Monday, March 30, 2009

Wishing I was there

The boys (including the Polack) are on spring break this week. This is how I left them this morning.

Nicklas was less than thrilled to have the camera flash shining on him.

Actually, Seeger still has school. But that's only a few hours a day....

And I'm stuck at work.


(I know what you're going to say.... yes, I realize it was only two weeks ago that I spent four days on the beach. But dang - that don't mean I'm immune from being bummed about not getting to hang out with the boys all week.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pinewood Derby

Nicklas participated in his first Pinewood Derby last weekend. It was quite an experience. Some of the boy scout (dads) really go all out. He lost both heats but seemed okay with it. Especially after the races were over when he raced another car and won. He and the Polack are already making plans for next year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The best mom ever...

While I was on vacation last week, Seeger's teacher sent home the following note:

Today during playtime today, I overheard Seeger tell Rylie, "My mom is the best mom ever." I thought you would like to know this!

Heck yeah, I'll take any and all compliments I can get. And I intend to laminate and carry this piece of paper with me for the next 13 years so that anytime Seeger is upset with me about some perceived unfair rule I've set, I can whip it out and remind him how awesome I am.

My boys are 4 and 8 and parenting is still relatively easy - plus they still worship the ground I walk on. But I'm not naive to think it will always be this way. I read Vodka Mom, Suburban Correspondent, and Comparative Childhood. I know what I have ahead of me.

It's just good to know I'll have something in back pocket to whip out some day so my teenagers can roll their eyes even more at me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Update on second grade challenges - part 2

Our meeting with Nick's teacher on Monday also served as our parent/teacher conference. This means we received Nick's report card. Since I've stated that this blog is a record for my children, I'm using this post to document his grades.

I never saved any of my report cards or school papers and I'm always jealous of others who have these documents from their childhood. (Hence the posts about Ben Franklin and Ronald Reagan.) I've decided to post Nick's grades for this semester as well as the reports on his on-task vs. off-task behavior. I've shared the good in our lives but I think it's important to document the struggles. (Like I said before - it's for better or for worse in our household.) So here it goes...

First 9 weeks: 84.4%
Second 9 weeks: 81.3%
Third 9 weeks: 82.1%

First 9 weeks: 89.9%
Second 9 weeks: 84.2%
Third 9 weeks 75%

First 9 weeks: 89.2%
Second 9 weeks: 76.9% (This drop is what prompted our original meeting with Mrs. Teacher.)
Third 9 weeks: no grade yet due to Mrs. Teacher losing his unit test

The students take the NWEA test in the fall, winter, and spring. The spring tests are being administered in April but here are the first two test results.

Fall score: 99 percentile (out of all second graders taking the NWEA test)
Winter score: 96 percentile

Fall score: 89 percentile
Winter score: 72 percentile

Language Usage
Fall score: 92 percentile
Winter score: scores where compiled yet

And now the observations from the special education teacher. I should note that Nicklas had no idea that he was being observed. He still doesn't know. We've explained that Mrs. Teacher has noticed these things as we don't want him to alter his behavior when he's officially being observed. This weekend, I plan to share these numbers (and his grades) with him because I think seeing concrete evidence about his drop in performance will have an impact on him and I'm pretty sure it will motivate him more. (This will all be done in a positive manner so hopefully, it goes well and won't be a detriment to him.)

These observations were meant to be done by a neutral third party. They paint quite an interesting picture of what's going on.

Observation 1: March 4 - Math Class
On task behavior: 67% Peer: 96%
When I entered the room, Mrs. Teacher asked the students to put away their accelerated math work and folders and to get out their homework. Nicklas did not follow the directions at first. Mrs. Teacher had to personally prompt him to get out his homework which he then did. He was the last student to get out his homework. He followed along as the class went over the homework. Then the students were told to put the papers in their mailboxes. Nicklas carried his paper between his legs as he walked over to the mailboxes in a very awkward way. He stopped at three students' desks on the way to the mailbox and at two students' desks on the way back. He was the last student to get back from the mailbox. The students were then instructed to get out glue and scissors. Nicklas was the last student to get out his glue. He could not find his scissors. He followed along as Mrs. Teacher explained some math vocabulary words using the smart board. Mrs. Teacher asked the students to write the vocabulary words on the figure. He played with his glue stuck as Mrs. Teacher continued giving directions. The students were then told to put together a three dimensional square pyramid. Nicklas had great difficulty with this task. He constantly looked at other students to see what they were doing i.e. how they were cutting out the figure, how they were folding the figure, how they were gluing the figure, etc. Mrs. Teacher's aid gave him one on one help three times, and he was still unable to put the figure together. After awhile he appeared to give up on the project and waited for more help. As he sat and waited, he talked to his neighbors about a giant soccer ball, sang a baseball song, "The base of the baseball game," or played with his pencil box. Even after the aid came back to Nicklas for the third time and explained that he needed to fold on the dotted lines, as she had instructed previously, he looked at what the other students were doing. He did not follow the dirctions. When I left the room at the end of the thirty minute observation, his pyramid was still not finished and Mrs. Teacher was moving on to another figure as the rest of the class had completed the pyramid.

(I do want to point out that Nicklas has always struggled with his fine motor skills. Cutting, coloring, tying shoes, doing buttons or snaps, gluing - things like this are very difficult for him. We don't push it, we continue to encourage him and yes, we often end up doing these things for him. We need to stop that and encourage him to keep trying and practicing. I guess I've always felt he would "get it" eventually but it's obviously affecting his school work. My point though is that I don't think he wasn't following directions because he didn't want to. It's more about him not being able to physically do the task.)

Observation 2: March 17: Language Arts
On task behavior: 70% Peer: 93%
When I entered the room, Mrs. Teacher was going over a reading worksheet about inference questions. Nicklas was not raising his hand to answer any of the questions, but he was quiet and looking at the teacher, seeming to be paying attention. The students were then told to put their papers in their mailboxes. He was one of the last students to respond to the verbal prompt and on the way to his mailbox stopped to get a drink and to pick up a paper off the floor. He was one of the last to return to his seat. When he returned to his desk, he was told to put away his reading book. Nicklas and one other student were the only students to still have their books out.

Mrs. Teacher then began teaching about irregular verbs. Nicklas responded chorally to questions about the verbs. While Mrs. Teacher was teaching, he engaged in a number of off task behaviors; playing with a sucker wrapper, scratching his head as he looked off in space, staring off into space, playing with his pencil grip, looking around, and sitting sideways in his desk and looking at a book. After Mrs. Teacher finished teaching about the topic, she handed out a worksheet for the students to do independently. She specifically told students not to look at other students' papers. Nicklas did not get started right away on his work. He waited a few minutes before starting. He did glance around at other students' papers when he started. It did not appear that he was looking at answers, just looking to see what they were doing. While working, he looked around the room and looked at other children who were reading books since they had already finished the worksheet. When he was finished, he got out a book to read and read quietly. When all the students completed the worksheet, Mrs. Teacher went over the paper with the class. during this time Nicklas was off task doing many of the same things mentioned before: playing with a wrapper, playing with his nose, staring in space and talking to a student at another desk grouping when he was supposed to be sharing a sentence with his neighbor.

Nicklas appeared tired today. He yawned frequently and seemed to open his eyes very big numerous times, as if trying to wake himself up.

(Note to self: Nicklas needs more sleep. I can hear my mom saying, "I told you so" right now.)

Observation 3: March 19 - Language Arts
On task behavior: 62% Peer 96%
Nicklas was taking an AR quiz on the computer when I entered the room. He finished the quiz and then put his print out into the tray. He took a long time to accomplish this. He paused at the tray as he put his paper in it. Then he took a very circuitous route back to his desk, walking around the room. He then got to his desk, but he did not sit down. He stared at another student doing her work for about a minute. Then, he got out his Harry Potter book and started to read. Mrs. Teacher then directed the class to get out their reading papers. Nicklas did this right away. Next the students were directed to exchange their papers with a table mate. Ge did this right away also. Nicklas had to redo his paper as hr did not use capital letters at the beginning of sentences. As he was redoing his paper, he played with a scrap of paper on his desk. He also was trying to read a book over his neighbor's shoulder as she read when he was supposed to be redoing his work. He finally finished his paper and brought it to the teacher, so she could check it. Again, he did not use a capital letter to begin a sentence, so he had to redo the paper again. He had ample time to check over his work to make sure that used capital letters and periods, and the class received numerous reminders from Mrs. Teacher regarding the use of capital sand periods, but he still did not not do the paper correctly. As he was redoing the paper again, he continuously stopped working in order to read over his neighbor's shoulder. Most of his off task behavior consisted of this. He also stared around the room at various times and talked to a neighbor when he was supposed to be working. He did finished the paper and got it checked by the teacher's aid. It was done correctly the third time. While the teacher's aid was talking to Nicklas about his paper, he walked away. She had to tell him to come back and listen until she was finished. He then went back to his desk to read his Harry Potter book, but he again stopped reading his own book many times in order to read over the shoulder of the girl next to him.

Nicklas did not seem tired today, but he did open his eyes very big numerous times during half hour I was there.

So there it is, folks. What do you think is going on?

Update on second grade challenges

I've been meaning to post an update with what's going on with Nicklas and issues at school. A lot has happened in the past three weeks and I think I'm just overwhelmed with everything. On top of that, I'm still trying to figure out how much to share. Not that's it's bad. It's just.... well.... I don't know how personal I want to get on such a public forum.

After thinking it over I realized that the primary purpose of this blog has been to document life for my children as they're growing up. Someday, they're going to read my words and envision their childhood. They'll get to relive memories - for better or worse. Hopefully they'll understand me a little bit better as well as learn how their lives were shaped. As parents, we don't always do everything right. We make mistakes. I'm sure things I've done things and recorded in this blog that document both the good and bad in my parenting. But hopefully, they'll realize that no matter what, I'm doing my best and my actions reflect that I was making what I thought was the best decision at that time.

(Whoa, I'm getting a little deep here and that's not the purpose of this post. I digress so let's get back to the topic at hand... Nick's progress at school.)

If you'll recall, we met with his teacher three weeks ago to discuss why his grades are dropping. The meeting didn't start off well. His teacher expresses her concerns. We expressed our concerns. She asked us how to proceed. We stared at her with blank looks (while wanting to shout I HAVE NO IDEA, YOU'RE THE ONE WITH HIM ALL DAY. YOU SHOULD TELL US WHAT TO DO!!!) After several minutes of back and forth, we decided to bring the principal in. What a relief! His principal has been great. She helped us come up with a plan and has had great suggestions for moving forward.

So here's a (not so) quick recap:
Nicklas was observed by a special education teacher who rated his on task vs. off task behavior compared to a peer. (On task: behavior 67%, off task behavior: 33% - his peer scored 96% on task.) Her report indicates that Nicklas is distracted easily and doesn't always follow directions. He starts off with paying attention (while his teacher is talking, while completing an assignment, while following directions) but eventually drifts off. (Into never, never land - my words, not hers.) He is usually the last to finish projects/papers, not because he's struggling but because he's more interested in what his classmates are doing/what's going on out in the hall/what's happening inside his desk/etc. He often gets a faraway look, starts talking/singing about something (generally sports related) or plays with objects around him (pencil box/glue stick/paper/chair/etc.)

Dr. Principal explains this is common with GT children and she thinks Nicklas is very creative and is spending his time composing fantasy worlds in his mind rather then paying attention. Because he's well behaved and rarely gets into trouble, this behavior has generally gone unnoticed. (This is a little unnerving to me and I grew exceedingly impatient with his teacher who kept explaining she has 8 problem children in the classroom that she generally focuses her attention on. Not what I want to hear. I realize 26 kids is a lot for one classroom but she does have a teaching assistant to help and darn it, Nicklas grades have become some of the lowest in the class. Frustrating.) Anyway, Dr. Principal suggested we start looking at the bigger picture and eliminating possible causes for this behavior. Is it an problem with eyesight? Is there a medical reason? Is it related to lack of sleep or diet? Is he watching too much tv? Or has he just developed bad habits?

We've determined it's not eye sight. Cross that off the list. Next week, he has an appointment with his pediatrician. We've started keeping a log of his sleep/food/electronic media habits and we've been documenting how homework time goes each day. (Sometimes its good, other times, not so much.)

The biggest thing that came out of the meeting was a plan for behavior modification. I wasn't sure what this meant so Dr. Principal explained that it's creating a system for discreetly letting Nicklas know when he starts to "drift" away from the task at hand. Each morning he starts the day with five post-it notes on his desk. While his teacher is talking, if she notices that he's stopped paying attention, she'll remove one of the post-it notes. This will be a signal to him to keep paying attention. Each day, we receive a note from her with the number of post-it notes he has left.

It's been almost three weeks and so far it's going well. We've done our best to explain to Nicklas that we want to help him be a better learner, that paying attention is important and will help him perform better. He knows we're serious and it's important to him (he wants to please us and do his best.)

(Plus seeing that Dr. Principal joined the meeting made him realize the seriousness of what we're saying to him.)

We met again on Monday to see how it's going. So far, it's going well. Mrs. Teacher has seen a noticeable improvement with his attention span while she's teaching. There have been days when one or two notes have been pulled but he's definitely making an effort. His principal was happy with this as it means he wants to improve and do better.

The not so good news? He was observed two more times and he's still scoring low with on task behavior (a 70% and a 62%). This isn't happening when his teacher is talking - it's more when she isn't. When he's supposed to be doing his worksheets or handing in a paper or reading a book. So we're taking it to step two. His teacher is now going to start pulling post-it notes when he's off task with general classroom activities. Hopefully, this will make a difference. We're meeting again in four weeks to see how it goes.

I realize this is a long post. I have more to share and will have another post coming soon...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Madness

Every year the Polack and his buddies gather at the local b-dubs to celebrate what many consider a national holiday.... the NCAA men's basketball playoffs. They commandeer a few tables in the corner of the bar that are right in front of a large screen tv and have three smaller tv's surrounding it. This allows them to watch every single game of the first round. Yes, you read that correctly. Every. Single. Game. And they have a blast. It's become tradition, with co-workers, family, and other friends popping in and out to participate in the festivities. (Festivities may or may not include making fun of "bracket rooters" and a strange fixation with potatoes on a string.) After watching all 32 games (with strategic bathroom breaks during commercials), the boys end the evening with a montage on impersonations of the mascots of all lower seeded teams that won their games. This is generally quite entertaining, even to those of us who aren't under the influence. Although I did video this years montage, the quality was pretty poor so I won't be sharing it with you. Instead I'll share a tame photo from day two.

Although I didn't formally enter a pool this year, I did fill out my brackets. Unlike every other year, I'm actually doing well with it. And the Polack has included the tournament (as well as some prop bets) in his 2009 predication league where I'm also holding my own for once.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Girl's trip

If you feel I've been neglecting my blog lately, well then... you're correct. It's not due to lack of activity - quite the contrary! I was fortunate enough to spend last week on the beach with my bestest gal pals. We enjoyed four days of sun, sand, and margaritas. As much as I missed the Polack and our boys, I have to say the vacation was just what I needed. I've never done a girls trip before. It was so much fun and a nice break from all the responsibility and every day activity of the Kubatski household.

(Although I did feel a twinge of guilt when the Polack sent me an email detailing one evening - soccer practice and a boy scout meeting while fitting in homework, dinner, and time to sand and paint Nick's pinewood derby car. All while Freddie was suddenly refusing to relieve himself outside. Thank goodness for the margaritas which mysteriously eliminates guilt. Who knew?)
Although most of the trip was spent on the beach, there were some note able highlights:
Renting a waverunner and close encounters with two dolphins.
Drinks on the beach.
A bit of shopping (once we finally found the mall).
Drinks at Crabby Bill's.
Jamming to a certain popster-who-shall-remain-nameless.
Drinks at VIP.
A tour of the drugstore to find a special toys to play with.
Drinks at the spinning bar on top of the hotel.
Catching the hotel "band" and shouting out song requests.
Drinks at the cabana.
Rocking it out with the old folks.
Drinks in the hotel room.
Following the drama of a hotel guest who fell from the sixth floor.
Drinks in the parking lot while waiting to be seated for dinner.
A visit to the tattoo place. (For the record, I did NOT get a tattoo. But multiple people I vacationed with did.)

Thanks for the vay-cay, girlies!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Biography of Ben Franklin

In a November post, I mentioned Nicklas's first independent project for the school year. I included a photo of the poster he created but didn't post his actual paper. And since I posted the Ronald Reagan paper last week, I'm sure you've been hoping I would post the Ben Franklin paper too. Fear not, I'm here to serve!

(Are my attempts at sarcasm coming through? Just wondering.)

(Okay, I'll shut up and get on with it.)

A Biography of Ben Franklin
By Nicklas

Ben Franklin was born on January 17 1706 on Milk Street in Boston Massachusetts.

It was hard to live on Milk Street with 16 brothers and sisters. Ben was the 10th out of 17.

In his childhood Ben always promised to work somewhere until he was 21 but he never did it.

Once his dad told him NOT to work for a man who is named Sir William Keith.

Even though he did NOT go to school for very long, Ben read many books and was very, very smart. He learned about printing and newspapers after taking over for his brother who went to jail.

Ben died on April 17 1790.

Ben did many jobs even though he was mostly famous for being a scientist/inventor.

There are two mistakes (that I know of) that Ben made.
Number 1 - As a 17 year old he made a mistake of running away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Number 2 - At age 21 he made the mistake of going to England to get some printing supplies. Little did Ben know that it was a trap and he had to stay in England. I think that would be tough, wouldn’t you?

In 1779 his wife died when he was in London.

He was smart, very smart even though he didn’t go to school for very long.

Many thought he was a hero.

Ben was the one who discovered electricity by flying a kite. On a stormy day it got hit by a lightning bolt. This changed the whole world (he did not invent the light bulb that was Thomas Edison in 1879.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another meme...

Here's another one going around Facebook. I posted there but thought I should share via blog so my kids forever have documentation on their mother's musical tastes...

My 15 Influential Albums...

1. John Cougar Mellencamp - Uh-Huh
This was the first album I ever purchased. I think I wanted to buy Michael Jackson's Thriller but my dad talked me into this since "Johnny is a Hoosier". I was easily influenced and since I'd seen him on American Bandstand I bought it. I still have memories of listening to it with my dad who loved the lyric "I remember when you could stop a clock" from Pink Houses. He said it reminded him of my mom. That's a little depressing...

2. Michael Jackson - Thriller
Again, my dad tried to talk me out of this. I think he wanted me to buy Don Henley or something. But I held my ground and I'm so glad I did.

3. Prince - Purple Rain
I bought this album after hearing it at a friends house. At the time, I didn't understand the lyrics to Darling Nikki. I was so naive growing up!

4. Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell, Side 2
This was my dad's album and he used to listen to it all the time. I knew every lyric on side two by the time I was 6.

5. R.E.M. - Green
R.E.M. was the first concert I ever went to. My best friends brother took us and I think I was in eighth or ninth grade. Most of my friends hadn't heard of R.E.M. so I felt like listening to their music made me feel grown up and part of an elite club of progressive rockers.

6. The Cure's Greatest Hits
I'm still a big fan of The Cure although I don't listen to them nearly as much as I'd like to. In high school, I was always looking for alternative music that shied away from the pop I listened to in middle school (think Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and New Kids on the Block). I definitely got this with The Cure.

7. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
Love, love, love this CD. My dad used to get upset when he heard Add It Up so I'd have to skip that song when he was around. I'm not sure Add It Up is worse than Paradise by the Dashboard Light but I suppose it's more sexually obvious. I copied this CD multiple times for a friend who's mom would take it away everytime she found it. I still listen to it and my kids love it. (Of course I skip track 4.)

8. Indigo Girls - Rites of Passage
I heard Galileo driving home one night after working late at Wendy's when I was 17. I was listening to some alternative music show on a random radio station. I fell in love with the song but unfortunately didn't know the artist or title. A few months later, I was at Shipshewana and was browsing through the cassettes. (Remember when you could buy Shipshewana cassettes for $2.50??) I saw the song titled Galileo and hoped it was the same one I remembered from the radio. It was and I wore that tape out. Later that summer, I had an exchange student from France live with me for a month. We would drive down 427 belting out the lyrics to Chicken Man.

9. Nirvana - Nevermind
This CD epitomizes the lost of innocence in my life. (For no particular reason, it's just that I did a lot of growing up during it's popularity.)

10. INXS - Kick
Every single song on this CD is outstanding.

11. Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said
This CD taught me about falling in and out of love.

12. Alanis Morrisette - Jagged Little Pill
To me, this CD seemed so raw, so truthful. I appreciated that.

13. Indigo Girls - 1200 Curfews
This would be the one CD I'd choose if I was stranded on a deserted island.

14. Mighty Blue Kings - Meet Me At the Uptown
This is the CD and type of music (swing) I was in to when I fell in love with my husband. He and I will always have a special place in our lives for the Mighty Blue Kings.

15. The Fratellis - Costello Music
I've been listening to a lot of pop music lately. (Think Fergie, Katy Perry, Britney, etc.) I'm embarrassed by this because I used to be so INTO music. But as I grow older, I'm less likely to explore what's out there. When I get interested in a musician or album, I really invest myself. And with a life consumed with my family, my career, and everything else, I just don't have the energy to really develop and expand my musical horizons. Instead, I opt for easy. The Fratellis are anything but easy and they signify that I can still rock it out when I'm so inspired.

Honorable mentions: Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Against the Wind; Willie Nelson, Always on My Mind; Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Greatest Hits; They Might Be Giants, Apollo 18; Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces; No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom; Steve Miller Band, Greatest Hits 1974-1978; Rave Til Dawn.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free Compliments

Several months ago, I was walking across campus to a meeting when I saw a random student standing outside a building, shouting things out to people walking by. I didn't pay much attention but as I passed him, he shouted "nice purse" to me. I had just bought the purse and loved it so I was excited someone noticed. "Thanks," I said and noticed he was a holding a sign that said Free Compliments. What I great idea, I thought and I always smile when I think back to that memory.

It turns out this wasn't a one time thing. This student and his friend have been giving out compliments on a regular basis. And tomorrow they're being featured on Oprah.

Super. Cool. Check it out.

Seeger's story

Apparently, Nicklas isn't the only one with school projects to share. After going through Seeger's school papers the other day, I came across this note from his teachers:

Dear Parents,
We have started a new activity in the Pre-K room. If the children want to, they can tell a story to the teachers. We then write what they say word for word. If your child tells us a story we will copy it and send it home.

This is a great activity to build language skills. They may have a one sentence story or it may be a page long. They are proud of their stories and we hope you enjoy reading them.

Please remember we don't make the children tell us a story. So if you don't receive a copy of your child's story it just might mean they were not in the mood. Enjoy!

Of course Seeger wasn't short on words. Can you guess what his first story was about?

"Once upon a time there was a little engine. His name was Thomas. He was going to a water tower. A big engine named Henry was going to get coal. There is a big engine named Gordon. He was pulling the Express. And that's the end."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sunday Night Dinner

The Polack family has re-established the Sunday Night Dinner. It will be great to see each other more regularly and of course the cousins will love the get togethers. Last Sunday was yummy grilled chicken and bacon wrapped asparagus. Yum. We caught the little ones in a cute moment and luckily I had my camera ready.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Freddie's first vet appt

Freddie made it through his first appointment with the vet. He weighed in at 4 lbs. 8 oz. Nicklas came with me to help comfort him and Freddie did well despite minor bleeding from his shots. (I can't say the same for Nicklas who had to cover his eyes during the shots. Nor can I say the same about me when I saw the $250 bill.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Get Fit update

The Get Fit Challenge is going well. Our initial goal was to lose 10% of our body weight. The Polack hit that last week. Me? Well, I'mthisclose. Only 0.6 lbs. to go! Most importantly, we're eating healthy and we're much more active than we've previously been. We're both getting lots of positive comments from family and friends (which is nice but a bit awkward) but for us, it's about being healthy and being good role models for our kids. Hopefully, we'll keep it up.

Second grade independent project

The second independent project Nicklas had to complete for the school year was a paper and dramatic presentation on a President or First Lady. He chose Ronald Reagan. Overall, I think he did well on the paper. He was challenged to write two pages, single spaced and was successful (with a lot of encouragement from me). For the dramatic presentation, the students were divided into four days with 6-7 student presentations every day. They had to give a 4-8 minute presentation as their character and couldn't use note cards. Nicklas volunteered for the first day and his teacher was very complimentary of his performance as well as the fact that he volunteered to go first for the group. Talking and performing in front of a group is something he's definitely comfortable with. The last day of the week, parents and friends were invited to the school gym where students were stationed throughout and would recite their presentation. They all did a great job! I was impressed with the detail of some and enjoyed seeing those who dressed up for their part. (Nicklas dressed up for his original presentation but not Friday's open house.)

The Story of Ronald Reagan

by Nicklas

Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911. His parents were going to call him Donald but instead called him Ronald because one of his mom’s sisters beat her to the name. His mom, Nelle, was a charity worker and his dad, Jack (his real name was John), was a shoe store worker. In Reagan’s childhood he had to move seven times to six different cities but all of them in Illinois.

He went to Dixon High School where he wanted to play football. He made the football team but was too small so for the first couple of years he played on a team for smaller players. He grew over the summer and then played for the regular football team. His mom encouraged him to do acting at his church. Then he did it everywhere because he loved it. He became a lifeguard when he was in high school. His favorite number was 77 because it’s the number of people he saved in the seven years he was a lifeguard.

He went to Eureka College. In his junior year, him and the drama club went to a one-act play competition at Northwestern University, home of the Northwestern Wildcats. They made second place in the competition and Reagan was one of the three who received an award. One person even asked him if he wanted to make acting his career!

After he graduated, he worked for the University of Iowa football team as an announcer. He went to a lot of Big 10 games. He became an announcer because he wanted to go to Hollywood but didn’t have enough money. Then he worked as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs. He did this in Iowa but people thought he was around the Chicago area. Instead he would receive telegraphs from the actual announcer at the Cubs games. Then he moved to California. First he became an actor and became governor of California at age 54.

His first wife was Jane Wyman. They were married on January 16, 1940. With her they had two daughters but one died after being a day old. Their two daughters were named Maureen and Christine. Then they adopted a boy named Michael. They got divorced. Then he married Nancy Davis on May 4, 1952. They had two children, one boy and one girl named Ron and Patti. Both of his wives were actors.

He is famous for being an actor and for being the 40th President of the United States of America. He was President 1981-89. And he is famous for being Governor of California.

Just 69 days after he became President, Ronald Reagan got shot by John Hinckley Jr. Luckily he survived, but he did not get out of the hospital for 12 days. He joked, “I forgot to duck.”

Ronald Reagan liked to entertain. He was smarter in high school but didn’t do as well in college. He was on the high school and college football team and he liked to act. He started out as a Democrat but turned into a Republican when he was governor and President.

His parents influenced him. His mom and older brother influenced him to become an actor and his brother also influenced him to play football. His wife Nancy told him to run for president.

In high school and college he acted in plays which prepared him for Hollywood. As an announcer he learned to speak out. As Screen Actors Guild President, he learned how to become a leader which helped him to become the President of the United States of America.

He said he made a mistake as governor of California by signing a paper that allowed more abortions to happen. Later, he wished that he wouldn’t have signed the paper. Some people think that Ronald Reagan did not do a good enough job treating African-Americans respectively. And some people think that he didn’t do a good job in fixing the laws for immigrants. When he was President, he didn’t know enough of the details of what his staff was doing.

Many know who he was either for being president or for being an actor. You can ask one person and they might think he’s the worst President or you can ask another person and they might think he was the best.

Before he was President, Jimmy Carter was President. And after he was President, George H. W. Bush was President.

Ronald Reagan won his first vote for President and here was the score of electoral votes: Ronald Reagan, 189, Jimmy Carter, 49, John Anderson, 0. In the second run for President, Ronald Reagan got 525 and Walter Mondale got 13.

Nancy Reagan did a campaign about not doing drugs and alcohol because more people were doing drugs and alcohol. The campaign was called Just Say No To Drugs. And she kept telling people, “Say yes to life but when it comes to drugs and alcohol, just say no.” I believe that Ronald Reagan was impressed by this.

Ronald Reagan liked jellybeans. I wonder what his favorite flavor was? As a child his nickname was Dutch because when he was born his dad thought he looked like a fat little Dutchman. As President his nickname was the Gipper because of a movie he acted in. He was in a famous movie call Knute Rockne. One of his most famous movies was Bedtime for Bonzo. It was made in 1951. He was the oldest President and the only one to get divorced so far. He died June 5, 2004. Before he died he had Alzheimer’s disease.

I think he was great because he was a President. I don’t think he was the best but I think he was a good one. I like him because he was an actor and I like movies. In 1985, Ronald Reagan went to the movie theater to watch the movie Back to the Future Part I. In the movie there is a funny joke about Reagan. When Reagan heard the joke, he told the people running the movie to rewind it so he could watch that part again. I don’t think the other people in the movie theater liked that. I like the Movie Back to the Future so that’s why I picked Ronald Reagan.


Encyclopedia of President – Ronald Reagan by Zachary Kent
Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times by David Rubel

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Super Seeger Galaxy

I went to pick up Seeger from preschool the other day (a rare treat) and one of his teachers made an effort to stop me and let me know how much she enjoys Seeger's stories about Mario and the Princess. Apparently during playtime, he pretends he's Mario from the Wii game, Super Mario Galaxy. He runs fast in small steps and his arms swing back and forth. Then his hand hits his chest and all of a sudden, he's paused. After a few seconds, his hand hits his chest again and he's unpaused and starts running around again so he can save the Princess.

I think it's time to cut back on the Wii.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ronald Reagan presentation

In the midst of school troubles for Nicklas (which aren't really affecting him because he has no idea the Polack and I have been talking to his teacher recently about his struggles), we received some positive feedback from his teacher today.

The class has been working on their second independent project. They were asked to choose a President or First Lady to research and then were required to write a two page paper (answering 10 guiding questions) and do a dramatic portrayal of their subject. Nicklas chose Ronald Reagan.

(We were a bit disappointed as we would have loved him to pick FDR, Kennedy, Obama, Clinton, or many others. Of course, his reasoning for Reagan is because his favorite movie is Back to the Future and since it took place in 1985, Reagan is mentioned in the movie. His reasoning wasn't as bad as a classmate who chose James Garfield because she loves Garfield the cat.)

Anyway, he did a good job on his paper (although it was a struggle to get it to two pages, single spaced) which was due yesterday. (At least we think he did well. We'll see what actual grade he gets.) The dramatic portrayals were scheduled for today through Friday. Nicklas felt ready so he volunteered for the first day so he could get it over with. And this morning, I received the following email from his teacher:

Nicklas did a SUPER job with his Ronald Reagan portrayal this morning! I am proud of him!

Not only that, but he was also the brave soul who volunteered to go first. Because of that, I had him choose which Magic School Bus episode for the class to watch today; he was pleased (we watched one about bats).

We are super proud of him and are rewarding him with dinner out tonight so we can celebrate. He gets to pick the restaurant. (Send "no McDonald's" vibes my way, please.)

Second grade - post two

I've calmed down a bit since my last post regarding Nicklas and school work. After rereading his teachers email, I finally sent a response explaining I was surprised with her feedback. I stated that his homework has been going well, I haven't seen evidence of struggles on the papers coming come, nor has he talked about any problems. She replied that she didn't mean to alarm me and that while he has struggled a bit with the recent geometry unit, she and the teaching assistant have been working with him. Her specific feedback:

He seems to be having trouble with following directions, doing some tasks in his journal, copying from the smartboard, etc. He has mixed up "7" and "1" and, when I asked him to take another look at the problem and read it again, repeated the same thing, which is why I asked to have his vision checked. On a couple of occasions, he has required one-on-one help from me or [the teaching assistant] to complete tasks when no one else in the class required help. Of course, that is what I'm here for; I don't mind! If he's able to go on and do homework without any more confusion, then we're taking care of it. It's just that I have wondered about his perceptions re: what is being taught because his responses have been odd, on occasion. Also, I was surprised because it was Nicklas who seemed confused when I would have anticipated it being other, less strong math students instead, and they were not having difficulties. Maybe Nicklas is just marching to his own different drummer; if he ends up knowing the material, that is the goal and we should not be concerned.

We will discuss this more during the meeting we have scheduled where I also want to look at the work and grades she has for him for the current nine week period. We were able to get his observation with the special education teacher scheduled for tomorrow and our meeting with his teacher is on Friday. I took him to the optometrist yesterday and he passed with flying colors. So we can rule out eye sight as an issue.

More to come next week...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Double Date

I usually come to work on Monday mornings thinking the weekend went by to fast. This morning, I feel like that's an understatement. Seriously - what happened to it? The days flew by fast and were highlighted with a visit from my mom, poker night, and a double date with the Polack's brother and his wife. We are so good about getting our kids together but rarely plan something for the four of us. It was fun to have a grown up date night with them. (And I had the high score in bowling so I'm claiming victory on the evening!)

Following our busy weekend is the upcoming busy week. I have to do the quilting on a quilt tonight (that means starting and finishing it!) and tomorrow I have a meeting for work at 9:30pm. Yes, that's late. The Polack asked who schedules meetings at 9:30 at night. The answer is computer science faculty and staff who spend all their time in front of a computer and consider basic human needs like food and sleep an afterthought. Nicklas finished he report on Ronald Reagan but has to prepare for the dramatic portrayal. He also has a boy scout meeting. I'm going to see a production of Dracula with a friend. (Which I'm looking forward to even though it cuts into my Survivor time!) And this week, I'm immersed in getting everything ready for the big fundraiser at Nicklas's school. There's more activity on our calendar but I won't continue to bore you. We're all busy, right?