I’ve missed you, old friend

Yes, I know. It has been eight months since I last opened up this blog to write. EIGHT MONTHS! It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I have. More than once, I have constructed interesting posts in my mind, only to never find the time to put pen to paper, or I guess fingers to keyboard as it were.

My last post came right before school started for the year. I guess that should say it all. This year has been busy; busier than I could have ever imagined. I actually remember thinking that with my youngest boys starting preschool, I would have all this spare time to work, to get caught up on projects, to have time for myself….. except that isn’t exactly how it has gone.

Instead I have spent a very hectic last eight months juggling everyone’s busy schedules. My days are spent driving kids to school, picking them up, volunteering at their schools whenever possible, driving to after-school activities, finding time to help with homework, trying to keep the house running, and just occasionally sneaking in a few moments to sit back and enjoy life at this stage. It’s exhausting. Seriously. I don’t know how other moms do it, especially if they have more kids than me. I am worn out….

So no, by the end of a long day, I’m usually not in the mood to sit down and write. I’m much more in a curl-up-with-a-book-and-glass-of-wine mood, or maybe a Netflix-and-ice-cream-sundae kind of mood.

As it is, I find my time here drawing to a rapid close, as the clock tells me I must head out very soon to pick up my boys from preschool. I’m glad I was able to at least sneak on here for a few precious moments.

So tell me fellow moms, how do YOU do it? How do you get everyone where they need to go, get all the homework done, and get dinner on the table each night? I’m open to any and all suggestions. And maybe those of us who have this craziness worked out into a well-oiled machine, can offer some inspiration to the rest of us who are trying our best to keep up.

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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….

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.

Milestones, transitions and a small serving of chaos on the side

The past few months have been full of changes, both personal and professional. In order to fill you in on it all, I would have to write a novel. And let’s face it, there isn’t time for that. So instead, I would like to focus on the biggest change of all. My sweet young man has just about completed his first month of preschool!

While we did a homeschool preschool program last year, and are continuing that program this year, Connor now also attends a formal preschool three mornings a week. It is an enormous transition, not only for him, but for his brothers and me as well. Connor does not remember his days of daycare, he was too young. His memory only includes life at home with Mommy and the babies. So this has been a very big change.

So far, he is doing phenomenally. There were no tears the first day, not even the slightest apprehension. He has warmed up to his teachers, is getting to know his classmates, follows instructions beautifully, and is adjusting well. We wanted to place him in preschool outside of the home so that he could adjust to that kind of environment and having a teacher other than me, in order to prepare him for Kindergarten. And it seems to be working. Already I notice that my once unbelievable shy boy is becoming more confident around adults he does not know well. He even struck up a conversation with my dental hygienist the other day, leaving me speechless!

Benjamin and Alexander are adjusting fairly well to the change too. At first I could tell they missed their big brother (aka the ring leader) and felt a little left behind. But they now understand that preschool will be there for them as well, once they are a little older. And until then, Connor is not gone forever, he comes back everyday after a few short hours, ready to play and fight and be big brother again.

Then there is me. I think the adjustment has been hardest on me. It has been hard to give up three mornings a week with my Connor. I miss him. But I know this is a natural progression, and I try to remind myself it is only a few hours until he is back within snuggling distance again. And it is nice to get a little one-on-two time with Ben and Alex. We have found ways to keep ourselves busy and engaged, whether it is playing quietly at home, visiting with friends, running errands, whatever. I enjoy getting some time to spend with just them, just as I have always enjoyed the times that Connor and I take off and do something on the weekends, just the two of us.

When I first put this whole plan together in my head, I told myself that I would take advantage of Connor’s preschool time to start going to the gym and having a little “me” time. But I’m starting to rethink that plan. There is a great daycare that I can place Ben and Alex in while I work out…. but I just don’t really want to. I don’t want to be away from them, I don’t enjoy my time to myself when I’m thinking about them and what they are doing, how they are doing, are they missing me, etc… I know it is healthy to have “me” time, but thanks to some other big changes, I am already getting more of that than I have in the past (more on that in a future post). My mornings working out don’t feel like “me” time, they feel lonely. So I don’t think I will be going to the gym much more. I think it is back to workout DVDs and exercising on the XBOX for me. That way I can do my exercising in the company of my favorite people.

I have to admit, I am also still struggling a bit to get used to the new schedule. I find that almost funny, seeing as how I am the complete Type-A, OCD, scheduler, planner person…. I thought our days were pretty regimented. Now they are even more so. I’m still trying to get everything worked in and everything done, hence not even posting a blog this entire month. The boys continue to come first, but with me seemingly having fewer hours in the day somehow, everything else is taking a back seat. For example, the load of laundry I ran on Monday is still sitting in the dryer, waiting to be folded, two days later. I will be addressing that as soon as I publish. It is easy to let the feelings of being overwhelmed creep into the back of my head, but I am trying hard to fight them. I know this will get easier as we continue to work out the kinks in our new daily routine. And until then, I will continue to just focus on my priorities, all three of them. And if the laundry has to sit…. so be it.

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