a new adventure: homeschooling

Shopping for School Supplies

Now that we’re home, we are enjoying our final days of summer before school begins.  This year, along with getting Ace ready for fourth grade, we’re also beginning a new adventure–homeschooling Lucky for Kindergarten. [Read more…]

2013 Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List

You know I’m a huge fan of lists. Mostly due to the fact that I’m dependent on them. They help keep things fresh on my mind and quite honestly, I remember next to nothing without them. So, lists are very good in my opinion.

Before Ace started Kindergarten at Harvard, we had a list of 100 things we wanted to do that summer. Now, four years later Lucky is preparing for Kindergarten. Even as I type those words, I don’t believe it. It still has not gotten any easier sending them off to school. Instead of Kindergarten Blues, I’ve had First, Second and Third Grade Blues. It stinks not having my little army of men at home with me all day and I am dreading having two of them away instead of one.

But, I am determined to make this summer as fun as possible for Lucky, the same way I did for Ace. So, we started by making a list of things he wanted to do. The list started like this:

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We’ve already done a few things on the list and it’s grown significantly since we first started it.

And apparently, I’m not the only one with a list dependency because now these lists have a title:  Bucket Lists.  Every time you turn around, someone is making a bucket list for a different season or holiday.

I found this great printable Summer Bucket List on Pinterest.  There are a ton of them out there, but I wanted a blank one that we could fill in with things that sounded fun or special to us specifically.  So, we used this one from Three Monkeys Studio.

Printable Summer Bucket List

You can download it here.  Also, there are other fun summer ideas on my Summer Fun board that you can check out.  I’ll be highlighting the activities orange as we complete them.

Some of the other things we added to our list are:

  •  Make Bubble Snakes
  • Go swimming
  • Picnic at Park
  • Play Legos a lot
  • Read a Book a Day
  • Bake macarons
  • Go to the Zoo
  • Pack a lunch and Visit a Museum
  • Root Beer Float Date
  • Have a Water Balloon Fight
  • Go Fishing
  • Opposite Day
  • Go Roller Skating
  • Bake Cookies for Fire Station
  • Go to a Festival
  • Trace Our Shadows
  • Make Ice Cube Sidewalk Chalk
  • Visit a Monastery (out of state)
  • Go for a Walk in our PJ’s
  • Play in the Rain
  • Catch Crawfish in the Creek
  • Have Breakfast for Dinner
  • Catch Lightning Bugs
  • Play Kick the Can
  • Earn Prizes from Summer Reading Program
  • Go Camping
  • Finger Paint
  • Hike a Trail
  • Make a Nature Rubbing
  • Attempt to Break a World Record
  • Bake a Pie
  • Eat a Giant Cupcake
  • Have a Bonfire and Make S’mores
  • Put Sprinkles on Everything for a Day
  • Play Flashlight Tag
  • Go to the Drive-In
  • Tie-Dye T-shirts
  • Make Slime
  • Go Canoeing

and it’s still growing!  I’ll continue updating this list as we add things to ours!  Any suggestions?

Goodbye Kindergarten

Well, the year is over. Ace is finished with Kindergarten! I know I say it all the time but I just can’t believe how quickly the time goes. My boy is going to be a first grader!

It’s amazing to look at photos from the beginning of the year until now. He really did grow up right before my eyes. He went from crying every morning to bringing Gaki and his pet rock to school with him to arguing with me that he couldn’t miss school when he was sick because he’d miss out on all the fun.

I’m so grateful for the awesome group of teachers that he had. They made all the difference. Even though it’s still difficult for me to let him go each day, I do find comfort in knowing he’s having a great time and learning so much.

We had a year full of learning and I pray that is the case every year. We both learned a little more about being an Orthodox Christian in a secular world and had the opportunity to share parts of our Faith with people who never heard of the Orthodox church. We grew through little life lessons and mistakes and it was truly wonderful.

That being said…LET SUMMER BEGIN!!

The Gardener

Last week Ace had his first school play. It was just a small play that his class put on for parents and then there was a big lunch for everyone.

He had the opening line and was so nervous about having to be the first one to talk (I would be too, lol) but he did a great job. The entire class did. They all looked so adorable pretending to be little vegetables!

The play was about a gardener who planted an onion and when he went to pull it up to make vegetable soup, it was enormous! So one by one each vegetable called another vegetable to help pull. The vegetables and the gardener pulled and pulled but couldn’t get it to budge until the worm came to help. :)

I can hardly believe that Kindergarten is almost over. I finally begin to adjust and I’ll be dealing with 1st grade soon! Kindergarten has turned out to be wonderful. Ace *loves* it and gets upset if he has to miss a day. He couldn’t wait to go back after Spring break (?!). I am so glad that he loves his teachers and school so much. I don’t know how I would do it if he hated it. They constantly have different field trips and activities going on and I think that makes a big difference. Right now we’re getting ready for the big Spring concert. They go all out for this. The kids record videos and podcasts and put on a performance followed by a dinner for the parents. He’s so excited! Parents can buy the DVD’s afterward, so I’ll be sure to post some of it.

I am beginning to think this will never get easier for me though. My dad said it doesn’t. He said he dreaded us going back to school every year until we graduated. He’s such a gem, isn’t he? I love my parents to pieces. :)

I am really looking forward to the summer even though I know it will fly! Where does the time go? That’s why I try to enjoy every single moment, regardless of how crazy the moment seems at the time. Like this morning when I found Lucky biting off the tip of a glue stick. Is he destined to be the kid who eats paste in Kindergarten? Does paste even still exist?

A is for Apple

I am sooo happy that school this week has been terrific for Ace! Yesterday he was chosen as Student of the Week {I type as I beam with pride} and was able to bring home the Clifford backpack which is full of Clifford toys, books and audio CD’s. He is also very excited to be the class line leader and teacher’s helper for the week. It’s a very cool thing to be able to get the teacher’s clipboard out of the closet and place everyone’s name on it. No one else in the class is even allowed to touch it Mom!

He also had his first class project due yesterday. The teacher traced his body and he had to decorate the person to look like himself. First he needed brown hair and a face. Next he wanted overalls on him, because all farmers wear overalls, so I found denim patterned scrapbook paper that he cut up and glued like overalls. I sewed buttons on the top and stitched around the front pocket. Then we cut up an old pair of socks and drew shoes complete with yarn shoelaces.

After that he stood back and took a look at him and said, “Something is still missing.”

So he went and tore the cover off of an old drawing notebook and glued it in the pocket because he always carry a notebook around to write stories and clues in. Then he drew a little komboskini on his arm and asked me to cut out a cross for him. He went on to draw Jesus on the cross, complete with His crown of thorns, nails, speared side and blood.

Ace: This way my whole class will know I’m a Christian and I can tell them what the bad guys did to Christouli.

Me: {smiles}  Very good, honey.  And what’s even more important is to make sure we remember what the bad guys did to him and are very careful not to hurt Him with our words or actions.

 

Kindergarten Blues

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted but I’ve been sick at home with the Kindergarten blues.

Ace has been having a really tough time adjusting to Kindergarten which means I’ve been having a tough time too. Just knowing that he’s not happy makes me a nervous wreck. Friday was absolutely terrible. He kept begging me to take him home and I tried everything to calm him down. I even told him I’d come to lunch with him if he took his seat and didn’t give his teacher a hard time. (I’d been to lunch every day that week but I wasn’t planning on going that day because I wanted him to sit with his class and get to know some of the kids.) He just kept crying and telling me he wanted to go home with me.

Finally, I pried myself loose from his hugs and tears and the teacher had to practically drag him to his desk. When I peeked in the window his face was in his hands and he was resting his head on his teacher. She is such a sweetheart and it really makes me feel better knowing she cares. She was rubbing his head and his back to help him calm down. That was about all I could take so I bolted for my car, where of course I busted into tears.

Then lunchtime came and I started crying all over again because I knew he was going to be upset when he realized I wasn’t coming for lunch but I told him I would only come if he settled down and went to seat, which obviously he didn’t. As hard as it is sometimes, I can’t reward improper behavior and Ace knows that.

Later that day when I picked him up from school the first thing he asked was, “Why didn’t you come to lunch? I sat at a table by myself the whole time waiting for you and I was so nervous I couldn’t eat all my lunch.”

I felt like the worst mother in the world.

However, on Monday when he started to cry I told him if he cried like that again I wouldn’t come to lunch again and he stopped immediately and I know if I would’ve showed up Friday, he would have been hysterical again. He was still sniffling and crying a bit but he was really trying hard to keep it together. He went into class to start putting his things away but then he ran out and asked if I’d bring Gaki when I came for lunch. Gaki has been at school with him everyday so far but I made him leave him home on Monday. So I promised I would and then he walked back into his classroom sniffling a little.

As I was leaving one of the parents introduced herself to me and told me that she sat with Ace for a few minutes on Friday.

“He was so worried what about you, we didn’t know what happened,” she told me.

I explained the situation to her and then she said, “Oh good, you’re forgiven then. We thought you just didn’t show up.”

Ummm…thanks. I think. And by the way who is ‘we’? We thought you just didn’t show up? So I wondered who else thought I was a terrible mother. Oh well, sometimes in order for our children to learn we have to teach them lessons. Tough love, as they say. No one will know that I cried harder than he did during that 45-minute lunch period.

Each day has been getting better, there are less tears and a little bit more excitement. He has been coming home all week and playing school, which I’m thinking is a pretty good sign. Every morning he still reminds me 100x to pray for him and he asks how to get rid of the ‘nervous bugs’.

His teacher has asked me to volunteer in a couple weeks and when she announced it to the class he got really excited. I explained to him that the better he behaved the more they’ll ask me to come. They can’t ask parents to come if they know their child will cry every time they leave.

Hopefully by next week he (we) will be adjusted and things will fall into place. We’ve got our first PTO meeting coming up and they have a lot of fun parties and field trips scheduled too and I’m hoping that makes a difference.

Lucky and I have been spending more time doing puzzles and snuggling up to read his favorite books during the day. I’m glad to be able to give him more one-on-one time and his hugs and kisses let me know that he likes it too. So, even though this is a big transition for all of us, things will work out great. We just have to be patient.

I’ve always thought it was so difficult for kids to adjust to school–I just never realized how difficult it is for their parents!! Please keep us in your prayers!

First Day of Kindergarten

I am happy to report that Ace’s 1st Day of Kindergarten went very well. I absolutely adore his teacher, she is the sweetest thing. At Meet-the-Teacher Day she had these adorable little treat bags on each student’s desk along with a packet of information for the parents including their class schedules, etc.

The treat bags had these little tags on them:

We woke up, said our morning prayers, had a big breakfast and got dressed. Then we made sure we had all of the things we needed. I loaded his bags of school supplies into the car and he grabbed his backpack and lunchbox and the gift for his teachers.

I wanted to find apple scented anti-bacterial wash but couldn’t so I ended up getting Washington Apple hand soap from Bath & Body Works.

When I dropped him off, I could tell he was a little unsure so I walked him to his desk and asked his teacher if it was ok for Gaki to stay there with him. As soon as she said yes I saw him exhale. I gave him a kiss and he kind of just looked at me and I froze! I didn’t know what to do! If I left would he start crying? If I lingered would it make it worse? So I gave him another kiss and told him I’d see him at lunch (he asked me if I’d come today, I’m not going tomorrow I promise). Then the teacher gave him a paper and told him to write his name on it and to draw all of his favorite bugs inside the jar. I was barely out the door when I heard him tell her, “I like lots of bugs! Especially grasshoppers, they’re cool! Did you know I could catch a fly with my fingers?”

 He was in good hands and she was about to meet the coolest Kindergartner ever! :) So I got in the car and cried the whole way home. Luckily I didn’t have much time before I had to be back there for lunch…

At lunch we sat and he ate his bento box lunch. He got kind of excited because all the kids were making a big deal out of his “cool lunch stuff”, even though this is one of the most boring bento’s I’ve made, lol. This is what I packed for today:

When his teacher came over to the table during lunch I got up to say hello (and secretly ask how his day was going). She told me he was doing really well and then she asked,

Teacher:  “Does he speak Indian?”

Me: “What? Indian?”

Teacher: “Yes, he told me he’s Indian and he speaks Indian. But when I asked him which of his parents were Indian he told me neither of you were but he said a few things and I wasn’t really sure, so I wanted to ask.”

Me: “Oh, he’s totally faking it. He just pretends.”

Teacher: “I thought so but you never know!”

We giggled a little and then I went back and finished lunch with Ace. I snapped a picture on my way out of the lunch room and then he shooed me out. So I left. And do you know what I did when I got in the car again? Laughed. I laughed so hard! He is such a little character!

JFYI, this is as Indian as he gets:

When I got home and called my mom she said, “At least he didn’t tell her you hated her, that’s what you told your Kindergarten teacher and I had never met the poor lady!” :) Whoops.

Then I took Lucky to Toys “R” Us for his birthday shopping. They gave him a crown and a balloon and he could have left without anything else and been the happiest kid on earth. My sister had sent him a gift card though so we went browsing through the aisles looking at more toys than he could handle. He didn’t know what to look at first! This was the first time he’s ever really been in there and he just loved it! He picked out a toy for him and one for his “bro-bro”.

 

Then we picked Ace up and headed off to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. I have to say, the day was much better than I imagined. Maybe I can do this after all…I hope.

 

The Night Before Kindergarten Party

We had our “Night Before Kindergarten” party last night! First we made this school bus cake from Family Fun.

Then as we nibbled our cake and chocolate milk shakes, Ace and I talked about some of the things he was nervous about and I answered some of his questions about his new school.

He was very concerned about the possibility of Gaki not being able to come to school with him. I promised him that I would ask his teacher on the first day and if she said it was ok with her, he could stay.

When we had our fill of school bus cake, Ace, Lucky and I snuggled up on the couch and read some terrific Kindergarten books.

He’s pretty nervous but I could tell when we were reading the books that he was getting more excited about starting school. I think he’ll do much better than I will. Hopefully he doesn’t take after me.

When I started Kindergarten the teachers wouldn’t let the parents walk their children to class. So my mom dropped me off and walked me to the front doors to the school administrators. On her way home (we only lived a few blocks from the school) she looked in her rearview mirror and saw me running behind the car. (Teachers were where?!?) She said my pigtails were flying in the wind and I was screaming and crying.

We had a fun night and after his bath and an episode of Andy Griffith, the boys were both sound asleep. So I finished filling out his school paperwork, packed his lunch and pressed his school clothes.

Wish us luck! I’m going to wake him up now for his first day now!!

What’s left…

A trip to the ice cream parlor for Root Beer Floats. One last trip to the Friday Farmer’s Market. One more weekday morning to pull the covers over our heads and sleep in for as long as our hearts desire. A fun-filled Night Before School Party. Just. One. More.

That’s all that’s left before I send my best bud in the whole wide world off to school. It’s a good thing he can’t read my blog yet because it would totally blow my whole, “WOW! Aren’t you excited to start school?” cover.

I can hardly believe it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t come home after dropping him off and spend the afternoons eating Ben & Jerry’s while watching home videos. I did that when he started preschool and let me tell you it was not pretty…

I have to remind myself to focus on the positive, like spending more one on one time with Lucky. When Ace started preschool last year, Lucky was lost…for a few days. Then he realized how much time he got to spend with Mommy and all of a sudden instead of running to the door when Ace got home, he’d wrap his entire little body around my leg and yell, “My Mommy!”

So while Ace is in school, I’ll ease the pain by enjoying the hours alone with Lucky–something he’s never really had being the second child.

I do, however, take comfort in knowing that I am sending him to a great school with great teachers and administration. I look forward to all the fun things like field trips, class parties and having lunch in a cafeteria for the first time. He has such a great personality and I know he’ll make new friends quickly and will have a great time once he gets adjusted.

Tomorrow is Meet-the-Teacher Day and I get to sign up for PTO and volunteer for different programs for his class. I look forward to that and I can surprise him for lunch anytime I want. I’ll be exercising my self control and will not be visiting every day–only once a week or once every other week. :)

So what’s left? Some very different, very happy days for all of us.

Back-to-School Traditions


Most of you know how I feel about Ace leaving me for school. It’s no secret. I hate the thought and burst into tears every time I think about it. I have had an ache in my heart for the last 2 weeks and the closer the first day becomes, the stronger the ache. Where did the summer go? It feels like he just graduated from preschool and was accepted into Harvard a few short weeks ago!

 

I am in constant disbelief that Ace will be starting Kindergarten in just a few short weeks, I am determined to make this time in his life fun and memorable. Our family is big on traditions and so I’ve been trying to find some back-to-school traditions that will be fun for our family.

 

I’ve listed several ideas that I plan on doing to make this special time in mine and my child’s life as memorable and stress-free as possible.

 

Before School Starts:

  • Visit your child’s school. Let him get familiar with his classroom, the campus and if possible his teacher and administrators.
  • Establish both a morning and nighttime routine including prayers, a reasonable bedtime, a bedtime story and a goodnight kiss.
  • Practice things like using the bathroom and washing hands properly.
  • Role play how to ask to use the bathroom, approach a new friend or inform the teacher of a problem.
  • Ask him if he has any fears, questions or concerns.
  • Go for a special treat, like ice cream cones the night before school starts.
  • Have a Back to School Night Party. We’ll snuggle close and read books like The Kissing Hand, Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come, The Night Before Kindergarten, and A Place Called Kindergarten. We’ll also eat yummy treats like pencils (carrot slices with pink marshmallows stuck to the top with toothpicks), pencil shavings (homemade granola), school-themed cupcakes, etc. We’ll also cover some basic safety guidelines.
  • Help less fortunate children prepare for school. We’ll be sending these IOCC School Kits this year!

On the First Day of School:

  • Make a special First Day of School breakfast and/or dinner. Why not try these Butterfly Breakfasts? Or pancakes flat like a piece of paper with 3 holes poked along the edge?I’ll be making this awesome School Bus Cake on the first day. Family Fun provides the video and recipe for this sweet treat.
  • Send an apple for the teacher. Perhaps in the form of apple-scented antibacterial wash or lotion.
  • Send them off with something special. Last year for the first two months of preschool Ace took his Gaki, bka Curious George, in his backpack. Although it could be anything a pet rock (yes we have one of those). I also printed out wallet-sized photos of some of his favorite times and attached them to a clip to keep on his backpack.

  • Take a photo before they leave for school, getting on the bus or entering the classroom. I took one last year of him walking away and it is my favorite. Walgreens also has a special offer for Back-to-School; 30 4×6’s for $3.oo.

Once school starts:

  • Make fun lunches. I *love* bento box lunches. Kraft Foods also has some great lunchbox ideas.I also like to make things easier for me, so I pack his lunch the night before. I also put baskets with his lunch snacks on the top shelf of the fridge so that all I have to do is toss them in.

  • Stop by once a week or every other week to have lunch with your child. Bring fun treats for him and his friends too.
  • Get involved in field trips and other programs. Schools love parents who volunteer!
  • Get in the habit of talking to your child about his day. It’s soo important to know what’s going on both in their classroom and their minds.
  • Post often in his School Memory Book, making sure to add a picture of his first day.

Establish Routines for us both:

  • Make sure his clothes are set out, ironed and ready to go the night before as well. This includes belts, socks and shoes. Homework, permission slips and anything else that needs to go back to school in the morning should be ready and in his backpack the night before too, just to make sure I don’t forget anything if the morning is more chaotic than planned.
  • Establish an after-school routine. Have a snack ready and complete homework assignments at a set time. I prefer right after school so that it is finished and he can play the rest of the day.
  • Reinforce bedtime routine.
  • Get a calendar and keep it up to date on all his school activities and other deadlines.
  • Have a snack waiting when you pick him on a certain day of the week, month, etc.
  • Keep up with my journaling. I think on the first day I’ll take Lucky to the park after I drop him off and journal my little heart out. I know I’ll be a mess and journaling usually helps me through.

While I feel a pierce in my heart every time I think about him leaving me, I will keep those feelings deep inside of me where he cannot see them. I am determined to make this a fun and exciting experience for him that he looks forward to repeating every year! I can cry my eyes out after I drop him off!

 

What kinds of back to school traditions do you have?