Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back to School 2014

So, back to school 2014.  Georgia's first day was in late August, and June and Waylon started after Labor Day.  It's probably a good thing that it has taken me a few weeks to get this post up, because it has also taken us that long to get in a groove with this whole school business.  (Truth be told, the kids have adjusted well, but I'm still trying to get in a good groove.  I do not like the current groove.  I miss the days of summer and doing whatever we wanted to, and not having to drive everyone around, and I have gone into a temporary funk that I am trying to work myself out of, one way or another.  Joe is being very patient but I can only assume he is quietly freaking out on the inside, since I've resurrected the tried and true, "Let's uproot our whole lives and move back to the city because that would solve all of my so-called problems!" reasoning, which tends to be my go-to solution.  I guess I don't really mean it, but my mind goes there all the time.)

But to recap:  Georgia started first grade.  June started her Montessori kindergarten year.  (We're planning on putting June in public school kindergarten next year, though, so I still think of this year as an extra year of preschool for her; we're not really sure what to call it.  You'll notice in the photos below that we haven't made her a "Class of 20__" poster yet, because technically the jury's still out on whether she'll move on to kindergarten or first grade next year.)  Waylon started 3 year-old park district preschool.

Georgia got a big case of nerves in the days leading up to her first day, but I think she got all her tears out of her system beforehand, because she has had none at the drop-offs.  (I was nothing short of stunned by this on the first day.  To be clear, I don't mind a lick when she's nervous; I love her unconditionally.  It's just that I see how hard it can be on her, and I see how earnestly she tries.  So, for each small victory and measure of progress, (of which there have been many in the last year), I am proud and happy for her.)  As expected, her first few weeks were rocky, coming home wiped out with complaints of the long day and having to figure out the lunch routine.  She's currently sitting at a peanut-free table in the cafeteria, which has presented a few extra challenges.  Also, it didn't help matters that Georgia only made it to 2.5 days of school before being sent home sick!  Then came Labor Day weekend.  So, it took us until the third week to accomplish five full days in a row.  Recently her class was issued iPads, (which I have mixed feelings about, but am slowly coming around toward), but I have to say that her excitement about wondering "Is today the day I'll get my iPad?" was just the carrot we needed to get over the hump and have her eager to return to school each day. 

This is June's second year at Pathway Montessori, and now she's part of the "top of the heap" - the kindergarten aged children who get to look at things a little more in depth and serve as leaders to the littler kids.  (Or so the Montessori people say.)  I can't say I'm totally in love with the place, only because June doesn't seem to be totally in love with the place, which is a sharp contrast to her continued lauding of her 3 year old co-op preschool in the city, including placing her former teacher, Ms. Linda, on a veritable pedestal.  It's hard to say what of this praise is deserved and what is revisionist history.  I'm not sure how to describe June's attitude toward school.  She frequently says she doesn't want to go, and voices several mild complaints about the place, but then hops out of the car with a smile and is smiling when I pick her up.  I hope that's a good sign and that her reluctance just stems from preferring to hang out with Waylon and me and go on adventures?  I do intend to pull her out as much as possible this year to do just that; it's all part of our plan to slow down and draw out early childhood and push off the attendance policies of public school.  What's the rush, right?  But it's also a plan that I have second-guessed so much that I'm embarrassed to admit it.  Why can't I just make a decision and move on, be grateful that we even have these choices, and not obsess?  Well, tuition is expensive, and though her birthday falls just 12 days before the cutoff, in many ways she was ready to start public school.  I think she could've hacked it.  But between wanting to keep our kids spaced grade-wise just as they are chronologically, and wanting to give her another year of half-days and as much freedom to play as possible, we've decided this path is right for our family.  That's the key, I know - there is no "right" answer.  I just wish I could shut off the pesky part of my brain that thinks about what everyone else is doing and then feels insecure about our choices.  (Shut up, brain!  Leave me alone!)   

Waylon loves his preschool and confidently marches right in each day.*  He and June are both kids that have to be reminded to say goodbye and give mom a kiss before parting.  (Sidebar:  please, please, thank your lucky stars if you have one of these children.  I often hear parents jokingly say, "I don't know what's harder, having a kid crying about leaving, or one that forgets to even say goodbye!"  I realize these are always good-natured remarks, but just in case there was any actual doubt in anyone's mind, let me answer that for you:  it is much, much harder to deal with children who are upset.  It is no picnic for parent or child.)  Funnily enough, Waylon is a better reporter than either of the girls about what goes on at school.  He comes out chatting and happy.  There's not much to his preschool in a way, but that's okay with me, because he basically just turned 3.  He may be a third child, but due to various circumstances, his is the fifth preschool we've tried!  I could write my own preschool review book at this point!  Right now, my only tiny beefs with the place are that it's not long enough (twice a week for 2 hours, which after subtracting travel time and June's drop-off gives me only 1.5 hours of freedom to actually get anything done, which lately has been consumed by billable work), and apple juice. 

[Another sidebar:  I think you all should watch the documentary movie Fed Up if you haven't already.  Pretty sure you can get it via Netflix or iTunes.  I had this whole rant about preschools serving apple juice written, and then deleted it because, well, you'll think I'm crazy, and besides, there are refugees, and wars, and poverty, and disease, so apple juice is not a big problem in the grand scheme of things.  But then I watched Fed Up last night and felt like, no, my little pet peeve actually does matter.  By the way, the movie is not about apple juice or preschool, per se.  Anyway, you should totally watch it.]

On to the pictures!  By the way, next year Joe and I are totally getting our hair done and wearing new outfits for this first day business, what with all the photos. ; )  Okay, I will at least get up and shower for BOTH first days next year.   


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{This picture is so dorky I can't *not* include it.  Joe leaving for the train.} : )

Goodbyes on the playground...
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[The following week...First Days, Round Two!]:
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Showing off some "ballet moves"...
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And they're off!

(Okay, one more for good measure, because there is little on Earth cuter than three year olds sitting in cubbies waiting for dismissal.)
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*Update:  Okay, so I wrote this about two weeks ago and then ran into technical difficulties getting the pictures uploaded.  And now, Waylon's taken to crying at the drop-offs.  : (  (His teachers report that he recovers fairly quickly.)  Maybe the excitement of newness wore off?  Hopefully it's a passing phase.  Hang in there, Waylon.  You are "Special Person of the Day" tomorrow at school and everyday at home. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Trees Make Me Happy

When I'm feeling a little sad, as I was after I dropped Georgia off at school this morning, getting out in nature can go a long way toward improving my mood. 

I told June and Waylon that I needed to take a long walk, so we did. We discovered Lake Marmo, which we renamed Lake Marzo. It's ours now, but you're welcome to borrow it anytime, heron and all. (Or, "Bye bye, ostrich!" as Waylon put it. What is it with my kids and birds? June comically confuses seagulls and eagles all the time.)

After putting up with my walk, we headed over to a children's area and were pleasantly surprised to find that we had it all to ourselves today. I let the kids run off on their own and *mostly* avoided bothering them with photographs.

They started playing some version of Little House on the Prairie. Waylon sure makes a mean baby Carrie. I brought applesauce for a snack, but upon sitting down to eat it June informed me that, "Pa just killed a wolf. So we are having wolf saliva."  Followed by, "What's saliva, Mama?"

All in all, it was just the dose of trees I needed. 

[Programming note: I am trying out a mobile blogging app. I never can seem to get these things to work. So apologies if this looks all wonky.]







[NOTE:  Okay,  it probably looks normal to you.  It looks like crap to me.  Why do my pictures get cut off, turned into squares, and pixelated?  Ann Price, I am personally contacting you for technical support.  Don't fail me now!] ; ) 
[Just so you can see what I'm talking about, here are some of the same photos pasted in my "normal" way.]
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dipping a toe back into the waters of employment

As if eeking out every summer adventure we have time for while ignoring the impending reality of 'back to school', all while heading into Cake Month (as we call it around here) wasn't already enough, I also started a new job last week. 

Part time, from home, boring old lawyering.  Well, I should be more specific, because "lawyering" probably conjures an image of someone in a courtroom, whereas what I do is review commercial leases in my pajamas.  And I shouldn't say "boring old", because I'm really happy to have the work, it's just that during the past two and a half years of not having a paying job, I've spent my time daydreaming of several alternative career paths (who doesn't?).  Most of them were unattainable without the use of a time machine, but all were totally rad.  (And for the record, Joe, I'm still not ruling any out.)    

It's really premature for me to be discussing any of this, seeing as how I have not even had a chance to call my own mother to tell her about this, have not yet seen a dime, and I've only been giving it a whirl for a week, but it also seemed remiss not to at least mention that I have entered said whirl.

Who knows if it will last a month or a year or if you will ever hear of it again on this blog, but for the moment, I am excited to be earning a little extra money for our family and to have my foot back in the door of employment, if for no other reason than to patch the ever-widening gap in my resume.  I wasn't actively seeking a job right now, so it was very flattering to be approached, and hard to say no to at least giving it a try.  
      
It's going to take a while to work out the kinks.  Since I don't yet have a good idea of how many hours per week this will be, for the time being I'm getting it done "around the edges", i.e., without any childcare.  That's great for our bottom line, but not so great for me if it means that all billable work is a second shift that occurs after the kids go to bed, and not so great for the kids (or me) if it means trying to juggle paying attention to children and working at the same time.  With written or computer-based work, I have a prayer of getting things done while Waylon is napping and the girls are (ostensibly) entertaining themselves during quiet time.  But phone calls?  Fuhgeddaboudit.   

I am trying to be patient with the kids, because this is a transition time for them, too.  Even though I worked outside the home full time until just before Georgia's fourth birthday and June's second, Georgia has very few memories of our old routine, and June has none.  Waylon has only known me as a stay at home mom.  

So, last week when it came time to have a few phone calls, I set the kids up in front of the television (yes, I'm strategically using it as a makeshift babysitter - we're talking 15 minute increments here, not 8 hour blocks of time), and asked them if possible to pass me a note if they needed something, rather than interrupting my calls in their usual ways.  As great as TV can be, Murphy's Law dictates that the next episode of Wild Kratts is sure to cut out just when I need it most.  

This system worked pretty well for the call that was scheduled.  Our note passing system did not work so well for an unplanned call that I felt I had to pick up amidst everyone running around and playing.  (And yes, I realize that this system is particularly ridiculous given that 2 of 3 children here are illiterate.)  It's a work in progress...  

I felt a low-lying buzz of nervous, stressful energy on a day when I was expecting a call to discuss a document, and I found myself having to make strange new decisions, like leaving my cell phone inside while serving as a lifeguard outside.  There's no point in bringing the phone if you can't very well answer it, I decided.  When the low-lying buzz of nervous, stressful energy felt annoying, I had to remind myself that I was, after all, getting paid to experience it.  It's a work in progress...

So, I guess I've gone back to work.  Except I haven't really gone anywhere.  In an employment landscape defined by tradeoffs, I've traded my old office with a door for a child-sized kitchen table, occasional business lunches at Frontera for leftovers plucked from unfinished plates, coffee runs with adult conversations for being interrupted to wipe someone's bottom, and a salary with benefits for an hourly independent contractor wage.  But I've got windows!  That's one thing I didn't have working in Biglaw.  And flexibility.  Hopefully, gobs of it.   That, of course, is the real kicker.  

Please wish our family luck as we enter this new chapter, because we're certain to need it.  Joe has been so supportive, not only in the normal, "you can do it, honey!" sort of way that you'd expect from any spouse, but truly in the more time-consuming, "blowing the rust off the old lawyer gears" way that only a two-attorney family can appreciate.  I feel like I'm just slowly working my way through all the hats of motherhood...working outside the home, staying home full time, working part-time from home, who knows what else may come.  Weaving in and out of these phases is a sign of the times in some respects, but I also feel extremely fortunate, because not everyone has the luxury of opportunity to do so. 

And now for a few snapshots, which are sure to make you laugh at me.  

My temporary workspace, complete with crayons and dejected preschooler:  
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The notes I received:
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Seriously?  I've been back in the workforce for like 10 MINUTES!

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Okay, to be fair, I later got to the bottom of this, which turned out to be a sibling thing that had nothing to do with me. 

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This lovely pictogram clearly says, "Mom, may I please have some soap, a bucket, the hose, and a rag so that I can wash a riding vehicle on the driveway RIGHT THIS MINUTE?"  It was when I failed to correctly interpret and immediately respond to this that our note passing system broke down.

It's all luck in the timing.      

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Storm Preppers

Do your children have a particular imaginary play game that they like to repeat a lot? 

For mine, it's "HURRICANE!"  This involves running around, pretending to tape the windows, closing all the blinds and shades, speaking in a panicked voice that feigns that you are out of breath, going into a room and shutting all the lights off, and getting out a flashlight.  Depending on the circumstances, a hurricane might mean that you should go to the lowest or the highest available room in the house.  It might also mean that you should bring with you every stuffed animal known to humanity.   

Thankfully, I have never been in an actual hurricane, nor have our children.  The Midwestern United States is not known for taking direct hits from the ocean.  I think the origin of this game goes all the way back to a downloaded Sesame Street episode about preparing for and cleaning up after a storm that took out Big Bird's nest, which Georgia probably first watched on vacation when she was two or three, and which the kids have all since watched several times over.

I guess they're taking the game to the next level, because the other day I came in to find June prepping dollhouse windows for an impending storm.  Never can be too careful, can you?

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

And it looks like I'm the queen

(The scene:  post-dinner baths and kitchen clean up.) 

I don't know what made me giggle more, hearing Waylon sweetly singing from the bathtub down the hall, "Be the good girl you always have to be..." or walking through the kitchen two minutes later and catching Joe working on a sink full of dishes while singing, "Conceal, don't feel..."

The kids' bedtime routine this evening ended with them wearing blankets as capes, my three little Elsas belting out a group version of "Let It Go."  

Can you tell we watched Frozen (again) at Georgia's request for a family movie night on her birthday yesterday?