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New School, New Problems

With Max starting a new school this year, Rachel and I were understandably nervous. The first few weeks were not easy. Max seemed overwhelmed by some of the work, and dreaded doing his homework because it was so hard and took him so long to complete. We started to think maybe we made the wrong choice for Max. The struggles at school, seemed to be affecting him in all aspects of life. He was grumpy and irritable, he seemed to lack focus, and even struggled with baseball. He was striking out, making errors. September was not a good month for Max.

But then something weird happened. Everything just sort of started to click for him. Homework that was taking him 20 minutes to do, he was now finishing in 5 minutes. Papers he was getting minuses on, he was not getting pluses on. He got his first math test back and he got a 100. And his whole demeanor changed. He seemed happy again. He started to look forward to going to school. He started hitting the ball again, and his fielding improved. We got his first interim report last week, and his teacher noted that she was very encouraged by the improvements she’s seen Max make. He gets his first report card in two weeks, so I’m anxious to see what his grades are like. I’m hoping that the grades he got early on, don’t bring his marks down too much. I think getting a good 1st report card will help Max’s confidence. But even if the 1st report card isn’t great, I’m encouraged that he has done so well the 2nd half of the grading period.

1st Grade

1st grade

Max finishes his 3rd week of 1st grade today. The year started off pretty crazy. Two of the four kindergarten teachers left. Luckily Max was assigned to one of the classes with a teacher who has been at the school for several years.  Apparently one of the teachers decided to leave a few days before classes started, so it was pretty chaotic for the kids that were supposed to be in her class. However our initial impressions of her are not good. She isn’t really good at communicating what is being taught. Each class has a webpage, and checking the other 1st grade pages, there is a lot of detailed information. Lists of words they are learning, a daily schedule of what subjects will be covered, and things of that nature. When we checked Max’s class page, there was none of that. Just a list of the “encore” classes that are scheduled each day (art, music, gym, library and computer lab).


Last night when I was putting Max to bed, he asked me to read a book he got from the school library. It’s a book titled “Hooray for Fly Guy”. Fly Guy is one of Max’s favorite book series. Well a funny thing happened. As I opened the book, Max started reading. In the past he had read a few words on the page, but tonight he read the entire first page. So I pointed to each word on page 2, and he read those too. I turned the page, and he read the next two pages, and the next two. All I did was move my finger from word to word. Before I knew it, he had completed the first chapter (about 10 pages). I was so excited and amazed.

He struggled with a few words. Last year, he would get frustrated and just start guessing the word. Last night he actually sounded out the words. He didn’t get everyone right, but he got most of them right, which very encouraging. And text was a little more varied then some of the other stuff he has read before. He was never able or willing to read a whole chapter on his own.

So maybe this new teacher isn’t so bad. We have back to school night coming up in a few weeks, so we will finally get to meet with her. The first month of school is usually used to assess each student so they know which areas to work on with them. So perhaps she will start doing more regimented work starting in October.

After Max was asleep, I remembered that his book order form for Scholastic was due. I ordered him a few more books around the same reading level. Hopefully with some new reading material, he will be encouraged to read more. After reading him books for the past 6 years, it was nice having him read one back to me.

With fall baseball in full swing, and many nights after school spent outside ride bikes, scooters and playing with his friends, Max is a tired little boy. He used to wake up before 7AM most days. This past week, I had to wake him once at 8AM so he wouldn’t be late for school. The rest of the week he didn’t wake up before 7:45. Max had a baseball game last night and all the kids looked like they were a bit drained and tired. They didn’t have that usual pep in their step. Hopefully sleeping in till after 8AM this weekend is in his plans. He definitely needs it.
Even when he is super tired, he fights it. It’s especially hard now since he knows how to tell time. Before, we could tell him it was bedtime, and he wouldn’t argue. Now if we tell him it’s time for bed, and it’s not exactly 8:30, he squawks hehe. Time to start messing with the clocks in the house :-).

Father & Son Fishing Fun

There are times when I feel very close to Max, and times when I feel like work, and life get in the way. Lately, things at work have been completely nuts. Working 12 hour days, late night maintenances, calls in the middle of the night. It has not been fun. So between working so many hours, and being run down and tired, I probably haven’t been as fun, or nice as I usually am. I’ve been feeling very guilty about this.

With Max now on summer vacation, we are dependent on my mother-in-law to look after him during the day when Rachel and I are at work. She was up in Pennsylvania for a birthday party over the weekend, and wasn’t home on Monday. So I took the day off to look after Max. And boy was it a great day.

The day started off by Max crawling into bed with me and giving me a hug. I guess he was happy to see me. We chatted for a bit, and then I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to go fishing. We tried fishing a few times two summers ago, and at the time he was only 4, so he wasn’t exactly patient. He’s still not the most patient person, but he’s much better now than he was back then. I’m not much of an outdoorsman either. I never went fishing before, so most of what I knew I learned by watching fishing shows on TV and YouTube videos. So I wasn’t very confident we would catch anything. But I had nothing better planned, so I said sure we can go fishing.

So after breakfast, I got the fishing poles out of the garage, tied some new hooks onto the fishing line, and we headed down to a nearby lake to try fishing. I bought some night crawlers, bated the hooks, and for the first hour, absolutely nothing. No nibbles at the bate or anything. Then suddenly, I felt something tug at my line. I pulled, and sure enough, I had a fish. Not the mightiest of fish, but it was something. I told Max to grab our net, and I reeled the fish in. About a 4 inch sunfish. Max was way excited.

We got the hook out of the fish’s mouth, I filled our bucket with lake water and we dumped the fish inside. Max couldn’t stop looking at the fish. He was thrilled. I told him he should try to get a fish of his own. After a few minutes, he picked his pole up and dropped the line into the water. He was still a bit impatient, reeling the line in quickly and casting it back out over and over. Then a girl who was working at the marina walked over and started talking to Max. She was probably 16 or 17. She was asking him questions about fishing, and how old he was, and whether he was going to eat the fish we caught etc. It kept his mind occupied for a bit, so he kept his line in the water. Then I heard him yell “Daddy!” I looked over and his fishing pole was bent at the tip. He had a fish! I asked if he wanted help, and he said “No, I can do it”. I saw him cranking away and reeling the fish in. Before I knew it, he was lifting his pole and dropping the fish into bucket. Not only did he catch the fish all by himself, the fish he caught was way bigger than the one I caught hehe.

He had caught about a 6 inch sunfish. He was so proud and the girl at the marina congratulated him and said he did a great job. I snapped a photo of him holding his catch, and we sent the photo to Mommy. She was equally as thrilled.

When we got home, we cleaned up, ate some lunch and watched the World Cup. Max was still beaming and so proud. I was pretty proud too. It was one of those magical moments, that was so special. Maybe if I was an experienced fisherman myself, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the fact that he it was sort of a new experience for the both of us, and we both got to share the moment together was awesome. It’s a memory I won’t forget anytime soon. I hope this is the first of many special moments Max and I have over the summer.


I got one!
I got one!


Turn that Frown Upside Down!


Max has mentioned several times about how in PE class, they do yoga. He calls them animal poses. Max showed me a few of the poses, and it was cute to see him so excited about it, but it didn’t really leave any sort of impression. That all changed today.

I didn’t sleep well last night, so I was pretty grumpy when Max came in and woke me at 7AM. Being his usual energetic self, he wanted to do 100 things when we first got up. I was tired, so I snapped and said no to all his suggestions. I guess Max sensed my bad mood, and he said “Daddy, Mr. Watt says when we feel grumpy or sad, we should do the mouse pose. I was ready to dismiss what he said, but something about what he said intrigued me. So I asked him to show me how to do it. He got down on the floor and demonstrated. I got down next to him and did it along with him. I didn’t get this wave of euphoria, but I did feel less stressed and a little more awake. So I asked Max what other poses he knew and he mentioned the monkey, the snake and the dog. Then I looked on my phone and found several kids yoga videos on YouTube. Max and I did 2 routines. And I have to say, I felt great all day. I was outside with Max most of the day, and had lots of energy. Maybe it was the warm weather that did it, and the yoga was just part of it, but I did feel noticeably happier. Max was also very well behaved, and very appreciative of the time we had together.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to do yoga on a daily basis, but I will definitely keep the snake, dog and mouse poses in my metal rolodex. I found the mouse to be very relaxing and peaceful and it was very easy to do. Max told me that sometimes when he lays in bed at night, if he has trouble falling asleep, he does the mouse pose in his bed and it makes him fall asleep. Who knew a six year old could be so self sufficient. I was very impressed with Max’s interest in the subject and how much he knew about it. And impressed the school he goes to makes this part of the curriculum. Very forward thinking and very smart. A lot of young kids have problems with focus and “too much” energy. The common treatment seems to be to medicate the kids with things like Ritalin. I would much rather see Max learn to control his mood in a natural way. Sure handing someone a pill to control their mood is probably an easier approach, but yoga and meditation are much healthier overall and there are no bad side effects.

Gingerbread Men


The other night after dinner, it was already dark outside, so we were looking for something to do inside. Rachel had a headache, so it needed to be quiet. I remembered that we had picked up a Gingerbread man ornament kit a few weeks back. So I got the stuff out and Max and I began.

We started attaching the little foam pieces, like the eyes, scarf, buttons etc using white glue. After had nearly completed the first one I discovered there were little double sided sticky tabs included, which made the whole process easier and a lot less messy. They came out pretty cute. After they were done drying, I asked Max to write his name on the back. Then I added the year, and age 6 on the back of the ornament. Max asked me what I wrote. After I answered him, he grabbed a pen, and wrote “Dad age 40” on the back of my ornament. hehe 



Nobody ever told me…


Everyone knows about the terrible 2’s. But noone ever told me about the whiny 5’s/almost 6’s. A few weeks back it got really bad. Max seemed to just be really tired every day, and all out of sorts. We tried putting him to bed earlier, tried making him stay in instead of running around outside, nothing seemed to work. If he was inside he was miserable, if he was outside, he was miserable. If we told him he could have chocolate milk to drink, he would complain and say he wanted regular milk. If we offered him a bagel for breakfast, he wanted pancakes. We just couldn’t win.

Funny thing happened that Saturday at Max’s t-ball game. Several of the kids, seemed sleepy and cranky. A few didn’t even want to get out of the car. The coaches son had a melt down at first base, when the wind blew his hat off. His Mom told Rachel he had been like that all week. Crying at the drop of a hat, and generally moody. One of the other kids Mom’s said that her son had a field trip for school that week, and was so exhausted, he fell asleep at the dinner table after getting home. So I guess it’s just the age, and being tired from long days at school and trying to cram a whole bunch of fun in at night after school.

I expected Max to complain about his clothes when he was in middle school or high school, I didn’t expect it to start in Kindergarten. When we went back to school shopping, Max saw a pair of Nike high tops that he loved. They were kind of expensive, but being he really loved them, and we knew it would make him happy going to school in them, we bought them for him. They were a little hard to get on, so we told him on days when Nana got him ready for school, he couldn’t wear them. She has carpal tunnel syndrome and wrestling with his foot to get the high tops on hurt her hands and wrists. Of course he complained about that. Then as the weather started getting cooler, he insisted he wanted to wear shorts, even on morning when it was in the 40’s. Mean old dad made him wear pants, and of course if even one kid in his class had on shorts, he was sure to tell me. “Francis has on shorts today”. “Eddies daddy let him wear shorts to school”.

Then a few weeks ago, we had a week where it did nothing but rain. They had some really good sales going on at Carters, Oshkosh and Childrens Place, so it was a perfect day to go shopping. We picked up some fall clothes for Max. On the way out of Childrens Place, I saw a pair of canvas high tops. They kind of looked like Chuck Taylors, but they were Childrens Place brand. I showed them to Max, and when I asked if he liked them, he sort of shrugged and said “Yeah, they’re ok”. Well as soon as he tried them on at home, he loved them. He wanted to wear them everywhere we went. I think he would sleep in them if we let him. Suddenly his Nike hightops were no longer cool. All he wants to wear are his new high tops. Since he liked them so much, we ended up going back and we found two more pair on clearance. So now he has a pair to wear to school, one to play outside and one pair as a spare incase he rips them or something. Of course since they are high tops, they are still kind of tough to get on and off, so we never really solved that problem.

The last dilemma started this past weekend. On Thursday, Max ended up putting a whole in a pair of his new school pants. So before going to the park, Rachel made him put on a pair of old jeans that used to belong to his cousin Andrew. The one knee was already ripped, which initially made Max mad. He wondered why we wanted to put ripped pants on him. But after wearing them a few hours, he really started to like them. He asked to wear them again on Sunday. So Sunday night, he was crushed when Rachel and I told him he couldn’t wear ripped jeans to school. As soon as he got home on Monday, he asked to put on his ripped jeans. Spend money on nice new clothes, and all he wants to wear are ripped hand me downs from his cousin. Go figure.

Max has two days off next week, and a 3 day weekend the following week because of Veterans Day. Then after a full week of school, he has a half day the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Thursday and Friday off. Hopefully he will be able to get some extra sleep, recharge his batteries a bit and mellow out a little. We love him to pieces, but man this whiny stuff is driving us crazy!

Modern Day Parent

Parenting these days seems a lot different than when I was a kid. Not to say that my parents and the other parents of our generation didn’t care, it just seems like parents these days are much more involved than our parents were. I guess the verdict is out on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I tend to think it’s good, but I’m sure there will be naysayers who say it creates co-dependency and we will have a generation that can’t function independently.

Maybe it’s because I was the youngest, and because there is a gap of 10 and 13 years between me and my two sisters, but there wasn’t a lot of one on one fun time with my parents when I was a kid. I don’t remember my Mom or Dad ever reading me bedtime stories, we only went on one family vacation together, and I don’t remember my Mom or Dad every sitting down to play with me like I do with Max. My Mom was always super serious. The one on one time her and I shared was usually doing homework and studying. It was usually not very fun. Again, maybe it was just the way things were back then, or maybe it was because my parents were both older in life when they had me.

My dad took me to the park, and I loved playing baseball with him and having him push me on the swings. But my dad was 51 when I was born. He would wake up at 4:30 to go to work, and was on his feet most of the day. So when he got home, a lot of the time, he just wanted to sit on the couch, smoke his pipe and watch Walter Cronkite. But he did try to find time to do things with me. But it was usually 1 or 2 nights a week. I had a lot more fun, one on one time with him then I ever did with my Mom. Don’t get me wrong, my mom’s helping me study was a huge plus, and it helped me a lot in school. It was just never fun. My mom wasn’t the type of person to dump out a pile of legos on the floor and say “lets build a castle”. We never sat at the kitchen table and colored in a coloring book together. When I fell and scraped my knee, she would clean the wound and put a band aid on my knee, but she wouldn’t kiss it to make it feel better. She would tell me I was acting too wild and to slow down. That’s just who she is.

Max and I play together all the time. We go to the park, we build forts out of blankets, we laugh together as we watch silly YouTube videos, we play catch in the front yard. I cherish all the time we have together. Thankfully, the company I work for encourages flex scheduling and telecommuting. So I’m able to work from home two days a week. On those days, I take Max to school in the morning and pick him up afterwards. We usually have about 2 hours together in the morning. And then when he gets home in the afternoon, we have about 90 minutes or so together, before Mom gets home. That one on one time is fantastic, and I enjoy it so much. Truly some of the best times of my life. Probably because I get to act like a kid again. But also because I get to watch Max grow and develop. Riding his bike without training wheels, climbing a tree all by himself, making it across the monkey bars without any help. All these little milestone in his life, that serve as a reminder of how much he’s grown and for how special these times are.

A few months back, Max asked why one of his cousins didn’t live at home with her mother and father any more. We explained that she was going to college and moved away so she could live on campus. Max looked sad and said “I never want to move out”. It made Rachel and I feel good that he is so happy and likes living with us so much. Of course, when he’s 18, he probably won’t feel exactly the same way, but for now, it gives us comfort.