Monday, October 13, 2014

A first last

Last week I stayed late at work while the lovely husband collected all the kids so I could venture downstairs after hours to G's preschool. It was back-to-school night.

I almost didn't go, having sung and danced this routine before. It was my ninth back-to-school night there. Same classrooms, same teachers. The same core group of women have raised my babies from infants to readers, from burp cloths to flying leaps. I knew what they'd say, and a sweep of gratitude and nostalgia made me once more want to hear them say it.

Today I spent the day with G, as his school and my work were closed for Columbus Day. The other three had regular days and next year he'll go off as well, this day no longer ours, just mine. And oh I'll sleep and sip coffee and hug my solitude. But beginning with that evening in the classroom last week I was shoved into a small panic that this is the beginning of littleness's end.

I gave G his bath. He sits in bubbles so thick they fly when he blows. They cling in his crevices, folds of baby fat sure one day soon to melt away forever, and he plays naked and happy, oblivious, having no want for privacy or solitude, only that I hand him another toy and bargain again three more minutes until hair washing. The girls take showers now. And of course they do, but, oh.

He asked me to tie his shoes and then he asked me to switch my shoes so they might match his and then he stomped in a rain puddle because that's what four-year-olds do and then his feet were wet and he wanted to change his shoes and then he wanted me to change mine. He called our day an all-day date and how cute that he wanted us to match and it won't be much longer, I'm sure, that he wants us to match. It was our last Columbus Day together, but it was last week, back-to-school night, that knocked me askew.

Pin It

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Skipping Yom Kippur

The eldest wild found a fever on Friday, and our family ritual bifurcated into the communal adherents, driving to synagogue and listening to sermons and standing and sitting and solemnity; and the fever snuggles marathon book reader and attentive mama never too far beyond reach.

I think this is the second Yom Kippur in eight years I've missed due to this girl and her ill-timed maladies. She doesn't need much now when she's sick but she always wants me right there. So: Yom Kippur in yoga pants. It's a thing now. I complied.

We read together, and read our way right into what we would have heard, more or less, in synagogue:

They all knelt down by their chairs, and Reverend Alden asked God, Who knew their hearts and their secret thoughts, to look down on them there, and to forgive their sins and help them do right. A quietness was in the room while he spoke. Laura felt as if she were hot, dry, dusty grass parching in a drought, and the quietness was a cool and gentle rain falling on her. It truly was a refreshment. 
--excerpted from "On the Pilgrim Way," a chapter in By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It wasn't the same, But a little bit it was.

She's better now. And on we go. Pin It

Monday, September 8, 2014

New shoes

We bought the girls, as is custom, shiny new sneakers to start the school year. After a summer of sandals or bare feet and lots of growth, they need new sneakers, but I play it as a new-school-year extravagance. It's important to celebrate new beginnings, especially for the kids who are hesitant to see the good in new beginnings. New sneakers are more than school-mandated footwear, they're a reinforcement that what's to come is significant and special.

So we measured feet and we got new shoes purple as purple and pink as pink, and then L did that thing she's done before. New shoes that fit generously on the first day of school were, no joke, uncomfortably small by the second week of school. She grows in actual spurts, literal, not time-lapsed over weeks. She's the kudzu of childhood. So we got new-new shoes, and now the big girl has glowing purple feet and the slightly-less-big girl has turquoise ones.

I had barely used new pink shoes in my hand and I mumbled what great shape they were in, and how we should donate them, and a certain someone who watches his sisters mark their relationship, among other ways, through the shared memories formed on the fibers of hand-me-downs, this certain someone jumped up and yelled with determination.


They are, truth be told, sneakers ordered from the girls' side of Zappos. He is, truth be told, 26 months younger than L and exactly one-half shoe size smaller. And real men wear pink.

He is one cool little brother. And his toes get compliments everywhere he goes.

Pin It

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ready or not...

The school year began. 

We needed a full two weeks to adjust, I think. Tonight was the first school-week-eve that didn't bring angst and worry.

(The night before school started, we gave everything a try. New clothes, new sneakers, new bags. The girls chose their favorite colors for their new sneakers: as purple as purple can be, and as pink as pink can be. We'll have more to say about those new shoes another day. Aren't they vivid? And with a gazbillion backpack options in the world, the girls picked identical bags. Oy. I spent a little extra for the monogramming, but let's see how long it takes for them to drag the wrong bags into school.)

Third grade is more complicated than second grade was. E has three different classrooms, with a different mix of kids in each subject, so there's less emphasis than before on worrying if she has a class with her favorite friends. The kids all get juggled around with this schedule. She's in enriched math, and they spend an hour in the math classroom every day, and she loves it. We call it "fancy math" at home and she always does her math homework first.

First grade is fine, I guess, for L, the child who doesn't ever have much to say about her day. She only has one friend from her kindergarten class in her first grade class and she's feeling her way through new friendships again. It can be tiring, and she has little patience for it. She has the same teachers that E had in first grade and I adore them and know how nurturing they are, so I feel very comfortable with how her year will unfold. Now I just have to wait for her to realize along with me that it will be great.

When E was in this first grade, her teacher said something that I'll always remember, that she thinks first grade is the very most fun grade to teach: it's the year that kids go from understanding letters and sounds to becoming fluent readers, most of them, and I can already see the confidence she's pouring into L's reading. L has been saying for a year that she can't read, because if she couldn't immediately recognize a whole word she'd give up after its first part, and now she's asking questions about things she sees out the car window or on a magazine lying on the table and I answer, and realize she could only ask that question if she read the words and I say, "hey, are you reading?" and she denies it every time. But before she'd deny her ability angrily, like it was defying her in not being fully cooperative, and now she denies it playfully, for the pleasure in being caught. It seems like a good reason to become a first grade teacher, doesn't it?

In third grade we're facing three new teachers, and although my initial impressions of each of them is superb, every day is a new unknown. What I love about this school, though, is that on the first day, when E was feeling a little overwhelmed, her guidance counselor made time in her first-day craziness to give E a pep talk; and E's kindergarten teacher, upon finding my sweet girl a little sniffly in the restroom, took her for a walk around the building, telling stories of what it was like for her to come to college in America, and neglecting her own full classroom of students for who knows how long. That E, she has a support network that is extraordinary. She attracts the kindest-hearted adults who want to be her champions, and when she needs them, they always materialize.

It might not sound like much of a pep talk to your ears, but my little mathematician finds solace in patterns and empirical evidence. So I said to her, "you've cried every year on the first say of school. But you haven't since kindergarten cried on the second day of school and you won't tomorrow" and she looked up at me, willing to believe, if you've ever met her in person all eyes in that moment, blue and teary and willing words to become truth. So I promised with my eyes and hoped fate would cooperate and so it was said, and so it was, and every day got a little easier after that.

And the boy, we should mention him, he's had some confusion about kindergarten. When we were at the beach in August we rushed back on Friday for him to participate in the 3pm preschool graduation. A few of his very best buds are gone now, boys he's thought of as his absolute peers, but a few months' age makes all the difference when you're facing down the starting date for kindergarten. He'll go next year, and he's starting to understand what that means, and every time we're walking through the girls' school we make sure to stop in the kindergarten wing. He hugs the teacher who finds her years'-gone former kindergartner to ease her in to third grade, who by family legacy will be his own guardian angel next year when he makes his official debut.

And then we'll have all the kids in one place and on one schedule. Can you imagine it?

Our thanks to Mini Boden, who sent the girls some smart new clothes to start the year off well (as seen above). The new school year is daunting but less so in cute outfits. #momsloveboden (I have for years).

Pin It

Sunday, August 24, 2014

After the end and before the beginning

When last we spoke, dear readers, we'd left our eldest at rookie camp. And then we held our breath off-stage, because we wanted said eldest to have a wonderful experience, we desperately craved that she'd have such, but we just weren't sure.

And then she came home, and we hugged her, and we still weren't sure what to report.

And then we had one week: we left. We vacayed. Four states, two hotels, a new ferry, a familiar beach. 

And tomorrow begins third grade (and also first grade, and also the last year of preschool, but sometimes this blog is the parenting to anxiety blog, not the easy-go-lucky here comes first grade blog, nor the this year of preschool looks just like last year, pretty much because it is the same blog). 

All week, we discussed: the intention of rookie camp is to see if the camper is ready for sleepover camp. Her two friends came off the bus chanting NEXT YEAR TWO WEEKS! and this girl came off the bus all smiles, entirely happy, huge hugs, and pulled me down and whispered I'm not going next year

So while we rode a lazy river and a ferris wheel and jumped waves and explored museums we discussed. And it was mostly a superwonderfulamazingspectacular experience, rookie camp. But the food was such a challenge. And this sweet girl, the one who has grown so much, (SO MUCH,) she struggles with food. The foods she eats are really pretty healthy, but they're a short list. And food and eating made her really unhappy, especially with counselors who (well-intentioned, I'm hoping) told her she couldn't just live off of the chickpeas and red peppers at the salad bar (you could TOTALLY live off of chickpeas and red peppers, though), and "made" her take a serving of whatever the main food was every day, and then told her not to waste food, she had to finish what was on her plate. That's the camp complaint. But for a girl with sensitive and sensory concerns and who fears disappointing authority figures like counselors, it all added up to a huge guilt and shame burden of anxiety overload. 

But eeeeeverything else about camp was superwonderfulamazingspectacular.  She swam in a lake and held a chicken and flew down a zip line and didn't eat smores, because she doesn't like marshmallows or graham crackers or chocolate, and see how food intrudes on every part of life? 

We were a little pressured, because the two-week sessions of camp sell out within a matter of days, and 2015 registration opened as soon as rookie camp ended. Even more importantly, though, we were pressured to figure out the right resolution for this girl because she was beating herself up terribly. Her two friends want to go next year, and she made a gazbillion new friends, and not everybody is ready for sleepaway camp and that's fine

She has grown so much, though, in the past year, and I've been trying to grow myself to accomodate. For so long (VERY LONG) it was my job to protect her from the hard options, as they simply overwhelmed her. I think, though, we're marking a new phase and we should lean in to the reachable challenges. And I don't know anything for sure, and I certainly don't know anything about sleepaway camp - I never went to one - but I sense that she wants this enough that we can grow into readiness between now and next June. And the self-abusive dithering had to end. So I listened to a yes and a no and we agreed to sign up over the weekend and one friend's mom emailed to say she'd just signed up just after E woke up crying saying I'm not going! Don't register! 

I finally asked: if A and K go next year and you don't, are you going to feel relieved? Or angry at yourself that you're not joining them? 

She answered firmly: really angry at myself. So we signed up. She's going to two weeks of sleepaway camp next June, with her two best friends, and I have nine months to get her to like sunflower-butter-and-jelly sandwiches as a standard alternative main dish option. Or to figure out what exactly to write in her camper application to explain that she has my explicit permission to live on chickpeas and red peppers for twelve days.

So we went on vacation. It was really quite nice. I offer you this picture of G, long (long long LONG) past his bedtime, still digging in the sand, which is basically his favorite thing to do in the whole wide world:

And you know what all that angst was really good for? We completely avoided the new-school-year anxiety. Until today. Oof.

Local public schools go back to class tomorrow, but we only play at going to school. Tomorrow's the two-hour meet-and-greet; I'll take the girls and meet their teachers and find their lockers and drop off their school supplies. Then we leave before lunch and have a whole unimpeded afternoon and evening to panic about third grade, which starts properly on Tuesday. More soon....

Pin It