Saturday, August 27, 2016


As YiaYia put it so accurately: Homework is really more work for the parents than for the child.

Writing their names from Lisa on Vimeo.

Although what they were working on was not actually their homework (they had finished this particular project earlier in the week), it is a great showcase for how refereeing will be a large part of my afternoons.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Foyer (before and after)

Slowly but surely we are working on making this house our own. I'm starting in the "easiest" places so that I can feel that I have actually accomplished something and that meant the foyer.

I'll do the before/after together so you can see the difference.

This is the foyer before we had the floors refinished. The extra wood is for the living room that was carpeted.
The stair treads did not match the floors.
This is after the floors were done but before we painted the walls, ceiling, trim and stair posts.
 And the finished wall. The walls are Sherwin Williams Agua Fria and the accent wall is Restoration Hardware  Rouge. We painted the stair railings and bullnosing in Polyshades Black.  We will eventually get a table that is more scaled to the accent wall and move the current table somewhere else.
The stairway after tread refinishing but prior to painting.
After...Bella was curious about the picture-taking:

Before view into dining room:

Front entry before:
And after:
The girls' front closet.
Len's and mine is a bit more crowded...but organized thanks to Nana's help!
And that's a wrap on the front entryway. As I finish rooms, I'll post before and after pics. Who knows, this may turn into a design blog for a bit. Got to put my degree to good use...

Wrapping up Nana's visit

Before Nana left this week, we had a small spate of cooler temps so we decided to burn off all the branches that had fallen during some recent storms. The girls and Len piled the pyre with all the limbs they could find while Nana and I gathered the supplies for s'mores and soon we were ready!

It didn't take long for the smaller, dryer wood to burn down so we could put on the larger pieces.
Which made the fire too hot for the girls to roast their marshmallows.
Nana to the rescue with two sticks over the coals.

With her departure this week,  I have the house all to myself for the first time in over 2 months...and it's a bit disconcerting! It's very, very quiet and very, very big. We got a lot accomplished in the two days that the girls were in school before she flew home on Wednesday. On Monday we unpacked and organized the entire basement and on Tuesday we organized the closets. Although the basement is still in a holding pattern until I can hang more pictures and gain enough furniture to deal with our tchotchkes, it is now usable space for the girls to play.

We organized all of the games and puzzles in this area.
 There is enough room that both of their tents can be assembled and still leave enough room to play.
Fortunately, part of the basement has a vinyl wood floor so the girls can do crafts and I don't have to lose my mind worrying about the carpet.
The fireplace has an electric stove so it will be cozy in the winter. Eventually we'll hook up the projection equipment so we can watch movies on the large screen that is in the background here.
I still have a lot of pictures to hang...
There is a small closet where I'm storing all of our seasonal items.
Eventually we'll put in some shelving.
There is another room that looks to be an office but for now is where all of our loose decor is being stored. I'll eventually make this into a gift-wrapping and craft storage area.

We have a Harry Potter cupboard where extra pantry staples are stored.
I'll save the other house photos for another post!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

We have first graders!

The first week of school is almost at an end and I feel as if we've already experienced a month. We've gone from a loosey-goosey summer of lazy mornings and lake-filled afternoons to a schedule that we're still trying to work the kinks out of.  Although, lest you think I'm complaining, our school schedule this year is a thousand times easier than our past three years, at least in terms of commuting.

The bus comes at 8:30  and drops at 4:20; pickup and dropoff is literally steps from our front door. That is the easy part for me. And for Lucy who loves the bus.  Kate, who gets car sick easily, is not fairing as well. Combine that with her reluctance for change and difficulty with transitions and it's been a bit of a rocky start.

But I digress. Here they are for the first day on Monday.
Nana, Len and I drove them to school the first day and walked them to their classroom. After that though, it was the bus!

Their backpacks are crammed because it has their lunch, a snack box, a school folder and water bottle. I am hoping they will eventually just be able to carry the lunchbag but considering that they both lost their water bottles on the second day of school, I think the lunch/snacks still need to be all contained in one bag. (The water bottles were found yesterday--Lucy's was in the cafeteria lost-and-found and Kate's was on the schoolbus.)
Traditional school has been quite an adjustment for them. No longer are snacks and water/milk provided in the classroom at all times. There is a designated morning snack time and none in the afternoon which both girls are cranky about. Kate does not like being ruled by time constraints and bells--she tells me daily that she is the last one to finish her work in class and the teachers want her to "hurry up". This makes me sad as one of the great things about Montessori learning is that it recognizes that each child learns at a different pace and with that extra time the child can delve into a deeper understanding of the work. Lucy, too, has said she is "bored" because she already knows most of the Mandarin that is being taught. I suggested that she enjoy this time being ahead because before long, the work will become more advanced and she will long for the days when she knew all the answers!

On the upside of things, they enjoy the new experiences each day brings. They go to music class twice a week and yesterday was art class. Today and tomorrow is library day which Kate is super stoked about as she will finally get her hands on the shelves and shelves of books we saw last week. They also have P.E. everyday which is a tremendous boon to their education. They have recess before school and after lunch where they get to see some of the neighborhood friends who aren't in their classroom. I have found that with all this extra physical activity at school, they don't come home keyed and wired up with a need to burn off extra energy.

Kate has found a lunchroom buddy that she really likes. Both girls told me emphatically that they want to keep bringing their own lunch because "ours is better and you give us more to eat than the cafeteria provides." Although they did say that they really have to focus on eating and not talking because lunch is only 20 minutes long. Lucy said, "the good thing is that we don't have to wait for everyone to be served before we can eat...if we did I'd never finish in time!" (In their Montessori class, part of the grace and courtesy lesson was that you may open your lunch and get it ready but you may not eat until everyone is served.)

Homework made an appearance on the first day which I think surprised us all!

I'm not sure yet what the English side of their homework will be but I got this note from their Chinese teacher on what to expect in terms of Mandarin and math homework:

Homework from Chinese Class 
Dear parents,
Chinese homework and Math homework from Chinese class will come home every Monday. They will always come home in the RED folder and please help your child to put the Chinese homework and Math homework back into the RED folder and bring them back to school the following Monday. 

Your child can finish the homework anytime during the week. I will specify the homework on the weekly newsletter which will be sent back home on Mondays as well. 

Math homework: The big Math workbook your child brings back home next Monday will stay at home all the time. I will let you know which pages to complete for homework for that week. Please help your child to tear the pages off and remind them to put the pages into the Red folder when he/she finishes them. All the worksheets being used in my class are in Chinese while the homework will be in English. Spending some time with your child on the Math homework will be great, since they can learn the Math expressions in English from you while they learn Math in Chinese at school.

Chinese homework: Chinese homework will be mainly reading and writing. 

Reading:  We will start Chinese reading centers soon, so we will have a reading sheet for each lesson to practice at school and bring back home after we are done. I encourage you to guide your child to put these reading sheets for each lesson into a folder for repetitive practice throughout the whole year. The recordings of reading sheet & the text reading for each lesson are on my website, so please guide your child to reinforce the reading sheet and text reading for each lesson at home. Besides, the new vocabularies from each lesson have been created on quizlet. They are under the “quizlet” column on my website. 

Writing: I always try to make Chinese writing to be a fun experience, so I like to have students learn writing in various ways in the classroom. However, I still feel some practice at home every week is necessary. Three vocabulary sheets will be sent home weekly and are usually the key characters from each lesson. 

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. I will always list the homework on the weekly newsletters and the guiding homework checklist. Thanks so much!

I like that they have a week to work on the homework so there isn't  the mad rush to do it every single day. They still need decompression time to play and be kids. Kate's favorite thing to do right now is to lay in the hammock, preferably undisturbed, with a pile of books.

The foot meant, "Please leave me alone."
Lucy's downtime is decidedly more physical in nature. She is practicing off-roading now on her bike.
And that's a wrap on our *almost* first week of first grade!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Meet the teachers--First Grade!--and Back-to-School bash

Friday was Meet the Teacher Day at the girls' new school. Nana came with us to help tame the Kate-jitters and see where the girls will be spending large chunks of their lives for the next few years. 
They were VERY READY for the doors to be unlocked.
First we met their Mandarin teacher, Liu lao shi. They will be in this class for half of their day.
Then we met Ms. McCarthy who will be their English-speaking teacher. They will have her for the other half of their day.
On the tables were papers with glitter (grrrrr) attached.
I think I am not alone in believing that glitter was invented by the devil. So you can imagine my surprise when I read the note that was attached to a bag of glitter (make that TWO bags since I have two girls in the same class):
Notice the line that says, "Sprinkle the glitter under your pillow in bed." NOOOOOOOOOOO! Sprinkle glitter on your bed?? Seriously???? I thought I could get away with telling the girls that they needed to just place the bag of glitter (still sealed) under their pillow but Kate, darling, dear Kate, read the note and, being the stickler for rules that she is, reported that "it says to sprinkle the glitter, not keep it in the bag!" This I do not need on the first day of school...rubbing and washing glitter that has stuck to sleeping faces and tangled into hair followed by vacuuming glitter from the carpet and washing 2 sets of bedsheets. Not to mention the cat factor--Bella's tiny feet tracking bits of glitter throughout the house. Call me a buzz-kill curmudgeon but that glitter is staying in the bag...I'm even thinking of super-glueing it shut so it can't be opened....

In addition to these two teachers, we met the art teacher, the music teacher, the librarian and the P.E. coach. They will go to PE every day, art class twice a week, music once a week and the library twice a week. Kate's favorite area was the library (shocker) which was enormous. She was in heaven when told she would be allowed to check out books every week. Lucy's favorite places were the art room (which has a kiln for firing up their pottery projects and a bunny as a classroom pet!) and the playground where they will have 2 recesses per day (one before school and one after lunch).

We followed up the school tour outside for popsicles with the Principal, "The best part of the tour Mama!" Thanks to the popsicles, the Principal is now their favorite.
A few days prior to meeting their teachers, though, our little neighborhood had a back-to-school bash. There was a 27' inflatable water slide, a smaller one for the littler kids and a truck with shaved ice treats. Needless to say, a good time was had by our two girls and their new neighborhood buddies.

Lucy climbing up for her first run.

Kate, waiting her turn with two of her friends.
Kate's first climb up.

The lines were not as long at the smaller slide and it was much faster so they relocated for a while.

Tomorrow they start FIRST GRADE!


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