Just Heather
And then there was one (who still requires a backpack and insists on being in the picture)

And then there was one (who still requires a backpack and insists on being in the picture)

I don’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions because they just aren’t fun. Plus, Back to School time is the real reset in our household. Brand new backpacks, sparkling lunchboxes, newly sharpened pencils and clean, white notebooks—it all just feels so fresh to me. I use an academic year calendar so I can start August with clean, white pages.

It won’t last long—Brenia’s first Brownie meeting was earlier this afternoon. Stacia’s Girl Scout meetings begin next week and my dance class starts the week after that. The calendar hasn’t even arrived yet (of course, it would help if I ordered it!) and already we’re filling it up. School events, Scout meetings, dance class and whatever else the girls will decide to do this season are quickly filling our days.

It’s time to get back on track after slacking off all summer. The first thing I need to do is get back to planning a menu. Chaos has reined for the last several months. I do better with a menu plan and I’m making an official School Year’s Eve Resolution to restart the process. Step 1: Go grocery shopping! Yeah, I’ve been slacking off a lot there too. On the upside, our expenses have been greatly reduced but it will be nice to start having some food around here.

While the girls are at school tomorrow, Lorelai and I are setting out for a series of errands, with a trip to the grocery store at the top of our list. I think I’m going to take a cue from a few of the great gals in the new Inexpensively network and jump on board with Menu Plan Monday. That should provide both a productive use of my blog and proper motivation. Besides, everyone else is doing it!

This week’s Wordless Wednesday post is inspired by the school carnival, featuring a rousing game of Extreme Cabbage.

School is out in just 3 short weeks. After that it will be me vs. 3 (maybe 4 and sometimes 5) kids. There will be no panic. There will be no fear. I have a plan! Because I learned that lesson years ago.

My first summer home with 2 kids was pretty much a disaster. Stacia had gotten used to the structure at school. Brenia and I had gotten into our own routine. The two didn’t mesh and, thus, chaos ensued. I tried different tactics week after week, summer after summer, until I finally figured it out. We needed a schedule in the summer just like we had through the school year.

Our yearly calendar is made up of school holidays, Girl Scouts, dance lessons, choir rehearsal and a number of other after school activities. We know that Tuesday is Scout day, Thursday is dance class and Friday is gym. The girls anticipate what is coming and respond accordingly.

All of those activities end around the same time that school does. It seems like it should be a relaxing summer, what with not having 3 places to be every day. Instead our summers were chaotic, with the 3 of us running around not knowing what to do or what was coming next. There was no time for the girls to prepare for each day because we had no idea where we would end up. There was nothing but instant reaction, often as a tantrum.

Starting with the Thursday park playdate that my church group had arranged, I landed on a summer schedule that works for us. It includes fun things to do, time to finish chores and a plan for each day. I think I’ve finally struck the right balance between enjoying a relaxed summer vacation and maintaining the structure my girls thrive on.

If you’re looking for ideas on free activities, check out my website. If you really want to know how my days will go all summer, read my ehow article on the subject.

We moved to this city, an hour away from all my friends, nearly 10 years ago. In that time, I’ve made very little progress in making new friends and done a crappy job of keeping up with the old ones. Part of that was being a stay-at-home mom. Where was I supposed to meet people?

When Stacia started school, I thought I’d finally have the opportunity. I met plenty of other moms, but that’s when I realized something—I am was a young mom. Stacia came along in my early 20s. As in, I turned 21 when she was 2 months old. That put me at a disadvantage in the making friends department because there was such a divide between the other moms and me.

Now that Brenia is in school, I have met several moms like me (that’s moms who are like me, not MomsLikeMe, though I’ve met several of them too). There’s a connection between Montessori Moms and natural living that I was not aware of when I researched schools. This has been quite helpful in meeting people who share my interests and lifestyle. Plus, now that I’m an old mom the age gap has been erased.

One of the moms I met was Angie. Angie was smarter than I when she became a mother in a new area and she has what I’ve been craving. She inspired me in ways she could have never known (except she will now!). I set out to find it for myself. I started a Bunko group and invited all the women I kinda, sorta knew from school, Scouts and IndyMoms.

To be honest, we rarely play bunko. Mostly, it’s just a group of women who share cocktails once a month, laugh, share stories and commiserate. Our group is small, but I cling to our monthly girls’ nights like a lifeline. I didn’t realize how much it meant to me until last month, when our regular night fell on Good Friday and we failed at scheduling a new date.

Last Friday night, my friend and I decided to go out anyway. It was exactly what I needed. I wore a little black dress, but not the little black dress (that’s still 40×40“>on my list) and we hit the Indie Lounge theater to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past starring my fictional boyfriend. We thought the movie was hilarious, but were apparently in the minority. Did I mention this theater has a bar? Clearly the other attendees should have taken advantage of the fabulous concession stand.

A chick flick, cocktails and girl time—obviously a new necessity.

I did it! I withdrew Stacia from school last week. She started at the Montessori school the next day. She’s very excited, which was a pleasant surprise. I thought she’d have more mixed feelings, but she’s so excited that when I got to the school to withdraw her she had already completed the paperwork and had the contents of her desk piled in the office. All they needed was my signature! I had sent an email to her teacher that morning letting her know so they did have reason to believe her.

She seemed to enjoy her first week. It’s funny, but she actually won’t have a full week until her 4th week there. Last week was the transfer, this week is an in-service day (they have 2 each year, I think) and next week they’re off for President’s Day. She’s behind on the science fair project, but she has a good idea and is having fun with it. I’m sure they’ll let her have more time if she needs it since she’ll only have 2 weeks but we’re doing our best to jump right in.

We’re going to have to make serious budget cuts and the Disney vacation I had booked with high hopes is going by the wayside, but it was the right decision for us. She’s having better days with both health and behavior so I know it is good for her. I’m already much more relaxed just having made the choice. I had some good ideas and loved the theory of homeschooling her, but having that off my back is such a relief.

And because I am the most embarrassing mom on the planet, I had to take a picture of her first day at the new school. And share it with the internets. She was her typical pre-teen self and forced me to take the picture at home before arriving at school in front of real, actual people. She did, however, allow a few pictures on her last day at the old school.

Montessori Stacia, Day 1

Her Former Teacher

Her Former Teacher

Never Again

Never Again

We are considering pulling Stacia out of public schools for a variety of reasons. Let’s just say that my extremely bright, off the charts child is getting Cs and Ds in school. Ridiculous.   Anyway, I’d really prefer to send her to Brenia’s Montessori School, but  I’m not sure I can do that. We’re looking into the homeschool option, and I’m a little intimidated by everything that’s out there. Ultimately, I’d love to unschool; I’m just not confident in myself.

She is shadowing today with the upper elementary at Brenia’s school. I just don’t think we can afford to send her there. I did sit and talk with the directress this morning and she’s willing to work with us. Sibling discount, locked-in tuition, 12-month payment plan instead of 9. We’re considering all our options, but if that ends up being as affordable as it sounds I’ll probably be transferring her there. I’m ashamed to admit I just don’t think I’m up to doing it myself. I will if I have to. She is leaving public school this week no matter what, that much I promise.

  • We still own our first house and the last tenants skipped out without paying the last months rent plus their dog trashed the carpets. All of the savings we had set aside to pay Brenia’s tuition has been spent on the house & mortgage over the last 3 months instead. We’re shooting for RTO this time in hopes of finally unloading it.
  • They ended up fully promoting Brenia to 1st grade even though they were going to “interim” her for a semester. By the time we got to graduation, they decided she would be ready after all.
  • I think her new glasses helped with that. At the end of the year, a basic school screening showed vision problems. Turns out she’s legally blind in 1 eye. They are slowly correcting it as her doc thought she would reject glasses at her full prescription. Her follow-up exam today went well and he doesn’t think we’ll have to patch it as previously feared.
  • In some of the best news of my life, Spencer’s mom moved to NC over the summer. I can’t begin to tell you how much that rocks for us both as a couple and a family.
  • In related, hilarious news, she is now engaged. Yes, again. I think that’s 8 rings thus far, but only 5 have actually resulted in divorce (I mean, marriage).
  • Stacia is at the intermediate school, which seems better than the elementary. I would still love to move her to Montessori, but we just can’t afford it right now.
  • Fox59 is still going well, I think. I haven’t seen anyone with authority in weeks. I just show up, with my segment prepped, the props ready and do the show with an anchor. I’m assuming that is a good thing as there is clearly a lot of trust on their part in that. Normally, guests have to be escorted around the studio, but I can never even find anyone available to ask. They just let me in and I do my thing.
  • We got a Wii Fit a few weeks ago. I am loving being back into Yoga, but frustrated that after 30 minutes per day of mostly aerobic activities I have actually gained 2 pounds instead.
  • I got involved with a domestic violence shelter in the spring. Mostly, I just decluttered my house (must read: It’s All Too Much) and helped the owner transport everything she needed or priced things for the charity yard sale. Then, I organized a school supply drive because the yard sale didn’t net enough for the 35 kids she has now (5 times more than last year). I bought backpacks for each kid, collected supplies all over town and obtained Mom sponsors so each child could have a new outfit & shoes. I am so pleased to say we met with great success-each child had absolutely everything they need.
  • It tugged on my heartstrings a lot, though, and now I’m not sure we’re done with little ones. There is a Safe Families program that places at risk children with volunteer families. It is a way for the families to house children while they get their lives together instead of remaining at risk and possibly losing custody or parental rights.  It’s on my list.
  • I signed Brenia up for dance class this year. She is so excited. The studio was planning an adult ballet class and I had decided to take it. I have wanted to get back into something like that forever. The very same day they announced that it wasn’t happening, I went to my church’s new auditorium kickoff where the dance ministry performed. I signed up on the way out and we start on Wednesday.

Today was the last day of school for my oldest daughter. Her last day of elementary school. I feel like I should be waxing nostalgic or something, but I mostly feel a strange mixture of relief and dread.

Relief that the year is finally over. It was not a fun end to her elementary experience. Let’s just say I really hope the rumors of her teacher’s impending retirement are true, for the sake of all future 4th graders. I’m temporarily relieved of twice daily carpool duties. The girls are attending a few day camps that require transportation, but that is only a week or two here and there. I’m also relieved of my PTO webmaster duties. Whew!

My calendar pen is finding a bit of relief this summer, but I do still try to keep the girls on a routine for sanity’s sake. They also have a few summer activities and camps, but not to the extent of our regular weekly jaunts.

The dread is on many levels. For the immediate future, I am dreading the fights, whining and tattling that comes from having more than one child. I’m dreading the heat and the outdoors. I’m just not an outdoor person, but the girls definitely are and some of them still require supervision.

As the summer wears on, I’ll be dreading the return to school. I’m uneasy about our decision to leave Stacia in the public school system. I think it was the best decision for us at the time, but I worry she’ll get lost in the shuffle and continue to struggle the way she did this year. Her school struggles are strictly a failure of the system. She’s a bright kid. She tests well. She reads profusely. She loves to learn. She’s just not great at assignments and deadlines. She was also bringing home a lot of homework for things she hadn’t yet learned. If I’m going to have to teach her math every day, I might as well homeschool.

Next year is a different school, albeit in the same system. I am hopeful that it will be a different story, but I am reserving judgment. If all else fails, I know I can pull her out at any time and send her to Brenia’s Montessori school. That has been a complete success story. She started kindergarten a year early and is ready to advance to 1st grade. Her teachers have some minor reservations about her social skills so we are trying an interim option. She’ll stay in her current classroom, but take academic lessons with the elementary class. They hope to fully transition her after winter break.

I still contend we made the right decision for her. She stands a head taller than 1st graders. She’s smart—too smart, sometimes. She was reading by her 5th birthday. She is a quick learner (I had to show her how to tie shoes only one time). She just wouldn’t have been well served by waiting until this fall.

My hope for the summer is that I can let go of all my concerns (at least for the summer), relax and enjoy my kids.