News 2011

09.18.11 - Girls! Girls! Girls! - Day 3486 / 2510

Well, I tried to update this in June... For all our battles over the course of the last school year Owen came home with an exceptional report card. It's hard to believe that over Winter Break we were struggling to get Owen to understand his Reading Comprehension, and working with him through his multiplication tables and now he rockets through it all. His classmates seem to regard him as a math whiz, and on one of his written essays he received a rare mark of 6 (the highest possible). And right at the end of school he was awarded the prestigious Pizza With the Principal award, an honor given to students who display exceptional character and grades.

We only just recently received Owen's ISAT (Illinois State Testing) scores back - he took them in March.  Turns out Owen's classmates comments on his math skills are accurate as he scored in the 98th percentile in math! Amazing! And 92nd percentile in reading.

Another amazing achievement for last school year was that the boys never missed a single day - both had Perfect 100% attendance!  I cannot believe they were never sick over that time but I guess it always fell on the weekend or days off.

Owen's Big Concern this year are The Girls. He complains that every year just about every girl in his class likes him and won't leave him alone. The other day one practically followed him home. He says that while he can make them laugh when he's in a group he has trouble finding something to say when he's one on one.

We survived half day kindergarten with Adam and thankfully (for all of us) he is now back in full days of school.  The first couple of weeks of First Grade were very tiring for him but he is adjusting now.  He has had his reading level tested already and is almost at the end of 2nd grade level.  He is finding the classwork very easy but more challenged by the behavior side and the "no talking"!  He has one of the most experienced First Grade teachers at the school so we are hopeful that we will not have a repeat of the debacle that was First Grade for Owen!

While Adam was still in half day kindergarten his afternoon routine involved playtime, lunch, a little TV, and some school-type work. The first part of this year found him hooked on a new children's show on PBS called Dinosaur Train. He decided he wanted to start writing about some of the dinosaurs featured on the program and did so in a journal. He did this nearly ever school day for weeks and soon had quite the little encyclopedia of dinosaurs! Near the end of school a number of kids started presenting little books they did at home for Show-and-Tell. Adam started getting annoyed because none of them were actually books, but a couple of drawings and scribbles stapled together. He brought his Dinosaur book in and his little heart swelled with pride when his presentation turned into a Q&A session. His classmates were impressed by not only his artwork, but also his writing and penmanship ("that's just how I write" he told them). His teacher commented that it was a good experience for the kids because they realized that this was something that they, themselves, could do at home. You can find his book in Adam's Art Club.

We didn't take a proper vacation this summer. Instead we all took a week off around the Fourth of July and did things together. The boys' aunt and cousins flew over from Finland and spent a couple of days with us, we went to the Eyes to the Skies hot air balloon festival, hit Great America, and spent an evening in Chicago to watch the fireworks at Navy Pier. We had planned on more but we were too exhausted. Plus we had a really hot summer this year and no one wanted to be outside. The rest of the summer found the boys both enrolled in the local Campfire USA camp. Owen had been going for the two previous summers and now it was Adam's turn to go. They both had a blast and frequently came home filthy and worn out.  They even asked to go an extra week!

Owen didn't make the cut for his soccer team for the fall season. Instead, he was dropped down to a lower level team in the same age group with the same club. We'd had struggles with his old team and his confidence. He didn't feel he was as good as the other players and so his performance wasn't there on the field. In addition he spent as much as half of any game on the bench being traded out with other weaker players while other players played the entire game. By moving down a level Owen is now one of the top players on his team and is on the field 80% of the time. In fact, most of the goals scored this season were Owen's! Remarkable since he never scored a goal until January last year.

The boys have been getting along much better now that Adam is older. We still have issues with Adam's crying or getting bent out of shape at the tiniest thing.

Adam is starting to worry about Monty. He has frequently expressed sorrow that Monty can't see and wishes we would or could get his eyes fixed. And he had a bad dream recently where Monty wasn't living with us anymore. When asked where he thought Monty was he said he didn't know, he just wasn't there.

- New video of Adam singing at his Kindergarten concert.
- Photos. But not just the usual selection of pictures. We've been working on a new gallery style for the photo section which allows us to use more photos and not have to code so many pages. Just click on the image to enlarge it and use the built in controls to navigate, and bring the photo to full size (if available)
- Adam's Art Club. Added Adam's Dinosaur book. In addition the last Art Club update has been updated to the new format. The older pages for both boys will be added so all new art will be on one page for each boy.
- Monty. Updated Monty's page.


04.08.11 - In which Owen scores, and Adam smiles toothless  - Day 3323 / 2347

We've been busy!

First things first; our cover photo is not our Christmas card this year, but from the photo shoot of our bi-annual photo book.  We took this picture after we had the cards printed.  And if you think Owen enjoyed being hugged by Adam then you don't know Owen.

November : Not long after our last update Owen went to a ice skating birthday party.  Owen doesn't know how to ice skate and, surprisingly, he was excited to try it.  Typically Owen refuses to try anything new - ANYTHING - withouth much coaxing and, eventually, yelling from us.

Every year Owen winds up having to do a fairly large project for school.  This year was no exception when Owen chose to create a model of a colonial town.  We all chipped in to some degree on this and you can see a photo in the Art Club section.

We also attended the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.  The boys got to browse and play with a number of new and upcoming toys and games.

And we rounded up the month with our annual Thanksgiving week trip to the circus.

December : Owen spent a good part of this month struggling through some school work.  His teacher started preparing the kids for the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) and some of the work was a bit beyond the 3rd grade level.  Our main battles were reading and math writen responses in which he is required to write out his answers in detail, and he must work within a strict guideline.  Failing to include any small piece of information deducted from his score.  When you have a question where you're given a selection of coins and you need to determine how many of each is required to come up with a dollar, it's pretty easy to figure out the answer.  But then you're required to write out at length how and why you came up with the answer.  Owen struggled with the logic behind doing something like this, as well as giving as much detail as was required.

With the reading written responses they had to read a short story and answer questions in the long form.  This was more of a comprehension issue.  The question might be about explaining why a character loved a particular gift. He couldn't figure out how to explain this.  With a great deal effort the penny finally dropped for him on these and he wound up becoming quite good at them.

For Christmas we did our annual search for Rudolph's nose in the sky.  We didn't see him (and Santa didn't visit while we were out), but each year we find a different neighborhood to drive around.  This year we prepared a mini tour of excessive Christmas decorations.  One house had a great dancing light display.  It was on a cul de sac and there was a steady stream of cars driving past to get a look.  We all agreed that if we lived next door to the guy we'd hate him.

The big toy this year is Beyblade - customizable tops that 'battle' each other.  Owen received a battle arena and two tops.  He immediately, without thinking about it, handed one to Adam and said "This one's yours."  It was very sweet and selfless of him.

January : Owen FINALLY scored a goal for his soccer team!  He never managed to score during the Fall season as he usually played defense and stuck to his position, but he's been moved up to a more active role and finally got his chance.  Incidently, this was against the only team they lost to over the summer.  We stomped them 6-0!

February : The midwest got hit with a massive snow storm that dumped over two feet of snow on us.  Needless to say we all had a couple snow days off from school and work.

March : Owen turned NINE this month!  Unfortunately this took place right in the middle of the ISAT tests.  Owen wasn't too happy.  This year he wanted a proper birthday party and he chose laser tag.  He had quite a lot of kids come and they all had a great time shooting each other.  Last November, when it was Adam's birthday, Owen got very jealous over all the Lego Hero Factory toys that Adam received.  Now the tables have been turned as Owen received a pile of Beyblades for his birthday.  Adam grew increasingly jealous and upset each time Owen opened a new one.

Owen's winter (indoor) soccer season came to a close with his team coming in first place, one tie, zero losses, eleven wins.  Before one game I told Owen in mock sternness that I expected TWO goals from him.  He managed to score during the first half and I yelled out "You owe me one more!"   During the second half a kid on the opposing team was playing rough and kicked his legs out from under him.  For the first time we were given a penalty kick - just Owen against the goalie.  Owen's been doing a lot of penalty kick practice in the back yard with Adam and he had no problem scoring his second goal!  Next game he said he was going to get a hat trick (3 goals) and we told him not to be so cocky.

April : We're writing this right at the end of Spring Break.  For the first time both of the boys had their breaks at the same time!  We decided to take a mini vacation and spent a couple of days up in Lake Geneva, WI and stayed at an indoor water park.  The boys had a ball.  Neither can swim yet but they had life jackets on hand.  The pools weren't deep enough for Owen to need one but we put one on Adam and he happily floated around for hours.

General stuff : Adam is having a great year in kindergarten.  He is exceeding in just about everything and is in the advanced reading class.  He's settled into a specific routine after school of play time, lunch, a little tv, and computer time which keeps him busy and happy until Owen comes home from school to which chaos takes over.  He has also lost to two front teeth!

Owen has been having a challenging year at school.  We believe he is in the top third grade class at his school and, as such, the demands on him are greater (as mentioned earlier with the ISAT testing).  For his first two quarters he received a Below grade in one area but he's brought that up to a Meets level for third quarter.

We continue to have battles with Owen and his confidence.  He refuses to try something new.  Anything.  I suggested he was old enough to ride his bike around the block by himself and he looked at me as if I just asked him to swallow a dozen goldfish.  He also gives up very easily if something is the least bit difficult.

- Six pages of photos!
- Art Club for both Owen and Adam!
- News on Monty on Monty's page!