Tag Archives: kindergarten

Brian Wetjen and Jill Rizzo

November 11, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like it is in any home with small children, the kitchen can be a flurry of activity when it comes to mealtime at the home of Brian Wetjen and Jill Rizzo. Brian makes PB&J while daughter Elke (4), uses the cap of a marker to transform a slice of American into its Swiss cousin. Meanwhile son Calder (7), attempts to bring a science play-set to the dining table.

“Calder, not now,” Brian says. “We’ll do science in a little while.”

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It’s a Sunday scene that mimics their weekday lives—Brian stays home with the kids while wife Jill goes to work at Hayneedle, where she is the creative director. Brian works from home as a website designer, but took this past summer off while the kids were out of school.

Hectic though it may seem, the family’s lives have simplified over the past three years. That’s when Brian ran his own company and Jill worked as the design director at Bozell. They each toiled more than 40 hours a week, leaving little family time.

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“We hated having to use the term ‘who has to pick up the kids’,’” Jill says, “because we both wanted to pick up the kids.”

“Once Calder got into kindergarten,” Brian adds, “we realized we wanted him to be able to come home after school. That’s really what kids want—they want to be at home.”

The lifestyle transition initially caused worry for Jill, who wondered about the “what ifs,” as in what if I lose my job?

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Brian took the opposite road.

“Instead of sabotaging it in your brain,” he says “why don’t we think ‘wow—look at all the positives.’”

Also easing Jill’s worry is how the couple thinks about materialism, not just from a monetary standpoint, but as a philosophy that forms their values.

“I recognized I was spending money on just stuff,” Jill says. “Like stuff for the house. I’d buy new pillows and placemats, but we didn’t need them, it was just more stuff.”

“It was retail therapy,” Brian adds.

“And I’m in retail!” Jill quips with a laugh.

One area of “stuff” the couple have carefully cultivated is their kids’ belongings. Markers, paper, and play-dough clutter the kid-sized crafting table at the end of the galley kitchen’s counters, while a play kitchen sits next to the dining table, ready to prepare any manner of made-up meals.

“A lot of the toy choices we make for them are either a) things we loved, or b) art supplies,” Brian says. “We also built a really big sand box in the backyard so they can dig and build things.”

The kids’ creative spirits rub off on their parents. Jill is a noted artist and the kids like to spend time painting with their mom.

“We work on art projects at night,” she says. “I have an easel set up for them in my studio, and they will come down and paint with me…or vice versa. Calder, specifically, will come up and ask me, ‘Mom, why aren’t you painting?’”

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Changes in school curricula over the years have influenced how this couple organizes family life.

“There’s less art, less music, less movement in school,” Jill adds, “all so they can get better test scores. Freedom of thought allows them to be creative problem-solvers.”

“Unstructured time is just as important as structured time,” Brian says.

Calder has drifted into another room by himself to work with his iPad, while Elke bounces on the small trampoline in the TV-less family room, holding onto a small attached railing while she bounces and bounces, joyfully crying “look at me!”

Aforementioned, structured time is just as important as unstructured time.

“We have a routine,” Brian says. “I make breakfast, Jill goes to work. I walk Calder to school then take Elke to preschool.”

Calder is in second grade at Swanson Elementary.  Brian comes home and has a couple of hours to work before picking up Elke, then they have a couple of hours in the afternoon before picking up Calder.

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Once school lets out, the kids get time to do what they want—playing outside or inside.  Brian and the kids make sure the house is picked up on Fridays so the family can participate in things they want to do on the weekends. Their seemingly carefree situation is the envy of their friends.

“Most of our friends are pretty laid back,” Brian says. “Most of them have said, ‘boy, I wish I could do this.’ ”

A big focus for both Brian and Jill is travel. They have taken the kids to see Jill’s extended family in upstate New York along with trips to Colorado and North Carolina. The couple hope to travel more as the kids age.

“We want to incorporate as many new experiences as possible,” Jill says.

The less is more philosophy has worked well for the family, and they encourage others not necessarily to do things their way, but in whatever way works best.

“Not everyone can work from home,” Brian admits, “but if you think about it, you can design your life the way you want.”

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Starting a New School

August 16, 2013 by

Starting a new school can be both exciting and scary. From kindergarten to high school, we all want to feel accepted and fit in with our peers. Boys Town Pediatrics offers parents advice on how to help relieve some of their child’s anxieties and prepare him/her for a successful school year.

Talk with Your Child

When you are ready to tell your child about starting a new school, keep it positive. Do your homework and find out what sporting activities, clubs, or field trips are available at the new school. If your child seems nervous, talk it through. Once you know what worries your child, such as a bus ride, transitioning to classrooms, or trying out for a new team, you can offer helpful ideas and suggestions.

Time the Move

Whether you are moving to a new state or starting a new school down the street, timing can have a big impact on your child’s emotions and social behavior. Try to start the new school in fall with the new school year. Chances are your child may not be the only new student. Plus, your child will get to know the school’s routine from day one with the rest of his or her classmates, making the transition a little easier.

If you are moving to a new community, try to plan your move as early as possible, before school starts. This way, your child can adjust to the new surroundings and make a few neighborhood friends before the first day of school.

Take a Tour

Call ahead and schedule a tour of the new school. Some schools will offer an open house. This will give your child a chance to meet the teacher(s) and explore the cafeteria, gymnasium, music room, computer lab, and other areas of interest. For older children, ask to see an example of a daily class schedule and a list of extracurricular activities offered by the school.

Allow Time to Adjust

Some children can jump right into a new schedule and start making new friends right away. For others, the change is more difficult. If you feel your child is not adjusting well to the new school, you may consider talking to the school counselor. Find activities at school and outside of school that your child likes. Arrange play dates with school, church, and other friends. And most importantly, keep your communication open and allow your child to talk about his or her feelings.

Making Friends

Your child may worry about fitting in and making new friends at his new school. You can help ease the worries by:

  • Making your child realize his/her own strengths
  • Keeping a sense of humor about yourself and your shortcomings
  • Listening without criticism
  • Being kind, giving compliments, waving to a friend, and opening the door for someone
  • Showing understanding and empathy to others

During this transition period, continue to encourage your child and offer support. Over time, your child will begin to adjust to his/her surroundings and gain positive memories and new friends.