Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wedding in NY

The weekend after Thanksgiving we all headed north to New York for my cousin, Cody's wedding. It's been a long time since all of my cousins have been together at one time.

My grandmother was an only child and she had 3 daughters (3 son-in-laws) and now has 7 grandchildren (plus 4 spouses) and 9 great-grandcildren. She was so cute and excited about all of us having our picture taken.
The whole family
Leland was a flower girl in the wedding with her cousin Nick as the ring bearer. They were so adorable. She was so excited about it but, looked so nervous when she actually came down the isle.
My cute uncle wore that same cowboy hat on the day that he and my aunt were married. When I was a teenager, I spent the summer in New York with my uncle and cousins while my aunt was helping with a sick family member. That was one of my most memorable summers. One of the friends I made 15 years ago were at the wedding. It was fun to see her.
We hired a babysitter to watch all the kids, so it was a fun date night with my sisters and their husbands at the reception.
Poor Chuck got a little teary listening to my uncle talk about his only daughter getting married. He says "and I have to do this at least 3 times in my life, geez!"
Cross Women
Taking family pictures in freezing cold temperatures.
All the kids had so much fun together. We rented a large lake house so we could all stay together. It was a blast.
enjoying chocolate cake and yummy root beer
Nana was in heaven with all the grandkids in one house.
play-doh creations and playing in the light snow flurries
We miss our cousins!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Singing

We traveled to Maryland to my sister's house for Thanksgiving. It was great being with family and just relaxing. The kids and the boys played Rock Band literally all day while Thanksgiving dinner was cooking.

We had a wonderful dinner, but just before bed Chuck started to feel sick and he spent the night leaning over the toilet. Not fun. He was luckily the only one that got sick, so we have no idea what made him so sick. Lucky for everyone else, not so lucky for poor Chuck.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend in NC

We took a quick trip down to NC. Some girlfriends from here in Richmond went down to visit another friend who recently moved to Raleigh. It was nice to go to the temple with friends and have my mom and sister join us. We then went to dinner and chatted away. It was a fabulous day.
Chuck loves a good revitalization project or low impact development ares that he will go out of his way to see and get pictures. So, on our way back home we stopped in Durham, NC to walk around an area that his boss here in Richmond told him about. It was an old Tobacco factory close to the Durham Bulls baseball stadium that has been revitalized. I have to admit that it was pretty fun to walk around.
We actually got a good picture of the girls too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Enjoy and Enrich

[FYI - Chuck recently edited this post and added more.}

There have been a few things on my mind a lot lately - 1) Enjoying my children and 2) enriching my children.

I want to help them grow and develop into strong, confident, kind, loving, intelligent girls. But I want all of us to enjoy the process.

I have been reading a parenting book called 1..2..3..Magic. I'm about half way into it and agree with the concept. Like any "self-help" book, I implement the parts that I agree with and adjust any other parts I don't 100% agree with. I have been completely impressed with how well the 1, 2, 3...Magic concept works. I have noticed a change in the girl's behavior and especially my behavior. One of the big ideas is to not let personal emotion get in the way of disciplining your child. I get less frustrated and irritated, thus enjoy my children more.

As I think about my kids, I have thought a lot about public school lately. We are about 3 months into the world of public school and in one word it's just... interesting. You want your child to learn, be enriched, make friends, learn social skills, and have fun. I keep asking myself, "How do I make sure my child is getting the guidance and instruction she needs without somebody accusing me of not letting my kid just be a kid?"

In Leland's class, there are 18 kids for the teacher to be concerned with. We love her teacher and have always had positive experiences with the school, the PTA, the principal, the specialist teachers (librarian, reading specialist, and music teacher). But ever since our parent-teacher conference earlier this month, Chuck has been in my ear about something.

At the parent-teacher conference, Leland's teacher raved about her. She explained how Leland got 100 out of 102 on the PALS test. The target score for kindergartners is 28.

Now, if you have heard Chuck's view on making progress through life, you can guess that we like to make sure that we properly appreciate the positive, but be aware of the things that we should be working on. He is constantly balancing those two sides - pride in the girls' successes, while seeking opportunities for further growth and learning opportunities. So in that mode, he said, "That's great she did so well... can you show us what were the 2 things she missed so we can be sure to work on them in the future?"

Of course, we were very pleased with our sweet little girl. We are not the kind of people who push the girls too hard without recognizing their successes. But we also talked with her teacher about some of our concerns that Leland may be getting bored with school.

Chuck keeps saying that she needs to be challenged in life. He says, he wants his kids to be smart, but not so much so that they are the smartest in their class and don't have to work for their achievements. Some day, the girls will come up against academic challenges and we want them to be used to overcoming them through study and diligence.

He says that as we teach Leland, he keeps thinking back to a few times in his life when he came up against academic challenges and didn't handle them as well as he should have because he wasn't used to having to work hard to get good grades. He talks about his first year at Stanford being a real eye opener for him. So, you can see why he is so concerned that Leland is starting her educational "career" by getting into the habit of things being easy at school.

After the parent-teacher conference, the teacher worked with us to have Leland tested for her reading and phonetic skills. For a few days, she spent a short time doing a reading test with Leland. She tested at a 2nd grade, 8th month level for reading.

(By the way, Lucy is on the same path. Her preschool teacher says she's the only one in her class that knows all the sounds letters make and knows her numbers. She is on track to be reading consistently before turning 4, just like Leland was. Yesterday, Lucy actually read the little books that Leland brought home from school.)

Can you see why we love Leland's teacher? She cares about Leland and really tries to stimulate her, but she is constrained by the needs of the other 17 kids, not to mention the budget cuts which did away with teacher's aides.

Our school is a great school, but we are concerned that the teacher is having to teach at an extremely low level simply due to the makeup of the class. 10 of the 18 students in Leland's class are ESL. Very few of the kids entered kindergarten at the basic level of preparedness. Because of this, the teacher is having to focus on unbelievable remedial lessons that Leland was learning over the past two years in preschool and are more applicable for our 3-year old Lucy.

The teacher and the reading specialist were hoping to find other kids at or near Leland's level to form a reading group at her level. Sadly, they came back and said that after asking all 5 kindergarten teachers, they realized that there is not a single other child even close to Leland's level. So what happens when your child is above the learning level that everyone else in her grade at her school is? How do you make sure she is still enriched?

I want her to be challenged. I do not want her to develop the habit that school is easy and not want to take on challenges. Her teacher is doing well at trying to give Leland instruction to take her work to the next level, but I know she is capable of so much more than the simple worksheets she is bringing home. Let's face it, if a teacher has a child preforming above grade level and a child performing below grade level that needs extra one-on-one time, the below grade level child is going to get the attention.

I'm not really an advocate of skipping grades, but Chuck has spent the last 3 months wondering if we should move Leland up to 1st grade. It might be fine now, but on a social level I just don't think it's best as teenagers. I do not want my 15 year old in class with 16-17 year old kids who are driving and dating.

I only have 3 hours with Leland each day between the time she gets home from school and the time to get ready for bed. I try my best to make that time with her enriching, but I 'm making dinner and she is just worn out. Do we move to a school where there might be other kids her age at a similar level? The gifted program in our district doesn't start until the 3rd grade. It is an immersion program, so not every school has a gifted program. Do we make sure we buy a house in a district that has a gifted program, so she does not have a 45 minute bus ride to and from school?

Let's just put it out there - I do not want to home school. I believe in the public school system. (Both of parents were school teachers and Chuck says he pays tuition for school every April 15.) I just need to figure out how to make it work for my child and our family. I can do all I can with her during those 3 hours in the evening, but realistically, she is at school for 6 hours, that's where it needs to happen.

I need to be an advocate for my child. I am trying to find that balance between enriching my girls and letting them enjoy being a kid. Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is us

School pictures
Since I have no professional pictures to share of Charly, I'll share a video of her most recent accomplishment. Don't you just the love the tongue poking out just like her Daddy does when he concentrates?
Chuck and I loved watching the Country Music Awards last night. I love all the performnaces, but this Brad Paisley one is the best. Chuck loved the "Wanna get scrappy?" bit between Jeff Gordon and Brad Paisley.