Does Mari look a lot older in this picture to you?
She has finally gotten the hang of several of her LeapFrog games.
Mari ran out of room on her paper to put stickers, so she whipped her shirt off and kept applying them.
What was once a blog about adopting a baby girl has morphed into a journal on the perils of single parenthood, the surprises of raising a spunky toddler, and the absolute joys of becoming a family. Forever.
We are in week #6 at a new school for Mari. I had mentioned it before and had several ask about what was involved in my decision making, etc. I wanted to give it some time to see how we adjusted to the new situation before I could sit back and look at the big picture objectively.
The school we were at was one of my top 2 picks...the one we moved to was the other. The reason I chose the first one was the fact that the other top pick did not accept children until they were 2 and Mari was only 15 months when we started. I had actually gone to visit her new school once before when she was about 20 months old and enrolled her with the thought that I would move her at age 2 - but her second birthday came at a volatile time as I was starting a new job and she was having a lot of difficulties with transitions/attachment/general-toddlerness. So we stayed where we were.
What motivated us to change? This was not a decision that I made lightly. Mari does not handle transitions well....she tends to be fabulous IN the situation but then the stress builds up and she lets it all out on me because she trusts me. This is a healthy attachment reaction but really tough on us. We had some issues at school that were not that unusual in childcare settings, especially in a facility that is larger than most. However, the biggest issue we had was that the idea of "primary caregiver" seemed to be a far-fetched notion. Anyone that has adopted knows that our children NEED to have a single person they can count on....flip-flopping teachers is very hard on them. And anyone that has children knows that throwing a new teacher in a room full of toddlers/preschoolers with no notice tends to result in chaos, both in the classroom and carries over at home. I was actually told, at one point, that teachers were moved often so they wouldn't become attached. This was the final straw for me....my child needs to attach; she needs to learn to count on people; she needs to learn to trust people. So we were done.
It was sad. Mari had a lot of great friends there. She was very attached to some of her teachers. The school also had a lot of great things like a bouncy house, a great playground, special themes, etc. But I was not sending my child to school to go to a carnival...I was sending her to learn academics and basic good behavior.
And we won't even go into the fact that I'm saving $40 per week now!!
So...the new school. It's VERY different.
First, I have to pack her lunch and snacks. This was one of my biggest fears - could I really pack 5 lunches and 15 snacks a week? And why are they having 3 snacks a day? Anyhow, it's not been a problem. The snacks are very small and quick, so I haven't had to worry too much about that and lunch is either leftovers or a butter and jelly sandwich (yes, butter..."white butter" - her absolute favorite thing in the world).
It is VERY structured. They change activities every 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes. And from the little I've seen, it is very "sit-down" type stuff. When you drop off in the mornings, the kids are all playing in stations just like at the old school but the stations are at tables and the kids are staying at the tables playing. No more screaming chaos. More on that in a minute.
It is religious. Mari has not had any religious teaching thus far. I'm not against it, I've just got some of my own issues in this area (that's another post that will NEVER get written). So it's pretty funny to hear her tell me Bible stories...."Please Mommy, don't let God scare me." "Please Mommy, don't let the lions get me. Daniel didn't like lions either." And she has learned about 20 new songs already - all Bible songs that I used to sing as a kid. Her favorite is Zachias was a wee little man.
They have homework 2 nights a week - a worksheet of either letters or numbers. I like this; it keeps me involved in what she is working on. They divide the kids by reading level and not by age. They have individualized instruction in this area. Mari has passed 2 reading levels (the vowels and a consonant set)....to pass, the kids have to know the capital and lowercase and the sound it makes. Mari knows all her capitals and all her sounds, she has a couple more lowercase to learn. Then she will move on to blends (ch, st, pr). I've been extremely impressed by her ability to pick up letter sounds in words that aren't at the beginning....in other words, she can tell you that Oliver begins with O but has an L in it and Abigail begins with A but has a B in it.
**Update** Mari passed another reading level today (5/26)! 16 out of 26 letters done. We are on fire!
She has been working very hard on writing. This has always been a weakness - motor skills with her hands. She used to get so tired using utensils and we actively worked on things like stringing beads and putting beads in small containers, etc. When she started at her new school, she could draw a circle but could not trace a straight line (forget about tracing letters). Now she is doing much better (although still needs a lot of work in this area). And her coloring is getting much better too. She is focusing on staying in the lines and filling in the area.
Notice the difference between her homework from a month ago and hers tonight (I was so proud of how hard she worked).
The biggest difference I've seen is her independence. She walks into school in the mornings, gives me a kiss, and pushes me out the door. There are still days occasionally where she wants an extra hug but it has been amazing to see her blossom in this respect. I think a lot of it is the lack of chaos upon arriving; there is something to be said for a calm environment with soft spoken but firm teachers and children that listen and respect their elders.
Now if only we could carry this over to our home life........
But that's an entirely different post!
I'm pleased to say that the change was a positive in our lives and I can breathe a sigh of relief and start worrying about other stuff now.
Posted by Jill at 9:41 PM
Another week down. This one was a little tougher. I had a wisdom tooth extracted on Monday so maybe a little cheating done on Monday and Tuesday's pictures but they were all from this week! So get over it!
Just a little glimpse into an evening with my precious child....she's been a handful lately, so here's just a little peek of why I'm exhausted lately.
I LOVE Ruby Tuesday's new barbecue chicken. I mean I LOVE IT! I crave it. I yearn for it. I could eat it every day. So we eat there about once a week. I've been trying to get Mari to have better restaurant manners - she tends to be distracted and distracting when we go out with others and it's pointless to try to carry on conversations with adults while she's along. So I'm trying to give her some one-on-one time in restaurants to get her to understand a little social etiquette. She's actually been doing very well recently with this. So, tonight, I decided to head to Ruby's again. Mari loves the barbecue chicken too - it's about the only restaurant that she will actually eat something (usually too distracted) and she usually even finishes this.
So, we pull up to the restaurant and it's virtually empty (the one saving grace about the evening). We walk in and before the hostess can even greet us, Mari says "Hey, where's my lemonade?" Oh dear, I should have turned around and left. But that chicken was close enough to taste. So I ask for a booth while the hostess (obviously new) fumbles around for the crayons until Mari dives into the cabinet and picks out her own pack. Which was totally unnecessary since we always have a box of crayons in my purse. Anyways, did I mention the chicken is awesome?
So we go to the booth and sit down and Mari immediately starts the dropping the crayon-crawling under the table to retrieve it-finding more yucky crayons game. The waiter presents himself and it's obvious that the only experience he's had with kids is....well, none at all. He starts giggling while asking Mari if she's here for the carnival. WRONG THING to say, dude. So then he tries to cover his tracks by telling her that it's not a carnival, it's just a secret roller coaster with balloons. Seriously - this dude was an idiot. NEVER say balloon to a 3-yr-old unless you plan to produce one. Anywho.... So we order.
Mari's beloved lemonade is brought and she starts the take the straw out-put the straw in-take the lid off-attempt to put lid back on-getting very sticky messy game. In an attempt to keep her busy, we work on our placemat coloring page. She decides that she needs to work on her letters and numbers by screaming them (not yelling, screaming them). Sigh. Where's that chicken for her to chew on?
I decide to pretend the menu is a storybook and "read" Mari a story about a little girl that goes to Ruby Tuesdays for supper. She goes along with it for a little while until she decides to be mad that it's Ruby's Tuesday cause she likes Max better. End of the "menu" story.
So then, I smell something. "Mari, did you toot?" Of course not. "Are you sure?" Yes, Mommy. "Mari did you forget to wipe at school today." Then she stands up in the booth and PULLS HER PANTS DOWN to prove it to me. Oy.
After that fiasco, I attempt to get her interested in something else by telling her that we can send pix to cousin Brendan on my phone. So we take a couple cheesy pix and text them to Brendan....then she grabbed my phone with her sticky lemonade hands and....well, hopefully I can figure out how to turn off the bluetooth eventually.
Finally food arrives. I cut up her chicken and pour the barbecue sauce over it and prepare to dig in. Mari, meanwhile, digs into her rice pilaf with a vengance. I usually order her fries but she ends up eating all my rice, so I ordered rice for her. Unfortunately, I didn't take into account that when she eats my rice, I usually fork it into her. Mari and rice are not a neat fit. And she of course, feels she needs to pick up every grain she drops. So, after some
lecturing discussion about leaving the rice on the seat and floor, she decides that she would have better motor control by picking up every little grain individually and dipping them in her barbecue sauce. At this point, I'm not even tasting my food.
After some more
lecturing discussion about using a fork for good manners, she manages to stab herself in the tongue, so every bite of barbecue sauce burns. This results in her taking big bite, letting it fall out of her mouth, wiping her tongue with a napkin, taking a huge drink of lemonade (which didn't burn?????????), coughing because she gulped too much, then putting the slobbery chicken back in her mouth to finish it. And then forking up a load of rice which showers all over her lap. Again.
Did I mention during this time, she is up-down-turning around-climbing off the seat-ducking under the table-leaning over the booth to check on the other diners and leaning over to hug me to try to diffuse the steam coming from my ears?
I finally ask for a box for my food and the check and when the waiter gets back, he decides to growl at Mari. She cowers, so I try to explain that he was just joking so she stands up in the booth and ROARS at him across the restaurant.
We leave. I almost forgot my chicken. Almost being the key word there. We get to the car and Mari starts tipping her lemonade like she wants to spill it, so I take it away. She howls. We get in the car and she asks her favorite question "Are you happy, Mommy?" No Mari, I'm not. I'm exhausted and frustrated. And still hungry.
That's our life in a nutshell these days. Hopefully that chicken will taste better tomorrow.
Posted by Jill at 9:21 PM