Thursday, September 23, 2010

School's Open House

Cheyenne (and Elliott, technically) had open house at their school tonight. Since we've decided not to send Elliott to Kindergarten this year, we took the opportunity to pick up his rest blanket and the projects he had done. His teacher says the other kids ask about him and are missing him, but she understands our decision, and hopes to have him again next year!

Cheyenne's teacher seems like a nice enough person, but I found myself having to bite my tongue over a couple of the curriculum items she mentioned in her presentation. I don't think it's her personally, just the curriculum at the school. One thing she mentioned is that "research shows kids who aren't able to spell well also aren't able to read well. So we really emphasize spelling." That bothered me right off, because that doesn't necessarily mean that learning how to spell a lot of words will make you a better reader. I know lots of excellent readers who need help spelling their name sometimes. And maybe it just means they haven't learned to read OR spell at this point!

Anyway, I had an excellent blog post all planned out in my mind that touched on several educational theories that I believe in, and the futility of teaching skills in isolation, and my current pros/cons list for homeschooling, and interesting articles I have read... but by the time I cleaned the supper dishes we had left on the table when we fled (late!) to the school, and did the dishes and settled the kids down in bed... all I can think about is going to sleep!

This is why mothers don't start many revolutions.

On the plus side, we got talking to some of our neighbors, and they are picking up their son every day and offered to grab Cheyenne every day, too. She'll be home a full hour earlier! So she can get an earlier start on the "homework" with which I have grave philosophical differences. Grrrr...

And now I go to bed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Elliott's Day at Home

Elliott did not go to school today, and I don't think he'll be going to school for the rest of the year. When we told him last night that he did not have to go to school anymore, he underwent an amazing transformation. I hadn't realized how quiet and sad he had become until we got back our noisy, busy, happy Elliott. I worried he would regret not going to school when Cheyenne left on the school bus, but there wasn't a twinge.

I was listening today as he was playing with Marilla, and as he played family with their dolls, and "fixed the power" in their house, and played school, I realized that he will have plenty of stimulation here at home. School will come soon enough!

I also remembered how tiring my energetic Elliott is-- I need to go to bed now! :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bed Bugs

New York city has been having problems with bedbugs. Well, it isn't limited to the urban areas. Here in bucolic central New York, we have a major infestation, too.

Actually, they aren't that recent, we've had them for over 6 years. Just this summer, though, they became even more numerous. While they had been limited in their activity this last winter and spring, with the advent of warm weather in June, they became a continual presence in our bed.

The Bed Bugs are a semi-nocturnal animal, with the height of their activity occurring during the early morning hours. However, the larval stage does not heed the clock or the sun-- it can be active at any time of the day or night, and is found in the bed even during strong daylight sunshine. Once they metamorphose into larger bugs, they have a strong aversion to the bed during the daylight hours, especially in the early afternoon.

There seem to be distinct sub-species among the Bed Bugs. The largest bug is long and slender, with distinctive red coloring at the head. A wily bug, it uses its knowledge of the bed's occupants to plan an onslaught where it is most effective. Knowing that disturbing the larva often results in complete upheaval in the bed, it generally avoids inserting itself noisily. Despite its delicacy in this manner, its large size contributes mightily to the disturbance of sleep.

Not all Bed Bugs use their own muscles to insinuate themselves into the bed. There is a smaller species of bedbug with shorter, more yellow coloring, that uses the muscles of the bed's occupants to crawl into the bed. They achieve this by making Bambi eyes and plaintive moans, thus appealing to the bed's occupants maternal and paternal instincts. Once in the bed, this particular Bed Bug uses its muscles wildly, though, in an effort to disturb sleep. It's arrival in the bed is often a signal for the larva to awaken and begin its own movements.

There are few bugs as persistent as the Curly-Headed Short Bed Bug. Although lacking many of the muscles necessary for travel into the bed, this bug does not rest until it is in the bed. Using tentacles, it grabs blankets, occupant limbs, nightstands, and any other hanging items to pull itself into the bed. By far the most active of the Bed Bugs, this bug combines movement and noise to make sure that bed occupants are not able to sleep.

The larva stage differs from the other stages in its lack of distinctive coloring. It is quite small, but is whiter and fuller-proportioned than the other stages. Its movements lack a broad range of motion, but are consistent and disturbing. This bug inflicts the most damage on the bed hosts, even to the point of drinking fluids from the host's body! Needless to say, this stage is quite exhausting to the bed's occupants.

Bed Bugs have a curious affect on the bed's temperature. While they rarely exceed a core body temperature of 98.6° F, their arrival in the bed frequently causes the ambient temperature of the bed to rise 493°F. Coupled with their ability to seal off ventilation routes, this can disturb the bed occupants quite mightily, especially in warm summer months.

Despite the obvious pestilential qualities of these Bed Bugs, no one can deny their natural beauty. Even an amateur naturalist, foiled by their rapid movement, is able to obtain breath-taking pictures of these Bed Bugs.

The larva stage has a rare ability for blurring pictures, even while it sleeps.

A typical blurry photo of a Bed Bug in motion. They spend many hours of the day constructing stick houses, although they apparently never inhabit the houses. The debris from this construction is another reason that they are categorized as a household pest.

Bed Bugs frequently huddle in clumps, the older bugs protecting the larva. While not a bed, upholstered recliner chairs exert a strange fascination on them, and they will frequently be observed, swarming over one another on recliners, emitting high pitched squeals. A casual observer finds it hard to tell where one Bed Bug leaves off and another begins in this situation!

A rare, fully focused picture of a Curly-Headed Short Bed Bug. One of the most striking examples of its kind, it has large eyes with huge sparkles, and a mouth that rarely stops moving.

I hope this description of some of the characteristics and behaviors of Bed Bugs will help any one living through their own infestation!

Friday, September 17, 2010

LONG week for Elliott

Well, we finished out a whole week of school-- and Elliott still doesn't seem to be a fan of the institution. Evan went in and had lunch with him today, and he was crying as he came in the lunch room. The tears disappeared when he saw Daddy, of course, but I heard from his teacher that he had cried for about 15 minutes when he got to school today.

After school, I went in to talk to Elliott's teacher. She was very understanding, and she didn't push the whole he-has-to-stay-in-school line I was expecting. She said she didn't have any real advice, she doesn't think he would be hurt by a year at home, but she says he is adjusting to the routine of school.

At this point, I think the decision rests with Elliott. After a nice weekend, when I ask Elliott if he wants to go to school Monday morning, we'll see what he has to say. And if he stays home from school on Monday but then says he wants to go to school on Tuesday, that works, too. We're not out to grab the perfect attendance award here!

We're all glad it's Friday night, that's for sure!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Slightly Better Day!

I went in and had lunch with Elliott today, and his teacher said he had had a slightly better morning. He cried quite a few times, but he was fine during art class, when they had "centers", and when he was on the computers. (Maybe he's Evan's son? :-) He was very glad to see me, he sat glued next to me for lunch.

It was interesting to think about the cafeteria from his perspective. Because there were so many kids in there, it was quite loud. Elliott had an assigned seat that seemed to be separate from the other kids, I'm not sure why. He didn't talk to the other kids or even seem to notice them. That surprised me-- he's quite a sociable little guy most of the time, but maybe it's overwhelming to be in a large crowd of kids that are all at least a head taller than him. It was quite a race to try to eat his food in the assigned time. Lunch today was taco salad-- consisting of tortilla chips, hamburger and cheese. He even had a little container of sour cream (one of his favorite foods) to dip the chips in! He also had corn on the side for his vegetable choice. He loves all of these things, and he spent the entire time eating steadily, but he still didn't have near enough time to finish the food. For some reason, seeing him doggedly working on his meal while being so quiet and good just about broke my heart. It sure is hard to let go of the little boy who will always be my miracle baby!

I was worried he wouldn't want to leave me after lunch, but they were headed to the playground after lunch, so he went quite willingly. I'm not sure how it went after that, but Cheyenne says he wasn't crying when he got on the bus this afternoon.

I stayed to eat lunch with Cheyenne after Elliott's lunch, and that was quite a change. She never stopped talking to the other kids. It's funny how different kids can be! I was disappointed to hear that her teacher has taken away playtime tomorrow because some of the kids weren't settling down today-- in my mind, recess/playtime should be set in stone because it allows kids to get to talk to the other kids and run off some energy! I'm hoping her teacher isn't planning on doing that a lot.

Tonight after school, Elliott asked me if school was done yet. He was surprised to hear there are still lots more days of school left! He told me he doesn't like school or want to go to school, but we'll see how he feels in the morning. Maybe in a couple more days he'll start to enjoy it. That's my hope, anyway! I'm not going to be able to make him get on the bus every morning if he is that upset over it-- we may just be doing kindergarten next year!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bad Day at School

This afternoon, before the kids came home from school, I got a phone call from Elliott's teacher-- "Elliott cried all day long."

Of course, my stomach plummeted and I wanted to cry right then. The teacher asked if I had any ideas about how to help him, but of course I didn't right then. As soon as I hung up, I burst into tears and considered moving to Zimbabwe, where they might be a little less rigid about homeschooling. Then I took a deep breath and tried to stop crying before the bus came. In a way, I wasn't really surprised by this, because he had had a hard morning-- nothing went right in his world. We'd had to strip his bed and give him shower in the middle of the night because of an accident (he never wets the bed, but the kids all have a touch of diarrhea right now-- lots of fun!) so when he woke up this morning with no memory of that, to different sheets and different blankets and a diaper on, he started to cry. Then, his favorite cereal was out. And I didn't want to give him milk because he'd been sick. And he didn't want to go to the bathroom at all before school. Suffice it to say, everything that happened was cause for crying and drama.

I managed to pull myself together in time. When Elliott got off the bus, holding tightly to Cheyenne's hand as usual, he had a big grin for me. If the teacher hadn't called me, I never would have guessed the kind of day he had had. As soon as I had hugged him, though, he told me, "I cried a lot today." Then Cheyenne rushed to tell me about how she had hugged him at lunchtime so he would stop crying, and how she had sat with him at the school assembly so he would stop crying. She's a nice sister.

I asked Elliott why he had cried and he said, "Because I wanted to see you." And I looked up the homeschooling laws in Zimbabwe. (Then I read about Zimbabwe and decided I don't want to live in Zimbabwe, more's the pity.)

Later, Elliott told me he wasn't going to school tomorrow. I'm not sure I'll force him to go, but I think I've convinced him to go tomorrow because A.) It's his first art class and B.) I've promised to go in and eat lunch with him. Parents are always allowed to go in and eat lunch with their kids, so I thought maybe knowing he would see me later in the day would at least keep him happy through the morning. I also had to promise to stay for Cheyenne's lunch, so not sure how I will keep Lincoln and Marilla happy through two lunches, but we'll see.

We tried to have a relaxing evening. Elliott wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, we had pizza for supper, the kids got to sit on Evan's lap while he played "Plants Vs. Zombies" on the computer. I made sure to give the kids lots of snuggle&sing time with me before bed. Evan was talking to Elliott after he put him to bed, and asked him why Elliott wanted to see Mommy when he was at school. Elliott told him, "Because Mommy makes me feel better." Yeah, this kid is worth all the work of raising a premature baby.

Elliott also told me tonight he didn't want to school because "you can't be bad in school." We had a talk about how he wasn't bad, so that wasn't a problem. They have a system where a little paper car with the kid's name on it is moved to a yellow light when they misbehave, and he didn't want his car to get a yellow light. I asked, and he says he's never got a yellow light, but he's worried about it. Poor kid.

Anyway, unsure of how things will go. Evan and I have been a bit ambivalent about him starting school so young, so if we give it another week and he still is so unhappy, we might decide to put off Kindergarten for another year. He may settle down and be just fine, though. Very anxious to see how tomorrow goes!

In other kid news, Cheyenne is frustrated by her homework-- reading worksheets that are at a reading level far below her. Marilla uses the "b" sound instead of "v", and inserts "w" for "l" and hearing her sing, "He wibed to show me how to wibe" today when she was playing with her dolls made me extremely happy. Lincoln is going to try to sleep in the newly set-up crib tonight-- I'm sure he'll be up to eat in the night, but we just thought we'd try him in the crib. I'll miss my little cuddle bug.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hard to Improve

On a day like today...

Owen and Ashley came down last night. This morning, after a lazy breakfast and morning, we went into the farmer's market. We bought lots of healthy vegetables-- and a piece of fried dough. Cheyenne used her own money to buy peaches, and was cute the vendor threw in free pears. Home for some lunch, then Elliott and Cheyenne helped me peel Concord grapes for a recipe I wanted to try. Elliott soldiered through, despite the fact that he had to wipe his hands on a napkin because he was getting "messy." I think he was substituting grapes for eggs-- he kept tapping them on the side of the bowl.

Then, up to snuggle Lincoln for a bit, then a short afternoon nap. Cheyenne and Marilla were enjoying Art Time with Aunt Ashley. Time for supper, and everyone pitched in to help make T-bone steaks, farmer's salad, jasmine rice and applesauce. Haircuts for the boys, baths for the kids, then the brownies that Ashley had made, sprinkled with Reeces's Pieces, M&Ms, and other yummy things. Lindsey called and rhapsodized about her trip on the Richardson Highway and the Denali Highway, and while it made me a tiny bit homesick for Alaska, it made me glad Lindsey was having an awesome weekend. After the kids were asleep, we played Progressive Rummy while listening to some old country. Evan got a perfect hand-- didn't get any points all six hands. Not that any of us minded (HA!) Evan and Owen had cut up apples for apple crisp, so it's sitting, cooling, on the counter, waiting for breakfast tomorrow morning.

All in all, a day that was full of things that made me happy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day Weekend and the Start of School

Lots has happened around here in the last week.

But this is the thing that's made me an emotional mess.

Elliott has been wanting to go to Kindergarten all summer, but I think it finally hit him that this was big stuff when we took him to orientation the week before school started. This was about the size of the smile I could coax out of him.

We started out the first day of school with a Lincoln snuggle. It's how we start out every day.

My two big school kids! Cheyenne was wonderfully sweet to Elliott-- she relished the position of responsibility!

All four kids, as we waited on the porch.

Rilla's main focus was on the fact that she, too, got a bag of Cheez-Its. (I kinda feel like a bad mother that that's all I had in the house for the kids to pack for snack, but they do like them! Maybe some time I'll tenderly bake them something both nutritious and delicious. Until then, cheesy snacks.)

Still not too sure about smiling, but utterly beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful...

This girl gets more that way every day!

Lincoln sat and watched it all. I had handed Cheyenne my camera by this point, to help her through our LONG wait for the bus.

Cheyenne's portrait of the Tongue Girl.

Her eyes are one in a million. I love this kid.

Cheyenne's picture of Mummy and Elliott. See how amazing I am, managing not to cry? I don't remember crying when Cheyenne went off to school, because she was so big and ready, but Elliott is the polar opposite of "big" and "ready".

Cheyenne helping Elliott fix his tag.

Daddy waiting with us.

He was looking back at this point, and if it hadn't been for Cheyenne's death grip on his hand, I don't what he might have done.

Waiting until the bus comes to a stop...

And crossing the road!

Still hand in hand!

And then the bus drove off, and I burst into the tears I had been holding back all morning. There was a lot of them. But then I went to the dump, and the bank and Wal-Mart. And while I though about my little babies in school about every five seconds, it WAS easier running errands with only two little bugs.

Here they are, as we wait patiently on the porch for the kids to come home. Lincoln had just woken up.

Wow, they are both beautiful. I am really enjoying having more one-on-one time with Marilla. She is at such an awesome age, and I am loving hearing her use her exploding vocabulary.

Marilla making Lincoln laugh.

The bus is finally coming (about half an hour late!) Yay!!

Waiting for the bus driver to direct them across. And yes, that is the last time Cheyenne is wearing that skirt-- those legs have sure lengthened this summer!

Evan took Cheyenne and Elliott into New York City before Labor Day weekend so they could pick up Uncle Tyler and Aunt Julie. (At some point, I have to steal Evan's pictures off his phone-- cute pictures of kids checking out every playground in Central Park!) Rather than sit at home waiting for them to come back, I took my two babies up to Vaughans' and helped get ready for the Vaughans' Second Annual Pig Roast.

People hanging out Saturday morning.

Coloring books seemed to be the hot entertainment for the teen-and-over crowd.

Abby and Austin playing duets.

This is a blurry picture, but I liked Miss Marilla-Maroo's curls.

Lily and Rilla.

Some of the sunflowers from Bet and Ashley's garden.

Ashley Potter hanging out with my kids.

Lucy and Alice, watching the circus.

Gilbert and Mike.

Olivia and Amy getting serious about coloring.

Kim giving Lily a ride.

Alex and Tori.

Victor and Dale, looking like they are discussing something of great importance.

Abby, Heidi and Laura.

This picture is payback for Mom saying, "Clover! Would you stop bothering people with the camera." But I wouldn't have posted this picture if it hadn't been bee-you-tee-us.

Peoples (young peoples) on their way to Split Rock.

On their way to Split Rock to SWIM, even though it was in the 60s.

Bronson wouldn't get in the picture, so I took one of just him anyway.

More people joined the crowd.

Then, I had to tear myself away, because it was time for the White's reunion at our place! I've heard reports that many exciting things happened after I left Saturday afternoon, but I find them hard to believe. After all, *I* wasn't there!

Sunday morning with two handsome gentleman.

Anyone who doesn't admit he's the most beautiful baby in the world has a screw loose.

Look at the vest bulging over his adorable little belly. And his fat little hands! And his cleft chin!
And bright blue eyes! I like my baby.

All the Whites, Sunday afternoon.

Of course, it's hard to get a picture with everyone smiling in the same direction, but I think these were the best two. Thanks to Angela for patiently taking lots of pictures!

Whites, Jr.

We wanted a picture of Julie and Cheyenne's matching Marilyn-sewn skirts, but Elliott wanted to be in the picture, too.

Aren't they a cute little family? :-)

It was SO good to see these guys!

The smart young couple.

Dana and Marilyn and their kids.

Evan and I. My white shirt apparently made the camera decide to bleach everything out.

At least we're both facing the same camera here!

On Labor Day, we all went apple picking.

Here, gap-toothed Cheyenne is begging Grandma to "start" the apple-- she can gnaw away if someone takes the first bite.

Lots of discussion about which was the favorite variety.

Aunt Bet bought Cheyenne this shirt in the spring sales, and it was quite appropriate for the day.

Elliott will not EAT apples, but he sure loves to pick them. He took his own bag and filled it right up.

The four kids.

The kids love having people that read to them come to visit!

They were a bit sleepy by this point.

Lincoln can sit in his Bumbo now!

I took some pictures of him at three months (September 2nd).

There's usually at least one part of the picture that is blurry of him-- he likes to move!

Good neck control!

There's the dimple!

Four kids in the bath the other night!

I feel this post lacks wit and wisdom, but I am too tired to think clearly at this point. I'm just counting it as a personal triumph that the pictures are posted. Night, all!