Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I'm looking for the Do-Over button on today. It's gotta be here somewhere.....
If not a Do-Over, than perhaps a mind eraser? That would work too.

I missed out on a huge opportunity today. It wasn't an opportunity to make money or obtain something new; but a chance to show calmness in the face of pure and utter frustration. And I blew it. Big time.

When the girls came home from school today, I was dismayed to see some rather unwelcome "behavior" issues with Ashlyn. Being only the 7th day of school, it was both disappointing and a bit upsetting. This is a first for me. I've always been the on the note writing side of the fence, so being the receiver of such a notification was both unpleasant and uncool. (My sincere apologies to my past classroom parents on notes sent home. I hope you took it all with a grain of salt.) I definitely want my children to behave well in class. Rules are there to protect everyone, and they need to be followed. I am a stickler for that in our house too. Break a rule, lose a privilege.

The particular offenses today were of the "Lack Of Attention" variety. In my book,this goes right along with two main features of the girls: they're 5 and they're in Kindergarten. These two reckonings go hand in hand, if you ask me. I would be surprised if their focus didn't wander from time to time. In this case, Ashlyn wasn't participating during seat work, and then later she didn't participate in small group work. Both worksheets were sent home to me. Allowing me a moment to vent, please bear with me, neither worksheet was something I would (in my teaching experience) classify as group work or really, 2nd week Kindergarten stuff. Firstly, they were both multi-sectioned things in which the student was expected to switch mental gears a bit from activity to activity. Secondly, it mixed more complex elements (like naming the letter that comes before the listed letters in one section, and writing the answer in upper case). Hey...make my kid think. Challenge her. Absolutely. I want her to stretch her brain. BUT.....but.....can it really surprise anyone that a 5 year old might have some trouble sitting still and trying to stay on task when it was easy to become lost in the many facets of this one worksheet?

That being said (and as I said, that's my vent moment), expectations are expectations. So I worked through each sheet with Ashlyn, who bemoaned the entire long duration of it. During this time, I lost my patience a few times. (It was so hard not to when I was trying to get her to work through some of the more difficult concepts on the worksheets and Caedance was nearby goofing off rather than working on her tasks). In the end, I did get her through both sheets. And we then spent time talking about how school work is not a choice she can make, and when she's in class, she'll do what her teacher asks her to do. Period. Not decide that the worksheet is for the birds and draw mice instead.

Looking back on it, I wish I had handled it better. Truth be told, we're still trying to get into a smooth rhythm with all this. Doing homework every day is a bit new for me, and I'm finding it a challenge to work with both of them simultaneously when they both have unique needs with things. Working with them separate is the best way to handle things, but keeping the other on task is sometimes hard. Because they've never had to do it. Because they've never been in this situation. So we've got a learning curve going on. All of us. They've got their hands full acclimating to this totally new environment of school with a new set of rules and expected behaviors. And I've got my hands full working through the mechanics of it all; meeting each of their needs so that they can use the homework to help them...not just waste our time.

We'll get there. I know. I knew there would be an adjustment period. But somewhere in the back of my mind I still hoped that it would go so much smoother than this. I was subconsciously hoping that mine wouldn't the students drawing mice during lesson times. But...alas....mine were the children squeaking at the principal during registration, so why wouldn't they be the mouse drawers in class?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Invention Of Standing In Line

Every morning the students at Franklin Elementary are supposed to stand in line and wait until they are called to go into school. Line by line. Class by class. I am one of many parents who feel the need to watch over this process, making sure that my children are able to follow the "Stand In Line" protocol. What I have found is that when you're 5 "Standing In Line" can mean many different things.

For example, to "Stand In Line" may mean hopping vigorously up and down as fast as you possibly can. Standing in line my also mean whacking your brother ceremoniously about the head as many times as you can before you get caught. (There is a set of twin brothers in the girls class). And then again, standing in line may look curiously like skipping around your comrades, choosing to sample the view from any number of other lines before alighting back to your own.

For Ashlyn and Caedance, the definition of Line is blurry. This week I observed the fact that they will not stand front to back of each other. They will only stand side to side. School policies aside, (and I am a big supporter of walking nicely in a single file line), this has actually tugged at my heart strings a bit. At first I was annoyed, thinking "WHY can't they stand correctly? What is so hard about this?" I found myself walking up to them, pulling one behind the other and holding up a hand that clearly read, "Stay". I'd look on in absolute dismay as the other students stood in a beautiful straight line (after the aforementioned line-dissenters were corrected), and mine continued to stand in stony, resolute silence; side by side.

After dropping them off today, I got to thinking about the whole Side-By-Side thing and a light bulb lit up inside my head. PING! (That's the sound of a light bulb going on in my head, mind you). They weren't being deliberately disobedient. Nor were they ignoring directions. Rather, they were facing the situation in the way they know best; in the ONLY way the know, really. Together. Shoulder to shoulder, as one. Every single aspect of their lives thus far has been joined. They've done everything together both by choice and by circumstance. I've been amazed many times at their lack the word "I" and the constant repetition of "We". They are a unit. They think of themselves as such. And to those who may cry foul and decree that my children do not have a sense of self-identity and independence, may I kindly say you are quite wrong. They are quite independent of each other. I think, I truly do, that theirs is a twinship that is very delicately intertwined. It's not a co-dependency at all. I think they do genuinely feel connected to each other and it's that connection that allows them each to be independent and to go out and explore and try new things.

It's a process that works for them and has helped them blossom into the unique and slightly quirky little sprites that they are. I appreciate that greatly and have no desire to change it. However, there are rules in school, so we'll be working on the line up thing. But at least I have a better understanding now of why they're doing what they do. A bit of an insight into something I thought was simply misbehavior, but I now see was actually just yet another glimpse into a bond that I'll never truly understand.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Kindergarten Miracle

Well, color me purple and now I've seen it all.
Two days of Kindergarten has convinced my daughter to do what I've been trying unsuccessfully to get her to do for the last 3 years. Nap. Will the wonders never cease?

Our daily routine has included a rest time since the day, three long years ago, when they declared that official naps were not for them. I figured arguing was a moot point, so I craftily instituted Rest Time On The Couch. A special time, wherein a movie plays and two little girls must lay down and be quiet. I still get my down time, and have the opportunity to get work done that needs doing. Win-Win.

The usual routine of Rest Time dictates that when the movie is over, the girls will bound up from the couch yelling, "It's O-VER!" I'll say, "You can get up," at which point they run amok around the room for 5 minutes or so until I calm them down with a snack. After today's feature film (Garfield, the movie), Ashlyn performed the routine flawlessly. I answered her call of "It's O-VER!" with my response and went on my way. My part was played, after all. But she continued to saying, "It's O-VER!!!" I tried answering again, just in case we had somehow 'restarted' this part of the routine and I had missed that direction. But to no avail. Finally, I decided to check up on her to see what exactly was going on. Upon entering the family room, I saw her hanging over Caedance's spot on the couch, leaning over to her cuddled form, now adding, "You can get up now! We can play! You're missing it!!!"

It would seem that her twin had betrayed her by falling asleep during Rest Time On The Couch. A most dastardly offense, by Ashlyn's reaction to it. I pulled her back and directed her to leave her sister alone, reciting the age old motto we learned at their birth, "Let Sleeping Caedances Lie (Because It Doesn't Happen That Often)". Ashlyn looked up at me and wailed, "But it's my twin! My twin can't sleep now. Not NOW!!!" It took a few minutes to calm her down enough to understand that, yes, twin can sleep at almost any moment. And that's okay. But in the end I think the whole affair got cleaned up quite nicely.

So here I sit now, one happy girl running amok in the family room, while the other sleeps on the couch. One agitatedly aware that her routine has been altered, while the other sleeping and blissfully unaware of her sin. To the 2 1/2 hours I have to thank for this most unusual moment, I say a grateful (and awed) "Thank You". Thank you half day kindergarten for tiring one of my exuberant girls out. Tomorrow, I'll expect the same for both of them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day Of Kindergarten

Yesterday I took my tiny, premature babies to Kindergarten. I dropped them off, watching with a sense of surreal wonder as these two precious gifts made their way into the building, without me. I wanted to run behind them, calling out, "Wait for me!!". But I didn't. I stood there and watched as those doors closed on one part of their childhood, and they took their first steps into the start of a new adventure.

The road leading up to this day was long and worrisome. When the girls were born, 6 weeks early and after a very problematic and unhealthy pregnancy, I was thrust into the role of "Caregiver To The Very Fragile". That role consumed my life, 24/7. As they blossomed and grew, my role evolved with them. But no matter how it changed, it was still me and them. Everyday. I'm not going to say that it was the easiest thing; there were plenty of days where I pulled out clumps of hair for lack of any down time or "Me Time". But after almost 6 years, it became "My Normal". And I liked it. Letting it go and evolving again will come slowly to me. But it will come. What choice do I have, really?

This moment,standing in the school playground, watching these two miracles walk away from me for the first time ever was inevitable. I see that now. It was the destination of the road I had been traveling on for nearly 6 years, only I didn't realize it. I was so focused on the patch of pavement in my immediate vision, and at times jarred by the pot holes of daily survival, that I didn't get to look that far ahead. I can say, with pride and some tears, that I've enjoyed the scenic by-way through which I've just come. Each stage of their lives has offered a new set of surroundings and experiences that made the journey breathtaking in its beauty. Now, looking around at this new place, I can see how amazing it is. Everyday they'll take a few steps without me. New people. New places. Learning along the way. And each day they'll come back to dutifully report their findings with the excitement that it all holds. My new role will be to listen, with the corresponding awe and wonder that it all deserves.

My heart still skips a beat when I think of them in this phase, and a lump still finds its way into my throat when I dwell on it for too long. But I'm along for the journey with them, ready to step back a bit to let them explore. We've prepared them for this. I think. I hope. Only one way to find out.....

Here we go.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cats In A Bag

I'm sitting here in the relative quiet of the living room, pondering the great wonders of my small universe. I can only call it relatively quiet because the girls are running around searching for cats and threatening to put them in a bag when/if they find them. Their flight path goes through the living room, so every few minutes, my serene "relative quiet" is interrupted with, "I'm going to find you and put you in this bag, kitty-kitty!" (I'm not worried about this because I have great faith in our 3 cats' unique ability to not get caught by the girls.)

So here I sit, pondering.

The girls are starting Kindergarten in T-minus 6 days. How is that possible? Where has time gone? I keep mentally going between "Ready" and "Not ready" about the whole thing. I'm "Ready" to have those 2 1/2 hours to myself everyday. But "Not Ready" to have to get into the schedule of getting up and getting ready for school everyday. I'm "Ready" for these two to make new friends and have fun little dramas to share with me everyday about it. But I'm "Not Ready" for them to turn into little girls I don't recognize who say things like, "Whatever" and "OMG" and "Yeah, right"...with a 'tude. (I don't think I'll ever be ready for that).

I can't stop time, can I? All I can do is go with this. At the moment, I just want to get the first day out of the way and over with. I'm ready to move past this part and get to the part where it's all just routine. I get myself all psyched out about stuff like this and it drives me nuts. For the last 6 months I've been living under a strict rregime of "This Time Next Year...." and I hate it. Every single thing that we've done has been measured in those terms; it's driving me nuts. I'm finally at a point where I can say, "Hooray! Kindergarten. They'll do great", and I almost believe myself. (Ask me in a month and I'll have more confidence behind that statement).

Looking at my girls, I can say they're ready, even if I'm not. They're quirky, funny little things who, if nothing else, should provide many funny moments in the classroom environment. Just today I had a rather heated debate with the two of them over a bump that has appeared on Ashlyn's forehead. I inspected it and determined that it is most likely a bug-bite. Caedance scrutinized the protrusion and declared that it was most certainly a pimple. And Ashlyn, owner of said bump, shot us both down with the proclamation that it was, in fact, the very startings of a unicorn horn. (Well color me surprised; my girl's got herself a unicorn horn.)

Now a nice little breeze is gently whispering through the windows, and the girls have quieted down a bit in the other room. Apparently they've gotten bored with their futile attempts to capture and bag any of the cats, and have moved on the swinging a selection of their favorite stuffed animals around by their tails instead. And even though I could continue to sit here and ponder my many ponderings, I think I'd rather be done for the night. I'm not too sure where it all gets me anyways. For the moment, I'll resign myself to just look straight ahead and say, "Girl, you've got 2 Kindergartners on your hands. Deal with it." We'll see how that works for me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Earning MotherHood Merit Badges.

I was doing some thinking today. Not a lot, and nothing terribly deep; it was awfully hot out there, after all. But the kind of thinking that usually brings you around to an interesting conclusion that, in all honesty, has been right in front of your face for quite some time only you didn't notice it before. (Perhaps you were too busy. Too hot. Or didn't much care).

In any event, I found myself in this heat-hazed state of thought nonetheless. My thought was that if there is one thing that I miss from my Pre-Motherhood days, it would be the ability I seemed to have had (and have since lost) to just be still. To not move. To do nothing. At anytime, whenever I wanted to. At a drop of a hat, I could shut down and zone out. I'd come home from a nerve wracking, stressful day at school,with the memories of student fights, problems with certain classes, and the burden of tomorrow's woes heavy on my shoulders. I'd kick my shoes off, plop down on the couch, and just stop. Did you read that? Just. Stop. And in that ritual of rest, there was relaxation. Renewal. And readiness for another go of it for the next day.

Motherhood has a funny way of changing that, doesn't it? From the moment they hand over your newborn bundle of responsibility..er..I mean...bundle of joy (sorry), you are in a state of perpetual and constant motion. It takes all your focus and efforts to meet the needs of this tiny being (or these tiny beings, as the case may be), leaving barely a moment for a shower, let alone several moments, all strung neatly together in consecuative order, during which you might sit down and be still. And that pace of constant motion stays with you, long after you have a baby to hold, and you find yourself swaying gently in the line at the grocery store. The Mother-Motion.

My girls are 5 1/2 now, and though I try very hard on a daily basis, I still am unable to reclaim that lost talent of Being Still. Movie Nights double has stellar laundry folding time. Talking on the phone is the perfect opportunity to mop the floor. And I've found that waiting for a pot of water to boil makes just enough time to get a room or two vacuumed (which leaves one or two less that needs to be done later, you know). Even when I find myself with a rare and special day without the girls, I'll still putter about, putting things away, cleaning up, organizing. The very model of modern motherhood management. (I think that may be one of the first merit badges you earn as a mom. That or Achievement In Milk Production).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this state of constant motion is the ease in which you adjust to it. Not because it becomes a regular part of your routine, but because of the things you gain by being so efficient. My Movie-Night-Laundry-Fold Extravaganza buys me extra cuddle time with my fast growing little girls, who will decline cuddle time in a few years. Mop-Till-You-Hang-Up Talkathons purchase me enough time to have a tea-party with two little ladies. And The Boiling Noodles, Sweeping Carpets Maneuver allows me some longer story time with two emerging readers who still sit in wonder at the magic of a story read aloud.

I may not find myself sitting still much these days, but the ever bustling busy-ness of life with children has brought more joy than I could have imagined. And when I really think about it, I'd rather spend my days doing a crazy circus worthy balancing act with house and kids than to go back to those days of sitting on the couch anyways. And......

Good grief! Why am I still sitting here writing this? There are brownies baking and you KNOW what that means. Yes, that's right; it's "Brownies-Are-A'Baking-And-Ain't-My-Tub-Soap-Scum-Free?" time! Off I go!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stepping Off To School

(Those who know me well know that as the day counts down, I will have things to say.)

To My Sweetest Ashlyn & Caedance

For five precious years I've had the joy
to be at home with you.
Everyday brought it's up and downs,
but together we welcomed each new view.

The new things that you learned or said,
every accomplishment you both made.
I had a front row seat for each success,
and made memories I hope won't soon fade.

Now this year you're off to school,
to start adventures away from me.
A time for you to grow and to become
the two gracious ladies I know that you'll be.

I can't say I'm prepared to see you go,
nor ready to drop you off that first day,
but know thateven if my voice should crack,
 I'm more proud of you than I can say.

You both have come so far indeed,
from being two premature and tiny babies.
You've met your challenges with spirit and spunk,
and are now two grand and glorious little ladies.

So forget whatever tears you see
that may be trickling down my cheek.
Because this is the first of many steps;
on the path to the future that you seek.

Lots of love.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For Whom The School Bell Tolls

Another calendar page has been flipped, turning July into August. I think there has been a part of me that has been positively dreading the month of August. Never mind all the nice things that may occur in it, I have grimaced and cringed every time the mere name of it has been mentioned in my hearing. And now it is here. Time to face the music. Or rather, the tolling of the school bell.

The first order of business to attend to has been to show the girls when they'll be starting school. They awake each morning with the same greeting ready on their lips: "We're not going to school today are we?" No matter how much enthusiasm I muster for it, I can't seem to get them past this particular hurdle. So on August 1st, we marched down to the kitchen and did the ceremonial "Flipping Of The Calendar Page" ritual that ushers in each month at our house. We sit down at the table, look at the month gone by and talk about what fun things we have done, events, visits, vacations, and the like. THEN we flip the page and stare at the blank month ahead; little boxes just waiting to be filled with activities. Endless possibilities waiting to be realized. We always begin by learning the name of the new month, and spelling it, then we count how many days it has. Once that is done, I point out important dates or holidays that will happen. For August, that big date is the 23. The first day of school. We put a circle around it and marked it with a smiley face, then stood back to look at it. Amidst all the the blank boxes, it stood out. Plain as day. No denying it now. It's on the calendar, demanding recognition. I. Am. Here.

Normally life picks up again after a Flipping Of The Calendar Ceremony. You just move on. Back to playing. Back to cleaning. Whatever. Waiting for the next month to sidle itself right in. Not so with August; it's been different. There is a definite sense of counting down that comes with this month, for us and I'm sure for parents of schoolagers everywhere. And I'm nervous. And the girls are nervous.

I am pleased to announce that I've come around a lot since my initial entries of First Day Terror. You'll be pleased to read that I no longer abhor the very thought of sending them to school, no longer shudder at the site of the building, or tear up when walking down school supply aisles. In fact, since Safety Town gave me the glimpse at my future of a daily 2 1/2 hour break, I've been pretty peppy and upbeat about the whole thing, actually. During the one lovely week, I was able to envision all of the things I'd finally be able to accomplish, like, reading for fun...er.....I mean, cleaning and keeping up with housework, of course.

And most of all, there is a sense of wonderment that I'll be able to walk through a whole store without saying, "No. Don't touch that. Please Leave That Alone, or Do you have to pee?" What will that be like? Truth be told, after 5 1/2 years of struggling through stores in a parade of phases, I'm not sure how to approach this new one. First I was the lady pushing the double stroller with my left hand while pulling the car behind me. Next I was the lady with two toddlers (each on a leash) running in front of me while I pulled a cart behind me, constantly getting it caught in the lines of the leashes. After that I morphed into the frazzled looking mom trying to catch one or both children as they ran away from me, often times leaving the cart aisles away from where I was, leaving me to have to find it again when I'd collected both giggling girls. (After a few too many of those episodes, I regressed back to the lady with the double stroller and cart phase, with the only difference being that my once happy twins were replaced with screaming ones). And at last, I've become the lady with a cart in front of me and two little ladies strolling beside me, only occasionally make mischief in the produce aisle. Progress is a beautiful thing.

And now I'll be the lady with the cart. Period. Wow. A normal shopper. What will that be like? Can I do it? Will I like it? Time will tell on all of it, I guess. But here's to hoping for many happy (and calm) shopping trips. Here's to hoping that the girls do well in their classroom and enjoy their days there. (Here's to hoping they remember our motto Make Healthy Choices So We Don't Get Sick). And here's to looking ahead for the next Flipping Of The Calendar Ceremony we'll share on September 1st; for all the good memories will remember for August, and all the exciting, upcoming things we'll have to look forward to in the months ahead.