Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Carter Family - Wildwood Flower

I love the incongruency of the satin ballgowns and the spare simplicity of this song. Mother Maybelle Carter is one tough lady. Wildwood Flower is one of our favorite folk songs.

I will twine with my mingles and waving black hair
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
And the myrtle so bright with it's emerald dew
The pale and the leader and eyes look like blue

I will dance, I will sing and my life shall be gay
I will charm every heart, in his crown I will sway
When I woke from my dreaming, my idols was clay
All portions of loving had all flown away

But he taught me to love him and promised to love
And to cherish me over all others above
My poor heart is wondering no misery can tell
He left with no warning, no word of farewell

Well you told me you love me and called me your flower
That was blooming to cheer you through life's dreary hour
I long to see him and regret this dark hour
He's gone and neglected this pale wildwood flower

Montessori Turns 100

Slate ran an article on the 100th anniversary of the 1907 opening of Maria Montessori's first school last week called "What Exactly is Montessori Education?" It's true, even parents of kids in Montessori schools know little about the "method." There are 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. and 250-300 of those are public Montessori elementary schools like the one that Elliot attends. Apparently the public Montessori schools are a great success, churning out students who write more creative essays, have a deeper sense of community and social justice, not to mention they score competitively on standardized tests.

From the article:

Maria Montessori might have called the child "an amorphous, splendid being in search of his own proper form," but far more important, in the end, is a different canny insight of hers: Those splendid kids crave order. Montessori isn't magic. It's fine-tuned and detail-driven and tactile, like a workshop for two dozen good-humored but serious young elves.

And Simon, my irrepressible, short-fused man of mischief, calmly rolled out a mat for himself on the floor, took out the "bank," and proceeded to match the number 3,987, which he'd constructed from short boards painted with numbers, to the correct combination of 1,000-unit cubes, 100- and 10-unit rectangles, and single-unit beads.

Last fall, the prestigious Science gave its pages to a well-designed study that found some measurable advantages for the Montessori method. The researchers compared 59 Montessori students with 53 kids who'd tried to get in to a public Montessori school in Wisconsin and lost out in a lottery (a strategy that addressed the methodological concern that families who choose Montessori differ from those who don't). By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori students outscored the others on standardized tests of reading and math, treated each other better on the playground, and "showed more concern for fairness and justice." By the end of elementary school, the test-score gap closed. But the Montessori kids "wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures," responded better to social dilemmas, and were more likely to say they felt a sense of community at school.

The Wisconsin school in the study was urban and mostly minority. That's a contrast to the private and upscale cast of Montessori in the United States. But that norm is starting to change, with between 250 and 300 public Montessori schools now open across the country. Maria Montessori started her revolution among Italy's pauper children, so it makes sense that her method is effective without the head start of affluence.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Asher's Birthday Week

Ashee Bear ("No, I'm Asher!") turned three this week. He received his customary birthday bowl of strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast (we spring babies are lucky). We did a Mom and Asher ice cream outing and a family dinner with Grandma and Grandpa at Rositas. He had two school celebrations. But I don't think he really cares about his birthday yet. We showered him with gifts anyway (yes, we suffer from second child guilt). I can't believe he's 3!

Since Asher refuses to peddle his trike, he just pushes along with his feet, we thought we'd help him along his path to riding a two wheel bike and bought him a Rolli Rider wooden "learner bike." He took to it immediately. No sweat. Apparently there are tons of manufacturers producing this sort of bike now, they're very popular in Europe and have received a lot of press recently.

From their site: The Rolli-Rider is an indoor/outdoor self-powered, sit-down riding coaster intended for children between two and six years old. This grandparent handcrafted balancing riding toy (Made in USA with a lifetime warranty) teaches children to balance a two-wheeler long before they are ready to ride a bicycle. When old enough to ride a bicycle, Rolli-Rider provides plenty of confidence that training wheels should not be necessary.

Today we had Asher's birthday party at Little Gym. I invited a small group, to keep the chaos factor down (I'm burnt out from Elliot's gigantic circus parties). Unfortunately only a handful of kids could come (which made the price tag for the small party pretty steep). I should remember that there will always be at least 2-3 last minute cancellations for parties involving little ones, plus it was memorial day weekend.

But who cares. Asher had a blast, our exuberant little madman, running around the gym with his buddies until he collapsed into a chocolate cupcake and juice nirvana.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Los Lobos on Seasame Street

We listen to the Los Lobos CD of traditional Mexican songs, La Pistola y el Corazon in the car all the time. So I was excited to find their rendition of El Canelo on Sesame Street. Excellent. Also, I love their Elmo and the Lavendar Moon. Very cute.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Peter, Bjorn & John - Young Folks

Great song, and I love the retro comic book animation.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May School Days

As the school year winds down, Asher's class is becoming far less routine and a lot more whimsical. We've had Pajama Day, Beach Day, Outside Class, Face Painting and Beauty Shop Day (don't ask). Today the fire department visited Asher's school. The firemen were patient and friendly. They told the kids not to be afraid if they saw a fireman in full gear in their house. Asher loved the fire engine, he sat in every seat in the truck. We had snack, cleaned up, then went outside for story time under the shade of a birch tree.

Tonight Elliot's school held their Spring Concert and Art Walk. Families picnicked on the front lawn of the school and listened to the sweet voices in the warm evening air.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rethinking the 5-Second Rule

Eating dropped pieces of food is fairly common in our house (depending on the type of food). If Asher fumbles his barely eaten burrito on the floor at dinnertime, we're more than likely say to him, "pick it up and eat it" in deference to the famous 5-second rule (also out of a desire to avert a tantrum and produce an alternative meal). I just read this NYT article, The Five-Second Rule Explored, or How Dirty Is That Bologna? and the answer is quick retrieval does mean fewer bacteria, but you should also consider which surface it touched.

Clemson University did several tests on floor to food contamination with E.coli and salmonella, and if the surfaces were contaminated, within 5 seconds food became contaminated. It only takes 10 salmonella and fewer than 100 E. coli to contaminate food. Those pesky salmonella can live up to 28 days. Fun fact: carpet retains tens of thousands more bacteria than wood or tile. Ewww gross.

We Help Mommy - It's Mother's Day

"We Help Mommy" by Jean Cushman and Eloise Wilkin was one of my favorite books as a kid. Published in 1959, Wilkin's detailed illustrations are true to the spirit of that age's commercial print ads - large scale, crisp and realistic with a palette of pastels and bold reds and blues.

I was attracted to the comforting dailiness and the minutiae of the story - Martha has trouble putting her shirt on and her mother helps her; Martha dries the forks and spoons; Mommy buys the kids a picture book and some cookies at the supermarket. Each drawing is packed with sharp focus details - a row of geraniums sits in a window sill; a fireplace in their bedroom is arched with fluted curves; the kitchen floor is black with red and green confetti.

In the 1970s, animal characters and loose, scribbly illustrations dominated children's literature, so the realism must have been refreshing to me. And of course it was about Mommy, my favorite person in the world.

Now, I like the book not only out nostalgia, but because I hope it will inspire the boys to feel more responsibility for their role in our household. Look I can dress myself! May I please sweep the floor? I'll clean the toilet Mom. I'm serving you breakfast in bed Mommy. Asher is actually very motivated to learn how to do all cleaning right now. It must be developmental.

Happy Mother's Day to my Mommy! I love you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Q&A with Asher

Demonstrating juggling skills.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I'm going to be a pirate!

Q: What does a pirate do?
A: He drinks lots of juice

Q: What is your favorite song?
A: I've been working on the railroad

Monday, May 07, 2007

Insects Are My Life

Asher is our bug guy. He'll dig in our front yard for at least an hour (isn't that like 8 hours in toddler time?) looking for worms and beetles and pill bugs. Nothing pleases him more than to have a fat juicy worm slithering all over his hands. He's pretty gentle too. They end up back in the dirt just fine most of the time.

In this photo Asher is inspecting an ant hill. We were stuck here for a small eternity on our way to the farmer's market. We were relieved that he didn't feel compelled to touch the ants.

Speaking of insects, we checked out the book Insects Are My Life by Megan Mcdonald from the library this week and it became an instant hit with the boys. It's a quirky story about a girl named Amanda Frankenstein who is a "Friend to Bugs." Amanda is single minded in her passion for insects, she wears mosquito bites as a badge of honor, practices walking like a beetle and invites bugs into her room at night. Of course she's at odds with the world because she's so head strong. Good messages (follow your passion, intellectual pursuits, be yourself even if you are weird), but we mostly liked it because it's a well written book with plenty of sassy and funny lines and it was about bugs.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Look Ma, Two Wheels!

Our 4 year old neighbor took off his training wheels from his bike last week and Elliot said, "If Luke can do it, I can too." We took his training wheels off yesterday and with just a little push he was off racing down the sidewalk no sweat.