Sunday, December 11, 2005

Now that Aidan is 6 he is all about BALLS. He has turned into quite the boy and can not resist chasing a ball or kicking or throwing it. Or scooting or biking or swimming or whatever. It actually gets really annoying - he kicks balls all over our house. We have had quite a few ballooons around from the birthday parties - if he sees one the speed picks up and he dribbles and kicks. I remember maybe 3 years ago when he did his first soccer with Coach Jamie - I had to run around with him holding his hand (and carrying Quincy). And after season was over he informed me he didn't like soccer. "Why?" "Because I don't like running". Now he would play soccer every day if he could. He will be trying out basketball after the holidays. The other kindergarten class formed a team and he and another girl from his class will be joining in. I sort of suspect he and Emma to be 2 of the tallest - they are amongst the oldest and tallest in their class anyway - and the other class seems positively tiny to me - and a whole bunch of the kids also wear glasses. You would think the classes would look more similar but to me they don't. Aidan is very concerned however that he do well (as in all things) and especially that he WIN. When playing soccer this season - the first year he was really playing true games - he would suss out the other team when we walked up and if he thought they looked too good or bigger than him he wouldn't be sure he wanted to play! He has good skills and native ability. Quincy went from complete uninterest at the beginning of the fall (to kicking the ball etc) to being quite interested (altho he hated going to Aidan's practices or games and wanted no part of watching) and he can get in a good kick now. I have him signed up (with his permission/interest) in classes with Coach Jamie with his friend Cy. Should be a good match for him I think. It will be interesting to see if Aidan can restrain himself on the sideline. I suspect he will find another kid to kick with or dribble up and down the field off-side. Quincy is also signed up for Acrosports in the 4 & 5 yr old class with his cousin Ellie in January. And speech will still happen twice a week altho it is being moved so Aidan no longer has to go - it will be at 1.00. So Quincy will be a busy little kid but the kids will have 3 more afternoons a week than they do now that are unstructured after we pick up Aidan. I am moving swimming back to only once a week on Saturday. Phew. It will also free me up to do a bit more with dinners - currently we get home at 5.30 or 6.00 4 days a week! Since my goal is usually 6 to 6.15 for dinner - well - it hasn't worked that well... The good about having Aidan attend speech with us is that it happened to be the days before his homework and book journal were due - so we had a chance to sit down and do that. It is much harder to carve out a time from play to do work at home.

Now that I have a 4 yr old and a 6 yr old I have noticed that they are suddenly quite able (and interested) in playing board games by themselves. Quincy played a version of shoots and ladders last Friday with 2 little girls on a playdate - parent free. He played Candyland with Cy at our house. They love playing with the new Cranium game Caribou from Cousin Audrey. Some games they ask for our involvement but often now they are happy to do it themselves too. Pretty cool. Pete and I enjoy card and board games and puzzles so it isn't a surprise that our kids enjoy them too but it is nice.
I don't think I remarked on the long awaited and (to me) momentous time when Aidan STARTED TO READ. It was about a month ago now, not too long after his birthday, when he came to me and said "I know how to read". How cool is that? He has been able to make the correct sounds for the various letters for a good year (and much more for most) with the exception of the short vowel sounds. He was quite unable to string together those sounds he could make into something that was comprehensible to himself. D-O-G nope - no idea what that word is. I could occasionally get him to read a word to me but it was always pretty grudging - he just wanted to be left alone, and since he is getting essentially to repeat kindergarted that seemed like a good idea - let's leave him something to learn at school! At the public schools now there is a huge push to get the kids reading in kindergarten - no small feat considering that some of them haven't been to preschools and have trouble "sitting on their bottoms" let alone knowing their colors and letters. As a consequence there is also much work on site words such as "I" "see" "my" "and" "the" are some Aidan picked up immediately. And it seemed to work in his case as he then became very interested when he saw those words - or any others he had picked up - and he would point them out to me. Something clearly clicked for him and he decided he could read - and indeed he can sound out and comprehend just about any word that has regular phonics. The other great thing they did early on this year was use this system where each letter is represented by an animal - "Allie Aligator" "Bubba Bear". When he still sometimes stumbles over a short vowel I ask him which animal - and that sorts it out immediately. He is far from a fluent reader and is of course slow, but he reads and he is proud of the fact and interested in doing it. Hurray! Their school / class has DEAR time first thing every morning "Drop Everything And Read". There is a basket of books sitting at each cluster of tables. Aidan informed me the first few days of school that he disliked DEAR time - he is just about the only kid I have ever seen who never sat down and opened a book and pretended to read - with the more recent exception of hunkering down with his brother to "read" to their stuffed animals. He has always enjoyed being read to - the more the better. But he now tells me he really LIKES DEAR time, and that he sounds out part of the words to himself - usually on each page. He still would prefer me to do the reading at times - he said "but then I don't understand what I read" once - and it can be true - when so much effort is going into sounding out new words you have trouble remembering the ones you've figured out.

I have been enjoying watching both my kids (and others) aquire new skills. They all have different tactics to get to the same places. Of course I mostly compare my 2 kids. I was fascinated to watch Aidan figuring out puzzles when he was young. Back in the old wood puzzle days I realized that he was looking at the outline of the shape and not the picture itself - it was a very spatial approach. He also used to make things more challenging (or easier??) for himself by rotating puzzles or doing them flipped over (some rubber ones we have). He had a bit of a set back when it came to true jigsaws as the clues are mostly all pictorial there - he had to relearn how to do puzzles. We had a puzzle marathon right after Thanksgiving. Including me finishing off a 1000 piece awful one that we've picked at for several years and then doing another more "regular" 1000 piecer that I did in a couple of days. The kids did a couple of 300 pc, a 200 pc, several 100 pc and others. Quincy can do 60 piece jigsaws without me even looking and if I sort out pieces for him he can do 100 piece ones independantly. Which for some reason really impresses me. He is very non-challant about it and plays with the pieces along the way. He also is very happy to just keep trying a piece in all sorts of places without getting frustrated - Aidan gets frustrated and/or gives up easier. He also is pretty mellow about he brother coming in and snatching pieces away from him and putting them in (altho Mom and Dad aren't so mellow about it!).

I was interested one day last summer at the preschool when Quincy was playing a game with 2 boys about to head to kindergarten. You had to find a matching tile that had 2 features on the dice then you had to line up the tile so the picture on it held hands the the next tile. Quincy is not all that great at spotting the missing thing in a field (he brother is great at that and loves doing search type puzzles/games) but he was much better than the older kids at rotating the tiles to get them correctly lined up. He is not great at bingo games - he just doesn't see the thing on his board - but give him a jigsaw piece in hand and he is very good at figuring out where it belongs on the puzzle. Interesting.
So the family was playing in the Y pool this evening. Both kids started lessons mid-summer. Aidan has progressed really quickly and can now swim altho his progress since figuring that out has stalled a bit - he now needs a heck of a lot of practice in technique. But he loves it. Quincy is still taking the same beginner class he started with. He is finally seeming to move forward a bit and is SOOO much more comfortable in the water (even just the first 4 sessions got him light years ahead of where he started). But he still isn't really putting his head in (altho he will get his eyes under which is good progress). So I say to him "When are you going to get your head in - you need to do that to really learn to swim". His response "When I'm 16 will I be old enough to drive?" "Yes" "I'll be swimming by then I'm sure". How do I respond to that?!

Aidan is nutty about getting ready for Christmas. Almost everyday when I pick up from school "can we decorate?". Friday I was fed up with this line of questioning - after all we have had 2 Playmobile calendars, 2 Trader Joe chocolate calendars, and one paper calendar up from 2 days after Thanksgiving (we are counting down to planeride to Florida this year). We also that weekend dragged up 3 or 4 boxes of Xmas stuff from the basement. We decorated a huge branch that we had drug home from across from his school at Halloween (for our Halloween twinkle lights) - it now has colored twinkle lights and our best ornaments and looks great. The hallway has a kids craft project spaced almost continuously down the whole thing. There are other lights and ornaments up and about including hanging from their loft bed! So I tell him "we HAVE decorated! We have 3 rooms with lights, a tree with ornaments, a wreath - what more exactly do you want?!" "Well actually Mom we have 4 rooms with lights, our bedroom, the family room, the computer room and the hallway". Hmph. He really wants lights OUTSIDE our building but the guys downstairs usually do that - they just haven't so far this year unfortunately. His school was also having its Annual Book Fair this week. We already bought way more than I intended on Tuesday and their class was visiting on Friday and I forgot to give him any $ to spend. So he conned me into heading back after school - my stated goal - to buy ONE book on Ms. M.'s wishlist for the classroom. He was a total whiner and wanted more more more esp a nice expensive hardback or 2. "If we can't get this one we HAVE to get this one. I love it!" "Have you ever seen it before?" "No". I did end up with one $4 book. Did NOT eliminate the grumpiness. He did offer on Tues (and I said yes) and Fri (no) to use his allowance (he is already in debt to me) to buy some books. We hadn't even read all we had gotten! So then I decided a little lecture on what Xmas was all about was in order. Ms. M. has said to me several times how Conceptual Aidan is (esp in comparison to the other kids who apparently miss the point every time even after being told the point the day before - Aidan is the only one who GOT "Stone Soup" which they did right before Thanksgiving - all about sharing). I asked him was Xmas was about. "Sharing". OK not a totally bad answer. But then he references a toy he bought (unprompted) for his brother for his birthday out of his own allowance (pretty darned sweet I thought - getting the present I mean). He told me that he "shares" that toy with his brother. Oh no I said - you GAVE that toy to Quincy. It belongs to Quincy - not you. So Xmas is more about GIVING. So what projects do you want to work on that we can GIVE people. So that eve was of course spent in making projects... Altho we made a couple of oriental peace cranes a week or 2 back and haven't finished them (a few beads and string) and he wants to make more. They take a little bit of time and concentration. And there are just so many new Quincy birthday toys still to enjoy. There is never enough time to go around!

Quincy's party was fun. I went all out on the train theme this year. Kids got personalized train ticket invites (my kids loved theirs dearly). Party favors were train hat, scarf, whistle and some Thomas train stickers. We brought a suitcase full of track and trains for the kids to play with (we had it at school). We took rocket balloons to set loose (as we did at Aidan's science themed party - Quincy had requested them and they were a huge hit. We had a train pinata to end with - it said either "ouch" or "awesome hit" whenever it was hit - funny. The main "activity" was cake decorating. I used 3 boxes of TJ's vanilla cake mix (add butter and eggs) and made 15 mini-loaf pans of cakes. I also made one regular and one mini-cupcake. I took the 2 cupcakes and used them for Quincy's cake to be cab and smoke stack for an engine. Everyone else just had a "car" for the train. I provided Fruit Loops (Q insisted at the store - wheels!), chocolate chips, marshmallows, m&ms, gummy things, etc in little cups for the kids to use to decorate. I made up a couple batches of cream cheese frosting and added color as requested for them to mix and frost. It was very popular activity! The kids got to eat a slice then take home the leftovers to share with their parents. This is the first year Quincy actually got to have friends of his own at his party. He is only 4...

Had his school "conference" not too long ago. He got great review all around. He is now a quite desirable playmate as he is sweet and kind and doesn't make other kids cry or take their toys or do any of that kind of thing. He actually is still really quite happy to spend quite a bit of time doing his own thing though. One little boy Cy became really interested in Quincy and wanted to play with him always. One day we get to school and Cy was playing Twister but as soon as he saw Quincy "come on Tikloh - lets go - QUINCY is here!". Warmed my heart to see Q in such demand. Q on the other hand had no interest in playing with Cy right then. So after Cy leaves I bend down "why don't you want to play with Cy?" "he wants to play with me TOO much". True, but still. Aidan really meets alot of his need for playmates I think. I almost always ask him who he played with when I pick him up. Usually "no one" is the answer - which I know to be untrue as I ask this question after being at school with him while I "teach" and see him playing with people. Lately he has been telling me he didn't really play with people but he did TALK to alot of people. So it may be in his perception of what "play" is. We play a lot of board games and such at home. Perhaps that is what he is thinking of? Anyway - he is well adjusted and happy at school and when I pick him up. He cares not a whit about what other people are up to and has not fallen into the "must wear superhero costume" every day that almost all the other little boys his age are doing. He does a fair number of the offered projects, usually plays with the playdough or whatever manipulatives are out. He spends alot of time digging in the sand, some swinging etc. Basically he does some of everything and nothing to excess. And bows not at all to peer pressure. Wish I had his self possession!

What's up with me? Other than carting kids to afterschool activites 4x a week (speech 2x a week has lately made HUGE strides - Q is now comprehensible to most everyone - yeah!) and volunteering at Aidan's school and teaching at Quincy's? I am on a 2 week course of Predinsone to try to shrink up my nasal polyps. I think it is working as I seem very clear up there, but I think I took the Dr comments on side effects a bit too much to heart. Upset tum, sleeplessness, depressed immune system (works well with not getting enough sleep), and snappishness. So here I am at 3.39 in the a.m. typing up a blog. And a little kid who probably shouldn't have been at school on Thurs coughed and sneezed in my face from less than a foot away while I was trying to comfort her after a fall - so this eve the sore throat began. Ugh. Oh yeah - I am supposed to feel let down and blah when I am OFF the pills. Still, if this can head off need for more sinus surgury - it is SOOO worth it. I go back Wed for another scoping and also an hr long hearing test earlier that day (what do they do for an HOUR?). Interestingly enough I haven't had water in my ears in the morning since taking the drugs - or hardly any. Also trying to get ready to leave town. I decided this year I would MAKE some of my gifts. Any shopping has long since been done. Basically most of the gifts have also long since been done... except that I didn't q.u.i.t.e. finish them of course so now need to do that. I need a plan of attack for future kids birthdays too. I want to give them some stuff but they already get so much from their friends if they have a party- and Xmas is just afterwards. And my mom showers them in gifts not to mention the other relatives. So I am thinking maybe all bday presents from me should occur at some halfway birthday in the spring/summer next year. We shall see. The house is bursting at the seams. I also just treated myself (after 2 or 3 years of restraint mind you) to a new laser printer (the old one finally finally died - I bought it off my brother perhaps in '95? and any graphics work got it completely boluxed up), a new scanner - which I glance at longingly everytime I walk past it in the hall in its box, and a 4x6 digitizer pad with pen so I can do better photo editing stuff. I love the pad. I have brought my computers back to its knees (it had been doing so well since we converted from ME to XP). I have now decided I need more virtual memory (hence delay in setting up scanner). When installing the laser I ran out of avail GIGs on the computer (it has 40) apparently I have close to 20 gigs in photo storage! I have an external 100 gig drive that still has lots of space on it so I need to just offload some of the photos. But I had to borrow the cable from the drive for the printer to work properly... and had to install a new USB card thing in computer that runs 2.0 and has 5 slots so I can plug everything in. So it has been a computer week. We are also getting out the yrly holiday newsletter and calendar. Pete has taken on ever more of the duties for both thankfully but I still do all the desktop publishing (the stuff that brings my computer to its knees!). So it all takes time. And the new laser takes several minutes per newsletter to print interestingly. We just walk away... Now I need to babysit the calendar printing. I have hopes next year I might use the new Adobe Photoshop software that came with my digitizer pad to do the calendar photo pages instead of Publisher - it will be easier/do a better job - once I know how to work it. Then sometime this week I'll need a Kinkos visit (ugh - they always do something wrong and take too many days doing it).

Pete's company has changed over. So far it has meant absolutely nothing to us altho our various dentist/vision coverage gets worse in the new year. But he is wrapping up a very long term project so it will be interesting to see what happens in the New Year.