Emily…

So last Thursday night was back to school night at Max’s new school. Max has been talking about playing with a girl named Emily, and two boys named Christian and Eddie. I remembered Christian and Eddie from orientation, but didn’t remember there being a girl named Emily. So Rachel and I both wondered if Max had made up an imaginary friend to help him adjust to the new school.

So when we went to back to school night, I was anxious to meet Emily and her parents. When we arrived, Max ran up to his friend Ryan who sits next to him. I said hi to Ryan’s dad and he seemed like a nice guy. He asked how Max liked school and I asked how Ryan was adjusting. On the day of orientation, Ryan’s Mom mentioned that Ryan was really shy. We mentioned that Max could be shy sometimes too, but he was friendly when he got to know you. Ryan and Max seemed to get a long well, and talked as we walked into the building.

We made our way down the hall to Max’s classroom. I began scanning the room, and didn’t see anyone who matched Emily’s description, so I asked Max if Emily was here. He looked around and said he didn’t see her either. Hmmmm, ok. Then Max walked me around the classroom to show me some of the things he had been working on. We came across a photo of his class, and Max said “hey look there’s Emily!”. Ahhh finally, a face to go with the name. She was real!

The rest of the evening went well. It was a little overwhelming. They threw a lot of facts, names and acronyms at us. I tried not to freak out, and took solace in knowing that Max seems to be able to do the homework he is given without much trouble. So I guess he is keeping up. One of the things that scared me a bit was when the teacher mentioned sight words. I thought they would work on those later on in the school year, but from what his teacher said, they were already learning about them.

When we got home, I wrote down a few sight words from the list that was given to us, down on a piece of paper, and asked Max is he recognized any of them. He scanned the page and started pointing and was able to identify, up, me, on, off, down, in, out, he and she. I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been reading about sights words and found some good recourses online for different tricks and tips on getting the words to “click”.

One of the exercises uses both site and touch, which is supposed to be more effective since it engages two senses. You print out a sheet with sight words on them, and then you put plastic letters on the table and you tell your child to spell the word using the plastic letters. We only had upper case magnetic numbers, so I went on Amazon and sure enough they had lower case letters. Those should be in today, so I look forward to trying that out. Here is a link to some of the sight word templates that can be used for this activity http://blog.maketaketeach.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/5-Building-Sight-Words-Templates.pdf

We’ve also been trying to read easy reader books to him each night before bed. Books that have short sentences and repeat a lot of the same words over and over. I also found some cool apps for the iPad that he seems to find interesting. It seems like they continue to use sight words into the 1st and 2nd grade, so it’s an important concept to master.

It’s been fascinating watching all the building blocks that are being put into place each week to prepare Max and his classmates to learn more complex subjects. I like the methodical approach and so far, Max seems to be adapting to it as well.

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Summer Television Recap and Fall Preview

A few months back, I wrote about how awful summer tv was. Mostly just reality shows and competition shows. After all, most of the major networks keep all their best shows for the fall. Thankfully there were a few good new shows, and an old favorite to hold me over this summer.

Ray Donovan knowRay Donovan is my favorite new shows. The show is a mix of Scandal and the Sopranos. Liev Schreiber plays the main character Ray. Ray is a complex man, who lives quite a tortured, and hectic life. He helps celebrities get themselves out of hot water, tried to balance “work” and home life with his family, and he himself has lots of skeletons in his closet. Family is a big part of the show. In addition to Rays wife and two kids, he also has three brothers (with lots of problems of their own), and a father (played by Jon Voight), who makes Ray’s life very difficult. The show is so well done, with lots of very interesting and dark characters. Perhaps Ray is the darkest of them all. He’s so caught up in cleaning up other peoples messes, that he basically sells his own soul to keep others reputations in tact. I really enjoy the show a lot. Rachel isn’t a big fan of this one because of all the sex and violence, so I watch this one by myself.

orange-is-the-new-blackTwo shows that Rachel and I have enjoyed together this summer is “Orange is the New Black” and “The Bridge”. Orange is an original series on Netflix. It was created by Jenji Kohan, who was the mastermind behind “Weeds”, another one of my favorite shows. Because Kohan is involved, there are lots of familiar faces from Weeds that show up in Orange. Orange is the story of a woman (Piper Chapman), who seems to have everything going for her, but then her past comes back to haunt her. She has to put her business, her wedding and the rest of her life on hold to serve a 15 month prison sentence for trafficking drug money. Something she did in her carefree early 20’s as she was trying to “find herself”. I’m used to prison shows like Oz and Prison Break, where the prisoners are always looking over their own shoulder, because they are afraid of being attacked, raped or killed. In Orange, the only real danger is going crazy. There is no real threat of violence, but when you have all those women locked up together, you better believe there is going to be some “cattiness” and finger pointing. I don’t know how true to life the story is, but it’s quite fascinating. The show points out the freedoms prisoners lose, things we all take for granted. Like having a sweet treat like a donut or cookie, or having the freedom to go to the bathroom whenever we want. You know how there always seems to be a line to get into the ladies room at public places? Well imagine having to always wait in line every time you had to use the bathroom. The show is very well done and interesting. I think perhaps women could relate to the show more, but Jason Biggs who plays Piper’s fiance, brings some male perspective to the show as he tries to cope. It’s a bit of a slow burn. We’re only about halfway through season 1, but I was happy to read there will be a season 2.

The bridgeThe last of the new shows we watched is an FX series called “The Bridge”. The show is about a serial killer who cuts one of his victims in half and leaves half of the body is Juarez Mexico and the other half in El Paso Texas. Since the body straddles the border between the US and Mexico, investigators from both sides must work together to catch this killer. The show “spiders” out and numerous other characters come into the story. Week by week, we learn more and discover how all the characters are somewhat intertwined and have ties. Kind of a twisted version of 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon. One of the most interesting characters is Sonya Cross played by Diana Kruger, who is the lead detective on the case. She works for the El Paso PD, and since she has Aspergers Syndrome, her methods and behaviors are quite interesting and very different from other detectives. Her Mexican counterpart is Marco Ruiz. Marco is played by Demian Bichir, another familiar face from Weeds. He looks quite different than he did when he was on Weeds, but his voice is very distinctive and I recognized him immediately. He played the head of Mexican drug cartel (Esteban Reyes) on Weeds, so he was always clean shaven, dressed in expensive suits and not a hair was out of place on his head. Marco’s Ruiz is quite the opposite. He always has several days worth of stubble, he dresses casually, and he lives a very modest lifestyle. This is another slow burn of a show, but each week, more of the pieces of the puzzle come together and I find myself more and more interested. I don’t know how they will get a season 2 out of it, but I hope they do. Ruiz and Cross are two great characters and there are others on the show as well, that I would love to see more of.

breaking-badAnd of course the series finale of Breaking Bad is just two weeks away. A lot of great shows have hung on too long, and fizzled out by the time the series ended. Breaking Bad is definitely still burning white hot, and not anywhere close to fizzling out. The last few episodes have been mind blowing and have left me speechless. The show is so brilliant, and so well done in every aspect. Not only is the acting top notch, but the story telling is also spectacular. One of the signatures of Break Bad are the opening “vignettes”. These 5-10 minute vignettes are better than 90% of the crap that is on TV. Each week, it sets the table for the story that is about to unfold. And each week, it’s done just a little differently than the week before. Some scenes have lots of great dialogue, that give you a better understanding of a character, and other times, the scene could be completely devoid of speech. Devoid of humans talking, but not of sound. There is always something interesting to be heard. Sometimes it’s boots, crunching along the New Mexico desert sand, or i it could be wind howling and rattling wind chimes outside of a home, but one thing is for sure, it’s always super engaging and interesting. It draws me right in, and gets me super excited for the rest of the episode. I will miss Breaking Bad, but I’m excited to hear that there is talk of a spinoff involving Saul Goodman. Saul is one of the many great characters on the show, so a show built around him could be really interesting.

American-Horror-Story new-posters-and-trailer-for-homeland-tease-season-3-plot TheWalkingDead_Wallpaper_02As Autumn approaches, it means the returns of favorites like “Homeland”, “The Walking Dead”, “American Horror Story” and “Boardwalk Empire”. I’ve grown a little bored with Boardwalk Empire, so not sure if I will watch season 4, but I’m eagerly awaiting season 3 of Homeland and to see what awaits Rick Grimes and his new “family” of survivors on The Walking Dead. The first season of American Horror Story was great, season 2 was good, but not as good as season 1. So I’m not sure what to expect out of Season 3. What I love about the show, is that the story is completely different every season. A lot of the same actors and actresses are featured, but they play different roles. Zachary Quinto and Jessica Lange are both top notch. Zachary has a small role in season 1, but because he was so good, they gave him a much bigger part is season 2. Season 3 features of coven of witches, so not sure if Zachary will have a smaller roll again, or if he will be in it at all. I was familiar with Lange and Quinto before American Horror Story, but there are a lot of newcomers that I had never seen before like Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson who I really enjoyed watching on the show.

I can’t tell you the last time I watched a movie. I used to love movies, but I find it hard to find 2 hours of uninterrupted time to watch a movie, and I find the format a bit stale. The stories feel rushed, and I feel like I never really get to know enough about the characters. With dramas like Homeland and Breaking Bad, you really have a lot of time to develop characters, show the audience what makes them tick, and really make for some gut wrenching twists and turns. Things just happen too quickly in movies, and I am often left feeling cheated and wanting more. TV dramas are my favorite form of entertainment, hands down.

Week 2 of school

Week 2 of school went well. Max continues to look forward to going each day, which is nice. We thought after being home with us for the weekend, getting him back to school on Monday would be a challenge, but he was happy to go. That was a big relief. Here are some “highlights” of the past week…

One of this weeks lessons was “how to be a good citizen”. The lesson intends to introduce children to proper behavior in the classroom. Some of the characteristics of a good citizen are 1) raising your hand before you speak 2) helping others 3) keeping your desk and work area clean 4) following the teachers instructions.  Max seems to have focussed on helping others. He’s always liked helping Rachel and I around the house, but last week he took things to a new level. One night I was grilling outside, and Max came sprinting across the room to open the sliding door for me to get to the backyard, because my hands were full. After sliding the door open he politely said “after you sir”. That made me chuckle. The other night I was showering, when I slid the shower curtain open, Max waiting outside the shower to hand me my towel to dry off. It was like having a bathroom butler. Apparently he’s been working on his ninja skills as well, because I didn’t hear him enter the bathroom and I was a little startled when he was standing there. Hopefully this week they spend a little time discussing how important it is not to scare Daddy hehe.

This week is colors week. Each day they will focus on a different color. Kids are encouraged to wear clothing that matches the color of the day. Today was brown day, so Max will be wearing his brown Domo shirt and camo shorts. I think we have all the colors covered except for purple. I don’t think Max owns anything that is purple. Will have to pick one up this week. Max would be upset if he was not wearing the same color as everyone else.

Rachel and I goofed a bit with Max’s homework. We got a sheet listing the different homework assignments for the week. There was a note with one of them saying it was due on Thursday. So we assumed all the homework was due on Thursday. Max did all the work, but then Rachel re-read the homework calendar and we discovered the homework is due the next day. So Max was two days behind. Woops.

Saturday morning, we figured Max had enough of school and would want a break. After breakfast he asked me if he could practice writing his numbers and letters and practice cutting out shapes. I figured I would get everything setup and he would spend 5 minutes, and want to do something else. Much to my surprise, he spent about 90 minutes working on his letters and numbers. His attention span seems to have improved since being in school, which is nice.

So far the only thing Max doesn’t like about school is having to go to bed earlier. Because a big chunk of his day is spent in school, he doesn’t have as much time to play. So he wants to stay outside and play till it gets dark. It makes it tough to get him showered, read to him and get him to bed by 8:00. With the sun setting earlier and earlier, this should become a little easier.  Since he doesn’t nap in the afternoon, by the end of the week, he is really dragging. He slept in till 7:30 and 8:00 this weekend, which was great. Over the summer he was up between 6:30 and 6:45 most weekends, so it was nice for Rachel and I to get a little extra sleep.

Looking forward to seeing what he learns in week 3.

So far so good…

So week 1 of Kindergarden went well. Now I feel a little silly about being so worried. Max seems to really like school so far. His only complaint so far is that the rug they sit on during

story time is not as comfortable as the one they had at preschool. So all in all, I would say things have gone well so far.

We had to bring a complete change of clothes for Max when we went to orientation. I guess at this age, kids have a lot of accidents. Whether it’s in the bathroom,  playing during recess, spilling food during lunch or paint during art class. So Rachel and I were both nervous that he would have some sort of accident the first day. Like he would spill his juice box all over trying to get the straw in. We were very relieved when he came out of school on the first day and he was wearing the same clothes we sent him to school in.

Work was a little crazy last week, so that made things a little nutty, but with the help of Rachel and her mom, we managed to get Max off to school on time every morning and were there to pick him up at dismissal. It was nice being able to work from home on Tuesday and Thursday. The extra time I got to spend with Max was great.

He seems very excited when he gets home. On Tuesday, he got home and the first thing he asked was “Can we go outside and play baseball?”. I happily obliged. Then we headed in to cool down for a bit and he started pulling out a bunch of his toys. Stuff he hasn’t touched in months. Normally we try to get him to pull only one thing out at a time, but he was so happy and having so much fun, that we let him go a little crazy.

By Friday evening Max was pretty tired. By 8:15, he was zonked and ready for bed. School doesn’t start for him till 9:00, so he gets to sleep in a bit, watch a little Sponge Bob, and eat his breakfast before heading off to school, which is nice. He doesn’t nap anymore, so I think he needs that 10-11 hours of sleep per night. Otherwise he gets overtired and grumpy.

Rachel’s Mom and Dad were in Oklahoma visiting with the twins, so on Tuesday, Rachel and I both dropped Max off and picked him up. Wednesday Rachel did it on her own, and I went back into work. On Thursday, I handled things on my own, so Rachel could go back into work. Friday was the first day of our new arrangement with Rachel’s Mom. Typically in the mornings, Rachel would drop Max off at her Mom’s house, since it’s on her way to work. We didn’t want to risk waking Max up, so Rachel’s mom agreed to come over to our house in the morning so Max could sleep in a bit. Then in the afternoon, she picked Max up and brought him back to her house till Rachel and I got home from work. She seems to really like the one on one time she gets to have with Max. After all, she’s had a lot of one on one time with Max since he was an infant, and Max seems to enjoy the time with her as well. They have their little rituals like reading books out on on the swing on the back deck, milk and cookies and kicking the soccer ball around the backyard. They won’t have as much time together, but I’m glad they will get to spend a little time together.

Tomorrow morning will be a bit of a challenge. I have a maintenance for work tonight, so I will be up late (probably till around 3 or 4 AM). Then I’ll have to wake up and get Max ready for school. Hopefully I’ll be able to come home and snooze for a bit once he is in school. Hoping that work won’t be as crazy this week.

Here are a few photos from Max’s first day:

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First Day of Kindergarten

So day one of kindergarten wasn’t so bad. Dropping Max off and seeing him walk in that big old school all by himself, now that part was hard. Definitely choked back a few tears. His school day begins at 9. We dropped him off in the car circle lane at school around 8:55. His school day ends at 3:30. The day seemed to drag on forever. I worked from home, so at least I had work to keep me busy. Rachel and I must have checked the time about 100 times between the time we dropped him off and the time we went to pick him up.

There were a million fears running through my mind after we dropped him off. Would he cry? Would he talk with the other kids and make friends? Would he spill his lunch all over and be starving when he got out of school. Would he wait till the last second to go to the bathroom and have an accident? Would his first day go so horribly wrong, that he would not want to go back the 2nd day? The list goes on and on.

His school does a staggered dismissal and since the kindergarten class is the youngest, they get to leave school first. Max was the first kid in line for the car circle pickup lane, and boy were we glad to see him. We had to send in a full change of clothes in case he has an accident, or spills something on himself. We were relieved when he emerged from school in the same clothes he went there in. That meant no accidents, and no spills during lunch or snack time.

He had a big smile on his face when he saw us waiting for him. The teacher running the pickup walked to him our car and he hopped in. He must have felt like he was being interrogated. We started bombarding him with questions. “So how was it?” “Did you make a friend?” “Did you have enough to eat?” “Are you thirsty?” He patiently answered all our questions. When I asked him if it was awesome, he smirked a bit and said no, but it was ok. I guess after a summer of fun and freedom, asking if school was awesome was a bit optimistic of me, but hey, I had to ask.

He told us he talked to a little girl named Emily in his class and they played together at recess. He also told us that they had two really cool slides at the playground that were 131 feet tall. hehe. Neither Rachel nor I recalled there being a girl named Emily at orientation. So either she wasn’t there at orientation, that isn’t really her name or Max made it all up. Or maybe it’s a combination of all three. Not really sure. He’s got a pretty active imagination, so anything is possible.

When we got home, we checked his folder and they had colored some activity sheets, did some counting and number recognition and made a paper bag puppet. A pretty productive day. In his folder, it included some of the work he would be doing in September. It seemed pretty comprehensive and challenging. They will be learning how to plot positive and negative numbers, how to read a calendar, shapes, sorting and classifying, recognizing site words, writing and recognizing letters, rhymes and chants and of course learning the rules of the classroom. Sounds like they will be keeping the kids quite busy and introducing them to a lot of cool subjects.

Max’s first homework assignment was telling us something he did in school. He explained that the teacher had cut out the logos from different products like Pop Tarts, M&M’s and Cheez-Its and asked the kids if they knew what they said. The kids don’t know how to read yet, but a lot of them knew what the words were based on the way the letters looked. These are called site words. Luckily the teacher also sent home a little sheet explaining what site words are and their importance. We were also given a list of 25 site words that Max should become familiar with. Words like it, in, on, me, the, I, no, he, she, and see.

I read a bit about the site words, and it’s pretty interesting. Since they aren’t long words that can be sounded out like “octopus” or “marker”, these are important words that need to be recognized by site in order for kids to be able to read fluently. As adults who have been reading for a long time, we see these words and we just recognize them and know their meaning. So that is what the whole exercise of site words is trying to do. Making these words recognizable so kids can spot them easily in a sentence. And eventually they’ll use the words to tie together nouns and verbs in sentences. Something like “The dog ran into the house” or “The ball is under the table”.

Each day they have a special activity. For this week, Wednesday is Art, Thursday is Music and Friday is PE (physical education). Part of the art lesson is making a school bus. Then on Thursday they will incorporate music and learn the words and how to sing “The Wheels on the Bus”.

Max seemed relieved that he was home and as soon as we walked in the front door, he asked if we could go outside and play baseball. I happily obliged. Then when we went inside, he seemed to want to get every toy he had out. Stuff he hasn’t looked at or played with in months. It was a big day for him, so we didn’t mind him making a bit of a mess. He was happy, and that made us happy. By the time we ate dinner, played a bit and gave him a shower, he seemed to be getting pretty tired. When it was time to brush his teeth and to go to bed, he asked me for a piggy back ride upstairs. I gave him a hug and a kiss, and told him I was proud of him for being so brave. He fell asleep in about 2 minutes. When I checked him a few hours later, he was silent and looked zonked.

He made it through the first day, and seemed to have fun and was not opposed to the idea of going back. Definitely a good start. I never liked school from day one, so we’re hoping that if we can get him to like it early on, that he will actually like school and look forward to going. It sounds like school is a whole lot more fun now then when I went. Maybe it’s because I went to Catholic school and they sucked all the fun out. Or maybe we are just smarter now and more in tune as to what keeps kids focused and interested in learning.

What I like is that the teachers break the kids into different focus groups. Max is really good at counting and can already add and subtract pretty well. So that will probably bore him a bit. But where he needs work is writing the numbers of the math equation out. So hopefully they will recognize that he needs extra attention there, and place him in the group that focusses on writing the numbers.

Hopefully today goes as well for him and things keep on getting better and better as the year progresses.