Back to the grind

I know I’m not alone in saying this, but summer has flown by way too quickly! Sure, we have a slightly shorter summer than most, but even then, I feel like June was just here a minute ago. And now I am getting ready to send my first-born back to school in just shy of 12 hours from now.

It was a jam-packed summer to be sure. Two out-of-town trips, three camping trips, tee-ball, swimming, skating, playing with friends, way too many late nights to count. Who knew going back to school could feel like a break??

It’s been a little strange these past few weeks, ahead of Connor starting 1st grade. And by strange, I mean, there has been absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about it. This time last year, I was having panic attacks about sending my little man off into the world. Starting Kindergarten is just such a big freaking deal, that 1st grade has felt completely anti-climactic. School supplies? Got em, piece of cake. School clothes? Most still fits from the Spring, easy peasy. Sending your offspring out into the world without you? Been there, done that.

But then this all of course leads to the inevitable moment of fear: “Why am I not panicking? What am I forgetting to worry about? There must be SOMETHING I’ve overlooked!” So maybe not completely anti-climactic, but close enough.

Everything really is set and ready to go. Clothing is laid out, backpack is ready, alarm clocks are set. We had our night before school starts pep talks, and even read the sweetest book, a gift from the sweetest Kindergarten teacher Connor ever could have asked for. So we are ready.

Except I know that tomorrow, after all is said and done, and we’ve hugged and said our goodbyes, there will likely be a tear or two in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. I am going to miss that kid! No matter how excited I am to watch him grow up and go off and do new things, I am always gonna miss my baby. Such is life, I guess.

And I know it’s going to get worse. Four weeks and counting until I have to survive the preschool sendoff, times 2. At least they won’t be gone full-time, yet….

Shifting priorities

I’ve been struggling with this post in my head, for several weeks now. I’m still not sure I know exactly what I want to say, but I am going to give it a shot anyway…

It began when I stumbled across an article one day, written by another mother. She wrote very openly and honestly about the moment when she realized she couldn’t remember the last time she had been happy. And it felt like I was staring in a mirror, as I read her words. When was the last time I had been truly happy? When was the last time I could relax and live in the moment and enjoy that moment, without worrying about everything else that would come in the many moments to follow?

It felt like I had been going through the motions for so long. Trying to stay on top of it all, trying to get it all done, and moving from one to-do item to the next, to the next… I found myself rarely sitting down and playing with the boys, I was always having to tell them I couldn’t because I needed to do ______. Even when I did make the time, my focus wasn’t there. I would sit through a board game with my thoughts a million miles away, willing the game to go faster so it could just be done and I could get back to work. Even driving in the car I would find myself tuning out my children in favor of the thoughts running through my head. Once upon a time, the car was our ultimate learning and conversation time, but not these days…. I was failing my children. And I was constantly stressed out and oh, so tired.

I have tried for too long now to take on too much. Even when I tell myself I need to slow down, I have never been good at listening to that advice for long. But the truth is I have gotten to a point where it all becomes so overwhelming that I can’t focus to accomplish anything. As in nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The anxiety takes over, and I shut down. The only thing that keeps going are those crazy, senseless thoughts running through my head: what I need to be doing, what I should be accomplishing, and why I am such a failure because I can’t get it done. It feels like a hamster wheel going on super drive in my brain, while my body is stuck in quick sand, unable to move…

I’m pretty sure I would have kept going in this miserable existence if not for the fact that it finally caught up to me in a way that caught my attention. I won’t go into details here, but it was a big wakeup call that the stress in my life was doing more damage than good. Something needed to change, and fast.

So I asked myself what my priorities truly are in life right now. And the answer is simple, my three beautiful boys. My role right now is to be their mother, their teacher, their caregiver, their foundation, their rock. Nothing else is important at this moment in time. They need me now, all of me. And they deserve all of me now, nothing less. I have been so worried about how we will build a financial future for them, that I was sacrificing the time NOW when we can create a solid foundation for their futures. Who cares if money is tight for a few more years until everyone is in school full time? Who cares if I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do with myself at that time? Why on Earth am I lying awake at night worrying about events that are 18 months away, when I am sabotaging the here and now as a result?

It is time to refocus my energy on what matters most, and let the other stuff go. My job right now is Mom, and it is a job I am truly blessed to hold. I don’t need any others. The other stuff can wait. My boys need me now. And I know there will come a day when they don’t need me anymore, so why squander this time now? I won’t.

A few months ago I felt that I was failing this blog, failing in my aspirations of building a future with writing. To compensate, I set a schedule for myself, a requirement to post weekly, in hopes that it would keep me writing regularly. Well, it backfired. All it did was make me resent my blog. And I would stress out when I couldn’t think of things to write, and become even more distracted as a result. Well, no more. I will write in this blog when I feel like it, and only when I feel like it. If months should pass between posts, then so be it. Again, not my priority RIGHT NOW.

I still have an uphill battle ahead. Bad habits are hard to break. And the stress I created has become a pretty bad habit. It’s going to take some time for me to let the other stuff completely go, mentally, and just focus on being present with my kids, my family. But it is what I want and what they need.

And who knows, by losing some of the stress, I might just find myself enjoying my life again, remembering what it feels like to be truly happy. Because I have it pretty damn good with three beautiful boys who I love so much it hurts, an amazing husband who is my soul mate and best friend, caring family and friends, a solid roof over our heads, and endless possibilities for that future we will build together. That’s what matters.

My three heroes

IMG_7250With an hour left until midnight, I guess it is just about Halloween! And I couldn’t resist sharing this picture of my three heroes (don’t mind me, I was just along for the ride). My firefighter, policeman and doctor, so handsome and so proud of their “jobs.”

At first, I was just happy that the boys got excited about costumes we already had on hand, and that they each selected a different one with absolutely no arguing…. that in and of itself was a shocking win for me. And of course I knew they would all look adorable, no question there….

But now that we have been to a few parties and events, I have started thinking a bit more about their costumes and the unintentional theme of this Halloween. I had jokingly told people they are dressed as the Village People, only cooler. But in fact, they are a trio of first responders, helpers, heroes. They each chose to embody a profession that is dedicated to selflessly helping others, and it reminds me how big and open their little hearts are. They may be wild and rambunctious boys, but they are also sensitive and compassionate and caring.

They fill my heart each and every day, they are MY heroes, always.

Taking a break from “on the go”

Is it fair to say that time is relative? Because I know that technically I missed my Friday deadline yesterday. But I also know that it kind of feels like we are still in Friday, simply because we have been so busy the last two days. I knew I needed to blog yesterday, I hadn’t forgotten, I simply never sat down at the computer for more than five minutes at a time… all…. day…. long.

You will have to forgive me, but I was too busy having fun with my boys. It was the start of a four-day weekend for Connor, who has been such a champ about heading off to school every morning without complaint, behaving wonderfully each and every day, and just adjusting magnificently to life as a big school-kid. So yesterday kind of felt like the first day of summer vacation to me, and I wanted to make sure we enjoyed it. And we did. We spent a couple of hours at the zoo, had lunch out with friends, dinner at our place with friends, a nap and some play time in between, and the day literally flew by. So I didn’t check phone messages, and I don’t think I answered any emails (though I may have skimmed a few), and I certainly didn’t concoct any blogs in my head. Instead I just enjoyed playing and laughing with my three beautiful boys.

I know how hard it can be to soak up the moment sometimes. As parents, and myself especially, we become so busy and so distracted by all the things that have to happen day to day, that we forget to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the life we are living. I know I have been feeling that lately, pretty much ever since school started. It feels like there are never enough hours in the day, and we are always rushing. Rush to drop Connor off, rush to do our preschool homework so we can go do something fun and engaging, rush to get Ben and Alex lunch and down for naps on time, so they can wake up on time, so we can rush to pick up Connor. Then we rush home to rush through homework, so I can rush to make dinner, and rush the kids off to bed. And then we do it all over again the next day. Is it any wonder I’ve had a hard time just enjoying the moments???

So that’s what I did yesterday, as I sat back and watched the boys play together, work together, fight together. And I savored the closeness of having all of my babies near me, just… being. Because I know now, more than ever, that days like yesterday will come fewer and farther in between. Okay maybe not literally, since Connor has a two-week break coming up and we will have plenty of together time. I just mean, as they grow older, they will go off in their separate ways more and more, and it may never be again as it is now. So I want to enjoy now as much as I possibly can. And if that means unplugging from the world for a day, I will gladly do it.

One proud mommy

You will have to forgive me, I am going to use this post to shamelessly brag about how amazing my boys are and how proud of them I am. I can’t help it. It has to be done.

Let’s start with Connor. His parent-teacher conference for preschool was yesterday. I had the opportunity to sit down with his teacher and closely examine his progress this year, something I knew was there, but hadn’t really put much thought into. But now that I have, I am so unbelievably proud of my little man, who by the way still has a few more months before he turns 5.

From his preschool teacher: Connor can read, write, and identify the phonics sounds for every letter in the alphabet. He can count from 1 to 79 out loud, and can recognize written numbers up to 25. He can also write the numbers 1 to 10 in order, though a few digits might be backwards. He knows all of his shapes and colors (except tan, darn, I keep forgetting about that one!), uses positional words correctly, holds his pencil properly, and can cut a straight line with scissors. He does a wonderful job participating in class, and is always polite. His teacher called him a “star pupil.”

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I also know that he can count to 100 by 10s, can count to 50 by 5s, has about 20 sight words down already (maybe more), can name every planet in the solar system in order, can identify the number of syllables in a word… and so much more. Connor is quite literally a sponge for knowledge, he learns so quickly and retains it. I could not be more proud of him, both for everything he has learned, and the fact that he loves and enjoys learning.

Not to be outdone, his brothers are doing fantastic with their learning as well! Just shy of 3 years old, both Alexander and Benjamin speak in full sentences, with an extensive vocabulary. They know almost all of their colors (black and brown are still a little tricky, not to mention that darn tan!). They are in the process of learning shapes, and doing very well with them. They can both count to 10 and count the number of objects on a page correctly. They both know how to sing their ABC’s, can recognize the letters A, B, and C by sight, and Alex will even make the F sound when he sees an F or the M sound when he sees an M. So phonics are coming along well too! Oh, and they can name a few planets too!

I am sure there are other key milestones I am forgetting to mention, but the point is, all three boys are doing fantastic with their learning! I am very proud of each and every one of them, and I only hope that this love of learning stays with them always. It is serving them well.

When a child gets lost or left behind

Something scary happened today at Connor’s preschool, and I feel the need to share the story. First please let me be clear, I do not blame his teachers whatsoever for what happened. It was an honest mistake, and as parents we know that mistakes and accidents are unfortunately a necessary evil of life, we just do whatever we can to try and avoid them. And that is why I want to share this story, in hopes that it will encourage other parents to have the conversations I wish I had had before today.

At school today, his class left their classroom to go to the play area in the main part of the building (outside of the preschool and its security). Their policy is to count heads any time they go anywhere. But for whatever reason today, a mistake was made in counting as they left the room. Connor was in the bathroom, and they left without him, not realizing he was missing.

Another teacher across the hall discovered Connor, who came out of the bathroom, found his class gone, got scared, and started crying. Thankfully Connor knew to stay put in his classroom, and I cannot thank God enough for that, because it’s not something I ever told him to do. Now after the fact, I can only imagine him trying to follow behind his class, leaving the preschool and entering the main building that is open to the public, and who knows what could have happened next. He could have gotten hurt, lost, kidnapped, my imagination carries me away at this point… too many years in the news business and I always envision the worst.

We have had limited conversations with Connor in the past: about not talking to strangers, looking for a store worker or police officer if we ever got separated at the store, etc. But there haven’t been enough conversations, not nearly enough. I never told Connor to stay put if he gets lost or left behind, how did he know to do that today??? But I should have told him that. That if he gets separated from us, I don’t want him to wander after me looking for me, and potentially get hurt or worse. I want him to stay put, so I know where to find him and he stays safe.

We have been way too lax about all these safety measures. It’s easy to be when your kids are rarely out of your sight. But Connor will be gone to school all day next year, and I haven’t done a good enough job of preparing him for the potential dangers that are out there. So that’s what we will do now. We will have specific conversations about what to do if he gets lost, what to do if a stranger approaches him and says Mommy and Daddy said he should go with that stranger, which adults are safe to trust and which are not, and whatever other scenarios I can possibly think of.

And I want to encourage all the other parents of young kids reading this to please do the same. Sometimes we think our kids are too young and it doesn’t apply, or that we shouldn’t scare them unnecessarily with “what if’s”…. but if those conversations can prevent something terrible from happening, then the time to have them is right now.

Growing Pains

I think it is fair to say that not many of us particularly like change… and that certainly stands true for young children. Big changes are on the horizon for my first-born son, and to say that both Connor and I are a bit preoccupied by that fact, would be an understatement.

The time has come to select a Kindergarten for Connor, who will be going to school full-time, beginning in the fall. I am not ready for my baby boy to be gone all day, I am having a hard time mentally adjusting to this. Yes, having him in preschool three days a week has helped, but at only a few hours a day, it barely feels like a fair comparison. And I think Connor senses the impending change too. His way of dealing with it has been to revert to behaviors similar to his brothers. He stopped wanting to dress himself, stopped wanting to feed himself, didn’t even want to go to the bathroom by himself. Meanwhile, in my mind I feel that the more independent I can help my boy to be, the easier the adjustment will be when it comes time to leave Mommy for the day.

So I have been working feverishly to correct this behavior, in the most positive and fun ways I can come up with. For example, Connor and I now run a race every morning: can he get himself dressed completely before I get his brothers dressed? It has worked well, he is now undressing and dressing himself without any help other than me picking out his clothes for him. Progress!! I have learned that the best way to help him right now is to make “growing up” fun, even if us “grown ups” know all too well that it isn’t always fun and games…

Then there is the really big dilemma, where to send Connor to school??? We live in an underperforming school district, with the option to place our children in a slightly-better performing school district nearby. We also have the option to select any school in either of the districts, provided space is available and we can transport to and from school ourselves. Decisions, decisions, where to even start????

I have scoured standardized test results, I have talked to other parents, I have looked at attendance and other available statistics, and I’m still not 100-percent certain of what the right decision is. I will be applying to a couple of charter schools this week, but should they fall through, I don’t know what our next plan should be. Do we stay in the district that we vote for and pay taxes for, even though the schools are all really struggling? Or do we move to the other district, where the schools are just slightly better?

I’m leaning towards moving to the other district. Which means whatever we do, I will be driving Connor to school next year. And of course, the prospect of taking my children to school for the next 12 years or so, brings with it additional challenges. And this is why I will continue working harder than ever to grow my little spare-time business into a full-time career. So that I can have the flexibility to get my kids to the best schools possible. Because whatever we choose, it all comes down to them and doing what’s best for them. Always.

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