School Is In Session

We had a four day weekend last week, but that didn’t stop my kids from declaring school in session!

It started with Jax experimenting with baking soda and vinegar while I was still in my pajamas and eating my breakfast.  It was an entertaining meal to say the least!  Quite educational.

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I was proud of my little mad scientist, who set up the entire experiment himself, but had to put a stop to his explosive tendencies when the mess took on a life of its own.

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I suggested to him and Em that since it was frigid outside and they had lots of big ideas of how they wanted to spend their day, Why don’t you set up a school?  Little H and your many creepy dolls could be your students.  They loved the idea and just like that, I had the table to myself again as they ran off to set it all up.

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Em made the “schedule:” Math, Music, Gym, Library, Art, Science, Home.  If you need help following along, just follow the light saber pointer for assistance.

I was pleased that they insisted on starting the day with the Pledge of Allegiance…

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…and then Jax took over for some early morning math work.  The girls were an attentive audience.

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I had to insist to Jax that he keep the math equations basic, and Em was happy to help her little sister when she was stuck on an answer.

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Star student!

Then Em got out the instruments for a little bit of music, It’s The Hard Knock Life from “Annie,” to be exact.  As always, we are ever-so-grateful to Uncle Chris for Little H’s trumpet.  As delightfully deafening as ever!

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Music was followed by Mr. Jax’s gym class, which began with five laps around the house for warm ups and then a rousing game of hopscotch.

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Then it was time for a super Pinterest science experiment fail with Teacher Mommy: supposedly if you fill two glasses with colored water and place a tightly wrapped paper towel in, the color will “travel” up the paper towel and fill the middle glass with the secondary color revealed when you combine the original two colors.  We tried several hyphothoses–more water, less water, water in the middle, increased length of time, thinner paper towels, shorter paper towels… You name it, we attempted it.  The only conclusion to be drawn from this experiment was this: Pinterest lies.  Or our paper towels are just too damn absorbent.  Inconclusive findings at this point.  Definitely wasn’t Mommy’s fault.

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At least it was pretty.

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To disguise my Pinterest failure, I announced it was snack time and Jax read a story to the students during Library.

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Miss Em really came to life when she was teaching art, actually communicating to her “students” rather than shuffling shyly around in front of them as she had before.  She even had real projects in mind and helped Little H with her work.  Art is definitely where she shines.

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And right before the bell rang, there was choice time.  Jax and Little H decided some dress-up and theatrical play was in order.

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If this is what their days are like in school, I can’t believe they aren’t following asleep in their suppers.  What an exhausting (and completely entertaining!) day of school! I’m so pleased that they love their school and teachers so much that they want to be just like them.  Makes my teacher-on-hiatus heart happy.

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Exploring The Freedom Trial

JDubbs and I grew up (mostly) in suburbs just outside of Boston (JDubbs was born and raised in Sacramento until he was 10), and it is my inestimable pleasure to expose my kids to the history, art, excitement and glory that is the city of Boston, especially in the summer.  When Jax began to show an interest in the American Revolution last winter, specifically Paul Revere, JDubbs and I knew a trip to Boston and the Freedom Trail (that links the many important historical sites throughout the city) would be on our list of things to do this year.  A warm summer day, our family of five, a stroller, some bottles of water, and we were off for a historical adventure!

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The Old North Church and its surrounding plaques, memorials, and statues to Paul Revere and the other significant Patriots of his day was just the right combination of history and fun.  Jax was interested to see things he had only read about in books come to life, and the girls, JDubbs and I learned a thing or two as well.

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Then we followed the Freedom Trail out of the North End, and crossed over to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which was built after JDubbs and I had moved away from Boston.  It was something new for everyone and what’s not to love about green spaces, a carousel, splash pads and fountains amidst the buildings and bustle of the city?  It was the perfect kind of fun for my country mice!

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This fountain was everyone’s favorite, right outside Faneuil Hall, with the water coming up sporadically in various patterns, reaching enormous heights!  Jax had absolutely no fear and charged straight in.  Little H stayed on the outskirts and loved every second, although she didn’t actually get wet.  Em decided to be brave and went in after a bit of hesitation, only to get a jet of water in the eye and run out screaming!  She spent the next ten minutes shivering and crying until JDubbs bought her a tapestry from the farmer’s market to dry her off.  So, mixed reviews from the kids, but I loved it!

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From there we picked up the Freedom Trail again and walked through the Boston Common to the Public Garden, with a stop in Granary Burial Ground to see the graves of Paul Revere and John Hancock.  We stopped to say hello to the ducks from Make Way For Ducklings and some of their ancestors, but the line was too long for a tour on the Swan Boats.  Instead we got ice cream and watched the people and cars go by from a quiet spot on the lawn.

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After that, we took the T back to our car (the kids’ favorite part!) and headed to Auntie Amanda’s and Uncle Chris’s house for a sleepover before Legoland the next day.  This was one of my favorite memories from the summer, and we have had many extraordinary adventures!  I love exposing my little country mice to all this magnificent city has to offer!

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Commencement

Monday was Jax’s first day of 1st grade, and to say he was thrilled would be a vast understatement.  He has never been ready so quickly or so enthusiastically to go anywhere before in his life.

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I think part of it was the shirt, which he chose and I allowed, even as I nicely asked for a new shirt, just for the first day.  But if he is going to grow into the independent soul he is destined to be, I suppose I can let the kid pick out his own clothes.

All five of us dropped him off and escorted him to his classroom, but it was more because we wanted to celebrate him and be part of the commencement of something so great, not because he needed any hand holding.  Hugs were perfunctory and joyful, but I still savored mine.

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Every day since I have heard a litany of reasons why 1st grade is so much better than kindergarten, from one student being named The Big Cheese each day (he is waiting his turn with bated breath), to the fact that he can read as many books as he wants! at rest time, to the new special pencil his teacher gave him and so on.  The second morning he climbed into bed to snuggle me and said, “I don’t think I need breakfast today, Mom.  Let’s just go right to school.”  Willing to miss a meal to get to school faster? 1st grade really must be a special place indeed!

Em had a short orientation yesterday and her first full day was today.  I am counting the minutes until I pick her up to see what I hope is a glowing face bursting with exciting news.  She asked to take a shower this morning rather than a bath last night so her hair would be “extra bouncy,” and picked out a very sparkly outfit all on her own at Carter’s, with her brand new Frozen backpack.

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Again all five of us made the trip to school, and we walked together into school, holding hands in the parking lot, everyone’s backpack filled to the brim with necessities (including Little H’s, who insisted on putting some snack and a juice box in Em’s old one so she could bring one, too).

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Jax gave us a quick “Bye!” and hurried into his classroom, then we went into Em’s room (which we know and love because it was Jax’s last year) and helped her get settled, which beyond a little hand-holding, she didn’t really need.

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After hanging up her backpack and putting her lunch in the correct spot, a friend asked her to join her to do Play-Doh, and with an extra hug and a smile, she ran off to join her.  JDubbs and I looked at each other and realized our work was done.  We have shaped them into the sweetest, smartest, bravest little people we could, and now we have to let them grow.  Watching Jax happily writing at his desk across the hall and Em shyly talking to her tablemate next door, I think we did a pretty great job.

Oh, and meanwhile, this one and I have been having a very lovely day together.

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Time for Little H to get the spotlight she so richly deserves! A new beginning for everyone!

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Em’s First Dance Performance

I was asked if I wouldn’t mind to take some photos at the Lebanon Ballet School’s final performance in June, and since Em would be showcasing everything she has learned over the course of her many classes this year, I was happy to oblige so that I could a) challenge myself to get some quality photos indoors under fluorescent lights but also b) so Em could see me and her family front and center when she stood in front of the crowd to perform.  Taking photos of the dancers was so interesting because of the challenges posed; I used the only zoom lens in my camera bag, my Tamron 24-75mm, and was pleased with the results.

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But in truth, I only had eyes for one prima ballerina.

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I was so proud of my girl!  Being in the same space where she has her classes, wearing her usual leotard really helped her feel less anxious.  She was excited to show what she has learned, especially in front of her big brother, and did her very very best.

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Her group was able to come up three times, and every time she seemed more comfortable.  In between she would sit with Jax and Little H, watching the older girls dance and probably imagining what it will be like when it’s her turn to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I think having her very own cheering section in the front row, familiar faces proud and cheering her on, really helped her to shine.

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Afterward, JDubbs brought the other kids and Auntie Jenny home while I stayed with the star for some celebratory cake and her share of congratulations to the entire ensemble.

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You have come so far and grown so much, my darling Em!  We couldn’t be more proud!

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We love you, our beautiful dancer!

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May Fair Blossoms

Our adventures in envious Waldorf behavior continues with this year’s May Fair celebration, complete with a real May pole, cake walks, silk watercolors and face painting, flower crowns and lots and lots of bubbles.  It started with a walk around our very own May pole with Little H’s morning garden class, with a guest appearance by big sister Em.

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Then we returned that afternoon for the school-wide celebration, where I remembered just how much Em has enjoyed it in years past and probably should be attending school there even now.  She just blossoms there.

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Little H loves being there, too.  We three ladies had a lovely afternoon watching the classes do the cake walks, snacking on delicious cookies and weaving flowers into a crown for Em (which was a true labor of love, but was worth it in the end!).

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I have always struggled with our decision to pull Em out of the Waldorf school for financial reasons, since I feel that she is such a perfect fit for that brand of alternative education.  But I have hope after a very successful preK year that she will bloom wherever she is planted, as long as we continue to nurture her sweet spirit and individual self.

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We’ll just take every year as it comes and enjoy this girl as she grows!

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Taking Flight

When I pick up Em and Jax from school today, it will be with cheers of jubilation and sighs of relief that our first year with kids in school was such a roaring success.  They will be my little first grader and kindergartener from this day forward, and it’s with so much love (and a bit of trepidation) that the entire summer lays before us, just waiting to unveil itself to us, with its promise of lazy days and grand adventures.  I am so looking forward to just allowing them to be themselves and to learn at their own pace, exploring the world all summer long, so that when school comes around again in the fall they will be ready to take flight, rejuvenated and content in their own skin.

Chalk Outline Butterfly @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Like butterflies.

Oh, and don’t forget the butterfly-in-training.  She’s still got some growing to do!

Chalk Outline Butterfly @ Rub Some Dirt On It.  Use chalk to make butterfly wings and antennae and have the child form the body!

Happy summer!

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Raising Good Humans

Truth: Summer is coming, and with it three little humans who will be home with me all day, every day.  I am excited to have nowhere to rush off to, no lunches to pack, no gym shoes to remember and no schedule to adhere to.  But at the same time…nowhere to be?  No schedule to adhere to?  Suddenly the weeks of uninterrupted time alone with my children sounds a little more…daunting.

Truth:  I need a schedule.  In fact, I thrive on it and I believe children do, too.  Add to that equation that both Jax and I are a little Type A and the need for a bit of structure to our summer is real.  Jax has already asked me if we can make a daily routine chart like they have at school (you know, breakfast play snack play lunch play read play dinner bed).  But he wants it on a posterboard written in permanent marker so that he knows what is coming next.  I guess we both need a bit of a plan.

Truth:  I get a lot of stuff done when the big kids are at school and Little H is napping, and I’m not going to give that up just because it’s summer.  I can either give the kids lots of time to play independently (sign me up) or I can include them in the getting-stuff-done process (sounds good).  I decided I would do both, and so the internet/Pinterest/Etsy search for a chore chart was on.

The search brought me to Fisher Kids, a company you can check out here that has a philosophy on parenting I can get behind.  They are called Fisher Kids because they want to teach kids to fish, to provide for themselves, and thus become functioning humans in society who don’t need their Mommy or Daddy to hold their hands at every problem.  Fisher Kids also believes that kids need not be rewarded or receive accolades for every little thing they do in life. “There is a need for children to have intrinsic motivation to succeed. Our stations are designed to teach children that there are some things we do simply because we want to help the family team. These are not “paid for” chores, simply deeds we all do around the house to keep a healthy, happy, high-functioning home.”  You don’t get a trophy for just showing up here, kids.  You’d better work.

Fisher Kids has a whole responsibility station you can purchase and it looks great and comes completely set up for you.  My only problem was we don’t have a ton of wall space so I wanted a chore/responsibility system that was more three-dimensional.  Plus I love jars.  But I did buy the responsibility magnets from Fisher Kids, one for Jax and one for Em.  I put them on our refrigerator and assigned them each two “deeds”–jobs that they have to do just because they are functioning members of our family who help out.  They get those chores for a week.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then I bought a $3 jar at TJ Maxx with a chalkboard label on the front to hold a colorful array of “chores”–things the kids can do to make money if they are feeling particularly industrious–and “deeds.”  The brown/plain sticks are the “deeds” — Dishwasher Duty, Set the Table, Sweep the Kitchen, etc.  They have a deed on one side and “Thank you” written on that back  That’s all they get for participating, but being polite and thankful are important things to learn, too.

The colorful sticks are “chores” and are more specific–Wipe Down the Counters, Tidy and Clean the Coffee Table–and have a monetary value written on the back.  These range from 10-50 cents, depending on how labor intensive the chore is.  Just making them colorful made them appealing to the kids, and the fact that they are learning how to add money (so they can write down the commission earned each day and the total for the week) is an added bonus.  If you need a place to start for your chores, I love the list provided here.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Basically, the kids don’t make any money if they just do their deeds and don’t do any chores.  They get a hearty “Thank You” for your help and we’ll see you next week.  BUT the chore jar is going to be the first place I send them this summer if they give me the dreaded, “I’m booooooored…” at which point they will be bored no longer because I will be having them do chores for free.  I can’t wait.

The other element of Fisher Kids I like is to teach them not only to be helpful members of our family, but also contributing members to our community.  The kids are going to give a percentage of their wages to a “Give” jar, which we will let build up and use for some kind of contribution, donation, or random act of kindness.  Having the money be earned instead of given to them will really help them build some sense of ownership in the process, and I look forward to brainstorming ideas about how we can help our community over the course of the year.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The last thing I am going to do is start rewarding the kids for good behavior and exhibiting qualities I try to encourage in them.  For example, yesterday Em dropped her cup of graham crackers and without me having to say anything Jax came over and gave her some of his.  That sort of kindness should be acknowledged and rewarded; so once they reach a certain number of beads for their Caring Jar, we will have some kind of family reward, like going to get ice cream or making s’mores.  Something fun that celebrates the kids being well-rounded, kind people.  That’s my goal in life, anyway: to foster that in them.  And to have as many uses for jars and beads as possible.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Lastly I got two small swingtop jars at Walmart for Jax and Em to put the money they make into–we’ll separate it into money to spend and money to save, and hopefully we can make a decent amount to open a savings account at the end of the summer.  I put it all in a pretty crate that is now my Command Center and smiled like crazy about how happy being organized makes me.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

 And raising good humans.  That’s pretty important, too.

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