Monday, August 1, 2016

First Day of School Jitters

Guest Blogger 
By Kenna McHugh

"I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework." 

- Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann"

So, I have the jitters knowing that the first day of school is just a few weeks away. My eldest is going to be a junior in high school, and my son will be in fourth grade with even more homework compared to his earlier years. I am under pressure to tow the line.

School and parenting for a junior in high school will be a roller coaster ride that I’ll never get off. My daughter and I are heading toward a more hectic, fragmented, and demanding life than ever before.  Her college search process begins for real, as does the pressure of getting good grades, trying to champion SAT tests, and disentangle herself from the masses of other qualified high school students trying to get into the same colleges and universities. It’s not just the academic pressure, she’ll have dance rehearsals every day after school, and swim team practice with an in between dash home for dinner and hours of homework.

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We will no longer have the carefree mornings of summer. Instead, my kids will wake up tired and anxious by the haste of getting out of bed, fed, prepared, and off to carpool in time for class. Even though the school year hasn’t started yet, I ache for July mornings when all I do is worry about getting myself out of bed, fed, dressed, and to work. The joy of simply sipping my coffee as I organize my day in our quiet house while my kids slumber until mid-morning. 

No more leisurely evenings. Instead, I will be grabbing a quick bite between picking kids up from baseball practice and dance rehearsals, flipping flash cards for test questions, or proofreading essays and school papers. If I am not driving or helping my son with his common core math, I won’t be the good cop in the neighborhood, patrolling screen time so my kids are doing their homework not texting or showing photos on Snapchat.

I am trying to be optimistic, but it isn’t easy with the overall importance of grades, baseball tryouts, and making dance production. The strained nerves of my daughter being consumed by the social pressures of school. Not to mention my youngest announcing at ten o’clock at night he has a science project due the next morning and needs my help.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here.

What can I do to be optimistic about this coming school year?  I know my kids come first, and then it is my time. With the 5 – 6 hours during the day that I have to myself and work, I am going to take an hour and do something for me - like exercise.  Exercise is a great stress reliever.
When my kids stress out and can’t sleep at night. I will give them B-1 and B-5, both are great for handling stress, turning the mental thoughts off, and helping the body sleep.

And, I will look back when they are all grown up, and yearn for the first day of school because there are pleasurable moments in school, and my kids won’t be home anymore. The house will feel empty.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back To School: Mama Drama

Written by 
Guest Blogger Schelle Lenssen

Yesterday morning, my soon-to-be second grader asked me how many days were left until school started again. I wasn’t sure and opened up a calendar and together we counted. I was more than a little surprised to see that the bulk of summer is already gone and the first day of school will be here in a few short weeks.

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Along with the realization that time keeps ticking away, my giant mental to-do list hit me like a flood. Suddenly, I had a million unanswered questions running through my head. How’s that summer reading list going? Where are the backpacks? What school clothes still fit? Did I remember to sign up for fall sports? Where should I get PE shoes? Why does everyone in this house need a haircut? Do I have to sign up for the PTA again or do I have a lifetime membership? Why haven’t we gone over math facts, practiced piano, or done sight word drills in six weeks? Sigh, so much for a relaxing end to summer.

This summer has been fantastic. We’ve had a great mix of big activities like camps and roadtrips as well as relaxed times of strolling through the farmer’s market and picking raspberries until dark. But as much as we’ve all enjoyed the summer, I think we’re all feeling the draw of fall and the comfort and structure that we get with a school-year routine, and getting back to that routine will take a bit of work.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here.

In theory it shouldn’t be that hard. All I need to do is pick up a few school supplies, shoes, and a handful of new clothing items for the kids, right? In practice these tasks take approximately 4.5 million hours with a total cost of about 1.2 trillion dollars. (I may be exaggerating slightly. Only slightly.) Inevitably I will need to visit four stores in two different towns just to find the correct pencils, glue sticks, and dry erase markers on the school supply list. The PE shoes I buy online will end up not fitting correctly because somehow, like magic, my daughter’s feet will have grown three sizes in nine weeks. An inventory of my kids’ dressers and closets will reveal they’ve outgrown nearly everything that was in respectable condition, and what does fit has torn-up knees or stretched out neck holes, making a shopping spree worthy of its own reality show a, well, reality.

The same calendar and counting-down-of-days that got my daughter so excited, has me nervously biting my fingernails and running to-do lists and budget numbers in my head. These next few weeks we’ll cram in some summer school prep work, do lots of shopping, and try to get to bed on time. I have no doubt it will all get taken care of and everyone will be ready for the first day of school, it’s just going to be a bit painful to get there.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Passage

Summer Passage
By Kenna McHugh

“It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong.” John Cheever

One early summer morning, when I was nine years old, I had my first unexpected lesson about the birds and the bees. When I was young, kids went outside and played in the neighborhood. Today, with the overscheduling of kids and dangers that lurk around us, these aimless mornings seem like a thing of the past.  

“Let’s go fence walking. It’s still so early. It’s the perfect time,” I whispered to my older brother. Two years seemed a big gap back then and he was pretty much in charge. Fence walking is when we would take short cuts through neighbors’ yards to get to a friend’s house to play or say hello. Not every neighbor wanted children cutting through their yards so there was a little thrill to not getting caught.

My brother thought for a moment. “We can walk the fences to Randy’s house, and he can walk back to our house.”

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Our dog, Tami was scratching and whining at the sliding glass, refusing to be ignored or left behind. “Shh, quiet… you, stupid dog,” my brother said. Then, he looked at me. “She’s going to wake up the whole neighborhood. We’ll have to bring her. Fence walking is out. Let’s go.” My brother grabbed her leash and we set off.

“To the park?”

Tami was straining, pulling us toward the park. The sun was quietly starting to shine on the horizon, but we didn’t experience any moment of serenity because Tami was dragging us behind her.
I looked at my brother, “I’ve never seen her so excited.”

She pulled us to a house we didn’t know. Tami fixed her eyes on the house and barked. We heard a loud bark from the backyard, then a dog suddenly leapt over the fence and came running at us. We were so startled that we took off running. Tami pulled us to stop a couple of times, but my brother yanked the leash, pulling her along.

The other dog caught up to us and before we knew it, the two dogs were locked butt to butt.  My brother yanked and yanked, but we couldn’t pull them apart.  We had never seen anything like it. My brother pulled and pulled on the leash, but he just couldn’t get Tami free.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here. 

Finally, they came unlocked, and we went home. Our mother was up, and we told her what happened. 
“Oh no…Tami is going to have puppies.”

Two months or so later, my brother and I sat together and watched Tami give birth to 5 puppies.

Looking back, I was fortunate to be able to learn about life as it opened up to me. I hope the same scenario can unfold for my children. That they can learn a life lesson naturally, and, without anyone scheduling it in. But, I do need to be aware of their safety while giving them enough freedom in the summer for these opportunities to occur in their lives.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Family Road trips: Good and Not-So-Good

Written by Guest Blogger Schelle Lenssen

An old proverb talks about “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” My new spin on this classic wisdom is “a family road trip of 500 miles begins with the toddler throwing up in the back seat.” It certainly doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? But pretty or not, it's exactly how we kicked off the summer travel season.

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Every Memorial Day weekend, our family’s tradition is to travel to a cabin near Yellowstone National Park. Most years, this is one of our favorite vacations and we have accumulated many happy and fun memories after nearly a decade of trips. Unfortunately, as can happen when traveling with kids, we also have some not-so-great memories. When our oldest was a baby, we rushed her to Urgent Care when her fever got scary. Two years later, we called the Poison Control Center when she discovered, and sampled, a box of mouse poison. We've had vehicle issues, been caught in snowstorms, and now can add "cleaned up vomit on the roadside" to that ever-growing list of near-disastrous events.

Looking back on all the things that went wrong over the years (and almost caused me to lose my temper or sanity), it would be easy to just cancel the trip. But we don't. We truly love that tiny spot of paradise in the mountains. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy sitting next to each other on a boat, fishing for trophy trout while our daughters get spoiled back at the cabin by their grandparents and whatever aunts and uncles made the trip. Our little girls collect wildflowers, explore streams, and talk to tiny baby bison. Our oldest daughter sometimes comes fishing and when she caught her first fish a few years ago, I could actually see her confidence and strength build with every turn of the reel. These are the reasons we keep going back year after year. A little bit of vomit from the youngest isn't going to stop us. All the memories we make on this summer adventure – good and bad – become part of our collective family history.

Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find Eileen Wacker's award-winning family book series by clicking here.

The rest of our summer is nearly all planned out. A collection of overnight camps, day camps, local Vacation Bible Schools, and sports camps will see us rushing from activity to activity. We’ve also got plenty of time for blanket forts, sidewalk chalk murals, backyard camping, and family water fights. New swimsuits and flip-flops are waiting, ready to be worn for days on end. Summer certainly doesn’t have the same structure and routine of the school year, and we try to embrace that whimsy and make the most of it. Although, if the two-year old could keep her stomach healthy and not vomit in the backseat for the remainder of the summer, that would be great too.