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The Best Of Times

     The first week of school is always the best of times and the worst of times for both parents and their kiddos. As mamas, we wait all summer for that magical day. The day when the shiny yellow buses will pull up to our homes and whisk our insufferable yet adorably clad children from our shoving arms and then babysit them for 8 whole hours.... for free. The day when we find ourselves standing quietly in our kitchens, alone yet joined with every other mother in the world, as we take a sip of coffee and finally feel hope in the thought that we may get to finish the entire cup without a single interruption. The day when we spend thoughtful amounts of time picking outfits for the next day, packing a variety of lunches that comply with the food pyramid, having a snack ready for the lovelies when they walk in the door after their hard day of learning, and then we feed them the delicious (yet nutritious) dinner that we actually had time to plan, prep, and cook.
     Our kids are equally as excited about the first week of school. The thought of getting away from their siblings and being around peers is thrilling where they are free to discuss deep things like action figures, rock collections, and dress shoes with a quarter-inch heel.... things that their families couldn't possibly understand. The promise of little to no homework is a dream come true as they get to know their yet-to-be-frazzled teachers, who are still wearing smiles and giving free passes to rules forgotten over those long summer months. Children are just as excited running to the bus as they are to be running from it at the end of the day, and the prospect of learning new things isn't "scary", "too hard", or "unfair". Yes, autumn is truly a magical time.
     But we all know that after autumn, there must always be a winter....
     It is almost with certainty that before the first snow fall (or maybe even by the third week of school?) things will start getting a bit.....hairy. Instead of meticulously picking out a fashionable yet practical outfit for each kiddo the night before school, we will be scurrying around in the morning looking for clean things (aka things that don't stink or stand up on their own) and that don't look hideous together. (And even if they do look hideous, we won't mind all that much.) Daughters will be sent to school wearing skirts on gym day, and sons will wear, with utter certainty, a white t-shirt on art day. Peanut butter and jelly will be eaten 5 days in a row because no one had time to do the shopping, and the food groups will get overtaken by Halloween candy, Christmas candy, Valentine's Day candy, and Easter candy. Dinner will turn into chicken patties and tater tots being scarfed down before running frantically out the door to fundraisers and sporting events.
     And if we think that we have it bad, let's remember our poor kids! We must keep in mind that their brains turned to oatmeal over the summer, and that will become painfully obvious to parents, teachers, and the children themselves as simple review questions take a nasty turn to something called "learning new things". Their world's will be shattered by new concepts named "geometry" and "grammar". Tears will be shed. Pencils will be thrown. Homework battles will ensue. Along with spelling words, our kiddos will also learn street smarts by winter. You know all those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you'll be packing? Yeah, there's not a chance in this world that they're eating them. They will have learned the handiness of trading or the sneakiness of throwing it away when they realize that everyone else's parent has also packed them a 5th PB&J that week. I doubt this will lead to a life of criminal activity or gang-related violence, but we'll never know for sure, will we?
     It's the first week of school and it's the best of times. So enjoy it. Every minute. If you're home, kick your heels up for a half hour (ok ok, an hour) and watch a T.V. show with a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Celebrate! You earned it after the summer you gave them. And if you're a mama working outside of the home, stop by that coffee shop on your lunch break and treat yourself to a second scone, because you don't have to spend those extra few minutes calling the sitter to see if she got the glue out of your daughter's hair, courtesy of her brother. Enjoy. Every. Second. And then, after week two is in full swing, put on your big girl panties and start doing your push ups. Because we all know that the craziness is about to hit the fan and we will want to be prepared. And we can do it! We MUST do it! Remember that no one ever died from PB&J, spelling tests, or forgetting to pack gym shoes. Give yourself (and your kiddos) a little bit of grace as the weeks trudge on and mop up the crap as it drops. It'll be OK, I promise you, from one crazed Mama to another. Just don't forget the coffee.

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Making Friends 101

     Taylor's first day of school was a success! In fact, she informed me this evening that she thinks she's going to continue going everyday... as if this were an option of sorts. Nevertheless, I'm glad she's on board, so I told her it was a good choice to keep going. So, I asked her all of the normal school questions: What did you do today? What did you eat for lunch? Did you make any friends? What were their names? It was the answer to the last question that left me wondering if we need to get her hearing checked. Taylor announced that she has three best friends and that their names are "Lucash, Zuke, and Leven". Now, unless her classroom is filled with hobbits, this seems highly unlikely to me. But since they are her "best friends", I will not judge... even if they ARE short with large, furry feet.
     Cameron, on the other hand, is not only neglecting to learn his classmates names, he's neglecting his classmates altogether. The fact that he is continuously being held back from recess due to not being able to stay quiet when he's supposed to be listening or because he hasn't finished his assignments, probably isn't helping matters. (Begin tirade: My kid's impulsive.... he's going to talk. Maybe consequencing him by taking away his ONLY talking and running time isn't the best solution.... And since he has problems reading and he will always take longer to get his work done, is it fair to punish him? Cameron's NOT the "problem student" that I fear he's being labeled. He was in FIVE Kindergarten classes last year because of his awful family situations.... he has no idea how to make friends because he's never been anywhere long enough to learn.... he got behind academically and he has the lowest self-confidence a 6-year-old can.... have some compassion and let the boy play for 20 minutes! I anticipate parent-teacher conferences requiring Xanax and a box of tissues.... End tirade.)
     Anyways, to help him make friends, and to improve his self-esteem, we decided to sign Cameron up for soccer (a few weeks past registration, so I literally know NOTHING about his team, where the field is, or who the coaches are.... best mom ever, right?). However, it didn't exactly occur to us that he wouldn't know what soccer is.... or that he is completely uncoordinated. So this could utterly backfire and make him feel even worse about himself (bring on the Xanax and box of tissues, again)! If only there were a sport or team-building activity that would allow him to dig holes, play with bugs, and look at tractors, all the while playing Angry Birds. Then he'd kick some 1st grade can! But until we're able to enroll him in John Deere school, we're going to give soccer a try and hope for the best. Feel free to come out and support our team (whatever our name is)... we're apparently the ones wearing green shirts this Saturday. I'll be the mom death-gripping her travel mug, chanting "please run the right way, please run the right way" and screaming like a maniac if my kid makes contact with the ball. GO TEAM!!!

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The Kissing Hand

     Today was Taylor's first day of school ever! For her first day, the teacher wanted the parents to come and sit in with the kids all day to help them adjust. Afterall, it is a big deal to go from being at home all day to 5 hours of school, rules, and new foods! So, I took the day off of work to meet with Cameron's teacher and to be with Taylor in her classroom... (since I really can't picture my large, Italian husband perched on the edge of a kiddy chair for 5 hours without something catastrophic happening.) It was seriously one of the best days I've had with the kids since they've been in our home. I was still extremely tired, but the only thing I had to do in that moment was to be present for them.... no work, no cleaning, no papers to fill out, just straight attentiveness to the kids.
     The other benefit that I found was socializing with other parents. Did you know that ALL kids are crazy? It's not just mine! In fact, today Taylor, who is usually lazy as a sloth, was the best cleaner-upper in the class AND she asked to take a nap! There must be magic in the water at school (or benefits of having her mom home and attentive to her all day) because this is a brand new child! Riverside Head Start will be getting a hefty donation if they can also get her to stop picking her nose.... 'cause that habits a-gotta-go!
     One of the activities they had the kids do with their Mommy's was to make kissing hands (Cameron's teacher did this with the kids last week, but I hadn't read the book, so I had no idea what it was for!). The teacher read a story about a nervous raccoon that had to go to school and was terrified of missing his mom while gone. So she kissed the palm of her baby's hand and told him that her love will never wash off, and that if he gets scared at school, he can place the kiss on his cheek or his heart and he will know his mother loves and misses him. (Awww, right?) So, us mommies and kiddies traced our hands on construction paper, cut them out, drew a heart on each one, and then kissed the paper hands. Taylor keeps my big hand at school, and I keep her little hand with me at work. This way she can pull it out if she misses me.
     Now, my kid has attachment issues and I figured there's no way in this world that she's ever gonna give one more thought to my hand. So, about a half hour later, my on-call phone rang and I had to slip out of the classroom to answer it. Taylor was busy with another little girl and I figured I wouldn't be all that long on the phone, so I left without telling her where I was. However, when I returned to the classroom just minutes later, I was greeted by the teacher and my little girl, face stained with tears, holding my kissing hand to her cheek and choking on her sobs. This is the first time my heart broke and rejoiced at the same time. I never want her to feel sad.... but I sooo desperately want to feel love from this baby of mine. I picked her up and hugged her tightly and I thanked her for missing me.
     But have no fear, she repaid my classroom absence by embarrassing me thoroughly at McDonald's after school. But let me back up. This morning, we were on our way to school. She was nervous, I was nervous, and we both have nervous tummies. We were almost to her building and I knew I needed to let out some "steam" before going inside for the next 5 hours. However, as I did, Taylor looked out the car window and yelled, "ARE THERE FIREWORKS AT MY SCHOOL?!?!?!?" I couldn't play it cool, I couldn't hold it in. I laughed out loud in embarrassment. I explained that no, her school is totally awesome, but it doesn't have fireworks. That was just Mommy passing some gas. (Fast forward to McDonald's for an after-school sundae.) We just got our ice cream (great idea for a set of nervous tummies, eh?) and we were walking past a table of old men when Taylor chuckled and said (yelled), "Hey Mommy, remember when you farted and it sounded like fireworks in the car?" Maybe Head Start can work with her on this, too.....

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