second rising

It's been a wild ride. First grade came in like a mack truck, rolling fast, with failing brakes on a downhill. The year held such promise and though at times the road felt quite steep, we forged ahead. We all learned. Caroline learned how to handle expectations; those she held for herself and those others held for her. We learned what a hard worker she was, how resilient she can be. Caroline learned that the sky was the limit and we learned that the sky is a lot higher than we thought. The growth was more than height, more than reading, writing, or even new math. (I am so happy to say goodbye to new math for the summer.) She grew in everyway imaginable.

There were times in this year when Steve and I perhaps unnecessarily wrung our hands in worry. We worked hard to remain positive, but gone were the "it will all be ok" feelings we naively had in Pre-School and even Kindergarten. We teetered along learning how best to approach homework, bigger assignments, learning sight words, phonics rules (that silent e is a killer), quiet reading time. We labored through our emerging reader's bedtime routine. No parent ever loved having their child's bedtime extended many, many more minutes than scheduled while listening to them struggle through "See Dick. See Dick run." We walked the fine line often between encouragement and pushing in the name of learning. She learned a ton this year and we learned twice as much.

Lessons in marriage - a timeline; sharing time, sharing space, sharing funds, sharing nighttime diaper duty, sharing discipline, sharing the responsibility of supporting a student. Remember back in the day when the biggest disagreement was who left the bowl in sink? Remember when you actually had time to go line by line through the transactions on your bank account? Oh, my husband still somehow finds time for that. I'm still always at the ready to defend a Dunkin' run or a great pair of shoes I found at Marshall's. (Thank GOD he does as he just discovered fraudulent activity today! It is rather odd that he found it after I had already drafted this!) Somehow when the marital debate moves on to how to approach your first grader's homework, this is where you will both draw lines in the sand and dig your heels in deeply. You will each reflect on how you learned, how you think she learns, and you will express great emotion defending your own position on how to move forward. It just gets harder folks. We weren't on the same page at all in September, but we came together in ways we hadn't before. We negotiated and compromised on an appropriate approach to supporting her education. It wasn't easy, but the best indicator of the good job we did is that she has no idea we struggled with it so much.

It's worth all the debate and energy when you see the last entry in your first grader's writing notebook, written on the very last day of school.


On her last night as a first grader, she wrote a letter to her treasured teacher who spoke quickly and effectively during our parent teacher conferences, the one who told us she was a hard worker and she could do this.

Time speeds up. They hit school and POOOOOF. She explained to her brother earlier this week on the ride home that "once you hit number grades, it's a lot of work, there isn't playtime anymore, and you have to do your best." A summer of camp, swimming, and fun lies ahead of her and before I can even acclimate to our new normal, she'll be picking out her first day of second grade outfit.

How does she feel about second grade? There were some tears tonight.

We made a deal to not worry about second grade yet as she sat in my lap, her body completely wrapped around mine, tears staining my shirt. We have a whole summer to celebrate and enjoy. We have a plan to fight the "summer brain drain" that even I'm excited about. It involves sewing, the United States, dolphins, and cooking.

I'm so incredibly proud of this kid. She continues to surprise us, but needs so much encouragement. She is both confident and cautious, sure of herself and full of self doubt, hurts your ears enthusiastic and painfully shy. Our Caroline is becoming a more fine tuned version of the person she will become and her wings are coming in faster and more fully than I ever could have anticipated.

She also apparently wants to be The Pioneer Woman.


warm & fuzzy

What to do when you have a kid at home that asks you to play hockey so often that you create this because the adult knees in the house don't last long enough to satisfy the tiny hockey dictator?

We play until we are out of breath, our bodies aching, and he still wants more. I yell behind me as I walk upstairs, "Steve, you got exactly what you asked for."

When we were a family of three, Steve would often say, "having a girl is fantastic, but when will I have someone who wants to learn about sports?" This was code for, "I want someone to watch sports with me" or more likely, "I need another vote for nighttime entertainment in the form of sports." Little did he know that a couple years in his future the girl who could not be bothered to watch hockey or football would be snuggled tightly against him screaming at Suban during the Playoffs this past spring. Sometimes, you get exactly what you ask for and then some. Some kids get to stay up late to watch a special show, we based an entire reward schedule around hockey games.

We have been cautious since the no go this past fall with Learn to Hockey. We have been trying to find that happy place between pushing and supporting to urge him onward. His smile is never so wide as when he is playing something with Steve, his laugh so hearty, his spirit so bright. Admittedly, part of me also wants to hide him away from the world, let this storm blow over and protect him from all the crazy, to let him be shy and non-participatory because he is four. He is my baby, let's just let him be.
This active play is his obsession. We never went through an Elmo phase, a Toy Story phase, a train phase, a car phase. This is it. We pulled the trigger and signed him up for lacrosse after he made several requests to watch some practices on our way home and couldn't take his eyes off the field. I worried we might have tears when we arrived at that first session, but tried to keep things positive. We were looking good until that now long ago Monday afternoon. I arrived after a particularly hairy day at work to pick the kids up from school. When Connor and I arrived to get Caroline she was surprised to see us so early, "how was lacrosse, buddy?" My seven year-old had remembered lacrosse. I had not. It hadn't made it onto anyone's calendar, both Steve and I had completely forgotten. Awesome parenting. Epic fail.

We were only 15 minutes late at that point. It was just up the road, thankfully, so I tossed both kids into the car and gave him a pep talk to end all pep talks. I knew that this would go against every cell in his body to join something already in session. If I don't drop him off before morning circle at school, he cannot cope. This would test him. I reminded him "how much fun this was going to be!" To my great surprise (and delight), he hopped out of the car, ran to the field, waited patiently while I got the instructor's attention that I had a late arrival (and apologized profusely). He got a stick, ran right over to where she directed him, and proceeded to laugh, smile, play and have the time of his life. "I was on the red dragons!" He came running up to me after the session with the biggest smile I have ever seen and he hugged his sister with such a big squeeze that they rolled right back down the big hill towards the field.

Caroline was so proud of him for his participation that she made him a "warm and fuzzy" just like she gets at camp when she goes beyond her comfort zone. It read "For being brave at lacrosse and listening to the coach." She gets him. Wow, did I have to brush that dust out of my eye on this one.

On the shoulders of that big success, we pulled the trigger on soccer. It's technically for kids going to kindergarten next year, which he isn't, but they opened it up to 4 year olds. I wouldn't have known about that if we had not originally been waitlisted for lacrosse. The staff at Park and Rec suggested it as an alternative. Steve and I had a quick convo while I drove to a meeting the following morning. Were we or weren't we? He was so excited about the shin guards and cleats that he practically wore them to bed. He cried every morning leading up to the first session that today was NOT in fact, soccer. He whined all morning because I wouldn't let him wear his cleats to school. He literally could not wait for Saturday.

Still, I have reservations, mostly about the outside world. Are we pushing him? Should he have just sat it out until it is officially his turn for Pre-K Soccer next year? I imagine the world judging these decisions and I try to push that judgment away because what they haven't seen is my shin guard and cleat wearing son in the backyard with his dad, screaming with laughter as they play soccer together. He needs this.

The final session of learn to lacrosse was last night. There was not one tear, not one whine or groan about going. Nor was there a single sideline boost of confidence or reassurance required, AT ALL. Was he sad lacrosse was over? Yes, but hey, "I still have soccer, right, Mama?!" The excitement on Saturday mornings grows as we get close to the horrifically early 8:45AM start time. The child who will not be dressed EVER, rips off pjs and pulls on shorts. He sometimes needs encouragement during the "learning" portion of the session, but once that game starts it is difficult to get him to sit out a turn. This past week he announced, "I am a really good player, daddy." Ok, buddy, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

He has blossomed, grown up, shed that shy exterior that was holding him back, and nothing is going to stop him now. It's what we wanted most for him and here he is. Watch out world, he's arrived.