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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mom of the Month - Krista Foye

Congratulations to our September Mom of the Month, Krista Foye! Her boys seem to be her world and she'd do anything for them. She has good ideas about remembering that even those challenging moments will pass someday and it's all OK! I love her honesty about what she felt when baby #2 came home! Read on for more awesome-ness from this Super Mom! 

Images shared from Krista Foye

1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names? 
Jackson (2 1/2) cautious yet fearless and loves adventures. Love the name Jack but wanted him to have options when he is older. Logan (7 months) is happy, good natured, and ACTIVE! We debated for 9 months over his name and landed at this name (no pun intended!)
2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby? Jackson 2 1/2- we told my parents on Father's Day and announced to the world in October with a Pumkin photo. Logan 7 months- we told my parents on Fathers Day again! (Same exact due date) Announced to the world in October with a super hero sidekick photo (attached)

3. How would you describe your pregnancies?
Extremely sick with both babies until 18 weeks. Felt amazing in 2nd half of both pregnancies. High heels at work until the day that I went in labor!
How was delivery, birth and labor for you? First labor was 3 days, ended up induced on the 3rd, pushed for 3 hours and finally needed vacuum. Jackson got an infection and needed antibiotics and the NICU but only for 8 hours. Logan (2nd labor) was 5 hours start to finish. Almost delivered Logan in the car in the way to the hospital! Pushed for 20 minutes. Epidural for both. Extremely different experiences!
4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words. Selfless, FUN, superwoman haha
5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you? Hard working, fun, and always put them first

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?
Working 60 hours a week yet creating a home and family that is perfect in my eyes. Oh and breast feeding both babies (14 months with Jackson and 7 months going strong with Logan). Pumping while driving.... Does that count? Haha
7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
Sacrificing precious time with my babies while they are young for my career (which I love as well). Trying to balance it all.
8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier? 
Hands free Medela breast pump! Double stroller by Chicco, Summer Infant Video monitors, K'Tan wrap, Amber Teething necklace. Sophie!
9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother?
Every phase gets better even though you think the current phase is your favorite. Soak up every day, even the challenging ones. You can NEVER spoil your baby... Hold them as often as you can. And lastly "this too shall pass" (teething stage currently)

10. What is a typical day like for you?
5:00 am wake up and shower 5:00/6:00 baby wakes up- nurse 6:00-6:30 bring baby downstairs and organize Jackson's meals/Logan's bottles for nanny, while husband gets ready 6:30-7:15 I get all dolled up 7:00 Jackson wakes up 7:15-7:30 get Jackson ready 7:30 nanny arrives- brief her on the day 7:40- out the door 6:30 home from work 6:30-7:30 dinner and play 7:30-8:00 tubby and stories for both kiddos 8:00 hopefully both asleep 8:00-11:00 clean, get ready for the next day!
11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object? Disney (again) Have a pool Stay home with them Travel the world Give them a baby sister (not happening though!) haha
12. What are your favorite things to do in the fall? 
Apple picking, pumpkin patch, gray animal farm, smiling hill farm, play in leaves, bundle up
What is your favorite part about "going back to school" season? 
No school yet, but we still buy new "school clothes"!!!
13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine. I honestly cried every day for a week when Logan was born. Jackson was turning 2 that same week and I thought my first baby would think that I didn't love him as much. I also didn't know if I could love my second baby as much. And yes I am crying as I type this! And boy....Was I wrong!!! I can't even explain .. And I'm sure you all know... How much more love can fit into 1 heart when you have a second baby.
14. What makes you a strong mom? 
I work hard so that we can do fun things, that being said, I am able to juggle A LOT at once. I give 120% into my babies and husband before myself, which leaves very little mommy time. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Love my life! 
15. Anything else you want to add? 
Honored to be chosen for this, and so thankful to be part of an amazing group of strong and beautiful mommies.

tips for the first day of Kindergarten

We survived that crazy emotional first day of Kindergarten! If you followed my blog through August you know it was something I was kinda dreading, worried about, and so so so sad over.

Well, we did it!

While it's fresh in my mind, here are some tips for you to survive this experience in the future!

  • Talk about first day of clothes outfit BEFORE the morning. I usually am super proactive and thinking ahead, but I just didn't really go over this part with my son. Well, fast forward to half hour before we need to leave for the first day of school and he decides he's not into the adorable matching shirt and shorts I picked out... it could have been a big meltdown that we could avoid by picking it out the night before and talking about it, even trying it on. My lesson: do it sooner, but also LET IT GO. Who cares what they wear as long as they look nice and are comfortable. 
  • Take it slow. No rushing. It's already a busy day, nobody needs added chaos or stress in the mix, least of all the Kindergartener, but certainly not you as the emotionally ready to snap anyway Mama. So take it slow. Wake up a half hour early yourself if you need to. Have everything done the night before - backpack packed, lunch ideas ready, snack box packed, lunch money ready, etc. 
  • Arrive early to school. It's SO busy! Everybody trying to see their kids off, busses, teachers talking to you, asking questions, giving directions, people taking pictures, etc. We purposely left and planned to arrive a half hour early at school. I'm SO glad we did this! It really made our morning SO much better. We slowly arrived, got out of the car, focused entirely on our little man, answering questions, pumping him up about the day, the playground, etc. We met the principal right away because we were practically the first ones to arrive. We could take it easy, go slowly, take it all in, which was so nice for all of us. We took tons of great pictures in front of the school, that we would not have been able to take a half hour later because it was so crowded. As soon as the teacher arrived and more students, the kids lined up and we were sort of on the sidelines to the game at that point, so I'm grateful we spent time as a little family with our Big Kindergartener before he went off into school. 
  • Do something for YOU. Self-care is super important, particularly as a mother. You will have all kinds of emotions on this day. If you cry, cry. If you have questions, ask them. If you're worried, say so. It's ALL GOOD. Let yourself feel whatever you're feeling, even if it feels crazy. Be gentle with yourself. After I left my son at Kindergarten and had sobbed hysterically for like 5 minutes with my husband, as I watched him leave me... I was fine after that. I was proud and happy, really. But exhausted emotionally! So I dropped my daughter at preschool afterward and then went straight to my favorite store to pick up my favorite salad for lunch with chocolate cookie on the side. I took it slowly going back to work. I called a friend, who talked me through the crazy emotions. At work I talked openly with everyone who asked about what it was like, instead of quick one-word answers. It's OK to lean on others and share your experience. It's what makes we moms understand one another and feel supported. Take care of you! 

  • Plan a low key evening afterward. You will be excited, so it's great to celebrate with an ice cream cone or something, but skip the dinner out or big party! Kiddos are exhausted after their first day at school. They have tons to say, too, which is so exciting. When I picked my son up the first afternoon from school, he talked nonstop for 15 minutes while I stood outside the car just listening and taking in all of his excitement, decreasing my worries with every little thing he said that he loved (no nap! recess! running around! cubbies! new friends! chocolate milk at lunch!) Avoid rushing off to soccer or dance class or doctor's or something. Be present, in the moment, it only happens once. Take it all in. Take pictures. Take video! That's what I wish I'd had... video of my son talking about his first day. I'll remember it forever in my mind, but I wish I could have shared it with my husband in a video later. Do something low key as a family, just talk and hang out that night. So many exciting things to talk about!
  • Remember your child's excitement is important or the nervousness will pass. So will yours. If your child is super psyched about this new adventure, embrace that, focus on that, live it up, talk about it, and be excited with him. It's OK to show him you're sad and going to miss him, but try to refrain from sobbing uncontrollably until he's safely in the school and having fun and you can have your moment. If she's nervous, reassure her, be in that moment with her as the constant, comfortable support she needs. Your child may scream and cry and not want to go, that will pass, I promise. Your child may love it so much he runs inside daily and you're left wondering why he doesn't miss you?! There will be a tough day sooner than you think and he'll need you, so just roll with the punches. Regardless of how you all are feeling about this transition, you'll be just fine, happy even, I promise. 

Good luck in Kindergarten! 

Kindergarten: a poem about our babies heading off to school by Edie Rossborough

I am part of a great group of moms local to where I live. One super mama in that group, Edie Rossborough posted this very sweet poem about sending her little one to Kindergarten. I had to re-post it here with her permission. So sweet and sums up the New Mom to Kindergarten experience!

Thank you, Edie, for sharing!


Six short years and here I stand
With my baby hand in hand
To put the miles between
Waiting on the yellow bus
To put the miles between us.
No longer mine the whole day through
Off to school with lots to do

Friends to make, new things to know,
I really hate to see him go.
I’ve been here now three times before,
Watched my heart walk out that door,
Lunch bag, backpack, smiling face,
The whole world ready to embrace.

And every time the tears just flow.
You’d think by now I’d be a pro.
Alas, I’m not, so here I stand
With Kleenex in my other hand,
Being brave, no tears he'll see. 

But when that bus takes him from me
All bets are off, that’s when I’ll cry,
Roots to grow and wings to fly.

Goodbye my boy, be good, have fun,
And know that when your day is done
That bus will rumble down our street
And return to me my boy so sweet.

mom to 2 by Chelsea Proulx

Thank you to Chelsea Proulx for sharing her experience of going from having one child to two little ones around. Great ideas here!

Images shared from Chelsea Proulx

How did you try to prepare yourself before baby number 2 arrived?
I felt much more relaxed about the arrival of baby 2. To be honest, I feel like we were so busy and preoccupied that we didn't prepare enough! We brought out the bassinet, car seat and swing which were in storage and pulled out some newborn clothes but the gender was a surprise so I didn't go crazy washing and putting away all the outfits. I also made sure to buy an infant carrier (the Ktan which I loved) because I knew I would need to wear baby a lot. 

How did you try to prepare your first child for his little sibling?
My son was only 17 months when the baby was born so we talked a lot about the new baby with him and he would occasionally point to my belly and say "baby" but overall I think he was too young to really understand what was about to change. 

What are some of the biggest changes with going from one to two children? 
With the second you just don't have the same amount of time to spend focusing on either of them. Life doesn't stop to revolve around the baby like it did with the first. I couldn't just sit down nursing and relaxing with the baby, I had to keep up with my toddler and all the household duties that come with having a toddler. But I also couldn't give the same attention to my toddler that he was used to getting and I lost my patience much quicker.

I remember feeling at first like there just wasn't enough of me to go around!

What has surprised you about being a parent to two? 
How easily we have all meshed together as a family. The kids adore each other- my oldest is always looking out for my youngest and now that the baby is getting older he sits and watches his brother and just giggles, all the time!

Although it is crazy busy, and sometimes overwhelming, we have finally gotten into a groove and it feels natural. 

What are some of the greatest things about adding another one into the mix, making two better than one? 
Watching the kids "play" together is so heartwarming. My husband and I are both close with our siblings so it's really cool to see their relationship as siblings develop. My oldest loves to help out and is always looking out for his brother.

I initially felt guilty about how much less one-on-one attention my second got than my first did as a baby but I think it's actually good and healthy for him- he is very independent and able to entertain himself if left alone. I also think it's good for my oldest to have someone else to care for and he is starting to understand that sometime he has to wait for Mommy's attention! 

What did you do with your first child while you were in the hospital with baby number 2? 
I went into labor a week before my due date so my mom came over and stayed the night so we didn't have to wake my oldest. My husband stayed at home the next night which worked best for all of us (he is a man that needs a good night's sleep to function so even I preferred that he go home!). I actually spent most of the hospital stay alone with the baby because he was born in the middle of all the bad snowstorms in February but I totally loved and enjoyed the quiet time with just me and baby. 

What is your advice for moms who are going to have a second child? 
I am very much a type-A personality that likes to have everything on my to-do list done before going to bed at night. I hate a messy house. I hate when I run out of time to make dinner. With my first I felt like I always had the time to still get everything done, even working full-time.

The hardest adjustment for me with number 2 was simply not having the time to get to everything I wanted to do. My advice would be (and most of you have probably already learned this)- it's okay if you can't get to everything. 

For whatever reason I feel like the workload more than doubled by adding a second child (probably due to the toddler- toddlers are not easy!!) but I am learning that I need to take a step back somedays and just get through the day- As long as everyone is fed and safe it's a good day!! 

How was it when you were pregnant with baby number 2 with a toddler running around, was it a different pregnancy? Any advice for those pregnant with a toddler? 
The second pregnancy was way easier for me in a lot of ways- I wasn't worried about and focused on every little symptom, the morning sickness was less and easier to deal with the second time, it was winter and not the middle of summer and overall I just felt way better. My toddler was walking by time I was really showing and really feeling pregnant and the few times a day that I had to lift him into the car seat or high chair it was okay. My second was also 2 lbs smaller at birth and my belly didn't get as big and I wasn't anywhere near as swollen so that helped!

My advice would be to get creative- if they want to be held and you really can't lift then try to distract or make a game out of going up the stairs next to each other, etc. 

Can you share any silly or funny moment between your two kids or your husband and you when baby number two came that shows what it's like? 
I packed the kids into the car and drove to the grocery store when the baby was still really new- it took about an hour to get everybody fed and out of the house and dressed appropriately. By the time I got to the store I had 45 mins to an hour before the baby would need to nurse. I get the baby in the baby carrier only to find out the he had a massive blowout which is now all over him, me and the carrier and I don't have extra clothes for any of us. So we pack back into the car without groceries and my toddler cries the whole way home because he's "all done!" 

Think back to all the things you worried about before and after baby number 1 came along... did you worry about those same things, or lighten up a bit and worry about different things the second time around?
Overall I think I've lightenend up a bit- I don't over-analyze every little thing with the baby this time around. With the first everything was a big deal! But the typical mom worries are still there (safety, illnesses, the fact that they are active boys that will someday want to ride dirt bikes and play football!)... One day at a time!

Name 3 things you could not live without having a second child- 
Baby carrier (I liked the K'tan and then the Bjorn), coffee, my husband. 

How has your relationship with your first child changed by adding a second one? Do you try to put special time in for your older one, mommy and son time? 
Because we don't have as much one-on-one time, when we do it is more special. I try to take a few minutes to give him my undivided attention when the baby goes down for a nap and my husband and I alternate putting him to bed so he gets our full attention there. We also each try to take my oldest out on various errands here and there if the other parent can be home with the baby.

What is your advice to a new mom of two as she prepares, and as the baby is here? What works? 

The beginning is the hardest. Take all the help that's offered and don't feel bad about it- when people ask how they can help, tell them! It was nice to have meals prepared and frozen ahead of time. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

it's here: the Big K - 1st day of Kindergarten!

Well, we did it!
We got through the first day of Kindergarten!
Emotions are all over the place...

We started out yesterday by repacking his backpack about 15 times. It was adorable. He had something for every single pocket. I think this was part of his own process for preparing for school... totally cute.

We then gave him a 1st Day of School present. He loved it! Little items that he could use in his backpack or for school.

We then picked out his first day outfit last night. I had the idea for an adorable Gymboree matching outfit of blues and greens and whites, classic, handsome, totally sophisticated and school-like. There were dogs in the plaid shorts! I begged him to just wear one nice outfit the first day, then I would go back to not caring what he wore. He agreed.

Fast forward to the first morning jitters, I guess we'll call it. Nope... off went the adorable shorts and matching shirt. On went his compromise with me: OK fine, he'd wear khaki shorts, but that was IT. he was putting his foot down, literally, and wearing his Batman socks (which honestly I thought were totally cute so it worked out).

Lesson #1 with Kindergarteners: Let things go. It doesn't really matter, does it? Pick your battles. Let him be happy, in charge. It's all good.

This morning I felt great. Super excited about this day, not succumbing to the nerves or worries like I'd been the last few weeks. We had breakfast, got dressed, and headed outside for pictures of our big kid. All was right with the world. A beautiful September morning, sunshine, happy boy, proud parents, psyched sister.

Look at how adorable and little he actually looks with that big backpack!

So tall! Our boy is growing up... I kept thinking that in my head.

He chose to ride with Dad to school instead of me. I was preparing for this, as we've told him now I don't drop him off anymore, Dad will. I didn't get upset. It was exciting, really. They get to have new morning adventures. I love it.

We arrived early to take some pictures before anyone got there, take our time. I'm so glad we did this. It was great to just relax and be together in this new place, instead of rushing and getting around cars and busses. 

I love this picture. I'll frame it and keep it forever.

I felt SO proud in this moment. So, very proud of our boy. So proud of US, too. Me and my husband. We got him here. 

We didn't do it alone. We have a surgeon who delivered him to thank first, and a pediatrician who's kept him healthy over the years. We have a wonderful babysitter and several preschool teachers who helped out. We have tons of grandparents and family members who led us in this positive direction, too. We did not do it alone... but we did it.

I felt SO proud of us today. We are parents. We are doing this parenting thing. We've done it for 5 1/2 years, and we apparently did a good job so much so our son is ready for school. What a great feeling! What an accomplishment! 

So we walked around outside taking pictures. We stopped inside to meet before care staff briefly. We stood outside meeting new friends and parents, chatting about how this was our first child heading to Kindergarten. We stood in the sunshine, waiting and waiting... for the moment when he'd head off into the world of Kindergarten.

He met up with his teacher and stood in a circle with his new friends, several whom we recognized from sports this past spring and summer, yay! Then it was time. The teacher took his hand and led him to the line. He went happily. I went over a few moments later and gave him a kiss, wished him a great day.

And it happened.

My boy turned into a teenager right then and there, standing in the Kindergarten line!

He brushed me off. "Mom, stop, Mom!" brushing me away. Too cool in front of his buddies to kiss his Mama. This hasn't happened before. I was not prepared for it, but I laughed it off. Dad got a high five, no hug. Crazy town.

The line started moving. I was smiling, totally fine. Ready. I was waiting for this moment...

The kids started waving to their parents, modeling after their teacher. My son waved back at us, huge grin on his face. Right there. I could feel the goosebumps, the tears forming, but I held strong.

They kept walking toward the building, away from the parents. As he got closer to the door I saw my boy, my baby, the one who I was worried would not be ready to go to school, the one for whom I was the one actually not ready myself... I saw him smiling, laughing with his head back and huge grin on his face, hanging out with new friends. Totally happy. Totally comfortable. READY.

Right there I cried... at first, happy tears, for a split second, very happy tears. Proud tears. "He has friends already! He is happy! This is good!" I said in my head.

And then a second later... seeing him walking through the doors to the school, not looking back at me or Dad. Not looking back... that's what got me. He was so ready he didn't even look back at us. I burst into tears... streaming down my face... my husband put his arm around me, reassured me this is what we wanted, this is great actually, he's good, he's brave, he's just fine, he's ready.

I was sobbing... knowing all of it to be true: he IS ready. He IS fine. I'll be fine, too. But right now, seeing my boy walk away, I'm not fine. I'm sobbing like a sappy mother, and I'm OK with that.

I have been wondering when it'd really hit me. Would I cry all the night before? Would I sob on the ride to the school? Would I hold him too tight and not want to let go when dropping him off into the teacher's care? How would I react? I knew I'd cry, of course, I'm an emotional Mama, yes, I'd cry... but I didn't know when that moment would be.

For me, it was the last moment, the one where he was heading off into the world, brave, bold, courageous, and ready to learn. It was a bittersweet moment, I believe.

It's what we want, right? We want our little ones to grow up and to learn new things, to be ready to flourish in the world of education and socialize with new friends. It's our whole goal. To realize, though, that you've reached this goal, it's scary and sweet all in one. It's hard to digest. And it's exhilarating, too. 

The rest of the day I did OK. I kept the tears to a minimum. I made a few other moms cry though retelling the story of my boy heading off into the building... moms, we totally relate to one another, don't we? We get it. It's a beautiful thing, the Mom Bond. I'm so grateful for all the mom friends who checked in via text, email, calls, etc.

And then after school, my boy was SO excited. He told me he was busy playing Legos when I picked him up at after care! He walked out with me eventually and said "Mom, I think I'll go back there tomorrow." Good! This is good! He talked nonstop for 15 minutes outside the car in the parking lot all about his big day. So many great things ("RECESS! Do you know what recess is, Mom? You don't even have to take naps here! Just play outside for recess!").

Things were great. We celebrated by swimming in the grandparents' pool. A great after the first day evening.

I tucked him into bed, like every other night.

Yet for some reason, he looks a little taller. He looks wiser somehow. He looks like he knows things.

And that's beautiful.

Tonight... well, I'm emotional. Again. Yes, we survived, and now I know tomorrow and the tomorrows after that will be much easier. I'm glad we're past that first hurdle. It's going to be a great year.

But tonight... I watched all of his baby videos and sobbed my eyes out, remembering. Those tiny feet and busy moving arms, reaching out to me from a baby chair. How little he used to be, enough to fit into a baby carrier on my chest. How he'd have sweet potatoes strewn across his face and giggle at me. Or how he'd play with his Yo-Baby yogurt on his high chair and I'd never care about the mess, because it was so cute. How he used to say "No, no no no " as a 2 year old. How he would say "Faster!" in between giggles on the swing... the swing at the playground where now he goes to Kindergarten. The swing we've gone to since he was at least 18 months old.

Where did time go? It's cliche... but it's true. Where does it go? How did we get here? 

I'm not really sure. I guess amidst bottles and sleepless nights, diaper changes and toys everywhere, hugs and boo boo kisses, Halloween costumes and Easter egg hunts, along with pick ups and drop offs and soccer practice and swim lessons... somehow we're here. In Kindergarten. Starting a grand adventure. 

And I can't help but think, sure, it's emotional. I'm sad. A part of me is very sad, my baby is really growing up. It's hard to embrace that idea fully, and there is something so real about it being so when they head to Kindergarten.

Yet there is a larger part of me SO incredibly proud and happy right now.

We're going to do this. We raised a newborn, infant, toddler, preschooler. We raised him to be ready for Kindergarten. We can surely raise a little boy to grow into a bigger boy and a man someday. We've got this. This first step, we can do this. Kindergarten, here we come!

"Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? 
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh, I don't know.
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'cause I built my life around you. 
But time makes you bolder,
children get older,
and I'm getting older, too."
-Fleetwood Mac, "Landslide" 

Monday, September 7, 2015

the night before the last day of preschool

Tomorrow is my son's last day of preschool.
Tonight we packed his backpack for Kindergarten.

"Mom, we have work to do. We have a project, Mom. Mom, when are we going to pack for my Kindergarten? Mom!"
This was serious business.

I wasn't too sure exactly what needs to go into a Kindergarten backpack, considering I'll be leaving another bag of spare clothing in his cubby at school and I'll be dropping classroom supplies off at Open House this week. So what then goes into a Kindergarten backpack? What does a 5 year old need to get through a busy school day?

My son had all kinds of ideas. So many adorable ideas that I needed to document them here. Here, as part of the process, the transition leading to Kindergarten. We hit another piece of this milestone tonight, packing his backpack, just me and him on the floor in his bedroom, really contemplating what he would need for his big day.

He showed me what he had already put into his backpack:

  • Crayons, a pen and some pencils in a small pocket, along with a light rocket from his large pirate ship, "In case it's dark there, Mom."
  • Three separate sets of key chains so he knows it's HIS backpack. Including a coin holder that has pennies and dimes in it, along with a tiny figurine puppy dog, "Because I'll want to take care of him while I'm at Kindergarten, Mom." 
  • Three baseball hats. Three. Count them. A bright fluorescent orange hunting color one that he's worn on hikes in the woods with his Dad in the fall deer hunting season so he is easily recognizable, "In case we go on hikes in the woods." A John Deere tractor green one, "Because we might go for walks sometimes." He had a Superman one, but decided that one should stay home so it "doesn't get dirty."
  • A ruler, some small scraps of paper "to write notes to everyone," and some more pencils. A pencil sharpener. 
  • A folder with one sheet of white paper in it. A small Ninja Turtles notebook with lined paper. This, I imagine he will write me letters in someday, telling me how great school is. This is how big all of this makes him seem right now to this Mama. 
  • Some other notepad and trinkets "To show my new friends." New friends... yes... this is what it's about. 
I tossed in a sweatshirt in the back of his bag. He then searched around his closet for some shirts to add to the pile. We should always be prepared, right?

We made the backpack part of this transition a fun one by letting him pick out some cool keychains for his bag, so he'd be able to recognize which one was his. He chose a hunter green colored LL Bean boot at the store when we visited. It reminds him of his Papa's lobstering boots, so he wants to have fishing boots on his backpack so he knows it's his. 

I love this. 

It was a small, simple thing we did, but it helped him feel great about going to school. 

And then before his backpack was zipped up, he asked me if he should find some things to keep the bad guys away. I asked why. He said, "Well, just in case they come to school, too. I should have some tools to keep them away." I told him he wouldn't need those at his school, he'd be safe there. "They'll keep me safe?" he asked, putting down his Ninja Turtle tools. "Yes, baby, you'll be safe. Your teachers will keep you safe. No bad guys."

My super hero, always thinking about how to save the day.

I'm a counselor, so of course I read into things a bit too much... but this, this small conversation between packing his backpack and laying next to him in bed while we read another chapter in his Charlotte's Web book... on the evening before his last day of preschool tomorrow, two nights before his first day of Kindergarten... well, it means something to me. I'm listening. He's talking. We're working through our fears, insecurities, worries, nerves, and questions about Kindergarten World, together.

It's random questions like if we should bring a boomerang to school just in case the bad guys come and we need to be a real Superman or Captain America guy out there that make me realize we're going to be OK, we're going to be more than OK really, we'll be AWESOME in Kindergarten. Even me. The one who's not going to Kindergarten but who will be on the sidelines looking in, hoping he's doing great and cheering him on.

It's going to be great. He'll be safe and he'll keep asking questions. He'll keep growing... and that's a great thing. Nothing to be sad over. I'll keep telling myself that, and we'll be GREAT.

Backpack packed. Check!

Next up: taking first day of school pictures, attending the parent breakfast, and letting my little man walk into his new classroom with his new teacher and his totally adorable (and large) backpack, solo, on his own journey ahead.

We can do this.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dear Owen, as you head to Kindergarten,

Dear Owen,

Here it is... the Big K, Kindergarten!

You are my big 5 year old, ready to take on the new adventure of SCHOOL! I can't believe we're here. You are 5 1/2 years old. You always add in the "half" in your age. I hear you, Bud. It's important, you've earned that growth for sure!

I've been totally emotional all summer thinking about this transition, imagining you heading off with your huge backpack on your tiny body, ready to take on the world of Kindergarten.

And now that we're days away from it... I don't know what's making me so nervous or sad. You've never let me down before. All the other transitions we've gone through, you've been totally ready and willing and focused. You have been excited. In fact, you've shown me the way before, and I know you'll do it again now.

I'm going to trust you on this one. I'm going to take your lead. I'm going to watch out for the signs that you're worried or nervous, too, like when we walked into the Kindergarten Screening and you reached for my hand. I squeezed yours to let you know I was right there, that there was nothing to be afraid of, that this would be so great you'd be laughing about how fun it was.

You teach me to be brave. You always have. You show me how to put my game face on. Like the 143 times you've fallen and gotten right back up again, skinned knee and all, you laugh it off, pretend you're fine. I always tell you, "It's OK to cry, it's OK, pal, that looks like it hurt." But you are cool as a cucumber. You're fine. You show me how to get up when you fall, I didn't teach you that, you learned it on your own.

Along with a zillion other things like the names of every single truck out there (excavator, excuse me). You've taught yourself. You've led the way for Daddy and me. You've shown me how to be the courageous one, not look back, but only look forward.

I know you'll do the same now. I am grateful for you, being the first, the one who will teach us how this is done, Kindergarten. It's a big jump, but I'm going to leap right in behind you, just like you did this summer swimming at the lake or ocean.

You don't hesitate. You don't get caught up in worries or fears. You overcome them, quickly. You do what feels right in the moment. I love that about you. That's something I'm going to learn from with this transition.

I know you are ready for this big change. You've been excited for months about heading to Kindergarten. Every now and then you'll tell us you aren't going, out of spite or just having a rough day. But more times than not you're ready, you're willing and asking a zillion questions about what it will be like, your teacher's name, your friends you'll meet, etc.

You know this will be FUN with a capital F.

You know how much you're going to learn, that this is the gateway to the future. And that the future is bright and AWESOME. How you know this at the mere age of 5 (and a half), I'm not sure. Just maybe, Daddy and me, we maybe taught you that? 

So here's the thing, Pal, I want you to remember a few things as you head off into Kindergarten. 

In no particular order, here's what I want you to think about this year:
  1. Be yourself. Above all, I want you to be yourself in school. So many new people, friends, buddies, are going to enter your world now. You are going to at some point (probably way too soon for our own good) want to be just like them. You're going to want the same sweatshirt as they have. You'll want sneakers that they have. You'll want to be like others. That's all normal... but I want you to remember you're awesome the way you are. Be YOU. Above all else, just be yourself. If you like Batman shoes with lights on them when you step, GREAT, we're getting those. If you're the only kid in the room with a Ninja Turtles backpack or a tractor lunch box, then GREAT, that's the way I want you to be. Be yourself. 
  2. Be kind. It's so important to me that you act kind and respectful. We've talked about this for years. I've told you this daily the last few years before dropping you off to preschool. I want you to be the one to help other kids, to listen to the teacher first, to sit down when asked. I want you to be the one to walk up to a new kid and say hello, be his friend so he's not shy the first day. I want you to be the one that they call me up and say "Wow you won't believe what he did today that was so nice!" 
  3. Listen. There is going to be so much to learn in Kindergarten, you won't want to miss it! So put on your "listening ears," as we've called them for years. Listen to your teacher. Listen to your friends. Do what you're told. Take it all in, Bud.
  4. Remember you're awesome. Some kids are going to be mean. There will be boys who won't want to play with you and girls who won't want to give you a Valentine card. There will be teachers who shush you when you were only trying to ask a question. There will be kids who won't pass to you on the soccer field or throw you the ball for a chance on the basketball court. Kids will think you have ugly shoes or hair cuts or sneakers. This is all normal, unfortunately. I know you'll come sad some days. I know you'll be disappointed by how you're treated at times. I know also I won't be able to fix all of it. But I'm here to listen. I'm here, pal. And I'll be reminding you that you're awesome. Remember how funny you are, how smart you are, how you are COOL no matter what anyone else says. 
  5. School is cool. Repeat after me: School is cool. Please, please don't hate school. See it as an opportunity. Remember how fun it is with learning to use scissors and learning to read. I pray that you never hate school. I know most kids end up hating school at some point... but I'm going to try really hard to remind you that you're lucky to have an education every day. I know you're young, so perhaps at first you'll love it. But there will be days you're tired or where you don't get called on to be Line Leader and I know you may come home not wanting to return the following day. That's OK, we all have rough days. I just really hope you remember school is a great place to be. You're lucky, Pal, make sure you remember that. 

The biggest thing I want you to remember this year: 

Try your best. 

It's so important that whatever you're doing this year, whatever you're learning or trying out for the first time, you just do your best. Take a deep breath. Have patience. Don't get super frustrated. Ask for help. Do what works. But try your best. Don't give up, Bud. Never give up.

The days are going to be long, especially without napping like you're used to. You are going to be exhausted. You won't know many kids at the start. It'll get better, promise.

You can do it. I believe in you, Pal. Remember that always.

So, as we near your first day of school, I hope you are as excited as I am for you. Yes, I admit, I'm a sappy Mama on the insides... I'm going to miss driving you to preschool in the mornings. I'll wonder how you're doing. I'll hope you are having fun and learning lots and not missing us too much (OK maybe a little!).

But you're ready. I know that. And as we get closer to the big day, I swear I'll be ready, too.

You're off on a big journey now. It's going to be tons of fun. It's the start of something huge. It's the beginning of your future.

You will figure out who you are and what you want to be someday through school. I know we're only starting at the beginning with Kindergarten and cutting scissors and crayons and letter formation... but all grand adventures must start some place small... and this is YOUR grand adventure, Pal. You're on your way. 

I'm so proud of you. Jump in, eyes wide open, focused on the fun ahead. This is going to be a great year.

I love you to the moon, Bud. Let's do this. Kindergarten, here we come!

Dear Teacher who will teach my Kindergartener,

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

Let me introduce you to my baby boy, all 9 lbs 3 oz and 21 1/4 inches of him. Well, he was that little (or big!) at one point, 5 1/2 years ago to be exact. He's my first child. He's always going to be that baby in my eyes, regardless of the fact that when we walked into his Kindergarten screening last week everyone wondered if he was signing up for first grade instead, he's so tall, like his Dad.

I remind you that he's my baby, because, well... when I get slightly overprotective, or when I ask a zillion questions to better understand exactly how things work in this new school environment, or when I cry ridiculously on the first day, after sending him off with you instead of running home to cuddle him in the old rocking chair that's still in his room years later... well, you'll understand.

He's my baby.

I know you are fully trained in this helping 5 year olds thing. In fact, I imagine there is a special place in heaven for Kindergarten teachers, I really do. You must have had numerous graduate courses in college specifically on Patience 101. However, I'm asking for your patience with my little man. I hope you'll be patient with us both. I'm new at this whole Kindergarten Parent thing, too. It's kind of scary for me to let him go into a bigger school like this. So please find extra patience for us, as we figure out this transition.

I hope you are able to figure out when he's being funny and silly, instead of acting foolish. I hope you learn quickly that he's really genuinely awesome and kind and helpful. He's a worker. I promise, if you have a job to do - sweeping up dirt, running an errand in the school, delivering a paper, passing out napkins, this kid is your Go-To Guy! I hope you see that, instead of how he sometimes can't sit still in his chair or how he always wants to be first in line. I hope you see through the 5 year old antics to find my little man there, the cool one, the one who I swear you're going to adore.

Please remember he's your student, but he's my baby, the one who lived inside my body once... so if I appear overprotective, well, I am. Sorry to bring this part up again... but it's just the Mama Bear in me. I'm trusting you with him. I am trusting that you will hear him when he says "I give up," when he's struggling with putting his shoes on or putting his hand into his glove before going out at recess or when he doesn't get the instructions to the assignment. I hope you say something like what I say, that we don't ever give up, we just ask for help. And I hope you offer that help.

I'm trusting that you'll be all the help he needs.

I'm trusting you'll keep him safe, build up his self esteem, and help him make friends. I know you're going to teach him letters and numbers, how to read words even. I cannot wait to see how great that is.

But more so, I hope he learns to be a great person from you, his first real school teacher. 

I'm trusting you with a big responsibility. And I have every faith in the world that you're up for the job. Those who enter the world wanting to teach these young dreamers and doers, well, you are special in my book. I thank you.

I am super glad you are ready to take on the challenge of teaching my child academics. I read tons to him over the years. Books are his favorite thing. I know how important reading is. But we missed a few nights here and there because it was busy. We practiced letters, but who knows if I did it the right way or enough, I'm not the teacher. I have no clue what I'm doing in the letter department. And numbers... well, those are harder to teach, it seems, so we did not get to as many of those as I'd hoped to this summer. Hopefully this is normal and OK.

I'm glad he'll have you to direct this part of his learning. I hope you know I tried my best. I didn't let him only watch TV or not practice words. I tried. But if I fall short, if he doesn't know something he should have, have patience with us, we're new at this. I thank you in advance for teaching my boy all he needs to know.

Please tell me KIND, helpful, positive things he does this year, not just the times he won't sit still or when he doesn't share easily with his peers. Please don't only call me when he's not listening to you or when he needs a time out from an activity on the playground. I know he doesn't listen all the time. I certainly know he's not perfect, and I'll never be the mom who defends her child's every whim or negative antic. I will support your decisions to discipline him. 

But please, please call me and write or send home a post-it note telling me something sweet he said, or something that he did that made the class giggle and he sat there with pride on his face for being the center of attention. Let me know when he has a full morning of sitting and standing and listening and moving where he's supposed to.

Those are the little things that I, as his mom, worked SO hard to teach him so that he'd be ready and focused to learn whatever else you're teaching him. Those are the things that make me proud. Sure, I can't wait to see the macaroni artwork and the new letters he's able to write and even when he can decipher words for the first time and speak them aloud. That's all part of the wonderful anticipation of growing up through Kindergarten. But tell me the other things, the life skills, the traits that make him stand out as a kind, wonderful little boy. A mom always wants to know she has a kind boy. Please share with me those moments, even if they seem little. They are the world to me.

I hope you see the silly side. The goofy parts and not just "class clown" type of behavior. He likes to laugh and make others laugh. He's awesome. I hope you see the Awesome. I'm sure you took a course in graduate school See the Awesome 101 also, as I believe all Kindergarten teachers are really trained in doing this, genuinely well.

I hope you see that when he's being TOO silly maybe he needs to use the bathroom, maybe he's confused or worried, or shy. Or maybe he's just needing some structure. I hope you are the structure he needs during his schoolday, like I've been for 5 1/2 years. I thank you now for being that structure. That's a huge responsibility, and I know you've been extensively trained in this field so you are prepared, but it's still a big job.

We moms are lucky to have people like you teachers who are there for our kids.

Here's what it comes down to... I'm nervous. I'm worried that my baby is growing up too fast. I'm worried some kid will pick on him, or he's going to be mean to others. I'm anxious that he doesn't know everything he needs to know academically. I'm worried he's behind somehow. I'm sad to let him go. I'm really sad he's heading off into the bigger world without me. Of course, I can't be with him all the time. I haven't even really the last 5 years. He started daycare at 12 weeks old, since I'm a full time working mom. We're used to being apart. But school, it feels bigger, different. I'm worried somehow he won't be kept safe.

But really, I think I'm most worried that you won't get him. "You" is figurative language, because I don't even know you yet, as his teacher. You're just a name on a paper right now, just like I'm sure he is to you. I know that will change quickly. We'll all get to know one another and it'll be just fine. I just want you to understand my boy, all the things I know about him, I want you to know, too. Of course that's not reality. I'll always know him differently than others, and even you will learn to know him differently than I know him, as your student. That's a good thing. He can always use more strong, confident, inspiring people in his life.

I think if you know him, really know him, you'll see he's awesome just like I know he is... and then he'll be safe, comfortable, happy, and growing not too fast but at a good rate for this sappy mom to keep up with.

I just want you to really know him. For all the cool, awesome, silly, ridiculous parts that make him who he his, my boy. My baby.

So remember to please tell me something positive. Tell me something nice my son did. Even if it was simply that he was the first kid to get to his seat after you asked the kids to return to desks. Or if he let another kid play with a toy he was playing with. These may seem simple to you, expected actions of 5 year olds, but for we moms, we like hearing that just maybe we did actually teach our kids valuable life lessons in those short years we had them before they entered the realm of public school.

We are grateful to hear from you, "YES, you did it! You have a kind, helpful, awesome kid, and I, Stranger turned Teacher, recognize that." 

Thanks in advance for letting me know about the good stuff. 

Nobody wants to hear only the times he threw something or cut in line or didn't share or didn't know how to write the letter N. Thanks in advance for finding the good.

Thanks for getting to know my boy. He's not perfect. He doesn't know everything just yet. But he's so cool. I promise you will see that. Even if he's shy at first, or even if he is overly eager to answer questions and won't do as he's told at first. Be patient, he'll be awesome for you, too.

Thank you for being the next person to teach my boy. We're lucky to have you in our lives this year.


A New Kindergarten Mom, who will take her own advice and find patience, trust, and the good in everything you do

the Kindergarten screening: what to expect

The Kindergarten Screening. It's something we all go through when preparing to send our child to school. It was something I wasn't sure how would go, what it entailed. I figured other moms would be curious as well, so here are some tips from my own experience with my son's screening last week, as well as from moms in the Facebook discussion Mommy Stories group.

My son's screening

Upon walking into the building, my son grabbed for my hand. He rarely holds my hand anymore... but he wanted me closer. I loved that. It didn't make me cry though, I held it in, trying to be excited for him. This was big. We were entering Kindergarten for real this time, not just when we registered or when I attended a parent night last spring before it was real.

When we reached the teachers, I had told him that he'd go in alone and I'd be waiting for him. "You come, too," he said, as he's said before, a handful of times. This is my brave boy, my go-getter. He never looks back. The moment I took him to preschool just to check it out... he ended up staying for an hour while I ran across town to pick up his sister at her sitter's house. He was so happy just playing, brave, confident. I love that. So independent. But a few times he's asked me to stay, too. I always reply, "I'll be right here when you come back. I'm not going anywhere. You're going to have so much fun!"

Right from the start, after meeting the teachers, my boy was whisked away to Kindergarten World. It was bittersweet and exciting! It wasn't the Real Thing though, not the first day of school, so I was a little less emotional this time around.

I teared up shaking the teacher's hand. Like meeting the person who is "taking over" my son for a little bit. It was emotional for .2 seconds. It was a weird moment. As if I was telepathically saying to her, "Take care of my boy. I'm new at this. He's my baby. Please understand that he's special." Her bright eyes seemed to recognize this First Time Kindergarten Mom Sap and she was ready for me.

She introduced herself to my son, I let go of his hand, reassured him he'd have fun, I'd be right in the next room when he was done. She took his hand. She didn't usher him forward or walk in front of him. She grabbed his hand. His tiny, little hand... she put it in her's and led him forward toward the most fun school adventure I know he'll have. You'd think this part made me cry... but it reassured me. It made me feel relieved, like she had him, she wasn't taking him, she was leading him. And she'd lead him right back to me a little later. It was good, comforting.

About an hour and tons of paperwork and a few chapters into my book later... my son ran back into the library to see me, big grin on his face, showing me his stickers and his name tag for the first day of school. He was eating animal crackers and had a mini size water bottle with his name written on it in black marker. He was pumped! So excited to tell me everything. I hugged him tight, grateful we'd both survived the first phase of letting him go toward this fun new Kindergarten World.

It was honestly not bad. I swear to you, it's easy. Granted, I have a boy who is not afraid to go with people and who isn't overly sensitive and crying... I imagine that if you have a child like that you'll be a little more nervous. Perhaps, calling ahead to tell them this transition may be tough and they may let you sit in on some of the screening, that could help.

Overall, YOU CAN DO IT! And your child will love it.

Tips for the Kindergarten Screening:

For your child:

  • wear comfy clothing. Our paperwork said to send him in sneakers. 
  • Talk about what this is: the teacher wants to meet you, show you around the school a little bit, and ask you some questions about letters and things. Do your best! Try! They are super nice, you'll love it!
  • Be positive, show encouragement. This will help her to be comfortable going off with people she doesn't know.
  • Sometimes they receive stickers, a gift bag of supplies, and/or a snack! It's fun!
  • They check language, letter recognition and pronunciation, speech, hearing, ETC. 
For you:

  • You don't go in with them for most of the screening... they keep you busy with paperwork!
  • bring a book or something for you to do. I saw one mom with a lap top working on emails and other work things! We had about an hour to kill time so it was good I packed a good book!
  • fill out paperwork - so much paperwork! 
  • have cell phone handy with phone numbers of emergency contacts, work #s etc
  • Let it go... whatever you taught him, whatever you forgot to work on or practice this month, let it go. He knows what he knows and that's it. The teachers are expecting your child to come in without knowing everything. That's expected and normal. Let it be. Don't feel pressured to have your kid know everything. What else would they go to Kindergarten for, besides to learn all that cool stuff?
Overall, this was not a tough part of the process! It's a primer for how it's going to go first day of school, and it's great for teachers to learn some information about your child before she starts. Breathe, it's easy peasy! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

freezer meals

I work in a school, so every September when I'm back at work after having a few months off during the summer time, it's TOUGH to transition our family to leaving early and getting dressed and being focused and getting through long days. The last thing I want to do or have time for at the end of a busy work day is to cook meals. So the last few years I've tried making a few meals at the end of August that I can freeze and take out on busy September days.

I cooked for about 2 nights after the kids went to bed and ended up with about 8 meals. I was hoping for two per week through September, to get me through the first month. My plan is then in October to make a few more and keep doing this every month. It's a lot easier and healthier to do it this way when you're so busy!

So many moms asked me to post about these recipes, so here are a few ideas for you!

I usually make a list of which supplies I need, after reviewing some of my old standby favorite recipes that I have in a binder. I buy everything at once, including buying all fresh veggies at the local farm stand - best part about making freezer meals is having yummy ingredients later on in the year!

I buy the tins and aluminum foil pans at the grocery store or Dollar Tree, as those are easiest for me to cook with. I usually have Ziplock freezer bags for things like stews or soups. Those freeze well.

Then you need a Sharpie marker to write on the outside, and a large freezer, and you're good to go!

Don't forget when purchasing ingredients at the grocery store to buy spices in bulk, as you'll go through a lot when cooking several meals at once.

I do about three meals in one evening. Sometimes you can make so much that you can even use half of one of those meals that you're planning to freeze, for dinner that evening. It's a win-win!

I focus on one meal at a time though in the evening. I've tried before doing a few parts of various recipes at once.... doesn't work well.

(don't mind my messy kitchen and stove! I took these pictures mid-cooking mess... stuff everywhere!)

One of the easiest meals I make for freezing is Baked Ziti with Hamburger. It's nothing fancy. My Italian relatives would be ashamed of me lack of creativity... but I'm a busy working Mom, I need simple sometimes!

Baked Ziti with Hamburger

Cook a box of pasta. Drain the water.
Cook a pound of hamburger.
Add half a bottle of tomato sauce to the burger.
Mix pasta, burger, and the rest of sauce together.
Put into a casserole pan. Cover with Mozzarella cheese.

You'll bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes to reheat through later.


Some other favorite recipes include:

Sweet Potato Shephard's Pie

Cook about 4 sweet potatoes. Mash. Add some brown sugar to taste. Mix.
Steam a bag of mixed vegetables.
Cook a pound of turkey burger. Add a jar of beef gravy to it. Stir.

Put the burger into a casserole pan. Add the mixed veggies to the top. Then add the sweet potatoes, layering.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

You will bake this later at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes to melt the cheese and heat through.

SO YUMMY. This is my sister Amanda's recipe!


Ree Drummond's Chicken Spaghetti

This recipe is amazing. So easy and yummy. Sounds random, but it's delicious.


Rachael Ray's Chili Chicken and Vegetable Soup

I love this soup! So easy to make, yet tasty and good for fall nights!


Rachael Ray's Mexican Lasagna

SUPER yummy!

Stuffed Peppers

Take the insides out of 6 large green peppers. Put in water on the stove until comes to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes.
Brown one pound of beef burger.
Add 2 tablespoons chopped onion to the burger, cook about 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 cup brown rice, cooked, along with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 clove garlic, and 1 cup of tomato sauce.
Stuff the peppers with the mixture.
Top each pepper with some tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Cook later at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, covered. Then uncover and cook about 15 minutes.


Minestrone Soup - from Hannaford Fresh magazine

In a large pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cook cut up 2 large carrots, 1 small onion, 1 clove garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook about 5 minutes.

Add more olive oil. Add 2 medium zucchinis, cut into chunks. Cook 8 to 10 minutes until veggies are tender.

Add 1 32 oz carton chicken broth, 1 15 oz can tomato sauce, and 1 15 oz can cannelloni white beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Put into large Ziplock bags to freeze. I always double them.

Note: You will cook a box of pasta when you are ready to make this soup, but I never freeze the pasta with the soup because the broth makes the pasta mushy that way.


Mexican Stuffed Shells

My friend at work gave me this recipe and it's become our FAVORITE! So easy to make, the kids LOVE it. We call it TACO PASTA :)

Cook a box of shells al dente.
Ground 1 lb beef or turkey burger (I use turkey, it tastes the same!)
Add 1 pack of taco seasoning (I use a half cup of my homemade taco seasoning)
Add 1 block of cream cheese

Cover the bottom of a casserole pan with most of 1 whole jar of salsa.

Fill shells with the burger mixture. Place in pan open side up.

Pour more salsa over top of shells.

Cover with shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese.

Later, bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.



Here is my homemade taco seasoning recipe that I follow. LOVE this! I put them in Mason jars.

Happy cooking and freezing! I hope this helps you make your fall a little less busy, with yummy meals to keep your family happy!