Archives for category: Milestones

Yesterday was a two-birthday-party day, a day with both a brightly colored confetti-esque cake and chocolate cupcakes laid out in the shape of a horse on green grass. Yesterday’s parties involved a stint at a paint-your-own-pottery place and at Amy’s farm, with lots of kids (both human and goat) and pony rides and – best of all for Boy and, perhaps, all of the boys there and a girl or two as well – a big, big dirt pile to dig in.

Yesterday was Girl’s seventh birthday.

Neither of these celebrations was for her.

Instead, we celebrated her at home tonight. To be fair, her celebration began early with both sets of grandparents, and yesterday, we gave her some presents, too – including All-of-a-Kind Family, which she’s well into and loves (“I love it!”) and Cool Circuits Jr., a puzzle sort of game to create closed circuits (challenging but, we hope, not too challenging). We also began to watch Disney’s Mary Poppins, a favorite from my own childhood; on the way home from the pony party, we had finished listening to P.L. Travers’s book, and I thought they might enjoy the film after the book. I was right; they were rapt.

Tonight, though, we celebrated more fully with her other presents, including Break Your Own Geodes (she opened it, read through all the directions, and read aloud that “Geodes were once gas bubbles trapped in lava!”), plus a meal of her choice and the dessert from the Smithsonian Maker Lab book which she’s been wanting to try for a long time now: Baked Alaska.

Slightly adapted for our taste, there were homemade brownies on the bottom, cookies-and-cream ice cream on top of that, and meringue all around – and a sprinkle of pink decorating sugar on top for good measure. The warm-cool-warmness of it was delicious, an unexpected combination.

And that’s how it is. What’s the surprise hidden beneath the surface? Tonight, it wasn’t pie – or even just vanilla ice cream. What will be inside the geodes? Will they just be hollow rocks, or will they have crystals? As Girl read through the directions, she told me than an amethyst is “very rare.” Will there be a hidden gem?

Now that Girl’s seven and Boy’s four, what will we discover about them? What will time reveal? A bit of magic, like Mary Poppins? Secret powers, like the rodents in Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls (our current bedtime reading and a sequel to Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, which we greatly enjoyed)? Maybe their revelations don’t need to be as exciting as that – and their gem status isn’t hidden. To me, they already sparkle and shine and are multi-layered, exquisite in their own right.

“[Girl] is shaking my hand vigorously,” Boy said in the car the other day.

Vigorously? It’s true. She was.

According to my friend Lucie, when he turned two, he said, “I got to be two today!” Because English is her second language, she didn’t realize until she repeated it to her husband that it wasn’t quite right in English – but still, she said, she was impressed, and she repeated it to me today, these two years later.

My mother brought guacamole to celebrate his birthday this year, in remembrance of that same birthday, lo these two years past, when I served guacamole with a little kick. Boy loves guacamole and avocados, but not THAT guacamole. “This guacamole too spicy!” he said, and my mother enjoys reliving that moment, too – the things that kids say, the things that little kids say, the things that this boy in particular articulates.

Today he’s four. You grow older, you grow taller, you grow your vocabulary – and you grow stories, their roots snaking back to birth, pregnancy, conception, beyond. Last night, I told him, as a bedtime story, the story of the day he was born, and I found comfort in sharing his own story – our shared story – with him.

Today, I give Boy my birthday wish: that we – our little family, our larger family, our friends now and our friends to come – will tell tales, share stories, and make happy new ones for many, many years to come.

Because this is what we do. We tie ourselves together with stories, linking our pasts as certainly and inextricably as we can, hoping that nothing will fray at the seams, hoping that the fabric of our lives will only grow stronger, grow more vigorously, together.

isIt’s short and sweet and goes like this:

Once there was a girl named Mitzi, and she had a little brother named Jacob. They slept in the same room and in the same big bed, each sprawled on her or his own side. Mitzi usually hugged the edge of the bed, teetering on the edge, and usually teetered on the edge of sleep, too, holding out as long as she could. She wanted to snuggle her mama as she went to sleep, lying on her right side with her left arm wrapped around her mama’s left arm. Jacob wanted to put his head on his mama’s right shoulder and snuggle his mama to sleep, too. They’d often drift off grudgingly, as if unwilling to give the day up without a fight. That day would never come again, and who’s to say those few last minutes weren’t the most important?

Tonight – this night – was different.

Tonight Mitzi and Jacob snuggled their mama, snuggled their daddy, and giggled and talked together, making the final moments important in a new way — and then went to sleep all by themselves.

“Good night, Mitzi,” whispered her mama and daddy in wonder. “Good night, Jacob,” whispered his mama and daddy.

And then they stayed up to do exciting things like put cardboard in the recycling bin and fold laundry, and then they all slept happily ever after. (At least I hope that’s how this one will end!)

March 6, 2016: A week or two earlier, Girl had been complaining that her tooth hurt. Given that brushing her teeth is not her greatest strength, Daddy postulated that she had a cavity and told her so, telling her to be sure she did a good job brushing her teeth. Days later I was looking in her mouth, and lo and behold, a new tooth, jagged and large, like a new mountain, was rising behind her right lower middle tooth. No cavity, but a cavity-making situation. On March 6th, she woke early – 6:20 on a Sunday morning. I told her to close her eyes, she wiggled her tooth, and all thoughts of sleep were gone: the old finally gave way to the new, and she’d lost her first tooth! The tooth fairy visited, bringing one Tennessee quarter and one Smoky Mountains National Park quarter.

June 4, 2016: The mountain range was growing. Behind her left lower middle tooth, a new tooth was rising as well – and the old tooth had been loose for weeks. While reading Anne of Green Gables that night, I said, “Why don’t you try twisting it, too?” She did, and out it popped!

June 12, 2016: Since her last dentist appointment in March, I’ve been flossing Girl’s teeth and helping her to use a fluoride rinse six times a week (she gets to choose which night she wants off). I noticed a discolored spot on her tooth that didn’t scrub away. Uh-oh.

June 13, 2016: After a visit to our very patient dentist (she was not keen on having an x-ray, saying that the little winged film hurt her mouth – he had to stay in the room and hold the film in her mouth while his tech took the x-ray!), it’s certain: there’s a cavity. *sigh* We’ll be on our way back to the pediatric dentist in roughly two weeks to begin the process of fixing that. Better fixed than made worse…but if it was that difficult to get that one x-ray, how will the rest of this process go?

I’d told Boy that if his diaper was dry for three nights in a row, he could sleep in undies instead of a diaper. In early December, we’d go two nights and have a wet diaper the third. Good rule, I thought, patting myself on the back. Glad I hadn’t set the bar at two nights!

For weeks now, his diapers have weighed the same in the morning as they did at night. Due to a rash, we’ve had to have a dalliance with disposables after more than two years of cloth. They felt so foreign, so wrong, so wasteful…so easy. I’d touch them to see if they were dry – they sure were! Of course, I couldn’t tell if they were dry from being dry or dry from being disposable. With cloth, you know – even if you have a AI2 and have to reach inside to check. I wasn’t about to cut his diapers open to feel the magic beads or whatever lives inside the diapers (small, inflatable fairies? They’d have one of the worst jobs ever!).

I decided I’d try the switch to underwear on a Friday – no wet bed to contend with on a school night, if it all went wrong. And it didn’t.

I might be a bit sadder about leaving this stage behind if it were the cloth diapers I was giving up now. However, in these use-it-once-and-move-on diapers, there’s no nostalgia, no “remember when’s.” We’re disposing with disposables, and I’m glad. I just hope that the rest of the nights are as dry as last night.

 

October 6th, Tuesday. Boy had his first car ride (and out-of-the-house trip) in underwear. He stayed dry, which the car, the Piggly Wiggly, and I all appreciated. Woo hoo! Within two or three weeks, he had fully transitioned to underwear during the day. Celebration!

October 6th, Tuesday (same day). Boy had his first real experience throwing up. There was a lot of orange food involved: cooked carrots, raw carrots, goldfish – so as you can imagine, this was quite the first. Sadness.

This was also Girl’s full week of fall break, her first real break from kindergarten (excluding Labor Day). She, too, spent it sick. Pretty much the whole week, between them. We each had a turn. Not the most fun we’ve ever had.

November 13, Friday. Yes, that’s Friday the 13th. No, we wouldn’t have picked it that way. Today, the house that Boy and Girl have dubbed “The Bluestone House” finally became ours. Their very own home – it will be Girl’s fourth home of residence but only Boy’s second.

November 30, Monday. Girl first tried and subsequently succeeded at tying shoelaces. Hooray! (And did you know that one method involves making two loops, not one? And apparently, it’s easier??) At school, beginning on December 1st, kindergarteners could get into the Jingle Bell Club. Once they showed their teacher that they could tie their shoes, they got to wear a jingle bell necklace every day at school for the rest of the month. Her entry into the club didn’t come until roughly two weeks later, but she’s now a confident shoe tie-er – not bad for someone who still has no shoes with laces.

December 9, Wednesday. Girl, Boy, and I all got haircuts. For Girl, it was her first time donating hair (two of the cutest little braids). She was delighted to have chin-length hair and never once thought she’d made the wrong choice. I donated mine, too (yea!). For Boy, it was his first not-at-home haircut. All the same, I think I’ll be cutting his again next time, which should really be today!

December 22, Tuesday. After going to the public library for an ornament-making craft, Girl got her first library card and checked out her first book: William & the Missing Masterpiece by Helen Hancocks. She was so proud of herself!

December 25, Friday (Christmas at the grandparents’ house). Boy was given his first pack of gum – Glee Gum, just like Girl got for Christmas when she was two – and chewed up a storm. Glee covered how he felt about it. (Sure, he swallowed a good bit, too…maybe we should call it “swallowing gum” instead of “chewing gum”!)

December 27, Sunday (our bonus Christmas at home). Girl received her own mug, “I (heart) Cupcakes!”, and was delighted. Sometimes, it’s the funny little things that are your own that become special.

January 2, Saturday. Girl read two books all by herself. I think she just holed up, snuggled in, and lost track of time. (What a great way to spend a day!) She read a Magic School Bus Chapter Book, Rocky Road Trip, and a Geronimo Stilton book, A Cheese-Colored Camper.

January 9, Saturday. Boy and Girl got to make pasta with their Auntie Lou. This was a first, and they enjoyed cranking the machine and helping to pull the pasta out. Family visit: yea!

After Matthew came home from a conference in Seattle (his return is always like a gift for the kids, whether it’s after a trip or just a morning at work), he unpacked his sack, Santa-style. (He should have laughed “ho-ho-ho,” too!) Among the goodies was a gift rolled in newspaper for Boy. He unrolled and unwrapped then said in high-pitched delight, “My very own mug!” His says “Seattle” and has one scene with a blue sky, clouds, and folks covered by umbrellas and another scene with a grey sky, clouds, and folks covered by umbrellas!

January 10, Sunday. Our first snow of the season that stuck. There was a little snow in December, the kind that decorates the air but not the ground, but this was enough to make a heavy powdered-sugar showing. Delight again! “I bet the house is wearing snow!” said Boy, upon seeing the snow on the ground, trees, and playset.

January 11, Monday. My first blog post in too long, my first reminder of the year of the many kinds of things that happen and pass all too quickly (or, in the case of stomach bugs, not quickly enough!) in the lives of small children.

Happy New Year, 2016!

It’s 10:11 a.m.

Girl started school at 8:00.

This has been a very, very long morning.

Girl is, according to the schedule, learning phonics. Every day. From 10:00 – 10:30. That should be easy since she already knows how to read.

What IS the point of education, really? Socialization? The ability to think creatively? Learning skills? Becoming a good citizen? Putting up with “learning” things you already know and learning patience? As a teacher, I didn’t spend much time thinking this matter through in the same way – of course, I wanted to be supportive, to get my students to think for themselves, to get them to be better and more critical readers and writers. I never saw it through the eyes of what someone else might hope for them, though. Being a parent changes a lot of things.

Here’s the school’s mission statement:

“The mission of ___, a caring and supportive center of learning excellence, is to assure that each student acquires the knowledge and life skills necessary for being an accountable, productive member of a democratic society.”

I’m not sure that that really sums up the whole of my goals for my child’s elementary education. I’d never suggest it’s a school’s job to do a parent’s job, but this seems to be leaving out whole areas of importance, like joy and creativity, cultural understanding and openness to new people and ideas, among other things, and the ability to think independently.

When Girl woke up this morning, she said, “I’m excited for my first day of school!” She paused, then added, “I’m nervous, too.”

After breakfast, and after peeing three times (she only ever pees once in the morning), she said, “My belly hurts.” I told her that sometimes, when we’re excited and nervous about something, we feel it in our bellies.

I hope that, as the day progresses, what she feels in her belly is more akin to excitement, some joy and creativity, and the thrill of new friendship.

It’s 10:21. Ten more minutes done.

Daddy guest post (thanks!):

Bedtime snuck up on Girl again tonight, and she needed to pee before she could settle down and sleep. Her trademark sing-song drifted out of the bathroom as she sat on the potty, mulling things over. When I went in to extract her from the bathroom and send her off to bed, she looked up earnestly and said, “I’m not so sure about going for the whole day tomorrow. Maybe I should just stay until lunch and then come home before nap time. I’m not a good napper. Yeah, maybe I’ll just ask my teacher if I can come home after lunch.”

She and her Mama share a mind sometimes. Mama isn’t exactly eager to let others watch over her girl for seven hours a day, five days a week, and Girl isn’t so sure about it, either. We’ll have to wait to see where these tentative steps into unfamiliar territory lead, but Girl summed things up perfectly as she snuggled Mama in bed: “I’ll miss you tomorrow.” We’ll miss you, too, love.

DSC_0337

Before

Before

After

After

Girl doesn’t look so different from one to the other, does she? She smiles, she has sparkly eyes, her hair’s a little messy. They’re only taken about fourteen hours apart.

There’s a big difference, though, that’s not so clear to the naked eye: in the first, she’s still my preschooler, the home-with-me-93-to-100%-of-the-time-most-weeks girl. In the second, she’s the home-with-me-only-79%-of-the-time-most-weeks girl. She’s a kindergartener who just completed her first day of elementary school (wearing the dress of her choice).

Yesterday, Girl began kindergarten.

It was only for thirty minutes at most, but it was her first day nonetheless, and I got to be nearby in the hallway the entire time.

I don’t think I’ll get to spend all of her school days in such close proximity. After August, we’re not even supposed to walk her to her classroom.

She’s excited, but I feel less certain, walking on this precipice dividing her previous life at home and her soon-to-be life at school. I can see the appeal of homeschooling: you set the sorts of freedoms and controls that fit your needs and beliefs. You shield, you expose. You work to maintain the joy that “10:00 – 10:30: Phonics” every day may not be able to.

My heart is so full that there’s not much more to say – and yet look at what she says in each photo without any words. Hello, I see you, I greet you; hello, I see you, this heart is for you.

I love you, schoolgirl.

Yesterday was Tuesday. Seven days of swim lessons were behind Girl – this year. Last year, after two weeks, I was ready to sign her up for the next session to further her progress.

“Wait ’til next year,” Coach Max said then. “She can’t do anything else until she’s ready to put her face in the water.” He might have said it would be a waste of time to sign her up for another session, but memory can be a strange and fuzzy thing.

Oh. Scratch that plan. One round of swim lessons in 2014: yes. One swimmer: no.

She’s five now. I wish I could say that she’s taken off, that she dips her head below the water like an ice cream cone being dipped in chocolate. I can’t. Or if I can, it would be a disappointingly dunked cone, one that would make a little kid sad. However, she did touch the bottom of the pool yesterday, fully submerged, before popping above the surface. One fully covered cone!

I told her that she was doing great, of course, because she was. “Only two more days left!” I said on our way to the car.

“Tomorrow is our penultimate day!” she announced.

“Yes, it is,” I agreed. “Yes, it is.” Leaps and bounds, this girl, leaps and bounds. Make that splashes and bubbles.

Progress!

Progress!