Tales of Fourth Grade

Juliana could not be more excited to start fifth grade tomorrow. She cleaned out her locker in our front hallway without being asked. All of the summer stuff is put away and her backpack and new shoes are ready for tomorrow morning. I don’t know if there are children who love school more than she does.

Fourth grade was a challenging year for her. It started the week before school when we saw the class list…her best friends were all in the other class. She was very sad when the year started and there were times that those friendships were strained.

Over the past few years, Juliana had shifted from wearing dresses and skirts every day to wearing shorts in the summer and occasionally jeans in the winter. In Kindergarten she wore pants once, in first grade not at all. I bribed her to wear a jumper on the first day of fourth grade to match her other first day pictures. She wore shorts or pants the rest of the year. She also only wore tennis shoes, no more flats. So back-to-school shopping was much more simple this year. One new pair of tennis shoes, a few more pairs of pants and shorts, and new socks – everything from last year still fits.

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Juliana started to spend more time getting ready in the morning and put extra effort into her hair. Gone were the days of leaving the house without touching the hairbrush and there were fewer ponytails.

Sleepovers included giggles and whispers about boys…

After 4 years of gymnastics she decided to quit but continued to play soccer. Much to my delight she played her first season of basketball and loved it.

The biggest difference between fourth grade and the previous years was that she had to work for her A’s. It was the first year that she was frustrated with assignments, the first year that the perfect scores were no longer easy, and the first year that I ever saw her study at home for a test. She worked harder and continued to earn high marks.

Her love of reading continued. She was still done with her work before most of the class so she would complete an hour of reading for her daily log during school and another hour at night. She read the entire Harry Potter series within a few months. Her favorite genres are fantasy and mystery.

I had the opportunity to watch her introduce herself and give an overview of a school program to a room of over 100 strangers this year. She didn’t know that she would be asked to talk and I watched her stand up and speak loudly to the group. There was no shyness or fear in her voice. I was amazed because 10-year old me would have never spoken so clearly and confidently to a room full of people.

She has a vivid imagination and big dreams for her future.

She is still my little girl but solidly in the tween years. Growing up faster than I could have ever imagined.

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No One is Born a Racist

Like so many of my fellow parents, I woke up with a heavy heart today. I didn’t want to see the news and find out how many more lives were lost overnight as a result of racism and guns. Raising kids in a divided country is challenging. Raising kids in a country where I worry about mass shootings is painful. Raising kids in a country where their black friends might be treated differently because of the color of their skin is unacceptable.

Weeks like this I struggle to explain the news to my children because there is no reasonable explanation.

Babies are a blank slate when they are born, but they quickly form a world view based on what they see and hear from the adults in their life. The racist joke at the Thanksgiving table that causes someone to laugh or the uncomfortable silence by others – opinions are being formed. Once they are in school, they may see someone excluded from a group based purely on the color of their skin – opinions are being formed. The examples are everywhere.

This morning as I continued to think about the week’s events, I remembered a conversation from this past weekend.

We had spent most of the day at Kennywood and we decided to stop for Ice Cream on the way home. Along the way, we drove through the neighborhood where Scott grew up and continued past his elementary school. Scott mentioned that he and his brother (the one closest in age to him) had walked to school. Juliana was quiet and then said that Daddy only had one brother. In 2011, Scott and I made the choice to not expose our children to that brother for several reasons. So they haven’t seen him 5 years, and I had forgotten how long ago it was.

I started to explain why they don’t see that Uncle and Juliana calmly asked if he was a racist. And then she got mad. She yelled – “People have no choice over the color of the skin they are born with! Why would you treat someone different because they don’t look like you?” I remember when they talked about racism in a social justice unit at school. She came home for school so sad and confused. I feel the same way.

I don’t get to keep my children in a bubble and control everything that they see and hear. And I certainly don’t have all of the answers. But I hope that they learn enough about compassion and tolerance to grow up and help make this country a better place.

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Happy Father’s Day

Wyatt is currently terrified of bugs and especially mosquitos. I don’t know if it is the Zika virus news or not, but he is convinced that you will die if a mosquito bites you. There is no reasoning with him, because how do you have a reasonable conversation with a child who starts shaking at the thought of being outside. When we do force him to go outside, he wears a hooded sweatshirt – zipped all the way up with the hood on his head. I’m not sure how he is going to survive day camp this summer but we will be experimenting with bug spray to convince him it is safe to be outside.

Wyatt was not happy to go outside to take pictures yesterday and of course I would not let him wear the hooded sweatshirt. He was upset and looking all around for bugs instead of looking at me and the camera. Fortunately my Dad was there and he assured Wyatt that he would watch for bugs and he did. He stood a few feet from Wyatt the entire time and Wyatt was able to relax and smile for a few minutes.

Thanks for watching over my children the same way you have taken care of me all of my life. Happy Father’s Day to you, Scott and Papa from Juliana, Ruslan and Wyatt!

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His and Hers Neck Surgery Scars

This story started 5 weeks ago tonight when I slipped and fell on our stairs and landed hard on my right hip. Wednesday morning when I could still barely walk I called the Doctor’s office and they told me to go to the ER for x-rays. The x-rays were negative and they told me to stay off my feet as much as possible and follow-up with my Dr in a week if it was still bothering me.

It was still bothering me so I went to the Dr and while I was there I mentioned that I wanted to have my thyroid evaluated. My thyroid has also been large since I was a teenager but seems to have changed in recent months. After evaluating, the Dr ordered blood work and an ultrasound – both completed that day. By the end of the day my results were back and more tests were ordered.

The next week Ruslan fell off his bike and broke a finger and I had more x-rays on my hip and an ortho consult. I learned that I have something called Femoral Acetabular Impingement Syndrome in both hips and I aggravated it when I fell. FAI occurs when the hip bone doesn’t develop correctly in childhood – most people with FAI never know that they have it unless they have an injury. The Dr prescribed physical therapy which I have not had time to schedule yet.

The Wednesday before Memorial Day I had a Fine Needle Aspiration on my thyroid. They numbed my neck and took samples of the nodules on my thyroid. Late Friday afternoon my Dr called with the preliminary pathology report and recommended that I schedule an appointment with a thyroid surgeon to discuss options.

Last Thursday morning Scott and I went to my appointment and the surgeon described the options at which point I agreed that the risks associated with keeping my thyroid were greater than the risks of surgery to remove it. She consulted her calendar and told me that she had a spot for Tuesday that was blocked and did I want to have the surgery in a few days or wait a few weeks. I decided to get it over with so we scheduled the surgery. They had already scheduled a pre-op appointment for me at the hospital but we had time for lunch first. Then it was time for an EKG, more blood work, and lots of medical history questions at my pre-op appointment.

Thursday evening we told the kids that I was going to have surgery and Juliana was very concerned and sad so I pointed at the scar on Scott’s neck from his surgery last fall and explained that the surgery would fine and in the end I would have a scar similar to one on Daddy’s neck. The boys thought this was hilarious and even Juliana laughed.

So tomorrow morning we will get up and go to the hospital and I will have a full thyroidectomy. I won’t miss my large, lumpy thyroid.

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The Mansion House

This story started several months ago. The boys often talk about growing up and buying a house. Sometimes they decide that they will live together when they grow-up but Wyatt has a new plan now. One day he asked about really big houses and someone said, “you mean a mansion?” “YES, I am going to live in a Mansion House when I get big”, Wyatt replied.

Weeks later, Wyatt informed my mom (Nonni) that she could come live with him in his Mansion House and he mentions this house on a regular basis. It seemed like Wyatt was concerned about taking care of Nonni.

One day Wyatt was spending the night at Nonni’s and while she was cooking a cheeseburger for him, he told her that she would be able to cook for him at his Mansion House and she would also be able to do his laundry. It no longer sounds like Wyatt is planning to take care of Nonni.

This past weekend, he asked Nonni if there are houses with elevators. She told him that sometimes big houses have elevators and maybe his mansion house would have an elevator. She went on to explain that she might have trouble walking up stairs and an elevator would be helpful. He didn’t respond and walked away.

He returned 10 minutes later and told Nonni that his Mansion House probably wouldn’t have an elevator. But she shouldn’t worry about the stairs. “If the Mansion House doesn’t have an elevator, I will get you a jet pack instead.”


Wyatt has a Way with Words


Wyatt was asking for a pencil to work in his Word Search book in bed. My mom told him he shouldn’t take a pencil to bed in case he falls asleep with it. Wyatt: “You think I don’t know how to use a pencil? I use a pencil every day at school.”


Juliana . . . → Read More: Wyatt has a Way with Words

Wyatt and Giant Owl Went to the Dr Today – One of Them Has a Fracture


I didn’t think we would make it this long without a broken bone in our household. With the way the boys constantly roughhouse, climb and jump off of everything, and run full speed without a second thought of obstacles in their path…we are lucky that there have been few injuries over the years.

The . . . → Read More: Wyatt and Giant Owl Went to the Dr Today – One of Them Has a Fracture

I Find Their Promises to Be Disingenuous


I sent the boys upstairs to change for bed last night and soon Ruslan returned. As he came down the stairs I could hear him yelling, “where are my underwear?” As he rounded the corner to the kitchen started to tell him that his underwear were is the same place as always, and then . . . → Read More: I Find Their Promises to Be Disingenuous

Farewell 2015


After 10 years of working from a home office, I had to start commuting a few days a week which toppled the work-life balance once again. I also managed a huge project which pushed the balance more to the work side. Work hat versus Mom hat, the balance effort continues.

Although Juliana had pneumonia . . . → Read More: Farewell 2015

The Story Behind The Christmas Card


There has been a family picture on our Christmas card for the past three years and that was the plan for this year as well. Coordinating outfits were selected, a location was determined and the weather was simply perfect. It was a lovely November afternoon and everything was perfect until Scott woke up sick . . . → Read More: The Story Behind The Christmas Card