Sunday, August 21, 2016

Homework, pasta, and a sick baby

Miriam's class is doing take-home reading books this year, which I shouldn't really complain about because conceptually I understand why they're beneficial. Every child in the class always has a book to read at home that's at their level. They're supposed to read it aloud to their parents a few times and the parents are supposed to ask them questions and then we sign a log and it's all hunky-dory...except that signing papers is always the straw that breaks this camel's back. I don't know why.

I can read with my children. I can listen to my children read. I can remind them to record their reading in their reading log. But when it comes signing those papers...I don't know what happens.

My arms are always full of baby or I'm busy fixing dinner or I can't find a working pen or it's bedtime so I put it off so I can keep this factory running smoothly and then I forget about it altogether and then my kids are left making excuses to their teacher like, "Well, yes, I did my reading but then my mom forgot where my paper was so she couldn't sign it."

Seriously, Miriam told her teacher that this week so that she could bring a new book home.

I can imagine her teacher saying, "Your mom couldn't find the paper in your folder, in your backpack?"

Well, yes. That seems to be about the long and short of it.

In my defence, I can't leave these books sitting around the house. I don't want them to get lost or damaged. Managing the constant flow of books in our house is insanity: book from the county library, books from the school library, books from the classroom library, take-home books, our own books. Not to mention the Zoë factor. She loves books and she's typically pretty gentle with them, but I still don't like to leave her unattended with them.

So if we're having Miriam read aloud to us during story time, her book goes straight into her backpack before we move on to the next book (which is probably a book from the county library) or else it risks destruction. And then after story time I forget about signing the paper because I'm too busy convincing my children to stay in bed. And by the time I get all my children in bed it's midnight (if I'm lucky (and 3 or 4 AM if I'm not)) and I still haven't done the dishes, so signing reading logs is the last thing on my mind.

I suppose we'll just do the best we can this year and the girls' teachers will have to deal with me forgetting to sign their reading logs every single day (because, yes, they both have reading logs to turn in). I shouldn't really complain though, because I support reading. I really do.

Besides, this year the second grade team did away with the ridiculous "spelling menu" we had to suffer through with Rachel. Compared to that, a reading log is nothing to complain about. That thing was torturous. They had a chart of ideas to practice spelling everyday; they had to choose one idea every day and they couldn't do the same thing twice. At the end of every month I was always choosing between, "Spread pudding on your table and let your child finger-write the words in it, take a picture and email it to your teacher as evidence," and some other equally ludicrous idea like, "Hunt for your spelling words in magazines, cut them out and paste them into columns. See which word you find the most of! (Make sure to find at least one of every word!)" And there would be twenty words. And we don't have any magazine subscriptions so we'd be hunting through shopping ads we pulled out of the recycling bin. And the words would not be words you'd ordinarily find in grocery ads, like skeleton and nest.

And I'd have to convince Rachel to choose one of the the two activities because you can't not do your homework! And it was miserable.

I get that some children are tactile learners. Fine. Whatever. But that doesn't mean I want to spread pudding on my kitchen table (and take a picture of it to prove I did it). My kids get scolded for making messes like that! And I guess we could have spread the pudding on a cookie sheet or something instead, but that's not the point! The point is...I'm so happy we don't have to do that anymore!

Now they study their spelling words at school (and I highly doubt they do it by spreading pudding on their desks and finger-writing) and it's been working out fine that way. Miriam brought home one of her spelling tests on Friday and I just love the note from her teacher, "Why 2 and 3 times?"

She just shrugged when we asked her why.

Andrew suggested it was because the teacher said the word that many times. You know how teachers read off the words during a spelling test: "Twin. This is my twin sister. Twin."

Miriam said that wasn't why.

I have a hunch it's because she's bored out of her ever-living mind. But that's just a hunch.

Also...the bonus words were first, second, next, after, and last...and skeleton and straight were not...?

Anyway, she's been bringing home these books to read to help the kids gain fluency and confidence when reading aloud. This works out great for me because even if I can't sit and listen to the book, Miriam has a built-in audience named Benjamin. He is almost alway willing to have someone read to him. So Miriam has been reading to him a lot (especially this week when I had so many meetings in the evenings).

I came home from Thursday's meeting to find the kids all in bed having reading time. Miriam was reading aloud to Benjamin.

"You know what?" she said. "I kind of like reading to Benjamin!"

It's a win-win situation.

The very first "reader" Miriam brought home was called Pasta (a "Little Celebrations" non-fiction text). She read it aloud to Benjamin. She read it aloud to me. We had pasta on the brain, so on Friday after school we decided to make our own pasta. Miriam was all over the "gross" job of squishing all the eggs with her bare hands.

Rachel had really wanted to have a friend over, but Zoë was so sick that I told her it would be better if we just didn't. Making pasta was a good distraction from her disappointment. We had a lot of fun!

Daddy was quite surprised when he came home. He sent us a text to say he was going to pick up pizza on his way home (figuring that I'd had a difficult day with Zoë (which was true—the kids did most of the work here because I had Zoë in the front carrier the bulk of the time)) and I imagine he was a little disappointed when we sent a message back telling him we were planning on spaghetti.

He was not disappointed with homemade spaghetti, however. (Technically fettuccini. Andrew's particular about noodle names. And that's why we have a pasta machine in the first place—Viva l'Italia!—not that we use it all that often.) He made a delicious sauce to go with it. Everyone raved about it and the kids can't wait to make pasta again.

Emphasis on the kids because making fresh pasta is a whole lot more work than opening a bag of noodles from the store! If I can't manage to sign a reading log every day I don't know how my kids expect me to make homemade pasta more often than I do.

But if they're willing to do the work, perhaps it will be come a more regular thing.

And by 'more regular' I mean 'more than once every couple of years.'

Zoë's feeling much better, for those wondering. At least, it seems she is. She doesn't really tell me very much. This was her bedhead on Friday morning:

She didn't fall asleep at all until 3 AM and then spent the whole night tossing and turning and nursing and nursing. So much nursing. She spent all of Friday in the front carrier and/or nursing. It was a miserable day. And she had a raging fever—up to 103°F at times—the whole day, so I was essentially carrying around a little hot water bottle the whole day.

Last night was pretty miserable as well, but I could tell it was at least better than Thursday night because Zoë's hair wasn't nearly as comical. She woke up at 8:00 this morning and was still running a slight temperature. I tried to give her a dose of tylenol, hoping that between pain relief and nursing she'd go back to sleep, but she thinks all medicine is poison so instead we had a huge battle and she ended up throwing up because she'd rather do that than swallow medicine. In the end she nursed to sleep and when she woke up at 10:00 she was fever-free and she stayed fever-free the whole day (which means we'll probably be making it to church tomorrow—yay!).

She was up and happy and playing and eating. I can see (now) that her throat was probably what's been bothering her the past few days (I didn't notice it was looking sore until today...probably because she was literally drowning her sorrows in milk the whole time she was sick so I never got the opportunity to take a good look) but she seems to be on the mend.

The hard part for me is that now that she's feeling better she suddenly wants to go back to our previous nursing routine—you know, the routine where she actually eats food, too, because she's a toddler, not an infant. This wouldn't be too much of a problem except that her constant nursing the past few days boosted my supply quite a bit (I'm almost ready to ask to be a milk donor again!) but I'm sure my milk production will calm down in the next couple of days. 


  1. If you share this post with the teachers, they will understand about the whole signing papers thing! I am glad Miss Z is feeling better.

  2. My mom gave me tiny stickers with her initials on them to put on my practice sheet for Jr. High band. (I usually stayed after school to practice so my sheet rarely even made it home.) I always wondered what the teacher thought... But it worked!

    1. What a good idea. I think Josie quit junior high orchestra over the need for the signed practice log. It was just insultingly too much. Your mom was a genius!

  3. My mom taught us her signature by the time we were like 12 so that she didn't have to sign papers. :) I literally sign the entire week on Monday so that I don't have to do it again until the next week. Why is this task so hard?!