Back to School: The All About Me Edition

Three days into the new school year, and I already have a scheduling conflict. C’mon!

I will say that the girls have adjusted thus far very well to their new schools. Flora came home Monday and declared, “TODAY WAS PERFECT.”

Flora on her first day of school.
First day of fifth grade!

Of course, my cynical little brain voice said to itself, “Great. It’s all downhill from here.” But I smiled and gave her a hug, and said out loud and with sincerity, “I am so glad to hear that.”

Kate is having a bit of a rougher time. Her Monday orientation went well — I swear her homeroom teacher is all of 23 — and she was excited. She says her first day was fine, but then burst into tears because she forgot her lunch — I owe her teacher $3 — and she doesn’t like the little boy who sits next to her. She says he wouldn’t leave her alone, and said he was going to eat her brain. So. We will have to keep an eye on that.

Kate's first day of school, 2015.
Think positive! Kate on the first full day of third grade.

It’s quite an adjustment for Dan and me, too. Flora’s bus comes at 7. Which means I am hitting snooze at 5:30. In order to continue with my workout routine, I have to get up even earlier than I have been. Which means bed by 10 p.m. I am not good at early bedtime, but I am going to try harder. On the bright side, I am often at work before 8 a.m., and even an open office is pretty damn quiet at 8 a.m.

It also means that Dan is getting Kate and M out the door, which is a big change for him. We do get a lot ready at night — lunches packed, clothes laid out (I have to get into this habit myself), papers signed, book bags ready. Again, three days into the routine, and it’s been going pretty smoothly. Flora lets me walk her to the bus stop; she even holds my hand crossing the street.

One of these mornings I will stop getting choked up when the bus drives off. Right?

Michael has a whole new schedule this year, too. He’s only going to daycare on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. His pre-k class meets those days starting after Labor Day. Tuesdays he goes to Tadone’s and Thursday he stays home with me.

Thursday will be known as pajama and Minecraft day. Because mama’s gotta work.

Next up for me will be meeting new parents — again — and finding ways to get involved in the school — again. The mere thought makes me very, extremely tired. Plus: TWO schools! (Three if you count M’s.) I mean, how am I gonna do that? Plus soccer for Flora — community league, not through the school — and we have to find an activity for Kate.

I do have one completely positive thing to report. Okay, two.

First, the week before school started, I declared that Sunday through Thursday, all screens are going off at 8 p.m., and we have stuck with that. They don’t have to go straight to bed, but this starts the transition to bedtime. Screens off, snacks finished, everything prepped for the morning. Showers for everyone, M first because he’s the youngest.

And then — and this is BIG for me, HUGE — I get M in his pajamas, read him a book, play him a lullaby, kiss and hug him, AND LEAVE THE ROOM.

I stopped laying down with him while he was supposed to be falling asleep. We talked about it a couple of times — not at bedtime — and my focus has simply been that he is a big boy and old enough to fall asleep on his own. It hasn’t been a completely smooth transition. He still sometimes cries that he is scared. I gave him a radio, and we leave the door open to the hallway. I give extra hugs and kisses. But I am getting an entire hour back at night by not laying in bed with him waiting for him to fall asleep.

Again: so far, so good. Flora has been getting up on her own with an alarm — another HUGE change from last year. I wake Kate and M before I leave, try to get them moving. So far, I have managed one Pilates workout, and one workout with my trainer (Jillian Michaels), and we have been on time for the bus. Even though as of Wednesday they moved the pickup time up by 10 minutes.

Sure, no problem.

Only nine months to go!

How is back to school treating you?

Back to School: I Have Stress Edition

It’s the first week of full-time school for Kate and Flora. It’s a return to the school year schedule, of which I am not fond. Michael is in his daycare full time for the first time since the beginning of June.

I have no meal plan for this week.
I am still waiting for a couple of uniform pieces for Flora to come in.
And I am not looking forward to the night time sprint to bed.

Dan and I discussed the possibilities of him working until 9 p.m. three nights a week so that he can be home by 6-6:30 p.m. one night a week and by 7-7:30 p.m. another night a week. (He’s still alternating working Saturdays, which seems to be good for him.) I am hoping we can do this.

I just found out that Flora has soccer practice twice a week, Monday and Friday, and a game each weekend starting September 7.

I’m going to have to make friends with another soccer parent FAST. I see much carpooling in Flora’s future.

I signed Kate up for pep squad this year, too. No idea what that entails. Plus, Kate wants to play violin, just like her big sister.

I feel like I shouldn’t be this stressed out about this. Other parents do this, right? Other working parents of multiple kids, yeah? I mean, I feel like I’m having a measure of PTSD here (not to minimize actual people with actual serious PTSD).

But I’m dreading this year.
I’m dreading all this running around. And it’s not as if Flora and Kate are doing six or seven activities each. We said one sport, one instrument (if that).

And here was are. Each has one sport, and one instrument. Plus, homework. Plus I have to feed them. And, theoretically bathe them, and make sure they get enough sleep. And, you know, there’s that Michael kid running around too.

Shit.

And then I sit here wondering: when exactly did I bite off more than I could chew? And how do I get a handle on that without losing my job or letting my kids sit around and do nothing? There’s gotta be a middle ground around here somewhere.

I sure am having a hard time finding it.

And I don’t really want to let these girls down. (Not to mention my sweet boy.)

Back to School: The Bedtime Routine Edition

On Sunday, I announced at the dinner table that the New Bedtime Order was being implemented, starting that night.

M should be in bed by 8 p.m.

The girls should be in bed by 8:30 p.m. at the absolute latest. The hall light will not be left on; the bathroom light will be. If I come upstairs to find them playing with any toys or stuffed animals, I am taking them away for a week. After 9 p.m. they are not to come downstairs (“Unless,” Dan added, “you are bleeding, on fire, or have a broken bone”).

I also decided that we would be taking 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind and make bedtime calm and relaxing. The thundering around, and up and down the stairs was going to end.

In an attempt to help my girls relax and get ready to actually *sleep* — not just go to bed — I decided last night that we would try some yoga.

Kate was all over this decision.

Flora was adamantly against this decision.

Dan thought it was a good idea, and tried to persuade Flora to try it.

Flora found this incredibly upsetting.

While Flora cried on the couch, Kate and I did yoga for about 10 minutes.

Kate is good at yoga.

Ten minutes later, I sent Kate and Dan upstairs, and sat down to talk to my very distraught daughter.

She doesn’t like yoga. She doesn’t want to do yoga. She’s upset that Dan thinks yoga is a good idea, because that means he likes Kate better (8-year-old logic). Why couldn’t she pick the thing for us to do that would be relaxing?

“Well,” I said, “what do you think we can do that would be relaxing?”

“What about a board game?”

I considered this. “I’m not sure a board game right before bedtime is a good idea,” I said. “What if we get excited about winning or upset about losing? That doesn’t sound relaxing. I think a board game after dinner on Friday or Saturday is a good idea, though!”

Flora thought some more. “Reading?”

“I find reading relaxing,” I said. “I would like us to all read together. Maybe we can pick a good chapter book to start reading. I’ll read out loud to you and Kate.”

“Okay.”

“I would like to keep doing yoga,” I said. “So how about one night, we’ll read together, and the other night we’ll do yoga. If you don’t want to do yoga, then maybe you can just sit and watch, or take deep breaths, or read a book on your own.”

“Okay.”

So, we’ll see how this goes.

++

Dan doesn’t think reading is relaxing. He doesn’t understand my attachment to it, and he doesn’t understand Flora’s attachment to it. And I don’t know how to explain it to him.

What we find relaxing is subjective, I suppose. Reading totally unplugs me from the day. I need that at the end of the night. I think I’m going to find doing yoga with Kate relaxing, too. I do need my hip to start cooperating though, but that’s a different story.

I will have to keep an eye on how much Flora reads once she’s in bed. She likes to read until she falls asleep. I haven’t discouraged that.

We were very lax about bedtime this summer. I tried to institute the “no downstairs after 9 p.m.” to no avail. But this routine is something I have to stick with. My girls are learning bad habits; they are certainly teaching M bad habits. It’s all got to be nipped in the bud.

I am hoping that as night falls earlier, and we get into a relaxation routine, and bedtime becomes a time for quiet and peace, it will be easier for my children to go to sleep.

I’m hoping by October, the relaxing is ingrained enough that we won’t need constant reminding.

Again, we’ll see.

Are you making any major changes to routines as we head into the school year?

Back To School: The Schedule, Kids' Edition

Last week was our first full week with the fall schedule (that means girls at school and Michael at daycare). It felt like a full-out sprint.

I am working hard to help myself and help my children with the transition back to fall. It’s been rocky so far. Lots of deep breaths on my part. My goal is to have a routine that the children can stick to. It needs to be simple and flexible.

One of my worries in general is that due to work and school and homework and activities and so on, that our kids are turning into little worker bees instead of little kids.

Flora has a test or quiz nearly every day of the week — math, English, spelling (a pretest and a test), science (every other week), and so on. It worries me, and I don’t want to pass my anxiety onto Flora. Not that she can’t do the work, she can — she’s very smart. But that The Work will just be the goal, instead of actual learning, and taking joy in learning.

Kate I am less worried about. She’s in full-day kindergarten, but she only has a page of homework once or twice a week. She usually comes home singing the songs they learn in her classroom. She is having a blast.

And Michael! Well, here’s a good thing: he transitioned very well back into his daycare. To date, he has not cried when I’ve dropped him off in the morning. He seems to be excited to see the toys and the care givers and other kids.

Here’s the crappy thing: He’s not getting enough rest. He’s sleeping between 10 and 11 hours at night (I try to get him in bed at 7:30 every night); during the day, he’s gone from 2 to 3 hour naps to 1 1/2 hour naps (if we’re lucky, 2). Evenings with him are very difficult — tantrums, meltdowns, clinginess. And he’s TIRED. He’s rubbing his eyes by 6 p.m. some nights.

Evenings in general are very difficult right now. I am the sole Parent On Duty, Monday through Thursday. What I need, especially from Flora and to a lesser extent from Kate, is some self-sufficiency and self-motivation. To help, I have a schedule to help them develop new habits.

We’re still learning it. I have told the girls that until they develop these good habits, there is no night time television. I have tried to be firm and consistent. I try not to yell.

I have held firm on television. I sometimes yell in frustration. But I’m trying.

Here’s the general outline:

When we get home, they have to get their stuff out of the car.
Once in the house, Flora should go to the dining room to start her homework. Kate needs to go to another room to play, or do her homework quietly with Flora. I give everyone a snack if they want.
While I make dinner, Kate has to occupy herself, Michael has to play or eat his snack, Flora should do her homework. Mileage varies so far.
Then we have dinner, clear the table. Sometimes the girls have a quick chore (putting their clean clothes away, running the vacuum). Then bath, books, bed. The end.

Here are the problems so far: Flora has a very difficult time focusing on her homework at home. She does fine in school because everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. But at home, her brother and sister are playing (or having a meltdown — I’m looking at you, Michael), and she is constantly distracted from her work. I am trying to make dinner. Kate has a very hard time leaving Flora alone.

What should be 15-20 minutes of homework a night gets stretched to an hour, sometimes more. Flora is constantly interrupting herself to get a drink, get a snack, complain about something, whinge about Kate. I am constantly chasing Kate away from the dining room or kitchen. Michael, feeling neglected (and probably hungry and tired) throws a fit.

I’m an awesome mom, by the way.

To date, since full-time school has started, the children have not had a night time show (not counting Fridays. They can do whatever the hell they want on Fridays, I honestly don’t care as long as no blood is shed). We do not get outside time at all. We really don’t get much downtime in the evenings in general, actually. I feel like it’s a full-out sprint (again) from picking up the children to bedtime.

And, frankly, I don’t know if there’s a damn thing I can do about it.

Are my expectations too high? Should I just give into the sprint until the weekends? Any ideas? Or should I just suck this up for the next nine months? (*sob*)

More later this week on MY schedule, and what I’m trying to do to help myself.

Memory Lane: Back to School

The thing I liked best about going back to school was back-to-school shopping.

As we went to Catholic school and wore uniforms, this was much less about clothes than about BTS supplies. New folders, new notebooks, new pens and pencils. That’s the stuff I liked. Although I was not above going out of my way for a unique pair of shoes, cordavan (or oxblood) if I could find them. One year I recall finding brown shoes with a buckle. I loved those shoes. I still am not much of a clothes horse, but give me some time in a shoe department, and I will find something unique. Something that is “me”.

It’s still fun now, shopping with the girls. Again, we don’t do a lot in the clothes department. Between hand me downs and grandmothers, my children do not want for clothing. I do like picking up special outfits every now and again, but we don’t blow the budget on clothes. (Not for me, either. I miss the days of uniforms!) Now it is a little more stressful because it’s our money.

I don’t think the supplies have changed much though. Kate didn’t need much because her preschool is also a daycare center (her daycare center as of tomorrow) and is well-stocked with crayons, scissors, and the like. She needed an art T-shirt and an icing container to hold her supplies. Throughout the year I’m sure she’ll need certain supplies, and she has a snack day or two coming up. We also bought her a new lunch bag.

Flora needed the usual: crayons, folders, a pencil case, a backpack. And something different: headphones for computer class! She and I made a special trip to Target a few weeks back. I let her look and browse (a little) and, yes, choose what she wanted. Then she had a lot of fun labeling everything with her name and packing  up her backpack for her first day.

God bless my girls; they seem to love school and love learning. I remember loving school, too, loving learning new things. I probably wasn’t so good with the social aspect of things, but I didn’t want for friends, and I never felt the lack of not being a “popular” girl. I hope that my girls are a lucky as I was, and love to learn and explore as much as I did.

And if they have life-long friends, too, so much the better. I certainly got lucky there, too.

Random Thoughts: The BTS Edition

Sunday: Flora lost her top front right tooth. Thank goodness because it’s been loose forever, and she’s been whinging about it. She figured it was worth $5 or $10, but the Tooth Fairy appraised it at $1. I blame the economy.

Monday morning, I took Flora to her new school at 7 a.m. to pick up a school jumper. I thought there was a uniform exchange going on, but as I was the only parent in evidence, maybe I got my dates or times wrong. News flash: IT WON’T BE THE LAST TIME! Two teachers let me in, showed me the rack of gently used uniforms, and I picked up a jumper and a white polo shirt. So, she’s got something to wear the first day.

Everything else I ordered from Kohl’s.

Tuesday: She lost another tooth at daycare, this one on the bottom left. I didn’t even know that one was so loose!

That evening was Flora’s “Meet and Greet” at school. I had to take all the kids, but it all worked out… until the last five minutes. Also: it was hard hauling around a 20-pound infant with a diaper bag and a purse. That may have been poor planning. Then I let the girls play on the playground while I packed The Boy and His Gear into the car. When I called to them, Flora came, but Kate did not. Hence the count downs, the explanation of consequences (no night time show, no night time treat), and then the dragging to the car kicking and screaming. An hour-long tantrum ensued.

Good times.

Wednesday. Oh wait, Wednesday I don’t have anything going on! Except the usual. So: dinner, clean up, bath, bed. I’m going to stay up filling out school-related paperwork, for both Flora and Kate.

Thursday: Flora’s first day of school. For future reference, the first day of school and my period are not allowed to happen in the same week ever again. #hormones #emotional

On Monday morning, she looked so *small* walking though the hallways of her new school. Maybe with other kids her age around her, she won’t look so tiny.

The heart cramps. Or something. There is this weird feeling that happens — to me, to parents in general? — when we watch our kids growing away from us. I can’t speak to every parent, obviously, but while we are essentially raising our children to do exactly that — grow away from us — it … pulls. tugs. hurts in an undefinable way.

I’ve said similar things here (and elsewhere) before: I am glad they are growing up, becoming more independent, etc., etc. I am not one to lament the maturing of my children. But it does cause an interesting, indefinable sensation that is not altogether pleasant around my heart. Some combination of pride in them, ache for their small selves that used to be, and hope/fear for the future, theirs and mine (as a mother).

And, yeah, I get a little teary-eyed, too.

So, there’s that.

Thursday night: Kate’s orientation at her preschool, which is at her once-and-future daycare, but still a requirement. We were specifically asked to leave our other children at home, so: a babysitter. Argh. I hire a babysitter too often lately it seems to me.

Friday: Off to the Podcamp Pittsburgh panel meet-up! (A few more details here. I’ve really no idea what I’m doing, but learning is fun! A little BTS flavor in my own grown-up life, I suppose.)

And then the weekend will bring more cleaning, cooking, and shopping than can possibly fit into two days, but which will get done in two days because that’s all we got. And what doesn’t fit won’t get done, and we’ll start all over in a different way on Monday. Yippee!