Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Levels of Parenting

Parenting is not easy. Even if your child is as easy as they come, there are still countless decisions to be made for them, and things you have to do to care for them that make it more challenging than single or married life without kids.

If you become a parent the traditional way- i.e. you get pregnant and start your family, I would say that is difficulty level one. Plenty of challenges here, even with a calm, obedient child. In this level, there is, of course, a spectrum. On the one side you have those kids, some of whom I have had in my classroom over the years, who are fairly easy to raise. These are the kids who want to please their parents, want to please their teachers, who don't need much discipline, and are practically on autopilot. Let me tell you, you are blessed to have or teach these children.

In the medium of this parenting level one, you have the kids who are not a walk in the park. They have been gifted (and yes, as hard as it is, I believe it is a gift) with a strong independent mind. These kids don't just passively obey, but parents and teachers have to get them on board. They aren't bad kids... they just really have their own ideas on how things should happen, and if their plans and yours don't align, there are problems. I would put Remington in this category.

On the difficult spectrum of level one, and my hearts go out to them, are the kids with behavior problems and the ones with special needs. The ones with behavior problems are worse than just the independent streak because they are the ones who look for trouble, who want to be disobedient, who don't seem to care at all about authority figures. Sadly, I think, many of these kids end up in jail, even with all the best effort of their parents. I pray for parents with these kinds of kids especially, because it must be heartbreaking in addition to challenging.

The parents with special needs (or medical needs) kids born into their family have an uphill battle to get their kids the care they need, and have to face many special problems that most of us will never have to encounter. Depending on the needs their family faces, they might also have to deal with letting go of the things about children that they had anticipated, or hoped for, and come up with a new vision for what they hope they enjoy in their child's future.These parents are in my prayers too, and I am so thankful for all of the aides and special needs teachers who are out there for these kids.

Then there is difficulty level two. Note that I am not saying that everything in this level is more difficult than level one, it is just an added layer of difficulty.  I put adoptive families on level two.

There are challenges that I, and other adoptive parents have to face simply because that is the way I became a parent. There were challenges on the front end, with our house, our parenting, our finances all being scrutinized before we were even allowed to adopt. There was the paperwork and the waiting (so much waiting) and the training we had to go through. The excitement from family members was different, there were questions about our ability to conceive we had to deal with, and so many things about how and when she would come home that we didn't know.

Personally, with our international adoption, there was an element that is completely absent from parents in level one. The time from accepting referral to getting her home, where we knew she was ours, and yet we were not in control of her. We couldn't know if she was getting fed (she wasn't, not enough), if she was learning new skills, if people were loving her, caring for her, picking her up when she cried. Nothing. We had extremely little information about what was happening to her in far away Ghana, and just had to hope and pray that she would be okay until we could bring her home.

When our son was little, we barely let him out of our sight. I never pumped or formula fed him, I was physically there, feeding him, every few hours until he was at the age where he could start eating other food. With our daughter, from ten months old to seventeen months old, we experienced a stress so different than any other stress I've gone through before, and something so hard to describe unless you have been through it. We loved her, passionately and completely. We wanted the best for her, as most parents do, and yet, we could not care for her, or make sure she was cared for.

There is nothing to be done about it now... but when we saw her at just over one year old, she looked fairly healthy. She was crawling, and had some muscles. But when she came home at seventeen months old, she looked malnourished. She was. Her weight at that time, her legs, everything pointed to a little girl who wasn't getting enough to eat. When I think about it, it makes me so sad that I couldn't keep her from those hungry months. There is nothing I could do to make sure she still had food, or I would have done it.

With the time away from parents comes lingering problems, like I posted about recently. Problems worrying about food, and separation from parents that are more and different than the anxiety of a child who has never known otherwise. Your child might get hangry at lunchtime if food is on the slow side... my child starts to cry.

Like the parents in level one, this level is a spectrum of difficulty too. Kids who have been adopted later typically have more problems, and remember, this is on top of the spectrum of level one as well.
Grace has an independent personality as well as the challenges of adoption. Another kid might be adopted, but be a calm obedient child. Another child might be adopted and also be a really challenging kid anyways.

Parents who have adopted kids with special needs are extra special to me, because they usually have knowingly signed on for the challenges that come with special needs. They knew they were going to have a more challenging time with their child, they knew they wouldn't get to do all the typical things, and they picked him or her anyways.

Recently, I have become more aware of level three. Parenting a child of a different race. (This sometimes applies to parents in level one in mixed marriages, and I can't speak for those challenges personally, but I realize they exist).

Parents in level three, like myself, have challenges like level one parents, and level two parents (usually), and then have some special challenges on top of them.

First off, our family story is extremely public. Everywhere we go, everything we do, people know how we built our family. If we had adopted from Russia, it might not be.

With this comes people's questions. As Grace has gotten older, I tend to deflect more of them. I know she is listening, and having strangers ask about her birth mom or why she was abandoned is really not something to discuss in front of her, or with strangers who really don't need to know.

I'll answer the country question, as it is a fact we know and celebrate in our house, but not much past that anymore.

She knows she looks different. I know she wishes she wasn't. She had made a lot of negative comments regarding her skin in the past, which is what sparked us joining an AME church, and even though those comments have subsided, she still will tell us that she wishes she looked like us.

I understand her more than she knows. It is hard to walk around as a poster family for adopting. It is hard that she doesn't have the kind of hair I grew up with learning how to do. It is hard that I walk around in fear of being judged as a bad mother of a dark skinned child. Honestly, it would be easier if she looked like us. Would I trade her for the world? No. But does it take the whole parenting thing to another level? Yes.

This is on my heart because since the day we saw her picture I wanted to be able to do right by her as it came to her hair. One friend figured out we were going to be adopting a girl based off the pins of hair stuff I was finding. I have worked hard to read and learn and do her hair in a way that I hope other people in her community approve of.

Most of the time I thought I was doing okay. Till our church picnic. We ended up sitting with a hairdresser, and after talking about me needing some help with her hair, we have an appointment booked with her. It stung, but I hope her heart was in the right place, and honestly, I had been wanting someone to braid her hair for ease of the school year anyways, and parting has never been easy for me. Fine.

But then as I set up the classroom on Sunday, another church member came to me and talked about how it looked like I could use help with her hair, and she could teach me.

On the one hand, I am glad we are accepted enough at church for them to tell me, and honestly if that is what they see, then it is probably good I am accepting help. But it stung. A lot.

As strange as it sounds, I want to be worthy of our daughter. I want the black community to see our family, and not think that they could be doing better with her.

No parent wants to be judged for their way of raising or caring for their child, nor should they be (in most cases). For adoptive parents, the stakes are higher, and I think for transracial parents it is even more difficult.

We have to deal with all of the problems and challenges of the other two levels, but also try to make sure our child feels accepted both in our culture and theirs. That they look good to both groups, that they can relate to both groups. That somehow, when they are off on their own, they feel comfortable in their own skin, as well as in the family they were given.

Let it be said that I'm not mad or offended at what the two nice church ladies said. They are offering to help, and if the tables were turned, I might as well. It only hurts that I thought I was doing good... and wasn't doing as well as I thought.

My bottom line of this post is that first off, parenting is hard. The difficulty level of your child is also on a spectrum of difficulty. But for some parents, like me (and many others), we face additional challenges that are hard to put into words. Be kind to your fellow parents, we are all trying to raise our kids the best we can.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer 2016

I have always loved watching the Olympics, as far as I can remember. There is something really special about rooting for your country instead of a team, and there are so many sports that you typically only see on TV during this time.

Last Olympics, Remington didn't exist yet. It is interesting looking back at this time in our lives as far as Grace is concerned. The day before the Olympics started was the day we got the "waiting child" e-mail that first described little Grace to us. This was the same day that we said we were interested in her, despite her health problems. Then we had to wait (and wait, and wait) to get our official referral.

Officially we weren't referred to Grace until a few weeks after the Olympics were over, but we sure were thinking about her a lot at that time.

Now, four years later, Grace is not only ours, but at home with us, living life, thriving and having fun!
We also had the surprise blessing of Remington who will be turning three next month. Life is so much different, and better, than last time the Olympics time came around.

Next Olympics, my two littles won't be so little. Grace will be turning nine, and Remington 7. Those numbers sounds so big!

I've heard it often said that the days are long, but the years are short, and I can honestly say I totally understand it now. I have days that I can't wait until they end because the kids tantrums and whinings and need for attention have completely drained my patience. Then I think about them turning 3 and 5... and I can't believe it! I read posts by myself back when I was pregnant and it seems so much more recent than 3 years ago!

This summer has been filled with two main things- gymnastics and the beach. The weeks are filled with gymnastics for Grace (and Remington to an extent too). She is doing some gymnastics camps, but she is also taking a class at two different places, and since one of the two locations allows for unlimited classes in summer, I am taking advantage of that. What it works out to is that almost every day my kids are doing some gymnastics.

Remington thinks it is fun, loves the trampoline, and jumping in the pit blocks, but has decided he is done with it in September to start baseball (not even T-ball, a step below that).

Grace thrives on it! The best thing for me is that both locations see her talent and potential. She recently got invited (after waiting forever for it) to the advanced preschool class at one location, and has been doing level 2 for her age group at the other one. Plus, coaches at both locations tell me that she is doing things that they have seven year olds who can't do what she is doing yet.

She has gotten to ring the bell three times so far (they get to ring the bell when they accomplish a new skill)- for a cartwheel, climbing the rope, and for completing the monkey bars without help.

She can do a handstand, and genuinely has to be stopped from just doing gymnastics all day at home too.

When she turns five, we will have to figure out the new plan with her gymnastics, because she will be bumped up to a completely different level- though her being advanced at this age might let her start in advanced at five as well. For now, she loves it, it is good exercise, and seems to come relatively easy for her, so we will allow her to keep following her passion there. 

We have had three beach weekends in a row, and are so thankful for Grace's new medicine that seems to be allowing her to have beach fun without a crisis! Both kids love the beach, and are excited to go.

Remington prefers smashing castles to building them, and Blake freaked Grace out from the water for a bit when he showed her the sand crabs, but they both typically like splashing in the waves, as long as you are close to rescue them if one knocks them down.

Here is a blast of pictures with no captions, since I bet my kids will be up soon.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Personal Political Thoughts

My last post was intended as a more fair, less biased post about my political views. Clearly, I have a bias, and fairly clearly as well there is a candidate who I don't think is well suited for the diplomatic needs of the job of president.

But most people assume that when I against "him" I am for "her."

This is really the first time I have posted my political opinions on my blog, as I generally prefer to keep it about my family.

There are two big and two little candidates that I am aware of in the 2016 election. Here are my quick opinions of each.

Republican- Trump. I was trying to find the right word for him last night, and decided on caustic. He is everything in the definition and more. His words divide people. His words are sharp and bitter. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am afraid of what harm it could do to our nation if he is elected.

Democrat- Clinton. I am excited that there is finally a female nominee, as I think it is sad it has taken our nation this long to give a female the chance. My political views are closer to her than to Trump's even if I liked him. However, I do agree with many people that I don't trust her. Of the two big ones, I think she is better qualified for the job, and generally I think that the areas where she had to be dishonest have come from her climb and clamber to where she is. Bottom line, if I was in a swing state, or a state where it was really on the fence where the electoral votes would go, I would vote for her just to contribute to "not him."

Libertarian- Johnson. I know some Republican friends who are voting Johnson, and I don't mind that, as it is "not him." Personally, libertarians believe too much in the good of people. When I read their stance, it sounds like if we just get government out of the way, people will be free to do things better. I don't mind the sentiment, I just doubt it. People might talk about doing better without government, but I think things will fall apart if the government backs off that much.

Green- Stein. Green party and the Democratic party aren't too far apart, but on the ways they differ, I find I support Green. Add to that in this election the fact that I don't trust Clinton, I think Trump is acidic, and since Libertarians trust the general population too much, I think that she is the right choice for me this year. As a bonus, if Clinton gets elected, and Grace asks if I voted for the first woman president, I can say, "No, but I did vote for another woman that year."

Will she win, probably not, and then I do hope Clinton can win more people than Trump.


Hiring Committee, A Public Service Announcement

Congratulations, if you are a citizen of the United States reading this, you have just been added to our nation's hiring committee. It is now your job to help decide the right candidate for the job.

Now, as you look at the list of applicants, some of you might think, "I don't like any of them." Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with it. These are the candidates to choose from. You are not a useful part of our hiring committee if you just throw your hands up in the air and refuse to choose. We need someone in a leadership position, it is kind of an important job, and deciding not to participate doesn't help get a new leader there.

As a reminder, this is choosing someone for a job. It doesn't really matter if you like them. It matters if you think that they are the best equipped to do the job that will be opening in the near future.

Their personal religious views should not be relevant except in how they conduct themselves and interact with others. For example, if they follow the imaginary Narcissist religion that as a tenant of their religion they cut in front of everyone, take all of the supplies, and generally make everyone else refuse to work with them due to their high levels of self centered-ness... then their religion could also be relevant.

Important things to look at could be things like what is on their resume, what past work experience do they bring to the job? Do they have any past experiences that could help them on their new job? If they aren't very educated about a topic, are they willing to read and learn more about it? Has your politician of choice ever worked in politics before, for example?

Another thing to consider is temperament. You want your candidate to be someone who will work well in a crisis, as this job is a four year contract, and some problems will likely arise during that time. Is your candidate likely to assess the situation, calmly consider the best options, consult with others and decide the right course of action? Or is your candidate more likely to get angry, act on impulse, post something on twitter, and do whatever they think is best?

How well do you think they will work with others, both with the other nations, and with the people around them in power? Do they strike you as someone willing to compromise, work together towards the greater good of the nation, or do they seem to have trouble working with others?

Where do you see the nation after four years with your choice? Is there more peace? More prosperity and unity? Are we getting along well with the other nations? Or is there more unrest, more protests, and another nation ticked off at us because of something our president has said or done?

Over the next few months the candidates will be doing their best to convince you they are the best person for the job. They are allowed to make use of all media sources, including the internet and TV ads to try to sway you to their side. Remember that everything you see is not necessarily the truth- because politicians do tend to lie. The positive and negative ads are designed to get you to choose the candidate, but they are not reporting unbiased facts. Dig a little deeper, and find the truth yourself before deciding what to believe.

Their internet presence can be used in your decision, such as what they have posted on Twitter before, or youtube videos of things they have said or done.

They will also be having several interviews, also known as debates, to help you decide which one will do better in that job- not who you like better- but who will be the more effective leader. You are not required to see the interviews/debates... but it will likely help you make the best informed decision you can. These are available for your viewing pleasure on September 26th, October 9, and October 19th.

If you do watch, I have some hiring advice for you. Don't pay 100% of attention to their policies and how closely their opinions match yours, though of course you can keep it in mind as you decide who to hire. But also watch for how they conduct themselves, the words they use to answer the questions, and the way that they treat the other candidates.

In this important job search, in which you get to be on the hiring committee, part of what you are looking for is for someone who can talk with other leaders, of other governments, even governments with opinions different than ours. Hopefully we can find a leader who will be able to express and represent the opinions of the United States in a calm, respectful way that could possibly persuade them, and hopefully not offend anyone. 

Last, but definitely not least, after careful consideration of all these things and watching your candidate during the interviews, you have to go out and let the government know what your decision is for who to hire. They will not receive any telepathic votes. Tweets against the person you don't want don't count. Nothing you click on the computer for who you pick counts... you actually have to physically go somewhere on the day. If you haven't registered yet, you have till October 24th to do that.

Voting day is November 8th. NOVEMBER EIGHTH.  Write that down somewhere. Go vote.

In 2017, we will have a new person in the job of president. Their decisions will affect the entire country. Their decisions can lead to war, can lead to new rules, and/ or can lead us in a good direction. You, United States citizen, have an opportunity every four years to get to help choose who gets to make these big decisions, and I hope you choose well, for the sake of the whole country.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adoption's Lingering Effects

Most days, I don't think about the fact that Grace was adopted. She is my daughter. I get her to school, take her to gymnastics, feed her, help brush her teeth at night, do her hair, and care for her in countless other ways, like every mom does. A part of me loves when I talk about my daughter to people who have never met her and never seen her, because then I don't get any adoption questions, just regular questions about preschool, or gymnastics.

Most days, I don't think she thinks about it either. She calls us Mama and Dad, knows that Remington is her brother, and refers to all of the extended family members exactly the same way that he does. She calls it "my room" and "our house" and is not an ounce a lesser citizen than Remington. She knows Remington grew inside me, and she grew inside someone else, that he was born in our house and she was born in Ghana and we brought her home. She knows about the orphanage, but hasn't gotten to questions about her birth mother yet, or why she didn't stay with her. I am following the wisdom of books on the topic, where we answer her questions, but don't over provide information. When she asks, we will answer, but we don't bring it up.

There are a few lingering effects seen on a day to day basis. The biggest one is food. I don't think she could explain it, but she gets very, extremely, distressed when she is hungry, and food isn't immediately provided. This goes way beyond hangry. This is Grace screaming at me that she wants to go to the restaurant, as I am literally driving to the restaurant, but just not there yet. "I want to eat at the restaurant NOW!" kind of a thing. When she sees other people eating, and she isn't, again, she gets frustrated. This particular kind isn't a mad scream, but a stare down at their food, standing right in front of them, clearly hoping to be offered some. Most people actually do offer her some at that point, and I usually don't say no, because it is a lot easier to let her eat her desired object than have a fit. Sometimes, we do have to pull her away, and she isn't happy about it.

Drives home from preschool were another time that she was clearly experiencing mental distress over wanting lunch, and not having it immediately, and I would deal with screaming, kicking and tantrums on our somewhat of a drive home (preschool is about 20-25 minutes away, long story). So, as strange as it seems, I instituted lunch snacks, for my own sanity. I would always provide a medium healthy thing (applesauce packets, veggie chips, kind of a thing) to eat on the drive from preschool to home, and it made it so the ride home was pleasant instead of grumpy.

I saw another instance of what I think is a lingering adoption affect at my sister in law's when I was apparently paying too much attention to my niece, and Grace started to cry. When I brought her in the other room to talk to her, that's what she told me about why she was crying. Remington, on the other hand, was totally fine.

But the biggest thing, in my mind, that is hard about having adopted her instead of giving birth to her is the chunk of time that we missed out on. This was especially hard today as we were watching baby Remington videos, and little Grace videos, and then Grace asked, "What about baby Grace videos?" We talked about how we watched little Grace videos... but she was older when she came home, so we don't have many. I told her we have some from when we visited her in Ghana. So we watched those... but too few. We took a ton... but we were only there for a week, and every single one was taken the only place we could be with her... i.e. on the ground, in the parking lot of the orphanage.

I cannot even put into words how sad I am that I don't have a video or a picture of the day that Grace was born. I don't have a picture of her first smile, her first roll over, and I have no idea how she learned to crawl. I don't have those cute pictures of her at each month old. I barely have any pictures of her before our Ghana trip, and that was after her first birthday. I have two, literally two, pictures of her at 10 months old, when we got the referral. I have a few from the day she legally became our daughter (just before 1), and only because God was good enough to miraculously make it so that THE DAY we became her legal parents, our coordinator (from Oklahoma) happened to be visiting her orphanage in Ghana. She took a few pictures, and we are thankful for them, because otherwise that would be yet another moment we don't have. I suppose we have her passport photo too, but even that was after 1. So yeah, no monthly pictures for our sweet Grace.

I am so thankful for her, I am so thankful of our times together, I am so thankful for all the memories and time I have had with her, and I know that there are families out there (my heroes) who adopt kids significantly older than Grace, but I am confident they miss the days, months, and years that they didn't have their child too.

If I had three wishes, one of them would be for those years back, to be able to have her from day 1, shoot, I would love for her to grow inside me instead, so that I could have felt her little kicks inside me too. But only if I had three... because I also would need one for her to be 100% healthy, and not have the different health problems she has to deal with.

Honestly though... as strange as it is, and I have no proof... I think her medical problems are why we were able to become this sweet girl's parents. I believe that her birth mother may not have felt equipped to take care of her health needs, or pay for her health needs, and did the best thing she could think of. True or not, somewhere in our paperwork was also that another couple wanted her... till they found out about her problems.

You know... I should wish that her birth mother decided to keep her. I know that she might not have some of her issues if she could have just lived with the family that gave birth to her, live in a country where everyone looks like her... but I don't.

Selfishly, I want my spit-fire daughter. This girl who made me a mother, something I longed for. The girl who makes me laugh and smile and who has a passion for life that I just adore. I am very thankful for Grace, and even though it means I don't have those moments, pictures or videos, I am thankful I have the girl.

Monday, June 20, 2016

10 years

In the grand scheme of human existence, ten years is relatively small. Depending on how long you live, it can be a relatively small part of life too. But at age 32, ten years is almost a third of my life... and I have been married for that long.

Add in the fact that we were dating for almost four years before that, meeting at age 18, in 2002, means that we have been together for 14 years! Plus, Blake pointed out on our trip that we are only four years from being together for half of our lives, and the percentage of our life together will just grow from there.

In a world so full of divorce and short, quick relationships, I can honestly say that I am proud that we have made it to this point. To anyone looking in from the outside, let me be the first to say that our relationship isn't perfect. The last ten years have had some hard spots, especially during the time that we were trying to become parents. We have had arguments, small and large that we had to work through, together. But we weathered each storm, together.

If I have wisdom to impart, it is relatively simple, and nothing that hasn't already been said. For example, find compromises. One battle relatively early on was that Blake couldn't stand to eat dinner with a messy kitchen. I, on the other hand, wanted to eat while dinner was fresh, and deal with dishes afterwards... but if I sat down to eat, he would still clean, and I would feel guilted into doing dishes early. But we worked it out. I prefer drying to washing, he is the opposite. So, my side is now to make sure dishes are dried and put away before he gets home, and he does the washing and dish washer loading (immediately after dinner is made so he can eat). We both are happy, and both contribute. Laundry is similarly divided- he folds adult clothes, I fold kids. Point being, arguments will continue until you find a compromise that works.

Second, give each other room for personal interests. I get that Blake needs video game time, and I try to make sure he can unwind with it often. He knows I like doing my races, and he lets me sign up and run. We have done races together, and I have played video games with him, but for the most part, now, after a decade together, we no longer feel the need to do as much together. We enjoy each others' company, and do things together that we both enjoy, but also feel free to seek our own interests apart too, and our relationship is healthier for it. 

We celebrated our ten year anniversary with a second honeymoon of sorts. We drove up the coast, just like we did ten years ago.





Appetizer type lunch with a beautiful view.


Appetizer type dinner with a beautiful view.


Me on the deck. 

A bunch more from this year:

The trip was great! Our first stop was in Solvang, just like ten years ago, but instead of hanging out in town and seeing a musical, we decided to go on a bike ride to a few of the vineyards around. Even though I had originally thought we would do ten miles, we ended up only doing six miles or so, as the hills were way worse than I had expected! (I even had to walk my bike up one of them!).

We stayed at the same Bed and Breakfast that we did ten years ago, though it has a new owner now, and I think that the refurbishments made over the last decade were for the better. They had an amazing restaurant, where we really wanted every course to have more food than it did.

We drove up the coast again, like ten years ago, but instead of Ventana, we stayed at a an AirBnB water tower with an amazing view! We loved all the wildlife there, and enjoyed the peace and tranquil time together there.

While we loved everything we did, I think that the memories that will stick with me most are the conversations that we had, covering our kids, our history, our memories of previous trips, and what we hope to happen in the future (and random stuff like video games ;-) ). I am truly blessed to have a husband who I can also count my friend, and spend hours talking to contentedly. I am so thankful for our time together over the years, and am happy to say that we are as happy with each others' company as we were ten years ago.

I would also like to thank my grandma, my parents, and my in-laws for making this trip what it was. Without all of your contributions, it wouldn't have been possible with our current budget, so thank all of you for being generous, and gifting us your portion of our special trip. Also, I would like to thank my parents and my brother and sister in law for watching the kids, getting them to all their places, and keeping them entertained while we had our time together, and actually had time to finish a conversation. :-D

To Blake, I love you so much! Here's to ten (plus) more great years together!


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Preschool Year 2 Complete, and Next Steps

Here is Grace on her first day of this school year, and then the pictures from today. I can't believe we have already made it through two years of preschool! She looks so much older than she did on the first day, and the little girl in the yellow dress is long gone, but replaced with a much more mature, kind, thoughtful girl than the girl that is left behind.

Next year will be so different in so many ways. First off, to any uninformed, there is this newfangled thing called "Transitional Kindergarten."

In 2010, in California, a new rule came into affect that seriously affects (possibly negatively) both of my fall babies. Basically, instead of the start kindergarten as long as you turn 5 before December 1 (if parents decide), there is a new strict September 1 cut off. In other words, since Grace was born in October, and turns 5 after the cut off, she CAN'T be in Kindergarten at our local school.

Does it matter that gymnastics has made her gross motor skills excellent? No. Does it matter that she can write some of her letters already, has a great memory, or has learned to sound out and spell words (like frog! so proud)? No.*

If she started at our local public school in fall of 2016, she would fall into the fall kids gap, and be put in their two year transitional kindergarten program. It is a blend of preschool and kindergarten, takes things really slow, and once the kids exit, they go into first grade.

I still might have considered it... if it wasn't for two other mitigating factors. First off, there is a public Montessori program at our local school that you can enter through a lottery. I've seen and read great things about Montessori, and the way that it has every child able to advance at their own rate in each subject, which I think would really benefit both kids, but especially Grace (really strong in some areas, weak in others, while I think Remington gets most things quick).

Here's the catch. If I took option 1, and put her into transitional kindergarten, she would be locked into their two year program, and would not be eligible to join the lottery for the 17-18 year, because she was already put into a class. So, I went with option 2, put her into transitional kindergarten for 1 year at the same preschool that Remington will be going to, plus giving her one more year of familiarity and routine. Now, I will be able to try to get her in the lottery for the Montessori classroom for the 17-18 school year. The school did let me know that usually around 90 apply and only 30 make it, but at least I will have done my best to give her that opportunity. If we fall in the other two thirds, then I'll be bummed, but it will still make more sense to my "old school" way of thinking, and she will have a regular kindergarten class. She will also have the opportunity to be advanced as the school decides, either through GATE or just skipping grades if she really is far above her classmates, but I honestly hope that the Montessori structure will allow her to achieve her best, while still being with age level peers.

The other mitigating factor is that this way, for one year, the kids will be at the same school. Same field trips, same performances, and bonus, I will get to be in the working force again!

I have literally been working for months on getting all my paperwork squared away, but I have officially done it, and come September, I will be on the sub list for their preschool on the mornings they are both in school. I also might be on the elementary sub list, but its more complicated (different side of the school, and would need to get care lined up for the non-school time for both of them, since they will just be in the AM).

So, big changes coming our way in September! But for now, we will enjoy our summer together with all of the activities we have planned.

*I might have been able to get her to test into something, maybe, honestly I didn't look into it, because I have definitely already missed the Montessori chance for this year, and besides it will be helpful for the same preschool thing for the year. But a friend with a fall baby told me about how crazy strict they are, and how her son didn't make it over something minor, and I didn't want to put Grace through all that if I have a different plan anyways.