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Kindergarten, the sequel

Today was the first day of kindergarten and it couldn’t have been more different than last year’s first day of kindergarten.

Last year was fraught with waffle drama and the omen of a lost skirt. This year she’s wearing another skirt but was not in the mood for breakfast at all and of course I was all “YOU MUST EAT” and put an extra snack in her Littlest Pet Shop lunch box.

This year Nathan was the one who stayed with her until the bell rang.

But mom wasn’t left out and got a shot in with the kindergartner as well.

I’m not feeling the love for those pants. They’re actually a couple of sizes larger than what I wear now and the last time I wore them I had four dollars in coins in one pocket, the weight of which nearly made the pants slide off my right hip.

But I’m liking that denim jacket which I purchased for $3.99 at Goodwill. Score!

Anyway, back to the kindergartner. I have no doubt she’s going to get into some mischief this year. Ideally I’d like to make it through the week before getting a call from the school, but after meeting her teacher I have all the confidence in the world my child is now with someone who will appreciate and nurture her individuality and help harness her dramatic tendencies.

So excited for the first day of school.

I’m also pretty confident in saying that skirt is coming home tonight. This year’s first day of kindergarten is much colder than last year’s.

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Abracadabra

And just like that the skirt reappears.

She was very excited to tell me she found it and was completely willing to pose in the middle of the school hallway so I could take this picture.

Hopefully this means things are looking up.

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Barbaric yawps

I have a confession to make.

I am a yeller.

I yell at my child. I yell at my husband. I yell at my dog.

I don’t yell at the fish because we’re cool.

Yelling is how I respond to stress. Note I did not say it’s how I “handle” stress, because the yelling does not help me deal with the stress at all. Yelling actually adds to the stress because I feel like a piece of shit when I’m done barking at everyone.

I was born of two very different individuals, but one thing they had in common was that they were both yellers. Nathan’s parents were both yellers and he has become one, too.

We’re just now starting to realize how awful all this yelling is and that it is the most ineffective parenting tool ever. Our daughter does not respond to yelling. The only thing she has learned from yelling is that it’s ok for us to raise our voices to each other. She is becoming a yeller, too.

This past week has been incredibly stressful. The transition to kindergarten was not at all what we thought it would be. I’m not at the point where I want to write about it in depth, mainly because we’re still working through some things, but also because I happen to know one of Autumn’s former preschool teachers has been a regular reader of this blog for a year now. She has never mentioned the blog to me, but I know she still keeps up with us (hi, btw) and if she was able to find me here, it’s entirely possible Autumn’s new teachers could find this blog as well. We just need to get on the other side of this before mommy starts discussing it with the interwebs.

When we lost our daycare provider last year, I was worried how Autumn would handle the transition to preschool. Our provider had lost her license and I was forced to leave work one morning and pick Autumn up from her house. It was a horrible way to say goodbye to the woman who had taken care of our child for three years and Autumn still remembers how we cried that morning. That was on a Friday and by the next Monday she was enrolled at the preschool where she would spend the next sixteen months.

She adapted incredibly well to the new environment, and now that I look back on how smoothly she handled the transition, I think it was because she was ready for something new. She was ready for someone to bring her to the next level, to nurture her inquisitiveness and creativity and help manage some of her more diva-like tendencies.

And since Autumn handled the transition to preschool so well, I wrongly assumed she would take on kindergarten with the same chutzpa and fearlessness.

Which she has. Sort of.

Getting used to kindergarten has been a challenge for all three of us, and one thing it has taught us so far is that Nathan and I need to change the way we do things. Autumn isn’t a special needs child, but her absolute defiance, stubbornness and inexhaustible reserves of energy require some creative parenting. She makes things incredibly difficult sometimes, both for herself and for those of us who care for her, and now that we’ve seen some of her more explosive personality traits through the less forgiving eyes of her kindergarten teachers, we have realized that the yelling has gotten us nowhere and never will.

But, oh, the girl does know how to push our buttons. I have a feeling that is one thing about her that will never change.

Yay, us.

So we are trying our best not to yell. We had a couple slip-ups this past weekend, but I am happy to say I have handled at least two atomic tantrums without raising my voice above a stern warning. And you know what? The calmer I am during these events, the crazier Autumn gets.

I haven’t figured out yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I am proud of being able navigate through her cyclone of hysteria without losing my cool. It takes some doing, but if I can find my happy place, I am able to retain a Zen-like calm that wins out in the end.

The other day I asked Nathan if he felt like we were all of the sudden having to play catch-up in the discipline department. We’ve been lazy and a little too indulgent. We have spoiled Autumn in ways we never intended to spoil her. What we need now is structure. We need to establish clear rules and even clearer consequences.

She’s not two anymore, even if she does act like it sometimes.

And I guess that’s the part of this whole thing that really breaks my heart because we also need to help her grow up.

This is just the beginning of letting go, and I never expected it would be this hard.

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Wardrobe control freak

I feel like telling a funny story today, but the only funny story I have is that Day 2 of Kindergarten yielded no recovered skirt. Since Autumn had so adamantly insisted she put the skirt in her backpack, we’re thinking she may have put it in the wrong backpack.

I really hope that backpack belongs to a boy because right now I’m thinking about the pair of mittens we found in Autumn‘s cubby at school last winter. Mittens we, ahem, borrowed for a couple of weeks since they fit so well.

I guess that’s the way karma works and someone may very well be enjoying a brand new Old Navy skirt that was worn very, very briefly.

I told Autumn I’d give her a day to recover the skirt on her own before I got involved. I need her to feel accountable for her belongings and I wanted to give her the chance to be her own hero. Just to make things a little easier, I put a picture of her wearing the skirt yesterday in her backpack with a note saying she had misplaced the garment, so we’ll see where that gets us. I may even pay a visit to the school during my lunch hour to see if it turned up in the lost and found.

I do realize I’m getting a little too worked up over this skirt, and if we’re going to peel away the layers here we might be able to deduce that I’m feeling a little out-of-control with this whole kindergarten situation and that the obsession with the skirt is just a manifestation of the anxiety I’m feeling at having to let go of my little girl a little.

Her old school is right on the college campus where I work. At any given moment during the day I was just a five-minute walk away from her. It’s a small school where she knew everybody and everybody knew her. It’s a place where something could be left behind and still be there the next day (mittens excluded, of course). The place definitely made both of us feel safe.

Now I have to drop my child off at the school playground every morning and trust she’ll not only find her way into class but come out of it with everything I sent with her that day. I also have no idea what she’s eating or if she’s eating at all. I checked her hot lunch account balance yesterday and could see she had gone through the lunch line. Today? Nothing. The balance hadn’t changed so I called her at my mom and dad’s place and asked what she had eaten for lunch.

“A cheese pizza and a banana,” she said.

I did not send her to school with a cheese pizza and a banana, so now I’m left wondering if she stole a lunch on her second day of kindergarten.

The short answer is I DON’T KNOW.

But as far as the karmic scales are concerned, I still have four more free hot lunches coming if it’s going to even come close to making up for the loss of the skirt.

Enough about the skirt. I’m not going to obsess about the skirt. I can totally see this snowballing into a situation in which an APB is sent home with all her classmates urging parents to search backpacks for a missing skirt, and since we will be with these same parents and students for the next seven years, I do not want to become known as “the skirt lady” the very first week of my daughter’s elementary career.

But seriously. Can’t the kid keep track of her stuff? Thank God she isn’t responsible for a younger sibling because I’d probably wind up being the mother of an only child whether I wanted to or not.

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Field trip

Today I accompanied Autumn on a field trip to a local farm.  It’s hard to believe I have a kid who’s old enough to be going on field trips, but there we were. On a field trip to a farm.

It wasn’t the first time I chaperoned a group of youngsters on a field trip.  When I was in high school my dad recruited me to join him on a class trip to Lansing and I held about as much authority with the middle schoolers back then as I did with the preschoolers today.  Which is to say not much.  Not much at all.

I took the camera with me, which was a good thing because I had something to do since my child was only mildly interested in spending time with me.  The first of many times she will prefer the company of her friends over mine, I’m sure.

But enough of my whining. Let’s get to the farm.

We started off with some pumpkin donuts and apple cider.
donuts and apple cider

After which we went on the hunt for some animals….

A horse! A wee one at that.
Horse!

Sheep that have never been shorn. I heard they will be offering up their virgin wool come February. Well, at least someone will be enjoying that wool this winter if the sheep can’t.
image

Today was the first time I ever saw a goat on top of a shed. It wasn’t this guy, but I really wish I’d have gotten that picture.
Goat!

Hay! That got everywhere!
Hay!

Becca, our friendly tour guide. Out of all the pictures I took today, this is the one of my favorites simply because I was sitting on my ass on a flatbed full of hay and she happened to turn her head at the exact moment I took the shot.
Tractor lady w/ds

Each child was able to pick out their own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Even me.
image

I think we have about six pumpkins of varying sizes at home right now.
image

And last but not least, no trip to the farm would be complete without a barn cat.  Since my last post indicated I’m not much of a cat lover, you can plainly see I was in the minority today. This cat was the first thing the children saw when they got off the bus and we had to literally tear them away to see the rest of the farm.
kitty love

Trust me. There is a cat in there somewhere.

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Last week I picked Autumn up from school and was treated to a note on her daily report that said, “Autumn enjoyed teaching her friends the song ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot.’”  I smiled at the thought of a group of preschoolers singing Pat Benatar, though I can’t imagine how much fun that was for the teachers since Autumn only knows one part of the chorus and sings it over and over.  For days all I’ve heard of the song has been “Hit me with your best shot…fire away!”

The result of this repetitive serenade is that I’ve not been able to get that damn song out of my head.  I’ve tried and tried, but the more she sings it the more it bounces around in my noggin and even I don’t know all the lyrics.  I know some of them, but once I get to a certain point my mental Muzak kicks in until I get to the chorus again.  Really, I’m not much better than my kid in that respect.

I’m not exactly sure where Autumn learned the song. I imagine it could have been a Sunday morning I plugged the iPod into some speakers and listened to WBMX out of Boston.  I suspect, though, that she learned it at school because “Mama Mia” recently popped into her repertoire and I know I’ve never heard WBMX play ABBA.

That I’m not entirely sure where Autumn picked up these songs is yet another reminder that my kid is becoming her own person.  I used to know everything about her.  I was the Autumn expert and knew where she picked up what words and how she came to learn a particular tune.  When she started singing Katy Perry songs and using phrases like “my bad” I knew our daycare provider’s daughter had to be the culprit.  Now, along with her favorites from the ‘80s, Autumn is coming home with an arsenal of songs about ducks, monkeys and alligators and asking me to sing along.  But just as she doesn’t know all the words to “Paradise City,” I can only stumble along as she leads me through whatever songs she’s learning at school.

And while both Autumn and I absolutely love the school, I can’t help but feel a little sad about taking this first step towards letting her go.  From now on she’ll be surrounded by adults and children who will have a profound influence on her development.  She’s spending her day with all sorts of new and exciting people while Mom and Dad get the spare moments before the day begins and after it ends.

*Sigh*

I carried her for nine months.  I slept on my sides and kicked my husband out of the bed during my last trimester so that his snoring wouldn’t keep us up.  I tolerated her tardy entrance into this world and dutifully nursed her until she started biting.  Is it too much to ask that I get to keep her close a little while longer?

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Autumn loves her new school.  We’re nearing the end of her fourth week and I can’t help but wonder why we didn’t do this a year ago.  She’s making new friends, singing songs we’ve never heard before and is so excited to leave the house every morning.  My child has never been one to embrace the morning hours, but lately she has been the one ushering me out the door.

Autumn has adapted very well to her new environment and my worries over C- and her troubles have diminished some.  She visited us a week after we left her and she seemed at peace with the whole thing.  She had to put her house on the market because without an income she can’t very well pay a mortgage, but she says she was ready to give the the daycare business up when her license was to expire in August.  Most of her family lives north of us and her daughter just graduated from high school, so it sounds like she’s ready to move on to the next phase of her life.  I had always imagined she’d be close enough for us to visit after school or some time on the weekend, but it sounds like we won’t get the chance to do that.

Since Autumn’s school is very close to my office, I am now the only one dropping her off and picking her up every day.  Nathan and I used to share the drop off/pick up duties because C- only lives a mile from our house.  Nathan usually was stuck with drop off because I was barely capable of getting myself out the door on time let alone my child.  Now I have no choice but to get up early and have found those extra 20 minutes I was taking to hit the snooze button several times actually go a long way to getting me to work on time.

I have to admit the first couple of weeks of driving to and from work with Autumn in the back seat were nice.  After one of the first days at the new school she fell asleep about five minutes into the ride, but most evenings she’s full of chatter.  The first morning of our carpool she caught sight of a life-size statue of a cow on top of someone’s roof.  I have passed this cow many many times over the years, but Autumn was in awe because there was A COW!  On the ROOF!  Holy crap!  For two weeks straight we would get into the car in the morning and she’d ask me if we were going to see the cow and ask the same question in the evening when I picked her up. I eventually had to tell her not to ask about the cow anymore because she was driving me crazy with all the cow questions and to just be happy knowing that every day I take her to school and bring her home she would be able to see the cow.

The cow thing may have bugged me, but in a way it’s kind of cute because I’m pretty sure Autumn thinks it’s real.  We were recently in Walgreens and she spotted a yellow peanut M & M guy about four feet tall standing near the photo counter.  Autumn was intrigued, but she took a couple of steps toward him and stopped.  “Is he real, mama?” she asked.  I had a chuckle at that and assured her he was only there to hold candy.  But it would have been so freaking cool if he was real because…yum!

All sorts of inanimate wildlife fascinate my kid.  There’s the ten-foot tall chicken outside of the restaurant that recently went out of business due to a fire.  We pass the chicken on our way to Target or on our way out of town and for awhile she was all about the chicken.  We could be on a totally different road and she’d ask us if we were going to see the chicken and just like with the cow we had to ask her to stifle it because we’re grownups who aren’t at all impressed with the cow or the chicken or the M & M guy at Walgreens.  

What does impress us?  Certainly not the dinosaur sculptures outside of Autumn’s school.  Autumn loves those dinosaurs and fully expects them to chase her down the street some day.  Last week, in an attempt to show her the dinosaurs are not real, I walked over the the T-Rex sculpture and touched it’s tail, much to Autumn’s horror.  She became very angry with me and told me never to touch it again.  Of course now she can’t get enough of the dinosaurs and tried to exit the school’s front door to visit them unaccompanied by a grownup yesterday.  Maybe I humor her too much and maybe we don’t need to stand in front of the stegosaurus egging each other on, each of us telling the other to touch it as though we were a couple of eight year-olds poking at a dead snake with a stick.

I love my kid and I love seeing how her mind works.  I just hope it doesn’t get her into trouble some day because there’s enough real stuff out there that’s a hell of a lot scarier than any dino, chicken or cow she’ll ever encounter.

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