Back to School Countdown: 5 tips to ease the transition

It’s officially five more days until HJ begins 1st grade. Coming to this moment has been somewhat of a tumultuous journey, considering that we had wanted to hold her back two years ago before she entered kindergarten. But because she receives special education services from the public school and has an IEP (individualized education plan), our school district strongly encouraged us to have her begin kindergarten on time (even with her late summer birthday).

Then, this past year, we made another go of holding her back. She was doing well in kindergarten, but still not reading and still behind her general education peers. I thought that another year of kindergarten in a general education class might be the best transition. Despite our efforts to convince the district to allow HJ to have another year of kindergarten, they basically said that was not their policy and refused our request. Long story short, we even hired a lawyer to make our case, but in the end, we had to give in since the school was the one giving her the services.

And this is all to say, I didn’t really want her to start first grade this year.

Nevertheless, here we are. Five days before school. And now it’s time for me to put on a brave face and show my daughter that she is ready for this big step. It’s time for me to do whatever I can to help her be prepared.

It’s a good thing we get lots of practical advice from HJ’s counselors and therapists. Otherwise, I would be living in denial and it would be the night before the first day of school, and I would suddenly be saying, “Oh my god, what have I forgotten to do?”

Here are five easy tips that I’m rapidly trying to implement before school begins next week. Five because we have five days left. And easy because that’s about all we have the time and energy for now.

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This Happened

I’ve been fairly absent for a little while now. Two trimesters to be exact.

Yep, that happened.

I wish I could say it’s all sunshine and roses, but when you’re very firmly one and done, a surprise like this is a lot to swallow. But that’s how life works and thankfully Mother Nature gives moms several months to work through the “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH TWO KIDS AT HOME, GET ME BACK TO WORK NOW!” emotions ;)

The timing of this pregnancy has been a challenge. I found out my exhaustion and really crummy runs were not just because I was pushing a toddler in a jogging stroller in our hilly neighborhood, but something much bigger right around the time when our contractor walked off our nightmare of a house project. Needless to say, if we thought things were stressful up until that point, we were in for a big surprise. We’re working with a lawyer now, but he adds a whole other layer of stress. Initially we just wanted to get the house finished before the Navy tells us we need to move again, but we have a much more pressing deadline now. And the weeks are ticking by really quickly! Breathe, breathe, breathe!

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At the corner of “will” and reality

As nearly all first time parents, I had a lot of ideas for the kind of parent I wanted to be and the rules I would follow and ones I would ignore. And like most parents, I quickly found myself throwing most of those expectations out the window.

Admittedly, my list of things of “definitely will do” and “no way, no how” was fairly short to begin with. I had done a fair amount of reading about the first year and what traditionally happens with sleep, eating, breastfeeding and baby’s development, but I didn’t focus too closely on one parenting philosophy over another. I knew a lot of what I would do would depend on my child and my own and Mr. Carrot’s needs as parents, but there were a few things I was pretty dedicated to – until it turned out they weren’t right for my family.

1) Breastfeeding. I had every intention of breastfeeding – I took classes, read books, talked to friends, ordered the pump before Baby Carrot was even born and was ready with an array of nursing bras, shirts and breast pads. And then Baby Carrot was born early and tiny, with little energy to latch and attempt to feed. The NICU wouldn’t let her out until she showed consistent weight gain, and since she would fall asleep after a few seconds on the breast, we ended up supplementing with formula almost immediately. I went to the NICU every 3 hours during the day to attempt nursing her, and pumped religiously throughout the day and night, but even 10 days later, when she was finally able to come home, I got barely an ounce per pumping session and she was drinking full bottles of formula even after nursing. I spoke with multiple lactation consultants, and stuck to my pumping schedule, but it was obvious that Baby C wasn’t getting much from me, if anything at all, and neither was the pump. After 6 weeks of waking up every 2 hours to pump, trying to nurse a frustrated baby, and worrying about whether Baby C was eating enough, I made the decision to stop and switch to formula feeding exclusively.

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Slow Cooker Vietnamese soup

I had this before a wedding during their home-made lunch hour, and it was the most amazing soup I’ve ever had. The key for me is the special beef packet, Oriental Beef Spices (gia vị nấu bò kho), which I’ve found at most Asian supermarkets in my area, the daikon, and freshly boiled rice noodles. Daikon is Japanese radish and my local Fred Meyer carries it, so it’s not as hard to find as I would have expected. The rice noodles absorb the broth if left in the soup in the fridge so I boil them for each round of leftovers I prepare.

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PlanetBox Rover Review

Mrs. Chocolate recently did a review of the PlanetBox Shuttle, which is the smaller version of the PlanetBox Rover pictured below. I’d wanted to get the kids a stainless steel lunchbox for some time, but the options are very limited when it comes to stainless steel bento boxes. Charlie and Olive are Korean and Japanese so they’re used to the bento-style of eating with a lot of side dishes. The PlanetBox Rover was the only one that seemed to fit our needs, but I hesitated purchasing one due to the price. After reading countless reviews on bento blogs about the Rover’s durability, I finally bit the bullet and got one for Charlie to use when he starts Kindergarten this fall.

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Summer Theme weeks: Hans Christian Andersen Fairy tales

After working with the kids with the Grimm Brother fairy tales, I was really excited to start on Hans Christian Andersen.  I love the stories and they were some of my favorites as a child. I also knew that I could hook them with the connections to Frozen (which is a current obsession in our household). Of course they were excited but I knew they were going to be confused by how different the stories were, especially in the Little Mermaid and the Snow Queen.

I looked through our anthologies and some of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories are very long to read in one sitting.  I went back to our library and our used book store to find some picture books with the stories instead of reading them the original text. We also continued to watch each of the fairy tales during snack time from the Faerie Tale Theater set that we have.

Again each day we added to our Alphabet book with a few letters from our story.  Each page had the letters at the top, some dotted traceable letters and a blank space to practice.  Plus I printed out a picture to color and glue on.


- We read The Little Mermaid. One was an illustrated picture book credited to Hans Christian Anderson and the other was a Disney Step into Reading book.

- Our letters were L for Little mermaid and O for ocean.

- I laid out four print outs with different type of shells: clams, scallops, hermit crabs (and other spiral shaped shells) and then a blank page for miscellaneous. I took out a bunch of shells that I have in a jar at home and we spent a while talking about differences in appearances of the shells and the types of animals that lived in each one.  Then we sorted all of my shells onto their proper sheets.

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Disney World Day One: Hollywood Studios

We arrived at Disney World around noon on the 2nd, and shortly after met up with my mother who had flown in.  After getting everyone settled and unpacked, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at the hotel before heading over to Hollywood Studios. My main reason for choosing to do Hollywood Studios as our first park was because I wanted to take Drake to see the Fantasmic show at night and the Frozen fireworks afterwards. I thought of all the parks Hollywood would have the least to offer him — it lacks rides and the few that are popular (Tower of Terror, Aerosmith roller coaster) are too large for Drake to participate in – so if we squeezed it in on our first night it would save us the need to have to go back. We never went back to Hollywood after this night, so I think it was the best choice.

Before we left for Disney I had a detailed outline of rides and shows (and times) of things I thought would interest Drake. My list for Hollywood consisted of these things:

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