Breakthrough evening

So, we often take time in the evenings to work with our kids in a fun way on school things. Paula and I each take a child and we work on math or letters or spelling or any learning activity that we can make fun. We will go to teacher stores or homeschooling stores and buy materials that we can use with our kids.

Presently, Paula is enjoying a jar of coins and a book that she bought to help kids learn about money. She was working with Ellie tonight on trying to count money. Ellie learned the worth of pennies, nickles, and dimes. Paula would give her a set of coins and ask Ellie to explain how much they were worth. Along the way, Ellie demonstrated that she could count by 5s and even by 10s. Ellie was getting it and it was neat to see.

I worked with JD. We also started with coins, but that was a more difficult concept for the little guy. He can get the pennies, but that gets boring pretty quickly. So I shifted to letters. More and more lately, we’re learning how well JD knows his letters. And, he doesn’t just know letters but he knows the sounds most letters make. I decided it was time to see if he could read simple consonant-vowell-consonant words. I started with a few, but he was getting close, just not quite there. He has this habit of saying the sound a letter makes many times and that disrupts the flow of trying to read the word. I eventually convinced him to just say the sound one time. I wrote the word "BOP" on the page and he sounded it out just fine, but didn’t connect it all together. I asked him what he just sounded out and he kept hoping it was a much longer word — "better" he’d exclaim. I then asked him to sound it again, but to do it quickly and listen to what he was saying. That worked. He immediately blurted out, "Bop!" He was a very happy little guy. And, just think . . . he won’t even start kindergarten until a year from this coming August.

Today

Well, I am very sad to say that Nana Dinelli passed away today. My grandmother was 80 years old. The kids and I went down to see her this weekend. On Friday they were able to talk to her, tell her they loved her, and share some good stories. Today when I told them, they both said how happy they were that they got to see her and that they would never forget her. I have many, many wonderful memories of time spent with both my grandmother and grandfather including countless breakfasts and lunches at their house. (They weren’t big on dinners.) I know some of my cousins and even my siblings thought I was their favorite. I’m not entirely sure, but would have to say I was one of the top two or three. Seriously, they loved us all, and I’m feeling very grateful for every minute.

The kids and I have had some interesting discussions about life and death recently. Josh has no doubt that Nana is in heaven where God (whom he believes to be female) has restored her to her healthy self, and she is living large with Papa. Ellie on the other hand can’t get past her very logical mind. Her response to Josh’s explanation of life after to death was, “Well that would be really nice Josh, but I just don’t know how that happens.” I tried to explain “beliefs,” but as I said Ellie is currently operating in a very logical world. Stay tuned for more developments on that front.

When a loved one is lost, the opportunity to reflect on life and time spent together is such a gift! My mom discovered a little cardboard box in my grandparent’s house with a note on it that said, “Open with care.” Inside was a dried rose and note that read, “This rose comes from a bush planted by Papa Dinelli on the day Elizabeth Lancaster (better known as Ellie) was born. The bush was a Queen Elizabeth! 4-2000.” They were so cool!

Cutie JD

i took JD to his preschool this morning as i typically do and JD pulled me aside. let me backtrack a little bit to give you the proper background. not too long ago, i started walking into JD’s preschool with him and announcing his arrival — “ATTN ladies and gentlemen . . . Announcing the arrival of JD; the JD!” a silly thing, no doubt, but it always made the other kids laugh.

well, the little girls in JD’s class one day struck back. they all joined hands and chanted, “You’re so cute . . . You’re so handsome.” etc. and this embarrassed JD to no end.

so, this morning he pulled me aside and asked me not to do that one thing where i tell everyone he is there. so, we walk into the classroom and all eyes on upon us. the other little kids have grown accustomed to the new tradition of announcing JD. such a dilemma. i decided to say “ATTN ladies and gentlemen . . . Announcing the arrival of . . . of . . . JD’s dad. — Thank you, thank you very much. Hold the applause.” this got a few smiles, but the girls immediately jumped up to chant about how cute JD is, which i think was the point of JD asking not to announce his arrival. so, i think JD is a bit mad at me right now. heh heh.

P.S. new photos posted in the photo Gallery (link off on the right).

Teaching Award

Grand Valley State University has 2 major teaching awards. Paula and I were each finalists for one of these awards this year. Becoming a finalist is quite an accomplishment and that means that you’ve already made it through the initial rounds of decision making.

The other day, the Dean called me to her office. Naturally, I started trying to figure out what I’d done wrong. I think I had a look of concern on my face when I walked in because the Dean’s first words were, “Do you know why you’re here? Don’t worry, it’s not bad.” Whew!

Come to find out, I had been selected as the winner of the award for innovative teaching — the Pew Teaching with Technology Award. Every full time and part time professor and/or instructor was eligible to win this award, which amounts to well over 1,000 people. What a terrific reward for the hard work I’ve put into teaching.

Being nominated meant that I had to develop a rather involved portfolio to help the awards committee make the best choice. Part of this portfolio included every student evaluation from the past couple of years.  I had to write a cover letter for every piece of evidence I included and I had to include many different aspects of my teaching. I had to include a few letters from students and a few letters from colleagues. I had to include samples of all of the innovative teaching that I do, etc. So, it feels good to be recognized after the hard work required just to get nominated . . . let alone the work that got me recognized in the first place. ;~).

And, Paula could still win her award since her awards committee is operating on a different schedule; however, the stipend for winning my award is higher than the one she would receive. I remind her of this often. Heh heh.

Hello world!

so, i moved the site over much more quickly than i anticipated. hooray for Sean, eh?

i am still going to be spending much time moving the website stories from the HTML pages (2000 – 2002-ish) to this new site, so that everything is located here. i have much work to do on the photo gallery i installed, but i really need to get photos uploaded first. i hope you like the new look and feel — i do want to play around with the color scheme for this site. figuring out how to change the colors is much, much more difficult than i imagined. feel free to explore things and also feel free to click the Comments link and give me some feedback. i would love to hear that people have found the site. i certainly hope this is the reemergence of thelancasters.net.

Changes on the horizon

we haven’t been good about updating stories on this site. truth be told, i don’t like the tools that i’ve set up here. i want to move everything to a new site and give us a new look. my problem is in trying to figure out the technology enough to export the stories and photos here and then import them into a new service. i’d prefer to make this site an official blog in looks and not just function (this was a blog before “blog” was a term online). i have been fiddling and will continue to do so when i have time. if all goes well, i hope to move in the next month. if i can do it, then i will implement a service so that Paula and i can write stories and send them to a hidden email account that will automatically post those emails as entries. stay tuned and cross your fingers.

Report card

This week marked the first report card that Ellie received. She came home on Monday and the first thing she said to me was, “Dad, my report card is in my backpack.” So, I pulled the report card out of her backpack and starting through the 5 page document. It wasn’t written with As and Bs and Cs, etc. It was instead written using 1s, 2s, and 3s and some other stuff. After deciphering things, I quickly realized that Ellie had received the equivalent of straight As. Whahoo!

When I explained to Ellie that her report card was perfect, she quickly shook her fists in the air and cheered. She was genuinely pleased to learn that she had done so well. And, she almost immediately turned to her brother and congratulated him for doing so well when they play school and Ellie is the teacher.

What terrific kids we have.