Watching Them Learn

We had parent teacher conferences for both boys this week. I get nervous before parent teacher conferences, I admit it. I’ve been on the teacher side for fifteen years and I never get anxious for that even though I know that I will have to have difficult conversations sometimes. Sitting on the parents side of the conference is a whole different feeling though.

We have not had to have any hard discussions with teachers about our kids, and for that I am thankful. Yes, Eddie has been known to have impulse control issues, and we had a bit of a rough start to Kindergarten with Charlie learning the routine and learning respectful behavior with all adults, but we have been lucky to have two kids who have not had any academic concerns.

That said, I walked out of conferences this year with a whole new respect for elementary teachers.

I’ve always laughed when people have said they think middle school would be the toughest. Yes, it’s a tricky age, but I don’t have the same kids all day teaching them ALL the subjects. I worry about the ELA standards, not ALL the content area standards. Plus I get a guaranteed planning hour every day. I don’t have to work around specials teachers who don’t have their own classroom or recess duty.

As Charlie’s teacher handed us writing, drawing, and math samples from the first term compared to current assessing, I was no less amazed than when we went through this with Eddie. The vast improvement is almost unbelievable at that age. In less than a year, Charlie went from a non-reading little kid, to someone who is reading a little above level and writing words by himself. It’s astounding to me to watch that learning take place.

Then we walked to Eddie’s teacher where we saw social studies scores and math scores and writing samples. He, too, is reading a little above level, and has a fierce love of learning.

Holding a salt dough map of Michigan with all the geography terms labeled smacked me in the face with how much kids learn and grow at this age.

Elementary teachers must be magicians of sort. They literally mold and shape our children’s minds into something totally new throughout the year.

I realize that I probably know more about standards and laws and proficiency and the research about whether to retain or not to retain, about whether homework is actually good for kids than the average parent because it is my job to know these things. However, knowing that stuff and watching it in action with your own children is very, very different.

I know, for instance, that a child’s success in school and college is linked to their ability to read at grade level by third grade and if they are behind then, they may stay behind. I also know that retention solves nothing without intervention. I know a good early childhood education is key and that third grade is the pivotal year.

I know these facts, but I am watching them in motion with my own children and it’s amazing.

 

One of my most favorite parts of being a mom–that I did not foresee when we were in the baby stage–is watching my children learn.

Eddie asks so many questions! Just tonight, he mused, “When I spin my water bottle, why does the water always go down?”

(Of course,  I was tired, so I said, “physics.”)

We went to my district’s fall theater production of Freak the Mighty and he was FULL of questions about language and acting and bullies and books and writing.

Charlie wants to sound out every word! Today he eagerly did all his homework that was supposed to take until Wednesday because he feels so accomplished and proud when he writes whole sentences (with punc-shay-shon, mom mom!) by himself.

He reads his Just Right Library book over and over to anyone who will listen, and almost every night he reads Brown Bear, Brown Bear because he can.

His current favorite game is chess because he loves strategy. HE’S FIVE. HE LOVES STRATEGY.

I would like to say I am proud of my kids–because I am. But here’s the thing: I am actually amazed by them. The things they learn and know and say. The way they think.

Getting to have a front-row seat to that and cheer them on is an honor. It’s an honor to have these small people call me mom.

Mother Teacher

Back to school surprised me this year.

I was going along, enjoying summer, having hernia surgery, thinking everything was grand and then there it was, staring me in the face: Back to School.

It started with an innocent text to a friend, The Pastor’s Wife. We had talked about having a cocktail hour on her deck all summer and it hadn’t happened yet, so I texted to see if she wanted to put something on the calendar. The Pastor’s Wife happens to teach at the college level, and her response was: I would love to, but I go back on Monday.

I just stood staring at the text for a couple seconds. How could that be possible? It was still early August!

When I asked her as much, she said, well, students are back Aug 22, so inservices, etc.

That is when it hit me: it was NOT the beginning of August anymore, and I had to be back to school August 29…two weeks.

The spell of summer was broken and my brain officially started thinking about my classroom and all that had to be done. I couldn’t shut it down, the launch sequence had begun. So I went in and started gathering my thoughts…and putting desks in groups.

2016-08-16 14.17.01

I’ve got lists and piles and projects to tackle in the next couple weeks before a new crop of 8th graders walk through the door to room 103 on September 6.

While I prepare, I am still in the role of Stay at Home Mom for a couple weeks too. Counting today, I still have the kids all to myself for five more full days. While I am excited to start a new school year and get back to being a Working Mom, I am finding myself realizing we won’t have a summer with a 7, 4, and 1 year old ever again.

We recently finished up Eddie’s back to school shopping. We were given his supply list back in June, so as soon as I saw sales, I stocked up. Going into 2nd grade this fall, the coolest new purchase for him was a new lunch bag since his old one up and fell apart after two years of abuse. This afternoon we get to head to his school and see what teacher he will have. They go old school and post class lists on the office doors…just like when Cortney and I were little.

2016-08-17 14.51.55

My Charlie Bird is going to school this year as a big preschooler! We bought him a backpack–dinosaurs, as requested, and just received the letter in the mail telling us that his teacher is a friend of mine from high school! He will be going four afternoons a week and he is pretty excited about it. I actually am too. I remember being SO sad when Eddie was school-aged, but I am excited for Charlie! He is going to do so great!

2016-08-17 13.58.35

Alice will be back with Ms. Carolyn full-time. They adore each other, so I am not worried about that in the least, but I will miss my little shadow. It was so darn much fun watching her grow from a baby to a toddler with sass this summer. I know when summer comes around again she will be that much bigger and more independent, so I am trying to get in as many little snuggles and cuddles as I can with my Alice Beans.

2016-08-13 10.48.56

We have worn a groove into the summer: Mondays for library, Tuesdays at Ms Carolyn’s, Wednesdays to the Farmer’s Market, Thursdays at Ms. Carolyn’s, and Fridays for Free Fun. I even had laundry loads assigned to each week day so that we would be free for family time on the weekends.

2016-08-15 11.44.45

I was supposed to be keeping track for Eddie’s Summer Stretch homework of how many minutes he/we read this summer. He was supposed to do 100 minutes a week. I just told him to color in the whole chart. I’m sure we read enough. We averaged 20 books per week at the library plus the books we already have at home, plus the countless reading he does over my shoulder, on TV, on signs…it seems like if it has words, he’s reading it to me. Including a sign that said, “Bitchin’ Kitchen” while we were on vacation last month. HA!

2016-08-17 11.19.38

So the end of summer caught me by surprise. We posted a Wish List in June of what we wanted to do this summer. It included:

  • go on vacation (check)
  • go to the beach (check…more than once!)
  • go on a boat (check…thanks, grandpa!)
  • go swimming (so much check!)
  • swim in a pool (check)
  • go to the splash pad (check)
  • visit the Farmer’s Market (lots of checks)
  • play at some parks (check)
  • have a campfire (this has sort of happened, but not as a family)
  • run in the sprinkler (lots of checks)
  • play with friends we love (lots of checks!)
  • visit the zoo (maybe next week?)
  • go to the playground (check)
  • eat lots of ice cream (CHECK!)
  • Go to Sundaes on Wednesday at church (check)
  • Play on the slip n slide (check)
  • Chalk up the driveway (check)
  • ride bikes (check)
  • wash the cars by hand (check)
  • go fishing (check)
  • go to the donut shop (check…many times)
  • visit the library (check…each week)

I’d say we’ve had a pretty darn good summer. And if we can get to the zoo next week, that will be a great last hurrah before I head back to work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the boys and I are doing some bead art stuff while watching Loony Tunes while Alice naps before we head out to see about that class list. I am required to help sort colors.

2016-08-15 14.56.56

ps. do you like the new header on the blog? That was done by Erin Barkel Photography. She really did a fab job!

pps. I have a project that needs funding over at DonorsChoose.Org. I need shelving for my classroom library! Can you help? Donate here.

Mirror

So often

I see reflected in my children

that of which I am ashamed

in myself.

yelling

anxiety

unkind words.

I am SO over you right now!

I can’t deal with you!

Get out of my face!

JUST. LEAVE. ME. ALONE!

these reflections are so clear

but occasionally

those effigies shine

kindness

grace

forgiveness.

I love you.

These are for my brother.

I forgive you.

In those moments

I am

assured that

it’s going to be ok;

They

will be more

than Ok.

mirror

Verbal Abuse

I DON’T LIKE YOU!

YOU ARE MEAN!

YOU ARE THE WORST!

I WISH YOU WEREN’T MY MOM!

These tirades get hurled at me every day–more than once. I joked with someone recently that if anyone else in my life said such hurtful things to me so consistently, my friends and family would be begging me to leave that relationship. And they would be right. Anyone who consistently slams you with insults is verbally abusive.

But I’m not going to leave this relationship because it is with my sons.

2015-10-10 09.58.31

Whoever said, Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me, is a damn idiot. I know this because every time Eddie doesn’t get his way lately, he tells me he doesn’t like me. Even though I know it’s a typical 6-year old reaction, it still hurts.

Eddie and I had a very rough start; the first year of his life was hard on both of us, as I have written about many times. His birth was traumatic for both of us, his colic was traumatic for both of us, and my postpartum depression was traumatic for everyone. There are large chunks of that first year, that I have no memory of his babyhood. In fact, as I watch Alice learn and grow, I can remember Charlie doing the same things, but I can’t remember Eddie’s phases. Cortney has to remind me, and even then, without looking at photos, I don’t remember.

I spent more than a year thinking I was not supposed to be a mother. My body rejected pregnancies, it wasn’t the right shape to give birth, and my brain was chemically imbalanced. Everything about my physical being rejected motherhood. I needed medical intervention to stay pregnant, have my babies, and keep my brain from destroying myself. It was only after years of talk therapy coupled with medication did I begin to heal.

Through it all, Eddie loved me anyway.

He had no idea what was happening to me on the inside. He didn’t know that my brain was struggling to match my heart. He didn’t know that his needing my cuddles at night were healing me, and therefore healing a relationship he didn’t even know what broken–the one between mother and son.

When Charlie came along, I was well into a routine with my meds and my therapy. I knew that PPD was probably going to happen, and I was prepared. From the first night alone in the hospital with him, my relationship with Charlie was different, more whole. I tucked him up under my chin and that is where he stayed for his first year of life–never far from my arms.

Eddie still comes to me when he needs to talk. He opens up to me, even when he sort of doesn’t want to–like when he has gotten in trouble at school. Charlie still comes to me when he just needs to be held–when he needs touch.

But they have both started flinging hurtful words at me (and Cortney) as well.

It started with Eddie. When he didn’t get his way, he would tell us he didn’t like us, or that it was the “worst day” of his life.  Now it’s almost predictable.

Eddie, please put the tablet away; it’s time for bed.
Ugg. I don’t like you, mom. 

It’s become his knee-jerk reaction for anything he does not want to do.

We have talked about how these are hurtful things to say, but he has entered a very egocentric phase and cannot understand that someone else’s hurt feelings matter. Eddie, my always kind, always thoughtful boy, now claims to not care about anyone else–especially me, his dad, and his brother (because he doesn’t always do what Eddie commands).

My rule-follower suddenly sneaks things behind my back and then blames me when he gets caught. He does or says something hurtful and claims it is my fault he lost a privilege. No matter how many times we explain that he “acts his way out of” a privilege like screen time or an extra book before bed, he claims we are the worst.

It’s getting harder and harder to respond in a positive, loving, affirming manner to these outbursts. I have caught myself saying, “great because I don’t like you right now either” and “whatever. I don’t even care.” Not only do I know this sends the wrong message, but Charlie has been picking up on all of it too.

Charlie’s mouth is even more venomous than his brother’s because he has no idea the impact of his words. He knows it’s “naughty” to talk like that, so when he is angry or frustrated, that is how he lashes out: with hurtful words. He repeats what he hears, so we get a lot of “I don’t like you, mom. You are not my mom.” Or “I don’t even care about you, mom.” While I know he has no idea what he is even saying, it stings–especially because his tone is much, MUCH nastier than Eddie’s for some reason.

Last week Thursday I hit a wall. It had been a particularly challenging day in the land of teaching middle school, and I went to pick Eddie up from the after school program. He is normally not too excited to have to leave the fun he is having, but Thursday was awful. He was rude and snotty and just an all around jerk to me both in front of the teachers that run the program, and in the hall when we were alone. His words ripped at me so badly, I almost started to cry.

I don’t know if it’s a phase or if Cortney and I are somehow failing to teach our boys kindness, but I need it to stop. They are not like this with anyone else–in fact we get compliments about how kind and engaging they are with other children and adults.

It’s just Cortney and me that are on the receiving end of all the verbal abuse.

How can we teach the boys that they are slowly killing our hearts with their words?

Mother Lover

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Mom

2015-05-01 17.54.53

she does a good job tolerating me.

1. She always puts up with my dramatics and ridiculousness.

2. Even though she doesn’t “get” my sense of humor, she rolls with it. Most of the time. Unless it involves swearing.

3. She spoils my kids in ways she would never, ever had allowed when I was growing up under her supervision.

4. She is quick to point out how my children are like me (crazy) and how they are not (chill).

5. She never once blamed her her childhood disadvantages for anything.

6. She was quick to credit her childhood (and my grandmother) for many things.

7. She still buys me birthday gifts and makes my favorite foods…even though I am thirty-seven…because she knows my love language is gifts. And I love that she never makes me feel bad about that.

8. Her logic evens out my irrational 98% of the time. The other 2% is why I take meds.

9. She has never let me down. Except when she missed Charlie’s first birthday party to go to Mexico. I KID, MOM! I KID! (She just mumbled “Oh GUY, Kate!” to the computer. Just take my word for it. She loves when I push her buttons.)

10. She wouldn’t have given me the world even if she could have because she would have wanted me work for it which is probably why I am a hard-worker as an adult. But her love she gave freely…and still does. I never deserved it or had to earn it. She just doles it out unconditionally.

That's me on my great grandma Katherine's lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother.

That’s me on my great grandma Katherine’s lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother. Four generations of AWESOME women.

 

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Mom

2015-04-05 12.42.261. My kids are the funniest people on the planet even if the majority of their jokes have to do with bodily functions and “booty butts”.

2. Whenever I start to get overconfident, my children point out my weaknesses (“Mom, please don’t sing. It’s terrible”) and keep me grounded.

3. Having an excuse to bake cookies and cake and all the treats. It’s for the kids, yo.

4. Reading with small people and watching them learn to read by themselves and feeling awe that this person who is READING was a nothing and then grew in my stomach and is now READING.

5. Homemade gifts.

6. Endless bouquets of dandelions.

7. Sticky faces close to my ear whispering “I love you Mom Mom.”

8. Honest awe and declarations of “Mom, you’re BEAUTIFUL!” when I get ready for church.

9. Run-by huggings.

10. Middle of the night snuggles to ward off bad dreams, growing pains, or sadness.

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers that are and ever were and ever will be.

And thank you, Mom, for being you and showing me how to be a great mother. It’s the most frustrating and lovely thing I have done with my life so far.

 

The Days are Long…

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

I hate that phrase, but I use it all the time.

Just this morning I woke up to our alarm, rolled over, looked at the clock and thought, “How in the world is it only Thursday?”  I find myself wishing the days to go faster, to start later and end earlier.

The days start when it’s dark. I eat the same eggs and toast. I choose from the same few maternity outfits. I take the same drive to work. I follow the same schedule. I can expect the same challenges each day.

The days are ruts. Familiar and comfortable, yet confining and draining.

As I crawl into bed, I curse the early morning alarm that will be sounding in just a few short hours.

Dark morning to dark night.

Every day a list a mile long.

Every day a thousand needs to fill for a thousand different people.

Every day little to no energy.

Every day a thousand things left undone.

Last night I told Cortney that I find myself wishing for the end of the pregnancy because it means the end of this stressful “first” school year in my building, the end of this increasingly uncomfortable pregnancy, and the end of pregnancy for me forever.  But then I feel immediate guilt for such thoughts. I feel those little kicks in there that only I can feel yet. I think about how as soon as Alice is here, she starts that quick stage of infancy…the minute she snuggles in my arms, time starts to take that baby away.

Sunday we were at my nephew’s first birthday party. Charlie came monstering up to me and I actually flinched at how BIG he looked to me. I flashed back to how I cried and cried at how big Eddie looked when I brought Charlie home from the hospital almost 3 years ago, and realized that if Charlie looks big to me now? In four months he is going to seem like a dang adult.

I’ve only been a mom for five and a half years!

But holy cow…I’ve been a mom for a whole five and a half years!  That is longer than I was in college!

How did those years slip by so quickly when I feel like each minute of each day is plodding along at the speed of grass growing?

Somehow I have a 5-year old who tells me that he was “upset” or that something is “inappropriate” as he writes full sentences and reads me books.

Somehow I have a 2.5-year old who “reads” his favorite books because he knows them by heart, tells me he loves me, dances like a fool, and talks in full sentences.

Yet here I sit looking at the clock, wishing it was Friday afternoon rather than Thursday, and willing the next week to fly by so Thanksgiving Break can get here.

How can time fly and drag at the same time?

She Just Did It

One of my favorite stories is the one about when I was born. My parents don’t tell a lot of stories from when we were little, but the details I have pulled out of them about my birth are some of my favorites.

About by birth I know this:

I was two weeks late.

My mom was in labor for about ever.

When I was finally born, my dad went home and sat on the stoop with his black lab and had a beer because he was exhausted and overwhelmed.

When my dad brought my mom and I home from the hospital, he had to go back to work, but he made sure to ask my mom if she could do laundry because he was out of clean underwear.  And she did it without even thinking anything about it.

Being a new mom in our small town in 1978 was so different than it was for me, in the same town, in 2009. I can’t even imagine what those early days home alone with me were like.

My mom didn’t have the internet or the Google if she had a question about what was going on with me or with her. When Eddie wouldn’t stop crying, I turned to Twitter, Facebook, Google, BabyCenter, my blog…looking for answers and suggestions for calming a colicky baby.

What did my mom do?

When Eddie spiked his first fever, I looked to my nurse friends in my computer to find out at what point I should worry and bring him in.

What did my mom do?

When I felt lonely and separated from the world, I looked to my computer to find moms who felt like I did.

What did my mom do?

A blog comment on someone else’s blog is what prompted me to realize I might have postpartum depression.

How did mom’s know they needed help back then?

Whenever I ask my mom, she says, “I don’t know. We just did it. I’m sure there were moms who had depression, but we just didn’t know about it, so we got through it.”

I know she doesn’t mean that as a slam on me for not just getting through it. She is just simply shrugging her shoulders at what her reality was.

But did she cry when I cried?  Did she wonder if she was enough? Did she tell my dad she was scared? Did she wonder what in the hell she had gotten herself into?

I”m not sure I could have done this motherhood thing without the moms in my computer. I had plenty of support in “real life” from friends and family, but the moms in my computer were there 24/7 and there was always someone who experienced what I had.

Over the course of the past five years I have wondered at how moms did this thing alone before. All those moms without a tribe around them…how did they survive those first years?

When I ask my mom  these things, she waves me off  and says, “pfft. I don’t know, Kate. We just did.” My mom even claims to not remember. Is that possible? Maybe. I do find it harder and harder to remember Eddie and Charlie as tiny. And it has been 36 years since I was a tiny infant in my mom’s arms.

But then I see her throw her head back and laugh when she is with Eddie and exclaim, “Oh Kate! He is SO YOU!”

And I wish I could see what her mind sees. I wish I could remember being four-almost-five.

How did she do it?

I guess in the end it wasn’t too different than how I do it, really.

One moment at a time, doing the best I know how by my boys.

2014-05-05 19.05.41 20140511_112012

Thanks, mom, for “just doing it.”

And I totally know what you mean all those times you said, “you’ll understand when you’re a mom.” I thought you were just crazy and dumb.  Turns out I was the dumb one.

Love you, mom.

 

The Mommy Survival Kit

Spring break starts this afternoon for me, and next week for my boys.  That means that I will putting on my Stay at Home Mom Pants to be home with the two of them for a week.

Every time we have break from school, I am reminded how much work it is to be a Stay at Home Mom.  There is a good reason why it is not my official “job”…it’s too hard!  But there are somethings that help me survive (besides the cuddles and kisses that my boys give me), so I compiled a list…

Continue Reading…

I heard you

Dear Mom behind me in the check out line at the grocery store,

I heard you.

I didn’t acknowledge you, but I heard you.

I heard you judging my purchases as you watched them slide down the checkout conveyor belt toward the scanner.  First I saw you size up what I had there, then I heard you actually remark about them to your husband as if I wasn’t standing right there.

While your 3rd or 4th grade son walked between the belt and me a thousand times to go look at the Redbox machine, the candy machines, and anything else, never once saying “excuse me.”  While you tapped your foot annoyed that you were behind someone who was getting a week’s worth of groceries instead of just the case of beer and ground beef that you had.

I heard what you said to your husband as you saw the Similac, the toddler meals, and the jelly and bread all next to five huge bags of candy.  I heard your comment about the two 2-liters of soda and the absence of milk.

You were loud enough, don’t worry.  I heard you comment about the way I “clearly have a baby” and must be feeding my children “junk”.

I tried hard not to turn around and get in your face as your son passed between me and my cart while I was trying to re-load it with full bags for the umpteenth time, bumping my cart as he wiggled past.

The checkout lady was chatting politely and cheerfully to me about the promise of sunshine and warm weather this week and I refused to break the positivity to tell you that the candy and soda were for a first birthday party next week.  That it’s a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme because we fell in love with the name Charlie after watching a performance of Willy Wonka by the theater company at the high school where I work.  That we don’t need milk and fruit because we have a huge stock of those things at home along with eggs that came from free-range chickens that a fellow teacher raises on his own farm.

Lady, you do not have to worry about my children.  I am trying to take your snotty attitude as general concern for my children’s well-being based solely on grocery items of a woman you never met.  I’d like to think that the {loud} judging you were doing to your husband about me was out of deep concern and love for all children.  But I am not that naive.

I wonder what you dislike about your own parenting skills that makes you feel like you need to judge me based on a few bags of candy?

As annoyed as your kid made me with his cutting in and out of the checkout line without nary a “sorry” as he bumped my cart, I figured he’s a kid. I wanted to tell him to please choose in or out, but I figured that was your job. It’s not like he was being dangerous, just annoying.

Yet you–with your beer and ground beef–stood judging me.

By the way, I didn’t judge your beer and ground beef.  Your child looked wonderfully healthy. I’ve bought just those items before too.

I would hate for people to assume I only feed my children burgers and beer based on that one grocery transaction.  I wonder why you assume that I only feed my children candy and soda?

Anyway, I did hear you.

Even though I chose not to acknowledge you.

You really should stop picking other people apart…especially other mothers. I am doing the best I can, just like I assume you are doing the best you can too.

Sincerely,
The Lady with the Pop and Candy

What’s in My…Bag?

So my friend, Diana, did a little post about what is in her bag.

At first I was like, “oh cute!  I love to see that I am not the only one who crams a bag full of crap stuff!” And then I was going to move on with my day.  Until I realized I should document all the crap stuff in my bag too.

But I am bearing my diaper bag for you guys.

my diaper bag

I mean, some day I will forget about diaper bags and lugging around all that “just in case” crap stuff that you never use…but you would need ALL OF IT if you didn’t have it.

So here it is…

  1. three diaper bag organizers from my friend, Erika of Stitched Simplicity. I have one with Eddie’s pull ups, one with Charlie’s diapers, and one with desitin, lotion, and other creams and whatnots.
  2. wipes.
  3. pads.  Apparently I chuck one or two in every time I have my period without checking to see if I have any in there already.
  4. business card holder
  5. old prescription bottle with random pain relievers, pepto pills, etc. (for the mommy and daddy, of course)
  6. ibs/burp clothes
  7. Gussy pouches with mommy’s lotions, chapstick, etc. in one and pens, crayons, checkbook, etc. in the other.
  8. Snack pouches from Sew Curly
  9. hand wipes
  10. toys
  11. disposable bibs
  12. hand sanitizer
  13. my phone
  14. (not pictured) my wallet

There you go.  Now…is this MORE than what you bring along or less?  Am I a hoarder or normal?  I don’t even know.  I just know I get crazy crabby when I am caught without something I need.

Wait.

Did I forget anything?

Ack!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...