Category Archives: school

Welcome Back to Elementary School

My younger son and Chase found out how small the drinking fountains are.

When I think back to when my sons were in elementary school, I have to smile. Those were probably the most-fun, most-enjoyable nine years of my life. We loved our neighborhood school and our dedicated teachers, some of whom I’m happy to call my friends.

So I was glad when my younger son and I returned to that warm haven recently to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. My “third son,” Chase, joined us, it being easy to make the weeknight trek from Rice University in Houston.

I wasn’t surprised that I felt nostalgic walking through those halls and into those classrooms where my sons got a great educational foundation. This was where I learned how much I enjoyed volunteering, as I spun a career that included PTO president, editor of the school newsletter, room mom numerous times, grade-level coordinator a couple times, and founder of the tech team (helping in the computer lab was my specialty). It was a wonderful way to get to know the kids and the teachers.

Kindergarten chairs are still tiny.

As for the boys, they were amazed how small everything was. My younger son couldn’t believe that he used to fit in the little kindergarten chairs and didn’t have to bend down to drink from the water fountain when he was a student there.

A lot has changed for my little guy . . . and his former teachers who attended the reunion. Just take a look:

Then (with his kindergarten teacher in 2001) . . .

Yes, his school actually had a “graduation” ceremony after the kids finished kindergarten.

. . . and now!

His kindergarten teacher, Paula Germany, had such a fun classroom with lots of things to do. She taught him to read with the “I See Sam” books.

Then (with his first-grade teacher) . . .

My son made a great transition to first grade, thanks to his inspiring teacher, Kelley Falleroni.

. . . and now

He first became a Power Ranger during that year. Good to see how he much he’s matured!

Then (with his third-grade teacher in 2003) . . .

When the kid (as a preschooler) met his older brother’s second-grade teacher, Julie Cole, he couldn’t wait to be in her class. He cried when he found out that she was moving up to third grade when he finally made it to second grade.

. . . and now

He was lucky enough to have Julie for third and fourth grade, as she moved up again with most of her kids. He’ll always have a soft spot in his heart for her.

Then (the last day of fifth grade) . . .

The kid’s fifth-grade year was bittersweet for me, as he prepared to move on to middle school. Fortunately, Melissa Richardson helped make his last year of elementary school a fun learning experience.

. . . and now (sprinkling luck)

I think what my younger son liked best about seeing his former teachers is that he’s now taller than all of them except for Melissa. I enjoyed watching him interact with them as an almost-adult, as well as seeing how glad they were to visit with him. They remembered him as warmly as he did them.

Now I can’t wait until the next elementary school reunion!

Bribery at Its Best!

Tyler and the #2 son talk pre-race strategy.

Tyler and the #2 son talk pre-race strategy.

Possibly the best tool in the mom arsenal of motivation is the bribe. Some might try to sugarcoat it by calling it a “reward” or “encouragement.” But it’s bribery, pure and simple. And when it works, it always seems worth it.

I’ve never been above bribing my two sons to motivate them. From extra hugs to Cheerios to McDonalds to Beanie Babies, video games, and beyond, I’ve used bribery at certain times to push my boys. Now in their teen years, the boys have become more self-motivated, thank goodness, but every now and then they need something extra to encourage them. Who can forget that Pensacola trip, a never-to-be-repeated-as-long-as I’m-still-breathing reward for the #1 son’s straight A’s?

#2 has one thought in mind as he starts the race.

#2 has one thought in mind as he starts the race.

With the #2 son starting high school, I wanted him to get involved as soon as possible with some activity. Since he’s going to be on the track team, I honed in on cross-country as the perfect freshman ice breaker for him. After all, it’s a team that’s always looking for new members.

But there was just one tiny, minor problem. #2 said no way. He didn’t want to run distances.

Sidebar: The varsity boys run three miles. Everyone else goes two miles. No biggie for high schoolers!

The freshmen boys all have different motivations for doing well.

The freshmen boys all have different motivations for doing well.

So I offered up the supreme sacrifice for me: I would pay for half of the Xbox 360 #2 wanted if he would join the cross-country team. Still he refused. Until the second week of school when the track coach said he had to join. I told #2 if he ran well at the first meet, which was last Friday, he’d earn the Xbox.

Less than a mile to go!

Less than a mile to go!

The #2 son joined his four freshmen teammates at the starting line looking less than thrilled. He knew he could run the two miles, but he didn’t know if he could go fast enough to keep up with the other boys. Someone has to finish last, but he sure didn’t want it to be him! Good thing he had that bribe motivation to keep his legs moving!

#2 almost passes a runner at the finish.

#2 almost passes a runner at the finish.

#2 admitted that he thought about walking on the course where no one could see him, but those strong Xbox vibes kept him moving forward. Like every other runner, he was thankful when the finish line was crossed!

No pain, no Xbox 360!

No pain, no Xbox 360!

What a great feeling to finish your first cross-country race and represent your high school! But I don’t think that was what #2 was thinking as he lay on the ground, totally spent from his effort.

#2 scored the Xbox!

#2 scored the Xbox!

Last Saturday, though, the #2 son was all smiles, as he finally scored the Xbox 360. Now he’s going to have to find something else to motivate him during his cross-country races. Hopefully, it won’t cost me any more money!!

High School Exhaustion

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

My two sons are very different.

Physically, #1 has dark brown hair and blue eyes. #2 has blondish-brown hair and green eyes. #1 has worn corrective lenses since fourth grade; #2 inherited the Mister’s good vision. #1 loves reading so much that he almost devours books; #2 hates to read (sad for me!). If you see #1 without his headphones and iPod Touch, you know he’s sleeping. #2 likes his iPod Nano, but he goes through life with unfettered hearing.

Zzzzzzzzz!

Zzzzzzzzz!

And one more thing . . . #2 is undeniably not a morning person! He has to be up by 6:30 a.m. for high school (when we almost have to pry him out of bed). That early rising took its toll on the little guy yesterday. He crashed on the couch at about 4 p.m., and we finally were able to rouse him to eat dinner and finish his homework at 6:30 p.m. It took a lot of work to get him up!

#2 eats his boneless buffalo wings and watches TV.

#2 eats dinner and watches TV.

Meanwhile, his big brother almost always easily gets out of bed when he hears his alarm in the morning. He’s able to get through the day just fine and is ready to eat dinner on time. No naps are necessary.

So while his brother is sound asleep, #2 can watch one of his favorite TV shows:

Criss Angel

Criss Angel

Criss Angel’s “MindFreak.” Criss is an amazing magician whose services we might need to obtain—maybe he could levitate the sound-sleeping #2 son out of bed in the morning and off the couch in the afternoon!

Need a new challenge, Criss?

Homework for Parents and Students

The #1 son

The #1 son starts to work on his day two homework.

Day one of school meant homework that all the moms I know dread: Filling out endless forms. Our school district isn’t technologically advanced enough to put these documents online; instead we fill out the same information (student name, parent name, student ID number, address, phone, and e-mail address) numerous times. Total madness! It’s almost as if the forms are sponsored by the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Association! Anyone else have an aching wrist?

I e-mailed the school district and was told that the forms, including the number of times signatures are required, have been minimized as much as possible. Yes, and I’m Mrs. America! Obviously, none of our district’s administrators are filling out these forms! Otherwise, I think they’d try to do a better job to truly minimize our work.

Hard at work

Hard at work

All of that was behind us on day two (yesterday). This time only the boys had homework. As usual, the #1 son came home and got right to work, just like he’s done since he was in first grade, and I told him he couldn’t play until he finished his homework. He’s so organized that sometimes I wonder whose child he really is!

#2 takes a Spanish 2 quiz on the iMac.

#2 takes a Spanish 2 quiz on the iMac.

Then there’s this character. When the #2 son comes home from school, he always throws his backpack on the floor and declares he’s exhausted and hungry and can’t possibly do his homework for awhile. Which is when the mean mom says, “No TV until your homework is done.”

#2 son: “But how can I eat my snack without watching TV?”

Mean mom: “You could read a book while eating the snack.”

#2 son: “A book?!? Are you serious?”

What was I thinking?!?

The #2 son’s Spanish 2 homework yesterday was on the computer. Not a problem, except that the quiz had to be printed out. That was a problem, because it couldn’t be copied and pasted into a word processing document. The #2 son, who had been doing his best to avoid having his photo taken for this blog post, needed the kind of help only a tech-savvy mom could supply.

Pose for the camera in return for homework-saving aid?

#2 will smile for tech support.

#2 will smile for tech support.

What a smart kid!

Back to School!

The #2 son (left) and the #1 son

The #2 son (left) and the #1 son

What’s different between the above photo and the one below?

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

The answer: Seven years! Oh, and, of course, the outfits. The top photo was taken on the first day of school in 2002 when the #1 son was in fifth grade and #2 was in second. I think that was the last time they ever wore the same clothes!

School started today, and I’m feeling sentimental. This is the first day of #1’s final year in high school, as well as the first day of #2’s first year in high school. I feel like they’re coming and going.

#2 is still sleepy.

#2 is still sleepy.

Even though we’ve been through this first-day-of-school business for years, it still gets chaotic. Especially since high school starts at 7:30 a.m., and #2 isn’t a morning person at all.

"Stop it, Mom!"

"Stop it, Mom!"

#2 had a big adjustment to make this morning. #1, meanwhile, seemed unaffected by it all. Three years of high school experience will do that to you.

#1 son reads the comics.

#1 son reads the comics.

Nothing stops #1 from his daily habit of reading the comics first thing when he wakes up. I like making their lunches while they get ready; however, it was more stressful having two to make before they leave (middle school started at 8:50 a.m.).

#7578-(napkin)

Making their lunches allows me to put cute notes in their reusable lunch bags. I’m sure this note won’t be embarrassing at all!

"Bye, Mom!"

"Bye, Mom!"

All too soon it was time for them to pop into our old minivan and drive off to the high school together. With me reminding older brother how he needs to help his younger brother find his first class. It seems like they were at the house this morning, and then they were gone down the street in a flash and a half, the chaos of the early hours still swirling in the air.

Off they go! (1.6-second shutter speed)

Off they go! (1.6-second shutter speed)

Yep, the first day of school always is a blur . . . for kids and moms!

This All Ends Monday

The #2 son sleeps soundly in bed.

The #2 son sleeps soundly in bed.

The other day the #2 son, my all-star sleeper, woke up from a sound snooze in bed . . . only to move over to the couch in the family room.

Sleeping beauty on the couch

Sleeping beauty on the couch

Where he promptly fell asleep again. And didn’t wake up until about 10 a.m.

As I watched him sleep so blissfully, I had one thought in mind:

Enjoy it while you can! This all ends Monday.

That’s the first day of high school for him . . . and the first day as a senior for his big brother. School starts at 7:30 a.m., which means both of them must be up at 6:15 a.m. As in way earlier than they wake up now!

I think there will be some sleepy, grumpy teens in this house Monday morning!

Summer Vacation is Flying By

The boys' high school

The boys' high school

A moment of silence for my two sons, if you will. In exactly two weeks, high school starts. The #1 son will be a senior (huge lump in mom’s throat). The #2 son will be a freshman (yet another huge lump in mom’s throat).

No more staying up until midnight—bedtime on school nights is 10 p.m., because school starts at 7:30 a.m. Which will be a huge adjustment for the #2 son—middle school began at 8:50 a.m., plus he’s not a morning person at all. Every morning will be like a Monday for that kid.

With two weeks to go, it’s time to assess clothing needs (not hard with boys who think that being “in fashion” means that they don’t have too many stains on their shirts, which they’ve tried to wear all week), as well as replenishing the school supplies baskets (very handy for those “gotta have it by tomorrow, Mom!” moments that the #2 son is so fond of springing on me late at night).

The #2 son's backpack

The #2 son's backpack

When I saw the #2 son’s backpack in his bedroom yesterday, I figured I’d move it into the family room and make sure it hasn’t sprouted a hole or two over the summer. But when I lifted it, I discovered something very unwelcome:

It was heavy. Oh, oh! Then I looked inside it.

Inside the "empty" backpack

Inside the "empty" backpack

Hmmmm . . . it was not empty. Oops! Looks like I forgot to look through it once school ended in early June. It’s moments like this that makes my next-door neighbor JJ, the organizational whiz, shake her head and consider us to be hopeless when it comes to having our act together. You really don’t want to misplace anything in our house, that’s for sure. You might not find it for years!

Messy, messy binders

Messy, messy binders

The good news is that it looks like the #2 son didn’t kill all his binders for a change. I’m not sure what he does to regularly break his notebooks, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it has to do with hitting other boys with them. He can be a tad aggressive where “tad” equals “too much for Mom to take.”

The bad news? I need to clean out those binders. I’m hoping I won’t find any papers with information that needed to be filled out during the school year, which made teachers think I was an absentee parent. The #2 son tends to be, shall I say, a little less timely with his paperwork than he should be . . . where “timely” equals “stuffed in his locker until the end of the school year.”

When it’s then shoved into a binder, which is put into a backpack that lays untouched until the start of the next school year. Yes, poor organization is merely a cycle like the seasons, the birds flying south and then north, and sunrise and sunset. Cue the fiddler on the roof!

But, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’m not going to think about that now. We’ve still got two more glorious weeks! Cleaning out those binders? Fiddle-de-dee!! I’ll think about that tomorrow!