Thursday, June 26, 2014

School Days, Part One

As we wrap up the 2013-14 school year (Ramona has been on break for over two weeks, but Amelia's last day was yesterday -- ah, the difference between private and public school!), here are some pictures from the girls' respective first days of school...
All ready for KINDERGARTEN!

This was a BIG year for Amelia.  Kindergarten is so much more structured and academic than preschool is -- or than kindergarten used to be, for that matter.  They actually had weekly spelling tests during the second half of the year! 

Photo with her sisters, who seem less than thrilled...

At the beginning of the year, Amelia could identify all letters, and could write all of the uppercase letters, and most of the lowercase letters.  She could spell her name and a handful of common short words, and knew what sounds most of the letters made, but was just beginning to sound out simple three- and four-letter words.  She could identify most numbers between 1 and 20, but could only write a couple of them. 

On the long (two-and-a-half-block) walk to her new school

And now?

The girl can straight-up READ, and has been able to for at least six months.  She is undaunted by the length of words and the length of books, sounding out four- and five-syllable words with a speed that amazes me and tackling (picture) books of all lengths, from 20 pages to 60 pages.  And she WANTS to read.  All.  The.  Time.  (It's awesome.)    

Finding her nametag and meeting her teacher

She knows dozens of "sight words," and can indeed identify them instantly.  She can write complete sentences, including proper capitalization and correct punctuation (most of the time).  She knows the difference between long and short vowel sounds, and understands the role of the silent "e".   

Getting settled in her new classroom... with some old friends!

And her math skills!  Amelia can now count past one hundred -- by ones, by tens, by fives -- and can write out all of the numbers.  She can read a math problem and then solve it using pictures and numbers.  She can add one-digit numbers to one-digit numbers, to make either more one-digit numbers or (small) two-digit numbers.  She can also subtract one-digit numbers from other one-digit numbers and (small) two-digit numbers. 

It's seriously incredible.  Thank goodness for awesome teachers! 

Ramona has had a great school year, too. 

SO happy to be going to school!

At not quite four, she has another year of preschool after this one, so for this pre-pre-kindergarten year, we had her in school just three mornings a week.  She may have been happier going four or five mornings a week, though, since she was always bummed on the days that Amelia got to go to school but she didn't!  Next year.  :)

Note that everyone seems more cheerful for Ramona's first day than they were for Amelia's.

She has grown up so much this year.  Where she might have had difficulty transitioning between activities at the beginning of the year (read: moving from an activity she was enjoying to one that she was less enthusiastic about), by the end of the year she was cheerfully picking up with her friends and getting ready for the next task. 
Walking the Freedom Trail to school... and peeking in the window upon arrival

Ramona has also made some "academic" advances this year, moving from circling her name upon arriving at class, to filling in two or three missing letters in her name, to writing out her whole name.  She can also now identify most letters, write about half of her uppercase letters pretty successfully, and tell you what sounds most letters make.  She can count past 20, can identify several numbers, and can even write a few of them, but still needs help with identifying and writing most numbers.   

All signed in and ready to begin her day!

Ramona will be returning to the same preschool next year, moving up to the (pre-kindergarten) Sea Turtle class, along with a handful of her current classmates, to join several kids from other classrooms.  And she'll have the same teachers that Amelia had last year, which we are thrilled about because they are so wonderful. 

Looking at these pictures from their respective first days of school reminds me of just how different these two girls are...

Amelia was super excited about her first day of kindergarten, but she was also REALLY nervous, and cried a little bit as we were dropping her off.  (You'll notice that she's not really smiling in the pictures of her in her classroom.)  To be fair, it was kind of a zoo.  There were 22 kids in her class, plus 2 parents apiece for most of them, and many youngers siblings... Add in two teachers she didn't know and a new school, and it was just a little bit too much for my sensitive little girl!  After we got her set up with some familiar faces at her table and gave her a couple of hugs, she was completely fine -- in fact, at bedtime that night, she whispered to me that she couldn't wait to go back to school the next day -- but it's a pretty accurate depiction of how Amelia often reacts to something new: reserved, a bit cautious, and in need of gentle coaxing and reassurances.

Ramona, on the other hand... I don't think that shy will ever be a word used to describe her!  She trotted all the way to school on her first day, giggling the whole time, so pleased both to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones.  After she got all signed in, she hugged us goodbye, but never gave us a second glance as we left.  Again, to be fair, Ramona had attended the same school for a semester last year, and even had one of her old teachers again, but even so...  She has no problem asserting herself in a roomful of people she doesn't know, and will chat up anyone -- the crossing guard, the guy ahead of us in line at Dunkin Donuts, the kid on the neighboring swing at the playground -- about anything -- her current favorite toy, the book she read last night, what she ate for breakfast, her cats...  The possibilities are endless. 

They are definitely different kids, but they do share the same attitude toward school: both LOVE it, and I hope they continue to enjoy it for a long, long time... Though hopefully not on our dime after college!  :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last August...

Okay, so it's a little weird to be revisiting Amelia's 5th birthday and Ramona's 3rd birthday (among other things) as we begin planning for their 6th and 4th birthdays, but this is where I left off last year, so... here you go.

August is birthday month for 80% of our family, and so around here August means lots of cake, lots of special breakfasts, lots of candles, and lots of fun.  (So glad that August is just around the corner again!)  Chad is first in the birthday line-up.  We went (candlepin) bowling for his birthday, followed by a picnic at the Monument and cake at home. 

Yes, Ramona likes her carbs; yes, it is kind of difficult to bowl with a toddler on your hip; and yes, Louisa may not enjoy being called "Thing 3".

Ramona's birthday is next.  This child loves cinnamon rolls more than almost any other food, so that's what she picked for breakfast.  (The whipped cream made it fancy.)  Presents took quite a while to get through because she was so enamored with the barn set that Chad and I had gotten her (thank you, IKEA)!  The prospect of cupcakes encouraged her to move along...


Lest you think that I am exaggerating about her lack of desire to open more presents following the barn, here is some video proof...

I know, she's weird.

In between the girls' birthdays, we threw them at joint party at a nearby farm.  The party included a bounce house, a hayride, blueberry picking (with each kiddo taking home a pint of blueberries), and plenty of cake.  It seemed to be a hit, and I would highly recommend it if you're looking for a kids' party idea.  Such a fun theme to work with.

My birthday girls!

I was surprised how excited all of the kids were about picking blueberries... And Ramona still talks about that hayride!

Amelia's birthday followed the party.  By that point, I think we were all a little caked-out, so we celebrated her actual birthday with pancakes and mango for breakfast, and ice cream and strawberries for dessert.  Also, Amelia loves having her nails painted (and anything girly like that), so the evening before her birthday, my mom and I surprised her with a trip to a nail salon for her first real manicure.  At first, Amelia refused, saying that she wanted ME to paint them instead... (Kids!)  After watching for a while, though, she relented and ended up with glittery fuchsia fingernails. 

Five going on fifteen

My birthday finally rolls around at the end of the month.  Unsurprisingly, since I'm usually the one behind the camera, the only picture I have is this one from my phone:

Louisa and me, sharing my new scarf from Lindsey and Grant

But don't worry, Chad definitely made me a cherry pie, and it was delicious.  You'll just have to take my word for it. 

August also included a visit from my mom at the beginning of the month and a visit from my brother at the end.  Here were the highlights:

At the movies with Nonna!

No visit from Nonna would be complete without a trip to the Common

At the beach in York, ME with Uncle Grant, playing in the waves and exploring the tide pools

Sandy baby feet

Post-beach lunch.  And ice cream.  And taffy!

They love their Uncle Grant.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'm Back!

That's right. 

After nearly nine months, I am reentering the world of blogging. 

Whyever did I leave it in the first place, you ask?  It was not really a conscious decision, but there were a number of factors contributing to my absence, including:

1. Work

You may recall that I began a new job in May of 2013.  As it goes with new jobs, I was busy getting myself established and found myself with less time to chronicle this little life of ours than I had previously.  You may recall that, when last I posted (in September of last year), I was already a couple of months behind...

2. The Absence of Work

As most if not all of you probably know already, that small pharma company that I moved to last spring ran into some difficulties with the FDA over the labeling for its only marketed product.  As a result, 40% of the company ended up getting laid off, and unfortunately, I was included in that 40%.  At first, I was hopeful that I might be reemployed by the end of the year, but as the weeks turned into months, I became more defeated and more withdrawn.  My sincerest apologies to those of you whose emails and phone calls failed to elicit a reply from me, but there were only so many times that I could cheerily issue my "nothing to report yet" message... And I very much wanted to remain upbeat about the situation, at least outwardly, especially for the girls' sake.  Little kids are so susceptible to our moods, and I wanted to minimize the impact of my unemployment on them.  Plus, I really just didn't want to come off as a whiner!  :)  In retrospect, I probably could have benefitted from the additional emotional support that I'm sure I would have received had I been more transparent about our situation, but hey.  Hindsight's 20/20.  And Chad -- and the girls -- really did a stellar job of maintaining my spirits the vast majority of the time.      

3. Instagram

I love Instagram.  I really do.  It's by far my favorite, most frequently used app.  However... Instagram has allowed me to become very lazy with my "real" photos.  In fact, just yesterday I uploaded pictures from my camera for the first time since September.  And it's hard to post a blog entry without any photos.  (I think) I'm a decent writer, but I don't even try to pretend that anyone visits this blog for my wit or my word choice.  I know you're all here to see pictures of the girls!  So wish me luck as I resolve to get up to date on our family photos.  I'm pretty good about deleting outtakes as I snap, but there still are nearly 2000 new photos on our computer now, ready for reviewing and editing.  Yikes.      

4. Inertia

Once I got out of the habit of blogging, it was just easier not to blog, you know?  And after a few months, the thought of trying to catch up was so intimidating that I actually considered removing Blogger from my browser's home pages.  (I never did actually remove it.  Instead, I would just quickly navigate to something else or close the window.)  :)  I was stressed enough; I didn't want to add the pressure of charmingly catching up all (half a dozen?) of my loyal readers on our goings-on. 

So why am I back on here, then?

Well, as the girls wrap up their school years, I am ashamed that I have not attempted to document them better.  One of the reasons that I started this blog in the first place was so they would have something to look back on someday, for a glimpse into life as it was happening instead of as it has been remembered.  I really want to make more of an effort to keep track of who they are as they grow... because it's happening so quickly!  

I also -- FINALLY -- have happy news on the work front.  On Monday, I reentered the ranks of the employed!  I got an amazing job with a great pharma company just a mile and a half away from our house.  And, knock on wood, I think it will be a really good fit for me. 

So I am expecting a very busy summer, between a new job for me and no school for the girls, but I am going to do my best to catch up on the last nine months, posting pictures if not narrative, and to keep this (relatively) up to date after that.


Wish me luck.  :)

Oh, and because I know what you really want are pictures of the girls... Here are a few from the last nine months, some more recent than others!

See you soon.