Saturday, August 25, 2012

Scenes from the Greenwood Commune Summer Camp

Avital, Lucas, Nourit, Oscar, Ming Ming and Anissa

Chinese Dragon Story 
(sincerest apologies for not realizing my video camera could tape horizontally...)

Greenwood Commune Music Ship

Here's a link to more scenes from the summer camp.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'm Not a Tiger Mom, I'm a Two-Toed Sloth

After a lot of thought and discussion that I won't bore the reader with here, we decided to home school the girls for one more year.  We started the first week of August, with the idea that we'd get a month under our belts before the baby arrives, at which time we'd take a little break.  So far, so good.  Nourit has definitely lost some math skills in the two months we've taken off, but her reading is taking off.  Avital is much more interested in participating with "school", so she's been more involved than last year.  
Besides Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic, (and violin, and piano, and...) I've added in a weekly History/Geography portion, as well as a Science lesson.  A couple days ago we started our section on mammals, each girl flanking me and looking at our colorful textbook of wild animals.  As we discussed the characteristics of each animal, we came to the Two-Toed Sloth.  When I met one of these up close at a child's birthday party years ago, I was fascinated.  These creatures are so amazingly slow, they seem to be on sedatives.  As I tried to explain them to Avi, I gave the sidebar that sometimes we refer to people as 'sloths' or 'slothful' if they are lazy and don't get off the couch much.  Without missing a beat she said, "Mommy, when you are pregnant, YOU are a sloth!"  

Maybe I should wait another year to educate that child.

Friday, June 29, 2012

First Violin Recital

First violin, Second violin
I don't know of whom I'm prouder - Nourit and Avital for beginning to learn the violin, or myself for figuring out how to upload a video of their first recital.  Here they are - Nourit playing her first scale, and Avi learning her beginning steps.  She just got her new violin this week - special ordered because it is so small! 

Nourit - far left, Avital -second from right
It was an itsy, bitsy, teeny weeny, tiny little violiny

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Weekend in Minneapolis

One of the best parts of grad student life with kids is the friendships we've made with other parents.  One of the worst parts is having those families move away (which they inevitably do, and which, we will inevitably do, too...someday.)  Last weekend we were able to attend the (long awaited!) wedding of our dear friends from 61st Street, who moved back to Minneapolis two years ago, leaving us sad and missing them.  After visiting the twin cities this weekend, we completely understand why they moved back.  What a great place to live!  Beautiful parks, lovely neighborhoods, good pastry shops and cafes, fabulous farmers' markets, and the best children's bookstore I've ever seen.  (Nourit asked about 10 times, "Is it real?" after seeing a fancy chicken walk by her through the stacks at Wild Rumpus.  Avi particularly liked the tail-less cat, and I actually thought the hairless rat was rather cute!)

Here are some pictures from the wedding.  We are so thrilled to have been there!

Flower Children

Cole and Kyla
Neil and Amber
(Notice the Wedding Party Kazoo Band...)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

She's Reading!

Tonight, after putting the girls to bed, I sat knitting (or rather, pulling out all my stitches for the umpteenth time) on the couch when Nourit tiptoed down the hall and plopped herself next to me with a pile of books in her arms.  "Daddy said I could stay up and look at books if I was quiet."  I kissed her and went on with my knitting, enjoying her silent company.  She didn't stay silent for long, though.  She started to read.  All by herself.  Without any prompting (or coercion, or bribery) from me.

This may not seem very significant to most people because, after all, there was really no doubt she'd learn to read at some point.  She has spent her entire life surrounded by a community of people who do nothing else but consume books.  She will sit for hours listening to stories that are complicated and nuanced, and then she'll beg for more.  Up until recently, though, she only wanted to listen to stories, and with first grade coming up in Chicago Public Schools, (where they expect children to be reading Tolstoy by the time they are four years old), I was beginning to panic.  See, it is my job to teach her and I'm still not certain I'm the most qualified.  I didn't want to send her off to the land of standardized testing ill-equipped, unable to even read the directions.

And I still really don't want to send her off to the land of standardized testing, but she really wants to go.  So we have the summer to consider our options.  Thankfully, she did pass one of those multiple choice tests and got into a top ranked classical school.  It's our only school option unless the ranking of 60 on the lottery is the magic number and she can go to a school less than 25 minutes away.  The other choice is to continue our experiment in homeschooling.  It's been a year full of really wonderful and really difficult moments.  I could not have asked for better friends to ease our transition from a private school to a really private school this past Fall.  Our Monday adventures with Joanna, Hilary, and the 6 little blondies were unforgettably fun, and also gave me trusted resources from whom to bounce ideas off, and to find encouragement as I trekked through the new territory of homeschooling philosophies, child development and curricula.  We landed in an apartment complex with the perfect companions for the girls, who now have a built-in social network right out our back door starting with breakfast salutations from across the courtyard at 8a.m.  We've renewed friendships around the neighborhood, and joined teams and classes and the girls are doing just fine socially (for all those people who thought they might turn strange or introverted the moment we kept them home from school.)

The harder part was the academics.  And yes, I have a master's degree and Mike almost has a Ph.D., so it's not like we don't know how to read, or count to 100, or the order of the planets from the sun.  (Okay, I confess, I will have to look that one up.  But I know where to find the answer if it were a matter of life and death.)  The difficult part was - IS - knowing how much is too much and how much is too little.  I can read all the research out there that says kids learn to read anywhere between 4 and 7 years of age, and to rush that could be fatal to their love of learning, but it doesn't stop me from worrying that my bright 6 year old has no inclination to read.  In fact, she resisted it until recently, and that's why I'm celebrating every time she picks up her daddy's old Mr. Mugs books from 1980's Canada, and tells me she's ready to read, and that it's easy, and that it's FUN.

And that I can finally sit and quietly knit while she begins to entertain herself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Digital Overload!!

I must have had some extra caffeine today since I've been on the computer for more than 10 minutes, but hey, it may be the only way I can document at least part of my kids' life (and of course, mine, since it basically is the same thing these days.)  I am so impressed with the people who keep their photos so organized and post them in a timely fashion (you know who you are, Ting and Joyce).  I just get so overwhelmed with the sheer amount I haven't done that I'm afraid to even start.

For instance, in my IPhoto folder, I have close to 6,000 photos from the last 4 years, and that doesn't even include the first 2 years of Nourit's life, which are documented on another computer, somewhere in our apartment (waiting, I might add, to be downloaded onto this computer, which needs to be backed up on some other devise so we don't lose our minds.  I mean, our memories.)  I'm sure this is a negligible amount compared to serious parent photographers with cameras that cost more than $150.  But to me, it's OVERwhelming.

Remember when you couldn't wait to get a roll of film back from the developers?  All 12, 24 or even 36 on a roll?  Or even better, the instant gratification (okay, sometimes you had to wait 30 seconds for the picture to develop) of that ONE Polaroid picture someone would take at a special event, that cost so much they'd only take one?  Sure, they produced a fair amount of clunky clutter with the photo albums we all carry with us from high school.  But it's nothing compared to the cyber clutter we're dealing with.  Now, we take about 50 clicks of one little event (going to park, for instance, for the 135th time), thinking, "Oh, I'll edit out the bad ones and only keep the good ones."  But seriously, does anyone really do that?  Okay, I have done it.  Once.  And so I have 6,000 (and counting) pictures of my kids that they will (hopefully) never have time to look at since they'll be out doing amazing, wonderful things.  Unlike me, at the moment.

The other cause of angst for me is, "Where do I put them once I get the organizing bug?"  Do I post them to Snapfish, to join the 10 albums I began 6 years ago, and haven't updated in about 4?  Too annoying since your friends and family have to have a password to view them (which is why I haven't seen any of the pictures my sister posts.)  Do I post them to Facebook?  Easy enough.  But what if I want to post them on my blog (which itself is another online conundrum because what it was when I started it isn't what has been for the last year or two, and definitely isn't what it is now, and I really hate it when there's no continuity, so...that's another issue for the cyber shrink.)  So they are in two spots now - blog and Facebook.  Redundant. 

Then...what happens when I decide to go offline for awhile?  Check out of Facebook? (before I check back in again.  And then out again.)  Discontinue my blog because I don't like the wallpaper on it anymore, and am petrified to change it because I know from experience that once I make one change, it sets off a chain reaction and everything gets screwed up?  (Is that only me?  I sort of think so, otherwise less people would have super cute blogs.) 

I am going to attempt it, though.  Before the next LaCroix photo subject makes her appearance, I am determined to get my (cyber) life in order.  Every good photo will have its place, its caption, and maybe an audience.  Every bad one...will probably still be jamming up my IPhoto folder.

Sumer is Icumen In

Avi and Trey at Ray's Blue Park
Avi and Ethan Partner in the Balloon Toss
Avi and Nourit Try Not to Drop the Eggs (which were raw on that 90 degree Memorial Day)
At the Cool, New, 31st Street Playground!
Hanging Out
Spider Girl
Bumpity, Bump, Bump, Bump
A Tree Works Just as Well as a Jungle Gym
Lake Michigan Girl
Sisters and Friends!
In the Prairie Grass

Here's a link to another summer favorite - feeding the ducks at Botany Pond.  I didn't get to go, but it looked like Avi had a feet-off-the-ground good time.

Retrospective 2: Meeting our Newest Family Member (and no, I don't mean the baby yet)

Mickey's Chicago Visit November 2011
(it's a wonder Nourit didn't frighten him away...)
At the Field Museum with Grandpa 2011

He Liked Us So Much He Came Back in the Spring!

The Newlyweds in Osaka Garden

With the Museum of Science and Industry in the Background

With Mom on the Garden Path

Beautiful Flowers (Especially Mom!)

More Beautiful Flowers

On Our Front Steps Before Their Return to the Big Apple

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gardening Again

Before the Massacre
 We got some earth again!  This time on 62nd and Dorchester.  Sight unseen, we were so excited we went out and purchased plants and herbs aplenty.  Then we carted them over to the community garden and found our plot fully in bloom, with bushes of mint, chives, cilantro, onions, leeks, and strawberries.  Sigh.  Sadly, we dug up the fruits of someone else's labor, then replanted our own.  The girls were extremely sad about losing their newly acquired strawberry plants, but were soon distracted by the myriad of worms and creepy crawlies in the dirt.  We couldn't bear to part with the healthy bushes of herbs, so we put them in our trunk and replanted them in our backyard.  Although it's hard to imagine looking at it now, by September, we will be harvesting tomatoes until they are coming out of our ears. 
Digging up Worms

And Digging...

After the Makeover

Green Monsters
Here is a nice post by our co-gardener who will be helping harvest when Baby #3 arrives.
Here are pictures from our last community garden plot 3 years ago.