Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Learning to Fly.

Its the last day of September. October is tomorrow, and I love October. This particular October is bringing about a lot of change to our family. Our 5-person dynamic that we've grown quite cozy in is shifting. We are all so excited, but there is a little piece of my heart that sees it as just a tiny bit bittersweet. The last few months of our Party of Five have been good ones.

Speaking of parties, our Carly turned 6 in August. That's such a big number, 6. We hosted a Wonder Woman party with some friends from school and church. I wasn't feeling very well that day, and Chris stepped up and ran the show, filling a million water balloons that 10 6-year-olds popped in a matter of minutes, and writing a rhyming, super-hero themed treasure hunt around the yard and house. It was totally impressive, but he locked himself into a lifetime of writing rhyming treasure hunt clues. Carly had a lot of fun and her party, and it was so fun to celebrate her on her big day.

A few weeks later, our big 6 year old started 1st grade.

Oh, first grade. There was a lot of excitement and apprehension as first grade began, from all parties involved. I'm not the most organized person on earth, but felt strongly I needed to pull it together to make sure her experience wasn't chaotic. To date, we've been good. Reading and signing everything that comes home in her folder, remembering her book on library day, setting out clothes, packing lunches, getting to school on time. We decided to have Chris take her in the morning, and then she rides the bus home in the afternoon. It gives her 45 extra minutes at home in the morning, and I don't have to pick her up in the afternoon, so its a win-win. More or less, that part of school is going well.

One struggle has been the emotional adjustment for Carly in particular. For weeks she came home in a terrible mood, speaking in such a mean way to me and John and Quinn. It was kind of heart-breaking, because we all missed her, but the Carly coming home was not the Carly we knew. I had the urge to get after her, put her in time-out every afternoon. But I had the overwhelming feeling that wasn't what she needed. I realized this was a huge life adjustment for her. There was a lot of pressure and stress and change and new challenges every minute of the day. I could see where she was coming from. And after talking to other first grade moms, I discovered Carly wasn't alone in her behavior. So we started something new. Every day Carly comes home and she and I sit together, just the two of us. Sometimes I hold her on my lap. Sometimes its on the front steps, or in the yard. We sit and I ask a few questions. Sometimes she talks, sometimes she doesn't. I look at whats in her backpack, and it gives her a chance to open up. Or we'll talk about something not school-related at all. After a week of doing this, I could see her decompressing. I'm sure it was a mix of our time together, as well as getting used to school, but now that we are a month in, most days she comes home very pleasant. Our mommy/Carly time has become a habit. She comes home and goes straight to our spot in the shade in the yard. I have memories of chatting with my mom after school over a little bowl of mini M&Ms. I hope I'm setting up a situation in which she always feels like she can come home and talk to her mom.

We've also faced some real life. Boys calling her names on the bus and threatening to hurt her on the playground (papa bear took care of that one real quickly). It feels unsettling to send her into the real world, but I know it is learning to deal with difficult situations, and communicate with her parents now, that will make all the difference. 

Carly was "selected" to take part in the reading program at her school. This is a nice way of saying she is behind where she should be in reading. We knew that. Having not gone to kindergarten, I knew she would be. But it was kind of hard to see that physical evidence in the form of a letter in my hand. I can't help, at the risk of sounding over-dramatic, but feel like its my fault. She's a really brilliant girl, who loves learning. She is really good at math and loves doing problems for fun. When the school year ended last year her teacher said if we read all summer, she should be right in where other first graders are. Instead, we hardly read at all. I mean, we read to the kids a ton, but I hardly had Carly read to me. So when we got the letter I felt like I had failed my brilliant, loves-to-learn girl. My weaknesses as a mother were now directly effecting her success. But I am grateful for a great school that is making an effort to help her catch up. As it turns out, there are 9 kids just from her class in "Book Club", as they call it. She goes every day, and gets to bring home a new book each day. I think it will be great, and know we can have fun catching her up.

Carly's not the only one doing the growing up around here. John and Quinn are now three and a half, and have the choas, humor, creativity, and whining to prove it. I was a bit worried about Carly being gone all day. She is the ring leader. She comes up with all sorts of fun things to do. But she is also type-A, and wants to control everything going on, which leads to conflict. The most amazing thing about Carly being gone is watching John and Quinn play for hours without conflict. A month later, and they still rarely fight. They have such a sweet relationship, and are very generous with each other and accommodating when they differ in opinion. One example is how they play "family" with trucks. The big ones are the mom and dad, and the little ones are the kids. This way, John is playing with trucks, and Quinn is playing a version of dolls. It is so cute to watch. 

Our dynamic duo also started "school".  We are doing a co-op group with our ward. With two sets of twins, it makes for 7 kids and 5 moms. It is a fun group of kids, and they were really great when I taught last week (Though, I'm amazed at people who make teaching young kids their career. Its totally exhausting!). They are such cute little school kids, and love going.

But for Quinn, even more exciting than preschool is the beginning of dance class. In the spring, I started her in a little "class" (term used generously) run by a day care. The teacher was a daycare teacher that came in her jeans and sweatshirt, and the only other student was a boy from the daycare. It lasted only a few weeks before the teacher just stopped showing up. It was disappointing to say the least, and Quinn still talks about how her teacher stopped coming. So now, she's old enough to go to the wonderful teacher Carly went to last year, and she is in a class full of little girls in pink. It is heaven for our little ballerina. She is so funny though, because she takes it so seriously. I watch her as I leave the room and she has this intense look on her face, not even cracking a smile. Then she comes home and shows us what she learned. She is a really coordinated girl, light on her feet and naturally graceful. I never thought Carly would be a long-term dancer, but it looks like there is a decent chance that Quinn will be.

Carly had no interest in another year of dance, and that's ok. She expressed a lot of interest in playing soccer this fall. But soccer is three times a week, and with the adjustment to full-day school and the season falling right when we are expecting the baby, it just felt like too much. I'm so glad we didn't do it, as things have been busy enough. Basketball starts in November, which will be way more fun anyway (and is only twice a week, with no games on Saturdays. Cheers!).

And people ask about John. He likes dig in the dirt in the park while Quinn is at dance. He's my low key man, and I guess I'll take advantage of that for now. T-ball is in the spring, and he can already whack a ball quite proficiently off a tee, so that will be all sorts of fun.

Meanwhile, Dr. Connolly started his second year as a professor at WSU. Chris really enjoys his job. It has stress and pressures, and he has a lot going on, but he likes what he does, and has a lot of exciting things in the works. I like his relative flexibility, personally. The last 9 months have been especially hectic for him, with a job, being Young Men's president, and picking up all my slack. But I'm so grateful and proud of all he does, and that he does it with joy. My kids really couldn't have a better daddy, and I couldn't have a better man to share my life with. On his first day back to fall classes, we headed to Ferdinand's, WSU's creamery, to enjoy their delicious ice cream. It was our second year doing it, and I see it being a long-standing tradition.  

Baby brother is growing. We are only two weeks from the due date now. A few weeks ago, baby was sitting breach, and I was more than a little nervous that after avoiding a c-section with my twins, I would be getting one with my caboose. But he is a good boy, and is now perfectly head-down. He looks to be average size. I feel humongous, and the doctor yesterday said baby was sitting completely out in front, which is why I thought he was huge (very grateful it doesn't look like he'll be the 9 pounder I was fearing!). Baby brother seems like a peaceful guy. John was so spazzy in the womb, which translated into his personality, and his status as a difficult newborn. Quinn, however, was super peaceful, to the point I'd worry about her. Internally, baby brother is taking after Quinn. I'm constantly sitting down with a cold glass of water and poking at him to make sure he's ok. He's most active in the evenings, and I think that is because I finally stop moving after busy days of going non-stop. His movements are so fluid, we joke he's our Washington hippy baby: "It's all good, mama." Quinn asked the other day if he has black hair, since she knows she was born with a full head of black hair. And suddenly I was so excited to see him. It will be so wonderful to put a face to the baby we get to know over 40 weeks.

And then there is me. For so long I've been ready for this baby, rooting for an early arrival. Now, every night I feel like I am way too tired to have a baby. I have way too many things on my to-do list. I don't want him to be late, but 39-40 weeks sits well with me now, despite my aching hips and restless sleep. Because honestly the pain and sleepless nights are way worse post-baby, amiright? I have recently begun being hungry all the time. The fall-ish weather has brought intense cravings for baked goods and hot fudge. I'm gaining weight a wee bit too fast but really, there's like two weeks left so its fine, right? I do have a hospital bag packed, because third time is the charm. I'm voting for my water to break at like 10 am, because then I'd likely have gotten ready for the day, and it would be easy to find a place for my kids to go. The last two times happened in the middle of the night when I hadn't showered in days, so maybe this time will be more glam. Because giving birth is totally glam, you know. Anyway. I'm ready for a baby, but a little bit not ready for a baby. Mostly, I'm highly curious to see how this one plays out. And look forward to baby toes to nibble on.

35 weeks.

Chris introduced the kids to "Learning to Fly" by Tom Petty. I do my part, and they love "Midnight Train to Georgia" and a variety of Spice Girls hits, but they really love Learning to Fly. For quite a while, Carly requested it every morning as Chris drove her to school. When we got in the van for John and Quinn's first day at preschool, they both requested, "Learning to Fly!" So I put it on and we sang as we drove. 

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

And in my pregnant, emotional, my-kids-are-growing-and-I'm-having-a-new-baby state, I got a little teary. We have it good here, with our people. We are all learning to fly, as a professor, a first grader, new preschoolers, and a mom. We are figuring it out, even if sometimes it feels like we ain't got wings. But when we do come down, we all come down together, in our home, where we eat dinner together, play daddy monster, read stories, say prayers, and sing songs at bedtime. And when our baby bird arrives, he will fit right in, and will learn to fly along with the rest of us.


Melissa said...

Erin, you continue to be a bit of a heroine to me. I love reading your articulate posts that are always sprinkled with bits of humor, honesty, normal life, emotions, and often wisdom. From the outside looking in, you really seem to be doing so well and I truly admire your marriage and your parenting. (I promise I'm not falling prey to the blogging trap of thinking your life is perfect. I just think it seems very good.) I loved the story of how you've implemented Mommy-Carly time after school. I also think you seem very in tune and perceptive to the needs of your children at any given time, even though it may change down the road (like not doing soccer this Fall). Basically I think you're doing a great job. I hope to be a really good mom like you someday!

The Gray Gang said...

We totally get the high-strung, hard to handle after school emotions. First grade is going a lot better than all day kindergarten last year. Some days I think our poor little Julia has reached maximum capacity. I love your idea of one on one time. I think so often of being still and how important that is. I'm going to try to implement that with Julia. Perhaps it will help her sort through her emotions from the day. I also love seeing Quinn in the Black boots with purple laces. I'm months away from pulling them out for the third and final time. I'm both elated and heart broken. How did these babies all grow up?! Best of luck with baby number four. I can't wait to hear how it all went.