Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Back to School Update

Yesterday, while talking to my husband about some of the things going on in our lives right now, he offered in the discussion that the adjective he finds most appropriate to describe me is intense. He also thinks that I am loving, compassionate, funny, silly, thoughtful, perceptive, and adoring. But all of those things that I do, I do them more intensely than most people (so he says, and I'm inclined to agree). It's as if there's all this energy and passion packed inside of me, and when the spigot is opened, just a little, whatever is there flows out freely.

And I spend a lot of time thinking. I also spend a lot of time in meditation, playing with my kids, spending time with my husband, working, and writing. But the thinking-- that's what you get when you come here to read. If I've had a rather social few days, and a few opportunities to talk with friends about what is going on in my mind, the "need" to blog is less pressing. But when I've been a bit socially isolated (as I've been to some extent since we've moved to a new state, with a work schedule that doesn't leave much room for social time), it's all built up inside me begging to get out, and the blog serves the purpose.

But it occurred to me last night that if all you know of my life is what is in this blog, you might erroneously conclude that my life is full of drama, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. I have an incredibly drama-free life, with occasional events or thoughts passing through that need a little processing, but all in all, life is good.

So here it is: a blog post focusing on a friendly back-to-school update, so you know I really do lead a remarkably normal life.


Since we've been in our current location, my sweet husband has been a stay at home dad, although he's poked around a bit for any appropriate opportunities that might suit him. He volunteers weekly at our local interfaith social services organization that provides a homeless shelter, food pantry, community kitchen, free clinic, and information and referral services. He's also researched the MSW program at the local university, and if the right puzzle pieces line up in our lives over the next month, he'll be applying for next fall and will, no doubt, do extremely well. He is a saint, a loving and sweet father, and one of the smartest guys I know. I become more and more aware with each day how much he loves me and wants me to be happy, which only makes me love him more. I likewise would do anything to make him happy. I give thanks to God for 10 years with this man, and pray for 50+ more (we got married on my grandparents' 60th anniversary).


School started back the last week of August for my oldest three, which is exciting! The local school district was one of the biggest factors in our decision to move to the town we did once we had decided on a general region, and although the district often takes some heat from the crunchy crowd for being extremely focused on academics, it is working out beautifully for our children. First, all three are extremely academically-oriented in the first place. Second, this district also does a ton of hands-on activities to make the learning real. Third, this district (and their schools in particular) have a HUGE emphasis on the arts. The art room at our elementary school looks more like a real artist's studio than a classroom. The kids learn recorder, reading music and all, beginning in 4th grade. Our elementary school has a science lab with a dedicated teacher, and kids get a science lab rotation at least once a week to do lab projects coordinated with the classroom lessons. And every school has at least one full time gifted specialist who coordinates with the classroom teacher to develop tiered lesson plans to provide extra learning opportunities for those kids who need it. The middle school offers a TON of elective courses to choose from (including 4 foreign languages and college-type art classes, courses on mythology, etc.). In short, this district is a dream for us, and our kids love school.

Funky Monkey is now almost 13, in the 8th grade, and would be mortified to know I am still calling him "Funky Monkey" on my blog. I would consider calling him something cooler, like perhaps "M Funk" or something along those lines, but then he would only be equally mortified that his now-34 year old mother is trying to get all gangsta on him. After just getting slapped onto the end of the trumpet line when we transferred to this district in March, he was thrilled yesterday to finally find out that last week's challenges placed him into second chair (out of 14 trumpets), and I'm happy that he's happy. He's taking algebra and Spanish this year, both for high school credit, is in the pep band, and is planning to go for the school's ultimate Frisbee team when they have try-outs this year. He is still awaiting this long-promised growth spurt he hears boys get around his age (keeping in mind that he's a year ahead in school, so a bit younger than most of his best friends), and says he may consider the cross country team once he grows some longer legs. He's very involved in one of the coolest boy scout troops in the country (the kind that does 10 week long cross country bike rides or month long trips to Guatemala every summer). If I have to be honest about what it is like to have a near-teenager, it is both wonderful and messy, all at the same time, but definitely more wonderful. Though he deals with some of the hormonal adolescent "You just don't understand!" drama, and doesn't always enjoy being the oldest in a large family when the younger ones are annoying him on purpose, he is a delightful and sweet boy with a ton of integrity. He spoils the baby twins rotten, dotes on them, and tries to be nice to the other two older ones. He is developing the kind of sense of humor that often leaves me rolling on the floor laughing at his wit, and might one day make a great writer for a comedy show. He's a popular enough guy (had two "girlfriends"-- aka we say we're "going out" and then never talk to each other again-- last school year), and a genuinely happy and upbeat and confident kid.

Sassy Pants turns 9 next week, and is already starting to act just a tiny bit like a pre-teen. She tosses her long, straight dirty blond hair to the side when she giggles, and sticks her hip out (typically with a balled up fist on it) when she gives her dad that sideways glance that both melts him like butter and convinces him that the next 15 years are going to be terrifying. Last week, while upset about something, actually said for the first time, "Nobody understands me!" Oh, be with me, God, the preteen years are starting! She, like her older brother, is a year ahead in school, and is in the fourth grade. She is in the gifted cluster class at school, which means that it's a mix of half kids with the gifted label. Her teacher seems super cool, which is a relief for me, because her educational needs are probably (out of the three oldest) the most demanding of my three children, as she reads and writes at a level several grades ahead, and (again, out of the three oldest) is most like me in terms of being incredibly intense. She writes stories all the time, has a natural gift for music (self-taught on the piano, and flying along with the recorder), and loves to draw, color, crochet, paint, and weave. She is a junior girl scout this year, in a really neat troop (I'm their newsletter editor). She is infinitely more beautiful and popular and confident and awesome than I ever could have dreamed of being at her age. This scares me just a little bit, because I'm not 100% sure I'll know the right ways to support her, but I'll always love her, listen to her, and try.

Short Stuff is now almost 8, in the second grade, and not so short any more. In fact, he's already taller than Sassy Pants. (Maybe it's time to let my boys decide on some new blog names for themselves.) While he is not a grade ahead (for which we are thankful), he is insanely smart and in the "nurturing program"-- a program his school does for children who don't yet qualify for gifted (they don't start gifted until 3rd grade here), but have been flagged as needing additional academic challenge. In fact, when his school decided this year to do a combination 2nd/3rd grade class (enough funding for one more teacher, but not enough for 2 new classes), he was one of the 2nd graders chosen to be in that class. So, they still do differentiated learning throughout the day for each grade, but much of their instruction is together, which I'm sure suits him well. He is still VERY active and energetic and struggles just a little with impulse and intensity control, but seeing as I struggle with both of those sometimes at age 34, it doesn't make me love him any less. We just have to get creative coming up with routines and habits that help him to be more successful. He reads constantly, and is very creative. He likes "tough guy" stuff, extreme sports, and running. He's going to be a Bear this year in Cub Scouts, which blows my mind. He is getting SO BIG. And, one of the bonuses of his intensity-- when he laughs, it simply lights up the world. That boy, when joyful, is a burst of life!!


...are not really babies any more. They are now 2 years and 3 months old, talking non-stop, and trying to learn to go potty like big kids. Every morning, they get up and get dressed, put on their backpacks, and insist that they are "goin' to 'chool" like the big kids. "I goin' get on 'chool bus, Mommy!" They like to hug each other, play silly games together, play tag at the playground, and make trouble together (like emptying a 2 liter soda on the kitchen floor so they can throw themselves across it like a slip n' slide, or getting naked and smearing themselves and my entire bathroom with petroleum jelly).

Wonder Boy has straight blond hair, and a very sweet spirit. He gets his feelings hurt a little more easily than his sister, plays a little more rough than she does, and is a little more coordinated with things like stacking blocks and climbing rock walls and ladders at the playground. He is obsessed with sports, which neither me nor Daddy-O can figure out, since neither of us could give a hoot about sports. His favorite words are basketball, football, baseball, soccer ball, and "cool!" And, he's definitely a lefty.

Wonder Girl has light brown ringlets all over her head, and is a fireball. She is more stubborn than her brother, but has a very gentle touch and is incredibly compassionate. She is little more coordinated with fine motor things like drawing, feeding herself, and putting together Mr. Potato Head. She is obsessed with "baby dolls" of any kind (which include stuffed animals and creepy robots), and always asks me to play the "party music" on iTunes so she can dance on my bed. Party music, by the way, includes a blend of old school rap and cheesy dance music by Baha Men and Alvin and the Chipmunks. She also has slightly better verbal skills than him at this point, but we know that they're going to be different kids, with different gifts, and different growth curves. It's all good.


So, my update. I'm still working full time at my joe job, which is okay, but obviously not my dream. A few positives about my joe job: First, I'm around younger people a lot, which has reminded me that I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for life that I had perhaps forgotten. Second, we're in the middle of a big fundraiser for a nonprofit children's hospital right now, and the fundraiser has given me a reason to love my job. In the past week and a half, I've raised around $800 for the charity, which feels nice. In June, I had dropped out of a volunteer training program for a local women's organization because we thought we might be moving almost an hour away, but since we stayed, I restart training with them this weekend, which is EXCITING! I'm still waiting on those few puzzle pieces to fall into place as well (like Daddy-O). If they do, I'm going to blitz this fall and get my ducks in a row to apply into a PhD program at the local universities, in either anthropology or sociology or religious studies, to study cultural influences on birth and breastfeeding choices OR religion (as well as a bunch of other fun stuff). I know school will kick my butt, but for over 10 years now, all I've ever really wanted to be when I grew up was a college professor. There have been times when I've started other paths (like towards midwifery or social work) because that's what was available to me where I've lived in the past and with our family set up (homeschooling), but with our current set up (kids in school, babies getting older, living 5 minutes from a huge state university and 20 minutes from a major private university), I think I can do this. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's why I'm here. God is setting us all up (me, Daddy-O, kids) to have exactly the opportunities in our lives that we need right now to follow dreams and prepare ourselves for our purposes in life. Life is good. :-)

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