It's time for that great American tradition, the patriotic class performance! I wonder at what age we all learned these tunes? Here at Mary Munford, first grade is the time and the back porch is the place. Many American standards were featured, and a couple of newer tunes, too.
Griff is behind the pianist in the photo above. Look below. See, there he is, between Mia and Savannah!
The teachers sat right in front of their classes to cheer them on and remind them of lyrics. (You can see that there's a beach towel over the piano here, on the left: it has the names of all the states and I could see kids reading it during "50 Nifty United States".) Ms. Mallory is so sunshiny.
My friend Sophia (Savannah's mom) looking on.
The school calendar sets June 22 as the official last day of school, but teachers are clearly wrapping things up and this was the last real function of the year. Ms. Mallory was encouraging families to let her know when their child's last day would be - apparently some families were opting to make the 18th their last day, and she seemed to think this was a good idea, as all class parties and lessons and everything would be wrapped up by Friday. Griff and I conferred with her and agreed that his last day would also be Friday. So this is pretty much it for first grade. It has been a great year for Griff!
My one and only chaperoning gig this year...acting as one of the adults on the first grade trip to Maymont. I wasn't sure what to expect - would we be inspecting the animals, visiting the nature center? Picnicking on the hillside? The experience was most like a hike, keeping 25 kids (in Ms. Mallory's class...there were at least two other classes in the park, too) moving from Italian garden to Japanese garden, past the bears, through the wild birds, up the hill to the petting zoo, and right through to the trees on the other side, where we lunched and then hopped back on the buses.
Sabot has a lovely tradition called "Pencil Night," when parents come and decorate a pencil for their child(ren) - a gold pencil for each child who will be moving on to another school the following year, and a silver pencil for each child who will be returning to the school next year. When Griff was a Garden Room child (his first year), parents actually decorated the pencils themselves, creating ornate tags connected to the pencils or incorporating the pencils into a piece of paper sculpture. One parent created a pencil ballerina and another surrounded her son's pencil with a folded-paper fire truck. Apparently the creativity had become a little competitive/stressful, so the following year, the teachers introduced a new tradition: the parents would work together to create a display for the children on one of the play tables, then each would write a note to his or her child on a card provided by the teachers, to which a photo of the parents' collaborative creation would be attached. The pencils would be attached to the card later.
One common theme that has emerged in the parents' displays is creating representations of the school grounds using the materials provided by the teachers. This year, Reese's class in the Rainbow Room has been going out into the forest every day and each child has chosen one part of the forest as "their spot". They have been drawing, photographing, painting, and embroidering representations of their spots. We parents created a diorama of the school and forest, making sure to incorporate our children's favorite spots.
The morning after pencil night, the children discover the work their parents have done. Here is Reese showing Xander a tiny stop sign on a popsicle-stick playground fence.
Trees along the creek, represented with a blue playsilk. The picnic shelter featured tiny tables and a ceiling fan. Black rubber stood in for the parking lot. Not seen here: tiny liriope plants made from grass and clay, arranged in the spiral of the labyrinth.
Fairies inside the culvert; a stick wound with twine, used by the children to measure distances in the forest.
I'm super, super proud of Griff. He's one open-minded, confident kid.
He and I were in Target and I picked up a hat for myself. He looked up and asked for the pink one. Since I was buying a hat for myself for no reason other than that I liked it, I saw no reason to say no to him, so we both got new hats.
On Monday, he wore it to school. He came home that afternoon and reported that lots of children made fun of him, saying he was wearing a girl's hat, and that nobody was nice about the hat. His spirit did not seem crushed; rather, he seemed annoyed that his classmates were being so idiotic about gender boundaries.
Today, he wore it to school again, undaunted. After school he told me that several people gave him compliments.
THAT is some killer self-esteem. Way to be true to yourself and not let teasing get you down, Griff!
Reese and I arranged with Dillon and his mom for the boys to wear their matching "Feed Me" shirts to school today.
While looking at this picture just now, I considered how unbelievable it is that I never went to preschool, hadn't considered it for my own children until shortly before sending Griffin, and now it is such an important part of our lives!
On one of our sick days, Reese drew a
series of egg shapes that he called "the poisonous bananas". These
bananas apparently live on the playground at the preschool. Some are
white and some are black. Then he started adding faces and bellybuttons
and limbs and soon we had a host of poisonous but very cheerful bananas
"holding hands and walking along". Most of them
have noses below their mouths, and one had a beard. These must be traits specific to
poisonous bananas, because I've never seen a Chiquita or Dole with
features like those. I had also never seen Reese draw figures like these, and was so excited to watch them evolve on the Magnadoodle (of course, on the Magnadoodle!). The first three (bottom center, bottom right, top right) have noses below their mouths, but the top left banana ended up with a nose in the anatomically correct place. Nifty progression!
I asked a teacher today what the "poisonous
bananas" are, and it turns out they are mushrooms that grow on the
playground. I immediately remembered similar fungi that grew in our yard on Burberry Lane one year. They may resemble bananas to children, but not so much to adults.
Griff's class has two traveling mascots: a stuffed Cat in the Hat, and a plush Curious George. Every weekend, two children are randomly selected to take home the toys and document their adventures in a journal. Griff has been hoping that he would get to bring Curious George home, and on Friday, his name was picked! Perfect timing, because he had plans to travel to Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge with my parents and then have an overnight stay at their house.
George attended a soccer game before heading off on his adventure. According to the photographic evidence collected by his handler, they came into close contact with many species, including llamas, camels, water buffalo, deer, zebras, and at least one ostrich.
First game of the season. Griff went up to U8 from U6 this year, which means no more bunchball and tiny goals - the under-8s (over-6s) use regulation-sized fields and goals and learn about playing specific positions. To mark this transition to more serious soccer (a change from our dabbler season in U6 to see if he liked it) I took Griff cleat shopping, a failed expedition that ended with my having to buy three pairs from Zappos, hoping one would fit. Only one did, and as luck would have it, they're the coolest pair, that apparently make him run faster and jump higher.
His team was bested 5-0 (I'm going to fault the league for this - G's team is all 1st graders and this team was mostly bigger, more experienced 2nd graders, no fair!) but their spirits were not dampened.
I wish I could say the same for Dan, who spent much of the game handling a colossal Reese-style meltdown. At least Xander had fun, exclaiming "soccer ball!!!" and showing me his best dribbling skills. The kid is ready to play.
Another first day of school! Today Reese had his first full day this year at Sabot and will be back full-time as of Monday. In a groundbreaking morning for our family, he was the only one of his brothers who was fully on-board with the day's plan (Xander is bummed not to ride the bus; Griff declared himself sick of school after 2 days) and got dressed right down to his new tennis shoes (no Crocs allowed) without a hitch. Here he is, ready to hop into the car with his backpack and lunchbox:
...oh, and brandishing his new stick "gun", too. Lovely. He was pointing it at a neighbor there and I had to suggest that perhaps she might not like being shot at by the neighbor kid. You know, the neighbor kid whose mother was photographing him pointing a weapon at people. Niiice. Have to admit, though, this stick makes a particularly awesome gun.
Back to school: he had a great day, building inside, having a picnic snack on the carpet, and visiting the forest. And apparently he taught his class the Witch Doctor song!
Flexibility is the name of the game now that he has turned the corner from three to four. While he's still our same old creature-comforts Reesie, he's increasingly able to go with the flow, looking forward to going to familiar places, handling new situations with more ease, and changing course and handling frustrations with much more grace. This is not to say that he has become a laid-back and ultra-compliant kid - I'm sure he'll retain his spirit for as long as he lives - but this summer marked a real shift for him in being able to go out and enjoy the world around himself.
Returning to Sabot has thrown a spotlight on the big changes that happened over the last three months: he has had a HUGE language boom, and a surge of confidence and independence. Last week his half-hour visit to his new classroom was probably the most fun date I've had with him, ever. He beamed as he headed straight down the path to his classroom, immediately greeted one of his teachers (Kara, who worked as a social coach in his classroom last year and who has a fantastic bond with Reese) and showed her a dead cicada he had brought, then went and engaged in several different classroom activities. No hesitation, just a total sense of knowing this place and being comfortable there. I noticed that he's interacting more with other kids, and with the materials in the classroom. Kara observed the big jump in language skills and she and I also discovered at the same time that he might be doing some addition - he showed me some magnifying glasses and said something about the five of them, and while I was trying to decide whether to correct him (I only saw three), he said "three here, and two over there. Five magnifying glasses." Huh. Didn't know you could do that, kid!
This afternoon he got a piece of cold pizza out for himself (putting away the box neatly, this is new) and when I asked if there were more, he told me there were three pieces. I got a piece for myself, then asked him: there were three pieces. Reese ate one, Mommy ate one, how many are left? He didn't miss a beat: "one." Nicely done! (No, he hadn't seen the inside of the box.)
Along with this new ability to manipulate numbers is some interest and skill in building. In the last few days he has built long winding railroad tracks and a block configuration he calls a "PacMan maze" after the style of the pathways in the arcade game that he loves to watch us play at New York Deli. This is a big change coming from a kid who has never really shown an interest in construction-type play. Interest in puzzles is starting to appear, interest in body systems, careful balancing of marble runs, and more elaborate pretend-play scenarios.
Reading might also be starting to click. This afternoon while reading a naptime story to Xander, Reese was following along the words with a finger and seems to have the idea of one written word representing one spoken word, even picking out a couple of the words for me when I asked him which word looked like "fuzzy" or "soft". No interest in writing yet, although maybe the sign-in sheet at school will help to encourage that. He does like to spell his name.
I noticed the other day that Reese asks questions in a way that Griff never has. Griff observes and draws conclusions; he connects data points. Reese generates questions, with each answer leading him to a new question. He wants specificity - exact names for things, exact answers to questions - and is quick to determine when facts given to him don't fit a particular situation, and to inquire about it.
The overall sense I get from Reese these days is one of emerging competence and control, and it's really fun to watch this process unfold.
Um, so, the first day of summer vacation was fair-to-sucky, with an overtired mama (going to bed before midnight might be good), cranky younger children (yay, DTAP vaccine), a rainy day, a forgotten preschool playdate, a cancelled later playdate, too little nice interaction, too much touching each other, much screen time...you get the picture. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great, either. So we'll talk about something else: the school photos I've been meaning to scan all year long and didn't get to until tonight. Yay!
This year for the first time we gained experience with both pay-in-advance school photos (Sabot & Munford fall, Munford class photo), speculative packets sent home (Munford spring) and online ordering after the fact (Sabot class photo). The results: I think perhaps I should go into the school photography business. You don't even have to take a good photo, and parents will shell out money! Well, perhaps not this parent. In the future, I think I'll buy only class photos (worth the memories) and take my own portraits.
Poor Reese, can you believe this photo? He bears the marks of his late-October tripping incident, and he's clearly pissed about being asked to sit on this rock and look at the camera. Smile? Smiling is for suckers. Feel my scorn, Picture Man. And below, you'll notice he's the kid refusing to even face the lens. These are the photos that wedding slideshows are made of...
Ok, maybe I will continue ordering these, just a copy for myself. There's something terribly honest about them, isn't there?
Griff didn't fare much better. His fall photo (left) doesn't even look like him! I think perhaps it isn't him. They took his hair and shirt and put them on some other kid. What is that expression, and why did the photographer not, I don't know, crack a joke or something before pressing the shutter? Griff's an easy mark for a knock-knock joke, it's not hard to get a genuine smile. Just try.
Yeah. The more I think of it, the more I'm convinced that's not even Griff.
The spring shot (right) is actually kindof cute - nay, if I dare say, beautiful, in this cheesy and angelic way. He still had his Prince Valiant / Leif Garrett hair and I love having it recorded this way. He suddenly decided to get a short hair cut just a day or so later.
Here's the class photo, including everybody right down to Lily Callis the class pup. She's fairly legendary - when you talk about teachers and Ms. Callis' name comes up, people ask, "is she the one with the dog?"
I wonder what we'll remember when we look back at these in 20 years?
Today was Griff's last day of kindergarten! He's very excited for the summer, happy to get to spend more time with me (and not miss out on adventures I have with his brothers), but also a little sad not to see his friends every day any more.
I went to his classroom with Reese and Xander in tow rather than wait outside to pick Griff up, and got a few snaps of him with his teachers (Ms. Falkes the classroom aide on the left, Ms. Callis on the right). Ms. Falkes is holding up a one: first grade, baby! Can you believe it?
We headed to Bev's with friends for celebratory ice cream. Reese, alas, was having a hard afternoon (following a checkup and vaccinations this morning), and his ice cream wasn't scooping as easily as he wanted, so I ended up not getting much more than a single shot of my friend Jocelyn's daughter Roxie. J grabbed the camera and got some pics of us, though. Here we are in our last day, grumpy-preschooler, celebratory-ex-kindergartener, tired mom, rambunctious toddler glory:
And Griff, holding up a finger in victory. Maybe in first grade the curriculum includes index finger use?
I had no idea I would enjoy it as much as I did! The Mary Munford kindergarten classes put on a great little musical show - five numbers, four of which featured one section of kids dancing up front. Griff's group had a song that included two great jokes, which is just perfect for my riddle-lover. Griff was front and center, although the photos are blurry because I was so far back in the auditorium. A slide show followed featuring something each child loved about kindergarten (hmmm, familiar from their last homework assignment...) Jokes after the snapshots!
What sits on the bottom of the ocean and shakes? A nervous wreck!
Where do fish keep their money? In the River Bank!
This week, full of thunderstorms pressing their hot, humid air upon us, has really felt like summer is not just coming, but here. Do you remember how at the end of the school year, the last few weeks were kindof useless because all everybody was doing was winding down for the actual last day? That's where we are.
For Reese, at least, the last day is over. Sabot's closing circle was today, and what a closing circle it was! It seemed more chaotic than usual, the kids were all chatting so much that it was hard for Irene to keep moving forward with the litany of Sabot songs that steadily lead to singing goodbyes. Perhaps my impressions were shaped by the fact that this time, I was viewing the circle from the inside, in the middle of the kids, rather than standing on the outside, with all the parents. Reese had spotted me on his way in, and expected to leave with me right that moment. The circle was WAY outside his sense of normal routine - outside! on blankets! millions of parents and grandparents and siblings around! He clung to me, would not let go, asked to go home. Hoo, boy. His teacher Sara invited me to join them, so I carried him to their blanket and sat among them, with him plastered to me, the whole time! (More on Reese in another post soon, I think.)
The up side of my awkward position is that it afforded some great shots of the festivities. This was my first day with a new lens, so I'm not bowled over by much of what I got, and I'm chickenshit about taking pictures of people outside my family and close friends (and neglect most of them, too!). Click to enlarge the whole mosaic or go to my Sabot flickr set (anybody can see public files, you must have an account and be marked family/friends to see the rest).
It's really lovely how comfortable this community is to me after three years in it. Here's to three or four more!
(subject line from the Sabot song sung at closing circle every year. *sniff*)