Kindergarten woes

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Ri took this picture earlier this week at drop off to kindergarten. I was trying to console Mario who was completely distressed at the thought of going to school. Jon and I were taken aback with this behavior because Mario has been so excited to start at Maria’s school.

Every single day was awful. He cried and pled to leave with me. He asked to be “disqualified from Kindergarten.” He begged to stay home “just one more day.” It was heart-wrenching to look in his tear-filled eyes and see that baby boy pout. The worst was Friday. The guidance counselor came in to be with him while I left. She asked him if he wanted to draw. He shook his his head no. Then she said;

“Let’s go see Mr. Hopper, the bunny rabbit.”

Mario shook his head no again.

The counselor said: “Come on, it will be fun. You can even take a friend with you.”

Mario’s response: “Ok, I will take my mom.”

My heart crumbled. I’m his friend. I so can’t wait to use that when he is a teenager.

In my mind, I know that he is going to be just fine and we will look back at this transition and find humor in it. After all, he runs down the steps after school in a great mood. But in my heart, I am sick to my stomach as I walk out the doors every morning. I just want to start my day with a smiling child. So, I am dedicating my free time to researching every website about how to deal with a child that hates kindergarten. I know it will likely be a task of futility because every kid is different and I need to just figure out what Mario needs… but it makes me feel better. Probably by the time I have researched every site, Mario will have acclimated to Kindergarten and all the techniques I read about will be useless. Let’s hope….

Rocco Awesome goes to school

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Dear Mario:

Mom and dad love you to the moon and stars and sun and back. How many times have I said “Hey Mario, guess what?” And how many times have you replied “I know, you love me to the moon and stars and sun and back.”

As I walked out of your classroom this morning feeling a little nervous about how your first day in kindergarten would go but also really excited for you to experience school and all that it entails, I thought about all the times we had mouthed those precious words to one another: “I love you to the moon and stars and sun and back….”

I hope that when you start to feel a little lonely or scared, you will reach for those words and they will lift you up and bring you the confidence to get through the day. Because you are an incredible little being full of imagination and curiosity, and dad and I have no doubt you will take that kindergarten class by storm!

You have been so excited to start school – counting down the number of days since the end of Spring. We could tell you were a little nervous this morning but you got dressed and packed your lunch and put on your book bag like a pro. And when we talked about walking in with you, you demanded to walk in alone. Eventually, you let down your guard somewhat and let us walk in behind you.

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You did exactly as Ri instructed – placed your book bag on your pre-selected hook, deposited your lunch box in the bin and stuck your magnet on “Packing.”

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Then you sat at your desk and began to complete your first kindergarten task: draw flowers in a vase. Other kids ran around and held onto parents but you got to work. After all, you’ve been anxiously awaiting homework since watching your sis do it all last year!

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And then we said goodbye.

And you shyly looked up with those melting eyes and that perfect face and I wanted to sweep you out of the chair and take you with me. But instead I smiled , hugged you, told you you’d be great and walked towards the door. Dad hugged you, too, and gave you a fist pump. You waved at us with a bit of hesitancy but also a bit of pride. You were officially in kindergarten, and you had completed your first task as instructed by your teacher.

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You are going to be a superstar; we have no doubt about it. After all, you did name yourself “Rocco Awesome” when you were only four years old. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Love,
Mom and Dad

Kindergarten or Bust

And that’s how Mario left his class remembering him: dancing Gangum Style. He got inspired to dance by one of his classmates who told me what he’d miss most about Mario was how funny he was when he danced Gangum Style. Another kid in the class said she’d miss how Mario yelled “whoop whoop” in the middle of class. I have a feeling Mario may be heading to the principal’s office a few times once he hits kindergarten.

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He wanted me to bring cupcakes on his last day – half chocolate and half vanilla. He stood next to them and ordered his classmates to get a paper towel and sit at their seats. He then picked up one at a time and asked the class who liked Madagascar or Avengers or Spongebob – all the different character rings that came on the cupcakes. He’d drop one off and then tell the class to settle down and wait their turn. He loves being in charge and he loves all eyes on him.

I asked if he’d be sad leaving his class and never returning. His response was unequivocal and quick: “No, I’m in kindergarten now.” He’s made it to the big show and he is not looking back.

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Summer Break

My attitude shifts when, after months of cold and darkness, the sun finally decides to hang out with us a little longer.  Flowers join the party.  Neighbors come out of hibernation.  Birds serenade you as you roll out of bed in the morning.  Ahh, summer.

We are getting our first experience of summer break for Maria who is in between Kindergarten and 1st Grade.  Maria is going to school two days a week through Kids’ Club where she gets to hang out with friends and go swimming one day and on a field trip the other.  Mario is only going to daycare two days a week (versus 5) so it is like a summer vacation for him, too.  Our sitter, Megan, stays with them 4 days a week (one kid only two days a week and both the two other days).  This is the end of our first week with Megan and with the new school schedule. 

When I dropped Maria off on Monday morning, she clung to me like she had on her first day of daycare and Kindergarten.  I introduced her to other girls but nothing helped.  I read her a book and played a game with her when finally the teachers announced that the kids needed to line up to go outside.  A tall girl, Elly, saw Maria having a hard time and said “I will play with you outside, Maria.”  Maria looked up at her with a tiny smile.  I reassured her that the day would be fun, and she slowly loosened her grip on my hand and let me depart without massively wailing at the door.  Throughout my day, I got concerned about Maria’s clinginess and strong need to have me by her side.  This is a constant struggle for me – I need to let them do more on their own so they won’t be so distressed when I leave.  I guess there are worse things I could have done to her as a baby, like beat her or not change her diaper.

By the time I picked Maria up at 4 (yes, I left work early), she was in a great mood talking about how awesome the day had been.  There is a higher being when you need one.  My day had been ridiculously stressful so if she would have been wailing when I arrived, I would have called it quits at work and stayed home with her until she was 18.  Luckily, for both of our sanities, that did not occur. 

On our walk to swim lessons, she boasted about walking to and from the pool with her class.  She also got to play with her favorite lifeguard and swim teacher, Nick. He made a train with all of the kids on his back.  Pure heaven she tells me (embarrassingly and with a promise not to tell dad!).  She went to Olentangy Indian Caverns on Tuesday on a real live bus (every once in a while I would look up from my work and think about her on that bus and pray that everything was ok – neurotic, I can be) and got to go on a tour and collect rocks (our favorite activity).  

Mario was typical Mario at daycare drop-off.  He complained about going to school, was grouchy as hell when we took him in (teachers coo over him and say hello and he sticks out his tongue or lifts up his chin and ignores them all); and got annoyed with his friends when he first saw them.  nevertheless, by the time we picked him up, he was talking about how Ben did this and Sophia did that….  He showed us the books he read and the activities he did and raced us down the halls.  Again, thank god for that welcome back.    

The first day with Megan was trying for all.  Maria had a meltdown because Megan asked her to read and asked her to clean her room.  When asked to read, she did her Maria self-defense move and cried about being too tired and not feeling good.  Megan picked up on it when she asked Maria to clean her room later and Maria had the exact same excuses after she had been playing just fine for an hour earlier.  Megan is no dummy.  Maria screamed and cried and basically went ballistic to the point that Megan texted me and told me she did not know what else to do.  My face immediately lit up upon receiving the text and when I got home, Maria and I had a long talk.  Since that day, she has been much better (then again, I don’t think Megan has asked her to clean her room again for fear of Maria’s wrath!).  Mario adores staying at home.  Megan is good for him because she is an athlete and he loves sports.  They can shoot baskets, play Wii, and ride bikes. 

In the summer, I try to get home at the latest around 5:30.  We have been good lately about eating dinner at the house before we run out to the pool, the yogurt shop or Zach’s house.  Once out of the house, it is like we are in a time warp.  Every night I tell myself that I will get the kids home at a decent time so they can bathe and read books and watch a show and go to bed by 9 pm.  That would give Jon and I at least an hour or two to relax.  But, inevitably, I look down at my watch at the yogurt shop or the park and see that it is 9:15 and we are not even home (baths go to the wayside at that point – poor dirty kids).  In the Winter, an hour feels like ten hours because it is cold and dark and wet outside.  You are stuck in the house playing games or watching tv or staying warm.  In the Summer, an hour feels like ten minutes it goes by so fast with all of the things you can do.  Hit the park, head to the library for outdoor music, eat at the yogurt shop, visit friends’ houses. 

The other night we hit Music on the Lawn for Conspiracy.  Conspiracy is a kick-butt, jammin’ local band.  Maria and Mario played around with some neighbor kids – Mario tackled people as soon as they approached him to dance.  The typical Mario.  However, I think I scolded him about 50% less than last time so we are making progress.  They played a few Black Eyed Peas songs that my girlfriend and I embarrassed ourselves to as we pretended to know how to dance hip-hop.  One day I will take lessons….

At the yogurt shop

When we woke up the next morning, Mario and Mario and I acted like we were driving in a car (on Maria’s bed).  Maria and Mario were my parents.  I begged them to turn on the imaginary radio.  Mario shouted “I know what you like daughter, Black Eyed Peas!”  Maria chimed in right after Mario with “No way, hubby, she loves Michael Jackson more!”  I can’t wait for next Tuesday – I think it is a band that does MJ songs – Beat It , Billie Jean, Human Nature.  I will definitely ignore the time for that show.

The End of Kindergarten

Heading to 1st Grade!

Maria passed Kindergarten.  Whoo-hoo!

The Silly Kindergarteners

I was in charge of her end-of-the-year party last Thursday.  It was one of those things that I agreed to back in September thinking “Oh, that is so far away, I can do that.”  Somehow, my mind warps and thinks because it is so far away, it may not ever actually happen.  I had actually forgotten all about signing up for the event and only learned of it when I canceled my volunteer day because of some work issues that arose.  Maria’s teacher replied to my cancellation by stating “Oh, don’t worry about it, you have the end of the year party to deal with anyway!”  I laughed pretending to know what she was talking about and as I stepped out to the sidewalk realized that I had signed up for that party back in September.  Wow, it actually did get to that date. 

Of course, because I have the anal, perfectionist, extreme personality that I have, I planned for it for the following two weeks.  I looked up end-of-the-year parties on the internet.  I asked other mothers what their classes were doing for their parties.  I called amusement centers, clowns, face painters, and balloon artists to get pricing.  Fortunately, I am very careful with our money so when I learned that a face painter would be $100 an hour and a balloon artist would be $150 an hour, I erased them from my ideas.  My girlfriend is an art teacher at another school and had a plinko game (remember plinko from the Price is Right? One of my favorite games on that show!).  She thought a carnival theme would be fun.  I jumped on it since she had a game to bring.  That was one less for me to be concerned about over the last few days before the party. 

The water balloon toss

The entire time that I was planning this event, I was laughing at myself.  I knew it was crazy to get so involved and over-the-top about a kindergarten party.  But, it didn’t matter how much I tried to talk myself out of putting so much energy into it, the energy still went there.  So, in the end, maybe it is just something I like to do.  Other parents came through for the party, too, bringing candies, popcorn, juices, cotton candy,  and stickers and toys for prizes.  

The day arrived and the kids were so excited for the party.  When I walked in the room, Maria jumped up screaming “Mommy!” and the other kids tried to sneak a peak of what was in all of the bags.  The face painting was the biggest hit.  My artist girlfriend made some beautiful creations on their faces but was getting tired after every kid lined up to get their face done.  Someone had to help and no mom wanted a part of it so I bucked it up and tried my best at drawing butterflies and sharks.  Poor Riley.  She was my first customer and she saw a picture of a butterfly.  “I want that one right there.”  After I finished what looked like an ink explosion on her cheek, she ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror.  Her facial expression when she walked out was priceless; let’s just say she looked a little disappointed.  The next kid wanted a shark with blood.  I could have drawn a blue circle as long as I drew lots of red down the circle’s cheek to show lots of blood spewing from his mouth.  That was all most of the boys cared about in the end.  Give me all of those kids, please.  None of these intricate girlie drawings. 

After the big shin-dig!

Maria begged me to allow her to do some of the painting.  Typical of my daughter – she does not want to enjoy the kids’ games and amusement; she wants to be one of the adults.  I let her draw on my hand and ended up with a picasso painting from my fingers to my wrist.  We finished up the afternoon with a water balloon toss and playtime on the new playground structure (with a climbing wall!).  Overall, the afternoon ranked an A+ amongst the parents and the teachers so I was happy when I left.  I scored some serious tootsie rolls and Nerds, too, since we bought so much.  Nerds are not an appropriate candy for a three-year-old by the way.  Mario shakes the little balls into his hand and then tries to pop them in his mouth but only a third of them get in his mouth – the rest are all over the floor and couch. 

When we got home, I asked Maria if she had fun.  “Sure, mom,” as she focused on playing with her barbies.  I asked what her favorite activity was during the carnival and she said “I don’t know, mom.”  She was obviously interested in doing other things by that time (an hour later).  So much for creating a world-renowned, unforgettable party for Maria and her class.  I should have listened to my better judgment and stuck with ice cream cones and a walk to the park.  But hey, at least I get my fill of tootsie rolls and Nerds for the next six months.

Girls and Slumber Parties

Only 5 out of 7 girls showed up.  The gods treated me well last night.  

Maria and the girls dancing to Justin B!

Why did I decide to agree to host a slumber party for Maria and six of her kindergarten friends?  Because I am a sucka!  I remember back to the thrill of my b-day parties as a kid and I want Maria to have those same opportunities.  THen again, I think I fantasize about the b-day parties of my childhood.  I believe I had one party in 6th grade where we danced to Barry Manilow and ate cake and I am fairly certain got into a number of spats about who would sit next to who at the table and who would dance with who on the floor.  I remember another at my friend’s house at age 13 when I got teased the entire time about being on my period.  Maybe I have such fond memories of slumber parties because they should be the ultimate girl-bonding experiences.  A flock of young girls together in a room talking about our stories, boys, teachers, parents.  Maybe it is like childbirth where it hurts when you go through it (aka, talk about my period) but then long after the event, you are glad you experienced it.  Who knows.  The bottom line is that I agreed to host this soiree by my lonesome because Jon was smart enough to hit the road with Mario.  

At the craft table

Most moms I spoke to about the event nodded their head side-to-side and sighed invariably thinking “thank god it is not me.”  Amazingly enough, it was fun – a lot of work and refereeing – but fun.  The girls arrived at 5 pm with their mini-sleeping bags and princess covered pillows.  They sported huge smiles but hesitant moves as they stepped into our house for a full night away from their folks.  I had a craft table set up with glue and stickers and puff balls and paper and tiaras for them to create works of art for themselves and their moms since mother’s day was the next day.  A very smart move I learned a half of an hour later when they remained enmeshed in decorating their tiaras and making pictures for their moms.  I looked at my watch and thought “Sweet – a whole half of an hour gone already just with working on crafts!”

Preparing their dance moves.

Maria was the first to get antsy and ran into the living room shouting “Let’s put out our sleeping bags!”  Megan, Maria’s babysitter stopped by at that time and ended up staying for a while (thank god).  She must have had that babysitter antennae pop up and sense I needed assistance.  Sure, I could have handled it on my own but it was a godsend to have another adult body in the house to referee disputes, help with music, prepare barbies’ outfits.  Megan stayed long enough to watch the dance contest (Justin Bieber dancers versus Big Time Rush dancers) and allow me to start some pasta and garlic bread for dinner.

After the dance contest and some intense Barbie playing, the girls came down for dinner.  Everyone ate up the pasta (only one girl complained about the pasta and she got a PB&J sandwich).  I forgot about the garlic bread in the midst of the chaos of trying to referee who got to tell the next Knock Knock joke and woke up this morning to nine pieces of toast hardened in the oven.  The Knock Knock jokes always contained a reference to “boobs” or “butt” or “penis” or “poop” or “fart.”  I thought these words were only used in the boy purview….  They had each other cracking up throughout dinner, and were ready to head outdoors after they finished. 

Heading to get yogurt

The rain had slowed down so we got out the umbrellas and headed to the new yogurt shop, Orange Leaf.  I was hesitant to go there because I knew all of the girls would want to fill the humongous paper cups up to the rim and then put 2 tons of toppings on their creations.  I tried my hardest to police the yogurt and topping output but it was a lost cause.  I have been there before – my eyes used to perk open at the dessert bar at Ponderosa so I couldn’t deny them the experience of loading on gummy worms, skittles, brownies, fruit loops and oreos.  Maria, of course, had been talking all week about getting a mile high yogurt since it was her b-day but she went fairly easy on me.  Some of the other girls, not so much.  I walked out with a $30 bill for seven yogurts and with a pound of yogurt left over.  After about five to ten bites, each girl looked at me and pronounced “I am finished, Mary.”  Of course, what does the Grandma Menkedick in me do?  I put all of the yogurts together in two bowls and took them home to eat as leftovers.  I got one out after the girls began watching their movie, and about threw up with the foul combination of fruity pebbles, cherry brownie, mint chips, and skittles mixed in with pineapple yogurt.  What was a I thinking? 

My girlfriend, Amy picked us up in her big ol’ van when we were finished because the rain had moved from a shower to a downpour.  The thought of trying to get the girls home without someone ruining their shoes or getting a cold from the weather led me to agree to just throw them in a van and get ’em home.  Amy brought her son Zach who is in Maria’s class.  He is a fireball of energy and the house felt like I tornado was running through it as soon as all of the kids entered the door.  Poor Amy was ready to lose it.  I amazed her with my calm and my humor in it all.  I told her it comes with the territory when your family is as loud and rambunctious as my family was growing up in Cincy. 

Amy and I with the kiddies

Amy si an artist and she saved me by bringing tile and paint over to the house for the kids to make pictures for their moms.  Of course, they were all pumped up on sugar from the Orange Leaf so what was supposed to be a gentle process of dipping thumbs and fingers into paint to rub on the tiles became whole hands and feet thrown into the paint and smashed onto the tile.  Sans sugar, I think we may have had a less insane process and a more intelligible piece of art for the moms but hey…

After the wash-up, Zach got attacked by the girls for the tenth time but he took it in good spirits; in fact, I think he rather enjoyed it by his begging Amy not to leave.  Maria impressed me with her compromising skills when it came time for the movie.  She had really wanted to watch Barbie or Eloise but none of the girls took to those movies.  A majority of them wanted the Secret Garden – the one movie that I made Maria get from the library against her will.  Maria graciously allowed for that movie to be viewed after I spoke with her about being a host of a party.  She makes her mama proud. 

What a life!

We started the movie at 9:40, popcorn was ready by 9:50 and the girls were snug in their sleeping bags with their kernels of corn by 10 pm.  I wiped my hands clean and thought “Ahh, now to rest.”  Ha! My sweet Maria and her friend Anna were asleep by 10:20 but the remaining gals took advantage of no parents, lots of sweets, and an easy-going chaperone.  They ran around the house, they made more crafts, they ate more food.  11 pm came and went and they begged me to stay up until midnight.  I agreed thinking they would have to be exhausted by then. Midnight came and went.  I decided to clean up the downstairs (why do this with the morning bringing renewed chaos?) and let them stay up longer figuring they did not have much more gas left.  Finally, at 1:15, I made them go to Maria’s bed and close their eyes.  I literally had to stand next to their side to make them not speak to each other.  Finally, at 2 am, they were all asleep.  A miracle.  I slept downstairs on the couch because I was worried about one of them getting up in the night and escaping through the front door.  Can we say neurotic? 

After a restless night of sleep, I was awoken by Maria Grace who sauntered down the steps at 7:15 am.  Alana came

next and then Anna.  The other night owls slept in until 9 am.   We ate donuts and cinnamon rolls for breakfast and watched Barbie Diamond Castle until the moms showed up at 9:30 or so. Overall, I would have to say it was a success.  Maria had a great time with her new girlfriends, her girlfriends enjoyed going somewhere new and playing together, and some moms got to take the night off and relax. 

Amazingly, I didn’t feel too bad the next day.  A little groggy at first but nothing that donuts couldn’t fix.  However, the next slumber party will have a Barry Manilow dance-off.

127 Hours

Maria and Mario post-mulching (Mario was proud of his dirty face and hands!

I had both kids in bed by 9:50 on Thursday night.  Amazing, and quite early for Mr. Mario who typically refuses to go to bed unless I lay down with him (especially when Jon is out of town).  I had to shower in the evening due to fingernails filled with dirt and mulch in my hair.  The kids and I hit up the flower store earlier and bought 10 bags of mulch – we got through 4 of them before the kids were ready to move on to better things, namely, dinner for Maria and basketball for Mario.  While I was soaking in the shower, Mario fell asleep in my bed (and Maria hit the hay as soon as her head fell on her pillow).  What a gift of time! 

Maria biking and Mario running

I think the mulching and the run up the street to the pizza store helped wear the boy out. Lately, Maria has been all about her bike and Mario has been all about walking/running.  He can make it a mile without stopping to take a breath or rest.  He has got his mom’s lungs.  Maria keeps us truckin’ because she zooms on her bike – the same bike she has had since she was three with training wheels wobbling, rust growing and princess stickers falling off.  I think a new bike may be in order for her 6th b-day.

Back to my evening.  I got downstairs at 10:15, cleaned up the living room and kitchen, and flipped through the movies on pay-per-view.  One of my favorite past times is hitting up the movie theatre with popcorn and pop in tow (and usually a box of whoopers or goobers).  Since I could not leave the children alone (oh, how tempting!), I had to be content with the tv, chips and dip, and a diet 7Up.  I flipped through the new releases and it came down to Black Swan and 127 Hours.   My brother gave 127 Hours rave reviews and it was only one and a half hours long.  It won. 

I’d give it a 5 out of 10.  It kept my interest for the most part but there were times in it that I grew impatient watching James Franco make videos of himself.  I know the director wanted the audience to get as accurate and real a picture of this climber being stuck in this crevice – his arm wedged into the rock by another rock – but I thought it dragged out a little too long.  However, Franco did an excellent job recreating the absolute horror and intensity of cutting off his arm.  The detail of that scene itself sticks to my bones.  The ending failed to meet my expectations, too.  I didn’t feel an ultimate connection with Franco at the end, which is something I look forward to in watching a movie (Annette Benning wowed me in The Kids Are Alright).  

There was one scene right before Franco cut off his arm where Franco was beginning to give up and he had a vision of himself with his future son.  That part struck me because I remembered back when I had a minor health scare.  There were about two weeks where I waited to hear back from my doctor.  Maria and Mario were both born, and the only thing that kept me up at night was the thought of leaving them at such a young age and not being able to watch them grow.  When I was pregnant with Maria, I still remember thinking that I could never love her as much as I loved our pup, Cy.  Sad but true (and it did take about 3 months to love her as much because she was such a fussy baby)!  But now I cannot imagine not being a part of their lives and the amount of love that I have for them feels limitless.

Maria and Mario in a loving state before school!

The next morning I paid for my “crazy movie night” when Maria and Mario woke me up at 6:45 am.  I felt like I had slept 2 hours.  It reaffirmed the fact that I need to go to bed by 10:30.  The kids knew I was tired and took care of me by getting dressed in a reasonable amount of time and walking the entire way to school.  When we arrived, Maria began to pout and complain that she did not want to be in school.  She did not want me to leave.  She has been getting like this lately, especially on the weeks that Jon is gone.  I hugged her and told her that she would have a great day, and without prompting, Mario also hugged and her and said “Don’t worry, Ri, school will be fun and I will play with you this afternoon.”  She planted a long, hard smooch on his cheek, and we walked home. 

I told Mario I was proud of him for helping out his sister, and he looked at me and replied “I love my sissy.”  Watching their relationship continue to grow is a gift for Jon and I.  Jon returned that night, and the kids were ecstatic to see him walk through the door. Echos of “DADDY” still ring through my head.  Later that evening, Jon and I relaxed in our normal fashion – Jon with some tv and me with my computer, and I was fast asleep by 10:30.