Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sad Good-byes

Yesterday we had to say good-bye to Jack's two wonderful teachers - Amy (on the right) and Missy (on the left). Monday morning we move on to K3. I'm not usually one to tear up these days, I guess my brain has too many things going on to let that emotion filter in, but when I went to pick up Jack after school, the shimmery water appeared.

These two amazing women spent the past 6 months with Jack 5 days a week. They have been a part of the fabric of our lives during this amazing time for Jack - the 2's. It's a time when he's gone from speaking single words to spouting off sentences. From giving way to whatever emotion takes over him that second, to showing empathy for his friends, taking turns and sharing. When I ask him what he did that day at school I actually get answers, "play pegs", "play legos", "play animal game" or songs "Hello, How Are You!", "Little Bunny Fru Fru hoppin thru the forest..." with hand gestures and all. Because of them he can sing the entire Alphabet Song and can count to 20 without help. They are the reason that when I showed him the picture of the open hand on the block he said "Five!" instead of "Hand!" He's even gone from having a meltdown the second I start to move toward the door to leave and go to work, to waking up excited to see "Amy-teacher" and his "Missy".

Maybe it was because Amy is so utterly familiar with what raising a 2 year old is like, since her little boy Nate will turn 3 himself this spring, that the kid's obeyed her so well. Or maybe Missy being fresh out of school and her energetic spirit for what she feels is her life calling is what these toddlers picked up on and ran with in their never ending, latest and greatest achievements. Whatever it was, it worked.

Over this time, I listened and prayed as Amy shared her worries over her mother's breast cancer diagnosis and treatment which very nearly lead to her leaving Odyssey to move back home to be with her family. Thankfully, God saw to it to take care of her mother and allow for miraculous healing so Amy could stay here. I giggled with Missy as she shared the latest in her boyfriend dilemma, stay with the old or start with the new (we all think she made the right choice in moving ahead) and loved hearing how much she is enjoying this new relationship. And the two of them laughed as the latest craziness set in our household.

Each day I looked forward to picking up Jack and hearing the latest of what he'd done, things he'd said or goofy trick he's attempted. I'll never forget the day they tried putting him in time-out, and I stress the "tried" because as they found out, time-out for Jack gets you nowhere other than watching him stretch the limits of the punishment. And I felt a hint of motherly pride, which is totally unlike my personality, that Jack was the first in his class to say his ABC's all the way through without missing a letter, knowing it was probably the only time he'd pass up his buddies Madison and Payton in any milestone. :) And although we made a valiant attempt to capture a picture on this last day, my little man rarely cooperates when Mommy is there and it's time to go, especially when snack is MnM trail mix, as further evidenced by our attempt at a class picture at Halloween.

I know that we will experience many special teachers over the years of daycare and school, but I think for us, teachers like Amy and Missy as a pair are a rare combination. They enjoy our kids as much as we do and delight in seeing them grow and develop. Because of our unique situation of being in Birmingham without any immediate family, we feel blessed to have teachers like these two, that become a permanent part of our "Alabama family". I know we will still see Amy and her little man Nate many Sunday's at our church. And in less than a year I know Duke will find himself in their very same room, going through the same loving experience that Jack just finished.

Either way, until we get settled into our new room with new teachers and new experiences, for now, Monday just won't feel the same.

Thanks girls - the Rath's love you!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It Gets Easier After the First Year....Hmmm Not So Sure

Ok, so there are times it's easier. I'm not a walking zombie who's up 3 times a night to nurse a newborn and still needing to function for a 15 mo old too. I only have to make one meal for all of us, no special foods, no bottles to make, no pumping. I'm close (not quite there yet, but close) to being to the point of both kids being able to walk while holding their hands into stores, daycare, etc. instead of toting 25lbs on one hip while having a death grip on the other and leaning down to guide him where I want him to go (and usually NOT where he wants to go).

However, tonite was one of those exceptions. I really am not one to complain when Cory's out of town and I play single Mom. It's not the ideal lifestyle, but I've still got it better than lots of women raising kids and often, it can be easier when it's the three of us. Don't ask me why, but we have a rhythm after so much time on our own and so, it just can be. I guess there is no power struggle as to who has to do what, because I'm pretty much it. (Although Jack can set the table on his own now - placemats, silverware, cups and he can feed the dogs all by himself - "I did it!" - dadgum adorable!)

But back to tonite, not one of those times it's easier when Daddy's not home.

It all started with Jack, as it often does. We aren't full on potty training, but when the kid asks to go, I'm certainly not going to tell him no. So, he decides he wants to sit on the potty, and since he asked to and did sit on the potty at school today as well, I was all for it. Plus, he actually seemed to the point of needing to go #2, so hey, let's see what happens! Only problem, containing Duke during all this is not the most simple task now that he is fully mobile on two feet and speeding up everyday.

So, a visual image for you:

Jack's on the potty and Duke is climbing all over the bathroom while Jack is screeching "Noooo Duke, No No Duke!" And I'm trying to encourage Jack to relax and calm down and "tee-tee" in the potty in between requests for stickers and suckers (don't ask, I set myself up and will pay for the one bribe/reward used when he actually did tee-tee the one time, weeks ago) in addition to blocking Duke from climbing on top of the step stool and practicing the "balancing" act on the first step (above our not so keenly thought out concrete floors, very practical, not so cushy for falls).

Mommy brilliance, we are in the bathroom, it's 15 minutes early, but let's start Duke's bath! Containment! Perfect....for about 5 minutes. Then disaster.

The kid on the potty, not pooping, the kid in the tub...pooping.

Stop laughing, really it was not that funny, at least not for me. Well, not really, well, kind of.

Let's just say, Jack got his sucker and stickers for doing nothing other than getting off the potty, keeping quiet and staying out of Mommy's way while she got Duke out of the tub, scooped out the poop, bleached the tub and all the toys, rebathed Duke and put him to bed. Only to start the bedtime routine all over again with Jack.

Yep, some days it really is easier when Daddy is home.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just When you Think You Have it Figured Out

I will fess up, one of the issues keeping me from this blog (aside from 2 sick kids, a sick Mommy and Daddy on the road) was my shock last week when I received a note from the daycare that Jack, along with most of his current Toddler class, would be moving up to a K3 classroom. And I wasn't the only one, let me just say, this news unleashed the Odyssey Mommy Girls Club to a new level.

By Tuesday morning, there were no less than 15 e-mails flying around and several phone conferences with and the Assistant Director, along with firm plans for 9 of us to meet for lunch on Thursday to discuss the "transition" as they gently call it. It's more along the lines of "leave the room and teachers you've been bonding with for the past 6 months after you are now having fewer days peeling your child off of you and coaxing him to wave through the window as you walk away quickly each morning on the Friday at the end of this month and enter a new room and new teachers bright and happy and start the bonding process all over again the next Monday morning". Needless to say, I was not thrilled at this prospect.

On top of it, the entire class is not moving together into one K3 room, they are being split into two. One plus, Jack will stay with the majority of his classmates and friends (just 3 of the 13 will move into the second room), but on the down side (and this is a big one in my opinion) he will be merged with 12 other kids (who are all older than him, some up to a year) to form a room of 22 kids, with 3 teachers.

I did not take the news of this as lightly as I have in the past for several reasons. First, the last time the OMGC got together was because of the last transition...they were moved last June and then we got notice they were moving yet again in August. Nothing like hopping, skipping and jumping your way through the center. At that time we were told they would be in the current room until this next August, and we were thrilled. Finally some time to really concentrate on goals and maybe even potty training can be a nice, consistent process to start near the end of the year. Not so much apparently. Second, we are having a few "discipline" issues at home, nothing serious, but enough that I've had to shift my punishment and reward process some and it's taking some serious creativity on my part for the first time. Thankfully, I have had Amy and Missy, Jack's current teachers to bounce ideas and feedback off of for what seems to work for them (even though he is an Angel at school for them). Soon I will have new teachers that will inevitably need some time to catch on to the little stinker's smarts. Third, we are just starting the potty process and it's been going pretty well so far, but I fear that the gains we've made may take a big leap backwards. However, I leave the option open for being wrong on that one (and hope I am!). Fourth, K3 in the Odyssey program is really the start of the journey to Kindergarten, out of the Toddler rooms and into the Pre-K drive. Is he really old enough, mature enough, emotionally and cognitively for that? Really? Fifth, there are only three class levels folllowing the one he is currently in, from here it's K3, K4 and then Pre-K...this move for some parents based on school year cut off could potentially mean they need to split the next 4 years in just three classroom levels.

Finally, any changes in our life in January or February usually are not timed well as it is already the time of year Cory is most on the road. So having this additional change will probably incite it's own share of battles and meltdowns for no apparent reason than things are not as they always have been (or have been for the past six months). I've come to that conclusion upon realizing through conversations with other mothers that in our life, other than his father, his brother and myself, his teachers and friends at Odyssey are really the only real "family" that Jack is familiar with on a daily basis. With us living out as far as we do from Birmingham, our weekends are usually spent at the house and not many of our friends from our life prior to kids make the 45min-1 hour drive out to visit. Of course, there is church on Sundays, but with the 45 min drive there, it's not like there is much time to socialize before or after since naps are due shortly upon the end of the service and we can't quite get out of the house in time to make it to the 8am (well, we could, but that would necessitate a sixth day of the kids eating breakfast in the car during the week and I just won't do it). And there are so many children in the nursery, depending on when we check in, there are two room possibilities and numerous children that might or might not be there that day.

So long story made longer...I had quite the decision to make. Let Jack move up to the K3 room and face what may come, or hold him back in his current room and away from the majority of his friends. My 45 minute discussion with the AD consisted of stressing to her my expectations that would come if I decided to allow the transition to go through, including the K3 room goals being updated to reflect the items the kids did not meet in their current room, my opinion that these moves are necessitated not by the development of the kids but by a need by the center for increased income in this economy and therefore increased enrollment at the younger (higher $) levels which result in moving the kids above them early (which she denied) and how I felt they needed to take a better look at their enrollment policy as well as have a better overall plan for the movement of the kids from the moment they are enrolled. Finally I shared that I expected there would always be 3 teachers in the room regardless of what emergencies arose elsewhere in the center (even though she kept referring to the room as an 11:1 ratio regardless of the fact that Jack falls into the under 36 mo group along with the 10 others that are moving up and DHR rules require 8:1 at a max at his age and I am certain my tuition will not be adjusted down until he officially turns 3).

After our discussion and overnight consideration of all the pro's and con's for Jack, I made the decision to allow the move to go through.

At lunch on Thursday, I was thankful for the 8 other moms that I was able to share my fears and concerns with. I was also thankful to hear their dilemmas and feel that mine were valid and even help some of the others in their consideration of what to do for their children. I was most thankful knowing that Jack has at least 4 of these 8 women who will have children in his room and therefore will be 4 extra sets of eyes (actually 5 if you count Payton's grandmother in Virginia Beach who is GLUED to the system daily) watching on the video monitor as well as giving him their love when they are in the room, just as I do for their kids. I will be sad that Sammy Dunkin will be apart from them for the next months since his mom has opted to hold him back, but hopeful he will rejoin us in August. I am overjoyed that they considered the closeness that Jack, Madison and Payton have shared since their first days at Odyssey and that the are moving them together to the same room.

And although I feel I have made the right decision; Jack will remain with his friends, he will fall age-wise, right in the middle of the class, we have really just started discussing the potty and aren't too far into it that a setback would destroy anything already established, and most importantly in my mind-he really only has 2 1/2 years left at Odyssey so he will not stay in any one classroom level for any inordinate amount of time while here (he is enrolled in 4K at Briarwood Christian School for 2011), it does not come without reservation. I don't think any decisions you make as a parent really do (other than maybe diaper changes!). However, God must have realized my concern today and decided to give me a just a little sign that this was the right one for Jack.

Tonight, while I was stacking some blocks with Duke so he could knock them all down, a trick he LOVES, I decided to make it a little game that Jack might be interested in as well. (Brother bonding, taking turns, and sharing is big on my radar right now.) These blocks are soft and each side has a picture of something, a cow, a ladybug, a sun, etc. so as I stacked, I asked Jack what each one was. I know he knows most every one, but still, it was fun and I like to actually hear him tell me just how much he knows. I guess it's satisfaction for me that even though I have had to split my time between the two of them for more than a year now he's developing on track (another issue I need to get over - they really know nothing different and I certainly don't need to coddle Jack or else I may have a spoiled one on my hands!)

So, as I'm running through the penguin, the moon, the elephant, this one comes up

and Jack doesn't even pause when he yells out "FIVE!"

Now me, I would have said Hand, but I'm not moving to K3 either.

Guess we are headed in the right direction after all.

Life in the House

I will try and get back to some order here. I really don't know if it's possible, because I am feeling very disoriented these days. Lots to share, can't remember what I've already shared with who and so on. So some of you may be bored and others may be on the edge of their seat (yea, right, like my life is all THAT!)
Anyway, as you can see I added a slideshow of pics from the Christmas Adventure in Wisconsin. It was truly a great time, but I can say I will probably enjoy it better when all the kids are walking up and down stairs on their own, none of them are in the "mine!" stage, they can all talk clearly to express their needs and wants, each can get in and out of their seat at the dinner table on their own and without wearing most of their dinner upon exiting the table. :)
Seriously, I have to hand it to my sister Clare. She single handedly pulled of the amazing feat of not just managing for all of us to have one all adult meal together the week we were there, but TWO! Table, set, food hot, wine was fabulous! Even if we were greeted mid meal by Nolan who's favorite thing to do at the Mork's is run in a circle from living room to dining room to kitchen to hallway to living room around and around. (He's so cute you can't stop him!) She also topped the gift giving effort by coming up with an unbelievable suprise for my parents from all of us. She found a local artist that did a watercolor of their house (for an AMAZINGLY LOW PRICE!). We always try to do a special gift for those years we are together for the holiday, since it's not so often, and I can tell you, that was one of the highlights for sure.
Caroline was a gem the whole week and it was nice to have at least one child of the age that you could instruct to watch the others and YELL if something happens! Now, we did mostly have at least one set of eyes on the littler ones at all times, but it made it easier when it got to be one against 4!

That's probably why Alicia and I never complained to make the attempt to take over construction of a certain Play Mobil Hospital on Christmas Eve at midnight while the guys took a quick dip in the hot tub (crazy fools!) Of course, I did nothing more than snap together a few planter parts that were there to decorate the patient rooms and realize that under no circumstances would my children be exposed to that series of need an advanced college degree just to try and figure out the directions, which consist of pictures of about 10,000,000 pieces that fall out of 50,000 plastic bags. Clare was the wise one that sat back and cleaned the kitchen and then relaxed with her wine mostly (she did assist for a while but I think she saw the train wreck well before we did). Needless to say, the guys were in at the 1 hour time limit Alicia gave them "1 hour or as soon as I put this thing together"...and Josh spent the rest of the night until the wee hours finishing it for his daughter (on behalf of Santa of course).
I also now believe that regardless of the fact that I have 2 small children very close in age and life at times seems more difficult than I wish it to be, I've got nothing on my sisters having to be moms of small children in that ridiculous climate! Getting ready for an excursion out of the house on any day of the week from November to March is hassle enough to convince me that I now consider my home to be south of the Mason Dixon. Just as soon as you bundle them up it is inevitable one of the following will happen; a very distinct smell will eminate from the lower half of one of the kids which necessitates complete removal of clothing and a clean diaper or everyone is ready to go and only then do you realize that it will take 10 more minutes before the car is warmed up enough to risk strapping the kids into it, so you have to find a way to entertain a toddler or infant for 10 minutes inside a house without removing all their outer gear. UGGGGHHHH! I consider it a hassle to wear jackets at all down here, that is just insanity!
Overall we had a wonderful time, didn't get to spend as much time with my parents as I wished I had now looking back on the trip, but it was still wonderful to have a White Christmas (blinding, freezing, snowing the entire trip type of White Christmas!) And my biggest fear of the entire week was never realized; the drive up and back both went remarkably well considering it was 12 hours of car seat time for a 1 year old and 2 year old. While I am glad it will be another 3 years before we do take that long of a car ride again, I can say, it was well worth it!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Need a Bit More Time...

Hi all,
So my intentions are good, but my week's been pretty off. Started with a bad cold on Monday, Cory leaving for the week on Tuesday, several precommitted errands and meetings during the week when I could, a much needed "girlfriend" conversation last night and tonight Duke's come down with a 101.2 temp, even after being at the doctor yesterday when I suspected he may have an ear infection started. (At least he wrote me a script for "just in case" so I'll be covered if that turns out to be it.)

So I'm a little wary about what the night will bring and probably need to go to bed early tonite.

Didn't want to leave you all hanging, but I'll have to, kind of!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yes, We are Alive!

I know, I took far too long of a break from this blog, but even us Type A personalities need to decompress once in a while. I had no intention of it lasting nearly a month, I promise. And I have many a picture to upload and post, but with the up and down internet around this place lately I must save that for later.

Simply put, we are really just getting back into the swing after the holidays. We had a wonderful extended break, having left for Wisconsin to visit my family on the 19th and not returning to work until today - yep, that's 3 weeks of time away from work and the usual pace of life. And we all needed it. Even a special last week for me - the kid's daycare was open on short hours last week on Mon-Wed as well as Friday, so I took advantage of the freedom and was able to run errands I've been holding off on without having to haul kids in and out of the car, finish up some home projects (or really start some that have been put off for too long!) and Cory and I were able to spend some time around the house during the day ALONE!

There is plenty to report on, which I will shortly, including
  • The new deco in the bedroom
  • Rearrangement of the living room furniture (not like there's a lot that can be done, but...)
  • Pic's from the Christmas holiday
  • Sterling Creek Lake - it's full and beautiful (though a bit muddy yet, will take a few months to settle)
  • Jack's latest terrible two's antics, including but not limited to flinging his placemat (with full plate of food and cup of milk included) onto the floor TWICE! and my ingenious reaction to make him clean it up himself (no major tantrums since, could I have succeeded in this discipline tool?????)
  • Duke's language explosion, not verbal yet but he's picking up on lots of sign language and making some verbal attempts
  • My personal goals including my latest attempt at the One Year Bible, losing 20lbs (my new goal weight ends in a 3 and the numbers that precede it are lower digits - and I will NOT weigh 213lbs EVER!)
  • The new message series at Church of the Highlands - EXCELLENT kick off to the new year - "From Here to There"

So, now that I have you on the edge of your seat...stayed tuned for more, coming soon!