Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jog-a-thon 2010

This morning, there was a jog-a-thon at Zahra's school. It was a fundraiser to help the school earn money for special programs, art supplies, field trips, and "extras" that the school would otherwise be unable to provide for the students. We dropped Zahra off when school started at 8:00 and then Max and I hung out for awhile since the jog-a-thon wasn't scheduled to begin until 8:20. He finished what was left in the juice box that Zahra had partially consumed on the way to school.
When we crossed the street and went back on campus, the kids were still getting ready, so Max and I decided to walk over to the farm that's part of the school. We stood at the fence and looked in while we waited. Max yelled gibberish emphatically at the animals. Since they're are used to hearing kids yell all the time (as the chainlink fence is all that separates their area from the playground), a few of them took it as an invitation to come over and greet my little boy.

"Hello, Mr. Goat."
(I was a little worried that Max would keep sticking his chubby little fingers through the fence and that the goat would come over and try to nibble on one, but the goat never got close enough. Whew...)
Then I noticed that Zahra's class was starting to warm up. Max and I headed over to that part of the playground to capture the action. Here's Zahra, in her huge (size: small) jog-a-thon t-shirt/"dress," stretching with her classmates.
Zahra and Nahomi, standing around before the action began. Zahra really wanted Max and I to come join the group, but we had to hang out on the other side of the divider line. Before the activity even began, Zahra complained, "I'm tired!" (I think she really meant, "I'm bored"). I had gotten her to sleep earlier than usual, but she has been kind of sick lately, so maybe she really was a little under the weather.
Before the Race: The card pinned to the back of her shirt, to keep track of how many laps she made. The kids got entered to win prizes equivalent in number to the amount of laps they ran (for example: 10 laps, 10 chances to win). (Alfie Kohn's theories about being "Punished by Rewards" come to mind.) I don't think the prizes were actually that much of an incentive for Zahra. I think she took sheer delight in running around with her friends and classmates just for the sake of running. Honestly, I think she forgot that there was really a reason the whole thing was even happening!
More stretching. I wish she could really touch her toes without bending her knees! I do stretches at home every day (though usually at night, before bed) and sometimes when Zahra sees me, she tries to follow along with whatever I'm doing. I've noticed she isn't very limber any more (not like the rubber baby brother), and I don't really remember often enough to get her to stretch every day. Since she doesn't see any progress and doesn't think that the stretches feel good, she doesn't really like to do it.
Stretching again. Not exactly Zahra's favorite part of this morning. But soon enough, she'll be having fun...
Listening to Mrs. Conton give directions. Off to the left is the teaching aide, Mrs. St. Pierre. For some reason, when Zahra talks about her, she always calls her "Miss Pierre." I think she really likes her, because every time there is a holiday (Christmas or Valentine's Day), she always wants to include Mrs. St. Pierre in whatever we're preparing to bring to school.
Lively music began to play and announcements were made over the PA system. Here they go! Then we see Zahra completing the first lap of the jog-a-thon. Definitely not tired yet. Still ready to run a lot more times around the track...
Pulling off to the side of the track to get her lap marked off on her tally sheet... I think there was at least one or two laps that didn't get recorded, but I guess this isn't the Olympics anyway.
Although it's not centered properly, I like this shot since it captures her braids flying in the air as she runs along. (It was so hard to get good shots with all the chaotic kindergarten and first grade kids running around!)
Running with friends. Next to her in the red pants is Gracie, then Lian or Leah (the two girls in her class look somewhat alike to me and their names are so similar, I always get them mixed up!), and Kylie. They look like they are having such a good time!
A little while later, she found her friend Kyle and they held hands and raced around the track together. One of the things that Mrs. Conton had mentioned at the parent-teacher conference (did I already mention this?) was that Zahra has a lot of different friends and will play with both girls and boys, which was somewhat unique, in that many of the other kids are not that open. I think it's neat that she choses to interact with a lot of different kids. There are still particular friends that she mentions from time to time, but overall, I think she has fun with almost anyone she plays with at school.
During the "cool down" phase, Zahra and Kyle continued to walk around as the activity drew to a close.
One of the moms is holding a box of popsicles. Look who's all ready for hers...
The final tally: 14 times around the track. Not bad for a first time. Bessie said in years past, they had a smaller track set out for the kindergarten kids. This year, they ran around the same track that the rest of the school did. There were times when Zahra seemed to be getting tired or slowing down, but when I would yell, "Go, Zahra, go!" she would perk right up and break into a sprint. It was awesome!
After the jog-a-thon was over, she still had some energy left to run to the tables where the kindergarteners eat snacks and lunches. The light at the end of this jog: popsicles! (And yes, even today, she's still jovially calling them "popiscles! popiscles!")
Max in Maine
Enjoying popiscles with her classmates

The end of a good morning: Way to go, Zahra!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

100 Days of School

(Photo credit: Tori)

Yesterday marked the 100th day of school for Zahra. (She was absent one day, so technically it was 99, but who's counting?) All over Golden View, students were doing various projects to commemorate this milestone. In Zahra's classroom, while I was volunteering from 8 to 9:00, the students worked in small groups on a Fruit Loops project. They had charts with 100 squares and they each counted 10 Fruit Loops of one color for one line, then 10 more of another color, on and on down the rows until they had 100 little colored circles lined up on their chart. When they were finished, they put them into a little plastic baggie and later in the day they made necklaces out of them. Zahra promptly consumed her necklace right after school let out. She shared some of it with Max, too.
So I thought I would take this opportunity to share some of the progress Zahra has made in 100 remarkable days. She has learned so much in these last few months!

Zahra entered kindergarten with some very basic skills that she had acquired in preschool. She knew a select few letters from her alphabet, barely knew how to write her name, and was nowhere near literate.

Now Zahra can read short words and complete sentences! The school sends home little readers for kids to practice and when your child reads the text well, it's sent back to school and another one comes home. Recently one of her favorites had a few sentences underneath pictures on 4 pages. The sentences read like this: "Go, Nan! Nan ran, ran ran. / Go, Pat. Pat ran, ran, ran. / Go, Van. Van ran, ran, ran. / Go, Cat! Cat sat, sat, sat." On the last page, the cat was sitting idly, having no intention to run in the race like the other characters. Every time Zahra would read it and get to the last page, she would tell me, "The cat doesn't listen. He doesn't want to run. He just sits there!" (I thought it was so cute how she wanted to explain what was going on every time.)

I think, thanks in large part to the Houghton Mifflin program called Alpha Friends and Mrs. Conton's repetition, Zahra quickly learned every letter and the sound that it makes. (Each letter has a corresponding character and picture, complete with a description of sound. Like "Keely Kangaroo says k..k..k.., Larry Lion says l..l..l.., Mimi Mouse says m..m..m..") She knows them in any order you point to them and her handwriting is continuing to improve.

Zahra can clearly write her first name now (instead of a Z-scribble-scribble) and is working on writing her last name (no easy task since it has 10 letters!). She has a little reminder card in class to help her spell it correctly.

She can also clearly identify and expand upon patterns. For example, if you put a red block, then two blue blocks, and another red block in a row, she can easily add to the pattern by putting more blue blocks down. For homework, she sometimes has to create her own patterns and they have been somewhat complex (not just two repeating colors or shapes, but multiples and singles mixed together).

I was also surprised to read in her report card from last term that she knew the day and month of her birthday. It wasn't anything we had worked on at home and I was just kind of surprised when I read that. I almost didn't believe it so I quizzed her. "Zahra, when's your birthday?" to which she quickly replied, "February twelfth." Wow. Cool.

I'm sure there are tons of other things that Zahra has learned and I will definitely know more after her next report card comes home. These are just some of the concrete things that I have seen myself, both inside the classroom and at home.

I'm so proud of my kindergartener! I hope she continues to love school and wants to continue learning new things for the rest of her life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Driving Miss Zahra

This is a short video clip of Zahra driving, including on the wrong side of the road... but really, does she even know what the right side of the road is? And at the end, she gets too close to the curb and her car gets wedged in. One of the employees had to run over and rescue her by pulling the car out a little bit. Shortly after that, all the cars shut down and the ride/drive was over.


The day after Zahra's birthday, Saturday, a bunch of us went down to Legoland, which is in Carlsbad (about 30 minutes north of San Diego). Here's Zahra with her 8-year-old friend Alysha. (When we used to live on Warner, Alysha and her parents lived in the apartment next door to us.)
I thought it was fun to see Zahra and Alysha next to this Bob the Builder guy made out of Legos since it was about the same height the kids. It was interesting to see so many big things made out of millions of tiny little Lego pieces.
The previous night, Zahra started complaining of an earache. Then on Saturday, she seemed to be a little under the weather. She said that her ear still hurt, she had very little appetite, and most noticeable was her utter lack of energy. Usually she would be bouncing and running around, but on Saturday morning, she wanted to sit in my lap or be carried around as we waited in lines. She had been quite excited to go to Legoland, to the extent that she didn't even really care about going to Disneyland on her actual birthday. We had to explain, over and over again, that since she had school on Friday, it made more sense to go to Legoland on Saturday so that we could spend all day there (not to mention, it's our family tradition to go to the Happiest Place on Earth on our actual birthdays). She just kept asking, "Are we going to Legoland today?" the whole week! So above is a picture of her riding a little mechanical pony on a track, a little out of it. Just before she and Alysha waited in line for this, I had given her some Tylenol to try and help with the pain. But somehow, a little later in the day, she seemed to snap right out of it and she was almost back to her usual self.

Willie took this picture of Max and I love his expression!

The girls look tiny in this big huge chair...

the kids table - Zahra, Jordan, and Alysha
(Jordan is Willie's cousin Terrace's son; he's 2 years old)
She looks like she wants to say, "Do I have to blow out the candles?" They weren't trick candles or anything, but it took her about 3 or 4 tries to blow them all out.
Zahra next to her birthday guy sign. We had a party package and so we rented a room where we all had lunch and cake. It was fun to have an area where we could all sit and have the place to ourselves.
After lunch, the girls went on a "driving test." They have their hands raised up because someone asked over the loudspeaker if they all had their seat belts on. Notice there are no tracks. Even so, they were surprisingly few collisions.
But that's not to say there weren't any crashes! I think Zahra had a little trouble figuring out the gas and brake pedal situation.
The proud little birthday driver at the end of her "test." She got a license... just like everybody else. I can definitely wait until the real thing. For now, I would be happy for her to drive another little Volvo at Legoland.
At the end of the day, we went to Miniland and looked at all the mock cities that had been built. Here are some Washingtons (and others) taking a picture in Washington.

From left to right: (in the back row) Rachel and her son Jordan, Willie jr., then in the front are Teshauna and Alysha, Max and his mom, Bessie, Leland, Denise, William, and Willie sr. -- But where is the birthday girl?
We regrouped and took another picture, gaining the birthday girl, but losing a few others.
Overall, it was a really fun weekend. It was really great that so many people were able to come to Legoland with us to celebrate Zahra's birthday. It was nice to do an immediate-family outing on her actual birthday after school and then do another amusement park the next day with more family and friends.

Zahra's 6th Birthday

Here's Zahra on Friday morning, her 6th birthday. Can you tell this is before I fixed her hair for school? She opened her gifts when we came downstairs in the morning. One of the things she wanted was a flashlight, so here she's happily testing it out. She opened some other things from Nana Mommy and Auntie Sis before we got ready for school.

Since Valentine's Day was on Sunday, the kids had their celebrations at school on Friday, which also happened to be Zahra's birthday. The kids aren't allowed to pass out candy or sweets, so they just exchanged little Valentine's Day cards. As it was good practice for the kids to work on their handwriting, the kindergarten teachers requested that all the Valentines be addressed by the students themselves. Since I knew this would be quite a bit of work, we began the project on Superbowl Sunday and got a good majority of them done. She worked on them some more during the week and turned them in on Wednesday, when they were due. So not only did the kids have Valentine's Day stuff, Zahra got a special birthday crown to wear all day. We also donated a book to the classroom ("Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman), one of Zahra's favorites. It's one that we own, so she's asked me over and over again to read it to her. I found a little board book version for $5 at Barnes and Noble, so that's the one we gave to her class. (The school requests no sweets, so they suggest giving out pencils to the class or donating a book that the teacher reads first thing in the morning.)
Here we are, right after school, arriving in the parking lot at Disneyland. I wanted to get a picture of Zahra in her birthday hat, before it came off. Little did I know, she would wear that hat for the rest of the day, and the next day, too!

Ever since we got a little umbrella stroller, Zahra has been eager to push Max around. (She wanted to do this with our other stroller, but since it's so much taller, she can't see where she's going. The smaller size of this stroller makes it easier for her to look where she's going, though that doesn't necessarily make her that much of a better navigator!)

And when Max gets tired of getting pushed around, guess who sits where he is now? Big 6 year old Zahra...
Zahra used to be scared to take pictures with the characters (like the White Rabbit here from Alice in Wonderland), but now she runs right up and gets ready to get her picture taken. I even remember when she would be scared if she was even being held in your arms.

Here are Willie and Zahra waiting in line to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This was definitely one of my favorite rides when we visited Disneyland when I was a teenager. Since Zahra is now 40" tall, she can go on more roller coasters like this one and Splash Mountain. Also, most times she can ride them twice because of the Switch Pass. She'll wait in line, like she did here with Willie, and then they get a special pass, since we have Max (who's not big enough to ride yet). After she gets off the ride with Willie, he can come out and watch Max, and Zahra and I get to take that pass and wait in a much shorter line.
Also, for the first time on Friday, she rode Space Mountain. What a fun birthday! Since we were so excited for her to ride Space Mountain for the first time on her birthday, we were willing to wait the hour and a half in line, while Willie kept a sleeping Max in the stroller. So we went to the end of the line and asked for a Switch Pass. Because it was her birthday, the employee also gave us a Fast Pass which let us wait in a line that only took about 10 or 15 minutes instead. We were so lucky! We got on the ride and Zahra seemed excited to try something new, wondering only really where a safe place for her glasses would be. Usually, I try to look over at her while we're riding, because watching her face is more fun than the ride itself. It's great to see the smiles and expressions as the ride zooms around. However, with Space Mountain, since it's in complete darkness, with only simulated stars, I couldn't see anything! I was worried that she was scared because you couldn't see the track or know where the ride was going. I held tight to her little hand (she couldn't hear me when I kept asking "Are you OK, Z?") and just enjoyed the ride. As soon as the ride stopped, she yelled, "That was fun! I wanna go on it again!" and because we had the Switch Pass, she got to go again with Willie, immediately after she and I were finished.
But all that excitement was too much! I knew she was going to fall asleep on the ride home, so I brought her pajama pants and had her change into them in a bathroom stall before we went to the car. I took this picture because I thought it was funny how her arm and hand were raised up, even though she was sound asleep.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rice & Beans

Of course, before I got the camera out and turned on, Max was much louder and probably even a little more funny. But you can still get the idea, from some of these videos, how funny Max was being while eating his rice and beans one day...

Something about his conviction makes his speech so funny to me. I just wish that somehow I could understand what he's trying to convey. Nonetheless, it's still entertaining (to me) just to watch him babble.

The Little Climber

The day before we were going to paint inside our new house, I had Max along with me one morning while Zahra was at school. I was working on taping up the baseboards and moulding so that we could paint the following afternoon. We only got around to doing Zahra's room because we ran out of time. These pictures were taken in our bedroom. (I suppose I should take some new pictures now that all the furniture is set up and we're all settled in... Coming soon?)
I was amazed at how quickly Max climbed up the ladder himself. Before stepping back to take a quick shot, I was standing behind him in case he fell. He seemed to be aware of the fact that he could take a big fall, so he held on tightly and didn't come loose until I pried his little hands away.

Needless to say, I didn't get very much done with the little toddler trying to get into everything. Oh, well.

Dear Santa

(Back by popular demand: After a long hiatus, the Max and Zahra Chronicles finally resume! Between moving into the new house and subsequently misplacing the USB cable to connect the digital camera to the computer, we had a few problems getting back into the swing of things. Now that everything has pretty much settled down, I would expect the Chronicles to continue as usual. No promises, but of course, I'll try...)

About a week before Christmas, I sat down with Zahra to try and help her write a letter to Santa. While she was quite excited about this task, it was definitely a task that definitely tried my patience several times. I waited until Max was sound asleep in a deep nap before I even attempted to try and help Zahra write the "long" letter to Santa. Maybe she was too excited, maybe she's just a kid, but she was being rather silly and having her actually write the letters correctly and with enough room to fit in the allotted space was quite challenging.

Translation of kindergarten handwriting:
Dear Santa,
This is what I would like for Christmas.
1. Little people
2. Number toys
3. A suit case
Thank you.
Love, Zahra

Above, we have the proud author of her very first handwritten letter to Santa. Just before we put it into an envelope, Zahra asked, "What about Max's letter?" to which I replied, "That's one of the fun things about writing, you're able to write your own letter to Santa Claus. When Max gets older and he can write, then he'll write one too. Until then, Santa just has to guess about what Max would like for Christmas."

In the car, on the way to the post office, Zahra studies the envelope intently.

Caught in the act and now playfully defensive...

First she tried to stick it in the wrong way...

... then I helped her get it in the right place,
and the letter is off to the North Pole.
(Thanks to the letter, Santa was able to provide everything Zahra asked for! What a lucky girl.)