Posts Tagged ‘Nicole’

September 30, 2018

Litter Theorist

Tonight I was watching Nicole do her computer homework. First she reads a story, than she answers questions about it for points. The program is designed with little kids learning to read in mind. There’s a button you can press that will read the question, and a button next to each multiple choice answer. There’s no penalty for a wrong answer. Instead, the child is given a chance to change any answer the system marks as wrong. The faster you go, the more stories you can read, and the more points you can accumulate.

After reading the story, Nicole skipped the question and had pressed the button to read aloud each answer. She then picked one of the answers based only on the story and the answer, completely bypassing the question.

“She’s a little fuzzier”, Daddy said with pried. In computer security “fuzzing” is a technique of testing a system by supplying a series of different inputs in order to see how the system handles it. By skipping the question she was effectively testing the system. Is the right answer ‘A’? No. ‘B’?..

“She’s a statistician like her mommy,” I disagreed. On a subconscious level her mind is building a probabilistic modal to infer the question is based on the answer, and which answer is most likely to be correct. If the answer mentioned concepts not in the story, it’s not likely to be correct. For example, if answer A might be ‘Penguins live in the Zoo’, but the story didn’t mention a Zoo, than even though A is a correct statement, it’s not likely to be the answer to a question posed about the story.

Whichever the case, she’s using her knowledge of the system to create a short cut and it was working. She could always narrow down the set of four answers to the two most likely, and almost always got the correct answer on the first try.

I know I should be encouraging her to do her homework the way it’s intended to be done, but I find value in learning to pattern match, to come up with a strategy to tackle a problem (Read as many stories as quickly as possible). The questions are designed to encourage reading comprehension.
Being able to reason about the program is a useful skill, that also relies on reading comprehension. So for now, I’ll just sit here beaming silently with pride and my little mini me.

July 9, 2018

Here Comes Six

Six. How is it possible? I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that we were signing Nicole up for kindergarten, a month or so ago that we were bringing her home from the hospital. And now she’s six. Six.

Nicole requested her kid birthday party be at Chuck-E-Cheese again this year. Two years ago the experience was super smooth, but I was dreading it this year. As a special treat the birthday ‘star’ gets to go in the ticket blaster machine. For one minute the birthday ‘star’ collects as many tickets as possible, as wind blows them about. At least for the small kids, they get to choose a friend to accompany them. Two years ago, Nicole’s friend got intimidated at the last minute and Daddy accompanied her in the machine. Alexis was too small to attend the party then. This year Alexis was joining us, along with many friends from summer camp. There was no shortage of kids to choose from. I was sure Nicole would pick a friend over her sister, and that Alexis would be heartbroken to be left out.

In the end my fears were unfounded. Nicole chose Alexis. Not only that, but she happily pooled all her tickets from the day with Alexis so they could each get a toy. Nicole got a gumball machine, Alexis a magic mirror. This kid has a heart of gold.

We had are traditional swim in the pool with Grandma and Grandpa, and the great helium balloon release in the stair way. Both kids actually eat their cake this year, rather than pick at it, much to my surprise. Of course we had our traditional giant foil number balloon photo time. The only thing we weren’t able to do was a restaurant dinner like she wanted. I promised to make it up to both girls later by doing one on one lunch dates with them before the start of school.

June 19, 2018

Peas in a Pod

Can you tell which child is which? Answer key at the bottom of the post

“Who does she take after? Nicole or Alexis?” Was a frequent question right after Dana’s birth, followed by “Did they all have this much hair?” The latter question was much easier to answer – yes! – as for the former? Alexis maybe? I remember studying Dana’s face from the hospital recovery bed, trying to see either big sister in her features. Dana’s face was rounder like Alexis’, but her hair resembled Nicole’s. She simultaneously resembled both of her big sisters, and neither of them at the same time.

My three kids as two week old newborns

When friends and family asked a few weeks after birth, I’d tell them that Nicole had the most hair of the three, Dana second and Alexis’ third. That’s what my memory lead me to believe. Seeing them side by side I think Dana might take that crown.

Now that Dana has filled out a little there’s no question she’s a near carbon copy of Nicole. If I wasn’t the family photographer, I’d swear I wouldn’t be able to tell some of those photos apart. And I used to think Nicole and Alexis looked so much alike as newborns! Ironically, everyone tells me Dana looks like Nicole whenever we’re out and about. I don’t see the similarities as clearly between 5 year old Nicole and baby Dana, though I do find there baby pictures nearly identical.

Dana’s personality is still starting to show, so it’s hard to say which one of her sisters she will take after there. So far she seems to be a mellow baby, like big sister Alexis. She’s perfectly content to hide out and nap in the ergo during weekend outings, and rarely cries. Although she can’t stand to hear anyone else cry (a phenomenon I don’t remember with either big sister).

I’m pretty amazed at how early sisterly love takes hold.

Alexis still hugs and kisses Dana every chance she gets, first thing in the morning, after breakfaste, before leaving for school… Even if it’s only been a few minutes since the last hug and kiss. Dana adores the attention, even when it nearly knocks her over. The other day at dinner she got so excited when Alexis walked past her on her way to the bathroom, waving her arms and doing the happy baby dance. Alexis turned to her and said “I go poo and pee, then I give you hug and kiss! Okay, baby?” It was pretty adorable. She tells me all the time that “I like Baby Dana.”

Nicole can often be found sitting next to a fussing Dana, singing or dangling toys to entertain her. She tells me she loves the baby, and the baby is so cute. I’m surprised baby cuteness would register to a not quite six year old, but it really has! She loves showing off Dana whenever the two of us pick her up from camp, referring to Dana as “her baby.” Not “her baby sister”, but “her baby.”

Watching their relationships develop with each other is my favorite part of being their mom.

So which child was which? Top left: Nicole, Top right: Dana, bottom left: Nicole, bottom right: Alexis.

April 25, 2018

Mommy’s Helpers

After a rough couple of nights I was feeling particularly exhausted. Nicole and Alexis were watching a movie and Dana was playing in her activity gym with Domingo. I had a rare opportunity for a much needed nap and opted to take it. As I was lying in bed, waiting to drift off to sleep, a noise caught my attention. I opened my eyes to see Nicole standing besides me. She was setting a mini charms lollipop on my night stand for when I woke up from my nap.

Ever since we brought Dana home from the hospital, Nicole and Alexis have been super excited at the prospect of being mommy’s special helpers. That excitement has not waned over the months. Nicole loves to bring me food and water as I rock the baby, to the point where she took it upon herself to bring mommy a treat for me when I awoke from my nap.

Alexis wants to do everything she sees Nicole do, happily fetching toys, burp clothes and diapers. She gets upset if we ask Nicole for assistance too many times in a row before asking her. She’ll throw her arms up around her chest, puff up her lowerlip and say “no fair! You always ask Nicole and not me.”

Both Nicole and Alexis come running if they hear Dana start to fuss. They like to help calm the baby by “shushing”, singing and dancing for her when she’s upset. Dana responds well to their attention, which both of the girls enjoy greatly. If Dana has a preference in this house, it’s not Domingo or I (unless she’s hungry. We like to joke that as far as Dana is concerned, my name is “food”.)

We do have to be careful because three-year-olds are not always known for their inside voices, and gentle hands, though she tries mightily, but Dana doesn’t seem to mind. I think she enjoys the attention, even if it’s a little rough at times and she’s effectively being tackled by a big sister hug. And it’s been very helpful for me. With my arms full I can’t always reach that burp cloth, and nursing mom is always hungry and thirsty.

August 8, 2017

Mommy & Me Days

With Nicole’s Kindergarten right around the corner, and the baby’s due date in the not to distant future, I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to ensure each child gets the individual attention he or she needs.

This spring Nicole wasn’t eating her school lunches. I told her if she eat at least two bites of everything on her plate every day for a week, I’d pick her up for lunch the next Monday and we’d go to a restaurant. Just the two of us. That was all the motivation she needed. She was super excited and eat like a champ, even the vegetable, often eating more than the stated minimum.

A few weeks later the elementary schools were all out on break for the spring holiday. Daycare attendance was surprisingly light as a lot of parents decided to keep both kids home, rather than just the school age child. The more I think about it, the more this creates a nice opportunity for a Mommy & Me day.

The kids are at different developmental stages. Nicole loves to play with beads, and make necklaces and bracelets. That’s hard to do on home days with a little sister around who sometimes puts things in her mouth. Alexis’ attention span for coloring is roughly ten minutes, where Nicole can go on for hours. Nicole is old enough to sit quietly through a movie at the theater. Alexis, not so much. The usual result of these differences is the older child is relegated to the activities the younger child.

If Nicole’s school is out, but Alexis’ is still in session, that doesn’t have to be the case. The opposite is also true, and Alexis will have the opportunity to have the big doll house and kitchen all to herself. We can spend time reading just the books she enjoys, and she won’t have to wait for Nicole’s longer chapter books to be finished.

To put this philosophy to the test, Domingo and I decided to enroll Nicole part time in her final week of preschool. She’ll get two special home days with Mommy before starting kindergarten. We’ll go to the movies, pick out her new school bag and lunch box, and generally do whatever she wants to do. Next month Alexis will get the same treatment.

July 10, 2017

The Big 5

My baby is growing up way to fast! It feels like she was born just a few weeks ago, how in the world is she five already?!

Our birthday balloon photos on the party day are quickly become my favorite birthday tradition. Fortunately this kid is still happy to obliged by crazy momtographer tendencies. Put on a party dress for photos? Sure. Do it again with a different pair of sunglasses? No problem! She even enjoys coming up with her own poses.

Yesterday we had a small party for family with a helium balloons and princess cake. As always, the cake was a bit of a swing and a miss. Both kids enjoyed looking at the cake and were excited for a piece, but both kids also only picked at their piece before asking to get down from the table, or requested goldfish and pretzels to eat instead. Both kids will eat angle cake well, but they just don’t get excited for it the way they do the character cakes which makes me reluctant to serve it on their birthdays. Ah well, birthday dilemma.

Afterward the family party we went to a restaurant where Nicole got a special birthday dessert. She was so excited for her birthday restaurant and birthday desert that she told both the hostess who sat us and our sever (several times) that it was her birthday. On the way out the hostess remembered us and wished Nicole a happy birthday for the second time. She loves her birthday attention.

The kid party will be next weekend. We’re having a low key art party. I bought a whole bunch of art supplies: canvas, sun catchers, beads and the like. I haven’t gotten many RSVPs yet, but Nicole’s closest friends did RSVP in the affirmative. Nicole will be super happy, even if they’re the only ones that are able to make it. Since neither Alexis nor Nicole are really big on frosting, we’re considering getting an ice cream cake for her kid party.

Nicole is bringing in frosted cookies for school tomorrow. I learned my lesson last year about bringing homemade stuff. We set some aside some cookies for Alexis, just in case she isn’t able to join Nicole’s class for treat time. (Their school usually lets them visit each other’s classrooms when we bring in a treat, but you never know what will actually happen the day of.)

All in all I think this birthday is a little more low-key than last one, but no less fun. The addition of a restaurant dinner was a big heat, and she’s really looking forward to the planned activities at her kids’ party.

June 9, 2017

Mini Graduand

Where did the time go? I know I registered Nicole for Kindergarten, but it still felt so far away. Now there’s just a summer left to go.

Yesterday was Nicole’s preschool graduation. Domingo left work early so we could get a good parking spot, which also meant a front row spot to watch Nicole walk across the stage in her little cap and gown to shake the program director’s hand and get her certificate.

Alexis enjoyed bopping to the music and dancing next to her seat while we waited for the ceremony to start. As soon as she spotted the big kids lining up, however, she wanted to run over and join them. (Now that her class spends time with Nicole’s, she gotten used to tagging along with big sister.) We told her the procession was for the kids going to kindergarten, and she insisted “I go Kindergarten too”. All too soon, I’m afraid. All to soon.

After the ceremony Nicole’s teacher had a surprise for all the parents. She had painstakingly filled hardbound yearbooks with photos, drawings and notes written by the kids. Nicole wrote that she wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, her favorite food is grapes, and what she’s most looking forward to in kindergarten is playing with her friends. Nicole wanted to hold onto her yearbook herself during the party, but I clung to it like Gollum holding the precious.

Her teacher’s creativity didn’t stop there. She also had a keepsake designed for the kids, to remind them of their time at preschool and of each other. Each child received a white t-shirt, autographed with the hand prints of all the kids in the class. They wore their special graduation t-shirts under the gowns for the ceremony.

There were also cupcakes topped with graduation rings and gift bags from the teachers with notebooks, pencils and a ruler.

Needless to say the kids had a great time.

The party may be over, but we’re not done celebrating yet. Mommy and Daddy also had a special treat planned for our mini graduand and her shadow.

Nicole, you just graduated preschool, what are you going to do next?

February 23, 2017

Soon to be Kindergartner

One of Nicole’s School Picture Day Photos.

A few years ago when Domingo and I were picking Nicole up from preschool together we stumbled on to a preschool graduation. Nicole’s daycare shared a parking lot with three other schools and one of the neighboring schools was having a graduation ceremony for their five-year-olds out on the main lawn. The soon to be kindergartens were wearing caps and gowns, and marching in procession for their parents with their “diplomas”. I told Domingo how silly I thought that was, since the only requirement to graduate preschool is age. Domingo said I’d feel differently when it was my kid.

Okay, I admit it – they’re darn cute in the caps and gowns.

I registered Nicole for the big K today. In just a few months I will have a kindergartner. Kindergartner. It’s still feels so unreal no matter how many times I say it. Kindergartner.

I’m a bit sad that the girls will be in different places next year. Having them at the same school program has been really special, especially in the last few months. Now that Alexis is in the twos room, she gets to spend drop off and pick up time with Nicole’s class. That includes some outside recess time, as well as inside art time. The two of them really seem to enjoy having each other around. They’ll walk to the car hand in hand, ride the tandem bike together, and build together with the magnate tiles. Nicole invites her to play with all her friends, and Alexis adores the attention from the big kids. I love how much Alexis idolizes her big sister, and how Nicole looks after her little sister.

Alexis will miss not having Nicole around, but there’s no denying it, Nicole is ready. Her teachers have been saying it for a year now. She may be one of the younger students, but she meets all the kindergarten readiness criteria, and has for a while. She’s ready for the next chapter.

Nicole is very excited for the coming year and her new school. So far she’s most looking forward to riding the bus, and building her own rocket ship to take her to Disneyland. Apparently that’s what you do in Kindergarten these days.

September 7, 2016

Cognitive Leaps

Tonight, as many nights, Nicole was playing with her foam letter bath toys in the bath tub. She’ll hold up a letter and ask “what letter is this?” After answering her, I’ll follow up with “what sound does it make?” or “what words begin with it?”

Tonight she handed me the E. I told her it was the first letter in the word “eh-eh-elephant” and asked her if she knew what it was.


She’s made this mistake before, with the same letter and word. Last time I corrected her, which seemed too discouraging in retrospected. This time I found the L and held it next to the E. “Yes! The E makes the Eh sound and the L makes the Elle sound so it’s E-L-ephent, Eh-Elle-ephent.”

Seeing those two letters next to each other, something clicked in her for the first time. She suddenly understood the connection between a string of letters and the word they spelled. She wanted to spell and sound out the entire word. The letter set only has one instance of each letter so we spelled ‘Elphant’, followed by ‘Princes’. (Hey, it’s the process that’s important not the exact letter sequence, right?!)

I’m a proponent of free play, and not really comfortable with the notion of formal preschool at such a young age. The research that free play sparks curiosity really resonated with me because it echos the experience of my childhood. Yet here we are, studying phonics in the bath tub.

I don’t have as much confidence in this whole parenting thing as I’d like to believe. We’re in a highly competitive area academically speaking. Some of the other kids can already read and recognize words. I was afraid Nicole kindergarten significantly behind her peers. I didn’t want her teacher forming a negative impression of her ability. Impressions, deserved or not, can be difficult to change. So we started going over letters and numbers. I even signed her up for phonics and math class at her preschool, though not without some hesitation. Sometimes it feels like a giant waste of money. Sometimes I just wish other parents would relax. But most of all I wish I didn’t let the peer pressure get to me.

At least she seems to be enjoying her letters and numbers.

July 10, 2016


Someone is having a good birthday party, day? week? fortnight?!

Four Ta-da!

When each of the girls was born near a major US holiday (Independence day for Nicki, Thanksgiving for Alexis) I was stoked. Having a birthday near a major holiday meant having an extended weekend for the party. Our family is spread out over both costs, so an extra travel day is most definitely an asset. It turns out having a birthday near a major holiday tends to draw out the festivities.

The birthday celebration started off with a school party on the 1st. Grandma and Grandpa were flying in on the 2nd. We like to keep the girls out of school for the week Grandma and Grandpa visit to maximize everyone’s time together. That meant cupcake day at school would have to be the 1st.

Who forgot about the school’s no home good policy? This girl! After making two dozen cupcake ice cream cones, fashioning an ice cream cone holder out of an amazon prime shipping box and some how managing to get them all to school relatively in tact I learned the kids would not be able to eat them. There are a couple kids with food allergies in Nicole’s class and even though the cupcakes didn’t have any nuts, the school didn’t want to take chances. I can understand that, it’s their liability after all. Thankfully there was a shop that sold cupcakes near by. When parents arrived at the end of the day they had the option give their child one of the home made cupcakes, so most of the kids got two different cupcakes.

That’s not the only thing we had double of do to a Mommy Mistake. Who ordered the wrong sized bike? This girl! I ordered Nicole a 12 inch balance bike. I thought it might be a little small, but doable since she’s on the shorter side. No dice, and now that it was put together I couldn’t return it. Domingo and I made a quick trip to Target where the only bike in her size was a frozen bike with optional sleigh doll carrier. Nicole was most definitely not disappointment about that.

On Saturday, when most of her friends had returned from their holiday travels, we had our first ever birthday party with just friends. That’s two sets of cupcakes at school, two bikes (now one for Alexis) and two parties, stretched out over two weeks. Fourpalooza for sure.

Since this was our first year having a birthday party with friends from school we had a few lesson learns:

– Write your own invitations. Computer printing is far more legible than my chicken scratch, and we can easily create the number we need. The invitations we bought came in an 8 pack which was inconvenient given there were 17 kids invited, and didn’t have enough space to write “siblings welcomed.”

– Buy Cupcakes/Cakes. Seriously, when will I learn? Our local grocery store charges the same price for the customized cakes as they do for the generic cakes in the bakery refrigerator, and they’re good, really really good.

– Do not fear Chucky Cheese. I dreaded our friend party. I remembered Chucky cheese as loud, with obnoxious
animations, but it’s really improved since I was a kid. We were assigned a party coordinator who was fantastic. Speaking of which, I need to go call them and let them know what a wonderful job our party coordinator did!

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