Thursday, March 29, 2012

The First Grade Concert

Last night was the greatly anticipated First Grade Spring Concert.  Josie planned her outfit two days in advance and had the entire ensemble on and ready to go an hour before we were scheduled to leave our house.  

To kill the time, I took some photos of Josie to commemorate the moment.  Henry, as he is wont to do, joined in a few of them.  

This may only be our second year at our "new" school, but we have already learned the ropes.  If you want to get a seat in the auditorium, it's best to get to the concert early.  We arrived 30 minutes before the start and were pleasantly surprised to find three seats central to the stage.  We considered this lucky as the majority of the parents/siblings had to stand.

Georgia immediately whipped out her book and got down to business..... that is until I started reading over her shoulder, read two swear words and an inappropriate subject matter in one paragraph and therefore removed the book from her hands.  Guess I need to do a better job scanning the library books when the arrive home!  whoops!

Josie and her classmates arrived on stage just moments after I confiscated Georgia's book, so it wasn't really a huge problem.   That's not to say that Georgia didn't protest vociferously and complain about precious reading time being wasted.

The First Graders performed seven short songs.

Many of the songs included instruments or hand movements.... or both:

In the below photo, the children had to pretend to be asleep.

As you can see, Josie took the assignment seriously.... so seriously that later on, she informed me that pretending to sleep made her tired.  As in too tired to put on her pjs, brush her teeth and get into bed.  

I've said it before, but I'll say it again.... this music teacher is fantastic.  Her song selections are cute without being corny and sweet without being sappy.   She gives every child a chance to play an instrument and you can tell that the students are having fun.

Josie certainly had a great time.  She didn't seem nervous or anxious at all.  

After all that preparation and anticipation, the concert probably seemed pretty short.

After the performance, we met Josie back in her classroom and I took one more photo.

It was our last First Grade Concert.... luckily it was a good one!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Meet My Nephew!

Isn't he cute?

Oh!  Have you heard?  Elizabeth and Sean are having a baby!  And it's the boy kind, which is very rare in Elliot-land.  Henry was beyond thrilled to find out that he will no longer be the only grandson.

I think my nephew looks a little like Josie did in her first ultrasound photo.  Which makes perfect sense since Josie looks very much like Elizabeth.   

And if my nephew's photo isn't cute enough, look at this:

Elephant booties!  

Just look at those trunks!  Look at those eyes!  Behold those wonderful, elephant-y ears!  How could I resist!

There is nothing more adorable and more purchase-able than newborn baby things.

Elizabeth and Sean are expecting their son's arrival in August, so prepare yourself for a photographic overload.  It's been 7 years since I've had access to a baby and I'm planning to get my fill!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Mornings

Early on Sunday mornings, while their mother is upstairs, asleep in bed, four of the Elliots gather in the kitchen to make breakfast.

Eggs are cracked:

Milk is measured:

And batter is whisked:

Not all Elliots are actively helping:

But their presence is mandatory, nonetheless.

If it is a truly GOOD Sunday morning, then there are chocolate chips involved:

... and samples to be eaten.

Finally, it's time to heat up the griddle and get the party started:

And apparently, it's quite a party:

Oh, the wild things that happen while Mother is asleep!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

School Conferences: What I've Learned

We had all three of our children's school conferences last week, so obviously it was an exhausting five days of early releases, meetings with teachers and entertaining the children for an extra three hours every afternoon.  I was so relieved to send them back to school on Monday.

School conferences are not my favorite.

I didn't always feel that way.  When I envisioned  having school-aged children, I imagined the fun of being on the parent-side of a parent/teacher conference.  I imagined myself calm and happy.  i thought that once we got through the infant stage and toddler years, sending my children off to school would be as easy as pie.  And it was, for a short period of time.  At first, it was fun to sit in that minuscule chair with my knees tucked around my ears, and be shown the various art projects, essays and math tests my wonderful child had produced.  I enjoyed hearing how sweet my child was, how the world was his oyster and that when he spoke, rays of sunshine poured out of his mouth.  And then second grade happened.

I am a more jaded conference attendee at this point.  I'm not saying that my children are poor students or behavioral problems - quite the contrary.  I've just learned that I have to work harder to establish this fact and to ensure their good student status stays current and truthful.  Little children get by on their cuteness and the hope for future potential.  By the time children get older, you learn that their unique brand of cuteness is one that only a mother - and the occasional teacher - can truly love.

I have learned that it's a parent's responsibility to come prepared to a teacher conference and that fifteen minutes is not a lot of time to discuss a year's worth of academia.  The more experience me is willing to ask pointed questions, to demand thoughtful answers and to request further discussions.  I learned mid-way through Henry's school career that no one will stand up for your child's academic rights except for you and I've taken the role of Elliot Child Advocate very seriously.

For the most part, I am fortunate and I get good reviews from my children's teachers.  But that doesn't mean that I don't have to fight for my children's academic best interest from time to time.  For one thing, it's very easy to leave a 15-minute conference without learning anything about how your child is actually doing in school.  I am social by nature, and enjoy a good yap with just about anyone and teachers are no exception.  I've had to learn to stay focused and come prepared with a list of topics to discuss and to work through the urge to chit-chat.

The type of teacher to which The Children Elliot are assigned, plays a big role in the success of the conference.  As far as I can tell, there are three types of elementary school teachers and each has a different conference style.  Here's a summary:

Type Number 1:  The Great Teacher

If Elliot 1, 2 or 3 is very, very lucky, than he/she is being taught be a Great Teacher.  What is a Great Teacher, you ask?   A Great Teacher is one who loves her job and is on top of each and every student in her class.  The Great Teacher can give you a very detailed and thorough description of your child's positives and minuses (and they must be presented in that order).  Great Teachers will always have examples lined up to prove every point and solutions thought out in advance.  Great Teachers know if your child is just having a bad week or if they need extra help.  Great Teachers point out sections of your  child's work that you never would have seen on your own and even their criticisms sound like praise.  Georgia has one of these teachers this year and her conference was a complete joy to attend.

Type Number 2:  The Fine Teacher

The Fine Teacher is the hardest teachers to deal with and to read.  According to them, your child is not the best student nor is he/she the worst student and therefore, Fine Teacher has really very little interaction with your child at all.  This type of teacher can be dangerous - Handle With Caution.  The last thing I want if for my child to NOT comprehend something while his/her teacher is unaware that there is a problem.  It is my experience that children who "are fine" are often overlooked.  Most of our teachers are responsible for 23 students all on their own.  I figure that they are spending the majority of their energy helping the Not Fine category of student, while praising the Super Smarties for doing things on their own.  There's not enough time in the day to deal with those kids who fall in the middle.  But if one of those Fine Children is an Elliot, then deal with them, the teachers must!

I have encountered many a Fine Teacher at a fall conference.  So many that I now arrive at conferences with a prepared statement.  If told my child is "doing fine" (when I know for a fact that he comes home crying over assignments that he didn't understand or carrying a homework packet that I then have to teach her how to do) I say the following thing:

"We want (Insert Elliot Child Name) to have a very successful year.  We want (him/her) to be better than Fine.  He/She does not come from a Fine Family, he/she comes from an Excellent Family.  We expect him/her to Excel and Exceed Expectations.  We don not want to see a middle-level grade on his/her report card, we want to see the top grade.  Let me know how I can assist you to make this happen."

to understand YOUR goals for your children and they want to know that you are willing to put in a little effort, too.  Public School is definitely all about sharing the responsibilities and it helps teachers to know that you are right there to help.

Type Number 3:  The Crank

Ah, the poor, exhausted Crank.... Woe is them.  These are the teachers who either just don't like your child and are happy to let you know, or else they are tired of the whole teaching experience and need a huge raise and a stiff drink (neither of which they are going to get at our Public School).  We've encountered only a small number of these teachers over our combined eight years of elementary school conferences and consider ourselves pretty fortunate.  We did have one teacher who made our usually stoic child sob in front of us and then had to listen to her criticize the poor child for crying.  That was fun.

But for the most part, The Crank conferences are not to be taken personally.  I had one this year, who after complaining for five minutes about the upcoming kindergarten class (which has no connection whatsoever to me) came out of her pity party long enough to show me a beautiful essay written by my first grader.  Crank's good vibes didn't last long.  She could only come up with two things to say about Josie's writing - both minor and both negative.  So I did what I always do when confronted with A Crank.  I got to work and filled in the positives for her - "look at that penmanship!  Look how she stuck to the subject!  Look how many sentences she wrote in 10 minutes!  What impressive work for a 7 year old!" - hoping that my enthusiasm might bring her back from the dark side.  It worked, thank heavens, and she seemed more perky and complimentary by the end of our conference.  But now that I think about it, maybe that's just because she knew I was leaving....

This year was our first middle school conference and it was a doozy.  The quick 15-minute elementary school conference was replaced by a fast-paced 4-minute meeting that left Gordy and I breathless and reeling in the hallway.  Four minutes is barely enough time to utter a greeting and side down, let alone discuss a year's worth of academics.  It's obvious a whole new conference game plan is going to have to be established.  That's okay.  I like a challenge.  By the time Josie gets to Middle School, I'll have those four minutes down to a science!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ta Da!

I'm so happy to announce that our master bedroom remodel is finally (almost) finished!

For the last two years, Gordy and I have been spending our nights in here:

a large, empty, cavernous place.  (hmm.  That photo makes the room look a whole lot neater than I remember!)

Our bedroom is an oddly-shaped square.  There are four dormer windows that eat up a lot of wall space and I certainly never knew what to do about them.

(now there's that cluttered look that I remember!)

I am a bad, bad, decorator.  I have zero decorating skills and I am terribly un-gifted when it comes to measuring or getting furniture proportions correct.  When we moved into our house two years ago, I knew that I wanted the house to be more "adult" than our previous homes, and I knew that no amount of flipping through house magazines hoping for inspiration was going to help me.  Instead, I hired an amazing decorator and she has been working her way through our major rooms.

And thank heavens for that because just look what I was using as a tv cabinet!

Furniture by Plastic Bin is never a good statement.  You never see those in House Beautiful!

Juliane hooked us up pretty quickly.  We went from empty shell to a sitting area in a matter of weeks:

Juliane taped off places where sconces would go and art would hang.

A vanity was added to our room (please remember this piece later).

A few weeks later, a carpenter arrived to fill in two of the dormer windows with a built-in bookcase / dressers:

And he put window seats on the opposite sides:

The painter arrived, the Man Who Hangs The Drapes (the draper?) did his work, a carpet was laid down and bedding assembled and VOILA!

Gorgeous bedroom!

We now have funky, hanging lights by our bed, thus freeing up valuable book space on our bedside tables:

It's amazing how cozy a room gets once you soften things up with fabric and rugs.

Our built-ins are still a little bare, and it will take me years to assemble knick-knacks.  I'd be able to fill the spot up with books in a second, but when I did so, I lost a great deal of the decorator-y look that I was after.

Here is our new seating area:  

From the photos, it looks like these chairs are pushed up against the bed, but that's not the case.  There is a healthy-sized path back there.

We have gone from spending very little time in our room, to hanging out and communing with our new furniture as often as possible.

The only unfinished item?

The vanity went home with a faux-painter who is kindly painting it a soft wood color to match the tv cabinet.  It will go against this wall and have the above chair next to it.  

And of course, wall art.  That would be nice, but that will have to wait awhile.

Until the coffers refill, I'll just enjoy the beauty of this:

There are worse things!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How To Make A Leprechaun Trap

Need to make a Leprechaun Trap?  Perhaps your 1st grade teacher has assigned this task for homework and you have no idea how to begin?   Well, luckily for you, Josie teacher gave her the exact same assignment and she is happy to demonstrate how a Leprechaun Trap is made.

First, you need to get a tomato sauce jar from your recycling bin and wash off the label.

You may need a sharp, metal, cooking implement to make the process go more smoothly.

While your clean jar dries, sneak up to your father's closet and choose 10 of the shiniest pennies from his change box:

Assemble your supplies.  In addition to the jar and pennies, you will need pipe-cleaners, green paper, a pen, a pair of scissors, a bell and something soft for the Leprechaun to land on (we used bubble-wrap).

Carefully measure the pipe-cleaners so that they are long enough to hook over the opening of the lid.

Next, place the bubble-wrap and pennies into the bottom of the jar.  The shiny pennies will attract your common house Leprechaun and entice him to enter the jar:

The bubble-wrap will protect the Leprechaun from hurting himself when falling into the jar.  We are not cruel people, after all.

Begin assembling the ladder using two long pipe-cleaners and four short "rung" pipe-cleaners.


Next, hang a bell from the inside of the jar, which when hit by a falling Leprechaun, will ring and alert nearby humans.

Alerted humans will then remove the ladder THUS trapping the greedy Leprechaun in the jar.

Because Josie believes in fair play (and because her teacher's instructions insisted upon it), she added a warning sign:

The Leprechaun Trap should be self-explanatory, but just in case, write out directions to maximize trap-buyer success:

Decorate your jar in a Leprechaun-appealing way.  Josie used green paper to make shamrocks.

And you are finished!  Good job!
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