Dear Toothie

Ronin lost his first tooth (age 6 1/2)

Ronin lost his first tooth (age 6 1/2)

He complained that his tooth was hurting a few weeks before, and I looked at it and noticed it was a bit wiggly, and saw the bud of a shark tooth growing up behind it. He was so excited when he realized what that meant. He wiggled it a bit more every day and worked on it to try to get it looser. I made sure to always keep a stash of small bills in the house, because Claire now has another loose tooth as well, and I didn’t want to be caught unprepared.

Then, one day, he told me he lost his tooth when he was eating an apple. I congratulated him and asked him if he’d saved it to put under his pillow, and he said, “No, I mean I really LOST it. It must have stayed in the apple.” He was not that upset, though, and jotted a note of explanation to the tooth fairy.

Dear Toothie  I lost my tooth.

Dear Toothie
I lost my tooth.

I couldn’t remember for the life of me how much we’d given Claire, and I seem to recall giving her more when she knocked her tooth out for hazard pay, but Justin told me when I was trying to figure it out that somehow Ronin was expecting exactly three dollars and fifty cents. I know we didn’t give that amount to Claire, so I don’t know how he came up with that, but that’s precisely what was delivered, along with a little note of appreciation for all of his good toothbrushing skills.

Hayward Japanese Garden and Sulphur Creek Nature Center

It’s a rainy weekend right now, but I’m several weeks behind and I thought I’d look for some pictures and write something while Claire and Ronin are doing four pages of homework.

Between Christmas and about two weeks ago, my camera lens was broken and wouldn’t focus well. During our road trip to Las Vegas it was getting worse and worse and would focus sometimes, but by the time we got back, focusing had to be done completely manually, which is hard to do with rapidly moving kids and especially when I need glasses if I want to be completely honest about how accurate I am at determining if something is in focus.

Mom was going to get me a new lens for my birthday, but I spent too much time trying to figure out what I wanted.  Justin was trying to help me get the best lens for my needs–he recommended something better than what I used to have, but I wanted something that wouldn’t be heavier or bulkier and needed to go to a real camera store to hold them and compare them. Finally I just ordered the exact same lens and I am so happy that I can focus again. Anyway, the pictures here are from that blurry time period.

Japanese Garden, koi pond

Japanese Garden, koi pond

I looked up this Japanese Garden in Hayward, which was somewhere we’d never been before. It was right near the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, so it seemed like we could make a nice day trip. It was bright and sunny, back in February, and all of the fruit trees were blossoming because it had been so unseasonably warm so far. It wasn’t a big park, but it was very pleasant and pretty.

Soren and my mom walking through the garden

Soren and my mom walking through the garden

Ronin in the garden

Ronin in the garden

Soren relaxing on a bench over the creek

Soren relaxing on a bench over the creek

It was hard pulling the kids away from their turtle friends in the koi pond, but imagine how delighted they were when we got to Sulphur Creek Nature Center and there were some box turtles being taken out for exercise in the grass!

Three kids trying to pet one turtle

Three kids trying to pet one turtle

There was an incredibly patient and informative teenaged girl taking care of the animals. She talked about what the turtles ate, and what she was doing to take care of them, how to tell the difference between boy and girl turtles, and she let Claire hold a turtle and walk back with her and get the other turtles.

Claire holding a turtle

Claire about to hold a turtle

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before that this place actually has a pet lending library, where you can check out a pet for a week and see what it’s like to have a pet hamster, gerbil, rat, or other kind of small pet. There is a catalog with descriptions, and they come with a cage and supplies. I asked about it, but we decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea unless we could guarantee a room away from any cats. We could, but that would be our bedroom and it wouldn’t be fun for the kids. Or for us.

Hey Turtle, it's been good to know you

Hey Turtle, it’s good to see you enjoying the warm day too

BAM/PFA Kids Club & wheels on campus

Two weekends in a row we went to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at UC Berkeley to look at just a few of the exhibits before going downstairs to take part in The Possible, which is part of an ongoing collective art exhibit in which the children can create and add pieces to the museum.

The first weekend I took my mom and Claire and Soren, while Justin took Ronin on a 6-mile hike through the rain. We had all stayed up really REALLY late the night before, and the kids were sleep-deprived and cranky in the afternoon, but the museum had soft lighting and nice acoustics and really high ceilings and lots of space. It was not crowded or noisy, even on a rainy weekend. It was downright soothing. Soren had a few moments of feeling unhappy, but was surprisingly able to refocus back on the modeling clay.

Charles Long: 100 lbs. of Clay, 2001

Charles Long: 100 lbs. of Clay, 2001 (Berkeley Art Museum)

The clay exhibit is an ever-changing piece with a few tables and tools and clay in front of it. Kids (and adults) are welcome to create their own sculptures and swap out the works that are already there. When we went back a week later, I didn’t see anything that was the same.

Mom and Soren working with their clay

Mom and Soren working with their clay

Soren using tools with his clay

Soren using tools with his clay

My mom designed a clay rug that was similar to an exhibit upstairs. Soren had a lot of fun with various tools. Claire made one thing after another, and frequently borrowed pieces of clay from me that I had already started working on.

Soren running around on the rug exhibit. This was allowed.

Soren running around on the rug exhibit. This was allowed.

Claire sitting next to her project

Claire sitting next to her projects

Claire and Mom looking down at the clay exhibit from above

Claire and Mom looking down at the clay exhibit from above

There were a few other activities in that section that people could do to contribute to the museum exhibits, but that weekend we only worked on the clay. The next weekend, when I took Claire and Ronin, they did more of the drawing activities and then went across the street to the main campus to practice stunts with their scooter and roller skates.

Ronin towing Claire on her skates. Claire: "Don't go so fast, Ronin!"

Ronin towing Claire on her skates. Claire: “Don’t go so fast, Ronin!”

It looked like there were a lot of groups doing campus tours that day, checking out the school to see if they wanted to go to college there. We got a couple of weird looks. However, this is Berkeley, and we were by far not the strangest people around and we were definitely not doing the most interesting things.

Claire and Ronin practicing synchronized scooting

Claire and Ronin practicing synchronized scooting

They are really good at it

They are really good at it

Another “You know your kids are growing up in the Bay Area when…” post

Paid parking lot for paper playground

Paid parking lot for paper playground

Claire made a paper playground today. She made a paper playhouse, a swingset, a slide, and a pole to slide down. Then she put it out in the living room and Soren got excited about playing with it. They made a paper parking lot, and Claire drew spaces for all the cars and they parked cars in it. Soren put the trees in the playground. They made a paper road leading up to the parking lot.

Then Claire made a sign on the parking lot that said “Pay attendant” (it wasn’t spelled completely like that but I’m making it easier for your benefit) and built a parking lot kiosk nearby and created a bunch of $5 paper bills and they took turns paying for parking. This is why it’s a Bay Area post. Not many areas in the United States have $5 parking kiosks for playgrounds. They can be found around here, though.

I laughed so hard a tear came out of my eye after I saw the whole scene. I was going to take them out to a real playground today, but they told me they wanted to keep playing with their paper one.

The Birdcage (a story by Ronin)

The Birdcage

The Birdcage by Ronin

The birdcage has bars. It has 2 birds. The bird is made of plastic and feathers. They go around. It is broken. It is my mom’s mom’s friend Annie’s mom’s music box. Its windup key can’t turn. We are going to fix it. I know a lot of science. Engineering is my favorite science. Science is my favorite thing.

Two birds

Page 2

Page 3

Page 3

Page 4

Page 4

This is a story that Ronin wrote recently. Every week Claire and Ronin have to write a story in addition to their other homework. Usually it has to be something happening in their lives, and they are supposed to pay attention to a beginning, middle, and end, with at least two sentences on each page. The past few weeks they have been told to write instructions, so Ronin has been writing things like “Sewing a Quilt” or “How to Build a Lego Boat” and Claire has written “How to Jump Rope” or “When We Made Cookies.”

Ronin agonizes over the stories, but I love the finished products. He puts a lot of thought and detail into them. We have both found the stories easier with sand timers and deadlines for each page (“I’m setting the timer for five minutes for this page”). Claire tends to rush through them with scrawls and scribbled drawings and I don’t know if her teacher believes me that she actually can do better work at home when she doesn’t have an assignment.

Our school is an early implementer of the new Common Core standards. These provide a greater emphasis on literacy skills taught across subject areas, and integrating math in science and technical subject areas. The first grade activities for English language arts and literacy include the following:

•Reading stories and showing they understand the lesson or moral of the story
•Asking and answering questions about a story, including characters, settings, and major events
•Comparing and contrasting the experiences of different characters
•Identifying the reasons an author gives to support a point
•Explaining differences between texts that tell stories and texts that provide information
•Learning and using new words
•Participating in class discussions by listening, responding to what others are saying, and asking questions
•Describing people, places, things, and events, expressing feelings and ideas clearly
•Learning basic rules of spoken and written English
• Working with others to gather facts and information on a topic
•Writing to describe an event, provide information on a topic, or share an opinion
In case you were wondering, the birdcage is fixed now.

Read-A-Thon (school fundraiser)

Soren reading about dinosaurs

Soren reading about dinosaurs

The annual Read-a-Thon is our public school’s biggest fundraiser, and the money goes to support science, music, art, and physical education programs, plus help with teacher’s aides and classroom supplies. When they don’t have enough money, a classroom with 30 students will be taught with one teacher and no assistant. I like the Read-a-Thon, because it encourages reading and literacy and it’s a one-time fundraiser instead of little trickles of selling supplies or gifts all year long.

Claire reading to Ronin and Soren

Claire reading to Ronin and Soren

Claire and Ronin (and all of the other students at the school) commit to reading at least 30 minutes a day between February 13th and February 28th and we keep a log of the books and minutes read. We ask for a flat donation between $5 and $50 to help meet each personal goal of raising $150 or more. We appreciate any amount you are able to send. For security reasons, I am not going to put a direct link to the school website or my address on here, but you can contact me for details, and all donations are tax deductible.

Claire reading in bed

Claire reading in bed

It should not be difficult to attain the 30 minutes. The main problem will be finding enough space to write down the books they read, or remembering to write them down at the end of the evening when they read them during the course of the day. They read when we drive, they read in the bathroom, they would read when we eat except they are so messy I don’t let them have toys or books at the table, and they read here and there and everywhere. We have hundreds and hundreds of books at our house. Claire favors fiction still, and Ronin favors nonfiction, but I think since the last time I wrote about their reading skills Ronin has been catching up quite a bit. Ronin now reads more on his own. The other night he read Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin from start to finish on his own.

Claire reading to Maiya

Claire reading to Maiya

I have been finding a lot of good books and recommendations for Ronin from the website Guys Read (http://www.guysread.com/). I read a few articles about how research is showing that boys are not reading as much as girls, and are having more trouble reading, but they will read if they are given material that interests them. One of the articles directed me to that site, and there were lists of books that were organized by age, genre, whether or not they had bombs or robots, and lots of suggestions and resources. I liked this: “Include boy-friendly nonfiction, humor, comics, graphic novels, action-adventure, magazines, websites, audiobooks, and newspapers in school reading. Let boys know that all these materials count as reading.” I realized that some of Ronin’s favorite books were graphic novels, such as Thunder from the Sea: Adventure on Board the HMS Defender, which is a graphic novel about a boy during the Napoleonic War. I bought him some more graphic novels and some comic books, and his reading took off. I think part of what was holding him back in the first place was that he always liked the complicated scientific books or the nonfiction stories that were lengthy, and he never started with simpler books that helped him read more fluently early on.

Claire and Ronin reading together

Claire and Ronin reading together

Still, even if he hasn’t been reading chapter books on his own like Claire has, he has been getting graded on reading as having advanced skills. He is certainly doing very well, and better all the time. The most important thing is that they both love reading and books. They also see me, Justin, and my mom reading and enjoying books as well.

Me and my sister reading together, ages ago

Me and my sister reading together, ages ago

Again, we appreciate any donation you can send. We contribute to the school as well, but even $5 will help. Thank you so much.

One of my favorite pictures of my mom. I took this when we lived in Idaho when I was in Middle School.

One of my favorite pictures of my mom. I took this when we lived in Idaho when I was in Middle School.

 

Soren and the Komodo Dragon

Dream Komodos have a nasty bite

Dream Komodos have a nasty bite

Justin was at a conference in Washington DC during his birthday week. He had a lovely private dinner in the Smithsonian on his actual birthday, which was probably better than anything I could have done for him. Meanwhile, Soren spent several days being a complete grouch at home. It started with him waking up in the middle of the night, asking to come into bed and cuddle with me, and just screaming when I asked him to go to the bathroom first. He yelled and yelled and yelled, then came back and yelled directly in my face a little bit more, and stomped off back to his bed and went to sleep.

The next day he yelled about everything. It’s time to get dressed. WAH! Would you like to put on your pants on yourself, or would you like me to help you? WAH, and flail about on the ground. What would you like to eat? WAH! Time to go pick up Claire and Ronin from school. WAH, and had to be dragged out of the house eventually, as he was frantically throwing his shoes as far as possible. That day he showed up at first grade pickup with one shoe on, one shoe off, and no socks. WAH!

Soren refusing to pose for a picture in front of the new window covering I put up.

Soren refusing to pose for a picture in front of the new stained glass window cover I put up in the bedroom. WAH!

It was a pretty miserable day. That night, after everyone was asleep, I heard little footsteps in the middle of the night and once again, Soren was standing near me asking to cuddle. I didn’t want a repeat of the night before, so I said “YES!” first but then added that I’d like him to go to the bathroom before he cuddled with me. It took a little time to get the story out, but he said that he was too scared to go. He said that a Komodo Dragon was biting his finger, and it was still in his bed. I reassured him it was just a bad dream, and dreams can be really scary sometimes but they’re not real. I told him there was no Komodo Dragon in his bed or in the house.

Soren emphatically waved a finger and said, “No, I KNOW what a Komodo Dragon bite feels like, and my finger hurts just like that, so I know that’s what was biting me! It was NOT a dream!” I soothed him a bit more and then told him I’d watch him carefully while he went to the bathroom, to protect him. He made a wide circle around his bed, warily tiptoeing away from his attacker, and then dashed back to me. He fell asleep and slept soundly the rest of the night, and was so sweet the next day.

Soren sulking in the sunlight

Soren sulking sleepily in the sunlight

I told Justin about it the next day. He was still out of town, but I thought it was interesting enough to share. We figured that maybe Soren had a nightmare the night before as well, and just couldn’t communicate to me well enough at the time to let me know he was scared. He just yelled and cried at me. Justin also suggested that he was holding a grudge against me with his behavior the next day, but it could have been that he was just feeling out of sorts from the nightmare and that he didn’t get help when he needed it, so he was mad.

I apologized to Soren. I told him I didn’t understand what he needed and I would have helped him more if I had known. I added that it would help both of us, if he could, to try to use his words, even if he’s really upset, because look how much better it all worked out the next night? He patted my knee, then gave me a quick hug, and said, “It’s all about communication, Mom.”

I said, “WHAT did you say?” He repeated it. “It’s all about communication, so we can understand each other better.” No wonder I expect him to be able to tell me he’s having a nightmare instead of screaming at me, if he can come up with that kind of sentence, used appropriately and in context.

I only pretend to be 3 years old

Soren playing Jenga and trying to grow up quickly

I mentioned the Komodo Dragon-nightmare-communication lesson to his preschool teacher, and she said that they’d been discussing communication in school lately, so I guess he hasn’t been reading self-help books behind my back. Still, the entire episode had this somewhat unreal quality to it.