See Caroline Read

I learned how to read well before kindergarten. My mother worked with me each night and I remember it wasn't always fun and it was definitely not easy. I have vivid memories of looking at the page and feeling so utterly unable to sound it out and truly having no idea what it said and how could I possibly ever understand this? Those were the days when my parents worked opposite shifts. Dad played Gargamel and Smurfs with us in the mornings and Mom handled dinner, activities, and bedtime. I remember reading to her in bed once and having her fall asleep. (Now that I'm a Mom, I understand how that could happen.) I learned to read with Dick and Jane. My father learned to read with Dick and Jane (maybe my mother too?) like most kids in the 50's. I held my father's books in my hands and while Caroline is using an updated version, the stories are the same.

Go, dick!
Go, Go, Go

She has come so far in the past few months. As an "early reader" myself, I have always encouraged her and sat with her and the Bob books, but she nearly always pouted or sighed heavily that "this was not fun." The very last thing I wanted was to push too hard and make her hate reading. At first she had little interest in letters at all and then later it seemed she was lacking confidence to even try to sound things out. I kept telling her over and over that she would love reading, that it would unlock unbelievable worlds for her.

We worried her confidence would not just get in her way, but set her back. How many other kindergarteners were reading? Was she the only one? Should we be worried? We are incredibly fortunate to live in a town with an amazing school system and they agreed with our concerns and set her up with some intensive literacy skill building in a small group. I hesitated to write about this because for the first time this feels like over sharing and it feels like it belongs to her and not me. I wondered what she would think to read this back when she is 12 or 17 or 39 and what it will mean to her that I shared it. So I feel it necessary to share also that she was doing well, meeting minimum requirements, but that they felt she would benefit from the additional time focusing on literacy. In any other town, she probably would not have gone to this group, but I am of the mindset that anything extra is worth exploring and I refused to let my own pride get in the way of her education. So older Caroline reading this years from now, you were doing fine honey, your teacher and parents just wanted you to be the absolute best you could be and we needed help to make that happen.

She brought home several short books a week, added to her sight word vocabulary, honed good reading behavior and before our eyes she blossomed. She couldn't wait to read to us about a cat's day spent meowing and licking his paws and cat napping. She smiled ear to ear when she took home a "B" book. We attended a literacy night for her school and I had tears in my eyes telling her reading specialist how amazed we were, asking her what else we could continue at home to keep the momentum going. With summer fast coming, I started to worry about how we at home could keep it light, make it fun and ensure she doesn't lose these skills. A Friday came and went and the weekend flew by as weekends always do. On a recent Monday morning, I pulled out the papers from Friday's school day and there was a letter from the principal stating she was meeting expectations for her grade level and she would not spend anymore time with the reading specialist. What great news right? Caroline cried because she loved going to her reading group. She loved her reading specialist. I wrote a note to this amazing catalyst myself that night, my words echoing her emotion. It was full of gratitude and mostly admiration. I wanted her to know how important and impactful she had been to Caroline.

Tonight she didn't want to stop, 68 pages in one session. She read most of those pages beside Connor who listened quietly and intently to her every word. You could tell she was so proud she could do this thing that he can't do. I can barely keep him still for a short book anytime of day that isn't bedtime. I'm sure I will find her with a hidden book and a flashlight any night now. (except she sleeps with a light on, so the flashlight probably won't be necessary.) It's going to be a summer full of new stories and the days she needs me to read it aloud or help her sound it out are numbered. I have wanted this for her for so long, but now it feels hard to imagine she is old enough to read it herself.

What books do you recommend for kindergarteners just starting out that they can read rather independently?

Caroline reads dick and Jane.

http://youtu.be/UQuU6U3sv0o

busy

Most days, like many Moms, I barely keep this ship afloat. If often starts early while I am getting dressed or drying my hair. "Don't make me yell, please, let's not start the day like this." Closely followed by, "if you touch him/her again, you are going to your rooms to get dressed and you will not see the end of this Arthur which you have already seen 17 times." We all stumble out the garage with frantic "your backpack!" "Connor, you need to wear a coat, buddy!" and what must be the neighbors' favorite, the shrill "look both ways!!" as the two of them race down the hilly part of the driveway to the street in the epic no one wins game of "I'm the line leader."

Once everyone gets where they need to go, I spend about 20 minutes or more, emailing, organizing my day, determining desired caffeination level appropriateness to tackle the plans just confirmed, and set my GPS to take me past the neighboring town's horse farms if possible or a dunkin donuts if not. I listen to bad music, squawk back at Dr. Laura, laugh at Howard Stern, see patients, call families, chat up colleagues via cell and email, search for lunch, debate whether or not lunch is rlly necessary, scare neighbors in quiet neighborhoods I park in to document, before racing to pick the kids up for the finish line that is home.

I get approximately five words from each kid if I ask them what they did that day. Instead they get this standard set and I get the standard answers.

Who was your best friend today? (Lila or Nate 99.99% of the time)
What was the best thing you did today (played outside)
What was the hardest thing (con says missing mommy, Caroline inevitably now shares that in fact something did happen at school and I get to hear about the latest mean girl drama and oh my lord, they are too young for this BS!!!)

If it is M, W, or F (which never happens because we always are out and about that night, but makes her feel better because it is three days) they get to watch a show. If not, they each select something creative to do or play in their own rooms. I scramble to empty and refill lunch boxes and pull some sort of healthy meal together during this time. There are often, "stop guys!" "That's two" and sometimes one of them ends up screaming in their room pounding on the door or stripping their bed in frustration. Yes, stripping their bed.

The other night after dinner, I had an off day for my 10K training and Steve wanted to get insanity done with downstairs which required the use of the playroom. I kept the kids upstairs and with nothing to distract me from their ooey gooey goodness having completed all required tasks of evening prep, we played an epic game of pirate ship on Connor's bed. The kids loved the suggestion and instead of letting them take the lead, I suggested we hop in quickly and set sail because the seas were getting rough and that brought out the sharks. I had them at sharks. We hid under blankets during big waves, I shook the bed when we hit a big rock, we took on water and needed to bail it ourselves with just the invisible buckets in our hands. The kids screeched joyful terrified screams each time they came up with a new creature of the deep to come on board and nip at their toes. Their favorite was the jellyfish with its long reaching stinging tentacles. We snuggled together, laughed from our bellies, and Steve came upstairs after his cool down wondering aloud if we were alright with all the noise.

Take a break from the usual. Hop on a boat and let their imaginations take you all away. That short half hour I spent with them aboard our blanket pirate ship will be something I will always remember when I look back on these days with them. It was simple, but special. It was outside of their norm, away from the comforts of their play space, and the way they looked to me to guide this new game was powerful. It was a reminder that even when they don't necessarily need me and can play quite independently now, I shouldn't assume that just because they are playing and happy they wouldn't benefit from me taking the helm and leading them on a crazy adventure.

Alligator aggression

My boy has nightmares that he cannot be woken from. Even with his eyes open, you know he is still elsewhere, and touching him often brings little comfort. Last night I heard him screaming from his bed and found him sitting up, tears streaming down, scared. It was the scared look that said this was not the usual, "I'm asleep, but I have to pee, what do I do?!" kind of wake up. We get at least one of those a week. I rubbed his back, soothed him with quiet words in his ear and he clung to me with a fear so real that I slid in beside him to rub his back until whatever he was dreaming about passed. "Alligators." He did his tell tale triple breathe in and sigh out and I started to get back up to sleepily climb back under my own covers. He sensed I was leaving and reached for me and I couldn't leave him. I rubbed him back some more, sang "you are my sunshine" in whispers and before I knew it I was staring at him watching the years go by to a time when I would cherish this ungodly wake up. Those thoughts don't take long to turn into a time when I am older and less involved in his life and more on my way out of this earthly place. It always happens quickly how my thoughts progress from this moment, to the next, to a time in the distant future and then to that sad time when I will no longer be here anymore at all. I can't be the only person who easily slips into anxious fear about that time. I always think the same thing; it is just so short, it is so unfair to get this only to lose it, and I feel pangs that I will miss so much of my children's lives. Those are the times I scrunch my eyes tight at night, feel the weight of my three year-old beside me, his tiny man boy hand clutching my shirt, and keep rubbing his strong back. Before I realized it hours had passed, the sun was rising and Steve was peering down on us. "He couldn't get himself settled," but I wonder if it was the other way around.

anything can happen

Do, Do, Do, Do

I teach my children that anything can happen. We all do. On any given day I help levitate that adage with encouragement to go ahead and do it! I delight in that part of parenthood. I scoop heaping tablespoons of their dreams and hopes into my heart. We all build our kids up, reassuring, urging them on. Anything can happen.

Anyone can be anything. Anything can happen. Any day can be the greatest day. Anything can happen, even on the brightest clearest bluest days.

I hesitate briefly to enjoy those cloudless blue beautiful days now. The world our kids are growing within is dangerous and unpredictable and full of the makings of nightmares. I think about this when I run; that anything can happen.

Last May, I started huffing and puffing and forcing myself to train for a 5K with friends. I didn't really want to run so much as prove I could. I lean toward the kind of competitive you don't want to play Monopoly with. I was so fearful before the start of that run that I might not even finish. I had barely run the three and change miles in my six weeks of training. Training which included shuffle stepping initially to make one tiny loop of the neighboring area. I celebrated my first mile like it was a triathlon finish. Back then not stopping for the whole mile was the best run ever.

It felt pretty good to finish, I was triumphant, so I kept running off and on that summer and ran again this past fall with those same friends and my cousin in memory of a BC grad who gave his life on 9/11.

Sandy Hook.

The Marathon.

It is not my will to run that keeps me running, nor my enjoyment of logging those miles. I bet some people watch the miles add up and feel satisfaction. I mostly think about how many hours without my kids and Steve that adds up to. Ah yes, good ol' mom guilt. Sure, it's also about health and since doing my combo Insanity/Running I have never felt better (or fit into some of my old favorite dresses and pants). For me, it's more about doing something in the face of all this sadness which I feel powerless to change. Anything. I think about those things when I run and they propel me forward, forcing my body to lean into the expanse ahead of me. Twenty more yards, five more minutes, just around the corner until I get back to them.

How many more times will I need to reassure my children in the wake of senseless tragedy? How many more terrible things before they stop believing that these are the exception and not the new normal? How can I send them off each day with confidence not just in who they are and how to cope with playground drama, but the sense of how to be safe should they encounter some terrible circumstance without scaring them half to death? How can I reinforce all of this when anything can happen?

All the books and articles we read about parenting always tell us to lead by example. Do as I say and as I do. If I'm fearful, and Lord knows I am, then how can they be anything but. They can see through me now, especially Caroline, and they know when I am uneasy. I can't always turn things into a joke and tease them about how we are having monkey stomach for dinner. Sometimes it has to be serious when serious questions are asked.

So in working hard to continue that "Be not afraid" mantra I took on after Newtown, I registered for the Boston Athletic Association 10K on June 23rd. It runs right through the heart of some of the residential neighborhoods most affected by the bombing, just a couple blocks over on Comm Ave, both starting and finishing between the Park and the Common. I'm in week three of my training, up to 4 miles a run now, working on my pace, and feeling stronger (and more sore) by the day. I'm running to show the strength that exists in our city and to show my kids that anything can happen; even Mommy can run that race.

A History of Mother's Day

Six years ago, Caroline made me a Mom and we spent our first Mother's Day snuggling in bed before heading up to the house we had just closed on to continue readying for our big move.

From Caroline Month 4
2008

From Caroline Month 16

2009

From Caroline Month 28

2010

From Kids.May.2010

From Kids.May.2010

2011

From Kids June 2011

2012

From MomandDad Mother's Day 2012

Things have changed so much since 2007, but the really good things remain the same. Snuggling in bed is still my morning priority and the very best part of my entire day.

2013

The Greatest Game

All week we watched the weather, we watched the forecasted rain which threatened both the Boston College Spring Football Game and the Sox game we had tickets for on Saturday. Steve and I didn't speak directly about the potential danger we might be putting our family in to attend these events after Monday. I could see him roll his eyes at my implied caution, "I know, I know" I said, "but we have to consider it." We watched the Bruins game, well three of did because a particularly sassy member of the family had been sent to bed early after declaring that she "hated" her brother and I was not her "friend." My eyes pooled over when Rene Rancourt handed the anthem to the fans and Steve said one thing, "we will be at the second Sox game at home since all this started." We thought to ourselves and then out loud, "darn." Imagine, missing that epic first home game by just one day.

Then Thursday night and the flurry of push notifications that alerted me at 5:30AM that it had been the wildest night ever in Boston.  Steve had already gone downstairs to do Insanity and bleary eyed I ran downstairs, "Steve, something is going on!" Seeing a note that people should not take the train I dialed my sister-in-law and woke her (sorry, Kerry) and said to her, "don't go to work, stay home, just don't go to work." I had no idea what was happening, but I didn't want her grabbing her coffee, putting in her ear buds and walking out the door.

It was a very long Friday. Anyone who had a productive work day, hats off to you. I was checking email constantly, waiting for notification that the kids' schools were closing. I texted Steve who was working from home incessantly to the point of annoyance, "any updates?" He cleaned the entire  house as a method to cope with the suspense and anxiety. We picked up the kids, we made pizza, we watched the "stay in place" order get lifted and our eyes met again as they had all week. "We're going," he said. Inside I panicked a little. Ok, I panicked a lot. Then they cancelled the spring football game at Boston College and I echoed another sentiment I read that day, "it's the prudent thing to do." I held the kids, one under each arm on the sofa, while Steve's phone erupted with news notifications and he raced upstairs to watch the end of the most dramatic week dare I say in Boston's history.

& then it was over and the relief was immeasurable. I counted our blessings and those of people I love and care about that endured the stay in place order and were directly in harm's way that entire day. Steve immediately realized we were going to the game. THE GAME.

We were up and eating Dunkin' before we would have even pulled ourselves away from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We were in the car and headed to the park at 10:30AM for the 1:10 start. We bought programs, "believe in boston" flags for the kids, B Strong hats for Steve and his Dad, and headed to the Yard House for turkey burgers and fries. We sat spitting distance from a foursome of SWAT team members. My kids high-fived every "statie" and BPD they saw. I looked at Steve as we waited to get through Security and I said it out loud, "Vigilance." We stopped to snag a balloon and with Connor on my shoulders, WBZ news interviewed me for the 6 o'clock news and the world got a glimpse of my wild talky hands shouting that it had been an emotional week full of ups and downs and that after Friday night, we couldn't wait to get there. What they didn't air was when he asked if we were excited about the special ceremony at the beginning of today's game. "That is the game today, isn't it?"

We couldn't wait to get there. They couldn't either.


Security wrapped down the street, or so we heard and it was evident because there were so many open seats. We were in our row well before 1pm, waiting, anticipating, and I wondered how I would answer the questions that would surely come. You can hear it in this shaky and unclear video we took at the beginning of the pre-game. Caroline exclaims, "It's the Marathon!" then later, "why are they sad?" and "why are they crying?" All I could tell her was that it was ok and today was a day to be happy.



The kids clapped and cheered and held their signs and flags over their heads and were completely clueless. We had succeeded in shielding them from the week, only to bring them to the ceremony celebrating the heroism and silently remembering the victims. Luckily, they were distracted by those green flags and cotton candy and I never held their hands so tight during a national anthem before.

The family next to us were visiting from Kansas City. Their daughter was attending Wellesley in the fall and they had arrived Thursday night. They were so in love with Boston; the people, the spirit, the soul.

Connor studied the game carefully, asking where the blue team went, who was batting, where are they running, why are those guys cleaning the dirt?



Caroline tracked the scoreboard and held her Sweet Caroline song up high while the bachelorette party behind us piled pink beaded necklaces around her neck and Neil himself took to the field and sang her song to her.


We were there. Our family was there. Years from now, we'll tell them about it, show them pictures, and they might remember the hot dogs or the flags or the train ride. We have the B Strong cards, the stickers the BPD personally handed to my kids with the same logo, the memories, the gratitude, the wave of pride, the tears, and the win. It wasn't a Yankee game. It wasn't playoffs. It wasn't the World Series. It was the greatest game. We were there.