The End of an Era en Español

August 20, 2014 by  
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"Adios, Elliot." "Hasta luego."

A chorus of Spanish-language goodbyes enveloped Elliot. At the teacher's prompting, each child gave him a goodbye hug before he walked through the door of his Spanish immersion preschool for the last time.

After two years, Elliot is moving on...and I'm feeling a little bit sad. Picking him up today for the very last time, I thought back to his very first day at school. We were both nervous. Well, he was terrified, never really having been away from me in a new environment. He bawled when he realized I was leaving. I still remember how odd it felt when I got back home to a completely empty house. So silent.

The first three months were rough, with a lot of phone calls to reassure me that Elliot had indeed stopped crying. But, over time, he started to get more comfortable. He started participating in activities, not merely observing them. He made friends. He gained a lot of confidence. And his Spanish got better and better. I got very used to my baby being out of the house for several mornings each week.

For the past few weeks, Elliot and I have been counting down to his last day at preschool. He's been pretty nonchalant about the whole thing: "Then three days, then two days, then one day, then zero days." But this morning, he was a little upset. His stomach was bothering him. He didn't want to leave the house. "Why is it my last day, Mommy?"

I explained to him again that the school is closed next week, and then he'll start his new school after our Labor Day camping weekend. "But, I don't like new schools."

I reminded him that he didn't like his current preschool when he started. I told him that I also find change difficult. I told him that he's grown a lot and that he's ready for more of a "big boy" experience.

He agreed. On some level, I think he gets it and is ready for a new challenge But, knowing my baby, the transition will not be an easy one. However, I know we'll both have to get used to change and new beginnings because we're going to have a lot of them!


Who will be your 15 minutes?

August 19, 2014 by  
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At the end of middle school a girl Ashlyn went to school with moved out of state. She was Ashlyn’s peer support, a student chosen to help her during the day, but also her friend. When she moved away we were both sad to see her go.

The girls soon developed a routine of talking on Sunday afternoons. Ashlyn’s friend called every Sunday and listened to her talk about her week. Before letting her go she would tell Ashlyn what time they could talk the next week, knowing Ashlyn counted on routine. Sometimes they talked for an hour, sometimes they talked for 15 minutes.

It’s been five years and nothing has changed. Hers is the one call Ashlyn counts on every week. When Ashlyn is upset I can often distract her by asking what they talked about last Sunday or what time they are talking this Sunday. Every Saturday, Ashlyn anticipates the call the next day with the same excitement as she did their first call and their twentieth.

To her friend, their Sunday call is just 15 minutes of her week but to Ashlyn it’s so much more. To me it’s so much more.

Last week, as bad news after bad news filled the media, I asked people on my Facebook page to share acts of kindness that helped keep their faith in humanity and there were such great stories. From husbands who left early to take out their neighbors trash to a teenager who tied an elderly man’s shoe, what struck me most about the stories were how simple they were.

People giving their 15 minutes and changing someone else’s day or week or year.

It made me reevaluate how I spend my own time and whether enough of it is dedicated to giving without expectation. Do I offer enough 15 minutes? Do I take the time to see who might need it?

I’m not sure I do.

There’s so much rushing and sighing and repeating that I’m not sure I give extra of myself to anyone who isn’t banging on the bathroom door or spilling their mac-n-cheese. I need to look around more and maybe we all do.

Maybe the only way to help our children grow up without riots and overwhelming suicide rates and awful prejudices is for all of us to give our 15 minutes and not expect them back. Maybe you already are, maybe you call someone every Sunday and you have no idea how happy it makes them.

I know I give when there is need right in front of me but maybe we should all start looking harder for who might need us.

The 15 minutes we can give might be what gets someone else through the next.

acts of kindness

No matter what

August 11, 2014 by  
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Okay fine I like it

August 7, 2014 by  
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Our internet has been down since we got back from vacation and our laptop died last week. One of our cars has been acting up and we left my parents in a puff of smoke on our way to drop it off at the dealership from which it may never return.

I’m sitting in the corner of our library on the computer labeled “guest” and every fifteen minutes I have to walk over to the headphoned teenager at the desk and ask if he could extend my computer time for one more session. I’ve missed writing and my fingers hitting the keyboard and since I’m here without kids I’ll add in that I’ve missed hearing my fingers hit the keyboard.

The past week has not been full of my finest moments. There is no laptop to distract my kids, no iPad to hand someone when they need quiet time and the voice recognition software on the customer service lines for our car, computer and internet have trouble discerning what exactly I need over the sound of my children crying for high fructose corn syrup at 9 am.

I’ve been apologizing my way through missed writing deadlines and trying to keep up a fraction of my social media work by standing in that one spot in my house where my phone gets a great signal.

But really we’ve been okay. Our anniversary was Tuesday and sans babysitter, we pep talked the kids through a semi-sane dinner and it was nice. It was nice.

We’re four days into the no car, no internet, no computer life and even though I haven’t churned butter or tried on bonnets I kind of like it a little. Once I made a truce with the fact that nothing was going to be fixed or returned anytime soon I dug into the just being here and it’s good.

I made play dough (don’t get too excited, it turned into glue and I had to hose everyone off) and those muffins where you disguise the veggies but your kids don’t notice (they did) and I’ve already read two books (one good and one even better). We set up the sprinkler this morning so the kids could fight over who hit who with a drop of water and at day four they’re completely done mourning the loss of our internet.

I’m pretty sure this is one of those weeks I will look back on and miss. The year will get busy and our SUV will be full of dvd-watching kids again and I will be trying to squeeze in time to return emails and I will like this week right now better than that one right then.

It’s nice.

I think I’ll try to like it now instead of looking back and loving it later.

loving the day

 

How is your summer going? What have I missed during my week on the prairie? What are you reading?

 

Another Fun Weekend at Grandparents’ "Camp"

August 6, 2014 by  
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"Next time I want to stay five sleeps," said Elliot to my parents' friend when they ran into her at a restaurant. One night into his "three sleep" visit to "Camp Grandma and Poppy," Elliot was already planning for a more extended stay next time.

Needless to say, he had a great time.

My dad took Elliot fishing, something he'd done with Daddy several times with no results. With Poppy, he caught eight fish (although six of them were due to a friendly fellow fisher who handed his rod to Elliot every time he had a bite). When my dad told me about it, I could tell that he loved hearing Elliot's squeals of delight as they reeled in their catch on "Big Lunker Lake."

My parents took Elliot to two parks, at least one for a picnic. They gave him his favorite foods, including pizza and a "zap-a-doo burger" (which we call a bagel with honey and cream cheese at our house.) My mom indulged Elliot's role-playing games (coffee shop, driving to Costa Rica, etc.) far longer than I would likely have the patience for.

Elliot and my parents' dog Gia became fast friends, to the point where she let Elliot brush her...something that our cat Leo certainly doesn't stand for!

Elliot stayed up late. He slept well. He played and got read to and watched videos on Grandma's computer. He pretended he was driving the golf carts at the local golf course. Coming home from our weekend get-away, I texted my mom to say that we'd be a little late due to traffic. "Don't worry," was her immediate response. "Elliot and Poppy are at Home Depot sitting on tractors." (And I'm sure he was deciding which one he'd buy when he was a grown-up).

"Three sleeps" was the longest Elliot had ever spent at Grandma and Poppy's, and away from us. All in all, it was a smashing success. Tim and I got to enjoy an adults-only anniversary celebration at a Lake Michigan beach town, and Elliot got three days of undivided attention from his beloved grandparents.

And everyone involved was very happy. 




When your family grows

July 31, 2014 by  
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Half of my Instagram feed is expectant mamas, counting down the days until their families grow. I fell asleep last night remembering my days of sitting with an expanding stomach, listening to Ashlyn tell me about her day.

If she mentioned a class, my mind could recall the color of the folder needed, an event at lunch and I knew the time it began and how much extra it cost for juice. Life was calm enough that I could take in every detail and I was young enough that I could remember things.

With every rumble of the belly quickly covering my lap, I wondered if I would ever be all of this for her again.

Adding to the family would surely take away from her.

I imagined my heart dividing, dreaming the new babies would grasp on to what was hers, leaving her slighted.

As they entered the world I was in awe of the instant love. The same love that took me by surprise so many years before.

Days rolled forward and I loved every one of my children exactly the same and completely different and all at once.

Our time stumbled awkwardly at first, slowly stepping into a rhythm of almost quieted cries and nearly finished homework.

I was spread too thin and filled with contentment in the same exhausted breath.

As I loved one for determination and calm, I loved another for spirit and noise.

My heart never divided as I had feared, only multiplied in ways I could never have imagined.

And through the years of forgotten lunch money and pancakes for dinner, sharing bedrooms and almost matching pajamas

I have learned that the greatest things I could give my children…

is each other.

sisters

Fun in Oregon

July 21, 2014 by  
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If you're like me, you might not know that "Oregon" actually more closely rhymes with "fun" than "on." That was one of the first things I learned upon arriving in the state in late June for our most recent family vacation. More importantly, I learned that Oregon is a beautiful and fun-filled destination for a family adventure with our intrepid traveler, Elliot.

Highlights of the week or so we split between coastal town Cannon Beach and hipster hangout Portland include:

  • Tidal pools: When I think of starfish, I used to think of dried-up, sand-colored creatures. No longer. Since we had the opportunity to wade through the tidal pools that form around the 220-foot high Haystack Rock during low tide periods, I now know that starfish come in colors including orange and purple. We marveled at the number of shellfish attached to the rocks and the brilliant colors of the anemones. And, we got to look through telescopes and see nesting puffins high up in the rocks.
  •  Hiking: Buying Elliot his very first pair of hiking boots before our trip was a flash of inspiration. One day, he hiked three miles! Up and down hills, through mud, over tree roots and rocks went out nimble-footed almost five-year-old. Whenever there was an opportunity to further explore, Elliot took it...whether is was using a downed tree as a pathway or seeing how many tree trunk hole "animal shelters" he could squeeze into.
  • Portland Blues Festival: Tim, Elliot and I love live music, and when we're on vacation, we really enjoy attending local events. The waterfront Portland Blues Festival was a great chance to blend in with the Portlanders and listen to some tunes on a beautiful night. And, we just happened to catch Los Lonely Boys, a band we actually know!
  •  Ice cream: No vacation would be complete without ice cream, and the ice cream we enjoyed in Portland was especially memorable. We went to two artisan ice cream shops where we sampled homemade flavors like bourbon coffee (not Elliot), strawberry balsamic and ooey-gooey brownie. One advertised flavor none of us was brave enough to try was habanero goat cheese marionberry!
Throughout our trip, Elliot literally skipped and danced with delight while playing on the (chilly) beach, wandering through the Japanese Gardens, exploring the zoo and just meandering down the streets. So, we knew he was having fun...and so were we. And that's the most important part of any vacation.


Could this be why my daughter doesn’t like to read?

July 15, 2014 by  
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I thought McKenna would be easy to homeschool. She is very smart. She retains words quickly and she’s very inquisitive. Preschool was great and kindergarten started off great until we progressed into harder levels of reading. Guess what her favorite thing to say about homeschool is? I love school with Mommy but I don’t like to read!

This girl has me so confused. She knows SO many words but she doesn’t want to put them together. She doesn’t even want to try. If we open a book and she doesn’t know that she will be able to read it perfectly she refuses to attempt it at all. I try not to compare my children but Parker and McKenna are the same age and it’s hard to watch him progress through the reading levels and enjoy books while she doesn’t want to read at all.

I’ve tried so many different techniques to get her over the hump this year, knowing that once she gets past her quest for perfection she will love books as much as I do. But nothing is working and oh.my.gosh I’m glad it’s summer so we can both take a break from the pressure of reading.

We recently saw a neuropsychiatrist to look at some of the long term issues McKenna has and she was reassured by her scores despite having a cerebral hemorrhage soon after birth. She noticed a discrepancy in her intelligence level and the work she was able to produce but did not spend much time on this issue so I wasn’t too concerned.

Until I watched this video.

hidden learning disability

This is only the first in a four part series on stealth dyslexia from MomAssembly and I came away with so much information to help me help her.

So much of this rang true for McKenna and I’m relieved I watched this now so that I have something to talk with her specialists about rather than going through another frustrating year without any direction.

I spent a long time looking through the MomAssembly site and all of the videos are just as good as this. They are conducted by well-versed specialists and don’t just talk about the issues that us moms have already read about in baby books but give real, hands-ons solutions to help get through every age and every issue with our kids.  I’m diving into their library again to get some help with my five year-old’s sleep schedule (or lack of).

MomAssembly, co-founded by Jill Spivack and Jen Waldburger is such a huge wealth of information. I rarely spend money on online subscriptions but this is one site that is worth the very affordable cost. It’s $3.99/month annually or $7.99 a month if you want to pay monthly and either subscription comes with a free 7 day trial.

But wait I have good news!  (Do I sound like an infomercial yet?)

The first 10 readers to complete sign up for a subscription plan through this link will receive their first month free!!

momassembly

So run, or just sit on your couch and click away, to get your subscription to MomAssembly. It is well, well worth it.

MomAssembly compensated me for my time and provided me with a subscription for this review but all opinions and stubborn children are my own.

This is our autism

July 13, 2014 by  
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Huge Frozen toy giveaway!

July 9, 2014 by  
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Frozen toys giveaway

Do your kids eat, sleep and breathe Frozen? My kids are obsessed and I may have the Disney store on speed dial so I can check if they’ve gotten a shipment of Elsa dolls in every Monday. These toys are next to impossible to find. Luckily, Stephanie from Binkies and Briefcases just so happened to be at Target at the exact same time that they were restocking the shelves and she scored an entire lot of toys from Disney’s Frozen. Yes, she even found an Elsa doll! Now a group of us are working together to give them away. That’s $120 worth of toys, and we’re giving them all to one lucky winner.

elsa doll and frozen toys

What better way to cool off in July than with some Frozen treats?

One Grand Prize winner will receive:

One Color Change Elsa Doll

One Color Change Anna Doll

One set of toddler Anna and Elsa dolls

And one Magical Lights Palace play set

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, ages 18 and up. No purchase necessary to win. Binkies and Briefcases is responsible for prize shipment. One winner will be notified via email and receive a prize package via US Mail. In the event the winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be selected.

Enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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