Friday, June 15, 2012

Adios Preschool

Preschool has taken R from this . . . (a photo and a self-portrait from her first day of school)
to this . . .
It has been a great year for her.  She loved, loved, loved attending preschool.  She is confident in her ability to make friends.  She tells me how great she is at this all the time.  And demonstrates that skill whenever we go anywhere.  She only got in trouble a few times for being too silly or running away when recess was over instead of lining up or for daaaaaaaawwwwdling instead of writing her letters.
One of my very favorite things from this particular preschool is the art scrapbook that they put together at the end of the year.  I love being able to flip through the book and see so many of the highlights from the year.  Not to mention the quotables they include.
How can this girl ever go wrong in life with such a delightful imagination? 

It reminds me of the time we were driving home from preschool and she was telling me all about her day and how they played baseball in class . . . underwater.  I remarked, "Hmmm.  I'm not sure if you're telling the truth."  To which she promptly replied, "I'm NOT telling the truth!  I'm telling YOU!"

Why should she let reality get in the way, after all?
Here she is proudly walking to the stage, grinning radiantly at her Daddy.
She knew some of the words to all of the songs.  And did her best to sing and do the motions . . . in between all her yawning.  Yep, that's her in the back row in the middle itching her forehead and yawning.  Shaggy and I were cracking up because she was yawning over and over and over again during the performance.  I swear, we put her to bed on time.  But lately she has decided to retest the bedtime limits.  She does this periodically just to see what she can get away with.  How many times will we bring her a drink?  How many times will we respond to her calls for Mooommmmeeee! or Daaaaadddddeeee!?  How many questions will we answer?  How long will we linger in her room when she says she has to ummmm, ummmm, tell us somethin'?  So she wakes up tired.
But at least she's not always grouchy as well.  She was just thrilled that she had Mom and Dad all to herself for this little ceremony.  We probably should have brought the whole family to celebrate this milestone with her, but the idea of just sitting to watch without managing, chasing, shushing, disciplining, threatening any children was just too enticing.  Our babysitting duo was already done with school, so they got to hold down the fort at home.
R is pretty proud of herself and how smart she has become.  She knows she is terribly smart because, as she says, "I am SO smart that I can see bee bee balls!  Bee bee balls!  Can you believe that?!"  Apparently, vision is inextricably linked to intelligence.
I am proud of my girl.  Not because she has learned how to read.  (She hasn't.)  Not because she knows every one of her letters and their sounds.  (She doesn't.)   But because she is happy and good and kind.  Because she isn't afraid to reach out with friendship and imagination to draw others into her beautiful world.  A world made all the more beautiful simply because she is in it.
And she is lucky enough to have a Daddy who completely adores her.
I think this girl is ready for Kindergarten, even if it is 3000 miles away from here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

So Long Middle School

I am continually impressed by the kind of person this girl is becoming.  Just when I think that I can't be more proud of her, she does something that proves me wrong.
For instance, here she is several months ago at the district spelling bee.  Which she lost.  But I was proud that she was smart enought to be recruited and creative enough to lose.  See how that works?  There's always something to be proud of.  And we had a good laugh that night when they were profusely thanking all the parents for quizzing their kids daily on all the potential spelling words.  Yeah, that was a nice, meaningful look we exchanged as I was being thanked for something that I so didn't do.  Apparently, it was my fault that she lost.  Whatever.  I'm still proud of her.
Here is her 8th grade class at graduation, or promotion, or whatever they're calling it these days.
She got perfect attendance and a perfect GPA and the math award.  Above is a picture right after it was announced.
Let's get a closer look.  Mr. Principal doing his announcing thing.  And three students standing up looking totally bewildered.  Apparently, they couldn't hear the title of the award they were being given, but were nudged to stand up when their names were read.  After the whole ceremony was over, she found me and asked, "What other award did I get?"  You are a math wiz, my dear. 
The school gave out an overall award in the following areas:  math, language arts, science, and performing arts.  K was given the math award.  And, according to her language arts teacher, she also earned the language arts awards.  But Mr. Principal decided that she couldn't have two.  He wanted to spread the love around a little.  Which is fine.  But K has been secretly reveling in the fact that she earned TWO awards. 
So here I am, proud of her all over again. 
It's not every day that your kid graduates 8th grade as a math wiz, so naturally, we had to take some pictures.  We recruited S as our photographer for an impromptu front yard photo shoot.
Which always turns a little goofy when Shaggy is involved.
He's very proud of his girl, too.  But since he's still only 13 on the inside, his pride comes out in funny ways.
I can't wait to see where high school will take this girl as she really stretches her wings to soar.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Goodbye Grade School

It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that two of my children are now forever done with grade school.  S is off to middle school next year.  She finished out her 6th grade year with flying colors.  Perfect attendance, good citizen, outstanding effort, and a "4 point something else" GPA.  She amazes me.  There's so much ability and talent and intelligence and goodness wrapped up in that sweet, shy little package.  She is beginning to bloom and it's a wondrous process to behold.

In the photo above, she was dutifully completing the math problem we were supposed to solve together at open house.  It's a good thing she's such a wiz at math because I was only paying attention to good lighting and the wonderful, colorful projects displayed all around her classroom.
Mr. C was an amazing teacher.  I feel so grateful that S was able to benefit from his high standard for excellence and his sense of humor.  Especially that sense of humor.  The stories she would tell us about school would crack us all up.  He'd make the kids stand on their chairs while the rest of the class sang to them on their birthdays.  And they would do line dances on Fridays.  And have wii dance parties for the major holidays.  And he would stop reading at the most exciting moment in the story and try to trick them into saying that they didn't want to hear anymore.  And a couple of times, he had them fold their spelling tests into paper airplanes and throw them at him.  If anybody actually hit him, they didn't have to take the test.  One time when he told a joke, only one kid laughed, so Mr. C gave him candy.  And most of the class was in tears when he gave a little goodbye speech on the last day of school.  He is, hands down, her very favorite teacher to date.  No surprise there.

And I totally love the makeshift class yearbook he put together.  I learned quite a few things about my daughter that I never would have suspected.  She apparently yelled at Taylor when he was trying to trade seats with her.  She is also a professional soccer player in Scotland, a secret spy in Russia, a professional rapper in good old America.  She has an evil twin and she's violent towards her little brother (wait, I already knew about that one). 

This is what she predicts for her future.  "In twenty years, I will be 31 years old.  I'll be finished with college.  I'll probably have my own family and maybe a job as a flutist, artist, or something else.  I'll live in Virginia, Illinois, or Wisconsin.  I'll be happy!"

During their end of the year election, she was voted winner of the following awards:  hardest worker, smartest, most cooperative, best reader, most artistic, best mathematician.  She was also voted the most likely to rule the world, but also won the quiet as a mouse award.  I'm curious to see how those two work out for her in the future.  But, as one of her coaches wrote in her class yearbook, "You are the best silent leader I know!" 
Through GATE, S was able to go on some pretty cool field trips.  And she joined an after school GATE lego robotics club where she was able to design, build and program these robots.
Their coach was great.  She was so enthusiastic about the whole program.  She got it started just a few years ago.  And this year was their first year competing against other schools.
S's little team competed against some other schools with teams 4 or 5 times larger than hers.  And they held their own.  As the coach said to me once the scores were announced, "Yes!  We didn't come in last!" 

In fact, the judges seemed pretty impressed with the swing arm that S designed.  The coach told me that during their interview, the kids mentioned the swing arm and all the judges leaned forward dramatically, their interest piqued.  I guess they don't see designs like that very often at this level. 
And then, of course, was honor band.  Our school district is pretty big on the performing arts, which has been such a benefit to my girls.  And apparently, the district has not mismanaged their budget like the rest of the world, so they didn't have to cut any of these fabulous programs.  Hip, hip, hooray!

S had a great time meeting music students from the other elementary schools in the area and getting to practice new songs with them.  They sounded great at their performance at the local high school.  When I think back to how squeaky and airy she sounded when she first began playing the flute, I am amazed at how far she has come in her musical abilities. 
Which is a little ironic since remembering to practice regularly is not exactly her forte.  And remembering to remind her to practice regularly is not exactly mine.  But somehow, sometime, something has happened over the years that give this girl the ability to make some beautiful music come out of that little silver pipe.

I hope she embraces the new opportunities on her horizon as much as she has embraced being a fabulous sixth grader.

Monday, June 4, 2012

May Days

This is what my May looked like.  It was seriously killing me.  The best part of June is that it means May is over again for another entire year. 

But we certainly did have some happenings in that crazy month that are worth documenting.
B decided to creat her very own way of getting dressed . . . in her big sister's clothes.
J was sitting on a kitchen chair one Sunday morning.  Then he fell off and bumped his tooth which promptly fell out.  And he only had to wait about three days for the tooth fairy to visit him.  He wrote a note asking for a half dollar instead of two quarters.  She did not deliver.  And now J is convinced that she doesn't exist.  Ah, well.  Had to happen sometime, right?  (Trying to appease my guilt, here.)
R had a great field trip to the zoo.  Where she found a new best friend--her trusty map.  I think she had more fun looking at it than the actual animals.
And this is how she rides around in the van.  She likes to be ready for anything.
This is what B does instead of getting into her carseat like she should.  She's not very big on doing what she should.
She does, however, seem to have taken a liking to reptiles.  Toy ones as well as real ones.  She is delighted by our crested geckos.  Which is sort of a shame since we have decided to make our big move as a lizard-free family.
We had LOTS of open houses and other school functions to go to.  J really enjoyed taking me around on a little scavenger hunt of sorts in his classroom.
These two little girls have become a dynamic adventurous duo.  This is what they look like when they're ready to go fishing.
And here we have obedience training.  The one in the middle needs the most work of all.  She currently has a failing grade in the course.  But we haven't given up on her yet.  Though she is creating an immense amount of additional stress for me. 

Selling a house, I have concluded, is like a nightmare. 

Suddenly home doesn't feel like home anymore.  Because I have to keep it spotless all the time.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having a clean house.  But HAVING to keep it that way continually is horrible.  It gets in the way of life, of family, of everything.  And having it so clean all the time requires massive amounts of energy and nagging.  And it just doesn't feel natural which contributes to the feeling that this is no longer our home.  We have to be ready at the drop of a hat to vacate (load 5 kids and two big german shepherds in the van) so that potential buyers can peruse the house without intrusive child-like questions or ferocious barking.  It is wearing me so thin that I am having trouble keeping my emotions in check.

We had a beautiful above-asking-price offer after the first day of showings.  But then the relocation company got involved and had to schedule a slew of inspections and appraisals and approvals before the offer could be accepted.  And then it fell through.  And here we are back to square one with nothing within our control except cleaning the house and then leaving it so buyers can look around.

And somehow, in the middle of all of this I am supposed to find the time to research schools and housing and medical insurance and possible tourist stops on our 3000 mile road trip.  I am beyond overwhelmed.  There is just too much riding on these decisions.

And my littlest whirlwind is doing her utmost to make all of this as hard as possible.
I try to keep her from climbing as I am swirling around putting away our family messes.  I am failing miserably as you can so plainly see.
In the course of two days, she broke a glass jar, a glass cup, and a ceramic flower pot.  I have been forced to confiscate all writing implements because she loves to draw on the walls.  Something she learned from her big sister, R, who went through a tagging phase a little while back.  R seemed genuinely surprised that I always knew that she was the one who had created the newest graffiti in our home.  But when she unfailingly signs her name, it's sort of a dead give away. 
Show ready condition, right?  Sure.  And I had just washed this window a couple of days before this photo presented itself.

I know that ten or even five years from now, this photo will mean more to me than a spotless home.  And I want to stop worrying about the condition of the house.  I want to enjoy my children and bask in their excitment at the prospect of summer.  I want to laugh at B's shenanigans without getting upset at a toddler for being a toddler.  I want to revel in the new adventures on our horizon.

But when the weight of the thousands of decisions reagarding this move and the weight of keeping the house ready to show and the weight of mothering five children falls upon me simultaneously, the burden is simply too heavy and I find myself wanting to just go curl up in a corner.  It is guaranteed that I will fall short in any and all of these areas. 

But still, I know that these experiences have lessons to teach me.  I know that as I just keep swimming I will find the strength to make it through.  The things that aren't essential to this next step in our family's journey will be set aside.  I believe that somehow, someway, sometime all the pieces will fall into place even when I am blind to that process. 

Because in years past during some of my other make or break tough times, I learned the one lesson that is allowing me hold tight to the single thread in my grasp.  I am not in control.  I don't have to bear the weight of this all by myself. 

The greatest spiritual strength has come into my life during the times when I let go and let God take over.  It's one of those things that sounds so easy to do, but requires continuous effort to choose it again and again, day after day.  Feeling discouraged is easy.  Which is why I find myself struggling with it so much during times like this.  It's finding, and continually choosing faith, that is hard. 

So I probably just need to take a deep breath and remember the things I believe to be true.  I believe that this transfer is a direct answer to our prayers.  I believe that God watches out for us in ways that we cannot begin to understand.  I believe that if I follow the inspiration sent my way, everything will turn out alright in the end. 

I will rejoice in the fact that May is finally over.  And I will try to let these beliefs guide me as I struggle to maintain my sanity and wait for the sun to rise so my nightmare can come to an end.  I'm really, really hoping dawn isn't so very far away . . .