Archives for category: Preschoolers

We were at our local sandwich shop last night, meeting with friends for an impromptu dinner. As a treat, Girl wanted a delectable-looking chocolate cake ball, complete with colorful sprinkles. Girl’s friend got ice cream (with sprinkles), and suddenly Girl wanted ice cream, too.

Similarly, Boy had wanted a cake ball, but when Girl changed her mind, Boy did, too. They were in this together.

Do they change their minds because they want to be like their friends or the ones they admire, loath to give in to their own desires for fear of not fitting in? Or is it that, confronted with a huge scoop of ice cream and a much smaller cake ball, who wouldn’t want the bigger portion?

Either way, ice cream was the new choice. With eight options laid out like a farmers’ market gone neon, the brightest choice of all, looking like a a swirl of the primary colors of Play-doh, was the superman ice cream. The eye couldn’t help but be drawn to it: the too-pink strawberry and the too-green mint chocolate chip paled in comparison. In spite of that, Boy chose vanilla. Girl, however, chose superman with sprinkles – and, adjusting yet again, so did Boy. No more vanilla for him.

Hoping to help them rethink their choice (the color of that ice cream did not come from beet juice, blueberry juice, or turmeric!), I said that they could either get superman ice cream with no sprinkles since it already had lots of color or another ice cream with sprinkles. Sprinkles are a big draw, a signature style, a way to get candy and ice cream at the same time. They would surely choose another ice cream with sprinkles.

Naturally (or, unnaturally, given the ice cream), they chose superman. I split the giant scoop between two cups, and they dug in, never once missing the sprinkles or the cake balls.

As it turns out, their choice had more staying power than they could have known.

This morning, we received an extra gift, made by Boy himself: Boy had kelly-green poop. It was like St. Patrick’s Day in our toilet.

After a discussion of why that happened, we said that the days of superman ice cream are behind us. They accepted this, unperturbed. They are flexible decision makers, after all.

Next time, we’ll skip this super power.

“[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.

BOY

Monday, February 27th. Yesterday.

It is lunchtime. Boy and I sit across the table from one another; Girl is at school. On my plate, a sandwich; on his, a quesadilla. I look forward to mine, toasted with mayonnaise, with blueberry jam, spinach, and ham, at the intersection of sweet and savory.

“Let’s toast!” I say. To his left sits his water glass, which I left on the table from breakfast in the hopes he’d return and drink it; to his right sits his glass of milk. He reaches for his milk and, in slow motion, I see his water glass tipping, and I reach to stop the inevitable. As I do, I nudge my own glass,  and the more-viscous nut milk spills thickly, more milkshake than milk, pooling with his water, here clear, here opaque. We look at the spill. We look at each other.

“Guess we’d better clean it up!” I say cheerfully, trying to put into practice my remain-calm life goal.

With much blotting, dabbing, wiping, and removing sodden placemats and napkins, we return to lunch, one glass each left on the table – mine far emptier than when we’d first begun. I put our plates in front of us again.

“Let’s try this again – cheers!” I say, successfully lifting my glass. He reaches for his glass and fumbles, his fingers not quite fully encompassing the jelly-jar-turned-drinking glass, and the cup goes down, the slow spread of his nut milk making a mockery of our still-slower reaction time.

What is there to do but clean it up?

So I do. We drink what remains of our milk, we eat our lunch, and we go on to do letter work and play camping and argue about playing Super Grover games on sesamestreet.org. It’s just a regular day, after all.

GIRL

Tuesday, February 28. Today. Fat Tuesday.

For Read Across America Day/Week, Girl’s first grade teacher has parents coming in to read. Boy and I go in, reading the Dr. Seuss book of Girl’s choice. We end up staying, and Boy gets to go to recess with the big kids. He races around, an elementary student in miniature. First grade girls talk to me, and I hear about one girl’s mother’s pregnancy, her sister’s vision, the age of her father, her own blurriness when reading sometimes.

School ends, and we leave together, heading down the mountain. “I don’t like to go down the mountain!” Boy protests. We go anyhow.

We arrive at the eye clinic, and without fanfare, without whistles or bells or snacks in celebration – or even instructions to the first grader – she receives her first pair of glasses. The frames look red, now purple, now pink, and the shape seems oh-so-much more pleasing and adorable than the glasses I first got at the age of four. Her future self may judge her past self more harshly, but these are some adorable glasses! “I love them!” she says.

She wears them as we stop in the grocery store. She takes them off for the ride home; Boy does not complain about the trip up the mountain. We are listening to The Wizard of Oz on CD, and Dorothy is being left behind as the Wizard of Oz’s balloon takes off without her; they are rapt. (At home later, Boy will be heard repeating lines of the story to himself: “I am Oz, the great and terrible. Why do you seek me?”)

She does not wear her glasses at home, even as she reads The Boxcar Children and The Bobbsey Twins. Astigmatism. Farsightedness. Reading is the targeted activity for the new spectacles, but they sit next to her, across the room, in a different room. “I’ll wear them tomorrow,” she says. “They hurt my ears.”

Another day ends, and they sleep.

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!)

Let me say this first: I should be packing. Tomorrow is the big day – finally! – and we’ll be moving. That overstates it, really: we’ll make the first big step in moving and we’ll sleep in the house tomorrow night. The big stuff goes; lots of small stuff is already in our storage/shipping container, and lots more small stuff will trickle in over the next week. We’ll figure out what to do with the big things that don’t fit (seeing as how we’re moving into a partially renovated work-in-progress house that’s just across town), right?

As much as it’s been taxing for us, the grown ups, with the craziness of two houses – our rental, which we’ve lived in for over four years, and our own house, which we’ve owned for nearly nine months but have yet to sleep in (although Matthew’s put in more-than-full-time hours there most weeks, often working double shifts and never getting time and a half), it has to be more stressful for Boy and Girl. Our rental is the only house Boy has ever known, and while it’s the third house Girl has lived in, we moved in when she was just two, so it’s really the only house she remembers. We’ve all had a long time to get used to the idea of moving and have spent plenty of time there, but it’s been like a playhouse, a place to visit but not a place to stay. On top of that, we’ve also had lots of false alarms; we’ve switched move-in dates half-a-dozen times. After all that, I think it’s going to rock their world to actually be moving.

So at dinner tonight, likely our last meal in our Brick House, I asked, “How do you feel about moving?” Girl said, “I feel a little excited and a little down.”  She said she’d miss the blackberries, the big backyard (even though she acknowledged that the other yard is bigger), and “the circle of trees.” Our Brick House is ringed by trees, with sky and clouds just over the house, a little window into the heavens. This makes the backyard shady much of the day in the summer, which is good for kids who like to play outside in the summer. (Of course, this also means more ticks, I imagine, too.)

Boy didn’t say anything about moving, but then, he doesn’t have to: he’s been needier and clingier than usual. Our attempts at having him go to two days a week of preschool (which I felt uncertain of, too) haven’t gone that well; he said, “I wasn’t that excited about preschool today” and returned home with Daddy one day last week, and yesterday was a no-go, too. If he’d been a cartoon character, he would have been made of rubber and, as he clung to sofas and doorframes, his arms would have stretched like a piece of chewing gum. He played happily at home while I packed. Today, he went into near-hysterics when we took Girl to gymnastics; I went into the bathroom with her to help her change, and he walked into the room and took some pretzels (without telling us where he was going; I thought he was playing at the end of the hall). He didn’t know where I was, and even though he knew the teacher and at least one parent in the hallway (and the Community Center is someplace we go almost weekly), he sobbed. This was no mere sniffling but body-wracking. Sometimes words will do the job, but sometimes, you just have to be really, really sad. Moving is chaos and upheaval and major, major change (even on this scale).But it’s not all bad (and, coming from a person who has loathed moving her entire life, that’s saying a lot) – the house already has many charms and will have more the further we get into renovations, and it is our own!

As for Girl, when we talked about how the extra open space at the Bluestone House would both let us see the stars better and allow us to have a garden, she got excited. She loves to plant things. But she also made it clear that she’d feel better with her swingset there. We hope that having that there will convince Boy, too, that life will be OK.

And this is where we are. We’ve been caught between two worlds for too long, it seems, and I hope it will make all of us feel whole to be in one house all the time. Now, to figure out how to get that swingset moved…and get back to packing.

Sometimes there’s so much going on, I don’t know which way is up: our parents’ health, our parents’ moving, travel plans, possible moves, events in the lives of family and friends, and so many other odds-and-ends of things that in the end it all seems odd and up in the air.

It’s usually pretty clear which way is down, though. Down is the direction of the toilet – and we stopped in a UGO bathroom THREE TIMES today. We weren’t even going to go there (although the fact that we did explains the popsicles, chocolate-covered strawberries, and cashews now at our house), but Girl needed to potty. We shopped a little, then Boy needed to potty. We finished shopping, then Girl needed to potty again. Not to be outdone, Boy used the facilities twice more before we left the bathroom that third time. (His diaper remained dry for about two hours! Sure, it was wet after the half an hour drive home, but it’s a start.)

But that’s not even the best of our toilet stories for the moment. Two days ago – or was it three? – Boy announced, “I peed like Daddy!” He’s taken to standing on the little stool in front of the big potty, which is a big change from all the sitting he’s been doing. After finishing, flushing, and washing hands, he came out, grabbed his daddy by the hand, and said, “I need help getting my undies!” and pulled him to the bathroom. Boy’s getting better about dressing himself (“I like to do it my own self” is a favorite line when putting on a shirt), but sometimes he needs help. The undies in question, however, were nowhere to be seen. No undies on the floor, no undies on the stool. No undies in the bathroom, period. “I want my undies!” he cried. He took Matthew to the toilet. And that is where they’d gone, taking their final journey, may they rest in peace: down the toilet. “Even if they could come back, you wouldn’t want them,” Matthew told him. Nope, he wouldn’t.

Sure, we told him not to flush things down the toilet (last week, he unrolled nearly a whole roll of toilet paper, said he’d roll it back up, but instead started putting it all in the toilet. Yes, it clogged the toilet, even after the not-so-wet bunch was transferred to the trash can). No, we don’t support the idea that clothing is disposable. Yes, parenting can be tiring.

What we do appreciate at this point, though, is that they TELL us. I could have done without the extra bathroom trips this afternoon. I’d prefer to keep our clothing in the house and not somewhere in a pipe outside (not very useful as extra storage). For now, however, I take comfort in knowing that our children share their experiences, let us know their needs, and don’t really keep things from us. If we can keep what should go down down and what should stay up up, then we’ll be doing OK.

But maybe we’ll need to go underwear shopping soon.

Up and then down

Up and then down

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!

“We walked down those steps,” my daughter said, gesturing to the opposite side of the car.

“And did you cross the street in the crosswalk?”

“Yes. And we had a really short recess.”

Today, she and the other kindergarten-bound preschoolers in her class walked across the street with their preschool teachers for a visit to the elementary school. Each was paired with a kindergarten buddy, played outside, and got to eat in the cafeteria (for $2.25).

For such a short physical journey, it feels like the start of a very long emotional one.

“They paired me with a boy.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t play with me. He was supposed to play with me, but he didn’t. My friend didn’t play with me, either – I said we didn’t just have to play with our partners, but she wouldn’t play with me.”

Ooph. Let the blows to the gut begin. So much of what she’s experienced so far is what we’ve arranged for her – and, since she’s only in preschool three mornings a week, most of what happens in her life is something I experience and witness as well, an observer and frequent participant, protector and guide. When kindergarten begins in the fall, the twelve hours of school will morph into thirty-five. She won’t be the only one transitioning.

“You had chicken nuggets?”

“Yes, but I didn’t have time to eat my broccoli.”

“What?”

“Or my cookie.”

“Oh, no! So you had chicken nuggets and chocolate milk?”

“I didn’t finish my milk, either.”

She’s a bit of a dawdler at meal time – unless she’s eating some salty meat product like bacon – and bolting down your food isn’t really good for you, so we haven’t minded. Kindergarten, apparently, will require more lupine-like behavior – but not on the playground, I hope.

“I heard they only have twenty minutes for lunch.”

“But I got to eat my orange cup,” she said. She sounded slightly satisfied with that admission.

“And he got me a spork.”

I assume and hope this was the not-play-friendly partner doing his duty.

This is probably what we have to expect of the coming years, isn’t it? Times of growing autonomy, of new experiences, of hurt feelings, of being rushed, of gratitude. I hope the years will also be filled with kindness, with hope and anticipation, with satisfaction and pride. With learning, too – and more of the creative, inspirational variety than merely the worksheet-driven sort.

And with this walk across the street, with this toe-dip into kindergartenhood, it (so much to hold, those two letters, i-t ) has begun.

“I get to go in the attic!”

Yup. For her birthday, she got to go into the attic. (It’s right up there with getting gum for her Christmas present when she was two – what terrific, but unlikely, things to anticipate!) That was what she was excited about today. She got to roam around and poke in boxes and bags, standing at full height – unlike us – and looking like Alice in Wonderland, taller than real life. When asked at dinner if it was as exciting as she thought it would be, she said, “No.” We looked at each other, knowing how great anticipation can lead to great disappointment. But she wasn’t done yet. “It was funner!”

Climbing up

Climbing up

Alice - in Wonderland

Alice – in Wonderland

That – and her new fishing pole – might have been the highlights of this, her fifth birthday.

“…in that party dress.
Balloons and cake,
Two kinds of ice cream –
Guess [yes?] you’ll be a mess!

“Share the fun with your [little] brother
As friends go, he’s your best.

“Make a wish; it just might come true –
Blow those candles out.
DSC_0260

I won’t forget the day that you were born
Five years ago
We were happy and excited
and we loved you so
You’re growing up so quickly
Now, I feel a little sad –
That’s to be expected;
after all, I am your daddy [mommy].”

Five years ago

Five years ago

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Five Years Old” – it’s the song for today.

And she DID have two kinds of ice cream – but she said she didn’t like the first, and she didn’t eat much of the second. She did eat her birthday dinner – she’d asked for bacon and hotdogs, and she got bacon-wrapped hotdogs and lima beans. Chocolate cake, white frosting with sprinkles – and a party dress, the kind she’s wanted, with a flouncy under-layer and a sash around the waist. And we did go out and get balloons, like we have every year. It was a full birthday!

Like Alice, she’ll continue to grow – but, we hope, at regular speed; these five years have already sped by, and I am not prepared for it to go by any faster than this. Happy birthday, Girl!

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

“I love you as much as there are fish in the sea!” I told Girl, having been inspired by Prehistoric Monsters Did the Strangest Things, her favorite book of the moment. (We’re going to need to start digging for fossils soon…)

“I love you infinity weeks!” she said. “That means my love for you will never stop.”

“I love you to infinity, too.”

“Everyone loves everyone.”

I like the idea of all this love floating around, all the time – tied to each other but untethered, too; here with us but outlasting us. If you’re feeling a little low, stop for just a moment and feel – that little bit of warmth, that something? That’s love. There’s a lot of it at our house, and we hope you feel it, too.