Category Archives: E

So I’m forming a commune…who’s in?

Found out Wednesday night that my husband had a last minute work commitment pop up for Thursday morning, which meant he couldn’t take E to school…

Already knew that he had work early Friday morning (a busy week!), which meant I was on duty for school drop-off two mornings in a row…

I always miss my husband when he’s gone, but I never miss him more than at 7am when I am waking up sleeping siblings to load 4 kids in the car and get E to school on time.

I have considered other options:

(1) letting her ride the bus those mornings…However, the reality is that E doesn’t love the bus.  She really helps our family by riding the bus home every afternoon during her brothers’ naps, and we try to help her by driving her to school in the morning.  We are especially committed to this, since the bus gets to school so early that E would have to sit silently in the cafeteria until they let her in the classroom, something she asked to avoid when we originally made our grand-scheme, first-grade transportation plans.

(2) letting her carpool with a friend…and we have done this at least 3 times, but they haven’t needed us to return the favor and I was trying to avoid leaning on them again.

(3) letting her be late, which I did once when a sibling was ill, only to end up feeling horrible because (what are the chances?) she missed morning announcements on the one day they played the video of her doing a book review…three days before they were supposed to play it, by the way.  Irritation, and mommy guilt overdrive (alleviated only slightly when E’s student teacher arranged for the announcements to be played again just for E…thank you, Ms. S!)

So Thursday, I was prepared to wake and load everyone, then pleasantly surprised when all the siblings were unexpectedly up and ready to go on their own…10 minutes before we actually needed to leave!  Knowing disaster (or a poop, or a scraped knee, or traffic, or a meltdown…) could strike at any moment, I went ahead and put everyone into the car.

Well, we arrived a few minutes before they opened the classrooms, and knowing E didn’t like sitting in the cafeteria, I simply circled the parking lot a few times (keeping the car moving so H wouldn’t scream) waiting until the moment when I could drop her off knowing she could walk right into her room.

E was confused (I mean, we are rarely early!  I’m sure it was disorienting for everyone!),  and she asked why we were circling.  When I explained, she said, “Oh!  You can let me out now!  They started reading stories to the cafeteria kids, and I don’t mind sitting and listening.”

“Are you sure?” I asked her.  “I can easily park for a minute, or circle a few more times.  The classrooms will be open in less than 5 minutes.”

“I’m sure”, she told me.  And I let her go in.

E didn’t mention anything about her morning experience during our “how was school” conversation yesterday, and I didn’t think any more about it until this (Friday) morning, when I knew I would need to load everyone up again.

This (Friday) morning was different than Thursday.  Everyone was sleeping late, and I was dreading getting them all up and into the car.  T had been up all night.  And I mean up to the point that at 1:30am, I finally put my computer in his room and played a Dora video so I could nurse H and get myself ready for bed.  Short version: I knew he needed to sleep and was loathe to wake him up, along with S & H who were also still sleeping at 7am.

So I got E ready very quickly and at 7:05, I asked her the million dollar question.  All her siblings were asleep.  I didn’t want to wake them.  It was too last-minute to arrange a carpool.  And being late wasn’t an option, because her class was going on a field trip to the Science Museum.  So, I asked her, “E, how would you feel about riding the bus this morning and letting everyone else sleep in?  You could listen to the stories in the cafeteria just like you did yesterday.”

“I don’t want to, mom.  Please drive me.”

So I did.

We had 10 extra minutes before we had to wake everyone, and we spent it on the couch, with her reading me a story.  I felt good about that, and then felt horrible as I woke up the siblings to load everyone in.

Well, don’t you just love it when that bad feeling gets so much worse?  Because as we pulled into the parking lot, E asked me, “Are we early again, mom?”

“No.  Right on time today.  You should walk down to your classroom.”

“Good”, she said.

“Why?” I asked her, “Did you not enjoy being in the cafeteria yesterday while they were reading the stories?”

“No.  A bad thing happened.”

“What?!  What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you sure?  I’m so sorry something bad happened.  Are you sure you don’t want to tell me?  Is it something I can help with, because I can park the car and we can all go in?”

“No.  I don’t want to talk about what happened.  I accidentally went in to the gym yesterday instead of the cafeteria, and that’s where the older kids [grades 2-5]  wait for their classrooms to open.”

My heart totally sank for E.  And I fought my desire to know every detail so I could offer every comfort because (1) she didn’t want to talk about it, and (2) I didn’t want to make her relive a bad moment, and get upset, right as she was about to walk back into the school.

So at this point, I still have no idea what happened.  Was the bad thing that she went into the wrong room and was embarrassed about that?  Or did something bad happen in the room…maybe an older kid teasing her about something else?  I don’t know how much to push her to talk about it.  If it’s something I can help her sort through or offer comfort about, then maybe pushing is worth it?  But she said very clearly that she didn’t want to talk about it (at least right then).

Anyway, we did get some quality family time this afternoon.  We surprised E by picking her up from school (no bus today!) and taking her to cash in the “free coke” coupon she won recently.  We also picked up the pottery piece she painted with Grammy during her visit last week (held at the store for glazing…E was so excited to get it today…thank you so much Grammy!), and checked the bike store for the third time in two weeks to see if any good used girls bikes had come in (and one had!  we currently have it for a trial period, but I think it’s going to be perfect…)

(And lest you think the other kids were neglected, there were a few fun things thrown in for them too – suckers at the pharmacy where we picked up E’s asthma medicine, ice cream cones after dinner, a set of used bases for family T-ball games from the sports store, etc.)

Nothing uber-fancy…all things we were going to do at some point…but today seemed like good timing…a fun post-school pick-up for the girl that has done the post-school bus ride for the rest of us all year.

And a distraction for the mama that wants the schoolyear to end so she can put her kids back into the little bubble – for just a little while – that is our family.

Not that we don’t have our moments…but at least I know most of what happens, who needs to say sorry, what my kids are feeling (and why and when).

Anyone want to throw all the “we need to stop micromanaging our kids’ lives” articles into the garbage and form a helicopter-parenting commune where everyone is required to be nice to everyone else all the time?  (Kidding, with just a hint of wistfulness…)

Love you, E.

So much.

(and if anyone out there actually runs with the idea of a non-creepy commune of niceness, our family is in : )

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Things to remember

Today is my birthday!  Two years ago today, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said “three hours in a coffee shop by myself to write something other than a to-do list”.  He granted my wish, and I emerged three hours later with an essay about my Grandma J and an idea to start a blog.

I haven’t been great about writing recently…I could write an entire entry that was just a list of excuses and explanations (and I might write it soon!), but today, I just want to spend an hour on my birthday making a list of things I don’t want to forget about the last few months.

(1) My grandmother/G.G.  She passed away recently, and I don’t want to forget what an amazing person she was.  Future blog posts need to include how she insisted I keep looking for the right guy…”one who will dance with you, K” (a long story, not a judgment on guys who don’t dance : ), how she struck a deal with that right guy when he came along…”I’ll tell the family I like you if you’ll tell them I’m a good driver”…and how she taught me much about life and cards.  In the meantime, here she is pictured holding H during her one time meeting him and my last time seeing her.  This photo was taken at my sister’s baby shower, where there were lots of friends present.  GG, in the nicest way possible, said to one of them who was sitting between us, “Could you sit back while you talk?  I’m trying to look at that baby!”  Ha!  Love you GG!

GG & Hudson

(2) My excitement over the arrival of my new nieces and nephew!  Oh what joy to be an aunt, and to such precious bundles.  Can’t wait to spoil you cousins O and J and G!   And happy early mother’s day to their mamas!   I will think of you as we’re all up at 3am feeding babies!

(3) How my own kids are growing and changing.

– Precious moments like E lying on the ground one day curled in a tiny ball and looking around.  My question, “What are you doing, E?”  Her response, “Pretending to be an ant!  I was just thinking about how the world must look to them from our sidewalk…”   Love that…

Also love this Valentine’s essay E submitted to her teacher.

E's Valentine essay 2013

If you can’t see the words in the photo, it reads

“Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!  I love my family.  I love tem because taye are so nis to me.  My mom is so nis because she makes diner for me.  My babby brother dosn’t spit up on me.  Taye are so nis because I am nis to tame.”

I especially love this because E references the fact that H spits up on everyone, something that is such a regular part of our routine but that I will likely forget down the road.   Honestly, it is the kids in my life that get the brunt of it, since they stand near my legs while I’m holding H, putting them right in the line of fire. I hadn’t realized until I read this that E has not only emerged unscathed, but has also taken it as a sign of great affection from her youngest brother.  May you always feel the love, E!

– S becoming such a big girl…after a lot of love and work as she struggled with some separation issues (wanting mama all the time), seeing her happily heading into school and playdates.  I cannot emphasize how huge this is in our world…or how that big smile warms my heart.

S riding carousel 2013

I’m always here if you need me, S.  But I love watching you embrace the world too.   (As a side note, S enters the world with her favorite lovey – her “Angie” doll – always in her backpack.  That doll makes S so happy that I love Angie too.  Honestly, it sounds silly, but I have spent years caring for and protecting Angie…you would too if she were your ticket to sleep-filled nights and happy-child days!…Anyway, I didn’t realize how much it had affected me until I recently saw a different “Angie” doll in a ziploc bag on a table at a consignment sale.  Honestly, I had to restrain myself from tearing the bag open so Angie could breathe!  How’s that for a visceral reaction to a doll that has been big in the life of my child?!  I wanted to buy that doll so badly, but stopped myself because (1) we have over a dozen backups at our house already and (2) I kept thinking about the little girl who might come along next and be delighted  to take her home and love her.   I realize this story makes me sound sappy, or crazy, or both, by the way.  What can I say?  I pray that all of my kids will find a real life “Angie” that will bring them as much comfort and happiness as this doll brings S!

– T becoming such a big boy…potty training and transitioning out of his nap (heaven help me!)  I love the pride he takes in his accomplishments…proudly giving everyone in the family a marshmellow after a successful trip to the bathroom (“this is for you, daddy, because I went in the potty!”)  And speaking of pride in accomplishments, check out my boy after he defeated Donald Duck in arm wrestling : )  (more on our trip to see Donald in a future blog post!)

T defeats D Duck

– H growing at warp speed, but still in that precious baby stage.  He’s not even close to sleeping through the night, but will fall asleep in his crib as long as I rub his head and hold his hand.  I managed to snap one photo of him holding my hand while he was in his carseat.  Note the tiny grip on my thumb in the lower right corner of the photo…

.  .photo

Oh what a fleeting phase of life, when holding mama’s hand makes it all better.  Wish I could comfort all my kids so easily forever!

(4) Lots of other things to remember too…maybe someday I’ll write about our “staycation” during spring break, our week playing “hookie” when we pulled all the kids out of school and went on a road trip, Grammy and Grandpa’s amazing presence as they joined us on our last minute travels, my technological craziness (as my computer and phone both recently died), our constant barrage of minor health issues (fine, as long as the big issues stay away, please!), and so many other everyday life moments I want to remember….

but in the meantime, I’ll simply say that it’s nice to have a few minutes to type : )

Hugs,

K

Pity the Fool!

There are so many things I should be posting about right now…my beloved Grandmother who just passed away, the special significance that adds to our Easter celebration, our plan for quality time as a family during a spring break “staycation”, our continued adventures in potty training…

Instead, because I know if will bring a smile to my mom’s face, I am going to post that I am managing everything, but have just encountered the one thing that is going to put me completely over the edge…

E just looked at her calendar and with delight, squealed,

“Hey!  It’s April Fools Day!  Man, am I going to have some fun with this…”

Heaven help me!

Have I mentioned recently how much I love these kids?!

March Madness (alternate title: why? how did you fill out your bracket?)

Filled out brackets to compete against the extended family in a pool of 19 entries…here’s the summary of our “bracketology” and how we’re doing as of 10:30pm on March 22, 2013…

E is currently leading the entire group despite basing her picks entirely on her preference in uniform color – specifically advancing teams in her favorite shade of blue.  This made her one of the few in the country to predict FGCU over Georgetown, by the way.

Notice I said “one of the few”, not “the only”.  If you are wondering who else could have possibly predicted the upset, look no further, because…

The terrific brotherly duo of T & H entered the pool together. Since their entry boasted more than one name (Mr. T & King Hut, to be specific), they selected teams with more than one word in their name to win (such as, drumroll…FGCU over Georgetown).  Their strategy currently has them tied for third in the family pool.  Ha!

To provide slightly more detail, they are tied for third with LPK, my niece who is still in utero.

To summarize, everyone else in the extended family, including myself (a former college assistant basketball coach), my brother-in-law (a former professional athlete), and lots of other folks (who actually watch games and follow players and think about their brackets) are currently losing to four young children, one of whom is making her picks from inside the womb.

And this is why we love March Madness.

(and also one of the many reasons I love my family : )

Photo captions

Some photos recently uploaded from my camera…

(1) S is constantly seeing things around the house (including in the recycling bin) and asking, “can I use this for something?”  Here’s “something” she made recently… things like this are on display all around our house.  On a related note, we go through a bottle of glue, a roll of tape and a line of staples just about every week.

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(2) This is how you make a snow princess in the south.  You make a snowman with a bucket, a soccer ball and a hat, but I forgot to take a picture of that.

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(3) E & S received a sewing machine for Christmas (thank you Nana!)  Although Santa surprised them with several projects (small squares of fun fabric to sew quilts, simple apron patterns) and I have asked them to complete several others (“decorating” H’s burp cloths with stitches), S really wanted to make a dress.  Poor thing…her mama needs a sewing lesson!  But we did the best we could (with no pattern and the little fabric we had on hand), and yes, she wears this dress out, including to preschool.  Hey, she’s thrilled with it.  With that smile, who’s going to notice the stitching?!

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Lookin’ fierce in the photo below…

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(4) Catching snowflakes in bowls (while still in PJ’s…when it snows in the south, you best get out there…if you take time to change, you may miss the only snow of the winter!)

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(5) E came downstairs with this one day.  I may have to buy a new dry erase board because I never want to erase it.  We love you too, E.  So much!

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(P.S.  It reminds me of the dry erase board Nana kept in her kitchen that had “To Do” written on it, awaiting Nana’s next “to do” list.  My sister wrote “(1) Hug A” on the list and my mom could never erase that either.  Probably all our “to do” lists should have “Hug someone” at the top, don’t you think?)

(P.P.S. My sister is expecting a baby and I wish I could rub her belly today and hug her!   Love you, A!”)

(6) E’s door.  I love this stage of childhood.  All “rainbows and fairies” just like she’s printed on her sign.  Since I can’t freeze time, I’ll take some timely photos and try to treasure these moments.

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(7) This is S’ door.  She decided she wanted to be a doctor one day and made all these signs representing the different body parts to hang on the entrance to her “office”.  Patients can point to the body part they would like her to fix.  Worth clicking on this photo to enlarge…

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The empty spot on the door is for her favorite sign, which she had posted on a different door on the day I snapped the photo (because she loves it and wants to show it around!).  That one said “but cks” (for “butt cheeks”) until I made her rephrase.  It now has a sticker over “but” and reads “vny cks” (for “fanny cheeks”).  So if you have a fanny cheek problem, the doctor is in.

(8) I’m going to make my millions by selling this photo to the makers of the “Leap Tag” system and suggesting the tag line: “It will either teach your child to read or make bedtime super easy.  Either way, it’s worth a few bucks.”

-9

We actually gave S this Leap Tag pen for Christmas because E (1st grade) is now required to read to us every night, and we wanted S (preschool) to have the option of reading us stories too.  However, S is great about sharing the pen with T, and since I found this one train book on sale ($4!), T reads it with his pen over and over again.  (He can actually say the words along with the pen now.)  We hear him through the monitor reading the book until he falls asleep, and have been awakened more than once in the middle of the night to the sound of his pen reading the book again.

(9) A project from the 4’s class at preschool.  This is actually a photo of E’s from long ago, but S’ brought hers home this week, telling me “you have two S’ now, mom!”  (I need to get a photo of it.)  The life size replica of the child is part of a unit on the human body.  The stomach is a bag of cheerios, the lungs are bubble wrap, the heart is a balloon, etc.

Well, the brains are packing peanuts on the back of the head and when we were unloading S’ one of the peanuts fell off.  S picked it up and said to me, “here you go, Dad”.  I said, “I’m not Dad!” and she responded, “I called you dad because I’m going to make mistakes, since part of my brain just fell out...”

Pretty sharp, that one.  Is it a problem that my children are outpacing me when they’re still in preschool?

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We made the mistake of storing this inside E’s closet once and forgetting to warn a guest who stayed in her room that it was in there.  It’ll scare you to death in dim light, I tell you…

(10)  E is learning subtraction and her homework assignment was to do unit 7, section 1 in her math workbook.  Check out the upper right corner for some classic E perfectionism.  Practice Unit 7-1 has become Practice 7-1=6.  Well done, E.  :  )

(and what are the chances that the sample problem would be 7-1 also?  Go figure…)

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Anyway, more random photos later.  Just a few snapshots of life around here : )

“Does this mustache make me look distinguished?”

I don’t usually post full images of the kids, but since H is in disguise here…

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If you can’t see what I’m talking about, click the image to make it larger…

(I couldn’t resist!  We have to document the perils of having 2 older sisters!  : )

Year in Review via a belated Christmas letter

So I am clearly a little behind on blogging!  We’ve been busy with good things!  The summary is in our belated Christmas letter, which is included below.  (And yes, I acknowledge that it’s probably in bad form to post a Christmas letter during Lent…but we did manage to get our Christmas tree down by early February, and taking down the last of the Christmas decorations is on my “to do” list for this week.  In other words, I’m behind on everything!)  Here’s the letter.  I’ve missed blogging and interacting via comments.  I’ll try to post more when I can!  In the meantime, this is a sort-of update : )

—————————————————————————————

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!  We hope you had a great 2012!  Here are a few notes from our year, starting with the introduction of…

H.D. Smith!  Born on October 24, H has charmed the entire family with his sweet nature, soft hair, kissable cheeks, and precious newborn snuggles.  In addition to capturing our hearts, he has impressed us with his ability to make an entrance (six days late!), establish a presence (over 9 lbs!) and sleep anywhere (except, of course, in his own bed…)  The joy felt by his parents is matched only by the enthusiasm expressed by his siblings who want to hold him at home, accessorize him before every outing, and introduce him during show-and-tell at school.

When not entertaining (or being entertained by!) his new brother, T (age 2) has been busy with his sisters, preschool, playgroup and an ever-increasing obsession with trains.  A highlight of his year was a whole-family trip to “Tweetsie”, a train-themed amusement park where locomotives provided both a wonderful weekend and a new lens on the world.  Since that trip, T has become a “conductor”, his dad’s legs are a “tunnel”, the garage is a “shed”, and that pile of goose poop he collected while mom wasn’t looking?  Well, obviously “it’s coal for my trains!”  We do love that imagination! We also love T’s happy nature, boyish energy and tender heart.

Speaking of heart, S (age 4) is heartily impassioned about everything that grabs her attention.  This year that has included the local pond (fishing & tadpoles), our kitchen (chopping veggies with her pink plastic knife), and our backyard (her own garden, which – during 40+ hours of labor – produced countless smiles & exactly one edible item: a carrot the whole family shared).  We love her eclectic nature (pairing sparkly shoes with soccer shin guards, her gymnastics leotard & a tackle box), her generous spirit (asking mom to take four crayons she “doesn’t really need” to Goodwill) and her unique perspective (e.g.  “Can everyone name one type of ball?” elicits “basketball” from most of the audience, while S yells “EYEBALL!” at the unsuspecting crowd…)  In addition to appreciating the way she informs (and entertains!) the masses, we love the way S embodies both a will of steel and a soft, beautiful heart.

E (age 6) embraces her role as the biggest kid of the bunch, playing with and helping her siblings, while also finding time to explore the world on her own.  Currently, she finds inspiration in anything that challenges her as a designer.  Basically, that means that when she is not putting together an outfit, finding a new way to display her dolls, or decorating a box to house (yet another!) collection, she is working out a master plan to get the whole family involved in a skit, song or game.  Her energy is endless, contagious, and can overcome any obstacle.  (Beach buckets not unpacked yet?  No worries!  E will sprint from the car to the surf, remove all footwear, and collect shells in her sock!)  Bedtime remains her great nemesis, as we find her rearranging her room into the late hours and have to insist that she turn off both her creative instincts and her bedroom light.  This year, she has enjoyed favorite activities (gymnastics & soccer), new skills (swimming & biking), and loves to lose herself in a story.  Our favorite reader review so far?  E declaring that her book – about a magic tree house that transports kids through time to ride on winged lions & rescue a wizard – “must be fiction because in real life, kids aren’t allowed to stay up all night…”  Gotta love it!  We also love the exuberant, joyful way E embraces life.

As for the parents…K continues to love her role as a homemaker, has given up on ever getting a full-night’s sleep, and sees her main job as making sure everyone gets the cuddles, confirmations, challenges, corrections, celebrations, and comforts they need.  (Chauffeuring should probably be listed in there too!) T also assumes these roles, while enjoying his job and working with our contractor to plan two new bedrooms & a mudroom for our house.  In their spare time (& during 3am feedings) T & K ponder deep life questions posed by the children (such as “Do germs go to heaven after the soap kills them?”) and reflect on favorite memories from this year, which included trips to both Alabama (where the kids played cards with their Great Grandma & went on boat rides with Nana) & New York (where Grammy’s cooking was complemented by candy Grandpa helped collect at the July 4th parade).

During this season, our entire family is reflecting on the joys of the past 12 months, the birth of a Savior, and the friendships that enhance our lives immeasurably.  Thank you for honoring us with those friendships, and accept these warm holiday (and happy new year!) wishes from our family to yours!

Love,

T, K, E, S, T & newborn H!

cute, creative & confined to the house…all while preparing her to take on the world!

I could write pages about E’s style.  Suffice it to say that since she was a tiny girl, fashion has inspired her creativity.  From

– fingernails painted 10 different colors to

hours in her room drawing new designs for her dolls to

asking mama to help her make those designs come alive in fabric (I wish I had any skill at all in this area…)

E simply sees things in fabric and thread that I would never see without her.

As a result, she has the uncanny ability to surprise me with what she’s wearing, even though I am very familiar with every stitch in her wardrobe.

Take her green skirt, for example.  It is a simple skirt, designed for a 5 year old girl in that it has shorts sewn in underneath.  Perfect for sitting on the Kindergarten mat.

Well, recently E came down from her room with the skirt worn in a way I had never anticipated.  She put on the skirt, and while the shorts remained covering her lower body, pulled the skirt overlay up and inside out to create a strapless shirt.

It was creative, cute, and (since my 5 year old will not be wearing strapless outfits), confined to the house.  I didn’t make a picture, but it’s basically a green version of this (except that the armless mannequin could never wear it since E had to hold the top up with her hands, as there is no elastic on what was intended to be the bottom of a skirt…I did help her pin it so it would stay during her fun “dress-up” hour).

You can imagine if the top were folded down at the waist, this would be a skirt with shorts underneath. E just transformed it the other way, making it look just like this outfit, without ever having seen anyone wear this before. Is this how Ralph Lauren got his start?  Or am I raising Lady Gaga?

This wardrobe alteration was not an isolated incident…

The next week, E surprised me by announcing she was dressed for choir practice while wearing a midriff-bearing, one shouldered shirt.  Since she owns no such items, I looked closer and discovered that her “shirt” was actually a pair of blue shorts worn upside down.  She had put her head through one of the leg holes and her right arm through the other to create this look.

Can you tell that the shirt is actually a pair of shorts worn upside down?  When she moves her arms and it becomes a full midriff-bearing, one shoulder ensemble, which is why I posted a photo that happened to catch her while her face was covered.  No need to show her fully on display in this outfit.

Anyone who knows me knows that I think some of the best and most important childhood moments when kids are given license to create.  And E absolutely has license to create in our house. And room what I’ve seen so far, art & fashion are absolutely her creative specialties.  Her mind just looks at fabric and sees things I don’t see, and I think it’s fantastic.  I want to encourage it, not stifle it.

At the same time, E and I had to have two conversations before we headed out to choir practice that day…

(1) modesty… I am confronting this issue earlier than I thought I would have to and am admittedly unprepared.  Any pointers on discussing modestly with a 5 year old are greatly appreciated!  In the meantime, I will say that before she went out of the house, she was required to (a) put another pair of shorts under her skirt and (b) add a tank-top underneath the upside-down shorts to cover her belly and the exposed shoulder .  Which meant she left the house looking like this:

I also had to talk to E about…

(2) Being who you are:  I was up-front about E that (a) I loved her mind and vision and creativity, (b) seeing and doing things differently is celebrated in our house, as long as you are being true to who you are and expressing/not contradicting important values (like modesty), and (c) once you leave our house, you may get teased for seeing and doing things differently.  She should be ready for that, but not let it scare her away from something that she wanted.  (The world needs people who see some things differently, and it makes things a lot more fun too!)

But reigning it back in to the issue at hand, I basically told E that someone could recognize that she was wearing shorts upside-down as a shirt and tease her about it, and asked her if she would be ok when that happened.  She said she would, so we practiced her response in case that happened:

“I like the way it looks!  But I don’t like to be teased, so stop.”

And off she went to choir…

As it turns out, no one said anything to her.  And I am proud that she had a vision, was comfortable doing things differently, and learned a little bit about how to brace herself.  I will be the first investor in her design company, if her interest continues.  (I will also be the first to send her back upstairs if something is not modest, with suggestions about how to make it work while still being fun, accompanied by clear instructions to put some more clothes on.)

(As a side note, I would like to say that I uber-impressed with my mother-in-law, who witnessed about 75% of this exchange with E, let me handle the whole thing, and just smiled and said at one point, “You are both just wonderful!”  I got extra lucky that she came as part of a family package with my amazing husband!  More on their visit in an upcoming post…)

I also got lucky that we happened to be ready for choir early that day, which left enough time for a conversation.  Because a few days later, she came downstairs a few minutes before she had to leave for school wearing this dress.

random, fuzzy photo of E that I snapped as she was putting on an “art show” on the kitchen table…but she happened to be wearing the dress I’m referring to…a dress we both love, by the way…

No problem, right?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that she was intentionally wearing it backwards.  Which means this part…

became a midriff-bearing bikini in the front.  With no time for a real conversation or the addition of a tank-top, I simply had to ask her to turn it around and let her know we would talk again later about how to make her clothes both modest and fun.

Egads.

The next person who suggests we just make departures simpler by having the kids pick out their clothes the night before is going to get an earful.  I can look at what E is planning on wearing (sweet green skirt, cute blue shorts, pretty pink sundress…), but honestly, I’m not creative enough to imagine exactly how she’s going to put the things on!  I mean, this is the height of looking “different on the rack” than they do when the child actually wears them!

As another side note, I racked my brain to think of where E might have gotten any inspiration for the outfits…especially since with all the end-of-school commitments, we haven’t even really hit swimsuit season yet.  The only think I can think of is Princess Jasmine, which got me wondering why Disney, with all their creative thinkers, couldn’t come up with an outfit slightly less revealing than this for the princess so many little girls are obsessed with:

Love ya, Disney.  But I think you can do better by my 5 year old – who is certainly in your target age demographic and desperately wanted to be Princess Jasmine last Halloween.  (Which begs the question: why did I not see this coming?  E was a more modest version of the Princess Jasmine for that holiday.)

Anyway, a reminder to readers that I’d love tips on how you explain the importance of modesty to a five year old, and how you decide what is appropriate and what isn’t…

And a quick note to E…

E,

I Love your style.  I Love your brain.  I Love your spunk.  I love you.

Be who you are always!

(While modestly covering your five year old midriff.)

Love,

Mom

A peek inside my brain (alternate title: Did we choose the right school for E?)

So I’ve been awol again…

I’ll spare you the excuses, and just say that I’ve written a few posts over the course of the last few weeks, but have been too tired to actually look at them with a clear eye and hit publish.  Over the next few days, I’m going to pull the trigger and publish them and hope they’re ok!  Here it goes…

Post 1: written a few weeks back…

So I warned you recently that I was in a kid-centric thinking & writing space.  I mentioned that was partly because our kids are all changing so rapidly right now.  The additional reality is that along with those changes come decisions that my husband and I have to make about rules, environments, activities, etc.  We are doing our best, but it’s nerve-wracking.  And it is particularly nerve-wracking the first time we go through each process, because there is so much information to gather and new types of thinking to do.  And the first time we go through most things is with our eldest child, E.

I know I just wrote a post about S and schooling, but lest you think it was easier with E…here’s a peek inside my brain…

Oh, E.  How we love you.

For those who haven’t caught a glimpse of her recently, E went through a “bride” phase (may be moving out of it now?), and for several weeks only wanted to wear this.

And not just around the house, but to school, church and around town too.  We did insist she take the veil off for school : ).  And wear a pair of shorts under the white “slip”.  And after the “train” got stuck in a scooter, we had to limit that element also.

(Can’t you just picture her, like a miniature Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, wheeling around on a scooter in this outfit?!)

Even when not in the midst of her brief bridal-wear everywhere weeks, E is my consummate girly girl.  She has always loved dresses and sparkly shoes, but this has been taken to a fever pitch recently because she has chosen her wonderful Kindergarten teacher as a role model.  While most of her classmates wear shorts and T-shirts, E chooses the dresses, flat shoes and cardigans that make her look like a little teacher.  She even insists on carrying her fancy little white purse with her in her backpack.  Nana fed her fancy fever recently by purchasing the shoes pictured below, which E wears every single moment I will let her (and I let her all the time, only insisting that she take them off on gym days at school, when all the kids are required to wear tennis shoes, or when we are going to be running and climbing at a park).

Don’t know how clearly the shoes will come across, but they are pink sparkly Hello Kitty slip-ons, positioned here under a heart shaped jump rope.

I am sure there are some adults at school who wonder why I would “make” my young daughter dress all fancy, but anyone who knows me or E knows that this is all her, and I am simply encouraging her to be who she is (as I wear my shorts, T-shirts and flip flops!)

But that’s all just context.  The heart of this post is that watching E be who she is this year, and watching her seek out role models among her teachers at school, has given me an opportunity to reflect on the big decision we made last year about where she would receive her formal education.

We considered every option, and honestly although we love her school, I still think about it a lot.  Part of this is simply because I’m a parent.  For those of us fortunate on multiple levels (i.e. live in a country where there are schools open to everyone, have the resources to actually have any degree of choice in where our kids go to school, etc.) there’s just a lot to think about.  My issues are exacerbated because I am a former teacher, who did additional schooling to become credentialed in the area of teaching teachers and supervising them in their classrooms.  Add to this my passion for public schools, my professional focus on under-resourced schools and intense concern about equity in education, my belief that – despite all this investment in public schools – the reality is that my most important job as a parent is to tend souls (i.e. love the religious schools that reinforce what we’re trying to do at home!), my appreciation of the Montessori system, and my willingness to homeschool if we decided to got that route…and honestly, what you have is a big mentally muddled mess.

In the midst of “school shopping”, I was greatly comforted by one school’s guidance counselor who listened patiently to all my thoughts, then smiled and said, “You should just relax.  Because I can tell by listening to you that you really care about your children and are willing to work to make sure they’re ok.  Wherever you put them, if they keep coming home to that kind of mama, they’re going to be fine.”

I really appreciated that (you have no idea how much!), but the reality was, we still had to make a decision about school.  Ultimately, we moved into a neighborhood whose public school was known for its nurturing staff and fantastic learning environment.  We have loved the neighborhood, and E has loved the school.  I do have concerns about the high schools here (they have a fantastic reputation, but in my opinion are so “good” that it leads to a competitive environment that can suck a kid right out of a balanced life and into a nasty vortex of stress), but we made the best decision we could for the next 8 years of schooling for E, and will deal with high school when we get there.

Still, my most important job is to tend souls.  So I wonder sometimes why we don’t have her in a religious school that lists that as their primary mission as well?  This concern has been exacerbated this year because I have seen first hand how E has chosen role models, friends and advisors in the community we placed her in.  We LOVE her choices.  Her school, and the world at large, is full of wonderful people.  But should we have placed her in a community where essentially everyone subscribed to our value system in order to hedge our bets that her choice of role model or friend would share our values on a fundamental level?  On the flip side, in doing that would we risk exposing her to individuals that might take it all too far – into the realm of homogeny, disrespect of others, lack of appreciation for diversity, or presenting what I would consider to be a warped version of our religious values?  Probably not, if we chose the community carefully and were diligent.  I guess the reality is that wherever she’s in school, we will have to keep the lines of communication open and talk to her about what we believe, how to maintain personal integrity while showing respect for those who believe differently, and listen to and respectfully guide her as she comes into her own way of thinking.

At this point, E is in a diverse school filled with wonderful people with all different types of beliefs, and she comes home to a celebration of that as well as a family devotional (we’re working on becoming more consistent with this…) and then out again to a church community that shares our values with her under our supervision.  Still, I struggle.  To make things more complicated, it is important to us that E embrace the Catholic Church as well as her global community and the protestant community in which we are very active.  Catholic School would certainly help with this.  In lieu of enrolling her, I am considering going to speak to the local priest.  (Update: have already made this phone call and am waiting to hear back)  I have heard there are classes for young children on Monday nights that might be a good fit for E?  Maybe we could find some community there?  It is thought-provoking for me, as I grew up exposed to two different Christian denominations: one at school, another at church.  I found it to be a fantastic experience, provoking a lot of independent critical thinking.  I wouldn’t trade that history for the world.  But I know others with similar histories that struggled, and would have appreciated our current position:  a fantastic school, with the directly-addressed-spiritual elements experienced in home and church settings with parents who are supervising more moments in the process than the 7 hour daily school-window allows.  (Honestly, I had one teacher tell me I was going to he#@ because of where my family attended services…that’s another story that worked out ok for me in the end (after a trip to the principal’s office because of my reaction), but could have easily devastated a more sensitive child?  I also had a third grade classmate tell me her father worried about my family’s salvation because of where we attended Sunday services, and revealed they prayed for our souls every night at their family dinner table…again, no problem for me – hey, I hope they’re still praying!  I’ll take all the prayers for salvation I can get! – but potentially problematic for a different child…still, the value of years of daily Biblical exposure and the focus on salvation amid daily distractions of school and life…) Anyway, regardless of the community we place her in, there is certainly more we could be doing at home and in other spiritual communities to enhance the spiritual lives of our children…

Anyway, with all these thoughts in my head, just this week, E drew this picture…

From left to right, it is E, her Kindergarten teacher, and her 3rd grade “reading buddy”.  She drew it because (her words, with pride), “everyone says I am a miniature version of my reading buddy, and she is a miniature version of my teacher.  So I drew a picture of all of us together!  I’m so much like them!

Clearly, at this stage of life, she is actively looking around for older role models: dressing like them, drawing pictures of herself as miniature versions of them, and even adopting their lingo (the expressions she has picked up from her teacher this year at school are adorable, I really must say!)  But when I see E emulating her teacher, it strikes me that we got really lucky.  We never spoke to E about how to choose role models.  There is no dress code at the school, and some of the elementary school teachers wear clothes so short that I wouldn’t let E wear them as a teenager.  This – along with the fact that she will never hear her 7-hour-a-day public school teachers explain things in a way that lends import to a spiritual perspective – makes me want to enroll her in a religious school.  But I know that there will also be individuals, and tones, in religious schools that I would have to steer E away from.  In either place, I will end up having to say, “choose who you emulate wisely…not everyone is going to have a perspective that represents what our family believes”.

The whole process reminds me of what my mom used to say,

“I can’t pick your friends, but I can choose which environment you get to pick them in.”

What a responsibility when it comes to choosing spiritual institutions, communities and schools!  Selecting those environments, and actively talking to E about how she is choosing who to spend time within them, are among our biggest challenges as parents.  Honestly, E is such a sweet kid that she gives everyone so many chances…which I appreciate, but honestly, I want to build a wall around the kid who has already had a chance and used it to be really mean.

Did anyone make it through this long ramble?  My apologies.  But the thoughts in my head just sort of became a brain blurt out onto the page.  And, honestly, it gets more complicated, because (1) if we were to “try” a private religious or Montessori school, we’d have to move out of our current neighborhood in order to afford it, so there’d be no real going back (unbelievable schools come from astronomical property taxes…the equity educator in my struggles with this, but that is another post), as well as accept the task of  teaching our children to be ok with the fact that their vacations, lunches, spring break trips, etc. just aren’t going to look like their classmates (we’ve seen the brochures for the optional trips, and while great, just aren’t realistic…), and (2) I’m just talking about E.  The school system in general just works for her.  But what about my child who is equally brilliant, knows the answer, but will LOVE surprising teachers with an alternate process/way of doing things.  Would an alternate setting be better for that type of child?  And could we logistically manage having siblings in different elementary schools?  I need to think about this next year…

In the meantime, could someone research all this and just tell us if we made the right choice for E’s elementary school?  We’re a year in…everything seems great…still I will always wonder…and my brain hurts already…

Did we put E in the right school?

A Bedtime Story

So the kids are always on my mind, but they’ve consumed my thoughts even more than usual recently because they are all changing so quickly…  The next few posts may be very “my-kid-centric”.  You’ve been warned!

I’ll start with E (the oldest at age 5).

Monday night, I put her to bed at 7:15 and gave her 5 new library books to snuggle up with.  At 7:45, I saw her sitting at her desk writing.  She noticed me watching her from the doorway and excitedly told me that one of the books we had checked out was now her favorite book ever.  She was going to write down every single word so she could always have those words with her.

Can I Play Too? An Elephant and Piggy Book by Mo Willems.  This whole series is awesome, by the way.

In that moment, E’s excitement was incredibly contagious.  I mean, she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and pride.  I remember thinking that her eyes were all sparkly, and her cheeks were all rosy, and she was all inspired because she had just finished the very first book she had ever simply picked up and read by herself.  We check out books that she reads to me – or to her dad – all the time.  But this time, she had gone through the pile, selected a book and read it in her room alone.  I could just envision her, up there, curled up in her bed reading, almost giddy about the fact that she was reading all by herself.  Of course it’s her new favorite book for that reason alone!

Anyway, I was so distracted by her excitement, and my excitement for her, that I gave her another kiss goodnight and went downstairs without thinking about any other parts of the conversation too much.  And after a few minutes, her room became so quiet that I assumed she had fallen asleep.

Until she appeared downstairs an hour and a half later – at 9:15 (way past bedtime!) – holding this:

That’s three regular sized pieces of paper taped together by E, currently displayed in all their glory on one of the main doors in the house.

Yes.  That’s right.  She wrote down every single word in the book, just like she told me she was going to right before I got distracted by all her contagious, wonderful, happy. She had worked for almost 2 hours to do it.  (I mean, really, imagine yourself loving a library book so much that you finished the last page, and simply had to express your appreciation by turning back to page one and eagerly copying down the entire book from the first word to the last…)

I was simultaneously, impressed, proud, shocked and so happy for my girl who was literally bouncing up and down with excitement over her accomplishment.  She said (during literal jumps and bounds and amid great pointing at her papers),

“Look!  Every word!  I wrote them all!  And some of the letters in the book were fancy (i.e. in italics).  I didn’t copy all the curly parts of those letters, but I did some and I wrote every letter!  And they made some letters capital that I knew my teacher said should be lowercase, so I made them lowercase in my book.  Don’t you just love it?!”

Well, yes I do E.  I think it’s awesome, quite honestly.  And the post-it at the top of the photo is from your dad, who happened to be working late the night you wrote this, and wanted you to see his celebration of it first thing in the morning.  (And, by the way, your Aunt A will love that you edited the writing in the published edition of the book!)

(Also, another by-the-way… amid all the enthusiasm, can someone tell me if I should be feeling a little mommy guilt over the fact that it never even occurred to E to ask me if she could get a copy of the book that she loved so much?  Obviously, I am proud of the work ethic, and clearly we haven’t spoiled her, but have we erred a little too far on that side of things?   And if we get the book for her now, will she be thrilled?   Or will she think we don’t appreciate her hand-printed version – complete with illustration!)

Or maybe I’m overthinking all of it.  Which would be exactly like me…

Regardless, to snap myself out of the worry, I will end by saying that while I was typing this blog post, E came downstairs and told me she wasn’t sleepy.  She should have been snoozing over an hour ago; everyone else in the house is asleep.  So I decided to surprise her greatly by asking her not to go back to bed, but to instead go get me her beloved Little House on the Prairie book (which S is growing into, and T just does not yet have the patience for, which makes it hard to read during the day).  We read a dozen pages, and when we finished, I spent a few minutes curling her hair (something she has been begging me to do, and I attempted for the first time ever tonight…using socks…anyone ever tried that method?).  Anyway, an important, enjoyable, and very fun memory with E that I wanted to record here…

And proof that maybe I’m spoiling her in other ways : )

Love you, E!

And love your book…