Sunday, August 29, 2010

Super Stupendous Family Fun Day!

I was nervous about sending Andrew off to school.  I know it is just kindergarten, but it really is the beginning of his exposure to different belief systems, values, and opinions.  I wondered if I had done enough to help him treat others kindly, to be a good example, and choose the right even when his friends were not.  Chad and I sat down and discussed what we could do as a family during the summer to help prepare him for school.  We decided to arm him with SCRIPTURE POWER!  We prayerfully selected 12 scriptures to memorize as a family, one each week.  Andrew, Chad, and I memorized all 12 verses.  Ryan memorized shortened parts of each scripture.  Molly was our cheerleader.   We promised a BIG REWARD at the end.  Chad and I discussed beach trips, camping, and amusement parks, but didn't want Andrew to miss any school.  So instead we decided it would be fun to stay in town and take the kids to do several things they often ask to do, but that we never make time for or don't do because they aren't really very healthy (like every meal we ate yesterday). But in the name of fun and spontaneity, we headed out on our fun adventure.  Determined to let loose, and let the whole day be about the kids.  (BONUS: We also managed to use passes we received from the library reading program for almost every one of our activities). 

We started the day with dessert at Chick-fil-A.  We ate ice cream at 9am and then happened upon their storytime they hold on Saturdays.  (who knew)?  So, we used our free passes for ice cream, and then for participating in the story time, they gave us passes for 3 free drinks!  Awesome!

After dessert, we headed to use our library passes for a round of minigolf.  Andrew is quite the golfer.  Ryan enjoyed bowling with the golf ball, and Molly thought she was so big strutting around with her club and ball.

We left  minigolf and headed to the Children's Museum, one of our favorite spots, but Daddy doesn't usually get to go with us.  It was fairly empty.  They had a new crane exhibit which is probably my all time favorite thing at a kid's museum ever.  The children got to build towers and then operate the controls and have the crane knock them down!  We played there most of our time, but managed to squeeze in a few more fun things.  Molly was a big fan of the grocery store.  And they all loved playing pretend and dress up.

Since the library had given us passes, we headed next to Cici's Pizza.  A place we have only eaten maybe one or two other times with the kids.  They were so excited. 

It was time for Molly's nap so we headed home and let her sleep while the boys all played some video games Chad had never pulled out for them before.  Like Donkey Konga.  They loved it! (and amazingly Molly slept through it and took a great nap).

And since we began the day with dessert, we ended with breakfast! At IHOP, of course.  As we tucked the kiddos in bed, Andrew declared it a Super Stupendous Family Fun Day!

Moving My Baby Sister

She was 14 months old the day I left home to attend Meredith College.   She never remembers me living at home, but she is there, ever present in my memories of my last few months as a child.  This week, I left my own 1 year old at home with her daddy, while I went with my family to move Rachel into college at Southern Virginia University.  It has made me nostalgic about my own wonderful college experience.  I hope hers is as happy, challenging, fun, and filled with growth opportunities as mine was. I hope that she makes friendships there that will continue to be a major influence in her life.   I am so proud of the beautiful woman she has become.  So grateful for the positive influence she has been on my life.  She has always been and remains, my Sunshine. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Concord Mills

I met my parents and sisters at Concord Mills on Saturday for a full day of shopping.  I had so much fun hanging out with them and actually found some clothes for myself.  I did not come home with a single piece of clothing for my kids, which is quite an accomplishment for me!

Reynolda Farmers' Market and Tree Climbing

A friend at Book Club told me about a small Farmers' Market that had opened at Reynolda.  No one at our house had been sick since Tuesday, so last Friday, we loaded up the van and headed out for some much needed fresh air.   While there, we ran into another friend from Book Club who had come to check out the market.  The market is very small, but the quality was good and the vendors were so friendly.  There were even a few bakeries represented.  We bought some cookies and shared then with our friends under the shade of this massive tree.  Andrew had a great time climbing, but Ryan was more comfortable on the ground.  I love Reynolda.  I am not sure why we don't go there more often.  It really is one of my favorite spots in town.  There are great hiking trails, pretty flowers in the arboretum,  bike and jogging trails, wide open fields for running and kite flying, and of course great trees to climb.

We had to cut our visit shorter than I would have wished, because Ryan started complaining about a tummy ache, and I was taking no chances, given our recent history.


Starring Molly as our own little Goldilocks.  And Ryan as our very sad Baby Bear. Before the video, she had also gotten into the recycling (as evidenced in the background).

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Expectations of Kindergarten

When filling out Andrew’s back to school paperwork, I came across a question that stopped me in my tracks.  “What are your expectations or concerns about kindergarten?”  Under it was enough space for one complete sentence.  Just one. It was tucked away between questions about my sons’ allergies, transportation arrangements, and siblings.  I stared at the survey sheet.  What one sentence could sum up all of my desires, concerns, or expectations about sending my oldest to kindergarten? “ I could write a book about the journey that brought me here, my fears, my desires for my son."   But instead of a book, I decided instead to write a letter. I am not sure I will actually send it to her however.

Dear Teacher,
I am sending you one of my greatest treasures, my eldest son.  He is a child that was much wanted. His father and I prayed and fasted for many long years that he would join our family.   We held each other and cried many nights, longing for his arrival in our home.  He is our miracle.  We are grateful for every moment with Andrew, and try to never forget how fortunate we are that he is ours.

I have had the blessing  to be able to stay home with him, and have spent every day of the last 5 years  as his teacher.  I have tried to teach him to count, to read, to love nature, to use his manners, to  play fairly, to be a good friend, to serve his community, to pray, to love God, and to love his family.  I have taken him to church, play dates, swim lessons, gymnastics, soccer, SciCamp, and theater classes, so that school would not be his first experience in the community.  I have tried to shelter him from negative influences,  to teach him to discern right from wrong, to be respectful.

Andrew has brought much laughter into our home and hearts.  He loves to make others laugh, to entertain.   He is a bright little boy.  He can read and comprehend on a beginning second grade level.  He can memorize long passages and perform them.  He has an extensive vocabulary.  He is learning to sound out words and loves to write long lists and letters.  He loves to count, and is an “expert” on outer space, dinosaurs, and trains.    Being the oldest at home, he likes to be in charge, and is learning daily that he is not.

Andrew is also very sensitive.  We have a peaceful home, (most of the time) and he is not used to yelling or harshness.  When he experiences it other places, he breaks down.   Although he has several play dates a week,  he still doesn’t quite grasp the difference between play and reality or always pick up on social cues.  Sometimes a child will be unkind to Andrew, but he is oblivious, thinking it is part of the game they are playing, and other times he will think someone is teasing him, who is actually just playing.   Andrew is not very aggressive and doesn’t really “get it” when other children play that way.  He will think one of them is really getting hurt and will try to step in to help his friend, usually by verbally explaining to them that they need to stop.

Until very recently, I had planned on homeschooling Andrew and his siblings.  I have a teaching degree, I love being at home with my children, and I was very excited about the prospect.  But God has led us down a different path.  I am excited about ABES and I am excited that you are his schoolteacher.  However, I still  believe that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children.

So what do I want from kindergarten.  I want what every other mom and dad want.  I want my son to be treated each day like the miracle he is.  I want him to laugh.  I want him to know the joy of having a best friend, but I don’t want him to exclude others.  I want him to be encouraged to try new things, and to move out of his comfort zone.  I want him to be treated fairly and kindly when he makes mistakes, and praised when he makes good choices.   I want him to learn that he isn’t the center of the universe, to practice sharing, taking turns, sacrificing for others.  I want him to learn to appreciate the talents of others, and not be embarrassed by his own talents.  I want him to learn how to learn from other adults.  I want him to learn academically and be challenged at his level, not ignored because he can already meet most of the curriculum objectives of kindergarten.   I want him to learn that it is okay to not join the crowd.   I want him to learn to laugh at himself.   I want him to continue to love learning as much as he loves it now.  I don’t want anything to squelch his enthusiasm about school and reading and learning.   I want him to learn to respect other’s beliefs, but to still have faith in his own.  I want him to be hugged at school every day.  6 and ½ hours is a long time to go without being hugged.  I want him to look at your face and know that you care about him.  That he is important to you.  I want you to tell me the strengths you see in him, for you to love and appreciate my child, to validate my decision to send him to you each day.  Because this is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I am so sorry to ask so much from you.  I know that none of this is in your job description.  I know that my expectations are unrealistic and completely unfair.  But you asked what I wanted and expected from kindergarten.   I hold out hope as I hand over my son to you, that you will love him.  That you will nurture all that is good in him, and help weed out all that is not. That you will respect him.  That you will teach him.  You are in my prayers as you endeavor to meet this great challenge.  I know that 17 miracles have been placed  in your capable hands, and their parents all want the same thing.  I will pray for you each day.  I am not relinquishing my responsibility to teach my son.  I know that I am primarily responsible for all that he learns as he lives in our home, but I welcome you as a partner.  I am grateful that you have chosen to dedicate your life as an educator of young children. I look forward to a beautiful kindergarten year.

With gratitude,
Andrew’s Mommy

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The First Day of School

Andrew was so excited about his first day of school. (And so was I)!!!  I wanted to start some fun new traditions for our family.   I had lots of big plans and ideas, but I decided to keep things simple.  I thought if I wanted these traditions to be sustainable when I had 5 kiddos in school, they HAD to be simple.

Of course he had a blessing from his daddy.  Chad had taught a beautiful Family Home Evening Lesson about a little girl who was scared to go to Kindergarten and so her Daddy gave her a blessing of comfort.  Chad then asked  if he would like a blessing. " No thanks, I am not afraid of anything."  We convinced him that you didn't have to be scared to get a blessing.  Ryan asked for one too, which I thought was probably good, since I am so worried about how lonely he will be without his best friend.

For breakfast the first day of school, I made muffins, smoothies, and we ate fruit.

I had him write on his white board what he wanted to be when he grew up.  He wrote, "A Jedi Nit" (Knight)  At first, he had actually written "U Jedi Kit" but erased it and fixed it himself.   I hope to let him do that the first day of every school year to see how his handwriting and aspirations grow and change.

Then the entire family went to take him to the first day of school. I tried to get some pictures of him in front of the school and the school entrance.  He was pretty uncooperative.  He finally had enough and said, "Come on let's go in already.  I am ready to get started!"  So we have a picture of the sign, but no Andrew.

The school has a staggered entrance for kindergarteners.  Andrew was in the first group to go.  There were only 5 kids there the first day.   We took pictures of him getting settled in.

Even though there were only 4 kids other kids, we already knew 2 of them.  One was our neighbor, Caroline and another was a very sweet little girl who was in his Sunbeam class at church.  There were also 2 other boys.  Andrew said he had a great time playing with them all.

After hugging Andrew goodbye, Chad drove us home.  I cried, of course, but only that once.  I was actually more excited for him, then I was sad. (I know, only once...aren't you amazed)?

At home, we started another new tradition.  The little ones at home helped make cookies and a card for Andrew.  (at least that is the tradition I wanted to start.  Ryan has been sick, so he just made the card).  I had seen these cool Darth Vader cookies a few weeks ago and was excited to make them for him.   So after we picked him up from school, we came home and ate cookies and milk so he could tell me all about his day.

The first words out of his mouth were "It was AWESOME!" It took several hours for me to get the full details.  He was not too forthcoming with information.  But I found if I didn't ask any questions, information would gradually spill out.

*He played outside 2 times.  He pretended to be characters from Bakugan with his two new friends.
*He learned the sign language sign for "bathroom."
*He counted to 102 for his teacher and then counted some frogs.
*He went on a tour of the school.
*He ran out of time at lunch and didn't get to eat his lunch mint I had packed for his stinky hummus breath.
*He did Yoga.
*He took a very short rest, for like a minute. 
*Someone (but not him) forgot the rules and talked in the cafeteria.
*His favorite part of his day was writing this note and picture in class after reading the story "The Kissing Hand."

He drew a picture of each family member and labeled our names.  He wrote "Mollypop" next to his sister.  It is hard to read in this picture, but the note says, "Miy famly is stopidis and cool to.  I love my famly.  My famly is bedr then ine uthr famly and nis."  (My family is stupendous and cool, too.  I love my family.  My family is better than any other family and nice).     Perhaps our next FHE should be on humility.

For dinner we had homemade pizza and enjoyed playing Bingo together before bed.   He had a fun day, and as we were getting ready for bed, he told me how excited he was to go back to school in the morning.  I guess I had not done a very good job explaining the whole staggered entrance thing to him.  He was so disappointed to find out he didn't go back until Monday.  I guess that is a good sign.

Andrew's Open House

This is Andrew's Kindergarten Class Assistant.  She is as super nice as his teacher.  He had the chance to meet her at Open House on Monday.   After a brief visit in Andrew's classroom the K-2 students and families all met together.  Having attended many open house meetings in my life as a student and career as a teacher, I was a little concerned at how well all 3 kiddos would do.  They typically are dry affairs with intros of important people, lists of rules, and a long welcome speech by the principal.  But I wanted to hear the info, so we all went together.

However, this is no ordinary school, and the principal is no ordinary principal.  The Assistant Principal pulled out her guitar, and began to sing the student handbook to the tune of a Beethoven Symphony.  The principal interjected comments and clarifications along the way with good-natured humor and kindness.  Even Molly was captivated!  The kids thought it was great and Andrew and I still remember all of the rules we learned from the song.  After the song they quickly had each teacher run across the stage, then they dismissed us.  That was it!  It was fun, short, and completely child centered.  I am in love with this school!

"Not So" Dry Cleaning

Ryan asked for a napkin after dinner.  Then told us, "Oh Never mind, I've got it!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Visiting Teacher

Another reason I love Andrew's school is the beginning of year home visit.  Each teacher in the school visits with all of her students in their homes (or at the school if they prefer) before school begins. Andrew was so excited to have his new teacher come to our home.  He picked out a special outfit he wanted to wear, his soccer uniform, complete with cape and mask.  I encouraged him to wait on the cape and mask, but told him he could show those to his teacher after she arrived.  He then went upstairs and decided he DID NOT want his teacher to see the scrapes on his arms and legs he received from falling down in the parking lot.  So even though it was 97 degrees outside, he insisted on wearing long sleeves and long pants.  He waited by the front door for her to arrive, and very graciously welcomed her to our home and asked her to have a seat.  He had chosen one of our favorite books to give to the classroom, an Elephant and Piggie book called "I Love My New Toy!"  They read it together.   She asked him if he had any questions.  He could only come up with one question to ask his new teacher, "Do you have Show and Tell?"  (Apparently every storybook we have ever read about school, included Show and Tell and it is something he is really looking forward to).   She let him know that they did, in fact, have show and tell every week!  Andrew was excited to hear that, but a little disappointed to find out that no toys were allowed.  He is a pretty quick thinking little fellow, though, so he didn't stay disappointed long. No, that Andrew of mine went straight to his playroom and brought out every single one of his light sabers, star wars ships, and the aforementioned super hero costume, and held his own personal session of Show and Tell in our (previously spotless) living room.  She was very sweet and listened patiently as he described each in full detail, asking the appropriate questions, acting sufficiently appreciative of these treasures.  When the visit was over, she asked him if she could take a picture of him with his mom.  She encouraged him to pose with one of his light sabers.  (She is one smart woman).  If Andrew was excited about school before her visit, he is EXUBERANT, now.  He spontaneously yells out at random times, "I can't wait for school to start."  (I am just as likely to spontaneously burst into tears these days, of course where he can't see). 
Andrew and I made caramel popcorn together for his teacher and he wrote this cute letter.

"This is a picture of Daddy, Me, and Ryan at Back to School Night.  That is our school with a flag on top."
" teacher, I really don't know about kindergarten, but I do know that I am not afraid of anything.  Love, Andrew" 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My really whiny post (or Black Light Mini Golf)

 We went to Ft. Bragg this week with the intention of spending several days with my family.  Swimming, outlet shopping, movies, trip to an amusement park, and sitters were all on the agenda.  Ahhh, the best laid plans....We packed lots of fun into the first day.  We went swimming, out to eat, and then to play indoor Black light mini-golf.  Andrew got a hole in one! I went to work out with my sisters after I put my kids to bed.  I was even asleep before 11pm.  Heaven!  Until 12am, when Molly woke up vomiting.  Not to be left out, Andrew woke up at 2am vomiting.  I got sick around 4am.  Needless to say, as soon as I could rest up the next day, I loaded up my germy family and came home.  I was so sad.  Sad that my kiddos were sick, sad that I was sick, sad that I exposed my family to our germs, but mostly sad that I missed out on a fun week with everybody.  Instead of being at outlet malls or at the pool, I was home doing laundry, cleaning up throw up, etc..., lysoling every hard surface in our house, and feeling sorry for myself.  My sisters will go back to college soon, my mom will start work again, and Andrew will be in school.  It really was our last chance for some fun together this summer.

I thought that perhaps we were all finally better...until both Andrew and Molly got sick again today.  I am not sure how long we should stay quarantined.    This is one crazy illness. No one has run a fever.  Someone will be sick for 24-48 hours, symptom free for 2 or 3 or even 4 DAYS, and then BOOM, sick again!  I apologize for being sooooooooo whiny.  There are a lot bigger, harder trials than kiddos who have the stomach flu.  I remember days not too far distant when I would have read this on someone else's blog and thought "I wish I had 3 kids who were sick."  So there.  I am done whining.  I am done griping.  I am done wallowing in self pity.  I just wish I were done cleaning toilets and sheets.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Can't resist sharing

Two cute stories from yesterday.

First,one from just Andrew.
Andrew: Mom, I think I am going to bear my testimony again tomorrow.  But this time I don't want Daddy to sit on the stand with me.
Me: Sounds great.  Do you want to practice what you want to say?
Andrew:  Why?
Me: I just want to make sure you know what is and isn't appropriate to share during a testimony.
Andrew: (best impression of a teenager) Um, Mom, really, why would anybody who has gone to church his WHOLE LIFE say something inappropriate?

I didn't really know what to say after that. 

The second is about both boys.
It was very "late" on a Saturday morning.  Like 7:18am.  I was out exercising with a neighbor and Chad was still in bed.  The boys woke up and decided that Daddy had overslept.  They wanted to make sure he was happy when they woke him up, so they went downstairs to fix him "breakfast."  This is what they brought him. 

They were so PROUD of themselves!  They explained that they didn't mix it together because they couldn't find Daddy's special cup.  (So grateful for small miracles).  I am wondering what kind of warped children I am raising if they think that a protein shake is the perfect breakfast in bed food!