Thursday, September 16, 2010

FREE Preschool!

For the past 4 weeks (with more consistency than my shower routine), Kirsten marches with Allison (and occasionally Cienna) down to the basement every day right after morning devotional to start Preschool. She has a colorful table set up next to a bookcase full of school supplies.  (After a few days of sensing her seriousness, and after she cleaned the toys off of the nearby shelves herself, I happily handed over most of the family puzzles, letter games, coloring books, crayons, etc. and assisted Miss Smith in organizing her new classroom shelves to her liking.)Sept 2010 180

And for at least an hour, I hear my daughters singing songs, reviewing letter sounds, counting, and playing games together. The other day I saw Miss Smith take her class outside for a field trip to collect leaves in the backyard. Then they sat on the trampoline with their clipboards and colored leaf books, giggled, jumped, played duck-duck-goose, and giggled some more.   Sept 2010 107Sept 2010 123Sept 2010 122

And at the end of every day of preschool, Allison marches back up the basement stairs, announces, “I’m home from pre-cool!” and shows me the sticker her teacher gave her that day (and sometimes a coloring page or two). And even though Cienna bounces between me (who plays teacher with the boys while all of this is going on) and the preschool festivities throughout the morning, she always manages to be in on the action when stickers are passed out.   

Twice I have received written progress reports on how my girls are doing. Miss Smith wrote, “Allison is a gud stoodent. Cienna is a gud stoodent too.” And the next day, “Allison and Cienna wer olsoe good in this dae too. I love hou thae liket the games.”

And during the formal sit-down parent/teacher conference with Miss Smith, I was informed that Allison knows all of her letters and sounds quite well…except for “y” and sometimes “w,” she’s learning to sound out 3-letter words, and she can count up to 100, but needs significant help after she gets past 13. Miss Smith is a little concerned about Allison’s occasional goofy behavior, which only improves if Miss Smith promises to play “The Betsy Game” (a pretend game that lasts another hour with Mother (Kirsti), Sister (Allison), Baby Betsy (doll), and Lacy (a toy dog)) after preschool is over.     

Miss Smith said Cienna knows some shapes and colors, loves to sing “Wheels on the Bus,” and can repeat any letter or number, but can’t count on her own yet…I should assist her in lengthening her attention span and encourage more consistent attendance if I want to see improvement in math.   

I’ve heard Kirsten say that she’d like to be a teacher some day. (I think she’ll have 12 years experience before going to college.)Sept 2010 181

I’ve heard Allison proudly tell many random people, “I go to Pre-cool, and Kirssi is my teacher.” Sept 2010 194

And, yes, Pajama Day comes around quite often at this school. 

I’ve seen Cienna perched in a chair at the colorful table vigorously coloring away, only glancing up to ensure she’s still accurately mimicking her fellow classmates. Sept 2010 195

And I’ve also heard Kirsten proclaim more than once and in a very serious tone, “Even though preschool is down in the basement where we play some of our other games, it’s not a game. It’s for REAL.”

Sept 2010 185

And it’s all FREE!!

It seems to be a winning educational experience for all parties involved. 

I’ve heard President Obama talk about the need for educational reform…I wonder if there are any other first-graders and preschoolers out there who would like to band together with Miss Smith and take this revolutionary preschool idea to Washington.

I would back them up.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

To the EAST and To the WEST

Hello again!

Though we've had a long drought in posting updates, please be assured that besides a rare summer stomach flu (which managed to hit all 7 of us and may have been related to the salmonilla outbreak a few weeks ago) we have NOT dropped off the face of the earth, but have instead enjoyed a summer full of swimming, playing, Six Flags Great America-ing, visiting with friends and relatives, and traveling nearly coast to coast (via mini-van without DVD player).

Here are the brief stats of our summer adventures...
Total miles driven: 5546.38 miles
Number of hours in the car: 87 hours, 48 minutes
Number of states visited: 17 States + Ontario, Canada
Total $$ in parking tickets issued (all in NYC): $200 ($90 was refuted by the accused)
Approx. $$ spent on tolls (all East of the Mississippi....hmmm): $60
Number of family and friends visited: We lost track...over 100

Number of hours spent in swim suits: 40 (except for Cienna who spent more like 1000 hours in her swim suit because it was one of the obsessions that come as part of the "Nearly-2-Virus")

Favorite new rides at GA this summer: Brent: Superman; Amy: Raging Bull; Kenny: Raging Bull, front row; Diggy: Giant Drop; Kirsti: The Whizzer; Allison: Dorothy's Rosie Teacups; Cienna: Yogi's Yahoo River (aka long as the song "Move it, Move It" was playing in the background)

And the pics...

To The EAST: In May, we explored several Eastern states en route to a fabulous LDS home-school conference in Virginia.

First Stop: Kirtland, Ohio. My little history buffs and I loved seeing and feeling the spirit of the early pioneers.

We LOVED Newel K. Whitney's store where Joseph and Emma Smith lived for a short time.

Second Stop: Niagra Falls, NY and (after walking across the connecting bridge) Canada.

Brent took the older kids on the Maid of the Mist.

Third Stop: The Sacred Grove in Palmyra, NY.

On a peaceful spring Sunday morning before church, we found beauty all around filled our insides, too.

Fourth Stop: NYC, NY.

Our stroll through Central Park with Kirsten's namesake (my BYU roommate, Kirsten) was quite a contrast from the Sacred Grove...but yet another place to observe millions of God's Creations. Kenny even left his watch in Central Park overnight and it was STILL THERE the next morning! (But we would've traded the $200 in parking tickets for a stolen watch any day...except for the fact that a happy 9-year-old is priceless.)

We visited the World Trade Center site and rode the ferry past the Statue of Liberty.

I wonder what the man going up the escalator is thinking...his expression is representative of the MANY looks we received upon arriving in the Big Apple...a big place with lots of LITTLE spaces, most of which a family of 7 with a BIG double stroller barely fit (like our hotel elevator where we had to fold the stroller up in order to close the door...and half the family had to wait for another elevator).

Whose children are running through the fountain in their clothes?? So many crazy things happen in NYC!

Fifth Stop: Wilmington, DE.

We rested. We played with second cousins. We ate ice cream. The girls played with doll houses. The boys caught a skunk. We all watched Adam carefully, and oh so bravely, release the skunk.

Kirsten and Olivia.

Sixth Stop: Washington, D.C.

By the time we made it to Washington, D.C. (which was the hottest day of the May trip), even the White House wasn't as exciting as the sprinklers that happened to come on as we were resting our sore feet and deciding which monumental attractions to skip because we just couldn't walk another site-seeing step. DC will have to be the first stop next time. :)

Seventh Stop: Buena Vista, Virginia

At the end of the East Coast Trip, we met Cody and Utahna Albright (who drove up to VA from Mississippi with their 3 kids) at the LDS home-school conference on the Southern Virginia Campus. Brent and Cody (childhood BFFs) played for 2 days with the 8 kids while Utahna and I attended classes all day and swapped notes into the night.
The men and the kids visited a drive-through safari, which seemed like a great opportunity for a family of animal lovers to get up-close and personal with a variety of beasts. But when the "wild" animals, who are conditioned to charge at every vehicle window in search of buckets full of food, started licking the windows, the great adventure turned into a living nightmare for the majority of the Smith kids. No wonder Cienna was VERY scared of Bugs Bunny at Great America a few weeks later.

After a 10-day trip and saying good-bye to dear friends...we drove straight home.

And to the WEST:

I have my mother to thank for the success of this trip. She accompanied me as the driver of the mini-van trek across I-80. Due to work constraints, Brent flew in for just a few days for his brother's wedding in Salt Lake City.

My Mom and I had a great time chatting, visiting several of her siblings along the way in Iowa and Colorado (who fed us and gave us warm beds to sleep in), listening to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," feeding the kids suckers (the only reason Allison and Cienna were counting down until "The Long Car Ride"), examining liscense plates, and tolerating the kids' discovery that truck drivers enjoy honking at children who excitedly pump their arms up and down up against their windows.

A Utah trip also means we get to visit with my brother, Brian, and his wife Ashley. And the kids get to play with cousin Kylie!

Kylie has the perfect huge bean bags in her basement for playing "Belly Flops."

Brent's brother, Kevin (and new wife Brigette), got married on Aug. 3 in the Salt Lake City, UT Temple. It was a privilege to witness their true love and happiness. Congrats to the newlweds!

Kirsten admired Brigette's dress while Kenny and Diggy admired Kevin's taste in picking a beautiful bride.

Cienna and her Daddy outside the Salt Lake Temple

A Thousand Thanks to all who housed us and fed us!!