Back to School and Alcohol.

I know I’m not alone here. I just know it.

It’s back to school week after Christmas break. The kids relaxed for a full two weeks, even my 7-yr old began sleeping in. I could see that she needed the break badly. By the last week of school she was d.o.n.e!!! So she loved every minute of the break and then headed back to school. She’ll still declare that she loves her school however there was a definite shift from enjoying Christmas vacation to not wanting to go back to school. And so began hell week. You may think I’m kidding. I’m not. From the moment of every pickup, she’s been a tornado of anger and frustration. If I didn’t know any better, I’d downgrade her back to an escaped mental patient but I know what’s going on so I handle it differently (and much more calmly, I proudly add).  However the schedule of the week was different for me.

Monday: I know she’s tired. I dragged her out of bed. A full day of school. She’s pissed. We’ll get through this.
Tuesday: OK, I know she’s tired, she doesn’t want to do homework, but dear Jesus, this attitude better change.
Wednesday: OMFG, I’m going to kill her. I keep it together (mostly) as she drags out homework over the course of two hours simply because she just doesn’t want to do it. As soon as she goes to bed, I make Baileys & decaf tea. Yes, that feels good!
Thursday: It’s the exorcist. It’s reincarnated and that’s just on the car ride home. Upon entering the house, she bee-lines for Legos and I pop open a Strawberry Ale. It’s only 4.30pm but I figure this might be her best chance at staying alive.
Friday: I don’t know yet but I’m scared. I may have an IV of alcohol attached to me during the carpool lane. At the very least, when I get home from picking her up, it’s PARTY time!! Ice cream for all and beers for Momma!

I remember this struggle the first week of the school year. The mega adjustment is hard to cope with for the little ones and she specifically takes it out on me because I’m her safe place. I get it. But as I bob and weave my way through the house looking for hiding places, praying for it to be bedtime, I can’t help but wish this week were over.

I swear to you, alcohol sales must spike more after Christmas than during it because I’ve decided that that’s the only way I’m getting through this. Am I alone? Oh I bet not!!!!

Excuse me while I pop open #2.

 

What Do I Expect from Elementary School? Not this.

Love this piece. “The children that I get off of the bus are exhausted. They are frustrated. They are over worked. They are burned out. I feel as if I should make them a weak whiskey on the rocks, hand them their pipe and slippers, and leave them alone for an hour to decompress.”

How school is going to kill me.

code is funHomework. Oh how I hate thee. My awesome hurricane turned 7 last week!! I’ve really been enjoying being with her. Until homework, and then the devil comes out of both of us. What used to take 2 hours now takes 1 hour (still waaaay too much). Each night we have to practice spelling words and this week’s selection were particularly tough and confusing – circus, cell, circle, pencil, silent, palace all were consistently spelled by her as she hears it – circis, sel, circil, pencel, silint, palis. It didn’t matter how many times I went over it with her, it wasn’t clicking with her. We were both equally frustrated, and the tension was building. Soon, I’m yelling that I don’t understand what’s wrong and that I’m done. What an awesome example of motherhood I am (input complete sarcasm there). I walk into the kitchen, trying to take deep breaths and it dawns on me. Dawns how bloody ridiculous this all is. This is ONE damn test out of who knows how many she has, and who the hell cares if she fails this one. It’s not worth me yelling at her, making us both feel bad, and consequently, making her feel like a failure.

So I returned to the table and before I got to say anything, she asked me for a hug. I squeezed her tight and told her we were done with the spelling words. Just done. They were super tricky words, because they go against a lot of the spelling rules she’s been learning so it’s super easy to get them wrong. That I didn’t want silly, tricky words to end up with us both angry and exhausted. That it just wasn’t worth it and that I didn’t care what grade she got. She asked if that meant she was going to fail it. I told her to just do her best, and whatever grade comes home, I don’t care, because it’s only one out of soooooooo many. She asked me why we do homework at all, and I told her she should ask her teacher, because I don’t like homework either and I don’t think it’s effective.

What I’ve seen with homework is that I often have to explain what should have been covered in class. Sometimes I’m merely reinforcing what she has learned, but other times, I’m the one introducing new concepts to her that she’s expected to know, because they are on her homework sheet. I have no doubt her teacher is worked to the damn bone. It’s not her fault either. It’s the system. So much emphasis is put on testing and grades, that every single thing has to be entered into the computer as a grade. I can see these grades in her school portal online, and for every grade on every sheet of paper, I can see when it was entered. Her teacher is working Saturdays & Sundays just to enter in this ridiculous information. I see time-stamps of 6:30am during the week, mornings and afternoons on the weekends. It can be 9 pm at night and her teacher is responding to emails. It’s no wonder teachers are leaving in droves. There’s barely any actual teaching involved. At this point, each teacher should have their own secretary to handle the paperwork alone.

Capture2Having to explain things first hand to my daughter is part of why I started the book series. I needed to learn what the rules of reading and writing are, so that I can help her. The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds came out last week and you people knocked me to the floor with your support and well wishes. You shot me into Amazon’s top three of their “Hot New Releases” category. The books are just as much for parents as they are for children. I had planned on just doing the basic alphabet book then moving onto the stories of The Magic Forest but I’ve realized how much I don’t know and need to know if I’m to help my kids through this important journey. I’ve already begun book two which will focus on common consonant blends & digraphs, and then I’ll round the trilogy off with tackling those bloody vowels. I blame them for everything! Lots more information over at Little Gem Publishing. There’s a free giveaway going on right now too.

rick roachA few days ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Rick Roach who is running for FL Senate in 2016. I don’t normally bring up politics here, but he used to be a teacher. He took the FCAT as an adult and failed it. He was on the school board at OCPS so he knows how that beast works. He’s watched the school system get dirty, begin to crumble, and the fall out is becoming apparent. He has a solid understanding and knowledge of the educational issues we face, and just as important, he has solid plans to fix them, and they definitely involve changing this testing ridiculousness. He also happens to be a very nice guy too. Give him a look.

Is it summer yet?

Teach your child to read!

The big announcement . . . (drum roll, please) . . .  

The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds Welcome to the first ever book in The Magic Forest series. The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds focuses on correct individual letter sounds. Yes, yes, I know alphabet books are everywhere, but sit down with a few preschool and kindergarten teachers, and ask them what their pet peeves are. I guarantee you one of them will be a child whom comes into their classroom at the beginning of the year, parent proudly announcing he/she knows all their letter sounds, and then a bunch of them are incorrect. (Yes, I hear what’s in your head. . .) How can one possibly get these sounds wrong? Because very often, us well-meaning parents don’t isolate the letter sound. Even when we think we are isolating a letter sound, most times we don’t. Go on – how do you pronounce the sound of the letter r? It’s not ‘ruh’ or ‘re’ or ‘er’.  I know because I’ve made these very same mistakes too. After you talk to a teacher, you realize that not only do they have to teach their classroom the basics, they have to undo what the parents have created.

So I felt it was appropriate to begin at the beginning. Here, I focus entirely on individual letter sounds and putting the basic sounds together. I know it sounds silly, but my goal is to teach a parent as much as a child. The reason being, as I navigate preschool and 1st grade with my own two children, I am confronted with these obstacles daily. It was quite staggering what I didn’t know and in order to support my kids through their school learning, I needed to get up to speed. I’ve got a note at the beginning of the book to show parents how to work through it.

So there you have it! The Introduction to Letter Sounds is now available at Amazon (paperback or ebook), iTunes, Kobo and more! I’ve also created a website just for The Magic Forest Series where you can sign up for my newsletter, which I will use to only announce new releases – http://www.littlegempublishing.org. And in case you prefer to just stay on Facebook, The Magic Forest has its own page there too!!

I’d love to have your feedback so please feel free to leave a review or contact me directly. Happy reading! <3

Her last day of being 6.

Poodle - LillyWTF. I don’t know why I feel like there’s such a huge leap between 6 and 7, but 6 is still a little girl. Seven isn’t. I jokingly chastised her this morning that I had told her, in no uncertain terms, was she to continue growing up (I’ve been joking about this for years) and her quick response was, “I don’t ever listen to you anyway.” Oh there’s a glimpse into the future if ever there was one.

She was a poodle last night for Halloween. She couldn’t have looked any cuter. The “cute” costume days are numbered now, if not already gone. She uttered yesterday afternoon that she thought she might look silly as a poodle. And so it starts already – worrying about what other people think, worrying about what strangers will think of her and how she looks.

Seven. 7. SEVEN!

Such a small number but it feels like a loaded number. The official end of her “smallie” era and the beginning of ” regular kid” phase. Hold me.

Well hello there!

lillyThe summer zipped by and we’ve all entered new territory. My soon-to-be 7 year old (seriously, wtf!!! How is that happening?) is in 1st grade and loving it. My 4-year-old mental patient began preschool for the very first time, and adores it. It’s only for three hours a day but he’s in the same place, with the same teacher that my daughter had at that stage. So I couldn’t be happier. I loved her preschool and her teacher so much (I did the ugly cry on her last day of preschool), so I had absolutely zero qualms about sending him on his merry way. In fact, my velco-boy ran into the classroom on the first day and jumped right in. Pretty extraordinary for an introvert. Our goodbyes still take ten minutes but you know, how hard is it to kiss and hug a little pint-sized human when they’re begging for “infinity kisses and hugs,” right?

I began a new venture in April and in July, decided to teach myself how to draw. This is seriously funny because I couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life but I’ve written a bunch of children’s books and wanted to illustrate them (control freak, what can you do!?!) This chomped up every moment since then, and I discovered that while I really can’t draw at all, I enjoy the process. It’s relaxing, fun, incredibly complex, and I find I can immerse myself in it for hours without even realizing it.  Given that my audience are young kids, I’m not getting too fussy with the traditional details. I focus more on the fun parts, the colors, the smiles, etc.  The big announcement should be next week. I’m waiting on my proof copy before I allow worldwide distribution (get me, that just sounds so fancy!!!). My first book gets down to the basics and you’d be fairly astounded how wrong many people & books get those wrong.  I actually have 11 other books written in this series but for now, I’m going to stick with expanding on the first book. Anyway, stay tuned! Aside from the normal craziness of motherhood, now you know why I’ve been MIA.

My paroled  mental patient has graduated completely. She is no longer part of the asylum, and it’s so much fun to be around her, talk to her, listen to her, teach her. The other lunatic still has his moments and while I was close to upgrading him there for a while, I think a growth spurt hit him and I’ve learned that growth spurts are the devil when it comes to kid behavior. Their poor little bodies and brains are shifting in ways they can’t understand, and for my two, it’s always meant they turn into Tasmanian devils for a few weeks.

Another huge shift among all this is that with my mental patient in preschool, I have three hours a day to myself. To breathe, to write, to draw, to watch tv. It’s up to me. Given my own certifiable ambition and determination, I’ve spent every minute on the books. Every single piece of research, every single part of this process from words, to drawings, to Amazon was done by me and there’s an enormous sense of accomplishment in that. I realized how much I needed that independent venture, because for over 7 years now (including pregnancy), I’ve been wrapped up in one single thing and that’s motherhood. It’s taken every piece of me, and now I’m slowly taking parts of me back. I’m noticing that I’m becoming a nicer mother, for one. Since I get that break to myself, I’m less ready to climb the walls and more able to take a deep breath. It’s funny how just simple things will shift your perspective completely.

I’m still a stressed out ball of nonsense. That’s something I’m going to have to work out because I do overreact with stress too much and frankly, I’m so bloody bored of it. I’m tired of envisioning the ten thousand variants that one scenario can bring, stressing about it intensely, only to have none of those realizations actually take place. For example, the tire pressure on our back left tire kept on going down. I’d fill it up and the next day, it’s down 10 PSI. Ugh. This goes on for weeks until I can’t take it anymore because now I’m seeing it go down to 20PSI (should be 36) and imagining myself stranded somewhere with a flat tire. To negate this possibility, I decide I’m going to get “new” tires for the back two wheels. I can go to several used tire places and get both tires for $80 out the door. But it’s an unexpected expenditure and I’m freaking stressed about controlling the household money and  . . . .  you get my point. This crap goes on in my head for days and days, putting me in a bad mood, snappy and irritable. I drive over to get the tires and the dude’s tires don’t look much better than what’s already on the car. So I tell him what’s going on. Within 10 minutes, he’s found the tiniest little pinhole you’ve ever seen in the tire and fixes it, all for $8 out the door.

So you see, I was a wreck over something that didn’t even bloody happen and I am sick to death of it. It’s annoying for me, it’s annoying for my family. So I’m trying out a new “whateva!” attitude. So far, it’s working just fine for us and the kids are definitely much happier! 😀 They’ve had ice cream three days in a row. What’s not to love!!!!

So stay tuned, darlings. Big news coming soon!!!

Summertime Funtime!!!

Kerry
Stunning Kerry, Ireland.

Kindergarten ended and we didn’t have a chance to be bored as two days later, I took the kids back to the motherland for a month. I rented a car and we went all over the country (at least the lower half). It was an experience that I am so so so happy they had. It was such a cultural difference from their norm. They got to meet so much family and made new friends. They survived roaming multi-hour car rides without the DVD player or iPad in sight. They watched out the window for different flowers, far reaching mountains, wild sheep, cows, and horses scattered all over the land.  We climbed to the top of (little) mountains – OK, mere hikes, but to a four-year-old, it was a mountain. We hopped over streams. We stared at beautiful landscapes. flower crownWe ran barefoot over the softest, greenest grass ever. They played hide & seek in forests. We made daisy & dandelion chains that then turned into flower crowns. Things that I remember doing as a child that neither of mine have ever experienced before. It made me very grateful that I could bring them there, open up their world to such new joys. Before one trip to Kerry, I stopped at the local shop, picked up a loaf of bread, some sliced ham, water, cheese, and a few snacks. Hours later, when hungry, we just pulled up a boreen, climbed some rocks, and had a picnic in the Irish countryside wilderness.

IrelandIt dawned on me several times that little things I take for granted that they would know about are completely foreign to them. My 6-year-old former mental patient (she’s been upgraded from paroled mental patient) was rendered speechless on our drive to Dublin when she spotted something on the road, attached to the back of a car, with a horse’s ass visible from the back. It was then I had to explain what a horse box was and how horses are moved long distances. I could practically see her brain whirring.  I brought them to Mitchelstown caves where her brain again exploded because she was walking underground and looking at the shapes made by thousands of years of nature. It was the same cave tour I took when I was a young child on a field trip from school.  She learned new phrases. The look on her face was priceless when a cousin asked her if she was telling “porkie pies.”

blarney castleWe hit more tourist spots, such as Blarney Castle where she climbed all the way to the top only to be denied the opportunity to kiss the stone because I wasn’t with her (her older cousin was) and they needed parental consent at the top!! We took a boat to Garnish Island in Kerry and watched baby seals resting on the rocks. We caught up with family and were so busy having fun that we didn’t even get to do a Pajama Day (which they really, really needed) until week 3. We spent a weekend in Dublin where we explored Dublin zoo (it’s awesome, btw). At a dear friend’s house, my girl was introduced to a Jack Russell terrier puppy and thus began the love affair with terriers.

I hope to be able to take them on this trip every year. I want consistency in cultural exposure. It wasn’t until three days before leaving that we didn’t have anything to do. Nothing planned. I had wracked up 2,000km on the road over the month and we were all exhausted. It was right about this time that my four-year-old mental patient turned into the exorcist. I think it was a combination of tiredness and my grave mistake of telling him we were leaving Ireland in a few days. Such a horror was he that I’m surprised my Dad even slowed the car down when he was dropping us at the airport to leave.

KatieWe made the long trek back across the Atlantic and I marvelled at the exorcist’s tiny little voice asking me if we were in space yet. Upon discussion with my husband about the little dog she met, we decided that we would casually look for a terrier dog, but I had strict directives on what was and was not acceptable. It needed to be a rescue dog. I didn’t want a puppy. It needed to be house trained. Last year, we had to say goodbye to our little chihuahua of 10 years, Alfie, and my daughter has been talking about a replacement ever since. Our other dog, Trillian, is in heart failure and it’s amazing she’s lasted this long. She’s on three different medications to keep her going but even so, I don’t think the time will be much longer to when we’ll have to say another goodbye.

Less than 24hr hours after landing back in the United States, I see a listing for a little terrier/chihuahua mix. Because she’s a rescue, time is of the essence and we ended up bringing Katie home less than 48 hours after we had returned. It turns out that the house training we were assured of isn’t as solid as we had hoped, but she’s a super loving dog, very patient and loves cuddling. My daughter finally gets a dog to snuggle with her in bed. I have to confess, I love the little thing already.

So six weeks into summer, I’ve only now had the time to sit down and say hello to you! Next week, I take my 6-year-old on our annual “girls with girls” weekend, where it’s just the two of us and the boys stay home. School starts in 5 weeks (eeekkk!!!) and the exorcist will begin preschool. For three hours every day, I’ll be on my own in the house. This. Is. Huge!!!! I’m delving into a new career adventure which I’ll talk about another time so I’m excited to get some alone time to work uninterrupted on it. Fingers crossed.

Hope you are having a good summer.  <3

 

Last day of Kindergarten. Dammit.

11391315_10153023568608860_5113429978822799082_nMy oh my! How did that happen? Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled to be rid of the early-morning wake-up. The constant alert as to whether lunch is made or the uniform is ready. The homework battles. Oh God, those killed me.

11392781_10153023568658860_3927141128059346054_nI blearily dressed myself this morning. We hopped in the car, discussing why some birds have a bracelet on one foot. As we walked from the car to the school door, she hopped and skipped in her rainbow outfit (no uniform today), holding my hand, excited for the fun day they have planned ahead. No school work, just fun times to be had. I kneeled down to give her the usual kisses and hugs goodbye.  Even a passing teacher happily commented “boy, that’s some hug there,” because we do the kind of hug that lifts her off the ground. It is unlikely that she’ll be the same in even just a couple years. Unlikely she’ll be holding my hand, skipping her way inside wearing unicorn t-shirts and rainbow skirts. I am again struck down by the milestone she has just leaped over.

Kindergarten. Done.

I watched her little “graduation” last Friday where the kids performed two songs and it took everything in me not to burst into tears, watching her shyly perform, trying to remember the words and actions together, along with every other kid. What stood out most is that she stared at me the whole time. Making sure I was seeing her, watching her, and that let me know how important it was to her. I smiled at her, I blew kisses, I waved. I looked like an idiot. But when it’s your little girl . . . all decorum flies out the window. I remember last year when she did the end-of-year performance for VPK and I couldn’t hold it together. I sobbed practically through the whole thing. I was better this year, but again I was slapped across the face by time. That time is going by, that in only two months, my 4-year-old escaped mental patient will begin VPK. It’ll only be three hours every morning, but it’s the beginning.

I know. I hear myself and realize how ridiculous it is to be lamenting the end of kindergarten. But that’s how it starts. It creeps up on you, and I need to be sure to live in the present and be aware of what I’ve got right now. Especially after the year we’ve had in 2015 so far, living for now is important. I can’t promise that I won’t cry when I pick her up this afternoon though. That’s just taking it too far.

Damn, man. This growing up shit is getting real.

The Precious Age

1000228_10151612210048860_473410485_nWe moved house 2.5 years ago. My daughter had just turned four the month before. My son was 20 months old.  He had been sick from months 6-14, and I called him my Velcro Baby. He couldn’t be out of my arms. Ever. When we moved house, it freaked him out and it was a solid 6 weeks before I could even walk out of a room without him freaking out. It’s all ages and stages, all phases that we pass through. I remember meeting my new neighbors. Kids hanging off me, explaining I’m a stay-at-home-mom. They always asked how old the kids were and always responded with “aww, such a precious age.” I’d look at them like they were insane. WTF was so precious, can you tell me? I still didn’t get to shower on any regular basis. Had 27lbs permanently attached me to me along with a four-year-old hurricane that went to battle with me at every turn.

Precious my ass.

I usually responded with my oblivious, socially unaware bluntness and got the shocked stares in response. Oh well.

But now, things are different. My velcro baby has essentially flown the nest and couldn’t care less where I am. My six-year-old has now realized that she’s her brother’s equal (in my  eyes) and I am able to devote time directly to her without a sick baby attached to me. I can kiss her goodnight and whisper in her ear that I’m so lucky I get to be her Mommy, that I’m so lucky I get to be with her every day and see that smile that lights up a room. I watched her purr in response, squeezing me tight and I know I’ve just given her the warmest, squishy feeling she adores.

Yesterday, my escaped mental patient (who just turned four, by the way) took a rare nap in the afternoon. As per my usual routine, I enter their bedroom before I go to bed to kiss each one on the cheek. Last night, the boy was still awake even though it was 9:30pm. “Mommy, is it morning?” he whispers. “No darling, Mommy is just going to bed.” But I first smother his face with kisses. I look at that perfect face and feel his little arms and hands wrap around my neck just so he can hold me.  I begin to tell him how lucky I am to be his Mommy and how much I love him. I hear back how much he loves me, and he means it. Because small kids don’t like or say things because they’re supposed to. They only say it when they mean it. And it hits me how precious this age is, including my 6-year-old hurricane’s age.

There’s a possibility that when she turns 7, I’ll have a slight mental breakdown. Seven just seems so old to me. Ridiculous, I know but seven is so much closer to a teenager than the small years that have just flown by. I get to sleep through the night now and can enjoy my kids more. I can appreciate them more. So yes, this is a precious age. Six and four are as precious as can be. Just don’t be alarmed if someone looks at you like you’re the devil when you say that to them because they have absolutely no idea what it’s like at that very moment for you, and don’t feel bad if you don’t immediately agree with them.  My first go-round with four was so rough. The second time, I’m able to stand back and realize how awesome this age is. I currently don’t have an emotionally clingy baby attached to me and he’s not sick anymore. I’m able to stand back and can now say that “yes, yes this is a precious age.”

Now. If only time would stand still.