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Monday, October 21, 2013

Just Tired

So I've been writing about some difficult times in our house lately.  Carolyn has been having some difficult behaviors, which I think are likely due to her being overtired and exposed to more rude behavior through school and playmates.  And the emotional difficulties of last week, combined with a heavier than usual work schedule are weighing on me.  I really would like to book a vacation and just take even a few days off from life.  But the reality is, you never get that chance as a parent, especially not in the beginning of the school year.  It simply is that parenting is hard and exhausting, especially if you do it the right way.  And by that I refer to our minimal use of technology and TV.  James asked countless times today to watch TV and/or play on the tablet.  It would be so easy to plop him down on there most of the day.  But that's not what I want him to experience.  So I exhaust myself by sitting with him and doing preschool activities, where I do have to prod him to stay focused.  But he can now identify half of the alphabet.  We tried playing Simon Says today, but he didn't quite get that he should not do things when I didn't say simon says.  He thought it was fun anyway.

We even took a short break on Saturday, sending the kids over to Jon's after Carolyn's soccer game.  We went to Panera for dinner and sit and talked like adults.  But I knew we needed to go pick up the kids so I could scan my paperwork for the new job and get them to bed.  So I never fully relaxed.  And now I'm just tired, mostly emotionally though.  I don't know how to help Carolyn stop these behaviors.  She had more trouble today, this time not listening at gymnastics.  And tonight she had to change her underwear twice.  I'm thinking we may visit the doctor as these issues are becoming quite concerning.  She's 5.5, she shouldn't be having issues with staying dry during the day.  But I don't know how to help her, anyone have any ideas?  I don't want to have to pull her from afternoon gymnastics, but if she needs that rest time, I might just have to.  There's only 2 weeks left of soccer, so at least there will be more rest time on the weekends soon.  But I know then we'll have to withstand the barrage of wanting to play with friends when what she really needs is just some time to build legos, draw/color, or read.  Anyone else facing the same issues?  Anyone else just exhausted being a parent? 

I'm hoping tomorrow brings a better day with better behaved children.  Otherwise I may just turn on the technology in the afternoon and hide in my room.  I know one afternoon wouldn't kill them anyway and this weather is too cold too soon!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anniversaries - Happy and Sad

I meant to write on Thursday, but life was just too busy.  Thursday was both the 10 year anniversary of our engagement and the 8 year anniversary of losing my mom to her cancer battle.  Our engagement of course is a fully happy memory and I can flash back to walking down to the river by Augie and spending some time chatting on the rocks.  We carved our initials into the small dock and then hiked back up to the car and went out to dinner.  We finished that night by going to the boys' soccer game so I could show all the girls the ring.  But not having my mom is hard.  And this time of year it's really hard.  I wish she could go to the pumpkin farm, see the kids in their costumes, join us for turkey at Thanksgiving, and of course be around for the holiday baking and Christmas.  This time of year I think about the time spent looking through wedding magazines for floral arrangements, and considering a rushed wedding so she could attend.  In the end I had to settle for the few memories and knowing that she helped me choose my dress, the bridesmaid dresses, the flowers, and the reception hall.  I still wish she could be here to help me navigate these tricky years with the kids, and remind me of what I was like as I entered school.  I tried to keep myself busy this past Thursday to push the painful part away just a little.  I wore my necklace that was hers and I think of her every time I touch it.

I started the day with Carolyn's first school conference.  Her teacher focused on behavior - whether the student was functioning well in the classroom since this is Kindergarten and at this point that's what she's worried about.  Everything was marked on a scale of 1-3, and Carolyn received 3's on everything they are currently working on.  Carolyn even set a goal for herself to work on something that her teacher isn't concerned about yet.  We talked about how we can continue to challenge Carolyn, and her teacher said she would get out some poetry books for her to read during reading workshop.  It sounds like things will get more personalized as the year goes on now so Carolyn should be even more challenged.  Looking over curriculums, it looks like Carolyn currently has everything through first grade except for telling time on an analog clock.  The iPad is allowing for more personalization as they started spelling (Montessori spelling) and math (Find sums) this weekend.  We may start seeing the iPad come home each day, which would allow her to play for 15-30 minutes, the small practice that's great at this age.

James and I then went to the store to do the week's grocery shopping, picking up ingredients for some special treats.  After a usual lunch with the kids, I had a job interview on the phone.  As happened last time I interviewed for an online teaching position, I was offered a job while still on the phone.  It sounds like a much better fit and I am optimistic it will end up working well.  But only time will tell.  It may be a position I can grow into, perfect for this time in our lives and the kids are becoming more independent.  I miss teaching and developing relationships with students and I'm hoping this new job will give me that opportunity again.  I don't need more to do, especially since Jon is considering a coaching opportunity this Spring.  So we'll see how things go.

After naps the kids helped me to bake a cheesecake.  We weren't patient enough and had some for dessert after dinner.  The inside ended up quite runny, but it still tasted delicious!  I'm thinking that cheesecake is the dessert that I just can't resist.  I'm hoping to find a recipe that uses less/no sugar - but nothing artificial.  So I might play around with honey or maple syrup.  I think if I make it flavored - strawberry or chocolate or something, that those sweeteners would do just fine.  After the kids were in bed Thursday night I had a bunch of work to get done, so it was a late night.  But I did find several moments throughout the day to pray and talk to my mom.  Jon brought me flowers which are beautiful and sitting on the kitchen table.  It was great to see how much he tries to understand how much I miss my mom.

Everything else continues to go well and the kids continue to grow.  James is identifying a bunch more letters now, which is often.  At his current rate he may be identifying them all by Christmas, which would be amazing and awesome.  I'm going to activate the 5 week Reading Eggs trial in a week so it's active over Thanksgiving.  I keep debating about purchasing a subscription because I think it would be awesome for James.  But Carolyn is kind of beyond it and I don't think James is quite ready for it.  So we'll do this 5 week trial and then the craziness of the holidays will be here.  If I get a good discounted offer in January, I might sign him up then because it's likely that would take him through beginning to read.  He's less of a spurt kid and more steady growth, but I'm guessing he'll start reading around 4.5 like Carolyn.  Only time will where things are headed!

I'm looking forward to a more relaxed week and helping in Carolyn's classroom on Thursday.  Then next weekend Halloween activities start!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Intellectual and Emotional Mismatch

This is something that most parents don't often talk about, although there are many books written about it.  Watching Carolyn this weekend has reminded me of just how young she is.  She has the "brains" easily of and 8 or 9 year old.  But she has the emotions and ability to control those emotions, of a 5 year old.  She is struggling to assert her independence.  I believe we give her quite a bit of freedom at home.  The kids are allowed to play inside or outside, and we generally don't feel the need to supervise them.  Of course, scissors and glue are kept up high and there really are no dangerous objects around.  We provide plenty of engaging things for the kids and they have a plethora of vehicles to rid on outside.  But then Carolyn feels the need to assert what she perceives her right, to show us she can get what she wants.  Tonight was another reminder that she really is only 5.

James and Carolyn have decided recently that doing flips on the couch is fun.  We tell them not, they do it anyway.  I tell them that if they get hurt I'm not going to kiss and make it better as I usually do.  I spent part of the afternoon helping Carolyn after she was stung by a bee.  I held ice on her foot, put baking soda and vinegar on the sting and within 20-30 minutes she was feeling fine again.  If you ask her, it probably felt like hours.  But we sat on the couch and had some nice time together.  Later, after ignoring my directions to stop the flips, she bumped her cheek on the side of the couch.  I refused to give her kisses and a total meltdown ensued.  Lately these meltdowns show clear signs of feeling out of control and wanting to assert control.  She pushes furniture around, kicks the couch, and will refuse to do anything we ask.  We use the language we've read about using... "I understand you are angry because" and all that.  But really she needs a good 30-40 minutes to yell and scream.  As she gets stronger, we get concerned about her safety.  We emphasize to her that trying to hurt things/people isn't going to help.  If she didn't have these meltdowns when James was trying to get sleep, we could easily just wait her out by sitting patiently.  Tonight Jon felt the need to restrain her, sitting on the couch and holding her in his lap. 

It is clear from the episodes that she feels out of control and that her brain is working so fast that she can't control it.  She gets fixated on the one she wants and seeks to manipulate us to get it.  But her manipulations fail and she feels powerless.  This happens the most when she's tired, so has been happening more lately with a busier schedule.  But I hope and pray that as she gets older, we'll see less of this.  Otherwise, despite having a social worker as a father, she's going to end up in the social worker's office at school.  I'm going to discuss these issues with her teacher this week as well to insure there are no issues in the classroom already.  Time to try and help her feel even more independent in daily life to release some of the frustrations!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2 months in to Kindergarten

It's hard to believe it's mid-October already and Carolyn has been in kindergarten for nearly 2 months!  It seems like we've been crazy busy lately, although to most families we're don't do very much.  I'm realizing that as a family we really value time to relax and just be together.  Carolyn and James don't handle constant activity well and require a day to just be, weekly preferably.  It gets hard to manage that as kids get older though.  With soccer on Saturdays and Sunday school, we have been stuck with weeks with seemingly no rest.  Tomorrow, though, we will get a day of rest.  A day to read books, go for a walk to collect sticks, leaves, and acorns, go to the park, ride bikes, just enjoy having no plans.  And I spent tonight putting together 4 different craft projects the kids can do.  I looked through the Oriental Trading catalogue and then sat down with some construction paper.  It'll be a little trickier since we'll need to use glue to put things together, but it'll be fun to put together these projects and then hang them around the house.

Carolyn has an amazing teacher at school.  She is being exposed to some new topics, and I am able to support and enhance that learning by bringing home extra books from the library.  They do continue to plod through the alphabet and phonics sounds, which she mastered a while ago.  But they also are working through Handwriting without tears and she is learning to properly form lower case letters.  They also have the opportunity to do some writing in class.  Conferences are this week and I am looking forward to a conversation of how we can continue to challenge Carolyn and what can be done at home to support her.  We are looking forward to expanded use of the Ipads as well as the year goes on.  We received Carolyn's STAR early literacy score today, 771.  775 is the cut-off between a "transitional" and "probable" reader.  A chart I found online puts her grade level at 1.8.  However, it appears that as the score approaches 900 (the top score), the test is less reliable because the child can read.  This is a pre-reading test and Carolyn is definitely reading.  I wonder if the district switches any of the kindergartners to the STAR reading test after this first round and it's proven the student can read.  We have been exploring poetry lately, to change things up a bit.  Carolyn is enjoying Shel Silverstein and Jack Perlutsky.  I am looking forward to some suggestions from her teacher as well, as it is difficult to find books that challenge her thinking/vocabulary yet have appropriate subject matters.  I was amazed when she read a poem recently that used the word "brigade" and I asked her if she knew what it meant and she said "army".  We can not figure out how she determined this because no one taught it to her.  Amazing that she is able to decode language this early! 

James continues to do an awesome job at home with me doing his preschool lessons.  We start each morning reading books in bed after putting Carolyn on the bus.  I love this snuggle time and I know James is getting some great things from it.  He had a rough start to the school year and some severe separation anxiety issues.  But we seem to have moved beyond this now and he is okay staying home with Jon's dad when I take Carolyn to gymnastics or volunteer in her classroom.  I am very glad that we canceled his soccer and very happy we did not enroll him in any preschool classes.  He is developing at his own pace and it's great to see his development.  He asks to do preschool several days a week, where we read Bible stories, books, trace/color letters and numbers, work on sequencing, counting, coloring, cutting, as well as do gross and fine motor activities.  We are using the ABC Jesus Loves Me 3 year old curriculum, supplemented with some other things, and it is going great.  We are currently on week 18.  Carolyn is also teaching James some of her Jolly phonics from school and he is learning some letter sounds.  He is able to trace very well when he focuses and can form nearly every letter by doing so.  He can identify J, O, C, B, Q, and probably some other letters as well.  Being 3, his biggest struggle is staying focused on the task at hand, but his concentration is pretty good considering his age. 

I sometimes sit back and think about how well my children are doing learning the basics and I wonder what sets them apart.  I never felt like I was doing anything special, just what a mom should do.  I usually put their needs before mine, and I will admit that I am sacrificing money/a career to help them get the best start possible.  We read countless books and my kids can often retell the stories because we read them so many times in one week before new books come home from the library.  I admittedly turn every day activities into learning - counting objects, describing why something happens, or asking my children to observe things around them.  Jon often reminds me that I choose the hard road.  And the main choice that I've made that makes things hard?  My children rarely watch TV or interact with technology.  They can effortlessly work an Ipad or Tablet, they love to play on Starfall or Reading Eggs.  But we put an emphasis on free play and getting outside.  Even on rainy days, they do not get more than 30 minutes of screen time.  Their imaginations are great and as they get bigger they are coming up with their own ideas of things to do.  My favorite recently is using blankets and furniture to create a hideout in Carolyn's bedroom under her desk.  I'm looking forward to what else they'll come up with this winter when I'm no longer forcing outdoor time in the afternoons because it'll be too cold.

Your kids will learn technology... if you make 2 choices to give them the best start they can have... play outside and read books.  The rest will write itself.