Monday, June 22, 2009

wobbly teeth and other fun stuff

Take a good look at M's beautiful smile! He's got some wiggly teeth. Exciting times.
E is now big enough to look at books, and Peek-a-Who? is her favorite by far. Of course she can't ask us to read it for her, but once we start reading it we can't stop unless we want some screaming. It's a great book, the text goes like this: Peek-a-WHO? Peek-a-MOO. Peek-a-BOO. Peek-a-ZOO. Peek-a-CHOO-CHOO. Peek-a-YOU! Cute illustrations, peep holes of course. Ask me how I feel about it after another couple of weeks of constant reading. Heh. I'm not sure what's in the back of V's shirt in this photo. It's not a tumor.
V finally had her big performance at her preschool (Our Submarine) last week. I was curious to see how it would go. When M has performances, V tries to run up on the stage (I think that came from her aunt, by the way, not her mom and dad). She did seem to really enjoy performing. They did a little dance to a Bob the Builder remix, including putting laminated paper "bricks" on a dog house. Cute idea, because all the kids could participate in that, even if they didn't want to do the dance. Here V is saying "can you fix it?"
Aaarg. Dress up like an explorer day, I guess pirates count. There were several Doras at the school -- one with Boots and a map and everything. But she was apparently a little bummed because, "Mom, Dora has orange shorts!" Right. Can you see the snap pea in M's hand? He loves them, probably the best thing we've gotten out of the garden so far. Some carrots are almost ready and we've got squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries flowering. We could really use some sun, it's been cold and cloudy. Sports day at the school today and it's 55 degrees and raining. Come on, world, it's June already!
Dads love to tease, it's something I don't really understand myself, but Nathan definitely likes to push the kids' buttons sometimes. His favorite trick is to sing a book instead of reading it. Much hilarity here as Nathan begins to sing The Gruffalo. "Daddy nooooo!"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

rush hour

I've been pondering on a silly philosophical question today -- when (if ever) are you obligated to hurry?

I was thinking about this because of grocery shopping. Grocery store employees do not bag groceries here, so patrons always bag their own. Most Czech customers, well, most Europeans for that matter, buy small amounts so bagging groceries isn't a big deal. I, on the other hand, buy huge amounts at one time and often have one or more small children strapped onto me, pulling on my clothing, trying to run out into the mall (yes, grocery stores are often in malls) ... SO I used to get stressed about all the people behind me in line and work so hard to quickly get my things bagged and out of the way. Often the checker would simply sit and wait for me to bag a few more items, freeing up space for them to scan a few more things. Once a checker ostentatiously checked his watch and closed down his station. He stood looking at me (still bagging, with a baby trying to grab every item) for several minutes before he finally walked off, leaving me alone at the station. On the plus side, sometimes people behind me in line would get frustrated and ask if they could help me bag (that was rude, sometimes people genuinely wanted to be of service and asked if they could help me). I love grocery shopping, but the checkout process stressed me out! I was rushing because I felt obligated to.

But then at some point long ago, I decided not to rush, and grocery shopping is pleasant again. I put my items on the conveyor at a speed I can manage, and I bag groceries the way I want to. I decided that if people are bothered, they can offer to help me. Otherwise, they can wait or they can share the bagging area with me, or they can move to another station. It's fantastic! No more stress. So the question is, do I have some obligation to rush? I don't think so, but it can certainly feel that way when someone's tapping their foot behind you.

What about driving? Are you under some obligation to go the speed limit? It sounds silly to say that you have to drive at the maximum speed limit all the time, and yet other drivers might make you a bit self-conscious if you drive under it. Surely we all have a right to roll down the windows and enjoy a leisurely drive sometimes ...

Of course, there are cases of a true moral obligation to rush -- to someone's aid, for instance. But in general, I say give it up. Getting stressed about needing to leave the house doesn't really help the kids get ready any faster, and it makes our whole family miserable. I banished the bagging groceries stress, and now I'm going to banish the get-your-shoes-on stress. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

my girls

This is what we do with baby dolls at our house. Isn't she so beautiful? Says the incredibly biased mother. Every child needs a mother who thinks they are the best thing ever. Just saying.
V has been posing for the camera a lot lately. Here she is with a bowl of lettuce from our own garden. V is a skilled lettuce tearer. It's one of the few tasks in the kitchen that she can do with no help, which is very exciting for her.
My kids love these footstool-type things from IKEA. The windows are just right for peeking out of or climbing through. A blanket on top makes a tent. Scoot a kid chair up to one and it becomes a table.
Her pose here reminds me of those people who pretend to be statues and charge you money for taking your picture with them. One of the least exciting forms of street art, but funny in the living room. Among the pile of lanyards around her neck, V is wearing a medal Nathan got from running in the Prague half-marathon last year, or the year before ... anyway, she wore it for a whole day last week and told everyone she met that it was Daddy's. "He got it because he winned a race." So cute -- she and M are both convinced that Daddy won. He got a medal, didn't he?

Totally unrelated item: Jimmy Fallon is trying to reunite the cast of Saved by the Bell on his talk show, and Zack Morris made an appearance recently. No really, he just had to change his name to Mark-Paul Gosselaar because there was already a Zack Morris in SAG. Very amusing for anyone who used to watch the show, and I know at least one of my sibs used to watch with me? Apparently I don't know the show well enough -- he explained away some issues like the show moving from Indiana to Cali at some point, didn't watch enough to know that. Just gotta say -- who is the makeup/hair artist?!? He looks exactly the same.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

kid campout, crazy end of school madness

I can't count the number of things going on with my kids in the next two weeks! Activity Week, Water aid day, sports day, BBQs (3), school performance, E's teething and cranky, parent-teacher conference, and when am I supposed to get ready for our trip to the States?!?

The kids spent last weekend with Nathan and some church friends. They reserved a whole pension for a father-kid "campout". Apparently it was lots of fun, and I was glad that girls were invited. (Often these activities are just for fathers and sons.) They went on a rather verticle long hike, roasted sausages, and didn't want to come home. I'll add photos as soon as I get a chance.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


We're headed to the US in a few weeks, which means it's time for us to deliver a small pot of gold to Amazon's headquarters.  (We just bought 2 new bookshelves this week and we still have 2 layers of books on many shelves.)  Our luggage when returning to CZ is always heavy -- children's books can be especially unwieldy.  Anyway, I've been rummaging around online looking for book recommendations.  I searched for books for my young advanced reader and got off-topic, exploring gifted children sites for a long while.  As a parent of gifted kids, a former gifted child and wife of former gifted child, I wonder why I haven't looked at this body of literature before.  I don't know that I'll spend a lot of time with online gifted parenting communities or anything, but I definitely found some interesting info.  

1.  Vindication!!  Research indicates that acceleration is the best way to teach a gifted child.  Accelerate certain subjects, skip grades, do AP/IB classes, start college early, or best of all, early entry to kindergarten.  I already felt totally confident that we had made a correct choice in placing M in school early -- he's so happy, he's challenged, he's excelling.  But seeing official government studies showing that accelerated curriculum is the key item in gifted education makes me very happy.  Gives me the extra support I need to go ask about getting V in early, too.  And I need the support -- I have to tell you I did not at all like asking schools about accepting M early.  Made me feel so pushy.  "Our Dudders is such a special widdle boy."

2.  Lots of gifted kids are homeschooled, for obvious reasons, so the gifted sites tend to have some homeschooling info.  Interesting fact?  about 3% of US kids are homeschooled now, but a shocking 7% of kids with college-educated parents.  Can't remember where I saw it, but I'll run down the article if you're interested.  It just seemed like a lot to me.

3.  OK, I did know a lot of this info already, like kids have long attention spans, need less repetition, read early, large vocabulary.  But I was not expecting the info on temperament -- that gifted kids are often very sensitive and can have extremes of emotion.  (We have a niece who is the posterchild on this one.  And Nathan's the type they interview for studies like this.)  And I'd almost forgotten to look for perfectionist tendencies.  I laughed when I read that some gifted kids want others to do things perfectly as well.  I thought it was just bossiness.  Probably is; just because other kids do it doesn't make it right!  Maybe I need to stop reading the info on gifted kid characteristics and move on to how to raise them.   

Anyway, I don't know if anyone else even cares, but I had a fun time.  The best part of all my research is the list of gifted-friendly games on, probably the biggest of the sites.  They love some of our favorites (Apples to Apples, Set) and have lots of cool stuff listed.

Other news, V is interested in Barbie all of a sudden and I love them too!  V had to ask for her Barbie back because I was taking too long combing her hair.  LOL.  Barbie and Ken multitask at our house -- their legs make good swords and their feet are E's favorite teething toys.  Ken's kept E busy for *minutes* at a time for the last couple of days.  I don't have a sewing machine here, but I'm going to use Grammie's to make some Barbie clothes this summer (yes I'm crazy).  But not crazy enough to make needlepoint Barbie furniture (vintage patterns up on etsy now) or a Barbie house, although I saw a great idea for one.  You just use a small bookshelf as the frame, very clever.