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Second Grade Blues

Mr. Chocolate told me this past summer that second grade would be a tough year for Drake. I didn’t really think too much about it in truth because Drake did so well in 1st grade. He is a generally bright boy and my personal experience had second grade as one of my favorite years in elementary school. Schools, however, have changed a lot since I last was in one and as curriculum and testing have grown in complexity and frequency, second grade has become a big year of preparation for all the standardized testing that begins in grade 3. Still I had confidence second grade wouldn’t be much different than first grade in the end.

Drakey Beach

One month in now, I can understand what Mr. Chocolate was saying. We are having a bit of a rough start with second grade. Between a few notes from the teacher about incomplete class work, to seeing more S grades vs E grades which we had on everything last year, to small points taken off tests and grades for careless mistakes, it’s been a little overwhelming, disappointing, as well as eye opening in some ways. While I was a little naive in thinking Drake would coast through his school years, I also am wondering about the direction of help he might need as he gets older.

Most of the issues we are encountering now I feel are more related to Drake’s lack of focus and attention than his actual understanding of second grade material. One time he was sent home to complete some class work he didn’t finish as he missed an entire page when turning. Many of his mistakes in math I attribute more to rushing and carelessness rather than actual inability to answer the questions. Every ding he has been hit with on spelling and reading tests have to do with missed punctuation, forgotten capitalize letters, and poor penmanship. Sitting next to a seven year old and making them rewrite a word because of legibility is about as joyous as it sounds for both parent and child. Part of me absolutely hates it as much as Drake does.

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Being Proud of Yourself

As people, as mothers, and as women, there is a certain stigma associated with being proud of yourself. There is a belief that notates we should be humble and not speak of our accomplishments, and if we do then we are boastful, egotistical, even rude. I hate this notion so much, and as a person who works hard and tries hard to be a good person, I genuinely want to know when others are doing well too. But why am I even bothering to write about this? Because I am super proud of myself, and this is why.

A little less than 2 years ago, I decided to apply for graduate school. I was not a great undergraduate student and in fact, my grades weren’t that great until my senior year and I just never felt connected to my studies. By the end I just wanted to be done and it didn’t really matter to me what the degree was in. I didn’t attend my graduation and once I was done, I rarely thought about school or educating myself again until a couple of years ago and I realized that my ambition was gone, my job was boring and not at all fulfilling to me, and I was not proud of myself at all.

In January 2016 I started graduate school at Kansas State in the academic advising masters program. This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but in the academic advising world, this is one of the top programs. I was thrilled to start and I planned out the next 18 months to make sure that I had everything scheduled out so that I could be as successful as possible. At that point Little Bug was 7 months old and Arlie was just 2, so there was a lot of pressure on me to be a good parent and to make sure that I was completing my other obligations as well. I mean, to be as honest as possible, it was a lot to juggle and it freaked me out at first.

About two terms into school, I felt confident that I would be able to complete the program in the time I had intended. I was able to maintain honors status, take care of my family, and be successful at work. I felt like I had a purpose and I was doing something that was not only beneficial to me, but it eventually would be extremely beneficial to my family. I completely engrossed myself in my studies and I enjoyed what I was learning. I could see how the material was folded into my professional life and with that motivating me, I pushed for more responsibilities at work to showcase some of my new skills.

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Our Favorite Chapter Book Series for Preschoolers

Lion has slowly been easing into chapter books. Although he still loves picture books and we check out about 50 books every two weeks from the library, he’s been enjoying chapter books more and more recently. I like them because we don’t tear through ten books at once and I think it’s great that Lion is starting to rely more on his imagination than the pictures in a book. We started with the Commander Toad series when he was about 20 months old and while he enjoyed them quite a bit, chapter books didn’t take off for him until just before he turned 3-years-old. One problem that we are having, though, is getting Lion to understand that we don’t have to finish the entire chapter book in one sitting! Here are some of our favorite chapter book series.

Favorite-Chapter-Book-Series-for-Preschoolers

Commander Toad by Jane Yolen – There are seven different books in the Commander Toad series and they were the first chapter books we borrowed from the library. Lion enjoys books about space and found these books to be pretty funny. There are pictures on every page, even if there’s a lot of accompanying text, making it an easy transition from picture books to chapter books. Commander Toad in Space, Commander Toad and the Dis-Asteroid, Commander Toad and the Voyage Home, Commander Toad and the Intergalactic Spy, Commander Toad and the Planet of the Grapes, Commander Toad and the Big Black Hole, and Commander Toad and the Space Pirates.

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Honoring the loss of a child you miscarried

When we were at the hospital immediately following my miscarriage, the doctor asked us questions we weren’t yet prepared to answer. He talked to us about the options of disposition as well as mention of the availability of a chaplain and an upcoming memorial service.  Having worked in the hospital before and witnessing families deal with loss, these were the “typical” conversations that staff had with families yet when someone is directing these conversations to you, your world stops abruptly and you are reminded that you really did lose your child.

I’m glad Mr. Pizza and I were given some time to talk it through because it was difficult for me to process my own thoughts around these end-of-life decisions.  As we drove back home that night, thinking about the reality of our loss, we knew that we wanted to honor our baby in some way.

We decided to plant a tree in our backyard, but I wasn’t exactly on board right away. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to planting or growing anything outside so I didn’t want the added responsibility of helping to grow and keep a healthy tree alive, especially since it would be connected to the loss of our baby. Once the tree was planted and we spent some time talking to the girls about the loss of our baby and why we planted the tree, I was glad we chose to honor our baby in this way. Because of my uncertainty, I was thinking of and looking into other ideas of honoring our baby up until the day we bought and planted the tree. Here are some of the ideas that I thought of or came across.

Stepping stone – This was one of the first ideas I came up with.  I like the idea of the stone being in our backyard and something we would always see when we are playing in the backyard.  I’ve come across some nice options to personalize the stepping stones.

Jewelry – I’m drawn to jewelry because it can have a lot of meaning to you but to others can simply look like a beautiful piece of jewelry. I liked this, this and this necklace that can hold some of the ashes.

Tattoo – I don’t have any tattoos myself but think this would be a meaningful way to honor a loss.

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Upcoming Books

With Christmas around the corner, I’m starting to do research for good gifts I can get for my crew. I always gift books and while I have a mountain high list of books I can pick from at any given point in time, I always like seeing what new books are coming as well. Here are some of the ones coming before the end of the year that I’m excited about and hope to add to our home library.

here we are

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth – Oliver Jeffers is a well known staple in our home so when I saw he had a new book coming, I had to add it to the list immediately. Besides the Crayon Series books he illustrated, we love The Way Back Home, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, This Moose Belongs to Me, and more.  I even took Drake and Juliet this summer to see a special play based on The Way Back Home which was incredible and made such an impression on them both. I’m sure this one will be no less creatively and imaginatively fun as all of Jeffers’ books are.

windows

Windows– When I was young, I had a tendency to always look at the bright lights of other people’s homes as we drove by in the evenings. As an only child, I always imagined what other people’s families were like. What kinds of foods did their children eat? What TV program was on in the background before bed time? To this day I still find myself doing it when I’m the passenger in a car, wondering how other people tackle the same daily routines I have with my own family. This book about taking a stroll at night looking into windows of neighbors reminds me so much of my own childhood. So I’m very interested in reading it and sharing this experience with my kids to learn what they think at night looking at all those lit up homes.

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Mommy Wars? Not Even Close

Occasionally an article will pop up about the “mommy wars,” pitting SAHMs and WOHMs against each other. And while the day to day experiences are different, I haven’t experienced the animosity of the mommy wars. I have the opposite experience of teaming up with WOHMs, especially once my oldest kiddo began preschool.

When BeBe started preschool, volunteers were requested. One of the moms who had a corporate sales job and busy travel schedule volunteered to be the room mom. I volunteered to run activities for classroom parties and help with field trips. At the time, I had a new baby with serious medical issues, and didn’t want to take on any projects. She had the time to email parents and organize events. And while she attended many events, she knew she had me and a few other parents committed to running the event if she had to unexpectedly travel for work. (Also, her husband was very involved too). This worked well because we shared resources and responsibilities. However, she took on much of the work, and I appreciated her doing so.

Now with BeBe in elementary school I’m less active in volunteering, but I make the effort to attend at least one school event a year. But even scheduling one event is tricky, because their school does not allow younger siblings to attend. This is where I combine resources with a WOHM friend. For a recent field trip, I could only get a babysitter for our little guy in the morning, and she could only slip away during the afternoon. We contacted the teacher and let her know we would be sharing chaperone duties for the day. With a quick pass of the kids’ lunch bags and sweatshirts at noon, we both enjoyed the field trip with our kiddos. And the teacher didn’t have to do any extra planning.

Another challenge WOHMs (and dads) face with kids in elementary school is the daycare options shrink. It’s a juggle to piece together camps and before and after school care. This is where I pitch in as a SAHM. If there are a few days between the school year ending and summer camp starting, we invite kids over for an all-day play date. And if WOHM friend has a last-minute work crisis, they know they can text me, and I will get their kiddo off the bus and the kids can play at our house. Other times a WOHM friend will pick up their kid from school, drop them at our house, and rush back to a meeting. (They need to let the bus company and school know ahead of time, though).

My WOHMs friends also pitch in to help me. When I’m scrambling for an early morning babysitter for BeBe because our little guy has an appointment at the hospital, guess who is up early, starting their day, and willing to watch my six year-old? Working parents with little kids, and they have been awesome about watching BeBe when that happens.

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Night Terrors

Our oldest has never been a particularly good sleeper. Ever. When he was a newborn, he lost a lot of weight very quickly and we were advised to wake him every two hours for the first several weeks to make sure he was fed. From our perspective, it messed with his sleep big time and it was hard to break that routine. Cry-it-out was a disaster for us and he frequently woke at 4am every day to play until well after he was 18  months (as in, he was up for the day by 4am). Even after he started sleeping through the night more reliably, there have been plenty of evenings where he’s woken up and needed us to get back to sleep. As much as I complain about being woken up in the middle of the night, I have to admit I’m grateful when Lion quickly turns over and falls back asleep the minute he realizes Mr. Dolphin or I are in the room.

Day75A1_March16

So sweet and peaceful at 9pm. A completely different story by 11pm.

The nights I dread are the ones where we hear crying or screaming coming from Lion and Panda’s room, the nights where nothing we say or do is going to rouse Lion. To make matters worse, they share a room and while Panda can sleep through a bit of crying or fussing, he’s unlikely to make it through one of Lion’s night terrors.

Before we had Lion, I had no understanding of what night terrors were. I thought night terrors, or sleep terrors, were just about nightmares or bad dreams. I’ve come to appreciate that night terrors are something completely different. When Lion has a night terror, he starts crying or screaming uncontrollably. If he talks, it’s usually gibberish. Sometimes he seems to be awake, but continues to cry no matter what we do. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge or recognize us. And the crying can last up to fifteen to twenty minutes. It. Is. Awful. And it never feels like fifteen minutes, it feels like it is lasting forever.

I don’t have much advice to share, only my own experiences:

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