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In Praise of School…

because it is almost here.

because Isaac noticed that we have many pollinators in our garden & I did not teach him the word pollinator.

because Kindergarten will be all day.

because peers are good and we don’t have enough of them at home.

because Henry can read short books like Sammy the Seal and I’m looking forward to more and more and more.

because breakfasts eaten and lunches packed means kids engaging with teachers, kids, projects, ideas and not just making drama for mama.

because I am scaling the cable package way, way back.

because we already have backpacks and pencils.

because weekends will be more precious and holidays too.

because we walk the 1.2 miles there in the morning and the 1.2 back each day.

because August must end someday, right?

parents and caregivers, please add your own…
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The bus comes too early. It is in fact scheduled to come at 7:25 in the morning too early, but often arrives as late as 7:40. I find it very hard to motivate to be up and out for 7:25 with a decent chance of milling around in the chilly morning until 7:40. I’d prefer we all slept in a bit and drove to school for 8am. It is a mile away. We could all sleep until 7:30. Thinker likes to take the bus. It guarantees he will be on time – actually early to school. It is true that occasionally if we walk or drive him the household, the younger children, all events conspire and we have in the past walked in just under the wire or even late. He hates that.

It seems I may have on my hands a naturally early riser who highly values being early. I’m trying not to judge him for this. I don’t know if you know any naturally early risers, but they are certainly out there & I’m sure they are not all judging me, but some of them clearly. I can feel it. And now I live with one. He is 9 and his household morning noises are starting to wake up much younger children who do not have a place to go at that hour – who’d be much better off snuggled in their beds with their bears, their baby Jesuses, their beluga whales, McQueen’s and pacifiers, visions of Thomasses and Berties in the wee hours. But instead, they hear the sounds of our beloved Thinker crashing around the house as he starts his morning routine:

A. Get out of bed (thunk, thump, whack= exiting loft bed)
B. Get dressed (whomp, whoosh, whomp, whoosh, whomp = multiple openings and closings of dressers.)
C. Go Downstairs (ba,ba,ba,ba,ba,bump = running, of course at 7am)
D. Use washroom (cachink, cachank, whooosh, cachink = slamming of bathroom door, toilet seat, repeat.)
E. Breakfast (bank, bink, bank, whoosh, cachink, bink, bink, bink, repeat = getting a bowl a cereal and clanking a spoon on the bowl to eat it the whole time)
F. Use washroom again (as above)
G. Get back pack & shoes in hallway -it is three feet away from washroom – (kabump, kabump, kambump= running, of course)
H. EEEKKKKKKK = sound of my brain swallowing my desire to run around after him and say shhhhhhhhhhh for 25 minutes straight and instead be a nice, warm mommy presence as I usher my sweet diligent, extremely loud child off to school 5 mornings a week as I pray internally that my smaller ones won’t hear all the sound effects.
I. BYE BYE! I WANT TO COME TOO!!! = LP shouting out his bedroom window, faced pressed against the glass, as the bus pulls up to the mailbox.

A week or so into school and my brain is now devising imaginary ways to keep Thinker in some sort of sound bubble, because I hate to come down on him when he is doing everything right – just sort of in a crashy loud boy way that mystifies me as a drink my morning tea and remind him to take his nasonex & check that he has snack in his backpack. And it all seems so important in the chilliest part of the morning when I haven’t shaken off sleep yet & I am missing the mornings of everyone sleeping until 8 – myself included – and the occasional sleep ins until 8:30 which left me the first one awake in the house, when I’d slip silently downstairs and drink tea in silence.

And after all that, sometimes, we miss the bus anyway.

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I grew up in a college town. There I went to a pint sized prep school that had almost all the trimmings. It had a quirky artistic feel to it – perhaps brought forward to defend itself where it completely lacked in athletic prowess (meaning equipment, brawn, coaches, property…). Our school was, in fact, slowly going broke, though we didn’t know it. We always had the theater, however.

For a while I took my music lessons at school. I don’t remember if I stayed after school or if I was getting pulled out of class or if it was in fact part of the curriculum. The lesson room was just off the chapel. It was really just the hallway between the chapel and the chaplain’s office. Someone had pushed a piano in the corner and there were two stools. It often smelled like incense from what we as kids called long chapel, but was really the Thursday Eucharist. The other 4 days were short meditations or hymn sings. Long chapel’s incense lingered in this little space. To get there, one had to tumble down the back stairs, or march down the front stairs and pass by the headmistresses office – uniform perfect, no shuffling of feet – on the way there one could hear the tail end of some other student’s lesson. One could perch on the top step — the chaplain’s office being in some limbo between the basement and the first floor – and wait listening to the whatever wind instrument was being played (strings/suzuki went to the 7th floor, where they practiced in what can best be described as a very large closet full of stringed instruments. SUZUKI was printed boldly on the door. Wind instruments players had no door on our hallway and I believe piano students were taught in the real music room, which was in the real basement of the building, reached only by the main stair case.)

For a short time I took my lessons at home on the family piano- our church was almost overpopulated by Julliard students earning cash while trying to make it in the city. Most were not born educators, which was why the music school was my very favorite place to take my lessons. Its creaking stairs took you on a journey past other players rehearsing, practicing, struggling and breakthroughs. The way the orchestra sounds when it is warming up was just how the music school sounded to me all the time. I did not practice as much as I could have. I was often late, running the 10 blocks south on Broadway, flute clutched to my chest, papers flapping, but I did love the perpetual feeling that we were back stage. It was a behind the scenes pass to a world I didn’t expect to enter, more serious and older students concentrating, earnestly perfecting their pieces for the next recital. Walking in and out I felt the shiver down my spine that comes just before curtain as you sit in the theater with the lights dimming low. Something wonderful was just about to happen for someone.

This week I went back to music school. My son has been taking viola at the community division of a local university’s well renowned school of music. He has been most often shuffled off their by husband in the early evenings and often enough by one or the other of his grandparents, while I mind the home front of toddlers sleeping late into the afternoon and messing up their bedtimes, or not sleeping at all and being way too cranky to be brought along or left behind by their mama. Today, very near the term’s end, I decided that I would go to music school with Thinker. It was an innocent decision. I hadn’t met his teacher yet. I hadn’t heard him with piano accompaniment. I wanted to get away from cranky non-napping toddlers!
And suddenly, I was back at music school. The sound of other musician’s rehearsing, all their varying skills and abilities leaking out onto the institutional flooring and filling the cracks in the painted cinder block walls, well it just about knocked me over. I snuck myself into a tiny rehearsal room, perched on a chair and knit while Thinker played May Song and Allegretto with piano accompaniment from his very nice (and young!!) teacher, feeling for all the world just like some kid’s parent – and this is not news, but strange to be feeling it all the same time I am feeling just like a kid myself with my papers discombobulated in my music folder, running those 10 blocks downtown and looking all the while uptown for the M104 bus that might save me and keep me from being 5 minutes late if only it would catch the next green light.

And just as I came to the end of my knitting row, our lesson was over and I found my feet back on the cement floor of somebody else’s music school.

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I grew up in a college town. There I went to a pint sized prep school that had almost all the trimmings. It had a quirky artistic feel to it – perhaps brought forward to defend itself where it completely lacked in athletic prowess (meaning equipment, brawn, coaches, property…). Our school was, in fact, slowly going broke, though we didn’t know it. We always had the theater, however.

For a while I took my music lessons at school. I don’t remember if I stayed after school or if I was getting pulled out of class or if it was in fact part of the curriculum. The lesson room was just off the chapel. It was really just the hallway between the chapel and the chaplain’s office. Someone had pushed a piano in the corner and there were two stools. It often smelled like incense from what we as kids called long chapel, but was really the Thursday Eucharist. The other 4 days were short meditations or hymn sings. Long chapel’s incense lingered in this little space. To get there, one had to tumble down the back stairs, or march down the front stairs and pass by the headmistresses office – uniform perfect, no shuffling of feet – on the way there one could hear the tail end of some other student’s lesson. One could perch on the top step — the chaplain’s office being in some limbo between the basement and the first floor – and wait listening to the whatever wind instrument was being played (strings/suzuki went to the 7th floor, where they practiced in what can best be described as a very large closet full of stringed instruments. SUZUKI was printed boldly on the door. Wind instruments players had no door on our hallway and I believe piano students were taught in the real music room, which was in the real basement of the building, reached only by the main stair case.)

For a short time I took my lessons at home on the family piano- our church was almost overpopulated by Julliard students earning cash while trying to make it in the city. Most were not born educators, which was why the music school was my very favorite place to take my lessons. Its creaking stairs took you on a journey past other players rehearsing, practicing, struggling and breakthroughs. The way the orchestra sounds when it is warming up was just how the music school sounded to me all the time. I did not practice as much as I could have. I was often late, running the 10 blocks south on Broadway, flute clutched to my chest, papers flapping, but I did love the perpetual feeling that we were back stage. It was a behind the scenes pass to a world I didn’t expect to enter, more serious and older students concentrating, earnestly perfecting their pieces for the next recital. Walking in and out I felt the shiver down my spine that comes just before curtain as you sit in the theater with the lights dimming low. Something wonderful was just about to happen for someone.

This week I went back to music school. My son has been taking viola at the community division of a local university’s well renowned school of music. He has been most often shuffled off their by husband in the early evenings and often enough by one or the other of his grandparents, while I mind the home front of toddlers sleeping late into the afternoon and messing up their bedtimes, or not sleeping at all and being way too cranky to be brought along or left behind by their mama. Today, very near the term’s end, I decided that I would go to music school with Thinker. It was an innocent decision. I hadn’t met his teacher yet. I hadn’t heard him with piano accompaniment. I wanted to get away from cranky non-napping toddlers!
And suddenly, I was back at music school. The sound of other musician’s rehearsing, all their varying skills and abilities leaking out onto the institutional flooring and filling the cracks in the painted cinder block walls, well it just about knocked me over. I snuck myself into a tiny rehearsal room, perched on a chair and knit while Thinker played May Song and Allegretto with piano accompaniment from his very nice (and young!!) teacher, feeling for all the world just like some kid’s parent – and this is not news, but strange to be feeling it all the same time I am feeling just like a kid myself with my papers discombobulated in my music folder, running those 10 blocks downtown and looking all the while uptown for the M104 bus that might save me and keep me from being 5 minutes late if only it would catch the next green light.

And just as I came to the end of my knitting row, our lesson was over and I found my feet back on the cement floor of somebody else’s music school.

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(Disclaimer, I am 100% confident that many of you have or know lovely, charming, friendly girls out there. I’m just having a bit of a moment here. Pay no attention to my crisis if it offends you. Move along and don’t read it. That’s fine with me. I will get over it. I also know and love many, many sweet girls and am their biggest fans ever. )


Has anyone else noticed that boys are second class citizens in certain contexts? It’s an oddity of life that I am experiencing right now, and it’s pushing all my buttons on the topic of loss, but that is a story for another time. Today, I am actually worried about the boys I have. I have accumulated over the last 8 and half years of mothering boys, countless pieces of anecdotal evidence to support my very sad claim. I will vent here on just one per boy, because really that is tragic enough for me today, don’t you think?
Not too long ago, I was expecting my youngest. I was shopping in a small family owned toy store with LP in the stroller – he was 18 months at the time and singing and looking all around and very clearly a boy. A store employee approached, asking if I needed help. I replied that we were just looking around for a gift. She indicated my pregnant belly and asked “what are you having?” Her tone was sweet, polite and warm. I said “I am having a baby boy.” Her eyes looked downwards. She answered, “oh,” with some disappointment. I was left with the general impression that I had given her the wrong answer. She and her toy store and her planet did not require another boy. I was not offered the standard “congratulations,” which I consider to be the most typical reply and most polite reply to me answering such a personal question for a complete stranger. I felt awkward and unwanted. We went home.

My oldest child, Thinker, has been coming off the bus upset from time to time. There are some girls who are teasing him. They keep it up pretty consistently and he is genuinely upset. I am the first to agree that girls and boys develop differently. I am even willing to agree that girls may develop relationally and emotionally more quickly. Where I fall right off the bandwagon is the speed of their development makes them better, or right. In this case, their teasing seems to be stemming from the fact that they are ready to develop a crush on my very adorable 8 1/2 year old. It is true that Thinker is not ready to reciprocate. It also true that were he older and more ready, this type of teasing would not truly bother him. He might pretend it did, but he’d actually be relishing in the attention and teasing a little back and experimenting with flirting. (Trust me, we’ll get there.) Right now, teasing just seems mean to him. He has no other context for it. He does not make great distinctions between friends that are boys and friends that are girls. In my mind, his concerns are valid. However, A common response to his concern is that he is making something out of nothing – that girls are just more mature than boys and he’ll have to get used to it, adjust, grow up faster. I’ve heard this from acquaintances (not always specifically about my child, but about similar situations) and to a certain extent from his teacher – though she has been careful in her wording. I think she knows I am a stay at home mom and could potentially get “over-involved” if it seemed warranted. What I am wondering is, why isn’t the unkind behavior displayed by these girls on the bus seen and named as unkind instead of a sign of their emotional maturity?

Lastly, the slightly more complicated case of Little Puppy. His case is almost most complicated, because I am never sure if the reception he receives from his peers is due to gender, his complex issues, or really nothing to do with him at all. He knows the names of all his friends, from church, school and all our own friendships. He talks about each of them happily and cheerfully and often greets them with big smiles. For all his difficulty coping with the ups and downs of life, he truly loves people and loves having friends. I’ve recently noticed some ignoring going on. We walked into school last week and LP greeted a little girl – we’ll call her Stacy. “There is Stacy, mom! Hi Stacy! Hi!” No response. Nothing, at all. She glanced his way and huffed. Stacy’s mom said “Hi! Stacy, say hi to LP.” Nothing. This continued from the parking lot into the building, until our paths parted to hang up coats before going to class. Nothing. Stacy ran into the class to greet, apparently, her real friends. I have no idea what was up with her. Her mother was clearly trying to have her be polite, but unable to achieve anything -and who wants to add the drama of a time out on the way into school. I do not blame her, honestly. LP’s emotional life is such that he did not pick up on the fact that she was purposefully not saying hello to him. He was very happy to see her. His own emotions overwhelm him so completely, it takes either a moment of intense calm or a huge emotional reaction to make him aware of anyone else’s feelings besides his own (btw, his usual response to this is relief, like it’s nice to get a break from being stranded with nothing but his own feelings, interesting topic for another post, I think.) So, he was fine, but my feelings were hurt on his behalf – ending with the happy result of me feeling like an idiot because a 4 year old girl just bothered me. LP made his difficult transition into class. A little boy jumped up, “Hi, LP! Hi!” I breathed a quick sigh of relief. He is capable of peer relationships. He is. He is not deficient, either because he is a boy, nor because he has post traumatic stress disorder or sensory processing issues. My child is liked.

My boys are plenty well loved and adored. It’s just hard to go out their in the world and see all this starting so soon. I don’t think it is helping anyone, slotting kids into roles quite so soon. Speed isn’t better. It’s not worse, but not better. Sooner or later, they may notice they are being treated rather shabbily – and as someone who wants her boys to grow up to respect women, I’m struggling, deeply, with this. I don’t blame the girls -somehow they are getting the message that this is okay. I’m not sure why that is, or what that means. If anyone has any kind words or advice, please leave them. If you are bothered by this, fair enough- just know that I’m actually suffering here inside. I’m not looking for trouble, but sometimes, it comes looking for me. Girl mommies, represent! Please, give me your scoop if it will help me and my boys.

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It is raining. Most of us our sick here. I found Henry asleep on the floor at 5 o’clock last evening. He had gripped several trains in his little hands. This morning at 6 he slept walked into my room, demanding paci, trains and music. He could not go back to sleep until he had completely reorganized them Percy had to have the express coaches, Thomas hand to have Annie, Clarabel and the handcar for some reason. Salty, apparently, does not need to pull anything, whereas James towed three empty freight cars. I really feel Salty is getting off to easy, though he is the nicest diesel on the island, by far. Harold guarded the complete set, including my boy and back they all drifted off to Sodor, the magical land where people sleep in on dark rainy mornings. It was so dark at 6 and my kids usually sleep til 7 that I was feeling rather robbed of a good sleep in when the baby woke as well – he got medicine and a sippy in his crib and managed to get a few more hours. (Yes, juice in his crib. See, I’m tired.)
Yesterday we were all just puddles of exhaustion all over the house, hardly stirring to make lunch – though midday the nurse called and we had to motivate and go pick up Thinker – I sorta think he was faking it, but didn’t have the energy to question to closely…though he did actually say out loud “now I know that after three trips to the nurse, you get to go home.” Seriously, out loud. Let’s call it a mental stress day after a rather long week of mom being preoccupied with his younger brother. Either that or he is going to categorically test each system of his new school until he has mastered it. He’s analytical like that. I am proud to say he took his spelling test before cashing it in; on the other hand, to survive he should probably learn to cut school more strategically: a Friday afternoon with the spelling test over is probably not the most taxing period of the school week. Now he’s used up a freebie on nothing much. I wonder if I should school him on this topic now or wait til he’s older. I was an excellent school cutter all through high school and college and most of the time planned it perfectly.
I’m almost too tired to feel nervous about the sleep deprived EEG. I am not particularly nervous about the results in this instance; everyone tells me that whatever he has is treatable and disappears – that is if he has anything at all past some sort of learning disability. No, I am worried about the process: sleep, juice and food deprivation leading up to an afternoon and gooing up his curly locks and keeping him still enough to let the nurses put the electrodes on, get tested awake and asleep, clean up and come home. I think I will be just as exhausted when I post next Saturday – or I may just link to this post to express it all. Someone suggested that they might need to shave his head, and I nearly fainted. It turns out that won’t be so – they’d have to sedate both of us to get that done. Henry’s hair is integral to his personality. It keeps him cute in otherwise dangerously frustrating situations. We both need it to stay on his head.
It is raining and his cute curls are particularly curly. We’ve given up all agendas for the day, save what keeps us home, home, home. Tomorrow can worry about itself (at least for now – and now is all I really have, right?)

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Things I have not asked google:

What it may mean that he dislike tags on his shirts, have hair cut, faced washed, fingernails cut, mouths objects, plays with mouth open, likes being hugged tight, dislikes loud or unexpected noises, avoids eye contact, cannot dress self, cannot pedal trike or car, holds neither pencil nor scissors, has difficulty making family members understand him, has difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas and mixes up pronouns.

I have not asked; I’ve been incredibly disciplined this past week while filling out pages and pages of questionnaire about LP’s developmental progress. Those are all the questions that I interpret LP as having the wrong answer to at this moment in time…I don’t really know that. I’m just terrified. The ones that worry me the most are the ones we clicked yes to that are all grouped together. Alarming. My brain is making all kinds of meaning. The random tick by the YES here and there troubles me not at all; the groupings do. Brain, please turn off, you don’t know jack.

Today is my chance to unravel. This week will bring Olympic size challenges; I’ll be eating my Wheaties and braving it out as we go through the week’s chores:

Monday – neurologist to assess if he may be having seizures – we probably won’t really find out, we’ll just talk about how we could find out and if we need to, etc. In other words the nice doctor will decide if I’m just a nervous mother, if he just likes to day dream or if we are doing an EEG.

Tuesday – first day of preschool – only the drop off and the potential potty accidents will be horrid (because, literally, this is not hyperbole, he won’t go potty – he’ll hold it and be cranky, then pee.) the rest I expect him to like quite a bit.

Wednesday – visit to local public school speech pathologist for more testing. I am considering the possibility of crying in this very nice woman’s office. It may be okay to do that, and such a relief.

Thursday – second day of preschool, the drive there and drop off and potential potty accidents will be horrid – I expect he’ll be on to me by Thursday and start the separation crying as soon as we are en route. Mercifully, it is a short drive.

Friday – collapse day. I have it all planned out, how to be brave and strong, representing mothers everywhere in my quest to do everything I can for my kid, Monday through Thursday. Then at the end of the week I shall collapse into a small heap and watch television and make cookies.

Somewhere in there I will need to parent my other children, extend general love and care to friends and family and hopefully drive the Thinker to Chess club at the library on Tuesday after school.

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