Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I went to Duchess's parent-teacher conference yesterday. (I brought Spruce and O Blond as well as Duchess, which was confusing for the teacher, who asked ''are they all yours?'') The teacher thinks Duchess is ''an absolute joy to have in class.'' She had nothing but positive things to say, but my favorite thing she said is that when she asks the kids who they think they can '' sit with and be successful, '' almost all of them pick Duchess.

I don't think Duchess's academic experience is going to change, but at least I got to talk about my concerns about what the endless stupid worksheets are doing to Duchess's ability to tackle challenges.
I like the teacher, who seems to be working hard to serve all the kids to the extent she's able, given the constraints of curriculum, testing, and time. She's clearly frustrated by the constraints, and she's not exceptional, but it seems like she brings her all to the classroom every day. I certainly can't ask for more than that. And she likes my kid, which is a bonus.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bad babysitter

Today I'm off work, and in charge of Duchess, Spruce, and O Blond. They're happily playing Playmobil in the basement (thanks again for the loan, Rock Star Uncle!), and I'm catching up on lots of minor things I have to and want to do. I've been reading the NY Times, for one thing, and look! I found an article that gave me a new way to think about the "skills gap" and labor, employment, education, and job training in the United States!

Yesterday Duchess attended a "winter survival, stealth, and archery" camp. They were outdoors most of the time, and it rained relentlessly the entire time, but apparently she had fun,* and she's very excited about archery now and wants to do the "Archery Apprenticeship" program they offer

*While I can't think of a single time that Duchess has not enjoyed a day camp or class of any kind, I was concerned that the weather, and the jury-rigged weather-appropriate outfit we put together for her, might make for a milestone disappointment. It didn't. It might actually take adolescence to kill Duchess's joy in stuff like that.

The wolf family

We had a parent-teacher conference recently with Skipper's teacher, during which we expressed some concern about Skipper's social skills. Skipper is an observer, and needs to take a lot of time watching events unfold before she feels comfortable participating in them. She doesn't, however, appear to have the tools she needs (and wants) to enter an activity that's already in progress, unless she's explicitly invited. She's more comfortable saying no to engagement than trying to say yes. We asked the teachers to help her identify and try out ways to engage when she wants to. 

Her teacher didn't quite grasp what we wanted, I think, and it's kind of a big ask anyway for a preschool teacher who has a roomful of bonkers 4-year-olds to manage, without extra time for fine-tuning one kid's skills at the request of her helicopter parents, but she certainly grasped that we're concerned about Skipper's social skills.*  So she sent us this movie to reassure us that Skipper doesn't spend ALL her time alone, watching other kids play. This is Skipper and two of the kids she plays with the most - she organized them into a wolf family. I particularly like the part where she intimidates another kid out of the way. 

*Also, I really appreciate that Skipper's teachers all recognize that she is a watcher, and they honor that as a  legitimate way to approach the world. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Duchess's idea of a perfect birthday celebration:
Day One: Do "All About Me" presentation to whole class. (This would have been better if classmates paid better attention, but that's okay.)
Day Two: Actual birthday - receive several excellent presents, eat apple crisp for breakfast. Go to school, do Running Club, have mom join you for lunch. Attend kung fu after school, enjoy hilarious jokes with best kung fu friend. Eat cheeseburger, fries, and a giant soda at a fairly-fast food joint with family.
Day Three: Birthday "party" - go to science museum with a friend, attend an IMAX movie about dolphins, spend $10 at the museum store.
Day Four: Lunch at a cafe downtown with another friend before Lego Physics

And then! A whole week off school! It's the best birthday ever.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Birthday morning

Trying out the new tumbling mat

I forgot to post a photo from soccer!

I forgot to post a Halloween picture!

I present to you Artemis and the Garden Fairy. The Garden Fairy thought that Halloween is the best thing ever. (Wait till she grasps the full extent of Christmas.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

joie de vivre with metaphors

Duchess turns 8 tomorrow. She's enormously happy. She's confident, joyful, and sure of her competence and success. She's just devouring her life right now. I don't really know what to make of it - I can't remember ever feeling the kind of vivid enthusiasm that just pours out of Duchess these days.* I occasionally wrestle with the vicious urge to burst her bubble (but I do fight that urge, I do), and more often I feel sad about her inevitable loss of this amazing faith in the world and in herself. It's a little frivolous to feel sad about the puncturing of her faith, when she's one of the luckiest people ever to be alive, and the thing that happens to kids, especially girls, as they approach adolescence and the confidence trickles away, isn't exactly a tragedy, being as she'll still be alive and not worrying about hunger and homelessness and violence. But it's still sad.

However, it's not actually about me and what I make of it. What it is is awesome. Between this developmental stage and her essential temperament, she'll try anything, and soak up as much as she can. She's open to new things, she's flexible about changing her mind, and she thinks everything is interesting. She'll talk to anybody, and she'll give anybody the benefit of the doubt. She's also ethical and sensitive to other people, and she's generous about laughing at anybody's jokes. She's a loyal friend and a conscientious student. Everything she does, she does largely - smiling, laughing, talking, crying, stomping, running, reading (no almost-eight-year-old in the history of the world has ever sprawled on a couch the way this one can). That's Duchess, on the cusp of her ninth year, cracking open the oystershell, seizing the day, gathering rosebuds, etc. She's a dazzling sight.

*I don't mean that she's particularly delightful to live with right now - she's snotty and whiny, she's loud and irritating, she occasionally throws ridiculous tantrums, and she's horrible to her sister (who is horrible right back) - but she does it all with zest. Even the tantrums seem awfully zesty.

What the future holds

Tonight Skipper announced her plans for the future. She's going to work at the South Pole, and she's going to eat pizza and cake every day, but no vegetables.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Brainwashing, phase 1

1. Duchess is taking a lego physics class on Sundays. She and her friend Spruce are the only girls in the 10-kid class. She complained on the first day that the boys only want to talk about "...stuff that's boring to me! All they want to talk about is the Millenium Falcon!"
2. Duchess is doing an "All About Me" presentation in class next week,* and has a big poster template to fill out. Under "When I grow up, I would like to be..." she wrote "engineer or architect"**

* Her teacher uses these one-time, 30-minute presentations in place of show and tell, and has scheduled them to correspond as closely as possible with each kid's birthday. Duchess, FYI, will turn eight next Friday.  Does that make you feel old?
**I believe this enthusiasm is directly related to my telling her that she should give any career that interests her a shot, but she should bear in mind that some careers (acting) are less likely to be lucrative than other careers (engineering). Duchess would prefer to be rich in the future. 

What we play on the tablet

Cook: Minecraft
Duchess: Angry Birds in Space
Me: Where's My Water
Skipper: random-ass preschool games*

I haven't played computer games in a long, long time - they seem like a waste of the time I don't seem to have -  but the tablet has changed that. Not only is it a great way to play games (right size, right speed), but I can take it on the bus, so I can play during time that can't really be spent usefully anyway. And there are some really great games out there, as it turns out.

*A few weeks ago, she was sitting on the floor with the tablet while I was doing housework, and she said "Mom, I need help!" and I stalled her. Eventually she said "Never mind, I solved my problem," and I didn't think about it again until I opened my email and found that she had made a $2 purchase of an app. I put a PIN on the system so she can't do that again; I'm fortunate it wasn't worse!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Elizabeth Warren! Tammy Baldwin!

Recent outfits

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Puzzle solved

Ever since I mistakenly declared Duchess to be an introvert, I've puzzled (mildly) over my own personality type. I have some introvert traits - a preference for staying home, aversion to conflict- and some extrovert traits - speaking before thinking, speaking and not listening, an inclination to multitask and make quick decisions.* I'm now reading a book** called Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and it just told me that I am an ambivert. So now I know. I haven't read very much of it yet, but I'm recommending it to all of you who are introverts.***

*Duchess is similar, I think. Cook is a classic introvert. Skipper is an unknown quantity.
*On the recommendation of Antarctic Uncle, who is also a classic introvert. He and Cook come from a long line of introverts.
***Which is a lot of you. I do love me some introverts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Marine self-portrait

All the kids in Duchess's class have painted self-portraits and written a poem describing themselves. Here, for your edification, is an excerpt from Duchess's poem:

My brain is as full as the ocean.
My smile is like a blue whale's warm inside blubber.