she's an e

An entire semester has gone by in a flash and I find myself completely unable to accept that the year did NOT just start. It sure feels like it. I still don't have that rhythm you seem to find once things settle in. You know, the methods we adopt to lug allllll the bags and hats and gloves from the car to the house, or the routine when we get home and everyone simultaneously wants your undivided attention, a snack, to play a game, help with homework and you need to make dinner. Yeah, no. We don't have a rhythm and yet here we are at the end of December.

It is progress report time. We had a very positive parent teacher conference in November, so we weren't expecting any surprises on Caroline's progress report. We had, I think, formed a collaborative relationship with her teacher. We had a list of things we can do at home that we continue to work on and through and around.

When we met with her teacher in November she was preparing for the reading assessments which she would use to document the progress report. She shared that in September our Caroline had 24 sight words. The most recent assessment had her up to 78. She expected she would test into level D, she warned us that it was as hard to test beyond level D as it was to get into it. She prepared us for what level she expected her to be at and together we worked on a plan to get her to where she needs to be at the end of the year and prepared for second grade. It was a fully doable plan, one that we all have great confidence in, one we know Caroline can handle.

Imagine our great delight when this was inside her report.


Even sweeter was this face when her book envelope this week held letter "E" books. I got all choked up and could not tell her enough how incredibly proud we were of her hard work and tenacity to stick with it and wow. She is on pace to more than meet her standards, to go beyond our expectations.

I'm not sharing to emphasize the "E," but to reinforce that kids are AMAZING. She decided it was important, she focused on it, and here she is. We had worries and questions and without ever sharing those concerns with her, look at her.

I am incredibly proud of her. I might be even MORE proud of her "advanced proficiency" in respecting the rights and feelings of others.

Now that I really take that all in, I am. She can be a good student. She can make her marks. She can advance her education and learn about her specific interests, but at the end of it all, if she cannot be a good person who cares about others, well then we failed her, didn't we?

She warms my soul this one. She reminds me what is important and that 4 right there, THAT is the most important thing.

holiday haze

I feel confident saying I must not be the only one feeling like we suddenly whooshed right into the holidays. Maybe it was the later than usual Thanksgiving or the busier schedules or the trip we are planning in late January (that's probably what it is), but I feel like I got hit with a hay bale of tinsel all at once on December 1st. We suddenly had a tree and gift lists and a whole lot of "holiday things to do with the kids" that we really haven't done much of yet.

With a first grader and a preschooler, the season is bright and full and my kids are so stinking excited for Christmas that I cannot wait, yet in my heart I am begging it all to please just slow down already because this feeling is so short lived and why is that? I could sit and stare at our amazing tree all night with a cup of cocoa and music. I run my hand carefully down the garland on the stairs, my fingers tripping over the string of red garland the kids strung through it. There is a feeling you get this time of year and I am trying extra hard to cherish it.

Our town had their Tree Lighting a week ago and it was unfortunately very rainy. We planned ahead and had dinner out together at the restaurant beside the festivities, but found ourselves strolling over to a quirky little bookstore I adore in town instead of standing under umbrellas. Santa was in residence that night and 10% of the sales for the evening went to the Food Cupboard. Connor was NOT having anything to do with Santa, but brave Caroline approached him eagerly, wide grin, eyes bright. She was thrilled, until he asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she had no idea. It was like "A Christmas Story" and I could picture that Santa suggesting a football, only in this version he offered a doll. She nodded her head and looked at me full of anxiety. She could not remember a single thing and despite my best efforts, I couldn't remember a single thing either. We collectively started piecing together a couple items, but wow, for a kid who pokes me in the side during EVERY commercial signaling that yes, she wants that too, this was shocking.

I have started digging into the archives here to find out what gifts we have given the kids in the past to answer questions about what gift for an x year old girl or boy. I'll admit I even look back for my own niece and nephew because what did we give our nearly 12 month old in 2007???

So here - for the me of the future searching for an item for a preschool boy or a first grade girl...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Ranges, Super Heroes, Hess Truck, Playmobil, Legos, and those "sports guys in a bucket"

Books, anything animal related, Friends Legos, American Girl accessories of ALL kinds, Barbie, and MORE BOOKS

The holiday isn't about stuff. It shouldn't be, but it inevitably is. I have to admit that we are going above and beyond what we have ever done before this year and somehow neither of them has a "big" gift. I think Steve and I both keep saying, "ok stop spending," and then we don't. (in truth, he says stop, I don't, but he doesn't stop me.) With all that has happened in this crazy world they are growing up in this past year, those precious moments of pure joy on December 25th might actually sustain me the whole year through and I want them to have a magical Christmas morning. Judging by his reaction to a recent holiday party present in which he SCREAMED in joy, Connor is going to be especially fun to watch.

This week I am feeling a bit lost. I am staring at the 14th on my weekly planner and my heart sinks. I find I am living more for today, less for tomorrow, and fighting to just do what I might otherwise push aside. I am trying to choose time with them over finishing my work. I am learning to accept help from others. Steve addressed and stuffed all the holiday cards this year. I let him do this and if you know me, this was truly difficult for me to let go. He offered to help and I let him, sounds simple, but isn't and when those cards were stacked and sealed I breathed a holiday sigh of relief and my heart was full of gratitude. I work very hard to ensure that my children know there are loved, not just by saying it (which I do countless times a day), but through my actions. I know I am ok because they ask me to snuggle them close. Connor's greatest joy is getting all of us together into one big family hug in someone's bed. We are tight close family unit and I want that to sustain for always. We are overscheduled, exhausted, hard working parents. We do the best we can and I think we are doing alright, so long as they know how much we love them. This weekend will be hard, but I am grateful to have the time with my partner in this crazy life and my littles the whole weekend through. I will remember, I will say a prayer, I will think of Caroline, I will cherish every moment with my family and though my heart will ache, I must continue to find the joy in this magical season for my own family. Through is the only way.

mine and theirs

I'm running in a local 5K tomorrow. I hate running in the cold. I hate the layers, the can't breathe cold in my lungs, the weight of my feet on the cold pavement.The proceeds go to charity and support my community. The race literally starts and ends in my neighborhood. In the three years we have lived here, I have yet to run in this race.

I ran a "run through" last weekend because I have a mental block for a section of the course which historically is tough for me. I get anxious just thinking about a particular part of the race. I could not find a course map and ended up guessing. Guessing gets you a four mile run instead of a 5K.

I really hesitated to register until I looked at the calendar and saw that the weekend of the race directly preceded the anniversary of Sandy Hook Elementary School. When I realized that, I was all in. The race is even called the Angel Run. I'm running to support my community, but my thoughts will be with the families missing their first graders (and loved ones) this holiday season. They have almost reached the point on the calendar where they can no longer recall what their child (or loved one) did last year on this date.

My Caroline is a first grader this year. I have been lingering with the kids at bedtime. Snuggling with them extra long, smelling their smells, feeling their warmth, soaking them in. I'm sure a lot of people will be doing that this week and through the holidays.

I'm going to be thinking of them tomorrow. I'll be wearing my Sandy Hook Run for the Families shirt, "For Caroline, mine and theirs."