Many of you have asked how the kids are. Despite my best efforts to brainwash them into being my evil minions (that's Phase One of my plot for world domination), they remain as smart and virtuous as ever. Damn them.
Jaiden, Jordan, and Kyra have consistently made the honor roll. Jaiden earned an 89 in Social Studies on the last round of report cards, which was the only B any of them have brought home all year. "A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!," he exclaimed to show how very miffed he was at missing straight A's by one measly point.
"Just whose houses are you cursing, son? I'm quite pleased with your grades, but if you're disappointed, you're the only one who is responsible for what you received."
"I know, Mom. The houses I'm cursing are the left and right hemispheres of my brain. I don't, like, really wanna curse myself, but dang! Couldn't they have just worked enough to give me that one point? Aye, me!"
"Mercutio…or whoever you think you are – 'tis a far nobler thing to have tried to get all A's and failed than to have never tried at all. Or something like that."
"Um, Mom? Just – no. Leave the Shakespeare to me, mmmkay?"
Kyra is currently in the process of being tested for Gifted. Apparently they do everything short of cracking her skull open to examine her grey matter under a microscope, because they've been pulling her from class for a couple hours every Monday for a few weeks and apparently still have a couple of tests left to go before they're able to make a decision on whether she gets in or not. She is hopeful that she'll make it, but I've encouraged her not to be too disappointed if she doesn't. "Because at least you had the honor of getting the chance, which in and of itself proves that you have some pretty special gifts. And you're smarter than your father." She didn't notice when Frank flipped me the bird from behind his laptop.
Jordan reminds me of Ferdinand the Bull. He's brawny and muscular and tall for a just-one-month-shy-of-eight-year old, measuring in the 85th percentile for height at his last appointment. I had high hopes that he would fill the role of my evil henchman, but he is too much of the sit-and-smell-the-roses type for that. Don't get me wrong – he does his fair share of wrestling and trampoline flipping and run around the housing. But he is also the one who, after a while, will quietly disengage from the action, park himself in front of the computer, plug in his earbuds, pull up his custom-made Rhaphsody playlist, and play computer games. Or he'll curl into the recliner or a corner of the couch and read a book. He has a gentle voice and a wry, almost deadpan sense of humor. He is funny and smart and intuitive. If his personality were a seed that could be planted, in twenty years it would grow into a Frank.
I thought there might be a chance that I could corrupt her. She is the first of our children whose teacher actually contacted us to give some negative feedback. Well, there was that one time in Kindergarten where Jaiden thought it might be a good idea to crawl under the cafeteria table and squirt ketchup from those little packets all over the floor, but that was a one-time moment of assholishness whereas we've received two Oops! notes from Kaelyn's teacher this year. She prints them on blinding neon pink papers, and the big sad faces on them reflected the expression on Kaelyn's face when she brought them home. The first came home in September (for not following directions) and the second in November, which was just a couple of weeks before my Fall conference with her teacher. I wrung my hands in anticipation, wondering if her teacher would use that slightly lilted tone of voice that I use in conferences when a student of mine is one who requires my please, don't let me hurt this child level of careful patience. As much as I'd like for at least one of my children to join me in my nefarious plot to rule the world, I'd much rather that Kaelyn keep her evil ways at home, what with villians needing to stay on the down low, and all. As such, Frank and I read Kaelyn the riot act when that second Oops! note (which was for not paying attention during Circle Time) came home.
Seated at a knee-high, half-circle shaped table, I breathed a sigh of relief when her teacher said that whatever we did at home worked when that second note came home because since then, Kaelyn had been a model student. She hadn't even seen a need to throw The Look in Kaelyn's direction. As Kaelyn is in Pre-K, she doesn't get report cards. Her teacher gave me Kaelyn's portfolio of work to look through and then whipped out a fancy ASSESSMENT OF SKILLS report. "I wouldn't be surprised if she tested for Gifted when she moves on to the elementary school next year," she said. I knew it was over then. I'm on my own in this world domination scheme.
Now that all four of them are of school age, they're teaming against me. For a solid week near the end of January, they huddled over the kitchen table scratching feverous notes into sheet after sheet of paper, making lists of supplies and storyboarding plans. Then Kyra (who apparently had been voted the tribal leader), brought to me a list of demands and commanded that I to go to the store to purchase various items. "We're entering the Media Festival," she declared, as the others rounded behind her like a posse of half-pint bodyguards. "We know how to make some basic presentations in PowerPoint, but we need you to show us the teacher stuff, like putting in videos and recording sound and hyperlinking things."
"The sooner the better. We have a deadline." With her eyes, she indicated that I should take a seat at the desktop. Her cadre had already arranged two folding chairs on each side of the leather office chair. A blank PowerPoint slide lay in wait on the computer screen. I took my seat in the middle, and the kids flanked me - the twins on my left and Jordan and Kaelyn on my right. They leaned in and sat expectantly as I reached for the mouse. Kyra furrowed her brows and scribbled notes. Jaiden is a kinesthetic learner and learns by doing. "Let me try that," he often said after I showed them a series of steps. Jordan, the visual learner, watched each step intently. Kaelyn ate Cheetos under the desk.
Over the next two weeks, they set up the framework for their presentation. I was held hostage at the computer to help troubleshoot when this link didn't go to the right slide or when that text box didn't change colors when the cursor hovered over it. Then they spent an entire Sunday recording a series of FlipCam videos. On Monday: "Now you have to show us how to get these videos into that PowerPoint," said the High Priestess. They worked for another week, foregoing afternoons with friends and reqesting later bedtimes to get everything just right.
The final result was an instructional PowerPoint called Alphabet Kids!, which is designed "to help little kids learn the letters and sounds of the alphabet," as Jaiden stated on the Media Fest application form. They targeted a Pre-K to 1st Grade audience. The PowerPoint is a highly-interactive, student-led program in which the viewer has the freedom to choose any letter in any order, then return to the home slide to choose another letter. The "home" slide has all 26 upper and lowercase letter pairs.
Clicking on the letter pairs takes the viewer to that letter's slide. The kids chose a word to reprepsent each letter and recorded a video in which they gave the sound of the letter and and acted out a demonstration of the word. An example of a letter slide:
The text boxes at the bottom of the word slides are linked to a recording of one of the kids saying the letter, giving the sound of the letter, and then saying the word. "Gee…guh…GATE!" When the text box is clicked, the recording plays. The video is cued to start when it is clicked. The little ABCD graphic in the corner appears on each letter slide and when clicked, will take the viewer back to the home slide. My explanation does the project little justice. Here's a brief sampling of the letter videos that they are the most proud of:
They burned their presentation to disks, gathered their entry paperwork, and waited. A week later we found out that their project received a Superior rating at the school level and went on to the county level. Two weeks after that, it received another Superior rating and then moved on to the state level. Soon we should hear the results and whether or not it makes it on to the international level.
"The international level?," Kyra said, as she deviously arched one eyebrow and rubbed her hands together. Her siblings cheered and laughed maniacally when she turned to them and shouted, "WE'RE GOING TO RULE THE WOOOORLD!!!"
Shit, I thought to myself. That was my plan.