I feel like my last post all about our summer fun has given you the impression that our summer was great and wonderful and perfect and parts of it were, but just between you and me, this past summer was a hard one for me. My kids were incapable of getting along with each other for any stretch of time. They were fighting all. the. time. I felt like I was losing my mind and that I was failing as a parent. Even though school brings with it its own set of frustrations and annoyances, I was ready to trade our summer situation for school in the hopes that the new school year would reset and revitalize us. So far things have been pretty good. I’ll give you a child-by-child summary.
Brooke is starting fourth grade. She made herself a headband just for the occasion. Brooke was convinced she was not excited about starting school. Then she looked at the class list and was disappointed by who was and was not in her class and was further annoyed. The last couple of weeks before school started she would say things like, “Mom. I’m not going to school on the first day of school. I’m just staying home.” To which I would say something like, “You have to go to school. It’s the law.” To which she would retort, “The law? The LAW?! There’s a law that says I have to be ripped away from my dear, sweet mother for SIX HOURS every day?! How does that make sense? Shouldn’t I be able to be with my family?”
Please, no one tell her that home school exists.
Luckily, the morning of school she got ready and went without complaint. It’s been a mixed bag when she comes home about whether it was a good day or not. The first day it was, ‘I HATE French. I can’t understand my teacher. It’s the worst. English is so much better.” The second day it was, “Ugh. My English teacher is too strict. French is so much better.” The third day it was, “My teacher kept saying, ‘Brooke. Where are your papers? Brooke, I can’t keep giving you new papers every time you lose them.'”
One day Brooke came home super excited. She told me and Dallas all about what she had done at school that day. The conversation went something like this:
Brooke: “My teacher gave us all pink erasers and I had the idea to carve wheels into the bottom of my eraser and name him Eddie Racer, so he’s actually Eddie Racer/Ed Eraser/E. Racer. Get it?”
Me: “That’s actually…brilliant.”
Brooke (gloating): “I know. It was such a good idea.”
Me: “The only thing is, I’m wondering what your teacher was talking about as you were busy carving wheels into your eraser.”
Brooke (only just now realizing she may have missed hearing something important): *blink* *blink*
The next day:
Brooke: “Today I took E. Racer and drew all over the wheels to make them black so when I erase with him it makes black smudges all over my paper and it’s like he’s going so fast he’s burning rubber. Burning rubber. Get it?”
Me: “That’s actually…brilliant.”
Brooke (gloating): “I know. It was such a good idea.”
Me: “Once again, I’m wondering what your teacher was talking…” (noticing her eyes glazing over) “…oh, never mind.”
Brooke: “My teacher said our math paper was going to be tricky today. As soon as she said that I felt my heart crumble into a million little caterpillars that wiggled into my stomach and turned to butterflies.” A+ for imagery on that one, Brooke.
In an effort to teach responsibility, Brooke has a planner she is supposed to bring home and have me sign every day. I think in the two weeks she’s had it she’s remembered to bring it home about 50% of the time. This less-than-stellar track record has caused some problems. If it’s not signed, she loses points, and if she loses so many points she will miss a class party. Obviously she needed a solution and simply remembering to bring her planner home and having me sign it wasn’t working so she resorted to her plan B which was forgery. She got busted by her teacher because along with forging my name on the wrong day, it of course looked nothing like my signature, and everything like a fourth grader trying to be sneaky. When she came home, I saw what she had done and we had a nice little chat about how forgery is a serious thing and that we believe in being honest even if it means she has to turn in her planner without a signature from time to time.
Between the whole E. Racer thing and this I’m pretty sure I’m raising either a creative genius or a future felon. At this point it could go either way. Someone hold me.
Caroline is starting second grade. She saw Brooke’s headband and ran back inside to grab one of her own, so it was a headband kind of day for us. I had all sorts of grand plans of having the kids do schoolwork during the summer to keep up with things, but that didn’t happen hardly ever. A couple of days before school started I forced Caroline to write a story about her day. I was charmed by her spelling of the word “gymnastics”.
Last year Caroline had a really strict teacher. I could tell as the year went on that some days she felt really anxious when it was time to go to school. She is a good student and doesn’t get in trouble, but the worry of possibly getting in trouble was too much for her at times. This year her teachers seem a lot more relaxed, and while I know one of them is somewhat strict, he also jokes around with the kids and makes them laugh which is a good balance. I feel like Caroline has a little bit more of a bounce in her step these days which is a relief to see after last year when she was so weighted down with worry.
Both girls before school:
Caroline was nervous/excited and Brooke was faking her enthusiasm like a pro.
This little guy is a new kindergartener.
Before school started I had him practice writing his name to make sure he still remembered how. He did and then drew me the cutest picture ever:
My little Spencer has been perplexing me for a year now. Up until age 4 he was happy, easy-going, friendly, and basically everything you could want in a child. Then last summer I noticed him start to grow anxious in new situations. He would cling to me and refuse to go play. He stopped talking around most people he didn’t know well. I didn’t know what was causing this change or what to do. I was so nervous for him to do kindergarten. I had visions of him having panic attacks each morning just thinking about going.
Spencer’s teacher sent a getting-to-know-you email out before school started and asked if there was anything we thought she needed to know. I emailed her back some of my worries that Spencer would be really shy and nervous about school. On the first day of school the parents got to go with their kindergarteners for orientation. Sure enough Spencer clung to me as I expected. His teacher greeted us at the door and asked him some questions. He didn’t say a word. I gave the teacher an I-told-you-he-would-be-like-this look.
The one glimmer of hope I had throughout all of this was that Spencer was actually so excited for kindergarten. I don’t even know what about it made him excited, but even towards the end of preschool last year he started begging to be able to go to kindergarten. I had to make him a little calendar so we could count down the days until kindergarten began. I marked the days where I got to go with him for orientation and testing. Then I drew a big circle around the day where he would go on his own. He carefully crossed off each day. He loved the days when we went together. Finally the day came when he was on his own.
(He’s the one that’s a head shorter than everyone else.)
I watched him walk in the classroom. He was fine. I left.
I picked him up at the end of the day. He was fine. HE WAS FINE! I made eye contact with his teacher and gave a questioning look. She gave me a thumbs up and said he did great. I could not have been more shocked. In the days since school started I feel like I have my happy, easy-going, sweet boy back. He’s still not the most talkative kid, but maybe it’s because I’m used to his sisters and he’s just a fellow of fewer words. Whatever it is, it’s been so refreshing to see this new confidence in him. I feel like he’s turning into the cutest little big boy and I love it.
One exciting aspect of school for Spencer is that he gets homework now. I die of cuteness when I see him huddled over his school paper with his pencil poised. His first homework assignment had him draw a picture of an object that begins with A.
Spencer: “What can I draw?”
Me: “An apple?”
Me: “An astronaut? An acorn? An ape? An arrow?”
Spencer: “No. Those are too hard to draw.”
Me: “An apple is easy. Just draw a circle and a line coming out the top.”
Spencer: “I can’t do that.”
Me: “An ambulance! Draw an ambulance!”
Spencer (face lighting up): “Yes. I can draw that.”
Two minutes later.
Spencer: “Now a picture that starts with B. Bus.”
Two minutes later:
Spencer: “C? That’s easy. Car.”
Will we be able to come up with vehicles that begin with every letter of the alphabet in the upcoming weeks? Stay tuned!
This is her smile-for-the-camera face.
Madison doesn’t get to go to school unless you count taking Spencer to kindergarten which believe me, she counts. She loves to go play on the playground before the bell rings and it turns out Spencer and Madison are adorable together when it’s just the two of them. When the big girls are around Spencer likes to try to play with them and it tends to bother one or both of them, but when it’s just Madison he’s the sweetest big brother. He takes her all around the playground showing her the fun things and protecting her from the bigger kids.
Also, when we’re home he’ll take her by the hand and say, “Come on, Madison! Let’s go play!” Then he’ll walk her to the bedrooms and they’ll play for hours together. The first time this happened, I didn’t see them surface until close to lunchtime. I was busy cleaning up the kitchen and living room and didn’t check on them because I believe in letting sleeping dogs lie. The next time this happened, I did check on them. I found them in Brooke and Caroline’s room playing with all of the toys that the big girls expressly forbid them to play with, namely their Legos. Hoo boy were the girls fit to be tied when they came home and saw that Spencer and Madison had messed up their Lego city. It was then that I realized why Spencer was so cute in making sure Madison came with him to play. As Brooke and Caroline started ripping into him he was able to say in all half-truth honesty, “It was Madison. She is the one who was playing with your Legos.”
Since Spencer has afternoon kindergarten I’ve been salivating at the fact that I will get to drop him off, come home, put Madison down for a nap and have two and a half glorious hours to myself. Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee! Then the day, THE VERY DAY before Spencer went to school on his own for the first time Madison learned how to climb out of her crib meaning she is now trying to climb out all the time thus making nap time a difficult chore. Sigh. Just when I thought I had arrived motherhood sucker punches me yet again.
We got this (I think). We are ready for this school year (I hope)…just as long as Madison keeps her afternoon nap (Please!).
It’s a really weird thing to have your oldest child start turning into a big kid. I’m used to babies since they’ve been my focus for the past eight years, so Brooke routinely catches me off guard with her…I hesitate to say maturity exactly…but something like that. The smallest seed of maturity is almost peeking through, and every once in a while I catch a glimpse.
The first time I really noticed this was a little while ago. I had to give a lesson in Primary and told Brooke that I would be teaching. She said, “Are you going to use that voice?”
Me (taken aback): “Voice? What voice?”
Brooke: “You know. That voice you use when you talk to little kids. Like this.”
She then proceeded to do such a spot-on imitation of my “teacher voice” that I was gobsmacked. How has my mostly oblivious child picked up on my perhaps slightly obnoxious mannerisms and started ribbing me about them?! Is this my life now?
My mind instantly recalled all the teasing my sister and I did to my poor Mom, my favorite being the time my Mom made a laughing sound, but her face didn’t smile. That right there was UNFORGIVABLE to my sister and she never let my Mom live it down.
Now here I am. Payback. I think I preferred being on the other side of the equation.
But back to Brooke. She gets jokes now. She can understand deeper themes in books. It’s really kind of delightful in a way. And scary. Let’s do more examples.
Now that Brooke is eight she gets to accompany me to the general women’s session of general conference. This wasn’t exactly welcome news to Brooke. On the way over she was grumbling and complaining about having to get a dress on and go to a boring meeting. During the opening song I noticed there were young girls mixed in with the women singing in the choir. Hoping to cheer Brooke up a bit I excitedly said, “Look! There are girls your age!”
Brooke (with mock enthusiasm): “Yeah. And look! There are grown-ups YOUR age.”
Brooke asked if we could just skip out and go get ice cream instead. After all, that would be way more fun.
I sensed a great opportunity for teaching a lesson and began a sermon. “Brooke, we are about to be nourished by the word of God. That’s far better than ice cream. Jesus taught that we can eat ice cream and if we eat ice cream, that’s it. We’ll still get hungry later, but if we ‘eat’ the words of God, we’ll never hunger again.”
After a moment of silence, surely allowing the Spirit to pierce her soul with the truthfulness of my words, she said eagerly, “So, you’re saying I only need to go to one meeting, I’ll hear what I need to hear, and then I will never have to go back to church again?”
Um. That is not at all what I was saying, but that was pretty sound logic, and I was rendered speechless.
Luckily she’s also starting to understand the beauty of a compromise. We made it through the meeting without further incident and then I finished off the evening chatting with my favorite almost-big-kid-eight-year-old…
…over a bowl of ice cream.
I was asked to take the pictures at our ward’s Christmas party. We had a great Santa this year.
Madison is currently going through a thing with sticking her tongue out whenever we are taking a picture of her.
Brooke brought along her Christmas wishlist. She presented it to Santa when they got to see him, then she waited until all the kids were gone so she could explain all the pictures to make sure Santa understood what she wanted.
One of the items on her list is a magical necklace that will bring all her imaginary friends to life. Santa said he would see what he could do. Good luck Santa!
Let’s start off this round of pictures with one of Dallas and his man-crush Scott Kelby:
On Mother’s Day Brooke made me this:
It’s not everyday you get an airplane banner message, so I felt pretty special.
Spencer was cute eating a Fun Dip:
He got a little crazy with sidewalk chalk:
I have a friend on Instagram who is always posting the cutest pictures of her child sleeping. That has led me to do some serious reflection on my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to take more sleeping-child pictures. So I have:
There. I already feel like I’m leading a more fulfilling life now.
Let’s move on to another picture of Caroline with her beloved pig hat:
Caroline wore that silly hat EVERYWHERE, for better or for worse.
Madison tried it out as well:
You may be relieved to know that the pig hat is no longer. At my Mom’s and sister’s and husband’s insistence I threw the pig hat away. Don’t tell Caroline.
We went on a fun hike. The trail started off looking a little spooky:
Caroline used my phone to see all the dirt on her face. She couldn’t believe her eyes, apparently:
Caroline loves Jell-o. She saved up enough money to buy her own package of Jell-o so she didn’t have to share with anyone:
My bearded brother:
We had a flat tire. Dallas hurriedly put the spare on before leaving for work. Spencer saw the jack still out and used it to do some repairs on his jeep:
Madison has a thing for shoes:
Poor baby fell off her trike and skinned her elbow. The actual wound wasn’t too bad. Until she started picking at it. So we put band-aids on it. Which apparently she had an allergic reaction to. So her arm looked like this:
You’ll be happy to know we found non-latex wraps and after a few days of TLC her arm is now looking much better.
At the same time her arm skin was bubbling up and falling off her body, her face looked like this:
That was a rough time in baby’s life.
Flashback to February when I had a birthday! Happy birthday to me!
Brooke made our family out of Legos:
This scene is one of my favorite Lego things she’s done. You can’t tell from the picture, but the thing on the right is a snack machine. There was a slot to put Lego money in and a way to make an actual snack fall from the machine. The thing on the left is a soft drink machine:
Spencer was proud of his Lego car:
And whatever this was:
This is the creepiest thing my kids have done. Our neighbors were moving. The kids wanted to see the action but got bored watching, so they set up video cameras to record the whole thing:
I love to imagine what the neighbors would have thought had they known their every move was being filmed. Probably that they were getting out of the neighborhood in the nick of time.
Brooke used paper to weave a checkers board and she and Caroline played some game they made up:
Flossing is hard:
Brooke and Caroline were having a paper airplane contest. Brooke named her plane “The Black Star.” She recruited Spencer to be her cheering section and gave him a flag to wave and a hat to wear, complete with the Black Star logo:
Spencer has added a new machine to his drawing repertoire. Here we have a digger:
Spencer used Perler beads to make a sunrise:
We got a hummingbird feeder. I have never seen hummingbirds just out in nature around here so I was skeptical that we would attract any…but we did! We have several that come and go every day:
This picture is hard to see, but Spencer was recreating the crash scene in one of his books with his cars:
This little girl loves to climb the bunk bed ladder and sit at the top giving me a panic attack every time I catch her up there:
When Madison is surprised she makes a perfect O with her mouth:
Believe it or not, this post gets us up to date on the blog. We thought this day would never come!