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. :)