Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School Days

School Days by here we wander
School Days, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
There are some things all of the boys love about their new neighborhood school. One of them is definitely the big-kid playground.

Xander loves the slides the most, as you can tell from the photo (special thanks to his aide Mrs. G for sharing). It was a perfect fall-like day in our part of the world, and he was taking some time to enjoy the view (from his favorite, squinty one-eye perspective no less).

Good days at school ... which we love to see.

So Much to Say, So Little Time ...

Things like how much Connor is enjoying Fall baseball, and how I'm seriously a little in love with his coach. He is an amazing baseball coach. Fall ball is by nature laid back and fun. And while his personality seems much the same, he is also taking the time to work with kids, to get down on their level, to use this time for instruction as well as fun. He watches each player, constantly looking for ways to improve their game while also encouraging them. He talks to them before and after every play, congratulating them when they do well and explaining to them how they could do it better if it didn't go quite so well. He takes time, even with the younger players, who are still prone to sulks and tears even though there is no crying in baseball (as I keep reminding Connor when he strikes out or gets tagged out). So far, it has been a great experience, we love the league and the coach.

I might tell you how Xander is doing so incredibly well with his transition, so much better than I could have ever expected or hoped for. His teachers and his aide have nothing but good things to report at the end of every school day (there are a few minor issues here and there, of course, but overall the report is glowing). How he is always ready to go to school in the mornings and jumps out of my truck easily and happily. How every new word he sees at school becomes a word he simply now knows how to spell. How he is using many more words, trying harder to use sentences and to say what he really means. How impressed his speech therapist was with today's amazing session.

Or I could mention that Sawyer is slowly finding his way in the new school, too. That though he is spending a lot of time in his resource room and not much in the traditional classroom, he is slowly adding more minutes with his peers. How he looks you in the eyes so much more often, how he walks up and engages you more than ever before. How he even seeks out peers at school or his brothers at home to play with him. All huge, HUGE steps forward for him.

But time is in short supply these days. Today will give you a pretty good picture. Xander was up before 6 o'clock, Sawyer about half an hour later. Connor had to be dragged unwillingly from bed a little after 7:30. In addition to being tired, he is also trying to come down with a cold (sore throat, sniffles and not much voice at the moment). Backpacks prepared and into the truck by 8, into school shortly thereafter. Next it was back home for a quick walk for the puppy, and then on to a dental appointment from 9 to 10, only to have to rush home to clean up a work project at the printer today. Next a stop by the printer to review the proof, then off to the grocery store for some essentials and a prescription. Then home to return the not one, but four phone calls I missed during the very quick grocery run. Issues with a client, with the printer and a few other things to be taken care of. Then packing up the truck with supplies for the afternoon - we would leave straight from school for speech therapy, then straight from speech therapy to the baseball field.

Thankfully, Grammy and Pappy came to the rescue again. Pappy met us at speech therapy, took two of the boys for ice cream while the first one had his session. Then he waited for the second session to end and took the twins back to the house for the night - where Grammy met him after she got off from her 12-hour nursing shift and they fed them, gave them baths, and got them into bed.

Connor and I left speech therapy and hit a fast food stop for dinner. Then it was straight to the batting cages to practice a little before the game. It didn't end until after 8:15, already past Connor's normal bedtime. We had done two work sheets of Connor's homework in the truck, in the 10 minutes we arrived before our speech therapy appointment, but we still had a easy reader book he had to read not once but twice and spelling words to practice. He also needed a shower. I think he made it to bed by a 10, more than two hours after his normal bed time. And we really could have used a little more time to practice spelling words.

And then I had to unload the truck from the day's adventures. Next I had to unpack school bags, check folders, initial daily logs and write in journals, refill snack containers and Xander's lunch, file homework and prepare everything for tomorrow morning. I also needed to start the daily load of laundry, load the dishwasher and feed the puppy again. And take a shower. And spend a few hours prepping for a client meeting first thing in the morning, after I drop the boys off at school. And respond to the 15 emails that accumulated between picking the boys up from school and getting back home tonight.

I am so ready for bed. And like Connor, I am so not going to be ready to get up in the morning. The twins will probably be up at some ungodly hour, and I will once again be wondering if I will ever sleep more than 6 hours in a night. I really, really hope it happens again. Soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

School Days ...

What Classroom? by here we wander
What Classroom?, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Sometimes school is hard, but today was not one of those days for Sawyer. His teacher Ms. K brought in a fun tent for her classroom, and Sawyer made himself at home. Tight, enclosed spaces are some of his favorite kind. Ever. (Special thanks to Ms. K for sharing the photo).

Friday, August 26, 2011

School Days

Sensory Seeker by here we wander
Sensory Seeker, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Some days, school can be really fun. All of Xander's teachers have been telling me that he is doing incredibly well with the transition. He has good days and bad days, or more accurately good days with a few bad moments. But overall, he is doing really well.

Today he enjoyed some serious sensory time, which both of the twins love. He particularly liked this little hand scooter in the gym. (Special thanks to his aide, Ms. G, for snapping and sending the photo).

Though I know that in a lot of ways it must be a difficult transition for the boys - so many changes all at once - they have both been doing remarkably well. There are no complaints in the mornings when I say "Time for school!" and no real issues getting out in car line. They are always happy to come back home at the end of the day, and they come out of school smiling and in a good mood.

You can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Self-Style by Connor

Self Style by here we wander
Self Style, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Yes. Yes he did.

Connor has been talking for a while now about how long his hair was getting. He has been wanting a hair cut, but we have been disagreeing over how to get it done. Daddy prefers to just buzz all three boys in the summer here at home. It's easy and cheap. Connor likes the top of his hair left a little bit longer, but neither Josh nor I cut hair very well, so we simply can't do it and have it look like anything. The $15 barber shop trip wouldn't be so bad, if his hair didn't grow so darn quick. Plus it's hard to find time now that school and baseball have both started.

So Monday night, as best we can tell, Connor decided to take matters into his own hands. He took a pair of children's scissors from the desk in his bedroom and cut his own hair. He even very neatly put the clippings into his trash can. There may have been a few stray pieces on his carpet, but he apparently tried really hard to be neat.

The picture does not do it justice. There are huge gaping holes where hair should be growing, but where it has been chopped off at his scalp. It's especially bad over his ears, which I sort of understand. It's terrible on top of his head, which baffles me. I thought he liked it longer up there, and yet he cut several handfuls off the top of his head. Clearly the power of wielding the scissors was too much for him to resist following even his own style request.

Now you might be wondering how this managed to escape our attention for a day and a half. I will only say that Tuesdays are ridiculously crazy in our house these days.

Yesterday, Josh was going out on a job-related meeting, so he agreed to drop the boys off at school on his way. He helped me get them all ready, so I wasn't paying as much attention as I sometimes do. The boys were in school from 8 o'clock until just after 3 o'clock. I picked all the boys up, and we immediately headed across town to the twins' weekly speech therapy appointment (where I also conveniently forgot college was back in session and I have to cross the large state university campus to get from school to therapy). We were running a little later than normal, and we also had to stop at McDonald's for dinner. At 3:30 in the afternoon. Because speech therapy would last from 4 o'clock until a little after 5 o'clock, at which point we would need to head directly to the baseball field for Connor's first scrimmage game of the season. It started at 5:45, but we had to get there in rush hour traffic on a very heavily crowded commuter road. We managed to make it, get him dressed and up to the field just in time to start (no practice for him today). The game lasted two hours. We didn't make it home until 8 o'clock (good thing we ate at 3:30, huh?). Then it was a mad rush of removing dirty clothes, getting showers and baths started, then finishing up with teeth brushing and homework. All by a little after 9 o'clock.

Did I mention Tuesdays were a bit hectic?

Or that we also noticed Connor's hair sometime in between speech therapy sessions. So once we got back home last night, he had to get his hair buzzed (which still did nothing for the gaping holes where he cut it off at his scalp) before he could shower, brush his teeth, do his homework, and go to bed. At which point I also noticed the stray hair that needed to be vacuumed, the pajamas covered in cut hair, and the sheets that surely did as well. I managed to clean up the floor and get some clean pajamas, but it was too late for new sheets.

Sigh.

At drop-off this morning, the boys' teachers commented on his new hair cut. Apparently he had told them about it yesterday at school. His hair was getting too long, and Mommy and Daddy wouldn't cut it, so he took care of it.

Indeed. How nice.

Here We Go Again ...

Safe! by here we wander
Safe!, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Fall baseball is already in full swing. The league opened up practices last weekend and games start this weekend. So far, Connor has had two practices and one scrimmage (see above photo). He has two more practices again this week before his first game on Sunday. And that's just the first week.

Did I mention that we were incredibly unhappy with Connor's previous baseball league, that it seemed incredibly disorganized and not very instructional? I think I may have added a few more rants details here.

This year we moved Connor to another league. Everyone we talked to gave the league the highest recommendations, offering only one caution - it was incredibly competitive.

Fall ball is, of course, a little more laid back. And that's good. Because while Connor loves the game and does pretty well with the basics, he really needs some good instruction. And in only our first week, I can already tell you that he's been given more instruction than the sum total of what he had in two seasons (one Fall, one Spring) in his other league.

This is little league baseball. His coach is constantly watching what he is doing, offering suggestions, making corrections, and offering encouragement. Before and after each play, the coach is ... well, coaching. If they're batting, he's offering them tips on pitches and their swing. If they're fielding, he's constantly asking them where the next play should be and telling each player what they should be doing whether it's covering bases, backing up players or getting the ball into the infield.

I know it's early in the season. Things may change. But right now, I could not be happier with our decision. Connor is not only playing baseball, he's also learning how to be a better player. He's learning the basics of the game, and improving his own skills. And he's having a lot of fun doing it.

I also feel the need to mention that so far, the schedule has not changed once. That's right. When coach tells us there is a practice or a game, the time and the location stay the same. We also haven't practiced on a grassy field, but on real, actual baseball fields. And we've used the batting cages to practice batting. How refreshing.

We won't talk about how much the twins still hate baseball. It has nothing to do with the game or the league, simply that they have no interest in being strapped into a stroller for several hours, several nights a week, at a dusty baseball field. As the younger sister of a lifelong baseball player, I kind of see their point.

But it's about finding balance. Connor deserves something of his own, even if the twins have to sacrifice a little for it. Heaven knows he sacrifices a lot to their needs and to simply be their older brother. Balance. And baseball, because that's what Connor loves.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just Because ...

Hi, Mom by here we wander
Hi, Mom, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
While Sawyer's squishy face took last week's Snapshot Sunday, this one of Connor was a very, very close second.

And today his teacher called to tell us what a great job he's doing in first grade, how polite he is and how well he gets along with everyone in class.

Our big boy ...

Brothers At Play

Playing by here we wander
Playing, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

It shouldn't be a big deal. Two brothers playing.

But it is. It's HUGE.

Because one of those brothers is Sawyer. And Sawyer hardly ever wants to play with anyone else. Most of the time, he is content to play by himself. If he seeks out another, it's usually an adult, and more often than not, an adult who will give him something that he wants. And once he gets what he wants, then the adult can go away, thank you.

He simply doesn't play with others. It's not his thing.

Or it didn't use to be.

Last week, his teachers couldn't wait to tell me a story about him and a classmate on the playground. A story where Sawyer watched a little girl who had been trying to play with him walk away, where Sawyer climbed down from his seat and went after her, brought her back and sat her back down beside him.

This weekend, Sawyer joining his two brothers. Connor and Xander have long ago perfected a game of chase and tickle. Connor is usually the aggressor, and Xander is content to run and make the tickle noise as Connor attacks him. Sawyer has occasionally watched the action, but has not really joined in.

Until this weekend. When he not only watched, but jumped right in. Where he smiled and laughed. Where he looked his brother in the eyes as they played together.

It shouldn't be a big deal. But it is.

Two brothers (actually three brothers, just not all in this photo) at play.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Snapshot Sunday

Preparing for the Worst by here we wander
Preparing for the Worst, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Once upon a time, I picked my favorite photo of the week to post every Sunday. I think I might start doing it again. This one was pretty cute.

... Let the Torture Begin

Not Again by here we wander
Not Again, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
... And bring on the fruit snacks and suckers, lady. It's going to be a long season.

It Begins Again ...

Fall Ball by here we wander
Fall Ball, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Another season of Fall baseball is upon us ... Connor would be the one in the middle, kicking up all the dirt. You have to break those new size 4 cleats in, right?

Better Late Than Never ...

New & Improved by here we wander
New & Improved, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

No, you're eyes do not deceive you. Those are two very large cracks all the way across the iPad screen. And those are just the ones you can see in this photo.

Let's just say the pretty green cover that we got from the Apple store was far from functional when it comes to a five-year old. Especially one who likes to jump and bounce and never really sits down for more than a few minutes at a time (I know he's sitting in the photo, but trust me, it didn't last long).

What we should have done after leaving the Apple store was do some online research and find a better cover. And we did, just a few months after the fact.

After the iPad had been dropped a time or two.

And not, as you might think, by a careless little boy. No, usually it was by a determined little boy trying to fight off one of his brothers who were attempting to snatch it out of his hands. Yes, that's when it usually falls to the ground. Or the tile floor, as it were.

So now we have a really great cover.

We'll eventually get the screen replaced. But for now, it works. And really, why not make sure the boys have all the cracks they can get on this one before we go get another one to start on. Right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Little Moments ...

It's been a busy couple of weeks. So many little moments are getting lost in the hectic schedule of starting a new school year and getting the twins settled into kindergarten. Here are some of the bits and pieces from those last few weeks ...

Connor's favorite part of school is recess. He really, really wants to take his lunch to school (just because he wants a cool lunch box, not because he doesn't like the school food). He loves it when he sees our neighbor, his friend P who is a grade ahead of him, in the hallway at school, and he recognizes him. He thinks first grade is hard, and he wishes they got to play more. He likes to tell me about the times when he sees his brothers at school, and what they're doing when he sees them. But you can't believe everything he says, otherwise Sawyer is eating a chicken sandwich every single day, bun first and then the chicken. He cannot wait for fall baseball to start, and asks every single day when his first practice and game will be. He covets an iPad of his own, and in his recent obsession with how much things cost, keeps badgering us about the cost of an iPad and how long it might take him to save up for one. He misses his school friends from last year, but has already made some new ones. He tells funny stories from school, and I have a hard time distinguishing the truth from his imagination. He apparently threw away a school hall pass because it was decorated with scribbles and is not allowed to go to the bathroom ever again (so he says), and he had to walk at recess today because his star was moved two times (meaning he did something wrong twice), but he swears someone moved it the first time just to be mean because he only got in trouble once. He yelled at someone (can't imagine where he might get that from, really). Overall, he is happy and seems to be adjusting well to the new school and the new routine.

Sawyer is spending most of his day in his resource (special education) room. His team is working with him to increase his time in the traditional classroom. When he passes his classmates in the hallway, many of them reach out to give him high-fives as they pass. He has one or two classmates who love to try to play with him, and one little girl in particular who tries to take care of him. Today at recess, she helped push him on the swings and sat down by him on the wall with some bubbles. When she wandered off a little while later, he got up and followed her, pulling her by the hand back to the wall so they could sit back down together. He is initiating interaction and play with a peer, which is simply astounding. He frequently tries to get people to do things for him, but to want a peer just to be with him. That's incredibly rare. He is not incredibly interested in his new communication software on his iPad, and we're afraid we may have to take the games and videos off for a while to get him to use it purposefully. He will not be pleased. He comes home happy, ready for something to eat and drink, and full of hugs. Though I know the days are sometimes long and hard for him, he still smiles and laughs and snuggles when he comes home at the end of the day.

Xander is learning his new routine. He generally has good days at school, though unexpected changes can make the rest of the day a big challenge. One day it was simply changing his shirt because he spilled something on it, another day it was the first visit to a "specials" classroom (art, music, science, etc.). He is busy testing the boundaries of every single person he interacts with, and his aide tells us she keeps him busy and active all day long. He is bringing home all kinds of written work - lots of perfect letters and numbers and words. He's also spelling a lot of new words, which I can only assume is coming from school. I even got him to look at his "sight words" on the classroom newsletter and identify them for me. I was never worried he would not learn them, but I was not sure how willing he would be to answer when you asked him to tell you a specific word. Fingers cautiously crossed that he will keep doing it for us. Most days he comes in and flops himself straight onto his bed. Before he even gets his shoes off or his snack. He eventually makes it back for those important things, but bed is his first choice. Despite that, he usually comes home in a good mood and manages to stay up until bed time.

Those are some of our little moments. I'm sure there are more that I have missed, but it's at least a snapshot of their first week at their brand new school ...

Finding Motivation

It's a little over a week into the new school year. The boys and I are settling into a new routine. The twins and I are celebrating the loss of the very long car line we had to wait in last year, bridging the gap between their earlier dismissal and Connor's magnet (read mostly out-of-district and therefore mostly car rider) school dismissal.

We all appreciate the new afternoon dismissal - I park in a small parking lot near one of the front entrances to the school, and the boys' teachers walk them out to me.

For the first few days, we were just a regular member of the much-quicker school car line. I waited on a nice, shady tree-lined street for about 15 minutes before the line started moving, spent maybe five minutes in line, and then we headed home. But Xander was having some trouble, particularly if I had to pull around the circle past where he was standing. He apparently thought I was just driving through to taunt him, and that I was going to drive off without bothering to pick any one up. He was screaming and falling down on the ground, trying to dart out into the car line and causing his aide quite a bit of trouble.

Now the boys come out quietly, easily and simply climb into my waiting truck. I don't have to worry about quickly getting their seat belts on and getting out of someone else's way. Most of the parents have one, maybe two kids, to pick up. I have three, and two of them need quite a bit of help getting in and getting buckled up. So the teachers' recommended this new plan, and so far it's worked out well.

We're home about five minutes after dismissal. The boys get to ride in their new seats in the truck - Connor up front with me and Sawyer and Xander in the middle row. We usually have the windows down, which all the boys love. It's a quick, happy drive home.
To help with the new overall transition, I have been bringing a Gatorade and suckers in the afternoon. Some days it's a big sucker - like a Ring Pop or a Blow Pop, but most days it's just a simple DumDum. Easy, inexpensive and something that makes them happy at the end of a long school day.

That small treat is never enough. All three boys come home starving. And dying of thirst.

Every. Single. Day.

Even if they had a big lunch.

And ate all their snack.

They're still ravenous.

So every day we come in, put backpacks on the new kitchen island, take off shoes and socks (which my boys hate) and then the boys sit at the table for their snack. Most days it's simply some chips (pretzels or Goldfish) and a drink (milk or apple juice). And several refills of each. Clearly school is hard on them, and draining all their resources. Because they're still ready for dinner a few hours later, too.

While they're snacking, I'm going through backpacks. Connor and Xander have folders to go through every day. Parents must initial their daily log, and also empty folders of work and check for announcements. Sawyer has a journal that his resource teacher and I both write in, and that's also checked daily for updates. The twins both have a snack and change of clothes in their backpack, and that must be checked and refilled every day (usually the snack anyway, most days the change of clothes is fine). And Xander has a lunchbox to empty and prepare for the next day, because he won't touch the school food for anything (believe me, we tried for three years of Early Start).

Next is the request for screens. It also never fails. Connor covets the iPad and his Wi-Fi games (very silly ones, if you ask me). Xander wants the desktop computer for pbskids.org. And Sawyer would take either the iPad or a movie, depending on his mood and the day.

We have struggled with balancing play and screens in our house for a while now. The boys are all technology junkies. They love movies. They love computer games. They love handheld games (the Xander's iXl, Connor's DIDJ, and now Sawyer's iPad). Absolute junkies.

Our new rule, at least on school nights, is one hour or one movie. And we're even making one of the boys work for it.

As the oldest, with two years of preschool and one year of kindergarten under his belt, Connor should have the best handwriting of the three. He doesn't. Xander's letters and numbers are much more legible than his. Even Sawyer's name is usually clearer when he writes it. Connor often adds extra letters and even misspells his own name. It's not that he doesn't know how to spell his name, it's that he gets careless and in a hurry. This week I saw both "Coonnor" and "Conner" on his own homework.

So we implemented a new rule. To get his hour of iPad, always his first choice, he has to write a page of letters (upper and lower case) and numbers. Right now, I'm letting him have a guide of the correct letters and numbers. Eventually, he will have to make the page on his own, and will have to keep correcting it until it's done.

Here was today's version of the work ...


... and the reward.


Please note the date we have been writing at the top of each page. Connor, though he has been telling me the day of the month and the year, has not been writing it on the page. Apparently he forgot it was there, because this afternoon he tried to pass of yesterday's letters and numbers as today's. When I called him on it, he said he was just showing it to me again because he did such a good job yesterday. Little sneak. I made him write today's, go back a few times to correct some lazy errors, and also told him he had to add his first and last name as well, just for trying to cheat.

Soon we'll add spelling words to his daily list. He's not going to like that.

Welcome to first grade ...

Monday, August 15, 2011

School Days

The first day of school came and went pretty quickly.

It was a rough start in car line, but from what the teachers all tell me, it got better from there. I had a few email updates from the teachers, who surely knew I was wondering about my boys. I only had one phone call during the day, just to make sure Sawyer was actually going to eat the school lunch. Since the twins started school three years ago, they have always had snacks in their backpacks. Apparently my children eat a lot compared to most people, because his snack looked like enough for a lunch to his teachers.

All three boys came home happy. And hungry. They all made a bee line straight for the refrigerator and pantry when we got back home. It took several glasses of juice and quite a few chips to satisfy their hunger before they would even consider doing anything else.

Sawyer spent the next thirty minutes in his room, bouncing like a mad man in his swing. Clearly he needed to get some energy out and to find some familiar comfort. It took a while for me to convince him to come outside and play with his brothers, and he normally does not need convincing to go outside.

As a treat, I had spent part of the day they were in school cleaning out the backyard pool and getting it ready to use after a few weeks break (it had not been used since before our beach vacation). The boys did a lot of initial splashing and bouncing, but quickly wore out.

We had an early dinner and attempted our "school" bedtime routine. The boys were all in bed by a little after 8:30 that night. Only two of them were not really ready for sleep. Xander gave in first, maybe an hour or so after bedtime. Sawyer took much longer.

Day two also came and went without any major incident.

Car line was much better. Sawyer's teacher came prepared with dry cereal, and my boy was signing "eat" and "please" (his general version of "I want") before the car had even stopped and the doors were unlocked. All three climbed out and went willingly into school.

No phone calls. A few emails, just to keep me updated, which I love. And then they came home happy again (and less hungry, though still wanting a snack).

We had a relatively good weekend. The boys and I drove to the other side of the state to visit with extended family for most of the day on Saturday. Sunday it rained off and on, so we spent a lazy day around the house.

Day three was today. The boys all slept in again - of course. Xander was starting to move around when I got up, so he was first to get up and get ready. Next Sawyer came around, though still sleepy (probably because he did not fall asleep until well after 11 last night, despite going to bed before 9). Connor even woke himself up (or heard us moving around making noise). We were all dressed and fed and ready in plenty of time.

Car line was okay. Connor hopped right out. Sawyer hesitated, at which point Xander climbed right over him and jumped down to go inside. Sawyer looked at me with his not-very-happy face. He was tense and not ready to leave. We eventually talked him into it, and he went willingly with his teacher without complaint or trying to fall to the ground.

Slowly, we are finding our new routine. The boys are doing very well so far, with only minor issues here and there. We have been incredibly impressed with the school and the staff these early days. We are incredibly hopeful that the transition will continue to go well, that the school year will be a good one. We are all finding our way ...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time For School

Time For School by here we wander
Time For School, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Today was the first day of the new school year.

Several things happened exactly as I knew they would.

With a later start time, the boys get to sleep in a little later than last school year. Our alarm was set for 7 o'clock this morning. Not one of the boys was awake yet. Not even Sawyer, who's often up long before the sun. All three, still sound asleep. All three, grudgingly being pulled from their beds.

We got them all up, to the bathroom and dressed in pretty decent time. The little guys were happy with their dry cereal and milk and Disney Channel cartoons. Connor sat down at the table for some breakfast (a Toaster Strudel and chocolate milk).

Next it was time for shoes. That's when the tears started. Connor was good about his, as usual. He likes to wear tennis shoes, and was particularly excited about his brand new school tennis shoes. The twins do not like to wear tennis shoes, preferring to wear open and airy Crocs if they have to wear shoes at all. They cried the minute their socks went on. Sawyer even managed to remove his shoes and socks a few times before we even left the house.

Once their shoes were on (and staying on), they were rewarded with some GoGurt while they finished their cartoons. Their backpacks and Xander's lunch were already prepared last night, so that was all ready. All we needed was three little boys to come into the kitchen, get their backpacks, and head out the door around 8 o'clock.

And this is what we got. (See picture above).

The twins both screamed and cried and fell down to the floor. Connor looked on with unimpressed superiority. He knew how to go to school without crying. Silly brothers.

The school is just a few minutes away. We all climbed in - Mommy and brothers in their new seating arrangement (Connor in a booster up front, the twins in boosters in the middle row). You see, in early start, parents stopped their cars and helped kids out three cars at a time, while teachers took kids and walked them into the fenced play area so they could go into school. Elementary school car line is much different - it does not stop and it is not fenced in. The teachers open the car doors, the kids exit on the passenger side, walk on the open sidewalk into school, and you're supposed to drive away. Moving the boys up closer will help me get everyone unbuckled and into backpacks before we reach the drop off point.

Today, Daddy also rode in the very back (the twins old spot) to help with the first day of drop off. That also went as expected. Connor waited for the school principal (who was helping with car line) to open his door, and he quickly went off on his way without so much as a backward glance. His brothers, not so much. They both fell down to the floor of the truck crying and protesting. With a little help from Daddy pushing, and a few of the boys teachers and aides (who will meet our truck every day) pulling, we managed to get them out while other cars went on around us. The boys protested loudly and kept falling down purposefully to the sidewalk as we were driving away, but their teachers assured us they would have a good day before we drove off.

And we kept driving.

As hard as it is to leave the boys at a new place with new people, I know this is what they need. I did not want to walk them in the first day, only to have them expect it every single day thereafter. I did not want their protest and struggle to be rewarded with me parking the truck and going inside after them (though I might have been tempted). I did not want to sit outside the school, watching to see if they made it inside with or without a struggle. I did not want to wait for them to try to escape or sit outside the school wondering if I would get a phone call sooner or later or not at all.

I wanted to believe their new teachers, that the boys would have a good day.

New places. New people. New routines. All of these things are hard for our twins. But life is hard, and sometimes you have to do things you do not want to do. It's the next step, and I am confident that they are in good and loving hands in their new school, that we have once again been blessed with a solid team to support our boys in their journey.

Was it hard to drive away? Absolutely. But it was the best thing for them. And for me. I have to let them take steps on their own, regardless of how unwilling they might be at first.

And I drove home and started the rest of my day. I took the puppy on a morning walk. I've printed off some materials to review and work on for my freelance project. And I will keep myself busy until this afternoon, when it will be time to pick up all three of my boys from their school and hear about their first day.

Eventually, I will come to appreciate the fact that I am not driving 40 miles all over town like last school year and that I have a solid day to do the things I need to do without interruptions or distractions. Eventually, I will come home and revel in the peace and quiet. But today, I will stay busy. I will keep myself from driving back to school and checking on my boys. I will let them take this next step all on their own, confident we have planned and prepared them as well as we could, and that they will find their own way, just as they always have before.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thankful

Today I am thankful. Thankful for all of the people who walk with us on our journey. Sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it's long. And there are so many people who are there for us, day in and day out, at a moment's notice or weeks in advance, offering us a helping hand or even two.

Today was one of those days.

Today was the day we took all three boys to visit their new school and meet with their new teachers. The official open house was last week, while we were still out of town. And two of our boys needed a different kind of visit, one with fewer people and fewer distractions, at least on their first visit. The first day will, of course, be another story altogether.

But today was our visit, the day when most of the teachers and staff members who will be working with the boys would be there and available to meet with us. And, of course, today was Daddy's day to work. That left me and three boys. To visit countless classrooms, explore new and bigger corridors, and meet a whole new team of people.

Only it wasn't just me. Pappy volunteered to drive over for our early morning meeting to help. He walked with us, talked with teachers and therapists, helped answer questions and kept three little boys in line. No easy shoes to fill, those. But he does it well, and so much more often than he should.

There was also our surprise guest, the boys' speech therapist from early start. For three school years, she has been with them. And today she came over to help ease their transition to a new school, to a new place and so very many new faces. She held their hands, talked to teachers and answered questions, distracted them when the moments got too tough. She was an amazing familiar face on a difficult day, doing what she's done every single moment since she met our boys - helping them find their way.

And then there are the many, many new people we met today. The front office staff. The principal. The teachers and resource specialists. The speech therapist. All of them, taking time out of their busy last few days before school, to meet our boys, to ask questions about them and ask how they can help with this big transition. All of them friendly, eager and willing to help our boys on this next step of their journey.

We were at school for hours. Learning classrooms, putting faces with names, talking about challenges and planning strategies. And every where I looked, there was someone else to be thankful for. It was a good day. That's not to say there won't be challenges, or that the coming days will be easy. But standing there, seeing all those people surrounding our boys, I was thankful.

And our day was only half done. Tuesday is also speech therapy day. And with Daddy still at the fire station, that meant Mommy and three boys. And Grammy, who drove in to town to help with the afternoon session. Who waited with two impatient boys in the crowded waiting room while I took each of the boys back to their individual sessions. Who kept them quiet and entertained. Who took us out to dinner afterward. Who, as she so often is, was simply there.

Last week it was Grandma and Grandpa, treating the boys and I to a vacation at the beach. Getting up early with two very early risers. Watching all three boys so I could steal a few moments peace on walks along the beach or afternoons with a book on the sun deck. Extra hands to help in the pool or on the beach, to take pictures for us when my hands were too full of boys.

Aunt Kelly who always treats Connor to special days out without his brothers and all of the special needs that follow them. Who always brings the boys something they will enjoy, whether it's the latest animated movie or a tasty treat. Uncle Brian who takes time out to show Connor how to throw a baseball more accurately or how to catch a ball in his new glove.

All the teachers and therapists who have worked with our boys, who have loved our boys like their own. The ones who stay in touch, who celebrate our accomplishments and talk us through our setbacks. The ones who are, and will always be, part of not only our journey, but our family.

There are so many, many others.

The strangers who help hold open doors when I have all three boys by the hand. The ones who smile with compassion rather than annoyance when my boys do something out of the ordinary. The stranger who tries to help make things better on a bad day (like this one).

There are so many other things that I needed to do tonight. I was up early preparing for our visit and would have loved to crawl in bed hours ago. I have a freelance project I desperately need to be working on for an upcoming deadline. I have a huge stack of school forms for not one but three different little boys that is due on Thursday morning. I need to be making some last minute preparations to get three boys ready for a new school routine in two short days. There's the usual load of laundry that needs to be folded and put away, the dishwasher that always needs to be emptied, and other odd household chores to be done. There's a puppy that is craving my attention. And there's even one little boy who cannot seem to find sleep on his own, even after such an incredibly long and trying day, even when he is clearly very tired and in desperate need of sleep.

There are so many things that I should be doing ... but I had to capture this day, this moment. I have been alternately pretending that it was not coming at all and worrying that it would not go well when it did arrive. It is simply a way of saying thanks. Thanks to the people who have already been walking with us on this journey, who are always there when we need them, and to those who are joining us with such open arms and welcoming hearts.

Today I am thankful. Today was a good day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Last Day

Last Sunset by here we wander
Last Sunset, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Our week at the beach is quickly winding down. Today was our last full day, and tomorrow we will wake up, finish packing and begin the fifteen hour drive back home.

Today we did a little bit of everything. I got to take two different walks along the beach all by myself - one this morning and one again late this afternoon. Grandma and Grandpa took Connor on their usual walk and swim along the beach. The twins and I walked down to join them at the end, so they had another visit to the ocean. The waves are a bit too big and the boys are a bit too annoyed by being constrained to really enjoy the beach. There were lots of tears and tantrums on their part. We did manage one group photo (see here), all except Grandma who does not do photos.

After our beach adventure, we made the requisite stop at the swimming pool. The boys spent a few hours jumping, splashing and floating. They were not ready to leave. But then again, they never are.

Grandma fixed us our favorite dinner - fried pork chops and fried potatoes - and then we watched the sun disappear in the inlet behind us. I wandered back down to the beach for a few more photos of the water since all my visits to the water had seemingly included three needy children. It's hard to take pictures and keep three fearless children from drowning.

A long week of sun and sand and water. A good vacation with family before a big change. School starts next week, and I'm still not sure any of us are ready for it. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Someone to Play

Water Boy by here we wander
Water Boy, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

With three brothers close in age (only 14 months separates the three of them), most people would assume Connor would never be without a play mate. They would assume wrong.

I often feel for Connor, who tries so hard to engage his brothers in typical games of kids their age. Whether its hide and seek or chase or even just made up games, Connor doesn't have much luck. Xander will occasionally join in a game of chase or run around being silly with him. But it's always short-lived and usually ends in someone's tears of either anger, frustration, or even hurt. Sawyer never joins in these games. About the only time he will chase anyone is if they have managed to get his iPad without his knowledge, and he will track them down in seconds.

Sometimes I wonder how much of Connor's personality is shaped by his relationship (or lack thereof) with his brothers. He is outgoing, social and always ready with words or actions to make a new friend. It's both fun and sad to watch. He wants so much to play with his brothers, but eventually turns to complete strangers, children and adults alike.

This week at the pool Connor has been forced to find play mates. His brothers, while happy to jump and splash and swim, cannot be talked into swim races or diving under water for things. They simply like to do their own thing, quite removed from anyone or anything else going on around them, their own brother included.

Connor has found many willing friends. I'm sure it seems odd to those on the outside, that when we bring three boys down to the pool to play, one of them always looks elsewhere for entertainment. It would seem odd to me, if I didn't have to watch it every single day.

One group in particular is always appealing to Connor. They are older kids, who play games that he is not quite able to do, but he always scoots in close and finds his way into the action. Whether they are tossing a football the length of the pool (and letting him sit nearby to take a few close passes in between the long ones) or whether they are holding swim races and letting him referee, he is allowed to play with others, something he desperately seeks.

I am grateful for the kindness of others, especially these older kids, who let him play. They have been gracious and inclusive all week long, without knowing how much it means to him and to us. I have thanked them for letting him play. I know how hard it would be to admit a younger player to some of their games, and also how tightly he can latch on to others at times (to the point of being quite obnoxious really). Those older kids have no idea how rarely he gets to play with other kids, to enjoy moments when his brothers needs and limitations are not taking precedence over his own. In the pool, playing football with some older boys, he gets to simply play and be.

And I am thankful. For his personality that is never afraid to reach out and take what he needs (and so rarely ever gets from his brothers). For the kindness of others that welcome him with open arms, even when he is out of his league. And for the parents who have raised these kids, who could have easily excluded him and went on their own way, but instead adapted their games to let him play.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beach Buddies

Beach Buddies by here we wander
Beach Buddies, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Routines and rituals are important for our boys, especially the twins. After several days at the beach, we have settled into a pretty predictable routine.

In the mornings, Connor and I sleep in, while Grandma and Grandpa have taken responsibility for if not getting up early with the twins, at least getting them up early to go to the bathroom and then putting them back to bed to either rest or fall back asleep. Grandma has a way with the twins that does not allow for disagreement.

Everyone manages their own breakfast, and watches with some disbelief as all of our neighbors start hitting the beach by 10 o'clock. We're still waking up and eating at that point, at least Connor and I are anyway. After breakfast, I usually take my solitary walk for a little peace.

After lunch, Grandma and Grandpa have been taking their walk. And as it usually includes Connor, it also includes several stops to play in the ocean. Connor is always quick to ask which building they have to walk to, since his primary concern is where he will get to stop and play in the ocean. He gets to swim at the turning around point, and then again when they get back to our condo. Grandpa joins him on the second swim, so that he can go out further into the water and enjoy the bigger waves that have been crashing on our beach.

After a few hours of walking and splashing, his next stop is always the pool. One must follow the other, at least in Connor's eyes. Some days I walk down with the twins to join them, either at the beach or perhaps just at the pool, and some days I let Connor enjoy his time on his own.

Then it's time to either grill or cook dinner (hence our big grocery trip on our first day after arrival). We prefer the convenience (and taste) of cooking our own meals on our own schedule, and not having to worry about cutting activities short to shower and change and make ourselves presentable. If you eat in your room, you can come in your swimsuit if you want. Connor and I like that.

And so we've spent nearly a week doing roughly the same thing every day. The boys know what to expect, and have seemed to enjoy their vacation at the beach, despite the heat. It's hard to believe that in exactly one week school will start back, and the beach will be a distant memory. Guess we better enjoy tomorrow - our last full day - for all that it's worth!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another Day at the Beach

Riding the Wave by here we wander
Riding the Wave, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Today we ventured out on the beach during the day time. Three little boys screamed all the way across the hot sand before they touched their toes in the edge of the surf. It got better from there.

Sawyer and Connor were all about the water and waves, wading out as far as they could touch and beyond. Xander came out from time to time, but after about 30 minutes today, he was done. As in, he literally kept telling me "all done" and walking back toward the gate. He was ready for the pool. After letting the other two splash a little longer, he eventually got his wish. We took all of the boys back up to the pool for a few more hours of splashing.

Another good day at the beach (and the pool) ...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Evening on the Beach

Three Brothers by here we wander
Three Brothers, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Our beach vacations have predominantly been in the winter, usually around Christmas time, which makes this beach trip a little bit different. In the winter, you can be out on the beach all day long and never once get hot. You're lucky if it's warm enough to wear swimwear and catch some sun. But in the summer, it's really, really hot during the day.

After the long drive and the early bedtime, we all slept in on our first full day at the beach. The twins slept until nearly 10 o'clock, which is quite unheard of in our world. Clearly they had missed some sleep on the drive, too.

Our first day was kind of a lazy one. Three little boys kept staring out the balcony doors, longing to get out onto the sand and into the water. The rest of us were a little more hesitant. We spent our first full day lounging in the room. We also went ahead and planned our meals for the week so we could make our grocery list and get that trip out of the way (we had brought basic essentials from home, so we could skip it on arrival day).

After our grocery run, it was time for dinner. And finally, after that when the sun was already sinking low in the inlet behind our condo, and when most of the heat of the day was already gone, we took all three boys down for their first adventure on the beach. They all LOVED it. The twins were not terribly excited about those first toes going into the dry sand, but they overcame it. We just started walking them down toward the water, and they were all eager to get there.

Grandpa and I had our hands full keeping eyes and arms on all of them. Sawyer, with his new found fearlessness in the water (even water above his head), was the most dangerous. He wanted to swim in the ocean, and instead of standing in the surf like most of us do, he kept letting the waves take his feet out from under him so he could try to float. Xander would run in and out, sometimes getting knocked over and not very happy about it. Connor was the one we kept having to call back, because he wanted to drift further and further out with the big waves. And while he can swim, it's quite different to swim in a calm pool versus as constantly moving and crashing ocean.

We spent quite a while on the beach. The boys didn't even seem to mind the sand or the salt, which sometimes assaults their senses. Xander sat in the wet sand, letting waves crash over him and sand and salt cover him. He also picked up wet handfuls and tossed them everywhere (until Grandma got after him for it). Sawyer was happiest in the water, but didn't seem to mind the sand. Connor was all over, sometimes letting waves carry him into the sand and other times splashing in the waves.

It took quite a while to shower off, but after the beach we made another stop at the pool. We spent another few hours there. Xander enjoyed jumping off the side - over and over and over. Sawyer used his new found swimming skills to move all over the pool without any help. Connor was jumping and swimming and all over the place, as usual.

So while the room and grocery shopping were low on the boys' priorities, the beach and the pool more than made up for it. Unfortunately for them, we'll probably be doing a lot more of the late evening beach and pool trips. It's just too hot in the middle of the day, and I don't think it would be fun for any of us!