Fifth Grade Frustrations

img_4017My fifth-grader is having a school meltdown. I’m reminded of those toddler tantantrums of yesteryear that I thought were behind me.

“I can’t take it anymore. I hate school. I want to be home schooled,” She wails and rants.

I watch her scribble her homework out and then accuse me of  “not caring.” Tears roll down her cheeks as she tells me “I don’t get it” and “I don’t understand.”  The reality is I DO care and I DO get it. Learning life lessons is hard. Watching her learn them is painful,  but I know that I can’t and probably shouldn’t protect her from them.  Not everything comes easily.  Instructions aren’t always clear. Distractions make it hard to concentrate. Deadlines are stressful. Sometimes, you have to do things you don’t always like to do.  Not everyone is “nice,” including teachers.

As I retreat into my mind, I get quiet and thoughtful trying to figure out a way to help her deal with her emotions when she’s frustrated. I try to put myself in her place. What was fifth grade like when I was a kid? It’s a foggy haze that I vaguely remember. Was fifth grade this traumatic for my older daughter? I can’t remember. For my youngest though the struggle is very real. The part that breaks my heart most  is when I hear the words “I can’t” come out of her mouth.  Because, I know she most definitely CAN.

“What are you going to do?” she pleads with me.

“What do want me to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. S-O-M-E-T-H-I-N-G!!! I need help!” she shrieks.

“What do you need help with?” I try to stay calm.

“I don’t know!” she screams.

I get down on her level and read through the math problems. Patiently, I try to explain the word problem to her. She tells me I am wrong and refuses to listen to me. (I am reminded of the scene in Airplane where the woman is hysterical (you know the woman with eggs coming out of her mouth) and a line of people are waiting to ‘help’ her get a grip.)  My daughter won’t be reasoned with. I want her to calm down and listen to me, but instead she screams at me, breaks her pencil and storms out of the room. I’m frustrated and she’s frustrated.  I’m at a loss on how to make homework time go smoother. Should I punish her?  Reason with her?  Ignore her?

She is very conscientious and is far from lazy. She gets down on herself when she gets a “B” and is afraid of being let behind. I’ve told her time after time I am proud of her for the effort she puts forth. She doesn’t need to strive for perfection.  She responds well to positive reinforcement. Last year she thrived trying to get the most “Dojo points.”  She’d get excited to do extra math problems to earn “dojos.” It got to the point where I’d ask her if it was “real” homework or just extra credit for dojo.  She’d get that look on her face and I’d know it was for dojo. Even though her motivation was to earn dojo’s, she was learning and excelling in her classes along the way. She loved to go to school and she loved to learn.

This year the paradigm has shifted. Instead of being rewarded for positive behaviors, the students (at least from her perspective) are punished for negative behaviors. She is fearful of doing wrong and getting “yelled” at. This is probably the most frustrating part for me as a parent. Failure is part of the learning process. Failure leads to growth. I want her to be encouraged to fail and try again. I dont’ want her to be afraid to fail.  I want her to be afraid to stop trying.  I want her to thrive. I don’t want her love for learning to be squashed by fear.  I also know that you don’t get a gold star for everything positive you do either. It’s a fine line.

Eventually she calms down enough to finish her homework and apologizes to me for taking her frustrations out on me. I give her a hug and accept her apology. I tell her I care and encourage her to focus on what she does like about school instead. If only we could skip over that hard part inbetween and get to the hugs quicker. I guess that can be said about most difficulties in life.

One thing’s for sure, I’ll be glad when fifth grade is over!

Does any one have any helpful tips for getting through homework?  Is fifth grade harder or is it just me?

My Little Card Sharks

photo credit: Velvet Android via photopin cc
photo credit: Velvet Android via photopin cc

The smile that flashes across my six-year-old’s face when she beats me at a game of cards warms my heart. She beams from ear-to-ear. She tries to be a gracious winner, but is unsuccessful (I suspect she gets that from her grandpa – who used to make us kiss his feet when we lost at euchre. I’m still haunted by his “kissy, kissy” taunts as he waved his stinky foot around).

Both my girls love to play cards – Go Fish!, Uno, War, Slap Jack and Trash top the list today. The youngest though by far loves to play the most (unless she’s losing). Her favorite is a game called “Trash.” This is a new one for me that she learned in preschool. We all spent this afternoon playing her beloved game with my parents. Low and behold the little shark won (again) and I came in last (again). She’s either really good or really lucky. Even when I try to win (which is all the time now!), she manages to beat me the majority of the time. I do have to keep an eye on her though, as she likes to skip my turn if I’m not paying attention and my oldest claims she cheats as her sixes become nines and vice versa or she peeks at the next card in the deck.

We have a wonderful time playing though no matter who wins and I hope we are building happy memories. Some of my fondest memories are playing cards with my parents, grandparents and sister. We’d play cards (Rummy 500,Gin Rummy, War, SkipBo, I Doubt It, Euchre, Uno and Hearts) for hours on end, laughing and talking and making memories. I’m happy to pass the card tradition on to my girls.

What about you? Do you/did you play cards? What’s your favorite game?

Dancing Girls

2013-04-18 17.19.36Sorry to disappoint anyone, but my dancing-girls are ages ten and six. We just finished up a long recital weekend. I’m drained and I’m not even a dancer. The girls performed Friday night, Saturday night and again this afternoon. The show lasted three hours and forty-five minutes minimum. Yes, you read that correctly – three hours and forty-five minutes times three shows equals almost twelve hours of my weekend I’ll never get back.

When other mom’s told me the recital would be long, I had no idea how long. Both my girls started dancing when they were three years old. However, this was the first year they took dance at a full-blown, competitive dance studio. Prior to that my girls were at the lazy-mom’s dance studio. We loved Ms. Karen’s. The girls got to perform in two recitals a year instead of just one. In addition to that, there were no costumes or hair/makeup requirements. It didn’t matter if you had a side pony or a high pony. She didn’t care if you wore pink tights or tan tights. You could wear black shoes or whites shoes or tan shoes. Ms. Karen’s  focused on dancing, having fun, building self-esteem and getting the kids on the stage. Besides the monthly lesson fee and tap/jazz shoes, I only had to buy a $10 t-shirt and some black leggings for recital day. The recital was only one day and only lasted an hour. Ms. Karen broke up her classes into three separate one-hour recitals instead of one mega-long recital. In the six years my girls danced with Ms. Karen there was only one time when the girls were in two different recitals.

Sadly, Ms. Karen closed her dance studio two summers ago to focus on her daycare center. My girls were devastated. I was devastated and so was my pocketbook. Last year, in an attempt to circumvent the inevitability of enrolling them in the high-end dance studio, we tried the only other dance studio nearby. This place focused mainly on gymnastics, but offered several dance classes. Neither of the girls made it past the December recital. My oldest took jazz and there was only one other girl in her class. She didn’t show up for the recital and my daughter ended up doing a solo dance. She was a trooper though and did a great job. The youngest didn’t like doing “ballet” and thought her $60-costume was too itchy. Lucky for me, we weren’t committed to a year-long program and didn’t return for the spring session.

Which brings us back to the high-end dance studio. Don’t get me wrong the production was spectacular, the costumes were adorable and the girls had a great time. It’s just the mommy-stress of it all, the expensive costumes, getting their hair just so, making sure their headband went the right direction and that the tights had no holes that got to me. That and the waiting around for hours. The girls were each in one number, but we couldn’t leave as everyone danced in the grand finale at the end of the show. By 9:30 PM we were all tired and grouchy.

I’m not sure what we’ll do next year. I wish I could find a happy, medium dance studio… I’m guessing I’ll be sitting in the dressing room doing hair and makeup, and waiting for the grand finale. My youngest is more excited than ever about dance now and wants to do baton too. My oldest was ready to quit, but a friend doing hip-hop convinced her to dance another year. On the bright-side, I have three months away from running the kids to and from various activities as after this afternoon all their activities are done until September. Yeah me!

My June Bug

a-to-z-letters-jRain, sleet and wind swirl outside my window this dark April night. The warmth of June’s just a hopeful dream. But, as my daughters and I brainstormed “J” words that I could blog upon, my oldest hit on June – her favorite month. Being one of my favorite months as well, I settled on the subject of my J blog post for the tenth day of the A to Z blog challenge.

What’s so special about June? June brings with it the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, lightning bugs, flip-flops, lemonade and long evening walks to the park. But most importantly, eleven-years ago on the 17th of this coming June, my beautiful first-born daughter made an early entrance into this world and I became a mother – the best and hardest job I’ve ever had.

I can remember the day as if it were yesterday. She wasn’t due until July 25th, yet I spent the day before her birth-cleaning the house, doing laundry and packing my hospital bag – just in case. I’m one of those people who always likes to be prepared. I’d invited my parents over supper to celebrate Father’s Day. It was a warm beautiful evening and we’d just finished eating when I felt something “weird” down “there.” I went to bathroom and my waterbroke a’la Niagra Falls.

“It’s too early,” I worried as my mom helped lie down in the back seat of the car and timed my contractions. We sped to the hospital 45 minutes away with my Dad following behind us. In the ER the nurse confirmed via the “wet towel test” that indeed my water had broken and I was in labor.

“It’s a full moon,” they concluded when they took me to the last open room on the OB floor.

The doctor explained that they weren’t going to stop my labor as most 34 weekers did quite well.. I was still terrified. Because she was a preemie, they took me to the OR and two pushes later at 5:39 AM she arrived. I didn’t get to hold her. The doctor showed her to me briefly and handed her over to the neonatologists. What seemed like an eternity passed. They wrapped her and put her in an incubator. I wouldn’t actually get to hold her until almost two hours later. Relief and happiness flooded me when they finally placed my baby girl in my arms.Jun17_02Emily

I cried hard when they released me, two days later, without my baby. Having problems with the “suck-swallow-breathe” response, she spent a long two weeks in the NICU. She came home on a heart monitor, but I was grateful for it and the peace of mind it brought with it.

And now looking at the young girl who is almost as tall as I am, it’s hard to believe she was ever that 4 lb 15 ounce little peanut. She’s beautiful on the inside and out. She’s kind and compassionate toward others. She’s smart, sassy and sensitive. She’s creative and crafty. She likes to dance, ride bikes, write stories, read books, and eat ice cream. She hates scary movies (I wonder where she got that from) and thunderstorms. She’s my daughter and I love her.

Give Me Some Of That Energy!

a-to-z-letters-e“Come on, let’s race Mom! Ready, set, go!”

The girls are off and all I see is a blur of their long hair flying behind them and their legs stretching across the grass to our destination. I’m not even going to try to win and I slow down to a walk and watch and smile. I sit on the park bench and watch them swing and slide and cross the monkey bars. Where do that get their energy? I wonder. Thirty minutes later they’re racing back to the van.

Back at home the dance and twirl and jump off the couch. I lay on the couch and really want to get my hand on their elusive energy. I day dream about all things I could get done in a day if I had a quarter of their energy. My mind wanders and ponders the nature of energy (which could be why I don’t get everything done I need!). What is energy? This invisible force that makes my children laugh and run, lights up my house and powers the engine in my van? It is a mystery to me. I’m sure it really can’t be contained in one of those little bottles of “energy drink” they sell at the gas station. Although, there are days when I might be willing to give it a try!

According to Dictionary.com, energy is “The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity” or “A feeling of possessing such strength and vitality.” The physicist’s definition at Northwestern say energy is “the ability to do work, and work is moving something against a force, like gravity.”

Ok, it’s still a mystery to me what energy actual consists of. I just know my girls have more of it than I do! I’m sure if I ate better, sleep more and exercised consistently, I’d have more of that wonderful elixir, but I just don’t have the energy:)  What I need now is motivation!

What about you? Do you have a lot of energy?

Trick or Treat? Bah Humbug!

Halloween inevitably brings with it the custom of “trick or treat.” I don’t know who thought up the wonderful tradition of dressing up in a costume and going door-to-door to beg strangers for candy. I could probably find out in a matter of seconds via Google or Wikipedia (how did we ever live without these wonderful tools), but I actually really don’t care all that much who that genius was. It won’t change anything. Trick or treat will still come. Bah Humbug!

Yes, I know it’s the wrong holiday, but I think am the Scrooge of Halloween or at least trick or treat. Of all the holidays we have, Halloween is probably one of my least favorites. Even as a child the thought of trick or treating filled me with dread. It’s not that a I didn’t want candy…I did. Knocking on a stranger’s door to ask for candy (especially if they too dressed up and had  scary decorations) that could potentially be poisoned or razor-blade filled  made my shy, introverted body queasy. Thus, I would always make my younger sister go first. (I was just being polite. No, really, you go ahead…)

These days trick or treat appeals to me about as much as it did back then. Alas my daughters love to go and so I go for them. As an adult, my aversion to trick or treat is less about stranger danger and more about the weather. The weather? Yes, the weather. What does weather have to do with Halloween you might ask? In Northwest Ohio – everything. Nine out of ten times the weather on Halloween is, how shall I put it? Crappy. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s rainy. This year will be no different. In fact, I’ve already been given one reprieve as the festivities have already been postponed once due to sleet and high winds and rescheduled for tomorrow night.

Halloween Past
Halloween Past

As we live out in the boonies, we’ll meet up with some friends who live in town to trick or treat. The houses are much closer together. As usual, the girls will bundle up with sweat pants and sweatshirts under their costumes and complain about having to put winter coats on over them. I can empathize with them in that regard as both a former trick or treater, who wanted to show off her cool costume, and as a mother, who just paid a small fortune for the costumes of choice and wants everyone to see how cute they look in them. (In the picture on the right is a pic from a rare Halloween past when we had beautiful weather and the girls were still young enough that they agreed to wear the coordinating costumes I got them!)

After the first block or so of candy gathering, I’ll have a pocket full of empty candy wrappers and be carrying the itchy wig I paid way too much for, while giving the youngest a piggy back ride, because she’s too tired to walk. Trick or treat lasts an hour and a half or so, and lucky for me the girls aren’t greedy and are ready to call it quits after 45 minutes or so and head back home for some pizza and more candy.

Now you may think I’m against trick or treat completely. I’m not. Truly, I’m not. Back before kids, my hubby and I lived in town. I loved passing out the candy to the kids in our neighborhood. Seeing the kids all dressed up and watching the smiles on their faces as I gave them their treats was great fun. Unfortunately, as I said we live out in the boonies and get no trick or treaters. Not even one. Though I still buy candy just in case:)

What about you? Would you rather trick or treat, pass out candy or skip the whole thing?

Fun (?) At The County Fair

Image
Fun Times!

Our week-long County Fair ended last Thursday. I am still recuperating from the fun of it all and trying lose the extra five pounds I gained from the vast array of “treats” I indulged in, because ‘Hey, it only comes around once a year…”

The county fair is kind of a ‘big deal’ around here. All the school kids in the county actually get an extra day off school just to attend even though they already have the entire weekend including Labor Day to go. The reason being that in a farming community a good portion of the kids are in 4-H or FFA and are showing animals that they supposedly need to take care of (I’m not implying the animals aren’t actually being cared for, but I saw a lot of parents in the barns ‘helping out’ including myself – I’ll get to that in a bit).

When you live in the of nowhere there aren’t a lot of big events to look forward to – we aren’t exactly a cultural mecca, but that’s OK. The fair in and of itself really is kind of, well almost fun.This past fair has most notably been one of our family’s best which is in sharp contrast to last year’s experience, which while it could be considered a “learning” experience wasn’t one of our better fairs.

You see last year was my  daughter’s first year she was old enough to be in 4-H and take an animal to the fair. She was so excited! At the previous year’s fair, she’d gone through the various barns trying to figure out what animal she’d want to take. She landed on rabbits. This was fine by me. I could actually help her with this project, they were small and cute. Perfect and when I found she could take a breed rabbit and not actually have to breed it, I was even happier with her choice. So that spring we got her first rabbit and all the accompanying rabbit stuff (more stuff than you would think). She spent the next three months, doting on and spoiling the little guy.

A month and a half before the fair, my husband treated the bunny with Frontline as a flea preventative while he was treating all our barn cats. Unfortunately, for the rabbit, my daughter and my pocketbook, Frontline is toxic to rabbits. After several weeks of giving him IV fluids, hand feeding, and vet visits, the poor little guy went to rabbit heaven. My daughter was devastated because now not only was her little pet gone, she also couldn’t show at the fair. The deadline to have the project rabbit in her possession had already passed, so even though she got another rabbit, it wasn’t eligible to go to the fair. My heart broke for her as she watched all her friends and club mates show their rabbits. She handled it well though, and I was proud of her.

This year we didn’t make the “one” rabbit mistake again. We had a whole garage full of the furry beasties. She took both a market and a breed project. We actually had two litters of rabbits. They are quite cute. She ended up taking five to the fair and coming home with two first place ribbons, a third place, fourth place and fifth place ribbon and the Reserve Champion Breed Rabbit. She could not have had a better experience. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off any of our faces the whole day.

But the fair drug on for four more days after the rabbit judging. We did the rides (or the girls did and I stood watching and sweating in the hot sun – still better than being subjected to the Freak Out, Orbiter or Zipper – although I might not have gained those extra pounds if I had). We played the carnival games and the girls brought home a gold fish, which died three days later (after I bought fish food, etc.). We visited the smelly rabbit and poultry barn two to three times a day (I swear it is the chickens stinking up the joint) and watered, fed, and cleaned bedding. I started questioning bringing five rabbits to the fair by the second day when my daughters watched the rabbits, while I scooped…umm…used bedding. And we ate the junk food (I mentioned that once or twice didn’t I?) – shakes, funnel cakes, fries, cotton candy, caramel corn, pop corn… I’m starting to get hungry just thinking about it. Good thing it doesn’t come around again until next year or I would weigh 500 pounds!

Do you go to your county fair? What’s your favorite part?