Monday, June 29, 2009

preschool is finished too. sort of.

The last few posts have been mainly about Erin but I haven't forgotten about our other daughters. Last thursday in fact was ALL about the twins, as their preschool held its graduation ceremony and party and only parents and graduates were invited. The twins talked about their upcoming big celebration and rubbed in the fact that Erin wasn't invited at every available opportunity.

Erin asked me if she had a preschool graduation because she didn't remember one. No, I admitted, it was held on a saturday and we had other plans that day, which was partially true. It was held on a saturday. I was never really happy with Erin preschool(s). I pulled her out of one after 3 months and found another, and ended up being only moderately happy with the second one. When her preschool graduation time came around I decided to simply ditch it. I mean, the whole idea is a bit ridiculous anyway.

But I really do like the twins' school and their teacher and I guess out of greater respect for them than for the concept in general, we participated. This preschool has the additional knack for over-the-top corny things, like the time they brought in, I don't know, someone with some costumes and a pony in order for the kids to take pictures like this:

And yes, I bought some of these prints not because I think they're so especially cute, but they're funny and potentially embarrassing enough to show at some yet to be determined future milestone. Might as well, I don't have much of a shot at winning Mother of the Year anyway.

Before graduation, a few more pictures from school:

These kill me. My first time wearing a cap and gown was high school graduation. Now, apparently, they are standard issue for 4 year-olds:

On the big day the kids assembled inside while the parents waited outside the school. Then the director let us in and "Pomp and Circumstance" began and the procession started with each child entering the school from the back, single file. John and I looked toward each other and snickered a bit at formality of it all. The kids all looked very rehearsed and so...serious.

Next, the kids sang for us:

And then they were awarded their certificates by their teacher:

And the proud graduates moved their tassles to the left and posed:

Afterwards all the kids took an outing together to a local indoor bouncy party place and they had a great afternoon with their friends, and they were so very proud of their accomplishment.

Following all of this, the girls were a bit confused about why they'd be returning to preschool the following monday. "We graduated!" They kept reminding me and indeed graduation day was the very last day at school for a lot of the other kids. The problem arose because the time to sign up for various summer camps was exactly the time John and I were dealing with the results of their kindergarten assessment and what their fall plan school should be, and I was too consumed with all of that to find a more unique pre-kindergarten adventure for them. So they are attending preschool summer session, which I am calling "camp" to make them feel better, for the next several weeks until kindergarten begins.

And that's just about a month away now. Wow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

goodbye first grade

Yesterday was Erin's last day of first grade, and as you can see, she was all smiles when I picked her up. She had a great year, she really seems to like everything about school. She has many friends and is very social. She loves the after school program she attends on my workdays where she usually chooses to make art projects and write poems. Occasionally, when creative inspiration doesn't strike her I guess, she uses some time there to do her homework.

Though her school doesn't use grades and she is one of the younger kids in her class, on her final report card she "exceeds the standards" in all subjects and skills though if I had to pick her favorite class, I'd have to say art. A year of girl scouts has been completed and and she is looking forward to more. Next year will bring big changes though, as she's left the classroom and the teachers she's known for the past two years and will be in a 2/3 village.

A few days ago her school did kind of a orientation morning for all the kids like herself who will be moving up to new villages next year. All the first graders spent a morning in a 2/3 village along with the current second graders. All the third graders spent that morning in a 4/5 village with the current fourth graders, and all the fifth graders spent the morning working with Kindergartners in the K/1 villages, which is a fun mentoring opportunity that the oldest kids in the school really enjoy, I'm told. Erin was very excited about her peek into second grade life, though when I asked her what was different, she didn't offer many details.

For dinner last night, John asked the new second grader what she wanted and she requested hot dogs. Since we didn't have any John offered to go to the store. Erin asked me if we could go to a restaurant instead and I replied that we couldn't, and she said, "Well, we can PRETEND we're in a restaurant!" "Sure," I replied, as I was trying to get the dishes done. She went to her room and prepared two identical dinner menus for Kate and Allison--the front side is pictured first, and on the back of each she made a different little activity game, just like the kids' menus in a restaurant would have, she explained.

John came home and started grilling hot dogs and sausages while I prepared some side veggies. "Hey, that's not on the menu!" Erin argued, as she presented Kate and Allison with their menus at the dinner table and then read the selections to them. After their choices were made, she invited them to do the activities on the back. And we had a fine, celebratory second grade dinner.

Of course, "next year" and second grade sounds so distant, but the next school term is anything but that. She has a 6.5 week summer vacation. Erin, and the twins, will begin school again on August 6.

better late than never

Wednesday was Erin's final field trip of the year. I've been meaning to chaperone a field trip with her class for the past two years but that always involved taking a day off of work or finding childcare for the twins on one of my usual days off and neither of those things are very easy to do, generally. But when I got the notice for this trip I realized I needed to be sure to some arrangements this time.

Erin's entire village and another entire K/1 village (three classes per village, 60 kids per village) were all going to the zoo today, and there was a request for 30 chaperones, one for every 4 kids. Getting volunteers is never a problem. In fact, there were so many volunteers this time that they turned a number of them down. I suspect that I was chosen because Erin's teacher knows that I had never come along before.

My group of four included Erin, naturally, and three other first graders whom I already knew pretty well. My group, waiting to board the bus:

When we went out to the front of the school the teachers and the principal kind of gathered together and talked and no one was boarding. A few minutes later, still no one was boarding. And a few minutes after that, we were still standing there.

Apparently, two of the 5 buses reserved (a grade 2/3 village had a field trip that day too) had broken down and the replacements sent were smaller than the ones reserved, so suddenly there wasn't room for everyone. That was an interesting problem to see since the entire rest of the school district finished for the summer the previous week. There should have been plenty of buses available to fill our needs. So most of the many parents got together and carpooled in private vehicles while a few "lucky" ones like myself rode on the buses with the teachers and kids as originally planned.

I never was a bus rider to school but I did ride them on many junior high marching band trips, and lemme tell ya, nothing has changed. The vinyl seats with brown duct tape repairs, the barely functional windows, the dried gum everywhere, the smells, the drivers who look like they are on step 8 of some kind of 12 step program, the noise, the lack of adequate suspension, the rattling. In fact, I think these were the very same buses I rode on as a kid.

When we arrived at the zoo we had a special lecture with some keepers in an amphitheatre sort of place. The keepers brought out a few animals and talked and answered lots of questions.

And unlike field trips I remembered, we didn't have to shuffle around the zoo en masse with Erin's village or even with Erin's class. Instead, each chaperone took their four kids and was free to roam the zoo as they wished, catering the experience to what the kids wanted to do, stopping for lunch when and where we felt like it, since each kid brought a sack lunch and I carried them all in a backpack. That was great.

We had a map and the kids got busy studying it and off we went. "G" I'll call her, the other girl in my group, was insistent that we go see the Meercats. Okay, G, no problem, but they are all the way on the other side of the zoo and we'll get their eventually but let's work our way over there by stopping to see other things on the way, I reasoned. This satisfied her for a few minutes at a time, but that I had to repeat that logic to her at least 10 more time in the next 2 hours.

As we went from exhibit to exhibit I thought I'd try to challenge the kids:
"On what continent would we find these animals?" because on the exhibit signs they showed the native continents as an unlabeled silhouette and the specific region highlighted in red. Too obvious.
I asked them if they knew what "nocturnal" meant. They knew.
I asked about omnivores vs herbivores vs carnivores. They knew.
The characteristics of mammals? They knew.
I asked if they knew what a predator was. WAY too easy.
"Did you know that birds are closely related to dinosaurs? In fact, many scientists will say that they are dinosaurs?" Not challenging either. Okay, so, apparently, the big section they just completed in class about animals was pretty thorough. I tried.

G: "When can we see the Meercats?"

As we wandered we encountered other groups from school and the kids would quickly chat and compare notes on what had been seen, what was up ahead or what was just passed, and then my group would emerge from those conversations with a new sense of urgency to find the next cool thing that their classmates just mentioned.

Finally, yes, we made it to the Meercats, and G got Erin to pose in Meercat fashion with her for a picture.

And as anticipated as that was, after about 30 seconds G wanted to move on.

The kids had fun looking at all of the exhibits, with some more interesting than others, but nothing was so captivating to them as this:

A reptile keeper hand-feeding a monitor lizard canned monitor food (who knew there was a market for such things? But there it was, clearly labeled). The kids sat there mostly silently for nearly 15 minutes. I think I have to get one of those.

On the long bus ride home at least half the kids fell asleep, and most of them very quickly, yet the volume level didn't decrease one iota.

Can't wait to chaperone more field trips next school year, though I think I'll volunteer to drive.

going green



Sunday, June 14, 2009

international day

Saturday was the final day of German saturday school for me and the twins. All the girls and I did the fall semester of the program, which ended in January, but Erin couldn't enroll in the spring semester because school conflicted with her weekly softball games. Erin has continued learning German with a tutor at home while the rest of us continued in the school. On our final day, each of the classes performed a song or read poetry and a couple of the teenage classes performed original skits. Everything was in German, of course.

My classmates and I in the adult class couldn't escape performing either, so we sang/acted out a childrens' song and one of my classmates brought her guitar and played along. Very unfortunately, since I was singing I couldn't take any pictures or video of our performance and thus I have no footage to share here, and I'm ever so upset about that.

Luckily, we adults performed first and with that indignity out of the way all the parents and grandparents who gathered to see their kids could enjoy the rest of the show. Here is some of the twins' class together with the first grade class, which Erin was a part of in the fall. Unless you are a German-speaking grandparent, this video probably won't be too interesting for you.

In the afternoon I knew there would be a puppet show in German at a German school in the city and anyone was welcome to attend. I hadn't visited this other school before and I was wondering if we would be making this long trek only to be in an audience of 5 people in some dirty basement in order to watch a show that would only last 15 minutes. But, I decided to take a chance and after lunch the girls and I headed out.

The puppeteer didn't have the most elaborate stage in the world, but he had many, many puppets. He changed scenery several times and he had tons of props and sound effects going on from behind the set. He was a really entertaining guy even before he went behind the backdrop, and his show, Rumpelstiltskin, was really well done, and funny.

There were probably 40 kids there, plus parents. Before the show and afterwards he talked with the kids, and afterwards he invited the kids to see behind his stage and touch many of the puppets and props. The show lasted about an hour.

We all enjoyed it, it was well worth the trip.

I noticed when we entered the school building that it was literally steps away from the entrance to Chinatown, so after the show the girls and I took a walk around. The girls liked all the animal statues sitting outside various stores. See if you can pick out the three monkeys in the second photo:

I know, trick question! The photo has 6 monkeys.

We walked around for a while and I bought the girls a couple of truly junky (even by Made in China standards) trinket/toys, and we headed back to the car. On the way there, after leaving Chinatown, Erin announced, "I hear Scottish music! There it is, let's go in!" as we neared a Scottish imports store with an open door and bagpipe music playing from within.

We wandered in there and were greeted by a salesman in a kilt. We looked at samples of John's family plaid and I distracted the girls away from the whiskey bottles by inviting them to play with some Lock Ness Monster toys. Then Kate found a shirt she liked and suddenly all the girls wanted one.

We got back home just at dinner time, and with that our German-Chinese-Scottish day was complete.