'Twas the Night Before Kindergarten

Sunday, August 24, 2014
This is hard. And it's not. I can't decide. It's the very official end of his time staying at home with me, but just the beginning of so much more.

His outfit is picked out, backpack hanging up, his supplies at school, and his lunch not quite made yet.

Preparation for this began long, long ago, however, as he grew in my belly.

My first year as an early childhood special education teacher taught me so much. It foreshadowed my future and all the things the little bean growing inside of me would need to know before that big kindergarten day. They needed to be "ready to read", self sufficient in most self help tasks, and of course "socially mature".

Kindergarten was a BIG deal. As preschool teachers, it was our top priority to help the little ones grow and learn academically, functionally and socially to prepare them for that first year in the "big school".

A hot topic of debate was "summer birthdays". To send them, or not to send them that first year of eligibility. Those on my side of the profession (special ed) were of the mindset TO SEND, as they would ultimately get more help in the long run and have age appropriate social models for those that needed that sort of thing. On the other side of the spectrum were most kindergarten teachers saying "hold them back". They simply wouldn't be ready by virtue of their "young" age.

This thought was quickly ingrained in my brain, and before I even had given birth to Henry, I knew I'd want to send him.

And as he grew into a young toddler, picking up on things most other toddlers didn't know at a very early age (letter recognition, number recognition, letter sounds, problem solving), I knew without a doubt we'd send him at 5 years old, and that he'd be reading before he entered. (Talk about a mama's intuition).

We've battled sensory issues, MAJOR social issues, and MAJOR feeding issues.

I've cried at the conclusion of unsuccessful play dates, at the dinner table, at IEP meetings, and at feeding therapy. Tears brought on by the anxious feeling of "maybe he won't be ready after all."

We've joked many times that I'm not "using" my very expensive University of Minnesota bachelor and master degrees in child psychology and early childhood education and special education.

Truth of the matter is, I've definitely been using it, these entire five years. That's why he's ready.

I pushed for him to get help. Through tears, I FOUGHT for him to get help, because I knew, deep down, he needed it. And with my experience in school and teaching, the earlier the better.  And we stuck through everything, no matter how hard it was. The shrieking screams on the first day ever of preschool, the blood curdling screams of his feeding therapy evaluation, the meltdowns at the dinner table, the refusal to go within 5 feet of another child, all of it.

Tomorrow when he goes to school, I know he will answer simple teacher questions. He will know and or comprehend probably any academics thrown at him. He will have a conversation with his buddy Brendan and play with him on the playground.

He will eat whatever I put in his lunch box.

We've faced many struggles climbing this mountain to kindergarten.

And we overcame them all, because damn it, this kid is ready and is going to rock his kindergarten year.

We love you buddy and are so proud of the little guy you are growing up to be.
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She's got da....

Friday, August 15, 2014
If you haven't watched yet, take a peek! They are pretty adorable!


Finding Balance

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
As the school year draws near, I've struggled a bit with the mommy guilt.

"Crap. Henry's going to kindergarten. Have I done enough?? It's only two weeks away."
"I wish we had gone to the library more."
"I wish I had done more educational activities with him."
"What have I been doing with our summer??"
"I use to be a teacher. What is my excuse for slacking??" etc. etc. etc.

And then I flip through the blog articles that tell you "Nope, you indeed aren't doing enough. Get off your phone". More guilt.

But then there's the opposing article that says, "no mama, you're good enough. don't feel guilty that you need me time or that you didn't do enough." ok. less guilty.

And then I realize that me being home is no longer just about me being home with the kids. I'm not a SAHM. I'm a WAHM.

I run a business out of my home (one that's grown extensively this year requiring more work and time), and when I'm not sitting in front of my desktop during nap time or after the kids go to bed, my business runs off my phone. It's always there. There are always facebook messages, emails, questions, and proofs that need to be sent out.

I love these little ones with all my being, and am grateful each day that we are fortunate enough to not need to send them off to daycare each day. But as things get more busy and the nagging feeling of "that email needs a reply", and "I only have a handful of images left to finish for that gallery", etc. etc, I've been feeling more guilty over finding that perfect balance between work and kids.

Both need my attention. Along with the laundry, the dinner prep, the dogs, and the dishes. oh. the dishes. i swear some days they magically make themselves dirty and pile up. because i blink and the counter is covered.

I read two of those above articles today and I think fall right in the middle. with judgement on no one on either end of the spectrum, because everyone has their own way of moving through life and that's totally cool.
I don't want to be the mom always slightly absent, checking emails, facebook, etc.

I also don't NEED to be the mom that spends every waking second playing, talking, watching and entertaining my kids. I just posted a picture of the three of them yesterday "playing" with our little tikes dollhouse. It sort of happens sometimes, and it's awesome.

I think it's all about finding balance in the middle ground. Being at home is tough. Being at work is tough. Trying to do both at the same time is tough. Every mama, whether working in or out of the home needs and deserves a break to maintain sanity.

I try my best to reserve my "me time" for when the kids are completely content and occupied among themselves (so yes, I might be sending an email, or checking facebook). I'm not doing these things when my children are off in the playroom fighting. I'm not doing these things when my kids need their lunch made. I'm not doing these things when someone is crying they are hurt.

As much as I enjoy the fleeting times when they occupy themselves quietly so that I have a few brief seconds to actually think (you know, about what the house is running out of, what's for dinner, what appointment was I suppose to make, etc.) what I've also found myself doing this week during their "completely content and occupied time", (as I get a little more emotional about Henry going to school "for good"), is using that time to just watch them. I just take it all in. Smiling at their sillies, and how blessed we are with these three great kids. And then other times, yes, I do check facebook. and pinterest. and email.

I also make it a point to actually get on the floor and play with them at least once in the morning and in the afternoon. Or sit at the table and play a game, color, whatever.

As has been almost exclusively true since this business started 5 years ago, my actual work (editing, posting, blogging, uploading, etc.) is only done while the kids are sleeping. If that's not what you do, I'm not judging. That's just been my informal rule to myself and I make it a point to continue to follow it.

So after I gave myself a little slap in the face to snap out of the "I'm not good enough." mood, I realize I DO do enough.

My kids are fed. We have fun. I'm there for them when they are hurt. I'm there for them when they need a diaper change. We play. I play. We have dance parties. My business is booming, and my clients are happy. 

At the end of the day, Henry always tells me he "Loves me so much and I'm the best mama there ever was." His love for me is not conditional on how many Power Rangers coloring pages I did with him, if we went anywhere fun, or if we stayed home all day. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if I made him last night's leftovers or if I took them to McDonald's for lunch. They love me no matter what.

And with all that being said, the emotions of "OMG, Henry's going to school 'for good'", are still getting to me. So I'm on a quest to do as many fun things as possible before that big day on the 25th.

Today, we went to "The COOP" in downtown Frisco. Highly highly recommend. Clean, bright, fun, and completely perfect for the under five crowd.

Find that balance mamas. The one that works for you and your household situation. Not the one in that one blog post or that other blog post. The one that works for you. We all have hard jobs and know it will all pass too quickly and these kids will be teenagers.

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Monsters, Inc Party Details!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
I had a brief moment today between finishing session galleries to do a FEW of the birthday party pictures. I obviously have a ton more with actual people in them, but these are pretty easy to whip up for those who care about these sort of crafty things.

Yes, I made the cake, many thanks to my friend Kelly for helping, no thanks to the humidity for causing the buttercream to be quite the struggle.

I want to find a cake maker who will swap a cake for a session with me for Claire's birthday so that I::
1. Don't have to worry about it or spend the obscene amount of time on the cake.
2. Get something more awesome than my haphazard tries.
3. I have plans to be busy doing something else much spectacular during her party, so there' s that too.

I made all the signs, favor tags, birthday banner, invites and photo booth props with my Silhouette Cameo. If you love all things crafty and DON'T have one of those, get one. It instantly turns you into a crazy crafty person.

Also, if anyone is in need of that crepe paper banner, I still have it hanging. Can sell as is or cut it shorter. Let me know before it goes in the trash!

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Random Thoughts

Friday, August 1, 2014
After a spurt of updating here quite a bit, it's been a little quiet and life has been anything but quiet.

I wish I could say I have tons of pictures to share, but aside from working my tail off to finish Henry and Norah's pictures (because, really, Claire's 1 year pictures/birthday pictures weren't finished until the year 2013), I don't have Colorado vacation pictures or birthday party pictures to show you yet.

So this is mostly going to be a text update for those who care about our happenings.

Tomorrow Norah turns one. Her first year went by faster than any other first year around here, it seems. It's harder on me. I know there won't be any more babies to follow her. Our "baby" time is basically over. She's a standing up, giggling, baby signing toddler now. I'm still good with our decision (and the shop IS officially closed up for those who keep suggesting to have one more), but it doesn't mean it's easy to close this chapter of our lives. Thankfully I have the job I have so I still get to snuggle newborns on an almost weekly basis.

Her fav spot in the house!
To make life exciting, last week she had two allergic reactions resulting in some pretty massive hives all over her body. Ped is certain it was peanuts, but we can't be 100% sure yet. I'll go ahead and say that a peanut allergy will suck, but it is what it is and hopefully we can get it determined soon.

The first baby turned five last Monday. He starts kindergarten in about 3 short weeks I think. (see how on top of it I am?!). I just finished his registration (literally an hour before it was "due") and next on our agenda will be school supply shopping. I haven't even seen the list yet, but I'm sure it's massive. It was massive last year for pre-k. He will ride the bus home for my sanity (because car pools are crazy), but haven't decided on the morning until I see the bus route/times/etc. I drove him every morning last year, so if I can do it with a newborn, surely I can do it again, but man would it be nice to be a little more relaxed in the morning.

He's reading, counting to 200, spelling words, solving problems, is super insightful, helpful almost always and finally showing very typical social skills. He's shy at first, but man, when his best buddy showed up at his birthday party last week, I was almost in tears (I didn't know they were coming). After he warmed up, it was so awesome to see. We've come so far since he was 2.

The middle one, Claire, isn't potty trained yet. That ship just doesn't want to leave the dock for some reason. She will be 3 in October, knows her birthday, LOVES to sing (Whatever She's Got and Let it Go would be her favs), knows the ABC song and is beginning to spell her name and write the letter C. She can count pretty high too. Minnie is still her lovie and she is super particular about her night time routine, what plates/forks/cups she eats with and who puts her to bed/wakes her up somedays. Kind of a firecracker a lot of the time. Overall, I think the meltdowns have slowed, slightly. She tried out a gymnastics camp and a little pre-k class this summer. Since she isn't potty trained, I didn't really research any 2.5 yr pre-k programs and since her birthday is in October, she will wait a year to go to K, so I'm in no hurry to send her yet. We will reassess at mid year after she is (presumably) potty trained and see if anyone has anything available.

If you follow me on facebook, or my biz page, you'll know business is pretty much booming. I'm consistently booking newborns throughout each month to the extent that people are telling me they are pregnant basically after they pee on the stick. Booked into February I think. Fall will be crazy with a bunch of last year's milestone babies, and tons of returning and new families. I love it. It's pretty much exactly where I want to be right now. Busy enough to be busy but not busy enough to lose sanity yet.

This guy loves his photographer.

Ryan's good. Work is good. He loves it. Some days are great, some are stressful, but he loves it. I love that he hasn't had to travel much :) No time or help for beer brewing really. I think I need to get him a big project to do. I've been wanting our backsplash redone for a while....hmmm. His latest home project was moving our TV above the fireplace so that my piano could go in our living room which means MORE ROOM TO SHOOT in my "studio". Oh, I'm so excited. As an added bonus, we got to create a much bigger wall gallery in place of the TV. Hoping to update the canvases soon!

It's hard to believe summer is coming to a close already. We need to get to the pool more! We've actually been blessed with a not so hot summer. It hasn't even hit 100 that many times yet!
Kids love the pool and Claire doggy paddles around in her puddle jumper by herself while Henry still screams bloody murder like the shark from Jaws is coming after him. Swimming lessons for that boy are needed asap.
Other than that, the birthday party has kept me busy, but now that we get a bit of a break (before it's time to gear up for Claire's Frozen party!), I get a little time to catch up on work, organize my office!, and blog a little again. Hopefully I can get the CO pics and birthday party pics up before next year!
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