Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Daily Penelope"

The other day I sent Moin an email titled "Your daily Penelope", with a funny quote from our little girl. This subject line is perfect, because Penelope is pretty much always saying something funny.

Here are some of her recent quotes:
(after getting in trouble for sticking out her tongue at me) "But mommy, my tongue really likes to feel the fresh air"

(after getting in trouble for waking us all up at 5:30 by singing) "But I just wanted Zahra to hear a happy tune"

She has a rationale for everything!

She also really loves to get dressed every morning. She picks all her own clothes, and usually changes several times a day. Here is a picture I took of her and Zahra after WaPa brought them new swimsuits. Right before the photo was taken, Penelope ran off to grab a hat and a purse before posing! (and her baby, of course)

Penelope recently started taking ballet by herself (without Zahra). She seems to enjoy it. I think mostly she likes wearing the ballet outfit. These pictures were actually from her first day when I didn't know she needed a special outfit, which is why she is the only one in purple pants.

She has her first recital in May. We're all really looking forward to seeing what that is like!

Penelope is also the most obsessed with "Frozen" out of all the children. She claimed both princesses (Anna and Elsa) for herself, so Zahra usually pretends to be the snowman or one of the male characters instead.

Here she is rivited by the big screen at the Disney store, which was showing frozen videos. She did want to be Elsa for halloween, but now she says she wants to be an orange blanket instead. Zahra wants to be a birthday cake.

Here is one of my favorite pictures ever of the girls. The lighting is not good, but it sums up their personalities perfectly. Now, after reading this post, can you tell which one is Penelope? :)

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Last month we had parent-teacher conferences for all three kids. At the lab school, the parents also receive a written summary of the children that is about ten pages single spaced (!), and Quinn received a report card.

Let's start with what teacher Ayuko said about Zahra
Here are some of our favorite lines about Zahra in her summary:

"Zahra is very respectful of our school property and materials.  This is especially evident during clean up time.  She helps to carefully place materials in their correct places. "

"Zahra notices other children’s emotions, especially when they are feeling sad "

"Since Zahra is keen on noticing children who need support, she has occasionally initiated interaction with children by helping them"

These lines sum up Zahra perfectly. She is very sweet and caring, and also very clean and orderly! Ayuko also mentioned that Zahra is quiet in school, but seems to enjoy herself. She partiularly likes playing outside and in the gym, and doing cooking projects.

Now, on to Penelope.

Here are some of our favorite lines about Penelope:

"Penelope proudly talks about herself and her belongings"

"She can also independently put on her shoes, hat, pants and underwear and take them off as well."

These quotes sum up Penelope well. She is fiercely independent, and very talkative at school. She has made a lot of friends, and she also enjoys gym time, art and reading.

Both girls are hitting all their milestones well and doing everything they are supposed to for their age. Ayuko agrees with us that they should be separated into separate classrooms for next year, so that is the plan for now.

Now, on to Quinn.

We had basically the same conference we always do with Quinn. He is years ahead of grade level in all his academics. His handwriting and drawing are far below, and he shows zero interest in improving those at all. His teacher also mentioned that he is quite competitive with other children, and always wants to win. Sounds about right!

Quinn has had a great year in first grade. He listens to his teacher, and mostly gets along well with other children. His teacher mentioned at the end of the conference that she really wants us to contact her one day to tell her what he becomes, in terms of career. He has such a particular set of academic gifts (memorizing facts and maps), and she is curious how he will use those in the future.

If you ask Quinn about his favorite parts of school, he will say breakfast, lunch and P.E. 

The Syed children are lucky to go to such great schools with teachers who know them so well. Here's to a great rest of the school year!





Dare I say that Spring has finally started to arrive? I saw these tulips popping through the grass yesterday.

The kids are so excited for spring and to be outside.

Because we do live in Minnesota, we had several wild weather weeks leading up to Spring.

First, we had our first day of 40 degrees, which of course meant that Zahra and Penelope took of their pants and shoes to play outside.

And Quinn was in a t-shirt
Then, we had a late season snowstorm of about 8 inches!

The kids are obsessed with the movie "Frozen", and the girls kept shouting "Tell Elsa to bring back summer!" The snow did give us a chance to build "Olaf" though, who is a character from the movie.

And to sled down the next door neighbor's front hill

Spring snow melts quickly, and "warmer" temps were back soon. Quinn took this opportunity (40 degree temps) to wear shorts to school.

And the kids have been having so much fun just being outside.

And the truest sign of spring in the Herold/Syed household? We took the kids to the Mall of America to buy their crocs today!

Of course, colder temps are in the forecast for next week, but in our minds Spring is here for good. Thanks, "Elsa", for bringing back the warm temps!

Saturday, March 1, 2014


This February post will mostly be photo updates.

The kids have been continuing their activities. Here are the girls' new gymnastics photos. Could they be any cuter and funnier?

I love how they are holding hands in the group photo.

And here are Quinn and Moin patiently waiting for them to be done, on the hard high school floor.

We finally got Quinn to wear goggles for swim class and it has resulted in a huge improvement in his swimming!

The girls went ice skating for the first time and did a fantastic job. We took them to the pond at the local rec center. The good part is that you can borrow skates there for free. The bad part is that they didn't have skates in Moin's size. Since I don't know how to skate, that meant that the girls went out on the ice alone. They were so brave and are on their way to being great skaters.

Here is some new artwork/schoolwork from the kids

Quinn's "I am the color of popcorn" portrait from school

And his venn diagram comparing two different types of polygons

This is a love poem he wrote me for Valentine's day. It says, "You are the marshmallows in my cocoa, you are the jewels in my necklace, you are the pepperoni in my pizza"

Here is Quinn while he was giving his presentation on his culture. I love this picture, because it is exactly what I would imagine Quinn giving a presentation would look like. Sorry, this post is making it very obvious that I don't know how to rotate photos in blogger.

Zahra is in the "community helper" small group in school, which has sort of morphed into the "firefighter" group. They got a visit from a real-life firefighter and fire truck last week. I didn't get any photos of that, but Zahra got sent home with a fire-safety workbook to complete.

Look closely at the tool/toy picture. Zahra still has some learning to do with that one!

Z also drew this wonderful picture of "Penelope as an adult"

Speaking of Penelope, her small group is the "Penguin" group this semester. To continue their learning, she and her group were able to go see the Penguins at Como Zoo, and Moin was able to chaperone.

She was very proud of this trip, and even prouder that she got to go with her dad by herself!

Also, here is Penelope posing "just like Anna in my fancy dress"
Whenever you ask Penelope who her favorite person is, she says "My cousin Anna"

And here is Zahra with her baby. After I took this photo, I asked her to smile for the next one. She said, "That is my smile"

Here is Quinn helping me at work - trying to operate the video equipment in the observation room.

And here he is making breakfast for Penelope, which he does most weekday mornings. She wakes up starving! She likes it when he makes her breakfast because he is quite liberal with the butter.

And you can see Quinn's latest piano tune, here

And finally, here are the pictures we got the kids to hang in their rooms for valentines day. Happy February everyone!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Well, January has come and gone and GOOD RIDDANCE! Most of our days looked like this, or worse:

Yikes. The kids have had FIVE cancelled school days this month, which felt like 100. Thankfully grandma and grandpa are here, otherwise we would have missed a lot of work. To top it all off, the girls had Croup for over a week, and missed even more school because of that!

What do to when it is this cold? Well, the kids have been enjoying a new indoor playground we found with lots of climbing and trampolines.

We blew bubbles when it was -25 and the bubbles froze in mid-air. That was pretty cool.
Moin also threw boiling water in the air, which was even better. It evaporates as soon as you throw it! I guess that's the one advantage of -25 degree temps.

 Quinn saw the 8th graders at his school perform the little mermaid and he loved it so much that he made me take him back in the evening.
 Quinn also read all of Harry Potter this month, and watched the movie (number 1) at least a dozen times.

What else did we do in the cold? We spent lots of time indoors, like at the library. Aren't kids supposed to read books at the library?

And eating out. These pictures at Smashburger were taken by Quinn!

Moin has done lots of cooking projects. Here are many packages of red sauce and butternut squash, ready to go in the big freezer!

We made indoor s'mores. 

Zahra got to go to her first Children's Theatre Company play with me - We saw the very hungry caterpillar. She slept threw the last 20 minutes, but otherwise she loved it! And, I will admit, I loved having her doze on me at the end. That doesn't happen too often these days.

We spent some time at the Science Museum with the dinosaurs. Penelope (pictured) really loves dinosaurs, and plays with her toy dinos all the time. This reminds me so much of Eli when he was little.

Zahra has been really into dancing, so we do lots of that in the evenings.

And the girls are back to gymnastics classes

Of course, we did make some time for outdoor play when it was above zero! Here is Zahra sliding down a makeshift hill made by Moin.

And here she is at the top of another makeshift hill in our yard. Zahra is by far and away the outdoors lover of our children, and this applies to winter outdoor play as well. She can't get enough.

Finally, we all got to go to a cultural celebration at Quinn's school. He and his class have been learning about culture all month (when they've actually been in school). Quinn had to give a 2-3 minute oral presentation on his culture (he talked about how Indian culture, California culture, and Earth culture), and the unit culminated with a big first grade celebration.

As you can see, the girls were excited to be at Quinn's school.

I managed to snap a picture of Quinn's vocabulary words for the week.

Grandma and Grandpa wore their matching Capitol Hill sweatshirts.

The kids did four song and dance performances. Quinn was paired with  a classmate named Willow, and he blushed every time they danced together.

It was such a wonderful celebration! At the end, we all ate lots of terrific food provided by the families. Quinn was really proud that we were all able to come watch the celebration.

See ya later January! Let's hope February brings slightly warmer weather and no cancelled school!