Monday, September 22, 2014

Jude the Second Born Dude

Well Jack's not the only one to start school this fall.  Jude went back to preschool on the same day that the bus picked up Jack. In typical second born fashion, his first day kind of got overshadowed by his older brother.  But there is a slight difference between one's very first day of Kindergarten and one's first day of their second year of preschool.

We had absolutely no issues this year. Jude was more than willing to march off down the hall to his new teacher and class. He dodged the clumps of moms trying to catch final glimpses of their little ones and those same little ones crying and trying to escape the room--walked right on by with hardly a wave goodbye and left me and the girls standing there trying to figure out what to do next.

Jude has this strange habit of always lifting his arms when I take a picture.
We've fallen back into the preschool routine so handily that it's sometimes easy to forget this is a special time. Of course, Jude is quick to correct us. While we regularly ask Jack about his day at school, sometimes Jude has to remind us to ask him too. Or if we pray at bedtime for Jack's kindergarten class, Jude will quickly chime in about his school as well.

Then there's the supply list, lunch-making, and meetings and open houses involved with Kindergarten that aren't required in preschool. And I think my little second born was starting to feel a tad left out. If Jack's my "words of affirmation" guy, then Jude is my "physical touch" kid. And I'm learning that when Jude goes through phases where it feels like he's constantly touching me--wrapping himself around my leg, crawling up onto my lap, asking for back scratches, and just leaning against me if we're standing anywhere--it probably means he could use a little extra attention.

So one day last week when Jon was off of work, Joci was taking one of her rare amazing naps, and Julia was distracted by the TV, I suggested Jude and I go on a date. And by date, I mean I decided I could really use some Starbucks for the afternoon and a Redbox movie that evening, and invited Jude along.

Picking flowers for Mommy ... the kind that fall apart all over the floor within 5 seconds.
He was beyond giddy. Jude has absolutely no "inside voice" but he tried very hard not to draw Lia's attention to the fact that he was putting on shoes and walking out the door with me (we were successful, she never even missed us!) And then, just like a real date, we took Daddy's car. So first Jude wants to know just what "date" means--it's when just the two of us do something. And then he wants to know why Daddy's car goes so fast, and can I make it go faster? And "when I'm a grown-up I'm going to have a car like Daddy's."

So we pulled into our destination, i.e. the grocery store down the street, and I attempted to hold Jude's hand through the parking lot, because that's what you do on dates, am I right? Well, not Jude. He was not interested in holding hands. But he did open the door for me because "that's what you do on dates, hold doors for grown-ups."

The thing with multiple children is sometimes your two year old asks for green eggs for breakfast and sometimes your four year old just isn't in agreement. Kids, this is not a restaurant, I am not a short order cook.
You really can't underestimate the power of one-on-one time.  We go to the grocery store every week, it's certainly nothing new. But just me and my second born, driving "fast" in Daddy's car, with the windows down and sunroof open--and then there's pushing the buttons on the Redbox machine and watching the DVD come out the slot--well that just made my preschooler's day. We got drinks and shortbread cookies from the Starbucks counter, sat down, and two seconds later Jude had to use the potty. So we ran to the other end of the store.

On the way back we passed a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle puzzle on clearance that clearly needed to be purchased to round off our afternoon. And since I only had one kid, our obvious recourse was to utilize the self-checkout--yet another way to impress a 4 year old. By this point, Jude informed me that he didn't really like his pricey Starbucks drink. I felt like I needed to redeem the edible part of our outing, so I conceded to a second drink from the refrigerator and yet another round through self-checkout. And while none of this seems very significant to me, Jude couldn't have been happier with his first date. He still talks about it a week later. And so when it comes to making the second born feel like #1 for a moment, I'd say mission accomplished ... for now.

We're working on being a team player and not getting upset when things don't go your way in a game.
Now while preschool isn't anything new for Jude this year, soccer is. Both boys are playing soccer this fall, but they're in different age groups. Which means two soccer practices and two games each week. It wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for this new schedule of Jon's. Whenever he is working or sleeping during soccer time, I'm on my own with the four littles.

First game of the year and he scored two goals!

Oh, Jude.
 Take last weekend, for example. Jude's games are at 10:30 and Jack's games are at noon, with about a 30 minute break in between them for us to grab a quick picnic lunch. The forecast said there was a chance of rain, and I was secretly hoping it would so we could all stay home. But it came time to leave and all was still sunny and dry.

Picnic in the rain!
Jude doesn't exactly run out on the field, he prefers to skip. 

This kid, so much personality even in the middle of a game.

Example of working on that team player attitude when things don't go our way ...
We made it through Jude's game without too much drama. It was starting to sprinkle by the end so we decided to have lunch in the car. By the time Jack got out to his field to start warming up the rain was coming down a bit more steadily. It wasn't a big deal, or at least it shouldn't have been, but according to Julia "princesses do not like to get wet." So she just huddled under the blanket whining and crying. And then she got louder when Jude tried to get under the covers with her. Right about this time I sat Joci down next to me to fix the blanket and the team next to us kicked a ball and whacked her right on the head. Now I have two soaking wet, crying girls and one annoyed brother. (Jack was having the time of his life out on the field, by the way.)

Scoring goals their first game of the season!
It was at about this point that I decided we'd continue watching the game from the car. So Julia and Jude played in the van while I stood under the raised trunk with Joci, who had conveniently just pooped in her diaper. Then Jude had to go potty (these are dirty porta-potties, mind you), then Julia, then Jude again, then Julia said she had to go again and I just brushed her off. Next thing I know she's standing next to me in the parking lot with a trail of yellow rainwater puddling at her feet.
Soccer in the rain. Laugh it off, Mama!
I will say that I was able to catch 2 of Jack's 3 goals that day. He made sure to look up at me and give me a wave each time. So thank the Lord that his game just happened to be on a field near the parking lot and that I just happened to get a parking space up front. I'd be so sad if he had no one waving back.

Back home, bathed, dressed, warming by the fire with roasted marshmallows and hot molasses milk.
But that was last weekend. This past weekend I not only had Daddy to help out but Marmie, Poppa, Uncle Micah, and Miss Carrie. So between Marmie and Poppa's snuggles, Jocelyn actually got a morning nap. And thanks to Miss Carrie's back scratches, Jude got to feel a little extra love too. And I got to watch both my kids games without distraction.

Okay, so I'm never completely free of distraction. Not with this cutey running around.

After a difficult loss (except we don't keep score), getting his love tank filled by Miss Carrie.

Out cold.
 And now we can put all these "firsts" behind us--first day of Kindergarten, first day of preschool, first Jude/Mommy date, first soccer game, first time taking all four kids to soccer by myself ... and enjoy the familiarity of secondhandedness for the rest of the fall.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"If you like the Ravens you're no son of my dad!' and other tales from Kindergarten

You guys, we made it!  First week of school IN.THE.BAG!

And this wasn't just the first week of school.  This was Jack's first week of Kindergarten, Jude's first week of preschool, both boys first week of soccer, my first week of MOPS, and Jon's first week of working 1am-9am (and sleeping 10am-6pm).  It was pretty major.  Which is why I'm celebrating with a houseful of sleeping kids and big bowl 'o ice cream!

The sun *may* have been in their eyes.

We knew it was going to be a doozy of a week so we decided to get out of dodge over Labor Day weekend and sail away to New Jersey.  (Cue Jude growling, "New Jersey, where you have to pay to go on the roads!)  We literally did sail away... well, kinda.  We drove next to our favorite Delaware State Park on Friday morning and took the Cape May - Lewes Ferry across to visit the home of our wonderful friends Phil, Abi, 'Lil Rae, and Baby Urijah.

First we stopped off in adorable Cape May to give the girls a chance to finish up their car naps.  Jon and the kids climbed the light house and we drove down the main street to ooo and awww over all the gorgeous Victorian beach homes.  And then we went to "fwends' house," as Julia would say all weekend, and they made us their famous grilled pizza, and grilled dessert pizza.  And we also had Cantaloupe Cucumber Pistachio salad, and some Dutch pancake I can't pronounce, and a watermelon chicken salad, and fish tacos, and coconut chocolate chip cookies ... because while the main reason we visit NJ is to see our old and awesome friends, the second reason is because they feed us SO WELL!!

S'more pizza!
And they tolerate our kids and the absolute insanity that is traveling with a 5, 4, 2, and 1 year old.  Oh yeah, and they also live near the beach.  And I can't think of a better way to wrap up summer than a trip to the ocean.  The weird thing is, Jon's parents and my parents were both in LBI the same weekend.  And so I got to visit the island for my first time ever.  I must say, I take back everything I've ever said about New Jersey beaches.  It's still true, it just doesn't apply to LBI.

This is so Lia.

Poppie was getting some big giggles out of his youngest grandchild!

Nonnie and Joci feeding the seagulls ... and keeping Mommy out of Joci's line of sight!
Jon's mom grew up spending summers there and Jon has fond memories of family vacations there as well, so it was nice to revisit one of his favorite places after being gone for 14 years!  And if there's one thing all our LBI acquaintances have in common, it's that they all recommend The Chegg.  So that's where we went for dinner.  And waited an hour and a half.  But it was worth it.  And now I can say that I've not only been there, but that I will someday be back.  And not just because there was an amazing nautical store next door that wasn't open ...

There's nothing quite like an hour and a half wait for 6 kids 5 and under ...
But anyway, back to school.  I spent all of Labor Day getting ready.  If you follow me on Facebook, you'll notice I've been practicing packing Jack's lunches:  You see, if you know me, you know that when I'm anxious I focus on one thing with laser-like intensity--the spot on the carpet when someone is delivering bad news, the license plate in front of me when I'm stuck in traffic, and the stupid school supply list when I'm facing being daily separated from my firstborn.

Apparently Kindergarteners don't like having their pictures taken ...
Well we tackled the school supply list in no time.  Or a week actually.  And four stores.  Four stores!! That's how insane this stuff is.  I mean, we're talking crayon requirements down to the brand and DIAMETER.  But anyway, we got the supplies taken care of.  And then we just so happened to find a pair of sneakers that Jack liked, in his size, on clearance, in the very first store we visited at the mall.  So that was easy.  With two weeks left before school, naturally, I needed to find a new distraction.  Enter school lunches.

This was "sneak peak" day for the classrooms.  Julia was more interested than Jack! (And I admit, there are days when I wish she was the one going off to Kindergarten!)
We got his backpack on clearance last year and it came with a lunch box.  So then we had to find containers that fit the lunch box.  And then there was the thermos.  I talked him in to the blue one that matched, but then I felt such horrible guilt about it, knowing that he really wanted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle thermos (the kid has never seen an episode of TNMT in his life, he just thinks they look cool!).  So I ended up passing the first one off to Jude and surprising Jack with the one he really wanted.  And then he needed a matching food jar thermos for hot meals.  And an ice pack.  And then I found out he needs the thermos for his water bottle for recess/gym/snack time.   So I needed another drink container for lunch.  And I decided he HAD to have a reusable drink "pouch" since that would fit best in his lunch box.  Except I couldn't find one anywhere.  And there wasn't time to order one online.
Good news, he's the only Jack in his class!

So I decided to venture out to that place I avoid at all costs--Walmart.  And on a holiday no less.  Crazy was an understatement.  I looked everywhere.  The school supplies, lunch box aisle, food storage section, camping supplies, kitchen supplies.  Nothing.  Finally, I spotted one.  ONE.  While walking by the Legos.  I seized on it like a seagull on a sandwich.  And that was the end of my Kindergarten preparations.  Time to face the music, mama!

Night before school hair cuts!
So our whole family got to attend a "sneak peak" at Jack's school the week before.  And then Jack and I had a 20 minute conference with his teacher the week school started.  His school was a day late because of construction, and then they do staggered entrance for Kindergarten and he was assigned the last day.  Which meant that he didn't officially start school until the day after Labor Day.  And his entire class didn't start all at once until that Wednesday.  So we're technically not very far in to this.  But I think it's going well.  Not that I've heard anything from his teacher.  But I'll take that as a good sign.

First day of school smoothies!

She was just as excited as the ones who were actually going to school!
 I've met her twice now.  She seems nice enough.  Kinda to the point, which isn't a bad thing.  I was a little disappointed to find that, of the four K teachers, her classroom appears the least "cute."  But I doubt Jack cares about that.  All he cares about is that he has his own locker.  And there are Legos in his class.  And some sort of train that can carry cars and zoo animals.  And if you ask him about his teacher he just kinda looks at you like he has no idea who you're talking about.

She's smiling because everyone else is smiling! 
And he's fighting having his picture taken because he's in Kindergarten now ...
Now Charlie is a different story.  I've been asking him every day about his new friends but he just can't seem to remember anyone's name, except for Charlie.  Apparently Charlie has a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack!  But his turtles are the "real" ones, not the kind on Jack's thermos. (??) They've been sitting next to each other every day at lunch and Jack has been SHOCKED (like wide-eyed, hands waving in the air shocked) that Charlie eats the SAME SANDWICH every day.  I've also heard all about Charlie's pudding and chocolate milk.

I took three grumpy pictures before I decided to yell "Legos" and he gave me this smile.
The only other intel I've been able to garner about his fellow classmates is that there's a girl allergic to peanuts and if you have peanuts in your lunch you can't sit next to her.  I haven't figured out her name yet (of course) but if I ever find out that she's putting the moves on my son, at least I know I can always start sending a daily dose of peanut butter in his lunch box.

Jack also made sure to inform me that he told his teacher that "she's a good teacher" yesterday and today he told Charlie that he liked his shirt.  And then Jack asked me if he could get a ticket (our reward system) for being so nice to his classmates.  Ummm ... we'll need to think about that one.

Waiting for Big Yellow.
Let's talk about the bus, shall we?  The school asks that if your child is going to ride the bus, that you start out that way from the very beginning.  So I did.  On the very first day of school I sent my little 5 year old out into the big, big world on a loud, yellow bus.  And then I heard nothing else from him for the next 7 hours.  It may have been one of the scariest things I've ever done.

 I didn't cry, though.  I was very, very close.  But then Jude was already late for preschool, and Joci was screaming in the car, and Julia was playing in the front seat, pushing random buttons.  And then right after preschool we went grocery shopping.  And then home to unload, and feed the baby, and make lunch, and do laundry ... and I never really had a chance to cry.  But believe me, I could have.

Jack looked so nervous the first time he got on the bus. But now, he's an old pro.  He LOVES the bus.  And the rest of us kind of enjoy it too.  We stand out by the driveway listening for the squeak of the brakes down as it reaches the corner and the first flash of yellow as it rounds the bend.  And then we patiently wait for the lights to flash and the stop sign to pop out before Jack confidently crosses the street, and turns to give me one last wave and "bye mom!!" before heading off to school.

And then the kids and I do the same thing in the afternoon, anxiously awaiting the little guy that has no qualms about running to his mom at the end of the school day.

My new favorite time of day!
The school assigns each Kindergartener a "bus buddy"--a 5th grader (or "teenager" as Jack calls them) that picks them up and walks them to their bus.  Jack's is "a girl" (no name, again).  She lives in our neighborhood.  Apparently, just one street over.  And Jack says we should have her over to play because "she can walk here."

And while we're on the subject of funny things he's said.  He also asked me to stop making him quesadillas with black beans in them because "the more you eat the more you toot.  And I stinkered THREE TIMES in school today!"

Then there was yesterday.  You see, each morning before the bus comes, Jack and I have prayed together for his school day--that he'd make new friends, be a good listener, be a blessing to his teacher... so on Thursday Jack grabs my hand and says "Can you pray that I finish all my lunch?"  I guess he was a little upset that he didn't get to eat everything on his first day (they only get 25 minutes total for lunch!) and needed a little supernatural assistance in that area.

And our favorite so far--apparently a kid on the bus was wearing a Raven's jersey so Jack told him, "If you like the Ravens, you're no son of my dad!" (The boys like to tease Jon by saying they like the Raven's and then Jon always responds with, "What?  You're no son of mine!"  Don't tell the psychologists!!)

So yes, as challenging as this week has been, we've had some comic relief along the way!

Dreaming over a Scholastic book order ... I used to do the same thing when I was a kid!
I think the hardest thing for me, about sending my son to school, is being away from him all day.   I HATE that I'm missing out on so much of his life.  Jack's pretty good at sharing random parts of his day, but even that is only a tiny glimpse into his little world.  There is so much going on that I know nothing about.  I don't even know what time he eats lunch, let alone the name of the poor girl who's allergic to peanuts!

I keep telling myself this is part of the process, the lifelong process of letting go, relaxing my grip on my kids.  This is good for him, and it's good for me.  But it's still hard.  But so far (as in 4 days down, 176 to go!) it's going well.  And there's a happy little boy in his bed tonight (that was able to finish ALL his lunch today), and that makes me happy too.
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