Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rosie's Self Portrait

I'm so impressed with this self portrait that Rosie drew in her 2nd-grade art class! Mrs. N, the art teacher, was telling me how wonderful it was before I had a chance to see it, and now that I've had a peek, I agree wholeheartedly. With just a felt-tip pen and crayons, she drew a beautiful scene of herself and our family pet parrot, Weegee. I love her beatific expression with a slight smile. She's set herself in her (imaginarily pink) room, holding Weegee next to his cage (that *does* have yellow, purple, and brown toys in it). In her right hand, she's holding his pelleted food, since she's now in charge of feeding him. Around her neck is a bow, tied with her purple cape's strings, and the magenta dress with a red heart she's wearing is adorable. These articles of clothing are imaginary, although she does have vinyl butterfly decals on the walls of her room!

Her school has been kind enough to offer to reproduce this drawing on mugs, t-shirts, or journals. Hard to resist—I'll be purchasing several items as gifts!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's Rosie's favorite school subject?


Just like me, I adored my grade-school art teacher, Mrs. Sereno.

Li'l Pumpkinhead

At the pumpkin patch today we bought two of the wartiest pumpkins we could find. Warty old witches (or similar variant) to come!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who's Going to the Inaugural Science & Engineering Expo? Oct 23-24, Nat'l Mall

After talking with Rosie's 2nd grade teacher yesterday about how Rosie is academically soaring right now, absorbing everything, blossoming incredibly, and should be enrolled in extracurricular learning opportunities like foreign languages, music, etc., I was poking around online looking for lesson plans for piano (yes, I'm finally attempting this at home with Rosie, who seems interested and enthusiastic).

Instead, I stumbled on details for the first ever Science & Engineering Festival on the Mall, just two weekends away. I am entranced by the feats of science and engineering and highly encourage my kids to develop wonder and inquisitiveness about how things work in the physical world. Exposure to these exhibits might create some sparks with Rosie and Dash (who will be interested in the weapons and aircraft components)—just the thing!

I pulled these details from the USA Science & Engineering Festival's blog:
Date: Saturday, October 23, 2010 through Sunday, October 24, 2010
Location: National Mall, Tent #102 (in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool)
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Cost: Free and open to all
Age Range: Open to all

Saturday, October 23
10:00 The Mouse that Roared (Roain Egnor)
10:30 Reverse Engineer Your Brain (Louis Scheffner)
11:00 Nobel Purpose: NPR's Joe Palca Interviews John Mather (Nobel Prize Physics)
11:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
12:15 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
1:00 Nobel Purpose: NPR's Joe Palca Interviews John Mather (Nobel Prize Physics)
2:00 The Engineering Behind Disney's Magic (Lanny Smoot)
2:30 Bon App├ętit: Better Eating through Chemistry
3:00 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
3:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
4:00 A: It's a Jeopardy-Playing Supercomputer. Q: What is IBM's "Watson?"

Sunday, October 24
10:00 Disney's TRON: Legacy Captured Live on Stage
11:00 Nobel Purpose: Joe Palca interviews Vincent Cerf (Draper Prize)
11:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
12:15 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
1:00 Nobel Purpose: Joe Palca interviews Peter Agre (Nobel Prize Chemistry)
2:00 What's the Buzz?: The Status of Pollinators in North America (May Berenbaum)
2:30 A: It's a Jeopardy-Playing Supercomputer. Q: What is IBM's "Watson?"
3:00 Be a Bone Detective (Diane France)
3:30 The Scoop on CSI: Separating Fact From Fiction (Marvin Schecter and CSI Miami)
4:00 The Engineering Behind Disney's Magic (Lanny Smoot)

I know Rosie and Dash will love some of this stuff! Anyone planning to go?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Secretariat Review

Lately, Monkeyrotica and I have been digging through the recesses of our brains, recalling some of our favorite childhood movies to share with our kids. While I watched Secretariat at a screening last week, I was transported back to the 1970s, when I was growing up, and viewed a familiar time packed with feminist issues I can recall clearly, as well as a world I never knew—the world of horse breeding and racing. The authentic feel (awesomely bad 70s wardrobes, among many other great details) of this movie and the inspiring story that unfolds brought today and forty years ago together for me, and I want to share with you and my kids.

Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane) was a highly educated woman, in a time when many women were in the first generation in their families to go to college. And, as did many women of her time, she found that along with marriage and children, having her own career outside the home was fraught with barriers. My own mother joined the National Organization of Women and AAUW to vent her frustrations with having a career thwarted by family life (she was told to quit as she became visibly pregnant). Penny Tweedy may not have sought out those support groups in 1969—she had an outwardly comfortable life as a stay at home mother of four and wife to a successful lawyer husband. What became apparent was that after the death of her mother, her father's decline into dementia would quickly take their family's horse farm. Unless she drew upon her education—from learning the ropes as a child as well as her university degree—and saved her father's empire, the family horse farm and the many generations of husbandry, care, and prestige built upon it would fail. The horses were of no interest to the men in her life (her university professor brother or her husband); they just wanted her home, in her place, caring for the kids.

She was raised to run that business. She wanted it, she knew how to do it, and she could make all the right decisions. If only someone she loved believed in her. Well, nope, that wasn't going to happen; see ya, bro & hubby! If only she could hire people to believe in her. YES! Her father's house manager, a crusty horse trainer (John Malkovich), and a gentle stable hand would take that on. And history was made.

Secretariat. Penny Tweedy's only non-fair-weather friend. Everyone else in her life abandoned her when the going got rough.

I will take my kids to this movie. I want to see it again and add it to our collection of movies, I enjoyed it so much. What I want to see more than anything else, beyond the edge-of-my-seat, heart-thumpingly exciting horse racing, beyond watching Penny rock on with her bad self, telling off her competitors and creditors (all high-powered men), is John Malkovich. I want to see pink-suited, plaid-hatted, crusty old horse trainer Malkovich swearing in Disney-curses and in stilted French, dancing while celebrating the horse that he helped train to victory beyond belief.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

School year scheduling

We've made several new scheduling transitions for the 2010 school year thus far, to move toward balancing the rocky mountain/valley that is our work-life, especially now that both kids are in public school. The changes all arose from my need to adjust my work hours, because getting home after 6:30 p.m. every night just was draining me, with only 90 minutes to spend with my family before they were all in bed for the night.

What we had been doing:
When Rosie started Kindergarten two years ago we made some big changes to make the timing work, first with Monkeyrotica changing his work schedule, arriving super-early and leaving super-early (and as a result, exhausted and going to bed the same time as the kids). Grandma S came to our house every morning for the past two school years to help Rosie get ready for school while I took Dash to daycare. The first year and a half, Grandma S also came after school to pick up Rosie from the bus stop, but when we moved Dash to a pre-K closer to home this past January, Monkey was able to make the bus in time.

What's the latest twist? 
Monkey still has his early-early workday, but I'm dropping both kids off at morning-care (a.k.a. school-age child-care or SACC). At work, I've shortened my days slightly to arrive home in time for the bus because I've decided that the after-school time between 4-6 pm are golden hours of family engagement time. Even this early in the school year, the kids are bringing home homework, which is best done while they have enough energy to complete it, not after dinner when they're starting to get bleary and surly. Also, many age-specific after-school activities, like sports clubs, scouts, art classes and the like are scheduled right when school ends, so if I want to get them to an activity, I need to be around. Monkey's already said that due to his complete disdain for all things sport-related, he's not schlepping kids to sports training. And the other activity that the kids were missing out on? Playing with the neighborhood kids. Today, after school, Rosalie will have her 2nd ever playdate with one of the little girls who lives one block over. Why weren't these happening earlier? Let's just say, out of sight, out of mind——by not being home earlier and visibly available, my kids just weren't socializing with the neighborhood kids (even though there are a dozens of them in their age groups). Starting this week, I'll be home every afternoon at 4! Yay!

Results: More family time and kids activities (and homework).
The activities are already racking up. Monday is after-school soccer for both and Wednesday is tap class (just Rosie). I want to get them both into an art class when it comes available, and maybe into track club. Neither of them have shown any interest in scouting, which is fine—that's a major time-suck what with all of the parent-volunteer work. On Saturdays we also have back-to-back Japanese calligraphy (Rosie) and karate (Dash), then Dash takes ballet in the afternoon. For each, that's currently 3 activities. Not totally overscheduled yet, right? There are still four free days in the week for family walks, bike rides, and outdoor fun! And, then just maybe I can fit in some crafting or personal activities, huh?

Back to the homework, however. Dash was out of school with a fever for three days last week, and I was completely blindsided by the nine make-up assignments that were sent home with him on Friday. I didn't even notice they were in his backpack until Sunday night after they were in bed! I'm becoming aware that we haven't really established our home as a place of learning, because the children truly struggle with the assignments. Groaning, flopping, distractions, sidetrips, stalling—Dash has been trying the works. This morning, I realized that I had a trick in my back pocket: their morning care. The kids are supervised by licensed childcare professionals for 1.5 hours before their bus arrives and they have a homework table. SCORE! I had no idea that I'd be calling on them so soon, but we were getting nowhere at home. Out of nine assignments, Dash scribbled out one yesterday, fighting it the whole time. Today, sitting down with the staff at SACC, Dash was working away on his homework even before I'd left the room. Warms my stressed-out, stretched-thin-mom's heart.

I'm feeling really good about all these schedule decisions! Which helps a great deal, because our basement flooded AGAIN last week and we have to replace the flooring, with three to four expensive days of repairs and installation ahead of us.
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