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1st Day of School, Etcetera

1st Day of School, Etcetera

This year, the first day of school was completely bananas. There was such an overload of emotions that I was pretty much numb. (And for most of the day Noel literally was numb.) But, let’s back up a minute.

Ortho P Dick
Noel has been using the dictation feature a lot lately. It has it’s quirks.

The Tuesday before school started, Noel had an appointment with the Orthopedic Surgeon. We knew there was a strong possibility that his arm would need to be reset since the bones didn’t look like they matched up in the x-rays from the ER, but we were honestly surprised when the surgeon recommended surgery. They wanted to do it as soon as possible before the bones started to heal improperly and of course the next surgery day was Thursday which was also the first day of school. It was a busy couple of days going to school open houses, getting Ellen’s hair fixed, and getting everything ready for the first day of school/surgery.

Kids ready to go to school
Kids ready to go to school
They were pretty excited, Ellen especially.
They were pretty excited, Ellen especially.

Thursday morning everyone was up early and anxious for various different reasons. First we headed to Cooper’s school for the first day of school parade. Cooper’s entire team was there waiting for us and said they’d be keeping an eye on Cooper for the next several days as he transitioned to full day school.

Our big first grader.
Our big first grader.
Waiting in line with his class.
Waiting in line with his class.

Ellen was so anxious to go to “real preschool,” so the second Cooper’s class walked into the building we left and headed to her school.

Ellen ready to head into class.
Ellen ready to head into class.
Ellen next to her cubby.
Ellen next to her cubby.
Ellen settled right in and started making friends.
Ellen settled right in and started making friends.

After dropping her off, Noel went home to do some meditation and I headed to the pool so we could both find some level of calm before heading to the hospital.

Bones

It was a little hard for my mom heart to not be there when my kids were done with school, but I think it would have been even harder to not be there for Noel. They put a metal plate and several screws in Noel’s wrist to line everything up. The surgery went as well as could be expected, but we were there for quite a few hours waiting for him to be both alert and not nauseous enough to go home. The kids were so excited to tell us all about their day, but a little mystified as to why Noel was so out of it. It was pretty much time to go to bed when we got home and when the kids protested I told them they needed to go to bed because they had school again the next day. Ellen was super excited about that, but Cooper wasn’t. After thinking about it he grumpily said, “Fine, but after school we’ll have lunch and play with my toys?” When I told him he’d be going full day every day now he said, “What?!?! Every day!?!?” Poor kid, it might be a rough 12 years.

Noel's hand, still orange from surgery. He jokes it's his spray tan.
Noel’s hand, still orange from surgery. He jokes it’s his spray tan. 

I wish I had some neat way to tie up this blog post or something philosophical to say, but the recovery part of this story isn’t over. Noel isn’t able to do much yet which has its challenges and frustrations for everyone. (Imagine not being able to do up your own pants or sit through church without your hand looking like a blown up latex glove. Then try to explain to your kids why they pretty much can’t touch Dad.) So, let’s just end this post with some counting of blessings. We’re grateful for amazing insurance that is making what could have been a financial burden manageable, for friends that watched our kids, and for the scouts that are going to move that giant pile of mulch that of course ended up being delivered this week. Lastly, I know they look dorky, but if you go rollerblading consider wearing wrist guards 😉

Commencement

Commencement

Nothing could make a parent more proud than to see their child work hard and finally graduate . . . from kindergarten. I personally think kindergarten graduation is a little silly, but as a parent, I have to admit it was both adorable and hilarious to see the kids in their cardboard graduation “caps” and see the slideshow of what they want to be when they grow up. (Cooper is going to be a firefighter.) Cooper really has worked hard this last year. He’s made huge progress socially and is doing well academically. He had an awesome team that really looked out for him and helped him shine. Thanks kindergarten for being awesome!

 

First Week of School

First Week of School

Whenever the word “kindergarten” was mentioned over the summer, Cooper would light up and I would try not to hyperventilate. Back in the spring, we met with the special ed team from the preschool and the elementary school to talk about his transition. After the meeting, the two teams collaborated to make him a book that would hopefully help him adjust easier to his new school. I also took Cooper on a tour of the school and then during the summer we read the book and talked often, through nervous smiles, about his new school. I know kindergarten is a hard transition for most parents, but I was especially nervous.

When Cooper was first diagnosed with ASD, I read a lot about how early intervention is so important – that the earlier you start therapy, the better it works. I felt like we were doing just that and for some inexplicable reason I told myself that by the time he reached kindergarten no one would even know the difference between him and the next kid. I don’t know why I choose kindergarten as my “deadline.” I never read anything that indicated this and no therapist ever even close to insinuated it, but for some reason it helped me sleep better at night to tell myself that everything would be “fine” by the time elementary school rolled around. When preschool ended and Cooper was still using a communication book (his teacher would jot notes of what they did that day) to tell me what happened at school and we were adding on more therapies, my heart sunk. It was clear, even to me, that my arbitrary deadline was a farce. Over the summer, we kept up our therapies, played hard, and for the most part I didn’t think about kindergarten (denial), but every now and again it would come up and I’d feel the panic start to rise.

At the school open house, we met Cooper’s teacher for the first time. While we were talking to her, the principal started to talk over the PA system and Cooper began to look around confused and agitated, twisting his ears with his fingers. The teacher got down on one knee and calmly tried to show him where the speaker was in the classroom and explain that it was the voice of the principal. As I watched the two of them, I started to relax a tiny bit. The first day of school the elementary school does a unique thing called “Getting to Know You” where the kinders get to bring their parents to school, the idea being that it eases the transition for everyone. In our case, it really did ease the transition, probably mostly for me. On the first “real” day of school I dropped Cooper off and then nervously waited for the next three hours to pass. When I picked him up he bounded out the door beaming. Then he told me that he went down the slide and across the blue bridge and that they went to the library, but didn’t get any books. He also showed me a picture he drew of the public library. I was speechless. If I added up all the things he voluntarily told me during his two years at preschool it wouldn’t be that much. Later, he also added that his favorite part of kindergarten was the playground, lunch (snack time), and drawing. Also, he felt it was important to tell me that his teacher has two garbage cans. He hasn’t been that talkative every day, and I’m not counting on this year being a cake walk, but he’s progressing and that makes my momma heart over the moon.

Second First Day of Preschool

Second First Day of Preschool

I think preschool is really the only “grade” you don’t have to be embarrassed about doing more than once.  If anything, attending multiple years is bragworthy amongst the parents which makes for amusing chit-chat during pick-up and drop-off.

This year Cooper is at a new school, the one within walking distance of our house. It’s definitely a different crowd from last year as we’ve swapped parents smoking in their cars for parents that camped out overnight to get their kids registered. (I wish I was joking about this. For the record, I was able to just waltz in prior to open registration since Cooper was a transfer student. There are very few things I’m willing to wait in line overnight for.)

Cooper practically sprinted to preschool this morning, but then was his usual tentative self when we arrived.  Ellen was really sad to say goodbye to Cooper the preschool and burst into tears when we left. She wants to be a big kid so badly. Cooper gets to attend school for free due to his ASD, but I’m afraid we might need to save up or start a joy school so she can go to preschool next year. I won’t allow myself to dream about all the marvelous things I could do if they were both gone for a few hours.

After we picked Cooper up we met up with some friends to check out a new splash pad.

The kids weren’t actually interested in the water until I told them it was time to go, of course.

Hard life

On the way home both of the kids passed out. Apparently being a preschooler is exhausting.

A Blustery Halloween

A Blustery Halloween

Preschool We kicked off Halloween with Cooper’s first ever school Halloween Party. I was slightly appalled at how much sugar the kids got at the party and realized that I may become that mom who is suggesting we have carrot sticks for the kids to eat. I was, however, the only mom at the party that dressed up so I could still potentially be in the running for coolest mom, right?

Car CartBefore heading home we picked up a few items at the grocery store for our Halloween celebration. Our festive attire earned us several compliments as well as a few strange conversations with crazy people.

PumpkinWe’ve had our pumpkin since going to Utah in September, but didn’t get around to carving it until the afternoon of Halloween. Cooper “helped” me clean it out and then we all carved it when Noel got home.

Bat PumpkinIt was so windy that the pumpkin actually got blown off the porch and cracked a bit.

PebblesIn case you haven’t guessed it already, we dressed up as the Flintstones for Halloween. I haven’t been able to convince Noel to dress up since the Flamboyant Matador Incident of 2010, but when I suggested Cooper and Ellen be Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles Noel got very excited about us being Fred and Wilma. (Maybe it’s because there’s something more manly about a caveman than a guy that dresses in yellow and hangs out with a monkey.) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have always lived places where it’s cooler in October and not out of the ordinary for it to snow on Halloween, and I’ve long thought it was ridiculous that people would wear such ridiculously weather inappropriate costumes. Even when I was a teenager, I thought this and I distinctly remember helping with a city Halloween event my Senior year and dressing up as an Eskimo because it seemed practical. Because of this, my goal was to create warm costumes that still stayed true to the Flintstone’s vibe.

Flintstone's Family 2I think I did a pretty good job staying true to the spirit of the characters and we were all so warm and cozy in our fleece costumes. I also think Noel was grateful he didn’t have to wear a dress. (It should be noted that Noel switched his short sleeves for long sleeves when he took the kids out trick-or-treating, but does have a much higher tolerance for the cold as was exhibited when he spent 10 minutes outside in a t-shirt in the whipping wind helping some trick-or-treaters look for their lost phone.)

Car CartBy the end of the night everyone was pretty tired, so we gave everyone carrot sticks and warm baths. Both kids fell asleep immediately, even Ellen who typically spends at least 30 minutes babbling to her stuffed animals. If that doesn’t represent a successful Halloween, I don’t know what does.

First Day of School

First Day of School

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI never thought I would be one of those moms that would get teary-eyed when their kid started school. I could just blame it on how fast things moved when Cooper was offered an opportunity to go to preschool, but truthfully I’ve been on a downward emotional spiral ever since Noel found a way to melt my snow queen heart and it’s only gotten exponentially worse with the arrival of my children.

Cooper had so much fun picking out a Thomas the Train backpack and repeatedly squealing “School!” but  he seemed unaware that something life changing was happening. I was the one that couldn’t decide which outfit he should wear, worried that the alarm wouldn’t go off and felt too jittery to eat much breakfast. When we arrived at school he held my hand tight and took everything in and I actually felt a little better since he was giving me the opportunity to be the strong one. But when he started playing with toys and I couldn’t hardly get his attention to say goodbye I felt my voice catch. The teacher looked at me with concern and I put on a strong smile as I turned to leave. I hugged Ellen tight on the way to the car and told her “don’t ever grow up” to which she replied with a shove to my chest as she tried to wriggle out of my arms.

When we picked Cooper up he was enjoying himself, but he also seemed pleased that we’d come back for him. We’ve made it through two days of preschool now without anyone crying so I think things are headed in a good direction.

Stickers

Stickers

When I was in 7th grade I had a science teacher that decided grades were stupid, irrelevant, and unnecessary. Instead of grading our assignments, she would give us stickers for satisfactorily completing them. As students, we were concerned. We had already spent seven years investing ourselves in the letter grade system and we weren’t sure how stickers would translate to our report card. Despite how juvenile her mockery of good education seemed, we were still barely in the stage of life where we aimed to please and were generally obedient. When we were offered an extra sticker for cleaning out cubbies, we fought over who would be granted the honor, we took copious notes on the movie Space Camp, and instead of reading the required three “Magic School Bus” books we read five. For years we talked about how that class was such a waste of time, cooly acting as if we had never really bought into her system. What was that woman thinking anyway, I mean come on, stickers?

I feel I’ve matured some since 7th grade, but when I was at the polling station today I couldn’t help but eye the roll of “I voted” stickers with a well restrained, giddy sense of anticipation. I wouldn’t say the reason I vote is to get the sticker, and it’s hard for me to pinpoint why I find it so exciting. I don’t consider myself to be overly patriotic or politically minded, just performing my civic duty. I also never wear stickers any other time of the year. Honestly they aren’t even that attractive or unique, but there’s no way I’m leaving the polling station without one.

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up

Even though I went through 5 1/2 years of school to get a degree and a teaching license, I often find myself considering different career paths. Here are my current favorites:

1. Event Planner – I actually had a couple of summer jobs where I did this. I’m a planner and I like schedules. There’s just something exciting about orchestrating the lives of hundreds of people, even if only for a few days or hours. I loved the adrenaline rush that came during the duration of an event. Most of all, I liked feeling important.

2. Fashion Designer – I often find clothes shopping to be an awful experience. Things never fit either my size or personality quite right. I’m not a particularly trendy person, but I do enjoy the challenge of putting together outfits. I’ll even whip out the sewing machine sometimes when I’m struck by some sort of genius (this came in very handy during pregnancy when I wasn’t willing to fork out money for cute clothes that actually fit me). While I like creating, I don’t know that I would say that I love sewing. I know how to. I have decent skills. Sometimes I just lack the patience to make a truly high-quality  product. I figure if I became famous enough I can hire some to bring my ideas to fruition.

3. Bakery/Cafe owner – I like cooking and baking, but it’s hard for 2 people to eat more than a cake a week. (Okay, Noel could do it in a day, but I don’t let him.) Every time I watch the movie Stranger Than Fiction I feel a need to make the world a better place with cookies. There’s just something comforting about good food. This weekend is our church’s chili cook-off/spooky dessert contest. We checked out a stack of cookbooks from the library for inspiration. Noel’s making chili; I’m making dessert. We have high hopes for our entries.

4. Bed and Breakfast owner – This would kind of be a combo of #1 and #3. Noel and I already talk about what sort of breakfasts we’re going to make and what kind of a set up the B&B will have. Maybe when he retires.

5. Aerobics Instructor – I don’t know that this would be a career, but maybe a side job (maybe something I could even do as a mom to keep my sanity). I LOVED teaching aerobics during my student teaching. I just don’t want to pay to get certified 🙁

The funny thing about all of these ideas is that all except #1 and #5 appeared on my junior high Student Education/Occupation Plan. I chose English teacher because it seemed like the most realistic possibility. Maybe I won’t always have to be so sensible.

Looking Back

Looking Back

One of my professors once told us, “You know you’ve written something good when you read through it and it makes you cry.” While this might be a good measure for callous scholars, I’m not sure it’s a good check for a young mom who has oxytocin swimming around her bloodstream. I cry when certain songs come on the radio and when I can wrestle into my fitted pre-pregnancy clothes. So, here are some thoughts whether well penned or not, just humor me.

Monday was the first day of school here. It was also the first time in 19 years that I wasn’t donning a backpack and spending too much time picking out my outfit. Instead I watered the lawn and made the bed before doing aerobics in a church gym with other moms who all have at least one kid over the age of 10. As I did bicep curls using my fussy baby as a weight I couldn’t help but ask myself, “How did I get here?” Yet, in some ways it’s hard to imagine life ever being different.

At this time last year I wasn’t even pregnant. I’d just finished putting together an International conference for engineers and was trying to come up with ways to make The Scarlet Letter interesting to 17-year-olds. I taught aerobics every week day and dressed professionally 5 out of 7. I was arguably in the best shape of my life.  Life was a lot different then. Or was it?

As much as I sometimes try and chunk my life into eras, it’s fluid. I never end anything and then leave it behind, I just add to it. Events and people are all merging and helping me evolve. It’s amazing to think that once a memory has been lived it never goes away, even if you aren’t conscious of it, it’s always waiting with the ability to surface. While that ability to remember can be painful or traumatic in some cases, overall I find it comforting. Sometimes when I look at old pictures I wonder where that crazy dancing girl from my single days disappeared to, but then she makes an unexpected reappearance at a get together and I can’t help but smile. We’ve said a lot of goodbyes and “ended a lot of chapters” lately and though I’m glad to live in the present, it’s reassuring that in some way I get to bring a part of the past along with me. Here’s to everyone that’s donated a little part of themselves to me over the years.

Note: If you weren’t pictured above that doesn’t mean you haven’t made an impact. For example, I tried really hard to find a digital picture of me with any of my grandparents, but I guess I just don’t have one. I’m not always good at taking pictures.