Saturday, August 12, 2017

Science Museum of Virginia

Mid July, I had the chance to go to Napa Valley with Alaina and the kids had a chance to spend a week at Grandma Camp. You should be anxiously awaiting a guest blog on that trip to Napa, but before we get there, the kids and I made a quick pit stop at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Mom and Dad were able to meet me after an appointment in Richmond, so it was an ideal time to get in a few hours before we could meet up.
A while back, Mom and I took the kids and it was a fun place. Part of it was closed for some renovations, but we had a good time none the less. This time it was fully open and really a ton of fun. The two areas we didn't get to do before were an area about "Speed" and an area called "Boost". Boost is hard to describe, but basically you get a little scan tag when you enter and you can scan in at all sorts of activities and have your performance measured (how high can you jump, how good you are at memory games, how fast your reflexes are). At the end, you could scan in and see your results and compare to others that also scanned in. I thought it was a pretty awesome area and would have personally spent a lot of time there even without kids.
In the Speed area, they had one of those wind blowing machines to approximate what hurricane force winds would feel like. It was popular.

In another area, there was a really fun light wall. I have often dragged my camera many places and tried so hard for photos I love, and the light wall made my day. It occurred to me to take pictures so that you could clearly see the light wall and then have the kids step away from it and get the light wall to become a crazy blurry light background. I was really proud of the thought and happy with the pictures. It is the first time I have ever utilized something unplanned or unknown for an effect.

More in the speed area... a little race.

The pendulum- always a fan favorite! I really (REALLY) want to take Stephanie to the DC museums, but Gwen is too little to really enjoy it (and old enough to make it hard for the rest of us to enjoy it). It didn't happen this summer, but we will work it out soon.

On the way out, you can deposit your admissions sticker on the post. She deposited mine, and kept her own. They were pretty cool stickers, so I wasn't surprised.


Once again, I find myself behind on the blog. These photos are from our bowling trip, probably about a month ago. The kids had never been bowling and it was a worthwhile way to spend the morning. We went with our neighbors, of course. We played two games, and only had to have the ball retrieved about 6 times after one of the little kids rolled it so slow that it stopped moving prior to reaching the pins. Blake eventually noticed the ball ramp to help speed the little kids balls along, and that rapidly picked up game pace.

It's a heavy ball. No wonder she couldn't always push it hard enough to make it to the pins!

There was much rejoicing for, well, for pretty much anything. They are so sweet to each other!

There is that ramp! Made all the difference!

Some after bowling pictures. Kevin was impressed that I scored as high as I did- then I reminded him about the bumpers.  Which is why you should ALWAYS bowl with kids!!!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

You have to catch up somewhere!

I have gotten behind on my photos. I try to keep my digital frame up to date and update the blog simultaneously, and I have been trying to play catch up on both! I am not going to just say the last two months are a wash and start fresh, but at least I can start July off right- and that is with the 4th!
This year we went to the festivities at Carrboro, which was a nice family fun event- including pie eating contests that we will be signing Stephanie up for in the future!
There was the usual kid stuff- bounce houses, face painting, carnival games. Additionally, Stephanie got to participate in the sack race, bucket brigade and the water balloon toss. It was a hot day, but we only spent a few hours out (as a whole family-Hooray!) and had a good time.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Trials and Successes of Kindergarten

As our first year with a child in school wraps up, I have started feeling like it is really important to review the year. I keep the blog to mostly share pictures, but I also use it to reflect back when Gwen hits a similar milestone, and this feels like a big one that I would want to review when her turn comes in two more years.
There have been more surprises from Kindergarten than I expected:
Happy Surprises:
The morning schedule- I thought this would be a nightmare adjustment for us. Stephanie has not had any preschool or daycare the year leading up to Kindergarten since I had been home with her for the first time that year, and I was sure we would be wrecked having to get up early and out of the house. Not a problem at all- She is either awake before us or is (mostly) easy to rouse and we are mostly able to get her fed and out of the house with (normally) only a few reminders to get a move on. Generally, I take Stephanie in while Kevin and Gwen stay home, but if Gwen wants to go with us, we drag her along too. I walk in with her every day, and she sometimes finds a friend on the way in and runs off to the classroom with them and I am off the hook for the full walk.
Learning to read- Easy peasy (again, mostly). I tried to teach her a bit in the summer leading up to school- even the easiest of sight words were impossible and frustrating, and I was amazed that I had friends with kids in first grade that could read chapter books, because my kid couldn't figure out the pattern for sounding out cat, hat and sat. School started sending home sight word flash cards once a week pretty early on. She was able to catch on to most of them pretty easily (I think they practiced and stressed them at school), but there would inevitably be about five of the weeks words that she just didn't know and she would make all kinds of wild guesses, and those were always frustrating (making me really grateful that reading has been fairly natural for her- because even that small frustration felt big). Fast forward a few weeks, and she suddenly seemed to realize that there were 20 sight words, she knew 15 of them and she then memorized the five she didn't know and would make good guesses of the ones she didn't know based on a limited selection of words she knew she didn't know. I was totally impressed that she worked that out on her own. Fast forward to the end of Kindergarten and she is easily reading well above Kindergarten level and is well on her way to being able to read easy chapter books next year. I should say that while she can read, it takes time and energy so I think we are a few steps away from reading for pleasure, as it is still work to read.
Bad Surprises:
The afternoon schedule- I didn't see this coming! The bus arrives just after 3, but ideally Gwen would settle for a nap between 1:30-2:30, but that is hard if I have to leave the house just before 3:00. For a while we pushed through, napping earlier or just waking her up. As she is getting older and growing out of naps, she has gotten good at keeping herself awake. She would likely fall asleep around 2:30, but then I don't let her because it is just before we have to get Stephanie. So now I have a tired and manic three year old at the bus stop. I really like the bus stop people and it is nice to have some adult time, but it is next to impossible to break Stephanie and Gwen from the neighbor kids and get home without chaos- Gwen is trying to run around the streets, Stephanie is hiding in her friends car and then when I rally them we have to walk the block home. It is just a block! Why does it take 15 minutes? Gwen is inevitably pushing whatever car or stroller we used to get her to the bus stop, wandering into the grass and then back into the street, with Stephanie zig zagging right along with her. I would really like this time to be a moment for Stephanie to tell me about her day, but it nearly always turns into a stressful corralling process to the front door.
Mixed Bag Surprises:
Reintroduction of the Siblings- Some days we get home and Gwen and Stephanie play just wonderfully together- this is often better facilitated with a treat type snack AND outdoor play. Being trapped inside, not always, but more often, leads to bickering and conflict. You just can't always avoid the inside though! It took me a several weeks of adjustment to deal with Stephanie coming home and the chaos that it could rain down on our home. There are times I just resort to television. I figure Kevin and I unwind every night with a TV show so why not give Stephanie and Gwen that courtesy when the transition is getting ugly.
Friendships- For young kids these days, kids are referred to as "friends" in the classroom nearly uniformly by all adults, as in, "Why did you hit your friend in the face with that toy?" For the most part, the kids really are friends, and they care for each other. The kindergarten dynamic is actually very sweet, and I am surprised to hear Stephanie express her concern or admiration for a classmate that she has never talked much about. On the other hand, some children are not consistently kind, and often those same children can be exclusive. As kindergarten has worn on, she has talks about it more, so I have been spending time talking about what it means to be a friend, stressing that friendship isn't always easy, but it should make you happy most of the time. We are lucky that we play with several neighborhood girls her age that are well behaved, kind and generous. This is such a good model and I remind her that her time with the neighbor friends are what good friendship looks like. Interestingly, her neighborhood friendships are different from each other, and I think that also helps model that a good friendship doesn't have to meet any given set of criteria to make you happy. I think she gets it, and does normally seek out the kindest children, but her feelings do sometimes get hurt by her other "friends". This one is SO important to me. I want her to be a kind friend and I want her to play with kind children. I feel like we are on the right track but that we will need to be constantly keeping an eye on that track!
Homework- After Stephanie successfully completed and tested correctly with the teacher all of her sight word lists, they started sending home actual homework. This consists of one math sheet and one reading sheet with questions. She has one week to complete it and turn it in (I think absolutely nothing happens if she doesn't, but I am a deadline kind of gal, so I wasn't going to find out). The math is a breeze, partly because she can come and go from it, just completing a question at a time as she feels like it. The reading is far trickier. She has to read a full page story and then answer questions about it. That means it all needs to be done at one time, and her attention span has a hard time with that. Combine the fact that her time at school has to be focused with the fact that Gwen is playing while she is working and the reading homework some weeks is a real chore. I would be far happier with a short assignment each night than what we are doing. I am curious as to what first grade will bring.
As I was putting this post together, I asked Kevin and Stephanie what their biggest Kindergarten surprises were. Kevin said it was how much they learned. Stephanie said it was how much TV they watched. The truth, it seems, lies somewhere between their expectations, but I think closer to Kevin's. Kindergarten isn't what it once was- gone is naptime and learning colors and shapes.

A flashback to the first day!

Pictures of Stephanie with her teachers at "Kindergarten Graduation", which I think is kind of a bit of nonsense, so I like to think of it as the end of year Kindergarten program- and if it had been called that, I would have thought the whole thing was adorable.

And pictures from the last day. I made her shirt. I am still a little giddy about how it turned out.

Let the summer begin!!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Got to Be NC- second year

This year marks our second going to Got To Be NC. Last year was so much fun I declared that Stephanie would miss a day of school to go back this year. A year later, I was less confident about the plan, but it is the end of the year, so why not! We have missed school for the beach and Disney, so may as well as add a carnival.
The deal hasn't changed- $20 gets bracelets for the kids to ride as much and as may rides as they want. This year, the weather was sunny and quite warm. Last year was overcast and threatening rain. I prefer last year, as I thought I might melt a few minutes in! Many of the rides were self-shaded, and I tried to stand in whatever shade I could find.
Gwen has grown to 36 inches, which gave her access to a couple more rides, but not many more. Stephanie, at 46 inches, could still ride most, but the next cut off was 48 inches, so she also couldn't go on more rides than last time. Gwen struggled some that there were rides she couldn't go on, and I thought we would have to call it quits. We went with our neighbors, and we managed to pull enough together to satisfy Gwen and let the big kids ride the bigger rides and keep Gwen in motion and happy on the little rides.

Until our neighbors showed up, just a bit after us, I had Stephanie only ride with Gwen. Even the tiny rides were fun for them.

The picture above was from a Dumbo type ride that Gwen was not big enough for. It was the only ride that I let Stephanie go on before the neighbors got there. As it would turn out, the hydraulic line blew mid-ride. Some people were sprayed with yucky oil fluid, but fortunately not Stephanie.

Gwen was just big enough for the teacup rides this time! One guy that worked there offered that I could go with her on the ones shaped like strawberries (You might notice them in the background of other photos).  I went, and then was motion sick. Not terrible, but not interested in going on many more rides!

Did I mention there weren't many lines....?

Gwen was tired, and we had "won" these stuffed animals from a Geico booth. The operator tried to take it away before starting the ride. She wouldn't let him, and held the critter close the whole ride. Later, Blake managed to take the big kids away and Gwen became obsessed with a ride similar to this one and went around and around. It would end, she would change vehicles, and the operator would start the ride again. After many turns, she actually fell asleep towards the end of the ride. I didn't get a picture, but it was equally hysterically and adorable. It was also a sign that she was overly tired and we are still struggling with not resting though exhausted days later. I am glad she can push through when we want to, but often we don't need to- I will not miss this phase when it passes!
Did I mention it was really hot out? Because it was. Blake and I got the kids (and ourselves) Hawaiian Ice, and also spent some time indoors at the Food sampling event hosted by Lowes (grocery store not hardware store!). We all enjoyed the sampling- and then back to the heat! 

The dragon rollercoaster was a favorite! Looks like I have at least one hands up roller coaster kind of gals!

Stephanie has all the energy in the world. Our neighbors had to leave around 5:00, but we stayed to play a bit more- I had no plan and I told Kevin not to expect us until I texted him to expect us. Blake passed onto us her unused tickets, which gave me a chance to take Gwen on some bigger rides. At this point in the day, the operators (okay, carnies) were getting pretty flexible about size limits and what a "responsible person" looked like- they let Stephanie take Gwen alone in the Ferris Wheel, as at under 42 inches, a "responsible person" was required. Gwen finally got to go on some of the rides she had coveted earlier with Stephanie, and I went with her on some of the rides that the operators were more stickler about- which included the helicopter ride from the hydraulic line blow earlier in the day. It also included, as the absolute very last ride, a ride called "The Paratrooper". Gwen really wanted to go on it, but it looked really fast with way to much circular motion. When the operator would not let Stephanie take Gwen, I made them wait until the end. It was like I knew how much it was NOT a ride for me just by seeing it, despite Stephanie's assurance that it really only looked fast and didn't feel that fast. It was awful! Gwen was next to me, gleefully telling me that "this ride is super super super super super fast!" and I was just trying not to be sick. After the ride, I managed to stumble them both out of the park (Stephanie still skipping- and it was 8:30) and get them home. I will not be paratrooping it again in, but at least Gwen thought it was awesome.
I haven't mentioned this on the blog yet, but I am soon to be gainfully employed again, starting in August! I mention it now because I declared I wasn't going back again next year unless Gwen was big enough to ride the next tier rides- and then I realized that I wasn't going back next year anyway because of the new job (teaching at a private high school- not many flexible days off when you have summers off!). Kevin piped up that he would take them next year, as he has plenty of time off. And lets be realistic here- if anyone can do the paratrooper ride, it is Kevin- and next year it can be all his!