Friday, May 31, 2013

And Summer Hasn't Even Begun.....

I felt bad about skipping a couple of weeks of blogging, but then I started looking through our recent photos and realized that we've barely been home, much less able to sit in front of a computer for more than a few minutes at a time.

Spring is always super-busy around here with two birthdays and Mother's Day.

What did I do for Mother's Day?  Well, I got to help out the kids' handbell choir at church for their big performance of Coldplay's "Viva la Vida".  Yes, you read that combination correctly - handbell choir and "Viva la Vida".  I know it sounds strange, but it was awesome.  And I'm not just saying that because my kid's in the choir.

Syd played the same song for her piano recital last month so even though it is a great song, I'm fairly tired of it at this point.  I still find myself humming either the bass line or melody at least once day.

The next day was Syd's tenth birthday.  Ten.  Double digits.  An entire decade.  I'm telling you, I don't feel old until I consider how old my kids are getting.  Well, that and the fact that my knees hurt every time it's about to rain.

But I digress.  Ten years old.  And what does a ten year old want for her birthday these days?

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That's right - her very own iPad mini!

(Don't worry - we're not spoiling her because she had to pay for half of it.)

Two days later, Evan had his 5th birthday.  I fretted over the lack of RSVPs from his class, but it turned out fine.  Two classmates, two church friends, a neighbor and two siblings (and a friend for the opposite gender sibling who cried because she was soooooooo lonely) was plenty for his party.  I learned my lesson from last year and just let the kids play the whole time.  I didn't even bake a fancy cake; the kids decorated their own cupcakes instead.

But they weren't bored.  We found this at a garage sale a few months ago:

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(Not the kid - the water slide.  We've had that kid for about six and a half years now.)

Best garage sale find ever.

The kids stayed busy and had a blast:

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And when it got hole in it toward the end of the party, we pulled out the giant bucket full of water balloons.  Ten minutes, a few tears and a couple of wet parents later, it was over.  I'd forgotten how much kids love water balloons.  Parents not so much when they get beaned by a few.

We couldn't pass up LegoFest the next day, either:

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The kids thought it was fun, but I find it ironic that Legos, something that quiet, introverted kids (and parents) love, have such a huge, noisy, chaotic convention.  It was basically an introvert's nightmare.  Anyway, learned our lesson on that one.

And then there was Evan's pre-school graduation, the ill-fated camping trip, an elementary school talent show and the two awards assemblies that I have to drag Evan to next week as Syd and Liam's school finishes out the year.

And then I can sleep.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sunny, High of 91

Sunny, high of 91.

That was supposed to be the forecast for the state park we visited over Memorial weekend.  It was the perfect forecast for floating down the river and splashing around with a hundred of our closest camping buddies.

What was the actual weather like?

Rainy, high of 75.

Not so much fun for floating down the river and splashing around with our friends, especially when the five inches of rain the area got made the river (at least the part we were camped next to) a raging, rapid-y mess and made the campsite look like a small lake.

Did I mention that our tent leaked the second night and got Syd's pillow soaking wet?  Or that my air mattress wouldn't hold air for more than two hours so I pretty much just slept on the ground?  Or that Ryan got a speeding ticket on the way?  Or that our canopy (that doubled as a clothes line) collapsed at two in the morning so Ryan and I had to pull in soaking wet towels and shove the mangled canopy off to the side of our tent while wearing our pajamas?  Or that all that activity in the middle of the night made me realize that I needed to use the bathroom so I had to pull on wet shoes (that had been drying under the now collapsed canopy) and hike a quarter of a mile to the community bathroom that was definitely feeling the strain of the 300 or so people using it during the holiday weekend?  Or that I had to hike back the quarter of a mile to our tent (in the rain, of course) and got lost because all campsites look exactly the same at two in the morning?  Or that Liam woke up with his tell-tale "seal bark cough" that let us know an asthma attack was imminent?  And of course, we didn't pack his breathing treatment apparatus because he hasn't had an asthma attack in months.


But....during the waking hours that it wasn't raining, we had a great time.  Really, we did.

The kids donned their life vests and braved the fairly rough waters of the aptly named Frio river.  They splashed with their friends, sprayed each other with water cannons, caught tadpoles, painted themselves with mud and collected river rocks.

They climbed trees, gawked at the vultures that were scavenging around neighboring campsites, rode their bikes and played with their friends.  At one point, our tent was filled with kids doing Mad Libs.  Of course, every verb suggested was a bodily function and every noun suggested was a bodily fluid, but there was a lot of laughing going on in there.

Ryan hung up my new hammock and I actually got to read a bit of my book, relax and listen to the gross Mad Libs being created.  The cooler temperatures made this possible; had it been the predicted temperature, it would have been way too hot for me to enjoy my hammock.

Behind the giant piles of river-floating tubes used by our camping group, there was a Speak Easy containing a homemade margarita machine (a cooler, some piping and a garbage disposal).  It sure was nice to have a yummy margarita to go with the delicious barbecue the dads made for dinner.

And Liam finally lost his first tooth.  The poor boy was so upset that he had literally lost it somewhere in the campsite.  He was worried all day that the Tooth Fairy wouldn't find him because we weren't at home or that she wouldn't leave him any money because he didn't have the tooth to leave under his pillow.  We sat down and wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining the situation and my weekend was made when he woke up Sunday morning and found a dollar under his pillow.  The look on his face was priceless.  And then he coughed his terrible cough and we knew our camping weekend was over.

We quickly packed up our gear, grabbed breakfast, apologized profusely for leaving a day earlier than we were supposed to and headed out just before another terrible storm hit.  My sister told me later that the spot where our tent was placed was a giant puddle after that storm so I'm glad we left when we did.

Despite the rain and all of the mishaps, we really did have a great time and that's saying a lot coming from a person who does not particularly like camping even in the best of circumstances.

And it certainly was memorable.

But I am kinda glad most of the trips are for dads and kids only.  I can only handle that much excitement once a year.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Long-ish Update and Random Vent

Can I just say thanks for all of the supportive comments and private messages on my last post?  To know that other people (even ones who've never met him) care about my little guy makes me have a little more faith in humanity.

I decided to not confront his teacher about the whole mess.  The school year is almost over and there's nothing she can do at this point that would help him.  Plus, just the thought of having a conference with her over this makes me upset; I cannot even imagine how upset I'd be in her presence while discussing it all.  I've got another kid starting at that school next year and I don't want to be known as the parent who cries uncontrollably.

But, when his teacher sent home a note saying Liam didn't do his work in class because he was playing around too much, I did respond back with a note of my own asking her to move him if it would help him focus more.  She replied that she would if the behavior continued.  I find this situation strange because of the thirty something weekly conduct grades he's received, only three have been "S" (Satisfactory) instead of "E" (Excellent).  Playing around can't explain the pile of unfinished work, can it?  If so, exactly how poorly behaved are the other 17 kids in his class if he's one of only three kids who got to attend the Good Behavior Party last week?

Anyway, enough of that.  Summer will be here soon enough and we can move on with our lives.  Hopefully.

Liam did manage to finally get through all of his sight word cards this week without any help which earned him a new Wii game.  And yes, I know bribes are terrible, but it was seriously the only thing to motivate this poor child.  The best part was listening to Evan prepping him before we went over the words.

Evan (holding up flash card): What's this one?
Liam: Ell.  No.  All.
Evan: And if I put a 'b' in front of it?
Liam: Ball.
Evan: And if I put an 'f' in front of it?
Liam: Fall.

Future teacher, maybe?


Speaking of Evan (how's that for a terrible segue?), his birthday is next week.  We throw a big party for the kids when they turn five so it's his turn for lots of his friends to invade our house and eat cake.  However, of the 16 invitations we handed out, I've received only four replies all of which were "no".  I see most of the parents on a regular basis at school, but I haven't heard a word from any of them.  I even included an e-mail address for RSVPing on the invitation for the more introverted parents who don't like to socialize in the hallway or talk on the phone.

So now I'm in a panic.  Are the other twelve coming or not?  How am I supposed to plan a party when no one RSVPs?  Are we going to have a bunch of leftover cupcakes?  Am I going to have a devastated five year old on my hands if no one shows up?

Talk about frustrating.

The moral of this story?  Please RSVP to parties so Type A mothers like myself don't get in a tizzy.

Friday, May 3, 2013


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I love this kid.  I love him so much it hurts.

But I am heartbroken for him and I honestly don't know what to do.

He's six and half years old and is really struggling to read.  I mean, really, really, struggling with it.

I know that kids learn to read at different ages.  At least in my head I know this.  And it should be fine to let him work at his own pace, but his school seems to think that all kids should be reading geniuses by the end of kindergarten; heaven forbid there be any student who can't independently work on the five million worksheets needed to prepare for a stupid standardized test.

My sweet Liam just cannot do it.  He sat in my lap and cried the other day after struggling with his sight words.  This is a boy who generally cries only when he is seriously physically hurt.  Getting knocked over on the soccer field doesn't phase him.  Not being able to read the word "all" on an index card makes him cry, though.  He looked up at me with tears streaming down his face and asked, "Why is reading so hard for my brain, Mommy?"

It almost killed me.

I don't know what it's like to struggle with the concept of putting letters together to make words.  It's always been easy for me.  It was easy for Sydney who finished the entire Harry Potter series by the end of 2nd grade.  It's easy for Evan, who is 18 months younger than Liam and reading at a level that is probably on par with most first graders.

The look on Liam's face when Evan reads an entire book by himself is the saddest I've ever seen on a small child.  He is humiliated that his little brother reads better than he does.

Heaven knows I have tried with him.  I've looked for books that fit his interests; he still doesn't want to read them.  We look for words everywhere to practice: signs on the side of the road, the church bulletin, restaurant menus.  He just doesn't like it.

He's never enjoyed reading.  While the other two kids would climb into my lap as toddlers and read book after book for hours on end, Liam would sit still for about five minutes and would be done.  Bedtime stories don't interest him; he'd rather play with his legos for an extra ten minutes or draw a picture.  While the other two are content to read a book in the car, he'd rather look out the window.

I know every kid has their strengths and weaknesses.  His strength is his athleticism.  Despite his asthma, he will join in any physical game or sport with anyone.  He'll jump into a basketball game with kids twice his size and age.  He kayaked for the first time over the weekend and was great at it.  He was riding a bike at the age of three and excels at soccer.  How many adults can run at full speed and kick a moving ball at the same time?  Not this one, I can tell you that.

But his teacher doesn't care about that.  She doesn't care that he can take a pile of legos and build anything you tell him to.  She doesn't care that he is constantly drawing pictures.  She doesn't get how amazing it is that he can tell you the entire Star Wars saga from start to finish in one sitting despite the fact that two years ago you couldn't understand a word he was saying due to a speech development issue.

She does care that he can't finish his work.  She sent home a huge pile of it today with a note saying, "I found these in his box.  He either didn't finish them or didn't turn them in."  The pile was a good three inches thick.

Did she tell me how long this pile has been accumulating?  No.  Did she tell me why he can't finish his work?  No.  Did she tell me why she's just now noticed this gigantic pile of unfinished work in is cubby?  Nope.

He's told me more than once that he's had to miss recess to finish his work.  So first of all, his teacher knows this is an issue and he's struggling.  And second of all, as a 25 year veteran kindergarten teacher, she should know that taking away recess from a physically active kid is not going to encourage him to finish his work.  It does the exact opposite.

In all fairness to her, I haven't spoken to her about it yet.  She may have a perfectly logical explanation for the entire situation.  But what am I supposed to do about this when school ends in four weeks?  Just how long has he been sitting at his little desk struggling and getting frustrated?  How long have those unfinished papers been sitting in his cubby?  I know that teachers are overworked and underpaid; I was one for several years.  But I can't  begin to describe how angry I am right now.  Quit sending home cute notes about how the class watched baby chicks hatch or how they made little ice ball snowmen and timed how long it took them to melt or how you all worked together to build a paper dragon for Chinese New Year.  Those are great activities and I'm glad he got to experience them, but I'd rather you notice (and care) when my kid is struggling!!

No wonder he hates school!  I know most kids say that lunch and recess are their favorite subjects, but knowing what I know now, I don't doubt that those are his favorite times during the school day.

I feel like I've failed him.  I feel like his teacher has failed him.  I feel like he is never going to like school because he's had such a rough first year of it.  This is exactly why I requested a certain teacher (not the one he has) for him when I registered him for kindergarten.  He may be physically resilient, but he is emotionally fragile.

All I can do is make sure he has an awesome summer because next year will likely be absolute torture for him.

And it shouldn't have to be.

We're looking at all of our options.  There's a Montessori school across the street from his current school that warrants a visit.  I don't particularly want to home school him, but I will if I think I can match his learning style more than the school.

Learning can be fun.  It should be fun.  It shouldn't make you cry and ask why your brain doesn't work right.