I wrote a long post about how Austin is coping with kindergarten. Obviously, he’s not our only elementary schooler, but he is the squeaky wheel and definitely getting the most grease. Adria has always been adept at school…she is smart, responsible, and a people-pleaser. We simply don’t have to worry about her performance at school (Adria, if you are reading this someday: thank you).
On the other hand, Adria’s education is still work, both for her and us. She brings home weekly homework assignments, which typically consist of:
1 fill-in-the-blank worksheet with her spelling words
Approximately 4 pages of math worksheets
100 minutes per week of reading required (with a log)
Spelling quiz on Friday (with, frankly, some rather tricky words)
A couple of weeks ago, we got an e-mail from Adria’s teacher. Like all of the teachers we have dealt with at the elementary school so far, she was very polite and approachable. “Adria is a wonderful student, so cheerful and creative, but…” mindblown-alt
That was a bit of an “oh – – – -” moment for us. We had our heads down with Austin’s needs, and were a bit taken aback to learn that Adria needed some extra attention as well. The actual issue, however, was not a surprise: focus. Adria is easily distracted, and was having a hard time buckling down and finishing her in-class work in the allotted time. Her teacher asked us what we would like to do about this, and we asked her to send that unfinished work home. So, at least for a couple of weeks, Adria had significantly more ‘homework’ than what was listed above.
I am happy to report that now, just a couple of weeks later, Adria is totally crushing second grade. cool
The approach of sending the unfinished work home seemed to work. The number of assignments that she had to finish over the weekend diminished quite rapidly. These days, she brings nothing extra home, or maybe a blank or two here or there that is mostly an “FYI” from her teacher (when it’s just a fraction of a sheet, there’s no requirement to finish it…but we have her do it anyhow).
The real stunner, though, was Adria’s iReady score. We had Adria’s parent-teacher conference on the same day as Austin’s. Our expectation was that she would be doing…fine. We knew that she would be able to keep up without much encouragement, but since we are essentially unable to track her closely or give her significant amounts of personal attention with respect to school, we didn’t expect much more than average. Well…Adria was apparently showing off a bit on the iReady test. wink
Adria’s overall score was 554 with an error of +/- 11, and the ‘on level’ zone for second grade is 490-560. They labeled her as “Late 2” on 8/31/2016…less than 2 weeks into the school year. The breakdown was impressive:
Phonological Awareness: “Tested Out”
Phonics: “Level 3”
High Frequency Words: “Max Score”
Vocabulary: “Early 2”
Comprehension, literature: “Level 3”
Comprehension, informational text: “Level 3”
They also tested her on math. She aced the entire 2nd grade assessment, and then for giggles they gave her the 3rd grade test and she got the max score on 3 of the 6 questions on that assessment. Can you tell that I’m a proud daddy? smile
So, we will continue to support Adria as best we can. It would not surprise me if we start having discussions shortly about advanced math sessions and other special programs of that ilk…it sounds like she could benefit from a little extra push.
I leave you with this, the Preamble to the US Constitution:
I can’t really report on parent/teacher conferences for Addison, but I’ll post a video of her left-handedness in its stead. She is actually quite ambidextrous, but there is no doubt that she prefers her left hand for drawing. I ask her to switch, and she does…but as soon as she stops thinking about it, she unconsciously switches back. cool
Austin has been in kindergarten for seven weeks now, and I think it’s about time I write about how he’s doing. I’ve been saving this post. There has been a lot to say on this topic, but I was waiting for…steady state, I think. I didn’t want to make a big report and then have something change dramatically immediately afterwards.
On Tuesday of this past week we had our first parent-teacher conferences (for both big kids actually, I’ll report on Adria next), and I finally think that we’ve got a handle on things…it’s time to report! cool
Long story short, kindergarten has been a struggle for Austin. I can’t say that we’re terribly surprised. We worried and worried that he was too young, or too immature, or too active…we thought long and hard about holding him back a year. In the end, his preschool said that he was kindergarten-ready, and our district likes to keep kids in their grade when at all possible, so we put him in.
Austin has 3 ‘classes.’ There is “kinder enrichment” in the morning through lunchtime, then his actual kindergarten class (which is only a little over 2 hours), and then he goes to after-school care in the cafeteria (provided by the YMCA) with Adria from 2:30 until I pick them up. His ability to adjust to these classes has been directly proportional to the amount of structure and rigor that they entail. Both the YMCA and kinder enrichment (KE) are very relaxed, fun, hands-on, craft-filled experiences. They aren’t total free-for-alls, though: he’s expected to sit and listen to story time or instructions for a game or craft; he’s expected to clean up after himself; and he’s expected to engage in group activities. But there is also a lot of leeway here — if he’d rather go sit in a corner and read (or sulk) than do a craft, they are often able to let him…it doesn’t bother anyone.
Kindergarten is different. These days, kindergarten in the new first grade. He is expected to sit and listen to lessons, to practice reading and writing, to work in groups, to manage his own time in ‘centers,’ and more. There is a lot of structure. There is one teacher, sometimes with an aide or assistant, and sometimes with parent volunteers. There are approximately 20 students, and not nearly as many places to go escape.
Early on, we had all three teachers contact us about Austin’s negative behaviors (obviously, he’s not a problem all of the time — in fact, not even most of the time — but enough of the time that we were consulted). These behaviors ranged from being inattentive to being downright disruptive. All of his teachers were wonderful. We got comments like: “We had a few speed bumps today, and we’re wondering if you might have some strategies or suggestions for things that work at home.” tongue
And we did work with Austin, and his teachers, and things have improved greatly. Austin was mildly sick for about the first 3 weeks of school, which I maintain got him off on the wrong foot. That’s better now. He has come to terms with his teachers, made friends and become comfortable with his fellow students, and started to fall into the various routines. We came down hard on a few behaviors. For example, in the first couple of days, he was literally sprinting around the classroom (we heard this from kindergarten and YMCA) as a way of dealing with his frustration and coping with overwhelming emotions. This was marginally tolerable at the YMCA which is in the giant cafeteria, but dangerous and disruptive in kindergarten with desks and chairs…and 19 other kids trying to sit in a circle and learn. Clearly this was not ok, and after just a day or two we were able to impress that upon him, between us and the teachers.
Before too long, Austin’s kindergarten teacher offered a ‘star chart’ feedback system. We had been asking for a way that we could support her at home…we wanted to know when to reward a particularly great day or week, and when we could take corrective measures on some of these deal-breaker behaviors. Here are a handful of his early reports:
Austin has a lot of challenges. Taken alone, I think that none of these are particularly troublesome. But in kindergarten, these things are stacking up and making it difficult to learn. Let me see if I can describe some of them:
Hyper-focus: Austin has a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. Sometimes this is just because he’s interested or having fun, but sometimes it is because he is so focused on the current task that he has tuned the whole rest of the world out. This can be something he loves, like Minecraft, Legos, or drawing…but it turns out that at school he can become this focused on almost anything, including ‘reading’ and ‘writing.’
Introversion: Being in large groups pretty clearly exhausts Austin. Even though he knows some of the kids in his class, and they are peers, he struggles with the group activities. He often tries to escape, finding a place to sit alone. We’re told that he is starting to pair off with some of his friends more and more, but early in the year he even wanted to be alone at recess and lunch.
Sleep: Austin was still napping in pre-K, and when we have him lay down on the weekends he sleeps hard. As in, on Sundays he’d sleep for 4 hours or more if we let him, without moving, often in a giant pool of sweat. His ideal nap would be for maybe 60-90 minutes, right after lunch. You know…right when he goes to kindergarten. mindblown-alt
Perfectionism: The word perfectionism is a bit loaded, and I don’t think that Austin is a clinical perfectionist. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, but when something happens that violates his idea of how something is supposed to go, he loses it. He could be working quietly on a craft for 20 minutes, when suddenly a marker goes outside the line and then he’s crying, maybe walking away from the project, maybe tearing it up, balling it up, or throwing it away. To an outside observer, that ‘mistake’ is probably indistinguishable from a dozen others like it, but it was the one that didn’t fit Austin’s vision.
Age/Immaturity: Austin can be a sore loser. This is definitely related to the ‘perfectionism’ above…getting scored on in soccer is not part of Austin’s plan for the day, and it can cause him to go off the rails. This is particularly frustrating to me; I cannot stand sore losers, and perseverance is one of the qualities I most admire in people. It is very hard for me to not go nuclear when Austin throws up his hands over the littlest setback…but that doesn’t seem to help. I’m working on him and me both with this one. I think that, to some extent, he just needs to grow up.
I should take a step back and remind everyone — including myself — that Austin is a wonderful kid. He is gentle, loving, creative, intelligent, curious…even attentive, in his own way. I’m not trying to rant here, just capture some of the things that we’re working on at this stage of his development, and what kind of things we have tried. Most of the time, really, Austin is a wonderful — albeit young — kindergartner who is working hard to adapt to the system.
As I mentioned, we had our parent-teacher conference this past week. Amanda and I both steeled ourselves for this for days…I was expecting it to be very unpleasant. Turns out, he’s really doing pretty ok. The school gives a test called “iReady” to try and assess the kids. They expect kindergartners to score between 360 and 480 to be ‘on level’ (this is for the entire year…it would be ‘normal’ to be, for example, 370 at the beginning of the year and 470 at the very end). Austin scored a 340, on a computerized test that requires the use of a mouse and where listening to instructions is half the battle. They tested him again a month later to see how he was progressing, and he got a 364. So…low end, for sure, but he’s also one of the youngest kids in the class, and I was half expecting him to get a 0 because he refused to participate. So I was pleasantly surprised. wink
And he is learning at school. By the teacher’s assessment, on 8/19/2016 he could properly do “letter and sound identification” on exactly one letter. On 9/30/2016, he got 16. Now, I know for a fact that he’s better at his alphabet than this (although the standard might be different), so I’m guessing that this had as much to do with his willingness to interact as his actual knowledge.
We hear Austin singing songs he learned at school, he talks about his “Letterlanders” and the sounds that they make, and he is actually very willing to work on reading and writing at home, when in the proper mood. I took a video while he was working on his most recent assignment. Note that he’s holding his pencil properly…something that daycare was never able to teach him.
It seemed to me that his kindergarten teacher’s biggest frustration is simply when Austin won’t listen. She has created a new score chart recently, and now she puts down tally marks each time she has to nag him to do something. His most common act of civil disobedience these days is to lay on the floor and provide no interaction…he ignores everyone and everything, and does nothing but hum and play with his shoes. His teacher described this carefully, in a manner that made me think she was suggesting that it was some kind of mental issue — she even showed us a video. Meanwhile, I was having a hard time not grinning at this. Basically, the boy found a way to be supremely annoying, but in a manner that is not actively disruptive and has no material consequences. She’s not allowed to even pick him up and move him, much less swat his bottom (which is probably what I would do, honestly). He has figured out that his teacher has no leverage whatsoever. Oops. rolleyes
The obvious question is: if his kindergarten teacher can’t spank him, should I? I don’t know the answer to that. However, I will say that I haven’t so far, so you know my general sentiment. There are two main problems. The first is that I have no idea if he’s capable of correlating extreme consequences at home with his behavior at school.
I can see it going like this: I get a negative report and punish him at home, being very clear about why. The next day, he does the exact same thing, because the punishment was a full day ago, which is like forever. Then his teacher says something like, “I’m going to mark down on your chart that you weren’t listening again today, so your Dad can see it.” At which point, the realization dawns on him, and he loses his little mind and starts crying on the spot. At some point, maybe after doing this a few times, he’ll start grudgingly sitting up at circle time, glaring bitterly at his teacher. Which brings me to the second objection: none of us want Austin to learn to hate school, or to resent his teachers (or us) for making him conform.
So, we’re working the carrot a lot harder than we’re working the stick. Here is an example of the new-and-improved star chart:
When Austin has an unmitigated 6-star day like he did in the top chart here, we shower him with praises and riches. The main carrot, interestingly, is Minecraft. A 6-star day gets him 20 minutes of Minecraft on the tablet, which for Austin (and how we manage screen time in this house) is a big reward. We also have a ‘prize box’ at home where we let him choose from treats that he has already expressed interest in. This happens at our discretion…the original rule was that he would earn a prize for a 5-star week, but we have also given treats for perseverance in soccer and other strong behaviors.
I’m nearly done. I have mostly talked about Austin’s kindergarten class. We also had a conference with his ‘enrichment’ teacher, and her opinion was, “He’s doing just fine.” They love Austin to death in KE, just like we do, for the adorable, dynamic, sensitive little puzzle that he is. The education/testing/rigor standard is much lower in KE, and Austin and his teacher have reached…an understanding. And he learns a lot in KE. This is what kindergarten used to be. They make rubbings of leaves, look at the clouds and talk about condensation, grow a real garden, make geometric patterns with blocks, sing songs…and yes, along the way they accidentally practice letters and math and the rest of that education stuff. He’s getting along just fine, there. smile
So stay tuned…this is a ‘battle’ that we will be working on for a decade or two, I’m sure. Austin is a good kid, and he’s smart, and independent, and creative, and loving. He’s also immature and fickle and stubborn. We’ll keep working with him, giving him tools to deal with his feelings, and hopefully along the way we can convince him to love learning, like Amanda and I do. We’re his parents…this is our job.
We have a ‘Pigeon’ stuffy that has a sound button, and if you press it, the thing yells, “Let me drive the bus!!!” I’m pretty sure that Addison doesn’t get the reference, but she does understand from the emphasis that this pigeon has an unhealthy obsession with buses. So when she found the bus in our Mo Willems board book, she was very excited to show the pigeon.
At the end of this movie, I ask her “What does the pigeon want to do?” I’m fishing for some answer like, “Ride the bus” (which is what she usually says) or “Drive the bus” (the actual right answer), but she has already moved on. Addison wants to go play with the kitchen, so obviously Pigeon wants to cook, too. cool
About 6 weeks shy of her second birthday, we are potty training Addison! mindblown
Now I have to say, this wasn’t really our idea. We have a lot going on over the next 2 months, and if it was up to me we would have waited until after Thanksgiving. But this past Thursday, we got this note in Addison’s (digital) log for the day:
Today we worked hard with Addison on potty training. We set a timer for about every 20 minutes to get her started here at school. She’s doing great!! She’s been keeping her diaper dry and trying on the potty. Addison really likes the idea of the potty and I think with hard work at school and home, we can get her in underwear in no time.
In that same log, they had her “bathroom” diary, which up to this point only listed the status of her diapers:
8:35AM – potty – Wet, Tried
8:59AM – potty – Tried
9:53AM – potty – Dry, Pee
10:37AM – potty – Dry, Tried
11:01AM – potty – Pee
11:31AM – potty – Tried
12:01PM – potty – Pee
2:31PM – potty – Tried
3:06PM – potty – Tried
4:46PM – diaper – Wet
So, on what was basically her very first day of potty training, she went in her diaper one time. They told us in person that she was very excited about this, and that it was basically her own idea. She wanted undies!
On Friday, she was at it again:
8:21AM – potty – Pee
8:52AM – potty – Tried
9:29AM – potty – Pee
10:38AM – potty – Dry, Pee
11:08AM – potty – Pee
11:47AM – diaper – Dry
2:38PM – potty – Dry, Pee
3:43PM – diaper – Dry
4:05PM – diaper – Dry
4:33PM – diaper – Dry
No accidents on day number 2. They say that she was telling them when she needed/wanted to go.
Over the weekend, we continued to take her to the potty, and she was more than willing to use it. We didn’t keep a log or anything, and because we had several events over the weekend, we didn’t really have any expectations for her. Amanda got Addy some underwear from Target, and on Monday we sent her to school with “no net.” cool
She had no accidents:
8:28AM – potty – Pee
9:07AM – potty – Pee
9:48AM – potty – Pee
10:28AM – potty – Pee
11:57AM – potty – Pee
2:34PM – potty – Dry, Pee
4:07PM – potty – Tried
4:46PM – potty – Pee
Now…she also didn’t poop all day Monday, and she didn’t at home either. We put her back in underwear on Tuesday, and eventually the inevitable happened:
8:38AM – potty – Pee
10:29AM – potty – Pee
11:35AM – potty – Pee
3:48PM – potty – Pee, BM, Accident
4:33PM – potty – Pee
4:34PM – diaper – Dry
I will spare you the report from school for today, but she didn’t have any accidents today either. We went out to dinner tonight, and wisely took a change of clothes for Addison. She told us a couple of times that she wanted to go potty, but the restaurant had a big, loud, automatic toilet, and that was not ok. Before the end of the night, she had an accident. uneasy
It seems like she is well on her way. We have yet to see her poop in the potty since this formal training started, so that’s still a major milestone to go. As long as you give her lots of chances, though, she can take care of #1!
Amanda and I have decided that one reason Addy is so easy to train is that she has the biggest sweet tooth by far among our kids. We give her 3 or 4 M&Ms (“yummies”) when she uses the potty, and this is highly motivational for her. Sometimes, she’ll just come up to us and say, “I want yummies, please!” And we’ll respond that the treats are for going potty. So she’ll say, “Want…to go potty!” We’ll take her, and sure enough…she’s able to squeeze out a few drops for the sake of a handful of M&Ms. tongue
Which brings me to my last point: she really does know what it means to feel like she needs to pee. She can find it when there is barely any there, and she’ll frequently give this delightful little exclamation when she’s sitting on the potty and realizes that it’s coming. She also doesn’t seem to like to be wet, so…I think she has all of the pieces. You go, girl!
This is a fairly modest album, consisting entirely of things close to home. We have birthday parties, a bug hunt, a hike and an amusement park, soccer and local parks, and lots of snapshots from around the house. Enjoy!
The flash on the trusty Powershot S110 died back in mid-July of 2015…I have been using it without a flash for 14 months, so naturally I have been getting twitchy for a replacement for a while now. I was keeping an eye on the new(ish) Canon G9X, the moral successor to the S110 line, and then two things happened last week: First, the built-in lens covers on the S110 stopped opening and closing by themselves…I had to flick them with my finger to un-stick them. And then, when I mentioned this to Amanda, she said something like, “I’ve been telling you to get a new one for forever now…”
Well, if you are going to twist my arm like that… cool
And really, it is very much like the trusty old S100 and S110 cameras, because I loved those devices. This one is a hair thicker and has a much bigger lens and sensor (20MP). It has fewer buttons but a more responsive touch screen, and some pretty slick advanced features (customized menus, automatic ND filter, face detection, image stabilization, etc). I’m having fun learning about it.
I updated my trusty camera model chart:
A lot of cameras actually reach near the top of the chart. The 5DM2 DSLR is going strong, and has taken more pictures than any other camera by far. I expect that one to last another decade. My phone (Nexus 5X) and Amanda’s phone (Nexus 6) continue to make pictures, as do both the S100 and S110 (backup camera, rugged environments, loaned to the kids, etc). And of course the new G9X is current, with a whopping 29 images so far. smile
The S110 had a good run. The S100’s bar is taller, but only because it sees occasional use…in practice, I took 3000 more pictures on the later model.
So now we expect some great kid pictures out of you and your 1″ sensor, Powershot G9X. Like, for example, a shot of Adria and Austin reading together in near darkness.
Yeah, so, it’s late September. And I finally got around to printing the ‘blog book’ from last year. That’s ok…it’s mostly a reference piece to drag out later, and the delay this year had more to do with budget than anything else. I finished making the 2015 book in mid-March, proofread it, uploaded it to Lulu and made covers…and then balked at the $130 price tag at a time when a lot of bills were coming due. So, I waited. Recently, I encountered a 25% off coupon for Lulu, so I decided to take the plunge…and the new coffee-table book showed up a few days ago! cool
I think that I have now surpassed Harry Potter…at least, in number of volumes. Here’s the entire set, all fanned out:
And the full stack, with Amanda’s hands for scale (thanks to Amanda for being my hand model…this photo is tricky enough with two hands):
Just like I noted in my 2015 postmortem post, 2014 appears to be the peak. The 2015 book is not as thick as last year’s book. Here are the page counts:
2008: 124 pages
2009: 350 pages
2010: 460 pages
2011: 625 pages
2012: 552 pages
2013: 594 pages
2014: 726 pages
2015: 659 pages
In 2015 I started using a lot more large images, so that probably puffed up the page count a bit. The grand total is: 4,090 pages!
Here is a quick flip-through, just to give a feel for what it looks like on the inside. Thanks again to my hand model (cheesy background music because it’s otherwise silent). smile
So here’s the long story, made short: Adria stepped on my left hand about a week ago, and broke my ring finger. It will be in a splint for at least another 6 weeks. sad
It has been over a week since this happened. X-rays have been taken and the finger is all splinted up and on the way to healing, so I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. cool
Last Wednesday night, September 14th, I turned on the kids’ bathroom light for teeth-brushing, and there was a spider hanging from the ceiling on an invisible web (a lot like this one). Cute little thing, and we don’t freak out about spiders around here. We caught it in a plastic cup, watched him for a while, and then Adria took him outside. So far, so good. mindblown-alt
Since we just had a spider experience, I was getting silly while helping Austin get his pajamas on. I skittered my hands across the floor like spiders, pretending that I was going to tickle him. Austin squirmed and laughed and it was all fun and games. Adria heard the commotion and came running in, so I skittered my spiders over towards her. Can anyone guess what her reaction was? That’s right, she stomped on that itsy bitsy spider. Pop!
Now, we don’t swear in front of our kids, pretty much ever. My immediate reaction when this incident happened was to yell, and I quote: “F***! G** d*** it!” I stood up without looking back, went to my bedroom and slammed the door with my heel, and laid down on the carpet in the walk-in closet where I could cry, curse, and/or console myself in peace. It hurt, a lot.
I refrained from going to the ER. Despite the pain, it didn’t look all that bad. I iced it for a few hours and took lots of ibuprofen..there was some bruising but very little swelling, and I could close my hand…although it really didn’t feel good. See the white line in my skin on the knuckle (left-to-right line, not the scar)? You could feel that ridge through the skin. Ew.
So the next day, I took the first available appointment at Kaiser. The nurse more or less sent me straight down for x-rays. This is a digital, instantaneous process these days…so I went back upstairs and they were basically already reviewing the pictures. Definitely broken:
Apparently what happened is that the ‘extensor’ tendon on the top of my ring finger was stronger than the bone, so when my finger was forced closed past its limit, it actually pulled that little chip of bone off. And that’s what you can see through the skin in the photo above. No wonder it hurt…
They splinted me up and scheduled an appointment with an ortho specialist, and I went to that appointment on Tuesday. Fortunately, the treatment is pretty easy. You bend the joint backwards a little (to give the tendon some slack) and splint it that way. They did this, and then took an x-ray while I was splinted to verify that the bone chip seated properly (it did). So now I wait, approximately 6 weeks while it stitches itself back together.
In many ways, the nature of the injury was actually fortunate. Bones heal better than tendons. I didn’t even ask what the treatment (if any) would be if the tendon had ruptured or detached from the bone. I’m pretty happy with my anti-climatic splint:
The ‘splint’ is a piece of aluminum that looks hand-cut and manually wrapped in some kind of bandage. Then they taped it to the back of my finger. The most important detail, really, is that the finger is fully extended so the extensor tendon isn’t tempted to pull on that chip of bone and reset the healing process.
I think I’ll stop here. To be honest, it is still rather uncomfortable, and I’m not super excited about doing a lot of typing. The real gotchas, though, are not the really obvious things that you do with your hands, like washing dishes. It’s the things where you don’t really realize that you are using your whole hand. For example, opening a bottle of children’s cough syrup. It’s a tiny lid, seems like that would be fine for 1.5 hands…but it’s a little sticky, and when you try to really clamp down on the lid with your first two fingers, the rest of the hand follows…you can’t help it. And that hurts.
So, Adria. I love you, I’ll live, all is forgiven. But please be more thoughtful…I really could have done without this unexpected drama. tongue