Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Josie's Preschool Fun

Last year Josie really wanted to go to preschool like her brother Issac.  We knew with him starting all day Kindergarten that Josie would have some adjusting and need some activities of her own so last spring we took advantage of early enrollment at our cooperative preschool and put her in the 3’s class with Teacher Carol.  Josie has class two days a week for two hours each day.  We spent Wednesdays this summer getting to know our preschool friends & their families.  When school started in September, we were ready to go & learn new things with our new friends.
We loved being a part of a co-op preschool last year. So much so that I have chosen to be on the Board of Directors this year.  I spend a few hours each week, typing up notices, sending emails and attending meetings.  I have decided to use my my time to offer my support to the teachers & program that I believe in. 
Josie attend school two mornings a week. On Thursdays I stay & volunteer and on Fridays I get to drop her off. 
The first day of class she cried afterwards because it was over.
Every day at preschool they have circle time where they sing and dance, that is by far Josie’s favorite. We sing those songs every day in the car and at home.
Josie also loves the painting easel & daily craft time.
 Anything that incorporates glitter or glue & she is IN!
By the third week of class she was asking to go to preschool every day after Issac left the house. 
 Josie's preschool class takes turns with each child having a special week.  That child gets to go first at everything, bring a poster of their self, bring a toy & book for story time each day.  Josie got to go first so now her poster is on her bedroom wall.  
Josie loves going to preschool everyday.  She knows to sign-in & wash her hands before playing.  She hugs on her friends & teacher each day.  Our hope for her is that she will learn better social skills & get used to taking directions from other adults other than Mom & Dad.  She is fitting in great & the year is off to a great start!

Kindergarten Challenges

In May, Issac & I attended Kindergarten Jump Start at his school & got him all signed up & ready to go in the fall.  In August, Issac got to Kindergarten Camp, where he went to his school for three half days.  He got to meet all the staff & learn the layout of his school & all the “Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Productive” rules. Then the week before school started, Issac & I attended an entrance conference where we got to meet his teacher & see his classroom.
 Obviously, as I write this we are a couple months in to the school year.  I have had time to fully digest and get used to this whole kindergarten, gone all day, heart break.  I will be honest; Kindergarten was more difficult than I expected.  I cried for days. I was scared to let my number one go off on his own all day. Some of the tears were out of frustration.  Issac was ready to be Mr. Independent and ride the bus to and from school, purchase hot lunch and be on his own all day without me.  On day three I went in to the school’s office with a list of questions that the office staff could not answer.  WOW, they couldn’t tell me where my son would find his lunch card once I loaded it with money online or where do they go when they get off the bus 20 minutes before class starts. These were just a few of my concerns. I felt like as a new parent, without older siblings that already attended that school I could have been provided with more information.  None the less, we figured it all out together.
 Lights are out at bed time by 7;30 most nights because I wake Issac up at 6:20 am for school.  He has breakfast & then Issac rides the bus to school. Some days he takes cold lunch & other days known as pizza, chicken and hot dog days he likes to eat hot lunch.....and drink chocolate milk!  When he gets to school, he goes to the cafeteria with his friends; sometimes eating hot breakfast before lining up for class that starts at 8:05an.  We have finally achieved a routine that works for us.
The first week of school, Issac was injured at our apartments by an older child. I am going to avoid details because we DID press charges on the 13 year old minor involved. Issac was injured, his Right Clavicle was broken.  Issac was really frustrated by his lack of mobility.  He was unable to participate in Physical Education class, unable to play soccer and unable to do the monkey bars.  He started with a shoulder brace and then wore a back brace for 4 weeks before fully being released after eight weeks.
As September turned in to October and Issac healed from his injury we had another small problem-Issac’s behavior at school. I associated Issac’s misbehavior with him being frustrated with his injury.  However, as the school year continued it seemed there were daily behavioral problems in class. Fidgeting, breaking crayons & pencils, vocal disruptions were all happening more frequently than we would like…DAILY. I would leave after school pick up and cry the entire way home after being scolded by his teacher for this or that.  I realized that I couldn’t do this all year, cry five days a week or let my child feel bad about his behavior to a point that he loses interest in school. Every situation went through my head & I wonder if I should change teachers? Change school? Hold off another year?  The stress and concern was overwhelming so I opened up and began discussing my situation with those around me, other parents, preschool teachers, Tyler. I was ready & asked Issac’s teacher for a few minutes of her time.  I followed some good advice that I needed to be very clear in my communication and I told her that 1- I wanted to work with her i.e.-be a team & 2- I asked her if she felt that I should pull Issac out of Kindergarten and wait another year. I think she was surprised that I asked the question that most parents fear but her answer reassured me that Issac was in the right spot.  She told me that academically Issac was in the right spot and he was more than prepared to be in Kindergarten.
At Issac’s last shoulder appointment with his pediatrician we approached the subject & discussed Issac’s behavior problems as he crawled around on the floor counting all the wheels on the table & chairs in the room. We honestly have known Issac had ADHD without being diagnosed since he was three.  We have managed it through routine and avoiding traumatic outbursts by avoiding his triggers. But mostly, we have controlled his diet by eliminating food dyes completely.  It was easier for me to manage when I was with Issac a majority of the time, but all day kindergarten is 6.5 hours a day, five days a week. She set us up a behavioral analysis appointment & sent us home with questionnaires for us and Issac’s past & present teachers. 
It was a week of emotions as we tackled one of life’s challenges through multiple discussions and hours of research.  I was scared of all the “what-ifs”. I feared opinionated backlash from friends & family. I feared that the medication would change Issac’s fun loving personality. I was scared to be responsible for a drug-induced foggy kid. I felt responsible as if I could have prevented this somehow or someway. I questioned my parenting. I cried.  I felt every kind of emotion but in the end we decided that we wanted to do whatever we could to help our son achieve his maximum potential in life. And Although Tyler & I were both apprehensive, we are six weeks in and currently seeing great results of Issac’s ADHD medication.
It feels good to not spend my days sitting at home chomping at the bit wondering if my child is behaving at school.  I do realize he is a five year old boy & he can’t & won’t be an angel all day every day. Issac is no-longer experiencing daily trouble or control problems at school.  He is realizing that it feels good to get stickers.  We are trying to teach him to recognize the difference is positive and negative attention & which feels better to him.  He is in control. Our only side affect has been a slight loss of appetite. He has memorized 25 “high-frequency” words and is reading level one & Dr Seuss bright and early reader books to us each night.  He truly enjoys all aspects of Kindergarten, being social, learning new things, PE, music and library.  We are proud of him.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Summer of Sunshine

In May, Tyler started a new job as a night warehouse manager.  The switch was a long & difficult transition.  Some days the kids & I would hang out until Tyler woke up and then go out and enjoy the sunshine as a family before he would go to work.  Other days the kids & I would go have play dates or cool off at the splash park alone.  But it seemed no matter how we spent the day it was fun.  Summer 2014 was filled with hot days.  Our family cooled off by going to the many local splash parks & lakes.

On Wednesdays the kids & I could be found at Mar Vista Park where the preschool holds a standing play date for the summer.  It is fun each week to see which of our preschool friends show up.  The kids enjoyed riding their bikes & scooters along the bath, playing on the playground & making a make believe soup they call “Chop-chop-chewy”.  The soup was originally an idea of Issac’s friend Jacob but every week that imaginary soup was re created.  The kids also LOVE playing in a line of trees along the park fence.  It was a weekly stick fest for Issac. 

We also enjoyed some fun in the sun with our favorite little cousin Jackson.  Backyard play dates, pool play dates, park play dates and of course splash park play dates.  It is just as much fun to watch Issac & Jackson go on a bear hunt or dig for worms as it is to watch them shreak as they splash each other with water at the pool. 

The kids & I spent a lot of evenings at our apartment’s pool.  This summer Issac began to swim like a fish.  He dives in to the deep end without any floaties and spends his time racing to the bottom for his diving toys.  Josie still enjoys the security of a pool ring but can swim with assistance.  We spent time at the pool alone, had friends over and enjoyed pool time with the neighbors. 

As the kids get older our options for family fun activities increase. Something new this Summer was Karate Mondays.  We enrolled the kids in a 12 week karate program through Young Champions Northwest.  Maybe it was the 6pm class time.  Maybe it was the hot summer evenings; maybe it was attending karate with friends. Maybe it was that the class versus instructor ratio was not student friendly.  Who knows but the last few weeks it was all I could do to rally the kids together to attend & pay attention at class.  They didn’t want to wear their uniforms or even focus in class.  We encouraged the kids to continue and complete the program they were registered in to but choose not to pay to have them tested for their yellow belts at the end of the session.  We also did not register in the fall program.  Maybe in a few years, the kids will regain interest & we will give it another shot but for now we have retired our lil ninja uniforms to the closet. 

Another new activity this summer was family bike rides.  I used to enjoy my bike & even commuted by bike for a couple of years.  In June, Tyler got me a used bike for my birthday and I put it to use all summer long.  Our family enjoyed multiple family bike rides along the green river to Van Doren’s Landing Park and to Russell Road Park.  I would pack up a lunch or a snack and we would make a full afternoon of it.  Josie is still too young to ride along but Issac does a great job of keeping up and following the safety rules. 

The Summer flew bye.  Now both the kids are in school.  It was such a fun filled summer of sunshine filled days & warm nights.  I enjoy taking notice of activities that the kids continue to enjoy from one summer to the next and those activities that they have outgrown.  Josie still enjoys parallel playing where she plays alone but near other children.  Issac, on the other-hand has a preference for interactive play with other kids where they create a story line such as hunting the shredder through the sewers & act it out together.  At home the kids still play together but this summer I realized that when other kids are around they don’t always incorporate each other in their activities. But when it is just us they enjoy each other.  I hope they never get tired of our summer adventures because some of my fondest childhood memories are of trips to "hide-away" lake or cherry point with my Mommy.