I’m that school parent

I have these ideas of how the year will go every September when we send our kids to the first day of school. We’ll be on top of it! I have a calendar! I’m going to volunteer and bake cookies and be the classroom mom. PTA or PTO? I don’t even know what it’s called anymore – but I am going to sit in a chair on the board? Or is it …

Oh god. It’s May and I’m getting notes home from the teachers that we’ve missed eleven days of reading homework. We moved 3 times in the last 21 months and Jessica is supposed to memorize her address. If this isn’t messing things up for her, I’m not sure what is.

we have a home

via jodimichelle on flickr

I want to be involved and on top of the forest of papers that comes home – but not only do we have first grade memorabilia, we have preschool and day care too. And everyone has a book fair at the same time. It’s teacher appreciation week no matter where I drop them off and there are opportunities for cookies and muffins and popcorn parent volunteers.

Part of me wants to scream at the school because Are you fucking kidding me? I see the merit in homeschooling. When Jessica’s bored and we make noise, we get scolded for thinking that what she’s getting isn’t enough – but when we fall behind, even though she’s doing great and not falling behind, we get black booked as Those Parents.

And I own it. I am that parent this year. I probably was last year too. I just cannot get on top of this life, but now we have a place that I don’t have to pack up again – for ever. I don’t have to worry about where my dishes are going to live in a year. I don’t have to worry about school districts or neighborhoods, back yards and fences. I can stop being anxious about the unknown – because even though we still have all kinds of unknown; atleast it’s our unknown.

we have a home

via jodimichelle on flickr

My kids are happy and well adjusted. Jessica makes friends easily and is a star at school, I’m pretty sure. She gives us all the grief and attitude at home – which I’m thankful for, so that her experience at school is one of positive reinforcements and cultivating friendships and nurturing talents. She gets in the car after school and pretty much falls apart. It took us 9 months to figure out that doing homework on the way home was onebilliontimesohmygod better than forcing her to sit through it once we got home.

This is my first time as a parent through school. I don’t know all the rules; where I’m allowed to push back or expect better. I also don’t know where I’m allowed to fail, if at all. It doesn’t seem so. I wouldn’t have much grace for her school if I felt it was failing her, so I’m not sure why I expect the school to have grace for me – when I’m so obviously failing it.

I’m not writing this because I’m disappointed in our school experience this year. I love love love Jessica’s teachers – I’m not so sure the secretaries love hearing me call almost Every.Single.Day with a question that I’m sure was answered in one of the 18 pamphlets sent home from school – but I can’t find anything right now and I’m ok with being the dumb parent who has to call all the time.

I think I just expected more out of me. I wonder if they do, too.


via jodimichelle on flickr

But they didn’t get a mom who president of the committee who bakes cookies for every meeting/function/event. They didn’t get the mom who shuttles them around to Brownies and Girl Scouts, who signs up to coach their little league, or even offers them extra-circular activities on top of all our other responsibilities.

They got me and by some stroke of luck – I got them.

I think we’ll make it and hopefully by next year we’ll find a rhythm.

Free Printable Valentines {download}

Hey look! I’m a procrastinator. Let’s do lunch!

But before we dine together, I made you something. Or rather I made the little people in your lives something – print these babies out (boy or girl) and hand out a little fun on Valentines tomorrow.

Jessica’s Girl Valentines:

Picture 2

(Yes, snapshot – I know we technically spelled “Rockin” incorrectly. But that’s what all the seven year olds are doing these days. Red mis-spell line will not appear on download.)

Oliver’s Boy Valentines:

Picture 1

I made these, too:

I Spy: Underwater
I Spy: Fairies
I Spy: On a Walk

We’re thankful for … pills?

Concerns: things she's thankful for - Susan? Fish Oil? Motorcycles? Boy looking longingly in girls eyes?

There are entirely too many cut outs of pills and medication type bottles on this little school craft. Also some weird looking food items, apparently we’re thankful for only the tips of people’s boots and well, Susan Sarandon?

Concerns: things she's thankful for - Susan? Fish Oil? Motorcycles? Boy looking longingly in girls eyes?

1. The pills and Fish Oil. Neither of which she takes, ever. Once in a while we have kid vitamins and she doesn’t see Aaron or I taking pills daily either. I am so confused. Maybe she’s thankful for health?

2. Shoes (tip of a boot). I’m thinking that the school needs more magazines.

3. This is a Turkey. And when you don’t know it’s a turkey it sure does look like a talking penis.

4. A boy and girl about to make-out. With almost no clothes on. This is where we’ll be able to point one day and know, for sure, that this was where we went drastically wrong. According to her – she’s thankful for Mom and Dad. (Points to this picture.) So I guess we need to be more careful about making out near bodies of water in our swim suits. On the plus side: affectionate naked people = mom and dad. So ….

5. Susan Sarandon. I just. I don’t know. With a milk mustache, no less. She pointed to this and said “I’m thankful for mom”. Susan, you are every child’s mother apparently. Because I don’t drink milk (never have, not once.), my hair is dirty blonde and very straight and I’m well on this side of 50. I do smile though, I’m glad she saw those eyes and thought … hmmm, my mom is happy and I like my mom. (I’m taking a liberty there.)

She’s also very, very thankful for pizza. Berries, flowers, oranges and water.

And motorcycles.

She has a dream of motor-crossing some day. Her dad did inline skating, so of course she chooses a hobby with bigger wheels and an entire motor.

Yep, that’s my girl.

Hold on to your pants

Because this story is going all over before we all know that the heck I’m talking about. Myself included.

Today is my birthday.

Jessica's balloons

Today is also the first morning of “full” preschool. Earlier this week was his first day, today is his first day without me. He’s rocking it and having a blast – didn’t even notice I was or wasn’t there. I asked for a kiss, he gave me one and went right back to dumping sand into his tea kettle at his station.

I was expecting to be a wailing mess earlier this week on his “first” day but we stayed there and all the other parents were there and it didn’t seem so bad. I didn’t have to leave him. So I thought today would be great. He’s ready! He’ll have a blast! He can’t wait …

And it was all of those things. I kept it together, not even knowning what was coming and as I’m walking out the door making casual conversation with other parents – they turn to go to their car, me to mine and it’s like I walked into a brick wall of emotional wreckage.

I start sobbing. 25 feet from my car. In the parking lot. One step at a time moving farther away from a “before” and firmly stepping in to an “After”.

3 months

I didn’t have flashes of his infant self or take a stroll through memory lane – I just jolted to the present and here we are. A family, growing up.

I was beyond surprised at how hard this hit me. I wasn’t expecting it after how the first day went and how this morning played out, before school. It wasn’t an emotional day.

But then … I did wake up to my entire family sleeping in our bed. Aaron, our daughter, our son and me … all our heads lined up. Our bodies creating a blanket of transferable heat to one another. Connected.

Then we scramble. Aaron to one place, our daughter to another and now our son to yet another corner of this town … and I stay here.

hi baby

I was going to go to the library, ALONE! And treat myself to some pampering, quiet time but all of a sudden all I wanted was to be surrounded by the familiar sounds and smells of my life. I walk into our backdoor and immediately smell my mom’s perfume, which she just left behind after delivering vegetables to my house before work. I missed her by minutes.

The first thing I thought was how much I loved that smell after I got home from school, my tell-tale proof that I was home, that she was there – waiting for me.

And, I don’t know, this made it better and worse all at the same time. The very thing that comforted me on my voyages as a child was now comforting me on my voyage as a mother … with children who would be experiencing this phenomenon in a few hours.

Me and the smell I create at home, my perfume and the baking. The cleaning. Our unique signature as a home – it goes with us no matter what address we’re in. They walk in to it day after day but today was the first time I realized he’ll walk out of it … and I’ll stay here.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, we’re crying all over again.

School lunches

And you thought I was going to finally finish my “using Flickr” tutorial series? (here and here: also … I will, I will!!) Or finally get up to speed on my photos and the cooking-how-to’s I have waiting in my “to post” file.

I’m getting there.

However first I have to address this:

Last year we mostly did hot lunches for our daughter at Kindergarten and it worked well with the hectic pace of life but she suffered from it. Literally. Food does weird things to my kids; so this year we’re committed to staying on top of “Cold Lunches” and her allergy needs. I have notes EVERY WHERE on her forms that she may not drink School’s milk. NO MILK! NO! NO! NO! And tell her every morning not to get the milk. They have alternatives (an orange drink) and on the days we let her have hot lunch she now knows the drill of who to ask and where to get it. But NO MILK.

She got hot lunch for the first time today (and I was there helping with the lunch line so I made sure the process of NO MILK went off without a hitch) … and she loved it, of course. Hot lunch is a social norm – it makes her feel part of a bigger group. She loves the social respect as a first grader who get’s hot lunch. It’s “cool”.

Plus there’s a cafeteria. Big. Deal. We’re talking HUGE. A highlight of her first days. CAFETERIA!

Her Cold Lunches are a little on the weird side though and I’m glad she hasn’t come home complaining yet. You see, she requests things like “Refried Bean Sandwiches” and I oblige. Because I know she’ll eat it, it’s a great protein and she eats like a bird.

I’ve gotten smart a few days in and now know a couple tricks to get her the calories and brain power food I feel she needs in school without packing her seaweed in her lunch sack.

I buy expensive bread.

She uses 2 slices every day – and I decided the high nutrition of the frozen, sprouted bread was worth the expense for her school lunches. Adding things like Refried Beans, Avocado, Egg salad and nitrate free meats? All the better. NO PEANUTS. She’s in a peanut free school. Period.

I don’t pack fillers.

She doesn’t get fruit snacks or pudding in her lunches. I know she’d eat them first and then forgo the healthier choices for recess time. It’s precious – the time spent on eating so I know I have to present her with the best options possible for a good rest of the day.

It’s organic whenever possible.

Along with not getting fruit snacks I make it a point to offer her a fruit and vegetable (organic if possible) in every lunch. Most days one of them comes home – which means she chose to ate the other along with her sandwich at lunch. Progress. I always re-offer the take home from day before in tomorrow’s lunch as well. Less waste.

I offer hot lunches, too.

I invested in a great Thermos for keeping foods warm/cold (on sale even!) for her lunches. She loves loves loves tacos so I’m excited to be able to offer her the choice once in a while without worrying about her food being cold or needing to be reheated. I also have a few recipes I can’t wait to try for hot lunches from home. Homemade (healthy) spaghetti-o’s! Soups, and even squash later this fall.

Praise her choices.

Of course if I showed her the huge bag of M&M’s in my cabinet she’d ask for some in her lunch and every once in awhile I say yes. But it’s the norm around here for her to pass on something like a cookie in favor of “listening to her body” or “keeping her body healthy” and at six I’m amazed with her willingness to put herself first like that. We praise this trait of her’s every chance we get. We also offer it up as an example to her brother and always congratulate her on making a good choice. Sometimes that good choice is the lesser of two evils. Ice cream yes, but passes on toppings or dinner out but no lemonade/soft drink … water instead.

She’s got some pretty wild stuff in her lunches; but it’s all packed with care for her health and my knowing that a full day away from home not being able to snack when she wants or eat when she’s hungry makes her learning environment a little unstable. My kids have my blood sugar imbalance where high quality proteins and food options serve them better than they know.

Their brain’s are so important.

Have you found a great tip or recipe that you go back to again and again for healthier lunches? For yourself even, or if you have them, for your kids?

It’s always hard to think that the food we choose to fuel ourselves with can affect the outcome of our efforts (at work, home, at the gym etc …) but it’s so very true and I’m glad we’re laying the ground work for our daughter (and hopefully our son) on what it means to respect our bodies.