A Tale of Two Report Cards

School, it is over. Well, almost over. It will be over as soon as I head over to the school this morning and chaperone one (1) kindergarten celebration and one (1) lunchtime pizza party. THEN school is officially over.

When the kids return home with their backpacks full of the desk detritus of the past nine months, I plan on taking their lunch boxes into the back yard and reenacting that one printer scene from Office Space. I am DELIGHTED to no longer have to stuff the same (mediocrely-received) granola bars, cheese sticks and cream cheese bagels into lunch boxes that probably should have had a really good scrubbing sometime around spring break.

With the school year wrapped up, I now officially have a fourth grader, a first grader and a preschooler.

This picture belies all of the fighting over Lego pieces that is about to occur this summer.

Coonskin cap because: LAST DAY! Also, I think it’s pretty evident from this picture that Millie is going to be that one friend in college, the one who always knows where the really good parties are.

Henry had a great year at school. He is an enthusiastic learner and you could almost see his brain growing exponentially as he learned more difficult mathematics, wrote more complicated stories and started reading books with barely any pictures in them. His teacher bemusedly explained that sometime in May, Henry politely grilled her about what eras of history they would be covering for the rest of the term. He was eager to know what he had to look forward to. Outside of some complex social issues (that seem to dramatically increase around this age), Henry thoroughly enjoyed third grade.

Juxtapose Henry’s eagerness to learn about Roman history and requests for additional multiplication worksheets against Charlie’s look of utter devastation when he learns that, “Yes, son, today is a school day.” Imagine his absolute dejection as he, literally, drags his feet towards his backpack.

Charlie is not a fan of formal education.


Contrary to our hopes, Charlie’s attitude about schooling hasn’t changed much since his pre-k days. He struggled this year to learn the big concepts that kindergarten reinforces and introduces. Reading and writing and vocabulary and telling time and counting money – all of these things took work for him this past year. Work he only grudgingly agreed to do. Charlie would much rather be home, surrounded by his favorite things, playing outside in his favorite places, riding around on his favorite Gator. He completed his school work mostly because he HAD to, not because he WANTED to or had any INTEREST in it.

It’s not a behavior thing for Charlie. He adjusted well at the beginning of the year and seems to get along swimmingly with everyone. It’s just an effort thing. He simply would rather be doing something else entirely.

Since I like to fret about all of the wrong things, I was quick to assume Charlie’s kindergarten performance meant he would be living in our basement well into adulthood. Bob, non-fretter, kind of rolled his eyes in my general direction and stressed repeatedly, “It’s… KINDERGARTEN.” Which, he’s totally right, of course. It’s just kindergarten. But, I wouldn’t be a modern parent if I didn’t place in an inordinate amount of importance on what happens to Charlie when he’s six as a precursor for future success.

Charlie seemed to get with the program towards the end of the last quarter of the school year. He still complained bitterly about having to go to school but his final tests showed marked improvement and effort. Like, he was legitimately trying.

He’s going to have to legitimately try throughout the summer, too. We’re running a bit of a Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good around here. We want to keep the skills he’s acquired sharp through a little summer school. We haven’t told him that yet though, so keep it hush-hush for now.

We also haven’t explained to him that in about ten weeks from now, his half-day of kindergarten turns into a full day of first grade. I anticipate Charlie will have some thoughts about that as well.

A Deserving Break

In a move of monumental bah humbug-ness for the second grade set, Henry had a full lid of homework last week. The week before Christmas break. The week when you’re supposed to be gluing pipe cleaners and googly eyes to candy canes and watching a disproportionate amount of in-class videos and coloring a lot of “worksheets.” But, nope, not for us. The holiday spirit died every evening when we sat down to work on math and vocabulary and reading. It’s like the school system is dedicated to fulfilling their pledge to educate my child, or something.

Basically, besides all the smarts, the only upside to school I can see is all the hand-crafted presents that arrive home in backpacks this time of year. The Holiday Haul of Stuff that Didn’t Cost too Much, if you will. This year’s loot included a picture frame covered with Charlie’s fingerprints and a tissue paper-covered decorative votive holder that I’m pretty sure is an actual fire hazard.

I will never not love that picture of Charlie. (Even if the threat of lice is large from a shared preschool Santa hat.

I will never not love that picture of Charlie. (Even if the threat of lice looms large from a shared preschool Santa hat.

It felt like Christmas break truly arrived this past weekend. Our calendar was empty, our to-do list minor and the weather unseasonably warm. It was really, really nice. We lingered over coffee on the front porch and lounged in pajamas until inappropriate hours. There was lots of book reading and casual meals and long, lovely walks. It was enough to make me pledge that our life going forward should always be as unscheduled as possible. And, with a lot less laundry.


Guess who demanded we bring the doll stroller on our walk? Now, guess who got tired of pushing the doll stroller after approximately one (1) minute? Go ahead, guess!

Today is the first school-free weekday and with Bob at work, we’ve been occupying our time by completely destroying every corner of our home. It’s a pre-Christmas free-for-all. There are trucks underfoot and Legos on every surface and baby doll clothes hanging from lampshades. It looks like a Sesame Street fraternity house around here. In fact, I just heard Millie dump the contents of the board game cabinet on the foyer floor. Hooray!

Thus far, my kids have had the most fun with two cardboard tubes (from the last of the wrapping paper rolls) that they fashioned into light sabers (of course). Apparently, pummeling your brother while making those swoosh-swoosh noises never gets old. Also, we played a rousing game of catch in the kitchen with an empty, balled up chip bag (classy!) from Chipotle (of course). That had them in stitches.

I should be glad that playing with garbage is so entertaining since the other option on this rainy day would be sitting in front of All the Electronics for hours. That is DEFINITELY my Plan B though, if we run out of trash.


I am especially pleased with myself for buying all of those fancy presents, not made from cardboard, that are underneath our tree. Money well spent, obviously.

My feelings may change dramatically by the time dinner rolls around but, right now, I’m enjoying the break from our regular routine. School days can be so monotonous. They begin and end with lots of responsibilities and must-do’s and don’t forget’s. The early start, the lunches to pack, the breakfasts to force-feed, the shoes to tie, the bus to catch – go, go, go.

So, we will relish the lack of regular programming over the next two weeks. Then, I will slowly start to lose my mind just in time to send them all back to school. Which, doesn’t preclude me from complaining about homework as soon as that kicks in again. Thus completes the circle of life.

Tell me, what are you doing this Christmas? Are you celebrating at home? Traveling to be with family? Hiding in your parents’ bathroom while polishing off a bottle of Merlot and praying no one brings up Obamacare around the dinner table?

Routine is King

When I was still working full-time, with Henry and Charlie in daycare, our weeks played out in a series of predictable steps. Monday through Friday, we got up, got dressed, got fed and got out the door to work. We left work, got home, got fed and got to bed. Weekends played out with the same familiar tasks: random errands, housecleaning and grocery store runs.

If the chain was broken – a to-do went undone – then things would crumble a bit. We’d run out of diapers for daycare or we wouldn’t have what we needed to pack lunches come Monday or we’d have to use milk in our coffee instead of half and half. Tragic stuff, I know. Our schedule was so very rigid and unforgiving. And, have mercy if someone got sick. The wheels would come off the bus.

Imagine my surprise, when after quitting my job to stay at home, I began to miss the routine of full-time employment. Because, at least then, someone got to the grocery store every week. With no set schedule, no established routine, our life felt a little… chaotic. Funny how, when you get what you’ve always wanted, you remember it looking shinier from the other side.

Suddenly, I had the time I had always craved but had trouble organizing it. It was at that point, I realized just how important routine was to our lives. We just simply all do better when we can roughly predict what’s headed our way. When I was working full-time, we had that predictability. In the absence of that, we had to create a new agenda at home. So, you know, the laundry would get done and I wouldn’t forget to feed anyone.


Eager to tell you about his new routine.

We are now three weeks into the new school year and our little family is once again thriving on the regular routine of life.

Gone are the long – so very long – summer days filled with boredom, infighting and too much television. We have purpose again! And, priorities! And, one night a week set aside for Cub Scouts and another for the library. We swim on Saturdays and take walks every morning. The pantry is stocked and lunchboxes lined up like sentries. Backpacks are emptied and paperwork is Dealt With. Our schedule isn’t as inflexible as it was when I was working full-time but it’s enough to keep the aimless wandering at bay. And, hooray for that!

Henry is handling second grade with aplomb. We revamped our homework approach this year following a first grade filled with entirely too much rage around the 8:00 hour. He now must get all homework done prior to any electronic time. When I made this blanket pronouncement, a week before school started, I was one of the many in the household that doubted my own commitment. HOWEVER, I am pleased to say that we have kept at it, the incentive is sufficient and now we have a new routine that makes everyone happier. I feel like a real parent!

Charlie came home from school today and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. That was unexpected. And, impressive. It is so endearing to see him proud of his school accomplishments. Like being line leader or flag holder. He is learning so much and has flung himself wholeheartedly into his new routine. Less endearing? The artwork he brings home with all manner of breakfast cereal glued to it. Millie just doesn’t understand why it isn’t edible. Tussles inevitably ensue.

Millie and I have our own little routine during the time Charlie is in school and it involves breakfast with a little Barney on in the background (that dinosaur is STILL around!), a walk around the neighborhood (yay for fall!), and then an hour or so of me trying to get her to stop getting into things she shouldn’t be getting in to (she has a knack for finding all the markers in the house). Some days, we run a quick errand, some days we just do a lot of this:


We have months of school ahead of us and months of the same routine day in and day out. Washing the same water bottles, packing the same cream cheese bagels, clearing out the same paperwork from the same school folders, reading the same stories over and over.

Hmmm, routine sounds significantly less appealing when described this way. So, remember to ask me how I’m feeling about routine come December, okay?