Big Yellow School Bus

School begins late in these parts, so I still feel justified in posting these first-day-of-school pictures.

It’s been a tough transition for everyone — with the jog between our old school district and our new one, the kids had a 15 week summer break.  By the last week, I contracted a head cold brought on, I feel certain, by sheer exhaustion.

Everyone was excited when school began.  The kids were bursting with so much nervous energy that I told them to run laps around our cul-de-sac while waiting for the bus to arrive.

And can I say how jazzed everyone is by the school bus?  Ho boy, this is riding in style.

It’s hard to send little Wimmy off for full-day kindergarten; I miss our one-on-one time in the afternoons.  The transition was a little difficult for him.  For those first few days, he would jump off the bus happy about school, but then begin yelling at me over some random trivial thing (like the color of his water bottle).  He even tearfully told me that kindergarten was “too boring” and he wanted to stay home with me all day.  But I also know that if he was going to half-day school (only 2 hours long, blah) he’d be complaining about being bored at home and missing his siblings, so . . . meh.  These days, he loves school with the same sunny enthusiasm that he loves everything.

Eleanor’s 2nd grade teacher is a dude this year, which is interesting.  She’s happy to be back to doing her favorite subject (math) and very happy to be getting back to her favorite extracurricular activity, creative dance.  (I LOVE the dance school we found for her — small classes, talented kids, and a third of the class is male!).

Meanwhile, Jeffrey is in an oversized 4th grade class this year, but his teacher seems good so far.  And the school psychologist is amazing!  I’ve already had 2 face-to-face meetings with her, and his IEP is rolling forward at lightning speed.  Such a big change from the schools in Salt Lake  . . .

The demographics of our new school are very different from our old one.  There’s a lot more diversity — kids from 37 countries go to this school.  It’s a nice change, but there isn’t as much parent involvement.  I’d say less than half of the families from this school showed up for Curriculum Night.  I wonder if that’s because of cultural/language barriers (parents not being aware of what’s expected) or an inability to attend because of work schedules and transportation issues?  We’ll see how things go from here . . .


Preschool v. Cousins

For your consideration: William on his first day of preschool!

He’s wearing an outfit that his grandmother gave him for his birthday.  Little did I know that morning that William had decided that he didn’t like this outfit, and snipped the edges of the shorts and the sleeves of the shirt with scissors.  I didn’t notice the raggedy, ruffly hems until after lunch that day.

Yes, yes, the time-out was massive.  But anyway: Preschool!  Which William loves with a passion.  This week he would prefer preschool over trips to Disneyland, I think.

In fact, he said that he wanted preschool more than a playdate at McDonald’s with his cousins — a shock indeed.  William doesn’t get to see his cousins Sarah and Abby very often since they live in Pittsburgh.  Wednesday was their last day here, so not only did we have a playdate for lunch (sorry, preschool!) but we also went up to my parents’ house that evening for an impromptu birthday/goodbye party for my sister.

Much goofiness ensued.  I made an attempt to document the action, but it was difficult.  These were taken in between bouts of jumping up and down on the guest bed upstairs:

Meanwhile, June decided to show Katie how to properly chew on a pillow:

And Jeffrey fulfilled his heart’s desire: playing Minecraft with Uncle Alex.  (Ohhhhhh, Minecraft.  Were you specifically created for Jeff to obsess over you, talk about you nonstop and do whatever amount of homework and chores is necessary to obtain permission to play you?  Because if so, mission accomplished.)

Alex made this face on purpose.  He deserves what he gets, Internet-wise.  Meanwhile, look at the worshipful gaze on Jeffrey’s face.

Insanity would have prevailed BUT for the good graces of my father:

This energy high, of course, is nothing compared to the half-naked ice cream-a-thon we had at the previous cousin meeting a week and a half earlier:


My mother has a “fairy garden” in her backyard, peopled with little knicknacks she finds at thrift stores.  June and Abby were playing so sweetly with it:

And this is baby Emmaline.  What?  Have you not met?  She is cousin June’s baby sister, and in this picture she is just over 1 week old.  What a sweet baby Emmykins!

But Katie’s not about to let some other baby out-cute her:

A good time was had by all, as they say.  During my sister’s two-week visit, she crammed in three family dinners, two cousin playdates, and a trip to Yellowstone.  And that was just with our side of the family!  (Apparently there was a wedding on the other side.  Wow).

I already miss you lots, Lizzie!  Take care back in Pittsburgh.

Schultüten 2011

Look what I did!  I was actually able to complete a craft project!

These are Schultüten — German “school cones,” given to kids in honor of the first day of school.  I’ve made them before, but this year I was able to do it properly.  With no heed taken to how many bitsy pieces of paper I littered on the kitchen floor.  We even found school-themed scrapbook paper for these — Wimmy’s says “preschool,” Ella’s says “First grade,” and Jeff’s says “Third grade.”  This kind of stuff is usually out of my depth.

The children received them the night before school, as part of Family Home Evening.  Jeffrey and Eleanor had spent time that afternoon selling vegetables at the farmer’s market with other kids from their farm-based summer camp . . . okay, anyway that’s the long explanation as to why they are both wearing the tie-dye shirts they made at camp; and why I was so exhausted that evening.  We had Chinese food for dinner instead of cooking.  It was quite the celebration.

These were inside the schultüten.  Look what the internet inspired me to do — I LABELED something.

We also spent time choosing a scripture to be our inspiring educational theme of the year.  I looked up “knowledge” in the Topical Guide and read likely candidates out loud, and then everyone voted.

Jeffrey really wanted to use Daniel 12:4, which includes the phrase “run to and fro, and knowledge will be increased.”  He gave us a demonstration on how this is done.

But what we ended up with was Isaiah 33:6:

And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.

Brian and I like everything in this verse except that “fear of the Lord is his treasure” part, which we had a difficult time explaining to the kids.  (“Obeying God means being afraid of Him?  Something about treasure??”)

And here’s Jeff and Ella, all ready for 3rd and 1st grade, respectively:

They are so good at looking out for one another.

The whole family was able to come along for the first day.  Jeff has Ella’s old kindergarten teacher for third grade this year, and Ella has his old first grade teacher.  It was great to see so many familiar faces on the first day of school.

Finished Up

What’s cuter than a kindergartener in a graduation cap?  Well, I’ll show you:

SEVENTY kindergarteners in graduation caps . . . making FIST PUMPS!*

This was all part of the graduation ceremony/singing presentation given by the entire kindergarten class at the end of the school year.  And it was only 40 minutes long!  And that included time spent at the cookie table afterwards!

I only mention this because Jeffrey’s kindergarten singing program was TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG. I love hearing little kids sing, but that was a little excessive.

Speaking of Jeff . . .

The second grade finished the year with a program about Africa.  Sweeping cultural generalizations aside, I found it pretty cute.  It was basically the same thing as the kindergarten program, only with more songs about world peace.

Each of the kids made these really cool animal masks as part of the study unit.  Jeff made the lion mask there.  Nice, eh?

*Oh, the fist pumps were part of a song called “America Rocks!”  While I’ve nothing against synthesizer-heavy patriotic power anthems from the 80s, I still can’t understand why the kindergarten kids can’t learn a patriotic song like “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” or “America the Beautiful,” or something else they’ll be expected to know the words to later on in life.  But then, again — “America the Beautiful” has little potential for cute hand motions.  No fist pumps there, bro.

Report Cards

Jeffrey and Eleanor brought home their report cards over the weekend.  I was concerned to see that Eleanor’s card noted that she has problems working independently and having a good attitude towards learning and following directions.

I mentioned this to Eleanor, and she took it seriously.  At dinnertime, she insisted on standing on a chair and being my helper, “so that I can be a better worker at school.”

ME: Yes, Eleanor.  You need to do your best at school.

ELEANOR: Yeah, and not get put into Time-Out so much.

ME: !?!?!?!

ME: You get put into Time-Out?

ELEANOR: Yeah, almost every day.

ME: Why?

ELEANOR: Because I keep talking when Mrs. Wright says not to.

ME:  Well, you need to follow your teacher’s directions.  There’s a time for talking and a time for doing your work.

ELEANOR: But Mrs. Wright says it’s okay to talk while we work!

ME: Oh?

ELEANOR: It just isn’t okay to scream while we work.

ME: [heavy sigh]

First Days

It’s been a while since the first day of school, but my parents made me promise to post pictures of the experience, so here they are:

We have a bit of a tradition where we give the kids Schultüten — German “school cones.”  When I was a kid, my family was stationed in Bavaria, and I’d always see pretty school cones hanging in shop windows, and thought they were neat.  Parents fill the cones with fun school supplies (pencils, colorful erasers, stickers, etc.) and other treats to give kids the night before the first day of school.

(So, I should admit: my reaction to seeing these in German shop windows as a child was more like “What?  German kids get presents for the first day of school?  How come I don’t get a present?!?”)

I don’t have the patience to form paper into proper cones, so we have something more like “school triangles.”  The kids don’t seem to care:

Here’s Jeffrey on the first day of second grade.  He loves school so much!

William was thrilled to go back to preschool for another year:

And Eleanor had her first day of kindergarten.  She’s very proud of her polka-dot backpack:

Ella’s teacher allowed parents to come into the classroom on the first day of school, which was wonderful.  I helped Eleanor decorate a paper leaf with a picture of what she did this summer.  She drew herself swimming in her pink swimsuit:

Then Ella’s teacher sang a “welcome” song to everybody.  Ms. O. is adorable; just barely taller than her students, it seems.

It looks like the beginning of a great year!  (Excepting the continued complaints I get about Jeffrey’s problems in school . . . siiiiigh.)

Every Good Boy Does Ritalin

So, the big news around here lately is that Jeffrey has been officially diagnosed with ADHD.  We’ve suspected it for a while, but until recently it was difficult to separate symptoms of the disorder with the usual abberations of early childhood behavior. 

We had him psychologically profiled when he was five, and even tried a short run of Adderol, but it had no apparent effect, which is common for very young children taking Adderol.  He couldn’t try any other medications because he, at the time, could not swallow pills.

Since entering first grade, things have been rough for Jeffrey at school.  He couldn’t follow directions, he couldn’t sit still long enough to listen to a story.  When doing math, he would forget what number he was counting to in the middle of solving a problem.  Within the first week of school, I was notified that Jeffrey was occupying almost all of the student teacher’s time.

His teacher — who is amazing, and I’m very thankful we landed in her class — has taken great pains to help with Jeff’s behavior, but by the halfway point of the year, things were bad.  Jeffrey was old enough to realize that he was falling behind his classmates, he couldn’t seem to control the problem.

“Focus!” he would yell at me.  “I need to focus, Mom!”  He pounded the sides of his head with his palms, gritting his teeth.

Then he began acting out in class (which surprised everybody), and would come home so frustrated that he would throw his backpack down a window well before coming inside.  I began getting phone calls from the school, and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it.  Jeffrey wasn’t intentionally doing these things; he hardly seemed aware that he was in La La Land 90% of the time.

After a lot of tears and hair-pulling, I decided to take him to our doctor and give medication another go-round. 

Our first attempt was with Concerta, but this unfortunately caused Jeffrey to have a manic episode (he came home talking a mile a minute, biting his cheeks, and so dizzy that he couldn’t eat).  This terrified me, and I felt terrible.

After that terrifyingness, we switched to Ritalin, and his teachers have noticed significant differences in his behavior.  For the first time ever, he was coming home with his worksheets filled out, with words written legibly (instead of clusters of random letters scattered about the page).  He was able to pay attention during classroom read-aloud time (instead of wandering off to play with toys).  Best of all, his teacher arranged for him to take his standardized tests one-on-one with an administrator, and he scored above expectations in every category!

Yessss!  He’s a really intelligent kid, but it’s difficult for people to see that when he can’t line up in a row like all the other good boys and girls.  His teacher called me immediately when she got Jeffrey’s scores, and we were both practically jumping up and down together. 

However, it isn’t a miracle cure.  Jeffrey still spends most of his time at church chewing on his shoelaces and rolling on the floor, and piano lessons are as much of a trial as ever.  But he’s starting to see himself as a kid who can make good, and that’s a very big thing.