Mother’s Day Weekend

On Friday afternoon I decided to use the youth of my children to my advantage. Right after I picked Caden up from school I announced, “Well guys, Mother’s Day Weekend starts now!”

I could tell they were mildly confused. Since we homeschool a couple of days a week we have a monthly calendar and we use it to count down to important days, like Mother’s Day. So they tried to argue for a minute that Mothers Day wasn’t until Sunday, but I just told them that, “Actually, here in America, we celebrate Mother’s Day all weekend long.” (Of course I made that up… along with the story about Jacob being born a monkey and trading my banana for him to come home with me.) So, starting immediately I was expecting things like flowers, and drawings, and songs sung in my honor, and foot rubs.

They were cool with everything but the foot rubs. Why am I the only kid that fell for that??? Was anyone else coerced into rubbing their moms stinky feet? Just me? Mmm kay.

Friday night was pretty typical. The only exception was after the big boys were ready for bed, when given the chance to watch a show, Caden chose Dancing with the Stars because he knows I like it. How sweet.

Saturday, however was all mine. I slept in and woke up to a fresh pot of coffee. Then we all put on our tennies and headed up Mt. Rubidoux.

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Afterwards we moseyed around the farmers market and ate lunch at a little sandwich shop downtown. We ended the day with church (our usual Saturday night) but when we came back home for dinner Jacob said, “Mom, do you know why we’re acting like we like you so much? Because its Mother’s Day weekend!” Thanks for the act, kid.

Honestly, I was SO looking forward to Sunday. It was going to be my day off. I woke up to breakfast in bed and the cutest cards and gifts a mom has ever seen. I was going to meet my sister at Glen Ivy but then we thought it would be pretty crowded and since she lives on the beach (literally on the beach) I decided I would just meet her at her house. So after I stopped at Target for a magazine (and ended up spending $100… Why Target?!?! Why?!?!) I met up with my sis for lunch and lounging on the beach. Ahhhhhhhh.

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The perfect weekend, right?

Here’s the thing. As I was driving home on Sunday evening I was thinking about how blessed I am and how I had SUCH a great weekend, but, if I had to pick one day to have been my Mother’s Day celebration day, I would have picked Saturday, the day with my kids and my husband.

Weird, right?

All along I thought my gift was going to be Sunday, a day to myself, and while it was wonderful (truly, truly, truly), my people (my husband and kids), THEY fill me up.

I love being with them. They have some crazy ability to love me like no one else.

How about you?

It kinda feels like (and I’m totally calling myself out on this one because I’m just as guilty as the next mom) it feels like it’s completely acceptable to not like your kids and husband, or at least act like you don’t. It’s almost expected to go on facebook and read status upon status from moms complaining about their kids. And if you get a group of women together discussing their husbands, it’s almost as if he’s the big dope that couldn’t make it to the dinner party.

I know there are times when we are having a particularly bad day, and maybe facebook or blogging is our only outlet into the adult world, but I’m talking about the habitual status updater or blogger. The one that is constantly venting. The one that you really start to question if they even like their kids. That one.

I don’t know when this became acceptable, but it has. But I’m challenging myself (and you, my readers) to stop “venting” and instead, let’s speak highly of our kids and husbands. Who cares if we sound mushy or sappy or we think we’re annoying people. They are OUR people.

So, what do you think? Have you seen this trend? When did it become okay? And are you guilty of it? Go ahead and call yourself out. I did. But just accept my challenge to stop right after.

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Don’t forget, Geric and I are going on a missions trip to Honduras in July. If you’d like to support us financially, click here!
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Happy Birthday Caden

I can’t believe that six years have gone by.  No, six years have flown by since the day you were born.  Crazy.  Because I remember it like it was yesterday.

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I had done the whole “dress rehearsal” thing at the hospital the day before, and they had sent me home where I spent the whole day walking around the neighborhood with your Maw and your Auntie B.  But nothing happened until early the next morning.  I made really, really, really sure you were coming this time before I woke up Daddy and we drove to the hospital.  And 13 hours later (after some excruciating pain, that I swear I am not holding against you) you changed my life forever.

Not only were you born on my birthday, so I had a birthday present that could never be topped, but you completely shattered the world I once knew, in a good way of course.  You are my first-born.  You are the kid that made me a mommy, my best role in my whole life.  The one that will never be topped.  In the days after you were born, nothing else mattered, except our little family.

And you were perfect.  I had no idea (because you were all I knew) but you were such a good baby.  You rarely cried, and you even put yourself on a schedule… that I took all the credit for.  Don’t worry, your brothers both made me see that it was actually all you, and not me at all.

You’ve always been a Momma’s Boy.  From the get go. You always liked me the best.  (It’s true!)  I said it was because I was the one that fed you, but I think we just have a special bond.  Probably because for a good twenty months while Daddy was working, it was just me and you.

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Then your brother came along.  And at first you had a rough time with that.  To be perfectly honest, I was a little scared to leave the two of you in the same room while I ran to the bathroom, because you had a bit of a jealousy streak.  But eventually, you realized that he was a pretty fun guy.

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And now, he’s your best friend.  I’m sure of it.

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Caden, you have a heart of gold, my son.  Can you be impulsive?  Yes.  Can you get excitable and aggressive?  Of course.  But overall, you are our protector.  You never run too far away from mommy, and I don’t think you’re afraid you’ll get lost, I think it’s because you want to keep your eye on me.  You always know where you brother is at all times.  You never forget to pray for your friends and family.  You help your little buddies out on the playground when they are too small.  You have such a big heart, Monkey.  And I love that about you!

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You are also our little adventurer!  You definitely lead the way in the imagination arena around here.

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Swing sets are pirate ships, bunk beds are caves, and bikes are motorcycles that you ride to China!  Your mind is so creative!

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And your artistic abilities cannot be beat.  You have made me some of the most beautiful paintings and drawings.  If it wasn’t for you, I would have just a boring old white refrigerator.

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Your favorite place to be is in the water.  You started swimming when you were three years old, and you’ve never looked back!  You do back flips off the diving board and you swim in the ocean, when the waves are small enough.  Mommy and Daddy were both swimmers, so it makes sense that you’re a little fish too.

Then…

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and now…

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When Elijah came along, you could not be more thrilled.  You still had a hard time sharing me with one more kid, but you and Elijah had a special something between you two from the start.  You loved to sit on the couch and hold him and you’d ask me all these questions about him.  Once he was a little more alert, you could make him laugh like no one else around here!  He loves you!  When he wakes up from his nap, if you walk in to his room first, his face lights up and his bounces up and down in his crib.  I have no worries that he will eventually fit right in to the little posse you and Jacob have already started.

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I love you with all my heart, Caden Matthew, but you know you have a little bit of a naughty streak to you, as well.  You are a destroyer, which I think just comes with having testosterone running through your veins.  But you have been known to get in to things that I never would have imagined a child would ever get in to… like this…

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and this.

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I can’t forget the special relationship you have with Daddy.  You guys definitely do “man things” together that mommy has no part of.  You like to help Daddy with yard work,

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and you like to wrestle together, and try to conquer super Mario brothers together.  Lately, the two of you have been playing baseball together (with Jacob, too) and you are becoming quite the little athlete!  I love going to your games and cheering for you!

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One more special guy in your life has to be Pop.  I know this might hut Maw’s feelings, (sorry, Maw) but Pop is definitely your favorite.  Don’t believe me?  Remember THIS?  I don’t know if it’s because you’re the first or it’s because you’re the first boy (poor Pop only had girls!) but you guys love each other a lot!  Your relationship with Pop is one of the biggest reasons Mommy frowns when Daddy talks about moving to Australia.  Crazy, Daddy!

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Well, my Caden-boy, I love you more than words can say.  You amaze me everyday and I am truly, truly blessed that God picked me to be your mommy.  I know that He has big plans for you!  He has a destiny for you that is so great and so awesome, and I know that you’re going to run full force for it!  I know that you are growing into an amazing boy who will one day be an amazing man, and I am so blessed that I get to watch it all unfold.

Happy birthday, Caden!

First Day of School: Take Two

So, I officially unenrolled Caden from of his school today.

I don’t know if you remember or not but I was none too thrilled with Caden’s kindergarten experience from the start.  As time went on, I was becoming less and less enthused.  I realize that this may make me sound like a bit of a snob, and you are free to leave comments telling me so, and I am free to delete them.  Ha.  However, I’m always transparent on this here blog, so I don’t intend to stop now.

In the last couple of years the district has done some boundary changin’.  I’m assuming there were certain schools that were performing way below proficient.  So the district’s solution was to spilt up the kids that were going to these schools and bus them in (in groups) to schools that were performing well.  It would actually make sense if they took the kids that they bussed in and spread them out equally among the different classes, so as not to bombard one teacher with a lot of low performing students that don’t know english.  But at Caden’s school, that was not the case.

There was one kinder teacher that was the star, and everyone knew it, except me, so they requested her.  There was another teacher who was a little less of a star than the first, so I’m assuming once the first teacher’s class filled up, she was the next to be requested.  Then there was Caden’s teacher, who was perfectly nice, but coming down from 6th grade, which is a huge leap into kindergarten-land, so no one requested her.

How do I know this, you ask?  Because at the end of the day when I would pick up Caden the teachers would let the bus riders go first, and hardly anyone left for the bus from the first two classes I told you about.  Caden was left with five other students who did not ride the bus in his class.  Five out of 33.  Meaning 28 were bussed in.  Not cool.

I spoke to the principal, who was nice, but did nothing to remedy the situation.  I started getting a stomach ache taking Caden to school everyday.  It’s just not the kindergarten experience I had envisioned for my kid.

I know some of you are crying racist (although I did marry a man who’s part mexican), or socioeconomic-status-ist (have I mentioned we’re going through a foreclosure?), but unless you’ve been a teacher in a low-income area, I really don’t know if you have much ground to stand on.  I have.  I have taught in a class where there was a room full of low performing students that struggled to learn english.  And there were always about five of those students who were already fluent in english, and you know what happened to them?  They were forgotten.  They understood the language so they naturally performed higher, which made them able to work more independently, and you bet your bippy I took advantage of that, so I could teach Maria how to speak english… and then eventually her ABC’s and sight words.

I wasn’t about to stand by and watch my kid get forgotten.

So, I enrolled him in a charter school where he goes to school three days a week and then I… gulphomeschool him the other two.  Honest to God, I never thought I would homeschool any of my kids.  I mean, I guess I had contemplated it, but realistically I just couldn’t imagine it.  I was certain that if I took the leap into homeschooling-land it would be a very slippery slope into long jeans skirts and I just couldn’t have that.  Not to mention, I was afraid I would end up killing one of my kids as I was teaching them how to read.  (Honestly, that’s still a fear, but I think I’ll overcome it.)

But the school I am sending him to is amazing.  There is only one class per grade level and while the classes are just as big, they have teacher assistants.  And the fact that there is only one class per grade level, just makes the school seem small townish, like Stars Hollow.  I love that!  Plus, the philosophy of all of the teachers is personalization.  So, when we registered last Friday, we met Caden’s teacher and she chatted with us for 45 minutes… on a Friday afternoon… until 5pm!  That’s unheard of!  Not only that, but I have her cell phone number.  Her personal cell phone number.  She said to call her or text her if I have any questions.  He’s in class full day now, but the principal said that if it feels like too long of a day for him, to just let her know and I can arrange to pick him up early.  (I don’t think I’ll do that, but amazing that the offer was even put on the table!  Amazing that I’ve even spoken to the principal on three separate occasions now, when I don’t even have a concern!)

And the homeschooling part isn’t even that scary.  Caden’s teacher sends home some work, but there is an online program that has all the lesson plans already made up, and I just have to follow them, and it’s fun stuff!  I got to go to CM today and buy a calendar.  (That’s how you know you’re a teacher at heart… you get excited to goto CM.)  Going to tee ball practice counts as PE!  Math is totally hands on fun, and so is science.  He’s actually going to do science!  He picks a goal every week, just to learn, like “Why can’t I touch a meteorite?”  I’m lovin’ this stuff!  I really, really am.  I’m so glad we found this school, and even though it’s only 10 minutes from my house, I really can’t see putting him somewhere else even if we end up moving.

So, I had to take a new picture of him this morning before he left for the day.  So, here he is.

First day of school: take 2.

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Helicopter Parents

I am the first to admit when my kids are out of control.  Really.  I am.  I’ll usually roll my eyes, let out a deep sigh or an “Oh my word!” and quickly remove myself and my kids from the situation… after I’ve threatened them with their lives, that is.

Sunday, however, was not one of those days.

I had met my bestie at the mall and between the two of us we had six boys under 7.  (She had traded in her daughter for her nephew.) Anyway, the boys wanted to play on the playground, even though it was near 100 degrees out, but we allowed it as we sat in the shade and chatted. Soon enough, they came over all red-cheeked and we let them take their shirts off… because they’re boys and they can. That led to playing in the small fountain by the playground, which we also allowed, because like I said it was hellish hot.  I’ve seen plenty of kids play there and I knew it wasn’t against mall policy. We set boundaries; no standing on the fountain and no getting people wet that don’t want to be wet.

They had a blast! They were getting soaked and giggling and yelling with glee and running around chasing each other. Pure childlike fun.  Typical kid stuff, right?

Apparently not.

Apparently, their behavior was disrespectful. Well, according to another mom on the playground, they were completely disrespectful. And I know this not because she confronted either me or my BFF, but because she muttered it as she was walking past us removing her child from being around our little hooligans. She even went so far as to call security to come over. Lame. The security guy came (on his stand-mobile-thing-a-ma-jig) and told us that our kids would probably have more fun at the bigger fountain. He was right, but part of me wanted to stay just to bug this other mother, but we didn’t.

There’s a few names I have for this other mother. One I will not publish on my blog. Another is coward because she couldn’t just come up and tell us her concern. And the last is a helicopter parent.

What is a helicopter parent, you ask?  One that hovers.  One that never lets their child out of their sight.  Which is easily accomplished as a helicopter parent because they never actually let their child further than five feet from their person.  Their kids never take risks because they aren’t allowed… they have boundaries for goodness sakes!  Their kids never make mistakes, because their heli-parent is always there to protect them from failing.  Their kids miss out on a lot of natural kid activity; things like drinking out of the hose, riding their bikes in the street, or digging in the dirt… because God forbid they should eat a little of it… shudder!

One of the biggest problems with helicopter parents is that they are extremely judgy.  Case in point, heli-mommy at the park.  Because she has practically closed the lid on the teeny tiny box that she keeps her kids in, anyone that has slightly wider boundaries for their own children is wrong.  Their kids are misbehaved and unruly, she says.  If heli-parent isn’t a coward, they will probably actually step in and try to parent your kids for you, because Lord knows you aren’t doing a very good job on your own.

Calling them down from the top of a play structure, lest they fall.  Barking at them to slow down as they run through the park, not the mall, the park… a place for running.  Stepping in during disagreements when the children would have actually benefitted from using their own problem solving skills.  These are all things you can catch heli-parent doing as she tries to parent your kids.

What she fails to see is that these other kids, these unruly, disrespectful kids, they are actually normal.  They are exhibiting completely normal childlike behavior.  What she fails to see is that children are not mini-adults that need to be confined and restricted into behaving in a mature way all the time.  They can actually be free to be youthful, and childish, because they are children.      

The biggest problem with helicopter parents are their children that will one say become adults.  They are raising them in such a way that I believe they only have a choice of becoming two types of adults.

One, they will become spoiled brats.  They will think the world revolves around them, they never have anything go wrong, and mistakes are not an option.  The sad part is that things do go wrong, and mistakes will happen, and unfortunately these adults won’t have the tools to handle it.

Secondly, these kids will grow up to become very fearful adults.  Mostly because their parents instilled fear in them by never allowing them to take risks, never allowing them to step outside of their box, and once again never being allowed to feel failure or mistakes.

So, yes, that mom on the playground bugged the be-Jesus out of me and made my blood boil with her judgy attitude and her tattle-telling ways.  I guess I have to walk away thankful that my children will actually experience a real childhood, mudpies for dinner, and all.

Have you ever met a helicopter parent?  What do you think?  Maybe you are a helicopter parent… defend yourself!

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My Middle Child

Jacob is my middle child.  And not just by birth order.  He is truly my middle child.

Basically, middle child syndrome is when your middle child feels unimportant and not as special as their older and younger sibling.  The oldest gets undivided attention simply because they were born when no one else was around.  The baby gets special attention because they are younger and need it, as well as the fact that the third is frequently the last and therefore, cherished as the baby of the family.  The middle child grows resentful of their situation and may act out or try to become the ultimate people pleaser in hopes of receiving some attention.

How do I know this so well, you ask?  Because I am a middle child.

And, you know, when Jacob was born I was well aware that he was going to be my middle child and I was bound and determined not to doom him into becoming “my middle child.”  But he is.

Shame on me!

Last weekend, we were up north for my Gramma’s memorial (post will be coming) and I was telling my cousin’s wife that Jacob’s first year is a blur.  I was in “survival mode.”  And understandably so.  I had a 20 month old who made it known that he needed me!  And Jacob was kind enough to hang out until a frazzled mommy made her way over to him.

Guess who else sang that tune?  My mom.

And then, last week, Jacob started preschool.  It was his very first day of school.  Last year on Caden’s first day, I cried the whole way home from his school.  My baby was growing up!  This year, I barely batted an eye.  It helped that Jacob is at Caden’s old school with Caden’s old teacher.  But even that goes to show that he’s the middle child… not even special enough to get his own teacher!   

And then there’s the fact that I’m waiting over a week to get around to posting his “special” day.

But here it is, none the less.

Here is the first shot I took of him in front of the door.  He’s a nut!

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There’s a smile… sort of.

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And here’s the brother picture.

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Daddy walked him up to school.

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He’s in the turtle class this year, which really fits his personality.  I think there must be some prophetic placement going on over there at The Grove.  Last year, Caden was a monkey (of course) and this year Jacob is a turtle (of course.)  Kinda freaky, right?

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And here he is playing with blocks with Daddy before it was time to say good bye.

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He had a great first day!  Mrs. Jump said he was really good and that his blue eyes melted her… me too.  He’s already got a couple of buddies that he plays with on the playground, and he even knows their names.  That’s huge in the land of preschool boys.  And he loves having something special that’s all his own.

And I’m going to start to make a more concentrated effort to not destined my boy to middle child status.  But, if I do, at least we’ll have a very special middle child bond.

And I’ll pay for his therapy.

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Caden’s First Day of School

We survived!  Well, we survived our first “first day of school.”  Jacob’s first day of school is today, but he has Caden’s preschool teacher from last year (who I love) so I feel like I’m leaving him with a friend.  (Not that there won’t be pictures because there will, but I’m just less emotional about it.  Middle child.)

Caden’s day went really well.  He wasn’t nervous at all.  He just kept saying that he was really excited.  I got a little teary when his teacher took his line into his class, but I quickly recovered.  Here’s some pictures from his first day.

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Big Man with a backpack on and lunch inside. He said lunch was his favorite part of the day. Such a scholarly boy I have!

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Brothers join him on the porch… I swear, someday Jacob will remember how to smile.

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Walking up to school with Daddy.

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Waiting on the playground with Mommy.

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Time to line up! I’m nervous!!! He’s not.

I am having some small issues with his school though, and I need some outside perspective from people that are not related to Caden or I.

When we went to Jacob’s preschool orientation afterwards, Jacob’s preschool teacher was asking where Caden was going to school and when I told her, she said the ESL population there is one of the highest in the district.  I immediately thought of the school that I used to teach at, that also had a high ESL population.  The kids were great, but it felt like I spent a lot of time teaching English and giving kids that already knew how to speak English independent work.  My thoughts were confirmed when Caden came home with a daily schedule of what would be taught in class and there was a half an hour of ELD instruction and next it it it said, “EO’s (which is English Only’s) Independent Work.”  Imagining Caden doing a half an hour of independent classwork was kind of an impossibility in my mind.

So, I thought, “No biggie. Riverside is an open district.  As long as there is a spot, I can transfer him to another school.”  Wrong-o.  Transfers are closed… unless you get the principal to pull for you.

So I called the principal (yes, I’m that parent) and she said the chances of a transfer and very, very slim.  She understood my concern but said that Caden would grouped with other kids who speak English and those at the higher end of the spectrum during English Language Development time.   She also said that towards the end of the week she would know the numbers in the classrooms better and may be able to move him to a teacher that has been teaching kinder for 20-something years and “tends to bring children up to a higher standard.”  That sounded nice.

So, what do I do?  I know, it’s just kindergarten.  It’s not life or death.  But kindergarten is a very formative year.  Not only are they building a foundation for the rest of their school years, but as I was told when I first started teaching, kindergarten teachers shape children’s spirits for the rest of their school career.

I just want this to be a great year for Caden.  Should I push for the transfer?  Should I keep him where he is and push to move to the other teacher?  Should I just leave it all alone?

Being a parent is full of too many tough decisions.

I tap out.  Tap in, would ya?

Why my tummy is so rumbly

No, I’m not Pooh Bear.  But it feels like last week that I was standing in the back of Babies R Us amongst Pooh Bear bedding, picking out exactly what I wanted my first baby to rest his precious little head on.

And now his precious little head is about to filled up with kindergarten knowledge.  And I’m crying now.  When did he get this big?  How has this happened?

I remember at one of my showers someone gave me an outfit that was for an 18 month old, and I thought, “This is HUGE!  He’s NEVER going to fit into this.”  But the day came… and went.

The other day we were out to lunch for Geric’s birthday and there was a four day old little baby boy at the next table.  He was SO tiny.  The mom said he weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces, and I thought, that’s bigger than my biggest baby.  Caden was my smallest at 6 pounds 13 ounces, but really?  Was he really ever that small?  Because now he’s a real boy, and he’s going to kindergarten!

So, obviously I’m a little sad at the realization that this milestone represents that my boy is no longer a baby.  But, I’m also realizing that my life will never be the same.

When you have toddlers, you have freedom.  I know, you’re thinking, what the… is she talking about?  Listen.  If you want to put everyone in the car and go to the beach, or Disneyland, or wherever on a Tuesday morning, you can.  You don’t have to rush back for anything.  You make your own schedule.

Not anymore.  Now we have to be out of the house at a certain time and Caden will be at school for a certain time when I have to go and pick him up at a certain time and then there’s homework (which I hear is like the devil incarnate) and then he’ll have to go to bed at a certain time so that he can wake up in the morning at a certain time.  See what I mean?  Goodbye freedom!   

I know, it’s not all sad.  There are definitely some things that I’m looking forward to.  Things like Tuesdays and Thursdays when Jacob will be in school too and it will just be me and Elijah.  Last year, it was special to have that alone time with Jacob while Caden was at school.  I’m looking forward to seeing Jacob without his big brother around 24/7 and watching him find his own way doing different things.  I’m looking forward to Caden having more structure in his day, because I think he’ll thrive from that.  I’m looking forward to seeing which friends his picks out (which also scares me at the same time) but trusting that he’ll make good choices.  I’m looking forward to his interactions with other adults besides Mommy and Daddy, and learning to respect authority.  I’m looking forward to watching him grow academically and socially.  I’m looking forward to our discussions about what he’s learning in school and watching him learn how to read and do math and be excited about learning.

It’s just change… and unless it’s my hair, I just don’t do change well.

So, school starts today, and I’m going to try my darndest not to cry the whole way home like I did when I took him to his first day of preschool.

How did you handle your kids’ first day of school?