American Girl Cafe – 3rd Annual Birthday Tradition

Nana began a birthday tradition for Natalie when she turned 4 and got her first American Girl doll (from Nana and Pop): Birthday lunch at the American Girl Cafe.  We had our biggest group yet this year – the (young) boys and Grandma joined.  It was great to have them, but I have to admit… previous years were a bit more relaxing.  After 5 minutes in the American Girl store, Elliott said “I not really enjoying the American Girl doll store,” and he and I headed next door to the Lego store.





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Chi-town is Elliott’s kinda town

Elliott got to hit up all of his favorites in Chicago….

1. Trains!  Brown line to red line to blue line.  Yes, he talked me into 3 train lines b/c he is 3 years old and blue is his favorite color (and the furthest from Nana’s and Pop’s house)


2.  Firefighters!  We stopped by his fav station on Halsted.


3.  Rockets! (A first time, but its still pretty awesome.)


4.  Gorillas and Zoolights



5.  Not but definitely not least – Family!



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Elliott and Natalie had parent-teacher conferences in late October.  Natalie even did a self-assessment leading up to her student-led conference.  She responded “yes” to important statements like “When something is hard, I keep trying” and “My work shows my very best effort”.  And even the one statement or so that she wrote “No” to, “I use some lower case letters,” she has already improved on since the conference!

I am super proud of how hard Natalie is trying in school.  She knows nearly all of her lower case letters, is working on phonetic spelling, is sounding out words, is negotiating friendships, etc.  Here are some of her work samples.






Elliott’s conference with Ms. Krista was very positive too.  He is adjusting well to Natalie not being at his school.  He is making some new friends, though he still counts Natalie’s friends from last year as his too.  (And Natalie tells me that some of them really look out for him.)  One time, I visited class and saw him using wood pieces (e.g. straight lines, curved lines) to make letters (based on an outline).  He told me today that his favorite class is recess.  Natalie told me that her favorite class is reading.

My notebook with more specifics is at home and I’m typing this from Chicago, so hopefully I will add some more later.

Update – Notes from Elliott’s Conference

  • Using handwriting without tears (same as Natalie) – working on b and p right now
  • Learning lots of new vocab – like peninsula
  • Working on sorting into categories, like animals by land, air and water
  • Counting rods, counting with numerals
  • Follows routines well
  • To encourage independence, say “I bet you can do that yourself”

Update – Notes from Natalie’s Conference

  • Gentle
  • Tries hard
  • Knows what she wants to say in her head and can execute
  • Does a great job of including everyone
  • Independent with projects
  • Knew 19 sounds
  • Still tripped up naming and knowing what the teen numbers look like, so we could do a running game outside (run to # 19, which would be chalked on the driveway), write all #s to 20, put them in order (ascending and descending)
  • Goal for reading is to get to Level D (note: her thanksgiving independent reading books were level C)
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90 years old in 90-degree FL

We visited Florida for Pappaw’s 90th birthday.  Kathy and Bill hosted a lovely party at their home, with guests from 3 years old to 90 years old.  Here’s a sampling of photos I took from Jordan’s phone…



We didn't want to forget about Mammaw's birthday, which is coming up later this month! Natalie picked out a blue jay since Mammaw loves birds.

We didn’t want to forget about Mammaw’s birthday, which is coming up later this month! Natalie picked out a blue jay since Mammaw loves birds.


Cousin Jacob... your pseudo-monster truck is AMAZING. And what?!? You are going to be a fire fighter too! You are the

Cousin Jacob… your pseudo-monster truck is AMAZING. And what?!? You are going to be a fire fighter too! You are the coolest guy we know.


Pics of us - so you can see us even when we're not here!

Pics of us – so you can see us even when we’re not here!

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Natalie’s school had a 5-day weekend (thanks to Columbus Day, a teacher development day and a Jewish holiday), so her teacher sent homework.  We are in Florida for Pappaw’s 90th birthday, so I needed to bring it with us.  She was very diligent in working on it – the first prompt: “My favorite place at school is…. ”

After staring at the paper which only had a 4×6 drawing area and uncertain what part of the kitchen she would draw, I told her we could do a full size picture if she prefers.  She preferred:


The place is the kitchen because the dog house is there.  You will see her friend on the far right, Eliza, in the dog house and I was told Eliza often wears a dress with dogs on it.  Natalie also drew one of her best friends, Eve, in the picture, even though Eve prefers to play at the sand table.  The green thing is the old fashioned phone.

I asked Elliott if he wanted to do some homework too.  I explained it was important to write his name and draw his favorite thing at preschool.  He was done by the time Natalie even realized we could get a bigger piece of paper.  His favorite room is the art room.


Here are some cute recent pictures.  I walked into this impromptu cuddle the other day…


I met Elliott and Alison for lunch one day…. can you get a more honorable and adorable lunch date?


I was able to pick up Natalie from school one day too – I couldn’t be more excited to see this adorable kindergartener.  (She wouldn’t let me take it right outside of school but kindly let me down the hill.)





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Summer video with friends

Last July, we visited our friends Jon and Kristen who live just outside of Boston.  We met them while we were in business school at Kellogg, and they are some of the kindest, funniest, and most fun people you’ll meet.  And there three kids are the same.

Elliott and Natalie had a blast when we went out this summer to stay with them for a night, and hopefully, we’ll do it again next summer.  I made this little video to commemorate the weekend.

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Open House

Natalie’s school had their open house yesterday.  I was bummed that it was a “parent only” event, but it was fun to hear more about her day, see where she sits and see some of her work products already!  Here they are:

Natalie’s “hopes and dreams” for Kindergarten.  The girl with the safety sash is our 5th grade neighbor.  The 5th graders at the school have many leadership opportunities, including being a buddy to a kindergartener, serving as “safeties” who bring kids from the car line to their class, and organizing games for a school carnival.   img_1079

This is what Natalie likes most about Kindergarten – which brought a smile to my face, especially since her teacher had just said “We love having Natalie in our class.  She is such a sweetie and is so social.”


The kids participate in a program called PeaceBuilders, which is a social-emotional learning / violence prevention programe.  Here’s what Peace means to Natalie:


That also made me chuckle, as two days ago, she insisted that she would NOT play trains with her brother.  When I was tucking her in, I shared that I saw that and knew that Elliott would be excited.  She then asked me, does that count as Peace?  I said definitely!  (Cheers to Peace in the Home!)



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First Day of School

Elliott had his first day (this year) of prek on Mon August 28th – Nat hadn’t started yet, so she picked him up with Alison!  She was a super supportive big sis and also had fun seeing her former teachers.


Oh sis, I'm so happy to see you after 3 whole hours apart!

Oh sis, I’m so happy to see you after 3 whole hours apart!

Natalie’s first day was on Tues Aug 29th.  Elliott was shocked to learn that he had school the same day too… 2 days in a row!  He told me, “You sign me up for too much preschool.”  (Ha – last year, he went on Mon and Fri, since those were the only mornings available when we moved mid-year… shame on me for signing him up for 3 hours Mon, Tues and Thurs this year!)

Oh mom - I know that's my cubby but I said no pictures!

Oh mom – I know that’s my cubby but I said no pictures!

Back to Natalie’s first day…. the whole crew came: Elliott, Jordan, Alison and me.  She told me she was a little nervous and clung pretty close to me at first.


She then started seeing kids she recognized from preschool or dance and would whisper them to me.  She saw one girl from LMI who seemed more nervous than Nat.  Nat was interested in going by her and within a couple min, Natalie rushed off, telling stories, not really paying much attention to us at all.

Oh my... you just wouldn't believe it...

Oh my… you just wouldn’t believe it…

She has also felt very welcome because she knows 1-2 5th graders who do the car line – meaning the 5th graders will pick up or drop off the kindergarteners in their class.  That has really helped her feel welcome.  She also loved loved love “art and technology” on her first day.  She has liked library a lot too.  She said that gym so far is boring – just rules, rules, rules the first day.  I overheard her telling Jordan after the first 3 days of school that at first, she was surprised because kindergarten was easier than prek because they were just playing and not doing any writing, but then on the 3rd day, they started doing some math and figured out, that it wouldn’t be too easy.

She’s had a great first two weeks but has definitely been tired in the evenings after a “full” day (aka 6 hours).  She was so crabby on Friday night that I asked her to go to her room.  She just started bawling… “Mom, but my two best friends at school were fighting over me.  Evie said she only wanted to be my friend and the other girl said the same.  And they were trying to make me choose and I said I just wanted to be friends with both of them.  And then Evie said she would really miss me if I didn’t choose her and the other girl said that she would really miss me if I didn’t choose her!”  (Hilarious side note: she cannot remember the name of her other “best” friend.)

We feel really lucky to have two great schools to send our kiddos too!

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Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Natalie starts kindergarten on Tuesday!  On Friday, we had a school tour.  Her teacher sent her a letter while we were in Alaska, asking her to draw a picture and dictate a letter telling her teacher about her.  She worked so hard on this!




(Nat is to your left in a lavender dress)

(Nat is to your left in a lavender dress)

Her teacher will be Mrs. Brydges, who I hear is excellent.  This weekend, we need to go shopping for school supplies and new school shoes.  She got a couple new dresses a few weeks ago.

So excited for Natalie!

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Oh kids

8:24am: “I have the best big sister in the world.  Better than other sisters.  Her name is Nat-bug Linville.  That means she is a bug!”

8:27am: WAH!  (both kids)


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