Kindergarten Graduation

6.27.2015

It's official.  My son starts first grade and public school next year. 

This week was bitter-sweet for all of us.  Of course, I'm proud that Lewie is growing up and that he had such a wonderful kindergarten experience at Surreybrook.   Still, I'm sad that he's getting "older" right before my eyes, and that when he enters a classroom of 17 children next year instead of just 6, he will be a little less sheltered and a little more savvy to the ways of the world.

The Surreybrook Kindergarten Graduation for Lewie was everything we would expect from a very non-conventional school.  (I wrote about the curriculum in "School Days in a Nature Based Classroom.")  The graduation party was held outside under some shaded trees in the back yard of the school.  Everyone was dressed very casually and comfortably (no graduation gowns or caps), and the children played with each other while the parents lined up to say goodbye to the kindergarten teacher, who was so wonderfully nurturing to all of the kids this year.  (I was happy to find out that she tutors children in her house during the summer, so Lewie will still be seeing her every Monday for an hour-long reading and writing session.)

Other teachers, such as Lewie's art, Spanish, music, and science teacher, also came out to say goodbye to the parents and children.  We took pictures of the children with their teachers, the children with their parents, and then one last group photo.  Lewie's kindergarten teacher surprised them all with a parting gift bag of goodies, and she, of course, was showered with flowers and gifts from the parents too. 

Lewie and Grammy


So proud of my little boy!



All six kindergarten graduates with their most favorite teacher in the world!

Special "goody bags" for all the children--written in their favorite colors.



One final group lesson outside in Nature's Classroom.

Lewie and his most favorite teacher.


Enjoying an orange popsicle before leaving...
Overall, it was a very nice and relaxing party to celebrate our children's transition from kindergarten to first grade.  One other little girl in Lewie's class will be moving on to Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls, but the other children are moving on to schools in their own towns of Bethany, Cheshire, and Hamden.  I am hoping to invite them to Lewie's birthday party in the summer, but after that, it's curious as to whether the friendships will last...

I'm sorry to see this year go.  Lewie will be remaining at Surreybrook for their summer camp session of 6 through 12 year-olds, but after that, he moves on to a "big school."  We went for a tour last week, and I could see that he was nervous.  He wanted to see the "classroom and the kitchen."  He didn't expect that they would show him 18 classrooms (three for every grade) and a huge cafeteria filled with tables and chairs--not to mention the library, the gym, the nurse's station, etc. etc.

I plan on taking him back there multiple times during the summer, so he can get used to the buildings and the play ground, but other than that, the goal is just to enjoy the summer as much as possible before September comes.  Does anyone have suggestions on how to help a child feel more excited and less afraid about starting school?  I'll take any advice!

Tampa

6.19.2015

Last week, we went on our long awaited summer vacation to Tampa, Florida.  After going here last year and having a blast, we quickly decided that we wanted to make this trip an annual tradition.  Simply stated, there's just so much to do in Tampa, and each time we go on vacation, we're lucky if we even get to do 1/8th of the activities.  For example, there's Bucsch Gardens, the Tampa Zoo, Adventure Island, and tons of other beaches and costal towns that we still haven't even ventured to yet.

This week, our focus was going back to LEGOLAND for two days (we loved it last year and knew Lewie would enjoy going back) and hanging out at our resort's pool and beach.  Some extras that we were able to squeeze in that were different from last year were taking the Trolley Bus to John's Pass (a cool shopping area with a baby alligator petting zoo), having a fancy dinner at Guy Harvey's RumFish Grill (the restaurant has a 33,500 gallon fish tank that was built by Animal Planet's hit series "Tanked"), and venturing to our neighbor hotel, the TradeWinds Island Grand Beach Resort, that has the coolest beach slide ever!

My husband and I have a motto that our vacations need to be just as relaxing as they are adventurous.  We could have certainly packed in more things to do into our six-day itinerary, but we would have come home exhausted (and quite possibly--BROKE).  Also, on some days it rained, and we decided that it was way more fun to just curl up inside our hotel and watch a good movie than get soaked trying to make it from point A to point B during Florida's famous, wild thunder and lightening storms.

My favorite part of the trip, hands down, was having my son wake up with me every morning around 5:45 a.m., so we could walk on the beach and watch the sunrise together.  On the first day that he came with me, I wasn't sure he enjoyed it; however, during the next morning, when I thought I was sneaking out before he or Daddy would notice, his little head popped out from the hotel room (his eyes still half closed from sleeping) and called down the hall, "Mommy, Can I come with you?"  From that point on, he was my little morning buddy, and each morning we would walk for a good hour before returning to the hotel room.  (Our walks made such an impact that he woke me up this Wednesday around the same time and said, "Mommy, Can we walk together this morning and watch the sunrise?"  We didn't because I don't know where we can get a good view of the sunrise by our house, but I'm still trying to think of a place...I'd like to continue our morning routine--at least on the weekends since weekday mornings are just a little too frantic around here...)

Here are some highlight pictures and videos from our trip:




The new hotel that was just built this year!

Lewie and Daddy on the "Island in the Sky" Ride.

A mini-Lego rendition of the Excaliber Hotel in Las Vegas (where my husband proposed to me).

Ice cream!!


Pretending to sleep under a pillow cave.








Celebrating our 9th year wedding anniversary at the RumFish Grill.




A beautiful sunset!




Watching the sun rise in our PJs.






A wedding about to take place in an hour...

The TV Interview

6.09.2015


When I accepted my promotion eight months ago, I knew it would be a lifestyle change.  My mornings became a little earlier (around 4:30 or 5 a.m.), my work days became a little later (anytime between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.), and my responsibility became greater.  Still, I made a promise to myself that I would make up for busy weekdays by being fully present on the weekends and by taking time off during the week when I could--to be with my little guy, of course.  My motto has become, "Work hard; play harder."

There are days when I long for a simpler, quieter life--the one I had when I resigned from my full-time job when Lewie was first born.  Still, my work does have its perks; it provides me with tremendous growth and learning opportunities, and it pushes me to move out of my comfort zone and make strides in areas that I would have otherwise been too scared to pursue on my own...

At the end of May, I was requested to speak on two major news programs in Connecticut to promote our Division of Professional and Graduate Studies at Albertus Magnus College.  It was an honor, to say the least...however, knowing that I'm an introvert by nature and that I would much rather write my thoughts than speak them in public, I was NERVOUS.  I came up with a list of possible questions, and I rehearsed answers to them again, and again, and again...

http://www.wfsb.com" title="WFSB 3 Connecticut">WFSB 3 Connecticut


http://wtnh.com/2015/05/29/albertus-magnus-can-help-full-time-workers-get-degrees/
http://wtnh.com/2015/05/29/albertus-magnus-can-help-full-time-workers-get-degrees/

I must say that I debated writing about my television interviews on my blog.  This has been traditionally a space I use to talk about my little guy and my family--not work. Still, my husband has been majorly supportive (posting the links on Facebook for the entire world), and my son has been excited  to "see Mommy on TV."  (Little does he know that it will be my own lesson to him that sometimes we need to push ourselves to try new things in life--even when they are incredibly scary...)

At this time, I'm glad the interviews are now over and that I've since been able to return back to a life of normalcy (a.k.a. I don't need to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to rehearse my lines...)  Thank you for allowing me to share my "other life."  I still struggle with being a working mom (I always will), but little by little, I'm learning that finding the right balance (in anything) is truly the greatest lesson of them all...

The World at Age 6

5.30.2015

The world at age 6, as it turns out, is much different than how a boring adult sees it.  For my son, the world is full of magic, super powers, and an infinite amount of time to explore, learn, create, and NEVER go to bed.  (Of course, I do make him go to sleep, but he'd much rather stay up all night thinking about how he's going to build his "super hero suit.")

Sometime around November, a switch flipped for Lewie.  The adorable little boy whose world revolved around trains was now introduced to the world of video games.  He first learned how to play Minecraft from his cousin Sarah, and then he received a Nintendo Wii U from Grammy at Christmastime.  Before long, he was learning all the intricacies of creating a world in Minecraft and unlocking Superhero characters in his LEGO Marvel game.

At first, I became frustrated.  I didn't want "pop culture" to change my son's interests or toy with his innocence.  But, after a few months, I saw how much FUN my son was having, and I realized it was time for Mommy to accept that my son was just entering a new stage in life.  It's a stage that involves homework and then the reward of doing something fun--maybe it's going to the park, maybe it's bouncing on the trampoline, or on a rainy or snowy day, maybe it's getting free time to play on the Wii U.  In life, it's all about moderation.

Yes, my son still LOVES trains, but he's sharing that space with loving Minecraft and Super Hero characters too.  Here's my son's view of the world at age 6:

I love his two missing front teeth.
Lewie:  "Mommy, I want to build Evelyn (name of girl in his class whose celebrating her birthday) a  Super Hero Suit."

Me:  "Lewie, how are you going to do that?  We don't have any material to make the suit, and I don't know how to sew."

Lewie:  "Well do we have any iron metal or diamonds?"
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Lewie:  "Mommy, can we go to that special restaurant that you took me to a million years ago when I was age 3?"

Me:  "Are you talking about Friendly's?"

We drove in the car together, and he told me all the turns I had to make to get there.  It turns out he remembered exactly how to get to Friendly's!  We had only been there three time before.
__________________

Me:  "How is the (breakfast) sausage?"  Is it as good as Grammy's?"

Lewie:  "Yes, it's spicy delicious!"
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Lewie:  "Mommy, I want to build my own mod in Minecraft.  It's going to be awesome!"

Me:  "Lewie, I think you need to know how to read and write to do that honey.  You also have to know how to code."

Lewie:  With tears..."Well can someone show me how to?"
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Lewie:  "Mommy, it's the North Star.  Can I make a wish?"

Me:  "Sure."

Lewie:  "I wish that I stay alive forever, and I wish that all of my wishes come true!"

Hmmmmm....that's a pretty tall order!
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Me:  "That raccoon is after our garbage again."

Lewie:  "Does the raccoon eat garbage?"

Me:  "Well you know...he's after Grammy's banana peels and chicken bones."

Lewie:  "Well we don't eat chicken in our house..."

Me:  "Yes we do.  You eat chicken nuggets."

Lewie:  With tears, "Well that's not real chicken."

Me:  "Lewie, what do you think chicken nuggets are made of?"

Lewie:  "Ingredients."                             
_____________________

Yes, at age six, you can do and be it all.  Lewie wants to build his own train, program and code his own computer game, and build a "Super Hero Suit" out of metal and diamonds.  It's extraordinary, but unfortunately, I find that sometimes the real world squashes his dreams, especially when I have to say things like, "we don't have metal and diamonds at home."

I hope he never loses his sense of wonder and excitement for life.  If only I could view the world again at age six too, for as it turns out, it's an age of infinite possibilities!

The "Secret" Playground

5.21.2015

Now that the warmer weather has finally arrived, our family has been making outdoor time a priority around here.  If we're not going for walks around our neighborhood or jumping on the trampoline with Little Lewie, then we're taking him to our town's recreation center to ride his bike. 

On a recent bike riding adventure, I pointed to stairs that lead to a playground at the top. 

Me:  "Lewie, do you want to check out the playground at the top of the stairs?  I used to go there all the time as a kid.  I think they have swings up there..."

Lewie:  "Sure Mommy.  Let's go!"

I took him to the playground and immediately got swept away in a flashback from the early 1980's.  From age 7 to age 12, my mom used to drop me off at this very playground for summer camp.  Here I would make crafts under the pavilion; play kick ball, dodge ball, Red Rover, and Steal the Bacon with the other kids at camp, and then swing on the swings until my mom came back at noon to pick me up.  They were fun memories even if I learned at an early age that I wasn't particularly good at sports--I was usually the last one to be picked for a team.

As we climbed up the last stair, Lewie saw the swings and immediately ran to them.  They were still as big as I remembered them to be.  The monkey bars and the two metal slides were still there too.  It was as if I was taken back to my childhood from a time machine.  The playground had not changed in the last 30+ years!

"I love this playground," Lewie blurted out as he pumped himself higher and higher on the swings. 

On our next visit to the Pent Recreation Center, Lewie asked if we could go to the "secret playground" again.  This time Daddy was with us...  Lewie headed straight for the swings while my husband was brave enough to try the monkey bars.  (Let's just say that my 44 year-old husband is not as limber as he used to be...)

Posing next to the stairs that leads up to the "Secret Playground."




This is where I would wait for my mom to come pick me up...I would watch the road for her car...



Our visit was fun, and now Lewie asks to visit the "secret playground" every time we go to the rec center.  I never asked Lewie why he calls it a "secret" playground, but I suppose it's because you can't see it from all the ball fields down below and because no one seems to use it.  It's as if it's been forgotten about.  All the other kids use the much smaller playground near the tennis courts (that doesn't have any swings...)

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest.  I loved this playground as a kid, and now my son loves it just as much too.  I hope it keeps its 70's and 80's charm!