Back to School!

The crafting cabinet is stocked with Ticonderogas, pink pearls, and crayons.  The pantry is full of pretzels, apples, and whole wheat bread.  The backpacks are back and the swimsuits are stowed away. The Pioneer Children are back to school!


We love school around here.  We love notebooks and pencils, fancy pens, coloring and drawing and scissors.  We love friends and recess.  We lovelunch freshly packed in a fancy box.  We love standing by the door and waiting for the siblings to come home.  My little partner is on the floor playing Little People school bus right now, waiting for her turn to be off to school.

The littlest Pioneer Girl only turned four years old a few weeks ago, so she has had to say goodbye to the Fourth-Grader and Kindergartener every morning this week.  Preschool doesn’t begin until next week, so she has been Pioneer Mom’s partner these last few days, running errands to fill the hours and pick up the last-minute two-prong pocket folders and lunchbox treats.  We scheduled a playdate for the first day of school because we had an inkling it might be a little lonely.  That couple hours with a friend was crucial to suriving the first day.

Our Pioneer Boy started big boy school for the first time this year – my little-big Kindergartener.  It nearly breaks my heart to see that big backpack on that small body bouncing off to his classroom.  This morning he got out of the minivan, and then got back in for a good-bye hug, and then got out and ran to school, taking all of my feelings with him.

It’s day three today and I still sort of don’t know what to do with only one kid at home.  Roro doesn’t know what to do either.  She spent an hour this morning kicking a balloon around the kitchen.

Next week the real routine will start up — five full days of school for the big ones, preschool for the little one, homework and chores and piano lessons.  Next week I’ll start on those projects, too — the ones I had planned to do with all our free time this summer, the ones I quickly decided I’d wait to work on until the kids were in school.

I’m excited for the things we’ll be learning this year.  Juicy has been yearning to read on his own for months, and this year it will happen for him.  My Pickle has been invited into an advanced writing class, which is a little surprising to me given her disregard for capitalization and punctuation, but nevertheless it warms my heart.  I think it was in fourth grade in this very same school that my best friend and I wrote a six-page(!) story together that helped develop my love of writing.  What if my girl discovers she loves writing too?

We’ve been assigned wonderful teachers.  Ms. Fourth-Grade is being taught by a family friend who is in her first year with her own classroom, after having worked at the school in various capacities for the last 17 years.  We were next-door neighbors when I was young; I babysat her kids.  I know my daughter will be well loved at school — so well loved that I actually thought I better give the sweet teacher a mandate to lay down the law with my chatterbox and demand good behavior.

Kindergarten man is learning the ins and outs of school, running into old preschool friends on the playground, forgetting to bring home his lunchbox on the first day and his binder on the second day, but finding the bathroom every time.

And now it’s Friday and the afternoon carpool should be dropping them off any minute.  We’ll fill the weekend with family activities, church, maybe a few chores.  And then Monday, we’ll be…

back to school.




Record Your Travel! – Make Your Own U.S. States Passport

We’re hitting the road this week.  The dad of the family has a conference in Indiana, and we’ve decided to road-trip along with him.  We’ve made the trek into a family history/U.S. history research trip, and we are so excited to be off-schedule for a while and visit new places in late spring while the weather is nice.  (It has already hit the triple-digits here in Arizona. Ugh, already.)

Two years ago we made our first cross-country trip in a minivan with three kids (then 7, 3, and almost-2), traveling from Phoenix to St. Petersburg, Florida.  Other than the dearth of excitement in West Texas, it was a great trip.  We listened to our bodies and to the kids to know when we needed a break, and made good use of refueling and lunch stops.  We ate from our “food box,” so at least one meal per day was a picnic at a local or national park.  (We take our National Parks seriously.)  As we traveled, if the kids needed to stop and wiggle, we stopped.  If we saw an interesting roadside attraction, we visited it.  We played with cousins in Houston, ate beignets in New Orleans, swam in the Gulf of Mexico on a stunningly beautiful beach in Destin, and visited Winter the dolphin in Clearwater.

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We kept a map of our route and traced each day’s progress with the kids.  Our destination was St.Pete, but we had little plans to do other things along the way so each day had something to look forward to.

In high school I made a goal of visiting all 50 states.  It’s not an easy concept out here in the West.  I can drive for four or five hours and not make it out of Arizona.  (Don’t even get me started on Texas.)  When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area after college the goal suddenly seemed feasible.  I could go north from Arlington, Virginia, where I lived, and knock out four states, not including Virginia or the District, in that amount of time.  My husband’s family is from Florida, so we took the I-95 trip south from D.C. several times in the 9 years we lived there, including delightful stays in Charleston, Savannah, and North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

So as I’ve continued to check visits to different states off my list, I’ve started recording our travel for my kids, too, hoping that they’ll have the same goal eventually.  Before we set off for trips to Colorado and Florida in 2013, I created a “passport” for each of my kids.

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Each page has the name of a state at the top.  (They’re in alphabetical order for ease in finding them when traveling.)  I put each kid’s photo inside the front cover and had them each sign their name.  (Super legible when you’re not yet 2.) Whenever we stopped and got out of the car, we grabbed the bag of passports and carried it with us.  When we had a moment — waiting for our food at a restuarant, playing in a park, whatever — we got the passports out and wrote down the city we were in and the date, and then the kids stamped that page of their book.

Another awesome benefit to this that I didn’t even anticipate is that the National Parks Service (serious nerds over here, folks) has put out their own National Parks Passport, so as we visit those, they have their own stamp we can log in our passports.  Of course we also bought one of their passports, so there’s just hours of stamping fun whenever we get out of the car.

This year I found these great printable stickers we can use.  2015-05-11 13.58.09Super nice because they’re the perfect size to use with a 1″ hole punch.  Each kid will get a set that we’ll keep with their passports, for this trip and future trips.

The kids love all the stamping and stickering, of course, but I hope that they will be glad to have this record of the places they’ve been and the things they’ve seen.  We have our family photo albums, but this is a fun way for the kids to record their travel and when they visited each place.

And hopefully someday they’ll each have an international passport, too, and I’ll get to watch as they explore the world and fill their books with even more stamps.

‘Firsts’ for Women

I spent an interesting hour on Facebook last night.  I was looking for interesting girls and women to profile here, and since it’s Women’s History Month, there was not a shortage of great posts.  I read posts honoring women who are athletes, authors, artists, astronauts, activists — and those are just the As!

But this quote, posted by Chicago Sinfonietta, was my favorite, and it’s had me thinking since:


“I’m still quite shocked that it can be 2013 and there can be ‘firsts’ for women.”
– Marin Alsop, first female conductor at the Last Night of the Proms 2013.

So I’ve been thinking.  In 2013, and now in 2015, we still need girl pioneers.  We need girls who will be the “first female” to accomplish things.  Lots of things.  Here are a few “firsts” women have accomplished since Ms. Alsop’s quote:

Janet Yellen became the first woman to head the U.S. Federal Reserve
– Maryam Mirzakhani became the first female to win the Fields Medal in mathematics
Mia Love became the first black Republican woman in the U.S. Congress
Katie Higgins became the first female pilot to perform with the Blue Angels
Michelle Howard became the first female four-star admiral in the United States Navy

And there is still more to accomplish.  What can we do to empower our girls?  What will we encourage our daughters to do?  Maybe my daughter will be the first black woman to represent Arizona in Congress.  Maybe yours will be the first in her family to earn a Ph.D.  Maybe that girl you decide to mentor in her early years will cure cancer, or promote peace, or write a book, or share the gospel, or become a mother.   Let’s teach them about women of strength and character now, and show them how to become like them.

By the way, we’re still looking for the first female president of the United States.  My daughter wants to be the president, and while I fully support that idea… let’s not wait that long.