Hello, 37! Today is my birthday and M is very excited. She has been counting down since Christmas – today is also the Epiphany, or the 12th Day of Christmas, when the three kings arrived to pay homage to Jesus. So M has been singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” carol non-stop for – you guessed it – 12 days.
36 was pretty great! Let’s run down the highlights:
- M & I got lots of great together time over the summer.
- I got a new job that I love, renewed with the MFA ed board for 2 more years, and joined the NEAq ed board
- I cut our expenses even more over the summer and I quit cable
- We took an actual vacation(!) when we went to Disney with my folks. First one in 5 years.
- M grew 3.5″! And she is a wonderful, happy, hilarious, helpful, thoughtful, enthusiastic, careful “big girl” at age 6
- Our cats (we had just gotten them last Christmas) are wonderful additions to our family and have improved our lives in every way
- I only had to travel without M for 2 nights
A few of my goals that I accomplished this year:
- I found a job I love with a steadier income.
- I started a fitness routine in August and kept it going into the holiday season.
- M is reading EVERYTHING now (though most of the credit on this goes to my Mom).
- I’m proud of where my blog is now.
But it wasn’t always easy. This was the first year that I really felt like I am aging. My hair seems grayer, I developed some back pain, and I just didn’t feel as young as before. The fitness routine has really helped though – my back feels better when I exercise, I have more energy, and I am more confident in the way my clothes fit.
Both M and I started at new schools this fall, and that was definitely a transition for both of us. My adjustments were typical for navigating a new job, but M felt some big changes in her new school. Our schedules changed for the better – we are both home much earlier in the afternoons. But the activities that happen during that schedule are much more demanding for M:
- Her school is a very different learning environment from her previous school and she had to adjust;
- Kindergarten of course means more academics, so she is challenged in her thinking during the day;
- the classroom management style is much more traditional, so that was a tough adjustment;
- and – the biggest difference – I am not there and I am unfamiliar with the school, so it was harder to support her.
September was challenging. Our days were long, as I figured out the schedule at my new job. I didn’t know M’s teachers and had to figure out who’s who in her class. For two months I had NO IDEA who to contact with certain questions at her school. And I was feeling inadequate from the number of times I was asked for money by the school. The lesson I learned: it is worth it to disrupt my schedule and engage in her school community. Here are the changes I made that helped me help M:
- I started emailing her teacher weekly with feedback about M for a while – it helped the teacher get to know M better, and helped me better see the whole picture of what is happening in the classroom when M tells me about her day. This is also a reminder as a teacher to make the school day more transparent for parents – SO. IMPORTANT.
- In October, the principal offered a coffee for PreK/K parents to answer questions. It was the first event I could attend without getting a babysitter or missing a huge chunk of my work day, which was perfect. I was a little late to work, but it was SO worth it – I learned a ton, gave some feedback, got to meet other parents, and found out that I wasn’t alone with my questions or concerns. Again, as a teacher, I was reminded to hold events at times convenient for parents – right after morning drop off is a great time.
- Finally, I pushed myself to socialize with other parents. I’m not comfortable going to the dinners or fundraiser events without a wingman, but I tried to build some time into playdates to talk to parents. In December, M went to a gingerbread decorating playdate. I didn’t realize parents were staying, so I showed up unshowered, in gym clothes and mismatched socks. But I stuck around and was happy to make some new friends, learn about the school, and socialize for a bit.
- I learned not to feel bad about saying “no” to financial requests. Instead, I started focusing on those times when I can say “yes,” and made those “yes” moments intentional.
M was AMAZING at powering through the changes this year. And I think she is happy – in the last month, she has begun singing CONSTANTLY which I love. We had our fair share of tears and nights dreading school the next day, but she always got out of bed and went to school in the morning. And she is doing incredible things. Her report card was almost all “S”s (for “Solidly Established,” the highest grade in Kindergarten). At the start of the year, she tested at 98th percentile in math and 99th percentile in reading. And at her parent-teacher conference, the feedback was that M has already mastered the kindergarten curriculum. Kudos to Grandma and Pop for having fun educational activities with her when they are babysitting. And kudos to her teacher, who is now trying to find ways to differentiate up for M. She is creating leadership opportunities in the classroom by letting M lead activities and read to her classmates. And the assistant teacher is forming a new advanced reading and math group for M and some other students in the grade.
As a teacher, I’m reminded how important it is to find ways for students to excel and feel confident about learning – and then to celebrate those moments of success. We don’t have a Superbowl for brilliant scientists, writers, readers, mathematicians, historians, so we need ways for students to see role models and realize just how amazing their academic successes are. Imagine a standing ovation for every student when they complete the school year!
All this to say, I cannot believe what M accomplished this year. I am so proud of her.
Looking forward – here’s what I’m thinking about for 37:
- make the year exciting and happy for M, help her love school, spend as much time together as possible
- reflect and document – keeping this journal, keep the blogging going, publish something
- keep this place afloat – finding a financial advisor, increasing my income, managing my student loans, surviving my loan increase in March and my mandatory retirement contribution increase in July
- clean/fix up the first floor of our home so we can have company/playdates
- socialize more – reconnect with old friends and make new friends
- I’d like to start dressing better (fewer clothes made of t-shirt material)
Read what you want into those goals (yes, my house is a MESS with a handful of 1/2 done DIY projects). Some of these have been goals for years, so I’ll keep trying!
Here’s the day’s plan to celebrate my birthday: cleaning up the house a bit and going to the dump, tutoring for a couple hours this afternoon, dinner from Aculpocos with M and my folks. A great Needham Saturday!
M is up – she came downstairs, sang a boisterous Happy Birthday, gave me a big hug, and asked to play a card game. Let the birthday begin!
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