash sees Rosie getting all the Grandma-time and Grandma shopping for her school supplies (the school will keep asking for more, all year round, right?) and asks, "What did you get for me, Grandma?" He actually insisted that my mom give him what she was eating this morning, because he HAD to get something, anything from Grandma.
• We're learning a bit more about Rosie's day
Rosie is not much of a talker and her preschool teachers seemed limited to "she had a good/bad day" in their feedback to us much of the time. We are now hearing a little more (still not much) about things like the playground, the library, her letter-B project, and her music class. I'm certain she's been doing well on the whole, based on her own abilities, but she prefers not to give narration on her day.

I'll put up more updates, as things progress!

Monday, September 08, 2008

the omnivore's one hundred

I haven't done a meme in a while and just found this one on KellyGO's shared feed. Very Good Taste (via Postbourgie and Ezra Klein) gave a list of food items, plus the following instructions:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison (my nephews like to hunt, Monkeyrotica likes a cooking challenge)
2. Nettle tea
(I'm a bit of an herbal tea tester)
3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare (I'm not sure here, I rarely do rare or raw red meat)
5. Crocodile (or alligator beignet)
6. Black pudding
(first in Ireland, and then at home. Dash likes it!)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
(one of Monkeyrotica's favorites!)
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
(DC half smokes, too!)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (mead)
19. Steamed pork buns
(mmmm, dim sum)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
(practically a staple, how did it get on this list?)
25. Brawn, or head cheese
(Eve called it tête du cochón. doesn't that sound better?)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
(mmm, oyster shooters at M&S)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar (not into cigars)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
(a Mr. Monkey regular menu item)
40. Oxtail
(Mr. Monkey makes this as soup)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
(anyone remember "The Insect Club?")
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more

46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
(hello, there's one down the street?)
50. Sea urchin
(whuuuuah, terrible. but I ate part of it.)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips (it was the 70s. my mom loved her the health food store.)
61. S’mores
(I was a Campfire Girl)
62. Sweetbreads
(Eve, again)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost

75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
(one of our kids' favorite treats)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
(that means rabbit, right?)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake
(outside of Tempe, AZ)

I'm pretty sure that I've eaten all those things (or maybe I have trouble separating just watching "A Cook's Tour" from reality) and I won't completely write off trying the things I haven't bolded.

I tag my usual suspects, or at least a few folks who have commented here recently:

Dee, Dees, Hill Rat, Kelly, Catherine, Wreke, and PhilFree

Friday, September 05, 2008

Commuting to work by bicycle

Commute -1939-
Originally uploaded by sewin
With our new schedule, and me dropping off Dash at daycare every morning, a bike commute is virtually out of the question (I would be getting to work somewhere between 9 and 10 a.m.). But, I do like these statistics (that have a U.K. slant):

Pedal power

— A cyclist can travel 1,037km (644 miles) on the energy equivalent of one litre of petrol

— Regular cycling can make you as fit as someone who is ten years younger

— A cyclist consumes 1/50th of the oxygen of a car making the same journey

— A twice daily half-hour commute will, over a year, consume the energy equivalent of 24lb of fat

— In 1949, 34 per cent of all mechanised journeys were made by bicycle. Fifty years later that figure had fallen to 2 per cent

— The rate of serious heart disease for civil servants who cycle 20 miles or more a week is 50 per cent lower than for their sedentary colleagues

Hm, maybe I'll try it once or twice before it gets too cold? Dash might like the bike trailer ride and I can stay off busy roads.

Week 1, K-12: Coincidences

Each time I've seen Rosie's new teacher, Miss M., I keep thinking that she looks really, really familiar; she is a tall brunette with olive-tone skin and brown eyes.

Each and every time I've gone to a parent activity at Rosie's school, I've run into Ashley's mom, Heather, from Rosie's ballet class. I've known them for over a year now, chatting before and after ballet. Heather is a tall brunette with olive-tone skin and brown eyes.

There are over 300 kids at the school, so with many families attending with both parents, there's potentially 600 people, and I keep bumping right into this mom. Coincidence?

Last night, we were chatting about which teachers our daughters have and she mentioned, "Oh, right, Miss M.'s my sister. She told me that Rosie's doing great!" That's cool that they were talking about the kids together. I wonder why Rosie's name came up though? Did she stand out? I don't think I mentioned earlier which teacher Rosie had, or she would have told me then that Miss M. was her sibling.

Ashley's not in her aunt's classroom; luck of the draw, she is in the multi-age classroom where we were hoping Rosie would be placed. Heather insisted that Miss M. is an excellent teacher, but likes the situation her daughter is in because the multi-age places her physically closer to her older brother Austin's classroom.

It's good to know, second-hand, that Rosie's doing well! My girl is not much of a talker, so all I know directly is that she thinks her new school is "okay," the playground is her favorite part, and she sat next to "a boy and a girl" on the bus.
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