Monday, November 17, 2014

Wait, what's that symptom called?

Many of my long-time readers know that I've been experiencing menopausal symptoms since I was about 30. And then I took a whole bunch of drugs to try and get pregnant, and I experienced what felt like every other possible hormone-related symptom. 

I have a new one. If I think about it, it's been coming on slowly for a few months now, but it was very mild and I guess I always assumed it was related to the weather. But I started taking a low-dose HRT (Estrogel Propak) and now I see it for what it really is: a symptom of decreasing estrogen levels that makes me think I'm losing my fucking mind. 

It's called formication. No, read it again. Right. With an "m". 

And it's the feeling that your skin is crawling right off your body. If you Google it (and many of you have probably already done so), you'll see that it is also described as a feeling that there are insects crawling all over your body. It's a symptom that people with the DTs sometimes get.

I've had one really bad episode and a couple of somewhat bad episodes so far. The bad episode actually started while I was driving, and that wasn't something I want to repeat. I got home and took an antihistamine - there was no rash, but I was so itchy that I thought I must be having some kind of allergic reaction. Then I had a sudden thought that it might be related to the new drugs I'm on and googled "skin crawling + estrogen" and it all made sense. This also may explain the very random hives I've been getting every so often (like, one hive at a time, on my face, with no explanation) for the past few years. 

It gets better once I take my daily dose of hormones, which I do in the evening, no earlier than 9pm. The problem is that it often starts around 7pm, and I don't want to keep taking my hormones earlier and earlier or I'll end up taking them at noon, which is ridiculous and ill-advised, as they make me sleepy. 

So it looks like I just try not to scratch for an hour or so each night. But holy crap, it is maddening. Like, "tie me up in a straight-jacket and put me in a padded cell" kind of crazy-making. And I KNOW what's going on. 

So, ladies, as you approach menopause, be aware of some of the symptoms of decreasing estrogen levels. Because otherwise, you'll think you're losing your ever-loving mind. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dear Moe (September and October)

My dear, beautiful boy. I can’t get over how much you have changed and developed in the past two months since starting full-day junior kindergarten. Let me tell you about some of our adventures since September.

Your debut at school went super well. You were excited, happy and eager to be at school, and the drop-off went well on the first day and every day since. I’m so proud of your self-confidence. You made a friend right away – Nathan – and the two of you have been pretty inseparable ever since. You have other friends, too, and come home with lovely stories about sharing and trading classroom toys and the various games you play on the playground. You bid your Daddy goodbye each morning with a flying high-five, and head happily off into the Early-Day Program.

It has been wonderful to see and hear all the amazing things you are learning. Your class did a unit on butterflies – your teacher had a butterfly habitat in the classroom and you were able to observe first-hand the life cycle of caterpillar to “hanging J” to chrysalis to butterfly. And every week for a few weeks, you had a butterfly release party (complete with lovely paper crowns) where your classmates would send butterflies off into the wild with some great songs (“Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go to Mexico!” and “Fly, fly away, butterfly”). You were very disappointed that you were not one of the children chosen to actually release the butterflies, and it was a sore subject for a week or so. But it was a good lesson that not everyone gets picked to do everything. (You were selected to be the leader to the cloak room one day, though, and were pretty darn happy about that, even if one kid barged in front of you and went in first anyway. I explained that you could take comfort in knowing you were the TRUE and CHOSEN leader. The world is full of turkeys, darling. Try not to let them get you down.)

Meet the Teacher Night was lovely, if chaotic. You took great pride in showing us around your classroom and following the teacher’s classroom scavenger hunt. We are looking forward to the Parent-Teacher Interview appointment in the next week or so. It will be nice to see the work you’ve done on projects related to themes like worms, fall colours, and more recently, knights and castles.

You have brought home incredible artwork (complete with descriptive sentences!), and it has been so wonderful to see that you write your own name on your work now. In September, you were obviously using a model and the letters were very carefully formed. Now, you work without a model and your signature is fantastic. The first, third, and fifth letters are always backwards. It’s adorable. We have noticed your growing interest in numbers, reading, and French. You can count to ten in French. You understand addition and are getting very good at it. You often quiz me with mental math questions, some of which we work on together. We do your reading homework and your sound book together every night at story-time and it has been amazing to watch you improve each day. For the past two weeks, we have received lovely praise in your communications book from your teachers praising how well you read your weekly reader to your friends.

In addition to being in the Early-Day Program before school in the mornings, you have been in the Extended-Day Program in the afternoons. In October, we reduced to this three days a week, with Granny picking you up on Mondays and Tuesday. In January, we’ll go down to one day a week and (a freshly retired!) Grandma will pick you up on Wednesdays and Thursdays. While you are at school for the same number of hours that you were at Robin’s, school is just so much more intense, and the days feel very long for you. Also, you don’t seem to really enjoy the afternoon program all that much, for a number of reasons.

You have greatly enjoyed your time with Granny, though. You have raked leaves, steamed broccoli, taken bus trips, and played all kinds of games together. Your favourite game is one that most people call Store, but for some reason, you call it World.

You have had some wonderful day-long playdates with Grandma in the past few months, too. She took you to Funhaven (your head just about exploded with how much fun you had), and to the Canadian Children’s Museum to see the Bob the Builder Exhibit. You have great conversations together. I know you’ll be very happy to have more time with her in January.

Autumn has brought all kinds of great adventures. We celebrated your scholastic debut with a photo session with Sara McConnell, who you remembered from the family portraits we had done for your third birthday. You had a great time, and we were really pleased with the results.

I brought you to the Ottawa Geek Market, which was held at Nepean Sportsplex at the beginning of October. You were dressed as Mario, and you were a total hit. They had face painting there, so I had the woman paint you a moustache. People stopped to take photos with you. People were offering us all kind of free stuff because you were just so darn cute. We got our photo taken with the TARDIS and you met (and were enchanted by) a remote control K-9. You did end up with a slight case of the “gimmies,” but you enjoyed watching people play video games and left with a spider man change purse and a great new board game (My First Carcassone). You asked if we could go back again the following weekend. I had to break it to you that the Geek Market is only on twice a year.

We had a lot of exciting lead up to a great annual event that Uncle Mark puts together: Game-A-Thon. I explained that Daddy and some friends would be playing video games (and table top games) for 24-hours straight to raise money for the kids who are sick at CHEO. I also told you we would go and spend the day, that our chosen family would be there, and that you could do THREE 30-minute sessions with your DS. You just about lost your mind with excitement. And then a few days later, you were sorting money from your elephant bank and set aside a pile of coins, asking, “Can I raise these coins for geo?” It took me a few minutes to figure out that you meant “Can I donate them to CHEO?” You made a very nice donation to the money pot at the event, and had the time of your life. You played Mario Kart 7 with Loralei, you played Rock Bank with Sean, you played Forza with Uncle Mark, and you played Trouble with Becka. You ate Timbits and Ringolos for lunch. It was insane.

And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough, I took you from there to Gemma’s house for her birthday/Halloween party! I was worried your brain would explode. You made a Mr. Potato Head pumpkin, played with a toy ambulance, wowed people with your costume, ate a plate of lasagna and an entire cupcake, and then left with a loot bag, a glow stick, and a helium balloon. We tied the balloon to your wrist for the trip home. We got into the house, and as I was taking off your shoes (hard to do with a balloon on your wrist), I saw you pulling at the ribbon. I asked you not to untie the ribbon yet, until I could help you. You failed to heed my warning. The balloon sailed up to our stucco ceiling and popped with a spectacular sound. It took you a moment to figure out what had happened, but you understood when I held up the broken balloon. Trying to be brave, you said, “At least I still have my glowstick.” And then you burst into tears.

I explained that it is perfectly okay to be sad about losing something you were excited about having. We sat on the couch and had a cuddle, you took solace in your amazing Potato-Head-Pumpkin, and soon felt better. But you declared solemnly that you never wanted another balloon again because it would pop and you would be sad. I hope you can learn that as painful as it can be to lose something or someone we love, what we gain from loving in the first place can far outweigh the pain of the loss.

Our lives have been full of new babies lately! In the past few months, you’ve met Baby Harriet, Baby Dorothy and Baby Rowan. You find them cute, you enjoy “holding” them (sitting with them propped up against you on the couch) and are intrigued by how small they are. You are always really excited when you find out you will be spending time with one of them. 

Aunt Janine came across another small and cute creature… in her backyard. She found a newborn kitten, which she wanted to bring to the Ottawa Humane Society. So we drove her there, and you watched as she surrendered little Egon (who didn’t even have his eyes open yet). And while we were there and I’d already dosed with you Benadryl, we stopped in to pet the kitties. You LOVED petting the kitties. I think we will have to dope you up on Benadryl and bring you back there again. 

You greatly enjoyed Halloween this year, trick or treating for longer than you ever had, and making lots of friends along the way. I was very proud of how hard you worked to be polite and say “trick or treat,” “thank you!” and “happy Halloween!” to each person. 

In September, we started you into two weekend activities – one on each day of the weekend. On Saturdays, you have swimming lessons. This has been a long time coming. We have all worked really hard to get you comfortable in the water since the Swimming Lesson Disaster of 2012. This has involved trips to Bambi and Simon's large and quiet pool, swimming at Ted and Jen's, swimming at Disney. Things started to look promising in July when you were willing to be in the pool and not glued to me. You had a real breakthrough in August when you suddenly decided that if you were wearing a lifejacket you could actually let go of the edge of the pool. It was amazing. You blew us away with your first lesson – you were one of three boys and the only one who didn't end up crying or refusing to go into the pool. You listened, participated, and did everything asked of you. Within a few weeks, you were dunking yourself under water. You will be graduating from Low-Ratio Sea Otter soon, and we've already signed you up for Low-Ratio Salmander. I worried about having you in two activities at the same time while starting kindergarten, but I have no regrets. 

Because you're still really enjoying gymnastics! Your coach this session is Flex, and she is very pleased with your progress. We need to work on your stork stand a bit by practicing at home (I forgot this week) and we also need to have you practice front rolls and remind you to tuck your damn head. You keep ending up stuck in a half headstand! But you love your class, and it's been wonderful to watch your confidence and sense of discipline grow. 

The transition has gone very well, but that doesn't mean you don't miss Robin and her family. We've found a few occasions to see them, and are working on finding more. You had a really long chat on the phone with Robin a few weeks ago, and I think she was impressed with how well you could hold a conversation. She's looking forward to seeing you this weekend. 

You are such a lovely boy, Moe. Like Olaf, you love warm hugs. You have always taken great care of me, reminding me to eat breakfast in the morning. But this past few months, you got to really take care of me because I had a concussion. You were very patient with my need for rest, and played quietly when I asked you to and came up to cuddle with me gently if it was time for me to wake up. 

Your emotional capacity is growing. There have been a few instances this past few weeks where something in a book or television show has made you cry because it is so sad. When Gerald dropped his ice cream cone in the book Should I Share My Ice Cream?, I must have read it pretty convincingly because you burst into tears. And in one episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Jake and his crew lose Bucky and sing a very sad song about how hard it is to say goodbye to someone... and you wept. We always assure you that it's okay to cry at sad things, and remind you that things will work out in the end. The fact that you have been able to talk about your feelings in these moments is wonderful, and we are very proud of you. 

You've developed a few fears – you have never been a fan of the dark, and for a while you were having nightmares about piranha plants. But your sense of humour is also blossoming wonderfully. The other day I gave you permission to eat your banana while sitting on the couch, and you headed into the living room. Then I heard you calling, in a strange little voice, “Hello? Hello?” I came into the living room and you were talking into your banana, saying, “I'm calling you on my banana-phone to ask you to please open my banana!” 

You have grown curious about the concept of death. You occasionally mention, in an off-hand manner, that someday you'll be dead. You ask when we are going to die. It's never done in a morbid way, and it's often hilarious. 

And you are getting so tall. You can turn on most light switches on your own, and I marvel at how much space you take up when you lie down in the bathtub or when I see you stretched out in bed. You are looking so much older lately, that I occasionally wonder where my little boy has gone. But then you climb into my bed and put your head on my chest and ask me for a butterfly kiss and I'm reassured that you'll be here with me for a while longer yet. I love you so much. Thank you for being the best part of our lives. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dear Moe (July and August)

Oh, my darling, we have had such a wonderful summer. I can hardly believe it’s almost over. 

We have had some wonderful get-togethers with friends at various parks. Your summer has been filled with park play and picnics and wading pools and splash pads. Your legs are so tanned that your knees look permanently stained. I’m surprised you don’t sweat sunscreen. And you so rarely use your sand toys anymore – you are quite content to climb on the play structures, especially if you’re playing with bigger kids.

You have really come into your own over the past month or so. Robin reports that you often befriend other kids at the park, and that you are now standing up for yourself when someone treats you in a way that you perceive to be unfair. This is so encouraging, and it tells me that you are more than ready for whatever the next few months bring.

We have really limited your screen time this summer, and we’re pretty happy with the results. You get an hour of screen time each day – that includes the tablet, your DS, TV, etc. We bought a digital kitchen timer which keeps track of your time, and it’s great. It can be paused and restarted as often as necessary, and we aren’t constantly watching the clock. You speak less obsessively about your various games, and we are all spending less time in front of the TV.

We went on quite the holiday in July! We flew to Halifax and stayed with Grandpa Will and Grandma Anne for a week. It was absolutely wonderful. You had the time of your life – at times, there were as many as six adults giving you their full attention, and you discovered that your Uncle David can play soccer with you AND NEVER GET TIRED. We spent a morning at a 1940s heritage village, where you checked out the school house, ground up chicken feed, and fed some chickens. You also got a kick out of the water pump. We spent that afternoon at Clam Harbour Beach. It was a somewhat cool and cloudy day, but that didn’t stop you from getting soaked in the waves and playing happily in the sand. David took you out in a K2 at the Maskwa paddling club, and had a great time playing at that beach, too. We ate pretty much all our meals outdoors on Grandpa’s wonderful deck, and there were always plenty of cookies. It was your idea of heaven.

You did a day trip to Upper Clements Park with me, Grandma Anne, Grandpa Will and Heather.  It’s a lovely amusement park with lots of trees and fun rides for people your age and size. You impressed us all with your fearlessness. You climbed up this huge wooden tower with Heather, and I never thought you’d do it, but you crossed over a rope bridge to the other side. You adored the rides – the carousel, the airplanes, the truck convoy and especially the kiddy bumper boats. (Grandpa Will found it fascinating to watch you learn how to steer them.) I was amazed and delighted that you were willing to try the flume ride – you loved it! And it involved two BIG drops!

You and Daddy and I spent a lot of time in downtown Halifax. We had a wonderful time at the Discovery Centre, and history repeated itself when you fell asleep in the stroller as we wandered through the Public Gardens. (You did that with me when you were three months old – the last time you visited Halifax.) We checked out the Maritime History Museum, took a ferry ride, and did a lot of walking.

Mostly, though, I think you loved hanging out with your grandparents. You and Grandma Anne share an especially sweet bond. It was wonderful to watch you with them. And you have asked, pretty much every day for the last six weeks, when we’re going back to see them again.

You are just about done your first session of Super Starrs at gymnastics. This is a more advanced class, for kids who are 4.5 to 6 years old. It is certainly more challenging! You are the smallest and youngest in the class, but you amaze me every week with how hard you work to keep up, and how much you have improved over the session. Your coach, Widget, is really pleased.

We have signed you up for swimming lessons, starting in September. It’s a low-ratio class, so there will only be three or four kids. I’m hoping this session goes better than the last one did (you were about 2 years old – it was an unmitigated disaster) and that by the end of the session, you will have more confidence in the water. Having said that, you are doing pretty darn well. You love being in the water, and you have made great strides swimming with a life jacket. But it’s time for you to start getting comfortable without one.

We have had all kinds of interesting conversations lately. The Magic Treehouse books have raised all kinds of questions about topics like war, slavery, and natural disasters. Conversations at daycare with Alex have led to discussions at home about religion. The conversation on religion led to a discussion about human conception, which led to me trying to find a not-terribly-traumatic video on Youtube that would show how a woman’s vagina can stretch to accommodate a baby’s head. (Found one that was done as a 3-D render. Phew.)

We had a conversation about appropriate nudity. It wasn’t a conversation I particularly wanted to have with you yet, but something forced my hand. You and the other daycare kids were playing on Robin’s lawn in the sprinkler, and you were naked. We don’t have a problem with you being naked in a setting like that (it was 30 degrees out and you were the oldest child at 4 and a half years old!), but one of her neighbours clearly had an issue and instead of sharing their concerns with Robin, they called the police. Long story short, we ended up talking about how it is fine to be naked with people you love and trust, but that we probably shouldn’t be naked where strangers can see us.

And you love being naked. I think your favourite part of the day is after your bath, when you can run around without your clothes, and cuddle up with your blanket on the big bed. You love wiggling your bare bum at us, and just seem so relaxed and innocent, running around without your clothes. Enjoy it while you can… it is already getting cooler in the evenings.

We had a really remarkable playdate last weekend with our friends Tash and Lhotse. They live in Almonte, so we went up for the better part of the day. You played so well with Lhotse and her neighbour, Tommy, both of whom are four years old. And then Tash set up her backyard zip line! What a treat! You were your usual cautious self, not wanting to go too fast, but you had a wonderful time, and all three of you were really good about taking turns. We’ll have to get out there again soon.

A big change that happened recently was that your Daddy got a new job! I know you’ll miss visiting his store (that was always a very special time for both of you), but this new job means that Daddy is home with us on weekends. We haven’t quite digested what this means yet, but I’m really excited about it. He’s even going to take you to your swimming lessons!

And of course, the biggest change happens in the next week. Tomorrow is your last day at Robin’s. On Tuesday, you and I are going shoe shopping, then to your intake interview to meet your teacher, and then for a haircut. Wednesday, you get to determine the agenda, and then on Thursday, you start kindergarten.

I know you are going to do great. I know you are going to make friends. I know you are going to be fine. And hopefully I will be, too.

I love you so much that I don’t even know how to express it to you. I am so proud of the person you are becoming. You have your moments, but overall, you make the right choices: you are friendly and helpful and fun. Thank you being so wonderful. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dear Moe (April, May and June 2014)

Hello, my pookiest of pookie beans. It’s been a while.

What have we been up to since April? Here are some of the highlights:

When biking weather arrived, we broke out your balance bike, which was a gift from Aunt Kimmy and Uncle Luc. It did not take you long to get the hang of it, and now you are tearing up the asphalt. I am confident that next spring you’ll be able to graduate right to a two-wheeler without training wheels. One of the things I love about the balance bike is that it is so light to carry, so when you decide you’ve had enough, I can sling it over my shoulder as we walk!

At the end of April, we ran away to Disney World together and had an amazing time. Granny came with us and she greatly enjoyed watching you take everything in. It took you a day to get used to the heat (which brings out your somewhat unreasonable side), but you totally surpassed our expectations and once again proved yourself to be a wonderful travel companion. You happily waited in lines to meet characters (it was often your decision or idea – and your joy at finally meeting Woody was wonderful to behold), you loved rides like the Tomorrowland Speedway and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (you went on these ones several times, and would have kept going on them again and again!), you rocked darker rides like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (your light-up Mickey Mouse keychain came in handy for the dark portions), and were an enthusiastic audience member at the Disney Junior show and the Lights, Motor, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. You were the guest conductor on the Walt Disney World Railroad at Magic Kingdom, and you got to say “all aboard!” over the loud speaker. You love watching water run, and never missed an opportunity to watch a fountain (and there are SO MANY FOUNTAINS). Imagine your delight when you got to play in some at Downtown Disney! Since we came home, you have been asking when we are going back. Our goal is 2017, when you are seven years old. You’d better build your walking endurance, though, because I think you’ll be too big for a stroller at that point!

Have I mentioned how much you love watching water? As much as you enjoyed the Easter egg hunt that Grandpa Leo organized for you on our day trip to Kemptville, I think the highlight of that afternoon was standing with him on the bridge over the river and watching the water flow by. Granny and I brought you on a picnic to Hog’s Back Falls, and you happily sat on a rock watching the waterfalls while munching on a sandwich. When we went camping with Grandma in June at Bonnechere, all you wanted to do on the beach was carry buckets of water from the lake to a large hole and fill it up.

We had a wonderful first family camping trip. Once again, you amazed us with your versatility. You loved the beach, were excited about sleeping in a tent, and were all over the idea of roasting marshmallows (until you realized they are just as tasty unroasted, and then you stopped bothering and just ate them out of the bag). You were a great help washing the dishes, and were so delighted when a chipmunk ate sunflower seeds out of your hand and even let you pet him. You’ve repeatedly asked when we are going camping again.

We’ve had some very nice days at Uncle Ted and Aunt Jen’s this summer. You were a big help when I went there to weed the lawn and clean up the carport area. You were a star at the baby shower (although I didn’t do a very good job managing expectations because you really were expecting that a) there would be a baby there and b) we would be giving the baby a shower), and have greatly enjoyed some of our swimming dates there. Just recently, you suddenly had a burst of confidence in the water and are now comfortable swimming on your own with a life jacket. This is amazing for so many reasons, including the fact that I no longer have to carry you around the pool. I know this is partly due to our winter swim dates with Bambi at her pool, and your great experience with a lifejacket in the resort pool at Disney World. I’m super proud of you and am excited about enrolling you in (hopefully low ratio) swimming lessons in September.

You are becoming so imaginative in your play. You love to play “store” (I am a frequent purchaser of various toys, cars, and piles of sand), to take care of your “babies” (your stuffed animals), and to pretend to be a baby animal (often a puppy, sometimes a kitty). I am often informed that you are Spider-Man and I am Firestar and Daddy is Ice Man, or that you are Mario and I am Luigi. Your sentences frequently start with, “Mommy, pretend that…”

You are a wee bit obsessed with Mario and Luigi, my darling. There are three games that you play on your DS that involve these characters: Mario Kart 7, Super Mario Bros. 2, and Mario and Luigi Dream Team. And sometimes, the game play is all you want to talk about for what feels like hours and actually might be (you don’t get to play the game for hours – you just want to talk about it all the time). We went through a number of weeks where you didn’t play DS at all, and you spent less time narrating imaginary game play, but you are back off the wagon now and it is your go-to conversation topic. But, you know, if it weren’t Mario and Luigi, it would be something else. When you weren’t playing DS, you were talking Spider-Man all the time. It’s like you need something to be obsessed with, and maybe that’s ok. It seems that it’s pretty common for 4-year-olds to develop mild obsessions, and I know it will eventually pass as you learn other topics about which you can talk.

(As your Uncle Mark said the other day, "Son, you have an unhealthy obsession with that game. Now let me tell you about this car I saw...") 

You started a new level of gymnastics last week! You’ve graduated from Komet Kids to Super Starrs, and this new class is much more technical and requires you to pay very close attention to the coach. You had a great first class, but were completely bagged by the end and opted to skip a museum visit in favour of going home to chill out for a while. You were able to keep up very well with the other, older kids in the class, and I’m confident that your skills will improve as you gain experience!

Robin’s boys Nick and Alex are out of school for the summer, so day care is extra busy and you enjoy all your quality time with them very much. You love playing with the older kids, and have forged such an amazing connection with them. I’m not looking forward to when we say goodbye to Robin and her family at the end of August. I know we’ll keep in touch, and they will remain an important part of your life, but the end of this era will be bittersweet for sure. They have been a constant for you for three years. We will miss them very much.

But kindergarten is coming, and it is going to be awesome. Daddy and I attended an information night, and we met your teacher and saw your classroom – we are very pleased. We are working to build your excitement about school (it’s not hard) and get you where you need to be by September. You’re pretty much there, but there are a couple of areas where you need to be a bit more independent. I’m not worried, because if you don’t figure it out before school starts, you’ll figure it out soon after. You have already made huge strides in the past couple of weeks: consistently going to the bathroom independently (including turning on the lights, flushing and hand-washing), getting dressed on your own, getting undressed and into the bathtub by yourself, putting your garbage in the garbage can, etc.

You love books and reading – we recently started reading chapter books together for the first time, and we ploughed through the first nine books in the Magic Treehouse series before you asked for a break from them. And you would listen to those books anywhere, and followed the plot really well. I’m super proud of you, and am looking forward to introducing you to more chapter books.

What can I say about you? You are wonderfully talkative and you express your needs so clearly (although we are still working on getting you to express them POLITELY). You are affectionate and crave hugs, snuggles, roughhousing, or any physical connection with us. You are smart, cheeky, hilarious, goofy and witty. You are super appreciative of small gifts, so it’s a pleasure to give you things. You’re pretty adorable (although you’re starting to know it), and a pleasure to hang out with. We love you like pancakes, and spend most of our time telling people how awesome you are.

Keep being amazing. Keep loving yourself. 

Preparing for Kindergarten - A Primer

A wonderful and talented friend of ours (who is a great teacher, writer, and parent) took the time to write us this letter, which I would like to share with you. We have found it equal parts helpful and amusing. Her examples are all from her own experience with her amazing daughter. We are so grateful for our village. :) 

10 Things to Know When Your Child Starts (Full-Day) Kindergarten

1.       The first day of school (or every day for the first while) will result in potential tears over irrational things, not necessarily the GOING to school part (i.e. there could be tears because the backpack is too heavy—with all the things you need to put in their cubby--; there could be tears because their shoes are too white; there could be tears because their pants aren’t stretchy enough).

2.       When asked what they did that day, he/she will reply with “nothing.” This is not an accurate description of the day, nor is it indicative of his/her reluctance to tell you. Your child is simply so overwhelmed from the plethora of new experiences that he/she simply cannot honestly tell you. This will eventually disappear. With extreme prejudice.

3.       Due to the frequent inability to tell you what they enjoyed during the day (see # 2), be on the look-out for random, seemingly “out of the blue” comments. They will have no context and will be difficult to follow at first, but they will be little gems of knowledge about his/her day.

4.       Don’t stress about whether your kiddo is getting enough activity simply because they are now going to school all day. They are. All day. Constantly. There will be some structured time for stories, little group lessons on specific content, but they will spend most of their time at the informal “play to learn” centers, going to the library, and hitting the gym, all in addition to being outside for upwards of two hours—each day. This is a lot for little brains and bodies to internalize. They will be exhausted, and fully active.  So no need to hit the park after school or go for long walks or bike rides on school nights (unless requested, of course—be prepared for the consequences for that during the first couple of months, though (see #5)).

5.       Avoid signing up your kiddo for any out-of-school activities, if possible, for the first “season” (2-3 months) that Fall (especially activities that may run in the evening). Your kiddo will be bagged. Utterly bagged. Their brains and bodies are adjusting to a lot of information and new situations, as well as all the play-based learning.  And there will be a distinct correlation between the evening of said activities and injuries on the playground the following day—in fact, it’s almost a guarantee.

6.       Saturday mornings will need to be a time to “chill” or do very low-key activities. He/she will need to recharge—big time. If Saturday mornings are not an option because you’ve got things going on, try to give him/her Sunday as a “day off”. Eventually, the need for the down-time will decrease, but this may not happen for months. In fact, it may not happen until the middle of the following year.

7.       Your own behaviour will suddenly come under scrutiny in the most hilarious and adorable ways. Be prepared to be told off (in the amusing seriousness all 4 year-olds can muster) in language/phrases you don’t use. This is clearly the language of the classroom, and will actually come in quite useful when trying to reiterate the same type of messages at home.  Often, the kiddo will give you access to words that better express what you want them to understand. Use them.

8.       The agenda is the golden book of communication. Do not hesitate to use it. The teacher (or ECE worker) will read them every day, and will also write notes to you, as well. This is where you’ll hear about the kiddo falling off the bikes at lunch, could you please look at the scrape he/she has on his/her knee?, etc. The agendas also work the other way. If the kiddo is having a terrible morning because you had to pull out an especially large splinter, and he/she is upset because he/she doesn’t think he/she is being brave (because they are crying), send a note in the agenda. Describe what happened, and ask for help to convince said kiddo that they WERE brave. Sometimes, your child will not believe you, especially as they develop a fondness and respect for their teacher—they WILL believe the teacher, though. Said child may even come home with a special award/certificate for being brave.

9.       Do not hesitate to ask questions. The teacher will appreciate the transparency, and chances are, he/she gets whatever question you have ALL the time. You are not alone. The teacher knows this. If there is anything about the kiddo’s little quirks that help define who he/she is and how he/she responds to certain situations, tell the teachers. They want to know, and will probably ask you anyway.

And finally,

10.     You, above all else, will enjoy hearing about where your child spends their play “learning” time. Some of it may surprise you; some will not surprise you at all. It’s a source of constant joy to know/hear about what he/she does when given the free choice, as well, as how they are forming into a more defined version of themselves.

Love you guys, lots. I hope Moe loves starting JK in this September. :) 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dear Moe (June 16, 2014)

Hi, sweetie. I know I haven't written in a while, and I'm feeling pretty guilty about it. We've had a wonderful time since my last letter, and I'm hoping I can get back to recording all our fun soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to explain something to you. 

Everyone has a basket that they carry around with them, and that's where they put the various things with which they can cope. The size of your basket will vary throughout your life - sometimes you'll be able to cope with all kinds of things, and at other times, you'll feel like you can only cope with a few things. 

My basket is pretty small right now. I'm making sure that there is always room in that basket to put "being a good mommy" and "spending time with Moe" and "creating a safe and happy home." As a result, there isn't much room for things like "writing Moe's letter" or "taking and editing photos of Moe." 

The size of my basket is never your fault, and what doesn't fit into it isn't your fault, either. I love you, and your well-being is my top priority. I hope I'll be able to write to you again soon. 

Loving you as far as a TARDIS can fly, 


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dear Moe (February and March 2014)

There were times in the past few months that I thought I’d never be able to type this, but spring finally seems to have sprung, my dear! It’s been a wonderful two months with you, despite the stubbornness of winter. Let me tell you about some of our adventures. 

In February, we went to Little Ray’s Reptiles with Emma and her mom. We had never been there before, and it was really neat! The show/demo portion was long for you, but you liked walking around and seeing the different animals. You enjoyed the crocodiles, the snakes, and the big tortoises. (Aside – I learned the difference between a turtle and a tortoise at Little Ray’s, and we learned the difference between a snake and a lizard!) We even got to watch a snake eat a rat. But, hilariously enough, the huge highlight for you was watching this pipe in the crocodile enclosure where the water was rushing out. You could have watched that thing for hours. You love running water. What can I say? 

February means Winterlude, and that usually means at least some overtime for me, and this year was no exception! You had a lovely Saturday afternoon with Mark and Janine that included you giving Aunt Janine a ride on your plasma car. 

Hanging at Mark and Janine's house. Uncle Mark likes your brains. 

You and I went to Winterlude together at Confederation Park. Once again this year you loved the coloured blocks and the ice mosaic workshop. The maple taffy candy also went over very well. Then we headed to the Bytown Museum for some warm-up fun. You loved it there, and you especially loved hanging with Stephanie, who came with us for our adventure. 

We don’t have cable, but Granny does, so we spent a few evenings at her house watching the Olympics together. We also watched some online. Considering that you’d rather be watching your own shows, you did pretty darn well with it. I think the sports you enjoyed watching most were the snowboarding and ski jumping. The Winter Olympics brought back all kinds of great memories for me, as the last time they were on, they took place in Vancouver, and you had just been born! I remember watching the gold medal hockey game on the tiny little TV in my hospital room, with you by my side. It is actually one of the moments I have felt the most Canadian. 

We celebrated your fourth birthday in February, with a family dinner (we had pancakes and black forest cake!) and plenty of gifts from all kinds of people who love you. Aunt Janine outdid herself and gave you a Despicable Me Fart Blaster. We were so grateful. Now whenever you get a bit too excited with the fart blaster, we call her up and let you blast her over the phone. Other highlights included your very own Octopod, and a fantastic Bruder cement truck. 

We held your birthday party for friends at the Canadian Agriculture Museum where you took a tour of the barns, made ice cream, and played all kinds of great games. It was a real success, and everyone played well together. 

This birthday has been a great opportunity to increase our collection of board games – and we now have plenty that we can all play together! We’ve been playing I Can Do That (the Cat in the Hat game), Hungry Hungry Hippos, Cariboo, and Froggie Boogie, to name a few. You are a very competitive little soul, sir, and you often ask me to “let you win.” I always refuse, saying that if I let you win you won’t learn anything. Once you replied, “But I don’t need to learn! I know how to play this game!” That wasn’t the kind of learning I was talking about. You’ll get there. 

Although we’ve been anxious to move on from winter, it has afforded us some great times together. I can remember one day there was a light snowfall coming down and you stood outside without your mittens on and exclaimed with delight that the snow was tickling your hands. You love your little red shovel and take great pleasure in helping us clear the driveway. This has also been the first winter where you’ve enjoyed climbing and playing on the snowbank in front of our house. We’ve also been on some great walks around the neighbourhood on the milder days, including a lovely one with Uncle Mark’s parents, Peter and Barbara.

March brought Baconfest, the annual celebration of pig product among our friends. I’m pretty sure you haven’t missed a single one since you were born (you missed that one – you were born on Baconfest morning). You helped me make bacon cheddar scones, and had a great time at the party. You loved playing with the big kids in the basement, and had a blast with Uncle Mark’s new sumo sacks. You were amazing about sharing your Lego with the other kids, and good about expressing when you needed some quiet time. 

You and Grandma had a fantastic adventure at Monkey Around, where apparently you climbed the bouncy castle “rock-climbing” wall all by yourself, and slid down the other side! You are becoming so brave, Bean, and it makes me very proud to see you overcome your fears. 

Another example is how well you have been doing in the pool. I asked you if you might be interested in doing swimming lessons, but you said you’d rather do “Graham and Mommy” lessons in Bambi’s pool. So we have been trying to get there a couple of times a month, and each time we go, the more confident you become. You have gone from not wanting to leave the stairs to demanding to be held like superman while I run laps through the shallow end. You love to kick and were even getting the hang of doing some arm movements, too. It has been amazing to watch, and I’m confident that you’ll be in good shape for our big travel adventure later this month. 

Because at the end of April, darling, we’re going to Disney World. Your Daddy and I reached our limit with Ottawa winter and challenges at work and we’re running away to hang out with Mickey for a week. And we’re bringing you and Granny with us. We are super excited and your excitement is increasing, too, which is wonderful. I can’t wait to share our favourite place with you. 

You are still enjoying your Saturday gymnastics class. We had a hiccup at the start of last session when Pépé (your coach from the first session) was no longer working at the gym. But you got used to Galaga (just like you are getting used to Blink, your coach for this session), and you and Pépé exchanged some very nice letters where you told her how much you missed her and she told you how proud she was of you. Watching your first crush was pretty awesome. It was also incredible to see your second gymnastics showcase and marvel at how much you have improved over the past months! 

Four years old means that you’re a big boy, and that means an increase in various privileges and responsibilities. You have a DS now, but your screen time is carefully rationed (some days more successfully than others). You are expected to get yourself into and out of your car seat by yourself. You go to the bathroom on your own, flush and wash your hands (although you always ask for company, and sometimes I comply because I worry that if I don’t, it will lead to a long discussion and you’ll end up having an accident). You can play much more independently than you used to, but we also have good and bad days for that. But it has been wonderful to see you develop and mature and become more self-reliant. Keep it up! 

The DS (with Super Mario Brothers 2 and Mario Cart 7) and “older” tablet games, like Plants vs Zombies, have given rise to some interesting challenges. It can sometimes be very difficult to get you to stop playing without a big fuss (although, you’ve gotten better about it now that we have laid down the law and set timers, etc.) Also, these games demand so much of your focus that you often have an accident. I don’t want to punish you for peeing in your pants at these times because I think the problem is that you’re not quite mature enough to handle the intensity of the games and the focus they require (or, I guess, the lack of focus on other things that they inspire!) So we’re really curtailing when and how you play them, but hopefully in a way that you don’t feel punished. 

You’re surrounded by pregnant women, darling. Gemma and Margot’s mommy is expecting a baby (hilarious comment by you: “Why does she need another baby? She has Margot!”), and there are others people in our chosen family who are expecting their own additions. This has led to some great questions on your part, including when we were getting our baby.  When I explained that we were not going to get a baby, you wanted to know why. I explained that for some people, it’s is very easy to have a baby, and for others it is more difficult. I told you that I can’t have any more babies. And you wanted to know why. So I explained that the part of my body that makes babies doesn’t work. And you wanted to know why. And I couldn’t tell you. But you had some great suggestions, like perhaps we could take a baby from someone who didn’t want theirs, or get one at a store. I look forward to telling you about why you are so special and what was involved in getting you here. I have never shied away from telling you those stories, but you are also not quite at a point where you will understand the details.

You’re adorable and hilarious. At one point, I was getting really frustrated trying to do something and I was making all these angry, frustrated grunts. You looked at me solemnly and said, “You can say ‘sucks.’” I must have stared at you in confusion because you continued, “When something is really hard, it’s ok to say it sucks. It’s not a bad word.” I declared that the offending task did in fact suck, and was much comforted – thank you! 

We have so much fun with you. I love our weekend adventures and our bedtime chats and our frequent hugs and cuddles and the way you call my name when you come into the house after day care. You’ve started calling me Momma, and I actually really like it. You generally seem to enjoy our company, and we really enjoy yours. I can’t wait to see what spring and summer bring. 

Keep being awesome. I love you. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Playing Guess Who?

We bought the Disney Junior version of the board game Guess Who? for Moe this weekend. My son is so incredibly, beautifully, maddeningly honest. It was hilarious. 

Me: Ok, so you need to pick a character for me to guess. So move your marker to point to someone, but don't tell me who you've picked. Ok?
Moe: Ok. 
Me: Have you picked someone? 
Moe: I picked Captain Hook. 

(This happened three times.) 

Me: Ok, Moe... so you have to pick a character for Mommy to guess, BUT YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHO IT IS. When I ask you if you've picked someone, just say "yes" or "no". 
Moe: Okay. 
Me: Have you picked someone?
Moe: Yes or no. 

(Later, after enlisting Daddy to be on Moe's team.) 

Bundy: Ok, buddy, so we're going pick a character - but don't say it out loud. We don't want Mommy to know who you've picked. 
Moe: (stage whisper to Daddy) I picked Izzy. 
Bundy: *laughing* Moe, you can't tell Mommy!
Moe: *indignant* I didn't tell Mommy, I told YOU!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

They Are Still in There

Today a friend shared a Kijiji posting on Facebook for a free cradle. 

It broke my heart. 

I just about left work and drove out to Carleton Place to get this fucking cradle out of this poor couple's house because I have been there and I know how painful it is to go down to the basement and see a box of broken hopes every time you want to run a load of laundry. 

In less than three minutes, I posted the ad on Facebook, I sent it to everyone I could think of, and I emailed the poster to let them know that I was sharing the ad and that I was thinking of them and that I have been where they are (maybe not on that same road, but dammit, I lived on that same small island for years). I was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to do SOMETHING. And I feel totally helpless. 

I'm just about in tears over this.  

I wasn't anticipating this kind of emotional reaction. And I'm trying to figure out where it is coming from. 

Is it because the memories of that time in my life are so painful?

Is it because I feel a kind of survivor guilt for having gotten through to the other side when so many couples don't? There but for the grace of something go I? 

Or is it just because I'm moved by this person's bravery for trying to reclaim some small space in their house and their broken heart? 

I think it's all three. 

This is about so much more than this person's cradle. And I didn't realize I still had all these feelings inside me. 

Edit -- I've shaken it off, but it was an unexpected and very intense wave of emotion for which I was unprepared. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dear Moe: Birthweek Bonanza

It finally happened. You turned four years old. 

We celebrated early and often. There was a family birthday dinner at Granny's with Grandma and Aunt Janine and Uncle Mark on the weekend prior to your birthday. There was your birthday proper, which you fêted at daycare with a very special gift. And on the weekend after your birthday (yesterday, in fact), we had your birthday party with friends at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

Through it all, you have been awesome. You are truly a joy to be around, and I miss you when you're not with me.  

You are, for the most part, able to listen to reason, and to be reasonable in return. You are kind and loving and sweet. For your age, you are a fantastic listener. I love how you are getting better and better about expressing your needs and feelings. I love hearing about what is going on in your head.

You can be amazingly affectionate, and it's so wonderful. I treasure every pat, every hug and every snuggle. I'm glad we can be a safe place for you, but I never expected how safe I would also feel with you in my lap or with your arms around me. My heart sometimes hurts with how much I love you. You are just the most amazing creature. 

We've often expressed love to each other in terms of distance. (Thank you, Guess How Much I Love You.) From the moment you were born, I've told you that I love you to the moon and down again and around the stars and back again. This week, we introduced a new expression: I love you as far as a TARDIS can fly. 

And I do. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You are crocuses in February and roses in December. You are warm butter melting on fresh baked bread. You are pure delight and immense wonder. 

When you were very small, I would play this song on repeat for hours while you slept in my arms, and I would sing along. Every word is still true. 

Happy birthday, my darling boy. Thank you for four incredible years. 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dear Moe (47th Month)

Hello, my sweet little puppy dog.  It is getting challenging to keep up with these letters every month, so I think I’ll write to you every second month, and we’ll go by calendar month rather than your age. Your next letter will come to you at the end of March, and will talk about all the things we did together in February and March. (I will likely also write you a letter on your fourth birthday, but like last year it will be less about what we have done and more about who you are.)

I didn’t write to you about Christmas in my last letter. You brought the joy to our Christmas this year, my love. It was wonderful to watch your anticipation build – you eagerly opened a new box on your advent calendar every day, and we read stories about Christmas (Mater Saves Christmas, and Olivia Helps with Christmas were two popular ones). You came home from Robin’s with great Christmas-themed crafts and a gorgeous homemade gingerbread house! She baked one for each of you. Noah was home from school that day, and asked if he could help you with yours. You both did an amazing job.

You were a big help with wrapping gifts – you enjoyed stepping on the wrapping paper to hold it in place while I cut it, and putting your finger over the paper folds while I got the tape ready. You selected the paper and gift tags for each gift.

You also gave your own gifts this year. We worked together to make some lovely Christmas ornaments that featured your white handprint on a glass ball, and I used markers to turn the fingers into little snowmen. I think people really liked them. I know we’ll treasure ours for many years until it’s time to give it to you for your own tree.

You managed a huge achievement at Christmas, my love, and left all your soothers in a little bowl for Santa Claus to bring to other babies. In exchange, he left you a second gift. I was so impressed with you. You picked the bowl yourself, and put the soothers in, and chose where you wanted to leave it (on the stairs, so he’d see them as soon as he came in the door). The best part is that you have not asked for a soother since. (You did actually ask twice, out of habit, but as soon as we reminded you, you laughed and said, “Right! I forgot!” and said no more about it.) As a celebration (and commemoration), I gave you a tiny little bunny rabbit stuffie and we named it Soother. I am so proud of you. The fact that you were actually sick at the time makes it an even bigger achievement.

We have reaped the benefits of you giving up your soothers. For one thing, it is so much easier to understand you without that plug in your mouth. For another, I think you sleep better because you can breathe better. And finally, you have been forced to learn other ways to settle yourself down.

Yes, we were sick at Christmas. You and I both had bronchitis and it was brutal. We tried antibiotics, but the infection was viral, so we had to just ride it out. We went through a lot of honey and watched a lot of TV. You only really got back to full energy and appetite in the last week or so. Robin was also sick with bronchial pneumonia, which meant that we spent a lot of time at home together.

Christmas, the excitement and gifts (of which you received many – such lovely things!), the lack of structure, and the bronchitis (yours and mine) all worked together to form a perfect storm that resulted in a terrible holiday hangover, in terms of your behaviour. The dilly-dallying, the badgering, and the whining were becoming pretty unbearable, especially at bedtime. You took dilly-dallying and emotional manipulation to whole new levels, small sir. We have worked hard (all three of us) over the past few weeks, and things are greatly improved. Our home is a much more pleasant place to be. Thank you for all the work you have done – I know you have worked hard, too.

Another big milestone for you was that we finally stopped the weekend afternoon nap. We dropped it in January during the period when bedtime was becoming exhausting, figuring that if you were more tired, you would fuss less. It has helped, for sure. It has also opened up all kinds of wonderful possibilities for playdates and outings. You attended an afternoon birthday party this month (Koen’s, and Monkey Around – you had a wonderful time), which would have been unheard of before.

We are still working on finding a routine for the day that helps you manage your energy. I tried the system my mom used for me - a designated quiet time in your room, where you have one or two toys and any number of books to look through. You play on your bed on your own for at least 30 minutes. I like the idea, but I don’t think this is for us. You don’t excel at playing independently when forced to, and it becomes a power struggle that defeats the point of quiet time. So I tried something new last weekend. We snuggled on the couch for an hour, watching Octonauts. We both got to rest, we enjoyed a really fantastic snuggle, and we both felt refreshed and ready to move on to the next activity. 

Finding a delicate balance with screen time can be challenging. We don’t want you to constantly have your face in the tablet or staring at the TV. Having you healthy has helped immensely. We have gradually reduced the amount of TV you watch, and are more strict about how often you can use the tablet. Some evenings, you elect to skip watching a TV show and instead have what I named a “reading extravaganza” where instead of the usual two or three bedtime stories, we read a crazy number like six or seven! I love these and am so glad you do, too. 

Another thing we are trying to reduce is our use of time out. We got some great advice from Robin, and we have been trying other discipline approaches with good results. We will still use time outs occasionally as a last resort, and we will count-to-consequence as a last resort, too, but we are working on less punishment and more dialogue, and for the most part, it has worked well. 

I have also tried hard to get out of the habit of constantly multi-tasking when I’m with you. I’m trying to be more present, focused on the moment at hand and on fostering moments of connection between us. Constantly multi-tasking - both physically and mentally - has been exhausting, and I didn’t realize how much I was doing it and how much it was draining me. I’m pleased to say that I have more energy, which I’m able to use to actually get things done at appropriate times. 

We have had a lot of fun over the past few weeks, Bean. Our adventures have included a sled-ride (you rode, I pulled) to O’Grady’s with a cab ride home, a playdate with Mistlegoo and Proon Joos (PJ's yarn winder was a huge hit), a morning of swimming at Bambi and Simon’s, a plasma-car obstacle-course adventure in Mark and Janine’s new (empty) house, and visits to the Canada Science and Technology Museum. 

You inherited the Cariboo board game from Mistlegoo, and we have greatly enjoyed it playing it with you. It has helped you with taking turns and understanding that you can’t win every time. It has inspired us to look for other board games for you. 

You have been so snuggly lately. One thing you love to do is pretend you are “a little puppy dog” and you make these adorable little puppy whining noises (much cuter than your actual
whining noises) and snuggle up to us and frisk around. It’s so sweet. At one point, you even lay on the floor and asked me to rub your tummy! You just want hugs and cuddles, and it’s wonderful that you are so affectionate with us. You are also finally able to lie down on one of us when we’re stretched out on the couch and stay there for a while, which has been really lovely. 

One of the reasons that we are treasuring the snuggly moments is that you are growing so fast. You hit some big milestones this month, my love. You graduated out of your car seat and into a booster during the same week that I attended Kindergarten Information Night. I’ll be registering you for full-day Junior Kindergarten in a couple of days. The information night was really helpful and I am confident that you are going to love school. 

You said something the other day that I wanted to record because I was so delighted by it. We have often spoken to you about chosen family and extended family. You were colouring at Mark and Janine’s during their “Come See Our Empty New House” get together (which we greatly enjoyed), and you suddenly looked up and realized that pretty much all the other guests were in another room. 

“We’re kind of far away from our team, Mommy,” you said. 

I love that you see all these adult friends who play such an important role in our lives as “our team.” I didn’t realize it, but that’s how I see them, too. 

Moe, I am amazed at your ability to express how you feel, to call me out on things, and to discuss solutions to problems. For an almost-four-year-old, you are incredibly patient, flexible, and understanding. You are generous, caring, affectionate and loving. Thank you for teaching me so much about myself. It’s an honour to work with you to do the same.