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Ready, Set,........GO!


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Saturday, September 29. 2012

Many of our days feel this way as I try to meet the demands of online school for 4 kids, activities and a household. It takes a lot of coordination to make our days work. The kids need to be flexible and work with the schedule of each other and the family. This is not an easy concept for them, especially when they would rather be playing ro doing something else at the moment they are needing to work with me for school or leave for a sibling's activity. The kids are very fortunate this fall and most of the time the kids don't need to wait too long or leave early to accommodate the overall schedule. Today's schedule took a bit more work to coordinate, mostly due to the fact that we needed to wait for a soccer tournament schedule and the fact that swim meets are never very precise.

AJ is in a soccer tournament in a town 30 miles away. He first game is at 8am and he doesn't play again til 4pm. He has a regular season game at noon in a nearby suburb so there will be a fair bit of time in the car for him. Time in the car is not a good thing for AJ as he gets motion sickness and it seems to be much worse lately than previously. LJ has his game at 9 and A-girl has dance at 9:30-1:30 and soccer at 2. Since I can't really leave LJ alone on the soccer pitch while I drive A-girl to dance, his big sister L is going to stay with him. As soon as his game is done, we pick up L's friend and head to the U Aquatics center for a huge high school meet. It is essentially 3 meets running from noon to 10pm. Since her team is hosting that means a huge parent commitment. Between the two of us, we have everyone covered. Whew!

The hardest part for me isn't the schedule, its not being there for each of my kids to cheer them on, watch them and support them. I have to settle for making sure they have food, water bottles, uniforms and equipment ready to go (including an emergency run for new goggles late last night getting to the store 3 minutes before it closed as L's broke when she was packing her things) and hope that they know that each of these things is touched by and carries the love of their mom.

Life lessons with LJ


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Saturday, September 15. 2012

Its been a hard 3 weeks getting back into the flow (or the grind) of school. It has been a struggle to find the balance between all the things that are required for school, activities and finding joy where we are at. There have been many moments where I am amazed at what the kids know, how quickly they pick things up, however there have been just as many moments of trying to convince them to finish just one more page when all they want to do is be done. Reading and re-reading trying to help them remember the facts for tests. Going over spelling words many more times still not getting the perfect score they want. Sitting for great lengths of time just hoping the answer to the math question you have been stumped on will somehow magically appear.

It seems like AJ has turned a corner in his learning. He used to make letter and number reversals and never really identify them in his own writing. He could tell if anyone else made a spelling error or wrote letters backwards but that level of recognition was not there for things written by him. This fall, he is noticing that he is writing things backwards. He is stopping, commenting he wrote it backwards and then becoming increasingly frustrated. That frustration wasn't there before because he didn't know he'd made an error. He was willing to keep trying. Now the frustration is escalating. He isn't wanting to do any of the writing. Strategies that worked for him are breaking down due to the sheer amount of information he needs to know and the fact he cannot hold it all in his head which he has been able to do for years. He is finding it increasingly hard to concentrate on what he is supposed to be doing (in all fairness, we have a small house, my children are far from quiet and all 4 are working on school at the same time for the most part) and this is adding to the frustration.

It also seems like LJ is starting to struggle as well. He is still very excited about school, but I can see him starting to not enjoy letter activities and tasks. This is just not a strength of his. It is hard to know if the vision issues related to his migraines are a factor or whether he just isn't at the point that learning letters, their names, their sounds and the relationship between upper and lower case letters is something he can do. He does not know the names of letters or their sounds. He cannot match upper and lower case letters unless he copies it from the letter row at the top of the page. Today he was trying to write "M and m" and was only writing the | | for M and the outside lies of m. Apparently today was not a good vision day yet he would not readily admit that. He also had trouble with "H and h" only putting in the outside lines for H and the line on the left for h and he had easily made those letters two days earlier. I had been lulled into thinking perhaps there would not be learning related issues from his questionable vision during migraines. The harsh reality was there. His changing vision significantly impacts his ability to do certain learning tasks and there is not "easy" or "quick" fix. No glasses, no exercises because it is not consistent and is solely related to the migraines.

Seeing firsthand the effect of the visual aura migraines and recent conversations with his teacher have left me a bit discouraged. I never thought of LJ as delayed, however we talked about the fact he does not have some letter recognition skills that are expected at this point and depending on an assessment they will be doing in the next couple of weeks, he may be recommended for enrichment (or remedial assistance) and we are not even a month into kindergarten. The other 3 were reading at this point and LJ isn't but I guess I never really thought anything of it. He has strengths in other areas. I want to meet him where he is at and not be constantly pushing him.

This evening, our schedule fell together so that I had some time alone with him. The older two were at a school activity, A-girl was at dance and S was picking her up. For our "date" LJ wanted to make pumpkin bread. I told him I wasn't sure we had enough eggs. He asked me how many I needed (4) and told me he would check. We had a carton of 18 and I wasn't sure how many had been used. He returned shortly after and announced "There are enough eggs to make 3 times the recipe." I looked into the carton and yes there were indeed 12 eggs left. I asked him how he new that and he explained that the eggs were in rows of 4 and that there were 3 rows of them so he knew that there were 3 times as many as what we needed for 1 recipe. I couldn't help but smile. In true LJ fashion, he reminded me that he will do things on his own timing and that even though he may be struggling in some areas, he has definite strengths in others.

Family Bike Ride


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Sunday, September 2. 2012

Today we went for a family bike ride. We started off by riding to a park about 4 miles away for church at the band shell. It was a beautiful day. Following a picnic and visiting with friends, we made our way along the parkway following the path along the river, getting onto the Greenway, following it until one of the lakes. There we followed the one way path around part of that lake, joined up with another lake and then followed the trail along the creek until we got close to home and then made our way home via the streets. There were lots of stops along the way including a walk through a Mexican festival/street party, a stop at the bike shop/cafe along the Greenway, and 2 playground stops. Today as we rode, we were all grateful to the city's forefathers who had the insight to keep the areas along the water ways public and to develop such an amazing network of trails for all to enjoy. The tall trees, winding paths, stone bridges, paved trails, parks, lakes, beautiful skies and being together all made for a great ride. When we got home, S mapped out the ride and it turns out we rode 18.9 miles (good thing we didn't tell the kids that was how far we were riding before we set out!). LJ was a passenger on the back of S's bike but the other kids all rode. Our last family ride was about 13 miles. Wonder what the next one will be???







Back to school


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Monday, August 27. 2012

Well today was the first day back to school for the 2012-2013 school year and LJ's first day of school. He was so excited to be in Kindergarten and keeping him quiet and in one place long enough to do it proved a lot harder than I had anticipated.

Gearing Up For School


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Thursday, August 16. 2012

We are not yet "ready" for school physically (house in order/space designated/schedules in place that allow me to move through the 4 kids needing my assistance) and definitely not emotionally ready for school to start on the 27th but things are falling into place.

LJ's paperwork was finally approved (his registration was held up due to a form that didn't follow the typical immunization schedule because of family allergic reactions to shots so it kept being rejected) and the kids' books were sent many weeks ago. We have picked up the "essential for a successful start" materials/supplies, books are on the shelf, headphones are hung on the side of the shelf, our main laptop just came back from the shop sporting a new casing (top and bottom due to structural cracks and a fading display) and works all the time now instead of having the screen go white and having to wait for it to decide to work again (which would not have been conducive to online schooling 4 kids or maintaining mamma sanity) and things on the part of the school are also getting completed. All kids now have been placed in classes (although one of L's is not the math we were told she would be in at the end of the last school year) and been assigned teachers and homeroom teachers (except for L's home room teacher whose name appears within the grade book page but not also where it is to be on the home page so that will need to be confirmed). Today AJ's classes finally appeared on his planner (you cannot access content until the first day of school). L has had hers for a while and the other kids got theirs several days ago. They have their assigned schedule which we can personalize (except for a few of the classes that are not user scheduled (math, skills for success and GT Lit) and all are wanting to try it as it is for the first few weeks (they have never wanted to alter things the first part of the year). Now we are just waiting on activity schedules to see if we need to rearrange the number of classes on certain days etc to accommodate. Next week (or the week following), we will be contacted by the homeroom teachers. LJ got added to the family page today and he has his own log in ID and password so we are ready to go on the 27th (at least with regard to those types of things......now if we can just magically get our house in order!)

Cleaning


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Wednesday, August 15. 2012

At our house, when you ask the kids to help out with cleaning, you never know what you will get. Last night, I was cleaning the bathroom and LJ asked if he could clean the tub. I graciously accepted the help. I left the room for a moment and returned to him singing a little tune about "sponge dancing." Always an adventure.

Early Mornings


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Wednesday, August 15. 2012

This fall, L will be swimming for the neighborhood high school swim team (currently there are 72 girls on the team). Although she is in 8th grade, students in the neighborhood can swim for the high school team when in 7th and 8th grade. Several girls from her Y team have joined the HS team. Three high schools have joined their swim teams together and practice and compete as a joint team. Her entire relay team from last year is now swimming with the HS. She and 3 other 8th graders, a 7th grader and two 9th graders join a fellow team mate who has been swimming for two years previously and is now a 9th grader as well as 2 previous Y team swimmers on her new team. After the completion of the HS season in December, L will return to the Y team.

She is excited about this new journey. We are unsure of her total commitment as she is still waiting for her dance schedule assignment and that is her first love and priority but she is participating in the preseason practices that began this week and continue daily until school starts.

The hardest part about these practices for L is not the physical demands of the 2 hour practice but the time of the practice. She is up at 5:40am, walks to the school and is on a bus by 6:15, practices for 2 hours, rides the bus back from the pool to the neighborhood school and then walks home and is back by 9:00. Typically L would not have even awakened by 9:00! She is not a morning person at all. Last year in school, her best work was done between 9pm and midnight. She is a night owl and would prefer to sleep til at least 10am. Early morning practices luckily are not daily during the school year (only twice a week and only for varsity swimmers) so after these first two weeks, she will have practices in the afternoons. Not being a morning person, she doesn't like breakfast and often eats nothing til noon. Despite our efforts to change this, it remains her norm for the most part.






Saturday, the team met for a team building "polar bear plunge" at a nearby lake at 6am. She went and then came back home and went to bed for several hours. I wondered if her week would continue like that, however when she comes home from practice, she has been staying awake for the rest of the day. The poor kid is tired though. Of course it didn't help that her girl scout troop spent 10 hours at Valley Fair on Sunday, walking form one end of the park and back and forth all day long hitting the rides and bouncing their bodies back and forth on the many roller coasters and rides. Monday she asked to go to bed early and yesterday we had joined friends for 2 hours of bowling and by mid afternoon, she was looking as though she would curl up on their couch and take a nap.

I knew part of her issue was not getting enough food before heading to practice yet how do you convince a non morning person to get up a few minutes earlier to eat when they don't usually eat for at least another 4-6 hours. While standing in line at the grocery store last night (there was a considerable line at 10pm) I picked up one of the little cookbooks on the rack and started to flip through it looking for inspiration in general. The first page I turned to had breakfast items. The first one I looked at was breakfast quesadillas. Earlier in the day, she had agreed to having scrambled eggs or an omelet so I figured this might be a great option as she could take it and eat it on the go if she needed. This morning, I made her one, it took three attempts to get her out of bed but she ate the entire thing before heading out the door. She says very little in the mornings but did say she would eat it again when I asked so I feel like I have at least one good early morning food option for her. She has stated that she is going to shift her bedtime/school start time this fall so I am hoping that will make my school schedule of assistance much shorter as well (my schedule for the past two years has been school related work from 8-4 and then again 9-midnight and I am ready for a change) although I am not holding my breath at all.

The best part of this whole experience has been how she is enjoying the new experience rather than meeting it with anxiety, little confidence and withdrawal. Here's to a great swim season kid!

A Breakfast conversation with LJ


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Sunday, August 12. 2012

LJ: Mom, is it true that after 8 years your mattress is full of dust mites?

Me: Well......er......ah......yes that is likely true.

LJ: Is it true they are also full of dead skin and sweat?

Me: uh....

LJ: Is my mattress 8 years old?

Me: No honey, because you are not 8 years old and we got your bunk beds a couple of years ago.

LJ: Oh, if it was, I would drag it outside and drop a house on it to kill all those dust mites.

Thank you large mattress store for your heavy advertising during the Olympics so that I and apparently my 5 year old, know all the gross details of mattresses and especially thank you for that lovely early morning image. Breakfast was no longer appealing, especially since my mattress is over 8 years old and I had jsut finished spending a few hours in it!

A Summer's Evening


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Thursday, August 9. 2012

After the very hot summer we have had so far, tonight was a welcome break. It was cool and we were scrambling to find a sweat shirt befroe we left.. We went on a family bike ride around the lake, listened to a concert at the band shell as the 4 kids played (3 at the playground and 1 on her ipod).









The orange bike is new to our collection. It is a Yuba and is a cargo/utility bike. There are 2 seats on the board behind the biker's seat so it can carry 2 kids and has large bags to haul other things. We jsut got it and are looking forward to using it a lot more and taking the van a lot less.

Word Association, LJ style


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Thursday, August 9. 2012

"Mom! Mom!! You know that bug that has lots of legs on each side and runs really fast? Umm,,,,its called the......uh..........ahhh.......umm......er.......centerpiece."

Barely containing the laughter, I said "oh, you mean centipede?"

(and to make that even funnier, I initially spelled it centepied and the first word on spell check was centerpiece and centipede wasn't listed at all)

Waterlogged


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Monday, August 6. 2012

We spent the past weekend at the Dells with Uncle J and cousin M. What a riot. I think I am officially waterlogged after 2 days of swimming, water slides, wave pools and splash pads. The kids had a chance to experience an infinity pool (or Xfinity as A-girl called it), water taxi, sat in a whirl pool in our room and watched the Olympics and we think LJ may have over come his fear of water. He was loving small water slides and even swam under water with his goggles. Huge break through. I think we may actually have tired the kids out. That much swimming sure makes the kids hungry and we certainly consumed a large quantity of food which could be expected when they swam about 8 hours a day. They ate breakfast, lunch, a mid afternoon meal and dinner as they seemed to not be able to go 3 hours without a meal. The best part for me was the lack of laundry. We basically wore bathing suits all weekend as we ate in the room to reduce costs and all activity was water park related. Gotta love the lure of the water, the energy of kids and time with family.

Happy Birthday A-girl


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Monday, July 30. 2012



It is hard to believe my little girl is 8 years old today. When I held her for the first time, I could never have imagined what joy and love that tiny baby with the full head of dark black hair would bring to our lives. A-girl lives life to the fullest. Her smile can light up a room and that little streak of mischievousness leaves you shaking your head at what she comes up with and how she keeps things stirred up at the same time trying not to laugh. Her sweet personality and positive attitude make her a joy to have in classes and on teams and her teachers/coaches often think she is older than she is. She can lead when necessary and listens intently, soaking in all she can and doing what is requested when she is not a leader. She is flexible and adapts fairly easily to new situations and circumstances. She is very dramatic and has found avenues to let that talent shine on the stage in theater and in dance. She may not have the biggest part, or a solo spot but I dare say she has the biggest smile, the biggest actions and animations and livens up the stage. She is determined and coaches have described her as very hard working and persistent. This has been a big year in terms of change, growth and lots of life lessons in soccer and dance. Kids have left for new teams (traveling) and studios and she has faced these changes with such grace and understanding beyond her years. Its at times like this that she seems so much older than 8. She is eagerly looking forward to the new dance season, fall soccer and swim team. She picks things up fairly quickly in school and has been placed in gifted and talented math and language arts this fall. She is looking forward to third grade starting up in less than a month.

A-girl celebrated her birthday in true A-girl fashion in a day filled with the things she loves most. Family, friends, dance, swimming, being outside, cake and ice cream. The smile on her face all day long reflected the pure joy she had in this day. A celebration of her.

She started off her day at dance camp all morning in prep for their auditions at the end of the week. We picked her up, met friends at the house and headed to a water park for a round of mini golf and some swimming. We had some snacks, enjoyed a mermaid cake and some more swimming before having to leave late afternoon to get 2 girls back to the dance studio for intensive ballet class at 5:00. All the kids were having so much fun, they didn't really want to leave. I thought that would be an issue and tried to encourage the selection of another day without the time constraints but A-girl wanted her celebration on her actual birthday. And it worked out well. We had a late dinner (L had ballet after A-girl) of A-girl's choice (pizza) and finished off the day with ice cream cake.

Hope your day was extra special my little girl!

Cousin A led the mermaid tail making as we canned corn.



The mermaids.

A very special mermaid.


An ocean themed cake with starfish and a mermaid.

It was bound to happen


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Thursday, July 26. 2012

Since Sunday, I have been near water everyday with at least some of the kids. Sunday was the water park with all 5 (cousin M is staying with us) kids. Monday, I took the younger 3 kids from our house and Cousin K and cousin L to the beach. Tuesday the girls had synchro and LJ and cousin M went to the pool at the corner and the past two days have been at the beach with the 3 younger from our house and their 2 local cousins. Lots of digging in the sand, lots of jumping from the dock, lots of minnow catching and releasing, lots of wet drippy kids. I have been very careful to have my phone carefully tucked away safely from the elements. It has been very safe until today. A water bottle with a lid that is known to come open was placed in my big bag of towels, sunscreen and various other things including my phone. On the walk back to the van, LJ announces "Hey mom, water is running out of that bag." "What?!" I said stopping very quickly as I knew my phone was at the bottom of the bag. A-girl quietly announces "My water bottle is in that bag and I bet its open." Sure enough it was. Sure enough it it had emptied and unfortunately it only really soaked and ruined my phone. Unfortunately it is this week when I have to coordinate rides and have extra kids for AJ's soccer camp every morning and L's show choir camp in the afternoon. I have never had a water incident with my phone and given all the beloved little people in my life and all the things we do around the water, it was bound to happen. I just had no idea how dependent I had become on technology to coordinate everything.

What are the odds?


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Monday, July 16. 2012

Last night, AJ says to me relatively nonchalantly, "Mom, I think I have a huge cavity in my tooth because there is a hole that goes to my gums between my back two teeth." My reply was much less nonchalant and upon inspection, there indeed was a chunk of one of his molars missing. How long that has been there, I have no idea. This morning, I called the dentist and the hygienist I spoke with asked "Is it a permanent tooth?" I told her it was not and she told me that they likely wouldn't try to save it. I told her that he has one baby tooth that does not have a permanent tooth waiting to come in that was discovered 6 months ago at his last check up. (Which by the way I was told that the baby tooth in many people lasts well into their thirties and at that time breaks down and a false tooth/bridge is put in). She went and got his file and asked me to again describe which tooth it was that was missing a piece. There was silence on the other end of the phone and when she finally spoke, she said that they would need to defer to the dentist as to whether or not to try and save this tooth or remove it. What are the odds that the one tooth that was broken is the one without a permanent one to replace it?? Apparently for AJ, 100%. Poor guy. He has to wait a couple of days before he goes in and then they will determine the course of treatment.

Update: Turns out the hygienist reading the chart read it wrong and the tooth directly below the one he broke is the one without a permanent tooth underneath. He got lucky.

I am the target market


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Sunday, July 8. 2012

A few days ago, after I had been in the department store and seen all the school supplies out, there was an item on the news that night about the marketing strategy for school supply sales for that store. It is the largest "holiday," parents receive the school supply lists at the end of the year and if you wait til the end of August as school is going back, there won't be much selection were their reasons for starting back to school sales now. I listened, thought it was interesting and didn't think much further about it. Til, tonight.

S had taken AJ to a professional soccer game with some of his buddies and I stayed home with the other 3. A-girl had been sick Thursday/Friday and was on an antibiotic so we wanted her to go bed early so she was ready for the birthday party of a friend on Sunday. Then we realized the birthday shopping we were going to do Thursday night or Friday hadn't happened because we weren't going out with her (she had a fever Thursday and Friday but by Saturday night had been 24 hours fever free and on an antibiotic for over 24 hours). The party was at 10am Sunday so I would have no chance of going with her before the party so we went to a couple of stores and found ourselves back at the department store. On Friday as the kids had played, they made up lists of things they wanted to do over the summer. L had helped LJ write his out and one of the top items was "going school shopping." He is so excited about starting kindergarten.

As we walked by the school supply display, L said "Mom, can we just buy all our stuff now? LJ can take one of the things off his list, we will have a better selection and we will be done.....until you get the lists from school and see if we need anything else." I wondered if she had also watched the news or if in fact she may be on staff with the advertising department for the store. Had she, the one leading the protest of siblings against purchasing anything before the first of August, softened? Had she decided to celebrate this one big milestone with her little brother? Whatever the reason, she was putting aside her strong dislike for most things school and sharing in the joy her brother had about his starting school.

It felt like we had just finished school and frankly I didn't want to be thinking of school already. I wanted to enjoy my summer first. We have most things they need and because of schooling online, we can use/reuse things from last year so we really didn't need much. I was very surprised at the limited selection of folders and "fun" notebooks so I agreed to let them school shop. LJ was so excited and the girls were right in there as well. They even found special things for AJ (the only soccer folder in the entire store). You would have thought that LJ was given the biggest prize ever rather than a fifty cent box of crayons. We couldn't help but smile at the pure joy and excitement he had. His own pencils. His own erasers. His own folders (one orange and one with a monkey). We were laughing through the aisles. He was even bringing joy and smiles to others around us. His energy was contagious. As we went through the check out, he asked the clerk "Would you mind if I had my very own bag?!?! These are my school things for Kindergarten!!!" The woman in line with us couldn't help but laugh as he went on and on. She is a teacher and likely had a deeper appreciation for his joy.

As I stood in line waiting to check out, I realized I AM the target market for the department store back to school early sales. I did just what they expected us parents of school aged kids would do. I confirm their reasons for starting early (except that I don't have my supply list). UG! I pride myself in not being the target market for most things. It has become a running joke between S and I when I don't understand a commercial or laugh out loud at it and we jsut smile saying "We are not the target market." But tonight, I am.

In years past, I have not wanted to buy things for school because it signaled the end of summer. Oddly enough, now I feel like I can really enjoy the rest of the summer without having to fight the crowds in the back to school section knowing I've done that and its all tucked away til the last week of August.



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