Friday, April 29, 2011

How parents can help kids beat reading trouble

From today's Briefing:

How do you know if your child’s reading skills are on track? How do you encourage reluctant readers to read more often? How do you know if there’s an underlying learning disability? And if there’s a diagnosis, what kind of help does your child need?
Dr. Jill Allor, an education professor at Southern Methodist University, has answers to these often-overwhelming questions. On Saturday, she’s leading free workshops for parents of young elementary-age children.
We visited this week about some of the challenges that young readers face and how parents can help. Here are excerpts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Will and Kate, Will and Kate

Katie's kindergarten teacher, Emily, is slightly obsessed with the royal wedding. (Me, too!) She, in fact, grew up dreaming of marrying Prince William. (Not me. I'm too old. Emily and I are separated by a decade.)

She and Shannon, our school receptionist, have planned a royal celebration for teachers and staff Friday. To help get them excited about British food and fancy clothes and general fanfare, Emily staged a photo with her own Will and Kate.

Left: Prince William and Catherine. Right: William and Kathryn.

Katie loved being the subject of this reenactment. (Notice the blue ring on her left hand. And she insisted that her pigtails and hair bows be removed, as the real princess-in-waiting does not have pigtails and hair bows.) 

Katie tells me that she pretended to kiss her friend Will. And that she has declared herself Princess of the Classroom (after realizing that the Queen of the Classroom is Mrs. Harris.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Worn out

This photo is from Betty's camera. It's from Wednesday night in London, after a full day of sightseeing. We ate dinner at Albannach, a wonderful Scottish restaurant on Trafalgar Square. It captures well how Cooper and Katie tend to cling to me when they're tired -- Katie in my lap, Cooper on my side. I look a little tired myself. But the meal was delicious!

Before church this morning

(We had to seek help from someone -- anyone! -- at church to tie Cooper's tie. Our friend Kevin came to the rescue. I really need tie-tying lessons.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Before church last Sunday

A pair of ducks has been nesting near Steve's bench. They waddled away when we arrived.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A mom's medical expertise is ever under development

From today's Briefing:

At some point in the past decade, I mellowed out when it came to doctor visits.
In Cooper’s first year, we were frequent fliers at the pediatrician’s office. If they had handed out punch cards to keep track of visits, we would have earned a couple of free ones with all the well-baby checkups and frequent ear infections and little nagging questions that we were sure required a professional opinion.
When the brand-spanking newness of a person wears off just a little and you become more comfortable in the handling of this person, you start to let go of the frequency of the “just in case” pediatrician visits. You start relying more on instinct and the ever-building mental library of data about your child.
This meant that when Cooper bit someone at day care, we called for a sick visit because we knew he had an ear infection. He only ever lashed out with his teeth when his ears hurt.
This also means that Katie doesn’t go to the doctor nearly as often as her big brother did.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When you're having a bad day, just listen to Big Bird

From today's Briefing:

I’ve got Big Bird singing in my head this week.
One of my favorite Sesame Street songs is the giant bird’s rendition of “Everyone Makes Mistakes.” A sample of its wisdom:
“If you make a mistake, you shouldn’t start to cry.
Mistakes are not so bad, and here is why:
Oh everyone makes mistakes.”
I could have really used the yellow bird’s help on Monday.
The moment I saw Katie walk out of school that afternoon, I knew there was trouble. Her shoulders were slumped. The hair falling in her face didn’t camouflage her tears.
“Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” she answered in a half-scream, half-cry.
That’s when I was certain that the day I’d dreaded all school year had happened: Katie had gotten her binder signed, a note from her teacher about a behavior problem. (I wasn’t concerned about a broken rule; I was worried about her reaction. For months I had even coached her on how to handle such an event should it ever occur.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The best goal a parent can set is to be adaptable

From today's Briefing:

While I was growing up, I kept an unwritten list of the “things I will never do as a parent.” The bullet points were created from experience and sprinkled with naïveté and typical childish perceptions of the adult world.
At the top of the list was the biggest, most essential one: I will never be a single parent. Because when you live in a divorced family and you can remember what life was like with married parents (totally glossing over the fighting and tension), you tend to romanticize the idea of married life.
You also tend to live with the illusion of control. If the situation around you is chaotic or not what you expected, it’s comforting to imagine a future in which there is no chaos and everything turns out as you expect.
As it turned out, I did have an almost ideal married life. Single parenthood was never even a remote consideration until Steve’s diagnosis with an inoperable tumor. When those cells from his brain stem were identified as malignant, our lives were totally redefined.
During his illness, I often considered the irony of our situation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I remember graduating, but school's still in session

From today's Briefing:

I graduated from college 18 years ago, but my subconscious has trouble believing it.
Every few months, I’ll have the dreaded “I forgot I was enrolled in a class and it’s the day of the final exam” dream.
In my nightmare, I lack three credit hours to graduate. And not just any credit hours — I’m missing math hours.
(I’m sure part of the nightmare stems from my disappointment that I never attempted calculus. At the time, I rationalized that journalists in general don’t need calculus.)
In the dream, I realize that I’ve missed every class of the semester, that I don’t know the material, that the final exam begins in minutes, that my diploma is in jeopardy. And I’m stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 35 north to Denton.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Katie's angel song

Katie made up and song this morning after church. (Drawing is by Cooper, from Thanksgiving 2010.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

March, according to Twitter

Thinking of Cooper and his writing TAKS today, hoping that he shed his jitters and is feeling confident.

Coop has been across TX, to both coasts, to 14 states. When asked to write about the most interesting place he's been, he chose Six Flags.=)

Coop: "I love life! I love everything about it except death."

At book fair today, kindergarteners were asked which country we live in. "Texas!" one replied. Appropriate answer on Texas Independence Day!

KT: "I have licked and kissed my new toothbrush so no one else will try to use it."

Friday, April 08, 2011

Paper, paper everywhere!

I am in an ongoing, losing war with paper.
Stacks and stacks of it enter my home every week. Though I win some of the daily battles — Seven new catalogs? Recycle them right away! — by the end of the week, I feel defeated. Bills, magazines (many of them unsolicited), ads, financial statements, field trip permission forms, summer camp registration forms, spelling lists, guided reading logs.
My strategy to toss as much as possible the moment it comes through the door is often thwarted by the youngest member of the family. When Katie brings schoolwork home from kindergarten, she is, without fail, proud of her efforts and certain that every single page should be saved forever.
We sit together at the kitchen table, and Katie describes the work required for each page. She reads words aloud and explains her drawings. Sometimes she provides commentary on what was going on in the classroom while she was creating a particular piece.
I tell her what I especially like, praise her quality work and set the stack aside, placing perhaps one favorite on top. Then, when she’s in the playroom or outside, I grab the papers, post one on the refrigerator and recycle the rest.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

There's always another chance to ace parenting

From today's Briefing:

There are no scheduled report cards for parents. But if I were being graded for my work over a 24-hour period last week, I’m certain I would have failed.
Last Friday was our school’s nine-week celebration, at which the kids sing songs and receive recognition for their work.
I had no plans to go. I try to attend at least two a year and definitely go when I know that one of my children will be called to the stage. This time, there was no compelling reason.
I planned to spend that time — my only unscheduled time of the day — at the gym, as part of training for an upcoming triathlon.
So, Thursday afternoon I asked Katie which song she and fellow kindergarteners would be singing. This is the moment my grade started to plummet.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Kids don't preclude a life of fine dining, art and culture

From today's Briefing:

Joslyn Taylor believes that having children doesn’t sentence parents to a life of Chuck E. Cheese andGymboree classes. (Not that there’s anything wrong with either.)
She believes that moms and dads don’t have to give up fine dining and art and culture; in fact, they should take their children along.
Joslyn and two like-minded, style-savvy mom friends — Sunny Logsdon and Christine Visneau — have launched a website to help other Dallas-area families find kid-friendly experiences in sometimes unexpected places. On, readers can find dining tips (buttermilk pancakes at Oddfellows), art tips (Factory 2712), shopping tips (plenty of options in old downtown Carrollton) and more.
This week, I visited with Joslyn about the blog and her life as the mom of two young girls. Here are excerpts.
Why did you and your partners start Tiny Dallas?
There are lots of great resources out there, extensive guides. We wanted really highly edited, road-tested experiences in Dallas. From people with a similar philosophy.