Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Birthday wrap up!

Katharine had a GREAT birthday weekend. She got to do lots of fun things and got tons of great presents.

The weekend started with a shopping trip and ice cream with Scott and Ashleigh (see previous post) on Saturday. In the evening KK went to CSU with her Daddy to see a play. On Sunday morning she opened her presents from her family -- most exciting presents: new clothes from Nanna, a VTech VReader from Grandma and Grandpa Willert, a new fuzzy pink coat from Mom and Dad, and new pj's with silky pants from Grandmomma and Poppa. On Sunday afternoon she had a party at the Pirate playground at Folly Beach where LOTS of her school friends came plus Grandmomma and Poppa, Scott, Ashleigh and baby William, Olga, Mark and Nela! The kids had a blast busting a pinata, eating cupcakes, and running wild on the playground. She got lots of exciting presents from her friends including some fairies from Tinker Bell, My Little Pony toys, some arts and crafts items, a few books, and some puzzles. And she received a beautiful holiday dress from Olga, Mark, and Nela. The girl made out good! Thanks to everyone for caring, giving, and celebrating with us!

On Sunday evening as Katharine was brushing her teeth she looked in the mirror and said, "Phew, I'm finally 5!"

Birthday girl fun!

KK got an extra special treat on her birthday weekend. Two of her favorite people, Scott and Ashleigh, picked her up and took her out shopping for her birthday followed by a birthday treat - ice cream at Cosmic Jack's!

Katharine had a blast spending time with baby William (whom she adores) and Scott and Ashleigh. I think she felt very grown up and enjoyed having her good buddies all to herself. She told them she definitely wanted to do it again and definitely did NOT want Matthew to come.

She cruised the aisles of WalMart and finally settled on a princess party pack - a set of 4 tiaras, pageant banners (which she decided were the princess names), microphones, and jewelry. Ashleigh said once she settled on that, there was no changing her mind. She is definitely a very girly-girl but you got give her credit for knowing what she likes.

After the shopping, the gang headed to Jack's cosmic dogs to have an ice cream. Ashleigh asked her what her favorite thing about being 4 was and KK said, "being silly." Ashleigh then asked if she could still be silly now that she was 5 and KK confirmed that she thought that would be ok.

A big thanks to Scott and Ashleigh for helping to make KK's birthday so special!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pennies for peace bake sale

Today Katharine's class conducted a bake sale to support Pennies for Peace (see work of Gregg Mortenson, "Three Cups of Tea"). She is featured here with two of her buddies, Evy and Sarah.

I was really impressed with Katharine's ability to describe to me the purpose of this bake sale earlier this week. She told that me they were having a bake sale to help Dr. Gregg build schools in countries where kids don't have schools and to help them get paper and pencils so they won't have to write their school work in the dirt with a stick. She also explained that if you have to write your school work in the dirt and it rains that the work would get washed away.

[Gregg Mortenson lives is American but has been living in Afghanistan raising money to build schools for children.]

Monday, November 15, 2010

So proud!

Here is an op-ed piece that was recently printed in the Buffalo News. It is written by a former student of my stepmother's and talks about the way she changed his life through her teaching. Pretty neat.

Dan Schwartz: Great teachers make a world of difference

Updated: November 15, 2010, 11:26 AM

I wasn’t the class clown, but I had my moments. Most of the time I was bored gourdless in school. Then early in 10th grade, I was going through the motions of learning when a teacher passed out some dittos of Robert Frost poems. After sniffing the dittos — what made those things smell so good? — the teacher asked me to read one aloud, and after a couple of lines I began doing an impression of Frost.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” I began. “And I don’t care! I’m a cranky old man!”

The class went nuts. “That’s enough, Dan.”

I continued until “I doubted if I should ever come back,” at which point I rechanneled Frost and added, “I can’t come back! I’m Frosty the poem man!”

After more laughter, the teacher asked, “May we continue, Dan?”

Fearful of a referral, I continued on until “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by — so try and catch me coppers!”

I apologized, but I’d been conditioned to expect punishment. My classmates had been conditioned to stare and see how I’d react to that punishment. The teacher simply asked, “You don’t like Frost very much, do you?”

“Uh, not necessarily. It’s just we’re kind of sick of him. We read him every year. Sorry I made fun of your favorite poet.”

She s-l-o-w-l-y walked to the back row. Teachers used to hit students in those days. Actually, they still do in less-enlightened states like Texas and Florida.

Instead of hitting me, she handed me more dittos. “I think you’ll like these better.”

They smelled the same, but on the way back to her desk she said, “Frost is not my favorite poet. William Butler Yeats is.”

I breathed easier and thought, “Great. Who the hell is William Butler Yeats?”

The poems she gave me were from “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I read them and was hooked. I had rediscovered reading.

I began hanging out with other readers and trading paperbacks. They recommended works by other writers. In biology class, I’d prop my textbook on my desk to hide and read novels. This probably explains my biology grades, but by then I knew no matter what else I did in life, I wanted to read and maybe write. I even read Yeats.

Years later, my brother Matt sent me a postcard. “I found this cool bookstore in San Francisco. It’s run by a guy named Larry who says he’s a poet. Ever heard of him?” Matt had stumbled upon City Lights Bookstore. It’s owned by Ferlinghetti.

A few years after that, I attended a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English in San Francisco. Most of the sessions were great, but I do recall one where a teacher tried to convince us Frost’s “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” was really about Santa Claus.

Matt kidnapped me from the conference. Without disclosing our destination, he walked me over to City Lights. Ferlinghetti wasn’t there that day, but I did get some books and my picture taken in front of the store.

The next day I was walking through the lunch-rush traffic when I thought I recognized someone. She was well past us when it dawned on me. I took a chance.

“Dr. Willert?” I hollered. She began walking back through the human tide. “How could you tell it was me?

We passed in a split second!” “Great teachers stand out in a crowd.”

Meet my Seashell - Matthew Roof!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Momma told me there'd be days like this...

Yesterday was one of those kinds of days where the imperfection of what it is to be a parent was slammed over my head like a 2x4. The day started with dropping Matthew off at ECDC where he refused to go in his classroom and ran after me crying down the hall. After being dragged in to class by his teacher, I went in to the observation room to see how the transition was going. After refusing to wash his hands (how they all start their day), he sat alone ignoring everyone and not participating for several minutes (long enough that I couldn't stay to watch anymore). From there it was on to the dentist where Katharine had her second set of cavities filled. Then a few hours of work before I run back to ECDC to pick up the kids and, what a surprise, Matthew has a "fussy" on his paper - AGAIN. This time it came with a personalized note commenting on how he cried when he didn't get his way. Quick change for Katharine and we are off to dance class where it is parent observation day (the day when all the parents get to watch dance class - we aren't allowed in normally -- and bring the vidoecameras and cameras). It was going great and Katharine was doing a super job until... the loud crying started which at first had us all confused until we noticed her hand grabbing her crotch and the puddle beginning to form on the floor. And, to make the day even better, Katharine was about as far from the door as one can get so she cried and left a pee trial all the way across the room as I dragged her to the bathroom. Then I had the joy of juggling watching Matthew, cleaning up Katharine and getting her to stop screaming, crying. Once she was calm I had to leave her naked and alone on the toilet so I could go out to the car and get her regular clothes. To her credit, Katharine actually wanted to go back and join the class once she was dressed. Clearly, I had been much more embarrassed than she had as I was pretty much ready to slink home with my tail between my legs at that point.

It was a rough day but today is a new day and it can only be a better day!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fun day at Harvest Fest

We had a fun day listening to bluegrass, looking at horses, jumping in jump castles, and enjoying the outdoors.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Roof Family Update

The kids had a great Halloween season! They got to dress up three times and managed to pull in a nice little stock pile of candy. For about two weeks before Halloween, Matt would ask with some regularity, "Now Halloween?" And now we are fielding the constant question, "I can have a piece of candy?".

The kids have also been on a couple of fun field trips lately. Matthew went on a horse-drawn carriage ride where they did a scavenger hunt for things around town (lucky for Matthew one of his classmate's parents works for a carriage company). Katharine has been on three field trips in the last couple of weeks. The first was a walk over to the new science center where she got to see their display of dinosaur bones. On the way back they walked through the College library to see a visiting artist who was creating a 3-dimensional piece of art made completely of recyclable objects she has collected. The second was to the Charleston Museum, complete with a bus ride on the downtown shuttle. Finally, on Friday they walked over to a Geology professor's classroom (Holland's mom), where she showed us various animal skeletons and talked about omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores and how we could tell the difference in one type or the other by the placement of their eyes and they types of teeth they have.

Other news:

  • Seems to now be struggling a bit more at ECDC more so than when we first started. He has a little bit of trouble transitioning to the classroom in the morning and is more likely to cling to me than in the first weeks of school. He also gets a "fussy" on his paper more often that Paul and I would like to see. We are trying to digest if this is normal two year old fussy, his teacher's style (she runs a pretty-tight ship and sets high expectations), or something more.
  • Matthew is still sleeping in a big boy bed and will now get out of the bed, open the door, and come looking for us in the morning. (Believe it or not, it seems with both of my kids that it took them awhile to realize they actually had the freedom to get out of bed on their own).
  • Matthew likes to count things and can count successfully as high as 11.
  • He is proficient with his colors and can identify pretty much all the colors.
  • He is taking yoga, which is offered to the two and three year olds through ECDC, (as his sister did before him) and seems to like it.
  • He is becoming more attuned to emotions and will regularly ask me if I "bad" or "happy" where bad seems to represent the full range of negative emotions but particularly anger. If I am angry and I tell him I am bad he will continue to ask me if I am bad or happy until I say happy. This actually can be a nice reminder that it is ok to let go of anger and move on. It also just sort of cute. Occasionally, he will poll the whole family on their emotional status and then ask us to ask him if he is bad or happy so he can share his status with us.
  • His class just finished a unit on wild animals and I am told that Matthew loved all the wild animals! It looks like a trip to the Zoo may be in order!
  • He is a pretty fussy eater and has managed to weed out almost every fruit and vegetable from his diet. We have managed to sneak raisins back in to his diet by buying the yogurt covered ones and he will occasionally ingest a banana. I often wonder if a child can grow up on crackers and peanut butter sandwiches?
  • Katharine is as strong verbally as she ever was but seems to be particularly focused on phonics (sounding out words and trying to get us to guess words by giving us the first sound), asking us to spell words or whole sentences (sometimes so she can write it down and sometimes just for fun), and asking the meaning of words (sometimes words that I am pretty sure she already knows the meanings to and sometimes new words).
  • She is also recognizing a word as a unit of text pretty consistently and does some "reading from memory" which makes her feel like she is reading and, thus, makes her feel proud.
  • She can be very shy in new situations and takes time to warm up. Then, at other times in situations where she is more comfortable, she is very gregarious.
  • She is still taking dance classes and enjoying it. She is incredibly flexible and I am hoping we might get an opportunity to add in some gymnastics at some point in time (the logistics of actually incorporating that in our weekly schedule is a tough one!).
  • She is also a pretty picky eater and turns her nose up at dinner probably more often that she eats it. She does at least eat a few more fruits than Matt in that she likes apples, strawberries, watermelon, and mandarin oranges.
  • As extracurricular activities through school, Katharine is taking Chinese lessons and getting exposure to P.E. She has been fortunate that both of these topics have been offered for free: the Chinese lessons from some volunteer moms and the P.E. through the School of Education.