Monday, August 30, 2010

When happens when you have five extra minutes?

An interesting phenomenon happens when you have two children close in age, then you do something wild and spending individual time with each one. They are SO different when they are not together. Like easier, sweeter, less whiny, less talk-your-ear-off.

On the weekends, Zak and I will sometimes split up to do errands and do a quick Rock, Paper, Scissors to pick which kid to take with us (we compete for the one in the best mood). We're amazed how much more FUN they are alone. The reverse of this is also true, so when we're both home with the girls they're usually on their WORST behavior. Sadly, this is almost always the situation at our house. The person I most prefer my time with is Zak, and so we're usually together.

A perfect example of this happened this morning. Brooke took her time finding the perfect shoes to wear with her navy blue dress, and came up with these red boots:

I wondered to myself if I would have allowed her to take as much time as she did if I also had Maddie with me this morning? I would have probaby told Brooke to put on her practical normal sandals. It was just the most adorable site to see, and had to take a picture. She proudly hammed it up for me, which caused us to get to laughing and taking silly pictures.

The obvious reason for this is ATTENTION. As in, they don't have to compete for it. Perhaps I'm also more fun when I can just focus on one? I'm likely more patient and a better listener. Maybe it's me and NOT them. Maybe I need to practice my multi kid tasking?
This little interaction with Brooke this morning probably took just five minutes extra out of our morning, and those were five of the best minutes I've had all day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Avatar and wet beds

It's fantasy football draft weekend, and I'm not going to complain about it. If you really want to know how I feel about it, you can refresh your memory. Zak is at the draft weekend, staying with 10-12 thirty five year olds in a TWO bedroom house on the beach.

The Girls and I had a "popcorn party" last night and watched Avatar. I've never seen it, and it was so darn long, I haven't finished it either. I really didn't think the movie may not be appropriate for young children, but I suppose I should have just read the PG-13 rating. Maddie has always liked suspenseful/scary movies, and Brooke just hid under the blanket during the scary parts. Either way, they LOVED it and I tried to keep them distracted every time someone called someone else a "shit head," because that's all I need for them to be repeating to win my official Mother of The Year title. They also drank copious amounts of Gatorade and apple juice during the movie.

I put the kids to bed around 8:00, and Brooke woke up at 1:30 a.m. to tell me she peed in her bed. She's been wearing undies to bed for about a month now, and has had a few accidents, but for the most part, if you don't give her more than 6 oz of liquid after 5:00, she'll wake up dry. She's a Gremlin like that.

I changed the sheets and put Brooke back down. She woke up AGAIN at 5:45 to tell me she peed the bed. Maddie woke up due to all the commotion, and I changed the sheets and put them back down to bed. Just as I was falling back asleep at 6:15, they both come into my room ready to start the day. This would be awesome if it was a WEEKDAY, but they haven't yet learned the joy of sleeping in on the weekends.

I turned a movie on for them, gave them their cereal and milk, and went back to bed. I just started to fall asleep at 6:45 only to hear a loud argument. They each came up to tell me their side of the story, when I promptly sent them back downstairs to work it out. At about 7:15, just as I was about to fall asleep, they were having a blast, laughing and acting crazy loud enough to wake me. Do you see a theme here? My children are torturing me. Then, about 7:45, they came up and demanded breakfast.

Other than my disturbed sleep, they've been great, and we spent the afternoon at the pool. They're napping now, and I should be too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kinder update--Dual Language lesson

Maddie's first three days of Kindergarten have been very good. She's enjoying her teacher very much, and seems to be really catching on. It is a full Dual Language program, and there are 17 children in Maddie's class (with a total of three dual language classrooms at her school and two total "regular" Kinder classrooms). Half the kids are native Spanish speakers, and the other half are native English speakers. Many of the Spanish speakers know some English already.

Instruction is 90% in Spanish in Kindergarten. The 10% that is in English is usually Music, Art, or Science. Children can speak to each other in what ever language they choose, but I think English is encouraged. Children helping other children during lesson time is also encouraged (i.e. a Spanish speaking student can translate a task so Maddie will know what she's supposed to do and visa versa). The teachers are also extremely flamboyant and using hand gestures, enunciation, and pictures when talking. (It's very entertaining, but they must be totally exhausted at the end of the day).

So far, Maddie has not told us that she struggles to understand instructions. While she may not comprehend the words the teacher is saying, she seems to know what she is supposed to do. The comprehension will come very soon.

First grade will be 80% Spanish, and by the time she gets to fifth grade, instruction will be 30% Spanish.

Parents who've already had a child go though this program tell me that Maddie will probably be bilingual by this Christmas, and biliterate by the end of the year. All of her state standardized tests will be in Spanish (which at first sounds very scary, but she'll be taking all of her tests in Spanish in school, so it makes sense).

After her first day, she came home and played teacher. She spoke in a Spanish accent saying some nonsense phrases, but she was clearly attempting to mimic her teacher. She also was saying some words in Spanish, rolling her "R's" and told us tons of stories about her day. Madison likes to quiz Zak and I on words in Spanish to see if we know what she's saying. If I don't know the word, she proudly tells me. I think she loves knowing more than we do! So do I!

Maddie is driven to school by Zak and picked up by me. I drop Brooke off at her school, and Zak picks her up. Maddie's school is about a 10-15 minute drive, and it is amazing how much longer it takes when you have multiple drop offs and pick ups. I'm also hyper aware of the fact that I need to spend more time with Maddie, help her process her day, and assist with homework. Maddie attends an after school program where they eat snacks, play, and do homework. She's not thrilled about this program because it's "not as fun" as Kindergarten. Also, she's so tired when I pick her up, that she can barely stay awake. She's going to bed at 7:30-8:00 each night, and wakes up at about 6:45 to get ready for school which starts at 7:40. (Who ever picked that start time should be punished).

One of my friends, Angi, enrolled her two children in a similar public school program in the Dallas area several years ago. Her third grader and first grader speak to each other in Spanish so Angi won't know what they're saying! :) Angi told me that she's heard some racist comments about the program and people questioning why you'd ever want your child to speak Spanish. I haven't had that happen, yet and would likely be so confused by such a dumb question that I wouldn't know what to say, other than, "DUH!"

I found this on another school district's website, and intend to memorize some of the points:

Why Dual Language Immersion Education?

Because language immersion students. . .

  • develop fluency in two languages: English & Spanish
  • learn in an ethnically, culturally and linguistically integrated environment
  • enjoy the art, music and literature of other cultures while developing sensitivity toward other people
  • work together cooperatively, developing self-esteem and good social interaction skills
  • more fully appreciate the rich heritage of our state
  • can communicate with people from 22 countries of the world
  • may fulfill university language requirements before entering grade six
  • can become trilingual in middle or high school
  • are provided with unique linguistic and cultural options such as international marketing, second language teaching, social work, publishing, intercultural communication, travel consulting, foreign diplomatic relations, and many more.
  • Research also shows that childhood is the ideal time to learn a new language and the best time for most people to acquire complete fluency, flawless pronunciation and a natural ease of expression.

Program Goals:

  • Developing fluency in communication and literacy in two languages, English and Spanish.
  • Acquiring knowledge in all academic subjects as outlined in the district guidelines.
  • Cultivating understanding and appreciation of other cultures, inspiring self-esteem, and strengthening positive attitudes among students, their families and communities.
  • Providing parents the opportunity to become involved in their child’s school experience.
  • Student’s Academic Achievement
  • Language Immersion program test data show students who enter such programs at the Kindergarten or First Grade level and stay for several years, meet or exceed established norms for reading, mathematics, and language development in both English and Spanish.
  • Studies from two-way language immersion programs indicate that students score as well or better in all subject areas than students in a non-immersion program.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dear Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

Today is Madison's first day of Kindergarten. She is very excited to be at your school, in your classroom, and learning Spanish. She is also very nervous that she doesn't have any friends yet, and doesn't know where to sit, how to find the bathroom, or where I'll pick her up today. I think she's also worried that she won't understand you.

Maddie is ready to learn, she's probably already mastered the concepts you'll teach this year. We didn't tell her that, and we're sure you'll notice and challenge her in new ways. She can spell and read some basic words and do some math, but we know that she'll have to re-learn all of this in Spanish. And, she'll be better for it. We all will be better for it.

As parents, we know that providing our child with an opportunity to become bilingual is likely one of the biggest advantages we can provide in our ever changing state, country, and world. That doesn't make me any less nervous about her ability to master two languages this year, including reading and writing in both. Her brain will be working overtime, and we want to partner with you to be sure that she can learn academically, and socially adapt to her new surroundings and culture of her peers.

Our girl is the only tiny blonde girl in your class, and she just hit 40 lbs over the weekend. When she draws pictures of herself, her hair is aways black because she thinks that is pretty. She still rides in a car seat, but don't tell her that she's likely the only one in your class who still does. Maddie sucks her thumb when she's anxious or tired. Engage her and keep her busy, and she'll stop. Once Maddie is comfortable in school, she'll be the bossy ringleader of the class. Also, she's LOUD, and when she thinks you're ignoring her, she'll get LOUDER. When she plays outside, she'll get hot and red quickly, and sometimes I forget to put on sunscreen in the mornings. Maddie doesn't eat very much, of anything, except Cheese-Its by the case. We're not worried about this, and hope you don't worry either. Offer her the "fruit and yogurt plate" at school, and she'll eat all the fruit you can give her.

Ask Maddie to draw you a picture, and she'll be happy to communicate her feelings for you. She's quite the artist, and loves to impress people with her pictures. She also thinks she needs to be perfect and organized all the time. Help us teach her that perfection is never the goal, but the real work is in trying her very best.

Please let us know how she is doing. We like frequent communication, and our goal is to reinforce YOUR rules and classroom structure. We won't be the parents who challenge and question your authority. We only ask that you keep your beautiful and welcoming smile, are tender and kind, and provide a consistent and safe environment for our baby girl.

Madison is our most precious cargo, and it seems just like yesterday when we brought her home from the hospital, and now today is her first day of school. We know you'll take good care of her. Thank you for being the most important and influential teacher she'll ever have.


Amanda and Zak

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Republican Birds

When we put in our deck at the Lake House, we loved the fact that it was under a giant old oak tree. We love this oak tree, and wish it survives it's precarious position growing on this side of a cliff that gets very little rain. It provides fantastic shade all day long.

Guess who also loves the oak tree? BIRDS. Big ugly vulture/buzzard-y birds. They're like old cranky men with their bald heads and slouchy posture just waiting for you to croak so they can peck your guts out. I'm also pretty sure that they are Republicans.

In addition to just being old gangsta bird thugs who hang around looking tough, they also POOP on the deck. Lots of poop. BIG poops. Because Zak and I are not the repairing/cleaning/parenting/yardwork-y/handy types, we devised a plan so we could still sit on our asses at the Lake House and STILL keep the birds away.

Are you ready....wait for it....wait....

Plastic Birds! If you think about it, then you'll agree that plastic birds are a great way to keep real birds away. They're all cute and painted, don't eat or poop or scare your babies (that much), and confuse the hell out of real birds.

We went looking around the garage for some plastic birds to scare off the thug birds (what? you expected me to get off my ass and shop for some plastic birds?). Turns out, the previous owners left us all their plastic yard art. Horray! Two garbage bags full, if I recall correctly. We threw it all away except for a few pieces that were either concrete giant statues of a mama and baby bear nestled right next to a dear (for real, here is the evidence!) and random bird houses that were too high to get down.

Now that we finally have a ladder so we can do housey-take-care-of-thee type things, Zak decided to climb one of the oak trees in the front yard to re-purpose an old plastic owl. I so wish I would have caught this next part on camera, but I didn't.....turns out the fake owl has already been re-purposed as a hornets nest! (Those are some really smart hornets!)

Zak casually came into the house to tell me he decided that using the owl wasn't a good idea. I agree...let's see what else we can find to scare away the poopin' gangsta birds. Madison came up with a great idea:

She offered up her Barbie for sacrifice. While Zak created Barbie's new living quarters, I couldn't resist taking her picture as she prepared to defend the deck from poop monsters. You can also see here what a terrible problem we have (it's ONLY on the rails thank goodness), and this was AFTER we scrubbed it with soap and water. So what if we really didn't scrub it that hard? What we need is a POWER washer!

So after Barbie was hung from her noose, Zak discovered we had another (hornet free) bird yard "art" that could help us. (She is looking rather sexy in her hot pink bikini, and I'm sure the boys passing by on their ski boats will take notice).

I then snapped pictures of Zak taping this red bird to the staircase to nowhere. Notice he found red electrical tape to match the red bird. He's so crafty! Because, what other purpose does electrical tape have?

We won't be going back to the Lake House for a few weeks, and I can't wait to see the results of our work (and my our work, I of course always mean, ZAK's work.) So, do you think Barbie will survive, or do you think the gangsta birds will just peck her boobs off? What about the little red bird? I think the mean birds may just laugh at him, or poop on his head.

(Hey there! Want to come and visit us at the Lake House? We promise to protect you from the wildlife, poop..and, um, flying stinging insects. We HAVE BEER! And VODKA!).

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sunset at the Lake House

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Friday, August 06, 2010

Three and a half--Brooke

Dear Brooke,
You’re three and a half, and gosh darn it, you MEAN it. The first half of your third year has been filled with fun and new adventures. You flew on a plane for the first time ever. We went to San Diego (and Disneyland!) and then to Chicago JUST FOR FUN. We’ve kept you cooped up in Texas for your whole life, mainly because we were scared to travel with two small and LOUD children further than 200 miles. So, don’t ever say we didn’t take you anywhere. Okay?

We’ve had a non-stop busy summer and you’ve loved every minute of it. In fact, when I told you that today is Friday, you said, “Yea! Where we going this weekend?” Needless to say, you hate to stay home, and you are very vocal about wanting to get out of the house. This makes your dad very sad because his new favorite pastime is to stare at the walls, floors, and furniture to contemplate how to spend more money.

You’re very clear with your needs and have great verbal skills. You’re using complex sentences with dramatic hand and facial gestures to clarify points when you’re not understood. One of the most frustrating conversations for you is when Maddie doesn't STOP TALKING and let you SAY SOMETHING. Anything! You try to edge your way into the conversation, you say “excuse me, Maddie,” then keep pushing as Maddie just speaks LOUDER to keep you out of it. (she’s still learning those minor conversational ques—like, shhh!) Then, you just SCREAM. This results in Maddie screaming louder. All because you weren’t being heard.

I’d also like to point out that you are simply gorgeous with long brown hair and the sweetest smile ever. You’re quite the charmer and are constantly trying to make us laugh by talking in funny voices, scrunching up her face when you think hard, or making a silly expression. I’m pretty sure you may be the most favorite child at school. You are witty, quick with the apologies if you hurt someone on accident, and always concerned for others. You compromise well (probably because you have to or you’d never get an inch from your sister). You are really into what’s “fair,” but accept reasonable explanation when they are not. Also, you love to cuddle and give big hugs…the real kind where you hang on tight and squeeeeeezze.

We’ve had some sleep issues with you recently. We’re not sure why, but you wake up in the middle of the night SCREAMING incoherent things and yelling at us all. You then demand to be walked back to your room, covered, kissed, and ask that we shut your door exactly the way you specify (cracked open). If we don’t do this, you just scream LOUDER. Needless to say, this attitude (sleeping or not) is not cutting it in this house. We’ve threatened, punished, reasoned, compromised, and even yelled at you to stop this nighttime waking. None of that has worked, so now we’re trying to bribe you the old fashioned way….lollipops and “points” for prizes (i.e. more lollipops). This might just work!

You still only sleep with her bumpy "pink blankey" and insists it's silky side down with the "crunchy part" (embroidered) on the top left corner. Amy and Brian Harris gave this to you after you were born. The heart shaped pillow that Grandma Mary made for her is still your fav, but you use it upside down.

As I told you early, you like for your bedroom door to be "cracked" and always gets up at least once after we put you to bed to "Poop and Tee" (does this have something to do with golf?) no matter how many times we ask her if she's gotta go before bedtime story time. Afterwards, you ask us to wipe your butt because she's "still learning how and is only three," but really just wants to be covered again with more "huggies and kissies."

Your favorite book right now is "We're going on a bear hunt!" I try to skip sections of the book, but she catches me every time with "you forgot the Stumble Trip-Stumble Trip part." When we get the to part about the "dark and gloomy cave" she anticipates the "WHAT'S THAT?" line and screams with delight, "It's a BEAR!" as loud as she can. Loud enough to have Maddie yell to quiet down from the other room. Maddie will sometimes let you read books with her in Maddie’s big bed, and that is your most favorite place of all. You love it so much, you don’t even care what book we read.

Now that you’ve suddenly stopped drinking "purple milk" (which is Silk Soy milk in a purple container) and only wants "aller-gade" (aka Gatorade--gator replaced with alligator), juice, and water. We're not sure why, but think it has something to do with missing your sippy cup when we were on vacation in California.

Brooke, you copy your older sister with precision and often irritates Maddie with her imitations. However, Maddie is a very nurturing and caring big sister (who offered actually wipe your butt--once!). You two are in constant negotiations all the time for who gets to do what and when. You guys play silly and girly, and usually includes Hide 'n Seek, Tag, or Dress Up with Maddie running the show. When you two argue, we encourage them to "work it out" and not involve adults in their problem solving unless it's necessary. This is starting to work, and now you tattle on each other for tattling on each other. (Yes, you read that right).

We love to watch you grow and revel in watching your personality develop. I’m convinced that you may be the funniest human on the planet, and can’t wait to watch you prove me right! I put together this little photo montage of the last six months....I love you!


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What are baby teeth good for anway?

Maddie had a dentist appointment in January, and he told me that Maddie would lose 8 teeth in the next 4-6 months. Whatevs, I thought.

Well, he was right. So far, she's lost six teeth since that prediction, and remember she's only FIVE years old!

I got a call from Maddie's daycare today just after I dropped her off (and that is NEVER a good thing). Her teacher said that Maddie "knocked out two teeth on the playground." She quickly added that Maddie told her those two teeth were already loose, which was true. In fact, just last night, I was wiggling her teeth hoping they'd fall out before kindergarten started. The two teeth she was referring to are her "fused" teeth and are literally stuck together. The teacher added that "a third tooth is also very loose from the accident too."

Turns out the picking my kids boogers and wiggling their lose teeth is one of my favorite past times. Isn't parenting glamorous?

Just last night, I was wishing for those three teeth to fall out because they're just super ugly (sorry, honey, I love you and promise to pay for braces if you need them soon). The two that are fused just look weird, and the pointy one is like a half tooth/vampire fang. One CANNOT go through life with bad teeth.

Anyway, I was sorta freaked out when I got the call and the words "knocked out" didn't sound good. I called Zak and he was really worried. We wanted to be sure the tooth actually came out and didn't break off. So, like any working mom does, I scurried over to school to take a look myself.

Maddie's teacher said she cried for a bit, and bled too, but then happily told her teacher she was gonna get a "bonus" from the Tooth Fairy for losing two teeth at one time. Zak and I taught her what "bonus" means just last night. That's my girl!

Not only does she look hilarious, but she now talks with a lisp. I'm also not sure how she plans to eat anything either. That sideways pointy one is gonna be next....give it a few weeks. See a before pic.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Lookie what I got for my Birthday!

I'm my own Barista now!

Thanks, Zak!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tweet! Tweet! July 2010

Delish! At my birthday dinner. Fancy place with an open kitchen. via UberTwitter

Maddie (5.5 yrs old) can finally SWIM. Wearing a life jacket finally taught her proper technique, and practice without it gave confidence. via UberTwitter - Brooke (3) plays the kazoo. She obviously inherited her musical genius from me! via TwitVid BlackBerry

Maddie (5) can now translate words that Zak and I spell in code. She figured out cake, milk, button, when we spelled them outloud! via Twitterrific

On my way home from Chicago. Thanks, Dad, for the upgrade to a First Class seat! You're the best! via UberTwitter

Hugh thank you to @billschoof and @BrianKibby for a super fun night at @thesecondcity. They were AWESOME!Chicago rocks and The Hammers rule! via UberTwitter 95 floors in the sky and I don't have a cell service signal in Chicago! Pic is (cont) via UberTwitter

The view from my room in Chicago. BEST in the City. The river and lake and Navy Pier in one shot! via UberTwitter

My dad and Susan rock! Thinking Thinking positively..They're gonna make their flight! They're gonna make it! They're gonna make it! via UberTwitter

Teaching Maddie all about Fireflies. It's the best insect ever. We are "catching" them in Chicago! via UberTwitter

Kids! via UberTwitter

Just went tubing with Brooke (3). Maddie (5) was too scared. Brooke said she can't wait to tell her friends and teachers. via UberTwitter

In Coal City, IL via UberTwitter

The daily rental car rate today for a compact car in #Chicago is $180 per DAY. Yes, you read that correctly, $180 a day for a crappy Chevy. via UberTwitter

Maddie lost her 4th tooth while we were on an airplane! via UberTwitter

The Girls saw a woman wearing a burka and asked all kinds of questions. I had to explain #culture and #religion quickly! #parenting via UberTwitter

After being told she couldn't have dessert tonight, Brooke reasoned, "but I reeally, reeallly like to eat dessert!" via web

We practically bathed in sunscreen, but still got too red. #dontmesswithtexas heat in the summertime! via UberTwitter

Spent the day at a friends lake house and on their boat. Maddie and Brooke swam like fishes and jumped off the boat! via UberTwitter

Star gazing with my husband. via UberTwitter

When she grows up, Maddie wants "to be an artist and make pictures for people so they will give me money." via Twitterrific

Almost a kindergartener! via UberTwitter

This has got to stop! The Gender Pay Gap in e-Learning : Learning Solutions Magazine: /via @EducationNut via Twitterrific

Love this prank! Jewel goes undercover to sing her own songs at a karaoke bar: via web from Prospect Heights, New York

I'm a woman--not a teacup or a queen. Shake my hand like you want to conduct business. I won't break. via UberTwitter

Big thanks to the #worldcup and "the most exciting game" in the world. It put me right to sleep, and I had a nice midday nap. Yea Spain! via UberTwitter - Playing in the "pool." via TwitVid BlackBerry

Girls, you should marry a former boy scout! via UberTwitter

Just ruined my manicure by painting the bathroom at the lake house. I think I'll stick to just painting my nails. Real painting ain't easy! via UberTwitter

I'm stressed out after watching #whalewars. What a great cause to support! Can't wait for next week! via UberTwitter Maddie has her very first school field trip today. Going to see Toy Story 3 and (cont) via UberTwitter

No matter what you do, you gotta have fun at work. This woman is awesome! #HEB via web

Brooke (3 yr old) sings this church song: "I have a new life that's better than my old life." Really, just how bad was your "old life" kid? via web

She's loud enough. No microphone needed! via UberTwitter

4th (or 3rd) of July is the only night of the year that the girls stay up late. The neighbor's fireworks FREAKED them out. SO loud! via UberTwitter

Happy 4th of July from the Lake! via UberTwitter

Brooke demands steak for dinner just because we're at the Lake House. I guess she forgot mama is a new #vegetarian. via UberTwitter

Maddie likes to make books out of her drawings. She puts them together and makes up her own stories. via UberTwitter

Ever been in 95 percent humidity? It's courtesy of #alex and his left over thunderstorms. via UberTwitter

Zak was amazed my corn soup contained actual corn from COB that I shucked, roasted, sauteed, boiled, blended and sieved. #vegetarian via Twitterrific

Maddie is excited for our upcoming trip to Chicago. She is positive it will be snowy (in JULY!) via UberTwitter