Monday, September 24, 2012


The first day of preschool.  I have done this eight times before.  But of course this time, my ninth time taking one of my 4 year olds to a first day of preschool,  had a special spot in my heart.  She is the youngest.  I doubt I'll do this ever again. She could very well be my LAST preschooler!   I didn't want this year to come so quickly!

She was so excited for this day!  It was all she could talk about during the summer, how she would be starting "school" soon.  She wanted to know how many kids would be in her class, what her teachers would be like, and what kind of things they would do in the classroom.   Would they sing songs?  yes.   Would they paint?  yes.  Would she make friends? Absolutely!
 Big sister Aislynn walked Aria to her classroom while I lagged behind with the camera

I love preschool.  I love sending my kids to preschool.  I always start my kids in preschool the year before they go into Kindergarten, and that could be at age 4 or age 5, depending on the child.  But we only do one year of preschool, because well...I really, really like my little ones home with me!  I'm selfish that way.  So only two or three mornings a week of preschool the year before they start Kindergarten.

 one last smile for mom before heading into the classroom

I don't think preschool is necessary for academic success.  I don't send mine for that reason.  I send mine so that they can have FUN and make friends, and hey if they learn their ABC's and 123's while they are there, that's a perk!  I just want them to have fun and have a classroom experience.   If they are not having FUN, then there's no point in going.  I sent Andrew at the age of four, and he cried and cried for three weeks.  He hated it.  So I withdrew him from the program.  The faculty kept assuring me that eventually he would get used to it, that they ALL do eventually.  And I said to them, "And how sad is that?"   I'm a stay-at-home mom.  My kids do not have to go to preschool for childcare reasons, so I see no reason in forcing them to go.  Andrew was not emotionally ready for preschool at the age of four.  So we waited a year and put him in at five, and he did great!  He loved it a year later.  He just needed one more year at home with mommy and siblings.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

Aria, on the other hand,  is more than ready for this short 3-hour separation from family two times a week.  She didn't even look back at me when I dropped her off.  She just went straight into that classroom, hung up her book bag, and sat down on the classroom rug.  Didn't even look up  to see if I was still there.  

I think part of me wanted her to look up and search me out,  a part of me wanted to feel needed,  if only for a brief reassuring smile before the classroom door closed. But she didn't need that.  She was confident and just fine on her own. And of course that's a good thing.

I'm happy to say that I did not walk away bawling my eyes out, as I saw one mom doing. No, I didn't do that.  But I won't say that I didn't get a lump in my throat as I walked back to my car.  And I won't say that I enjoyed the silent car ride back home and that I didn't keep glancing at the empty car seat in the back, or that my house didn't feel incredibly empty for those three hours that she wasn't there, or that I didn't watch the clock constantly and practically speed to the school at pick-up time....or that I wasn't more excited to see her face than she was to see mine.  

Because yeah, it was like that.   And I'm quite sure it will be a repeat of these emotions when she starts Kindergarten next year. Does everyone feel like this with their last child?   Is everything that she does from now on going to evoke these feelings in me?  

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

reading woes

Aislynn,  our #7,  started the second grade this year.  She is homeschooling just like she did last year.  I enjoy teaching Aislynn because she is always eager to do her work and never complains.  By the end of first grade, however, she wasn't reading.  She struggled with simple words like "cat" and "big" and "they" -- words she learned (or I thought she learned) in Kindergarten.  Honestly, I didn't think too much of it because I had a "late reader" before -- her sister Avery -- who did not read until the end of the second grade.  But here's where I made my mistake:  I assumed that Aislynn's lack of reading was to be compared to Avery's lack of reading.  Just not ready.  No interest.  Will read at her own pace.  When really, I should have paid more attention to the differences between the two.  

Avery did not want to read.  She would let me read to her, but when it came to independent reading she would simple not do it.  She would say things like "Ugh...I don't want to."  or  "I'm not going to."  and oh wow, was she a hard student for me. She would get all of her spelling words right, but she would not read a book.  She would not read sentences. She just didn't want to and wouldn't do it. I didn't want to force her because I feared that would make her hate reading.  I figured she would read when she was ready.   One day shortly after her second grade year had ended,  she came back from a friend's house and was very upset. 

"Mom!  Jenna is reading chapter books!  She's reading the American Girl books!"
"Yea, so?"
"So I should be reading those kinds of books!  Not stupid Dr. Suess baby books!"
"Avery...I've been trying to work with you on reading!  You haven't wanted to learn.  Do you want to learn now?"

And so that summer she started reading.  By the time the third grade started, she was reading grade level chapter books. I don't know what to call that ~ reading readiness? caving to peer pressure? or just plain being stubborn?  Maybe all of the above.   But my point is that Avery read when she was good and ready to read, and no sooner.  

But Aislynn is different in that she wants to read.  She tries hard to read.  She, too, has always learned to spell her spelling words, so last year I figured she was just a late reader... like Avery.  And like Avery she would eventually start reading, when she's ready.

A few days ago I asked Aislynn to read from a book.  I watched as she struggled to read the words we had just gone over the day before.  It was a simple sentence, and we had read it quite a few times during the week.  It was as if she were seeing it for the first time.  So I spoke with her about it.

"Aislynn, what is it about these words that you don't get?  We went over them yesterday, and the day before, and the day before..."
"I know, mom!  But I just can't read them!  I'm just dumb, that's all!"

So of course my heart broke in a million pieces when she said that.  I saw a tear slide down her cheek.

"Aislynn, you are not dumb.  I promise you that.  I want to help you.  What do you see when you look at the words?"

She thought for a minute and then said, "They move."
I was shocked.  "What do you mean 'they move'?"
"They shake and move on the page."

They shake and move on the page?
I was so happy to hear that!   Well,  don't get me wrong.  Of course I don't want her to have vision problems, but at least that would explain things!  And that could be fixed with glasses!  

The next day ..... we were at the eye doctor.

Sure enough, after all the gadgets and lenses were played with and she read the letters on the charts, the result was that she was  far-sighted.  So the doctor wrote a prescription for glasses.  And I thought that was that - case solved!  Let's get home and start reading!
Not so fast.
The doctor spoke with me in private and said that the slight far-sightedness that Aislynn has should not have kept her from reading, that she should still be able to read the simple words she learned in Kindergarten.  She should still be able to retain what she learns.  She said she was going to give her some further testing, that these next tests would tell us if she has a processing problem.
Processing problem?  My world went on pause after hearing those words.  The first thing that came to mind was brain injury.  See, I am well aware of what a processing problem can entail. Audriana, due to her brain injury, has a processing problem. And it took years and years of vision and cognitive therapy to improve on that. 
So after hearing those words, my emotions got away from me.  I held it together just fine, but inside my head I was screaming... Noooooo!  Not again!  Not with this one!  She wasn't hurt in a car accident!  How can her brain have issues?
The doctor's lips were moving but I barely heard what she was saying.  My mind went immediately to Aislynn's baby years, back to 2004 and 2005.  What could have caused this?  And then I remembered that Aislynn fell off my bed once when she was about 8 months old.   Sure, we had a soft carpeted floor with padding, but still it was a hard fall.  That must have been it!   I remember she cried for a few seconds but then went about her day, crawling around like normal,  eating, playing, giggling and doing all the things she usually did.  So I didn't think too much of it at the time.  But of course now I'm thinking she must have hurt her brain!  The fall must have caused a small bleed of some sort that killed off some brain cells or interrupted her synapses .... or something!
I was trying to find a way to blame myself.  How did I fail her?  How could I have prevented this?
The doctor spent a little more time with Aislynn and had her do a few tests and drills.  When it was all said and done,  the results showed that she does in fact have some sort of processing problem.  She does not switch the letters around, so it's not dyslexia, but somehow the information her eyes take in gets mixed up in her brain and makes it difficult to read or say the word.  She also has a tracking problem and loses her place a lot.  So the plan is that she will go to vision therapy once a week and I will have drills to work with her at home.  This is all very familiar to me because this is exactly what we did with Audriana for years and years.   Audriana, of course, had many other issues related to her brain injury that kept her from reading well.   With Aislynn, it's less severe and the doctor is quite positive she will be reading at her grade level in no time at all.  That was great to hear.
I will never know what caused Aislynn's processing problem.  Perhaps her brain has always been wired this way and nothing "caused" it.  Or maybe it was that short fall from the bed.  Or maybe something else entirely different.  I will never know.  I guess it doesn't really matter.   The only thing that matters is that we do our best to fix it!
And we are.

And I must say, she looks pretty cute in those glasses!

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

New York

This summer my husband took our twelve-year-old son, Alex,  to New York.  Just the two of them.  They were gone six days.  That was some serious Father/Son time!   

Rich was born and raised in New York, so he had a lot of things to show Alex.   These are the photos that I got from Rich's little point-and-shoot camera.  Before he left on the trip, I practically threatened begged him to take some good photos during this trip.  After all, not only was this Alex's first time in New York, but it was also his first time on an airplane. And I hated that I wasn't there to take the photos!  I had to trust Rich to document it all for me. Rich, the guy who usually cuts people's heads off in photos.  I was at his mercy.

Okay, not a bad photo!  in fact, I love this one.

Coney Island!

Alex said this roller coaster was very "jerky and bumpy -- nothing like the ones at Magic Mountain!"

Time Square!

Central Park!

A New York horse-drawn carriage!

Love this photo that Alex took!

They rowed a boat in Central Park.  Check out that green water ~ ewww!

Rich, being a fire fighter himself, couldn't resist jumping in with these guys for a photo opportunity.  This is such an excellent photo -- great job, Alex!

They called me from the top of the Empire State Building.  My last words before we hung up were to Rich:  " SURE to take a photo of Alex on top of the Empire State Building!!"  and he said, "I will. I promise!"   and here's the photo he took.   Oh yea, this is one of my favorites.  I'm thinking of getting it enlarged, framing it, and hanging it up in our living room.

I love this view!

First time on the subway!

The new World Trade Center under construction

at the 9/11 memorial


They went bike riding one day.  I wonder who took this photo?

Down at "the shore"

in the airport waiting for the flight home -- doesn't he look a little bit like a New Yorker here?

Here's Alex talking to me right before take-off.   I sure did miss them while they were gone!  But I am so happy that they took this trip together!  What a great memory.

back to school

We are finally settling into a routine now with the new school year.  Why is it that it always takes a good two weeks before that happens?  Coming back from the no-scheduled days of summer is always hard, for the kids and for me!
First Day of School Photos
September 5, 2012
Aislynn is my only student this year!  
Here are a few of my goals for this school year:
  • to be up and dressed before the kids wake up -- I know this is no-duh for most mothers, but I have never been a morning person so this is hard for me. Many times last school year the kids would have to wake me up instead of the other way around.  But this is not because I'm a lazy person.  No, I'm going to blame my serious night owl tendencies on this one.  After all, going to bed at 2:00am does not produce an early riser! But so far this school year I've been going to bed at a decent time and am up every morning by 6:30am, about a half hour before I have to wake the kids.  See? I'm doing it!   pat, pat, pat  <---- that's me patting myself on the back, in case you're wondering.

  • to make the kids a healthy breakfast each morning --  Last year on most mornings I'd still be in bed when the kids ate their breakfast.    I know! I feel bad about that, too, believe me!   That's why I'm making changes this year!  And while there's nothing wrong with having cereal for breakfast, I always felt the Mommy Guilt that I didn't make them a hearty breakfast to start their day off right.    Scrambled eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit...those are a few of the items on the breakfast menu this year.

  • to make every child a lunch each school day.  If I'm not up before them, the kids will go ahead and make their own lunches.  I know that sounds great, like...yeah! let them make their own lunch! one less thing for me to do, right?  But they are only school-age for so long.  Before you know it they are off to college and living away from home!  And when that happens, I know I'll be wishing I was still making their sack lunches each day like I used to.  So I'm not wasting any precious time. 

  • to write a note on their napkin each day  --  I even do this for the older ones.  They ALL like the notes in their lunches.   In fact today I got a text message from my high school senior.  It was during her lunch hour and she took a photo of the note I put in her lunch and sent it to me in a text with a thumbs up symbol next to it.  Getting that text from her made my day. Especially because she is the one who will be leaving for college next year!  Sniff, sniff.  Sometimes the notes will simply say, "Hope you have a wonderful day!"  and other times I'll write a joke or a fun fact or something.  Today on Afton's napkin I wrote:  "I hope your day is as awesome as I am."  because I thought that would make her laugh.   And my son Alex must have inherited my sentimental gene because today I noticed that he's got a bunch of my notes in his dresser drawer.  He actually brings them home from school and keeps them!

  • to read aloud to the kids every day -- While this sounds easy, it really isn't all that easy for me.  This house is busy!  There are things and schedules going on all the time.  It's very easy to let the reading slide to the way side, especially on the busiest of days.  

  • to wake up an extra 30 minutes earlier and go for a morning run --  I know, this one is a stretch. Me, the non-morning person, waking up extra early to RUN.  Yea, like that's going to happen  < ------ is what the old me would say to myself.  But the it's-a-new-school-year-gonna-make-some-changes  me is saying,  Why not? I can do that!   I have not started the 6:00am run yet, but I'm seriously planning on it.   Don't roll your eyes!   I'm going to do it. You'll see.  I'll blog about it when it happens.

Okay, so those are my school year plans.  Some of them.  There's more, but I'm getting tired and I promised myself I'd get to bed by midnight, you know, so I can continue waking up by 6:30am!!  

One last back-to-school photo....
Aria loves her preschool book bag that mommy made her.
Well, I ironed the patches on it!  That counts!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

while I was away....

While I was MIA from the blog world this summer....

She turned four.

She was so excited for her birthday to come.   Her two friends Gigi and Evelyn were her party guests.  In the past, her birthday party "guests" were her siblings, so to have her own friends there was a HUGE deal for her!  We took everyone to Build-a-Bear Workshop  where  guess what? we all built our own bear.  Then we came back to the house for cake and ice cream.   We had a bounce house set up in the back yard, too.  Aria had the "Best Day Ever!"  (her words)   

One of her favorite gifts was her Merida outfit (from the movie "Brave")   

I'm thinking I've got her Halloween costume covered this year, for sure.
How can she not be Merida for Halloween?  She's the perfect Merida.

She makes a feisty little red head, don't you think?

Me and my "baby" on her 4th birthday

So that's it!  Her baby years are officially over.  I consider three still a baby.  But four?  No.  Four is when you get assigned chores in this house.  When you're four, the party's over.  It's all downhill from there.

She starts preschool this week!   She seems to be looking forward to it.  Sometimes it's hard to tell how they will react until  THE DAY comes.  I'm wondering if she'll be like Anthony and Andrew who for the first week clung to me, not wanting me to leave,  and then cried for the first five minutes after the drop-off ....  or will she be like all the rest of them who just waved me out the door with a smile on their face??   

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Twenty and Eleven

Twenty years.

Today is the day that I've been married (to the same man!) for twenty years.  Yay for us!    Twenty years!  I just can't believe it's been that long.  If feels more like fifty!  Hee-hee, I'm kidding.  

September 11, 1992

So here's the deal with our wedding anniversary:  Did you notice the date? It's September 11th!  That's right, the infamous 9/11 is our "special" day.  Nice, huh?  

I woke up that morning in 2001 to the phone ringing. I figured it was my husband calling me to wish me a Happy Anniversary on his drive home. He had a 24 hour shift at the fire station the day before, and I knew he'd be coming home that morning. We had a wonderful day planned. But it wasn't my husband on the phone. It was my mother, who was crying uncontrollably. All I could understand was, "Are you watching the tv?!!" So I turned on the tv and that's when I saw it. Two sky scrapers with huge holes in the sides and smoke everywhere. I was confused as to where it was. My first thought was downtown Los Angeles. That would make sense as to why my mother would be so hysterical, being that my husband's fire station is only 15 minutes from downtown L.A.   If it was there, he would be in those buildings trying to rescue people. My entire body went cold at the thought. Then the very next second I realized that it wasn't Los Angeles, but New York City.  And I remember feeling so relieved that it was so far away from us, on the other side of the U.S.  

Relieved.  Thankful.  

image source
And feeling uncomfortable about those feelings because I knew there were hundreds of other wives right at that very second who were losing their fire fighters.  Their husbands would never be coming home. I couldn't get that thought out of my head. It could have been me.  But the terrorists chose another city instead of Los Angeles. Why, I don't know.  But they did.  And that was the only reason it wasn't happening to me.   

My husband had to stay at his fire station that day because the city made everyone remain on duty just in case L.A. was the next target. So we spent our anniversary apart. And boy, if I ever wanted him home, it was that day.  I did not want him at work.  I feared another attack, and if that happened I wanted him home with us.  But who was I kidding with that thought?  He would never just sit safe at home while something like that was going on in our city.  He would go to help even if it were his day off, just like other off-duty New York fire fighters did that day.  They answered the call even though it wasn't their call.   My husband would have, too.

So I spent that anniversary at home, glued to the tv screen.  I felt so helpless watching those towers burn, and ultimately fall. I knew thousands of people were losing their lives at that very second, while I sat safe in my home hundreds of miles away.  It was unreal. I couldn't even imagine being there.  It looked like a war zone.  It was a war zone. 

Our wedding anniversary has never been the same since. Sure, we still celebrate our marriage on this day, because that does deserve celebrating! But it's different now.  Now when we toast each other we also include a toast to the fallen fighter fighters of 9/11, and the police, and all others who lost their lives that day. We don't spend more than a few minutes talking about it,  but it is always mentioned.   
Always.   Because we both know.  

We know.

It's not just our  day anymore.

Pour Your Heart Out

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Friday, September 7, 2012

one year left

It's been exactly one month to the day since I've posted last.  That has got to be some kind of record for me!
Why have I been away for so long?  Well, to be truthful, I just haven't been all that into blogging.  I've been enjoying the summer and just did not want to take the time to keep my blog active.

And I don't even care if that's a bad-blogger-thing-to do.
I really don't!
Because I've had a wonderful break.  

But I'm back now...
because school has started up and I have so much extra time.
Okay, that's not true.
I'm still homeschooling
(just a 2nd grader this year)
and the rest are in school.
That's REGULAR school, people.  We are becoming the norm around here.
At least this year we are.
Next year?  Well, next year I might be homeschooling a 1st grader and a 3rd grader.
I just might be.
Unless I decide to put them in regular school.
I just might do that.
Or not.
It's too early to decide next year right now.

So what I'm saying is this: nothing is set in stone, and wherever they end up is where they should be.
Because we can make anything work!  Yes, we can.

My 3rd child is in her senior year of high school this school year.  Right now as I type she is trying to narrow her college choices down to just ten.  She will be sending in her college applications soon.
She will be the first child to move out of this house.  It will happen next summer.

I'm slightly freaking out about that.

So what have I been doing to counter this panicked feeling?

I have been flopping on her bed more, just to chit-chat and catch up on our days.
I have been poking my head into her room more, just to say hello.
I've been snapping random photos of her more than ever.
99.9% of the time this is what I find when I poke my head inside of her room

She says I'm acting strange...what's my deal, she asks.

My deal is this:  Just when the heck did you grow up?
Where was I that day when you stopped crawling into my bed at night?
When you stopped asking me to read you a bedtime story?
When did I last put a Band-aide on one of your boo-boos?

On her first day of preschool, 1999

So I'm thinking in terms of one year.  I have one year left of her childhood.
Just one year. 
The is ticking! 
 I feel like I need to do more than ever with her these next 12 months.
Did I ever play Scrabble with her?
Monopoly? Checkers?
Did we ever watch Steel Magnolias together and share a box of tissue?
Go to a midnight premiere together?

With the older two I didn't have this panicked feeling.  
I knew those two had plans to live at home while attending college.  
So I knew I had lots of time with them.
But this one?  She's got other plans.  
She's always had other plans.  
I've always known that she would be the first to move out of the family home.   
And for the most part I'm okay with that.  
I just didn't expect it to sneak up on me so soon!

me and my baby girl, 1996

One year left.

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