Second Grade Homework


Weekdays are tough.  Depending on my work schedule, I can come home as early as 5 p.m. or as late as 9:30 p.m.  On early days, I make something for us to eat, and then homework begins somewhere around 6:30 p.m.

We usually start with 20 minutes of math, followed by 20 minutes of spelling (Fundations), and 20 minutes of reading.  My favorite part is the reading!  Math and Fundations are foreign to me.  The math, which follows the common core, uses number lines, number bonds, arrows, and bar graphs.  If I learned math this way in the 80's, I suppose it would make sense to me; however, since common core math follows completely different strategies, I'm lost.  I find myself checking my son's addition and subtraction problems for the right answers, but I usually don't know if he chose "the right" way to get there or if there even is a "right way."

Here is an example of some of the strategies he may use; there are at least three more ways he's been taught to add and subtract too.  Most of the time, I'm confused as to which strategy he should be using...

Spelling fundations confuses me as well.  When I was eight years old (now I'm starting to sound like my parents), I was given spelling tests each week.  We were required to "memorize" the spelling of our words.  Now second graders need to know how to dissect the words as well.  Does the word have a closed syllable, an open syllable, or a v-e syllable?  A month ago, my son brought home a spelling assessment that was completely correct.  However, he lost a significant amount of points because he didn't "dissect" the words properly...  In my opinion, Fundations turns spelling into this weird form of word algebra.  As a college English professor that loves to write and spell, I'm not a fan.

Little Lewie and I save our reading for the end of the day.  We both love stories, so reading ends the homework on a good note.  In the past year, he's grown so much as a reader, and I'm happy to say that he no longer needs intervention at school.  (The continuous reading during the summer and the flashcards worked!)  Lewie has taken interest in the Magic Tree House series, so each week, we find ourselves on a new adventure; we travel to far off lands like China, or we visit local places like New York City during the Great Depression.  This week we're learning about Leonardo da Vinci as the two characters, Jack and Annie, travel to Florence, Italy in the early 1500s.  I, personally, like to follow the Magic Tree House series in order--the books are numbered, but Lewie likes to take them out randomly--his decision is usually based on whether he likes the cover of the book.  Since school started, we've probably read about 20 Magic Tree House books in all.  We've learned lots of fun facts, and The Magic Tree House Fact Trackers (companion books to the stories) help us learn even more about history and geography.

Homework is certainly different from the 1980's.  I'm not sure I always see the reason for the change or the benefit, but like most parents, I have to have some "blind faith" that my child is learning good techniques to help him through grade school, college, and life...  For now, in my spare time, I'll continue to "re-teach" myself new math and spelling strategies, so I can be a tutor and mentor to my second grader...

Do you like these new strategies?

A Quiet Start to 2017


So far this year has been, well, quiet.  We met up with two of my best friends from grammar school (and their families) to welcome in the New Year, and the next day (New Year's Day), my mom treated us out to eat at our favorite restaurant--the G.W. Tavern; (the G.W. stands for George Washington).  

This weekend, it snowed and was bitter cold, but Lew and I took a drive back up to the Northwestern Hills of Connecticut for our bi-monthly date.  This time we treated ourselves to the Boathouse Restaurant in Lakeville, CT--a new favorite.

One thing that I adore about our relationship is that we both love old, rustic places--and there are plenty to be found in New England.  The G.W. Tavern was once a colonial home (circa 1850) that contains a fieldstone fireplace and hand painted murals from around that time.  We love its charm. (Many homes in the town of Washington are even older--from the 1700's.)

The historical ties of the Boathouse Restaurant building is less known.  It appears to be from the 1800's, but the town itself, Lakeville, goes back to pre-Revolutionary times.  Some of the homes around the restaurant are from the 1700's, and the prestigious Hotchkiss (Boarding) School (right around the corner) was founded in the 1890's.

Here are just a few pictures of the G.W. Tavern, courtesy of their website:

The G.W. Tavern

The G.W. Tavern w/ its fieldstone fireplace and tribute to George Washington.
Here we are on New Year's Day at the G.W.

Here are pictures of the Boathouse Restaurant...

The Boathouse Restaurant in the summer... Picture it covered in snow...

Besides being quiet, I guess the start of this year has also brought some great dining opportunities. Rarely do we get a chance to eat at our favorite restaurants two weekends in a row!  It's probably not helpful with upholding my New Year's resolutions, but the ambiance, the company, and, of course, the food is oh so good!

Happy 2017!


I have to admit that New Year's Day, particularly New Year's Eve, is my favorite holiday.  There is something healing about knowing we can "begin again."  Sure, each year has its own rewards and challenges--expected and unexpected--but on December 31st we can review the old year, take what we've learned, scrap the mistakes, and use our new wisdom for the upcoming year.  It's a beautiful thing!  And since I am one of those people, in general, that enjoys pondering life and planning for the future, today, then, just gives me one more excuse to do it!

Do I have a list of resolutions?  You bet I do...  Each year I try to fool myself into thinking I'm a little bit wiser.  Last year I wrote down philosophies to live by; the year prior, I chose the mantra, "Live, Laugh, Love."  This year...I'm back to listing resolutions again...  The only difference is that this year, I will be following the S.M.A.R.T. method for goal setting--specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-limited.   My vision board is rocking new pictures on it too.

1.  Consume less sugar and eat more fruits and vegetables.  (I recently learned that 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon or sugar; women are advised to have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.  My current diet actually triples this recommended serving.)  This year, I will be substituting more raw foods like nuts, fruits, and vegetables to replace the processed snacks that I bring with me to work everyday.

2.  Drink 8 oz. of water daily.  This is a challenge for me; I get so involved at work and home that I forget to drink anything--especially water.  I might have to find an app on my cell phone to send me constant reminders throughout the day.

3.  Take walks everyday during lunch and do exercise videos three times per week.  This will be a weekly goal.  If I miss a few days, I'll simply hit the restart button each Monday. 

4.  Learn how to "turn-off" work to be more available and present for my son.   Each day, my goal is to arrive to work earlier, so I can be home earlier to help Lewie with homework and to spend quality time with him (such as walking, playing board games, building LEGO sets, etc.)  Some days I'm required to come home late from work, but I will work around those days as much as possible.

5.  Plan two date-nights (or more) with hubby monthly.  The goal is to go out on a date every other weekend to make sure we continue to nurture our bond.

6.  Visit one of our National Parks (national treasures) each year.   This year, in June, the plan will be to visit the Grand Canyon; I want these trips to be both educational and memorable for Little Lewie.

7.  Create a stronger savings portfolio for retirement.  Like most people I know, I don't allocate enough of my salary to retirement or savings.  I will create a budget this January and automate a process to have a portion of my money go directly into savings.  By February, I "should" have a diversified portfolio...

8.  Be a good person.  This is one of those generic goals that don't have much meaning unless I create some tangible ways to measure it.  Hmmm...  I hope to celebrate friends and family more by remembering birthdays and sending them special notes throughout the year (especially during Random Acts of Kindness Week).  I hope to create special surprises for my mom, Lew, and Little Lewie as a way to show how much I love and cherish them.  And for people I don't know or know less, my goal is to be more empathetic, thoughtful, patient, and giving.  I developed the mindset of seeing each person as a child, and you know what?  It works.  There is something cathartic in forgiving, sending blessings, and letting go. 

9.  Be grateful.  Last year I've made it my practice to silently thank God for all my blessings whenever I have a chance (during my drive to work, in the shower, on a walk).  I've recently taught Little Lewie this practice, too, and so each night at bedtime after our prayers, we say at least one thing we are grateful for--it could be something more common and fundamental like food, or it could be something very specific that happened that day.  Sometimes his comments bring me to tears--"Today I'm thankful for spending time with my mom."  Awww....

10.  Smell the roses.  Work is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it is my gateway to financial freedom.  It allows me to save up for trips and experiences; it allows me to do things like put a pool in our backyard.  Still, at times I feel married to it.  I worry about taking days off from work, not checking emails, and  not giving my 100%.  When I do this, my family comes second, and I come third.  This year I'm taking more full days and half days off.  I am limiting my email time at home, and I am delegating more responsibilities to others.  We only have one life, and I intend on enjoying it--all of it.  I want my son to learn how to enjoy it too.  Yes, there is a time when work and homework are important, but there are other times when going for a walk, eating at Friendly's, and visiting friends is just as important.  I will be "scheduling" down time in the beginning with the hope that by the end of the year, it won't have to be scheduled; fun will be something that comes fluidly and spontaneously...

As always, I wish everyone a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017.  Last year had it's challenges for sure, but in the end, our family came out more united for it.  I learned that hope and faith aren't just words--they are a way of being.  These are the life lessons I plan to take with me during this New Year.  As for this year's resolutions, well, they're fun to make.  We'll see if these habits of mind stick, or if they end up becoming resolutions again for next year...  After all, life will always be a work in progress. 

Christmas Morning Now and Then...


Christmas morning 2016 was magical...just as magical as it's been for these last eight years.  At 6:35 a.m., I heard quick, excited footsteps leave Lewie's room.  Then, I felt a gentle pat on the back.  "Mommy," he whispered, "Santa came.  He left presents!"

"He did?" I questioned with surprise.

"Can I open them?"

"Of course."

I grabbed my camera, charged from the night before, and attempted to take pictures of Lewie (without Daddy sleeping in the background).  Daddy tried to stay awake to watch the magic but kept on falling back to sleep in his lounge chair.   Mornings aren't his thing, especially early mornings.

This year, Lewie had sent a letter to Santa with three simple requests--Portal II, Skylanders Imaginators, and Star Wars the Force Awakens--all for Xbox One.   To make this Christmas well-rounded, and not all about video games, Santa also brought Laser Tag (for the back yard), Dan TDM's latest book, Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal, and the silly card game, "Gas Out."  

As each present was opened, Lewie squealed with excitement and delight.  It's during this moment (every year) when I hold back tears of joy because I'm so grateful--grateful to have a little boy that fills the house with so much love and laughter every day--and grateful that Santa, once again, has managed to create a rare moment of awe and wonder.

One more picture after the sun has come up... are a few pictures from 2009, when Santa first made the magic come to life...

Yes, we had a "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.

To all my friends and family, I hope joy and wonder came to your house this Christmas too and stays the whole year through.  Sending love, peace, and blessings from our home to yours!

Santa's Village


For three months, my sister-in-law and I had been planning a visit to Santa's Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire.  Finally, last weekend was THE WEEKEND.  Both our families left on Friday night (to avoid a snowstorm) and arrived safely in New Hampshire in the wee hours of the morning (around 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. to be exact).

Around noon on Saturday, we began our day in the snow.  We stayed at the Evergreen Motel (right across the street from Santa's Village), so the entrance to the park was only a quick walk away.  We made sure to bundle up with layers of clothes including snow pants, boots, hats, scarves, gloves, hand warmers, and foot warmers.  With 20 degree temperatures and the prediction of 6+ inches of snow, we knew we had to try and stay warm and dry for the day.

The best part of the trip was watching the kids (Lewie and his three girl cousins) get excited about playing in the snow and seeing Santa,  However, there were many more highlights; for example, one of my favorite experiences was going on the sleigh car monorail ride shortly after sunset--the lights in the park were beautiful, and the ride made you feel like you were going through a true winter wonderland.

On the train...the Polar Express...

We met all of Santa's  "real" reindeer except for Rudolph.

After Santa's Village, my husband took Little Lewie and his cousin Sarah to see the new Star Wars movie.  The next day, we packed up, had a yummy breakfast at the Water Wheel Breakfast and Gift House up the street, and then stopped to visit Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield, MA before arriving home.  (Little Lewie surprised me by wanting to make his own candle; he enjoyed the store way more than I thought he would...)

The weekend, not surprisingly, went by way too fast, but it was exactly what we needed to get in the winter and Christmas spirit.  I'm so grateful to have had these wonderful memories with family.  This trip was good for the soul.

Overnight at Mystic Aquarium


Last Friday, Little Lewie, Daddy, and I had a chance to sleep overnight at Mystic Aquarium with another 150 Cub Scouts and their families.  This was our first "official" scout camping trip--no bears or raccoons to worry about--only sharks, stingrays, and predators of the reef.  We arrived with our "camping gear," fully prepared to get little sleep, but in reality, we slept more comfortably than anticipated.

At seven o'clock, the festivities started--the cub scouts were divided into their packs to go through a rotation, which involved dissecting squid, a tour of the "Wild America Building," amphibian trivia, a scavenger hunt, and a visit to the touch tank room.  Out of all the activities, Lewie enjoyed the Wild America tour the best.  Once it came time for the amphibian trivia and the last two activities, Lewie was too tired to fully participate.  In full disclosure, my eyelids became heavy too; after a full week of work, I am exhausted when Friday comes.  Most other parents looked the same way!

Lewie and Daddy preparing for the squid dissection.

Lewie's reaction to the squid.

Lewie's friend's reaction...

So proud of Daddy's dissecting skills.

At ten o'clock, we were allowed to prepare our "camping site" and change into our PJs.  Eleven o'clock would be "lights out."  We rolled out our sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows (no air mattresses were allowed); got into our PJs; brushed our teeth; and took our places.  Little Lewie asked me if we could say our prayers before bed.  We said them quietly to each other, and then I fell fast asleep before bedtime was even declared.

Our comfy little campsite beyond the touch tank.

Lewie and his Cub Scout buddy before bed.
The next thing I knew, I woke up around 3 a.m. to the sounds of splashing coming from the touch tank near us--those little rascal fish were ACTIVE.  The aquarium was pitch dark with only one tank lit up, and it was eerily quiet.  I could hear the sound of forced air coming from the vents, but other than that, and the occasional fish splashing at the water's surface, there was no talking, snoring, or even heavy breathing sounds.  It was QUIET.

I fell back to sleep and permanently woke up at 5 a.m.--just like home.  Our day wouldn't begin until 6:30 a.m., so I laid in my place meditating and made a few trips back and forth to the bathroom to begin getting dressed.  Most people were still fast asleep.

We ended our Mystic experience by taking a morning stroll around the outside of the aquarium.  A tour guide told us about the sea lions, whales, and penguins while we snapped photos.  We were given a special Overnight at Mystic Aquarium badge, and then we headed to our car with one thought only--BREAKFAST.  We pulled into the Mystic Diner and Restaurant, only a half a block away, and had a yummy breakfast feast before making the 90 minute trip home.

Rise and Shine!

At home, what did we do?  You guessed it; we took another two hour snooze and woke up sometime around noon.  It was a night (and morning) to remember!