The Kindergarten Vandal

I didn’t see it coming.

I expected it when they were toddlers, but it never happened.

But at five and a half…I didn’t see it coming.

It began innocently enough. She sat at the kitchen table, “writing” a story in pencil while I washed the dishes. We chatted. We laughed at the squirrel trying so desperately to get into the bird feeder. We laughed out loud when the sparrows stood directly beneath the squirrel and squawked in protest, there to stake their claim.

And then, as I quietly put the pots and pans back in their proper places, my sweet girl made an important discovery.

Mommy! If you drag the eraser around the table it makes a fancy design! Just like writing!

Never one to stunt the creativity of my kids, I decided to take a light-hearted approach.

Well look at that, Sweet Girl, you’re right. It does make a fancy design. But, you know, we only write on paper, not furniture, so let’s see what happens when we use the eraser on dark paper.

Enough said. I was sure of it.

Until a few weeks later…when I walked by the little white table only to find her name scrawled across it in pencil. A flower was drawn underneath, and her “trademark” just above. My sweet girl had struck again.

It’s a delicate balance, this parenting thing. I have this sweet little girl who almost never makes a poor choice. She eats well, she goes to bed on time, she’s (mostly) sweet to her brother, she’s good to her friends, and she never even really went through a hitting phase. She is consistently described as thoughtful, kind, caring, and sweet.

She’s one of the good ones.

So when she goes off the grid and makes a choice that leaves me scratching my head in stunned silence, I have to think about it for a while…

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Project Happy: The Best Kindergarten Teacher

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sit down and reflect on the small moments of happiness…not because they don’t exist, but simply because life is busy.  We’ve been through some big transitions around here, and I needed the space to help my kids adjust to a new routine.  Ok, maybe I needed some adjusting too…why does school have to start so early?

Liam walked into his first day of preschool without a worry to speak of.  I thought that he would cry.  I worried that he wouldn’t like it (Sean likes to refer to him as a “stay at home son”).  I feared that would just keep to himself instead of engaging with the other kids.  And, as predicted, he woke up on that first morning and declared that he had no intention of going to school.  Huh.  We talked, we cuddled, I promised to stick around until he felt safe, and we agreed to tuck Giraffie into his cubby (just in case).  And off we went.  As promised, I stayed for a little while, gradually moving toward the door.  After about 1/2 hour, I told him that I was running out for coffee.  I hugged him, kissed him, and reminded him that mommy is always in his heart.  With glassy eyes, he looked up at me and said, “it’s ok, Mommy.  I will be brave.”  It nearly broke my heart.  I ran to the car and sobbed, wondering why a 3 1/2 year old boy should have to be brave.  I considered going back early.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to do but worry during those two hours.  And when I returned to pick him up?  He was singing with the other kids.  He had spent the morning playing with another boy named Liam and having fun.  He shared.  He rode a trike.  He even ate his snack.  In short, he loved it.  He still does.

Even though I miss him terribly on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I am so very happy to see him learning, growing, and making new friends.

Riley had an amazing start to Kindergarten.  She loves her teacher, was placed in a class with her friend, and has already made a few new friends.  She was elated to be sent (with another student) on an important errand to the library and she can’t get enough of homework (who knew?)  Yes, that first week was wonderful.

But then, gradually, there was a shift.  My normally very sparkly little girl was a little less sparkly.  She started to drag her heels in the morning.  She wasn’t as excited at pick-up.  Be week three, she was sobbing in my arms night after night.

Lunch is too fast; I can’t eat my food.

Recess is too hard, there are too many kids.  I can’t find my friends.

I’m afraid of getting lost or left behind.

I just play alone.  I walk back and forth near the teacher until she blows the whistle.

Last week I stopped by recess a couple of times to see how she was doing.  Just as she said, she was playing alone, walking back and forth near the teacher.  My heart nearly shattered.  I fought back tears as I watched from a distance, helpless.

On Friday, I pulled her from school early.  We went out for a family lunch to celebrate Sean’s birthday, and then watched the space shuttle land at LAX.  And a funny thing happened…her sparkle returned.

We spent the weekend cuddling, playing, and just enjoying family time.  With one soccer game, naturally.  My sweet girl was happy once again.

Until Sunday night…when the tears returned.

So I did as any mom would do…I talked to the teacher this morning.  I explained that Riley is completely overwhelmed at recess, that she can’t find her friends, and that she’s afraid of missing the whistle and being left behind.  Then I hugged and kissed my sweet little girl and put my faith in her teacher.

I’m so glad I had that conversation this morning.

When I returned to pick her up, my sweet girl was happy and full of smiles.  As her teacher stood behind her, playing with her hair and letting her know that she cares, they told me about the new system:  The teacher paired them off in buddies so that no one would ever feel alone and everyone could count on someone else to help listen for the whistle.

When I watched her at recess today, I saw a happy girl running, climbing, and playing with her friends.  I saw my sweet, sparkly girl reaching out to her friends from soccer and smiling as she waved to me from across the crowded field.  I saw my little girl doing exactly what she should be doing:  Having fun.

Today I am grateful for the best Kindergarten teacher ever.  I am grateful for someone who listens and makes changes to ensure that every child is happy.  Today I feel a little bit of relief.

Today I am happy to see my little girl smile…

(My apologies for the lack of pictures in this Project Happy post…Wordpress is working against me.  I won’t let it steal my happy though…)





The Meltdown


I could feel it coming on a few days prior to the actual event.  There was a subtle shift in the air, a feeling of repetition that caught us all off guard.


After nearly three months of pajama walks, swimming, and nature hunts around town, suddenly we were thrown into the system.  Out of nowhere, it seemed, the mornings became rushed, the meals became a project, and late became a bad word (not good news for this terminally late mommy)…


The excitement of the first week got us off to a great start.  Wrapped up in new adventures, we quickly made our way down the street each morning to see what awaited in Kindergarten.  With hugs and kisses and smiles galore we said our goodbyes for the morning.


For a few days, it seemed almost too good to be true.  While I held back tears almost every morning, my sweet girl didn’t shed a single tear.  She was brave, strong, and independent.


Until the weekend.


Until she had time to lounge around in her beloved pajamas while eating fresh baked pumpkin spice donuts with her daddy.  Until she didn’t have to race, didn’t have to remember anything, and didn’t have to leave baby brother behind again.  Until she could get back to the business of playing.


Suddenly, the new adventure didn’t seem quite so new and exciting anymore.


Suddenly, she felt trapped between two worlds.  Her mood shifted ever so slightly that day.  By dinnertime, she was lost in thought and stared off to a faraway place.


Under the cover of darkness, she finally broke her silence.


I really love my Kindergarten class, but I miss being home.  It’s so busy and fast, and I don’t get to play with baby brother in the morning.


I sat quietly, waiting for her to finish.


This is a big change, sweet girl.  Five days is more than three, and we had a fun summer together, us three.  We stayed in our pajamas and baked cookies and swam almost every day.  This is a big change.


Her espresso colored eyes appeared large and rimmed with worry.  She stared back at me, waiting for more.


I am proud of you every single day.  We miss you too, sweet girl.  But you know what the best part of my day is?  Hearing all about your morning while we hold hands the whole way home. 


Satisfied, she closed her eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep.  Our hands still entwined, I kneeled by her bed and watched her for a little while, until I could be sure that her worries were gone.


Three days later, the tears rained down like a waterfall…


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