Sunday, June 28, 2009

not so thrilled

Am I the only person in America that is not in mourning over the passing of Michael Jackson? I am sick to death of hearing "ABC, 123" on the radio and seeing endless news documentaries detailing all the ups and downs of his life. He was no Pope John Paul the II or Mother Teresa or Gandhi. He was an exceptionally talented entertainer of questionable reputation who made MILLIONS of dollars.

What a shame people waste so much time and energy making so much to do over his death and yet don't give a passing thought to the men and women sacrificing their lives overseas. People can't even take the time out on Memorial Day or Veteran's Day to reflect on the sacrifices of our armed service people. Call me a sourpuss, but I can't be bothered honoring a pop star when the rest of the world can't be bothered honoring these true heroes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I spy

We were at Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse the other night and to pass the time we were playing I Spy. The walls and surfaces are covered in all kinds of animals and outdoor gear which gives us plenty of items to spy. I chose one of the many geese and said "I spy with my little eye...a silly goose." Teresa's hand flies up and when I called on her she points and hollers "DADDY!"

peace, my friend

We had to say goodbye to Cosmo today.

We'll miss you MoMo.

Thank you for always protecting my babies...when they were sick, sad or just plain tired.

Thank you for keeping us warm cold winter nights. Thank you for helping us feel safe.

Thank you for always being ready for a game of catch, chase and hide the dog treat.

Thank you for being so patient and loving; for tolerating the vigorous tugs and pulls of toddlers and never minding the older ones draping themselves all over you.

We love you Cosmo, our boy boy. You leave a great big hole in our hearts.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

decisions, decisions

I have made the decision to close my childcare for the summer. It was not an easy decision to make. When you do family childcare, the children you care for and their families, become part of the family. Yes, it is a business, but it's the business of caring for children, and you can't do that without falling in love with the children you care for. I've been contemplating a change in schedule for a while. I have been trying to coordinate camps and swim lessons and summer vacation and thinking about other things we'd like to do. But unless I relied completely on others to transport my kids everywhere, none of that was going to happen. I just don't have room in my van for the number of kids I would have here on a daily basis. My kids deserve to have a summer...where they get to go to the beach or have friends over or spontaneously go on a field trip to the zoo, or just head into Boston on a whim.

It was so difficult for me to break the news to each of my families. Two of them may need to leave because they need fulltime care year round. That someone else will be caring for MY daycare kids just about breaks my heart. Someone who doesn't know that M is nervous about getting changed on a changing table so she gets the changing pad on the floor when its time for a new diaper. Someone who isn't familiar with S's signs and little gestures that are her only means of communication. Someone who doesn't know them and love them like I do. I hate that this decision puts more stress on the parent's shoulders too. But, I know their parents will chose alternate care carefully, and in time my daycare kids will settle in with their new caretakers.

So...with that behind me, I am getting so excited about our summer. I have signed the kids up for their various camps, and swim lessons and we've booked our week on the Rhode Island coast. We are all looking forward to a leisurely summer; a summer that we can laze around if we want to or pick up and go on an adventure at a moment's notice, a summer we can fill with memories. I don't think I've been this excited about summer since I was a kid. I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to spend this summer with my kids. Four years ago, I decided to leave teaching so I could be home with my kids and that was a painful decision. I've just had to make another painful work decision. But I don't regret either one. And now the kids and I are on our way to filling up our new summer scrapbooks with all our adventures. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I need a compass

We are coming to the end of another school year. Sam is finishing up second grade. And while one may look at his year on paper, in the form of his report card, you might think things have gone okay. Not stellar, but okay. But this has been a lousy year for my boy from start to finish. He's managed to learn, despite everything, he's still managed to learn what's required. Imagine what he could have done, what he could have learned, had his teachers done their jobs properly.

This year, for Sam, it's all starting to fall apart. He struggles. He struggles just to get through the day. It's mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. There just isn't enough in his skinny little eight year old self to handle everything that comes his way each day, and as a result he is shutting down. He is withdrawing more and more into himself, which makes his teachers frustrated and alienates his peers. And the very people who should be helping him navigate through his day only seem to want to punish him for being different. As a former educator, I want to take his teachers by the shoulders and shake them and shout " LOOK AT HIM! He wants to learn, he has the ability to learn, you just need to find out the best way to make that happen." As his parent, I want to tear them limb from limb. He is loving and earnest and wants nothing more than to learn and be accepted for who he is. Instead, he is pushed away and isolated and punished. I want him to be challenged not humiliated. I want him taught strategies that he can use to handle the stressors that are making it difficult for him to function in a classroom. I don't want him sitting alone at his desk, when the rest of the class is together on the rug, because he hasn't figured out how to handle sitting on the floor with a group. I want my creative and enthusiastic child to express his creativity at school without worrying if his efforts will be good enough. I want to see him glow with pride at his accomplishments, not crushed by criticism and judgement.

I'm just not always sure how to go about making that happen. Joe and I struggle too. We weren't given a road map with his diagnosis, or lack thereof. You just kind of blunder along with the best of intentions and hope it all works out for the best. This year was one of the worst yet. We made some bad decisions and didn't push hard enough for action. I hope we can learn from the mistakes we made this year.

Last night Sam played in his last baseball game of the season. Not a single one of his coaches are trained in child development or have much, if any, experience with special needs children. And yet, they managed to accomplish in two months what his teachers have been unable to do all year. They accept him as he is, as they do all the kids on the team and they challenge him to always do better than he did the last time, every single time. I listened to these men and watched them all season. When Sam started acting up in the outfield, in his quirky but not so appropriate ways, one would call out for him to show them he's ready, or if one was nearby he'd go over and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. One of them helped him position himself at bat, every single time he was up. They put him in every position and challenged him to make the plays. They recognized every ball stopped in the field and every swing at bat with sincere praise and often a joke when things didn't go as hoped. And Sam responded. He showed them he was ready. He ran as hard as he could. He tried to catch or field every ball that came his way. He swung like he meant it, every time at bat. Last night, I watched Sam field the ball at second and orchestrate the play that resulted in the last out of the inning. He ran in from the field, pumping his fist and acknowledging the pats on the back from his teammates with a beaming smile. He ran over to his coaches and they rumpled his hair, slapped him on the back and admired his play. Here he could shine because they believed in him. And because they believed in him, he began to believe in himself. It didn't take much extra time or effort on the part of the coaches to help make this happen. I didn't have to ask them for special treatment. They took each child as he/she is and did all they could to teach them to be better ballplayers and have fun while they were at it. Why couldn't his teachers have done the same?

I will not allow him to be placed in a classroom with a teacher who does not believe in him. I cannot allow my boy's spirit to be so diminished again, because his teachers are unable to see the possibilities within. I hate that this has to be a battle. I hate that school is becoming a place that fills Sam with fear and insecurity. I hate that there are people in our schools that think it's okay to humiliate a child and chip away at his self worth day after day, month after month. This year his teachers gave up on him. But, you know, despite this horrible, awful year I still have hope. I may not know exactly where to go next, but I have hope. Watching him shine at his game last night, I have to believe that it's possible there are people in our schools who will believe in my Sam as strongly as we do. There are people out there who will love and accept him, quirks and all, and challenge him to push himself to do the best he can. And when he strikes out, they will still find something positive to say, so that he has the courage to get back out there and swing away, because next time could be the time he hits it out of the park.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

a shoe for all reasons

This past weekend I began to tackle the change over of the clothing from fall/winter stuff to summer wear. I have to take this job in stages as it's one I dread. We are very very lucky to receive clothing from family and friends that their children have outgrown. But this also means I have bins upon bins of clothing I must go through several times a year. I pull out the bins of clothing I've put away because I need to go through all the potential summer clothes and shoes to see what fits, what's outdated or too worn. I make piles around the room of clothing to put into their closets and drawers, clothing to donate and too big clothing to put away for next year. Then I make a list of what I need to purchase for that child for the upcoming season.

Next, I take out the clothing from drawers and closets and pile it all up on the floor too. Put away the stuff I just sorted and begin sorting the clothing from the past season. I have a pile of clothes to put away for someone to grow into and clothes to donate. I can usually only handle doing one kid's clothing at a time. It seems like I finally get done with this most onerous task by mid July. I am determined to be done earlier this year.

This past weekend I went through shoes. We have a system in our house for shoes. It's very simple. Shoes they wear often go into a little basket near the top of the stairs. House rule is shoes come off when they come in the door so they sit on the stairs and put shoes on and off. Each child has his/her own basket for shoes. That way I don't have shoes everywhere and they know where to go to put away or find a pair. On Saturday, I took each one upstairs and tried on sandals, sneakers and flip flops from last year to see what fit. Nothing. My kids continue to insist on growing. So I sifted through last years shoes to make my trusty piles, to keep, donate and some just needed to be tossed. Made up my lists of what each needed and then hauled them all off to the mall to shop for shoes.

It took us over two hours. I just wanted cute sandals for the girls, summer sneaks for all, all purpose sneakers for Sam and then something each could wear to and from the beach, like flip flops. The choices for little girl sandals is HORRENDOUS! I don't splurge on kids shoes. They beat them to pieces and I am frugal so we usually go to Target or Payless. We went to over five stores before I found sandals I would allow Teresa to wear. She is six years old and the options in her size were, in my prudish opinion, not at all appropriate for a little girl. They looked like something you'd see on a practically nude Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. I finally found some simple sandals at Sears. After exhausting ourselves at the mall, we had most of what was on my list, minus summer sneaks for the girls. I then went home and got the shoe baskets all sorted away. This innocent little task revealed something very interesting about Teresa. She has a very real, and growing, shoe addiction.

Here is Sam's basket...summer sneakers and beach sandals. He was wearing his all purpose sneakers.

Next you have Katie's basket...a few more but that's to be expected for a girl. flip flops, sneakers, crocs, and what girl doesn't have a shoe with a little (or a lot) of bling.

And finally we come to Teresa's basket. She has so many shoes that it is overflowing and she even stuffs pairs into the banisters. She's got her sneakers for sports, her flip flops, orange summer sneakers, crocs, black ballet flats, pink ballet flats, sparkly silver ballet flats, two pairs of white sandals (she insisted on keeping last years), and, you can't see them because they're buried, some sketcher sneakers too. And that doesn't include the shoes she has in her closet that aren't considered everyday wear. She has a few pairs of dressy shoes in the closet, should she need them.

I should have realized, back when she was a toddler this would, one day, come to pass. I remember coming home from shopping at some consignment stores and I had found a pair of sneakers for her. She was just over one years old. They were very cute canvas sneakers with some embroidery and gems. I took them out and showed them to her and this person, just barely out of infancy!!!, gasped in delight and with a rapturous look on her face took them from me and hugged them to her chest. She had to put them on immediately and everyone we met was forced to admire them until she was satisfied that they too appreciated what a treasure these sneakers were. I thought it was cute and funny and didn't realize how this love of shoes was going to continue to grow and grow. I can only imagine the future. I think I'll need to get her a bigger basket.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Five things I love about summer and a giveaway to help wile away some long summer afternoon

I was tagged by Jessica. This was an easy one because there is SO much I love about summer. Also if you want the chance to win a new book, autographed by the author, jump over to Jessica's blog to find out how you can win. Perhaps you can bring your FREE new book to the beach with you. While you're there, wish Jessica a Happy Birthday too!

1. the 4th of July...not just because we're celebrating America but also because it's the one time all year my entire family, all eleven kids plus families and our parents, gather at my parent's houses on the beach to gab, eat, drink and spend hours lolling about in the yard or on the beach

2. speaking of my parent's beach houses...our summer vacation where we get to spend a glorious week beaching it there...spending time at the beach jumping in the surf, searching for treasures and reading a book in between naps

3. sweet sugar corn on the cob

4. watching my kids eat popsicles and maybe eating a few myself

5. cooking and eating outside...and all the salads and grilling that are part and parcel of summer eating