First Day of School

September 18, 2009

Yeah, well, we’ve got the daily schedule for regular days, but the first day of school apparently needs a little extra psyching up. Last year Henry chose to do this:

And this year it was this:



Perfect Picnic

June 17, 2009

Today is Henry’s last day of kindergarten. I’m really looking forward to having him home again, to having long leisurely days, and to having him have time to do all the elaborate art projects in his head (and to work on our summer jar, of course). And to more days like the day a few Saturdays ago: the neighborhood posse was blissfully absent, and Dave was cleaning out the garage while I cleaned out the shed. I unearthed our beach umbrella. Henry stuck it into the yard, and I offhandedly said it looked like a good spot for a picnic. Henry then worked for two hours to set up a picnic: tablecloth, plates, silverware, glasses with milk or water, strawberries, mangoes, peanuts, and buttered bread. By the time he finished it was 5:15 which meant…that he had made dinner! I was giddy. It never even occurred to me that I could train them to make dinner at age 5. At any rate, it was a terrific picnic, and I’m hoping this summer inspires other activities like this (note: I do truly mean “other creative Henry activities” and not “other times when he takes over the dinner duties” although I won’t complain if that happens also).



Backyard aquarium

June 9, 2009

Henry has been learning about the ocean in school, and he is completely running with it, so to speak. He has been drawing and cutting out dozens of different ocean creatures, and telling us facts about each one. He drew a complex chart of the life cycle of a coral colony and brought it to school to teach his classmates, then a few days later made a life-size drawing of a nurse shark to show them (his teacher said, “He’s like my assistant teacher!”).

He spent a good deal of time wrangling the neighborhood posse into taping his creatures onto the back fence, so we’d have our own outdoor aquarium (that’s the nurse shark on the right in the top photo).

One thing I love about kid obsessions is when you learn a whole bunch of new stuff yourself. Like Dave and I were surprised to learn that the starfish (or sea star, depending on how itchy you are about the “fish” verity in your terminology) are the most insane creature on the face of the earth, just about. Some alarming starfish facts:

  • Starfish have eyes at the end of each arm. They can’t see with these eyes, though. (How that makes them eyes, I have no idea.)
  • A starfish can eat kind of large sea life, like crabs. It just suctions on and doesn’t let go, and pretty soon the crab is eaten.
  • If a starfish is disturbed, it may throw off an arm. A new arm will regenerate in about a year. And a new starfish will generate from the broken-off arm.
  • When eating something such as a clam, the starfish opens the clam shell a tiny bit, and then pushes its stomach outside of its body and into the clam shell. And then digests the clam while its stomach is still outside its body.

(All crazy starfish facts from a nicely illustrated book called Where the Waves Break: Life at the Edge of the Sea by Anita Malnig.)




April 29, 2009

Sometimes I pull things out of Henry’s backpack, and I just have no idea what the backstory is. This says “I can run and juggle at the same time” (or, actually: “I can ran and jagl at the sam tim”) which took me a while to decipher before I noticed the helpful visual aid. What was the assignment? Henry lies as well as I do (that is: not very well at all) and so this isn’t the sort of thing he’d just randomly write down. I guess it’s better than “I can drive and talk on a cell phone at the sam tim.”

At any rate, it made me laugh (especially the smiling juggling stick figure), and I’m all for ridiculousness wherever they can cram it into the curriculum.



Easter, despite my best intentions

April 15, 2009
Egg dying fun.

Egg dying fun.

I should have known I was in trouble in early April, when Henry was showing Eli the calendar, and saying, “See, this is the 12th, and that’s Easter, and that’s the day that…” “That’s the day that what?” I said. Henry said, “You know!” I told him that I did not know. “You know, the day that the Easter Bunny hides eggs in our yard.”

Well. Yes. I did of course know about the Easter Bunny, but he has never exactly visited our yard before. And where did Henry get all the Easter Bunny info? Well, from Kindergarten, of course. Apparently Easter is an established unit in the curriculum. I sort of threw myself into a tizzy about this, because, frankly, we’ve never done much for Easter, and now it was clear I was going to have to do something, egg-hiding-wise. Also, is anyone else offended by introducing a Christian holiday into the public school curriculum? Or, more importantly, by the fact that apparently someone said that the Easter Bunny flies in on a giant chicken? And when Henry said that his teacher wasn’t exactly sure which day Earth Day is, I actually had to do an impromptu jig of upset and consternation, lest he think I was mad at him instead of the situation. I mean, I guess it’s nice that they’re learning about eggs, but isn’t, oh, I don’t know, SPRINGTIME just as good an excuse for some good old egg learnin’? And aren’t there roughly 1,000 excellent topics that could be introduced around Earth Day that don’t involve giant imaginary bunnies or religion in school? (Granted, they never mentioned Jesus in any of the Easter lessons, but at some point some kid is going to make the connection.)

Always looking for an excuse to use the egg plate. I could barely take this photo before the boys ate every egg but one. So much for hiding these eggs in the yard.

Always looking for an excuse to use the egg plate. I could barely take this photo before the boys ate every egg but one. So much for hiding these eggs in the yard.

I maintained my usual Easter ritual, which is dying eggs. We wrapped them in rubber bands, which we did last year too, and it makes them look groovy. I aspire to be one of those moms who dyes eggs using tea leaves and indigo plants I grow organically in my backyard, but in the meantime I’ll use PAAS. Plus, I don’t think indigo is hardy to Zone 4.

So then we were stuck with Easter morning, and with me stalwartly refusing to accept the Easter Bunny into our lives. And then Henry went upstairs and drew a gorgeously intricate paper egg, and said, “Maybe the Easter Bunny will have magic dust and can make this egg real! I’m going to put it in the backyard and wait.” Which sent Dave and I into the kitchen to have the following tensely whispered conversation:

Dave: I’m going out.
Julie: Where? Everything is closed. I think you’ll have to go to CVS.
Dave: That’s where I’ll go.
Julie: Then what?
Dave: I don’t know. I’m going to get something to hide in the backyard.
Julie: Don’t get candy!
Dave: Ok.
Julie: What are you going to get?
Dave: I don’t know. He wants that egg to turn into a real egg.
Julie: What, you’re going to find a FabergĂ© egg at CVS?
Dave: Maybe. Do you have a better idea?
Julie: I was thinking we could make cupcakes.
Dave: What, and then hide them in the backyard?
Julie: I don’t know! Get coloring books.

Dave left and somehow managed to return within five minutes, carrying two perfect coloring books (tractors for Eli, dinosaurs for Henry) and a package of mini Cadbury eggs. I took the giant paper egg and thrust it into the arms of a stuffed bunny I happened to have in the basement (don’t ask), and we put the bunny and coloring books on the picnic table, and threw the Cadbury eggs onto the grass like we were naturalizing daffodils.

Then, in accordance with our general slow holiday framework, we waited. Finally, after about half an hour, Henry came downstairs with a piece of paper on which he’d drawn a submarine and cut out the peephole window, and he was planning to look through the window to spy Easter goodies. He got pretty excited about the lame backyard haul, and the dino book has been pretty sustaining.

And then of course I did make cupcakes with them. Lemon butterfly cupcakes! Make vanilla cupcakes, add 1 teaspoon lemon juice to the batter, plus zest if you have fresh lemons. After baking, cut off the top, spread the cupcake with lemon curd, cut the top part in half, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and stick into the curd like wings. Yum.

Is Easter going to happen in school every year? Do I have to be the Mom who ruins the Easter Bunny for all the other kids? Do I need to embrace the plastic and candy? (No to that last question.)


CATEGORIES: baking, Parenting

Bah Valentine!

February 11, 2009

There was a brilliant post written last night about this, which has seemingly disappeared. Will try to recreate now. Hang on, everyone.

I don’t particularly like Valentine’s Day. It seems like it’s a holiday designed to make you feel bad. Either you feel bad because you don’t have a Valentine, or you do have a Valentine, but then you get all anxious about buying just the right gift to show that you love your Valentine just the right amount. It is a good excuse for chocolate and baked goods, but you know what? I’ve found that I don’t actually need an excuse for chocolate and baked goods. Dave and I might wish each other a Happy Valentine’s Day, and I did once make Dave a nifty card, but that was more because I wanted to experiment with card making. If Dave wants to buy me chocolate, fine, but he should do it because he wants to buy me chocolate and not because the Holiday Gods have declared that he needs to prove his love through gifts.

Apparently this view is not the one they take in Kindergarten. We have now gotten several newsletters home telling us to make sure we send in Valentines for everyone. Now, I can certainly understand that, if you’re going to send in Valentines, you should send one for everyone. But I was kind of hoping to opt out entirely. I thought it could be an all or nothing thing, but it’s become increasingly clear that it’s not. Valentines are mandatory. I’ll be darned if I’m going to go out and buy some stupid little Spongebob Squarepants Valentine Kit. Or spend any money at all on this, actually. There is also to be a sugarfest party on Friday afternoon, and we have been instructed to send our children to school wearing Valentines colors (pink, purple, red, or white). Henry, bless his heart, doesn’t sense any of my outrage and has been hand-crafting a unique Valentine for each classmate. I’m trying to look on the sunny side and view this as a good opportunity to bring up time management skills (though I predict a bit of Valentine-making madness on Thursday night).

Is this how it’s going to be for the next 20 years of my life? No opting out of Valentine’s Day? Will every February now be a lesson from the Curriculum of the Cheap Cardmakers Lobby?



Question for teachers about holiday gifts

December 8, 2008

Hey all you teachers out there: where do you prefer to get gift cards from? Target? Coffee shop? Bookstore? Liquor store?

I had good success last year getting the preschool teachers tote bags with Henry’s drawings on them from Cafe Press, but this year I feel like I don’t really want to add to the world’s clutter any more, and Henry’s teacher would probably rather have a gift card to just get what she actually wants (plus, of course, the requisite card saying how much I appreciate how Henry’s penmanship has improved and whatnot).

(A side note to say: What are people thinking when they give teachers apple-related tchotchkes? I remember one year going to Goodwill just after school ended and there was a huge set of shelves dedicated solely to displaying all the apple crap that teachers had Goodwilled. Do people think teachers really want this stuff? Like they think that teachers became teachers because of a love of apples or something?)


CATEGORIES: housekeeping

Well come on, it's not like we're the Collier Brothers or anything.

December 5, 2008

Henry had homework over Thanksgiving vacation: to decorate a large felt gingerbread man any way that he saw fit. (Because as you know it’s the start of the gingerbread man unit — have you all sent in your postcards?) He drew a very detailed bakery background, glued the gingerbread man on, and glued on raisins and Cheerios for eyes and buttons. That was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Then I never saw it again. On Sunday I said something about how we had to find it (it was due on Monday) and then I completely forgot about it. I finally remembered on Wednesday morning, and unearthed the gingerbread man from Henry’s Project Pile. The raisins and Cheerios had fallen off at some point (those will be fun to find later), so we hastily glued some more on, and Henry decided he needed to make paper pants too. (And I discovered, I think, that Mod Podge is not the best glue for sticking raisins on to felt. But it didn’t seem like a good time — 10 minutes before school started — to go on a Hunt for Better Glue).

I carried the still-drying gingerbread man to school, and handed him to Henry’s teacher, who said, “Oh! I’m glad you found it! Henry told me it was probably lost in some pile in your house somewhere!” So HA HA HA now we know that Henry’s teacher thinks we have the kind of house with so many unkempt piles that you can lose large school projects in them and — oh. Feh. We do, don’t we?



Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Eat and be thankful!

I’ll leave you with this kindergarten oddity. It was in Henry’s backpack. His only explanation was to state the obvious: “It’s a turkey, and it says, ‘I survived!'” Was it part of some game? Or just one more activity that is leading to Henry’s eventual vegetarianism?

Have a good holiday. I’m taking a few days off from posting, and will be back on Monday. And for heaven’s sakes, don’t go shopping. Or if you do, buy local.



Henry's world view

November 26, 2008

Such a classic five-year-old view:

Henry’s the one on the left, the one who is so huge that he is busting out of the box. Dave, who is 6’3″, is on the right. I’m the with long hair and the big nose in the middle. Eli is the short one next to giant Henry (in real life, they’re almost the same height). Zuzu is not flying in a spaceship; that’s her in her carseat.

Doesn’t every five-year-old think they’re the biggest ones in the family…in the world?.

I just wish he drew my nose smaller. (The hair is surprisingly accurate.)

And, just in case you were worried, we all actually have normal hands.


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