Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jacob is 7!

Happy birthday to my wonderful son Jacob! It seems like just a few months ago I was in Ethiopia picking up a 1 year old boy. Today that boy is 7 years old and no longer little. Here are 7 things I love about my son in honor of his 7th birthday. 1) His kind heart. Jacob is a very loving child who loves to help other people and make others happy. 2) His hard work and determination. One of my goals for Jacob when he started kindergarten was for him to learn not to give up when he gets frustrated. I am amazed and proud of how far he has come in just a year. Whether it was learning to read or practicing for weeks to prepare for swim team tryouts, Jacob has shown that he can not only work hard when he needs to but he can excel when he puts his mind to it. 3) Watching Jacob play sports. Jacob has some amazing speed. I have watched him outrun kids three or four years older than him. It's fun to watch him whether it is chasing down a ball in the outfield, catching up to an oposing player on the soccer field and preventing a goal or scoring a touchdown during flag football. Jacob has the speed that I never had but always wished I did as a child. 4) His smile. Jacob has always had a great smile that makes other people smile too. It's one of his traits that people have always commented on and still do to this day. 5) Responsibility. Jacob is really a pretty responsible kid for his age. It's nice having a kid that I can trust most of the time. He's still a kid and sometimes makes some poor choices but most of the time I can trust that he will be well-behaved even when he is at school or with other adults. 6) His passion. Jacob is very passionate about whatever his current love is. Right now he loves sports and spends most of his time either playing, talking or thinking about sports. He recently told me that he isn't really a video game person. He's just a sports person. 7) His active spirit. As Jacob said, he's not a video game person. He will watch TV or play video games for a short period of time but he usually prefers to be doing something active. Even when we are just spending time at home relaxing, Jacob will often go outside to ride his bike or dig holes in the garden. He is always up for a game of baseball or go to the Y for a swim. I love that I don't have to put restrictions on screen time because he puts them on himself.

Settling In

We have now completed three weeks of school. I am relieved to say we are starting to figure out our new routines and things are going really well. The morning routine is pretty much worked out. Matthew's school has a community breakfast where everyone in the school eats together. I love this idea. It makes sure that all of the kids receive breakfast, doesn't single out those children who receive free breakfast and helps all of the kids settle in and start their day well. The principal uses this time to recognize birthdays, holidays that students are celebrating and make announcements. I also like the community breakfast because it made Matthew's adjustment a little easier. Matthew has always started out his day with breakfast. He had breakfast right after he arrived at day care and last year his 4K class had a community breakfast together. Even his summer program had a morning snack right after the kids all arrived which Matthew thought of as actually having breakfast. He has learned that breakfast signals the start of his school day and is a nice way to help him settle down. Matthew has also seen food as a tool for feeling safe and secure so starting his day with breakfast with his class helps him to perceive his teacher and school as a safe place where his needs will be met. Jacob has decided that he wants to eat breakfast at school this year as well. This is a change for him. His school doesn't have a community breakfast so he has to get to school 15 minutes early and then can choose between eating breakfast and playing on the playground. I always give him his choice since school breakfast is really cheap but I also understand if he wants to play with his friends. So far he has chosen to eat at school which makes our mornings a little smoother and faster. My parents returned from vacation last week and we were very happy to see them again. I am always grateful for everything they do for us. Even just having their emotional support and someone to turn to when I am having a rough day and just need some support is really nice. The only part of our schedule that is still being fine tuned is after school. Jacob and Matthew started their after school activities two weeks ago but the schedule has changed a few times. Jacob had a field trip one afternoon and a party another afternoon last week so he had to change his swim team practices around. Matthew has activiites on Tuesday and Thursdays evenings so those evenings are really busy. They go pretty well except I haven't quite figured out the best way to serve dinner. I am thinking that these are great nights for crock pot dinners but I haven't found very many recipes that I am in love with. I plan to spend some time over the next few weeks experimenting with different dinners (crock pot and ones that are quick to fix) so that those evenings are a little smoother. I am enjoying being with my children in the evenings and not using babysitters at night. That is such a huge change from the past 3 years when I was in class or at my internship at least 2 evenings a week. Now I get off work and I know that I will get to see my kids. The only exceptions are when I have an emergency at work and have to work late but thankfully that doesn't happen often. We are still adjusting to the new school year but we are much more settled than we were even just a couple of months ago. I think it will be another month or so before we really get used to the new schedule and are able to relax a little more but we are getting closer. I still need to figure out some things like when is the best time to buy groceries and run errands but those are details that will get worked out as time goes on. For now I am just happy to finally be getting caught up and able to spend more time with my family.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Horrible Week At Work and Great Week At Home

This week was one of the worst weeks I have had at work in a very long time. I have been staying up late at night almost every night trying to get everything done on time. I always seem to be more emotional whenever I don't eat or sleep enough so let's just say I have been struggling at work. Thankfully, the week is almost over and next week is looking better. Life at home has been wonderful. I can't figure out how to upload pictures right now but the boys looked great for their first day of school. Matthew wanted to be "fancy" and insisted on wearing a dress shirt and tie. Jacob wore his new Packers jersey. They both really like their new teachers and have done well their first week of school. I wrote about Matthew's first week in another post. This week has been very relaxing at home. We are finally getting back into a consistent routine. I can already see Matthew and Jacob beginning to settle down and getting used to having me home with them every night. My parents are on vacation so it really is just the 3 of us most nights. While I love my parents and everything they do for us, it has been nice to be able to pick up my kids myself and just spend time the three of us. Of course, we are looking forward to my parents' return in a couple of weeks and miss them terribly. Here is the summary of this week. I apologize if Blogger makes it harder to read by not accepting my spaces when I post it. Someday I will get a newer computer that Blogger likes better. Monday: Monday was Labor Day. We had the privilege of watching our friend Aidan during the day. I took all of the boys to Devil's Lake where we met up with some other single moms and dads. It was great seeing our friends and everyone had a great time. I loved watching Jacob and Matthew make sand tunnels and build dams in the sand. Jacob practiced his swimming as well. Tuesday: Jacob had his first day of swim team try-outs. I was really worried about whether or not he would be able to make the team. He swims well enough to swim with the 6 year olds but I wasn't sure he would be able to be with the 7 and 8 year olds. Jacob turns 7 in just a couple of weeks. Jacob did great in swimming. I have never seen him work that hard. Whenever he would start to get tired, he would take a deep breath and push himself harder. He was determined and nervous (even chewed through the strap on his goggles). His hard work payed off. Jacob not only made the team but swam well enough to practice with the seven and eight year olds. He is very excited. We learned it was a free trial week at the Y and there were many classes that people could try for free. Matthew took a mini-karate class and loved it. I told him I will sign him up for karate if he continues to do well in kindergarten and his after school program. Wednesday: Matthew rode the bus home for the first time. I wasn't sure what time he would get home so Jacob and I anxiously waited in our driveway for half an hour until the bus pulled up. Matthew got off the bus with a huge smile on his face and waved by to the driver. We spent Wednesday evening doing laundry and just relaxing. Matthew had a headache (probably from the stress of starting a new school and learning so much) so he went to bed early. Both of the kids were very well behaved especially since they were both really tired. Thursday: Jacob had his second day of swim team try-outs. Jacob didn't seem to have the energy or nerves that he had on Tuesday but still swam hard and tried hard. I turned in the paperwork (and fees) so he is now ready for regular practices starting next week. We ran a couple of errands after swim team and bought a very large bag of dog food. Then it was home to relax for a little while and get ready for bed. The kids and I have really enjoyed being able to relax at home more and not be quite so busy or always worried about getting to our next program on time. I really think being home more and just able to relax and follow a general routine will help all of us do better at school and home. So far it seems to really be helping. It's still early but we are off to a good start.

First Week Of Kindergarten

Quick disclosure: Ever since they changed the format of Blogger, my computer has not liked it. I have paragraphs and appropriae spaces but for some reason Blogger is squeezing everything together. I can't figure out how to correct it but am hoping to get a new computer soon and am hoping Blogger will like it better. Matthew has now completed one week of kindergarten. He loves it and I am so relieved. He is in a dual language program where the teacher only speaks English for one hour a day. I was really worried Matthew would hate it or refuse to participate but that hasn't been the case. Day One: Matthew, Jacob and I got up early. My tire had blown out over the weekend and I had to take the car in at 7:30 to get the tires replaced. Thankfully, the tire shop is only about 2 blocks from our house so we were able to drive the van over and then walk home. We got back to the house with about 10 minutes to spare and then walked to the bus stop about one block away. My kids have never ridden the bus to and from school. We live near our elementary school so Jacob always walks to school or gets a ride from me. Matthew is attending a charter school that is about 2 miles from our house and across a very busy street. The school district provides a bus for almost all of the kids at the charter school so he will be riding the bus to school and home after the day care program ends. The day care is through the school recreation department and provides transportation home for any student who rides the bus to school. It is a wonderful service. Matthew came home laughing at the Spanish and stating the other kids "speak funny." He said he loved kindergarten but thought he should go to an English kindergarten the next day. I told him that I was glad he loved it and that he needed to stay in his class for now. I promised him the Spanish would get easier and he would start to understand more soon. I picked Matthew up from day care and learned that he wasn't on the list to ride the bus. I was really glad I had decided to pick him up the first day and he hadn't gotten stuck there. Matthew is a very active child who likes to challenge teachers to see if he actually has to listen to them. He challenged a little bit but overall did a very good job. Day Two: I checked with the day care program and learned Matthew was on the bus list and that he would be dropped off right in front of our house. All I needed to do was be home to wave at the bus driver and let Matthew in the house. This is the first time I don't have to worry about picking him up after work. I have been going to two different day cares for the past several months and it will be a great change to only have to worry about picking Jacob up from his after school program. Day Three: Yesterday was Matthew's first full day of school. He did well although he was very tired at the end of the day. Matthew came home very excited. He had played with some other kids on the playground and in the classroom which has been a challenge earlier in the week. He was having trouble finding ways to play with children he doesn't speak the same language as. He also was very proud to tell me that he only plays during play time and doesn't play in the classroom when they are suppose to be working. Matthew was also excited to report he was starting to understand Spanish a little bit. He stated his teacher told him something earlier in the day and he understood what she was saying. I am really impressed that he is beginning to pick it up after only 3 days in the classroom. Experts say he is at the perfect age to begin to learn another language and so far they appear to be correct. Today is Friday and the end of the week. It has been a very long (and pretty much horrible) week at work but things have gone extremely well at home. I am very relieved that Matthew appears to be doing well at school and must be learning a lot because he is exhausted at home. I remember Jacob was really tired for about the first month of kindergarten and I think Matthew is no different. I am making sure that we stick to a pretty consistent routine and get to bed on time or early every night. It's definitely easier to get him to go to sleep when he is tired from school.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fall Routine

Routines and schedules are very important especially for children. I have tried really hard to keep the kids on a fairly consistent schedule but it has always been difficult with school especially during the past 9 months while I finished my internship. Having a consistent routine and schedule is one of the things I am looking forward to the most now that I am done with school and able to be home every night. I think it will really help both of my children to know that I will be picking them up every night from day care and that they will have the same routine and schedule. Like everything, there will need to be some adjustments but here is the basic routine/schedule I developed for the school year.

5:00 pm Pick Up Jacob (unless he has swim team then I will be dropping him off at practice earlier)
5:30 pm Meet Matthew at his bus stop (his school buses him to and from school while Jacob lives within walking distance of his school
5:45 pm Start dinner. Go through school bags and folders from the day. Set aside homework.

After dinner: Children begin homework/reading time while I clean up. I will help them after dinner is cleaned up or read with them if they don't have any homework. Homework/reading time lasts a minimum of 20 minutes and longer if they have more homework.

Play time/TV time until it's time for bed.

This is very similar to the schedule I had for Jacob last fall when I didn't have an internship. It worked really well and really helps to have a special time set aside for homework when the TV is off. I have told the kids that we can decrease homework time and just read if they finish their homework at day care. They have a 30 minute homework/tutoring time at day care and since they don't get much work at their ages they have a good chance of finishing at school. They still have to read at least one book with me and go over their homework but they don't have to do extra work if they get it done before they get home.

Ready For Fall (Sort of)

Summer went way too fast but the calendar says it's over. Thankfully our favorite activities are available indoors as well as outdoors so we can extend the fun into the colder months.

This fall is going to be a nice change. I have spent the past 3 years juggling school and work which took a lot of time away from my children. I hated being away from them so much but I also knew that I had to do it to make sure our lives were better. This will be the first time in 3 years that I will be focusing only on work and parenting and not juggling any other activities.

I am really looking forward to spending more time watching my children and caring for them. We have a lot of plans.

Matthew is starting kindergarten and Jacob will be in 1st grade next week. Matthew is attending a charter school and Jacob was also accepted at the charter school but wants to stay at the school he attended last year. As a result, I will have kids in 2 different schools but I am used to it and both kids are getting the best education for them. Matthew will be attending a dual language immersion program and will be learning Spanish. I can't wait to hear him speaking Spanish at church and in the community.

I was going to have Matthew take time off from sports and activiites so he could focus on school but then decided it wasn't fair for him to watch his brother play and not be involved in his own teams. He will be taking ice skating lessons, swimming lessons and playing flag football. Swimming lessons are only 1 evening a week and we should be home by 7 so I am hoping it won't be too much for him. Ice skating and football are on weekends.

Jacob is trying out for swim team as well as playing football and taking ice skating lessons. Jacob will swim three afternoons a week if he makes the team but will be done by 6:00 during the week. Football and ice skating are on weekends at the same time as Matthew so at least it won't take up the entire weekend and we will have time to play also.

The fall is scheduled and we should have fun. School supplies are purchased and dropped off at the kids' schools. We have met everyone's teachers for the fall and toured Matthew's classroom and school. School starts Tuesday and everyone is excited for the first day.