100 days…

I’m not sure how we’ve already arrived at the 100th day of school but today is the day. Briggs was collecting 100 legos last night to put in a bag and take to school today. He had some funny ideas before he landed on legos. 100 blades of grass? It may be little tough to do projects with blades of grass. Fine I’ll do legos. 🙂

Hitting the 100 day mark means we are over half way through the school year. We just had parent teacher conferences where I could tell Bennett’s and Cannon’s classes are soaring and Briggs’ class is limping along. My four oldest who attended the same school had such great teachers in kindergarten that I took for granted just how good we had it. Now, I am in the classroom trying to help more than I ever have been and it’s leaving me more frustrated than anything.

But I was reminded last week while talking to a friend that even a classroom that is limping along is better than being forced into remote learning. It’s not as bad as it could be – and the reality is, the previous kindergarten teachers set such a high bar that I’m selfishly wanting that same experience for my youngest and it just isn’t happening. And that’s okay. At least my kids are at school having a very normal school experience this year – not every one can say that. And I’m grateful that it’s the kindergarten class limping and not Bennett’s 5th grade class – much easier to recover from that!

Desk pet…

Having had so many kids go through elementary school – we have seen all sorts of different ideas to motivate great class behavior, and most of them revolve around some type of “class store”. Some years they’ve earned money that they can visit the store each week where parents donate items. Some have collected points where they have an auction every once in a while. I have a love/hate relationship with these motivation systems. I love that it motivates, but then having to constantly donate to the class store little trinkets that I throw away once my kid gets home gets exhausting. My favorite things teachers offered for sale were homework passes, or lunch in the classroom with the teacher.

But this year, when I sat in Cannon’s curriculum night classroom, I was intrigued by the teachers approach to the classroom store. She created a fictional “desk pet” that the kids would spend their classroom money on. I initially thought the teacher was a genius because it was something I had never seen done before. And then I was even more impressed when I saw it in action.

I volunteer in the classroom and I happened to be working a Friday morning when the class store was open. Kids came to the back of the room one at a time with their money to make their purchases. To start, kids bought a little pet and with it came a little plastic dome house. But as kids earned money they could upgrade their house to a plastic box. They purchased rugs and blankets (fabric squares) and pillows (little pom pom) and food (also erasers). They can even purchase decorations for different holidays. Not only that, but their desk pets can have their own little pets. The kids were so into this little desk pet. It’s like the little tomagachi pets we used to have as kids.

Even better is the fact that this little desk pet has become a part of their classroom learning experience. They write paragraphs about their desk pet, they learn descriptive words with their desk pet and they draw habitats for their pets.

Cannon loves his little lion and works hard to make sure he’s comfortable and well fed. As a parent I’m grateful for an innovative teacher who is changing up the way “classroom stores” typically operate.

Back to school dinner…

Chinese food takeout has become our traditional back to school dinner. I used to make a beautiful homemade meal and then one year in order to simplify we grabbed chinese food and it’s been that way ever since!

This year we are focusing on the idea of “Love, Share, Invite”. It is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. We talked around the table of different examples in these categories and Briggs and Hallie had vastly different ideas, but fitting for both of them all the same.

We reminded the kids just how lonely school can be for some kids (which is a foreign concept for many kids when they go to school with the same neighborhood kids year after year) and what a difference feeling loved and being invited can make. Can’t we all afford to feel loved? And who doesn’t want to be invited into the circle?! To the lunch table? To the swim party?

This year, now that we’re in person, we’re focusing on reaching out.

First day of school 2021…

Our highly anticipated day (with extreme temperatures of 111 degrees) has come and gone and each kid came home with their own version of the day.

Briggs had a great first day of school. He did tell us that the class almost missed their recess because the kids weren’t singing good enough. Not sure what that was about, but luckily the class redeemed themselves and the crisis was averted. He loved his pepperoni and crackers he had at lunch and he didn’t understand anything his Spanish teach said.

Cannon was happy to report that he sat by Avery at lunch and on the bus and played with her at recess so that is basically his best day. He also enjoyed his music class today and was a little bummed they didn’t do more math. 🙂

Bennett had nothing bad to report. He loved playing soccer at recess and there’s a new kid that is really good. He talked about how sweaty he got at recess and just how sweaty the collar of his shirt stayed long after recess. He has decided collar shirts are better left for cooler weather. He loved the fact that his teacher gave him an apple today and read them some stories.

Hunter admitted to being a little anxious starting junior high, mixed with some excitement. Of course as soon as he got there, and started classes he said it was all good. He recognized a lot of people from his school last year, sports and other social connections. He loved riding the bus (which was not the case for Hallie) he figures its just another 1/2 hour that he can spend with his friends each day!

Hallie came home less than enthusiastic. Her high school is undergoing some serious renovations but they’re only part way done and none of the area she sees has been updated yet, she was hoping it would be further along, instead, the campus is just torn up. She was also bummed that she didn’t have more friends in her classes. In a school of almost 4000 kids the chances of knowing people in your classes are slim – but there’s always a hope. And that hope was dashed today. The redeeming factor of the day was her friend’s birthday who brought Cane’s for lunch. The good thing about Hallie is she easily makes friends so although she doesn’t know any kids in her classes today, she’ll make friends before long.

Tomorrow is another day – a half day, but another day nonetheless!

Love where you live…part 1…

I have found my people in the neighborhood where we live! The people who are quick to respond to my mass text that asks who is willing to bring water balloons to ambush the kids getting off the bus on the last day of school. It’s become a neighborhood tradition that everyone looks forward to. A tradition that was squashed last year with COVID and the cancellation of school.

But this year we brought it back in full force. We had THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of balloons thanks to all the neighbors who contributed. (Which is made significantly easier thanks to ZURU quick fill balloons party pack. I remember the painful process of filling up balloons when I was a kid and you filled up 10 and didn’t want to fill up anymore!)

We made a call to the school and bus dispatcher to let them know that EVERY kid would be getting off the bus at our house for end of the year popsicles. The kids that have been here for a while knew exactly what “popsicles” really meant. The kids exited the bus to greet the neighborhood parents, younger siblings, and any kids in the neighborhood not riding the bus for one reason or another armed with water balloons.

And then the epic battle erupted. I’m always amazed at how fast that many water balloons can go. I saw all the coolers, bins, kiddie pools filled with balloons and I thought it would take forever to go through all them. Newsflash: It didn’t take much time at all!

Some kids timidly avoided the ring of fire and they tossed balloons from the outskirts. And then there’s those (Steve included) that couldn’t help but be right in the middle, soaking wet.

The drawback to throwing so many balloons is you have to pick up that many balloon pieces. You would think it would take longer than it does. But once the battle is over, everyone, kids and adults, picks up tiny fragments of colorful plastic all over our lawn and street. Within 10 minutes, it’s all cleaned up and we hand out all the popsicles.

It’s such a simple tradition. The kids love it and every year the bus driver sticks around and videos the event.

It brings our neighborhood together.

It strengthens our community.

And it’s another reason why we love where we live.