Saturday, January 19, 2019

Disney IS the Most Magical Place on Earth

My family is a Disney family.

On a scale of 1 to completely obsessed, I'd say we are at maybe an 8? a 7.5? While we don't exclusively have Disney Christmas decorations or dress in Disney apparel constantly, or go to the park yearly (although we all totally would), we will massacre you in Disney Scene It! or other any other Disney trivia game, quote Disney movies regularly on our group chat, and rush out to see the newest Disney flick at the movie theatre. We also relish an opportunity to talk with ANYONE about how much we love Walt Disney World.

This affinity for Disney definitely came from my mom. She went to Disney World shortly after it opened to celebrate her high school graduation and fell in love. She loved it so much, in fact, that she dragged my dad there on their honeymoon- a man who hates crowds, gets motion sickness on even the wussiest ride, and is terrified of flying in an airplane. I followed right in her footsteps celebrating my honeymoon at Disney World also. When I learned that Josh had never been, there was no other discussion of where we would go. Luckily, I have turned him into a pretty big Disney lover too ;)
My guy with Mickey Mouse Ears- November 2007 (our honeymoon)

Since we got married 11 years ago, we have been lucky enough to travel to Disney World 3 times and have also been to Disneyland and Disneyland Paris (because if you're close to a Disney park, you HAVE to go, right?!). 
Disneyland (Tower of Terror is our favorite ride), Summer 2010

Disneyland Paris, Summer 2012
When I was growing up, Disney was the big trip we took about every four years.

My dad is extremely frugal while also being one of the most smartest managers of money I have ever known (this is lethal combination). He has always been very transparent with me about money and managing money. I know when we were younger, my parents didn't have a lot of extra money- raising five kids is expensive! When my parents were saving for our first Disney trip, it was a huge deal. I remember them talking often about the cut backs they were making, putting a little money aside each month, and planning, years in advance it seemed, to take this trip. 

It was spring break of 1992 and I was in second grade. My brother, Eric was about to turn 6, and my sister Colleen was almost 3. I know this is going to sound cliche and super expected, but that trip was one of the most magical experiences of my entire life. We watched parades, saw fireworks, rode everything we were tall enough to ride, and even though I'm sure there were tough moments where we were cranky and tired and throwing tantrums, I remember it only as perfection. I was also seriously obsessed with Minnie at the time and we went to a character breakfast and when she came out, I was so overcome with joy and happiness that I cried. My mom had hooked me too- I was a Disney fan for life. 
Disney World, spring break, 1992 (do you see all the people?! How did my parents get us a bench to sit on during a parade?! Also, check out my brothers neon fanny pack)
Over the years, the memories made with my family at Disney are some of the things I look back on most fondly. I remember driving there sitting in the way way back with my own plastic tub underneath my seat of books and activities and a few treats. I remember stuffing into on hotel room, all 7 of us- my youngest sisters, Laura and Rachel sharing a bed, my parents in the other, my brother and I with sleeping bags on the floor and poor Colleen with her sleeping bag in the bathtub. I remember the way we would always be there before the park opened, come back to the room for a quick nap or swim in the pool before heading back out to stay until closing time. I remember just staring at Cinderella's castle and thinking I had never seen anything so beautiful. I remember, as we got older, taking advantage of every single extra magic hour- even the ones that went way into the night only to be up early the next morning to do it all over again. I remember saving my money and buying something Cinderella from a gift shop each time we were at Disney World.
Disney World fall 1995: Me-12, Eric, 9.5, Colleen 6.5, Laura 3.5, Rachel 1.5

If that doesn't make Disney special enough to me, I will always have the memory of being at Disney World, over Christmas in 2010, just 9 months before my brother died. We didn't know it at the time, but that would be our last full family vacation. 
Disney World, December 2010
Disney World- December 2010
It is easy to see why I am such a firm believer in the importance of experiences over things. With the exception of a very few cherished gifts, my memories from childhood have nothing to do with stuff and everything to do with traditions, vacations, and experiences with my family.  

I have always dreamt of being a parent and taking my own children to Disney World. Josh and I have been talking about how excited we are going to be for that moment for YEARS- back when kids were just a thing in the far off future, back when kids were a serious reality we were discussing and trying for, and back when kids were a hope and dream we weren't sure we were ever going to get.

The time has come and I can't even believe it.

We will be at Disney, all of us, soon. 

You may have thought I was crazy when I wrote about being the expectant mom sobbing during birthing class. You may have thought I was crazy when I wrote about crying so hard in Target shopping for my baby registry that I had to leave. This Disney trip will have NOTHING on those. Nothing. 

I will certainly openly weep several times during the trip- at the beauty of things like Cinderella's Castle, at the magic that only Disney can provide, at the overwhelming sense of gratitude that I can be in this special place with the children I have always wanted and prayed for, and at the wonder and awe of watching it all, this time, through my kids' eyes.

Disney World, here we come! 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

2019 #oneword: WILL

Before moving forward into 2019, I want to give a nod to 2018 and say thank you. 2018 brought Preston Huron Hundt into our lives completing our family. I finished carrying my last baby. My biggest achievement surrounding this is to be a functioning parent of four young children. In my excitement of our fourth baby being born, there was a fear of what that would look like- could Josh and I really do this life with four kids?! I have made it eight months into being a mom of four boys. We go out in public (sometimes), we do things, we get things done, we take care of each other, we have fun. It is NOT easy, but I am here and doing it and wouldn't have it any other way.

Now for setting new goals and intentions for the next twelve months... I have been choosing one word to focus on instead of a New Year's Resolution to keep me focused over the last several years. This year, I'm choosing the world WILL.

Thankfully, because I am anything but concise, WILL has several meanings, which allow me to explore the word deeper and generate all kinds of ways I'd like to show growth in 2019.

*WILL: verb: expressing inevitable events.*
In general, I want to say I'm going to do things and then do them. When I say I WILL do something, I WILL. More specifically, here are some things I WILL be doing:
  • I WILL take my vitamins every day (have them sorted for the week and just DO IT).
  • I WILL make time to read/write (two minute morning journal, blogging, reading at least three times a week before bed).
  • I WILL make time for prayer and spiritual growth (daily devotional). 
  • I WILL put my phone down (hide and delete apps, no-tech Tuesday, check email less).
WILL also has a second meaning, which has also spoken to me as I layout my intentions for 2019...

*WILL: noun: the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.*
This definition of WILL is what first brought me to this one word decision. I need to be more thoughtful and steadfast in my actions towards things that are difficult. Even though I am an extremely persevering and determined human, I have some things that take me a LOT to show progress and even more to accomplish- I'm sure we all do. These are some items that need my attention and strong WILL:
  • I WILL get healthy (track food on Weight Watchers).
  • I WILL exercise (micro exercise- five minutes at least five days a week plus spinning).
  • I WILL take care of myself (putting this one here since I'm slacking on taking vitamins and my last haircut was nine months ago). 
  • I WILL get my WILLpower back (come on you, control freak- get control of yourself).
Each of these things are HUGE priorities to me, at least that's what I say and what I truly believe. However, my actions don't always match it- they just don't. I let too many day-to-day things get in my way of achieving these things. I cave fast, I allow distractions and derailments, I get UNfocused in these priorities and focused on what's in front of me at the time. For me, this comes down to my will and my willpower. I've lost both (my will and willpower) when it comes to fitness, nutrition, balance, and self-care. When I am not taking care of myself in these ways, my energy is lower, my patience is less, and I cannot put my best self into my most important jobs of wife and mother. You can't take care of others if you haven't taken care of yourself.

My biggest task in 2019 is get back the power of my will, the control over my will. I know it is the only way these others items WILL happen with any kind of success. A daunting task, but I am ready.

Happy 2019! What would your #oneword be? 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Carter Pavona: 3.5 Years Old

A late blog is better than a never blog ;) Carter turned 3.5 years old on November 3rd and he has been keeping us oh so busy during these last six months. I tell ya, people talk all the time about the terrible twos, but I think the actual parents in the trenches would say that three years old is a DOOZIE. It's really a good thing that Carter is so stinking cute because he can be quite a challenge sometimes. I don't know if there are others out there who have children like mine, but it's such a roller coaster with him. One minute you are wondering if it's too early for some kind of boot camp and the next he is walking up to you, with his arms open, asking for a hug and a kiss with an 'I love you' attached. He can make my heart so angry and then want to explode with happiness mere minutes apart.

These last six months have brought him a little brother, more time at preschool, and the absence of his big brothers as they were off to kindergarten. Being home without them during the day has been a HUGE adjustment for him and also me. I realized that Nolan and Judah really ran our show- they often picked what we were going to do, were the orchestrators of play, and the generator of ideas. Carter and I were a little lost without them at first, but we have found our groove. Carter, now I think, loves being the big guy at home. The joy is evident. However, he will tell me from time to time that his misses his brothers during the day.

Carter's verbal capacity is quite shocking sometimes. He talks non stop, all day long. Seriously. He's one of those kids that will get asked a simple question and he will go on and on and on and on and on. He loves nothing more than to laugh or do something that makes other laugh. He is also extremely injury prone.  This kid bites his tongue, trips over his own feet, falls over, and runs into things more than anyone I've ever known.

Sometime very fascinating about Carter lately is all the weird places he falls asleep. We've found him fast asleep under his bed, in his chair, face down on the floor, by the door, and behind the curtains.

Other Things Carter is Into:
- Numbers- Carter is obsessed with counting items, counting to 100, and having people count while he goes and does something or gets something to see how long it took.
- Privacy in the Bathroom- Carter is 90% potty trained I would say at this point- he still wakes up from a nap or bedtime with an occasional wet or full diaper and during the day he is all "fancy pants" all the time.  When Carter needs to use the bathroom, he always lets us know and then we are never sure if he's going to say "I need some privacy" or "I don't want privacy" and then expect you to go in there with him.  He literally just let me know he had to poop while I was writing this and let me know he needed privacy.
-Games- Carter is super into board games. We love them in our family so this is a wonderful thing. I've really enjoyed playing with him while Preston is napping.
- "Reading"- Carter loves to read books he's memorized.  He has always been a person who gets super into a few books at a time and wants to read those only.  He still does this, but then also loves to read his books to Preston.  Some favorites are Five Little Monkeys With Nothing to Do, Dada, The Little Engine That Could, My Truck is Stuck, and the favorite of all favorites The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
- "I NEED TO TELL  YOU SOMETHING."  If he ever gets in distress or in trouble, you can bet he is going to yell these words over and over again until he is able to explain his side the story.

This kid can simultaneously light up an entire room with his smile and laugh and make you want to pull your hair out as he needs to be placed into time-out yet again and it's only 9:00am. He will send tears streaming down your face as he strokes your cheek and kisses your nose and have you gritting your teeth when he gets his eleventh injury of the day for not paying attention to where he's going or what he's doing.  He is wonderful and challenging, and sweet, and smart, and hilarious, and frustrating, and kind all wrapped into the one and only Bing.

Nolan and Judah: 5.5 Years Old

This is a delayed blog- I love writing so much, but I certainly go through times of feeling like I just don't have time. November seems like one of those time; I think it has a lot to do with having more school work with report cards being sent home at the end of the month. If I have a free kid-free minute, school work takes precedence at that time of year.

Nolan and Judah turned 5.5 on November 7th. This last six months has been HUGE for them- becoming big big brothers to Preston, having their longest summer at home, playing T-ball and soccer, and starting kindergarten. Both boys are loving school AND it's been a HUGE adjustment- they are exhausted and overworked (in my professional and non professional opinion) I'm so thankful, however, that school has been a safe, welcoming place for them. 

These two boys are very much the same Nolan and Judah that they always have been- Nolan's mind moving a mile a minute, sharp with an iron lock memory to boot, feeling hard and deeply, being extremely in-tune with others' feelings. Judah being laid back, friendly and outgoing, but quiet all at the same time, positive and extremely hard working.

Surprisingly, (or maybe not- I should've known), Nolan has had a very difficult time keeping organized at school. I figured with this strong sense to do things perfectly and right all the time that putting things where they go and keeping track of his things would be a breeze for him. Boy was I wrong. What I've learned is that he is kinda like a mad scientist- SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE up there, but like can't remember where he put his shoes. One day I sent him to school with his boots, snow-pants, shoes, hat, and gloves and he came home without his shoes, without a hat, and with one glove that WAS NOT HIS. I asked him where that poor other kids' glove was and he had not a stinking clue. I know because of all I've read about child development and boy development that this will do nothing but get worse... for like lots of years. He wants so badly to keep track of everything and feels terrible when he forgets to bring things home. The gear you have to schelp around at school is L.E.G.I.T.

Judah, on the other hand, who loves to get distracted by just about anything, puts everything exactly where it goes all the time. The poor kid doesn't even have a cubbie at school (they have one too many kiddos in his class) so he has to keep his papers in this random tub that's behind where the rest of his stuff is. He also has to hang his jacket up on a random hook. The kid never forgets his gear. 

Socially, it's been fascinating watching and learning from them this first year in school. Nolan is so interested in social dynamics- who hangs out with who, who the leaders are, the evolution of friendships that are forever growing and changing, all the inter-workings of recess. He has an extremely low tolerance for buffoonery and will quit hanging out with someone the second they use unkind words or get physical in any way. I have been obsessed with this trying not to get overly excited about how much I LOVE that he doesn't tolerate bad behavior. We have had a lot of talks about mistakes, giving second chances, etc.  Judah doesn't give a FLIP about all those social dynamics- he does what he wants to do with anyone who wants to do it with him. He couldn't care less, at this moment, if he is hanging out with just Nolan, or just himself, or twenty people. He just does him, unapologetically. I also am obsessed with that.  

Here is what else is up with these two at 5.5 years old...

What Nolan is Into:
- Art- we have always liked to do art in our house, but it has been on STEROIDS since school started. Nolan does at least one art project per day. He is loving drawing, cutting, gluing, and creating. His people look like little potatoes with eyes, spiky hair, and limbs, and I couldn't love them more. They are spectacular! 
- Reading- Nolan is truly reading and it is incredible to witness. 
- Doing Math Problems
- Building- duh
- Spending Time with Older People (Teachers and Safety Patrol)- not in the slightest bit surprising.

What Judah is Into:
- Art: Judah is like a professional scribbler. He too is doing way more art than he used to. His hearts will melt yours guaranteed. 
- Reading to Himself- Judah is doing wonderful learning sight words as they learn them at school. He LOVES checking books out form the library at school and is perfectly content sitting and reading to himself over and over. 
- Counting on His Fingers
- Building- duh
- Cars- also duh
- Having Everyone at Cornell School Know Who He Is- We've been told on multiple occasions that everyone in the school seems to know who Judah is, adults and students. When we drop him off at school on the times when we walk him in, he is hugging everyone, waving to everyone. Nolan is always asking, "how do you know her/him?!" Judah's response is usually, "I don't know!" He has the privilege of being the first Cougar of the Week in his class and he was just beaming with pride. When his speech teacher asked him what he did to earn it, he said he just smiles every day. That is perfection. 

These boys are growing and learning every day and it's an honor to be along for the ride. I am so grateful that despite their different teachers, they have remained so close! So much has changed, but thankfully, their love and bond hasn't! 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Socially Conscious Shopping: Some Gift Giving Ideas

December is here and with it comes, for a lot of us, shopping to buy gifts for loved ones.  I, over these last several years, have turned in to much more of an online shopper! Having four little humans at home doesn't get me out of the house much and during the hours where I could really take my time and shop alone (like 6am or 10pm) most stores aren't open ;) Online shopping helps me tremendously. Although I do shop frequently on sites like Wayfair or Amazon, I am trying to be more socially conscious as I find gifts. There is nothing I like more than to know money I am spending is not only going towards a thoughtful gift, but also helping do some good around the world. Below are five amazing ethical stores whose mission is to bring opportunity to creators and entrepreneurs worldwide. These stores empower and would bring some beautiful, unique gifts to anyone on your gift list this year! 

**Disclaimer- While I have shopped at most of these stores myself, I haven't hit them all... yet... there are still many shopping days left ;) I also did my homework learning about each of these organizations- their mission, their values, their charity work, and the details of the company.**

Some of my favorite socially conscious websites:
1. This social enterprise, stemming from its charity (formally Free the Children) was founded by Craig and Marc Kierlburger- brothers who, when they were in middle school, began their social activism helping children around the world.  The vision is "to empower people to transform local and global communities by shifting from 'me' thinking to 'we' acting."  Their store in Toronto (which I've been to more than once) and their website shop has a variety of gifts made by artisans and skilled entrepreneurs in Kenya and Ecuador.  Each time you buy an item, not only are you supporting these creators, but also supporting global issues of poverty, hunger, water, education, opportunity, and healthcare all around the world. Each item has its own unique code, which you can type in on the website to see exactly where you've made your impact just for buying. There are gifts on this website for anyone on your list. This year, I purchased things for the boys' teachers, a secret Santa, and a little something for myself ;)

2. A sock website that does good!  When shopping here, you can filter by a cause you're passionate about (animal rescue, kids' education, saving sharks, planting trees, fighting hunger, etc) and buy dress socks that support that cause.  For example, when buying the kid education socks, you can do your part to support the over 3,000 school books given.  Or, purchase socks that add to the over 100,000 months of safe water provided.

3. Society B is a fantastic website because it houses twelve socially conscious/ ethical marketplaces (including conscious step mentioned above) on one website.  So, when you purchase clothing, jewelry, home goods, blankets, etc, the website lets you know exactly what your purchase is going towards. Products go towards causes or to support fair-wage and empowerment to women artisans in places like Peru or Uganda. If that wasn't enough, at checkout, you also get to decide which charity you'd like 10% of sales (not profit, just general sales) to go towards from a list of choices. By being a consumer of these products, you are double dipping on your do-gooding, which I think is fantastic! 

4. : This organization got its start in the 1940s as a woman named Edna Ruth Blyer who, after a trip to Puerto Rico, noticed people trying to sell beautiful things to a small audience and not being able to support themselves or their families. She brought back products and began to sell them out of her car back here in the United States. And so, a fair-trade movement was born. This website has a little of everything including stationary, bath and body products, clothing, jewelry, sculptures, and even games.  Every village has people in it who want to live a meaningful life; this website seeks to share their stories and culture through fair-trade and sustainable products. They also have a sweet blog. One post that caught my eye was "The ABCs of a More Sustainable Christmas." 

5. : The Little Market is an online fair-trade shop (which also has a brick and mortar in California) started by two women, one being Lauren Conrad. It seeks to empower women artisans from all over the world.  When looking at this non-profit's values, I especially liked seeing the importance placed on paying fairly and promptly and prioritizing marginalized groups and communities. This website has it all! I especially liked all the dining and kitchen accessories. When taking a look at a product, the description lets you know what country's artisans made it.  

Other ways to do good this season:
Buy gifts for others around the world in honor of someone on your list!  There are so many websites out there where you can buy school supplies, clothing, bug nets, healthcare, domesticated animals, etc to help communities and families all over the world.  A couple favorites are:

1. sponsor a child, give life saving emergency kits, send soccer balls to a school, give a child a solar light to read or do homework at night- there is SO much to support as you look at their gift guide!  

2.  This website is amazing because you can hand pick out a gift that will go to a refugee!  

I hope these ethically responsible websites help you give the perfect gift while helping to do global good!  If you have other socially conscious shops you love to support, let me know!  I am always looking to grow my plethora of stores like these to do good while giving to others. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Preston Huron: Months 5 and 6

Preston continues to add a lot of joy and sunshine into our lives.  He is, in general, a happy, laid-back baby who LOVES to move and learn.

Even though Preston has a super chill personality, I am noticing that he, like his brothers, does not want to be still... ever.  These past couple of months, we've watched him be so bound and determined to figure out how to move himself around.  He is an expert roller now and although he can sit for short periods of time, he has no interest in practicing such a skill when he can work on how to crawl instead.  He has not mastered how to officially crawl during his fifth and sixth month, but can get on his knees, wobble back and forth, and face plant in a forward direction.  He repeats this and is able to move from one place to another.  None of my other children have done this, but it sure works for him.  It will be any minute now.  When we try to sit him on our lap, he wants to fling himself around.  When we lay him on the floor, he is on the other side of the room in a mere moment.  When holding him, he wants to bounce and bounce and bounce.  I think it's safe to say, I will be raising four very active boys. 
I see you! 
Preston becomes more interactive every day it seems.  It's crazy how suddenly he can just reach for toys from you and rattle things and pull things.  He pays much more attention to books, hitting the pages with his hands, laughing, and smiling as you read along.  Because Carter is home with Preston the most, he is SUPER into reading Preston books snd Preston loves to listen.  He is extremely focused on his brothers and will stop doing anything (including eating) to listen to their conversations and move his head and eyes in their direction.  No one can make him as happy as his brothers do.  

Speaking of food, Preston started eating solid foods before any of his brothers.  The frustrating part of raising the baby of the family is that you, as the parent, want time to go slow- it's your last one!  You don't want to rush anything or at least I don't.  But the baby, sheesh, he wants to do everything yesterday.  Preston has been showing signs of being ready to eat food for quite a while, and finally we gave in.  He is by far our most natural eater and also the messiest.  This kid shoves his hands into his mouth the second the spoon gets in there so he can suck on the food.  Then he proceeds to put his hands everywhere.  The highchair, his face, his hands, and his bib are covered.

Some Firsts:
- Rolling from back to stomach
- Getting baptized 
- Sort of Crawling
- Eating Foods
- Grabbing his Feet
- Visit Saugatuck 
- Family Vacation to Toronto
- Uncle John's Cider Mill
- Frist Halloween 

Some of Preston's Favorite Things:
- Grabbing his Feet
- Putting everything in his mouth
- Books- Never Touch a Dinosaur, Dada, Goodnight Gorilla, Very Hungry Caterpillar 
- Water
- Being Outside 
- Carter's star night light in his room 
- Playing Peak-A-Boo
- Watching his brothers, sitting with his brothers, playing with his brothers, his brothers 

One of his favorite chew toys- thanks,
What I Learned as a Mom:
Listen, as reflective as I try to be, I've got four kids five and under.  I'm finding that the best thing I can do is to be present and enjoy with Preston- to make sure I spend time just sitting with him, playing with him, looking at him.  I know one of my hardest jobs is giving people individualized attention so that's what I continue to work on.   I am SO loving any alone time he and I get (even if it happens to be in the middle of the night ;) ).   

Speaking of sleep, I just cannot figure out how to go to bed early enough.  Sometimes Preston sleeps through the night and sometimes he doesn't so I certainly don't feel comfortable knowing I can get uninterrupted sleep.  I am still nervous and still unsure but somehow, I can't fall asleep before 11.  It seems clear that I put alone time, calm time, quiet time, time to do whatever I want, above the actual act of sleeping.  To be able to write or read or spend time with Josh or just seriously sit and watch mindless TV is REALLY REALLY enjoyable.  I pay for it when Preston wakes up for two hours in the middle of the night or when Nolan and Judah show us their pretty faces at 6am and I curse that I stayed up so late. But.... what happens the next night? And the next?  Oops. 
He sure is pretty cute when he's sleeping though ;) 

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Other Side of the Table: First Conferences

For eleven years, I've been running conferences as a classroom teacher.  I shake hands and welcome families- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings into a conversation and reflection about their precious sixth grader.  I have, along with the families I serve, experienced every kind of emotion with them as their partner in education.  

I love conferences!  Sure it always means extra work and extra long days, but spending time with my students and their families is one of my favorite things.  It's one of my teaching-partner's favorite things too, which is why we are notorious for getting behind in our schedule- we just love to connect with our families so much! 

This year, as my twins are in the midst of kindergarten, I was gearing up for my first conferences as a parent- metaphorically, and probably literally, sitting on the other side of the table.

Even though Nolan and Judah are LOVING school and are lucky enough to each have sensational teachers, there I sat, in the days before conferences, feeling like I was getting my dukes up- ready to go to battle.

I was unsettled about one particular aspect of kindergarten that I wanted to address at conferences: homework.

In my opinion, my boys get a lot of homework! They get reading homework every week, with one activity to do each day, and also a large math packet.  When I say large, I mean like five, six, or seven pages long.  Even though the teachers have been gracious and ask us to complete the packets at our convenience, I am a very anti-homework teacher myself so this has been a hard adjustment. 

Listen, I have no problem with practicing things at home!  I want to know what's happening in the classroom, I want to feel like I can support the work they are doing, I want to provide lots of opportunities for my boys to learn at home.  However, my problem lies in what kind of homework they are being asked to do: worksheets.  My boys are having to be still and compliant and good for seven hours each day so to then have them come home and have to sit still for more time is a little excessive- THEY ARE FIVE!  THEY ARE LITTLE!

One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my boys, as they go through school, will grow to hate doing school work and therefore will have a negative attitude when it comes to learning.  Can you imagine how damaging that is for any child?  I see it every day with some students in my sixth grade classroom- the joy completely out of the learning process.  Then,  think of a struggling student- he/she has to work SO hard during school having things take longer and use so much brain power and then, you're telling me, this same student needs to come home and suffer through more work!?  When is there a break? To play?  To enjoy?  To be a kid?  To spend time with family? To NOT have to sit still? 

I needed to understand, straight from their teachers' mouths, the purpose of this work.  If the purpose is to build writing stamina then I guess, sure, we will crank out these packets each week and we will do it with a smile ;).  If the purpose is to learn number sense, classify objects, count, and do some basic addition, then could I please take my boys OUTSIDE and do that?  Count rocks? Put leaves in order from biggest to smallest?  Make piles of things?  There are so many ways to practice concepts that aren't doing worksheets. 

These teachers are loving, kind, and working their tails off; they are amazing.  They also sure seem to understand kindergarteners and their need for play and excise and movement so what gives?!  I needed to know.

Conference night arrives and I sit on the other side of the table from the teachers in both classrooms. We see data on Nolan and Judah's benchmarking for reading, we hear about how well Nolan is reading and how compassionate he is towards others and how Judah is a celebrity at school and seems to know everyone and how helpful he is to his classmates.  The teachers show us checklists of things they were doing, sight words they have mastered, and how much their writing has improved from September until now. We also got a couple of cute stories showing how much Nolan and Judah love each other and how excited they are when they get to be together during the school day.

Both these teachers know our boys, nothing they said was a surprise to us- they are the same Nolan and Judah at school as they are at home.  Both teachers radiate kindness and love and I feel my shoulders relaxing a bit.  Then.... Josh starts in... "So this math homework," he begins... Nolan's teacher gets a look on her face that I know all too well- she is conflicted.  She is pulled between wanting to follow what she is being "told" to do (a new trend in education lately- having teachers deliver boxed curriculums with fidelity taking away the art of teaching) and knowing in her heart what is best for kids.  I know that look, I've HAD that look.  She didn't answer right away, choosing her words carefully I inferred.   

Then, she looked us dead in the eyes, "I want your boys to go home and play" was her response.

I almost cried.

I reach across the table and grab her hand.  Mom-to-mom, teacher-to-teacher, and say, "Thank you."

We both smile, nod, and move on. 

She does not give me explicit permission not to do the homework.  She does not tell me she doesn't like it or doesn't believe in it.  She doesn't tell me of her frustrations trying to please her principal, curriculum director, and super intendant while also trying to do right by parents, and especially her students.  She doesn't get into the lengthy discussion of how rigorous kindergarten is now and how much she longs for more playtime, more creating, more games.

Her words are so simple, but behind them had SO much meaning- she gets it.

Later, at Judah's conference, I get much the same impression- these are educators who want kids to love learning, love school, and find many mediums and avenues for success, not just the worksheets that are sent home.  They see these little people as readers, writers, mathematicians, but also singers, dreamers, athletes, cooks, joke-tellers, explorers, scientists, artists, musicians, etc, etc, etc.

I shake my head walking out of the school and Josh asks me what that was for, "I don't know what I was so worried about," I began, "I'm a TEACHER and I went in there expecting to disagree and expecting to get frustrated at how these wonderful women were serving my children.  What is the matter with me?!  I should know better."

It's hard sending kids off to school.  It's hard giving up a bit of your mom control (or for me it's REALLY hard) and putting your trust in other humans to take care of your most precious (times two).  I need to keep remembering how wonderful it is to have support from parents as I, the teacher, care for their children in the classroom- as I love them, encourage them, empower them, and hopefully foster a love for learning inside of them.  I need to always presume all of that is inside each teacher my boys will have as well and be their biggest ally.  

I've already learned a lot of things being on the parent side of the table...