thirteen more

Five years ago I took part in a graduation ceremony. I wasn’t a graduate, but the senior class adviser. Part of my job was to stand next to the assistant principal as he called the graduates by name before they walked across the stage to their future.

I was hugely pregnant.

From the belly down, it looked like I had tree trunks attached to bricks. My feet were exploding out of the flip flops that I had crammed them into because not wearing any footwear was not acceptable.

My normally billowy Masters robe was taut across my huge belly.  Students joked that they should rub it for good luck before going across the stage. I put a stop to that real quick.

I had a special set of keys in my pocket to get into the locker room bathrooms in case the hour or so ceremony was too long to go without peeing.

My principal at the time was sure I was going to go into labor in the gym in front of all the students and parents. I assured him I still had a month and then directed him to “chill out already.”

I was hot and uncomfortable, but I remember that when the band played Pomp and Circumstance, Eddie kicked when he felt the bass drum. As I watched my students cross the stage and shake the hands, my eyes welled up as I pushed Eddie’s butt out of my side. Some day that would be my boy.

My boy.

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Five years flew by so quickly.

All of a sudden I found myself sitting at a different kind of graduation.

This time I was in the audience and not on stage with the graduates.

Instead of mortar boards and gowns there were brightly colored polo shirts and pretty dresses.

preschool graduation

Instead of a gym, we were in a Music and Motion room.

Instead of a band playing “The Star Spangled Banner” there were small voices leading us in the “Pledge of Allegiance”.

preschool graduation

Instead of commencement addresses there were songs like “Buenas Tardes” and “Grandma’s Glasses” and “Tap Tap”.

Instead of cautionary words about the future from a superintendent, there were loving words of reflection from a teacher.

preschool graduation

Instead of a single name called, there was a name with a list of favorite things from the school year.

Instead of a diploma holder, there were “preschool certificates”.

preschool graduation

The common thread between this preschool graduation and the one five years ago is the emotional surge that welled up in my eyes and threatened to fall in front of everyone.

I kept telling myself, “it’s only preschool. It’s neat, but it’s not a huge deal.”

My heart disagrees.

Completing a stage in the academic process is a big deal.

Plus it was a big deal to Eddie.

He told me the night before that he was a little scared because so many people would be watching. Of course once he was up there he was probably the least affected by the eyes on him.

But he also told me he was sad to leave because he loves his teachers and he will miss them. His two best friends–whom he has been with for the past three years in daycare and now in preschool–will be going to different schools for Kindergarten, and Eddie will be done with daycare completely.

This graduation is the end of a big chapter of Eddie’s life.

Saying goodbye to preschool and his teachers is just the first step. Later this summer he will say goodbye to his daycare mom and his daycare friends, and in the fall, he will start a brand new chapter: elementary school.

We have thirteen more ends of school years ahead of us, but we are going to take the time we need to say goodbye to this very first one.

Then we will celebrate the start of Kindergarten, but until then? Summer Vacation!!

 

from colic to frolic: the first days of preschool

Dear Eddie,

You started school this week.

This seems a mundane fact to most of the world; children all over started school during the past month. But to me and your dad this is a HUGE milestone.

We’ve been talking about it for a long time, you and me. You have been so excited to start school! To learn! To be a big kid! You have told me repeatedly, “me and Brookie and Evan get to go to school because we are four. Not anyone else. Just us.”  Clearly, going to school separates the three of you from the “babies” who will stay behind at daycare.

I was Ok with it all…excited even…until meet the teacher night. We signed in at the office, found your room, and looked around. We sort of met your teacher. She talked to you, and you hid behind my leg.

Then we found your locker.

Starting PreschoolMy heart skipped a beat.

My baby was going to school.

Four days later, it was time for your first day. Sunday night I carefully followed the directions your teacher outlined in the papers that were sent home: I put a change of clothes in a large ziplock all with your name on them; I labeled your backpack; and I set out your first day clothes.

Then I put you to bed. We talked and giggled and guessed what school would be like until we both fell asleep in your bed.

In the morning, as I was getting ready, you showed up in the doorway of the bathroom.  All ready to go, with a big smile on your face.

“It’s your FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!” I exclaimed as I swooped down to hug you.  A lump caught in my throat knowing I would not be one of the moms there at drop off giving your little hand one last squeeze.

But your daddy was there.

His work is just a block from your school, so he walked over on his lunch hour to meet your carpool for the first day. He knew it was important for you to have one of us there for such a big occasion–the start of your formal education.

first day of preschool

In case you haven’t noticed, your dad’s range of emotions aren’t always visible in his reactions to things, but this milestone has been a big deal even to him. After drop-off, he emailed me to let me know how proud of you he is.

He told me you were so brave at drop-off. No tears, only smiles. Before he left, he whispered in your ear to be kind to the other students and to listen to your teacher…and that he is so very proud of you. Because he is, you know.

Both of us brought up the fact that it simultaneously feels like just yesterday and a life-time ago that you were our tiny colicky mess of an infant.  Just yesterday that Daddy would plop you in the Bjorn and walk up and down and up and down the dead end with you to try to help calm you.

off to school with his best friend, Brooke.

off to school with his best friend, Brooke.

And now seemingly out of nowhere, you are a regular little guy. You are a person who can tell us why you are sad or happy or angry.

You can call us mean or tell us you love us.

You can make friends.

You can make crafts.

You can make choices–good and not-so-good.

When I asked you what you did on your first day you reported, “I played on the playground and I listened to my teacher.”

When I asked you what you listened to her say you told me, “I don’t know mom. That was a long time ago.”

And so it begins.

first day of preschool

You are in school.

As a teacher this makes me proud, but as your mommy this makes my heart fly with joy.

Today I looked at the seniors in my classroom and imagined them all as four-year olds starting out in preschool and I actually teared up a bit.

It happens so fast.

You were just a baby.

And now you are a kid.

I love you, Eddie.  No matter where you go from here, it will be wonderful.

Love, Mommy

the first signs of fall

This summer I walked hand-in-hand with Eddie into the building that used to be my high school.  The cafeteria housed his gymnastics class, and it was the first time I had walked into the building since graduation in the spring of 1996.

After I graduated, the school turned into a second middle school for the district, housing all ninth graders in the second level.  A new high school was built on the north side of town. Cortney had his senior year in that new high school.

Since then, the building I knew as high school but is now a middle school evacuated the ninth grade into the two high schools that now make up our district.  Things have definitely changed in 17 years.

However, as I held my four-year old’s hand into this building I had entered thousands of times, I was knocked back to the mid-nineties by the smell of chlorine from the pools and whatever universal thing they clean schools with to make them all smell like teenage years.

I had to fight the old habit to turn left and head to the band room. That is the power of smells, isn’t it?

I am starting my eleventh year of teaching high school in just a few weeks, but I have started the pilgrimage back to my classroom a few weeks ago.

As I walked into the halls, each and every time, the smells of teaching and learning come back to me. When I open the door to my classroom I smell the cleanser and my muted vanilla scent along with that smell of school.

When I’ve been away from the smell, coming back to it gives me a sense of purpose, of renewal.

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It seems like every fall is a new adventure. Ever since my first year I could never predict what I would be teaching, where I would be, or what my student load would look like. Shoot, some years I didn’t even know if I would have a job because of all the budget cuts.

In all the years of teaching, I have never been able to answer the question of “so what will you be teaching this year?” with a confident answer. Nor could I just say, “same as usual”. There really hasn’t ever been a “usual”.

This year is no exception.

Over the weekend Eddie spotted the first red leaves on the trees by our house.

2013-08-09 11.24.00There it is.

The first signs of the changes that are coming.

Fall.

This year I am teaching 12th grade English for the first time along with 11th grade English. I am also teaching a semester elective called Mass Media for the first time.

On top of that, I am continuing to take two online classes toward the 30 credits beyond my Masters degree.

AND I just took on teaching an evening writing class at the local community college two nights a week.

In order to do all these things, something had to give. Unfortunately I had to take a step back from my weekly posts at Borderless News and Views. This was hard for me since I love to write about my views–especially on the subject of education. But I also couldn’t let opportunities for me to make a difference in education pass me by either. Eventually I will be back, and in the meantime they are letting me sporadically post there. So watch for me!

Oh. And there’s one more thing.

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This guy is starting preschool in September.

All the other craziness aside, this is what is the hardest for me to wrap my brain around.

He and I are both SUPER excited and just a little bit nervous. But we have been talking about it. He likes the idea of going to school because to him, school is awesome. The big kids get to go to school. His mom works at a school. His mom and dad both have gone to school in his lifetime.  And now he gets to do that too.

This year we will start some new Back To School traditions, and as much as it hurts my heart to watch summer slip away, I am excited for the change that is peeking at us through the trees and blowing around in the wind.

 

 

 

Preschooler Steps

What’s written on tomorrow’s date on the calendar has been staring at me for over a month, and I just can’t wrap my brain around it.

I thought this wouldn’t be a big deal to me, but I find myself ignoring it as a way of denial.

Tomorrow night Cort has a Preschool Information Meeting for getting Eddie signed up for preschool.

I really thought I would be ready for this.   I thought I would be excited for Eddie.  I mean, I am excited for Eddie.  Academically he is totally ready to be in school.  I can teach him just so much before he needs someone who is dedicated to knowing what and how to teach 4 year-olds (which Eddie will be this summer).  Between his daycare mom and myself, Home Slice can count forward to 20 and backward from 10.  He knows all his letters.  He can recognize his name when it’s written on something.  He can color in the lines (when he wants to, which is not often) and he can hold a pencil/crayon correctly (when he feels like it, which is not often).

We do lots of literacy stuff: he can predict, make connections, infer, and even tell stories based just on pictures.  He even recognizes some words.

He plays nice with others and knows how to share.

But he is ready for organized learning.  Something Cort and I can’t provide since we both work full-time out of the home, and something his daycare mom can give him just so much of with babies to take care of too.

And so, this fall, my oldest baby will go to preschool.

I didn’t think it would, I don’t know, hurt so much that he will be going away.  I mean, it’s not like he’s with me during that time of the day anyway.  He’s always at Renae’s house and I am at work.

But somehow, knowing my little boy will be going to school three afternoons a week is…like a punch to the gut.

Like I said on Monday, I know he is ready, but it’s just so hard for me to let go.

This is another one of those steps that is ready and so excited to take.  And I am too, except…it’s terrifying to relinquish another bit of control.  Another bit of being the only one in his life.

That sounds creepy and weird, but I mean it in the least creepy and weird way possible.

I mean it in the way of a mom who is doing her best to raise independent kids, but who enjoys having them depend on her.

So I have a bit of denial about the fact that my first baby will be old enough for school in the fall.  Even if that school is “just” preschool.  Even if there won’t be a missing boy from my daily life.  Even though I know he will have an amazing amount of fun and excitement…as will I when he tells me all the things he learns and does.

I’m just not good at change.

Which is really why Cort is going to the information meeting.  His listening ears are not clogged with anxiety and worry like mine are.

So this week learn about preschool; next week sign him up.

Pardon me while I hug him a few hundred times to try to keep the remaining baby-ness squeezed tightly in there.

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