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What do to when the kindergarten teacher says, 'She's at the bottom of the class'

Tell yourself a new story. This is my new story.

What do to when the kindergarten teacher says, 'She's at the bottom of the class'

For #MotherlyStories | “She’s at the bottom of the class. We have our work cut out for us.” This is what I was told by my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. It’s the line I was told one month into the school year, and it’s the story I’ve been telling myself and everyone who would listen for the last five years.


The way my fingers sit on the keyboard after I type that line. How long those words have lived in my body with nowhere to go. The way I couldn’t be convinced otherwise. The way I wanted to find my girl to be brilliant but I was so good at the classroom game myself that I couldn’t see her as anywhere but at the bottom of the class.

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A few days ago, I told my story to an older woman who had been the principal of a school for children with dyslexia. She told me her story: “After my daughter’s first test, the tester told me I had a brilliant daughter with learning issues and I said, "I’ve been told I have an average student,” and the tester said, ‘No, you have a brilliant daughter who is doing average work right now.’”

And this woman who now has grey hair had tears in her eyes. Her daughter’s tester was asking her to tell herself a new story about her girl.

Tell yourself a new story. Our first tester told me my almost six-year-old daughter had the mind of a three-year-old. I repeated that line to anyone who would listen to me that year. Bless the people that argued with me: “Nancy, you believe her, don’t you? It’s not true.”

The parents who are asked to have their children repeat kindergarten due to developmental delays lay awake next to their anxious six-year-old who will repeat kindergarten in the fall and wonder when things will get easier. It isn’t until my daughter is about to enter 4th grade that I can see how I fully believed both of these women, a tester and a kindergarten teacher. I thought my girl’s brain would never unstick. That age three might be where she landed forever.

Even as half of me was full of rage that time the kindergarten teacher sat at a meeting with the tutors and announced she wasn’t sure if there was anything going on in my daughter’s brain, the other half of my brain was full of fear. Half of me raised up and said, look, the way my daughter is lost in that book isn’t exhibiting a shut-down brain, her brain is on fire right now. You just can’t really see her!

While the other half of me didn’t think I was mom enough to help unstick my daughter’s brain. Even as I escorted her to six tutoring sessions a week. Even as I watched her turn into a raging tantrum throwing machine when the reading tutoring sessions were too hard. Even as my girl curled into a ball after she yelled and I went over and placed my body around her body. Even as I told her I was there to help her calm down. And she did calm down and she always went back to tutoring and she began to learn those 26 sounds and attached those sounds to 26 letters and bit by bit began to read. I was the one there holding my daughter as she did the hardest thing. Even as half of me raged at the difficulties my girl had to face, I faced them with her.

Even as the remarkable slowly began to happen, though, those old lines still lived in my brain. Even as my daughter caught up and began to read at grade level, I still heard those old voices. Even as my daughter who couldn’t count to 30 in 2nd grade began to count to 100 for fun, the old stories lived on repeat in my brain now and again. Your daughter has the cognitive abilities of a three-year-old even though she is six. Your girl is at the bottom of the class. What does it take to tell myself a new story? What does it take to unclench my teeth and not dread the start of yet another school year?

I watch the ant crawl over the newspaper as I ponder this idea. Does it take ignoring what my latest research for work has told me? The researcher who has studied learning disabilities for more than 40 years told me, “But in grade 4 the curriculum changes and most of the reading is silent rather than oral and the requirements for spelling and expressing ideas in writing sky-rockets.”

But still and yet. Maybe I don’t need to ignore these facts. Maybe I need to be ready for 4th grade to explode my daughter’s brain into new territory. This is the part of the story where I finally believe my daughter can rise to this occasion the way she rose to the occasion of repeating kindergarten and playing catch-up in so many skills. Maybe I need to look at my daughter and see how by the end third grade I no longer had to walk her up to the classroom. After eight months of walking her up the stairs to the second floor and into her classroom, she was the one who initiated the kiss me at the bottom of the stairs routine. She was off on her own during that last month of third grade.

I have to replace the old lines with the new lines. When her voice teacher complimented her on her singing at the June concert by saying, “Thanks for sharing your gift with us,” my daughter replied, “You know, singing is not my only gift.”

I have to finally listen to the girl who is in front of me telling me she is brilliant and there’s no need to rate her based on the other kids in her class. I have to unclench my teeth as I lie in bed at night and wonder about 4th grade. I can’t know what 4th grade will bring. All I can know is this girl who is unfolding like a bright orange California poppy before me, singing her way through the summer months. I’ll remind myself of what I told her last fall when she couldn’t sleep at night. I was so mad at being awoken yet again in the middle of the night. I said to her, “What are you worried about?”

“I’m worried school will get hard again.”

As my open heart clenched hard in pain, I asked my daughter to look at me in the eyes. When her eyes held tight to mine I said, “Oh, but we have dealt with hard before. If it gets hard again, we will just ask for help. We know how to ask for help.”

Asking for help saved us. Learning how to breathe into the hardest moments saved us. As I took deeper breaths on the days my daughter shaped her body into a fetal position I thought to myself, “I am still. I just get to be in the room with her. Be in the room with her now.”

And I was in the room with her and she looked up at me and I repeated the phrase we made up together to help her calm down. “Baby bird,” I said to her, a secret term between us that reminds her of our special bond. And she began breathing deeper and she wiped her tears and she went back to the folding table in the basement room where we did her reading tutoring. And she learned her sounds and her letters and how to put the letters together to make words. And last spring my girl admitted she hardly remembered how hard it was to learn how to read.

All I know for sure is we are in this together and this girl has taught me to drop all my preconceived notions of success. There’s no ladder to climb or no seat at the top to strive for. There’s just moments like last night when her older sister made her start a difficult chapter book and my youngest picked up the book and began to read out loud. Her sister stepped in to help her with the hard words. I sat in the other room and listened. Tell yourself a new story. This is my new story.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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