Author Archives: admin


I’m fairly amused by L’s writing.  Because she’s going to French school, she writes her numbers the French way, and they write English exclusively in cursive.

Sample 1:

I’m too lazy to search for a writing sample at the moment . Maybe later.

So far, I’m actually extremely pleased with L’s school.  H and I thought the academics were probably sub-par, a conclusion we drew form the 90s era “computer lab” and the fact that they obviously have a much smaller pool of teachers to draw from.  But I think the coursework is actually fairly rigorous for first grade.  Memorizing 10 lines of French poetry every couple weeks is on the face of it rather pointless, but I think it’s teaching L a type of rigor that will serve her well.  Weekly spelling tests in French and even French worksheets are always challenging, just due to the language barrier.   L’s French has taken off, thankfully.  (At one point late last school year, I was wondering if she would ever learn.)

On the social side, I am worried.  I see in L all the things that I myself struggled with in elementary school – paralyzing shyness and general social awkwardness that my sister never struggled with, and similarly, L’s little sister has no issues with.  In addition, L has a level of cautiousness that I never had, and the combination I fear will make life difficult for her as she grows older.  Her teacher says she is usually on her own at recess, apparently by choice, because she considers the games too rough.  (L says the same thing.)  Her teacher is absolutely wonderful and working to help her include herself in the games, but just as lack of ability in math or reading given a different rate of learning will become more pronounced, I fear the same will happen with social skills.

For myself, I feel that I’ve managed to attain enough social skills to function relatively well in society and at work.  My theory is that most people plateau at some point, maybe 16 or 18 or 21, and for those of us who were behind, if we continue to work at it, we can catch up.  I do feel I caught up a bit.  In school, I do think i struggled doubly because I was much younger than everyone else, thanks to starting school in PA with a 12/31 deadline and a 12/23 birthday and then moving.  L is nearly a full year older than I was in first grade, and I’m hopeful that that will help her navigate a little better socially.

Harvard admissions

I have to say that reading about the Harvard admissions process makes me sick.  First, it’s important to establish whether it matters or not.  I would argue that it absolutely does.  I have never heard someone who attended a top-tier school – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Stanford – argue that it doesn’t matter.  I’d say I was a good ten years into my career before the fact that I attended Stanford stopped being significant to people inside and outside the company.  And an engineering MS at Stanford is nothing like an undergrad degree at the top Ivy Leagues in terms of connections and opportunities.

My sister got her first job at Bain Boston.  From there she went on to venture capital and is now a VERY successful VP at a startup.  Bain Boston ONLY recruits from Ivy Leagues and UVA.  UVA is the ONLY non-Ivy League school Bain recruits at (or recruited at in 2003 – I can’t say if things have changed.)  (You can go to their second tier offices from  other schools, like the Atlanta office from GT, but if you want the direct path to opportunity my sister had, you need to be at a very select list of schools.  I had an offer after grad school and the manager didn’t recruit at public schools like GT.  This is very obviously stupid on his part, but it is real.  And obviously, connections are huge.

This article is about the opportunity afforded to those at the tippety top of the money spectrum.  Incredibly, these people apparently make up 10% of the Harvard class with a more than 40% admit rate.  That’s mind-boggling!  But it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  My husband went to an elite private school in Manhattan, probably the most elite in NYC.  He had decent SATs but not exceptional (1400s), good grades but was not valedictorian, and participated in extracurriculars but really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.  (For the record, I do think my husband is one of the most overachieving people on the planet, but it’s not clear to me that that would have come through on a college app all those years ago.)   He applied to multiple Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale, got into all of them, and chose Harvard – a daring move since he comes from a Yale family.  (Father, brother and sister all went to Yale.)  His family was nowhere near rich enough to buy a building, but they didn’t need to apply for financial aid.  What percent of the admit class goes to these applicants – the well-off graduates of prep schools all over the country?  And while these prep schools may have a scholarship student or two, my husband, child of a Manhattan doctor, said he thought he was poor in high school because most of the other kids at his school were so much better off than him!  It boggles the mind.  It truly does.

Ironically, my children are Harvard legacies.  And Stanford legacies.  Apparently Harvard’s class is typically one third legacy!   And we live in a big city and are solid earners, so if we wanted to, we could try to get the girls into one of the more prestigious private schools in the area.  Even if we sent them to public school in, say, Bellevue, I’m pretty sure Harvard admissions is familiar with the top public schools in the area.  I’m 100% sure schools in Roanoke are NOT on their recruiting list, or any other elite school’s for that matter.

When 40%+ of the class goes to the rich kids, and probably another 10 or 20% to athletic or musical or other types of prodigies, that leaves about 40% of the class for the rest of the country to fight over the scraps.  Into those few remaining seats, you have to fit middle class overachievers, the economically deprived, and racial minorities.  And I guess that’s probably part of the reason affirmative action is so controversial.  There’s all this affirmative action going on to help the rich and connected that’s rarely talked about.  Is racial affirmative action any more or less fair?  Why do we have a court case about racial discrimination but no court case about the economic discrimination?  Why is it not OK for Harvard to discriminate based on race, but it’s OK for them to give seats to people whose parents might buy a library?  If we want this opportunity for L, should my husband join the alumni association? So. lame.

What I find fascinating is how much Harvard wants to hide their admissions process and criteria from public scrutiny.  To me, that’s a tell.  If you’re frightened and embarrassed to share publicly how you choose to admit students, that probably indicates there’s something unsavory about it.

Trump went to an Ivy League school.  I’ll leave it to you to decide if he earned it:

“He was a transfer student who arrived at Wharton after two years at Fordham University, which U.S. News & World Report currently ranks 66th among national universities,” the Post explains. Trump reportedly had “respectable” grades at Fordham, but got into Wharton as a transfer student mainly because of an admissions officer who had gone to high school with his older brother.

school days

L’s been back at school now for about a month.  Homework started in week 2, and it’s more or less ramped up since then.  Occasionally she has a worksheet to do, and those are no big deal.  What’s much, much harder are things that require studying.  First of all, she has two spelling tests each week, one in French and one in English.  Trying to get her to study has been like pulling teeth.

Then, she had to memorize a French poem that was about 16 lines long.  Now, Jonathan and I both studied French in school, but that was a long time ago, and many parents are in the same boat, so the teacher sent home a recording of the poem being read.  But that just makes it that much harder to learn, as we have to try and play the recording over and over again, at least until we can pronounce it properly.  (To our ears anyway – L is not impressed by our French.)  Learning a 16 line poem or song in English wouldn’t necessarily be a walk in the park, even.  So that was a challenge and nearly brought us to blows.  After a couple weeks to learn the first poem, we all heaved a sign of relief . . . and then L brought home another French poem to learn today.

We’re also struggling to figure out what she’s supposed to have done when.  I expected she’d just bring home a worksheet or something due the next day, but we’re getting a bunch of these studying tasks with a few days lead time that require our participation.

Friends with kids . . . is this similar to your experience?  I don’t see why homework is necessary in first grade anyway.

On the plus side, L told me she made a new friend today, with a new girl who only speaks French.  (It’s funny how L classifies kids in her class.  Last year she insisted – accurately no doubt – that she didn’t speak French.  All the other kids in her class were classified as English speakers, French speakers or both – no wiggle room.  You either speak a language or you don’t.)  Anyway, even after a year, L hadn’t owned up to actually speaking any French except on rare occasion.  But now’s she’s starting to admit she does speak a bit, and she apparently had a conversation with her new friend in French, which is kind of cool.


in my mind, in my head

Loving the Gigi d’Agostino mix of In My Mind.

I’ve been reading to Isla for about four years now.  Every night.  It’s one of the most effortless parts of parenting for me.  The kids are happy, and I’m happy.  Reading kids books, the picture books, can make me a little crazy.  I don’t mind the good ones (Ox Cart Man, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, Make Way for Ducklings, etc.) but the lame ones are just horrid.  Chapter books, though.  I love them.  The kids are still letting me pick, and I’ve been picking ALL my childhood favorites.  I wanted to make a list, so here goes.

Surprise Island (Boxcare Children #2), The BFG, Stuart Little, Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (I can’t recommend this one), The Moffats, Abel’s Island, Strawberry Girl, Island of Blue Dolphins, Caddie Woodlawn (twice), The Secret Garden*, Over Sea Under Stone, Heidi*, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Family Under the Bridge, Betsy-Tacy, Little House on the Prairie* (thrice), Pippi Longstocking, Little House in the Big Woods* (twice), Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Winnie-the-Pooh, Danger in Ancient Rome, Rescue on the Oregon Trail, Charlotte’s Web (twice), James and the Giant Peach, The Tale of Despereaux, The First Four Years, Those Happy Golden Years, Little Town on the Prairie* (twice), The Long Winter (twice), By The Shores of Silver Lake (twice), On The Banks of Plum Creek* (twice), Matilda*, Anne of Green Gables*, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I may have missed one or two, but that’s the bulk of them. 45 readings of 36 books.  There are still a good few I want to read.  A Little Princess.  Joan Aiken’s series, including my favorite, The Stolen Lake.  Maybe James Herriot.  Little Women.  What am I forgetting?  I finally bought the first four of The Magic Treehouse, mainly to appeal to Briony.  I’ve actually read her a few Amelia Bedelia.  She’s been slower than Isla to take to the chapter books.  Isla loved LHOTP at age 2, whereas Bri is only really now having the patience and vocabulary to appreciate them at age 4.  Anyway, I thought the treehouse books might appeal to her.

I can see Isla’s reading comprehension growing by leaps and bounds these days.  Whereas before she definitely missed a lot of subtleties (in the early days, she missed a lot of important story points, never mind the subtleties), she follows the story much more closely these days.  Bri still misses a lot, but she seems to enjoy listening anyway.


Great article about Eliud Kipchoge. It’s well worth reading.  Kipchoge is one of the true greats of sport, up there with Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Serena Williams.  he just broke the marathon world record by a greater margin than it had fallen in fifty years.  I also love that he is so well-spoken and such a philosopher.  He looks so tall and skinny, but he’s apparently an inch shorter than I am.  Anyway, I wish I could have witnessed history, but reading about it is nice as well.

Personally, I am still struggling with my leg.  I couldn’t resist running the company 5K last week, and then I couldn’t resist going for a short “hike” with a friend from out of town yesterday, and my leg was hurting as a result.  I went running today and stopped after two miles.  I am very frustrated, and I guess the only way is to cut back and rest more, again.  I think the hiking I’ve done both yesterday and on previous occasions is as detrimental as the running.  My leg really does not like walking downhill on uneven ground right now.  It’s very frustrating because in order to run on flats I have to drive a good ten minutes from my house, and I just do not have time for that right now.  It’s already mid-September so that fall running season is pretty much shot at this point.  Argh!