Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorable Days

Fleet week didn't storm through as it normally has this time around; a new New York City regulation forbids nuclear-powered ships from entering the harbor. We didn't, then, get to marvel at an aircraft carrier — big as a city neighborhood and nearly as populous — glide up the Hudson with the smoothness of trout. Instead, we managed a glimpse of two smallish Canadian warships heading out to games or wars. We also weren't treated to the loud calisthenics of soldiers and sailors on leave in the park. And no balletic flyovers by the Blue Angels as before. Pretty quiet military-wise, all in all.

But the weekend itself did seem to aim for perfection and almost made it. We lazed through Saturday and Sunday outside with multiple picnics and stick races in the Penny Park fountain. The Parks Authority officially flips the switch on the fountains in the park on Memorial Day, so we spent much of Monday cycling through swimsuits and snacks and getting warmed by the sun.

Pretty much all day Monday, Battery Park City was so full that little of the lawn remained unenjoyed (perhaps due in part to $4-a-gallon gas). The playground out front was nearly a fire hazard, what with all the kids jockeying for the first fountains of the season. Lots of families visiting for the day must have stumbled upon the water option given how many kids simply soaked their shirts and shorts or filled found buckets in their underwear or diapers.

Throughout the holiday weekend, the sky above the river was a highway of helicopters (as it often is). On Saturday afternoon, we heard a lower and deeper rhythm begin up the river, and as it grew I noticed that nearly everyone paused to wonder about the sound. I drew the boy over and out of his imagination for just a moment to point out the pair of Chinooks with their Cobra escort heading out toward Staten Island and a helicopter raid demonstration. They're quick and powerful and unlike the machines he's used to seeing. I tried to explain to him what they're good for without saying too much about what they're used for — particularly at this moment when there are events far away ripping holes in peoples' lives.

With earthquakes, cyclones, and wars, each day appears to reveal the seams of the world. But the azure bell of sky above these past few days showed no cracks or flaws, not even the scratch of a jet's contrail. And as Q watched a pair of sailors dressed even whiter than she drift to the river's edge for a picture of the Statue of Liberty, I found that I have enough to believe in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Growth mindset

Birthdays mean trips to the doctor for checkups, which means statistics. According to her doctor, Q weighs nearly 29 lbs and is nearly 38 inches tall. That puts her in the 25th percentile for weight and the 50th percentile for height. The Boy, meanwhile, is roughly 38 lbs and 3 feet 8.5 inches, which puts him in the 25th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height.

They've both grown so much these last few months, it seems.

When asked by the doctor about his favorite fruit, The Boy said it was "juicy green apples." Favorite vegetable? Celery. And steamed broccoli. And spinach with ranch dressing. (Yes, these are all true.)

Q, for her part, refused to say or do much for the doctor. I can't say that I blame her, given her experience last year. We didn't have to hold her down while they slowly sucked her blood this time around, but she did get three shots. Stickers or no, that doesn't really make a person want to go to the doctor.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More school daze

A while back I recounted the orientation session my wife and I went to for The Boy's public school. At the time, we were looking at the Pre-K program, but it turned out that they only had four open slots. Needless to say, our son's lottery number didn't come up, and he went back to his montessori for a second year.

Next year, though, The Boy heads off to Kindergarten, and we've got him signed up for that school, PS 89, just a few blocks away. "PS" stands for "public school," and the whole idea of a public school is, of course, that your children get to go (for free) simply by living in the appropriate district. PS 89 happens to be one of the best elementary schools in the city, certainly one of the best public ones. So we're lucky.

Or not. The New York Times recently had a front page article on the "pupil jam" at "New York's coveted public schools," PS 89 included. The piece includes scary graphs like this one:

Nice. To sum up the worry, the Times's Elissa Gootman reports:
At P.S. 89, there are 91 kindergartners this year, and 147 signed up to attend next year, 12 of whom have been placed on hold. The principal, Ronnie Najjar, has taken to scouring the school’s blueprint for places to squeeze in more classrooms, and quizzing local officials on the size and timetable for new condos on the horizon.

“They wanted people to come downtown after 9/11, revitalize downtown,” she said. “Well, guess what? They came.”
And more are coming. The baseball fields across the street from the school have been rearranged and abbreviated to make the area safer as two new high-rise complexes go up. The schools, obviously, are only going to get tighter. As it is now, according to the article, many families who moved into the area may have to take their kids to distant districts each morning. At least we won't have to do that.

Cold comfort, though. Will The Boy get lost in the teeming, gleaming halls, the repurposed music room? Which part of the blueprint will he be wedged into? Will his teachers take time to measure the degree of his perfectionism and consider ways to help him work through and past it? How could they in a class of 30+? More likely, he won't be any kind of squeaky wheel requiring grease and will be easily ignorable, quietly and thoroughly red.

As I said in the past post, my wife and I will be active parents dedicated to making our children's schools better (if we could). But I discovered at that meeting that I was always already assuming that the school existed—that we wouldn't have to start from the beginning.

But if that's what it takes.

(Photo by NYCmiri, used under a Creative Commons license.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Mom is #1

Q and The Boy showered my wife with drawings and paintings and cards that they had been hiding in the closet for a week or so. (They had become professional secret keepers, refusing even to hint to her what she might be getting. The Boy went so far as to try to keep from mentioning that Sunday was Mother's Day up until Sunday itself.)

We spent the day together, outside for most of it. We did celebrate over lunch with some fabulous Belgian waffles at a local restaurant. But as The Boy put it:
The Boy: Do you know what the best Mother's Day present is?
Lovely wife: What?
The Boy: Me.
(Okay, so my wife did happen to tell him that herself first, but still.)

Hope that your day was as nice as ours. And we say for you what we say around here: Mom's the best.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Making music


Q turned three last week (she's an Earth-Day gal), but we properly celebrated her last Saturday. And by properly, I mean my wife orchestrated another magnificent party for around 15 kids and our good friends who are their parents.

The theme this year was music. (You can revisit my wonderful wife's wonderful past work on Q's 1st here and her 2nd here.) The kids strung beads and instrument pendants onto necklaces to take home, while 80's music played in the background. And we set up our camcorder, connected to an old TV, so that the kids could see themselves while they made music videos with drums and flutes and guitars and triangles (and other instruments). We couldn't seem to get the kids together enough to make a respectable video — apart from them all singing "Happy Birthday" to Q — but they all loved seeing themselves on TV in any event. The birthday cake my wife made to look like a drum was a fine centerpiece for the party. She also made individual drum cupcakes for whomever, and we scooped chocolate and vanilla ice cream into cones for those interested. Some, like Q, put away a slice of cake, a cupcake, and a cone. Why not? It was a special day. On their way out, the kids took home the requisite goody bag filled with an activity book, a flute, and a CD containing some of Q's favorite music. (I recommend the CD as a party gift, by the way; it was fun to make and seemed to be widely appreciated over the usual, plasticky toys that parents get pushed into including.)

It was a special day, and it showed on her. We tend to regard Q as being much older than she is, mainly because she's been casually rattling off full sentences for some time now, and it was good to see her be, simply, 3 and crack up so completely about something silly that she couldn't speak at all. We did manage to get some of that on video, which is fitting — her laugh makes for the sweetest music.

Thanks to all those who helped us appreciate another amazing year with and for Q. Thanks also to The Boy, who demonstrated how to properly handle witnessing his sister get loads of attention and new stuff.

Happy Birthday, Big Stuff. We love you fiercely.

(And, like I said last year, you better appreciate your mother.)