News 2009

11.11.09 - "Owen! Fingers! Adam! Fix your legs!" - Day 2810 / 1834

The title refers to our never ending battle with Adam sitting like a W, and Owen biting his nails.  The nail biting started during last school year.  We noticed another of Owen's friends doing it as well and, as Owen tends to copy other kids, assume he started doing it as well.  For some reason Owen's fingers always seem to gravitate towards his mouth.  He'll be sitting there watching TV and you can just see his hands slowly creep up his lap, rest on his chest, under his chin, then in his mouth.  It's a never ending battle with both of them.

Our summer activities ended not with a trip to Kiddieland, but with a trip downtown to watch the Chicago Air and Water Show.  We misjudged how long it would take us to get down there.  We found parking quickly enough, but then spent 45+ minutes sitting on a shuttle bus.  When we did get there it dropped us off right were all the action was.  And I mean WAS because there was a mass exodus of people leaving.  Dark storm clouds had moved in and it looked like the show was about to be canceled.  We debated getting back on the bus but decided to risk it.  Glad we did.  The storm clouds passed and half the people had left so it wasn't crowded, and the show resumed.  We did get to see the main reason for coming, the Thunderbirds.  The boys weren't as impressed with them as I had hoped.  When they made their entrance low and from behind they startled Adam who watched the rest of the show in Mom's arms and covering his ears.  They enjoyed playing on the beach more than watching the jets.

School started.  Owen started second grade and Adam is on his second year of preschool at Montessori.

In First grade Owen had a number of issues with his teacher and with the way she handled the class.  We were all pleased to see his current teacher has a few more years under her belt and we are experiencing none of these problems.  He even seems to have less homework this year.

Owen continues to have issues with competition in class.  Meaning he wants to make sure he's keeping up or even beating other kids at things.  This causes stress in his mind and he often winds up doing poorer in things he would normally do fine on.  For example, they'll be given a five minute subtraction drill.  He'll look at the paper, start to panic at all the numbers.  He'll start looking at how far other kids have gotten and, when he's not as far, start to panic more.  As a result he won't get half as far as other kids in his class and he starts to lose confidence in himself.

Adam is doing well in his second year at Montessori, however his teacher seems bound and determined to lay some sort of disability on him, to our increasing frustration.  We got his Teacher's Notes last week and she had made all sorts of claims and issues that were completely incorrect.  For example she felt he wasn't getting enough sleep and this was demonstrated by his refusal to nap during nap class.  We had the same issue last year.  Adam gets plenty of sleep and is out within 15m of bedtime.  He hasn't needed an afternoon nap since before he started at the school.  His teacher also refuses to allow him to write because he hasn't mastered the proper technique as dictated by Montessori guidelines (that is, he moves his whole arm rather than just his wrist).  However, he's been writing at home for months and as demonstrated here, there is no problem with his handwriting.  He even gets the formation (capital letters vs lower case) correct.

His reading is exceptional.  He is beyond even where Owen was at this age and reads everything he can, and will even read to himself while in bed before sleeping.

In mid September we had a few concerts all happening that same week and in different cities so we all took the week off and had a mini vacation.  We went out to Ann Arbor, MI where our friends The Proclaimers were playing an all ages show.  We went to the sound check and brought the guys some cookies.  Adam fell asleep shortly after the show began but Owen stayed awake the entire time, but kept asking 'how many more songs?'  The highlight for this leg of the tour was that the hotel had a swimming pool.  Owen is just learning how to swim so this was a Big Deal for him.  It was Adam's first time in a proper pool and he showed absolutely no fear - he stood at the top of the stairs and leapt into the water, completely unconcerned that he didn't know how to swim.  This also demonstrated one of the big differences between the two.  Owen was afraid to be away from either of us (despite wearing water wings), while Adam happily kicked himself around the pool while clutching tightly to his inner tube.  Even when they swapped and Adam was wearing the wings it was only a matter of minutes before he was happily keeping himself afloat without assistance.

Next was a six hour car ride to Milwaukee.  Mom and Dad went to see the Pet Shop Boys while the boys stayed at Grandma and Grandpa's.  They took the boys to the park, then to pick pumpkins, and then out to dinner.

For Halloween Adam was SpiderMan, a choice he made months ago.  Owen was a little more indecisive.  First he wanted to be Snake Eyes from GI Joe, however when he learned he wasn't getting a sword he decided he wanted to be Captain Rex from Star Wars.  We vetoed this idea since it's essentially the same costume he wore last year but with a different color scheme.  Finally Mom ordered him a Chicago Bears costume that would double as pajamas.  He was happy with this, especially with the helmet and shoulder padding.

For his fifth birthday Adam had been wanting another Speed Racer themed birthday but changed it at the last minute to be SpiderMan, based on his Halloween costume.  We held it, once more, at Just for Kids on the day after Halloween and Adam invited six friends, including his little girlfriend Chelsea.  His real birthday fell on Tuesday and while he was at school we rushed about dismantling his old baby bed (the source of a great many Adam Sleeping pics) and built his new loft bed.  We had trouble finding the same model Owen had so we picked up a similar model from Ikea.  Due to the design we couldn't really use the bottom area as storage so we picked up a cheap foam mattress and set it up as a comfort zone for him.   He was very excited.

- New video!  Adam making numbers
- Six pages of photos!
- Art Club! (it appears i've been forgetting to add links to Adam's last few pages.  all new entries are in bold text)


08.02.09 - Summer - Day 2709 / 1733

What?!  Five months since I've last updated?  Even I find that hard to believe.  But, to be honest, from March until the end of the school year nothing really happened.  The boys went to school, the boys came home and did homework, played, fought, had the occasional bath and went to bed.

Owen's teacher went on maternity leave in April and the substitute was a substitute he had (more frequently than is acceptable) in Kindergarten; so he knew and loved her.  She really brought out the best in Owen and while he still got in trouble for talking and joking around his enthusiasm for completing school work improved and he made a significant jump in his reading level (however there is some doubt his original teacher rated him accurately based on the books he was allowed to bring home vs the books he actually read at home).

Adam was more of a challenge.  Since he was all-day, and not in kindergarten he was made to have a 'nap class' in the afternoon.  Adam cast aside the very idea of having an afternoon nap before he even started at the school so they struggled with him.  In addition there was a particular student who was an extreme distraction to Adam.  It's a kid who did his best to interrupt the class and his classmate's work as much as he could.  The school knew this kid was a problem but with the tight financial times it was clear they weren't going to get rid of him.  As a result Adam started mimicking some of this kid's behavior which tried everyone's patience.   Next year Adam will again have this student in his class but the boy will be in Kindergarten while Adam will still have to go to 'nap class' so they will be separated for at least part of the day.  When it was clear Adam was being targeted as a Problem in nap-class we had to do our best to convince his teacher that no matter what she did he wasn't going to nap so they need to amuse him somehow.  A concept they seemed unwilling to cooperate with.  Eventually they allowed Adam to bring a book to class and while he didn't always read it, it kept him on his cot so the others could nap.

Near the end of the school year Adam's teacher called Yvonne for a conference.  It was in her Educated Opinion that Adam might have a mild case of Sensory Processing (Integration) Disorder (SID's).  She said this may explain his frustration and tantrums when things Aren't Normal (like when he has to spend time in a new classroom, or he's asked to do something that is outside his concept of things - like refusing to nap in his car seat because you sleep in bed, not the car).  This, of course, worried Yvonne and we called to schedule an Occupational Therapy Evaluation.

The therapist, when told of this theory was surprised then amused and doubted right off that he had any Sensory Processing Disorder.  Through the course of the evaluation, a few things were highlighted and we are waiting for the full report before we decide if any plan of action is required.  One issue that we are pursuing is that it's appears likely that Adam is having some issues with his vision.  It's possible that he has a "Convergence Insufficiency" which basically means that his eyes don't always work together (why does that sound familiar?), particularly close up.  So, we plan to have him tested by a developmental ophthalmologist before he returns to school later this month.  The other challenges we have that were highlighted at the evaluation were that he appears to be "gifted" (not a challenge we should be worried about, except some of his frustrations may be due to his high standards of perfectionism!)  His reading level for his age (4.5 yrs) is way above the typical child (but not for a Montessori 4 year old, it should be noted), and his understanding, recognition and ability to copy shapes was testing out at the level of a 2nd grader.

Adam Story - Back in June Adam saw the time (6:30) and announced that was part of our phone number.  When asked if he knew the rest of it he announced it perfectly.  When asked again some hours later he rattled it off again.  We never taught him it, but probably picked it up from hearing Owen recite it.

The summer has been eventful, with the boys partaking in a variety of summer camp programs.

Near the end of the school year both boys were in soccer.  Owen moving up to a more advanced level ("we have goalies now AND throw ins!") and Adam starting Little Kickers.  Owen has proven himself to be not only quite the soccer player, but an excellent team player - not hoarding the ball to himself like some kids, but passing the ball when necessary.  Adam, while not as athletic as Owen, does enjoy going to soccer and has scored the occasional goal on his own!

Owen has developed a love for all sports and will watch any athletic game on tv.  He recently declared himself a Chicago White Sox fan.  This is a bit tiring for us as, apart from Yvonne's love of her home soccer team, neither of us has the slightest interest in sports.  And for some greedy reason, the White Sox seem to play baseball Every Single Night.  And they're all televised.  Fortunately he's not at the point where he has to watch the entire game.  He eventually gets bored and runs off to play Legos... and is mainly just interested when they are winning!

Other summer camp outings for Owen included a proper outdoor camp full of classic activities such as archery, hiking, fishing, etc.  He's also attended a Lego Building workshop at a local college (where he learned how to better structure his models), and the return of British Soccer Camp.

Adam spent a few weeks at Just for Kids, and a few other weeks at Montessori's Summer Camp where he went on his first real field trip to the Shedd Aquarium where they were treated to not only a whale & dolphin show, but a dress rehearsal for a the new show that had yet to be performed for the public!  This week is another field trip to Morton Arboretum - of course the real thrill is actually the ride on the school bus.

The highlight of the summer came as our official Family Vacation.  We finally took the boys back to Southern California!  We spent the first two days down at Legoland California!  The boys had a blast looking at the many Lego models scattered around the park and riding the many rides.  Owen went on his first proper roller coaster, but he declared he hated the drops and never wanted to ride it again.  Next was a trip to our old neighborhood where we visited with some of our old neighbors and showed the boys where we used to live and hang out.  Then it was up to Hollywood where we saw Mann's Chinese Theatre and we drove up to Griffith Observatory (for the view) and up the steep Mulholland Drive to get as close as we could to the Hollywood Sign - all of which Owen remembered seeing in miniature at Legoland.

We wrapped it all up with an exhausting day at Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure where the boys and I rode the accurately named Mulholland Madness - a wild mouse style rollercoaster with several unexpected drops.  Owen didn't like it but Adam giggled and laughed the entire time.  What Owen was really enchanted with was the Playhouse Disney Live On Stage show (Adam pretty much sat and watched but Owen participated) and the Pixar Parade (which freaked Adam out - characters came up to him and water was sprayed on the crowd, both of which resulted in screams of terror and awwws from the old ladies around us.)

Finally, just this last weekend we visited Kiddieland!  Kiddieland is the kind of place you wish still existed but does, or did.  This year is Kiddieland's 81st and final year.  I've seen video of this place from the fifties and it still looks exactly the same today as it did back then.  Both boys rode both the little kiddie rides, and the faster more grown-up rides, and each took one last ride on the Little Dipper - Illinois' oldest wooden rollercoaster.

Next week Owen starts practices twice a week again for the Fall Soccer Season (games run from mid August to end of October) and Back to School is just around the corner (Aug 17th for Adam & Aug 25th for Owen).  Summer has come and nearly gone so fast!  I wish winter would do that once in a while...

- Seven pages of new photos!
- New video of Kiddieland!
- Updated Monty's page


03.10.09 - Another Year Older, Another Minute Added to Time Out -  Day 2564 / 1588

Can you believe it?  Owen is seven years old!  Wow!

But it's been awhile since I've had time to update this so let's go back...

Grandma and Grandpa from England came over to spend December with us. They were here for the entire month which pleased the boys to no end. Grandma and Grandpa got to attend Adam's Winter Performance at his school and Grandma helped him make an ornament made out of an orange and cloves.

Also in December we rode the Polar Express Train into Chicago and back. It was billed as a cast acting out the story, but apart from a few characters walking through the train greeting people it was nothing more than a train ride to Chicago and back with some caroling here and there. Adam had his picture taken with Santa, but Owen refused (later, on seeing a mall santa owen commented 'that's not the real santa, Adam, because we've seen the real santa [on the train]').

Adam also had his Daddy and Me day at school where Dad got to go in and watch the children perform a number of songs, then Adam demonstrated some of his favorite activities: Metal Insets, and Word Building.

March brings us to Owen's seventh birthday! When he was told he was too old to have his parties at the usual place he said he didn't really want to have one. We offered to take him "Some place Special" instead and he said yes. Then, of course, he started talking about his party and we had to remind him we didn't plan for one because he said he didn't want one. In the end we let him invite his two best friends over to make pizzas on Sunday. A mini party. Afterwards we let him open all his presents.

Monday was Owen's birthday proper. Owen was off school for the Illinois only holiday Casimir Pulaski Day. Adam wasn't off but we kept him home. We started the day going out for breakfast, which is something Owen loves. Our restaurant has a birthday club thing so I tipped off the waitress. We figured he'd just get a t-shirt but they did the whole Happy Birthday song for him, which he enjoyed. A year ago he would have hidden under the table. He also got a free sundae which he shared with Adam (and dad).

After breakfast we headed straight to the Main Event - Legoland!! We've been trying to get to this place since it opened last July but haven't been able to. We were expecting it to be more exciting than it was, but that's from a grown-ups perspective. Owen and Adam had a ball. Afterwards we took him to the Lego store and gave him some money to buy whatever he wanted.

Owen has lost his second bottom tooth (on receiving a crisp new one dollar bill he remarked that the tooth fairy must use the teeth to make money). The result of this second tooth coming out was a tiny bit of root becoming stuck. It was some weeks before Owen alerted us to his mouth hurting when he brushed his teeth. He refused to let us near it which resulted in a massive battle which he finally gave in. I examined the tooth, determined it was stuck in there so we took him to the dentist. This was the first time Owen was afraid of the dentist, but all he did was put a little numbing gel on the area and pulled the thing out, like a sliver. Owen was much happier having this over with and was rewarded with a bonus dollar from the tooth fairy! In both cases his adult tooth was all but completely in place so he's avoided the holy mouth. He now reports he has four loose teeth! He also had his first cavity (which came as a surprise).

Adam had his Parent Conference. Nothing out of the ordinary to report here. His teacher commented that he's doing exceptionally well with numbers, just like Owen. We have a game called Sum Swamp which involves simple addition. A few months ago we had to help Adam count but now he just says "that's easy, it's ten." His teacher also said "Montessori believes in allowing children the freedom to express themselves and Adam pushes that rule to it's fullest."

The boys are playing exceptionally well together now. They have their moments, of course, but mostly they do everything together. It's not unusual for Owen to say "Hey Adam, let's go build a Lego city!" and they'll race upstairs not to be seen or heard until dinner (except for the occasional screaming fit because Adam wanted the fireman that Owen was playing with).

Owen has really grown up this year. We can see him trying to keep the peace when Adam is going completely off the rails. And we can see compassion forming. He's doing extremely well with his reading and often reads in bed by himself at bed time.

Adam is a completely different story. He seems to cry way too much and over ridiculous things. Such as crying because it wasn't pizza for lunch at school. They rarely serve pizza for lunch at Montessori. Owen wasn't having pizza for lunch either. So we have no idea what set this off. It's really becoming tiresome and we're not sure how it all started.

Some days, after school, he can be really nasty. We feel he's not getting enough sleep. If he wakes up early he doesn't stay in bed or go back to sleep, he gets up, turns on his light and plays. Or worse, goes into Owen's room and wakes him up to play. As a result we've moved his bedtime from the standard 8pm to 7.30p, which doesn't always go over so well, and doesn't always mean he gets an extra 30m of sleep.

Overheard on the monitor one morning:
Owen: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Adam: A daddy!
Owen: No! To do that you need money.  You have to have a job.  What kind of job do you want?
Adam: A fireman!
Owen: I want to sit in a big, white room and build Legos ALL day.

- SIX pages of photos
- Monty's page (ten years old)