Morning Garden

Today was Little H’s first day of Morning Garden at the Upper Valley Waldorf School.  All three of my kids started their school experience in that warm, nurturing environment, and if I had had my way, they would be there still!  Since that isn’t the cards, however, I will be grateful for every day we spend there, teaching my kids to explore their world and use their imaginations.

I had Little H wear the very same dress and carry the very same lunchbox that Em used when she started Morning Garden two and a half years ago.  Yup, I’m that mom.

Em on the left, Jan 2012.  Little H today, Sept 2014.

Morning Garden

Same dress, same backpack, same kitchen, two amber necklaces, one girl with enough hair for a hair clip, one who wouldn’t let me take out her Binkie no matter what.

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Two big siblings squashing–I mean, loving–their brave little sister.

Bye, Little H!  Enjoy this exciting new experience!  I’ll be with you every step of the way.

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There’s Something Happening Here

Woke up this morning to the dawn of a new era: the era of school-aged children, with Jax barely able to contain his excitement for his first day of kindergarten.

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And Miss Em slightly less enthusiastic, but ready and smiling to head to preK.

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JDubbs’s mom came over this morning to hang with the girls while he and I took Jax alone for his very first day of school.  On the way there he was kicking his feet and talking animatedly, saying, “I think today is going to be a great day!”  I could barely get him to stop and take a photo in front of the school before we headed in.

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Drop-off was a breeze.  Jax found his cubby, put his lunch box where it belonged, sat down next to his teacher and asked, “So now what do we do?”  He was happily “signing in” when we left, with no more than a perfunctory hug for his parents and not even a second glance as we walked out the door.  I am so looking forward to picking him up and hearing all about his stories from the day.  He’ll probably only remember lunch and recess.

Then the girls and I spent the morning doing errands, but I snuck in some fun things for Em to keep her mind off her 12:oo drop off, which was hovering over my head all morning (especially after last year’s preK experience).  I asked her if she would like to get a treat somewhere, so we went and got an incredibly sugary donut with pink icing at Dunkin Donuts and then we went and picked up her leotard for her ballet classes starting next week.  Suddenly it was time to head home, make lunch, feed the girls, and put Em in the car to meet Daddy for drop-off, take 2!

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She was ready (I think!).

Drop-off went fine, thanks to a familiar face in her class and a couple other girls who introduced themselves, with nothing and no one seeming too intimidating.  JDubbs and I left and she gave us a bit of a look on our way out, but then went back to her geoboard and I pray the rest of the day was so fun she didn’t have time to miss us.  We’ll see in a few short hours!

And now, well, I have this window of time that–dare I say–is mine?  Little H fell asleep on the way home from dropping Em off and transferred beautifully.  Then I was left with two and a half hours to do anything I like!  I’ve started the laundry, put away the dishes, made myself a lunch that was neither microwaved nor interrupted by whining children or greedy mouths.  I haven’t had to make a snack, pour a drink, change a channel or a diaper, or do anything that isn’t exactly what I want to do.  I have time to edit photos.  I may even exercise.  Every afternoon for the rest of the school year, I will have a window of uninterrupted time to do what I need to do.  I might plan ahead for dinner.  I might take a nap.  I might take a shower or mop the floor or write a blog post.  But I bet it will get done a heck of a lot more efficiently than it was getting done amid the hustle and bustle of getting two older kids situated so that they would be quiet long enough for me to get anything done while the baby napped.  Something incredible is happening here.  I can do what I want to do again!  It feels strange, but I think it’s coming back to me.

I think I’m going to like this elementary school thing!

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Moments Like This

I said that we pulled Em out of her preschool without any preamble, and really, there wasn’t much to the decision.  I noticed that Em was becoming a little less joyful, a little more introverted, and overall not as happy as she was this summer.  When I asked her if she liked school she would say yes in a noncommittal way, and there was no enthusiasm for going or excitement about her day.  This is not a reflection on the school she was attending; she just wasn’t ready.  She wanted to be home with me and her baby sister, and you know what?  She can.  So she is.  And it’s great.

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I have the luxury of being home with my kids: JDubbs works incredibly hard to make that possible for all of us.  We have all benefited immeasurably from knowing that we put them first, that I have the time to listen and notice when they are not themselves.  Not to say that working parents can’t do that; I just know myself and I know that I don’t do things halfway.  If I am back in the classroom as a teacher, I won’t be leaving at three, and that’s not the kind of parent I am ready to be.  Right now, I’ll sacrifice some things to be home everyday with my girls, home in the afternoon with the boy.  For moments like this.

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 Being able to be home with this one for another year is a gift.  We thought she would follow directly in Jax’s footprints, heading down the exact same path that he took.  But even at three and five years old, no matter how close they are as friends, they are very different, and Em needed to be home a little longer.  She needs a little more time with her mama to strengthen her wings before she leaves the nest.  And I get moments like this, all to myself.

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For right now and this year, this is where she belongs.  And today, on Thanksgiving, and every day, I’m grateful for it.  Count your blessings, everyone!  I am so very blessed, and I know it.

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Round Here

Round here, we have been picking up the pace.  Out of the house before eight o’clock.  Snacks and water bottles secure in snazzy new backpacks.  Hair cut and styled.  Excitement mounting.  It’s school time.

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Yup, the kids are headed to pre-K!

Jax has been an absolute rockstar and even spontaneously thanked JDubbs for sending him to his new school.  He loves it and comes home dirty, exhausted, and delighted.  Em was amazing her first day and I dropped her off without a hitch.  She even asked for a pre-drop-off dance party (to Island Song by Zac Brown Band), which you know made my heart so happy and was an awesome way to start our day and year.  Yesterday, not so much as she literally had to be pried, sobbing, from my arms, but she didn’t hold her breath and pass out, so I will count that as a win for the home team.  Actually, apparently she was fine about two minutes after I left, so next time I will call and check on her so that I don’t waste the morning worrying about her and may get more done than buying consolation cupcakes.  But even the difference in her behavior at the playground on the two days when I picked her up has shown that she is more comfortable. She is playing alongside other kids more, not necessarily with them, but near them, and for that and so many things, I will be grateful.

I am grateful for the fact that we can afford to send our kids to preschool at all, which I know is a luxury.  I am grateful for their intrinsic drive to learn, for Jax’s outgoing and endearing personality (Mom, I made two new friends today!) and for Em’s shy sweetness that will hopefully turn into a comfortable pleasure in her new environment.  Grateful for the alone time with baby H and to be able to run errands with a very happy baby.  All in all, life is good, and I am counting all my many blessings as my babies grow and thrive.

Here’s to a great year to come, and praying for easier drop offs!

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Googly Eye Drawing Starter

Jax’s teacher has mentioned that it wouldn’t hurt for him to work a little on writing at home.  He has zero interest in it–even in writing his name–so when I saw this idea from House of Baby Piranha, I thought it might be a perfect idea to help prompt him into using a marker.  Even if it’s just to scribble!

First, you take a piece of paper and paste some googly eyes on it.  Jax wanted four eyes for his creature, while Em wanted two.  I let them show me where they wanted them to be and I was in charge of the glue.

Then I gave them markers and let them get to work.

Unfortunately, Em did not understand the concept at all, so she and I had a pow wow and I showed her an example.  After that, and a new piece of paper, she was ready to try again.  With ear muffs.  Of course.

She was so proud of herself, and her drawing, and told me it was a picture of the baby.  Gee, wouldn’t that be…interesting…

And Jax made a dinosaur creature, with a sprinkle of connect the dots thrown in there for pizzazz

He even turned the paper a different way than how he originally asked me to glue the eyes, which I thought was interesting.  It didn’t take terribly long, but it’s more writing than he would do on a normal day, that’s for sure!  Next time I think I’ll have him tell me a story about the picture, and we could create a kind of book.  But for a first time and a first step toward making him a less reluctant writer, this was great fun and a success!

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Letter Practice

Even though I love our local Waldorf School, and at times wish we could send our kids there for nursery school, I do have some Montessori moments. In fact, as far as nursery, sometimes I wonder if Montessori would have been a better fit for Jax.  However, since neither options are in our future, we can integrate the methods and ideology into our everyday learning and fun, for free!

I have been intrigued by the notion of helping Jax learn to shape his letters by using his fingers to create them in salt.  Writing is not something that Jax is particularly interested in, so I thought this might be a different way to give him some help in that arena.  You know, make learning fun and all that.

I got this box when I bought this Melissa & Doug Animal Pattern Blocks Set.  I saved the box for just this purpose and waited until Jax and I had a moment and he was in the mood.  I pulled out our dollar store ABC flashcards and put one in the smaller section of the box, and Jax traced the letter in the salt on the other side.  After he spelled his name and his sister’s, he wanted to move on to words.  We could just fit three letters in the top part, but he didn’t care.

What a diligent little guy.

This didn’t last terribly long, but even just fifteen minutes of fine motor skills and reading fun is worth the effort!

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Play-Doh Number Line

Remember my commitment to increasing my kids’ number awareness instead of just focusing on literacy?  Well we’re taking baby steps around here–in fact, I started with the very basic idea of literal number awareness: can they recognize and organize numerals in a number line, or do they just know how to count?

I was certain Jax could identify the numbers 1-12, but the teens can be a bit tricky.  And I didn’t know if Em knew her numbers at all!  So I wrote the numbers 1-10 on craft popsicle sticks for Em, and numbers 1-20 for Jax.

Then they chose some Play-Doh and we rolled them into snakes (which took forever–every time we had ones ready, they’d rip them up as soon as my back was turned).  Finally they were ready and the number organizing could begin.

Em really surprised me–up until then I really hadn’t thought she knew her numbers.  She can count but I didn’t think she knew her numerals at all.  But she did!   She knew them all!  And with a little help from me helping her count the order, she finished her number line in no time.

Jax, on the other hand, got held up a bit around 14–although I think it was more because of laziness than lack of understanding–so I made him a list of the last few numbers so he could sort them out on his own.

Which he did, and when he was done, he was really proud!

Meanwhile, Em was getting bored waiting for him, but was still interested in the idea, so I just flipped her sticks over and made a new challenge for her to keep her busy.  Differentiated, I guess you could say.

This required a little help from big brother because I don’t think she even realized that colors have an order, plus she had to stop to have a bunny break.

But eventually they worked as a team to put the sticks in rainbow order.  Then the lure of the markers was too much for them and they abandoned the mathematical ship.  However, it was fun while it lasted, and I saved the sticks for another rainy day, when I remember that there’s more to life than reading!

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