Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Day Recap

I sent my little petunias off to preschool/pre-k this morning and then did a happy dance. Well, in the form of a 4.5 mile run, but yeah. It was glorious(ly hot). But the rest was...weird.

The whole day was a little off, to be honest. The morning with the kids was great. After a full day of 4yo tantrums Monday, this morning was a breeze. Special toaster waffles with chocolate almond milk for breakfast, dressed in cute clothes, teeth brushed and even a cute picture in front of the house before hopping in the car for school.

Benjamin's drop-off was first. Apparently his school director sent out an email about an open house last week, but only some of the parents received it. I wasn't one of them and missed the open house. I was pretty bummed about that because I like to be informed. Plus, I want to know what the standard procedures/instructions are for the school. When I expressed my disappointment to the director, she told me I couldn't "do preschool wrong" (but seriously, couldn't you have called if you were concerned about email issues? Or text? I did sign up for text messages!).


We show up at 8:25 (for an 8:30 start) and not another parent is in the parking lot. Were we late? Early? I didn't know. We rang the doorbell and then rang it again. No answer. I knew people were inside, because I saw a teacher walk in a few minutes prior. I looked inside to see the director in her office with the light off. I picked up the phone and started calling. Just then, she opens the door. We were the first ones. Apparently drop off begins at 8:30 and they are really flexible about times. Weird. Benjamin's first two preschools were very prompt and had a set procedure that is necessary, IMO (and also the bonus of car drop-off and pickup).

We walk in and were then informed that they received his medical records and we weren't up-to-date on his shot records. Huh? We switched to a new doctor for insurance reasons at the beginning of his 4th year and apparently they didn't administer the shots he needed. I remember him having none, so it looks like we have to shell out a co-pay for shots. Ridiculous. Not her fault, but the delivery was off. I was just not getting the SUPER SUGARY SWEET INVITE you'd expect from an early school experience we are choosing and paying for. Anyway. I mean, you knew I missed the open house because your email system didn't send to half of the parents. And so at the very least, open the stupid door a couple minutes early on the very first day, you know? Turns out I could "do preschool wrong" at this point.

Pickup was just as odd. I walk in (after waiting for other parents to arrive... I learned), sign him out and then head to his room to pick him up. He's standing next to his teacher, washing his hands. His teacher is digging in a cabinet for changes of clothes and informed me that Benjamin did not have to use the bathroom at the designated time (stupid) and she thinks he "may have had an accident" but said she could be wrong. I look, I feel. I do the crotch grab mom move. Not a drop of water or pee or any type of excrement on him. So exactly what kind of accident? I told her it didn't appear so and then she told me I can bring a change of clothes to leave at school (which is when I told her that change of clothes she requested was in his backpack). Perhaps she could do a little checking.

I'm sure it's a good school. I'm not over the moon just yet. His school in Chicago was just really great. Other than the short hours, it was perfectly ideal for Benjamin. So we'll see. He was his usual self of not telling me anything, but that's not school specific; he never does.

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Claire was through the moon about going off to her school. We dropped Benjamin off and then were early for her school, which I'm convinced might be run more like a daycare (some kids dropped off hours earlier) than a preschool. But our goal was social time and getting her into a structured environment. I'm not really counting on much more than that. And for $53/week for 7 hours, I doubt we'll be getting more than that. I think I'll just let her binge watch LeapFrog videos and practice her fine motor skills cutting things she isn't supposed to (because she does anyway) to fill in the gaps. At this age, Benjamin was definitely legit spelling his name and knew most of his letters.

We arrived early but Claire couldn't contain her excitement any longer, so we headed inside so I could learn where to put her things, etc. We put her stuff in the designated cubbies and it was off to play outside with her classmates. I signed her in 5 minutes early, hoping they don't charge me by the minute extra for first day excitement. When I arrived to pick her up, my iPhone read 2 minutes early. Their clock read 2 minutes late. The director sat nearby and didn't really acknowledge me. I stood there for some moments before asking if I was to go back and get her myself. I headed back to find her in the middle of about 15 cots (with hardly sleeping kids) just reading a book. I think that's what happens after lunch is over. Rest time or book time before pickup. All was fine, but I was expecting more of a verbal update on how things went and perhaps some parent coddling for first day dropoff and pickup.


Neither kid appeared to be phased by the transition to their new school environments and headed home like usual. The afternoon brought a short nap for Claire and lots of book reading with Benjamin before heading to the park. Claire cried her eyes out as we left because she was leaving behind new "friends" at the park she had just met. The usual evening routine and the day is over. From here on out, I will never have a kid who won't be in "school" of some kind.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reno 10 Miler

I'm a runner. I've always been decent, but never really competitive or award winning fast. I spent many years living at the beach running along the strand in Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan. Often, I ran all three and clocked decent miles. This was before the popularity of running watches and fancy running gear and really before color runs and 5k races became the "cool" thing to do. (Which I think is great that something so healthy can become trendy, btw. That's my same take on Pokemon Go.)

I'm not much a morning person, so running as the sun rises doesn't appeal. Competitive races are almost always in the morning and now that I'm a mother (runner), evening races don't work for kiddo bedtime.
 

I spent some years grumbling at my husband when he mentioned we go for a skunk run when we were first married. (So many skunks at night in Redondo Beach, CA!) I wasn't into it then. I didn't have the drive.

But then I had kids. I spend all day with them and hear the word MOM all day long (so grateful and yet, so exhausting to hear!). I recently read a meme that said, "My nickname is Mom. My full name is Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom." That's definitely the life I currently live with our 2 and 4 year old kids. It's lovely, but it's loud. Kids have a higher decibel tolerance than adults. Or maybe just me. I need silence. And some fresh air. And a little space. I'm huge on personal space and as a parent, it does. not. exist. I'm not really a cuddler, and it's kind of a job performance expectation when it comes to the parenting gig.

So once the kiddos were somewhat self sufficient and I knew I wasn't having any more, I took back to running. It helped that breastfeeding ended and they were sleeping through the night, too. Before that, just existing was the day's goal. I loved the free space, the free head space, the quiet. I don't run with music (though I did totally jam out to some old 90's tunes at the race today). I don't get enough quiet and I crave the outlet of being free and among the trees and birds and mountains. Plus, gotta get some exercise if you put down the amount of donuts we do each week. I feel like this shirt was made for me.

It helps that some of my closest friends and my SIL have taken up running in the past few years and I've watched their progress (and races!). They were killing it out there and enjoying themselves, so why not join the fun? After months of running treadmills at the YMCA everyday, I ran a 10k in April (not my longest distance, but longest timed race). I started to notice my clothes weren't fitting, but it took awhile to figure that out because I'd only been wearing workout clothes for so long (ah, the mom life). I'm lighter than I've been in 10 years and enjoying the sweat, but mostly enjoying the scenery and calm of being alone and out in the wide open. I'm also enjoying Claire announce, "Mom, you smell" post run.

Those ladies in pink were wearing shirts that said the 5:20 Running Group. As in, 5:20 a.m. Not the club for me.
Today I got up just as the sun was creeping to run my first race in Reno and my first medal race ever, actually.  I don't like paying for races, but they are so motivating and actually really fun. The beer at the end doesn't hurt (I try to seek those races out, natch).

It was a warm one running into that desert sun. The first three miles were a bit hillier than I was used to and once I was seeing my watch in the 10:00 zone up those hills, I gave up my goal of a sub 1hr 30 minute and overall sub 9:00 mile a kiss goodbye. But then came some downhills and I made up some ground. It wasn't the most beautiful run ever, but it was well organized and nice to run the distance through our new city, under the iconic sign and past the casinos with mountain views. Once I hit the 9 mile mark, I checked my time and knew I could beat my goal time, so I booked it, clocking an 8:28 during my final mile into Wingfield Park and a 1:29:40 finish.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Caution, the moving walkway is ending

I spent the night at Chicago Midway Airport. That played on repeat, a solid thousand times. My flight was super early and would've required I get up extremely early anyway. Since my brain is now on PDT zone, early would've been something like 2 a.m., and at that point, do you even bother going to sleep? I opted for a late night drop off at the airport. After all, I'm up for an adventure and without kids, even snoozing in the airport seemed okay. What I didn't expect was for them to water clean the carpets, so I was chair bound after experiencing wet butt. #gross I finally found a suitable chair sometime after my 2-hour snoozefest and binge on Nutter Butters and Wheat Thins, but that was about 1.5 hours before the flight boarded. A front window seat on the plane was a sweet location for a couple more hours of broken sleep.

I made sure to grab a mini throw pillow and a couple of my kids' Aden and Anais blankets out of the house before the movers shoved our entire life of belongings into a truck yesterday morning. I lamented not having socks, because as it turns out, the temperature in empty airports is quite chilly during night hours. Which really only last about 3 hours between the final flight of the night and the incoming people waiting to board the early flights. As for the movers, all we own took just shy of 3 hours to break down beds and pad furniture and stuff it all into a big United truck. And not a minute more. 

I then proceeded to patch holes and gashes in the walls from movers, paint said holes, pull weeds, and sweep the entire house before settling on a quick bath because the shower curtain was already on the truck. I air dried post shower and even used a bottle of water and vinegar to spray dust particles I swept up because I didn't even have a dust pan left with me.

Obscure, random pieces of our lives are stuffed in my backpack and carry-on. Diapers, a couple favorite toys, a half-used roll of paper towels, mini foam paint roller (I cannot speak enough praises. It's washable! I washed and reused and touched up four rooms of different color paint using the same paint roller that is still good!).

I wrote a note to the new owners along with leaving a couple trash and yard waste stickers for goodwill, along with our spendy unused backup sump pump and other goodies. I stuffed the note into the junk drawer. Will they use it as a junk drawer, too? My curiosity is peaked.


In our garage, the names of the two kids before us were painted on the wall by the previous owners. I added our kids' initials, but in chalk. I wish I had painted them, keeping Andrew permanently there too. But it's just chalk. There is a handwritten journal in a hall closet that was left by the previous owners that we discovered years into living there. I left that as a sort of time capsule of the home. It just seemed fitting.

I had a gift card to a restaurant that I received in the mail the week after we left for Reno. It was for a restaurant with only two Chicago locations. Knowing I was coming back for this, I offered to treat a friend to dinner and we showed up to a closed sign. Instead we ate a not-so-free dinner at my favorite restaurant in the 'burbs. My friends took me on trips to the hardware store and brought over Diet Cokes and took me to a new restaurant and brought me Popsicles and dropped me off at the airport. I managed 5 visits with girlfriends weaved into those 52 hours that all were last minute arrangements and it just all seemed to flow perfectly. The spending money part wasn't the highlight, but it was an inevitable necessity. I didn't imagine attic work would be a few thousand dollars, but alas. Such is life. We are feeling the bleed.

I said my goodbyes and definitely had some real moments of shed tears over the home we bought for the long term. We expected 30 years there and made it 6+. I can't say I'm sad, because we chose to move, but it certainly was bittersweet. Our intentions were pure and out of love and naivety and we left more heartbroken and more full of love than when the journey in that home began. There was a lot of growth there. 

My goodbyes didn't last long, as I announced to my friend after our dinner at this awesome new downtown Naperville place that I had to return to grab my bagel out of the fridge of my empty house. And then it was out for good. It's ours for 24 more days. Closing can't come soon enough.

Fifty-two total hours in Chicago from plane touchdown to takeoff. The kids, the husband and I were separated in three states for those hours. What a way to go out. I'm ready for my bed. In my bedroom in Reno. And that sign to be switched to SOLD. And a great big smoocher from the husband.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dusting Off the Credential

Every time we move, I update my teaching credential and transfer it to the new state. I earned my BA, credential and MA in California where I then taught. Then moved to Illinois where I had to pay the man more money to test out of their silly state history, math and Science and also prove my knowledge of best teaching practices. Not to boast, but I received nearly a perfect score in every single category (which means either it is really easy to pass Illinois teaching tests or I was a lucky guess on the state history and state capitol stuff because I seriously know nothing about Springfield. I've never even been to Springfield other than driving through to get to St. Louis.)

Now moving to Nevada, I've quickly learned that the state is hurting for teachers. They hold teacher hiring fairs, which is something I've never heard of in my professional life. Other than being approached by a teaching recruiter (those exist?!) in the Denver airport once and being asked if I would ever consider working in Dallas because positions were flying from schools, I'd never imagined the possibility of acquiring a teaching job so easily. I visited the Nevada DOE site to see just how many hundreds of available jobs there really are for the taking.

In Illinois, teaching jobs were hard to come by, just as difficult as they are were California. I was super lucky to be hired just off the boat of earning my credential at the ripe age of 23. But now, I've been a stay-at-home-mom with some teaching experience at college level and some specialist teaching assignments in random schools of Illinois, but mostly I've just taught my own kids about life.

Which doesn't exactly translate into updating resume experience.

With both kids in preschool (part time) this year, I'm using that time to get my credential and resumes updated and in good working order for a potential entrance back into classroom life next fall. If the jobs are to be had and we are staying put in Reno for the time being, it would be the perfect opportunity to jump back in where they actually could use me. And, it would be an easy way to bump that resume back up to working order. There's something appealing about not having to fight out the newbie college grads and knowing that because of their desperation for teachers, they might be willing to look past my advanced degree (translation: must be paid more) so they can fill the job.

There are real logistics to work out, like how we'd manage Benjamin's care before and after kindergarten (!) during the transition time and what full-day preschool/daycare combo we would work out for Claire. That would likely start in the winter when preschools begin to accept students for the following year. With a potential extra income coming in, we might even consider the super expensive college tuition type montessori school for Claire, because I'd like to know that if I'm headed back into the classroom that I'm giving her the best alternative to mom, at least according to their tuition cost. One would hope they are striving for the highest heights with the quote I received over the phone that sent my jaw dropping. And the crazy part is, their student capacity is maxed out this year. South Reno can be kinda fancy.

Chatting with two of my CA teacher friends today, it putting teaching back on my mind. With the house (hopefully) closing next month and therefore providing us with closure on our exit from Illinois, it just seems natural to start looking ahead to our next steps. It's a bit sooner than I pictured going back, but one I think might actually work well for us as a family in the upcoming year. Exciting things have already happened and exciting things are yet to come.

I'm just happy I'm not headed back this year, as the possibility of teaching kindergarten would just about knock the wind out of me. Andrew, this would be your year, buddy. I hate that it's not.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ben the Book Worm

Ever since he was a tiny nugget, he's been a book lover. He's been bringing me books from the moment he could walk, without end. I actually have to deny him book reading just so I can get meals prepared and us out of the house for fresh air. He would honestly be perfectly content sitting at home reading books all day long.

I know I shouldn't, but I totally revoke book reading before bed as a consequence for being difficult during the bedtime routine. Almost always, he complies. Because seriously, somehow he loses all ability to dress himself and be cooperative as soon as we mention it's bedtime.

A promised trip down the street to the Little Free Library was enough to get Benjamin out of his near hour-long tantrum today and his mood immediately changed upon the procurement of another book (and trading in one of sister's to get it). We've even started a word wall of words he knows by sight. He's stubborn as can be, so hopefully his love for books will translate into easy reading in the next couple years.


We have 39 books checked out from the library right now with more on hold. It's kind of an obsession (and it helps we have no toys at our house while we transition our stuff to Reno... which will happen mid-August). The new library is on a county system, so it's totally awesome that books can be checked out from any of the libraries and magically appear, ready and waiting in the hold section at our convenience. I think about the book transfer people and how that has to be a full time job for someone in a county system, especially in a county with 11 libraries (not all created equal though).

We're partaking in the summer reading program and each kid gets to choose a free book every two weeks, just for participating. This week, Benjamin chose a book on sharks and I chose Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems for Claire. (She's not as book hungry, but brother is encouraging her interest.) It's one of the Elephant and Piggie books. Benjamin immediately wanted to read it in the middle of the kid's section at the library, then realizing it was written by the same author as his favorite, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

Families were all around the library, waiting for storytime (which was also awesome except the "surprise visitor" being Wolfie from the Nevada Wolf Pack who scared the daylights out of Claire). I started reading the book to Benjamin and we were literally both in tears, it was so funny. Maybe I'm easy to humor these days, but I was crying. People all around were staring and other kids were coming over, interested.

So I went ahead and put more of those Elephant and Piggie books on hold. The 50th read of the now deemed "funny book" isn't nearly as funny to Mama anymore, but Benjamin is still rolling.