Monday, March 30, 2015

Broadway Market

Apparently the Broadway Market is a Buffalo Easter tradition.  It's pretty cool (although it would have been more fun for us if the boys hadn't been so droopy).  If you want pastries, painted eggs, pierogies, or things dipped in chocolate, Broadway Market is your place!  There is also a great variety of Polish attire available, since Dyngus Day is another Buffalo tradition. (Mike also got a Philly cheesesteak there that was so huge and messy it had to be eaten with a fork.)

The market is open other times of year, too, but apparently it's much quieter.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Curious George

The Science Museum had a Curious George exhibit in town.  The boys enjoyed it -- especially the rocket ship slide, the conveyor belt for big blocks, and finding out that George's "original" name was Fifi! James also had a great time with the mini-golf, although his form leaves something to be desired (whacking the ball straight on instead of standing to the side).  :)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kindergarten Conference

Parent-teacher conferences were last week, and the boys are doing very well.

James continues to be ahead of the game with reading and math.  He's in the highest reading group, but his teacher said that he's really sort of in a group of his own.  Her assessment was that he was reading at the end-of-first grade level.  (I suspect that may be an underestimate, but then again, I have no idea what elementary school reading levels look like.)  He's also way ahead of everyone else with his math skills, so she's trying to find ways to challenge him, and apparently they have some computer programs that can allow him to do things more at his own pace.  She mentioned that every day she says, "We have 180 days of school, and we've had X days -- how many days are left?" -- and all the kids look at James and he does the subtraction in his head and gives the answer.  :)  The kids were also apparently all very impressed at how well he did at Sushi Monster, an iPad math app.  One of the great things about kindergarten is that apparently it's still kind of cool to be good at math.  :)

The teacher had their gifted program teacher assess him, but apparently they're not actually supposed to test them until they're six.  So, he didn't qualify yet (partially because of his age), but his teacher thinks he will.

Matthew's math skills have also really taken a leap recently; he's much more comfortable with addition and subtraction than he was, and his teacher was impressed with the way he's thinking about math problems. The example that she gave was that she asked the kids what 8 minus 6 was, and then asked them how they got the answer.  Apparently most kids got the answer by counting on their fingers, but Matthew said, "I know that two plus six is eight, so eight minus six must be two."  So, he's demonstrating that higher-level understanding of the relationship between addition and subtraction.  The teacher said, "I hate to say it, but they have "common core" brains -- but in this case, that's a good thing!"  The Common Core is the new and controversial set of national standards, and one of the things they emphasize is that kind of problem-solving.

Mattie's reading is just a little ahead of grade level right now -- which was good to hear, because I feel like he could be doing better.  He's made a lot of progress and he's pretty good at sounding out words, but I feel like he hasn't quite made that breakthrough yet to it being a more fluent process.

The teacher also said they both have a great attitude and work hard, and that they both have an excellent vocabulary.  For both of them, writing/handwriting is the weak spot, but they've both made a ton of progress since the start of the year.

Pater Noster

 Perhaps the most beautiful stop on the Mount of Olives tour was the Pater Noster church, said to be the site where Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer.  The church walls have the Lord's Prayer in over 100 different languages (even including Esperanto, which gave us a laugh!)  They even have versions in Braille for the blind.

Apparently there is a debate over whether Jesus would have spoken the original Lord's prayer in Hebrew or in Aramaic, so there is a different-looking plaque that includes both of them.

Behind the church there is a grove of olive trees, and there's also an acacia tree (not the original one), which would have provided the thorny branches for Christ's crown of thorns.  (The thorns are very sharp indeed!)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Parents-Kids Hockey

 The second-to-last hockey session involved a parents versus kids game.  (There were so many parents and kids, they did little mini-games in four groups. Mattie's group only got to play once instead of twice like the others, but they didn't mind because they were having fun running around in the hall outside.)  Not surprisingly, the kids won by a wide margin.  :)

They also received medals, which Mattie liked (and which he generously shared with James).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jerusalem Tour

Richard the Lionheart

 On Friday morning, a colleague from the workshop and I did a walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem (along with 20 or so other tourists).  It was fun to hear about some of the extensive history of the city, and we got at least a glimpse of all four Quarters of the city (Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, and Christian).

One of the fun aspects of the tour was going up on the roofs to see the city and surrounding areas from above.  The church bells starting ringing when we were up there -- loud!

Fun fact, although I don't know if it's true:  our guide said that ancient maps were made with reference to the East, or the Orient -- so if you didn't know which way the map went, you were "disoriented."  :)  (Which is appropriate for the narrow twisting alleys of the Old City -- we often felt disoriented!)

Tower of David (actually built by King Herod)

Arabic street name painted out -- maybe a political statement?

View of Mount of Olives from Jerusalem rooftop -- note also the modern satellite dishes :)

Another rooftop view

Another tour group up on the roofs

Painting of the ancient Cardo

Remains of the Cardo

Ancient Map of Jerusalem -- the pillar at the left points toward Rome

Western Wall

Muslim Quarter -- white painted walls means the owner has made a pilgrimage to Mecca