Saturday, January 31, 2009

[day 31 ... january 31]

It was a sunny day, and this afternoon, I finally tackled cleaning up the window glass from the tree-branches-fell-on-car incident in December. Yes, a month later...but first it was all buried in snow and ice, and then we haven't been outside much since with the weather we've had, illnesses, etc.

When I initially discovered the broken car windows, my first thought was to get all the glass and snow out of the van right away, so the inside wouldn't be wrecked when the snow finally melted. I picked out as much of the car paraphernalia as I could first - books, papers, booster seat, water bottles. Then worked on scooping out snow and glass as best I could with a dustpan and rags. I dumped it all into a couple of big Rubbermaid tubs to contain it and left them on the front porch. Then I pushed off the foot of snow on top of the car, and covered the whole thing with a big blue tarp so melting snow wouldn't flood the car.

But of course, in the process of all that, a lot of glass ended up on the ground too, mixed in with fir needles, branches, leaves, mud - a truly delightful mess. You can understand why I've put off dealing with it all for so long. :-)

I'm sure there's still some glass left now, but the worst is taken care of and the rest will show up as the rains wash away some of the other debris.

We still have branches everywhere, but are slowly getting them gathered and piled next to the driveway. One of these days I'll hire someone to come and chip them all up.

Friday, January 30, 2009

[day 30 ... january 30]

Tonight was "Family Night" at The Little School. Cory's class especially has been eagerly looking forward to it all week. To the point where Cory was telling me every morning, "I can't *wait* until Friday. It's Family Night, you know." LOL!

Family Night is a relatively new event at TLS. It's like a mid-year Open House, where parents and children come to school in the evening and visit not only their own child's classrooms but any other classroom they'd like to check out as well. The little guys and I picked up Tynor from the Houghten Park-and-Ride, headed to the Subway near school for dinner, and then over to school. Cory wanted to see *every* classroom, and didn't want to spend much time in each one. So we'd just get chatting with a teacher or involved in an activity, and he'd be tugging on my sleeve, wanting to head to the next spot. Here Niall is checking out some "experiment" jars in Steve's class.

But we did spend some time in several classrooms, playing and visiting, and had a good time. The teachers all enjoyed seeing Tynor again, since he hadn't been back since a day he spent on campus last Fall. And it was fun playing in the classrooms and seeing what the kids are up to. There's so much variety, as every teacher and every group of kids is interested in different subjects, and there are all the age ranges as well.

The classroom where we spent the most time was Stephen's room. He's teaching half-day 4's and 5's now, and has some very cool things in class, including this fabulous ancient adding machine. He's had it as long as I've known him, and Niall and his classmates loved it the year he had Niall in class (when Niall was 4). It's such a satisfying feeling to punch the number keys down and then pull the long handle to stamp the number. Cory could have spent all night there. :-) Niall also learned a new number game (which I think Stephen has also had for awhile, but we'd forgotten it) with dice and levers, where you try to flip all the levers up (numbered 1 to 12) and have the lowest total on the levers when you get stuck.

One of our last stops was the oldest kids' classrooms, where Niall showed us how he's learned to create music with Garage Band on the Mac. Garage Band is one of the Friday music specials, and a younger child pairs up with a child in one of the oldest classes to choose instruments and tracks to create their own songs. Niall is really enjoying it (no big surprise there, given how much he's into music and Rock Band at home). In the "full circle" department, Tynor also enjoyed creating songs with Garage Band in his last year at TLS.

[day 29 ... january 29]

This was the LAST day with the tiny 4-door sedan rental car! After the van got hit in late December by falling branches during the Big Snow, I took it to the autobody shop and got a perfectly reasonable but much-too-small Pontiac rental to tide us over. I didn't realize we'd be driving the tiny car for a month!

But today we were finally able to go pick up the van, squeezing it in after a day of meetings, root canal (for me - finally - but that's another story :-) and other appointments, and after school bowling for Niall and Cory. We hurried over to Kenmore in the late afternoon commute and made it before 5:30 p.m. closing. Whew. I did not want even one more day of rental car driving!

On the good side, my insurance covers 30 days of a rental when my own car is out of commission, and the repair took just one day over that. But they don't cover a "comparable vehicle" - just $30 toward whatever car you decide to rent. So although this sedan could *technically* seat five people, there was no way I could have squeezed Kellen or Tynor into the middle in the back seat between Niall and Cory's booster seats. So we had to do some creative juggling with K & T's schedule for spending the night in Seattle (basically they took alternating nights for the school week) or one of them had to walk up the hill. (I know: not exactly a tragedy, but they're used to getting a ride these days and it's dark on those winding, narrow roads that time of night. They do walk down themselves in the morning, so get plenty of exercise that way. :-)

But the hardest part about having the sedan was dealing with the squabbling, wrestling, constantly-hassling-each-other little guys in the back seat all the way to school, all the way home, and then in the evening, all the way down the hill to pick up Kellen or Tynor from the Park and Ride, and all the way back up the hill. The school commute was the worst. Even if I could get Niall reading a book, unless I kept Cory constantly engaged in conversation, he would start poking or kicking or gabbing at Niall, and then it'd be all over. :-( I did finally dig up an old CD player and first Niall, and then Cory, listened to a set of Roald Dahl stories on CD. That helped...a bit...for awhile. Of course, then there were hassles over whose turn it was with the CD player, and who got to decide which story to listen to (you would think that would be the person listening to the story, but Niall had a different idea!). On and on... I'm sure you can imagine.

So thank goodness we are now back in the van with three rows of seats and at least some of the time, the boys can focus on their own activities without being practically on top of each other. Next step is to get inexpensive MP3 players for each of them and get audiobooks from the library. If they are BOTH immersed in a story, that will help a lot. Or so I hope.

[day 28 ... january 28]

The older classes finally had their candle-making day today. Usually they make dipped candles just before the holiday break, but with three snow days in a row leading up to break this year, candle-making never happened. Niall loves dipping the candles. He made one fully-red candle this time, and one that goes from white through several shades of light red to dark red. He was really pleased with how they turned out.

The boys go to after school care (Extended Day) several times a week, and the other days, I pick them up and we head home. I work from home the rest of the afternoon, and they have a snack, watch a video or a show on PBS, or play quietly (really, it works out that way - for an hour or two, anyway).

Once in awhile on the days I pick them up, we stay after school to play for a bit. On a reasonably nice day, lots of families stay to play on the big field - parents chatting, kids running around and burning up some after school energy. It's fun to have a bit of time to catch up with or get to know other parents.
Today we stayed for a long time - an hour or more. The boys were having such a good time and it was so pleasant out on the big field, I didn't feel like packing them up and taking them home to be inside for the rest of the afternoon. Niall spent most of the time practicing free-throws on the basketball court. He was doing so well, he asked me on the way home about signing up for a "small" basketball team.

Cory meanwhile kept busy playing with his friend Sharon from his class. They ran all over, making up little scenarios as they went along. Cory was being quite directive about their play, but Sharon didn't seem to mind. I guess Cory needs a turn to be "in charge" sometimes, what with having three older brothers at home. :-)

[day 27 ... january 27]

Cory's class has a new fun activity: Star of the Week. The idea is to give each child a chance to bask in a little bit of limelight, and for his or her classmates to learn more about him or her. So each Friday, Melissa chooses someone to be the "star" for the next week, and on Monday, the child brings in a few photos, a list of questions and answers (favorite food, what do you want to be when you growup, etc.), and a special sharing for the middle of the week.

Melissa creates a poster with the child's name in glitter glue, attaches the sheet of "all about you" in the middle, and then clips the photos all around. During one of their circle times, the kids listen to all the new fun information about their classmate and look at the pictures. And then at the end of the week, each classmate will make a page for a book to give to the "star."

The kids are delighted to be embarking on this new activity, and Cory was SO excited that he got to be the very first Star of the Week! We filled out the little questionnaire over the weekend and chose some photos for him to take with him, and he decided that he wanted to share his "Cory's Book" as his special sharing.

By Monday, he was starting to feel a bit shy about the whole thing, but Melissa played it very low key and he mostly enjoyed it. Some of his classmates decided to say "Star of the Week!" every time they saw him, which bugged him. But otherwise, he seems to be enjoying it. As long as no one calls *too* much attention to it.

It'll be interesting to see how he feels about the next "Star of the Week" when his turn is over. Maybe he'll miss having the extra attention? Or maybe he'll be glad to lavish attention on someone else. Maybe some of both.

Monday, January 26, 2009

[day 26 ... january 26]

First it was "Friends." Now we've moved on to "House."

The latest TV show fad around here is Gregory House (aka Hugh Laurie) and his twisted yet compelling view on solving medical mysteries. It's not exactly lighthearted fare and the overarching storyline is remarkably similar from episode to episode.

But the patient's disease is always diagnosed and resolved in a way that you least expect, and the characters and relationships are engaging and absorbing. Besides, just when you think House can't sink any lower, he does something unbelievably harsh. Then he somehow redeems himself by just as abruptly doing something that shows he's actually human in there somewhere, or by revealing that he too is vulnerable and has his own pain and problems to cope with.

Tynor was the first big fan, but Kellen and I quickly joined in. The flinch factor has me covering my eyes sometimes: I'm a total wimp about watching needles and blood, nevermind scalpels and tubes. But I also totally hooked on this show, no doubt about it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

[day 25 ... january 25]

The younger boys have lots of birthday parties these days, and usually they're held at a "jumpy" place, bowling, or another venue. Today we went to Owen (a classmate of Cory's) and Asher's party at Jump Planet, a great place for jumping just over in Bothell (10-15 minutes from home).

We've had a number of class events with Cory's class, and it's been fun getting to know the parents as well as the kids. One of Cory's classmates, Allison, has a brother, Colin, in Niall's class so that's another nice connection. Unfortunately, Allison and her family weren't able to come to the party today but it was great to see so many other families there.

It's hard to take photos indoors without a flash in a relatively dark environment with kids running around at top speed, inbetween big inflated bumpers and down slides - but I gave it a shot, anyway. Lots of blurry pictures! But some did turn out. Other parenst took pictures too (with a flash) so I'm hoping some of those worked out too.

I talked with a few other parents about the class Facebook account for Melissa's class, as a place we could share photos and class gathering ideas, and everyone was excited about the prospect. So I sent off invitations this afternoon, and hopefully a number of families will join in.

As a sidebar: it's *snowing* again today. The forecast said "Flurries, mostly south of Seattle." But here we are with a couple of inches on the ground and it's been coming down slowly but steadily all day.