Not So Traumatic Kindergarten Transitions

My oldest son, G, started kindergarten this week. I fully expected it to be a traumatic experience for both me and him.

It was not. In fact, it feels like just another week.

At barely five years old (he turned five mid-July), this child continues to amaze me. I keep waiting for the event that’s going to really throw him for a loop. It hasn’t come yet.

G was an early talker and was fully potty trained by two and a half. (I mean really potty trained. No transitional night time diapers or anything.) When he decided to ride a bike without training wheels this summer, he got on the bike and never looked back. In nursery school, he would call the teacher out if she said anything incorrect.

The key to G is talking and prepping. While I was pregnant, my husband and I agreed to never use baby talk. It’s just not our style. So, from the beginning, I’ve always talked to G. I tell him what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, what’s going on around us, what’s about to happen, etc. And, we talk every night before he goes to bed about how our days went and what’s happening tomorrow.

For the big transitions, as long as I tell him what’s going on and what’s coming up, he knows what he needs to do. (The one hiccup I made was in his first year of preschool and I forgot to tell him about picture day. He freaked out a bit, and the teacher told me he wasn’t good with change. Fast-forward a year, and she told me he was taking over the class from the teacher. Go figure.)

Kids are human beings, and a lot smarter than we give them credit for. While I freaked out a few times this summer trying to figure out how to navigate the whole kindergarten thing, I never let G see this. We talked about how fun it would be and how his schedule would change. He was so excited this week, he’s been up around 5:30am every morning. He had a ball riding the bus with me and my husband on the first “mini” day with parents. And on his first day (without parents) when he had to wait for the bus to loop around the block because the bus driver didn’t see his daycare provider who was there to pick him up, he wasn’t phased one bit.

G’s one complaint so far? Having to sit at a table to wait for his bus number to be called at the end of the day. Apparently, that’s too boring for him. I’m thinking this will change once he goes to a full day next week. Hopefully he’ll be more tired after a full day, and the table sitting won’t be as annoying.

Now I have to transition into leaving work on time so I can be at the bus stop for G in the afternoon. I’m thinking I can handle it, with a little prepping from G.


Searching for some FOCUS

I have a lot going on.

I work “part-time” (though I pack in a full-time workload into 30 hours+/week). I am taking a particularly intensive graduate level class. I have a 19 month old and an almost 5 year old (who’s birthday is in 5 days and am in the process of planning the party).

I have two stubborn, and shedding, Siberian Huskies. I am in the middle of summer in Maine (who can keep up with all these fairs and festivals, not to mention getting in as much beach time as possible before it gets cold again). I am in charge of the family calendar, making sure everyone gets to where they need to be. I live in a big old house that is in the middle of a renovation that seems like will never be done.

Luckily, I have a very loving and supportive hubby who cooks, and a cleaning lady that comes every other week.

I’ve always taken on a lot. I am one of those people who can juggle many things and still come out with a smile. I’m pretty detail-oriented and have worked a lot on just keeping things simple and setting small goals for myself each day to get things done. I’ve been told that I would be good in an ER (and I would if it weren’t for all the sick people, needles and blood).

Lately, however, I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a hard time concentrating on any one thing. While I may be physically present in one location, I always seem to be thinking of all the other things I need (or want) to do later on. I thought I would do some research online and find some techniques to improve my concentration. (Can you tell I’ve done a few research papers lately?)

Here are 5 FOCUS tips to improved concentration I found from Sam Horn on Alternative Medicine:

  1. F = Five More Rule. The premise here is that in order to work through the frustration of getting through a task, just do it five more times. Read five more pages. Work for 5 more minutes. You end up getting your “second mind” (like a second wind, only different) and stretching your attention span to move further
  2. O = One Think At a Time. Tell your brain that you will think about certain tasks at certain times. For example, “I will think about party games and favors tonight after I put the kids to bed. For the next 30 minutes, I will get through these work emails. ” Alternately, you can make a to-do list. The list gets the tasks out of your head and onto paper, so that your mind doesn’t have to be the holder of the info.
  3. C = Conquer Procrastination. Ask yourself “Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it’s not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?” Get yourself into the mental state that tells you if you just get it done now, you won’t have to deal with it (or think about it) anymore.
  4. U = Use Your Hands as Blinkers. I have to admit that I’m a bit skeptical of this one. The suggestion is to cup your hands around your eyes so that you only focus on the thing in front of you and, literally, blocking out the other things that surround you. (Working in social services, I’m not sure I’d get away with this one at work. They’d probably start diagnosing me.)
  5. S = See As If For the First or Last Time. When your mind is wandering, stop and really SEE your surroundings. I find I do this more and more when I’m with my kids. There’s really nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child. When my mind wanders, they help me bring it back pretty quickly.

So, there it is. They are pretty simple steps that anyone can do. And by writing them down, my mind already feels like it’s gotten the whole “how can I work on concentrating more” task out of the way.

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Graduation changes everything, at least for Mom

The graduating class

My oldest son, G, graduated from preschool yesterday. It was quite the event. The preschool has been in existence for 50 years, and this was their 48th and final graduating class. Miss Nancie, at 71 years old, decided to take the plunge into retirement. Needless to say, there were a lot of emotions.

I didn’t think I would be so emotional. It was only preschool, after all. It’s not like G’s going away to college next year. But, as I listen to parents of older kids, I realize it’s not that far off.

Once children come into our lives, we, as parents, all come to the realization that it’s not about us anymore. Whether we like it or not, we are suddenly responsible for another human being. We must feed them, shelter them, keep them clean and teach them how to get through life. Up to this point, I’ve had control over everything that G does. Now that he’s about to turn 5 and go to Kindergarten in the fall, everything is changing.

Suddenly, I have to be at screening appointments for 10:00am on a Tueday. (Not so convenient for a working mom.) He’s eligible to sign up for various activities, and he’s expressing interest in said activities. This summer, we have tennis, tee-ball and swimming lessons.

My husband and I, luckily, have pretty flexible and family-friendly jobs. So, we can adjust schedules and juggle things pretty well. It’s interesting to take a glimpse into the future though. As we took pictures of he and his best buddy, his buddy’s mom commented that the picture we were taking was for their future high school year book. That’s when it got a little emotional.

I’m so proud of everything G’s done in his almost 5 years of existence, and I can’t wait to see what he can accomplish as he gets older. G lead his class down the aisle yesterday. Unbeknownst to me, he also had a duet with another girl in the musical performance part of the graduation. (I mentioned it was quite the production. There was a cowboy theme and an intermission involved.) The other performances involved 4 – 8 kids. After his performance, I think I might have to add musical theatre camp to his activities.

G took it all in stride, as he always does. He is so ready for Kindergarten. I realize, now, that it’s me that’s going to have the toughest transition.

Nothing to do

Today is Patriots’ Day, which means I have a rare day off without kids. Daycare is open. (Let’s face it, who really celebrates Patriots’ Day?) My office is closed. This puts me in a weird position of having time to myself. I say weird because I’m not used to it, and, frankly, I have no idea what to do with it. I’m so used to scheduling every minute of the day. Between work, being a mom, taking a grad class and managing the family, I don’t get too much time to myself.

I’ve been especially busy due to the fact that my husband is a CPA. So, from January – April 15th, I pretty much act like a single mom. The difference, of course, is that the hubby comes back into our lives every morning and two nights a week for dinner. He also makes himself available when I need to attend a board meeting or get myself to the hair salon. (Seriously, I don’t know how single moms do it.)

These past few weeks have been taxing (literally), with a major fundraiser to manage at work, a new class with a paper and group project to work on, extra hours before the tax deadline, etc. Now, I’m sitting on my leather couch wondering what to do with myself. I’m pretty caught up with class. I have the fundraiser under control. My husband is back. The kids are happy at daycare.  I can think of a million things that I should do. But, I’m ignoring those things for now. (Well, I did go out and got that oil change I’ve been putting off.) Instead, I’m on a quest to do something for myself. Unfortunately, the spas around town are not in on my plan.

Would it kill someone to give me a hot stone massage right now? I guess I’ll have to settle for a manicure.

Sugar Shackin’

There are a lot of reasons why my family lives in Maine. There’s the ocean, the mountains, the endless amount of state parks, the fairs and festivals, the five seasons (mud season falling between winter and spring), the rugged independence. Another reasons is for days like Maine Maple Sunday.

On the fourth Monday in March, sugarmakers around the state open the doors of their sugarhouses to the public. You can learn how maple syrup is produced and watch the process in action. Most sugarmakers also have maple syrup tastings and offer tons of maple treats to eat and drink. Some even have live music. It’s pretty fun and typically requires a good pair of boots (being mud season and all).

We went to Goranson Farm in Dresden for the 3rd year in a row. Biz was much more manageable this year. Last year, he freaked out in the line to get into the sugar shack, and we ended up having to quickly scoop up some maple treats and go home. Of course, he was only 4 months old and not used to the cool Maine air in March. While there definitely was a chill in the air this year (in contrast to the spring-like weather we had the weekend before), overall it was a great day for sugar making.

We got to the farm early enough to get into the sugarhouse without having to wait in line or press up against other people in the small, steamy structure. We danced to some pretty cool music (Irish?) played by 3 men with really cool instruments that I couldn’t identify for G. Um. I think that’s some sort of bag pipe and a weird-looking accordion. We ate maple sundaes (vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup) and drank maple tea (black tea, maple syrup, orange juice and apple cider). The boys played on tractors and trudged in the mud.

The best part about Maine Maple Sunday is that it means spring is just around the corner.

A note to parents of left-handed children

Two people have made comments to me recently about left-handed children. A co-worker mentioned that her daughter was worried her 19 month old son was left-handed.

At a recent basketball practice for 3 – 5 year olds where parents and kids work together on drills, a fellow parent shrugged her shoulders and declared, “She’s left-handed. I don’t know what to do with her.”

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to do anything different with your left-handed child. Just let him or her be left-handed. To the mom at basketball practice, I noted that being a lefty isn’t easy since everyone puts things (like basketballs) in your right hand. I know because I’m a lefty too.

The truth is, most of us aren’t truly left-handed. We’re pretty ambidextrous. We have to be, living in a right-handed world. I cut and kick with my right hand and foot. I can pretty much dribble and shoot a basketball with either hand comfortably. Of course, we’re good at switching back and forth because we’re also right brained. (You know, because left-handed people are the only ones in their right mind.)

Sure we do things the opposite way that most people do. Our check marks go the opposite way. When you open cards from us, they’re always upside down and backwards. We bump elbows with people at the dinner table. It’s not like we have a disease or anything. In fact, lefties are pretty smart and creative. Six of the past 12 presidents have been lefties (Truman, Ford, Reagan, Bush [Sr., of course], Clinton and Obama).

Lots of artists, musicians, actors and athletes are southpaws, including Michelangelo, M.C. Escher, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Robert DeNiro, Jim Henson, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, George Burns, Dan Aykroyd, Oprah Winfrey, Cam Neely, Larry Bird, Steve Young, Gayle Sayers, Ty Cobb and Ken Griffey, Jr.

Four of the 5 original MacIntosh computer designers were left-handed. The list goes on and on.

According to Wikipedia, only about 7 – 10% of the population is left-handed. If your child is, don’t fret. And don’t put things in his right hand. Let your child choose which hand (or foot) he wants to use. If you’re teaching a child something and can’t figure out how to do it the opposite way you’re used to, stand across from him instead of next to him. It’s easier to visualize. That’s what I do with my right-handed son, G. Of course, he’ll probably learn a few things left-handed. And that’s okay too.

“I can’t understand a word he’s saying”

The boys and I were at the Curtis Memorial Library the other day in the kids’ play area. My 14 month old was chattering away in his little language that only I and Miss Lori from daycare can decipher. A boy my older son was playing with said to me, with a frustrated look, “I can’t understand a word he’s saying.”

This comment made me laugh. I explained that Biz (his actual nickname) was still learning to talk, and that he probably talked like that when he was little. It made me think about all the funny things G, my 4 1/2 year old, has said in the few short years he’s been talking.

He was an early talker, and I wrote down every word he would say until he said so many new words that I couldn’t keep up. All kids say funny things at some point. Here are some of my favorite quotes from G in no particular order:

  • While in the waiting for an ob appointment: “Is her going to pee in a cup?” (re: every pregnant woman who walked by us)
  • After my dad asked me to get a fork for him while I got up from the dinner table to tend to his baby brother: “My mom has two hands and not four.”
  • While watching a Bruins v. Flyers hockey game: “That orange guy just beat up our Bruin. That’s not good.”
  • After telling him to “hold his horses” because he was rushing me out the door: “I can’t mom. My horse ran away.”
  • Loudly and assertively: “Doing?!” (his way of asking what we were doing before he could put an actual sentence together)
  • When he wanted something as a baby: “Habit!” (instead of “have it”)

Some of his best quotes are actually interpretations of songs he hears on the radio. Here are a few fun ones:

  • “Go nothing, Go nothing!” – Kings of Leon’s “Notion” (instead of “So don’t knock it, don’t knock it”)
  • “You know that I could use some bad air!” – Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” (instead of “You know that I could use somebody”)
  • “Mommy, he’s singing about diarrhea.” (with a disgusted look on his face) – Breaking Benjamin’s acoustic version of “Diary of Jane”

Unfortunately, I haven’t been so good with writing down words that Biz says. I think it’s partly because he’s the second child and partly because Biz isn’t as verbal as G was at the same age. (However, Biz definitely has the facial expressions and hand talking down more than G did. Must be the Italian in him.) So, I thought I’d end this post with all the words I’ve deciphered from Biz at some point over the past few months that I can remember. Here goes – yay, mama/mom/mommy, dad/daddy/da, dog, woof, meow, up/uppy, moo, uh oh, bird, lolly (for lollipop), no, hi, hello, bye, nigh nigh (for night night), dat (for that), light, sssssss (snake sound), oo oo (monkey sound). Judging from his babbling, I have a feeling we’re going to have some pretty good quotes from him in about 3 1/2 years.

P.S. (3/3/10) I have to admit that I’ve come back to this post several times since I wrote it to add words I remember that Biz has said. I guess I’m not giving him enough credit for being verbal. Sure, some of these words have only been uttered once or twice and most have only been heard by me or Miss Lori. I hear them, though, and others will eventually.